Don’t ever buy a house. It may seem like the ultimate purchase and that “one” investment that you’re supposed to make—but it’s not, not at all. For those of you thinking it’s the same as signing a lease with someone, it’s not. There’s no landlord you can call to threaten and complain to, making the three days you’re without a working fridge tolerable. And there’s no handyman you can call for emotional support when you notice your box of Q-tips is soaked from the rusty water leaking from under the bathroom sink. When owning a home you don’t get to play the martyr, because you’re the one responsible for the conditions you live in. And when you’re the butt of a joke that starts with “a landlord, tenant and general contractor walk into a bar,” you’re the one who has to stay home to coordinate dealing with some of the shadiest characters in the world…uninsured electricians…I’m just saying.
The only thing worse about buying a home by yourself, is buying one with a significant other. Sure, we’re still in love and going strong—thanks to the secret to a long lasting relationship—and our condo in Alamo Square has increased in value by 50% in just two years, but speaking from personal experience; buying a home, like taking a spin class, can be MURDER!. People get very emotional about the place they call home….especially when they’re both youngest sibling gays who love to argue.
It started in the car.
“We don’t have room for that kind of light fixture,” Jonathan said. That was the second time, without even a pause, he’d shot one of my ideas (me) down that morning.
“You don’t even know,” I said, “When did you whip out your tape measure?”
“When have you ever seen me whip anything out?”
“I didn’t have to.”
“Oh really, why? You have some genetic mutation that gives you the super power of instant railway style vanity width detection?”
“No, because I don’t want it.”
“Oh you see! That’s the real reason.” I said, “You’re so passive aggressive. Why couldn’t you just say you didn’t like it instead of trying to make me feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to light fixture equilibrianism?”
“I’m telling you now!”
It was another ten minutes of silence until we made it to the Lowe’s on Bayshore. I wanted nothing more then to get away from him. The two of us were fuming and knew the next words uttered were either going to cause things to escalate or poke a hole in the end of the tunnel, because honey, there was no light in sight! I turned right into the underground parking lot and noticed a ton of available spaces and pulled into the first one on the left.
“Why are you parking here?” he asked, with a hint of condescension. “There are like 20 spaces near the entrance.”
What a fucking jerk! I thought to myself. Of all the times he has to push for me to circle around the destination rather than just take the first space I see though we might have to (god forbid) walk, he’s got to be lazy and say something. But I gave up. And if he wanted me to park closer to the entrance, than I’ll park closer to the entrance.
With a firm plunge on the gas, I reversed out of that space, and nearly hit a car coming into the lot behind us. The wheels on my new C-Max hybrid screeched across the smooth concrete. I shifted into drive and spun around the corner in front of the entrance. Just as I was about to turn into a space on the left, he pointed out a spot on the right. Wanting to let him be the driver from the passenger seat—because I think his ego needed it—I abandoned the spot I was preparing to turn into, and by then was poorly situated to turn into his suggested space too. Feeling like I’d lost the upper hand I shot over to the next row and took the first space I could find.
“You happy?!” I asked, removing the keys from the ignition and unbuckling my seatbelt. He just shook his head and sighed, realizing we were now ironically further away from the entrance than we were originally. Aside from the sound of setting my car alarm, and rattling of some shopping carts being gathered, neither of said a peep until we got inside.
We’d gone there that day to look at paint colors. I’d been obsessing all week about what we were gonna paint our condo’s interior. I had this vision of purples and greens, all washed out with natural earthy grays and browns—very regal, tasteful and the kind of gay I hope to pull off one day. “No, no, no, and….no!” he said. And not because he didn’t like my ideas, but because he didn’t understand that when I said purplish gray, I was talking about a specific shade and blend, and not just PURPLE.
“Don’t worry! I don’t want the walls of our apartment to feel like the skin of a dinosaur. Especially one on public television! I have to live here too!” I was screaming from the middle of the washer dryer combo aisle but nobody seemed to be around (hello? Where are the sales reps when you need them?). As we made our way over to the paint section, I pointed out different colors I liked on boxes, signs, window blind displays, and floor tile sample boards. But he didn’t acknowledge any of it.
“I’m just talking about a nice grayish brown,” I said, pulling a rug swatch over to show him.
“I don’t want grayish brown.” He said like a snap turtle with salt and pepper streaks. His mouth tightened as his eyes bulged. It seemed as if he was getting a case of the ‘hangries’, and only food was going to calm him down. If only I carried a spoonful of peanut butter or some ketchup packets or something as my “break incase of an adult temper tantrum” emergency kit. He whined like a kid in desperate need of a nap, “I want a taupe for the dining room wall, okay! Something neutral.”
“Are you kidding me?!” I screamed, actually pulling a few of my perfectly puttied hairs out. Several of the other shoppers looked up from their laundry lists just long enough to pass judgment on us. A young Korean woman with high cheekbones looked at me with sympathetic slant eyes and shook her head as if to say pull yourself together man, you’re at the friggin Lowe’s!
I took a few deep breaths to gather myself and reached for my phone.
“What are you doing?” Jonathan asked, and I held up my finger to silence him.
I fumbled through a staggering amount of apps on my Galaxy II, and was nearly paralyzed at the sight of a dear old friend—Bejeweled. It reminded me of how I used to enjoy our relationship when we were just renters in a Lower Haight apartment above a drug-dealing pizza shop. And how life would have been so much better if the pizza were anything but the cardboard shit that it was. And I wondered if our partnership would ever feel that effortless—that natural—again? The answer had to be “yes!” and I snapped out of my temporary moment of self-reflection and opened up the Google search field that I always forget is on my home screen. I typed in “define: taupe.”
The wheel of death turned and my bars of service fluttered between 2 and 3 (you get what you pay for…thanks Sprint!) I could see Jonathan’s impatience grow. And just before he could say something, the screen refreshed and I read these words aloud, “Showing results for define taupe” I handed Jonathan the phone with a devilish smile stretched from one ear to the other.
I won. Victory was mine. All that back and forth and I had irrefutable proof that I was the one who knew more about paint colors. Which seems so obvious because I’m a painter, but some people just have to be right all the time, don’t they?
“taupe is a gray with a tinge of brown.” He read under a single breath.
I snatched my phone from his hands and marched towards the exit before security could escort us out. We’d driven all the way across the city, got into a fight in the parking lot, and nearly broke up in the middle of Lowe’s, and all just to leave empty-handed…welcome to my nightmare. Welcome to being a “homo-owner.”
Jonathan and I got into many more fights after that first trip to Lowe’s. We fought over electrical work, paint colors, light fixtures, dimmer switches, couch designs, place mats, and more. The construction of some built-in bookshelves and a wine fridge nearly killed us, but thanks to the wine in the fridge we’ve been inching our way back to the way we used to be, albeit with weaker livers. We did both agree to never go to a Lowe’s Hardware store again, considering that was officially the worst trip of running errands (something I usually love to do) ever!
Dinner Celebration at Bar Agricole in San Francisco
The whole “relationships are like roller coasters” analogy only partially works for me. Sure there are ups and downs, but in a relationship you actually have to do some of the work. You don’t get to just buckle up, hang on and let gravity do the rest. You actually have to get out and push! Otherwise you’ll only ever get to experience that g-spot-of-interdependence in the middle briefly, when you’re speeding into the next valley or peak. Maintaining that comfortable equilibrium, between giving yourself to the partnership and eventually taking something back, takes effort. For me that’s learning when to say “I’m wrong.” Yuck! Even just typing it sends shooting pains down my spine. And I’ve said the words many times before, just usually not in tandem. When I apologize—or as I like to say “admit defeat”— it’s done without words. There is no verbalization. Instead I get quiet and walk away, like a dog with its tail between its legs. Jonathan knows this about me, and he’s able to spot it better than anyone else. But what he doesn’t know [laying out all my cards here] is that I have a coping mechanism to help me. Inspired by Ms. Tinker Bell herself I call it the think of a happy thought before your boyfriend breaks up with you game. I actually close my eyes and reminisce of a time when everything seemed right in the world. Like when that girl who teased me at summer camp got in trouble for pooping in the swimming pool and I didn’t even have to waste a Baby Ruth from my canteen in order for it to happen. Or the time I bit into that D’Aiuto’s Baby Wattson plain New York Style cheesecake in the shop next door eventhough the bakery was closed for renovations. Most of them happen to involve me either eating food, or knowing I’m gonna eat food later….but that’s probably coincidence.
Well after all the bickering and emotional game-playing we’d been through with the home purchase…let’s just say I mastered the Art of Recollection. Some of it I’m piecing back together the way I want to remember, but who cares. And one of those happy moments was the night Jonathan surprised me with a celebratory dinner at Bar Agricole the night we closed escrow. I mean we split the bill, but, well, he had the foresight to make the reservation in advance.
For those of you who know him, or even just the readers who’ve gleamed a sense of who he is from all my stories; you know he’s an inquisitive creature. I call him the “the analyzer” because he has to Bobby Fisher his way to the outcome in his head before he can make a decision. But that’s only part of it. Every once in awhile I catch a glimpse of his softer side–the romantic. For some reason I imagine his romantic sensibilities as some little malnourished boy in a loin cloth shackled to some cold cavern wall. But he shows his bulimic face from time to time, and he obviously appeared, forcing Jonathan to make a reservation the night we got the keys to our new life.
This is what I remember:
Bar Agricole was a magical experience. An old converted warehouse. A cross section in the middle of an entire city block in San Francisco’s SOMA district. You enter on 11th Street through a concrete patio surrounded by reclaimed wood, cinder blocks, succulents and steel. It’s flanked on the side by a ramp with peekaboo openings. My excitement grew with every ascending step and I caught just a glimpse of what other people were eating and drinking. The cool nuances typical of a gray, heather, sage, and brown palette are warmed by the strung patio lighting reminiscent of a hipster Austin tex mex cantina. We entered the dining room behind giant glass doors. I had to catch my breath from the site of the chandeliers–both modern, chic, and yet natural, delicate, and industrial at the same time. Imagine trying to capture streams of water in glass and replicating it in near unison across the ceiling in boxed shapes. That’s the best way I can describe it. The mixologist went back and forth to his giant bowl of citrus fruit like a rabbit hopping from one cocktail to the next. Though fast, I could tell he took all the care in the world to prepare each one with perfection.
We sat down at our table on main floor, and the punched out walls at our feet to the lower dining room was an interesting feature pulling the patio design inside. The place felt bigger than it was, and the booths looked roomy and romantic. I remember liking the chairs, and asking the manager, a well dressed gentleman, tall, balding, and handsome in his aubergine v-neck sweater fancy and Italian loafers, where they were bought. He wrote down the name of the designer, a local furniture maker in San Francisco. We ended up calling the guy a few days later and found out those same chairs were way over our decorating budget. I saw that as an affirmation of my good, and expensive, taste.
I always go for the gin based drink if I’m not specifically in the mood for something else. I had the Fruit Cup with gin, lemon, americano rosso and ginger. [I’m actually not sure if this is the same drink or if this is what Jonathan ordered, which I didn’t write down…oh well]
And then we ordered up a storm.
We had the Fried mussels with saffron aioli.
The smoked king salmon salad (kind of like a rillette) with celery and beets.
The lamb ciccioli with mustard. This ciccioli (which is typically made with pork) was made by compressing, drying, and aging fatty, leftover pieces of lamb. They compress the pieces, usually with a special press, while the meat is wrapped in a cloth used for curing meats. Over several weeks, they keep adding pressure and squeeze more and more until the excess liquid is removed. If you like liver, pate, and fatty meat, this was amazing.
We lightened things up with the raw albacore tuna with cucumbers, anise hyssop, avocado and beets. Delicious!
And had some of the best sardines we’ve had ever! At Bar Agricole, they serve the large sardines. The ones that they can butterfly and debone, before grilling them gently and serving them over some purslane, summer squash, preserved lemon and black olives.
We finished the meal and shared the Tokyo turnips with fried egg, chanterelle mushrooms, thyme, hazelnuts and parmesan.
And since they were out of the roasted duck with cavolo nero, flageolet beans and early girl tomatoes, they served us the same dish, only with rabbit instead of duck. The rabbit was soft and moist, and wrapped in the cavolo nero, which is a type of kale with dark, almost black, leaves.