I was invited to a gay pride party on July 29, when the Pride parade would pass through Joseph's neighborhood. Getting to the party was difficult, however, as University Avenue was closed, and 100,000 people were lining the streets of Hillcrest. This year's was the 32nd annual Pride festival. I went to Pride several years ago to see Cyndi Lauper and Candy Kane perform. This year, they had 20 bands, including Debbie Gibson and Tiffany (yes, the one that went from malls singing "I Think We're Alone Now" to posing in Playboy).
I wasn't going to Balboa Park, but with the number of cars exiting the 163 there, it seemed like everyone in San Diego was headed for the park.
After 45 minutes stuck in traffic, I found a spot near Extraordinary Desserts, which was around the corner from Joseph's apartment.
Joseph was running back and forth between his party and the table he had set up to sell T-shirts. I asked him how difficult it was to get a permit to do this. He laughed and told me he didn't have one. He just figured he'd set up until he was told to leave.
I asked him how he came up with the ideas for his shirts. "People will comment on your shirt. But if it doesn't say anything, people won't say hi to each other. Rob Halford [of Judas Priest] is my neighbor. I've passed him several times on the street. I say hello to him, and he just looks down. His partner is the same way. So, I thought these shirts would be a good idea to get people talking. We donate a portion of the money to charity. I'm not going to be hawking shirts the rest of my life."
I looked at the brochure for the charity. It had to do with getting clean drinking water to third-world countries. Although, as people walked by, the charity talk sounded awkward. I think people felt it was a big sales pitch and often didn't stop.
I laughed at the phrases on the shirts: "The Artist Formerly Known as Undiscovered," "It is better to have loved and lost, than to be stuck with the bitch for the rest of your life," and "Nobody knows I'm a mystery shopper."
Some of them were simple -- "Great catch," "Author, unknown." I got one for a friend that said, "If life is a stage, I'm gonna need better lighting."
After an hour, the police shut Joseph's table down. He folded it up and moved it in front of his apartment. There were fewer people walking by, but those who stopped laughed at the phrases as they picked through the pile looking for their size.
A rainbow banner was hanging from the balcony, and a bubble machine was going full speed.
A few people shared time at the table between runs upstairs to grab food.
I admired Joseph's art on the walls and his interesting shadow boxes. It turns out Joseph has his work hanging in galleries in New York, Chicago, and Berlin. A few of his pieces were abstract, and I went into my complaint about abstract art. He laughed and said, "When there's a piece you don't understand, the artist can always say, 'It's about man's inhumanity to man.'"
Joseph said his love for this type of art started at his father's workbench -- tangled wire, rusty metal, dusty cabinets, the hidden treasures beneath cobwebs. As I looked at the art, I said, "It must be hard for you to walk by antique stores." He laughed and said, "Yeah, I can find lots of stuff at thrift stores and in alleys. These are objects that were once used and loved, held for a time and then discarded.... I think curators like the fact that I'm using stuff in my art that would end up in landfills. Right now, I have so much rusty metal and dolls' heads in various drawers."
I was introduced to his partner Eli, and I asked how they met. Eli said, "It was six years ago at a mass commitment ceremony in Balboa Park. There were 110,000 people, and we just turned and looked at each other and decided to do it. We've been together ever since."
Joseph adds that they have a lot in common. Both are artists. And they both have the same middle name.
When I went out to the balcony, I met a woman who told me her party stories. She was from St. Louis and said that she was at a record-release party for Deep Purple decades ago. It was at a tiny café, and the band trashed the place. They got coke (I'm not sure which kind) all over the movie projectors and were throwing wheels of cheese around. She said, "After their concert, they came back to the café. We all locked the doors and hid, hoping they'd just go away. They were pounding on the door yelling, "It's Deep Purple! It's Deep Purple, let us in!"
I noticed some bubbles going into the house, and I asked Joseph if they would damage his artwork. He said, "That's a good question."
I talked to another woman who pointed to a wasps' nest. She said, "They're mud daubers." I asked if she knew a lot about wasps and bees. She replied, "Yeah. I'm allergic to them." I said, "Even wasps? I didn't think their sting was the same as a bee's."
I also wondered why she was still standing out there if she was allergic.
She told me allergies to bees run in her family and related a story about her brother riding a motorcycle near Sacramento. A bee flew into his helmet and stung him, and there was no place for him to stop. By the time he finally got to the hospital, his head had swelled so much, they couldn't get the helmet off.
Joseph came out and we pointed out the wasp. He said to me, "Do you want a stick?" After a short pause he added, "I wonder how many times you've been asked that today."