Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

New Lease on Leisure

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

New Lease on Leisure

Article excerpt

I recently visited a few new nightsports in New York's Chelsea district, and as I walked home, buzzing, I felt that something had changed--not just in gay leisure but also in gay life. The clubs I had visited are part of a trend that has hit downtown Manhattan during the past year: the trend away from bars to what are called lounges. At first glance nothing in these places, except for a retro-tinged sofa or two, seems much different from the usual stand-and-stare emporium or even from a hip coffee bar: Drinks are being served, and plaid-clad guys are checking each other out. But if you linger a minute, you'll detect a different vibe. The music can be jazz-cool, not just disco-hot. The clientele is 35, not 25. People are conducting conversations rather than straining in shouting matches over the music. There is a low-level nervousness, however: not the how-do-I-get-his-attention unease that rules most gay establishments but the eerie discomfort that afflicts people who've been out of town for a while and return to find the scenery askew.

Lounges may be merely the latest attempt by gay entrepreneurs to freshen our evenings, to vary the tone from the video- and strip-show themes that dominated nightlife during the past decade. But I'd like to think that they signify something else: a new gay civility, perhaps, or--better--a sign that as we tire of falling into K-holes or coke-and-crystal stupors every weekend and of gyrating to numbingly undanceable music, we seek other ways of spending a night out.

That I am rediscovering my appetite for nightlife surprises me. Like many people my age (40), I had tired of the monotony of club crawling and had chalked the disaffection up to age--to what Shakespeare in one of his sonnets calls "time's injurious hand." I no longer cared about discussing the differences between rival DJs' playing styles or about what was the best time to show up at the latest disco, and so I assumed retirement was my only choice. But it turns out that I hadn't lost interest in fraternizing; I had simply grown weary of how and where I could do it.

The rediscovery of, discarded modes, of activities thought gone forever, is a prevalent theme in urban gay culture right now. So many of us had not expected to live past, 40 and so had channeled our energies away from sociability and into more private activities: We wrote, ran, meditated; we spent more time with our families, biological and elected; we took up spirituality; we gave up drugs and got hooked on the Net. …

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