Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Barfly Update: A Tale of Two Cities

I arrived in Boston all cocky with my newfound sense that I have finally figured out this gay bar thing. I figured I could go back now to my old stomping grounds and exorcise those demons of alienation and discomfort in the very sea that spawned them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Steven and I personify Hubris.

On my first night in Boston, at dinner with my old friends Bill and Carl, I mentioned that I have become a regular at a leather bar. I was expecting, even hoping for, their amused-bordering-on-incredulous response (it's a response I myself still have, every single time I go there, and these are friends who know me about as well I know myself), but after a bit of banter on the subject I realized that their sense of "The Eagle" (that being the Boston Eagle) isn't the same as my sense of "The Eagle" (that being the Minneapolis Eagle). But isn't it like the Hard Rock Cafe, or the Green Lantern? Isn't there a supervisory board to regulate and standardize the Eagle in every city (or, in the case of the Green Lantern, in every galaxy)? I should have taken more careful note of their responses. I should have taken particular note that Bill and Carl, who are the sorts of guys I would most like to run into at a gay bar, are themselves not people I would run into at the Boston Eagle, or probably at any gay bar in Boston.

Come to think of it, the livejournal friends I met with on the Saturday of my visit are also the sort of people I would be most delighted to meet at a gay bar (even, maybe especially, including bitty). And yet none of them are people I would run into at a gay bar in Boston, the city where they live. Do you sense a theme? Should I have sensed this myself?

Sunday in the late afternoon I found myself walking the streets of the South End, so as it got dark I decided to head over to the Boston Eagle. At both the Minneapolis and the San Francisco Eagle, this is the crowded tail end time of the weekly beer bust. At the Boston Eagle, this is the time immediately following the detonation of an atomic bomb. There were two other customers (and a third who arrived after I did) and no bartender (who was outside smoking). I decided to stay and have a beer and read the local bar rags I had picked up and perhaps talk to the folks there.

What was I thinking? That I was in the midwest? No, conversation was not what the people there were looking for. Even the bartender -- the bartender! -- was not particularly friendly. In one bar rag I found summary descriptions of the Boston gay bars, and the description of the Eagle was that it was where people showed up very late if they hadn't gotten lucky elsewhere. Oh. Right. That gay bar thing.

Well, never mind, I wasn't far from Fritz, a loungelike "sports bar" sort of place where I'd had a pleasant experience or two with friends in the past. Besides, it was the night of the 4th game of the Yankees-Red Sox playoffs, and I figured Fritz would be a fine and friendly place to watch the game.

It was certainly crowded at Fritz. And the bartenders were much more the friendly sort of bartenders I'm used to, although they were extremely busy. But the crowd? Lots of guys dressed butch, in that careful fashion of the costume-designed: pristine baseball caps, and sweatshirts and t-shirts that had never been washed in even warm water if they'd been worn at all, all perfectly fitting and crisp. And I, as ever, was completely invisible. Nobody near me would make eye contact, or talk about the game. I don't press that sort of thing, really, but this was just not a night for meeting people at Fritz.

I only stayed a few innings, which was a good thing since that was the game that lasted until well past 1 am. I'm not sure the bar stays open that late, and it would have been a possible but very long walk back to Central Square at 2am.

But what was I expecting, after all? I would have dismissed the evening's experiences as being simply an evening's experiences and not representative of anything, except for my experience the next night.I was leaving the Central Square Red Line station and heading back to rsc's and jwg's place when I peeked in the window of an Irish pub and saw that the game was still going on, the game that had started nearly five hours previous (and which I had actually been following off and on over the course of the evening). So I went into the pub and got myself a nice pint of beer and joined the crowd. What a fun time I had. Everybody there was my friend. Everybody near me was interested in talking with me, about themselves and about the Red Sox. We shouted and cheered and screamed in delight when the Red Sox pulled it out. Again I ask what I've been asking for three decades: Why can't there be a gay bar that feels like that? Or, specifically, what was the difference between Fritz on Sunday and the Fieldhouse on Monday? It couldn't simply be that one is a gay bar and one is a straight bar, could it? (Or -- and I don't think this is the same question -- it couldn't simply be that there were no women at all at Fritz but lots of women at the Fieldhouse, could it?)

Ah, Boston: Your complex mysteries will forever remain veiled to me.
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