This Isn’t Our Parade

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: 7 minutes and 23 seconds.

Selected tracks: Santigold “Big Mouth” and “This Isn’t Our Parade”

Weaving through a series of over the top floats and costumes, I searched for my friend Kelly. She’d invited me the previous night to march in the San Francisco Pride Parade with the organization she interned for. I passed shirtless boys in suspenders, policemen with rainbow beads around their necks, a San Francisco trolley full of same sex parents and their children, marching bands, cheerleaders, and a group with long balloons of all colors attached to their backs, making them look like coordinated peacocks.

Coming across an intricately designed float featuring a cartoonish ten foot model of the Golden Gate Bridge, I paused to listen to live music. At the back of the float, just below the bridge, was a blues band consisting of all black female musicians: the bassist had her head shaved, the lead guitarist wore long dreads, and the drummer covered her ‘do with a Rastafarian hat. They jammed to the beat of the marching band a few floats behind them, improvising to fuse the collegiate beat with their bluesy style. The bassist smiled down at me and mouthed the words “Happy pride”. “Thank you,” I mouthed back. “Happy pride to you too!”

I moved further down Spear Street, approaching Mission. Kelly was still nowhere to be seen amongst the gobs of people. My phone then buzzed from within my pocket. “Where are you?” I asked Kelly. “We’re in the yellow shirts, right next to the Golden Gate float,” she yelled over the cacophony of noise. I turned back to the direction from which I came, keeping the phone to my ear. “I see you,” Kelly yelled abruptly. I scanned the crowd until I caught her wave. She was positioned in the back of a group of thirty people wearing light yellow t-shirts with the name David Campos printed across them in patriotic colors.

“You look so cute!,” Kelly commented on the purple collared shirt, black tie, and acid washed slim jeans I wore. My fashion decision would soon be rendered useless. Kelly then handed me a David Campos t-shirt. “Uh,” I said hesitantly. “What am I supporting by putting on this t-shirt?” I trusted that if Kelly enthusiastically volunteered her time to a cause, it was a cause worth supporting. But I still wanted to have more information to go off of. “David Campos is running for reelection as Mission District rep.” She then listed a few of his legislative achievements, which included free municipal service for youth. Assured enough, I pulled the yellow shirt over my head, popped and refolded my purple collar, and draped my black tie over the V and M on the David Campos t-shirt. As long as I was going to walk for Campos, I decided I still would remain an individual. I wanted the true celebratory spirit of pride to remain in some regard.

One of Campos’s lead interns began hitting on one of Kelly’s girl friends that she had recruited. He wore black hipster sunglasses and smiled with an uninterrupted mischievousness during every word he spoke. First he asked what she did in the city, then what college she attended. He chimed in that his father had taught at her alma mater, and proceded to reminisce inauthentically. He was smooth and friendly, but his slick, polished social skills hinted at an ulterior motive. As a presumed student and practitioner of political strategy, he acted on behalf of his professional ambition, not to mention his penis, rather than any type of altruism.

The floats and paraders ahead of us began to inch forward. The parade was commencing. We marched down Market Street, clapping our hands to the beat provided by the blasting speakers on the float in front of us. Crowds of onlookers cheered and waved at us for blocks from behind barricades on both sides of the street. At some points the crowd was five people deep.

As I continued to walk and clap as enthusiastically as I could muster, a short, slightly pudgy hispanic man wearing purple tinted sunglasses and a soccer jersey approached me. “I’m David,” Campos introduced himself to me. “Thanks for coming.” He moved onto the next volunteer. I took no offense by his disinterest in carrying on more of a conversation than what he gave. We were in the middle of a fracus and it didn’t seem the most appropriate time to talk extensively. Yet it reinforced my view that politicians value winning more than their constituents’ lives.

We approached the block before the Civic Center where the parade would come to its end. Campos’s lead operative cupped his hands over his mouth and yelled back at us. “Let’s pick up the energy guys,” he pumped his fists in the air to “It’s Raining Men”. “There’s one last group of camera’s here at the end. Let’s make David look good!” He then began chanting “Campos” as a camera on a crane swooped down from the right. I scurried past it, not feeling the need to be seen through a lens.

On the last turn I noticed a beautifully robust girl in a painted tank top and a fashionably torn skirt leaning on a barricade. She carried a sign that read “Free Hugs”. I separated from Campos’s group and trotted over to her. We made eye contact, and hugged. We squeezed each other tight, with compassionate strength. “Happy pride,” she said. “Happy pride,” I reciprocated.

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Forgiveness

Since coming out and fully embracing my attraction to men, I’ve only been able to wonder what kind of reaction it would illicit from the devout Mormon friends I had as a kid. We’re all adults now. Most of my childhood friends are married with children, so says Facebook. In the year since coming out, I caught up rapidly on adulthood, going on upwards of twenty dates, sleeping with a few men, and now on the verge of a full fledged relationship.

Sex and romance are delicately intertwined with adulthood and maturity, as I have observed over the past year. Experiencing it distances us from our parents and mentors, allowing us to see them as human and not unlike ourselves.

I’d always thought I needed the acceptance and embrace of my childhood friends to feel whole. The hateful, exclusive attitudes toward same sex partnership embedded in my friends’ minds by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to life in day to day conversations and constant homophobic aphorisms. Although they were never directed at me personally, as I didn’t come out until the age of 25, they had a long lasting, tragic impact on my psyche. It made me feel like I could not become a respected and enjoyable man without a female partner.

Through close analysis of my deep anxieties, I’ve managed to repair much of the damage I helplessly let occur. Now, as I have done for many years past, I sit and wonder what it would be like to be in the same room as my childhood friends, with all the cards left out on the table. Would I need their acceptance and embrace anymore?

Probably not as much as I needed it in the past. But in these times of rapidly changing social norms and attitudes toward same sex partnership (we were friends during both the Reagan and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ eras), perhaps I would be surprised by their current response. There’s nothing quite like the catharsis provided by forgiveness, whether or not it is preceded by an apology.

Carry the One

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 23 seconds.

Selected tracks: Grizzly Bear “Cheerleader” and Band of Horses (covering Grizzly Bear) “Plans”

The elementary school’s cafeteria lay still and empty. My steps echoed through the halls filled with vacant classrooms. I stopped in front of a dining bench, pivoting to survey the vast, vacant space. After taking a deep breath, I took a sip from my coffee thermos. The Dark Sumatra blend sizzled on the tip of my tongue and cooled as it trickled down to the bottom of my throat. A large refrigerator hummed from the kitchen, yet I could now distinguish a faint set of voices coming from a classroom just outside the cafeteria. My tutoring supplies shifted softly inside my backpack as I made my way toward the voices.

A Harry Potter reading poster covered most of the square window at the top of the classroom door where the voices were coming from. Tilting my head to its side, I peeked through what little peep space was provided by the poster. A young Asian woman, with a short, stylish bob hairdo, and a white summer child care t-shirt sat in a tiny chair next to a child of maybe seven. I tilted my head further, which revealed more kids inside the classroom.

I opened the door cautiously, as to not abruptly interrupt their activity. The child care teacher directed her attention to me as I crept inside. “Hi. I’m here to tutor Jose. Mari said you would be here waiting for me,” I said softly. “You must be Max,” the young Asian woman said smiling. She came up to me and shook my hand. “Teresa,” she introduced herself, then walked over to a black binder atop a bookcase beside the door.

“Jose isn’t here today. Although he’s supposed to be.” She began flipping through the binder until she came to a page she examined. “Let me see if he’s coming in later today.” Teresa scanned the page of phone numbers with her pointer finger until she stopped on what had to have been Jose’s. She cradled the binder and carried it two steps to the classroom phone.

While waiting for Teresa to get an answer, I scanned the room. There were two other adults aside from her with a mix of fifteen or so students. Some were Spanish speakers, and some were Cantonese speakers. I recognized Gloria, a student from Ms. C’s class. She smiled when her eyes met mine, then ran over and gave me a big hug. “Hi,” I said. “I know you’re excited, but are you supposed to be working on something?” Gloria nodded. “Math homework,” she said with regret. As Gloria returned to her seat Teresa got a hold of Jose’s father.

“He’s in Mexico?” she repeated for clarification. “Family emergency? And when will he be back? Hm. Alright. Let us know when he’s back.” It was the second student I’d lost over the summer to a family emergency in Mexico. Which made me wonder if the cases had similarities and what the whole story was in each case.

Teresa bit her lower lip in thought. She then rotated her head, looking at a student working from a math workbook at the table nearest her. “Jonathan, you’re in Ms. C’s class next year, right?” Jonathan looked up from his workbook and nodded. Teresa looked back at me. “Jonathan could use some help with his math. Could you work with him every Monday until Jose gets back?”

“That’ll be great,” I told her. With that I walked over to Jonathan and sat in the tiny chair next to him. “Is it ok if I sit here and work on this math with you Jonathan?” I asked. The whimsical smile accompanying his nod caught me off guard. It was an unusually friendly and welcoming gesture for a kid to give a stranger. “I’m Max,” I introduced myself.

Looking over his workbook, I became anxious. It was all in Spanish. I was going to need to decipher some of the questions before I could think of helping him. My eyes drew first to the words I knew. From there I inferred what the directions were. It was a variety of first grade math problems. Jonathan seemed to be struggling the most with double digit addition problems. “Let’s start with this one,” I told him, pointing to the equation 61+77. I then pulled out the building blocks I’d used in a game with Luna earlier in the summer to give Jonathan a visual aid and proceded to teach him about the ones and tens columns.

Something Old

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: 10 minutes and 3 seconds.

Selected tracks: Regina Spektor “Small Town Moon”, David Byrne & St. Vincent “Who” and Beach House “Myth”

The dry cleaning dangling from my right hand grazed the glass front door of my father’s midtown house-turned-duplex. I turned the key then pushed the door open with my left shoulder. Despite the solstice not being for another two weeks, Sacramento’s summer waited for me in my father’s lower unit. His place was silent, save for the pre-summer wind whistling through the window crevices. My dad was away for the afternoon at a recently deceased colleague’s memorial.

As I walked into the dining room I noticed opened moving boxes on the table. Strewn out beside them were heaps of photographs. Some small, some large. Some were even panoramic. They were a mixture of color and black and white prints. I draped my dry cleaning over a chair. The plastic coating over it purred softly as it came to rest. I sat down, looking over the scattered piles of captured memories.

At first it appeared my father was preparing for my best friend from childhood’s wedding. That was in fact why I was in town for the weekend, Frances’s wedding. On the top of the many piles of pictures was one of me, Frances, and Mitch, her high school sweetheart, and now her husband to be. In the 8×8 color print we stood together outside my childhood suburban home, dressed for junior prom. Our legs were kicked up to the right in unison. We were posed in the can-can dance position. Smiles were spread across our faces. Behind my own was a nervousness more complicated than the picture could possibly show.

I went with a beautiful girl who was a year ahead of me in school. She was my co-anchor on the daily morning announcements. Her intensely curly, blonde highlighted hair, sparkling green eyes, and bubbly personality appealed to droves of other boys. I asked her because I enjoyed being around her infectious positive energy and it seemed the easiest “yes” to get from anyone. She was a friend beyond anything else. Our prom together was enjoyable, but I kept it even tamer than a G rating. I didn’t even to attempt to kiss her at the end of the night. Part of that was a fear of rejection and the other part being a stronger interest in the boys. But at that point, I hadn’t given much thought to dating guys. Asking them to the prom seemed out of the question.

I began flipping through the black and white pictures eventually coming to one of my grandmother in her wedding dress. Her posture was better than I had ever known. Perhaps she was past 5 foot at her wedding. I’ve known her only in her below 5 foot days. She’s seemingly shrunk in height, but not personality, each passing year.

Noticing many pictures of my deceased grandfather, I remembered my father had organized a memorial hike for him in a few weeks time. Maybe this was why he took all the pictures out. To find one to bring to the hike. I stumbled across a picture of my grandfather at my Uncle Steve’s bar mitzvah. He stared stoically into the camera. A tallit was draped over his shoulders and a yamaka rested on his head. His facial expression dictated: “I really don’t know why you have to take this picture, but if you must, go ahead, I’ll play along.” It’s the sort of attitude you want subjects to have in a photograph. A sort of truth comes out when people are just able to be themselves despite the camera’s gaze. So often moments captured on film fail to give a true depiction of a person or time because people adjust themselves to what they think the camera wants: a smile, a weird face, a respectable posture. Once the camera’s off them, they return to their natural state.

Dogs, however, are naturals when it comes to being photographed. They don’t know any better. I flipped through some pictures of Buddy, our old golden retriever. In one photo, he lay in the grass, soaking in the sun. However, in many of the pictures he refuses to face the camera, not knowing what my dad wanted from him. So maybe dogs are not always the most photogenic creatures, but they still know how to properly ignore the camera.

I moved back over to the black and white pictures. I then came across a photograph I had wondered if was in existence: my grandparents’ house as it was being built by my grandfather. I gripped the picture and sat back in my chair, staring at the wooden skeleton. The design was unmistakeable: steep sloping driveway, pointed roof to the left, and a long, ranch style frame to the right. In the distance were the tree laden hills of Marin County. In the 4×4 print the carpenters atop the tiny forest of wooden beams were barely visible.

Setting the picture back down on the table, tears started to form. It was my father’s home. It was my grandfather, the renaissance man, doing the work he loved and was revered for. It was the home I used for months before finding a place to live in San Francisco. It was the home my grandmother had to rent out because she couldn’t live there any longer without full time care. Time stood still as I continued to stare at the picture. I’d known this house in its finished form all my life. It’s the only way I knew it. Which left me taking it for granted, believing it eternally existed. The memory captured in the picture had become immortal. Yet, it was also a stinging reminder that all things in life, and life itself, have a beginning and end.

My dad walked in just as I was moving onto more current photos. “How was the memorial?” I asked him. “Hard,” he responded. “I knew Carol for a very long time. She was a really great person. Wish I had known her better.” He went to the kitchen. His keys jingled as he set them down on the counter.

“Are all these pictures out because you’re picking one to give Frances and Mitch tonight at the wedding, or for grandpa’s memorial hike?” My dad walked back into the dining room with a glass of pineapple juice. “Actually, it’s for your Aunt Shirley’s memorial.” I felt ashamed to have forgotten the most recent in the family’s long list of passings. “Oh, right,” I said somberly. “So you went to Jeremy’s graduation last week.” I reminded him of his nephew’s graduation. “And a memorial earlier and a wedding later today. How does it feel to be involved in such different types of ceremonies?”

My dad gave out a long sigh as he leaned on a chair. “They’re all celebrations of life really. Youthful achievements, unions, and honoring the entire arc of a person’s life. They just celebrate different blocks of life.” My dad shrugged, not knowing what else to say. I nodded in understanding, agreement, and satisfaction over the content and brevity of his answer. He took a sip from his glass and looked thoughtfully out the window at the trees blowing in the wind. With that I peeled back the protective plastic sheet covering my dry cleaning and began to get ready for Frances and Mitch’s wedding.

Apartment 14

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: 7 minutes and 56 seconds.

Selected tracks: Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, & Norah Jones “Black”, Vampire Weekend “California English”, and Beat Connection “Invisible Cities”

Ricardo, Luna’s father, lead me through a series of dimly lit halls. The maze leading to his family’s unit, inside their Tenderloin District apartment building, was lined with eroding white walls and stained 70s style carpeting. We turned a corner and went up a set of stairs. A window followed us up a floor.

The sun’s light trickled in through the thin gap between the window and the brick wall outside of it. I peered outside as I climbed, noticing the dark rusted fire escape that was wedged between the two buildings.

Finally we reached apartment 14. Luna stood bashfully in the front doorway. Her brown hair was done in pigtails. Each of her two braids were held together by thick, blue hairbands made from elastic fabric. I crouched down so that my eyes were even level with hers.

“Hi Luna. You remember me?” She looked up at her father, then nervously smiled and nodded at me. “Max.” I reintroduced myself, putting out my hand. She shook it. Ricardo motioned invitingly for me to step into the apartment. He said something to Luna in Spanish which made her disappear momentarily into the kitchen.

It was a one room apartment, with a single window that gave the same restricted view as the one in the stairwell. The rug was dark green, making it feel ever darker in the room than in the apartment building’s hallway. I waited for Luna, eyeing two bunk buds that took up half the apartment.

Luna returned with a bulky set of flashcards, held together by a flimsy rubber band. She handed them to me. The first card read “laugh”. I turned to Ricardo. “This is great! Esta fantastico,” I said ecstatically. I flipped through the flashcards as Luna and her father took me two steps further into the apartment, into the kitchen.

Luna sat across from me at a circular, wooden table pushed against the wall, as to keep maneuvering room for the cooking area. I zipped open my backpack, pulling out some of the materials Ms. C. had given me to use. Ricardo set up a chair in the doorway between the kitchen and the main room. He sat and watched attentively as I pulled a cluster of first grade level books out of a plastic ziplock bag. I shared the front cover and title of each book with Luna. Once all the books were spread across the table, I asked her to pick one. “Mean Bean,” she said, pointing to the book with the most animated and colorful characters on any of the covers.

It was comforting to have my mother’s thirty years experience as an elementary school and special education teacher to lean on. Using the strategy she had recommended, I stopped after each page and asked Luna about the pictures she saw. “What are those?” Luna pointed at one of the pictures. “They’re his eyebrows,” I told her as I rubbed my own dark, bushy brows. “Oh,” she said. She then rubbed her own brows. “Sejas,” she said.

Periodically Ricardo would comment in Spanish, using an English word here and there, repeating some of what I was teaching his daughter. “Why do you think Mean Bean was so mean?” I asked Luna at the end of the story. “Because he wasn’t happy,” she stuttered.

Ten minutes were left in our hour long tutoring session. I pulled out a couple games from my backpack: a deck of cards, bingo, dice, and a set of multicolored, plastic building blocks. I let Luna choose which game she wanted to play. She placed a hand on the blocks. “This,” she said. “Ok,” I responded. “I’ve got a game we can play with those.” I grabbed the two dice. “We’ll take turns rolling the dice. However much is on the dice, is how many blocks we get to use that turn.” With that, I rolled my die. It rotated until it rested on a three. I took three blocks, two pink and one blue, and connected them in a straight line. “You get how to play?” I checked in. Luna nodded.

As the game progressed, the structure I made with my blocks became more and more avant guarde. Luna’s closed in on a recognizable figure. “That looks like a person jumping,” I commented. Luna pointed back to the cover of “Mean Bean”. “It’s him,” she said.

At twelve noon we cleaned up the table occupied by blocks and books. Ricardo said something to Luna in Spanish again as I was repacking my backpack. Luna then spoke up. “I have books in English.” She led me back into the main room and showed me a pile of kids books in English. “Will you pick a book out to read to me for next time?” She nodded and smiled more confidently this time. I turned to her father and communicated in the best Spanish I could call upon. “El mismo tiempo en jueves es beuno?” Ricardo nodded and responded, “Si.”

I walked back through the dark maze. Outside the brick apartment building pigeons nibbled at cornbread that was stuffed in a bent aluminum tray in the gutter. I took a deep breath of fresh air, intensifying and embalming the high I felt.

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.

Twin Peaks

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: 10 minutes and 9 seconds.

Selected tracks: Eric Burdon & The Animals “San Franciscan Nights”, Norah Jones (covering Wilco) “Jesus, Etc.”, and Old Crow Medicine Show “Hard to Love”

His room was empty, save for a queen sized bed, the mattress clinging to the floor, and a single ordinary nightstand. The white nightstand matched the rug and walls. I was surprised at how undecorated the room was, especially considering he’d moved here from Kentucky almost a year ago. The only decoration he had was a name tag sticker slapped onto the beam next to his sliding door closet that faced the bed. It was from a career training program his company put on with middle schoolers. And it was confirmation of some of what we had chatted about over drinks.

We met at the Mix, the first time we’d met up in six months. Eric had thought I wasn’t so interested, so he didn’t push hanging out any further. But he had been mistaken. He came on strong through texting, which made me uncomfortable, but it did not fully diminish my interest. When I spotted him in the bar, he was heads above everyone. I’d forgotten how tall he was. A trait I often find very attractive.

We bar hopped twice until we came to Twin Peaks. Because many consider it to be the first openly gay bar in the nation, the crowd there is mostly veterans of the gay community. Not being of that generation, it hasn’t been on my radar of hang outs. However, I’ve always felt it was a place I needed to try. As I sat and sipped my rum and diet coke, Eric began to rub my leg under the table. I tried to ignore it as best I could, continuing to talk about random things. Two older bears sitting at the table next to us looked on. “Awww, look at the little cubs,” one commented at us. I gave the bear a rudimentary half smile. “You should come back to my place at Twin Peaks and see the wine I’m making and the garden I’ve got in my backyard. It’s just a five minute bus ride.” Eric’s offer was enticing, but I needed a little more convincing to get out of my comfort zone. “C’mon. It will be an adventure.” Adventure was the word that got me.

Inside his dimly lit room, he pulled out what felt like an ancient Dell laptop, which in fact was probably less than ten years old, and asked if I wanted to watch something. “Sure,” I said, indifferently, still taking in his bare bedroom. We both got undressed. He was quicker than I, and began looking for something on Hulu as I pulled off my jeans. Once I climbed into bed, we started kissing. Both of us soon forgot about watching anything.

In the heat of the moment, I climaxed long before and unbeknownst him. My mind had already been wandering, far off from my body’s actions. And now it was completely invested elsewhere. This was not love, I thought. This was physical gratification. Eric continued, not knowing I was miles away at that point. Because our conversations over drinks went well enough, I was uncertain if this was just sex to him. I admit the physical part of it felt good, but I knew I did not want to seek out a relationship with him. So here I found myself, in bed with someone of quality social characteristics, but just not ones that fit well with my own.

He finished and then we lay there together. “You hear that?” he said, as I lay my head on his broad chest. “No, what?” I asked. “It’s my wine. It’s the bubbles.” I lay still and quiet, looking up at the stars through the long, rectangular window over his bed. I heard the popping bubbles coming from his closet, in the big jar he was using to ferment strawberry and raspberry wine.

In the morning I walked home from Twin Peaks. He saw me out, showing me his spectacular view of the downtown skyline from his living room window. We kissed each other goodbye and made loose plans for getting together again. Neither of us made any mention of defining what we were out for.

That evening I took a walk to the Presidio, blowing off plans I had to see friends. I needed some alone time to think. I put in my ipod, listening to a cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” by Norah Jones, a soft and contemplative version of the song that relies heavily on a bluesy electric guitar. As I walked down Lover’s Lane, a sloping diagonal path at the bottom of the Presidio, I pondered what to do next.

Being with Eric did not feel bad, but there was something that just didn’t feel right about it. I’d suddenly realized that the type of intimacy I sought was more social, psychological, and emotional than anything else. It felt great that I had dissipated the hesitancies I had over physical intimacy, which was a huge personal obstacle to overcome. However, it left me feeling sort of empty. Now that that challenge I’d fully invested myself in for so long was over, what mountain was left to climb?

As “Jesus, Etc.” faded out, I heard the birds chirping amongst the trees in the Presidio. I took out my earbuds to listen to them and the howl of the wind through the trees. Gradually, I began to hear something else. In the distance, echoing through the canyon of pines, cypresses, and eucalyptuses, was the sound of a bluegrass band. I moved further into the Presidio, crossing grass valleys, roadways, and old brick Naval barracks that had been converted into offices and homes. I accelerated my steady stroll into a speed walk. “Don’t stop playing. Please don’t stop playing before I get to you.” I said to myself. The music got louder and louder.

Finally, the full power of the speakers ripped through a central grass area in front of the Walt Disney Museum. The bluegrass band was set up on a small stage next to a huge screen that looked to be used for a movie showing. There were four band members, one on stand up bass, one on guitar, one on banjo, and one on fiddle. They played a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Hard to Love”. The man on stand up bass sang. “The blackest crow that ever flew, will never turn to white. If you will prove your love to me, I’d turn my day to night. Well, it’s hard to love and not be loved. It’s hard to please your mind. When you’ve broken the heart of many a poor boy. But you’ll never break this heart of mine.”

The crowd, mixed of kids and their parents, applauded at the end of the song. “Wish we could say we wrote that one,” the man on stand up bass admitted.