more rugged tales from the city

PROLOGUE:  the paragraph that should have been deleted.

In Vancouver, I live on the west end of Robson Street which is home to ten-thousand hotels and a billion tourists. Every time I step outside of my apartment to get a coffee, I have to stand in line behind a dozen fanny packs, fedoras, wide-lens cameras and neon-coloured running shoes. I made a promise to myself once that I would never be a tourist. I broke that promise yesterday.

PART ONE: the part where rugged gets defeated by two wheels and a big red bridge

Waking up somewhat fresh and moderately hydrated, I hopped out of bed at a spritely 9:30am and got ready to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. To my chagrin, I laced up my white New Balance running shoes and applied copious amount of sunscreen to every part of my visible body. I buttoned up my blue jeans (I had nothing else to wear!) and strapped my Canon camera over my right shoulder. I took one look in the mirror before leaving the apartment and shuttered.

Here is what my vision for the day looked like. I was going to have a delicious and protein-packed breakfast on Haight Street and walk leisurely to the bike shop where I would … rent a bike. (Not sure how else that sentence was going to end.) Once I had my wheels, I was going to stroll in to Golden Gate Park and pretend like I was in the opening credits of Full House. From there, my complimentary map would take me across the big red bridge and directly in to a seat on a sunny patio in Sausalito.

well, that dream fell apart the second my foot hit the pedal.

For starters, in my mind I envisioned myself looking much more attractive on a bicycle. For some reason I thought I was going to come across as one of those hot Californian hipsters with the skinny jeans and surfing t-shirts. Instead I looked like a fashion disaster with a helmet that was too tight. I also forgot how tight my jeans were and ripped them down the middle as soon as I swung my right leg over the seat of the bike.

As soon as I reached Golden Gate Park the weather took a turn for the frigid and miserable. The fog rolled in, the blue sky disappeared and the sound of a bird chirping was replaced by that of a redhead bitching. Twenty minutes in to the bike ride and I was officially a wreck. Tired, sore and parched, with each turn of the wheel I regretted every cigarette that I had ever put to my mouth.

I biked up to see the bison before backtracking to visit the AIDS National Memorial Grove. I dismounted, took off my helmet to show respect and walked in to the hallowed ground. The Grove was quiet, well cared for and incredibly solemn. A tear streamed down my eye with each plaque that I read. I began to think about everyone who had lost a family member, partner or best friend during the epidemic in the 1980’s and said a prayer for everyone who died and survived.

As it happened, the sun came out while I sat in the Grove and the dark clouds cleared. I hopped back on the bike, exited the park behind the Conservatory and continued on to the Golden Gate Bridge. The cycling map was just as clear as it was deceiving. It mapped out the “easiest route to the bridge, which I fully intended on taking; except for the fact I kept taking wrong turns every chance I got.

When I should have gone due North, I went West and cycled thirty minutes in the wrong direction before I was able to turn myself around. I debated calling a cab to take me and the bike across the bridge to Sausalito; but knew I had to push on. Wrapping around the far North-West side of Presidio Park, I took the most difficult route to get to the bridge. Throwing in the towel, I ended up walking the bike up four Black Diamond hills before I finally caught sight of the big, red and beautiful.

It was just how I pictured it would look – on a miserable day in San Francisco. Shrouded in grey fog, the bright fire-truck red paint ran blood cold. The Ocean underneath was not sparkling in sunlight but rather 50 Shades of Grey. I pushed on downhill (thank Meryl!) and cycled right passed the turn off to the bridge and directly to Fisherman’s Warff where I wasted no time returning my two wheeled companion.  

I returned home via streetcar and walked in the front door to the apartment smelling like sweat and toxins. Lucky for me, I am staying with two of the most fabulous women you could ever meet. Upon sight of my helmet imprinted face, the hostess with the mostess stirred me up a whisky sour on the rocks with grapefruit zest. Taking one sip, for the first time since breakfast a smile returned to my face.

PART TWO: the part where rugged falls in love with a transsexual in a blonde wig

The time was now 6:00pm. Harper and I had tickets to go see the Boxcar Theatre production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and therefore had to boot it. I washed back the brown sugar cocktail and hopped in the shower before getting dressed. For historical purposes, my outfit for the evening was as follows: tan dress pants, blue-and-white striped Henley (open top button), milk-chocolate brown leather belt, Chambray shirt to finish. Brilliant.

The pub-style theatre was located in SOMA on the outskirts of the rougher downtown Tenderloin district. The setting was perfect for Hedwig, just as John Cameron Mitchell had originally staged it in New York. The streets smelled like urine and the threat of getting mugged was so real you could taste it. Harper and I held hands and pretended to be a heterosexual couple. For some reason it felt safer than being a single-white female and defenceless homosexual.  

The theatre was set-up like a cabaret. The seats were all situated around cocktail tables, and a stripper pole connected the mezzanine level to the ground floor. As soon as we took our seats, we were greeted by a nice young gentleman with a half-full bottle of Jack Daniel’s Whisky.

“Would you like to take a free shot?” he asked Harper and me.

“Is that even a question?” I spoke for the two of us.

Tilting our heads back we opened wide and kicked off the night’s festivities in a delightful debauchery. The performance was exceptional. If you have not seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch, then you need to stop reading this blog immediately and start watching it. It tells the story of Hedwig, a blonde-wig transsexual from the Eastern Bloc of Germany. Taken under the wing of a black American GI, she moves to the United States and falls in trailer-park love with Tommy Gnossis. 

In this production, the lead role was played by three women and three men all dressed up in fish-net stockings and whore make-up. Individually and collectively, they were brilliant. There was full bar service throughout the entire show, so Harper and I left the theatre hopped on excitement and cheap red wine. Exquisite.   

PART THREE: the part where rugged makes out with a bearded man

Arriving at the Stud, Harper and I paid cover and held out wrists to get stamped. The Stud is a well-known gay bar in San Francisco. Far outside the Castro, it served up a different crowd of men and women that were concerned less about the scene and more about having a good time. Harper and I hit the dance floor and that is when I laid eyes upon Harrison, also known as “the bearded man.”

He was very attractive and I was very interested. Ditching Harper like a pair of pastel chinos from last season, I walked over to introduce myself. Respectably sipping on scotch, I asked him to tell me his life story and then proceeded to get lost in his eyes. The two of us hit it off right away. He was kind, gentle and I felt perfectly comfortable around him.

This night had shaped up substantially better than the day. The most incredible drag show started up on the stage and I inched closer to him. Strategically I placed my hand on the small of his back. Like an episode of Game of Thrones, I proceeded to command and conquer. After taking control of his right hip, I finally laid down my claim to his lips. From there we made out like a couple of thirteen year olds at a high school dance.

As the night drew to a close, it was clear to everyone else but me that I had completely lost my ability to make good decisions. Getting set to go home with my new bay boyfriend, Harper grabbed me by the arm and dragged me outside. She reminded me of the promise I made myself not to go home with men I just met. I had played out this story one too many times before, and it was always ended up with a brutal headache and an unplanned trip to the Clinic.

I went back inside to find Harrison and brought our night’s love affair to an abrupt end. I proposed brunch to him the following day and distinguished myself from “just another guy at another bar.” The truth was, I did very much like him and did not want our relationship to end at the unwelcome sound of an alarm clock. We parted ways and I returned home with Harper by my side and a Burger King whopper on my lap. 

EPILOGUE:  the part where rugged drinks a bloody mary and then gets kissed

This morning I woke up and crawled in to the kitchen to find water. I threw myself in the shower and took two wrong busses to meet Harrison fifteen minutes late for brunch. We met at a delightful restaurant on 16th and Sanchez called “Kitchen Story.” I over-dressed for the occasion in an attempt to brighten up the dark circles under my eyes. I ordered a Bloody Mary (totally forgot they don’t serve Caesar’s down here!) and the two of us picked up the conversation where we left off.


Afterwards, he walked me to my bus stop at the corner of Castro and Market and kissed me goodbye. Taking a seat on the bus before it jerked forward, I turned around to see the big “Castro” movie theatre sign disappear in the distance and thought to myself, “Something tells me I could get used to this.”

Tonight, I have purchased two bottles of wine to contribute to a tapas-style dinner party we are having at the apartment. Tomorrow I will complete the AIDS Walk, and Monday morning I will begin packing up my apartment in Vancouver.