Friday, December 9, 2011

the Castro Bubble.

Chapter 8.
Often people have asked me questions about working in the Castro. They always have leading questions. “I bet you meet hot guys all of the time right?” If by hot they mean men who probably do enough crystal to make Courtney Love look like straightedge, then probably. This is always the first of many questions, which often are followed by a smile and a silence that can cut-glass. I assume, that people who don’t know what this job actually entails, seem to think it’s just a great social event every night. It can be that too. What people often forget is that it's just a job like any other job. Clock in, clock out, and replay. They often glamorize this pretty regular, blue-collar job into their mythical descriptions. There is always this odd intrigue with the idea of being at the center of attention. While behind the bar at a busy bar, one is shaking people’s drinks, they are also the main attraction and the reason people come into that bar, the “hot” bartender. Every night this person gets ready knowing that there will be men lined up and ready from all around, waiting to be serviced. Even the description has all the makings for a B rated porn. Unfortunately, that is where the similarities stop. Meeting hot, available men all them time with a pick of a different hot guy to go home with at all times of the night sounds interesting. While serving them shots, you get to watch hot guys get drunk and raunchy as they show off for you. The fantasy seems to make this image seem like the setting for a “money shot” scene. I wish. At least then, I would be getting laid more. As cool as that idea is, it unfortunately is far from reality. There isn’t a “money shot” in this reality, at least from what I can remember. I do drink a lot though.

I have quickly realized that the glamour factor of working in a bar is everything but. Not to say that this job doesn’t have it’s advantages, because trust, it does. Busing glasses for every Tom, Dick and lesbian who ever walk into the Labyrinth along with broken glass on the floor in between a busy crowd, cleaning up vomit and leaving work with the smell of rotten beer all over your cloths everyday, pretty glamorous. The only upside to working here is all the people here. It's like watching a human ant farm in motion with drag queens. Being a fan of the social sciences, this gives me a chance to study the inner-workings of the Castro. It was much the same way that I would read case studies in college.

I am learning many things within my first few months here. I’m learning drink terminology, gay lingo, how to meet guys and who to steer clear of. I am learning much about men. When they say they are in their late 20s, often that means they are in their mid-30s. Everything seems to be an embellishment. One inch in conversation equals two centimeters in real life. Even if they claim to be single, you can never be too sure if that's true, cause San Francisco is the land of "open relationships." The concept of an open relationship to me at this point in my life is like being a Jew for Jesus, if you can't commit to the situation, don't do it. I soon learn that learn that gays truly run on alcohol and the criticizing others. I assume that is why the post Oscar fashion shows still exist?

There I am I am constantly meeting people, all of different walks, colors, sizes, likes and studying them. From bear to twink, sugar daddy to muscle stud. Name it and I have know them often from the bar. I then notice that these “hot” guys getting less and less attractive after meeting them 5x a week and having to re-introduce yourself to them every time because of their goldfish memories. It's like a glitchy cd or record that repeats over and over. Alcohol does do that. In the bar this was more likely, especially when many people are walking pharmacies. That in itself, is a whole separate topic. I watch hot guys every night, go from Stallion to sloppy mess within shots. These sloppy messes often resemble a blend of Groucho Marx and the Hulk in one. We all have met these guys.

One happy hour in particular, there is a relatively handsome man who I watch succumb to the process mention earlier. He looks like a seemingly normal business guy, in for an after work cocktail, maybe to find someone he could chat with. Within a few rounds this guy who resembling an older Alex P. Keaton ends up retreating further away from the bar. The first round he is drinking at the front of the bar. This is still when small remnants of daylight still slightly peak into the bar. He is sitting chatting it up with those of us behind the bar. I am working with James who is explaining to this guy just why he thinks that Cher was so amazing live. Yeah, I said it, Cher, Chaz Bono's mother. While Cher is a great performer and has a face that looks like it was made by playskool, I would never get in the middle of this conversation. She is one of those guilty pleasures one doesn't admit like watching the "Jersey Shore" and crappy Lifetime movies. I can't even put either on my DVR without fear that someone will see I have watched it. Back to Cher. now This convo. of course is right when the “Believe” video flashes onto the screens of the bar. At this point the music makes me want to start shattering glasses… Instead, I just smile and work diligently. The conversation seems to turn Mr. Keaton off from chatting with us. So, the next round brings him to a table about 10 feet away from the bar. As the hours pass and happy hour reaches near a close, I go on yet another round to pick up glasses. I figure that this guy must be deep in the bar by this point or maybe he has left. By now I assume he is messier than Courtney Love around any substance. On this round, I check every bathroom for glasses just like I do several times daily when working.

I reach one stall and hear this groaning. At first I think someone was taking the shit of a lifetime. Then, I hear hard breathing. It was kind of like that breathing that one often hears in high school while running the mile. In my case, I was often with the last parts of the class, the fat, or smoker kids of the crowd. In response to the breathing, I assume that someone has snorted a line too fast. Then comes a grunt noise. This is the noise that made me wonder if there was a lost cockerspanial in the stall. I imagine it’s being abused by the sounds of it. Then a slurp noise and my mind drifts straight to the gutter. Another moan…Slurp… Moan …Grunt. Curious as any healthy, homosexual, young man is, I peer in. I accidentally lean on the stall door. In turn, pushing it in.

Inside of this stall to my freakish horror is that older guy, who now looks like a different person. He is the opposite of the clean-cut man he came off as hours earlier. Now the tie is hanging out of his pocket and a mouth full of gross. He is rimming the bum who asks me for change everyday freaking day on the corner of 18th and Castro. This bum, I will never forget his gnarl, scrawny body perch on the toilet. When I say rimming, I mean there that this drunken man is rimming a bums ass. The bum is just propped up dingle-berried ass hanging out, and the whole nine-yards. This drunken man has made a transformation that I could only describe as a cross-bread of a Groucho/Hulk creature. This man is also so drunk that he can’t put words together. Caught is literally caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I want to break the glasses in my hands which I just bussed this round, and shove shards in my eyes to sooth the pain.

The life of a Castro barkeep, is a desensitized one. In the Castro bubble, image is been one thing. The reality is often another. When people ask about the “hot guys” I meet working where I do, they often are met with a brief. Sometimes the image that people have in their head is better than the reality.

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