A reformed Rainbo Club regular visiting from out of town always calls this Ukrainian Village mainstay a “self-selecting slum-ocracy,” but on his current visit he’s fixed on but one thing: “The ugly bus pulled up outside, and it’s got big wheels.”
Yes: strangers. He’d expected the neighborhood to be like it was when he left five years ago: the same mix of laidback smile-to-smirk guys and stylish, slightly eccentric women with freshly minted art-school degrees. This night’s seventy-degrees outside. The bartender’s got arcane shred metal amped. Friend’s wide-eyed, though, at the completely half-dressed crew; his last image of Chicago taverns was in winter. Long johns give way to short cons in the dead of summer. His eyes flick. Flesh: men in shower slides displaying feet escaped from distant northwest Chinese work camps. Women in flip-flops, skin flushed and polished iridescent only hours since pedicure. This skimp-dressed banditry, the simple action of subtraction, outdoes what he sees in his SoCal haunts: you learn to dress down year-round there, but this is the dialectic between frost and Freon.
In winter? Timberland and mounds of down and wicked woolens awaiting strip. Summertime? And the looking is easy. The grief of dimples and calf, of sandal and ass in miniscule jersey dresses (sans VPL). Sneakers and calves and the backs of knees. Smiles and lemon-dropped laughter. One particular tremendous, tiny skirt. Men in sleeveless muscle Ts above khaki shorts held up with woven leather belts. A few time-honored New Traumatic fashion misstatements ornament the room. The crowd roils in abrupt shifts, packs of departure and arrival. The chatty, sometimes barking, unfamiliar stampede fills the room’s panopticon box: all convicts watch others’ cons unimpeded, an advance in the most sophisticated of mid-nineteenth century jailery. But if you look and do not listen, there is but the sweet contagion of freckle, dense afterglow of day’s vitamin D absorption, heart-race from common steed, bolt-tethered at curb alongside the herd of carbonized aluminum horses. Blood races and palls with two-dollar lager, G+Ts and the scent of other things served elsewhere under the dark of night.
Antic, frantic, distant and close. Do you hear them? The children of the summer night? There’s nowhere to sit or lean or not fidget in this savannah of the fumbling that insures the survival of the species, the jagged conversations just like the ones forgotten while mid-begetting, mere molecules of moisture in the close, dank, prurient fug. One angry voice rises above all, the all-purpose cry against this dive, warm weather or cold: “What do you mean, no Bud? Man!” (Ray Pride)
Rainbo Club, 1150 North Damen, (773)489-5999
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