San Francisco, July 1995
It was my first night out by myself since I'd moved to San Francisco to be with Mark, a month earlier. I bounced around the Castro a bit, dropping in at The Midnight Special, Badlands and Detour, before heading over to The Jackhammer, which was somewhat on the outer edge of the Castro, at 16th Street and Sanchez.
The Jackhammer was packed as usual, even on a Wednesday night. It was Mark's favorite bar, he was friends with most of the staff, and had taken me there several times already during my first month in The City. I sat at the bar for an hour or so, and chatted with the bartender until he gave last call at 1:30AM. San Francisco, for all its gay fame, is still an early town.
From Jackhammer, I headed south on Sanchez Street, intended to turn right on 18th and suffer up that hill to Corbett Street, where we lived. I had gotten about a block and half from the door of the bar, when I noticed two very large men cross over from the east side of Sanchez seemingly on an intercept course with me, on the west side.
The street was rather poorly lit, I could see the men in silhouette only. My first thought was to turn around and head back for the safety of the bar. My second thought was to walk out into the middle of the street, where the light was brighter. Unfortunately, I also had a third thought flash into my mind.
"This is THE CASTRO. I am safe. This faggot ain't gonna turn tail and run, not this time, not now that I'm finally on home turf."
I was just processing how satisfied my third thought made me feel, as the men passed me on the shadowy sidewalk, when that thought was literally knocked out of my head by the fist of the closest man.
"Give it up, nigger! Give it up! We will FUCK YOU UP, nigger!"
The man speaking was brandishing a shiny silver handgun, with an impossibly long barrel. Later, it would occur to me that his gun looked like the type a circus clown might use, the kind that shoots out a flag that says "Bang!" I was dizzy from the blow to my temple and I staggered a bit as I jammed my hands down into both my front pockets, from which I produced all their contents and held them out. I never carry a wallet when I go to bars, usually just a small cardholder for my ID, and ATM card and some cash.
The second guy grabbed everything from both of my hands, then pulled something out his pocket and pointed it at me. Mace. Instinctively, I closed my eyes and jerked my head back and I felt the liquid hit the base of my neck, but none got in my eyes, mouth or nose. A moment later, I reopened my eyes and my two assailants were already retreating, back the way they came, not hurrying at all.