Page 39 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
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Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer                  19

                  History Descending a Staircase:

             The Enchanted Cargo of the Freighter
                             SS Jack Fritscher

                   by Jim Stewart, Department Head, Emeritus,
             Social Sciences & History Dept., Chicago Public Library,
                         and Photographer and Founder,
                      Keyhole Studios, SoMa, San Francisco

             History can be a bitch. It can taunt you. It can seduce you. It can entice
             you down that dark narrow passage of time with the glimpse of a firm butt
             framed in open-ass chaps. In San Francisco, South of Market, it suddenly
             turns the corner and disappears into the midnight fog of a long-forgotten
             Ringold Alley. You see it again. History’s bold building blocks loom large
             like the shoulders of a Duchamps construction worker in hard-hat and
             wife-beater shirt who erects scaffolding on Folsom Street. You climb its
             stairs into the fourth dimension of the time-lapsing past. Your eyes say
             your heart once yearned for bad-ass boys in leather motorcycle jackets.
                In the 1970s, we loved the Eagles’ Hotel California where “you can
             check in but you can never leave.” We loved Streisand and Redford in The
             Way We Were. We loved Harold Pinter’s film, The Go-Between, and its
             author L.P. Hartley announcing: “The past is a foreign country; they do
             things differently there.”
                “We can never sever our links with the past,” Ludwik Fleck wrote
             in his work on the origin of the modern concept of syphilis (Genesis and
             Development of a Scientific Fact, University of Chicago Press, 1979, p. 20).
             At one time, syphilis was thought to be punishment for sexual sins. Lest
             we laugh at our ancestors, we must remember that AIDS continues to be
             viewed by many in a similar light. Gay puritans, for instance, in the 1980s
             concocted the reactionary myth that the 1970s was a sick decade whose
             behavior caused disease.
                The gay past is a sexual past, and that precise eros complicates the
             telling of the “people’s gay history.” That past is a country foreign to the
             institutions that house history. Book publishers and academic journals
             rightfully fear censorship. Universities and library collections, as well as
             the National Endowment for the Arts, are protective of their government
             funding. The next generation of writers and historians is often biased by

           ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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