As well as my liver, the hubris of my youth, my 27 inch waist, my virginity (well, that might be a stretch–and it was), my drag, my Jackie collection, countless brain cells and tons of friends in San Francisco.
All of my life I’ve thrived on change and sought it out. Now, I just have to accept what is happening to me. In a way I’m lucky I get to experience it both coming and going. Many of my contemporaries didn’t make it this far.
People are saying that, as the gays drove the Irish Catholics out in the early 70’s, so the Twitterlings are chasing us out today. In the loosest sense of the word they both represent change. But the underpinnings for each are quite different. And you can’t really “force” people out who are already anxious to leave.
The Catholics we displaced were liberal politically when it came to things like unions and workers’ rights. When it came to family values, though, they relied on the Church’s conservative teachings on Christ’s love. They were anti-women, anti-black, and anti-gay.
Their middle class aspirations had them yearning for the suburbs while they sat on undesirable urban blight. Until we came along. They hated us but they loved our money.
The change we instigated came from the street up as we worked hard to achieve visibility and acceptance. The fact that we also knew how to have a good time sometimes obscured our more laudable gains.
One of the biggest disappointments of my life is that in our youth we were so progressive and idealistic we threw a huge temper tantrum to stop a war. Then, over time, we turned into one of the most money-grubbing and corporate-centric generations ever.
Today the City’s change is orchestrated from the C-Suite down. Success is measured in new apps, IPO’s and flipping property. And the aspirations of the people being displaced are mainly to finish their lives amongst the community they built. I just hope the Twitter generation does an about-face like mine did and someday rejects the hollowness of corporate values.
Gary Kamiya’s chapter on the Castro in Cool Gray City of Love is really a discussion of the City’s response to AIDS. In his preamble to the crisis, however, he does a marvelous job of capturing life in the 70’s; the joyous sense of discovery we felt going against the grain and making up the rules for our new lives as we lived them. And how naughty we were in the process.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember just how much fun that really was. Because suddenly it wasn’t.
In the late 60’s I spent summers on my Grandparent’s farm in Indiana about 20 miles from where we lived. I was a somewhat sickly, sheltered teenager who read almost everything in front of me. Grandmother never threw anything out so there were always stacks of books and old magazines to rummage through.
One day I picked up the Time “Summer of Love” issue. As we were driving in Granddad’s new pickup that afternoon I looked up from the article and blurted out, “I’m moving to San Francisco to become a hippie.” It surprised me when they both burst out laughing.
About seven years later I was out by Golden Gate Park with Wena waiting for the 5 Fulton. As we sat on the curb, waiting and waiting, I stared at the row of Victorians across the street. They reminded me of the Time article and it struck me: I kind of did it.
My days in the city I love are over.
I’ll let Tony and Judy have the last word.
The Eviction Story