It was October and we were celebrating my sister’s birthday on the swanky rooftop of a boutique hotel with some of the best views of the city. Afterward , we decided to take our party “down-to-earth” and opted to go back to the old neighborhood to have a nite-cap. None of us had been there before so what a surprise we had in store.
As we entered the corner tavern, the front area was pretty empty but for someone making tacos. Suddenly we were hungry. Before sitting down to eat though, we went to check out the situation in back where the norteña music was pumping. “Vamos a bailar!” someone shouted.
Men in cowboy boots and hats, button down non-flannel plaid shirts with piping (the kind you might wear with a bolo tie) and tight jeans lined the bar and dancefloor alongside curvy, long-haired beauties with short tight skirts or well fitted jeans and high, high heels. We were just a little out of place. Not because we weren’t beauties ourselves but the age of the crowd was at least 15 – 20 years younger. We weren’t exactly wearing our “clubbing” clothes either. And then my friend Anna spotted a guy she knew. “Oh my God, that’s a friend’s husband with another woman!”. We made our way back up to the quiet front and Anna told us the story about how she and her friend were no longer close due to a falling out about this known cheater. Apparently the husband must have spotted her too because before we knew it, shots of “please don’t tell my wife you saw me here” tequila were lined up in front of us. This was the alcohol equivalent to “hush money”. Later, more drinks were brought over by the owner who had never seen us before and wanted to make us feel welcome. We chatted for a while about his business and about our connection to the neighborhood. A regular who comes from tortilla-making royalty here and another patron who, for whatever reason, felt it necessary to let us know “if anyone bothers you, you tell me” also stopped by to chat.
I turned around as the door behind me opened and one by one, men in drag started coming up from the basement…… What the wha…?! Now this was totally unexpected. And I thought: maybe I’d had too much tequila. I mean I’ve been to drag shows so no big deal but …. here? In my old neighborhood? where guys were teased and bullied for even being slightly different than expectations. Here? In what seemed a testosterone driven, tequila fueled establishment? Not. in. a. million. years. And, as surreal as the night may have been at first, I smiled at the thought that my old neighborhood wasn’t so “old” and had maybe caught up? Afterall, the ladies were having good time putting on the show and the patrons were having a great time cheering them on. And, dancing too.