BY JOE HILDERBRAND
The second semester of the academic year for college students is always the roughest half. For some, returning to classes scheduled at 8 a.m. after a month-long winter break feels like the start of boot camp for a first-time marine. For others, a 1 p.m. start time feels the same way. Whoever the student may be, he or she yearns for the next break from school to begin. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day certainly does ease students back into the sluggish month of January, but a four day weekend is only a slice of cake to the starving overweight boy. It takes a considerable amount of balance between work, slacking, butt-kissing and most of all endurance for students to fight through the month of February until they are rewarded for their efforts in the month of March. To students, Spring Break what finding Woody meant to Andy, killing Scar meant to Simba and becoming free meant to Genie. All Disney references aside, Spring Break is direly important to students. The week long vacation allows students to recharge their batteries for the dying months, but also gives travelling friends and acquaintances new environments to interact in. While some Americans chose to venture to the beaches of the south, some of my closest friends and I decided to take on the Windy City. Needless to say, it began with a night none of us would forget.
Before leaving for Chicago from Saint Louis, there was a dilemma at hand; there were five seats in the Ford Explorer and six people going on the trip. Brett was our driver, therefore his girlfriend, Rosie, was predisposed to riding passenger. The four others were the beautiful Tori, the Indian Vijay, a simple bearded fellow named Cody and myself. With four people battling for three seats, it only made sense to arrange the luggage so one person could sit “comfortably” in the boot of the car. Evidently, that person ended up being me. I made a mistake. Had I known Brett was not stopping for food or a restroom break, I would have kept my mouth shut. Starving and on the brink of exploding, we arrived in downtown Chicago five hours later.
Our party checked in at the loft complex and to my surprise, we were staying on the 18th floor, overlooking downtown and the choices we would make there later that evening (thanks for the hook-up, Brett’s boss!). As dusk passed, we were still at the apartment contemplating what to do. As we searched the internet for anything going on in Chicago that evening, I stumbled upon a concert that was taking place less than two miles from our loft. The performers were the Martinez Brothers, professional DJs from Brooklyn, New York and pioneers of electronic dance music in the United States. They were performing at a local nightclub called SpyBar, famous for bringing in highly touted DJs and electronic artists. I prefer electronic music to most other genres and had not seen them perform before; my high interest seemed to convince the others quickly and the decision was soon made. We were off to the SpyBar to see the show, party and do-the-fist-pump until four in the morning.
We arrived fashionably late to the SpyBar like a bunch of jock, high school seniors at prom in Texas and completely missed the opening acts. It was fine by me, as I was just excited to see the main act. We walked down two flights of stairs and entered the dimly lit underground club. Once everyone was through the doors, we began to analyze the environment we were in. On one half was the bar area which was predominately dark, illuminated faintly by small candle-like lamps with walls lined with red velvet and booth seating areas lined with intimate couches and cushioned stools, complemented by low-top tables with a proper candle on each one. The concert area with a stage about the size of an average casket, elevated platforms for half-naked women to perform on and a light fixture that needed a warning for all epileptics filled the other half of the bar. The crowd was a typical concert crowd; hipsters just being cool, girls trying to get their five minutes of fame by dancing on stage and guys pushing and shoving as if it was Black Friday. After we progressed from the bar area to the dance floor, I stopped analyzing my environment and became part of it. Once again, I had made another mistake.
I enjoy electronic shows so much that I often get lost in the music and ignore everything else that is going on around me. As Vijay, Tori, Rosie and I were all enjoying the music, Brett and Cody hung back and continued just to observe. Brett approached me jokingly saying, “Joe, I think this is a gay bar.” I shrugged it off because not only did it not matter to me, but I was just enjoying the music. Twenty minutes later, he tapped me on the shoulder again with instructions for me to “turn around.” I turned around to see on one platform, two girls with their shirts off tonguing each other down, and on the other platform, two guys doing the exact same. As interesting as that was to see, I continued to go on with my night because I was not concerned by the actions of others. As the night raged on, there were many times where the DJs built the music up from a simple melody into a phenomenal chorus of drum and bass; famously known by fans and artists as The Drop. At a moment when The Drop kicked in, fog machines went off, confetti dropped, the crowd went wild and the night turned up a notch.
The group was separated, but in the midst of the fog, Brett was approached by another man who began dancing on him without his consent. Of course, Brett flipped out, as most straight men would, and stormed off, dragging the others with him. Vijay and I were left on the dance floor, unbeknownst as to where our friends were hiding, or what our friends had gotten into. When the fog returned for round two, a hand reached around my waist and grabbed me in a provocative manner. Intrigued, I turned around hoping to see the woman of my dreams. It was a man. Immediately, I became the most uncomfortable person in the bar. I panicked and started looking around for my friends but seemed to only see countless same sex couples dancing with each other. Reality set in; Brett was right, I was definitely in a gay bar. I left the dance floor searching aimlessly around the venue for someone I came in with until I found my friends sitting in one of the booths. Shortly after, we left the club, confused, violated and in laughter.
As a straight man, I often joke about homosexuality but mean no harm by it. I strongly support gay rights and the people behind its movement, but when it comes down to it, I am not gay. At the time, I was not pleased about what happened to me at the bar, but I can joke about it now. Some people who travel to Panama City Beach usually do not remember their first nights of Spring Break and three months later, pregnancy tests read blue. I chose an alternative route, and trust me; I will remember this Spring Break for years to come.