The daily serial fictional based on Chicago's Boystown neighborhood: Boystown series by Danny Bernardo

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17. Guilt By Association

Steve couldn't believe that he'd resorted to online dating. It wasn't that he was feeling especially lonely; after twenty years of being partnered he actually enjoyed the independence. But there was always that little nagging feeling whenever he'd leave dinner with his friends, watching them revel i

17. Guilt By Association
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Steve couldn't believe that he'd resorted to online dating. It wasn't that he was feeling especially lonely; after twenty years of being partnered he actually enjoyed the independence. But there was always that little nagging feeling whenever he'd leave dinner with his friends, watching them revel in their still successful marriages as they caught cabs home. He was just a little tired of being the lone man on the street waving them off and hitting the bars by himself. Steve never wanted for attention, not suffering from the bitter "invisible" feeling most men his age felt when they patronized the bars on Halsted. But truth be told, he was feeling a bit too old for the cutesy flirting and Lady Gaga made no sense to him. If he was going to date, it was going to be a man of substance. And he'd need a better filter.

Watching all the young guys glued to their phones on these apps to find guys just didn't appeal to him. And it seemed geared more towards one-night stands. Websites like Manhunt and Adam4Adam, with their bare-chested (and often nude) models just turned him off. He opted for the quaint sounding OkCupid, with its many profile questions and percentage-based matches. It was one of these predetermined matches that he messaged first, a handsome African American man of his age going by the screen name Courage2860. Admittedly it was the profile picture that drew Steve in, the handsome face, the twinkle in his eye that betrayed a much younger heart than the numeric value assigned to his age. Perusing his profile, they shared the same love of Mexican food, Nina Simone, and Jim Carrey movies, and similar disdain for movies about sparkly vampires and (hot) under aged werewolves, so he took a chance and messaged away.

"Hey handsome," came the immediate IM response.

"Hey there!"

"Listen, I don't know about you but these computers make my head twitchy. Want to grab a drink?"


Steve sat at a table for two by the bar at Jack on Halsted's as he saw Edward cross the street at Belmont through the window. As Edward came in, Steve took a quick breath. Edward looked much more handsome in person. He rose to greet him, shook his hand, and waved the waitress over to place their order.

Two dry martinis later, they were both chuckling at each other's failed relationships. There was something comforting about meeting someone in Boystown who remembered when Nixon was president and color TV was a novelty. Talking to someone whose value wasn't placed into the chase for youth or the latest designer clothes was invigorating. Edward was in the middle of a ridiculous story about one of his last affairs, when Steve's phone vibrated in his pocket, reminding him of the time.

"He actually wanted to role-play taking me across the Underground Railroad and then ravage me on the way to the north. I mean, had this fucker lost his goddamned mind? Do I look like Butterfly McQueen?"

Steve laughed from the gut for the first time in years. Now, there was a twinkle in his eye and Edward had put it there. "God, I wish I didn't have to run."

"Then don't," Edward winked at him.

"I have to, though. It's my first association meeting."

"Really? You are far too young and adorable for AARP."

Steve blushed and laughed that off. "No, turkey. The Northalsted Merchants Association."

"Those chuckleheads?" Edward chuckled. "What business do you have with them?"

"Well, I'm about to open a bar so I joined."

"Get ready for a lot of finger pointing and passive aggressive racism."

"Oh come on, they're not that bad."

Edward regained his composure. "Not individually, no. Most of them are really nice folks. I wished they handled their business differently, but... "

"Well, I guess I'll have to go on in there and make it a better place."

Edward gave him a kiss on the cheek for that. "You do that, handsome. And tell me all about it on our second date." Steve walked Edward out and with schoolboy glee, kissed him goodbye. Edward kissed back.

"Tell the Association Edward Curtis says hi."

"So you have a history with them? Do they not like you?"

"I don't know how they feel about me, but they sure don't like my kids roaming their streets."


I was not aware of these matters regarding boystown. When I read this chapter, I thought maybe there were some African American kids that had been harassed near some stores, or that there were some very old business owners with like-minded old men managing the businesses saying rude comments to young African Americans who walked into the stores...or possibly walking outside. I thought these were fictional aspects like much of the story. I wouldn't think racism would be a problem in boystown as it always struck me as a place to let your hair down and enjoy in the potential of lustful acts without quite as much judgment from others in general. Obviously, I have only proven that I was a one-time visitor. I hope the situation has improved since this was first posted online to be read.

by WalksTheEdge on Sat. Oct 26, 2013

Ryan, cutie pie, I think you meant Edward's reaction, not Steve's.

by Jason on Mon. Aug 27, 2012

hey ryan, thanks so much for the feedback! this week's chapters is definitely meant to introduce the conversation of crime in boystown and while i agree that race isn't the end-all-be-all of the conversation, it's definitely one that overshadows it. i felt very strongly about starting from there in introducing the conversation and deconstructing it from there in the coming weeks as we learn more about these characters and how they react to situations. as for steve's reaction...admittedly when i read your comment, i thought to myself "what does he mean?" re-reading, i can see where one might be disheartened. i hate to be the writer that excuses himself or puts a reading on a character, but just to clarify, his statement is more an attempt of being charming and appealing to what edward is passionate about and less a critique on the association itself. thanks so much for reading and the feedback! look forward to reading more of your thoughts! -db

by that1guydannyb on Thu. Aug 9, 2012

When I read the chapter title, I admit I expected a different storyline. I appreciate the twist, but since it's so close to what's happening in Boystown I was a little uncomfortable. I'm not sure what's happening in Boystown is about race. Unfortunately the homeless youth hanging out and loitering in the area are primarily African American; however, I would believe if white kids were doing the same thing - reaction would be equal. So to me the question isn't race-related. The question is why are these kids hanging out in Boystown - a bar and entertainment district - well past curfew. Doesn't anyone see this as an issue? The businesses in the area have a right to protect their investment. These kids can't get into bars, which primarily make up North Halsted, so why are they hanging out in the area. The business owners are not to blame and "Steve's" reaction is disheartening at best. He should spend time helping "his kids" not complaining.

by RyanOH on Wed. Aug 8, 2012

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