Like super gay, because the minute I crossed the state line, they passed the gay marriage bill in the House, and the Senate is a fate accompli (actually it passed during this blog...see below :) The governor has said he'll sign it (he just did), which will make Minnesota the first midwestern state to legislatively establish the right to gay marriage (Iowa's was done via the courts). As the most progressive state in the midwest, it is fitting. Someone at the capitol this morning told me that Minneapolis/St. Paul is the 3rd largest gay city in terms gay people per capita.
I recently heard Palm Springs was the gayest city in America, and of course SF or Provincetown have to be pretty high up there....but finding the definitive list proved elusive...one of those google rabbit holes that can consume an afternoon...a few things I did find:
(these ratings are interesting, but sort of like all those college ratings lists...you gotta read what criteria were used...still...Spokane?...gay marriage is closing in on Idaho?...remember the best/worst city list a decade or so ago?...even bowling alleys were an index of quality of life....I just remember Yuba City, CA came up as one of the very worst cities in America, with not a single bowling alley...but even though it's grim, for me it would never be that bad...weather is decent, it's near mts, easy access to Sacramento and SF, and the lack of bowling alleys might give me just the opportunity for a small business venture for my dotage, since trailers in all other parts of California are out of my price range)
(a funny commentary on the previous list)
(sheer volume index of homos)
(where are the most gay couples per capita)
OK, I've likely begun to bore everyone but gay statisticians by now, so on we go....
The charming U Wisc volleyball player who I chatted with on Megabus out of Madison. She looked like a queer girl but her boyfriend met her in Minneapolis. He looked just like her, but with chin scruff, same hair, height everything...it was a very cute moment of the genderless world to come
My home in Minneapolis...2nd floor...I hung out here 10 years ago with Mark and Vaughn, who both live in different apts in the building. Vaughn is from Montana and works for NPR, a very cultured dude and quite the charmer.
Mark is an amazing friend (as well as attorney, community activist and fundraiser) who--both for this tour and for my first way back in 2003 for Through It Came Bright Colors--sets up THE best little sub-tour anywhere...he set me up to teach two writing workshops at the local GLBT library/archive, followed by two readings at bookstores and a party/reception at a local cafe, as well as putting me up in his place. Mark also does fundraising, and like my colleague Stella, can deliver in amazing ways and has a knack for bringing people together. He started an important local nonprofit: www.rainbowhealth.org
He is the next in a long series of amazingly generous people who have just blown me away on this trip.
Mark with one of Minneapolis's many lakes...there are 10 or so scattered around the city. He's got domestic skills as well.....
I never photograph food, but there was something so pretty about this little composition...of course we are back in America where obesity and heart disease are king..... in the local diners...gone are the Quebecois lowfat milk options
The below gastro pic is not so pretty, but it's become my section of the frig...milk for coffee, hot sauce for all food...Mark has been reading that hot sauce is addictive--or rather, the need for hot chili peppers, sometimes to the point where you use hot sauce on almost everything...I haven't started putting it in my coffee yet, but I am suffering from this syndrome
(without having ever studied peppers, I learned empirically that hot peppers help my digestion..this from a person who has struggled with digestive issues...no one ever believes me, but it works (see above link..black pepper however doesn't work this way and is THE WORST thing...maybe it's the peppercorn thing which probably makes a completely different chemical combo). I also eat peppers when I have a cold, and I just learned via the above link that they have tons of vitamin C...but what I like about them for colds is how they sort of blast your fever right through the surface of your forehead, which seems to speed recovery
(I don't know whether to believe this, but I include it for comic relief)
The neighborhood of East Isles where Mark lives
the nearby coffeeshop, Spyhouse, where I perch, read, manage the tour and blog...am still reading the amazing Stonewall Experiment by Ian Young as well as James Purdy's Malcolm
check out the weird bar code computer thingee under the for rent sign...I think every apt bldg will soon have these....let's at least try to add color.....
It's not really totally spring here yet....some cold days...look at this pile of snow still hanging on from the winter......
Luckily I bought this light down coat in NYC when I realized the velvet blazer was never gonna cut it as I'd hoped. I call this my spacesuit and I love how it packs down to the size of an apple fritter and weighs less than my cell phone...I think I'm repeating myself, but I love my spacesuit...
The Mississippi....always kind of thrilling to see considering it's history...Huck Finn went down it, the Blues came up it...it's like the big mythic snake of America
Teaching two workshops at Quatrefoil, a gay library and archive in St. Paul with an amazing collection...a really great group of men and women came to write about their lives, take a shot at a pantoum and try other poetic exercises to achieve the magical state called inspiration where live the muses
the skyways so people don't freeze to death crossing the street in winter
I went in to buy a hair cutting kit (I always cut my own hair), and while in Walgreens, ran across yet more evidence of late capitalism.....the nails I sort of get, as excessive as it is, but duct tape?
Condoms are no doubt next...
City of bikes...people said the city is following the Canadian model...(see earlier blog from Montreal)...and yay for Canada, the European culture in our neighborhood that is pretty darn pro-active about putting people before profits....I vote to turn our Congress over to their direction until we get it cleaned out.
City of culture
I think these fire hydrants are tall for when it's snowing
One of the best events of this tour at Magers & Quinn Bookstore, with a full house, and where I also chanced upon a used copy of Roberto Bolano's poetry book, Romantic Dogs (yeehaw)
I had one of the happiest days in like forever that day...walking around, just feeling OK...I can't even remember the last time I felt so at peace and chill....something about being on the road puts you in the present...the past and future really don't exist when you're way far from home and all that you're used to. On the road, it's childlike....allowing your attention, wonder and curiosity to receive the endlessly new unfolding of space and time in front of you...
Minneapolis is a good place, I always enjoy it here. People keep telling me this is a place where an artist can actually buy a house and not sacrifice cultural amenities and progressive politics....making it quite possibly the best US city in terms of value for your buck
Siempre busco para una persona a practicar mi español! Y tengo suerte encontrarlos. Te presentarle, Gustavo, un pintor de Honduras...lo siento para los ojos cerrados!
Got an email from Mark Abramson (see SF entry). He's from Minneapolis originally, and when I wrote to say hi and touchbase, he sent back this photo....Faun has been chosen for this book club back in SF, without my having heard. Thanks to Richard May as well, who I think made this happen
There are also now faun sightings appearing on Facebook...this one spotted on the Hi Line in NYC, courtesy of Rich Wandel (this guy is actually much more satyr than faun..fauns tend to be prettier, sweeter...the Romans often romanticized the darker aspects of the Greek's mythic creatures)...I will make a pilgrimage to this spot when I get back to NYC
Monday, I headed over to St. Paul to witness the passage of gay marriage, but first I took a long walk around the city in the morning
Not a great skyline, and a very dead downtown (Minneapolis has a lively downtown and interesting, newer architecture), but an amazing neighborhood of mansions overlooking the Mississippi along Summit Dr. extending behind the cathedral pictured a few inches below in this blog (this is the neighborhood where F. Scott Fitzgerald grew up) People are always comparing St. Paul and Minneapolis...Minn is Lutheran, Scandinavian, clean, ordered, with lots of big glass bldgs and gay boys, while St. Paul is Catholic, Irish, brick, with a bigger lesbian community and earthiness (generalizing here of course)
Hunkered down to start this blog at Nina's....I'll be reading at the bookstore, Subtext, in the basement on Wednesday. These two sat next to me at Nina's and I overheard them talking about The Moth, a well-known nationwide storytelling series featured on NPR. Laura does the organizing here in St. Paul at the Amsterdam Bar, and she's also working on her first novel. She was trying to get Ricardo to commit to doing a piece, and from listening to them, I'm thinking he'd be very good for this...they got me thinking about doing it as well....it's all about putting down the book and just telling the story, with no props, which is what has made me dodge it up to now....A Boy and His Dog is the perfect story for this (I had a gay dog as a kid..or I guess he was bi but his longest relationship was with Charlie the poodle)
I drifted downstairs to introduce myself to Subtext's owner, Sue, who bought the place from Garrison Keillor when he moved across town (she once owned a store in Whitefish, MT, among other places).
I decided to start something new because these people were so nice and friendly...I'm posting independent bookstores websites for those of you who buy lots of books and feel like supporting them by taking your business there...yes, amazon is cheaper, but as they pointed out at Subtext...independents host millions of author readings annually...how many does Amazon host? ZERO
I also like how my book is listed on the same page with A Horse Named Bob :)
I also like how my book is listed on the same page with A Horse Named Bob :)
Sue loves St. Paul and quoted Keillor on St. Paul (paraphrasing here): Minneapolis is whitebread and St. Paul is a good rye.....
Most of my friends don't seem to like A Prairie Home Companion, but I've always liked it, even in its geeky midwesternness...when my brother Terry was in the hospital recovering from repeated surgeries, he couldn't read, so I made up my own Lake Wobegone Days stories for him from our own childhood memories of Seattle (Lake Washington Days), which connected me to Keillor forever I guess...especially as I learned to imitate him...his pauses and breathing, those pregnant sighs and his wry wit, the comic characterization...you start talking like him and you just start telling those kinds of stories :)
The Fitzgerald Theater where A Prairie Home Companion was born and is normally staged when not on the road
I soon headed back to the Capitol
Everyone was praising the Minnesota United campaign to pass gay marriage, which was supported by a lot of clergy...the mainline Protestants..Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, as well as Jews. Sadly, the biggest financial backer of the amendment which spurned this campaign (an anti gay marriage measure which failed) was the Catholic Church...St. Paul's church is directly opposite the Capitol to give you an idea just how Catholic a town St. Paul is. It's fitting today that the cathedral is named after St. Paul who provides the quotes and hatespeech so-called Christians use against us (which is why they aren't really Christians, but Paulists or Orthodox Jews, since all the other quotes are from Genesis, Deuteronomy and Leviticus)...Jesus never condemned us, but Paul did so numerous times. He co-opted and misinterpreted Christ's teachings and set into motion the corrupted thing we see around us today. If you have eyes to see..yes, he was trying to convert Greeks and was a man of his time and place, but like our new Pope Francis, one would expect some kind of excellence if you're going to get included in the story of Jesus as some sort of authority (puhleeze), and both these dudes fall far short...... But today Paul and Francis and the Borg lose and the J-man wins, which sometimes happens when people honor their better natures and embrace love and truth
aargh...that book...well I guess you should expect to run into another book or two while on book tour
The only good thing about Francis so far is that his appointment is leading people to pass around the Prayer of St. Francis, which is a good one to meditate on (it's about balance essentially which is sanity)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
I'm not buying the last line so I'll add some of my own....
where there is economic injustice, let me bring LAANE and community organizing :)
where there is the right, the left
and where there is the left, right (balance people!)
Where there are reality shows, literature
and where there are generous people, thanks
The bells pealed at the church as if in affirmation as the Senators made their final comments and voted to pass gay marriage 37-30. It was like the bells rang all by themselves, as if a stronger spirit than the pinched little fundie/catholic fascist hierarchy 'no fun for you, you can't have any' stinginess of the closed heart rang out. It was a feeling of being on the side of history and hard not to think of all that has lead to this moment. I was impressed by the gay people here who are polite Minnesotans...there were no angry screaming matches as is usually the case in California (not a bad thing, just sayin')
Does the below need any commentary? I had no idea there was a gay marriage movement in Sodom....it's just beyond shameful that someone could parade around this kind of stupidity...he probably thinks he's funny. One should never mock those who are less privileged.
One woman, who I wasn't able to get a photograph of, held up a blue sign with this message written in electrical tape: Sexual problems should not be a right
Hmm, well that explains your position on healthcare...but the logic here is skewed...a problem shouldn't be a right?...you have no right to a toothache or even a bad carburetor? What about missing planes and buses? No right to do that? It's too easy to mock these people, and I'll take my own advice and not mock the less educationally privileges...Civil Rights for all problems, I say... problems are people too, just like corporations
These are the ones that always make me almost cry...I stifled it and gave him a thumbs up instead
My Dad is not the kind to sit on the capitol's steps but he embodies this and I love him dearly for it. My Mom is feistier, boycotting her bible study group and challenging her friends all the time.
Next I saw a potential son-in-law for them ....I considered it, but did not muster the courage to propose, and the law hadn't quite been passed yet, so it left me in a quandary
Irony and poor graphic design
Falun Gong had a table...they were just handing out stuff, with apparently no opinion on gay marriage, but if you read between the lines they, like most cults, frown upon queers...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falun_Gong...I found their presence insidious and rather disingenuous and steered clear
Is this really the face of decadence and evil? It broke my heart...in a good way
So I went over to St. Paul's afterward and had a nice respite. People trip on my trashing of the church when they see me going in and out of its temples all the time. But there's no contradiction as I concur with Joseph Campbell who said the temples belong to the people around them, not to any theology or church...they are sacred space in the pagan sense. Like the economy, the temple is and should be in the service of the people. I like the ritual too and those who know me know that I love the whole blessing with holy water, genuflecting, etc. I also like the 3-wishes tradition of Irish Catholicism...each new church, three new wishes :) Thx Mom for that one!
I don't go to mass however, as I don't have any connection to the theology and don't want to have to listen to old testament prophets and Paul....I was always a pagan, even growing up as a Marian Heretic, without really knowing that's what I was doing.
It's about the temple, not the mass, the space, not the concept. The history of the Catholic church is pretty despicable and it continues apace as gay marriage blossoms across the land despite the millions they spend to oppose it (money better spent on paying lawsuits for all their child abuse). The wrong side of history is basically the territory the Catholic church is and has always been intent on staking out...it was so obvious today what the right side of history was
This statue in front of a Presbyterian church had a quote from Paul under it about being freed from bondage. That's what was going on over at the Capitol actually. So, this time, we can say, hey Paul, thanks for your support of queers, appreciate your thoughts...you too have a better nature (the spirit of the thing, not the letter)....and then this from a Republican who decided to change his vote from NO to YES
I have always found that the rank and file of Catholics are not particularly strict and very live-and-let-live and generally become accepting the minute they know a gay person, which is why Harvey Milk's dictum remains the essential one: come out to everybody; it's the single most important thing you can do for gay civil rights as it combats prejudice and ignorance. Of course, it's a first step...power is never given, it is earned, taken, wrested
This one is for LAANERs :)
History moves forward like a chariot....the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice (MLK, Jr.)
children of the gays were out in force and climbing, showing off their kidpower
Cops were mellow...one asked me what I was reading when I took a break and jumped back into
The Stonewall Experiment. He got an earful.
Gov. Mark Dayton signing the the bill into law, along with Senator Scott Dibble (right) and his partner Rick (they do all this official stuff together as a couple, which is quite effective)...I met Scott 10 years ago when I spoke at a Natl. Coming Out Day event. He's a friend of Vaughn's and Mark's and the State Senator from Minneapolis who sponsored the bill in the Senate
That night I went to Raymond Luczak's for dinner. Raymond is an accomplished poet and deaf activist and sweet, sweet and funny guy. Below is Raymond and his guide dog Rocky who I really took to. Rocky doesn't bark as he understands his life is not about sound. He looks at everything and uses his hearing to help Raymond, tapping him with his paw when the door bell rings, etc. He also understands a fair amount of sign language, and watching Raymond sign to call Rocky and to get him to sit, lay down, etc. was quite charming. Knowing he will not be called after, Rocky is always looking at people, waiting for sign language.
Raymond's poetry oeuvre
Raymond cooking and Rocky looking...always looking
.....Raymond's a good photographer too
My kind of dog....
It was 90 today, and the weather is simply all over the place....ranging from 40 to 90, wind to rain....someone told me that Minneapolis is sometimes referred to as the San Francisco of Siberia. Jim Payne (left) invited Mark, Vaughn and I for a barbecue dinner...he writes short operas and is an environmental law attorney
I actually made coasters like this in wood shop in high school...mine sort of failed, but this was what I was going for....books books books
Book wallpaper At Nina's Coffeeshop
Downstairs is Subtext Bookstore, where I did my final twin cities reading, with a great group who engaged me in a long back and forth about gay life, the AIDS crisis, aging, youth, grief...really great to have these conversations with people. One of the nice things about book readings is that you get to have the conversations you want to have ... people bring their better selves
David and Ben who hosted the reading
Argentine sighting...this mural has clues to about 40 books....Uqbar is from Borges Ficciones
The historic bldg that houses Subtext in the basement and Nina's on the ground floor. Upstairs are now fancy apts, but this used to be a notorious residential hotel full of drugs and crime before gentrification. St. Paul is definitely prospering these days....
Michael at W.A. Frost, a historic bar across the street, where we had drinks after the reading, enjoying the balmy summer-like weather
Net week is Harvey Milk Day in California...how fitting as I'm very much appreciating him right now. He was killed by an Irish Catholic when I was a Jr. in high school across the bay, and in many ways the whole mess represented what I was doing to myself....and on top of that, my Dad had gone to school with Moscone, and the mayor and Harvey were clearly friends....but what stuck me and stayed with me most of all was his smile and his happy way of going about the fight for justice......at a time when I thought there was no way to be happy as a gay person, his smiles and laughter could not be denied....he took me one step closer ....on the long road to what Harry Hay confirmed when he said: Tis a gift to be gay. Thank you for that Harvey Milk....as we take another step here in Minnesota...12 states down, 38 to go
Please celebrate by coming out to somebody, or congratulating a gay friend for Minnesota's victory