Tuesday, June 3, 2008

San Francisco

So I just returned from a week in San Francisco (and the Redwoods). I used to go every year, but took a 3 year hiatus as I dealt with life issues. Thoughts:
  • Beautiful. Sun, ocean, mountains. Truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.
  • Old. I was shocked how much older everyone seemed than NYC. The average age of guys in the bars was probably 55 with a range from 32 to 82. I don’t remember it being so old but I guess it’s the same people who were there 18 years ago just older. It made me feel less over-the-hill than NYC which was nice but also made me contemplate what gay old age will look like. Which brings me to…
  • Lots of drinking. I was amazed at how much people drank (and I’m no teetotaler). When I went to Starbucks in the Castro at 9 AM, the bar next door was already full. At 2 PM, most of the bars in the Castro were happening. And the same people were there at 8PM.
    It seems like many of the barflies are retirees without much to do. And I guess there are PTSD issues from AIDS and growing up in a pre-gay era as well as the absence of any role models for what to do when one is no longer young but still a gay horndog. But it did make me think about what I will do with my free time when I no longer have to work and many of my friends and family have died. I need to find healthy hobbies that will keep me from spending my golden years chasing momentary pleasures.
  • Meth. I forget how prevalent it is out West. I don’t see it as much in NYC. But in the Castro, I must have seen a dozen people in a bad state. In one bar, this meth-crazed 25 year old kept bouncing from person to person to try to get sex. It was sad, disturbing, awkward and annoying. It made me remember that San Francisco’s focus on pleasure, beauty and indulgence can be toxic for young gay men. Its much easier to lose focus than NYC where you always are kept in check by reality.
  • Leather bars are the Knights of Columbus of gay men. It seems like they keep trying to keep the leather bars going despite sparse attendance and absence of any sexual activity. I went to the new Chaps II and there was one 75 year old guy in full leather regalia who told stories (like my 80 year old uncle-slow, rambling, and wholly unconcerned with the listeners level of interest) about the “old times” which made me realize how specific the leather thing is to an earlier era. Wearing full leather now is like wearing a circle skirt and a bouffant in the 70s. As interesting and fun as leather can be, young gay men don’t see themselves as purely sexual animals anymore. They like to envision themselves as just another Ozzie and Harriet couple blending in with the straight culture. I grew up on the leather bars of Amsterdam so I have a great fondness for them. But I’m beginning to accept that it’s a dated concept from a different gay era.
  • Life is the same regardless of the backdrop. Yeah, its nice to have a view of the hills and ocean and temperate weather, but eventually you stop noticing the same surroundings you saw yesterday and focus on life - relationships, job and health. Perhaps it would be nice to wake up every morning and look at flowers instead of concrete. But then my shades are closed and my sole focus is the first cup of coffee. And the thing I most want to see in the morning is my lover next to me.

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