Once upon a time in the west . . .

. . .  up in Truckee, California, we fell into the crowded Moody’s restaurant, hungry and pleasantly exhausted from the day’s skiing in nearby Northstar, Lake Tahoe.  Rather than wait for one of the tables to become free we took seats at the bar, the big decision being do we quench our thirsts with cold beer or warm our bones with spirit?  We chose the beer. California has so many local breweries all of which produce a wonderful variety of delicious pale ales, Bear Republic being a particular favourite.

The barman did not ask us for our proof of ID but that did not stop him from asking the couple next to us for theirs.  That they should be so lucky, I thought, and perhaps they heard me because it was enough to start up a conversation. Of sorts. Soon we were talking about an item on the dessert menu, Smores, foreign to us but, for Scott and Todd, the happy youthful couple, the smores brought back to them so many memories of summer camp.  The roll of their eyes suggested to me that such memories carried with them more than a little pain and not too much pleasure around the campfires of their adolescence.

We talked of skiing.  We compared notes on the miserable drive up from San Francisco on a Friday afternoon because of course they live together in San Francisco.  SOMA, to be precise, said Scott, or was it Todd? However, living in San Francisco is not the same as being from SF, and, as someone who loathes the question being asked of me, I am more than happy to ask of others, where are you from?  This is naked desperation on my behalf, my need to know and gather the details of as many other wanderers on the move, from one somewhere to another.  We leavers are a lost tribe from which across the far divide sit the steady stayers.

One of the Scott Todd’s, Korean, hailed from LA, the other all the way from Minnesota but not far enough it seemed, as though his past were expected to break down the door and drag him kicking and screaming back to the frozen tundra of Minnesota.  We moved back to safe talk about what to see and do in SF.  They mentioned the Ferry Building, the this and the that.  Did I know of Twin Peaks, they asked? I love Twin Peaks, I replied, telling them how much I had enjoyed a recent afternoon there!  They were looking confused, how much pleasure did one of SF’s geographical features generate? “Oh, you mean the bar!” they said, “but that’s full of 80 year old men!”  They laughed, oh how they laughed.

Yes, I thought, full of 80 year old men and me. Twin Peaks is a bar in the Castro.  Sitting on the corner, large plate glass windows wrap themselves around this corner trapping every delicious ray of sunshine going in this part of California.  Once upon a not so long time ago this bar was known locally as the Glass Coffin, the windows providing easy pickings for the police when it came to regular raids and arrests.  I never sit at the bar here, that would be far too presumptuous of me in such a local bar where seats might as well have names carved in their seats.  I can, however, sit at a table in the window and enjoy the passing parade as it comes and goes up and down the Castro. The banter about the place is one of good humour and care, where old men, and women, sit happily in the company of each other and those who are younger.

Thirty, forty, fifty years ago they were young men from the Minnesotas all over the country, fleeing the claustrophobic closets of family and community for the freedom and comfort of the larger closet that was SF then. They are the lucky ones in that they survived WW2, Vietnam, bigotry and HIV. They fought battles so that future generations could be taken for granted as being simply who they are, and, Twin Peaks being full of 80 year old men is all the better for it.

Scott and Todd, be grateful!  Buy them all a drink, no I.D’s necessary!