“Nice” is different than “Good”

Mother said, straight ahead, not to delay or be misled.
I should have heeded her advice, but he seemed so nice.

And he showed me things, very beautiful things
That I hadn’t thought to explore.

They were off my path so I never had dared
I had been so careful I never had cared.

And he made me feel excited…
well, excited and scared.

When he said “come in” with that sickening grin,
How could I know what was in store?

Once his teeth were bared, though, I really got scared…
Well, excited and scared.

But he drew me close and he swallowed me down, down a dark slimy path,
Where lie secrets that I never want to know.
And when everything familiar seemed to disappear forever
At the end of the path, was Granny once again.

So we wait in the dark until someone sets us free
And we’re brought into the light and we’re back at the start.

And I know things now,
Many valuable things
That I hadn’t known before.

Do not put your faith in a cape and a hood.
They will not protect you the way that they should.

And take extra care with strangers even flowers have their dangers
And though scary is exciting, “nice” is different than “good”.

Now I know, don’t be scared,
Granny is right, just be prepared.

Isn’t it nice to know a lot?

And a little bit not.

“I Know Things Now”…from Into the Woods, by Sondheim/Lapin

Skew, Skewer, Skewest

I didn’t mean to start this off glibly, but a) sometimes I can’t help it, and b) sometimes I can’t help it.

When I consider the people around me, past and present, as I embark on my 11th continuous year as a discrete San Franciscan, I wonder exactly how askew my own personal concept of status quo actually is.

And when you add in the very few ex-boyfriends I have had, well, maybe that cinches it: my worldview is simply fucked up.

We all have our own takes on reality, our own sets of expectations. Beginner’s Mind requires effort, and we don’t always bother to get There before every new situation. We have experiences, we have memories. We have reactions to both experiences and memories.

While experiences are often shared, there are always outliers. Situations or events or people that fall out of ±2 standard deviations from everyone else’s.

But what happens when you’re subjected to a veritable litany of outliers, relationships/people/expectations so extreme that they pull your center off kilter, skewed from those around you?

Longer-term San Franciscans, as a group, know what I’m talking about, as I’m sure New Yorkers do (though I can’t say personally).

Fine and dandy. But what about when it happens to yourself alone?

All the (however fluid) expectations and assumptions we make are all relative to our centers; when that center shifts, the assumptions go along with it.

I had a partner, once upon a time (and what time are we upon? —Witch Baby), and our relationship was closer to ideal than I should have had the right to expect. Intimacy was there, dark rooms of the heart suddenly well-lit, but almost none of that intimacy could be expressed in sex—his libido and his health were already waning to the point where that was not a bonafide option. But we found it aplenty in other ways until he passed away. And that was nearly eight years ago.

The next boyfriend, who appeared on the scene nearly three years past that, was intensely into me, physically, as I was to him. It turned out that a year and a half of usually spending 5-6 nights a week together was little more to him than a one-night-stand run on a tight loop over and over and over again (can you feeeeeel the denial, children!). No past, only present. No future.

And the one after that, who I was with for a year, was physically affectionate in public and in private (something the previous boyfriend never managed to do), but there was never any passion for me. Though there was passion from me, towards him, that cannot last when it’s unrequited.

So I got it right the first time, though (or because) it was under the duress of extraordinary illness.

Then I end up with a control freak who did and still does a surprisingly complete job of maintaining his Undocumented Life.

The last significant boyfriend? Well, he and I are now extraordinary friends, and thank the goddess for that.

I’d had the good sense—and the courage–to call it what it was, and change the configuration of our relationship accordingly. I think had I failed to do that, I’d be in one of those “open relationships” that are all the rage these days here in our little hamlet, married to a brother/best-friend and reserving sex as a thing you do with strangers-with-candy or people with whom there’s no chance of emotional accessibility.

Tidy.

There should be an amusement park attraction that mimics this hippity-hopping from one outlier to the next. Like any good ride, if it doesn’t make you puke, it’ll make you go ‘wheeeee!’ and ‘again, again!’.

When I go out to a bar or a potluck or go out dancing, I expect physical affection from most of my friends, those who have no interest in me romantically. And I expect, typically, to be propositioned only by marrieds for whom it’s “okay to play” (they rarely bother to ask if it’s ok with me that they’re married).

I expect that it’s no longer possible—or at least it’s highly improbable—to find a relationship where there’s affection, public and private, and passion and lust, and where energies are directed inward and towards each other, instead of spent outward and away in the quest to have as many meaningless orgasms as possible, where quantity and frequency are the metrics for our own worthiness.

Am I jaded? Post-ironic? Or just askew?

The 4th of July, the Twelfth of Never

Drunk, drunk I tell you!

Self-promotion. Giddy with it. Sloppy with it.

Marge, i’m soaking in it.

This blog thing. Damn. I just had to stop and point out what a trip it is.

Everyone has their “it’s all about me” moments/hours/days/lifetimes, but with a blog, you get to broadcast it.

Channel Biscuits, 24/7 and its sister station, Premium Piggy, pay-per-Pleasure (alliterations and consonances are free and copious).

But I’m worth it.

It was Ten Years ago Today…

This is an entry from ten years ago to the day, during my first waking hours as a new San Franciscan. I wrote it in (a more legible then) longhand-scrawl in a cheap, red spiral-bound notebook bought in Iowa, apparently, on the drive out here from Chicagoland. I wrote it at the Just for you Too cafe, a terrific place no longer there, alas. Forgive the schlock! and the exclamation points!!! Not surprisingly, however, the tenor of this entry, of my outlook on life and living here, has not dimmed over the last decade. I do so love this place.

7-1-93
9:45am

This morning I brushed my teeth from a gold-plated faucet and rinsed in a cheap wine glass (of all things).

A few minutes later, as I was beginning to despair of ever evidencing any of my new PC-dyke [as Rex called them at the time] neighbors: a sneeze! I looked out the window of the bedroom. Yup! Neighbor number 1.

As I walked outside—discovering that it was much warmer than my indoors would suggest—I wondered exactly what combination of wild-ass circumstances got me to this place, this neighborhood! Geraniums growing like rosebushes, rosebushes growing like trees! And impatiens like shrubbery! An iron railing (painted light-blue—where else but SF?) to the right, upon which a butterfly lights. A butterfly the likes of which have never been seen in the East.

In an alarmingly short jaunt over to Church & 30th to a totally primo breakfast café (now under new dyke management, as I just overhears—but still primo), the people the plants, the tiki-majesty of the J-Church, there’s nothing calculated, nothing planned, nothing in particular that would suggest—or rather, betray—that any of this was a set piece. Wow.

The huevos rancheros were excellent, but I suppose that Mickey D’s would’ve tasted great on my first meal as a San Franciscan.

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.]