Clueless in the Castro

Whenever something big happens in the realm of pop culture, I can't help but head to the Castro. I know that every television within a four-block radius will be tuned into the dirt.

Presently I can't afford cable TV, and my computer is so old that I cannot get any streaming stuff on it, so while the rest of you are probably sick to death of Michael Jackson coverage, I have been on a starvation diet.

The day before Michael Jackson's funeral was a sunny one in San Francisco, so I wanted to go somewhere light and airy to scope out the coverage. I hit Harvey's, named for Harvey Milk, which sits on a corner and is surrounded by windows. Most importantly, there is an ever-present TV in the bar with subtitles scrolling down its screen.

On my way in, I was addressed by a young chap with a clipboard. "Want to overturn Prop. 8?" he asked. I did what I usually do with people bearing clipboards — I got him to cut to the chase.

"Money or a signature?" I asked.

The answer was money.

"Do you know about Prop. 8?" he asked me. I assured him that I did. As we were standing on the corner of 18th and Castro streets, I just had to ask if he had come across anyone who didn't know what it was.

"Oh, sure," he said. "You'd be surprised."

"Gay people who don't know about Prop. 8?" I asked, flummoxed.

"Yep."

Jesus God. Here I was, scuttling my ass to the Castro because it seemed the most tuned-in part of the city. But I suppose gay people have a right to be clueless too.

Harvey's consists of a long bar with stools, and then dozens of tables of varying heights. There are neighborhood photos from the 1970s on the walls, and, unlike most of the bars in the Castro that have bartenders over 35, it seems to have a steady stream of hot young servers in attendance. They offer food, but in my opinion the menus are an afterthought. (I ordered a salad which sounded awesome on paper, but when it came it seemed to be a mélange of Trader Joe's products.)

Alas, there was no MJ on TV, but I knew if I waited long enough I would see some. The TV was, however, showing MSNBC, which could only happen in San Francisco. Walk into a bar in the middle of Wyoming and you'll see FOX News. At the airport you'll get the middle ground with CNN. But MSNBC is decidedly liberal.

Hardball with Chris Matthews was on, and the subject was Sarah Palin, who had "passed the ball to a forward guard before reaching the basket" or whatever the hell she was talking about. I was giddy. If I couldn't have some MJ, she would definitely be my second choice.

The bartender leaned in and took my order. Ah, the lean-in of a handsome man — how many tips have been inflated because of this one small act? (He also leaned in to several other guys and kissed them, so I'm thinking I wasn't his type.) A friend of his was sitting to my left; they were talking about the guy's night in jail, which normally would have my ears burning, but I was too intent on reading the subtitles to Palin's speech.

The Hardball pundits were, of course, having a field day, with those on her side again pointing out what a maverick she was, and those on the other side again pointing out what a dipshit she was. Palin said that she'd consulted her family and asked them what she should do, and that they all said "quit." Then the screen showed a picture of her whole family. There was Bristol, her teenage daughter and the mother of her grandchild.

Bristol Palin has recently become a spokeswoman for Candie's Foundation, which promotes teen abstinence. Yep. The company that originated "fuck-me" shoes for teens is now championing waiting until marriage by propping up someone who didn't. Candie's also held a contest to see who could come up with the best tagline for its movement. One young lady presented this gem, which is now emblazoned on T-shirts: "I'm Sexy Enough ... to Keep You Waiting." Gross!

More people were piling into Harvey's. Two raucous guys were at the end of the bar, whooping it up. Every time they yelled out something incoherent yet seemingly impolite, they would cover their mouths and giggle, looking at me guiltily. Whatever, dudes. The bartender shot them a look that said, "Shut it!" It took me a while to realize that they were making fun of Sarah Palin, not me. A lone diner to my right gave me a glance and rolled his eyes. He too had been following the subtitles on the tube.

"She's a peach," he said, which just about summed it all up for me as well.

"See that guy outside with the clipboard?" I said. "He says that he has come across people who don't know what Prop. 8 is. Can you believe that?"

"Is that the school tax thing?" he asked.

Wow. In some ways, not knowing things is probably a blessing on an existential level. If you don't get caught up in shit, you don't have to worry about shit. And I suppose if the gay Log Cabin Republicans can do their thing and disregard their party's gross negligence, then Joe Sixpack can ignore his own best interest as well.

I paid my bill and went outside, marching up to the activist kid with the clipboard with $5 in my hand. "Cool!" he said, writing out a receipt. "Keep up the good work," I said, heading down the street.

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