Sunday, November 9, 2008

Homes - Part 5: San Diego

My first few days in San Diego after a crazy move from Denver involving two round trips is a bit of a blur. I was living in a new city where I'd never spent any time and knew no one except KD, a person I'd known for barely a year. But her brother lived there and she knew the city rather well.

KD had found us a small house to rent in Ocean Beach on Brighton Avenue, about half a mile from the end (or the beginning) of Interstate 8. Our house was just about a five-minute walk from the Pacific Ocean, and a short main drag of small shops and bars with a definite rustic beach ambiance.

It was pretty cool to be able to walk to the ocean and hang out at night in the bar with her brother drinking pints of beer and throwing darts, with an occasional game of pool. Sometimes we'd have a fish taco from a nearby shack prior to stumbling back to the cottage.

On the employment front, I remained in the same mindset I had in Denver. Despite the fact that I needed x amount of dollars in order to actually support myself, I found a job doing something easy in a fun environment: cashiering at the bookstore at San Diego State University which was quite a drive east from Ocean Beach down I-8.

San Diego fascinated me with its micro-climates. Where I lived it was mild and usually rather humid thanks to the ocean breeze. SDSU which was -- I'm guessing -- maybe 12 miles to the east was drier with more of a desert vibe. And a few more miles to the east, folks could be scraping ice from their car windows some winter mornings.

4754 Brighton Avenue

KD and I would venture into other parts of San Diego, visiting coffee shops downtown, and nightclubs in the Hillcrest neighborhood which was San Diego's answer to the Castro district of San Francisco. (In a very Republican San Diego kind of way.)

One Hillcrest club we visited a few times was the Metro which boasted a couple of bars, a big dance floor, lights and loud music. I doubt whether we had been living in San Diego more than six weeks when we planned another night out at the Metro. It was late August in 1990. The 24th day of the month to be precise.

I believe I was already experiencing the doldrums after a few short weeks. My only friends were KD and her brother. We didn't spend time with him every night so it was usually just KD and me hitting the bars together.

That particular night started off fun, but after a few drinks, KD was dancing and maybe chatting with some guy somewhere, I don't even remember. I was sitting at a table in a dark part of the bar off the dance floor, nursing a beer and facing what appeared to be a black wall. And that fit my mood rather nicely. I was literally sitting there wondering about my life, why I was 30 years old and had never had a long-term relationship with anyone, bored with the music, trying to figure out why I had even come to San Diego, and if there was a reason for it all.

My thoughts were then abruptly interrupted when I noticed my view of the black wall was obstructed by a figure dressed in black standing at the edge of my table. I looked up to see a face looking down at me. My heart skipped several beats. I looked back down at my beer for a few seconds wondering if this was real. This guy was hot and he was looking at me! I glanced back up and he was still looking. Now my heart was racing. I leaned forward on the table, nervously fidgeted with my beer while looking at his hand which was hanging there literally an inch or two from mine.

Normally I would not have been quite this bold unless I was really very drunk (and honestly, I probably was quite buzzed if not drunk), but there was something about this guy which just had me mesmerized already, and there was no way he was going to get away from me without an attempt on my part to reach out, so to speak. And that's exactly what I did. I rubbed the edge of his hand, not quite sure what to expect. He didn't recoil or walk away; in fact, he moved closer.

I took my left pinky finger and hooked it around his left pinky finger. I could feel his grip tightening a bit, as did mine. And so this moment, which lasted many seconds, perhaps for as long as a minute, will never be forgotten by me. It was my first encounter with txrad, and it was filled with passion. Who knows what happened next. I was undergoing an abrupt mood swing from dismal to euphoric within a span of about five minutes.

We exchanged names and txrad introduced me to his friend with whom he had come to the club, a young and Gothic-looking Italian woman I'll refer to as AA. I had completely lost track of KD during all this. When we were getting ready to leave, txrad and I were both drunk, and both agreeing we'd meet up here again. AA, realizing that txrad was showing signs of happiness tonight which she hadn't seen in some time, made damn sure she got my number for txrad and vice-versa. I think she grabbed a pen and paper from inside the bar while we were standing outside about to leave. She rightly sensed this was a relationship which was meant to happen.

While this was probably the most exciting night I'd ever experienced, it was also the beginning of the most difficult and painful 6 or 7 months of my life. KD may have exhibited initial support and enthusiasm for my new fling but that would not last long.

txrad and I got together again in a few days (it may have been as early as the following Sunday night that same weekend) at the same club. And the passion brewed. AA was always his designated driver and while she would still be socializing in the club, I'd lure txrad out to my car and we'd make out in the back seat, fogging up the windows. Later we got a bit more brave and began making out on the dance floor or sitting at the edge of it, French kissing with such amazing intensity that we were once told by a member of the staff to "cool it" or leave.

That was enough to take some of the luster off this club so we began going out together with AA to other clubs, which offered a bit more tolerance to people outside the mainstream. One such club was called Red Tape. The music was strictly hardcore alternative, the club was dark and the colors seemed to be primarily red and black in several rooms with lots of black curtains, and smaller intimate dance floors where we'd dance through the night to songs by the likes of Ministry and Sisters of Mercy in between beers and multiple shots of ice-cold J├Ągermeister.

A souvenir "membership card" from Red Tape.

At this point I was spending hardly any time with KD except during the weekdays. I had started sleeping most weekend nights with txrad at his apartment in Santee, a gritty eastern suburb of San Diego. This actually worked out pretty well because that area was not too far from where I worked at SDSU.

In retrospect, I look back at this life in San Diego and realize that in some way I was a kind of strange art project for KD, as she attempted to make me into the kind of person she thought I should be. She bought me a skateboard, and one for herself. I'd never been on a skateboard in my life, and had troubles even with roller skates as a kid. I just don't do small wheels very well. I believe she envisioned us as some beatnik hippie best friends, and perhaps more, who were living the beach life. I also got a surfboard during the brief time I was under her spell. After taking a lesson one Saturday morning, I tried catching a few waves for several weeks until I realized I was just a goofy failure.

There are some things which come natural to me. Dressing in black and dancing to alternative music all night was one of them. Riding a skateboard five blocks down to the beach with a surfboard under my arm was definitely not one of them. Both boards soon became unused parts of the decor in the cottage.

KD had perhaps met txrad once, I'm not even sure. But I wanted txrad to come down to our house one night, hang out and watch a movie. I think I still remember what I rented: The Man Who Fell To Earth. I was giddy with excitement, having my boy on the sofa with me in my house for a change, and when KD walked in the door, there was a brief exchange of greetings and very small talk. Then I blurted something out of my mouth, an attempt at humor, which went horribly awry. It was directed to KD and was something like, "Don't be surprised at anything that might happen on this sofa tonight; if that's going to bother you, then you might not want to be here."

It was said in jest, to break the ice in a way, and the response I expected from her, and didn't get, would have been something like, "Oh you two just enjoy the movie, have fun and don't mind me."

No, that was not the response I got in any way whatsoever. And the ice was not broken. In fact, a big chill enveloped the room. She interpreted my remark as, "this is my house and you should leave." We watched the movie, probably not paying much attention to it, and we cuddled, held hands and maybe kissed a few times, briefly. There's not much I remember except The Big Chill, and that's not a movie we rented. I don't even think txrad stayed for the night. And that was the only night we spent time together at the little beach house.

KD began to develop a rather testy demeanor in the following days and weeks. We'd still go down to Tuba Man's some nights, have some fun and throw some darts, but there was definite tension in our friendship. Her mantra, when the subject of txrad would come up, was a terse "He's NOT the one!"

I began spending even more nights during the week with txrad, the two of us sleeping together (for perhaps only 2 or 3 hours some nights) in his twin bed! Yeah, that was comfortable! But it was even more unpleasant when I'd go back to Ocean Beach.
One night KD and I were meeting her brother at Tuba Man's, and we had a lot to drink. Lots of beers and probably some shots as well. Our friendship began to seriously melt away that night. We got into a nasty spat and ended up down at the beach having an argument. We walked back to our house and got into it again. There was lots of yelling, KD threw a dish into the sink and broke it, and then the anger got physical. She wrestled me to the floor, climbed on top of me while screaming into my face, and then shocked the living hell out of me by leaning down and pushing her tongue into my mouth. I quickly got her off me and retreated to my bedroom.

She became even more unstable in the next few days and I remember not being very comfortable with her access to the knives in the kitchen. I don't remember what she said directly or insinuated since my memory was somewhat clouded by alcohol, but I distinctly remember locking my bedroom door, and calling txrad on the phone while huddled under the sheets to muffle my voice. KD was stomping around the house. I was scared shitless and wanted out of there.

After a few days of silence, something strange began to happen. She started to warm up a bit and became conversational. She even suggested we make a day trip to Los Angeles, a city I had obviously raved about and a place she had never visited. I love taking someone on a tour of a city I know and love so I was excited to participate.

We drove up to the City of Angels, found a coffee shop on Highland Avenue which was Bohemian and fun, drove around Hollywood and out to Santa Monica. KD fell in love with the city. I had never seen her so enthusiastic about anything. Suddenly she was the old KD I knew from Denver, or so it seemed at the time.

Once back in San Diego, she was eager for another LA trip, so we did a second visit. We popped in at the Highland Avenue coffee shop again, and I mentioned how hot the kid was who was working there. No doubt about it, he was hot. Yes, I was in love with txrad and that was not going to change, but I can still notice another hot guy. That's human nature. But KD interpreted this as an opportunity.

Her theme, or mantra, changed from "He's NOT the one," referring to txrad, to one of "independent," or free to move about the cabin, so to speak. We passed a billboard for a local TV station in LA, KCOP Channel 9, which was simply one word with their logo in red and black: Independent. She seized upon that as a sign that she was right and I was being rehabilitated under her watchful eye. I was quickly realizing she was up to more dirty tricks, and I played along just to placate her and keep her docile and happy. The last thing I wanted was a replay of Knife Night while we were in LA and she had the keys to the car.

It was on one of these visits that I introduced her to a friend of mine from Little Rock, SF, who was now living in LA. You might remember her from my Little Rock chapter of this series, the woman who basically introduced me to gay Little Rock and perhaps initiated this long journey. KD and SF hit it off remarkably well.

KD was in love with Los Angeles and began talk of moving there. This was going on late in the year, probably only four months after we had moved to San Diego! The visits to LA had also rekindled my love for the city and aside from txrad, I had nothing in San Diego tying me there. I hadn't been there long enough to put down roots, and much of the experience had been negative. I had moved on from SDSU to a job at another bookstore at the University of California - San Diego in another very upscale beach community known as La Jolla. It paid better wages, and was a much more interesting environment, but it was still a job in a bookstore.

I also did a short stint at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club in their accounting department. That was a hoot and this hippie in love with a Goth didn't exactly fit in there. Taking a smoke break out on the veranda in a chair overlooking the Pacific Ocean was nice, but I knew that was not a job I was going to cherish for very long.

So KD plotted the big move to LA, for both of us. In her mind, she was getting me away from txrad and off to a life of so-called "independence" in which I would apparently be allowed and encouraged to have occasional sex with any boy brewing up a decent cup of joe, but I would be living with her and that was all that mattered. In my mind, I had an aid willing to do all the leg work to get me to a city where I was excited about living, and I'd bring txrad up later once I had a job and could get my own apartment. I just didn't say that out loud very often.

Slightly less than six months after moving into the Brighton Avenue cottage, we were ending our lease. KD picked out a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood and we were on the move again in January.

But that's another home and another story. Meanwhile, I was finally in love, for real.

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