It’s Showtime!

In the early 90’s I was visiting Barbara in LA and we made it a point to cram as many hip restaurants as possible into my short stay. I think we got it right because every place we went Dennis Hopper was there too.

He was at Spago’s the night we sat in the front room. So was Rona Barrett and at a table directly behind me were Willie Brown, Maxine Waters and four other politicos. They were having way too raucous of a time for elected officials.

It was close quarters and at one point Ms. Waters’ chair bumped the back of mine. She immediately apologized then smiled, placed her hand on my left shoulder and sighed reflectively “oh, to be young again.” I didn’t think I looked that young but I’ll take it wherever I can get it. In retrospect she was probably just being her savvy politician self and knew how to work the potential vote of a gay constituent.

About 10 years ago I was in line at O’Hare and she happened to be at the counter in front of me. This time when she saw me I got a scowl instead of a smile. I seriously doubt she remembered me but she studied me like maybe she thought she should.

She quickly turned back to deal with the agent. Obviously frustrated, their exchange was not going well. When it was finally resolved she looked at me again and rolled her eyes as if to say “can you believe this shit?” The magic was still there.

After the election on Tuesday I was feeling down about Democrats out polling Republicans nationwide by 10% but still not making significant gains. The deck seems stacked against us. My mood might have also been the by-product of working 16 hours at the poll that day. But even with the help of another super duper burger at the end it was hard to be buoyant.

Then this morning it dawned on me: Maxine Waters will be Chair of the Financial Services Committee. There is hope.

I have an ongoing correspondence with Nancy Pelosi’s office, who is my Congresswoman. They have been very responsive in helping me with problems. They have even contacted me after dormant periods in our communications to remind me they’re there to help. Now that’s responsive.

My last email to Pelosi, however, went unanswered. She had reprimanded Waters for the tone of some controversial statement. I thought she’d have been better off by just letting the matter slide. Civility is nice but at a time when the base is clamoring for forceful leadership we don’t need lessons in the social graces. Let Maxine be Maxine.

During the Clinton Impeachment Hearings, Congresswoman Waters was grilling Kenneth Starr. In the middle of one rambling, evasive answer she abruptly interrupted. “Excuse me, could you please repeat that? I think I may have heard you commit an impeachable offense.”

It was such a ludicrous thing to say but perfectly captured the spirit of that farce. The gavel will be in very competent hands.

I Did Not Vote for Feinstein

She’s emblematic of what is wrong with the Democratic Party. Even if they win back Congress they have no real vision. Devoid of both courage and conviction their one unifying ethos is “I am not a liberal.” Strong, progressive voices need to wrestle the party leadership away from the phantoms of Wall Street, Schumer and Pelosi.

The most fight I’ve ever seen in Feinstein was when she initially opposed the Healthcare Plan offered by a President from her own party. Before that she consistently did a Susan Collins during the Bush Presidency, always struggling with her conscience while voting solidly for the Republican agenda. Lately in the Kavanaugh Hearings she seemed reluctant to organize any kind of opposition even though she was in a leadership position to do so. Can you imagine what Mitch McConnell would have accomplished if he had the type of ammunition she had?

Her most egregious sin, however, was when she was Chair for the first Obama Inaugural. Admittedly it was a very exciting day, but in one of the tackiest displays of decorum I’ve ever seen she and her husband, Richard Blumenthal, were bouncing around the podium during the ceremony taking pictures on their phones. Maybe I’m just on the wrong side of history here and inevitably we will see Camilla doing selfies at the State Opening of Parliament.

It is her work with Blumenthal in aggrandizing personal wealth that may be her greatest achievement as a public servant. The Feinstein-Blumenthals purportedly are one of the biggest slum-lords in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. The Section 8 Housing and Single Room Occupancy Hotel programs that offer low-income tenants a place to live also guarantee landlords a hefty check subsidizing the difference between market rates.

And the next time you pay $7 for a pack of gum at the airport think of the FB’s. It’s rumored they own most of the leases at SFO and have gouged the merchants there for years

I’m sure the FB’s have not broken any laws and the Senator may have had no part in drafting either of these bills. But she definitely was privy to their immaculate conceptions and would have passed the tip on to her investment management husband encouraging him to get in on the ground floor. Since Republicans are the party of wealth preservation it may explain why she struggles so with her conscience at times.

Conflicts of interest policy in Congress simply means the elected person can’t have any but their family can. A decade ago I watched the healthcare debate intently. When it was down to the last few votes, Chris Matthews spent a week covering Evan Bayh’s indecisiveness. His vote was important because he represented the middle-of-the-road working class whose support was critical for passage. After days of analyzing his Hamlet act, Matthews casually tossed out an aside that Bayh’s wife was a lobbyist and had received a couple of million dollars from the healthcare industry for her work. Oh yeah, that.

Reporters like Matthews are part of the beltway bubble that selectively tells the truth. Everything is a negotiation in DC, certain knowledge is withheld from the public as a means of maintaining access to insider contacts. In exchange for the really big scoop, reporters ignore the mundane details about the work on the Hill. Like who actually does it.

It’s baffling that there can be so many 80 and 90 year-olds at the top of their game writing such complex legislation. And when John McCain and Ted Kennedy battled life-ending illnesses, they were rarely seen for a couple of years. Yet their offices continued functioning without missing a beat.

Somebody’s in charge but it’s not the individuals we’ve elected.  Senators themselves seem to be nothing more than holograms, displayed on camera every now and then for a well-placed sound bite.

We deserve representation that is more involved in and understands modern life. After the hits Republicans took on women’s issues in October, the Hologram from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, stepped up to offer an olive branch. He thought Dr. Blasey Ford was “very attractive.”

Had he only included that she was wearing a really pretty dress the GOP might have secured the women’s vote for the next generation.


Pheasant Under Glass

No job is ever done in this apartment. Which can be taken many different ways.

In the context of today’s post it means past projects with ho-hum results can always be revisited and improved upon. Like the 12 foot long window sill/shelf that allowed me to finally hang the Resistance drapes properly. The finishing touches ended up being rather bland. Enter the ghetto discount fabric store

My life as a fabric whore dates to childhood. Both my Grandmother and Mother were accomplished seamstresses and our weekly visits to the farm ended with the two of them going over their current projects. I was baffled by the  terminology: gaberdine, cutting on the bias, interfacing, pile, weighted hems–it was all so foreign. And none of it was about me. The boredom was only compounded when we visited the fabric store.

Bringing up four boys who’d be born within eight years of each other consumed all of Mother’s time. Going to buy material, buttons or patterns was the only time I remember seeing a look of self-satisfied enjoyment on her face.  Equally as rare in those days was the feeling of accomplishment you sensed when she finished a sewing project.

When we shopped, and when I wasn’t being told to get off the stool to let another woman sit, I would pull out one of the pattern books and try to help, “what about this one?”

Mother would look down dismissively, “that’s Butterick.” She only used Vogue or Simplicity patterns. Their designs were the best.

Left to stare at the surroundings because I was under orders not to touch anything, I day-dreamed about what all the fabrics were and what they would become.

Like at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, pilgrims at the Tooth Temple are treated as a mass produced commodity as they are loaded onto a conveyor belt to fully experience the viewing of the relic.

The endless possibilities of using fabric have stayed with me to this day. And I’m amazed at some of the new products coming along. Like the fake fur faux pheasant feathers at 17th and Mission.

There are so many wrong words in the previous sentence that, taken together, add up to something that should not have been produced in the first place. Which makes it much more desirable in my book.

When one thinks of fake fur and home decor thoughts naturally gravitate towards the King and Graceland. There’s another Elvis connection to my window sill redecoration as well.

In 2005 I went to Sri Lanka with Peter & Barbara. After visiting the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, we traveled downhill and stopped at a road side tourist store. There were slim pickings until I spotted a velvet painting of Buddha. I was struck by how two vastly different icons of modern culture, Siddhartha and the Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love, were both given the same tacky treatment. The camp value was too pronounced to ignore.

The goof was over when Buddha was framed. Glass pressed against the fabric completely transformed the work adding depth to the color and a richness that had not previously been there. There was not a hint of the medium the painting was on. It was stunning.

The result was not quite as dramatic when I used left-over tempered glass shelves on the faux feathers. Still the fabric represents another triumph of man’s artificiality over nature.

My only regret is the number of fakes that were killed just to upholster my window sill. PETA will be on my ass for sure.

With Peter & Barbara floating from Sri Lanka to the Maldives.

Matisse on Crack

What hath God wrought?

When you enter our apartment the first impression is intended to be one of an uncluttered, simple and symmetrical space. A few items spark curiosity but there’s nothing too challenging. The place may be filthy but the sight lines are clean.

Once comfortably inside with a false sense of familiarity established, you turn to the west for some OMG reveals. Like the questionable house pet art over the sink, the Bambi uber alles above the bed, or the garish faux croc on the doors. To that we now add the Mirrored Wailing Wall.

Clean sight line to the filthy kitchen,

The installation is on the small wall in the living room perpendicular to my bedroom door (where most of the wailing is done). Small in width, 52 inches, but not in height, 11 feet. As I worked, I wondered what the kids at the Social Work for the Elderly Training Academy might think. A 68 year-old precariously balanced atop a 10 foot ladder handling 50 square feet of broken glass. It might set off warning bells as they pursue their number one objective: Senior Safety.

Finally! A place for the vintage, leather bound Kipling to float.

The mosaic’s allegorical title reflects a subject I’ve loved all of my life and have studied in-depth: The Journey of Sperm. When the first pieces were applied, their random, primitive shapes reminded me of Matisse’s cut outs. As the wall filled in and reflected light started to take over, it became more like the silver backroom at The Factory. The mash-up of those two influences conjured up images of Henri taking a couple of hits off of Billy Name’s glassdick.

Less than $50 was spent on materials thanks to Building REsources, a dealer in architectural salvage. Located in the formerly derelict but soon to be gentrified Hunters Point area of town, the charm of the old neighborhood still wafts through on occasion.  The nearby animal rendering facility sneaks up on you sometimes with the scent of burning carcasses. Hours can be spent in that perfumed air perusing the recyclables, exercising free association on what to do with the interesting and awkward materials that are found.

Every which way but up. Detail of tribute to Reagan’s Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Shield Program. God I miss Dutch.

Prices vary from day-to-day depending on who is asked. The woman who works on Tuesdays has been especially kind. I know nothing about her but she strikes me as a life-long San Francisco resident with a high tolerance for the crazies who have come and gone through the years. And bemoans the blandness of the techie lemmings who are currently taking over the City.

She always has a quip for me but I think she secretly questions what this derelict is up to now. I’ll approach the register with sheets of broken mirror or arm’s full of irregularly shaped tempered glass and she will quietly say, “the stickers on the mirror are free, how about $5 plus tax for the rest.”

Home away from home.

People always ask me what me what I do all day. I never know what to answer. I keep busy, it’s just difficult to sum it up. This lack of responsiveness leaves the impression I don’t do anything.

Au contraire. If this project is any indication of my daily diary, 70% of my time is spent thinking, reading and daydreaming. 5% is spent out at the salvage yard rummaging through God knows what. The other 25% is used for actually doing the work.

It’s taken over a month but I’ve just emerged from the 25% portion of the cycle. Now get off my back.

Self portrait in bits and pieces.

Grab ’em by the Pussy! Continuing Thoughts on a Confirmation

RepublIcan think tank convenes tomorrow to finalize Trump Doctrine of American Feminism.

Thursday, September 27

Watching the hearings it’s really a matter of grabbing them by the pussies’ surrogate. Eleven white male Senators so incapable of doing the job they were elected to do they need to bring in a hired gun.  Their voices are stifled, as mute as a rape victim whose cries are smothered by an attacker.

With apologies to Titian (but none to Peter Max), The Rape of Senatoria

Lindsay “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Graham says he’s suspicious that Dr. Blasley Ford took a polygraph and hired an attorney. Suspicious of what? That she might be telling the truth? That the right to counsel is being exercised by the wrong people?

And Trump is furious with his staff for not knowing how credible Blasley Ford would be as a witness. Just reinforces the fact that we are a nation of laws–and how best to bend them.

Friday, September 28

Beware the venomous South Carolina Coral She-Bitch. When cornered this closeted viper emits a deadly pus.

The demeanor alone of the two witnesses yesterday speaks volumes. One controlled, troubled, whose sincerity shines through the difficulty of outing herself. The other furiously adamant about not sharing his toys, enraged that his little pretend game is not playing out the way he wanted.

But we’re not selecting Miss Congeniality here. This is for the next Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. Thinking is more important than comportment. Presumably.

In a recent Fox News interview, Kavanaugh invoked the infrequently used “Virginity Halo” defense. Because he was of unpopped cherry he was therefore incapable of any aberrant sexual activity.

The best I could piece together from his narrative was that he did not get his first piece until about mid-20’s. Rather late in the game. The frustrations from such repressed desire might manifest itself in socially unacceptable behavior in some young adults. But not when the promise keeper is an entitled prep school boy with a privileged background. That just never happens. (Cue the Skakel kid.)

Then there is his personal use of stare decisis. That because he was cleared by the FBI in the late nineties and declared of outstanding moral character, the issue has been decided and therefore can never be revisited again. One might argue that the level of scrutiny for a low-level staff attorney in the Special Counsel’s office might be less intense than for a Justice on the Supreme Court. What’s decided is decided, damn it, and no subsequent events or newly discovered evidence can ever tarnish his status as “virtuous dude.”

This is the best mind, legal or otherwise, available for the High Court?

Most sex offenders in the United States are forced to wear their Scarlet A throughout eternity. Their mobility and ability to reside in various neighborhoods are severely restricted. About the only place left for them is in dodgy trailer parks living with other sex offenders. No potential problems there that I can see.

In the modern-day, strict-constructionist interpretation of our forefather’s wisdom, however, it has now almost become a prerequisite for Republican appointees to the Supreme Court. The SCOTUS exception for serial sex offenders is born.

And The Flake wept.

Monday, October 1

When politicians like the South Carolina Coral Viper offer advice to rape victims, their magic bullet is reporting the incident to police.  The fuzz will know what to do and take appropriate action. It seems so simple. But it isn’t.

This is not a fender bender that lends itself to a dispassionate moment-by-moment recount. The trauma leaves the victim with feelings of guilt, embarrassment. and shame that make them reluctant to relive events and share their recollections. And the gumshoe behind the desk, whose views on sex have probably been shaped by the 15th Century leanings of the Holy See in Rome, lacks the skill and sensitivity to properly handle the situation.

To say that sexual assault has not been a priority of law enforcement is an understatement. Witness the hundreds of thousands of rape kits that have sat unanalyzed for the last twenty years.  With the exception of Jayne Mansfield’s daughter, god love her, there has been no leadership on the issue. Politicians have not devoted the time, resources or money needed to spearhead any kind of effort.

What have elected officials considered a better use of their time instead? In the case of Republicans like those on the Judiciary Committee over the last decade, to pursue an elusive holy grail. That pesky Kenyan birth certificate they can never quite put their hands on.

Thursday, October 4

Chuck who? Wall Street’s Darling is once again out played by Kentucky’s Chinless Wonder. Or is he?

Republicans in Congress put all of their energy into getting what they want. Democrats put all of their energy into “being fair.” So that Republicans can get what they want. It’s a one party town.

Friday, October 5

Susan “Show Me the Money” Collins. What a ridiculous human being.

Next time you’re in your favorite bar order a Susan Collins, cousin to the legendary Tom. 2 shots arsenic, a shot of cyanide, with a splash of strychnine and a wire hanger garnish. Be prepared, they’re extremely expensive.

Since she probably won’t be running for reelection in 2020 her vote was basically up for sale.  Huge corporate benefactors are supposedly lined up to give her cush jobs that require her to do nothing upon retirement. A trait she’s exhibited in spades her entire Senate career.

I’m sure Senator Collins will remain “extremely concerned” all the way to the bank.

No Exit

From what I can remember of Jean Paul Sartre’s play, it was about three strangers trapped in a room that is supposed to represent Hell. As in other theatrical pieces that tackle unnatural confinement (e.g., Tallulah Bankhead’s indelible performance in Lifeboat), the situation starts out friendly enough but rapidly disintegrates into unbearable friction. Everyone ends up wanting to kill each other. But are there any consequences to murder if you’re already in Hell?

My over-simplified take away was if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Try to make the most of something that can’t be changed.

That is the peace I’ve made with Fort Wayne’s Three Rivers Festival. Held every July it has no purpose other than to enjoy the nice summer weather and encourage people to eat crappy food. Which most of them don’t need.

The focal point of activities is Junk Food Alley with typical carnival fare of corn dogs, elephant ears and taffy. They always sound and smell appealing but never are.

I continue to hold out for something new and healthy and am quite gullible about it. Like the year they introduced onion blossoms. Huge fried onions served with a blue cheese dipping sauce, how marvelous! How greasy! I barely ate a third of it. Their idea of food preparation and mine are quite different.

The Festival started when I was in my teens and seemed hokey as hell at the time. In the days of Woodstock and Altamont, we got warmed over Norman Rockwell. Still, when you’re with young family members who have not yet been fully indoctrinated in my cynicism, it can be fun seen through their eyes.

The Festival starts with a parade on Saturday morning. My one memory from those 60’s events is of the cop from Indianapolis who toured the state doing his motorcycle schtick. As he beguiled the crowd with his riding tricks, a look of self-righteous certitude was frozen on his face. He was the law and you motherfuckers better obey.

The highlight was his signature move. Pulling his knees into his chest, he placed his feet on the seat and slowly pushed himself until he was standing completely upright. With his arms out-stretched he was able to balance the motorcycle as it continued to move forward. Like a Christ on Sugar Loaf, he ruled over the parade.

My brothers and I goofed on that pompous fool for years to come. Our favorite Mad Magazine scenario was of his  bike careening out of control, him thrashing on the pavement in excruciating pain, and the cycle mowing through the crowd of adoring school children. Good times.

Not the cop in question but an example of the technique. Without the sanctimony.

Despite his air of moral superiority, there were flaws in the officer’s thinking. Mainly the kids’ impression of how  terribly cool his stunt was. How easily you could be killed trying to do it was never mentioned.

Thank you for your service, Nimrod.

Howdy neighbor! Three times younger than me, four times as heavy.

As the popularity of Junk Food Alley suggests, portion control is a major issue in this region. It’s surprising one of my favorite restaurants, The Italian Connection, is still in business.

Their pasta is homemade, the sauces are thin but rich, the servings are modest and satisfying. You leave sated not stomach bombed. Occasionally, however, you’ll encounter a local being served an entree for the first time. An expression of “you mean for $12 I only get three ravioli?” comes over their face.

I had a delicious meal there again this summer. In addition to the epiphany of accepting what can’t be changed, as we walked through the restaurant’s parking lot that evening there was another stark realization about my life. Despite my old age I am never going to grow up. I mean, you can’t put a Shroud of Turin touring van in front of me and not expect me to react.

Even though my photogenic days are dog years behind me, the “show people” in me forced me to strike a pose.



Era’s End

The first piece I remember buying with my Grandmother was this clover design porcelain covered dish. She taught me to look for the red maker’s mark because it might be Prussian, which she considered the best. I always assumed this one was until 50 years later I looked again and saw, to my horror, it was only Limoges.

Grandmother was a serious antique collector. From the age of 10 until I moved to San Francisco I would attend auctions with her. She’d pack our lunch, take her knitting and stay for the day.

She always sat towards the front and a little to the right of the podium so she could be seen. The auctioneers knew her well. When an item she was interested in came up they would glance at her as they yodeled incomprehensible garble. I’m not sure exactly what Grandmother’s mysterious consent gesture was but the auctioneer knew. She was one of the few bidders who were named in the call. “I have Mrs. Kimmer at 55!”

Unlike her grandson, she was a penny-pincher and knew her limits. Her assent motion may have been imperceptible but when the bids went too high she’d shake her head dramatically while mouthing the word “No!” She seemed offended by the price, as if it was the most disgusting thing she’d ever heard.

Wheelchair access in Aisle 5 also allowed for additional performance space. Thank you ADA!

I sometimes bemoan the fact that in the second coming of my San Francisco life I don’t have the connections I had the first time around. There used to be parties, dinners, and openings every day of the week. And in the years I hung out with David Gillette we could be stacked 3 or 4 deep over JFK with nightly invites.

So it was a great thrill two weeks ago to be asked at the last minute to the Nob Hill Theatre closing day barbecue. My friend got us in for free and we had a leisurely stroll through the premises. I particularly enjoyed the go-go boys in their stretch terry hot pants.

Fucking wall of fame.

Behind the stage was a door I’d never seen before. Outside it were circular steps leading down to a deck and the entrance to the owners residence. The apartment, which supposedly had been featured in Architectural Digest, could only be accessed through the theater. Very La Cage aux Folles. Having Mom over for dinner while they screened Seven in a Barn must have been an interesting evening.

The back of the property abutted the former Williams-Sonoma Mail Order patio where we once found the California Bay Laurel doused in dog piss. And, yes, abutment is the proper term for discussing the physical attributes of a gay porn theater.

In addition to the closing day festivities, my connection (who was empowered with price negotiation status) took me on a private tour of their Touch Our Junk sale yesterday.  All the glory hole panels had been sold by the time I got there but there were still stripper poles, autographed porn star 8×10’s and half priced lube to be had.

Skilled performers on stage expertly worked both the lip and the tongue.

In 1996 I took Mother on a Jackie O Getaway to Manhattan. We saw Zoe Caldwell in Master Class, took a long walk through Central Park by the 1040 Fifth Avenue condo, ate oysters at Grand Central, marched through Bergdorfs  and attended the preview of The Jackie Estate Sale at Sotheby’s. I left only one bid, an excessive $1100 for the monogrammed cocktail shaker. The eventual winner paid about $6500.

I did not get shut out at the Nob Hill sale yesterday though. I scored an original Justin Simpson painting “Spring” from the 2008 Men of Wine Collection. Done in a sickening Lawrence Welk teal, it has the unsettling thematic quality of a Keane painting (minus the eyes) with just a soupcon of Linda Blair’s Excorist menace thrown in.

One can almost see Grandmother doing her phantom “No!”