Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Story 20 .... Are You a Pitcher or Catcher?...

It’s just a run of the mill Monday happy hour. I assume it’s going to be like every Monday happy hour, slow, dreary and full of queens who think they are at Cheers. Word to the wise, if you go on a date with someone and everybody knows their name, they are probably an alcoholic, but I shall digress. It’s James, the cameras and me, with our three customers who are drinking their sarrows away thanks to the two-for-one drink special that happy hour brings. One of the three guys is in the corner of the bar talking to himself the way he normally does this time of day. He is obviously Jewish because he is always arguing with himself. Today, he is arguing politics with his other personality. The rest of the people in the crowd are one awkward couple made up of a big old white guy with his little gaysian boyfriend. The gaysian is an interesting species. They are those little Asian guys so tiny that you could probably fit him in one of those bags people carry little dogs. The guy looks about 19, but I’m sure he is in his mid-thirties. Asian people are lucky in that way, they look youthful for so much longer than my people. I’m probably around 15 years younger than this gaysian man and I’m the one who never gets carded and when I go to Macy’s the sales people always are quick to suggest eye cream to me. I guess that is what botox is meant for.

About three hours into the slowest shift of my life, a group of people, most of whom have jacked-up teeth, walk in. About 16 or so young men and a woman come in. They all appear to be in their early 20s and all very lean. The first guy comes up to James, smiles, showing his lack luster teeth and orders a vodka-lemonade. This guy’s teeth are all jagged and his smile also has a slant to one side kind of like Tom Cruise’s. He orders Lemonade in Brit talk translates to 7up in American. The next guy starts off “gin-n-tonic, also where can I buy fags around this bloody place?”

James laughs while frustrated, laughs again. “Sweetie, the only fags in this bar are the ones sitting at these barstools, and I don’t know what they are running for these days.”

The Brit is not amused, gives James a backhanded smile to show his distain for him and then tosses down a nice, shiny penny. Then a blonde girl, who looks like Baby Spice with her tits hiked up to her chin. I’ll call Eliza Doolittle comes up to order vodka, coke-light. Brits always order drinks with Vodka or Gin in them and these drinks also are often accompanied by “lemonade” or 7Up. At this realization of the British invasion, we know that while there are a lot of people now in the bar, if they are all British then we aren’t making any money tonight. The British are not known as generous tippers when traveling in the U.S.

Soon, the group of British are dancing on the empty dance floor to the cheesy music we always play. They appear to be having the time of their lives and are turning the dancefloor into SoulTrain before my very eyes, but instead with white people who are thin and have bad teeth. They dance surprisingly well, when compared to the usual tone deaf dancers that normally occupy the floor. I watch them almost wishing that I could be one of them, even though I am rhythmically challenged and actually have two left feet. Then, one of the boys in this group comes up to me to order a drink. He is about my height. I say that I am 5’8, but I’m really 5’7 and ¾. The quarter of an inch seems to really make a difference in my self-description. Anyways, he is a slender man, with beautiful dark brown hair, straight hair that is just long enough to go behind his ears with hypnotizing crystal blue eyes. He has the firm skin of a young man, but the muscle tone, and chiseled facial definition of a man. His accent is one that unlike the other Brits of his group. It’s not grading, doesn’t sound like a broken fog-horn every time he talks. I actually can understand every syllable that comes out of his mouth. He sounds more like princess Dianna, and less like scary spice. What I don’t understand, I pretend I do. I tell him that I am not the bartender, but he can order a drink from James. He nods, stares in to my eyes slightly longer than comfortable, introduces himself to me as he casually looks me up and down, “Christopher, too bad.” He then is on his way to get his drink.

There is another hour left of my shift. At this point I am wondering what it’s like to be a British person visiting the US. I also start to wonder what it’s like to talk with a British accent at all times. Even telling someone to fuck off, or describing diaria somehow sounds classier with a posh British accent. Being from Southern California, everything I say sounds like a run on sentences and my pronouncition of things must sound just down right annoying to people. I use the word “like” and “dude” as adjectives for nearly everything and always end my sentences with question marks. This is the way that most native Southern Californians sound. I try to change these habits, but still every now and again sound like a mix between an 80s valley girl and Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” I start to wonder if they, as foreigners truly hate Americans they way the San Fran hippies always try to tell us they do. Just then, I realize that I will be going to London in one month.

Last month, after the usual perfectly satisfying Citron soda dinner, I had fallen asleep on my couch watching the normal trash I usually do, reruns of the “Golden Girls.” I woke up to this infomercial selling this amazing sandwich maker. It made any sandwich into perfectly crisp triangles within what looked like seconds. The brilliant sales commelian/personn on the screen had what sounded like a British accent, that I later realized was probably South African, but that was besides the point. He kept on making thousands of these amazing little triangle sandwiches along side this woman who would exclaim “Just set it and forget it?” every two minutes. I then switched the channel and there was an A & E biography of Princess Diana. It was at that moment, that I randomly booked a trip to London. Two weeks later I also received a sandwich maker that I couldn’t for the life of me remember ordering or get to work like the infomercial showed.

For the last hour of work Christopher is studying me. Every time I glance over, I try to barely look his direction. He makes sure to lock in eye-contact. I start to wish that I was just a customer right now, off and able to mingle with these interesting foreigners. Our eyes meet for a bit longer than comfortable, it’s even longer than it was a few minutes ago. That is when I start to actually get intrigued.

Finally my shift is over, I have changed, clocked out and gotten paid. Ready to go home and start on my 10-page term paper due the following night. My mind is already miles away from the bar. I am off. I make it through the now slightly crowded bar and go straight for the door. As I am walking out of the bar, to my left, there is a group of guys chatting. Some of them are smoking, the others are just chatting away. Suddenly Christopher pops out of this group, grabs my hand and starts telling the crowd of apparent drunken strangers how we have been an item for years.
“I travel so much, it’s hard on him.” He says.

I am silent at this point and while intrigued, I am unsure as to where this is going. One of the smokers asks him how long we have been together. At this point Christopher grabs me by the waist fairly aggressively.

“How long is it now? 5 and a half? 6 years? We are getting married in the London next year, even though his parents don’t support it. They don’t like that I’m in show business. My mother though, she thinks of him as her own.”

The smokers smile, laugh and go back to talking amongst themselves. At this moment, Christopher leans in and plants an intense kiss on my lips. It’s the kind that you see in movies and feel incapacitated after. He peels me off of his lips, looks into my eyes and then goes right back to work. The then pulls away, grabs my hand as he tries to pull me back into that abyss of a bar.

As I open my mouth to speak, my voice sounds like it did at my bar mitzvah, painfully off, like a fog-horn sort of thing. I then clear my throat and try again. “6 Years huh? You don’t even know my name do you?” I say slowly, while still reeling from the kiss.

“Babe, sometimes it’s the fantasy that makes it fun. Lets take the evening by storm. You’re adorable babe. I look into your eyes and know that I don’t want to just let you go. You are intoxicating. I have an evening here and must get to know what I can. One drink?” He pulls my hand towards the bar.

He is a smooth talker. I will give him that. It would also be nice to have someone in London to visit who can show me sights or at least to bone while I’m there. Everything else in the world seems to not matter now. I have ½ beer and listen to Christopher’s story. While he is talking, I am half listening, half wondering what he looks like naked. Then I wake out of my trance once I hear him mention that he is a dancer. I am even more interested now. He is a part of this dance-troup that has traveled all over the world, tonight is their only night in San Francisco. He just came out of a 6-year relationship back in London. He has about 2 hours left before he needs to catch the last train back to North Bay, where the troup is staying. I decide to throw caution to the wind, which is out of character for me. I ask him if he would like to see Twin Peaks before he goes, since it’s the best view of San Francisco. He smiles and approves this idea.

As we are walking out of the bar hand-in-hand towards my car, there is a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence standing one block from my car. She is in a tight, rubber, white dress, similar in a similar style to that of the nurse on that Blink182 CD cover. The dress on this tranny is amazing it’s complimented by white stockings containing dark, think stubble and white glitter all over his/her face. She is just standing there, handing out condoms while holding up a makeup compact to check out her face out of the corner of her eye.

The Sisters are drag queens that look kind of like nurses with Ronald Mc Donald white-faces that are a part of a non-profit that support STD education in San Francisco, and often pass out condoms.
As we pass this sister, Christopher grabs one of their goodie-packs.

“Not that we are planning to have sex, but one must always be prepared… Besides, it will be a good souvenier for my trip.”
I smile, unsure of what is going to happen.

“I’ll take you to the best view of the city. Twin Peaks. Look how clear the sky is. It will be perfect.”

“Just remember, the last bus leaves in a little over an hour.” He says.

As we are driving up the mountain that is Twin Peaks, close to the Castro area, I notice that the clouds are starting to roll in and wonder if this trip up here is such a good idea. He seems content. As we are winding up the mountain, he slowly slides his hand on to my waist, which accidentally makes me floor the gas for a second and nearly drive the car off of the hill. As I regain control of myself and try to focus on the road, I begin to wonder how much I look like a creeper, driving this guy to the top of this mountain to see a view when the clouds are coming in. Will there be a view to see? What will happen if there isn’t a view? What am I doing with a complete stranger in my car, groping me? This seems like a bad after school special. What if he has is a serial killer and I don’t know it?

After a 10-minute drive of over-thinking and akward groping, we finally reach the top of Twin Peaks. I park right in the middle of the currently empty parking lot. We are the only ones up there. As we I glance out the window to look for the view I was going to show him, all I can see are clouds. I reach for the door to get out of the car and he asks me what we are doing. As I look over at him I shrug and try to explain how there normally is a beautiful view and that I do not want to look like a creepy axe murderer who takes him somewhere secluded to take advantage of him.

Christopher grabs my hand and moves it on to his pants to touch what feels like a whole other arm growing under the zipper of his Levi’s. He instantly pushes his lips on to mine to start the most passionate makeout session I have taken part in, to date. While making out, all I can think about is how this would be more comfortable not in my little Honda Civic. It maybe be more enjoyable to makeout with someone and not have a gear-shift poking me in the abdomen. I now also have a one track mind now, again intrigued, yet alarmed, all I can think about is the abnormal and currently unknown growth in this boy’s pants.

As he takes his shirt off to reveal his slender, white body, I can see every ligament in his body. I can see every rib under his smooth, vampirishly-white flesh. As my eyes start to work their way down to his little black fuzz-trail. Just then he asks me the question.

“Mate, are you a pitcher or catcher?”

I have never heard it asked quite that way. I don’t really understand the question.

He holds up the condom and asks again, “pitcher or catcher? We don’t have to have sex mate, but it sure would be fun.”
Now he unbuttons his pants to reveal the largest hard-on I have ever seen. It is so massive I am bewildered. I don’t understand what someone can do with that. The thing is between the size of a ketchup bottle and maybe a 40-ounce beer can. I can’t help but stare at the freakish thing for a few minutes while being both amazed and dumfounded.

After 15-minutes of the most intense sex that one can have in a small car, within the given time period, it feels like pizza oven in my little car. My windows are so fogged up that they look like they are covered with that white frost-spray shit people put on their windows around Christmas. He puts his hand-print on my back window like Leo does in “Titanic,” to remind me that he was there.

Christopher has about 30 minutes now to get to his bus and I don’t even know how to get to the train stations. He is now trying to untangle his clothing that is now all mushed into this little ball in the corner of the passenger’s seat. To completely untangle himself and get his things in order, he opens the passenger door and steps out buck naked as he puts his tity-whities on gets his massive penis under wraps. He tosses the condom wrapper on to the floor near his feet. While he is tucking his stuff in, a minivan with Wisconsin license-plates framed by several metal Jesus fishes pulls in to the spot right next to us. It is filled with a family that looks like they are on their way to Walleyworld. There are 3 children under the age of 12 in the back seats who have their faces plastered to the window, they are staring in aw at Christopher’s white, nude body and start to scream really loud. They are screaming like they just met Freddy crougar.

The dad driving the car looks like John Goodman, shouts out, “fucking perverts you should be ashamed of yourselves.”
One of the 3 kids who is this little girl, around the age of 5 starts crying now. Then the mother who is in the passenger seat starts to shout calmly. She looks like Michelle Phillips with long, stringy brown hair. I can’t understand her words at first. After a few seconds, I realize that she is repeating, “sodomy is not the way of god and only leads to hell. Burn in hell heathen.”
They instantly back right out of the parking spot that they have been in for the all of 20-seconds. As the car is about to drive away, I notice that they have a sticker on their front bumper that says “Jesus is my co-pilot,” and that the mother is now holding a cross that she is holding towards my car like that will help us. She then throws tiny red bible at my car which luckily lands right under my tire where it belongs.

Christopher gets back into the car and we drive to the bus station. The drive to the station is quiet for a few minutes and then we both just bust up laughing uncomfortably loud for the next 5 minutes straight. He makes it with 3.5 minutes to spare and hands me his email address which he quickly writes on the back of my car registration. He tells me that he I should make sure to drop me a line when in London, hops out of the car and runs to his bus. I smile and drive away knowing that I will never see him again.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I knew Harvey Milk. Story 19

I knew Harvey Milk… Not every story is funny..

It’s my first opening shift as a bartender. This is coincidentally the first time that I have ever been in the bar completely alone. There are no customers or coworkers in the bar. It’s the booze, the empty bar stools and me. The only thing to keep me company are the cameras set up through out the bar to monitor every move I make while working, but am used to that. Being alone in this place is an awkward sensation, one difficult to describe. It’s like the episode of the Brady Bunch where they end up in a ghost town, odd and random, I know. For some reason the concept of being alone in this place always has freaked me out in the same way that little kids fear the deep end of the pool I guess. It’s like seeing the place without it’s makeup of music and superficial drunken gays as far as the eyes can see.

As an opening bartender there is often a period of time for about 2-3 hours on occasion where one is the only person in the big empty enigma of a bar. Often the shift starts slow. As the afternoon progresses, the place sifts through random crazy daytime drunks, harmless people coming in to use the bathroom, or get change for parking. In San Francisco parking is so expensive that change is like a whole roll of quarters.

After about 2 hours of trying to make an empty bar look like the happening place, a guy walks into the bar very slowly. I can’t tell if he is swaggering for some odd style, is cracked out, actually has something wrong with one of his feet, or all of the above. This man has this odd limp where he moves one foot and slowly drags the other behind. This guy looks nothing like LLCool J, he isn’t attractive, nor does he have rippling abs that you can see through his shirt, and he doesn’t seem like he will break into rap… So, I assume that there actually is something wrong with his feet. He slowly walks up to the bar, plops his tired self down on a chair and just sits there. He is wearing a Padres baseball cap, with stringy grey hair hanging from it like a mop, complimented with a tie-died tee-shirt with a Bob Dylan quote written on it and a dark blue James dean jacket that has a little green pin on it.

The pin reads: “ass, grass or cash, nobody rides for free.”

He also has an equality symbol-pendant around his neck. His cheeks are sunken in slightly and covered with mostly salt and lightly peppered hair that looks like sand on the bottom-half of his face. His lips skinny, yet visibly chapped, his skin is almost pigmentless like that of a vampire. I wonder if he even has a reflection. His eyes probably were once blue, now they are grey and look like they have lived some journey. He looks like he is in his 70s, but his demeanor tells me that he is decades younger. As he sits down, he picks up a napkin as though to make a spot for an invisible, future drink. Not once does this, he looks up at me. Then sitting, while fixated on the napkin in his hand he begins to fidget with it. He goes on to turn this little napkin into some sort of origami something or other. He folds it in fourths and then puts it in his pocket. I say hello three more times. He undoes his little paper crane and starts the napkin folding process without once looking up at me. Then I asked him if he is okay. He is quiet, takes out a five-dollar bill and asks for a bud light, he calls it “the piss of champions.” As I hand him the beer, he starts to fidget again. He then looks up at me with this smile that reveals all his dental work or lack of. The man has a mouth full of porcelain caps where you can see the silver at the bottoms of every tooth. His smile says Tijuana all the way. He reaches out for my hand as though we are old friends and I am about to console him on some problem. I can truly feel his loneliness at this moment. If feel sorry for him, even though I know nothing about him or even what plagues him. I want to tell him that he’s not a Cheers, cause unlike Sam, I drink but keep that thought to myself. Not knowing what to do, I put my hand out. He holds my hand as though he has never held one before. He smiles and just stares into my eyes. It’s one of those gazes where someone looks into your eyes for a tiny bit longer than normal. Long enough to make one feel uncomfortable. Through his eyes, I can feel the weight of the world and see how fed up this being is with life’s cruel deck of cards he has been handed. He then asks me my name. As I start to tell him. He cuts me off with a, “you’re beautiful.” Not knowing what to say, and being horrible at taking compliments, I change the topic. I am now trying to pull my hand out of his whithered hands that is now clamped on to mine. In the back of my head I feel like he is somehow trying to suck the youth out of my hand, like the witches in Hocus Pocus. Still alone, I asked him where he hails from. He is silent and looks down at his beer. I walk away for a few minutes to help the two new patrons who had just walked in.

About 10 minutes later, I come back to ask this man if he is alright and maybe needs a refresher. He then begins to tell me about how he had lived in San Francisco before my time although he makes it sound like it was yesterday.

“It was years ago… It was different place then. I knew Harvey Milk! We used to go to his camera shop!” He explains to me defensively and in an oddly loud tone.

He then smiles at me and again tells me of how handsome he thinks I am. He then asks me if I have any friends.
I smile, reply as cleverly as possible with, “everyone around here are my friends.” As I turn away with the half-smile of fakeness, I call this look the Kathy-Lee Gifford look and keep it intact while I pretend to be preoccupied with re-organizing glasses at my station. He then says something, a response is one that I will never forget.

“I used to have friends…their all dead. Do you know what that’s like?” His words are somehow cutting through me and adding to the awkwardness. As he twiddles with a new napkin this time as he hands me money for another beer.

As I came back with the beer he mutters, “they’re all dead.”

He then politely tells me, “fuck off, you don’t know me, you don’t know.”

I don’t know how to handle him. He is sort of creating a scene as my little crowd is slowly forming of customers. I try to change the topics to happy, funny, sexual innuendos that any red-blooded gay man can enjoy for shits and giggles, but nothing seems to work. Eventually the guy gets up from his bar stool, falls over, trips on his own foot, he then flips me the bird as he walks out the door.

Maybe he sensed the cynicism in my eyes. I am trying him in my own way but, I do realize that I am judging much of his character based on the dilated pupils and odd mannerisms. As he walks out, I realized that the reason he makes me feel so uncomfortable is because he is who any of us can relate to or become. Any gay man could understand his hostility and axe this poor man is carrying with him day in and out. The unspoken fears that we as gay men share and the concept of being both positive or negative men. This man is a one in a million person to this city, a needle in a hay-stack so to speak. This guy is the first of many I’ll meet like this, or at least that is what my coworkers tell me. These guys all share same scenario, some less crazy than others. These men all would tell me about their pasts. They all “knew Harvey Milk.” They all remember a romanticised version of the Castro that has been dead longer than I have been alive. They may have known Mr. Harvey Milk, but is his spirit long gone from San Fransisco?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Joan Rivers interview. A-MAZING!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Story 18

After two and a half years of working at the place of lost souls, graduating college, 4 or 5 blank page love affairs, getting laid off from my first professional job, and months of worthless interviews, numerous job placement agencies, I finally am being promoted at the bar. It’s an odd feeling to be moving up at a place that you never planned on being at for longer than college. My post college life is supposed to be career driven, and at a place where I am using my education ideally to climb some corporate latter of some sort of business. I’m supposed to become the Angela Bower of the 2000’s. I should wear expensive casual clothing that looks cheap, but my jeans would cost more than 1 month of groceries. I am supposed to become a yuppie, someone who gets to a bar and orders a “pino-o-o” because they are too lazy to finish the sentence, assuming parched from all their white-collar conversations. I should be working on an account and casually updating my facebook with witty comments that show the rest of the world that I am a success, even though a real success doesn’t need this validation. I am supposed to be a walking, talking status symbol. I should be the guy that left my home town and didn’t give up on their dreams at 22 because the condom broke. In San Francisco, these yuppie-people spend a lot of money to look like they don’t care. For those who have never worked in a bar or restaurant, those who order their wine this way are often douche bags… These people often do not tip even though they sweat money. When you serve them in my line of work, they often make it very obvious that they haven’t worked a hard day’s work since that summer during their freshman year when daddy cut them off. At least pretending to be one of these peeps is what I have worked towards doing all these years. Why, I’m not sure. I just figure that is a way to break out of the only life if know which involves knowing too well the different ways to eat Top Roman.

Life doesn’t always turn out how we plan. I am making more money now at the bar than I would ever imagine making at any professional job right now. The question that I and perhaps every other bartender in my situation ponders, is how long this will last? Is it like being a model? Once the goods are dried and wrinkled up, you are through? Maybe one day, I too could open my own bar? Or become a brand like Tyra and Heidi? Then, I will not have to worry about an expiration date and live desperately on vanity, botox and anything that can keep my youthful disposition pickled and intact? on While many questions fly through my head, one concept is certain. I am young and will not be young forever.

Now, after two years of busing every nook and cranny of this place, cleaning up vomit, dealing with nasty old men playing ass-grab while I am trying to get my job done, I am no longer a barback. I am a full-fledged bartender. What does this all add up to? I finally am now a part of the face of the bar industry. While this sounds simple, there are more ingredients to this position. To do well, one must create a persona. This persona is the one that one uses as the face of the industry. The face always has to look pleasant. This persona is a meld of one’s actual personality, mixed with that of a social partier… This persona is not necessarily different than one’s true identity, but it maybe. The point is, this persona character is who we bartenders become when we want to pay our rent and sell. Yes, the persona is what we in the field use to sell ourselves at least to a degree. Many will argue that this isn’t true. I will argue that in order to do well in this field, one needs to create a strong persona that is often more outgoing than their personality. Some of my co-workers have personas of “the partier,” they are always the life of the party. Some try to emphasize their skill and flare, while others completely rely on their looks and can’t have a conversation or make a proper drink to save their life. My persona is one that is to be very straight-forward and not blow smoke up people’s asses. I’m not overly nice, not afraid to tell anyone how it is and push the borders between clever and nosy. I try to keep the scene lively and as though I won’t take shit from anyone, this hopefully shows people that I won’t be taken advantage of.

Keeping up with the image of the persona, one should look happy at all times. Always be ready for a photo opportunity. While no one can be happy at all times, a good bartender must make it look like they are always be the life of the party. If your relative just passes away or boyfriend tells you he was cheating on you right before your shift, you still should remain smiles because you know that makes the gimmick work better. Not to say that we aren’t sincere, it was just a part of the game we knew we have to play to do well. Unlike barbacking, where one can just walk away from asshole customers, we stand there at our given stations, about 3-4 feet away from another bartender and work it for our customers. This is much like the way the hookers stand in their perspective windows of Amsterdam’s red-light district. There is a mix of confidence and desperation that we smell of.

When we work behind the bar I call it the cage. It was like being the panda in their zoo home a few days a week. It’s a place from which you can’t escape. Instead of escaping, for hours on end you would sing and dance your way to rent. Every move you made can and will be analyzed because there is always someone in the bar watching you. At our bar, if it’s not a customer it’s “big brother.” When you got the crazies at ur station, you can’t just walk away. This promotion truly is a test to my patience and social educate.

My first time bartending alone in the bar was pretty scary. While I have been here for years now, I have never been in this place. All looks different from this point of view. There is this odd freedom that comes with bartending in a busy nightclub. Being the nerd that I am, and I guess still the boy with low-self-esteem, it feels great to be in this place. It’s like a self-esteem booster. I instantly feel more attractive once I am behind the bar, in my cut-off shirt and for this reason I am beaming smiles today. It’s a Friday night, unlike any other that I have ever known. It is also during one of the busiest times of the year for the bar. It starts out slow, which I am easily able to handle. Since I have the new kid at school advantage, having barbacked there for so long, I also already know the rainbow of customers. Since I am working next to Aaron, it makes life easier for just this night.

I have spent the past 2 weeks memorizing every drink I could think of. I worked through about 40 drink cards with various cocktail and shot concoctions, just so that I would be ready. I made sure to learned not only what a Manhattan was, but that shaking it was called bruising it, and apparently a way to ruin the cocktail. I also learned entirely too many drinks with the words orgasm in their title. These drinks apparently died in the early 90s with grunge, but I would learn that later. I also learned how to properly make a Singapore sling and various layered shots.

As my first thirsty parton approaches me, I try to look cool. I am ready and anticipating a complicated drink that I will make for this guy with ease. It will look like I have been making them for years. The truth is, that I only know the ingredients and that’s it. Come to think of it this will be the first alcoholic beverage that I will have made outside of a college kegger. The man who approaches me, opens his mouth and for some reason everything seems to be coming out in slow motion. By this point, I already have beads of sweat on my forehead since I realize that I am not an experienced bartender and a horrible lier. He asks for a vodka cranberry. All of a sudden, I am put at ease because he has ordered such an easy drink. I am so confident that I will make him the best vodka cran that I try to pick up the bottle with flare. I toss the bottle in the air just slightly, so that I can catch it upside-down to pour the booze required. The bottle is slipperier than anticipated, it of course gets into my grasp and slips from my little hands. The bottle falls on the ground, spills on my shoe and all over the floor. The bottle has not broken though. While I am horrified at what is unraveling in front of my eyes, I feel a laugh coming on. As the confused customer is now staring at me pissed off, not amused and checking their cell phone, I just start laughing really loud, smile, give a wink and tell the poor dope that he made me nervous. He seems shocked. The poor sap is eating it up. This is when I realize the obvious, that this job is not as hard as I am making it. Now one should ever take them-selves too seriously.

Luckily I have Aaron working next to me. He is on fire tonight and probably higher than I have ever seen him. I am amazed at how resilient he is. Every few minutes when there is a lull he pulls me aside and tells me about the new little furry bear man he is dating for the day. He then tells me about how he hasn’t slept in the past 3 days, has fabulous sex the night before and had just gotten back from a trip to New York where he partied with famous DJs like Cozwell. Getting caught up in his extravaganza of a life makes it easier for me to just let go and not take myself so seriously. Aaron has an interesting way of exaggerating in his stories that entertains and puts me at ease. After listening to one of his stories about his cub-man lover from nights prior, I turn back to my bartending station to a wall of people literally. I almost shit myself. All of a sudden I feel like I have to pee. I have been fine all night, but now I have to pee. It’s a nervous tick I have always had. Interviews, tests, long road trips, while I can make it a near day without peeing, the second I get in a pressure-filled situation, the bladder decides to hate on me. I know that I can’t leave now, because if there is a time to pay my rent, now is the time. I cork it. In my head I had imagined tonight to be so simple and unravel as such. I assume that I will have people throwing money my way simply. I would will have beautiful men fawning over and waiting for me. I will look amazing shaking shots, doing tricks with the bottles… That’s kind of how the night seems to be working out, minus the spilled vodka bottle and the 10 or 15 broken glasses due to my clumsiness. It’s fine until my station is insanely packed with people. I spill one drink on a customer. I tried to look cool while making shots for a round of girls and then I can’t get the pint glass out of the metal shaker cause I had put it on too tight. Then I continue to accidentally break the pint glass with little shards of glass sprinkling into the shot glasses. The poor girls looked horrified. Then a few minutes later I spill a pint of beer on a customer as I slip walking over to them. After that, I made a martini and accidentally break the martini glass stem as I am filling the glass. Essentially, the night closes with my back and arms in pain as though I just finished some aerobics class. I am also drenched with beer, wine, and a few hints of whiskey. The smell reminds me the white trash memories I left behind in East County San Diego.

It has truly turned into a classy night. From cosmos to lemon drops, I make everything that night. Most of them are made incorrectly, but that is the least of my problems. After an hour or two I felt at eeze, while still clumsy I learned that playing dumb worked in my favor. Turning a blind eye to my mistakes I make and just try to make it look like I am having fun. Aaron sees that I am having a stressful night, so being the big brother-type that he has to me, he hands me a cookie. Starving and stressed out I took a bite of his magical cookie, not realizing that I will be reeling from it’s mystical powers sooner than predicted.

Next predicament of the night to get through… Now that I have made it through a night of drink slinggin, I need to count my tip money. I have piles of wet one-dollar bills, quarters and stuff to organize and then get someone else’s register counted and balanced. I am too messed up by this point. It’s too late to save me. I am trying to keep my magical cookie predicament under wraps and focus on the job at hand. I am counting this money now for the fifth time and still things aren’t balancing out. Now Aaron looks over at me to see what’s taking me so long. He looks like he has seen a ghost.
Aaron quickly whispers, “that cookie has hit you hard girl… You should go.”

Aaron out of all people says that. If that’s the case, then I must be messed up. The night ends with me hopping into a cab, red-eyed, with hagen-daz in one hand and cab fare in the other.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Story 17

I was a quiet, soft-spoken child. Things like trick-or-treating, would often be a chore for me. I would get to the door, clam up and speak quietly. As they would open the door, I would start out saying “trick-O” and would fade to a volume frequency only audible to dogs and rodents. My father often would be a few feet behind me. He would be glancing at his watch, because he wanted to make it home in time for a Charles Bronson movie which he had seen a million times that was going to be on tv that night.

On a side note, my father made it his duty to make sure he would show me what it meant to be a man like other fathers. Unfortunately he wasn’t sure exactly what it was that men did, so he used TV as an aid. He would make me watch Bronson, Norris, Eastwood and any other machismo bullshit hero he could dig up. He would also make me watch Tyson fights on a constant loop, because that apparently teaches a young boy how to be a man. It was along the same lines as the episode where Homer forces Bart to stare at the Virginia Slims ad. It was something to that effect.

Back to the story at hand, while exhaling his Benson Ultra-light, he would come from his cloud of smoke, in his harsh Russian accent, say to me, “speak up, if you don’t they won’t hear you.” This was his fatherly way or at least the closest to that role I ever knew him in. This would in turn make me blush, grab the candy and walk away with my head low. Actually, until the age of 12 or 13 that was my father’s response to every sentence that came out of my mouth.

In school I would sit as far to the back of the classroom as possible. This way I would avoid getting asked questions. I would sit quietly until called upon or picked on. Being a little, chubby boy, with a big head, pinkish-white skin so light that you could see my veins, huge eyes and a weird Russian name didn’t help my cause either. I kind of resembled a caricature until I eventually grew into my huge head years later. There The name Yuri, for some reason only got me associated with stupid nicknames and bodily functions that didn’t help my child-self much either. To American children my name for some reason sounded like the word “Urine.” On the first day of school, the torment would always begin once the teacher would take role and attempt to say my name, stumble and then spell it out. They would then proceed to compliment me on how unique I was at the time. While as an adult, the sentiment could be understood, to a child, this was anything but a compliment. To me, the concept of being different was like being telling me that I was an alien and proved what I had knew all along, that I didn’t belong.

Aside from being simply an awkward kid, I also had two left feet. While many boys were inclined to go play soccer ball or basket during recess I would often be found playing house or simply chatting it up with the girls. I became ridiculously good at making macramé friendship bracelets and lanyards. I had few friends besides my cousin Nicole to give them too who was in the same grade and equally as awkward as myself. By the end of the third grade, my mom had so many of them she began to re-gift them to other relatives.

While I didn’t have all that much desire to actually do physical activity, it was more so that I hated being picked last for games. For a fat kid, being picked last was pretty much the normal routine and always uncomfortable. Often, while lining up during PE for game like flag football I would wait to see the kids argue over who would be stuck with me on their team. I would sit there thinking about how much I didn’t understand the reason we were forced to run like barbarians and steal flags off of each other and compete so much. The goal of this game made no damned sense to me. Then, each and every time without fail there would be this kid. Always some cocky moot, kid that would see me staring past them and then yell, “hey, stop staring at me.” The truth was that my eyes seemed to take up half my head in those days and it probably looked to a lot of people like I was staring at them even if I wasn’t. This would escalade to “that fag’s looking at me.” I never really understood this phenomenon. If I was or wasn’t looking at them, why would it matter? I didn’t even know what a fag was I figured it was some sort of bug or something. That was the ironic thing about growing up with Russian parents, when they got angry, it was in Russian and pretty much never in English. I had no role model to learn “bad” words from. I didn’t know that “fuck” could mean more than just the act of penetration and made for a good adjective that would come in handy later. There were a lot of things I didn’t know then. What made me more odd was that I never had the inclination to fight back, verbally or physically. I would kind of just stand there. After a while they would lose interest and drop their stupid vendetta of how my big eyes needed to stay to themselves because I would bore them.

While I was a slightly pudgy little meatball of a boy, I didn’t notice that I was much different from the other boys. This was until, during recess, at the age of 9 or 10, I lined up with all the other kids to play basketball. As I got up to see if the kids playing would let me join their group, this little, Monica Tedesco yelled out to me 2 words that I will never forget. She asked me if I ever though of “thigh master.” This was when Susanne Sommers was selling that shit like hotcakes. Then I imagined myself trying to use one of those things and got confused. Instead of yelling back at the little jerk, I just walked away. No fighting back, not jokes about her legs resembling 2 lines of rope or being as skinny as extension chords. No come back. I just walked away.

My whole life my father would always ask me, hey been in any good fights lately? I would always respond the same way. No. He used to force me to spar with him now and again because as he put it, “you always want to be able to protect yourself and your girlfriend,” assuming that I would have one. I had no desire to throw punches at anyone. I saw myself as the Nelson Mandela of the 4th grade. He would always be disappointed in my lack of desire for these fights. Whenever guys would pick fights with me, I would just talk my way out of it or simply make an effort not to react. This was when I realized that I could talk my way out of many battles.

By the 6th grade I made it without ever really getting into any major fights. When guys would pick fights with me, I would change the topic just as I had done in the earlier years. I figured talking fast and changing topics would simply confuse these macho retards and deflect their desire to pulverizing me. When I entered junior high I still elected to stay quiet most of the time. When I would get teased or told I was a fag, I would listen and every once in a while actually talk back. My comebacks were weak but confusing for the average 12-year old. While they would simply shout out “fag” or “Yuri, what a fag name.” I would come back a minute later, not understanding the word “what is a fag? You would obviously know. What’s the definition?” They would look so confused that I didn’t take their shout as an insult often they would walk away in their own bewilderment. I would answer everything with a question this actually got me out of these messes most of the time.

By high school I simply didn’t give a shit anymore. While I was still soft spoken, my quietness turned to talking without words more often. My actions spoke louder. Around junior year of high school I already was working a full week with school and my part time job I didn’t care anymore. The thing is that by this point, the years of not fighting back had caught up with me. I had this pent up anger against bullies and those who had treated me badly over the years. Eventually this would turn to an obsessive compulsive eating problem which later lead to and obsessive-compulsive gym addiction. This was because as I have said many times before, food shall always equal love. While I would like to blame myself for these issues, it would be easier to keep the blame on those put me down for years as a child. In return for those years of quietness I became a talker. I became loud. I learned to speak for my beliefs and stand up for those who couldn’t. As much pain as the silence covered up, I am thankful for all that happened to me, both good and bad. Being unique, fat and different made me a better person at least that is what my mother told me.

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