We Wore an Onion on Our Belt as That was the Style at the Time
In an intermission of sorts right now – finished my contract work on Friday, and nothing in the pipeline. It felt good to finish something, do it well, and know I’m getting paid for it, but of course the unease of a return to “unemployment” diminishes most good feelings. I’m going to put more energy into the book now, since I realized that if nothing else, it’s something that somehow someday may make some money. Even if I make – and I don’t know why I have this figure in my head but it won’t leave – $700 on Kindle Direct, because I can only count on random purchases, having no self-flogging promotional mechanism in place in the form of a vast social and professional network, it’s still INCOME, one of those words that projects itself Ruscha-like in huge letters across the inside of my forehead when I don’t have any. It’s the only INCOME that is within my, and only my, decision making powers to generate.
I put all the chapters so far into a single manuscript, partly to make it feel real, partly to count the pages, and partly because I’ve realized it’s time to stop, go back, edit and add now – I am 2/3 of the way through, and it behooves me to make sure I don’t lose control of the ending like I’ve done most other times. I hate to stop and edit for a number of reasons: 1, writing new content feels like forward motion, and editing doesn’t, and when you aren’t working (and not losing weight) you need to feel like something is moving forward. 2, I spent so much time stuck on the first two or three chapters of the book, redoing them and rethinking them and giving up on them, that I have some kind of amygdalic terror of going back in case I get stuck there again – totally unreasonable and not going to happen, but there you go. But, I have to accept that now’s the time to do this, that if I can go back and say, wow, that wasn’t shit, this is good, I am awesome, I’ll have the confidence and the energy to finish strong.
Long, funny-ish story. I’m reading the David Wojnarowicz biography, and it turns out he was in a band – I did not know that. It was called 3 Teens Kill 4, and I was shocked to read that they did a song called “The Bean Song.” (“I bet you wish you could shake a can of beans as well as me.”) This was one of the songs that I heard as a kid (18ish) when me and my new wave/punkette friends hung out at the Club Baths in Reno – believe it or not, for the music, since we were too weird for the clones to desire and besides they were too old and clony for us. But there wasn’t anywhere else you could hear that kind of music in Reno in 1980/81. We would ask the desk, what’s that song, and they’d shrug – “I dunno, they make the tapes in SF and send them here.” In fact, I wrote a little story about it ten years later or so, after moving to San Francisco, and put it in a zine I used to do called Adversary. That, ironically, turned out to be the most popular thing I ever did once cartoonist Rob Kirby illustrated it for his own zine, Strange-Looking Exile, and it got anthologized numerous times as a “zeitgeist” piece. Here it is:
“Club Uranus” was a Sunday night club for the “queerternative” crowd at the notorious Endup bar, on Sunday night not only because Friday and Saturday nights were reserved for overflow from the SoMa dance warehouses but because if you had to get up on Monday there was something horribly wrong with the way you were living your life, if not with you yourself, and you should probably be taking more drugs. Looking back there were freaks galore there, too, but like most things that attack the mainstream (art, criticism, rebellion), the “freakishness” got turned into the Next Big Thing for sweater queens who knew when it was time to drop their floppy “Maurice” inspired haircuts and Polo shirts and buzz their heads and put on Doc Martens. It was a way of life that became just another “look” for circuit queens and that was the end of that.
Reading that book got me thinking about the past, something I prefer not to do, but it did lead me to unseal the time capsules in my basement where I’ve left my old writings to molder and wilt – more to the point, "word art" I used to do. There I found that some of the stuff I did back then was actually quite funny, and it was a goddamn shame I haven’t become something greater and more famous and more something than I have. Not all of it is printable because I’m looking for a job, but let’s face it, if what’s here is a DQ for a job, it’s not the kind of job I want. Most of it was about feeling like a freak even among the freaks – not cool enough for the cool kids, not thin enough for the gays, not educated enough for a city full of people with advanced degrees in an age where education wasn’t that expensive so if you didn’t have one you were probably an idiot.
The way I started doing a zine was, I met people who were doing them and I started writing for them (including HOMOTure, which was almost more like an art magazine it was so shiny and polished and gorgeous; it was disdained by many of the SF grooveoisie at the time because grunge was coming in and shitty-looking was somehow more “authentic,” but that has always been the opinion of rich brats who grow up in soft beds in clean houses and rebel by living in filth but anyway.)
I started by putting up posters on lampposts, taping them over band flyers that would just as quickly go over mine. I don’t know how many people ever saw them because then as now I didn’t have a huge social circle or go to parties much.
For the most part, I paid $12 an hour at a copy shop to use a Mac with PageMaker to create these.
Then I realized it sucked putting them on lampposts and started putting them into a zine. I also compiled some of my stickers, because of course at that time you had to have a leather biker jacket covered in stickers and I as always thought why on earth should I cover myself in someone else’s thoughts when I can use my own? I even "criticized" the posters myself, in commentary in the "footnotes" (hey it was the age of the air quote) to try and make them complete, self-contained work – i.e., in a culture where most of the art doesn’t make a lick of sense without the commentary/criticism attached, I thought, why shouldn’t I control the message from cradle to grave?
I did a sticker called “Another Queer for Thermonuclear War.” That one came about because it was the time of Iraq War I and every smug banker’s son who’d been to Nee-ha-rah-wa and been one with the people was wearing a sticker that said “Another Queer for Peace.”
As if to say, we are all the same, we all think the same, we are queers and so of course we are for peace. I was for peace too but the idea that you were allowed to look at me and know my innermost thoughts and personal political feelings from my wardrobe was anathema, thus, Another Queer for Thermonuclear War, because to me the whole point of joining ACT UP and living in SF was to be Truly Different, not All Different In The Same Way, which is what the “rainbow” turned out to be.
Anyway. I dug these up and thought it would not be good for me to just put them away again, so there you go.