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Memories of The Cock: Where Do the Gays Go to F*ck the Pain Away?

It’s 2:30am on a Sunday morning in 2001 or maybe 2002. (These memories are a conglomeration of many “nights out” and not just one.) I’m standing in a bar subtly called The Cock then located on Avenue A in the East Village, New York City. I am sipping a Maker’s Mark and soda, watching cute boys moving through the large crowd and listening to music being played by the expert DJ whose name now escapes me. The music is amazing and partly why I come to this bar. It is a mix of rock, punk, 80’s, old skool, New Wave and rap. I also come to The Cock because it is a liminal space of desire, sexuality, sex, queerness and debauchery.

The bar is somewhat sleazy, but not too much and in a good way: trashy go-g0 boys, some groping as you attempt to move through the crowd, boys kissing and boys flirting both sweetly and aggressively. At one time, there was a dark backroom at the bar which increased the sleaze factor, but that was never to my taste- too impersonal, too anonymous and a bit dangerous. Flirting, meeting a handsome boy, having a chat with him, sharing a drink, followed by some old fashioned kissing was always my thing that could lead to time alone with him or not. If it were up to me, I would bring back the dance cards and cards of introduction from the 19th century: “Kelly T. Keating QUEER”

Drinking my strong bourbon and soda, I am watching the go-go boy who is dancing on top of the bar. I gaze at him with disinterest. He is a prop to occupy my time between bouts of flirting and changing my location in the bar. He’s cute, toned and punky, but he’s really just a mover, not a dancer. Yet, there is always a throng of boys who seem enthralled by his performance, no matter his skill of movement or what he looks like. I guess they are responding to the myth (and sometimes reality) of the go-go boy: his apparent sexual rapaciousness, his seeming willingness to have sex with you for the right price or the right drug, his local celebrity status and the sheer spectacle of an almost nude guy dancing on a bar above your head, his crotch in your face, accepting your dollar bills in his sweaty jockstrap.

At some point in this bacchanal towards its inevitable end at 4am, the master DJ plays “Fuck the Pain Away” by Peaches. It was one of my favorite songs then and is now in its combination of dance, rock, rap, humor and brazen, raw sexuality. There is a vulgarity to it that is delicious; it resonates perfectly with the sexual liminality of The Cock.

The song begins with a hard beat and a prominent, dominating, almost distorted bass line which I feel in my body when the volume is turned up. The song is both sparse and dense in both its music and lyrics. But, it is its angry almost desperate refrain of “fuck the pain away” which kicks me every time. It is repeated over and over again like a mantra (It becomes form and/over content) needed to survive modern life and its inevitable cruelty.

Looking back, I went to The Cock to escape the sado-masochism of everyday life, its petty cruelties, disappointments and loses that have always greatly troubled me. And of course I went to this bar to have fun, get a little tipsy, hear great music, flirt with boys and kiss them. Both reasons are not exclusive of one another; one folds into the other. Going there, was to suspend my daily existence and revel in a space of desire and freedom, not available elsewhere. Even when there was rejection and disappointment at The Cock, it existed alongside and was ultimately superseded by feelings of abandon. I never wanted it to end at 4am. For me, it is the closest I will ever come to heaven. Many years ago, then, that bar was a moment of joy and a rejection of the pain and drudgery of my daily journey.

All of us there to some degree or another wanted to “fuck the pain away”, to experience what Freud called the “little death” of orgasm when one is momentarily free, released, completely embodied in pleasure, beyond language, society and culture, beyond pain. It is an instance of ultimate bliss.

Now, in 2010, there does not seem anywhere to go for me to fuck the pain away. The Cock now on Second Avenue near Houston Street is still in existence, but it’s not the same for me. I went once maybe 2 or 3 years ago and the guy getting fucked bareback in the corner was disturbing, upsetting and rifled my 19th century sensibilities. No one there was looking to bring back dance cards or cards of introduction. For me, the space was no longer queer, just filthy and not in a playful or transgressive way. As the cliché says, “You can never go home again” or apparently to that bar that used to be my weekly joy and my respite from the horror of daily life.

This item originally appeared on The Great Within. It is republished here with permission.

[photo via, via]

By:          
 
Kelly T Keating is a floral designer, part-time Mary Poppins, mad collector of antique silver and writer interested in all types of art, high and low, in terms of gender and sexuality. He writes about these issues regularly on his blog The Great Within as well as posts on antique collecting, silver, nostalgia and desire. Kelly previously shared his childhood attachment to Wonder Woman. Kelly lives in Chelsea, New York City.
 

On:           May 6, 2010
Tagged: , , , , ,

  • 22 Comments
    • M
      M

      well written – enjoyed reading it.

      The short version is – ahhhh, where is my youth?

      (I feel the same way about the bars I hung out at in the 80’s – boybar, the tunnel bar)

      enjoy your past and keep looking forward sister

      May 6, 2010 at 3:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Qjersey
      Qjersey

      Ah memories…but the Cock was REALLY hopping in the late 90’s.

      FOXY on Saturday with the crazy talent contest was something not to miss.

      Wonder where Krylon (a frequent winner) is these days?

      May 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jon B
      Jon B

      For someone who speaks so lovingly about a bar, you’d think they’d know what streets it’s on. It is in the East Village, but it’s on 2nd St. and 2nd Ave. Right next to 2nd on 2nd, the karaoke place, and Urge, a terrible gay bar. The Cock can still be pretty fun, although it’s not as packed as it used to be.

      May 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • tyler
      tyler

      What a downer. I feel lucky I was of age soon enough to go to the cock once or twice at the old location. But what was the point re-posting this? It would have been more productive to suggest what the next place of interest could be. At least, that’s what I was hoping for at the end of the article. This blog has such a negative, unproductive, whiny tone sometimes. Lighten up!

      May 6, 2010 at 5:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Charles
      Charles

      @Jon B:

      He does mention that it moved at the end of the article.

      May 6, 2010 at 5:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • TiredOldQueen@Queerty
      TiredOldQueen@Queerty

      I heard that Steve Jobs bought it and will turn it into a violent video gamer bar so that its not sexual anymore.

      May 6, 2010 at 6:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • New Jersey Guy
      New Jersey Guy

      I never found the guys to be cute there.

      May 6, 2010 at 9:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Prof
      Prof

      This is a really nerdy comment, but here goes anyway: Freud did not coin the term “little death” to describe orgasm. It was in use as far back as the late sixteenth century in Italian madrigals (amateur part-songs), which typically set racy, sometimes profane, poetry.

      May 6, 2010 at 11:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kelly T Keating
      Kelly T Keating

      @Prof: Thank you Prof for that correction. Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

      Best, Kelly

      May 6, 2010 at 11:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • merkin
      merkin

      I totally relate to what he’s saying, but Im wise enough to know its me that’s changed and not nightlife so much. I can’t stand it when people moan about how great clubs use to be and they suck now. “Heaven,” as Keating describes the feeling of going to his favorite bar, is still being found by 22-year-old newbies. Its just moved on to other spots. Maybe they don;t have websites pr iPhone apps, but the gay bars, clubs and parties still offer the unititiated a taste of transcendance. Those of us who’ve been around a while just have trouble accessing that feeling when we have jobs to get to, mortages to pay, etc.

      May 7, 2010 at 12:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      Places like this are ok for frat boy style fun when you are young. They are no good when they become a substitute for real relationships or a real sex life. You are now ten years older. Aren’t you yet ten years wiser? Lots of people who base their lives on these places are actually somewhat closeted out in the world. They slip into the gay fantasy ghetto, then back to the 9 to 5 world where they feel disconnected from people, since they are neither out, nor happy about themselves. Selfr-esteem issues prevent them from finding a mate, and living with someone, and “out-growing” these spots. Good luck.

      May 7, 2010 at 9:05 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Joey O'H
      Joey O'H

      I love the Cock!

      May 7, 2010 at 10:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • john
      john

      Nothing much has changed over the years with pick up bars – gay or straight – they serve a purpose as a social meeting ground in all societies – but as you mature you have to find the right water hole that is diversified with a mix of all ages – this is what changes. You should also find yourself much wiser !

      The author hits the target on why people do group to meet and share spirits and dreams – this has gone on between human beings since the beginning of time.

      I enjoyed the insight….keep those beers and go-go boys coming !

      May 7, 2010 at 2:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Trent
      Trent

      I am obviously too young to know about the way that bars in the 90’s used to be or hell even the 80’s. (I’m only 23). But I have heard stories and watched movies and read and I had such high hopes, but the gay bars never really reached the magic that is described here. It makes me long for this experience, unfortunately I will only be able to experience such things through readings. Today too many are more focused on gaining rights and becoming “normal” members of society to appreciate the subtle fun and adventurism that this article describes. Nothing stays the same, but boy if I could travel back to this time for a night.

      May 7, 2010 at 2:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • EdWoody
      EdWoody

      @Jon B: It moved to there later (in a space previously called Fat Cock 29 and then the Hole). But it began on Ave A, as the author says.

      May 7, 2010 at 2:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jose
      Jose

      I read the first paragraph then stopped because his writing style makes me angry.

      Worth reading anyone?

      May 8, 2010 at 12:11 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jason
      jason

      The bar is somewhat sleazy?? Give me a break. With a name like The Cock, all I can is “yeah, right”.

      May 8, 2010 at 1:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sharon falconer
      sharon falconer

      I had the same experience here in Chicago at the Manhandler. You know when it’s 2:30 am, you’re drunk,and the cab drives by a fun skank long time dive you haven’t been to in a long time. You have half a joint in your pocket and think, “huh, let me go in here head to the back drink beers, watch a couple bj’s and get high.” Upon going to the back 40 a queen who I ask for a light and to share my joint says kindly, “you know they don’t allow that in here anymore.”

      This place was a twisted hole for over 30 years !!! I felt like Mona Desmond as my turban just blew off. I got the hell out of there and back in another cab and thought that a part of my life was over.

      Vaudeville just died.

      May 8, 2010 at 1:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jim
      Jim

      Trent
      You got it just right. (and so did the author….great music and “somewhat sleazy, but not too much”. (Actually I’d have said “really sleazy, but perfect without even trying.”) Was always the last required stop for me on my weekends in NYC, before I moved here. Sure, you don’t get stuck in the past, but hopefully the good parts remain part of your spirit that you carry with you.

      May 8, 2010 at 10:19 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mike
      mike

      “…rifled my 19th century sensibilities.” You meant 20th century (i.e., 1901-2000).

      May 8, 2010 at 11:22 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jeffree
      jeffree

      Very good article. More please!
      The bar scene in cities –large & smaller– seems to have changed since 2001. The explosion internet options for hooking up, plus the economic melt down & the increased segregation of urban bars by age/ class ($) and even race/ethnicity seems to have made it less possible to enter a place alone & usually find someone to watch, someone 2 buy u a drink, someone to. snog, and someone to knock boots with in or out of the bar….

      In 2001 I wasnt “legal” but getting into bars wasn’t as tough then, IDs were easier to fake, and there was always a “staff door” to slip into if you knew people who worked at the bar. (this wasn’t NYC or close to it, so my experience may have been very different.)

      May 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kelly T Keating
      Kelly T Keating

      @mike: Actually Mike I really did mean 19th century sensibilities…

      May 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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