We picked up Gentle Man at 7:40 at his home in Bernal Heights, San Francisco. Bernal Heights is surging toward full gentrification after a seedy past. As we drove through I tried to give Jrex character sketches of my coworkers, “Gentle Man is in his forties, I think. He’s one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met. Not that it matters, but I’m 90 percent sure that Gentle Man is gay. Like you, dear, he’s very soft-spoken, so I’ll sit in the back so you can hear as he navigates you to the restaurant.”
We drove up to the Mission to meet two of our current and two previous co-workers at a Senegalese restaurant. Eeyore had NOT been invited. Gentle Man had suggested that was not the kindest thing to do, but had also quietly confessed he wasn’t sure he was up for an evening with her. Most of us had our significant others along for the fun.
As we shared pitchers of tamarind margarita, mango cocktail, and sampled each others delicious meals, someone mentioned the Folsom Street Festival and asked who was going. Gentle Man laughed and said, “Definitely.” British Designer also nodded and said he and his girlfriend were going. People started talking about what they’d seen at the fest in years past. My third co-worker, Fireball started laughing at the look on Jrex’s face. He told me later that he’d overheard British Designer say, “I have a leather mask, should I wear it to the festival?” and someone answered, “I wouldn’t get dressed up unless you’re willing to be an active participant. People take the fest very seriously.”
After dinner as we drove Gentle Man home, we somehow started chatting about Halloween on Castro Street and all the drag queens that come out to party. I laughed as I said, “One of my friends in college was horrible. When he dressed in drag he was more gorgeous than any of the women. Well, he was gorgeous either way.”
Gentle Man smiled and softly said, “Well, most of the people in the office know about this anyway, but I do that occasionally. Mostly for Halloween on Castro Street.”
I asked, “Does it feel mostly like dress up, or does she become an alter ego?”
He nodded and said emphatically, “Definitely an alter ego. We rent a hotel room right by Castro so we can just have fun and not worry about driving home or anything. But last year there was a shooting there. It’s just not safe anymore. Too many people just watching and not enough people there to participate. The street doesn’t even want to have it anymore and the city is actively discouraging the event. It’s very sad.”
After we dropped him off, I looked at Jrex, “OK, so make that 100 percent.” He grinned and nodded.
The next day I reflected on the fact that only in San Francisco would a dinner with co-workers have involved a discussion of teaching in bi-lingual schools, a recent honeymoon to Vietnam, drag queens and S&M.
Then I thought about the fact that when he was in Israel, Jesus horrified the establishment by the people he chose to be around. He was often accused of partying with sinners. I was struck by the notion that if he were here physically, he’d be hanging out with the drag queens and loving them. It made me glad to know him.