The first gay bar I ever went to was Buddies which closed last month. When I came out in 1991 I was 22 going on 23. I lived in DeKalb, IL and was a first year grad student at Northern Illinois University. At the time, I was fairly inexperienced in most things in life. My life had been sheltered and my experiences retarded by an overbearing, oppressive, and religious upbringing. That year, in that place, I met a man by the name of Michael Pallansch. Michael was such a sweetheart and he was out and bold. He was from Minnesota and had come to DeKalb via Upper Wisconsin.
One night, Michael suggested that we drive into the city and go to a gay bar. Neither one of us knew much about Chicago but I was game for leaving the cornfields and hitting the big city that has now become my home for 10 years.
Michael and I set out with very sketchy directions about getting to "Boys Town." We knew to exit Lake Shore Drive at Belmont and not to go past Clark St. I think Michael and I drove around for a good 45 minutes wondering if we were in the right place and trying to figure out where to park. I had seen an ad for Buddies in a gay rag so when we saw the sign on the corner of Clark and Aldine, I knew we should park and go inside. Michael and I had a great dinner and drinks. We also shared something special that night. That night I kissed a man on the lips in public for the first time ever. It doesn't seem like such a big deal but at the time it was so liberating.
Michael and I broke up at the end of the at first year of grad school. Michael moved back north. I think he lives in Minneapolis now. I finished grad school and moved to Chicago. I have been to Buddies several times since that first experience with Michael but none will ever be as sweet as the first. Every time I went to Buddies in the last 10 years, I can't help but remember the innocence and joy of that night with Michael. I will miss you Buddies.