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1997

The year in Chicago history via the pages of the Reader

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"Thomas More said sometimes your own self-righteousness can get in the way of spiritual progress. I decided it was time to change. Twenty-two years of tofu is a lot of time. . . . I wanted to go to Wrigley Field and eat a hot dog."

—Paul Obis, founder of Vegetarian Times, telling the Reader why he went back to meat

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Farewell to a one and only

Jon-Henri Damski wasn't the only person honored by the City Council on Wednesday, June 4. He was, however, the only person honored while holding a book called The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology . . .

The other honorees included a recently departed bureaucrat from the Department of Streets and Sanitation; two west-side teenagers who had heroically rescued someone from a fire; Alfred Abramowicz, an elderly priest from the southeast side; and poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who was about to celebrate her 80th birthday . . .

As his resolution was read before the City Council on June 4, someone motioned for Damski to move to the side of the chambers to pose for a photo with Mayor Daley.

Whereas, Jon-Henri Damski is the scribe of New Town, telling the stories of Chicago's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered communities; and . . .

"How're you doing, Jon?" asked the mayor.

Whereas, Jon-Henri Damski writes with integrity and honesty, never compromising the truth as he sees it, never hiding behind the myth of objectivity; and . . .

"Quite a day, Mr. Mayor," Damski said. "Priests, poets, and perverts."

Whereas, Jon-Henri Damski is an omnivore of the mind who devours new ideas in literature, music, film, and theater, and is expert in everything from Greek myth to heavy metal; and . . .

Daley smirked. Bernie Hansen, who was also posing for the picture, had to back away. He was laughing too hard.

From "Queer Thinker," by Neal Pollack. Damski died five months later.

Progress and its inconveniences

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About five years ago I had sex with this guy I met at a party. In the bathroom of his apartment I noticed a dozen bottles of pills—all familiar AIDS meds. The fact that he had AIDS wasn't an issue and didn't cause me anxiety, as we didn't do anything unsafe. The sex was fine, but the events before and after were weird, and we didn't speak to each other again. When we would find ourselves standing next to each other in a bar or in line at the grocery store we would pretend not to recognize each other. At those times I would comfort myself by thinking, "Well, he'll be dead soon, and I won't have to deal with this bullshit anymore." And when I did stop seeing him around I assumed he'd died.

Then two weeks ago, at four in the morning, in another time zone, my friend Dave and I were eating pancakes in an all-night restaurant when in walks the guy. We gave each other a look-not that pleasant didn't-you-rim-me-once-nice-to-see-ya nod, but a dark "you again." It was awkward and uncomfortable, and all I could think as we sat there eating was, "Jesus Christ, why aren't you dead?" I felt cheated. Of all the people who'd survived, why him? Now, according to Time and Newsweek, he might live a long life, which could result in the two of us running into each other again and again for 30 years.

From "Death Takes a Holiday: Welcome to the end of the AIDS crisis. No one said it was going to be pretty," by Dan Savage. [Feb 14] The Reader had picked up Savage Love a couple of years earlier, after editors debated whether to publish any sex columnist at all, and, if so, whether we should find our own Dan Savage. But there were no facsimiles, only the original.

Fun fact

No author has been translated into any one language as many times as Homer has been recast into ours. Christian industry has given everybody a Bible in his own tongue, but the English and their tribe have been drawn to Homer, as a writer, more often than they have been to God himself. —Michael Solot, "Epic Update"

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