Five Letter Word (starts with a 'K')
"Joe, it's Ed. Listen, we're just about to go into the theatre so my cell phone is gonna be off for the next few hours. Why don't you just plan on meeting us at Barracuda at 11? Michael says you know where it is. We'll meet you there, and we can figure out what to do next. OK sweetie, see you there. Bye."
Of course I knew where Barracuda was. Back before Michael and Ed were together, Michael and I got totally shitfaced there, over several hours of Cosmos. Micheal spent most of that time flirting with the sexy bartender, who plied us with free drinks. I, however, spent most of that time trying to avoid the disdainful eyes of the very young patrons.
Located in the heart of the gayborhood, Barracuda is perhaps the MOST Chelsea of the Chelsea bars. Populated entirely by young hot things, wearing the timelessly gay combination of current fashion and raging attitude, Barracuda is not the most comfy place for a middle-aged guy like me.
So while Michael got on famously with said sexy bartender (whom he ending up spending the rest of the weekend fucking), I sat one barstool away, so that it was clear to the bartender that we weren't a package deal. And while I sat there, I watched patron after patron check me out as they sailed by.
And it almost always went like this:
First glance: "Oh, he's new!"
Second glance: "Ugh, he's old!"
And if there was a third glance: "Oh, God! He's not looking at ME, is he?"
I didn't begrudge them from recoiling from my...um...mature appearance. In fact, it made ME feel guilty, for two reasons.
First of all, I felt guilty for invading their happy party space. Anybody NOT reflecting the general peppy vibe and energy in a room is pulling that vibe down. But mostly, I felt guilty because I identified with them so strongly. Especially the ones who gave me the most withering visual dismissals.
Because, you see, I used to be Just.Like.That.
Orlando, 1977-1983 or so. The Parliament House.
I'd be standing at the bar with all my friends when some hideous, scaley, decrepit OLD pervert (who was probably the age I am RIGHT NOW), would walk by us.
I'd grab my friends by the arm and say, "Gross! Did you see that old thing look at us? Please, PLEASE you guys...if I'm STILL going to GAY BARS when I'm all old and used up like that guy, please just fucking KILL ME!"
And my friends would all nod and agree and we'd make some sort of group suicide pact in case we were still going to gay bars when we were 40 years old.
Of course, what I was really saying was, "Please God, let me have my shit together and be happy and settled down and not be relentlessly trolling around gay bars every night and bothering young hot things like me for sex at an age when I actually AM, in fact, a troll."
Sometimes, I'm not proud to say, I'd actually shout over the music, fighting to be heard over Donna Summer or Sylvester.
"Get out! Pervert! You're ruining our good time!"
These guys probably never heard me, of course. And they were probably never interested in ME, anyway, of course. It's just an aspect of living in a small town (as Orlando used to be) that gay people don't have the option of self-segregating into bars that cater to their ages or interests.
Back to present day.
I went to Barracuda to meet Michael and Ed that night, arriving about thirty minutes early, because I wanted to head them off before they ordered a drink, so that we could get out of there the minute they arrived.
I ordered a beer from that same sexy bartender, took a seat on a barstool and kept an eye on the door. Even at that relatively early hour, the place was crowded. Mobbed, in fact. Pretty young boys were pouring in the door in an endless stream of Diesel jeans and skin-tight Abercrombie t-shirts, their hair spiked high with shiny gel.
The cute DJ had the room jumping to some great high energy tunes, and glamourous drag queens worked the crowd, pausing to accept compliments and air kisses. Beyonce, whom I suppose could be considered the Donna Summer of this generation, was breathily covering "Love To Love You, Baby", and I watched with great amusement while the sweet young things recreated moves that I assume they learned from the video. The bartenders would occasionally look at each other and sing whatever song what playing and act completely, unselfconsciously silly.
And as I sat there, taking in all this true, collective joy...I began to relax and enjoy myself. I stopped avoiding people's eyes and began to smile. And I started to think to myself, "You know, this place isn't so bad. If I were 25, I'd probably come here ALL the time! Yeah, this would probably be MY hangout!"
Two handsome guys, both in their mid-20s, collided in front me.
First Guy: "David, thank GOD you are here!!"
David: "Why, what's the matter?"
First Guy: "Honey, you've got to save me, some HIDEOUS old troll is hitting on me!"
David: "Oh no! We'll put a stop to that. Where is she?"
For a moment here, I feared that First Guy was gonna turn and point at ME, even thought I'd never laid eyes on him before. So I was relieved when his accusing finger pointed past me, over to the other side of the room, where a guy...a totally normal looking, not scary guy...was minding his own business playing pinball.
First Guy: "That's him over there."
David: "You've got to be kidding. HE hit on YOU?"
First Guy: "I know! Can you imagine the nerve? I nearly threw up running away!"
David: "I'm nearly throwing up just looking at him from HERE!"
First Guy: "And what's he doing in here anyway? Look at him! He must be a MILLION years old!"
David: "No shit, he's at LEAST 40!"
It does, indeed, come around.
(edit: folks, the comment field is loading VERY slowly today, thanks for hanging on until they do! -joe)