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  NIGHTSPOTS

BEING CONTINUED: Wave
by AK Miller
2012-05-23

This article shared 1000 times since Wed May 23, 2012
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Derek and Dakota spent most of the mid '80s at the Belmont Rocks. In the summer anyway. They would run from their tiny gay-ghetto studio on Buckingham with boom box in hand and flip-flop their way to the lakeshore with their tiny, neon Speedos glowing in the midmorning sun. When they reached the large, stone slabs they would be greeted by queens, beefy men and boys. Queers quacking like ducks with their feet hanging over the sides of the stones, toes nowhere near touching the water four feet below. Derek always spread his towel out on the grass while Dakota preferred the feel of the smooth rock under his skin. For years this was their daily summer ritual. Laughing, relaxing and dancing until the afternoon sun was at his hottest and they went home to nap with their sun-kissed bodies stuck against each other in their cool, small bed. They rose to go to work at Carol's Speakeasy, collecting empty glasses and restocking beer fridges for the bartenders. They never stuck around after the bar closed, but hurried home to get a disco nap in before their morning ritual began again. Things changed around 1987. Friends that they were used to seeing daily went missing. Sickness swept though their community erasing much of the laughter. Then, to completely remove what little solace the rocks provided, the police began harassing the gays and disrupting their peace. Hating gay people was becoming fashionable then and abuse had become commonplace with tickets being written for loitering, public indecency and solicitation. Derek and Dakota didn't give up on the rocks though. They still made their way to the lake daily, even when Dakota was almost too sick to walk. It took them twice the time to get there, but they made it. When Dakota died, Derek could not bring himself to go there anymore. The hard stones lined up and lurking over the unreachable water made him sad. Each stone uncovered represented another man gone. One Sunday he began walking north along the lake path and ended up at its end at Hollywood Avenue. There he saw stretches of newly cleaned beachfront occupied mostly by Latvian immigrants and small Mexican children. At the end of the beach was a giant tree shading the stairs that led down to the pier. He sat under it and decided then that the boys deserved a beach of their own. On his way home he went to the uptown Goodwill store and bought bed sheets the colors of the gay flag. The next morning he walked to Edgewater Beach, which he unofficially renamed Hollywood Beach, and hung the sheets from the braches of the tree, claiming it as the new home for the gays and a memorial for the ones not present. It didn't take long before the men started joining Derek. First up by the tree, then slowly taking over the beach completely from grass to shore. You could find Derek there every day playing his cassette tapes and flying one of what became a very large collection of Pride flags. He watched as everyone laughed, relaxed, danced and now splashed about in summertime celebration, despite of what the world was throwing at them. In 1994, when he knew that he was too weak from CMV and medicine to make it there any longer, he worried that when he was gone, this may be lost too. He feared that without anyone there to daily claim stake, the gays would again be forced from their sun-baked sanctuary. But what he had done was permanent. He had no reason to worry.

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