Forty years ago we started living together on Fulton Street, and I thought you’d like to know that Toad Hall is back. The most popular gay bar in 1972 is no longer beneath the Victorian apartments on Castro Street; it’s around the corner on 18th where the Mistake used to be. It doesn’t have the solid front and thick oak door that your Toad Hall had. Today its glass fronted and people sit in the windows. The crowd I saw was about my age when I saw you behind the bar on that fated morning. You’ll think the new one’s too institutional. Castro Street looks much like it did with the theater still its centerpiece. Cliff’s is still there and now has two storefronts. The Nothing Special is gone and the bar up Castro Street and the Donut shop nearby are both gone. Moby Dick still serves customers and so does the Midnight Sun, but it’s on 18th Street now. You won’t recognize upper Market Street that languid stretch that welcomed everyone to Twin Peaks. The Ford dealer, three gas stations and a restaurant that had several names have been replaced with multi-story condo buildings, and Market Street now looks like a steel and concrete canyon. Beck’s Motor Lodge remains but now one needs a key to get into the hallways. What’s missing from all of it is the optimism and hope that permeated the air and the sea of happy faces the bounced around the street every day.
I think you’ll like Fulton Street. I made your office mine and kept it deep red. Our bedroom is the same with the sleigh bed and bureaus; yours is now empty. You wanted white cabinets when we redid the kitchen because you thought white would stave off disease, but the kitchen now has an added four feet that you knew as back porch and the cabinets are oak and the counter tops are granite. The kitchen was your spot, and what you will like is all the room to move around while you’re pulling together another one of your memorable feasts. And like with she did with you, Rochelle still shares cooking tips and recipes. I make all my meals at home and I am with you as I do.
Legally I could have kept the cabin you built in Annapolis, but Lee the grizzled curmudgeon who owns the land never liked me, and I didn’t want to have to deal with him. You will love the large mature garden that’s mostly drought tolerant plants at my second home in Sebastopol but it has room for you to do your magic. I don’t sleep on the deck as we did because the Sebastopol house unlike the house in Annapolis has heat and a/c and at this age I’m alone and like lying in bed watching TV. I saw you in a dream a month ago as I was trying to solve a problem. You said nothing but your presence helped. In another dream you sat next to me in a truck and I felt your body next to me I said, “I want to hold you because you aren’t going to be there long.” and touched you several times to make sure you were real. In my first dream we walked up the Castro Street hill and you stopped across the street from a large white Victorian. When you headed across the street and I knew I wasn’t going to see you again and made sure I knew what the building looked like so I could find it later. You walked up the path and when you entered the house young men in white towels walked past the door. You turned with a smile and waved.
You want me to be happy, so I’ll leave on that note. Today men can get married, and six years ago I met a married man and we had a torrid affair. I’ve ended the sexual part of it but he continues as my confident and best friend, so I am not alone. And I’ve always had you.
Michael was the day time bartender with regular customers he called the Breakfast Club at Toad Hall when I met him. He loved me unconditionally for eighteen years and succumbed to AIDS in 1994.