Sunday, July 24, 2011

to Grief

I wasn't expecting to find Grief yesterday; but when i logged on to the internet she was there waiting. My Facebook, Twitter, and G+ feeds were already awash in the stories of madness descended on a land of peace and order, and of a young woman dead before her time, her potential never to be fulfilled.

I spent the morning perusing stories about Amy Winehouse concerts and watching videos of live her performances, and to a lesser extent reading anecdotes about trips to Oslo and participating in conversations about the Nature of Evil. It was a somber morning, bittersweet. The joy of remembering good times gone by, and the ache of knowing that for some there will be no more times, good or bad. It was a sad morning, but the comfort of a Grief shared bouyed me up. And I wondered at the power of the Internet to unify.

But this was not to last. By the late morning/early afternoon the inevitable backlash had set in and folks all over the web were chastising others for their displays of sorrow for the passing of Ms. Winehouse. The Backlashers seemed to fall into three camps.

1: "She wasn't that great./She only made one album."

Which i'll deal with first because it is the line of reasoning that makes me the most uncomfortable. Are only the very talented or the very prolific worthy of our tears? Even if she she only made one album, even if she only had one song and she only sang it one time; if there was a moment where she impacted someone and made them feel understood and connected even for an instant, she is deserving of that person's mourning.

(and for the record, she made two albums.)

2: "Why are you wasting your grief on Amy Winehouse when she brought this upon herself?"

There is a lot of anger in this question, and I get it. She had so much talent, so much potential and she pissed it away. She could have stopped, pulled back from the abyss, but she chose to keep going. I don't know why she couldn't get her shit together. She had some pain she was trying to numb, or some hole she was trying to fill, or maybe she just loved to get effing wasted. I don't know. She's not the first star to do this to herself, she wont be the last. But the knowledge that there is no one to blame but her for her own death doesn't make it any less sad. What if it wasn't a drug overdose, but a suicide? Or what if she was mountain climbing and got her arm trapped under a bolder, but she didn't have the will to cut off her own arm to escape? Does weakness make you unworthy of grief?

3: "Why you wasting your grief on Amy Winehouse when you should be spending it on Norway?"

With the implication that the Norwegian tragedies vastly outweigh the death of one drugged out pop star and any sorrow shown on her behalf is a sign of cultural bankruptcy. This is the line of reasoning that makes the most sense on the surface. It seems common sense that many deaths are a greater tragedy than one death, that capricious murder is more horrific than self destruction. And as an abstract that logic is unassailable. But grief isn't about logic, and it can't be reduced to math. If my mom died the same day a meteor fell from the sky and made a crater out of New York City I would not shed a single tear for the citizens of the Big Apple. It's not as though the people who mourn the passing of Ms. Winehouse don't care about the events in Norway. Of course they care. We know, maybe more acutely than the peoples of any other nation, what it's like to see our children slain by madmen wielding guns. But it is somehow easier to process the loss of an artist who work moved you  (a person one might feel a very tangible connection with, despite not knowing them), it's more personal than it is the death of many strangers living in country you've probably never given much thought to.

But ultimately none of the above arguments i've laid out above really mater. Because when you get right down to it, a person's grief is their own, to feel and to express. And it is the height of unbelievable arrogance to presume to chastise another human being for feeling the feelings they feel.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse, RIP

The infinitely talented and troubled songstress is dead at 27.

Amy, you will be missed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Commissioner Anna Conda

A few weeks ago i had the opportunity to speak before the Rules Committee (about an hour and 10 minutes in) of the Board of Supervisors in favor of Anna Conda's bid for a spot on the Entertainment Commission (the body in charge of regulating and promoting Entertainment is San Francisco)

(as you can tell from my voice, i'm insanely nervous)

I'm happy to report that yesterday the Board chose Anna over D. Gill Sperlein (the moderate choice) and outgoing commissioner Jim Meko (who can be charitably described as 'cranky'). This was not a choice without controversy. The Seat in question is the 'community/neighborhood' seat, and there are some who feel that Anna, being a drag queen, would be "too close to Entertainment" (whatever that means) to effectively fulfill  that role. But as i said before the Rules Committee; The Anna Conda i know is a tireless community advocate and consensus builder, and i believe she will be a valuable addition to the Commission.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bren-DUH Palmer

Last night was Tori Amos vs. PJ Harvey at Cocktailgate, and i performed. That's right, it was my drag debut. I performed PJ Harvey's 'Rid of Me,' as a bound and blindfolded Laura Palmer begging my abuser to come back and abuse me more.

It was so much fun, but so much work, and i couldn't hang all night. I ended up washing her off in the lady's room at Honey.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

to Civic Engagement

(Squirrel in repose, Dolores Park)

I'm getting older. I don't say that because almost two weeks after Pride i'm still shuffling around my house like a member of AARP, or because increasingly waking up at seven sounds like a lot more fun than falling asleep at seven. No. I know i'm getting older because unexpectedly i find myself getting my Civic Engagement on.

Civic Engagement is a strange creature, strange to me any way. It's not the same thing as Politics; a rallying of people to your cause, building alliances with rhetoric and charisma until it all comes to a head in a final contest of words and ideals. I get politics. Civic Engagement on the other hand isn't really about teams, or ideals, or rhetoric. Civic Engagement is all about getting all of your neighbors together in one room to agree on one thing, in comparison Politics is very straight forward.

I got pulled into this strange and terrifying land by the looming  Dolores Park Renovation. You have to understand, Dolores Park is like a second home to me; you'll find my friends and i there on any sunny day that i'm not forced to toil away in salt-mine somewhere. And when it was decided the park was getting renovated (to the tune of 7.9 million dollars) my buddy Squirrel and i realized if someone was going to look after our interests, it was going to have to be us. So for two months in a row now we have trekked down to the cafeteria at Mission High to do our part in overseeing a project we both believe in passionately.

And strangely enough, it's kind of awesome. First of all, there are snacks and coffee (they don't tell you that in civics class). Second, the people who show up for these meetings care about the park. While they might use it in different ways than i do, or have a different vision for the Park's future, they love it just as much as i do. Third, i'm meeting people i would rarely encounter in my day to day life; soccer moms, grandfathers, podiatrists, mimes (all my years throwing parties, and i have never met a mime until now. i think that's hilarious).

But it's also kind of excruciating. The constant struggle of trying to achieve consensus will ensure that very little changes. There will be better irrigation, and better lighting, but beyond that...

Great works of art can never be created by committee.