Monday, December 31, 2012

LAID OFF but determined

About three years ago, during my last year at the bar, I started to go through a crisis.  It was similar to that of a middle-aged man who buys the red convertible, get a young girlfriend and skinny jeans but I was in my mid-twenties.  I was at this point where I didn’t know what I was doing with my life.  While my true passion was watching crap-TV, smoking pot, and eating enough to feed a small family in one sitting.  I never could never find a job utilizing those skills, I’ve looked.  After I graduated college I had several career jobs where I used my degree doing advertising, PR, marketing and was pretty successful at it.  I did this while keeping the bar job on the side.  Ironically, at the bar I made more money than at any of these career jobs.  About three years ago I was also laid off from my last day job, which was relevant to my college education with the 401K and the stuff you’re told you’re supposed to want.  This would be the second day job since graduating college, which I was laid off from.  Near the end of that job, on a daily basis, I wanted to stab myself in the eye working there (metaphorically and not literally).  I would spend half my workday watching Tracy Ulman, Joan River’s, cat videos, and porn when I wasn’t staring at spreadsheets.  Let me explain.  I worked as an Account Manager for a company that specialized in SEM (Search Engine Management) for various companies and their products (many of which were porn).  Lets say you went onto Yahoo and searched “big boobs and daddy issues,” the ad that would pop up on the search page saying stuff like “3 girls with big boobs and daddies all just for $1 click here.” While glamorous, the job got old fast.  I was hoping they would add the shotgun or knife to my stock options.  That never happened, which was good because while I love a good suicide joke, that was not what I wanted.  I was feeling numb to working there and not sure how other people did this and found happiness.  I would come home while financially successful, buying stuff, helping my mother, father and anyone who needed it when I could, I would cry almost every night and not know why.  I was making enough money to be happy.  I grew up poor so anything above the poverty line was rich to me.  It was at this moment I learned that the more you have, the more you need, the more people expect from you.
After a year at a good company, working 40 hours a week for good people, daily pushing papers I was laid off.  The day I was laid off, it happened in the middle of the day.  It was after lunch oddly, 2:30pm Pacific Standard time to be exact.  I skipped lunch and had a martini at a bar around the corner.  When I was asked to clean up my things and not come back I was sad but not lost like I should have been.  I went to a happy hour that day and drank more.  It was a relief similar to the feeling of a good shit.  After an evening of drinking sorrows away, I went home drunk, alone, a bit teary, but not sad and wrote.  I wrote about my life.  I wrote about the awkward experiences my early twenties brought me.  I realized that all the books I had read about San Francisco talked about an idealistic world that may or may not have existed in the 60s or 70s but nothing like what I had seen there.  I wrote until I couldn’t write anymore.  This was about a 4-day period.  I didn’t really shower much during that time.  I just wrote, went to work at the bar and back home to write (and eat lots of ice cream).  I ate 2 gallons of ice cream during this 4-day period along with at least 4 boxes of cookies, 20 bagels and 4 cans of whip cream and some strawberries cause I was feeling health conscious.
I went back to the bar full-time, which was nice but felt like a vacation.  Being in a shitty economy and liking the cash I was making again I was on auto-mode there.  After a few months at the bar and entered crisis mode again.  I don’t know what I am doing and wonder if my life is in dead-end mode or what it was that I was lacking.  I go through one of these every 3 or 4 years depending on the economy of course.  I decided to go see a therapist after having a moderately unsuccessful time with one on campus during my last semester of school; I decided to give it a go.
This time around the question I focused on with my therapist was “what now?”  
He asked me one of those hippy, therapist, granola, I shop at Whole Foods and sold out years ago questions.  “Yuri, in an ideal world, what would you be doing with your life?”
My first response was, “I would like to sit on my couch smoking pot all day and have hot Israeli men cleaning my mansion while I get rich on some online biz.”
He then asked me for a real answer.  I told him that I want write, but there is no money in that so how would I live?  He pried more.  I then told him I would like to be a comedian, but wasn’t funny.
He suggested I start a blog and post some stories.  This way I could see people’s reaction to my writing and see if anyone even likes it.  I asked him if he thought that would get me in trouble at the bar.  He didn’t think it would, maybe he thought no one would read it.  The following week I enrolled in a comedy class.  The same place a friend of mine had gone years earlier and now he’s touring and actually making a successful living as a professional standup!
That week I started a blog where I posted stories about my life in San Francisco and the bar I had known as home for 5 years.  The stories, while based on truth were what I created blending different experiences together to create a good story.  It was my story through my big eyes.  I instantly got good traffic to the blog and people were emailing me all the time trying to figure out what was real from the stories and what wasn’t.  If my grammar were better I would have figured out a way to finish a book from the stories right then.
The first open mic was like the first time having sex.  I got lots more laughs than expected and after kind of wanted to do it again but waited.  After the first laugh I had the courage to keep going.  It was the first time I felt at home.  It was like the way the junkies on Intervention made heroin sound, but without the track marks.
After a few months of both the standup and the writing, there was a buzz around the bar apparently about my blog.  People would ask me, “Does Charlie know?  He won’t like it”
I didn’t see the big deal.  What was Charlie-Big Brother?  It was like they thought he was a part of the mafia.  I have been raised with that mindset so wasn’t phased by it.  I was raised by Russian people and a father who wished he was a part of the mob.  Second, I never really talked negatively about the bar.  The stories while based in truth were about my life, my experiences that happened at a bar I happen to work at.  It was and is my story and no one else’s.
Ironically I was “let go” from the bar that I worked at five years to the day I was hired.  I was sat down by Charlie himself and told that while I was “an amazing bartender” that they were making changes and my services wouldn’t be needed anymore.  I was laid off with a severance from the Labyrinth.  It would take six months before I heard a rumor that my blog had to do with my dismissal.  I didn’t think it did, couldn’t care less, but would like to entertain that idea.   In my mind it would just add another layer to the story. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I met "Jabba"

Why is it that drunk people always think that they can do things that any “normal,” sober person wouldn’t even think of doing?  After having essentially lived right there, at that bar for years I have developed a kind of routine so to speak.  I start every day with the following assumptions: the sun will rise and eventually set, Europeans rarely tip, a homeless person will approach me asking for change at least 3 times through-out the day, and that I will witness a drunk person doing something plainly stupid.  This act of stupidity will happen at any point throughout the day.  It may happen the second that I leave my apartment building, across the street, 5 feet away, or 5 hours into the night’s shift.  Regardless, drunks make the city and world that I live in go round, so I deal.

  For some reason, in a room full of drunks, there is always the guy that has to pee.  By pee, I mean that they must pee on something, anyone, anything, anywhere, but not in a toilet or urinal because that would make logical sense.  These gentlemen are often of a certain kind of breed.  It is often the ex-frat bro-douches that do this, but this act is not just limited to them.  About a year back, I see this guy, who looks like a regular guy, even slightly more attractive than the average Joe, not that this is relevant, but one must get a fully painted picture to visualize the event.  He is tall and a bit white trashy, with shaved blonde hair.  This is the type of guy who probably has a tribal tattoo on his forearm and probably a pack of menthols in his back pocket.  He looks similar to Matt Damon with a crew cut, with Eminem’s thug-wanna be style, complimented with a tattoo of a rose on his neck, next to a tattoo of what I assume to be his area code in Gangsta-font, incase he gets lost.  In the middle of a busy bar, right next to the bartending station, he just whips out his penis and just starts pissing right there.  Like a dog he just pees all over the floor.  He does it like it’s normal for a grown man to pee on the floor in the middle of a crowded bar.  What is even more astonishing, is the fact that in a room full of drunks, not a single person says or notices this guy treating the floor near the bar station like a fire hydrant.  No one even glances his way, to give him a sneer of disgust, as I would expect.  They are all too absorbed in their own lame conversations.  This is until one queen with frosted tips screams as they notice their Diesel shoes getting wet and blows this guy’s cover.  By scream, I mean a pitch barely audible to humans and so high that most dogs would be on alert.  The ironic part is that while this is not an isolated event, but goes on to happen every Friday for 3 months, all different dudes.  

There is another drunken fool who comes in during our busy Friday two-for-one happy hours.  In San Francisco, where the gays are alcoholics and they are cheaper than a Jew in a 99cent store at the day after Christmas clearance rack, this drink special works as a gold mine for bars and is the best time to work.  This is the easiest and hardest time to make fast money to pay your rent, if you can survive the craziness that ensues.  Anyway, there is this guy who comes in every weekend since the bar opened 8-years ago.  This man is a rather rotund slob who resembles Jabba-the-Hut, so we shall call him “Jabba” since I don’t know or care to know his real name.  Jabba works his way around the bar in his wheelchair.  He is an average looking guy surrounded by his own fat that is probably around forty-five-ish at the oldest.  Normally I am not one to talk poorly about the physically challenged but in this guy’s case, he is a flat out perv./asshole.  He always whirls around the bar trashed regardless of how busy it is and makes his way to the dance floor.  Normally I am one to applaud those who defy the odds life has handed them, but really, I mean, who dances with a wheel chair in a crowded bar?  If this isn’t enough, not only does he dance on the floor in his wheelchair, which normally I have no issue with, but he uses it as a lethal weapon.  It’s like his way of getting back at those who have two working legs.  He get’s right in the middle and whirls around, knocking everyone around him in the shins, this in turn also clears the dance floor.  Many people end up walking off the floor with burst, cut up shins, limping off to get some medication (a drink) and complain about the whole fiasco to me, like I can do anything about it.  To make things worse, dancing Jabba also slowly pushes the joystick on his chair as he is cruising his way through, in the same fashion that Vattos cruise down streets to “holler at bitches.”  He pinches every ass-cheek, cock and tits that get in his way.  To make things worse, you can smell him coming from a few feet away.  His odor is very distinct, like raw meat that has spoiled, covered in that rotten egg-sulfur smell that only induces the gagging feeling more when he passes by.  This just adds to my disgust for Jabba.  Then after a few pints he leaves a restroom even more vomitalicious than it is prior to his visit.  He does the unexpected.  He leaves pint glasses all over the various restrooms and bar, filled with the piss that he empties out from his catheter.  It makes no sense.  Again, a sane, maybe less drunken person would empty that crap into a toilet or near-by lawn (if outside), but not this guy.

I come into work knowing that I should always be ready for the worst, having experienced all sorts of drunken crazies in their natural habitat.  I generally assume that I personally have the ammo needed to survive these for various situations both mentally and physically, without ruining my day or my tips for the day.  Anything that will get in the way of me making my rent/bad habit money will get me angry.  I keep the Eminem wannabe and Jabba in the back of my mind as awareness of what may happen and stay prepared and remember that I am the one who has carried these people out often and kept my cool.  Generally, I take some time to myself before work to do my own version of meditation for this reason alone, the maintenance of sanity or at least the closest thing I know to it.  Depending on the day, year, week and what’s going on in my life this may include a cigarette, maybe a piece of chocolate.  Always, always, always there is a cup of coffee or shot of espresso during this meditation period.  I just sit, sip and watch passerby heading to bars, or walking from them as they trip over their own feet upon exit.  I sit for 15-20 minutes before every shift to help keep sanity and prepare for battle.

Today I am walking to work already in a good mood.  I had a good date the night before and although I didn’t get laid as planned, I did have a wonderful time.  I am still sipping the coffee from the meditation moment of the day and walking into work.  One block before I get to the bar, I notice a little pebble of what looks like human shit.  While disgusted, I am not that astonished and keep walking.  Once at the bar, everything seems as it always is.  I am ready for a good day.  I keep telling myself that it can only get better.  I go to the restroom before I clock in.  Once in the there, while waiting for a free urinal, I watch a drunken man trying to aim into the large urinal only to hit his feet and the feet of two other men near him who don’t notice. This, I don’t blame him for, because I too have the same issue sometimes even when sober.  Once done, he hiccups, burps and starts the difficult mission of trying zip his fly.  This fly zipping takes the drunken sap another 4 minutes because while he is trying to zip, he actually is wearing a button-up fly.  I finish my business only to leave the guy still trying to close his fly.  Finally I get to my bar station, near the dance floor, happily situated, waiting for customers.  I reorganize the liquor bottles to my preference and wait for the customers to start coming my way.  I am only three margaritas into this shift when it happens (margaritas for customers, not me).  Two middle-ages guys come up to order drinks.  One is lean, dressed in a Versace button-up dark blue shirt, dark navy slacks and pointy brown shoes.  His thin, long, stringy hair is slicked back to its grey self as to add to what should be a distinguished look.  The other is slightly taller, thicker, but still lean enough to see that this man probably drinks his meals rather than eats them, or so I assume.  He is wearing a white Marc Jacobs suit with light violet button-up within the jacket.  I assume the two to be the male version of Patsy and Edie minus the English accents.  They both have a pungent smell of rubbing alcohol and the Marc Jacobs suit asks me for a “Johnny Red on the ro...”  As he is trying to get the word “rocks” out of his mouth, other things start to come out of his mouth.  The vomit starts flowing, spewing from him and getting all over my bar station.  While this guy continues to vomit for a solid three minutes I am standing there horrified and send for the doorman.  His friend looks horrified as he watches what is happening and somehow continues to sip the remains of his drink.  Oddly the customers of the bar just stand there, sipping their drinks, watching in silence.  I notice that this gentleman who is spewing chunks is still holding on to his last drink while painting the bar.  Once he stops, the doorman asks him to put the drink down since he has obviously had too much and should leave.  Any sane, sober person would have realized their party foul and probably left on their own out of embarrassment.  This idiot tells the doorman to F-off and goes back to sipping his drink as though nothing happened.  The doorman ends up prying the drink from this drunk’s hand.  His friend starts yelling at me saying that I caused the vomiting due to making the drinks so cheap.  This causes him to squeal like a little girl, which creates a chain-reaction where then the barback who has to clean the reddish mess, who also squeals, a patron in the far corner of the bar sees the vomit on the bar and runs to the closest bathroom presumably to puke.  The friend, who calls me darling, asks if he could still have his drink while he takes out a color assorted handful of random pills and puts them on the only clean part of the counter in front of my station.  This is all as his friend; the vomit-monster is being carried out.  I cut him off and he leaves.  The rest of my shift of horrors is followed with customers trying to figure out if that smell is they or the person next to them.

The part that confuses me the most is this.  I have done many dumb things without the influence of alcohol in my day.  I will not lie; I like a good stiff drink, now and now.  I have had moments in my life where I drank enough vodka to kill a large animal and done several stupid things.  I have taken the wrong bus home sometimes.  I forget my phone in cabs from time to time; I often accidentally leave my fly open due to the fact that I simply can’t be bothered with the buttons.  I have on occasion have been known to make out with random gentlemen when inebriated as well.  But I don’t ever have the need when drunk to pee in the middle of a bar, puke anywhere other than a lawn, toilet or alleyway, nor do I ever get kicked out of an establishment.  I have my standards.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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.  It’s James, the cameras and me, with our three customers who are drinking their sorrows 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.
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 dance floor into Soul Train before my very eyes.  This would be the British version with white people and 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 grating, 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 diarrhea somehow sounds classier with a posh British accent.  Being from Southern California, everything I say sounds like a run on sentence and my pronunciation 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 the 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 comeleon/person 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 alongside 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  even 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 in 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.  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.  He 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 not to 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 troupe 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 where I am parked.  She is in a tight, rubber, white dress, similar 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, thick 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 is a serial killer and I don’t know it?
After a 10-minute drive of over-thinking and awkward 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 in some place other than 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.  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 a 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 station.  He is trying to untangle his clothing that is 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 awe at Christopher’s white, nude body and start to scream really loud.  They are screaming like they just met Freddy Crugar. 
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 aiming towards my car like that will help us.  She then throws a 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 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, December 14, 2012

"I knew Harvey Milk"

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 here.  It’s the booze, the empty barstools and me.  There are no lurkers in the shadows of the bar sipping whatever it is that they drink.  There aren’t any weird rent-a-boy situations sitting at any of the stations hoping to pick up their next John or daddy.  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 I 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.  It’s like seeing the place without its 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 the 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 often a whole roll of quarters.
After about 2 hours of trying to make an empty bar look like a 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 pigment less 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 seventies, 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.  Now once he 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.  In my head I am not sure if he is bat-shit crazy or just a lonely guy.  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. I 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 at 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 withered hand 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 all right 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.
            “You know you look a lot like a bartender I used to go to here.  He was MY bartender.”
            I don’t know what to say so I just give a blank, “okay.”
                “He’s dead.”
            He was totally killing the high I came into work with.
 “It was years ago…  It was a 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 that I will never forget.
“I used to have friends…they’re 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.”
He has me in his corner right to this second.  I don’t know how to handle him.  He is sort of creating a scene as my little crowd of customer that is slowly forming.  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 barstool, falls over, trips on his own foot and 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 realize that the reason he makes me feel so uncomfortable is because we are could be him in the right circumstance.  Any gay man could understand the 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 and 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 him, or at least that is what my coworkers tell me.  These guys all share the 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 romanticized version of the Castro and San Francisco that has been dead longer than I have been alive.  The version of the city I live in is far different from the one they knew.  While I am thankful for the sacrifices of those before me so that I could live as I do, I am just saying that things have changed.  They may have known Harvey Milk but I know Horvita Melk, a Latina Drag Queen who performs Selena songs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Popping My Bartending Cherry

      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 ladder in 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 yuppy, someone who gets to a bar and orders a “pino-o-o” because they are too lazy to finish the sentence, assuming they are 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 yuppy-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 I know which means knowing too well the different ways to prepare 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? While many questions fly through my head, one concept is certain.  I am young and will not be young forever so I’ll work it while I can.

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.  It sounds stupid to gloat about but it means something to me.  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, a schtick.  This persona is what creates a bar’s atmosphere and pays my rent.  The face always has to look pleasant.  This persona is a meld of one’s actual personality but more social and outgoing.  This persona is not necessarily different than one’s true identity, but it may be.  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 the persona in mind, 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 ready be the life of the party.  Sometimes bartending is like doing stand-up for a “shitty” crowd, you just have to make it work.  If your relative just passes away or boyfriend tells you he was cheating on you right before your shift, you must clear your head, 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, but less alluring and you can’t legally smoke your pot here.  There is a mix of confidence and desperation of which smell. 

Getting to work, stepping behind that bar is similar to walking into a cage.  Like being the panda at the zoo a few days a week.  It’s a place from which you can’t escape.  Instead of escaping, for hours on end you 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 your 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 is pretty scary.  While I have been here for years now, I have never been in this place.  From this of view, it all looks different.  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 and cheaper than the drugs that make you feel this way.  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.   It’s going to be as easy as pie, unless it’s a pie made with veggies I very much dislike them in my deserts.  Just a personal preference.

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 make sure to learn not only what a Manhattan is, but that shaking it was called bruising it, and apparently a way to ruin the cocktail.  I also learn entirely too many drinks with the words orgasm in their title.  These drinks apparently died in the early 90s with grunge, but I will learn that later.  I also learned how to properly make a Singapore sling and various layered shots.

As my first thirsty patron approaches me, I try to look cool.  They don’t even make eye contact with me really.  It’s like they are looking me straight in the eyes but looking right past me at all times.  There is no small talk at all.  The guy says, “vodka cran.”
I smile as I fill up a glass with ice.  In my head I’m saying, “I’m fine thanks, how are you?”  What comes out is silence.

As I pick up the vodka with my left hand and the cranberry juice with the right the guy tosses a ten-dollar bill at me and then looks away.  I ask, “would you like a lime?”

He is not paying attention at this point.  I ask again.  Nothing.  He is staring off in the distance at one of the music videos playing.  I ask a third time a bit louder, “LIME!?”  He instantly looks at me, shakes his head, pulls his drink from my hand and walks away.

The night seems to go smoothly.  I get a few more dickheads who are just rude but not mean, nothing I can’t handle but all simple drinks.  I am ready and anticipating one of the complicated drinks I memorized mostly because I’m afraid I’ve already forgotten them.  I get my first complicated shot order.  It’s some Bachelorette party.  Twelve women who are walking advertisements of how not to behave at a bar order 12 different mixed shots from me.  Each one tries to flirt with me.  One shows a tit.  Just a tit.  Just cause I’m gay doesn’t mean you gotta skimp on me!  They don’t tip cause often Bachelorette parties don’t and leave within ten minutes. 

The shift keeps going and it looks 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 liar.  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, as mentioned earlier, I have Aaron working next to me.  He is on fire tonight and probably higher than I have ever seen him.  He is also wearing a lot of glitter which ads his look tonight.  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 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 drintched with beer, wine, and a few hints of whiskey.  The smell reminds me of 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 ease 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 experience 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.  Come to think of it, I have been counting this bundle of fives for the past what seem like forty-five minutes but are actually less than two.  Instead of counting my twenties I just start to stare at one twenty-dollar bill and forget where it came from.  Now Aaron looks over at me to see what’s taking me so long.  He looks like he has seen a ghost.  I look at him, his lips that are covered in lip-gloss and think to myself about how thirsty I am and how much I need chap-stick.  Dry mouth is kicking in.

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 a hagen-daz vanilla ice cream bar in one hand (half eaten before I get in) and cab fare in the other.  I ask Aaron the next day what happened, if he counted my stuff for me.

Aaron says, “gurl, I counted your stuff and it was fine.  After that I went to the gym and was there for ten hours! I met this daddy that was fuzzy and fine!”
I assume if Aaron is okay with the way the night went, so am I.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012


In San Francisco, “people watching” becomes sport.  Jane Goodall had apes in the wild, drunks in the mist, it's every similar.  It’s far more entertaining with an adult beverage in hand or maybe that’s just a personal preference.  SF is the perfect place for anyone on a budget to just sit, observe and judge.  Actually, the last one is not necessary, but making up stories for the strangers you’re watching is always fun.  Who needs the truth when you have an imagination?  Half the time the made up story is more fun anyway.  There are countless different kinds of people who come into gay bars, all for different reasons.  There are the straight women who come to the bar thinking it’s a safe-haven from creeps.  They come in with their gay buddies or girl friends cause all they want "is to dance." There are the straight guys who have become aware of the straight-female’s-gay bar patron’s reasoning and use it as a chance to search for tail.  There are the lesbians who are sick of the lezzie bars or feel more comfortable in the company of gay men.  There are the people who go just for the story, to be able to tell people that they went to a gay bar.  There are the straight couples who go to have a good time.  There are the straight couples who go to gay bars awkwardly looking for a third to spice things up even though she doesn't really want to.  There are the guys who hang out at the bar day in and day out, which begs the question of how the fuck do these guys just hangout all day drinking?  If so, how do they function?  Do they function?  What kind of life can one have in a bar all the time?  There is one group though that intrigues me almost as much as an entire episode of “Living Single” used to.  Watching this one group in particular never ceases to amaze me.  I like to call them the “lurkers.”
         We all have seen them, or at times met, or may even be lurkers ourselves, though few will ever admit it.  These men and/or women can be observed in their natural habitat-the bar.  Here is where they often live. For all I know they don't have apartments and why would they?  They are here all day.  They hide in the shadows because that’s where they feel comfortable which kind of makes sense. It doesn’t hurt that these guys are often on the ugly side so the dark is their friend.  Or they look like a nice peach that went off some times ago.  You can see that they once may have been attractive but now it’s just a hologram.  There are two types of lurkers.  One is the pure-alcoholic type.  They are the more entertaining out of the two.  They can be seen sitting there for 8-10 hours at a time going unnoticed to the untrained bar-going-eye.  They have been known to drink enough to kill any two-for-one special and challenge the human body’s limits with alcohol consumption.  I hope they donate their bodies to science because with the amount of alcohol they consume, they are human labratories.  Who needs phemeldahide?   I have personally observed one of these guys, a lurker kill at least 10 cocktails on his own without leaving his perch in the dark corner of the bar. When ordering his last round, he doesn’t even stumble, trip or anything. Aside from the bad breath, one would never know he has been drinking.  The ways of a lurker baffle the mind.

There is a second type of lurker.  This type is the post-rehab type.  It's been years since they touched the stuff and they are beyond that point where they have to remind everyone around them of their sobriety.  They are beyond the born-again chitter chatter that I find often comes with early sobriety.  They are often accompanied by countless redbulls, which they drink interchangeably with mineral waters and plain non-alcoholic beverages.  They are who keeps that company in business.  The commercial may say that it "gives you wings," it gives these people something to do.  They too can drink enough redbull to give the average person a heart attack, but seem un-phased.  Possibly because these people may already be partially dead inside?    I assume that their hearts are still going from the mounds of blow or whatever it was that they did back in the day.  The redbull is the kick they need to keep going.  They too are astonishing because they can sit for hours and go unnoticed.  They somehow blend into the wallpaper.  

Both types of lurkers have similarities.  Some wear clothing that would be better suited for their children nieces or nephews like tight muscle shirts or Abercrombie, college sweatshirts or Abercrombie crap.  It's like they are trying to deceive our intelligence.  You can wear all the shit the kids are wearing, it still wont make you one of them.  Some wear the type of shit someone may buy at the Gap or Miller’s OutPost or Mervyn’s (I don’t think that those stores are even still in business).  Others dress in the bland, Wal-Mart-type of solids to help camouflage better in the bar shadow terrain. They sit, sip, wait, then they move fast, swift and quietly once they have found their prey.  These wallflowers look for any hint of attention or a warm body to feast upon and presumably suck the youth out of, like the witches in the movie “Hocus Pocus.”  Although, I am sure that the entertainment value is lost without Bette Midler and her semantics.

When I first start working at the bar, I, too, never notice the lurkers sitting in the shadows.  It took me six months to notice them.  Some of them seem to even stay stationary during my whole shift, just watching my every move and observing my every mannerism.  The day comes when I watch this cute little twink get ambushed for the first time.  I have almost the same reaction I had when watching "Bambie," I want to call the cops.  In true San Francisco fashion, instead of doing anything I just watch this play out.  I later realize even if he is a little twink, he is an adult and can be responsible to his own decisions or some this like that.   I’m sure this observation is similar to Jane Goodall’s with the chimps but less safe.  At least chimps can’t have annoying voices that get higher and more annoying with every shot the way some men do here.  I watch in amazement, as I am not really sure what is going on in the interaction with the twink.  This kid is the “barely legal type,” who "just turned 21" or at least that is what his I.D. says and how he presents himself.  He still orders his drinks like a child and can't handle his alcohol.  His first drink is a Tokyo Iced Tea.  He may as well have asked the bartender to put their fist down his throat.  It's the same outcome.  He has the body of a young boy or a really flat-chested runway model and is so thin that I just want to feed him a sandwich to give him the strength to run from this trap. After a few rounds, his friends grow tired of the mid-afternoon ghost town that Monday happy hours often are.  Before I know it, this kid is, more F- up than Courtney Love anywhere.  It’s too late for this kid now.  He has no idea what he is in for.  It’s like watching one of those horror flicks where we all know what is going to happen and want to yell at the bitch running from the killer to just shoot herself in the leg and get it over with  Within seconds, this vampire, I mean lurker swoops in to catch his prey the poor, soft skinned, rail-thin twink.  As he sits down next to the twink a condom falls out of his pocket.  I think to myself, well at least he's "safe."  Within seconds Mr. Lurker, gestures for another energy drink from the bartender.  He then smiles at the child/boy.  To which, the kid responds with an innocent, “Hey.”  Again I want to tell him to run, but it’s not my place and if anything the lurkers pay my rent.  One word with these lurkers and one is stuck like a fly on that sticky paper.  Then it becomes hard to walk or even talk away.  Then they start to spin their rhetorical web around the guys they meet and make their prey.  

Now, Mr. Lurker unbuttons the top of his Abercrombie shirt, to show his freshly waxed, tanned, liver-spotted chest, complimented by a pookah-shelled necklace from Miller’s Outpost.  Presumably to show he's one of the kids.  At this point, the light hits his hair slightly to show the unnatural hue of his blue-black, thinning hair.  He offers the boy a birthday shot to keep him busy.  This is also probably so that the kid wont be as hypnotized by the huge liver spot on Mr. Lurker's forehead as I am.  Within seconds of the shot, Mr. Lurker has the boy gathering his stuff as he offers this child a ride home. Hand in hand, and they are off.  Another one bites the dust.

There is another lurker, who I have had the privilege of watching work on many occasions.  Usually he will perch himself at the very end corner of the bar.  He is a rather large, depressingly unattractive fellow.  To paint the picture a bit better, the man looks like a male version of Nell Carter, with a Carl-Winslow mustache.  He somehow always finds ways to sit there for hours going unnoticed.  He also, will always come alone and then find a way to leave with enough boys to make the Tonka corporation jealous.  

This lurker in particular will drink Couvoisier, or a “Beautifuls” (Couvoisier, with a touch of Grand Marnier) seemingly by the gallon.  Their breath could easily start a fire and their glare for some reason makes me nauseous.  Often this type of drink is ordered by the type of fellow who idolizes Puff Daddy and others who may be found on a yacht pouring champagne on bitches.  They are type of man who always pays with one-hundred dollar bills but rarely leaves memorable tips.  He may wear the best pinky rings the corner pawn shop sells and sometimes flosses some fancy cubic cerconias on their ears.  This man is not one of cheap taste, in that regard, but cheap clothing.  This one will catch dudes from all walks with his net cause he's not picky.  He likes em young jocks, twinks, average handsome joes, right before the drink to blackout but will settle for something with a pulse.  He always tries to hold my hand when I am wiping the counter near him, as I move away, he then tells me that he can buy me a bar.  I respond and say, I will buy my own.  

     He then smiles and responds “precious,” you’re just too smart and beautiful for me.”

     I respond, "you're right," and go back to working.

After numerous drinks, he will take out a few $100 dollar bills, set it on the bar.  He then proceeds to offer the guy and or his friends a round of top-shelf shots.  I watch this gravy-train unfold each and every time into a plain old shit-show.  These poor saps will soon be off with Mr. Lurker.  Like the Hamburgler with a sack of burgers, Mr. Lurker’ too will leave with a car full of blacked out, hot, dumb, young flamers, filled with enough alcohol, that their  burps should be registered as explosives.

Every day when when I get to work, they are there.  When I clock out and head out to my life outside of the bubble, there they are.  We make eye contact without any expression and move on.  The life of the luker is one I don't completely understand and hope if I ever become that depressing and lonely that someone will do me a favor and put me out of that misery.  The truth is I think we all partially relate to them, which is why they are so fascinating.  Gay, straight, green, blue, we all know somewhere deep inside that we could some day, at some point, with the right circumstances that we too could just a step away from being one.  There is no moral to the story, just compassion, empathy and lots of booze.


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