Saturday, December 13, 2008

I Almost Forgot Myself

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for sarah


September, 1990:
As I waited for the number eight Halsted bus, on the corner of Halsted and Armitage, I muttered a curse at it. I had taken that bus every day, twice a day, for over five years now, and I was sick of it. I was in the sometime habit of walking home to Sheridan and Broadway, about two miles away, but I wasn't in the mood this particular night.
After a few minutes, a cab pulls up in front of me and drops off a cute blond guy in a suit. He steps out of the cab, and instead of taking three steps to the curb where I am, he decides to sit down in the street. He stands up and sits down a few times, and I realize he can't stand up by himself, so I slowly walk into the street, and bend over to ask him if he wants my help with the three steps to the curb, and out of the street and away from drivers not on the look out for dudes sitting in the road.
Before I can get out more than a 'hey buddy', he growls at me, and sputters out: get the fuck away from me right now or I'll fucking kill you.
Whoa! ha ha, I laughed, as I threw up my hands. You got it, and I move back to the curb to wait for my bus. If I seriously thought I wouldn't have gotten bitten or worse, I would have helped him anyway.
The cars stopping at the light would either first look out their window at the guy in the street, and then to me, and gave me one of those I can't believe you're just standing there not helping him! looks, or rolled down their window and yelled at me to help him, where I would yell back: you try and see what happens!
No one, however, got out of their car to help.
I started to worry he would be in the way when the bus pulled up, and the bus driver would get mad at me if he had to get up and help the guy out of the street, and not let me on the bus. So I started to mentally and bodily nudge him in the right direction, as you would a bowling ball, whenever he made a wobbly attempt. After a few more tries he finally did it, and stumbled down Armitage I'm sure, to his doom. Or at least to a night in the shrubs.
Speaking of the CTA, I used the newly opened Irving Brown line stop, and saw the wonderful art work adorning the walls. Is it worth an extra quarter a ride? I guess so...

I was so into with John, once upon a time in nineteen-ninety. I loved how he looked at me when we danced together at Berlin, and the way his arms and shoulders moved, and the smile on his face. I was so worried about messing up my relationship with him, I totally messed up my relationship with him.
The first night I met him, in the summer '90, he invited me to the Belmont Rocks the next day to while away a Sunday afternoon with him and his friends. I was so scared, I begged Scot to go with me, which he did. We had a great time, the three of us, for his friends never showed, if they were even supposed to, and I grew more smitten. I watched as he lounged in the grass by the lake in his Calvin Klein boxer briefs, his tanned toes playing with the deep green blades, as we chatted and laughed long into the afternoon.
I could just look at him for hours... I thought to myself.

Gasp! you're wearing underwear out side, Madonna!
I said.
Yea, so?

The couple times I went to his place on Michigan Ave, I desperately wanted to, but didn't, go to bed with him.
I think the long string of one night stands I was having that year prevented me from sleeping with him, and because I liked him so much, I wanted to take a slower, different approach.
The last night we were together, in his high rise condo, with the night sky pouring in like a curious voyeur, we were still wrapped in that glorious, fuzzy, rose-tinted haze of a new relationship, with the spell of our desire for each other still potent, seemingly indestructible, fueling us closer together. I felt it hanging in the air, as if we were laying in a room in the Louvre, and saw it on John's face like a drug; I couldn't believe it was desire for me.
I came closer and closer to laying bare my amorous intentions for him, but never did. I watched his desire for me that night fade away; never again was I to see imaginings of me on his face.
As the months went on from that night, I was to often run into John around town, always with a beauty on his arm, and a smile for me, but as the years went on, he had less good cheer, and almost a look of contempt for me, shading his brow.
Maybe he saw on my face what I still held unwavering in my heart for him, and he grew tired of masking his disappointment in me for never sharing that with him.




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Doves

Saturday, December 06, 2008

When I'm Up You're Coming Down

for graeme
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I know, it's not January, but aren't you glad to see me? BTW, that last post was my 100th. Hurray for me. Thanks for wasting time with me!



When she walked into the train car, on the tube in London, on that unseasonably warm day in May, all heads turned. She was stunningly beautiful, after all, with her peaches and cream skin and dark golden blond curls cascading down her back, bobbing like a willow tree in the wind, but she was also dressed in the height of fashion for the time, in 1990: Katherine Hamnet (or were they Pam Hogg) copper patent leather moc-croc short shorts, and matching jacket. Jaws dropped. I didn't know where to look first. And she just stood there on the train, a typical cool English beauty, like it was no big deal that she was a fashion magazine come to life.
Londoners wield special fashion powers. It is especially strong, and you always know when you are in their presence, and the designers notice too: The Brits invent style and trends, the French make it beautiful, and New York sells it. It was a special thrill to see them in the flesh, living and breathing as they trotted around town on my first visit there, and I hunted for them, like rare birds, and found them lurking in stairwells smoking cigarettes, gliding in pairs down King's Road, or flitting around nightclubs.
For me, it's like a great painting being suddenly plopped down onto the street; some people have the gift of presenting a complete and perfect statement, idea, or feeling with what they choose to wear. I stop in my tracks and stare, eyes bugging shamelessly, every time.
I guess that's the appeal of movie stars and movies. Breakfast at Tiffany's and Gentlemen Prefer Blonds never bore me, because the costumes are so beautiful.
Monroe, Crawford, and Audrey all knew how to dress, and the power of the right choice. Chloey Sevigny does it for me. (Cute blog.)
Also on this trip, I got to be face to face with one of London's biggest fashion icons, Boy George. Yes, I'm finally telling that story.
I was with my boss, Consita, at Limelight one night, and we somehow found ourselves in the VIP lounge by accident, because now we were on the other side of the mob of people, we had just witnessed moments before, who wanted in.
(Someone left the downstairs backdoor open. That place is a maze of rooms.)
And who is standing six feet away from me but George himself.
I was a little haunted by George during my time in London, for I so, dare I hope, wanted to meet him, or at least see him. I imagined seeing him just rounding corners, going up escalators, or getting into cars; always just out of my reach. I turned into my childhood friend Mary. She was my lonely, slightly slow neighbor, and a few years older than me, who constantly interrupted our playtime by running off to 'talk' to a 'friend' she just 'saw'. Thinking about her makes me giggle and breaks my heart at the same time. Is that possible?
I think it was the combination of her full and curvy womanly body, married with the mind of a girl, that made her junior high school peers shrink away from her.

George was a few steps away from me, and I wanted to run, but Consita had a better idea. She pulled me up to him and said Hi George, I'm Consita and this is Brian and we're from Chicago and we wanted to say hi! Perfect, right?
Hi! I'd love to talk to you two, so can you hang out for a minute while I finish talking to those two? He said, as he turned and pointed.
Love to talk tooo....??? I thought.
He was bookended by two of the most gorgeous men you ever saw. I'd finish that conversation, too.
By the time this happened, I was pretty drunk, for it was one of those I'm gonna get drunk tonight! nights, which was an unusual statement for me to make, because getting drunk every night was a given for me back then. I think it helped calm me down though, and helped me to act casual and non chalant, for I was tripping on some heavy Boy George acid.
When he came back over, he introduced us to all the people he was with, who could have been the Beatles and the Queen for all I knew, and bought us drinks from the giant stack of drink tickets in his hand. When I saw that stack, I immediately thought of Marilyn, and his Chicago Limelight performance: the rumour was the owner made him sing there, and New York, to pay off his huge London Limelight bar tab.
Yes, Mare, I could pay off your bar tab, but what lesson would you learn from that? I imagined George saying.
George's hair was cropped and magenta, and we were wearing similar outfits: black palazzo pants with a Gaultier t-shirt and blazer. My Gaultier blazer was borrowed from my friend Rex, It was a thousand dollars, so don't wreck it, and my t-shirt was Junior Gaultier, and I felt like a junior George.
We talked about his interview I had just read in i-D magazine, but he could talk really fast, and with that accent of his, well, it was hard for me to follow him, so I took dives into his amazing blue eyes. No wonder he's famous, look at those eyes, I thought to myself or said out loud, I don't know. Pictures don't capture them. Colour by Numbers comes close.
After a while, George slips away, with a promise to return, and Consita and I talk:
"Bea is going to be so jealous! George is so nice! I think he likes you! Can you belive it? Partying with Boy George!" Consita says.
I was still at a loss for words, but I knew I needed another drink, and left the way we entered, back downstairs. The door was shut, so I kept it propped open a bit while I got my drink.
Of course it was locked when I got back, and I spent twenty minutes trying to get Consita's attention from the other balcony, waving like a lunatic.
See. Me. Now. George. Is. In. There. See. Me. Now!
She finally saw me and snuck me back in, and we talked with George some more.
Do I tell him I can remember the first time I saw a picture of him? Do I tell him about the hours I spent dancing around my bedrooms in small town Arkansas and small town Wisconsin, pretending I was him? Do I confess to him all the time I spent looking at pictures of him, memorizing every fashion detail? I decide not to, for whenever I had the impulse to relate my experiences to him, I read in those eyes of his a look of knowing, like he could read my thoughts, and his desire to simply enjoy this moment we were having together.
I should have stopped drinking, but didn't, and by the end of the night I was quite wobbly, and George drifted away from me and down to one end of a blurry hallway, discussing me with a friend, while Consita and I tried to hold each other up, on the other end.
We stumbled home, back the the flat we rented by Harrods, and woke Bea with our news.
For days afterward, I floated around London with the power of I spent the night with George, and he liked me! keeping me two feet off the ground.


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God's speed, George.

Lush De-Luxe

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Rain-Coated Lover's Puny Brother

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A story from 1987 follows...

"Brian, Michael's been calling you." Brad said to me one night.
"Michael T.?! How did he get this number?!" I asked.
Micheal T was a guy from our not too distant past, who reminds me now a days of Eddie Izzard, but with a language barrier. Eddie is hilarious, but if you grew up in China, you may want to avoid him, if you know what I mean. One night he finally gets me on the phone:
"I hear you and Brad have a place together! Can I come and visit? Can I stay at your place?" He asked.
"Um, OK." I say.
"What is there to do?" He asked.
"Well, I pretty much go to Limelight all the time and..."
"What! Limelight! How fabulous! Do famous people go there? Can we go there?!" He squealed into the phone.
"Sure," I say "there's lots of cool bars. Brad works at one you might like."
"How do I get there?" He asked. I tell him I live just off an exit from the interstate.
"Oh my God! I'm going to Chicago! I'm going to Chicago!" Michael screams.
I didn't hear from him again until the year 2005.

I've wanted to go to London for as long as I could remember. It wasn't til I met Bryan, who had been many times by the time I met him in 1985, and Robert, a 'Berlin' friend, who was 'going for the weekend', sometime during the summer of that same year, that I ever thought I could actually go myself.
I'm going to London for the weekend! Yea, just a few days! Robert said.
Moron. I think to myself.
How was London? I ask. Great! I just went for the weekend! He said. Idiot.

My boss at the time, Consita, really made this trip possible for me when she asked if I wanted to tag along for her class at Toni and Guy, in May of 1990. I saved for months, and had quite the sum when the day finally came.
I remember being in a panic, waiting for my taxi to O'Hare, I almost stayed home. But a powerful, quiet sense of 'everything will be alright' came over me, and I got into the cab. That feeling was one I recognized from childhood, and I trusted it.
The first few days I was on my own, meeting Consita and her friend Bea later, so I wanted to get off the plane knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. I studied the street and subway maps so thoroughly I practically had them memorized.
My roommate Rex had told me about an affordable B&B on Sussex Gardens, Hyde Park Rooms, and during my research I found there were many B&Bs on that street, so I decided to choose one once I got there.
Wearily stumbling in and out of several B&Bs on my first morning in London, I choose Hyde Park Rooms. (Still a great B&B and deal.)
Sussex Gardens and the surrounding area, Paddington, was unassuming and tree lined at the time, so the sounds of children at play echoing up into my shared and rented bathroom brought the city of London down to earth for me, as well as taking some of the air out of the whirling images of it's high fashion, mega night life glamour slinging around my brain.
It was hard falling asleep that first night, for I was overwhelmed by the actual achievement of my life long goal, and the British-accented reverberations filled my thoughts long into the night.
The first thing I did was go to Soho, for that's all i-D magazine talked about. My love for the ancient in London was in it's infancy, and my fascination for all things trendy and youthful was all consuming, and hard to miss in London, for the desire of young Britons to define their generation, in the face of so much tradition is pretty contagious.

I was a little Viv Nicholson, a little Spend! Spend! Spend!, and I loved every minute of it. Each morning I went to the deathly over priced currency exchange, because the guy was so cute, and I read in him an ever so slight urge to tell me of a more economical way to get some pounds, which he resisted. ATMs weren't universal yet, and I hadn't a credit card. Next stop was my tube stop, Paddington, by the long gone 70's era steak joint which, unfortunately, we ate at.
Eating was my main problem; fear of eating alone in London. Sadly, I was ostracized most of my Junior high and high school days, so you would think I would be over it, but when I talked to Rex about eating alone, he told me that was what he looked forward to the most when he was working in New York.
His words echoed in my mind during my first meal there, and by the next one, my fear was gone.
My first night in London, though being extremely jet lagged, I went to find Heaven, "under the arches", whatever the hell that means. I walked in circles for hours that night, til I ran into an Italian looking gay, and asked him if he was looking for Heaven. Not understanding his response, I moved on.
The next night I found it right away, but had a bad time. Heaven is huge, but no fun when you're alone. I was fascinated by the roving bands of club kids decked out in all white.
Wearing all white was a moment unique to 1990. I think it was a fashion statement saying the 80's are over; wearing all black is over, so let's start with a clean fashion slate. Most all the clothes I bought on that trip were all white.
For the next two nights, I decided to wait til Bea and Consita got to London to go out to the clubs, so I went to the movies. I saw Sweetie, the Australian flick that began so well, only to die a slow death, and The Krays.
The Krays! The Krays! There were posters all over the place shouting The Krays! Every time I saw that poster, I thought to myself, I thought those were the Kemp brothers...
I started to assume this was their new post Ballet gig, til I saw The Krays on a movie marquee. Oh, it's a movie...
I know you're thinking how can i be such a Morrissey fan and not know about the Krays; TLOTFIP, after all. I guess I just sang along to the chorus back then. (That boy was so cute. Whatever became of him...?)


More later...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fighting the Fire

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Yesterday, everytime I looked at the road, all I saw were women smoking and driving. They looked orgasmic, desperate, and silly. I don't really have a craving to smoke right now, but I felt the need to tell you, and to tell you I'm working on a post, and it's turning into a three-parter. I think I may even post them all at once; you've been so patient...

Orphans

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bye for Now...

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Hi all. Sorry to say I have to stop blogging til the end of the year.
I'll be back in January of 2009 with more of these ancient stories...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Movies of Myself

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I have been avoiding writing about Danny. Yes oh yes. I wonder where he lives, if he lives, and what his name may be these days. I wonder about the decisions I made in regard to him, the things I said, the things I didn't. This giant tidal wave of questions and doubt and guilt and longing and love and concern wash over me whenever I think about writing about him, and it feels never ending, but I will just let it wash over me, and get it out of my system, and not try to fight it.
He is such an over whelming subject, as well. His story needs his own mini-series- my part of his story, anyway. For all of Danny's story to be told, we would need to resurrect a Russian novelist.

For a month in early 1990, Danny lived with Scot and me, before one of his many moves to New York. I wanted to tell you about my trip to London that year, because it's easier (emotionally), but I guess while Danny lived with us, those were the good times. The best of times.
The word that best describes Danny would be evolution. He was constantly evolving, pushing himself forward. He wanted to be better and purer and truer and as real as he possibly could; the most of anyone in the room.
This, of course, for anyone who knew him, was in direct contrast to what he looked like. He dressed, during most of 1990, like a five year old girl. I know that statement looks bad on paper, but I mean that in the best possible way. He pulled off dressing that way because he was so amazingly hilarious. He got the joke first,before anyone saw it coming, and he was already planning the next one, before you could catch your breath from laughing so hard.
He was also a natural beauty. Those pictures were taken later that year, after he moved to New York. Here's one of us taken while we lived together, at the club Cairo. We took many many many pictures together at the Berlin photo booth, but I would have to rent out the Guggenheim to show all those.
While we're on the subject of pictures, can I just tell you how obsessed I am with this Roxy poster? I know, the things around that poster are very exciting and glamorous, but I can't tell you that story yet. Just look at the Roxy poster. I think because my current apartment has a weird little angled corner like my 1990-92 one did, and I keep expecting to see that poster there when I pass it. Also, as I was digging through my pictures, I realised a lot happened in 1990, and I don't think I've said even one word about Ronny, so I better get crackin' with my story.

Danny and I spent every second we could together in the months before he moved to New York. We went out almost every night, Ronny and Scot usually in tow, we grocery shopped, we cooked, we jogged by the lake, we watched TV, and we spent hours getting ready to go out, but mainly we talked. He could talk a blue streak. So smart. Way too smart. He could turn into Jane Austin or Carl Sagan or Lenny Bruce or Sigmund Freud or Bobby Knight or Gladys Kravitz on the turn of a dime, all while looking like a hairy Madonna. And his eyes, I got lost in them. Like pure green crystal.
Every Monday we went to the Jewel on Addison, spending hours in the beauty section, while he explained how and why aliens would take over the world, why Scot drove him nuts, how Ronny sometimes scared him to death, and how truly excited he was to go to New York to be a fashion illustrator, as he reached for the last Cherries in the Snow, or a couple boxes of Little Debbies. (I wore Love That Red.)
His art was so inspired and beautiful and creative, I knew he would go far. I marvelled at his talent. I loved talking to Danny because I heard where he had come from, and all the difficulties and pain involved, and saw where he was now. He had worked it out. He did what needed to be done. He got it together. He was fearless and went after what he wanted, but most of all he moved forward. That is what I wanted most: to move forward from my past, to evolve out of the circles I felt trapped in. He was living proof it could be done. Every time I left his company, I did it with renewed resolve to get a happy life, striding off with confidence.
But his presence was a bit like Novocain; I felt like I could conquer the world when he was around, but when he wasn't: now what did Danny say I should do...?
I needed more more more Danny. I had to know his secrets to life; I had to know what got him out of bed each morning. So when he finally did move to New York, I wrote him every week, and read each letter a million times. I still have them. And because he took the time write me back each week, I started to think I wasn't a lost cause. I started to believe in myself, because he believed in me. That's all it took. His letters started me down a better path.
But only, to say yet again a phrase you must surely associate to me by know: for a while.




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Link to title song. Play it over and over like I do.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Just Like a Prayer

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He kind of skipped along side me for a bit, and ran ahead, then glanced back at me before he took a right into the alley, by the laundromat that used to be off the corner of Sheridan and Broadway, where I washed my clothes in 1990. The kid startled me, and almost made me drop the magazine tucked under my arm. He was wearing clothes a little too short and revealing for the temperature outside, and how filthy they were was in direct contrast to his youth.
Then I saw the hole in his shorts. They were green gym shorts, not stylish at the time, and the hole in the shorts was right there, in that place, where his hole was.
Is this kid a prostitute? Or does he not know there is a hole in his pants? He can't be more than nineteen! Why would he do that? Where is his family? A hundred more questions raced through my head, as I sat down in the laundromat for a moment, my heart pounding, and breathing heavily, to process what I had just seen, and how I was feeling.
He flitted along, trying to catch the attention of men with wallets, but his soul was erased; there was but a mere sliver of humanity left in him; a mere sliver of willingness to carry on with the life he was living. I looked for him later, but never saw him again.
After a few loads, I picked up my Interview, and read about Madonna's famous dancers from Truth or Dare. The writer had way more fun talking to them then he expected, and the dancers flirted shamelessly with him: Your shoes should throw a party so your pants would come down! OK! High five! Her dancers reveled in who they were and what they were doing, and the author celebrated them as well. As if he had a choice.

The crowd tended to be a little rough at that laundromat, what with the Chateau Hotel across the street, so I usually hid behind Interview, cause it was so big.
Whenever it was that year Madonna came to Chicago for her Blond Ambition Tour, Scot and I were at Berlin one night, and Vogue came on the video screen. I turned to say something to Scot, and saw all the dancers from the video standing behind us, noses in the air.
Scot! Look at the video, and look behind you. I said. Oh my! He said.
We did that for the entire song, looking slowly back and forth from the video, to the dancers. We said nothing to them, and after hiding in the corner for a few more songs, they left.
The Like a Prayer album always reminds me of Rex. I know it should remind me of Wickie-Poo, but I was in Rex's boyfriend's car the first time I heard it, on cassette.
I liked Madonna a lot when I was in high school, in 1982, when Burning Up and it's video would stop us all in our tracks (yes, I went to gay bars during high school) and in '85, when she was on the cover of Spin, and was starting to be talked about for her lacey neon bra-strap ways, but I was rarely one to buy anything in the top 40. (Blondie being the main exception.) And by 1990, I did my best to try to ignore her, but that was an exercise in futility.
Rex was an ex New York model, down on his luck, who had come to be Scot's and my first house guest. Guest isn't the right word; he lived with us for a few months, in a curtained off section of our dining room. I think he came to live with us for a while because his life was spiraling a little out of control in NY, as it can for the young, reckless and beautiful, but I can't imagine how a section of our dining room did him any good. I hope it did. Rex was to fall into Scot's arms a few more times over the years, as Wickie did to me- I think there is just something about being taken care of by someone who likes and understands you.
Rex was still gorgeous and a lot of fun to live with, and he liked to fry up a pan of chicken livers every week, and he had great feet.
His feet are so pretty and white, like mine used to be. Why are mine so blotchy and red these days? I would think to myself, as I gazed at Rex.
He had an amazing wardrobe, because of his retail jobs and connections, and he owned nothing that cost less than five hundred dollars, seriously, but he paid little or nothing for it.
Oh, this is nothing compared to what I used to have, he would say, you know how club kids can be...
No...I said.
They like to destroy us expensively dressed girls, usually by slapping you with bubble gum on the dance floor, so they can make a clean get away. All that Mugler and Gaultier, down the drain. He said.
Oh crap! I said.
His favorite prize was his two thousand dollar croc Ralph Lauren wallet. Free. He was generous enough to let me, his alcoholic room mate, wear almost whatever of his I wanted out to the clubs.
Back in Rex's boy friend's car, with the cassette on in the back round, he had come to our apartment to pick us all up, Rex, Scot and me, for brunch at his place. His name was Tony, and he managed a 'classy' salon, and had the most beautiful condo ever. It was spare and modern, with a big balcony. Rex had lived in Chicago before New York, and he and Tony were on again, off agian. Tony reminded me of a cuter version of Marc Jacobs, with his deep, soulful puppy dog brown eyes, and had the quiet power of a sexy St. Francis, with his seeming ability to lower the blood pressure of all around him. He DJed as a hobby, and had a huge collection on vinyl along the wall, which Scot and I scoured through, making requests.
The food he made was wonerful, but all I could think about was Tony's life. The car, the job, the boyfriend, the home. He was living my dream. Well, not exactly my dream, but pretty damn close.
God, could I ever have this? The things Tony has? Will I ever be this person? Could I ever be this person? I thought to myself.
As he drove us home, we listened to Madonna's cassette again, and the next day I went out and bought one of my own.


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Wild at Heart

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That's a picture of me and Chris at Berlin, in Chicago, in the winter of 1990. He could really nail a picture. No, we are not wearing 'costumes'. That is how we dressed back then. And by 'we' I mean ennui laden, world weary, you-just-might-understand-this-outfit-in-ten-years, homo posers. Chris was a roommate of mine from that year, and I'll tell you all about that later, because I wanted to post that picture of Delhi I've been telling you about all year, because I finally freakin found it, while I was looking for my picture of Skip, which I now cannot find.

Delhi and I are at Limelight, in 1988, with the famous rocknrolla Johnathan in the backround, at work at his bar. I think that's the famous stolen Lipstick belt, though I thought I bought that a few years after that picture, and that's a t-shirt I hand painted from my childhood book of Egyptian stencils. Brad and Ron accused me of being a living version of the SNL skit of the Everything Store, for having a copy of that book: Do you have a chocolate crossbow? Yes I do. No I meant a white chocolate crossbow. Yes I do...as they liked to say to me over and over.
I would be embarrassed about the bleach splattered Le Chateau pants I'm wearing, if I hadn't just seen a picture of Galliano wearing the same pair in a recent Bazaar. Maybe he should hire me. (I also have a funny story about a JC Penny pillow case I wore as a shirt in 1980, that turned up in the first new collection from Balenciaga's new designer a few years ago, but more in that later.)
I found some pictures I took out my back porch in 1990: looking south on Broadway, at the sidewalk I spied Skip. Notice the lovely topiary at the gas station. We really cared back then. All those stores are gone. I think Barry's was there for like a hundred years. And looking north.

A sneak peek for the future, from my trip to London in the spring of 1990: a public phone booth card, NSFW!, a tart card, as they call it, advertising 'for a lady' (for as long as Photobucket will let me keep it there, anyway.)
They still have those kind of cards in the phone booths of London, mainly because they still have phone booths. A cult of collectors have sprung up around these cards, and I'm sure this one is worth thousands. Here's the card from Gaultier's Junior store in Soho, now long gone.
(Go to Soho, oh! Go to waste in the wrong arms... [at 3:40])
Finally, another modern London relic, this one from King's Road, the One to One bar. I'm 99% sure it's a Gap now, because I've spent hours trying to find it; it was in that mini mall, which is still there. I didn't want Consita to take that picture, because I was trying to look cool for the cute bar tender, and that's either Mrs. Clause or Blythe Danner to my left, I'm not sure.

Oh, and that guy in the backround, in the v-neck sweater, in the above picture? I slept with him.


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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Moving Under Ice

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for Carl




Oh, those hung over late eighties Sunday mornings of my youth. Waking up to the taste of day old menthols and gin & tonics intermingling with the flavors of my post binge food of Little Debbies and Fritos. They were the highlight of the weekend. Scot was always up hours before me, and gave me 15 minutes before he headed out the door for Unique thrift store, in case I wanted to go with him.
That is, unless I succeeded in dragging my ass out of bed early enough (Damn you MTV!) for us to watch Just Say Julie together. It's funny, I don't remember craving coffee and food, and running to the kitchen in the morning, like I do now, but needing Julie Brown on a Sunday morning, and a thrift store in the afternoon.
On our walk from Sheridan up Broadway to Montrose, Scot would make fun of me by imitating my body posture: arms crossed and hunched over, and accused me of fearing for my life. Really, I was just in pain from all the previous night's booze. Well, maybe I was a little scared. It's still an 'interesting' area.
Even though we went to Unique every Sunday, rain or shine, Scot had to look at every single LP and 45 record they had. Every one. It took him at least an hour. And God help us if he was in a t-shirt mood, he would have to look at every one of those, too. Needless to say, I had to learn how to pace myself in the housewares, Cher, and shitty art sections.
Back in 1990, we were obsessed with all things seventies. That's all we looked for: knick-knacks, t-shirts, flared pants, dishes, purses, everything seventies. But what we wanted most were platform shoes, and those could be hard to come by. And not like the cock roach-brown, sad, single, laying by itself on the sidewalk like I saw in Hartford, Goodbye Seventies platform, nor a clownish Tequila shoe, but a sexy, hey, nice shoes, Tony pair. You know, like the ones we wore in third grade.
One Sunday, passing a shoe repair store, we noticed a sign that read "We Customize Shoe Height" and in the window was an example of their work. Their service was really intended for people who needed two different shoe heights, but we took a chance and asked him to "platformize" both our shoes.
Scot wanted Converse platforms, and I wanted wingtip. To our joy, the cobbler was more than happy to help us.
At first we were conservative with our height, but soon we remembered our brazen ways, and asked for more and more height glued onto our shoes.
Scot pushed the cobbler over the edge one day by asking him for three two-inch soles on each shoe.
"Oh no! Three way high! Three way high!" Was his reaction, but Scot won out.
I was furious I had to hear this story second hand, because he went on a day without me.
Scot has always had amazing taste in decorating, and he did a great job on our place on a shoe string. Everything in this photo was thrifted, save for the electronics. Everything. Yes, I know.
For his bedroom, he turned it into a mini version of The Factory, by making an industrial, four poster bed, and painting everything a metallic silver.
For me, I just needed my room to be cemetery-at-midnight black til noon, so that's what I worked on.


One night at Berlin, this cute guy started talking to me Hey gorgeous you here alone can I buy you a drink you wanna go out sometime? I actually did one of those turn and look behind me moves, cause this guy was that cute.
His name was Skip, and he was ten years older than me, and a weekend waiter.
He was one of those people then, as now, I think about a lot, because I learned so much from him in our few short months together. Oh, the stuff that came out of my mouth whenever we talked! It left his hanging open, and his eyes darting around for an escape route. A lesser man would have baled out long ago, but Skip knew I needed more than that from him.
I had no intention of telling you about Skip now; I tried think of another light hearted story from 1990, but sometimes, stories take a path of their own.
His is a painful memory or me, because I still crave his company and his touch, and the sight of him in his tighty-whities, even twenty years later. Sadly, that can never be, for he is no more, he is as dust.
Skip liked a public place for our (his) amorous actions, especially a parked car. Another place that stands out is the Three Penny, a long gone Lincoln Ave theater. I don't remember the movie, but I sure remember his 'enthusiasm'.
One Sunday I spied on him unseen as he walked up my side walk, on his way to my door. For the life of me, try as I might, I could not read the expression on his face. I took that as a good sign.
With him, I was the most open and honest than any other lover to date. He held my hand the night I confessed, through sobs, how I knew I was destroying myself, and I didn't know what to do about it.
After a while our meetings together became about conversation, because he was trying to get back together with the boyfriend he was living with.
Yes, his ex's emotional outbursts, of which he had no problem performing for me, me the other woman, were frequent and uncomfortable.
Though, I can understand why the ex screamed whenever I was around: Skip was someone worth fighting for. The ex won.
I think what triggered this memory of Skip was seeing a black panther TV lamp at the antique store recently. Black panther TV lamps were always Pavlovian for me, because one sat in his downstairs neighbor's window for years after I knew Skip. That's how he told me to find him, the first time I went to his place. Look for the black panther in the window.
In the late nineties, I had a feeling about Skip. A feeling he may not be around an more. 1999 was an odd year for me, for I had many unusual paranormal experiences. One morning I saw 'him' standing over me, for a brief moment, and I took it as a sign to find out what, if anything, may have happened to Skip. I debated knocking on his door, for I lived just down the street, but I knew the ex wouldn't want to see me coming round again.
Not long after, I saw the ex at a coffee shop, looking really really bad, and that only confirmed my suspicion.
So one night I was with my mom and aunt at the restaurant Skip worked in for years, and finally asked about him.
Yes, he was gone, and greatly missed, they said.
Yea, missed... I miss him too. I said


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Never Look Back, Never Look Away


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Well, firstly, sorry it's been a month since I've been here, and secondly, I met my Bronzino man. He's at the Met, so I must have seen him a half a dozen times, but I didn't know until last year I wanted to meet meet him... Oh, and thirdly, I saw What We Do Is Secret: not bad.





A story from 1984:
Charles always kind of scared me. He was the very definition of extrovert, from his over-sized smile anchoring his over-sized forehead, to his ever expanding arms. He wanted to scoop up as much of everything as he could with those arms; he was aways in outward motion. He lived out loud; he never down played for one second his big queeny ways. But what attracted me to him was his intelligence; the mind of a PHD lurked under all that fake tan and hyper stylish clothing.
I met him while I was in beauty school, and he was the manager of a chain salon in my hometown, in charge of a staff of twenty. We rarely talked shop, for I told him I was leaving Appleton when I finished school, and he believed me, and left it at that.
Charles liked to have fun. He liked to go out. He liked to drink. I know he liked me in that way, but never forced the issue. Everything flowed around us when we were together: the liquor, the laughter, the good times, he had a way of making you feel special and important and wanted. He encouraged outlandishness in everyone around him- it was the Eighties after all, and because of him my hair got bigger and purpler and more mohican. (Grant also had a lot to do with my style, but I'm saving that story for my book...)
I had recently found a great, deep blue 60's blazer, that went perfectly with my shade of purple hair, which was so expertly structured and fit me so well, no amount of brooches or rosaries or even a Mohican could distract from it's perfection. I wore that thing for years. I can't believe I ever got rid of it.
Charles encouraged outlandishness, but his enthusiasm for your style tended to turn into battles. Who could be the wildest? He always won: his clothes were the craziest and his hair was checker boarded six ways to Sunday in a new rainbow of colors every week.
But he was fiftysomething, and I was eighteen, so he decided after a few months of our little 'contest', to settle down in styleland somewhere between weird and freaky. To the untrained eye, he probably just looked 'gay'.

One night, early on in our friendship, he took me to the bar in a restaurant I had won a gift certificate for, to show me I had nothing to be afraid of.
I was afraid to eat there, because it was Appleton's nicest restaurant at the time, and I was afraid I didn't know what to do or how to act. Even though I was in the room before it was finished, on an early tour while they were constructing the hotel, it was still intimidating to me.
I first saw the huge boxes of books, and then the floor to ceiling book shelves that would be their home. Our buyer found these books all over England, my guide said, to create in the restaurant the feeling of and old English manor library. "Old English manor library restaurant"? What does that even mean?! I thought to myself.
I used to see the maitre d at our small town gay bar, always in his black dinner jacket and bow tie, standing off to the side, getting drunk, and looking like someone who was 'in attendance' to our (local gay soap) opera. He was from Green Bay.
I talked to the maitre d a few times, and he assured me I would enjoy myself, and said he looked forward to seeing me there.
So I was finally going to the bar at Christie's, with Charles. I of course wore my blue vintage blazer, and made my hair as big as I could, because I was going to the bar in Christie's, and that I knew how to do. Charles was waiting there for me, excited, because he wanted to show me something!, he said on the phone.
After a few sips, he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal to me and the entire place his new gold nipple rings, connected by a gold necklace. Oh Charles, button your shirt. I said. I never did use that gift certificate.

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In 1989, while I was living with Scot, I was a slut. I can count on more than one hand (I think) the guys I slept with while living on Sheridan and Broadway, and to me, that's pretty slutty.
The first on this list was Brian (Scottish last name). I saw him last year sitting in a car with his mother right in front of my salon. I pretended to be engrossed with something on my desk, and occasionally stole peeks at him while he sat in his car pretending not to see me. I seriously thought about talking to him, but didn't. He still looked good, almost twenty years later, and I did enjoy our time we had together, but you know...
Back then, he lived on that street that runs parallel and south of Belmont, between Sheffield and Clark. I work near there now, and often walk down his old street, and what I remember most about him was his smell. It was great and unlike anything I've experienced since. I had a weird dream in his place, and turned it into a short movie when my friend Chad asked me to write a short for him for one of his classes, a year later. You may get to see it some day on Youtube, if Greg ever puts it up. I lost my copy of it years ago. It's especially special, because it was filmed entirely in the old Medusa's.
I made Brian dinner for his birthday that year, even though I was sick as a dog, and got mad at him for wanting to 'do it' later that night. No! I'm sick! I said. He left before morning, and I never saw him again.
Then there's this kid. (Don't ask me what's going on with my face. I don't know.) I can't for the life of me remember his name, but he lived with that queen who did the perfect, and do I mean perfect impersonation of crazy Faye from Mommy... in the scene where she goes nuts in the bathroom, for Berlin's old Sunday Night Drag Race. He didn't have his own room, and slept on the couch, so that's where we did it.
Who did I wake up to find passed out on my living room floor some ten years later but the Drag Race queen- he picked up a house guest of mine, who had the nerve to trick with him back at my place. The bitch stole from me, too. Shit turned up missin.
Then there's Steven. A cute guy with cute underwear who said would call but didn't. Steven was also, unbeknownst to me, a guy my friend Bea wanted me to meet. She kept talking about 'this guy', and I just had a feeling it was him. Sure enough, who walks in the door on the night I meet Bea's friend but Steven, who pretends he is meeting me for the first time. I just smiled and said hello, and told Bea the whole story later.
Oh then, there's the DJ, who I liked most of all. A gorgeous red head who picked me up one night in Vortex. (Ha ha. Vortex. That's funny.) It was one of those rare nights for me when more than one guy was after me. Kevin. He was charming and nice and great in bed, and actually called me the next day and we went to a movie, Home Alone, at the Water Tower, but that's as far as it went. I got the distinct impression I 'talked too much'.
The one that takes the prize is my New Year's fling, 1989. There was a party held at an old bank on the west side, and before I knew it, lips were locked and zippers descended in a stall in the men's room. I was wearing one of those chrome belt buckles you can customize the letters for, and mine said 'lipstick'. It clunked to the floor, and before I could pick it up, some skank snatched it away, like they were sitting there looking a their watch waiting for it. Well, I was too other-wise involved to hunt the bitch down, and chalked it up to the perils of toilet sex.
Now that I think of it, that is my last memory of the Eighties.
My first memory of the eighties was very nice: in the living room of our house in Connecticut on chilly December night, my younger brothers dozing on the couch, when I was fourteen, watching the ball in Times Square drop, on TV.
So I ended the eighties losing a valued accessory, and started the nineties with anonymous sex, and ended the nineties with....well, you'll have to read all about that later....

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Common Labourer by Night

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The two guys stood in line together, in the drugstore side of the grocery store, on Broadway, by Addison, waiting to buy an enema. They were holding hands, so one could only assume they were boyfriends. They weren't particularly attractive, to me, but were cute in their own way. One of the guys looked like the kid I saw at the urinal in Cairo, an old disco on Wells, in what looked like his grandmother's Chanel boucle blazer. I was so jealous he was able to pull it off the way he did. I wonder what would spin Gabrielle faster in her grave: that us gays boys stuck her brooches on our motorcycle jackets back in the late 80's, or the chubby women with pantie lines and bratty kids sporting double 'C' sunglasses, today? Where will you go from there, Karl?
No one in the store seemed to notice the two guys, and what they were buying but me, and my only thought was when oh when will it be my turn?

I got into the habit of going to the Jewel down the street from my apartment on Mondays, my day off, in 1989, relishing my new healthy habits. My last apartment had no cooking gas, and I didn't really much care for food then, so I rarely shopped for it. It felt good to something good for myself for a change. I was doing a lot of things I had asked myself to do. I was saving money. I was making travel plans. I was letting go of my I can't attitude, and accomplishing things. I guess I came to an end to another self-destructive phase in my life, and was starting to rebuild. This was a place I knew all too well. I kept waking up alive, so I may a well go on living.
I went on with a sense of being another step further to being a grown up. I tried to do somethings with my life and failed, and that really hurt, but I didn't feel the need to wallow in my misery, and just kept on going. I failed pretty miserably, because I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life in a relationship with Brad, and now I didn't think he would ever speak to me again.
I enjoyed and needed to be living again with Scot, and we spent most every night going out. Berlin, Cairo, Vortex, Christopher Street, and sometimes Medusa's, because Scot worked there during the day, 'fixing the repairs'. He found many interesting things on the floor the morning after, and one time it was a Cartier bracelet, which he gave to me, which I managed to keep for a year til I hocked it.
I didn't socialize too much when I went out; I would bury myself on the dance floor, with Scot, who would run on and off the dance floor when he saw someone he knew, and got lost in the music for hours at a time. Except at Vortex. The main dance floor was really not my scene music-wise back then, but they had a fun video room in the back, like C Street did, and I would request Gaultier's song over and over, along with Deep in Vogue, it's the Virgina Slims girl! (man, was it ever fun seeing Paris is Burning in the theater when it came out. It brought the house down!) and the Soul 2 Soul hits. And, of course, the most famous song of all, the beautiful Whisper. Scot would put this video on to get me to stop putting on make-up, and finally walk out our front door. It got me to go because I knew they would play it for me at Vortex, which was usually our first stop.
My 'during the day activity' was wearing thinner and thinner, but I kept myself distracted studying for my trip to London. I did want to go with my boss Concita, having heard the stories of the glories of her boozy, glamorous trips over the years, and I didn't want to take my first trip over seas entirely alone. I read up on what to expect and what I wanted to do in London for weeks, in my Let's Go and i-D. But soon after Scot and I moved in to our new place on Sheridan and Broadway, in 1989, we were to have a slew of house guests...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Some Girls are Bigger than Others

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OK, here it is, the moment you've been waiting for...
This what I did last week for Miss Serenity. It came down to a choice between M.I.A. Sunshowers and Moz's All You Need is Me (his most drag-queeny song to date. A compliment!). Although I did think long and hard about This Charming Man, but decided I was venturing too far into Sandie Shaw territory, and I wanted to do something original. I do love love love her version, so I stole her hair-do.
Either song would have had the dancing American junk food, and the food would have taken on an entirely different meaning. I can't say what the dancing food means in context to the M.I.A. song- you have to decide that for yourselves- but it is pretty fuckin hilarious.
Thanks to Anthony and Ed for performing with me, and to Richard for posting my vid and making me look, through his amazing editing skills, like I have any degree of talent.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Step and The Walk

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Today I walked over to Chicago's Pride Parade, with Scot, and took some videos of the locations you've read about here. I know! How cool!
First, welcome to my art deco dump. Such a lovely day. Next, we're off to Somewhere in Time, on Pinegrove and Waveland, where I lived with Jody in 1987. I was about to tell the kids who had the sad task of moving today, while thousands walked past their apartment, all about my life there in 1987, so we could compare and contrast our experiences, but decided against it.
Lastly, it's the darkly sad apartment on Pinegrove and Patterson I had recently told you about moving out of, in 1989, in Shot by Both Sides. The gate was locked, but mine was the lowest balcony on the left.
As an added bonus, here's some pictures from earlier this week, from a dinner party in the art deco dump: Ambiance, and Guests.
Happy Pride!
(Thanks to Scot for The Duke Spirit. Play it loud!)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mean To Me

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It was a warm, perfect summer day in Wisconsin. It took my eyes weeks to get used to sunshine, and I precariously rode around on my un-cool, banana seat-less bike, when the sun finally came out. In the mid seventies, if you didn't have a banana seat on your bike, you had a seat that looked like a pair of cement filled under wear. Very un-cool.
Brad lived to do the wrong thing, even back then, and we would ride around our neighborhood looking for 10-speeds for him wreck. He was so matter of fact with the passing of his knowledge to me, like he was teaching me how to roller skate.
This is how you strip a 10-speed's gears...
Oh. Ok. Should you be doing this?

We hung out by our school a lot, because it was a few blocks away from our homes. One day, in the ditch in front of the school, I noticed something shiny.
Now, I've always been a lover of all things shiny, so that was nothing new. Every chance I got I was into my mother's jewelry box, and I was constantly putting dimes in the plastic crap machines at the grocery store, to try to get a tin engagement ring with a pink rhinestone.
Earlier that year, our school held a carnival, with games, and the prizes were all that stuff I loved and coveted, but held as my own little secret: boys don't like pink rhinestones, or any rhinestones, as a matter of fact, so I dejectedly took the 'boy' prize whenever I won a game. Don't get me wrong, I did love getting a little plastic gun or dog, but I wanted the jewelry more, which brings us to a flash forward...
Sitting in the darken theater in my Connecticut high school in 1980, I learned a little something about myself: The movie we were watching featured Bette Davis (I think The Virgin Queen, but probably not) as the Queen of England, and, as a sub-plot, a gay couple got caught 'doing it' while wearing the expensive jewels they had stolen. I wasn't sure if the jewels made them horny, or the sense of security their value created, or the fact they were stolen from the Queen, but they did seem to play a major part of their amorous actions.
"Oh. Hmm. Gay and diamonds and rubies. Hmm. Whatta ya know..." I thought to myself.
Anyway, back to that summer day in 1977 with Brad, I saw a bunch of those plastic bracelets and rings and necklaces lying in the ditch, mouldering away. They were also lying with the 'boy' toys, but there were just too many toys there for me to think any one or two kids had put them there. There were dozens! I started picking them out of the muck as fast as I could, then slowly stopped.
I knew none of my classmates did this; we all wanted as much of the prizes as we could get. So either the teachers threw them here, or the people who ran the carnival did. Someone threw the things I had wanted so badly a few months ago into the ditch like it was garbage. Right in front of the school! They didn't even try to hide it!
I began to see the there was a difference between the true value things possessed, and the value I placed on them. It still doesn't stop me from buying things like this on Ebay, though.

In 1989, I moved out of my apartment on Pinegrove, and found a place with Scot. It wasn't too hard to find a place, for the moment we stepped into the courtyard on Sheridan by Broadway, we knew this was the place for us. It was big and light and in great shape for a vintage building, and very affordable.
I was happy Scot wanted to live with me, cause I really didn't want to be alone. And with Jody leaving Chicago, Scot was glad I asked.
My Floridian landlord was happy to see me go, and I walked my things down the street everyday for a week, and needed only one trip to move the rest of it, with a friend's car. This was my fourth year in Chicago, but it felt like my thirtieth.
For some reason, I played Crowded House's first two tapes over and over on my stereo, in the bedroom of my new place. Neil Finn therapy sessions. To this day, I am on Sheridan and Broadway if I hear a song of theirs. Those two tapes gave me such a complete feeling of utter failure, I'm not sure why I played them so much; maybe to spur me on to make some more changes in my life? I felt that way because theirs was boyfriend music; it was music I would make-out to, it was music you talked about the meaning of over dinner. It was music that could bring two people closer together. You don't have that, you don't have that...
I would come home from work and run to my room and shut the door and put on their music, for the first few months, but eventually I ventured out of my room, to begin getting to know my new world.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Found Found Found

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A little jump forward, then back...

Well, I have to admit, in 1991, when I saw Morrissey at The World, near Chicago, I was more into Boy George. The Martyr Mantras came out the year before, and to me it was a return to the sound that I came to love about him, and I could not take it out of my CD boom box for an entire year. I tracked down every single and remix I could find. Though KLF's The White Room did battle with ...Mantras for equal time.
So when my friend Chad asked me to see Morrissey with him that summer, I flinched a little. I thought I had broken up with Morrissey. I had seen The Smiths a few years back, at the Aragon Ballroom, but in The Queen Is Dead there lurked too many memories of my awkward and failed relationship with my boyfriend Jeff, and not to even mention the junkies and acid trips and unrequited loves that breathed a painful existence into Hatful of Hollow for me. So no, no Smiths for me any more, s.v.p.
Next came Strangeways and Viva Hate, two albums wrapped around my savior, destroyer, love of my life, and childhood best friend, Brad, where for two years in the late eighties, they were the soundtrack, to borrow a phrase (and mangle it), to the resignation of the ending our lives.
Morrissey has that wonderful way, for anyone the least bit introspective, of really getting to the core of something painful and human, an turning it into an art form that curls around you, and can influence who you are as a person, and create definition. I think all art, enduring or not, does that.
I could not divorce myself, in 1991, of the pain of my life in the late eighties I associated with Viva Hate, so Morrissey solo became off limits too, and he fell off my radar. But Chad's offer to see Morrissey got a whole lot sweeter, when he mentioned he could get us close to the stage, because of his boyfriend's connection: a doorman at The Plaza Hotel. Well, how could I say no to that!
I never did understand Chad and his boyfriend. I refused to understand, would be a better way to describe my feelings. Their thirty year age gap left me judgemental and doubtful of any real relationship, mainly because I wanted Chad for myself. He did manage to convince me, after many long talks, their relationship started how most relationships do: sexual attraction. The clincher, though, was when I saw Chad's collection of 'girlie' magazines. My I-finally-give-up-you-do-like-older-men sigh sent him into gales of laughter.
I wore my wonderful faux vintage 1940's Girbaud suit that I bought the year before at the downtown Manhattan Century 21, with a Sex Pistols t-shirt, and in the car on the way to the show, I made Chad promise a hundred times he wouldn't try to rush the stage and get arrested, leaving me to walk home from Tinley Park.
Now, of course, I wish would have kept my mouth shut.
He refused any money from me for the ticket, because the price for third row was pretty high, even by today's standards.

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The giant Edith Sitwell back drop was an unexpected surprise, and the star of the show. As a child I spent way too much time making up stories about her, and the other dramatic pictures in Life magazine's best-of photo book. Her picture, giant, exposed, and frail, sleepily gazing down upon our adulation of our British pop idol, kind of made me fall in love with Morrissey all over again.
He looked wonderful and sexy, in his now famous gold lame v-neck, and writhed on stage in a way that told me he had moved way beyond his fey eighties ways. The most memorable songs for me that night were Our Frank, because of the storm of cigarettes that erupted over us, and ...Sunday, because of the passion he inspired in the audience. But the most memorable experience for me that night was asking what song is this! over and over to Chad, because I seemed to recognize so few songs of the man who, just a few short years ago, I thought I had known inside out.
I vowed then and there to catch up with Bona Drag (a pillow for my weary head) and Kill Uncle (a box of candy), but I ended up spending the rest of the summer with Salinger and Louder than Bombs.


I wanted to call this post Jesus Loves You, but I'm afraid my gay melodrama would be little sustenance to a Christian desperate enough to Google that phrase...

Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm Going Back to 505

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Gedney


I know, I've been talking about telling you about Delhi (not her real name) for some time now, but I still can't find that picture of us. So no Delhi story. I also can't find the snake brooch Jody gave me, which really upsets me. The weird thing is, Delhi recently emailed me, just when I was getting ready to write about her. I haven't heard from her in at least 15 years. Strange.
As stories go, hers is an interesting one to tell, because of her obsession with Johnathan. I used to get so frustrated with her about this, because he, at first, would pull me aside and whisper his confusion and discomfort to me about Delhi.
"Why is she acting like this, Brian?! Why is she so in love with me? You gotta do something!" He begged, his face dripping with desperation.
I say at first, because the look of dismay that clouded his face when we rounded the corner and approached his bar eventually was replaced with a look of acceptance, or maybe even a little bit of joy. Delhi could be a very persuasive gal, as well as a generous one. I know his pockets were never as full when he went home, as when she came around.
I was annoyed by her behavior, because I saw her advances toward him as unwelcome, so seemingly obviously unwelcome, and I found my experiences with that very extreme, in a scary way. When I was younger, I seemed to attract people who grew intensely found of me; who's dams would eventually burst into floods of emotion over me, that I guess I always secretly wanted, and expected.
Mainly, I saw way too much of myself in Delhi's behavior. I was blind to the fact that I acted toward Brad and Doug as she did toward Johnathan, but internally, on the inside, in my guts, in Fantasyland. I'd pay my admission and enter the gates and wander the grounds of If Only and What Could Have Been. I could spend hours there. And I did. I spent years there.
I could do it anywhere: laying in bed staring at the ceiling, while wandering the streets of Chicago, at work, in a bar, etc, etc. I knew it was expensive, in an emotional way, but it took me a long time to see it for what it really was- it's true cost was staggering.
But that was yet to come. As spring turned to summer, in 1989, I made many promises to myself, and I kept them as long as I could. The main promise I made was I would be happy, and if I wasn't, I faked it. I met a lot of fun new people, went to a lot of parties, taking care to not over do my imbibing, and lived my life as someone who loved them self would. I had to make up those rules for myself back then, I'm sure borrowing from my literary and musical heroes, because any sort of 'loving existence' was a dusty old thing, rolling around some forgotten corner in my head.
I was surprised at how easy it was for me to make those changes. I connected with people quickly, and my focus became talking with them and knowing them, instead of getting wasted or 'scoring' (anything and everything). I had my group at Berlin I danced with, and my group who I would wander the streets with til all hours, talking up a storm, and a group I would go with to parties and late night diners.
I used to think these were tenuous connections I had with these people, til I ran into one last year, and we picked up where we left off in 1990.
I would sit back in my mind, from time to time, while I was with them, and mull over how different they were from some of the people I had surrounded myself with of late: they had plans for their life that stretched past what was happening tonight, and looked at me like I had the same thoughts; they looked at me like they were excited for my future, because they knew it was going to be great.
So I made some plans for my life: I would save up and go to London and New York, and write more, and make more art.
I divorced myself of any physical intimate relationships, though, because the ones I was having in my head already took up all my energy. Though the relationships I'd had over the past couple years had ended in real life, I could not end them. Why? Did I need them to end differently? Was I looking for some loop hole, some sort of self-esteem loop hole? I'm sure I could write a list a mile long of whys.

I started to hang around my old friend Scot more, and we talked about getting an apartment together again. We were both experiencing major changes in our lives, and thought each other's daily company would be helpful. My apartment on Patterson held so many ghosts, and ghosts of a time in my life I needed to forget, I couldn't bear to spend any time there. In every corner lay a failure, and in every shadow hid a heartache. It was time to go.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Welcome to My Art Deco Dump

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I hate reality. It's so fucking real. It's so easy to dig yourself into a happy little rut of non-reality that takes years to perfect and develop, only to do something stupid like stop using a tool that helps you do it. Be in denial, that is.
As much as I like to think I live my life with an awareness of who I really am, I just found out nothing can be further from the truth.
I stopped smoking about a month ago, and it shattered the illusion of thinking I have a pretty good understanding, as it's happening, of how I can use 'things' or 'activities' to disguise aspects about myself or my life I don't like, or can't deal with.
I don't know where I learned to do that, white-wash reality, self-medicate, hide from the truth, be afraid of the truth, or whatever the hell you want to call it, but for me it started at an early age, with sugar consumption.
My friends, Cathy, Sue and I would shoplift dozens of candy bars at a time each after school, in our neighborhood gas station/convenience store, and sit in the parking lot and eat every last one before heading home to face our dreaded realities, sugar-coating the lumps and bumps of our horrid junior high lives nicely. If we could have been doing shots of whiskey, we would have. But that didn't come til the next year.
We did this every day, the girls getting plumper, til the tough, greasy-haired Wisconsin-style cashier woman caught on to our little scam, and busted us.
I guess writing these posts dredges up things I had forgotten I can only deal with when I smoke. But ya gotta fight through it, right? Like Saint George and the dragon? Whatevs. Ricolas help.

If you saw my apartment, you'd think it was a dump. I've got nothing...but good taste. Oh, it's designed to perfection; 1920 meets 1950 meets 1970 in a 2000's kind of way, in White Stripes red, black and white, but it's a dump. Little has changed since my place was built, before G.D. electricity was invented, and it shows.
I am writing to you from LA, and, now that I think about it, the last time I wrote a post out of town, in NY, I wrote about the deco era as well.
I often wonder about the folks who lived through that time. It was a boon time for American, and many buildings were built in that style that seemed to define the 20th century. Was thew average person 'over it'? Did they roll their eyes at seeing yet another Art Deco building going up in their neighborhood?
I know I roll my eyes and spit in disgust when I see something new in my neighborhood that tries to look modern. It always seems to come across as cheap, or worse yet, derivative. I guess what really can annoy me about new constructions is that it usually destroys something old and interesting.
Though sometimes, they do get it right, like the house built on Wrightwood, just off Clark. It took them years to create it, and I watched it grow daily, inch by inch, for it was on my walk to work at the time. There is an ugliness to it, but the right kind of ugly.
"Ooo, that place is the right kind of ugly" I thought to myself when I heard President Clinton had dinner there. He wouldn't eat in any old dump. Even the years old pine trees were imported, and placed to look like their seeds just happen to land there, fifty years ago.

I'm guessing the people of the twenties marveled at being surrounded by so much new modernity, and felt they had an active hand in creating the twentieth century, by brushing off the excess design and darkness of the previous century, leaving the fruits of the desire to create a clean balance.
What inspires me, in the dawn of this new century, are homes donated and built by volunteers for people who need them, and how the younger generations in my family desire to be apart of that world, like I was drawn to be apart of the creative world.
And the ultra-hyper modern public spaces created in Chicago over the past few years remind me of a quote by Joan Miro: My art work is an invation for the youth of today to invent the future.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Chain of Flowers

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I am trying to find this picture I have of Delhi, this hilarious picture, so I can tell you about her obsession with Johnathan. The picture is perfect, because we're at Limelight, where Johnathan worked, and we're all glammed out in wigs and ugly, late 80's clothes. But I can't find it anywhere. Don't fret, I know I have it.
I did find some pictures I have been thinking about recently, though. I guess because I am a visual person, I think about pictures for days and hours, until they become a part of me.
First is one of me in Prague, about ten years ago. I've been thinking about his picture because I wore the vest this past winter, and because I've started working back in the salon where I worked with the woman who snapped it. She's not there anymore, at the salon, that is, but this is the second major event in my life I've revisited. The first was doing the play The Birds again, and I am just wondering what the Universe is trying to tell me. I think everything happens for a reason.
The second is me in London, in 1990, at The Tower. I like this picture because I think it's funny, me standing in the guard box, wearing a purse. Halt! Who gays there!

The Tower of London is really incredible, and everyone should go, and today I watched the BBC 4's eight-part series, a series I didn't know I was obsessed with til I saw the episode I saw on one of my many trips there. (The episode about the archaeologists at low tide) But today while I watched the show, I had this song in my head.
The next is of my brothers and my mom, in 1980, on a ferry, on our way to Liberty Island, to see the Statue. It's sad and dramatic, and to me, very American. Whenever I see the color blue that I imagine is in this picture, I have to stop and stare and ask myself, how do I know this color?
Next is of my brothers again, Christmas morning, 1977. I took the picture with my newly opened camera. The colors have faded over the years, but the mood is still captured. This was our first Christmas in our own house, for my dad lived with his father for a while after my parent's divorce. I've been thinking about this picture because I've recently been spending time at my grandfather's house, and all the emotions it's been bringing up has been a little startling. I had many nice moments there, but also a lot of bad ones, and I guess I had forgotten them. It's always good to have a clear picture of what really happened, of the good and the bad.
Here's one of my brothers Jeff and James, me, and Eighties Erin, in 1988. My brother Chris must have taken it. I also think this picture is hilarious, and I am going to Yaz this summer with Erin.
The lead picture is of Thelma Todd, because I'm reading a book about her murder. They say there is no proof the man 'responsible' for her death was ever in LA, but the building where her restaurant was is still there, and I'm going to check it out when I go there next month.
I hope you enjoyed this little digression from my story, but I can't tell you about Delhi til I find the picture.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm Leaving with an Astronaut

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Ugh. My first post without a cigarette...oh yea, and with glasses.
And if you want to know what the eighties smelled like, check out this cologne. I love, love it, but they should change the name from Dusk to Gay Bar, 1982.




I have always been jealous of people who ride the train to work. To me, they were successful. They wore suits. It meant you were 'somebody'. It meant you made it.
Back in the early eighties, when I moved to Chicago, my college educated friends and clients would, in my eyes, glamorously complain about their arduous daily treks to the loop, highlighting the monotony, and the element of danger.
Oh, it's just the daily grind and lack of options that start getting to you after a while. I mean, you can't drive and park downtown everyday!
In the eighties, train riders looked contented, well fed, and well shod. They wore the knowledge of their consistent routines snugly, next to their hearts, never to let them go. I made a commitment to myself back then, to get the kind of life they had, those train riders. Or was it their paychecks?
I worked on a commission, and for years I took home, well, let's just say I didn't take much home at all. If my friends hadn't paid the bills in those early days, I wouldn't be here.
Happily, those days were short lived, and when the time came that I took the train everyday to work, I wore suits and blazers, only not 'square' ones, and I rode with a sense of security, taking my place among the chosen ones.


After B left, in early '89, I wandered the streets of Chicago for hours, everyday, and every night, blasting my headphones.
I forewent public transportation and walked to work, then walked home, always taking the long way.
I took the Sugarcubes, Big Thing, Terrence D'arby, Strangeways, or High Hat with me to keep me company on those cold walks, the rainy walks; the sunny walks and hot walks.
Even though I knew I did the right thing, and asked B to move out, I was so sad about not being strong enough to change us both. I was sad about a lot of things between us. I knew I needed to make a lot of changes, but I thought I could do it for him, too.
The day he left, I decided to be a new person. I stopped listening to those negative voices that I heard all my life, those negatives voices that became negative thoughts about myself, and justified a hell of a lot of drinking and drug use. I just stopped. Stopped listening. I pretended I had never heard anything negative about myself. Never. Never heard it. I turned myself into the person I always wished I could be. Even though it wasn't real, I didn't care. I was going to see how long I could get away with it.
For the rest of 1989, I was a normal, well adjusted 23 year old, who didn't grow up the way I did, and who never touched a drink or a drug. I just wasn't. I liked it, and it felt good to be that person. It felt good to go out and come home and remember what had happened the night before, and not be embarrassed or ashamed. It felt good to be around new people, because I didn't have to worry about what would happen if I drank too much, because I didn't drink too much.
Around this time I started spending day light hours and many nights with my latest crush, Richard. Rumor had it he was one part of a motorcycle name, but I didn't ask or care, he was a beauty. (Though I did see his balance one night before Limelight, at an ATM, and there were a couple digits in front of that comma.)
I remember him having tons of gum in his car, and it felt great to spend time with someone who's company I enjoyed, and to feel present with him.
I was shocked when he asked if he could come over one night; shocked because I realised I had somehow started to believe that I was someone no one wanted to date. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It was scary. I really believed it! But then I remembered I was someone new.
Because I was spending more time with Dehli, or because Erin was spending more time with Donnie and his gang, she and I spent less time together. Erin and Dehli didn't get along, and I didn't try to fight it.
Dehli would fly into town every weekend for Limelight and shopping sprees. She bought up every dress Lane Bryant on Wells, after I watched her try every single one on, and she bought up every single stitch of Baronni make-up at Carson's. Literally. She said her parents kept thousands of dollars in their safe, and didn't seem to mind that she 'helped herself'.
I would train down to the Holiday Inn, when it was still on the lake, every Saturday night, and we'd cab over to Limelight. Even though I was off the pills and the booze, I was still very much on the freak train when it came to my late night get-ups, and we loved freaking out the hotel's other guests.



100% nicotine-free post. I'll finish this later!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

You Were a Photograph

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Last Thursday:
He stood tall, and proud, while he waited for the traffic light to change, to cross the street, and he crossed the insanely busy intersection of Irving Park, Damen, and Lincoln with not nearly the same amount of foreboding I do. His eyes darted a bit, but his face portrayed that of a man who has calmly looked into the eyes of death and said not today, but if I have to tomorrow, I'm ready.
I fucking hate crossing that intersection.
I know when I cross the street there, I tend to convey a look, to the drivers coming toward me, of someone who would undoubtly use the last of their strength, if I were to be hit, to drag them out of their car and erase their face with the pavement. I know I would scare myself if I were to ever see that picture of my face, so I make a conscious effort to minimize the daggers shooting out of my eyes.
The death of the traffic-disobeying bicyclist a few weeks ago, at that same intersection, doesn't help matters much.
The tall and proud guy walked to the bus stop where I was waiting, to catch the same bus I wanted. He reminded me a bit of the Daniel Day Lewis character in In the Name of the Father, who, while decked out in the hottest 1970's duds, pathetically exposed his involvement in a crime he got paid well to do, by walking down the gloomy, dirt poor street he lived on, in said duds.
This guy's clothing was as close as you could get to a 2008 version of a super-cool 1973 outfit, right down to his perfect Bay City Rollers haircut. He looked adorable.
I read no irony on his face, no pride, nor contempt to the less fashionable around him, just a sense that he enjoyed this role he played on the bus this day.
Being a lover of fashion, I try my best to keep up on the trends, but I realised, looking at this guy, I hadn't been paying attention to the fashion world very much lately, because he was that convinced his outfit was right.
I decided there could be no irony on his face, because he wasn't born til the mid eighties, and he hadn't lived the 70's fashion like I had, and I was looking at him now how I'm sure people my age did when I was 20, when I wore my 1960's duds.
We both rose at the same time, to get off at Sheridan Road, and then I saw his hand.
Wow, he has white skin. I thought to myself. There is a rash of doughy looking guys on the bus today. This is the third guy I've seen with skin that looks like it's just been kneaded and floured and is waiting for the oven.
Wait, no, that's not skin. He has an artificial arm.
I saw nothing in his bearing or expression that broadcast his artificial limb. I was dumbfounded. Could I ever move about the world the way this guy did? Minus one arm, but with total confidence and humility? I doubted it. I doubted it because I was getting ready to have a long and dragged out pity party for myself, because of finding out that morning I have to wear glasses, because I'm middle aged.
Now I have to cancel the party.






In early 1989, I lost it. I mean really lost it. I went with B to Jim and Christine's new apartment on Sheridan, by the El stop, to hang one Saturday night. I've been seeing that stop a lot lately, because I've been taking the train to work again. I wonder, how many times I will have to pass that stop without traveling through a time tunnel?
I always found it odd that Sheffield becomes Sheridan Road by the train stop. Right by that other strange street, Alta Vista Terrace, which looks like a little piece of London dropped into Lakeview. That part of Chicago holds many ghosts for me, and I cannot think of that area without picturing it cold and rainy. In those dark and gloomy little apartment buildings, I spent many nights wasting time til the sun came up, with friends and enemies, often times, but not always, hating every moment.

I spent a lot of time in that neighborhood back then, but I was afraid to take the train from that stop. I still did it, Look at me! I'm tough! but I was sure I would be murdered before the train arrived.
B and I spent many nights with Jim and Christine, at their various apartments, but this night I couldn't take it any more. I couldn't take their stupid drug talk. Someone brought up H, wishing they had some, or just wanting some, and someone else chimed in agreement, and this went back and forth for a few minutes, til I flipped out.
"Are you fucking nuts! Bob just died! B is still a wreck because of it! He fucking ODed! And you idiots want some? You're assholes!" I screamed at them til B dragged me out of the room.
"What are you doing here?" I screamed at him, as I tore myself away from him and stormed out the back door. I waited for him to come after me, which he did, and I told him if he didn't leave with me, not to come home. He didn't.

"B, let's go to NA. Or AA, or whatever A there is. I know they can help us. We can't stop this, B. Drugs have taken over our lives. Bob's dead, and look at us! We're worse off than we were before. We have to try and do something!" I said to B.
I couldn't believe the words that had started coming out of my mouth lately. I never talked about anything; I never told B or anyone how I really felt, but here I was doing it. Something took over me. Maybe it was my love for B, and wanting to stop his downward spiral. My subconscious knew I had to break out of my silence, and try to save his life.
I couldn't convince him to go to NA or AA for his problem. His. I didn't have a drug and alcohol problem. I was just broken. Fucked up. I wished I was an addict or alcoholic. Those seemed like an easy problems to solve. Mine were much more complicated than that. But I must say, it did feel right to ask him to go to NA or CA or AA with me, and I felt this feeling of 'exposing a truth' about myself to B. I told him I would go for him, hoping it would help me, too.
I couldn't convince him to go, because he heard the meetings were about God, and God forbid our lives became about God, because that is so much worse than what it was really about.
I did understand the heart of his argument: the homophobia that wears a 'God' mask, but I was used to seeing that mask, and felt I could go on pretending it wasn't there, if it meant I could be shown a way to live my life without drugs and alcohol.
But we didn't go. We never went. I did make a secret promise to myself, in 1989, that if I did any drugs ever again, I would get some help. I made that promise because I told Brad let's go to NA or CA or AA, not you need to go.


A few weeks later, I had to ask B to move out. I hated asking him to leave. I know he was at Jim and Christine's because of drugs, and I couldn't handle it any more. I knew if he didn't leave, neither of us would live to see 1990. He didn't put up much of a fight; he knew it would end badly if he didn't. He didn't even move into Jim and Chris's place; he moved to Milwaukee, with someone there he still kept in touch with. I asked him why he didn't move in with Jim, and he just looked at me with a look that said I'll die there, without saying a word.
This is about life and death. I said to him, without saying anything to him.





A playlist for those grey, gloomy days on the Northside, for the class of '84...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sex and Dying in High Society

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Some strories, and some crimestories, from 1988 and 1989, in honor of the movie Public Enemies, which has recently begun filming here in Chicago, and for X performing at Metro...

1988:
Click on the radio, The Beth and Tim Show, a conversation:
The Rapture is happening tonight. By midnight tonight, you will either disappear, or you will be left behind to fight WWIII. What? Disappear? Yes disappear. That's what the Rapture is: the good Christians will disappear, taken by God up to heaven in an instant. It doesn't matter what you're doing; you could be driving or flying a plane or performing an operation, you will cease to exist on this planet. Where is this coming from? Who said it? It's from a book I recently found, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Happen in 1988. Remember I told you about that book? I was saving talking about it til tonight. Thanks for the warning! You could've let me prepare. Well, the author gives a window of this week in September when this will happen, and this is the last day of his prediction.

Will I disappear to heaven? I thought to myself. Am I a good Christian? Hell no! I don't even clean my cat box enough. I'm not a good anything. Could I get a special dispensation for all the crap I had to endure in my life? A sort of get out of jail free card?

Get ready! If someone comes for you tonight, go with them! You don't want to be stuck here with all us sinners! The second coming of the lord means the rise of the anti-christ! We will be left to do his bidding. I'm sure that won't be fun. Oh yea, no, that would be bad. I hope I get to go to heaven. Do you think I will go to heaven, Tim? Am I a good person? I don't think the Rapture has anything to do with being a good person or not. It's about being a good Christian. I think we both fail that. Maybe, I guess. So following the Rapture, there will be seven years of tribulation, where millions of people will die, and we will see the worthy dead rising from their graves, to go up to heaven, too. Wow. Reanimation. Wow. I'd like too see that. Really? I wouldn't. The world will be thrown into chaos as all these people disappear, and the dead come back to life.
There is some good news, though. Those of us left will get a second chance to go to heaven, if we become good Christians, you know, do good things: sacrifice yourself for others, etc. Wow. Seems we might have our work cut out for us, starting tomorrow. I hope you're ready! I hope someone comes for us, Beth! I hope we get to leave tonight...

God, is this real? Do people really think this? Is WWIII starting? Will I disappear tonight? Ding-dong! My door bell! My door bell is ringing! What do I do? Should I answer it? I'll peek out the window to my door...no one's there! I'll go downstairs and see...no one! I'm freaking out! I'll walk out my front door...
As I leave my courtyard, I see Dehli walking up the sidewalk.
"Yes, it was me! I forgot something in my car."
"Oh. Hi. I thought it may have been Jesus Christ..."

1989,I:
I hadn't worn these in a while. I thought as I put on my running shorts from my teenage days. I should actually use them some time. I wonder how I look in them. Probably not as good as I did back then. Oh well, everything else is dirty, so I have to wear them to do my laundry. Who knows, maybe some cute guy will like what he sees...
I had a lot of laundry to do, and I was in and out of my apartment via the back courtyard into the basement many times that day. It was a little too cold for short shorts, but what can you do. After the second or third trip, I felt eyes on me, and after the fourth or fifth trip, I stood on my back porch, scanning every square inch, because something felt wrong. Someone was out there. The courtyard wasn't that big, so after my long scan, and seeing nothing, I felt it was just my imagination. In the laundry room, I kept one eye on the door, just in case.
Mid way through my chores, Dehli came by for a visit. She lived a few blocks away, and liked to come over spur of the moment a lot. After a few minutes of chitchat with Dehli, a loud scream blares from across the hall, from my neighbor's place, and I fling open my front door, because I happened to be standing by it, and in an impossibly short amount of time, she is out her front door, and in the courtyard yelling for someone to call the police.
"Are you OK? What's wrong?" I call to her from my balcony.
"Call the police! There is a man in my apartment! She yells back.
During this time, in early '89, there was an unfortunate rash of rapes occurring in Chicago that had gone unsolved, and my neighbor was his next intended victim. I tried to invite her into my apartment to wait for the police, but she was too afraid to go back inside. She was, in fact, too afraid to even stay in her apartment, and moved out a few days later. Dehli ran home, so I called Erin and asked if she could pick me up to see a movie; I needed to get out of there, too.
I came home a few hours later to find the police still at her apartment, dissecting the clues he had left behind, and questioning her. They never questioned me.
The next day, I knocked on her door to check on her, and she gave me the story:
She came home to find her cat running around her apartment, freaking out, and opened her closet to put her coat away, when a man jumped out and tried to attack her. She was able to evade him, as I witnessed. I never saw someone move so fast my whole life, I told her. And the police found things under her bed that weren't hers: lengths of rope and rolls of tape.
"They dusted everything of mine for prints, trying to find out who he was. They said he came in the back door. Did you see anything? I just can't think about what he might have done. I can't live here anymore. I'm moving back home." She said.
I told her I had been home all day, and in the back courtyard a lot, but hadn't seen anything. I tried to assure her by saying I was sure I would have heard something wrong coming from her place, if she hadn't gotten out when she did. Maybe I was trying to assure myself.

1989, II:
"Come on Brandon, let's make-out in the closet. Let's have sex in the closet. It's a big closet!"
I said to my old high school classmate, whom I drug home with me one night from B's bar.
"I aways had a crush on you." I confessed. He might have had a passing interest in me that night, but he ran out of my walk-in closet after a minute or two, each time I pushed him in there.
"Aww, come on Brian, let's hang out with B in the living room." He said. B had brought a guy home with him, too, and a big stash, assuring a long night of partying was imminent. I tried to coax Brandon in one more time:
"Alright, just for a little while." He said. But after a minute, he said "No. This is weird." And went home.
A little later, B started to get hot and heavy with his guy, and I didn't want to watch, so I spent the night passed out in my closet, alone.