Whoa Nelly!

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 6 minutes and 43 seconds.

Selected tracks: The Whoa Nellies! “I Call Your Name” and Quinton Sung (8-Bit cover of Radiohead) “Paranoid Android”

An evening fog creeped over the hill separating Noe Valley from the Castro. I gazed at it in the distance, beyond the tennis courts of Dolores Park, beyond Dolores Street pedestrians, and beyond the busty lead singer of the Whoa Nellies!, who swiveled her broad hips like Elvis Presley inside Dolores Park Cafe. A coffee drenched piece of chocolate chip cookie waited in my lobster claw to be eaten.

The local band’s drummer, a friend from work, pounded away at the drums with his usual humorous style: somewhere between Jeff Bridges’ ‘The Dude’ and Jack Black. I sipped my coffee from a steaming pint glass, tapping my converse sneakers to the beat. My hand kept gravitating to my pocket during the whole set. Live music, caffeine, and chocolate was enough to make me content, but meeting up with a fuck buddy would make the night more pleasing.

A week ago I’d asked myself two important questions: what kind of relationship did I want with Eric and what goal did I want to set for myself now that I’d overcome my timidness toward physical intimacy. The two answers I’d come to were a fuck buddy and the new goal would be to become more creative, passionate, and illustrious in bed.

Leigh Crow, the lead singer of the Whoa Nellies!, invited her equally busty and rotund, red haired, burlesque dancer girlfriend up to the stage to sing. A black and white polka dotted dress hugged her full figure. My friends Ash, Tati, and Paola, stood behind me, watching Crow’s girl perform “These Boots Were Made for Walkin'”. All three of these friends were instrumental in my coming out and me becoming more comfortable and confident in my own sexuality. Yet, today I felt odd anytime I talked to them about how a flirtatious text I sent to Eric was waiting to be answered. Their reactions were not of discomfort, but more of a waned interest. They’d lead me as far as they could, and now I had to learn the rest on my own.

After the Whoa Nellies! finished their second set, I headed back home. Upon entering my apartment, I plugged my phone into its charger and powered up my Nintendo Wii. The latest Zelda game had been waiting for me to play it for months. I flipped on an 8 bit style cover of Radiohead’s album “Ok Computer”. This wasn’t the optimal Friday night activity, but considering my phone hadn’t buzzed at all, it would have to do. I was feeling horny and regrettably anti-social. My single mindedness, I suspected, was alienating to those around me. Being alone tonight was the best decision I could make.

Many music lovers consider “Ok Computer” to be Radiohead’s greatest compositional work. To me, it is a musical representation of isolation. Quinton Sung recreates “Ok Computer” using tones and sound effects from early Nintendo games. His reinterpretation of the album’s second track, “Paranoid Android”, brought me a new appreciation for the song’s composition. I thought its effectiveness in stirring emotions rivaled any piece of classical music. It magnified how insular I felt at that moment.

Tilting the joystick with my right thumb ever so slightly creeped Link forward. He was in the silent realm, a stage in the game where he must avoid being seen by ghosts and ancient, armor clad guardians. The ultimate goal in the silent realm is to retrieve fourteen glowing orbs, scattered around a designated area. Link will gain a new ability and be freed from the silent realm once he obtains all of the orbs. As a floating, hooded ghost carrying a burning lamp approached Link, I held down the A button causing him to sprint forward across a pixelated cobblestone path. In the distance, the first orb began pulsating blue.

I selfishly played this single player game, realizing I’d compromised my friends in the name of physical gratification. I needed to adjust my focus and honor what I valued most: my friends.

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Take A Walk

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 9 minutes and 21 seconds.

Selected tracks: Jack White “Missing Pieces”, Simon & Garfunkel “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”, and Passion Pit “Take a Walk”

I took a left on Fulton toward Alamo Square, walking down Divisidero, coming from the Fillmore. Not in the mood to hike an urban mountain en route to Hayes Valley, I took a detour across a diagonal gravel path that cuts through the small park that is Alamo Square. Hill management is a skill I’ve acquired over the year I’ve spent in San Francisco. I was avoiding the steep hill on Hayes Street that is east of Divisidero.

Timothy, a former childhood neighbor, and surrogate older brother, who’s known me since I was in diapers, had invited me over for dinner with him and his wife, Miki, at their Hayes Valley apartment. I was eager to talk to him in person. I wanted to get clarification on romantic wisdom he’d relayed in an email. “The best advice anyone can give you is to be yourself,” he wrote. “Don’t force things. As soon as you stop caring, that’s when you’ll meet someone; because you won’t be pretending, you’ll just ‘be’, and that’s the most attractive feature you have. The more you stress over it, the less likely it will happen.”

The first date I ever had with a man came not a month into my residence of San Francisco, almost exactly a year to the day. As a man of twenty five, without any dating or relationship experience, I had a lot of catching up to do. Over the past year, I’d been a fast study on first dates, but not relationships. Over twenty men, two kisses, a short fling, and a year later, I was a pro at procuring dates from dating websites, and finding common ground and chemistry over coffee or a beer. But my success at developing relationships was severely lacking. I looked to family and friends for advice, now that I was finally openly seeking out a partner. Everyone’s words of wisdom proved useful at one turn or another. However, I found many times where I could not quite piece together all the advice that was given into one cohesive strategy. It’s felt all the more difficult because I am not discernibly gay in my personal interests or external qualities, nor are the guys that I tend to be attracted to. In the sexually segregated society that we live in, I feel my options are far more limited than heterosexuals or more stereotypical homosexuals.

At the bottom corner of Alamo Square, where Hayes and Steiner meet, I passed an SF Chronicle distribution machine. It displayed the paper with the day’s headline: “Obama First Sitting President to Support Gay Marriage”. I then glanced back, getting one last glimpse at Alamo Square. The view of victorian homes and city skyline parallel to the park were featured in the opening credits to the ’90s uber PC sitcom “Full House”. I’ve always defined convenient ending monologues that wrap up stories as “Danny Tanner Moments”. That term came from my friend Ash, but I’ve long thought about the idea of it.

Danny Tanner, the father in the show played by on overtly sentimental and goofy Bob Saget, sums up at the end of each episode, with one long thought, the moral of each character’s story. The sitting presidents when the show aired were H.W. Bush and Clinton respectively. Their stances on same sex romance mirrored society’s: discomfort and disapproval. Time had evolved the country and now much of the disapproval had faded, but the general discomfort had not. This still left me feeling stranded.

—–

“We first met at the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero, you know, across from the Ferry Building,” Timothy began. “I was twenty and still going to film school at the Academy of Arts and Sciences. I’d actually given up on finding a girlfriend at that point.” I brought a forkful of Miki’s Japanese Curry and rice up to my mouth, latched onto Timothy’s every word. “After many breakups, I just didn’t believe I’d find anything worthwhile, ever.

“Anyway, once a week I’d walk from the campus over to the Hyatt and have lunch there. For a couple weeks in a row I saw this cute girl off in the corner, sitting at a table taking lessons of some sort.”

I looked at Miki and asked ,”What were you doing there each week?” “Uhhhhh….,” she had to think for a moment. “Oh, I was there for broadcast lessons.”

Timothy continued. “So six weeks after I first saw Miki, I went up to her and said ‘Hey, so what’s your deal? I see you here every week.’ We started hanging out after that, just as friends. We weren’t even sure if we were into each other romantically until a couple weeks later. Once love sort of just happened without either of us seeking it out in each other, Miki told me she’d be returning to Japan in three months. We both decided, what the hell, we’ll date until three months comes to a close. Six months after she left back home to Japan, I visited her there and, impromptue, we got married. Fourteen months later, we were together again, living in San Francisco.”

Timothy looked across the table at Miki and sarcastically remarked in a baby voice,”The best foundation for love you can have is friendship, right Miki?” Miki looked back at her husband with an exaggerated pouting face. “Right Timothy!”

While I waited for Timothy to find his hard drive full of his digitized vhs films and home videos from his teen years, I looked down at Hayes Valley from his top floor apartment. The beer garden bustled below at the corner of Hayes and Octavia. I took a sip of red wine as I turned and noticed Timothy plugging in the hard drive into his iMac. He scrolled through a long list of video files until he stopped on one labeled “Bodega Bay Vacation”. He double clicked and up popped a quicktime screen. It was our two families on vacation nearly fifteen years ago. Me, Timothy, and Miki hunched over the computer, laughing at the younger, naiver versions of ourselves. I had a high pitched voice, much lighter hair, and a large gap between my front two teeth. It was my prepubescent self. Those were the times not only where “Danny Tanner Moments” were still on air, but also when they seemed more relevant and more profound to me. Love and sexuality were not part of the equation yet. Now the illusion of life as fair and bending toward a certain, positive solution was gone. All I could take now were lessons that might help me find some piece of happiness.

I said goodbye to Timothy and Miki at the door to their apartment and thanked them for dinner and their stories. Once outside I set my ipod to Passion Pit’s latest release, “Take a Walk” and set forward down Hayes Street, back home to the Fillmore.

—–

“All these kind of places
Make it seems like it’s been ages
Tommorrow sun with building scraping skies
I love this country dearly
I can feel the lighter clearly
But never thought I’d be alone to try

Words I was at sundace station
Selling light and white camations
You were still alone
My wife and I
Before we marry, save my money
but my dear wife over
Now I want to bring family state side

To rock the boat they sail a while
Scattered cross the course
Once a year I’ll see them for a week or so
And most had take a walk

I take a walk

Practise isn’t perfect
With the market cuts and loss
I remind myself that times could be much worse
My wife won’t ask me questions
It was not so much to ask
And she’ll never flaunt around an empty purse

Once my money lacking
Just to stay a couple nights
In the silence she will stay the rest of her life
I watch my little children
As I’m putting in the kitchen
And I se them pray they never feel my strive

But then my partner called to say the pension funds were gone
He made some bad investments
Now the counts are overdrawn

I took a walk

Honey it’s this loan I think I borrowed just to much
We had taxes we had bills
We had a lifestyle of fun
But I swear tonight I’ll come home
And we’ll make love like we’re young
And tomorrow you’ll cook dinner
For the neighbors and the kids
We could rent the part of socialists
and all their ten taxes
You’ll see I am no criminal
I’m down on both bad ends
I’m just too much a coward
to admit when I’m in need

I took a walk”

Cut Short

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, art, love, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 8 minutes.

Selected tracks: LCD Soundsystem “Someone Great” and Anton Karas “The Harry Lime Theme”

Strands of Jack’s dark hair peaked through the space between his fingers. He let his shiny, soft hair through the cracks at the length he wanted it trimmed. I stood behind him, making eye contact in the mirror. I held the buzzing electric clippers at my side. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. Just buzz the hair that’s between my fingers,” Jack reassured me. “But I  like your hair long. I like running my fingers through it,” I pleaded. Jack smiled. “It’ll grow back soon. I promise. My hair grows pretty fast. And don’t worry about cutting my hands. You won’t. And even if you do, I’m sort of a masochist anyway.”

I hesitantly began trimming the hairs from the back of his head. When I was finished he took the clippers and shortened his sideburns. Eventually he trimmed what little facial hair he’d been able to grow. He then paused, evaluating his hairdo in the mirror. He was visibly unsatisfied. “I didn’t make the side even enough. I’m gonna have to shave them off.” I looked on in horror as he balded the sides of his head and left the top close in length to how it was before. “How’s it look?” Jack inquired. “Actually, not that bad,” I responded with surprise. Jack smiled again. “I would have left one side unshaven, but I didn’t want to be that pretentious douche you always see in the Mission.”

After Jack used my shower to rid himself of stray hairs, we lay together on the rug in the center of my studio, cuddled, and talked.

In the late afternoon we took the 43 to Fort Mason for Off the Grid, a weekly gathering of food trucks. Jack ventured off to find a Korean barbeque truck as I stood in line waiting to order a palak paneer burrito from an Indian truck. Hoards of nomadic diners swarmed around the queue, inside the ring of trucks. As I stood waiting alone amongst the crowd, I found myself missing Jack’s company, even for the slightest time. It was an alarming realization. To allow myself to be so emotionally attached to someone threatened my emotional balance. Yet, in the same breadth, investing myself in a partner balanced me like I never had been before. The conundrum vexed me as I continued to stand, famished, in line.

Once I sat down to eat my specialty burrito, Jack walked up with two crab tacos. “Not my first choice,” he said. “But still pretty good.” We decided to stroll beside the marina as we ate. Early into our walk Jack got a text from a friend who was coming to visit. In addition to these preset plans, he worked early the following morning. Our day had to be cut short. I saw Jack to his bus. Since our schedules don’t coincide, I kissed Jack goodbye, not knowing when I would see or hear from him next.

I awoke the following morning craving Jack’s kind and gentle touch. My conundrum had already been revisited. That afternoon I went to a screening of the classic film noir “The Third Man”, starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. At 1pm the lights inside the Castro Theatre dimmed. A single spotlight illuminated a miked lectern, stage left. Out of the darkness, a mustached man in his late sixties walked up to the lectern. A SF Film Festival staff badge dangled from his neck. He went on to somberly dedicate the screening to the late, deceased director of the SF Film Society. He articulated the director’s boisterous, opinionated personality, passion for film programming, and the profound impact he had in his short ten week tenure as director. Although I knew neither the speaker, nor the one he spoke about, I found the speech to be quite moving. Once the brief dedication concluded, the spotlight faded and the 16mm reels began to spin.

The opening credits rolled over the vibrating strings of a guitar. I was instantly reminded of the score’s playful theme, an antithetical guitar melody to the film’s dark subject matter. As the film progressed, I found a deeper reading in Anna Schmidt’s part of the story than I had in past viewings. She mopes thoughout the film, destroyed by her husband Harry Lime’s murder. Nothing can break her depression. When word reaches her that Lime faked his death to escape the authorities, she refuses to aid in his arrest. Orson Welles’ Harry Lime is so charming and charismatic, it’s easy to imagine the joy he brought to Schmidt’s life.

It pained me to admit it, but I missed Jack and had an irrational fear of losing him to whatever end. I didn’t want this sort of emotional chaos, but it came with the territory I had entered. Had opening myself up to let Jack in been worth the internal turmoil I felt? Was there I way to avoid that turmoil without giving Jack up? I turned to Harry Lime for an answer: “Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

De Tales

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, art, love, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 7 minutes and 3 seconds.

Selected tracks: The Strokes “Machu Picchu” and The Talking Heads “The Book I Read”

Mr. Allen massaged the torn paper towel until it was flat atop his stool. He then dipped a butter knife into a jar of strawberry jam. Gripping the jellied knife, he moved his hand toward the flat paper towel. His class looked on in anguish. They sat on the rug facing their teacher. Many of the kids yelled out, trying to correct Mr. Allen’s actions. He continued bringing the jellied knife closer to the fresh paper towel. Until… Spreading the strawberry jam, he moistening the once dry paper towel. His entire class groaned in disapproval. “But that’s what the directions told me to do,” Mr. Allen shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands. He wore a smug smile across his bearded face. “I guess this is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, because I followed all the directions.” He placed a piece of bread on the jellied paper towel, drew it up toward his mouth and prepared to take a bite.

The PB & J sandwich making activity was a lesson in following multi-step instructions. Standardized district wide testing was coming in a week. Mr. Allen was prepping his students for questions involving multiple directions. He asked his kids to write down, step by step, how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He then followed their directions. “I’m gonna be soooo hungry during lunch.” I chuckled as I sat on a chair behind the kids.

After I left behind a career in filmmaking, I began volunteering at elementary schools. It’s served as my exploratory phase into the field of education. Working with Mr. Allen has been different than all of my other experiences in the classroom. Before his class, I was accustomed to giving individual attention to small groups of kids. The majority of my learning in his class has been observational, rather than hands on. He plans a perfectly scheduled and balanced curriculum. And his lessons tend to require, and receive, full, uninterrupted attention. Mr. Allen uses teaching as his creative outlet. He does not just teach, he performs. And, it seems, he does not just rest on his improv, but continuously brings great material to class each day. Many times it feels like I’m watching Paul Rudd perform monologues written by Woody Allen, only aimed at children.

“None of these instructions you guys wrote down actually help me make my sandwich,” Mr. Allen continued. “What’s missing from all of your instructions?” He called on a girl with a fidgety, outstretched arm. She answered. “More details.” Mr. Allen walked over to the white board and wrote “details” in green. “Exactly. Suspend your belief for a second guys. What if I didn’t know how to make PB & J? Think for a second. Don’t skip,” he paused and held the peanut butter up, covering the PY on the Skippy label, “over any detail.” He wagged his pointer finger in a “no” gesture.

When Mr. Allen finished his lesson, I got a chance to sit and read with one of the kids. A girl named Mary, who spoke Spanish as a first language, needed to practice both reading comprehension and the pronunciation of her Ys, Js, and TH’s. I listened to her read Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Whenever she came across a word with a TH, she’d pronounce it as if it were a D. “Brodder. Brodder.” I corrected her each time, then had her repeat the sound and then the word. “Brother. Brother. Brudder. Brother. Bru THhhher. Beh ru THer. Th. Th. Th. Er.” Despite her stumbles, she got through a respectable number of pages with my help.

Creating a bridge between Mary’s synapses was both engaging and ephemeral. I lost myself in the activity, much like I had in all phases of film production, from pre to post. Producing and sharing my ideas and stories with a mixture of moving pictures, words, and music brought such vibrancy, purpose, and community to my life. Since I gave up film, I’ve felt a creative void. In Mr. Allen’s class I’ve noticed myself longing for more one on one tutoring opportunities, like the one I had with Mary. Despite this, something vital, is apparent in Mr. Allen’s classroom. There are other options to spur and release creativity.

The lunch bell rang which signalled the end to my day. Mr. Allen excused his students. He then tossed the dirtied paper towel from earlier into a trash bin, with the residue of his lesson permanently absorbed.