We had our annual Independence Day BBQ on Friday ... we hold it on July 1 or July 4 depending upon which falls on the weekend. 26 good friends, loads of food and drink, and hearty conversation. Still warm two days afterward. The long weekend has otherwise been composed only of working ... it is course catalog time again at MRU ... and walking the old pooch, Loki.
On Saturday morning, blissful and muscle weary from the BBQ, Loki and I headed on our usual walk up through Golden Gate Park with a pass through the National AIDS Memorial Grove where I habitually pick up garbage in memory of my many lost friends. The grove is a broad modified ravine, with three stone enclosed circles ... one at the foot, another in the middle, the third at the head. I start at the foot where Thom Gunn's words are engraved on the stone:
Walker within this circle pause
Although they all died of one cause
Remember who their lives were dense
With fine compacted difference
I pause every week in that circle and recite those words silently three times while thining of those I have lost. But this weeks curious action was not there ... it was in the head circle.
I had cleaned up the usual scattering of cigarette butts and wrappers ... no bottle and can orgies this week ... when I espied a curious purple gnome on a rock outsie the circle. I wondered over, and there was this little seated nude man in plaster with a rock hiding his genitals. Beside him was a a pink heart-shaped piece of paper with a note in florid cursive: "Keep me if I make you joyful!" I laughed when I saw him, and he bounced me out of a subverting gloom that was threatening the sunniness consequent upon the Glorious 4th celebration with which I started this post. I photographed my new gnome friend, and then I placed him in a plastic bag and bore him to his new home ... my home.
Gloom and doom, warmth and friendship. Like a pinwheel, the mind flies from one to the other, the succession rapid or slow by reason of the force of the particular wind in which one finds oneself, the blur under pressure sometimes so great that distinguishing is an exercise in futility. The pinwheel in effect for me during the July 4 BBQ was by reason of a conversation about my Gay Day blog post among four of us ... myself and the sainted ex RB, my roommate RL, and my old friend the world-traveler DH who stopped by for an evening between planes. RB thought my remarks on Gay Day were sour, and that bugged me ... stopped my pinwheel short, as it were. I protested, and no doubt took liberties in protesting as one is wont to do with an ex, sainted or otherwise. I claimed it was glum, not sour ... to no avail. I think DH agreed, or at least felt that my present pessimism about the future of the species is at least shallow if not entirely wrong-headed.
I do not want to be sour, or bitter. I cannot help but to be glum on occasion, and I have dark fears about the future. DH asked if I genuinely felt that gays would be hauled off to concentration camps in 2020 ... remember that I have argued that gays today are the like Jews of Germany in 1920. I think I would be a fool to suggest that with any certainty. But gays are, in essence, under the threat of concentration camps as we speak in Iran and Russia and China and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Egypt, and in myriad other places we could face such immanence within a few years at most if conditions were to deteriorate. Der Spiegel had a chilling report only a few days ago about rising homophobia in Germany, fueled not so much by nativist new-nazis as by viciously intolerant muslim youth and bloody-minded Russians. There is some little creep rapper, Bushido, who is of mixed Tunisian-German background notwithstanding the too-cool-for-school Japanese name, who actually sang lyrics calling for gays to be gassed at an anti-violence concert. Gay protesters were flipped off and booed.
But the immanence of violence against gays is not the root of my glumness about the future ... it is immanence of social breakdown by reason of the catastrophe that global warming and its consequences. But even that is not what gets under my skin when the pressure, at work especially, rises.
It's this: how do you plot your own happiness when you find yourself in a society where so many social factors trend in the wrong ethical direction? That's what got me going at Gay Day ... it's what pisses me off when I walk Loki and am jolted out of my reveries by some fool in the middle of the morning park barking rage into a cell phone, or some dimwit in a planet killer sailing a stop sign and putting the fear of gawd into me. That's the me-me-me-ness I referred to, the obesity of American life where all consumption must be defended and all restraint is an evil of otherness.
So it feels sour ... you can see how that bugs me ... but I argue that it is a rational and thoughtful response to a society hamstrung by its joyous oblivion in the face of its unresolved contradictions.
So whadda you do? Activism, of course. Activism requires at least some form of optimism, whether real or feigned. It also requires the means to do it ... whether that be a movement or the leisure or proclivity to operate independently and heroically. Retired activist here, I do not want to hear myself bemoan the lack of opportunity, the more so given the shot of at least feigned optimism that is still attached to Obama notwithstanding his McAuliffe-like pandering and retreating of recent days. But it is not an answer on the personal level to the anxieties of living in a society bound upon eating itself alive.
So one seeks some solace in friends and warmth, in walking the dog, in happenstance, in taking photos and speculating, in reading the past, and especially in trying to do the right thing in your own life. Others see movies, revel to music, renovate the house. And there are those, of course, who sink their sorrows under various excesses. I'm past the party stage, and the solace of retreat is always feigned no matter that it is sometimes fruitful.
I have vowed of late to undercut my own overly responsive anger to the constant little insults ... the bad driving especially, and the ignorance of the cell-addicted who flip you off one way or another all day long. I have to keep at that, especially when the external pressures rise.
This post hasn't gone like I intended it to ... vastly too self-referential and bleak. I feel like a night heron on a rail with a bunch of seagulls! Funny thing about blogging as a genre of writing ... no matter how you plan, you gotta spit it out reasonably fast, and it might not follow the script that seemed so clear as you were wandering around Fisherman's Wharf with the dog.
I wanted to say that life goes on when society is in the grip of its own indissoluble failures, when the casual but fatal decisions taken decades ago are nearing the moment when they explode. The night before the Archduke was shot, merry revelers got drunk in Sarajevo. Imagine Baghdad in 1257 when Hulagu was a rumor ... merchants came and went, lovers sought out-of-the-way hay bales, people washed and dressed and comported as if the sun would keep on rising. It did not save them from the firestorm that wiped their world from the planet ... but they did not know for sure. Life goes on.
I figure the next apocalypse is decades off, maybe I will not see it. But it fills me with gloom when I am not quick enough to think otherwise.
I'm going to work extra hard this week ... I've got to ... and try to get my book, which goes to press on August 4, into a shape such that I can feel lighter. And I will try to write something nice, notwithstanding that I still owe you a post on the Prusso-German state.
So let's be happy ... party while you can! Even if you gotta fake it. And find some joy in the odd purple gnome who crosses your path!
Photos from walks yesterday and today: top photo from Golden Gate Park, the second from the big tourist commercial pier at Fisherman's Wharf, the third from a still accessible working fishing pier, and the last from a storefront on Haight Street.