Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Magic of Maupin

A few months ago, I finished reading Armistead Maupin's final installment in the 'Tales of The City' series entitled 'Mary Ann in Autumn'.  It was amazing to catch up on the lives of the characters (plus a few new ones) from Barbary Lane.  As the title suggests, Maupin's latest book is contemporary.  -hard to believe that Mary Ann is now well into middle-age, Mrs. Madrigal is just plain aged, and that the repercussions of actions from 40 years ago come back in such an unsettling way to haunt us.

I devotedly watched the series when 'Tales' was broadcast on public television some 20-odd years ago.  The show resonated and stayed with me for a long time thereafter.  While reading AM's latest work, I couldn't help but visualize Mary Ann (Laura Linney), Mrs. Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), and that kick-ass actress who played Janis Joplin as Mrs. Mad's daughter as I turned page after page.

As I read, I thought about how some of my own family members in 1970s San Francisco had lived their version of 'Tales'.  Gay, attractive and coupled, my Uncle Gerry ('Scotty' to his friends) and 'Uncle' Ric lived, for some number of years, in an apartment on Fulton Street in SF.  They owned a small business together maintaining plants in the office buildings of downtown San Francisco.  Some years after Gerry died, I found out how much both he and Ric liked to 'party'.  I can almost see them socialising together with 'Mouse' from 'Tales' at that gay bar on 18th (whose name escapes me) that has since been turned into a Starbuck's coffee shop.

Today is both Uncle Gerry's and my father's birthday.  They would have been 69 and 72 years old, respectively.  Both Dad and Gerry were complete characters.  They spoke to each other in well-honed, silly voices with an eye-brow pitched and teeth purposely bucked for dramtic effect.  They'd make each other laugh until their eyes watered.  As a young teen, I couldn't pinpoint what it was, exactly, that made them laugh so.  It was all a bit beyond me.  Sexual innuendo and goofiness rolled into one was their trade.

Unlike with the well-rounded characters of 'Tales' who, over the years, have become an almost extended family of sorts, I can't just pop open a book and find out how Dad and Gerry are getting on now in their later years.  I have memories and photos to remind me, and, only sometimes, that's enough.

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