Friday, August 24, 2012

Chapter 6. What to do after work, Atlanta

Often I don’t know what to do after my shifts at the bar.  While my teenage self would be happy going straight home to pillage a box of pop tarts, another of hot pockets, and top that off with a gallon of cookie dough ice cream with a tub of peanut butter, while watching Designing Women.  While I have watched enough Lifetime television to get a period, I’m a man that needs more.  Going home is an expensive cab ride, where once home, I have to be sure that is where I want to be.  That’s how living in a city without a car works.  It’s something we get used to.  This is also the reason cities seem to have more happily inebriated people.  It’s cause we can drink without worrying about who we will trick into being our designated driver.  Here, even if you have a car, good luck finding parking!  If one goes home, once there, the question will be, “now what?”  A man can only comfort-eat so much.  Three-4 hours tops and then what? 

Being a Leo, I often yearn to be out, to be seen, to meet new and interesting people.  I hope to one day meet the love of my life or at least make a new friend.  Most of the friends that I have made within the past year of living in San Francisco, from on-campus life, all have much different lives from my own.  If it isn’t dropping out for rehab (no one likes quitters), or taking too heavy of a school load, having a significant other or being stuck in their own quest to put together the pieces of their own lives, it’s something else.  I am never really free to hang out with them anyway.  I work every weekend and evening that “normal” people are free.  I call their schedules the schedule of the living.  I guess that makes my schedule the one of vampires and shitty infomercials with Tony Little, and the “Girls Gone Wild” commercials.  I’m on a different wave-length here.  One where drag queens and gay men who do porn get a red carpet thrown at them and Madonna is queen.

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

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

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

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

“He’s Jewish!”

“So what?”

“What about the other?”

“What about him?”

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

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

I think that you can clearly judge a man by how he handles his liquor and is adult enough to know his own limits.  I like to think of myself as that person.  Any douchebag can drink himself in to oblivion.  It takes a man though to either drink a lot, handle himself well or more appropriately stop at the right time.  It’s the stopping at the right time that is an issue here.  I never get sloppy though! And when I do, I instantly plop myself into a cab and go to the nearest pizza place cause I’m a responsible adult.
            My new bothers and sister, educate me on how to drink smart to the best of their abilities.  It’s great cause while they do that, they’re also getting me blasted drunk.  They also teach me that “well” drinks, are now to be drinks of the past, only to drink in emergencies or to clean cuts.  I chat with them, while they serve me drinks and I sail down on a burning boat to oblivion. 

I am told that other gays can smell my “minty-new gay scent,” as James puts it “like a new car.”  I am fresh meat and have no clue how to cover it up.  No matter what I do, they all seem to know, all the gay men I encounter here anyway. 

As I stay lingering at the bar stirring my straw in a glass filled with melted ice and remnants of a vodka soda, I chat about local gossip with a bartender friend.  I also observe the crowd.  Being here, I feel like prey in the wild.  I both like and hate this feeling.  I feel that there are predators watching me, yet I can’t really tell who.  It’s just a feeling.  I always stand there hoping that someone will come up to me.  I want someone who is worth my time.  Don’t want to end up eating a gallon of double chocolate peanut butter ice cream, a can of whip cream, four granola bars and a bag of Reese’s tonight out of boredom.  I want to eat it out of excitement.  There is a difference.  I keep in mind that as I continue drinking, my standards may lower but hope it won’t come to that.  I wait for someone to strike up a conversation with me.  All who come up to me seem to have something off about them, but I find it good social practice.  I study them, watch their “moves” and then digest.  I have never really even been on a date, let alone do I have any idea of how to talk to another guy or really how to flirt with them.  To make a long story short, reading between the lines in this regard, is not my forte.

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

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

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

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

            Soon Atlanta and I have been chatting for about 4 hours or so, time is an alcohol-induced blur by now.  He is looking cuter, but so do most of the people in the bar that I normally think are repulsive; the drink is an evil friend.  We keep on buying each other drink after shot, after drink.  He then brushes the long hair off my forehead and tells me that he thinks I am beautiful.  Rewind, what he actually does, is peel a long frizzy curl stuck to my face off of my now sweaty forehead, wipe his hand and then tell me he thinks I’m beautiful.  This is the first time that I have heard this.  I start laughing, being the cynic that I am.  I have a way of making any good situation awkward.  I am the type of person that always laughs at the wrong moments.  I’m like Mary Tyler Moore in that episode where they are at a clown’s funeral and can’t stop laughing.  I know, the references can’t get gayer can they?  I don’t know what to do or say, so I punch him lightly on the arm and start giggling with a smirk of confusion on my face.  He then leans in and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  By this point I am intrigued and still unsure of how to react, I can’t help but still hyperventilate/giggle.  I have never seen someone look into my eyes the way he does and then to be intrigued by me the way he seems to be.  He then asks if we can get some food.

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

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

All I can think about in my drunken-slushy head while he says this is, “Lets get ready for a load of bull shit.  Here it comes.”  He then goes on and says that I don’t have to take him with me.  There is a long pause that seems to last forever.  Now we are near the bus stop at 18th and Castro where all the taxis are lined up waiting for passengers.  He then kisses me again, his way of sprinkling fairy dust to put me in a trance, which is pretty easy now since even my sweat is pure vodka at this point.  He then says that he “isn’t expecting sex, just a cuddle” and company.  Luckily, the cynic in me is playing King’s Cup and not paying attention.  For those unaware, King’s cup is a game played in colleges all over the country.  Players must drink and dispense drinks based on the cards drawn.  Basically, if it doesn’t end in someone puking, you’re not playing it right.  Being alone really in the city at this point, for some reason is a bizarre concept, yet good excuse to take him.  It will sound even better retelling the story. 

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

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dating SUCKS.

 Dating SUCKS...

             I’m entering year for of working at the Labyrinth.  I’m this weird mix of happy that I still am gainfully employed and jaded/depressed/surprised that I still work there.  Just yesterday I have this customer order a drink from me.  As I am mid shaking whatever vomit-inducing shots he had requested and he yells, “OH MY! YOU WERE MY BARTENDER LAST TIME I WAS HERE 2-YEARS AGO!”

            I don’t really know how to respond so I just give him my most polite smirk as I pour his fruity-shots.  He then says, “You look good… You been working out?  Your hair looks much better that short.  You look much better.  You must be getting it all the time.  Are you in school?  What are your plans?”

            The truth is that I don’t know how to take compliments, never have.  I grew up a fat kid and have a whole complex about it.  Compliments, mixed with questions I would expect from a guidance counselor, from the mouth of a stranger no less, it’s a no go.  Who is this guy my mother?  I of course just pretend to not hear him, like the music in the bar is too loud for me to focus on him.  I then wait a minute before I respond.

            I say, “I graduated 3 years ago, was laid off twice since and don’t need to defend myself to you.”

            He gives me the look one may give to a crack-head standing in the middle of the street for no reason wearing a helmet made of tin foil and walks away.  Something oddly commonplace in San Francisco.

            It’s happy hour on a regular Wednesday.  I just started my shift at 5 and am waiting the coffee from 20 minutes earlier to kick.  I also have a secret fear any time I drink coffee it will give me the runs.  That comment isn’t relevant, but just trying to paint a picture.  Like I said, I am 20-minutes in.  There is just a tiny bit of day-light peaking into the bar, another bartender working 10 feet away from me, 2 old men sitting at his station.  I am diarrhea free so far, so because I am in am in the phase where I believe what I read in the Secret, it’s a good day. 

            After about an hour and a half of no customers, I like most bartenders in my situation start to get antsy.  I got rent to pay.  Then, this group comes in.  It’s a group of girls and their 2 gay friends who are run of the mill average guys.  Like most jaded bartenders in my place, I roll my eyes, slap on a smile and offer one of the girls a shot hoping the whole party will buy more drinks from me.  They proceed to purchase about 10 shots from me and out of nowhere their third gay friend shows up.  I guess he was at the ATM, cause he is waving two twenty-dollar bills at me as he runs up to joins the group.  Now this guy is so attractive he makes you want to slap your mother for not having as good of genes.  He is around my age, fit, light hair, surfer tan and looks someone who would be on an Abercrombie and Fitch bag.  I immediately create a story in my head for him.  His name is something like C.J., Brent, Dakota or something that would look good on a Porn-film cover.  He is from Santa Barbara and just moved to San Francisco after turning down many job offers all over the country.

            The group walks away and C.J. comes back.  He smiles and asks me what he has to do to get another shot from me.  I don’t get the game he is playing, so I wink and say, “money.”

            He orders another shot from me and asks for my number.  Which is odd cause in the whole time I have worked there, this hasn’t really happened to me.  Usually people ask me if I have the number of another bartender who is working.  If they do ask for my number they are usually so hammered I can’t take them seriously.  This guy is seemingly sober-ish.  I tell him that I don’t give out my number at work cause I’m not allowed to which is a plain lie.  He responds by winking, tossing a card onto my bartending station and walking away to his group of friends.

            I wait a day before I break down and text the number on the card.  I have to.  People that pretty, never talk to me, let alone have any interest in me.  They usually talk to me like I’m their therapist for no reason other than the fact that I am Jewish.  The card says nothing other than Mike Smith and a phone number.  I text, “it was nice meeting you yesterday at the bar.”

            He responds with, “:) “.

            5 Minutes later his next text, “Drinks tomorrow at 8? You’re very cute.” 

He makes the little fat kid inside so happy I then commence have diarrhea.  Nerves I guess.

I plan on meeting him at the bar.  I dress up.  I wear my favorite jeans, shirt, actually shave, spend 45 minutes trying to tame the curls on my head so that I don’t look like Mufasa from the Lion King.   Get close to the bar a little early and get nervous.  I decide I need to be 10 minutes late.  I don’t want to look desperate.  I scarf down a doughnut, a bag of M&Ms and 2 99cent cookies from the 711 a block earlier to kill time.  I get a text mid-bite, “I’m wearing blue.”

I finally get to the bar, excited to see this HOT man waiting for me.  I am a bowl of nerves, with a side of self-loathing.  As I look through the place I instantly see a man wearing blue in his mid 50s who looks like a mix of Bruce Velanch meets the guy from Inside the Actor’s Studio.  I look past him and quickly weave through the room for other people wearing blue.  I look for the hot boy from days earlier.  I walk through the entire bar, which isn’t that big to begin with at least 4 times.  I actually am the only person under the age of 40 in the place.  I don’t see him at all.  I also start to notice that I have pit-stains quickly forming, that make it look I am wearing an ill-fitting bra.  Oh, did I mention that I am wearing a white shirt?  Thinking I was stood up or somehow ended up at the wrong bar, I text him back.  2 Seconds later I hear “Ding-Ding-Ding with the TROLLEY!”

It was someone’s text alert ring.  I thought, “How fucking gay.”

I then looked over at the older man in the blue, noticing his hair is died an unnatural brown and he is wearing foundation to cover his age and see him opening up his phone.  He is pressing the buttons very slow, pulling the phone far away from himself so he could see.  This is the way my grandmother dials people cause she is far-sided.  As he shuts hit flip-phone I get a text alert.  I don’t want to acknowledge what is happening so I ignore the message.  I pretend I can’t hear the alert.  He starts to walk close to me.  I hope that I am really misunderstanding something or that I’ll wake up at this point.  Then someone walks past me and accidentally bumps me with their drink, spilling all over my jeans.  I now look like I peed myself.  Now of course I feel like I have to pee too and am getting anxious.

It all of a sudden clicks.  C.J., Dakota or whatever his name is gave me someone else’s card!  I must look like that much of a dope.  The thing I can’t understand is who the fuck this guy is at the bar and why he responded to my texts like he knew me?

Grandpa gets to me and says, “so are we having a drink or not?”  Not knowing what to do I go right past him, straight to the bar.  I put down a twenty and tell the bartender to get him whatever he wants as I bolt.  Instead of crying like a normal person I start to laugh uncontrollably as I make my exit.  I keep laughing until I get a block away to another bar where I proceed to drink enough to kill a horse.


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