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.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Summer in Detroit is such a fantastic time, really the greatest time to be there. So I'm really sorry I'm going to miss it this year.
Apparently spring in Detroit routinely bums me out. I get really edgy, everything seems to be bad news, little things like the INSANE parking enforcement downtown or the ghetto-ization of Lafayette Towers became big things (more on those another time), another old building is suddenly a demolition imperative for no apparent reason (never the Packard Plant though), Kwame sticks his ugly mug out of the ground and we get six more weeks of emotional winter ...
I can't pinpoint where it started for me this year, but do know at one point I started to attribute feeling crappy to low blood sugar and began a weird kind of stress eating that resulted in gaining like ten pounds in six weeks. And by "like ten pounds" I mean fifteen. The weather became nicer and my friend (and your dog's bestie) Liz Blondy suggested I undertake some city biking with her instead of turning my jeans into stretch pants, but biking through Detroit's intermittently desolate east side only served to bum me out further. You can only see so many people trying to keep their house nice while a burned out shell sits next door before you start to think man, this is all really really fucked.
When the things that used to inspire you drive you to drink, you know it's time to reassess.
With the end of my apartment lease coinciding with the move-out from my business location at the end of May, I made the executive decision to get out of Dodge for a while and recharge my batteries. All those friends who have moved away from SE Michigan over the years (and who have a guest room) are getting a visit.
So I tied up loose ends and, homeless and jobless, departed for locales west. First stop, beautiful Palm Springs, California.
Of course Detroit had to get in the last word. As I was loading the last of my things from the store the night before I left, one of the dozens of "street prophets" comes into the store and chats me up, and by the time I can get rid of him he's stolen my new phone.
So I've had a week in Palm Springs, where I don't have to watch everything I own every minute of the day to make sure it doesn't get snatched and where modern isn't a dirty word. And it's been amazing. And tomorrow I head off to San Fran for a solid month for my continuing attitude adjustment. And after that, Chicago.
For now, I'm getting in the private pool and getting as sunburned as I possibly can. Detroit, see you later. We'll always have Indian Summer.
I'd go for a skinny dip in the private pool but there'd be nothing
skinny about it.