Thursday, November 8, 2007

The return of old friends

Armistead Maupin never ceases to remind me of the comfortable, almost forgettable pleasure of unconditional love. Of the way it feels to choose to love someone completely; the constant bliss of having made the right choice.

I remember first reading the “Tales of the City” series, though “reading” is probably the wrong verb there. I devoured them. I crawled inside of them. I breathed them in. I inhabited them. I swallowed them whole. I couldn’t sleep for nights because I couldn’t stop reading. It was a feeling I’d had for much of my childhood, sure -- hiding with a flashlight under the covers long after “bedtime” had been announced – but I remember Maupin as the first to make me feel that way as a teenager.

I identified so strongly with Midwestern Mary Ann. Wanted to follow in her footsteps, run away to San Francisco, learn to let my hair down, too. I wanted to feel like Mona, though, Maupin’s brazen lesbian character. She and Mary Ann were close, but very different women. While Mary Ann was fighting to free herself, Mona seemed to have been born that way. I don’t want this to be about my sexuality, but I find it hard to believe that it isn’t. I read Tales of the City (and all of its sequels) while I was still closeted, my sexuality still a secret even to me. Is it a surprise that I was so easily seduced by a world where sex was always on the table?

Reading “Micheal Tolliver Lives” was like visiting old friends. I finished it too quickly, the whole experience was less than four hours long. I caught myself missing sentences as I read greedily. I think it is only Maupin that makes me read like that. So excited to finish, I can barely stay in the game. I know he says the book wasn’t a sequal and I hear him on that. It didn’t pick up where we left off. The style was different. Everyone was so much older, so moved on, that the text stands alone. But still, it was Mouse and Brian and Anna. Living in a city that has changed as much as they have.

I’ve been to the “real” Barbary Lane. I took a whole, roll of photographs walking up and down rickety stairs that were different in actuality than they ever looked in my mind. I don’t love the “real” San Francisco as much as I love Maupin’s version of it. But I love my friends, my “logical family” as much as Mouse loves his. That truth is hard to pin down and I’m glad Maupin has done it.

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