Monday, April 22, 2013
I'd been wanting to check out a local gay bar as a potential setting for a few scenes in a novel bubbling around in my head. I'd been trying to get there for a while, but it seemed things always got in my way. Appointments, nerves, dinners with friends, fears, fatigue, second thoughts, the end of the month, anxiety.
Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and just go.
This particular bar caters to a young, Latino, hip hop/pop crowd, at least according to its Facebook and web pages, and a few reviews on Yelp. This is the scene that I am feeling my character is attracted to at one point in his story. Plus, I am usually attracted to dark-haired men, and as most Latinos fit that bill, I thought it might be interesting to see what came of it for me. And to be honest, I did visit this place once on my birthday with some friends, and the description seemed mostly accurate. Mostly. There were a lot of young Latino guys, but there were older men as well; white, Latino and Black. Now, I wanted to go back for research. And I wanted to go alone, for courage. For myself.
So, I did.
Now, I'm not much of a bar person, as most of the men I've met there are after one thing and one thing only. Or, maybe they're after a couple. The music is very loud, and I'm not much of a drinker.
I walked in just after 6:30 PM and meandered around to see where a good spot to watch the crowd might be, and to get a feel for the place.
Now, I had been to this particular location many times before when it was a country/western bar, as my ex and I were in a gay square dance club which used this facility when the recreation center had to use the club's regular room for some other reason. Coming back now that it was a Latino/hip-hop bar was a culture shock, though not much had changed physically, save the addition of a stage in the corner for the drag shows.
I decided to sit at a corner of the bar, where at least I'd have the bartender to talk to as it was still early in the evening and the crowd was still milling in.
"Are you going to sit there?" he asked pointing to the general area of the bar where I was already sitting.
"Yes," I replied, thinking it was saved. "Is this okay?" I practically yelled to be heard above the music.
"Sure. Wanna play?" he asked, pointing to a Jenga tower perched precariously on the bar in front of me. It's twin was balancing itself on the other end of the U-shaped bar.
He explained the rules, which were 1) keep one hand off the bar while playing, and 2) you had to remove one rod from the fourth level from the top or lower, and then place that rod on the top level, all without causing the the whole thing to fall over.
"What'll you have?"
I ordered my usual, "A bottled water," and he quickly returned with it.
I will say the bartender was cute, had a real 'nice guy' vibe to him and appeared to be under 30. As he attended his other customers, I scanned the crowd for interesting people to make notes about, I tried to get a note of the layout, as well as a general feel for the Sunday crowd and plotted my next Jenga move. It was an nice mix of ethnicities and ages, though the younger guys (21-maybe 30 years old and mostly Latino) seemed to be inside the bar and the older (above 35, mostly mixed) crowd was outside on the patio.
The evening proceeded, Bartender and I played Jenga, he fixed drinks, and in between turns he explained the bar was trying something new; the second Sunday of the month was now 80s-90s night and the DJ would be playing a mix of both English and Spanish music from those years. Among the artists I recognized (and remember) were A-ha, Madonna, and Cyndi Lauper. I don't remember hearing any by Cher, so I just may have to go back and suggest a few! Bartender, I never did find out his name, asked if I'd been there before, as he didn't recognize me. I told him about my birthday trip and he inquired if we'd seen the drag show that night, which we hadn't. Our chit chat continued like this in-between his getting other people their drinks and his rounds of Jenga with both me and the guy at the other end of the bar.
I felt myself relaxing, it felt great to be out of the house; yet I was still apprehensive about chatting with guys, in case they were looking for something I wasn't. This is all so new to me. I did notice an interesting character, Mr. Social Butterfly. He appeared to be a regular, as he knew the bartenders and many of the regulars by name and seemed to have access to different parts of the club. While he never went behind the bar itself, he disappeared behind a curtain being used as a divider, where the beefy bouncer went once or twice. Butterfly would position himself in various spots around the bar, stand for a while, then walk around, chat with customers, and then return to order another drink at a different spot at the bar.
I also noticed a white man, about mid-40s with a beard and beret who appeared to be the manager/owner as he would ask the bartenders to do specific jobs like set up the jello shots or put out the dishes of stale popcorn. Well, that's what I thought he'd said, for that's what got done. He came by me once, commented on my Jenga skills, and how it involved way too much geometry for him. I felt it involved more engineering than specific math skills which, I realized in retrospect, go hand in hand. He asked if I was an engineer, I told him I was a teacher, and we talked about the general state of the kids today, and after a bit more friendly chit chat, he excused himself to take care of some business with the bar, and visit with some friends.
Somewhere in all this, Social Butterfly flitted in, placed his hand on my shoulder saying. "Aw, you're sitting here all by yourself. I'm going to play too." He made a move, on the Jenga tower, left to get his beer, and never returned. I later ran into him in the restroom where he was using his phone to try and take a picture of himself in the mirror, but I guess all that alcohol had taken its effect and the picture wasn't coming out clear enough for his liking. After the two tries I witnessed, he asked me if I would take his picture. I agreed and after washing my hands, we discovered there were no paper towels, so we left to find a napkin, and Social Butterfly flitted off somewhere else. I don't know if he ever did get that picture taken.
While I tell myself I am not looking for love, and I'm actively not looking, I still found myself checking out the guys and sort of classifying them as to what possible potential I felt they might have; friend, date, boyfriend, casual encounter, none of the above. And what I wanted in return. Maybe I'm just tuning into my gut instinct again. Maybe I'm just human.
But, I think I might need to go back for some more research.
Or to just get out of the house.