Berlin This Time: Nightlife

IMG_0971

Greeted by a sign behind the bar that read, congratulations you just left the hetereonormative sektor, I immediately felt at home. In NYC, most queer parties are monthly events, venues tend to be gaystream. Berlin manages to support several radical and activist queer spots, some of which are cooperatively run. Messy and fun, Silver Future plays riot grrl and indie music, sells zines about topics like girls with mustaches, and serves cocktails in a relaxed, mixed gender atmosphere. The bartender was charming and chatty, adding to the neighborhood feel. No photos allowed inside the space.

We also headed to Süd Block, which creates space for housing rights and social justice activism in a large outdoor patio setting. Tai chi and other workshops are offered during the day and events or parties are in the evenings. See schedule on their website.

And later, Geist im Glas, a cozy, regular bar known for their infused liquors and cocktails. This place, like so many others in Berlin, is thick with smoke, but chill and fun.

K-fetisch and Suzie Fu were closed that evening, and Roses Bar, with it’s pink faux fur walls and early morning rowdiness, seemed like too much of a commitment. I also didn’t have a chance to hit Core Tex for punk shows, but all the more reason to go back.

Mexico City: Nightlife

at Patrick Miller

at Patrick Miller

We were in DF because my friends from La Joteria (queer Latin event producers), DJ Precolumbian, and my sweetie, DJ Shomi Noise, had been invited by rappera Niña Dioz to perform. I was along for the ride. Once we got to DF, there were complications with the venue, after zealous suspensions of activities due to everything from noise violations to corruption (107 such closures in 2012, according to Time Out México. There were red “clausurado” signs all over town, and the crew had to scramble to find a new venue on short notice.

Zona Rosa, with its very gay row of bars with names like Kinky, Papi, and Touch, wasn’t the right fit for a queer vibe. (We did, however, have an adult beverage at Macho, a sausage fest of a bar with walls of full length mirrors, rainbow lights, a backroom shielded by a panel of plywood, and a smoke machine that spewed on the patrons at regular intervals.)

gay bears

gay bears

Another night we went to the long standing, steamy packed club named after it’s founding DJ, Patrick Miller. It was an 80s/90s throwback, a big, open space with a balcony wrapping around and high energy dance music, neon, and strobe lights. It reminded me of legendary Body and Soul parties in mid-90s NYC, with people sprinkling baby powder on the floor to keep from slipping, dance crews, and bodies of all types showing off their best moves. I especially enjoyed watching rotund middle age guys with beer bellies throw it down, carefree and childlike.

Ultimately, the party was held at Pulqueria Insurgentes, which had a nice vibe and good drinks. There were four floors with different music, but it felt more like a very cool house party than a big club. People danced to DJ Shomi Noise’s eclectic beats, and, as Niña Dioz put it, she kept doing something “unexpected,” playing everything from twerk and reggaeton to Mexican pop. Good times.

(l to r) DJ Shomi Noise and Niña Dioz

(l to r) DJ Shomi Noise and Niña Dioz

Mexico City: La Casa Azul

My dad’s first question when I returned from Mexico City was, “did you go to Frida’s house?” While my suburban peers spent weekends at the mall, I have memories of watching obscure films and going into Manhattan with my family to see art, packing lunches to save money. Diego and Frida were the holy grail of painters: modern innovators, vibrantly colorful, larger than life, drenched with narrative, political, yet intensely personal. My interest only grew as I came into my own politically and sexually. And since I was with a bunch of other queers on this trip, it was sort of a no-brainer that we’d go to the Museo Frida Kahlo.

The house is magnificent. I could get lost in the vivid color of the blue. It’s huge, with an interior courtyard and a cactus garden. Like other artist’s homes, I was struck by the smallest details of the inner lives of two brilliant creative people: the playfulness of the kitchen, the book collection, her wheelchair in her studio, the seemingly out of place medical chart of a growing fetus. Some of her clothing was on display: traditional yet modern, a radical nod to her indigenous heritage, but also useful for disguising the braces and contraptions underneath. She was so colorful and unusual, apparently children would ask where the circus was when she passed by.

Londres 247, Del Carmen Coyoacán, 04100

Pink Money: GLBT Travel Expo

After taking the red eye back from California, I met a few friends at the GLBT Travel Expo at the Kimmel Center on the NYU campus. I generally book my own travel and don’t restrict myself to gay ghettos, but it’s good to know what companies reach out to our community and won’t kick us off an airplane.

We collected schwag, snacked on candy, and signed up for multiple email lists for chances to win free trips (no such luck). We all agreed that a black tote bag from Delta airlines was the best giveaway. The exhibitors ranged from travel agents and tour operators to transportation companies and financial services. There were familiar vendors like Fun Maps and Go Magazine, and tourism commissions from popular destinations like Miami and cozy Vermont. A few surprises: Purim in Tel Aviv sounded fun, as did a safari in South Africa. And author Michael Luongo was there promoting his book Gay Travels in the Muslim World.

I was surprised that REI wasn’t there. Don’t they know that lesbians love camping? Also absent were other gay friendly travel destinations like Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Vieques, Madrid, or Sydney. And Olivia Cruises! Hopefully, as the expo expands, more vendors will join in.

LGBT buying power is estimated to be about $790 billion in the US. And homo travelers spend an average of 57% more than straights. Of course, disposable income of minorities does not signify equality or power, as this thoughtful critique of the concept of Black buying power asserts. Then again, why spend money somewhere unwelcoming or worse?

Kamprad69 via Wikimedia Commons

Making the Most of Boston

Back in February, I went to Boston for work. I hadn’t started this blog yet, so I’m going to take the liberty to write about the trip now.

If you arrive in South Station, skip the food court and walk a few blocks to Al’s Cafe. This local favorite offers a great lunch deal, with a huge “sub,” chips, and a drink costing less than ten bucks. The staff take pride in the craft of a making a good sandwich, and hold court over an arsenal of options. I had a lean prosciutto, mozzarella, basil, oil, and balsamic on perfectly crusty bread. It could have easily been enough for two meals.

That day, I met with an unimaginative woman who raised her eyebrows when I responded to her question about where I was staying. I had a good deal at a boutique hotel on the waterfront, on a nonprofit budget. Usually, when you attend a conference out of town, there is some sort of negotiated discount at the hotel. But I still compare hotels in the area, and can usually find a better rate at a better place nearby. Apparently, she didn’t know this trick.

That evening, I went to Legal Sea Foods to try their legendary clam chowder. This place does such tremendous volume, it’s no wonder the fish stock is so rich. I sat at the counter, mesmerized by the ballet of service: cooks, servers, white bowls and plates all winding around in controlled chaos. The chowder was creamy and delicious, but I prefer more clams. I also had the Rhode Island style calamari (with hot peppers and garlic), but the server forgot the dipping sauce and it was a bit too much for one person. Restaurants really need to offer half portions.

I had seen signs for an interesting exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. I checked online and they have free admission on Thursdays from 5-9pm. My last meeting ended, and I walked over. The Museum is spacious and can be managed in an hour or two. Coming from NYC, where free museum hours are oppressively crowded, I couldn’t believe that I could linger and really appreciate the art without getting jostled. The show, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, chronicled art in the conservative Reagan era. The AIDS crisis and crack epidemics threatened the survival of many at home, and East Germans were organizing for democracy. I remember wandering around the lower east side in Manhattan as a teenager– the urgency and energy was palpable. Public art was everywhere, and queer and feminist artists were challenging norms. This was a tremendous time for a young girl coming out.

Section from Candy Jernigan, Found Dope, Part II, 1986

Section from Candy Jernigan, Found Dope, Part II, 1986

Jenny Holzer, Survival: Protect Me from What I Want, 2006

Jenny Holzer, Survival: Protect Me from What I Want, 2006

It’s interesting how you can be somewhere else and feel the intense pull of nostalgia for your hometown. Or your hometown as it used to be.

After soaking in the show, I wandered into Barking Crab for more seafood. I had a plump “naked” lobster roll (with drawn butter instead of mayo) and a heaping pile of fries and cole slaw. The place had a casual, clam shack vibe and the food was delicious.

A snowstorm was coming the next day, and there was a mix of panic and calm in the air. I had to cut the trip short so I wouldn’t get stranded on company time. But I enjoyed my little taste of Boston.

New York, New York

Photo by Eric Mayville (Creative Commons)

Photo by Eric Mayville (Creative Commons)

Like many New Yorkers, I have a love/hate relationship with home. From a claustrophobic commute to a chronic lack of free time, I’m fairly certain I’d have a higher quality of life elsewhere. So it’s good to remember what I like about home. In the spirit of appreciation, here’s a list of things I love about NYC:

1. Theatre
Between St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Lincoln Center Festival, we have the best theatre scene in the country.

2. People
We talk fast and we appreciate sarcasm. We talk to strangers. Some of my favorite people watching happens at odd hours, like those rare occasions when I have to travel at five am or a train suddenly goes out of service late at night.

3. Nature in unexpected places
I’m an avid bird watcher, and people I meet from other places always comment that I can’t possibly see much in NYC. But there are more than 200 bird species that frequent the area– in parks and miles of shoreline– and part of the fun is exploring all these unexpected wild places.

4. Park Slope Food Coop
Haters gonna hate, but the prices at the largest member-owned food cooperative in the country are the best around.

5. Queer scene
From the eastern part of Jacob Riis Park in the summertime, to dance parties like Azucar, the queer scene in NYC is more fun in recent years.

6. Car-free transportation
I can walk most places. Thanks to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, there are more and more bike lanes. And even the MTA, with it’s dubious accounting systems, runs all night.

7. 24/7
I like that things are open late, and I can go to a bodega at all hours. I’m reminded of this fact often when I go somewhere else.

8. Water
We’re surrounded by water. You can walk along the waterfront, over bridges, take the subway to the beach, or the railroad to Long Island beaches.

9. Skyline
I am always comforted by the skyline when I come home.

10. Impermanence
New Yorkers love to complain about how things used to be better, but we secretly marvel at how quickly things change: storefronts, new buildings pop up, entire neighborhoods are transformed. The future seems full of possibility. And we are only a small part of something bigger than ourselves.