First Take

Roberta Flack: First TakeBECAUSE IT’S MY FAVORITE chakra, I’ll post another piece I did focusing on the heart, this one based on an exercise called “Waking up clichés.” We were encouraged to take worn-out, heart-based turns of phrase—I immediately thought, 1970s love songs! Perfect!—and transform them into something fresh and new. Running with the Roberta Flack reference in the writing I’d just done, I chose to transform another of her songs in this reworking of an old story, parts of which I’ve told before.

First Take

Even from this distance, a half-block away, Rick could tell—Jesse in person was more gorgeous than in the photo he’d sent. In the photo, his face was half-hidden by a pulled-down baseball cap, posing, showing off the pecs and abs and narrow waist, nicely ripped but merely hinting at handsome. As they came within striking distance, Rick saw, he felt, as Jesse’s whole face erupted with a kind of childlike openness, what Patti Smith would call such naked joy, unusually wide-smiled beaming. Rick regarded the sexy scruff of a beard, the beauty mark on Jesse’s jaw. And those dark brown eyes unafraid—they held a glimpse of something, something deep; they told a story as ancient as the heavens, the formation of the planets, their moons, the sun and the stars, a story at once brilliant and dark, Jesse’s eyes profoundly happy and giving, and at the same time reflecting some of the gravity of sadness that is life. All this in an instant.

They embraced at once and exchanged a kiss, a polite kiss. They separated just enough, still hugging, to take another good stare at each other and smile. Jesse smelled faintly of tangerines and tobacco. They came back together, mouths open just enough for a proper kiss equal parts Jesse and Rick, lips and tongues licking teeth, tasting mint, slurping and sucking spit. Rick’s right hand moved automatically like it knew what it was doing up to the back of Jesse’s buzzed head, caressing the stubble, knocking his hat off kilter; and Jesse, too, pulling Rick closer, as if closer were even possible, boots up against sneakers, almost tripping, these two guys making out like teenagers on the sidewalk outside the Galleria Park Hotel at dusk on a Saturday night, the stores closed and the street pretty quiet, but still…

Jesse shuddered. Rick felt it. He held Jesse tighter, kept on kissing. It felt like the boy was on the verge of coming right there, standing, fully clothed, all this from a kiss, their first kiss, a damned good kiss. Jesse laughed into Rick’s mouth. He shook again, trembling tremors. Sensitive boy. Not three minutes past meeting and Rick felt protective of this sweet little guy, as if Jesse could collapse right there on the sidewalk if he weren’t there to prop him up. He reached a hand under Jesse’s sweater, first touch of the skin electric-warm as toast. He laid his hand lightly over Jesse’s heart, held it still, and all went quiet. He felt the heart beating, barely, felt his ribs, Rick’s fingers slotting into the spaces between, massaging, fingertips sliding outward, away from the heart, Jesse’s chest rising and falling. Rick found a hard nipple and gently squeezed. Jesse let out a little moan. Rick ate it up.

“You like that,” Rick said, not quite a question, his other hand moving down, slipping into the gap at the back of Jesse’s stiff, brand new-feeling blue jeans, resting there steady and flat on his sacrum. In that moment, Rick felt his own power, felt he could control this guy if he wanted to, send him soaring into the stratosphere and back, make him come right now, at his command, pressing buttons by kissing and moving his fingers just right.

* * *

“Fuck, papi, that was good,” Jesse said. He smiled. He and Rick lay naked on the big white hotel-room bed, spent. Yeah, it had been more than good. Rick had never fucked without a condom before. This was new. And he was fine with the decision, if you could even call it that, however unconscious and far from rational thought it had been. He had always strictly followed the safe sex mantra to use a condom every time, assuming every partner could be infected. He was tired of it all, tired of the loss and the fear and the barriers, the literal barriers between himself and his lovers. Rick had never felt so close, so trusting with a guy he’d just met. There was something about Jesse he couldn’t quite explain. It just felt right.

“We should use condoms, don’t you think?” Jesse had asked not a half-hour before.

“Yeah, of course,” Rick replied. “It’s not like we don’t both have sex with other guys.”

But when it came right down to it, it would have felt so wrong to stop, to tear open the packet, to do all of that… It would have broken the spell, Rick felt, interrupting the flow of the most intimate, knowing choreography of their sex. It would have introduced the buzz kill of death. It would have broken the fragile bond of trust already forming between him and Jesse, childlike in their ecstatic relief at having found each other, two lost souls wandering the barren wasteland of Craigslist looking for real connection and now celebrating their extreme good fortune, kissing the whole time fucking, eyes wide open and searching and smiling, breaking every gay-sex stereotype, their eyes wet and overflowing at the happiness that swelled within their bodies, over them, filling the room, the hotel, the whole of downtown, over the bridges, throughout the Bay Area, and into the dark, unknowable universe beyond.

Rick knew in that moment, Jesse’s body entwined with his own, heart pressed against heart, that he had found something, a satisfied peace previously unknown to him, a comfort in feeling accepted and sexy and lovable. He had been searching his whole life for this and wanted nothing more than to abide in the warm spaciousness of it forever.

He hoped, he sensed, that Jesse felt it, too, Jesse who was asleep beside him now. Rick was dead tired but couldn’t stop looking at Jesse, his smooth, taut body at once strong and vulnerable and small, sweaty, sticky salted-caramel skin and tan lines, sexy as fuck, eyes gently closed and the hint of a smile still on his face, his face, his beautiful face.

* * *

This was based on the beautiful, cliché-ridden song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” made famous by Roberta Flack, recorded in 1969 and released as a single after appearing in Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me (1971). It went on to become the #1 song of 1972 and is still the song most likely to make me cry

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the end of the sky

The first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hands
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command, my love

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last till the end of time, my love

The first time ever I saw your face
Your face, your face, your face




Do You Want to Sleep with Dave X Robb?I’VE BEEN ENJOYING my Writing from the Chakras course, which is now half over. As last year, I wanted to post something every week; also as last year, I have not kept up. But I will still post something from every week, every chakra. So, here is a belated sexploration from week 2 (and a link to last year’s), the Sexy Chakra.

In thinking about how I wanted to spend my time that week, I felt a bit overwhelmed, the good ideas spilling out of me, swirling in my head way faster than I could get them down on the page. It’s where my and my fictional characters’ deepest problems, worries, and longings reside. It is a place of celebration and joy, too, and I wanted to express that, to not get hung up on the negative side.

Both sides were important to me since I could see how both were embodied in the single idea of feeling so deeply in touch with my innate sexuality—the joy that it brings, groundedness in true connection, wild intimacy, and knowing another on a deep (maybe the deepest possible) level; and, at the same time, the immense sadness of having lost something so long ago, the sorrow of a long journey back to innocent loving, giving, pleasurable touch and understanding (and how that loss is echoed in the AIDS epidemic, no small thing). The incredible wastefulness of it all, the time lost, and the mental anguish endured still boggle me.

I have spent a lifetime trying to get back to that feeling where sex is all good, where there is no shame, no hiding, no deception, no trickery involved in pretending or fooling the other person into falling into what you both wanted from the start. Yet, even with all the thought (and writing) I had invested in this, the years of experimenting and experiencing, living and giving in the most loving, open, vulnerable, exposed way I knew how, I struggled still.

I am still working my way back to a time when there was no shame, no hurt, no judgment, no loneliness, no danger, no loss. I still look for that feeling—I’ve had glimpses of it—of completeness, of contentment and satisfaction in knowing that I am loved, I am seen, really seen, and that everything is all right.

Dave X Robb pretending to be deadDanger: Sex unsafe

Sex has always held an element of danger for me, whether it is the imagined danger of transgressing or getting caught or going to hell, or just of going somewhere I’ve never been before, a not knowing—there is some excitement in that kind of danger.

There is emotional danger, the risk of rejection and disappointment, of not getting that phone call back after what you thought was pretty good sex and a nice connection. The suffering of trying to repeat a happiness, combined with the suffering of trying to find it in the first place, can be enough to make even the strongest among us doubt the wisdom of trying at all. A lot of people give up.

Even during the happy time, it can be hard to banish completely worry over whether the happiness can be sustained. Like the erection I’m afraid of losing before the condom is out of the package and unrolled, these things can easily become self-fulfilling sadnesses.

And what if it does work out and I get a relationship going? Do I take the risk of talking about difficult things or do I instead avoid rocking the boat of my good fortune, thereby all but ensuring the relationship’s demise? Is there anything more demoralizing than a breakup?

Then there are, of course, physical dangers. It occurred to me some decades into my sexual life that I almost always choose partners with bodies smaller than mine. How’s that for a control issue? I chalk it up to not ever wanting to be in a situation I can’t get out of (and no handcuffs or ropes either, thanks, unless I know and trust you). Similarly, I seem to always be aware of the location of the nearest exit in a relationship.

Dave X Robb's first California IDThere is the physical danger of AIDS. Having come to the party a little late, my sexual awakening coincided perfectly with the national shutting down of sex. It felt like one of those big, heavy metal doors being rolled down over the front of a shop, and I’m left there standing on the sidewalk with my coupons.

I shouldn’t complain really. I’m alive today because of it. It’s not so hard to adapt to safe sex when you’ve not yet had the experience of full-on gay sex without the barriers. That and seeing people dropping dead all around me made it reasonably easy to adopt safe sex.

I understood the logic of the ubiquitous prevention messages and knew I could, through sheer force of stubborn will, adhere to them like a straight-A student; yet I always felt uncomfortable with the admonition to use a condom every single time, to always assume your partner could be positive. Yes, it was practical, sound advice from a public health perspective at a time when literally half of all gay men in the city were HIV-positive. It was a simple, easy-to-understand guideline that made rational sense.

Dave X Robb fictionBut it doesn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to see how this might all come across as unappealing, albeit necessary, advice to a young gay man just coming to terms with and learning to celebrate his fierce gay pride. To see my lovers as potentially deadly, as ticking time bombs just waiting for a moment of weakness in my safe-sex resolve to explode in my ass, constituted a turn-off to say the least.

It was not so much that I wanted to have sex without condoms, those literal barriers between us, though I didn’t like them and I could imagine I might be missing out on something pretty fabulous, having heard as much from those who had experienced such a thing. I was not even particularly afraid of the virus, by which I mean I trusted condoms to do their job and trusted myself to use them properly and consistently, good student that I was.

It was this: I didn’t like assuming my partners were lying.

That was the part I could never get used to. I didn’t like being told to treat every partner as someone who could be, through malevolence or selfishness or just plain ignorance, putting my life at risk. I didn’t like always coming from a place of distrust and fear. I thought, We are better than that.

xoWe are in a different time now, and a lot of people seem to be having a hard time wrapping their heads around it. In an era where condoms aren’t the only safe sex choice, where you are safer fucking an HIV-positive man on treatment and undetectable than practically anyone else, where preventative treatment has been shown to work, and where—let’s just be honest and say it—HIV is nowhere near as scary as it once was, it might be time to consider what safety means and to reevaluate our risk tolerance and our approach to safe sex, each of us in our own way.

Nobody is saying to throw safety out the window, though you would never know it from reading the claims of screeching op-eds to the contrary. But the game has undeniably changed, hard as it may be to take that in (understandably—we’ve been living with the same safe-sex messages for 30 years, after all). That said, it has always been the case that you don’t need protection if you’re having sex with someone you know to be of the same status, positive or negative, as yourself. If you trust that person and are sure of your own status, then you have a choice.

Where You From You Sexy ThingIn my book, trust is necessary to intimacy, and intimacy is necessary to good sex (and good sex is just, well, if not necessary, at least important). Sometimes I choose to trust. I’m not stupid about it. With guys I know and love and trust, though, I have chosen to lay down my fear. That doesn’t guarantee that I will never contract HIV by mistake, but the odds are on my side; and in a world full of uncertainty—where HIV matters, but so do other things—it is a minuscule risk I find worth taking.

And yes, sure, sex without condoms feels better—my older gay brothers were not lying—but more than that, it feels way better mentally. It’s what I was missing.

No words for my love

Aerosmith: Walk this wayI’M LATE AGAIN, I know it. Internet was down at the abode for the whole first part of the month, but it’s back now, not that it makes such a good excuse. I’ve also been busily doing my homework for the Writing from the Chakras class I’m taking for the second time. You may recall I took the class last year at this time. I got so much out of it, I decided to take it again.

Not entirely sure how to do it, but not wanting to disappoint myself by having less dramatic breakthroughs this time around, I have resolved to go deep. Week #1 was about the Root Chakra, and I used the occasion to explore the origin of my fears. In particular, I wanted to know better what drives my lifelong search for love and sex and deep, intimate connection, and more than that, my search for peace of mind and contentment around it all.

This took me on an inward journey back through time to try and uncover those early memories of trying to feel loved and happy, traveling back through a parade of relationships including my “trying-to-be-normal-and-accepted” girlfriend excursions, which I took quite seriously at the time.

I didn’t stop there. I kept rewinding, deeper, reeling in the years to a time before sex and dating and junior prom, to a time of pure innocence, a time when I felt no shame and no compulsion to be anyone other than my true self because I knew no better.

My roots have soaked up and hold the memories I have long forgotten, body memories and feelings I cannot explain but feel strongly still. I had no words for what I felt, my attraction as natural as the weather, love and desire without even knowing it. What did I know?

Somerset Middle SchoolAnd I was able to pinpoint the moment when that changed, when all of a sudden I got the message that something was wrong, I was wrong. I got the words that day in the 6th-grade locker room for something I had no idea was a problem, had no idea was anything at all. My natural way of being stopped that day in the fall of 1970.

It took an action, a bringing together of witnesses, a sharing of these sensations with other fellow beings, classmates naked in a school gym locker room, all of us still mere children and dumb, but I somehow dumber, sheltered maybe from knowing what most boys my age already knew; or maybe it was just that they were different from me, strengthened by their being united in feeling what I didn’t, or in not feeling what I did.

And this is when my root was severed, cut from all nourishment, feelings left to wither and die, a sprout buried under heaps of too much pungent, dark, rich soil. Dirt. Dirty, yes, dirty and shameful. Soiled. I hadn’t a clue, really, until that point. I hadn’t a word for it, hadn’t even thought of needing a word for this completely natural sensation of excitement, attraction, and lust. It seems strange to speak of an 11-year-old’s lust, but that’s what it was.

Suddenly I had a whole new vocabulary of epithets to describe myself—faggot, fairy, homo, queer. I wanted to die. Welcome to middle school, where our cohort of innocents split into tribes, warring factions, splinterings. Middle school, all new, with its budding adolescent bodies, mouths, and minds, nakedness in the group showers, jockstraps and gym uniforms, cliques and dances and fumbling dates, night moves and cigarettes, and, hovering above it all, popular music, all these ways to judge and rank and pressure, to cast out the weak ones, evolution theory in action.

Hormones raging and no way to release any of that pent-up spunk and energy, no outlet and no privacy and no one to talk to about all this, much less kiss or touch or take a stab at sex with, at least I had a good record collection.

Blog posts I didn’t write

Frameline37 marqueeDEAR LORD, IT’S BEEN a long time since I’ve written on here. But I do feel just a little better, having gone back and checked, seeing I was gone for a whole month last year when I went to Peru, and the blog survived.

I haven’t been in Peru since I last wrote. I haven’t even been in Oakland. But I have been doing some really great stuff. My Writing from the Chakras course continues its week-by-week Kundalini ascent, I’ve been swamped with freelance editing work, and I’ve been enjoying life. Gay pride this year was extra special. Frameline37 was the best film festival ever. I’ve been to BBQs. I’ve had dates.

If I owe my blog an apology for having neglected it, I need to get on my knees and beg my gym for forgiveness. I can’t remember the last time I set foot in there. I know it was around the time I started the online course, which just goes to show, you can’t do it all. I’ve been over that theme enough times, there’s really nothing new to say about it. Still, it always surprises me a little that time won’t just expand to fit whatever I try to stuff into it.

And I can’t stand to give that most boring of answers to the question of how I’ve been: “Really busy.” But I’ve been really busy. I’ve even had to cut into the most sacred of protected calendar blocks, my sleep time. And I’ve missed blogging.

But a big freelance project is done, gay pride season is over, and I’m feeling caught up enough on all the rest to sit down and write you a post. You would think being away from it for so long would make it easier to find things to write about, but it’s kind of like my too-big-menu problem. I’ve got so many ideas backed up, I don’t know where to start.

So, I’ll start with something simple— Hi. I’m back. I missed you—and let that be that.

Band on the Run by Paul McCartney and WingsI was going to write every week of the Chakras course—there’s certainly no shortage of good things to say about it—but I’d be playing serious catch-up by now. I was going to write about the Supreme Court rulings and gay pride last week, but that’s old news now. I was going to do a mid-2013 wrap-up July 2, but missed that too. I could tell you how I feel about bucket lists, but I don’t like to sound cranky.

I want to write about the records I’ve been playing since we last talked. There’s a lot to say about pop 1973. I feel compelled to tell you about the O’Jays album Ship Ahoy, Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” and Band on the Run.  I could tell you about the best 45s that never made the top 40, but I only have 3 in mind. I’d be up all night doing the research to make it a proper blog post.

So, you see, there is no shortage of ideas. I’ll be back before too long to write on some of them, or about something else. And if you ask me how I’m doing, I hope to be able to honestly say, “Great. Not too busy. I’ve got the perfect life balance going on right about now.” One can hope!

You sexy thing

Where You From You Sexy ThingWEEK 2 OF THE Writing from the Chakras workshop is over, and it was another good one. I am sure it will come as a real shock to most of you, but I do love writing about sex. The second chakra, Swadhisthana, is about sex, yes, but more than that. Of course, sex is never just sex, anyway (if it’s any good).

(This reminds me of a dumb question on Do you enjoy meaningless sex? I mean, if you’re enjoying sex, it’s not really meaningless, is it?)

This is the chakra where intensity, vulnerability, intimacy, and motivation reside. As happened with last week’s Root chakra exploration, I felt myself tapping into a whole new energy in my writing after meditating on the Sexy chakra, freewriting—that is, writing non-stop, without editing, without going back—in waves that kept, uh, coming…kind of like good sex. Yeah.

Oh sorry, where was I?

As you may know, I’ve been experimenting with writing sexy fiction for some time now. Writing about sex really is like sex in so many ways, and I don’t just mean the imaginary boyfriends thing. In writing, as in real life, if there’s no emotion involved, no intimate connection, no vulnerability, no identification with the characters having sex, then it’s really no good. It’s just bad porn.

Dave X Robb fictionThis week, I found myself going deeper, exploring my characters’ motivations and fears, their miscommunications and words unspoken, ambivalence, love, fear, connecting and not connecting…all those things that make life so complex and difficult and wonderful and sexy at times.

And I think the writing is getting better, maybe. If you’re an adult and you don’t mind reading about gay people having sex, you’re welcome to check out a new sample here. I’d love to hear your feedback.

That was gay?

IT’S KIND OF FUN to look back at songs I knew growing up and to find the hidden gay subtext. Oh sure, one can argue that the songs aren’t really gay — and, believe me, there are a lot of people on the Internet investing a whole lot of energy in the argument: Oh, those horrible, pathetic gays think everything’s gay! — but the point is not the songwriter’s intention so much as that some of these hits can be interpreted as gay without any stretch of the imagination…at least no stretch of a creative, gay imagination.

To me, the more interesting examples of this aren’t the obvious ones, but those that flew under the gaydar, as it were. The Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “Band of Gold” (1970) by Freda Payne is a perfect example. Give it a listen and tell me it doesn’t sound like it’s just dawning on Freda that she accidentally married a gay man.

We kissed after taking vows
But that night on our honeymoon
We stayed in separate rooms

I wait in the darkness of my lonely room
Filled with sadness, filled with gloom
Hoping soon
That you’ll walk back through that door
And love me like you tried before

LiberaceRight? “Band of Gold” came out when I was 10, so I not only missed the gay subtext; I didn’t know what that meant, or that there even was such a thing. Gay? What’s that? Seriously. I had no idea. (Still not convinced? Sylvester covered the song in 1983, oh-kayyy?)

A few years later, I had lived through some David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, and Lou Reed, and so I was at least familiar with the concept when Steely Dan came out with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” (1974). Was I aware of the gay storyline? I honestly can’t remember, but I do remember liking the song a lot, listening to it over and over, and wondering about what it meant.

We hear you’re leaving, that’s okay
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turned and run
But if you have a change of heart

You tell yourself you’re not my kind
But you don’t even know your mind
And you could have a change of heart

Steely Dan: Pretzel LogicThe rumor is that the song is about a woman named Rikki that Donald Fagen went to college with, but really, I don’t care. I think the Steely Dan boys deliberately chose a gender-ambiguous name so that the song could be read either way. It certainly works as the story of a gay (or closeted or straight) guy scared off by the singer’s advances. Big time. (Check out all the crazy theories about this song here.)

In researching this blog post, it came to my attention that “The Way of Love” (1972) by Cher is a totally gay song. I know, I didn’t get it for the first 41 years either, but check out the evidence. She’s addressing her song to someone, giving advice:

When you meet a boy | that you like a lot
And you fall in love
| but he loves you not

…and so on. At the end of the song, she reveals she’s singing to a lover who’s left her — just the way that you | said goodbye to me — so, wait a minute, that can only mean one thing: Cher’s lover left her for another man. The lover could have been a man or could have been a lesbian who went back to men. Either way: gay!

Elton John famously danced around the issue for a couple of years before busting out of the closet. His early repertoire is filled with love songs between himself and songwriter Bernie Taupin, but it wasn’t until the release of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy in 1975 that I finally put it all together. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” indeed.

Elton John: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt CowboyIt’s one of those cases where, looking back, you don’t know how you missed it — damn if he doesn’t look like Liberace on the cover of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road…but then, a lot of people in my parents’ generation were oblivious to Mr. Showmanship’s sexuality (and pretty much everyone else’s, too, come to think of it).

By the time the Village People came on the scene with their thinly veiled (and that’s being generous to those who didn’t get it) gay anthems — “Macho Man,” “In the Navy,” and “YMCA” among them — the jig was pretty much up. Gay was in.

In the 1980s, we started getting gay music by gay artists who were out about it: The Smiths and Bronski Beat made Boy George look kind of closety for a little while there. I’ll write a post about ’80s gay music another time. The 1970s’ gay music was kind of fun because it was hidden — it could be fun to crack the code. But am I glad we’ve moved beyond all that? Hell, yeah.

Going to California

Michael Jackson ThrillerWoke at 7 AM, got last items together, Mom packed us some food…

THIRTY YEARS AGO today I started my first-ever journal with those words. It was also the day I started my driving trip to move to San Francisco, a trip I took in my pale-yellow Subaru with my sister. Culture Club, Prince, Toto, and “Billie Jean” provided the cassette-and-radio soundtrack to the cross-country drive. Without getting too dramatic about it all, February 9, 1983, could also be seen as the start to my real adult life, since I’d be living on my own for the first time. (In some respects—most, maybe—I was a late bloomer.)

I don’t think I saw it as such a big deal at the time. I had been on a few cross-country driving trips already, and so this felt like another one of them, except the car was loaded with all my worldly possessions. (Well, not quite all—I had my books and records shipped.) I had bobbing-head animals glued to the car’s dashboard and a set of pink flamingos I’d set up for a photo in every state. I was going to California to live, though, and the closer I got, the more I realized I was taking a big leap, leaving the house in Americana Terrace I grew up in and nearly everyone I knew for the opposite edge of the continent.

Gone are the days you can just load up the car and head to San Francisco with a few dollars in your pocket and no real prospects. A college friend had been living here, and she introduced me to her friends who in turn lent me a couch and pointed me to Roommate Referral…and the rest is, as they say, history.

It’s embarrassing to lDave X Robb in 1983ook back through the pages of that journal, to see how dumb and green I was. I even spelled espresso with an x, for god’s sake! But it’s not the spelling errors and writing style that make me wince so much as the evidence that I was pretty clueless about everything, including especially my own cluelessness.

So, I won’t be serving up excerpts from those pages. It’s just too awful, too unconsciously self-conscious in the worst possible sense. It was 1983, so even the fashion was bad. I was trying so hard to forge some kind of post–art school, post-punk, post-breakup (with a girl!) identity, trying to find myself. I earnestly wanted to do something with my life, which was pretty much a blank slate at that point, at least from today’s perspective.

Although I wouldn’t begin coming out, even to myself, for another year or so, I find it impossible to imagine that I didn’t choose to move to San Francisco, at least on a subconscious level—I was very deep in denial—in order to explore my sexuality in a city that offered acceptance and support for that kind of thing.

I’ve come a long way in 30 years. I joke about what a loser I was back then, but I realize it was just me doing the best I could with what I had, as we all do. At least I knew how to cook a chicken or grilled cheese or spaghetti and meatballs. I knew how to do housework. I bought good records. I knew how to use a library and how to type a resumé. That’s about all. But, as it turns out, that was enough.