The lost art of cruising

‘Electro-tricks’ may be quicker and easier, but half the fun of the hook-up was working at it

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

I don’t get out much — at least to the bars. First of all I don’t drink anymore, and second, I am not really looking to hook up with anyone since I am in a very nice relationship.

I do, however, occasionally meet friends out for the evening or for a special event.

When I do go out, it is most often to our local leather bar, the Dallas Eagle, and I often indulge in a little people watching. I like to watch the crowd, the way people interact with one another, the ebb and flow of what was once a favorite past time of gay men: cruising.

What surprised me was the lack of that particular gay art going on.

First, let me say this is not a reflection on the Eagle; it’s a fine, first-class leather bar. What I noticed is something I have seen in other cities as well, and it bothers me a bit.

Now for those who might not know, cruising is a delicate dance men used to perform when looking for a partner, playmate or just trick du jour. It usually began with some long, slow looks, occasional subtle signals like a nod, the touch of the brim of a cap, a purposeful second glance or even just a slight change in body language.

If two people read the signals, and actually respond, it might proceed to sending over a drink — or a more direct approach. Often before actually making contact, you would ask a few friends if they knew the man in question, and for the leather scene that would also entail asking if anyone knew more intimate details: Was he a safe player? What was he into?

Of course, we also had the hanky code. It was a more direct and cut to the chase way to let folks know what you were seeking.

I won’t go into the details here, but the basics were: Hanky in the left pocket meant you were a top, and hanky in the right pocket meant you were a bottom.

Still, even with outward signs, there was an art to the whole endeavor. If done correctly, it had an element of seduction in it and all the sexual energy that went with it.

Sadly, I don’t see much of that going on anymore.

What I do see is guys checking their smart phones. Looking a little closer, I see them using Grindr, checking Recon and texting.

That’s when I realized what happened to cruising: It has gone the way of the dodo.

What was once a face-to-face encounter that actually took some time and energy is now a fast, down-and-dirty, “check a few profiles and text enough contacts until you pull a winning number” routine.

The whole cruising experience has become an electronic booty call with no mystery, no romance and no effort.

Oh yes, it is much more efficient. You can select from the variety of “neck-down pictures” and body statistics, like you were choosing a download on Amazon.

Find Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Enough for Now, text a few lines, set a time and bingo! Insta-trick!

All very high tech and painless. No face-to-face rejections, no appallingly awkward moments. Just on-line chat and, essentially, “booking.”

It would seem to me that applications like Grindr and sites like Recon and CraigsList have replaced the whole cruising experience, and though it might be much more efficient, it really changes to atmosphere in the bars.

The heady sexual tension that used to permeate gay bars has given way to guys and gals on their smart phones texting or cruising — the web. One bar in Florida even has a screen where patrons can text directly to the screen, sort of a visual “shout out” for all to see.

Inevitably, the whole electro-trick phenomenon has spawned something totally unexpected. My partner commented on the subject of this column and suggested there should be an Angie’s List for Grindr.

I was surprised this morning when, while researching this piece, I found something very much like that.

Douchebagsofgrindr.com may just be a parody, but if not it offers some insight into the whole process. Personally, I find it kind of crass, but then I find the whole “electro-trick-speed-dating-booty-call” app thing crass.

It makes me long for the days of actually having to spend a little time to pursue and attract and seduce someone you were interested in. Try that now and I suspect you’d just get accused of being a stalker.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Your smart phone is not safe on McKinney Avenue, as DPD warns of thefts in Uptown

This message was sent out by the Dallas Police Department’s Central Patrol Division on Thursday night:

During the past few weeks, as the weather has warmed up, an increase in thefts in the Uptown area has been observed.

Two young males have been observed by witnesses taking property, primarily smart phones (iPhones in particular) from businesses in the Uptown area, especially McKinney Avenue. Patrons of restaurants and bars along McKinney avenue report thefts as well, with many of thefts in these businesses taking place both indoors and on outdoor patios.

In addition to smart phones, an iPad, purses, and other personal property have been taken.

Crowded areas are attractive to criminals because people are distracted, and because it is easy for a criminal to disappear into crowds after stealing items.

Please keep personal items secured. Keep phones and other small items, especially electronic items, inside your purse or pocket. Keep your purse strap secured to your body to help prevent purse snatch, and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid laying items down on your table and leaving them there. It has take only a second or two for items to be stolen off of table tops, literally from under the noses of victims.

If you observe people whom you believe to be suspicious don’t hesitate to report to 911. Make note of their description (sex, race, height, weight, hair color, hair length, clothing color and description), what activities make you suspicious, and what direction the suspect(s) leaves the area. It is very likely that the suspect(s) will be gone by the time police arrive, so a good description will help officers when they search the area.

DPD’s warning followed an e-mail earlier this week from Nancy Weinberger, Oak Lawn Crime Watch volunteer, who says thefts have been reported at Dallas Fine Wines at 3518 Oak Lawn, Black Friar Pub at 2621 McKinney, and Idle Rich Pub at 2622 McKinney:

This was a big problem during the summer time. It looks like the same 2 suspects are at it again. This past summer they hit several businesses, not just bars, but all business types. Please pass this on to all of the business owners that you have contacts with and just anybody that lives in the Uptown area.

The same two suspects seem to be committing Thefts in the Uptown area, the suspects go into a Bar/Restaurant distract the employees/customers and take a purse or cell phones.  Suspects are two B/M’s one is 6’2 160 and the other is shorter 5’9 150 and they flee in a White Ford Crown Victoria parked nearby. They appear to be maybe 20ish or younger.

—  John Wright