It’s No Secret

I love Dan Savage. It’s no secret.

I devoured his column and not long ago his funny and touching book “The Kid.”

thekid

One of my favorite passages describes preparation for meeting the potential birth mother of the child that Dan and his partner, Terry would adopt.

“There were two issues Laurie (the adoption agency rep) felt we should think about while making our decision. First the drinking and the drugs; second, Melissa’s lifestyle. Melissa planned on going back to the streets after she had the baby, and that would create special “challenges” for us in our relationship with our child’s birth mom. Laurie was a little concerned that Melissa was different from the births moms we’d met at the seminar, so she wanted us to brace ourselves. We didn’t tell Laurie that as far as we were concerned, the less Melissa was like those birth moms the better. Laurie kept calling Melissa homeless, but we knew what Melissa was: she was a gutter punk, one of those kids who travel around the country looking like punks and smelling like hell, sleeping on downtown streets and driving business owners crazy. Seattle’s full of them in the summer.

Seattle’s too cold and wet for anyone other than the truly homeless to live on the streets year-round; as soon as it gets cold, the gutter punks who come up here in the summer head south, to Arizona, southern Clifornia and Mexico. A few damp gutter punks can be found in Seattle in the winter, but it’s the summer when they return in force, tanned, rested, and ready to hit us up for change.

Terry works at one end of Broadway, Seattle’s hip/queer shopping district, and I work at the other end. Walking from Terry’s bookstore to my office between May and October means wading through a clumps of gutter punks. Two of three stand or sit at almost every corner, with huge backpacks, bedrolls, and punked up hair. They wear sweatshirts, baggy army pants, boots and white T-shirts. From sleeping on grass, in alleys, and under overpasses, gutter punks tend to take on a uniform greenish-gray-grime color. Some travel with dogs. Most of the punks are pretty harmless, but a run-in with one suffering from some major psychological damage or on too much acid can ruin your whole day.

In addition to rejecting mainstream American values, like cars, homes, jobs, gutter punks also reject mainstream personal hygiene, like toothbrushes, soap and shampoo. When you’re living on the streets and begging for change, you’re not going to pour what money you do come by into hair-care products and dental floss, or pump quarters into washing machines at laundromats.

But after you’ve been asked for change six or seven thousand times in one day, you can get pretty tired of gutter punks. Even the bleedingest heart eventually hardens. Some will sneer at you as you race to work, without acknowledging that they depend on your , as well as your guilt and empathy, to move change out of your pocket and into theirs. On some level I envy gutter punks and think the circuit they’ve created  is kind of a wandering Woodstock. One day, I suspect, kids who are in their teens and early twenties right now and who don’t run off to be gutter punks for a few years will feel the way all the sixtiesw kids who didn’t go to Woodstock now feel. They’re missing out on their generation’s defining cultural experience. Twenty years from now, we’ll all be reading the great novels of the Gutter Punk Generation, and the people who weren’t gutter punks will claim they were, just like some people who didn’t make it to Woodstock claim they did.

But while I look forward to the novels they are going to write, living in Seattle it’s easy to get sick of the gutter punks and their shtick.”

That’s from page 105-106. Dan is really fun to read and to listen to:

Just before the election, disgusted by seeing one to many McCain Palin stickers here in Redding, I went to the Beadman and bought a rainbow flag sticker and a white peace sign sticker. I put the peace sign over the flag and stuck it to the back window of our car. 

I had recently passed by a gang of “Yes on 8” anti-rights activists with no signifying element of my own beyond the vehement no-hands-on-the-steering-wheel two thumbs down I gave them.

Today, as Frank and I toted our “art” to the Shasta Arts Council Holiday sale at the Old City Hall, we drove through the new city hall and gave the great people at the anti-H8te protest honks and thumbs up.

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