Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Essential


I love it when I call a doctor’s office to make an appointment, and they say how are you? I wonder if there will ever be a point where lying in bed wired in the morning means I’ll actually feel good when I get up. Today I convinced myself that I would move into the apartment on the top floor to get away from the smokers downstairs, but then when I got up I realized I could never move anywhere again. My therapist told me my head is part of my body, but I’m still not sure what to think about that.

I agree that it sounds hard to wrap your head around an argument. But what if my free association is only dissociation? Saul Bellow’s blurb on the cover of this book says “In Levi’s writing, nothing is superfluous and everything is essential.” Which makes me wonder about Saul Bellow’s writing. When someone says when was the last time you had a good night of sleep, isn’t that assuming there was a first time? Stop making assumptions about my presumptions.

When I suddenly feel good but not in that wired way that’s just the flip side of tired, why can’t it always be like this? It’s already gone, that feeling, but I’m trying to hold onto it anyway: more breath going into my back, a softness in my head, how to get there more often instead of crashing into oblivion so fast. Food helps, I mean it helps me get to oblivion, how do I get food to help with something else? And there goes my brain, fading away from the computer pixels.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I guess I would call this a dream

Amy Goodman is shooting Democracy Now in my apartment. I’m sleeping on the carpet in the entryway with all my blankets, and I think of trying to explain that I’m there because there’s more air, but she’s already downstairs in the basement with today’s guest who maybe I’m supposed to recognize. I go outside to look for a ride and there’s a huge plume of black smoke in the near distance, that must have been what I smelled last night, is there a problem? But now this is normal, San Francisco is always burning, and the people who pick me up are on the way to an NA meeting, I find this out because they’re testing me to see if I’m tired because I partied last night, it was Valentine’s Day, and I’m still not wearing any clothes except boxer shorts while we drive in the wrong direction and the guy in the back seat with me pushes his foot into my crotch while looking in the other direction, white tube socks and it feels kind of good. Just when I think they’ve taken me too far to ever get back, we turn around and we’re on a highway. This is like the desert, someone says, and it is the desert, I know because I lived in New Mexico, we’re driving all the way back and somehow this is comforting.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sweating

I’ll admit it: sometimes, in the morning, while I’m cooking, I make up names for the vegetables. Cauli and her Flower. The Brox. But who would imagine that one day I would dance in the kitchen to a song that goes “the boys are hot, the girls are cool… The girls are hot, the boys are cool.” Don’t tell anyone. Oh, what will become of us? It looks like they’re out of the rhinestone GOOD VIBES T-shirt at the yoga boutique. But, they do have a shiny gold jacket-sweatshirt for $130. It looks like plastic. Just in case you aren’t sweating enough

Monday, April 14, 2014

This new review of The End of San Francisco is so stunningly beautiful & insightful not just about the book but also queerness & so much more it made me cry so much...

 "Sycamore’s work is in equal measure personal memoir, manifesto, gossip column, theoretical intervention, belles lettres, prose poem, call to action, and letter to a younger generation of emergent queers who, like the young Sycamore, dream of escaping suburban America for the seductive tumult of the gay mecca...Sexuality may be the lens through which Sycamore’s actions are best understood, but sexual possibility—which I take to imply the continuous rethinking of sexuality—is her real concern. The End of San Francisco is about manifesting that possibility despite a regulated, policed world, where it is always already lost, where to be ‘political’ is to mimic certain beliefs. Sycamore’s text is about enacting such possibility as a method for thinking beyond the now: what queer might yet become, rather than what it is."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The contract

I’m trying to find the contract where it says that I can’t ever have two good days in a row—or even two slightly okay, bordering-on-good days. I need to strike that clause. If someone had told me five years ago that one day I would get up in the morning, I would have laughed. If someone had told me five years ago that one day I would like getting up in the morning, I would have thought they were delusional. If someone had told me five years ago that one day I would think that 9:30 am was a little late to eat my first meal, I would have thought that was the most absurd thing I’d ever heard in my life. If someone had told me five years ago that one day I would live in that schedule that so many healthcare practitioners told me would change my life, the opposite of the schedule I always lived in, that this schedule would become routine and even somewhat pleasurable if only for the morning light, if someone had told me five years ago that one day this would become my schedule, but I wouldn’t feel even slightly better, I would not have been surprised at all.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Mausoleum

The new homophobia is so much cooler than the old homophobia. Is it my imagination, or did someone call William Friedkin a great director? Did he die, or something? When the old left meets the new left, is this called nothing’s left? Your time has arrived—I’m opening up a gay wedding boutique called Where Despair, Wear!

The sound of the birds chirping in the pouring rain: maybe this will be a good day. I’ll admit that I kind of like getting up in the morning when it’s still surprisingly dark, maybe Seattle will work out, after all. The warmth of my body in bed, even after I’ve left the bed. I just tried to say something to my voice activation software for the computer, but I was using my phone headset. This must be called something.

Missed recognition. But there’s an update for queen’s slang: today work becomes unworkable. Hoping Without Groping will be the name of the sex club I open next to the gay wedding boutique. Groping Without Hoping is the real name of every sex club that already exists, so I thought I would flip something. Hoping is more marketable than groping, but groping still determines the marketplace. Is it worse to start a horrible trend, or to follow one? One day someone will open a museum where straight people teach homophobia to kids, and the gay kids grow up to perfect it. The museum will be called MARRIAGE. Oh, wait — that museum is already open. So much for my idea. Maybe if people realized marriage was a museum, it wouldn’t be so popular. Museum as coffin as mausoleum as menace as mystery undone by property.

Gay people are getting so good at homophobia that one day they will claim to have invented it. I remember when Fred Phelps came to San Francisco to protest at the funeral of Randy Shilts, and people from ACT UP wanted to protest Phelps. But why? Randy Shilts was more responsible for structural homophobia than Fred Phelps. Shilts was the one who popularized the idea of "Patient Zero," that promiscuous gay flight attendant infecting everyone. Shilts was the one who used his position of power as the San Francisco Chronicle journalist covering AIDS to shut down the bath houses that he covertly frequented. The fact that people read books by overtly homophobic gay men as objective gay history (like Shilts’ And the Band Played On) is far scarier to me than anything Fred Phelps could ever do.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Relevance without relevance.


To succeed is to bleed. To bleed is to concede. To concede is to secede. Anatomy of a cut: I’m in a rut, and no one is taking the time to show me the show-me state. Can’t you see the state I’m in?

I hope these turnips aren’t rotten like the ones I ate yesterday. Help! Someone used the word sidereal, so I made a U-turn and you turned against me. Now I’m stuck in an elevator without a building.

Which do you prefer, relevance without revelation, or revelation without relevance?  But it’s kind of shocking that this one construction site is using real wood for the walls—it’s almost like a real building. I love it when some car speeds up while I’m in the middle of the crosswalk, just to show me who’s boss. Maybe one day I’ll live in a building with enough hot water.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Since I've taken the train cross-country for my last five book tours, I thought I would share a few thoughts about the so-called Amtrak writer's residency…

From my piece in Bookslut:

If there’s anything that all the buzz about the Amtrak residency for writers should call our attention to, it’s the lack of funding for writers in this country. I’m still depressed that thousands of people have applied for the hallowed privilege of being stuck on a train for who-knows-how-many-hours. Some of these people are well-known writers, extolling the virtues of train travel online with the hopes of snatching a barely-discernible prize. With coverage from the New Yorker to CNN to the Chicago Tribune to NPR to PBS to the Paris Review to Huffington Post and on and on down the list from the old guard to the new guard and back, this has to be the biggest publicity bonanza Amtrak has experienced in ages. It’s almost like they’re glamorizing the worst parts of the journey: you’re stuck in a tiny room for hours on end with nothing to do -- perfect! You don’t even have to pay us for this torture.

Well, I had so much fun endlessly posting for April Fools' Day on Twitter that I've decided to share everything for you at once…


Did I mention I’m the new spokesperson for the IT GETS BETTER campaign? Did I mention I’m the new CEO for Feminist Marriage Matters? Did I mention that today I’m starting the first chapter of Leaf Blowers Anonymous? Did I mention that I’m starting a cosmetics company for upwardly mobile white supremacists called Marry KKK? Did I mention I’m launching a new line of Christian condoms called OH COME ALL YE FAITHFUL? Did I mention that the Corrections Corporation of America has a new campaign? PRISONS ARE PEOPLE TOO! Did I mention that it’s sunny in Seattle? OMF Higher Power did I mention I just got A MEDIA SPONSOR — that's right, Huffington Post will now broadcast live from my asshole. Did I mention I’m starting a new line of young adult novels for senior citizens? Did I mention the US military has a new slogan? YOU BUILD IT, WE BOMB IT. Did I mention I’m on a Google bus? Did I mention I’m making a Kickstarter for the NSA? Did I mention I’m the new life coach for Lars von Trier? Did I mention I’m starting a new design firm called GENTRIFICATION MATTERS? Did I mention that I’m the new director of the MFA program at the NSA? Did I mention that I’m opening an eco-friendly cupcake shop where all the icing will be made out of the dog shit left in Seattle parks? Did I mention I’m the new director of public relations for a private company specializing in surveillance technologies? Did I mention I’m opening an eyeglasses store called REVISIONIST? Did I mention I’m opening a museum called COFFIN? Did I mention I’m opening a funeral home called WE CARE IF YOU DIE? Did I mention I’m opening a mausoleum called CONGRESS? Did I mention I’m opening a psychiatrist’s office called THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING WRONG? Did I mention I’m the new Head of Doggie Daycare for Cat Power? Did I mention I met your mother? Did I mention that all new construction in the US will now be permanent low-income housing? Did I mention I’m opening a bank called ROBBERY? Did I mention that plastic now rhymes with garage? Did I mention I’m in business? Did I mention that I’m an emerging market? Did I mention I’m opening a publicity firm for the book you haven’t written yet? Did I mention I’m opening a nail salon called BITE ME? Did I mention I’m opening a public relations firm called CLAUSTROPHOBIA? Did I mention I spent so long trying to hit the nail on the head that I hit my head? Did I mention this rendition is extraordinary? Did I mention I’m opening a yoga studio called HUNGER? Did I mention this is a screenplay? Did I mention that I’ve decided to change my maiden name? Did I mention I’m opening an anger management clinic called MY SPIRIT ANIMAL IS A DRONE. Did I mention I’m the new director of a chain of pawn shops called FOOL’S GOLD? Did I mention that I’m the new executive vice president of a nonprofit charity hedge fund? Did I mention that I’m the CEO of your co-op? Did I mention that I finally digested the chewing gum from seven years ago? Did I mention the unmentionable?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The other half


Sometimes I feel like I spend half the day cooking, and the other half trying to recover from what I ate. But now I know why they said to take that supplement before bed. I succeeded at waiting too long to take a walk, so that now I’m too tired and it’s okay. Looking up into the sky is my favorite part of the sky. In Santa Fe, you don’t have to look up because the sky is at eye level and that’s the only thing I miss. Okay, I also miss the color and texture of adobe, even when it’s fake, the mythology of the architecture like hills, the way so much desert is growing and you can’t figure out how.

Maybe there is no recovery, only discovery. This sounds better than what I’m trying not to remember. Maybe there is no health, only stealth. There’s always that moment in bed, where I’m trying to figure out if this is the right time to get up. Maybe there is no right time: I’m sitting on the floor of the kitchen, trying to remember how to get up—this probably isn’t a good sign. There’s that place in bed before deciding whether to get up, sometimes this happens so many times, and I’ve never figured out how to make the right decision. I know there’s something called restful sleep because I heard about it in someone else’s dreams. In my dreams I’m writing essays and then when I wake up I can hardly figure out a sentence.

One of the funniest things I ever said was that I didn’t need to drink, because I felt so happy: this was sixth grade. Soon enough, positive thinking would give way to positive drinking. Ride Sally Ride, and I know we were supposed to be excited. Somewhere around sixth grade I learned to smile because it hurts, lie don’t cry, I got too good at this. But there’s good news: somehow I survived sixth grade and I will never dissect a frog.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Editing the new novel, here I come…


The first two readers of the manuscript for my next novel, Sketchtasy, have the opposite opinion of the beginning of the third chapter. One thinks that suddenly the voice of the narrator feels more forced and distant, like a stand-up act, and the other thinks this is the part where the narration really takes off. So, now I know that something is working—I just have to figure out what it is. Today I hear from the third and fourth readers—editing is so fun! Oh, did you want a taste? Here’s the beginning of the third chapter, as it is now:

It’s true—I’m now doing time at the exclusive Copley Place. Not in the mall, darling, but in those upstairs offices facing the magnificent atrium. Now, don’t get all excited thinking I have a view of the broken-sun sculpture pouring water onto the hallowed granite where Neiman Marcus shoppers tread. No, no, my dear, this is classic office realness so of course my lovely cubicle faces another lovely cubicle, and behind that lovely cubicle I can glimpse another lovely cubicle, facing, well, facing me, my cubicle, and I.
My highly sought-after position consists of making crank calls for the Uncommon Clout Visa Card—you know, the card that gives back to the gay and lesbian community. With every purchase. And, when I say Uncommon Clout gives back, honey, I do mean gives back.
That's right—every time you use your Uncommon Clout Visa card, we make a donation of 10 cents to the nonprofit of your choice. You heard me right—10 cents. That nonprofit is going to be rolling in dimes way before you can click your diamond-encrusted ruby slippers and say: There's no place like Saks Fifth Avenue. Before you know it, you’ll be using that card, honey, using that card and saving our gay children 10 cents at a time.
And, now, you don't even have to call 1-800 GAY CLOUT because you’ve got this bitch on the phone to set you up with the debt bondage you’ve been waiting for. Yes, I know gay clout is eight letters and your standard phone number is only seven, but GAY CLOT just wouldn't be as catchy. Don’t worry, there’s absolutely no annual fee. We offer a low 9.9% APR for your first six months with credit lines of up to $25,000—and, you can request an additional free card for your domestic partner or domesticated French poodle. If just a few hundred thousand people use this card regularly, we can truly make a difference by supporting worthless nonprofits and other exploitative businesses that happen to call themselves gay or gay-friendly.
But there's absolutely no pressure. I'll just sign you up, and then you can cancel when you get your balance up to $24,999. I'm not working for the collectors, honey, all I need is your name, address, and Social Security number. Or, actually, if you want, you can just give me your abusive father’s name, address, and Social Security number, and we’ll go with that. We here at Uncommon Clout are nothing if not flexible and I would like my two-dollar commission. Talk about a shopping spree.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

That hint of approval


This is a true story: I’m looking for a bandaid I lost in a pot of kale I’m about to steam. It’s a red bandaid, not red as in blood or metaphor but just red as in red, in the shape of a crayon, which makes it stronger. Sometimes it’s hard to play music if I don’t want to listen to the same CD over and over. Every bad movie is about trying to get back into a dream you never really had, and I’m still trying to get out of that movie. Meanwhile, there’s this mall like a pathway between parking lots, but still it’s a hangout, I’ve just been to the thrift store so I’m holding clothes on hangers, wearing the eyeglasses I would never wear in public, so that’s how we know this is a dream. Some guy looks at me and says he’s young, and there’s that hint of approval from someone embodying the masculinity I could never attain and then rejected, there’s always some kind of allure in that.

He’s talking to someone who’s an outreach worker for youth, she says I could just say 19 and check off a box; she’s joking. I say seven. I realize two people I know have recently tested HIV-positive, but where did I see that? One of them is my best friend who died almost 20 years ago, and the other is someone I’ve never met, and I know I could look on Twitter to see if it’s really true, except you can never see if anything’s really true on Twitter. The comfortable part about dreams is when you go to a place where you’ve been before, in another dream, or at least it feels like that, this mall between parking lots or the place where I’m living in a corner of a room that’s another room and I’m on the phone with Chris, trying to tell him where to find me, but there’s too much wind, and I don’t know where I am anyway, and I guess that’s why I want to go back into the dream because in the dream I haven’t lost him.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's getting dark — Stranger by the Lake, help!

I can’t believe I watched that movie, I really can’t believe it. I can’t believe I went to that movie, and I sat there, and I watched the whole thing. I watched the whole thing. I really can’t believe it. Strangers by the Lake, that’s what it was called. I read about it — a murder in a gay cruising area, please, so I certainly wasn’t thinking about going. But one of my oldest, closest friends told me I must, he said it was the most detailed portrayal of gay cruising that he’d ever seen in a movie — they showed everything, he said — every type, they showed every type. Almost every type. You have to go.

But isn’t there a murder, I asked. Yes, he said, it’s a thriller, but you don’t see anything. It’s not traumatic like a Lars von Trier movie? No, it’s not like that — I saw that first Lars von Trier movie with Jason, and I told her that if she ever brought me to something like that again then we wouldn’t be friends.

I wasn’t convinced, but I guess I was convinced. I mean, I don’t generally go to thrillers — anything with the hint of that horror aesthetic just throws me over the edge. I’ve had enough of that in my life already. I’m still trying to get over it every day, the trauma of childhood and what happened. What still happens, here in my body, but anyway, this was one of my closest friends, who’s known me for 20 years — 20 years, really — I can say things like that now. I mean, I can say something like that, and it’s true.

So anyway, I went to this move. You can tell from the beginning that it’s a thriller because every time he goes swimming in the lake he looks out at all the guys cruising and the camera is shaking, he’s shaking, he’s looking around. Nothing happens, at first. Maybe there’s cruising, maybe there’s sex, I can’t remember. The lake is beautiful — it almost looks like the desert, but it’s in France somewhere. They’re talking about something called a silurus that someone found in the lake, a 15-foot silurus, and can something like that really exist? What the fuck is a silurus — there must be something wrong with the translation. Maybe a jellyfish.

Yes, there is cruising, and there is sex, and it’s graphic, and it’s kind of realistic — I mean you actually see people coming, so that’s a surprise. But this can only happen because there are three murders. There’s a good line, someone accosting the main character in the cruising path through the woods, asking him: have you seen any women, have you seen any women here? I know I’ve seen horny women around here before.

And the main character, he’s pretty self-confident, a young guy, waxed and gym-toned in this small town in France, wherever it is. Anyway, I laugh at that line, you’re supposed to laugh, and some older queen further up in the theater of 500 seats is very upset that I’m laughing, or that I’ve been so loud, chatting quietly about some of the ridiculous things, isn’t this what you do in the theater? Isn’t this why we go someplace together, so we can be together?

But no, the myth of the dead audience. Sit there, be completely still, don’t even breathe, don’t read too much, not if it’s too loud, don’t make noise unless you’re supposed to. I’m beginning to think that the requirement of the dead audience is its own kind of violence, making us silence ourselves in order to experience public engagement with emptiness. Emptying presence in order to be present. Requiring our silence in order to experience the silencing of the screen. I mean every time someone tells me to shut up in a theater, it ruins the whole thing for me. Not to mention that this is clearly an older gay men, and so of course I’m assuming he’s having issues with queens and I live in this town of deadness, watching this deadening movie, and anyway I almost want to get in a fight with this bitch but also I don’t want to get in a fight.

Anyway, some of the shots are gorgeous: it’s very still. The water is incredibly blue, the sky changes dramatically, the framing of the place where people park and the way that shifts and doesn’t shift, this I can appreciate. The sound is pretty dramatic too, but also kind of stupid because when there’s dialogue there’s no background sound, but then suddenly when they’re walking through the woods you hear every bug. So there’s a murder, first it looks like play with this one guy dunking the other in the water, but he’s saying stop, stop, and then there’s no more dunking, and one guy swims back to the shore, puts on his clothes, and walks off. The main character witnesses this — this is the hunky guy he has a crush on, killing off the boyfriend. Actually, it’s not just a crush — he talked to him once, and he already knows he’s falling in love.

So then the next day, the main character has passionate hot sex with the murderer, and I wish this was a critique of gay culture, but it doesn’t feel that way at all, it just feels like another movie about the pathology of gay sex for a straight audience, it won a prize at Cannes. So now they’ve had sex, and it really is love. The only person with any moral compass is the detective, of course, a straight guy who says one of your own just died, and you all act like nothing happened? One of your own: can we sit here with that, and try to imagine people in a gay cruising area thinking us? A collective: I wish it was that. The detective who says I’m not looking for compassion or solidarity, but some sense of concern?

I guess this is the only straight character in the movie, unless you count the guy looking for women in the gay cruising area. I love it when the straight cop is the moral compass of a gay movie. Oh, I guess there’s the fat older guy that our young, healthy hero befriends, he comes to the gay cruising area, but not to cruise. He’s done with sex, he just wants companionship. He’s in love too, or falling in love — whoever wrote this script needs help, serious help, like permanent institutionalization, without any writing materials. I thought I had it all figured out, this day. I was having an energy crash, and about to hang out with my newest close friend — how fun to actually make it to this movie that one of my oldest close friends suggested. How fun to make it to this move, and relax, forget how tired I am.

The worst is yet to come, and I don’t just mean the aftermath, my body in so much pain from sitting in a fucking theater and watching such a pathologized piece of shit, I mean when I see a movie like that I don’t want to see any movie ever again, except the problem is that when I see a movie like that it will stay in my head until I see another movie, the worst movies always stay in my head, the longest. I just want to lie down, and go to sleep, and sleep for the next — oh, never mind.

So anyway, now we have the detective, the older guy, the love interest/murderer, our hero, and lots of sex in the woods, so what could go wrong? Here you go: the older guy approaches the murderer to tell him he knows what’s going on — and, hey, he says, I’m heading out to the woods, see ya. Our hero is swimming in the lake. Since this is a thriller, of course, we assume this is a setup, especially when the older guy looks back in that cruising way, and the murderer follows him, and we figure our saviors the cops will be there to rescue us, or if not the cops then maybe it’s just so our hero can see the murderer fucking this other guy and realize he’s not in love, something like that, it happens all the time, in movies.

Let’s back up. Remember when my friend said that you don’t see anything, right? So, when we do see the first murder, the guy is underwater, so maybe that doesn’t count? But this one, our hero sees true love has run away so he shakes the camera back to the shore and then runs out in his magical cutoff jean shorts to hear some kind of grunting, what is it, probably sex, right? But then true love/murderer runs off, and the hero looks over, and the old guy’s lying there, his throat slashed open and blood dripping everywhere. And our hero tries to save him with his shirt, but he says: It’s okay, I got what I wanted. Can we say that again? It’s okay, I got what I wanted. (Blood dripping from his throat, blood everywhere, this is the end of his life.)

Yes, I laugh here, but how can we ever laugh enough to erase such a disgustingly pathologized narrative for this movie that won a big award at Cannes, and it wasn’t the homophobia award either. You know — the old guy who’s so sad that he just wants some hot murderer to slash his throat. So edgy.

Murder number three happens when the detective shows up and he gets stabbed, bye-bye. Now, our hero is in hiding, but will the murderer find him? It’s getting dark.

Oh — best director, in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes, that’s what this film won — are you serious? Who is this fucking director? The worst part about seeing this movie is seeing it, but then the second worst part is when I have to go online to look all this shit up. I mean, I don’t have to, but I will, probably. I just learned they used body doubles for the sex scenes because the actors didn’t want to do them, that must be why we always see them in silhouette, great — homophobia here, homophobia there, homophobia, everywhere — must be the next great gay movie.

I can’t believe my friend told me that you don’t see anything, those were his exact words. You don’t see anything, except three murders. I wonder if he was so mesmerized by the allure of gay sex projected in elegant glamour on the big screen, nothing like this since the 1970s when porn briefly merged with high art, and now we have this: come shots and the slashing of the throat, and I don’t even know what to say anymore, I just feel so sad, that’s the truth, this sadness, weighing me down, just what I needed, more sadness.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What happens

I never understand what happens when I cut myself chopping vegetables, because I’m always chopping vegetables, so what happens with the other thousands of chops in between the one that actually cuts me? For example, today I chopped three bunches of collards, two bunches of kale, one watermelon radish, one half of a butternut squash, one golden beet, a little bit of red cabbage, two heads of broccoli, one red onion, a bunch of rosemary, basil, a turnip, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting, so how many chops would that be? Let’s say, 20 for each bunch of greens, so that’s about 100 right there, 10 for the radish, 20 for the squash, 15 for the beet, five for the cabbage, 15 for the broccoli, 20 for the onion, 30 for the rosemary, 15 for the basil, 10 for the turnip, I guess that’s almost 250 chops just this morning, and I think the last time I cut myself while chopping vegetables was in Boston, in December, so maybe three months ago, but that time it was because the cutting board was slippery, glass, and glass cutting boards are ridiculous, not just because of the slipperiness, but because they dull the knife, although I guess that doesn’t relate to cutting myself today, where the knife went right through my thumbnail and sliced off the top of it, it’s pretty deep, this cut, the blood just keeps flowing, I mean, I was just about to go on a walk, but then the blood was pouring out of the bandaid – or, the three bandaids I’m using as one, really, or the three bandaids I was using, before I had to take them off because the blood was pouring onto the floor, a little got on my pale yellow-green pants but luckily I noticed that right away and got it off, changed the bandaids, and now maybe I’m ready for a walk, again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An hour earlier

Sometimes there are songs in my head that I made up, and sometimes there are songs someone else made up, and how does my brain decide? I thought about calling someone, but I decided on the news instead. I used to hate daylight savings, because it messed up my sleep, but now I’m glad I can go to bed an hour earlier and pretend it’s the same. Sometimes a dark day after a sunny one can seem so much darker. I always have various keys lying around, and I don’t know what these keys relate to, but what if I throw them away and they open something?

Monday, March 10, 2014

An interview about depression!

I did an interview with Sarah McCarry for her wonderful project called Working, a series of interviews with writers about depression, and after I answered the questions I found myself thinking: I hope this isn’t too depressing. Which is ironic, right, because the project is about depression. This made me think about how often those of us with chronic health issues (including depression) filter our experiences so that other people don’t feel too overwhelmed. Even healthcare practitioners, sometimes. And how this doesn’t serve us, or them. But what would it mean to say everything, to express it all, and how would this feel? I think it would help, but I don’t know how, exactly.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

As a craft

One consistent failure of safer sex messages is that they tend to individualize safety—communal safety is rarely invoked. And perhaps one of the reasons that communal visions of intimacy through sexual safety/risk-taking don’t seem possible, is that focus on individual safety in safer sex messaging. When I wake up and listen to a track that goes freedom freedom freedom freedom, and think maybe, this might be a good day. But then I’m trying to remember that feeling, and I can’t. If I lie down, will I ever get up?

In my dream, I pick up a copy of Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots and I realize something is different. Wait, it’s a biography of H.P. Lovecraft, but at least the cover is still pink, and it still says faggot. I’m on my way to a reading which is crowded way before it starts, always a good sign until someone accosts me to argue about gay marriage so I go to the bathroom. This person was holding the book, but she’d put a different cover over the cover, so she didn’t have to look at the word faggot. The good thing about this dream is that even though I go to the bathroom, my father isn’t there, and so it’s stressful, but there isn’t any horror. When I get back in the main part of the store for my reading, the space has grown but people are still arriving.

Since I don’t know anything about H.P. Lovecraft, I can only assume that his appearance on my book cover is because of his name. And it’s true, if more people could see love as a craft, rather than instinct, we would be in a much better place.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

The American dream

It seems to me that saying nothing in an eloquent way is still saying nothing. That dynamic between hating the town where you live and wondering if you should buy a condo must be what they mean when they say the American dream. I remember when this doctor I was seeing in Santa Fe wanted to do some new blood test that didn’t sound that useful, but I said okay, as long as it’s not too expensive. Then I went out and the receptionist told me it would be $775. I said you definitely do not have my permission to do that test. Then I got a call from the receptionist telling me the doctor thought I was abusing her medical privilege, she didn’t want to see me anymore. What is it about doctors that always ends up going wrong? I guess that’s the point of doctors.

Friday, March 07, 2014

What it feels like

Breaking news: the two sides of John Kerry’s hair have agreed to continue talking. Oh, a few dead potted palms in front of the entrance to the building—time to raise the rent by $500. Walking by a new building that looks like it’s made of styrofoam, I touch it to see. Wait, that is styrofoam. Here in Seattle where it’s always raining, I watch all these new buildings go up — soaking wet particleboard, that must be mold-resistant, right? Sometimes people talk about the endings of movies I’ve never seen, and I rarely wonder about the beginnings. I’m trying to remember what it feels like not to feel like this.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A level I don't need


Sometimes the morning brings such a clear thought, I mean today I suddenly realized one of the reasons I can’t deal when people are deliberately shady in public is that it’s so hard for me to exist in the world at all, but I’m always friendly, or I always try to be friendly, and this takes a lot of effort, a lot of effort to seem effortless. And then these people who are deliberately shady, and it wrecks me. I mean, I’m already wrecked. But then I’m at the next level, whatever level that is, a level I don’t need.

Oh, look — The End of San Francisco is a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, hooray!

Here's the list...

Monday, March 03, 2014

Umbrella

Meanwhile, someone is poisoning me through the air duct in my bathroom, yet again. Is there some way to close me off from closing off? When I get produce, they always think I’m cooking for a cooperative house. The cooperative is me. It’s hard to make decisions. When someone says does the weather affect you, that’s a trick question, right? I thought it was a moving truck, but actually it’s here to cut concrete. Maybe this is a metaphor. In Seattle, we don’t need umbrellas—we just drink our tears.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

One problem


One problem with chronic health problems is that they are always a problem. Even when they are not directly a problem. For example, you’re sitting at a reading or a performance or whatever, and wondering how much this is going to hurt afterwards. Or, even when waking up in the morning filled with ideas crossing into and interacting with one another, and then ideas about ideas, so many thoughts coming together and you want to write it all down, but then by the time you sit down to write it all down, it’s gone. Or, not gone, but you can’t access it. Maybe one day it won’t seem delusional every time I think I have energy. I mean afterwards, sitting here and trying to remember.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The world they call the world

When someone says the law is in your hands, you know they’ve never thought about the law. When someone says it’s in your hands, what does that mean about your hands? If I’m getting to the other side of this deep dark depression, yes, let’s hope, let’s hope. Sometimes the violence of people pretending to help is the worst kind of violence. I used to have a body, but now I have this. Sometimes when you are out of the world they call the world for so long, and then you are in it, this can be confusing.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Context


Probably not a good sign when you wake up thinking have I ever had two good days in a row? One sign of the lack of funding for the arts in the US is how excited writers are getting about a potential Amtrak residency. Once, I stood in a public park outside the walls around the house where Courtney Love used to live, and a security guard yelled GET BACK.

Still waiting for someone to ask for an Amtrak residency to get gang-banged for 48 hours. Sometimes I get so confused by the gender terms people use to describe me
that I want to go back to whatever it was I never had to go back to. “In the 70s, nothing was built. There was no need for buildings.” Thank you to Chiara Barzini for historical context.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Welcome


I found this disturbing sign in my neighborhood. It pretends to be a Capitol Hill Neighborhood Watch flyer, although I don’t think there is a neighborhood watch in Capitol Hill – although, of course I could be wrong. Also, they spelled Capitol Hill wrong, and usually neighbors so concerned with watching don’t make that type of error, do they? Also, it starts by saying “M.A.D.D. & N.A. present,” and it’s hard to imagine there’s really a chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Capitol Hill, isn’t that a suburban thing? Although, of course, the suburban imagination is everywhere now, so who knows.

So then it says “DRUG DEALER WATCH 2014,” which would seem a bit strange for an NA posting, since NA stands for Narcotics Anonymous, and what this flyer purports to be is a “criminal profile.” They give this guy’s age, height, hair color, eye color, and then even his home address, including apartment number, as well as his cell phone number, along with pictures that look like they must be from some cruising site, and then they tell us that he is a “gay sex-club member & coined resident ‘CUM DUMPSTER.’” Oh, wait — actually, they say that the locations of his business include home, phone, Club Z (sex club), and schools (“often with minors.”).
 
Then this flyer tells us this person is suspected of crystal meth dealing and possession, tax evasion, theft, pedophilia, and breaking and entering, and the flyer encourages people to call the cops to report any “illegal and/or suspicious activity surrounding Philip or his place of business.” Let’s back up: pedophilia? Is this 1950? Pedophiles are walking around the neighborhood, picking up kids at schools and dealing them drugs? The worst part is that, given all of the information, the sex profile pictures, etc., this probably isn’t some straight homophobe, but some gay person feeding into straight homophobia in order to get back at someone he has a grudge against. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lyrics


Just realized I’m wearing an eye mask on my forehead like a headband. This could be the new look. Don’t forget that you heard it here first. I remember when my mother or maybe father got that birthday card after turning 40 and it said congratulations, you’re over the hill. And I wondered: what hill? I’m still wondering. Sometimes I think all adjectives should be abolished. At least in writing. Her "loud, happy laugh." Shoot me. I put some fresh mint in with the steamed vegetables. This might be the answer. Yes, I’m still confused by a performance experiment that doesn’t allow late arrivals or early departures.

If there is a hill, do we believe in hell? Now everyone’s talking about an Amtrak writer’s residency, but I just want to be paid back for all the terrible trains I’ve already taken. I hope someone writes about how the freight companies own the train lines, so coal takes precedence and Amtrak is 12 hours late. I hope someone writes about how if we had high-speed rail the 48-hour-plus ride from Chicago to Seattle could be 15 hours, San Francisco to LA in two hours instead of 12. I hope someone writes about the terrible food they serve.
 
I know this happens every year, but somehow I can’t believe it’s 5:30 pm and still kind of light out. If I sound optimistic, I’m as surprised as you are. Something’s really weird in my apartment—I think they turned the heat on. When I lived in San Francisco I tried to pretend it wasn’t California, but when Randy calls me from San Francisco in February and says she’s going to the beach I realize oh. My mother leaves a message to say okay, she’s not going to call me so much. Then she calls three more times because she wants to reach me. She wants to hear my voice. I’m trying to remember the lyrics to this song.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The new cement truck

I just learned that there’s no fear in running through wet cement, as long as you’re wearing the right boots. But what will happen when everything is young adult literature, and will we still read? Remember when we were young adults, and we wouldn’t have been caught dead reading anything labeled young? Now many young adults don’t grow up with the fear of everything young, and this is a good thing. But also there’s this infantilization of the young and the young-becoming-old, and when does this end? At the next purchase, of course. I mean the next purchase. Next. And when will young adult lit be the literature of the young, rather than a branded marketing ploy helping to train the next generation of consumers to feel good about consuming? Here comes the new cement truck, filled with young adult lit, but will the foundations still stand?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Adjusting the shades

In spite of what it represents, fresh cement really is quite beautiful. Unfortunately most people only believe in two kinds of history: the history that never was, and the history that will never be. I want to figure out the exact music to play at every moment of the day, and then never leave. I know there was something more I wanted to say, something big, but it’s gone. Maybe I’ll watch the construction site again, how in spite of all these huge machines there’s still so much human labor required, and somehow this is comforting.

Friday, February 07, 2014

In my dream we will talk to one another like when we first got away

Except now there will be more to talk about because there’s been more time and we will have more space to understand and fewer ways to feel overwhelmed but still we will talk with that same urgency only it won’t be so frightening because we will dream again and not in the escapist way but the way that means we talk until we reveal listening as revelation, as intimacy, as touch, as experimentation, as meaning, as hope without breaking unless breaking means breaking it down taking breaks we all need breaks to examine to exist to explode if explosion means into the world an arrival we will not flee because we have fled already, in my dream we will speak to one another to learn how to speak, again.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

"The Brutality of Believing"—a phenomenal interview by Kathleen Rooney in the Brooklyn Rail!!!

After being a fan from a distance for years, I met Mattilda in person at a holiday party and reading for the online magazine Bookslut, where we shared, as she put it afterwards, “a moment of intimacy in the bathroom.” It was a wintry December night, snowing and blowing, and we’d both ducked into the bathroom to use the mirror to check our hair. I was intimidated—kind of star-struck—and couldn’t say much more than “yes, of course” when she stood next to me and asked, “Can I fix my hair in here with you?” After that, I lacked the courage to speak to her again for the rest of the night. But I did get to hear her read a passage from the title essay of her stunning, concentric, non-linear memoir The End of San Francisco, and I knew just from that excerpt—so smart, so conversational, and so deeply felt in its analysis of love, loss, community, disillusionment, and flamboyance as resistance—that I had to read the whole book and talk with her about it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Delighted to be included in the 2014 Over the Rainbow list of recommended books from the GLBT Roundtable of the American Library Association

Here's the list..

A wonderful review of The End of San Francisco in Front Porch Journal!

"In The End of San Francisco, Sycamore successfully pulls you into a world full of politics and desire and trauma—painting a compelling, vivid portrait of a person’s search for community, love, and self. There are so many fine passages, it’s difficult to select just a few to illustrate the depth, breadth, and originality of this memoir. It’s rare, an encounter with the truly innovative and revolutionary infused with such emotional depth.

This book has heart. It will touch yours in ways you never imagined."

Monday, January 20, 2014

A political stance


Instead of nonprofit, what about no-profit? A political stance, not just a money laundering scheme. Two UPS trucks, parked back to back, maybe someone will write a song about this. So how is it that I just became calm, after a day that felt like everything struggling against nothing. Struggling just to function, which means not functioning. Not functioning in the ways I would like. And is it really just from one week in the dryness of Montana that means my hands and feet so chapped, toes swollen, castor oil all over my hands, moisturizer on feet but within a few minutes they’re dry again.

Today the caretaker at Volunteer Park asked me if I inherited my wardrobe. I love that idea. But I still don’t understand why anyone would want to understand Hollywood. When you’re writing a novel and you start to wonder if this happened—that’s definitely a good sign. Anyone who thinks it's good to live in Seattle if you have migraines is missing the point because these migraines started in Seattle. Maybe there’s nothing comforting. The worst illusion of safety is safety.

I never thought I’d say this, but it’s kind of fun to get up when it’s still dark out, watching the sky go from black to purple to cobalt then something like lavender as the sun rises except then Seattle realness kicks in and it fades to gray. Before two weeks ago, I don’t think I had ever been up before sunrise, except when I was still up from the night before.

Funny that when I did a lot of drugs I always thought I needed to sleep for eight hours exactly, so I would set my alarm to make sure I didn’t sleep too much. And then sometimes I would stay up all night just to reset my body, although I’m not sure what I meant by that exactly. Maybe just caffeine. But what I meant by resetting my body? Maybe it’s good that now I have no idea.

When you lie down on the stretching mat, close your eyes and end up falling asleep. When editing on my new novel is going so well that nothing can touch me—except wait, I better go outside before I turn into a computer. Before there was the screen there was The Scream. Apparently my computer thinks I live in Potwin, Kansas. Should I think about moving?

Whenever you think your memory is not as good as it used to be, it’s important to remember that there used to be less to remember. If your memory is good, then everything you remember is not. From academia to the art world to Gary Shteyngart, someone needs to end this obsession with packaging success as failure. Best Sale of Failure: Success is so Next-season. What if we woke up and everyone wrote like Renee Gladman? “ALL SYSTEMS HAVE COLLAPSED. PEOPLE AND MONEY ARE ONE.” One problem I have with humans is the chain reaction of human thought. Maybe I mean action. One problem I have with human action is human thought.

I wake up thinking that dusts would be a great word. Not that I think we should have sports teams. Last night there were all these screaming drunk people walking uphill towards Broadway and I thought oh, someone won something. Luckily it stopped after a few minutes: there aren’t many bars around here anymore because this is a gay neighborhood—we have banks, supermarkets, and a new OfficeMax.

I wake up thinking about this system we call. Legal. So I wake up thinking about depression. Maybe I already told you that. THE MARKETING OF FAILURE IS OBNOXIOUS. Some of us are trying to express with words what cannot be expressed with words and this is comforting. But it’s hard not to eat what makes you sick when that’s what eating does.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dream of the city


It’s obvious that a gated community is a graveyard. A graveyard has gates, to protect the dead from the living. I’m worried that’s what the city is becoming, suburban suspicion repackaged as imagination, consumption rebranded as creativity. Every new building looks like an office park, and we all know an office park is another kind of graveyard, walling off dreams in search of profit. This is where people want to live now. Driving into this new building, a high-rise, a high-rise with a view, looking out and thinking this is the life.

A graveyard can be a beautiful place to imagine the dead and our lives that remain, to study the stones and names and look at the way that tree pushes those graves to the side, another kind of history. A graveyard can be a beautiful place to get away from the living, even just to look at the trees and maybe even sky, those clouds growing bolder. But we cannot live in a graveyard, and that’s what I’m worried the city is becoming: a graveyard of ideas walling us into stagnation. Dead ideas are easier to cultivate, maybe a little bit of formaldehyde will do the trick.

The dream of the city is that you will meet everything and everyone you never imagined. Does this dream even exist anymore?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I didn't realize people watched the Golden Globes


Positive thinking is the worst thing I can imagine. Breaking into the art world vs. Breaking the art world. Someone needs to end the phrase I SOLD THE BOOK. Because you’ve been working on it for five years, is selling it really the most important thing? Of course, it’s wonderful to get it published, and to announce that, but can’t we make that announcement instead of immediately monetizing it? Especially when most people are getting basically nothing for something they worked on for so long, in so many ways both describable and indescribable.
 
Given their track record, I think we should change Google Alerts to Google UnAlerts. Anyone who says they’re not judging is obviously judging. Queers who like Dennis Cooper disturb me, but straight guys? That’s just scary. When CALL FOR ARTISTS really means PAY US TO SHOW YOUR WORK. Besides, what could be worse than someone who says they’re not judging? Isn’t judging what means we’re alive? And, it would be nice if the toilet actually flushed.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The problem with the past


Oh, the posthumous canonization machine must stop, please make it stop. PLEASE STOP THE CANON. I have never been a weekend person, but one good thing about the weekend is that they actually turn the heat on in my building between 9 and 5. You know, because if we’re here during the week at that time, obviously we shouldn’t be. One of the problems with the current situation where no one uses the phone as the phone anymore is that my mother does.

If we need a canon, it should be the Homophobia Canon. The Misogyny Canon. The Racism Canon. Oh, wait, we already have those. But I mean if we need a canon, it should be what not to read. I guess we already have that too, but it needs to be relabeled. Serious relabeling is necessary. Excuse me, but I might just need to endlessly type the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon the canon the cannon. This project of creating an alternate canon (or canons) is seriously misguided. It’s not who’s in the canon that matters, it’s who’s not. And here’s the story of Seattle: suddenly it’s sunny. But not for long. The problem with the past is the present.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Oh, look, I reviewed Sex Workers Unite by Melinda Chateauvert for the San Francisco Chronicle...

Bay Area sex worker activist Carol Leigh coined the gender-neutral term "sex work" in 1978 to describe the myriad ways that people exchange sexual services for money, from street prostitution to phone sex, stripping to erotic massage to nude computer repair. The beauty of the term is its expansiveness - if both sex and work are part of everyday experience, what exactly constitutes sex work? Go ahead - think about that meaningful glance you got from the bank teller when you were making a deposit.

Here I am


            Don’t you love it when a receipt for $320.19 of groceries tell you at the bottom: YOU SAVED $.39. I also get pretty excited when the size of a bunch of kale shrinks by one half, and the price goes down by a quarter. My first thought when returning to Seattle: It’s dark here. (But it’s night.) And then, driving through downtown and the International District: this is bleak. And then, getting closer to my neighborhood: I LIVE IN THIS SUBURBAN HELLHOLE?! And:
There’s an OfficeMax on Broadway, the symbolic center of gay Seattle, along with the eight or nine banks. Yes, IT GETS BETTER. In my apartment: I can’t believe how cluttered this is. I can’t believe I have so many plants. I need to get rid of that second sofa. I can’t believe how small my kitchen is, especially how the stove is tucked underneath the kitchen shelves. Even the bathroom feels small. I do like the new view out the kitchen window since they tore down the house across the street, the colors of the downtown skyline glittering at night. But that won’t last long.

            In the morning — oh, I love these plants! And, looking out the living room window, noticing how impressive that tree is, even without the leaves. All the trees, my favorite thing about Seattle. It’s dark here, almost doesn’t feel like day until about 10 am and they keep the lights on in the construction site all day long.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Still waiting for the list of all the books we should not read in 2014


Don't drone and drive. Don't drone and clone. Don't drone and moan. Don't drone and groan. Now I really better order something. The only thing I know about Hollywood is that it doesn’t know me. Movies, that is. Let me rephrase that: the only thing I know about Hollywood movies is that they don’t know me. I feel like the number of queer spaces where you can truly offer scathing opinions is dwindling so fast. I’m worried that soon there won’t be any left, and then what will be the point of queer? Another version of groupthink posturing as progress, that’s not what I’m looking for. When I say scathing opinions, I mean honesty. I mean saying what you think, not as a power tool (or a tool for power), but as a way of opening up the possibilities for connection.

What You Don’t Know About TV’s Top Women. President Obama says he’s never met anyone who would prefer an unemployment check to the “pride” of a job. Proving, once again, that he needs to get out more. I still don’t understand why anyone would be excited that Stephen King is anywhere. Doctors always like to make sure that they’re not sure. The Amtrak employee on the phone tells me my train is running all kinds of late. Off the rails doesn’t sound quite as good when thinking about train travel. My train is running about 12 hours late, and the bloating right now, why is the bloating in my guts so horrible right now? I took a nap because I couldn’t think, but now I can’t think. If there’s an internal server error, maybe it’s my life.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I could write about Whitefish, Montana, where the snow stays white


I'm serious — the snow stays white. Just don’t go to bed too early, because there’s an air-raid siren, or something like that, every night at exactly 10 pm. It's incredibly loud. Not sure what it's for, especially in a town where most things close at 6. Although, across from the big café that closes at 3 on Sundays, there’s a café that opens at 2, and stays open all the way until 9 pm. The signs telling people to watch after their dogs call them companion animals. People stare, but they don’t stare as much as they do in other places where people stare. There’s a beautiful bike trail, especially beautiful right now because there’s no one on it. It’s covered in snow. You can look out at the frozen river, watch the crows in trees. If you walk far enough, you’ll get to Whitefish Lake and the public beach, which right now is pure white, continuing most of the way into the lake and you can only tell where it starts because there’s a dock that leads to the water, but there’s no water. Way in the distance, a little bit of blue. The snowy mountains right there.

            Although it’s a tourist town, it’s a tourist town that still has useful things downtown: an all-purpose grocery store, a health food store, hardware store, cafes, healthcare practitioners. Not like Santa Fe, where downtown is really only for tourists. But Santa Fe is a big city in comparison to Whitefish, 10 times the size. Like Santa Fe, everyone drives a big truck and there must not be emissions standards because of the fumes. I can’t tell if they are dirt roads, because of all the snow. Unlike Santa Fe, I could live here without a car, and still get around pretty easily to everything I needed. I mean if I could live here.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

“When nobody exists really, there’s room for everybody.”


I can’t decide whether I liked this book, In My Room, by Guillaume Dustan. Something about the narrator never felt believable, his distance. His distance from sex, even while present, no, that was fully believable. It’s that there was nothing else but this distance. A little more, at the end. When he was at a bar in London, talking about the pretty boys only looking for pretty boys, studied disdain as the only way of predicting attraction. I’m not sure what made it feel so much like an older guy writing from the point of view of a younger guy, something about the clinical detachment, but it’s not like younger guys can’t be clinical and detached.

I kept thinking Dustan was really writing about the ‘70s, even though the book takes place in the ‘90s. Maybe it’s the gay leather culture he’s describing, which still seems stuck in the ‘70s with its rigid adherence to masculinist roles or a certain style of exploring those roles even when not rigid. For example, the narrator in the book certainly goes both ways with equal abandon. Maybe it’s that both roles seem the same — fucking or getting fucked it’s just a different kind of abandon. But that’s true, or can be true. I think it’s that either way it’s still a butch exploration. Not that calling the submissive role femme would be any progress, but I am curious about femininity and where it can and usually cannot take place in gay male spaces unless it becomes sideshow, stage show or quick campy banter abandoned, hidden and denied once anything sexual comes into play.

So this is good, this book is making me think. I got distracted from what made the narrator’s youth not feel believable to me, like a charade, but then that’s also what the book is about. This charade of gay male promiscuity in the face of AIDS in the mid-‘90s in Paris in a sexual culture where everyone is assumed to be HIV-positive, even if this isn’t the case. I think the narrator’s struggles as an HIV-positive man, struggles with sexual safety and risk-taking, pleasure and responsibility in the face of a coldness inside and outside, all of this felt realistic. If I didn’t see that this book was published in 1996, I would think it was someone looking back at the mid-‘90s through the lens of today. I think because of the nihilism, but also the sexual risk-taking with regards to safe and unsafe, which to me feels like it didn’t become so widespread and expected until a little later, when protease inhibitors made HIV into a somewhat more manageable condition for many. I wonder if it felt more manageable in Paris earlier on, even without protease inhibitors, because of national healthcare.

I picked up this book at Calamus Books in Boston, with yellowing pages since I’m sure it’s been sitting on the shelf since the English translation was published in1998. I was drawn to the spine because I could tell it was part of the High Risk series on UK publisher Serpent’s Tail, with a fluorescent split-image cover design by Rex Ray and I’m always drawn to those covers. And to the books, or at least to looking at them. I bought the book because from the back cover it seemed to take place in a similar culture to the one I describe in the novel I’m finishing now, Sketchtasy, which takes place in Boston in 1995/’96, but the mindset is so dramatically different. And yes, this narrator is a bit older, 27 or so, whereas mine in 22. But also I think it’s that he’s in a world of older gay men, and my narrator is not in that world. I was not in that world. Or, I was in that world, in those worlds, when they were paying me. Or, when I was in a cruising space. But I was never allowed to be part of those worlds, exactly. And, really I would never have allowed myself to be too much a part, since I was always so suspicious of the lack of political engagement, the studied indifference, the groupthink required.

So now I’m thinking that I’ve always been in these cultures — gay male public sex culture, leather culture, cruising spaces — but I’ve never been part of them. No matter how many hundreds of times I’ve had sex in these public spaces, they have never felt welcoming to me. Because of masculinity and the ways that I refuse to play the part. But still I’m always there. I’m a part, and I’m apart. At first it felt so uncomfortable, and then I learned the rules, and it felt uncomfortable, but more comfortable, familiar, and then maybe around when I stopped turning tricks it just felt like too much to negotiate these spaces and places to obtain a kind of sex that was feeling less and less hopeful. And then, over the last few years the whole thing has just collapsed. I haven’t had sex in over six months, I can’t tell if I want to. I only jerk off about once a month, I think. Really. I don’t even know what I want.

The first time I got fucked without a condom, in San Francisco in 1996, at a bar not so different from the ones in Paris Dustan describes, it was in the back of the bar and I was smashed and this guy pulled me back onto his dick without asking, and it felt so good but I pulled away because what was I doing, and he pulled me back. And after that, I was so freaked out. About the lack of consent. About the lack of safety.

But also I was on my way to a trick I believe, a paying trick, and so I held my emotions in and ordered another cocktail. Or maybe I had just come from a trick? But that kind of cavalier feeling towards sexual safety and risk-taking, I didn’t really feel that so much until later, although obviously it was going on, that’s what I’m realizing now. Realizing that I realized, but not quite. I was cavalier toward other thing, right? That mentality always lurked in the realm of paying tricks who almost always prioritized their pleasure over my safety, I mean actually the first time I got fucked without a condom was way back when I first started turning tricks, probably in 1993, and I didn’t realize this one trick had fucked me without a condom until I tested positive for rectal gonorrhea and I realized he had slipped it off without telling me. This made me stop getting fucked by paying tricks for several years.

 So I guess I’m saying I don’t exactly believe this character in the book because his interior doesn’t contain the same range of thoughts that mine did at the time. Which is silly, right, because all our interiors contain and fail to contain a different range of thoughts. Why couldn’t sexual nihilism have arrived earlier in his world, especially since the world he inhabits is exclusively a mainstream gay/leather world.

I think I know what feels like it’s missing — the specificity that brought the narrator to this particular place. We know it’s gay male sexual culture, and leather culture, in bars and clubs and back rooms in Paris, but what about the rest? We don’t get anything about the rest. That’s the coldness, that’s what makes the book feel so trapped, and maybe that’s what makes it intriguing.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

This is new, and it might be happy, and in any case we can hope

When you drop a contact lens in the sink, sink, sink. Searching all the textures of water and hair, the reflected surfaces. Go in the other room for a new one, fresh from the box, are contact lenses fresh? You return to the bathroom ready to pull open that metal plastic packet but there the lost contact lens is, staring at you from the gray towel hanging on the shower rod, eye level.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Interview on OtherPeople podcast...

This is a strange interview. Brad Listi, the interviewer, is very worried about using the wrong language to talk about queerness. In fact, in his introduction, he says he may have set “a new record for awkwardness.” I’m worried that he’s asking me so many questions about childhood, and even asking me to elaborate on the scene I describe so clearly in the first chapter of The End of San Francisco, where I’m visiting my abusive father on his deathbed. I’m worried that, by asking for all this elaboration, Brad is imposing a linear narrative on work that deliberately challenges that façade. If I were to edit this interview, I would take all those parts out, and then I would love it. But it’s not that type of interview. It’s a podcast. There are moments of revelation — I like it best when Brad asks me specific questions about language as a catalyst, naming and claiming, when the rhetoric doesn’t match reality – and when we tell stories about trading books to build relationships, trying to create space for people who don’t match. And, I do always enjoy talking about Mary Cheney.

Monday, December 23, 2013

I had so much fun writing about my favorite books of 2013 for Bookslut!!!

In diaspora all things are possible, so many things yet remain unseen.”
Thomas Glave, Among the Bloodpeople: Politics and Flesh 

At first I wanted to say that I’ve never started an essay with a quote before, but that couldn’t be true, especially when your staircase becomes a cold white blanket, beautiful to look at but hard to climb. You look for the water but it isn’t there, under water turned to white. I’m saying that the snow in Boston right now is beautiful, so this might be a good time to tell you about my favorite books of 2013 (the ones I read this year, that is).

Thomas Glave’s Among the Bloodpeople (Akashic Books) is about the violence of machetes and bombs, the silencing of literature and skin. Listen: “It is something to know that you so dearly and even desperately love a country in which you know that you are not, in fact, safe, no matter the seductiveness of your illusions; no matter your desire for safety (actual safety itself, whatever it actually is)…” Do you see how this book circles around itself, our selves? It’s about Jamaica, and the US, interwoven legacies of colonialism and homophobia and that gasp for fresh air, the way the light gives way to darkness, and how we move from literal to figurative, and whether this helps us, and when that matters.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Surprise reading in Chicago on Friday, December 7, 7 pm....

I know there’s some horrible consumer holiday coming up. I’m taking a train to avoid it, but I know I won’t be able to avoid it. People will be saying Merry. Merry. But, there’s good news. After everyone gets their Gucci, Godiva, and God, I will be in Chicago, and I will be doing a surprise reading, hosted by Jessa Crispin, editor of Bookslut and Spolia. It will be a salon at 5954 N Lakewood Avenue, in Edgewater (two blocks from the Thorndale L stop), 7 pm on Friday, December 27. Yes, I said a salon. I will be reading. Jessa Crispin will be reading, Charles Blackstone will be reading. Zak Mucha will be reading.  In addition to refreshing words, there will be other refreshments. We will talk. There will be an exchange of ideas. Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Generative

The key is to endlessly moisturize my hands. Maybe then I will be ready to go outside. If I am ever ready. I guess that’s what today feels like. I’m heartbroken by the idea that “giving back” indigenous land somehow makes up for centuries of colonialism. I think we need to move away from thinking there can be reparations for genocide. Reparations might help the living, but they do not bring back the dead. Still thinking about what makes Twitter feel generative to my writing process, whereas Facebook mostly feels distracting. But then I got distracted.
 So, Twitter can be distracting too, but it hasn’t yet felt immobilizing in the way that Facebook does if I look at it for more than five minutes. Thinking about how I didn’t used to get this cold. Thinking about how I think I didn’t used to get this cold.
It’s amazing how long something can take when you think it’s not going to take any time at all. What kind of holidays do you like, someone once asked. Honey, I’m not that kind of girl. When I first started reading Sketchtasy after not looking at it for a few months, I thought: what is this shit? Then I realized the first chapter had to go. Once it was gone, I felt better. Yes, I needed to bring a few things back, weave them into the new first chapter, and once I did that I felt like I was high. That’s the best feeling: when editing makes you high. But soon enough you will be low again, struggling over words, your words, what are these words? How can I make them work? I feel like I’m going slower than I want to but also I’m speeding, my breath stops, I want to get up to take a break but I can’t get up.
            I’ve turned into one of those people who goes for a walk in the cruising park, even though I’m not cruising. It’s hard to have a life with all this editing. But, this is my life. But I’m not birdwatching. Or walking my dog. Or looking for my shoelace. The stars are not out yet. The moon. And hot tea is officially back in my life – welcome back, hot tea! I’ll admit I’m confused by the people who write to me and say when are you coming to my town, when? And then I’m in their town, and they don’t show up at my event. Oh, wait, it’s December. I don’t understand auto-clean settings that involve cleaning after the auto-clean. I do understand why I don’t have wine glasses, even though I don’t drink wine. They break, no matter what, they break. It’s kind of lonely here in this world that’s my writing but then there’s the world outside and which is lonelier but I’m getting a lot done. I love it when I get to cut a whole chapter, even if I just edited that chapter — now I realize it's unnecessary, it's getting in the way, too explanatory.
            It often seems like those who think of themselves as on the edge feel the most threatened by critique. I think they’re worried that critique means they’re not so edgy. Does the center really matter? I ask this question all the time. Most people don’t seem to. Why do I look at the weather so often? What do I hope it will tell me?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A few beautiful quotes from Thomas Glave's beautiful Among the Bloodpeople, about diaspora…

"Diaspora knows the sum of its many parts, but not all the parts acknowledge the sum."

"Diaspora reveals the difficulties of diverse languages in concert even as it makes possible, necessary, previously unimagined combinations of concert in language."

"Diaspora creates suspicion and insularity, but must, by virtue of its very nature, also knock them apart."

"In diaspora all things are possible, so many things yet remain unseen."