Lesson number one: Not being gay does not protect you from being gay bashed and chased out of town by the children of Estacada.
Three years ago, a friend and I decided to kick off summer by driving out toward Mt. Hood National Forest and exploring some swimming holes along the Clackamas River—in particular, I had been told to stop at Carver Park, about 20 miles east of Portland, right where Hwy 224 and 211 split.
After swimming and downing a six-pack on the picnic benches, we drove to Estacada for a Chinese dinner. It was a mellow early summer night and we had no plans. At this point in the story, it is important to note that my friend was wearing a salmon (arguably pink) Izod shirt one size too small and that my toenails were painted bright blue and white. At the time, those fashion facts seemed inconsequential—however they took on epic proportions when we arrived in Estacada.
At dinner, we talked loudly, drank several more bottles of beer, and by the time we left, we were giddy. Wandering down Broadway, we noted there were sparkly pinwheels lining the main street. We grabbed a couple and wandered into a karaoke bar.
This is where our troubles truly began: The woman KJ refused to play "Turning Japanese" for me. Not to be denied, I simply sang acappella to the only people in the club: a half-dozen pre-teens.
When I stepped off the stage, we drifted out of the club and onto Main street. The tallest boy of the group followed us. Outside, he confronted me. "Are you gay?" he asked me pointblank.
Not missing a beat, I fired back: "Maybe."
He picked up a paper cup full of Pepsi and cocked his arm back like a baseball pitcher.
"You pussy," I taunted him. "You wouldn't dare." (Again, this is important: We sincerely thought it was all in good fun. Not necessarily a joke I understood, but I was playing along.)
Standing five feet away, he tossed the drink at me. I pivoted and it missed, splashing on the pavement.
"Fucking sissy," I laughed. At this point, things grew more tense. One of the smaller kids began punching at me. I figured he was playing, so I picked him up, slinging him over my shoulder like a horse blanket. In retrospect, that was probably not the smartest move, and for the growing crowd, it was the tipping point.
After setting him down, I heard the dull thud of a rock hit the pavement and bounce harmlessly onto my foot. A second later, another stone whizzed by my head.
"Fucking faggot," someone yelled from across the street. In the encroaching darkness, a few more kids had gathered along Main street. The woman KJ also had stepped out of the club and was standing with her arms crossed, looking at us sternly. The mood and streets were darkening.
My friend looked at me. "Dude, we need to go."
We tried to stride casually toward his truck, but soon broke into a full sprint, with the gang of rock-throwing children in hot pursuit. We peeled out of town—barely making our escape. For about 10 miles, neither of us said anything. Then, my friend turned to me: "Holy shit, did that just happen?"
For me, the moral was clear. Never request "Turning Japanese" in Estacada.