Nearly seven years before I came out of the closet I was introduced to the amazing characters of “Tales of the City”. My mom’s best friend was big fan of the book series and she brought a VHS copy of the PBS mini-series over to our apartment one night when I was in high school for us to watch. It was probably my first glimpse of gay characters that wasn’t negative and didn’t involve somebody dying of A.I.D.S…To this day I remember the moment when it is revealed that Beauchamp is gay or at the very least a man who has sex with men. My mom was utterly shocked. I said “I knew it.” My mom and her best friend both asked how I knew; I shrugged and said it was just a feeling. Indeed it was just a feeling, the kind of feeling that it takes a gay man to know a gay man.
But still took many years before I really recognized myself as a gay man. One of the first things I did after coming out was rent “More Tales of the City” the Showtime follow up mini-series on DVD. I was even more in love the with ongoing stories of the characters. The liberation I felt as a newly out gay man mirrored the craziness of life in San Francisco in the late 1970’s.
The first issue of “Out” magazine I bought had an ad for “Further Tales of the City” but since I didn’t have Showtime I couldn’t watch it.
In the summer of 2001 I drove from Boulder, Colorado to Los Angeles, California to begin my own gay life in the big city. On the drive and during my first month in LA I listened to the original six books of the “Tales of the City” series in my car. I will always associate those books with that time in my life, when anything and everything felt like it was possible.
The “Further Tales of the City” DVD became a part of my collection when a tower records went out of business near my old apartment.
Over the years I have gone back and listened to the books on tape again and again.
In 2008 I was thrilled to have the characters brought back into my life with the publication of “Michael Tolliver Lives”. I wasn’t surprised with how much I both loved the book but was thrown a little off by the change from third person narrative to first person narrative.
Over the next few years I waited in anticipation for the publication of “Mary Ann in Autumn”. It was the first book I read on my kindle in 2011. If I loved “Michael Tolliver Lives” then words can’t express how much I adored “Mary Ann in Autumn”. I was amazed with the way that Armistead Maupin was able to make me care about new characters all the while bringing back old storylines. I was utterly absorbed with the book as I read it on a quick trip to Portland, Oregon.
This January I was lucky enough to go to a conversation and book signing with Mr. Maupin. I was in awe of him. He spoke of gay genealogy. I thought that was a powerful way to put it. As gay people we have to trace our own history and create our own families. I don’t know if I’ll ever create characters as enduring as Mr. Maupin’s but I can try.
Last night I finished reading “The Days of Anna Madrigal”. The Ninth, and according to Maupin the final, book in the “Tales of The City” series. Unlike with the sixth book “Sure of You”, I believe this is the last book. The characters are left in a good but not perfect spot. I cried as I said good-bye to the characters I have gotten to know and lover over the last twenty years.
Thank you Armistead Maupin for Mary Ann, Michael, Anna, Brian and all the rest…you have made me laugh, made me cry and helped me be proud to be a gay man. I’ll never forget the characters of 28 Barberry Lane.