i went to see the film “tangerine” yesterday with some friends. i liked it and i didn’t care which is somewhat of a dichotomy. in 1974 i left home when i was 16 and drifted toward chicago. i moved in with a couple of goofcay bellman by the names of jimmy looney and peter gigley (in all seriousness). they shared a near north high rise apartment just off diversey and smack dab in the middle of what would later become boystown. peter was in his 50’s and jimmy was in his late 30’s. peter was a “sugar daddy” for jimmy but i think that relationship had been cemented at least a decade prior. i began to do what seemed necessary to keep money flowing and food in my belly. i was also in the beginning stages of the blooming of my chemical imbalance and the impulses dictated my way more often than not in those days.
i met lots of other runaways as well as street workers and hustlers during that time. many of them were transgender (although we didn’t use that term at the time) one of my most memorable friendships at that time was with a drag queen named “Danee”. She was a Puerto Rican from the west side who grew up as a boy named Danny Rodrigez. Danny befriended Jimmy and Peter and we all stayed together for a while. Danny stole some money from Peter and blamed it on me. I must say here i probably would have stolen it if I had thought of it, but theft is just not my first thought in any situation. The relationship transitioned into no more after that and I moved in with another drag queen named Bobbie. We shared a dilapidated apartment on Wellington west of Halsted street. It was really more of a trick pad. and party house. There were many soirees and dates and acid trips during those days. I can’t even recall how that pas-de-deux ended. or when that family of circumstance fell apart. but these were families to me. I was on my own and had to survive and needed support.
But end they did. I then got a job (at 17) at a little sleaze bar called “The Take It Easy Inn”. My drinking habits took root during this time as did my survial oriented narcissistic tendencies. i became a “thing” during the gogo boy years and it deepened the scars that childhood sexual abuse had initiated. there were a multitude of instances during that period of my early independence (inter-dependence) that signaled and compartmentalized trauma, victimization, std’s, cruelty, wonder, blackouts, etc. the family of “choice” structure was certainly disfunctional, but it was still family. bookstores and bathhouses. bars and museums. sleeping late and later nights. good and bad. black and blue. pink and lavender. and definitely tangerine.
i think i was steeped in a tangerine haze and memories of a family affair. it was melancholy and it was numbing. i made it out alive and somewhat intact. i can’t say the same for most of those family members.