AKA many hours on a bus
Yesterday I hopped down to Chicago to meet up with fellow author Chris Owen who was taking in the sights. Some readers have been reading m/m for years, while others are new to the party. I try to explain the length of my genre tenure by pointing out that my first m/m short (a forgettable story called West Side) came out in 2004. On CD. When you could count the number of m/m authors on your fingers and toes. This was before the Kindle device even existed. FIVE YEARS before the Kindle device even existed.
So Chris Owen? Her full-length novel Bareback, a beloved m/m classic, came out a year before that!
I bussed my way down from Madison to Union Station, where a stranger promptly asked me for money, so I knew I’d arrived. I met up with Chris and we started our adventures in Greektown. The store that Crash’s shop is loosely based on is still there. Weirdly enough, it still looks and smells exactly like I remember it, too. While we were there, a Chicago cop came in and asked the clerk about a statuette of St. Joseph to help him sell his house. All the while the police radio on his belt was muttering away.
Chris found a bar of High John the Conqueror soap, the very stuff that gave Vic a rash in Secrets. She couldn’t resist buying one. I decided the mere smell of it was turning my stomach, but I did treat myself to some Florida Water soap, which had a fragrance that was somewhat more intriguing than nauseating.
We then took an architecture tour on the river. As we floated along baking in the sun, drinking literally the best Corona I have ever tasted, I noticed several spots where I thought, “I don’t really remember that,” and I lived in Chicago for thirteen years. Then the guide would announce when the building was completed—after I left—and I’d think, “Well, that’s why.” There seemed to be a lot more to do along the river, and a lot more places that were friendlier to walk around or hang out in general, than I remembered.
Chris and I got along famously. We had so much to talk about and the day felt too short. Before I knew it I was searching on my iPhone for the correct bus to get me back to Union Station. (This is insanely new too. As was the fare payment system. When I lived in Chicago, smartphones didn’t exist, it was all paper schedules, and the buses and El still accepted tokens.)
In a way, hanging out with Chris in the Loop was like unearthing a time capsule. We were both a little stunned about how much things have changed: ourselves, the genre, the saturation of new authors, the advent of self-publishing. Connecting with her helped me to realize how much ground I’ve actually covered on my writing journey.