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.

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