It was 8:00 p.m. on a Thursday. I didn't feel like going home. I had the book I'm reading—Dead Souls by Gogol—with me. A drink sounded nice. If you've ever tried it, you know that Seattle isn't exactly full of great bars for reading. Not enough light. Distracting music. People you know.
I ended up at Purr because it's across the street from the office. Purr is a gay bar with a cat-shaped sign, pink lanterns strung throughout, bad art on all sides, and couches. It was not very full. There was an empty couch next to the window, with light from the street falling onto it. Purrfect.
There were a dozen or so guys in the vicinity of the couch: a jock, a fat guy, a smiley Latino businessman, a guy with thinning hair and a repertoire of facial expressions, a blond guy with hair shaped like a tidal wave, a surly bearded guy, a short guy, etc. Pleasant background shapes.
I got through all of five pages before the guy with thinning hair, sitting on another couch, started in, snottily:
"Must be a really good book."
Hmm. Yes, it is? Or, Fuck you? Feeling friendly, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. "It is a really good book."
"You just can't put it down! Reading is fundamental!" he said to the two men sitting next to him, who were also giving me goofy, uncomprehending stares. "Everyone wants to know what this book is that's so good you can't put it down!"
I told them. I showed them the cover. Their collective response did not convey an overwhelming familiarity with Gogol. I said that it was very funny.
"Reading is fundamental! What, you haven't heard that? You're too young. He's never heard 'Reading is fundamental,'" the guy with thinning hair said. Then with one of those pitiable, superior laughs that gay people invented, he added, "I read Entertainment Weekly." He gave me a primer on what people usually do in bars. I explained that I didn't know anyone. He replied, "You know us," and introduced me to a gaggle of vain, frantic characters worthy of a comic novel. One suggested that I was reading in front of other people to impress them. Another asked if I knew I was in a gay bar. Then the one with thinning hair whispered to me, while pointing to the jock and then to the fat guy, "He dates him for his money," and, continuing around the room, "and he dates him for his money, and he dates me for my money"—his boyfriend would sleep with me if I wanted, he said—"and he dates him but I don't know why..." Later, I came back from the bathroom and he was flipping randomly through Dead Souls and saying, sarcastically, "It's so good! I just can't stop reading it!" I was so roundly mocked that eventually the short guy came over to say that he for one thought it was okay that I wanted to read in a bar.