So: What’s been happening at the den of iniquity with the stainless-steel industrial décor, Steamworks?

It’s become painfully clear that the place is too damned small. I’m reliably informed that the Chicago Steamworks is three full floors. (If you were there at the right time, they might have handed you a prospectus and asked if you wanted to invest in the Toronto location.) A single storey just ain’t gonna cut it in the big city here.

You notice the overcrowding this mostly on weekends, which have devolved into a kind of amateur hour for guys with day jobs. I only go there for the hot tubs and for amusement, but it’s all the more amusing on a Friday or Saturday to sit on the bench and watch the rodents positively scurry back and forth. The solution is obvious: Plunk yourself down and let them come to you. I don’t bother chasin’ mice around.

Anyway, with so few rooms, you essentially have to get there before 10:00 – on a weekend – if you want some “privacy.” Everyone else has nowhere to go to engage in any kind of sexualism, unless you’re an exhibitionist. When coupled with the fact that guys wander around in unholy hajj-like circles looking for somebody better and better and better yet never actually decide, you ought not be going to the Steamworks on a weekend for anything other than a dip and a few laughs, because that’s all you’re gonna get.

What adds to my amusement is the fact that I seem to be considered unusual (not quite “exotic”), and a lot of guys seem intimidated by me. (I hate that word. “Rendered timid”? Well, it seems to be le mot juste in this case.) They certainly get out of my way pretty fast, and it’s not because I’m sauntering down the aisles with any kind of bravado. In fact, most of the time I’m the only fellow at the Steamworks with a smile on his face. (People! We’re having fun here. Right?) Perhaps it would simply be too repellent for them to bump into me. They might turn into pillars of salt, or, worse yet, of grey hair.

This intimidation is especially gratifying in the case of my various limerent objects. One of them has sadly decamped to dreary Victoria, where he immediately doubled the black population (and became a population of one in other respects). But while he was here, it was very amusing indeed for somebody right off the starting line of the Olympic 100-metre sprint to get the hell out of my way.

Another limerent object has me in his spell; he and I know it, and I’m fine with that. Standing there impossibly tall and broad-shouldered, also impossibly blond and hairless, he gave me several long looks while the tumblers fell into line and he placed me. He would then give several more long looks of a vaguely tempting and aloof variety. And would later get dressed – I watched; his wardrobe, especially shoes, have improved – and simply leave, unloved. Gods suffer like mortals when they mix with us.

Today I saw him biking down the street (helmetless as usual: a mind is a terrible thing to waste), the same old itty-bitty backpack rather giving the game away. I can tell you every single time I’ve ever seen him.

I should mention the Italian. I simply make him nervous. But seemingly everything does. With his compulsive fidgeting, he’s like a miniature dog that trembles all the time even on a warm day. He has that combination of taking good care of himself yet also hating the very features that make him special, like his red hair and his essential Roman nose. He too is single and frustrated, for no reason.

And actually, speaking of nervous, it was a dark and stormy weeknight when I dropped in for a simple dip in the pool and was shocked to note a glabrous 6′5″ figure in superb condition wandering around the place. As tall guys will know, amassing muscle is hard, since you have a larger volume to deal with, but this one has had no apparent trouble. He reminded me a bit of Ian Roberts, though thankfully less homely.

I just happened to sit next to him on the bench at one point, noting his jet-black hair and square-jawed Supermanness. I also noted his bouncing left foot and the tense way he was leaning over. My opening conversational gambit was a simple “Come here often?” Nope; he’s a visitor in town. “Are you South African?” I asked, puzzled at the accent. Nope again – a Kiwi living in New York. Rrawr.

I tried to chat him up on this or that, with roughly 20-second intervals between sentences while I gauged whether or not he’d break into tears if I asked him one more question. You’re 220 pounds sopping wet and taller than everybody in the building, and you made it to the boldest city on the planet, so what’s your problem?

But really, what I dearly wanted to ask him was “Does your wife know you’re here?”

Other odds ’n’ ends…

  • They crank the chlorine too high in the wet room much of the time. Don’t turn this into a Simpsons episode, please.
  • You occasionally see friends, of various ethnic and racial origins, doing the Steamworks together. That strikes me as taking comradeship a bit far. But as ever, the Oriental population utterly ignores one another. (They don’t even talk amongst themselves, save for a few Tagalog-speakers. You never hear Chinese.) But curiously, the black guys ignore each other, too. The following is not a novel observation: These groups seem to think that only white guys are attractive, but, by and large, white guys think the same thing; isn’t that tragedy of the self-hating minority? (How different is being Asian and relying on rice queens from being gay and living in a small town?) It may be too much to ask for them to overcome their self-hatred and start dating each other, if only because the choice of whom they fancy isn’t a choice… except inasmuch as it chose them rather than the other way around. (Yeah, hi, Christian.) But a good start might be to discontinue this pretense that nobody else in the place looks like them.
  • In fact, why is there so little conversation? Why do I now have several more casual acquaintances at the Steamworks than I do at the Eagle? I seem to be one of the few guys who sits there and talks. Because really, what else is there to do?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.04.17 14:16. 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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