Went to the Eagle last night for their Beer Blast rooftop party. Possibly my favorite place in NYC. Normal looking guys who are my age in a relaxed environment conducive to talking. Delicious, cold, Red Hook draft beer for $3 which in NYC is a steal (and a great find since good draft beer at a gay bar in NYC is a rarity.) And I LOVE being able to be outside, drink beer and walk outside to a deserted street to smoke.
Got there at 5 and planned on staying for 2 hours and having 3 or 4 beers. Then our friends Mike and Kurt texted us at 7 and said they were coming. So we had another 3 beers and didn’t leave until 10. Waay hungover today-which is weird since I usually don’t get a hangover from beer. But I just found out that Red Hook has an alcohol content equal to Colt 45. And I had 7 (!!!) so I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.
When we first got there, we were the only ones on the roof. Then some kid (28-30) came up and just kind of stood near us, glancing at us occasionally. He was acting so shady and weird I thought he was on meth or something even though he looked normal. But I’ve learned from prior interactions at gay bars that my preconceived image of a meth head - scrawny, gap-toothed and bug-eyed – is simplistic and naïve. At least in the early stages of addiction.
After about 15 minutes, he turned and said “Well, may as well do it now”.
I immediately went into my “Lets pretend this person doesn’t exist” defensive social anxiety mode.
This was followed by a 10 second silence while he stood there and looked awkward while I tried to pretend like he had never said anything and wasn’t even there.
Then he reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a stack of 3x4 pieces of paper and I thought “Oh great, a Jesus freak who’s come to a gay bar to try to convert people”.
He says “I was told by people in my group this would be a good place to come”
OOOOOO K ? My crazy-person detection and defense system kicked into high gear.
Then he brings my paranoid backstory crashing down by saying “I don’t know what your status is but I run a support group for poz guys” and hands me and R one of the flyers from his stack.
It was one of those experiences that reminds me I really shouldn’t be so defensively anti-social. Turns out he was just recruiting for his group at a place where there are probably a good number of poz guys.
We talked a little and turns out he was a really nice kid. But I was left feeling a little sad and shocked that this young, shy kid who looked like he just got here from St Louis was positive. A reminder that HIV is still prevalent and pervasive in the gay world of 2008 NYC even though we live in this state of denial.
Like most gay men I know in NYC, I think of HIV as something from the past that we escaped and is no longer a threat. We believe that kids today, because they have so much information and awareness of HIV, don’t still contract HIV. But we’re wrong. The stats are there in the little annual blurbs that appear in the gay blogs. But its easy to read the reports, think “that’s horrible and maddening and stupid” and then forget about it. We go to the gay bar where everyone looks healthy and assume we live in a post-AIDS world. We don’t. And its good to be reminded of that.
So Chris, thanks for being out there and having the balls to do what you’re doing. And sorry for judging you before I even knew you.