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06 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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On Friday of last week, MUNI Guy and I were standing in 20 degree weather if you don't count the wind chill.  MUNI Guy was happy I made him return to the car for his coat.  I took this photograph during the fifteen seconds my hands were steady enough to do so.  Can you guess where we were?

MUNI Guy and I own the Big Blue House now. 

I called the fuel oil company to schedule delivery of heating oil for the new house.  The friendly customer service agent (just about everyone in Maine seems pretty friendly) told me the oil company considers winter to run from July 31st to June 1st of the next year.  Summer is just two months long?  No, I am assured.  Those two months include spring and autumn as well.

Back in California where summer and winter are differentiated primarily by the ebb and flow of tourists, I awake on election day with the worst headache I have experienced in years.  I can't say whether the election and the headache are related and two Vicodin serve only to dull the pain so I am moderately functional.

I voted to recall Gray Davis.  I am weary of elections where my choice is limited to one evil over another, where choices are based on fear and not enthusiasm.  Gray Davis is a meager candidate as are his well known opponents.  I know Arianna Huffington withdrew from the race and I voted for her anyway. I wanted to vote for Peter Camejo but I couldn't find his name in the long, long, long list of candidates.  Has the Secretary of State ever heard of alphabetizing?  After twenty minutes of standing in that silly booth and scanning the unending list, I had to vote for someone.  Sorry, Peter.

If Grey Davis is recalled and Arnold wins, Democrats will direct the pointy finger of blame at voters like myself, just as they did to Ralph Nader's supporters when Al Gore lost.  Democrats may be less likely than Republicans to come snooping in my bedroom, but the party is a failure when it comes to creating a sustainable and fair society.  A third party candidate may not win the election, but they often inspire my imagination of what our society could look like.  I prefer to vote for vision over status quo.

(Today's entry was written entirely under the influence of Vicodin.  I disavow any responsibility for grammar, spelling or intellectual integrity.)

08 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Surreal, yes.  Catastrophic, no.

Aside from minor nashing of teeth and a single garment-rending incident, San Francisco (at least the part I walk through) seems to have accepted the new governor with little fanfare.  California has weathered terrible governors before.  To be accurate, California hasn't had a decent governor in the fourteen years I have lived here.  Along with our hot tubs, nudist beaches, queers and offbeat religion, we Californians are rather known for incompetent leadership.  Gray Davis' predecessor was an especially vile Republican.  Ronald Reagan came from California, too. 

The moon has risen over the Bay, full and bright.  The fog is blowing over Twin Peaks and wrapping the moon in a gauze scarf.  The cat has climbed onto my lap and stretches across my arms as I sit to write.  She looks up at me as if to ask if just one hand can be freed from the keyboard to scratch behind a twitching ear.  Somewhere on the street below a child is talking to his mother.  Earth continues on another lap around the sun while far, far, far away, the outer edges of the Milky Way are colliding with and absorbing another galaxy.

10 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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I keep an office in an executive office suite downtown.  A lawyer in the same suite stopped by today and asked about my office chairs.  I invited her in to try them out.  She was tall, pretty and blond with big breasts and a very short skirt.  She slid all the way to the back of the chair ensuring maximum leg exposure.  While we talked about corporate law and conflict resolution, I kept wondering what I might do in this situation if I were straight.  I have a long standing fantasy of having sex on top of my desk in front of my office windows seventeen floors above the city. (My desk is a glass table, so this may not be the best piece of furniture for robust physical activity.)

A gay friend reported he once had sex with a girlfriend in college.  He remarked her breasts reminded him of baseballs stuffed in the end of wet sweat socks.

In my life I've entertained sexual fantasies about just one woman.  She is physically beautiful, but it is her energy and personality that really turn me on.  Should we ever have sex, I suspect she would eventually become annoyed at my repeated requests for her to stop blocking the television screen.  We'd end up watching the porno together while I explain why guys like rimming. 

On an unrelated note, the Sisters are accepting applications for college scholarships.  Click here for more information.

14 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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I started taking photographs three years ago in an effort to make this website more visually attractive.  I never really gave much thought to the effort, I just carried around a camera to record scenes which caught my eye. I certainly never considered myself a photographer.

Three months ago the National Academy of Sciences purchased the rights to publish an image from Road Trip 2003 in an upcoming book.  A month later, a local conservation group asked for rights to an image from the Stairways of San FranciscoDavid, an artist I respect immensely, sent a very kind note asking if he might have some photographs, too.  The photo archive is of the top features of this site.  Is it possible that in my attempt to become a writer I'm becoming a photographer instead?

What becomes of all the photographs we take during our lives?  When my life ends, who will sift through the boxes and boxes of prints?  Will someone find meaning in the images?  If so, for how long?  If not, where do those images go?

A certain school of psychology argues the anxiety we experience when contemplating mortality is one of the most significant challenges we humans face.  We construct intricate defenses in an effort to support the idea that somehow we can reach beyond the end of our lives.  We have children, build giant buildings, create works of art both significant and minor.  Yet in the end, even the greatest of us are reduced to crumbling sketches in the archives of history. 

A photographer acquaintance of mine recently bemoaned the move toward digital media.  "We just don't know how long those CDs will last," she complained.  "How will we know the wedding pictures will be there year after year?"

The sepia photograph of my grandparent's 1920's wedding (even my grandfather wasn't certain what year he was married) rests in my hands.  My grandmother wears a veil covered in roses, my grandfather is stiff and proper.  Somewhere what remains of these two people is slowly returning the earth and the real memory of those wedding moments is long gone.

For some, photography may be a way to hold on to the past.  From time to time I share this sentiment.  For me, photography is a way to illuminate life, to capture the details we might miss in our rush from the office to the television.  These images celebrate the arc from birth until death and remind me that joy is derived from being as fully present as my human nature allows me to be.

16 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

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21 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

My first sea-going assignment in the Navy was aboard the nuclear powered cruiser USS Long Beach.  The Long Beach was one of the largest ships in the Navy with a crew of nearly one thousand men. The crew was divided into operating departments and each with separate berthing area and tiny lounge.

With the ship underway between ports there was little to do after the workday ended.  If we weren't on watch or repairing errant equipment, we would gather in the small lounge areas and watch movies on closed circuit television.  Each of the lounge areas sported four chairs for thirty men and it was always a race to see who could claim a chair for the evening.  Certain rules applied:  If you left the chair to go to the head, it belonged to you when you returned provided you didn't take too long.  If you left the chair to get snacks, the chair remained yours if you brought snacks for the person guarding your chair.  If you left for any other reason, the chair was open for any of the other sailors sitting on the cold tile or crouched in the tight stairway.
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One night, in a berthing area further aft, a black sailor left his chair to get snacks.  There was some debate whether or not he asked anyone to guard his space, thereby possibly violating the second rule of lounge etiquette.  When he returned, a white sailor had taken his chair.  A brief argument ensued.  The white sailor refused to return the vinyl-covered, slightly rusty resting place to the previous occupant. 

The black sailor went up one deck, took a ten-pound dogging wrench from its mount, returned to the lounge and beat the white sailor to death while other sailors watched with stunned surprise.  Blood from the beating was tracked all the way to the mess decks.

23 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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One of my Quaker friends sent me an email message imploring me to attend an upcoming anti-war rally.  The organizers are hoping for the largest crowd since the war in Iraq began.  Thousands of people will wander down the streets, listen to speeches, chant slogans and the entire effort will be as ineffectual as all the rallies and protests that proceeded it.

A great many of the people who support the notion of nonviolent protest invoke Gandhi, Martin Luther King or make the occasional reference to the fall of Communism in the Eastern Bloc.  As they plan their protests, these well intended people fail to grasp the fundamental reason their efforts are unsuccessful.  Peaceful protests which create no hardship for larger society or the government can, and are, simply ignored.

The world could not ignore Gandhi or Martin Luther King, at least not for very long.  They shut down industry, brought cities to a standstill and camped directly below the windows the rich and powerful.  The impact of their actions was tangible.  These participants in these movements suffered significant hardship - many were beaten, imprisoned and even killed.

The modern protest creates no hardship for the participants or those in power.  We gather our water bottles and our ergonomic walking shoes for a stroll down Main Street.  The success of such events is measured by the number of attendees and the time allotted on the evening news.  People on the streets proclaim the greatness of the event while those in power nod at each other and change the channel.

If we are to create sustainable, tangible change, our actions must have meaning and impact.  We must undertake actions which are difficult, perhaps harmful, even criminal under our current law.

Two years ago, I sat outside San Quentin at an anti-death penalty vigil.  Hundreds stood outside the gates while inside the condemned was walking to the death chamber.  Standing in the cold, I realized how silly we were.  Our presence meant nothing.  It was ignored by the guards, the Governor, the world.  On this cold night a man would die and our efforts were as valuable as the songs sung into the bitter sea breeze.  If we truly wanted to change the outcome of the night we needed to storm the gates, cut the power lines, swarm the prison blocks.  We did none of these things.

Gandhi gained the attention of the world and the freedom of a nation in part by refusing to buy the goods of the oppressor.  In today's world of hyper-finance and free market capitalism, this is the key to power and change.  If we want those in power to take notice, we must bring force to the financial underpinnings of the world.  The key is simple.  Three-quarters of the United States' economy is based on consumerism.  Simply stop spending on all non-essentials until the war is ended.  No cars, no extra clothes, no new dishwashers, no computers, no software, no new sheets, no travel.  When the corporations suffer, so do their bought-and-paid for friends in power.  This isn't a boycott, it isn't a protest.  It is shutting down the economy.

Of course, it won't happen.  As a society we like our cable television, our overstuffed couches and our hours spending lolling in stores incurring expense without pleasure.  Shopping is entertainment.  Lacking external entertainment, we have only to turn inward, something we are entirely unprepared to do.

24 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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I often dreamed of flying on the Concorde and never had the opportunity.  Sister Gina did while wearing an Hermes scarf purchased for the journey.  BBC put together a very well done interactive tour of the Concorde. Click here to take a look.

I operated nuclear reactors for the United States Navy. The Soviets built some amazing nuclear ships including some nuclear powered icebreakers.  MSCO runs the icebreakers now and for $15,980 they'll take you to the North Pole.  I may not have made it aboard the Concorde, but I'm going to make every effort to take a ride aboard a Soviet-era nuclear ship.  If you want to donate to the Send Sister Betty to the North Pole Campaign, please let me know.  In the interim, can anyone help sew a lead liner into my wimple? 

I have received quite a bit of criticism over the past several days for agreeing to allow Gavin Newsom, a mayoral candidate in San Francisco, to attend Ba-da-Bingo as a guest MC in November. 

Over the past four years, I've invited a great many local dignitaries (including our local politicos) to join me on stage and pull balls for charity.  If inviting a celebrity helps raise money for charity, then I'm pleased to offer a few minutes of stage time.  I invited all the current mayoral candidates months ago and I've heard back from only a couple of them.  The invitation remains open and if you dislike Gavin, put some pressure on your favorite candidate to accept the call.

Some people have been especially vociferous that Tom Ammiano is not appearing at Bingo.  For the record, I've invited Tom multiple times over the last four years and his office repeatedly declines the request.  In fact, Tom is the only gay or lesbian identified city supervisor since 1999 who has not agreed to lend his talent to this event.

Appearing on stage with a candidate doesn't mean I endorse, support or even like them. (When Bevan Dufty came to visit I smiled and acted nice when I really wanted to whack him with a stick.)  What I do like is an event that is open to the entire community, that attracts a diverse group of people and entertains everybody while raising money.  Inviting candidates is a great way to add some excitement to the evening.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, click here and check out my most successful project:  Ba-da-Bingo!

27 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Drew complained my email signature line was dated.  I challenged him to suggest alternatives and he did:

  • Yet another Socialist who will visit Cuba, but doesn't want to live there.

  • `cause sometimes decking a homeless guy is the most compassionate thing you can do.

  • The prettiest ass I've ever seen under a habit.

  • The only man who has bent down to stick his tongue somewhere besides my ass.

  • Very few folks could put their hands on their 33" rail thin habit clad torso and notice aloud, "¡God, I'm getting fat!" over a PA system at a bear convention and still be outrageously popular with the crowd.  Sister Betty has.

  • Thoughtful journaling distilled a level beyond the typical daily doings.

  • There are very few places one can find writings as moving and well thought out without having to worry about having a moral shoved down your throat by the end.
Any other suggestions

I love Drew.  Along with Erika and David, he has a nack for sending me the best email when I most need it.

(For the record, I would live in Cuba if given the opportunity.)

A few days ago, something caused me to remember Allen Schindler and recall today was the anniversary of his death.  I was still in the Navy when Allen, a gay sailor, was beaten to death in a public bathroom by two of his shipmates.  The beating was so severe Allen's mother could only identify the body by looking for tattoo on her son's arm. In testimony, one of the participants said:  "During the time I was watching Helvey [another attacker], I do not know exactly how I was standing. I just know I stood by and watched."

It is the Quaker practice to sit in silence at intervals throughout the week.  In these silent moments, I find myself looking back at life and considering what I have witnessed.  How odd it seems that tales like this can be true.

28 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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When I talk to gay people in other cities (except Los Angeles where no one talks to anyone) and mention I'm from San Francisco, their eyes glaze over and they sputter "San Francisco!" with a mixture of disbelief and awe.  It is as if San Francisco breeds a certain super-gay, an uber-queer.  We are the storm troopers of liberalism bashing back at the marshalling hordes of conservatives.  San Francisco gays represent the freedom and the life all the flyover queers dream about just beyond the edge of their mobile home parks and planned communities.  Once a year the rest of the country sees televised pictures of hundreds of thousands of queers marching on Market Street and they want to come to this place...this place where you can wear leather to the opera, piss on your lover in public, strap on high heels and hit the town regardless of your gender.

To be clear, those of us still in San Francisco certainly are a tougher breed.  We aren't the Dot Com children who came to the city chasing money and left at the first sign of unemployment induced hunger.  We aren't the homosexuals who moved to San Diego after realizing it is impossible to simultaneously fund both rent and a crystal meth addiction here. We bear little resemblance to the marginal artists forced from their lofts and sketchy apartments by rising rents and miserable prospects.  We cannot be compared to the ultra-lesbians who moved over the hill to Noe Valley and then left the city because there are just entirely too many men in San Francisco.

Indeed, we are the last of the liberals grasping to the edge of the continent and holding on while everything east slides further and further to the right.  If the rest of the country sees us as uber-queers, then we deserve the title.  We are left, left, left.  We are more left than you and we have the Black Indian Pakistani Muslim Quaker Hindu Lesbian Transsexual Pansexual Obese Anorexic friends to prove it.  For goodness sake, we suck dick in alleys and call it social protest.

The Golden Gate Bridge begins with a rainbow and ends at the ocean.  Here you can be whatever you want to be provided you can pay the rent. You can join the queers who swim, the queers who bike, the queers who hike, the queers that yoga.  You can join a group of Lesbian Survivors of Candle Wax Dripping Accidents at the Hands of Anemic Mothers or Mothers Recovering from Anemia with Lesbian Daughters.  You can insist your letter be added to the growing alphabet soup that starts with LGBTQQ.  And no matter what you do, you'll find someone to do it with you unless - of course - you vote Republican.

29 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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After several days of intensely hot weather, the atmosphere cooled and the cold sea wind returned.  Fall arrived in San Francisco. 

Erika reports her show in New York was a hit, David has a new website, Shawn is moving to San Jose, I finally found dinosaur slippers in my size and MUNI Guy has moved in. 

31 October 2003 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

Drew created the new Sister Betty icon you'll see in your address bar or favorites list.  Thanks, Drew.

The bridge and tunnel crowd take over the Castro tonight.  Last year I warned David about the dangers of the late-night crowd.  He thought I was joking until the crowd became unruly about midnight and someone was impaled on a spear. 

The Castro hosts a small, private Halloween celebration event on a different night.  I will be filleted in a public square if I publish the details on the Internet.  Here are photographs from the real (non Bridge and Tunnel) Halloween in the Castro:
Halloween in the Castro - Click for larger imageHalloween in the Castro - Click for larger image
Halloween in the Castro - Click for larger imageHalloween in the Castro - Click for larger image
Halloween in the Castro - Click for larger imageHalloween in the Castro - Click for larger image
Halloween in the Castro - Click for larger imageHalloween in the Castro - Click for larger image
Halloween in the Castro - Click for larger image


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