Gay! Gay! Gay!

Boy, what a fucking great day yesterday!

I started off waaaay overdressed in diesel jeans, a ripped thermal (“longjohns”) shirt, leather jacket and black feather boa (see “Gay for Pay”)…but it was dreary out..and i wasn’t at all confident that Mother Nature was still a dyke, still interested in working her meteorological magic. But she did!

The ever-miraculous FTP and I walked around together, just the two of us, for the first few hours before we met up with other folks, including FTP’s boyfriend who is also pretty damned cool.

Thankfully, FTP’s bf lives very close by, and i ended up ditching the shirt and the jacket, keeping the boa and buying myself a “HUMAN” (brand) fishing cap. Very stylin’.

After walking around the Festival for a few hours, we all headed to the Eagle, then to the Lonestar, then flipflopped back to the Eagle. Lots of beer, lots of great fun. Lots of celebratory joy bursting all over (get a mop!)

When i walked out of the Eagle around 22:00, i opened the glove box on the vespa

and here were the contents:

  • 1 black feather boa
  • 1 thermal shirt, ripped at the shoulder
  • 1 yellow plastic ball, left there for me by someone, who knows who
  • 1 nearly-see-thru jockstrap, a free gift for joining at email list at AllStarJock
  • 1 pair of snowboarding gloves, that double as cold-weather scootering gloves
  • 1 leather jacket

Well, ok, so the jacket and the shirt were tethered to the helmet lock and not exactly IN the glove box…but you know what I mean.

But I remember looking at all of it, there, with my light blue Vespa P200E parked alongside Harley Fatboys, 2-wheeled Winnebagos, and wondering how I got to where I was right in that moment, years of history rushing at me and coalescing into the motley rota above.

It reminded me that most often, rhyme and reason play no part in making us each who we are or where we’ve been?

How glorious life can be, sometimes, yes?

Gay for Pay

I started off my Pre-Pre-Pride festivities by meeting a bunch of folks at the Metro. We moseyed over to Daddy’s Bar where we had a little pizza & beer thingy in the back (Thanks FTP & David!).

At some point in the evening, still at Daddy’s, Absolut was giving out samples of their vanilla vodka, mixed with orange juice. Think Orange Julius or a Dreamsicle, but with that something extra that makes you forget you just had one, so you take another one from the tray going around. And another. And, oh, ok, just one more.

Then I found out that there were free muscle-T-shirts to be given away, if only you would take your shirt off, have a picture taken as a ‘before’ shot, then another picture after you put the Absolut shirt on. So, what the hell.

One of the Absolut boys was wearing what I thought was a just the one black feather (fake, of course) boa and I asked—ok, maybe begged—him to tell me how on earth I could get one of those things for myself.

He kissed me, smiled, and put one around my neck. Turns out he had a bunch of ‘em and was giving them away to guys with the Absolut shirts on already.

See? Whore.

It was stinking hot in the bar, so i ended up removing the tshirt, but keeping the boa on. By the time we all spilled out into the streets of Pink Saturday, I had the boa tied around my waist, still shirtless tho.

All in all, it was an Absolut(e) Blast!

Myth & Governance

“Radicals always see things in terms that are too simple—black and white, good and evil, them and us. By addressing complex matters in that way, they rip open a passage for chaos.” — Frank Herbert

Well, there goes half the readership, heh?

But chaos is not necessarily a bad thing, is it? ACT/UP founders will agree, since chaos was their organizing principle. As for HRC and GLAAD, well, they used to acknowledge the benefits of some well-directed chaos, but that was before they became entren—established.

The presence of radicals is an ironically-eternal thing, so it seems. Radicals are always vilified by some, always praised by some, always recognized by everyone. But when radicals become somehow the norm, are they still radical? If a radical fell in the forest, would s/he make a protest?

While the presence of radicals in society—indeed, the need for them—is a given, what happens when radicals become common instead of rare?

“Sign O’ the Times, mess with your mind”, as Prince once sang. The sign of the times is Time. Or rather, Timespans..

Our lives, for many of us, have become pearls of moments, lined up and not even strung together. Paul Bowles, famous writer/composer/novelist, once posited that we are all spheres, touching only at the smallest point possible, no overlap.

What a dreary man! And presumptive. His personal experiences do not necessarily scale well to all humanity, and therein lies his flaw, my flaw, our flaw: we presume that our experiences are of similar caliber and magnitude to the Possible. Or at least the Probable.

Our universes collapse to the Known. Like some sad, silly Star Trek episode, the collapse can become literal. We become colloquial, provincial and parochial. All of us San Franciscans suffer a signficant dose of this with respect to The City (See what I mean?), but even that’s not particular enough for many of us. The Castro. The Bars. The Scene.

We also rein in Time. Our lifespan, this decade, this year, all the way down to our favorite view of time: the Eternal Now.

So there we have it: Right Now, In The Scene. The right-sized pond where we can be the right-sized fish. The Moment.

Such a posture does have its advantages. The Moment is where the magic happens, where the dream of being alive gets dreamt. The Moment is limitless, because there is no Later. The Moment cannot be bothered with After because Time was not invited to the circuit party. The tediousness of the cause-and-effect world is avoided—and there’s reason enough to have a Moment, yes?

Whither downsides? Do we speak of them? Often not, but this is a consequence (there, I said it) of no practice with cause-and-effect.

Accomplishment. What can we possibly build when we must discard one Moment in order to live another Moment? Building. What can we rely on when we fail to build anything at all? Reliance. What kinds of friendships can exist if we cannot rely on anyone? Friendship. Can we have community if our friendships are merely acquaintances? Community. How can we agree about the world without it? Agreement. Where is our sense of place if there is no shared context? Sense of Place. Time is a place, too.

Time. There’s really no escaping it, is there? Perhaps, though, there is value in Continuity. Sense of Place. Agreement. Community. Friendship. Reliance. Building.

Accomplishment.

For the Moment-surfers, Time spent out of the Moment is time spent looking for the next Moment; little else happens except to support the dreaming, to spark the magic.

This is how we often define freedom: the right to be a Moment-seeker. We play by the rules of Pursuit. The rules of the Individual. We value Self above all. Inalienable rights, and all that dogmatic bluster.

Not the fault of our Founders, really. Did they know we’d take this individuality business and run with it? Probably they considered the Pursuit of Happiness only to be a good start.

Arguably, it’s the only start upon which can be built a mythology the scope of AmericaOneNationUnderGod. Certainly they never believed that such a powerhouse of an idea could be realized within their lifetimes, but they started well. Most importantly, they reserved the right to change their minds if times demanded it.

But do we maintain—and exercise—the right to change our minds? Too often, who we are is defined by what we do. (Enter Radicals—stage Left) So, of course, change abrades our sense of self.

The Founders were myth-makers in the sense that they created new truths. Their mistake was encoding these new truths in a constitution. And so America, The Concept survives, but as an ossified document, a parchment banner under which sins of letter undermine ideals of spirit.

Where are our new truths? Myth-making is serious business. It is the weaving of individual dreams into a conspiracy that makes its own reality. It is about heading off into new territories, not disputing existing ones. Art is not about coloring between the lines or drawing the turkey with your hand.

“Subvert the Dominant Paradigm”, the Radical bumper-sticker reads. But what happens when the chasing dog catches up to the bumper? Does it know what to do with the car once it catches it?

Shouldn’t we adopt the longer-term view? Things that occur in timespans considered short by mammals do not scale well to grander schemes, yet we rely on short term solutions to shape our supposed big picture goals.

So I say we begin with our hallowed Eternal Now. We too have started well, but we must find the confidence to change our minds and still preserve our sense of self while avoiding the entrenched dogma of codified forms.

And we must remember our Moments so they don’t escape us unexploited.

“ …Government is a shared myth. When the myth dies, the government dies.” — Frank Herbert

[An abridged version of this article appeared as an op-ed piece in FrontiersSF approximately one year ago.]

America Exfoliates: Day 2

Finally!

America occasionally looks at herself in the mirror and realizes she needs to spend more some time on a skin regimen for her face.

Yesterday, she scrubbed off some old dead skin using a Liberal amount of exfoliant, recommended by 6 out of 9 beauty professionals.

The other three had other recommendations, but all of their suggestions used outmoded animal (“that’s what god put ‘em here for, for us to use!”) testing. So, no surprise there.

Looking all fresh and pretty and anew, self-esteem gained, she also finally ditched an old coot of a boyfriend, Strom Thurmond, who surely will not be missed, and who is likely already legislating in Satan’s Senate.

Though the heat may prove to be a distraction, surely Strom will remember to step close to the mic, and speak into the machine.

That Which Endures…

The Enduring and the Mad.

The two are about as mutually exclusive a pair as I think I’ve ever drawn. Their exclusivity does not occur at person-boundaries, necessarily, where the Insane can never produce or participate in the Enduring and the Enduring never go mad, for one individual can compass either side at any given time.

Pick a point in Time. Cast thoughts forward, then backward. And ask yourself: Do I still endure in the Now? Is all I have a perpetual Now?

I have mentioned here before the difficulties my family is suffering, entirely due to the fallout over the dissolution of my brother’s marriage.

Before I made the trip back to PA for this visit, Insanity would have been the word that I would have chosen, were I forced to choose only one, to describe the entire situation.

And now? Well, insanity continues to impel the situation further into the deep-dark, with throttling and carburation provided by lawyers who excel at alchemizing hurt into hatred, hatred into billable hours, and billable hours into an attack on the wallet.

However, it’s the sheer breadth and depth of the vituperation that shines a rather unflattering light on those of us in the family who are not my older brother and not my sister-“god won’t someone take that Damocles-sword away from that bitch already”-in-law. It’s our collective Denial that stands in a proscenium arch and under a hot spotlight for all of us to see.

Denial, in the sense that we all along knew that demonstrating the good in the world was not the same thing as addressing and repairing the bad. Denial, in the sense that the one-way flow of goods, services, cash, affection and love would not and could not ever produce anything but a Policy of Appeasement. Denial, in the sense that Keeping the Peace is not tantamount to Harmony.

That Which Endures is something my family excels at producing, at maintaining, at enriching, at extending. What we seem to be wanting for is recognizing when something doesn’t take. We all, individually (much to my personal consternation) and collectively are rank amateurs when it comes to recognizing Endings.

“Stick a fork in it, it’s done”? Oh, hell no. More like “don’t stick a fork in it, the meal may yet be salvageable”

So here we all are, scorched and feeling irretrievable.

Above, I mention my personal consternation: the pattern I can so easily see in my family’s current situation, I recognized in myself and my behavior in relationships in my past.

Always afraid to call it done. Always believing that by injecting more and more good will into the relationship without the boyfriend doing the same, it will suddenly, magically inflate to be a healthy, loving and most importantly, self-sustaining marriage where commitment to and investment in it by both parties is simply, categorically, a Given.

Wow.

Instead, the giver becomes the Giver. And the other, becomes the Taker, the emotional vampire who sucks every bit of free-energy good-will out of the system, hoarding it for himself as if it’s something you can store away for a rainy day.

And when such a relationship ends? Well, from the outside, it seems that the injured party completely flips things around, making statements that the rest of us look at and wonder why that person ever bothered to stay in the relationship, ever got involved in the first place. Ever, ever, ever. Speaking in Absolutes is the only language mode that makes sense to the speaker.

If the injured party is the Giver, bewilderment rules for a very long time. “But I did all these things!” “And he never…” “And you’d think after all that I did…”

If the injured party is the Taker, rage and fury and madness rule. “He abandoned me!” “He’s a dirt bag!” “He should suffer like I am suffering!”

My family is bewildered.

My brother’s unfortunately-still-wife is a whirlwind of rage at her core, a funnel cloud that collects anything and everything, anyone and everyone in her path, hurling bodily whatever invective suits her into the world around her. It’s all horseshoes and hand-grenades: close is good enough to create sufficient damage. It’s a mindset that seems to believe there is No Happiness to be had, only the relative Unhappiness of others.

But in the end, I believe, it’s the Givers who have built the Enduring around them, that when the Denial and Disbelief turn to Disapprobation, we’re left with, for the most part, our intactitude. That which did not remain whole is cleared away, cleaned up, and the detritus becomes raw materials for a new artifact of masonry, one which will endure.

And the Takers? When the yawning internal chasm, no longer fed by the Givers, stares back at the Taker, drinking in all light, sound, energy and giving nothing back, the Madness sets in. Rage and anger and injurious behavior are products of the madness, as if the Taker must minimize the dependency that used to be, in order to feel Independent and Right.

But eventually, inevitably, the hunt for yet another Giver begins.

I Heart New York

Oh my god, I finally met Walt!!!

My daytrip adventure to New York via busride from Wilkes-Barre, PA, was for the sole purpose of meeting this man, finally.

I say “finally”, and yet it has been only a month since I even started chatting with him, then blogging (due in no small part to his encouragement and to inspiration from reading his own blog).

At one point during dinner, he gave form to thoughts that had been swimming around in my big-round-charlie-brown-head since very shortly after meeting him: “if you lived here, we’d hang out, i’m sure of it.”

Me too, Walt, me too.

While I stand by my words about the energy one must put out just to maintain one’s sense of self in New York, I should add that when you’re not by yourself, when you’re in the company of such a genuinely lovely (and damn fine looking) human being like him, an exquisite contrast appears between the With-Out and the Within. A small bubble of quietude is carved out and away from blinding light and deafening noise.

Rita’s cafe, where we went for coffee after dinner, is a terrific place to just be. To stop, or at least to slow down enough to breathe, to think, to feel and most importantly, to enjoy the presence of a friend. New friend or otherwise, doesn’t matter.

It’s always a chance you take when you meet someone in person for the first time, regardless of the circumstances that led to the meeting in the first place. But that’s what makes it an adventure, isn’t it? Risk?

Now, to read Walt’s writing, to absorb the soft and fluid line-betweens of his words, you just know it’s going to be at least an enriching and valuable experience to meet the man behind it all.

But today was more than that. He is charming, engaging, handome, effusive, catty, sweet, observant, wry, genuine. All those things and more.

What a GREAT day.

Did I mention that I met Walt today?

Ivan meets G.I. Joe

What’s a godless, earthy-nutty-crunchy pinko commie San Franciscan supposed to do in the city-to-end-all-cities, the City of New York?

Why, anything at all, really. That’s the point of New York, from a certain angle.

Bluster aside, I am at a bit of a loss: it has been a very very long time since I have been a stranger in any city.

I don’t count Amsterdam, back in August, 1999. That was a strangely familiar place, even though it was the first time I had ever been there [in this lifetime, anyway. —Eds] See what I mean? Northern California freak, here. At your service.

And I don’t count the half of day spent in London on that same trip. After spending a slow-paced, get-to-know-it-well bicycling trip with a completely unimaginative, culturally xenophobic boyfriend, riding about atop a tourist bus with a droning British voice playing through headphones hardly counts as a real visit there.

No, the last time I was a stranger in any city was when I first moved to Chicago(land) back in June, 1992.

Oh, I have been to NYC before, but not in forever (since before Chicago, anyhow), and then only to certain specific places (Central Park South, Times Sq, Macy’s, etc.).

I have had several hours to myself here, arriving from Wilkes-Barre by bus at 1pm (an under-three-hour trip), spent mostly walking about. From Port Authority (40th & 9th Ave), up to 42nd Street/Times Squre—when the fuck did 42nd Street turn into a scene from Bladerunner?—over to 5th Ave, then up to 59th & Central Park South. Not a bad hike.

From there, back to 6th Ave, down to Rockefeller Plaza (6th Ave & 51st, approx). Back to 5th Ave, down about 6 blocks before I caught a taxi down to Union Sq (17th & Broadway), where I’m to meet up with someone.

Once down here, I walked down to about 9th St, across to 4th Ave, and back up here to 17th & Broadway.

Lots of walking, lots of things to observe wryly, enviously, perplexedly, nostalgically, judgingly, humbly, profoundly, superiorly.

We San Franciscans pride ourselves on our diversity, but overall, perhaps out of my own personal familiarity there, it seems to have a theme to it, or at least a harmony. Yes, better word, harmony.

Here, it’s a jumble. Strange and wonderful and silly juxtapositions of things.

The parks here (“squares” to follow the vernacular) seem to show prejudice towards the pigeons, the larger areas of lawn and vegetation fenced off from humans.

Walking around today, by myself, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Our fair and lovely and dreamy and magical hamlet could not sustain even the simple pace of pedestrians, taxis, other traffic that New York seems to thrive on. My biogeek side sees the streets as capillaries, the movement as red blood cells cram-jamming their way through ever-narrowing pathways.

There is so much here—and again, I’ll chalk it up to my lack of familiarity with this city—that I find myself taking a big picture view, a map view if you will, and then zooming down into specific neighborhoods to find what I’m looking for. Then back out to do it all over again.

After nearly 10 years in San Francisco, on the other hand, I am more familar with the paths from one section to another, one neighborhood to another, than I am with looking at a map of the City. I am, to this day, continually surprised that Glen Park is so close to Old Miraloma, for example. To me it’s still a longish drive around the base of Mt Davidson.

In a sense, heading out into the streets of New York reminds me of jumping out onto the rollerskating rink in 7th grade, when I was just getting my legs for it: you must take a leap, and, apprehension notwithstanding, it’s better to match the pace out there as quickly as possible.

New York is not for the timid just as San Francisco is not for the rigid.

I don’t mean to say that New York is scary. Just like any other place, it certainly can be, but that’s not my point here. Instead, I mean to say that it’s daunting. The sound, the color, the intensity, the lack of immediate congruity, the size, the depths. But mostly, it’s the aura. I’m in FUCKING NEW YORK CITY. THE New York City.

Accepting—and bearing—that you’re at the swirling vortex at the center of the overarching bulk of Western Civilization is not for the faint of heart. You can get pulled under and want to escape it if you’re not projecting your own gravity well, your own presence in the face of all that other presence.

It would be easy to lose one’s self here, become mere chips in the flood, bits of flotsam that end up on some alien shore with no remembrance of how to get back.

You can lose yourself in San Francisco, but that’s more of a blending action; instead of chips in the torrent, your own special colors bleed into the shiny sparkle deep green sea. For many there it’s just as difficult to get back to who you were, but honestly? I don’t know of many San Franciscans who long for that.

A sustained presence as a quotidian New Yorker is like forever-cardio: it’s work, but you know that you’ll be fitter, in better shape, for all the effort.

And from my own personal experience with New Yorkers, I wouldn’t fuck with that.

Touching, Inappropriately

You go through an hour, an afternoon, a day, a week—longer than that?—without a tenderness, without the touch of a hand on your face, a hand in yours, without a simple physical connection that ties you to other human beings.

You wonder why someone doesn’t reach out to you, but you can’t bring yourself to do the reaching.

You get used to a tacit score being kept, where in order to avoid being thought of as the sappy one, the pushover, the bottom, you remember to balance it with a correct distance, an occasional coldness, a required formality.

An overall chill takes over—when you have to remember boundaries, when you have to reign it in, when you find yourself acting contrary to what you’re feeling—when you have to be that conscious, that calculating.

You dislike yourself for it, and you kick yourself in the ass for not being more of a stand-up guy in your behavior, and that just serves the distance instead of shortening it: abnegation as a first-order approximation.

Moments of daylight sneak through, though, from people who either don’t notice or don’t care that you’re working to stand apart. Family, friends, friends who are so close for so long they are family.

A hug is upon you before you know it; a kiss on the cheek, a welcome, a smile.

That little scrap of emotional daylight melts the protective ice cap just a bit. The Now transcends the Past, the Past where that controlfreakanalretentiveadultchildofanalcoholicpassiveaggressive- commitmentphobicnamethatdysfunction boyfriendgirlfriendtouchfriend neverandforeverwhatever forced you to into your own private ice age as a means of self-preservation.

None of it is quite enough to thaw yourself completely, but when the cold-dark lights up in flashes, you can glimpse the exits.

All that’s left is deciding to decide to walk through the dark, feeling your way, being bumped and bruised, each time cursing the putzes that sent you into the black-dark.

Oh, and hoping for more glimpses on your way towards the sunshine.

Gods Below! I’m in a Star Trek Episode!

I am now sitting at a “coffee house” in the center of the Wyoming Valley Mall, Wilkes-Barre, PA, the Cafe Europa, it’s called.

To be “up the mall” (as it is spoken here) on a Friday, late morning, is to see how little has changed from what I remember, from how it was 20+ years ago when I would frequent the only place around that we kids could expect to just run into other friends. Spontaneity as a good, fun, safe buzz.

Oh, the stores are somewhat different, but the pillar stores remain in place. That Orange Julius at the corner near the Sears, the pizza joint advertising prices per “pie”, and how many “cuts” in a “pie”. Yes, pizzas have always been pies here, and slices are cuts.

And here, every question is asked with a certain timorous quality, shored up at the end with an “er no?”just to cover one’s bases, take less of a risk in offering one’s opinion. “Looks like it’s going to rain today? Er no?” “Goin’ up the mall today? Er no?”

The feet carry me on what seems to be a predesignated course. The store that used to be Pomeroy’s had become The Bon Ton long ago, but after I left, so I had no right to simply turn a corner and expect the men’s department to be in the same place. But it was!

LIttle stoppers like that often make me forget, for moment, when I am. And then A Long December by the Counting Crows plays in the background and I am shaken out of the temporal vertigo.

Ahh, but I do have my backpack with me, a gift for attending the 2001 Apple World-Wide Developer Conference (2002’s WWDC pack was not to my tastes). My trusty iBook is in it, along with my entire anti-boredom arsenal. I go almost nowhere without it. Back when Golds Gym in San Francisco had wireless internet, I even took my iBook there. It is my soul/dream/thought-catcher, and the ether has already claimed too many “brilliant’ fleeting thoughts as it is.

The backpack is the thing that grounds me in the present time. There was no such thing as a PowerBook back then. Not even a Macintosh at all! (perish the thought!) There was no iPod. No books about Cocoa. No Francesca Lia Block writing miracles of fiction, no FireWire cables. No cell phones.

While walking through a Kauffman’s department store, looking in vain for a swimsuit that’s any smaller than tent, that shows even the slightest hint of thigh, it occurred to me that I had my iBook against my back. And that strapped into my WWDC black backpack, I had on a sort of encounter-suit, replete with magnetic boots, breathable atmosphere and able to withstand alien pressures.

I laughed out loud then, garnering stares from retail folks—all straight!—and other customers for the spurious noise.

There are no friends of Dorothy here, by the way, but there are friends of A & F. That seems to have replaced a secret handshake. Oooooh, just wait until all the straight boys who “accidentally” tripped into A & F clothing discover what it all means.

And why am I even here, “up the mall”? Well, my folks are playing in a golf tournament today and I have their car. I’ve been driving around at random, seeing what seeing will bring in terms of memories. It was interesting.

I found myself “up the mall” to look for said swimsuit (Strike 1), and for a Pink Martini CD (two completely separate references within days of one another, to a band I had heretofore never heard of, compels me to buy it) Strike 2—I’ll have to wait until I get to NYC on Tuesday (a daytrip!) to pick it up, I guess.

I’m still not sure if there is a Strike 3 today, yet, though I’m seriously considering nominating the lack of soy milk at Cafe Europa.