Going Out in Gay Tel Aviv

gay tel avivBy Daniel Adler

Yoni is fabulous. He’s the most fabulous person he knows. When I first met Yoni when I arrived in his apartment, he invited twelve other fabulous people over into the living room where they drank and talked. I told the only lesbian in the room that I was going to Egypt. She had glasses had a shaved head and wasn’t wearing a bra. All the other boys grimaced but she said cool. Yoni wasn’t friends with her. In fact most of the people who were there were friends of his friends. “So you’re going to be here for the next week, huh?”

He’s tall, handsome and dapper. He wears skinny ties and has a bar-eyebrow piercing on his good side, the only side he allows us to take photographs of, and that’s when he approves. When he eats dinner he spreads a pink towel over his lap. Like me, he loves smoked canned fish, especially herring, and he numnumnums and moves his eyebrows up and down fast. He likes to watch Iron Chef on his Dell while he eats, to convince himself that he’s eating something tastier. He doesn’t like bodies of water and he speaks excellent English and a little Japanese after spending a year there. But he’s more than a cunning linguist, he can also flick the tip of his tongue like a rattler, which weirds Lisa out and serves as a reminder that he made a pretty good straight guy in earlier life. Last night Max asked him if he was sad when Elizabeth Taylor died. He said, “I’m not that kind of gay.” It’s true. He’s much more modest and reserved than the NY gays I used to know when I worked at the gay bar. He likes his men with a little hair, so they aren’t slippery like eels.

The plan was to go out together and dance. He wished that I didn’t have such a beard and was seriously thinking about lending me his beard trimmer, but in his words, “Hair is oily and greasy, and yours is full of chicken…” even though I am on a traveler’s budget and can’t really pay for chicken but that’s for a later post. So I kept my beard, which I’m growing so I won’t be so conspicuous when I arrive in Egypt, and changed into Max’s Southampton Volunteer Fire Department shirt, which satisfied Yoni because firefighters use big hoses every day.

We sat in the living room drinking Vodka Kais, which I made after telling Yoni a bit about my mixing experience as a bartender, a special blend of energy drink, diet Sprite, orange concentrate and the cheap Russian vodka. And after I asked a question, Yoni would say, “Here’s what I think,” or “Why don’t you…” and play “Unbreak My Heart,” ” Vogue,” or my personal favorite, “Ice Cream Truck” as a response. He knows all of the lyrics to all of these songs, and he’s not afraid to belt it in his wavering baritone. Around midnight, he jumped in the shower, after letting the solar panel shower warmer we call the Dude warm up for 15 minutes, and came back in fifteen minutes dressed in black boat shoes, khakis, and a gray plaid shirt with a light gray tie.

On the way to the bar we walked behind him at a pace faster than any New Yorker’s. I assume he was excited to show off Max and me. I tried walking like him, with my hands in my pockets and short fast steps, but I couldn’t possibly walk that fast unless I broke into a run, just to keep up.

Storage 84 is about three blocks away from the apartment, right off Dizengoff. It was raining and not as many people go out when it rains. The elevator had a mirror, in which Yoni didn’t miss an opportunity to make sure he looked fabulous, as he always does. Inside the deep open hall was decorated with generic female figures from bathroom signs, oversized and taped to the walls. A lot of people were dancing. A creeper came over to us and started dancing, but Max and I had made a pact to look like we were together in case anything started to get weird. He asked Max his name, felt his lack of interest, and left soon thereafter.

Max turned to Yoni and me and joked that someone is smoking a wet cigarette. I knew the smell from many warehouse parties in Brooklyn. Someone was smoking shitty weed (shwag as it is known)  and I located it right next to a pretty girl in a silver dress. I wanted to ask him for a hit, since the smell of weed in public is uncommon, and word is that asking for weed or any drug can get you immediately arrested in Israel. Despite my reluctance in not wanting to come off as one of those douchey people who flock to a drug I figured why not; it would also give me a chance to talk to the girl he was protecting. I took a hit and a half, not wanting to take advantage of his kindness. I should have known better. It was not the delicious skunk of a more potent strain and I barely felt a buzz. I turned to the girl and said, “You’re sexy.” She thanked me. I went back to Max and Yoni. On my way a security guard walked through the crowd telling people to put out their cigarettes. Apparently, clubs can only try to enforce a no smoking policy; when it gets out of hand they  call the cops and tell them that they can’t properly enforce the no smoking rule, not that the cops will show up and arrest any one, but in case the cops do show up, the bar won’t be at fault. That’s Israel for you. In NY people adhere to the rules, and if you don’t you get arrested. Israel is so much smaller and at this bar, everyone seems to know everyone.

We danced, started to sweat, mouthed the words to “I Miss You Like The Deserts Miss The Rain,” and I noticed a girl behind me. She wore a pretty golden necklace, shoulder-length blonde hair, red lips, a defined nose and chin, big brown eyes, thin arms and a fine bust. I told her “You’re sexy.” She said, “Thanks.” Yoni and Max laughed in the strobelights. “Did you check her Adam’s apple?” they giggled. I was pretty sure she wasn’t a tranny but you never know in a room with loud music and poor lighting.

I continued dancing in front of her and her friend, a handsome darkeyed man with a curl hanging over the side of his forehead. He made eyes at me, once, twice, thrice, four times. I told him in an effeminate voice, “Your friend is so pretty.” “Thank you,” he said, as though I had complimented him. I turned to her, “Do you want to make out? I’ve always wanted to kiss a girl.” “No!” she said. He asked me in a non-accusatory tone, “Are you straight?” and fearing that if I lied to him I’d have to make out with him first, I said yes. He turned to her and said, “Come on, it would be fun.” “Yeah,” I cooed, “you’re so sexy and soft.” “Leave me alone!” she said. That was that. I turned around and continue to dance with men, embarrassed, but learning. “You’re creepy,” they told me. “Yeah but I thought I could get away with that here in Israel.” “No. You don’t tell a girl she’s sexy and soft. That’s just weird.” Noted.

I saw a pretty girl across the room. “I gotta go,” I told them, eager to redeem myself as I swam through the crowd. “I saw you from across the room,” I said. “Why?” “Because you’re so sexy,” I said. “Thank you,” she said, “Are you straight?” “Yes.” “Oh, I’m gay. Sorry.” “Oh.” She was from Connecticut, came here for a year, went home because she didn’t like it, and was back visiting. Another lost soul for Israel to harbor–there are plenty of these types here, recovering addicts, unruly Jews who don’t fit in to their family’s conception of normal, and others who want adventure and find Israel a good place to begin. Now that there was nothing left to talk about I didn’t want to simply leave, so I danced with her for a song, showing her that I was cool, before I went back to Yoni and Max.

Max kept yawning and it was nearly two. People were leaving, so I said, let’s go. Yoni said, “Usually it’s more crowded than this.” But I knew that he had had fun with us flicking his nipples and pulling his tie out of his mouth. Max said, “It was much tamer than a gay bar in New York. In the city I can’t go into a club like that without getting my ass grabbed. But here it’s so tame.”

“The community’s smaller here,” I said. “Everyone has a reputation to protect, whereas in New York there are the Chelsea gays, the Lower East Side gays, the East Village gays. It’s way crazier.”

“Yoni would have too much fun if he lived in New York.” Yoni turned around, looking coyly at us with his big brown eyes, and moved his eyebrows up and down.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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