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After the Whale 

Bouncer hunts for good tunes at Moby Dick

Wednesday, Jun 23 2010
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I know scientists are working diligently to isolate the so-called "gay gene," but while they are at it, I hope that they can also pinpoint the part of a gay man's brain that likes shitty dance music. It's hard to say which came first, like the chicken or the egg: Do gay men in San Francisco like to drink along with Britney B-sides, or do all the bars in the Castro have some sinister plot to program their video jukeboxes to the aural equivalent of Star Magazine? Old-school gay men also like shitty music, like Barbra Streisand, Erasure, show tunes, and Liza Minnelli. Of course, I know a few gay men who like different music, so before you fire up that e-mail, let me say that I get it, and I know I am generalizing, big time. But mama always told me that there is truth behind stereotyping.

So, all together now: S.F. gay men's music taste sucks.

I cemented this theory last week when I went to Moby Dick for the first time. It's a quaint little tavern on 18th Street. From the outside it has an air of distinction, with gilded lettering and stately blue paint. Of course, it is named after one of the greatest works of American fiction — one man's quest for a large, white beast that haunts him. He lives only in the hope that he may some day overtake it and penetrate it with his giant harpoon. What this has to do with gayness is beyond me.

I walked in expecting to see older gay men tapping their toes to some jazzy background music, but was disappointed to see that I could just as easily have been walking into Badlands. There was the video screen playing some stupid dance song, with women soaping up cars at a carwash while a man stared at their tits from behind the windshield. To be sure, there were older men there, which made me all the more puzzled at the music.

Moby Dick consists of one main room with a bar with stools, and ledges along the walls for more seating. This is how every other bar in the Castro is designed. There is a pool table in the back. There was also a very large fish tank over the bar; the little guys swimming in it looked quite content.

What I didn't expect to see, but did, was a middle-aged blond woman with her breasts hoisted up in a low-cut, form-fitting top who was buying drinks for just about everyone. "What'll you have?" she slurred. I am always put off by people who offer to buy me drinks, because I feel I will owe them something, like conversation, and I don't always want to do that. I politely demurred.

She ordered herself a mai tai and asked for extra rum, and I wondered whether the bartender was going to cut her off, but she didn't. The server, Mary, was very nice and took my order quickly. The video changed to a song by Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, and I went and sat on a ledge.

There is something to be said about dance music being played while you are slowly getting drunk. As your buzz increases, the music sounds better and better, the guy you are talking to looks better and better, and the idea of smoking crystal and banging all night moves to the forefront of your brain. How else to describe the Castro in the late '70s, when disco ruled?

I seriously think that whatever beats we like are hardwired into our DNA. Dave Chappelle did a skit about how Latinos respond to certain rhythms, black people respond to different beats, and white people hear a guitar solo and suddenly feel the urge to shotgun a beer.

The blond lady moved up to the pool table and seemed to be enjoying herself, although she was having difficulty chalking her cue. I looked around at the art on the walls. That's another characteristic of bars in this area: There is always some penis-centered art. Sometimes it is quite good, but often it is hella stoop. Case in point: the drawing of an erect phallus with a bite taken out of the tip, complete with chomp marks, as though it were a chocolate Easter bunny.

The men around me were having a great time. It was happy hour, and Moby Dick has a long one with great prices. Maybe I am just jealous of the gay men in this town — they are obviously enjoying themselves more than I am. They don't show up to my Neil Young tribute drinkathon and shit all over it, so why should I disparage their entertainment choices? I am certainly guilty of liking The Golden Girls, so at least we have that in common.

Here's another thing that makes me jealous of gay men: They make it look so easy. Meeting another man, flirting, and getting it on seems to be a cinch. There has to be a bar in S.F. for single straight people where it is just as easy, but I haven't found it yet. Straight men have to deal with straight women, and we are a difficult lot. We tend to put ourselves in two categories: sluts and nonsluts, and a fella has no way of knowing which one we are until it may very well be too late.

I made it through about eight songs, and then I had had enough. This was not my world, and although I love to go to the Midnight Sun to watch Project Runway, I can't abide hanging out with men who like men, just because there is a killer drink special.

Call me old-fashioned. Or, better yet, call me Ishmael. What the heck.

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Katy St. Clair

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