Friday, March 23, 2007

Okay, I'm catching up but now my body hurts!

What the hell? Yes, this is sort of the meltdown spot. I’m so behind on this blog, overwhelmed because I need to write about Boston, Providence, New York, so much more but how can I do all of this right now, really right now? Okay, I’m just going to have to start with a summary, otherwise I’ll never get anywhere.

The reading in Boston is super-emotional for me, and at first I don’t exactly understand why. I mean, I’m thinking it’s because it was scheduled at the last minute but still it’s packed with not just people but so much energy and excitement really. But then I realize it’s also because I lived in Boston at a transitional (and dramatic!) time in my life, right after I decided to leave school for good after trying out a semester separated four years from my first year, the one before my original escape to San Francisco and radical queer outsider culture -- also, it’s where I first learned how to become friends with fags no I mean part of a faggot culture which was club culture bonded by drugs, where I became most immersed in drugs but also where I confronted my father about sexually abusing me, all of this I guess within maybe 10 months in 1995. I certainly didn’t find any radical cultures in Boston at the time-- and barely a single person identifying as both queer and radical-- of course, they may certainly have been there it’s just that our worlds did not intersect. Then to see all of these queer radicals + a surprise appearance by my friend Erica who I met when I lived in nightmarish Provincetown + Caren Block who made a documentary called Truths and Transformations that I’m in (way more on that later) and several of her incredibly supportive friends including the woman I’m staying with who’s just revealed to me a recent transformation to a butch identity… all of these intersections and then after the reading when I step outside everything is coated in a new layer of snow and I’m with Erica and Brandy who I’ve just met, we’re driving over the Mass Ave. bridge into Cambridge I can’t help telling the story of how at 6 a.m. when the after-hours club closed I would ask people to drive me back and forth across the bridge as the sun was coming up, on ecstasy it was like we were flying through the air.

More emotions: this is the place, Brown University that is, where I first thought I was escaping my parents, beating them on their own terms, but then I realized I needed to get so much further away, I mean of course I couldn’t beat them on their own terms because then they would have won. That I wanted to learn from creating activisms and challenges to violence and the status quo, desperate and disastrous and delicious queer alternatives to everything, so much further away. But here I am in all of this emotion, in a very different space -- I think I finally feel like I’ve integrated all of it, like I can talk about going to Brown and leaving it because I saw the way that people became assimilated into such a horrifying elitist worldview, no matter what their backgrounds, and in talking about it I can still feel like I’m me, not like I’m back there when I was 18 leaving for the first time or later 21, leaving for good except wait, here I am again -- through that window, I can glimpse the one dorm I lived in, really it was called Hope College.

I’m very animated at this talk, that’s what I’m thinking while it’s going on. Then the discussion goes on for I think another hour -- more questions than ever -- it’s a fascinating range of people in the crowd because maybe half of them are Brown students, but then there are several people who grew up in way earlier generations + a bunch of people from various off-campus worlds-- probably half of the crowd is non-Brown students, I’m so glad the people who organized the event did the work to get them there.

There’s someone who tells me that That’s Revolting! changed hir life, actually there are two people that say that, which is incredible, and so many layered questions, including some from a person who identifies hirself as a “professional assimilationist,” turns out ze’s the head of Marriage Equality Rhode Island -- if only the rest of the Marriage Equality people, in Rhode Island and elsewhere, would actually listen like this and ask such engaged questions about how to get away from such a racist, classist, imperialist politic (but wait -- while heading the organization? contradictions abound!). Lots of questions about organizing, one about potential dangers of gender studies taking away from women’s studies’s focus on creating space for marginal lives, the perils and pitfalls (and possibilities?) of academia, the problems with identity politics as an endpoint… this could go on all night is what I’m thinking, except now it’s time to catch my train.

But I’m forgetting to mention that contributor Tucker Lieberman joins me for a brief reading from his piece, although we will hopefully have more time to hang out in the future! Oh -- and the great tour of downtown Providence from Josh Teitelbaum, my host: there’s the new Westin tower, that one will be all condos; and here’s the spot where they are building the tallest building in Providence, all condos -- advertised specifically to New Yorkers (with a helipad on the roof, I later learn); that building houses a company that makes bunker busters; here’s where Brown is moving a whole building so they can create a grand walkway…

New York
First a disaster: it turns out that I don’t have a bed to sleep on, I’m lying on the sofa in a room where a bright light goes on for the turtle, it’s 6 a.m. and weird parts of my body are hurting like the place between my foot and my ankle no maybe not there -- somewhere else -- mostly I’m just worried about all of the pain for tomorrow, I can’t sleep with all of this light, on a sofa that slopes down so I have to use half of my body to sort of stay flat and this was supposed to be the relaxing part of my tour, staying in the guest apartment of a friend who lives with his corporate lawyer boyfriend but then for some reason that couldn’t happen because they decided to leave town, I’m sure there were keys for the housekeeper, the gardener, and the dog-walker (I’m serious), but not for that bitch mattilda with her fibromyalgia drama. Anyway, it’s 6 a.m. and I’m worried it’s going to get light outside, adding to the light inside and my brain pounding from near-hysteria -- I need rest I need rest I need REST -- I almost decide to cancel the reading, but realize too many people will be coming I can’t do that -- I end up going downstairs and calling 15 hotels until I find somewhere way-overpriced that actually has a room, credit card sleep just before 8 a.m. then I’m up again trying to calm my digestion, shitting anyway but at least I know where to go for delicious macrobiotic food -- Souen, my favorite restaurant -- and they even ask me how I’ve been doing, where have I been?

Before the reading, that’s before. I lie down on my friend Stephen Kent’s bed for a five-minute nap that actually helps, then I’m at Bluestockings which looks beautiful-- great lighting, they’ve expanded the store, more books than ever (unlike many of my stops along the way, where books are fewer and fewer) -- and a crowd that packs the whole place, I do mean the whole place, everywhere. Somehow my introduction is better than ever-- my delivery slow and deliberate -- they have a great mike, which helps a lot -- dammit, I wish someone were taping me-- I need more documentation, especially at times like this. Then Helen Boyd, Liz Rosenfeld and Rocko Bulldagger read. There are actually a lot of questions -- Kate Bornstein asks the contributors about unity, but first I have to answer that one because I don’t believe in unity, I mean unity (or community) so often is a false consensus that silences dissent or actual possibilities for brilliance or defiance. But I think Kate is talking more about an integrated analysis, not segmenting into niche-marketed garbage (that’s something I address in my introduction) but instead creating possibilities by bridging the chasms between identities. But then the discussion gets caught up in some strange “can’t we all just get along”-type thing, I’m not sure why --maybe because in some ways these three contributors are writing more similarly than the usual spread of points of view at the readings so that people can make assumptions about a conversation "within the community" even though we are all within different communities I'm sure. I keep trying to bring the discussion back to the book but no it’s stuck there, which I guess is where people want it --scene versus subculture, that’s important to think about -- but then a couple of questions about who’s more radical -- where is that coming from? Maybe they are trying to challenge the notion that anyone should be considered the most radical, but I'm not sure. I’m glad that people are ready to talk, but to be honest I’m wishing we were talking about other things. Still I feel a sweetness and lightheartedness afterwards, inspiration.

But before, there's also someone I know from years back who’s come with a prepared speech of some sort, quoting Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson, Patti Smith and yes, Ani Difranco -- in this case, I most enjoy talking with people one-on-one afterwards, even sitting with Rocko afterwards eating my grain of the day from Souen feels intimate. And Bluestockings, I’m really loving Bluestockings-- that’s for sure. Some of the volunteers are dancing and so am I for a minute until I have to sit down to eat more of the grain of the day. Katy’s there -- the one who wrote that incredibly sweet comment on hir livejournal about being inspired by Nobody Passes that there are so many ways to be queer. And so many brilliant writer and activist and troublemaker friends from different times and places, many of them I didn't see at the beginning -- maybe it was too crowded or maybe they came later -- I love it when so many people intersect and I have a sense of my own history. There’s more history at Bluestockings too, history from when I lived in New York and friends of mine started the place but now I mean today now as in when I'm writing this I luckily have a great place to stay (thanks, Carrie!), my body is hurting, time to stretch and get some rest.

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