Monday, July 31, 2006

Sober Alice in Wonderland

There is nothing sober about Alice in Wonderland. It would apparently follow that all parties themed according to this particular story would be anything but sober and mind-altering substances of all sorts would flow freely. This was not the case at the party I attended last Friday, which was very consciously sober. One attendee attired like some sort of dealer had pockets full of herbal blends--mugwort and such. These were to be smoked by people who wanted dreams. Another party-goer costumed as the rabbit mentioned that the blend was good for quitting or beginning smoking. There was plenty of cake, and also tea. Lemonade was the prefered beverage.A few mad-hatters were present, as well as an Alice, who had apparently outgrown her dress, a Cheshire Cat, and an off-duty dominatrix. Many of the revelers were quiet introverted types, or maybe that was just me. I didn't talk to half the people in attendence and the party was small to begin with. The kitchen, and the front stairs were the prefered places of congregation, the latter because of smoking habits and prime view of boxing matches between girls. A brief dance party occured in a bedroom. Only about four people danced at one time. It was difficult to keep the dancing up when all but one other left the room. Everyone ate fruit salad and cake. Some people hid in a bedroom doing crafts. I wandered silently from room-to-room in the small apartment. Everytime a few words escaped my mouth, they were embarrassingly self-referential. I stayed for hours anyway.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is Your Humor Gay?

The wind had picked up in North Beach despite it having been an unusually hot day for San Francisco. My friends and I were gathered around a small wire table in the patio of an Indian restaurant/sports bar. Having worn out our previous conversations, we had fallen silent when these two Irish guys strolled up. The one who was packing a fresh pack of cigarettes said, "Can we join you gals, or would we be strifing you if we did?"
"I don't know if I'd call it strife," I-- commented.
My other friend and I remained silent. They stayed at our table offering us cigarettes then immediately launching into that most mundane of questions,
"What do you do with yourselves?"
None of us really wanted to answer the question. Our jobs do very little to explain the intricacies of our personalities or interestes. After I revealed something of my job to the guy who claimed he was an actor, he launched into some drunken rant about corporate media and advertising in which he said almost nothing at all.

He asked us where we all were from, then his friend belatedly introduced himself to me, turning a hand shake into a hand kiss, into the beginnings of a hand-bite.
"Nice to meet you, but just so you know, I am not a fan of licking and biting." We all just stared at the drunk Irishman who seemed to think that his bufoonery was hilarious.

The conversation quickly transitioned to the subject of humor."I wish I could make you laugh," he said, calling me by the name of a girl in x-men because of something to do with my hair. "I don't get American girls. You're so defensive."
"Well, I don't have typical American humor."
"What is typical American humor?" someone commented. It may have been a friend.
"I don't know."
"What is your humor, then?" the guy persisted. And after a brief moment's pause, he continued, "Is it gay?"
Everyone at the table was silently laughing. I gave him a sidelong glance, my face bearing some expression he would never read, and said something to the effect of "Maybe." What I really meant to say was "Yes." When he used the term, it did not quite mean 'bad' as it often is used to mean in American slang. He meant 'queer' in the old-fashioned sense of the term. But both queer and gay being synonymous, his question made sense on two levels. Only one was apparent to him.

When the mostly one-sided conversation dwindled, he turned to his friend and said, "Give me money." He needed to maintain his state of inebriation. His friend was reticent to provide the cash, so they began to wrestle, inches from us and our table. I made some half-hearted comment like, "If you are going to wrestle, can you go over there?" pointing to a more distant spot on the patio. Just then a third friend arrived with a bottle of wine and a slough of glasses.
"I have drinks."
The wrestling instantly stopped.
We left shortly afterwards.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Rat Between The Walls

I met this man on Saturday night. He came over to my apartment because he was a friend of the boyfriend of a friend of my roommate. I found him instantly obnoxious. He made me feel out of place in my own home. There are not too many seats in my living room. It only really accomodates 3 comfortably. There happened to be five people squashed into the small room. Most of us had to sit on the floor. This man in his early forties wearing a tight, faded gray t-shirt and khakis was sitting on my couch talking about his pet rats and all the reasons why San Francisco bothers him. He had only been in town for a day or two, and this is already how he was thinking. He had just sold his house to take a somewhat transitory union organizing job. He would be living in six states throughout the year. When he sold his house, the real estate agent told him that it would be impossible to sell the house to anyone if they saw his two pet rats. He must dispense of them in some way. But, as he was fond of the creatures he refused. Instead, every time he showed the home to any prospective buyers, the real estate agent would arrive ten minutes early, pick up the rats, and drive around with them in her truck for the duration of the client's visit. Every conversation continued in a similar vein. He was a talker. I tried to chime in, to prove that I am not a kid, but all I could think about was how he must see the place: The books on the shelf are a mess. My roommates large laptop is setting precariously on top of the disheveled books, and one shelf is a mess of electrical cords and modems, half of which are not even currently in use. My place is some fashion of bachelorette pad, but I may as well be a bachelor for how it appears. And I didn't even make any contributions to the decor. But I like my apartment. I would just rather that it wasn't populated by these loud-mouthed men who can only talk about rats.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Art and the Sole Straight Bar in The Castro

The inside of the bar was hazy with smoke. This is an uncommon occurance in San Francisco where smoking is banned in bars. Somehow, there must be a loophole in the law, because this particular bar is not only the sole straight bar in the Castro, but also a haven for those who need to sip potent concoctions and inhale smoke simultaneously.

We walked up to the bar and ordered cups of syrupy poison. The drinks would aid us in conversing with the artists who were piling into the room fresh from the opening of their exhibition in the southernmost reaches of The Mission. Though no one struck me as particularly interesting, conversations wore on, and I found each one of them amusing. My friend was trying to find a guy to buy her beer.
"Can you point out a guy who you think might buy me a beer?" she said to the man standing next to her. He enthusiastically took up the call and exercised some beer chivalry.
"I'll buy you a beer."
I introduced myself to an artist who was a friend of a friend of a friend.
My introduction was bland, something to the effect of, "I haven't met you yet." It wasn't a good way to begin any sort of attempt at flirtation. An MFA student herself, she insisted that grad school is the greatest. She encouraged me to return to school, a strange discussion for someone obviously intoxicated in some way. Then she said,
"Everyone's doing coke, in case you're interested."
"No thanks." That was the end of that conversation.
I wasn't doing a very good job at flirting. I did espouse an interest in her art, and her graduate program, but somehow failed to ask about the details of her most recent artistic endeavor: painting the bathrooms of galleries. Later, I heard that it was backed by a theory, but I forgot for the time being that this is usually the case with academically trained artists and that it would be a good idea to ask about the underpinnings of her endeavor.
As usual, the evening disappated with various departures, often without even a shred of goodbyes.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Everyone knows that poetry is very serious. Yes, those readers of poems at those oft-reviled gatherings known as open mics are a bunch of serious, introverted creatures full of many words that only manage to escape during infrequent bouts of soliloquy in front of audiences filled with tortured-poet-types. On top of lacking senses of humor, poets are self-centered, solipsistic weirdos who like to hear the ring of our own voices.

I happen to be one of these people. I must be careful who I uncloset myself to, because poets are socially dangerous. We can ruin any party. My neighbor hates poets. She thinks they are frivolous. She doesn't know that she lives across the hall from one.

The fact that I mask my lack of social life by going to underground literary happenings is a tell-tale sign that I will have very little to say when it comes to chit-chatting and mingling with sophisticated young urbanites who attend dinner parties. But as long as the poets stick together, the outside world will be safe from the threat of atrophied conversation. We create and inhabit our own little islands. They are physically located inside cafes and bookstores and libraries, but they are highly portable islands. We are poets wherever we go. So the threat never really diminishes.

Last night I attended one of these highly dangerous gatherings of poetic persons. It was a very small gathering. Only two such feared writers brought their work out into the light filtering into the bookstore through a large square window above the shelves. I was one of the two readers of verse. We all sat in folding chairs wearing our most serious expressions and sipping coffee or red wine out of small, disposeable cups. Because of course, we were poets. Then we stood up against a backdrop of bookcases and soliloquized.

After reading, we pronounced our serious gathering to a close, with much seriousness.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dykes on Bikes Go Dancing

Reposted from Tightrope:
We were a herd of girls on bikes stringing through the streets of San Francisco. Riding under the elevated highway supported by fat green pillars that stretches its concrete fingers from Market Street, through SOMA, and out of the city, we made our way toward Haight Street, a blur of skirts and boots and black fabric punctuated by the pulsating red lights that were affixed to our backs. We could have been invincible but for the traffic that zipped along Market Street, the cars humming inches from our bodies. Safety in numbers was an illusion that made sense on this almost warm summer night. The day had been unusually hot and the breeze off the Pacific hadn’t yet kicked in. It was June, and we were ready to dance. After weaving down the bike path by Safeway and up Fillmore, we arrived in the Lower Haight. The whole pack of us girls pulled up across from the club on our bicycles and scattered to affix them to parking meters with heavy locks.

We must have stood out on the street for awhile deliberating and watching the locals mill around tweaking, drunk, or in search of lost cats; because when we entered the club, some classically San Francisco dyke involved in planning the party approached our group and asked, “Were you the bike girls?” I shed my layers of black, my protection from the San Francisco night, and sat down on a tall bench in the corner that was upholstered in black vinyl. My feet dangled comically from my perch, and looking around at my fellow bike girls who had hoisted themselves onto the bench, I noted that theirs did as well. After a minute, we moved to the back of the club, where a few people had already begun to take to the dance floor.

We danced like the bike girls that we were, each in our own style, unconscious of anything but the music and the movement that emanated from our body like a dense fluid. We shifted our motion depending on the rhythms that DJs pushed through the sound system. We circled our hips to the sounds of salsa and reggetone. We felt the hard bass of hip hop, and the light sway of pop. The sound governed our bodies and our dances were our armor against the world of the night.

Then the Hawaiians discovered us. To them, we were mysterious San Franciscans. To them, we were girly-girls with roughed up edges and colored hair contorted into new and alluring shapes on top of our heads. We were a part of the local flavor, and just happened to be shy enough to appear easy targets. A girl in a baseball cap and jeans, with long brown hair reaching to her waist approached me and asked me to dance. She looked like she had just stepped out of a suburban mall. And she was drunk, gyrating her hips to the beat of the music and holding her beer away from her body with one hand and somehow managing not to slosh the beverage onto me who had quickly become her embarrassed dance partner. My friends were watching me from the sidelines as I instantly lost my coordination and my sense of rhythm with this girl. I am not adept in the art of partner-dancing, especially when it involves the sort of contact that she was expecting. First, she used her protruding belly to knock against my person. When that didn’t seem to be succeeding, she turned around and attempted the same motion with her ass. There was obviously a disconnect so she asked me if I was uncomfortable and wanted to stop. I don’t believe I gave her a definitive answer, so she stopped for a moment, marched up to my friend, and lead her across the room where she passed her off to another member of her posse. Maybe we are both good at hiding our social awkwardness behind masks of cool. We are mystery girls rather than shy girls, because we have elevated our quiet demeanors into an art form. But as soon as another drags one of us onto the dance floor at least half of the mystery fades and we are like awkward teenagers dancing too far from our partners, missing the other person’s beat altogether. At some point we fled our dance partners and congregated in the small patio outside to discuss our adolescent inclinations that lead us onto the patio in the first place.

My dance partner found me soon after I returned to the dance floor. She was a bit more drunk and pulled me to her with on hand dangerously grasping the back of my neck. I pulled the hand away and she wondered why she had overstepped some unvoiced personal boundary. I was quick, this time to slip away.

The third member of team Hawaii seemed to be more of a go-between. She was assessing the situation, and learning more about San Francisco that way, talking to all the girls her friends picked out of the crowd and asking them questions. She asked me why I had difficulty finding her friend attractive. My vague response was that I have a weakness for punkier types. Mall-rats just don’t do it for me. So she asked me if I thought the bar-tender was cute, then tried to give me inebriated tips on how to pick her up. Her advice might only seem rational when emboldened by some potent elixir that I wasn’t partaking of on this particular evening.

Toward the end of the night, the mall-rat who had taken a liking to me earlier was careening around the room like she might topple over at any minute, top-heavy from too much beer. I was dancing with my back to the crowd in a small circle of friends. And the night was obviously winding down. People had paired off and were obliviously clutching each other and crowding out those less drunk, and not fortunate enough to have found another body to cling to. My Hawaiian approached me, teetering just slightly when she walked. As she passed, her teeth found my shoulder. This only took a moment, but time slowed down. She was either too drunk or not vicious enough for her teeth to really meet my skin so that they stuck. Her mouth merely grazed my flesh as she passed, and I made sure that I gave her a firm glare to let her know that biting is not a socially acceptable activity even when you are drunk, especially when you don’t even know the other person.

The lights came on a few minutes later, right as she had found a few others who were drunk enough to appreciate her style of dancing. We gathered up our jackets and headed outside to our bikes. As we unlocked them from the parking meters to which they were hitched a few boys were drunkenly leering at the short skirts sported by a few members of our party. “Dykes on bikes,” they yelled as we began to roll away. “Dykes on bikes!” they yelled again, then a bit quieter, one of them said “I especially like dykes on bikes when they are wearing skirts.” As we coasted down the gently sloping street, they thought they should count us rolling by. “Three dykes on bikes,” they said as a few of us took off. “Two dykes on bikes,” they chorused as the remaining two members of our party glided by on silent wheels with red safety lights flashing at their backs.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Extra Excellent RADAR

The following is reposted from Tightrope:

As Michelle Tea notified us in her official email announcing this month's RADAR reading at the SF Public Library, it was definitely "extra excellent." I wrote a little snippet about Dorothy Allison's performance, but every performer really deserves some applause. Michelle Tea closed the evening by saying that it was the only RADAR reading to ever receive a standing ovation, which was certainly well-deserved. The featured readers/performers at last night's event, Imani Henry, Nalo Hopkinson, Kate Bornstein, and Dorothy Allison all gave engaving performances.

Since I was not one of those people in the audience with a gigantic digital camera snapping photos during the event, I had to do a bit of research to locate a flickr photo-set of the event. It only took a few seconds to locate these photos by a flickr user called allaboutgeorge. They not only document the readers, but also Michelle Tea on her mad dashes about the room to provide delectable cookies to those audience members bold enough to ask questions during the Q&A session.

Read more about the event on Tighrope.

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