Hung Up on Market Days


(Photo: Averting my gaze from Chicago’s big gay fest.)

Let the gay community come and take my toaster oven back. I’m not a fan of Market Days. Yes, I know it’s the largest street festival in the Midwest and the high point of Chicago’s LGBT calendar.

To me, it always feels like a Queer Taste of Chicago.  As it follows the Taste on the summer social calendar, however, by the time Market Days rolls around, I’ve already spent quite enough time wading through crowds, eating over a trash can, and peeing in a porta-potty.

Why anyone would consider these endurance tests as “signature events” is beyond be. Well, maybe I can understand the hordes ofsuburban Wal-Mart shopping, Stein-Mart wearing heterosexuals who flock to the Taste each year.

But queerdom, please.  Does a “Twister with a Porn Star” booth really deserve to be the centerpiece of anyone’s annual block party?

Not so much, as far as pastry chef Chris and I thought as we squeezed our way up Halsted Street on Saturday afternoon.  From Belmont north to Addison, I tried to get into the fun.  Trouble is, in the 45 minutes it took to survey the festival, I never found any.

Maybe it’s just me.  Back in my 1980s Gay and Lesbian Youth of New York days, it was the same thing. Everyday Saturday night, 100 or so of us would flash our fake IDs and descend on Uncle Charlie’s, Pyramid, or Tracks.  There we’d be at the bar or on the dance floor: 99 shiny, happy, groping, gyrating gay youths, and one outlier wondering why anyone would want to define themselves solely in sexual terms.

Two decades later, America’s gay community is mainstream now.  So why is it that the back of every gay publication is still filled with ads for 900 numbers?

Don’t get me wrong, I like sex as much as the next guy. Trouble is, every time I meet the next guy in this community, sex is all he wants to talk about. Consider it the Doyle Survey: one out of two auditioning admirers has nothing else on his mind in the LGBT community. What’s a guy who knows he’s more than just his libido to do?

Libido was certainly the hot topic of conversation over the weekend on the Bear411-osphere. Considering how beefy we Chicagoans are in general, a zaftig-minded gay dating website is a perfect match for this town. Considering how popular Market Days is, I was surprised the site didn’t just put up a test pattern until Monday.

One instant message after another had only one thing in mind:

“Did you see the hot guys at Market Days?”

“Did you see anyone anyone you slept with?  I ran into my exes for hours!”

“The muscle guy on the ladder shot me with the Super Soaker and I swear I got a woodie right then and there!”

“Did you play Twister with a Porn Star?”

I have yet to learn how to politely smile and nod on the Internet.  I considered pasting a stock response into every open IM window.  Something to the effect of:

“Actually, no, I just don’t get into Market Days.   I’m not impressed by bluntly bared body parts.  I like my muscle men fully clothed and engaging me in thoughtful conversation about politics, culture, and gastronomy.  And I’ve already peed in my quota of porta-potties this year.”

Instead, I rolled with the punches and played along. Yes, I saw the hot guys. No, I didn’t see any exes except the one I brought with. How nice for you, did you get Mr. Super Soaker’s number?  No, the gapers block around the Twister booth was a few people too thick to get anywhere near it.

One final IM of the weekend left me wishing I had represented my position on the subject a little more clearly.

HIM: Hey sexy, were you up in my neighborhood for Market Days today?

ME: I was for a little while.

HIM: Did you see all the hotties?

ME: Yes, but I’m not really into them.

HIM: Did you bring any of them home with you?

ME: The only guy I brought anywhere was Chris, for hot wings.

HIM: Oh. Are you horny from seeing all those hotties?

ME: I told you, they don’t really do it for me.

HIM: What does it for you stud?

ME: Intellect and a curious palate.

HIM: That sounds nice. I bet you’re hung.

And I bet he’ll never figure out why I blocked his screenname.

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