Saturday, June 16, 2012

Loring Park Episode #5: A Departure, A Mugshot, and a Surprise

Previously on "Gays of our Lives": Joey prepared for his departure, but not before introducing himself to Kevin, he of the frat-boy demeanor and the pouka shell. Jakey threw up.

                                                   A Departure

Two Sundays ago, I was preparing for the inevitable. Joey, who had become my newest running buddy over the past month (and my first experience at what gay parenting felt like), was moving back to Wisconsin, and it was to be his last hurrah. After work that night, Jared called me and said that his friend Rachel wanted to venture to the St. Paul bars instead, as she had grown weary of the insular gay high school that is The Saloon. I empathized, but told him that it was Joey's last night in town and crossing the river just wasn't feasible. Joey arrived at my apartment at around 10, and because I am such a considerate host, it took me half an hour of gabbing before I finally put pants on.

"I was so worried about you the other night," I said, trying my best to not address the elephant in the room (*cough cough* didyousleepwithkevinnotthatIcare *cough* cough*). "What time did you get home?"

"Oh," he said nonchalantly. "We ended up going to his place."

"Doesn't he live in the 'burbs?" I asked, my eyes narrowing into slits.

"Yeah, it took us a while," he said. "We played chess."

Now, I use "board games" as a colloquiasm for intercourse all the time, so this did not faze me. "Joey, we're grown-ups," I said as I spackled foundation all over my face. "You can call it sex."

"No, we actually played chess," Joey laughed.

"Wait, isn't Kevin dumb and fratty?" I asked, and this is when I realized that I am absolutely awful at snap judgments.

"No, he just looks like he is," Joey explained. As it turns out, Kevin is older than me by a few years (this never happens anymore), works a lucrative big-boy white-collar job, and is still reeling from a relationship that crashed and burned after two years. "He's actually really deep," Joey went on. "Like, he started crying when he started talking about his ex-boyfriend, and what his family means to him. He's not at all like we thought he was."

"I am not good at this first impression thing!" I exclaimed. "Like how during the entire time we were doing the play, I thought you were this snobby twink who probably goes to The Saloon all the time and never gives anyone the time of day, when really you're a shy boy from Wisconsin who hardly ever went out until you met me!"

"It's because I have natural bitchface," Joey said. "I can't help it. Everyone always thinks I'm a bitch before they get to know me because I can't control my face. It's a problem."

On our walk to The Saloon, he dropped another bombshell. "Oh, he said you're cute, by the way," he shared.

"Joey, don't!" I cried. "You don't have to say that. But, oh my god, really? Like how?"

"Yeah," he said. "He was like, 'Oh, Jakey's cute'. Oh, and he doesn't know you threw up. He just thinks you passed out."

"So embarrassing!" I cried. "My #1 crush is in my apartment and it's the one time of year I vomit. My life is a crappy young adult novel. It's even worse than when I drunk Facebooked Star Quarterback."

We made it to The Saloon, where we soon met up with Jared, and later ran into Liam. Hanging out with Liam at The Saloon is weird because you will try to have a conversation with him, but every ten seconds someone walks by and grabs his ass. The life of a gAy-lister.

I need to write about these things sooner than two weeks after they happen, because that night at The Saloon is all a blur. Liam and Joey did the whorebox together while I told Jared all about Kevin, ordered another drink, forgot I told him about Kevin, and then told him the whole story again. Jared took the train home, and Liam, Joey and I walked across the park. I regretted my decision to wear dress shoes and decided it was more comfortable to walk home with my dress socks hitting the pavement. Liam checked into my Grindr and messaged dozens of people, which made for an awkward morning. I used a bed sheet as a makeshift blanket for Liam to sleep on the floor (unbeknownst to me, my mother packed a sleeping bag somewhere in the closet -- whoops!) and gave him a Minnesota Twins T-shirt to cover up his tank top, and we fell asleep to the MTV Movie Awards. Twilight and Hunger Games won damn near everything and I just felt flipping old.

I remember Channing Tatum. I remember Josh Hutcherson. I remember Joey asking in a whisper if he could be the big spoon. I remember him whispering in the darkness that he was leaving. I remember the door closing. I remember looking at Liam sleeping peacefully on the ground underneath the bedsheet that he thought was a blanket and realizing that had I been left alone that night, I would have bawled my eyes out. I am blessed to have a great number of friendships in my life, and while I would never think to rank them, there has been something very cosmic about my friendship with Joey. It was the most positive thing to come out of an experience that left me otherwise sour and bitter  (seven months of rehearsing a play that never came to fruition). When I entered the gay world of Minneapolis at 22, I was jaded and abhorred myself, and seeing it from the perspective of a 20-year-old from Wisconsin allowed me to view it from a more appreciative and optimistic lens. He encouraged me to dream my dreams while never losing sight of his own. I thoroughly enjoyed introducing him to not just my gay friends but also people from Big Louie's Bingo ("How do you know all these people?" he had asked. "Oh, Mike is my dad," I said nonchalantly after half an hour of conversation, and when he cracked up, Marcie the Bingo Queen was convinced I had said something dirty), and my longtime friends Greta and Erin. For the past few weeks, almost every day had been an adventure, of seeing the city in a new and refreshing way, and while I realized that the boy wasn't dying, he was just moving, his absence was still something I secretly mourned for a few days.

A Mugshot

Later that week, Liam messaged me and told me he was going to be at the 19 Bar with Markie. Since the 19 is a block away from my apartment, I decided laundry could wait and I could make a cameo. Markie, Liam and their friend Marty were outside on the patio, and I quickly became weary of the smell of smoke. Anthony was there but I did not greet him because I only talk to him when he is in the mood to say hello to me. I know, did I learn nothing from the Jim Wilson fiasco (Episode #2)? Markie has always been supportive of my comedy "career", and I began to fully appreciate getting to know Liam as a person and not just a pretty face at The Saloon. Marty was in the mood for deep conversation, and kept talking about getting over his ex-boyfriend (it's one of those disgusting situations where they're roommates so they're broken up but they still fuck. Never let this happen to you, ladies and gays). I started talking about how I should stop feeling so insecure whenever Anthony is in the same room, and he was half-listening and thought Anthony was my ex-boyfriend, and I was too tired and wheezy from the smoke to explain that Anthony isn't into skinny dudes, but then I felt bad because the only reason I know that is when I was on his Facebook (by sheer and total accident! Not really!) and he and a friend were talking about boys from the Boardwalk and he admitted such. In a related story, if I looked like Izak Pratt, I would be naked right now.

Still, Pride Weekend is coming up, and every day I have been saying that I am going to work out (oops), eat right (oops), and not go out drinking in order to protect my wallet, waistline and liver (oops oops oops). Friday, Liam texted me and asked if I was going to LUSH for 3-for-1's with our friend Michael. I had first met Michael the same night I first met Liam, and only the second night I hung out with Markie. It was in November and was the first time I had ever done a stand-up comedy show at Ryan's Pub, and I still look back on it as one of the best nights of my life. Not only was I on a real show with real comedians, but Markie had brought along Michael and Devin, two remarkably dressed and attractive gays who intimidated me to death until I actually met them and found them to be as friendly as they were tan. That night, we went to The Saloon to celebrate Liam's birthday, and Michael and I were the only ones in the bar who knew all the words to "Shoop". Michael has a boyfriend, a day job, and a house in the suburbs, and therefore he doesn't go out as much as he used to, but he's someone who I always wish I hung out with more than I do, as he cracks my shit up. LUSH, voted best gay bar in Minneapolis/St. Paul by City Pages magazine, is my favorite place hands down, but it is in Northeast Minneapolis and therefore I am not a regular like I once was (I once had a ridiculous crush on the heterosexual barback who went to my high school. And yes, I drunk Facebooked him once, too).

For budgetary reasons, I decided to take the 10 bus from Nicollet Mall to LUSH. On Fridays, 3-for-1's go from 7-9, and then at 10, 2-for-1's begin to kick off Blush Fridays, which is the bar's lesbian night. All of Minneapolis was on the 10 bus when I got on at 7:30, as it was the first time in my life I have been on a bus that was at full capacity (at one point it went past a guy waiting, and he gave us the finger!). The bus was full of children, and four young girls who couldn't have been older than 15 were standing next to my seat, loudly talking about how drunk they were going to get and how the last time one of them came to work hung over, she successfully convinced her boss that she had the stomach flu. Kids today!

We arrived at Central & Spring, and I got out of my seat and nearly ran over the four teenage girls. "Sorry, this is my stop," I said meekly. "Ours too," they said. "Are you going where we're going?!" It turns out that they weren't a quartet of tweens, but rather four lesbians with amazing skin! "Yay! I have a posse!" I cried, and we marched into LUSH together. I grabbed my first of the 3-for-1's (instead of making you triple-fist it, LUSH gives you tokens for your other two drinks) and met the usual suspects outside on the patio.

First, Liam and I ran into a burlesque dancer we know who very politely critiqued my make-up (I was wearing SET liquid foundation). He recommended I go to the Armani counter at Nordstrom. I appreciated his advice, but the next day I found myself spending over $200 at the Clarins counter with John Paul (and ladies and gays, you must go to him and imagine you have a money tree in your backyard. The boy is a miracle worker).

I reunited with Michael and hugged Devin, who lamented that we don't hang out anymore. Devin and I had one sexual dalliance and I have always been attracted to him, but life gets in the way sometimes, y'know? I promised I would make a better effort to text him. I finally sat on the patio with Markie, Liam, his gal pal, and an attractive bartender that did not find me amusing at all. Devin and Liam moved to another table and stared comic daggers at us. Marty started crying when talking about his roommate/ex-boyfriend/fuck buddy and had to go inside for a little bit.

"Devin got really good-looking," Attractive Bartender said. "I wonder what he's been doing."

That made me feel confused.

"Did you guys hear about Star Quarterback?!" Markie asked. We were on the patio so it was okay to shout, but Markie really has no inside voice. "He got arrested in Florida for cocaine possession and a weapons violation! His mugshot is online!"

"What, who?!" someone (Liam?) asked.

"STAR QUARTERBACK!" Markie shouted. At the risk of being Captain Obvious, I should make it clear that Markie was not shouting "Star Quarterback", but rather the kid's real name.

"Shhhhhhhh," I cried. "Don't gossip."

"Who's Star Quarterback?" Gal Pal asked.

"It's complicated!" I cried.

"Did you guys fuck?!" Gal Pal asked with wide eyes.

"It's complicated," I repeated, because then I realized that if I shared that I had a crush on him for several months and drunk Facebooked him once but he never knew I was alive, that it would be a much less juicy story than the possibility of us once having a one night-stand or quasi-relationship. "Just don't say his name so loud," I gently told Markie. "Call him Fred."

"Oh my god, anyway, we will not be seeing Fred for a while," Markie said. "He resisted arrest, too. What a fucking idiot. The mugshot's online. You can Google it."

 I later Googled the mugshot and sincerely regret it. It felt wrong, voyeuristic, and like a violation of an implicitly established trust. I do not really owe Star Quarterback anything -- hell, especially now that our paths will never cross -- but it still felt unsavory of me to gawk at his mugshot like he was some celebrity on TMZ or The Smoking Gun. Speaking of TMZ, I think maybe I was most curious about the possibility of him doing a Paris Hilton smirk. He didn't, of course -- he looked as broken and scared as anyone would in such a situation -- but because he is, or was, the Star Quarterback, he also managed to still look flawless and beautiful. Nothing is greater proof that you've won the genetic lottery more than managing to look like a movie star when you're facing 10 to 30 in the hoosegow and you've got the ass of a 16-year-old girl.

Liam and I decided we were heading to The Saloon, so I called Favian. We were going to ride from Loring Park in the stretch Hummer, but because I am a dumb-ass and temporarily misplaced my wallet, we got downgraded to the regular town car because Favian got a call from a group of 14 during my frantic search. In a related story, my birthday is next month and I IS GETTING A STRETCH HUMMER, Y'ALL.

Our driver was talking to the dispatcher at the beginning of our trip, and Liam was getting antsy. "Is he gonna talk on the phone the whole time?" Liam said, and then, fresh off his 3-for-1's, he mouthed off. "Are you not gonna talk to us at all!?"

"He's just joking!" I cried. I was mortified. I adore Favian and his drivers, and thus I felt like a parent whose child throws a temper tantrum in the middle of Cub Foods.

Jared met Liam and I at my apartment, and it took us an hour to decide on my outfit. Liam and I split a Lean Cuisine (twink diet?), I slathered SET make-up all over my face again, and this trio was ready for an all new episode of "Gays of our Lives".

A Surprise

Liam met up with his Gal Pal, Jared was put in charge of my keys, and we mingled like the socialites we are. I again told Jared all about what Joey had told me about Kevin.

"I know," Jared told me as we moseyed up to his favorite bartender. "You told me twice on Sunday night and again at work on Monday."

"Right," I said, almost disappointed. "Why can't I ever remember anything? I will have Three Olives lemonade, please." I think I answered my own question.

A gorgeous Latino boy in barely-there briefs walked around with a tray of Jag Bombs. It was an identity crisis, because I absolutely hate Jagermeister, but I adore a tan and visible abdominal muscles. "Can I call you Menudo?" I asked. "Is it offensive if I call you Menudo?" Lesson: Usually if you have to begin a question with "Is it offensive....", the rest of what you are going to say is probably offensive.

"You can call me Tony," he said through a pained smile. He totally wanted to kick me in the Caucasian balls, I knew it.

"Do you even know who Menudo is?" I asked. "Oh, youth." I overtipped him and chugged the Jag Bomb, pretending that I didn't have to be at work the next day at 11.

It was a Jagermeister Miracle, because right as I downed the drink, MARIAH CAREY CAME ON THE SCREEN! I figuratively lose my shit when Mariah Carey comes on. It was the "Honey" remix, and I was drunk enough to think that I could hit a high C note (I tried. It wasn't pretty, but Jared found it hilarious). We were next to two black guys, one of whom was in a tank top and was so built that I assumed his body fat percentage was subzero.

"Oh my god, Jared," I slurred. "Check out Chocolate Thunder over there."

"Oh my god, go talk to him!" Jared encouraged.

"NO!" I cried. I did my usual shy-boy routine and stood in the corner and pouted.

"Oh my god, Jakey," Jared said with an eye roll that was nearly audible. "How are you ever going to meet people if you never approach them? I wonder if Gay Oprah is here and we can talk about eyebrows again."
"STOP BOTHERING GAY OPRAH!" I shouted. Nicki Minaj blared on the dance floor, and Jared and I went to go dance as was our duty. I checked my phone to see the time (1:30), and Liam was asking if he could sleep over.

As Jared booty-popped and I did whatever the white version of booty-popping is, we realized that Chocolate Thunder was next to us.

"Jakey...." Jared smiled with a mischevious grin. "Come on."

"No!" I cried adamantly and I downed the rest of my Three Olives lemonade. As I set it down on the bar, I looked from across the whorebox and through the artificial fog, and there he was, sporting a tight blue tee-shirt, a lost look on his face, and that damned pouka shell necklace.

"Jakey," Jared said softly. "If you don't go talk to him, I'm disowning you."

I walked over like I knew him and smiled hello, then danced near him. The boylesquer would be so proud.

"I want to go to the patio," Kevin said.

"Okay," I smiled, and I took his hand and walked him over there.

"It just gets too hot in there," he smiled.

"Why do you have a Southern accent?" I asked.

"All my clients are from there," he grinned. "It slips out." He said out like Matthew McConaughey.

'"I'm sorry I puked when you came over," I shared. Why did I bring this up?! Damn you, Jagermeister Truth Serum!

"I didn't even know you puked," he said. "I just remember you passed out in your closet."

"I miss Joey," I whispered.

"Me too," he grinned.

"Come dance with me," I said, and took him by the hand to the dance floor. I made him go on the whorebox, and he peeled off his shirt like a model in those awful Bod commercials from the mid-2000's.

"Who's your friend?!" a man in his thirties shouted over the music. "He's fucking hot!"

"Ugh, I know," I said, rolling my eyes. I was rolling my eyes at Kevin's goofiness, the fact that I so predictably found him irresistible, and the brazenness of our fellow whoreboxer. I hopped off the box for a bit to give him some distance, and then quietly freaked out like a middle school girl next to Jared before he did the splits. Kevin licked my cheek like a dog and I immediately worried that he would start coughing and complaining about the taste of liquid make-up.

Jared left for the train, but not before throwing my keys back at me (lifesaver!). Liam regrettably agreed to crash at Gal Pal's house. And before I knew it, 3 A.M. had struck and I was walking out of The Saloon hand-in-hand with Kevin. This was happening.

We made it not half a block when we encountered a pretty blonde girl in her early twenties. "I'm sorry," she said. "Can you guys walk me to my car? I just don't feel safe."

"Of course," I said. "We're two strapping young men. We'd be happy to protect you."

"Where are you parked?" Kevin asked.

"The University of St. Thomas," she said. "I go there for law school!"

"Oh, no shit!" Kevin said. Then they started talking about grown-up stuff like LSATS and local law firms and I lost interest. The blonde girl graciously drove us to my apartment building, and I thoroughly enjoyed the moment, selfishly wondering if the blonde girl was attracted to Kevin, if she realized that he wasn't on her team, then hating myself for thinking that "straight-acting", whatever the hell that means, is something that should be prized or seen as better than its alternative, because the only females that have ever assumed I am heterosexual have been sixth-graders or sheltered conservative Christians who honestly believed I hadn't met the "right girl" yet.

He took his shirt off the millisecond we got into the apartment. Seriously, dude? I put on my iPod. He criticized every country song I had. He made me download "A Whole New World" and sang it at an embarrassingly loud pitch. He flipped open my computer, saw Microsoft Word open, and sharply criticized my writing. "Oh, that's real choppy," he said at one point, and then he kept reading out loud the Jim Wilson episode in his strange, pseudo-Southern accent that wasn't. I showed him my name in size 10 font in Lavender magazine as if it meant something. "Does this mean I can do jokes about Gay Oprah?" I asked. "I'm actually good friends with Gay Oprah," he said. "I had dinner with him last week." "Of course you did," I scoffed. He chastised me for not having a college degree. He talked about money, which I found gauche, but then I stared at his pectoral muscles and then it shamefully made it acceptable.

We did not do anything physical other than spooning (also, I have a twin bed that I really need to upgrade to a double). I was surprisingly fine with that because I felt myself actually starting to like him, and I hadn't Naired my legs recently.

When I woke up, I was sure to be present in the moment for as long as I could. I snuck in a Listerine strip and he stirred, mumbled, then crunched his muscular arms harder around my torso. I wanted to stay there forever.

I dropped him off at his friend's house, but not before explaining that I'm a terrible driver. It took me three minutes to back out of my parking lot. He couldn't help his laughter. "DON'T JUDGE!" I cried. "I just like watching people live their lives," he said. "That's all."

I love summer.

Coming Up: My Life Turns into an Episode of 'Elimidate'!









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