I remember thinking how cool GRINDR was the first time I saw a screenshot of it. Finally, an app for my iPhone that shows me where the guys are sorted by how close they are. To me. Right now. What a cool idea! The interface is clean and it loads fast especially considering it’s using AT&T’s over-subscribed 3G network. But where am I going with this? Am I a shill for GRINDR? Not really. Let me tell you what happened on Sunday.
The weather in Marin has been cold and wet lately, but Sunday was different. Bright blue bird skies, warm air (60° F) and spectacular. I took my dog on a long hike up to the fire roads on the open space hills behind my house and decided to ride my motorcycle afterwards. After the hike, Bo proceeded to crawl into his dog bed, exhausted from the longer and more vertical walk while I changed into my riding gear – Dainese sport leather riding pants and jacket with 2 layers of Under Armour next to my skin – and got ready to ride. I hit the road by 2 PM but I needed to get some gas first. I headed towards Hwy 101. Once there I decided to continue south to San Francisco to see a friend who was installing a laundry tub to give his washing machine a place to drain.
I headed towards San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. I stopped by my friend’s place first. The house was quiet. No one was there. I checked out the newly-plumbed sink and left him a text message telling him I stopped by. My first stop was over and I wasn’t sure where to go next. I hadn’t made any plans. I thought I would be leaving my house, winding down Lucas Valley Road towards Point Reyes Station and the Pacific Ocean but instead found myself in San Francisco.
As I drove the crowded streets of the Castro heading towards Valencia Street, I thought: This bike goes too fast to be stopping at every other light. I need to go somewhere. But where? As soon as I had the thought of leaving the city, I decided to find some places I’d been to so that I could find them easier the next time. It was 3 PM. I wanted caffeine. Ritual Coffee Roasters came to mind. I knew where it was. It was just around the corner. I ordered a double-shot espresso macchiato and drank it in the back of the cafe where there was one empty table waiting. Finding a place to sit was a miracle considering the time of day (Sunday afternoon) and reputation of this particular place – it has really, really great espresso and the baristas are experts and friendly too.
Espresso ingested. Caffeine kicking in. Where to?
Facebook gave me the idea of checking out a SuperBowl party at one of the bars – Truck – hosted by a drag queen I like: Suppositori Spelling. Make friends with the right drag queens on Facebook and you’ll know where all the parties and hot guys will be. I drove by the bar. It seemed deserted. There were plenty of parking spots nearby and no one hanging outside. Perhaps the weekly Eagle Beer Bust had sucked the air out of Truck’s tires. I had to have a look. A quick glimpse (without stopping) gave me an idea of what the Eagle was like: boring. I rounded the corner at Harrison Street and was on my way back to Truck. Another loop. Indecision. Caffeine was doing its part: revving me up without a clue. Then I spotted someone I knew.
While riding down Harrison, I noticed a guy in camouflage pants walking down the other side of the road. He looked familiar and as I got closer, I recognized him. I made a slow, graceful u-turn to meet up with him on the other side on the shoulder. He was walking home after being at the Eagle and wondered if I wanted to join him for some food and a movie. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back inside just yet. My bike felt great, the day was still young and I decided not to head home with him. Maybe later. I’ll text you later, I said.
Then for no particular reason I asked him: Hey. Do you ever use GRINDR?
Yeah, I use it all the time, he replied. And right after he finished talking, he had the app running on his iPhone to see who was nearby.
Then he asked: Who’s this guy? M. He’s 500 feet away?
M was 500 feet away. Truck was about 500 feet from where we’re standing. If M was at Truck, I guessed there was a party there after all. But who is this M anyway?
M is a guy I’ve been chatting with on a website for years. We finally met in person last Halloween when my friends and I stopped by Truck on our whirlwind limo powered bar crawl through San Francisco. Renting a limo and splitting the cost 8 ways is a great way to get from place to place in San Francisco, especially on Halloween. San Francisco has its charms, but trying in vain to hail a taxi isn’t one of them.
When I met up with M on Halloween, I realized that we had some things in common and that I really liked him. We both chatted off and on during the ensuing months, but never had a chance to meet again. Seeing him on GRINDR right around the corner made everything much clearer. I knew where I needed to be. I thought he might be at Truck when I first passed by, but I wasn’t sure. It looked like no one was there. But he was there. GRINDR said so.
My friend suggested that maybe he’d come along too. I told him this was a guy I’d been wanting to meet up with again for months and that it was no fun competing for the same guy, right? I laughed it off and he agreed and headed home. Seconds later I parked in front of Truck and headed towards the entrance. I pulled back the leather curtain in the doorway and saw the space full of guys mostly dressed in street clothes, some in jock gear and football jerseys. There was the option of buying into the beer bust (all you can drink) for $10 and although I usually don’t opt for it while I’m riding my bike, I decided to help pay for some of the snacks I saw around the bar. Maybe a few beers and some snacks and then I’d eat some dinner, sober up and ride back home. That’s what I was thinking.
I saw someone that looked like M as I entered the bar and got my wrist band and plastic cup for the beer bust. I wasn’t sure it was him. I walked to the back of the bar to get a feel for the place. It was full of guys but still easy to walk through. There were trays of nachos and cheese and bean dip and the biggest cheese puffs I’ve ever seen that resembled tater tots more than anything. I bit into one imagining warm mushy potatoes and got a mouth full of dry cheesy foam. I needed something to wash it down with. Heading back to the bar, I found an open stool next to the service area and propped my clear plastic cup close to the edge. I looked to the right and saw M looking at me. Eric! he said. He remembered my name. Cool.
We started talking. He introduced me to his friends. We talked as the SuperBowl played out on the big screen in the back of the bar. At half-time, Suppositori kicked off a show that included hot guys dancing on the bar and a few lip synch performances. It was a great vibe with lots of happy people. I was sitting in my stool taking it all in while M and some of his friends talked a few feet away.
What’s the point of all of this? How did it all end?
It ended beautifully. Without knowing exactly how I was going to do it, I managed to get myself away from my computer at home and into conversation with a guy I’d been wanting to know for years. What arose as moments of complete indecision became tipping points of direction. Even the smallest decisions brought me closer to sitting next to a guy I wanted to see again.
I might have gone to see a movie with a friend. That would have been a fine option. I’ve done that before. The decision to ride came first. Without the dramatic change in weather with riding as a way to enjoy it fully, I’d be home, staring at a computer, wondering where all the sexy men I wanted to meet were hiding. I’d mentally construct how I’d meet them, or what they’d sound like, or how we’d click. Instead, spontaneous physical actions took the place of purely imagined ones.
I’ve been a proponent of high-techology, evangelical of all things Apple, and imagined the day when we’d use gorgeous gadgetry to bring us closer together. For awhile, these computers were bringing us together virtually by keeping us farther apart physically. Computers used to be moored to a modem, docked on a desk, held hostage at home. But no more. Today I hold a powerful computer-phone in my hand that goes wherever I go, with a growing universe of applications available for download with the tap of a finger. I’ve used an iPhone since it first came out over two years ago, and it makes my life much easier and more organized. I have my cell phone, internet browser, email, contacts, calendar and lots of other cool things with me wherever I go.
But something that can tell you that a guy you want to meet is 500 feet away from where you’re standing right now? I never saw it coming. And I’m glad it helped me find the letter M.