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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ode to a Bar

Last night the owners of CC Slaughters said they feel the urge to shout, "NORM!" when I enter the bar.

It's true. I'm there all the time, if you haven't figured that out. But there are dozens of reasons I go to the bar. Last night I was there to celebrate JR's birthday. He's a handsome brown-eyed bartender with a big heart and sweet disposition. While there, I talked with Zeroes and Zule about World of Warcraft. Then the Toddtender and I alternated between playful barbs and friendly hugs. Our gathering took place in the small "Rainbow Room", and I felt really happy to be part of that family.

The first time I went to a gay bar I was in college. Given my relatively strict Christian upbringing, I had no idea what to expect. I assumed that homosexuals had sex in bars, so I went there hoping to experience my first time. I was visiting Fort Lauderdale, Florida with some buddies from the Christian college I attended. While my friends slept, I snuck out and walked about a mile to a gay bar. My only desire that night was to have sex with another man or two or three. Still, the thought petrified me, because it would mean damnation of my soul unless I repented and never did it a second time. I was literally trembling as I walked through the front door. My mouth was dry, and I was scared to look at anyone. To my surprise, people weren't having sex. They were dancing and talking. A couple guys were in the corner making out.

After I walked around for about two minutes, I was completely aroused. Since nobody in the bar was having sex, I assumed the guys must do it outside in their cars or something. Knowing I would probably explode if I didn't do something about my raging libido soon, I followed two guys out the front door as they were leaving. I touched the bigger one on his bare bicep and asked if I could go with them to their car. They were stunned and told me no.

With my ignorant misconceptions about gay people, I was stunned too. Stunned that homosexuals had actually turned down an offer of sex. I am sorry to say I was that stupid, but growing up in the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri, most of my information about homosexuality came directly from the Holy Bible. So, I watched the two guys walk away. Actually, they were clipping along at a pretty brisk pace. After all, a 6'6" man just asked if he could follow them to their car. What a weird thing for them to experience.

Almost 10 years later, I finally came out of the closet and went to a gay bar for the second time. This was Dallas, Texas, and the gay scene was exciting and energetic. Cedar Springs was the place to be in 1995, and I was there every night giving free blow jobs in cars and going home with anybody who asked. I was trying to make up for lost time. Nobody in the bar cared about me. The bartenders all called me "honey" or "baby", and, at first, I actually thought that meant they liked me. But I soon realized I was nobody special. Everyone with money was a "honey" or "baby".

Still, I kept going to the bar looking for my people. I saw other men laughing with their friends. Often I would see the same people hanging out together night after night, and I yearned for a group of gay guys I could relate to. I danced with strangers and slept with strangers. One night I stole somebody's boyfriend from under his nose. A few weeks later, somebody stole that same guy away from me.

For many years I was completely out of the bar scene enjoying domestic bliss with my first love. But a few years ago, I found myself single again. So, it was back to the bars, where I quickly immersed myself in old habits of whorish behavior, essentially demonstrating I had learned nothing from past experience.

Shortly after starting Hot Toddy's Toaster Oven, I wrote a post that introduced a major recurring character: CC Slaughters.

I never thought of myself as a "bar person". Sometimes I read profiles online and see "not into the bar scene", and I feel a little guilty or dirty or something. Am I into the bar scene? I guess most people would say that I am. But they don't understand that, for me, the "bar scene" is very different from the CC Slaughters scene.

I go to CC's to see the bartenders I call friends. Most of these guys have cheered me up when my heart is broken. They have watched me bring a virtual parade of boyfriends through the front doors, each time vowing I was "really in love this time". They have seen me act like a fool. These guys slanderously claim to have witnessed my falling off a bar stool. (It twirled up!)

CC's is where I meet my friends for happy five hours. Some nights it is the place I sing karaoke. I have watched Bolivia Carmichaels perform "And I'm Telling You" several times and can never watch without crying. Lately, I meet the softball team there, and I help sell raffle tickets and measure the inseams of cute guys. Sometimes I go to CC's on a Thursday or Friday so I can stay out late and be bad and act inappropriately and then apologize to the entire bar staff the next time I have the courage to show my face.

Often I will see a guy come into the bar looking awkward or lonely. To me, some of them look like they are trembling. Then, I open up something in my heart and let them know they can approach me without fear of rejection. (Hey, Tim the Toddtender, I have no idea what that crazy man was saying to me last night, but you gotta admit I gave it my best shot!) I won't ever forget how it felt to sit in a bar and feel like nobody special. I don't blame people for hating the bar scene. It can eat your soul and can be the loneliest place on earth if you aren't fortunate enough to find a CC Slaughters of your own.

Last night at JR's birthday party, I asked the owners, John and Bruce, if they were the ones who checked the receipts at the end of the night. They said that was, indeed, one of their countless duties.

"Oh, so you have seen my love notes to the bartenders on the back of my receipts," I said blushing. When they laughed I knew they'd read my proclamations of adoration to my guys.

What they don't know is how often that once lonely ignorant boy sat in bars feeling friendless or following strangers to their cars hoping for sex. They don't know how badly he needed to find a place where everybody knows his name. And they have no idea how grateful he is to finally have it.

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