By Anna Schlecht
After a night of drinking with friends at the Rainbow, we all piled outside to catch a little night air. Standing around at the corner, we laughed at everything we said, whether it was funny or not. We were young, drunk, and living it up on a Saturday night out in downtown Olympia.
For us, the Rainbow was a very special place. It was the closest thing we had to a gay bar, which in the 1970s meant a below-the-radar place that wouldn’t kick you out for making out in the back corner with your girlfriend. For me, it was one of the few places I had not been eighty-sixed from, though truthfully none of the incidents that got me banned from other places were my fault, at least not entirely. Except maybe dancing on the bar at the 4th Ave Tav. That was my fault. The Rainbow was the one public place where we could find a sense of belonging in a hostile world.
I was watching the cars pull up to the traffic light right there outside the Rainbow’s front door, and I started joking about how uptight the people driving by looked. Suddenly, I bellowed out, “GREENER!” at the car closest to us. My hollering stunned the driver, who looked over at us—dirty ne’er-do-well hippies who called them something incomprehensible.
Greener! This was an epithet reserved for us, not them. The reaction delighted us and we all howled with laughter, having to hold each other up. Then all of us started yelling, “GREENER!” and doubling over in hysterics. Soon, a couple of us went to the other side of the street to create a gantlet to force mainstream Olympia to run through.
The irony is that this was the epithet that each of us endured as we walked around town. Especially on the bridge when headed up to the west side. Either, “GREENER!” or “FAGGOT!” or the all purpose, “CUT YOUR HAIR AND GET A JOB!” If you were walking alone, this could be terrifying—would the harassers throw things from their car? It did happen on occasion. Would they stop to get out and bash you? That night, we concocted a perfect chorus of divine retribution, even if we made no sense to the people driving by—the Greeners had yelled back!