I Quit

Work has been pretty exhausting, and my weekend started with an eleven hour sleep marathon last night. Serving the corporate clones is starting to drive me insane; one more run-in with a condescending stockbroker or lawyer is going to send me over the edge and it’ll be yuppie-kebobs for lunch. This week a customer threatened to sue us because he had to wait more than 2 minutes to pay. Another sleazoid got pissed because we wouldn’t spend fifteen bucks to messenger her ten dollar order to her. It’s a truly frightening thing that these stressed-out corporate stooges are pretty much in control of the country. Fortunately, I’m starting to have some nibbles on the new job search.

OK…enough on crappy customers. The purpose of this rant is to announce that after seven years and two months in my current job, I gave notice today. Granted, it was a long notice — over two months. And no, I don’t have another job lined up as yet. But there sometimes comes a point when you gotta get out, and that time has arrived for me. I really hate that I’ll no longer be seeing a group of people I really love on a daily basis; the people I work with are the absolute best. Hell, I even like my boss (imagine that…)

This is kinda big news; I have this tremendous fear of being unemployed and I’ve only had two full-time jobs in all of my adult life (I tend to hang on along time…) I think the company will survive without me and I’m pretty sure I’ll survive without the company. At any rate, I’ve developed a certain inner peace which is quite pleasing for me right now!

If you’re in need of a pretty nice guy who writes decent HTML and does OK with English too, let me know. I’m available soon.

I Hate My Job

Over seven years ago, I began my current career in cutomer service management (which followed my previous four-year career in customer service management). Things have gotten steadily worse over the years, especially now that I work in an atmosphere which caters to Financial District corporate slime.

I don’t understand these people. I don’t speak their language. I do not share their priorities. It has always been my belief that you get better results by being nice to people than by throwing attitude from your first encounter. I am completely unwilling to go out of my way for customers who are condescending and rude from the minute they walk in the door. Unfortunately, coprorate culture — especially in large cities — seems to have brainwashed its clones into beleiveing that rudeness is perveived as an efficient, assertive, and businesslike attitude. Rudeness gets results! Yeah, right…

Some recent highlights in my career: I’ve been called stupid by a for not having the psychic powers to decipher an order messengered to me with no instructions, told I was full of shit for following federal law, called sexist for waiting on a man who was in line in front of a woman, called racist for asking a gentleman who was not a customer but had been using the phone for an hour to let actual paying customers use it, and told to “fuck off” for not dropping all pending business to do the impossible immediately for a stockbroker swine.

Today, a woman threatened to sue me. This has happened before, when a job was not comlpleted on time for example. Lawyer-swine love to threaten “lowly” service employees with litigation, assuming we’re too damn stupid to know that (a) they have no case, and (b) our corporate lawyers can most likely kick their asses. This woman, however, threatened to sue me because I told her I’d call the police if she didn’t get out of my store and stop poking me in the face. Yuppies hate it when you remind them they’re breaking the law by physically assaulting you.

Visit from Duncan

 

No sooner do I return from Minneapolis and points midwest than I am treated to a visit from one of my oldest friends and closest soulmates (i.e. we laugh at the same stupid stuff and fibish each other’s sarcastic and ironic sentences…). I’ve known Duncan since we were idealistic young radio gods at WUAG in Greensboro, and we presided as Program Director (Duncan) and Music Director (me) during what some people — especially us — refer to as the “golden age” of the station. Duncan and Jeff (who visited earlier this summer) are just about the only two friends with whom I’ve kept in touch in uninterrupted fashion since 1982.

An expiring frequent flier ticket at an opportune moment brought Duncan to Planet SOMA for the first time. I learned of this visit while checking e-mail in Minneapolis. It made for a good end to a haevy tourist season; seems all my long lost friends decided this was the time to visit the City.

Duncan arrived midday on Wednesday, just as I was in the midst of my “I’m back from my vacation and I’m now sick” moments, as well as my “I’m back from my vacation and I hate my job more than ever” moment. I fear this kept my energy level down and I hope that I still managed to be an effective civic booster. Unfortunately, my web energy level was down too, having just completed the Minneapolis pages. But here goes:

Some highlights:

  • We ate well, with excursions to Tad’s Steaks, Welcome Home, the Palace, the Tonga Room (with mutual pal Mark), Ma Ma Wa, and (of course) Jack in the Box.
  • A few romps through the Planet SOMA hotspots, including Hole in the Wall, My Place, Sissybar at the Powerhouse, Tops and Bottoms at the Stud, and a rare visit to the Castro by your host. Duncan’s comment about My Place: “there are lots of attractive unemployed men there in the afternoon”.
  • The “Full House” tour of postcard row (pictured below).
  • The obligatory visit to the Marin Headlands and views of the Golden Gate Bridge (also pictured below).
  • Duncan’s trip — with Dan — to places where they keep all the nature. I don’t know the way to these places.
  • The circular escalators at San Francisco Centre, a strange fight on Muni at Castro Street Station, the traffic system at KRON-TV, Brainwash, lotsa pinball, and the dang cable cars.
  • Maybe the best part: taking transit all the way to San Bruno in desperate need of a Sears, and running into my landlords as we pondered how to get back. We came back in the back of their truck, very cold and very illegal in California. Of course, my landlord is a cop, so he wasn’t tremendously worried about a ticket…

I’m not sure Duncan was completely infected with my love of the City, but I get the feeling he was pretty fond of it. The neighborhood bars seem to be in a major state of tediousness, which several friends have confirmed is not just my opinion. But I gotta say that Planet SOMA in its worst periods is better than most places at their best. I think it was a good trip; I enjoyed it at least, which is after all the most important part. It was good to see Duncan; I have this plan to expose all my best friends to San Francisco and then have them move here. It’ll save me a fortune on vacations.

Anti-Gay

“Why (is) being gay like being a member of a religious cult, except not so open-minded?”

This note on the inside cover was almost enough in itself to make me buy this book. It’s rare that I run into a book that I want to make everyone read — rarer still that it should be of the “queer theory” variety. And it’s down right unlikely that a book like this should appear to me by accident right when I’m most looking for it. But here it is: “Anti-Gay”, a collection of essays edited by Mark Simpson (Freedom Editions, UK, 1996; ISBN 0-304-33144-9) gave me shivers, and had that rare quality of saying very coherently too many things I’ve been thinking of late. Ten thought-provoking essays for only $16.95.

A basis premise is that so-called “gay culture” in the 1990’s has become a bland mishmash of upper middle class stereotypes perpetuated by the commercial media (The Advocate, Out, Genre, etc.). Queers have been fed so much commercialized “pride” imagery and “gay is good” dogma that we have settled for a homogenized culture of mediocrity. We have, it is suggested, been far too willing to judge music, art, and culture more on the basis of its gay statement or context than by its actual artistic or cultural merits in a larger sense. Hence, we accept the one-sided and limited perspective of the Advocate as good news reporting, claim that the music of the Pet Shop Boys and Erasure is the fullest expression of our culture, and truly believe that films like “Longtime Companion” are great art, simply because they have a “pro-gay” perspective.

Obviously, there’s more (or I wouldn’t be so excited…) The essayists take on many aspects of the dogma that queers have been force-fed in the post-Stonewall era and dare to suggest that all things gay are NOT inherently good. A running theme is that by assuming that as “liberated gay individuals”, we allow ourselves to believe that all evil which befalls our community is due to external forces. We thus become unable to accept any responsibility for our own actions.

And even “community” is a misleading term. What about those a who do not fit the “majority” image of settled middle-class homeowners driven by consumer culture? What about punks, street people, low-paid service workers, closeted individuals living in North Dakota, etc.? Not everyone is willing to be drawn into the “one world culture” of Genre Magazine, with its gym memberships, Macy’s charge cards, drug-driven dance clubs, and freedom rings. In order to make gay people more palatable to the conservative majority, we have marginalized anyone who doen’t “fit” comfortably.

I really liked this book; it makes points which too many queers have been afraid to make in recent years. People will read these essays and be extrememly pissed off. I have my disagreements with certain of the pronouncements, but the whole point is disagreement and the promotion of discourse, as well as the challenging of 90’s “gayspeak”. “Anti-Gay” most definitely succeeds.

Some Excerpts:

Mark Simpson:

As a measure of how successful and how popular gay is, every year the parades get bigger, the floats fluffier, and the male strippers beefier and oilier. In case we don’t notice this, the gay press carefully points this out — along with the cast-iron prediction that this year the parade will be so big, fluffy, and oily that the straights won’t be able to ignore it, like they somehow managed to last year…But perhaps the most encouraging thing about the rising attendance figures is that they bring ever closer the realization of the greatest gay dream of all: to turn the whole world into a gay disco!

…And what better image of freedom and love could there be than the gay disco? With just a teensy-weensy bit of help from mind-altering substances, the gay disco is the place where you can experience the most intense sense of well-being, belonging and happiness, not to mention some really interesting conversations about life, the universe and how difficult it is to get hold of good shit these days and how the tab you took last week turned the whites of your eyes yellow.

In the gay world, everything is reassuringly similar wherever you go. Gays are better at franchising than McDonald’s. Just in case you should feel homesick when traveling abroad or just around town, gay bars and clubs around the globe are plying the same music and the patrons are wearing the same jeans, haircuts, and even facial expressions…And wherever you go you can pick up a gay publication which is full of pictures of other people just like you and exiting information on just how many people there are just like you out there and how you can meet them. Once you’re out you need never be troubled by pesky old difference again.

John Weir:

The entire gay male community seems at times to be colluding against the possibility of independent thinking. The gay rights movement, too often, is focused on theatrics rather than discourse: we want to be entertained and flattered, not criticized. As a group, self-identified gay men are especially resistant to thinking about issues of class and race, and they steadfastly deny their sexism. The irony of gay liberation is that it has made room in the mainstream only for those white men who are already privileged, and disinclined to share their wealth.

Effectively, there is currently no more identifiable type than the self-identified, politically active, sexually predatory gay American man, the kind of gut who wants, not equality for everyone, but entitlement for himself. And big pecs. If gay men ruled the world, there would be tax credits for joining a gym. this was abundantly clear to me at the New York Stonewall 25 celebration…It was a week-long festival of pod people twirling their multi-colored freedom rings. there were so many hairless young men in nipple-hugging white T-shirts wandering the streets, that I began to wish it was 1969 again and the paddy wagons would come and take them all away.

Peter Tatchell:

Moderate accommodationist gay rights politics is, ironically, solely concerned with winning rights for homosexuals. It offers nothing to heterosexual people. Whereas strident, anti-assimilationist queer activists seek the extension of sexual freedom in ways that ultimately benefit everyone. The radical queer activists who are so often derided as separatists are, on the contrary, the proponents of a form of sexual liberation that is, in the end, more in tune with the common interests of gays, straights, and bisexuals than any purely gay rights agenda could ever be.

Lisa Power:

To put it plainly, I am sick of lesbian and gay people, especially those involved in political or social activism, who act as a photographic negative of the heterosexual society from which they have escaped and who do not adhere to the rigid sexual boundaries and rules they, in turn, prescribe. I am sick of seeing honesty punished and repression rewarded. I am sick of seeing people who feel forced to censor themselves or to live in two separate worlds. I am sick of seeing people who really don’t like themselves because they have swallowed the lie that their personal complexities and idiosyncrasies make them Not A Real Lesbian/Gay Man, or at least a second-class one.

Paul Burston:

Traditionally, two assumptions have shaped the way in which films are reviewed by the popular gay press. The first — that films made by gay people for gay people are somehow above criticism — is, thankfully, going out of fashion. Years of sitting through the most appalling rubbish, and feeling obliged to applaud the filmmakers efforts have clearly taken their toll…

The second — that films made for a mass audience are automatically suspect when it comes to representations of lesbians and gay men — still holds true for a significant number of gay film critics…(T)he bulk of what we refer to as ‘gay film criticism’ still starts from the premise that what matters most is not what the film in question contributes to the art of cinema or what pleasures it might hold for a queer-literate audience, but the degree to which it explicitly serves the gay political cause…not ‘does the character have an important or entertaining part to play in the shaping of the plot?’ but “is this character setting a good example?’.

Toby Manning:

Another given of gay culture is righteousness. Self-righteousness is perhaps an inevitable by-product of liberation movements, but gay righteousness is particularly offensive in its ability to be simultaneously apologetic and self-aggrandizing. Apologetic because it doesn’t challenge the structures of society, it simply says ‘straights are being horrid to us’…Self-aggrandizing because the mantra of oppression drowns out all else in its repetition, including an indignation out of proportion to the issue…

(T)heir constant, unquestioning invocation makes for dull, lazy speeches at Gay Pride festivals (of the “I am a one-legged lesbian from Lithuania’ variety); unanalytical, unobjective news reporting (…the respect given AIDS closet cases Freddie Mercury and Rock Hudson); sentimental songs that operate a kind of community thought-bypass (like those of Holly Near or Michael Callen at the Gay Games); and bland films (“Philadelphia”, “Parting Glances”, “Longtime Companion” all busily pushing the AIDS button). But these emotional response buttons are carefully chosen to keep the issues as mainstream as possible. Little righteous anger is heard on behalf of transsexuals or SM dykes. Anything that doesn’t fit the righteous reformist agenda is kept out of sight, ignored by the gay press and by gay political organizations — after all, if it’s not wholesome and easily understood, heterosexuals (read ‘powerful conservative figures’) might be scared off.

The collapse of Queer Nation is often taken as an example of the failure of queer/transgression as a whole, though the organization in fact had no connection to the queerzine ethos, simply appropriating the tern ‘queer’ for what was essentially just a more militant take on the usual gay reformist agenda. The extent of the organization’s separation from real queer culture is illustrated by their sending a death threat to Denis Cooper, a hero to queer zinesters. But it was this movement that came to represent queer in the popular imagination, the result being, as Bruce LaBruce has pointed out, that ‘the Queer nation sensibility and aesthetic merged with what (zinesters) were doing and watered it down.’ Unlike the queer zinesters wholesale rejection of society, the new militancy was easily assimilable into gay culture…

Meanwhile, many of the visible signifiers of queer (nipple rings, tattoos, and punk styles) were taken on by gays as fashion accessories, and thus stripped of their original meaning. Hardly surprising that ‘queer’ has come to suggest a pierced-nippled, brain-dead, club-crazy bimbo wiggling his hips to house music.

The Castro

The Castro drives me nuts! Twenty-five years of building a “gay neighborhood” have resulted in building nothing more than a “gay marketing plan”, helped along by the so-called gay press (The Advocate, Genre, GQ, Men’s Fitness). The neighborhood strikes me as a sort of package tour aimed at one very strictly-defined type of gay (white) male who reads the right magazines, spends the required hours at the right gym, has the right job, and possesses the necessary cash (or plastic) to carry it off.

Recently, people have been horrified that homeless street urchins, skaters, and panhadlers have invaded “the mall”. I’m all for keeping them there; frankly, they add the only color to the neighborhood (aside from the ubiquitous rainbow flags) and they provide a crucial reminder to the shoppers, the residents, and the tourists that Castro Street is in no real way related to the rest of the world.

Read any mainstream gay magazine and you’ll see what I’m saying. There are no blue collar queers, most certainly no under-employed ones, and (God forbid) no homeless ones. If you’re in a band, it’s dance-pop. If you work the midnight shift at a convenience store, don’t know or care where the nearest gym is, or don’t have a tasteful and well-furnished home, you can’t be in the club.

Leatherfags and most dykes are not invited either, unless they’re discreet and know their respective places. Discussion of having had sex with more than three people in the last year, or in any public place, is not permitted. As a matter of fact, any discussion of sex is frowned upon. Pretty ironic, isn’t it, for a group whose only commonality IS sexual orientation?

I realize that I write from some sense of privilege myself. I’m a white boy, on the cusp between the Boomers and the X-ers, earning a thoroughly middle class living (albeit not at a “prestige” job), and I have pretty much everything I want and need. Maybe it’s liberal guilt, but I don’t think I fit into this package either. I know I don’t WANT to. I wouldn’t know how to do anything but cruise in a gym, and I doubt I’d be successful even at that. I’ve never made a purchase at the Body Shop.

Do not for a moment think that I’m on a “gay culture bores me…I want a straight acting and straight appearing lifestyle”. That is most definitely NOT what I want. People who are obsessed with their “normalcy” and “masculinity” bore me no end. Give me the choice between a date with a tight-assed butch football player and a date with a cute boy who may be a bit “effeminate” and I’ll tale the sissy any day. But the currently media-packaged, corporate and retail-driven version of “gay culture” doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me either.

My idea of a “gay community” does not involve a strip full of stores all my straight friends (hell, even my mother) would feel comfortable in. Frankly, even most of my straight friends find the Castro a tad sanitized.

So just what is my point? I don’t know for sure. I think I’m just a little disillusioned that decades of fighting for the right to be ourselves and to love as we see fit has evolved into such a de-sensualized party line of fitting into cute little assimilated pigeonholes, with Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren providing our role models. Maybe, as some suggest, this means our movement is “growing up” and I’m just lagging behind. Could be some truth in this; people my own age are starting to bore me tremendously. But if being grown up means becoming nothing more than a demographic profile, I want no part of it!

On Minnesota

Lotsa queers go on vacation looking for anonymous sex, exotic foods, and the exitement of the big “urban gay mecca”. So what do you do when you live in San Francisco, where these things are a matter of course? I went to the midwest, where I had sex with only one person (whose name I knew…), ate at White Castle as often as possible, and saw the leaves change color. It waa a pretty interesting perspective and a great trip thanks to my hosts Christopher and Bil.

 

There was rock and roll, allergic reactions, bright lights, big cities, cheap Wisconsin cheese stands, the Mall of America, and lots of driving through frighteningly green areas. There were no woodchippers. Good trip, all in all…

So Long

It was a good trip and a good substitute for my annual trek to New York. This was the trip I needed right now: No intense urban bar and sex club scene, spending time with and getting to know people I actually like, good musical experiences, and sex in three states. Oh, and having a car was nice too, given the last month of my life and my great loss.

I will not miss music stores for a while.

I kinda miss him more than I expected.

I actually took a lot of time to ponder and be reflective in general too. There may be big changes coming soon, but that’s a subject for a later discussion. If you got this far into the trip, you are to be commended. Let me know what you thought. Until next time…

Duluth

Something about severely depressed port-industrial towns on the Great Lakes that I just love. Two people told Duluth would remind me of San Francisco. It didn’t, really, but there were hills and it was kinda pretty in a seedy sort of way. I’d never seen Lake Superior before, and Christopher’s private “beach” on the sandbar was avery good thing. This is his hometown, so he knew his way around pretty well and networking was efficiently accomplished. Interesting coffee house (the Orpheum Cafe), scary bars (the Main Club and JT’s in Superior because “someone has to die before a new bar can open in Duluth”), and a Perkins’ on the waterfront. And besides, anything would be exciting after an even larger dose of Wisconsin…

Interesting memories of Duluth:

  • The beach, mentioned above, at night. The lake was really calm and I can see why the Chippewa believed it to be sacred and I understand the effect it has on those who grew up near it.
  • The “Beavis and Butthead” marathon on TV in the Budget Motel, which smelled bad but had good cable.
  • The unbelievably huge loft rented by one of Christopher’s friends for like $350 a month.
  • One of the strangest drawbridges I’ve ever seen.

Chicago

I wanted Chicago to be much more than it was. Maybe I didn’t spend enough quality time there and maybe it’s because we didn’t do sufficient planning, but Christopher and I were two fags in search of a scene and there just didn’t seem to be one. Driving and parking were a nightmare (yes…worse than in San Francisco) and it was 27 degrees one day, which is outside my California-moderated temperate zone. All the same, there were moments. And anything would seem exciting after driving across Wisconsin!

  

How could I not stay at this place? It was almost as much a symbol of good karma as the White Castle I encountered on the way into Minneapolis. And it was cheap! When we checked in, having OK’ed the two people/one bed arrangement, I offered ID. The nice lady at the deask responded “I’d ask other people for it, but I won’t ask you…if you know what I mean…” (Insert wink and nudge.) My theory was it was related to our inherent whiteness. Christopher’s guess was that she thought he was my whore and the fags would treat the room gently. Who knows? Big old console TV in the room which displayed “The Simpsons” in colors I didn’t know existed. I was appalled to find a station which plays not one, but TWO reruns of “Home Improvement” daily.

The closest thing to a scene we found and the reason our road trip was scheduled as it was. Picture a 50-year-old bowling alley which has never been remodeled. Add an all-ages show, put on by Homocore Chicago featuring the Third Sex (again) and Kaia. Great scene, great place. But they need to serve food (or maybe it was just that I hadn’t had my White Castle fix for the day…)

  

 

Christopher did the Art Institute. I took pictures of buildings.

Friday was good, although the “driving aimlessly” thing got a tad tedious, especially due to the fact that driving in Chicago is truly an obnoxious thing. Downtown Chicago rules, but we were never quite able to find the “cool neighborhood” (or at least not until it was too late.) Made it home in time for most of “The Simpsons”.

I’ve always heard bad things about the Chicago bar scene, but I didn’t dare believe them. Until this week. Five bars visited: the Manhole, Cell Block, Big Chicks, Berlin, and Cocktails. The first two seemed OK, if a bit mired in the 70’s leather/disco scene (in a non-endearing sort of way.) The Cell Block actually has a dress code for its back patio, a practice I thought (hoped?) had gone out of vogue about fifteen years ago. I also question their definition of “rock and roll”. Big Chicks seemed to have potential and reminded me a little of the Tunnel Bar (not the club) in NYC, but was pretty slow, perhaps due to location. Cocktails was too deplorable and preppy to consider except as a place to sit down and be warm. Berlin may have been the best of the bunch, but it was tremendously clubby and crowded and had no place to escape. I actively solicit suggestions for my next visit.

I hate to sound like I’m running down Chicago. Maybe we just needed the right “native guide”. I just sensed a really strange energy there (and I rarely use that term) and never quite felt comfortable anywhere. Next time?

Musings on Minneapolis

Ahh, the Minneapolis nightlife. I experienced it for the first time on Monday night and found it to be not as unpleasant as you might have imagined, except for the 1AM last call. Only hit two places:

The Saloon
830 Hennepin Avenue

I liked this one best. It’s fairly large and offers a club environment and a bar section. The music was maybe a little better than your average suburban queer bar, sort of on the techno side. There’s a terminal for “net” access which seems only to connect to a small BBS. Decent beer selection. I only got hit on once, but did get a few furtive glances. “New meat in town syndrome”, I guess. Polite and friendly staff.

The Gay 90’s
408 Hennepin Avenue

The home of DJ Lon. It is almost impossible to describe how huge this place is. Nine bars inside, all of them bigger than any single bar in San Francicso. I have to say I really didn’t like the place much, but they do mix a drink which is damn near lethal. Beer selection is non-existant; I had to settle for a Bud (blecch…) The place really gave me the creeps on Monday night but was better the following Sunday. Staff was a bit rude, as a rule, except for a really friendly and kinda cute bartender at the back bar on Sunday. DJLon was pretty upset to hear about my rude treatment; perhaps I’ve misjudged based on too few visits. Apparently, the Gay 90’s is becoming a bit of a heterosexual slumming joint as well.

 

A few more musings on Minneapolis:

  • A couple of good radio stations: 770 Radio K is college radio and is great, but needs to go FM. Rev 105 is the commercial “modern rock” station, but it’s one of the best I’ve heard; they actually mix in older music where appropriate. What a novel idea; Led Zeppelin actually mixed in with music inspired by Led Zeppelin!
  • Hennepin Avenue and the former Gateway District are possibly the best arguments going against urban renewal. What once must have been a really intense urban landscape now looks like it’s been in a fight and had most of its teeth knocked out, and the few which were replaced didn’t match really well.
  • Hooray for restaurants with smoking sections. Actually, I ate at places other than White Castle and was particularly impressed with the Seward Cafe and Ruby’s.
  • Found a really good used bookstore in the Uptown District. Wish I remembered the name. Also recommended: Dream Haven on Lake Street.