Santa Cruz Pride Festival 2013


Radical Faeries SCMouse and I returned to Santa Cruz yesterday with our friend (and Ashlie’s step-mother) Mary for the Santa Cruz PRIDE parade and festival. It’s an event I’ve enjoyed for nearly a decade, though 2008 was hands-down my favorite year. “In The Name of Love” is an excerpt from The Complicated Geography of Alice which captures that experience. Ever since, I’ve returned each year to celebrate and mourn. The festival always takes place in the first week of June, near Ashlie’s birthday but this year, it was ON what would have been her 21st birthday.

It always feels like a kind of homecoming, passing the Leonard Building (no longer the home of The AIDS Project, but still handsome and familiar) on the way to Pacific Ave., where the streets are lined with familiar faces and every imaginable color has exploded into the street. I always cry. I always laugh. And now, I always see her there.

Down at the end of Pacific this year there was an open air / impromptu dance circle. I stood and watched them for a long time, letting myself see her there – silly, grinning and dancing in the midst of the strangely beautiful crowd. It is always good to see friends, however briefly, and reconnect with my hometown. But I come back every year because I can still feel her here – where she is happy and laughing even as she dances away from me.

{Photo Note: I’ve always been fascinated by the Radical Faeries. Ash was too. But it’s Mouse who snapped this shot and for whom the gracious fae are smiling.]

The Street Preacher takes to the corner of Pacific and Cooper in Downtown Santa Cruz shortly before noon on most days. I suspect he’s chosen this spot, because the acoustics on the single short block of Cooper Street are amazing. As he bellows, his words bounce off the tall stone buildings and swell with significance. He looks like an aged biker with his grey beard and a bandana covering his head. He smells like dust and sacrament He holds his bible aloft in one hand, while the other skinny arm stretches skyward. His message is a mix of ancient texts and anti-establishment psychobabble. Some days its hard to tell where the reading ends and the sermon begins.

He’s quite mad, of course, but still, I like to lean against the pole just outside Pacific Wave and listen to him. He sounds as impassioned as John The Baptist and as angry as crazy as Charles Manson. The passages he shouts down the block are most often the complicated metaphors of obscure prophets. Some days I want to cross the street and ask him gently to read a Psalm, or one of Solomon’s love poems. I want to make him understand that fire and brimstone won't work here, in this time, in this place. But maybe he knows more than I. Maybe his secret visions are to terrifying to not be shared. Perhaps he really is the lone sane voice, crying out against evil.

I smoke my cigarette, leaning against the pole while a string of verses from Malachi reverberate from the wall behind me. I watch The Street Preacher because he makes me think. Not because I like what he says.


More than a decade ago, way back when the internet(s) were young, I came across a little gem of a webpage titled "San Francisco: an idiosyncratic guide for the goth-geek-freak-hipster-nerd" which changed forever the way I amuse myself in San Francisco when I'm there. I've branched out and discovered new favorite spaces beyond those highlighted in the guide, but it was a great jumping-off point and it virtually reinvented the city for me.

Having returned to my hometown after living in Santa Cruz County for the better part of a decade, I find myself cringing when I hear people talk about a day or weekend trip to the Central Coast and realize that they've spent their time (and money) in what locals consider "all the wrong places". For that reason (and because it is rude to admonish them in person) I thought it would be fun and perhaps helpful to put together a guide that might reinvent Santa Cruz for someone else the way the Goth-Geek-Hipster-Freak-Nerd guide changed San Francisco for me. I thought it best to begin with a couple of basic rules:

1. Skip The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

2. Since you are going to ignore Rule #1, let's have some straight talk about The Boardwalk Read the rest of this entry »

Courtney Love @ The Catalyst (10.28.2004)


I went because…

1. I wanted to see the Queen of Disaster and Devastation with my own eyes.
2. I was curious to see who would still pay to watch her perform.
3. If she did something shocking or unseemly in my town, then I wanted to be there to witness it.
4. Chances were good that she’d give me at least an experience worth writing about.
5. I wanted to glare at her from the third row; cursing her for whatever role she played (intentionally or inadvertently) in the death of a particularly fragile icon.
There was another reason, of course, but until she came out onto the stage, tossing roses to the crowd and adjusting the straps of a slinky white dress two sizes too small,  until I pushed my way up from our comfortable little table, weaving behind a broad-shouldered stranger, until I was at the center of the crowd, only five bodies back from the edge of the stage, until she lit her first of many cigarettes and held it aloft in the same hand that clutched the microphone stand, until she belted out the first lines of “Asking For It”

every time that i sell myself to you / i feel a little bit cheaper than i need to

well I couldn’t have told you that reason, couldn’t have even guessed or more precisely, remembered, that I went to see her play on Thursday night, because there was a time when those heavy chords and ragged screams gave voice to a pain and rage I had not yet found a voice for.

So there I stood, on Thursday night, squashed into the center of stage-pressing crowd, noticing, not for the first time, how reserved I get in such situations, not wanting to dance because those around me were dancing stupidly, not wanting to sing along because those around me were screaming out lyrics with religious fervor. Then, catching me completely off guard, the first chords of Violet were struck and an electric charge shot from the soles of my feet to the top of my skull. By the time she reached the fourth line, I hardly noticed that my mouth was open and I was screaming along with the rest of them “you should learn how to say no!”. I don’t know if I can really explain how base and primal that felt, but somehow, in that moment, she was Mother and we were nursing from her tainted teat.

There was no logic to the thing. I mean, how dare she stand up there old and fat, with her tits hanging out, and a serious girdle visible beneath that clingy white dress? How dare she prop her stocking-clad foot on the speaker box and hike up her skirt as if people cared to catch a glimpse beneath it? How dare she behave as she does, vulgar, violent and unapologetic, while we must go about our polite little lives wishing (on rare or frequent occasions) to let go as well, to scream and rage, to be impolite and ugly without consequence?

But of course, that’s it; the mix of adoration and disgust, an explanation for that taste of mother’s milk;you see,  in some deep, dark corner of myself, I too long for devastation; I too want to be the girl with the most cake, and every once in a while, you have to purge that shit, so you can go along your way and not become Courtney Love.

{This piece was originally posted five years ago at and got me my first paid writing gig.)