Monday, April 30, 2012

Chapter 15, Elijah

Chapter 15 The first infatuation of my life was this guy named Elijah. He was my first gay friend in the San Francisco. The truth was that until then, all I knew about gay people was that they were supposed to be loud, flamboyant and wear little hats. I got all my facts off of ‘In Living Color.’ I met Elijah before I knew that I too was a gay. There have always been people who said that they “always knew” when talking about their own gayness. I was not one of those people. I may have been gay my entire life, but it wasn’t until I met Elijah that I knew I it. The worst part was when I did the whole coming out thing. Which people ask me about all the time. It was no big deal. I made out with Elijah one Halloween and told my friends/family soon after that I was gay. The most annoying part was the very few people were surprised. Often the response was like, “It would be another couple years, a flower march, several ton of vodka and 3 seasons of the ‘Real Housewives’ shows before I would become good at it too. I hope that this story doesn’t sound like a bad after school special and if it does, I would like someone super hot to play me. It was my second week of my junior year of college. I transferred from a community college in San Diego to San Francisco State. I decided to live on campus that year. I had no idea that essentially meant that I planned on drinking all year, ignoring my studies and learning how to drunk surf San Francisco busses like a champ. When most people have heard this story, they have generally been shocked that I went to college at all. I digress. It was during an impromptu kegger that my roommates had facilitated, in my apartment, I went outside to see what the rest of the world was doing. More so, I was looking to grab a free beer from someone. There he was on the patio next to our apartment. It was a shared courtyard/patio area where students would hang, smoke, sneak booze and just be kids. He was just an average looking kid, skinny, with buzzed light hair, complimented by a fair complexion, blue eyes that seemed to glimmer of their own story and angst, while at the same time an they gave off the essence of innocence. Sitting there by himself with a can in one hand and a box the “Champagne of beers,” Miller “highlife.” He was studying everyone around him. He was very different from everyone around us. What magneted me to him, I don’t know. Maybe it was kismet, fate or down right bad luck? He was 19. I was 20. He was about my height, actually a little taller, but I digress. He was scrawny, in a plaid black and white shirt, a cigarette behind one ear, and an essence that reeked of apple pie. He looked like the type of kid that grew up in a household that drank milk with their meals. Growing up with Russian/Jewish parents, from the Soviet Union, I had never seen that until I was a teenager. I introduced myself, and invited him to our party. As he smiled, he revealed his slightly buck-toothed smile, while accepting my offer. I knew that this moment would change my life forever. Elijah and I were inseparable from then on. He was the first gay I had ever met that didn’t act, well, gay. His taste in music didn’t consist of the usual classics like Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Mariah or Brittany. His eyebrows weren’t even plucked. He didn’t even have a feminine voice. He was just a “normal” guy, so I thought then. Until him, I didn’t even know gays had an option to be like everyone else. I assumed there was some disco-balled legacy of flaming that we had to reach in order to be gay. My relationship with Elijah, become a year-long infatuation rollercoaster ride. I would feel the whiplash for years to come, but that’s another story. He became my best friend. Until him, I never had a real male best friend. Most of my close friends until college were girls. I was always that little boy playing with girls that everyone was speculating could have been “playing” with the girls, but obviously wasn’t. We would always start off playing house and end in me braiding one of the little girl’s hair. I learned from Elijah how to let go and worked to be much less uptight. Prior to him I was much more conservative and less free, so I later realized then. I was also a virgin to most definitions of sex. Being a virgin half way through college was not cool. It deemed me as “uptight” by some I think. Being a virgin at that age seemed to be as cool as cancer. Maybe cancer wasn’t the best choice of that example, but you get it. We also experimented with various drugs together. I would never suggest this to anyone because the idea that one would need drugs to become inspired has never been one that I have wanted to prescribe to or advertise. I would though admit it was not an experience I would later regret, nor ever want to repeat. He would stay over pretty often even though we lived on the same block. Through our mutual loneliness it seemed that we connected. It would take me years to realize that even in loneliness one could still feel happiness. He was little rich kid, the baby of the family. When he came out of the closet, he burned it down, as he had been openly gay to since he was 16-years old. He was one of those that had a same-sex prom date. I was convinced that he would be the love of my life. I felt for him in a way that I still couldn’t put into words. It was love the way I knew it then, young, pure and stupid. We never did consummate our relationship, although we had gotten close to it a few times. Although we never really talked about it, I actually, was secretly crushed by the fact that we never had. Oh how young love could be. We never called each other boyfriends or held hands in public. Something that was shockingly accepted in San Francisco in a way I had never in my life seen before. It was an unsaid thing that everyone else saw and knew better than we did at the time. He truly was my first love, when I thought that I knew what love was. After that year of college, Elijah and I moved into an apartment together. This, of course was dumbest idea ever. This was after we had broken up for the third or fourth time ironically, even though we never really dated. For some reason he kept crawling back into my life for one reason or another. After 3 months, and about 15 major arguments, we parted ways after I found chemicals and methamphetamines under our sink for the third time. I yelled at him as I threw them out. It had been a while since I had been that kid who experimented with hallucinogenic and whatever else we did at the time. Now I had a job and was working to build a productive life in the city, aside from the occasional bowl now and again, I was moving on. Besides, In San Francisco, smoking pot seemed like it was equivalent to having a drink there. I was a new man who was responsible. I was still living with him when I first started working at the bar. I would come home often at around 3 am and get to sleep around 4am. One morning, around 8 am, Elijah came home and woke me up. He was sweaty, frantic and talking faster than the micro-machines guy. I couldn’t understand him at first. He told me that “people” were after him and trying to kill him. He told a long, farfetched story to me that I couldn’t grasp and then told me about how he had some big drug dealer in our apartment the night before. I freaking out on many accounts. I called the cops as Elijah spaced back and forth. They came in minutes. Within one minute of talking to Elijah, they asked him what he was on. After he admitted to GHB and METH the night before, they turned away from him and talked to me. They told me that they couldn’t take anything he was saying into account or as record since he was “under the influence” and they left. I didn’t know what to do. The next day I found some chemicals under the sink. I didn’t know what they were for, but knew that they didn’t belong there. I later found out that they were chemicals to make various drugs. It was like living in an episode of “intervention,” less fun when you’re in it. The new me realized that Elijah both had a problem and I couldn’t deal with anymore. My love for him couldn’t handle being a parent to him anymore. Eventually, I severed all ties and called his father. He was on Elijah’s portion of the lease. I told him that his son needed help, had a drug problem, was making drugs in out apartment, and couldn’t live with him anymore. I always presumed his parents sent him immediately to rehab as a result. I don’t know really what happened after. I heard that years later he had been in and out of rehab several times.. .Not sure really not sure if that made any major progress though. I heard that he had been caught with alcohol at the first one, but after 3 times friends said that they heard he was doing much better. I moved out of our apartment within 2 days, like a criminal breaking out of prison. I left him to clean up his own messes, while he left me shattered. I spent the next month listening to Fiona Apple and TLC “Red Light Special” on repeat. Ideally, I wanted to think that time healed wounds. After 9 months of not talking to Elijah, I had been at the bar nearly a year then. In my mind, he was dead. I assumed that if he wasn’t, it was about time. This made it easier for me to not miss the person I loved and who helped me understand myself. I went to get tested as every responsible adult should. Having never had unprotected sex, I was sure that I would pass with flying colors. I took this HIV test, where they swabbed the back of my throat and within minutes the volunteer nurse came back and told me that I was preliminary positive. This meant that I would have to come back in two weeks to find out what that meant. I forgot to mention that Elijah had gotten very sick with what we had thought to be the flu. This was right before we had moved in together. It turned out that this flu was actually the beginning of acute HIV, he then told me that I should get tested a little more regularly as a result, just in case. As he put it, since he would regularly black out and we had experimented with drinking and other substances together, there could have been something we had forgotten. For the next two weeks I lived life like a zombie, thinking that I was probably HIV positive and would have to begin planning to live my life as another happy, healthy HIV positive, gay man. All I could think of was Magic Johnson for some reason. I had remembered as a kid when he was diagnosed, how that sounded then and how much better science had become since then. At work, while I would try to look happy, I was horrified on the inside, and a ticking time bomb with every step. All I wanted to do was smoke pot until and be doped up so I wouldn’t have to think about life and its many problems. Nick, the “chocolate doctor in training,” as he so poignantly nicknamed himself, patted my shoulder to say hi about twenty minutes into that shift. I had a handful of glass beer bottles in my hands that I was putting into a drop-in cooler. Being in a daydream-moment I dropped the beers all over the ground. I guess he startled me. I kept dropping beers, and did little talking, because I didn’t want anyone to know. I tried to hide my hurt and uncertain nervousness from those around me. After 2 days in, I had chattered a pint glass in my hand, in turn cutting my ring finger right on the bend and deep enough to almost see the bone. All I could think of was how I would never be able to wear a wedding ring. Silly right? Gays couldn’t get married anyways. At that second, I realized that if could still feel. I was still alive. While I was in the emergency room getting my finder stitched up, I realized that this was not the end of the world. Seven days after my finger was stitched up, I went to get the results of my second blood test. They asked me what I would do if this second test too came out positive. I smiled and said, I would live and still plan on a future. This all may sound silly now because in the end, that test and the one after would in fact come out negative. At the time it blew harder than Jenna Jameson (I assume). After though, I realized that I was letting Elijah hold me back from meeting new people and really growing up. I loved him for who he was to me and even how he hurt me. He showed me that being gay didn’t have to fit any one stereotype. Until him, I had never been that close to another guy. He introduced me to a world that I had never known, including the one that every gay man becomes acquainted with in their lives, either first hand or via their found family, HIV.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Comedy FREE Write...

I went to a bar on Saturday. While at the bar this good looking dude came up to me and was like, "Are you tired?" To which I responded, "let me stop you right there. I've head that line before. You must be tired from running through my mind all night..." Then I take my finger, press on my skin the way one may press on a steak to see if it's done and make this noise, "Tsss." He then responds, "no man, you just look tired." The older I get, the more I realize that I am the reason Botox was invented. Black may not crack but Jews, we crack, we crumble we complain. It's a lose, lose situation. Every day past 25, the hair moves south and is a downward slope to looking like Woody Allen. Yesterday I went to Macy's. I was just window shopping to kill time and this lady appeared out of nowhere. She asked me if I was looking for eye cream, I was thrown off cause I was in the home furnishings section. Being a recovering fat kid, I went home and ate. I ate a half gallon of ice cream, a box of cookies, a baf of skittles and a partridge in a pair tree right before I went to bed. The next day I felt so gross from all the over eating I did, I had to find the nearest skinny person and work on their nerosis. I shouldn't be the only one! I hate when skinny people say shit like "you don't know how hard it was growing up skinny..."that's when I say shut the fuck up" or lead off with a compliment like, "You look great, it's like you don't care." to be continued

Chapter 14... showgirls

Chapter 14 Now I am beginning to understand what they had meant in the movie “Showgirls.” There is that scene where the one skank tells the other skank to “watch out for marbles.” The work environment at the bar requires a similar educate. How the fuck did that happen? Don't get it twisted though, I am not a stripper, I get nervous swimming in my board shorts without a T-shirt on. I don’t even know if I could do the whole dead eyes thing that strippers do. I am living the bartender lifestyle, which is a choice, and now becoming just than a means to an end… My mother will be so proud. I don’t have to strip for my dinner here, but the competition here is just as bad. The Labyrinth is the type of place where there is always someone out to steal your thunder. By steal, I say rip your thunder away from you when you least expect it. Here, there is always someone ready to take your place. I am wearing new-is jeans to work today. They are slightly tighter then the pairs of jeans past. They also have the smallest waist of any jeans I have ever owned. I am very happy about this for now, but am feeling the pressure to slim down. Within the first five minutes of work, a ‘regular’ has the nerve to tell me that I look like I’ve gained a few pounds in the past few months. He then assures me that it wasn’t meant to be a stab at me and that he loves my haircut. The gay man-sting. This is where you come in with an insult backed by a compliment. What the fuck does that mean? Essentially, he is saying that I look like a pig, but no one will notice cause my hair is great. Are the backhanded compliments also a part of the gay turf? I want to turn back to the fat fucker and ask him if, or actually when he has to pay people to have sex with him, cause he is the type that has to pay for sex. Also, when some poor guy does bite the bullet and take this asshole out, do they have issues finding his penis amongst all his fat? The truth is that I stay silent. I have only been working at the bar for a few months and really have little recollection of this customer who looks a lot like that fat molester looking guy who put together the backstreet boys. For some reason the fact that they have the nerve to come up to me and say something like that just makes me even more upset. In my mind this is the moment I switch from innocent gay boy to someone who cuts a bitch. I already have issues with my weight, but to have a stranger come up to me and tell me this crap is ridiculous. Everyone seems to be so damned tough in that bar and the public just adds to that impression. I just don’t get why. On top of everyone’s cutthroat attitude there, I have to deal with stranger’s/customer’s crap and ridicule. They give me their unsolicited opinions on me personally, my body, my brain, cause I’m either too smart or too dumb, my eye color is too dark, my mannerisms being too gay or not being gay enough, who I date and everything in between to discussed. I get told a lot that at this point I am a “straight acting” guy. Why is it that gay men find the concept of this so enticing? I get the description and why they find a straight guy as more attractive and passing in gay culture, but who the fuck wants to date a straight man? I want a gay man that knows what they want and is confident in whom they are. Besides, I want a man that has been around the block and knows what they are doing in the sack as well. They talk about me with both compliments and down right insults within an ears reach. It’s like I am not human, just the help and am not supposed to have feelings. Even though I try not to listen, it’s hard to be thick-skinned all the time. Especially when the line between friend, patron and co-worker is blurrier than Liza Minelli’s taste in men. I also wonder how much of the shit they say is true, exaggerated or false. It’s hard to deal with and something I never really bargained for. Everyone at that bar seems to walk on eggshells out of fear of Charlie. While working, and when out in public, these guys always act tougher than rocks, like gay rebels without causes. The interesting thing is that while working at a bar they may give off the appearance of being there party animals, the life of the party, but the truth is that most of it is a show. The “part” is a distraction from who my co-workers really are and the how normal they really are, if normal exists. Many of them have created this show to avoid their own problems, families, and their current life-shortcomings. I will admit that these people work just as hard as they play. Everyone takes their jobs very seriously, as a profession and not just a job the way much of the public may assume. I have come in to this industry as a blind man in a city of lights, unsure of what this place has to offer me and what it will take from me, rhetorically speaking. What it will this probably take away from me next? I assume my youth and my soul, just an assumption… In-turn I am not sure what I will take away from my time here. I fear though ending up a life-long bartender, although I am in school and that’s not the goal, it never seems to be. The other issue is this, what’s wrong with being a lifetime bartender? It’s not like I’m committing to a life working drive-through. It’s nice to be the life of the party, but all the time? Do I always have to appear happy? If I have learned anything from the “star magazine,” I have learned that no one can be happy at all times, we all have bad days, just ask Lindsey Loan. Regardless of the questions I have, it is a good profession for the right people. Some people seems to portray the bartender roll to me like that of a model, everyone has an expiration date “make your money while you can, you wont be the it boy forever.” Isn’t that true in all fields and pretty much everything we do in life though? Work it before the sand runs out? Since working here, I do not like to admit the changes coming over me. I am transitioning into a person who I do not know, although I am familiar with him. I am now peppering my sentences with words that I swore I would never use, the other day I said that something was “fierce” and wanted to punch myself out. I am getting awkwardly more comfortable with being the “big-headed fag boy” bullies always knew I was. I am more comfortable with the world of the gay, the rainbow and all that is connected to this. I am learning how to flirt with men and play the song and dance with them. It’s hard because we are all raised to date and flirt with the opposite sex, but for homosexuality, kids my age have no real gay relationship role models. This is an important social aspect of growing into an adult gay man, and not in a dirty way. There are “gay” phrases that I will not use. It's not that I can't use them. I don’t use female words for men, unless I want to piss them off. For example, if some burly guy comes into the bar and asks me for a drink, but is a douche-bag while ordering, I’ll call him Sally to get a rise out of him and piss him off. I do not have a lisp, but am getting more comfortable with my feminine side, although I don’t plan on entering the world of drag any time soon. I will not yet admit out loud my closeted love of old Mariah songs. Yes, I said Mariah Carey, she may at times look like a Rhino in heels, not saying she looks fat, but more so that she needs to stop wearing the same thing she’s worn since she was 19… Regardless, the woman can sing like no other and I’ll leave it at that. I am getting used to the hassle and bustle of busing a club that is packed from night to night. I am one of the little lemmings who keep it clean and carry heavy boxes of beer through crowds of hundreds of people on a daily basis. I am oddly used to getting groped, ass-grabbed and having coworkers at times treat me like a simple machine. The messy drunks are like moving wallpaper there. There is a furry ignited in each and every one of them once the pop music plays, their inner 12-year old girl is let out and the man they are is forgotten while the music goes. For the entertainment value of this alone, I am more comfortable with the fact that I traded in the smell of coffee grounds-soaked work cloths for ones soaked in beer, cheap booze and man musk. I now know that in a bar there is no such thing as an appropriate topic of conversation. There are no doors left closed. Most customers have no limits. Every queen seemed to feel it their personal duty to work your self-esteem down to a nub, to the best of their power just because they can. It’s like they are working hard to watch you crumble. If you break, these bitches win. If you don’t react to these cunts, then really you win. If you loose a few pounds, they would tell you. If they thought you looked attractive, they will sure as hell let you know. If you have a bad day and come off as a dick, they will tell you and make sure to cause a scene at your expense. If you are a bareback accidentally take their melted, nearly empty, well cocktail, the storm will begin. Word to the wise, never get between a gay and their drinks, the consequences could create a monsoon. The other thing I am now used to is the sort of initiation that one goes through when barbacking. It was almost like hazing but not in a weird frat sort of way that is illegal and homoerotic, one could only dream about that one. The homoerotic undertones are just an accepted part of the scenery and frankly, welcomed by most employees to a degree. If you do a good job as a barback, coworkers will much like the customers, do little holding back. If they think you suck, they would make sure you understand such. If they simply do not like you, you then are simply not a member of their exclusive club. It’s like trying to get a seat at the popular kid’s table in high school; you have to earn your respect and place. A thick skin is absolutely necessary to make it in that place. Otherwise, an unsuspecting new hire may as well quit before getting hired. Nothing is to be taken too personally or literally. While this sounds easy, it’s the hardest part of the game, but most crucial. As a barback I am at times be in charge of backing up 5 bartenders with everything that they need. I must be able to work while at the same time keeping the rest of the club clean. I am expected to do it all. To do this, one always needs to have their self-esteem in check or they can lose themselves. If one bartender gets more attention from you than another one, then it’s your problem. While walking behind a bartender who feels they aren’t getting enough attention during their shifts, they work to you’re your night as a barback who works for them, hell. Some even block my walkway at times just so I focus on them alone. Like most gay men, bartenders here think they are beauty queens and therefore are attention-whores. Others simply tell me that I needed to get a different job if I can’t pick up the pace, like a robot. Some may even hand me a job application for the 7Eleven down the street. Some even joke about taking a portion of my tip-out being cut down to lack of working. Some will also reward me alone and hand me a couple of extra dollars at the end of the night for working hard. It all depends on each individual bartender, the night and their temperament. Did I mention that 20% of what each bartender makes is put into a pot so to speak to be divided by all the barbacks working per shift? I soon learn that as a barback, what is true about most jobs. While working hard is always important, it’s not the most essential ingredient to doing well at any job in any profession. One must always make sure that they also look like they are working hard as well. My new BFF, Jose is one person that understand the concept that one must look like they are working hard at all time. He is great at looking hot while working and also looking like he is working fast and hard. He hits on daddies left and right, while dancing, sliding around bartenders in a very smooth fashion to stock their glasses. He simply glides around them and makes sure they see him as he does things. He views himself as the example of how our job should be done. Everyone seems to love him because he makes the job look effortless with ease. He has style in the way he dresses, works and makes it look like he is performing every night. He plays up to customer’s expectations of us, and how they want us to look. He always has the most expensive, flashy new jeans and shoes on while working. He even break dances while working, busing glasses on the dance floor, with a full arm of glasses. It’s like he isn’t human. Now, Gina raves about little Jose all the time. She always mentions how he “rocks” at the end of the night. At this point I am working hard at trying not to care nor develop some silly jealousy over this. Like many others working there, I just write her off as a bitch that I will never understand or ever really get to know. She is the only one to really gives me insightful advice there but, it is her delivery though, abrupt, harsh, without a cushion. I guess it’s her way of cutting to the chase and I don’t like it. At the end of that night in particular, she offers to drive Jose home even though he lives really close to the bar. Normally he and I would leave the bar together and I drive him home so we could have a chance do what we love to do after work, which is smoking pot. Jose accepts her invitation and they are off. Now I have noticed Aaron and Jose are to getting close. They both bonded apparently over their similar style, fashion, tattoos and their love of older men. About a week ago when Jose wasn’t working, I watched Aaron tip Jose a bit extra on the side for doing a good job. Usually we both would get something extra from Aaron. This time I was the odd man out. The nights to follow, Aaron and Jose would chat all the time and leave me out of conversation or talk about things that I couldn’t really chime in on like tattoos since I didn’t have any. I felt so left out and couldn’t figure out why I cared. It has been 3 months that the bar now been put under the spell of Jose. It’s getting to be this confusing conspiracy. I am the only one who isn’t under his spell. While Jose and I still hang out, our relationship seems to be shifting to one of arch-rival. It’s the friendemy type, the friends where you act friendly but really have a vendetta against and are enemies with. At the beginning he mentions to me that he thinks that he is the next logical pick to bar tend, if a bartender is to quit or get fired that he will fill their shoes. He then asserts, that he got along with everyone that matters anyways. He soon starts to hang out with all the queens at that place and that encompasses the whole scene that we have become a part of. He then starts to take personal conversations from the past, add lies and made them public. He would tell coworkers that I am gossiping to others about who at the bar I assume is HIV positive and negative. Joking about people’s status in a gay crowd is never funny, nor relevant, nor something I would ever do. While working one night a group of group of our mutual “friends” come by. These girls have become mutual friends with Jose and myself in the past few months come in the bar. These lesbians always come and say hi to me upon their arrival into the club. This time, one of them told me that I am a jerk and that she knows what I told Jose. I don’t even know what I told him. She says that she know I actually hate women, “especially dykes.” It makes no sense. From the beginning of time, the majority of my friends have always been women. In retrospect, I always have a fag hag, fruit fly on hand since the beginning of time. At work Jose would always keeps up the facade of looking accomplished, like he is doing his job. All his glasses stocked, the bar look clean from a front-end perspective. On a closer inspection, half of the glasses are not completely clean. Instead of stocking beer, he makes each cooler looks like they are stocked well by piling the beer in weird shapes so that no one would notice the large pockets of air between them. He somehow always finishes work with less than a bead of sweat, while I looked like the Swamp-thing, all melted, drenched with sweat at the end of each and every night. If he worked before me, he keeps up the appearance that everything is done and stocked at changeover. Then once Jose leaves I notice that the image is nothing. I can see that all the little things are left undone. He makes it so I will have to spend the rest of the night trying to pick up his slack, stocking what he leaves undone, cleaning up his mess. This in turn made it look like I am not able to keep up according to the whispering bartenders who I hear now and again. One happy hour, I come in for work ready for the day. There is a note on my time card from the owner of the bar, good old Phil. It says that I need to “shadow another barback and review how to cut fruit,” it also says that I “should be seen working on the floor more.” Essentially, he is telling me that this is a warning and I look like a slacker so they will treat me like a retard. I later find out that Jose has written him a note ripping up my performance as an employee, saying that he thinks he has seen me drinking at a near by bar before work. Our bar has a strict no drinking policy if one was caught under the influence, they can loose their jobs within seconds. He is now trying to get me fired. His games are going too far now. I explain my conspiracy theory to Mike, he nods and acts like there was nothing I could do, a helpless soul. I soon decide this is wrong but that Jose should fall soon on his greased head. I soon started to watch Jose very closely. Now, I wish I learned how to give someone the evil-eye the way my 97-year old grandmother would whenever a putz would cross her path. Every mistake he makes I am there. Every time he slacks off and sneaks off for a smoke break, I am there. I also act like nothing bothers me. I talk very little while working now, but when people are around treat Jose like he is still a good friend. It’s kind of interesting how this seems to piss him off even more. The harder he tries to get to me during shifts by blocking my way during work, giving me more work to do, the quieter I become. Silence seems to have become the sharp dagger that I need to off him. He trips me while I gather glasses on the dance floor. One time, he literally trips me right in front of a dishwasher as I was setting down a whole arm full of glasses. As the glasses crash on the dishwasher and shards start to rain on to the floor. There he is watching. He is about 5 feet away, on the other side of the bar. He smiles and walks away. I am left clean up the mess. While angry, I stay silent and look unbothered. One of the bartenders watches the whole thing and then asks Jose why the floor is so wet near his dishwashers, enough to be a hazard. Jose doesn’t have an answer. This night it seems to be a battle between good and evil. All his new friends slowly begin to switch teams and turn on him. That bartender starts chatting with the other guys about what he sees. Soon poor Jose is under a microscope, while I keep far away from him still keeping silent. A week later Jose comes in to work insanely drunk, reeking of his usual blunt aroma. This is a normal daily event which has until now gone unnoticed. But no one was paying attention to him before, the way are on today’s particular happy hour. The bartender he is working with is Mike, the one who is silently watching and putting all the pieces together. Jose has been working for about two hours and then suddenly disappears. While it is slow, Mike decides that it is time for a bathroom run. Needing someone to cover his bar, he begins to wonder what the hold up is with Jose. After 20 minutes of waiting Mike realizes that the other bartender is at least 15 minutes late by this point. Mike leaves the bar worried and walks around the back area looking for Jose so he can call the missing bartender. Needing to pee worse than he ever has, Mike entered one of the many unisex-bathrooms that establishment has. As Mike sets up to use the urinal next to the first stall, to his dismay, he heard a slurping, and this queeny moan. Caught red-handed, literally gagging on the evidence that the missing bartender has placed in Jose’s mouth. Soon the news spread to “daddy”. The way he finds out was the happy hour’s events is when he asks Mike why he had disappeared off the camera in front of the bar for such a long period of time. Mike, is not known for lying and really has no choice but to tell the truth to cover his own ass. That horny bartender and Jose both are soon whited-out off of the schedule in the back room, within minutes of Mike’s conversation with “daddy.” It's as though they had never worked there.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chapter 13, 6 MONTHS LATER

It’s about 6 months now that I have been working there. It’s about 5 months since I have enjoyed the peace of a weekend and the world of the living. Currently, the when describing my life, I feel like I am describing that of a vampire. The only difference is that I don’t get to be erotically close to Brad Pit, and my jeans are tighter. My life is now all about "school" (at least that is what I tell myself), going out, meeting guys and working at the bar. Actually, it’s less about school and more about everything else. My waist is about 2 inches smaller now. I have contact lenses now and am rarely seen in those clunky glasses buddy holly glasses that are windows into my boring, snoozer of a past life. Life seems to be finally going somewhere and nowhere at the same time, much like an episode of “Lost.” Every time I think I have figured it out, another puzzle. It’s getting more confusing by the minute, left feeling a bit crazy but at least I look thinner. I now wear a size medium tee shirt at work, which I have cut the sleeves off of. For many this may be no big deal. For me this is a major step for me. I am the same guy who has always avoided showing off my body because I have never been at that comfort level. My hair now is also 4-inches shorter and well groomed. I sware, I’m getting gayer and gayer by the minute. At this rate, I’ll be shooting sequence from my mouth by next year. It’s three weeks before Thanksgiving and I want to go visit my mother. She just just moved to the lovely state of Texas, a place I really know nothing about. I am from San Diego, which seems to be a very different place. All I do know is that Texas is a red state. Why would I go to a red state? For this reason alone, I have no interest in the place. From my mom’s description, the cheese stands alone. She makes it sounds like they are the only Jews in Texas. I write down my request in letter form to the boss. I am told to set it in his mailbox because there really isn’t anyone to talk to about this. The odd thing is that I have been there 6 months already and have yet to really meet or see the owner Phil since I got this job. He is like Charlie from “Charlie’s Angels,” only to be known via telephone conversation, through other coworkers or through notes he mysteriously leaves on our time cards. In the note I nicely ask for Thanksgiving off and tell him that I will though be available for other holidays. Then, as I am writing my time off request, there is Aaron a few feet behind me. He is staring at himself through a mirror we have perched above the time clock. He is putting on his usual Spackle routine of eye cream, powder and a sheer gloss. Aaron’s routine of getting ready for work is much like that of a show girl’s in the old movies, powder and a mirror with a lot of lights. He then glances over my shoulder to see what I am writing. I hate when people glance over my shoulder it makes me as uneasy as when you’re driving and notice a cop behind you, and even though your doing nothing wrong, you feel like you’re going to get busted for something. Aaron proceeds to fill me in and explains that “daddy” may not like me taking off on a major holiday. Aaron then explains how I could easily get fired for the request alone because I am inconveniencing him. Another possible outcome apparently is that he could simply make it hard for me later, with bad shifts or no shifts. The way he warns me, it comes off so unreal, as though my life is now destined to be under the thumb and of Phil who will guide my future’s fate. The way people describe Phil is almost as though he is the godfather. The amount that my coworkers fear Phil’s wrath is immeasurable and hard to put into words. He has this power over many of us that I just can’t figure out. A week later, on a Sunday night I had finish working happy hour and decide to then stay out for one drink. One thing about working in a bar is the second you are off the clock, everyone wants to get u loaded. Keeping this in mind, one drink soon turns to shot, after shot, random drink, after random drink. I was about an hour and a half into my night, I am happily trashed when I bumped into a group of my coworkers who are seemingly equally obliterated. Since they find me at our bar, we all decide that it’s Jagger Bomb time. Whoever thought up the idea of Jagger-bombs, should be shot. It’s a almost as evil a concoction as a Long Island Iced Tea. It’s at this point when I know I’m going to be sick from this, but decide to keep going because I’m young and stupid. Soon we are off. This is where my night normally ends. Tonight this is where my night just begins. We hop from bar to bar. They all start to blend together and really after a while all the drinks taste the same. The one thing I can remember is that it’s like going out with celebrities. These guys get us the best drinks, set our group in the best locations and always tip like money was toilet paper. I have never seen money used so frivolously. I am someone raised by immigrants who actually came to the U.S. as refugees, spending money so casually like it’s nothing astonishes me. By the end of the night/the beginning of the morning, our group has thinned out. We end up at someone’s house, I’m not exactly sure who’s, maybe Johnny’s. Whoever’s home it is, he has and entire bar set up in their kitchen. In my drunken stooper I can’t tell how and when we had left the bar and how we are now at someone’s at-home bar. This is the first time I have ever been smashed with these guys. It’s odd to be this fucked up with co-workers around. Is this standard? By this point I am so drunk that I can’t exactly remember how long I have been in this person’s apartment. I find myself staring at this beautiful, blue tequila bottle and listening to some random dude chatting into my ear who’s name escapes me cause he is obviously so memorable. Is I am staring at the bottle, I can see my horrid reflection in it. It’s at the point in the night when your own reflection begins to look scary. It’s like I am in a trance, “snap out of it girl, I got some frosted flakes!” He passes me this plate that looks like it’s covered with powdered sugar. I am not known for passing up stuff with powdered sugar. I am not really sure what’s going on so I take my finger to the plate of powder then wipe it on my tongue and gums. This isn’t the kind of sugar I am used to. I pass the plate on. Aaron then says, “look boys touch of the gums, like a pro.” My entire mouth is numb, the sensation is uncomfortable while euphoric at the same time. I feel like a mess inside, yet I for some reason can’t stop smiling. I watch as they pass around this magical hors d'oeuvres. They keep passing around a bowl, while James played bartender and puts on some pop music selections off of his ipod. I can’t tell how long I have been there, although I feel really chipper now. James keeps topping off my glass while calling me stud. As James fills my glass for the millionth time, Paulo in his Latino gay accent says, “I heard that princesss is taking Thankssssgiving off, ha, nice working with you babe.” He then gives me a hug and a playful peck on the cheek. It’s morning now. I just woke up with the taste of last night in my cotton mouthed-face, on the couch of a living room that I can’t recall, alone in yesterday’s cloths. My shirt is on the ground for some reason and covered in the smell of puke. I think I’m in the apartment from the night before. There is that powdered sugar plate which is now empty on the coffee table in front of me, next to a bullet looking thing that kind of looks like one of those magnifying glasses used to look at jewels. I am hugging my favorite black hoodie like it’s a lover and have some strange cat, who has set up shop on my thigh. I have no recollection of how I came to be here shirtless, alone and on some strange couch. I left shirtless in my hoody with the taste of vomit and moth-balls in my mouth. On my way to the bus, being in San Francisco’s wonderful Lower Haight, I stop by Walgreens to get the usual hangover treatment of pepto, gatorade and mints. While eclectic, I hear this isn’t always the best part of town. This particular part of the Lower-Haight area happens to currently be peppered with cracked out homeless people and recovering hippies that took one too many doses. These people are the hippies who haven’t sold out, end up in corporate America or as Whole Foods junkies. Once inside, the maze of aisles again, I am reminded of the night’s events with one burp. That burps makes me realize that I am, a still astonishingly drunk chemistry lab, ready to explode everywhere. Once I have the Wallgreens version of Gatorade, in hand, peptobizmuf, mints and random crap that I find near the register, I am ready to get going. As I get to the register the clerk looks me straight in the eyes. It’s as though she is looking into my soul. It’s freaking me out. She looked like she has seen a ghost. She mutters, the amount I owe and then says in a stern tone “Ya’ll best be safe out there. Take care of yourself.” I don’t get what she was talking about, pop open the drink in hand and ran to approaching bus right outside. Once I walk into my apartment, my mother calls that instant. Being a good boy, I answer because I am like many gay men, a self-admitted momma’s boy. She asks me about the upcoming holiday plans and I then confirmed that I am coming. By the third step into the apartment I can feel a grumbling in my gut. I burp and tell my mom I have to go, hang up on her and run straight to the bathroom. I puke all over the bathtub because that is the first thing I see when entering the bathroom. I turn around the sink and begin to wash my face, brush the sins off and put a clean taste in my mouth. As I looked in the mirror, I realized how fucked up I look. My eyes are met with purplish-bags and my cheeks are pale and flushed at the same time. My skin has this off grayish hew. Within seconds of seeing this horrid vision that I am trying to wash away, I feel the grumble again and end up hugging the toilet bowl as though it’s a long lover and puking. This morning, being is more brutal than any I have seen since the 9th grade. It’s like I’m fourteen years old all over again. I am more hungover than I was the first time I got drunk enough to puke all over the Denny’s bathroom. Like that faithful New Years eve, last night I drank every alcoholic type of beverage within site to show I could roll. Unlike that New Year’s I did not professing my love to my best friend who would later be my girlfriend and then become my best fag hag and smoke 10 cigarettes in 1 sitting because I could. So much has changed, yet so little. Like then, I am just a small fish in a big pond, learning to be me in just another coming of age story.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chapter 12, JOSE

Chapter 12
Now I’m about 10 pounds lighter than I was when I started. My jeans have lost 1-inch on the waist. Unlike most of the boys working here, I still keep the sleeves on my work shirts. Keeping the sleeves on your shirts here is like being the guy who goes swimming with a t-shirt on. It just looks out of place. It’s like going swimming in one of those full-body bathing suits from the 1930s while everyone else wears shorty-shorts for trunks. I know this from personal experience because I was “that” guy.
I was the kid that others would stare at, while eating their weight in food at the Sizzler. The look was like, “Really? All you can eat? Someone should stop this kid and send him to fat camp.” It didn’t help that I would wear this shirt with Bart Simpson on it, which read, “have a Cow man” on it for every Sizzler outing. I guess there was something to the power fo suggestion. I wore the shirt with the trunks because I thought that would keep people from focusing on my chub boy-bitch-tits. It was a distraction from what my cousin Nicole called my “pleasantly plump” exterior.

Many of my hotter, less inhibited, limber, more fit coworkers cut off the sleeves of their shirts to make themselves feel sexy, even if their faces look less then satisfactory. Any drag queen will tell you, it’s all about attitude. There can be a drag queen who has an adams apple the size of your head and a full beard, but give him some heels and a good Liza number, impeccable. At the bar, when they stick to the appropriate size shirt, the action of cutting the sleeves does actually make them look better, but when they don’t…. It looks like sausages squeezing out of a tiny trash bag, which is how they usually end up looking. Today I actually go out to get my first pair of Diesel jeans today, also known as gay man jeans. They are from a local thrift shop. They are a steal at just $10 dollars due to a weird pen-stain on the crotch region. Frankly, I need to catch up for lost time, so I don’t mind the staring. It’s a win, win situation. When it comes to a good bargain, no one has to ask this good Jewish boy twice. A good find (assuming getting laid is not a possibility) leads that boost of confidence, which every young man needs to start their day with. It’s the same awkward boost one gets when riding the subway, and getting hit on by the nasty man sitting across from you. As he licks his lips, teeth or gums because he has no teeth in your direction, like you’re a file Mignon you feel special. While disgusting, it does make us feel special. It’s not like you would ever go home with him, but it gives you that boost of self-esteem you need to take on a tough day.

For the past couple weeks I keep getting scheduled shifts with this guy Jose. He is becoming a good friend. He is also my only real ally at work. This guy is fascinating to say the least. This boy is about 2 inches taller than me, making him somewhere around 5’10. I tell people that I’m 5’8 (even though I’m actually 5’7 &3/4). He is one of those gay boys with perfectly plucked-eye brows, the kind that simply add to the botox look on his haggard 23-year old face. His Latina eye-browse have a bit of a drag queen meets cholo/greaser look that create a look of confusion that equals a blank, glazed-over face. He is perfectly androgynous. Jose spews overt sexuality, which adds to his mystique since he acts overtly masculine, but wears foundation. He is one of those guys who at home is probably macho and not out to his family, but outside of that, the queen spreads her wings. He never allows his emotions to be seen, so it seems. It’s like he is permanently stoned. This guy is always ready to give anyone a show. He has a whole bunch of tattoos that tell his story. His story is tough, shitty upbringing, the type of guy who has nothing good to say or at least the story he wants to people to believe.

Jose and I are about a month into being “friends.” Hanging out with him is like watching that lame Anna Nicole Smith reality show was. You want to not like the show, but after a while, you realize you have been watching for hours and don’t realize how much time you spend together. Like any friendship it’s still new and I am still trying to figure out if it’s just a part of some larger game connected to the bar. Is he really my friend, an ally or just someone with a good game face? Ricky, the little Chinese guy pulls me aside the yesterday and day to tells me that I should watch out for Jose. According to Ricky, he feels “that Buddah have evil plans for Jose.” I write off what he is telling me such utter nonsense, so I ignore this whole concept. Jose and I get oddly close by the virtue of the fact that we both like similar things. We both like to go out, have fun and are stuck living on the schedule of the bar. This job puts us both on the vampire schedule, which is fine because I too ignite in the sun. When one finishes work at 4am what is there to do? I am in school still. Any time I am free, not working and probably should be doing homework, everyone else is sleeping or it’s the middle of the day and they are working. They are on the schedule “of the living” so we call it.

While I am new to the scene, Jose is one of those people who acts like he knows everyone and everything. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. I’m just along for the ride. I assume that he has been around the block a few times in his day, at the ripe-old age of 23 by the way he acts and holds himself. I assume that he has been around not to be mean but because of all the different types of men who approach him when we are out and about. He is the type of guy that can go to a club and for some reason get everyone to fall in love with him. He has already worked at bars for a while. Maybe this is how they know him? Not from sleeping around, but more so from working in the neighborhood or most likely a bit of both. This guy is always ready to be the life of the party, and if that isn’t the case he will bring the party to wherever he is. He is also one of those guys always ready to fight anyone who gets in the way of his party life. By ready, I mean he essentially is Marty McFly waiting for someone to call him chicken so he can tear some shit up. He is a bi-polar mix of a down to earth, relaxed guy and absolute outraged hostility. It’s okay though. In my case it seems to work well. It’s like having a styled, male, Chola, personal bodyguard wherever I go. Within seconds he can go from chill to breaking bear bottles on any bully’s head. I love the security I feel in that regard.

Being the responsible guy I have always been, its odd to spend time with someone who doesn’t think about the next step. Jose lives in the moment, something I know nothing about, everything I do is as planned and thought through as a TV guide. I admire how he can just let go and have this unexplainable freedom of not thinking about tomorrow. The truth is that this is because his tomorrow is never certain. He is on the run from his baggage of problems that will eventually catch up with him. He is all about the now and in the moment. While I can see the problems associated with this train of thought, I can also feel the refreshing breeze of this concept. It’s a life of freedom from the stressful world I currently live in. It’s an escape from our problems and inadequacies. He seems to live life without responsibilities of any kind. I can’t understand it. He seems to have never learned the concept that with every move there is a reaction and vice verse. With him there are just moves, the reactions are not his problem or at least that is how he carries on. We are grown men in our early who are from “broken,” single-parent households. We are the guys they make specials about on Dateline. His story will feature one about him in prison for something stupid, like starting a fight at Sephora. Mine will be for starting from nothing and now having it all. We both have currently though, take care of ourselves as we have our whole lives. Maybe that is why we have a soft spot for each other? We both seem to understand the other’s struggle. While they are different, they are very much the same. He will never let anyone know this though. He is a very thick skinned-poker face type of guy.

Jose is a guy who always has the money and time to party. Always ready with a little bit of weed and cash on him. Always dressed in expensive jeans and designer crap that he buys the same day in cash, he is always ready to impress. In retrospect, I don't think he could be a hooker, but wouldn't be surprised. He never seems to think about tomorrow, just about now. It’s amazing how he can just shut out the fears of tomorrow’s failures.

Our first time I out, is also my first Gay Pride. This was a few weeks into being at the Labyrinth. That Saturday, also infamously known as “Pink Saturday.” It’s like Marti gras in New Orleans. Jose somehow has the day off. Me being new to this game, I don’t really get the big deal of this gay pride crap. At 9 o’clock, I am off. As I punch my time card out, all of a sudden Jose is there, out of nowhere. It is as though he had just materialized from thin air. He pulls me by the arm and says, “I got a blizie in one pocket and another full of cash, we are gonna have some fun tonight.”

Within seconds, we are pounding shots at the first bar tending station of the bar. Shot after shot, they all are blurring together. Before the liquor sets in, Jose pulls me out into the street which now was filled with men, women, glitter, bowas, drag queens, trannies, clothing is now optional. At least that is how the crowd looks. There are DJ-vans set up everywhere and the streets are now blocked off. As Jose is pulling on my arm with one hand, the other is grabbing every ass of every hot guy he sees. It is the same way elderly people use railing to help themselves down stairs. He uses the asses to lead his way into the crowd. Out of nowhere he hands me a little blunt. We are right in the center of it all and smoking pot. I am amazed at how nonchalant he is. The carefree spirit is something I don’t really know how to embrace. I don’t know how to be as free as Jose looks. I turn to hand Jose back his blunt and he is making out with 3 random dudes at the same time. They are for some reason, dressed as angels and covered in glitter. I turn to my other side and there are naked lesbian on stilts who are tapping heads that they pass by to gain balance. They are wandering muffs out, tits bouncing. Now I was am so stoned that I don’t realize I am full on watching the Jose show as though it’s late night HBO and I’m 13 years old.

Eventually Jose and I end up drinking some booze with some shirtless lesbians we have just met minutes prior. While I am gay, i can't help but stare at a great pear of tits, I mean, they are called fun-bags for a reason. Luckily, none of these lesbians have nice tits. Their boobs look more like runny eggs from years of telling the "man" to fuck off and not wearing bras.
It’s interesting to watch how Jose can work people. He knows what he is doing most of the time and if he doesn’t, he looks like it. He appears to be very good at manipulating things to go his way. Jose plays the whole gay boy card where he starts complimenting one of the girls on her makeup and the other on how perky her tits are. Such simple, stupid compliments and they work. These girls eat it up like cheesecake. He then asks if he could buy a beer from them. He ends up taking their whole box of MGDs, hands me 2 and then handing them $40.

We end up with the lesbians at some house party a few blocks from the “Pink Saturday” aftermath. This party is much like a San Diego State Frat party, but instead of bro-men, it’s full of lesbians of all walks. Then again I turned around and Jose is making out with some old daddy-man with a big beard who looks like he could crush skinny little Jose. I then realize that man is an ex-woman, a Female to Male. I notice this when Jose peels himself of the dude. Jose then takes out of his magical pocket yet another blunt. That pocket is like Mary Poppin’s bag, it keeps magically giving us more blunts. His pocket must be filled with them. Jose then looks right past the man/woman as though they have never met and takes an un-opened MGD he finds on a near by coffee table.

Jose comes up to find me engaged in a conversation with one of ladies. She has the most beautiful dreads that I have ever seen. I am so drunk that I am staring at it like it is the meaning of life. Her hair is blonde with natural copper highlights. We are talking about how we both had realize that we both loved PBR and living in San Francisco. We both had decide that we must become best friends right then and there. She starts talking about the Middle East, Gaza, politics, and of course peace. I hate when SF hippies start yapping about politics if they have no idea what the hell they are rambling about. Then Jose jumps into the conversation. He literally stands right between myself, the lovely girl who, I am now best of friends with for the moment. He then starts talking about how pretty the girl is. He tells her that her hair was so pretty, but looks a bit damaged. I thought think to myself how odd to say something like that in a backhanded compliment the way he is saying it. He then says, “this place is tired, I’m out.” Within seconds he was gone. Just as he so quickly materialized earlier in the night, he is now out of site all of a sudden. Before I know it, I wake up safe and sound in my bed some time hours later. I am still clothed, covered in the smell of smoke, pot and booze all rolled into one. I am just confused and unsure of the night’s events. I am sure though that this is a night I will remember.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chapter 11. My first gay bar

Chapter 11

Coincidentally, the first gay bar I ever went to was in the Castro. The circumstances were not the norm. I was seventeen. It was the summer before my senior year, or as I like to call it, the last year to freedom. I lived in San Diego at the time, worked at Starbucks part-time and still thought I was straight. I had a girlfriend who I loved at the time and still do. It was summer time. It was that moment off San Francisco summer before their unusually warm fall and right about the time assholes would start using a certain quote when they heard you were San Francisco. “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco."

It was a cousin’s birthday in SF. I went with a few of my cousins to San Francisco for the weekend to visit our extended family there. This was when I still thought Rice-A-Roni was the San Francisco treat. It was years before I would learn that the actual San Francisco treat was homeless people pooping on stoops and passive aggressive arguments completely consisting of eye-rolls.

After a lovely Friday evening of stuffing our fat Russian faces with as much Russian food as possible, we got to my cousin’s house in San Francisco. We continued to snack on leftovers and regret. This would lead to a Saturday waking up late, hung over and not feeling like doing jack shit. I sat for hours chatting, eating and drinking coffee with three of my cousin’s and one of their husbands. At the time, this was my favorite part of family event, eating, coffee and gossip. My aunts would often talk right in front of me about the most recent gossip like I wasn’t there. They must have assumed that my Russian was far worse than it was cause I got to know everyone’s dirt.
After the fourth course and second pot of coffee my aunt, who’s house we were in came in to her kitchen, which was now covered in food wrappers, poppy seed cake, koogle, empty doughnut boxes, myself and my cousins with crumbs ear to ear. Her calmly told us that her kitchen awful. She of course yelled at us about the mess and then told us to go out and stop wasting the day away. This was after she yelled at the two girl cousins for eating too much and then offered me, along with the only other male in the room all of the food that was left on the table. That was of course the Russian way, make the women feel horrible about themselves while the men get fatter by the second.

After yet another hour of stuffing my face with caviar, bread and guilt (Russian/Jew food staples), while the girls at the table were working on their eating disorders, we decided it was time to do something. We didn’t have a plan, but all decided to get dressed. This meant that two of my cousins would run upstairs, sneak ½ a pack of cigarettes while the other took a 2-hour shower as means to get ready.

It was dark out, around 8 or 9 in the evening I assume and we just drove around the city. We went to Twin Peaks, Lombard (the curvy street) and Golden Gate Park, all without getting out of the car because it was food coma time. Eventually the older cousins decided they wanted to get drinks but couldn’t because some of us were under age. This didn’t stop us though. The conversation about drinking came, as we happened to be driving near the Castro District. We parked there and decided to look around. We had heard that this was where the cheapest bars in the city were and being the Jewish family we were raised as, we couldn’t help but check out the bargain.

While walking around we chatted, joked around and my cousin’s husband, who was with us brought up an intriguing idea. He proposed a bet that we all pick a gay bar, all try to go in and then see if we could get someone of the same sex to buy us a drink. The first person to do this would get a $20 from everyone on this outing. There were five of us.

I was so excited about the getting to go to bars part that I didn’t care about anything else. The first bar we approached smelled like rotten beer. As we waked in, no one carded me and I was ecstatic. After 30-seconds of rejoicing about that in my head, I looked around the bar. It was all fat, older, hairy men watching the original Ellen Show. It was such a stereotype it was ridiculous. It was of course the episode where Ellen where she came out. After 40-seconds of being in the bar Ellen had announce that she was gay on all five of the television screens in the bar, maybe this hit too close for home, not sure. We left quickly soon after.

We walked a few minutes and found another nearly empty gay bar. The entrance to the place just had these stairs that took you to the top of the building where the bar was. Another place where I didn’t get carded, I was near shitting myself as a result at this point. Out the windows of the bar we were looking over Castro Street, the HUGE rainbow flag and the years of bad decisions that I would follow this moment with in bars.

We all split up. One of my lady cousins hung out near the pool table of the place. It was a few minutes earlier we realized that the pool table was lesbian territory. After two seconds of being there, a big, fat man-woman person, dressed like Bruce Springsteen approached her and chatted her up. I assume the conversation did no cover makeup or orthodontic work.

Next, that cousin’s husband went to another room and started chatting with some random college dude who in retrospect looked like an older version of the kid from the Terminator movies.

Every cousin had picked a person to talk to. I just sat alone sipping some neon blue drink that had way too many garnishes. After about a half-hour of sitting there I started to daydream about my next meal, hoping we would go to a late night diner and be able to get milkshakes. It was then, this little Dominican fellow walked up to me. He asked me if I was okay.
Unfortunately it came out as “JEEEEW KAY?”

I misunderstood, gave him an “I’m insulted” face and looked away while I finished half of my drink in one gulp.

The guy walked away and within one minute came back with a drink he handed me with his number on a napkin. He was so gross that I think my penis shrinked up into itself or at least that’s what I felt like… I smiled, guzzled the drink down and told him I had to go. I was headed to the exit. All the cousins saw my accomplishment and one by one came up to me and gave me $20. I glanced back at the guy in the distance who bought me a drink. He looked up hauled. Maybe it was cause all these people were handing me money and it looked like I was a prostitute.

Ironically it would be three year before I realized that I was in fact a gay and five years before I would be good at it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chapter 10 Learning to Fight.

Chapter 10. Learning to fight

There is one aspect of working at the bar that scares me shitless. I guess that sentence is wrong, I mean, I have a distinct fear that I will shit myself at various times of the day, not that it has happened. I more specifically fear shitting myself in a work situation that may possibly arise working at a bar. I don't like the idea of having to be confrontational in general. I will wear headphones without any music playing at the gym just so people don’t talk to me. Men have a tendency at the gym to walk up to each other, men they may not even know at the gym and instead of saying “hi” they have to tell each other about their workout regiment, even though no on ever asks. It always sounds like, “Hey man. What you doing here? Working out the Pecs today, was out of the gym for a while… the flu, injured my back pretending to be a much younger man, lifting way too heavy of weight, but now I’m back.”

Me, “I’m working on solving global peace, that do you think I’m doing? It’s a gym, I’m working off my daddy issues like everyone else!”

Sorry for that long tangent. Back to what scares me shitless, well at least one of the scenarios. Like I was saying I don’t like to be confrontational if I don’t have to. I was bullied a lot as a child and don’t feel like I need to play the battle of who has the bigger balls with other guys. When entering a bar, specifically one that you work at, one needs to be ready to defend themself. You never know when a fight will break out. I’m in San Francisco for god sakes, land of the passive-aggressive. 90 Percent of the time, here, and fights tend to be non-physical and consist off passive-aggressive eye rolling with attitude. The last thing one thinks they will have to do here is speak up for themselves, the way the rest of the world does. Unfortunately, in a bar situation you can’t always talk people down with a nice condescending political debate or joint induced conversation about who killed Kurt Cobain (even though we all know the answer). Ideally, in the unlikely situation that I will have to kick someone out of the Labyrinth, I hope that I am surrounded by hot muscular men, of who are ready to jump in and fight for me. They will want to do the dirty work for me cause that’s what the hot muscled men in fantasies do, along with heavy lifting around the house and sweating. The truth is those guys only hang out with me in my dreams and even though it looks like we are fighting in these dreams I must admit that it’s all consensual, but I digress.

Back to the bar. Gina is doing what she does best, yapping and making a round of drinks. Right as she pours the drinks, this drunk guy walks by and knocks over all the drinks she is making so that they spill all over her. At this second her face changes from it’s usual shade of perfectly-baked tan to a red that can only described as maxi-pad red-tan. As a gay man, I am saying this by assumption and what I have pieced together from a life of sharing bathrooms with women, but it’s still gross. Word to the wise, do not under any circumstances piss off a lesbian, it never ends well. The guy has a body shape similar to that of a Mr.Chaz Bono (ex-Chastity Bono). His belly looks like what I assume an industrial-sized Jello bowl looks like. He is I guess more of a summo-wrestler type. You can see the cheese beneath his boulder thighs. He is wearing a dog chain around his neck and has a striking resemblance to a one aging Mr. T. Little does he know, that one should never piss off a lesbian, especially Gina. They will make sure you pay and get what’s coming to you. She is so angered she snaps for me, the way they do in movies when they need backup. I am not quick to figure out what she means by this snap, so I just stand there baffled. She then nudges me points in the direction of the drunk dude and tells me to kick the drunken mess out. Being her servant, barback for the evening, I stop and think of how I will get this guy out of the bar. I also start to wonder how such a large person could fit through the doors of the bar. I also wonder if when he goes on airplanes, does he need to purchase 2-3 seats? This guy is like three-of the mom from “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” in one.

Gina’s selective butchness kicks into high-gear once a shift, where she usually ends up kicking drunken messes out when we need her to. This time, she tells me that it’s my turn to be the man of the group. Why should I have to be the man of the group if I have a butch lesbian? We all know about their elusive super powers that the lesbian as a species poses. Gina, for example has tits that could distract any warm-blooded gay man, let alone a straight dude. Even a Vulcan at one glance of her tits may all of a sudden break into emotion. Besides the tits, butch lesbians have this intense strength that I don't understand or question. I know better. They know to balance this strength much better than men too. Maybe it’s the estrogen? I assume it's because they never get penetrated by men, they have a heightened sense of adrenaline that pumps through their bodies at all times. I assume that this is why straight men are so threatened by the true lesbian. They can make any grown man look like a little pussy or I guess a better word choice may be, a little schmuck. They can fight you, take your woman, and get her to always have a real orgasm (I don't think that women should have any reason to lie about that stuff with each other). This is all my assumption though, lesbianism is as confusing and foreign to me as the straight fist-bump, which I assume is what lesbian sex is like.

While Gina’s logic is true, I have never really had to confront another man in that way and tell them to leave an establishment. I have until now exclusively been in little quarrels and “you mamma” contents, but nothing like this.

While as a child I was picked on A LOT, I always dodged the fight. I have never really been hit or injured from a fight. I had an unusual obsession with the show “Full House,” and an over-sized head, much like Charlie Brown’s. This was reason enough for bullies to be assholes to me. As a result, I have been threatened to be beaten up many a time in my young life. I have never really been in any major physical confrontations though. In my dreams though, I have imagined that in the right situation I will reach into what I learned from years of playing "Mortal Combat." The truth is that in reality, I would need a controller to do the things I could do in that game.

Often the “lets fight,” Neanderthal-ish threats turned out to be harmless. Once some kid threw their yogurt at me while I was leaving school. This, to me was fight enough. After being mortified, when I got home, I washed the strawberry yogurt out of my hair and then ate a gallon of strawberry ice cream to heal the pain and called it a day.

Once, at camp, a counselor sent me to tell this kid, Wes, that it was time to get his Ritalin. His response was to stab me in the leg with a pencil and then try to battle me to the death. I was so shocked by his response I didn’t know what to do. I immediately followed what I had seen on Ricky Lake and pulled his hair until he screamed for mercy, but that was barely a fight.
I ask the fat fuck, I mean large fellow, nicely if he will walk out with me to the exit since he has had too much to drink and maybe needs some “fresh air.” His response is of course less nice. Then my slutty co-worker who will remain nameless has to kick people out he will whisper into their ears, “come out side, I'll show you my dick." And that usually works. I am more timid and shy though. Once outside he leaves the drunks high and dry. If only I was that smart.

Doushy Mc Dousy informs me on how I am “a little faggot mouse” who has now right tell him what to do. Who calls someone else a fag in a gay bar? That’s like calling someone fat at a Weight Watcher’s meeting, asking for a riot. WHAT?! I am infuriated. I am so angry that I'm steaming inside, but outside I can't talk. Not knowing what to do, I just freeze not sure of what my next move should be or what to say. Then Gina comes right up from behind the guy, puts her arms around him in what looked like an old fashioned bear-hug, while restraining his arms down. She then walks in a waddling fashion, similar to the way one walks when concealing a fart. She waddles with him to the door while keeping his arms tight to him. She leaves him outside of the door with the doorman and then tells me that next time she won’t be there to help.

The concept of even possibly getting into a fight makes me think about how my father always makes me spar with him even as an adult. It’s been this way ever since I was a small child. Sparring is another term for practicing boxing, punching a given hand, item or punching bag. This is a great self-esteem strengthening exercise for an awkward kid like me. Little do I realize how this practice will come in handy when I will be dealing with drunken assholes for a living. This will lay the bricks for many things later on in my life. It is like an informal training on how to “handle it” as my good friend Tracy would say. My dad always explains it like this, “one day you’ll be walking down the street with a hot girl and some guy picks a fight with you. What will you do? Chat it out? Compromise? No, you’ll hit him harder than he can hit you and look good in front of your girl.” Such simple cut and dry logic.

My dad always fancies himself to be this amazing boxer much in the way that others dream of being a rockstar. He has an unusual obsession with boxers, their world and life they live. He idolizes boxing legends like Mike Tyson (before the ear bite), Lenix Louis, Mohamad Ali. According to him, some of these guys are on par or equivalent to modern day gods. He replays Tyson’s fights any time he needs inspiration or something to do. I have consequently seen every Mike Tyson fight at least 3 bazillion times. Where I fall asleep to “Golden Girls” and “Roseanne,” he falls asleep to the fights.

Living in the city of Angels, my muscular father is like most Southern California men. He is obsessed with going to the gym and making sure that people know he does such. He references the gym at least one time per conversation when he is feeling right, usually while lighting a cigarette. The difference is his preference of gym. My 5’7, fair-skinned, four-eyed, bald-head father travels to Compton and workout at this place call the Broadway Gym. Dad says that he can’t go to another gym because real men don’t workout there. Apparently he needs a Rocky Balboa type to workout there or a man with tears tattoo on his face working out at a gym to feel like he fits in.

The Broadway gym is the one and only place were my father seems to feel at ease, something that will take me years to understand. He is always worried about life’s daily struggles, money, his relationships, possible mistakes of the present and past, the list goes on. This is the only place where he has real control of his life. As an adult I can still clearly remember him making me go with him so that I could “watch him workout”. This is similar to the episode of the “Simpsons” where Homer makes Bart look at the Virginia Slims ad for hours to make him feel more machesmo-ish. The gym is his way of showing me how men are supposed to be. Even though my dad always tries to be close to me, we never really connect in the way he hopes. The gym though is his time to show me his concept masculinity and tries to extend it as a role model. While I couldn’t grasp this concept as a child, now I understand the point of watching him box with other beefy men, beating eachother’s brains out. Mostly, it just made me want a beefy, sweaty man of my own to play with, but that is not really the point. Boxing proved to be just another one of life’s million games where men work on proving who has the bigger balls. Boxing though, seems more interesting and more skillful than other games of this nature. It’s definitely more interesting than watching a guy show off their ridiculous sports car. At least with boxing, you are the only person the boxer can blame for getting beat up is himself.
I will always remember my father in this specific way. Him rolling up to the Broadway gym while blaring his hip-hop or hard gangsta’ rap, loud enough for people to hear he was coming. As he would get out of the car, he of course then takes out a Benson Ultra-Light, his cigarette of choice. Maybe swig a sip of water, which in his case was always a coke or seven-up and then ask me to grab. I am always about 2 feet behind him like a golf-cattie carrying his bag. An ironic side-note about Russian immigrants, incase one has never had the delight of being raised by them as I have. All the families like us that I know, they always refer to sodas of any kind as water. Generally, drinking pure, crystal-clear water is considered unusual. Even plain water would have alca-seltzerish bubbles simply because that’s what they are us to from the motherland that treat them like prisoners, but we digress.

As a child, I have no clue that the Broadway Gym is in the city of Compton and known for being a bad area. This is my dad’s version of a country club, so I never really think about it. While he looks like the odd man out there to most onlookers, it is here that he feels he belongs. As he puts out his cigarette on his shoe, my dad’s voice drops 3 octives lower and he then begins to swagger, much like JJ on “Good Times” or LLCool J. He then grabs my hand and is greet by this big bald black man who goes by the name B-bell. He is about 35 years older than, and balding like my young father. The few hairs on his head, are grey and slicked down so much that the wind can’t make a dent. This man always treats me like I was his own grandchild. As a child he always has handed me a jump rope and treated me like I was training for the Olympics or a big Vegas fight. B, is an ex-famous boxer, friends with the greats during the time of Ali and the “rumble in the jungle.” His place here is to be the mentor for up and coming boxers and those who need fatherly guidance. He is like the trainer from “Rocky.” He even has a slightly east coaster way of talking. He is a father to the fatherless of Compton’s Broadway gym.

In this gym they have these rows of seats, much like the benches one may see in church, which was perfect since this was my dad’s church. I will always remember sitting there, watching my dad going back and forth, between punching 2 different bags, one the size of a human, and the other, a little one above his head, he seems happier than I have ever seen him. This is his time to show off and be proud. He always waits for me to look over and applaud. Every now and again he will stop and chat with someone about old fighting-scars from knife fights and so-on, but that again is his way of showing me what he thinks men do. Fights, exaggerated talk about sex and making fun of those who can’t get it. In between these conversations, he then looks up to see that I am still happily watching him. He then tells whoever he was talking to, that I am there to watch and soon will start to spar myself. At which point, I am be half-asleep, dreaming about things that most boys seem not to, with a ribbon of drool soaking my shirt, then I would wake up, wave and go back to it.

My dad, generally is not a very outgoing person as the way most people know him. The ring is the only time he will step up and let is hair down, so-to-speak since he lost most of it at 26 when his father died. In the ring is when I learn the most valuable lesson he has ever taught me, how to strive and defend myself. This is the only time that I don’t fall asleep is when he is in the ring ready to fight another human being and does just that. Watching, I don’t realize how much of this brutal, savage and somewhat complex sport I am absorbing. My dad is very observant, always practicing his opponent’s next move before they made it and then combating by doing the opposite or hitting them first. Maybe this is what has and always will get me out of major fights?

I use my intuitive senses to use conversations as a means of badgering bullies instead of actually hitting them, this in turn to make a bully tired. This way they don’t have the energy to fight like my father does with his fists. He plays the game as he talk the other person down, like any good fighter does.

Once I start at the bar, I don’t realize that I will have to at times be the security of the bar. I would have to play the battle of the bigger balls via my speech and way of holding myself. Me, at a statuesque 5’8, 5’7 and ¾ in actuality, responsible for kicking out guys the size of houses and drunks ready to beat up anyone within a square foot of them. The second time I have to ask a guy to leave the bar, he tells little old me that I was am a kid and he knows when he’s had enough to drink. Then I inform him that I am sorry, but he is done drinking for the night and should leave. He then tries to swing a punch at me, I duck as my father does in these situations in the ring and the guy hits the brick-wall behind me. This fist is now scraped and bloodied. I then tell him that we can take it outside but now that he had tried to hit me, I have every right to defend myself, not only physically, but also make sure that he is taken to a drunk tank. The mix of poor reflexes and lack of words make him slowly walk out. This was just one of over 2,000 similar stories. Every time I have to kick someone out, my voice for some reason travels down around 3 octives and the adrenaline takes over. It’s as though I channel my father every time someone picks a fight with me.

Every time I need an extra shift, I end up being the bar’s door man on and off for about 3 years. The ironic thing is that I am one of the few to make it without a single scratch. I use the tools and ghetto-know how that my father has provided me with. If not for my father, I couln’t defend myself the way I do. I make it through these times without fear because of him. My father is the only light-complexioned man I know who during the famous LA riots is stuck buying a pack of cigarettes right in the middle of it all. The same man that since grade school tells me that, “if anyone fucks with you, hit them back 2 times harder.” Even though he is absent from many of my childhood memories, his tools for defense are ones that will always help me become a stronger man in the long-run and in turn even stronger knowing I won’t need use these skills. I can keep them safely stowed in my back pocket for emergencies. It was like that condom in the wallet that many guys keep there just incase but never use because they aren’t sure how long it’s been there, but feel empowered knowing they have it just in case. It’s things we don’t necessarily know if and when we’d need them, but feel good knowing we are prepared.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chapter 9.... It get's better

Chapter 9.

Not to be speaking out of poor taste but it seems like everyone is working on those “It Gets Better” videos. With the rise young people committing suicide due to getting bullied for being different and or gay, I am glad that more companies and celebrities are making these videos. Children should know from day one that it’s okay to be different and we all eventually find a place for ourselves in the world as long as we are open to it.

In the “It gets better” videos, it’s often celebrities who talk about how they were once bullied, now they are successful living in their huge mansions, piles of money, with great careers and it gets better (for them). This is meant to encourage children and people who are different and feeling alone which is great but it’s not true for the average person.

Whoever thought up the “It gets better” campaign obviously hasn’t spent time at the same places I have. Like most things in life, I think that honesty is the key. This is why I want to make my own video. In mine I will tell the truth. It starts with me in front of a black screen:

“Hi my name is Yuri Kagan. I am an ex-bartender/comedian you have never heard of. I was a fat awkward kid who spent my youth shopping in the husky section, stuffing my face with pop-tarts, hot pockets and anything else I could find. I was bullied as a kid. Let me be the first to say it gets awkward, you loose weight after realizing food isn't love, get slutty, black out, then it gets better.”

Another idea that can be a video opens in a bar like the Labarynth. The bar is empty and there is one man in his early 20s, very good looking. He could be blonde maybe with good muscle tone and is in good all around shape. The video opens with him alone at the bar. There are people walking all round him. Drag queens, men, women, manly lesbians, lady-boys walk around him. He is in an Abercrombie shirt sipping from a martini for about 10 seconds and then the next 8 seconds everything around him speeds up. As time speeds up he is still slowly drinking the martini, but aging until he gets to about 80. Then there is a writing that pops up at the bottom of the screen saying, “it gets better.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chapter 8, The Castro Bubble

Chapter 8.

Often people have asked me questions about working in the Castro. They always have leading questions.
“I bet you meet hot guys all of the time right?”

My response generally, “If by hot you mean men who probably do enough crystal to make Courtney Love look like straight-edge, then probably. If you don’t mind steroids, meth or other baggage, yeah I meet lots of hot men.”
This is always the first of many questions, which often are followed by a smile and a silence that can cut glass.
The general public seems to not understand what the job actually entails. Bartending at this particular bar, that’s always packed, where the owner is his own brand of crazy and the clientele essentially lives at the place isn’t easy. Often people think it’s a huge party every night. I get why they think that. News flash, it’s all a part of the show. Sometimes working at the bar is a party all night. Most of the time, as a bartender, it’s a process of working on pretending to have fun so it just looks like a party where people want to drink and in turn we pay our bills. Nothing is free in life. It appears to me that the general public, or at least people I meet tend to forget that bartending is a job like any other job. An hour bartending can me as physically and mentally exhausting as 3-4 hours at most jobs. Like everyone else, besides Paris Hilton, we clock in, clock out, and replay. No one is really up for party mood 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. The people who are, well have problems. We as Americans let these problems play out on various reality shows for our entertainment as they hit rock bottom. Come to think of it, that should be the name of a reality show, “rock bottom.”

Onlookers often glamorize this pretty regular, blue-collar job into mythical descriptions. There is always this odd intrigue with the idea of being at the center of attention. While behind the bar at a busy place, one is shaking people’s drinks, they are also the main attraction. It does happen that sometimes the reason people come into a bar is to see the “hot” bartender, but that is just a part of the mystique or the game if you will. Every night we as bartenders get ready knowing that there will be men lined up and ready from all around, waiting to be serviced. It has all the makings of a D-rated porn. Unfortunately, that is where the similarities stop. Meeting hot, available men all the time with a pick of a different hot guy to go home with at all times of the night sounds interesting. While serving them shots, you get to watch hot guys get drunk and raunchy as they show off for you. I wish it was as hot as it sounds at all times, I would be getting laid more. As cool as that idea is, it unfortunately is far from reality. There isn’t a “money shot” in this reality, at least from what I can remember. I do drink a lot though. Every hot guy in any bar is a couple of drinks from becoming “that guy.” The dude no one wants to get to know because he is a messy drunk.
I have quickly realized that the glamour factor of working in a bar is everything but. Not to say that this job doesn’t have it’s advantages, because trust, it does. When I go into many other bars and restaurants in the city and get hooked up with random free drinks and stuff because they know I too work in the club we call the service industry. I’m not bragging, just explaining. This is a double-edged sword though. There is a non-verbal understanding between service people. If someone hooks you up with free food or drinks, it is customary to tip much more than you normally would. It’s not uncommon in this situation to tip 30-50% of the tab or what the tab would have been if we paid full price. Others might call it excessive. We consider it taking care of our own.

My job is to pick up after every Tom, Dick and lesbian who walks into the Labyrinth along with the broken glass on the floor, in between a busy crowds, cleaning up vomit and leaving work with the smell of rotten beer all over my cloths everyday. On occasion some individuals may vomit in my direction, which while considered a massive party-foul, happens once in a while. It’s all in an evening’s work. Pretty glamorous, I know. The only upside to working here is all the people here. It's like watching a human ant farm in slow motion with drag queens. Being a fan of the social sciences, this gives me a chance to study the inner-workings of the Castro. It was much the same way that read case studies in college.

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

Here I am constantly meeting people, all of different walks, colors, sizes, likes and studying them. From bear to twink, sugar daddy to muscle stud. Name it and I know them often from the bar. I notice that these “hot” guys getting less and less attractive after meeting them five times a week and having to re-introduce myself to them every time because of their goldfish memories. It's like a glitchy cd or record that repeats over and over. Alcohol does do that. In the bar this is more likely, especially when many of the people here are walking pharmacies. This in itself, is a whole separate topic but while hardcore drugs are not a part of my life, it is a moderately accepted part of other’s here. I watch hot guys every night, go from Stallion to sloppy mess within shots. These sloppy messes often resemble a blend of Groucho Marx and the Hulk in one. We all have met these guys.

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chapter 7, a must read

Chapter 7.

Being there is like living inside the eye of a traveling tornado. That is a tornado covered in glitter, who loves to dancing to any pop music regardless of quality and to drink far more than what is thought to be humanly possible. There are more people coming in and out of the Labyrinth than Jenna Jameson. I'm constantly waiting, to one day glance out the window of the bar and see a drag queen/witch. It’s San Francisco and here it could happen. Often it seems like more people go through that place than a toilet at a chili cook off.

Besides the drifters, there are the core people who have been here for years. These guys are really what hold the place together. The glue if you will. These people, the Lifers will never call themselves that. They don’t like to admit that many of them have become a part of the bar itself and aren’t the people who just work there anymore. They don’t get to this place intentionally where they are at the bar every waking moment. The Lifer aspect creeps up on them like old age, student loans and those Sarah McLachlan commercial with the sick animals.

The “glue” has their expiration date. We just don’t know when it is until Charlie the owner springs it on us. Like modeling, bartending at this bar means that eventually you will be replaced or phased out by someone who is younger, maybe prettier (but not necessarily) and nicer (less jaded from the bar scene). Basically, one day you’re are in and the next day you are told that you are out. It's like being a 75-year-old's 19-year-old wife, you know that if they don't die on you in 5 years, there will be someone younger and hotter to replace you and make the money you can’t. Often lifers are the ones who help keep this bubble we work/live in intact. This is until they themselves are fired. Almost everyone is fired here. The ones who actually quit on their own volition are few and far between. Bartending here specifically is a good gig. Why leave while the getting is still good? After a bartender or barback is “let go,” they often come crawling back begging for their job. I guess the real world sucks far more than living in this sudo-reality I call the Labyrinth and the Castro bubble.

Besides the lifers, the rest of the staff hasn’t been here long enough for me to remember their names. As a result of this, I just call them lemmings. Like the game or reference to "Never Been Kissed," they just walk around aimlessly, a part of our homogeneous group. It’s been nearly a year that I have been at the Labyrinth and I still don’t know everyone here. If I don’t know a person’s name, I usually call them Michael or Chris because it’s generally a good guess. There is always one of those two in a crowd and it sure beats calling the guys “hey you.” It’s like when you’re taking a multiple choice text and you know if you pick C, you will be less likely to pick the wrong answer. On my SATs I also got bored on the math section and ended up just drawing pictures of Garfield eating pizza on the written Math section. As a result of my artwork, I ended up getting probably the lowest score in my high school. Be jealous!

I am usually lucky enough to get at least a shift a week where I worked with Michael who quickly has become one of my best friends. Michael is an interesting guy to say the least. He isn’t the type that you would expect to be a bartender. I guess the longer that I work here, the more that image in my head of a bartender changes. He isn’t cocky and is definitely not a beefcake jock. He is normal, slender and genuine. He is a video game playing, trekie-loving, introvert that on first glance seems to be best suited for a different line of work. Once he goes behind the bar, it is like another person awakens inside of him. This person is outgoing, loud-mouthed and without any internal censors much like myself. This is what we all love and respected about him besides the being completely devoted to and in love with the man he says he will marry once it’s legal. They are of the few gay male couples I know who are not in “open relationships.” They are absolutely devoted to each other. Mikey, is known for being that person that will talk about others behind their back, but in front of their face. It’s much in the same fashion that old Jewish women talk about each other. At least that’s how they work in my family so that they can eventually gang up on you and make you sure you feel inadequate. They will with make sure that someone is chatting about your problems and keep your insecurities not only alive but you will leave with more insecurities than you came with. It's quite the Jewie phenomenon.

For Michael, if I point out an attractive guy in the room, he shouts out “what? You like whom? Cover his face and you’re good!”
Maybe happy married life with Mike has made monogamy look more like celibacy and he feels the need to live through me? I don’t know.

Mike says things just loud enough so that others can hear. The best part is that he simply doesn’t care about others accepting him. He doesn’t need their validation. He is a Treckie who isn’t ashamed of being vocal about his love for conventions, Vulcan ale and all sorts of nerd crap that I would never admit to liking. He doesn’t give a shit what others think of him. I aspire to get to this point.

While Michael is an example of one of the hardest working individuals at the bar, he also has shown me how to have fun and really make the most out of this place. He often finds a way to be playful with the people we meet while working. He will casually asks hot guys that we meet at work, customers at his station to show off their “goods.”
Mike would then say, “aint nothing come for free in life. Whip it out and I’ll buy you a shot.”
Mike entertains himself on slow nights by trying to get men to show him their dicks for drinks. It’s oddly more entertaining than car accident. Mike gets guys to whip out their dicks and it’s more hilarious than hot. So far we must have seen almost every color, size, width, cut, uncut. Usually this is done strictly for entertainment value alone. We aren’t aloud to drink while working at the bar, so we got to get our shits and giggles somehow. Now, it becomes game of sorts. It’s way more fun than Blackjack and less costly.

This is where we pull the good-cop, bad-cop game.
Mike then goes on to tell these guys something like “sweetheart, nothing is for free, we all got to work to get what we want.”

He then turns to me and says, “Just cause I am married, doesn’t mean I don’t have eyes and a pulse. I can look for Christ’s sakes. It’s like being on a diet, you can still look at food!”
While Mike plays good cop, I take on the persona of the bad cop.

I casually respond to Mike’s comments with a “he is shy” or “he doesn’t have anything to show.”
The fact that it’s so easy to play these men is both funny and really sad. What’s funny about some men when their drunk, the second you make a comment about their dick size being sub-standard, they get so defensive and over-protective. While stupid, the game often will entertain us and our coworkers while these boys step up to the plate for a free drink in the name of honor. It isn’t about the final result of seeing the little or big piece of flesh hidden inside of a man’s trousers, although that alone is worth it. It’s more about getting there.

During fleet week we have a slew of marines come in the bar. Michael is like a kid in a candy store. He always uses single me as bait. After one shot, these boys don’t even need to be challenged. They will do it willingly. It’s like one of those “girl’s gone wild” videos, but with hot and some not so hot men. Well actually, mostly hot men. The less attractive and short the guy/marine is, the more likely they are to step up to the plate. Maybe it’s due to their little man syndrome? They are those guys who probably drive little red sports cars to make up for their lack their of… Be it gay, straight, cut, uncut, black, white, red, blue, anacononda-esk, elephant trunk, noodlesk, wine corkish, and microscopic, we see them all. There is no racial divide here, equal opportunity all the way.

Besides the games, since Michael isn’t single there is that whole element of competition that is taken out of the mix. He is very sure of who he is and isn’t. Unlike many single gay men, he is sure of where he could has love and doesn’t need to go looking for it. This energy from him on that level is very empowering to me.

After finishing work at 3 or 4 in the am we often then head to his house. We get milkshakes or burgers and hang with our friend Mary. She helps us relax. We spend many a night watching TV and talking about everything from politics to bar gossip. Michael has become my backbone in some ways. He is also the first friend I have from this new bar lifestyle where I feel like I could just be myself without putting on a show or entertaining. There is no game face needed with him. I am not worried that he will stab me in the back. For some reason I have a soft spot for him. He is like the perverted big brother I never had.

No Deposit Casino