Birthdays, Taxes, and Other Afflictions | Chicago Antisocial | Chicago Reader

Birthdays, Taxes, and Other Afflictions 

Wild rumpus on the south side, lonely smoke machine downtown. Plus: no taxation without equal marriage-ification.

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Friday night I headed down south, where the wild things are, to catch a performance by the Texas group Indian Jewelry at a live/work/play space called Diamonds on Archer (formerly Nightgowns), in the same building as Texas Ballroom. When I walked in a strobe light was pointed at the ceiling, sort of reverse lightning, and a toddler was precociously smacking a tambourine.

Four menacing-looking people in dirty jeans, their hair covering their faces, took the stage, and a tortured-sounding noise whooshed out of a synthesizer. The singer spread a few whittled drumsticks and chewed-up cymbals on the floor, got on his knees, and started crooning. The toddler waddled warily to the side of the stage.

Their atonal noise gave way to a greasy jam, which they sucked the blood out of until it was past dead and had turned into something dreamy and ethereal. Over and over again they pounded out a single riff--percussion, guitar, keyboard all in unison--while the singer incanted something I couldn't understand literally, but that sounded like the tough cry of a lone wolf. Erika Thrasher, the woman behind the synthesizer, was whipping her long strawberry blond hair to and fro with a huge smile on her face; the only time she held still was to flick fire from her lighter to find knobs.

A dude with a half-mowed hairdo started banging on a cymbal, a bushy-bearded fellow tapped away on his can of PBR, and the crowd stomped like we were conjuring rain.

Indian Jewelry plays the kind of music I want to hear in my head during sex, invoking visions of wild animals--a lunging cobra, a snarling mountain lion--and erupting volcanoes. Mortal coil be damned! It was a full-on spiritual ascension, a powwow hosted by the kind of people you don't want to fuck with--the kind of people that make me think bands are cool again.

I'd gone there to escape Tommy Z's 34th birthday party at the River North club Moda. The place was decorated like the "romantic" scene from a rap video or the cover of a mail-order CD compilation called "Everlasting Love" or a 14-year-old girl's idea of sophistication--take your pick. There were red rose petals scattered on tabletops and dance platforms, tea lights casting moody shadows, clusters of silver and white balloons floating on top of ribbons.

Tommy Z is a big-time local events promoter who used to throw weekly parties at Crobar and Ontourage; now he hosts Thursdays at Y Bar and Fridays at Moda. His Web site encourages party people to "BUST OUT YOUR FINEST ATTIRE, POP THOSE COLLARS, BRUSH THEM SHOULDER OFF . . . AND GRAB A FEW EXTRA DOLLARS . . . IT'S YOUR LIFE . . .SO, STAR IN IT!" I was happy to comply, but I got there too early--at 11:30 the club was still pretty much empty. About 15 guys sat around talking. I never saw the birthday boy.

One wall in the main room displayed an enlarged Vogue cover with Christy Turlington in a silk gown pulling her legs back in a yoga bow pose, and on the bathroom door was another Vogue cover (it's called Moda--get it?), but don't ask me who was on it--it was so dark I wouldn't have known it was the ladies' were it not for the aroma. It smelled exactly like a strippers' dressing room: fruity and smoky, with a tinge of yeast.

Every once in a while a big puff of fog from the smoke machine would beckon the party guests to the dance floor, and each time we declined. Just before midnight the DJ put on an acid house groove featuring a pseudosoul mama. "I can't wait for the weekend to begin!" she howled.

Exactly, I thought as I walked out the door.

In the throes of some Thoreauvian valor, three years ago I decided to stop paying taxes. I figured I'd get away with it as conscientious objection. Then I started getting "friendly" letters from the IRS last fall saying they needed my assistance in updating their records, and would I please contact them within ten days? Scared straight, I dragged my ass into a tax preparer's office last month, where I paid 730 bucks to get spanked for almost seven hours.

My preparer, Theresa, has been in the biz for 18 years. "Look at this," she said, pointing at my final charges for 2004. I got taxed three times on one return: first on total income, again because I'm self-employed, and a third time because I withdrew my pension too early. "This entrepreneurial spirit America talks about is a joke," she said. "You see how the government rewards you?" She reminded me I'm in the 15 percent tax bracket, which means 85 percent of taxpayers in this country make more than me, and that I'm a single woman. "How does America take care of its people?" she spat, sitting back in her chair. "Makes you wonder."

On April 15 about a dozen men representing the advocacy group Equal Marriage NOW! stood in front of the main post office on Harrison during rush hour, toting signs saying UNCLE SAM GETS MY MONEY BUT I CAN'T MARRY MY HONEY! and good-naturedly answering questions from passersby. People honked their car horns in support, and the EMN guys cheered.

EMN scheduled their protest for tax day to "highlight the inequities same-sex couples face in this country and to build support for same-sex marriage here in Chicago and Cook County," according to their press release.

EMT member Glenn Amoroso went to Canada last year to marry Keith Charbonneau, his boyfriend of 13 years. "It's very upsetting that they don't recognize the Canadian marriage here," he said. "If we were able to file jointly we'd be able to save about $1,800 on our taxes. Civil unions are not enough. We need that M word. The word marriage is a validation to the rest of the population of the significance of our relationship."

"We're not saying everyone should get married," said Blake Wilkinson, "but everyone should just have the right."

About 15 feet to the east, drivers slowed down to hand postal workers their tax returns, then employees of the nearby Sofitel hotel gave the drivers brownies, mini lemon merengue pies, and eclairs in plastic containers.

"It's a little reward for a hard day," said one hotel employee.

I flashed back to what my tax preparer had asked me about America taking care of its people. You don't get the government's stamp of approval if you want to marry your same-sex honey, but random people hand you pastries if you give Uncle Sam what he wants.

I took two pies and a brownie. But I still can't bring myself to mail my check.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Andrea Bauer.

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