College 1977–1981

I attended the University of California Davis, where I studied genetics. I wanted to be a plant breeder, but this was just at the time when molecular genetics and genetic engineering were becoming big things. I briefly considered switching to botany and focusing on population genetics and taxonomy, but was really disillusioned by the end of my college career. I had taken graduate level courses and knew that I really (really) didn’t need to memorize many of the things that undergraduate classes were requiring. I had no desire to go wash lab glassware as a post-grad, but I do sometimes regret leaving science behind.

I took a lot of textile design classes (yes, basket weaving–or more properly, non-loom textiles, but also costume history, clothing design, and other art topics). I learned a lot of crafty things, and also learned a bit about art history.

I flirted with the Society for Creative Anachronism (Berkeley was just over there, after all!), was a regular at the international folk dance nights, and generally moved from my quite straight-laced upbringing to the fringes of hippiedom. I was a member of the Nexus Modern Dance Collective (and choreographed a brief piece), and I performed in several productions of Just Above Sea Level, an experimental theater collective. Through Just Above Sea Level I met Barbara Hirshkowitz, who would later become one of my closest friends.

The biggest thing that happened during college, of course, was that I came out, in both senses of the word. I realized I was gay after I had sex for the first time (with a woman), and then some months later, after seeing the film Word Is Out, I called my mother and told her I was gay. She counseled me not to tell my father, which I did not.

I had a mystical experience in my freshman year, in which I looked up into the night sky and had a profound feeling that everything is right in the world, in a cosmic sense. That has been both comforting and not in the years since. As part of my experiments with spirituality, later in my college years, inspired by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in nearby San Francisco, I started an order of gay male nuns: The Order of the Candle Burnt at Both Ends. (Nearby in California terms!)

Concerts during this time:

  • Starland Vocal Band (at the Utah State Fair, of all places)
  • Talking Heads
  • B‑52s
  • The Ramones
  • Martha Graham Dance Company
  • Lena Horne (front row! as a guest of someone I was dating who was older and had more money)
  • Don Giovanni (ditto! to the company, not the seat location)

San Francisco 1981–1985