Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday and Thursday

When I lived in New York in the early 90s, one of the downtown acts that made the biggest impression on me was the chanteuse Joey Arias. She didn't just channel Billie Holiday, she sometimes surpassed her. Earl Dax has her in town tonight with some local talent and you should not miss this show:

Tingel Tangel Club
Wednesday March 26th, 2008 10p - 3a
The Bubble Lounge, San Francisco
714 Montgomery Street (btw. Jackson & Washington)
Admission is $10
Live performance by JOEY ARIAS!
DJ Johnny Dynell (Jackie 60, BoyBar)
Hosted by Chi Chi Valenti (Mother, Click + Drag)

I'm reading with Violet Blue, Amy André and Melissa Gira from Best Sex Writing 2008
March 27, 2008 07:00 PM - 09:00 PM
Center for Sex and Culture1519 Mission St., Suite 2San Francisco, CA 94103

I'll be reading my essay "How Insensitive," about my experience volunteering for a study that set out to measure just what is lost in male circumcision.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

NYC 1: travel horror

This woman does not give a shit about global warming. Would you?

The way I see it, anyone who flies in an airplane gets what he deserves, up to and probably including the event of a water landing. The carbon footprint of air travel is unconscionably deep. If you're concerned about people at the equator and polar bears in the Arctic starving to death, of ice and coastline and islands vanishing into the water, there's almost nothing worse you can do than reserving a seat on a plane.

All this helps me reconcile myself to the fiascoes that routinely attend my travels, which this calendar year have involved (flights only, not including stop-overs) SF to LA, LA to SF, SF to Greenville (SC), Columbia (SC) to Montgomery, Baton Rouge to Palm Beach, Palm Beach to Mobile, New Orleans to San Francisco, San Francisco to New York, New York to San Francisco, and most recently San Francisco to Albuquerque. The other day I wrote about getting ditched by the Twin Hearts Express Shuttle to Taos, which eco-guilt suggests I richly deserved. If travel horror stories bore you, skip the rest of this entry. If they fill you with schadenfreude or the cosmic-planetary justice to which I allude, read on and enjoy:

The night before, I stayed up until 2 a.m. James was go-go dancing at 440 Castro, an unmissable if routine occurrence. At 5 a.m., I woke to be on the 6:18 BART so I would be at SFO by 7 a.m. for my 8 a.m. flight. Sleep deprivation I could handle, because I had booked that rare thing for someone in my income bracket, a direct flight. At the self-service check-in kiosk, American Flight 24 came up as 10 a.m.

"When did that happen?" I asked the woman behind the counter, thinking I might have given myself another two hours of sleep by looking up the flight before I left the house. She looked it up on her computer. "Ten minutes ago," she said. "There are storms on the east coast and air traffic control just made the call."

An act of God is no-brainer for an atheist, because there's nobody to be mad at. And my life has been so frenetic since October that the idea of two vacant hours seemed, suddenly, like a boon and luxury. I parked myself at an airport restaurant with coffee, my current notebook and the laptop and typed in notes I'd scrawled, mostly about my back-burnered novel, and tore out and crumpled up pages one by one, forming a little paper cairn on my table.

At a little after nine I decided it would be responsible to move my base of operations to Gate 66. Nearby, I checked the monitor for Flight 24 and did a double-take - it wasn't there. I went up to the gate counter and asked the guy behind it - a pilot, it turned out. He punched some numbers into the computer and told me the flight had left at 8:15. I looked at my ticket, and sure enough, it said 8:15. At first I suspected myself of having had some sort of mnemonic-psychotic episode, but then figured out that the window of time in which air-traffic control moved the flight to 10 a.m. was about ten minutes long, and between the time I swiped my card at the kiosk and the time I got my ticket printed, it had come to an end.

There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven, and this was a time for sputtering rage, forcibly repressed. The pilot summoned an agent, and she questioned me sharply about my story and made a phone call to confirm it. When it checked out, she said my name had undoubtedly been called for the 8:15 flight, which, if true, wouldn't have helped me much sitting at the restaurant outside the terminal wing. The best I could hope for was to fly standby on the 11:30 flight, which was full.

By the time 11:30 rolled around, I had transcribed every page of my notebook into the laptop, scored a greasy lunch at the nearest airport restaurant, and the flight had been moved to 12:34. By the time 12:34 rolled around, Gate 66 looked like a third-world train station after an urban plague outbreak. Everyone was trying to get out, and every one was sick. Soon my standby rank had slipped from #2 to #7, all five sections of the flight had been called, every seat on the plane was filled, and I was on the phone to American attempting to convert sputtering rage into some semblance of sympathy-inducing pathos.

Then, bizarrely, I heard my name called over the loudspeaker. I ran up to the counter and was told that if I was Paul Festa, I needed to run down the gangway to the airplane as fast as I could, because they were closing the door to the aircraft. I whipped around to grab my things, shouted an apology to the AA phone rep before hanging up on her, ran down the gangway without having either my ticket or ID checked, and sat down in the seat they yelled after me: 5D. Business class.

I had never been in business class before. I experienced it as the aborigines experienced the plane flying overhead in The Gods Must Be Crazy, with wonderment and disbelief. I could adjust my seat, in an apparently infinite number of configurations, without disturbing the person behind me! I could choose from twenty films to watch (I opted for a Sidney Pollock double-header: Michael Clayton and Tootsie)! I could be served my meal at the time of my choosing! I could put my laptop on one table and my video console on another! Operating on three hours of sleep, I experienced, for the first time, a desire to be awake for my entire flight, and I never wanted it to end. I deplaned reluctantly, concluding an episode that set the tone for my whole week in New York: disaster and triumph as Siamese twins.


Bad Company: Twin Hearts Express, Taos, NM

Welcome to the Hotel Albuquerque. You can check out anytime you like...

Travel is full of indignities. This afternoon in New Mexico it just got fuller. Here's what, in a fit of righteous indignation, I just submitted to RatePoint:
On the morning of March 13, 2008, I reserved a seat on the 1:30 p.m. Twin Hearts Express shuttle from Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) to Taos, NM. At 1 p.m., I got to the Twin Hearts ticket window and purchased my $85 round-trip ticket. The Twin Hearts driver/cashier told me I should be at the waiting area beyond the escalators at 1:30. I was there at 1:25. I waited there about twenty minutes until a shuttle driver for a different company called passengers for a Santa Fe trip and everyone around me got up and left.

Back on the other side of the escalators, the Twin Hearts counter was deserted, but staff at adjacent transportation services told me she had left not only me stranded at ABQ for two hours (the next shuttle is at 3:30) but an elderly woman in a wheelchair. I tried phoning Twin Hearts and got a busy signal for 15 minutes. When I finally got through, what sounded like a teenage girl answered the phone and had no idea what had happened or what recourse I had. She suggested I call back in 15 minutes, refused to take my name and number, and hung up on me mid-sentence. Helpful adjacent transportation staffers made some calls on my behalf, and word came back that the Twin Hearts driver/representative had no memory of speaking with me or taking my money. And yet, somehow, there's a receipt in my wallet.

As I was writing this review, I got a call from Robert Noga, the man in charge at Twin Hearts. He said he'd spoken to the driver, who had no idea how she'd missed me (us!). One wonders what ideas she does manage.

Meanwhile, Noga said he'd give me $10 off my ticket. I like to think my time is worth more than $5/hour, but it's the thought that counts so I'm upgrading my rating from one to two stars.


Momblog 1: Pretty pissed-off in pink

I never blog about my mom. That's so un-post-gay! Introducing Momblog, a recurring series about the woman at whose feet you can lay ultimate responsibility for all of this.

I'm especially embarrassed that I'm only now getting around to blogging about Mom since someone else managed to beat me to it. Today's inaugural entry redirects to "Civic Center: San Francisco as seen through the Civic Center neighborhood: its politics, arts and characters." Wednesday's entry concerns a protest against Governor Schwarzenegger by the United Educators of San Francisco, of which Mom is vice president. That's her, above, the angry firebrand in the pink suit.

In more official contexts than Momblog, she operates under the name Linda Plack. That's Vice President Plack to you -

Mamma and Obama 2008

Saturday, March 8, 2008

3 little readings (one tonight) and one huge screening/performance 4/18

I had this fantasy that I would get caught up in my work and caught up in the blog through the New York trip and THEN post this save the date, but today, when the call came to read tonight at Writers With Drinks, I gave up. Hopefully I'll get the blog caught up before I go to New Mexico Thursday, or while I'm there. Here's the email I just sent out:

Dear friends--I have three SF events coming up between tonight and April 18:

1. If you save one date for me in the next ten or twenty years, please
let it be April 18th, 7PM, the earthquake anniversary, for a
tremendous spectacle at Grace Cathedral. They're giving the SF
premiere of my very queer and slightly sacrilegious film "Apparition
of the Eternal Church
"--in the sanctuary, with live organ
accompaniment! Can you believe it? For the Berkeley screening in
January we had a 100-year storm, so expect at least a plague of
locusts for April 18th (another earthquake seems too much to ask).

I will start off the evening giving the West Coast premiere of
Messiaen's Fantaisie for violin and piano, a gorgeous piece (think
Debussy on steroids) that was just published last year. Afterward I
will read briefly from my new book based on the film. It's a free show
with an open-bar reception to follow, and it should be a ton of fun.

Check out Apparition star Eisa Davis in her big New York Times write-up today.

2. I've just been asked to read at "Writers With Drinks" tonight:

The Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd. St. btwn. Valencia and Mission
7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, doors open at 7 PM

3. Later this month I'll be reading with Violet Blue and other authors
in the Best Sex Writing 2008 anthology:

Thursday 3/27 at 7pm
The Center for Sex and Culture
1519 Mission btw. 11th St. and S. Van Ness, Suite 2

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