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culture shocked
by katharine mieszkowski

Welcome to 2002

ON NEW YEAR'S Eve the vampire called to cancel our date. She pled laryngitis. I was crushed. Becoming a vampire: it was my only New Year's resolution for 2002, and it was perfect – a radical, elective mutation tinged with Goth nostalgia. But there would be no fateful love bite from my macabre Princess Charming, no simple desire to suck blood overriding all of my mortal concerns. My plan to discover new purpose and direction in 2002 was shot.

Now I was just another fangless human with nothing to do but wonder if the end of 2002 will find San Francisco as high on its own exhaust as it is right now. Unemployment may mean eating a single burrito for lunch and dinner, but it also means free time – that's more time for our grandiose, misguided, and cherished schemes.

We should be launching small magazines, inventing new genders, filing frivolous lawsuits, fomenting revolutionary social movements, overthrowing dated artistic genres, rediscovering neglected erogenous zones, warping the space-time continuum, writing histrionic manifestos larded up with too many exclamation points, hatching the technology to turn a toddler into a small hovercraft with one firm poke to the belly button.

Remember: Only you can save San Francisco from becoming a museum of itself, an endless homage to eccentricities and excesses past. Here are just a few possibilities for the recession renaissance this year:

Traitors for terrorism In these sorry days for the Bill of Rights, it's time for all you libertarian smack-talkers to take action.

So print up a T-shirt that says "Al-Qaeda Lives!" on the front and "Osama #1" on the back. Wearing this traitorous garb, walk into any airport terminal at SFO and see just how far the First Amendment really goes these days. (Warning: This fun activity recommended only for U.S. citizens.) If you live, you can use your story to help market your T-shirts on the Web to rebellious, punk teenage boys in the suburbs. This just proves that today the Web is still good for exactly what it was good for in the first place: small-time hucksters peddling alienation.

Defenestrate defenestration There's no more fitting work of San Francisco public art than Defenestration, the installation in which household furniture and appliances hang frozen, as if in midleap, from the roof, walls, and windows of an abandoned building at Sixth and Howard. It's just the right combination of whimsical, over-the-top, and menacing, like something out of a children's book in which the inanimate objects have come alive.

But it must be destroyed.

Since March 1997 the grandfather clock, the TV, and company have been trying to flee the building. They must be liberated once and for all! Perhaps the artist, Brian Goggin, could conspire with the members of the Billboard Liberation Front to finally set the furniture free.

The iceman cometh The clones are coming! The clones are coming! So what about the surrogates? Now is the time to start an organization to lobby for the rights, interests, and human dignity of those daring women who will generously donate their wombs to science.

Who will speak for these mutant mommies? You never hear about Dolly the sheep's mother do you? We don't know her name!

Any day now the 5,000-year-old iceman discovered frozen in Italy a few years back is going to produce some choice DNA and be ready to be reborn. But who decides who gets to bear the old man, and where do I sign up?

Uniters unite! There are countless not-yet-founded organizations we need to start. Where is the Petfree Movement, for people to defend the rights of the petless-by-choice from the hegemony of the Friends of the Four-Legged Friends? And why isn't anyone raising money to fund experiments to resurrect the extinct saber-toothed tiger and let it roam free in the Berkeley hills, after the humans have been gently relocated?

None of this will pay the rent. But getting up to stuff that's no good or has no point will enrich us in ways that are hard to measure but essential. Just thinking about it is enough to restore your faith that leading a half-life as a vampire isn't the only way to make facing the future bearable.

E-mail Katharine Mieszkowski at kmad2000@hotmail.com.