Interesting and provocative thoughts on gay history, gay sexual history, gay porn, and gay popular culture.

What's in a Street Name? Plenty!


I've lately decried what I consider to be an increasing lack of free choice in one's daily life (unless one is rich). In fact, there's one particular part of one's life, an important one, over which you have no control: your address. I doubt most people would move to a place because they like the name of the street. If one moves there, one is stuck with the address, like it or hate it. 

Butt Hole Road sign

However, in 2009, the residents who lived on Butt Hole Road in Leicester, England, did have the name of the street changed. Apparently they were also sick of the constant mooning pics going on in front of the street sign. In contrast, the people who live on Butthole Lane (also in Leicester, England) like the name and defiantly refuse to change it. By the way, in both cases the word “butt” is either Anglo-Saxon or Middle English, and means a target, not an ass. Oh, well … 

In the United States, the most common street names are mostly numbers (boring!) and innocuous ones named after trees like Maple and Oak. Main and Church are up their in popularity, harking back to the small town culture of America, still predominant up to the middle of the century. 

In fact, according to the link above, “road names are pieces of history. They encode the culture and geography of America. In Arizona, popular street names are Apache, Palo Verde, Mesquite. In New Mexico, Cedar and Pinon top the list; In Colorado, it’s Aspen and Spruce.” For example, in Chicago, I've noticed Native American names like Winnemac and Milwaukee as well as the ubiquitous Lincoln because Chicago is in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. 

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#StandWithOrlando Words Fail Me.

Orlando victims

Words fail me. I've said that phrase so many times in the past few months and especially since Sunday in the wake of the Orlando massacre. 

I write a blog, weekly I do so much other writing in various genres, and I teach writing, but lately it seems that the the situation that should inspire the writing moves beyond words. And I'm not a visual-oriented person, so I'm not really adept at welding words to images or just using images to express an idea or feeling. Again, words fail me. 

(And thank you, Dame Maggie Smith, for giving me that phrase you used indelibly in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). 

Thus I'm not going to repeat what already has been said, currently being said, and will be said about the unspeakable evil and horror. CNN will do that for you. 

One story really stood out for me as I purposely let the images and words wash over me as the reporting on this incident unfolded. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, mother of 11, 49 years old, was at the Pulse nightclub dancing with her gay son, Isaiah Henderson, age 21. According to the New York Daily News, Brenda saw the shooter point his weapon at them. She told her son to get down and took the bullet for him. 

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool

The obvious response: What mother would not give her life for this way for a child? Yes, the most primeval, powerful instinct was going on here. She died but in doing so made sure a part of her life survived. 

But how many parents who have rejected their LGBTQ children, especially those who do in the name of religion, would do the same? How many parents like this have actually treated said children as dead to them because of a belief system that relies on scapegoating victims and sacred violence? 

Brenda was a victim, but she broke through this mechanism by transcending that cycle of violence because she voluntarily gave her life for the life of another. 

And others in the club did the same, for complete strangers, but whom they saw as neighbors whom they should love as themselves. 

No one who died here was purposely and ultimately falsely seeking a martyrdom like the advocates of sacred violence often do, and none of the survivors are calling for new victims or scapegoats to appease them like one current politician is calling for. 

I've lost faith in a God we've made in our own image who creates destructive boundaries that are built on the sacrifice of victims, but I've learned from the victims and the survivors that we can create hope and love. “All God has is thee,” is an old Quaker saying. It's up to us to find God in each other. Let's start by really beating our swords into ploughshares and choosing life. 

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Leather Bars of the Past in Chicago


I thought I would do an IML-related piece, the whole leather contest circuit actually began in a leather bar, the famous/infamous Gold Coast founded by the legendary Chuck Renslow. I know one person who remembers this bar; he is in his eighties (hard to believe). Much has been written on this place of LGBT history already; I’ll just add that it seems to be the granddaddy of places where like-minded men could meet others who shared their sexuality. Much of what is perhaps now the traditional dynamic of gay leather bars originated there: the leather biker look, the rough sex and BDSM, the l hypermasculinity revealed in the famous artwork of Etienne aka Dom Orejudos now displayed in the Leather Archives and Museum

Gold Coast flier

The Gold Coast closed in 1988 (alas, I never went there) at the 5025 North Clark location, having moved from its original location at 501 North Clark Street. Renslow later opened the Chicago Eagle in the 1990s; I remember the entrance being the inside of a truck, and the basement Pit. I actually consider this place my “coming out” bar as a leatherman. I was flogged in public down there, my first big BDSM scene. The Eagle closed in the early 2000s; the last time I went there was 2007; by that time the totally hot Pit had closed. 

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