After reading Dunner this morning (November 15th post), I was reminded that the only place and time I've ever personally experienced verbal and physical intimidation because of my perceived sexuality was in San Francisco. Granted, it was thirty years ago. But, nevertheless -- and I kid you not -- that was the ONLY place and time.
It was 1975 and it was my first trip to California.
A friend and I flew in from Denver and stayed with friends in Alameda which, if memory serves, is immediately south of San Francisco.
One night we drove into the city, parked the car and took in the sights and sounds and smells of what I recall was not the Castro District, but what was a very gay area certainly along Polk and, I believe, near Market.
After hitting a few bars and after walking Polk (I regret that my memory of Polk remains seeing a derelict get mugged and a whole lot of dog shit on the sidewalk) we walked back to where we had parked the car. Just as reached the car, about seven, white, short-haired young men emerged from a bar in front of which we had parked the car. These guys had had a few and were ready for a little bashing.
Short story short: There was shoving; faggot this, queer that and -- after we managed to get into the car -- three of the young men pulled out their wee (and they were small) manhood and pissed on the windows of the car as our friend got it started and we pulled away from the curb.
And, that was it.
And, I've never really been back to San Francisco for any length of time. The closest I got was just passing through on the way to Pleasanton (God, what a Smallville, soccer mom haven that was). It's curious I've never gone back, as my Aunt has lived right in the middle of San Francisco for probably fifty or more years and wouldn't live anywhere else, except Napa where she's got a house she keeps inviting me to spend some time in.
I ought to take her up on it.
Is there a point to this?
Dunner's other post (November 13th) that I read this morning noted that there's a whole lot of blue cities out there, while suburbia and rural America remain pretty steadfastly in the red column. (He didn't mention Denver which was almost 70% blue.) Dunner quoted from an article by Mark Morford, writing in SF Gate. It's a good read.
Anyway, yes, the polemic becomes crystallized, clear, so terribly black and white the further one gets from America's great cities. The further one gets from America's great cities the complexities of dealing with the human condition become less immediate, become less pressing, become solvable through prayer (can I hear an AMEN!) and the aggressive adoration and support of the one chosen by the Good Lord to lead us through these hard times -- Dubya himself.
Yes, thirty years ago, as I dodged dog shit on Polk Street in a San Francisco that still wreaked of the promise of "...hookah-smoking caterpillar[s]..." and white boys with small dicks felt empowered to exert what they certainly believed to be their right, their duty to demean God's children -- (Was this before the love the sinner, hate the sin bullshit??); yes, thirty years ago even San Francisco was, at times and in some places, a little schizo; a little different than it is today.
Yes, even Topeka is a little different today than it was in 1954 when Brown v. Board of Education desegregated or attempted to desegregate schools not only in the south (Oh, you red states, you!) but in Kansas as well.
And, after having suggested that things do generally, gradually get better from the perspective of a pointy-headed liberal, now I'm wondering if the most important change of all -- what's in people's minds and hearts (even out there in the heartland, even out there in those red states) -- also mirrors the same general, gradual, uplifting, civilizing phenomena that our great American cities have worked hard at realizing through the few centuries we've been at it?
Nope. Now, I need a drink because this litany looms large: Dubya and Dick; Condi and Don; Dobson and (little Bobby) Jones; Musgrave and Allard; Iran and Iraq; Korea and Palestine; Scalia and the black robes; Afghanistan and... Oh, it goes on.
Nope. It's going to take a little bit longer -- considering the cast of characters -- in this great cosmic cycle we all find ourselves coping with for something to break loose; for, perhaps, some reasonable middle ground on which we all can stand or, at least, be provided a small foothold. Yes, it's back to Ferlinghetti:
...and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right...
Lawrence Ferlinghetti I Am Waiting
I do go on... Anyway, thanks Dunner for provoking these thoughts and, indeed, for fifty percent of the content of this post.