Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

The Late-in-Life Barfly Hits the Road

I was going to take it easy last night, in preparation for the Tourist Week of All Time with Dick and Marlene. For dinner I took advantage of the fact that in San Francisco you can find restaurants that will fill you to bursting with decent-enough sushi for less than $20. After dinner I found an Internet cafe at 17th and Sanchez (where I sit again as I write this) to catch up on the online universe. At the 8pm closing I figured I'd go have a beer in the Castro then head home to read and relax and turn in early. No such luck, although you could read that as no such *bad* luck.

Having enjoyed my visits with Ned to Moby Dick's and the Pilsner (most especially the Pilsner, with a big happy sigh for the dancing eyes and sweet smile of the friendly young academically ambitious Brazilian bartender there who gave me stories, although come to think of it the joking wink of the bearded handsome barback at Moby Dick's provided a nice flash of joy as well) I this time headed to the Midnight Sun. My thinking was that since this is a "video bar" I could sit and watch the music videos and comedy film clips for entertainment, which in fact I did.

Ah, but my barfly experience (home and in London) has taught me that if you can snag a front seat by the serving station opportunities for exchanging words with strangers might well present themselves. After I'd been there long enough to establish a presence as a smiling guy with a beer in his hand, people getting their drinks would nod and smile back at me which I now recognize as step one towards possible permission to speak to a stranger. Fortunately in attendance last night was a particular special (and somewhat rare) stock bar character: the socially aggressive embracing bar doyenne, usually a cute-enough guy with a large personality who knows no social fear and who gets you to give him your name and then he tries to force people to talk to each other. Ok, ok, in many circumstances this is me, but what I lack is the sexual surety of the guys who do this the best in gay bars.

When I smiled hello at Jeffrey he took this as permission to drag me in to his game, and he responded by grabbing me in a hug and finding out where I was from and telling me about the other folks over in his crowd, most of whom he had just met. From there people had permission to socialize. Thank you, Jeffrey.

I stayed close to two hours and three beers, at which point the folks I had talked with a bit were splitting up -- some to go dancing at Badlands and some to go to the "underwear night" at the 440 bar. I said I was heading home, but this was strongly discouraged. I wound up going to the 440, where I did not take off my trousers but instead sat up front where it was light and open and where a small group of guys just turning 30 was having a friendly evening out (completely and wholly ignoring the stuff going on in the back). The guy from the Midnight Sun who had dragged me there turned out to be their regular hairdresser, so we were taken in, as if we were at this small private cocktail party in the midst of the bar.

In the Castro the bars are all mere feet from each other, so at one point I took a walk over to the Badlands where a couple of guys visiting from England whom I'd met briefly earlier were standing outside (to smoke) and I got pulled into their stories. Well, perhaps I asked for their stories. I said nothing about me, but I learned a great deal about them. Much fun, then back to the 440, where the bartender looked at my open shirt, raised his eyebrows, and said "Nice fuzz".

I didn't head home until 1am, when I planned to wait at the bus stop until either the 24 bus or a taxi came by, whichever was first, but fortunately a 35 bus arrived about 30 seconds later -- ten minutes after the route is supposedly over for the night. This bus takes me practically to Doug's door. So I stumbled home and into bed, forgetting to charge my cell phone. I tell this part of the story because by that time the idea of the perfect bus at the perfect time, usually a stunning rarity, seemed an expected thing.

I like an evening like this. It's not cruising, although there are sexual undercurrents. I am not making new friends for life, although I have on occasion met somebody under such circumstances who I have later stayed in touch with. What I am doing is what I described about my trip to London one year ago: making the sort of passing connections with strangers that are more than smalltalk and that enrich my experience.
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