One thing that makes me anxious is when my friends get together. I really don't like to mix them. A lot of the company I keep is with "Type A" personalities. In the past this has caused tiffs or an occasional knife fight. My friend Max likes to remind me about this:
"Hey remember the time at your birthday that douche stabbed mei?" He'll begin.
I'll groan, "Yeah, I do. Why do you have to bring it up?"
"I'm just saying--"
"Well I guess you're lucky that eye-patches are in style. I never thought he'd shank your eyeball."
After taking Max to the emergency department I made a mental note to keep birthday parties small. I'll look over the list of my invitees and decide who's least likely to be packin'. I haven't gone to the extreme of having pat-downs or metal detectors mainly because if we're going to be at a restaurant everything can be used as a weapon.
On my 27th birthday I decided to have German food at one of my favorite restaurants: Schintzelhaus. I only invited four friends because two of the invitees were once boyfriends-- we can spell that D-R-A-M-A and that would provide enough tension for the evening.
Unbeknownst to me one of my guests invited two extra people. While I knew both of them pretty well it would never have dawned on me to invite them to dinner. Charles works for the Drug Enforcement Agency while Alex is an emergency room nurse.
Upon learning what Charles did for a living the table started to clam up. Now none of my friends are into drugs but I think when there's a government representative sitting at your table you don't tend to divulge information. This lead Charles to start interrogating people.
The mood was awkward and that's an understatement.
Despite making my friend nervous he did give me a birthday present which made up for everything: my very own 9mm handgun. Wait, just kidding. He actually gave me a black t-shirt from the San Francisco Police Department. When I saw it I laughed thinking I'm never going to wear this.
One summer's day I was looking for something to put on with a pair of camouflage shorts. Most of my t-shirts were dirty but there was the SFPD shirt lying in the drawer, never having been worn or even unfolded. If there was ever going to be a time to put it on it was then. So I tried it on and it fit perfectly. I'm not much of a fan of black fabrics because of lint but this shirt made me look slim. No wonder cops wear them-- they cover up the donuts.
This was back when I worked in the Mission District. My morning ritual had become a trip to Walgreens at the corner of Mission and 16th Street to buy a RedBull and a bottle water before I went into my office. Walking into the store the security guard gave me a big smile and acknowledged me, something he had never done before. I looked at him queerly and went about my business.
I got into line behind one person and Gloria the main cashier called immediately for back-up. This never happened either. Gloria normally would let the queue get longer than the Great Wall in China before she'd call for help. But I wasn't about to question her actions.
Gloria sang "next" in her Mexicana accent and I handed over my things to her. She smiled and started chatting with me. Again, this is something she never did. I wasn't sure Gloria knew how to say more than "next" and the dollar amount of the total.
I saw her eyes dart to the SFPD emblem on my chest. "Did jou catch de baseball game lest night?" Not only did she think I was a cop apparently the t-shirt made her think I was straight.
"Nah, I didn't catch it."
"It was good. Bonds 'it a 'omer."
"When doesn't he?"
She started laughing like she was in the front row of the Punch Line. I gave her my money and she made change.
"'ave a good day!" she beamed.
"You too," I said collecting my purchase.
I walked to the front door and the security guy perked up. "Lemme get the door for you."
"Um, ok. Thanks."
"No problem. No problem, sir."
I couldn't believe they thought I was in law enforcement. At my office I laughed it off.
Around lunchtime I decided to pop over to Valencia Street to get some Chinese food. I walked on Mission Street between 16th and 17th. All these eyes darted at me and people started talking. One guy's eyes got bigger than dinner plates. He ran up the street and started whispering to a group of junkies all of whom looked over at me before quickly dispersing. This t-shirt I was wearing was clearing skid-row. I puffed up a bit and strutted down the street picturing how my brother would be in the same situation. It was weird to experience this kind of power and I fully intended to exploit it.
The servers at the Chinese restaurant were very courteous even giving me two fortune cookies and not charging me for rice. I tipped them well. Back out on the street again I was dividing homeless junkies like Moses did the Red Sea.
But when I rounded the corner back to Mission Street I heard a woman shouting. Her pimp had pushed her out into the street and was about to do full-on smack down.
"I don't gots your money!" she wailed.
"Bitch, you betta give me my coin!"
Someone yelled "I'm gonna call the cops!"
A woman looked at me and screamed, "There's one now."
What was I going to do, get into a fight with a pimp? Try to restrain him? Fuck that.
I put my hand over the emblem and said, "It's just a fuckin' t-shirt" and crossed the street. They all watched me kind of dazed when a cruiser pulled up at the scene.