California Dreamin’ or There’s No Place Like Home-ophobia

What is California to me? It’s my home. The place I have grown up, gone to school, and lived my life. It is also the place I have partied with drag queens, watched my friends die from AIDS, and educated other teenagers on how not to get infected when I wasn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license. Being raised in California, primarily in Los Angeles, has made me part and parcel of gay culture just as much as liking music with a harder edge included me in certain musical subcultures. But that means that today’s battle which was fought & lost last November and had a lovely little deja vu experience today was also part of my battle.

And it made me tired. It made me very very very tired.

Because NONE of it makes any fucking sense to me. It’s like giving a few kids some candy in the classroom, and ignoring the rest. Don’t get me wrong- I’m beyond ecstastic that the people who are already married get to keep their marriages because I truly believe that at the end of the day, THAT is the thing that we’ll be able to have in our favor, but….seriously? Where is the logic in all of it?

OH YEAH! THAT’S RIGHT! THERE IS NONE!

Why would you do that? It just makes us look stupid, backwards and illogical. It makes us, as a state, look like we can’t do our math right or make our decisions correctly or stand by ANYTHING we’ve ever stood for. California used to be this amazing, mystical Gay Shangri-La back in the day…is this a backlash? And is it a backlash just from the people who have money? Because, realistically, no one who lives in this state would really care after a while…They’d get used to it. After all, man, this is California….home of The Dude!

theDude

The Dude abides.

And need I also remind you that we are also the undisputed birthplace of figures such as Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Bill & Ted??

spicoli-fast-times-ridgemont-high-surf-no-dice

All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fine.

billted

Excellent!

Now I do not mean to knock these guys by any stretch of the imagination. Please do not misinterpret my words. I could write separate pieces on the philosophical significance of each character and why they are integral to the film and to that film’s ultimate discussion of California and/or Los Angeles culture on a whole. However, in this particular circumstance, one of my thoughts is that in a media-ridden society like ours, perhaps we have been taken on a bit of a ride recently as to the “state” of our state.

Maybe California is no longer the place we once knew it to be. It most certainly is not the place that Harvey Milk escaped to so many years ago. And yet…look what happened to him. On the other hand, we all know that Dan White was a crazy bastard (played terrifyingly well in the film by Brolin- if you haven’t seen it, rent the damn thing, what’s WRONG with you???), and was ready to blame his own insecurities partially on a cream-filled snack cakes, for crying out loud.

So then…what *is* it to most people? A place of sunshine, a place of freedom, a place of escape. If you look throughout the diaries and landscapes of most of the folks who came here in the 60’s/70’s  from other parts of the country, it was refuge, solace, a home. They had literally put on the ruby slippers and…….HEY! Here they were! San Francisco, Venice, amongst friends, lovers, confidantes…There were very few other places like it. New York had its moments, but, well, y’know- the weather?

And you had ART. And LOTS OF IT. And theater. So you had things erupting like The Cockettes…

Or you had films being made like Flaming Creatures by Jack Smith. Or you had Harvey Milk.

Or you could JUST BE.

See, that was the glory of California, right? It was the state of freedom.

So what happened? Why is it that I was disappointed by my state but utterly unsurprised? Why is it that all of my thoughts today revolved around the fact that I find that perhaps there is a certain level of complacency that is just not being looked at? We can march, we can complain, we can blog and yell our gay/straight/transgender/purple/blue/whatever heads off, but is it going to make a difference?

Because the point to me is NOT marriage. Everyone knows that marriage is no guarantee of anything, and never was. It is no guarantee that your spose will not bring home a fatal sexually transmitted disease, no promise of a lifetime of passion and triumphant well-being, no out-and-out-swear-on-yer-mama’s-soul that someone will love you forever.  Sometimes love ends and sometimes people are just assholes. Other times you just have to work your soul-fingers to the bone to keep your relationship together if you believe it’s worth it and that’s fine. But the institution of marriage is no guarantee that any of this gets better or easier or any of it.

What this is about is equality. And if we’re going to use marriage to symbolize that, so be it. It was never about where you sat on the bus or what particular fountain you drank at anyway, as long as you were able and free to sit wherever you wanted and drink from which ever one you wanted, correct?

The hilarity to me is that today would be John Wayne’s 102nd birthday. Yup, that’s right, folks, The Duke would be a right ol’ geezer at this point. Course, we all know he’s all frozen and stuff anyways, but that’s besides the point….Oh Duke- this your way of reaching out from beyond the grave to try and reclaim “your MANLY California”? The cowpoke land?? Too bad Red River is one of the most homoerotic Western films I’ve ever seen, and one of my all-time fave gay references comes from that very same director in his film, Bringing Up Baby:

I can’t help but feel that this is still a loss. We will continue to fight, but do not ever think that just because we lost again, we did not lose. And look at WHY. It’s the people with the MONEY. Because it sure as hell ain’t the working folks who could care less at the end of the day who’s putting it in who’s whatsit and what who’s doing to who in what bedroom. I’ve noticed that the more money you have, the more you seem to care about sexuality and sexual preference. I wonder if there is a direct correlation. Hrmmm.

You think once you get beyond a certain tax bracket, you have to sign a series of documents swearing up and down that you will absolutely care about what people are doing in their sex lives over what they are doing in their political or financial lives? Because, really, THAT’S important…………….*sigh*

ARIEL’S UNAPOLOGETIC WORLD VIEW: I would much rather have a bunch of very happy politicians/bankers/etc that were getting happily laid ALL the time CONSENSUALLY by adults over the age of 18, even if it was for money (yep, I could care LESS about prostitution & I think it should be like Amsterdam- it works really well there!) than what we have now.

I want the California back that was the dream. The California that people wanted to escape to. The place that people felt safe in. Not the place that my friends want to leave, where people’s Facebook statii are reading “___wants a divorce from California.” It’s not the damn state’s fault! Dude- we’ve got a gorgeous state! Yosemite, man! Rainbow Falls, Half Dome, ya dig? THEY most certainly didn’t say it’s not OK to be gay in this state.

So my point is that somehow we have to try to start to CREATE this place again. Through art, through belief, through faith, through film, through working towards attaining this goal of water fountains for everybody. It’s not just a stupid march on Santa Monica Blvd in front of the Mormon Temple. Those are important too, but what we really have to do is consider ourselves to be nesting in a way. Building something. With our friends, our family, our peers. Let’s bite & scratch & claw at the fuckers!!! YES!!! But let’s drink a bottle of wine and paint a mural for the kids while we do it!!

If we can do that, then we might be able to recreate something of that dream. And maybe, just maybe, we can awaken some of these ones who remain still sleeping….

4 Comments

  1. A great blog, Ariel, and I especially like the point that California still has this image as a place that people come to to get away from judgement and from social restrictions — but I think that image has always been a bit false — from the very beginnings of the state there has been a war between “crazy” California and the staid Orange County / Property Owner class that wants California to be exacltly like everywhere else. In my opinion, they have been winning that war in increments ever since the early 20th century — just ask Joan Didion — but that doesn’t mean the tide won’t turn.

    The problem is, if we lose this war in California, there won’t be anywhere else to go — California really is the last place in the world, in many ways. It’s the symbolic edge of the US, and it needs to remain free — although that freedom will always be contested.

  2. Absolutely agree. 100%. And it scares me desperately that CA might be the last bastion of hope for…well…anything. And I do see the OC Type slowly becoming more rampant and spreading like mold; if not the actual financial capabilities, the mindset- which is even worse. I suppose we’ll see what happens, eh? I just think that simply walking around & yelling a bunch & complaining isn’t going to help as much as truly organizing and trying to actively change minds/attitudes.

  3. While I am a bit bummed by the outcome, I’m also somewhat relieved.

    The reason for feeling that way is pretty simple.

    The right for any couple to get married is coming. There’s no way to stop it. Young people, for the most part, take the notion of being gay as part and parcel. The real resistance to same sex marriage is in old people who are afraid of the mysterious other, and fearful religious people who are fearful of, well, everything that’s different. They are dying off and folks are leaving the homophobic churches in droves.

    So it’s gonna happen.

    By leaving the couples who are already married alone, the California Supreme Court has actually made it easier to appeal this ruling in the Federal Supreme Court (if they’ll actually take the case) or to set up a new lawsuit to appeal it here. It’s harder to take rights away than it is to give them, and no one can touch the already married couples.

    It means that same sex marriage might even happen faster. The other reason is that if the Supreme Court had ruled against Prop 8’s standing, there would have been a blistering backlash by the ignorant conservatives in the south- a cause to rally against that the Republicans really need. There’s some people in this country that feel if gay people can get married, god will turn his back on the United States and those people are very, very angry.

    So yeah. It sucks, but in the long term I think that it’s ok- there’s nothing that’s gonna prevent anyone to marry anyone they want to.

    And that’s a good thing.

  4. Oh, I agree, I just think its going to take a lot longer than we want if we don’t organize better and start acting and doing instead of just REacting. And start doing other things too. Complacent too long….


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