Thursday, May 20, 2010

dismissal, disregard, and disgust, part one

i am coming up on 20 years in los angeles.

20 years.


when i think about it, i have been living here longer than i have lived anywhere in my life--at least continuously. i grew up in chula vista, a suburb of san diego, and lived there for 18 years before i went to maryland to spend two years at the naval academy. i came back home after leaving the academy and lived in san diego for another 9 years, so although i have lived in the san diego area for more cumulative years, they do not match the continuous years i have lived in los angeles.

so who cares?

well, i do. the point is that los angeles feels more like home to me than san diego. whenever i go south i feel more like a visitor than a returning son.

when i do my best to think about my life pre-los angeles, that is, my life in san diego, i try to bring up memories of how i experienced people back then. there is a reason for this which i will get to, in my usual fashion, in time. since i moved to los angeles when i was 29, i am referring primarily to my 20's. what i do remember from that time is that i was having a very hard time in relationship, if you could call what i did back then "relationship". i was sad a lot of the time. i will also tell you that i felt kind of invisible, despite the fact that i was a stage performer and a bartender at a popular club. at least i felt invisible when i was not engaged in one of these two activities. i remember that, while i did not feel particularily hostile towards people, i did not exactly trust them either. in fact, i would attribute most of my sense of invisibility to the fact that i did a lot of hiding back then--i think i was trying to stay out of harms way, as it were. this was in opposition to when i was performing or bartending, when i had the defense of the stage or the bar to separate me out from the masses. i just didn't have the experience of being noticed by people unless i was manning a bar or doing a show, and for the most part, that was alright with me, except for the times when i was seeking company, then it wasn't alright with me.

when i think about that time, i have an opportunity to observe what was missing from my experience with people that is present now. as i said, i felt pretty much ignored when i was not "on stage". the difference now, besides not being on stage, is that in addition to being ignored, i am also often dismissed, disregarded, or treated with disgust.

NOW, i can just hear all of you saying "ohforpetessakegivemeabreak!!!!", but hold on for a minute while i break this down for you.

in a city as huge as los angeles, it is a good idea to be somewhat defensive when mucking about. this is because it is likely that out of all the people you run into in the course of the day, you will probably only know less than half of them, if that. often, it is hard to trust those we know, so can you imagine the potential threat from those we don't know? i wish i could say that the strangers i run into here are all friendly and approachable, sane and engaging, courteous and respectful. but sadly, this is so fucking far from the case i just can't tell you. in the nearly 20 years i have been living here, i can report to you that my experience has been that the majority of the folks here are angry, hostile, suspicious, rude, arrogant, and often crazy as loons. now combine ALL of those things, and that is a bad day. granted, not everyone is this way, but a lot of them are. there is a general fury in the air that is evident just in watching passersby or checking out the craigslist rants and raves postings. there is racism, homophobia, mysogyny, and out and out cruelty.

i am not making this up. cities, especially huge cities, breed this. it is in the nature of any society where disconnection is part of the infrastructure, and where the best way to find a community is to join alcoholics anonymous. cities, historically, came about as a result of industry. industry needed lots of people to work, and so apartments and high rises were built to house all these people. despite the advantages, comfort, and ease that industry brought to life, it also unfortunately required that people leave the village culture, move to a place where they knew nobody, sometimes not even their neighbors, and then rely on others, often other strangers, to provide what they needed to live. the problem is that this is counter to our biology, which has evolved to have us wanting to be around our own people most of the time. meaning: there is an inherent instinctive, historical, and biological risk in being surrounded by strangers.

hello, big city.

Monday, May 10, 2010

having patience with berkeley

in the dating world (for those of you who are no longer in it, or perhaps have never been in it), it is a good idea to not come to any conclusions about someone you are seeing too quickly in the process. unless the date is an absolute disaster (and generally you know that within the first 30 minutes so there is still a chance to salvage the evening), it is always a good idea to schedule at least one more meeting before deciding whether or not to pursue the person further. i back up this statement with my own experience with dating, as well as my knowledge about how the attraction and attachment processes work in human beings. i have found that first dates, which for the purposes of this blog are defined as meetings in which sex is NOT the only activity, are most often about determining safety, first, and desirability, second. once we decide (usually within the first 30 minutes--see info on "disaster dates" above) that we are in no danger of being killed and eaten by our date, we can then move on to determining desirability. desirability is related to, but by no means attached to: personality, values, and beliefs. desirability is that elusive quality that belies common activity interests and shared film tastes. it is that quality that is often triggered by the subtlest of physical qualities--the length of eyelashes or the curve of an ankle--despite our possible disinterest in the whole. and yet, unfortunately, desirability's elusive nature means that we often don't become aware of it on the first date. it may be hiding behind awkwardness or shyness, it may be buried under the embarrassment of a dropped appetizer or a booger in the nose, it may be overwhelmed by neediness or sexual arousal. it may just choose to not fucking show itself. and...when that is the case, we will often conclude that, though pleasant, this person does not justify a second meeting.

this, i say to you, is a mistake, and i am advising you to avoid this at all cost.

second dates have a tendency to reveal subtlety and nuance; allowing space to explore the combined effects of personality, looks, and chemistry. it is during the second date that we often notice what was hiding or overshadowed during the first date. in my experience, i have agreed to second dates with guys who have been agreeable, if not outstanding first dates, and have been happily surprised with the discovery that i sort of really like this person.

the same goes, as it were, for cities.

my recent visit to berkeley did not leave me experiencing "love at first sight". i had a hotel in downtown, and i was amazed by the number of homeless teens and mentally ill i had to walk through to get from the bart station to my hotel on bancroft. i thought, could this be berkeley? the city that surrounds a great university? it seemed much more like seattle with the number of homeless on the street. i wondered to myself: how could there be such a concentration of homeless this close to one of the premiere institutions of higher learning in the nation? could they all be just students, and not really homeless people? granted, not all of downtown berkeley was like this--there is an area north on shattuck known as the food district that was quite nice, but i think that i was expecting all of downtown to be more upscale like this area.

during the visit, my best bud and i toured the university grounds and loved the mix of historic and new buildings, landmarks, old tree groves, as well as the shirtless (male) students lounging in the springtime sunshine. but there were so many young folks that i figured that an older guy like me would be pretty invisible here--i was literally overwhelmed by youth.

after two days in berkeley, i came to the conclusion, despite the absolutely fantastic coffee that is available on nearly any block, that i could not live there.

then an odd thing happened. i walked a mile or two away from downtown to an area known as rockridge. it was here that i was meeting my friend zamiera for some coffee (at cole's) to catch up on each other.
she has been living in the area (from los angeles) for a year now, and like me, she is an mft intern getting her hours. well, as i walked the streets further out from the university on my way to the coffee shop, i discovered all kinds of beauty--tree lined residential streets with carefully preserved victorian homes; quaint storefronts, and old movie theaters with marquees advertising a single film.

as i walked these beautiful streets, i realized that this was more the type of setting i had imagined when i thought of berkeley. there were people walking dogs and tons of bike riders, and despite the occasional person who looked at me as though i were going to attack them, i began to enjoy myself and feel glad that i had agreed to meet zamiera here in rockridge instead of downtown. once she arrived, we each ordered a coffee (brewed individually!) and two poached eggs on sourdough toast, and then we talked about her job and her experience in this city; and what she told me is that east bay, like los angeles, is full of money (parts of oakland and the area around my hotel withstanding).

but unlike los angeles, people in east bay spend their money on food, coffee, wine, and cheese, as opposed to cars, clothes, and plastic surgery. wow. i could see it all around me--a dearth of bmws, mercedes, and prada bags. instead i saw lots of bikes, regular clothing, and flat shoes. hmph. i also saw LOTS of restaurants and coffee houses. could it be that in east bay people value quality of life rather than quantity? zamiera confirmed this to be so. i became more interested. this morning in rockridge, and my subsequent walk through the telegraph/temescal area, left me with a changed mind about the living possibilities here for me. the east bay could be the place where i would not be out of place at all as a gay intellectual, a bike rider, and a man of a certain age.

now here's the thing, and it is a big thing. though the east bay may have just jumped over portland, oregon, to the top of my consideration list, that does not guarantee that i would actually be happy there. it is possible that i could be happy, or at least as happy as i am now (pretty happy), in east bay, or in portland, or in austin, or in scotland (thanks darren!), or even in (god forbid) southeast florida (sorry, lara). when it comes to moving, there is really only one way to find out if happiness is to be found in a city: move there. and it is here, readers, that i circle back to the connection with dating, and ultimately (finally!), the point of this whole long post. with moving, and dating, we can get all the information that we can find in order to help us decide about commiting, but even with all the information in the world, we just never know. at some point, we just have to decide, we just have to commit to going there. fortunately we have the ability to change our minds, but before we can change our minds we have to make up our minds. of course, for me it is a lot easier to change my mind about dating someone than it is to change it about moving, but the concept still applies. i could pretty much live anywhere, but i just need to decide on one place. one. and if that second look generates more interest, then the challenge for me is to give it a chance before moving on to the next possibility. the answer is not in berkeley anymore than it is in any one of the men i am dating. the answer lies in who i decide to be in that city/with that person, combined with the interactive affect upon me by said city/person.

east bay, i am glad i took a second look. i'll be seein' ya.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

becoming regular

i have the feeling that nobody comes to los angeles because they think they are "regular". i know that i didn't. i came here (in 1991) to be a fucking star. i might have been too, if i had known the business better. i believe i had the talent, and that is just an honest assessment. i certainly spent enough years and money in san diego taking classes in dance, voice, and acting. if i didn't learn something, then i had no right to call myself a performer.

anyway, the point is that i did not think i was regular. nobody in l.a. does, i suspect. it is certainly interesting to me that nearly 20 years later, regular is exactly what i am trying to an extent. i think that maybe i am trying to be regular in the same way that stars are when they show photos of them in In Touch magazine with captions like "they get their own coffee", or "they feed the parking meters". in other words, i am not regular, i am just trying to be. i am too smart to ever be regular. i can say that and not be conceited because my intelligence is something i was born with--not my accomplishment at all. what i have done with it is my accomplishment, but we are not talking about that here. i was just born smart--lucky me. meaning that, since most of the world is, uh, not smart, i have very little chance of fitting in with those regular folks.

so what the hell do i mean by "trying to be regular"? well, what i mean is that i am tired of feeling like i am special. believe me, not regular and special often go together, and that is where the problems usually lie. because if you think that you are special just because you are not regular, then you are guilty of arrogance. and yet the twist is that because i was not regular from a young age, i was then treated like i was special. follow?

the problem is that special does not work very well in the adult world, mostly because nobody gives a shit. but the reason why special really does not work in the adult world is because in reality, nobody is special. it is just a state of mind. we are all, in fact, regular, but with different talents and abilities. this is what i mean when i say i want to become regular.

god, where am i going with this post.

i am looking for a place where i can just feel regular, as in not special. i want this experience because as time goes by, i have been getting closer to regular, and i like it. fuck, i love it. regular is messy, but it is engaged. regular is unpredictable, but it is surprising. regular is uncontrolled, but it is electrifying. in other words, regular is alive. on the other hand, special is isolating. just like los angeles. here, since everyone wants to be special, there is the mixed message going on that we want to be adored but not approached. is that just here? ugh. please, please approach me.

where can i be regular? where, as knucklecrack writes in his blog (i would link if i knew how!), can gay men be regular? i don't think it is here in los angeles, though god knows i try.

i was recently in the miami/ft. lauderdale area for vacation, and i was able to be pretty regular there, but i was also somewhat invisible because i didn't have money or boobs, two things that attract attention, at least in miami. ft. lauderdale seemed different to me, easier to be regular. the guys were regular, you know?

i met a couple of guys while i was in ft. lauderdale, and the nicest things that they said to me was that they would want to date me if i lived there. that was just the nicest thing to say. i don't live there though, and i don't think i could live there. i am not a big fan of mosquitos, though they seem to be crazy about me. but the fact that these guys wanted to date me, well, that made me feel, kind of, well, regular. you know?