Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's a New Year's cactus, okay?

Okay, remember when I mentioned that Christmas cactus that actually started blooming just days before Christmas, well... it's still blooming, so I'm going to call it a New Year's cactus, okay? Is that okay? Just don't spill your champagne on the coke spoon gefilte fish necktie swizzle stick party hat kazoo prom dress jello shots.





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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Rain

I'm lying in bed in the middle of the night, awakened by some sound -- is it water pouring underneath the apartment next to mine, they left the water running and now this? No, that doesn't make sense, but when an idea like this gets into my head I can't get it out, especially in the middle of the night -- I mean the middle of my night -- when I'm trying to sleep. Then I realize the sound is probably just my white noise generator, it's supposed to sound like rain but it's always just sounded like static to me. I have to get up anyway, keeping my eye mask on so that maybe I can go back to dreaming, feeling for the white noise generator on the floor, switching it off. No more sound. I turn it back on -- maybe the controls got switched so that "rain" moved more to "waterfall"? In the morning I check -- it still says rain.

Friday, December 29, 2006

California dreaming

Okay, so it's that time in my night when I could open my eyes to look at the clock, just in case it's late but I don't want to -- just in case it's early -- and then I do: it's so bright that it hurts my eyes, 1:05 p.m. That means 12:30, which is too early -- or is it? Should I get up just so I can go on my fire escape and finally get some sun? I try to get back to the meditative state, and just as I'm getting there I decide it is actually time to get up, 2:05 p.m. now, that means 1:30, which is okay -- that's when I was getting up, before this new wave of incredible endless fatigue sent me back onto the 4 p.m. schedule, the sun is setting when I get up and then by the time I get outside it's 8 p.m.

So I'm trying to break that habit, even though my mind’s in a haze even while in the sun, it's not clearing anything but then I decide to try lying out again, first it feels too hard and then I realize the towel on top of the stretching mat is missing so I get two towels and then it's okay. I'm trying to decide whether it's more important to rest in the sun with my eyes under an eye mask and a t-shirt, or to get direct sunlight into my eyes, regulating my pineal gland which regulates sleep. I decide on the rest, wrapping the t-shirt around my face so that there is a small hole for me to breathe fresh air which is kind of tricky without also exposing that surface to the sun and I don't want to get sunburnt in one strange place. It's interesting how my legs can sink into the side of the building or the metal of the fire escape and it's okay, my body doesn't hurt, which is something I've learned from feldenkrais: give your weight to the surface. Before I would just hold tight like I was lying on a piece of tissue paper, I didn't want it to either wrinkle or blow away.

But now I'm lying out in the sun -- it's probably not more than 50 degrees, but it feels amazing, although I can't get to that calm place in my head – it’s kind of dark and spooky and shredded in there until then it's calm too but all the energy is stuck between my eyes, threatening to become a headache, and I can't move it elsewhere so I take the t-shirt and the eye mask off and then I open my eyes. Too bright. I close my eyes, still in some space between sleep and the world, or between sleep and rest, no between rest and distress. But it's beautiful out here anyway -- it's one of those moments when I'm so glad I live in California, I can lie on my fire escape in the middle of the winter and even call the phone sex line just for fun, and leave a message saying only: I'm on my fire escape, trying to get a winter tan -- instead of some casual machine-type masculinity with body parts an invitation. Everyone who leaves me a message is a tweaker, but everyone on that fucking phone sex line is a tweaker -- one of them says: I'd like to be on your fire escape. I send him a reply: that’s sweet of you to offer me company, but I guess I have to go to the post office before they close -- have fun!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Why I need to get a digital camera as soon as possible

Oh, wait -- did I mention the scandal with my Christmas cactus? You know, those succulent plants with flat green leaves like rectangles except with a few points on the sides, growing out from a core like ribbon with a spine -- I have two of them, one in the Chinese medicinal teapot that one of my friends made into a planter, the other in the blue pot that used to house that purple plant that grew too fast and then got brown. Occasionally, maybe every six months or every year or so, those plants like to flower -- the one in the blue pot gets these incredible fluorescent phosphorescent incandescent translucent fuchsia flowers, the other one pale white with a hint of pink. Never near Christmas, which is I guess what is supposed to happen, but guess what? This year, as the buds started growing out of the leaves -- no stems, they just grow out of the leaves -- okay, I was worried that they were going to start blooming on Christmas. And guess what?

You guessed it -- I mean, I'm not going to have sudden conversion fever, but it is a little spooky. Although whatever -- I will enjoy those incredible soft, layered, lovely bright preposterous flowers whenever they want to emerge, even if it's on this ridiculous Christmas day desolate streets when I thought I’d go to Kinko's because at least that's open 24 hours -- wrong! Meanwhile, those flowers continue to blossom like some luscious juicy Jesus omen, amen amenable.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Something challenging and funny and radiant

The worst thing about being so exhausted is that then I drag myself out of it through pure will, or maybe will plus the desire for escape -- I mean, it's almost 2 a.m., I should be getting ready for bed but instead I'm almost shaking with that late-night energy I still love, somehow, even after everything it's brought me.

Out the door and it's freezing, I'm not wearing enough clothes even with the wool sweater, I don't think I've worn this one since New York -- bright green and woven, very Irish I'd say, holes in it and I like the way the yellow shirt peaks underneath. At the Power Exchange, there's that same violent-looking tweaker at the door, he says are you going downstairs? No, upstairs. There is no upstairs anymore.

Sounds so ominous -- well, I'm already here -- I might as well try downstairs. Downstairs they call straight -- straight guys and transwomen -- I guess there aren't enough faggots in San Francisco to fill even the upstairs anymore, but whatever -- I can't remember the last time I had fun there anyway. Walking around, I realize I haven't been downstairs in a long time -- they've redecorated, I mean it's hilarious -- like a cross between Halloween and Madame Tussaud’s and a brothel and a funhouse. It's a much better space than the dreary everything-painted-black upstairs -- can I give you some highlights? Okay, they have some of the same signs, even though they don't make as much immediate sense down here with: Route 69, Asshole Alley, USMC. Okay, but let's get to the highlights: a red polkadot hallway with black-light; a room with nothing in it but a doctor's chair and a Minotaur; then a room with one of those fake lit-from-behind waterfall neon-ish painting things but the water is flowing upwards away from the bright pink flowers and into the lush trees and for some reason this is the only little room that is brightly-lit with I guess some tiki attributes like straw on the floor; then there's a big soft furry leopard in one room that I like petting, it's cute. All of this among a bunch of transwomen of all races and various levels of glamour, from biker trash to first-time-in-drag to elegance and charm to slutty transcendence. Then these weird straight guys walking around in the loincloth-type-things they make straight guys wear to get in cheaper. In one room, there are just maybe six straight guys sitting on different sofas jerking off and looking at porn, some of them looks hot enough to suck off but I'm not sure exactly how to approach them.

Then there are some Hells Angels types, a few more well-dressed straight couples walking around while holding hands looking scared, a leather guy in the center of the main room with a stun gun trying it out on anyone who's curious but mostly this one woman who thinks I'm cute, a group of women playing pool, several security guards and different Power Exchange employees waiting at various surprise stairwells for secret deliveries, I imagine. Wait, did I mention Frankenstein? And the Astronaut? These are items on display in the funhouse, it is fun actually.

But wait: my favorite room is one of the first rooms upstairs: there's a huge wooden table like a Roman banquet or the last supper, with plastic grapes and flowers on platters with even plastic meat, goblets of red glass and silver but it's all plastic, gargoyles, a dragon mural on the wall, armor on display and then a red lamp illuminating a Greek or Roman column with medieval knights-in-armor lining the walls, a large bed with a textured leather headboard, fake torches with paper flames blowing in the air, and yes – a sphinx. But the best part is that "Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire" is blaring on the speakers -- how could I not be having fun?

Sure, I'm walking around in circles just like upstairs, but at least there's something to watch. Even sometimes spectacles like strange straight guys with baggy asses fucking transwomen on beds in various rooms, and people of all genders lined up to watch. But my favorite part is the three tough suburbanite white women with long curly hair who are maybe straight or maybe not, at least maybe not tonight, taking turns in the center room spanking each other. I mean, they're really hitting each other hard, and I'm standing with a few transwomen, cackling and cheering, talking about the welts on their asses they're going to have tomorrow after the speed wears off, and the one who thinks I'm cute leans back while she's getting spanked hard and turns her head and says to me: you're next, I want to get that ass-- ouch! And we’re all laughing together, maybe somewhere else are our objects of desire in a more conventional way, but for now it's just us and it feels exhilarating. Later, one of the transwomen is spanking the woman who thinks I'm hot, and the woman getting spanked looks at her and says you have a gorgeous body, don't you have any muscle to hit me harder? Her friends says: shush, that’s her girlfriend, meaning the other transwoman who's with her -- they're both women of color wearing harem outfits -- I'd say they're sisters, but what do I know? And the woman who’s spanking her, who's maybe the hottest person here I think -- in Egyptian-type makeup, who swings her hair back like she's definitely been studying some kind of pinup models -- she says I've got muscle somewhere, and the woman getting spanked leans down and says ooh, when do I get to see that?

There are other moments -- the big white Abercrombie muscle guy fucking this one woman inside the main cage and everyone's watching, really, and there’s a metal sign blocking the view for me and the transwoman next to me, she says I can't see -- I point out that the sign moves up and so she holds it there while we watch, and then later reaches over for my crotch and instead I hold her hand. There's the guy I suck off later on, enjoying the spectacle which here is a different spectacle than the usual one. But the moment that definitely feels the most transcendent, even the next day when I'm so exhausted that the idea of leaving the house is almost traumatizing -- I mean, I will leave the house, and it will be traumatizing -- but the hottest moment is definitely the spanking scene inside and outside that cage in the center room when desire feels like something challenging and funny and radiant, that's what I'm looking for.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Trying to describe how I'm feeling

Each time I say something, I can hear it echoing like there's more space around my head than usual. But then this pain on both sides of my head now, like a clamp, squeezing what's inside so that it pushes through my forehead and it's hard to really focus on anything.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Waking up underwater

At first I think I'm waking up underground, but no -- I can see the sun streaming in through the windows, that's why I'm getting up actually -- maybe that will make it okay to be up. Looking in the mirror -- who the fuck is that? Sometimes it's like the lack of sleep -- or wait, I guess I slept -- I guess it's the lack of anything even approaching rest that changes my facial structure, no not the structure -- the way things are arranged. Wait: that is the structure. No, it's that the coloring is all different, my eyes look drearier and deeper into my head above too much purple and red, the only thing I can feel is that pounding inside -- I mean my headache, stretching above my eyes and around behind my ears and twisting everything. As the sun is going down outside, I'm aware that the light is beautiful but the only thing I can feel is this sadness and disorientation as I'm sinking away from it.

Something softer

I'm wondering about what happens when there's a part of your life that’s no longer really a part of your life, and you miss it -- sort of -- or you miss parts of it, and you don't know how exactly to access those parts without accessing the rest that you don't miss at all, or maybe some of that you miss too but you don't want it in your life anymore. But let me get more specific: I wake up with the song "Drop a House" in my head -- I have no idea if that's the actual title, but it's a cheesy house song from around ‘95 and the lyrics go something like "Gonna drop a house, drop a house, gonna drop a house... Gonna drop a house, drop a house, gonna drop a house... Gonna drop a house on that bitch." I'm not even sure that that last line is part of the song, or if it was just something that the DJ mixed in, I just remember the night when I first heard it late at Axis in terrible Boston, and I was just cackling -- in some ways, it was kind of an insidery joke against all of those stupid house songs that say something about house, anything -- any house -- and everyone goes wild. I mean, I go wild for those songs too -- I'll admit it. But I absolutely lived for those little jokes -- my friends and I would all point each other, that bitch. No, that one.

Let me tell you more about what I miss -- that night when I walked into Avalon with green rollers in my purple-and-pink hair and paisley housecoats, just as the DJ played "Your hair is beautiful..." I mean, I couldn't possibly have planned anything like that. I miss Deena doing runway where she'd just twirl a handkerchief in her hand and it was fucking magic, the way she walked. I miss terrorizing some DJ by dropping my own runway in the middle of his straight dancefloor, depositing each layer of clothing right in front of him at the end of each walk, turn. What I'm saying is that I miss club culture, even if I can't deal with the drugs anymore -- can't even deal with one person smoking a cigarette in an entire club, it'll make me sick -- but I miss dissecting every beat in the music with someone I just met whose eyes are bulging with recognition, or okay drugs, sure, drugs.

Right now, I just want the music. I need that layered crazed abandon where every sound becomes the next sound after the sound you were expecting and you gasp, hips moving with feet with head, pots and pans, air-raid sirens, horns inside horns and maybe occasionally a very short vocal sample that references something the DJ played two hours ago but only the beats that time just as a hint, until six hours later there's the whole song and everyone's dying, but not dying really just crying with sweat and satisfaction -- bring me those claustrophobic beats until I can breathe through my eyes and into my toes, no not my toes they hurt -- just breathing through movement, yes.

One of the problems is that I can't dance like that anymore, it feels okay while it's happening but then the next day I'll feel like I walked into a brick wall, I mean my whole body will ache -- that's the fibromyalgia feeling. I keep thinking that I'll go somewhere and dance for a half-hour and then jump in a taxi so that I don't even think of staying longer or letting the sweat dry out before I get home and shower and stretch. But I don't even know where to go -- I look a people coming out of clubs here in San Francisco, and it’s just a nightmare -- I mean, clubs have always been a place where people live the urban mythology while buried in the suburbs, but also the place where people escape. I look at the people going into clubs and I can't imagine being in the same space with them, they don't look like they could possibly escape anything, ever. Or do I mean transcend?

I've always liked the smaller places on weekdays better, but no one seems to play music the way I want to see hear it -- so that it builds until you can’t breathe I mean you can finally breathe I mean you'll never be able to breathe again until the next beat. Whoever invented the two-hour DJ set should be shot -- 2 hours is just warmup!

Anyway, really I'm thinking about going out but instead I decide to go to the gym for the first time in a few months. I stopped going because even the smallest amount of cardio exercise was making me completely exhausted -- I mean, it would make me high for like five minutes, and then I would just crash, bruises for sinuses, fog for brain, sadness everywhere. But I decide to try again, I mean I really think my body needs some kind of exercise -- the only thing that doesn't hurt me immediately is the recumbent bike, so that's what I'm doing, just 20 minutes very calm and slow and not watching anyone else or the way they're going so much faster. I get to that sweet relaxed sassy feeling where even the music here -- I mean, the worst top-40 atrocities that I can't even begin to identify, songs with beats that sound like they were manufactured as carpet lining -- but anyway, even the music here starts to sound okay. I have to stop myself after 20 minutes, because I want to keep going -- to get to that softer, more euphoric place in my head.

But I crash soon anyway -- first into the usual hypoglycemia, but then into the hopelessly trying to push past those walls in my brain, pain drilling through the bridge of my nose, above my eyes -- since I was already tired, I don't know that I wouldn't be this tired anyway. I just know that I'm hoping that some time it'll feel easier, the exercise or maybe even the crash if I have to endure it -- actually, the exercise did feel easy but the crash never does. I'm not hoping that the crash will feel easier, I'm hoping for something different -- I'm tempted to say a high without a crash, but I'm also willing to let go of the high just to feel something softer.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mourning, marking

A friend of mine said to me: once you lose a parent, you're marked. He was trying to be supportive, but I've been marked for a long time, I mean I lost my father a long time ago. What was different about visiting my father before he died was that I was able to mourn the loss.

A few photos -- really, photos?




Well, eventually I'm going to get a digital camera so I can post more photos, but for now... here are a few action shots that Luna Maia took during the question-and-answer session at the City Lights reading for Nobody Passes, December 6. We all look a little... um...


candid.

(Top is Benjamin Shepard, Kirk Read, me, Nico Dacumos, Irina Contreras. Bottom is Benjamin Shepard, Jennifer Blowdryer, me, Irina Contreras. You can probably figure out the middle one.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Compression to the neck

I wake up to the news on the radio of a "young prostitute who died from compression to the neck." Earlier in the night, during that time when my brain kicked in and I was trying to calm it so I could sleep, I was thinking about something my mother said on the phone about not wanting to go downstairs in her house because there might be people down there. Who is down there, I asked? She said she was joking, that it was just too dark, that she couldn't see anything. You can turn on the lights, I said. It's still too dark, she said.

Downstairs is my father's office and these vast, empty, moldy rooms where everything happened. I mean, where my father split me open, where I was a broken toy. I've always been afraid of that downstairs, even from 3000 miles away I think. Lying in bed thinking about what my mother might also be afraid of -- her complicity, her own violence, her own downstairs -- but also trying to fall back asleep, and then suddenly it was like I couldn't breathe -- a quick gasp like I was choking, a little boy with my father's hands around my neck. Compression to the neck.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Eileen and Bill

My mother: tomorrow I'm doing something I would never have done before -- I'm going to see Eileen and Bill.
Me: Who are Eileen and Bill?
My mother: They're your godparents.
Me: Godparents? -- I didn't know we had godparents -- what were they supposed to do?
My mother: When you were a kid, and Dad and I went traveling, they were the people who agreed to raise you if we died.
Me: Did we ever hang out with them?
My mother: I don't think so -- Dad and I occasionally went out with them.
Me: Occasionally like once every few months or every few years?
My mother: not more than once a year.
Me: But who are they -- why did you choose them as godparents?
My mother: Because they are exceptional people in every way -- they're great humanitarians and very kind, I trust them completely -- they're just not the kind of people who are easy to be around socially.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Today there's a different view

I'm sitting at the kitchen table, looking out the window at a gloomy day where moisture hangs in the air inside clouds and fog and mist and drizzle -- no one on any of the roofs today, oh wait there's someone a few buildings away, where they’ve just installed new sun panels. That roof is bright white, actually it's the brightest thing out there today and this guy is looking underneath the sun panels but what I notice is that his jeans are pulled way down and his sweatshirt pulled up so that his ass is almost completely exposed, I'm pretty sure he's wiggling his pale ass back and forth for an audience. I can't help thinking that I'm that audience, especially when he turns around to look up, then backs away and turns around, pushing his ass out again in an exaggerated way. It's almost like a porn shoot, except porn never takes place on cloudy days. I wonder if it's some kind of dare, or if this is just some sort of exhibitionist moment for him.

He's wearing a white baseball cap that covers his eyes, but I can see cheeks hollowed out maybe from long-term drug use -- he's starting to climb down the fire escape ladder, but he's doing it so incredibly slow and with each step down he pushes his ass out further. I don't know what to think about it -- I mean, the exhibitionism is hot, the spectacle is hilarious, it's almost like some crazy daredevil dance, especially when he swings all the way around so that now he's facing away from the building and then I can't see him anymore. I move into the living room to see if I can get a better view, but there's no view from the living room.

The radio show was a smash!

Well, let's just say that my sleep did not turn out as well as I was hoping, but... the radio show is delicious -- Lisa Dettmer turned it out! You never know ahead of time how something like that will be edited, but I think the contributors’ readings are really touching, the comments astute and articulate. I even like the segments of my interview that Lisa chose -- although, do I really speak that fast? Crazy!

Anyway, feel free to let me know what you think of the show. It's at:

www.kpfa.org/womensmagazine

Monday, December 11, 2006

Awake again

Okay, I got in bed and couldn't sleep, though I did have this nice emotional opening moment of crying and laughing at the same time. Once I'm kind of wired, it's a better idea to get up and eat toast them to lie there and try to beat my brain, although sometimes I think I can succeed at that too. Anyway, now I'm making toast -- I'm still in a good mood, so hopefully after the toast I'll sleep well.

Maybe I'll sleep well tonight

I'm supposed to be getting in bed right now, but I just took my new homeopathic remedy -- constitutional homeopathy, so the goal is to take a look at the whole picture, and hope to make some affect overall -- homeopathy can be really useful for sensitive girls like me. I mean I’ve found it helpful at jarring me out of deep depression caves or soothing me into something else -- yes, I think I like soothing better. I feel pretty calm right now, almost confident that maybe I'll sleep well tonight, though I had to add that maybe. I just wanted to write this down I guess, before I eat some more and then get into bed -- I know, you're never supposed to eat right before bed, but I find that it's the only way I can even possibly approach readiness, otherwise my brain kicks in and won't stop circling me with nervousness and hypoglycemia. Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

By request -- Nobody Passes table of contents

In response to Elizabeth's request, here is the table of contents for my new anthology, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity:

Reaching Too Far: An Introduction, Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore

All Mixed Up and No Place to Go: Inhabiting Mixed Consciousness on the Margins, Nico Dacumos

Friction Burn: A Nonfiction Admission, Stacey May Fowles

Who’s That Wavin’ That Flag?: On the Signs, Stories, and Strategies of the Current Immigrant-Rights Movement, Jessica Hoffmann

Undermining Gender Regulation, Dean Spade

Passing Last Summer, Dominika Bednarska

Innocent Victims and Brave New Laws: State Protection and the Battered Women’s Movement, Priya Kandaswamy

Different Types of Hunger: Finding My Way Through Generations of Okie
Migration, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

What I Learned from Being G Minus in the World of Homohop Commerce,
Ralowe T. Ampu, DDS

No Longer Just American, Stephanie Abraham

The End of Genderqueer, Rocko Bulldagger

My Kind of Cruising, Liz Rosenfeld

Pino’s Father, Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Trans-portation, Terre Thaemlitz

Melchizedek’s Three Rings, Carole McDonnell

Behind These Mascaraed Eyes: Passing Life in Prison, Nikki Lee Diamond

Race Haunted, Otherwise, Eric Stanley

Why Mahmud Can't Be A Pilot, Naeem Mohaiemen

F2Mestizo, Logan Gutierrez-Mock

Persephone, Helen Boyd

Hat, Tucker Lieberman

“And Then You Cut Your Hair:” Genderfucking on the Femme Side of the Spectrum, Amy André and Sandy Chang

Surface Tensions, Jen Cross

Origins, Kirk Read

Lack of Close Friends or Confidants, Jennifer Blowdryer

From Hot Pink to Code Pink: Notes on Passing for Monolingual Folk,
Irina Contreras

Not Quite Queer, Benjamin Shepard

Nobody Passes on the radio!

Monday, December 11 at 1 p.m. PST, Nobody Passes will be the feature for the full hour of Women's Magazine on KPFA Radio Pacifica, 94.1 FM. The show will feature interviews with me and four of the contributors -- Irina Contreras, Jennifer Blowdryer, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Amy Andre -- as well as each of these contributors reading an excerpt from the book. Don't worry if you miss the show or if you're not in the Bay Area -- it will be archived at www.kpfa.org under Women's Magazine, http://www.kpfa.org/womensmagazine/
Let me know what you think!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

City Lights, thanks for all of the applause!

Getting ready for the City Lights reading, I'm much more relaxed than before the launch -- for an hour or two at the beginning of my day, I think I might actually feel energetic, until I crash -- but still, I'm leaving 50 minutes before the reading starts, and it's exciting not even to worry about being late. But then, as soon as I get into the store, I'm nervous again -- and jittery, waiting with the other contributors for the people I'm expecting -- the people I'm expecting don't show, but luckily plenty of others do. It's always exciting to see people at a reading who I haven't seen in a while -- even though we can catch up on everything, I feel like we're still sharing something special.

All of the readers are great -- it's exciting to see more of their work, and again to see how everything interrelates in three dimensions. The audience is relatively quiet during the readings, but then they applaud tremendously -- actually, they applaud before I even start -- that feels really beautiful and exciting. There's so much applause that I look away, almost sort of bashful or something -- I think I'm afraid of taking in all this excitement, have to remember to look straight out and pull it all inside and then back out next time. I start this time by talking about bipartisan consensus, the ultimate passing crime. The order of the contributors works even better this time -- it builds to an exciting crescendo of layers from Irina Contreras reading about running into Banana Republic/Code Pink in the LA County Museum of Art bathroom during one of the LA immigration protests, then Benjamin Shepard turning his essay, "Not Quite Queer" into a talk that seamlessly interweaves sentences from the piece, but he starts by nervously proclaiming that he is the heterosexual voice of the anthology. I announce that I don't want to out anyone as heterosexual, but there are several others in the anthology, including the next contributor, Jennifer Blowdryer, who points this out herself, before launching into an incredibly hilarious reading of her essay about passing as crazy to get SSI -- she over-enunciates every word, and I catch the eye of Kirk Read several times as we laugh together. Kirk is next -- he delivers an excerpt from his essay where he reveals that his first trick wasn't actually the wonderful man who told him that he was doing healing work, but... well, someone a bit more... difficult -- this piece is sure to become part of Kirk Read’s collection of memoirs about sex work, and I am surely excited. Last, Nico Dacumos delivers a few sections from his incredibly poetic, nuanced, tear-jerking and inspiring essay, "All Mixed up with No Place to Go: Inhabiting Mixed Consciousness on the Margins."

During the question-and-answer session, someone asks if any of us would recommend some current cultural theory, and Benjamin Shepard points right to Nico Dacumos’s essay. Fritz Flohr, whose essay, "Don't Listen to Him, He's Crazy," was scheduled to be in the book, but was cut by the publisher at the last minute, announces that he's brought copies of the essay, and... a stapler... in case anyone wants to staple it into the book. Peter Maravelis, the events coordinator at City Lights, asks about troubles with the editor and I stumble for a moment because I'm not sure I want to rehash all of that right now when my editor, Brooke Warner, is present. I've written a lot about it in the introduction, and it was actually incredibly stressful -- at the moment, I'm preferring to see it as resolved, but Brooks comes up to me afterwards and says "you don't have to censor yourself for me," which is sweet, and I'll definitely keep that in mind for the future.

Afterwards, it's exciting to talk to a few people I haven't seen in awhile -- and I always like talking to new people who I've never met, but are excited about the ideas in my work. That's what's so great about readings -- to come together to share ideas and strategies and struggles and maybe dream a little bit too. I'm also excited about all of the people who keep telling me they've been reading my blog -- people I know but haven't been in touch with -- it's interesting, because when I write something I never know who's going to read it, but with a blog it’s out there immediately and so I'm immediately more curious. Of course, always feel free to comment!

Then, as soon as the after-reading conversation winds down, I find myself talking excitedly with Michelle, the Seal publicist, but then suddenly I can feel my eyes glazing over because I'm exhausted again, really overwhelmed and drained and hungry too, though I don't know where to get food around here -- North Beach is a nightmare of tourists and frat boys and tourist frat boys and overpriced Italian restaurants.

At home, I get a really sweet email from Richard Labonte, long-term editor, critic and literary icon who says “I've been reading your blog: candor like yours is something special.”

It feels great to be as candid as possible -- thank you all for helping me to keep it up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Today I'm feeling a little better

I decide to try something new, just in case it works -- maybe I can lie out in the sun on the fire escape instead of just sitting, I mean it's not long enough for my whole body, but maybe with my knees bent? I put a soft pillow out for my head, my stretching mat folded in half with a towel over that, and then a sheet on top, plus another pillow to go under my knees -- then I bring out a t-shirt to cover my face, with the eye mask underneath. It's a bit hard to breathe under the t-shirt, but otherwise I actually feel pretty comfortable. I'm breathing in and out, the sunlight soothing my body -- oh, this is so fun! When I take off the eye mask, the sky is so blue -- is it bluer because I'm looking directly upwards, or because of the time of day? Even the soot covering the white paint on the fire escape rail looks beautiful in this light with glints of steel sparkling underneath -- that's how I know that I actually got rest, but also because I'm moving my body in slightly contorted positions and it doesn't hurt, I mean it does hurt for a moment or two but then I move and it's okay.

Today's passing crime: bipartisan consensus

I had so much fun the other day critiquing crimes of passing in the news, I think I’ll make this a regular feature on the blog. For today, we have the report from the magnificent Iraq Study Group, which for all the coverage I thought was some private concoction of Reaganite James Baker, but just today I found out that the U.S. Congress actually created this exciting academic opportunity in March. Anyway, who cares about the report, which maybe advocates withdrawal at some point but more or less status quo with different language -- the comments are the best part. George W. Bush says: "This report will give us all opportunities to find common ground." Like that's what's missing -- not immediate withdrawal from Iraq, just common ground. I love common ground, especially when Republican Senator John Warner talks about "the need for bipartisan consensus." But my absolute favorite quote comes from Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, who says, "We're not going to wait for permission or for approval [to start withdrawing troops] from the Iraqis." As if the Iraqi people are standing in the way of US withdrawal -- what was that about bipartisan consensus again?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Loving the launch, thank you!

It seems like whenever I need sleep the most is when I'm guaranteed to sleep the worst -- today I wake up feeling like someone is drilling a hole into the center of my forehead, thinking okay I have a book launch today, let's engage, let's engage. Sitting on the fire escape and for my afternoon sun exposure, I have to face away from the sun (and the view!) because my body feels too twisted and dried-out. When I sleep extra-terribly, I can't digest anything, and today is no exception -- I'm just going back and forth from eating to shitting, doesn't feel that effective really.

I figure I'll turn on the news and listen through the lens of passing. First thing I hear is about Robert Gates, the Iran Contra war criminal on the path to becoming the next Secretary of Defense, and Senator Carl Levin, who is just so heroic because he actually supports withdrawal from Iraq -- I mean, who would've thought of that -- withdrawal from Iraq? What does this firebrand of the Democratic Party say about Robert Gates -- he says: I think he has an open mind. That's great -- a war criminal with an open mind -- Mr. Gates, torture or death squads? -- Oh, I have an open mind.

Next thing I hear about is how Congress is debating a resolution condemning the French city of St. Denis for naming a street after Mumia Abu-Jamal -- what an insult to our national security -- the US must defend capital punishment at all costs -- it's one of our greatest exports!

Then, a wetlands protection act that authorizes more drilling on the Gulf Coast -- That'll protect the wetlands! And then, we get to hear from Nancy Pelosi -- did you realize she was a woman? A woman! A woman as the Speaker of the House – wow the US is really ready for change. Anyway, Nancy Pelosi says that she doesn't support drilling on the wetlands, but she will not organize opposition. Now that's new leadership!

After that, I turn off the news and put on Nina Simone, but at least I've got some great material to add to my introduction. That's when I start to feel better -- when I'm practicing my introduction, after I've taken digestive enzymes and my stomach sort of feels calmer. Grant comes over to help me get the books to the library, and then Katia arrives to drive us there. I'm stressing out about whether the sparkly purple belt is the right choice with the rest of my purple and pink outfit, but the curls in the front of my hair are exactly in place, so that makes me feel better.

At the library, I'm a sketchy mess, finding it hard to breathe with so much going on -- it's intense how nervous I get before a launch -- it's hard to focus on anything. Then I'm up there at the podium, talking about the news from the news, running into Laura Albert of JT LeRoy fame at Kinko's (!), then on to deeper terrain with the visit to my father and that emotional space of simultaneously expressing everything while not pretending that ANYTHING was okay – it’s that place of refusing to pass that I want to invoke with this book.

Then I'm talking about the book, how it arose from wanting to examine passing as a means through which the violence of assimilation takes place, and then I'm reciting a few of the subjects addressed within -- that's a fun (and long!) list, and people applaud right when I get to the end, which makes it even more fun. Then I talk a little bit about the drama with my editor at Seal, which I go into more at length in the book intro. And, ta-da-- a few anecdotes and I'm ready to welcome the contributors!

It’s so much fun to see people reading their work live, to see all of these complicated and surprising intersections between lived identities and struggles and stories. I also like watching the contributors watch each other. Since there are 10 contributors reading at the launch, I've asked everyone to read 1-2 pages max, so that no one goes over five minutes (the library is really strict about time, and a security guard comes to kick us out around 7:45 p.m., just an hour-and-a-half after the event begins). Several times I get nervous that someone has forgotten the time limit, but actually everyone is on it. When the reading comes to a close, it's before 7:30 p.m., the time when I wanted the reading to end so that people could socialize and buy books and get their books signed. We even have time for a few questions, but the audience is silent. At this point, there are well over 100 people there (I'm counting), the seats go all the way from the front of the room to the far back. No one has any questions? -- everyone's passing here, I joke -- but the truth is probably that there is so much information that people are saturated with it, taking time to digest. There will be more time for questions at the City Lights reading -- for now I'm appreciating this sensation.

I sell about 35 books -- which is a ton -- it's also the only reading when proceeds from sale of the books will go directly to funding my Nobody Passes book tour, so that's great. The library is such a great venue for a launch-- the room is large, but comfortable and accessible -- the only problem is that they close so early, people have to rush out instead of socializing. I've had my last three book launches here, but I always miss the fact that people can’t stick around -- there's so much energy and excitement. And there aren't many comfortable places nearby to go -- Katia figures out a Middle Eastern place on Hayes that turns out to be a great idea because it's wide open and comfortable and the eight of us who gather there can actually hear one another. The lentil soup is good, too -- and they have this great homemade flat bread. I always like the social time right after a reading -- it feels extra-intimate.

Back at home, I'm incredibly exhausted but in such a different way from the beginning of the day. I don't feel edgy anymore, just satisfied and excited about the book and its possibilities. This is where I get my inspiration.

A special thanks to everyone at the book launch for making it special for me and for a lot of other people there too -- I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please do feel free to post!

If you didn't get a chance to go to the launch, the legendary City Lights is on Thursday:

Delicious Reading and Devastating Discussion
City Lights Bookstore
Thursday, December 7, 2006 @7 p.m.
261 Columbus Ave. at Broadway
(415) 362-8193Featuring Benjamin Shepard, Irina Contreras, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Kirk Read, Nico Dacumos, Jennifer, Blowdryer and Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore
FREE

Monday, December 04, 2006

My book launch is tomorrow!

Okay -- every day, I compose at least one elaborate blog entry in my head, but then by the time I'm sitting in front of the computer I'm completely exhausted, barely functioning, trying to do something about the sinus headache drilling through my forehead, the pain in my wrists and arms and neck starting so much sooner. I don't end up writing anything. But my book launch is tomorrow -- I wish I had a month to rest before then, but I guess I'll try to rest tonight -- I'll definitely write something as soon as possible after the launch, and I would love to hear from people who attend as well. Here's the info again:

Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
Edited by Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore

BOOK LAUNCH
Tuesday, December 5, 2006San Francisco Main Library
100 Larkin Street
Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room
6 p.m. sharp
FREEFeaturing Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Kirk Read, Dean Spade, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Amy André, Dominika Bednarska, Nico Dacumos, Irina Contreras, Jennifer Blowdryer, Logan Gutierrez-Mock, Jen Cross, Amy André and Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore

Delicious Reading and Devastating Discussion
City Lights Bookstore
Thursday, December 7, 2006 @7 p.m.
261 Columbus Ave. at Broadway
(415) 362-8193Featuring Benjamin Shepard, Irina Contreras, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Kirk Read, Nico Dacumos, Jennifer, Blowdryer and Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore
FREE

Hope to see you there!