One person’s trash is another person’s treasure

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

I spent 8 hours yesterday sorting through bins of donated goods at Goodwill in San Francisco. As I mentioned previously, it is part of my court-ordered work program to avoid jail for my DUI. It was an eye-opening experience, and quite back-breaking as well. I guess I am in disbelief about the amount of junk that people donate — I would also say that some portion of it is nothing better than garbage.

I saw complete sets of china, complete with silver and serving utensils. Some pieces did not survive the trip to the warehouse; most did. There were countless baby toys, obviously given away when the kids grew older. Breast pumps (they get discarded), VHS tapes (obsolete), crutches, life jackets, and too many vases to count, some full of cobwebs probably emerging from a dusty garage for the first time in a decade.

Oh yes – some of the ugliest “art” I’ve ever seen. Do you remember the pink frames in the 1980s that contained “contemporary” prints of blue flowers? Many are making their way into Goodwill as I write. And, good (and bad) news for Kalvin — I saw at least 30 Hello Kity toys, prints, and games make their way to my table.

What I did learn was that Goodwill is probably one of the most efficient recyclers of all this junk I’ve seen. Every item gets sorted, cleaned, tagged and returned to somebody in their retail stores. The operation is quite impressive, and seems to provide much-needed training and jobs to people who need these opportunities. We only threw out a small percentage of items, including broken items and food items. On that note, I couldn’t believe that people tossed their cabinet contents into the Goodwill donation box.

I return next Sunday to complete my “sentence.” Now, I have to tend my aching back.

SWP

SWP stands for “Sherriff’s Work Program.”  It is my alternative to jail and I will spend the next two days working at Goodwill in San Francisco.  Otherwise, I would have been in jail as I write.  So, I spent a nice Saturday night cleaning the house and organizing my home office.

Meanwhile, fires rage out of control in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  I smelled smoke all day Friday all over Palo Alto.  Tornadoes are hitting all over the Midwest.  Things could definitely be worse for me!  At least I have a home to come back to after sorting clothes all day!

The Senior Prom

It’s that time of the year for high school kids everywhere — the Senior Prom. I remember dreading mine and looking forward to it all at the same time. I saw a group of prom participants walking down the street just last weekend. It made me think of the hideous black and white (with tails) tux I wore 24 years ago. Even more laughable were the girls’ gowns — most satin or polyester with varying amounts of lace and adornments. Surprisingly, today’s high school prom fashions are not that different — and the kids are probably as foolish and stupid as we were.

My date Sarah and I attended the prom with a group of friends (some couples and some not). I picked her up in my 1982 Firebird and that hoop dress of hers pretty much shot over her head when she sat in the low bucket seat. We laughed. I remember we stopped somewhere along the way to pick up beer and some other booze selections from one of our “older” friends. It didn’t matter much, though. Our friend Beth’s parents had decided to host us for the prom dinner at their house, complete with an open bar. Beth’s parents had always hosted parties for us through our high school years. Laws and liability weren’t as strict then, and if the police busted it or neighbors complained, we just went home (usually driving).

After whiskey sours, strawberry dacqueris, and other select teenage-inspired concoctions, we drove the 2 miles to our high school. I remember stumbling a bit as I tried to pull Sarah out of the Firebird. I took her arm and walked her into our purple gymnasium. There to greet us was my mom and my Aunt Ruth. We must have reeked of fermented fruit as my mother gave me that knowing glance I knew oh so well. After saying our goodbyes, we took to the dance floor for the “Grand March.” Basically, the boys stood in one large outer circle and the girls in a smaller inner circle and we rotated in opposite directions, allowing us to meet and greet all the girls in the class and occasionally making out with the select ones. After all, we probably wouldn’t see each other ever again. Why not? Of course, I had butterflies for some of the boys and didn’t even know it yet. But, that’s another story you all know so well.

Sometime during the night, someone gave me a hit of “Rush.” We know them as poppers. Yes, we did them regularly in high school. I never knew why one would want to feel relaxed and loose and it took me years to figure out the answer to that one!

The night continued, we sobered up and got drunk again as we spent the night at a friend’s lakeside cottage (yes, just like “American Pie”). It was a memorable night but one I hadn’t thought much about until I saw the kids on a San Francisco street last weekend. And, again yesterday when I got an email that took me by surprise. It came from a close friend from high school with whom I am still in touch:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Sarah died yesterday in a terrible motorcycle accident. Thought you would want to know.

My prom date, Sarah, died when the motorcycle she was riding hit a soft spot in the road shoulder and she was thrown into a tree on Sunday night. She died instantly. Our local paper covered the tragedy:

The mother of four was energetic and had a dazzling smile and great sense of humor, said her husband, David.

Together, they had a 3-year-old child; she had three older children from a previous marriage, he said.

“She was the most nonjudgmental person I have ever met,” he said. “Sarah could mingle with a neurosurgeon or somebody that’s down on their luck. She just had a way of making everyone feel comfortable. People gravitated toward her.”

Sarah’s brother, 38, said she was the only girl in a family of five; he was the youngest. It’s been a tough few years for the family.

“We lost one sibling in 1992. We lost our dad in 2002 to brain cancer; our mom just died — it’ll be two years this December,” he said. “Sarah was having a hard time with my mom’s death. It’s been hard for everybody in the family.”

Sarah was an avid soccer player at Waterville Senior High School, from which she graduated in 1984, the brother said.

While Sarah and I were never very close, nor did we actually date, I remember her as a wonderful part of an old memory. I feel sad that we lost touch. I feel terrible for the children and husband she leaves behind. My thoughts are with her family. I guess you can say I’m realizing more and more every day my own mortality. I really have nothing more to say than that.

Getting hitched…

…no, not me.  But here are some shots of the celebration on Castro Street Thursday night after the California Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.  It is quite marvelous.  The wingnuts are collecting signatures to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage once-and-for-all in the upcoming November election.

In the meantime, there is hope that we have made progress.

Gay Marriage Ban Overturned in California

State Supreme Court says same-sex couples have right to marry

Thursday, May 15, 2008

(05-15) 11:16 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry in California, the state Supreme Court said today in a historic ruling that could be repudiated by the voters in November.

In a 4-3 decision, the justices said the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the “fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship.” The ruling is likely to flood county courthouses with applications from couples newly eligible to marry when the decision takes effect in 30 days.

[Related Story: Tears of joy over ruling]

“The California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples,” Chief Justice Ronald George wrote in the majority opinion.

Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry “will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage,” George said.

In addition, he said, the current state law discriminates against same-sex couples on the basis of their sexual orientation – discrimination that the court, for the first time, put in the same legal category as racial or gender bias.

The ruling set off a celebration at San Francisco City Hall, where nearly 4,000 same-sex weddings were performed in 2004 before the state high court put a halt to the marriages while challenges to the California law worked their way through the courts. Today’s ruling has no effect on those annulments.

Outside the city clerk’s office, three opposite-sex couples were waiting at 10 a.m. for marriage certificates. City officials had prepared for a possible rush on certificates by same-sex couples, but hadn’t yet changed the forms that ask couples to fill out the name of the “bride” and “groom.”

City officials say they’ll probably be unable to marry the same-sex couples for another 30 days when the decision fully goes into effect. But they’re making appointments for those weddings now.

Ed Harrington, the general manager of the city’s Public Utilities Commission, has lived with his partner for 35 years. In 2004, he performed marriage ceremonies for about 40 same-sex couples.

“You wait for this your whole life,” said Harrington, who said he planned to call his partner and say, “I love you. What more do you say on a day like this?”

He said he didn’t know if he would marry, but that “what’s important is to be able to (get married) if you want to.”

The celebration could turn out to be short-lived, however. The court’s decision could be overturned in November, when Californians are likely to vote on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. Conservative religious organizations have submitted more than 1.1 million signatures on initiative petitions, and officials are working to determine if at least 694,354 of them are valid.

If the measure qualifies for the ballot and voters approve it, it will supersede today’s ruling. The initiative does not say whether it would apply retroactively to annul marriages performed before November, an omission that would wind up before the courts.

Liberty Counsel, which represented the group Campaign for California Families before the court in arguing for the state law, denounced the ruling and said it would ask the justices to stay its effect until after the November election.

George was joined in the majority by Justices Joyce Kennard, Kathryn Mickle Werdegar and Carlos Moreno. Justices Marvin Baxter, Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan dissented – though Corrigan, writing separately, said she personally believes “Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages.”

Baxter, writing for himself and Chin, accused the court majority of substituting “by judicial fiat its own social policy views for those expressed by the people.”

Both he and Corrigan noted that California voters reaffirmed the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a 2000 ballot initiative.

The court “does not have the right to erase, then recast, the age-old definition of marriage, as virtually all societies have understood it, in order to satisfy its own contemporary notions of equality and justice,” Baxter said.

But George, in a 121-page opinion, said California has already recognized, in its laws and public policy, that gays and lesbians are entitled to equal treatment in every legal area except marriage. He also noted that state laws and traditions banned interracial marriage until the California Supreme Court, in 1948, became the first court in the nation to overturn such a law.

“Even the most familiar and generally accepted of social policies and traditions often mask an unfairness and inequality that frequently is not recognized or appreciated by those not directly harmed,” the chief justice wrote.

The legal case dates back to February 2004, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city clerk to start issuing marriage licenses to couples regardless of their gender, saying he doubted the constitutionality of the state marriage law.

The state’s high court ordered a halt a month later, after the nearly 4,000 same-sex weddings had been performed at City Hall. The court annulled the marriages in August 2004, ruling that Newsom lacked authority to defy the state law. But it did not rule on the validity of the law itself and said it would await proceedings in lower courts.

Some of the couples immediately sued in Superior Court and were joined by the city of San Francisco, which said it had a stake in ensuring equality for its residents. The case that ultimately reached the state Supreme Court consolidated four suits, one by the city and three by 23 same-sex couples in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer, ruling in the San Francisco cases, declared the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in March 2005. He said the law violates the “basic human right to marry a person of one’s choice,” a right declared by California’s high court in the 1948 ruling.

Kramer said the law also constituted sex discrimination – prohibited by another groundbreaking California Supreme Court ruling in 1971 – because it is based on the gender of one’s partner.

But a state appeals court upheld the law in October 2006, ruling 2-1 that California was entitled to preserve the historic definition of marriage and that the state’s voters and legislators, not the courts, were best equipped “to define marriage in our democratic society.”

The appeals court also said California is not discriminating against same-sex couples, citing state laws that give registered domestic partners the same rights as spouses. Those laws provide such rights as child support and custody, joint property ownership, inheritance and hospital visitation, and access to divorce court.

But domestic partners are denied marital benefits under federal law, which means they can’t file joint federal tax returns, collect Social Security survivors’ benefits or sponsor one another as immigrants.

The suits before the court relied on the California Constitution, which state courts have long interpreted as being more protective of individual rights than the U.S. Constitution. The initiative that California voters are likely to consider in November would write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state Constitution, a step already taken by voters in half the states.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has twice vetoed same-sex marriage bills, citing the 2000 ballot measure that reaffirmed California’s opposite-sex-only marriage law. That initiative was not a constitutional amendment.

The governor issued a statement today saying, “I respect the court’s decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling.” He also reiterated his opposition to the constitutional amendment that is likely to be on the November ballot.

Suits similar to those that went before the California Supreme Court have been filed in other states, but only the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that the state’s constitution gives gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

Courts in Vermont and New Jersey have found their states’ marriage laws discriminatory but left the remedy up to state legislatures, which opted in both cases for civil unions for same-sex couples rather than marriage. A similar ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court in 1993 was overturned by a ballot initiative.

The California case is In re Marriage Cases, S147999. The ruling is available at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions.

Chronicle staff writers Cecilia M. Vega and Heather Knight contributed to this report. E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/15/BAGAVNC5K.DTL

The Jimmi and Dan Variety Cast #30: A Tribute to the Gay Tony Awards and Xanadu!

The boys are back (after a long hiatus), celebrating the Tony nominations this morning for Xanadu on Broadway with producers Tara Smith and Brian Swibel. They join us live to discuss the show and the nominations — get it here first.  The show rocks and if you are in New York, run (don’t walk) to get tickets. I will.

And, the Tonys are on CBS on June 10 (not June 15).

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Here are the Producers of Xanadu — Brian is on the far left and Tara on the far right. Thanks for doing our little ‘ole gay show! Robert Ahrens is the producer in the middle who acquired the stage rights and made the show possible. He is also mentioned in the podcast as the guy who observed unlicensed performances of “Xanadu” happening in theaters.

Tranny train attack

Seen on my train ride to work just now.

A tranny trying to sneak a ride on CalTrain assaulted a conductor and spit in her face — then pranced off the train in badly fitting high heels. Right now, she is getting arrested. And, I am being questioned as a witness.

Never a dull moment!