Karaoke, to fantasize, to laugh

It was my friend J’ birthday, and after Mexican meal and esoteric goodbye rituals at their old home – also, my old home, the one that left a striking mark on my first experience in America, as this was were I landed with my suitcase at the very first place – we ended up in a local Karaoke bar, here at the border of Oakland and Berkeley. No shit I have never seen a bar like that. J immediately hanged me a big book of thousands of possible songs we all have a chance to present now. No joke it had all the punk and rock’n’roll in it as well as good oldies so classic to the Karaoke culture.

I have seen a bunch of Karaoke around the world, it is a phenomena of the global, but nothing simply homogenous in it – it’s as specific to its localities as it could get! Estonian-Finnish ferries used to be infamous for their Karaoke sessions – good way to get drunk and nostalgic at the borderlands of sea. It was specially heart-warming to see the elder ladies with berets singing soulfully their favorites in small bars scattered around Russia. It was weird to hear that in Indonesia you can book a karaoke room which already consists some cute chicks for a sing-along (and possibly a lap dance).

Karaoke seems to have it’s definite space within our transnational leisure-scape, drawing on the cultural capital of the latter part of the 20th century, and growing wider, getting viral, making it into business, because… we, people like it and maybe, maybe realy somewhere deep inside we all just wanna be a star (sounds such a clishée, and no way it’s deep inside! But it definitely feels like it.). Put in better ways, we would perhaps all enjoy occasional disidentification (see José Muñoz, this piece is also in memory of him) with a star, an artist or a memory deeply engrained in our personal history. It’s a strategic identification by the marginal with the dominant – here, we simple people around the globe  who like singing, and the glorious stardom, unreachable memories of nostalgic aura, or it’s a drag, liberating laughter in a mask. And the last is surely not the least. It can be so much fun to go through old time favorites, dress them in drag, laugh at them and make the best out of them.

photoHe painted his lips dark and we all laid down on our knees to sing about love, in tight vibration with H. and N. in the lead.

I personally made Never Let Me Down happening…

The sexual matrix of love

I have been totally  blessed to have lived the first month of my stay in Berkeley with J. He has an awesome girlfriend H, a total reflection of his interests with fit so well with mines. Just couple of days after my arrival she also moved in. So now we’re three. She’s also a reflection of his desires, a fascination for the unexpected. They seem to be sharing love in its purest sense, with no desire for control, no desire for ownership, just pure lust, respect, companionship and joy.

For me they’re almost like an archetypical Oakland couple. Looking really good, mixing up lots of styles from sixties, eighties, nineties, feeling powerful and camp. Secondly they’re open to cross any kind of socially constructed limitations for an institution we call “a couple”. Why monogamy when you could also be polyamorous? Readings of the Ethnical Slut. Thirdly, they’re really having fun with each other and also with other people, being themselves as individuals and partnering when the moment is right. And most importantly, they’re having their crazy love of their life. Sounds like a perfect fit for me.

Hanging out in the city night with them, rocking in the venues, talking on the streets and getting late-night burritos, made me rethink about my formerly raised question about the queer as it’s experienced again. Seems that queer can appear on the heterosexual scale, but it’s good to be aware that this is not a line, but it’s a matrix. Other people can come in, from the same or from the opposite sex. Fantasies can lift you up, no boundaries, only colorful selves. And love. And love. And love.

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Mysterious tarot

As we woke up in the morning, he was sitting on the living room sofa, reading the book about tarot, throwing out some cards and checking up their meanings. I have never had my tarot readings done, which almost sound miraculous for me, when thinking of all the esoteric practices and theories I’ve been into. I picked out three cards and it started with a FOOL, reversed, which means a folly, a game, a trickster. Made me laugh.

Some hours later I was going through the Telegraph avenue – the most lively street in Berkeley, our own little Haight Ashbury –  and there he was: a man with wide gray beard wearing reflexive psychedelic glasses, smiling right at me. Couldn’t be more accurate time for my first real tarot readings, after all this weird day of September 13. And it’s Friday.

He’s name was Wizard and he had an earring of a wizard holding a blue crystal in his hand. He’s been reading tarot for 40 years, since he was 14. He claims his mission in this life, to invest positive energies to other people, because positive thinking is what creates positive results.

And wasn’t I just figuring some hours ago, suffering from mild dehydration from last nights two glasses of white wine, that I’d need to establish a positive routine, with some decent exercise, healthy food and regular meditation daily?

The first two cards I placed on the table were exactly about that – healing myself, clearing my soul from the past experiences, and about healthy living. He even mentioned the word hydration, to drink a lot of water! How could he know?! And the bigger messages followed, confirming my path and motivating me to dig it in further.

Thank you, mysterious tarot!

Househunting – endless

There’s one thing that supposedly works out best, but often turns out to be full of shit. It is Craigslist. You’ll have a view over hundreds of vacant rooms and houses in the desired areas, but most of them sound creepy or weird. Some are really good, but ask a lot of money and seem to be either much community oriented or very strictly ruled. I don’t wanna live obeying the rules! My parents lived most of their life under Soviet rules and there’s too many rules around our lives anyway. I understand some principles which could be argued under further explanation and mutual understandings. As long as you have your own room where no-body can disturb you. I like the idea of a community houses, but my life has to come first. Home is a place for relaxing and concentration after daily running around with hella people (yes, it’s very Bay area slang, and it got me, as it seems).
Then you find these five or six seemingly normal households, with plenty of socialization but also space for privacy and I wrote them nice letter. I wait. No response. The same thing goes again – I go through Craigslist, I might send up to 20 letters, and two responses. One of them spam.

I encountered spam-mails several times. Once there was a retired piano teacher, who has apartment here but he himself is residing somewhere in Houston. Very god-fearing. And stresses how much good care I have to take for his apartment. With the next e-mail he sends me photos of nice modern apartment and with another one application form. With the next one details for transaction – three months rent. 1500 dollars. Then he would post me the keys and documents.
Then it was a 40s lady, disabled, couldn’t make it to give me the keys, as she has difficult time to travel and his brother is very sick there. Then it was an independent artist opening a new venture in Manila, Philippines. Well, at least I have had good time reading their stories.

I still got to see some places, eventually. But they have been pretty scary. With none of them I have felt the secure feeling that this is IT. I don’t want to pay a lot, I need very little. But the least would be a sunny little room where I could sleep and write, and a hang-out kitchen or garden to meet socialize, as much or as little as we need.
In Oakland/Berkely area it’s also important to consider the issue of security. Oakland is considered to be the no. 4 most dangerous city in U.S. After Detroit. But Detroit is really messy, but we’re here in the flourishing sunshine. In a hippie paradise. But life has changed a lot here after the hippie movement, although it is very clearly still there. Gentrification is the keyword that people talk a lot here. Prices are high. Fringe people are being pushed on the margins. And I have proved to be a victim of it for not finding any? Are we being eaten out of the city? But how do all the local students, writers, radicals and vagabonds do then? Where do they earn their 800-900 dollars for a room in a shared house? I just need a place to liiveeeee!
IMG_8997People dancing salsa on the streets of Berkeley, how sweet is that!

She’s a hippie girl

By the second day it was pretty much clear to me – she’s a hippie, a hippie girl. When I told her that, she took it as a surprising compliment and blush. N. is 20 years old lady from East Coast hanging out around California. Daily she goes out on the streets, plays some guitar, meets people, talks to them about her hopes for the better world order and her concern about the third world was which supposedly is happening now. “With all the Syria and all that…” She tries to make some money, as she’s not on benefits anymore. The day has been successful for her when she gets some free food from People’s park or from the people she meets or at the public eateries for homeless people.
When I got here, there was a white rabbit on the yard, a lonely white little bunny, so sweet. I was surprised again how well the Goddess Coincidence can play it out for you – the memory of Jefferson Airplane and their White Rabbit activated in my mind, as well as the mystery Rabbit Hole of Alice in Wonderland, as a warm welcome from San Francisco. The white rabbit was in the garden also the next day, how cute she was. But I was surprised that N. didn’t know anything about Jefferson Airplane or the song.
I like her desire to make her way within the system, and thus change it from inside. She would like to work in the NGO sector, work with foundations, organizations, for the human rights and social justice, but first she wants to make documentaries about her travels. She knows she deserves money and she wants to make her contribution to the society, not sitting passively on drugs, neglecting all the world around you which turns out to be actually turning you into an ego-freak.
But she’s a hippie girl, a child of a drug addict mother whom she considers her friend. She wakes up in the morning and get’s her first high. Always makes new friends and looses old ones. Will she make it?

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Flowers in your hair and in your head, body walking in space

IMG_8956I have arrived. I am in America. All these dreams, illusions, memories and hopes for the big America start folding out in front of me through each and every second I walk on this earth, in the city of San Francisco, where you must go with flowers in your hair. I like to add here also flowers in your head. And your body walking in space. It has been wonderful to enter the country right on the spot, never leaving the airplane, rather floating on the yellow submarine.

When me and Berit were 20 and having our first bigger social experiment in life – that was when we decided to move to London, just for the excitement of it, just for the sake of the social experiment and fun – the idea of San Francisco sneaked in. Probably the overall materialistic attitude and class society of London was eating our brains the way that we started longing for the left-liberal dream.  San Francisco – the good old hippie capital – must be the right place to be. We were singing the “if you’re going to San Francisco” song and tried to figure out the visa case. Settling in in London was not a big deal, why would it be different in Frisco, we were wondering. But soon we started to realize that Europe and America are two different things and hippies in San Francisco have died out long ago.

It was not before I moved together with Monica in Indonesia while working on my fieldwork research in Yogyakarta. I spent the days with warias and working out my stuff, and in the evenings we had a lot to talk about with Monica. It seemed to be rather miraculous how similar we were when it came to the music, films, political attitude or thoughts on gender and (post-)colonial situation. Yet we had grown up each on different sides of the globe, but I wanted to pay her a visit in San Francisco.

Thank god that Susan Stryker, again her, as we met at the conference in Sweden, told me as the first thing: “Bay area would definitely be the right place for you to be!” One thing led to another, I was gifted with Fulbright scholarship, and when I now come to think about it, then I didn’t pick San Francisco, San Francisco picked me.