April 8, 2017

The Gangway

It was like we were old friends chatting for hours, but when it came time for you to leave, I asked who was picking you up.

You become cold, as if hearing the bartender say,“ten to twelve minutes,” was something scandalous.

The homeless lady was chased out again, a couple came out of the bathroom together, the local sobbed about his friend dying, as the Giants glowed in the background.

“It was wild,” your eyes lit up as you told me about the 90’s, then it came time for me to leave. It made me a bit sad, to know that the strapping gay men of my generation, were somewhere in this beautiful city, their eyes fixated on a black mirror.

January 18, 2017

Short Story: History Class

Abigale slid into her seat unnoticed. Or at least she thought so.

“Ms. Brennan. If you don’t have time for history, then what do you have time for, exactly?”

For someone who likes history, and the value of time, she wondered why he asked such dumb questions.

“I’m sorry.”

He, Mr. Bard, waddled up to his angular desk. He stopped for a moment, then made his way over to the board.

“AMERICAN HISTORY (2017): PART ONE” he scribbled in sharp letters.

Part one? Abigale sighed.

She thought the lesson on World War II was pretty boring and that was only three days. How in God’s name was she going to survive an entire two weeks?

Learn more: San Francisco 2054

December 30, 2016

Dear Americans: Know Your History

I wasn’t on earth the day that Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States.

Well, technically I was on a flight from San Francisco to New York, but it makes me feel better to disassociate from what I consider one of the most embarrassing (and potentially deadly) elections in modern history.

As I landed in Trump’s hometown during the early morning of November 9, gloom swept over me. I turned on my phone and was jolted to see that our working class, in part – mechanics, receptionists, truck drivers, janitors – cast their vote for a man who lives among the clouds in a gold apartment, a button from one of his gaudy sofas probably costing more than some of his supporters make in a week.

No one demographic is to blame, of course, but it pains me to know that the kind folks I cherish from football games and lawn fetes of my youth were swindled by a repulsive, misguided billionaire who promised to “Make America Great Again.”

Our country has experienced the most beautiful, heinous, magical, inspiring and heartbreaking scenes that the globe has ever offered to humans. We typically learn from our mistakes, but sometimes, we stray from the traits that make us, as Americans, so admired throughout the world.

We can say that America is great, but we also need to understand that when our Constitution was written, one-fifth of the population – almost half a million people – were slaves. As a citizen, it’s our duty to understand our past; not necessarily thinking about it constantly, but drawing from our collective memory when we experience similar events, people and situations.

Our past is uncomfortable (to say the least), but history is the thing that binds us all together; a story so interconnected that it goes beyond skin color or country of origin. When we ignore the past, especially mistakes and warnings, things become a little surreal. More importantly, that’s when things start to become dangerous.

Although many folks are “proud” to be American, it’s unfortunate that many don’t know much of their own family history. For me, research into my family history has allowed me to be more sympathetic to the struggles of others.

My fourteenth great-grandparents were born in the mid-1600’s in the colony of Virginia, the first permanently settled English colony in North America. My hometown of Buffalo was settled by Europeans a century later, although the original name of “New Amsterdam” didn’t catch on. After that, my German, Irish and Italian ancestors arrived.

My partner, Jan, was born in the late 1980’s in German Democratic Republic or GDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). Governed by the Socialist Unity Party (SED), it was mostly a totalitarian state until 1990. When I met his grandparents, they told me that they remember the American soldiers being “nice” when Germany was liberated in their youth.

My paternal grandmother, Christina, was born in the United States of Italian heritage on October 31, 1945, a month after World War II came to an end. Could you imagine being pregnant during a global war?

As Americans, we all need to realize how deeply we’re embedded in the national dialogue of not only U.S. history, but the global evolution of the world. This can help us drive suspicion and hate from our lives.

A lot of us in the United States have had relatively undramatic lives, especially Millennials, but by tracing our history a few generations back, we can identify the reasons why we’re all so proud to be citizens. Why we’re all lucky to be citizens.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by the antics of Trump nation, I reminisce about the true American spirit, the one that has prevailed time and time again, beginning with native inhabitants to present day immigrants.

In the early 1800’s, Sarah Moore Grimk√©, born into a prominent planter family in the south, defied law and taught her personal slave to read. Ms. Grimk√©, like millions of citizens past and present, is a true American.

Born into privilege and wealth, she drove social movements that benefited not only her own interests (women’s suffrage), but also helped those would have continued to be oppressed by her silence (abolitionist).

In the summer of 1893, another true American, Dorothy Thompson, was born in my hometown of Lancaster, New York, ten miles east of Buffalo. While working in Munich, she met and interviewed Hitler in 1931, ultimately writing about the dangers of Hitler’s rise to power. Her book, I Saw Hitler, was published in 1932.

Known as the “First Lady of American Journalism,” Thompson was the first journalist expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934. One gem from Ms. Thompson about Adolf Hitler:

“He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature, a man whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones. He is inconsequent and voluble, ill poised and insecure. He is the very prototype of the little man.”

Thanks for being an honest journalist, Dorothy.

October 6, 2016

I’m Voting For Donald Trump: Paid Opportunity

I’m curious why people are voting for Donald Trump. Please send submissions, any word count, to jeffrey.hartinger@gmail.com. These will be posted confidentially. For example:

“I’m voting for Donald Trump due to his experience in politics.” – Sarcastic Dude, 27, San Francisco, California.

But, don’t be sarcastic! It’s widely known that Mr. Trump has not worked in government in any fashion, so this would be an absurd reason.

Let me try that again:

“Donald Trump will get my vote due to his smart business practices.” – Girl Who Doesn’t Understand How The Economy Works, 22, Seattle, Washington.

No, he lost almost one billion dollars in 1995. Fuck taxes. Do you even know how many Beanie Babies he could have bought?

I want serious, valid reasons. I want people to defend their opinions!

For example:

“Respect for women? Baby, he’s got it!” – Aretha, 33, Des Moines, Iowa.

Ah, geez. I mean something like this:

“I’m voting for Donald Trump because he doesn’t flip-flop on major issues that will legitimately impact the lives of all Americans on the topics of the economy, environment and science, criminal justice, healthcare, privacy, education, immigration, religion and social issues, among other things.” – Hillary, 68, Chicago, Illinois.

On second thought, this is no longer a paid opportunity and I’m great and my boyfriend is handsome and things will be awesome and let’s build a fence around our yard and make our neighbors pay for it! #MakeJeffreysBlogGreatAgain

May 13, 2016

An Open Letter to Gay Millennials

There will always be animosity and strife within the gay community, but over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly dumbstruck at the vapid, self-righteous mentality of younger gay men in the United States.

We quickly ridicule those who are brash enough to give the LGBT community a critique, even those who have historically fought on our behalf.

Even as a progressive, gay liberal who has been out of the closest for the past decade, I can guarantee some social justice warriors will pick apart my beliefs. They’ll center on the fact that I had the nerve to call out unsavory behaviors that reinforce stereotypes and push those who could contribute to our continued struggle further into suppression.

Our generation should be driven towards intellectual development and social advancement, building on the tireless work of activists throughout American history. We need to question our peers, allowing for the cloud of superficiality to be lifted. We need clarity on the things that supposedly mean something to us.

Have you ever asked a friend why they admire Britney Spears? Write down ten things that you admire about her and the impact she’s had on the gay community. I’ll go first:

I admire that it only took a half dozen people to write the masterpiece, “Work Bitch.” I also admire that she’s pretty and fierce and rich and famous and, like, tons of other reasons. Did you note my sarcasm?

Similar to heterosexual Americans, we are so consumed by social media and constructing a world for others to envy that we float along with a distorted view of the world. We’re not aware of why we feel things, and as Donald Trump has continuously exemplified over the past few months, it’s now seemingly acceptable to make extremely general claims while giving no merit to these respective statements. This is shocking to me.

It’s also disrespectful to the first amendment to the United States Constitution.

Have we shifted to a culture where simply having a thought is good enough? More so, where an opinion is valued solely because someone has a view on a topic? That’s scary and detrimental to all, no matter your political affiliation or sexuality or gender.

We need to question ourselves and actions daily. We need to question others, even things that appear trivial.

That said, it’s not my intention to scapegoat gays who love Ms. Spears, but at 27-years-old, I think I’m getting to a place where I can say that some behaviors of the gay community are embarrassing; not because I’m a self-loathing dude with a bone to pick with those who exemplify stereotypes, but rather because we’re moving away from the strong, intellectual community of gay men that I thought existed.

It’s a pretty well-known fact (especially on social media) that if you’re providing gay men with unsolicited advice, feedback or insight, then you better be prepared to deal with the wrath of this alarmist group.

This behavior could be subconsciously rooted in our upbringings, as our lives were typically hidden from family, friends and peers during critical developmental. Positive reflections of the LGBT community for most Millennials came as we were entering young adulthood, usually a time when many American’s center on activism and finding their voice, especially for those who go on to attend college.

The internal battles during our youth has allowed us to become outspoken advocates with deep rooted emotions, but that is sometimes misdirected as we gang up on those who analyze our behavior, oftentimes labeling genuine people as “homophobic,” or grouping them with individuals who are actually evil and have an agenda against our community.

Similar to black and feminist Millennial activists, we’re sometimes misguided in our approaches to shaping the dialogue on social justice issues.

Rose McGowan, an long-time advocate for LGBT rights, drew ire when she made generalizations about gay men during a podcast with Bret Easton Ellis in 2014, starting that the gay community has “fought for the right to stand on top of a float wearing an orange speedo and take molly [MDMA]."

While she said the gross over generalization was fueled by her belief that gay men are more “misogynistic” than straight men, she added that her point still stands.

“Could have articulated my frustration in a better fashion? Undoubtedly. For that I apologize, but I stand by my overall point,” she tweeted. And I agree with her.

While it’s supposedly cute and new age to claim that “being gay is only a small part of me,” that’s not necessarily true. It’s completely, utterly entwined with one’s existence that it impacts almost every component of life, just as it would if one were heterosexual. Ironically, it’s possibly one of the reasons that we, as gay men, take things so personally.

Urban, privileged gays in coastal cities pick apart celebrities, who often have valid points, while hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of gays throughout the world wonder if today is the day they’ll get a bullet in the back of their heads.

Our collective behavior of endless shirtless selfies and blatant racism is a slap in the face of older gay men and women, who literally had their lives destroyed, or in some cases, ended. In the 1960’s, brilliant folks from the LGBT community were forced to take a stand, knowing their revelation would ruin their careers and social standings.

In the 2010’s, it appears as upwardly mobile gays (usually white, educated Millennials) float through major cities with their privilege and superiority, forgetting about our less fortunate peers within our community, in addition to other suppressed groups; particularly women, who have helped drive our quest for equality from the beginning.

Similar to McGowan, I’m fueled by anger, too. Please wake up. Obviously, my concerns align with the larger issue of a shift in American culture and how we perceive “reality,” but as gay men with growing power and influence, we need to continue to have a dialogue in order to develop unity in this trying time for our nation.

There’s nothing wrong with dancing on a float. If I had more rhythm, I’d probably be up there (although not in a speedo). There’s also nothing wrong with community activism, volunteerism and using our clout as an opportunity to lift up others.

Did I generalize? Maybe. Are you mad? Quite possibly.

Put on a shirt, close Instagram and write a rebuttal. A wise woman once said, “work, bitch.” And there’s a lot of work to be done.

#InsteadOfShirtlessSelfies, I write. What do you do?

December 21, 2015

Thirty Minutes To Alamo Square Park

It was a reunion,
Of sorts,
And I wanted to talk with you more.

But the Canadian transplant wouldn't stop his blabbing.

So I added fuel to the fire,
Disclosing that I was raised close to the border,
Because my silence was getting more awkward,
Bordering on rude.

"You're pretty much Canadian."

Three minutes felt like three hours.

Then we talked,
And laughed,
And walked.

Thirty minutes to Alamo Square Park.

"What's dating like in the Midwest?"

I was going to ask you,
But it slipped my mind,
And I assumed you were single.

Then we talked,
And laughed,
And went to bed.

November 24, 2015

The San Francisco Sob Story

As a recent transplant to San Francisco, I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about this city in a few weeks.

I could spend my time complaining about rent, tech bros and how creative people are being driven out of the area, but I’d rather spend my energy actually pursuing an art.

And come to think of it, some of the tech bros are pretty damn sexy. Maybe I should use my energy pursuing them?

The same folks moaning about the changing landscape of major American cities are probably the same ones constantly hooked to smartphones; their overpriced cocktails sit in front of them while the lingering, human conversation comes to an awkward close. Technology winning, once again. And not in a good way.

Why talk about about affordable housing, systematic racism and poverty in-person? This isn’t the 1960’s, dude.

We’re living in a hypersensitive, overly connected world where people jump to harsh conclusions on social media and believe a “like” or “share” is going to make a difference.

In some circumstances, the success of digital activism is astounding, but there’s more to be done than changing your Facebook photo to reflect sympathy for whatever the most recent tragedy happens to be.

“New York and San Francisco aren’t what they used to be.”

You’re telling me this as a 40-or-50 something, self-described creative whose lived in the city for the past few decades? I’m not looking for someone to blame, but if you are, it falls on you.

Most Millennials were trying to escape from the suburbs and finish college as the alleged creative pulse was ripped from the core of our lively cities.

In some cases, it’s a catch 22; you’re a recent graduate with a “hefty” salary, but you move into a “gentrifying” neighborhood that you can barely afford, paying upwards of half of your salary. Yet, somehow, you’re represented as the problem?

I highly doubt that young professionals with crippling student loan debt have a set agenda against low-income individuals in desirable cities.

The so-called Millennial rally call: “Let’s drive families out of this neighborhood that we can barely afford ourselves!” Bonus points if you have blonde hair, light eyes and a liberal arts degree.

I find it interesting that no attention is paid to the low-income families that were bought out of their homes, paving the way for slum lords and developers to turn the same place into a “condo.”

It’s easier to conceptualize that it’s income A vs. income B / race X vs. race Y, right?

Oh, geez. Leave it to a Millennial to think he knows everything.

October 27, 2015

I Design Skyscrapers In Seattle

"You look lonely."

I tried not to blush,
Considering my luck,
And your great pick up line.

"Come join my friends."

I listened to your story,
For less than three minutes.

I was curious how humans could be so different.

"Unions are big here. Not so much in Seattle."

They can work longer,
Build taller,
For about half the pay.

"So, San Francisco, huh?"

I walked back to the bar,
Motioning to my drink,
As I'd rather appear lonely,
Than talk to an asshole.

October 7, 2015

The Landslide

I listened to that song you told me about,
And I agreed with the lyrics.

Well, not anymore,
But I used to,
Or at least I thought I did.

You will find me,
But not caught beneath anything.

Not even a landslide.

Because you know,
I know,
That I've been trying too hard,
And I've been fighting too hard,
To get to that place where I'm going.

I'm not sure where that's going to be,
Or if it's with you,
Or with him,
Or with anyone,
To be honest.

But I know it's not in the lyrics.

I know that,
That's for sure.

Because one day,
Someone is going to read what I wrote,
And they're going to write something, too,
Pretending that they weren't inspired by me.

Just as I said that I wasn't inspired by you,
Or the band,
Or the lyrics.

We're all so original, right?

Because truth be told,
I know I'm going to be caught beneath the landslide,

No matter how hard I try,
Or what I try to scribe,
There's going to be someone new.

And that's fine.

For you,
For me,
And for the crowd,
That's for sure.

When that moment comes,
I think I'll see it,
Out of the corner of my eye.

I'll probably laugh,
And toss my work off to the side,
Because the landslide may be taking me.

But it's not taking everything.

August 3, 2015

I'm Leaving On Monday

The bar lined the Limmat,
Not too far from the park,
Where heroin addicts spent most of the 1980's.

I put up with the smoke,
Or smog,
Whatever it was,
For close to three hours.

Then I made my way across the bridge.

Do you really like to dance in that stuff?

I wasn't used to a small city,
Just yet.

I found myself longing for the late-night eateries of New York.

The bar was closing as I walked in,
And three people started to speak German.

"I'm looking for food."

You laughed,

Opening a pizza box on the bar.

One smiled,
The other man gave me a weird look,
And the bartender seemed annoyed and tired.

"You can have one of mine, if you want."

I ate while you talked,
And you told me that you'd be back on Wednesday.

"I'll see you later. Thanks for the food."

"I used to live in Oregon. Outside Portland."

"He's trying to close, no?"

"How long are you here again?"

I was leaving a few days before Wednesday,
On a Monday.

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