My life so far has been centered around a type of “chain migration.” I started off in a small town (Kearney, NE pop. 24,000), moved to a slightly larger area (Lincoln, NE pop 225,000), and ended up in the Twin Cities Metro (pop 3,200,000). Apparently, somewhere along the way I lost the innovation and skill necessary to appreciate the poetic elements of life in a rural area. As anyone that has lived away from a major population center can attest, being able to stimulate your mind in an environment lacking stimulus is an immense gift.
Perhaps the most poignant of all of the entertainment endeavors I happened to engage in while living in a small place was my search for a gay community. In Kearney there was nothing except for the late-night cruising grounds in Harmon Park. In Lincoln, I was upgraded to 1 gay bar: the less-than-lovely (as in hepatitis) Q Bar.
While traveling through rural Waterloo, Iowa over the Fourth of July weekend, I decided that there was no better way to celebrate our nation’s (and my own) independence than to go to a small-town gay bar.
Kings and Queens was the aptly appointed name of the joint. It smelled of mold from the last time the Cedar River flooded downtown. There were no decorations, just a bar, a few stools, and (on the evening of a drag show) a full buffet of Hy-Vee cookies. To be inside of the small town gay bar is to transport oneself out of all contexts and into a vacuum-like abnormality of a bar. Think something like a John Waters film (The “Pelt Room” from “Pecker” comes immediately to mind).
There’s something beautiful in all of this. And, if one is patient, signs of that underlying beauty will eventually surface. In this case, I was fortunate enough to see a young woman, in a wheel-chair, dancing/wheeling her heart out in a rhine-stone studded wheel chair.
Thank you Waterloo. I needed that.
(VIDEO POSTED BELOW)