By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Once you reach a reasonable level of emotional maturity and happiness, it's natural to look back honestly on all your mistakes and maybe even forgive yourself. At least, that's how it has worked for me. Not that I'm totally together, as any loyal reader of this column will surely point out. But I am more confident and content than I have ever been in my life, and I'm ready to face some of my major fuck-ups. This introspection probably comes from the fact that I just had a birthday, it's Chinese New Year, and I am getting ready to have a fairly serious operation. I'm feeling reflective.
On the eve of my birthday I was to show up at my friend's house, where she and another close friend had something nice planned for me. When I walked in, they had gifts piled on the table, fondue in a pot, and a classy touch that made me cry: a long, artsy garland of pictures of all my favorite things -- the Bee Gees, guinea pigs, Jordan Catalano, The League of Gentlemen, a map of England, the Egyptian Lover, Strong Bad, cheese, retarded people, the Little River Band, and more (gentle reader, I am a total dorkwad). I was astonished. Did I ever really tell them that I was an Anglophile? Did I actually ever say that cheese was my favorite food? I guess I did.
I can't explain how this made me feel more whole, but it did. So the next evening I did what any other person would do who felt a life-changing sense of acceptance: I headed out to the Eagle Tavern for some big 'n' brawny, Grizzly Adams-furry homo company. You know, people who would really get me.
398 12th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Region: South of Market
The inside of the Eagle reminds me of being in the bowels of an old ship, perhaps the Santa Maria or some early American commuter barge betwixt New York City and Fire Island. There are distressed wooden beams everywhere and decades of photos and clippings. The real draw, at least for us heteros, is the outside area, which reminds me of that restaurant that you pass when you are on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It's like a carved-out grotto with lots of benches and a gigantic barbecue. On the evening that Michelle and I went there, the barbecue was hosting a raging fire that gave the whole thing a Survivor All-Stars vibe.
There is something about a fire that makes you want to confess secrets. And so Michelle with her martini and I with my gin and tonic slowly began to reveal various sins to each other. The question posed was, "What is the meanest thing you have ever done?" The catalyst was the song that was playing over the sound system, "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles. Both of us had strong reactions to it. The song reminded her of melancholy roller skating around the shed out back when she was a kid; it reminded me of the time I became possessed by an evil demon and destroyed a young man's life. But I'll get back to that.
Michelle is one of the nicest people I know. She is considerate and friendly to strangers. The worst thing she could remember doing was telling her little sister that their mother had died when she really hadn't. This seemed pretty tame; though I am an only child, I do have some vague notion of the cruelty that siblings put each other through. So ol' Michelle was a sweetie even as a babe. She took a sip of her martini and then shot up her finger. "Oh yeah," she said, "I remember something else." Let's see, I thought, she probably tied her father's shoelaces together or plucked the wings off of a butterfly. "When I was in fourth grade I pushed the girl who lived down the street off of a second-story balcony. When she landed, she lay there, unmoving." Yikes. Jesus.
For whatever reason, I felt like I had to top that one, and thus began my story. What I did didn't involve a dance with death, but it was pretty bad. It was just outright mean. And in order to get it off my conscience, I shall not even attempt to tell you what motivated me to act in such a way, what underlying circumstances (trust me, they are sad and worthy of your pity) led me to be such a beast.
After high school I went to Europe with some friends. When we were in London we stayed at the house of my friend Baltie's mother. The family was on sabbatical in Australia, and we all slept in the son's room. He was probably 15 years old. We drank every drop of booze in the house, then laid all the bottles around a sleeping Alejandro, a Spanish exchange student who spoke not a whit of English and therefore couldn't defend himself. This was after a day of rigorously teaching him that "Show me your tits" was how Americans greeted one another and "Suck my dick" was a proper goodbye. (OK, that shit is still funny.) What I regret is this: We destroyed the son's room. And by "we" I mean "me." I poked "I suck" into his ceiling with a broom handle, smoked his pot, went into his diary and wrote rude commentary, and, worst of all, made a disgusting collage of pictures of his girlfriend and animals. I did all this with wanton abandon. I had the sense that I was in another country, and this was my one chance to really just, well, be mean. While I was crushing this kid's spirit, I took the time to make a mixtape of all his music. To this day, I can't hear any of the songs that I put on that thing without feeling really shitty. "The Long and Winding Road" was one of them. Thankfully someone at the Eagle took off the Beatles and moved on to the Talking Heads.