Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shopping in Philly

Sensing a temporary lull in the crushing workload at the office, I booked myself a trip to Philadelphia. My favorite American city, Philadelphia is home to cheese steaks, much racial tension, and a Latino queen who smiled at me 13 years ago in a Philly nightclub, making me love the city and forever visit it, looking for him in vain, somewhat insanely. It is also home to BalletX, the dance troupe formed by Matthew Neenan, a choreographer I like, so I timed my trip to coincide with something they were doing.

Although I am not creatively stagnant currently (I have been reviewing books at a somewhat steady pace, and I've been doing a weekly songwriting workshop with my heroes Lori Carson and Beth Sorrentino - from my all-time favorite band, suddenly, Tammy! - and Lori's friend Matt Keating) my novel has gone neglected over these past few months. So I was hoping that a trip to Philly would rejuvenate me. Sometimes trips do that for me. Sometimes deaths in the family do, as well.

I realized as soon as I arrived in Philadelphia that my cat tee shirts would not be enough to shield me from the elements (it was really cold there), and I spent a few hours wandering about, looking for a long-sleeved shirt option. For some reason, I became very moved while shopping, which usually doesn't happen. As I passed a Macy's, in fact, I had to blink back tears. What made me so emotional? The solitude of traveling solo? The strange economic disparity that you aren't shielded from at all in Philadelphia, unlike how it is in NY? The upcoming holidays, and a sense of empathy for the down and out in America? God knows, I have been up and I have been down in my life. Right now, I'm okay, and I want to give this year. Give, give, give. I am going to buy, like, a thousand canned goods for the Harper can drive, I swear. And because I am the team captain for my floor, we will win because of it, and I will get the glory that I always seek, that I must have. I selected this shirt, a simple shell, really, from the Gap, along with another shirt from Urban Outfitters. God, remember when it was cool to shop at the Gap? I put one of the shirts on without washing it first, which is novel for me, and it kept me warm.

As I wandered around the stores and streets of Philadelphia, I was transported back in time to when I lived in San Francisco 15 years ago. I often spent whole days and nights wandering the streets (that's what my novel is about), in complete solitude, except when Nefretiti or Dagsy or Hilz or Joshie or Splendido were free for some fun. The near-total, awful, loneliness I felt during the year I lived there still makes me feel sorry for that young man who I was back then. But I became such a fan then, too. I discovered Barbara Manning, Paula Frazer, Jean Rhys, and many other huge influences on my craft while living in SF. I also discovered the simple joy of drinking bottles of whiskey when there's nothing else to do, which, too, became a huge influence.

In Philadelphia this week, I indeed was rejuvenated, and I wrote for a few hours in my novel. Now, instead of having 239 pages, I have 240 pages. Woo-hoo, I know. But really, it did give me the jumpstart I needed. I came back, rushed to Michelle's bday dinner, rushed to meet Suzanne for "Melancholia," and I've been rushing ever since, really. Philadelphia, I love you and your streets, your cheese steaks and your gayborhood, your "Fresh Air" and your peace. I will visit you again when I can, soonest.

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