Saturday, March 31, 2007

This spaciousness touring allows




Metro-North is not as comfortable as Amtrak, that’s what I’m thinking on this train to Beacon, New York where I’m meeting Kara who’s going to accompany me to Hudson. Almost like the subway is more comfortable when there's no one sitting next to you. I'll admit that the river is gorgeous, although I can’t help gawking at all of the mansions perched on cliffs and over swamps, in between trying to take a nap because I woke up too early -- downstairs, Alan was playing very loud music -- I mean making loud music. The music was kind of relaxing, but not relaxing enough to sleep to.

All of these tiny towns on the river and even ruins on an island, what on earth could that be? Still I’m too tired, stepping out of the train and what -- there’s no bathroom? Oh well -- over to the back of the harbor, Kara says I hope you don’t get arrested -- shh… She’s wearing a plaid skirt, I think I’ve only seen her in a skirt once before -- I'd say she’s working the sexy dyke schoolteacher look, but what do I know about Beacon? Korn’s there too-- we were all in Fed Up Queers in NYC together in the late ‘90s.

In the car, I’m kind of too tired to talk, but I’m talking. Apparently a one-bedroom in Beacon is now going for $1400, in spite of the fact that the local economy is exhausted and one of the main industries is prison-- of course, these rentals are targeted towards people escaping from NYC, all of the horrors gentrification once more. In the bathroom at the rest area, there are guys who are cruising me from the urinals while I’m looking in the mirror, like this one guy taking a while to do his pants -- I’m ready -- but wait, I have to get to an event, I mean I am the event. We get lost in a different city I mean town -- Catskill -- but not too lost.

Time and Space Limited where I’m doing the event is this huge brick building with a theater, offices, an area with tables and chairs, galleries -- it’s beautiful. I’m suddenly nervous, but luckily we’re not too early I mean we’re late, but just a few minutes. No one’s nervous yet, I mean I’m nervous but not too nervous. I think the theater setting makes me nervous, like wait will I be performative enough? I’m eating a few bites of food from the audience, while my wonderful host, Konnie Michael Chameides, introduces me.

Of course I’m performative enough and the audience is amazing -- they're laughing right away, all the way through -- disturbed and saddened too at the moment when I talk about my father --then in an absolute uproar at my critiques of assimilation, they love my anecdote about gay cops, which has become quite popular I must say. Gay cops murdering unarmed people of color -- we have ARRIVED! They love it.

The questions starts slowly -- how have the audiences differed, do people use different vocabularies in different places to talk about passing and politics, accidental passing, passing for different things in different spaces, what about passing for minor gains? Someone asks about electoral politics of the presidential variety and so it’s fun to go off. Another person asked about psychiatric diagnoses, gender identity disorder, I go off on psychiatry too. Later, one person talks very emotionally about passing as maybe more or less straight in an activist context where she believes she won’t be accepted as queer, but has come to realize all of the pain and exhaustion from basing the way she acts on her fears of what other people might think. Someone else adds that sometimes the fears of what other people think are more draining than dealing with what they actually do think, and someone adds a brilliant comment that serves as a great conclusion because I’ve realized that it’s already 10 p.m., time to wrap everyhing up. The comment is that choosing not to pass can often be a lot about discomfort, not necessarily only comfort. But it’s more eloquent than that, I can’t quite remember it exactly.

I’ve missed the train I was going to catch back to New York, but I don’t care -- I know that there’s a bus later. I want to stay here with all of this engagement. There’s a local bookstore, Spotty Dog Books, with copies of Nobody Passes for sale at a separate table, so I move over there. The first person to come up is the woman with the brilliant final comment, she says I brought something for you, it’s porn, and at that same moment I realize oh, it’s Tristan Taormino. She sent me an email saying she was coming, but I scanned the audience and didn’t even spot her, hilarious. I hadn’t seen her in so long, so I didn’t immediately recognize her -- I love surprises like that, especially when I was just thinking what a great final comment, who is that, then I realize oh it’s a friend of mine!

The people from the bookstore are excited and great to chat with, as are all of the people who come up of course, one to ask a question about apathy and jadedness in San Francisco-- oh no, I’m going back there! I mean I’m certainly ready to rest, just want to make sure I can take all of this excitement with me.

Then it’s time to leave, hugging people goodbye I love hugs -- I really love hugs, really -- then to the bus station in New Paltz which is hilarious-- all of these Renoir remakes on the walls, wood paneling, an incredibly hot guy working there with round black plugs in his ears, I think I have a thing for those round plugs somehow-- not to mention this guy has spray-painted his skateboard hot pink, although his demeanor is not necessarily giving faggot. I’m asking him questions to flirt, Kara’s funny too the way she adds questions of her own like she’s flirting too except I think she’s flirting for me. His answers make him kind of cartoonish in a too-young straightboy kind of way, not to make you think that I wouldn’t flirt with him longer but there’s a bus I have to catch, more hugs, a way-too-crowded bus smelling like rancid liquor + a screaming baby all the way back to NYC and the maze in the Port Authority where the bus drives around and around until finally there’s a spot.

In the subway I’m seeing so many hot guys, guess this means I’m horny again, it seems like an endless journey back to Carrie’s house but then I’m there, walking in the door, into all this space both in my head and in the apartment. I feel so relaxed, so grateful for Carrie’s hospitality and the hospitality of so many people along the way, how would I do this tour otherwise? Makes me want to figure out how to have a larger apartment so that I can host people-- my apartment’s not that small, but it’s a studio and I can’t sleep at all when someone else is in the room.
But anyway I want to record this moment of softness and desire and calm, sure my body also feels tight and twisted from the bus and traveling, but traveling -- before I left San Francisco, I kept talking about this crazy tour, what am I thinking? Several of my friends said Mattilda, you always do well on tour, you like traveling -- I thought what, are they crazy? Not realizing all of the obstacles?

But actually they are right, I love traveling -- I love being on tour, it’s incredible -- still I’m exhausted and drained, but also living in this spaciousness touring allows.

Friday, March 30, 2007


What am I doing up so late, I mean on the computer instead of winding down? (The timestamp is three hours early, still giving West Coast realness). I was trying to catch up on everything, but catching up on everything doesn’t exactly seem possible. At least I’m in a good mood -- waking up was not so good, sinus headache drill, shoulders like a collection of bruises, tension everywhere even in a soft and comfortable bed, do I have to get up? Okay, I wanted to write about the make/shift reading, a conversation with Carrie about looking at the map on the subway, plus the woman on the street who said what do you call that look? But it will all have to wait until tomorrow, this cat looks so patient in the picture although now he thinks it’s morning and time for food or something, he’s pacing and meowing -- sorry, honey, that’s a different human who feeds you!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's sunny out, I need to get some sun!

Okay, today I’m supposed to be catching up on things but I don’t feel like I’m catching up just getting further and further behind really or maybe just realizing how far behind I am no not really behind just overwhelmed, especially sitting here in a chair that’s not so comfortable for me, my body hurting everywhere but what I want to write about before I go outside, yes outside -- it’s warm outside, spring I guess -- way too warm inside, probably outside will be better so that’s where I should be going, okay I have to get outside!

But what I want to write about first is my great day yesterday, yes a great day!-- in case I don’t get a chance to write about it later, so here‘s a summary:

I’m on my way to a meeting with a publisher, and just as I’m imagining how late I’m going to be I realize that of course I can transfer trains in Brooklyn (the benefit of having lived in New York, I actually know how to get places if I think about it). Then I’m actually early, and I run until Bob Kohler on the street, he’s a radical queer activist who’s been around in New York City for generations (he recently turned 80, even -- congratulations!). Bob Kohler on gentrification: I’d rather have the rapist than the yuppies.

Then the publishing meeting is GREAT, afterwards I sit on a stoop on 8th Avenue in the sun, too hot really but still enjoying getting some sun, afterwards an amazing feldenkrais session and then I have dinner with Donna Minkowitz, a brilliant writer who is now turning her memoir into magical realism, all memoirs should be magical realism that way they’d be more honest! Then I try my best to find cruising since it’s still over 60 degrees out I’m sure, nothing in my old favorite Stuyvesant Park except actually a straight couple getting in on, then the Phoenix just in case the bathroom is doing something but no, onto the Blue Door porn theater and I end up having fun in a way-to-crowded little video booth room, although I’ve brought the crowd! Back at Carrie’s too late to get in the front door without waking her (doorperson leaves at 2 a.m., I don’t have the front door key but I arrive at 1:58 a.m., oh well).

More later, first I need to do the dishes, stretch, take a shower, get dressed, go outside for some sun…

Tonight in NYC: launch for make/shift magazine!

I'll be reading from my column about my high-drama visits to my father before he died, and there will be several other brilliant writers reading, all hosted by Jessica Hoffman, one of the co-founders and editors...

New York launch for make/shift magazine: feminisms in motion
Wednesday, March 28, 7 p.m.
Bluestockings
172 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002
Readings by Tara Betts, T Cooper, Felicia Luna Lemus, and Mattilda aka Matt Bernstein Sycamore
www.makeshiftmag.com

Monday, March 26, 2007

Maybe what openness is about




I'm at Carrie’s apartment in Brooklyn where I’m staying, exhausted and totally emotional -- that’s what touring can do, of course I wouldn’t mind skipping the exhaustion part but the emotional access is incredible. This is after my event at Wagner College on Staten Island.

The place where I’m staying in Brooklyn is already pretty far South, but it’s amazing how much further there is to drive through Brooklyn in order to get to the bridge to Staten Island. Once I’m there, first I have an informal dinner with a few students -- the heads of the queer student group, amazingly enough it’s called Allies, and a few students in a program that links them to a Lutheran divinity school. One of those students, Diane, has a lot of questions and it’s fun talking to her -- she’s a middle-aged black woman and the rest of the students appear young and white, except for the other divinity student who is also young but a person of color. Diane wants to know about my coming-out experience, about how I came to writing, and of course I’m also talking about radical queer anti-assimilationist politics. It’s interesting what Diane has to say about tenant organizing, how she wanted to fight gentrification but mostly tenants wanted something done about the rats, plumbing and heating problems. She says I realized I had to meet them where their needs were, first.

Meanwhile, I want to know how on earth does a queer student group got the name “Allies.” Apparently they inherited it -- Shayne who originally contacted me to bring me to Wagner (and whose hair is an even more brilliant shades of fuchsia then when I met him at the Bluestockings reading) says at least it’s not called a Gay Straight Alliance. That’s a good point.

My talk is in an old-fashioned lecture hall where the seats slope dramatically upwards. I want to get a photo of the audience and I ask Shayne to take one after he introduces me, but the camera freezes and I’m not ready to take one right at the beginning.

This talk reminds me a bit of my talk at USF, probably because the room is very similar but also maybe because it’s in front of a sociology class at a school that is maybe similar too (this class is called “The Family”) -- very white and I’m guessing relatively conservative, also in a big city but separate from it -- the architecture is similar too, turn-of-the-century buildings mixed with ‘50s institutional. People respond well to my anecdotes, it’s funny how I used to hate using microphones but now they make everything so much easier -- I can alter my voice with more subtlety, it’s fun. This is another reading that I wish I had videotaped, I need to make sure to get some more video footage in the future. This time my delivery is the slowest yet, relaxed except I’m always wondering at the end of I’ve spoken for too long.

So many questions, it’s amazing -- one about how don’t I believe two people can love one another (responding to my critique of marriage), several about how to articulate politics around people’s basic needs (housing, healthcare, food, the benefits now procured only through citizenship, etc.) instead of just trying to access privilege, how to respond to people who say marriage is a step in the right direction, my critique of hate crimes legislation, how to win those basic needs I spoke of earlier (I wish I knew), the politics of adoption, then personal questions like how to get to a point of actualizing radical queer politics.

Afterwards is when I feel so emotional-- talking with students individually, then sitting with the co-chairs of Allies and Jean Halley, the professor who brought me. This incredible intensity of touring and then it’s over, I mean this event-- the tour is still going on. Jean gives me a ride home, and it’s great to talk more one-on-one --she’s so incredibly smart and sweet and dedicated to a radical critique in an environment where such a critique is rare, much more common among students than faculty Jean says.

Back at Carrie’s house, I’m sitting here all upset that I didn’t take a photo, I mean I’m kind of choked up about it -- that’s where this emotional access leads, I’m immediately missing people who I don’t necessarily know which is maybe what openness is about.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

More and more and more and more

Where I’m staying in Brooklyn Is about a 40 minute ride on the subway into Manhattan, which I’ll admit does feel kind of like a commute but at least the subway is temperate today, the only problem is that I’m locked in this train with everybody’s terrible cologne. I like the new floors -- black with gray, tan, blue specks -- and also watching everyone in our different worlds. In spite of all of the cologne or maybe because of that I’m nervous about eating so close to everyone -- people get all upset about vegan food, meanwhile this guy comes on playing guitar and singing a Pink Floyd song I think and as soon as the subway comes out of the tunnel just about every person on the train except the guy playing guitar and the littlest kids -- every other person on the train takes out their cellphone as we’re emerging out into the grandeur and decay of downtown.

I finally get the updated dosage of my homeopathic remedy, I’m thinking it’s going to help me sleep through the night which it kind of does, except the next day I’m feeling more exhausted than ever, body in so much pain especially shoulders aching then after walking way too far to Prospect Park to see the sun my hips hurt too and I’ve already decided not to go to Manhattan today, try and rest except now I haven’t really rested just hurt myself-- I could have stood out in the sun right around the corner from where I’m staying but I had more ambitious plans, oh well. Maybe the homeopathic remedy is making me more in tune with how I’m feeling, that’s probably what’s happening I need to rest for a while, I mean I’m resting a bit more since I’m here in New York not moving around every few days but that just makes me realize how much rest I need-- more and more and more and more.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Way belated, some thoughts on that "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage" statement

I first heard about the statement "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships" in July, 2006, when Kenyon Farrow, one of the authors of the document, sent it to me to see if I'd be interested in signing on before it was released to the public. As someone who has long been involved in anti-assimilationist queer activism, I was curious about this project even if immediately skeptical -- why had I not heard of this before, I wondered. Why were they sending it to me after it was done? Why on earth did a supposed activist document include an "executive summary"? And, most importantly, what in the world was indicated by the pitch letter when it said that the statement "recognizes the importance of marriage equality."

Nevertheless, I tried to suspend disbelief -- as someone involved in the radical queer direct action group Gay Shame, I'd seen the anti-assimilationist politics I held dear grow steadily more marginalized as privileged San Francisco gays supported straight, ruling class anti-homeless crusader Gavin Newsom, then heralded him as the savior of gay civil rights after he briefly "legalized" gay marriage. Suddenly a reactionary Mayor’s give-back to the powerful gays who got him elected was seen as "civil disobedience," his publicity stunt a "revolutionary gesture." Where did that leave Gay Shame? Depressed, disillusioned and horrified.

I wanted BSSM to feel like something hopeful, but I already felt alienated and aghast after reading the first sentence, which stated "we, the undersigned -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and allied activists, scholars, educators, writers, artists...” Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied, but no queers. Already this exclusionary agenda in the first sentence. No place for anyone who doesn't pick one of five bounded categories, for anyone more fluid or politically invested in difference than LGBT(A) allows.

Keep in mind that the people who wrote the statement identify themselves as "activist, scholars, educators, writers, artists, lawyers, journalists, and community organizers." Surely this group agonized over every word in the statement. Many of them probably even identify as queer. Nevertheless, this immediate exclusion of queerness from the initial laundry list (and instead the inclusion of "allies") reads as a calculated gesture to make BSSM a "mainstream" document instead of an outsider challenge -- welcome the straights, but leave out the queers. BSSM even embraces the grossest false acronym of the mainstream gay rights industry, "LGBT," which generally means gay, with lesbian in parentheses, throw out the bisexuals and put trans on for a little bit of window dressing. Address the needs of the most privileged while stepping on everyone else. This "LGBT" movement is what needs to be challenged, not invoked.

It's taken me eight months to write anything about this document and in part that's because it's signed by so many left academics and politicos (including many whom I respect and admire), and therefore it carries its own sort of silencing power. Here is a document claiming to offer an alternative to the gay marriage agenda while championing scary corporate nonprofit-speak like "Why the LGBT Movement Needs a New Strategic Vision" or "A Bold, New Vision Will Speak to Many Who Are Not Already with Us."

There is no doubt that the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage statement has actually fostered more complicated conversations in the media than the simplistic "you're either with us or you're against us" bullshit of the gay marriage agenda, like if you oppose gay marriage (or any marriage, remember feminism?), then you're automatically a foaming-at-the-mouth Christian right homophobe. In fact, there was an article in the ghastly New York Times as a result of the statement that was actually much more strident in its challenge to gay marriage hypocrisies than BSSM.

But what is most striking to me is that BSSM does not call for any sort of accountability on the part of the assimilationist gay elite. This document does nothing to challenge the way the gay marriage agenda has redistributed resources in the wrong direction by funneling funding away from important resources like domestic violence prevention, drug treatment, AIDS services, housing, healthcare, etc. and into the hands of a wealthy gay elite that sees marriage as the last step on the way to full citizenship (no need to talk about fighting US imperialism or ending the war in Iraq or preventing the systematic murder of immigrants on US borders, sweetheart – let’s just get the state to sanction our carnal coupling!). Remember, marriage is still a central institution through which women, queers, transpeople and children are systematically kept vulnerable and abused. Instead of calling attention to this ongoing legacy, BSSM goes out of its way to assure people that marriage is a valuable choice, mentioning nothing about the tyranny of marriage, either historically or in the present.

Instead of challenging the violence of the gay elite, BSSM furthers the gaystream agenda of cultural erasure by embracing the lie of the "LGBT community," that monstrous illusion by which wealthy gays and lesbians gentrify and evict and "redevelop" and say that it's all for "the community." There is no LGBT community, and there never has been one. There are lesbian communities, and gay communities, and bisexual communities and trans communities, and communities of lesbians and trans people, and communities of gay men and lesbians, and even communities of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people, but this notion of one community is horrifying in its silencing agenda.

It's true that a large part of BSSM does profess a broader agenda, such as the section titled "The Longing for Community and Connectedness," which states in part, "Our vision is the creation of communities in which we are encouraged to explore the widest range of non-exploitive, non-abusive possibilities in love, gender, desire and sex – and in the creation of new forms of constructed families without fear that this searching will potentially forfeit for us our right to be honored and valued within our communities and in the wider world." That's perfectly fine -- I just wish it didn't come within a document filled with language so inescapably dull it’s hard not to let your eyes glaze over, all of it building towards the invocation of "A WINNABLE STRATEGY"

In this era of endless war, corporate violence, police state tyranny and global warming catastrophes, what exactly is a winnable strategy? Is it really more practical to ally ourselves with the gays who shifted public attention away from universal healthcare in the early ‘90s and spearheaded the campaign to allow gays to go abroad and fight US dirty wars just like straight people, then moved on to marriage as the solution for all the world’s problems? Is it truly possible to decenter marriage within the gay marriage assimilation agenda, as BSSM would like us to imagine?

What is so striking is that this document strives so clearly to speak to the center, which is exactly the strategy that has failed the assimilationist gay movement. The gay marriage industry gives us smiling gays and lesbians with golf club memberships, real estate portfolios and the limitless ability to spend money on cocktails, lawyers, Hummers and cruises. Then they present these GMO gays to the world and say: see, we’re just like you! It's no surprise that so called "middle America" takes one look and cries "special rights."

While BSSM does not invoke this assimilationist model, it also does little to challenge it. It's this hypocrisy that has made me speechless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'll be back soon...


Amazing events, total exhaustion, a touring crisis-- now I have to go to bed and rest as long as possible, but I will certainly catch up soon...



Sunday, March 18, 2007

Everything goes from sad to exhilarating so fast

What could be more gorgeous then a snowstorm in Montréal, gusts of wind that blow the snow off entire stretches of the sidewalk so that they’ll be 6 inches in some places and then suddenly you’re walking on clear cement? Except then it gets a little bit cold with all of these gusts, brrr. I’m only here because it’s easier to get from Montréal to Boston than from Toronto to Boston, but I’m so glad -- on the next tour, I definitely need to do an event in Montréal!

The way touring opens up all of this emotional access like everything goes from sad to exhilarating so fast and I also like the points of introspection in all of the different emotional spaces, the immediate intense connections with people because our time together is concentrated.

A thought on feminism: I was defining the kind of feminism that has made me and that I am making -- the feminism of dykes and outsider queers and whores and incest survivors, vegans, runaways, trannies, dropouts, freaks, and Tara-Michelle Ziniuk said you chose to call it feminism, I chose to call it anarchism, but it’s the same thing -- she’s right. The way different words form us and we form them, too.

Like right now I already feel calmer and more present and grounded, a few minutes ago I felt like I couldn’t possibly write anything I was too exhausted.

Meanwhile, the dream I remember from Montréal: My sister and I realize we’ve left all our stuff on the bus, I’m in the old apartment building where he used to live, seeing if they have an apartment on the other side, with views of the whole downtown skyline -- how much are apartments there going for now anyway? We don’t have a chance to find out because we’re rushing outside to see if we can catch the bus, luckily it’s stopped on the side of the road, no sort of the middle. Everything is gray like time is stopped too or it’s a bus that used to be used in the military, something charred or a relic, but our stuff is luckily still inside. Then I’m in a room where someone is auctioning a little piece of my life on some kind of microchip, it’s a porn video I was in and I’m looking at my body from six months ago it’s already not the body I have now and I wonder if other people notice this. Then I’m in a big empty commercial loft space with unfinished wood floors, having sex with my first boyfriend until he stops and walks away, maybe I’m going to the bathroom and he’s going out of the apartment and into the hall but somehow I stop him because the sex is kind of hot. He says you’re too much of a mythologist for my complicated masculinist self. I say what do you mean? He says you’re busy breaking down mythologies. I say then I’m an anti-mythologist!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Toronto, how could I not love Toronto?

(A sweet note from Jess when I return home)


(The cat wants to sleep in my bed, but I don't think so)


I want to start by talking about how incredible the reading went in Toronto, but instead I find myself sitting here thinking about stretching on this yoga mat Jess, who I’m staying with, brought down for me, but wondering if it will just hurt my body more than it’s worth to unroll it and then roll it up again. Today I’m in a lot of pain. I’m in that familiar place of trying to figure out exactly what set me off -- was it when I went to get groceries, expecting to take a taxi back even though it’s only three blocks because I can’t carry that much, but then my ATM card wasn’t working so I didn’t have any Canadian money, I walked back. I could feel the awkwardly straight and strained posture I needed to use to carry the bags, that’s definitely part of all of this neck pain, shoulder ache today. Then there’s the chair I was sitting on at the reading, later I felt like my back wasn’t connected to the rest of my body I mean like it was off but that also could be because of the groceries. Sitting at the computer is when everything hurts the most right now, which is unfortunate because what I really want to do is to write. The good news is that the waves of the sea salt in my hands feel so comforting, I can feel the water inside it -- I like this weight.


But let me talk about the reading. People always show up late for readings, so when I get there 20 minutes early and there are already 20 or 30 people there, well that’s when I know it’s surely going to be crowded. By the time we start, the whole room is full -- probably a hundred people and so much excitement, I can tell this audience is going to be loud all the way through which is how I love it. It’s hard to compare anything to the incredible connection I can feel with an audience, when we’re connecting that is -- it’s not like a high exactly although it is a high, kind of -- it’s something like hope, yes hope for sure but something else also -- definitely inspiration. Anyway, this audience is phenomenal -- there’s this fire and engagement that’s just lovely, loving -- it’s moments like these when I think things like maybe I should live in Toronto. Of course this is a very specific moment, in this moment I am living in Toronto --maybe I can take this moment with me.


At this point in the tour, I’m not exactly sure where I’m living -- I remember it’s San Francisco, but what exactly is there for me in San Francisco? My friends, my apartment with a beautiful view, my soft soft bed, there are other things I will think of them.
But back to Toronto-- it’s great to hear Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha read from the Nico Dacumos’s piece and Zoe Whittall channel Jennifer Blowdryer + Stacey May Fowles read from her own essay in the book and so much delicious applause from the audience, how could I not love applause?


The questions are great, the first one about feminism in my work, my views of feminism and what needs to change, do we need a fourth wave? Then a follow-up synthesizing what I’m saying, asking a question about non-gender-specific feminism, I like that phrasing. Then a question about age of consent laws. I like the way these questions give me the opportunity to create essays on the spot in some ways, make me think about my ideas -- lots more to write and talk about, but I’m trying to get to stretching before my body hurts too much. Leah asks about passing with Seal, then so much great individual feedback from people who come up to talk and get books signs. I like the comment from one person who thinks me for my humor with regards to passing -- yes, we can laugh about it!

It’s great to see all of the people who did stories on Nobody Passes -- Sandra Alland who wrote a review in Xtra and organized the event also (thanks, Sandra!), Tara-Michelle Ziniuk who reviewed the book in NOW, Chanelle Gallant who interviewed me and Stacey on “Sex City.” Oh -- and so great to see people I know from San Francisco, New York -- I like that rush of familiarity in an unfamiliar place.

Afterwards, it turns out that Leah, Sandra, Tara-Michelle and Reno who’s also with us all have fibromyalgia so we exchange stories and strategies. Meanwhile, the steamed vegetables are making my stomach wrench up, what is in these steamed vegetables? A bunch of people are going to a new trans and dyke bar that I must say I’m curious about, but I also know that I need to get back to Jess’s beautiful, comfortable house and rest, yes the rest, please rest!
Which brings me back to today, waking up in Sinus Headacheland, that familiar heartache but still I’m so glad for such a beautiful reading in Toronto, thanks Toronto for such an incredible welcome!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ann Arbor and the Jesus jackhammer dildo




I have a live radio interview on a program called “Sex City” on CIUT Toronto, the radio station for University of Toronto -- the interview is scheduled while I’m in the car on the way to the train station in Chicago, it starts a little later than expected so I’m actually being interviewed while we’re parked illegally in front of the station, it’s a little bit stressful because I’m worried I’m making one of my hosts late -- then the interview is done, my bags are on the street, and the car drives away. Oh wait -- I forgot to describe the interview-- it’s funny, because they interview Toronto contributor Stacey May Fowles right before me, so the beginning of my interview is the first time I talk to her directly -- hi, Stacey! I only hear the end of Stacey’s conversation with the interviewer, but I do catch a moment when they are wondering if Stacey is the only “straight” contributor to the anthology, which reminds me of the time at City Lights when Benjamin Shepard wondered the same thing about himself… In any case, the interview is hilarious and fun -- I can’t wait for Toronto! -- but then I’m done and standing on the street with my bags, right?

The reading at Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor is the smallest one so far, but Ray who introduces me gives this incredible introduction with so much insight and charm! My intro turns out well, and I can see Deena who’s been reading my blog anticipating the stories ze’s familiar with. Bill Dobbs, who I know from New York, is also there, as well as Alex who I’m staying with who I know from high school and Cynthya Brian-Kate who I met in Ann Arbor during a previous visit, so it’s a wide-ranging small crowd. Towards the end of the reading, maybe 10 or 15 additional people come in and some of them stand in the back listening (of course, there are also the lurkers are required in smaller-town venues, not just the person working who isn’t lurking she’s working!, but the person standing discreetly among one of the bookshelves)-- at the time I’m wondering if these new visitors are all just late, or random customers, but one of them even snaps a few photos and later I see that the reading was picked in the local daily, but with the wrong time -- 1 hour late! And, they do say the book is about “passing a straight,” but I will take publicity in all forms, thank you.

Meanwhile, it’s not only daylight savings drama but I’ve just switched to East Coast time plus the reading started at 4 p.m. -- early morning for me, even without the extra two hours lost -- forget about daylight, I need sleep! Ray asks a great question about the role of lies in the book and my answer is a mess I think, my mind is wharping, then the next question is about trans misogyny but the person asking the question is using a very different definition than mine, by the time we’re done I can’t figure out what either of us is saying exactly. Alex asks about passing to bring the book to fruition, i.e. the Seal motto of “books by women for women”-- that one I’ve got down, but still my answer feel sloppier than usual. I mean I feel sloppier I guess. Afterwards it’s dinner at the local vegetarian restaurant, but the tempeh burger tastes like something out of a box -- oh well, conversation is lovely and then I sit on one of Alex’s sofas staring into space for a while to try to recover then we chat about love and commitment, that’s fun.

The next day, Deena (who I’ve met through our brilliant mutual friend Gina DeVries) arrives to drive me to Windsor, Canada so I can catch the train to Toronto. I’m not exactly ready, standing around in my boxers trying to fit everything into my suitcases, but Deena is super-helpful and even knows how to quiet the barking dog. We’re off about a half hour late and actually I still haven’t figured out that East Coast time has already arrived, maybe that explains my dizziness or not dizziness just disorientation I guess after getting up to an alarm in the middle of a dream about passing the test were getting ready to take the test to become a schoolteacher but all of the seats are uncomfortable and I’m looking for some kind of pillow while the teacher says our test will be on TV, that’s when I wake up -- oh, and of course the testing area is one room away from my parents’ dining room where I’ve woken up and wandered in with my hair bleached yellow-white straight down into my face it looks okay until I realize all of the ends are frizzing up and who are all these new-agers hanging out with my grandmother Rose and my mother at the dining room table, should I introduce myself?

But on to me and Deena in the car, I’m self-conscious that I seem out of it I mean feel out of it, but Deena assures me that ze doesn’t notice since we haven’t met before and that’s true I guess. Deena gives me these great stickers that say “MEDICAL CAUTION,” I’ll be using those for sure. Deena’s great about pointing out roadside attractions and then my interview from IN Newsweekly in Boston calls, and I’m doing the interview while Deena’s on the phone with hir mother frantically trying to figure out a way to get to Windsor, I’m just focusing on the interview questions -- my answers are pretty elaborate, considering that I can hear the interviewer transcribing as we’re speaking so I’m wondering how it will all come out -- he’s super-sweet and supportive at the end, I like that. At one point, he asks what I do for fun and I’m never very good at that question -- what do I do for fun? I know -- I hurt my foot at sex clubs -- but I don’t think about it in time. My foot does still hurt, though, especially when I’m wearing shoes -- it’s like my feet keep growing and growing. I hope it gets better before Toronto, since there are all these sex clubs there and I need to be able to walk around in circles, right? Not to mention getting on my knees and other dangerous activities…

Meanwhile, some great stories from Deena:
1. Just last night: a Human Rights Campaign (that monstrous wealthy assimilationist gay lobbying group) = bumper sticker on the back of a car, right next to a Marines bumper sticker.
2. Deena’s boss at work, who asked Deena: did you see the she-male?
3. A former coworker of Deena’s, a serious Christian of the anti-sex sort, who asked in all seriousness: how productive do you think you are at work? Deena changed hir screensaver to a Jesus-on-the-Cross dildo, and never heard from that lovely coworker again.
Meanwhile, I’m on the train in Canada and they advertise WiFi but guess what? You have to pay for it -- forget that, at least I can use my voice activation software to write all of this…

Okay, here’s my Toronto event:
NOBODY PASSES IN TORONTO
Tuesday, March 13 @ 8 p.m.
This Ain't the Rosedale Library
483 Church St
Toronto, Ontario
(416) 929-9912
with Stacey May Fowles, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Zoe Whittall







Sunday, March 11, 2007

Milwaukee: something like understanding




(Here I am sitting on the floor in a packed, sweltering "lounge" of the Chicago train station, waiting for the train to Milwaukee to arrive)


The train ride from Chicago to Milwaukee is only an hour-and-a-half, so of course it’s an hour late. I arrive at the train station 15 minutes after the reading is supposed to start -- it’s raining, the only snow left is that hard gray stuff on the side of roads. Amy, one of the three founders of Broad Vocabulary, the store where I’m reading, picks me up and we drive through the edge of downtown and then through what I find out is the gay neighborhood after we’re almost beyond it. From the car, most of the buildings look like old industrial spaces, many of them converted into new commercial uses maybe, like gay bars I guess. Amy is talking about Brought Vocabulary, how the three women who started it all have separate jobs to support themselves and work on the store when they don’t have to work elsewhere-- Amy works in the only integrated high school in the city -- apparently Milwaukee is considered the second most segregated city in the country, after Detroit, which it kind of resembles in some ways -- a cross between Detroit and Philadelphia.


We arrive at the store around 8 p.m. and people are waiting in colorful chairs -- and the lighting is soft and comforting, people applaud when I arrive and everyone’s smiling and welcoming. I’ve got my intro down now, all the stories rolling in with anecdotes I add when it makes sense. There’s always that arc between the very beginning when everyone is laughing -- I mean, when I’m entertaining people I guess -- to that point where I talk about confronting my father about sexually abusing me 11 years ago and telling him I would never speak to him again unless he could comes to terms with it, then visiting him anyway before he died of cancer. That’s when there’s always a dramatic emotional shift and it’s also my link into talking about choosing not to pass, standing there at his hospital bed sobbing and feeling everything instead. Then into talking about the conversations I want the book to bring about, it’s an unfinished and uncomfortable link but I think I like it that way -- or I want it that way, that’s probably a better way to put it.

There are questions about language, how do we bridge the gap when people use different ways of speaking about things + a question about challenging the new identity of “none of the above, thank you” and whether that space and ambivalence can also be a place of resistance. Amy asks about a local gay group that asked her to sign on to something fighting for domestic partner health benefits, she thought wait I don’t believe in domestic partnership but how to tell them that without sounding dismissive? I guess my answer is that asking the question: what about healthcare for everyone else -- or fighting for universal health care -- that is supportive, the only way to actually be supportive in any struggle is with critique, that’s what I think at least. “Support” is always supposed to mean an unqualified yes, like there are no other choices -- that’s where the dangerous silencing comes in.

Afterwards, someone asks a great question about consent, whether true consent is ever possible and how do we incorporate this question into our politics-- I need to keep thinking about that one, Shereen (?sp), let’s keep in touch. Afterwards, people are going out for food and drinks and I’m ready to go out too -- it feels like a fun crowd, including the people who started the Queer Zine Archive Project (www.qzap.org) -- I’m asking about vegan options and someone mentions a vegan deep fryer (gross!), but then Amy points out that I have to be at the bus station in a half hour-- oh no! I’m ready to hang out and chat some more, not to mention that I haven’t had a chance to look around the store yet -- I glimpse the new Kara Walker retrospective book, and then we’re off again.

In the car, Amy gives me a purple hat someone (Jen is the name I'm remembering, if I'm not right please correct me!) knit for me earlier that day after loving Nobody Passes-- how sweet! The Greyhound station is a disaster (no trains after the one I came in on, that’s why I’m returning to Chicago on Greyhound) -- the 8:45 Boston Chicago didn’t come or the driver got sick and so there are over a hundred people in line and everyone’s getting angry, not sure if there will be enough space and we’re all nervous--a few people are harassing me about my outfit, of course. People are trying to get ahead of me in line even though I’m almost at the back -- inching in front of me because I’m the white faggot in a mostly black crowd or something but I keep inching forward and surprisingly end up not getting cut off, maybe also because I’ve started a conversation with the clubby couple behind me and the middle-aged guy in front of me so we are kind of all together although not really -- I know that. Luckily no eruptions, we all get on one of two busses and the one I’m on goes super-fast, we leave an hour late but we only arrive a half hour after we were supposed to. Someone on the bus starts smoking pot in the bathroom, although luckily not until we’re almost in Chicago. I’m in the front, which is unusual, and the woman next to me turns out to be friendly, she’s thinking of moving from Baltimore to Milwaukee for a change with her kids (and also for romance) and I think maybe the two cities are kind of similar. She says why do you think that? I say well they’re both pretty working class, a lot of people from each seem to live there their whole lives -- and they are both very segregated. I wouldn’t have known about the segregation in Milwaukee if it weren’t for my conversation with Amy although it makes sense considering that the other large cities nearby -- Detroit and Chicago -- are certainly known for segregation (although what US city isn’t, really?). The woman next to me on the bus says you’re right about that, and we share a moment -- I’m not sure what kind of moment, maybe something like understanding or just the potential for understanding and then the bus arrives, she’s catching another one for Baltimore tonight and I’m just glad I can go back to where I’m staying, almost said home-- that’s funny, especially considering that I leave soon for Ann Arbor.
And the Ann Arbor event:
NOBODY PASSES IN ANN ARBOR
Sunday, March 11 @ 4 p.m.
(don’t forget daylight savings!)
Shaman Drum Bookshop
311-315 South State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 662-7407

Saturday, March 10, 2007

New events!!! -- Boston, Brown University, Hudson (NY), George Mason University, Baltimore

NOBODY PASSES IN BOSTON
Monday, March 19 @ 7 p.m.
Lucy Parsons Center
549 Columbus Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 267-6272
http://lucyparsons.org


BROWN UNIVERSITY
Tuesday, March 20 @ 7 p.m.
Petteruti Lounge
1st floor, Faunce House (on Brown's Main Green)
75 Waterman Street
Providence, RI

NOBODY PASSES IN HUDSON, NY
Friday, March 30 @ 8 p.m.
Time and Space Limited
434 Columbia St
Hudson, New York 12534
(518) 822-8448
www.timeandspace.org

GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
Tuesday, April 3 @ 4:30 p.m.
Location TBA
Fairfax, VA


NOBODY PASSES IN BALTIMORE
Wednesday, April 4 @ 7 p.m.
Red Emma’s Bookstore
800 St. Paul St.Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 230-0450
www.redemmas.org

And the rest of the events are listed on my website, www.mattbernsteinsycamore.com

More to come...

Memory

Well, earlier I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend time online too late so instead I could get more rest, then I get home or back to where I’m staying in Chicago and I immediately want to write about the Milwaukee event except now I’m staring at the computer screen and it’s hard to focus I’m too tired really. It’s just that I have this fear that if I don’t write things down immediately then I’ll forget them or a least the details that I want to remember and part of that fear comes from being an incest survivor of course and needing to avoid memory for so long in order to survive, now memory is what helps me. But at the moment I’m too tired, time to shut the computer down and get it ready for tomorrow’s trip to Ann Arbor. Maybe I’ll try writing on the train if it’s not too crowded for the voice software experience.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Today it's 55° out and the snow has melted

Now the remaining snow just looks like it always looked in New York or even Boston and DC -- gray and dirty. I’m missing the snow already, but I have to get ready to go to Milwaukee:

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

Chicago: inspiration and engagement and excitement + looking for a beautiful calm

First of all, there’s a GREAT review of Nobody Passes in this week’s Windy City Times (one of Chicago’s gay weeklies):

http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=14225

Second of all, whoever said that sex clubs were dangerous was right! I hurt my foot in one last night-- all of that kneeling at awkward angles, just so I could stretch out my throat -- was it worth it? But seriously, the bottom of my left foot feels like It’s swollen, especially when I walk up and down stairs -- hopefully this won’t last long.

Tonight’s reading at Women and Children First, what a lovely reading! I want to write on and on, but the truth is that I’m completely exhausted, eyelids ready to close so I’m going to write only as much as I can, more to do before I go to sleep like sending out an email about upcoming readings to the people that signed up on my email list tonight, I think that strategy has been working well -- since the publisher’s support for the tour consists of… posters?… I have to do all of the guerrilla marketing I can, dammit. The posters are beautiful, I will admit that (reminds me to ask for one), but we all know it takes a little more than posters, I’m so glad everything has been going so well so far, thanks everyone for all of your support!

Okay, the reading: it’s a great crowd, getting larger with more chairs as I’m starting and people are still coming in. My introduction is probably at its most performative and even improvisational, within the intended framework of course. I’m loving it. It’s interesting reading excerpts that are somewhat serious and I can’t always tell whether people are connecting. I have an interesting passing moment while reading Benjamin Shepard’s piece, “Not Quite Queer,” and thinking I hope these people who are walking in while I’m reading realize that I am queer, I mean I really am I’m not just passing. Ha!

The first question is hilarious: can you define hypoglycemia for me because I think I might have a similar issue. I get very performative for that one, demonstrating the different kinds of breakdowns. The truth is that before I knew I was hypoglycemic, I just thought that blood sugar crash when suddenly I felt no hope about anything in the world, nothing could ever possibly go well again this is reality -- that’s what I thought -- reality. Of course I say this too.

Someone asks about JT LeRoy, well I have a lot to say about that one, especially after my absurdist play of Fall 2005, “Will the Real JT LeRoy Please Stand Up?”+ my Bitch article of last spring-- I talk about running into Laura Albert (who created JT LeRoy) at FedEx Kinko’s just before my book launch in the intro, that’s how this comes up. Someone else asks whether I had to cut any pieces from the anthology -- great question -- I get to talk not only about Seal Press, but the whole publishing industry, tying it into the JT LeRoy question because I wish Laura Albert would take the whole thing down, I mean she perfected the rules of the game. This is one event that I wish someone were recording, I’m really enjoying my answers which are kind of their own essays or commentary or some fun hybrid. Someone gives me a beautiful glittery drawing called “Swell Feathers” after the reading-- how sweet! I really love the one-on-one contact with people who come up to get their books signed or to ask questions or to say hello-- I notice that I have this smile that feels so glowing, like it can illuminate me -- I feel useful and energized and inspired, that’s what it is.

Then I have dinner with Yasmin Nair who wrote the great review in Windy City Times, she’s working on a book challenging queer theory for promoting the neoliberal agenda, sounds pretty exciting to me. I can feel myself fading by the end of dinner even though I’m excited by all the talk of radical queer politics, of meeting exciting people with challenging ideas-- that’s what I was thinking after the reading -- that I wish I could just continue the feeling of inspiration and engagement and excitement on and on and on and on, instead of in these brief moments -- it’s one of the things I will be thinking about on the tour, how to make all of this permanent even as my exhaustion kicks in, headache pushing eyelids forward and closed, rest is a good thing -- a great thing -- I want to link this inspiration and engagement and excitement to a beautiful calm, sleep that satisfies and helps to cushion, that’s the other part of the challenge.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The snow, oh I love love LOVE the snow!

I guess I have to remember to go somewhere snowy every winter now, I just love the feeling of the snow in my hair, stepping in the snow and your shoes make that sound -- how do I describe it? -- a crunching sound, I guess -- and you can feel your foot go further down into the ground and back too. Where I’m staying in Chicago, there are all of these cardinals out in a tree in the middle of the winter, but the craziest thing is this cat rolling around in the snow -- I never knew that cats liked snow too, you know how people always say they are afraid of water? But this cat is loving it, maybe I’ll go roll around too.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Crying, I almost forgot to write about crying!

Okay, first I’m crying after reading a sweet comment on this blog from Bruin who I stayed with in Seattle, saying he missed seeing me wandering around at 4 p.m. (my morning, that is). Crying because of that sense of home yet fleeting home from creating connection while touring. Then I’m crying thinking about the hospitality of people I don’t really know, offering me last-minute places to stay in Chicago and Toronto. Then I turn on the news for the first time in a few weeks -- touring becomes so all-encompassing that it’s harder to keep in touch with what else is going on outside of the lives and worlds of the people I encounter. First it’s about genetically engineered rice with a human anti-diarrheal humane gene-- are you kidding? Then about the eviction of a squat in Copenhagen that had been occupied for 20 years, evicted after the government sold the building to a religious organization -- oh, those horrible religious organizations -- and governments! -- and when they get together, so now I’m crying again…

Oh, I almost forgot! --I read this live journal entry from someone who’s been following my blog, but now I can’t find it to quote exactly -- something about how Nobody Passes is helping this person to feel confident about being queer in the queerest of ways, I wish I could find the exact quote but anyway it makes me cry more, yay!

I love all the emotions that touring brings up and opens up and allows --to more, more and more! -- and to some beautiful rest so I don’t feel so worn out at the same time...

Minneapolis/St. Paul -- nervousness, sexual abuse and cathedrals

Okay, why do I always get so nervous before events? This time I’m super-early, sitting at the café across the street watching to see if people are going in, except that I’m actually not watching because I’m talking on the phone and so actually I miss pretty much everyone who goes in and when I get there it’s actually crowded, comfortably crowded in the downstairs with armchairs. Everyone likes my Portland and cake anecdotes, I can tell this is a good crowd and I read excerpts from Nico Dacumos, Jen Cross, Rocko Bulldagger, Benjamin Shepard and Irina Contreras’s pieces -- it’s interesting, because this is the first time so far when there are no contributors joining me (as will be the case for the next several readings) so it feels extra-performative, trying to make sure that I’m getting the individual voices across.

The first question is about when I confronted my father about sexually abusing me, how old I was to be so clear. The good thing about answering questions is that you can interpret them how you want, like this could seem sort of challenging like how do I know I was REALLY abused but I don’t take it that way at all, I just give my story. There’s a question about how I got published, so I give some details in that area, a question about the collaborative potential of my anthologies, a great one from the back that now I can’t remember. I really appreciate the one-on-one contact at the end with people it makes me feel emotional like this is why I’m here -- for this contact.

Afterwards, I get a ride back to St. Paul where I’m staying with a friendly crew who point out the passing sites, emerging gentrification battles, and even the crazy mansions on Cathedral Hill and no way is that enormous thing really the Cathedral, built on a cliff before any of the rest of Saint Paul? The person driving tells me about all the good little areas in the base of the cathedral where you can hang out in the summer, so I guess there are a few fringe benefits to religion…

Okay, soon I’ll be in Chicago:

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

Here's a cute picture...


This is from Macalester, in the background is that send Venn diagram, couldn't take it with me because it was attached to the wall!

Macalester College -- layers, cake, feminism and gender carding in gay bar bathrooms


I’m so glad I brought all of these layers of clothing with me, I actually don’t feel too cold at all-- or of course, if I actually lived here I’d be waiting for the bus or something crazy like that, I have no idea how that would work in -20, but luckily it’s been more like positive 20 or 30 and that’s been fine. Just before my talk at Macalester, I have a slight passing crisis -- I’ve been talking to this graduate student who lives at the bed and breakfast where I’m staying, and she’s excited about Nobody Passes and has all these great ideas and questions and intersections to bring up, I’m in the bathroom and I hear someone go into my room and then when I come out there’s a box on the bed, I open it up and it’s a cake, a beautiful round chocolate cake with pastel sprinkles and different shapes and it says “Nobody Passes Except Mattilda,” but who on earth could have gotten me a cake? Turns out it’s Thea, the woman I’ve just been talking to -- it’s such a beautiful and sweet gesture and I can’t possibly eat any of it, I’m such a hypoglycemic catastrophe and I know that if I took even one bite I would plan out how I was going to take over the world in like 10 minutes, maybe my next 12 books and how I was going to get each of them published, then I would crash and fall into bed incapacitated-- I can’t eat any sugar at all, plus I’m vegan -- but you can’t tell someone who just bought you a beautiful, personalized cake-- what a lovely and spontaneous gesture -- I don’t know how to tell her that I can’t possibly eat the cake, but luckily I take some photos and she runs out and there are lots of people around the house to taste it.

The crowd at Macalester is pretty small in this huge room with enormous glass windows on three sides, very sculptural -- classes have been canceled for the past two days due to the snowstorm, the first time in four years which is kind of crazy. This is the first time I’ve given this exact talk, a combination of Nobody Passes and my anti-assimilation talk, I think it goes pretty well especially when I get more conversational -- plus, I start with the anecdote about the passing crisis around the cake, and Thea is in the audience videotaping, the anecdote is for her really and she seems engaged by it. By the end of my talk, I realize I’m losing my voice a bit, am I talking too much? The audience is pretty quiet -- not so many questions. One about Gay Shame, and then Thea asks about the connection between the Gay Shame statement about nonhierarchical organizing and my work, she has a smart insight that that is a theme that runs through Nobody Passes and my work in general--she also asks about how to empower youth who are struggling with expressing complicated genders -- of course what they are struggling with is the monstrous assumptions and oppressions and standards we all grow up with, that’s what we have to get rid of!

Oh, another thought-- I’ve noticed that at my college events so far, people seem especially moved when I’m talking about incest, confronting my father and visiting him before he died -- maybe because some are struggling with similar issues and/or because they are still living in some ways with their parents, their parents’ expectations and violences too.

After the event, I fall in to another hole of exhaustion-- all of the energy I’ve channeled to be present and engaged and performative evaporating I’m crashed in this chair in the room where I’m staying. Luckily the bed is super-comfortable and I stay in it for a long time, sleeping too for a while which is good of course it actually going to bed earlier than usual which is especially great considering the time difference is not working in my favor.

In the morning I have a second event at Macalester, an informal dinner with students-- we’re in the lounge of another very airy, open building -- maybe that’s a theme here although apparently there’s one dorm that gets cited every year because it breaks all sorts of codes, the rooms are the same size as Minnesota prison cells -- talk about passing! Or making money, since that’s what both prison cells in dorm rooms are all about, right?

The students are kind of shy -- Mik, my host, asks most of the questions about the talk, including a great one about how feminism informs my politics -- I answer with a short history of my life, starting with growing up in an abusive family and seeing the violence that is marriage, the misogyny in my parents’ relationship, the ways their upper middle class lie life was able to cover up the violence. Seeing the violence of this “liberal” world -- my high school, the “first integrated school in Washington, DC” (but not integrated then, or ever I imagine) -- seeing all of these violences hidden and yet so obvious was my first politicized feminism, then creating a freak and later queer worldview -- politicizing every choice in order to challenge power and hierarchies and hypocrisies. internalizing my parents’ worldview as a kid and believing the only way I could beat them was to beat them on their own terms -- going to a better school, making more money, getting a more prestigious job, etc. I tried that-- 1 year at a posh liberal arts breeding ground for the intelligentsia (Brown University, to be exact) and everything I learned really was from activism against the administration that lead nowhere really (except self-knowledge and practical skills, which is somewhere really but somewhere other than the confines of “higher learning“)-- I realized I could learn those skills more effectively and defiantly elsewhere and I also realized I needed to get so much further away from my parents and their worldview in order to create something of meaning for myself -- that I couldn’t beat them on their own terms because then they would have won already -- that’s my politics in general, you can’t change something by becoming part of it -- it just doesn’t work. Then I fled to San Francisco, found outsider queers and whores and incest survivors and freaks and runaways and clubkids and direct action activism and that’s where I learned feminism really, how to challenge a world that wants you dead. That’s the short version of my answer, in case you want an idea of how much I was talking.

On the walls in this lounge are these beautiful representations of Venn diagrams, something in geometry I guess I can’t remember what but they’re beautiful.

I ask a lot of questions too, especially about this passing scandal where a local gay bar, the Townhouse (why is that such a popular name for a gay bar?) actually cards people at the bathroom door, to make sure that no one without “male” on their id goes into the men’s room. I’ve heard of all sorts of monstrous policies at bars -- especially misogynist and trans-phobic crap at gay bars -- but carding at bathroom doors? Apparently it’s an issue in some form or other in many Minneapolis-St. Paul bars -- I want to find out more about this craziness, maybe ask Mik to write some kind of article/exposé.

After the dinner, Jason Ruiz (who took me grocery shopping when I first arrived, thanks Jason!) interviews me for this upcoming special issue of the Radical History Review on “homonormativity” and that turns out to be a lot of fun --I’m definitely fading, but I guess I sound pretty good because Jason says I talk exactly like I write and he asks good questions too, I’m excited to see it.

Okay now I better go -- my body is hurting from cooking, leaning too far over to correct mistakes in this blog entry, scraping away at a pot I burnt-- I have to send out a few event announcements, and get ready for bed and hopefully rest a lot again before tomorrow’s event at Amazon Bookstore in Minneapolis…

I do feel clearer after writing, though -- that’s why I do this, really -- the brain fog sinking in and I still have to finish my cooking but I will try to stay calm and not too over-exhausted.
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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Notes from the train



Something changed on my camera and now all the images are high-res, I'm worried that will make this blog too slow to load -- or maybe it doesn't matter, maybe all the images shrink automatically they just take longer to load? -- oh, technology (using it when you don't really understand it) -- thoughts?

Wednesday, February 28, 7:32 p.m.
For some reason the voice software has decided not to work with Word -- luckily it works with Microsoft Works, although it’s a little messier -- keeps bunching words together and adding extra letters at the end of certain words but at least it types what I’m saying, that’s the important thing. I’m not sure if I have that much to say right now, just that already after only three hours of the train I’m bored and exhausted -- I went to bed too late last night because I was cooking all my food for the train and preparing my talk for Macalester College, then I had to get up too early so my brain isn’t working too well -- what? How did I cut the knuckles on my left hand, I just looked down and there’s blood. Before it was my right hand. Anyway, there’s a lot I could be writing if I felt more coherent or energetic, maybe I’ll try closing my eyes and zoning out for a while. The train stops in Spokane Washington for almost an hour I guess, just after Midnight so at least there will be some fresh air then.


1:41 a.m.
I remember being intrigued by Spokane last time I went through on the train, because of the old tall buildings and then some hideous ‘60s ones surrounded by a huge vastness, especially this one that almost looks like a Soviet wedding cake-style building, or maybe not Soviet but definitely wedding cake. I’m almost tempted to do a reading there just to see what it would be like -- I think there was a gay bookstore in Spokane that invited me once, I didn’t know if people would show up and it’s kind of isolated (and conservative), eight hours from Seattle on the train. It would actually kind of work on a tour, with my schedule I mean as I’m working my way across country since the train going East arrives at 12:30 a.m., departs at 1:15 a.m. Maybe it’s something to investigate.
The train stops for 45 minutes in Spokane and it looks like we’re right downtown, I’d love to walk around except that I’m worried the train will leave. I’m standing outside in this incredible fresh winter air, and Spokane is not known for fresh air -- still, it’s delicious, just a little bit of snow on the ground and the cold crispness, that’s right I love winter air like this maybe Minneapolis will be lovely.



Thursday, March 1 I guess, 3:27 p.m. Mountain Time
Waking up into the beauty of snow I feel calm and dreamy like maybe I actually got some rest on the train, the key is absolutely the white noise generator that sounds like static I love it it’s my best friend. I love looking at the snow, maybe I should just sit here all day without my contacts on know I’ll need to eat at some point soon. I call Lesley who I met on the train going East to visit my father, turns out she had an incredibly dramatic train trip just recently, too much to even mention really but apparently it’s in the January 22 Salt Lake Tribune. This train is the smoothest I’ve ever been on -- it’s actually moving sort of fast, and on time, which is a little bit disturbing because the train is scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis at 7 a.m. -- I just assumed it would be about 10 hours late, 5 p.m. would be perfect I could sleep. But it looks like I’m going to have some scary morning-out-in-the-world delirium-type experience, already I’m feeling tired and dazed like yesterday, the typical train sensation sinuses needing actual air not just air conditioning and heat alternating. I guess I’ll go check out the shower -- it seems like this train might even have been renovated, an IKEA-type no more like Target experience in the bathroom although the rest looks pretty similar --but who knows, maybe there will be slate floors and granite walls, I better go see before it all breaks down.