Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Planning this book tour is crazy, this crazy book tour -- a preview







So I was just in some strange promotion zone, planning everything like crazy I was wired and feeling it, then I crashed hard -- before I had so much to write, now I just need to stretch . I mean I can't even think -- I guess it is late.
Here's a preview of the book tour so far, more events to come:

NOBODY PASSES IN LA
Friday, February 9 @ 7:30 p.m.
Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027 (323) 660-1175
with Dean Spade, Jessica Hoffmann, Ruth Blandon, Irina Contreras, Stephanie Abraham, Benjamin Shepard, Jen Cross and Jennifer Blowdryer

NOBODY PASSES IN EUGENE
Friday, February 16 @ 4:30 p.m.
University of Oregon
with Jen Cross

NOBODY PASSES IN PORTLAND
Monday, February 19 @ 7:30 p.m.
Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214
www.powells.com
with Priya Kandaswamy, Jen Cross and Jennifer Blowdryer

NOBODY PASSES IN SEATTLE
Wednesday, February 21 @ 7 p.m.
Bailey/Coy Books
414 Broadway E.
Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 323-8842
with Jennifer Blowdryer

NOBODY PASSES IN BELLINGHAM
Friday, February 23 @ 7:30 p.m.
Village Books
1200 Eleventh StreetBellingham, WA 98225
(360) 671-2626
with Jennifer Blowdryer

MACALESTER COLLEGE
Saturday, March 3
St. Paul, Minnesota
(this will be a talk about the nightmare of gay assimilation)

NOBODY PASSES IN MINNEAPOLIS
Monday, March 5 @ 7 p.m.
Amazon Bookstore Cooperative
4755 Chicago Ave. So.Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 821-9630
www.amazonbookstorecoop.com

NOBODY PASSES IN CHICAGO
Thursday, March 8 @ 7:30 p.m.
Women & Children First Bookstore
5233 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640
773-769-9299
wcfbooks@aol.com
www.womenandchildrenfirst.com

NOBODY PASSES IN MILWAUKEE
Friday, March 9 @ 7:30 p.m.
Broad Vocabulary
2241 S. Kinnickinnic Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
www.broadvocabulary.com
(414) 744-8384

NOBODY PASSES IN ANN ARBOR
Sunday, March 11 @ 4 p.m.
Shaman Drum Bookshop
311-315 South State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 662-7407

NOBODY PASSES IN NYC
Wednesday, March 21 @ 7 p.m.
Bluestockings Bookstore
172 Allen St (between Stanton and Rivington)
New York, NY 10002
www.bluestockings.com
with Helen Boyd, Sand Chang, Rocko Bulldagger, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Liz Rosenfeld

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
Thursday, March 22 @ 7 p.m.
New York, New York
in conversation with T Cooper and Felicia Luna Lemus

WAGNER COLLEGE
Monday, March 26 @ 7 p.m.
Staten Island, New York
(this will be a talk about the nightmare of gay assimilation)

NOBODY PASSES IN BALTIMORE
Thursday, April 5, Time TBA
Red Emma’s Bookstore
800 St. Paul St.
Baltimore, MD 21202





..

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Canada comes first, press from Canada!

Here's a review from NOW Magazine in Toronto (a weekly newspaper):

http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2007-01-25/book_reviews.php

And I love what Sandra Alland says on her blog (www.blissfultimes.ca):

A must read non-fiction book: Nobody Passes, edited by Mattilda aka Matt Bernstein Sycamore. Although the book is marketed by Seal Press as being about gender (passing as male or female, trans, genderqueer, butch, femme etc), it's also about race, class, sexuality, ability, and a million other ways we pass (or fail to pass, or refuse to pass) every day. Amazing stuff, ranging from heteronormativity, homonormativity, and transnormativity (the way each "group" of people sets up laws of how to "officially" belong to the group, and how we police each other) to things like Okie migration in the States to disability's intersection with sexuality to mixed-race identities that don't include white as part of the equation to BDSM to immigrant rights movements and on and on. I think the marketing of this book is too narrow, suggesting it's only of interest to women, genderqueers and queers, when really it's a book that talks about the bullshit passing we all (and I mean all) participate in at some point in our lives.

Monday, January 29, 2007

But Dr. Wolfowitz, your kids are in college!


In my dream, I'm in a play that's a movie but it's a play and I forgot my lines, I have to remember that it doesn't matter because it's a movie, or is it a play? Then I'm going to the open mic that's known for kids who get upset and knife you, it's upstairs through the psychiatric ward of some children's hospital, or not a psychiatric ward it's some sort of group home, then the open mic is upstairs in the rooftop garden with a fountain, which is sort of impressive. Afterwards, I'm becoming friends with this woman who's maybe the one known for knifing people, she introduces me to someone who I think is maybe her boyfriend, but then he's making out with me, and that's when I guess she wants to knife me, I guess this is the pattern. So I'm running through the group home, she's downstairs and I'm upstairs but I have to get outside through a hidden emergency exit, then I'm tumbling through a window to the bright green grass downstairs and outside where there's some sort of group therapy going on, the leader I mean doctor leading it says, quoting himself from earlier: but Dr. Wolfowitz, your kids are in college!

Then I'm running through this group therapy session while this woman is running after me and kids are trying to block her, there's one fag I know who says she attacked me too, and then as I'm waking up I'm thinking it would be good if I took a self-defense class. But the best part of the dream is that my father's name was Dr. Wolfowitz, as in Paul Wolfowitz, one of the most monstrous criminals of our time, currently the director of the World Bank, right?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Standing back on my heels


But wait -- waking up, I can't believe it -- could it be true? Is it actually foggy out? Is there even rain on the ground, if rain is still rain when it's on the ground? It's true! Fog and rain in San Francisco in the winter, in all of this global warming madness, just a little bit of fog and rain to clear out some of the smog. Even my head feels better -- a UPS delivery woke me up, pounding on my buzzer -- but I still feel this calm clarity underneath the inner tube someone's blowing up in my head. I mean, the inner tube still hurts, but it feels so much better than drilling for oil, for gold, for bauxite, Rohypnol, Polonium-210, weapons of mass destruction, protesters, ironclad guarantees, municipal waste, more evergreens for Christmas trees, meritocracy, nail polish, pile driver-delivery truck head-on, leaning towers fallen over and over when everyone knows there's just spaghetti bolognese in there, right? Today feels more spread out like my arms are wide open.

This feeling only lasts until I eat, then the sinus headache is back to overwhelming. At least I have these new shoes that make me stand back on my heels maybe and attempt to walk like falling so that each step pushes off my toes. How do you walk?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sinus headache, help!


I really want to say something new about this sinus headache. Like: it's gone! Or: I figured out that it was all because of the white noise generator. Instead, I find myself looking in the mirror to see if my eyebrows really are puffy mounds of wet clay with water gurgling underneath. There are a few eyebrows that have grown extra-long and exta-blond, but no mounds of clay or bubbling brooks or anything like that. I will admit to deriving some form of satisfaction from the fact that everything looks okay, but unfortunately not a form of satisfaction that does anything about this headache.

Modern Times, how lovely!

The reading at Modern Times was AMAZING -- totally packed, I would say standing room only except that there wasn't any standing room – many people were forced to stand out behind the wall in the main part of the store where you can't see the readers. Again, it was so wonderful to see the interaction of the pieces live and with an audience. I noticed a theme of family/love/violence, starting with my intro where I talk about visiting my father, then Logan's piece where he's talking about his relationship with his mother, who's afraid that he will become another male Chicano abuser like the others in her life/family -- and Logan was almost crying, actually crying a little because he's about to have top surgery and I was crying a little too or just tears at the sides of my eyes I was holding them in like the rest of the audience I think.

Dominika Bednarska read a section of her piece where a guy grabs her canes on the dancefloor, lifting the ends up like they are arms and how she has to prepare for falling -- and there were people gasping in the audience, then the excerpt moved to a sexual relationship between a lesbian (Dominika) and a gay man, and also to questions about desire, disability, and stereotypes about the two. This piece transitioned to Tommi Avicolli Mecca writing about the bigoted father of a friend being on their door with a gun, then Eric Stanley writing about the complicated legacy of slavery and his (unacknowledged mixed race) family history, and finally Sand Chang and Amy Andre in conversation about the intersections between genderqueer and femme identities.

Everyone was quiet at the end again -- no questions -- and someone suggested after the reading that perhaps there were no questions because the juxtaposition of all of these different pieces is already posing so many questions. I thought that was a good point. Amy also mentioned that after the reading, she and Sand were thinking that what they wrote seems almost to be written by different people than they are now, and I thought that was a good sign about the fluidity of identities.

I also forgot to take pictures, even though I brought my new camera, and I didn't send around an email list sign-up sheet like I usually do or tell people to post comments about the reading in this blog entry like I thought I might but that's okay because I actually feel incredibly exhausted now, not quite capable about writing everything I wanted to so I'm summarizing.

But I felt incredibly present at the reading -- I liked my intro and the dynamic I had with the audience, and the dynamic between everyone in the room. I'm looking forward to more, even as I sit here wondering how on earth I'm going to have enough energy to go on the crazy tour I'm planning (or even to organize it). But it all feels important.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Nobody Passes is number three on the nonfiction bestseller list this month at Modern Times -- pretty amazing, it's just above Amy Sedaris and then Noam Chomsky -- hilarious. Thanks for the support!

More pictures of the view, I can't help it






Okay, I'm attempting to give you the full view this time, East to West and then down a bit closer -- it was very smoggy today, but was it as smoggy as it looks in these pictures? Maybe. The first picture isn't the view, it's a plate of greens still steaming on the plate -- you can see the steam, right?


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I just did something exciting

It’s a movement I learned in feldenkrais, a pelvic circle while standing -- the idea is that your body moves around your pelvis, or I mean your pelvis moves your body, something like that. I've been doing it for a few months, but tonight was the first time I actually felt like my head was connected to my pelvis and my feet, I mean like it was moving because of the pelvis, not exactly moving smoothly but still moving with my center and not against it -- or wait, still a little bit against it, but like it was all connected. That's the point -- it felt connected, kind of like a ride at an amusement park or something, not something scary or fast or alienating but one of those old rides for little kids, maybe the teacups but slower.

Figuring out this camera



Okay, I can't quite master the lighting on this camera yet -- actually, pushing all the buttons hurts my fragile hands too much and really I need a panoramic shot to give you even a taste of the view, but here's one photo anyway, plus what I ate this morning: kale, mung beans and wehani rice. That's one of my new plates from Goodwill, by the way.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A window into my Tenderloin sunbathing splendor




Okay, first we get the crazy view from inside my apartment, then there's that gorgeous blue sky while I'm sunbathing on the fire escape (the open window on the left, that's the one that leads to my morning/afternoon paradise -- it's not so large, same size as the one you see in the bottom photo, but I'm living for it)...


Oh no, I just lost everything...


Well, here's the dulse seaweed broth I eat first thing in the morning. More photos later, blogger just ate the rest and told me there was something wrong with my HTML tags...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

There's something about conspiracy, even when it's not my own

Just outside the new mall that everyone in the city seems to be going to, these two teenagers get on the bus -- they scoot in beside me, in the back row. One of them is smoking, I say you're smoking on the bus? Shh, she says, and holds the cigarette down. What is it that makes me keep her secret? I mean, nothing could be more horrifying to me than smoking on the bus, especially right next to me and my sinuses, but here I am just sort of smiling and hoping she'll stop. It's something about the conspiracy, that she's letting me in to her world somehow and I appreciate that. Everyone is looking around like they don't know it's her smoking -- they want to tell her to stop, but they're not going to. She says to the man facing her -- do you want me to put this out? He nods his head -- there are kids in here, he says, little kids. The little girl facing me looks like she's about to cry. After the woman next to me puts the cigarette out, while I'm counting the blocks -- only two more, only two more -- she says you live around here? I say I live on O'Farrell, she says Potrero. I smile -- she has big yellow plastic star earrings that are just the outline of a star – they’re very ‘80s, of course, but I still like them. She says don't take this the wrong way, but are you gay? Yes, I say -- I could just tell, she says, my brother's gay -- and I work with a lot of gay people. I say I'm not exactly hiding it, and then we're at my stop, I smile goodbye, have fun! Be safe, she says (why do straight people always say that to faggots?). You too, I say.

Thank you, Perverts Put Out!

I'm trying to write about this beautiful feeling I got from Perverts Put Out, but here the sinus headache is surrounding me -- I almost didn't make it to the reading because I felt so exhausted, even after getting dressed and doing my hair all I wanted to do was get back into bed. Probably would've done that except that I don't like flaking, but I'm so glad that I went because everyone reading and performing was brilliant, I mean it was truly phenomenal starting with all of the energy in the crowd. I've never liked CounterPULSE really because it always reminds me that it's not 848, the space it replaced -- 848 always felt like you were walking into someone's living room, and you were actually; CounterPULSE always felt cold and distant to me, not quite formed because I guess it isn’t but also more like a conventional art space in that detached way.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm perfectly aware that someone's living room can be cold and distant, so let me be more specific: 848 felt like you were packed into this tightly-wound, sweaty, vibrant, oversaturated stretching zone where your mind could go up to the ceiling and down to the floor and hugging the walls all at the same time and even if the show was bad you knew you were glad you were there.

But anyway, tonight at CounterPULSE was jumping, the crowd was delicious and each performer brought a different style or sensibility or delivery – from S. Bear Bergman's mesmerizing theatrical (hot!) tranny porn to Daphne Gottlieb's splendid layered dissonant poetry to Steven Schwartz’s hilarious “bearlesque” (with Lori Selke) to Simon Sheppard's casual and preposterous ode to Reverend Ted Haggert’s ass (and other parts) to Thea Hillman’s careful, refreshingly honest description of her first (somewhat disappointing) times in an SM club to horehound stillpoint’s scathing and hilarious poem about conformity and US militarism, among other things, and Carole Queen's storytelling about (accidentally) having sex with a survivalist to Meliza Banales’s tales of stripping and seduction and when the trick is more than you'd expected, in a good way even.

I want to be clearer about the audience -- so many different types of people expressing sexuality and enthusiasm (and enthusiasm about all types of sexuality, and everyone else in the room too!) and engagement outside of conventional beauty myth/appropriate behavior scams. It really felt liberatory, like the dream of San Francisco so often lacking or trampled upon now disappeared.

And my reading? I was reading from So Many Ways to Sleep Badly and the audience was with me the whole time, or when they weren't with me I knew it and then they were with me again. I got such incredible feedback from the other writers/readers/performers, like horehound who said you really don't care if anyone gets it. That sounds strange here on the page/computer screen without context, but at that point it felt so incredibly supportive because yes that is exactly how I write -- it's my world that you can choose to enter if you want, but I refuse to define for the audience. Oh, but this audience! These amazing writers! The sweet compliments about the uniqueness of my voice and performance style! All of this was so great, especially when I've spent literally several years now sending this novel to publishers and agents who can't deal because it refuses to operate under a conventional narrative structure, they want a “stronger plot structure” which is exactly what I'm working against. They might also be scared of the saturated sexuality, the over-the-top queeniness of the voice, and my unwillingness to package it all neatly or come to any easy conclusion/resolution, but the narrative is what they always talk about.

Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who was there -- I came home just as exhausted and maybe my headache is even worse, but I feel like I've grown a little tonight, like this kind of event is why I live in San Francisco and it's not often when I can actually feel that.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Radio, reading, and the rest -- or lack of rest

Okay, the second radio interview was wonderful -- it's funny, because the KALW station (91.7 FM in the Bay Area -- it'll be broadcast again on Sunday at 2 p.m., by the way, also streaming at www.kalw.org) -- the station is in the back of a public high school, Burton High, way out off Bayshore Blvd. near McLaren Park, it took me an hour-and-a-half to get there by bus. Anyway, when you go to the bathroom, you open up the door and there you are in the high school with the choice of BOYS or GIRLS.

The host of the show, Marilyn Pitt, was hilarious -- she liked to keep it contentious, but was also very polished at the same time since she's been doing radio for 20 years. We talked for a whole half hour on air, and at the end I thought we were just getting started. She drove me home because she felt bad that it had taken me so long to get there on MUNI, she was telling me about doing a comedy gig for the HRC where she knew she couldn't use any swear words, but they liked jokes about money.

Then tonight I did the reading at Laurel Book Store, this cute lesbian-run bookstore in Oakland -- check it out if you're in the area, 4100 MacArthur Blvd. -- it would be nice to have more small bookstores around like that. I read from So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, my new novel, and Jennifer Fink read from her new novel, V -- we are both very performative in different ways, so it was a fun combination. Then we had a lively conversation with the audience members (a very intimate crowd -- it was great to see you there, Seeley! And everyone else!).

Then I came home and now I'm sitting here in all this headache, this knotted wall of tension travesty sadness sinking in -- I'm thinking about touring, because the last few days have kind of been like that, except that I get to come home and sleep in my comfortable bed. At the moment it feels like how will I really be able to do it? I mean, I know it will happen and the readings will give me energy and inspiration but I hate it so much that the inspiration never saves me for more than an hour or two before I sink back into exhaustion overwhelming everything I mean not really sinking just falling even while sitting as it surrounds me.
.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Usually I like to cook beans as long as possible, but...

Okay, so I cooked these black-eyed peas for hours and hours because that makes them easier to digest and they taste better, but this time I actually think I cooked them too long, because they taste so sweet it's overwhelming, especially for a girl like me who doesn't eat any sugar at all it's like I'm eating a candy apple! What could I put in them to make them more bitter -- I'll have to think about it... for now, I'm going back on the fire escape.

A radio show moment, and now the sun...

I just wanted to post for a moment while I'm on a high! Just did the radio show with Shake! Radio (over the phone), which is actually a national program I found out, and it was really fun! I haven't done much commercial talk radio (this is a Clear Channel station), so I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was very conversational and hilarious -- of course, it helped that the hosts weren't trying to tear me to shreds (like so much talk radio), they were actually engaging in conversation and earnestly asking questions. Much of it was around "choosing life over labels," from the Seal press release, which isn't exactly what the book is about -- or maybe it is. I definitely enjoyed the fact that I got to say that LGBT generally means "gay, with lesbian in parentheses, throw out the bisexuals and put trans on for a little bit of window dressing" on air for a national audience! Also, it was fun to amuse myself by saying faggot and dyke as much as I wanted on the air, just a long as I didn't say fuck or shit (of course, this doesn't help us in general considering who control the airwaves, but it was hilarious to use the loophole in this particular instance). Okay, now I'm going out on the fire escape to sit in the sun, yay!

Bay Area events and radio appearances this weekend

Headache and exhaustion are keeping me vaguely incapacitated at the moment -- I've been sleeping "better," feeling worse... for now I will just announce some events I'm doing this weekend (also, be sure to come to the Nobody Passes reading next Wednesday at Modern Times!!!!!)

I'll be doing a rare reading in Oakland with Jennifer Natalya Fink, who has a brilliant new novel out called V
Friday, January 19, 7:30 pm
Laurel Book Store
4100 MacArthur Boulevard
(510) 531-2073

Then on Saturday, January 20, I'll be reading at Perverts Put Out (starts at 7:30 p.m.)
CounterPULSE
1310 Mission Street
with a bunch of people including Meliza Bañales, Daphne Gottlieb, Steven Schwartz, horehound stillpoint, Simon Sheppard, Carol Queen, and maybe more but I didn't get the official announcement...
(I think this one costs money, but no one turned away for lack of funds -- the other events are free)

I will be interviewed live on KALW’s Out in the Bay (an NPR affiliate),
Thursday, January 18 at 7:30 PM,
91.7 FM in the Bay Area or listen live at http://www.kalw.org/listen.html.
I think it'll be archived on the website too, kalw.org

I'll also be on "Shake!--America's LGBT Radio Talk Show"
960 The Quake KQKE-AM
"Progressive Talk Radio for the Bay Area" (even though it's a Clear Channel station)
Friday, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and re-broadcast on Sunday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Streaming audio: quakeradio.com, shakeradio.com

And...

NOBODY PASSES IN SAN FRANCISCO
Wednesday, January 24 @ 7:30 p.m.
Modern Times Bookstore
888 Valencia (@ 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
www.moderntimesbookstore.com
(415) 282-9246
with Sand Chang, Logan Gutierrez-Mock, Amy Andre, Jen Cross, Dominika Bednarska, Tommi Avicolli Mecca and Eric Stanley

Crass commercialism

There is now a space for Nobody Passes (the book) in Rupert Murdochland-- feel free to join in the festivities/"network" at:

http://www.myspace.com/nobodypasses

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Something tiny gliding way up in the sky

I'm lying in bed after checking the time -- 11 a.m., way too early to get up -- I'm literally yelling at myself for checking the time, since that's what wakes me up but also the strength of my sinus headache is almost astounding, except that it's not astounding because it's there so often, what I notice now though is that I can smell cigarette smoke, where is it coming from? Through the walls, or the floor -- not from the windows I don't think because they're almost closed, I get up to open them and of course it's beautiful out and sunny, then I'm back in bed and actually asleep until I wake up again into that sunny world except for the hammer in my forehead. I'm wondering if the cigarette smoke is causing my headache, even though I haven't smelled it until today.

At first it's freezing on the fire escape, but then it feels warm and when I go to the bathroom I look at myself in the mirror and see that glow of sunshine that almost makes me like my body, even now when I can't control the way I look because I can't exercise the way I want to and then I don't want to think about it or I'll end up hating myself but something so simple as a little golden glow makes me maybe like my body. Also the feeling of the sun on my skin makes me feel what's underneath: me.

I decide to lie in the sun and I'm trying to keep my eyes open so that I can get that direct sun into my pineal gland, but it's kind of hard in this position. First I'm studying the shadows on the fire escape, then I notice something tiny gliding way up in the sky, could that be a plane? I think you usually hear planes, but I can't remember right now. It almost looks like a kite, but it's too high oh it's a seagull. I love the way it glides through the sky without moving its wings at all and then there are three seagulls flying in circles in the bluest blue of the high-altitude sky. I wonder if they do that just for fun or if there always has to be a reason.

Then there's an actual plane, red with sharp lines and all that metal, yes growling with that noise and it just seems like something so terrible, that machine in the sky. I'm not even going to mention my sinuses, and where all that pain originates, or not originates but what triggered it this time (the plane, remember?). I guess I just mentioned it, but the good news is that when I go inside, several huge crows arrive -- or not crows, some other large dark birds -- anyway, they perch themselves on the building next to mine, I like watching their heads bob quickly from side to side, feathers blowing in the wind a little but otherwise the birds stay still.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The good thing about having sturdy cooking pots

Okay, so I generally like to get started on my cooking before I go to bed, because otherwise it's hours of frantic hypoglycemia in the morning waiting for everything to get done already. Last night, I started cooking the whole oats that take about an hour and a half, because if I bring the pot to boil and then simmer it a little bit before going to sleep and then put the pot in the refrigerator, when I get up it just needs about 15 minutes and then hello whole oats! Unfortunately, I left those oats simmering all night, but the good thing about having sturdy cooking pots is that when I woke up, even though the oats had been cooking all night long and they were burnt to a crisp, there wasn't any smoke at all and after soaking the pot the oats came off in four big chunks and the pot is unscathed. Magic!

The myth of my mother's innocence

I was recently talking to my grandmother about my mother's feelings of powerlessness around taking care of herself financially, even while surrounded by the obvious reality that she doesn't have anything to worry about, I mean way beyond that -- she has investments totaling probably $2.5 million and close to $2 million in real estate, the majority of which she will be selling shortly. My grandmother and I didn't talk about these specifics because my mother hasn't shared them with her, so I didn't divulge -- it's interesting the securities we keep. Not interesting – I’ve become aware of using that word whenever there’s emotion I'm trying to cover, like it's interesting that I was sexually abused or something. What word should I use instead about the way I was holding my mother's confidence while talking to my grandmother, even though my mother hadn’t asked me to do that, I just sensed it?

I know the details of my mother's finances because she gave me a summary, created by her investment lawyer -- she's not trying to hide anything (or at least not everything), which separates her from many other rich people in inheritance movie scandals. I'm shocked by the catastrophe of mother’s overwhelming confusion when faced with the actual security that my father created (not security, obviously -- the mechanics of security), but maybe I'm not shocked. Of course, he kept everything secret from her for the majority of their relationship (over 35 years), even sharing things with me at age 12 that my mother didn't know because he didn't trust her (like the college savings accounts). When I recently described this pattern to my mother as misogynist, she said what do you mean, I said you know, when the man controls everything because women can't be trusted, she said she thought he was just controlling, that it wasn't misogyny. Actually, I had to define the word for her -- sexist, I said -- which was pretty startling to me considering my mother went to graduate school in social work (in the 1980s). What do they teach in social work school, or what did my mother decide not to learn?

I told my grandmother that my mother didn't know anything about finances because she raised her to be a good girl and find a man to take care of her, that my grandmother didn't want my mother to dirty herself with such things (my grandmother supported her two teenaged daughters on her own after her husband died of cancer). My grandmother said don't believe everything you’re told, which was funny because actually I wasn't told that, although my mother did agree with me. My grandmother said Karin was never interested in studying, she was only interested in the guy she was dating at the time and her circle of friends, I had to do so much to get her into the first school that she went to (what was then known as a finishing school, although my grandmother didn't mention that word) -- your mother had a lot of latent intelligence, it came out later in life -- I'm very proud of your mother, because she hung out with what was supposed to be such a smart crowd, but she's the only one who went to graduate school.

I asked my grandmother if she'd ever told my mother she was proud of her, because my mother still doesn't have much self-esteem. My grandmother said maybe I will, I have to find the right time for it -- I felt ambivalent about it then because I wanted her to spend more time with the kids.

As a kid, I wanted to save everyone. First I wanted to save the baby, I was maybe more scared for her because of what I already knew (I was two). I wanted to save the lobster my parents were about to cook. I wanted to save the dead animals in my grandmother's fur coats.

Later, I wanted to save my mother -- I wanted her to leave my father and then I’d help her get an apartment and make herself comfortable. I wanted this to be possible: comfort. Or safety.
It's amazing the childhood fantasies that we can't let go of, I mean I still want to save my mother. I still have this hope that even though she never left my father, that now that he's dead she can discover something about herself that will help her to glow. I still have this hope, even though my mother never saved me from anything or even tried to protect me, as far as I know. Even though my mother is already talking about giving the tenant in an efficiency apartment she owns 60 days notice because she's about to sell it, and when I suggest that she at least give him a few months of free rent so that he can save money to find a new apartment -- 6 months, I suggest -- my mother thinks this is preposterous. It's an emergency, she says. What is the emergency, I ask.

Dad died. That's what she says. That's not an emergency, I say -- he's already dead -- an emergency would be if he were stuck under a bridge.

I'm struck by this belief in my mother's innocence, even though she took her own hands and held my head, right now I don't want to say where -- I haven't dealt with those memories in the way that I've dealt with my father. With him the confrontation was public, I wrote a document and gave it to him, my mother, my sister and all four grandparents. I confronted my mother privately, about my father she said it wasn't possible, but about herself she said maybe you're right, I used to be very seductive.

Marriage is such terrible violence -- I understood this early because I looked at my parents and the way they tore each other to shreds but he always held the upper hand because he was the man -- they could argue and then he'd say Karin, I'm ready to fuck. I mean literally. Then they'd close the bedroom door and lock it.

These were educated, liberal, upper-middle class people seduced by the illusion of their own innocence. I’ve believed in my mother's victimhood, even when I've hated her or seen her own violence and betrayal. I mean, when I went back there to see my father, it was like everything my mother did was right out of a textbook on how abusive families behave. Like when I said that I'd like to talk to my father alone, and she said I don't want you to say anything too damaging. Remember: this is a woman with a masters degree in social work, her job is family therapy.

I'm struck now by the ways in which my mother has participated in her own abuse in so many frightening ways. I mean, when she was 15 in 1962 maybe it made sense that she knew nothing about finances. Maybe it even made sense when she married my father sometime around 1970 (I don't know exactly when). But after spending 30 years in a relationship/marriage where she never needed to work to make a living, I can't help but think that she made the choice not to know anything about finances, even when she was thinking about leaving him, because if she learned about finances then she'd actually have the tools to leave, but she knew she wasn't going to.

My parents became closer after I confronted them 11 years ago about sexually abusing me (the ultimate tragedy of an abusive family). My mother chose to believe in my father's innocence, and I think this made him trust her more; she wouldn't betray him. As a kid, I was convinced that they didn't love each other, but there was something about seeing them together as he was dying that made me wonder. Like when she was massaging his legs to stimulate him or ran her hands through his hair and his eyes looked up with something approaching trust. Or when she said, eyes way back in her head like a little kid as he was getting further into dementia -- I just want to be able to say hi to him.

I don't think my mother believes in her own innocence, and so it's somewhat shocking when I find myself deluded. Everything is still there wrapped around my heart. Like how I wasn't sure that I loved my father but when he looked up that first time from his cancer bed and said oh hi Matthew, how are you -- and I couldn't do anything but sob. Or do I mean that I wasn't sure that my father loved me? It's so hard to separate my parents’ love from their violence, and so much harder to heal from that kind of love than from other kinds of hatred or abandonment.



.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A window into the upper middle class lie life, part one

I'm trying to map this web of privilege and abuse that I grew up in. Where does one end and the other begin, especially when the abuse oh how it never ends and now that my father has died it's possible that again I will have access to much more privilege? Is it possible to experience that privilege without feeling trapped like my father kept me as a kid, I was his wife and child, the good wife who didn't talk back who just listened and learned and kept secrets. I kept those secrets so well I didn't even know that I held them, my back in so much pain the doctors said there was nothing wrong, maybe a slight curvature in my spine the blood and cuts in my anus must be because I was using too much pressure when I wiped.

My mother was the bad wife, she talked back they screamed and yelled and argued and got so angry and told us that meant they loved each other, that's what happens when people love each other. Divorce was my mother's trump card, she’d throw it out on the table and then hold it like power. My sister was terrified of this possibility, but I wanted them to get divorced so badly it was like my wildest dream, then maybe something else would change too -- no my wildest dream was that I would wake up with a forcefield around me or maybe small like mice I could crawl under walls.

My father would pick the one thing that annoyed my mother most and act like it was just an innocent joke: Karin, your thighs are too big. That was what he did with all of us, later, when we got out of hand. Or maybe more with my mother and me than my sister, who wanted attention I just wanted to be alone, I wanted them all to fall away and then maybe I could become someone who did crazy things and laughed a lot. I guess my sister was already out of hand, she was the bad one screeching and pulling her hair and cutting herself and my parents tried to ignore it.

Last night when my throat felt more open and then I could feel my neck more, that's a difficult place because of all the times I thought he wouldn't let go, that my head would break off from my body or shoot so far into the sky I'd never get it back. I did want my head, not anything else really just my head, that meant I didn't really want to be dead either. I mean I wanted to think, not about this I wanted to think about butterflies. And cute little animals that liked you to pet them. My mother always needed me to get her washcloth when she was in the bath, maybe my father was seeing patients -- I didn't want to see anything.

And money -- that rope, my father's hands. My mother tried to become independent, she went back to school, to the local community college. My father said Karin, how could you be so stupid -- only stupid people go to community college. (My father went to a prestigious liberal arts school.) My mother graduated community college and went to University of Maryland, my father said Karin, how could you be so stupid -- only stupid people go to University of Maryland (my father went there for grad school, but that was different -- University of Maryland had a great medical school). My mother went to grad school for social work, my father said Karin, how could you be so stupid, because all social workers were stupid (my father was a psychiatrist).

We never had any money, that's what my father always said. We moved into a bigger house and my parents got new cars and my sister and I always went to private school and we all shopped mostly at Bloomingdale's except my sister who liked Benetton, I drank only Evian spring water because it was the most expensive and my father showed me the bank accounts that would eventually contain enough cash to pay for both my sister and me to go to college and grad school, but we never had any money. That's what my father said.

The problem was that my mother believed it, so did my sister. I told my father we were rich, this was maybe when I wasn't a good wife anymore, I was becoming something difficult to control maybe I'd learned the rules and I could hold my anger inside until I became a statue, this is what my father couldn't stand. He wanted me to get upset.

My father would take away my mother's credit cards (I had the Bloomingdale's card, but he didn't know that). I would study the most expensive sweaters, switching the price tags and getting good deals, steals really. My father would scream at my mother because she’d taken $20 from his wallet, which was when I realized I could do that too. I was good at saving.

My father said we were middle class, okay upper-middle-class. There were frogs living in the basement window wells, that was kind of exciting like a trip to the aquarium.

Friday, January 12, 2007

How I got these shorts, the sinus version

At feldenkrais, I talk about the way I've noticed that as soon as I get in bed, my jaw locks, it's not necessarily closed just so tense that nothing can go through, from childhood I guess like if I just held my jaw tighter then my father wouldn't rape me. Then there’s my sinus headache, oh my sinus headache!

But I also tell Donna the good news about the anal sphincter exercises, how I've been doing them for five years and nothing has really changed until recently, I'm finally able to do the first one which is pushing up maybe on the prostate followed by the second one which has always been the most difficult: pulling up in back maybe right at the sphincter opening, no it's deeper inside I guess. I think it's because I've been able to move my pelvis more, that's what we've been focusing on. Donna says that's great awareness -- she's excited and I'm laughing and she says no, really. We can do something for your sinuses, she says -- I'll show you this exercise I did with a guy who had brain surgery and he couldn't move his neck at all.

The sinus exercise starts with me on my back, and I'm making the sound oh with my mouth open in a big circle, oh, as low as possible, oh. Then oh with my mouth closed and the exhale blowing out my nose which makes my throat vibrate, and then oh with my mouth closed and my finger over my left nostril because the air only comes out of the right one, we're doing the easier one first.

When I cover my right nostril, the oh sounds really gargly and deep and Donna says just let me know if you need a tissue, but there's nothing to come out it's way up in my head. I can feel the back of my throat open, kind of scratchy but interesting. Then Donna says do you have a poem or a favorite song that you've memorized, like "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star?" But something I like, I ask? Yes, Donna says, and I can't think of anything I actually like except then I think I could recite one of my earliest short stories, the one about my fifth trick ever. Donna says try it with your teeth together and your mouth closed, it's kind of like humming.

So then I'm pretty much humming let tell you how I got these shorts, it's my fifth trick ever, and then Donna asks me to try it with my jaw and teeth closed, but my lips moving. I can't really do that one until she shows me, her lips get really large like in a movie where just the lips are showing and so I try that which is fun and silly and then Donna says try it with your cheeks soft, like you're telling something really happy, and my voice gets much higher -- let me tell you how I got these shoRTS -- but then when I tell the story with my mouth open there's so much more of a range to my vocal chords and all of this space I can feel in my throat.

Back at home, as soon as the heat comes on I can feel the headache again but still my throat feels more open and I'm looking forward to doing the exercises

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Absolutely the highlight of my day

I'm really touched by this wonderful profile of me and my work on "Matt's Bit of Space," Matty Stanfield's blog-- it's the second entry from the top for today, Thursday, January 11 at http://matty03.blogspot.com/

Really it's brighter now but I'm still thinking about Brighter Days

I end up disobeying my new rule to get off the computer by 2 a.m., and sure enough I'm lying in bed wired at 4 a.m., taking my eye mask off and staring at the ceiling -- why did that light shining on the wall just go out, that happened the other night too? There's nothing outside to reflect into my window, I mean nothing I can think of right away because I'm on the seventh floor and all the buildings right around me are five or six floors, the only thing tall enough to shine into my apartment is the lovely new Federal Building, dominating the whole center of my view but no, I don't see anyone standing in any of those distant windows with some superpowered FBI flashlight. Okay, I'm out of bed now, back at the computer -- might as well get some writing done.

Maybe this is what got me wired: before I got in bed, I made a list of a few memorable club songs for me, since my brain started spinning from one to the next. It's supposed to be a strategy to get to sleep if you write a list of everything that's in your brain, but I'm not sure how well it worked this time. Let me give you a list...

Everybody Dance Now, that tacky C&C Music Factory song that I hid in my underwear drawer in high school because you know, only faggots listened to dance music. I remember the first warehouse party I went to, where I got on one of the dance cubes in the red, green, orange and blue spotlights, that's where I first heard Everybody Dance Now and also "People Are Still Having Sex... Lust keeps on lurking... People are still having sex... This AIDS thing’s not working." I was having sex with men in bathrooms, but not at the clubs because there I just wanted to smoke pot and drink cocktails and dance, I wanted to get away from everything that's what dancing was about. That was back when you could recognize the drug dealer because she was the one with the bleached white hair and the lunchbox with smiley-face stickers on it, you didn't really have to hide your drugs then, not even in DC and that first time I heard Crystal Waters’ La Da Dee, La Da Da, but there were no lyrics it was just La da. La da. La da DEE. La da. La da. La da. DEE. It fucking knocked me out, or maybe that was all the pot I’d smoked but the point was that I could just go crazy on the dance floor, it was my space my place to go crazy I needed that.

Probably earlier, I remember a time with my sister at the beach and I was playing New Order, something from Technique and showing off all my dance moves for my sister, I mean I didn't have special moves I just would go with it and my sister looked at me like I was crazy, I said that's how people dance at clubs. And then we went out on the balcony with the boombox echoing off the cement leading out to the ocean and we danced for the echo, for the cement, for the other balconies, probably not for the ocean as much because we didn't think that way at that point, we were just dancing.

Later, after my gothic industrial period listening to people who'd killed themselves before I’d discovered their music, or who wanted to kill themselves but weren't ready yet -- She's lost control again... Bela Lugosi's dead even though no one knew who the hell Bella Lugosi was... then there was a magic moment in one of those goth clubs in particular, this was San Francisco in 1992 I guess and wait what was that song? Like a big classical music cacophony and then the keyboards going wild that's when I think I was taking a contact performance class so I knew you'd fall to the floor and give yourself to it, there was no reason to be afraid of falling, your clothes would get dusty but it didn't matter you needed to move in every direction not just side to side and up but down.

For some reason I can't remember many songs from right when I discovered house music and decided that I could throw away the industrial part, jumping up and down on that glass dancefloor covering a pool at Fusion (was that the original Stud or some other redefined San Francisco gay bar?) Boston is where I remember the songs better. That child piano that I’d go crazy for, requesting it over and over again and the dj would look at me like I don't think so, Mattilda, but then he'd play it anyway and I'd be shrieking and jumping up and down and doing all my special tricks that by then I'd mastered. It was a song by Osheen, I wrote to him about a few years ago and asked about it -- it went da da da-da da da da-da DA -- and he knew immediately what I was talking about, said he'd send it to me and a few mixes too but I never got any of it.

Then there was Brighter Days with that track clack bringing you right into the vocal hold and then back to clack track but always building, and anything really by Cajmere or Green Velvet from that time, my favorite was probably "Camera’s ready, prepare to flash..." by this point, it was all about the runway… something clanky, something banging, give me some horns and something bitchy, like "She's Tyler Moore, she's Mary. She's Tyler Moore, she's Mary... She works up the block, she lives up the block... reach in your purse, take out Chanel -- in reality it’s Mace. Oh -- and it's almost embarrassing to say it, but before that I absolutely lived for "Divas to the dancefloor, please…" Almost every song got tired after a while, although some were classics like that Josh Wink song with just a laugh track, I mean I was never much into vocals just pounding bass and layered drums and a repeating sample was enough to make me shake the hips and swing around, jumping up or bouncing at the right moments and yes, of course screaming when the beat was just right or that sample came at the exact moment when you couldn't possibly handle it, or just because you saw the wrong person at the right time or the right person at the wrong time or because there was something missing I mean there was nothing missing for just that one moment with the sweat pouring down your face and your eyes bringing the beat into your body and your body taking it.

I guess my body can't take it anymore, that's one of the problems. I really have to find a way to dance anyway, but I'm not sure what it is yet.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Burning toast

(Soon I'll have a camera so I can take a picture of it)

Okay, I just got extremely nervous because my toast was burning, and the last time my toast burnt the smoke detector started shrieking for what seemed like a completely endless amount of time and I was standing on a ladder trying to turn it off until I gave up and then eventually it turned off anyway. But that was in the middle of the day, not at 2 a.m. when I'm supposed to be getting ready for bed anyway or I guess making toast is kind of getting ready for bed because it's sort of calms me maybe. But burning toast is not calming, especially when I have to open all the windows to make sure the smoke alarm doesn't go off again and wake everyone else up.

Did I mention that I make toast in a frying pan? That's because in my old apartment, something like 10 or 20,000 roaches decided they wanted to make a home in my toaster, because roaches like things warm and in that apartment I just got used to them living in the stove and in my electric toothbrush and in between the cabinets and on any tiny piece of food left anywhere. But in this apartment I don't have roaches (cross everything, I mean cross everything, okay? no roaches no roaches no roaches!), but I'm still left making toast in a frying pan and burning it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The myth of the dead audience

I'm just thinking about when I went to see Shortbus and there was this straight guy who got really angry that my friend Grant and I were being too loud or something, he got up and said CAN YOU SHOW COMMON ETIQUETTE or something like that -- no queeniness in this theater -- it was annoying because the theater was small so it actually made us quieter, which meant not breathing as much and almost feeling this guy's rage the whole time. I mean, a bad movie is for commentary -- a good movie is for commentary -- what's the point of going to a theater with a bunch of people who sit there like zombies, or worse only laugh or cry at the exact appropriate moments? Feedback, we need feedback! Culture, explosion, drama (but not annoying angry straight guys), delight... just something other than the dead audience. Sometimes the worst can be a high art experimental film screening where there's no sound either and everyone's trying not to breathe at all, you leave the theater and you wonder why you feel so awful.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

This is how it works

Today's a good day, because I don't wake up thinking how on earth can I possibly face the world? Lying out in the sun on the fire escape feels incredible, especially when I look up at all that cobalt craziness although are the lower parts of the sky closer to white because of smog or is that just the way it always is? I bring my food out on the new clear plate with cherries drawn on the bottom, and it looks so beautiful in the sun: wild rice next to mung beans next to Chinese broccoli (I promise I'll get a digital camera soon so I can share some of these images).

I'm thinking about the small things that are maybe signs that I'm moving through pain, like just the fact that I have this new plate that I got at Goodwill with a few other plates and glasses after the last of my plates split in half, they always break eventually. A few months ago I would've been totally overwhelmed by the idea of walking back the three blocks with three heavy plates and two glasses in a bag because of the extra pain it would cause me and I would've eaten out of bowls until someone was able to help me get some plates. But this time I went there right after the last plate broke and got a few new ones and got home and I felt okay.

Anyway, I'm eating the Chinese broccoli that normally I wouldn't eat because it's not organic, though I've run out of groceries so I got it at the corner store. It's actually delicious, here in the sun on the fire escape, but I'm eating more and right away the sinus headache kicks in, like my head is stuffed with bricks and now I'm staring ahead feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and I can't make any of those phone calls I thought I was going to make and the sun seems kind of annoying now but I'll go inside anyway and write some of this down.

Questions, questions, questions...

Okay, I actually just succeeded in updating the events list on my website, which has been outdated for quite some time now... nothing that I haven't announced on this blog, but I'm pretty excited that I worked the HTML thing enough to do that simple update... If anyone happens to be a web designer in San Francisco and wants to help me do a few more complicated things, let me know (I can pay for the assistance).

Part of why I've tried to avoid that kind of thing (the typing, mouse-dragging, browsing) is because it all fucks up my body (PAIN!), but then it's also a pain when the events are three months outdated and the good news is that feldenkrais is really helping me to move out of pain instead of freezing up and making everything worse. I mean I still get to that same place when everything in my body is aching burning or tensed up clenching stress disaster -- right now it's a soreness in my wrists and hands, burning where my jaw meets my neck and into my shoulders, legs aching even while I'm using voice activation software. But then I at least have some confidence or hope that I can move through it and a few hours later or the next day will be better. As for the exhaustion sinus headache catastrophe, well that's a different story...

Meanwhile, now that I'm having so much fun blogging, I've been looking at these so-called "political" or "feminist" blogs where a lot of people comment and there’s conversation going on, but most of them are so fucking dull. Like maybe 20 comments saying how great it is that we finally have a woman as Speaker of the House -- are you kidding? Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for blogs I should peruse instead... if I'm going to fuck up my body, I might as well get some nourishment or inspiration from the experience, right?

Recommendations, please...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The amazing Shortbus, part one

Okay, what do we say about a movie that starts and ends with the Statue of Liberty? That's right -- that mottled green beacon of hope, or a model of the model, up close so gorgeous in the light. Post-9/11, Pro-NewYork Patriotic Propaganda. That's pretty much what I think about this movie, but I'm getting way ahead of myself. I just saw Shortbus for the second time, three months after the first, so I had plenty of time to think of that catchy summary or actually it hit me right away, but then I had plenty of time.

Anyway, I'm going to start with the tour and then there are so many other layers which will have to come later, preferably after I get some rest, but we all know I can’t count on that. Anyway, the movie starts with Lady Liberty, to the tune of "Is you is or is you ain't my baby?" Then we get an introduction to the main characters, which is also an introduction to the cute sexual fantasies/fetishes of liberated yuppies, oh don't we love liberated yuppies! First comes the naked guy in the bathtub, filming his dick using a cute mini DV, he’s a gym-toned hottie with the late-‘80s/early-‘90s floppy hair and stubble. Then we get the dominatrix with sculptural hair spraying down her dildos. And finally the rich straight couple where the guy’s eating her out on the piano. Oh -- and don't forget the pretty preppy voyeur boy with a $10,000 camera snapping photos discreetly from a smaller loft-style apartment with exposed brick walls across the street from the first guy, who’s now angling himself into just the right position so that he can come on his own face. Meanwhile, the dominatrix whips the hipster rich kid while the straight guy fucks his wife against their glass front door, oh oh OH!

Okay, now I'm just as much a fan of exhibitionism as the next faggot, and absolutely ready to see sex in every possible position, but what's immediately tragic about the Shortbus view is the lack of any variety among the bodies fucking and sucking and whipping and licking: everyone's got the zero percent body fat, slim and toned tightness (and whiteness, except for the lead women, who is Asian) -- these Pilates bodies are camera-ready. Which makes the whole premise of the movie -- the Shortbus, "a salon for the gifted and challenged" (i.e. the bus where the kids with behavior or assimilation "problems" were thrown during elementary school) all the more troubling: this is a shortbus where the freaks sit on the sidelines as, well, freaks, while the beautiful people stay in the center. When one of these freaks, a long-haired queen wandering the sex party with a Super-8 camera, declares, "voyeurism is participation," it's as if the margins are there to assure the center of its rightful place.

But the most preposterous moment in the movie is undoubtedly when a fag fashion model at the Shortbus sex salon ends up running into an old man who turns out to be the former Mayor of New York. Undoubtedly a stand-in for Ed Koch, this old man declares, "New Yorkers are permeable, therefore we’re sane… the target of the impermeable and the insane... New York is where everyone comes to be forgiven." Meanwhile, pretty music plays for the Award-Winning Well-Lit Hetero Lovemaking Session and Ed Koch continues, "people said I didn't do enough to help prevent the AIDS crisis because I was in the closet. I did the best I could. I was scared and impermeable... everyone knew so little then; I know even less now." In an attempt at intergenerational connection, the fashion model kisses Ed Koch as if to absolve him.

Can we break this down for a moment? New Yorkers are permeable? I'm not even going to address that absurd mythology, except to say that nowhere in the early 2000s could be a more status-crazed, careerist monoculture. The myth of permeability is one that has died a sad death in the last years of the 20th century, and its invocation in post-9/11 New York is almost as horrifying as the rest of what Ed Koch says. First of all, while Ed Koch certainly was in the closet as AIDS emerged, his actual crime was that he refused to take any actions based on common and humane health protocol, letting thousands of homeless people with AIDS die on the street while blocking even meager efforts to provide housing, healthcare or sanity. While much of this might have related to the fact that he was also a closeted gay, coming out was not the endpoint that people were looking for. People wanted their friends to stay alive, they wanted healthcare and housing and drug treatment and clean needles and condoms and Ed Koch did his best to ensure that these people died as fast as possible. Who gives a shit if he was "scared and impermeable" -- this does nothing to absolve him of guilt for the deaths of thousands. John Cameron Mitchell's strange role-play furthers cultural amnesia of the worst kind.

But there’s more. Did I mention that the nice guy in the bathtub with his camera from the beginning has a boyfriend with the same name, and they decide to open up their relationship to include the model, so they can have model sex. The climax is when one Jamie begins singing the Star-Spangled Banner into the ass of the model, who then sings it to the hard-on/microphone of the second Jamie who must be singing it to something else. While we must certainly appluad Ms. Mitchell for her ability to out-choreograph the flashiest of mainstream porn directors, what seems at first like a potential critique (singing into the asshole) evolves into some Rent-style invocation of the stars and stripes.

Okay, rotate. That's what the model says afterwards, which is a funny moment -- one thing this movie does not shy away from is the ways in which sex is choreographed to avoid any actual intimacy, even in the throes of what could be the most intimate moments. But I might be giving the movie too much credit here -- I'm not so sure that all the sex scenes aren't supposed to be hot.

Meanwhile, the counterculture doyenne of the movie (dominatrix, remember?) is busy seducing/insulting the sex therapist (that's the straight woman from the piano at the beginning) in a sensory deprivation chamber. It turns out that dominatrix’s "real" name is Jennifer Aniston, which is slightly funny except that it's framed in the movie as this beautiful moment that she's finally able to feel since she reveals the REAL DEAL to her new sex therapist friend, who’s never had an orgasm -- that's the central thread of the movie, by the way. The Jamie who likes to be called James now (the one with a camera at the beginning) suddenly gets really sad, his whole face changes and the lighting gets harsher, he stops taking his Zoloft. This is back at the sex party, where the dominatrix breaks down with the sex therapist and says I can't do it anymore, I just want to have a house and a cat. As a hooker myself, I can absolutely relate to the drama of it all, but here in the movie this is again framed as some sort of revelation -- the dominatrix can't feel, she provokes people; feeling means getting out of the business.

Okay, so the sex therapist sticks a vibrating plastic egg in her pussy so her husband can push a button and tell her from the distance if he's anxious, since now he knows she's never had an orgasm and maybe he wants to help her. She ends up making out with the dominatrix, which is kind of hot actually, the egg vibrates, the dominatrix grinds into it and comes, the sex therapist tells her she won't be coming to the sensory deprivation chamber like they've done every day. Even though this is an Asian woman who can't have an orgasm (hello, stereotype) and a hooker who can't feel (hello, stereotype), this actually is a sad and touching moment in the movie, which gives credit to the actors for bringing some life into a hollow script.

Speaking of hooking, James ends up telling Jennifer Aniston that he got started turning tricks by watching My Own Private Idaho in a small town, and he does look a little bit like Keanu Reeves from that period too. Aside for product placement in homage to gay film mafia scion and JCM patron Gus Van Sant, this anecdote ends up leading to another hooker who can't open up, in this place literally -- his asshole, he can't get fucked. Meanwhile, sex therapist is having a breakdown because her husband isn't paying attention and she still can't come, so she's smashing the egg on the street with a mannequin leg until her hair is in her face and this is a well-choreographed dance scene that would be nice on its own.

Speeding it up, James decides to off himself because he stopped his medication (or he stopped his medication because he wants to off himself, can anyone see an ad for Zoloft?), he's got it all down but guess what? The guy who's been eavesdropping on the two Jamies the whole time (preppy boy with a Bluetooth and a big camera), turns out he's a stalker so he pulls an unconscious James out of the pool so he can go to the hospital. James goes to the hospital briefly, but thanks to the stalker’s number written on his face, he heads over to get fucked for the first time in the apartment just across from his own, with some younger, preppier meat. He's made a movie that looks exactly like Tarnation (which Ms. Mitchell coproduced with Ms. Van Sant, I wonder if she bought the concept too?)

In Tarnation, Jonathan Caouette sews together actual home movies from his childhood, footage of his mother and himself losing it, drag numbers from his teenage years and interviews with the grandparents who had his mother institutionalized. It's intense and overwhelming and gorgeous and tragic and terrible and terrifying. Turns out that James in Shortbus is making the same movie but it's to show his boyfriend -- actually, he even looks a little bit like Jonathan Caouette with his stubble, images of childhood and self-flagellation arranged together. Anyway, here it’s presented as a two-minute version of the feature-long original, a scrap to lend emotional depth to a movie of flat characters -- without any noticeable credit to the original, of course. Oh, the joys of appropriation!

I'll have to give credit to the sound mixing in the movie, which is amazing throughout, as well as the editing, which is tight and seamless. Of course, all of this makes the movie more dangerous because bright colors and swirling cinematography tantalize but lead to doing nothing more than a well-lit advertisement for yuppie/fashion model/beauty myth sexual experimentation as the root of all creativity and hope. Oh wait -- did I mention that the only two fat people seen having sex are pictured without heads? That we glimpse a few black guys in the background once or twice fucking, but never speaking? (Stephen Kent corrected me here: there are actually two black guys in the movie who get to speak a line or two each). That the hostess of the sex party, legendary drag performer Justin Bond, while doing much entertaining in the movie, is conveniently left out of the A-list sex scenes (could it be that she hasn't done enough Pilates or Thai-bo for the comeshot?) Good thing the sex therapist finally has an orgasm, the lights go on all throughout New York (there was a blackout before but orgasm turns on everything!). Then we're back to Lady Liberty and everything spins out from New York City, the center of the world -- God Bless America!

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Preview of the book tour...

I know you're probably still sobbing over the death of President Gerald Ford, but just in case you like to plan ahead... Here are the dates I've planned so far for my Nobody Passes book tour -- there will be way more events, so if you'd like me to come to your town, send me ideas (press suggestions would be lovely as well)...

Wednesday, January 24 @ 7:30 p.m.
Modern Times Bookstore
888 Valencia (@ 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
www.moderntimesbookstore.com
(415) 282-9246
with Sandy Chang, Logan Gutierrez-Mock, Amy Andre, Jen Cross, Dominika Bednarska, Tommi Avicolli Mecca and Eric Stanley

Friday, February 9 @ 7:30 p.m.
Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 660-1175
with Jessica Hoffmann, Ruth Blandon, Irina Contreras, Stephanie Abraham, Benjamin Shepard, Jen Cross and Jennifer Blowdryer

Monday, February 19 @ 7:30 p.m.
Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214
www.powells.com

Thursday, March 8 @ 7:30 p.m.
Women & Children First Bookstore
5233 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640
773-769-9299
wcfbooks@aol.com
www.womenandchildrenfirst.com

Wednesday, March 21 @ 7 p.m.
Bluestockings Bookstore
172 Allen St (between Stanton and Rivington)
New York, NY 10002
www.bluestockings.com
with Helen Boyd, Rocko Bulldagger, Liz Rosenfeld, Jennifer Blowdryer and more TBA