Last night, I walked south on Clark street in Andersonville after taking the Damen bus from a comedy show to Ashland and Foster, as I usually do. It always bothers me that I have to take a bus further north than where I live on Clark, but it’s just one of the mysterious ways of the Chicago CTA. Usually, when I am coming home late at night, getting to the intersection of Winnemac and Clark is a pleasant part of the lonely, iPod-blaring and boot-clomping walk. That’s because usually, I see cute girls hanging out on the corner, smoking and gossiping in front of T’s bar. In the summer of course, it’s a different story. I see an entire packed patio of dogs and cute lesbians relaxing and drinking and I’ll immediately text friends to come meet me so we can join in the patio magic. But for this chilly March weather, girls smoking on a corner is all I’ve got to look forward to in Andersonville, or, at least, it was. Last night there were no girls smoking. There were no cute beanies or flannel shirts or leather boots or friends cuddling or random pieces of hair dyed pink or sides of heads shaved. There was just a dark, empty building, and an open door to some kind of attic or alleyway with papers and trash flying in and out. It was, quite literally, a gaping whole in the heart of our neighborhood where once a magical gay oasis used to be.
photo from chibarproject.com
How do we deal and move on from this heartache? I can’t help but remember all of my memories at T’s. When I first moved to Chicago and was checking out the gay scene, I used to get really dressed up and take the bus way north to T’s with super high hopes of entering a lesbian soft-core porn movie when I stepped through the door. Instead what I usually saw was softball teams drinking after their games, girls in plaid vests singing karaoke, or high-ponytailed-track-pants-athletic dykes shooting pool. Hmmm. How did I fit into all of this? It was more of a mystery land than a place of immediate belonging. Wearing a dress there felt like wearing bright pink at a funeral. The funeral of my fantasy of entering a lesbian soft-core porn movie when I stepped through the door.
A few years later, my second relationship with a girl started at T’s—that’s where we had our first date after meeting on match.com (embarrassing and true). We had decided to go to Hopleaf, but we got to Hopleaf and realized we couldn’t hear ourselves talk. We went to T’s instead, and we sat in the back room by the bar for six hours. She drank three double pints of Shiner Bock and I ordered one drink called “the Slut,” which was enough to put me on her level of drunkenness immediately. During the date I obsessed about whether my hair looked okay or I had worn the right thing for such a truly gay date in T’s bar. After the date she walked me to my bike and we kissed over it. That’s right. We kissed over my bike outside of T’s bar. I went in for more but she gracefully ended it and said good night. That’s the story of my life with kissing girls. I’m always going in for more. Oh, have we been kissing for eight years? I hadn’t noticed. What, you have other things to do? How could that be? I don’t understand. She texted me later that night “hope you got home safe” and followed it up with a call, so I knew she would be wanting to kiss more eventually. I ended up dating her for a year and a half, and that first date was probably the most magical part of it. I know that sounds cynical or like some kind of dig, but it’s not. There was something just really awesome about that first date at T’s, something I’ll never forget. It’s also always so much more amazing when you don’t know each other, isn’t it? You don’t know yet the ways in which you simply do not work together. All you have is possibilities.
That’s what T’s used to be. Like a first date, it was just a place of possibilities. I met Laura, co-writer of this blog there. We were just hanging out with mutual friends Jenna and Sam eating fried ochre and drinking blue moons, and we quickly realized we had a lot in common. We had both just broken up with someone, we both had a plant-related tattoo on our right hips, we both were the same kind of person…we dated ladies but you couldn’t really tell by looking at us. She mentioned her dog, and I became very excited at the idea of having a new friend who has a dog. He turned out to be our very own Femmes de la Ville advice columnist, Gus. Our friends Jenna and Sam both had to move away, but not before we drank many beers with them on that patio. I don’t know what to say. How can we ever replace the space that that patio gave us? Just a place to relax and feel totally at home in your neighborhood. How can we ever have that again here? As more and more of the exciting nightlife moves west to Logan Square, T’s was like the one place for young people in Andersonville. Most of our bars and restaurants serve things that you can only afford if you own a house here and have four kids and a live-in nanny. This neighborhood is pushing us out, the gay young single partiers, and it seems we all will have no choice left but to move, with T’s gone now. And yes, that was definitely overly dramatic about a place whose chicken tenders were always too flat for me and I’m a big chicken tender eater. But seriously, T’s closing in Andersonville would be like Sidetrack closing in Boystown. Just devastating.
Apparently they closed for some kind of money thing. Something about not paying their rent. It sucks and maybe I’m the only one who is sad about it, or maybe when summer comes and we have no patio it will start to sink in more and more, but I guess I’d like to thank T’s for making this neighborhood worth living in. And please, someone open another patio where girls can check each other out while pretending to just be complimenting each other’s dogs.
By Caitlin Bergh