Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chapter 6

Often I don’t know what to do after my shifts at the bar. While my teenage self would be happy going straight home to pillage a box of pop tarts, hot pockets, and top that off with gallon of ice cream, while watching Designing Women. While I have watched enough Lifetime television to get a period, I’m a man that needs more. Going home is an expensive cab ride, where once home, I have to be sure that is where I want to be. That’s how living in a city without a car works. It’s something we get used to. This is also the reason cities seem to have more happily inebriated people. It’s cause we can drink without worrying about who we will trick into being our designated driver. Here, even if you have a car, good luck finding parking! If one goes home, once there, the question will be, “now what?” A man can only comfort-eat so much. Three-4 hours tops and then what?
Being a Leo, I often yearn to be out, to be seen, to meet new and interesting people. I hope to one day meet the love of my life or at least make a new friend. Most of the friends that I have made within the past year of living in San Francisco, from on campus life, all have much different lives from my own. If it isn’t dropping out for rehab (no one likes quitters), or taking too heavy of a school load, having a significant other or being stuck in their own quest to put together the pieces of their own lives, it’s something else. I am never really free to hang out with them anyway. I work every weekend and evening that “normal” people are free. I call their schedules the schedule of the living. I guess that makes my schedule the one of vampires and shitty infomercials with Tony Little, and the “Girls Gone Wild” commercials. I’m on a different wave-length here. One where drag queens and gay men who do porn get a red carpet thrown at them and Madonna is queen.

Most of my old friends have no interest in hanging with me at gay bars or on my lame schedule. This is the point where some of them bite the dust. We cut ties now for no other reason than incompatible schedules and interests.

When finishing work at my prior service industry jobs, the shifts are often followed with a meal, hanging out, a drink, a cigarette, and then eventually sleep, if you’re into that sort of thing. The bar quickly has become a family member without the yelling and crying. It’s better all around cause these people act as though they like me. The bar, to me is a friend, much like a television becomes an only child.

Unlike a family member the bar doesn’t create a profile for me on JDate and then constantly send me profiles for people they think are appropriate for me. Every week my mother calls with a new profile and an update on the Jewish front.

“Mom, why did you send this to me? He’s 55, in jail and love Celine Dion… (insert sarcastic eye roll) How did you know what I wanted?”

“He’s Jewish!”

“So what?”

“What about the other?”

“What about him?”

“I know he’s a killer, but his JDate profile says he’s Jewish, single and has some money… By the way, did you know that Lisa Kudrow is Jewish?”

My coworkers in some ways are becoming the siblings I never had. Being an only child, I don’t know what it’s like to have brothers and sisters. I always dreamed of being a part of a large family much like that of “Family Ties.” Once I had a dream that I was on “Growing Pains” and lived in Mike’s apartment above the house. That dream had the makings of a good porn or D-rated horror movie, back to the bar though. Here everyone is that family that I never had growing up. The people behind the bar here with me, just seem to get it. At the end of every shift, it’s always the same thing. I clock out and always wonder what will be next. It’s that same feeling I get when flipping channels hoping something cool will pop on but eventually settle on an infomercial selling a food slicer. I clock out and realize that most my friends now are the people working. I then feel obliged to hangout with my family and have a drink because one mustn’t be rude. I end up staying the night and drinking enough to embarrass myself but not so much that I do things that make me look like a complete idiot. It’s that fine line I walk between happy drunk and turning into Courtney Love.

I think that you can clearly judge a man by how he handles his liquor and is adult enough to know his own limits. I like to think of myself as that person. Any douchebag can drink himself to oblivion, it takes a man though to either drink a lot, handle himself well or more appropriately stop at the right time. It’s the stopping at the right time that is an issue here. I never get sloppy though! And when I do, I instantly plop myself into a cab and go to the nearest pizza place cause I’m a responsible adult.

My new bothers and sister, educate me on how to drink smart to the best of their abilities. It’s great cause while they do that, they also getting me blasted drunk. They also teach me that “well” drinks, are now to be drinks of the past, only to drink in emergencies or to clean cuts. I chat with them, while they serve me drinks and I sail down on a burning boat to oblivion.
I am told that other gays can smell my “minty-new gay scent,” as James puts it “like a new car.” I am fresh meat and have no clue how to cover it up. No matter what I do, they all seem to know, all the gay men I encounter here anyway.
As I stay lingering at the bar stirring my straw in a glass filled with melted ice and remnants of a vodka soda, I chat about local gossip with a bartender friend. I also observe the crowd. Being here, I feel like prey in the wild. I both like and hate this feeling. I feel that there are predators watching me, yet I can’t really tell who. It’s just a feeling. I always stand there hoping that someone will come up to me. I want someone who is worth my time. Don’t want end up eating a gallon of ice cream tonight out of boredom. I keep in mind that as I keep drinking my standards may lower but hope it won’t come to that. I wait for someone to strike up a conversation with me. All who come up to me seem to have something off about them, but I find it good social practice. I study them, watch their “moves” and then digest. I have never really even been on a date, let alone do I have any idea of how to talk to another guy or really how to flirt with them. To make a long story short, reading between the lines in this regard, is not my forte.

Later on in the night, I am alone chatting with my friend Michael at his bar station, also known as a well. We are just chewing the fat about random bar gossip, then this being, starts walking up to me out of the shadows. I don’t even know where he came from. I hope he has a mint and a Tums though. Michael being the married man that he is decided it only fitting to whisper a bit of advice into my ear: “go get it for the team, be a slut for all of us, what I wouldn’t give to be single for one day”… Then, as this guy comes closer, Michael changed his tune to. “Hey you can at least put a bag over his head and stare at his hot body.” I still don’t really know what Michael was talking about since I am oblivious and in my own world. Then, he taps my shoulder.

The man at my shoulder side is one who was trying to defy gravity, physics and deceive my intelligence. He is wearing a low cut, tight V-neck with a low hanging chain weighed down by a heavy diesel pendant. His eyes have no wrinkles around them, in-fact his face is completely absent of expression. His chest/pectoral “muscles” are nearly as big as Gina’s, but obvious implants matching his horrendous ass implants. His dark fake tan and absence of any body or facial hair only make me more uncomfortable. He opens his mouth, which is the only part of him covered in wrinkles, although he tries to cover it in shinny lip shit. Now, the noise came out of him. It’s one that pierces my ears over all the music playing in the background. It’s so high I am afraid the drink in front of me, that I don’t remember ordering’s glass will shatter as a result. It is so high-pitched that I can’t understand any of it. It’s like the sirens from Greek mythological tales. His subtle lisp and use of the word “honey” is the only way I can tell that he is presumably of some sort of Latin descent. Then he reaches down and pinches my butt cheek…. Catching me by of surprise, I accidentally spill the drink in my hand on his 7 jeans that are so tight that his ass was leaking out of them trying to get air. Quickly his high-pitched siren goes off once more, I assume to curse me out. Then out of now where, he unexpectedly slaps me on the right cheek, snaps and says something in his high-pitched, Portuguese that I assume was an insult and then the man vanishes back to the shadows. I am so stunned an utterly confused by tonight’s events and the fact that a grown man slapped me, I drink more.

A few drinks later I am still at Michael’s bar station. I am sipping the concoction that he has made me. It seems to be made out of gasoline, not that it matters by now. Then I noticed this guy a few feet away from me leaning against the other side of Michael’s station. He has that look like the weight of the world is leaning on his back. He sees me staring and begins to edge towards me. He looked about my age, a foot taller, with hair much like that of Kurt Cobain in 1990. Cute, but distracted by something, probably baggage, the way I seem to like ‘em. He is a stranger in a bar full of people who all while different, have are all lonesome strangers. He asks me if I will like to drink with him. Being the show off Leo that I am, I signaled to Michael to come over. Michael hands us two shots, which appear to materialize out of nowhere. I smile at this boy point at the shots. I then tell him that it looks like he would have to get the next round. Michael, being a good bartender, plays his favorite role, as cupid. We don’t connect for the reason of love exactly, it is more so through connection of needing someone who will listen.

This boy, I won’t lie, his name escapes me. I can’t seem to remember his actual name after chatting with him for a few hours. All that I do know is that he has a heavy southern accent and mentions that he was from Atlanta. Since I have don’t feel comfortable to ask his name yet again he will be known in my memories as “Atlanta” forever. Atlanta is tall, slender, white, average-looking, with long big curls, all complimented with manners, something that seems to be rare. He is to the point in conversation, unlike passive aggressive San Francisco, who can’t speak up for themselves until their lives depend on it. The fact that he gives me the time of day and cares is all that matters at this point.

Soon Atlanta and I have been chatting for about 8 hours or so, time is an alcohol induced blur by now. He is looking cuter, but so do most of the people in the bar that I normally think are repulsive, the drink is an evil friend. We keep on buying each other drink after shot, after drink. He then brushes the long hair off my forehead and tells me that he thinks I am beautiful. Rewind, what he actually does, is peel a long frizzy curl stuck to my face off of my now sweaty forehead, wipe his hand and then tell me he thinks I’m beautiful. This is the first time that I have heard this. I almost start laughing, being the cynic that I am. I am the type of person that always laughs at the wrong moments. I’m like Mary Tyler Moore in that episode where they are at a clown’s funeral and can’t stop laughing. I know, the references can’t get gayer can they? I don’t know what to do or say, so I punched him lightly on the arm and start giggling with a smirk of confusion on my face. He then leans in and gave me a kiss on the cheek. By this point I am intrigued and still unsure of how to react, I can’t help but still hyperventilate/giggle. I had never seen someone look into my eyes the way he did then and be intrigued the way he seemed to be. He then asked if we could get some food.

As we left the bar, Michael yells something obscene to us, as any healthy gay man would. It’s something along the lines of, “I want photos, details and maybe the video!” I have never at this point ever left a bar with a boy. I usually leave alone, walk to Walgreens, purchase a pint of ice cream and proceed to eat it while waiting for the bus because I have no patients to wait and eat my feelings. I’m not sure of what’s next really. It’s more that I am not sure of what I am, feeling now. I am excited, almost as much as I was when I finally got a ninja turtle of my own, way after they where cool. As we reach one block from the place where we had met, I am in a drunken snooper and embarrassed over the fact that I full on walked into a bush 5 seconds ago. He then suggests that we skip food and go to my house. Atlanta is very direct is seems. Shockingly direct. That is the huge difference with gay and straight men. Gay men are more specific because our attention spans are much shorter than other’s I think. I suggest his place. He then tells me that he has nowhere to stay and truly enjoys my company. He then says that he doesn’t want to take advantage of me, but thinks that I am a nice guy and wants to have all the cards on the table. I am too drunk to realize this must be some line he tells everyone. When people say that they want to have “all the cards on the table,” it’s refreshing, but one of those things that are hard to really believe.

It’s not like a crazy fucker is going to be like, “oh and here is the card that tells you just how nuts I am, here is the infidelity card, and oh yeah when I introduce you to people I will refer to you as my friend and make you feel like an idiot.” No one does that.

All I can think about in my drunken-slushy head while he says this, is “lets get ready for a load of bull shit.” He then goes on and says that I don’t have to take him with me. There is a long pause that seems to last forever. Now we are near the bus stop at 18th and Castro where all the taxis are lined up waiting for passengers. He then kisses me again, his way of sprinkling fairy dust to put me in a trance, which is pretty easy now since even my sweat is pure vodka at this point. He then says that he “isn’t expecting sex, just a cuddle” and company. Luckily, the cynic in me is playing King’s Cup and not paying attention. Being alone really in the city at this point, for some reason is a bizarre concept, yet good excuse to take him. It’s will sound even better retelling the story.

In the cab, all the cards where being strewn on the metaphorical table, he tells me something else that takes the night for another turn. He says that I should know that he may or may not be positive. I don’t understand what that means. I can’t seem to connect the dots whether he is talking about his mood or HIV status. If it is HIV status, how could he not know? I then, stupidly ask him what he means. He then says that he has just found out that his ex, who he had moved out to Cali with, a much older LA/WeeHo guy has been cheating on him left and right. He has had no idea that the guy was fucking around on him, so the story goes. His man had just yesterday, texted him to deal Atlanta the card that every gay men fears. He tells Atlanta that he tested HIV positive and that he should know. At this moment, it dawns on me how young this kid is. It’s like one minute I am walking around empty handed and now carrying a bag of bricks right next to me. Atlanta is only 6 months older than myself. This thought soon turns me into a 3-year old boy. He out of nowhere begins to cry, this time I can’t laugh my way out of this awkward conversation. I can’t pretend to be naive or simply leave this guy at this moment. I begin to hug him and cry myself. Atlanta, then goes on to explain that he has moved to LA with the guy who was is enough to be his father, yet has treated him better than any relative ever has. His family back home of course disowned him for being a “nasty, fudge-packing, immoral” member of the gays who is on the way to hell. He’s been on his own since 17. He has so much to figure out. He is alone. Why would his parents think that anyone chooses this? Atlanta has a stuffy nose now and says that he fled to San Fran because he had always wanted to see the “gayborhood.” He needs to get out of LA to get over his only friend/lover, father figure has ever loved and now thrown him out like garbage for someone younger. Atlanta’s southern drawl makes it hard to decode the entirety of the story, but that is the gist, or so he claims. By now I have stopped crying, looking down at the little boy in my arms and channeled my mother. I tell him what my mother had told my aunt when she explained about divorcing my father. I explain what women have known for centuries, men are men, no matter how much we wanted to love them, they still have the potential to be pigs and sleep with anything that has a pulse.

Atlanta does end up staying over. Nothing happens though. I wake up in the morning with my mouth tasting the way Lysol smells. The hangover is set to kick in soon. He is in my arms. Nothing else matters though. Why me? Why him? What to make of our meeting? These questions now seem irrelevant and unnecessary to answer. Atlanta is asleep and soon would be gone. He says that he will soon be on the next train back to Atlanta with just the cloths on his back. We can exchange email addresses, numbers or something. For some reason that doesn’t cross either of our minds. He kisses me passionately while holding me tight. He then thanks me for listening and giving him a good time and not in the “hooker way,” he says. He is off to Atlanta to put his life together, never to be heard from again.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chapter 5

Chapter 5.
Night in and night out I watch this ridiculous display play out over and over again. Unfortunately for me, it’s while I’m working and not happily sitting in those comfortable sweatpants we all wear when at home watching Lifetime and eating popcorn or eating peanut butter right out of the jar (everyone watches Lifetime at some point, don’t act like you’re too cool), but I digress. I am a few months into working at the Labyrinth. Little by little I am growing more sarcastic about this place and life as a whole. I am learning that this is apparently the gay man’s way. I can make a whole comedy act on the shit I’m learning here, but who cares? I am taking note of observations and scenarios I get to watch here. All the odd shit, that here becomes normal, I watch replay they over and over. It’s like day-ja-vu with booze and a Kylie Minogue/Madonna soundtrack playing in the background. Anyone can watch this stupid display acted out at gay bars across America. It’s cheap entertainment and for more interesting to watch than anything Nancy Grace has to say. It’s just one of the elements of this place that annoys me to no end. It’s more annoying than any movie with Seth Rogan or Jonah Hill. I sware they are the same fucking person.

Often the participants of this annoyingness fit the following description. The participants are usually a pair (one guy, one girl) out at bars. The gay guy is usually so flaming that when they talk it’s like they are rhetorically shooting sequins the second they open their mouths. Usually, this gay man-person is accompanied by a slutty, bimbo, straight-girl friend. We all know the type too well.

The girl often fits close to the following description give or take a detail or two. She is blonde with bleached teeth. The teeth are so white that they have that blue hue that I’ll admit I aspire to get. One can only stare at her teeth for a few seconds because the brightness burns the cornea of your eye. It’s a similar shade to Anna Nicole’s in the Trimspa commercials. May she happily rest in peace somewhere enjoying some fried chicken. This lady-person almost always has big tits, sometimes real, often they are real-fake. Most of these girls have what can only be described as Tori Spelling Syndrome. This is where the fake tits look like they are floating up and away, just like Tori Spelling’s with the huge space between. If they don’t have the tits they have thickly padded bras that hike their poor, defenseless, little ladies further up than they ever thought they can and should be. These girls often resembles one of those “girl next door” sluts. She is the type of girl who has been bleaching their hair so long that it is obvious she has developed some sort of brain damage. This is the type of bitch who has or would probably appear in a “girls gone wild” ads, under the right circumstances, ½ a King Cobra and a dollar. This bimbo is the type of slut that will make out with another chick at the party not because they likes it, but because she is greedy. I say, if she is doing it for the shear love of wanting sex from another woman, then, by all means, bump those Brazilian-waxed clams. We know though, that she is just doing it to get douche frat guys to take them home. Is it really worth all this subterfuge to get a little ass? She is not quite a “faghag,” but a girl who uses her “Gays” as her self-esteem booster when need be. She also refers to us as such. Like we are key-chain or something. She is possibly a good Christian girl. The type that “loves the gays” but when asked about her views of gay marriage, she smiles and talks about being a good Christian but just regularly gets gangbanged sideways on camera.

The slut/girl’s friend is often a little mousy Gay. They are not they gym bunny type, but usually more on the awkward side of life. They are really queeny type who usually has great style advice for others, but when it comes to their own look its very abstract. They are quiet in most moments until someone asks their opinion. Then, it’s like opening Pandora’s box, these lispy queen acts like fireworks are going on inside of them won’t shut up. They are particular in the way they order their drinks, three iced cubes, vodka, never well and ALWAYS, ALWAYS a twist, like a twist makes or breaks a drink. To me, the only way my bartender can mess up my drinks is if they forget to put booze in it, the garnish is just unnecessary crap to begin with, but we digress. Often these guys love to spend every waking moment being divas because they see themselves as. Their hair is always perfectly styled and dyed if need be. Their tan is often just a shade too orange to be natural, complimented by eye brows shaped too perfect to not have been plucked. They are so orange, that their skin could double for Carrot Top’s head. These guys are usually every entertaining to watch in their natural habitat, be it Barney’s, a runway show or the local gay pop bar stomping ground. They are often what make these places so interesting.

After a drink or two, the queen always utters this sentence, “if I were straight, I would soooo do you!”

At this point I am usually rolling my eyes to myself while watching them. I want to yell at the two, “Really lady? You would sooo do her? How would that go down exactly?”

She then keeps up with this charade, asking the guy “really?”

This barrage of compliments about doing each other lasts for usually at least 10 minutes, at which point I feel like vomiting. Do these bitches have that low of self esteem that they have to play this stupid game? How vain can a woman be? She doesn’t want him to do her anyway because she knows that she wants to be penetrated right. The gay one, probably doubles over, ready to vomit at the sight of a lady’s little hairless beaver. He wouldn’t know what to do, let alone kill the mood with his high-pitched squealing. The only way that those two are going to get down is with the intervention adult toys and we know that isn’t happening so sAtop it already! It is a well-known fact that women come to gay bars for the attention and the compliments, but this is going too far! Stop it already! Gay men, stop enabling this act already.

Tonight I come to work to watch the described act play out. Queeny-Mc-Queeny and his BFF who looks like a Tiffany or possibly a Kelly. She has tits big enough to make Hugh Heffner uncomfortable. They hang at my well for a while, from the first drink to the fifth drink, these two are arguing back and forth.

“If I was-ss-s sstraiiight, I would ss-s-sssso fuck yyyou.”

“Shut up. You’re so sweet!”

She then jumps up to bounce her knockers and being that she is in a room of gay men, no one even give her the time of day. Honestly, this tickles me because I hate when people think they can get everything from their looks or strictly from being a bimbo.

By drink-five, “Sss-ss-sweetie, I love your haiir. It’s ssss blonde, whats shades is that? Itssss SOOoo pretty. I would SOOOOO fuck you.”

He then spills his drink a little.

As she is about to open her huge lips, which are lined perfectly with what looks like eyeliner, I loose it and interrupt them.

“You two really need to get over yourselves! You don’t want to fuck each other. You both want a man who can push you down the stairs and keep you wanting more! Furthermore, SHUT UP!”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chapter 4

Chapter 4.

It’s the normal Friday hustle and bustle routine, song and prance that we get accustomed to working at the Labyrinth. This is in between rushes, during the expected Friday night 9-10pm lull. The time in between, where the happy hour crowd leaves the bar for a short intermission if you will. This is the time often used to go ride the “white-tiger” or whatever the kids call it these days. It’s when people snort their evening’s hungers away, maybe grab a quick low-carb bite or bowl of "American Fries," then come back out to the bars, drink their way to love and get plastered out of their gords. Some call it Alcoholism, here we call it Friday, Tuesday, pick a day of the week. It's the American way! Here people get wasted enough to not feel embarrassed dancing like little deaf-white-girls to any Madonna tune alone, on a dance floor full of men who are all dancing to different beats and sweating profusely with moth-ball breath. A gay bar’s dance floor has a certain stench that I can only describe as furniture show room meets a gym locker room, with a hint of Axe body spray.

Customers leave and chase the ski slopes with their dollar bills that they later spend on booze or put down a go-go dancer’s jock strap. Then they some of the customers look for guy’s to hook up with and 1-4 hours later explain why they can’t get hard and are grinding their teeth. It’s everything they told you in every afterschool movie/driver’s Ed video, minus the hip 80s haircuts. Unfortunately, in this world, in this place, cocaine is what many people use to have fun, and numb their feelings, nose, and face much the way Botox does. Who needs feelings when you can numb them? I digress. The “key-train” part of the night is just my assumption based on the fact many of the weekend customers can often be found grinding their teeth, while their noses run into their and mothball-stentched mouths and they don’t even seem to notice.

Now I realize how prevalent and stupidly obvious cokeheads often are at the Labyrinth. Within a 5-minute period here, one can observe three customers in a row order a drink while they have boogies running down their face and into their numbed, over lips that undoubtedly are covered in the latest lip-gloss Claire’s offers. When I point out the mess on their face, similar to the way one treats a toddler, I offer him a napkin. I’m trying to be of help. Then the customer smiles, tells me to fuck off and tells the bartender they are recovering from a “cold.” Everyone knows that nothing compliments a cold like a night of coke and booze. I’m thinking if you were recovering from a cold, why are you at a bar? Then I remember the mantra I have learned, gay men aren’t quitters. A second later, as he is walking away, the bi-polar bitch tells me that I am “adorable.” Being that I am adorable as this asshole puts it, the compliments is always lackluster from these cokeheads since its usually said in a sarcastic tone, where you cannot tell if they are complimenting or putting you down. It’s at this very moment that these gay men use every mean trick they learned from being teased by the popular kids and use it as material on people like me, who call them out on it.

My self-esteem is really low, even lower than it was when I was a chubby 12-year old and Monica Gambini would yell at me across the playground, “hey, ever heard of a thigh-master?” I would pretend not to hear that bitch Monica. Who I always hoped would end up a stripper with 5 kids who ended up more fat than the lady from “Who’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” After Monica’s bull-shit, I would then walk to my best friend, a janitor and eat three of those carnation ice creams, which of course they sold at my school. Then follow with a healthy bag of flaming hot cheetos, to compliment my white-trashiness.
Presently, I do not know where Monica is. I guess I shouldn’t have used her real name for the story. Please don’t tell her. I hope she is just graduating from ITTech. No hard feelings!

The second the guy finally walks away for good, all I could smell is the hospital sent, like that of mothballs. It makes me want a sedative or at least a magical brownie to tide me over and keep me from slicing the overly manicured faces of the lovely patrons around me. Not that I would really do that, especially if my mother is reading. Being that my job here at this point is barbacking, it is to clean everything up here, I am not into making more of a mess than necessary.

As I come behind the bar James is cleaning his bottles and chatting with Johnny about how he’s seen Johnny’s trick of the week out earlier with another guy. It’s moments like this that makes me call the bar Castro high. Then Johnny tells James that his guy is like every San Francisco gay man and in an “open relationship.” Come to think of it, in my infantile experience, this seems to be true. In San Francisco, for some reason most long term gay man relationships are actually open ones. Being a young, inexperienced gay who is still optimistic and still clinging to the idea that love exists, this concept makes no sense to me (This was in a world that was different, before we knew that Ricky Martin was in fact a marry, queer, sissy-lala too). These couples are be committed to each other, but also openly have some things going on side. Why this is acceptable? I will never truly grasp. I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Actually, you can, and it is delicious.

As I walk past the rambling bar gossip, I go back to my Friday routine. I stock pint glasses at every station. Even though I try to be working away in my own cocoon of thought, I can’t help but notice that everyone around me is gossiping. If it isn’t about their boyfriends of the moment, it’s yesterday’s tricks and tomorrow’s Ex’s. It’s like an episode of 90210 sometimes, but with more sex and less plaid. It is kind of making me sick just listening to everyone’s boring drama and makes me less engaged in being here. All I can think about is how I want to somehow end up at a better job than this. Somewhere I can make a difference.

I am getting to the point where while at work, it’s hard to be productive. While I look like that is what I am doing, mentally I am 2,000 miles away. In my mind, beneath the little afro of hair on my head, I am on a far away island watching the tide. I am getting fed grapes by bronzed cabana men, cause why settle for boys in fantasies when you can have chiseled men? While my physical being is at the bar, working this bullshit job, my metaphysical self is working through that daydream. Then Gina quickly snaps me out of it… She comes up from her station to yell at me. At this point I am already in a bad mood and want to tell the bitch to relax and that I’ll get there when I get there, but actually say nothing. She points out that she is in dire need of cold pint glasses right away. She then adds in her Gina way, “you need to wake up and start paying attention for god sakes.”
In my head, I am thinking, “bitch, get your own fucking pint glass and stop being rude! I have some day dreaming to get back to.”

In my head I am also imagining Julio and Avi arguing over who gets to wash my cloths. They of course are in Israeli Military uniform that is all tattered, cause that’s hot. The world knows that Israeli men are utterly gorgeous so I always have at least one on hand in my dreams. Word to the wise, Israeli men are much like Latin men of the middle east, without the Catholic-guilt bullshit and less likely to live with their mothers.

Gina likes being the resident belabusta , which is Yiddish for bossy person who thinks they’re in charge, even when they aren’t. That person who always has to be the leader of the group or whatever they take part in, because that’s just how they roll. What I probably am not considering or caring about is that she really is trying to get her job done so she could make both of us money. She is simply calling me out for not focusing on my job, which today is true. But because she gives me honest constructive, criticism, I should for the moment, like my co-workers, write her off as being the bitch I want to be.
I also find out later, that Gina herself she is working, stepping on eggshells because she had just been reprimanded for apparently over pouring a drink a day or two earlier by one second. Our bar’s shot pour standard is 4 seconds then. The cameras apparently caught her going over that by a second, which equals one ounce in theory. Now somebody is out to get her. She just wants to keep her job because it does allow her a good standard of living. The over pouring slip/moment in question is of course caught on the surveillance camera of our elusive bar owner who is always watching us. Shit, he is probably watching us from home right now. I imagine one screen with “the Bachelor,” “Matlock” or whatever he watches and another screen with us working.

I rush over to Gina’s station to stock her precious pint glasses. As I reach into the drop down of her station, Nick the MD to be/bartender is performing for some customers right behind me. Being the show off that he is, he bounces his big ass around while shaking some drink. He’s one of those black guys, much like Wayne Brady. He acts stereotypically black only when he needs to, but generally acts like a white guy raised in the burbs. When he works though, he often is not aware of his surroundings. It’s like working with Big-foot. You never know what he will do. He is usually too busy looking for "hot," Jewish Doctors and Lawyers” in the bar. The rest of us have developed a third eye on the back of our heads that help us maneuver our way around the Labyrinth bar.

Nick has no idea about this third-eye business, nor does he care about those around him when he is working. He is very into making his money and calls himself a self-elected Jew of the bar (even though he was raised Baptist), as an actual Jew I’ll speak for all of us when I say the following:

1. No one wants to be Jewish, it just happens.
No one goes to a plastic surgeon and says, “I can get a little ski-slope nose no, no, no I want the Barbara Streisand Beak.”
2. We don’t want Nick; the rest of the world can have him. Nick always focuses his attention on the person with the money in their hands that is within his hand’s reach, like a whore in a red-light district. He is almost at good at guilt trips as my mother. He can guilt anyone to investing in anything he does, from cocktails to a date. The Goy has the skills of an old Jewish woman and the money sense of a Donald Triumph.

As Nick is hitting on some customer and putting a bottle back in it’s place which belong behind him, near his register. He did this without looking. In this course he also accidentally pushes me into the pint glasses I am putting away. This causes a domino effect of problems. This is when the nightmare begins. This action, in turn makes one of the pint glasses shatter into a beautiful glittery rain that looks like an explosion around my hand of glass dismemberment, which drizzles everywhere. Then a huge shard of glass is then push into the skin about three inches above my inner left wrist. I am so in shock that, I almost don’t believe that this happening. As I pull my arm out of the drop down cooler, I could see a piece of my flesh just dangling. I can’t see how deep the cut is, but all I can see is blood. I drop everything and run into the back room. Nick is still chatting with the customer oblivious to what just happened.

On the way to the back room, there are little trails of blood to show where I have been. In a fluster furry, I open the first aid kit that the bar has. Like a cruel joke, it’s of course empty, full of just a pile of napkins and 3 tiny band-aids, and a tampon. I have a double take moment. Being that this is a men’s gay bar, a tampon is highly unusual in our first aid kits. I would more likely expect to find lube or even glitter before a fucking tampon.
I start laughing hysterically, while still unsure as to why I am laughing at a horrible moment like this. I am a person who tends to laugh at the wrong moments. I am the guy who laughs at funerals, any religious ceremony, any of life’s generally awkward moments. When I look at any full-length mirror and during romantic moments in movies when most people cry. I laugh at the sight of bad news, and most people find it revolting. Sorry. Get over it.

I pick up the napkins I find to soak up all the blood. James walks by and asks if I am okay, while he stares at my arm from a distance. His face look horrified. James asks me if I will be able to work the rest of my shift, and whether I have insurance. Right after the words leave his mouth he sees my face instantly turn red. This is the point where if I was a cartoon steam comes out of my ears. I start laughing uncontrollably for some reason. It’s the type of laugh that is more scary than cute.
I am getting even more upset by this point. I am starting to simmer with James’ question and the evening’s predicaments. The fact that he has the gaul to ask me such a bazaar question as I have a piece of my own flesh dangling from my arm is ridiculous.
I go from laughing like a crazy person to complete silence, give James an evil stare and tell, “yeah, I’ll work. We can turn this place into a fucking making bloody Mary bar tonight.”

As I stare at my mangled arm I begin to feel a subtle sharp, throbbing. It is getting worse with every second that I stare at the blood-infused napkin covering up the glass battle wound. I catch a glance of my face in the Hello Kitty mirror of the back room. My own expression freaks me out. It’s like a weird Mona Lisa expression and now my face looks pale. I have a look of “what the fuck should I do, I want my mom-face.”

I am almost in a trance staring at my arm as Gina storms in to the back room, which seem to just be adding to my angst. My heart starts beating faster and there now is a vein on my forehead popping up that I have never seen before. Gina asks me if I am okay. She then picks up the injured arm and looks at the dangling piece of flesh and inspects it like she knows what to do. She is inspecting my arm like a mother does. It’s like she instantly turned into the professor from “Gilligan’s Island.” Maybe she will turn my arm into a radio, but we don’t have coconuts. Gina then goes to tells James who is freaking out at the other end of the backroom, to get us more napkins and to “chill the fuck out.” I am truly loving her style at this point. She looks into my horrified eyes, which are now more upset and worried about loosing my job, than the actual injury. She reads me very quickly, even though I try to conceal my emotions from her. She tells me that I will be employed next week and have nothing to worry about. She says that I need to relax. She then shows me a scar in the same spot as my dangling flesh, on her right wrist. I start to think great, she is trying to fucking bond right now and turn this into an episode of “Oprah.” I get pissed for a millisecond and all of a sudden calm down. Apparently she cut her self similarly five-years prior. She speaks calmly, petting my shoulder in a way that only a woman can and tells me that I will be fine. She says that I like her am “tough as nails.” I don’t know how true this is, but for the moment she makes me feel like a tough lesbian, which is way better than I felt before this conversation and tougher than any man I know. Gina hands me $20 dollars and tells me to go take a cab to the hospital for stitches, to call her later and let me know how it all turns out. She makes it seem like it was just another normal day. She has this way about her that makes me calm down. From that moment on, the pain is gone and I have adrenaline that is getting me through this.

I am waiting for four hours alone in the emergency room to get seven stitches. It’s now 5a.m. and I arrive to this sanitized, odd-smelling hospital ER an 11:30 pm the day before. I find a Vic den that I guess someone slipped into my pocket before leaving the bar. I don’t know who the magical fairy is that left this treat. I don’t think about it though to consider where it came from. I of course take it instantly and start to choke in the emergency room. Needless to say, I got to cut the line right away.
The odd thing is that, if it wasn’t for Gina I could see myself freaking out in that cold sterile place that is the ER. Because of her, I don’t feel alone in the waiting room and know that all will prevail. I’m like a little kid; excited to see what kind of scar this adventure will leave me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chapter 3 Meet the staff

Chapter 3 Meet the staff

My dad’s response on the phone when I tell him that I am now working at a gay bar is interesting.
Dad: “like in the Birdcage.”
Me “I wish.”
Dad: “(exhales cigarette smoke then chokes on his own laughter) To bad, I love that Robin Williams. He’s no Eddie Murphy, but he was great in Moscow On The Hudson when he says, “I am job!”

There are so many different kinds of people employed there. It’s an eclectic, cutthroat group that work there to say the least. Everyone is in their own realm and version of reality compared to greater society. There is something in this place that makes us all similar which therefore creates a cohesive staff. It’s not just because of the fact that most of us are fudge-packing, Nancy-boy-queers and dykes. In comedy, when there are a group of gays on one show it’s called an “alternative showcase.” The question I always ask myself when I hear this is “alternative to what?” Working at this bar is similar, only we consider a “regular” hetero-normative bar the alternative showcase.

Here, very few people have “partners.” Something with the environment of working in a bar, I assume makes it hard to date. I get asked more frequently since starting to work here is if I have a partner or not.
When gay people use the term “partner,” it makes me just want to punch them and say, "Hey, he's your fucking husband! Are you living as a couple who occasionally gets down or business partners who play golf? That word makes us look even more like outcasts of greater society than we are or have to be."

I hate when gays use the term partner almost as much when straight people use it. This is not their fault though. They are making an effort to treat us the way they are told we want to be treated, even though the term just alienates gay people more. "Partner" makes gay people sound like they are talking about a business venture. If you are gold-digger and marry a person old enough to remember when the Louisiana Purchase was in escrow then, you should call your “lover,” “partner,” or "investor" in Anna Nicole's case (may she rest in peace stuffing her face with fried chicken). To sleep with an old sack of skin for some of their fortune seems to be a fair deal when it comes to this kind of partnership. If you are a well-to-do hippy, who now shops at the Mac store and Whole Foods, get over the PC crap, because lets be honest, you already sold-out the second you paid your taxes and invested in that family-van.

Back to the story, here, we all have become each other’s chosen/adoptive family. We watch eachother’s backs when customers gang up on us. We are even more cohesive when it is us against the owner of the bar. He is the be all and end all. He simply runs a tight ship and keeps that bar packed while keeping everyone within a camera monitor, big brother sort of a hand’s reach. All the alcohol pours are watch, record, counted and then scrutinized from his office at the bar. The cameras are even connected to his home computer. Keeping this in mind, we know that even when no one is watching, he could be watching us from home maybe right after an episode of “Golden Girls.” He could be smoking a doubie and maybe eating a pack of flaming-hot cheetos while watching us work. He doesn’t need cable for sure. We are observed like fucking pandas at a zoo. We deal with the cage because we know there isn’t another bar in San Francisco where we would make the kind of money we are making there at that maze of a bar. Gay bars are much like zoos anyways. People dance horribly, like idiots on a dance floor to the latest. They have no problem dancing to Kylie or a Madonna single and look for every reason to take their crop tops off in hopes that Mr. Right Now is watching. It’s very animalistic.

When it comes to each other, I have also noticed another approach my coworkers seem to have. We are all oddly “friends.” We all keep our friends closer and then their enemies even closer. It’s hard for me to tell which of us playing this game and who is truly genuine. If they like you, they seem to actually help you from getting out of trouble with other co-workers, our boss and patrons. If they hate you, it’s like working with the little girl from “the Bad Seed.” For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s about a little girl who is a murderer, but no one suspects it because she plays this whole innocent act that people eat up like lifetime movies. We all keep a game face going while working. On the turn of a dime we can go from friend to killer. Most of the others have no problem stepping on a “friend’s” toes to save their ass or make a few more dollars. I guess time will tell who is a friend and who is a foe.

This is how I’m told it works here. People here either work at this place for a hot second, a week, maybe three, and others are here for years. Some work here so long that they become a fixture there like the booze in the cups they serve. While the barbacks and doormen employed here keep a revolving door open for new drifters. The bartenders seem to be solid from first glance. Bartenders get fired for various reasons. Sometimes the reasons can be obvious and understandable like “over pouring” and giving away free booze. Other times the reasons maybe more vague, less reasonable and more superficial. There is though always a “valid” reason even if it is completely fabricated by the owner of the bar.

For the owner, sometimes it looks as though we are just pawns. More like shoes. One could always have extra pairs of shoes in their closet, and then use them to walk from point A to point B. Then, when you purchase a new pair of sneakers, you start to wear them at all the times you used to wear your old sneakers. Then those old sneakers make their way to the shadows of the closet and eventually you may decide to get rid of them. This is all because they are worn down and or just less shiny than the new ones. One day you could be his pet and the next, he can simply make up reasons to get rid of the old and move on to the new. For all of us, keeping our jobs seems to be a calculated guessing game of watching each other’s backs mixed with a shit-load of luck.

The group of people who work there, are more interesting than words can tell. This is because everyone employed here, all see the value in who they are in relation to the bar. They know where they stand in the larger gay community or at least they think they do. This is even if the rest of the world didn’t give a rat’s ass. While here, these individuals all seem to think of themselves as hot shit. Most of them are recovering nerds and misfits. Most of us here are recovering kids that were teased in high school for being fagots and not being what hero-normative society tells us we are supposed to be and support. Here our uniqueness is applauded and precisely what people like about us. The shoe I hope is on the other foot. We now get to see what it’s like as the big kids on campus. Just this campus has disco balls and more sex.

Gina has been there for 2 years at that time. She is the resident, self-proclaim bitch and Queen bee. She is what I would call a career bartender. She is of those who knows their job, does it well and doesn’t apologize for rocking. Being the only woman there, she demands respect from all of us and will not settle for anything less. Gina is about 25 years old. I guess the bitch attitude concept is her replacement for her lack of balls, literally speaking. She seems like the type of girl that probably at one point had and may still have those stupid hanging nuts dangling off of the rear bumper of her truck. If she didn't, she has guy friends who do for sure. She is a recovering party-girl who went to San Diego State a few years prior. She is an ex-sorority, Capa-Delta-something. She was apparently the only lesbian there, so she said. Gina has a masculine haircut accompanied by curves that only could be described as feminine and gentile. Her frame and tits perkier than a bottle of adder often overshadow her rigid-masculine persona. I guess it is because she has to compete in a bar made for gay men, in a staff of men. The thing that many people misunderstand about her is the fact that they consider her a bitch and often write off the rest of her as being anything but. In truth, she is the most straightforward of the whole bunch. If she had problem with you, she would tell you. If she likes you, she will tell you, if not in words, actions. If you get in her way, she will make sure you get a good swift kick or step on a toe. The odd thing is that she actually does guide people whom she likes. Help them do better at their job. She always offers unsolicited criticism to those she loves and even worse critiques to those she hates to working with. When she walks through a crowd she demand attention and the same is true when she is behind the bar. Gina often offers management that doesn’t necessarily require her intervention. She is our know it all. What people seem to rarely understand is that is her way to help? She truly is the foster mother of the bunch, in a semi-butch sort of way. It is like she is the big sister I never knew I needed.

There is also James. He is a newly appointed bartender. He has been here for about a year and a half as a barback and has just recently been appointed to the ranks of bartender. He is also roommates with Johnny, the “all American” guy from dinner. It is rumor that the two had dated at some point but I am not one to subscribe to rumor rubbish. James always talks about how he is at the bar just to pay off a few debts and then go back to traveling the world. It’s ironic since he has already been working here for a while. “It is just the mobile to get from point A to point B,” so he says. He is about 23, skinny, blonde, average height, He seems to be of the type made for the Labyrinth. Everything about him screams it. He always jumps and waves his hands when his “jam” cams on, which is usually Mariah Carey or Kylie. He LOVES those bitches in a way that I simply can’t grasp. James does to not look like what I have imagined a bartender to look. At the end of shifts with him, he often offers to drive me home. I will admit that I do love these moments, although I would never say this out loud. We often roll up to McDonald’s late at night, get milkshakes, fries and soak our sorrows by listening to guilty pleasures of cheesy pop and talking about cute boys we meet or don’t meet throughout the week. We both pinky-swore and promise to never tell anyone about Mc Donald’s because it’s really a gross place and we don’t want anyone knowing that we ate from there. In San Francisco, going to McDonalds is like driving a Hummer there, it’s just asking for someone to slash your tires or throw red paint on it.

There is Michael. He is tall, skinny, with dark hair and light features that made him look somewhat exotic. He is a loudmouth who always assumes he is right. We are very similar in the fact that we are both pig-headed. Like me, Michael is the cynic, but in a different style. I consider myself more masculine, than Michael is, although he finds a way to bring out that part of me. He is a complimentary mixture of masculine, male hormones, with slightly feminine undertones, yet he himself is a package is more masculine than not. I love him for the fact that he is so comfortable with himself. I admire it and aspire to get there some day. He is like the jester of the bar. If he has something to say he doesn’t hold back and just says it. He is not one to hold back or sensor himself at any time in any way. No bullshitting, no blowing smoke up people’s ass. He is also the first guy I have ever met in a committed gay relationship. They have been together for 3 years. That span of time together is equivalent to a lifetime in gay years. Having been tied-down for so long, he always tries to live vicariously through me by pushing guys he thinks are cute on me even though our tastes differ vastly. We also have become friends over the love of our friend, Mary. She is would bring us up when we are down and down when we are up from the adrenaline of a long work shift going to the ladder parts of morning light.

There is also Aaron who is probably barely 30 years old by that point. He is the most exocentric person I had ever met. He is really tall and always commands that everyone notice his presence in a room. His outfits, jeans to the tiniest details where all custom made. His fashion sense is a mix of punk, high fashion and drag queen glamour. His hair would change color, shape and style more often than an infomercial. While he probably became a life bartender, I don’t think that this has been his goal. But, who end up doing the job or career they plan? He lives like a rock star. He parties with them and when he goes out he is treated like one. Going out with Aaron is like going out with rock royalty with a gay twist everywhere we went. I love working with him, I lately have started to call him “Gentle” due to the fact that he is the only other Jew other than myself who works there and has a love of Barbara Streisand. The only other person I know who loves her more than him is my mother. My mother will gladly sell her left arm to meet that woman. Aaron always fascinates me by hitting on every fuzzy little bear man who crosses his path. He always talks about how he loves their “chubby, mushy, furry, little, average bodies.” The first time I heard him say this, I didn’t know how to react to that comment. Now I just laugh.

Aaron is known for many, many things. The tag line, for which I will always remember him is the first sentence I hear him say during my first shift with him. “The human body is so resilient, I have been up for 3 days.” Aaron truly lives like a rock star. He is also a self proclaim – J.A.P. With taste more expensive and gaudy than any Jewish American Princess I ever did meet.
It is interesting how there are so many different types of people who work at that bar. Everyone works there for very different reasons. For some, it is a lifestyle, a career, a means to an end, a way to pay for their habits, a social mechanism, and for others a summertime job. It is like when I studied abroad. I’m living in Florence, Italy for a semester. I’m 18-years old. I am always fascinated when walking through the various outdoor markets of Italia and by all the random people I meet who work there. Many Americans live there, all there for very different reasons. Some come through on vacation and simply never leave. Others start off at a local university studying abroad and essentially defect there. There are some who stay for love, while others are running from the mob, or something back home.

Whatever the reason is, like Florence, the Labyrinth is a place many people run to in order to escape stuff in their lives for whatever reason. Like Florence can, it kind of consumes people. You would start there, with one goal, end with another. Eventually you are just there and unsure why. Your initial reason for being there is now irrelevant. The question all of us working here wonder is, why am I here? Where am I coming from? Where am I going? what will follow?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chapter 2. The Interview.

Chapter 2.

I interviewed with the owner of the bar about a week earlier, this is how it goes down:
When I enter the bar, this older man, with a pencil-thin mustache and a suit greats me from a dark corner of the bar. I’m not completely sure how I got there or what I’m doing there. I do though know that I need a job cause I can’t keep scraping resin, I mean eating Top Romen.

The man introduces himself as Charlie. It is as though he materializes out of nowhere. He then invites me to meet with him in one of the other rooms, deeper into the bar. This bar, when you enter has two large rooms, which lead to a dance floor. He walks me to near the dance floor, which instantly confuses me because I, like many Jewish men have 2 left feet and couldn’t dance if my life depended on it. As I follow him he stops near a bar, next to the dance floor and puts his melted drink on it. His voice is low, subtle and unassuming. It is hard to hear what he is saying because with every word he says he turns away from me and refuses to give me eye contact. It’s like talking to Ray Charles or I guess someone like him who is alive. He sounds like a Teddy Ruxpin when they have run low on batteries, although less lovable and attractive. Unlike most interviews I have been to in the past, he is like a politician in an odd way and provides more questions than answers. It’s like talking to the Riddler. He seems to be a man of little words who talks with grumbles and eye contact more than actual cohesive conversational words. He doesn’t once look into my eyes during this meeting. It seems that he is looking right past me to something in the distance most of the time. Since this interview is conducted in the middle of a bar, which is covered with mirrors on every wall, I wouldn’t surprise me if he is just pre-occupied and caught off guard by his own awkward reflection in the distance. It’s like chatting in the middle of a funhouse. I assume that distance could also be because my curly hair reminds him of Medusa and he had possibly has never seen a frizzy-jewfro like mine outside of it's natural habitat, Lohman's.

He glances down at his drink from time to time and swirls the sliver of a lemon-twist that is at the bottom of his clear drink. This is when I notice his ugly beige Dockers and at this second he lets out a grumble. It’s a mix between a dad grumble noise and the weirdo sitting next to you on the bus grumble. I am not sure if that is good or a bad sign. It’s similar to the sound a child or old man makes when constipated. His elusiveness just makes me more interested in working there for some reason. What can I say? I like a challenge.

At the interview, my questions consist of the following: “have you been here before?” followed by “what is your availability?”
I of course lie and flash my Kathy Lee Gifford/clone smile, which I had learn while working at Starbucks a few years earlier, where a fake smile is required before the blood oath. The second part was a joke, so please don’t sue me Starbucks. The truth is, I have never really been to a gay bar before, unless you count that time when I was 17, but that’s another story.
Charlie skipped the usual interview question that I love. “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
To which I usually want to respond, “breathing” or “outside your window.”

I quickly told him that it’s my absolute favorite bar in the city. In reality, I have never been inside this place until a month ago, when I turned 21. What I do know is that I need to make some cash to cover living in San Francisco, also known as the expensive shoe-box. I also have some excentric habits to pay for like food and drinks.

After the questions, Charlie says, “You’re okay with working”… Mid-sentence he just grumbles, looks at me, my resume, me, the bartender who is setting up the bar out of the corner of his eye, his watch, grumbles, smiles and walks away. I assume this means that the interview is over? It feel like one of those bad hook ups, where once you look at them in your bed in sober-light, you have to find excuses of things to do to sound busy and make them leave. Instead of lying and telling me that his roommate or husband was coming home soon he just skipped to the punch and walked away. I leave feeling like I am doing the walk of shame without even having gotten laid, which I must say is less rewarding. I have a feeling that somehow I bombed this time and decide to go to the competing bar around the corner where I proceed to check my dignity at the door as most gays in my situation prior to rehab do and drink my dinner. This is a means to save money, calories, after all, I am on a budget. Once I am delightfully bombed, I go home to write about the situation after of course I make a sandwich from pop-tarts, turkey and Cheetos.

Charlie calls me about a week later asking if I could come in at 6pm. I have someone at the café, where I currently work to cover my closing shift so that I could check out the place. Charlie says that I will be at the bar that night, for what he calls a “trial basis.” I am new to queer life at this point. I have only one fag hag of my own, one-year “out of the closet”, one failed gay relationship turned hazardous roommate-friendship, 4 months out of that shit-storm and no time for mental clarity because I need to figure out school and rent. Being the newbie, I figure that it’s my time to branch out, meet people, learn more about my community and maybe meet a man ready for a relationship. This is all assuming that I know what I am talking about, cause I really have no idea what gay people do. I don’t have a lisp any more thanks to my high school braces. I also don’t care for really have a distain for Brittany Spears and know nothing about show tunes. All I have in my mind is the stereotypes that I was fed that gay men are supposed to be like instead of the reality. Living in San Francisco, I presume that the Castro will be the best place to start this journey.

As for the decor of this place, the Labyrinth it’s a site for eyes. I mean that literally. There are so many lights and mirrors in the place it could make anyone self-conscious or even induce a seizure. The walls are stainless steel and black. The bar itself has this aroma that I can only describe as euro-man, doused in cheap colognes and regret. It reminds me of the smells one encounters on European buses and in the company of Russian men, where the invention of deodorant is rarely utilized. There is this hint of: man-musk, alcohol, all blended with the Old Spice and cheap after-shaves, which are mixed into the air to create the vibe. Video screens are on everywhere, with little neon lights strewn about the metal walls. This place is made up of several rooms with TV screens conveniently located at every direction the eye looks. All these lights light up to the beat of the pop music videos, playing on the screens. From Cher, to Kylie and of course then Madonna, the music blasts with repetitive pop-beats and videos. I have never seen so many men in one place and who are admittedly listening to such shit music. I prefer emo-crap myself, but will bend the rules if I must for this place. Looking around, it really is an odd mix. The whole package of this place is kind of intriguing, liberating and embarrassing, all in one.

It’s a Friday afternoon on a brisk summer’s day, and my second San Francisco summer. For those unfamiliar with SF should know that summer here is non-existent. It’s always funny to watch tourists come here in their Hawaii shirts, shorts and flip-flops just to encounter an overcast breeze or passive-aggression. Our summer is like a San Diego winter. It is often slightly overcast with temps between 50 and 60, where I like it, but we digress. I am a struggling college student trying to pay rent while getting though the grudge that is college. It’s still daylight outside yet, once you step inside the bar it’s like Vegas. This element for some reason reminds me of my grandmother and gambling. The two topics go together like happiness and food. The woman is a lovable mess who loves dark glitzy places like this and Vegas. She would love the place, a room of men to compliment her on how she looks so young in her glittery vest and tightly pulled back face under the bright lights of this place. Add a nickel-slot or keno machine for her to play while she day-dreams of being a Gabor (she sounds just like Zha Zha). Maybe a buffet that she could steal food from and she would be set.

Back to the bar, there is no concept of time inside there. There are no clocks. The only time markers there are flow of the crowd, marked by happy hour and shot specials posted with construction paper, all over the bar, in ill-matching font. While I’m walking into the bar, daylight still peaks slightly through the bar’s window blinds. The bar is sparsely populated with customers. I go up to the first bartender I see within five steps of entering this place. I then, ask him where to go if it’s my first day. I kind of expect be greeted with a welcome-mat of a smile. Or a training manual like the ones I received when starting at most of my other odd jobs. Instead the guy just shrugs. He seems unimpressed with me, he smiles at me the way someone smiles at a small child that burped and says, “Stud, go down the hall and knock on the door, one of the boys will show you around.”
“Stud?” Surprised by that label, I wonder if I really seem like a stud? I have never heard someone use that word without laughing. Until this moment, I have never been called anything like that. A word turns me into a sexualized person. I am a lot of things, sexy or a stud is not one of them. I am 21, and the guy that people love as a friend. I'm like the Kimmy Gibbler of people, without being as annoying. I am no one special. I don’t wear the average gay-shirt that's 1-3 sizes too small, complimented with extra tight jeans that make my ass fat leak over the waist. My jeans are loose, comfortable and I definitely do not look like a model. I am still wide-eyed, shy, timid and mousy. Many of the guys here have his glow about them. It may just be fake tan, not sure. I don’t think I have that same presence. I will have to assimilate though. I will look like I belong here. I will probably have stop wearing the black-rimmed glasses, which up until now were my signature. Maybe that will help me blend into the wall the way I like it?

I then push the long afro of curls off of my forehead and march slowly to that back door. I am oddly nervous and have a slight bit of perspiration on my forehead. As I walk to that back door I encounter many interesting people. Being new to the gay game, this seems like an interesting place to hangout, although I personally couldn’t see myself here very often as a patron. Walking though this place is the closest that I have ever been to walking though a circus. At least at a circus I could eat a funnel cake and not feel like the fat girl in the room. There is one big man, who is somewhere between 35 and 60 is off to my side and he instantly catches my eye. This man had somehow has lasered off and numbed every sign of his age. He has an over-muscled body stuffed into a tiny extra-small Abercrombie shirt that looks like it is repelled by him as well, where he allows his liver-spotted, tanned, muscled arms to ooze out and connect to hold hands with this little tiny pocket gay sitting right next to him. The old man also is over compensating with brown hair, which clearly has white roots; it’s just too much for the eyes to handle. Abercrombie’s boyfriend or toy of the moment is this little bleached-blond boy that has the body of a skinny, starving, young girl, with huge platypus feet. This boy looks like a Kate Moss, during the Calvin Clean days, but maybe about 10 pounds lighter.
The view of the bar from here makes me dizzy and wonder what kind of circus I am getting into. As I pass them, a random hairy Persian looking man pats my ass like that is normal status-quo. I am so caught off guard by this that I am silent and even more wide-eyed as I begin walking faster to that back door. The odd thing is that this man, resembles my Russian uncle being round, jolly and hairy, with just slightly darker skin. His body I imagine is made of large meatballs, black hair, and dough, at least that is the thought that came to mind. Trying to keep my cool, I scurry to that backroom with a bit of a sprint.

Once in the Labyrinth backroom, I find a small room filled with a time clock, beer boxes, people’s backpacks, beer kegs and bartenders frantically counting their piles of money. I have never seen so many crumpled one-dollar bills and quarters in my life. Actually, I take that back, once at the slots in Laughlin with my grandmother, but that was another time and place. The only woman in room comes up, looks past me as though I isn’t there, and then pushes past as she sends a quick text message. She is what I label as soft butch. She has many feminine assets, yet they where somehow complimented with some masculine qualities that I had never seen on a woman until then. She then comes back, “sorry, I needed reception, Gina here… what’s your name? You’re first day? Cute, you don’t know what you are getting into…Just hussle, don’t get in my way and you’ll be fine.” She smiles and sits back in her money counting seat and doesn’t glance up again. It’s as though she never met me.

Everyone else just glances up from counting their money, piles of $1 bills and one at a time does a generic head bob, followed by a “hey man” or “hey babe.” Then a little Asian man pops up out of the shadows of this ominous back room, which by the way is filled with boxes upon boxes of beers. It’s a frat boy’s fantasy come true. The little Asian fellow talking to me has a dingy dishtowels hanging out of all his pockets, like the people at the car wash or that demand to clean your car when driving out of Tijuana. He then says to me with a heavy Chinese accent, “Hi! I am Ricky. Yuuu… How you say name?” As I began to answer him, I wonder what his real name is. As I open my mouth he continues: “You are barback, pick up glass all over bar, be fast, carry many glasses, don’t have be nice, get done, keep floors clean and be fast for happy hour.” He hands me one of the dirty towels from his back pocket and a key as he shews me on to the bar floor.

My job is to walk through the crowds of drag queens, twinks, muscle daddies, manly women, lipstick chicks and more. I take their dirty cocktail glasses to wash. I stack them like legos and carry them to wash… It sounds like a job a monkey could do, but hopefully I’m better then a monkey. Within what seems like a matter of minutes, the bar is packed, wall-to-wall. I am busing all the tables, urinal rooms, bar tables, while looking over the general security of the bar. This will later mean kicking people out for being too drunk, rowdy or not paying. Some may find this job demeaning, I find it challenging and a great place to study all the millions of types of people who come to this place. After a few minutes, I have made several figure 8 circles around the bar and had an armful of pint glasses with old napkins in them. As I step to set the glasses with the other dirty glasses near the bar/dishwasher, a little shit man, short enough and emotionless enough to be made by Matel, pinches my ass. This in turn makes me loose my balance with all the glasses in my hand flying into the air and then like suicide bombers diving to their impetuous death. Of course a scene is made. Everyone is watching as I dropped to my knees where I gathered the glass with a towel. They all just stare in aw as though they have never seen broken glass or someone clean it’s broken shards up. Then a few random people try to help, making it even more difficult trying to hand me a few shards of glass that they pick up with their drunken I feel like Cinderella, hands and knees on the floor to clean up other people’s messes. It is at this point and future moments like these that I am reminded exactly of what my role is here, I am simply help.

After 3 hours of work, I am drenched in sweat, noticeably sweatier than everyone else working. I feel like one of those obese people you see on Maury that sweats from taking one step. Maybe it’s because they are used to it or out of shape? Jon seems to be just working away like the freaking’ energizer bunny, untainted, without a bead of sweat on him. I feel like I have been there for three times longer than the three hours I was assigned to work. One of the bartenders taps me on the shoulder, then wipes the sweat off of his hand on his jeans. He acts like he got a bit of shit on his hands or something gross like that. He lets me know that I am done with my shift. This whole shift went so whirl-wind-fast that I am shocked to be finished and so tired and drenched in sweat from a mere 3-hour shift. As I follow him to the back he hands me my tip money for the shift and invites me to dinner “with the boys.” I have never made that much money within a simple 3 hours. I made $80 dollars in tips from just rushing around and stocking glasses. Feeling like celebrating I agree to dinner.

Having lived on campus until months earlier I apparently don’t seem to have the concept of going to big nice dinners in my head. To go home to my apartment with a crazy roommate who is now becoming a crystal mess is something I am at this time trying to avoid anyways, so I agree to go to this dinner. I assume that we are going to a near by taco shop with these new coworkers, who would later become the closest I would ever know to brothers. Instead, the boys take me to a real dinner with steak, calamari, and of course cocktails. I am quickly educated on the fact that after Friday happy hour they always pick a restaurant with booze.

There are 4 boys keeping me company at dinner, there is Johnny, a tall, boy next door kinda guy, tall, in his early 30s with muscles and a smile that contains a mixed of sex and apple pie. Next to him sits Paulo, he hails from South America, a beefy, built-mid-twenties type. When I say built, I mean, he looks like the gay stereotype with tight muscles, tanned body, light hair, perfect smile, teeth and a Latin accent complimented by a subtle lisp. There is also Anderson who is an average height. He is what I would consider a silver fox type. He has a slender build with blonde/grey-hair, he is the most down to earth out of the group, with a chic sense of style. He begins to educate me now on how one needed to always specify alcohol in their drinks to handle it right. His drink of choice seems to be cosmos with the best flavored-vodka possible. There is also Nick, a big handsome black man with a Montel Williams head, complimented by an ass the size of my head. It is a solid kind of posterior which resembled that of Michelangelo’s David with more muscle. He tells me about how he is near the end of Medical school and currently working on his residency.

By the end of the dinner I learn so much about everyone through the table’s gossip as I am the fly on the wall. I now know things that I wouldn’t normally car about like that Johnny is dating someone else’s boyfriend or ex who gave them a STD or a complex, I can’t follow this crap too closely cause there are so many conversations going on here. Anderson keeps on asking me the classic questions, where I came from, where I am going, followed by a Cosmo suggestion every few minutes. Nick just nods, smiles, then too asks about school, where I am going, then ventures into a story about one of his patients or a guy he has been seeing. Paulo meanwhile, keeps on separating the carbs in his meal from the protein when he thinks no one is looking. By the end of the meal his place has meat pieces and bones on one side of the plate with a pile or rice and bread on the other all separated by a red sauce, creating a seascape of the red sea. Paulo keeps on asking “honey, no boyfriend?” Then he venture off into conversations about himself and his boyfriend who’s name keeps changing every few minutes. Come to think of it, maybe it is different guys he is talking about and I can’t keep up.

Finally the bill comes, after I had dined on a meal of salad, cosmos and gay drama. For me, it is better than a Novella, with prettier men and more intense storylines. I got the salad trying to be thrifty, since this place is so expensive. Then Anderson tells me it will be $60 each. My eyes tear up. That is nearly all of tonight’s money. All that I could think of is about how much I am paying for just a fucking salad. Paulo sees the look of discontent in my eyes and suggests that I only pay $25 since I am not eating or drinking as much as the “big boys.” This is when I first realized that I am in a new game, new turf and I would have to play by new rules.

After a month of the Labyrinth, I am making an average of $6-900 a week and working around 25 hours and maintaining a full-time college student status. To me, then, this is equivalent to winning the lottery. I have quit the lame café that I had to work four times as much to make the same money. I am making enough to live in the expensive city and enjoy it. This is the beginning of when I learn what it meant to really have good taste and play with the big boys. The Castro makeover begins.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Growing up Poor and when I was on TV, Chapter 1

Chapter 1.

Growing up, we were pretty poor. I didn’t have to turn tricks to get the lunch money and later hand over to bullies or anything like that, but we were poor. My mother and I were poor enough that I was able to get California’s finest pubic school lunches for free. Where the corn dogs were occasionally green for no apparent reason and fruit was covered in enough corn syrup to piss off Paula Dean. The food was good enough to clog an artery with one bite.

We were poor enough that in high school I didn’t have to work because I wanted to or was forced to. I worked because it was something I needed to do, to get where I wanted to go. It was in about seventh grade that I realized that I would need to get a job and that every grade past 6th was a joke. I hated school in the way other kids hated Brussels sprouts. I would constantly play sick to avoid school. I had so many absences at one point, I’m sure that my teachers thought I had Mono. This was when I decided that I wanted to be an actor. This wasn’t a new revelation, but it was a new action. It was then, that I figured it was my duty to become a famous child actor like the Olsen twins or the chick from “Small Wonder” that no one remembers.

I made my mom drag me to auditions in LA. We lived in San Diego at the time. I pushed to get headshots and go the whole nine-yards. This was also my excuse to get out of school, which was brilliant. I imagined that some tutor, would educate me eventually, like the kids I had heard about on TV. I would buy a $50,000 car cause I could. I would go to some amazing Ivey league college like Brooke Shields. I would fit a B-rated film, maybe a “Poison Ivy” sequel, “Poison Oak” during that hard freshman year of college. There would be many awkward scenes in this movie that I would later regret according to People Magazine, as I would try to break away from that teen persona. I would also end up on the cover of Rolling stone wearing a leather jacket and burning one of those little American flags on that was the toothpick on my sandwich for controversy.
Back to seventh grade, where I worked to make these daydreams happen. I got an agent who sent me to a few big auditions including playing Jason Alexander’s fat blob son on a show that didn’t make it past it’s pilot (I was too thin so my mom said) and one for a JCPenny Commercial. The commercial auditions were my favorite because I would pretend that I was the guy from the infomercials that always sounded surprised. I practiced my Kathy-Lee Gifford smile and smiled for no reason. It was great. At the JCPenny auditions I auditioned as the nerd prom date for some hot girl and her father who was played by the dude who was in a whole bunch of 80s movies including, “the Boy Who Could Fly.” It’s okay; no one else remembers his name either. It was odd that he was playing a father figure when he was only 10-12 years older than me at the time.

By sixteen or seventeen I filled some of my time with extra-work and a part-time job at the amazing Carl’s junior. I was practicing my on air voice while working drive-through. People there hated me cause I would pretend the drive-through was my radio show and ask customers inappropriate questions, like “when did you’re love of food take over your life?” I oddly was never fired from there.

I took many drama classes and on-camera acting classes taught by jaded actors, along with has-been casting directors. I met parents who had no life and lived vicariously through their children. It was both sad and motivating. I knew kids who thought fame and popularity equaled happiness. They had all the personality in the world while the camera was on, and were like talking to paint when the camera was off. This would be my experience later in life with guys who did porn (they called themselves porn stars, but you’re not a star if no one knows who the fuck you are), but that’s another story. I was an extra on every Disney show that people are embarrassed to admit they watched, and a few Aaron Spelling Shows, which were quickly cancelled. The highlights of my short-lived television career included over 10-episodes of “Lizzy McGuire,” an Aimee Mann Video and a reenactment scene of “America’s Most Wanted.” I played the Jewish kid the neo-Nazis were chasing around campus.

During the acting days I met Yasmine Bleeth a few weeks before an alleged coke bender, which landed her on the news. I met Hillary Duff before anyone knew who she was, before Miley Cyrus presumably stole her thunder.

It was at 18 when I did my last Hilary Duff Music video (if you watch really slowly, you can see my back), when I realized that I was getting too old to be the next DJ Tanner and didn’t know if I had it in me to become the next Balkey from “Perfect Strangers.” It was then that I decided it was time to go for plan B. I went to college. I decided that LA wasn’t ready for me and I would become a writer or maybe go into advertising and if that didn’t work out, revisit the concept of turning tricks.
I was 19 and working as a shift manager at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, attending a local Junior college when I decided that I would really let go of the “dream.” I realized that I wanted to write, live, travel. It was then I decided that I would transfer to a college in San Francisco and become a writer. I of course wouldn’t major in creative writing because well what is that useful for? So I majored in something equally useless and general, Speech Communications (Public Speaking). It was this choice that set the stage for everything I have done since. I would spend the next few years living, writing, drinking and working on creating the shit-storm that has become my life and you’re welcome.

Ironically when I was a shift manager at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, there was a customer who suggested I try my hand at bartending. She claimed it wasn’t much different than what I was already doing at the coffee shop just paid a lot more. She said that it paid for her to go to school. She was a lawyer who seemed to love her job. Actually the only lawyer I have ever met who seemed to love her job. At the time though I didn’t think anything of what she was talking about. I was 19 and thought I knew everything, so why would I listen to her?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012



I want to take this moment to explain exactly how my blog works. For new readers, I would like to thank you for clicking on my blog. Please read on and if you like what you read, please pass it along. If you hate it and reading my writing makes you want to break your computer screen, I suggest stepping away from the computer and going for a long walk. Yoga might help. Meditation is good too. Drinking can help too. To my old readers, I appreciate your readership, comments and jokes.

Since I started this blog, I have been working at writing a book. This book is a compilation of short-stories based on my experience bartending through the first half of my 20s in the Castro. While the stories are cased on true events and situations, they are complete fiction. Since I want to see if I have an audience, I have been posting one Chapter at a time. Then I add more to each story, do some editing and post again. This tends to confuse people and that is why I am explaining it.

From this post on, I will be posting stories one at a time. These are newer versions of the stories from before. I hope you like it.

As a thanks for reading my blog, here is a funny clip:

Epilogue. The Beginning

Epilogue. The beginning.

A few weeks ago I turned 26. It’s weird because many people have guessed I was 30 for years. It’s odd how with every year the birthdays seem to come faster and faster, and little by little they become more meaningless. Like the first drink at a wedding, you remember who did what. By the fifth or sixth, who cares When we are children, our birthdays are a big deal. We mark every year with a party, cake and if you’re me, then you piss yourself at the sign of a one Mr. Chucky Cheese. It only happened twice, but I digress. After a decade or two the birthdays just become more numbers, like the amount of cigarettes in a carton, the lotto numbers on a losing ticket or the amount a checking account is over drawn. The older I get the less I care about birthdays period. I care more about writing dick jokes and finding a way to make someone piss themself via a well choreographed sentence. That’s just me though. It’s the little things. I am not saying that I am Grandfather time, although I would love an excuse to tell “pull my finger jokes” all day and shit my pants without guilt or looking like a lunatic.

I do not live in, nor have I ever lived through any major wars or famines, unless one counted the great family feud of 2005. It is a mess. It’s worse than John Travolta in “Hair Spray.” Like many Jewish families we have arguments that last years and sometimes decades.

When I first saw “Romeo and Juliet” I thought they were Jewish only because their families had been arguing for generations and the women had mustaches. Sorry, that one was stupid.

Jews differ from other ethic groups. Our priorities are simple and to the point. We value family, bargains and stubbornness. This is done with arguments that last longer than Cher’s career and guilt that hale marries can’t get rid of. In this book we will not go over what happened in my personal family rift. It will be best suited for Oprah to turn into a mini-series on OWN. I will say this though, as result of my family being the stubborn mules they can be, I choose to stay as removed from the situation as possible.

I work in moderately big city, San Francisco. While New York is the city that never sleeps, S.F. is the city that gets too stoned to wake up sometimes, but has areas that sleep less than others. Here, I make my own family. Here I am learning that life is what you choose to make of it.

I laugh at things that make most people cry. I laugh at funerals and cry over spilled milk figuratively. I don’t care for milk, never have. I do get anxious and cry though when I see someone with melted ice cream that they have chosen not to finish. Perfectly good ice cream should never be wasted.

I have never considered suicide, but find jokes about it to be human and funny. I will forever be that person who laughs at well-written dead-baby jokes, but can’t watch some scary movies because I’ll piss myself. It’s wrong but so are many things in life.
I’m passing year 6 of living here, in San Francisco, the land of Rice-O-Ronni and random homeless people that no one tells you about before moving here. Walking through the streets here sometimes looks like a scene from “Dawn of the Dead.”

The most important thing to know about me is that I can barely make it through skipping breakfast cause I get cranky if I go more than five hours without food or booze, but we will go over that later. I once punched someone for trying to rip the gallon of ice cream I was desecrating from my hands. It was a reflex. Word to the wise: DO NOT get between my food and I. It will get ugly. When I get nervous I have to pee every five minutes and end up living in fear that I will piss myself. I end up constantly tapping my weenie and look like a pervert. I also sweat like a sumo-wrestler or George W. Bush in a gay bar. I do not think that all children are beautiful, some are ugly and that’s okay. The ugly one get the keys to the jeep really anyways. I have learned the hard way, that there is no nice way to tell someone that their kids are ugly. People with kids have to always ask stranger’s opinions on the looks of their kids. I’m not someone who likes to blow smoke up people’s asses, so I tell them.

“Isn’t she cute? Isn’t she the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?”

“She is sooo cute… that um… my eyes can’t bare it anymore.”

“Isn’t she a looker?”

“She looks like something.”

“How could you say that?”

“It’s not like I said, I didn’t know cellulite started so early on some people.”

Like I said before, blowing smoke up people’s asses, never have. Some people respect it. Others… well they see things differently. That’s fine too. I am one of the most stubborn people you have ever met and will argue for the sake of arguing some times just because I can. I am that guy. It's in my nature, for I am a Jew.

My biggest fear is that I, first generation Russian-Jew, will end up getting one of those fat Russian man bellies. One of those bellies that no one knows what it’s made out of, but it could be rubber. I imagine if someone ever shot a man with one of those bellies, the bullet would just get lodged in the rubbery-jelly belly. They would just be able to pull out the bullet and use it to pick out the fish guts from their teeth. These are the things I think about.

My parents came to the United States as refugees from the U.S.S.R. This explains the weird name. Yuri is my name, or as the kids in my kindergarten through sixth grad class liked to call me, urine, other’s stuck with Eureka’s Castle. The kids I went to school with weren’t all that creative. Somehow the chosen name alternatives work for the American kids I grew up with. Unlike them, I grew up with a father who thought that hot dogs, potatoes, vodka and cigarettes were the part of any well-rounded meal. As an adult I, I blame my hunger for hot dogs, vodka and cigarettes and anything similar to this nutritional training. I had a mother who thought that everything should be made in the microwave, and packed lunches like bread with butter or caviar. This was just one of the reasons that I rarely brought lunch to school. The dirty looks the other kids would give me when they would notice my stinky lunch was enough to make me wish I could starve myself. Instead I decided to compulsively eat, but that's another story and really the Russian oddness made me stronger. It also made me better understand many an Elliot Smith song.

Unlike my parents, I have no real clue what it's like to live in any country that reprimands me for being Jewish. I have never really been looked down upon for being a Jew. I do though know what it’s like to have the people working at sizzler and any buffet stare at your group with evil eyes. They know what we have planned before we desecrate their buffet. My grandma always put half of the buffet in her purse for later, then complain to the waitresses. The food being is too spicy or too bland for her. At the same time, my grandfather is mumbling bad things about the waitress in Yiddish under his breath. My mother then forces us to change tables a minimum of 30 times upon getting seated at any restaurant.

Unlike my family, I only know what it's like to be an American. What it's like to live in a place that treats me differently due to my sexual orientation. Gay men can't kiss in a T.V. commercial here without everyone shitting a brick and making a big deal out of it. When we perform anywhere as comedians, actors or anything we are called “alternative” when the world doesn’t even know what they are really comparing us to.

I am just 26, still a boy as others have put it. At least that is what people tell me who is even a minute older than me. Maybe they say this to make themselves feel better about growing older? What I wonder is how long this will last. One can only be young for so long. Suddenly, you wake up and the conversations shift from, “you’re just a boy” to “you’re just…” followed by that uncomfortable silence in conversation. People already ask me if I'm tired all the time regardless of how much sleep I have had. I assume that by 45, the conversations will shift to asking me how much longer I will wait to have my droopy chin lifted.
It's odd to be in my mid-twenties cause really this is the turning point. The other day I noticed that everyone on TV is my age or younger. It's weird how that happens. You grow up with everyone seemingly so much older than you and everyone telling you that you have the rest of your life and then bam, it just stops. All of a sudden, you're not the same kid with pre-braces crooked teeth who has to recite their havtorah portion in front of a congregation of smiling people, even though we all know you sounded like shit. I mean it’s really cruel to make boys have to sing in front of a room full of people while their voice is changing and makes them sound worse than Carol Channing’s normal voice.

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

I have heard that with age comes some wisdom, although, I still see myself as the awkward big-headed, blue-eyed, little-Jew-nosed kid who was teased for being different in school. I was the kid with the weird name to jerky kindergartners, who is now I am growing into my own skin. I am still the same insecure, pleasantly plump, blubber, pink-cheeked boy that in elementary school had bullies follow me home throwing pebbles at my head for shits and giggles. To this day I don't get how that was funny. I do though understand the reason one would throw shit at my head. My head has always been kind of hard to miss. It's HUGE, like Charlie Brown style. In the third grade this kid Kevin would always remind me by asking how Snoopie was. I have a head larger than most people. I would look like an alien until I grew into it. Some men have large hands, makes everyone question what other appendages they have that match. I have a head so large that when I try on a “one-size fits all” hat it doesn’t fit. It’s so large, that when I worked at jobs in high school, which required a hat, they had to special order one for me.
Too bad no one ever says, “Damn look at that guy’s head, it’s so big, you know what that means!”
Instead they usually say, “look at the melon, on that one, and to make it worse he has the tiniest little feet and hands, how awkward…”

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

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

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

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