Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Story 2, The Bar intro...

I interviewed there about a week earlier with the owner of the bar. He was an interesting fellow who unlike most interviews I had been on before. This one, provided more questions than answers. He seemed to be a man of little words who talked with grumbles and eye contact only when absolutely necessary. He didn't once look into my eyes during this meeting. It seemed that he was looking right past me to something in the distance. I assumed that this was because my curly hair reminded him of Medusa and he had possibly never seen a jewfro outside of it's natural habitat, Lohman's. He would of course glance down at his drink from time to time and swirl the sliver of a twist and grumble. I wasn't sure if this was good or a bad sign. His elusiveness just made me more interested in working there. At the interview my questions consist of the following: “have you been here before?” followed by “what is your availability?” I of course lied, flashed my Kathy Lee Gifford/clone smile I had learned while working at Starbucks a few years earlier and told him that it was my absolute favorite bar in the city. In reality, this place was still a I had never been inside of until a month ago. All I knew was that I needed to make some cash to cover living in this expensive shoe box of a city that I have chosen to live in. After the questions, he just grumbled, looked at me, my resume, me, the bartender our of the corner of his eye, his watch, grumbled smiled and walked away as though I was supposed to know the interview was over. I left thinking that I had somehow bombed this time and went to the competing bar around the corner where I proceeded to drink my dinner in an effort to save money and calories until I felt better about the situation, after all I was on a budget.
He calls me about a week later asking if I could come in at 6pm. I got someone at the café, where I currently work to cover my closing shift so that I could check out the place. He says that I will be at the bar that day, for what he calls a “trial basis.” I am new to queer life at this point in my life. I have only one fag hag of my own, one-year “out of the closet” behind me, and one failed gay relationship turned hazardous roommate-friendship, 4 months behind me to call my own. Being the newbie, I figure that it’s my time to branch out, meet people, learn more about my community and maybe meet a man ready for a relationship. List is all assuming that I know what I am talking about, cause I really have no idea. Living in San Francisco, I presume that the Castro will be the best place to start this journey.
As for the decor of this place, the Labyrinth it’s a site for eyes. The walls are stainless steel and black. The bar itself has this aroma that I can only describe as euro-man, doused in cheap colognes. It reminds me of the smells one encounters on European buses, where the invention of deodorant is rarely utilized. There is this hint of: man-musk, alcohol, all blended with the Old Spice and cheap after-shaves all mixed into the air here. Video screens are on everywhere, with little neon lights strewn about the metal walls. This place is made up of several rooms with TV screens conveniently located at every direction the eye looks. All these lights light up to the beat of the pop music videos, playing on the screens. From Cher, to Kiley and of course then Madonna, the music blasts with beats and videos. I have never seen so many men in one place and who are admittedly listening to such shit music. I prefer emo-crap myself, but will bend the rules if I must for this place. Looking around, it really is an odd mix. The whole package of this place is kind of intriguing, liberating and embarrassing, all in one.
It’s a Friday afternoon on a brisk summer’s day, and of my second San Francisco summer. For those unfamiliar with SF should know that summer here is like fall in the rest of the world. Our summer is like a San Diego winter. It is often slightly overcast with temps between 50 and 60, where I like it, but we digress. I am a struggling college student trying to pay rent while getting though the grudge that is college. It’s still daylight outside yet, once you step inside the bar it’s like Vegas. This element for some reason reminds me of my grandmother and gambling. The woman is a lovable mess who loves dark glitzy places like this and Vegas. She would love the place, a room of men to compliment her on how she looks so young in her glittery vest and tightly pulled back face under the bright lights of this place. Add a nickle-slot or keno machine for her to play while she day dreams imagining herself to be a Gabore (she sounds just like Zha Zha). Maybe a buffet that she could steal food from and she would be set.
There is no concept of time inside there. There are no clocks. The only time markers there are flow of the crowd, marked by happy hour and shot specials posted with construction paper, all over the bar, in ill-matching font. While I’m walking into the bar daylight still peaks slightly through the bar’s window blinds. The bar is sparsely populated with customers. I go up to the first bartender I see within five steps of entering this place. I then, ask him where to go if it’s my first day. I kind of expect be greeted with a welcome-mat of a smile. Or a training manual like the ones I received when starting at most of my other odd jobs. Instead the guy just shrugs. He seems unimpressed with me, he smiles at me the way someone smiles at a small child that burped and says, “Stud, go down the hall and knock on the door, one of the boys will show you around.”
“Stud?” Surprised by that label, I wonder am I really seemed like a stud? Until this moment, I have never been called anything like that. A word turns me into a signalized person. I am a lot of things, sexy or a stud is not one of them. I am 21, and the guy that people love as a friend. I'm like the Kimmy Gibbler of people, without being that annoying. I am no one special. I don’t wear the average gay-shirt that's 1-3 sizes too small, complimented with extra tight jeans that make my ass fat leak over the waist. My jeans are loose, comfortable and I definitely do not look like a model. I am still wide-eyed, shy, timid and mousy. Many of the guys here have his glow about them. I don’t think I have that same presence. I will have to assimilate though. To look like I belong here, I will probably have stop wearing the black-rimmed glasses, which up until now were my signature that help me blend into into the wall the way I like it.
I then push the long afro of curls off of my forehead and march slowly to that back door. I am oddly nervous and have a slight bit of perspiration on my forehead. As I walk to that back door I encounter many interesting people. Being new to the gay game, this seems like an interesting place to hangout, although I personally couldn’t see myself here very often as a patron. Walking though this place is the closest that I have ever been to walking though a circus. There is one big man, who is somewhere between 35 and 60 is off to my side and he instantly catches my eye. This man had somehow has lasered off and numbed every sign of his age. He has an over-muscled body stuffed into a tiny extra-small Abercrombie shirt that looks like it is repelled by him as well, where he allows his liver-spotted, tanned, muscled arms to ooze out and connect to hold hands with this little tiny pocket gay sitting right next to him. The old man also is over compensating with brown hair, which clearly has white roots; it’s just too much for the eyes to handle. Abercrombie’s boyfriend or toy of the moment is this little bleached-blond boy that has the body of a skinny, starving, young girl, with huge platypuses feet. This boy looks like a Kate Moss, during the Calvin Clean days, but maybe about 10 pounds lighter.
The view of the bar from here makes me dizzy and wonder what kind of circus I am getting into. As I pass them, a random hairy Persian looking man pats my ass like that is normal status-quo. I am so caught off guard by this that I am silent and even more wide-eyed as I begin walking faster to that back door. The odd thing is that this man, resembles my Russian uncle being round, jolly and hairy, with just slightly darker skin. His body I imagine is made of large meatballs, black hair, and dough, at least that is the thought that came to mind. Trying to keep my cool, I scurry to that backroom with a bit of a sprint.
Once in the Labyrinth backroom, I find a small room filled with a time clock, beer boxes, people’s backpacks, beer kegs and bartenders frantically counting their piles of money. I have never seen so many crumpled one-dollar bills and quarters in my life. The only woman in room comes up, looks past me as though I isn’t there, and then pushes past as she sends a quick text message. She is what I label as soft butch. She has many feminine assets, yet they where somehow complimented with some masculine qualities that I had never seen on a woman until then. She then comes back, “sorry, I needed reception, Gina here… what’s your name? You’re first day? Cute, you don’t know what you are getting into…Just hussle, don’t get in my way and you’ll be fine.” She smiles and sits back in her money counting seat and doesn’t glance up again. It’s as though she never met me.
Everyone else just glances up from counting their money, piles of $1 bills and one at a time does a generic head bob, followed by a “hey man” or “hey babe.” Then a little Asian man popps up out of the shadows of this ominous back room, which by the way is filled with boxes upon boxes of beers. It’s a frat boy’s fantasy come true. The little Asian fellow talking to me has a dingy dishtowels hanging out of all his pockets, like the people at the car wash or that demand to clean your car when driving out of Tijuanna. He then says to me with a heavy Chinese accent, “Hi! I am Ricky. Yuuu… How you say name?” As I began to answer him, I wonder what his real name is. As I open my mouth he continues: “You are barback, pick up glass all over bar, be fast, carry many glasses, don’t have be nice, get done, keep floors clean and be fast for happy hour.” He hands me one of the dirty towels from his back pocket and a key as he shews me on to the bar floor.
My job is to walk through the crowds of drag queens, twinks, muscle daddies, manly women, lipstick chicks and more. I take their dirty cocktail glasses to wash. I stack them like legos and carry them to wash… It sounds like a job a monkey could do, but hopefully I’m better then a monkey. Within what seems like a matter of minutes, the bar is packed, wall-to-wall. I am busing all the tables, urinal rooms, bar tables, while looking over the general security of the bar. This will later mean kicking people out for being too drunk, rowdy or not paying. Some may find this job demeaning, I find it challenging and a great place to study all the millions of types of people who come to this place. After a few minutes, I have made several figure 8 circles around the bar and had an armful of pint glasses with old napkins in them. As I step to set the glasses with the other dirty glasses near the bar/dishwasher, a little shit man, short enough to be made by Matel, pinches my ass. This in turn makes me loose my balance with all the glasses in my hand flying into the air and then like suicide bombers diving to their impetuous death. Of course a scene is made. Everyone is watching as I dropped to my knees where I gathered the glass with a towel. They all just stare in aw as though they have never seen broken glass or someone clean it’s broken shards up. Then a few random people try to help, making it even more difficult trying to hand me a few shards of glass that they pick up with their drunken I feel like Cinderella, hands and knees on the floor to clean up other people’s messes. It is at this point and future moments like these that I am reminded exactly of what my roles is here, I am simply help.
After 3 hours of work, I am drenched in sweat, noticeably sweatier than everyone else working. I feel like one of those obese people you see on Maury that sweats from taking one step. Maybe it’s because the are used to it or out of shape? Jon seems to be just working away like the freakin’ energizer bunny, untainted, without a bead of sweat on him. It felt like I had been there for three times longer than the three hours I is assigned to work. One of the bartenders taps me on the shoulder, then wipes the sweat off of his hand on his jeans. He lets me know that I am done with my shift. This whole shift went so whirl-wind-fast that I am shocked to be finished and so tired and drenched in sweat from a mere 3-hour shift. As I follow him to the back he hands me my tip money for the shift and invites me to dinner “with the boys.” I have never made that much money within a simple 3 hours. I made $80 dollars in tips from just rushing around and stocking glasses. Feeling like celebrating I agree to dinner.
Having lived on campus until months earlier I apparently don’t seem to have the concept of going to big nice dinners in my head. To go home to my apartment with a crazy roommate who is now becoming a crystal mess is something I am at this time trying to avoid anyways, so I agree to go to this dinner. I assume that we are going to a near by taco shop with these new coworkers, who would later become the closest I would ever know to brothers. Instead, the boys take me to a real dinner with steak, calamari, and of course cocktails. I am quickly educated on the fact that after Friday happy hour they always pick a restaurant with booze.
There are 4 boys keeping me company at dinner, there is Johnny, a tall, boy next door kinda guy, tall, in his early 30s with muscles and a smile that contains a mixed of sex and apple pie. Next to him sits Paulo, he hails from South America, a beefy, built-mid-twenties type. When I say built, I mean, he looks like the gay stereotype with tight muscles, tanned body, light hair, perfect smile, teeth and a Latin accent complimented by a subtle lisp. There is also Anderson who is an average height. He is what I would consider a silver fox type. He has a slender build with blonde/grey-hair, he is the most down to earth out of the group, with a chic sense of style. He begins to educate me now on how one needed to always specify alcohol in their drinks to handle it right. His drink of choice seems to be cosmos with the best flavored-vodka possible. There is also Nick, a big handsome black man with a Montel Williams head, complimented by an ass the size of my head. It is a solid kind of posterior which resembled that of Michelangelo’s David with more muscle. He tells me about how he is near the end of Medical school and currently working on his residency.
By the end of the dinner I learn so much about everyone through the table’s gossip as I am the fly on the wall. I now know things that I wouldn’t normally car about like that Johnny is dating someone else’s boyfriend or ex who gave them a STD or a complex, I can’t follow this crap too closely cause there are so many conversations going on here. Anderson keeps on asking me the classic questions, where I came from, where I am going, followed by a cosmo suggestion every few minutes. Nick just nods, smiles, then too asks about school, where I am going, then ventures into a story about one of his patients or a guy he has been seeing. Paulo meanwhile, keeps on separating the carbs in his meal from the protein when he thinks no one is looking. By the end of the meal his place had meat pieces and bones on one side of the plate with a pile or rice and bread on the other all separated by a red sauce, creating a seascape of the red sea. Paulo kept on asking “honey, no boyfriend?” Then he would venture off into conversations about himself and his boyfriend who’s name kept changing every few minutes. Come to think of it, maybe it is different guys he is talking about and I can’t keep up.
The bill finally came after I had dined on a meal of salad, cosmos and gay drama. For me, it is better than a Novella, with prettier men and more intense storylines. I is trying to be thrifty, since this place is so expensive. Then Anderson tells me it will be $60 each. My eyes tear up. That is nearly all of tonight’s money. All that I could think of is about how much I am paying for just a fucking salad. Paulo sees the look of discontent in my eyes and suggests that I only pay $25 since I am not eating or drinking as much as the “big boys.” This is when I first realized that I am in a new game, new turf and I would have to play by new rules.
After a month of the Labyrinth, I am making an average of $6-900 a week and working around 25 hours and maintaining a full-time college student status. To me, then, this is equivalent to winning the lottery. I have quit the lame café that I had to work four times as much to make the same money. I am making enough to live in the expensive city and enjoy it. This is the beginning of when I learn what it meant to really have good taste and play with the big boys. The Castro makeover begins.

No comments:

Post a Comment


No Deposit Casino