Back in 1992 I had been kicking around all week in San Francisco trying to make at least one, goddamn deal. And as I sat in some guy’s office at 5 PM on Friday afternoon while he told me he just couldn’t buy any of the lousy junk bonds I was selling, the last thing I wanted to do was go back to the Hollywood Hilton and eat another one of those dinner meals that tasted like it should be served on a plane.
Remember the great David Sedaris story when he’s given the choice of a chicken dinner or a plate of warm dog shit with chipped glass? That was my choice on every American Airlines flight between New York and LA.
So, as I was winding up yet another useless sales meeting, I asked the customer if there was some restaurant in town where I could eat like a home-cooked meal.
“I know just the place,” he said, “but it’s not a restaurant. It’s the gay and lesbian synagogue in Castro. They have a Friday night service and then a pot-luck spread. Everyone tries to outcook everyone else — you won’t believe how good.”
Several hours later I found myself sitting down in a back row at the gay and lesbian synagogue where the rabbi, or someone who said he was a rabbi, gave a sermon on the Leviticus passage that condemns homosexuality in the most angry and uncompromising terms. And the point of the sermon was something to the effect that ‘Leviticus was then, and this is now, and let’s all go into the room next door and eat to our heart’s content.’ Fine.
I must say, the food was marvelous, the California vintages divine. You made a donation, you didn’t make a donation, nobody cared.
At some point while I was standing there trying to decide whether to eat another helping of beef bourguignon, a guy around my age (I was 48) came up to me, said ‘hello’ and obviously wanted to see if perhaps I was someone with whom he could spend some time.
I quickly made it clear that I hadn’t come to the synagogue to make any friends, but we started to chat because I could tell from his accent that he was a transplanted New Yorker.
Turned out he came from a religious family in Brooklyn and by the time he was in his teens he knew he was and would always be gay. He kept his orientation secret from his family and his…