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Geography as Destiny


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    Ode to
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· I Am Salad
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· Waiting for
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Monday, 8:23 a.m.

· The Keeper
· december 13, 2001
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· Englishhua
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a Little

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All Things

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· Next to Heaven
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"Geography is destiny" goes that wonderful line from Eric Overmeyer's deliciously mind-opening, wordplayful play, "On the Verge."

True then, when I first saw that one act, in the early 1980s at LSU in Baton Rouge; True later when every morning I would start my public transit trek from Allston, Mass. into Boston's Back Bay by taking in that breathtaking skyline of the Hub, so powerful a symbol because it was the City I Chose To Be In, and back then, in grad school studying comedy writing, I was living the life I wanted; True in my less-than-happy 8-year stint in Washington, DC, at the beginning of which I would take an eyeful of that grand and stately Capitol dome on my way in to work and even then appreciated the fact of where I was, that sanctity of converged space and time and historical import that made that place so incredibly noteworthy;

True in 1996 on my solemn pilgrimage to the site of the My Lai Massacre in Son My, Vietnam, a land where my brother fought and almost died and also where were born several dear friends and a potential life partner; and true today in those refined minutes I am able to make it into The City across the Oakland-SF Bay Bridge for another homage to the political capitol of the Gay World, the Castro District in San Francisco, California.

Today I attended the Castro Street Fair, one week after having paid my respects to the Folsom Street Fair, which somehow also ended in the Castro for me and a friend. I thought on how when I was in DC in the first weeks, I really had no idea how long I'd be living there, and I'd gaze in admiration at the symbols of power, trying to drench myself as thoroughly as possible in the experience of living in Our Nation's Capitol, before I had left it all behind. I've been in one of those magical 'On the Verge' precipices now for several months, with savings running out, no job in sight and the economy tanking even farther, and the end of my unemployment compensation payments coming just a few weeks away. I honestly don't know how much longer I will be able to live in this Chosen City (even though I live in Oakland, and to my great regret have never lived in SF proper). If no job arrives soon, I will begin in earnest my transition to Taiwan, where I should be able to support myself and even save money as an English teacher, and where the odds of finding a life partner would drastically change to my benefit.

Last week while saying goodbye to the friend with whom I had toured the Folsom Street Fair, I ran into someone I had dated briefly 2 years ago. He in turn introduced me to a friend of his who I hadn't seen since my early college days at LSU, 21 years ago. Back then he had been one of my first gay flings, and I had been heavily infatuated with him. Oddly enough, over the years he too had discovered his appreciation for Asian guys — his true "Rice Queen" nature. The three of us ate and then walked around the Castro, being stopped every 15 feet or so by friends and acquaintances of my two companions. So many connexions! The mind floats off into mist trying to keep track of them all, but suffice it to say, I had stumbled into a nexus of "A" Gays, mostly beautiful, healthy, and presumably affluent — a crowd I've never belonged to, probably rightly. Was this the life I 'could have' lived? That never existed, because I never lived in The City?

The rainbow flag flies proudly above the Castro
The Castro is one of surely only a handful of places on Earth where lovers of any racial and gender combination may freely walk hand-in-hand without fear of violence, arrest, or social condemnation. Against today's disturbing texture of low-level, terrorist-inspired fear, as I saw that gigantic rainbow flag that flies so proudly over the Castro, I allowed myself for a few grim moments to imagine it all gone, erased from the planet by some terrorist's nuclear blast, and felt so sad, so protective of this rare cultural wetland. Three or so years ago I had this odd, almost not-to-be-believed moment in the Castro: It was a semi-overcast day, and it had just stopped sprinkling. The sun had just poked through the clouds, and for several nearly cliché, surrealistic minutes, there was a faint but clearly visible rainbow right atop the Castro. Some people stopped to gaze at it; others continued about their business. There was really not a whole lot to say about it — no one within earshot even bothered ruining the moment with quotes from the Wizard of Oz — it just was there, for a brief, out-of-normal-time moment, and then it was gone.

— David Saia

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