Wednesday, February 10, 2010

About me. First Story

For those who don't know me, I am 25 years-old gay. I have lived in San Francisco for the past 6 years or so. The most important thing to know about me is that can barely make it through skipping breakfast and get cranky if I go more than five hours without food or booze, but we will go over that later. Word to the wise: DO NOT get between me and my food, cause it will get ugly. When I get nervous I have to pee every five minutes and sweat like a sumo wrestler. I am one of the most stubborn people you have ever met and will argue for the sake of arguing some times. I am that guy. It's in my nature, I am a Jew.

I am someone who hasn't lived through any major wars that I have experienced first hand. I have though lived Jewish family feuds, which for unaware goys (Yiddish for gentiles) can last for weeks and months. In my family, arguments/silence can last decades and sometimes lifetimes without lighting up. My parents came to the United States as refugees from the U.S.S.R. This explains the weird name. Yuri, or as the kids in my kinder garden through sixth grad class liked to call me, urine. Somehow they sounds the same to apple pie American kids. Unlike them, I grew up with a father who thought that hot dogs, potatoes, vodka and cigarettes were the part of any well rounded meal. I had a mother who thought that everything should be made in the microwave, and packed lunches like bread with butter or caviar. This was just one of the reasons that I rarely brought lunch to school. The dirty looks the other kids would give me when they would notice my stinky lunch was enough to make me wish I could starve myself. Instead I decided to compulsively eat, but that's another story and really the Russian oddness made me stronger.

Unlike my parents I have no real clue what it's like to live in any country that reprimands me for being a of Jewish descent. I have never really been looked down upon for being a Jew. I do though to have the people working at sizzler and any buffet stare at your group with evil eyes. My grandma would always put half of the buffet in her purse for later. She would then complain to the waitresses for the food being too spicy or too bland while my grandfather would be mumbling bad things about the waitress in Yiddish under his breath. My mother would then force us to change tables a minimum of 30 times upon getting seated at any restaurant, while one of my aunts would be talking about stuff and wave her hands so much it looked like she was conducting an orchestra.

Unlike my family, I only know what it's like to be an American. What it's like to live in a place that treats me differently due to my sexual orientation. Gay men can't kiss in a T.V. commercial here without everyone shitting a brick and making a big deal out of it.

I am just 25, still a boy as others have put it. At least that with what people tell me who are even a minute older than me. Maybe they say it to make themselves feel better about growing older? What I wonder is how long this will last. One can only be young for so long. Suddenly, you wake up and the conversations shift from, “you’re just a boy” to “you’re just…” followed by that uncomfortable silence in conversation. People already ask me if I'm tired all the time regardless of how much sleep I have had. I assume that by 45, the conversations will shift to asking me how much longer I will wait to have my droopy chin lifted.

It's odd to be in my mid-twenties cause really this is the turning point. The other day I noticed that everyone on TV is my age or younger. It's weird how that happens. You grow up with everyone seemingly so much older than you and everyone telling you that you have the rest of your life and then bam, it just stops. All of a sudden, you're not the same kid with pre-braces crooked teeth who has to recite their havtorah portion in front of a congregation of smiling people, even though we all know you sounded like shit. I mean it’s really cruel to make boys have to sing in front of a room full of people while their voice is changing and makes them sound worse than Carol Channing’s normal voice.

Regardless of what has happened since the day my mother gave birth to me, I am still the kid who started out as a small child, with skin so light, nearly translucent, to the point where you could see the every vein on my body. I looked like that guy from the movie "powder," but with a huge alien baby head. In time I just covered that up with a farmer's tan and sometimes a nice store bought one if possible. This makes it so that I can be seen without the need of sunglasses or lighting adjustments. I am still the boy who was born on the day that Mark Spits won the Gold in the smog-congested city of angels, where you could still buy oranges on the side of the road, before popping by a drive-through Starbucks, and possibly while on the way to a plastic surgery consultation or acting lesson. In Southern California, where I grew up, this all could be done in just a short afternoon. Where I grew up, it wasn't uncommon to for a young girl to get a boob-job for her high school graduation gift.

I have heard that with age comes some wisdom, although, I still see myself as the awkward big-headed, blue-eyed, little-Jew-nosed kid who was teased for being different in school. I was the kid with the weird name to jerky kinder gardeners, who is now I am growing into my own skin. I am still the same insecure, pleasantly plump, blubber, pink-cheeked boy that in elementary school had bullies follow me home throwing pebbles at my head for shits and giggles. To this day I don't get how that was funny. I do though understand the reason one would throw shit at my head. My head has always been kind of hard to miss, it's HUGE, like Charlie Brown style. In the third grade this kid Kevin would always remind me by asking how Snoopie was. I have a head larger than most people. I would look like an alien until I grew into it. Some men have large hands, makes everyone question what other appendages they have that match. I have a head so large that when I try on a “one-size fits all” hat it doesn’t fit. It’s so large, that when I worked at jobs in high school, which required a hat, they had to special order one for me.

Too bad no one ever says, “Damn look at that guy’s head, it’s so big, you know what that means!”

Instead they usually say, “look at the melon, on that one, and to make it worse he has the tiniest little feet and hands, how awkward…”

I am the boy that since then has learned to laugh at myself and those around even when it’s just not appropriate to do so. This has created a very cynical and often morbid sense of humor that is of an acquired taste. It has also turned me into the person that will snicker at jokes out of poor taste that offend racially, morally and individually. This in itself makes life’s trials and tribulations more bearable. I am a guy that pees in the shower when I am in a hurry. I am a person who tells people that I am 5’8 when I’m really only 5’7 and ¾. I am the guy that used to eat a whole ½ gallon of ice cream in one sitting, and everything under the kitchen sink because contrary to popular belief, food IS love at least while I am eating it. Food doesn't cheat on you. I am the kid that still rolls my eyes when I hear a really skinny person complain about how hard it is to be skinny and able to eat whatever they damned-well want without gaining an ounce. I am still the kid that is supported/raised by a single mother who did her best to support me. I am the guy who has worked ever since I was fifteen years old to get by because I had to even though no one forced me. I am the guy who put himself through school serving people coffee, whipping up puke, cleaning toilets, busing tables and later on by getting them wasted. I am a working class, blue-collar man. I am and will often be remembered by many as a bartender. I’m okay with that. Most people aren’t even that lucky.

Why should someone care about me? Many don’t and I assume that they shouldn’t. I am easily forgettable. I am a nobody with a degree in talking, literally a degree in Speech and Communications, which is only a few steps from a high school diploma, but attached to the loans which own me. I hope that some people at least see that I have a voice and what some may consider a unique point of view. I am just a gay-Jew-man who talks a lot. Maybe one might call my rambling a collection of "coming of age stories" about coming out in a harsh world, in what is often called a “gay Mecca”, with an unusual family both chosen and biological. I am just the help and can only enlighten readers with my point of view as a working class gay man who works as a bartender in San Francisco’s perplexing Castro District, in one of the largest gay bars there. Hopefully I gave shed light on what people think my life is like versus the reality.

I am am going on 5-ish years that I have worked at the “Labyrinth,” A bar in the middle of the peculiar Castro bubble. A bubble, is exactly what that place is. To my experience it has been much like that high school bubble that many of us survived from in our teens and if your friends were like mine, people eventually left that bubble for brighter futures or more often rehab and popping out babies. This bar has become my home in many ways. The bar metaphorically speaking has become my adoptive parent who adopted my orphaned self and nurtured me oddly. While we haven’t meant for it to be this way, life isn’t generally how we plan it. As I have grown, the bar restrained me. As I experience life, the bar has educated me. As much as I would like to say I hate this place for taking away my early 20s, and forcing me to work every major street-fair, holiday, week day, Madonna/Kylie/Pop nightmare cod-release party and weekend of these years. I in confidence will admit on occasion, this experience has actually made me stronger. Maybe I should leave San Francisco before I become too soft. The Castro oddly is the part of San Francisco that has softened me, while giving me the edge that we San Franciscans are not known for having. I am hard-boiled me, so to speak due to the weird shit I have seen bartending and living here. I would like to show others what the weird world I live in is like.

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