Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's Time for Scares it's Time for Squeems

The soundtrack for this odd little bit of Americana is a recording by Frank Zappa's and my favorite band.

"The Shaggs love you, and love to perform for you. You may
love their music or you may not, but whatever you feel,
at last you know you can listen to artists who are real."

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Speaking of Philadelphia

It's true that I have nothing to write about these days. But that doesn't keep me from writing!

F'rinstance, someone I've never actually met wrote recently. He and his partner, now in full maturity, were considering a relocation from the NYC metro area to Philadelphia. Though I whine and cry about this city (particularly about my lack of success in meeting people here; I've made more friends in NYC and DC in the past three years than I've made in Philadelphia in the last twelve) I'm a big Philly booster. I was feeling expansive at the time, and will of course sieze on all opportunities to invole myself in anything other than the work for which I am paid - so off I went.

Here's an excerpt:

Philadelphia has all the amenities of a major city; culturally, medically, intellectually. Thriving ethnic communities and a large international population (at all economic levels) bring real variety and underscore the long standing and distinctly Philadelphia feeling of being a confederacy of neighborhoods/city states with local cultures and retail districts. Produce and farmers markets are long established, easily accessible and integrated into neighborhoods; it's a cooks dream. Restaurants
are better and cheaper than NYC from the mid range to very high end, with local chef owned BYOBs in every neighborhood, and every kind of ethnic cuisine. The community of working artists and musicians from numerous highly ranked schools has not yet been priced out. You can buy a three bedroom house in a "good" neighborhood for $350- 450K, and a decent place - smaller or a little further out - for $150- 250K. At the same time It has all the wildly expensive glass condo towers and
cheesy faux colonial towne houses, brand conscious boutiques, chain businesses, and the controlled/manufactured experiences demanded by the upper middle class and relocating suburban folks.

NYC is 1 3/4 hour away and WDC 2 1/2. Both are easily AMTRAK and ($20 round trip) Chinese Bus accessible.

Philadelphia is not a gay party town - and it's no wonder, considering how tedious and unimaginative the gay establishments here really are. It seems to be a combination of little effort comming just shy of meeting low expectations. All the fun bars with good music are straight bars (generally the cool bars are very gay friendly), and are off in the neighborhoods. The Gay bars restaurants and businesses are clustered in Washington Square West. Many gays are leaving that now high rent Homo 'Hood for the South Broad St/ Dickenson vicinity. In Center City overall and most neighborhoods where middle class people would consider living, queers mill about unmolested, and even in marginal poor neighborhoods like Graduate Hospital, Kensington and Fish Town (where the art people are trailblazing) and Italian South Philly, you'd more likely find difficulty by having dark skin than being gay. Teh Gay have a clear voice/representation in city politics, with the ear of city council and Governor Rendell himself. Employment non discrimination is in effect within city limits. Overall, I think Philly is a great place for a 40 something couple, gay or straight.

Public transportation (outside of center city and the east/west corridor to University City) SUCKS; it generally stops around midnight, and runs infrequently except at rush hours.
Keep your car.

Taxes and public utility costs are near national highs/ services are uneven at best. City government departments and regulatory agencies are nightmarish chaotic labyrinths staffed by unhelpful, indifferent (and unfireable) employees who do not hesitate go on break in the middle of "helping" you.

City planning and growth is totally dictated by trade unions and developers; the wrong decision is usually made. City council is run by the patronage machine system, overtly influenced by political contributors. Pay to play is the standard practice and, incredibly, is NOT illegal.

Native Philadelphians are highly suspicious of non Philadelphians. Rather than the NYC directness and bombast you may be used to, they may appear furtive and passive agressive to outsiders - especially in the neighborhoods. Natives have an underdog mentality, and revel in the city's second tier status, which can be irritating to those who see how wonderful it actually is.

Neighborhoods are clearly racially segregated. Black/white tension can be high, especially against the recent waves of gentrification and Asian/Hispanic immigration.

So there you have it, etcetera etcetera.

If at some point I can hop off my lugubrious looping trajectory of dolours and ennui for fifteen minutes, I'll expand on some of the above. Maybe.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fairmount Water Works

The author enjoys a Yards Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale on the portico of the keeper's cottage overlooking the Schuylkill River, Frederic Graff's 1819 Water Works, Philadelphia, 10/21/07

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Am Everywhere

Fear me.

Update: Explaination? See comments.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Did He Beachoo Girl?

I've viewed this clip from Whatever Happened to Susan Jane ? about thirty times today. Bryce was writing about this film months ago, but this is the first clip I've seen.

I. Must. Have. It.


Friday, October 05, 2007

The Right Thing

I see governmental legislation as a process of intrigues and liaisons by individuals having very little short term interest in "justice". The most skilled operators within the convoluted system can strategize to move the state and it's citizens toward ultimate long term goals. It's a nuanced tactical game built on compromise. The right has been very skilled in this, moving the nation away from it's founding principle of fairness and it's trajectory of inclusion. I wish the left (what I guess used to be the center) could be just as savvy.

I worked with a person for about a decade. In that time, J went from an established married man in a long time career to a single woman in college relearning life as well. J sacrificed everything, family, community, career and all savings and financial security in order to release and realize V, who had been in there all along. V didn't have any easier a time of it. As a trans woman she still struggles: one state couldn't reconcile her new gender identity so she moved to one which could; a second career proved hostile to her appearance so she entered school again for schooling in a third. She finished high in her class and received good internship evaluations, but cannot land a position- in a field short of qualified candidates - here in this city . She's now heading to Massachusetts to try her luck there. V is probably the bravest, strongest person I will ever know.

I posted much of what's below as a comment on Aaron's blog. Like many reasonable and articulate folks he's concerned with the ENDA meltdown.

I don't spend ALL day reading blogs, so maybe I've missed this, but what tactical benefit exists for trans people in creating a bill which can not pass? I'm not trying to be provocative in this obviously pro-inclusion forum. It's a totally serious question.

I think the history of civil rights has been characterized by a few landmark watersheds, but mostly gradual and incremental change through refining previous legislation - and importantly, changes in public mores spurred by the examples of legislation.

Of course including trans folk in legal protection is the right thing to do. But it was just as clearly "the right thing" to include gay people in the civil rights legislation of the 50's and 60's. To do so then would have stalled the inclusion movement for everyone - and we, the whole alphabet of queer acronyms wouldn't be as far along as a community NOW if that position had been asserted THEN. None of us.
[The Constitution would have fizzled over slavery, the Bill of Rights aborted over women's suffrage.]

Demanding that legislators (who are largely uninterested in the struggles of queer peoples) rile their general constituencies (who are largely uninterested in the struggles of queer peoples) by voting for a bill with no popular support doesn't seem like a practical way of moving inclusion forward for anyone.

Long an iconoclast swimming my issues and positions up stream against unsympathetic masses, my Dad frequently reminded that I ask myself what was more important: to BE right, or make the right thing HAPPEN. If the right thing is civil rights for trans people, I haven't been shown how sinking ENDA is the way to make it happen.

Just about everyone I know is university educated and lives in a large coastal city where their left of center positions (which I share) are embraced by a majority. Like me, they work in fields where their sexual orientation is small liability (and in my case is something of an asset- the art/design world is like the Gay National Guard). As a group our identities seem to hinge on our principled positions - which we reinforced and congratulate ourselves on at our all white/all middle class gatherings over engaging yet nuanced glasses of Shiraz or ironic cans of Bud and Pabst Blue Ribbon - and on our condescension toward those who don't loudly tout them. I wonder if we should consider more what effect our positions have on folks outside of our privleged realm or the trajectory of our own lives. I wonder if we shouldn't consider more the wisdom of my cranky Yankee codger dad who understands that battles must be lost to win wars, and that we must make sacrifices ourselves to enable greater victories down the line.
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