It ain’t pretty, but it’s here…
A lot of it is still broken, but that will all be fixed by the weekend…
It ain’t pretty, but it’s here…
A lot of it is still broken, but that will all be fixed by the weekend…
Been laid up with a nasty cold, but this morning it was clear it had lifted. I’m not at 100 percent, but I’ve achieved functional, which is enough. Now, if I had a full-time job, I would have most likely worked the whole time, because there’s nothing worse than wasting sick days on illness, but gearing up for the Oasis relaunch, it was better to just lay around and let my body heal itself.
Yesterday, I got a surprise call from a PR firm that I sent a resume to quite some time ago. They caught me off-guard, and it is hard to turn away possible jobs right now, but I do feel that Oasis is my best shot at not hating a job. So, I’m sad to say that when the phone rings tomorrow at 2 p.m., for my initial phone interview… I won’t be here. Also, I can’t start a job right now, because I just booked an absurdly long trip back home for the holidays (almost a month, based on a really cheap fare), so I took the closest day before christmas I could arrive, and the first day afterward I could leave, and its just over three weeks.
But that will give me some time to hit NYC and visit people. I’m not sure how many shows I can see, since I’m still… broke. Certainly enough people to see, though. The plan is to use the trip home/NYC as a test run, though.
Part of the Oasis thing is that it’s a job I can do from anywhere. I’m getting a Skype phone. So wherever I am, I can read books, watch movies, interview people, write up columns, etc. And, if the money part pans out (like all my expenses are paid by it), then by early 2007, I will probably do a test run and go visit some foreign city for a month.
The plan is to give Oasis until about February and see where things are. Maybe I’ll be surprised in the first month and it will all be good. One thing I need to impress upon the readers is that advertising is the way the site will be as fabulous as it is about to be. That doesn’t mean you have to buy anything. But, when you’re leaving the site, click an ad on your way out.
If the site goes as planned, though. I think the ads will start shifting and actually be site-specific, whereas people will pay specifically to have ads on Oasis. We shall see…
Right now, I’m getting a few interviews in the queue so I can push them out in December. A lot of what I’m after are rather new-driven stories, to show the magazine is on top of current stuff, but there are a lot of evergreen things that are also worth the time. Need to get some of those in the bag.
What else… it’s voting day today. Not too much going on there. The Bay Area really gets into politics, but it’s sort of a spectator sport here. I mean, I don’t have the chance to oust any Republicans except Arnold, and given the option, I wasn’t feeling the need. If anything, my representative may be the first female majority leader tomorrow, so that’s good.
I was hoping to see the Pet Shop Boys tonight, as one of the first interviews/concert reviews in the bag for Oasis, but jumped on that a bit too late. No time for an interview, and a slight misunderstanding in wordage messed up the concert tickets. In a list of possible PSB-related things, I said I was also "fine to review the show," which I meant to mean that I was available, and the PR guy thought that meant I already had tickets.
No big deal. If it weren’t a seated show, I would head down there and hope my favorite corrupt security guy opened the back door to bribes again, but harder to do at a seated show. Once you got inside, you’d have to find an empty seat or keep bouncing around. $90+ for good seats is well out of the price range. I mean, it isn’t Chorus Line…
About to post two of my three signed Stephen King books on eBay, which will help pay this month’s rent. He signed less than 500 at five national book events, so they are going for way too much money each. Thankfully, I knew that beforehand, and got in line as many times as possible. I almost got four.
And, to bring it full circle, meeting Stephen King is also what I attribute to my getting a cold, since he looked pretty pale and sick, and his publicist did say he wasn’t feeling well. Two days later, I was on my sofa all day watching movies.
The next time I am not interested in leaving the house because of Stephen King, I hope it is because of one of his books…
So, in my defense, I took Tuesday off at least… didn’t go out for Halloween, since it seems to have a bad vibe every year lately, and I just wasn’t feeling it. Ends up 10 people got shot at this year’s festivities, only four blocks from my apartment, so we’ll see what happens next year…
But, today, I decided to check out Bill Clinton’s appearance in front of City Hall, supporting a statewide initiative to get California ahead of the rest of the country in kicking our addiction to fossil fuels and invest in more renewable, sustainable energy.
The event was supposed to start at 5, so I got there around 4:30, so that I was right up at the railing by the stage. I was thinking that, now that he’s not president, he will probably be on time, and this will be a tight, well-run appearance, timed to get him on that night’s 6 p.m. news. Well, I guess it’s good to be optimistic, but that wasn’t the case. So, it was a long night of standing…
Got to see Stephan Jenkins (of Third Eye Blind) and Bonnie Raitt play a few songs, and Eva Longoria talk about the ballot initiative. About three hours from the time I started standing there, Clinton pulls up (in a fleet of SUVS… umm, about that fossil fuel addiction?), takes to the stage, and just does his Clinton magic thing. He is always such a good speaker, although to be fair, the whole event was for the cameras and the sound bites, not us. We were there because we already support that initiative.
Even before he came out, it was interesting to watch a photo-op get staged. Behind Clinton, they had a bunch of citizens standing with their children (again, I’m all for kids, but it always seems amazing that you need to play the ‘think about the children’ card on an issue that affects everyone here and now). The mainly white group of citizens starts filing in, in order from the one side of the back row, and then a black guy goes and stands right in the middle of the second row, then to his right, an Asian woman and her child, and next to him a Latin woman, and then the rest of the mostly white group filled in around them. Clinton is center stage, so they want to make sure the tight shot of him is diverse. I mean, this isn’t anything we don’t know, but just interesting to watch it be that blatant. Couldn’t they had lined them up so it just "happened" that way, rather than the minorities standing in their spot and filling the rest of the people around them?
Anyway, I mainly went to get my Clinton autobiography signed. I mean, I’m on a roll this week. Stephen King. David Sedaris. Had I thought it through, I would have also had Robin Williams sign my Dead Poets Society DVD on Sunday night, when I saw him work on new material to a small club of locals.
Let’s face it. Put people in front of Clinton, and he’s going to head out to work the crowd. No question. So, he starts at the other end, although I’m closest to his SUV, and it’s a pretty small railing, so I’m pretty certain I’ll get my turn. The Secret Service had searched my backpack earlier, since I was in the front, and saw the book, but said nothing about it.
As Bill is about to get near me, the Secret Service starts grabbing at our books. I start pulling it back, until Clinton says, everyone give them your books, I’ll sign them all, and you’ll get them back. Done! So, I shake Bill’s hand, and that’s that.
Earlier, I had thought of what I should "say" to him, when that moment came, and the more I thought about it… eh, what does it matter? Saying something to someone like Clinton, it’s really more about me than him. A story I can tell people… speaking of which, let’s recount the first time I shook Clinton’s hand, since it got me my journalism gig.
So, it’s 1992, and I’m writing obituaries at the local newspaper. Either that, or I was a "clerk," or some dipshit job which meant ‘you type bullshit into the system, and if a fire or something happens when all the real reporters are out of the office, we’ll send you to cover it until someone more qualified is free.’ If you volunteered for a lot of stuff, and worked long hours, you could do as many feature stories and everything else you wanted, but during the day, most of your job would be typing, transcribing council meetings from little pissant boroughs in from even more-underpaid stringers.
In any event, it was made very clear that I was not a reporter at the newspaper. Even though, I had been doing more and more that would seem to indicate I was becoming a reporter by job, if not by title.
At the same time, this was heavy into my gay activist phase (so it was when I was still in college), and there had already been an incident when our student gay group at the university had volunteered to work the Clinton phone bank one night, but the local Democrats (after finding out we were a gay student group) decided to not use us as volunteers, opting instead to shut down the phone bank that night for lack of volunteers. We, of course, turned them in to the national Democratic party, etc.
So, Clinton was coming to town two days before the November election, at which he would win, but Pennsylvania was one of his tight races, so we were getting a last-minute campaign stop. And, the newspaper said they didn’t need me to cover anything, and it was my normal day off, so… I volunteered to work the rally for the Clinton campaign. My ability to volunteer for stuff like this was because I wasn’t a reporter, which is where I drew the line as far as objectivity. If I was a reporter, I would have been unable to volunteer and campaign in any way for a political candidate.
That Sunday, I show up in my black T-shirt with the big pink triangle and "SILENCE = DEATH" written in bold white letters. But, it being November and cold, I am bundled up with another shirt and a winter jacket.
Clinton is literally holding the rally at the airport, so he’s just flying in, speaking, and flying back out. I am given the assignment of watching the police barricade behind the bleachers, which will only be a big deal when Clinton goes into the hangar to rally the local volunteers, otherwise, I’m pretty far from the action. I think I have a name tag, or else some guy there just asked me if I’m a volunteer for Clinton, and I said I was.
He asks, so, you’re OK with him supporting sodomites? To which, I unbutton my shirt, exposing my SILENCE = DEATH T-shirt underneath, and he says, "Oh, I guess you are." This guy is clearly not there to support the candidate, and is also surrounded by other people with him who aren’t very happy to be among so many Clinton supporters.
When Clinton finally arrives, he starts yelling a lot of comments about abortion, almost everything is sodomites and abortion, as people keep telling him to be quiet because they can’t hear the audio from the stage. At some point, I find out that this man is Randall Terry, the head of the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which was based in NY. The event doesn’t last long, as Clinton literally has no voice, which forces him to basically mime a political rally with a lot of smiles and thumbs-up gestures while the others talk about his candidacy.
The trouble began when Clinton ended the event and went toward the hangar to meet with the volunteers. This is when I was supposed to meet him, except Randall Terry and his group rush the fence, and are trying to get his attention, climb over it, who can tell. I want to go meet him, but Secret Service says they need me to hold down the fence with them. So, Clinton goes into the hangar and as soon as he’s no longer visible, Terry and his cohorts quiet down.
But at this point, a lot of media descend on him, asking him questions about what he’s doing there, why he’s against Clinton, etc. During the fracas, a lot of the press photographers, who were set up at the back of the bleachers, turned around and took his picture. In many of the shots, I was holding back the portable fence, with my shirt opened wide, and the big pink triangle and SILENCE = DEATH logo clearly visible. A picture of me holding back Randall Terry at the fence even ran on the AP wire. But there were a lot of other pictures that would change my life in that moment.
You see, I worked at the daily newspaper and my bosses had a problem with the fact that they had a national anti-abortion leader in town, protesting the guy who would be president, and they didn’t have a single usable shot of the encounter because one of their staff, who gets sent out on news stories was not only holding back the fence with the Secret Service, but with a big gay shirt to boot.
Now, to be clear, they knew I wasn’t officially a reporter. They knew I was openly gay. They knew I was politically active in gay causes. And they knew i was volunteering for the Clinton campaign. So, it was always clear that I couldn’t write anything involving the presidential campaign, and I didn’t. But they had a huge issue with me perfectly framed in an AP photo, and working writing editorial copy for the newspaper.
Very shortly thereafter, I was a reporter, as I told them the remedy to their dilemma was giving me the increased salary and position of reporter, which had clear rules about not doing political things, etc. Otherwise, I wasn’t obligated to give up my political and social causes.
Clinton got me on a path to being a reporter much quicker than it would have otherwise taken.
But, as a result of holding back Randall Terry, I feared I had missed my chance to meet the next President of the United States. Until one of the Secret Service told me to follow him, and escorted me to the lineup at the door of Clinton’s plane, where all the big-shot politicos were standing, waiting to shake his hand for the cameras as he boarded his plane and left town.
So, Clinton exits the hangar, and heads toward us as many cameras are snapping as he works the line. Everyone is saying benign "You go get them, governor!" sorts of things, and he’d nod appreciatively. The Secret Service told me he wouldn’t sign my campaign poster, and to keep it down. I, of course, disregard their advice as soon as he is near me, and Clinton grabs my pen and signs the 1992 campaign poster that is now framed and hanging in my kitchen at present.
"Don’t forget your promises to the gay community!" I shout out as he starts walking away from me. The politicians tense up, since this is supposed to be all photo-op, all upbeat. Clinton doesn’t miss a beat, and steps back, reaches out, and lifts my chin up with his clenched hand, locks eyes, and nods.
"Keep your chin up!" was his message to me that day and, two days later, he was elected president.
But today, I really didn’t have anything to say to him. So, I didn’t say much of anything. Actually, I was one of the few people he addressed anyway, when he said for me to give the book to Secret Service, and he’d sign them all before he left. Once again, we shook hands, locked eyes, and that was that. No big messages this time.
No need. I already have a good Bill Clinton story.