City ReviewsSan Francisco

Des Moines, IA
June 8, 1995

Des Moines, Iowa is diverse, far more than New York City or San Francisco. Like New Bedford, Massachusetts, Des Moines contains so much diversity among its people that it is confusing for a native of relatively homogeneous Oakland, California. In ten minutes you will observe the mysteriously amused contempt of strangers passing in cars, be offered an eight dollar blowjob from a very decent looking passerby, talk in vernacular about tornadoes and pig farming with an elder teen, and make fun of the telephone company in an elevator. The contrasts are inexplicable; no simple attitude will survive long here. One must role with the punches, passing from stranger to stranger, restraining one’s eyes and physiognomy from easy resolutions. The glance will be returned, the dialogue will continue until you end it. If you play pick-up basketball with black teens, you will find them unpredictable. They will not tribalize against you because you are white, and peacocking is confined to competition between friends. While they might abuse each other, they remain consistently polite with the bearded white stranger. They will observe your game, intimating, but never crossing your limits. After turning down the blowjob, the young lady will ask you for a ride home, and you will casually discuss her lifestyle. “Giving blowjobs to strangers for eight dollars is pretty rough,” I muster, asking her if employment is scarce, and expecting a sob story. But the girl will tell you no less casually that she has not looked for a job, and that is why she doesn’t have one.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

I am disgusted by Oklahomans, hateful of Heart landers. Having just eaten their food, the powerful hostility I felt upon arriving at the Tulsa Holidome has waned. I watch a cockroach approach the remnants of my salad. Climb the spoon, the plate. Contemplates, turns and runs, expecting perhaps it is too good to be true. Alas! It is not a trap; I welcome the bug as a kinsman in the hangar.We must hate roaches because of the resemblance, so versatile, fearful and aggressive; and function-driven. The Oklahomans spent decades killing the Indians just to cover the territory with strip malls and fast food. Tulsa and OK City both are testaments to stupidity and bad taste, offering McDonalds et al an almost unlimited retail market with insignificant real estate prices. Both cities are urban sprawl without the benefit of inner city. It is amazing that we lament terrorist bombs and deaths in a world such as this one, guilty as I feel saying this; it is incontestable that everyday life here is a far broader tragedy, the victory of shit over soil.

Farmers who have lost their farms; farmers make the worst kind of urban cynics. They lack the urban virtues, centuries in formation, the painstaking effort to achieve goodness in miserable conditions.

How can one be a "Christian" in this shit? It is a contradiction in terms! To hell with your wholesome family life! I will take a pierced fag in San Francisco any day.

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