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.

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.

Viaje a la Luna

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.

Selected tracks: Animal Collective “No More Runnin'” and Best Coast “The Only Place”

The bus driver looked down at me quizzically. He had obviously noticed I was carrying a box full of school supplies: books, games, lined paper, legos, flashcards, and a large toy clock. Ms. C. had given me these tools to use for tutoring over the summer. Carefully I walked up the steps onto the bus, flashing my flimsy paper Muni slip with one hand and balancing the heavy box with the other. The driver nodded in acknowledgment. Quickly I plopped down into a seat in the first row that faced forward.

Coming down from my ritual morning caffeine high, I relaxed soon after sitting. My volunteering for the school year had just officially ended. However, just before leaving the school, I’d been introduced to a shy little first grader named Luna. Although she didn’t utter a single word when we met, I knew she spoke mostly Spanish. Ms. C. was going to have her as a 2nd grader next year and knew she could use a jump start over the summer with her English. I was simultaneously nervous and excited at the challenge that lay ahead.

Her father was there when I met her. He wore a weathered black ball cap. He was tall, built like a construction worker, and had a black caterpillar mustache. His dark eyes were kind. Luna’s first grade teacher had to interpret for us, as he only spoke Spanish. We set up a schedule for me to come to their house twice a week. I would be as independent in my educational volunteering as I’d ever been.

Normally I read when on the bus, but I was too preoccupied to focus on a book. Instead, I observed the other passengers on the bus. A bald man in his late 30s with a black beard read The Economist. A teenage boy with braces, dressed formally for graduation, wrote on the back of his high school glamour picture. An old Asian woman thumbed through the groceries in her plastic bag. And in my peripheral vision, I noticed a guy sitting next to me with a red plaid button up, short dirty blonde hair, and a boyish face defined by rosy cheeks and left over baby fat that clearly hid his true age.

The contents in the box on my lap shifted as the bus took a sharp turn. My post coffee relaxation slowly evolved into a daze, as I zoned out staring at the upcoming park. Suddenly the boy next to me spoke up.

“You work with kids?” he asked in a high pitched, decidedly feminine voice. He was a she. I snapped out of my daze, puzzled how she could guess that I worked with kids. I then remembered the firm grip I held on the box and noticed the toy clock peaking out of it.

“Yeah,” I responded. “I volunteer at an elementary school. Well, did. Today was my last day for this school year.” I turned, smiled, and made eye contact with the girl sitting next to me. Her oceanic green eyes glistened with a striking balance of warmth and nervousness.

“I used to work with kids back in South Carolina,” she said. I noticed now the Southern drawl in her voice.

“Where’d you work?” I asked. “At the YMCA,” she responded.

“So I guess it was easy for you to spot the toys and stuff in the box,” I smiled. “I’m actually going to be working with a Spanish speaking first grader over the summer.” The girl looked on, intrigued. “I just met her for the first time. She’s quite shy. I felt awful. She cried when she first met me. She’s very uncomfortable with new and strange situations and people. I’m sure she’ll warm up to me though. And her parents don’t speak any English. I’m nervous and excited about the whole thing really.”

“I can see that,” she said. “I think it’s great what you’re doing. I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience.”

“Thanks,” I responded. “I’m Max, by the way.” “Ashley,” she said. “But my friends call me Moon. That’s my last name.”

After a short pause, I asked, “So what brought you to SF and how long have you been here?” The Asian woman with groceries got off at her stop. “I’ve actually only been here for three weeks. My girlfriend got a promotion at UPS, and that’s what brought us out here.”

“So you’re no stranger to boxes either,” I joked. “So did you leave your job back in Carolina to come out here?” She nodded. “I’m actually just coming from an interview at Wells Fargo.”

“How’d it go?” I asked. “Pretty good, I think.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “It was a group interview with eight other people.” The teenage boy with braces texted across from us on his iphone. “Reminds me of what you need to do to get housing here,” I said. “Intimidating open houses with like 20 people you have to aggressively outmaneuver.”

Moon laughed as she eyed the upcoming stop. “Luckily we didn’t have to go through that process. This is me.” She stood up out of her seat.

“Nice to meet you Moon. Good luck with that job. And welcome to the city.” Just before she stepped off into Japan Town she called back, “Good luck to you too.”

I returned my attention to the contents of the box Ms. C. had given me. I rotated the hour hand on the toy clock to 12, pondering how I would teach Luna the difference between noon and midnight.

Liz Le Man on Fire

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: 6 minutes and 15 seconds.

Selected tracks: The Heart’s A Lonely Hunter and Man on Fire

“I’m Max,” I introduced myself with a smile. The girl slipping into the booth across from me met my outstretched hand while reciprocating my smile with one of her own. “Lizzy.” Her hair was done Franklin Pierce style. Curly and swooshed to the right. Next to her sat my good friend Paola. In front of her rested a pint of Stella. It shimmered amidst the bar’s faint glow. Paola and I first met at work nearly a year ago. Over the course of the past two months we had become close. Her grandiose love affairs and minimalistic life style were and are both fascinating and inspirational to me. I find myself often living vicariously through her and assuming some of her habits that I so admire.

For the next hour, the three of us nursed our drinks. Paola knew Lizzy through her roomate Remy. They go to college together, but first met elsewhere. One morning Remy was late for the bus to class. Lizzy was as well. The two rushed together to catch it. Once on board, Lizzy discovered that he was just as outgoing as she was. “It didn’t surprise me at all when Remy told me he was a Libra,” Lizzy explained. “We Libras are best when we herd together.” Her witty and energetic sense of humor emanated from the crystalized green eyes behind her trendy thin glasses. “I guess that would make you and Remy Libros,” I joked. Lizzy laughed and turned to Paola. “I like this guy already.” I relayed how I knew Paola, followed by a short history of my coming out and dating record. We then migrated a mile west, away from the Mission, to meet up with some of Lizzy and Paola’s friends in the Castro.

Per usual, I found myself the lone gay man grouped with a league of lesbians. Glancing around the bar I noticed multiple guys I’d went on first dates with. This was my first venture to the bars since I deleted my account from the dating site where I originally met all of them. I kept my attention on Paola, Lizzy, and the rest of the lesbians, content not to make contact with any of the men from my digital age. “Sometimes I feel like Liz Lemon,” Lizzy admitted. “I’m just this nerd that screws up all my best opportunities.” I chuckled, then added,”I feel the same way, even though I’m not as quick or witty as her, or you. I guess you might call me a Liz Le Man.”

As the night wore on, a guy in the bar continued to catch my eye. His checkered black button up was tight in all the right places: shoulders, back, torso, chest and biceps. The nose was large, but it had a beautiful shape and blended nicely with the rest of his face, which was topped by long, dry, brown hair that was spiked forward. I looked over at Paola who was caught up in conversation with a girl Lizzy had set her up with. I turned to Lizzy and gave her a nudge. “See the guy in the black checkered shirt.” She looked his way and then gave me a flirtatious smile. “You want me to go talk to him for you?” I hesitated. After being so charming and outgoing with Lizzy I felt frustrated that I’d returned to my usual introversion and timidness toward strangers. Before I could answer, Lizzy walked out of my view and began talking to the guy in checkered black. She then ushered him over. “I’m Amato,” the guy in checkered black introduced himself with a thick Italian accent. I stretched my hand out to meet his. “I’m Max.”