Monday, June 13, 2011

After Santa Fe

It does make me feel better to sit outside and watch the light, listen to the birds, but only for a few minutes, right? But anyway, moving – yes, moving again. Not right away, and that's what I want to hold on to – the beauty I feel here in my home right now, the friendships I'm making – but then also I start thinking about leaving, and there's that sadness again. I want to feel hope about connection, stability, love and intimacy and new possibilities, here or wherever, but also I need to leave, not so soon, but sooner than I would like in certain ways. Because this climate definitely doesn't help my health. And there are certain things that it's hard to imagine ever finding here, like a sex life that actually connects to my life. But I want to enjoy it while I'm here, savor the things I wouldn't learn anywhere else – knowledge about living in a small town and how people interact and build or fail to build culture and community and intimacy; all the crazy things that grow in the desert; the specificities of race and class and colonialism and cultural amnesia in this wacky tourist town.

I remember, five or six years ago, when I felt like I was in San Francisco to stay – not that I wouldn't leave, but that I would come back and it would feel like home. And then all that fell apart – my relationships, and then my relationship to San Francisco, which was already falling apart anyway but it was the relationships that were keeping me there. It took me a while to get away, but I did – I did get away, and I'm so grateful for that choice.

I don't want to stay somewhere just for stability. And I don't want to go back to San Francisco, even though in some ways it would be easier than most places, but not easier emotionally. I hate San Francisco and all that it represents, which doesn't mean that I also don't see the possibilities that exist there that I'm not sure I'll find elsewhere. Maybe it's more accurate to say that I can't love San Francisco anymore, and that's what makes me hate it. The sceniness, the insular we-have-arrived boosterism, the gross ways people treat each other and call community, hope, something else, something we can live with. I don't know if I ever want to live somewhere again that's that type of queer destination. And of course there's nowhere quite like San Francisco in the queer imagination, and that's one of the things that makes it such a horrifyingly corrupt place. Somewhere like Seattle – or, well, Santa Fe – where queer outsider worlds are miniscule in comparison to San Francisco, it seems like people treat each other a little better, if only because there are so many options. Maybe other reasons too, I'll have to think about that.

But gay Seattle, oh no – so retrograde, at least when I lived there so long ago oh my I guess that was 15 years ago! Gay Seattle reminded me of gay Boston actually, the worst gay culture I could imagine – that preppy judgemental smallmindedness. While much of Seattle was recovering from the grunge moment or basking in some vague attempt at counterculture, gay Seattle just felt like the usual class-striving hyper-normal backwardness. But I guess that's gay culture, anywhere.

Oh, Seattle – Seattle and clouds, Seattle and rain, Seattle and the suburban urban experience, Seattle and mold.

I guess what San Francisco represents for me, and one of the reasons that it hurts so much, is the way the gentrification of the queer imagination poisons the possibilities for anything except some kind of cool consumer mentality. But it's tricky – because also there's so much there, so much I don't want but still. I guess I lived there for 14 out of the last 21 years, 10 years in a row before here, so of course it’s the place that's most familiar to me – most formative too, and it haunts me. I miss the fog, but not much else. Thinking about living there fills me with that sad desperate longing, that crushing hopelessness even or especially when surrounded with everything that's supposed to matter, but only feels like loss. When I think about San Francisco, usually I think I don't think I ever want to move back, but then there's some other part of me that still wonders. I know I've said I'd never move back before, and moved back. Twice. And so for now I'll just say not next, and not for a while – of that I can be sure.

Although then I think about what I'll feel on my book tour, the big book launch at the San Francisco Main Library on Valentine's Day 2012, and will it feel like home? Will I walk through the streets enthralled by urbanity, or disgusted by corporate consumerism and the viciousness of everyday living? Will I revel in the familiarity of the streets or feel mesmerized and trapped? How funny to think that I'll be in a big city for the first time in over a year at that point, except Albuquerque I guess, which is relatively large but not in the urban way that's always meant so much to me. What will all this mean after Santa Fe?

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