I THINK IT'S FEAR that keeps me going out to gay bars—fear that I'll become one of those guys who says he doesn't really go out to gay bars. Those guys are usually a real pain. Those are the same kind of gay guys who say they don't watch much TV and talk about how their lives are fulfilled by yoga or deep contemplation or the rewards of great literature. But they're all emanating this desperate need to get nailed by someone dark and dense who wouldn't care to know Proust unless he had a trick hip and no gag reflex. So I go out just to say I've gone out.
Sunday evenings often rope me in, for some damn reason. It's the worst possible night to go out if you think about it logically—you have to work the next day, and so does anyone you're likely to meet—but, as my friend Sean puts it, Morning Guy can deal with logic later. Nighttime Guy has other concerns.
The Timberline (2015 Boren, 883-0242) is a good place to start because you can get there for its T-Dance any time after 4 p.m. You're not feeling revved up, but no one will notice you're not in top form yet—the warm, old lodge is too big to feel personal and threatening. I haven't been in since I witnessed a particularly unappetizing bout of lube wrestling (let's just say it's never Brad Pitt dripping with oil), but that was midweek, and Sundays are always prettier and, I don't know, I'm one of those boys always happy to hear "Xanadu," so sue me.
If I'm feeling generous, I'll head up the Hill to RPlace (619 E. Pine, 322-8828) to remind myself how terrifying the gay world can be. Oh, the place is fine, I guess—three floors of bad techno, strong drinks, and, hello, cute bartenders. Karaoke is lethal here. I thought karaoke was about being drunk and happy and blasting through "Forever in Blue Jeans." I was wrong. These boys are hauling out Whitney Houston artifacts as though they were the crown jewels, and performing as if StarSearch were not only still on the air but waiting in the room with a lucrative recording contract.
The Cuff (1533 13th, 323-1525) used to be my favorite destination—a gruff, kind of scrappy catchall for the gay scene—until it decided to expand and go all clubby on me and start referring to itself as the Complex. But I like to hit it with a bunch of friends and walk the Loop—past the front bar, down to the dance floor, out onto the patio, up the Dog Run, and back into the foyer, as it were—because there's always somebody cute. It's still the place you're going to run into every last one-night stand you never thought you'd see again. And it still has that etching of a naked, beefy stud pinned to the ground by an amorous lion—a piece of art that makes me tingly and forces me to question several deeply held personal beliefs.
Which leaves me at the Eagle (314 E. Pike, 621-7591), which is where I want to be left, when it comes right down to it. The Eagle is for men. There is beer in mason jars. There is smoke. There is raunch and kick-ass real music, and there is no place here for anyone who desperately needs a mirror. This means I can relax and not worry about whether or not I'd look good playing Frisbee on the lawn at Yale with five other guys in beige. But then, of course, I don't really go to gay bars.