By Jeff Walsh
When I moved to San Francisco in 1996, one of my first purchases was a trade paperback of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City," from the recently-closed gay bookstore in the Castro. I'd previously watched the PBS mini-series, but it seemed a necessary book to read upon moving here. The book begins with Mary Ann Singleton, in San Francisco on vacation from Cleveland, calling her mother to say she isn't coming home, she's staying in this enchanted city.
To fans of the book, Mary Ann, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver and Anna Madrigal aren't mere literary characters. Mary Ann is the eyes of the piece that clearly see the magic of San Francisco. Mouse is its heart yearning for connection. And Anna is its soul welcoming us unconditionally with joints taped to our apartment doors, whose 'anything goes' attitude is earned through her life experience.
They are an important part of our lives, and capture the magic and allure of a city where people come to redefine themselves, find love, build community, and explore... well, pretty much anything they want to.
So, going to see a new musical based on "Tales of the City," featuring music from members of the Scissor Sisters, and both the writer and director behind Avenue Q, had me of two minds. I couldn't wait to see it, but I was also nervous they might fail to capture the essence of the piece. (I'm well aware the second concern is a bit much, but what I can say? I should have been tipped off that the team knew what it was doing by the Tales of the City-branded condoms and rolling papers at the merchandise table.)
By Jeff Walsh
Reading "Michael Tolliver Lives," the latest installment of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series (though the author decries such classification), something is amiss.
Now, truth be told, I'm a bit of a drama queen. So, when I moved to San Francisco more than 11 years ago, on my first day in town I bought a trade paperback version of Tales of the City at A Different Light, the gay bookstore on Castro Street, and started to read about the city as I was first discovering it myself.
Then, I was reading about a city that no longer existed, with the sexual revolution pretty much dead and the ravages of AIDS having hit urban areas pretty hard. But, there was still magic in those books and you can still see some of that magic when you look hard enough. (If you want to cheat, go to a gay bar here during gay pride, tourists drop their guard about how amazing this place is much easier than the embittered locals.)
The series painted a picture of an amazing city, a group of friends, and over the course of many books, we saw their lives intertwine, separate, and change direction. The series was never more than Maupin's simultaneous diary and love letter to the city. So, reading this latest entry, there are too many things that I know are about Maupin, and it was too hard to rejoin the world of Michael "Mouse" Tolliver on this journey.