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#TBT: The Last Day of Boots – A Gay Bar Moment

That Boots would outlive longtime owner Jim Schafer seemed unlikely, but we made a go of it, me and Ross. The grief over Schafer’s loss was woven into every night though, and the financial reality of the situation became clearer every day. Still, it was, as much as possible, business as usual, which meant, in the spring of 2010, long periods where nothing happened, broken by an ISCWR show or bear bash, and happy hours with my peeps at the Princess Corner. And once a month, Bingo with Bobert.

Now, keep in mind, I was at the height of addiction here. Sure, it wasn’t the circling the drain rock-bottom of the summer of 2007. I had managed to find a way to become a functioning alcoholic cokehead, but drunk and high I was and drunk and high I remained. The erratic moodswings of addiction combined with the still raw grief and guilt and fear of impending change made things extra dramatic that spring, but Bingo with Bobert was a chance to just have fun.

May 31, 2010, was a Monday like any other Monday. I was likely hungover from a Sunday at Buddys or Play, Sunday being my day off from Boots. Hungover Rob required alcohol and cocaine to get through the night, especially when I had to be “on” to host Bingo. Let’s just say, the speed round that my regulars loved so much only happened after a coke delivery, when I was, literally, speeding. As that Bingo started, I had no idea that it would be the last.

It wasn’t busy. There were our usual 20-25 there, and the few regulars along the bar, Claude and Bubbles and so on. We were playing Bingo, and laughing, and everything was normal as we hit intermission and I went to the bar for a drink from Ross. Ross told me to close it down. Right then. I knew when not to question a mood shift, and so I went back to the microphone and said this would be the last round, not knowing yet it would actually be the last round.

After everyone left, as stunned by the abruptly early end to Bingo as I was, Ross told me we weren’t re-opening. This was it. The final night. I was floored. Knowing something is coming along in the future, and having it suddenly there, are two very different feelings. Drugs were ordered, drinks were poured. Ross went upstairs to pass out, and there I was, alone in Boots, the final time.

Looking back, I had no sense of the importance of the space as a forty-year-old gay bar closing. My concerns were immediate, short-sighted, selfish. It was my space. It was our space, me and those 20-25. I didn’t post to Facebook. I just got fucked up, one last time, rummaging through the bar for things to take home. Mementos of my time there. I didn’t know where I would go, I didn’t know what I would do, but I knew this: my time at Boots had changed me as it had changed so many.

And that time was over.

When Ross woke up in the morning, I was still drinking and high as fuck. We left our keys on the bar there, and he drove me and my pile of treasures home. He kept driving west. I have not seen him since.

Then and only then did I post on Facebook. “Boots is closed.” I then turned off my phone and tried to pass out. Everyone who read it knew I meant for good. The writing had been on the wall for a long time. I’d started back at Boots that third and final time while I was homeless, and now, we all were, my bears and court queens, and my princesses of the corner.

Except… while I was sleeping, Deb and Tracey from the Junction read that Facebook post, and when I woke up, they were asking me to call them. We didn’t know it yet, but the days of that little bar on 106 St were not over yet.

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