A recent guys’ night out featured lots of caffeine, a back room full of nerds, and gays.
But let me explain.
Alvis, father of two, and I occasionally manage a night away from our families. One could say that our inner primal hunters need an escape. I think it’s just refreshing to talk to someone who knows what a “warp nacelle” is but still gets laid.
He wants to hit a comic book shop. We both have heard of them and about what goes on inside, but neither of us ever has set foot in one. Alvis has read about a Batman graphic novel (i.e., a bunch of comic books bound together without individual covers) that is supposed to be pretty good. The movie The Dark Knight apparently was based on material from it and other works.
Inside are not only comic books, but toys. Er, umm, collectibles. Scantily clad, buxom women virtually jump at me from the comic book covers. Near them sit scale models of the Enterprise and an authentic handheld phaser.
In the back, left corner, several folding tables are covered by maps of worlds unknown to earthbound cartographers. On them sit game pieces and various die shaped like anything but cubes. The tables are beset by gamer geeks — some fat, some thin, all pasty.
Alvis and I make our way past a skinny black man wearing a Toby Keith cowboy hat, his face buried in a Spiderman comic. Without any reference point for the people one sees in a comic book shop, I’m not sure why I find him incongruous, but I do.
While Alvis finds the book he wants, I peruse the Superman titles. Some of the artwork is quite impressive, and the writing is much better than I remembered in the few comic books I read in my past (handful at most).
Once out of there, we stop at the nearest burger joint for Alvis to have… chili. The floors at Braum’s rival those in cheap movie theaters. We ignore the disgusting lack of scheduled moppings and just talk, mostly about work. He recently changed jobs and my formerly job-hopping self enjoys living vicariously through him.
For some reason, I crave overpriced coffee, immediately. We zip across the street to Starbucks, a much cleaner atmosphere with plush chairs and the smell of java.
Fully wired, I drive us to a new Borders very near my work. No, not a locally owned bar with international beers. Just the book store. I like the other idea, however, despite my dislike of pretty much everything beer.
The comic book store had reminded me of a memoir written in the graphic novel format. Called Fun Home, the award-winning, critically lauded work is about a girl whose father owns and runs a funeral home and the various family dysfunctionalities said father sparks to life. My copy sits somewhere in Moksha’s house, but Alvis wants to see it.
I ask a Borders staffer if they have the book. He looks it up, mumbles something that sounds like “lesbian,” and bids me follow him to it. Granted, I know that the book is written by a lesbian, but I had never considered it geared toward a certain crowd. I found it by chance when Shannon and I wandered into a Barnes and Noble on our Fort Worth anniversary trip last summer.
You don’t know how lucky I am to be married to a woman who thinks going into a book store is a good time, and to have a local friend who thinks the same.
But back to the lesbians.
Alvis sees this employee leading me and angles to meet us. Once among the shelves, I look up and notice the sign above that reads, “Gay and Lesbian Literature.” The titles were more like I would expect to see in magazines with obscured covers on a rack behind the convenience store counter. Except much gayer. I glance around the store. Not crowded is good.
I doubt that most gay people I know consider the other material on those shelves “literature.” We take a quick look at Fun Home and discreetly leave that section.
A loudspeaker announces, “Attention Borders shoppers, the store closes in 10 minutes. Please bring your purchases to the checkout at this time,” or something like that. “Our deli and cafe also will be closing.”
I dash over to the worker who helped me earlier. “Cafe? Did she say, ‘cafe’? Where is that?”
I rush downstairs and approach the barista. “You’re going to hate me if I order something right now, aren’t you?”
“It depends what you order,” she says, not entirely joking.
I order another overpriced mocha-chino-frapper thing and down it within minutes of reaching the car. Perhaps one reason I drink alcohol so infrequently is that I drink anything very quickly. With booze, that’s generally a bad idea unless puking in the bushes is the goal.
I drop Alvis off at his house and head home, where a few of my wife’s good friends remain after a night of… whatever the heck it is they were doing. I work on the computer and bounce off the walls for a few hours, then hit the sheets knowing that Benjamin sleeps peacefully at his grammy’s house.
The guys’ night out was a success, and I survived my first trip to a comic book store and my first time in the Lesbian and Gay Literature section. Before I drove away from his house, Alvis ran back outside to hand me the graphic novel Watchmen (inspiration for the movie of the same name). It turned out to be amazing, and definitely much better than if he had brought something inspired by the last place we visited.
Because that would have meant the end of our guys’ nights out.