A Day at the Beach
A historical point on the Castro was the famed Hibernia Beach, a stretch of wide sidewalk that took in the afternoon sun. The beach was a small plaza that stood in front of the Hibernia Bank. There was always a table with some group trying to gain voter registration or give away pamphlets. It was where the Christmas tree, donated by the local merchants, went up, and was often the locus of daytime meanderings. It was a natural gathering place, but it was the shirtless beauties that created the name. Even in the cold San Francisco air, the Hibernian sun could make one sweat.
-From Stonewall to the Stars
Ransome Press 1995
The boys navigated the busy bustle of the afternoon crowds. The technicolor Castro background was the Oz to his black and white past. Like a starved child, his eyes inhaled the colorful feast. His lonely isolation was now behind him, and he walked with someone and someplace to go.
Less than a week ago he was a zombie, near dead, barely conscious, and wandering this same walkway. Depression, guilt, and fear stole his life away. He was hopeless, self-loathing, and suicidal. Now that was gone and though he was still the stranger in a strange land, there was a hopefulness that let him see the bright world that was hidden.
Rainbow flags fluttered and flew about him, pink triangles and gay-themed artwork were an omnipresent reminder that this was where it was reasonable to be gay.
Joey, however, wasn’t focused on being gay in Gayland. His feelings transcended the thematic nature of the Castro and for the moment it wasn’t about his sexual preferences. The brilliance of San Francisco neutralized the depressive smalltown origin and let him just be himself. He wasn’t seeing the Rainbow, he felt as if he was the Rainbow.
“I love going to the beach,” said Kyle.
“But it’s October. Isn’t it too cold to swim?” asked Joey.
“Grade-school, this beach is always hot,” replied Kyle.
The boys walked down the hill melting into the busy Monday afternoon traffic. Joey watched Jayce who seemed to be lost in his own self-amusing thoughts, while Kyle smiled and greeted everyone, whether he knew them or not. Joey’s attraction to the conflicting persona of Jayce was growing.
“That one there is hot,” Kyle commented.
“He’s a clone,” Jayce smiled.
“What’s a clone?” Joey asked.
“It’s an older term from the seventies; it’s a kind of macho man. You know, thick mustache, tight jeans. They brought 501’s forward. Innovators. Today, at least in my use, it is your stereotypical faggot,” said Jayce
“I like older men,” said Kyle.
“AARP has you listed as a public resource,” replied Jayce, “What do you like, Joey?”
“I liked New Coke,” said Joey.
“Do they still have that?” asked Kyle.
“Of course, but who would buy it? Pepsi is superior in the eyes of the general public. I, myself, prefer Tab,” said Jayce
“Y’all drink the crappiest shit,” said Kyle distracted by the masculine sights.
“Yes, Crappy-Shit soda; tastes just like crap or shit; whichever you prefer. I know you Southern types don’t know it, but they are the same thing. Oh, and before you reply, you have used the ‘something and a polecat’ defense twice today. You’re going to have to choose another ‘varmint’,” said Jayce.
“I’ve been keeping up on the Cola War,” Joey explained, “Everyone loves Coke like you love your family. It’s just what you’re supposed to do even if you like Pepsi better. RC is actually the best.”
“RC is good,” Kyle said, walking backward, his eyes tracking yet another man.
“Oh dear, our cowboy is on the hunt. Bears beware,” Jayce said.
“I ain’t no cowboy, Y’all go on without me; I think I found my husband,” Kyle said as he walked across the plaza and stopped a passerby. He approached a man in his mid-forties, heavyset, balding, and with a thick beard. They stopped and talked for several minutes. The boys waited to see what would happen before they continued the quest for pizza. Kyle waived them on as he and his new friend hailed a cab.
“I thought he liked clones?” Joey asked.
“He has a thing for bears, too,” Jayce noted.
“Bears are big hairy men,” Jayce explained.
“They are also your bread and butter. Those bears are usually the ones that pay to watch you dance. They don’t always have the confidence of the other gays— like the leather men or the bikers.”
“Don’t bikers wear leather?”
“Some do, some don’t. There are the non-leather bikers and the non-biker leather men. We’ve got drag queens, drama queens, transvestites, and cross-dressers. Clones, Macho men, and Bears; oh my— look at him!” Jayce said with a sudden distraction.
“A clone; right?”
“Your standard run-of-the-mill homosexual. I love the plainness. You know you’re going to have to find yourself a type.”
“Why?” asked Joey.
“Well, so we know what to get you for your birthday.”
“I don’t know…” Joey said shaking his head.
“I think you’ll like surfers. You seem very Spicoli, you know, Fast Times. What a gospel movie.”
“I guess. I didn’t know I was gay till I came here.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jayce.
“I had done some stuff, but I always figured that I’d grow up and work. Maybe have some kids and a cat. I didn’t imagine myself being gay.”
“Borrrrrrring. You lit-trah lee can imagine anything you want, and you fantasize about having a cat. What about that one? He looks about our age,” Jayce said as he pointed to a skateboarder rolling lazily by.
“I don’t know,” Joey said as he turned his eyes away.
“You have to look at it to see if you like it.”
“It’s wrong to stare.”
“What do you mean it’s wrong? Looking is looking, so look at what you can see. Feel it in your gut—in your groin—when you look at the face and the flesh. What turns you on, Joey, what gets you revved?” Jayce said as he pulled on his crotch.
“I never stare,” said Joey reluctantly.
“People will think…”
“People will think what? That you’re gay?” Jayce stopped and held Joey by his shoulders, “I got news for you Grade-School. You’re queer as a two-dollar bill.”
“They have those you know.”
Jayce paused: “Whatever, you’re gay!”
“I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet,” Joey said.
“Excuse me! Excuse me! May I have everyone’s attention,” Jayce began to shout.
“What are you doing?” Joey exclaimed wide-eyed.
“I’d like to let you all know that Joey here, Joey is GAY! He likes men, homosexuals. He don’t touch pussy. He’s a big ole bottom and you should date him!” Jayce smiled and looked around waiting for a response. Two men clapped for a few beats.
“I can’t believe you did that!” said Joey walking away quickly.
“He’s a fag!” Jayce shouted back to the crowd and followed. “See, no one gave-a-shit. You’re in the Castro, this is our turf,” Jayce said and held out his hand.
“Maybe,” Joey smiled and grabbed Jayce’s hand and the two strolled down Market.
“Look at him; nothing gets between him and his Calvin Kline’s,” Jayce said with a smile.
“Too skinny,” dismissed Joey.
“What about him; that’s a very nice cowboy hat; Marlboro country.”
“There, over there. That’s the one from earlier on the skateboard. Look at that rag of hair!”
“I think it’s closer, but he looks all sweaty,” said Joey
“Now, you’re being picky.”
“That one there?” Joey pointed.
“That one— he looks like Ralph Macchio.”
“Oh, my lord, are you actually looking?”
“He’s kind of cute,” smiled Joey.
“Too much Karate Kid for me,” noted Jayce,
“What about him? I like his hair,” said Joey.
“Feathered is out, Keith Partridge.”
“He was a fox,” said Joey.
“Point made, but he’s old now.”
“I liked Wally,” Joey smiled.
“Wally?” Jayce spun around as another boy walked by.
“You know, Wally and the Beave.”
“I had a thing for Eddy Haskil, you know I like the bad boys.”
“Jayce, you are the bad boy.”
“Well, of course, I am. I’m too good at being bad to let anyone else have the credit.”
Was Joey officially throw out of his closet? Do they really have $2 bills? Seems like life is getting a little easier for our little prince. Next week a new prince from the Caribbean Seas! Star makes his debut in Episode 11: Caribbean Pirates.