I first visited San Francisco in 1996, with my then-boyfriend, David. One night we ended up at the Powerhouse, in South of Market, on an off-night. Lamps fashioned from Crisco cans cast dim circles on the scarred surface of the bar, and on the video screens a disembodied fist entered a disembodied butt. We were two boys from the midwest, simultaneously thrilled and scared out of our minds. Around us prowled lone wolves in leather jackets, Rolling Rocks clutched in their fists. They leaned against walls, the bench, the pool table, and looked around like they wanted to kill you or eat you, probably both.
David leaned over and whispered in my ear, “What is this leather thing about, anyway?”
I’d been wondering the same thing. The Village People, and Al Pacino in “Cruising,” was the extent of my BDSM education. My first reaction, when faced with my own ignorance, was to always feign cool. I shrugged and said, “Whatever.”
But David was an entirely different creature. My stepsister once compared him to a sheepdog; big, goofy, lovable, and completely naive. When confronted with his own ignorance, he’d ask the closest person for an answer. Getting nothing from me, he leaned over to one of the lone wolves, who stood nearby, glowering and chomping on a cigar, and said, “Excuse me, sir, but what’s the deal with leather?”
Was anyone ever so young? I’m here to tell you that we were.
I can’t remember the answer to the question, relayed to me by David in another whisper. I do remember that Mr Cigar Daddy was quite generous and respectful with his answer, and I remember that, underneath my nonchalance, was a hunger for knowledge.
The other thing I remember was a boy my age behind the bar: bare-chested, two leather bands wrapped around his thick arms, a tattoo stretching across his broad back, packed tight into a pair of chaps. You could tell he’d worked there for a while; he could pour out a Foster’s, ring up a shot, and swap spit with a muscle daddy all at the same time. He was on stage, in his element, and I watched the lone wolves watch him hungrily all night. Putting the cart before the horse (something I was good at) I figued that if I could ever get myself hired to tend bar at the Powerhouse, then I’d know for sure that I was hot. I don’t mean cute, or handsome, I mean hot – attraction inextricably tied up with sexual magnetism. The kind, well..you get the picture.
Fast forward to 1999; I’ve been in San Francisco a couple of years. Tired of scooping cat shit at the animal shelter, and inspired by weekend ecstasy-fueled fantasies, I quit my job to “become a writer.” A smarter boy would have lined up another job, but I was an idealist. A month later, my savings near depleted, I walked into the Powerhouse and asked for a job, thinking maybe I could start out as a barback, and work my way up the Ladder of Hotness. A half hour later I walked out a bartender, with no idea of the difference between a Rob Roy and a Seabreeze.
Thankfully the Powerhouse was a “leatherish” kind of bar. Guys ordered bottles of Bud and shots of tequila. I had every right to sneer at queens who wandered in and ordered a fucking cosmo. Yeah, sure I had a deck of flash cards with cocktail recipes at home, but nobody needed to know that. I worked South of Market; I could whip you up a cocksucker, a screaming orgasm, and a golden shower. I’d pound shots of Goldschlager with you and the other guys behind the bar, and if someone wanted a mudslide I could flash my endearing, entirely-believable, gosh-darn, I’m-just-the-new boy-smile, and the guy would tell me how to make his drink, squeeze my bicep, and leave me a ten dollar tip.
I wanted to be a bad boy, always had. I wanted to be a twisted, kinky motherfucker. And though I could throw in a tape of fisting highlights from Hot House on the bar’s VCR, I couldn’t walk into a video store in the Castro and rent porn for my own filthy enjoyment. I could serve MGD’s to guys who had just ducked out of our notorious back room, but I myself never went back there. Truth was, I had some dirty, twisted fantasies, but I lacked the balls to say them out loud, so they stayed just that: fantasies. Worse, addiction made my innate fear of the world worse; the further I went with crystal meth, the more I wanted to stay home, alone, and hide from the world. Last thing I wanted was to get on stage behind the bar and take my shirt off for Pec Night.
When my mom got sick I quit the bar and left town, and led a quiet, monastic, miserable life in Minneapolis for a few months as she got worse. Then I came back, got worse, got sober, and started cleaning up my life. Since by now everyone in the world has written a couple of books about some kind of recovery, I’ll spare you the details. I’ll just say things got okay, then better, then I went to New York. And now I’m back.
Joe, my good friend and new workout partner, told me over lunch yesterday that it’s a joy to see me transform from the old, passive, barely-audible Michael, to the new smart-ass who can push him back when he gets too bossy. Which is, like, every thirty seconds. A native East Coaster, he thinks it’s all due to a couple of years in New York. Undoubtedly that helped. I think it also helped to hear from some great writers that I myself knew how to write, and that if I would just fucking keep writing, I’d get my book published. I also finally got frustrated with five years of near-celibacy, with fear of what my non-kinky friends would think, with needing to be a nice guy all the time. Whatever the case, I’m no longer a push-over, and thank God for that.
Joe’s an International Mr Leather, from, like ages ago, and one of the most twisted, kinky fuckers I’ve ever known. Thus our work-outs are full of foul-mouthed banter, and my fantasies get aired in his company. He likes this new, smart-ass me. Of course, what I don’t tell him is that I keep smarting off to him in the hopes that he’ll eventually take it out on my ass.
Yeah, so the bad boy sex pig hath risen. If only in minor increments. Last week I fucked around with America’s Favorite Horndog, as he indicated on his blog. A day later I got an email from a friend in New York, who took me to task for getting in bed with someone who held rather, er, controversial views on HIV, reinfection, condoms, and sex, some of which I share, some of which I don’t. This friend also mistakenly believed that Geekslut had posted this without my permission, which wasn’t the case. I told Geek I didn’t care if he posted it, and that I was tired of the image people had of me. Which I told my friend, just before I told him to mind his own fucking business.
But after I sent that email I did a lot of talking, over a lot of coffee, with Jeff, and a lot of hard thinking on my own. It’s hypocritical to agree to allow my sex life to be broadcast over the internet, and then to say that it’s nobody’s business. And my motives were disingenuous. It was a cop-out, letting Geek do the work to tarnish my reputation, rather than doing it in my own words, on my own blog. And where’s the fun in that? It’s one thing to associate yourself with a bad boy, it’s another to admit I’m one out loud. Not that I assume anyone cares. Only that I have a lot more than books on my mind these days, and boy would I love to talk about it.