Gay For A Day
My son Dashiel invited me to the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco. He was participating in the Fandango as a person on one of the floats. I was thrilled he wanted to share this event with his father, so I enthusiastically accepted his invitation. I flew into Oakland instead of the SFO in an attempt to avoid the throngs of people arriving for the celebration.
The City of Oakland has always fascinated me. It was once the Headquarters for the Black Panthers , Jack London had lived here and wrote his stories. The most notable fact is that it is the home of my favorite NFL team the Oakland Raiders.
I made the decision to rent a car which seemed like a good idea at the time. It would later prove to be a poor choice being that San Francisco has a more than efficient mass transit system in place.
There was a promotion available by the rental agency for a budget priced Toyota Prius and I readily took them up on their offer.
The car was smaller than I’d had been accustomed to driving and other cars in traffic were so much larger causing some concern. I wasn’t sure if they could even notice me and as the message displayed in my sideview mirrors warned… objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
I made my way over the East Bay Bridge into San Francisco to meet my son at Washington Square. Amazingly I arrived at my location near the Cable Car Museum without an incident. A parking space opened up just as I rounded the block and I parked the mini-mobile with ease into the space.
I walked across Stockton Street to Park Tavern where I was to meet Dashiel. I was 15 minutes early for our agreed meet up time and wasn’t expecting him to be there since being punctual wasn’t one of his strong characteristics. I noticed him immediately looking so much like a man. We hadn’t seen one another in over ten years since my daughter’s funeral.
His signature Hollywood smile radiated throughout the tavern after he saw my reflection in the mirror behind the bar.
“Hey Santi you made it! I was worried you’d run into some type of problem as usual.” He said with a laugh.
” I’m happy to report that I didn’t encounter a single dilemma.”
He stood and gave me a hug that didn’t seem to last as long as I would have liked. I’m so in esteem of my son for the person he has become. My emotions are a mix of pride, joy and melancholy and they begin to surface but I quash those feelings not wanting to sully our reunion. I ask if he would like a late lunch before heading to his apartment in the Mission District. He accepts and we pour down a few brews with our Bar Burgers and head out to the Micro-Mobile.
“We grab the bus on the other side of the park.” Dashiel instructs.
“Oh I rented a car! They had a screaming deal at the rental agency, I couldn’t pass it up.”
” Really? Ok,well you’re going to end up wasting more time searching for a parking spot than it would take to ride a bus.”
There it was! My son lecturing and advising me on my poor decision. I learned early in our relationship that we were much more than just father and son. Even at a young age he served as a teacher, a prophet of sorts enlightening me.. There is so much we can learn from our children. I respected his opinion and ideals and he accepted mine I think.
He often defended my acts of indiscretion that caused the
family, relatives and acquaintances considerable agitation.
“It’s not all his fault. Life has always had it out for Santiago. He is at the mercy of fate’s left hand.”
No one ever questioned his logic. He seemed to enjoy the part I played in his life. For Father’s Day one year, I received a greeting card he created with a photo taken of me sitting down between two scantily clad prostitutes at a bar I once owned. Their ass cheeks exposed facing the bar with their backs to the camera,
me facing the camera with a pleased expression. The caption read; ” My father is not a role model. He is a cautionary tale. Happy Father’s Day Santiago.”
It is a gift I shall always cherish.
We reach the Tiny-Toyota and he erupts into a laughing jag pointing at the car in disbelief.
“What the fuck is this? This is what you rented a goddamn Prias? Never would have imagined you in a car like this.” He jokes “Are you an Environmentalist now? This is definitely not you!”
I was a bit hurt by his sarcasm but understood the humor in his remark.
” Ya I know, what was I thinking?”
” You weren’t thinking. You were feeling. See, that’s the downside of emotion, it has no logic.”
“Hey Dash stop with the philosophy lesson. I’m having to deal with the consequence of my folly. I know why my decision making has temporarily become unreliable.”
” Ya I know. I have heard your quote more times than I can remember.
“Most of my poor decisions were made when I was sober.,” It’s a great quote Santi and I’ve used it many times. It always gets a great laugh and as you requested I always give you credit as the author. Let’s giddy up.”
We both squeezed into the Tonka “TOYota” pushing the seats to the farthest back position. He is six foot four or five inches tall and still unable to extend his legs. I entered the afternoon traffic with a questionable confidence in the abilities of other drivers. Then a SUV cuts me off just missing my driver’s side front fender while merging into my lane without a fucking signal.. I slam on the brakes pounding on the horn at the same time.
” Cocksucker.” I scream out the window.
“Ooo really, where is he?”
His comment causes me to laugh and at the same time it creates a disturbing vision in my mind.
” I think I threw up a little in my mouth from your comment Dash.”
He responds with a bout of hysterical laughter.
” You should know however the driver was a woman.”
He immediately stops laughing now with a disgusted expression.
” I think I threw up a little in my mouth. Thanks a lot.”
We’re both moved to tears from laughing.
” Dash I thought I’d get a Hotel room instead of staying at your place. That way you and your roommates won’t be uncomfortable or feel the need to alter their lifestyle.”
“Sure Santi if that’s what you want to do. Although my roommates are pretty low-key and know you’re cool. I’m the one who is famous for my acts of decadence. I inherited my depraved sometimes immoral behavior from none other than the master of epicurean conduct…my father.”
” Is that a compliment or are you using me as an excuse? Let me fill you in…it’s a road riddled with potholes, unpaved sections with gravel, large rocks and boulders lining the way. I wouldn’t recommend anyone travel that particular stretch of highway.”
We reached the Renoir Hotel with moderately priced rooms and a time-worn charm located in the Tenderloin District near a unique Farmers Market. Dashiel headed home on the bus after I checked in. We agreed to have dinner together later and after visit some clubs to meet up with his friends.
I was excited to spend the night partying with my son and appreciated his willingness to introduce me to his friends. I quickly fell asleep tired from my journey, having three hours to recharge before hitting the San Francisco nightlife.
The phone startles me awake with a ring of astounding decibels of loudness. It’s Dash informing me he’s on his way and will arrive in twenty six to thirty four minutes. Strange reference to time. His way of wanting to be unique and eccentric which he is. The shower is delightful with a large shower head and great water pressure. I’m not able to enjoy the refreshing spray for long after hearing a knock on my door. I exit with a towel wrapped around my body dripping wet to answer.
” Is that you Dash? I just hung up with you.” I say while opening the door.
” Pardon me Mister Santiago I’m Frederick the concierge. Your son left a request at the front desk to wake you up personally. Is everything to your satisfaction?”
” Well Frederick I will not kill the messenger but I am a bit perturbed. I was in the shower.
I believe everything is to my liking. Thanks for asking.”
“Wonderful. If there is anything you need and I mean anything please don’t hesitate to ask. My name again is Frederick. Anything.”
He appeared to be a friendly sort of fellow, young and hopelessly hip, so against my better judgement which I seldom seem to use I decided to make a request.
“Anything you say!” He shakes his head yes.
” Can you find me an eight ball of Cocaine? No fucking trash! I’ll pay for quality. And deliver it here in half an hour?”
” Certainly, it’ll be my pleasure. You have cash?”
” Yes American dollars. So we’re on?”
“I’ll return in half an hour or sooner.”
I close the door shivering from the cool air, still wet from the shower. I’m not sure I demonstrated good judgement but I’ll accept any consequences that may result from my decision.
I’m clean shaven and dressed in a matter of five minutes. The view of the city is intoxicating, an abstract panorama of multicolored lights painting a masterpiece.
Still have a few minutes before Dash will be here, so I lie down on the bed and click on the Television. As soon as I get all cozy and comfortable there’s a knock at the door.
” Voy” I holler in a disgusted manner.
” It’s Frederick Mr. Santiago the concierge.”
” That certainly was quick. Are you liquid? Please come in ”
He smiles reassuringly while pulling the baggie from inside his vest.
” I’m sure you’ll be more than satisfied with the product. I got it from..”
I hold up my hand to stop him from talking.
” I don’t need to know the details. It is not a good idea to relay sensitive information regarding the score. You don’t know who the fuck I am and the less I know the better. You understand what I’m saying? Uh see I forgot your name already.”
” My name is Frederick.”
” Okay nevermind.”
I inspect the package and it appears to be three and half grams almost all in one shiny rock. I dip my finger into the bag and place a taste on my tongue.
” I think We’re in good shape here guy. Good job. How much do I owe you?”
“Aren’t you going to do a line to test it?”
” I don’t think I need to at this time. I am going out for dinner and don’t want to ruin my appetite. You work here and I’m confident you wouldn’t rip me off. How much?”
” It’s one hundred and eighty. I know that’s a little pricey but I know you’ll be happy.”
I give the fellow two hundred and tell him to keep the change. After he leaves I repackage a fair amount to take with for the evening and hide the other away under a bureau drawer.
I kick back once again on the bed waiting for Dashiel. As my head hits the pillow there’s a knock at the door. I’m sure it’s my son this time and I open the door.
” Hey Dash,ready for dinner and a night on the town?”
” I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile. I was thinking we’d head over to Lolo’s for some Mexican. Does that sound good to you?”
” Excellent choice. Think we should take a Taxi. I’m not up for driving.”
We had the pleasure of a Japanese cabbie. He was a talkative gent from Japan having been in the United States for twenty five years.
I was surprised by his blatant prejudice of the Chinese. He commented how pleased he was that we weren’t going to Chinatown.
The Mission District is by far my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco.
Hispanic culture is alive and proudly displayed, along with a variety of Mexican Restaurants all with delicious cuisine. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Lolos as well as some engaging conversation pertaining to the days when we were a family. I was impressed by Dashiel’s memory of vacations and holidays spent with relatives. There is one event which occurred on vacation at SeaWorld in San Diego that is one of my favorite stories to relate concerning Dash. There is a large map of the United States painted on the concrete, each state marked with the name of the State Capitol. He was maybe five years old at the time and already quite intelligent. We all stood together on Arizona paying tribute to our home. Later in the day we lost Dasheil and notified Security immediately. We were desperately searching for our son when the location of where he might be came to me.
I quickly ran to the area with the large painted map, there was Dash waiting patiently to be found, standing on the State of Arizona.
We met up with some of Dashiel’s friends at The Stud one of San Francisco’s oldest gay bars. They were a diverse group of intelligent, amicable, humorous, talented and polite young adults. The future of the World would be left in good hands with these type of individuals. A method of determining a person’s character is knowing the company they keep. I was treated courtesly with a touch of teasing and taunting which I enjoyed. They seemed comfortable with my presence and it felt good to be accepted into the ranks. Although I was somewhat confused being referred to as a “Breeder” I never considered my heterosexual lifestyle as unordinary nor thought of a homosexual lifestyle being strange or unnatural. We are all residents of the same planet with different characteristics, beliefs and preferences living the same crazy life surviving adversity. There are enough negative vibes in the cosmos without adding hate for a sexual preference. I knew it was all in good fun and not intended to be hurtful. We all took turns singing karaoke. There were some excellent crooners in the crowd.
I wanted to catch a Drag Queen show but it was getting late and Dasheil had to be up early for the Parade. We’d have to catch the shows next night. I gifted the group with a generous amount of Cocaine we hadn’t consumed.
We return to the Hotel room and get tucked into our beds and after a few minutes I hear Dasheil start to giggle bursting into laughter.
“You okay over there Dash or having a humorous dream?”
“Sorry, I was remembering a time when we were on vacation heading to Wisconsin I think. It was late at night, you were driving while we were asleep in the back. I remember McKenzie woke up and came up front with you. To keep her entertained you allowed her to play beautician and she placed a bunch of barretts, hair clips and ribbon with bows in your hair. You looked like a bad day at the beauty parlor but you told her she did a wonderful job. After an hour or so we made a pit stop at a Gas Station Restaurant. You exited forgetting about all the barretts and other things in your hair. Entering inside to pay for gas and a cup of coffee in the restaurant you returned to the van confused and embarrassed.”
” I remember the incident clearly.”
” Shauna, McKenzie and I watched through the window the reactions of people and you having no clue as to what it was they found so humorous.”
” After I looked in the rear view mirror I joined in the laughing. One of many times in my life I provided laughs for others at my expense. The memory was worth it though.”
” I love you Dad.” He whispered.
” You love who? You said Dad.”
” I know. Just thought you should know I think of you as my father although I always call you by your name.”
” That’s a good thing to know. I love you Dasheil. Good night son.”
Off to Dreamland we both traveled.
The phone rang with the sound of a Fire Alarm. A clanging instead of actual ringing. Of course Dashiel stayed sleeping undisturbed by the call. How is that some people can sleep through a damn hurricane or screaming sirens? Myself, a light sleeper and one that always has trouble falling asleep. I’ve seen people sleeping upright in bus seats or on benches, concrete floors and in places filled with hundreds of different noises around them. I envy their ability to sleep under adverse conditions
I order room service for some coffee, English muffins with jam and orange juice. Actually I had an appetite for poached eggs but Dasheil has a strong dislike for them and gets sick to his stomach at the sight of them.
We wolf down the meager breakfast I showered first and was dressed in Superman changing time. Dashiel however took close to half an hour to make himself presentable for the Parade. He came out of the bathroom dressed in regalia fitted for a Drag Queen performance. The red boa accenting the colorful costume.
” You look incredible Dash. How’d you fit all those clothes in your small bag? I’m totally blown away by your costume.”
” Thanks. I was hoping you wouldn’t be critical of my dressing up like this.’ He looked at me with a disappointed expression. Causing me to answer with a defensive “What?”
” Is that what you’re wearing to the parade?’
” Yes. What are you saying?”
I was dressed as I normally do. I’m no fashion icon and I’m not trying to make a statement about who I am.
” You’re going to stick out like a bad penny in a pile of quarters. Hawaiian shirts are passe. The 60’s are long gone, dead. Sandals are an ancient statement of a Doc Martin mentality.”
” This is all I brought with me. What do you want me to do?”
” Wait let me get my makeup bag.”
Now there’s an expression I can bet most of you would never expect to hear your son say. Understand how perfectly bizarre my life is. I am one lucky man to be part of this kind of experience. How fortunate I am to have my son’s confidence allowing me to participate in his lifestyle.
First he ties my shirt at the bottom exposing my stomach. Then he takes mascara and applies a generous amount on my eyelashes making them appear longer. Next some black eye shadow with a small amount of blush to my cheeks and finishing with a blue lip gloss. He hands me some long dangling earrings to replace the ones I have in my pierced ears.
“There ya go. Now you look presentable. And if anyone asks just say you’re a Chicken Hawk. They’ll get it.”
” Shouldn’t I have some wings to be a Chickenhawk?”
” Forget it. It’s not important.”
We grab a taxi and head to the Parade route. He has the Cab drop me off at a place along the parade route. Dash heads to the staging area where the parade floats start there run. We had set a meeting place earlier for after the event.
There was an enormous crowd of spectators assembled on the streets. Together they created a kaleidoscope spectacle all in colorful costume.
The procession passed by with floats, supporting gay rights, lesbians, dykes, transvestites and transgendered. Everyone I encountered was friendly and in a gay mood. Someone handed me a large rainbow flag and instructed me to wave it enthusiastically as the media was on the scene. I was having a wonderful time and happy to be part of the celebration. Then I heard the music of one of Dashiel’s favorite songs. This had to be his float next to pass by.
“It’s raining men hallelujah. It’s raining men. Amen. Gonna run outside and get soaking wet. It’s raining men.”
There he was on top of an enormous float with the song blaring. They were all dancing and a few lip syncing the song.
The theme of the float confused me. There was a large fist displaying the middle extended upright. Only three words in large letters painted on each side and across the front and back “FUCK YOU DAD” Dashiel noticed me in the crowd and pointed to me laughing while dancing on the float. He blew me a kiss and waved. I then understood the gist of intention was not a statement of our relationship but a declaration of what it didn’t represent. I began laughing as well with him applauding as he rolled by. What a great way for all those persecuted by their own father because of a trait determined by birth not by choice to express their feelings. I was filled with pride and elation. Our relationship was never poisoned because of his sexuality. To be truthful I believe I knew when he was at an early age that he was blessed. It never bothered me in the least. There was no long drawn out decision to ponder.
I began euthusiastiicly waving my gay pride flag. After a short while I began to sweat profusely from the exercise. A spectator standing next to me commented on my eyeshadow and mascara running, giving me the appearance of a raccoon she said. I looked at my reflection in a store front window and she was correct. My makeup had run over my face and eyes now looking like I had lost a fight leaving me with black eyes. I looked ridiculous but had nothing to clean off the makeup.
So I returned to the formation of spectators and resumed waving my flag.
A woman reporter stepped in front of me with a cameraman behind her and asked if she could do a quick interview. I answered yes but had forgotten about my appearance.
” Why aren’t you dressed as anything for the parade to express your gay pride?” she asked.
” I am. I’m a Chicken Hawk.” I blurted loudly. ” It’s hard to tell without wings.”
Can you imagine how embarrassing it was being interviewed at the Gay Pride Celebration broadcast on National television … looking as I did, with makeup running all over my face. I found out later a Chickenhawk in gay slang is defined as an older homosexual man that preys on young gay boys.
This event I will fondly remember, when I was…
“Gay for a day”.