Monday, November 09, 2009


I remember those nighttime walks through the Mission and underneath the highway, crossing into South of Market to go to Junk once it moved to the Stud and we all agreed it was over, but it wasn’t totally over because we still went there. Now there were straight tourists looking for three-ways, since the club got written up in one of the papers. The first time I went to Junk once I got back to San Francisco I was so worried about running into Zee and how would I feel and then he wasn’t there and I could breathe until he was there and I tried to talk to people and act like it was okay, I mean like I was okay but behind their heads I was looking out until I was dancing and then it didn’t matter no it still mattered but it made my gestures mean even more.

I remember those conspiratorial walks on the way there, down dark streets and past warehouses and how we would always have these elaborate conversations -- we were trying to prepare for the drama and if you looked up at the sky it would frame us, that’s what I’m thinking now. Sometimes we looked, and sometimes we didn’t. I can picture Laurie first and then Garrett and Andee, since he had moved down to San Francisco while I was in Seattle, we had met at Bauhaus but we really met in my kitchen, once I got back. There were others too and then there was JoAnne.

And Melissa, she was the one who liked house music too so sometimes we would go to Your Sister’s House instead of Junk, just the two of us and then there wasn’t any drama just dancing, Melissa would wonder if any of these women were dykes but if they were then we never found out. I met Melissa at ACT UP and we were the token queers in the activist group that got me to stop doing direct action for a while, there were other queers but they were tokenized for other reasons. That was the group where we held a sleep-out at the mayor’s house and at meetings everyone started screaming at me because I thought we should operate by consensus. Or not everyone, but the two people with the most power. Melissa was one of the people who agreed with me but she didn’t say anything in the meetings; neither did the other people who wanted consensus. Melissa was kind of like some of my childhood friends, someone so awkward that most people couldn’t see her, but her analysis was more skillful than anyone else who I’d met. Like when she met Zee, back when he wanted to be friends with all my friends and so the two of them went out for tea and I got kind of scared that they would become friends and leave me, I knew this was irrational so I didn’t say anything. That’s how I dealt with whatever I thought was irrational, like when I got jealous sometimes of the people Zee would sleep with, but I knew I shouldn’t be jealous and so I didn’t talk about it.

After Melissa met with Zee, she said: you know, he totally objectifies you. And I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but she was right. Melissa was stuck at her parents house after dropping out of school -- she went to Yale and it traumatized her in some of the same ways that Brown traumatized me, but she stayed longer and it got worse and she tried to kill herself. After she got out of the hospital, she stayed in New Haven because she liked it there, just not Yale, but now she was back at her parents’ house, scared of her father in the hallway and sometimes she would stay at my house, especially after Junk. We would share my bed and I would try to encourage her to get away, away from her parents but there was something that meant she couldn’t, she would look away when she was trying to say it, voice shaking and I knew.

Once JoAnne moved in, we were a whole house of queer vegan incest survivors. I would go JoAnne’s room when I was scared of my father’s eyes and then JoAnne started talking about the dirty old man she needed to picture in order to get off, there was no other way -- she needed that dirty old man. Finally she realized it was her father and we would hold each other in that way that meant it was okay if nothing was possible and it was okay if everything was possible and then it was just okay. We would sob together, really sob -- Zee had held me in this way but then it would all fall apart. With JoAnne the connection was a constant-- she had felt it right when we met in DC and that’s what made Seattle so possible, and all that space.

But back to our storied San Francisco kitchen, did JoAnne really move in right after Laurie moved out, or was there someone in between? JoAnne and I would paint each other’s nails and soak our hands in ice water, we would help each other with our hair dye, the hard to reach places in the back, and then we would get ready to go out or get ready not to go out. Sometimes we would combine weird drugs that didn’t quite feel like drugs -- black beauties that JoAnne brought down from Canada that were supposed to be speed but they were so calm to us that we decided they were caffeine, or ephedrine and Xanax, I still had a lot of Xanax that I’d gotten from my father’s medicine cabinet, samples from the company arranged in a big box. We snorted everything on a shard of an old mirror because that’s the way we liked it best, we were avoiding the drugs that squeezed us too hard but still we wanted that burn. Then we’d go to La Rondalla for margaritas and the photo booth, was there a photo booth at La Rondalla? There was so much laughter as we would tumble around.


marginalutility said...

I just wanted to let you know I've been really enjoying your writing lately--all the excesses, the almost puritanism of young activists--I've been identifying like a madwoman, and linking you on facebook. Oh, and hey, let's play more six degrees of internet seperation--the author of talk talk telephone talk, whom you link, is a good internet friend of mine.
Oh, and now to ask a favor--could you link my blog, if you like it? It's about sex work and the drug war and when the two issues coincide (and some stuff about the mad movement sprinkled in). It's called Virtues of Vice, and it's a look. People's favorite post so far seems to be the one on "pimps."
Will you be at the Desiree Alliance's conference in July at Las Vegas this year? I'd love to see you there.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yay -- that's so great to hear! I wonder how people are relating to this writing, since it's so personal in a way...

And thanks for linking!!!

And I figured you might know talk talk telephone talk -- that makes a lot of sense :)

And yes yes I'll link to your blog -- I thought it was on my friends list in the blogroll, but I will check later on and see...

I won't be in Vegas, but I'd love to hear how it goes!

Love --

Nick said...

Tumbling! Oh yes, tumbling in turmoil I say / Whoa so this is what she means / She means we're bouncing into Graceland!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Tumbling in turmoil, indeed...

Love --