Notes from the San Francisco MONSTERS Tour

For some reason, the minute I hit San Francisco I stopped being able to sleep properly. Two hours or so at a time. This gave my time there an irreal affect.

Or maybe it was something else. One thing I began to notice in San Francisco is the way relationships have been changed by social media.

I stayed with a friend I’d never met. He heard my music one day on Last.FM and somehow I don’t remember we became friendly. I have several old friends in San Francisco, but this digital friend was the only one to offer me a place to stay. This fact interested me.

I have had a theory that the people you meet through your artwork will have more in common with you than the people you meet in-person-socially. Sitting in his Bernal Heights living room, we immediately launched into a conversation that was of unusual mutual interest. He quoted my lyrics back to me to illustrate points. This was an odd experience, since it’s what an artist imagines but gets used to not happening. The discussion I’d been having one-sided in my songs was getting an answer back.

He is a teacher and told me how his students seem to have skipped over the existentialist angst that drove our generation. They have been trained by Open Docs and Wikis to collaborate naturally without much interest in individual authorship. There is some kind of paradigm shift going on here, we agreed, but I couldn’t be sure what it was.

Related experiences: I kept using my Map feature to go places that turned out not to exist anymore. It led me to restaurants that had been torn down, gyms that had left the Golds franchise system. They were like the Facebook pages of dead people, digital markers of another time, an overlay map of the past.

At my performances, I found the friends-and-fans made in real life could not make the leap to see me perform live anymore. But the digital fans showed up, and engaged me in post-performance conversation which was both personal and detailed. One brought me artwork inspired by my songs.

Another came because he saw my name on the marquee a week before and idly Googled me. Obviously he liked what he heard, but there was a different, obscure quality to the curiosity. He brought his brother along, who excitedly quizzed me about my songs afterward and bought a CD and helped me carry things back to my car. But when we turned around, his brother had disappeared and never returned. I found myself thinking about the different kinds of intimacy and distance that make relationships possible. Maybe the emotion in the songs was tolerable to him without my presence, but became too much with a physical me there. Like a porn actor you have watched and masturbated to on DVD suddenly sitting down next to you and talking about sex.

Strangest of all — and I don’t know if this is related to the digital theme here — I twice had to convince people I was gay. The doorman of a gay club became deeply concerned that I didn’t know what kind of place this was, and then a gay waiter kept insisting I had a girlfriend. This did not seem related to my machismo, but something else — it felt more like the young people in New York a month back who kept calling me “Sir.” Like I am aging out of the possibility of sexuality, and the opposite of being sexual for a middle-aged man is to be straight. After a certain age, do we have to become a caricature to be seen? I felt like I needed to wear leather for them.

The last night I began to sleep again. I think I began to adjust to the way the city has evolved. Although I could tell the evolution was not done. But I had to drive back to Los Angeles, so I got an early latte and hit the road.

I decided I will wear leather when I return in January.

© Dudley Saunders