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11 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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In my absence I built the website for the Sisters' Economic and Social Justice Scholarship Fund.  The new site can be found by clicking here.

I slowly realized a long love affair has come to an end.  Just shy of seven years and I no longer find any enthusiasm for what once occupied such a large portion of my heart.  For years I've rejoiced when the wheels of the aircraft touch the runway and I find myself back in San Francisco.  I may have lost my heart in San Francisco, but I found it again resting next to an SUV tire in a gutter coated in urine from the homeless and cigarettes from careless queer boys.  I brushed off the effluvia, gave it a rinse and marveled at its reappearance.

I can't say for certain what happened to the San Francisco I loved.  Perhaps we both changed so slowly we didn't realize we were growing apart.  While I was wandering the stairways, the face of the city changed with garage additions and garish glass houses built by architects who should have known to stay in Los Angeles.  Maybe my immune system, in quiet revolt, finally managed to communicate to my brain that MUNI really is a tuberculosis ward with wheels. 

Perhaps San Francisco hasn't changed any more than any other city.  Maybe I've just grown tired of women who hate men for no good reason, gay men who hate straight people for no good reason, straight people who move into gay neighborhoods and then want the dildo stores closed for no good reason.  Yes, in fact from time to time I want to stand on a box in the middle of Castro Street and yell "For Christsakes, if everyone is a fucking victim, well then who is left to be the oppressor?"  But then someone would point to me and remark that I'm male and white and wearing a habit that was derived from the Catholic church and haven't I seen the Madgalene Sisters yet?

I can still stand at the top of Twin Peaks or Coit Tower and look out across the hills of overpriced rental housing and see the city I fell in love with.  But the love is one of nostalgia, the delicate hand of memory slowing pulling iridescent muslin curtains over the emotions of the moment.

Yes, San Francisco is still charming and witty and crazy and so left wing that George Bush knows better than to land Air Force One on our fog covered runways.  I still enjoy the stairways, the bridges, the Victorians, the crazy drag queens arguing with leathermen over who should hang out with whom, the grown men who ride motorcycles and play with LEGO.  I cherish the odd Quaker meeting house which looks like a dressed up methadone clinic, the little cat named Che who hangs out in my back yard and waits for treats and the seemingly sane people who line up in droves to play Bingo.

Maybe this is what love is like after seven years.  Infatuation fades and one is left with the choice to stay and grow old or flee without any guarantee of finding love again. 

I've lived in San Francisco longer than I've lived anywhere else in my adult life.  Next year, if all goes as planned, I will strike out for a new destination, stopping to wave as I disappear over the hills to the east. 

Of course, Sister Betty will still be Sister Betty and you can count on odd things from new lands...

19 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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If all the pieces of the current plan come together, MUNI Guy and I will shortly own a Big Blue House. I am very excited.  The house, by the way, is located (according to mapping software) exactly 3,226 miles east of San Francisco.  Travel any further east and you'll need to buy a lobster boat.

People in San Francisco seem to divide into two groups:  those who believe living anywhere east of the Bay Bridge is unimaginable (if they are referring to Oakland, I'm inclined to agree) and those who like San Francisco but cheer at the idea of exploring somewhere new.  I'll admit I once belonged to the first group.  Road Trip 2003 left me certain it is time for a new adventure. 

Now, I'm not just packing up my bags and heading out.  There are a good many projects which will keep me in the City by the Bay for a few months longer and I don't have the LL Bean Feather Down Insulated Wimple and Habit, so I'm not moving in the middle of winter.  Sometime early next year it will be time to pack the moving van and scare some other part of this very big nation.

I do wish they made an all-wheel drive version of the MINI...

23 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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There is a new addition to the Sister Betty website family...Sister Betty Tours.

There are moments at sea when the ocean is completely calm.  The surface of the water is, to use a cliche, like glass.  The movement of the ship causes a mere ripple that rapidly dissipates.  The sky is often filled with fog when the ocean is this calm.  You sit on the iron deck, wrapped in silence and humidity.  You could be anywhere.  Land could be a mile away or a hundred miles away.  You are suspended between earth and sky by a membrane of water.

There are other moments when the sea convulses and waves slam against the ship.  Sixty foot waves lift the bow and bury it again, the steel backbone of the ship shuddering and pausing.  The expansion joints of the superstructure expand and collapse, expand and collapse.  Only the collective agreement of the iron molecules below your feet keep the ship from tearing in two.

On a clear day, you can lean far out over the bow and see down to the very bottom of the prow. The wind blows across your face and pulls at your shirt.  A flying fish leaves the surface of a wave and disappears again. 

Blood has exactly the same salinity as salt water. 

25 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Yesterday was exceptionally beautiful.  MUNI Guy and I packed lunch and headed to Point Reyes, which turned out to be a bit further than I expected.  We ate our lunch on a high bluff overlooking a long stretch of coastline and then hiked the 300 steps to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

It seems to be a universal truth that we humans rarely explore our own backyards. Sometimes it takes the arrival of guests to prompt us to explore those unique bits of local color and history which populate the land around us. 

I've lived in San Francisco for more than six years and I've still not walked across the Golden Gate Bridge or visited Alcatraz.  I once rode a cable car, but that was years before I moved here.  The majority of San Franciscans I know have not visited Coit Tower, walked up a hidden stairway, taken the ferry to Sausalito or driven down Highway 1 to Pacifica.  Most of us haven't walked through the doors of Grace Cathedral, wandered through the old porno houses (now tourist pubs) on Broadway or even seen Beach Blanket Babylon. 

I admit I have never been to Point Reyes before.  And, in truth, it wasn't the place I'd planned on having lunch.  I took a wrong turn and ended up on a road without any picnic areas.  We found ourselves at the end of the continent watching waves rolling on the sand hundreds of feet below.
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Perhaps these local explorations are less important because their presence becomes part of our expected reality.  Their uniqueness fades into a pastel background we recognize but rarely consider in detail.  It takes the arrival of an outsider, someone unaccustomed to our surroundings, to awaken us to the highlights of our existence.

If we are fortunate, from time to time, we may be prompted to explore local sites on our own.  Wandering the city or countryside, we discover (or rediscover) the very things closest to us.

It is the same when we turn to the person sitting next to us, the friend, the lover, someone we've known for years.  Suddenly, we see them anew.

26 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Last night MUNI Guy was called "MUNI Guy" by a stranger (to him) on a public street.  He's unaccustomed to such fame.

The Big Blue House is either 83 years old or 103 years old, depending on whether or not you believe the title company or the current owner.  The official description written in 1902 repeats the words "more or less" four separate times when describing the boundaries of the property. 

The previous bit of trivia is triggered by the arrival of the home inspection report today.  Given the house was built before my grandparents and most of my ex boyfriends were born, if you overlook certain age related concerns it was a clean bill of health. 

My realtor grew somewhat exasperated when I asked how an oil fired furnace tankless coil line works, why attics need soffit vents, what a furnace vermin screen is and how ice dams can destroy shingles.  I think the realtor used the word "flatlanders" to describe Californians.  Before today, I thought ice dams were just chilly STD prevention devices.

(I can explain in detail how mass flow rate impacts reactor thermal efficiency and yet I don't have the slightest clue why you shouldn't insulate the underside of a roof.)

My friend Mario, aside from being about the cutest and most competent damn lawyer you can find, was kind enough to give me some legal pointers about owning property today.

In summary: MUNI Guy, Big Blue House, ice dams, lawyer.  I have indeed become middle income, middle class and about as heterosexual as a big, queer, cross-dressing guy can get without actually having to touch breasts or learn how to locate a G-spot.

26 August 2003 - "The Skulls" - Portland, Maine (Comment)

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From top left:  Eastern Promenade sidewalk, corrogated building, Portland Company, propane tank, fishing pier.

27 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody.  Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, "Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men," and he would have meant the same thing.  - John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

29 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Last night a homeless panhandler decided to assault me when I declined his request for money.  MUNI Guy and I were walking home after work and the panhandler decided a fist to my chest might get the quarter I initially refused.

On a street full of people, I generally recommend not choosing the 230 pound, 6 foot 7 inch guy to attack.  Even if you don't know he's a combat veteran, it's just a bad idea to go after the big ones.
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I only responded with a single blow and it sent him spinning.  I suspect it will be the last time he attacks someone for awhile.

A crazed woman saw the scene from behind and followed us up the street screaming:  "He just hit a homeless person! He's a gay basher!  He just hit a homeless person!" 

The crazy woman flagged down a police cruiser.  The officers asked me what happened, rolled their eyes at the crazy woman and then said goodbye.

30 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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MUNI Guy and I rented an apartment today.  It is the first step in preparing for the move eastward and reduces our expenses between now and then.  It is also a big step and somewhat scary. 

The new place has a fireplace, two bathrooms (Who has two bathrooms in San Francisco?), a parking spot and a fabulous front room perfect for cocktail parties. 

While on the subject of cocktail parties, the Tall Men's group is headed this way in two hours for a movie night.  I must clean the bathroom.

I am very much looking forward to the Big Blue House and living in a new city.

31 August 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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There are days when I have giants rafts of work bumping against the edges of my desk and yet I cannot bring myself to start on any of it.  Today is such a day. 

<Rant warning>

Last night I hosted a movie night for a group of people and I was reminded once again of the gradual decline in social graces.  There is a definite difference between a good guest and a bad guest - those who remain on the "A" list and those who are lucky to find a place at the bottom of the "C" list. 

It may be that in a culture raised on demanding food from a box then navigating to see portions dispensed from a window, we've had insufficient exposure to decent manners. 

Here are a few pointers from Sister Betty:

1. RSVP is a gentle way of saying "Fucking tell me if you are coming or not, you sorry ass bastard."  In other words, the host needs to plan for the proper number of guests.  Your reply assists in this planning.  It is never acceptable to RSVP and not attend, nor is it acceptable to RSVP less than 24 hours before an event.  Waiting to see "if you get a better offer" is incredibly rude and certain to get you drop-kicked to the "Do Not Invite" list. 

2. An invitation which says "you and a guest" means one (1) guest.  Choose carefully.  Just because you find your lug-head friend funny when he is drunk doesn't mean other people do.  Guests of guests should never invite guests.

3. There is no such thing as a good cheap wine.  Yes, there are good inexpensive wines, but you won't buy them for $2 at Costco.  Cheap wine is for college dorm parties.  Unless your host lives in a dorm, make the effort to bring something which doesn't double as graffiti remover.

4. Choosing the time to arrive for a party is a fine art.  There are three types of parties:  Dinner, Cocktail and House.  Never arrive early.  Walk around the block, spend some time picking out a better wine, but do not press that doorbell before the party starts.  For a dinner party, show up no later than 15 minutes late, no more than 30 minutes late for a cocktail party and no more than an hour late for a house party.

5. If you have some odd dietary concern, don't assume the host made provisions for your Homeopathic Bee Dung Diet - even if they know you.  Call and provide some forewarning.  And never, under any circumstances, bring some odiferous vegantofu- vegetablenutorganichippiemush dish without asking first. 

6. Never bring food unless requested to do so.  If requested to bring food, stopping by the corner store and arriving with a bag of chips and plastic tub of salsa isn't appropriate unless the gathering includes football. (People who violate this rule are often guilty of violating rule #3 as well.)

7. Slavery has ended and the vast majority of the world doesn't have house staff.  Don't leave your debris sitting beside the sofa or on the window sill.

8. If you are one of the last people to leave, ask the host if they might need some help tidying up. 

9. Always, always, always send a thank you note.  Thank you notes take around ninety seconds to print, seal and mail.  A phone call is a poor but somewhat acceptable substitute if you are too cheap to purchase a stamp.  E-mail is never an acceptable way to communicate gratitude for a party. 

And, my San Francisco specific rules:

1. Most of the buildings in San Francisco now have workable indoor plumbing.  Unless the host indicated the party is intended for differently-odored people, shower before your leaving your home. 

2. If the party lacks a leather theme, leave the big boots at home.

3. If the invitation didn't feature half-naked men and references to a sex party, it isn't okay to start groping other guests without their permission.

</Rant warning>


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