The following is a first-person dispatch from our stalwart, go-to bartender, Yuri Kagan, who’s been slinging drinks in the heart of the Castro shitshow in SF since 2005.
We all have seen or met a lurker, or at times even been a lurker ourselves. These men can be best observed in their natural habitat, hiding in the shadows much like a jaguar crouches in the shade of a banyan tree, waiting to pounce–or blackout, whichever comes first.
The 2 types of lurkers:
The Standard Alcoholic Lurker
This type can sit there for 8-10 hours at a time going unnoticed to the average bar-going-eye.
Identifying Features: Unassuming wardrobe — anything from Wal-Mart duds to to button-downs and loosened ties leftover from a long day at the office. Also: the capacity to put away gallons of alcohol in one sitting. I once saw an alcoholic lurker kill at least 10 cocktails on his own without leaving his perch in the dark corner of the bar. After sipping his last round, he didn’t stumble, trip or anything. Aside from the bad breath, one would never know he had been drinking. They sit, sip, wait, and move swiftly at any hint of attention or a warm body to feast upon.
Example Seen in the Wild: I often observed one particular alcoholic lurker who would perch himself at the very end of any bar he was at–both the one I work at and others in the ‘hood. He was a rather large, depressingly unattractive fellow. To paint the picture a bit better, he looked like a distorted the father from “Family Matters,” if he doubled in width. He could sit at the end of a bar for hours almost totally unnoticed, always arriving alone and *always* finding a way to leave with enough boys to make a priest jealous.
He would drink Courvoisier seemingly by the gallon–or he’d order a “Beautiful” which is Courvoisier with a touch of Grand Marnier. And somehow he would catch dudes of all walks–young jocks, twinks, average handsome joes–right before they were going to blackout. At this point, he would take out a few $100 dollar bills, set them on the bar and proceed to offer the guy and or his friends a round of topshelf shots. I would watch this gravy train unfold each and every time. Within an hour, these poor saps would be off with Mr. Lurker. Like the Hamburgler with a sack of burgers, he would leave with a car full of blacked out, hot, faggy boys, all saturatated with enough vodka they could probably start a fire with a burp.
The Post-Rehab Lurker
Identifying Features: generally found accompanied by countless empty Redbulls, drunk interchangeably with mineral waters. Often dressed inappropriately for his age, his freshly waxed, tanned, liver-spotted chest sticking out of an Abercrombie collar as if sobriety has made him believe he’s 25 again. These sober lurkers are especially dangerous to their prey because they have an edge: one word with them and they start to spin a rhetorical web around unsuspecting drunk boys that is nearly impossible to escape.
Example Seen in the Wild: When I first started working at the bar, I saw this cute little twink get ambushed for the first time. I watched in amazement. This kid was the “barely legal type,” just turned 21. After a few rounds, his friends grew tired of the mid-afternoon ghost town that Monday happy hours often become. Before I knew it, this kid was, more F-ed up than Courtney love at an open bar. Within seconds, like a vampire, the sober lurker had swooped in, gestured for another energy drink and then smiled at the boy, to which the kid responded with an innocent, “Hey.”
Moments after the shot, the sober lurker had the boy gathering his stuff as he offered him a ride home. Hand in hand, they where off.
Within the time that it takes for a martini to be made, the lurkers can incapacitate their prey, who are so wasted or lonely at that point in the night, they are ready to leave the bar with anyone.
I give you this guide to lurkers for several reasons: mainly, they always entertain me; also, this is a cautionary tale. They are all around us. Be aware of the what hides in the shadows when you are at your weakest, lest you wake up beside something you would have never looked twice, with a few extra dollars shoved in the pocket of your jeans.
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