Frankly, all I really wanted was a pint of apricot beer.
The Manx is a delightful little pub buried in the hustle and bustle of larger, better known pubs on Elgin Street. It’s cozy and earthy — the kind of place a young woman can go without worrying about being hit on, having to watch out for drunken idiots, or hearing I Kissed a Girl for the three millionth time, which may possibly be the most annoying song on the planet (Dear Katy Perry, I too have kissed a girl, and I definitely liked it but I never made a terrible pop song about it. Please shut up.)
The Manx also has this startlingly delicious apricot wheat beer. It’s the colour of marmalade and tastes like the illicit love child of a pint of Hoegaarden and a bag of peaches. The Manx is one of the few places in Ottawa where you can get this delightful boozy treat and so, on a certain August evening, after an especially difficult day at work, I decided that was what I was really craving at 10:30 at night.
Arriving at the usual door, I was surprised by two things: that I had to struggle to find a seat on a Monday night, and a rather tall drag queen was wearing a hard-plastic hair piece and a gown covered in tiny little silver coins which jingled when she walked. I actually turned around, went back outside, and checked the sign just to make certain I hadn’t hit my head on the way and somehow wandered into the wrong bar. It was definitely the right bar, so I sidled my way back through the crowd, slipped into a seat at the bar, and ordered myself up a pint of that good apricot wheat beer.
There was a musician standing at the front over a keyboard next to a quiet-looking cello player. The fellow was talking about a friend of his who was “dicked around by a straight boy in Toronto.” There was a copy of the Pride Guide on the counter and, after taking a long drag of that delightfully fruity beer, I leafed through it to Mon, Aug 18. And there it was. The Manx presents Glenn Nuotio, “Ottawa’s premier homo-emo singer/songwriter.”
I swear, I have gaydar or something, which just instinctively pulls me to wherever the coolest queer event is. I was thoroughly pleased, and sat back at the bar to enjoy, thinking about Pride Week and the gay community and queerdom in general.
I’m proud of being a lesbian, and I’m proud to belong to a community which supports queer culture. Our community is full of interesting, amazing people of all different races and backgrounds and sexualities. It has always seemed to me that a disproportionate amount of us (in contrast with the heterosexual community are artistically inclined) and many of us are writers, painters, musicians or activists, which is an art form in its own right. The divine Nuotio is a good example.
Our history is rich and queers have contributed to many areas of civilization and the arts, from the outspoken poetry and fiction of Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein, to the works of the linguistic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein to the political inclinations of the late Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Thinking about this, I tore a green Steam Whistle coaster into little bits with my fingers. Looking around the room, at the arms of men draped over other men’s shoulders and women cuddled against each other — and, of course, that magnificent drag queen in her sparkly white four inch shoes, jingling as she clapped to the rhythm of the music — I couldn’t help but think there is a certain significance to our place in the grand scheme of things. Don’t worry. I’m not a religious woman.
The meaning of the word “queer” was originally “strange” or “something out of the ordinary.” No one is really ordinary, but it insinuates that we are out of the ordinary. Or extraordinary. In traditional terms of thinking, gay people certainly are “queer” because we do not conform. We’re doers, inventors, agitators and decorators. The existence of a queer community — and of homosexuality on a broader scale — says something larger and more far-reaching than our queer rights agenda. Wherever we gather, we show the world our best traits — love, loyalty, thought, creativity.
You wouldn’t think apricots and beer would go together. It’s certainly an unusual combination. Unexpected. But damn good. Our community is a lot like that. A wonderful mélange of gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual and transsexual individuals all mixed together to form a distinctly queer and wonderful village.
Nuotio finished his set and I finished my beer. The Manx began to quiet down as the bar staff started clearing glasses and people began to filtre out. Gay and straight, drunk and sober, everyone went home happy.