Brownian Movement: A Journal of 15 Nights in the Land of Enchantment

Brownian Movement is the irregular, zigzag motion of minute particles of matter suspended in a fluid, and was first observed in 1827 by the botanist Robert Brown. The effect occurs because a suspended particle is repeatedly and randomly bombarded from all sides by molecules of the liquid, which are in constant thermal motion. The hits it takes from one side will be stronger than the bumps from other side, causing it to jump. In 1889 G.L. Gouy demonstrated that “Brownian” movement was more rapid for smaller particles. (Taken from The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia Britannica.)

Tuesday, October 29, 1996
San Francisco

At SFO at last. Super Shuttle was forty minutes late, then my 7:00 a.m. flight was canceled. Now I’m on a 7:15 to Phoenix and that, too, is delayed until at least 7:30 because of “a problem with the lights.” The weather is foul: rain almost the entire way to the airport—low, grumpy-looking clouds like furrowed eyebrows on the hills that surround the airfield.

This may be my first sit-down in seventy-two hours. I worked all day Saturday, finishing up a million little details. By the end of it I was sad and becoming immobile—but the evening’s entertainment loomed: Catherine, Karen, María, and Joanne met me at the LineUp, where I ran into Chris C., who remarked that he never goes out, and where I drank and ate too much and wound up feeling stultified and stultifying.

Sunday was all day with J. and a rental car, ostensibly to do pre-trip errands, very few of which actually got done. My mind kept racing—all the things I needed to finish up before leaving. So: despite the lovely yellow-golden light at late afternoon and despite some crystal views of the Bay with the water below us an edible blue, we wound up spending almost all our time in the car. Getting there is supposed to be half the fun. Sometimes it is all the fun you get.

After dark we stopped at Phyllis’ Giant Burgers in Mill Valley, whose town center appears to have been a cooperative project of Walt Disney and the Mormon Church, then hurried home to watch the X-Files.

J. is fucking lots of different boys, or so I am given to understand. He was a big hit at the Folsom Street Fair this year, and guys came on to him all day long. He’s falling (fallen?) in love with someone named Chris whose is a bartender south of Market—at a place J. calls his “new hang out.” This I absorb in silence. They’ve had a troubled relationship, because Chris has a lover of three years. The lover is HIV-positive; Chris calls him his “husband.” “Husband,” “better half,” “the old ball and chain.” When did we start using terms like that?

Chris feels a lot of guilt about having an affair, but J. and Chris have told each other that they are “head over heels.” The whole story is full of awkward phrases like these, but maybe that’s the new language we do love in, meaning the old one. I don’t necessarily know anything better.

J. calls Chris “blue class,” a clever malapropism meaning blue collar/working class. But he believes Chris is “the one” and that they should “go for it.”

Chris has, in fact, broken up with his lover—technically. They still live together, and there’s no evidence that either of them plans to modify that state of affairs. J. doesn’t think Chris will ever leave Rod or Bob or whatever his one-syllable name is. J. also thinks Chris isn’t all that intellectually stimulating—“he has few needs.” As compared to what, I wonder. J. adds that he thinks I, too, have few needs. I decide to let the comment pass. Ex-lovers feel they have earned the right to tell you these sorts of things, and who am I to contradict a universal design?

But while J. is telling me all this, the only thing I can think of is P. At the end of everything, P. is my main regret in leaving San Francisco, maybe the only one. I used to be frustrated that there wasn’t some way to make it better with him—but there isn’t and now it’s too late and so it doesn’t matter anymore.

Not “going for it” with P. was a mistake. Actually, it was the mistake: avoiding change, even when dumping the status quo was something I wanted or that would have been better for me—for everyone, I can say in hindsight. At several points I seemed to be close to action, sidling up to it, peering over the ledge into the land where action lived, but I was chicken. And Mikal said “Why do you have to choose?” which was an intriguing question at the time. Besides, it was easy to flow in that direction, as if I’d found a new religion, because taking no action was what I wanted to do anyway.


Posted on 13 November 1996, in Tales from the Road. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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