2000 by travis
a series of personal observations:
Chicago’s Halsted St./Addison St./Lakeview Community
the last Ten years of the Twentieth Century.]
+ + +
summers ago, Miss Mose left her wife, daughter and a
long list of boy friends and girl friends in Arizona,
and set Chicago’s
North Halsted Street
on fire. Mose
spent the month of June brazenly sexing in full public view at the Lakeview
Presbyterian Church (LVP) entrances, exits, benches and parking lot. She never found an apartment, so she eats,
sleeps and tricks at LVP,, advertising
cheap rates and rare “talent.” Because
she is a beautiful man, people listen.
Straight White men and women, as well as queer men, arrange rendezvous
on their way to work. Miss M., a local
Black woman, born in Chicago,
and known as “Play Momma” to a house full of Black queens, often keeps Mose company, bringing along
several homeless Black and Latin “girls.”
She points out who’s who on the street scene, police beat, Lakeview
community organizers, etc., on their way home from the Red Line. In two weeks, Miss Mose
is known and feared; “gittin’ over.” Everybody thinks they know her business, but
Mose got out of jail at noon, by midnight she was back in
jail. About 5 p.m. Saturday,
plainclothes security men scurry down several aisles of Jewel-Osco (J-O) at Broadway at Addison. The security detail are
well known: Big, Black men, who carry
their office like a silent weapon; but they don’t faze Miss Mose. Little, old White women from Hawthorne, Lake
Shore Drive and Pine Grove press Louis Vuiton purses
close to their low-cut, deeply tanned bosoms and demand to know, in a
plantation tone familiar to all J-O service staff: “What’s going on here?; you! tell me. …” Breaking panic in the Makeup aisles crashes a
path through Osco, outside to handcuffs.
Mose is arrested with Oil of Olay, Elizabeth
Arden and panty hose; a common occurrence on weekends all summer long at the
J-O. Tonight, just before midnight, a
few of the girls will exact revenge on the J-O Liquor section by clogging
aisles and creating loud nuisances at the check-out counters already crowded
with last-minute liquor customers. Our
second ComEd blackout this week adds a dysfunctional
irony to this surrealist collusion. New
Yorkers are bored.
north entrance of LVP writhes with a dozen homeless queens sleeping, sexing,
and getting sexed, humping up and down under piles of dirty clothes sheets and
blankets. Some sex openly on the
bathhouse lawn. They shamelessly relieve
themselves against the side of the church, surrounded by wine bottles, beer
cans and an army of Black queens noisily nesting upon and around every park
bench in the church house flower garden.
In the adjoining LVP parking lot, Black and White throats pump up and
down on the hoods of sport utility vehicles with suburban Oak Park, Bloomingdale and Rosemont parking
stickers. The “ho’ stroll” progresses
from Irving Park southbound, down Broadway, down Halsted to Patterson and
Addison. The sex choices are wide,
various and often full of transgender surprises. On quiet nights (after a raid, or police
sweeps before parades), the homeless are rounded up and the
ho’ stroll tips from the Uptown Theatre to Belmont.
Business booms year round.
give Mose $2.
She wants to meet. I won’t
commit. She stops me to chat each time I
bike past, which is often because LVP is next door to my apartment. I ride away.
I know too much about the “bizness” of too
many dangerous Black men. Mose gets arrested four times before the end of
summer. The stab wounds, however, have
healed. Fall into spring, my manager
ignores my written request for security bars on my windows.
Mose’s second summer in Chicago was even more eventful. She hit North Halsted right after the
Kentucky Derby and a quick trip to Atlanta. Mose now has two
daughters, one by her wife and one by a female lover, who is the wife of a
fellow basketball player, who is a good friend and sometimes sex partner. Mose tells me about
Christian guilt; the inability to resolve her sexuality; the probability of
being ostracized by her family; the impossibility of finding a decent job “that
The inevitability of early death. She wants to be a “good Catholic.” I notice that, this summer, Mose wears makeup constantly, but fewer dresses. Last year, Mose
wore makeup only when dressed in full drag.
This year she does not wait for weekends or special occasions like
Market Days, White Party, International Mr. Leather
and drag shows up and down “Homo Central.”
Now, Mose wears a complete mask of
well-applied makeup (including tweezed, penciled and shaped brows and false
eyelashes), day and night. Her face is
several shades lighter than her neck.
She looks bizarre, like three persons in one. From the neck down stands a 6 ft. tall, 180
lb. sportsman; muscular and well built. She
knows how to attract an audience in a form-fitting dress, with heavy penis
unrestrained, swinging, obviously circumcised, beneath a white sheath. He
knows how to advertise his 10”x4”maleness in western boots and tight Levi’s;
penis equally unrestrained, to sell sex to both men and women. Mose’s shoplifting
springs from needs unrelated to economics.
Mose is still homeless in Chicago.
By day she cruises back and forth up and down Broadway, Halsted up to
Uptown. One morning I ran into Mose in the back of a Chicago
Sun-Times newspaper delivery truck, lifting and throwing huge bales of
heavy morning newspapers and dropping them off at the J-O, White Hen Pantry,
7-11, etc. She was dressed in hiking
boots, denims and a work jacket, and looked pretty much like the other delivery
boy, except for her outrageously made-up face, which is now a shade lighter
than when I last saw her. As always we
spoke, hugged and she kissed bright orange lipstick onto my mouth. The driver is plucked.
the end of her second Chicago
summer, Mose wears old, men’s clothing, resale boots
and shoes, “Sally Ann’s” dresses disappear completely, but her eyes look
fatigued. I give her $2, but during our
conversation Mose’s telescopic eyes never stop
rambling. I ask: “Are you taking care of yourself and your
family?” “Yeah, man, you know how it is;
look, man I gotta go; git
out here and git these pennies; I see ‘ya later baby, OK? … ” Word on the corner? Mose is just out of
jail again. Some Black John tried to
beat her up and take her money. She went
to jail, he’s in critical condition in Weiss
Memorial. They say Mose
torched the trick’s Lexus out on Montrose
Pres. constructs a 5 ft. padlocked fence around their Broadway at Addison property.
The fence is nearly as high as the offensive red brick fence running
around the Salvation Army School for Officer’s Training directly across the
street, which fortifies the entire block from Broadway to Halsted, from Brompton to Addison.
New steel fences pop-up each week, these days. This summer, much of the neighborhood
property is fenced in, including parking lots.
Mose, and a few other queers, drunks and
junkies move from LVP to the bike park on the sidewalk along the south side of
Waveland, adjacent to Club [Cellblock].
They set up a make-shift campsite outside the Howard Brown Memorial
Clinic’s Brown Elephant resale shop, which abuts Halsted St. Café, Theatre Q, Club
Circuit and Club Vortex. They strike
camp daily at 7 a.m., but they frighten away all parking meter revenues from
both sides of Waveland from Broadway to Wrigley Field, by day and by night. (The north side of Waveland is the
notoriously traditional, undisputed, unchallenged turf for newly-arrived male
hustlers. The arrival of Mose and half-a-dozen butch queens sends the leather boys,
and their upscale, political trade, packing.)
To keep the tourists dancing, clubs along “The Strip” import “foam parties”;
“under(wear) parties”; “dark rooms”; “lights out”, etc.
power failures terrorize all Lakeview.
For three days we complain (but do little else) about spoiled
refrigerators, computers offline (loss of entertainment, research and income),
malfunctioning security systems, heat-related deaths and high anxiety from 100
degree temperatures with no end in sight.
Small clutches of students and Cubs fans gather on the corner and in the
park to damn City Hall, then pack up and head back to the suburbs, St. Louis or Indiana. Some people are fearful of fleeing. I sleep in a bathtub full of cold water. In pitch-black, I witness agile bodies, dressed in black, violate the high red brick fence
at the Salvation Army School, which faces my living room window, where I
observe the entire block, naked as African noonday, inside a black prison.
rolls on: A White queer shoots his lover
on Waveland, a block west of the campsite.
Raids in Club Vortex and other queer bars. Police presence. Mose, and her
retinue of queens, scatter and camp out with American Indians in Uptown. Upscale Uptown queers flee to G.L.E.E. Club,
in the Kingsbury neighborhood. Other
queers test the waters at Generator (primarily Black, it will soon be shut
down). Queens return, en masse, a week
or so before Pride Day parades.
Meanwhile, neighborhood politicians fight over permanent flags, banners
and gateways to North Halsted. Halsted
St. Café and Theatre Q dissolve into Club Circuit. The south end of the building housing Club
Vortex burns to the ground. Club Fusion
replaces Vortex, sharing space with an upscale eatery. After hours, Mose
organizes a weekly “drag revue” attracting crowds, traffic jams and homophobic
fist fights with rednecks, on table tops in the garden outside Checker’s
hamburger drive-thru, which faces the Chicago Police station, Addison at
Halsted (come Fall, the Checkers will be shut down). Out in Arizona,
Miss Mose’s new daughter dies. I learn of Miss Mose’s
son, in Atlanta.
Fall, Fall. Miss Mose flys
to Arizona. Latin queens send post cards from Florida, Mexico,
Texas and San Juan.
Lawyer politicians, hibernating artists, hair stylists, nail salons and
dry cleaners reclaim Lakeview. Thus,
Lakeview embraces its racist colors. I
go dancing at Club [Cellblock]. I am not
admitted. The doorman says there is a
new dress code. He will not say what it
is. We both know that he is lying. I realize I have grown accustomed to queer
racism. I leave without a fight. Off-duty policemen moonlight as bouncers in
this bar, and I don’t want to get shot.
I hail a taxi. As usual (when I
am not with White people), the taxi driver drives up, takes a long look at me,
and before I can open the back door, he speeds away from me. I commit his anus to a line-up with 10 years
of other taxi drivers’ anuses, over the long barrels of 5.56x45mm M16Alpha2
rifles … waiting to pull the trigger. I
walk to Club Neo on Clark St. I am not admitted. The Neo doorman says there is a new dress
code: “No gym shoes!” I stand in the alleyway and watch White
couples admitted wearing gym shoes. I
wonder, is it really my hand-painted, silver Converse All-Stars? I walk home hoping a gas leak will burn Chicago to the ground;
and this time, unlike the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, all Lakeview will fall in
a pillar of salt.
Saturday night, I am invited to a birthday party for a friend from Dublin, Ireland. I arrive at Murphy’s Irish Pub (Halsted at Diversey), wearing dark blue tuxedo pants (dry-cleaned and
pressed); dark blue Givenchy braces; white, 100% cotton Ralph Lauren Polo
shirt; hand-painted green and blue Florsheim wingtip
shoes; and a dark blue bow tie. I submit
three pieces of photo identification.
The doorman whistles across the pub to the bartender (attracting the
noisy crowd’s attention). The bartender
looks at me, shakes his head “No!” I am
my walk home, I run into a long time [White] lawyer friend from Northwestern
Univ. School of Law. He wants to treat
me to a beer at Roscoe’s, his favorite neighborhood bar. We are admitted. Inside we find a mutual friend. It is my first time in Roscoe’s. I wander, alone, to the rear of the bar, to
the dance floor, and I dance alone. A
very large White man with white hair walks up to me on the dance floor, grabs
me, twists my left arm behind by back and says to me: “I’m going to show you the way out.” He forces me off the dance floor, and with a
set of keys he unlocked a rear/side door, pushed me outside and slammed the
metal door behind me. I don’t go dancing
again until the weekend after Halloween.
arrive at Club Berlin
reasonably dressed. I am dismissed
without reason. The following Monday, I
telephone Club Berlin
and speak to a manager. I ask her why wasn’t I admitted.
She said that there had been trouble in the bar that night. A Black Rastafarian was ejected. The [Black] doorman, she said, might have
mistaken me for the Black Rastafarian. I
take her name, but I don’t fuss. The
following weekend I went dancing at Berlin. Shirtless Black men swarmed about the dance
floor trying to pick up White women.
They rubbed unsuspecting White women’s hands along the length of their
penises, for a response. Another
technique was to rub their penises up against the buttocks of White women
dancing with White men. There are five
or six of these busy-bodied Black men, working the crowd. They are a nuisance, but worth observation
from the perspective of my recent experiences.
I suspect they are of stronger conviction than I am. Like their half-White fathers, they clearly
will not go, and they will not be dismissed, without a shoot-out. The White women and men mostly move
away. However, I also note that (in a
crowd of, I would say, 100-125 people) the three Black women in the club are
totally ignored. Winter drags slowly
into Spring, with continuous snow storms and
June, Miss Mose arrives late in the season. She is fat.
Her face is nowhere to be found beneath layers of multi-faceted,
multi-colored lines and blushes. She
looks like a fat wo/man in a Cubist painting. I remember meeting “Divine” a dozen years
after John Waters cast her in Pink
Flamingos. Like Divine, Mose has an enormous belly.
Her bright red wig fragments a stylized, hideously painted face. She wears oversized, ill-fitting plaid pants
around which no belt on North Halsted will fit.
But this is not North Halsted.
Today, Mose proudly panhandles, illegally, on North Michigan Avenue,
in front of Bloomingdale’s. I stare at
her, as does everyone else, and I am startled by the tragedy of her
in-your-face confrontation. She glowers
over shoppers, terrorizing them. At
length she attacks. Her victims are two,
older, richly dressed White women, who clutch Gucci purses in front of their
stomachs with both fists and huddle closer to each other for protection. They are blocked between a swinging door, a
revolving door and Miss Mose’s hideous demeanor. They look terrified, intimidated and
frightened. Although they are cornered,
they listen before they scream for “Help!!”
Miss Mose gushes forth with a full throttled
truth, which disturbs me deeply and emotionally to this day. I hear Miss Mose
now, just prior to her arrest:
“Please help me /
please, please help me / I need money for food / I am
so hungry / I ain’t eat for two days /
please give me a coupla dollars /
please / God will bless you / I
know He will / it is a blessing just to be alive / I
have a family and they hungry / I sell sex for food / I
sell my body for my family / I’m just a po’ faggit / but I got kids / I
sell my body for food / I sell my ass
/ I sell my ass to anybody to
feed my kids / please help me /
[Before the police arrive, Miss Mose gets embarrassingly specific about how well she will “fuck
and suck for money for [her] children.”
I turn away and walk 30 blocks home, feeling helpless, empty and
enraged. I telephone a Black attorney
but he has no suggestions, no recommendations and no time to listen: “Get over it.
A lot of people have to die before change comes.” I telephone the Mayor’s Office. After 30 minutes of transferred lines and
waiting, I give up.]