Sweet vagary of the San Francisco weekend

San Francisco has historically, of course, been one of the major centers of sexual subcultures. We could only imagine, how queer folks from the smaller towns and villages around the wider area were heading up to the city once they could, to seek for those who thought and felt likewise, to step on for a self-realization on different grounds that small-town rigid morals and tight eye of the “big brother” would perhaps allow. It was not before the 1980s when Castro became the well-known gay-neighborhood, but don’t think that there weren’t any beforehand. I’ve heard it was then around Polk, but I’ve also seen some maps with dots referring to the gay bars of the 1950s, and there were so many all around the city.
I ended up having a drink in Castro already on the very first weeks I got here . Well, I kind of enjoyed it – Lady Gaga and big boys with big muscles on the LCD screens around the blink-blink shaded bar, and cheap tequila. But nonetheless it hasn’t really been an arena where I would rush back into. They say, Castro has become a tourist attraction in itself, and has been even criticized for that by some from the local gay scene here. Interesting. However much critique against tourism, consumerism or homonormativity I could possibly think of, I still feel proud passing the huge rainbow flag when riding up the Market street through Castro. This flag is huge!

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For my personal heart-beat, I find more interesting the scenes that rarely get to be explored by random city visitors. Not that the latter would that much matter, but it’s more about the fact that the scene is small, specific, and gets produced by it’s own exclusiveness, that at the same time is inherently a drop-out.
One of the rules about this/these subculture(s) is not to gossip around the big wide web what is going on in those parties and those scenes, so I don’t have intention to do that. Besides, it would be a really hard task, almost impossible, as the writer, or me, who would try to do that, would sooner or later encounter alexithymia, i.e. an inability to describe emotions in a verbal matter.
This is the scene of vagary, full of unpredictable instances, desires, joys, unusual bodies, ideas and action. This is the scene of the drag, that renders productively the very Real, however chaotic and ungraspable.
Perhaps what Felix Guattari has said about the potential political power of the drag might give another glimpse of what I’m trying to say here: “The question is no longer to know whether one will play feminine against masculine or the reverse, but to make bodies, all bodies, break away from the representations and restraints on the “social body”.
And when I come think about my feelings towards the moments I experienced within this scene, I’d lay out another quote:
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.” (Oscar Wilde)

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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!

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.

Raja Ampat wonderland in flow

Shot in one of the most amazing diving locations in the world, Raja Ampat in Papua, Indonesia, i’m happy to share possibly the most beautiful hour spent in my life with seven gorgeous manta rays.

Sometimes you’re just lucky for having to conduct your anthropological fieldwork in the area, where such spots of Alice in Wonderland are just few hours boat trip away. I had been working in Sorong already for weeks, when my psychical abilities – and after all these stories I had heard from warias, and experiences we shared, also mental abilities  – were challenged hard. That, on the other hand, formed a great excuse for a weekend getaway to Raja Ampat.

Raja Ampat advertises itself as the ‘Last Paradise on Earth’. Witnessing the massive piles of fish under the sea surface it’s hard to argue the contrary, especially when also encountering the manta rays. These huge birds of the ocean fly around endless blue of the globe and stop around Raja Ampat only for a few months a year. They’re incredibly intelligent and I’m pretty sure they can sense the human vibrations and if you really try, you can communicate with them in some meditative ways.

I combined the video clips I recorded in February 2012 with a random improvisation we played last week with my good old sound collective Voog (translates as flow) in Tartu, Estonia. Guitars: Mänts; drums: Martin, keyboards: terje. Camera, editing by terje

Read more about Raja Ampat here and here.