Monday, March 16, 2009

The Wild Pug, Chicago

We’d really only planned one gig in Chicago – the WCF reading – for a while and then Drew Ferguson wrote me an email out of the blue, asking if I’d take part in his series up at the The Wild Pug in Uptown. I thought he meant, you know, later. But he meant right away.

Drew, by the way, was absurdly modest in all his communications. Like, for example, didn’t mention that he’s the author of The Screwed Up Life of Charlie the Second. The Chicago Reader has a review of it in which Robert McDonald says: "...the resulting blend of humor and heartache makes for the most true-to-life queer coming-of-age story since John Fox's 1994 Boys on the Rock..."

So last Thursday I drove up to my old neighborhood – I really love that neck of the woods – for the reading. The area’s been changing since before I moved up there (in the mid80s, then again in the mid90s, after a brief excursion up to Rogers Park) but there are things that remain exactly the same, like the Green Mill and the fried rice joint on Argyle with all the dead ducks in the window.

And there are things that are in constant flux. When I stood in front of the The Wild Pug – now spacious and inviting, with a separate bar and reading room in the back – I was sure I’d known it in its previous incarnations but I simply couldn’t remember any of them.

Also on the bill at this gig was Brian Bouldrey, an old grad school chum. Brian wrote The Genius of Desire, Monster: Gay Adventures in American Machismo, is editor of a slew of Best American Gay Fiction and author of so many other titles it’d take a page to list them all. He’s also hysterical, on and off stage so – while I was thrilled to see and hear him (and gossip: he’s got a new job in Alaska!) – I was a tad worried: He’s a really, really good reader – and my stuff, by contrast to his (though his can be dark too), is pretty sober.

Plus, reading at a bar is a whole different experience than in bookstores. And the reading room at The Wild Pug is the epitome in a lot of ways. For starters, there’s, you know, liquor. Hard core. Me, personally, I had a Glenlivet.

And it’s dark, or at least hazy. For me this meant some readjustment. I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the Ruins text but it’s not memorized, so I still need the page as a reference. But in the dark, it was a bit more of a challenge.

And it’s noisy – I mean, really noisy. I don’t have the strongest voice so I had to really put the lungs to work. But the static created by bar noise – voices, glasses, laughter – has a certain charm. It can knock me off balance – I lost my place a couple of times and quickly recouped – but the tension, I think, adds to the overall ambience.

Don’t get me wrong, I love bookstores, with their flood of light and all-ages comfort, but there’s something inviting and seductive about reading at bars that I find enchanting. And Thursday at The Wild Pug, I think I had one of the best readings so far on this tour.

1 comment:

  1. Hi ACHY

    I was reading about you in the March issue of
    New City. Your story moved me to tears being a Cuban refugee. I also live in Chicago and have written a book entilted,
    The Maryville Kid ISBN# 0979045029
    My book is about my life in Cuba, Chicago and Sweden. I have friends in Andersonville. My friend Colm Treacy owns T'S Restuarant and Bar on 5025 North Clark Street. Maybe in the near future we can meet?

    My emaail address is
    Cell Phone (630)217_6617