10/20/2020

Cinema Avec Dudes: Summer 1991

Once again, apologies for the lateness of this entry – I’ve been dealing with some health issues that have me running a bit slow. But I have a big one in process that I hope to get up here sometime in the next few days.

[Background: I met Jay in 1990, and by mid-1991 had applied for and gotten a copywriting job in the Bay Area. Triangulating the distance between my social life in San Francisco and my job in Santa Clara, I decided to live in San Mateo, and signed the lease on a comfortable two-bedroom townhouse.]

Miles and Ben really didn’t want to change schools, so Frank and I agreed to switch roles: he became the weekday parent and I the weekend one. Every Friday and Sunday night, we met for dinner in Vacaville, roughly halfway between my place and his, and handed the kids back and forth.[*]

Being the weekend parent was fun. Life in the Bay Area offered a zillion choices of things to do: movies, theater, outdoor events, excursions, a great library half a mile from our door. I did my best to make their weekends with me enough fun to take the sting out of the long commute and the reality of being the kids of divorce.

The three of us had already made a habit of seeing animated films together: Ben’s interest in anime dovetailed nicely with Miles’s love of Disney, plus that was the year that the Spike and Mike Festivals of Animation began to tour – we never missed one. So when San Francisco’s famous Castro Theatre played Yellow Submarine, we were first in line for the matinee.

Afterward, thoroughly enchanted but also starving, we strolled over to another Castro institution, Orphan Andy’s, home of decent burgers and the best shakes in the city. The kids – Miles would have been about twelve and Ben six or seven – were too naive to get much meaning from the campy art on the walls, or the menu graphic that showed a curly-headed, blank-eyed, hairy-chested, bare-midriffed young man.

While we were waiting for our food, though, Ben said, “The guys out there are scary.”

“Oh?” I asked carefully.

“They’re wearing all those chains and stuff, and leather jackets. Are they bad guys?”

I took a deep breath. “No, they’re not. You remember when we talked about how some guys like to be in love with guys and other guys like to be in love with ladies?”

“Yeah…”

“Well, those clothes are what they like to wear to look good to each other. Like if I were going out on a date, I’d put on something nice so I could look good for my date, right?”

He looked reassured. “Oh. Okay.” And our food came, and we got back to talking about the movie.

For all you parents stressing over what to tell your kids about what they see at the Pride parade, that’s how difficult it is: not difficult at all.

(It occurred to me later that if an adult male had shown up in the Castro wearing what Ben had on – this was the heyday of little boys dressing like gang members, with baggy pants, big sneakers and backward ball caps – they would have found him scary. But that seemed a little too complex to explain at the time.)


[*] As post-divorce expedients go, this turned out to be a very good idea. Dinner twice a week gave us a chance to catch up with each other’s lives, to remember the things we liked about each other, and to build the foundation of our future as friends and coparents. Miles tells me that his ability to remain friends with his exes has a lot to do with having seen his dad and me doing the same.

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