I spend Saturday evening writing, then take a walk around West Hollywood. I like to walk the streets sometimes, rather than watching Netflix or scrolling through Facebook before bed. I’m starting to realize there are nights I need to be around, but not necessarily socialize with people. West Hollywood at 1am is perfect for watching young gays flirt, older gays having slow, languid dinners, homeless gays running whatever angle they’re running that night. I haunt these streets, walking toward or away from nothing, past the thoroughfare, past the streams of five and dime weekend gays who take the freeways in from Van Nuys, Antelope Valley, Orange County. These boys only get to be gay twice a month, and they arrive pre-gamed and ready to hit the town hard.
Usually I’ll park on Crescent Heights and walk down to Robertson, past that nightmare-of-the-future dry cleaners, decked out like an Apple store, stark, shiny white plastic faux mid-century Scan design. Signage serving Deep Space Nine realness – trying to, anyway. It reads as an attempt to make a connection between some sleek idea of a technological age, and the boring dry cleaning business it actually is. The sign says something like “Valet, Direct to Your Door,” or some such nonsense. It occurs to me, if this is your business model, why spend the money on an antiquated-yet-sleek attempt at a brick and mortar store? This whole effect could be achieved digitally. You could spend a tenth of the rent money on digital ads, and have the dry cleaning done in a much cheaper space, down by the airport. “I have to run your business for you?” I ask myself as I slouch by.
This is what’s wrong with the world. I have to run everyone’s businesses for them. Unbelievable.
I think of other, semi-infuriating businesses in the neighborhood. Just Food For Dogs, a store (a chain, no less) encouraging yuppie dog owners to come in and design ultra-nutra-herbi-ganic dog food tailored to what they think their dogs might need to best extend and optimize their health. Beef and russet potato, chicken breast treats, do it yourself fish nutrient blend – all things sounding like they might be human food, and indeed, priced similar to appetizers at a mid-grade restaurant. Just Food For Dogs made me livid, when I first moved here. You don’t want to be driving around Weho, feeling poor, lonely, invalidated, just to realize your average homosexual living in this neighborhood is so far removed from poverty as to be able to feed his dog restaurant food at least once a day. I quickly multiply eleven dollars a day, with 365 days in a year, with 12 or so years. Almost 50 grand. Could buy an embarrassingly nice luxury car with that, pay for a year at UCLA, get really exquisitely done plastic surgery.
I can’t catch a break in this town, I used to think, but somebody’s French bull dog is walking around here thinking she’s Madonna.
I make a note to myself. Dog Yoga, I scribble into an idea pad I sometimes keep on my person. Dog Yoga is definitely going to be the key to establishing my polyamorous gay compound up in the Hollywood Hills.
I’ve actually been thinking of polyamory a lot, lately. I mean, I’ve always been poly-minded, but lately, when someone asks me if I’m dating anyone, I immediately answer “I’m dating everyone.” Nobody ever thinks it’s funny, but I do. People get tense about poly, I think. Disney gays, especially, somehow. So vulnerable to narrative, I guess… Plus, they act like the simple fact that you said you were poly means they have to justify monogamy, which they absolutely do not. This happens at Mickeys. I duck inside the two story dance club and make a pass through. Near the downstairs bar a very handsome, very nicely built young man catches my eye. He gestures me to come talk to him. He’s been drinking and his first question is “Are you looking for a boyfriend?”
I’m looking for 3 boyfriends, I answer, and he turns away immediately. Now he refuses to talk to me. I think this is funny and play dumb for a few minutes, grabbing his elbow and explaining how there will be a ginger college twink, some indie musicians and a corporate lawyer who pays for all of us. He looks confused and I ask if he’s a corporate lawyer. He is now annoyed and starts stank-facing me. I blow him a kiss as I’m leaving.
I can’t stand when people approach you, then ignore you when they decide you’re not going to suit their immediate needs. Like, it’s my fault he was attracted to me and wanted to say hi? So I’m not boyfriend material, so what? Does that mean you should treat me like I don’t exist, after you started a conversation? Take some responsibility for yourself. It’s not like I’d divulged I was running a white slavery ring.
Youth, I think as I’m leaving the bar – at least it’s a curable disease.
At Mother Lode there is another sweet faced boy with a great smile. He’s wearing a silver bolero-style necklace. The clasp, a hollow equilateral triangle, hangs near his sternum. His eyes are bright but somehow vacant. He’s been drinking quite a bit. I leave without talking to him. There are nights when I’m out I feel like I’m hunting. There are nights, too, when I feel like I’m fishing. But tonight I just needed to take a walk, clear my head, hear a little music and catch lively energy from people walking by. I head out onto Santa Monica, and cross back onto the main drag, near Rage, and Trunks, and Boots and Saddle.
I lean against a tree in the thick of things, watching the stream of wasted, buzzed, tipsy people walking by. Maybe half the people seem genuinely happy to be out and about. Some have closed body language, folded arms, shaking heads. They’re giving their boyfriends or friends the business. Some seem legitimately sad, on the verge of tears. One boy is actually crying, having broken off from a larger group of pals. Another guy is ineptly trying to console him. His other friends mill around and toe the sidewalk, discussing whether to call it a night or push through the emotional outburst and head to the next club.
“It isn’t fair!” The boy is nearly grief stricken. “We’re supposed to be out celebrating! Why can’t we just go out and celebrate each other? Why do we have to be cunty and mean?”
“Because it’s fun,” a rather tall, attractive, guy from the larger group shouts over to the boy crying on the sidewalk. I hear another of their friends chuckle softly. “Get over it, girl – nobody has time for your crying on a Saturday night!”
I want to reach out to the crying boy, to say – hey, the problem isn’t you, it’s people. What’s more, it’s the idea that you need lots of friends. You don’t need these ten people who care more about getting two more drinks in them before they drunk drive back to Orange County. You only need to focus on the one person in this group of ten who actually cares that you’re crying. That’s your friend. Rather than trying to have ten good friends, try to have one, then one more, them maybe one more.
I also want to reach out to the mean, good looking guy trying to preserve the sanctity of his own Saturday night party. I feel like, if I buy him a drink and show him some charm maybe I can show him what empathy is and fix him with my penis. Obviously that’s not true, he’s an awful person who should work at a junkyard forever, but I could still try to fix him with my penis. Maybe I could have furtive, emotional, passionate sex with him for a couple months before looking into his beautiful, selfish eyes and finally walking away, realizing he’s not good enough for me to waste the good sex on.
Worth a shot, I say audibly to myself as I walk away, not at all giving it a shot. Also, I remind myself, he’s 22 and you’re two decades older than him – the only person thinking of you as a variable in this sexual equation, is you. I laugh at myself.
I walk farther away from all the sturm and rabble and crapola. Past Gym Bar and even further east. This entire stretch of West Hollywood is shuttered for the evening. ABCs of Dance, Total Tan, weed dispensaries all wait for the sun to come up and respectable business hours to resume. Monaco Liquor is the only wee-hours holdout. Yellow illuminated sign with red writing, straight from the mid 80s and full of dingy linoleum tile flooring, Monaco Liquor is exactly what you want from ghost town WeHo. An indolent clerk has a one sided blue tooth conversation in a language I don’t comprehend. He’s not concerned with me in the slightest, and won’t make eye contact when I ask about the restroom. I debate between getting a small package of Oreo’s or some pork rinds (higher fat/salt, but much lower carb/sugar). In a supernatural display of self control I simply purchase a Perrier and continue down the street. Man, I think to myself, selecting the zero-calorie option is almost as satisfying as fixing that rotten twink with my penis. Think of the time and money I’m saving! I laugh at myself again.
I walk up the stairway to the dark, powered down Trader Joe’s complex. There’s a spot in the abandoned parking lot where I urinate. I notice pamphlets for HIV testing and used condoms on the ground. Good, I think, someone made a responsible choice.
I walk back down to Santa Monica, choosing a bench outside some strip mall. A cute guy is making his way up the lonely cityscape toward me. Oh shit. It’s the boy from Mother Lode – the one with the triangle necklace. He comes closer. He is smiling. He has black, straight hair, fair skin, and a killer smile. Love that smile of his. Hello, he says, and plops down next to me. What a cutie, I think to myself, and he’s just starting to become aware of his own cuteness. He’s just starting to realize a good outfit, some posture, and a pinch of self esteem can turn a scrawny twerp into a cute little thing.
That’s the real trick to life, I think.
Cute Little Thing starts in immediately, a monologue about how he knows it’s the strangest thing in the world to just sit down next to a stranger and start up a conversation with them, but you know what, that’s just how he is, because he’s just like his favorite writer, have I heard of David Sedaris? Well, he’s a writer and used to work odd jobs that were strange, or cultivate amphetamine addictions – just to have something to write about and even now that he lives in Europe, he still does things to have something to write about like picking up trash on the side of the road, or French classes or whatever – and maybe I should think about doing things like that if I really want to be a writer, but whatever he’s just glad to live in WeHo finally, even if it is as far east as Fairfax; it’s still much better than living with family in Orange County, and by the way why don’t I do interesting things like David Sedaris?
I respond that I sometimes do interesting things, and he immediately hits me with a skeptical, like what? I rack my brain and come up with a vignette about a time when I was in college and some attractive older guy was hitting on me in a noisy New Orleans gay club, and how he said, let’s get out of here and go back to my place. That’s not interesting, that’s pedestrian, Cute Little Thing says, and I explain that, yes, he’s right, but the interesting thing is that while we were walking out of the club the older man pulls out a collapsable cane, and is visibly limping down the road next to me. I explain that in my drunkenness, and the loud darkness of the club, I didn’t realize he’d recently had a stroke and was mostly paralyzed on one side.
Ew, says Cute Little Thing, but he wants to know what happened. I explained that I went ahead and went home with the guy, who wound up being extremely into S&M, and wanted me to abuse his left side, the semi-paralyzed side, so the echoes of feeling would remind him that, possibly, mobility was coming back.
Cute Little Thing is not happy with this. This is not a Sedaris-worthy activity. “That’s your own shit to deal with,” he says, and now it’s all stank face and frustration, and Snapchat. I’m extremely amused. He’s acting jealous, maybe? He’s drunk enough not to remember the sequence of events and now he doesn’t like how I brought something sexual and vulgar into a conversation, even if he himself was asking for examples of interesting situations I’ve put myself into. Now he’s totally into his phone. I sit, silent, next to him, looking across the street. I want to say something. I know I can change the subject and start trying to be charming. I know he mentioned he lives on Fairfax because we’re close to Fairfax and he’s fishing for a late night tussle. It’s not difficult to get this back on track.
But, I don’t. I want to see what will happen if I don’t offer him a way out of his own judgmental mood-swing. Lately I’m getting tired of other people holding me accountable for their mood swings, if I’m being completely honest. Cute Little Thing is collateral damage tonight, for the behavior of other people who are closer to me. He sighs, and wonders aloud if he should head back west, and keep dancing. I remind him that the bars close at 2, but I think one of them stays open late if he wants to just dance.
“The problem is,” he says, “I can’t get any of my friends to text me back. That’s the real reason I sat down and started talking to you.” I give a plaintive, patient smile, put my arm on his shoulder, make deep eye contact and say, hey, that’s okay – David Sedaris would have done the same. There is a brief breath, a pause. Then Cute Little Thing is annoyed. Whatever, goodbye, he says. I let him get about a quarter of a block away before yelling out after him. He whips around and says, what?!
Thanks for saying hi, I say. It was flattering. You’re a Cute Little Thing.
That’s all it takes. He’s suddenly rushing back toward me. He jumps up and throws his arms around me. There is an awkward moment. I squeeze him. I’m so much bigger than him. He feels fragile, almost. I bet he felt like a scrawny twerp most of his life.
“You’re adorable,” I say. “Go see your friends.”
“Thanks for chatting with me,” he says. “I really did like you, a little.”
He hurries off down the street. I tilt my head up and watch him go. I think of this evening, of the boy who dismissed me because I wasn’t boyfriend material, about the transactional nature of all my exchanges tonight. With bouncers, with boys, with cashiers. I see Cute Little Thing slow his gait and approach a small group of other boys. He adjusts his posture, hiding hints of scrawn and twerpitude. He’s a completely different person now. I tilt my head back down, perpendicular to the street.
Suddenly, I am no longer looking down my nose.