Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rep Yo City

The best thing about reading a really compelling, entertaining book is when you've finished and you sit there for a few minutes with the book still in your hand thinking about the characters and how they're advancing beyond the pages. Perhaps you might flip back through the dog eared pages and reread some particularly highlighted passages. Or maybe you just sit back and feel true contentment for five or ten minutes.

All of the above encompasses the way I felt the other day when I finished Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Though it is nearly thirty-five years old, much of the attitude, demeanor and controversies in the book still ring true. Though it's importance to the GLBT community cannot be overlooked, the real story in Tales of the City, was Maupin's unabashed love for the City by the Bay and all its weird and wacky inhabitants.

Tales of the City centers around the lives of the tenants of 28 Barbary Lane. We have Mary Ann, just moved from Cleveland and having a hard time adjusting to the San Francisco lifestyle, Michael, who enjoys cruising the bathhouses, Mona, a part time lesbian and Michael's best friend and Anna, the landlady, who welcomes all new tenants with a joint rolled from her private stash.

Although many of the old landmarks like Hamburger Mary's and the EndUp are either gone or irrevocably changed by time, Maupin's idea of San Francisco has not and probably will never change. It's still the same place where a guy can pick up another guy while waiting in line to go on stage in a Jockey shorts contest. Where an Afro-centric white lesbian can fall in love with another white lesbian because she is posing as a black fashion model. Where someone can be gay one day and straight the next. Maupin's San Francisco is simply a place where two (or more) people can connect without judgements and please each other as best as they know how.

I first read Tales of the City when I moved to San Francisco in 1995 and didn't understand much of it. It seemed sappy, pop-ish to me and it read like the newspaper serial it was. Back then, I was Mary Ann. I was living my own version of Tales and I didn't even know it. My landlord was a gay Filipino bank executive who lived above me with his Puerto Rican lover and a roommate whose fethish was violent night wrestling. I was a little freaked. I thought a million times about leaving and going back to where I came from. But I stayed. Somewhere over the course of time I changed into Mona, I could never pinpoint the date, but it's there.

Tales of the City
Armistead Maupin

What I'm reading next: Darkness at Noon (actually, I'm finished but will blog about it later)


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