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PLUR and Pleather, Leather and Piercings

When it comes to pride parades, P.C. San Francisco leaves no carnival opportunity undiscovered. This past weekend featured the brightest and darkest of festivals with LoveFest on Saturday and Fulsome Street Fair on Sunday. Both had women in fishnets, middle-aged naked guys and the pungent aroma of government weed. But what Bay Area party would be complete with out these things? Saturday and Sunday thousands came out to rave and spank, starting the fun with LoveFest.

Don’t throw out those glow sticks just yet. Dance music is still alive and pulsing and LoveFest is the proof. The festival is originally based on the rave music Love Parade in Berlin. The German festival decided not to go international this year. So the San Francisco sponsors took on the street party solo with the new name, LoveFest.

Each float had a different D.J. spinning and a crew of party-people to warm your dancing feet. Some floats had generic dancing babes (a la Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love video). Others had a variety of costumed and candy-covered club kids. The line between spectator and participant was blurred as those who watched the parade came dressed up to join in and dance down Market Street when the music moved them. If you can dream it up and it’s brightly colored, there’s a chance someone was wearing it on Saturday.

I commend the planners of Lovefest for pulling off the event without a horde of sponsors hawking banks, beer, lube and other vaguely related products. The focus remained firmly on the techno beats and the beautiful, freaky people. Saturday’s street party owes its success to the ordinary folks with a wealth of time, creativity and, well, wealth that made LoveFest a newer brighter, happy-sunshine-rainbow-butterfly version of Halloween.

Fulsom is like Halloween, too! But only if you imagine the Halloween party that Larry Flynt would throw for Jean Genet and Sandra Bernhard. It’s the party where folks get-together and celebrate all things BDSM. What is there to do at the Fulsom Street Fair? You can get spanked and flogged (for free!) by a professional. You can find and join a public circle-jerk. You can finally get a chance to wear those ass-less chaps grandma got you for Christmas. You can watch a terrific drag show that showcases twenty years of Madonna in twenty minutes. You can shake your ass with hot women in pink leather pasties to the dark techno of My Life With Thrill Kill Kult.

As much as I enjoyed dancing to the Days of Swine and Roses, the band that really stole the show was Smash-Up Derby. This is a tranny-sexy-cool group with a great drummer and a ton of energy. They started as a collaboration between two mash-up D.J.s, Adrian Roberts and Dada. It’s unfair to focus attention to any one member of the band, however, as each member provides an essential element of talent and synergy. On top of that, they have a fun and catchy concept: they do live versions of mash-ups. That is, they cover two songs at once by taking the lyrics of popular songs and mixing them with alternative rock classics.

Whether your preferred form of hi-jinks involves all-night dancing or all-night nipple pinching, start planning your outfit for next year. I know I will be searching for just the right pink-day-glo platform boots or lace-up pleather pants. You gotta’ represent, you know? That is, if you insist on wearing clothing at all.

Like A Drunk Phone Call in the Middle of the Night…

… only you can mock it at your daytime convenience.

I’m drunk. but having one of those moments where I appreciate the miracle of life.

Take a moment to let it sink in. This is life. Beautiful, precious, (melo)dramatic, insignificant. How does your heart beat, over and over like that, without stopping? How do you breath, over and over, every minute? If you’re brain is only neurons firing, how do you have this history of memories that result in a person. You. Not just a being but a storyline, an actualization, a culmination of thousands of years of evolution? (and still so much further to go, in that regard.) I look at my pasty skin, my multi-colored eyes, my yellow teeth. Any number of miracles are happening there.

If you accept that living is miraculous (how can you not accept that?) than it must be pointed out how insignificant we are compared to the cosmos. And yet, miraculous we are nonetheless. So. Also miraculous must be our cells dividing. Every flake of skin we shed is a tragedy to the epidermal next-of-kin. There is a war going on between my blood-cells and the alcohol. A holy war, for the holy land that is the temple of my body.

Not that I am sacred. No more than you.

This thing called life is so brief. In less than a century it will all be over. This collection of memories and ideologies that is unique in the entire universe to you will be gone. There is no replicating it. Then:

Take a moment to treasure yourself.

Because no one will ever be exactly like you, and all that you have learned, and have yet to learn, cannot be matched by the history of time.

And no one will ever be exactly like you again, and someday,

you will be gone.

What impact can you make, in so brief a time? And yet, what other choice do you have? Each moment compels you to rub your back on the musty pages of history. It doesn’t matter how small the mark.

It matters that it is really happening. Life is more amazing than anything I could have dreamed up. Kudos to God (be that evolution). Stunning debut. Even from pain and misery, life gets a standing ovation.

Now I look forward to the second act. 😉

In Praise of the Ritual

No one was more surprised than me to find yours truly spending the evening with a coven of witches. Isn’t that what folks do in Berkeley: march in pride parades, practice witchcraft and buy organic coffee? Well, yes, actually, that’s exactly what folks do around here. But I have always had trouble worshiping a god/dess that, while maybe important to the people who built the Parthenon, has always been presented to me as a fairy-tale.

Nonetheless, I found the ritual delightful. Everyone left their eye of newt and their cauldron at home and got together to bake bread. The idea was that it is now the beginning of the harvest so we must take stock of what we’ve produced. It was also the end of planting so we are celebrating the seeds that will grow in the next season. As we collectively rolled and kneaded, Priestess TigerWillow explained the symbolism of the various spices you might add to your bread. We each chose spices based on what we hoped to “plant” into our lives in the upcoming year. It takes some planning to make bread so I enjoyed making it a social process. I would never have the patience to assemble the ingredients, let them set for an hour to rise, knead and shape it and then bake for another hour.

It is amazing to start from a lot of nothing – a packet of yeast, some water and flour – and turn it into the lovely, clefted loaf of bread more often seen on display than for eating. There must have been a bit of magic in the room because we left our bread in the bowl with just a towel over it and low and behold an hour later it rose up and doubled in size. I felt like a kid on Mr. Wizard.

While our hopes and dreams were in the oven we made corn dollies. The objective is similar to that of the bread. While crafting your dolly, you think of what you hope to accomplish in the next year and decorate her accordingly. It’s playing with Barbies for girls with Day Planners. More importantly, it is a very right-brained way of doing the kind of left-brained planning creative types have so much trouble with. Those of us whose personalities are more creative and fluid don’t take naturally to putting checks in boxes next to goals completed. But we can make a work of art that reminds us of our goals and stick it where we’ll see it every day. Had we done this last year, it would be time to burn our old dolly before forming the new one. What a great ritual! I am so in favor of this ritual that I might just do it again next year even if there are no women channeling Demeter anywhere in sight.

Ever since everyone you and I know read Shirley Jackson’s “the Lottery”, ritual has gotten a bad name. As a modern, jaded heathen, I look at the traditions of our culture with a certain amount of skepticism. Many who don’t see themselves as the religion they were raised try to participate in the spirit of the various holidays without actually believing: eating turkey and giving thanks in November and exchanging presents and being nice in December.

It has reached the point where the acts are no longer connected with the meaning they once intended. A plastic, glowing Christmas tree may be a thing of beauty but it is certainly no reminder of the tenacity of life during the harsh winter. We should be asking ourselves: what is the purpose of this tradition? Does it do what it intends to do? Is the objective something I value in my life?

The last question is both the most important and the least important. If, for example, you plan to have central heat every winter for the rest of your life you may not give a damn about appreciating the harsh winter. Find a more worthy ritual. On the other hand, parents pass on these rituals to their progeny because they hold value, whether you see it or not. So you may want to experiment with the traditions that challenge your values. If a ritual has lasted for thousands of years than maybe there’s something to be said for it. If winter means nothing more to you than a higher gas bill, maybe such a tradition is just what you need.

Outside of the church, social gatherings can be lacking in meaning. More and more, people only seem to get together to take drugs or watch television or go shopping. These are our rituals and as we promote them they become us. We become them.

What are the rituals that shape your life? What meanings do they have? How are they significant and in what ways do you take them for granted? Wouldn’t it be great to take stock of what’s important to you, philosophically and spiritually, and create or continue rituals that promote that ideology? There is so much in life to celebrate. Do it right.

Half-ass Attacked, Generous Queen

It’s not much of a coincidince that I was thinking about the possibility of being attacked because that is something I contemplate every time I am walking alone in the middle of the night. I was talking to my mother on my cell phone and she said that she wanted to keep me on the line, just to be safe. I told her that talking on the phone only makes me look like more of a mark but that I wanted to chat because walking at night is boring. The clunky heels didn’t help either. So yeah, I was considering the idea. But every girl does.

But that’s the end of the evening and (having read Through the Looking Glass like a proper child) stories should start at beginnings.

I was doing promotional work at Charlie Brown’s Cabaret (that’s a drag show, to you out-of-town folks), just handing out free CDs and taking pictures. It was a great show, one of their best that I’ve seen. They had some Kings that go by the name Boys to Men. They had great showmanship but the gender-bending was unconvincing. Genre did a glitter-goth androgynous act that was just my cup of tea. Most of the other queens did the typical shimmy-shake of silicone that brings a cascade of dollar bills. Alexandria, the queen that was helping me promote CDs, did her act on roller skates. Charlie Brown demanded that the two audience members willing to admit they are republicans should give her five dollars gas money to get home.

A friendly gay man struck up a conversation with me. He works for the Village Voice. I asked him how he got that [sweet] gig and he said he went to Harvard and wrote for the Harvard Review. Well then. I’d have better luck hitching a ride with Doctor Who than getting into Harvard. He said the way to get a job is to write every single day. So here I am, writing. Then he asked me about the privacy of the bathrooms which I’m just going to assume is a drug thing and not a weird, fear of peeing thing.

By the time the queen gave out the last of the CDs and I had taken all the pictures I could it was 1:50. Unfortunately, the last train leaves at 1:20. I knew that I could call the boyfriend to pick me up but I remember how mad Liz was last year when I did that to her. Besides, I’ve had to ask my honey for rides so often that he almost expects it. I thought about asking some friends who lived in the area if they would pick me up and I could crash at their place.

I’m torn between not wanting to be dependent upon my friends and thinking that’s what friends are for.

Around this time, Queen Alexandria asks me if I got any good pictures. Yes, I tell her. I’ve been all smiles all night. Why do I look so cross now, she wants to know. When I tell her I missed the last train, she offers me the milk of her own teet! That is, she pulls a ten dollar bill out of her tits so I can call a cab. What a lady!

I hail a cab, which makes me feel like a big-city girl. But I only have eleven dollars so I tell the cabbie to pull over when meter hits nine so I can give him a shitty tip. He says he’d rather me get home safely then worry about a tip but I insist. After all, I’d have to walk twice the distance from the train station.

I was about four blocks from home when I decided to call my mother. There was no one in sight, which is just the way I like it when I’m walking through the city in the middle of the night.

When I get to the block my apartment is on, a guy is walking behind me. No big deal. We’re both crossing the street. He’s walking faster than me. That’s okay, everyone has their own pace. So I change my course a little to put some distance between us. But he’s still getting closer. Now I’m thinking, what’s this about? He looks pretty clean cut, I don’t think he’s crazy/homeless. Anyway, he’s behind me so I don’t think he’s going to ask me for anything. People usually address you before they approach you right? But this guy, he’s touching me, he actually has his hand on my side, where my coat pocket is. So I turn around and say:

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING ME? DON’T YOU SEE IT’S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT; THERE’S NO ONE AROUND ANYWHERE. YOU’RE SCARING ME. GO AWAY.” I was not screaming but projecting firmly and politely. Its insane that I feel the need to be polite to this person that I feel is possibly threatening my life just in case I’m some how mistaken and it is perfectly okay to walk up to a stranger and grab them at three in the morning. The guy is saying something in response but I don’t really hear what it is. So sorry, can’t hear you while you are scaring the piss out of me.

Of course, my mom is freaking out. What does he look like? She wants to know in case she needs to call the police. He has a white, numbered jersey. His face is round. He is short and squat. He’s wearing a black messenger bag, the kind with a cell phone pocket in the front. I am backing away from him. He starts to walk away which is great except that he is walking in the direction of my apartment so I have no choice but to go the other way.

The first car I flag down doesn’t stop. Then a car pulls up to the red light and I ask them for a ride. So I hitch a ride with this guy to go half a block because I’m shaking and too scared to walk to my apartment unescorted. Then when I get in my apartment the bulb is burnt out and my Id says that somehow HE did this and he is there hiding.

I know this is ridiculous but I check under the bed, just to be sure there’s no bogeyman.

Who needs high school reunions?

“You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

 — Howard Zinn

I’ve been websurfing through profiles of people I went to high school with. Though I have changed a lot, people that I thought were cool in high school are still the type of people I want to be friends with. People that were “enh” are still “enh.” Most of the latter now have nice-paying careers working for the man. Or doing something incredibly boring that one would only do to have money. While I’m reaching a place in my life where that sort of thing is more important to me (gee, would be nice to fill some of these cavities before I start to resemble the woman who sleeps at the busstop across from the Amtrak) I still find it unimpressive. I wouldn’t trade places to have that kind of job.

I also noticed that people who have TV, babies or God are only interested in TV, babies and God.

Along the same lines, very few people have any interest in the turmoil that is going on in the world. I’m sure that many are aware and just don’t post about it. This makes me want to be more conscious about posting politics.

Last night I got a phone call from a woman I used to know when I was a teen and she was a child. We’re five years apart. She says that she looks up to me because I went to college and I was involved in politics. She doesn’t know a lot about politics (IE, she didn’t know what fascism is) but she knows enough to be peeved. She said she was confused and I could tell that she was frustrated. I feel like there are many people that would make an impact if only they knew how/what/where to break into it.

This inspires in me a lot of mixed feelings. People are really angered about the paths this administration is taking, even people that live in the suburbs and don’t expose themselves to any kind of news media, let alone non-corporate media. There was a woman on the Diane Rheam Weekend Round-up who was near tears because the president lied about the CIA leak. She said it was getting harder and harder to call this country a democracy. The pundits replied that at least there is transparancy and the people will make change at the ballot box. But I’m with H. D. Thoreau on this one:

“Must we resign our conscious to the legislator? Why has every man a conscious then? We should be men first, and subjects second.”

And that gets right to the heart of it. We know how to vote, but once that’s failed we know not where else to turn. I would go so far as to say that our culture discourages further action.

Ask yourself, what have you done for your country today? And by that I mean, what have you done for the world today? And by that I mean, what have you done for your city today? How are the actions that you take on a daily basis affecting the world at large? Would you even begin to know how to affect the world? Yet you are affecting the world. By choosing not to act, that is impacting history. There are no sidelines, everyone is in the game. I may drop the ball from time to time, but at least I’m out there running.

Call Your Mom

I always say that you never hear more lies than at a funeral. “It was just her time,” or “she was ready,” or “I wish I knew her better.” It seems like the truth lives in the jags of silence. There was that kind of silence when he pushed her body into the crematorium oven and all I could think was, “He’ll never see her face again.”

I don’t do well with silence.

It takes everything for me to keep my lips sealed, to the point that when I am quiet people usually ask me what’s wrong. So funerals can be annoying for me.

Rewind to Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend and I were supposed to go ice skating. He gets a phone call saying that his mother has been transferred to the ICU. She had pneumonnia and blood clots in her leg. Turns out that’s two big red flags for cancer. The big C is one of those slow killers where everyone gets to mourn before you’re dead and you can say your goodbyes, get your affiars in order. But two days later she was dead.

On top of mourning, he’s getting calls from everyone. His ex that left him for his roommate–they both called. People that he hasn’t told yet. People he hasn’t spoken to in years. Its like a high school reunion. He also has to go through all her stuff, decide what to toss and what to keep.

I can’t imagine.

We’re all going to go through it. Unless you are an orphan or you die young — neither of which is a preferable fate — you will be there to see your mother die. Whether you’re standing there giving the doctor’s the OK not to continue resuscitation (like he did) or whether you haven’t spoken in years. One of the more morbid milestones of life.

So. The funeral. It was a Hindu funeral. The “temple” was in a place of worship at an Indian shopping mall. We all sat on the floor with our shoes off. The priest was wearing all white. He sang in Sanskrit and translated. He compared reincarnation to buying new clothes, which was a strange but fitting metaphor. Sean and I made a garland that was strung around a picture of his mother. At the end of the service all the guests went before her picture and said a prayer and placed a flower next to it.

So last night I found out that my mom was Baker-acted again. My grandmother called the police because she felt threatened by my mother. She just wanted them to talk to her, get her to be reasonable. I don’t think that law enforcement officers are really trained for mediation. My grandmother called them because she didn’t know where else to turn. The police beat my mom in the intake room. They injured her elbow, eye and shoulder (which she is soon to have surgery on). But when I called her she was only upset because she felt like she had let me down.

But she’s the only mom I’ll ever have and I love her. She has problems living in the world but she is a good mother. She always made me feel like I could do anything if I worked hard at it. She made me feel treasured. She raised me to be confident and never take crap from anyone. How many daughters can say that? Not enough, anyway.

Sean’s brother thinks that Christa was ready to die because her role as a wife and mother was done. Imagine that being what your whole life is about. Yet my mom is the same way.

So thanks mom. And thanks to Christa. I never got to tell you. Thanks for raising a boy to be the kind of man that changes my idea of what a man can be.