Thursday, December 26, 2013

A love letter to the Bay Area

With every loss there is a gain. With every gain there is a loss. Perhaps it is simply the Holiday season, yet I've been really missing the Bay Area and my friends/community there. Thus, I wanted to write a love letter blog post to the Bay Area.

When I was a child my family and I would visit Berkeley a few times a year if not more. My Uncle Joel lived there as did good friends of the family that were like family. The Grossmans; Laura, Knut, Anya, and Jessica. We would visit with them in Berkeley. We sat outside of the French Hotel, Saul's, and other cafes on Shattuck Ave. I remember all of the cafe aromas and delicious pastries. My Mom, Uncle Joel, and Aunt Heidi grew up in Berkeley, CA. My maternal Grandparents moved their family from Miami, Florida to Berkeley, CA in the 60's when my Mom was 13. They lived in Berkeley for 6 or 7 years before they relocated to Paris, France. My Grandparents chose to move to the Bay Area for their political activism and for the overall progressive hub that was the Bay Area in the 1960's. Shirley and Bernie Hutner were civil rights activists, peace activists, and anti-nuke activists. Thalia Broudy, one of their close friends who was and still is an activist is in her 80's and currently lives in Berkeley, CA. She is the Mother of Laura Grossman and Karen Stern. Bay Area family friends that are like family.

Contemplating my family history, the 60's were an exciting time for my Grandparents, Mom, Aunt, and Uncle to be in the Bay Area! The past two years, when I often walked to downtown Berkeley from my home on McGee Ave. I sometimes thought of my Grandparents and Mother walking on these same sidewalks. Here we all were in the same area, yet at a different time. I thought about what it would be like to travel back in time to the 1960's. What would I tell my Mom if I saw her in Berkeley? Would I stop her to say something? Like, I'm your cousin you haven't met. That's why we have a strong resemblance. I wondered if there was anything that I could say or do that would impact my Mom's life in a more positive way. I don't think there is anything that I could've said or done that would be helpful for my Mom to hear or that could improve her life in anyway. Thus, if I could travel back in time I would simply look at her and smile. Her life and how she lived unfolded from her actions, decisions, and free will. A word from a time traveler cannot take or add lessons that one acquires and gleans from lived experience. The only way is through. To continue onward on one's life journey.

I always felt a strong affinity and connection to the Bay Area. I loved visiting when I was a child and teenager. I often wondered why we didn't live there. I loved the food, the culture, artistic opportunities, the gardens, and our family and friends there. Berkeley in particular felt like home to me.

The Bay Area was like a beacon of light to me. It was the city of my dreams. The place where I always wanted to live since I was a child. It was a dream come true when I had a purpose and it was my time to move there. It was 27 years until it was my time to live in the Bay Area. I was immensely excited for my chance to move to the Bay. My Mom said that it was a battle to get to the Bay Area and a battle to stay. I have found truth in that. For all of my excitement and enthusiasm, the reality of living in San Francisco was tough to say the least. It was the most urban and biggest City where I have ever lived. I went to college at UC Santa Cruz. I grew up in Clovis/Fresno. I lived in Portland, Oregon for almost 3 years before I moved to the Bay Area when I was 27 for graduate school at San Francisco State University.

Challenge after challenge after challenge came my way. I saw the worst in people in San Francisco. It was like witnessing the shadow side of humanity in a way that I had never seen before. The city was harsh and the people were harsher. Housing challenges, housemate imcompatibilities, and the hectic hustle bustle of every day life. Never really feeling settled and then having to look for new housing again and then again. Only to find a new place to live and have clarity a month later that my housemate was toxic and needing to move yet again.

I learned that housing isn't a right in San Francisco it is a privilege. I was almost in tears during the end of my first year of graduate school at SF State when I told the trans guys in a trans group that I went to that my housemate at the time was toxic and I needed to find a new place to live. I felt displaced and felt like I was on a continual search for resonant housing. One of the guys in my trans group mentioned that all of the Native Ohlone people have been displaced from this land. He expressed something to the effect that there was and is continual displacement from every group of people that have settled here since. As much as I loved the City; it's culture, art, beauty, radical politics, food, parks, urban planning, architecture, vibrant queer/trans community, it was an uphill battle getting through my first year living in San Francisco.

I'm not sure when during the past four years that I lived in the Bay Area that I finally developed a thick skin. I became hardened in a sense. I feel that I developed this as a queer/trans man and also being in the highly competitive field of film/media. I am tough and I can withstand living in the harsh environment of the city. Hardened so that I could withstand the critiques and feedback from professors and colleagues in my MFA Cinema graduate program. I have hardened so that I could survive and thrive in the dense and competitive environment that is the City. Also, my experiences of homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia while living in the City have had an impact on me. Going through the ringer, again and again of feedback, critiques, and graduate school challenges as an artist was an initiation, indeed. To say the least.

I find that one must be tough and hardened in a sense to be a creative professional. Life is more challenging for me as a queer/trans man. I knew it was difficult at times, yet I've had long conversations with dear friends who are cisgender and straight in the last 6 months. Their lives are easier in a sense. Their lives are validated. For me as a trans man who is an artist, I aim to be kind yet I'm hardened. Hardened to be empowered and express that I do deserve to be here. Even if I'm the only one validating myself and my existence. I, as a beautiful queer/trans man who is an artist/filmmaker, can live my life and carve out a unique path that is my own to walk upon. Away from the mainstream. Just because I'm not on this mainstream path doesn't mean that I'm invaluable or do not deserve to be here. I exist and I'm making my time and energies here count. Even if I'm the only one validating myself. Thus, I have become hardened.

Once, before I found a parking spot, I saw a man carrying a bottle of wine in one hand and I watched as it slipped through his fingers and smashed in the middle of an intersection as he was walking halfway across the street. He just walked away, not bothering to pick up the pieces out of shame and embarrassment. While people nearby quickly picked up several large pieces of glass so that cars wouldn't run over them. I watched car accidents happen right before my eyes. I saw a man with blood and alcohol on himself passed out on the street in the Mission. I was yelled at by an upper class white woman in a grocery store parking lot for driving the wrong direction into the parking lot. I apologized, yet she rolled down her window and swore at me.
I came up with a phrase that I would often say when I worked at an upscale grocery store in Noe Valley. "People in the City." It's a good line that can be used for a lot of instances and experiences depending on one's tone.

I aimed to write about the light aspects and what I loved about the City, yet this blog has turned into more of an examination of my initiatory challenges and experiences in the City. In particularly during my first year living in San Francisco, expressing dark aspects, the shadow side of humanity. Through it all, I was meant to be there. I didn't know how for how long. Yet, I did my best to enjoy the moments of joy. Or simply all of the moments. I was as present as I could have been. For that I am proud. For all of my lessons, I am a richer man. For all of my experiences I can definitely say or exclaim, I have truly lived! Oh, the City. The Bay Area! My time there, all of my experiences, and the land itself. It's a part of me.

I do miss dancing amidst a sea of queer/trans folks at dance parties! I miss the energy, the excitement! Even if it is exhausting to live in since it's non-stop. The beautiful fog, the beautiful bay, the beautiful bridges! The chocolate crossiants from Tartine that I only indulged in on special occasions. Yummy pizza from the Cheese Board or Arizmendi. The feeling that anything is possible and that anything can happen in the City. The fashion, the art, the film, how many concerts or shows are always happening. There are queer/trans things to do everyday. The gayborhood. East Bay queers, faggy trans guys, feminine trans boys, radical politics, the Berkeley rose garden. The farmer's markets, bike rides, the OCEAN. The SEA. The BAY AREA. The Berkeley marina. Highway one. Tide pools. Living in a queer centric area. These are some qualities and experiences that I miss and that aren't in Albuquerque.

Dear, Bay Area. I will visit you at a resonant time! I'm not sure when. I blow you a kiss all the way from the High Desert of New Mexico! I am meant to be here now in Albuquerque. I look forward to embracing you when I visit next. You are in my heart and soul. We will meet in the present. I love you and I always will. You are the City of my dreams. A soul mate City in a sense. Although our relationship has come to an end, I think of you everyday. The relationship ends, yet my love for you still goes on. All of the things that I miss that I wrote above, I will experience when I visit you next. At some unknown time. Good night my love. Good night, Bay Area. I love you,


1 comment:

Mark said...

Ewan, I enjoy your thought form. You have shared a huge range of experience with feeling, light and love. Life is full of such and what doesn't' kill us makes us stronger, or so they say. You will be blessed with more wonderful experiences, and I look forward to your sharing as you discover.