I’m honestly not sure what’s going to happen with the ol’ Second Bacchus at this point, but Montrose Forge stories are going over like gangbusters on other social media platforms, so I’m rolling with it. Hope you guys do too.
OH, also: Hanswurst. He was a big deal back in the day. We should bring him back.
It was a stressy Sunday at Ye Olde Montrose Forge, primarily due to various plastered patrons throwing and/or crashing into things. (Me: “Why is everyone here drunk?” Also Me: “Because you work in a bar, idiot.”) However, one particular incident involving a couple of customers – let’s call them Carlisle (to protect his anonymity) and Spartacus (because I can’t remember his real name) — has stuck in my craw, and I want to talk about it, because it highlights how easily male privilege can be abused, even in an all-male scenario.
Carlisle comes into the store to say hi. We’re amicably chatting away at the front counter, when Spartacus enters and inserts himself into the conversation – and by “inserts,” I mean he literally positions himself between us. We keep talking, and a few minutes later, Spartacus reaches over and starts stroking Carlisle’s beard. Carlisle jerks back and politely but firmly asks him not to do that. Spartacus asks what the problem is, and Carlisle replies that he prefers not to be touched by people he doesn’t know. Spartacus glares at him and asks if he’s racist.
Now that is some Ed Sheeran-level entitlement right there: “I’m a NICE GUY, and if you don’t want me invading your personal space, there is something wrong with YOU.” But Carlisle holds his ground and reiterates that he just doesn’t like it when people he doesn’t know try to touch him. Spartacus sputters and huffs for a bit, then pretends to see someone he knows by the main bar and sweeps out of the store in a rustle of taffeta.
Thing is, Spartacus knows he crosses boundaries, and he has traps in place designed to shame people into allowing him to continue the behavior. That is emphatically not okay – in fact, that is borderline predatory. This was not the first time I’ve seen Spartacus get grabby with a relative stranger, although it was the first time I’ve seen him get shut down, which is empowering. But it’s also disheartening, in that I see so many gay men (myself included at times) accept unwanted advances, because “Hey, we’re all guys here”; because it’s easier to grit our teeth and wait for the situation to pass instead of standing up for ourselves and risk a confrontation with someone who is going to make the whole thing our fault anyway. I mean, did you see what we were wearing? We were totally asking for it.
This is also emphatically not okay.
Long story short, my people: Don’t fucking touch without permission, and don’t feel guilty about not letting yourself be touched without permission. We may be mired in patriarchal rape culture, but we have no business taking advantage of it, or pretend it doesn’t exist.
A friend of mine recently asked if I’d like to work a few hours a week at his fetishwear shop. I’ve still got my property management job and pick up the occasional mobile notary gig, but to be honest, I’ve always missed working in retail. Evil customers and low wages aside, I like being behind a counter, especially in mom-and-pop (or in this case, daddy) establishments. It makes me feel like I’m in a sit-com.
The shop itself has two locations: The first is a freestanding building next to Ripcord, Ye Olde Townne Leather & Levis Bar, and the other takes up a large corner inside the bar itself. I’ve been patronizing Ripcord since I was a wee little baby gay, and when I got sober, I mourned all the misadventures I’d had there. However, a little over a year into my recovery, I agreed to meet a date there and found myself surprisingly comfortable in the environment. I was neither triggered nor overcome with the urge to drink, which threw me off a little, until I realized that for as raging an alcoholic as I was, I never actually drank very much at Ripcord — I just showed up there drunk.
That epiphany, coupled with Ripcord being the Misfits‘ home bar, resulted in me spending an inordinate amount of time there, much to the withering judgment concern of a number of sober acquaintances. “If you hang out at the barbershop, you’re going to get a shave,” they chanted while placing bets on how long it would take me to slink into a meeting and collect a new desire chip. But despite their hopes the odds, I’ve done remarkably well at the Rip. Everyone from the owner to the barback knows I’m sober, and it’s become an unexpected safe space for me, where I can sip club soda and get merrily groped by strangers without incident.
With all that in mind, I agreed to come aboard as a sales clerk, although I changed my work status on Facebook to read, “Notary Public at the Montrose Forge,” because I think I’m hilarious. And of course, within 30 minutes of me clocking in for my first shift, one of the Misfits texted me all, “Where are you?! I need something notarized yesterday,” so I took that as a favorable career omen and added a notary rate chart and that repellent sign to the shop’s décor, which amused the owner to no end. Especially after I told him he could charge $30 to have me schlep in from across town and notarize shit for walk-in clients.
Caught up as I was in the joy of getting back into retail and becoming the official notary for drunk leatherdudes everywhere, I managed to overlook one little glitch in the system: The store sells what are commonly referred to as “solvents,” or “polish removers,” or, back in the heyday of adult arcades, “video head cleaners.” And I say “commonly referred to,” because it is illegal in the great state of Texas to sell amyl nitrate or any of its derivatives for recreational purposes.
In other words, we don’t carry poppers. Poppers are bad. We would never promote nor encourage the purchase or use of poppers.
Which is good, because Drunk Me was a right proper fool for poppers.
For my 2.5 straight readers, poppers are an inhalant, which cause a brief but intense sense of euphoria. Along with the enjoyable head rush, poppers also lower blood pressure and relax muscles, which means they allow you to fit pretty much anything in your butt, hence their popularity in the gay community. I personally have not used poppers for any reason since before I quit drinking, but their acrid odor brings back fond semi-memories of drunken shenanigans, and in early sobriety, I found myself craving them more than cheap whiskey. I held firm and eventually lost all attraction to them, but I’ve also just put myself in a situation where I spend 12 hours a week with a display case of NOT POPPERS/POLISH REMOVERS a foot from my face. And that doesn’t strike me as 100% brilliant.
The original purpose of this blog was to document my recovery from alcoholism, but as I went from hiding in the rooms of 12-step meetings to functioning successfully in the Real World, writing about recovery seemed less and less relevant. Now, though, I’m starting to see The Second Coming of Bacchus as a tool for accountability. As I once told a roomful of recovering alcoholics who were not at all thrilled with my life choices (see barbershop above), I don’t care what anyone thinks about what I’m doing, so long as they know I’m doing it. It’s when I start keeping secrets that I get myself into trouble.
So. No secrets. I’m coming up on five years sober, and I’m working in a bar, selling video head cleaner to horny men who have never owned VCRs. And I am okay.
Thank you guys in advance for helping me stay that way.