Gay Pride 98

It’s almost that time of year again. San Francisco’s Lesbian – Gay – Transgender – Bisexual – Questioning – Curious – Insert – Appropriate – Label – Here Weekend. Time to start making plans for the big weekend. So far, the one viable suggestion I’ve received has been from my friend Sarah; she thought it might be a good day to go thrift store hopping in Stockton. Sounds like a winner to me. Beats last year when I cleaned the bathroom…

I know…the parade is tempting. Nothing like four (five?) hours of standing in the hot sun watching a bunch of groups with signs declaring their narrowly-defined labels drone past, with the occasional bar float blaring the latest techodiscohouse drivel to break the monotony. I only WISH the parade were as much fun as the 700 Club portrays it…

And nothing like fighting your way into a crowded bar and waiting a half-hour to buy a beer behind some drunk disco bunny who’s ordering seven DIFFERENT cocktails of varying colors and textures for his entourage, none of whom remembers what they wanted and all of whom must stand in the way for fifteen MORE minutes trying to figure it out…

The Saturday night before the parade is a special treat. The city becomes one huge circuit party, with rainbow-clad muscle boys in various stages of chemical disrepair all heaving and grinding to the happnin’ rhythms of Axel K or Simon Q or whoever. It’s great. Really…

When I was a young curmudgeon back in North Carolina, I used to love going to the Pride parades. It was all about visibility and making a statement of political and social power.

Of course, pride is about making a statement here too. And the statement is thus: fags have money. If you sponsor our parade, we will buy your brand of liquor or beer. If you set up a booth full of insipid T-shirts with slogans like “2Q2BSTR8”, we will buy them. If you say you’re working to fight AIDS, we will give you donations, no matter how much of this money goes to furnish your plush offices. If you have a petition about a “gay issue” (like, say, abolishing rent control), we will sign it without even reading it.

We are happy liberated gay men. We are secure in the knowlege that having a sexual orientation is an acceptable substitute to having a personality or an individual identity. We can think for ourselves, as long as the Advocate and Genre tell us it’s OK. And as long as there’s a snappy ad campaign (and a cool T-shirt) behind the recommended thought.

And we’re PROUD dammit. PROUD of our sexual orientation (even though we had no say in its development). PROUD of our ability to get liquor companies to sponsor our parade. PROUD of our muscles and our disposable income and our wardrobes from Bloomie’s. PROUD of the way we’ve made the Castro into a suburban shopping mall and kept those property values high. PROUD that we’re the only ones allowed to make jokes about ourselves.

Of course, we’re probably proud of some other things too, like our political gains, etc.. Some of us might even be embarrassed about a few things. Things like the way we elevate mediocrity to sacred status (witness “Ellen” and the Pet Shop Boys). Things like rampant commercialism, or a completely useless “gay press”, or a culture which completely ignores its youth and “marginal” elements. Things like our severe substance abuse problem and our body fascism. But we’ll be embarrassed quietly, so as to avoid disturbing the party.

Yup…I think I’ll be embarrassed in Stockton. Or maybe even Fresno…

I Just Don’t Understand

I just don’t understand:

  • Malls: What is the appeal?
  • Why would Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group, really CARE whether thousands of queers plan to descend upon Walt Disney World for a weekend in June? It’s highly unlikely that any babies will be either conceived or aborted as a result of this particular gathering.
  • About fags who plan to descend upon Walt Disney World in June: Why would ANYONE willingly visit Florida in the middle of the summer?
  • Why does everything Mc Donald’s touches taste so much worse than any other fast food?
  • Come on…who gives a fuck if there’s one less Spice Girl? Will the world REALLY change in any significant way?
  • Robert Kennedy was shot 30 years ago this week; there was a short op-ed piece. Waterbeds were invented 30 years ago this week; there was a huge photo-laden “lifestyle” story. Frightening thing is the waterbed probably seemed more important to most READERS too…

The Mailbag

As the creator of a large and fairly popular web site, I get a lot of mail….this is an unavoidable fact. Most of it is kind and complimentary and polite. Much of it is even interesting. Some of it is flat-out rude and filled with personal attacks. I am prepared for this. I express opinions. This is my right. People don’t always agree. This is THEIR right.

Sometimes, people are just plain nasty. An obsession with money will do that:

Jealousy can be an evil thing…Why don’t you start thinking a little… Maybe if you had the brains or wits to be a businessman, you could have an office overlooking the city as well. But since you don’t, you’ll just have to rot away in your apartment and complain about those yuppies who have probably worked their asses off to be where they are.

Kind of cute, isn’t it, that he assumes I WANT a sterile window office where I too can shit on all the little people who worked THEIR asses off to put me there. You can read the full text of this asshole’s rantings (including his assertion that he isn’t a racist) in the Loftomania Feedback section.

For monetary obsession, though, this snail mail takes the cake. Equifax, the large and efficient credit bureau and collection agency sent me a demand for payment. Seems I have a delinquent account at a local emergency care center, which has been referred to them for collection. It is imperative that I pay immediately or face fuher action.

The amount in question? Sixteen cents.

Is it any wonder people no longer have much faith in the American health care industry? Or that I’m starting to lose faith in my fellow man?

Sometimes there are people (as oppposed to corporations like Equifax) who clearly just DON’T GET IT. Case in point:

I hate to say this but this site was the worst Ive seen for state fairs. It did not mention the two most important facts: when the fair was, the article only mentioned sometime in August maybe, or how to get there. Also the pictures were horrible. it leads someone to think that the fair is attended by only bald white males. as im sure it does not.

Im sorry to say but I will not be visiting that site again. I hope no state funds were used in making this travesty, if it were Id be ashamed to be a citizen of California. Please next time if your doing this again to do some homework on your website and make it pleasing to all who might visit it.

Now let me get this straight. This guy is worried that I might get STATE FUNDS to write Planet SOMA? I wish. Obviously, he found the State Fair boy-watching article on a search engine and couldn’t understand that I do not now — nor have I ever — maintained the official California State Fair web site.

Hehe…”state funds”…that one still cracks me up…

Once in a while I get mail complaining about my “negative attitude”. As if a negative attitude was somehow bad:

I found your site to be unnecessarily negative about the area. Why do you live here if you hate it so badly? I think it’s nice and am happy that I’ve “taken the plunge”. I don’t mean to be harsh, but am just concerned that you may give people the wrong impression of SF and the bay area. Please reconsider some of the things that you say in your site, as there’s always a nicer way to put things.

Maybe I should just put a “San Francisco: Love it or leave it” sticker on my car too. I HATE this attitude. I sometimes point out weaknesses of the Bay Area; thus I apparently don’t deserve to live here. Give me a break! I point out problems BECAUSE I love it here. Why is it that New Yorkers get to bitch about their city all the time without having their “loyalty” questioned?

Besides, I ain’t the fucking Chamber of Commerce… Nor am I Bob Damron, provider of la-de-da always positive cookie cutter reviews. Apparently, this rubbed a reader of my bar reviews the wrong way:

The sad queen who wrote this article obviously can’t get her dick sucked anywhere and is mad at the world. Bitch bitch bitch. You wasted my time with the pointless and no too clever catty remarks. Hire a journalist.

I offered “Miss Thing” (seemed appropriate given the lingo of the message) a refund for all the money “she” spent visiting the site. Said refund was never claimed…

Randomly Thursday

Random notes:

  • Never realized before that a lot of episodes of “Bewitched” from the final season (1972) were almost verbatim remakes of episodes from the first season (1964). Were they just out of ideas? Or did they figure the old black and white shows would never be shown again? Strange, but kudos to the fine folks at Nick at Nite for helpng to point this out…
  • Why is it that spring cleaning at work is so much faster than spring cleaning at home? It just seems so much easier to throw away old stuff that doesn’t really belong to you…
  • At the ripe old age of 33, I’ve finally realized that people sleep much better if they don’t keep drinking Coke until 15 minutes before bedtime. Brain surgery is next for me, no doubt…
  • Overly-senistive department: an Oakland man has claimed harrasment due to his arresting officer singing “The Pina Collada Song” while he was in custody. He claims racism. I’ll admit it’s bland, stupid, and repetitive, but racist???
  • Miracle: for three straight days, I’ve managed to answer all my email within 24 hours. And get one spamming website shut down in the process…
  • Isn’t porn just more fun if no one’s home and you can turn up the volume and hear every “you like my big cock dontcha” in stereo sound?
  • Isn’t cereal much less fun when you realize (after you start pouring) that you’re just about out of milk? Oops…make that completely out…
  • Amusing Wednesdays at McDonald’s: hamburgers are 29¢. Fries are $1.50. Cokes are $1.25. All hail the triumph of the side dish…
  • The SF Bay Guardian is crying “censorship” over some ads removed from SF Muni buses last month. The ads feature the Guardian’s editor and a caption stating “They’re all crooks in City Hall and I want them exposed.” I’d almost be tempted to suggest the removal of the ads constituted proof of this fact, or at least of the fact that City Hall has no sense of humor…
  • Joke courtesy of Larry-bob: What do you call two men holding hands in the Castro? Tourists.
  • When you call tech support, how does that recorded voice arrive at such estimates as “your call will be answered in one hour and twenty-three minutes”? (Yes…this was an actual call and an actual estimate…)
  • Is anyone as pissed off as I am that Pacific Bell has added the option of three-way calling to all phone lines at a per-use fee of 75¢? And that it’s VERY easy to invoke this feature accidentally, say with modem auto-redials, beacuse you don’t have to dial a special tone? If you’re not amused either, call them (1-800-310-BELL) and have it removed from your line. And tell them why you’re doing it and how tempting it will be to use another local service provider when that option becomes available soon…

Amusing and Unamusing

Random things I’m finding amusing this week:

  • There are a frightening number of otherwise intelligent men (both gay and straight) who would rather walk around the city like drowned rats than risk looking “effeminate” by carrying an umbrella.
  • I can’t even make out with someone in a bar without realizing that (a) he has a boyfriend, (b) said boyfriend is watching us in a very unamused fashion, and (c) it turns out that I sort of know this boyfriend via email.
  • There is, on Market Street in San Francisco, a building called the Bong Building.
  • An email spammer advertising collection services was stupid enough to include his phone number in the ad. When I called to request (politely) that he not use this particular marketing technique again, he told me he had to run because my daughter was sucking his cock and he was about to shoot. He’s a true professional. Of course I would never advocate repeated phone calls which might run up his phone bill or anything like that, but his number is available upon request if you’re interested in his services.
  • Heard from the mouth of one “oh so butch” leatherman the back room of a Folsom Street Bar Sunday night: “I was right here when I heard about Princess Diana’s tragedy… (sigh)… I almost had to leave”.
  • At the Polk Street Rendezvous, the cops were called in to arrest an old man sitting at the bar. His crime, horror of horrors, was smoking a cigarette. The patron who called the cops was subsequently barred for life by the bartender, and may find he has trouble getting served anywhere on Polk Street for quite a while. (Thanks to Cavan for this one.)
  • Cocoa Pebbles on sale for $1.99 at the Grocery Outlet. Yay!!!
  • Redneck Earl’s Takeout Barbecue on El Camino Real in San Mateo definitely deserves a visit. They have sweetened iced tea. Those of you who are from the south understand why this is so (a) special and (b) unusual outside Dixie.

Things I’m NOT finding amusing this week:

  • Dilbert.
  • My checking account.
  • Idiots who just moved to the city and really can’t drive, but do anyway.
  • Those same idiots when they park.
  • My savings account.
  • Email addressed “Dear Adult Webmaster”.
  • Valentine’s Day.
  • Puddles. Everywhere…

The Year 2000 and Random Notes

As editor of the website Planet SOMA, I am tremendously worried about the phenomenon known as the “year 2000 problem”. I have been continually worried since at least the year 1990 or so. My worry is unrelated to the issues surrounding incorrect dates, etc. I’m more concerned about how we are to address the year 2000 once we hit the years 1999 or 2001.

Upto this point, we have treated the year 2000 with a certain reverence not extended to other years. After all, how often do you hear someone referring to “the year 1998” or “the year 1964” for example. I am concerned that once we hit the year 2000, we may become sloppy and start referring to it as simply “2000”. This, in my opinion, would be tragic.

Henceforth, I propose that (to be fair and consistent) all years be given their proper antecedents. No longer will the year 1998 be known as simply “1998”; we must be careful always to use the grammatically correct phrase “the year 1998”. Of course, we may still refer to past years as “the year formerly known as 1997” if we wish.

I ask for your help in this matter. The concept grammar is at stake.

Random notes du jour:

  • Chewing gum is exempt from sales tax in California as it is considered a “food”. Coca-Cola, on the other hand, is not. Clued into this tonight at Safeway.
  • It is now possible to get free beers from bartenders in California by offering them a drag off the cigarette you’re not supposed to be smoking at the bar to begin with.
  • Patty Duke playing Patty Duke in the last half hour of “The Patty Duke Story” on Lifetime is a pretty gosh-darn frightening thing. And I taped it just so I wouldn’t miss the ending. Which is even more frightening…
  • The body-piercing industry is not exempt from power-hungry shitbags. The decision this week by employees of Gauntlet to unionize is evidence of this fact. Five year “non-compete” clauses and “hole quotas” indeed…
  • Planet SOMA readers who go to the effort of meeting me face to face are damned fine people. Two instances this week have reminded me of this.
  • I really like the new comic strip “Zits”. Lately, I even like it more than “Dilbert”. This is sad.

Survey results:

The first 100 surveys are in, and these psychoSOMAtic rants are the number one “I’d like to see more of…” request. Color me honored. And color me impressed that the damn dirty pictures finished in a relatively lukewarm tie for third place, along side “Yer Humble Host and friends” and behind “SF information”. More results soon. Thanks to everyone who has already participated, especially the “you rule” voters.

Off to sleep now…

Nicotine Fits, Part 2

So I finally ventured into one of the nifty new California smoke-free bars Friday night. I’d been putting it off since returning from the holiday trip because I wasn’t sure I’d know how to behave and also because I was a little worried about just how a smoke-free bar might SMELL.

As it happened, I ended up coping in much the same way everyone else seemed to be doing so. I just went ahead and smoked. It was very simple. Of course there were no ashtrays or cigarette machines. One bar even featured a prominent “no smoking” sign. No one — patron or staffer — seemed to care.

At first I was a little timid, cupping the offending cigarette in my closed hand like a joint or something. I guess I was afraid the principal would walk by and catch me. It all felt so very junior high; I feared a month’s detention.

By the end of the night, with several beers in my belly and a cute little clubkid on his knees in front of me, however, I felt much more secure. I was pushing his head down on me with one hand while puffing away with the other. Somehow the opinion of the State of California mattered very little to me at this point.

So I guess I’m a desperate outlaw now, darn it…

I hear rumors that the Castro bars are actually observing the smoking ban and enforcing it. I’m not surprised; they’re just so much more sensitive over there. I’m surprised though that no one seems worried about whether or not the noisy smoking drunks on the sidewalk will affect property values.

Of course, there is the issue of workers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Once again, I would state that no one, to my knowledge, has ever been forced to work in a bar. When you take a job, you understand that there are some occupational risks. In bars, these risks include loud music, smoke, and having to cope with obnoxious drunks. Obviously, many people have decided that the rewards outweigh the risks.

Consider this: dealing with rude assholes is detrimental to my psychological health. That’s why I don’t work in retail customer service anymore. I never requested a law stating that it be illegal to act like an asshole in a retail establishment. I knew the risks when I took the job. I was prepared to take them. When I no longer wanted to take these risks, I quit.

But as long as we’re “protecting” people, may I suggest the following:

  • I guess we’ll have to get rid of conversation first. Too many hurt feelings and broken promises. Civil liberties can’t be considered an issue if someone might be offended.
  • Let’s ban on techno and house music in bars because they kills brain cells and make me homicidal, thus putting other patrons at considerable risk.
  • A ban on being horny in bars is probably in order because horniness might lead to unsafe sex.
  • We should eliminate attractive people in cruise bars. Seeing these people could make some less attractive people become victims of reduced self-esteem levels, causing them to drink too much or (gasp) crave cigarettes. Come to think of it, we’d better ban anyone who’s ever been attracted to an attractive person too…
  • No more TV. Radiation, y’know?

Who was it who said that people who are willing to give up civil liberties to obtain a sense of “security” are deserving of neither? I’m off to have a cigarette and see if I can remember…

Nicotine Fits

As many of you may already know, smoking is officially banned in all San Francisco bars as of 1 January 1998. I’ve been waiting to write about this, trying to find some version of logic which works for me on this subject, and so far I’ve been unable to.

Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t really have a problem with regulations covering smoking in restaurants, most offices, and stores. But bars? Give me a break. With all due respect, bars ain’t health clubs. People don’t go to bars for that warm fuzzy feeling that comes after a good workout or a really tasty smoothie. Frankly, bars are inherently unhealthy places, and frankly smoking is an important part of this ritual unhealthiness.

I’ve been really hard-pressed to find anyone who really supports this move, among smokers or non-smokers (although I’m certain I’ll hear a few comments to the contrary now). From a number of eavesdropping sessions, I’ve been able to learn that the police couldn’t even give a fuck on this issue, and that enforcement will probably be pretty lax.

So has the drive to create a prettier, healthier, sanitized, family-friendly San Francisco gone too far? Maybe I’m being completely irrational, but I think it has. I also think this law will have about as much weight as the prohibition against jay-walking.

On Personal Ads

I read the personal ads once in a while. It’s pretty much more for amusement than out of any quest for “the right man”, for a couple of reasons. The first is pretty simple; I’m not really looking for “the right man”.

Reason number two is that somehow I never seem to qualify as worthy of attention in these ads. Seems I just don’t measure up. Or don’t want to. Does anyone?

Let’s take a close look at the typical gay personal ad.

GWM, straight acting/straight appearing, seeks same..

First of all, I guess I am a “GWM”, though it’s definitely not the primary way I’d identify myself. I’m not sure what “straight acting” means to this guy, but to me it means he’s an asshole. How exactly does he “act straight”? By lying to his friends and dating women he feels nothing for? By being “butch”? By pretending he likes football when he really wants to go to the opera?

“..35 (look 26), attractive…

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a personal ad from an unattractive person. Or from one who looks his age.

“..not into “scene”, looking for friendship first and then maybe more… 

Isn’t that just so fucking coy you could puke? Gimme a break. He’s looking to get laid. If it’s fun, he might want to do it again. And just what “scene” is he so not into? Would that be bars? Or bathhouses? Or alleys? Or poetry readings? Bake-offs maybe?

…Me: gym toned body . You: height proportionate to weight…

God knows this is important to any loving relationship. If the body types don’t match, what else is there?

…professional and career-oriented…

Translation: “yuppie corporate suckup”. In other words: “my job comes first and you get the crumbs”. And in extreme cases: “I am incapable of conversing about anything not work-related”.

…love long walks in the park, candlelight dinners, the Sunday New York Times in bed…

Even if someone really likes this stuff, it’s such a cliche as to become an instant turnoff. Jeez…

If you’re (insert age range younger than the age of the advertiser), hot, and ready to commit for a lifetime…

Why, of course! I’m itching to give you the rest of my life just from this tremendously appealing ad. Really. But since I’m approximately two months older than you, I guess that’s out of the question since I’m no longer “hot”. Pity.

I will say that it’s very comforting to know that all the people posting personal ads are so young, attractive, healthy, financially stable and emotionally centered. And all of them so relationship-oriented. And moral. Veritable poster children for the Advocate’s version of queerdom.

I guess there’s something wrong with me for not finding most of these clones particularly appealing. Especially when they post their ads online to inappropriate newsgroups. But that’s another story…

A few suggestions on placing ads:

  • If you’re looking for a relationship, it might be a good idea to tell something about yourself AS A PERSON. Your vital stats are a nice touch, but (I hope) most people who want to “settle down” are looking for more than just a warm (firm…trim…proportionate…) body.
  • If you’re looking for sex, a few interests (sex-related) might be nice as well, for the same reasons.
  • No “moonlight walks on the beach”, “candlelight dinners for two”, or “looking for that special someone”. If you are no more creative than this, maybe you SHOULD stick to vital stats.
  • The “1962 model (insert name of car)” bit has been done to death. Skip it, wouldja please?
  • The “I’m writing this for a friend…” bit has also been done to death.
  • Many publications will no longer let you say “no fats, no fems, no (insert minority)”. I like these publications.
  • If “dominant/top” is among the first three words in your ad, it’s pretty obvious that you’re more interested in sex than a relationship. This is fine, but it’s a little transparent to lie about it.
  • “Complete discretion and satisfaction assured” makes you sound like a prostitute. Again fine, but you may alienate people who aren’t looking to pay for this guarantee.
  • Don’t be surprised if your ad pops up someplace other tan where you sent it. I had a friend who was really freaked out once to find an ad he placed in a small regional paper appearing in a national porn magazine.
  • Don’t post your goddamn personal ad on a newsgroup which is clearly devoted to some other subject. No one cares. You will be flamed. You will deserve it.

And on answering ads:

  • Like everything else, ads which say “too good to be true” generally are, and there’s at least a 50% chance that you “won’t like what you see” no matter what the ad promises.
  • If you do not in any way match the attributes requested in the ad, it’s pretty pointless to respond, now isn’t it?
  • People stretch the truth in personal ads. This is a fact of life. Be prepared to add 3 years and 20 pounds to your mental picture of the advertiser. Also be prepared to subtract about 10-15 IQ points.
  • Be descriptive in your response. Otherwise you’ll probably end up in the “so what” pile who never hears back from the advertiser.


Break out the tank tops, the rainbow flags, the freedom rings, the pecs, and the drugs. Gay Day is coming to San Francisco. Market Street will be magically converted into a giant disco. This is the weekend every gay commercial institution in the city lives for. There will be dance clubs running pretty much twenty-four hours a day, gay pride massage specials, and attractive four-color flyers all over town showing the buff disco boys and rainbow colors (that’s ink…not skin…) which are the absolute definition of “Gay San Francisco”.

Big fuckin’ deal.

OK…I’ll admit that Pride Weekend is no more or less commercialized than any other major urban street fair. I can get past the fact that two of the biggest sponsors are breweries and a third is a distillery (although an email correspondent quips “don’t fags ever buy GROCERIES?”). I can ignore the bars and businesses along the parade route which suddenly sprout heretofore unseen rainbow flags for the weekend. They’re seizing an opportunity to make a quick buck, whic not a bad thing in itself.

I’m not even worried about the “freak show” the media will portray. Frankly, they usually showcase a level of humor and diversity of thought which is often sadly underplayed in the actual monotony of the parade. Contrary to popular belief, the parade is neither a celebration of perversion nor a demonstration of strength and diversity. It’s not really anything but a long and usually boring procession of bar floats, politicians, and “people with labels”.

So what is this “pride” thing anyway? I know it’s an unpopular notion, but is one’s sexual orientation anything to be proud of, per se? Granted, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, either. Nor to be hidden. But does “being gay” automatically confer a sense of community on those to whom it happens? I don’t think so. Frankly, I find that I have very little in common with my “community”; maybe I missed the ceremony…

Yes, it is true that gay people are discriminated against every day and in many ways. Equal rights legislation and a change in prejudiced attitudes are absolutely necessary. But, contrary to the “groupthink” inherent to the SF parade, gay white men are not the most oppressed group on the face of the planet. Especially not in San Francisco. And let’s face it: Pride Weekend here (and in New York and Los Angeles) is largely about professional gay white men.

Perhaps in some smaller cities and towns, there’s some validity to the notion of a gay parade to promote a sense of visibility and community. But in San Francisco, the whole event is about throwing a big party and showing off how beautiful and buff and out and gay we all are. And making a buck.

I’m in favor of partying, although Pride Weekend doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities which are to my liking. I’m usually in favor of making a buck too. But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that this thing has anything much to do with “community”.

So celebrate on…just make sure you know WHAT you’re celebrating.