Friday, May 30, 2008

RadioActive Utah and my new toaster...

Troy Williams, the producer of the show, warned me beforehand that just being an "out homosexual" in Utah makes you a flaming radical, but Troy also encouraged me to let it all out -- and it was a great show! The host, Brandie Balken, brought a radical queer analysis, an empathic ear, and a great laugh to the table, so we had a lot of fun...

Some of the sponsors of the show include the largest mainstream gay groups in the state, and I wonder if a show with similar sponsors in San Francisco would have me on for a whole delicious hour. In some ways I wonder if there's an interesting opportunity for radical queer thought when anything gay or queer is already considered radical. Of course, it takes some devious types like Troy and Brandie to bring it to the table...

The show was a call-in program, and Brandie mentioned they were getting more callers than ever before. From name and identification I would say that most, if not all, of the callers were male, and about half of them identified themselves as hetero. It felt like people were interested in engaging with anti-assimilationist ideas, even if they weren't familiar with them. Several callers started by saying that they supported gay marriage, but then ended up critiquing marriage, like this one person who said: "the best thing about marriage is the tax breaks."

But wait, what about the toaster?

(RadioActive will be archived soon, so I'll post the link)

Oh -- and I'll be on the radio again on Sunday -- this time on a program called OutLoud on the Clear Channel-owned Green 960 AM, at 8 p.m. Pacific Time)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Utah in a few moments, now's the time...

(See post below)

Radio Free Utah

Today I'll be on KRCL 90.9 FM in Salt Lake City, sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. -- should be fun! Wait, now I'm confused -- is that Mountain Time, or Pacific Standard Time? Hmmm... it might be a good idea to check in around 4 p.m. PST, just in case the interview is set for 5 p.m. Mountain Time... I know I'll be hanging by the phone, but I hope I'm not confusing you...

You can listen live here.

The second blurb for So Many Ways to Sleep Badly...

Here it is:

Reading a chapter of this amazing book is like when someone throws you into the deep end and you don’t know how to swim. You feel like you’re gonna drown, like how am I going to do this? You can’t breathe and you flail and start to sink, you’re freezing but then you feel brisk then actually kind of exhilarated and then you are breathing not mere air but something rich and sweet and fluid, a thing a whole lot like the inside of your body. You breathe in this new element – this frantic, fluid prose -- and read like you have never read before.

-- Rebecca Brown

(Oh -- the book will be out in October...)

Flattened, but wait...

The next day I'm trying to recover from trying to recover from trying to recover -- that's a lot, oh no! When I wake up and it feels like my face has been flattened -- what is it about lack of sleep and chemicals in the air that closes off the options? Except the staring into space hoping staring will lead somewhere I wonder if it ever does. Outside it's warm but then I realize that means the air is more polluted so I'm back inside.

But it's also one of those manic days because my marriage post appears on AlterNet and Feministing, part of my long-term goal to infiltrate the left establishment, and for my work to be considered within feminist contexts -- yay for that, I'll leave it at that for now, and read through the comments...

And it's also up on Feministing...

Yay for more discussion!!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Check out my marriage commentary today on AlterNet

Yay -- it's up on the main page, or here -- I'm guessing there will be some scandalized comments from gay marriage advocates and confused liberals, so if you get a chance feel free to contribute some insight and charm...

Dear David Wojnarowicz

(This is a piece I'm working on for an anthology called Second Person Queer, edited by Richard Labonte and Lawrence Schimel)

Dear David --

I found you in an obituary. Or it wasn’t quite an obituary, but an article that appeared right after you died and Memories That Smell Like Gasoline came out and I read that article and thought: oh. Then I picked up the book and saw your drawings of sex so alienated and intimate, infinite and lost, I wasn't prepared for what I recognized: "When I was 9 or 10 some guy picked me up in Central Park + took me home. He made a polaroid of me sitting in a chair. It didn't show my face so I let him keep it."

So right then I read Close to the Knives instead: it was the first time I found my sense of rage in print, and simultaneously a feeling of maybe a little bit of hope in a world of loss. I recognized so much in your words and images and their textures, I held that book so close to my heart I couldn't hold you I held your rage. I held your desperation and it helped me to feel. Everything.

You wrote about a "disease in the American landscape," the literal disease of AIDS but a crisis caused because the people in power decided who was expendable, and queers and drug addicts and poor people and people of color were left to die. You're so intent on exposing the layers of oppression between government and God and family and the "one tribe nation" of "walking swastikas." One minute you're driving through the landscape of light and dark, shadow and memory and space so much space and all of a sudden: "I feel that I'm caught in the invisible arms of government in a country slowly dying beyond our grasp."

You write from downtown New York in the ‘80s but here in San Francisco in the early ‘90s right after you died we felt that too. The people I met, we knew it was the beginning of the end, but still it was the beginning. Most of us had recently escaped monstrous families of origin, we were scarred and broken and brutalized but determined to create something else, something we could live with, something we could call home or healing or even just help, I need help here, can you help? We were incest survivors, whores, outcast kids, vegans, anarchists, runaways, and addicts trying not to disappear. We knew that the world wanted us dead, but we were ready for something else -- we didn't always know what it was, but we were ready -- if we weren't ready, then we were getting ready.

This was the early ‘90s in San Francisco, so everywhere people were dying of AIDS and drug addiction and suicide and some of the dead were among us, just like us, just trying to survive. Others were more in the distance, elders like you who we barely got to know except through their loss. We went crazy and cried a lot, or went crazy and stopped crying, or just went crazy.

I carried Close to the Knives around like a litmus test, when I met someone new I’d hand it off -- some would turn to me and say oh, this is too much I can't handle it. Others would look me in the eyes with anguish and recognition and those were the ones. You helped me learn to embrace rage, a shift in the texture of breathing, a way to further opportunities for connection rather than just isolation we knew that so well, you and I and others like us struggling to survive.

Of course you were already dead, I knew that -- even when you conjured this world of bathrooms and parks and alleys and rotting piers and other public opportunities for sexual splendor, I was "gasping from a sense of loss and desire." All of this I knew so well, but you helped me learn to embrace it like a "blood-filled egg," "freeing me from the silences of the interior life." Sure, "I was afraid the intensity of my fantasies would become strangely audible," but I knew that this public engagement with the sexual could infuse all moments of hope and horror, escape and claustrophobia, landscape and longing, connection and isolation, death and remembrance.

This was the Mission in the early ‘90s and we were queer freaks and artists and activists and sluts creating defiant and desperate ways to love and lust for and take care of one another in crowded, crumbling apartments painted in garish hues and decorated with other people's trash. We paraded down the streets in bold and ragged clothes too big or too small, we shared thriftstore treasures and recipes and strategies for getting day-glow hair dye to last. We exchanged manifestos and ‘zines and fliers and gossip, got in dramatic fights over politics, over the weather, over clothing, over who was sleeping with whom, we held each other, we painted each other's nails and broke down, honey we broke down.

You were among the heroes whose books we exchanged at lightning speed -- Dorothy Allison and Cherrie Moraga, Leslie Feinberg and Sapphire. David, I carried you around in my bag for years and sometimes when anything or everything was too much I would just hold you, I was learning and living and giving the potential of embracing outsider status in order to create safety, love, community, desire, home on our own terms, building our own systems for understanding and challenging the world and making decisions based on our own sense of morality. You knew that: "Hell is a place on earth. Heaven is a place in your head." Queerness became "a wedge that I might successfully drive between me and a world that was rapidly becoming more and more insane."

We were huddled and dreaming outside of the status quo, but still we were gentrifiers -- we knew that. Some of us had grown up rich and more of us poor, but we could see the way that queer freaks and artists and activists made the Mission a safer place for the yuppies we despised. We brought the trendy restaurants and boutiques that we gazed at with anguish and disgust, the partying suburbanites we scorned. We were the beginning of the end and we didn't know what to do because we'd just found the beginning.

David, reading Close to the Knives again after all these years I'm struck by your sense of a shared destiny between all people with AIDS or all queers or all marginal artists -- this community of desperation, and I'm struck by how this feeling of commonality is now almost entirely lost. I can't help wondering if it was ever there, if your work built such potential for delirious accountability yet also participated in a glamorization of the downtown fringe, preventing a more nuanced examination of gentrification. Or maybe things have just changed so dramatically in 15 years that there is no longer an “us.” In San Francisco, 15 years of gentrification, homogenization and suburbanization, and the overwhelming assimilation and apathy of most gay people and queers, means a certain death of the urban imagination, something you invoke with urgency yet always potential. The public sex you helped me to claim has almost disappeared from communal possibility, even though I keep searching for those moments when everything becomes lighter or brighter or easier to imagine, the gestures of loneliness pressed against one another that somehow create an expression so dense it becomes splendid: hold me. Now.

You write, "I won't grow old and maybe I want to." And ask: "If we all die off what will happen to those we leave behind who are just this moment being born?” That's something I'm also wondering.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Trying to recover from trying to recover

These days I feel like I'm living a double life between how I actually feel, which is that I can barely function at all I don't know how I'm going to do anything, and how I engage with the world, which is in this super-high functioning way with all these writing projects going on at once and I'm organizing all the details, from the writing to the editing to the promotion to the touring and the whole time I'm thinking how am I doing any of this? Because I don't really have any energy. Then I remember it's because this is what gives me meaning, gives me excitement, makes me feel like maybe there's a little bit of hope, connects me to other people and ideas and inspirations, makes me feel like I'm part of something. But then at the same time it's what drains me, leaves me feeling stressed and exhausted and in pain and it's all feeling ridiculous right now. That whole cycle.

Just after the California Supreme Court marriage decision I got all manic, thinking maybe now is the time to get an anti-marriage op-ed in one of the corporate dailies. I even sat down and wrote it, and called friends who I thought might actually read the corporate dailies and asked them what they thought and we brainstormed together and I liked that part, it felt like we were collectively engaged in something political together, which was also my op-ed. But then I had to think about ridiculous things like will these papers even publish the word queer? And can I use the word gay instead, or would that just make me feel politically disgusting? I mean, if someone else said they were going to use the word gay I might support them in that decision, but I just couldn't do it. Or LGBT -- that would be even worse.

Then I sent the op-ed to 14 of the dailies in total, and surprise surprise none of them published it. But then I got creative and recorded it as an audio commentary (thanks, Puck), which will air on Uprising Radio, the morning news program on KPFK-LA sometime this week (I'll keep you posted), so that's exciting. But I'm talking about all of this because, when I started getting all manic about marriage I was also falling deeper into exhaustion, the exhaustion was already happening I was trying to do things anyway. And so I wonder if doing those things made me more exhausted.

But of course I'm already drained. I can't say I would feel better if I didn't do anything but sometimes I just want something else, I mean a different way of existing that isn't all based on drive because if there isn't any drive then I'll collapse but maybe I just need to collapse. For a while. Like a year. Or two years. Maybe live on the beach and only work on one project -- the next book that starts with visiting my father before he died, continues with trying to regain a sense of hope in my own sexuality, finishes with the overwhelm of the everyday and the legacy of a childhood surviving violence.

But sometimes it's the things I do to take care of myself that cause even more drama, like the blackout blinds that I finally succeeded in getting installed, because maybe I wake up too early because of the light streaming in my windows. And then, not only do the blinds not block out all the light, but they give off this toxic smell like fresh paint. I mean I sleep better, but then I wake up and my head is closed, my day is spent trying to recover from trying to recover.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Walking down the street in the cool breeze I see a woman up ahead with an interesting walk, the kind you'd usually see from some straight guy trying to model like his cock is something so big between his legs there's no other way to strut. But I'm curious here because this woman appears conventionally feminine otherwise, but then up close I see oh, no, her face is totally pale with red splotches and tears and she's staring somewhere into the distance, somewhere way past anything that's out here and I want to say are you okay? But I know that's ridiculous -- she's obviously not okay. I'm staring at her to try to meet her eyes with some kind of compassion and she's only maybe 10 feet away but miles inside her head she's stumbling like she has to get somewhere, anywhere, and that's when I think oh, maybe she's walking that way because she just got raped. And her body isn't working. And I'm struck by the hopelessness of everything right now, especially because I can't even figure out how to say something, she's past me now I'm turning the corner and she's a block behind.

I'm thinking about something Katia said one of the first times she came over -- this is where you feel comfortable, right? And yes, I feel more comfortable here in the Tenderloin than anywhere else even though sometimes there's such obvious desperation I'm trying to stay present and not shut down. I feel more comfortable here because no one owns this neighborhood, I mean horrible manipulative landlords own the buildings just like anywhere else, only here a lot of them are corporate nonprofits making millions off subsidized single room occupancy hotels. But I mean that the people who live here span such a wide range -- Latino, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants and migrants; elderly people; transwomen; older gay men; disabled people; people who can't afford a deposit on an apartment or whose credit isn't clear enough for a lease so they live in residence hotels; sex workers; drug addicts; runaways; young white hipsters; single office workers trying to live close to downtown; subsidized housing tenants who are mostly working/poverty class African-American and white people; art students and culinary academy students; homeless people; budget travelers. It's all of us mixed together in beautiful, decaying old buildings this dense urban proximity and there aren't many neighborhoods in San Francisco like this anymore, maybe there aren't any others. It's what helps me to dream.

But of course there's a lot of sadness, a lot of sadness because it's expensive as hell to live here too and the luxury hotels and yuppie bars are encroaching and a lot of people are having an incredibly difficult time surviving on a day-to-day basis.

Right now I'm wondering about the difference between comfort and safety, because I think Katia didn't feel safe so I'm wondering what that means. To go outside and feel safe: I mean I like to go outside without worrying that someone's going to harass me just for existing and that kind of harassment is relatively rare around here with so many different kinds of people, except sometimes with suburbanite jocks or other young, angry guys trying to front some kind of gang-like anger. But safety? Maybe that would mean that I could feel like a little child and not worry that I'd be destroyed, I mean destroyed by the world around me. I'm not sure I've ever felt that, I mean not for more than a few moments at a time maybe sitting with a close friend or late at night when the air is fresh and I'm not too drained.

My walk doesn't last long because I'm too tired, on the way back to my apartment I see the same woman, this time maybe she's waiting for the bus although she's walked two stops ahead and now she looks red but her skin isn't as splotchy, maybe it was just some crazy combination of drugs, drugs are so common around here and maybe that walk is how she moves all the time, the drugs just made it seem more desperate. Or maybe she just looks more comfortable when the sun is in front of her and she's standing still.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Universal health care? What might have been possible...

Back when I first started doing radical queer direct action (in the early ‘90s), universal health care was almost a mainstream gay issue. So many people had seen a dramatic percentage of their friends die quickly and painfully of AIDS, and wondered: if more of my friends had health care, maybe they would still be alive. As part of the 1993 national “March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights” (I believe that was the official title), ACT UP planned a national civil disobedience for universal health care at the Capitol. This was a few years after the big actions they gave ACT UP national attention, but I think we were still hoping for hundreds of arrests. Indeed, a million people attended the main March (an assimilation spectacle if there ever was one), but I think ACT UP ended up with just over a hundred people for our arrest-oriented action, I can't quite remember -- I do remember that it was easy to get arrested, all you needed to do was to step onto federal property, which was a driveway, and boom. Although I wonder if you can even get that far, now.

But universal health care did not gain the attention we wanted it to (when I say universal health care, I don't mean the current scams perpetuated by Clinton/Obama that strengthen the corporate, profits-first system instead of providing a single-payer solution). Indeed, gays in the military became the banner issue for the gay mainstream, followed within a few years by the big M. With all of the current focus on the holy institution of matrimony, I sometimes wonder what might have been possible if, over the past 15 years, as much attention had been brought to bear on universal health care -- all of the energy, resources, engagement, movement building, rhetoric, strategizing... I think we would be so much closer to universal health care, and perhaps even a broad-based social justice movement that included a radical queer politic. Instead, people now look at single-payer health care in this country as nothing but a crazy dream, and somehow marriage is considered "gay," but not the right to health.

A smart marriage commentary over at the California Aggie

Thanks to Jessica Hoffmann for forwarding this link, from the University of California Davis newspaper.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An interesting conversation...

I'm loving all of our conversation about marriage marriage marriage -- and all of your comments in general, yay for comments!

You might want to check out the comments on a similar post I made over at The Bilerico Project, if you're in the mood for more drama...

Oh, right -- full citizens!

Okay, but I can't help ranting for a moment about “full citizens,” because you know how all those gay marriage proponents must distinguish themselves from all those awful "half citizens," or -- gasp -- non-citizens! Not to mention citizens of other countries the US is bombing into oblivion -- forget about them, right? This is about the good old US of A, where white gay people with beach condos, country club memberships, and a few overgrown hedge funds that might just need trimming every now and then (oil futures, anyone? platinum mining?) are pushing pushing pushing to get away from the rest of us, right? Into the loving arms of the powers that have denied them their birthright because of who they like to fuck. It may be true -- for a few of the most privileged, the right to get gay married might be the last thing standing in the way of full citizenship, but there are certainly a lot of other impediments for the rest of us!

And let's step back for a moment and wonder why on earth anyone would want to be a "full citizen" of the most monstrous colonial power busy exploiting the world's resources and ensuring the downfall of the planet? Oh, right -- to exploit the world's resources and ensure the downfall of the planet -- that's right, of course -- break out the bridal registries...

Wait, I can't believe I haven't plugged the latest issue of make/shift!

You know what it is -- I have to ration my reading because that's what hurts my hands the most and lately I've been doing a lot of editing, right now I have six days to go through the whole manuscript for So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, oh no the way publishing works with chronic pain!

But I guarantee this issue of make/shift is brilliant -- Jessica Hoffmann's letter to white feminists is an instant classic, Jessica Lawless's critique of The Gendercator brings institutional accountability into the mix, and what about Brownfemipower's call for "creative alliances through shared criminality?" The introductory articles include a piece on birth attendants in prisons, a critique of "gender-responsive prisons," and a piece on the first-ever national gathering of trans and gender-nonconforming former prisoners -- that's just in the first few pages!

Oh, and my column, "All That Sheltering Emptiness," is one of the most intense pieces I've ever written -- I also did an interview with the directors of Homotopia -- and I'd love to hear what you think of my reviews section!

And, there are interviews with Mia Mingus and Alexis Giraldo, new fiction by the incredible Masha Tupitsyn, and a political memoir by Mariana Ruiz Firmat that links environmental justice to reproductive health. Daria Yudacufski conducts Malaleche’s last interview as a collective, and, as always, there are new columns by Randa Jarrar, Erin Aubry Kaplan, Nomy Lamm, and myself, as well as extensive book, film, and event reviews (the above-mentioned reviews section!)

And don't forget that subscriptions help keep the magazine going...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Look, a flower emerging from this tiny plant!

The first blurb for So Many Ways...

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is a perfectly tidy mess, a Sex in the Other City—only these sexual escapades and flailing urges are truly transgressive and flamboyantly hilarious at every turn. Sycamore deftly skewers a landscape that's been completely sacked by mindless consumerism and unchecked gentrification, whether it's a Whole Foods customer whining, "Which fish is the least fishy?" or an earnest yoga practitioner bragging about opening a factory in China. And hallelujah: this refreshingly frenetic and innovative second novel is unabashedly political, but without being formulaic or reductive. It is a book that has done nothing less than invent its own language—and I promise it'll still be singing to you long after you close your eyes at night.

—T Cooper, author of Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes and Some of the Parts

(By the way, the book comes out in October)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What I hate the most about gay marriage

It's when there's some couple that's been together for 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years and they're constantly saying, I mean over and over again in the press -- whatever press it is, it's over and over again: finally... it's... legitimate! I mean really, that kills me, just pulls my heart out and stomps on it with a two-by-four and throws the remnants into the compost, that really really kills me. Finally it's legitimate. I mean these people have been together for 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years or I don't care if it's six months or three days or negative seven years, still, this is what they need to feel legitimate?

And then, of course, there's their need to feel legitimate in the first place, instead of defiant creating something else dreaming a different vision building beauty on their own terms, oh it just makes me sick. And sad, really really really sad.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My favorite quotes from the gay marriage news coverage

From Kris Hill, after making an appointment to marry her partner Karen Stodghill on June 16 at City Hall in San Francisco: "It's like we're not second class citizens in California anymore... It's like we get to drink at the same water fountain now." (San Francisco Chronicle) Hmm... I wonder what water fountain they were drinking at before.

Also from the Chronicle, in an op-ed by Scott Olin Schmidt, proclaiming "Biggest shift in gay culture since Stonewall":

"Now we just need someone to marry!" one friend messaged me, pretty much summing up the conundrum facing gays and lesbians over the next six months… Until today, there has been no archetypical relationship for gays and lesbians across America. Nothing to look at and say "That's what I want." Only in tiny Massachusetts could a gay man like me even think about getting married and then consider with whom to form that union.

This lack of a model or structure for legal, recognized partnerships created the impression that promiscuity was the norm for the gay community. And, I would argue, contributed to the spread of AIDS and other plagues on the gay community.

But today, all that has changed.

Now, that's a new argument -- Let's repeat this sentence: “This lack of a model or structure for legal, recognized partnerships created the impression that promiscuity was the norm for the gay community.” Okay, so the impression that promiscuity was the norm contributed to the spread of AIDS “and other plagues.” I guess, because, you know, all those slutty gays just wanted to imitate the norm.

But I'm still curious about the mysterious phrase, "and other plagues." Is this the Middle Ages? I mean, marriage certainly helped to halt the spread of plagues then.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Prisoners loved it

Oh, no -- apparently soon I can get gay married, but the company that sells my Fresh Botanicals Hairspray has discontinued the product!!!!!!! What the hell am I going to do? I've used that shit for 10 or 15 years, and it works like glue -- without alcohol! And without destroying my life from an allergy attack! I asked the person on the line why they discontinued it -- she says I don't know, we've always gotten a fair number of orders for it, especially from people in prison -- prisoners loved it!

Turns out that prison officials generally confiscate anything with alcohol as an ingredient, so it looks like I'm not the only one who's looking for a replacement...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Okay, here's a little more...

Well I went on a walk outside, searching for adventure but at least finding air yes air although back in here it's still sweltering, why is the warmest place right in front of the computer?

Anyway, another paragraph towards an op-ed of some sort, soon to arrive somewhere in the world:

No one should have the right to marry -- no, not even you, Mary. What we need is universal access to things like housing, healthcare, the benefits now procured through citizenship -- oh, and food, right, food? This spectacle around gay marriage takes attention away from the issues that actually matter -- like ending the US war on Iraq, massive ICE raids across the country and the neverending assault on anyone struggling to live outside of mainstream consumerist norms. Gay marriage creates fewer options, not more. While many straight people are busy reaping the benefits of gay liberation and discovering new ways of loving, lusting for and caring for one another, the gay marriage movement is busy fighting for a 1950s model of white-picket fence "we're just like you" normalcy. And that's no reason to celebrate.

We're finally equal!

That's right, I'll take Equal in my coffee, thanks.

Oh, wait -- I don't drink coffee! Instead I'm trying to write an op-ed about the California Supreme Court decision to allow gay couples the big M, right maybe this is the moment for the New York Times to print some of my words ha ha but it's so hot in here because of the heat wave and my sleep has been so terrible I can't even think, especially when I start wondering about ridiculous daily newspaper op-ed editors and the tyranny of the "general" audience -- what the hell am I doing?

Well, here's my first paragraph -- I'm going outside to get some fresh air!:

In the wake of the California State Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on same-sex marriage, I'm not one of those well-meaning gays and lesbians who says, “I would never choose to get married, but I think everyone should have the right.” Sorry, honey -- I think marriage is depressing, period. That means gay marriage, too. And here's why...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is that a snake in your window, or are you just happy to see me?

Anything was possible

Sometimes you have a dream and that dream infuses everything your relationships are part of that dream and the dream is part of your relationships and everything is hard but it's the dream that means you'll be okay. And then that dream is over, or no the dream is the same or maybe not the same but similar it's the relationships that are over. Or not all of the relationships, but some of them. Maybe it's harder to dream, or maybe it's just harder. Or maybe some things are easier but not dreaming. Or you're definitely not okay, but you're okay with dreaming. Or you're just not okay, is that okay?

Maybe the dream is love, love which is a commitment. Or maybe the dream is commitment, commitment which is love. Like running into the traffic islands near Dupont Circle and RuPaul's Supermodel is playing, you better work, this is the height of Supermodel, turn to the right, I mean when RuPaul became a pop celebrity and you know it's cheesy but you're doing runway anyway, runway in the town where you grew up but you couldn't dream. They wouldn't let you. Now you've gathered with a million queers or mostly gays and lesbians, gays and lesbians whose dreams are so limited you feel farther away than ever but you're dreaming.

I met him at an ACT UP protest, I remember he came right up to me in the sun with such a sweetness we were both 19 I liked the tiny little silver dot in his nose the way his eyes sparkled even his braces I thought they looked cute. We got arrested together and we did runway to RuPaul and then we got bashed together, my eyes so red I thought it was spraypaint, right next to the 24 hour restaurant I used to go to in high school all of this was big, these were big things, but then I went back to San Francisco and he went back to Michigan and we wrote letters, beautiful elaborate letters that's what people did in the early ‘90s.

If he was my first boyfriend, the first person to hold me when I was having incest flashbacks, we broke down a lot then broke up and broke down and everything was difficult but we knew we were building something in the ruins, that was us the ruins. We wanted to create a world we could live with. A lot of the people I believed in then I no longer believe in now, of course we've all changed and some of us have different dreams. So it's not unique that my first boyfriend and I don't talk anymore, don't talk because I stopped believing in his promises, his promises that we were family not just ruins it took me almost 10 years. I mean 10 years to let him go, not as a boyfriend I mean that lasted a year but as something more: hope. Now I like running into him from time to time, but there are no more dreams.

Today I heard something that I'm still trying to process. I mean it makes me sad and I don't know what else to think. Maybe I feel conflicted, conflicted because it makes me so sad and then I think it shouldn't make me so sad, why this investment in his life choices? In this case, it's a barebacking video.

I want to back up for a moment and say that when we went out, we were absolutely meticulous about safe sex. Soon it would be called safer, and that made more sense, but at the time we even used Kiss of Mint condoms for sucking cock. Looking back, I wonder if our dedication to the rules could only exist in such a pure form because we came of age almost certain that we'd eventually die of AIDS, isn't that what happened to everyone like us? Still we wanted to beat the odds, and we wanted to dream, remember dreaming? This wasn't monogamy or anything silly like that, we didn't believe in such ownership spectacles we were sluts and sure, soon enough our ideas of sexual safety would change too, but not our ethics, I mean I didn't believe our ethics had changed until now.

As far as I'm concerned, barebacking videos participate in a culture of nihilism and selfishness that is one of the grossest manifestations of a gay sexual culture that has given up on any vision of communal care. I won't pretend that barebacking videos don't turn me on -- lots of things that disgust me turn me on. What frightens me is the way in which they actively promote loyalty to condomless sex as the One True Vision of sexual satisfaction. And not condomless sex as part of a safer sex regimen, but the type where come must be unloaded deep within stretched anal orifices, as the camera waits for it all to squirt back into our vision. A negotiated decision to have sex without condoms is a different story, a story never portrayed in the unquestioning, masculinity-drenched fantasies of bareback porn.

I can't help thinking that bareback videos are about giving up, even if I watch them and I don't give up. I mean I'm still committed to safer visions of sexual splendor. I'm struck by the thought that nothing was missing from the sex I had with that first boyfriend. Because anything was possible: that's what we believed. And now, now I wonder what he believes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Robert Glück says: obsession comes from a fear of death, you're putting something between you and death.

(From "Passing on the Pen," an event with Kevin Killian and Robert Glück, hosted by Michael Nava last night at the GLBT Historical Society)

I like watching these pigeons...

More water

What is this annoying allergy where everything gets stuck in my throat -- is it the dulse seaweed, sometimes it happens after I eat the broth -- I thought maybe it was the miso, but now I'm not eating miso. Before that I thought maybe lemons, but then I got the allergy just from drinking water so I thought it must be something in the air but why after drinking water, like last night it started right then but now it's just me choking, choking in the morning like there's something stuck right at the top of my chest but it doesn't start right away, wouldn't it start right away it was the air? It's annoying because when I clear my throat it gets worse and my throat gets dry so I drink more water.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Part of feldenkrais is about finding neutral so that your body doesn't do so much work all the time, which is difficult. I mean it's difficult to find neutral, difficult because I'm used to something else the way I push my pelvis forward and stand with chest out and shoulders back like you’re taught, right? But that's too much pressure it just means more pain I mean it's what I'm used to but I guess I'm used to pain if only familiarity would rescue me. Now I find the place where my pelvis is back and my feet are under me and everything feels confusing but I guess eventually that will feel like home, safety, something stable. The other place maybe a refuge for tough times, body as a wall but then I can go back to comfort.

It's hard to find neutral with my jaw, in bed sometimes I feel like my jaw is wide open but still I'm clenching, the way I learned to hold for all those things my father would stick inside, or choke me from the outside I wanted a wall. Lying in bed sometimes it hurts just to try to let it go, maybe I'm letting it go too much but then I'm doing this exercise on the floor, where I imagine a marble rolling down my forehead between my eyes over my nose across my lips down my chin across my adam's apple over the sternum down my chest rolling over stomach to belly button and down so that it rests on the pubic bone, then back all the way up and then I imagine a ball bouncing inside my body covering the same distance and after that a paint brush going over first one half of my body and then the other -- all of this is to re-orient my body to the center and Kid Koala is giving me great sound effects from the stereo bleeps and skids and moaning horns I'm almost starting to dream and I realize my jaw is totally loose, feels like my chin hangs all the way down to my chest but when I touch my lips the gap is probably less than a half inch and my jaw feels weightless, really weightless I guess this is neutral.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The rumors are true -- the expanded second edition of THAT'S REVOLTING! is finally out...

“That's Revolting! is a pre-emptive line in the sand… It calls us all, regardless of our specific sexual and gender identities, to resist the pressures to assimilate into an increasingly belligerent and racist normality. Ranging from New York to San Francisco, from prison cells to the prison camp life of occupied Palestine, That's Revolting! does more than map out the nether regions of queer identity politics. The articles and interviews gathered together here are full of the collective wisdom of generations of activists determined to take the social space needed to live their lives.” —Left Turn

This expanded edition contains the original work by dozens of troublemakers, including Patrick Califia, Dean Spade, and Carol Queen, as well as five new selections that cover everything from rabble-rousing with the Gay Liberation Front in the 1960s to blowing up buildings with the George Jackson Brigade in the 1970s, current-day rural queer youth organizing in Massachusetts to stripping naked to fight global AIDS.

Of course, there is going to be a devastating San Francisco launch, so mark your calendars now:

THAT’S REVOLTING!: Radical queer activism -- past, present, and future.
Thursday, June 5, 6pm
San Francisco Main Library
Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room (downstairs)
100 Larkin Street
(415) 557-4566
Co-sponsored by the National Queer Arts Festival.

Join Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore to celebrate the arrival of the expanded second edition of That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, with a dangerous and illuminating discussion featuring Carol Queen, Bo Brown, Ralowe T. Ampu, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Eric Stanley and Gina de Vries.

Has the nightmare of gay marriage sandblasted the dreams of ‘70s gay liberation revolutionaries? Has the feverish potential of queer sexual splendor been annihilated by the consumerist frenzy of assimilationist gay culture? Is there hope for radical queer troublemaking in the hyper-gentrified monoculture of current-day San Francisco? Bring your questions, ideas, plots and dreams, and this will be one of the first opportunities to get the book (at a slightly discounted rate) and develop more questions, ideas, plots and dreams -- and you can get it signed! And set up dates with the hot editor and contributors!

If you can't make it to the launch, and/or you want to order the book directly from the publisher, you can work that magic here.

Sea salt, I love this sea salt!

These intense eyes

First I'm thinking he gave me the wrong address because there is no 1252, but then I realize I'm walking in the wrong direction. Such a different San Francisco over here only 15 blocks from my apartment it's groups of big tall drunk white guys with broad shoulders or giggling women with long straight hair and heels, or wait at this bar it's all Asian people but same general idea. This guy said the buzzer isn't working, call me from downstairs, but maybe he gave me a fake number, did I have a trick with a fake number on this corner once? But wait there he is waiting outside, and he's cute too, of course he looks older than the picture I appreciate the signs of aging in his face it means I'm not the only one. We walk inside and I lean over to kiss him in the elevator, at first I'm not sure what boundaries he might have since his ad was all about being on his knees and sucking cock, he would be naked and waiting but then he realized the buzzer wasn't working, he'd have to come down to let me in.

He kisses me back, these intense eyes so I push him against the elevator wall and we're making out which is just great and then the elevator door opens, it's one of those ‘60s ‘70s ‘80s buildings that I never understand why anyone would’ve built all cement and suburban sameness, inside beige carpet I say where do I go? He puts porn on the computer, says it's more fun here, here is a very plus shag rug over the carpet and an ‘80s sectional sofa, I never understand people who live in apartments with nothing on the walls, really nothing -- this isn't his place, it's a friend’s the friend is out of town or that's what he said in the email It's all about grabbing his head and making out again, he's undoing the buttons on my sweater then his pants normally I might go right for his dick since it’s out but I'm unsure about etiquette I mean his ad was all about sucking. But really what I want is the making out yes making out and grabbing him tight biting his neck chin pulling his lips down with my lips licking teeth and back to tongue grinding up against him it's this space where I get aggressive I mean starting right in the elevator I like this space.

Then he's sucking my dick I'm trying not to watch the porn but it's right there some guy with one of those baseball bat dicks really a baseball bat I close my eyes at some point I'm close to coming I pull him up to make out again, my hands in his wavy hair messing it up I'm thinking would I want him to mess up my hair that much but it feels good anyway, then I'm sitting on the sofa oh it's soft and there’s his dick so I go for it, good he likes that too all moans and I look up at his eyes watching me then watching the ceiling then watching me he's really thrusting going all the way just pounding it makes me appreciate the size of his dick not too large I mean I like them too large too but this is fun it's a different kind of pounding a comfort without struggling to find comfort. At some point he pulls my head away, I reach for his balls he says no don't touch me, then there's a stream of come on my face wow a stream.

I like that his dick is back in my mouth it’s still hard and then he’s on the sofa I'm fucking his face in all these different ways like grabbing the edge of the kitchen counter which is in front of me but then I need to pull a pillow up so he doesn't hurt his head. He's panting I keep pulling back for more hugs squeezing his body no hair on his chest it's waxed or electrolysized which looks kind of strange but it feels soft and then back to fucking his face I like that he keeps his eyes open to look in my eyes I like that intensity I keep pulling back even though I can tell he's getting tired I like staying in this space. Until he says I want you to come, head at the top of the sofa looking at me and there's my come in big sticky clumps all over his face, he's jerking faster and his come in a stream a different texture more liquid than mine all thick and gooey he says boys are messy. Which makes me wonder who else he has sex with.

He asks for the towel, the towel on the floor I hand it to him, kiss his lips. Coming was for him really now I'm crashing, all those moments right before were holding the sky now I'm down here really down I kiss him again he's standing up I say give me a hug! So then he hugs me, I say do you really live here, or are you visiting? He says I live here, I mean I'm moving here in July -- this is my friend’s place, he's out of town -- I'm here for a conference. I say what kind of conference?

Have you heard of Landmark? I don't say yes, it's a cult are you in that cult? I just say yes. He says the training goes from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and they won't let you bring coffee in. I say because it's a stimulant? He says I thought that too, but actually it's so you don't get it on the rug or spill it on anyone. Spill it on anyone?

In the bathroom I realize oh, here's the bedroom -- because you enter through the bathroom, that's strange. It's carpeted too, but there are big windows -- are there windows on both sides of this apartment? I'm kissing this guy goodbye, door open and some very straight guy walks by but no one's embarrassed, I like that. Down the stairs and into a courtyard with all these trees -- oh, this is nice, I guess that's what's good about this type of building. Then I realize I'm locked in the courtyard, all the gates require a passcard but luckily I brought my phone since the doorbell wasn't working -- otherwise I'd have to yell and some weird yuppies would come down and say how'd you get here?

Oh -- I just had sex with some guy who's staying at his friend's house but the friend’s out of town, I don't know which apartment it was because the buzzer at the gate wasn't working. But he answers -- I'm worried I'm bothering him, because he was about to go to bed, but when he comes down in sweatpants without a shirt he's still friendly and he smiles and I squeeze him and we kiss goodbye again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The stakes

Sometimes I don't know why I wake up in the middle of the night, but tonight it's because of my mother. Because of this conversation where she's telling me that it's difficult for her to manage all her expenses on $11,500 a month, that's $10,000 from interest on her $4.5 million, plus $1500 a month widow’s benefits. She's been saying for a long time that she hadn't even started getting the $10,000 a month, but now she says she can't remember when it started. We're having this conversation because she wants me to cut down on my alternative healthcare, she pays for my healthcare I've already told her I need more healthcare, not less. That my father created the false sense that there was never enough money, but now he's dead and you don't have to think that anymore. That maybe you don't understand your finances, but I'm sure once you do you'll realize you have plenty.

That's all before, in the message responding to my mother's message. Now I'm asking her about the account she's supposed to create for me, the one she promised maybe two years ago -- for some reason I can't remember if it was before or after my father's death. I think it was before, because I don't remember having a conversation after. But after makes more sense, right? No, I think it was something my mother offered, offered when he was still alive, oh right because that's when money first entered the equation, right it was her idea -- that's when all of this entered the picture, this picture that now feels endless with the hopelessness of hope in the wrong place, the place where the hopelessness came from.

I want her to create this account, and I want her to create it for me. That's two different wants, but mostly I want her to create it, I want that security. She says things like I'll always take care of you -- how could I ever believe that? I keep bringing what I want back to the table, I want the account to be completely separate from her -- so that she doesn't have to worry about it, so that I don't have to worry about it. She's telling me that she's asked her investors to give her more money; somehow that's supposed to reassure me.

This is one of those moments when I'm thinking it's never going to happen -- my autonomy gives her nothing, what she wants is control, control in the same way my father exerted it, exerted it over her and me and my sister and probably other people we never even met. I keep repeating what I want, Jen calls this generosity -- I'm offering my mother the opportunity to actually do something to help me feel safe, such a small gesture really a small gesture to maybe undo a small part of the violence she created but I don't know why I think that’s something she wants.

When I get off the phone I think maybe I should start turning tricks again. Maybe it would be better now, because I have money so I wouldn't be relying on sex work for my basic needs it would just be income. Maybe it wouldn't feel so all-encompassing. I start thinking about taking out an ad that's just me, and whoever actually wants to meet someone like me would call and I wouldn't have to call back if I didn't want to but then every now and then there'd be an extra $200. I start thinking about who would call that ad, maybe they would actually be interesting, more interesting than some of the people I have sex with in my leisure time.

In the middle of the night is when I remember I stopped turning tricks because it was too hard on my body, too hard to tell someone who didn't really care about my comfort that actually that position was painful, every position really I could angle away and keep up the illusion sometimes I think I miss that concentration. But it's hard to do sex work when I don't feel like I have control over my body anyway, that's kind of a bad place to start.

Which is how I feel about my mother -- she doesn't want to think about my pain either, when I bring it up she changes the subject. The stakes are so much higher.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Oh, wait -- who's that?

Oh, look -- it's the cover of So Many Ways To Sleep Badly!

That kind of building

Then there's music -- that's my new strategy for the beginning of the day sometimes I can only take four songs before I get too wired but wow it's so much better than the news, which is grounding after the music but not before, no not before yes bring on the music! My other strategy is to try to get out of the house more than once per day, even if I feel horrible just to go out again and feel all that fresh air, especially on these cool chilly beautiful nights, the other night I actually walked all the way to the top of Nob Hill and into the border area between Nob Hill and Russian Hill and my body didn't hurt, it's so different late at night because earlier I can rarely walk more than three or four blocks. Maybe it has something to do with the pollution, because everything is clearer at night, but maybe it's something else too the way my body feels at different times of the day -- I don't know, but the point is that I walked all the way to that border area, right where I used to have that trick in the building with a doorman and then a concierge who had to unlock the elevator before you could use it. That was one of the the tricks who always tried to bargain me down, even though he bought three condos and combined them into one with special earthquake-proof stands for his glass sculptures and he told me something about how Janet Jackson or some star like that had an apartment there but she was too loud it wasn't that kind of building.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Neighborhood improvement...

The shape of a slice of lemon

Maybe you're wondering how I ended up at the Nob Hill Theatre -- this whole issue of banning myself from sex spaces gets so complicated because I'm trying to create more options not fewer. Chris said maybe you should leave one open per week, so then I ended up on those cruising sites – manhunt and adam4adam, in case you're wondering -- maybe there are fun cruising sites where people actually communicate, but I haven't found them. Anyway, the funny thing that happened was that I saw Jeremy’s profile but first I had to look through some old photos just to make sure it was him and then I sent a message: you look familiar. We exchanged hellos and then I said you know, I was serious when I said we should have sex some time. And then another, when he didn't respond: I was reading this book, Wild Animals I Have Known by Kevin Bentley and he's always running into ex-boyfriends in bars and having sex with them so then I thought maybe that's a good idea. Jeremy responded to my first message: I'm always looking for hot sex too. But nothing about me, although as soon as I got off the site I think: do I really want to have sex with Jeremy? Would that be a good idea?

Probably not, but I'm glad I said something anyway. But that's the good part about cruising online, the rest is just pain and brain drain and then maybe I'll check again, just because I know I'm banning myself again. And again. The internet is the worst -- I mean I spend enough time on the computer, but usually I'm doing something useful, still I end up stuffed up with tension but at least there's a point. The internet is the one cruising venue I should really ban myself from, except when I want to post my own ad which is never really or maybe banning isn't the right strategy just occasional visits but no investment, although sometimes that goes wrong and I'm scrolling scrolling scrolling anyway.

I'm thinking about something Chris said the other day about the guy I met while I was waiting for the bus, something about interacting with people who are totally different from you and I didn't really see it that way, but also that's what I do all the time. Chris and I have similar ways of looking at the counterculture that used to inspire us but now brings on a mixture of confusion, claustrophobia, and despair. But I still believe in the possibilities of what counterculture is supposed to be, maybe Chris does too I'm not sure. I know he's enjoying the possibilities of interacting with people who position themselves within mainstream gay consumer norms, yet who are still envisioning ways of taking care of other people. That's not what I'm looking for. I still haven't found enough people who are like me, like the way I used to dream in public sex spaces: maybe this time, through these lips this hug that squeeze those eyes this laughter.

These thoughts is where I really find it, of course. But somehow these thoughts don't often merge with those desires. When I sat down to write the other day, to write about when the dream is over, but then I realized that engaging with that loss actually makes me feel hopeful. I wonder if that is the opening, the way my engagement with desire actually changes the ways in which I feel desire like walking into a room and it's all there, inside me but also it's the way we’re all standing or sitting or about to fall over and even then if I look at something simple like the shape of a slice of lemon in a water glass, sometimes that's enough.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

And these flowers...

I like this view too

Wait, is that my lovely voice broadcast in the lobby of the Whitney?

It's true... today and only today I'm apparently a small yet dangerously vocal part of the Whitney Biennial the Britney Centennial the Bit-me Why-ennial -- in the lobby over there in NYC, somewhere between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. EST, saying/singing something about Nancy Pelosi and sleeping pills and you were right. I don't know what it is yet because I haven't heard the program sewn together by the brilliant Mairead Case on dreams and trying to get there and help!

It's in the lobby, so I'm guessing that means it's free yes free. But if you're nowhere near there, like me, then you can listen to it live on Neighborhood Public Radio, that means 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. PST for those who need translation or still 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST if you're over there on the East Coast but not over there on Madison Avenue somewhere between Prada and a softer dreamland.

I may be sleeping, so tell me what it sounds like -- soon there will be a link and then I'll direct you there…

But wait...

Everything is different when I'm looking through the glory hole at this guy sucking someone's cock, then up at the scruffy guy towering above him, soft white belly pushing exposed underneath t-shirt, dark hair and a small tattoo at the hip and I'm breathing harder so they can hear me, but also so I can breathe harder and the guy is looking down at me I'm smiling until the guy sucking decides to stand up and lean his back up against the glory hole. Hey, you're blocking my view, I say, and I start poking at his jeans, softly, and then they both start zipping up.

Listen, I was playing by the rules, just watching politely and moaning a little, and the good news is that whatever for that bitch pushing her jeans-covered ass up against my view, 30 more seconds and the guy’s in my booth, wow I'm a much more ravenous cocksucker that's for sure, that's what I'm thinking but also I'm not thinking and that's what's good. After a while he reaches down for my dick and then I'm standing up, lips onto his neck cigarettes and liquor I'm still enjoying it, this is where I realize he really likes jerking so eventually I'm jerking it all into my throat and then I stand up and place his hand underneath my balls and do the thrusting until I'm giving this show I like the way I can just come like that, right up against the wall right after him of course it's because I've been holding it. The best part is his smile afterwards just a smile nothing and everything else I'm smiling too. Then there's some guy sticking his dick through the glory hole, probably it's the guy who was making belching noises earlier and I'm not horny anymore but I start jerking him off anyway, then I suck for a moment or two but why, so I say I'm feeling tired, but thanks, and he looks down through the hole and I reach through to touch his cheek and he says come over here.

So then I'm over there, and I say it again: I'm too tired right now, he says how could you be tired in that outfit? I'm working the contrasting plaids and he's a short guy in his 40s probably but with swept-back prep school hair, I kiss him on the neck a few times and then on the lips and afterwards I'm thinking about how desire in these places can bring me close to people I might not otherwise encounter, close if they're not pulling back the whole time and sometimes close anyway. Like when I said you're blocking my view, and saying what I was actually feeling brought me what I was looking for -- of course that doesn't usually happen, but the important thing is to say it anyway.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A shift in the texture of the air

Sometimes I wish I could let go of sex, maybe desire would become something else like lying in the grass and holding the sky. I've been trying to regain a sense of liberation in my own sexuality, but I find myself trapped by the usual unsatisfying options and the lack of space to create what I really want.

The other day I was telling Chris that I've banned myself from Blow Buddies, the Nob Hill Theatre, and the internet, because I want to make something happen somewhere else like maybe when I'm going on a walk or at the grocery store or at a reading or on the bus and I do feel more open, open to all these options even as everyone around me seems less and less open. And wait I've always been open to those options. No the difference is that I'm more emotionally open, does that make sense?

I asked Chris if he had any ideas, he said what about Eros but that's not what I meant. For weeks now I've been trying to think of this particular phrase, something like it's over but grander and more eloquent like the love is gone but it never was love so I just get stuck trying to figure out how to say that I don't know if there’s any hope for me in public sex anymore. I mean beyond the possibility for the moment to transcend, even that is rarer and rarer now and maybe that's what I mean by the love is gone. I think I did used to love it, now all I can feel is the lack and I do think things have changed, especially the way guys walk around with a shopping list like they're checking off boxes and that's the internet overwhelming public space but also maybe I've changed. And I need something else.

I understand why so many fags give up on sex, or give up hoping that sex will become anything other than something lost, over and over again this loss or maybe I mean lack, this sense that something is lacking and some people go to great lengths to keep it that way. Others just follow the rules, and the rest of us slowly lose our sense that sex will ever illuminate anything else.

I understand why people hold onto relationships that aren't working -- at least there's something to hold onto. Something grounding in the gestures of the familiar, even when the familiar keeps you still when you want to keep moving, and moving when you want to keep still. I hold onto my relationship to public sex, and I'm unwilling to let go of the dream that it can become more, more of what I'm dreaming. I've been holding onto that dream for almost 20 years now, really 20 years I just realized it's been 20 years that's a long time. Starting somewhere in those first bathrooms where I always hoped that somehow I'd meet someone like me, I mean I was there so what about someone else? I'm not sure that's ever happened, and I'm not sure it ever will. The culture is only changing for the worse, I mean the culture of public sex and the way its limitations become strictures.

I don't want to let go of the way sex in public is what sex means to me, more than the gestures it’s the possibility of a shift in the texture of the air. I don't want to give up. But sometimes I can feel the air changing anyway, this air inside me and sometimes that means my desire feels empty and pointless, a rush that only leads me to walls. I'm so sick of walls. But sometimes I can sense something else, a difference in the way that I hold desire and maybe that means eventually it will hold me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The way you're filled with everything that doesn't fit

Another shower, too many showers drying out my skin but it feels so good, so good for my pain I mean there's less pain with all this heat and moisture, heat that ends as soon as I turn off the spigot that's the kind of heat I like. I'm thinking about the difference between self-imposed exile and feeling banished. Like when I'm traveling and people ask me about San Francisco, what's going on in San Francisco? And I wonder: what is going on in San Francisco?

There is that distance between what people expect and what I'm actually thinking, I mean I need to take care of myself and taking care of myself means staying home a lot so that I can do what feels best: writing. I mean to do a little of what feels best and the rest is just so I don't fall apart. There are different ways of being in public, giving a reading I feel so engaged like all the energy in the room is something that can hold me, help me until afterwards when usually I'm drained. But other types of public appearances, like when I went to that performance about the history of anti-Semitism and I didn't expect that the whole audience would be Mission scenesters, this particular brand of anarcho-art-freakshow-fashionista types, I guess it's the descendent of a culture that gave me hope and inspiration when I first moved here but now it just feels like formula branding suffocation attitude nostalgia machine. I think this is what people want to hear about, what they want to hear about in other cities when they ask me: where should we go?

I don't know where we should go. The banished part is when I actually feel like going out, out to something with music or the potential of sex, not the Mission scenester events which are too draining because of all the people I'm supposed to connect with and then I start thinking that maybe I am connecting with them but I'm not, and then I crash so hard it's too hard to stay on like that. Other places where I'm not supposed to connect, those can be okay because I've never expected anything. But then there's smoke, smoke machines and these days I don't even want to risk it -- it just seems like the most amazing thing that could possibly happen isn't worth it at all. Better just to walk around at 2 a.m. and look at people leaving places.

After the May Day reading, stepping outside into so much possibility for connection where's the connection some kind of connection and usually it doesn't happen but if I can hold all this feeling so that it surrounds me with something like a hug. But then I meet that boy at the bus stop, he's a trumpet player who's looking for musicians he says I like your getup. I guess I look like a musician. Then back at my house and remember we talk about music and sex and desire and romance and broken hearts and Christianity and porn and friendships and animals and pets and assimilation and relationships and the fleshlight. I make a lot of jokes and tell a lot of stories and usually this would drain me but remember on this night I have all that energy surrounding me like a hug I'm repeating this here for more hugs, in this case conversation as hugs yes more hugs please more hugs!

In the world I would like to create you could leave the house looking for something not just that air that hits you like a wall. Not the air but the space it creates and the way you’re filled with everything that doesn't fit. So in this world, this world I would like to create you would find what you are looking for, just a little bit maybe, maybe even a little bit of something else you didn't know you were looking for but then it all adds up.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Holding on

I'm holding on to this dream, this dream where I'm hugging this guy in my bed, he's late for work or to meet his boyfriend or we're at his work or maybe my work it’s a supermarket but we're in my bed and I just came, I tried not to get it on him because he's late for work or to meet his boyfriend, right? And he's wearing this cute blue velvet short-sleeved shirt and where the velvet is worn it changes color and you can see the threads I have one too he showed me where to get it. Anyway my come gets all over the sheets and he leans back, the come onto his shirt and he starts crying I'm hugging him and the come what's wrong I can wash the shirt for you right now it won't stain you can borrow mine. But he’s crying because he's not in love with his boyfriend and waking up I’m holding on to the feeling of hugging him in all this emotion.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Water all over my face

But what is going on with allergies this year? Sitting on the fire escape it's like there's water all over my face my eyes stretching down to chin and then inside I keep thinking I'm going to sneeze but it gets stuck in my chest which is worse and then I try to fake it by making the noise but that doesn't work there's no release. Eventually I sneeze and sneeze and sneeze and then I feel better but then I'm sneezing again which is okay until I'm in bed, all the fluid closing my nasal passages. The next day and least I'm not surrounded by everything pouring out of my nose but my gums hurt, why do my gums hurt? Something about my jaw I guess, my jaw and all of this pollen or whatever it is what is it?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Yes, that is a hula hoop...

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, murdered by whom?

Oh, no -- I just heard that Deborah Jeane Palfrey (known as the DC Madam for the escort service she ran that included all sorts of noxious politicos on its client list) allegedly killed herself two weeks after being convicted by a federal jury (on April 15) of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering. Her body was found near her mother's house in Tampa, Florida.

Palfrey had not yet been sentenced, but was facing up to 55 years in prison -- that's right, 55 years. She had already done a number of years in prison in the past, and struggled with current health problems, so apparently she thought about the possibility of death in prison or death at her own hands, and chose the option she had more control over. That is, unless one of her high-profile clients decided to take matters into his own hands.

This case is yet another example of the need for immediate decriminalization of prostitution -- in the short term, I'm wondering if anyone is planning some sort of political funeral or other type of festive direct action to call attention to this atrocity. Ideas?

Of course, Deborah Jeane Palfrey has gotten a lot more attention than most sex workers caught up in the violence of the criminal "justice" system, but that doesn't make her pointless death any less tragic.

Friday, May 02, 2008


May Day May Day May Day this energy of presence

What an amazing May Day reading -- sure, it could have been shorter -- 3-and-a-half hours is a bit much (we were supposed to do three minutes each, but let's just say that most people went a little over), but wow such an incredible range of performers and a rare opportunity to connect across so many of the boundaries that rarely shift in the ways that could create everything that’s possible. People active in so many of the major literary and political struggles in San Francisco over the last five decades, too much to summarize right now but it was such an inspiration. And I loved my individual contact with people, especially Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, one of my heroes, who is so sweet and warm and giving she came right up to me and we had such a good time, or Jack Hirschman, poet laureate of San Francisco telling me that he was so impressed with the last lines of my piece or Guillermo Gomez-Pena coming over to compliment me or the poet who smiled such a wonderful smile and handed me a tulip from the table at the back where those of us left at the end were wondering whether it would really end -- what I mean is all the risks these people, established in all their own areas, take to actually reach out and make connections and what could be more important? Oh -- and how the audience really related to my critique of gentrification and struggles to survive and thrive and create something defiant, and then my father, and more, and how after I read it was like I was in a different body not all tense and edgy but soft and sinking into the chair.

Then afterwards I’m filled with all this energy of presence, waiting for the bus this guy is on the other side of the glass I smile he comes up to me and asks if I played music, no I'm a writer then the bus comes I let it go we’re talking about music he’s looking for people to play music with I can't tell if he's flirting with me, at some point I say well you're awfully cute, turns out he’s straight but he doesn't say it in an offensive way he says do you want to get a beer and I invite him of over, no beer it turns out that's just something social. And then we talk for two or three hours about music and sex and desire and romance and broken hearts and Christianity and porn and animals and assimilation and relationships and the fleshlight -- it's one of those sudden new friendship conversations, he’s from Sonoma but once to move into the city and I offer him some lentils it's all really fun.

But now I have to get ready for bed -- thought I'd share what I wrote for today's performance -- I took the 3-5 minutes max seriously, kept tightening and tightening – you’ll probably recognize some of it from other places but today it was in this place called

The Beginning of the End
When I first moved to San Francisco, I knew it was the beginning of the end, but still it was the beginning. The people I met were scarred and broken and brutalized, we’d fled our families of origin and we were determined to create something else, something we could live with, something we could call home or healing or even just help, I need help here, can you help?

We were huddled and dreaming outside of the status quo, but still we were gentrifiers -- we knew that. Some of us had grown up rich and more of us poor, but we could see the way that queer freaks and artists and activists made our neighborhoods safer places for everything we despised. We brought the trendy restaurants that we gazed at with anguish and disgust, the partying suburbanites we scorned; we were the beginning of the end and we didn't know what to do because we'd just found the beginning.

This was the early ‘90s, and everywhere people were dying of AIDS and drug addiction and suicide and some of the dead were among us, just like us, just trying to survive. Others were more in the distance, the elders we barely got to know except through their loss. We went crazy and cried a lot, or went crazy and stopped crying, or just went crazy.

I remember Colin from ACT UP, his big story was when they gave him bleach in jail instead of water so he was excited when I told him he didn't have to bleach his hair to get it flamingo pink, it was already almost white. After he died, I ended up with some of his ashes in my camera bag. Moving cross-country, the ashes got stuck to my lenses; I threw the ashes on an audience and someone said these actually look like bone fragments.

My father wanted to be cremated, but my mother wouldn't let him: this was one thing she had control over. In the family room with my father in his hospital bed, I can see myself seeing him, looking at him like I'm daring everything. I'm saying: when I first heard that you had cancer, it surprised me because for so long I’d wanted any trace of you to disappear from my life, but I found myself wishing that I could save you. I realized I still had some hope that you’d acknowledge sexually abusing me, because it would make it easier for me to go on living.

What I want to do is to touch his arm, softly, his skin. It feels intimate and nurturing and dangerous and right now I'm okay with all these sensations. At some point I say I've learned there are other ways to be strong besides holding everything in -- and of course sobbing is the texture of the air, sobbing is the feeling of this room, sobbing here it feels like strength.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The real tragedy

I'm feeling a little bit silly about it, but I started crying on the bus while reading the San Francisco Bay Guardian's election endorsement in the race between Carole Migden and Mark Leno, two gay Democrats fighting for the State Senate seat that includes San Francisco. While this is allegedly a fight between two "progressives," Migden may have started progressive but she's been a Democratic Party hack for years now, and Mark Leno is little more than a Gavin Newsom yes-man (i.e. beholden to the downtown San Francisco power elite). That said, both Migden and Leno are certainly progressive in comparison to most of their colleagues in the State legislature. This race is occurring in a Democratic safe seat because Leno, who currently serves in the State Assembly, can't run again for that seat due to term limits. If anything, this race shows the need for publicly financed elections instead of term limits, but that's another issue.

When I first heard that Leno was running for Migden’s seat, I was appalled -- they're basically the same person, politically speaking, and it just seemed like the ultimate nightmare of electoral politics -- personal ambition over any allegiance to political vision. In a different kind of political situation, one based on collective vision rather than megalomaniacal drive, Leno and Migden would have sat down to decide who would be the best for progressive social change. I mean, if they cared about progressive social change. It's certainly true that Migden has become a corrupt political insider, but it's hard to imagine Leno, who endorses every candidate Gavin Newsom sends in his direction, is running to make the system more visionary.

But why on earth did I start crying about this? I mean, obviously I know that electoral politics is a dead end! I think, in part, it's about what the Guardian calls "a war for the soul of San Francisco today, as there has been for many years." And many years would be an understatement, as San Francisco has, since the day of the original robber baron mining elites, more or less been ruled by the financial power brokers. It's a complicated history that I didn't quite understand when I first moved here, back in 1992, and Frank Jordan was the mayor busy sweeping the streets of activists and homeless people, but every mayor in recent history has basically competed to be more virulently anti-homeless and wholeheartedly pro-development. The war that the Guardian speaks of occurs because, at the same time as these tyrants consistently hold the top slot of local electoral power, cultures of resistance that have thrived here for generations try to keep San Francisco from becoming a tracing paper replica of itself, selling whitewashed ”openness” as a cover for corporate profiteering. I guess I started crying because this battle is so hopeless, and yet I still have hope.

But there's another reason, which is more specific to Migden and Leno, who epitomize the self-aggrandizing visions of the gay elite. Tim Redmond, editor of the Guardian (and a straight progressive), unwittingly points to this tension when he addresses Leno in his editorial: “If you win this election... you have some serious work to do bringing the queer community and the left back together.” Redmond’s separation of "the queer community" and “the left” acts as if these groups are mutually exclusive, instead of intertwined, but the other problem is that Leno doesn't represent the "queer community" (whatever that is), he represents the gay elite and, in local politics, the gay elite has enthusiastically supported Gavin Newsom's virulently anti-poor, pro-big business agenda. After these gay powerbrokers (and voters) handed Newsom victory in a tight race against progressive Matt Gonzalez, Newsom briefly "legalized" gay marriage, a publicity stunt that sent his approval ratings soaring from barely 50 percent to an invincible lead that made him unbeatable in the next election, and extended the rule of corporate interests over San Francisco politics. Unfortunately Carole Migden and Mark Leno are in no position to change this, nor do they have any interest, and that is the real tragedy.