Jun. 8th, 2015 10:25 am

Really you?

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
People just want to be remembered. Of course, if you asked us what we wanted, I'm sure we'd all say "love" and "respect". But we recognise that those are in short supply sometimes--particularly when you're looking for them. So when it comes to what we're willing to settle for, it can be as simple as just someone knowing your name.

This was the theme of my weekend. My cocktails were an unexpected success. I beat a couple bushes, but mostly people came to me. One of these was Martian Boy, who's moved back home to Indiana after the better part of a decade on the East Coast. Diego, his ex, was also expected at the gathering. I didn't think there'd be a problem there, and I was right. They've both recently come out of LTRs. I don't think that mattered much for Diego, who's always been able to maintain good relations with exes, but it may have helped MB's perspective that his dream husband turned out to be a complete dickhead.

This all came out in, of all places, the back bar at Touché's when I ran into a long-lost coworker who I first met through Diego. (I asked for his phone number, and when I supplied his surname without prompting his response was, "I can't believe you remember that!") He'd been singing his praises for a few minutes before I pointed out, "By the way, this is his ex." When the man himself finally arrived, the mutual friend was like, "We've been saying such nice things about you I feel like we should be tearing you down now."

Earlier, in the kitchen, I told the stories of my first meeting with each of them. Diego lived across the hall from [livejournal.com profile] monshu, but we didn't actually speak until I ran into him at a restaurant dining with a mutual acquaintance (who neither of us keeps up any longer). Some time later, I knocked on his door to find him for some reason and Martian Boy answered it wearing nothing but longjohn bottoms. (I remember a brief moment of mutually checking-out; he professes not to.)

I probably couldn't tell you ten things about MB despite nominally knowing him for years. But recalling that incident was enough for him to praise my memory effusively at the bar later. The trigger was running into another old acquaintance, this one a rare visitor to Touché. In fact, he claimed that the last time he'd been there was the last time he'd seen me, and that was roughly a year ago. We'd hung out in the hallway chatting for a while. He'd told me all about his amazing scrotum, which could be wound around several times.

So naturally the first thing I said when I saw him was, "HELICOPTER BALLS!" He feigned embarrassment, but under it he was gratified. Then I told MB the story about how I'd first met him: in the same bar, wearing a "FREE HUGS" t-shirt. I'd taken him up on his offer, then experienced a moment of awkwardness as it became clear that I wasn't quite his target audience. As he left, he said, "See you again a year from now." Before he went, I asked him for his given name and I'm determined to remember it for the next time.

All of these little occurrences returned to my mind on Sunday evening as I watched Ayoade's adaptation of The Double with Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg's character is too meek to claim the love and respect he deeply craves. All he really wants is recognition on the most basic level: for someone to know his name and his face and recall them spontaneously. And when even that is denied him, he has a complete breakdown.

I worry about some of these men, that they're never far from that themselves. Whenever I haven't seen one of them for a while, dark thoughts cross my mind. But Saturday wasn't like that. The bar was filled with familiar faces; we went over en masse and held together surprisingly well over the course of the evening. It was a little victory against the forces of entropy and forgetfulness.
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Aug. 5th, 2014 09:59 pm

KEEP OUT

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
In a ruling that apparently came as a surprise to no one, a Denver bear bar was found guilty of illegally discriminating against less "masculine" individuals. The investigation was triggered by a drag queen, who was refused entry last year. The owners claim it was because her appearance didn't match the driver's licence photo which is (a) transparent bullshit and (b) has been used as an excuse to discriminate against transfolk since forever. DORA, the state regulatory agency, says it found a clear pattern of discrimination which has been confirmed by various individuals familiar with the place.

I filled in [livejournal.com profile] monshu, and we traded stories about how gay bars have historically used dress codes to illegally bar people who made their clientele uncomfortable. He told me that in SF, some bars banned open-toed shoes. This being California, there were plenty of men as well as women in sandals, but only the toe-baring customers with vaginas got turned away. When I first began visiting bars in St Louis (three years underage), my gay best friend informed me that "NO HATS" was a dodge for keeping out blacks. I'm not sure what the tricks were in Chicago, I just know bar owners must've had them here, too. If so, they're not enforced like they used to be, judging from the drag queen with the light-up bouffant in the back bar at Touché last Saturday.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Friday night I took shelter in numbers and discharged an outstanding obligation to colleague. Ever since a Senegalese coworker reopened his restaurant, I've been promising to come visit. I like him, I like Senegalese food, but I really really dislike being kept up all night with killer reflux from eating spicy food late, so I've been waiting for a weekend where I didn't have much going on. This turned out to be that weekend, and as a bonus I was able to tag along with a gang of work buddies. All in all, this visit was very reminiscent of the last except that the food was better and the service, incredibly, much worse. To his credit, our friend tried to get us to order dishes ahead of time so he could get a jump on preparing them, but we misunderstood how to do this and didn't. His sole waitress (and girlfriend?) largely ignored our table; I was going to order some tea, but I was lucky to get water, and that after nearly an hour of being seated. Pretty much everyone else was drinking the bear, wine, and whiskey they'd brought, which made them good diverting company, but also less focused than me on actually getting an order together.

Happily, they were all open to eating family-style. I was looking forward to sampling a wide array of dishes, but in the end we had only five. The appetiser course (arriving at the one-and-a-half-hour mark) was a sampling of pastels, deep-fried pastries with fillings of chicken, fish, and vegetables. About a half-hour later, we had a rather bland vegetable medley "in honour of the [sole] vegetarian". Then another long pause before the yassa au poulet, chicken braised in a spicy mustard-garlic sauce with plenty of grilled onions (we'd been given steamed rice to eat with it, but I was the only one with any left by the time the dish arrived, and then only because I'd literally been nibbling it one grain at a time) and a bland salad notable only for the presence of a squash-like vegetable no one could identify. At this point, it was nearly nine o'clock, and I told myself I wasn't going to have a bite more, despite feeling far from sated. But I gave in at the sight of the mountain of chicken curry that arrived some time later, and was only a little sorry to find it lacking the terrific juiciness of the yassa.

I can't fault my friend's culinary skills, but there are obvious limitations to being the sole chef and cooking everything to order. Besides the nine of us, they served only eight other diners during the four hours we were there. Even with a small salary pool, how can you turn a profit with only four covers an hour on what should be your busiest night? I should've been charmed by the way he would come out and sit with us each time to discuss what the next course would be, but all I really wanted was for him to get back into the kitchen and cook us some damn food, any kind of food. So I'm glad I made it over during what I suspect will be the relatively brief window that the restaurant will be open. And I know he must've been pleased, too, because he remembers my previous visit so well that he knows exactly what I ate (maafe) and mentioned this several times.

Naturally, not everyone was ready to go home when the dinner party broke up around ten, so at the instigation of a Tennessean grad student cum security guard I'll call "Rocky Top", we ended up at the Oasis, Rogers Park's most celebrated surviving dive bar. My total exposure to it heretofore consisted of using the wreck of a restroom, which is shared with the little Korean-run sushi bar next door. I can certainly see the attraction to Rocky Top, a would-be novelist, but it's a bit much to take sober. An hour or so of trying to avoid eye contact with the William H. Macy hangdog face of the middle-aged man across from us was enough for me, so I promised them cocktails chez nous to make up for failing to buy a round and slunk home.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
"Let's ask them to do 'Irish Rover'."
"'The Wild Rover'? That's one of me favourite songs. She likes it, too."

I made that tongue-in-cheek suggestion even before I knew that the diminutive leader of the amateurish lederhosen-clad three-man combo would end up plopping down next to me to ask, "What next?" And it turns out that they did know "Wild Rover" though--as I suspected--not under that name. When my initial request drew blank looks from the burly man with the squeezebox, I said, "'Auf der Nordseeküste'!"

"Wie heisst das Lied?"
"'Auf der Nordseeküste'. Kennen Sie das?"

They conferred a bit and launched into a completely unfamiliar tune. But as I kept listening to it, it mutated and eventually the faces of the Irishman and Italian woman we were sitting with broke into smiles of recognition. And then, almost as soon as they had verbal confirmation from me that that was indeed the song I had in mind, they stopped playing it.

I can't remember if this was before or after I bet your woman a pizza that the etymology of "wizard" was, in fact, Old English and not, as she insisted, Old Irish. (Naturally she lost--that's what happens when you go up against the language nerd who's spent the last thirty years compulsively reading dictionaries!) It hardly matters; I doubt I'll see the payoff, but who knows? Your man took [livejournal.com profile] innerdoggie's card because he was interested in a Python users' group she told him about. Of course, no second meeting could measure up to the joy of grabbing the first empty bench available only to discover you're across from a stylish Milanese professional translator and a computer programmer with school Irish and an interest in jazz. Nuphy's gregariousness and knack for serendipity come through again!

Afterwards, he predictably hustled me over to the Gage and introduced me to their resident mixologist. I was sorely disappointed that I couldn't allow myself more than a sip of his wares (the Aviation was decent--I prefer Sapphire to the Nolet's he went for--but I would love to return for a full dose of one of his Last Words), and he consoled me with a dash of Jerry Thomas Own Decanter Bitters in my tonic. Mmm, spicy! All in all, things turned out much better than I expected about five hours earlier, when I was fighting off a cold and wondering how on earth I was going to rendezvous with everyone with my phone dying and unable to get a signal in the middle of fucking Chicago.

If this does turn out to be my last visit to the Christkindlmarket this year--and it's looking that way, given that Nuphy would rather do Italian before Elisir d'amore--then I can say I left it on a high note. I didn't even need the Glühwein to put me in a mood where I could ignore the heat, the noise, the press of people around me; pork, sweets, and good companionship were enough to do that.
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Nov. 24th, 2012 11:23 pm

Do-overs

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Today felt like a second Saturday. Our first Saturday was eight hours in the Loop shopping followed by a break for dinner and then, for me, four hours at SoFo with [livejournal.com profile] clintswan. So today had to be correspondingly less ambitious, and it was: two hours shopping in Andersonville (including an hour for brunch at Vincent) followed by naps, some light pruning (for me), a second Thanksgiving dinner, and a movie on the couch together.

The movie was 2011's Bernie (thanks, [livejournal.com profile] joebehrsandiego, for the tip), which if I knew had been directed by Richard Linklater I'd forgotten. I have to credit his tremendous commitment to naturalism with coaxing probably the best performance I've ever seen from Jack Black and for sure from McConaughey. But his real coup was the interviews with smalltown East Texas natives interspersed throughout the film. I was genuinely unsure whether they were actually actors or not until I went and looked it up afterwards.

Needless to say, I lapped up the accents like melted ice cream. [Word of caution to Yankees and Europeans who think people who speak like McConaughey are difficult to understand: You will need subtitles.] The film is being touted as a "black comedy", though to some degree simply because it doesn't fit any other obvious marketing category. There's real pathos as well as the occasional laugh-out-loud moment, and what ties it together is an attempt to explore the complexity of human nature.

Speaking of which, I had a personal growth moment at the bar last night. It was crowded up front, and [livejournal.com profile] clintswan and I headed to the back so he could use the ATM. On the way there, I scanned the crowd for familiar faces and found one: Le Ragoton. I was already past him before the penny dropped, so all I gleaned from his expression was that he'd recognised me. Later, as we took up a spot against the back wall (close enough to the bathroom that we were guaranteed "Are you in a line?" as a potential conversation-starter for as long as we wanted it) I knew that if I looked over to where I'd seen him he'd be gone and he was.

When I told [livejournal.com profile] monshu the story the next day, he said, "So, you made him leave the bar. Good." At the time, though, I didn't even feel a Pyrrhic sense of victory, only pity. He'd had to stop coming to Touché because he couldn't bear the possibility of running into me. Now he may feel he has to avoid SoFo as well. What kind of way is that to live when you're a month shy of your 62nd birthday? My response, by contrast, was equanimity: It was bound to happen sometime in this tiny gay village. It didn't really change my attitude toward the evening; I told my companion because I thought he'd find it interesting and fifteen minutes later I'd forgotten all about it.

Three hours later, I was at the front bar again with some guys from the gaming group thinking to myself, I should really go, but still enjoying the company and the atmosphere too much to make a move. The music was a surprisingly decent blend of current pop and 90s throwbacks, with a couple mashups and novelty videos (including a hilarious illustration of what happens when Carly Rae meets Chatroulette); some of the big bears across from us were doing some serious chairdancing. I'll see some of the guys again at brunch tomorrow. (Though not the chairdancers--they were a part of the crowd of out-of-towners I was hoping to catch by going out on a holiday weekend.)
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Poor JB had a pet emergency last night and pulled out on us at the last minute, but [livejournal.com profile] monshu and I were already committed to going out. All the same, I had second thoughts when I saw how tired he looked sitting on the porch yesterday evening. The job is so heinous these days that even a full day off isn't enough time to recover from it any more. But he was still game, so I beautified myself and we struck out for Morse. Last time we were up there--a month ago now--I pointed out some of the new eateries to him and suggested we give them a try sometime. To refresh his memory, I led us up Greenview and then east past Grill Inn, Chuckies, and finally Act One. That was the one he most liked the look of, so that's where we went in and got a booth.

Overall, it was a better eating experience than my previous visit with Dale, but there were still some missteps. The most egregious of these was the "jerk chicken spring rolls", which was a misnomer in about every possible way. First of all, they were deep-fried; I call those "egg rolls", not "spring rolls". Then there was the seasoning on the chicken, which bore no resemblance to any jerk sauce I've ever tasted. The chicken had no texture (whether from being ground, mashed, or just overcooked) and the heat seem to be supplied by chopped jalapenos. I didn't detect any of the "carmelised plaintains" in the description.

After that, it was all up. [livejournal.com profile] monshu really liked his fish 'n' chips (made with grouper) and my short rib sandwich was good, if a little skimpy on the pickled onions. Although the cocktails looked interesting (if sweet), I started off with a Goose Island Green Line. At first I found it refreshing--light just a little tart--but I kind of got tired of drinking it before I reached the bottom. A better gulping beer than a sipping one, I'm afraid.

The Rogers Park Bear Auxiliary was well-represented, both indoors and out. I tried to hail [livejournal.com profile] profundojoe through the window, and when that failed I texted him--at a number he apparently hasn't used for years, because I got some guy named Charles in Detroit. It took a bit of back and forth to ascertain this, however, but he was so good-humoured about it, I almost thought he might be chatting me up.

Afterwards, the Old Man was too tired for a nightcap at the Glenwood and it was too dead and empty for me to want to go myself. Instead, I went into the Common Cup for a cold drink--Intelligentsia ice chai, as it happens. (Still way too cinnamony, but way more drinkable than Peet's.) I grabbed a seat and took in the scene--the latinas gorditas sipping hot chocolate and discovering snickerdoodles, the young woman helping a stooped old granny across the street, the long-haired barrista having cryptic conversations with a neighbourhood woman--all that and more.

I strolled back home and caught up on my social networks ([livejournal.com profile] linguaphiles is blowing up from being spotlighted), but was feeling cheated of my night out. So I went over to Touché for a nightcap. I was having a nice chat with one of the bartenders, but he started to get busy and a drunk friendly out-of-towner suddently pounced. "Sit over here! You shouldn't be sitting alone."

He was visiting from Toronto, so I began to tell him a bit about our visit. The moment he heard I'd flown Porter, he was beside himself: he's flight attendant for them. He was chatty and friendly, if awfully drunk and looking for some dirty business. When I left, he was mobbed by four or five guys in the back room, having been the crystal in the supersaturated solution that got the party started.
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Yesterday evening I made my way to A Taste of Heaven in Andersonville. (Yes, that Taste of Heaven.) I took a seat at the window bathed in sunlight and looked out on the people strolling by as I sipped tea, read my books, and devoured a lovely roasted pear salad with juicy tender chicken and rich dollops of cheese. It would've been perfectly delightful if not for one thing[*]: I was only killing time waiting for the summons to join Bumiputeri at Hamburger Mary's.

Initially I was puzzled why she invited me out for drinks with her work friends. What do I have to talk about with a bunch of social workers anyway? Puzzled, that is, until she told me how much she wanted me to meet her co-worker Rick. Even before she spoke the dreaded words "You two have a lot in common," I knew what was up.

She was playing collect and trade.

My first gay mentor warned me about this game way back in high school. "When you're gay, women collect and trade you like baseball cards. 'Oh, you've got a gay friend? I've got a gay friend. Let's get our gay friends together!" But I wasn't out until college, so I was able to dodge being the victim of this game for another four years. I can still hear my college pal Sandra's voice uttering almost exactly the same codephrases. "You have a lot in common." "You'll like him."

Can we all agree right off the bat that "You'll like him" is just an obnoxiously presumptuous thing to say in general, regardless of motives or reasoning? That would raise my hackles even coming from someone who thoroughly understands my taste. Seventeen years I've known Nuphy--one of the most easygoing men I've ever met--and I still can't predict which of my friends he'll hit it off with and which he won't.

The good thing about being un pédé d'un certain age is that you know the drill, you know the other guy does, too, and you can both minimise the awkwardness of the situation. If you choose to, that is.

Thing is, I'm a bad friend. I know that if I agree to certain things, I should have the decency to see them through with good grace. But I combine being too well-intentioned to turn someone down with being too petty to keep my big mouth shut. So there I was in the back bar with Bumiputeri and her friend Jazz, hearing her say once again, "You'll like him." And I was simply too fed up not to ask:

"Why will I like him?"
"Because you two have things in common."
"What do we have in common?"
"Well...he's been to Germany."
"Okay. What else?"
"He likes to drink beer, too."
"Okay, beer and Germany. Is that it?"
"He's Catholic."
"You know that I haven't done anything Catholic for twenty years, don't you?"
"No, I didn't. Maybe he'll make you start going to church again."

So what do you think we talked about when he finally did show up? We actually did discuss Germany. It turns out the reason he's been there is that the programme he administers employs a lot of Germans who are doing their civil service. So that was five minutes of conversation. But mostly we talked about neighbourhoods, street crime, and Off Off Campus.

Yep, he went to UofC, too. The SINGLE STRONGEST INDICATOR of our compatibleness and she never thought to mention it. (Not that I get along with everyone who graduated from there by any means, but it does generally guarantee we'll have at least enough interesting conversation to fill an hour.) Naturally we never brought up being gay at all. Why should we? Would two straight people have talked about being straight?

In the end, it all would've been just fine, a decent way of passing an hour. He was no fool either; like any gay man, he'd been here before and knew how to extract himself tactfully. But Bumiputeri had to hover at my elbow as if making small talk with strangers in bars wasn't something I had a good decade and a half of practice with. She once tried to leave but quickly returned because she felt "bad" about leaving us--which is ironic because it was much easier to chat without her watching while doing nothing to get a conversation going.

So next time a female friend tells me about some guy I've just got to meet because "you'll like him", I won't try to humour her. I'll politely volunteer to take her out to dinner myself instead, then gently explain to her the error of her ways.

Ob[livejournal.com profile] joebehrsandiego: Has a friend ever tried to bring you together with someone you had little in common with? How did you handle the situation?

Any straights out there want to confess to having played collect and trade before? (Reminder: Anonymous posting is enabled.)


[*] Well, two things, actually; the music was incredibly bad. One Van Halen song, okay, ironic retro kitsch. But two? That should be actionable.
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This was a nice low-key day. [livejournal.com profile] monshu and I headed down to A-ville for our weekly shopping. (When it comes to smokes, he's a man who values freshness, apparently.) My regular tea was back in stock at Pars so I bought 400 g as a bulwark against the next drought. (You're attracted by the food porn, but you stick around for the badly mixed metaphors!) Lunch was at Icosium. (Note to self: Salmon not as salty as last time, but the crêpe sat too long and the chef forgot my dill.) I went a little mad at Middle Eastern Bakery, getting not only pita and dip plus the falafel Manguito requested for the party we were going to, but also mint-flavoured kefir, Turkish diggy biscuits, citrus shortbread cookie pieces, roasted almonds, dried apricots, and a candied fig.

The apartment was a little funky. I remember standing on ceremony (I don't have to be invited to sit down before I will, but one likes to be, no?) and thinking to myself I don't think I'll be back. But it was hard not to be won over by the soft-spoken Montenegrin father, who continued to neaten as we all indulged Manguito's need to vent a bit about work. Hours later I got around to asking him about the icons of St Nicholas on the wall; he told me that, yes, the slava (on December 19th, just as you might expect) was still a big deal.

Initially, I was reminded of my own first attempt at a game night, only here there was a clear division as the parents of the two rugrats and a couple of their friends collected in the room where a Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends marathon was underway while the rest of us sat around the dining room table. Eventually Chez Dork was pulled from the boxes piled on either side and we had a reasonably diverting couple of games before I went and pulled in a couple more warm bodies for a punchy game of Hex Hex.

Things broke up early on account of adolescent bedtime. Driving me back home, Manguito decided to pop into Jackhammer "just to see what it's like". We had a nice chat with the bartender about his dreams of opening a gay bar in his hometown of Manhattan (Kansas, that is) and we all lamented how the atmosphere there had changed once the new basement backroom was introduced. Sure enough, a couple of cute bears wandered in eventually, but Manguito could get no play and around eleven (after dancing to a few retro hits on the empty dancefloor) we headed out.

Poor Manguito! He's massively sweet on me. Thoroughly quashing his hopes would feel cruel, allowing them to exist feels dishonest. I just wish he could meet the honey he's hungry for and make the whole issue moot. I seldom envy straight men, but sometimes it would be nice to have friends you could go out on the prowl with without having to worry about ending up in their jaws.
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Tonight was my triumphant return to Burger Night at Big Chicks. Yesterday I came to the realisation that this might be my last chance to milk the sympathy of navigating the place on crutches. Since once you lay those down, you're no longer a pitiful disabled man, you're just some twat wearing an ugly shoe.

The charming hottie who takes the orders was suitably solicitous, but most of the crowd were strangers. Coleman was sweet enough to secure a table out front so we could watch the comings and goings, but the only visitors we had were the Scoutmaster, Mr Foot Fetishist (who couldn't keep his hands off my hair), and Diego. Not that I wasn't happy to see them all, but half that bunch will be at Coleman's party in a couple weeks anyway.

I rode back up with the Scoutmaster and he hit the CTA jackpot when the driver offered to drop him a couple blocks from his home on her way back to the garage. My karma wasn't so good: Somewhere along the way I must've dropped my CTA card. At least I never keep more than $10 on it any more and I think in this case it was down to $5. Hopefully it'll make someone's day.
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When we rang Tuppers' bell, the voice that told us, "Come on up!" was neither his nor that of the only other expected guest, Tall T. It was the voice of an articulate young man. "Shit," I told [livejournal.com profile] monshu. "He invited Sketchy Boy after all." With the enigmatic wisdom of years, he replied, "It'll be what it'll be."

So imagine my relief at finally reaching the top of the stairs and finding a handsome unfamiliar man in the kitchen--Tall T's partner, as it turns out. My partner presented our gifts--a bottle of amaro to complement "a thousand years of melancholy and bitterness" and a long-stemmed American Beauty from a long-stemmed American beauty. Then we sat down for wine, canapés, and childhood photographs.

Tuppers had wanted to dine at Leonardo's, but I had used my crack research skills to determine it was closed Mondays and suggested Antica Pizzeria as an alternative. Stupidly, I had forgotten it was BYOB, so despite having just left a house stocked with leftover party wine, [livejournal.com profile] monshu had to run to Jewel for a couple of bottles, arriving back just after the food (which too my relief met with general approval) did.

The guest of honour insisted he wanted only coffee for dessert, but the Old Man and I shouted him down and ordered an ice-cream bombe to share. (Of course he thanked us for that later.) It arrived with a lighted candle and a chorus of "Penblwydd hapus i ti!" led by me and followed by no one. "Thank you for all joining in there," said Tuppers drily. "Perhaps we could have it again, this time in English." That suggested went over like soiled knickers.

I was quite taken aback afterwards to hear [livejournal.com profile] monshu readily assent to Tuppers' suggestion of a nightcap at The Call. It was as empty as an eggshell, which had several advantages: Plenty of room for Crutch Boy, seats at the bar for everyone, and ample opportunity for the single single man among us to make googly eyes at the young bartender. (Speaking of googly eyes, I made some myself at the bullnecked bear sitting across the bar. Alas, I lost all interest in him once he opened his mouth.)

On my instigation, we discovered that there was a live VJ in the booth and began bombarding him with requests, which he was completely amenable to fulfilling if not always astute in his execution. (I find it hard to credit that when Tuppers asked for Elton John, the Muppet Show rendition of "Crocodile Rock" was what he hand in mind.) But he had his moments, as when I caught him coming off a Pat Benatar-Pretenders kick and said, "We have a nostalgic Englishman at the bar. He wants to hear some music from this era, but from English bands." And he came back with "Just Can't Get Enough" and "Panic".

At this point, the old men had long since departed and it was just the two of us. I thought maybe the moment was right for a little heart-to-heart. Enter Sketchy Boy, stage left. Earlier in the evening, I'd been teasing Tuppers about him being "the new Da", who had entred his nightlife right at the moment that taken myself out with an injury. He'd dismissed this with, "The old Da has never gone way!" But now his tune was, "The new Da is here, the old one can leave now." More than happy to, old friend!
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I'm sitting at home today because I'm a dumbass. My first dumbass decision was that binge drinking at German Fest was a good idea, and pretty much everything else follows from there.

The rain Saturday morning dampened the GWO's enthusiasm for the Lakewood-Balmoral massive cooperative yard sale, so I frittered away the morning until it was time for the Great Book Giveaway at Spookyfruit Manor. There I linked up with my car-enabled younger brother and we sped down to Lawrence just in time to see the empty floats departing. Nuphy met us at the gate and we were soon sharing litre plastic steins of beer.

So far, so good. But Nuphy had to take off for the free opera concert in Millennium Park and [livejournal.com profile] bunj left not long at meeting the Scoutmaster. (Sorry, Bunji, should've given you some heads-up about the casual racism.) Now, as I've noted before, he's not the best influence on my drinking habits. In fact, the only time I was ever puking drunk was due to going out and doing karaoke with him. That at least did result in the "no-Jäger" rule, but its one puny defence against an arsenal of threats.

I convinced him to take a break from the festivities so I could sit for a bit and check out the revamped Delicatessen Meyer. (Now being run by Gene's Sausage Shop.) But soon enough we were back hefting another pair--though not without a fortifying foundation of sausage and sauerkraut first. A couple standing at the same Stehtisch were interested in my Leberkäse, so I struck up a conversation and found out that they were here for a reunion of students who were in Paderborn at the same time that I was in Freiburg im Breisgau.

Our attempts to lure Coleman to us failed, so we agreed to meet him in Boystown. He suggested Buck's patio, but the Scoutmaster dragged us to Little Jim's, where he could drink a bit more cheaply. As I was downing a manhattan with a Long Guylander, I got text from Tuppers that everything was tote Hose at Mahoney's, the "Irish" pub owned by a Geordie pal. (Apparently the Geordie has relocated to San Diego and the warmth of his charm is greatly missed.) "I'm coming to you," he said--just before my phone died.

So I made my excuses--he can't abide Coleman--and met him on the street. His choice was Tequila's, a sports bar adjoining Roscoes, and I had another manhattan on the fabulous patio. I kept singing along to the retro mix on the sound system, which got us talking about dancing. So I suggested the Wild Pug, where I have successfully gone and cut a rug in the recent past.

When we got there, all the action was behind the bar in the form of two superenergetic young tenders who were getting freaky to the dance pop. Now I had had the sense to stop drinking at this point, but my buzz was not going anywhere. So when Tuppers admired the shirtless young sweetie's propulsive pogoing, it seemed like a great idea to say, "Oh, I can do that!" and treat him to a demonstration.

There are plenty more embarrassing ways to injure yourself in a bar than by dancing, but it still doesn't do much for one's dignity to admit that you can't walk because of a pogoing accident. I mean, I guess an unsuccessful attempt to do the sprinkler would be worse, but not really by much. I covered well at the time. As soon as I came down on the side of my foot, I knew something had gone horribly wrong, but I managed to slink back to the barstool without tipping anyone off.

But there was no hiding anything the next evening when he came over for dinner to find me hopping about on one foot. [livejournal.com profile] monshu has been quite supportive, considering he confesses to not having much sympathy given the circumstances under which the injury occurred. If I needed proof of how feeble I've become in my old age, I have it now, as I sit hear waiting for my PCP to call me back with information on obtaining crutches.
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Although Tuppers and I had had tentative plans for dinner last night since last weekend, I hadn't heard anything from him by the time I left work, so I decided to squeeze in a visit to the Binny's where Halsted meets Broadway. I went to replace my all-but-empty bottle of sloe gin and ended up going a little mad among the fortified wines; I returned to Pod Klonami with the entire suite of Dolin vermouths and, for good measure, a bottle of Lillet. The last of these is necessary for a Corpse Reviver (or at least one version of it), whereas the Dolin blanc is a key ingredient in the Ephemeral. Since I'm now a fan of a cocktail which requires twice as much sweet vermouth than gin, I thought it worth it to upgrade to the Dolin rouge. And there was only one bottle left of the Dolin dry, the only one [livejournal.com profile] monshu is likely to enjoy, so I said "What the hell?"

Despite my bulging bag, I made our rendezvous with ease. At first, I offered him the option of going out for Vietnamese on Argyle, but the outdoor seating at Big Chicks was just too beguiling. He was surprised I didn't need a menu, but I've had a jones for their Cobb salad for a month or more. Today, though, a part of me regretted what I'd given up and as I wended my way down to Joy Yee, I find myself hoping they'd have sugar cane shrimp, which they did. Unfortunately, the Cantonesised versions there (not to mention their takes on chả giò and lemongrass chicken) only made me hanker even more after the authentic versions. It's not for that reason alone, however, that my stomach is now a stewing cauldron of regret.
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  1. The servers will ask you whether you want separate checks--or just bring them that way. (It's been so long since this happened to me in the States that at first I couldn't figure out what the hell they were asking for.)
  2. You probably won't see anything telling you where the restrooms are, but if you head for the sign saying "SORTIE" ("EXIT"), you'll stumble across them.
  3. When you get there, you'll find that there's actually hot water in the hot water tap. Sometimes scaldingly hot!
  4. Taking food home is just not comme il faut. An older gentleman told me he's tried to acclimate himself to the fact that Americans and younger people find this perfectly acceptable, but it still strikes him as very déclassé. He's seen proprietors refuse to give customers doggy bags and even excoriate them for asking.
  5. The one beer you can find pretty much everywhere isn't PBR. It's not even Labatt's or Molson. It's freakin' Bud. (Yeah, I can't understand it either.)
Additionally, a co-worker tells me that it's easy to find good draught cider in Montréal. I imagine she's right, but you'd never know that from the kinds of places we ended up. I wonder, though, how much of that is just a by-product of spending so much time in the Village and of the shitty selection that seems sadly typical of gay bars everywhere.


*Based on my extremely limited experience and Americentric perspective.
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Last night, I stumbled home to find a bottle of North Shore Distillery aquavit in the kitchen. Aha! I thought the Old Man went to In Fine Spirits again! I was a bit taken aback, since I thought he had no real love for akvavit, but I thought maybe he was remembering how impressed I was with it on a previous visit. But, no, it turns out that he had tried a variation on the cocktail I'd had back then and it inspired him to try to recreate it back home. (The word from the lab is that more experimentation is needed.)

Myself, I'd already done more mixing than was good for me. (Happily, going from rum to gin to bourbon seemed to have no pronounced ill effects the next day.) M³ had scored me and Dale tickets for a benefit at Excalibur and the rum in the cokes was premium. As people began drifting away, we wondered where else we fogeys could go to dance and Dale suggested Late Bar in Avondale. It is now officially my favourite New Wave bar in Chicago; think Club Foot but with the sophistication and androgyny of Berlin.

Part of my loves the fact that classic cocktails are ubiquitous, but I'm not so thrilled that they're spreading beyond the ability of callow bartenders to pull them off. This place, however, inspired immediate confidence; it's refreshing to take one look at a drinks menu and know without checking that not one of the martinis contains vodka. My big inner girl so thrilled at the sight of "sloe gin fizz" that I skipped right over the bourbon-based selections.

It was all good, however, because M³ soon decided his Italian manhattan was too generous if he was going to drive back home latter that night. The twist was Dumante VerdeNoce instead of vermouth, and it was a subtler one than I anticipated. Definitely going back there to test the menu some more! (And maybe this time, the fetching young DJ will have brought alone his BiGOD 20.)

ETA: Further experimentation has lead to these proportions:
  • two parts aquavit
  • two parts Koval ginger liqueur
  • one part gin
  • dash of orange bitter
Notes: In Fine Spirits uses Old Tom's. We substituted Tanqueray. We're not sure if they use any bitters or it's just the orange peel garnish that adds the hint of citrus; we'll find out next time we have fresh oranges handy.
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Q: How can you tell that the drinking establishment you are in is not a sports bar?
A: When they turn off a four-all home-team game in the MIDDLE OF THE FRIGGIN' 11TH INNING!

I couldn't believe it! One minute I'm waiting with bated breath for Hancock to strike out a Cubs batter, the next I'm looking at static. Then, a bit after that, some campy 50s scifi trash. WTFF? I whinged, I complained; it got me the sympathy of the owner, but not much else.

I can hear what y'all're saying: That's what you get for trying to watch baseball in a fag bar, and you're probably right. But there are compensations: Even if I could've gotten such well-mixed cosmopolitans in a straight bar, I might not have had the cojones to order them. (It's hard enough already being a Cards fan in this city without opening myself up to more abuse.) And I would've had to listen to some dire classic rock rather than being treated to The Editors, New Order, and Tom Tom Club.

The game's still going on, btw: Top of the 14th and the Cubs how just now pulled ahead by one run. What I wouldn't give to be watching this with someone who gave a shit how it turned it out.
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Last night, [livejournal.com profile] monshu and I met for drinks and dinner at Big Chicks and there was a new face behind the bar. I've only seen this young woman once or twice serving food and didn't realise she could bartend.

Turns out there's a good reason for that: She can't.

[livejournal.com profile] monshu ordered his regular: "scotch and water". The ensuing dialogue was something like this:

"You want that in a small glass." [gestures to indicate a shotglass]

*blink* "No, tall."

"Rocks?"

*blink* "Yeah, rocks."

(For those of you who don't drink or, at least, not in bars: Every other single time I've seen him order this drink in the nearly ten years we've been together, the only question from the bartender has been what kind of scotch he wants. Scotch and water is always served tall with rocks unless you explicitly specify otherwise.)

She turned to me and I said, "Hardcore". She smiled and asked, "Now what goes into a 'hardcore'?"

My turn to blink. "It's the brand of hard cider y'all serve here."

But the absolute pinnacle came while we were finishing our meals. We heard her call to the usual bartender, "Greg, can you come over and make a margarita?"

(For non-drinkers: This is the equivalent of a short-order chef saying, "Tony, can you come back here and make a reuben?" In other words, WTFF?)
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Last night, all I wanted to do was get some warm food in me and get to bed. At the last minute, Chinese class had been cancelled on account of Columbus Day, so there was nothing stopping me--except the fact that I'd promised a friend to go out with him for his birthday.

He'd been dithering about what to do and finally told me just to call him that evening. I put off doing so for two reasons: First, I wasn't really looking forward to it. Second, I'd forgotten to get him anything. So the evening began with a fruitless forty-five minutes prowling the local dollar stores looking for some sort of cheesy gag gift. Suddenly, it occurred to me what I should be getting him, but I only managed to get to the pot store right as it was closing.

When I called, I got voice mail, so I went home and collapsed. After nearly an hour, I figured I was off the hook and tramped over to Big Chicks for dollar burgers. Naturally, two minutes after I'd ordered them, the Scoutmaster called me from Bucks and asked if I'd join him. He began to tell me about the incredibly shitty day he'd had--being called in when he should've had the day off, the boss taking the whole office out for lunch except him--and my hopes of an earlier bedtime began to fade. I try to talk him into meeting me at a nearby restaurant; he says we can talk about that when I get there.

So five minutes after eating my food, I'm failing to hail a cab on the corner near my building. (Worth the wait, actually, for the cute Paki daddy I ended up with.) I found him knocking back the most grotesquely-named cocktail I've ever heard. Really. I knew even one drink would set back my bedtime and hour or more, so I demured as he and his buddies did shot after shot. He was so trashed he thought They Might Be Giants was Barry Manilow. NOT KIDDING! (My attempt to get another drunkard to confirm the name of the band ended up with a "Is that the name of the song or the band?" routine that the two Johns themselves would've smirked over.)

Thank goodness I ate before I came! My attempts to get him to pick a place to eat--any place--were getting nowhere. He wants to go over to Roscoes for a cabaret singer. (BTW, this is the point at which I ended up missing your call, [livejournal.com profile] grunter. Sorry about that.) What can I do? I resign myself to my evening--a little too noticeably, I'm afraid, because halfway into my third or fourth soda of the night, he begins bitching that I'm not drinking, not having fun, that I'm only there to babysit him.

That's how I agreed to the kamikaze.

The singer was excellent by the way. A big funny woman with fantastic presence and a great set of pipes. The culmination of her act was the Fish Trilogy, three songs from The Little Mermaid (with some altered lyrics--the "I Want" song becomes uncannily like Satan's). As much as I wanted to go, I had to stay to hear her sing Ursula's show-stopper. I thanked her warmly for doing so much to cheer my buddy up after such a crappy day. She sang a song in my honour and said that he'd told her he was really happy I'd come, making my grudgingness seem petty in retrospect.

At least I got to bed before midnight. And the Scoutmaster confessed to me on the way back that he'd been spending too much time in bars and not enough in the great outdoors, which allayed some of my concerns for him. I'll definitely seek out the cabaretiste some Wednesday night when she performs up at @tmosphere. Right now, I'm looking forward to nothing more wild than a bowl of warm soup and--for the first time in five days--hitting the sack at a reasonable hour. If I couldn't handle this in my 20s, I'm not about to start in my 30s.
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Such an urbane evening--meatloaf dinner at The Holiday Club with [livejournal.com profile] niemandsrose followed by girl talk and gelati at the expanded Uncommon Grounds. The latter was kind of an odd experience, really. We entred the corner bar and made a beeline for the comfy leather furniture in corner. (It's not really girl talk unless you're sitting where you can touch the other person's knee at emphatic moments.) Since there were tables nearby with candles and artificial sweetener, we assumed this was a service area. But it turned out to be one curiously devoid of service, at least for the first twenty minutes or so. Fine with us really--we came first and foremost to relax in airconditioned splendor. Then a busboy unexpectedly brought water, prompting a maîtress d' to suddenly notice us for the first time and ask if we were waiting or wanted menus. (Huh? They have a no-cocktail-until-your-party-is-complete rule or something?) At that point, we figured we might as well order some dessert and ended up sampling our first cinnamon ice cream. Yummy!

All in all, a successful manoeuvre in operation Stop Listening to the Goddamn Smiths and Get Out of the Bloody House More Often. Next stop: Sojutinis!
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It's been an enchanted week. Ever since Tuesday's thunderstorms shifted the winds from the west to the north, we've had the most beautiful weather imaginable. Last night, I was determined not to waste it, so my plan was to have a quick bite at Big Chicks and then go for a stroll along the lake. And everything went according to plan--except for the part where a middle-aged scoutmaster tagged along.

First I had to get down there, though. I was walking to the el when something small and brown went FLYING THROUGH THE AIR at about waist level, missing me by inches. At first, I thought it was some kind of psychotic squirrel, but I got a glimpse of its cottony tail as it landed on the margin and it before it sped off. From the direction out of which it leapt, I heard a scrabbling sound. Craning my head, I saw a large tan dog hurrying up, but when there was no sign of the bunny, he halted and stood there wagging his tail. I speechlessly turned to the woman sitting on the front steps of house I'd happened to be passing, but she didn't seem as bamboozled by this surprise turn as I was.

At Big Chicks, I sat with the Usual Suspects and ordered a burger. The Scoutmaster attempted to chat with me over the overloud music and, as I saw the light was fading, I said, "Wanna go for a walk?" He had some good stories, the best of which concerned shepherding woozy, hallucinating scouts over high-altitude trails. They'd been eating dry Tang out of packets like it was Pixie Sticks for hours, leaving them dehydrated as well as buzzed. When these were confiscated, they begged for them like smack addicts while the leaders force-fed them iodised water. When one complained, he told him, "You know, I'm only required to bring your body back."

Right now, he's working for a property management company on the South Side so, boy, do I have some stories for you about the Hyde Park Croatian mafia, [livejournal.com profile] mollpeartree! I'm hoping next week I can pump him for some more--and maybe brush up on the requirements for the Piloting badge at the same time!
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