Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Serpent and the Rainbow?

So I had this girl roommate Margie in 1986. Actually 3 girl roommates in 1986. Margie's sister and Stephanie. Margie and her sister (can you tell I can't remember her name yet?) "Laura" were the type of women that men were VERY attracted to. Crazily attracted to. Now, they weren't Playboy type girls, Margie was a little bookish, and "Laura" was a tomboy, but the guys were CRAZY for them. Not good crazy. One day this long note appeared on our door step written in a shaky, childish hand professing pages and pages of love "to the girl in the red sneekers" and way too many details about her daily habits. Needless to say she snuck out the back door for a while.
The main thing I remember about living with them (besides the endless hours of "The Lion and The Cobra" and endless piles of pizza from Stephanie's job) were Margies "flashing" stories. She was flashed more than anyone I ever met."Aww, c'mon Margie, AGAIN!?" To the point I thought it was a cry for attention. Or like a Snuffleuffagus kind of thing. Maybe Chicago has changed a lot since the 80's, but a lot of women I knew were flashed on a pretty regular basis. Maybe they still are, but I never hear about it. Not that I really want to know.
Anyway, Margie and I went to see "Sid and Nancy" at the old Three Penny on Lincoln. I still love that part of Lincoln and it's lingering ghosts and notorious past. This was before they chopped it up and it was still one big theater. The movie starts, and I notice a guy pacing back and forth behind us. So I stand up and glare at him, and he sits down. A few minutes later, I see him stroking the biggest tool I've ever seen in my whole life. "I'm not seeing that" I think calmly to myself. "That's a bottle of coke he smuggled in."
"Brian, do you see that? Look!"
"What? No, I don't see anything. That's a magazine. Watch the movie." But, of course, I did see it. I just was so into the movie, I didn't care. Gary and Chloe WERE Sid and Nancy. And I had just read "...And I don't want to live this life" and all the press at the time about how pissed Johnny was that he wasn't consulted about a movie of his own life. So I was very excited to be there, and a big scary boner wasn't going to stop it. After a few minutes, he left. And after the movie, I apologized to Margie, and listened to every scary boner story with the complete attention and love only a roommate can give.
The next day I tell a co-worker "I saw 'Sid and Nancy' last night."
"How are they?" she asks. After a confused pause I say "Dead."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

" The Last Bus to Maudlin Street"

One night in late 1986, it was really fucking cold. Chicago was a cold place to be in December, at one time. A big group of us would usually go to a diner after a night at Berlin or Medusa's. The 10 minute walk this night was pretty brutal. We get to the entrance, and here is this guy with no shirt, standing there, shivering.
Now, you have to know, when you live in an area where there is a large homeless population, you have to learn how to make peace with the fact there are people who live OUTSIDE. You have to make peace with it because you see them everyday, and if you don't, you don't sleep at night. It took me a really long time to do that. Maybe my heart just got a little colder. Giving to charity helps.
But I get off the topic. So my first thought is "Oh, he's just trying to manipulate us for a handout. He's putting on an act." I think these things, but I don't say them out loud. Nobody says anything. But after a moment or two, we're back to our normal loud conversations. But my chair is facing the window, and I can see him still out there. I would peek a side long glance from time to time at the person sitting next to me to see if they noticed, too. They either pretended not to see, or didn't see him there. So I tried to focus on my friends.
Sitting next to us were some of the drag queen prostitutes we would see on Broadway and Diversey. (Yes, believe it or not, that was a seedy area at one time.) They were probably there at the diner because of the extra cold night. They of course saw him too. So 15, 20 minutes go by, and now I know that this isn't an act. This guy somehow is outside without a shirt. Then one of the drag queens gets up and gives this guy her jacket. It's hard for her to get it on him, because it's too small and his shivering is more violent. The entire place is quiet, watching. So she pulls him inside and orders him some soup and coffee.
Compassion is never inappropriate.
The next day I was at my friend Mark's place. On his wall was a picture our friend Martin painted that I always loved and envied. It was a painting of a cross-eyed drag queen that we would see in our neighborhood by the diner. I asked him why he painted it, and he said "I just saw something beautiful about her" I saw that painting everyday for a year or so before the "diner incident". I think the most amazing feature of the painting was the way this cross-eyed drag queen looked at you. Like the Mona Lisa. Like she knew something you didn't.