Thursday, August 30, 2007

Michael Eric Dyson on the marketability of misogyny

Okay, so author/social critic Michael Eric Dyson is quite a brilliant speaker, which is evident from the beginning of an interview on Uprising Radio that starts by addressing the history of hip-hop, its global reach, and paradoxes of commercialism/resistance, but the part that really blows me away is when Dyson goes right into the heart of misogyny, and even throws in a savaging comment about structural homophobia -- here's the highlight for me:

... How do you shape and re-shape a culture that produces misogyny as a marketable phenomenon to begin with? Because the marketability of misogyny is not exclusively piqued, if you will, within the environs of hip-hop. I mean, the marketability of misogyny undergirds American capitalism and corporate life, the marketability of misogyny is part and parcel of churches and religious institutions and sanctuaries, the marketability of misogyny is as American, to borrow a word from a black revolutionary of the sixties, H. Rap Brown, as cherry pie. So, the pretense that we are somehow abhorred by the prospect of women’s misogynistic treatment at the hands of patriarchal men being marketed is rather ludicrous, because even the civil rights movement, which did undeniable good for our people rested upon the labor of black women who were often unacknowledged, in fact Ella Baker, one of the great strategists of social protest and resistance in the sixties had to leave the SCLC, Martin Luther King Jr.’s group, because he was too sexist and they were incapable of acknowledging her particular role and genius. So again, though one might find legitimate, what Rev. Sharpton is attempting to do [to fight against racial and sexual slurs in rap music], I think that it’s problematic because the same art that you want to undermine and subvert is the same art that allowed young black men in particular, to express themselves against bourgeois Negro captivity and white supremacist discourse and white corporate capitalism. The same art form that contains undeniable expressions of misogyny and sexism and homophobia, which never counts, because black bourgeois culture as well as hip-hop agree that fags just don’t matter, and gays and lesbians and transgenders and bisexual people just don’t count. They don’t want to get rid of that epithet because it doesn’t even count, it doesn’t even register on the radar, so already the implicit hypocrisy of making moral distinctions upon varieties of suffering blow up in our face. I think Rev. Sharpton should also pay attention to not only the Black church experience, but also I think come to grips with the fact that these symbolic gestures, while important, don’t really relieve us of the responsibility of doing something more profound and more pervasive and ultimately, I think, more noteworthy and significant and uplifting, and that is, how do we re-educate ourselves about how all of us participate in the bloody prospect of subordinating women, of constantly, and consistently, and continually, but subtly, deferring their interests and lives.

(Thanks to Gina de Vries for transcribing.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Truths and Transformations -- I'm finally writing about the movie, that is

About two years ago, I received an email from Caren Block that read as follows:

Hi Mattilda. I read your interview in Bitch magazine and experienced a political and filmic revelation that leads me to you now. My business partner, Paula Dowd, and I are indie filmmakers in Cambridge, Mass. and we want to talk to you about your willingness to appear in our feature length documentary currently in production. It is based loosely on gay marriage in Texas and primarily focuses on two women who recently held a commitment ceremony there and then married in Canada. I would like to talk to you about the possibility of intercutting the juxtaposition of your views on cultural erasure and anti-assimilationist politics.

I'll admit that, after first talking to Caren on the phone, I was even more confused about my potential place within this movie, but she and Paula agreed to fly out to San Francisco and meet with me. They showed me their first movie, a short called Everything Good about a middle-aged lesbian who decides to hire a hooker while in Amsterdam. What was refreshing about it was that both characters were outside of conventional beauty myths, and neither sex work nor sexuality was pathologized or minimized. Then they showed me some of the footage for their new movie, endless angles of the wedding but also some incredibly honest talk about childhood abuse and trauma. It seemed that Caren and Paula were critical of (gay) marriage, but wanted to actualize that liberal mythology of showing different sides to the story and allowing the viewer to make up hir own mind. To be honest, after years of articulating an anti-assimilationist politic, only to see endless media coverage that framed the gay marriage debate as one between foaming-at-the-mouth Christian fundamentalists and rabid gay assimilationists, it was refreshing to think about how an actual conversation between queers who disagreed about marriage could take place -- even if I was worried that I'd become some sideshow in a pro-marriage spectacle, I thought it was worth the risk.

Caren and Paula flew out to film me several months later. They shot about four hours of footage in my apartment -- talking about surviving my parents’ abuse, creating chosen family, supporting myself as a whore, developing radical queer outsider politics, and the horror of assimilation turned out to be (surprise, surprise) emotional. It was also interesting and intense spending such concentrated time with Caren and Paula, who seemed to feel a motherly bond towards me -- they were much more mainstream in their life choices than the queers I'm usually around, with upper-middle-class careers (Caren in human resources, although I'll admit I don't exactly know what that means, and Paula in -- gasp! -- real estate – I’ve spent a great deal of time going on tirades against gay realtors, so I think Paula was initially a bit nervous to tell me this aspect.) But, yes, the filming process got quite intimate and even tense towards the end, when it became clear from their questions that Caren and Paula were in disagreement about gay marriage (perhaps to engage in this conversation is another reason for the movie?) -- Caren is against ("While I believe anyone should have the right to marry if they so choose, I won't be in line at City Hall any time soon"), Paula is for.

I was glad to see that Caren and Paula were using fancy lighting -- nothing worse than being in a talking heads documentary where every nightmarish flaw is visible, dammit -- I mean, video close-ups of faces without makeup on the big screen, nightmare. I also got them to agree to shoot a moment when they emerge in the frame -- forget that invisible documentarian drama! I'll also admit that after they left I started crying -- probably all of the emotions from talking with passion and vulnerability for so long, but also because I felt a connection to them -- a connection that in some ways was surprising.

Caren and Paula insisted that I would see the movie before it was finished, but I've heard that so many times from photographers and writers and it's only happened once -- I understand that people get caught up in their projects, and don't necessarily have time or energy or the drive to show someone an unfinished version. Wait, that sounds a bit too "understanding" -- sure, I would have loved to see that rough cut, but no it did not surprise me that I didn't get a chance. I didn't see the movie (or any of the footage of me) until I was on tour for Nobody Passes, staying with Caren's best friend in Somerville, Massachusetts, and Caren gave me a (very professional-looking) DVD. Caren’s hospitality was quite touching -- she picked me up at the bus station, got me groceries, brought her friends to my reading -- her best friend worked in corporate something-or-other, something big where she traveled all the time but had a huge house with a gorgeous guestroom and that's where I stayed. In many ways, this friend was an instigator of the exact type of gentrification I fight against (she even talked about how the lesbians had cleaned up the neighborhood), but she'd also just gone through a gender transition (from femme to butch, although her butch demeanor was so striking that it was hard to imagine her in any other gender), and she was so open and honest -- we had a sweet bond that made me think about the possibilities for analysis, closeness, and support in unlikely places.

So, yes, Truth and Transformations -- that's the title of the movie, by the way. The first time I watched it was in Somerville, late at night when I was completely exhausted and I didn't exactly know what to think. I mean, the movie practically starts with me saying, "Wanting to be part of a system that wants you dead is suicidal -- that's assimilation, that's cultural erasure" (followed by lesbian folk music). Then the scene shifts to show Kathryn Omarkhail and Denise Bennett, the lesbians getting married in Texas -- Denise a teacher and sports coach from Kansas, Kathryn a psychotherapist from Mississippi. Sure, the movie does focus primarily around Kathryn and Denise, but also includes John, a gay man who came out when he was 66, lesbian comedian Julie Goldman, and many of Kathryn and Denise’s friends and family members, including a straight couple with strained and uncomfortable reactions to each other's opinions that could surely serve as a warning about marriage for anyone paying attention.

Now I've watched the movie twice more, so I have plenty to say. The movie is polished and raw, elegant and messy, conflicted and determined, difficult and confusing and risky and deep. There’s a lot to absorb, and I do think Caren and Paula have managed to engage the audience in a complicated conversation, which is certainly a good start.

Sometimes the movie works very subtly, like when Kathryn talks about first meeting Denise, touching her stomach and thinking, "this is the most ripped girl I've ever touched for sure." This sexual honesty feels refreshing and sweet, as does Denise’s discussion of whether to have her father play the traditional role in marriage: "we don't want it to be like someone else is giving us a way, like we're owned by our parents."

One of the most intense parts of the movie is the ongoing interview with John Ballard, who ended 44 years of drunkenness that eventually became life-threatening by embracing the gay identity he’d denied his whole life. His honesty about alcoholism, marriage and incest is wrenching. Describing his home life at four years old, he says, "My mother moved into the living room and my father moved me into his bed. And I stayed there for five years." This honesty about incest is especially rare in a documentary ostensibly about marriage, that same institution that sheltered the violence of John's father, a connection that Truths and Transformations doesn't elaborate upon, but it's certainly there for us to absorb. Ballard continues by telling us that when he was 15 his father took him aside and said if he ever did anything to “embarrass the family” he would kill him (um, who was embarrassing the family?), -- a threat that Ballard lived in fear of for decades afterwards. He also reveals that for years as a kid he couldn't eat any white food, anything that reminded him of (his father's) semen. This graphic detail of surviving abuse is something so rare in the public incest narrative, and it's especially intimate and dangerous coming from someone now 70 years old.

Kathryn then reveals that she's been disowned by both of her parents -- even her mother, who sheltered the neighborhood kids rejected by their parents, has now taken down all pictures of Kathryn and torn up Kathryn's contact information. Kathryn breaks down while relating this story, and temporarily can go no further. Later, she talks about working with adolescents and children as a therapist, but realizing that she needed to work with adults if she wanted to change anything because at the end of the day the kids still have to go home. Then there's a moment where I talk about how surviving incest enabled me to dissect everything, and how making my living as a whore for 12 years forced me to negotiate the perilous intersections of sex, money, intimacy and love in so many complicated and dangerous ways while also learning how to articulate my desires and boundaries. Somehow this section comes while I'm walking outside in a lovely outfit of purple, mauve and pink, out into the neighborhood where the neon lights of the porn shop provide a surprisingly glamorous illumination. Watching this section, I'm wondering if I'm supposed to be working the street -- I mean, if that's what it looks like I'm doing, since I don't appear to have an agenda except perhaps to add a different locale to the footage. But back to this theme of familial abuse -- my own and John Ballard's histories of surviving incest/sexual abuse (experiences 35 years apart yet carrying certain resonances), Kathryn's struggle with being disowned, Denise's homophobic father -- the honesty and variety of opinions/stories around this violence is perhaps the strongest elements of Truths And Transformations.

Around here is where we get another glimpse of the conflicted straight couple, the guy is talking about how marriage is a contract, how he has "an intense amount of power over what happens to her body," and the woman delivers quite the aside: "yeah, cat food." Then I'm talking about wanting to create a chosen family to replace the horrible one given me at birth, and how the tragedy of assimilation is the desire to belong to a horrible world, unchanged, instead of challenging the violence and trying to create something else. The Texas florist has quite a bit to say in this area as well, suggesting that the argument over gay marriage is masking a war that's going on (yes, someone said it!), and declaring, "I don't like playing into that sort of normal, heterosexual behavior." Then I say, "We're not talking about this consensual SM relationship, we're talking about this institutional that's the foundation of anti-queer, anti-women, anti-child violence." And then, "Gay marriage is great for business, it's great for consumerism, it's great for capitalism -- all it does is prop up those systems which are oppressing everyone and getting away with it." And later, "People's dreams have gotten so minimal."

Okay, I realize I'm quoting myself at length here. But I'll admit that I'm impressed that, even after editing maybe four hours of footage into... I don't know... probably five or 10 minutes total... Caren and Paula do still manage to convey my politics in a confrontational and compelling way and, well, of course I love that. My narrative is definitely simplified in ways that makes it perhaps more comprehensible (and sometimes incorrect, such as a section where I'm talking about creating my own identity when I was 12 or 13, but it seems like I'm talking about when I first moved to San Francisco when I was 19), but nonetheless I get to voice complicated opinions with my signature flair.

I realize I'm omitting much commentary on the lengthiest section of the movie -- footage of preparations for the wedding, the ceremony, the party -- this goes on forever, from the clinking of silver wineglasses to the matching white dresses to the string trio (a childhood dream of Kathryn's) to Denise’s drunk and stumbling father to the person officiating the ceremony who doesn't want to say the word "marriage" ("it's illegal") to the gorgeous flowers to the Texas sun to the elegant house with sophisticated art work where it all takes place to Kathryn's surrogate parents (where did they come from?) to Denise declaring “God made me this way”... Yes, this goes on and on and on. I can only imagine how many thousands of dollars this whole ceremony cost -- I won't pretend that it leaves me without emotion, but mostly that emotion is sadness -- I end up wanting Denise and Kathryn to experience their love for one another, assuming that this is love and not some misdirected fantasy (not that we all don't have misdirected fantasies), but what they want is this wasteful, heteronormative spectacle and I'm struck by the way that structural homophobia leaves so many queers longing for exactly what leaves us with such longing in the first place.

The hairstylist has a great line, he tells us it's how he instructs his brides: "When you're walking down the aisle, toss a coin because heads you'll be together in three years and tails you won't -- so just have fun at the party." (Unfortunately, this line is not delivered at the ceremony, just to Caren and Paula and now to us in the audience). I will say that I enjoy these anecdotal asides, as Kathryn and Denise are saying "I do" (literally) and I'm saying, "I don't think anyone has the right to marry -- marriage has gotta go," then elaborating that there are other ways of living with and loving and lusting for one another that queers have created for generations, and finally, something about how gay assimilationists and the Christian right serve each other struggles -- the Christian right is funded by fears of gay assimilationists, and gay assimilationists are funded by fears of the Christian right, and in some ways they have similar agendas. I talk about how gay marriage proponents get on TV and say to Christian fundamentalists, "I want what you want... I want marriage, I want a nice house in the suburbs -- I am not a threat to you..." Then, my final line: "And that is horrifying." The hairstylist talks about how one of the beautiful things about being queer is "how we find our own families," and Denise's father is drunkenly saying, "I don't approve of her lifestyle… I don't want to lose her." One of the guests at the marriage is saying, "this is real love," I guess because there are flower girls and photo CDs.

So here's what I'm left with -- I would never make this movie. I think gay marriage proponents have plenty of access to the media, and I wouldn’t want to offer them more promo. The movie barely addresses race or class privilege (although the grand spectacle of the marriage certainly gives the viewer plenty to think about). This movie is totally conflicted in so many ways -- so much lavish attention to the marriage, and then this nutcase from San Francisco (that's me) telling us it's wrong! A lesbian comedian telling Jewish mother jokes, and a 70-year-old gay man talking about alcoholism. Oh, and the straight couple -- they should have their own movie -- just the twitches that the woman makes while her husband says all these contradictory things about contracts and government and his own potential homophobia -- watching them is pure documentary genius, let the camera roll and see what unfolds... In some ways, maybe that's what this whole movie is doing. Sure, it’s a talking heads documentary, and a talking heads documentary almost always seems too long, but there is also some beautiful surprising footage, like early on when Denise is riding a fake steer with genuine rodeo brutality in the background, then later that hooker on her balcony (me again) talking about the violence of gentrification, and oh the way the outdoor light shines on those lesbian brides as the string trio delivers such sophisticated sounds! What I'm saying is that yes, this movie is flawed, and I can only see it through my own flawed and fiercely opinionated lens -- I don't have any idea, for example, what the audience in Texas thought, except that Caren told me the discussion went on for longer than the running time of the movie, and perhaps that's an indication that it's a success, I mean that more people should see it and gasp a little and wring their hands and sigh in confusion or exasperation or excitement and argue and maybe learn something. I know I did.

Monday, August 27, 2007


One of those days when I don't get out of the house, I don't like those days. Sitting in front of the computer saying listen to me. Listen to me. Listen to me. I'm talking to the voice activation software, that's how I get it to start, but then I realize I'm just sitting with the headset in place, I haven't turned the software on.

I keep thinking I'm about to leave, first I'm going out to get some sun but then the sun's down so I'm going out for air but then I realize I'm not going out, just back to bed, hoping for something.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mannequins for sale

I've already gone to the Nob Hill Theatre once today, I thought maybe the trick was to go around 5 p.m., right after people get off work, but that wasn't the trick.

The point is that I don't want to go there again, but I want to cruise somewhere. I decide just to walk around, that's the way I'd like to cruise but I guess if you walk around at 2 a.m. on a Friday night then what you get instead is -- well, the first person: did someone say gay, I mean I thought I heard someone say gay! The second person: the problem with this place is that they let gay people like that walk around at night. But the third person saves it a little, he says: I like that pink, that's not sissy pink it's flaming pink.

Well, it is sissy pink and it is flaming pink, okay? Then someone likes my belt, thanks -- this is all on one crowded block, I'll admit that I like all the energy, even if it's mostly drunk suburbanites trying to figure out where to continue partying. I walk up Polk Street and it's sort of okay -- more drunk suburbanites, but someone selling glass and several tweakers with bikes that have flashing lights -- until I get to the old Acorn Books space -- the other day I was wondering what it was going to be, since they've painted the outside black -- maybe some sort of nightspot? But tonight I get closer.

This really is the end. At least two doors down there are mannequins for sale. I wish they would consolidate the two spaces.

Oh well -- or, maybe...

Friday, August 24, 2007

I think today is a better day, today is going to be better

What it takes

Out of range -- that's what I'm thinking, right after feldenkrais I feel light with possibility but so soon it fades for this sinus headache, mind closing in collapse. No, that's not right -- right after feldenkrais I feel terrible and confused, but then that clears and when I get home I feel slightly manic -- wait, what's slightly manic? Okay, maybe I feel manic with possibility -- until, well, you know what happens. Now I'm trying to figure out what to do, I mean what I can do.

These moments every day sometimes most of the day yes often most of the day but then yesterday I went out to dinner with two people I'd never met before, Mark and Dan from Australia, and the whole time I felt like I had energy I had so much to say. Even when I checked in with myself, I thought breathe, how are you doing, I felt like I was doing okay -- we went on a walk and I showed them Polk Street which isn't really Polk Street anymore I mean this was the first time when nothing about it really felt like Polk Street, just like it's over. Maybe there's that porn shop owned by the same company that owns almost all the video booth stores in the Bay Area, a few vacant storefronts, Kimo’s with some of the displaced older gay men inside – the same Kimo’s that displayed a marquee for months that said Gavin Newsom for Governor, then Gavin Newsom for President. Otherwise, various types of hipster bars and yuppie consumption -- maybe the cops arrived just before us, no one on the street really.

Then the Australians went home and I called Jessica to leave a message and in the middle of my sentence I just couldn't think anymore, so exhausted from entertaining or performing but it's neither really I mean it's both -- what it takes for me to go out in the world, to engage and then I'm left with nothing except this headache.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Someone who I can understand, someone who understands me

My mother: are you in a relationship? Me: you mean a sexual relationship? My mother: yes. Me: no. My mother: have you been? Me: no, not for a long time. My mother: I'd like you to meet someone special, a special guy. Me: whatever. My mother: is something wrong, is something wrong with that? Me: what's going on in your life?

What I don't say: when you visited me in San Francisco that first time and we were driving to the restaurant, Dad said are you dating any women -- I said I don't date women, I'm a faggot. At the restaurant, somewhere Italian in North Beach probably the only time for that tourist tragedy -- you told me that I needed to see a therapist to try to change things, you even had a recommendation -- Charles Soccarides, he was famous for conversion therapy. I caused a huge scene, I mean you were both therapists and this was 1992 in San Francisco and you were telling me to see someone to fix things, me. You said can you lower your voice, no I can't lower my voice!

That's an old memory -- you've shifted tactics, you're always shifting tactics -- now it's just anything that might pull me into normalcy on any level, even a partnered gay relationship like the gay men in the building where you now live, one of them had a Motherwell on the wall you recognized it immediately. I'm trying to remember what a Motherwell looks like, he was one of those Abstract Expressionists famous for misogyny I'm sure but what did his paintings look like? No doubt something where the brush strokes or the rollers penetrate the canvas but I'll admit some of those paintings still blow me away.

But anyway, I'm not sleeping with a Motherwell, or anyone really -- I don't even know what I'm looking for.

Back to our conversation. My mother: I'm coming to visit you, I can't believe it! Me: uh huh. My mother: you won't believe this, I made my reservation on Orbitz and I called back to get my reservation number but every time I call, I speak to someone in India or the Philippines and they don't understand what I'm saying, I keep trying to give them my email address and they don't understand, it takes 45 minutes and last time I asked are you new here and I wasn't prepared for the answer because she was new, I didn't know what to say. Me: maybe you should call the hotel. My mother: I was thinking of doing that, but I don't understand why any time I call for customer service, like when I called Dell about the computer or even the phone company, I get someone in India or the Philippines and I get so frustrated. Me: that's because the companies have outsourced all of their employees. My mother: what do you mean? Me: that's globalization -- all these companies go to India or the Philippines because a lot of people there speak English and they can hire them for 1/10 of what they get paid in the US and fire them whenever they want to and just move on to the next country -- it's terrible, you should write letters to the companies and get really angry about it. My mother: I just want to talk to someone who I can understand, who understands me. Me: it's not their fault, it's the companies’ fault. My mother: oh I don't know. Me: they don't even care anymore whether you're satisfied and if they don't care if you’re satisfied, then you can only imagine what they do to their employees.

Monday, August 20, 2007

An outfit, that kind of outfit

I'm on the BART, how can the BART be so slow -- I mean, we haven't even gotten to West Oakland. I'm trying to look at this excursion as an adventure -- I'm heading over to Steamworks to see what sex there is like, and it's early too -- way too early but the BART closes and I don't want to be in a rush, since I have to catch a cab from the BART to Steamworks -- and then, afterwards, I have to catch a cab back to the BART. I'm telling myself it's like traveling, it's an adventure -- it'll be fun even if it isn't fun.

It isn't fun, and it's not fun. I'm way too hypoglycemic -- I mean it's like I'm walking around in the maze area, someone is touching me and then I just can't deal -- oh, I need to eat again. After something that I guess resembles sex, except that I'm not really enjoying it, I'm sitting on the metal chair looking up at the porn and then not looking up just looking down and thinking how depressing this is, I mean that these spaces just feel depressing now. Even when people are paying attention to me -- I don't know, maybe I'm just not attracted to anyone here, but of course there's something bigger -- so many years of going to these places and it's become harder to blend into this unemotive, unquestioning, compulsory masculinity everyone is giving and living for -- I mean it's harder not to blend in, then I'm blending and I just feel shut off, like what is this for?

The good thing is that I don't really care what people are thinking, I'm sitting in that little room on the mesh metal chair making small circles with my pelvis in a feldenkrais way, wondering if sex like this is just a dead end and someone comes over, it's this guy whose dick I was sucking earlier but he smelled too much like the chlorine of the hot tub, it was kind of making me nauseous. He sits next to me and I say this music must be from 1998 because I recognize the songs, and I haven't gone out regularly since 2000 -- maybe 1997, no I think 1998. He says like "What is love -- baby don't hurt me?" I say no that's more like radio house, this is something from the clubs but what is it?

I say why can't everyone just have sex in public, I mean even in public they’re hiding in corners it's annoying me. He’s touching me softly and I close my eyes, this feels more intimate I'm relaxing into it, soon I just want him to get down to my dick so I pull the towel open, he's there first with his hand saying oh I see, you like people to watch. They are watching and then his head is down there too, everything is slow until it's fast and then I pull his head away and shoot onto the floor, everyone who's watching walks away.

It's funny -- sitting with this guy, now I'm kind of hugging him and we're critiquing the porn -- why can’t the whole place be like this, campy comments and a little intimacy, humanity, a personal connection -- I mean, I actually feel human again, instead of shut off and distant and despondent. I take this guy into my room to give him my number and then he's on top of me on the bed I say stop, you're messing up my hair -- and then we're both giggling but also I'm tired, always tired yes tired and I have to get back to the BART. We hug goodbye -- I doubt he'll call me, but then he spots me in the bathroom doing my hair -- oh, I say -- I guess someone left this hairspray here for me. I say wait a minute give me one more hug!

Outside waiting for the cab, I still don't know if the whole thing was worth it -- someone wants to know if this is an outfit. I say this is how I look every day, I mean it is an outfit, because I need an outfit every day. He says oh okay -- well, I thought it was an outfit, like for going out -- that kind of outfit.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

That lovely interview from KRCL Radio Salt Lake City

Deena told me she was listening to it at work, and I didn't even realize the audio link was available at the bottom of Troy Williams' blog entry -- the interview is delicious, or at least I think so!

Friday, August 17, 2007

A stain for his reign

Tonight I'm on the way to the Golden Gateway Apartments -- someone on the phone sex line has already warned me about this hook-up, that he won't answer the door, but he does and then I'm examining the art in the lobby -- tan on tan on tan, lovely, and the elevators are more old-fashioned than I expected -- those buttons that light up when you touch them, but they don't depress, you know what I mean? I'm looking forward to the view from the 20th floor, if nothing else, but it turns out that I only get a view of the 2014 on his door. It's not an elegant number, really, I mean it could be but not with the font they're using.

Outside, I'm leaving him messages, his machine says Operations Manager, Sapphire Limousine, so I make it into a song – oper-a-tions mana-ger -- sapphire lim-oh-si-ine! Oper-a-tions mana-GER -- sapphire lim-o-si-ine! OP-erations ma-na-ger saph-FIRE lim-O-si-ine… it's kind of catchy, but the guy doesn't answer, I tell him I'm jerking off in the entryway and I'll leave a stain for his reign.

Who cares -- it's hilarious being in this abandoned financial district location, staring up at the buildings and the air is so fresh tonight I love it, there's even this strange park with tall trees in a circle -- it would be great for cruising, actually. To tell you the truth, walking around I'm hoping to find some adventure but nothing occurs. Most of the people outside are sleeping in storefronts, plus there are a few office drunks in suits, then lots of Latino workers heading home. A few people look me in the eyes, the first an office worker working incredibly late, then some guy with braids pulled back, but no -- just a walk. Although, to tell you the truth, the walk is great because I feel so clear.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The names of my father's wines

I can't believe all the renovations they've done on the Lotus Garden, that terrible vegan restaurant in Chinatown that I only went to once or twice, years ago, so maybe it wasn't a terrible as I remember I just remember everything was fried, I couldn't eat it. Anyway, it's become some sophisticated lounge, all of these different areas and even the bathroom is sparkling white granite or something with slate floors. I'm trying to get back to the area where my father’s sitting, he's waiting for me but first there's so much arguing with my mother, the other relatives, we're sitting on a large rug on the floor like one of the rugs in the house I grew up in. We’re sitting in the position of play except there's only arguing.

When I finally get downstairs, I'm worried that my father will be angry that he's waiting so long, I didn't want to sit at the bar in the front anyway and when I sit down across from him I realize he's so far away, there are several people between us -- the counter is much larger than I remember, like there's a whole room of sparkling white granite between me and my father but are these wooden stools going to hurt my back? My father is intent on reading his newspaper and I'm anticipating his rage, I have to yell to get his attention he's so far away, now on a different level of the restaurant and when he looks up I'm startled to see the eager and excited expression on his face, young and sunburnt, nose peeling underneath the floppy fisherman's hat he's wearing. Oh, I'm thinking -- this is actually going to be fun.

I point to the lounge area near my father with comfortable blue sofas -- should we go over there? And that's when I wake up, oh my father's dead I can't even remember him smiling at me like that except maybe when I was a little kid and even then he was mostly trying to teach me competition, when he taught me chess he really wanted to win -- when he taught me how to throw a ball he'd scream so I didn't do it like a girl I didn't want to do it at all. I memorized all the names of my father's wines so he would be proud. Yet in this dream he's smiling and I'm so relieved, when I wake up I'm both angry and grateful.

When I visited my father before he died, my mother said Matthew's here and he looked up from his OxyContin haze and said oh hi Matthew, how are you? That's when I started sobbing, sobbing was the color of that room maybe blue like those sofas I mean blue in my dreams the color of comfort. It's crazy the way my dreams pulsate with such crazy symbolism, I mean I don't feel symbolism in my waking life or at least not like arguing in the dark room on the floor where everyone is alive and angry, arguing just like always -- but then an excitement across the white white counter on the other side. Heaven, really -- I mean I don't believe in anything of the sort, nothing but worms devouring the corpse but in my dreams it’s a different story, those comfortable blue sofas, oh.

And in the bathroom, that sparkling white bathroom with slate floors, my parents loved slate floors they re-did the porch we never sat on in slate but never the entryway because my father said it would be too expensive. In the middle of that bathroom was a ring of metal with a stand, just above head-level, in the dream I thought oh, this means the bathroom isn't finished -- but now I realize this was a noose in that white white bathroom, on the way to visit my father on the other side I mean I guess that noose is the unfinishedness of the feelings I have for my father, the unfinished violence of his abuse and now I'm thinking also about my mother, how she's still him -- maintaining his illusions, her own illusions, so that the violence can continue to occur underneath. But also that my father in the dream looked more like me than him and what would it mean for me to get to that place of childlike excitement?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Oh, no -- more consolidation of the independent press!

Haworth Press, publisher of numerous imprints including Harrington Park Press (LGBT studies), Alice Street Editions (lesbian-specific), and Southern Tier Editions (gay fiction/erotica), as well as close to 200 journals, recently announced that they have been purchased by Taylor and Francis, a British academic publisher that also owns the prestigious Routledge. Haworth, by the way, also happens to be the publisher of two of my books (my first two anthologies), Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write About Their Clients and Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving.

It's possible the Taylor and Francis buyout could be good news for current Haworth nonfiction titles, since Taylor and Francis probably has better distribution and more high-end production methods. But it's unlikely that Taylor and Francis will continue the quirkiest of Haworth’s tastes, including many of their queer titles that would be difficult to place elsewhere. Fiction and erotica would seem particularly out of place on the Taylor and Francis list.

Haworth has been one of the few publishers consistently open to new work (especially queer work), and it seems quite likely that the Taylor and Francis purchase will make it much more difficult for emerging writers to find a venue.

(For an earlier post on independent press consolidation, click here.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No condos here, yet...

Went to an event for the brilliant book Dam Nation, and ended up in this gorgeous wasteland/wilderness just south of San Francisco...

"Passing with Mattilda, Part 2" -- or so it says...

A continuation of Troy Williams' great interview with me for the gay paper in Salt Lake City...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

You won't believe this...

Okay, it's a coaster (yes, for your drinks, honey -- your drinks!) advertising some monstrous new development (170offThird -- now that a catchy name! -- but don't worry, there is a two-story club room including demonstration kitchen and private movie theater) in the lovely San Francisco neighborhood now known as South Beach (no, not Miami!) which consists of wall-to-wall condos including many of those glass towers I've featured on this blog -- anyway, this coaster was included for free in every issue of the Bay Area Reporter, one of San Francisco's high-quality gay newspapers, it just dropped out as I was about to read, read, read -- forget that, now things have improved and I'm ready to buy...

Don't my plants looks beautiful in their new pots? Thanks, Grant!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The best orgasms are always in my dreams

Climbing up the ladder made of recycled police cars into the soft cushion of this guy lying on the top, level with the trees but still visible from the street I’m unzipping his pants then sucking his belt, a metal sculpture towering into my throat

Friday, August 10, 2007

My new brownstone in Vegas...

James Bakner sent me this ad for a new "city within a city" in Las Vegas, that -- yes -- finally includes brownstones! And I love this artsy bohemian thoughtful type with dark glasses meditating on the possibilities...

But that's not all... take a look at this virtual tour of what to expect (soon, so soon!) in the middle of the desert...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Yes, maybe I'm becoming a food photographer...

Aren't these onions lovely? I love these onions! (Please ignore the fact that I'm posting this at 4:30 a.m.)

The mold

Waking up in the middle of the night, my head feels like it's filled with dust in that overwhelming way like I'll never get the dust out, I can smell the mold the mold is killing me I have to do something about the mold but I'll never have enough energy because of the mold so how will I ever be able to do anything? I'm thinking about why the mold is so overwhelming, why I'm so wired in the middle of the night thinking about it, then I start to think about the mold in the sink in the basement where my father held me I mean pushed me inside the sink. Maybe it was the angle -- easier to break me open, easier to cover my mouth so no one would hear -- or maybe because the sink was invisible behind the bar in the rec room, that knotted pine bar in a room of someone else's creation, my parents only used it maybe once or twice to entertain like that time when they had a New Year's party when we first moved in and there were over a hundred guests, in his spare time my father would give me math problems I was excited about numbers.

Later, the room kept flooding the titles cracked and when it dried we locked the cats in there at night with the ping-pong table so they wouldn't wake us up, that huge room covering a third of the whole basement floor became the cats’ room, next door to my father's office which was also huge the cats tore up the furniture then it really became their room. But way before that, my body in that small space between sink and countertop mostly I remember the smell of all that mold my father's fingers over my nose covering my mouth no there were other smells too I didn't like those smells either.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A love-hate relationship

A list of things in my pocket for the evening stroll: a small container of food, that goes in the breast pocket of my jacket and it doesn't look strange if the jacket is unbuttoned; tissues, toothpicks and the throat lozenges in the other breast pocket; camera, Avanti condom and oil lube, money in my right pants pocket; a small bottle of water, latex condom and water-based lube, money in my left pants pocket. That's right -- I'm getting ready to go to Buena Vista, but for some reason I can't stop shitting -- what a mess. Then I keep eating a few bites of food so I don't get hypoglycemic, but then I have to shit again.

The moral of this story is: don't trust Google maps, okay? Because I decide that maybe there's a shortcut I don't know about, so I try to find a map online of the pathways through Buena Vista Park, but I just find Google maps. Fuck Google maps -- I hate Google maps! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So I take a cab to the place where there's supposed to be a shortcut, sure enough it's a pathway for maintenance vehicles that goes all the way to the top, I can't believe how easy it is until I realize that I'm in the entirely wrong place, it's another peak that looks kind of like the peak where I should be except that the viewing angle goes in the other direction so I'm facing the wrong way -- not that it matters which way I'm facing I mean I can turn around, right? But the problem is that I can't figure out how the fuck to get to the other peak, the peak where I'm supposed to be, so that I have to walk back up to this peak and then all the way back down the new road I've discovered and then around the whole park -- what is all of this stuff on the side, buildings that don't look nearly as posh and there's the mental hospital that got converted into condos, the entrance looks pretty glamorous.

Anyway, by the time I get to the usual entrance, that's when I realize I should just leave, I mean I've already reached my pain and exhaustion and hypoglycemia threshold but I sit down to drink some of my water and eat some of the food, slowly, while looking at the palm trees in front of the usual mansions -- the audacity of planting these palm trees right across from the redwoods on this cliff! Anyway, I still feel hypoglycemic but I can't really leave after I've got an all the way here, even though I haven't gotten anywhere really yet just up to the top and then back down.

I start the new climb and someone’s stumbling down in the dark, are you okay? He says yes, I realize he was fumbling into some kind of fighting position -- not someone cruising, probably sleeping or smoking crack. Walking up the not-quite-stairs, I'm trying to keep my body relaxed so that I don't hurt myself and the exercise feels good -- it doesn't actually feel that far to the viewing platform where there's a bench. I sit on the bench and some guy comes over, starts talking about how he's going back to Australia because a friend from his childhood has a rare form of leukemia and he’s a doctor so he wants to go back and see if he can help, no not help but spend time with his friend and yes, maybe help because that's what he's trained to do, right?

Obviously this guy's tweaked, he says I bought a house in 1994 for 487,000, when I sold it in 2000 it went for 1.8 million, I mean we sold it -- I caught my lover of 14 years in bed with another guy, and to think I'd been loyal for all that time and he was propositioning coworkers of mine -- and I'm the kind of guy that finds it hard to keep $20 in my pocket but then I bought three houses in Las Vegas except that the tenants in one house turned out to be cooking speed so the house blew up but that was okay because of the insurance, except that I was on the city council, it's not a good thing to have tenants like that when you're on the city council -- I was just flipping those houses anyway I lived here in San Francisco from 1994 to 2000 and all of my friends were in the dot-com industry and after it crashed they left and San Francisco hasn't been the same since then, the other night I hooked up with a guy for sex at my house and he ripped me off blind, I've lived in a lot of cities and the guys here are really awful I think it's awful, really.

Some guy’s coming towards us, swaying like he's had way too much to drink, then he motions for us to make space on the bench so I move closer to my new friend, I'm eating the rest of my food now and the new guy notices my bottle -- is that water, he says. Like I'm getting give him some of my water -- it's gone anyway.

The tweaker continues: I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I was in high school so I took anatomy and physiology but then I've never ended up practicing in a hospital, I went to law school also because someone told me I could make a lot of money as an expert witness in court cases, then I spent a long time as the warden at Vacaville Prison, you have to be a doctor in order to be a warden, in case of an emergency, but can you believe that I thought Noe Valley was another city I mean I spent so much time commuting to Vacaville that when I got back I never left the Castro -- to think that Noe Valley was right around the corner, just the other day I discovered Union Street because my father sent me some money, it was waiting at a bank up there and then I thought oh, now I have money and there's all this shopping -- it was great.

But in high school I had the hottest chemistry teacher, this was 1977 in Santa Barbara there was still counterculture there -- this guy was so hot, and he asked me to be his assistant I was so excited just to spend time with him. Can you believe the first thing he did was teach me how to make G, then MDMA and crystal -- I went away to college, we grew apart, but then after college I went back to Santa Barbara, saw him at a party and I was crying my eyes out about how lonely I was and how much I missed him and then we got back together, he was my lover for 14 years and to think that he cheated on me like that, I walked in on him after 14 years, I'm going to Australia but I'll be back although I hate this town, I have a love-hate relationship I mean I'm a vodka snob -- I saw this recipe for a pomegranate Cosmo on Oprah, but I think she said to use Stoli and I don't drink anything less than Belvedere I like it crystal-clear the good thing about this park is that I get exercise, I had two heart attacks and then I needed more exercise.

The guy next to us has been sneezing and coughing for a while, and in between he looks over and says hey, I'm sorry, thanks, nice to meet you. My tweaker friend gets up to go, so I follow him -- I have to piss anyway. By this time I'm too hypoglycemic to cruise really, I mean I'm cruising but I'm too hypoglycemic -- this one guy wants me to lie down in the dirt so he can fuck me that way. Are you kidding -- I'm not messing up my clothes! Then there's the guy who walks around jerking off and then you suck him for a minute and he walks away. I mean I suck him for a minute -- don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying my minute, probably more like four or five minutes, but then it's over and I'm still walking in circles until I'm finally Walking down and I'm angry that my body’s already hurting and why was I listening to that tweaker for so long I mean I was enjoying his stories -- I've never heard anyone say that they miss the dot-com years, I mean I'm sure that's true for many many people just not ones I'm talking to. Outside the park it doesn't feel so humid, did I even mention that it was so humid in the park? Like a microclimate because as soon as I step outside there's a gust of wind and it's freezing and I finally feel okay until I'm home and everything hurts and I hate myself for going to the park I mean I just wanted to go somewhere beautiful to cruise instead of that fucking Nob Hill Theatre and it wasn't even fun, I didn't even take any pictures now I've ruined my life that's what I'm thinking I’ve destroyed my body why do my shoulders hurt so much -- my neck too, I need to drink water and eat something.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

We all had histories

Speaking of the end of an era, my favorite part of the 12 hours I spend in bed is that first five minutes, thinking yes, why has it taken me so long to get here -- this is where I should have been all day! But then there’s that 12 hours, really 12? Yes, 12 -- but what's the point? Though I'm glad the acupuncturist said my pulses felt stronger than she would have expected, given all of my symptoms -- she said it must be doing you some good, to stay in bed all that time.

Meanwhile, waking up into an entirely different world or is this just the world of eight tiny sugar pellets? It's a new dose of the homeopathic remedy, why couldn't this remedy have arrived earlier, before the last two weeks? It's like the light coming through the blinds is suddenly different, I'm different, the light coming through the blinds. But then I have to cook, and my right wrist is back to a tragic state of tension, but sitting on the fire escape is still the sensation, especially now that it’s not so humid anymore, the air actually feels fresh.

Back inside, for some reason I start thinking about all the random people I used to be friends with, I miss my friendships with random people -- we all had histories, that's what connected us, not necessarily that we would ever see the world in similar ways. I think there’s a certain kind of knowledge and intimacy that comes from that type of relationship, I guess that's what I'm missing. Not that I spend that much time with anyone, really -- mostly I'm in my apartment or walking down the street, trying not to crash too hard because that's when it hurts most. It happens anyway -- the day fades and then I find myself lying on the stretching mat thinking can I get up, I mean I know I'm going to get up but why?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Who's around at 2:30?

Thai Noodle Café is packed

The pigeons are getting fed

Oh, him

It's like the arm is just flying really

A few minutes into my at-home dancing experiment and my whole body already feels connected, like I can throw up my arm and everything moves it's like the arm is just flying really. Until I notice that something's hurting in my chest, should I stop? I decide just to dance slower, except then the muscle starts hurting more so I turn off the music, four minutes the timer says and then I can't figure out how to stretch what I've just hurt although maybe stretching isn’t the best thing to do anyway since movement is how I hurt myself.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Disney will save the world -- thank you, Disney!

Saltyfemme brought my attention to a piece of stunning journalism at Huffington Post -- isn't that supposed to be a "progressive" blog (or the progressive blog, according to some)? Anyway, “Corporate America: the New Gay Activists,” this post by Kirk Snyder, author of The G Quotient: Why Gay Executives are Excelling as Leaders... And What Every Manager Needs to Know, offers so many stellar quotes that it's hard even to know where to start, so let me go right through in a somewhat conventional linear manner -- starting with the beginning, that is.

Snyder informs us of a fascinating Gallup poll that found that “almost ninety percent of Americans said they believe gay people should have equal rights in the workplace. Interestingly, only forty-seven percent of these same people believe that being gay is ‘morally acceptable.’”

Now, instead of calling attention to this obvious contradiction, Snyder decides that “Even those people who still think we are not ‘morally acceptable’ have to admit there is nothing threatening or subversive going on among these professionals.” Snyder is speaking of gay professionals in the corporate workplace, and he may certainly be correct in maintaining that these model employees are doing nothing threatening or subversive at IBM, Exxon, Halliburton, or any other company they inhabit. Although perhaps this is the problem -- or one of the many problems -- of the assimilation success story, right? I mean, that these tragic gay employees only further the monstrous violence of corporate profiteers instead of doing anything "threatening or subversive." Most of these lovely employees are no doubt exploring and promoting race and class privilege at work (instead of using privilege to challenge systems of oppression), then going home to promote gentrification and other forms of neighborhood "beautification" in order to further real estate development and urban removal.

But Snyder goes on to conclude that, “this heightened visibility of gay people in the world of work goes a long way in creating mainstream credibility, which by the way is essential in order to reach the long-term goal of sexual orientation simply being a non-issue.” Again, mainstream credibility is assumed to be the end goal, followed by sexuality becoming a "non-issue." But wait -- whose goals are those? Oh, the corporations where these nice gays work. I love this synchronicity!

But one of the most perplexing lines in this piece is when Snyder declares that the presence of corporate gay drones is “a contemporary anecdote for homophobia." What the hell is an “anecdote for homophobia”? Let me try this one, of my own creation: “well, I was hanging out by the copy machine when that new employee with the paisley tie and those Brooks Brothers suits that always look a little too freshly pressed, plus Gucci loafers -- I mean, who wears Gucci loafers at Halliburton -- really! Anyway, I noticed his wedding ring was braided platinum -- I mean, how gay is that?"

Okay, I'm imagining that the editors over at Huffington Post were a little harried on the evening of July 16, because I'm guessing that Snyder means antidote, not anecdote (or, perhaps bloggers at Huffington Post are not edited -- I'm not sure). But even if Snyder does mean "antidote," he's already stated that, although a Gallup poll finds that 90 percent of so-called “Americans” don't think you should be fired if you're gay, 47 percent of those same people don't think muffdiving and cocksucking are morally acceptable. Sounds like homophobia is alive and well!

But get this... Snyder tells us that "out-of-the-closet gay executives in companies like Deloitte, Disney and Morgan Stanley are managing employees who report significantly higher levels of job engagement, satisfaction and morale than employees of straight managers in other environments." Isn't that so cute? Singing show tunes and organizing potlucks have really paid off for the corporate gays -- they keep their employees in line by entertaining them! That's right, if you do the can-can right, your employees don't even notice that they're indentured servants. As Snyder says, "Inclusion as it turns out is good for the bottom line." I'm so glad that inclusion isn’t cutting into corporate profits -- oh, the thought is enough to send me out for another Grey Goose cosmotini, and we both know there's more work to do first, Mary... I mean Walt!

But the best part is yet to come... there's apparently a group called G Suite. That's right, “A play on the business term C-Suite designating chief officer positions, the G Suite is an ever-growing collection of high-level gay corporate executives, wealthy philanthropists and select political types working together (rather stealth-like up until this point it seems) toward a common objective: helping to place the first out-of-the-closet CEO at the helm of a major Fortune 500 company.” No, really -- like the Masons? Break open the bubbly, Babs, this is certainly the dawning of a new era...

And then another slip on the part of Snyder (I just love these slips!), who declares that "the road to anti-gay hate crimes, same-sex marriage, and even gay adoption may already be paved.” I couldn't agree more that the existence of a corporate gay elite who cares only about their own success (oh, and the success of the company!) further anti-queer violence, but somehow I think Snyder meant to write "the road to gay inclusion in hate crimes legislation," not simply the road to more "anti-gay hate crimes."

Snyder concludes his compelling piece by stating, "An out-of-the-closet CEO of any blue-chip company will be a watershed day for gay equality. More than likely, all of those other watershed days we've been waiting for will then simply fall into place.”

Really? An out-of-the-closet CEO of a blue-chip company will bring the end to US imperialism, corporate bloodshed, global warming, binary gender tyranny, the policing of desire, the dismantling of all nuclear warheads, the end of consumerism... healthcare, housing and food for everyone... the opportunity for everyone to create their gender, sexual, social and political identities and dismantle all systems of oppression at the same time... self-determination for all children, an end to police, the liberation of public space, the end of hierarchies based on identity, and a new way of looking at the world -- all of that will simply fall into place?

Thank you, Disney!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Touch so brutal and illuminated

I was asked to write a very short (300-500 word) piece about gentrification/displacement/housing/public space in NYC, here's what I've come up with so far:

I don't remember how I first discovered Stuyvesant Park, maybe it was some guy who brought me there from the porn shop on 3rd Avenue. It was one of those frigid nights when you think the rain should be snow but it's not, it's rain and somehow that makes it colder. The park was dark or as dark as downtown gets the gates were closed, they looked closed but they weren't and when we got inside there was someone waiting in the rain and I thought oh, this is the place.

But also David Wojnarowicz wrote about Stuyvesant Park, I remember he’d found shelter there but that was long before, by the time I moved to New York he'd already been dead five years, shelter was harder to inhabit. So much longer ago it seemed when I'd discovered David in an obituary, can I even call him by his first name? Stuyvesant Park is a strange corner of downtown, without the grandeur of Union Square or the counterculture allure of Tompkins Square Park but it was a corner where I found touch so brutal and illuminated, gentle too but this also was disappearing thanks to Giuliani and gentrification, surveillance and chain stores, NYU dorms and other crackdowns on public sensibility.

When they started locking the gates it didn't really matter, everyone moved to the steps of the church where people were also sleeping, sometimes there was overlap and sometimes the adventure winded down steps, into below-ground alcoves dead-ending into doors. I'm not sure what these spaces were designed for, probably not the shivering embrace of hands and mouths and eyes and cocks, bodies grasping yes. In these makeshift rooms or thrusting right up against the gates of the park like that was some kind of shelter just desire, maybe someone would look out that was enough and sometimes the cops were there too but then everyone would walk around the block, a good way to discover other not-quite-hiding places, you could memorize landmarks for next time then return with more information, people always returned that's what I counted on.

Now the gates are always locked, after polite hours when everything used to start. No one even walks around the perimeter, searching. Maybe it's not as blatant as a gleaming white tower on Rivington, but gazing in sometimes it's hard just to remember, the way gentrification even robs you of imagination.