Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Memory – Edward Zold.


When I arrived in SF, everyone I met seemed to be searching for an identity that incorporated not only our sense of personal selves, but also our sense of being both a community and angry oppressed minority as well. Edward already inhabited this triangular identity, forced there by his early infection and kept there by his sense of justice and the love the community had for him. I had the kind of adolescent awe of him that one has for the people who come into your life and gently shed you of your ignorance. There were circumstances and conflicts inside him that I’d never seen before even if they were and remain all too common in the world around me. The funny thing is that however I admired him, when we started seeing each other, our private time was not about activism or spent engaged in the queer political struggle The times I remember best were hours in the soft light of his orderly room or walking from the Mission to the Castro, shivering and pulling each other close as the fog came in, happily talking about time and language and words, about Proust and Virginia Woolf, about the moments and images passing in front of us. I knew his HIV status, but if there was any sense of mortality in our exchanges it remained hidden inside the pleasure we took in each other’s company.

Nights were different though. We got dizzy with the fun of the times, fun that celebrated a strange, addictive mix of both pleasure for its own sake and as a resistance to the presence of death and despair. New to it all, for me those days had what Angela Carter (another author we both loved) called a queasy glamour. We protested, drank, danced till the everything seemed to shimmer before our eyes, knowing the whole time that this sparkle came from edges of the world that were hard and sharp as knives. In the late, red eye hours, off kilter in the wake of parties and 24 hour breakfasts Ed and I would make love passionately, but always with a nervous edge, a fear on my part and a recognition of that fear on his. His body was long and thin and soft – you could feel the bone beneath the muscle, easily feel his pulse increase as we got excited, feel the whole of him yield and soften even more as he came. Afterwards, as he slept, I could also feel him sweating heavily – a sweat that carried leftover sex and booze. I could feel his breathing quicken as dreamed and murmured uneasily. Some nights I felt him tremble. Almost always, at some pre dawn hour, I felt death come into the bedroom, and creep over the need of our minds and bodies to connect, leaving both of us alone in the dark. Perhaps it was only me who felt this, only my fears that cast the isolating pall over everything. I can’t ask Edward now and it’s with great shame that I write that I didn’t stay with him because I was afraid, not of infection – no one I’ve been with was more responsible, careful, or concerned with safety than Edward, – but because I was afraid of caring for someone who would be taken away, and selfishly because I was afraid of even the abstract nearness of death to my own life.

But if I owe to Edward’s memory to admit that I fled from even a glimpse of what he had to live with (and did so courageously) then I owe it to his memory to remember his face widening in a broad smile; the gentle, ironic light in his eyes that sprang from the hard irony of his humor; his deep romance with time and words; the brilliant, woozy, sometimes frightening comedy of his drunken states and the deep anger and pain behind them; and finally, the soft way he had of handling his books when he talked about them, wiping his hair out his eyes when he had something serious to communicate, of reaching out and touching my face when there was nothing else to say. A soft sleep and a peaceful sleep to you Edward.

* Photo by Brook Dillon

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Some Glimpses in No particular Order


We left London early, by car with yellow gray windows that perfectly suited the windy, rainy city, lightening and rolling past. The roundness of London streets gave me the feeling of viewing all through a wide-angle lens -the gleaming dark cabs; the endless march of people on their way to work, grim faced under umbrellas - a sad parade for a sure. Broad chestnut leaves spun up and over the car, the pedestrians, clinging to building and billboards before wind snagged and gone. This image, especially tinted by filtered glass, gave me that pure tourist pleasure when the predetermined image of a destination matched exactly what the eye receives, - living cinema I suppose, but totally satisfactory. Sad as it may be London’s bloody, ghostly history, and its pop history is dearer to my imagination at the moment that the city's vast historical importance. We spent a blustery eve in White Chapel. Outside the windows of the bustling curry house, I kept picturing Long Liz and her ill fated sisters shivering at the cold and rain but more so at thoughts of the Ripper...


We’d been told that Sheffeild was very grim and industrial – we expected sulfur belching factories and beggers in half fingered gloves belching consumptive blood. Instead it was a nice town, on it’s way to being post industrial - the consequences of which went unseen by those of us in the film festival bubble. My liver however is seriously a dirty ol’ town now, and my ass is just recovering from an attempt at rollerskating. Here though we moved among the big powers of the Doc world, and I felt more than a bit Daisy Miller, or a character from Christina Stead’s sharp social novels about travelers learning their way in the hard edge world where business, idealism, and drink meet. The antidote, of course, came from seeing old friends (strange now to have pals that meet everywhere, regardless of country), general drinking madness, and dancing to sweet rock steady at the Brit-doc bar. Of course, the head and lung cold known as the Sheffeild Lurgy (sp?) is my new travel companion…


Florence was a constant negotiation with iconic faces, bodies and monuments to both God and Commerce. In that sense I suppose, the spirit of the Renaissance is alive here. For an American, history comes down hard on the senses here - above, around, everywhere, waking to cathedral bells and viewing lushly sensual statues and high, ornate towers from every window and terrace. The streets however are pure contemporary consumer temples where floodlit clothes seems to have transcended the need of bodies to wear them and the grossly enlarged faces of models cast hard judgments on those passing by. Backlit lips, larger than my torso, should have given me the fear of being eaten fairy tale style, except that their monstrous pouts were completely self satisfied and devoid of any exterior appetite. Luckily there were of saints and angels, here and there in crevices and above doorways, to smile down and reassure that a life of transcendent consumption – all the golden goods of heaven await… Our guides to all of this, festival folk and a few new friends (all leftist thinkers) seemed caught between the warmest hospitality and gusto for sensual life and the darkness that hung over them at the political and even moral state of the their country. More than one bitter toast was raised before plunging into the best of meals.


Leipzig was a funny place – Not the grim post GDR city I expected but another consumer capital. A lovely town actually that kept pre cold war essence and plunged straight into capitalist slickness. It would have been a predominately sober, intellectual festival experience except that luck brought us the Finns- Sami and Jukka, who made the wonderful Living Room of the Nation, and whose mix of dada absurdity and optimistic loopiness turned every day into a delight of deliberate cultural misunderstanding (and occasional nudity). We left on Halloween night, feeling homesick for all the American blood, guts, and monsters of the holiday till the weary faced bartender at the train station turned to me and said, “Hey American – HALLOWEEN!” and raised her hands into claws and made a werewolf face that broke into a broad smile.

My suitcase, my little travel house, bounced in the back of the cab. We hit the airport with passports and sleeping pills in hand. The U.S. Is waiting...