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Book: Tales of the City

February 5, 2010
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Sorry to disappoint the bad-review fans, but this book was SO MUCH FUN.

Many people have told me that Tales of the City was a total trip, so silly and fun and gossipy and local (if you’re in the Bay Area, that is). It’s all true! SO much fun, so SEVENTIES. Oh my goodness, so seventies.

I loved it. I loved every single chapter.

I loved the adorable snarky queeny gay characters.

I loved the fag hags.

I loved the mysterious and generous (ahem) landlady. And her sweet romance.

I loved the naive newcomers and their perceptions of this freewheeling crazy city by the bay.

I loved the gossipy, bitchy, privileged society couples.
I just loved every page.

It was really fun to read this after having lived here for over 10 years now (wow), because I am very familiar with all the landmarks, some of the history, the neighborhoods. Apparently this was written as a series of columns, very current. Armistead Maupin, the author, was able to work in current events, so I can imagine how much fun it would be to read this each week or month or however often it was published. San Francisco in the 1970s?!? I don’t necessarily wish I lived it, but it sure was fun to read about.

If The Bourne Identity was unintentionally amusing because of the dated technology, Tales of the City was a time capsule of the mid-1970s and was so far behind any sort of technology at all that it was completely charming. These two books have really made me question the place of technology in our everyday lives. I’m always sort of vaguely against modern technology, even though I use and love much of it (she writes, on her laptop, with wireless internet, with Blackberry charging in the other room…). Reading these two in a row has made me think hard about how much time I spend in front of the screen(s). I think I would feel much more human and centered if I spent more time in front of the canvas, or the page. I think I’m going to try to make some changes.

Anyway, I would love to quote this entire book, but here are a few that made me laugh out loud and made me very happy.

This one cracks me up for the non-ironic use of “boogie”:
“… do you think I’m a fag hag?”
What?
“I do, I’m sure of it.”
“You’ve been eating funny mushrooms again.”
“I don’t mind being a fag hag actually. There are worse things to be.”
“You are not a fag hag, Mona.”
“Look at the symptoms. I hang around with you, don’t I? We go boogying at Buzzby’s and The Endup. I’m practically a fixture at The Palms…”
“Mona…”
“Hell, Mouse! I hardly know any straight men anymore!”
“You live in San Francisco.”
…They ate dinner at Pier 54, boogied briefly at Buzzby’s, and arrived back at Barbary Lane at ten-thirty.”
That phrase, “boogied briefly,” cracks me up. I boogie, you boogie, we boogied, they boogied, we boogie together. Not danced. Boogied.

A few other choice bits:

“Mona’s second-floor apartment was adorned with Indian wall hangings, assorted street signs, and Art Deco light globes. Her dining table was an industrial cable spool. Her armchair, a converted Victorian toilet.”
“Maybe it was the light show or the rock ensemble… or the Afro-aphrodisia of the Reverend Willy Sessums, bojangling the bejeezus out of Third World Socialism. Or maybe it was the Quaalude she took at breakfast. Whatever. Today she felt mellow. Together. A karmic cog in the great, sway mechanisms of Glibb (Glide) Memorial. She sang out with the fervor of a Southern Baptist, flanked by a Noe Valley wood butcher and a Tenderloin drag queen in a coral prom gown.”
“…I meet some person… male-type… at a bar or at the baths, and he seems really… what I want. A nice mustache, Levi’s, a starched khaki army shirt… strong… then you go home with him to his house on Upper Market, and you try like hell not to go to the bathroom, because the bathroom is the giveaway, the fantasy-killer… It’s the bathroom cabinet. Face creams and shampoos for days. And on top of the toilet tank they’ve always got one of those goddamn little gold pedestals full of colored soap balls!”
That last one cracked me up because my grandma had one of those little gold pedestals full of colored soap balls! I loved those when I was little, I was totally fascinated and desperately wanted a little soap ball of my own.

Ohhhhh, I loved this so much. I think I definitely have to read the next one. It’s the perfect antidote to modern-day angst and worry and overwhelm. Have a Quaalude, smoke a joint, go do some boogying, go pick up a lovely gay man at the Market street Safeway for some rollerskating and then a hamburger at Hamburger Mary’s. Now I think I have to go do a San Francisco Tales of the City landmark tour. And watch the show.

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