No photo now, or photos. Not of November’s election’s “Dancing in the Streets”: one of my favorites by Martha & the Vandellas, to which we lifted our swaying arms when wracked and strafed Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were finally left to themselves by our wretched and vicious government, like government now.
It was 1970s San Diego. The only big gay bar was oddly northly named: the Barbary Coast, right under the flight path to single-runway Lindbergh Field. Workaday jets rattled rafters as much as we shook the dance floor, and almost everyone knew we could have been incinerated in a strobe-second by a premature landing: not with Dow’s stick-to-skin napalm, but a shower of plane kerosene.
Flaming queens! Like those who were set aflame by a hater arsonist in a New Orleans gay bar in 1973 — 32 dead, 15 injured — at just the same time we Sunrise-sotted drunks were a loud proud crowd.
And aware of that airplane risk, we danced up a, yes, storm, though daily drang always darkened our Miller- and Marboro-scented air. Any cruisy sailor, in or out of uniform, could be deployed the very day after he and I bumped and ground and got to know each other, in the way frictional intimacy works.
I dropped him at his numbered berth right at midnight. He was worried he’d be late, so delicious sweat bloomed his underarms.
No kiss. He ran. Best of luck! Our Pacific was black and smooth.
Maybe I drove back to the Barbary Coast because I had some time to end my sorry luck. Then, at 2, when loners and losers were disgorged onto the asphalt, I gave myself a drive home to Del Mar, burning my fingers lighting a roach left in the ashtray and sobbing.
We’re not in a Big War now, but we are. That’s why these ordinary glandular memories — what’s the phrase? — “rise up.” What would be next, I asked, and I’m asking now, in the same high voice and with decades of dancers gone.
You needn’t be old when you’re old. Sure, don’t trip, fall, break. But your brain was wrinkled when it was born, and eyeballs water and cry just like before. I comforted myself when younger, thinking that Kubrick had pictured all of that at the closing of 2001. Dylan lyrics, too.
This particular flesh package squirms through, or tries, tossing waiting and dreading with cooking and writing. Loving, as well.
An -ing life, I suppose. Fighting back? Never giving up?