Monthly Archives: August 2014
Arturo Galster was a legend in the San Francisco drag community. He passed away on Sunday the 24th of August, apparently from a head injury. SFGate and SFist have obituaries of sorts, and I’m not going to try to write anything like that. I want to talk about the image I built of him, through the people he’s left an imprint on. I won’t give any names or repeat any specific stories, partly because it would feel like publishing a page out of someone else’s diary, and also because I was a bit drunk and don’t really trust my memory. This is about feelings, not facts.
There was an informal memorial held deep in the night between Saturday and Sunday, and I was privileged to attend it, even though I never met Arturo. It was an eclectic affair even by this city’s standards; a motley collection of performers, fans, hangers on, and random passersby laughing and crying and talking beneath a tree while the city glittered around us.
Some of the people there were staying up late to be present, others had just finished working. The clothes ranged from jeans & a hoodie to five-inch stiletto heals with LEDs that blinked every step combined with a slinky black dress, fishnet top and more LEDs in the chest. As the night wore on, the wind picked up and cold began to seep into the mourners, punctuated by the almost comical attempts to keep a candle lit. A bottle of Arturo’s preferred whiskey was passed around, and stories were told and memories shared. And I began to build a picture of this person I’ll never be able to meet, assembled from the words of those who loved him.
Arturo was kind without necessarily being nice. He noticed people working with him and made a point of greeting them, even if they were the lowliest ticket collector. His philosophy was that you should not ask for what you need, but demand it, and he taught that to young performers he worked with as well as living it for himself. Arturo was willing to advocate for the new kids to get their chance to shine. He also traveled extensively, and I’m looking forward to hearing some of those stories from his traveling companions over a drink sometime.
I know there was more to him, more than I could ever learn even if I decided to spend the rest of my life as his biographer. People are complicated, and no matter how well you think you know someone they always have hidden depths, they’re always capable of surprising you. It can be easy to simplify your impression of somebody, just as it can also be easy to fall into comfortable routines, letting habit decide your actions. I get the impression that Arturo was also a believer in working outside your comfort zone.
I did not speak when everyone was standing in a big circle telling their stories, but I knew what I would have said, so I’ll say it now.
I never met Arturo, and I never will. Listening to the stories from those who knew him I feel robbed of that chance. He wasn’t killed by age or disease, his death was entirely avoidable. To me knowing that, and hearing people speak of him, powerfully underscores our responsibility to take care of each other, and to cherish each other.
That is all I have to say, for now. Please take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.
Priming the Pump
I’ve actually been meaning to write here a lot lately, but there’s been this problem where I can only think of things to write when I’m unable to write them. If I manage to remember that I can scribble myself a note about whatever idea I’ve had, I forget it by the time I find the tools to do that. This has been happening to me pretty much my entire life, but it’s been really bad lately!
So I’m not going to write about any of the deep ideas that wander through my mind in the shower or while I’m drifting off to sleep, instead I’m just going to write out a stream of consciousness for a bit, so that I can at least get some writing done. Maybe I won’t produce anything worthwhile, but at least I can try to keep in practice.
Of course, because I’m me, I’ve managed to start a list of subjects while writing this out. Yeah, I don’t understand my mind either. Maybe I’ll write about one of those right after this, but first I’m going to share the search term that led someone to my blog recently, “false tarvi”.
Which makes me wonder, do I have an impostor? Or, from someone else’s point of view, am I the impostor? How disturbing!
I also had an interesting dream when I dozed off this afternoon, but all I can remember now is driving a sports car with annoyingly cramped cockpit conditions, and doing parkour after abandoning the car. Huh.
Anyway, now I’m going to make a drink and see if I can’t write something more substantial.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
By now I hope everyone has heard at least a little about Ferguson, Missouri. I figured I’d share some thoughts on it, since I felt like writing this evening.
There is no situation where a police officer can shoot an unarmed man six times in the back and be morally or legally justified. Ever.
Michael Brown was, and is, legally an innocent man because this is the United States of America where all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It does not matter what video you have, it does not matter what evidence you have, it does not matter whether or not he did commit that crime, or any crime. Police do not have the power to execute anyone. The only time a police office is justified in shooting someone is if they are a clear and immediate danger, and even then I expect a serious investigation, not because things should be difficult for cops, but because shooting a human being is not something to be treated lightly under any fucking circumstances.
To crack down on fully justified anger for what appears to be an outright murder does not help the situation, because it ignores the real problem. The real problem isn’t that lots of people are angry about what appears to be an outright murder, or that some people are using that anger as an excuse for theft or violence, the real problem is that apparently a cop felt completely comfortable with outright murdering one of the citizens he was sworn to protect, and apparently has good reason to think he’ll get away with it.
And, for some completely inexplicable reason, an awful lot of people, especially those in power, seem to be closing ranks to defend this apparent murderer. Because that’s what always happens when a cop shoots an unarmed black man. (That’s five separate links spanning the last four years. They all came from the first page of a Google search.)
There is a pretty clear message here that black people can be murdered with impunity. To scold a 70% black community for being angry about this as though they were, (to paraphrase John Oliver), an unruly class in a high school assembly is not only refusing to recognize their situation or take them seriously, but to treat them as though they are the ones in the wrong for having the audacity to publicly voice the situation.
I seriously do not understand why this country consistently treats exposing and denouncing injustice as a worse crime than the injustice itself.
Worse, to wave away or minimize the very real situation that cops kill black people with impunity fairly routinely is nothing short of saying that it is okay for them to do so. If you’ve attempted to justify Brown being shot in the back by saying he allegedly robbed a store earlier you need to accept that you are saying it is okay for a cop to execute suspects without a trial, and I want you to seriously consider what that means.
There is no way this is going to get any better until cops start going to jail for shootings like this. I feel confident in saying this because I remember how stupid I was at age eighteen, and realize that if I were a young black man I’d be thinking very hard about how to protect myself from the cops right now. Until the police start facing justice, I can only see this escalating. And frankly, if peaceful protests are met with violence and military hardware, maybe it needs to.
I’ve heard that the National Guard has been deployed. I can only hope it is there to protect the people of Ferguson from their police.
I’ve been in San Francisco for one year now. I feel like I should write an introspective essay about what’s changed and what hasn’t, and how I feel about it, but I really don’t have time today.
So I’ll just take a moment to say that I still love this city. Yesterday I took a walk and discovered beautiful places that I never knew were there. I stood in what could easily be mistaken at a glance for an old-growth forest, surrounded by mist with water dripping from the trees, and then minutes later walked into an urban garden, with signs illustrating plants that grow well in this climate and teaching cultivation techniques.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I think I could happily spend most of it near San Francisco Bay.