The original Reading for Filth was started by Dean Johnson at Hattie Hathaway’s Rapture Cafe in the East Village in 2007 (RIP legends). This new incarnation, organized by drag performer Eileen Dover, took place in Hell’s Kitchen at Frankie’s Pub and featured myself, Nora Burns, Michael Musto, and Jayysinn.
The event was in the spirit of the original with a diversity of voices and the requisite measure of filth. I read an essay about the sublime pleasures (and occasional tedium) of IRL cruising, excerpted below.
Let’s get into the cruising apps. My embrace of this tech is not blind: these companies are data mining operations, and we horny gays in particular are handing over some pretty intimate data points. I too have experienced the mind-numbing slog of scrolling and swiping, face buried in screen, eyes burning. While I share some nostalgia for the time before apps—let’s call it the analog cruising era—I get the circumstances that led us to invent cruising. We were outlaws and had to find each other using covert signals; there was real danger of violence, arrest, marginalization. With the hell of that app slog in mind it’s easy to look back wistfully upon the analog era, but IRL cruising could be pretty fucking tedious too. There was plenty of lost effort and missed connections, lots of distracted emptiness and isolation. It wasn’t all sparks and fire.
I came up as an old-school cruiser here in New York. We cruised each other in the street, on subway platforms, in bars and restaurants, in public restrooms; cruising was an undercurrent to the male-dominated public sphere. We claimed marginal and liminal spaces all over the city: toilet stalls, parks, stairwells, dark alleys, the waterfront, etc. We used certain signals, an unspoken language made necessary by the danger of coming on to the wrong guy and being exposed.