As a gay man, whenever I'm in a new city, the first thing I do is seek out the gay district. Whether it's New York's Greenwich Village, The Castro in San Francisco, or Chicago's Boystown, a gay district has the stores, cafés, and clubs that fit my lifestyle. But I've been here in Moline for two whole days on business and, God help me, I can't find the Moline gay district anywhere.
I just don't get it. I've driven all over town with no luck at all. Where are the gay bars? The vintage-clothing shops? The lesbian book stores? I swear, it's like Moline is trying to keep the gay part of town a big secret. You have to be a regular queer Columbo to find a single upscale erotic-art gallery in Moline, much less an entire gay district.
My first stop was downtown, which I quickly redubbed Lametown. No vegan restaurants, no scented-candle shops–not so much as a single inverted pink triangle in a window. Only fast-food chains, auto-supply stores, and a Kmart. Can't get much straighter than that.
Convinced that I missed something, I scoured the entire downtown area again, this time with my gay-dar turned up a good three notches. Once again, nada. For a second, I thought I saw a rainbow flag, but it was just a sign in the window of a paint store.
It was time for drastic measures. I marched into Ray's Feed & Farm and asked if there were any thrift shops, massage parlors, or holistic pet-food stores nearby. Those farmers looked at me like I was balancing a Buick on my dick. After a few moments of awkward silence, one guy in a John Deere cap cleared his throat and directed me to Bridgewood Antiques. I thanked them for their help and got out of the store quickly. I hope I don't ever have any need for feed or farming supplies, because I don't think I'd want to go back in there any time soon.
After going through all that trouble, Bridgewood Antiques turned out to be a major bust. All they had were old magazines and Craftsman tools. No Shaker rocking chairs, no Japanese screens, no chintz drapes. What's worse, the customers were all just a bunch of gray-haired old grandmas. Where were the immaculately dressed gay professionals trying to find that perfect, one-of-a-kind floor rug for their sunroom? Where were the flamboyant hipsters buying campy early-'60s kitchen tables? They must be somewhere in Moline, but where?
I finally realized where I needed to look: the local college campus. That's always a reliable gay hotbed. I marched right up to the entrance of the Black Hawk College student union and asked a man where I might find any "Friends Of Dorothy." All I got was a blank stare. The next 250 people I approached just offered more of the same.
I'm not giving up yet. I know there's a gay district somewhere in Moline. There has to be. I mean, it's a city of more than 40,000 people, for heaven's sake. Ten percent of that works out to 4,000 people. That's heck of a lot of gay people to keep hidden and districtless.
This morning, while leaving my hotel, I got a tip from the front-desk clerk. He said there's a drag show on the outskirts of town tonight. Hallelujah! If I can get out there, I should be able to find my kind of folks. I just have to remember the directions to the raceway where it's being held, and I'll be home free. Keep your fingers crossed.