Thursday, December 31, 2009

Maybe

Okay, if something is new, or not quite new, but almost new, and people are talking about it, there will be a lot of parties celebrating this new, or not quite new, but almost new, and when it’s over no when it begins people will say happy, and you will hope, you will hope and you will hope and you will hope and maybe.

Relaxing

Let’s go. Anywhere. Pick me up and we’ll go. Maybe we can sit somewhere and take pills and listen to music and look up at the sky, how does that sound? Pick me up and we’ll go. Anywhere.

Really I don’t like pills, although I’m glad there aren’t any in my cabinet. Let me look again. No, just that awful thyroid medication -- better throw out before I’m tempted. Maybe I would go out for cocktails, except I don’t like cocktails. I mean I’ll feel worse afterwards. That much I know. Come on over and we’ll go. Somewhere. I don’t know where. Really all I want to do is read, but I can’t read more than a few pages or there’s too much pain, so then I think about pills. And cocktails. Music isn’t enough. I don’t have any energy, what happened?

My grandmother says I should get a TV, I’m missing out on so much without a TV, I don’t even know about the Presidential music awards, they happen every year, what are they called? Oh, she says: you don’t know. But I should get a TV, it’s relaxing, you can just zone out -- last night my grandmother watched the coverage of the terrorist plot, she watched the coverage for hours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In someone's arms

You wake up in a fog that can only be described as home, if home was still that place you would never escape and you wonder about language, if we’re always trying to create what could never be, will we ever? You are walking, you are walking in the opposite direction from usual, not uphill but down and you’re surrounded by other forms of desperation but you’re trying to focus on the sign that says the park is only open from 1 to 3. 1 to 3. The park is only open from 1 to 3.

Can we really call this a park if it’s only open from 1 to 3? This guy says you can take my picture if you give me $20 -- I’m not taking your picture, you snap, meeting him on his level but then turning back to smile. On block 6 ½, someone wants to take your picture, he’s from LA, he makes a fashion coloring book. You smile, pose -- you like the attention, it puts you in a good mood. What’s your name, he says, and he squeezes your hand hard, even though it’s just your loose wrist underhanded to avoid that gesture of manliness he still squeezes.

I might use you, he says.

How many people will tell you that when you start something new, something new for your body, sometimes it hurts but it gets better. They are not listening. Or maybe you’re not saying it clearly enough. You are rehearsing for the next person; the next time you will anticipate, you will start before.

Hilary prefers to watch the news because she’s a visual person -- wait, you think, I’m a visual person. The architecture; the architecture of bodies marching. There are no more bodies, there is only blood: this is the news. A man runs from the guns with a baby, this is how small a baby is, a baby in his arms. A baby cannot run, a baby cannot become architecture, not even in this man’s arms without breath you know this baby.

You were looking for a gym with a chlorine-free pool; you were looking for years, for years you were looking and now you’ve found the closest it’ll get, there’s still a small amount of chlorine but mostly salt. You are nervous, nervous because you’re entering a gym and gyms are stressful. You are nervous because this gym is so posh.

You are only going to swim one lap, one lap so you don’t hurt yourself but you’re already making plans, plans for two laps or three or four or five; you are making plans to get better. The pool is not as warm as you thought it would be. The area between your shoulder blades hurts, and how do you get out without pushing your body up on your hands, that’s the only way. When you get out, you’re shivering.

You go into the steam room, crowded with bodies but everyone looks down. They are not looking, they are looking down. This will help, this will help with the pain between your shoulder blades. You went dancing last night, and there wasn’t any smoke, at least not inside -- you still couldn’t breathe, you felt your nostrils closing from the smoke outside but you woke up feeling okay. Actually you woke up feeling energetic, knowing you would crash but appreciating the energy anyway. You thought: today is the day for the pool, it will change my habits, my habits are what give me pain.

After the steam room, you take a cold shower and then you go upstairs to the lounge, a gym like this has a lounge where it’s quiet and you can stare down below at the street. You feel so calm, maybe it was a good idea until you’re back home, how many blocks is that? Fewer than tomorrow’s eight, but you take the bus because you’re carrying your bag and when you get home there’s more pain: in between your shoulder blades; your shoulders; your arms: that twisting and burning in your tendons. Maybe this is what it means to feel better: when you feel worse you know. Please don’t tell me it’s okay.

There is the bed. There is the bed and there is sleep. There is the bed and there is even sleep that feels like rest and then there is a new day that feels like that baby in someone’s arms, running.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What we were creating together

Socket: I think the social and the political parts of Gay Shame were more merged than you thought -- you’re drawing a really clear distinction but most people didn’t see it that way. You were a social commodity and when you were really popular the group was really popular -- you were the central character and people moved around you. A lot of it was just mirroring. I was reading about Huey Newton at the time, and the cult of personality, and I wondered if this was it. To be honest, I came because of you, that’s why I was there. And when you recruited me to teach people how to do police negotiation, I remember saying to take down the badge numbers, or to repeat the officers’ names over and over, for subversive intimidation, and people thought I had created that idea -- they didn’t have organizing experience. They listened to me because I was your friend. They were cute and sweet and interesting, partiers and drinkers and artists and creative types, but not organizers or activists. At Tire Beach I remember feeling out of place -- I went expecting something like Gay Shame in New York. Me: That’s right -- that’s where we met. Socket: yeah, but at Tire Beach I ended up feeling out of place and insecure and uncomfortable, my entire experience was about what I wore and whether people thought I was hot. And you had asked me to bring someone who was a former political prisoner to talk about prison organizing and that was a total disaster because she felt so out of place.

Me: and she was the type of person I wanted to get involved, people a generation older and with more organizing experience, but it never really happened because when those people would show up, no one would pay any attention to them at all. Socket: that’s when I was doing a lot of prison abolition organizing, and those people had great politics and amazing process -- if I wanted political integrity, then I would organize with them, but it was boring. Gay Shame brought the intellectual and non-intellectual together, it was the opposite of boring. Remember that action with the Vomitorium? Me: Of course -- when we were confronting the Pride parade, and we made that big Budweiser can out of cardboard and you could go inside and vomit out your Budweiser pride. And we also brought official Gay Shame vomit bags, in case you couldn’t make it to the Vomitorium in time. Socket: that was brilliant and raunchy and so much more enticing than the organizing I was used to. I remember someone telling me about going wheatpasting with you because he was making out with one of your friends at a bar, and she said come on, let’s go wheatpasting, because she had already made plans to meet you, and when you all got together the first thing you said was: remember, if you see the cops, just yell nurse! So then everyone would be warned, but the cops wouldn’t know what it was about. It was that merging of the social and political that made Gay Shame so sexy. And people were willing to take political risks. But most people left during all the processing, they weren’t interested in doing that kind of work -- and that’s when I started showing up more often, because the group was becoming more of an organization. And around then I was talking to someone about Gay Shame, and they said oh, you mean Mattilda’s children?

Me: but who did they mean? Socket: they meant everyone, even though there were people older than you and you didn’t want to be that kind of leader, but at the same time you were. You had a strong hand on the framing of everything and how things were worded, the performance, the slogans, it was a social enclave you had created. And you were so dedicated to this process of open meetings, consensus, so when my friend said Mattilda’s children of course it was meant to be shady and I felt kind of complicit, because I wanted you to know what people were saying, except I couldn’t think of a way to acknowledge that it was fucked up, but that there was still a critique worth hearing. Me: I knew people were saying all kinds of shady things, but I didn’t want that to get in the way of our organizing. When someone would try to tell me something like that, I would say I don’t want to hear that stupid shit. Socket: I think that’s what you said to me. But you were really in this role where you were teaching people something totally new. Me: but that’s not how I thought about it, I didn’t want that kind of power. I thought we were meeting each other on our own terms. It took me a while to realize that sometimes people would just say what I wanted to hear, that it gave them credibility to be friends with me, that I was this sort of status object. But I don’t think that happened as much at meetings. Socket: you thought people had the political analysis, but they didn’t, the social and political were all combined, they were never very distinct. People were nice to me because I was your friend, but no one was my comrade except you, and you weren’t because you hated that word. Organizationally, I related more to the people I was doing prison abolition work with, but socially speaking none of them were my friends. Gay Shame collapsed those boundaries, it was exciting, I never thought I was going to get laid at a prison abolition conference. In reality I got laid more often doing prison work but it definitely wasn’t as sexy. Me: but I had this rule that I would never have sex with anyone in Gay Shame, that was never a part of it for me. Even though that eliminated a lot of the people I might want to have sex with, I didn’t think it was worth the risk. Socket: I know, because I remember suggesting people to you, and you said honey, I don’t have sex with people who I’m doing organizing with -- but you had different standards for yourself than for the group. So all the partying, even though you weren’t doing it, it became a Gay Shame thing, and since you weren’t doing it you didn’t have the same influence over how it happened, or how people treated one another, that you did in meetings, or at actions. I remember going to parties where people would get really messy and sexually desperate and treat each other like shit.

Me: that’s why I didn’t go to those parties, because then I would see how people acted, and I wouldn’t want to do activism with them. And I didn’t want to sleep with people in the group because of the way it would play out at meetings. When I was in Fed Up Queers, and most of the people in the group were dykes, and people would get in these insane fights over the wording of a flyer or how early we were going to meet before an action, and it took me a while to understand that really they were arguing because of who was sleeping with whom, and who was jealous or angry or felt betrayed. I didn’t want that to happen with Gay Shame, and sure there were some exceptions, but I think it was a lot better than with other groups. Socket: so for you it was about transparency, and that’s why you’re drawing a distinction between what happened at meetings and what happened outside, because what happened at meetings was transparent, it was a shared value. Me: exactly. Socket: but if half of the people weren’t transparent about anything else in the rest of their lives, then I don’t think they were really getting it. Me: You’re right. I remember telling you, when we had that challenging white supremacy workshop, that I didn’t want to go because then I would hear what people would say and I wouldn’t want to do organizing with them. And that was the most important thing to me, the activism. So I didn’t go to that workshop. Socket: and I couldn’t do activism with people who I wouldn’t go to a challenging white supremacy workshop with. Me: I know what you’re saying, but I’ve never been in an activist group where I felt that close with everyone -- politically, socially, culturally, emotionally -- there are always so many gaps. For me the important thing was what we were creating together. I do remember I wanted to start an affinity group with you and a few of the other people who I really trusted, like Derek. Socket: but I never trusted Derek. Me: exactly.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A letter I wrote in 2004, as I was beginning to get used to the voice activation software -- oh, my, can I say how grateful I am that it got better!

Socket dear --

Okay, so I'm trying to get used to the voice software -- in fact, you're the first experiments a guess you could say so in there were probably be a lot of mistakes and then who knows? Okay, so this is distracting me because everything I say have to correct immediately them and when I first started doing us I thought that it would be faster them than my gas faster than not running all rights my gas? Where on Arthur.com for him of no Arthur.com bought up with a but

Let's start over.that's up with a fucked know them, what I meant to say in call and: what the fucked but given trying to say is what the stock? No not that when trying to say is: what the stock no, what the flock a fucked a fucked this okay about an hour and say committee get there into saying, all that no all this -- this whole paragraph I've been trying to say: what the flock, not the flock but the stock -- a guess this computer delights occur, that hilarious -- what I was trying to say is what the fuck? Yay! Okay, now I'm gonna go to bed -- and try again in the morning.

Love --
mattilda gorgeously forget gorgeously forget that what? What's were love is coming from? At a me to write any at us how s what is the fucking in this is ridiculous I mean on industry the other with over to his itches but it was working summers but often I this was working so much better last night Help the commission for him where the hell without of come from okay not really going Tibetan Tibetan? Too bad too bad to be EDA to that to bed a commission for back to bed! The

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Soon we may look back at George W. Bush as a brave truth teller in comparison to Barack Obama...

Just one example -- a quote from Obama himself, about the insurance industry giveaway known as "healthcare reform" yesterday's broadcast of Democracy Now:

It is true that the Senate version does not have a public option, and that has been—become, I think, a source of ideological contention between the left and the right, but I didn’t campaign on a public option. I think it is a good idea, but as I said in that speech on September 9th, it just one small element of a broader reform effort.


Um, was the campaign really long enough ago that people don't remember Obama's promises? Have you noticed the way he always nods when he talks, kind of like when you're about to vomit but you can't quite get it up?

Or, as Amy Goodman makes clear:

As a presidential candidate, Senator Obama touted the benefits of a public option. On his own campaign website, Obama promised that under his health plan, “any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [a] new public plan.” As President Obama said in his weekly address that any plan that he signs must include a public option.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Suspending disbelief

I think Kelvline and I first became close because I listened to what she was saying even when it didn’t make sense and we argued about it. In meetings when she make some over-the-top declaration, most people would stare in that blank way that meant someone just said something crazy. I’m not suggesting that I didn’t think she was crazy too, but I believed in crazy -- we were all crazy, otherwise what was the point?

Of course, there are different kinds of crazy -- I wasn’t interested in that kind that just served as an excuse for unaccountability. Last night I went to a party in a space renowned for debauchery and flamboyance, but not necessarily intellectual engagement. A radical faerie solstice party that only grants entry to those perceived as male-bodied. What does male-bodied mean anymore? That’s not how they would phrase it anyway. But I’m relatively certain they would provide a very simple answer and it’s not the answer I’m looking for.

I haven’t gone to this party in years, because of the pot smoke, but last night I was looking for conversations in the realm of sexual possibility and sex that didn’t feel disembodied. I found both. I even got to the place where I was delirious and laughing and my body was kind of humming and I smiled at everyone which I guess I do anyway but I actually meant it. I mean it didn’t feel draining.

Then today I was thinking about some of the conversations from last night, one conversation in particular where someone asked me about Shame, whenever someone says Shame instead of Gay Shame I figure they’ve already missed the point, like they don’t want to say gay because they know it’s queer, right? And the point with this person, is that I actually met after I stopped going to Gay Shame meetings. But really he just wanted to ask that question so he could say something dismissive -- I guess it’s worth mentioning that he was one of the only people at this party who was obviously not suspending disbelief. I think it’s important not to suspend disbelief, and so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he was so uncomfortable, making jokes about lying in the come trough downstairs, when there wasn’t a come trough and what would be the problem if there was? The fact that he was fully clothed at a party where most people walk around in towels just emphasized his discomfort, even if he did look very stylish. Or maybe especially because he looked stylish. But what did he say exactly? Something about a magazine and how that magazine or the people who created the magazine were like Gay Shame but not so haughty and exclusive.

Since I’m pretty sure this person has never been to a Gay Shame action or meeting, I’m guessing it’s the people who created this magazine who are haughty and exclusive. But why was I listening to this person, other than the fact that I’d met him before and I thought he was cute, we actually made out once and I guess this time he was trying to impress me by acting dismissive. I hate that kind of interaction. I didn’t want to engage, but you already know I couldn’t get away, at least not at first.

I’m not saying that Gay Shame wasn’t haughty or exclusive. But there’s a particular kind of amnesia that allows someone to compare the people who publish a magazine with pictures of zombies or worms devouring male flesh, or something like that, to a direct action activist group dedicated to a radical queer political analysis, nonhierarchical organizing, confronting hypocrisy, and demanding accountability. This was one of the problems with Gay Shame, not that we were haughty or exclusive but that, after a certain point, everyone in San Francisco who would ever be interested had already developed a fixed opinion, an opinion that would never change.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Open

Maybe you’re wondering about gender pronouns. I want to call people what they prefer now, and not necessarily what they preferred then, I mean if they’ve shifted. It’s different when I’m trying to challenge masculinity not chosen or negotiated, the world’s imposition. Language changes fast. I remember when I first got back to San Francisco and so many people were moving in the transmasculine direction. We didn’t have that word yet. Suddenly I had to make revisions to the queen’s vernacular: no longer could I use the universal she.

But what about for trans fags, the queenie ones speaking in similar tones? Do you see how pronouns became something to choose, you couldn’t necessarily guess. Or you could guess, but you might be wrong. You might offend someone. We all get offended. I think it’s kind of beautiful when you meet someone new, and one of the first questions they ask is: what gender pronoun do you prefer?

We can create our own customs, but sometimes there’s a gap between emerging language and the identities we’ve already inhabited, like when a friend told me about a performance series she was curating, for trans, genderqueer, and intersex performers and I said I’d love to do it. She said oh, it’s for trans, genderqueer, and intersex performers. We all hurt each other. We all hurt each other all the time.

I would try to arrive early to Gay Shame meetings so I could welcome people: somehow I’d perfected that particular social skill in a way most people had not. I mean most people at our meetings, many of whom were friendly with the people they already knew or the people they wanted to know and then everyone else remained invisible. A lot of people were just awkward, but awkwardness reads as snottiness unless you look like you’re falling apart.

For me, it’s always been important not to look like I’m falling apart. I go too far, and then I feel worse, but really it’s just an instinct: I end up acting friendly, even when it doesn’t serve me. I mean I run into someone who I can’t stand, and switch immediately into full performative social mode -- I don’t even notice, until the crash afterwards. But here I’m talking more about people I don’t know -- I’m conscious of the way I may seem intimidating, and I want to undo that. But also I want to keep myself open to different kinds of interaction that might save me, or might save someone else, or might save all of us if we could just keep ourselves open but we can’t.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Over

I shouldn’t get rid of the plant yet -- it might not even be a bug, the way small streaks of brown fur grow over white on the backside of the new leaves, maybe it’s not even mold but there’s something about looking at it that makes me sick in that place before words that place of no you can’t you can’t scream just hold teeth jaw shut cheeks up into eyes squeezed closed no don’t look don’t look and maybe, maybe it’s not there?

It’s there, it’s always there except when it’s here, here in my body now. I used to say that I didn’t like watching horror movies because I’d experienced enough horror already, the images stay with me like I’m still there, in that place before. But some people who’ve experienced tons of horror enjoy horror movies anyway, the way now you have control because in an hour and a half you leave and it will be over. I guess I still don’t feel like it’s over.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climate countdown

When Democracy Now first started broadcasting live from the United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen (COP15), I thought why? Nothing’s going to happen -- the US will sabotage any agreement. But then I started listening to the wide range of people attending the talks (tens of thousands of people in all) -- yes, it’s true that the US and other rich and/or powerful countries will sabotage any meaningful structural change, but it’s still incredible to listen to people from all over the world emphasize the dramatic need for immediate action. Even the dominant slogans of SYSTEM CHANGE NOT CLIMATE CHANGE, KEEP THE OIL IN THE SOIL, or the Ecuadorian government-approved idea of getting rich countries to pay Ecuador not to drill for oil in a wildlife refuge -- or the idea of climate reparations paid by rich countries to poorer countries for their overwhelming role in climate instability -- all of these ideas are innovative and inspiring.

Take this quote from Indian activist Sunita Narain today, when asked about the differences between Bush and Obama:

“I think if President Bush was in kindergarten, President Obama is in first grade, but nothing more than that.”


Or, from Naomi Klein, last Friday, talking about the small island state of Tuvalu, which will disappear underwater if dramatic cuts in worldwide emissions are not instituted:

“There was a protest yesterday of people from Tuvalu, and they were making themselves visible. They were… talking about the absence of their future, the disappearance of their country, which is a form of genocide. It meets the UN definition of genocide, which is the acts that lead to the disappearance of a people. And as they were staging this protest, you watched people in business suits file by and look at their shoes and try not to meet their eyes, in the way that you see people in the streets avert their eyes in the face of a homeless person. But this was a country that was disappearing. And that’s what it feels like over there.”


What Democracy Now is succeeding at doing with its “Climate Countdown” is driving home the horrifying fact that the world as we know it is being obliterated due to the viciousness of corporate colonial governments, mostly in the global North. Democracy Now also goes outside the conference to the police state insanity that Naomi Klein unwittingly supports when she says:

I said at the opening of Klimaforum [the alternative counter-conference] that there’s a place for rage and there’s a place for civil disobedience. I was not saying, as some news reports claimed, that Copenhagen should be trashed. I really don’t think so. I think that’s a very bad idea. And I’m going to say that explicitly, even though people are always telling me, “Don’t say it’s bad. Don’t say it’s bad.” Listen, the reason why it’s bad is precisely because of what we’re seeing here. This conversation that has started here about the real face of environmentalism, as a class war that is being waged by the rich against the poor, has never happened before. There has never been global media attention on this discussion. If we allow the media to change the discussion into broken windows in Copenhagen—which is the boringest discussion in the world, OK?—we have truly failed.


Naomi Klein made this statement before the occurrence of close to 2000 mass arrests, preventative detentions, and routine pepper spray, tear gas and beatings at the hands of Danish police -- and the expulsion of mainstream environmental groups from inside the conference (by UN security). Of course, she already knew about the new law passed in the Danish Parliament that allows police to detain anyone for up to 12 hours simply because it’s suspected that they may commit a crime in the future. It’s strange that Klein starts this statement by showing how the media misrepresented her call for rage and civil disobedience as a call for property destruction. Why, then, does she find it necessary to say that property destruction is wrong, because it allows the media to misrepresent the conversation as one about broken windows? She’s just shown that the media will misrepresent whatever it wants to.

As Sunita Narain says:

“So there is a breakdown here, and there are countries responsible for it, but my suspicion is, on Friday, when President Obama does descend to the city, the world media is going to blame the poor nations and not the rich nations.”


Naomi Klein would certainly agree with this statement, but it was a bit depressing to hear her capitulating to the idea of representation within corporate media coverage in order to do the work of the powers-that-be by censuring those who might throw a few bricks. A conversation about broken windows is probably more interesting than most of what the corporate media will address. Of course there will be a few broken windows -- oh, no, don’t hit the H & M store (pictured in the background of at least one protest)-- they have a sale going on right now! As with any mass convergence, the violence comes from the police, world “leaders,” and the corporate criminals (media included) who drive the whole thing, and I do think it’s important not to further that violence by echoing their bland rhetoric.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Otherwise people will laugh at you

Okay, so I walk by this tailor all the time, and often the queen inside looks out at me with one of those glances somewhere between disdain and curiosity, years ago I went inside and asked her how much it would be to alter a pair of pants but it was too much and so I’ve never gone back. But now I’ve had too many disasters with another tailor, so I go inside to ask about adding a few buttonholes to a coat I found at Goodwill, and actually she’s friendly, she even says something nice about my clothes are different. But then when I go back to pick up the coat, she’s switched to the buttonholes to the other side, which doesn’t make sense because she measured the other way, I mean it’s not a big deal because all she has to do is move the buttons over, but I don’t really understand. I say how come it buttons this way, she says that’s the way it should be for men’s, otherwise people will laugh at you.

I can’t believe this queen could even take one glance at me and think that I’m worried about people laughing at me because of my fashion. I mean really. And she’s doing that thing where she uses the fact that English isn’t her first language to simultaneously pretend that she doesn’t understand what I’m saying, and to act haughtier. She’s not worried about people laughing at me, she’s worried about people laughing at her. Do you know what I’m saying? She’s one of those queens who’s so proper that she probably thinks she’s passing in some way, but I can guarantee you that no one ever looks at her and thinks anything other than oh, that queen. I leave feeling so annoyed, I mean completely through -- why can’t we just be queens together, keep my buttonholes on the right side or whatever side she thinks is wrong

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Energy for activism

So there we were, hating the Mission scene and creating it: our meetings always took place in the Mission; most of the people who showed up at our demos lived or socialized in the Mission. But here’s the thing -- people would come to our meetings, and it would change them, I mean it would change their relationship to activism. Their relationship to the world through activism. Their relationship to the world. Maybe not their relationship to the Mission scene. The scene some of us were trying to undo, while creating it.

Today I feel overwhelmed and uninspired. I don’t even know why I’m writing this, or why it’s important to say that I feel overwhelmed and uninspired. I’m trying to write about my relationships, but I’m actually writing about Gay Shame, my relationship to Gay Shame. I went to a performance last night and it was so hard on my body that I went to bed early and slept late and then when I woke up everything just felt awful. I mean me. All day I was waiting to take a bath, a bath to help with my pain. I finally took a bath. I still feel awful.

Kelvline was one of those people who Gay Shame changed -- she’d never been involved in direct action before, and suddenly she became so enthusiastic that sometimes it felt oppressive. She had all this energy, all this energy for activism. Or there was someone like Avery, who showed up in Diesel jeans, which several people commented on. Why were we looking at her jeans? Based on Avery’s looks and look, we were wondering about confusion of the white gay Castro variety. But soon he was suggesting we take on the racist agenda of Gavin Newsom, the city council member for the wealthiest neighborhoods of San Francisco. At the time, Newsom was rising to power through a ballot measure called Care Not Cash, which took away homeless people’s welfare checks, and replaced them with “care.” We came up with an action called Prop N Stands for Nightmare: A Pre-Halloween Festival of Resistance, where we brought a haunted shantytown to Newsom territory.

Gay Shame declared: Gavin Lies -- There Is No Care in Care Not Cash. We blocked traffic in front of Newsom’s campaign headquarters and rolled down a “bloody” carpet in the middle of the street for the Exploitation Runway, where past, present, and future greats of local, national, and international exploitation competed in categories like Gentrification Realness (Old School and New School), Luxurious Liberals, and Eviction Couture. We connected development scams to poverty preachers, oil exploitation to fashionistas. When we were done, or when the cops demanded that we finish, we took our sound system and cardboard shantytown up a steep hill to confront Newsom directly at the temple where he was speaking; we were prevented from attending by a phalanx of cops, but somehow managed to pull off our whole action without arrests.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Friends and enemies

I met Kelvline at that first Gay Shame action at Tire Beach. Squinting in the sun, he came right up and said: what can I do? I’m not sure exactly what made me think he was a well-meaning straight guy, something about how he carried masculinity and it carried him. I’m sure Kelvline will hate that description. Later we would talk about his difficulties as a black fag existing in mostly white countercultures, and he would wonder if that’s what made me think he was straight, that first time we met, and even the second time, when he talked about going to the Power Exchange. Until he started talking about sucking cock, and even then it was in this strange pornographic way that made it seem like he was talking about someone else talking about someone like him.

I’m trying to remember when it was that Kelvline and I became so close. I don’t think it was right away, although it’s true that when he said he was going to the Power Exchange, I thought of going too and if I’d gone we might have ended up in a different kind of relationship. Kelvline started coming to meetings right away, I mean once Gay Shame started holding regular meetings; he always had the most insane ideas. Like, for that first Pride action, he wanted to hook up a hose to raw sewage and spray it on the crowd. Sometimes he would start rapping in the middle of a meeting, or yelling at someone because he thought they said something stupid. But then Kelvline would come up with something that sounded crazy, like rainbow Klan outfits, and everyone would wonder: what the hell are you talking about -- it was like she was trying to provoke the rest of the group into doing something that would be perceived as racist, in order to challenge the racism of the gay mainstream. But then she kept repeating: the evil Gay Gay Gay, rainbow Klan outfits -- the evil Gay Gay Gay, rainbow Klan outfits -- her eyes would glaze over, but it actually started to make sense.

Kelvline: I would go to meetings with these weird agendas, like I wanted to have an action against the Nob Hill Theatre, and you were ambivalent about that, which makes sense. Me: do you remember some of the things you used to say at meetings, when you would interrupt people, or just start yelling? Kelvline: no, I don’t remember what I used to say, I don’t remember at all. I know there was that time when I wanted to spray shit on the pride parade. Me: yeah, that’s the one I remember, but what about when you would just start yelling -- I remember, like Kill Bill, you would just start yelling Kill Bill in the middle of a meeting. Kelvline: that was later, when did Kill Bill come out? Me: and you wanted to have an action against the Nob Hill Theatre because they accused you of stealing someone’s wallet, right? Kelvline: that’s right -- I wanted to get them back, but really it was some jealousy thing because I was dating Sam who worked the front desk and his boyfriend danced there and there was this black dancer who would always talk about my hair, like she’d never seen an Afro or something it was this big drama and there was all this stuff going on with drugs and prostitution but then the thing about the wallet was this queen who was jealous and she said I’d stolen a wallet, the manager said it had happened three times and maybe he was worried I knew something but I didn’t and I was downstairs in one of the video booths jerking off and he started knocking on the door saying you have to leave and I said you’re discriminating against me; he said I’m going to call the cops. And I really wanted to protest them, to do a picket outside.

Me: I don’t think you ever told me that part before about the boy you were dating. Kelvline: I mean I don’t know if I was dating him, but we were having sex, or at least we had sex once and then it was all some gay drama, I really wanted to get them back. Me: but when did we get so close, I mean it’s strange because one of the things I hated more than anything was when someone would get out of line at meetings and you were always that way, but somehow we got close anyway. I guess we related because we both felt alienated from the Mission scene, even though we expressed it in totally different ways. Kelvline: I’d come out of that complete psychotic break when I attacked Evlo because he flirted with Danny, and then I realized there I was attacking this other black fag because he flirted with my Asian boyfriend and that was around when I discovered Deep Dickollective and making music with these other black fags felt like a political project near and dear to me. But I wanted to make it into more than it was turning out to be, with all the internalized racism and the masculinity issues. Gay Shame was my way of figuring out how to cope with what D/DC was doing, the way they were marketing themselves as just another accessory for pride.

Me: but when did we get so close? I mean I guess there was the way that I saw your alienation through the ideas you were expressing that were kind of irrational but beneath that was something that I wanted to make sense, even if you didn’t necessarily want your ideas to make sense, I mean you talked about not wanting to see things in a rational way. Kelvline: but when did we get so close? Was it when you asked me to do stuff at your house? Me: Do you mean when you started to help me -- I mean definitely, that was when we got really close, but we were close before then. Although I didn’t ask you to help me, you just offered -- that’s what was so touching to me, because here I was struggling with all this pain and I couldn’t really do these basic things in my life and no one else was necessarily offering to help, I mean we were all overwhelmed in different ways but you made that offer to come over my house and help me with laundry and groceries and typing and that meant a lot to me.

Kelvline: when did we start going to dinner after meetings? Me: I don’t know when that started, I mean I don’t think it was right away. Kelvline: because I remember at first I would ask for some of your food, because you would bring all this food and I didn’t understand why you didn’t offer me any, Benjamin would say Mattilda has a lot of health issues, she’s hypoglycemic, she’s in a lot of pain and she cooks for herself, you can’t eat her food. Me: you wouldn’t ask for some of my food, you would say gimme that. Kelvline: but what did I do after meetings? Me: I don’t know, maybe we would just stay at Espresso Bravo. We started processing the meetings together. I felt really strongly that we needed to do direct action in a way that wasn’t about making friends but actually more about making enemies, holding people accountable. But then there were a lot of people in the group who really just wanted to throw cool parties, or at least that’s how it felt to me. This was a debate that started between me and Brodie -- we hadn’t talked about Gay Shame becoming a direct action activist group, that was really my dream and then it kind of just happened after the Gay Shame Awards, because people were so excited, but then that same battle would end up playing out at every meeting, it was kind of dramatic.

Kelvline: I remember thinking at one point that maybe this is just a bunch of white people who want to throw cool parties. Me: and I was looking for allies, I guess that’s how we originally bonded. I wasn’t interested in the social aspect of Gay Shame, I mean what happened between people outside of meetings -- at bars and parties and wherever. Even though in a way my relationships were facilitated through Gay Shame actions, I mean that’s how I ended up meeting all my closest friends really -- but I wasn’t interested in Gay Shame as a social identity outside of activism. Although I was kind of in a privileged place because I didn’t need to go to the parties in order to get people to pay attention to me. Kelvline: I wasn’t interested in the parties either. Me: well, at first you were, but not later. Kelvline: you’re right -- wasn’t I obsessed with getting an orgy started, when was that? Me: that’s right -- when you would take your clothes off at any random party. Kelvline: I guess after Avery and I had sex, after that I was kind of over it. That’s when I would yell at him at meetings. But I remember when I was walking in the Castro on Pink Saturday and I ran into you and we went to this party and Brodie was there too and I remember thinking this party’s stupid, why are we here, and you were saying the same thing and maybe that’s when we first bonded. Me: and that was even before Gay Shame started meeting really, I mean after the first action but before everything else. Kelvline: but when did we start going to restaurants? Me: I don’t know. Kelvline: did you buy me food at the restaurants? Me: I guess so, I mean I did sometimes. Kelvline: maybe that’s what it was, when we started getting close. Me: really?

Kelvline: I’d just lost my job at Wells Fargo and then I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and I remember going to meetings and talking about how I’d lost my job and Avery said you should do sex work, Mattilda does sex work, and then you were giving me advice. Me: although I wasn't suggesting sex work, I wanted to give you all the information but I wasn’t sure it was going to be the right thing. But I did pay for you to have your wisdom teeth removed. Do you remember when you would tell me about something that happened, and it was obviously some racist dynamic, but you wouldn’t say that? I would say: do you think that was racist? And you would say: oh, really? And I couldn’t tell if you were testing me. Kelvline: I don’t remember that. Me: yeah, it was right at the beginning of our friendship. Kelvline: I remember talking about how people would ignore me in meetings because I was black. Me: no, not that -- I mean that happened too, but actually what I noticed was kind of the opposite, you would get all out of hand and people would tolerate your craziness in a way that they wouldn’t tolerate from someone else, and part of that was because you were black. It gave you a certain kind of status. Kelvline: I think you’re overemphasizing race, because I actually felt comfortable in Gay Shame in a way that I didn’t feel with D/DC, and that was important. Me: but you talked about race all the time, especially the way that you didn’t want to become a fetish item like some of the other black people in the Mission scene. Kelvline: that’s true, but mostly I felt like it was just hard to exist in the world at all. It’s weird because people will read this and think it’s what I said, but it’s actually what you wrote that I said. I mean some of what I say is so hard to follow and I guess that’s how I talk, but will people really be interested? Me: of course some of this is my own analysis, but what I’m trying to do is to show how hard it is to think of something really specific, like I called you to see if you remembered how we first became close, but then we ended up talking about all these other things and we still don’t have an answer to the original question, right? Kelvline: but when did we get so close? I just want to think of that definitive moment. It’s strange because I can remember all the details of each action but then everything else is so blurry -- sometimes people come up to me and ask what’s going on with Gay Shame and I can’t remember ever doing anything with them, I can’t even remember whether these people were involved in the group.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"System change, not climate change"

There are many different protests with different themes each day of the week. Many people that have come from around the world that are, say, on the outside are working under a banner, “system change, not climate change,” because we’re very clear that everything the UN is talking about and the system of capitalism is not going to shift the problem. Part of the real power force behind that is the corporations. And so, people want to go to a variety of corporations tomorrow and expose their role in greenwashing, green capitalism, and, you know, promises, the Copenhagen promises, of all the things that they’ll deliver to solve this climate crisis, even though they got us in it.


Lisa Fithian, on Democracy Now

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How to inhale a whole pot of beans (a recipe):

Start with a very sturdy cooking pot -- we don’t want to burn the house down, okay! The beans are already done, we just want to reheat them. Remember when it always seemed like there was a fire in the Lower Haight, in the early ‘90s -- everyone said it was someone cooking speed, something had gone wrong. There was a lot of speed around then, especially among the people starting those rumors. Anyway, even though you want to use a really sturdy cooking pot, you need to use one of those lids that allows you to let out the steam or close it all in. Those lids generally come with flimsier pots -- just make sure that the lid fits the sturdier pot perfectly and definitely close the opening so that steam stays locked inside. Make sure the heat is on simmer. Forget about it. Go to bed. Don’t worry when you smell something burning -- it’s okay, you’re using a sturdy pot. When you get up, poke a hole in a plastic bag and insert a straw. Tape the plastic bag over the opening of the lid, and then adjust the lid so that the steam exits the pot, fills the plastic bag, and exits through the straw and into your delicious lips. Actually, it’s not steam at all but smoke -- it’s a whole pot of beans, into your lungs. Inhale as deeply as you can-- nutrition is on the way.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Oh, no -- I was texting in my dreams! (But at least it's never happened in real life...)

Here's what the text said:

Chopping
vegetables

The barricades

So then we came up with the Gay Shame Awards, in which we rewarded the most hypocritical gays for their service to the community, in categories including Exploiting Our Youth, Making More Queers Homeless and Helping Right-Wingers Cope. We held our ceremony in Harvey Milk Plaza, the symbolic heart of the Castro, as if the Castro could possibly have a heart. As with any awards ceremony, we distributed a program with information on all the nominees and a window into our discussions as organizers. Participants passed out other free delicacies like food, homemade patches and artwork, and Gay Shame buttons with the image of Rosie O’Donnell or George Michael. As requested, people dressed to excess, in circus outfits, exaggerated makeup, torn dresses and crumpled dress shirts—one participant arrived wearing a dress made entirely out of shopping bags—the Gap, Starbucks, Abercrombie & Fitch and other gay mainstays—and stiltwalkers dressed in garbage bags added additional flair. As each award was bestowed, we burned a rainbow flag and the crowd howled its approval, yelling “burn baby burn;” as the ceremony came to a close we moved sofas and a sound system into the street for a dance party.

Beforehand, we had worried that we might get attacked by angry gays or cops, but the whole thing went so smoothly it was almost like choreography, the kind where everything looks spontaneous. The crowd included queers both a generation older and a generation younger than most of us, and even straight tourists gaped in disbelief and wondered: is it always like this? In a way, this was really the beginning of Gay Shame, because we actually succeeded at connecting the spectacle with the politics -- it’s also when we went from doing yearly events around Pride to a year-round direct action brigade. Borrowing from club culture, I named it an extravaganza. The Gay Shame Awards were meant to get people excited about confronting the Pride Parade -- we plotted to block the whole thing with sofas, we were in love with sofas now. We planned it out for several months but, due to a last-minute tactical miscalculation on the part of our scouts, we ended up on the wrong side of the barricades. Volunteer parade marshals attacked us and random attendees got arrested; we installed ourselves outside the parade, where most people didn’t notice. But the Gay Shame Awards were a glimpse at an almost-perfect moment that kept us on overdrive for a while.

Monday, December 07, 2009

It's a bit difficult to see it in these pictures, but look closely and yes, there's hail, hail in San Francisco!


"Salvaging what's left after the masses have had their feed"

The Scavenger, a brand new news & culture site based in Australia, has republished my article from a few years back, “Why the Gay Rights Movement Is a Sham” -- the "movement" is still a sham, of course, so now is as good a time as any to read this article if you haven’t already…

Malalai Joya is on fire!

Here she is tearing up the US war machine, the Taliban, NATO, the Afghan government, and their cooperation to destroy Afghanistan, from a speech in Vancouver broadcast on Against the Grain...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Entrenched

Even the personality of the group became kind of like mine -- our proclamations were always grandiose and flamboyant, meticulously grounded in politics yet queeny and absurd -- suddenly we were all calling each other Mary, yelling nurse! Sure, we were invoking a camp queer history of Marys, a respite from the masculinism of both gay and queer subcultures -- this was a personal history near and dear to me, but something new to try on for many in Gay Shame. Maybe it makes sense that the people who did the most work ended up with the most power, even though power was something we wanted to challenge. I do know that Gay Shame ended up failing me, even after everything it gave me, which was everything. And I think one of the failures was that people still saw me as the leader, even after years of our attempts to undo this. People still saw me as the leader, both inside and outside Gay Shame, even as Gay Shame meant less and less to me. Even as there were other leaders who would never have called themselves leaders, for whom it meant more. I would always hold a certain amount of power because I’d started Gay Shame -- I’m saying that now, because even though we never said it then, it’s what everyone believed. And it was true -- “not simple, not right, but true,” as poet Tara-Michelle Ziniuk says in an entirely different context.

I don’t know what it would have meant, in a nonhierarchical direct action activist group, to wear the badge that said founder, in order to undo its power. I don’t think that works. Or, I haven’t seen it work. I know it’s not what I wanted, not what we wanted, not what I want; I’m saying it now not to claim it, but to declare a different kind of truth than the one we were creating, the one that said Gay Shame emerged as a collective we, which was true too, but not really.

Maybe I need to tell you more about Gay Shame, because first it was just that one event, a queer autonomous space in the industrial ruins of our lives. That first event that drew several hundred people to this weird out-of-the-way space and people did crazy things like pouring concrete for a mosaic or providing child care in a space strewn with glass; someone dyed people’s hair; there was an argument with some guy trying to distribute AIDS Is Over flyers, which ended up in the bay; there were speakers about trans youth activism, the colonization of Vieques, prison abolition; someone even brought goats, although that person was there by coincidence. Most of the people who attended were dykes and trannyboys entrenched in the Mission scene, which wasn’t a surprise but what surprised me was the way in which Gay Shame could be consumed. The event had become a hot space for queer bands to play -- one band even argued about the order, they didn’t want to go first, they’d been around longer than several of the other bands, it wasn’t fair. We moved them to a later spot, but little did they know that the cops would arrive before they got a chance to play.

The bands undoubtedly drew much of the crowd, and the crowd ignored everything else -- drinking 40s inside or outside paper bags, they talked loudly over anything overtly political. In New York, radical-identified queers were so alienated that there wasn’t really a scene; Gay Shame provided something unique that still attracted a particular demographic of mostly young, mostly white queers, but it felt open and communal. At least it seemed that way to me. Our first event in San Francisco became the hotspot for the Mission scene; in spite of our success at drawing so many people with such short notice, some of us started to wonder how we might connect the politics with the spectacle in such a way that they couldn’t be so easily separated.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Is there still an ozone layer?

I mean really -- I sit on the fire escape for eight minutes in the 50-degree noontime sun, and then maybe 20 minutes in the 4 pm sun, and guess what? Yes, sunburn…

Community through critique

There was something else to do, and that was Gay Shame. For once I was excited while talking about New York, fantasizing about taking Gay Shame further, holding it in an outdoor public space like Tire Beach, a rotting industrial park on the San Francisco Bay where discarded MUNI streetcars were dumped and a concrete factory bordered a small area of grass and debris. Brodie got excited too -- let’s do it, he urged. He was drunk. We had four weeks until Pride -- we would have to scout the location, make flyers, wheatpaste and flyer all over town, find performers and speakers and a sound system and DJs and who knows what else. That sounds great, Brodie said. I was skeptical, but his enthusiasm turned on my manic button and then we were a team.

When I say that Brodie and I were a team, it doesn’t mean that we agreed on everything. Sometimes it seemed like we didn’t agree on anything, except for this project that became so much. But no -- that’s where we disagreed the most. We were a team because, even if it immediately we harassed everyone we knew, and soon enough there were maybe 10 other organizers, and then the event itself brought in all different levels of participation, even though Gay Shame was nonhierarchical by definition, even though we always made decisions by consensus, even so it was Brodie and I who made it happen. For the first two years, if either of us had stopped, Gay Shame probably would have stopped too. Unfortunately, even in nonhierarchical organizing, people want someone to coordinate.

Returning to San Francisco and expecting to connect with a culture of radical queers I imagined and remembered from the past, I was verging on hopelessness when faced with the reality of the present: if those cultures had ever existed in the ways I remembered, they did not exist in those ways when I got back. Yes, there were plenty of radical-identified edge-trendy queer scenesters looking for the coolest parties, but that was about it. Gay Shame was a conscious attempt to bring the politics back into the party, but the truth was that I wanted to make the politics into the party, and Brodie wanted to make the party into the politics. Maybe that sounds like the same thing, but actually we were manifesting an old tension that stretched back through generations of queer organizing. Perhaps one difference from generations before was that neither of us talked about the politics versus the party, but it still felt that way when we argued about the direction we wanted Gay Shame to take, argued inside and outside meetings where battle lines were drawn, relationships made and unmade.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we made the flyers. They asked: Does gay pride make you feel desperate and alone? And: Are you choking on the vomit of consumerist gay pride? And they declared: darling, spit that shit out -- Gay Shame is the answer. And recommended: dress to absolutely mesmerizing ragged terrifying glamorous excess.

In the past I’ve mostly talked about Gay Shame as an amorphous and ever-changing we, but the truth is that, initially at least, most of the rhetoric came from me, and it was Brodie, with his years in the Mission scene, who managed to draw the numbers. But if Brodie was the one everyone knew, I was the one in the public eye. I was the MC for every protest, delivering a sensational incantation in lavish outfits made of glitter and tattered gowns -- if Brodie’s talents lay more in the mechanics and mobilization of each event, I was the one who created soundbites on the spot. And so, when I say that neither of us wanted to be seen as leaders, I don’t mean to suggest that we didn’t like the attention.

Our group of organizers reached consensus on issuing press releases, but no one actually wanted to talk to the media. Except me -- I thought it was crucial if we were going to create a culture of resistance -- how else would people find out? People outside of our circles. Even if we were misinterpreted every step of the way, I thought media was crucial. In every interview I emphasized that Gay Shame was a collective project, that I was simply one instigator and not the founder, but that was never the dominant perception. If activists demand leaders even when engaging in nonhierarchical work, the media requires them. In the public eye I became Gay Shame, and perhaps this made sense because, when I said that we wanted to create a home for the culturally homeless, I meant that I felt culturally homeless. When I said that we wanted to build our own culture on the ruins of the rot surrounding us, I meant that Gay Shame gave me hope in radical queer dreams, in creating community through critique, relationships through activism, accountability through action. I needed that hope.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Pride

It’s funny when your friends tell you you’ll like someone, and then you meet that person and you’re really not sure, but you decide to go with the recommendation. So I went with Brodie to a party in Hayes Valley, a neighborhood colonized by fashion boutiques and interior design stores -- I know what you’re thinking: another party? Yes, let me tell you about another party. This was a different scene -- it was a bunch of bougie art fags trading barbs and trying to act scandalous. Or scandalized, depending on who was listening. Of course I thought of New York; I thought of New York anytime I went someplace horrible. But Hayes Valley is actually kind of trying to be New York, except it only goes on for three blocks.

Back to the Mission, where it was no longer cool to be a dyke: you could be trans, or you could call yourself queer but refuse other labels. At this point, the trans guys who inhabited stereotypical masculine traits were the ones considered the hottest. I remember watching one of these guys screaming at his femme girlfriend from across the street: hey bitch -- you skank, you skanky ho -- where do you think you’re going, you slut? She came right over, and he slapped her -- it didn’t look like a joke; people were watching like they watch abuse in public, unsure of whether to do something; their friends giggled.

The Eagle became the trendiest bar for this particular scene, and no one talked about its long history of hostility towards women, queens, people of color, and anyone perceived as feminine -- now it was queer ground zero, the best place to go to hear bands. Certain faggots whispered cautiously about whether misogyny was a required part of transitioning into masculine realness. The most daring femmes joked about testosterone: um, did somebody have too much T in their coffee today?

Soon, trans guys would start doing drag in dresses, wearing pink, identifying as fags and not just in a denim-and-leather kind of way. The conversations would get more complicated: was it okay for trans guys to identify as straight? How could one remain accountable while assimilating into male privilege? Trans guys brought their own conversations more into the public domain: of course it was possible to continue challenging hierarchical norms instead of swallowing the whole package! And: fuck that tired excuse that testosterone makes us act like macho assholes -- that’s just biological essentialism! All of this challenged my own assumptions about masculinity as everything to be avoided: what about a masculinity that was chosen, negotiated, and transformed?

But first, it seemed like there were a lot of trans guys rejecting everything they and I had learned in dyke cultures, not just the guys who wanted to pass or who now identified as straight, but also the trans guys assimilating into gay culture, what could be worse than gay culture? So, at that terrible party with ‘70s porn projected on the walls and fags in designer clothes talking about how dirty they were, but not as dirty as pussy, Brodie acted surprised when I went off on gay misogyny, not surprised that I was going off but surprised when I said it was consumed and assumed in pretty much every gay space. I wondered if, in Brodie’s hope for belonging as a trans guy, he was neglecting the obvious. Then he asked me what I was doing for pride. Pride -- was he kidding? Hiding inside my apartment -- what else was there to do?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Yes!

What else might be possible

Somewhere in all this was my relationship with Derek, the only friend left in San Francisco who I called family. When he went on psych meds, I could tell immediately that they made him more manic and more depressed, so nihilistic that it was scary, but I’d already expressed my disapproval beforehand, so it didn’t help when I said it again. He kept changing meds and it kept getting worse. He would talk about buying a gun, he wanted to keep it under the bed; I told him I wouldn’t come over if there was a gun in the house. I felt like he was abandoning everything that health meant to us. When he started eating meat again, he said it was for health reasons, but then he would grab a hamburger at Burger King. He was angry at me for judging him, and maybe I deserved some of that anger.

But the hardest part was when Derek started lying about everything, maybe this was after I told him I couldn’t deal with hanging out when he was drinking, because he became a macho asshole instead of the friend who meant so much. He would tell me half of everything, or maybe half of the half he remembered, or wanted to remember, and I had to figure out what to believe. Sometimes it was obvious, like when he stopped to get cigarettes and he came out of the store with a fifth of liquor in his hand -- I thought you said you weren’t drinking tonight, I said, carefully. His face got all red with anger: I’m not drinking, this is a Coke.

He might have even said: don’t you trust me, why don’t you trust me? People were starting to talk about the market crashing, but no one could tell the difference yet, I mean no one we knew. Derek and I heard about a squat party on Market Street. That sounded ridiculous -- who were they kidding? It wouldn’t last more than 10 minutes. We headed over to see. We got to the address and it was a huge, boarded-up theater, dozens of bikes locked up outside. We walked up the stairs into a cavernous room full of brightly-painted murals and hundreds of people dancing to live music. Everyone was dressed to the nines in thriftstore artistry -- sure, it was sceney as all hell, but these were the weirdos I remembered. The party lasted for hours, without interruption, and without the arrival of the cops. I wondered what else might be possible.