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?