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city life in the castro, scott richard

city life in the castro, scott richard
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an essay from 2015:


i don't think so

when i first moved to san francisco, i had all these wild illusions and delusions.

it was late august of 2010. it was a gorgeous summer.
the city was sunshine-filled and amazing.
i felt so alive after two years of struggling inside a bitter relationship that refused to start.

it was one of those relationships you regret the whole way through, wishing you could pull yourself away. but i was committed to the cause and the relationship had extensions -- there was an introverted young daughter who was trying her best to grapple with all sorts of abnormalities.

when i think about her, i have complicated memories. it's hard to imagine all the things she was going through. her dad was trying to come out of the closet, her parents were separating, her world was splitting into two homes in two worlds and there were so many circulating "lies of protection" swirling about her.

she was shy and judgmental. she was haughty and soft-hearted. she was spoiled and intelligent. she could cut you like a knife but lacked any deeper skills in healing those wounds. she was a child of money and privilege .

and she was half-white and half-japanese -- a genetic combination that arbitrarily placed her into the group of kids that were like her.

isn't that interesting?

does it seem odd that kids seek out those who are like them intrinsically? so her friends were mostly children of mixed-race parentage.

but she lived in the most expensive neighborhood in the entire region. so it wasn't some kind of ghetto experience where racism plays a huge factor. it seemed to play a tinier factor.

but we really don't have a term for children like her. even the u.s. president still gets called black when he isn't black at all. whatever THAT means.

and everyone dislikes the word mulatto.
it's too equine...

so why the fuck can't we come up with a delightful sounding word that describes the offspring of "unlike" people? are we really that uncreative? or are we racists? do these new children scare us that way that i scared my own parents and their church friends? is there really nothing we can do on this subject of identification?

i wonder what it would be like to be in that ambiguous color category. it's bad enough being white if you're an artist. white is so not a color!!!! that's the funny thing. or something like that.

ultimately, isn't it just the color of your money that really matters??!!

anyway, it was more like super rich kids trying to fit in and be cool. she went to school in montecito with little ones like billy baldwin's children who were treated to the good life on a constant basis. her "competition" was the elite. and she had UNIQUE factor on her side.

for me, having had a lot of teaching experience with exceptional children and prodigies, i was up for the challenge.

and it was worth it.

we read together and watched tv together. she hated that i talked the whole time the tv was on. and then, eventually, she stopped shushing me and started talking to the tv and me, too. we'd laugh at camera angles and gaffer errors. we'd talk about hidden product placement and why burberry would be big sales in the coming years and how kids' television, more than any other kind of programming trains them for consumption.

and we would sit and talk about what we saw and we'd read fashion magazines and talk about what we saw and how fashion and money and fame worked in our society. i ordered her subscriptions for j14, seventeen, vogue junior, people magazine, etc.

we smelled perfume samples together and we closed our eyes and talked about what we smelled [see pics below].

we sewed and we gardened and we hung out a lot. we read christian dior's little book of fashion and learned why everything he wrote was so darn awesome and easy to understand.

we talked about how women have so many different kinds of bodies and how it's easy to want to look different than you do, but how important it is to accept who you are no matter what.

and she would come down to my studio and play with the cat and run out into the yard. she'd watch me paint and lounge on the furniture. she was very easy to be around.

and she blossomed into the most beautiful person. she became less afraid of herself.

yes, it took about 8 months to go from being a complete stranger and "weirdo" to her friend, but ultimately, it was like seeing a glimpse of fatherhood.

and fatherhood isn't something that homosexuals were allowed to have when i was young. unless you wanted to be a liar and fake everyone out and impregnate a woman under false pretenses. you know, marry her, take her life away, let her believe she's got it made. that kind of sickening cruelty...

when i was young, people said i should kill myself. that i deserved to die for being different than they were. and they killed people in my town. they'd beat them to death with baseball bats and got away with it. homo hate was thick in san diego. it was brutal.

and as much as i hated myself for being gay and not being able to change myself to fit in with society, i couldn't hate myself enough to implicate others in it. i could never hate myself that much. which is why i killed myself. i wanted to be done with the hate. i wanted to silence all the haters and their voices and their judgment. and while i didn't die for some unknown reason way back when -- i should have -- i did silence those voices.

they died instead of me.

nowadays, in our system of extreme narcissistic capitalism, it is easy to forget that people lived in fear for their lives for being out and gay.

so, returning to the city for me was this huge exhalation.
i was returning to the gay bosom of the world -- the largest gay community to ever really take up occupational status and stay for decades. the glorious castro (though, no more).

i was giving up santa barbara and the empty beauty that that life afforded me and adopting city life. and i was losing my "fatherhood". and that broke my heart.

but, aside from the young daughter that had become more and more a part of me over time, there was nothing for me in that town anymore. my "partner" was really just an old child. he would have meltdowns that led to these furious temper tantrums. and he would do it in front of her.

the level of childishness was astounding. i would sit there in silence cringing as he did his strange and disassociated dance with life. and she would get closer and closer the more he got further and further away.

soon, she was coming to me for everything, as though i were her dad. and that's when i knew i had to leave.

i wasn't her father and could never be her father.
her father was supposed to be my boyfriend but it was like having a big apish child around that would throw things at the wall or try to make petulance into a deity. he had this way of destroying everything around him. including me.

finally, after going on what should have been this insanely wonderful birthday travel party for the little one's 10th birthday -- which included a four day trip to las vegas (three high end shows, a gigantic suite at the four seasons, the beach and wave pool, eating out, luxury binging, etc.), and a three day visit to san diego (exclusive passes to sea world and the san diego zoo), i just gave up.

it was as if nothing we were doing mattered.
it was just icing. it was the best and the finest, but the level of appreciation was so embarrassingly low and her dad was online constantly -- his phone or his lap top. living some kind of different life somewhere else, quite satisfied to ignore the both of us.

and she was incredibly worn out by all the gifts and extroverted activities. and we had to sit and wait in the lobbies of these fancy hotels while he had fights with the management at every place we stayed in (to get better benefits lol).

and i had hit the fan. silently. to myself. splattered in the loneliness of it all.

and san diego was my home. it was where i'd grown up.

so by the time we hit sea world with our VIP passes that got us best access to all the rides (she hated rides, so this was just another useless thing he paid extra for and then had a huge fight with her about her being "scared" of nothing. and by the time he had made her cry senselessly until she could barely breathe. damn, just ugly), i was already at the shatter point.

some of you know that my family disowned me for being gay way back in 1990. it was an embarrassing scene where my twin brother shouted, "there aren't any faggots in our family!!!" he'd gotten out of the car and slammed the door, leaving me inside with my parents in a very uncomfortable silence from which they never arose.

they quietly let my brother speak for them. so i lost my family.

but they feel bad about it and want to try to connect. especially my twin. and i forgive him. but we aren't friends and we never will be again. he doesn't understand this.

it angers him. and he's no fun to be around when he's mad because he can yell louder than a lot of people and he can do it for a very long time. once, the last time that i had seen him five years before, i had driven him up to oregon so he could look at houses that we were considering purchasing. he was going to grow weed. or at least that was his dream. and i was the money backer.

but the real estate market was sick -- total sellers' scene and everything was overpriced by about 100k, so i backed out. he flipped his lid, even though he knew it was true and that it was MY money being invested, not his.

need i say that he sat in the back of vehicle and shouted at me all the way from ashland to about sacramento when he finally became hoarse.

so i wasn't exactly "stoked" to see him. especially since he'd shown up at my place to make the road trip in a car my mom secretly helped him to purchase for 15K bucks AND the promise that he wouldn't tell me about it, which of course he did immediately. thanks, bro!

my parents, as much as they've disowned me, are big on exactitude and equality. so they were embarrassed to give one son a bunch of cash and not another son. but they did it anyways and wanted to hide it from me. and, like most of their deceptions in this lifetime, it came undone immediately.

but we still took my truck (instead of 35 miles to the gallon we got 15 and i drove the whole way). and honestly, that was quite the trip. the friends we stayed with had lied and had been evicted from their home situation but figured if they told us that, we wouldn't visit them (and we wouldn't have because it was a business trip). but she wanted to see me so bad she kept that hidden until we arrived.

so there were a lot of justified reasons why my brother was disappointed, but still, i wasn't sure why he would want to see me in san diego on this trip.

we hadn't talked much in five years, but he sounded excited.
so i agreed.

it didn't go well. he went bi-polar as we were driving up the driveway. and the yelling didn't really stop for the rest of the day. he was just so mad about everything and i didn't get any of it.

it's hard to pretend you're "family" with someone you never see and don't really care about. as a person who has been informally disowned and formally abandoned by my family, i think i'm a bit more hollow than ordinary people.

there is something fake about me.
like a wild animal that has been cleaned up and muzzled.
but people are still a little afraid that my lack of family makes me very different than them.
and it does.

i woke up the next morning, ears still ringing from the whole scene the day before. my aunt and her daughter wanted to meet for breakfast. so we did.

but before that, a hospital institution called to alert my brother that my mom's crazy brother (my aunt's brother, too) had gone ballistic and had left the crazy people unit on his own. my parents were out of town (i wouldn't have been visiting anyone in san diego if they'd been around, i would've just slipped in and out unannounced, but i still had some hope for my twin at the time). so the next person in line, my aunt, needed to know about this emergency.

however, by the time i finally got to breakfast, my twin had spent an hour shouting at me about the world and life and reality. my head was spinning so much all i remember from that breakfast was that my young cousin had big knockers now and that was going to be problematic in new ways.

she is very wise, though and i always ask her for advice even though she's literally 21 years younger than me...

so i asked her, "sara, i can't handle people in my life anymore. i'm so unhappy about the way i'm being treated and disrespected."

she said calmly, "you don't have to hang out with people who make you miserable."

and ever since then, i've been using this axiom.
(side note -- ironically, after all the berating and lambasting, i was so shell shocked i forgot to remember to tell my aunt about her crazy brother's escape from the institute. oops.)

so instead of staying any longer in san diego, i got on a train. i went back to santa barbara and i packed my stuff up and left.

ironically, as if to make this story more saccharine, when i returned to santa barbara, my guy and his daughter had made, for the first time ever, a beautiful gesture -- they had drawn me a hot bath with special salts and candles. after two years of living with them and taking care of them and cooking most of the meals and doing most of the work, they had finally done something for me that was meant to say, "we love you."

it was so strange -- right when i gave up everything, suddenly they were being nice. and i couldn't help thinking how life is like that.

how when some total asshole scrub dies, people still get up and say how lovely he was or what a joy she brought to others.

i felt like a dead person being bathed in the love of dead talk.

and i would've laughed, but it hurt so much.

so when i first arrived in san francisco, beat up emotionally and genuinely scarred by the life i'd managed to squeeze through, i started painting flowers.

painting flowers makes me happy.
i love looking at them and imagining what it would be like to live inside a rose or a dahlia. how many people could live in one dahlia and still get along?

and i painted so many damn flowers that i started to worry that i would be known as a flower painter!!! aiieeeee!!!!

two things i seriously don't want to be known as -- a flower painter and a homoerotic artist. that's on my scary list.

but we don't get to control how we are remembered or how what we share ultimately gets shared.

or can we?

so i changed my artist name and became many artists -- a flor, JUZ, bliss, r. box (active in 1992-94), ear wah ling and scott richard.

scott richard holds down the art art.
a flor did all the flowers
JUZ did all the homoerotic art
bliss did all the girlie/lesbian art
r. box and ear wah ling were already the children's book illustrators

and for awhile it kind of worked having so many separate art personalities. but most importantly, it gave me the freedom to be artistic without being constrained to making the same stuff all the time.

and, of course, torbakhopper got to run around inspiring all of these artistic personalities with the wealth of his image library from life.

in my opinion, great art isn't just about a beautiful object or a perspective on something. i think great art has a story that it tells that can be interpreted by the viewer. and a great artist tells so many stories that eventually, like a novel, there is a whole imaginary world to explore.

i have around 800 paintings at the moment.
it's crazy. they just seem to multiply and then eventually they add up. and i have sold over a hundred pieces and easily given that many away over time. so there is an enormous body of product leftovers.

now, as the end of my life is quickly approaching, the idea of what to do with them haunts me. how will i protect them for the future to see and enjoy?
is the medium really the message?

what will happen to all of these hand-painted love letters to the future when i am gone?

and, less importantly,
what has happened to me in this lifetime?
it comes to this.
Date: 2018-07-12 21:29:13

scott richard torbakhopper san francisco california city street photographer scottrichard SF scottrichardphotographer SFMET castro neighborhood district

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