Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Monday, February 09, 2004

Failure of the Day: Nice Neighborhood

I spent most of Saturday in the Castro. I never really hung out there much even before I moved to Seattle because it seemed a little…I don’t know…upscale for me. All of the shoes for sale on Castro Street cost more than $13 and that was my absolute ceiling for shoes during the entire 90’s, so pretty much everything seemed upscale then, but still.

What’s funny about the Castro is how seamlessly the family friendliness of it melds with the plainly displayed gay porn. You can walk down the street and take stock of the stores’ offerings: cookies, hardware, cock, fancy soap. And for some reason--maybe because I am so dang old--I was looking at the porn with a little more distance than usual, and it seemed a little abstract. The fellas look so young, for starters, but that’s not the main thing. It’s really that they’re all bulgy and muscley, and they all have giant hardons under their tightie whities—the general visual impression I got from them was Gee, gay men these days are really lumpy!

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t think I’ve ever felt as at home in a neighborhood where I didn’t know a single soul before. In addition to it being chock full of largely childless urban couples around my age, it is also a whole community of people who are managing a chronic disease in plain sight and unembarrassed tones of voice. It was sort of thrilling. I could tell people, and nobody was unduly worried looking or sad-eyed sympathetic or weird in one of the other ways that people almost always are.

As a function of my personality, I don’t have the teensiest bit of hesitation about talking about MS, or any of my other diseases, to anyone or even just mentioning it casually whenever. But I have to remember that I can’t do that—not because I’m admitting something that is supposedly too personal about myself (although it was a whole lot less personal when I was parading it all over town for 6 years; no hiding then, huh?), but because people seriously cannot deal with a casual take on mortality. So it was just, I don’t know, nice to have all that math that you have to do when you’re figuring out how to talk to people you’ve just met solved already. It’s just cool, is all I’m saying. Refreshing.


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