Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My City By The Bay

Oh the Bay Area, how I love it. It used to be just San Francisco but now I’ve warmed to the East Bay as well. If I ever decide to move back to California, it would definitely be to San Francisco or Oakland. San Diego is my ancestral home but not my cup of tea anymore. Weather-wise it’s idyllic but boring and conservative as all hell. Still, my family is there so I must make a trip there now and then.
This trip to the Bay Area was arranged around a contra calling gig I agreed to do out here. Actually I wound up doing a lot of dancing here besides contra. My friend Danielle is a NIA instructor and I went to two of her Oakland classes. I’ve been meaning to start exercising on a regular basis and I think I’ve found my niche in NIA. It’s sort of yoga, aerobics, meditation all rolled into one. My body and soul felt so good after an hour of NIA with Danielle. Can’t wait to get back to Brooklyn and find some classes. Being the social butterfly that I am, I always bemoan the fact that social visits revolve around food. Not that I don’t like eating, it’s just so boring after awhile, plus my stomach can only hold so much. So, NIA with Danielle was a great way to be active and socialize at the same time. Plus it gave me an appetite for the lunch dates I had scheduled after class. There was Gaylord’s Indian buffet with Laura and Scott (from my Russia days), a ferry ride to Larkspur to see Tamara and Thai on the Embarcadero with Michelle( another Russia friend). The other dance event basides contra was Ecstatic Dance a regular Sunday morning event in downtown Oakland. This came upon the heels of a heavy brunch at Ron and Melinda’s so it was good to burn off all the calories and cholesterol. Kenny’s wife Rosie, aka Hula Hoop Girl, was there doing her thing with all the other hundred or so people doing their thing to the music. At first I was a little intimidated by this free form dance event but in a few minutes my Brooklyn shield went down and I got into the groove of things. The crowd looked like a bunch of granola chewing, millet smoking, vegan/Burning man types (that’s the cynical New York voice talking) but after a minute or two, they were just a bunch of people who love to dance. And you know what? Everyone should be doing this. Not only is it fun, but it’s a great way to relieve stress and re-center oneself. Some people go to church on Sundays and in Oakland, some people go to Ecstatic Dance. Hallelujah!
The contra dance went off with few hitches. Lots of beginners but I seemd to be able to reel them in and keep the lines from breaking down. It was a bit stressful at times but by the end of the night everyone was in sync and having a ball. The two-man band provided great music on their fiddle and piano to keep the crowd moving. About 90 people showed up to dance the night away. I tried out some tricky dances on them but reverted to easy standards to avoid complete disaster. Ben, Robert, Arcadia and the other organizers have done a great job of getting lots of people to come to their dances. They have a wonderful dance community out here and I’m inspired to get our dance community in NYC growing a bit.
Besides all the dancing, there were the many social visits around town. The Bay Area has great transportation options so I wasn’t always relying on cars to get around. Buses, BART, ferries, foot, you name it, I did it. When I lived here, no one went to the East Bay or used BART much and now I stay in the East Bay so I take BART everywhere. This was the first time I took a ferry to Marin which was fun. Of course walking all over San Francisco and Oakland was great too. I loved taking walks around my old haunts in the city. Spent a Saturday in the new aquarium in Golden Gate Park with my former Brooklyn neighbor Mike, ate lunch on Haight, aroud the corner form my old apartment on Waller, and then walked all the way down Haight to the Castro and then to downtown retracing many steps in my former life here over 20 years ago. It was great to see that many things haven’t changed and yet many things have changed some for the better, some for the worse.
San Francisco isn’t mine anymore but I still have history here. It could be seen as I walked down Haight toward the Castro: my apartment on Waller, the haircutting place where I was during the 89 earthquake, the top of the hill where I cried after finding out I was HIV+, the clinic in the Castro where I found all that out, a building where I spent a night many moons ago, the law office where I used to work, Café Flore where I many a blind date. There was a memory in almost every step I took. Both good and bad ones--memories are memories whether you like them or not.
My week culminated with a fabulous gay dinner party hosted by Ben Monday night. So nice to have a lovely dinner with a bunch of down to earth gay guys for once. Quite a difference from the NYC breed of high maintenance homo. Made me again wonder why I live in NYC where it’s hard to find a boyfriend instead of living I civilized Oakland where guys seem more up my alley. Pauly D, a realtor at the party was throwing all sorts of suggestions at me about refinancing my house and putting a down payment on something out there. Don’t tempt me Pauly D! Well it did have me thinking. Need to make some changes in my life this year and this trip was a chance to clear my mind and figure what the heck I should be doing with myself in 2009. I got a few ideas and I hope to put them into motion when I get back to NYC. So keep reading dear readers!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Family visit to the Magic Kingdom

Can a jaded New Yorker go to the happiest place on earth and have a good time? Can he be surrounded by little girls in fairy princess outfits and parents with mouse ears all day without going bananas? Well, believe it or not, he could and he did. Being with my entire family (all 12 of us) was great but I was dreading being in Disneyland all day, however I got intot he spirit of things and had a blast. My 5th grade nephew and I snuck away from the rest of our group to ride all the big rides like Space Mountain, Matterhorn, Splash Mountain and all the rest. We would meet up with the “fam” now and then to do the obligatory family ride like Autopia and then would scurry off to another white knuckle ride.
I can’t believe since the last time I was in Dizzy-land it was 14 yrs ago and the price was much lower than the $70 that it is now. Crazy huh!?! Well we worked that $70 like there was no tomorrow. I created a project for myself for the day. I would take a picture of all the people who used those electric carts to get around the Magic Kingdom. I figured you get to know what America is all about by visiting Disneyland and what better way to showcase the out of shapeness of this country by all the people who aren’t able to walk around the park all day. Once in the park, I snapped a few people and then there were just too many to photograph so I stopped that project about 30 mins. in the park. I was focusing on the happy not the depressing and what better way than to ooh and aah at Tigger and Winnie with my nieces than look at these fat people shlumping around on their little carts.
After all the wild rides (Splash Mountain-thumbs up, finally Disney found a way to use “Song of the South”without being too un-PC, Indiana Jones-big thumbs down—lame ass ride on a stupid jeep) I decided to drop my nephew and hit all the Fantasyland rides with my nieces. Alice in Wonderland is my favorite and we had a ball zooming around on the caterpillars. Then we hit the tea cups and spun around until almost sick level. Mr. Toad’s, Snow White (still scary) and Pinocchio—I love it all.
Around 5:30, we all felt we got our $70 worth and with small nieces having meltdowns, it was time to say goodbye to the Magic Kingdom and go back to reality. It’s great that we were all together—such a rare event for my family and I hope we get to be together again. Next stop the Bay Area for a week of friends, contra dance calling and quiet time to figure out what to do next with my life.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The 1 yr Christopher Vattuone Memorial

Well the 1 yr memorial for Christopher Vattuone was a big success. Friends came from all over to be part of this event. New York, San Francisco and all parts of San Diego county, they flonged to Clairmont to reminisce and remember our dear friend on the year of his passing. It was a great night. Eric put together a film festival of Chris movies such classics as “Trauma Magdalena”, “Mourning of the Dead”, “Deceived”and “Bruise” were seen after many years. A shrine of pictures was up showing the many stages of Chris’ life (and hair length and outfits) with offerings and candles beneath. A giant picture of him as Ginger La Fosse Knotts De La Hoya (his drag alter ego) graced the patio table, surrounded by a floofy feather boa. Laurie created another shrine too with hearts and pictures. We tried to reach him in the séance room via a Ouija Board I got at Toys R Us all to no avail. Maybe it was too forced or the mood wasn’t right or maybe the fog that loomed over Clairmont got in the way. Well he didn’t come through but somehow it didn’t matter, I think he was smiling down on us and pleased with all the Chris worshipping going on. We demised that when a bag of tortilla chips on the food table caught on fire, Chris had something to do with it. That was when we were doing the “What Do You Know About Chris” trivia game was going on in the living room. He was never one to be upstaged so we figured he made the candle fall on the chips to take all the focus off of yours truly running the game. There were no tears or sadness during the night just joy and fun memories. After the trivia game (which Kenny won) there was some story telling which was rather informative. Many people from different phases of Chris’ life came forward to give their testimonies. Kenny told us when he knew Chris was gay, Eric told about Chris’ meeting with one of his idols Peter Byrnes of Dead or Alive, there were many stories. One fact that came out during the trivia game is that many people didn’t know he was on “The Price Is Right” his favorite game show. Unfortunately the video of this has gone missing so we couldn’t witness him rolling the dice and spinning the big wheel with Bob Barker. Surprise guests turned up like David, Gail and Lyndsey who made a shrine of vintage Dead or Alive records.
Carla and I put together a great party and everyone had a wonderful time. By the end of the night there were whispers of making this annual event, but I was done. I sat between Carla and Tamara on the couch with my cell phone and finally deleted his number from my phone. It was closure for me. Closure on a friendship that spanned over 25 yrs. and it was time to move on. I don’t want visits to San Diego be trips down memory lane or pilgrimages to Chris’grave. We all have our time on this earth and when it’s up, those left behind mourn for a while and then move on. Time for new traditions and friendships. Eric and I plotted out some ideas by going out to The Hole (Pt. Loma’s only gay bar) and meeting some new locals. More time with family and the living. Today I’m going to mark this new phase of my Southern California tradition with a trip to Disneyland with my family (God help me!)