David's Chicago Sexual Underground 8/10/22 & P(r)ick of the Week

Pride 2022 - BijouBlog
David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

Greetings P(r)icksters!

Long time, I know. Haven’t fallen off the planet (yet), just an incredibly crazy spring and summer. Things have somewhat settled down, but I have branched out into a new focus.

Life got overwhelming in the spring. After two years of covid interruptions, we at Touché had planned to host our Mr. Chicago Leather contest in January. That was until omicron came along at the beginning of the year. So we postponed the contest to April.

In the intervening time, I had staffing issues, trying to bring on new staff while others came down with covid and/or had time off for vacations, etc. I spent several nights behind the bar and, a couple of times, just limited hours of operation based on who was available to work.

We hosted a huge, huge MCL contest weekend. While we did not sell out the contest, the bar was packed all weekend and I literally just stood by the bar and watched my crew frantically serve the crowd. It was almost like watching the numbers turn at Mc Donald’s (remember when they used to post number of burgers served?).

All this made me behind schedule in planning parties for Memorial Day weekend when Chicago hosts International Mr. Leather. We figured we would see a pent-up increase in folks wanting to get out after this event was put on hold for two years, too. It was just that!

I was just as frantic trying to line up events, porn stars, dancers and everything else that goes into a six-night run of parties. Not kidding, it was just on Friday the week before everything would kick off on the following Wednesday when I nailed down the last details.

Then we jumped right into Pride planning, including lining up our local clubs to host our leather & kink contingent in the parade. On the heels of the Pride parade, I was also putting together my family reunion back in Ohio over the 4th of July weekend.

Coming back after that is where I took on my new focus, namely monkeypox. After IML & Pride, cases began to take off here in Chicago and it was a scramble to get ahead of it.

I first reached out to Chicago’s Department of Public Health but could only get a “leave a message” response. I could not speak to an actual live person.

Then I reached out to Howard Brown Health Center, they have a clinic just a half block from Touché.

A little history here, Howard Brown was here back in the 1970’s when I first arrived in Chicago. Back then, their focus was on STDs. It was basically a doctor and a nurse in the basement of a church. You had a drippy dick, they’d swab it and give you a shot of penicillin. Gay sex was taboo, most guys didn’t want to go to a doctor who would want to know how you got gonorrhea in your ass. Howard Brown was gay providers taking care of our community discreetly. It was drop in, no appointments, no fees, simple. You needed care and they did it.

Then came HIV/AIDS in the early 80’s. Howard Brown ramped up their efforts to care for gay men in the early days of this disease as some mainstream healthcare was paranoid of this new and deadly unknown illness. In the early days, Howard Brown would line up a medical van to pull up in front of a bar to offer free STD tests and eventually HIV testing in the 80’s. Howard Brown went from a small group of volunteers to a full fledged health clinic. Still lots of volunteers but a growing staff of doctors, nurses and more.

Howard Brown secured federal grants to treat and develop research into HIV/AIDS and continues to play a pivotal role. As they succeeded in treating people with AIDS, they took a more traditional role of healthcare, primary care, women’s healthcare as agencies like the Lesbian Cancer Project were brought under its organization. Howard brown expanded from one clinic in the gay neighborhood to several spread across Chicago. Also, HB would develop connections with other healthcare businesses; you can find a Walgreen’s pharmacy in their clinics.

I thought after our early days of working with Howard Brown on STDs and then HIV/AIDS, they would be jumping on this latest health crisis centered on our community. My first call to the clinic by the bar should have been a indication. This poor kid answering the phone had no knowledge of Howard Brown’s history or mission. He just answers the phone at this health clinic.

Eventually I got a name and email address (not a phone number) and began trying to get something set up to help keep our customers and community safe. Several back and forth emails over a week led to an actual conversation on setting up vaccine events at Touché.

In the meantime, I was contacted by Project WISH at the University of Illinois Chicago about hosting vax events. In a couple of days, we set a day and time for our first Vax Party. Before this, the local bathhouse Steamworks had begun hosting vax events there in late June. This Project WISH would offer vax shots at the baths, usually 100 shots at a time and there was at least twice that number showing up.

Other than Steamworks and now us, folks were scrambling to find vax shots at their doctors’ offices, some city health clinics and hospitals to get vaccinated. Even Howard Brown was offering vaccines on an appointment basis, but they stipulated in the first few weeks that you had to be displaying symptoms to get a shot. As you might expect, it has been just nuts to get ahead of monkeypox. Guess we learned nothing from covid.

Anyway, Project WISH has hosted two vax nights already at the bar, with more to come every week. They run it pretty simple. Folks need to fill out a two-sided form, then line up for a shot. No restrictions on whether you live in Chicago, Illinois, whatever. Our first night was crazy; we planned to start at 9pm but when we opened at 5 that night, the bar filled quickly. (I had to scramble to get staff behind the bar and open the second room.) We learned right away to be ready.

Our second vax party was last Wednesday, and we began prepping right at 5 pm. Had to, as when I arrived at 1:30 that afternoon, there was a line outside. To make it run smooth, I stood outside when we opened and handed each person a numbered ticket and the form they needed to fill out. I was told we would get 140 vax shots that night and I handed out tickets to the first 140 in line.

Once folks got inside, they could mingle around and wait until their number was called. We tried our best to make it a party with music and drinks. Even the medical team administering the shots enjoyed the night. It took them about 90 minutes to jab all 140 doses into arms. They’ll be back today, Wednesday the 11th, with hopefully 200 doses, and back again this Thursday the 11th.

Knowing monkeypox spreads by close extended physical contact, we’ve encouraged guys to slow down at the bar. We stopped showing porn on our screens and backed off some promotions that may entice guys to get touchy feely. It has hit us in the pocketbook, but we survived AIDS and now covid. We’ll keep working to get folks vaccinated and put this pox crap down. It may take a bit more time than we hope, but we can do it. Besides, we still have covid to contend with as well. Guess you can call me Dr. David now.

I’ll be back soon, as our Pride was fun and I have stuff from that to share. First, I’m going to get another round of vax parties lined up and set a couple of days aside to go rider some roller coasters.

Take care, get your vaccines for covid and monkeypox. If you have to quarantine or just hold back till we get the pox vax out, you can still grab my P(r)ick and enjoy yourself. Here’s a couple of fun choices for you to consider.

David

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