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Cruising the Dead RiverDavid Wojnarowicz and New York's Ruined Waterfront$
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Fiona Anderson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226603612

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226603896.001.0001

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Nostalgia for the Mud: Cruising in Ruins

Nostalgia for the Mud: Cruising in Ruins

(p.11) 1 Nostalgia for the Mud: Cruising in Ruins
Cruising the Dead River

Fiona Anderson

University of Chicago Press

This chapter traces a material history of the waterfront area as a cruising ground, from historic bathhouses and empty trucks in the 1960s to warehouses and piers in the 1970s. It examines David Wojnarowicz’s art and writing alongside that of the photographers Leonard Fink and Alvin Baltrop, and writers such as Andrew Holleran, John Rechy, Edmund White, and Tim Dlugos. In much of this work, the ruined buildings on the waterfront appear as props in the sexual encounters that took place there, as cruising men fantasized about their former uses by sailors and longshoremen. The structural decay that made the warehouses so dangerous rendered them more appealing as cruising spaces. Drawing on journal entries, poetry, photographs, and archival ephemera, in this chapter I use Wojnarowicz’s experiences as a lens through which to view the waterfront cruising cultures before HIV/AIDS and the peculiar eroticism of ruins. I examine how and why the ruined buildings that dominated this landscape assumed such a powerful erotic role in the cruising that took place there in the late 1970s and, sifting through the traces that remain, offer an embodied archival history of the pier’s erotic uses in the pre–HIV/AIDS era.

Keywords:   ruins, cruising, queer, waterfront, Alvin Baltrop, Leonard Fink, Andrew Holleran

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