The Writer’s High

I have finished writing another short story. The world is not waiting for this story, I do not anticipate payment (certainly nothing commensurate with the effort), and readership will likely be modest, assuming I find a publisher. Still, I am elated.

Why? If not for payment or acclaim, why do we write? What sustains us? What accounts for the gratification?

It is not hope. When we are fully engaged in our writing, what time is there for hope? What use is hope?

Nor is it pride. While we may be pleased with our stamina and resolve, we know that our talent will always fall short of our vision, and we accept this. We write anyway.

Spiritual leaders teach us that pleasure dependent on nothing is the only pleasure that lasts. I think our writerly thrill comes from this mysterious, inviolable place, beyond the reach of fame and fortune and everything else that comes and goes. This is the answer to our effort, this very private bliss. For as long as we live, for as long as we write, we have access to it.

I once attended an excellent reading by a famous author. Afterward, someone in the audience asked this woman if she had a blog. The author said no, explaining that she had made a promise to herself to never write anything for free. You have to admire that kind of integrity, but I wonder: How can she resist?

Whatever Happened To Lesbian Bars?

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There are several theories about the extinction of lesbian bars. Some attribute it to social climate change, a rising tide of women no longer interested in the excesses encountered in drinking establishments. Other believe that lesbian bars died along with their fuel: disco. Some suspect infection: the bars, weakened by curious heterosexuals, lost their dyke mojo. After the most famous of these bastions—Amelia’s, Maud’s, Peg’s Place—closed down, a few survivalist versions popped up in empty warehouses, just for a night, but it was not the same. Last call had arrived and we all went home; most of us were partnered up by then anyway.

Recently I heard a woman on the radio proclaim that lesbian bars could not exist today, that social media and online dating sites have rendered them obsolete. What a bold comment, I thought, comparing the bar scene with the cyber scene. In what ways are they analogous?

The lesbian bars in San Francisco flourished in the 70s and began to wane in the early 80s. I was in my twenties then and so our glory days coincided. For those too young to remember that golden era, let me assure you that we were on top of the world. There is nothing like being a twenty-five-year old lesbian in a place all your own, with the music pumping, and you in a red tank top, with your tanned arms and flat stomach, running the pool table as a crowd of women eye you like candy. Oh that moment when you lock gazes with one and smile just a little before heading her way. Top that, PinkCupid.com.

We did not have cellphones back then—imagine! We looked at each other. We could not, in fact, take our eyes off each other. There was no hiding behind screen names: what you saw was what you got. The reaction was visceral, not analytical. And we talked. We talked for hours, sharing our histories face to face, loosening up with drink a two. We warmed to each other, started with kindling and built a fire. We didn’t wait for an online wink or message. We struck there and then.

The woman on the radio also said that gays and lesbians enjoy greater tolerance and exposure now and no longer need to “shelter” in bars. I will not deny that we felt safe in those bars, but that is not why we went. We went to find each other, to live in the moment we were given. We were young, and there was no time to lose.