A gentle, intermittent rain pattered the yellow tent of the House of Gay Human Oddities. Outside the tent, food trucks dispensed their latest snacks, such as a Popsicle made of ragweed, truffle oil and powdered Viagra. It was guaranteed not to melt for four hours.
The food was free, paid for by the hosts, Robert and Lee. The two boyfriends were celebrating their 50th birthdays, which occurred within a week of one another.
Lee, who operated the Human Oddities show, met Robert about a year earlier at a meeting of the Atlanta Food Porn Supper Club. Robert created the club in hopes of finding a boyfriend before he turned 50. Club members mingled with fans and cast members of Lee’s show.
Janet, Robert’s good friend, walked toward the couple with a tray of chocolate cupcakes iced with a portrait of Paula Deen.
“I made ‘em myself,” she crooned in a deep Southern accent.
Very little is as predictable in gay life as the sudden reappearance of a bitter ex- boyfriend at just the wrong moment. Robert, who referred to his former lovers as “a dynasty of dicks,” knew this. So, he wasn’t surprised when one of Lee’s exes, Gene, showed up a few nights earlier and spoiled their evening out.
But Robert couldn’t shake his discomfort. Gene claimed that Lee had disappeared in the middle of the night while he slept, after a year of living together in Florida. Sitting alone, Robert looked around Woodfire Grill, wondering if his boyfriend would show up now, after inviting him to meet there.
The restaurant building, Robert noted, has changed little in two decades, still featuring the formerly fashionable feel of a chalet.
Janet and Robert settled into their folding chairs under the tent of the House of Gay Human Oddities on Cheshire Bridge Road. It was late Saturday night, after midnight, and many gay men and a few women stopped to check it out on their way home from the clubs. Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence collected the $5 entry fee.
A couple of carnival-style food stands were in front of the yellow tent, which glowed like a full moon on a foggy night. These weren’t the usual food trucks. Instead they sold take-out food from Robert’s favorite cheapies, like Arepa Mia, Bell Street Burritos, and Miss D’s New Orleans Pralines — all inside the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
Across the street, 11 mostly gay members of the Clean-up Cheshire Bridge Brigade (CCBB) demonstrated in support of gay City Council member Alex Wan. He would soon be introducing legislation to purge the road of “nonconforming” businesses — meaning sex venues — to make way for gentrification.
“No more tits! No more dicks!”
Members of the Clean-up Cheshire Bridge Brigade (CCBB) were marching in a circle in front of a strip joint, chanting and waving signs on the road many call Atlanta’s red-light district.
Their tiny protest circle was in support of gay City Councilman Alex Wan’s effort to de-eroticize Cheshire Bridge. His proposed ordinances to do so have been delayed introduction until May.
Robert and Janet arrived early at the new General Muir to check things out before the Atlanta Food Porn Supper Club got underway. The restaurant is an upscale take on a Jewish delicatessen across from the CDC on Clifton Road and is open for all three meals of the day.
Robert walked into the dining room, looked around and nearly dislocated his neck doing a double-take. Lee, with whom he’d made dinner plans for a few days later, was seated at a round table with a few others.
As at the last dinner, he was wearing makeup, looking something like a cross between a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence and Ronald McDonald. But he was otherwise dressed normally, his strong hands on the table, playing with a fork that caught the light and seemed to flash in his eyes.
Robert and Janet plopped into folding chairs in the rear of the large meeting room of Galano, a gay clubhouse that hosts all kinds of 12-step meetings.
The occasion was their mutual friend and hair-stylist Ralph’s first anniversary without alcohol, crystal meth, overeating, emotional outbursts or masturbating and failing to wash his hands before touching a client’s hair.
Ralph, 27, was arrested when he offered a policeman a hit of crystal in the parking lot of a Cheshire Bridge bar. He spent the night in a holding cell dressed in the black rubber singlet he wore for the bar’s fetish night.
Robert wasn’t religious, but he appreciated the decadence associated with Christmas’s pagan origins. He wasn’t surprised when members of the Food Porn Supper Club lobbied for a holiday meet-up. The location was Cardamon Hill in West Atlanta. Costumes were optional.
“I love Cardamon Hill,” Janet, his co-host, said. “But is an Indian restaurant appropriate for Christmas?”
“Maybe they won’t have fruitcake and eggnog,” Robert replied. “We can hope, can’t we?”