As we stood in line, surrounded by well dressed 20-something Europeans with white teeth and faux hawks, I started to get annoyed. I don’t like standing in line for a club. It’s not that I demand to be in the front it’s just that a line normally guarantees that it’s packed inside and at some point someone is going to elbow my beer into my mouth and chip a tooth. I’d rather walk next door to the dimly lit pub and saddle up to the bar where I’ll have as much elbow space as needed. However, I was doing Shawn a favor. He wanted me to accompany him to meet this Norwegian dude he met earlier that day.
When we finally made it in, Shawn spotted The Norwegian and his friend standing next to the pool. We went over and it wasn’t long before they disappeared into the bathroom and paid the attendant 20 bucks to guard the handicap stall while they exchanged vows.
I talked with The Norwegian’s friend and found out that the two of them were in the U.S. on a 2 year work visa with some oil company in Houston. They flew to L.A. for the weekend “just to see a new city.” Those damn Europeans are so smart. They take advantage of their location and explore as much new territory as possible. I know some Californians who haven’t even left the 818 area code.
When Shawn reappeared, his lips were red and swollen. He pulled me aside.
“You’ll never guess what happened. He told me he loved me,” Shawn said nervously as he clenched his fists. He is only 23 and relatively new to the scene. He’s out to me but to the rest of the world, especially his parents, he’s not. As much as he wants to be in a relationship he fears what it will do in regards to taking the next step. What if things get serious and he’s forced to answer questions? Confronting reality is the scariest thing for anyone not living the truth. I informed him that just because some dude said ‘I Love You’ on the first date in a bathroom stall while receiving oral pleasure, doesn’t mean he has to call home and tell Mom he’s getting married.
“Just relax and enjoy the moment,” I said as I paid for my 10 dollar beer. By the end of the night we were all dancing on stage.
They’ve been texting non-stop and The Norwegian just bought Shawn a ticket to fly to Houston for the weekend. Shawn is scared to go. He’s nervous and asking himself a million questions: Who will I tell everyone I’m visiting? What if things don’t work out? He’s 28 and looking for something serious, what if I break his heart? What if he breaks my heart?
I stopped him and said, “Listen. You’re going to Houston and you’re gonna have an amazing time. You can’t worry about the future. You have to do what makes you happy right now!… But if you decide not to go can I use your ticket becasue there are some gays in Texas that I’d love to meet!”
He laughed and said, “Fuck you! I’m using that ticket!”
Tonight we’re taking Ronnie out for some birthday drinks. I’m trying to figure out how much money I need to bring with me. Ronnie’s got the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out well liquor (in which he’ll reject the offer) so there’s no fooling him. It looks like it’s going to be a top shelf kind of night.
The birthday drink tradition is a little different in Spain. Instead of getting treated by friends, the birthday girl will buy drinks for all of her guests. The first time I found this out was at Rocio’s 26th birthday party. We were standing at the bar of the hippest gay club in town, Cool, arguing over whose tradition was correct. I was focusing really hard but got distracted for a minute when some dude came out of the bathroom wearing white pants. Gross, I know, but it gets worse. He had dirty water stains on his knees! I can guarantee he wasn’t gardening earlier that day. Busted!
“As I was saying, it’s your special day,” I yelled as I pushed the drink towards her. “This is like a present. Besides, the birthday girl shouldn’t have to pay for everything.” She shook her finger in my face and pushed the drink back.
“No, no, no. I’m grateful that you’re in my life. That all of you are in my life,” she said as she waved her hand across the dance floor. “I owe you. Now hush up and drink!”
As I sit here on the side of my bed counting the one dollar bills in my wallet, I can’t help but to wish I was back in Spain.
Before my sister passed away she asked Mom to promise her something. She was concerned about the emotional stress the death was going to have on her wife and asked Mom if she’d live with her once she was gone, just for a little while until she got adjusted to solitary living. So, the day after my sister’s funeral Mom boarded up the remaining windows of the house (some had already been knocked out and replaced with wood due to years of abuse 8 boys who play sports can do) and moved to Olympia to live with my sister-in-law.
My sister-in-law makes a living by giving private piano lessons. Back when it was a double income household things were comfortable, but now that she’s on her own she’s faced with the pressure of finding more work otherwise she won’t be able to keep up with the bills. I’m curious if Mom’s helping financially? I won’t ask because it’s none of my business. But I do know that she’s holding true to the promise she made with my sister. Staying positive and keeping spirits high, Mom is brainstorming ideas of how to advertise piano lessons (the old fashioned way of posting flyers on telephone phone poles, bulletin boards, and put on windshields) and even encouraged my sister-in-law to start writing a children’s book about playing the piano.
It’s incredible the amount of energy Mom puts into making other people happy. I don’t know how she does it, especially when she’s lost a husband and a child within the last 4 years. When does she get a break? To be honest, I don’t think she even wants one. To her this isn’t work, it’s nature and nature doesn’t stop to take breaks. I aspire to be that natural.
What 30 year-old gay man or 7 year-old girl doesn’t like this song? Not me. I love it. I wish I had my very own daughter so I could drive her and her friends to a Rebecca Black concert. The question is would I drop them off outside and pick them up when it’s over or would I buy myself a ticket and escort them in? If they’re alone and unguided they could easily wonder into an elbow-throwing mosh pit where they could lose a tooth, which would cost a fortune to fix. The price of a ticket would be a lot cheaper than the dentist bill. I guess there’s no other option than to accompany them in, you know, strictly for safety reasons… and maybe a little for the chance to dance to this song.
The bartending gig on Friday went well. The house was amazing—it had a pool and a maid and gazebo and a high fence with trees around it so neighbors couldn’t see if someone was skinny dipping. The maid answered the door and led me to the kitchen where a tall, middle aged English man dressed in a suit was eating a handful of cashews. I smelt booze on his breath and assumed he was the owner of the house. I said to him, “This is a beautiful home. How long have you lived here?” He was about to throw another nut in his mouth when he stopped and looked at me and said, “I don’t live here. I’m the caterer.” What a great way to start off my professional career as a bartender. I quickly tried to cover my tracks and said, “No, not here,” pointing to the floor, “I mean in the states,” and waved my hands in a circular motion above my head.
That’s when I heard a pair of heels coming down the stairs. It was Treena, the Polynesian home owner/Birthday Girl. She was wearing knee high fuck me boots, a mini skirt, and a corset that could barely keep her boobs tied in. I went to shake her hand but she leaned in for a hug.
“Hug! I hug you… Yes! You friend of Olivia. We have to party sometime,” she said in a barely able to understand accent. She hugged me long time. I could feel particles of her perfume rubbing off on my shirt. Sure enough, I smelt like her the rest of the night which was uncomfortable but came in handy later on when I joined her sisters around the pastry table. Like a pack of wolves, they recognized my scent and allowed me to hang out with them as they clicked away while devouring éclairs. It was a very colorful conversation that was based around sex. Even the pastry spread made one of them horny. “Oooooh! It’s like… like… a dessert orgasm.”
For the most part, the night went smoothly. I had a small run in with a pushy Russian woman. She thought that cutting in front of people and standing behind the bar with me would get her drinks faster.
“I want a vodka tonic with lime for my friend Alena over there. And for me and Lenusya, 2 glasses of red wine,” she said.
She was in her 50’s and had permanent protruding lips. Her spiky, blonde hair with exposed roots matched the mink stole around her neck. Even though she was up in my grill, I continued mixing the strawberry martini I was in the middle of making. I must not have closed the shaker lid tightly because when I vigorously started shaking it, liquid shot out all over the place. When I felt it hit my face I immediately got nervous and prayed that it didn’t hit my Russian bar back.
Out of my peripheral vision I saw her jerk back. She looked down at her clothes and then wiped something off her face. Shit! But if I’ve learned one thing about Russians, it’s that the only way to deal with them is to be as straight forward and abrasive as possible, otherwise they’ll see the fear in your eyes and slit your throat.
“Sorry sister,” I said. “That’s what you get when stand behind the bar.” I tried not to let her see my hands trembling.
“You’re lucky I’m wearing black,” she said and then stepped away from the bar.
I almost did it. I almost went in the bathroom with him.
Two days ago I was opening the bar. I was in the middle of cutting pineapples into ¼’’ wedges when I looked in the mirror and saw the kitchen manager standing behind me.
“What do you want?” I asked in Spanish. He grabbed a handful of his crotch and smiled.
I put down my knife and turned around. I looked him in the eyes and asked, “How many General Managers have you slept with?”
He thought about it for a minute and then said, “Three.”
Trying not to act interested, I turned back around and continued slicing the pineapple. That’s when he walked up to me and quietly said in my ear, “One of them wanted me to stick it in his culo.” I almost died. HIS culo?! A dude? I think it’s so intriguing when Latinos open up about homosexual experiences, especially if I know they have a wife and children. You know, I used to be a firm believer that if a guy received a blow job from another dude, he was gay. Thanks to horny Latinos and their willingness to screw whatever’s within arm’s reach, I now believe the only thing that stops a dude from exploring with another dude is culture.
The front desk phone started to ring so he left to answer it. I went back to slicing fruit. As I cut the limes, I wondered what would happen if I nicked my finger tip? How bad would it sting? That’s when I heard my name being called. I looked over and the Kitchen Manger was signaling for me to follow him down the hall. Without thinking, I dropped the lime and walked in his direction. He opened the bathroom and stood in the entrance.
“Come,” he said.
Every nerve in my body exploded. I stood there numb from head to toe. This was actually happening. I could enter that bathroom and give this guy a blow job and nobody would ever find out. Not even his wife or kids. That’s when I snapped out of it.
“I can’t. I want to but I can’t,” I said. “I just can’t. Shit, sorry.”
He shrugged and then closed the door and locked it. Later he came up to me and said, “You missed your only chance.”
“Boo, don’t say that! That’s not fair. I totally want to just not here. Not in some bathroom. Trust me, when we’re leaving one night at the same time I’ll get in your car and give you the best…” and that’s when his wife and kids popped back in my head and I envisioned myself on a slow escalator down to hell. “Um, I’ll give you the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies so you can make them for your wife. She’ll love them!”
As a quick way to earn 100 bucks a favor to Olivia I agreed to bartend at her friend’s party. I normally don’t like to work at private events because I have a tendency to blur the edges between what’s professional and what’s fun. The last event I worked at I ended up serving an underage kid because I felt bad for his mustache.
So I called the host to give her a list of alcohol to buy. She has a thick accent and comes from old Polynesian money so she passed the phone to her husband.
“So, do you have a specialty drink that you’d like to make?” he asked.
I’ve never been asked that before. Normally all I do at these parties is open a beer or splash together some rum and coke. These people seemed fancy. I threw out the first thing that came to mind.
“Of course I do. Strawberry martinis,” I said.
What? Where did that come from? First of all, what type of bartender would suggest a drink that required muddling? When there’s a line of thirsty Polynesians staring at you, the last thing you wanna be doing is crushing fucking strawberries. Second of all, I wonder if there will be any cute, single guys? The other day I decided that as long as I’m in Los Angeles I probably won’t be in a serious relationship. This place is too transient to make commitments. It says a lot about a city when people complain more about being single than, say, school budget cuts.
“Wow! Great. That sounds good,” he said. We talked for a little bit longer. By the end of the conversation I felt comfortable with him.
“So,” I said in a fun and flirty voice. “What are we celebrating?”
There was silence. I could tell he was trying to process my tone and intentions.
“Um, it’s kind of a double birthday party,” he said.
“Cool,” I said in a butch voice and then ended the conversation.
With the exception of a baseboard heater in the bathroom and an oven with its door open in the kitchen, our house was heated by a wood stove that sat in the living room. Every year around this time we’d be chopping wood and stocking up for the winter. It was one of our after school chores. My brothers were really good at chopping wood. They could slice a piece in half with one swing. I tried to do it once but ended up completely missing the piece of wood and almost chopped off my foot.
In my family your worth was sometimes measured by your strength. If my brothers represented gold when it came to chopping wood, I represented a piece of used tin foil. So to prove my worth and secure a seat at the dinner table, I had to find something that showcased my strength. I was really strong at making layered cakes, so I used my knowledge in that area and applied it to making fires.I’d start with a layer of newspaper, gently twisted not crumpled, on the bottom. No color pages because they didn’t burn properly. It had to be black and white. Next, a few pieces of kindling crisscrossed on top of each other. Then another layer of newspaper and finally, like the cherry on top, a light and porous piece of dry wood. It wouldn’t take long before the top of the stove was scolding red and the house was warm.
…is in. Conrad Murray, accused of administering a fatal dose of anesthetic to Michael Jackson just before is death, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. People are cheering, “Finally, justice has been served!” This kind of annoys me. Yes, I agree that Murray should have been found guilty of malpractice but I don’t think he’s to blame for Jackson’s death. Michael had an addiction and would have gone to any other doctor/guy on the street/hedge trimmer at Neverland Ranch to get his drugs. I know it helps to ease the pain by blaming someone else, but in the end we are all responsible for our own actions.
Mrs. Kallum was the deacon’s wife. She was a square shaped woman with frown lines. Her voice was loud and her words stern. Her husband, Buddy, was the opposite. He was soft spoken and a kind man who loved nothing more than smiling, even on Good Friday. He didn’t have what it took to be an authoritative figure so she was the H.B.I.C. of catechism.
She made the rules and enforced them. If you were caught stealing an extra doughnut she was the one who crucified you. If you were late to class she was the one who called your parents. If you forgot your workbook she was the one who made you feel as guilty as Mary Magdalene.
One day she gathered all of us to talk about the dangers of public transportation. The Island had just installed a free Transit Bus System that some kids were riding without permission. As we all sat in the pews, she stood on the alter and warned us of how children were getting kid napped (there were no cases, it was just the Catholic scare tactic) and said, “I don’t want any of you riding that bus to C.C.D. After school, you will walk here in groups and when class is over you will get picked up by your parents.”
My older brother, 11 years-old at the time, sat in the front row with his legs crossed. He had dusty brown hair and freckles; more of a Goofus than a Gallant. He patiently waited for her to finish her speech and the minute the room was silent he turned around to me and said, “Welp Jim, it looks like we’re gonna have to take the bus home tonight.”
You could see as the Devil took over Mrs. Kallum’s body. Her eyes bulged out and turned red. She went charging at him like a bull with steam shooting out her nose. She grabbed his leg and violently un-crossed it and threw it to the floor.
“My foot you will!” she screamed as her face was pressed against his.
We laughed and laughed the entire way home. Mom kept asking what was so funny. We couldn’t stop laughing. Finally she said, “If you don’t tell me what’s so funny I’m gonna stop the car and make you walk home!”
“My foot you will!” my brother said. We all erupted in laughter, including my Mom. Unlike Mrs. Kallum, who never had children of her own, Mom knew that kids will be kids and there was no point in losing your cool over their stupidity.
Sweet/Dirty D called me about a month ago inquiring about teaching abroad. She was interested in it but remembered me telling her that I worked a lot of hours for little pay. I told her that when you’re abroad those things don’t matter because you’re so caught up in the adventure of it all. She said she was tossing around the idea of getting her T.E.F.L. certificate next Spring and wanted to know if it was cool if she stayed with me for a couple of months to save up money. I told her it was no problem. Two weeks later she sent me an e-mail:
I’m thinking about coming in November so I can work the holidays in L.A. and finish my certificate by mid January. Theoretically I would be out of your place by Feb but I’m not a hundred percent positive, it could be later, which would be like 4-5 months of staying with you. I would love to spend the holidays with you and my mom. And you know what that means, if I’m there for Christmas we’d have to get a real tree.
Wow, she wastes no time. I was a little caught off guard but thought, “Hell, I must still owe the Couch Surfing Gods.” Either way, Sweet/Dirty D arrives at my doorstep tomorrow. T-O-M-O-R-R-O-W.