Sunday, August 31, 2008

My break

I'm worried that the best part of my day will be the time I spend lying in bed opening and closing my eyes to study the colors of the lines made by streaks of daylight in the spaces between the blinds and the wall: first yellow then shiny magenta then deeper magenta almost a shadow a yellow like orange even green until it all fades and then I try it again, shifting the angle of my head the angle of the streaks it's a calming place this space between open eyes and dreaming.

The new homeopathic remedy isn't working. Maybe it's making things worse.
The acupuncturist is trying to find a combination of herbs that doesn't dehydrate me, but we're starting with a patent formula that already contain something dehydrating, so I don't think it's going to work. We have to go back further. When I get up, I feel like if I could truly describe exactly what happens when I'm trying to sleep, maybe I could actually sleep. But then there's the way I feel when I'm out of bed, head somewhere between closed off and closing in so I feel too exhausted to even try, I mean to even try describing all of that bedtime push and pull, oh. I'm already getting hypoglycemic, and the stove isn't even clean yet -- I don't like to cook before the burners are clean and this is my break from scrubbing them.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Garden of burnt grass

My grandmother is in my apartment for the first time, she's staring at something in the corner and I can't tell if it's the photo on the wall or that incense burner on the kitchen counter, why is there an incense burner over there and before I can figure it out my grandmother is lifting the cabinet in the corner and pushing it closer to the wall. You shouldn't do that, I say -- you're going to hurt yourself. But then I realize it's absurd to talk like that -- she already moved it, and I can tell she's hurt herself she's trying to seem okay and I want her to be okay but is that really a part of her back jutting out at an awful angle, pointing through her dress? She collapses face-down onto the sofa, head hanging over the edge I say Rose, do you need help and she's not saying anything I know this is going to hurt my body but I pull her up from behind she's heavier than I thought and I'm holding her underneath the shoulders, trying to get her to the bed in my mother's room I should yell for Allison to help I'm trying to yell but my throat is dry it's just a whisper and I keep trying but nothing comes out and then finally just a soft call but Allison hears me. At this point I'm already in the bedroom, I release Rose to the bed in front of the window, trees outside almost coming in and Allison and I are looking at Rose to see how she's doing I'm looking at Rose's face and I realize her head’s detached from her body I can't breathe, her head’s resting on the pillow I don't know how I mean is there anything we can do and I'm looking at Allison to see if she notices, but then I remember this is a dream and I yell it: THIS IS A DREAM, and then there are three heads: there's Rose on the bed and then Allison has two more, one is calm just like the one on the bed without pain and the other is black and burnt horror movie rage and that's the one I want, the one I want to throw out the window I need to get rid of all that rage I'm trying to get Allison to hand it over right away so then I can decide whether to throw it through the window of my mother's bedroom, that bedroom from childhood, through the window with the glass shattering everywhere in one final gesture or no, maybe I should open it first and send that awful head out into the garden of burnt grass.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Maybe it's a new strategy

I stand on the fire escape to do my morning movements, just for maybe four minutes and my back is to the sun but it's so hot that when I step back inside I'm almost dizzy, the good thing is that I can close my eyes and pretend I'm still sleeping, listen to the tinny beats a hint of vocal wrapping around toy drums bending into maybe the end of an advertising jingle just the jingle jingle jingle and back to drums. Maybe I can hold this feeling all day, close my eyes when I get to that place of how am I going to function how will I ever function because I know I'll get to that place, probably even in just a few minutes last night in bed oh sleep so interrupted why so interrupted why?

And then I'm interrupted today, my voice scratchier everything could be an edge but wait, close my eyes and try to feel something silly instead, maybe it's a new strategy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Look -- I'm on the cover of this week's San Francisco Bay Guardian!!!

Of course it's way more glamorous in the paper version, but here's the intro and here's the rest.

Nothing really gets inside

My voice is hoarse from my conversation with Amy yesterday, or maybe not hoarse but scratchy. Is it just from talking two hours straight with barely any pauses? Talking two hours straight about deep emotional drama? I guess what I do when I'm talking like that is that I stop breathing and hold my chest up and probably that constricts my throat -- since I'll definitely be talking a lot while I'm on tour, I have to think about what exactly I do with my body, to learn and unlearn that pattern and also some good herbs to soothe the throat, right?

Today there's a heatwave, but I'm not that stressed about it because at least it's dry out not that gross humidity drama and this is the time of year when we're supposed to have heatwaves. The problem is that this is also the time of year when it hasn't rained in six months no maybe four but that's a long time and even when there’s a breeze it doesn't feel fresh it's just like the pollution is blowing around. It's still better than no breeze, but I keep inhaling and inhaling but it's like nothing really gets inside.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A different story

Here's today: it's too warm on the fire escape, then I come inside already drained; oh, no -- my hair appointment is canceled! It's like all my energy is suddenly gone, no hope for today until wait my mother and father’s former couples therapist calls. I talked to her once, years ago, before my father started dying or before anyone knew he was dying and we talked about my parents’ relationship until she started trying to get me to meet with my father -- oh, no, that agenda -- it was time for me to go.

After my father died, my mother said maybe I could talk to Amy, that’s the name of the therapist, and I didn't think that much about it because my mother is always trying to get me to talk to some therapist, usually for the wrong reasons. Starting with when I was 12 and I decided I didn't respect my parents on any level so they sent me to a therapist to find out what was going on. I never told him what was going on. When I came out to my parents, they wanted me to see Charles Soccarides, the famous conversion therapist -- what a great idea! After that it was Harold Isay, someone who was actually gay and I went in the room and he started yelling at me when I said I was sexually abused: how do you know? Um, actually I'm here to deal with the fact that I was sexually abused, not figure out whether it happened. Of course he knew my father, or knew of him, so he wanted me to prove it. I knew I needed to leave that office right then, and I did.

The next one was a false memory syndrome specialist, my mother wanted me to fly to Baltimore to see him -- of course she neglected to mention his area of expertise, just that he was so so understanding I would really like him he was so understanding. Luckily I avoided that one -- my sister eventually told me how he yelled at her when she didn't immediately say that I was crazy for thinking my father would ever do such a thing, my father! But I actually like Amy -- sure, there are some tones to her voice that remind me of my mother, not sure if it's something geographic or if it's just the therapist’s tone, I know that tone. But I like the fact that she's someone that knows my mother and I can talk to her about my mother, first I'm talking about visiting my father before he died and it's harder than I thought I mean I get emotional right away, tears at the edges of my eyes I keep thinking why am I holding it in but I keep holding.

There are places where Amy kind of gasps or no it's not a gasp it’s a moan no what do you call an immediate gesture of empathy kind of like a groan but sympathetic? When I tell her about saying: even though you've hurt me more than anyone else, I still don't want you to die, and I wish he could have relationship. And: there was a tear rolling down his cheek and I wanted to touch it, I knew maybe that wasn't what I should do but I wanted to do everything that I was feeling in that moment and so I did, I reached over and touched his tear. And: I told him I love you, and he couldn't even say that. Amy asks: he couldn't, or he wouldn't?

He wouldn't. And then I'm talking about telling my father it's really hard for me to function on a day-to-day level, hard because I took all of your abuse and held it in my body and now it's stuck. And I asked him to create an account to pay my basic expenses. And that's when I start sobbing, really sobbing and it feels like I'm finally present in the room. And I talk about everything that's going on with my mother, this endless struggle to get her to do what she's agreed to, and Amy says that when my mother and father went to see her, every time my mother brought up how she wanted to give me money, to help me to feel supported, she even used the word safe; she would bring it up every time.

And now that she actually has the power to do it, it's a different story.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Here's what I've done today: I woke up, did feldenkrais movements, finished my cooking, went on the fire escape and talked on the phone with Gina, then Ralowe and actually I felt pretty good, ready to go to a group dinner that actually sounded fun, even though it's at a Thai restaurant where I can’t eat anything except steamed vegetables I've been there before and it’s spacious and not too warm and I was glad too that the dinner had a time limit, 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so maybe I wouldn't get too tired. Then I left the house to do a few errands: get Posumon at the Chinese herb store, a block and a quarter from my house; walk a block and a half to the mail place to pick up a package, walk another block and a quarter back to my apartment. And now I can hardly function at all, I feel completely destroyed, overwhelmed and exhausted and drained like what was I thinking how could I possibly socialize or even get to the restaurant?

Sometimes I feel like everything's getting worse, I mean everything with my body and exhaustion and my ability to function in the world and now I'm thinking about that doctor, the one that said congratulations when I said I've been vegan for 16 years and no doctor has ever said that to me in my life -- actually no healthcare practitioner at all. And I was excited about our next appointment, after a few tests, but I just got a message from the clinic the other day saying she’s no longer there and I haven't been able to call them back to figure out what the hell I mean she must've suddenly gotten fired because she made the appointment and maybe there's someone else who works there who’s also competent or even amazing but it's hard for me to imagine they'll say congratulations when I tell them I've been vegan for 16 years, especially when I've been struggling so much that it makes me question my commitment to veganism and whether it's not part of my health problems, but congratulations I guess that meant a lot to me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Onions -- onions to the rescue!

Comfort or safety or some other impossible dream

Derek keeps saying I'm a different person, I'm a different person, but really he's not and I mean that in both senses. He's not literally a different person, and I'm sure he would agree with that. I mean he's the same person who made bad decisions three or four our five or six years ago and those decisions still affect me now and I want accountability. I don't think that's too much to ask. But also he's not a different person, because he still can't deal with my critique, I thought it was the alcoholism and the pathological lying and the psych meds that made him so sensitive, that made him nihilistic but now he's in a much better place, more aware of himself and his feelings and the way he interacts with the world and he still can't deal. I mean he can deal with some things better, but not my critique. Not my feelings, I guess.

It's ironic, because Derek has asked me several times to talk about things without processing them on my own so much, but now I feel like he's asking me to process things even more -- if he can't deal with listening to me for a half hour, a half hour, is a half hour really so much? So then he wants me to cram everything into five minutes or five sentences and that's even more work to do. In our conversation I kept thinking of what I wanted to say, and then saying what I thought he could hear. I hate that pattern and I don't think it's fair. I mean I think I'm right about what he could hear, I could gauge it in his face when he suddenly started to get enraged and then I backed off and said something else but I don't think that fear is a useful place for getting anywhere.

One of the questions I haven't gotten a chance to ask Derek is about his investment in masculinity. When we met I felt like we were in a similar place: masculinity in faggots disgusted us, it was something to rid ourselves of at all costs. But Derek has always embodied many aspects of the same masculinity we abhorred -- he reminded me that, even 16 years ago, I couldn't deal with being around him when he was drinking because he would turn into a stupid macho asshole. I think what was different was that I always felt he was challenging it too, I mean when he wasn't drinking. Now I'm not so sure.

I mean, there's a beauty to Derek's masculinity too, the way he creates shelter for so many flaming creatures, including himself. I guess we did talk about it a year or so ago -- now I'm self-conscious that he'll say we already talked about that, right? And he doesn't want to talk about anything that we've already talked about, I mean unless he wants to say those are your issues or you're dumping on me or some other misplaced regurgitated recovery speech -- but that's not processing, okay -- processing is the enemy. Oh, how I miss processing! But anyway, I noticed after that (processing) conversation about masculinity that Derek started trying harder not to get so enraged. Sometimes it even works, other times it stays right under the surface so it's almost the same thing. But he's never brought it up with me -- I guess I feel like I always ask these questions, and then Derek thinks about them and does take me into account while he's doing that thinking, but it never comes up again directly unless I bring it up.. And that feels like a masculinist pattern -- he'll do his work on his own, thank you, and if the woman says something she's an ungrateful bitch -- can't she see all his hard work?

Somewhere maybe five six seven years ago I think Derek settled into his masculinity and now he doesn't challenge it in the same ways. I mean, if I tease him by talking about how he's butch or manly then he looks offended, but of course he also gets a lot of positive attention in the world of the gay gaze for that exact masculinity. When I met him he was queenier -- he painted his nails and dyed his hair and pranced a bit more, but I can't say that I wasn't also attracted to him because of his masculine rage, rage directed at the world but still embodying that existential crisis fist-through-a-window mentality: even when the rage was directed internally, carrying a different blow. Back then maybe I shared more similarities -- I routinely hurled pint glasses down air shafts, never thinking that I might scare someone with my own attempts at a nonviolent solution to disempowerment. Once I even threw something across the room during an angry conversation with my first boyfriend; it took me a while to realize that even if I didn't throw it in his direction, that was a scary act.

Now I'm scared of that type of rage, I mean I've always been scared of it in people I love, so scared that I don't even go near most people who embody it, in spite of the fact that my sexual desires often swing my head in that direction. When Derek gets enraged, I can't meet him there without feeling like I've left my body, I've given up, and that just makes me hopeless so instead I turn into a little kid, silent and desperate with the need for comfort or safety or some other impossible dream.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Here comes the press... a glamorous blurb from the Times of London!!!

Here it is:

Agonist and troublemaker, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is another of City Lights’ latest protégés. A San Franciscan, she feels a special historical and intellectual attachment: “It’s the ideal publisher for my novel. Its history of publishing work that is politically incendiary, sexually saturated and defiant matches my work exactly.” You may want to decide for yourself but if you want the gist, So Many Way to Sleep Badly is a gender-bending novel about: “rats and pigeons and roaches and health issues, insomnia, drugs, friends on drugs, bad sex, having sex for money, sex for recreation (and not knowing the difference) and trying to live ethically.” The book unearths subjects still relatively untouched in popular culture and is probably not one for Richard and Judy. If City Lights publish it, you’re not going to be reading anything similar elsewhere.

And here's the rest of the article...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What makes me so sad right now

So sad it's like the world is suddenly a different place and I'm scared that I can't fit into it in the ways I want to, that I'll never fit into it in those ways. I mean physically. In my body walking through streets and sitting on sofas and talking to friends and crying and laughing, I know I will do all these things, maybe even in a few minutes, but I wonder about getting to that place of absolute vulnerability which is safety and childhood and hope and I need all of that.

It's because my relationship with Derek is where I've felt so physically present, in my body and my emotions no matter what they are and nurtured and held and safe yes safe. And yesterday it was so so hard to stay in my body so so hard it hasn't been that hard with someone I love or even someone I don't love in years, maybe even 15, since I remembered I was sexually abused and then I realized oh, there's so much more I could feel. I want to feel all of that, and with people I love I don't want to lose hope for all of that, the place where my body is just here. I'm here. I want to be here.

At least writing helps, writing this I'm crying more than when I was with Derek, then I only got a few tears and they didn't even come out of my eyes really, now they're running down my face and I love that. I didn't really say what I wanted to, or not in the way I wanted to. I kept thinking about Derek and how he would respond, and the places where it feels like nothing will budge. I can't help thinking that all of this started because I wanted to tell Derek some things I've resented, I wanted him to listen and then it would be okay. It wasn't okay. It's not okay. And I don't know what to do about that.

I feel like I'm accepting his boundaries like I did something wrong. Even when he was talking about wanting more time apart, not time without contact but time without talking through our issues or getting together and I wanted to know exactly what his boundaries were, and he kind of got upset about that. I said listen, I'm not like your other friends -- I'm not going to cross your boundaries, so I want to know what they are. And he said I'm not upset, maybe I'm just confused, and then we figured out those boundaries -- chatting on the phone is fine, as long as we don't process; we’ll talk in a few weeks. And all that sounds fine, it's just that I'm worried we'll still have those same walls -- Derek wants me to let things go, and I hate that language but maybe that's what I was trying to do when I talked about how his five years of disastrous alcoholism affects me now and he couldn't even listen, I mean he listened but it was too much.

But then I say what about letters, are you okay with letters and Derek says letters are fine. I should've left it at that -- there's so much I want to say and I'm not able to say it in person -- not able because he can't deal, not able because I can't speak. I can speak in a letter. But then I say what if the letter is really long, because I wanted to send you a letter earlier and that would've been the best thing for me, but then I kept thinking about how it would be for you. And Derek says I don't think I want letters right now, I don't want to communicate in that way.

Of course I can write a letter in a few weeks, I guess that's what I should do. It's just that there's so much to say and there's just more and more and Derek doesn't want to feel overwhelmed and I guess I just have to get past that and not think about how he'll react or whether it'll make him angrier or whether he'll even read it and just write what I want, on my own terms, like I'm writing now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Night and day, day and night, this plant is on a journey...

More space and less

There are so many layers to this conversation, layers that start beforehand I mean I've been thinking about it for weeks and especially last week when we were supposed to talk but then Derek had three nights of particularly awful sleep and so he canceled and that made sense. Last week I was ready because I actually slept okay and I figured out the two things I needed to say; this week I'm not ready at all. It starts and we're talking about random things but mostly I don't think either of us is that interested in what the other person is saying I'm just scared. So scared that even though I decided I was going to talk first, I mean talk right away and say those two things, because usually I ask Derek how he's feeling first and that didn't work the last few times. Even though I decided that ahead of time, I mean that I would speak first, I can't speak. Even when Derek starts, he's talking about how he still feels angry but his eyes are still here not far away like last time, still on me in a way that means I'm here, we're here, we're here together. Or mostly. He's telling me that it felt like I was talking about things that were so old and he's changed he’s a different person he can't deal with that kind of processing. He's telling me that he’s thought about it a lot but it doesn't serve him anymore to think about something obsessively from all angles so he's tried to look at it from the distance more. He's telling me that it's hard for him when I talk for a long time without interruption, it's overwhelming, and maybe there's a different way we can talk. Oh wait, he's asking me, he's asking me and I'm trying to say something I close my eyes.

There are so many layers to this fear. I'm scared of losing Derek. I'm scared of continuing our friendship but losing the possibility of that intimacy that goes on and on. I'm scared of Derek. I'm scared of saying that the last conversation was really scary for me.

Derek says do you think it's okay to have this conversation now, do you think you’re present enough? Because I said something about my sleep and I keep going to the bathroom to shit because I can’t digest anything. I say no it's fine, I mean I'm present it's just that I'm scared. I look him in the eyes, no he doesn't do that thing like we’re military enemies but I still can't say what I want to say. I start to speak but it's just a mumble, I'm looking in the distance then my eyes are closed then I'm looking up then my eyes are closed again and I feel like crying but I can't cry and I'm kind of shaking a little maybe there's a tear or two and I try to look at Derek I say I'm having trouble speaking.

My feet, pay attention to my feet is what I'm thinking. My feet on the ground, are my feet on the ground, my butt on this chair, my shoulders am I holding my shoulders back too far I'm trying to avoid my body in too much pain afterwards. I'm thinking about my list of two things , two things I noticed that list was right underneath the piece of paper Derek was studying, the directions for the shower filter I moved the piece of paper to the other side of the table. I say it was really hard for me last time, it was hard because you were speaking to me in such a dismissive way, with so much anger and disdain and I've never felt that before, except for the obvious people way long ago and definitely never before with you I mean it felt violent I felt like you were requiring me to shut myself off emotionally and afterwards it was really overwhelming I mean I still haven't cried and I feel more distant, distant from everything.

This takes a while, it takes a while for me to say each sentence broken up into parts and then: I mean I know this wasn't going to happen, but I felt in my body like you were going to hit me. Derek gives me that smile like I just said something preposterous, and I think okay, this is the end, but I say that's the dismissiveness I'm talking about, and he stops. I'm shaking, suddenly freezing I say I need to put on a wool sweater then I'm in the bathroom shaking shaking shaking probably I should just keep shaking to let it out my hands all clammy I actually lean my head back just like I'm high I mean really like I'm high or crashing from drugs and I'm freezing what is this feeling?

This is the second or maybe third no fourth time in the bathroom already, two times shitting and two times shaking, back in the kitchen I say I don't know why I'm so cold, Derek says the fog just rolled in I say you're right but I think it's emotion. Derek starts talking about how I just kept going on and on it was hard for him to listen it made him so angry I say that was the first conversation, because the last conversation I didn't say anything. He says the first conversation, I say yeah the one from a month ago. He says what do you mean you didn't say anything -- is that how you remember the conversation, I just got angry and then I left?

He's angry again. I don't say anything. I'm wondering if he's going to leave now, leave now and then this is the end. I'm wondering if I want him to leave.

But I don't know if I'm getting the order of this right -- Derek's dismissiveness, maybe that's not right after I say I felt like he was going to hit me but later, when we're talking about our last conversation and he remembers me talking talking talking but I just remember him cutting me off. All these times I go to the bathroom, some of them are before we start talking, I mean we're talking but we're not talking.

I don't say that much because Derek doesn't want me to say the same things, even when he says the same things: I felt like you were dumping on me, you need to let things go. I say all I wanted to do was to tell you how I was feeling, that's all. Derek says I kept saying I hear you, I hear you -- I say you never said anything like I hear you.

What matters is that something shifts in Derek, in me, I mean we go through several shifts and I think the bathroom helps there, and also the times I get up to stretch because I'm shaking too much, and the time when I'm gargling saltwater because I'm choking. The times I close my eyes and breathe, breathe, or stare at my food and wonder if the cure for hunger is pain. What matters is that at some point Derek is getting emotional, what I want is to hug him but I don't know if I can break the barrier the barrier that makes me distant am I distant or just lost? In my head I'm thinking yes, I can take that risk, yes it's worth it I say do you want a hug? He says yes, and we stand, and he's the one who starts crying and I'm hugging him and I feel my body in a different way my body with him in the way I want to feel except I'm also wondering if this is the future, I'm present for him. It's a long hug I like this hug I don't want it to end maybe this isn't the end, also I'm brushing the hair above Derek's ears with my fingers, when I'm not holding his hands my freezing cold hands I guess my hands are usually cold but now I actually feel cold, clammy too I say I feel like I'm on drugs.

The hug is over I sit down but Derek is still standing, he says I feel like I'm doing all this work on myself I've been doing all this work and it's finally working -- I mean I spend all this time with people in AA who are mostly concerned with buying this and buying that but I can also feel things for these people and I used to feel scared of people like that, like I would become like them I would lose my sense of self but I'm not. And sometimes I feel, I mean I know the world is still a horrible horrible place, but sometimes I feel like maybe I can be happy and that makes me question all of my friendships and see their limitations and I'm okay with those limitations. And I'm really really busy with school and stressed out about my living situation and school’s about to get way busier I'm going to have to memorize all of this information.

Derek sits down, really softly I say I'm okay with change, you don't have to pull away from me in order to change. Derek says I know, I know that's true. I say I just wanted you to know, I mean I'm friends with all different kinds of people and not people like me or anything and that's always been the case. Derek says I know, I've always seen you interact with all different kinds of people. I say maybe with us it's a bit different because a lot of our connection has always been about similarity, but I'm not attached to that.

I say maybe another thing that's different is that I'm not okay with the limitations in my friendships, I mean I guess this is still true -- I mean it's still true what I said at the beginning of our first conversation, that you're the most important person in my life but I also said that I was confident of the longevity of our relationship and our intimacy and trust but I didn't feel secure and now I don't feel secure about any of those things.

Derek says you know I love you. I say I love you. He says I just feel like we need more space, I need more space to think about things I feel like sometimes more space give me clarity and things work themselves out. I say I will do whatever would be best for you, but I know for me often distance just makes me feel more distant. Over the last month I've felt a lot of loss, loss about our relationship and loss about my hopes for our relationship and I don't know what to do with that.

Derek says I feel like all the nerves in my body are inflamed, I'm getting a shooting pain in my back. He says I'm sorry my feelings made you feel unsafe. You know I've never hit anyone, I know you made the distinction between what you thought might happen and the way you were feeling, but I want you to know that I would never hit you.

I say thank you. Derek says although don't think we've ever had such a bad conversation, afterwards I just wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Even though I can send stare at getting distant again, things feel softer -- softer in my body, softer in this room, softer in our relationship, softer since we hugged even if I don't know what the hell is going to happen and Derek says is there anything else you're thinking? I guess I've gotten quiet again, I say I'm thinking a lot but I don't know what to say.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Here's what I found

Okay I just got SLAMMED by Publishers Weekly

For those who don't know, Publishers Weekly is the big industry magazine, and they review things a month or two ahead of everyone else -- they've never touched any of my books, or maybe they touched them on the way to the recycling bin, but this time they're gracing me with insight and charm.

Get ready...

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. City Lights, $15.95 paper (252p) ISBN 978-0-87286-468-9
Novelist (Pulling Taffy) and nonfiction anthologist (Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity) Sycamore is back with an ambitious but less-than-compelling satire of drug-fueled, gender-bending San Francisco subculture. The narrator, who may or may not be genetically female, fills days and many late nights with relentless sexual encounters and vivid ruminations concerning random sex, hustling, cocaine and other party drugs; occasionally, she takes time out for a rare healthy habit, vikram yoga, and to worry about her apartment's roach-and-rodent infestation. Obviously inspired by the stream-of-consciousness and day-in-the-life classics of Joyce, Woolf and Beckett, here the pointed commentary falls flat; the problem isn't San Francisco's eccentric denizens, but Sycamore's profane meanderings, too much of which isn't especially insightful or funny. The narrator takes far too long to move beyond the bitchy play-by-play, making sure that, by the time Sycamore introduces genuine stakes, readers will already feel too bored and browbeaten to care. (Oct.)

I love this part:

"The narrator, who may or may not be genetically female..."

I kid you not! These people are alive and thriving in our world -- and they review books! This is the world we're living in! It fills my heart with such joy...

And this:

"The problem isn't San Francisco's eccentric denizens, but Sycamore's profane meanderings."

Wait -- don't they mean profound -- that must be a typo!

But wait -- there's always a blurb:

"Ambitious... and vivid... obviously inspired by the stream-of-consciousness and day-in-the-life classics of Joyce, Woolf, and Beckett."

I'll take it...

Monday, August 18, 2008

My place in the sun (because it's the closest thing to a bench in the Tenderloin, dammit!)

Gender transgression in the cruising arena

It's funny how something can loom so large in a dream that when you wake up it's still there, definitely larger than waking I mean almost larger than another day of exhaustion: the bathroom, of course the bathroom. In the dream it's right by Neiman Marcus you're trying to get there but that wing of the mall all glittering glass is blocked by metal gates but then you find a hallway and yes the bathroom a different bathroom but still. There's someone at an elevated urinal jerking his dick into a point at the end almost like a sweet potato made of silly putty except bigger, and this guy's wearing a white lace dress over pants you've never tried that look until he changes into something all different shades of blue and layered textures and you're excited about this gender transgression in the cruising arena; that's when you wake up.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

This collective sense of doom

I love this series called Passing on the Pen at the GLBT Historical Society -- although I don't like saying "GLBT," that's its name, right? Anyway, the series, curated by mystery writer Michael Nava, consists of writers in conversation -- last week it was Trebor Healey and Karl Soehnlein. They both read excerpts from their novels-in-progress, and I thought it was interesting and exciting that they both took place at similar times -- Karl's in 1985 I think, Trebor’s in 1991 -- and both centered around AIDS.

Sometimes at events I end up thinking of a question the whole time through, and then it just gets more and more layered and I'm about to explode but I don't feel like I've fully figured out what I want to say, but then it's the end and I better ask or else I'll implode. So here's what I say: I thought it was interesting that you were talking about the lack of 20-year-old readers, when actually I feel like in my audience there are a lot of 20-year-olds, and the lack is more among people over 45 or so (Trebor and Karl are both in their mid-40s), and I wonder if that's because of the anti-assimilationist politics -- so I kind of have the reverse situation from what you're talking about. But I thought it was really interesting that both of your novels center around AIDS, and I wonder if it's time for a new generation of writing about AIDS -- I went to that movie by Andre Techine, what was it called? Anyway, all the promotion described it as talking about AIDS activism in Paris in the ‘80s and I was really excited to see it, but actually it's just the same tired crap, I mean you watch this young guy die of AIDS and then at the end the enlightened straight people sail into the distance -- I almost couldn't believe it. And also you were talking about ACT UP and how it felt young and angry and punk, and I guess I had a different experience of ACT UP -- I was involved a bit later, and I was 19 in ACT UP San Francisco in 1992 and that was a bit after its trendy point, and ACT UP for me was actually about elders, all these brilliant activists who I met who were 10 or 20 or 30 years older than me and now so many of them are dead or are not interested in that kind of politic and what I'm wondering is about AIDS and intergenerational memory and loss.

Oh, no -- is that really what I said? Where's the question? No wonder they were confused! Anyway, what surprised me was that both of them talked about sexual safety and risk-taking among young fags, and the cluelessness of some of the 20-year-olds they've encountered, with regards to safer sex norms. Karl certainly expressed a sense of optimism for future queer generations, but what I meant to invoke was this sense of loss that we all share as fags, regardless of age, and I don't believe the mythologies that young people just don't know or don't care. I mean I haven't seen that at all, although Trebor brought up an interesting point that my audiences may be much more politicized than theirs.

What I meant to ask was: what do we do with that loss? How do we build intergenerational ties, a sense of communal care, a defiant challenge to our sense that early death is part of our destiny? It's true that I may know more people, many of them in their 20s, who have seroconverted in the last seven years than I knew who seroconverted when I was in ACT UP in the early-‘90s. I don't believe it's because of a lack of information, but rather the kinds of mistakes we all make, and also this collective sense of doom. How do we create something else?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Look -- here I am on Swedish National Television!

They chose some great quotes from me, although the lighting is a bit strange and what am I doing blinking so much? If anyone speaks Swedish, please tell me what they're saying about me...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Maybe a start

These days it seems like whenever I sit down at the computer to write my face clouds over and I can't think it’s my sinuses slamming into perception into me, oh no where does all that pain come from? But the good news is that I had a great doctor's appointment, I mean it started like usual -- waiting forever and wondering what awful things were going to happen, I mean I had a few questions ready for the whole half hour I was allotted but waiting a half hour beforehand I kept staring at all the doors that said x-ray, wondering why those doors were open -- close those doors, I can feel myself getting cancer already! But then, wait – she’s totally present and asks good questions and when I say I've been vegan for 16 years, almost like I'm dismissing it because I've learned that doctors are going to tell me that's part of what's wrong or not just doctors but most healthcare practitioners. But she says: congratulations! And when we're talking about my past history and medication, and I say that I was sexually abused by my parents as a kid, and that's where I think all of these health struggles originate, she says you're right, that makes a lot of sense. And then, when we're talking about exercise and I'm asking whether she knows of a heated pool without chlorine, and she actually thinks about it, and then says I'll have Janet make some calls tomorrow, she's gone for the day but I'll definitely let her know tomorrow. Then she looks over my blood work, and zooms right in on the thyroid, answers my questions about the hormone, thinks of a few other things we should test -- celiac, which is basically a gluten sensitivity; H-pylori, which I guess is some sort of bacteria that can cause stomach problems and ulcers; plus the thyroid again. And she even answers my questions about supplements! So instead of leaving feeling drained and overwhelmed, helpless and exhausted, I actually feel excited. Who knows what will happen, but maybe it's a start.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Okay, so now they fine any building with graffiti on it right away, so the graffiti is moving -- yes, keep on moving!


My sinuses just get worse. Now I don't think I can go to Blow Buddies anymore either, because of the pot smoke that drifts inside through the back wall which is really a garage door, and the residue gets trapped inside. I'm sure it would be okay for a few minutes, but then there's the two hours I’m there. And then there's my head the next day.

Not that it's a big loss to skip out on that place, which is rarely fun except for momentarily and even the momentarily just stays suspended inside awfulness. Except, I do like having options -- even options that aren’t fun are better than no options, right?

Check out this brilliant Rebecca Solnit article on the tyranny of the Olympics

Here's an excerpt, from Orion Magazine:
On August 8, the Beijing Olympic Games will begin, and television will bring us weeks of the human body at the height of health, beauty, discipline, power, and grace. It will be a thousand-hour advertisement, in some sense, for the participating nations as represented by athletes with amazing abilities. In reality, the athletes will be something of a mask for what each nation really stands for, and this year the Olympics as a whole will be as much a coverup as, say, the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, which came hot on the heels of the Tlaltelolco Plaza massacre of students, or the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which gave the Nazis legitimacy as they turned Germany into an efficient totalitarian death factory. Ironically, the 2008 summer Olympics begin on the twentieth anniversary of the 8888 (for 8/8/1988) Burma uprising against the brutal military dictatorship that has controlled that country, with crucial backing from China, for more than four decades now. The Chinese government is also busy terrorizing Tibetans protesting for religious freedom and liberation of their colonized country; it is also the main protector of the Sudanese government carrying out a holocaust in Darfur.

via Feministe

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obama declares vice presidential candidate, may support slavery

Speculation has run rampant over the past several weeks as Barack Obama searches for a vice presidential candidate -- guesses have run the gamut from the usual suspects of Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Jesse Helms RIP, and even fashion designer Carolina Herrera (a fashion-addled reporter spotted Caroline Kennedy with a Caroline Herrera gift box, and the rumors spread like California wildfires).

But today Barack Obama ended the anticipation with a surprising choice: former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, now in custody facing a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Asked about Karadzic’s alleged participation in war crimes, Obama said only, "We need real change in Washington."

Formerly liberal supporters of Obama struggled to explain the stunning, and potentially illegal, choice. In recent weeks, Obama has courted the Israel lobby, and indicated he may support nuclear power and offshore drilling – Karadzic’s stance on these issues is unclear, but he is considered tough on crime and is unlikely to oppose the apartheid state of Israel. Moreover, Karadzic speaks several languages, and “would not hesitate to nuke Iran,” according to one Obama insider who requesting anonymity.

But the surprises did not stop there. Later, at a press conference on his energy policy, Obama was asked to address the problem of unrest in the Niger Delta that has lead to a decline in oil production. Obama, an internationalist with keen knowledge of foreign affairs, pointed out that oil production would probably not be such a contested issue if the workers were enslaved. Asked if this meant that Obama supported slavery, he answered, "All options are on the table."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Look, there is hope!

A good sign

There's some blond tweaker trying to get into my building, I mean she won't even step aside so that I can let her in, then when I get inside and all the kids are sitting on the steps I realize oh no, this is my old building! But wait -- how did I get in? Do my keys work here too, or did someone buzz me? Or maybe someone buzzed the tweaker, where did she go anyway?

Then I'm with Derek and we're in front of my actual building but there's this huge truck blocking the entrance, I rub Derek on the back -- what are we supposed to do? Somehow Derek gets in between the engine and the ground or something that looks too dangerous for me, even though he's laughing, but I realize I can climb on top of it instead and that works too. When I wake up, I feel really great about my dynamic with Derek, soft and intimate and nurturing again. But then I think about calling him, just to see if we're meeting at my house or his house on Tuesday, and my belly clenches up again, something in my chest too like it's hard to breathe. I think about where Derek will be, it's warm out and it's Sunday so he'll probably be at Dolores Park and everyone in the world will be around so maybe it's not a good time to talk. But then I keep thinking about it, and feeling worse, so I call anyway and he doesn't answer which might be better I'm not sure. I'm trying not to do that thing where I go right into the voice that sounds like everything's okay, and it actually works -- my voice sounds soft and kind of hoarse and I say I'm just calling to see if we're meeting at my place or yours on Tuesday -- I'm feeling really nervous about meeting, I mean of course I want to meet but I'm feeling really nervous. I wanted to write you a letter but I haven't yet, so probably it won't happen before Tuesday. Hope you're doing well -- love you.

Afterwards I actually feel much better, like I let something go. I mean I still have the same fears, but they're not circling around in my head and I have the same sinus headache and congestion but my head feels clearer. I think it really helped not to channel the I'm-okay-voice like I pretty much always do, felt like a release and I can feel this little kid feeling too and that's always a good sign.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Over and over

Then I realize oh, I can send Derek a letter before we meet, a letter with everything I've been thinking these last two weeks. Even if I don't know if that's what he wants, at least it's on my terms -- I mean I want to feel vulnerable. For a few hours this feels liberating, but then I look at how much I've written and I wonder if it would just overwhelm him. So then I'm back to the same pattern of thinking about everything over and over. It's overwhelming to me that this relationship that usually feels so solid, like a part of my core, now I just feel anxious and it's possible that when I see Derek again I'll suddenly feel that calm but then I guess the reverse is possible too.

In a different place

Derek leaves a message, he wants to get together next week. Immediately my stomach hurts, not like digestion but just ouch. Not my stomach, my belly -- intestines. Really heart. Wasn't I feeling okay before? He said I miss you, why does this relationship that's given me so much now make me feel hopeless? Like it's easier just not to talk, to have this distance, to go over all the possibilities over and over again in my head. Like: what if Derek is thinking this? Or that? And how will I respond?

I'm not even going to mention all of the disastrous scenarios that play out in my head, over and over and over.

I guess the thing that scares me the most is that I'll go into that place of holding back my emotion, that place where I don't think I've gone before with Derek. That old old place that used to feel like safety I mean when I was growing up and it was my father's rage and it was the only way I could survive. Now it just feels like an impossible loneliness, a window into the despair I felt for those first 18 years. In some ways that's what hurts the most, that my conversation with Derek made me go there. Even with my mother, I just feel shut down and sad but I don't quite do that shutting-off thing. But I felt like Derek was requesting it, requiring it even and that's what makes me feel overwhelmed now, like my eyes are in a different place not looking out into the possibility but looking in I mean maybe I already was tired but now I really feel it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

And it's not even Valentine's Day...

Do you think these tourists know where they're staying (right around the corner from me, dammit!)

In the steamer...


Dinner plans with two people who go to college in Arkansas, one of them reads my blog so I said sure, why not dinner? I like to be available for things like this. Today I don't feel like I'm available for anything. But I take a shower and then I sort of feel like I can face the world but not quite but I go outside anyway and get there remarkably fast I mean the buses are like a dream especially because the sun is setting so everything looks gorgeous. Maybe I should always take this bus at this time, and then I'll be okay.

I'm waiting at the restaurant a while, staring at the people in this neighborhood that I call Connecticut because it's all these big white yuppie jocks and blond women in pantsuits but people are a bit showier than Connecticut, so I guess it's Connecticut mixed with LA but it's called the Marina. It's always hard to believe this neighborhood exists in San Francisco, but that's what everyone here seems to think about me. That's why I think about Connecticut, are all the guys this tall in Connecticut?

Eventually my friends arrive, I say my friends even though I've never met them because there's a glow in Hollis’s eyes immediately when walking in the door and that makes me feel like it's okay that I just waited an hour. And then we talk about gender and queer identities and genderqueer and my books and they want to change the name of the campus feminist group to the Gender Liberation Organization and what is the most effective activism for where and creating space for people to express all the different gender possibilities creating space for people on the margins creating space to dream. They're doing a project about communes, driving around and touring communes across the US and what could be more about dreaming. I like the way they ask me questions it makes me feel useful, reminds me of why it's important to tour because I can meet people who are engaging with the ideas that mean something to me it means I mean something I mean it's my writing and editing and putting my work out in the world that I feel so drawn to and it's important to realize that sometimes it actually makes an impact.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I still feel this way

Fabric softener -- I wake up thinking I'm surrounded by fabric softener, really it's just the residue in the sheets in the towels in this sweatshirt I'm wearing, the residue from someone else's laundry. But it's not just the residue, it's the way my face is closed off I try to feel better with music but all I can think is that I'm sinking into my own collapse. I mean everything is collapse.

One of those days when I wake up thinking oh, just another thing I'm doing to take care of myself that makes everything worse -- clean laundry to get rid of dust mites but instead. Instead it gets rid of me.

One of those days when I wish I could have my own laundry machines, Andee’s on the phone telling me I could wash my laundry in the sink and I'm staring into the cave of what I feel like, thinking: is that supposed to be helpful? Who is she listening to? Anyway it's one of those days when I feel like I need my own space I mean I guess a space I own although I don't know if I want to own a space I just want somewhere that doesn't make me so sick.

Maybe it's time to take Brian up on his offer of a free room at the hostel in the Marin headlands, gorgeous air but I'm wondering about the pollution from the forest fires and the bed that might give me too much pain, too much pain while I'm planning this book tour and then it will all feel even more overwhelming. So I don't know about Marin.

My mother's on the phone, telling me she's anxious and sad and depressed and Rose is in the hospital again, my mother thought she was going to die but now she knows she'll get better but then this will probably happen again. It's a different stage, my mother says. Kind of like she's talking about my father's cancer, except my grandmother doesn't have cancer. She's just getting old. I mean she's already old. But now she can’t eat anything or she doesn't eat anything and then she's back in the hospital again, this time I guess she's setting up 24-hour care for once she gets home but my mother says I feel like there are these expectations of me and Dad would've said fuck that I'm not going to give up my life I mean I'm not giving up my life but it's like anything I do is not good enough, there are these demands on me and sometimes I feel angry that everything is dumped in my lap.

My mother's on the phone telling me that she wants to keep the house for the family, for nostalgic reasons, she means my grandmother's house after my grandmother dies, if she actually inherits it. She's talking about the art project, the project of selling my grandmothers art but so far it's a project of paying someone to market it, now she's telling me that if she sells any of the paintings the money will go to business expenses, the expenses of selling the paintings. Originally it was supposed to be for me and my sister, now that's a clause at the very end of the sentence if there's anything left then I'll put it aside.

My mother’s on the phone saying I don't want to pay Rose’s bills, before her lawyer was going to do that but she charges for that and I don’t but I don't want to go down there just for that I feel like I'm always being tested and if I don't do what she wants that’s it. I need to make sure that there's money from the estate to take care of the house because I can't pay for it.

I'm thinking about this money from the estate to take care of the house, to take care of the art, and my mother asks how I'm doing. I don't say: who's taking care of me? I say I feel awful today, my mother wants to know if I've made an appointment with any of the doctors she called, this is after I told her how much one of them charged and she was silent. I made an appointment with someone else, the one who takes the insurance, a 30 minute appointment because that's how it works but what's the point, there doesn't seem like a point there's no point to these doctors today I don't feel hopeful about anything I hate these doctors.

My mother has to go to bed, and when I get off the phone I feel sad that I couldn't be there for her, that I kind of fell apart at the end. I know this is ridiculous -- I listened to everything she had to say; she's never been there for me; I hate that I still feel this way. I still feel this way.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Maybe I can do that too

So then I'm outside in the finally crisp air, condoms and lube in my pocket just in case, it's good to be prepared. Standing on the top of the hill or not the top but further up I mean further up from my apartment but not quite at the top, looking down on that building that looks like a castle I mean it's designed that way. What am I thinking about that building? The way the lights blend into the sky and maybe I can do that too.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A delightful article from Asheville, North Carolina...

There's a rumor that I'm the cover girl this month in Out in Asheville -- and the extensive article even has a delicious title, "Reasons NOT to Participate in Your Own Cultural Erasure." Sounds perfect to me! Read it here...

Something more expansive

I'm wondering what I'm supposed to want from sex. What I'm supposed to want. What I want.

I used to believe in something so expansive. I still believe. I want to believe.

The thing about sex all the time is that something opens up, even when the sex isn't good there's something about the body in these spaces. The body in these spaces: me. I wonder about these spaces now. Where am I in these spaces?

Sometimes I want sex all the time even when I don't want sex. I need to remember that I won't forget, that I won't forget what it means to feel open. Except. I'm still worried. I'm worried that I'm losing something, if it's just some consumer notion of sex all the time, anywhere, then let it go. If it's something else, the dream of body to body motion in emotion a catalyst for more dreams the dreams of an openness that can hold everything can openness ever hold? That's what I'm wondering.

I don't want the sudden shuddering of my body into touch, I want something more expansive. I don't know what that is anymore, except a dream, and then I worry that if I'm not in those spaces where sex happens for me then I'll fall out of practice, won't remember the way my body can wrap around air around body, won't recognize the gestures outside loneliness. Those spaces where sex happens for me: loneliness. I don't want that anymore.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A feldenkrais moment

Sitting on the fire escape, I notice that I'm closing my right eye because of the sun and then I wonder if I always do that, because it doesn't even feel like my eye’s closed. Then inside I'm wondering about my vision on the two sides because the left feels frozen and still, the right soft and expansive and maybe sad too but I can see way further. Donna often says she thinks that I was abused from the left side, the left side in bed, and that's why everything on the left is more clenched. But I never noticed I could see so much further, and especially further back on the right, and then I try something. I close my eyes and relax and then I look in the mirror and sure enough my whole head is turned to the right, that's what feels like neutral to me, and now while I'm sitting on the computer I can feel that too and the trick with feldenkrais is not to change anything on purpose except maybe to come to neutral but instead to pay attention and then your body figures it out.

Now this is an entryway!

Saturday, August 02, 2008


What does this mean?

Engaged with disengagement

Okay, I know this is an old question, and maybe even circular, but what does it feel like to feel rested? Because I wake up after something like uninterrupted sleep, except I'm wired so I don't get up because sometimes I get wired in the middle of the night and I think it's late and then I look at the clock and oh no it's way too early. But then I wonder if maybe it really is late, and when I look at the clock it's 2 p.m. so time to get up I guess and maybe I'm rested. Although I’m trying to get up just a bit earlier to prepare for my tour or my life or something like that. Usually I think feeling wired is just the flipside of complete exhaustion, but today I’m wired and angry, like I could punch something but there's nothing to punch I mean I can't punch anything because it would hurt. Maybe I could dance, but that would hurt too. So then I just shake my head back and forth and stick my tongue out, I guess that's okay. I drink six glasses of water with lemon in a half hour, but I'm still totally dehydrated, so dehydrated that my voice is almost hoarse and what do I do with all this anger, oh house music, house music is anger it's what I need it's the way to channel everything except the horrible sinus headache, I guess I wouldn't have a sinus headache if I felt rested.

Chrissie Contagious called last night around 3:30 a.m. her time and we hadn't talked in a while, she’d just seen the new Batman movie and she was trying to get me to empathize because Heath Ledger was the new James Dean he was better than Jack Nicholson it was so sad so sad because Heath took that pile of pills and maybe Chrissie's empathizing because she's got her own pile of pills, she knows there’s just a tiny space between heaven and the end of the world. I'm wondering if she realizes she's just spouting something right from tabloid news, but I listen anyway, I'm used to listening to her drunken creativity with language leading to belligerence and the part I like is that we can talk to one another like queens all competitive and fake-shady I miss those elaborate gestures. Even when she's talking about her Gucci sunglasses that came in the box, only $40, and I say should've been 40 cents but I guess it was a nice box. Her new name is Saint Christopher Contagious, thank you, and I figure it's just because of the obvious, but then I realize it's also because now she lives in Saint Petersburg, so that's pretty funny.

One of the more coherent things Chrissie says is about going to a bar and the DJ was so hot but how could he be 34, she'll be 34 in a few weeks but he looked at least 10 years younger -- no, wait, that's not the interesting part, the interesting part is when she says she's not looking for a relationship or even sex what she wants is friends who she can hang out with. I mean sure, she's creating an uncomplicated narrative between the sluttiness of her past and the embrace full of meaning she now wants, but I like when she says you can't look for a relationship, which is a challenge to the uncomplicated narrative she's spending that's what makes it meaningful. Anyway, when I get off the phone I realize it's time to ban myself from internet cruising, it only leads to pain I always think I'm just going to browse for a moment and then that moment just keeps going on and on because the next moment is the moment where it's all going to happen and it never happens. Tonight I even got phone numbers, but I might as well just pick seven digits and throw them in a hat. So often I end up cruising online when I don't have any energy and I want something to engage me to bring me out of the drain, and sometimes it works with that but it's the wrong engagement. I'm engaged with disengagement.

So I ban myself until October, which is when I go on tour so actually it'll last longer, at the moment I'm thinking permanent wouldn't be such an awful thing except it's important to create manageable goals, right? it's not like I meet anyone from online cruising anyway, the big question is where oh where that's the big question since I can't go to bars because of the smoke, the sex clubs and porn shops are tiring, the street doesn't work, I rarely socialize in groups and I don't like going on random dates anyway. Whatever -- I can deal with questions. The good news is that as soon as I decide I'm banned from internet cruising I actually feel relieved.