© 2000 by travis

[From a series of personal observations:

Chicago’s Halsted St./Addison St./Lakeview Community

During the last Ten years of the Twentieth Century.]

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            Four 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 no tellin’.


            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. 


            The 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. 


            I 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. 


            Miss 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 ain’t boring.” 


            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.


            Nevertheless, 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. 


            By 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 Harbor. 


            Lakeview 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. 


Meanwhile, ComEd 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. 


            Summer 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, 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.


            Next 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 ejected. 


            On 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. 


            I 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 blizzards.


            Next 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 pofaggit  /  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.]