Friday, June 18, 2010

200 Steps

Palm Springs turned out to be Perfectly Splendid, and what a glorious week I had there.  The town is so manageable in size and full of nice things to see and do, how can you not have fun? Of course it's full of elders not youngsters (although the gays still wear Abercrombie & Fitch, even at 80.  Charmant!), but that doesn't stop people from cocktailing or mingling.  It just means it's over by 10pm.

In a day of thrifting through the desert canyon I came across many crazy things, more indicative of a boom time for mediocre home decor stores in the early 90s than the modernist heydey of the 60s.  That doesn't mean I came up empty-handed though, most critically scoring a fantastic i-glass carafe for a measly thirty bones.  Yes, before there was the iPod there was i-glass.  There are no new ideas.

One of the better stores for "cool stuff" was Revivals, the thrift store to benefit the Desert AIDS Project.  I'm talking more kicky little housewares and not modern masterpieces, but they also have a great book selection.  I nabbed a few good ones for the trip up to SF and the few days before my steamer trunk arrived from Detroit.  To really get me in the mood there was a first edition paperback of Babycakes, one in the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin.  Nothing like a little old school San Francisco.

[If you've never read any of the series, I can't recommend them highly enough.  More than just a snapshot of a long-gone time, they're a snapshot of a long-gone place.  In the same way New York is a character in "Sex and the City," San Francisco is really the major player in these books.  Well, San Francisco before the dot com boom.  A riveting and thoroughly entertaining read, particularly the first book.]

Now I've been accused of romanticizing San Francisco an excessive amount, and I suppose that is not inaccurate. It has changed so dramatically since the first time I was here, gone from a dynamic but perhaps a touch provincial second-tier city to a wealthy cosmopolitan hotspot, and admittedly I cling a bit to the history of the place.  I don't care if it's tacky to get a drink in the Twin Peaks bar at the corner of Castro & Market.  I just love the fact that I'm sitting in the heart of one of two epicenters of gay triumph and tragedy in the US, and that all these older drunk queens have lived through everything I've spent my adult life reading about (like the Gold Rush.  I kid!)

I haven't come across that much current gay activity that captivates me as much as the history of gay San Francisco.  Prop 8 is being decided in the courts right now, but all I've really heard anyone say about the issue concerns the home for the judge and his partner that is being renovated just up the hill a bit. 

San Francisco may now be rife with impeccably-appointed homes and luxury cars, but the spirit of a city doesn't disappear altogether, whether we're talking about the ascent of San Francisco or the decline of Detroit.  That's why a whole month to get my hands dirty (so to speak) in this city is kind of exciting.  It's a real chance to get out and find the kinds of things that always excite me back home in Detroit.  The secret stuff.  The stuff that made SF so exciting to people in the first place.

There are 200 steps I climb when I walk back from the Castro to my friends' house, and every time I climb them I think that if a tucked-away sliver of old SF beauty like this still exists then the city can't have completely become bland and gentrified.  If it has, well then I guess that's a cautionary tale for Detroit.

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