A Bicycle Built for Two... Or Not

posted by Madame Bubby

My first major experience riding a bicycle was finally being able to ride a two-wheeler, and the fashion then was a banana seat bicycle. The seat was shaped like a banana. Mine was purple. (How gay was that?) I got yelled at by my dad because I was coasting to a stop rather than using the breaks. At that time, kids rode their bikes all over the neighborhood, without helmets (gasp!), and often without adult supervision.
 

Ad for 1970s banana seat bikes

When one of the kids across the street was missing (a common occurrence in that chaotic household), I don't even remember the police being called. Kids on bicycles were sent out as search parties by the adults. At that age, it was liberating, to be able to travel long distances alone.

I grew dependent on bicycles through my college years, as I was not able to drive and afford a car. When the suburban bus company went on strike one summer, I wrote my bicycle nine miles each way to my job. I resented it. At that time, a car was a status symbol; it showed independence, being an adult. If you were still having to ride your bike everywhere, you were trapped in a sexless adolescence. You were a nerd. You couldn't take someone on a date, especially in the car-dependent suburbs.

Now, it seems, the bicycle is a status symbol in certain urban areas. Riding a bicycle means you are “green.” I see bicycle shops that sell expensive bicycles from Europe, where riding one has always been pretty much a norm, even among adults. One shop in Chicago, Heritage Bicycles, builds custom-made bicycles also sells expensive coffee. Cool hipster grad student types ride their bicycles everywhere (I see several getting off their bikes at the university where I work).
 

Heritage Bicycles

Bearded hipster guy on bicycle

The bicycle is almost like a symbol or even a stereotype of the urban “blue” culture that voted for Clinton, as opposed to the “red culture that voted for the vulgar boor (they drive gas-guzzling pick up trucks, or if they were white suburban soccer mom Republican types, gas-guzzling SUVs).

And, given that I thought of the bicycle as somehow for me representing sexlessness or even confinement, it's interesting that when bicycles became a more prominent mode of transportation in the late Victorian period, there were concerns that the riding position was unladylike. In order to do so, a lady had to abandon the heavy corsets and other confining garments. According to one article, some women were even harassed, pelted with stones, for wearing pantaloon or bloomer. The article claims that the bicycle actually helped liberate women, paving the way for a woman presidential candidate.
 

Victorian woman on bicycle, 1895

The rise of the bicycle also directly coincided with the birth of the New Woman, an early feminist idea that pushed against the limits of patriarchal oppression. New Women were free-spirited, educated, economically independent, and wholly uninterested in being hidden away in a drawing room under a mound of needlework.

In the world of gay sexuality, it's also interesting that the bicycle hasn't been much of a background for gay sex, especially in porn movies. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, yes, the bigger, the better, macho, manly ... but a bicycle? No, not masculine enough. Kind of corresponds to how I felt when I was stuck riding a bike rather than driving a car.

In our Bijou Classics repertoire, reflecting the above dynamic, there's paucity of sex scenes involving bicycles. In M.A.G.I.C., one of the fantasy game show contestants in a cute bicyclist who performs a blow job on the lead, Gene Lamar. A scene involving a bicycle occurs in Hot Truckin' is much more prominent. The humpy truckers (Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers) entice a redheaded bicyclist, who eyes them while seductively licking a popsicle, into the back of their truck for a three-way. Woof!
 

Redhead licking popsicle in Hot Truckin'
Scene from Hot Truckin'

I tried riding a bicycle again in my late adulthood. I bought one used, and I got it refurbished. Someone stole it from a supposedly secure bike room.

Now I just fantasize about hot young bearded guys I see riding around wearing tight shorts.

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Coffee?

Cup of coffee

Coffee is omnipresent. At least as far back as I can remember. I grew up in a world where stewardesses and waitresses always offered coffee and groups of adults drank cups of coffee (even at night). It usually came out of big metal cans, already ground. People made it at home in tall shiny percolators. Mrs. Olson spent her life in other people's homes encouraging coffee drinking. Badly made coffee meant social disgrace.
 

Mrs. Olson commercial

The beverage was the medium of socialization, its most minimal level. I don't know you that well, neighbor, but here's a cup of coffee. And you could always get coffee at places where life-changing boundary events occurred: hospitals and funeral homes. And you drank it from white styrofoam cups.

The coffee phenomenon in the West started out as an expensive treat for well-heeled gentry in late seventeenth century England, becoming the preferred drink of literary intelligentsia in what were called coffee houses. The less expensive it became (tea followed a parallel journey), the more widespread.
 

Sears department store exterior

Unfortunately, the coffee buzz was built on the sounds of whips cracking on plantations populated by African slaves. The same dynamic applies to sugar, which Americans used to add to their coffee in cute little packets (I remember ones that showed pictures of birds) or cubes before Starbucks entered the market with its elaborate lattes and coffee lingo of Tall and Grande. No more just black or sugar or cream choices.
 

Slaves in a coffee farm in Brazil

Yes, the coffee shop is back and has reached heights of gourmet splendor (and I might add still based on oppressive labor in areas where the beans are harvested), but its denizens are usually working on laptops, perhaps a place to at least get out of the house in an online world. No coffee shop has a right to exists without Wifi.
 

Person at Starbucks on a laptop

Person to person connections do occur in these settings, but often they seem to be first-time encounters. I spoke with you online. Let's meet for coffee.

I've never got meeting for coffee, unless it's an early morning meeting. At my house. In my bed. I've noticed many of the traditional brands like Folger's used to show commercials with couples in intimate settings drinking coffee. White couples in fluffy bathrobes lounging around on Pottery Barn-inspired home settings. It's the wholesome after-sex drink, like the once omnipresent after-sex cigarette.
 

Straight couple in white bathrobes drinking coffee in bed

This image is retro in some way, maybe, but also, especially when paired with the cigarette, there are some associations with loneliness. Picture the elderly woman in McDonald's drinking coffee, and then going outside to smoke. And going home to repeat that action.

What's scary is one could substitute elderly single gay man in the picture above.
 

Older man sitting alone at McDonald's drinking coffee

After all, the trendy young gays go out for coffee, and either drink it at the local Starbucks or, if they are really status conscious, at some hipster place that sells environmentally friendly beans in recyclable cups. The shop also doubles as a cat petting parlor and sells locally made tie-dye scarves. The gaylings also take their coffee home sometimes, because just being seen with the cup on the street gives them social status.

The only place you will see me with a cup of coffee is early in the morning, my best time for sex, which means you will have to spend the night at my house. And trust me, if I get really turned on, you'll need that cup of joe. Woof!

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What Exactly Is A "Dive" Bar?

What Exactly Is A "Dive" Bar?

 

I've seen them on television and the movies, and I've even been in them (well, when you're from Cicero, Illinois, you've got to do something), but what exactly is a dive bar? Or more specifically, a gay dive bar?

The ones I have seen on television and the movies sometimes seem like parodies of these places which in some cases are identical with what used to be called neighborhood taverns. You know, the place where working class guys like Archie Bunker and Ralph Cramden would hang out at; remember Kelsey's on All in the Family?
 

All in the Family

Or the one in Valley of the Dolls that Neely O'Hara (on a booze and pills binge in San Francisco) gets kicked out of; this scene (starting at 1:17:16) pretty much parodies the “dive;” tacky or nonexistent décor, which sometimes involves dark wood paneling; aggressive, bawling customers who begin with beer and end up doing shots; lots of smoking; and a jukebox, all as a backdrop for the inevitable fight.

In some neighborhoods of Chicago, in the early part of the last century, there were often three of these places on every block to accommodate thirsty workers from various manufacturing jobs who wanted in to delay going home to overcrowded two- and three-flats filled with screaming children and nagging wives. They weren't necessarily dives, but they weren't doing a high-class clientele, but the local “average Joe.”

Now gay bars, of course, for the greater part of the last century, had to take often extraordinary measures to just survive. The couldn't exactly be open watering holes for Mr. and Mrs. Bunker. (Well, other open holes existed there, but that's another blog.) And to survive often meant being a dive (or pay off the police or the Mafia), because that's all you could afford being, plus looking “rough,” though it could attract a less “classy” clientele, often kept away bigots.Leather Bar, 1978


Early leather bars like the Gold Coast certainly were dives physically, but in cases like that, the “dive” look was a deliberate part of their appeal: rough sex, rugged guys, bikers. The old Touche bar in Chicago on Lincoln Avenue perhaps was more strictly kink and leather (think piss trough), but the beers stacked up by the entrance and the generally seedy surroundings (I remember the floor was dirty, and it was caked in; no comment on how I would know such detail) certainly proclaimed “dive.”


Wells Street, Chicago, 1970s

The Glory Hole on Wells Street when that street was the gayborhood was perhaps more of the pure “dive:” not only the totally rough, thrown-together look, but the backroom (and bathroom) for quickies and more. Perhaps some of the bars that used to bill themselves as “leather and levi” rather than strictly leather (with a dress code) could be defined as more strictly dive, like the now-closed Rawhide in Chelsea, or still thriving, the Second Story Bar right off the Magnificent Mile (yes, it is still there!) and the Granville Anvil on the Far North Side of Chicago, somewhat distant from the trendy, touristy Boystown.

In fact, the Granville Anvil bills itself as a dive bar. From what I gather, based on their Yelp reviews and Facebook page, they've “spruced up” the décor. Did the owners take out the paneling and the plastic flowers covered with dust hanging in baskets from the ceiling, I wonder? I know, because I was there in the nineties, and yes, there was a jukebox playing Cher's song “Half-Breed,” and also, there was a fight in the bathroom. I was indirectly involved. The friend I went with was in the fight. I found out he was pissed because some guy would not leave me alone (those were the days), and then started bugging my friend as well. That night, I also won some lottery tickets as a prize for getting Bingo. I didn't win the lottery.
 

The Granville Anvil

I wonder, in these days when other “divey” places like 24-hour grills and diners have disappeared and were replaced by big box stores and chain restaurants, if the authentic dive bar can survive. Neighborhood taverns evolved into sports bars, and hipsters have set up “divey” places as part their deconstruction of retro; but what will happen to the gay dive bar? I have a feeling it's been replaced by the seedy underbelly of craigslist, minus, so sadly, the both fun and dangerous social interaction in a place where ultimately, a gay man could both hide from and enjoy himself. And share that identity struggle with others over a shot of whiskey while listening to Judy Garland singing “The Man That Got Away” on jukebox that still played vinyl.

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