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Sunday 11 October 2009

The Death of Gay Culture...

Posted in: NZ Writing
By Conrad Connor Black - 30th July 2006

The Death of Gay Culture as Observed From a Fast Car, Six Years After the Turn of the Millennium, in Auckland New Zealand

by Conrad Connor Black

‘You still haven't decided where we are going,' Robert said, flooring it, as we took the dip of Bond Street, like he always did.

He enjoyed the lift-off feel that happened when you took the rise at speed.

‘How come it's my decision suddenly,' I said. ‘OK, so there's Gay Hell Number One and Gay Hell Number Two…'

Once on the too-crowded balcony at Hydrant, not long before it closed, when we were both standing there smoking at around midnight on a Saturday night, surrounded by every gay person you didn't ever want to meet, Robert had turned around to me and mournfully said the words ‘Gay Hell'.

I'd laughed then because he was right and I knew exactly what he meant.

Somehow being gay you always got stuck in places like this, with people who looked like over-eager waiters or Human Resources staff or low-level TVNZ employees, all dressed too-neatly, all that little bit too vivacious, all that little bit too desperate, all that little bit too dumb, and it was always too crowded and you were always getting hit too-much by the smell of whatever too-sweet and too-spicy cologne that was the top of the gay-hit-list at that particular instant.

‘Do we have to do either?' Robert said, braking suddenly, because of the red light.

‘No, we don't,' I said, trying to find my cigarettes.

I could never understand why being a male meant you were subject to so many pockets. Once when I was trying to find my ATM card late one night I discovered I had eleven pockets and, of course, my card was in the last one.

‘I don't think I could do Family tonight,' Robert said, getting bored with me fumbling around and just holding out his pack of Dunhill Reds.

Family wasn't going to work me tonight either. I wasn't sure I could culturally adjust to the gay music which was apparently a lot dumber and less subtle than straight music. And then, maybe it was the lighting, but I didn't often want to fuck anyone I saw there.

‘Be just like living in an episode of ‘Kiwifruit',' Robert murmured.

‘Kiwifruit' was a gay TV series shown late at night by New Zealand's state broadcaster. No-one gay ever tuned in and so they missed out on their lifestyle being depicted with exemplary superficiality by presenters who didn't have room for much more than themselves in their world-view.

I snorted.

‘Family's not quite that bad,' I said.

‘But Urge is not on my list, tonight,' I added, lighting my cigarette.

‘It's more tempting but I don't feel like doing a Blokes-In-Underwear thing tonight,' Robert said.

‘There's that gay party at Bacio'

Robert shook his head.

‘How many gay businessmen off their faces on Ecstasy do you need to see in your life-time?'

‘And topless,' I remarked.

‘And dancing to Bad Trance,' he added.

We both shuddered.

Great North Road was quiet and Robert gunned the car towards K Rd, changing up, with a double-clutch action which meant that his gear-changes became sound-effects as well. He was good at that.

‘It's hard to imagine that gay people were once taste-leaders, isn't it?'

I contemplated his question.

‘Yes,' he continued. ‘We were in once in the forefront of music…'

‘And fashion,' I added.

‘All the best artists and writers were gay.'

‘We were all witty.'

There was a silence as we considered the changes.

‘Do you think that in a hundred years time, just like the Maori got ‘Once Were Warriors', we're going to get ‘Once Were Stylists?' I asked.

Robert laughed as he sailed through the Ponsonby Road intersection, throttling down in a series of rapid grunty changes as he hit the stream of traffic on K Rd.

‘We could go downtown,' he said.

‘Code. The Met. The Globe, Pony Club' I listed them.

‘Straight boys,' he added, with a knowing air of implication.

We both liked straight boys, raised inclusively in Tomorrow's Schools, sensitized by the educational policies of all those lesbians in Wellington, out for a night on the town, and tanked up on cheap party-pills and Heineken.

Once in a twenty minute period at Code, dancing to Greg Churchill, I'd had two eighteen year olds separately approach me, each of them somehow wanting to have a bisexual experience.

Neither of them quite worked for me, but it was my recent record for attempted pick-ups.

‘It's amazing how many of them just want to be fucked,' Robert mused.

I'd heard him marvel at this fact before.

I marveled at it myself.

We were both silent as we separately considered naked bisexual eighteen year olds on their tummies, legs spread, waiting patiently while you squeezed the lubricant out onto your finger.

And somehow I'd been shown more dick in straight clubs than I'd ever experienced in gay bars.

It had only been a couple of weeks ago, in the toilets at Code, when I was sharing a joint with a boy named Trajan, that he just pulled his dick out and asked me if it was a nice one.

‘It's OK, I said looking at the semi-erection his proximity to a gay person had given him.

‘Do you want to give it a little rub before I put it away,' he'd asked.

So, companionably I did, and it was pleasant for a minute before he tucked himself back up into his trousers and we went out and danced a bit to the not-so-hot music of Daniel Farley before I lost him in the crowd.

‘There's an accident or something, up ahead,' Robert said, irritated.

I could see the flashing emergency lights above the line of stalled cars.

Robert sighed.

He hated being trapped in traffic.

‘It's outside Family,' I said.

We inched forward.

The car idled and Robert threw his cigarette shittily out the window. He'd always been impatient.

‘Fuck,' he said, in irritation.

We moved forward again, a couple of meters, then we stopped.

Through Robert's open window I could hear the dull thump-thump-thump of the music from the other side of K Road. Half of Family was outside on the pavement, looking across at the accident.

I could see a drag queen in a red and yellow costume with a huge yellow artificial daisy drooping over her forehead. I could see that dickhead who worked at Vodafone. There was that waiter who got really pissed and who'd just follow you round late at night making weird noises, while pawing at you.

Sirens echoed from the buildings whose facades blinked orange and red.

While Robert and I pretended, like the people in all the other cars, that we weren't looking for disaster-porn, we were, it being human nature after all.

But we couldn't really tell what had happened because the ambulance doors were being firmly closed as we crawled past. There was really only Family to look at.

‘We could find parking and go in, just for a minute, just to check,' murmured Robert, weakening, as he studied the gay crowd on the other side of the street.

‘No,' I said firmly, ‘it would only depress us. Let's go downtown.'

We were waved around onto Pitt Street by a police-officer.

‘He was cute,' Robert commented.

‘Didn't see,' I said, craning back, but it was too late.

The traffic was spacing-out now and Robert could accelerate, which made him feel happy.

Me, I was just thinking about the whole evening opening up before us, the warm press of the crowd, music that at least aspired even if it didn't sometimes reach, another beer from that bartender at Code who sometimes, later on, would slip me a free one, Trajan with his moping girlfriend, Adam with his dreadlocks showing me his muscles and asking me to feel them, girls who knew I fancied their boyfriends but who were cool with it, that boy in the red T-shirt I'd often dance with who'd yell things in my ear that I couldn't ever hear, and all those other homogenous and anonymous minglings on the dance-floor without the falsity of some sort of niche-role in the scheme of things that just exiled you to places you didn't want to be.

‘Yay,' I said, as the car surged forward again, picking up speed along Pitt St towards Grey's Avenue, ‘we're free.'

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Conrad Connor Black - 30th July 2006