The Other End of Sunset

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

She thinks she's the passionate one...

Another day, another posting. Still nothing to say…

I'm watching Lords of Dogtown. I love this movie. It reminds me of some of my favorite times in LA. I lived in Venice, the neighborhood that was called Dogtown. However, the Venice I lived in was much cleaner than Dogtown in the movie, but far more interesting than the Venice of today.

Why is that cities have to clean themselves up and lose all their character? San Jose did it, moved out all the bad elements – which were pretty gross, I must say – and the result? A dull, middle-of-the-road uninteresting city that could be Anywhereville, USA.

Was NY more fun when Times Square was seedy? Or was it just dirtier?

I think San Francisco is too far gone to clean itself up. The tenderloin is still, well, gross. The strip cubs are horrible, and sleazy, by and large. You still get stopped on Market Street and offered drugs by random folks. The city tries to clean itself sometimes, in a fairly desultory way. But fundamentally, like an aging porn star/dancer, there comes a point where you have to be that which you are, sag and all. Thank god for SF and sag.

Phoenix is busily cleaning itself up too. I think it’s probably for the best, but me? I still morn the dark side.

This movie makes me sad. It makes me miss LA, a lot. It makes me remember a time when I had fewer responsibilities and fewer demands, and more freedom. Although, as the poet said, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

So perhaps I am more free now than I was then, given that I have lost most of that which actually matters.

Additionally, I was never really as free, or as seemingly easy, as the kids in Dogtown. I was always the one who showed up on time – well, actually 5 minutes early – and had my homework done in the right color of ink. Dull, dull, dull.

But not in my head. I was something else in my head.

When I first moved to the Bay Area, I lived in the city itself. I lived in a newly moniker-ed neighborhood called Hayes Valley. I used to walk around the city alone at night, wandering through the Tenderloin, through SOMA, and through the Mission. I liked being alone, and feeling alone, and yet being surprised by all the night crawlers. I never had any trouble, although partly that must be because God looks out for fools and drunks.

There is so much to say about what you learn alone, at night, watching the city. You can hear things you never hear. If you pay attention, you can meet, and make friends with, homeless people and folks that are so different from you that you’d never see them in the “real world”. You can discover, actually, what remains of the day. It’s odd.

I once gave some money to a pair of homeless kids – a boy and a girl – to get them off the streets for a night. The girl thought I was trying to swap sex for her room. She seriously thought that I wanted her to do something in exchange for the $. Dude, I just wanted them to sleep off the street. They were so young, and so cute, and they were sitting on the street. Market Street, to be exact, around 9th or so, but I can’t remember precisely. They were cuddled together, on the corner, in the lee of a building, hugging. But really, they were very young. It was stupid, really, I know I couldn’t fix their situation. But for a night I wanted them to be safe, and warm.

I think little girls should always be safe and warm.

Ok, that’s enough for this chat. I'm going to go walk around, smell the desert, and wonder if the dark side is anywhere nearby.


  • Clean is Good! Passion is a preference.
    Dull is in the eyes of the beholder. NYC (or specifically Times Sqr) was certainly not more fun when it was seedier. The characters that make up the city were just more evident. I grew up in Northern NJ and would frequently be dragged by my parent to NYC for museums, shoe shopping in the Village, roller-skating in central park and ethnic foods. As I grew up, went to college and came back to NYC I found myself drawn to its eccentricities (and as place where I could easily “party’ while under legal drinking age.)

    Sure I viewed some of the seediness, but it was environment to go into then leave. While a college student, I worked at WNET a public TV station then located on Columbus Circle. As I liked to get into the office very early, I often walked from Port Authority (bus terminal) through the heart of Hell’s Kitchen seeing, talking with and passing through the remains of the ‘evening crowd’ who were turning in after their nightly escapades. After work as a college student, I’d often avail myself of the night life, the culture that was (and still is NYC). Now as an adult, a parent living far from “The” city, and with more disposable income, I think NYC (and Times Sqr) is more fun then ever. I can even take my daughters there (and feel safe). While I do still miss the New Your (pre-Rudy Gulliani), perhaps its just my pangs for a time when I was younger, more carefree and less responsible. I just not the bums relieving themselves in public.

    By Anonymous derikp, at 10:21 AM  

  • There is an intriguing tension in this post, that should not be resolved, but rather explored…

    What is the attraction of the ‘seedy’ or the ‘dark side’ of our cities that while it may not be experienced directly, nevertheless, there is a desire to witness?

    There is a desire for the gaze to observe unflinchingly the reality that polite eyes would avert—the view we see in the paintings of Francis Bacon, or the photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin, or the landscapes of Hieronymus Bosch perhaps. I am usually satisfied by the easy Freudian response, that all of the impulses natural to humanity are within us and we censor much out of fear of punishment that would follow should we indulge these pulsions. As such, I can enter these scenes and know why I feel simultaneous attraction and repulsion while wanting to force myself to look so that I can take in the full spectrum of human nature. I do not want to ignore nor fail to understand the complex possibilities by living in a hermetic bubble. The bubble renders soft and palatable all the knotty ugliness of real life where wrinkles are Botoxed, fantasies are repressed, and everything smells of French-milled soap.

    It seems what you are looking for when walking the streets at night is to see the city and its people au naturale. The way one comes closest to seeing a woman as she truly is, filtered only through the pixilated haze of night, when just before going to bed the makeup is removed and the distracting clothes are flung aside and she can dream without pretense or cover-up.

    Here is the tension of conflicting wishes I found so interesting in your blog: When you find a couple homeless on the sidewalk, critical actors necessary for the ambiance of the seedy landscape you sought, you wanted to undermine their role in the scene; you wanted to offer the creature comforts of the bubble. You were struck by her street-wise response about sexual favors in return for the money and I think there you wanted the opportunity to affirm your values and to demonstrate that you have responsibility repressed your darker impulses. It is as if you wanted to give her the message that you do not judge her for giving in to her dark wishes, because you know it is human and you feel the pull too, but you want her to know that resisting can bring about great pleasure as well.

    I hope you accept these comments as an affirmation of your post and my earnest desire to take your writing seriously. You write beautifully and with heart and I hope that this philosopher’s dissection of your post is taken in the spirit intended.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 10:32 AM  

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