This week one enjoyed the company of his old college chum (black, plus a few other things, from Nova Scotia). He was reëncountered, by astonishing coïncidence, at ATypI in Vancouver last year. You see, while there I chatted up the only other obvious homosexualist (brick-shithouse build being one factor making it obvious) and discovered, halfway through the conversation, that this was in fact the same fella who lived two doors down in Howe Hall.

I suppose his predilection to lift shirts (also weights) was presaged when he happened upon the TV room now 20 years ago and, witnessing a Central Park concert, blurted “Oh! I just love Diana Ross!” He has butched up considerably since then. (I note that another source tells me that iron was pumped even back in the day, which my friend confirms. Hidden under all those sweaters with sparkles!)

En tout cas, with his Missus ensconced back home in a distant city, it was deemed necessary to enjoy a chaste tour and design critique of the homosocialist industrial complex that is the Steamworks.

At the front desk, we somehow managed not to get the chatty Cathy who keeps lobbing Paul Lynde–style “hilarious” double entendres in my direction (“Once you’ve got your towel on, make sure you do a parade by my booth”); instead, one of the interchangeable gaunt baldies checked us in. My esteemed colleague immediately hit the weight room (he agrees: It’s well-equipped but cramped) and didn’t reappear for half an hour, modulo regular trips to the water fountain.

By this time I had of course located the one and only tall, trim, freckled, cinnamon-fauxhawked fella in the place and was chatting him up. (The jeans-sandals-shirtless look worked well, despite its drug-dealer/rent-boy feel.) He wouldn’t even look at anybody lighter than 180, and as far as muscle is concerned, there’s no theoretical limit. And indeed, he conceded that his bf unit of 10 years meets those specifications.

In fact, of the other esteemed colleagues and whomever else was of interest with whom I spoke last night, exactly one was single. (And he arrived “high.”) Elsewhere, a minimum of two separate couples visibly arrived “together.” And all this says nothing of the known former bf units who were seen to chitchat as if jovially. My esteemed colleague hit up the bigger of the two for workout tips.

[Just as an aside here, can somebody tell me exactly when the grand fiction of “open relationships” came to be accepted as truth? I believe I missed that memo (or Usenet posting).]

Sadly, my long-lost friend doesn’t have much in the way of heat tolerance, so the hot tubs and saunas were not much of a draw. Plus he had this counterfactual idea that the design of the place could only be truly evaluated in bright light (untrue: It’s painted specifically for semidarkness). And like my other esteemed colleague, he thinks the great weakness of Steamworks is that its weightroom and saunas have a bathhouse attached. He was underwhelmed, if that’s a word.

So off he went back to his hotel. I stayed to watch with bemusement as the inverts circled endlessly and cluelessly through the facility, like lobotomized rabbits fulfilling some degenerate hajj. You know, nothing much will have changed in the 60 seconds since the last lap. Why not just sit somewhere interesting and let them come to you?

Unless of course one doesn’t give a shit. The place is simply a day spa with bonus partial nudity. Really, isn’t it quite relaxing to have a place to go where one may be unclothed with other men who aren’t ancient death’s-door Jews brandishing oak leaves? Add the industrial décor and really, what’s not to like?

(By the way, my red-haired friend said the place cost $2 mil. My “visit number” was in the 12,000s, so it’s not as if they won’t be making their money back. Evidently the planned bar has been ixnayed – wisely, since it keeps the inspectors out. They’re gonna expand the weightroom instead. And yes, that is an outdoor smoking pavilion you see outside at the north end, a bit of a vestige now that there won’t be a bar.)

On the way out, the ridiculously boyish “clerk” yet again quizzed and re-quizzed me on how I enjoyed myself (is this a signal of some kind?). At the door, I met a semifamous local DJ (black from Saskatchewan) who walked in with full posse, half of whose number looked at me with great surprise and interest.

I was up by 0830, getting the day, if not the party, started by taking iTunes’s cue to play “My Sharona” and “Bye[,] Bye[,] Bye” back to back.

Bonus essay question: Which is really better – their way of being gay or mine?

Update (2004.08.03): Curiously enough, our cinnamon-fauxhawked friend was seen sashaying up rue de l’Église the very next night – accompanied by the bigger of the known-former-bf-unit pair and an overbuilt self-described French-Canadian who had also been seen scurrying around the premises.

Did somebody finally screw up the courage to say hello?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.08.01 12:20. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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