Saturday, November 29, 2008

Baltimore and DC, right around the corner...

Please spread the word...

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly in BALTIMORE
Monday, December 1, 7:00 p.m.
(with Cristy Road)
Red Emma’s
800 St. Paul St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 230-0450

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly in WASHINGTON, DC
Tuesday, December 2, 7:00 p.m.
(with Jennifer Natalya Fink)
Bridge Street Books
2814 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 965-5200

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What makes it human

Let's just say that the reading is not particularly well-attended, although the space is fascinating -- it's an old-school meatpacking district loft in the neighborhood that’s now a realness playground for the excessively rich you take a rickety commercial elevator directly from the street, through what appears to be an actual woodshop, and then into the back where there's a bar and places to sit and I'm thinking about the sex party that's happening later and how crowded it will be, except I notice that already people are smoking and that brings on my panic, the smoking is in the front of the place but I know it's going to ruin my life and I want to ask to go on first so that I can leave but I'm stuck in this familiar place of not wanting to cause an uncomfortable moment or scene about what is really my basic health but it's so tiring that I have to say something sometimes it feels better to get stuck. Until after. Luckily Paula’s with me, she thinks I'm right I should ask to read first so we can escape and I go up to the host just as she's about to introduce the first performer and she says I can go second, which is the end of the first set and then the music is good and I want to dance, already I'm sad about the sex party and dancing I'm going to miss later or maybe people are just smoking now because it’s early? I'm going back and forth about it in my head, until Paula says what is the best thing that could happen?

I say amazing sex and no smoke, and Paula says no, amazing sex and there’s smoke all over and would it be worth it? No, it wouldn't be worth it at all -- that would be three weeks out of my life, so then I realize I can't go and that makes me sad that I'm banished from these places that actually mean something to me although Paula says it's good that I know how to take care of myself. Dinner is delicious and then I'm over at Jason's loft where I'm staying while he's out of town, looking on craigslist, yes craigslist in New York or the death of New York which was already dead but now really dead except actually I've liked my stay in New York this time and that’s because of people like Gina and Paula and Killer who actually know what it means to look out for me, to think about the hazards in the world as I experience them and try to intervene to make things easier or more gorgeous and hopeful.

But anyway, in this enormous posh Tribeca loft the dream of New York another kind of death I'm on craigslist responding to someone who wants to pay someone younger but not that much younger to suck him off, even though I don't want to get sucked off really that sounds boring at the moment I want the reverse but he says he's generous so why not see what that means, especially when he responds to pictures of me that actually look like me but then he wants a lower rate -- I just suck you off and you enjoy, he says, and then I remember oh that's what tricks think and anyway there's someone else who sounds more fun, wants me on my knees looking for the best angle -- he doesn't say that about the best angle but that's what I notice when I'm there in his apartment a New York specialty the size of a Tribeca loft closet in a building before fire escapes, someone who was in the Angels of Light owns or manages it, lighting sconces in the hallways like candles but electric and this guy points out the fake candle wax.

He wonders if I've been here before because I know where the bathroom is, down the hall and he says there are a lot of fags in the building but I just noticed the bathroom when I walked in because the door was open, gorgeous old tub but no shower that seems difficult. I've been to another building kind of like this with a lot of fags, except in that one the doors were made of plywood with cheap padlocks to supposedly secure something. But anyway I'm sucking his cock, that’s what I was looking for even though he smokes but he stopped before I got here, fan blowing everything out or maybe air in, yes in is what's happening now because he wants to turn it off but I say let's leave it, anyway I'm sucking his cock and yes yes yes I'm sucking his cock the way he positions my head and I keep choking he wanted me to choke that's what he said in the ad but also he wants my throat I kind of want to lean my head back except there's nowhere back to lean on but anyway there's time to appreciate the curve maybe this is the way people suck my cock the curve he's reading the most recent Tom Spanbauer book but mostly nonfiction something about genetics and destiny but written by a journalist not a scientist and in his set of tiny drawers: a plastic bag of vermillion, a wolf’s jaw that he says was his ex-boyfriend, gum erasers he's a tattoo artist. Maybe I like the swallowing part the best because of the way he's shaking and hitting the bottom of his loft bed over and over with a sound like he's angry I mean maybe I like that part best except for chatting afterwards which is what makes it human, ready for a walk outside in the cold yes the cold is when there is actually air in New York but first I'm drinking glass after glass of water there's an old sink in his room and actually his friend djed the reading but he didn't feel like going I liked her music and he says a boy named Mattilda, I'm sure we're going to run into each other again.

If you walk far enough, then you can find the sky (across the water that's the Jersey skyline, in case you were wondering...)

And when you wake up in Tribeca...

Goodbye to Prospect Park, lovely Prospect Park...

Monday, November 24, 2008

In case you're not waiting in line for the premiere of the new Harvey Milk movie or planning another exciting protest about Proposition 8...

On Wednesday, I'll be reading in a delicious New York City series called -- what else?

Reading for Filth
Wednesday, November 26, 8 pm
The Woodshop
24 Ninth Avenue (Between 13th & 14th Sts.), 5th Floor
New York, New York

It's funny how early it looks like I'm posting

But that's because this is still set for West Coast time, okay?

Gina and I are making a movie together, but where does this window lead -- Gina says she doesn't think it's a window

Maybe something satisfied just from the search

Maybe it's the sun, right it's the sun that gives me energy I don't think I had energy before the sun but then I'm not even sitting in the sun because I'm in the cruising area of Prospect Park or at lease one of the cruising areas and unfortunately it's not busy but I'm sitting on the bench just to try and see, it's probably 30° out at most but I don't feel that cold until I leave, right then my temperature sinks and I'm freezing and totally hypoglycemic, rushing back to the place where I'm staying, yes rushing in the cold.

So maybe it's not the sun, but the way desire or something like desire brings up the temperature. Maybe not desire just a frantic push to find something that isn't here but at least I'm out in the sun or not quite the sun but out among the trees where before there was sun it’s true they don't usually say cold with longing so maybe that's it too but in the moment it feels like something more, something satisfied just from the search in a place somewhat different from the usual search sure just different from lack of familiarity or the crispness of the air or the questions about birdwatching, often there's this overlap between birdwatching and, well, watching. Between watching and what happens next, which doesn't happen now, just the watching. Maybe after dark but when I'm ready to go back the next day, no I do go back the next day but it's not sunny and I don't have the same energy even though it's warmer, but when I'm ready to go back at night, just to see if night is when it's busier, then it's raining so I stay inside where this warmth is definitely from the heating mechanism this is a different kind of warmth there's no comfort it's just everything drying out so maybe the rain wouldn't be so bad except not in the park, definitely not in the park in the mud by myself where maybe I can breathe until I’m too wet not too wet to breathe but too wet to be outside.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Philadelphia, the world takes it, in case you think no one reads your blog, fancy architecture, and benches

It's amazing how getting up just one hour earlier than usual can completely destroy me, then rushing to the train station and I'm early which is almost a surprise but not so comforting because at Penn Station you have to sit on the floor, I mean if you're not standing and staring at the arrivals screen until you become part of the horde into gate six or wherever. I like the huge neon sign welcoming the world to Trenton, New Jersey: we make it, the world takes it, but actually that's not what it says but what it means, kind of, except probably more value on the taking, yes taking while still the emphasis on making.

My last few tours I haven't spent much time in Philadelphia because it's always towards the end and I'm trying to stay in as few places as possible, this time I get to Giovanni's Room and everyone is welcoming, especially Ed who runs the store and I’ve decided to read something different this time, since I'm getting bored of the same excerpts I know so well. It's an interesting mixture of excerpts, probably more serious And a bit darker than some but I like the arc around incest especially. The crowd is probably more mixed here than anywhere else, especially in terms of gender and age, since there are a fair number of fags, and a fair number of fags over 40 but also the younger queers I expect and I recognize a few people from previous readings. I like the way the audience goes in different directions in this old house converted into store, or two houses actually, and gets bigger as the reading starts. Readings at Giovanni's Room are always at 5:30 pm, so it's hard not to be late, I mean for everyone else as well as me. There's a good mix of questions, first very specific to the text which I always like I think those always give me insight into my own process, and a few questions about my influences, and then the questions about direct action and, yes, Proposition 8 protests. After the reading, Ed gives me a book as a gift and I ask him how the store is doing -- it's not doing well, which is sad because it's one of the few queer bookstores that actually feels like a resource, and Ed owns the building so they don't have the pressure of rent, so that means they must really not be doing well financially so maybe this is my subtle hint to go in there if you're in Philadelphia and looking for new books and of course I can think of at least one you could start with...

After the reading, Heather, who I met in Chicago, coordinates the journey to a nearby vegan restaurant, which turns out to be a bit expensive for most people I think but everyone's maybe trying to be polite about it, but guess what? There's another section right next door that's way cheaper, so that's where we go and it's fun talking more intimately about activism and struggle and I like that several people tell me they read my blog and that's even how they heard about the reading -- just in case you ever think no one reads your blog, they both say, which is of course what I'm always thinking I mean not always but sometimes so it's nice to hear. And Michael drove all the way from State College, Pennsylvania -- three hours, I think -- and right after the reading he says it was worth it, yay! On the way to his car for a ride back to the train station, we discover some fancy new architecture and then I'm drinking two bottles of water in the train station while waiting again, here at least there are benches.

Look, I found the sun -- I found the sun in Prospect Park!

The discreet charm of the Wall Street Journal

This is my column from the current issue of make/shift, in case you haven't seen it -- if you like the column, check out the magazine, and if you like the magazine and can afford a subscription, that's one way to keep it going...

Sometimes something ridiculous happens and I keep thinking I’m going to write about it when it doesn’t feel traumatizing anymore but that takes a while and after a while I don’t want to write about it. That’s what happened with the Wall Street Journal article.

But really this is about my relationship with Mary, our relationship in Gay Shame, the activist group that was the center of my world for several years it made me feel like I could dream. Like we could build something by sculpting our critiques into pageantry as armor and instigation. I guess it was a primary relationship—me, and this particular Mary, and Gay Shame—in the way that my primary relationships generally work, us against the world, except it was also Mary struggling against Gay Shame and struggling against me. Mary was totally contradictory but brilliant and crazed and hilarious and I thought that together we could make more space.

When someone does an interview as part of Gay Shame, that person uses the name “Mary,” as well as a fictitious last name. So we’re all Marys. This gesture is part of what Gay Shame has done best—to bring camp to its fullest possibilities as a scathing satirical tool, in this case not only satirizing media/police preoccupation with “leaders,” but invoking a camp queer history on our own terms.

When I did the interview with the Wall Street Journal, my name was Mary Hedgefunds, and I wore a frosted, asymmetrical, gray mullet wig, sunglasses, smeared eye makeup, and lipstick with a business outfit gone awry. I met the interviewer at my house. Bobby White was his name and he was a black man in Casual Fridays attire—black pants and black polo shirt—who’d recently moved into the condo-style apartments directly behind my building, thinking they were such a good deal with parking and a pool and laundry and a hot tub, but then he started walking around the neighborhood and saw people smoking crack out in the open, he’d grown up in D.C. but he’d never seen anyone smoking crack.

I said: the problem isn’t people smoking crack, the problem is real estate speculation that makes the neighborhood unlivable for the people who’ve come here for generations—marginalized queers, trans women, sex workers, runaways, new immigrants to the United States, street kids, people on disability, older queers—and, yes, drug addicts. The problem is when Lower Polk Neighbors, an association of property owners and businesspeople, decides that they don’t want a needle exchange in the neighborhood because their property values and happy-hour specials are more important than people’s basic needs.

“But what is your real name, Mary?” Bobby White kept asking. And I kept saying, “My real name is Mary Hedgefunds.” Gay Shame wasn’t interested in a human-interest story.

The article, titled “San Francisco Residents Fight to Stay Seedy in Low-Rent District,” appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. It portrayed a battle between Carolyn Abst, the founder of Lower Polk Neighbors, who just wanted to plant trees, and a group called Gay Shame, which fought to preserve the neighborhood’s “gritty ambience.” The article’s stance is perhaps summarized best by a quote from Abst: “I had no idea that cleanliness, beauty and safety could get people so riled up.”

This absurd angle was not particularly surprising in the newspaper owned by the stock exchange, but there were some interesting elements. The article confirmed that Lower Polk Neighbors “successfully petitioned the city for more street cleaning and pushed to shut down a needle-exchange program operated by a nonprofit,” and hired homeless youth to plant trees in front of Carolyn Abst’s architecture firm, paying them the preposterous amount of six dollars a day (not the comparably generous figure of six dollars an hour that I had mentioned during the interview).

Bobby White did some research, and decided to quote me as “Matt Bernstein Sycamore,” without my consent (and without any fact-checking). Call me misguided, but I thought the Wall Street Journal would be worried about libel. Of course, I should have known better, since, to them, I represented no more than a “sometime club host” and a “former prostitute.”

This article appeared when I was in the midst of a very dramatic trip. Eleven years after confronting my father about sexually abusing me as a kid, and telling him I would never speak to him again unless he could acknowledge molesting me, I’d decided to visit him anyway: he was dying of cancer, and I didn’t want to realize, ten years down the line, that I wished I’d seen him before he died. I read the Wall Street Journal article when I was staying in the office condo where my father had formerly practiced psychotherapy, getting ready to visit him in the house where I grew up, the house I hadn’t visited in fourteen years; this is when Mary comes back in the story, the Mary I was talking about earlier. Mary decided that it was a good time to tell me I was compromising my integrity by deciding to visit my father, and that she didn’t believe my account of the interview—she thought I was trying to use the Wall Street Journal article for my own gain.

To say that I was shocked by Mary’s simultaneous lack of support for a huge life choice and her mistrust regarding the contents of an interview with a newspaper that represented everything we abhorred would be an understatement; I was appalled. Over the previous year, my participation in Gay Shame had become less satisfying—it felt like our politics remained rigorous but our activities had become less engaged. I stayed with the group because I believed in the relationships that had come out of it, the friendships that I thought were sustaining me. But as my relationship with Mary collapsed, I wondered about my participation in Gay Shame, whether it was more about loyalty and consistency than about inspiration.

There’s nothing I like less than when activists bring their personal issues into group process, and Mary routinely reveled in such drama, so I decided not to go back to Gay Shame meetings until we’d resolved the questions in our relationship. We never resolved those questions, and I haven’t returned. It’s been a year and a half, and I miss having an activist home base. I miss having a place for my manic ideas among other people with manic ideas who are dedicated to mixing it all up and creating something splendid and threatening. I still have manic ideas, but I feel less hopeful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Here she is, stretching...

I just want sleep and my lips are chapped

Waiting for the subway and I'm enraged, what was I thinking running out of food rushing into the station thinking I'll just jump on the train and be back in moments, if I go out for food first then it will take another hour. But of course the subway isn't there and it's an hour commute, how could I let myself run out of food? People are looking at me I want to smack them I keep waiting for the train I need food, 1 a.m. without food on the subway platform and I'm angry at myself for wanting to go out even though I hate going out, wanting sex even though I don't know where to find it at least I used to know where to find sex, even outdoors where the smoke wouldn't matter but that place has already been erased from memory almost, when Paula was driving me out to Killer’s where I'm staying now we ran right into the gates of Stuyvesant Park, locked gates locked off memories if nothing else New York should offer sex instead of strange not-quite nostalgia because I know I hated living here but I didn't hate Stuyvesant Park 1 a.m. overload of sensation yes that sensation when overload means overload means yes.

I can't believe I went into Manhattan to get an amino acid formula that helps me not to get so hypoglycemic so fast or maybe it's faster here anyway faster with the mood swings exhaustion as soon as I leave the house but then I'm stuck, stuck getting where I was going except not the amino acids, dinner and at first I can barely function I mean I just ate 15 minutes ago in the subway I'm eating again before eating but conversation, how? But then it works, the white tiles of the wall in the restaurant and the bathroom is like a dance club, I like bathrooms like dance clubs and vegan Thai food that's mild enough for me to eat and then I actually feel like I'm ready for more, something more like my lips all over someone's face or just music for a few minutes if I was in San Francisco I would know it was time to go home before I crashed or jump in a cab right at the moment or even if I was still staying where I was staying before, 11th St. and 6th Ave. in my own apartment like a New York dream where you walk outside and it’s all there if you crash then it's just a few blocks not the reality of living here and waiting for the subway sitting on the overheated train walking too far in the cold even though I love the cold in New York it's the only time when we air doesn't quite assault me or if it assaults me then at least I can breathe.

At least the cold invigorates me, I'm telling stories of ending up in 4 a.m. coke dens but then as soon as it’s back into someone's apartment the heat not the heat I can't function anymore that's how I run out of food. Only New York do I want to go out, is it New York or is it because that's what I did when I lived here? Back on the subway platform, tired and angry and tired and angry but at least I don't want cocktails, they don't sound appealing at all I just want to scream or kick a wall or kiss someone or fall down until the rats get too close or the wrong person's shoes but then it's the heated train and I can hardly keep my eyes open I'm so tired the heat shuts my brain down I just want sleep and my lips are chapped.

Great taste in reading material, that's for sure...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tomorrow I'm in Philadelphia!

Here are the details:

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly in PHILADELPHIA
Thursday, November 20, 5:30 p.m.
Giovanni’s Room
1145 Pine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 923-2960

Here I am, trying to find the sun...

Bluestockings, so explosive!

Bluestockings is where I held my first book launch, way back in 2000, and of course I've done tons of reading there since then and it's always a special place, starting with the lineup of smart, engaged, friendly and excited volunteers. And what's immediately incredible about this reading is to see so many people in the audience who I respect and admire -- writers, activists, old friends, new friends -- all of this history, my own history and a history of queer resistance in New York right here in this room I forget I have this history in New York too, probably nowhere else like this except San Francisco where I expect it to a certain extent but here it's kind of a surprise, an intoxicating surprise it's one of those moments when I can feel so much and I realize oh, this is when it's all worth it, all the struggles to get here and everywhere but especially here yes here it's what I'm looking for.

I like the cadences of my reading, more variations then I sometimes feel and afterwards there are all these great questions about my writing and the politics and the voice and the style, vulnerability, the tragedy of the activism around proposition 8, what I've learned on my tour, whether I fit into the legacy of experimental writing from Burroughs to Robert Gluck, Kathy Acker, Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian (yes!). I like the question about the voice in the novel since I say voice is the most important thing and someone notices oh, that voice is different from your voice and what does that mean? Because of the consolidation of a lot of different voices and also I edited out a lot of the more essayish ways that I talk and think I wanted it to be messier. I like this question because often people just assume that since it's autobiographical fiction, that since the things that happen to the narrator in So Many Ways to Sleep Badly probably happened to me, therefore the voice is just me.

Of course, it is me, but it's less of certain things like political explication and the mechanics of direct action or writing, and maybe more emphasis on the desires of the moment and the collapse of the everyday and I think because so many different things happen from paragraph to paragraph it all blends together into one voice which is all these voices and their ruptures, which are maybe still mine but again there's the emphasis and after the reading the same person, James, says something about the explosiveness as a technique instead of the mechanics of the quest for professionalism that defines writing programs and graduate school and all that that I've avoided and I like that analysis too.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tomorrow I'm reading in New York!

Come join me:

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly in NEW YORK
Tuesday, November 18, 7 p.m.
Bluestockings Bookstore
172 Allen St (between Stanton and Rivington)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 777-6028

New York, New York

In New York, you want everything and you get nothing and then you want everything and you get something small but you think it's something bigger and you want more but you get less and then you want everything again. I hated living here, but there is some truth to the cliché about a great place to visit. If you can afford to spend money every time you leave the house. After vegan Japanese macrobiotic food -- that's one of those moments for me -- it's so good that I want to go back for more right after I leave.

Walking through the West Village in the mid-afternoon, it's a stream of children's clothing stores and dogs and pet stores and babies, what a nightmare! Until I'm sitting in Sheridan Square, trying to experience something like direct sunlight before it all goes down, and right away this queen who's probably homeless or on the verge of homelessness says you better work, Mama, and I like the connections between this queen and her friend and some other older queers, a few mixed race couple and a few queer youth, just a glimpse of something now mostly lost among the tourists and the woman yelling at her froufrou dog not to run in the leaves Tansia! Tansia!

In New York I go from no energy to desperation to studying every male face for desire to thinking I have to go out, somewhere, anywhere, then no energy again -- all in about 15 minutes. Pretty much every 15 minutes, except when I'm talking to friends or running into Joe, who I haven't seen since my That's Revolting! tour four years ago when we met and had a fun romance but then he never called me back and we run into each other at the hair salon -- he hasn't gotten his hair professionally cut in 15 years, and he's on his way to volunteer at Bluestockings afterwards, where I’m reading tomorrow! He says it was meant to be, and I'm appreciating the sudden connection which is what brings me to the Japanese macrobiotic food, nurturing from two directions and then, for a few minutes at least, I'm not craving anything.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sorry, No on 8 isn't really no on hate

I tried my best to ignore Proposition 8, I mean to ignore all the attention around marriage, even as I received a voicemail message featuring a recording of Barack Obama, a message from Barack Obama himself, another announcement coordinated by various gay elected officials, and then was that really Bill Clinton? All urged me, or someone like me, to vote No on 8. $40 million can get you a lot of attention, but I do think it's now as important as ever to question what exactly all this money pouring into pro-marriage coffers is doing. One thing we can say for sure: it didn't achieve the desired result in this particular electoral battle.

If we take a look at the failed No on 8 campaign, we can see the usual "we're just like you” charade, and it seems to me that this whole gay marriage effort already cedes the battlefield to the homophobes. Accept us on your terms, without making any structural changes except for a copyedit in marriage documents, that's how this argument goes. We want to spend just as much on bridal gowns and tuxedos, diamonds and bachelor parties and showers and honeymoons, we’re ready for the white picket fence and the 2.5 children and the gas-guzzling SUV, we can wave the stars-and-stripes just as feverishly as any other pro-war patriots. In fact, we are so much like you that we are ready to arrest homeless queers for getting in the way of happy hour, to oppose queer youth shelters for interfering with property values, and to endlessly cleanse our gentrifying neighborhoods of undesirables like trans women, sex workers, people of color, disabled people, the elderly, people with AIDS and anyone else who might terrorize the great white American dream. No, we are not men lingering in toilets or alleys for a taste of cock, we are not women teasing with whips or turning tricks on the corner, we are not furious gender deviants or ferocious sexual perverts, we’re just like you -- we tuck the children in at night and we wage war inside the home where no one else can see.

And guess what? I know it sounds awfully strange, but somehow this argument doesn't exactly challenge structural homophobia. In fact, it furthers the violence by declaring that anyone who doesn't want marriage and all of its centuries of baggage is not worthy of "equal rights" like food or shelter or healthcare or the rights now procured through citizenship -- never mind sexual splendor or gender self-determination, remember we just want platinum wedding rings and participatory patriarchy, our space in the kitchen or battering the TV during Super Bowl season. What I'm saying is that all the money and attention and energy going into the fight for gay marriage may be doing just as much to perpetuate homophobia as any religious bigots.

Sure, the messages might be slightly different. Right-wing homophobes say we all deserve to burn in hell, God hates gays, sodomy is evil, and so on. Meanwhile, gay marriage proponents systematically wipe out any representations of queerness other than the straight-friendly, job-holding, America-loving, monogamous, middle-class coupled partnership.

Furthermore, with this single-issue struggle, everything else, including anti-gay, anti-queer, and anti-trans violence gets swept under the beige carpet. Gay marriage proponents appropriate civil rights discourse while saying “it's the blacks that voted against us.” They promote religious tyranny (marriage is the answer), while pointing the blame at religious bigots (“it's the Mormons”).

Unfortunately, with all the protests emerging nationwide, no one is asking what on earth happened to that $40 million? Instead, it seems that marriage proponents are anxious to funnel millions and millions more into dead-end “LGBT” institutions? Are we going to continue protesting on the terms of the right-wingers, with signs like "God Supports Gay Marriage?” Could anything be worse?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Finally -- an event in Washington, DC!

Here are the details (note that it has moved one day earlier):

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly in WASHINGTON, DC
(with Jennifer Natalya Fink)
Tuesday, December 2, 7:00 p.m.
Bridge Street Books
2814 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 965-5200

Also, feel free to check my tour list for any other updates...

More things to figure out

I'm conscious of the way in which my tour updates might create a sense that everything is going more smoothly than it is. The reality is that I'm so exhausted that I can hardly function, which sounds strange because I just did an event at Harvard where I functioned so well -- I really enjoyed the conversation and the intimacy and engagement and it surprised me because beforehand I was so exhausted I thought how? Why? What am I doing?

And then back to the exhaustion -- so I can function, but only in windows when necessary and then I'm back to wanting to get back in bed, even if it's my shower at the beginning of the day I'm still thinking bed would be lovely yes bed would be lovely yes bed although I can't spend all my time there or at least not yet. At least I'm sleeping, 12 hours a night for the last three nights and I'm ready for more yes more so quickly I go from feeling an intimacy with strangers the intimacy of politics and questioning and then I'm moving on to the next city, New York where I thought I would be in the same place for two weeks but now maybe two or three places and for a while I was used to being in other people spaces but now after five days with my own apartment I'm a bit wary of close quarters again, even while trying to find them, I mean where I'm staying for 10 days starting Wednesday.

I wonder if seasonal affective disorder is approaching, strange to be in Boston without going into Boston I mean the whole time I've been in Cambridge and Somerville which are on the outskirts, never the places where I went when I lived in Boston but that was 13 years ago I don't miss it at all, nothing about it really although, for fans of urbanism, the T in Boston is rather loud like one imagines a subway should be, and there are stores underground nothing I would want but still it's somewhat comforting.

Last night's reading taught me a lesson: I wanted a bigger venue than before, but way fewer people showed up. The smallest crowd of my tour, actually, except for Bellingham which is a small town. So the bookstore ordered a ton of copies, but who knows where those copies will end up -- I mean, probably back at the distributor. And, it turns out that the Harvard Coop, which I thought was a long-term independent bookstore, is actually covertly owned by Barnes & Noble, oh no I actually ended up reading accidentally at a Barnes & Noble! All because I fetishized this other store, an actually independent bookstore called the Harvard Book Store, but they were full and then City Lights booked the Harvard Coop and the good news is that the person who introduced me actually wrote and presented something smart, plus the people who did come were really engaged, with great questions and it was fun hanging out and catching up with old and new friends afterwards, both in and out of the store, yay for brown rice sushi that didn't make me sick and tea and a photo booth! But next time I should probably go back to the Lucy Parsons Center where last time it was packed, or accept one of the offers sense in my direction by people who wanted to organize something for me but when I'm planning a whole tour, things get overwhelming and that was one of those things.

And now I'm overwhelmed again, just thinking about getting back on the train but not for so long, just to New York and then more things to figure out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Amherst -- functioning, flaming femme identity, nonlinear before and afterwards, the way music works, and a comfortable ride

One of the good things about touring is when suddenly the details come together, I mean I guess I could also say one of the bad things about touring is when you're sitting in Montréal wondering where you're going to stay in Boston, your next stop, and how the hell you're going to get to Amherst and back to Boston, but then it all comes together and I have this great place to stay and Irene comes to get me to drive to Amherst and I still don't know how I'm getting back to Boston, I need to get back tonight because I need one day when I'm not traveling and not doing an event so I can rest and go to a feldenkrais appointment, but if nothing else then I will rush out of the Amherst event and Irene will drive me to Springfield where I can catch a bus back to Boston. So everything's okay, kind of, except my legs hurting in the car, hurting from the bus, but that's to be expected and I keep thinking feldenkrais is tomorrow, feldenkrais is tomorrow.

It's fun talking with Irene and about San Francisco which she misses, when she wears bright colors people say oh you're still dressing like you're in the Bay Area but really most people don't wear bright colors in the Bay Area either, although I guess there are more flamboyant creatures that's one of the joys. Then about femme identity and various work-related dramas and familial pains and we're trying to figure out the directions from some Google maps or whatever, I find that Google maps never quite works I mean it's always confusing but eventually we arrive, three minutes before 7 p.m. when the reading is scheduled to start and that's perfect.

Food for Thought, where I'm reading, is bigger than I remembered and people seem excited right away, especially the glamorous queers in the front row, and sure enough the audience is with me right away and they stay with me, laughing and gasping and laughing and quiet, back and forth and all at once and I ask for a ride a few times but not arrives yet and I like the question from Miranda about whether I wrote the book as a nonlinear novel or made it nonlinear afterwards and a question about whether it's fiction or nonfiction -- fiction, of course, and then afterwards one of the people in the front row is trying to convince me to go back to Hampshire College and hang out and smoke pot and catch the bus in the morning, which is kind of funny because hanging out and chatting some more instead of rushing off to Springfield would be much more fun but the rest is not exactly on my palate, and it's one of the first times when I find it difficult to convince someone that actually I need to get back, need to get back because my body will fall apart I won't be able to function I'm only barely functioning now sometimes it's hard to make these things clear in the face of excitement about my ideas and me too, yes me and my ideas and the world that holds me.

An older dyke from the audience comes up to thank me for my work, all of it she says, and that kind of generational acknowledgment means a lot to me. Then a fun conversation with Matt Dineen who put me on the radio, and Caty about the way music works in my novel, a photo shoot with the queers from the front row and chatting with others about sex work here among the trees and wait now I do have a ride yes a ride back to Boston with Tracey and Bex and I like our fun and slightly slapstick banter through the different towns in Western Mass and into the highway gift shop and back to Boston or Somerville which isn't quite Boston but it's where I'm staying it's a sweet and comfortable ride.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Maybe the top floor

Sometimes I feel like I'm dealing with this tour better, my body isn't such a mess, but then I get hit with one of those days when I'm flattened, one thing I need to remember is not to push through the fatigue at night, late night I mean near bedtime like when I did that interview and Montréal it was too much to push myself when I was already that tired. Then my sleep, oh my sleep at night was the worst. At home sometimes they do that almost every night, it's a habit to try to break, maybe another corner, turn.

When people say: thank you for your books. Or: thank you for your work. It's enough to make me cry, especially this one night when I really do cry, in the bathroom and Montréal and that feels important. The next day I go to the gay village, just to go somewhere maybe to see it to see what it's like, the buildings are grand and there are several bath houses in a row but the neighborhood feels pretty empty and then I get overwhelmed by that feeling that happened in every gay neighborhood, like they're supposed to be something here for me and I should find it so I walk back and forth a few times or around corners but there's nothing, there's always nothing I know that. I try to decide whether to go to the bath house even though I'm exhausted, I mean when else will I be in Montréal? Maybe I'll get energy once I get inside, but I know the truth -- even if I get a moment a burst of some sort of feeling, eventually I'll be walking around in circles more exhausted than before so I go back into the subway station where there's too much mold and take the train back to the bus back to the place where I'm staying, three health food stores right in a row just three blocks away that's one of my favorite parts.

Who needs drugs when there are songs about drugs, that's what I'm thinking on the bus, buses are like trains except without as much possibility. I mean you can certainly get trapped on a train, but you're immediately trapped on a bus, nowhere to go except the bathroom not the bathroom again not really a room or a bath but there's a little bit of space to stand and stretch and dance in the mirror. That's right -- the music is the possibility, what did I do when I didn't bring music oh now I can imagine, this music lets me float over and under the seats until I'm whirling around from floor to headrest, floor to headrest a circle of light in dark and light but mostly movement maybe just a wisp of soft whirling fog that's me. The music says: if we abuse/or physical health/we will pay for it -- take a tablet, take a pill, on the dance floor it would be give me drugs give me drugs a give-me-drugs classic we all love those classics on the dance floor but here it also sounds like a critique of the pharmaceutical industry and just like that one of my headphones snaps off, actually it's when I stand to go to the bathroom again, bathroom to dance, still the bathroom to dance in the mirror where I watch the headphone that's snapped, I mean just the white cord bouncing on my magenta shirt swaying gently a failure of corporate comfort.

Back in my seat staring inside and outside lights blurring darkness, everyone has fallen asleep from lack of oxygen and I'm thinking everything's better at night, I can almost forget that I never go dancing I can never go dancing because of body because of smoke, but what about at one of those Montréal clubs, six different floors the doors are sealed tight because of the cold and maybe the top floor, just maybe the top floor.

Catching up

The place where I'm staying in Boston is incredible -- a one-bedroom apartment directly in Davis Square in Somerville, looking out over the trees with yellow leaves and flagpoles I won't look too closely at what flags are flying. 3 pm and the sun is already going down so I run outside to sit in the square and get some direct sunlight, but it doesn't quite work because the buildings are blocking so I sit on something that looks kind of like a sundial but it's cement, in an intersection and now I can see the sun it’s kind of idyllic here in this old town square with almost everything I would need right here I'm thinking if I ever move back to Boston I should live right here, right here in this square maybe I would ask Barb if there were any apartments in her building although wait they're probably all one-bedrooms so I couldn't afford it, but anyway I'm not moving back to Boston.

It's interesting, though, watching the high school kids interact and some of them are about to say something to me but they don't and Boston was definitely the place I lived where I experienced the most virulent on-the-street homophobia, harassment literally all the time every day every time I left the house there was someone screaming at me what's up with that shit what's up with that shit that shit is fucked up or something like that, I remember kids chasing me down the street with sticks in one neighborhood but that was kind of funny, someone else dropping a cement block out their window, and it crashing right in front of my friend Gabby and me as we walked home and that wasn't as funny, another time some guy stopped his baby stroller to start screaming right in our faces you fucking faggots what are you doing in my neighborhood?

Oh, we live here.

You walk on, maybe smile or blow kisses or stop to chat or laugh if you can manage or try to pretend you don't notice because that's what everyone else is doing except that means they’re participating in the violence whereas you're just trying to survive.

But anyway, I'm thinking that people don't seem to be staring in the same way here in Davis Square, maybe because it's a liberal enclave and not one of the pre-gentrification neighborhoods I lived in back in ‘94 and ‘95, and just as I'm thinking this there's a group of kids standing across the street looking at me and pointing and laughing and then I've already forgotten and I'm on the phone and this kid, awkward geeky white boy with braces and overgrown barbershop hair, maybe 12 years old at the most, he comes over and stands maybe 3 feet from me and yells are you gay? Yes, I say, and go back to my conversation, and he says eew, that's gross, and he’s standing and staring at me like I'm supposed to react and I'm talking on the phone and he says do you FUCK other guys? Yes, I say, and he makes all these faces and says eew, that’s gross that’s GROSS!

I'm on the phone, I say, and he says: with your boyfriend? And I laugh, because I'm on the phone with Barb, my wonderful host, who I've never met. And then this kid leaves but he keeps looking back like he can't believe it that I'm still sitting there, it seems like he's kind of in a rush, maybe to catch up with his friends.

Wait, is this really where I'm staying? And all by myself -- it's almost like a vacation!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I found a wonderful place to stay in Boston -- thanks, Barb and Michele!

Now I just need a ride Amherst from Boston (Somerville) to Amherst on Tuesday around 4 pm and back from Amherst later that night after the reading...


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Moving on to Massachusetts -- and I need help, last-minute help!

Here are the events, but please read on because I'm looking for a bit of last-minute assistance (a ride to Amherst and a place to stay in Boston, oh no!):

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly in AMHERST
Tuesday, Nov 11, 7:00 p.m.
Food for Thought
106 N. Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01002
(413) 253-5432

So Many Ways to Sleep Badly in BOSTON
Thursday, November 13, 7:00 p.m.
Harvard Coop
1400 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02238
(617) 499-2000

And the help -- yes, I've reached that point in my tour where I'm fighting fighting fighting the exhaustion and pain drama and also refusing to allow the emergence of a cold which takes a lot of energy and a few things have fallen through the cracks, so now I'm looking for a ride to Amherst tomorrow night -- Sunday, November 9 -- my bus from Montréal arrives at South Station at 10:55 PM, is there anyone who wants to go on a late-night adventure and drive to Amherst then? I can pay to fill up the car with a tank of gas or even pay for a car rental if you don't have one. Alternately, a ride on the evening of Monday, November 10 could work -- or even right before my event on Tuesday, November 11 -- let me know.

And, I need a place to stay in Boston -- a room of my own with a bed and a door that closes, + a kitchen where I can cook large pots of vegan food -- I would either be in Boston from Sunday, November 9 to Saturday, November 15 or from Wednesday to Saturday if I get to Amherst early.

If you have any ideas, please call call call me at 415-440-1575, leave a voicemail and I'll call back (I'll have email until midnight tonight but not tomorrow)…

Montréal -- oh, Montréal!

I'm fighting off the emergence of a cold, starting with a sore throat and then sinus congestion it keeps starting and then I stop it but then it starts again and the good news is that today I'm winning, 13 hours of sleep and yes it messes up my schedule a bit but I think I need it. Then I'm reading the big reviews that came out today for Daniel Allen Cox, my host in Montréal -- the Globe and Mail, Canada's largest paper -- and the review is positive but totally sensational like a trick gazing in at this tawdry world, which is Shuck, Daniel’s book from the point of view of a kid turning tricks in New York, and I start crying because this is what success means -- these morons saying our work maybe deserves to exist and pandering to what they think their audience wants and I hate them. But the good news is that Daniel gets another review on the same day, or at least it arrives in this house on the same day, and that one is smart and insightful but I'm still crying, this time maybe happiness and it strikes me as a bit silly that I'm crying about reviews for someone else's book and I don't cry about my reviews, good or bad I mean ever. It's easier to cry for someone else, even when you're crying for yourself and I'm also emotional because I like Montréal so much, I think I'd like to come here at some point and stay for a while, maybe get some sort of writer-in-residence kind of gig, who knows.

But the event -- the event at McGill is amazing, I think it's one of my best because the audience is totally there with me, I mean sometimes on this tour I've noticed that people are super-attentive and engaged but they also look a bit confused by the work I'm presenting and that's not the case here in Montréal -- not the case at all I mean it almost seems as familiar as San Francisco the way people are holding my work except I don't know any of these people. I start by reading the beginning of the book and then I give the talk I was preparing because I figured I'm in the lecture hall so I might as well give a talk, the talk about my history and my history of writing and maybe even my history of writing history. Or maybe that's too much: my writing history. And then I end by reading from the book again, and I feel like people are really there with all the cadences and the rolling disturbances of experience and voice and expression.

I like that the questions center around the novel, around my process of writing about music and writing like music, and then about my other work -- gender and passing and the role of place in my activism and by this point I'll admit that I'm getting tired but the one-on-one interactions with people afterwards really feel nourishing, that's one of the best parts about going on tour to meet and interact with people coming to meet and interact with me. I feel more like I'm that me, the me I'm looking to be.

It's also great that they have all my books for sale and they sell like crazy and people are buying several and several people come up to talk specifically about Dangerous Families, my book that's gotten the least attention, and also about incest and surviving and speaking and surviving and speaking again. I like hugging people who ask for hugs or who I ask if they might like one, it feels grounding and intimate that's the way I feel about this reading and talk and event, grounding and intimate for sure and then afterwards I go to dinner with some of the organizers of the event at this delicious vegan restaurant, and we talk some more and everyone seems quite sophisticated in their queer identities and I learn some interesting details about Montréal like the fact that even though Francophone and Anglophone communities exist side-by-side, that in the Francophone gay worlds there's not quite a word for queer and what that means for queerness in Montréal. Also the enforced misogyny at Montréal gay bars which sounds even more extreme than what I'm accustomed to.

Two of the organizers say they were talking to each other after the event and it was like when I was speaking I had somehow gotten into their heads, speaking their thoughts speaking to their thoughts and that's beautiful. It's what I want. Afterwards I'm definitely ready to fall over but I've agreed to a radio interview so we walk to a 24-hour diner and have our conversation there -- I think the show is called Audio Smut, so I thought we would be talking about sex which is easier to talk about when I'm exhausted then the politics around gender and self-expression and resistance, border policing and queer cultures and even what I think about Proposition 8 which bans gay marriage in California and Proposition K which tried to decriminalize sex work in San Francisco. I like it when the two hosts end up arguing between each other about a question I mean I like it because they’re expressing disagreement even in this collective process.

And Montréal, oh Montréal! I'm staying in the perfect location, a few doors down from a supplement store and a few blocks away from three small health food stores in a row and I love the bilingual aspects of day-to-day interaction so much. I was obsessed with French language and culture when I was in high school, so I can still speak some French and I can feel it getting stronger just in a few days -- in San Francisco, it seems ridiculous or even pompous to study French but here it’s the reverse and that's part of why I want to come back, to speak more French or even become relatively fluent and, of course to explore and figure out the city so much more -- I've been so exhausted that I haven't even made it to one of Montréal's legendary bath houses or sex parties, so hopefully there will be future possibilities.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why I'm not celebrating an Obama victory

I'm pretty sure that I've never watched a Presidential candidate's concession speech, and definitely not from Canada where I deliberately scheduled my book tour to wander during this election time. Here I am sobbing while listening to John McCain, who knew?

I'm sobbing because so many people have such high hopes for an Obama presidency and I can see him shredding those hopes one by one until we're left with nothing but the shredder. It's tempting to say that an Obama presidency has to be dramatically better than a McCain presidency, but then I remember the last Democrat to replace a Bush, the charming saxophone player who succeeded in Reaganite dreams of dismantling welfare, expanding the security state, and grandiose "free trade" agreements like NAFTA that further trashed environmental standards, job security and standards of living.

We don't have to look far to see the ways in which Obama will betray us. After all, it's only been days since he shepherded the trillion-dollar Wall Street giveaway by actively campaigning for its passage and securing enough Democrats in favor to override free-market Republicans who were staunchly opposed. In fact, the only demographic more visibly against this hideous misdirection of resources to the millionaires and billionaires actually causing the financial crisis was the US public as a whole, who jammed Congressional phone lines to such an extent that the powers-that-be decided to briefly shut those lines of communication off. These callers, letter writers, bloggers, campaigners, and voters were overwhelmingly against this corporate-cozy charade.

So, in strict terms, then, this certainly wouldn't be a move that would pull Obama ahead -- why, then, go against what the US public wanted at a critical election moment? Because, of course, Obama is not beholden to the US public as much as he is to his corporate underwriters. Any rhetoric about change strikes me as a joke when juxtaposed against the Wall Street giveaway, which we will certainly feel for decades as social programs get axed and spending for basic needs dwindles.

This is only where Obama's hypocrisy starts. When he talks about keeping on some of George Bush's cronies, including Iran-Contra war criminal (and current Secretary of Defense) Robert Gates, we should ready ourselves for more covert and overt wars around the globe. Starting with a dramatic buildup in Afghanistan, which he has already outlined. And Obama even scandalized his Democratic cohort Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House representing one of the most antiwar districts in the country yet ensuring the continuation of the US war on Iraq, when he voted in favor of offshore oil drilling while at the same time talking about a change in energy policy. We can only expect more corporate-cozy shenanigans in the future.

On the flipside, at least Obama isn't talking about nuking Iran. Yet.

Toronto -- the boat, lovely red lighting, JT LeRoy, camaraderie, restaurant oil, what helps and what hurts, what hurts and what helps

Jess and I arrive early at The Boat where the event is taking place -- it's this cavernous Chinatown bar in warm cabaret tones of red and brown, red lights too and it's upstairs with two heavy doors which is exciting because maybe that will block out the smoke from downstairs. No one else is there yet, not even the organizers and the bar owner is asking us questions we don't exactly know how to answer but eventually everyone else arrives, including the crowd, which ends up filling most of the space and then Sandra Alland starts off with a hilarious found poem that I read in make/shift And then Stacey May Fowles reads from her new book, Fear of Fighting, which is hilarious and filled with anxiety and high-fashion satire. Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is next, and her piece is an insomniac treasure that even references the last time I was in Toronto, and Jess organized a dinner party at her house, and how does Tara-Michelle describe it? I wish I could remember her great description about how we were talking about gender and abuse and activism and intimacy and sex work and how her boyfriend at the time said he just felt like he wasn't included, or something like that – it’s scathing and delicious. Then Sandra reads from a piece the Scottish Arts Council decided wasn't a story, I want to know what they thought it was -- dialog boxes framing the tensions between conversation and identity, that's what I'm going to say -- certainly a story, as far as I'm concerned!

I wanted a podium so that I wouldn't have to hold the book and hurt myself, they do have a music stand but that doesn't really help, but what's more awkward is trying to read in the dim-lit space, glamorous lighting for sure but not so great for seeing words. People are quiet and loud too, it's a good mix and there’s one point when someone really starts hollering and I love that but somehow I can't remember exactly where it happens. There's lots of great applause, yay for applause and then it's quiet at first for questions but Charlie, the proprietor of This Ain't the Rosedale Library, asks what I think about JT LeRoy, well that's a big question! Then from Dan, his former business partner who kind of seems like still his business partner tonight, asks about whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, and what makes the difference -- that one's fun. A question about why I don't feel hopeful about my own sexuality, and there are several more but I can't remember exactly – what’s interesting is the way the Q&A is almost like a separate talk, probably because I talk so much and I like the different forms of engagement.

Then lots of great questions and comments during the signing part about writing and staying present and a fun conversation about sex work, one person says that each of my anthologies have arrived at exactly the time when ze was thinking about the same issues in similar ways, and that's exciting! Toronto is one of my favorite places to read, people really seem drawn to my work in exciting ways and I appreciate the camaraderie.

Afterwards, Tara-Michelle has figured out a great place to eat but unfortunately they’re closed so we end up at a Chinese restaurant where I'm too worried about the oil that will ruin my digestion to get anything but steamed vegetables and then they bring me vegetables coated in oil but luckily it's a fun conversation anyway with writers and filmmakers and booksellers, some of whom I've just met and some whom I've met at different points in my personal, literary, and cultural trajectory, which sounds kind of hilarious and formal so I'm not sure why I'm framing it that way but the point is that even though I'm exhausted and drained afterwards, wondering whether all of this is worth it, deciding that it can't be worth it because I'm so exhausted and drained but then somehow it is worth it because of the excitement and engagement and I don't know how to balance what is what, to figure out what helps and what hurts except to keep trying.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Exhaustion and cooking

Maybe it's the next day when everything hurts. No, wait, the day after, that's today, and I'm trying to think about whether to go to a sex club just so that my body is doing something different. I mean, I'd rather go to a sex club because I'm horny, I mean I was horny yesterday or maybe that was the day before but not today when my head and neck and jaw and shoulders ache but really it's worse when I'm sitting in front of the computer or maybe it's this hard chair I mean I went on a walk and that was maybe worse so I'm not sure a sex club is the right idea although the steam room sounds kind of relaxing is a sex club ever relaxing?

Maybe somewhere else, but wait I am somewhere else, Toronto and there are six or seven bath houses -- two where I've been and they were empty, not on this trip but before that doesn't mean much if I lived here maybe I'd know when exactly to go. They’re actually cheaper here because of the competition, so maybe it's worth it just to try the steam room and look for some hugs, although I don't want my body to hurt even more before my event, which will almost surely increase the pain until my feldenkrais session the next day, yay for feldenkrais!

Earlier in the sun, yes the sun in the cold I like the sun in the cold a cat came right up to me from next door, I kept moving over on the table because the angle of the sun kept changing and the cat followed me the trees were shaking in the wind that’s when I thought it would be nice to have a small yard like this. Now I'm sitting here in front of the computer, noticing that my legs are aching too, aching from sitting, sitting on the train two days in a row, first to Ann Arbor to visit Deena and Courtney where there were there also lots of leaves shaking in the trees and blowing on the ground, I liked kicking the leaves too like a little kid of course we don't get those leaves in San Francisco but I'm also starting to miss my view, walks in the neighborhood although I like my walks through cities I don't know as well two.Then the drive to Windsor to catch the train to Toronto oh no I'm burning something in the kitchen, I did that in Ann Arbor too -- exhaustion and cooking don't mix well together.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Still trying to prove something

Today is the day when everything hurts. It was going to be the day when I caught up on everything computer-related, but now it's the day when everything hurts. Maybe I'll still catch up. At least it's sunny out and I'm going to get to the park to watch the squirrels, so that might help. Actually there are no squirrels at the park, but it does help anyway. Someone comes towards me from the other side of the baseball field, heading directly to me so I'm figuring he likes this bench too, it's the one with direct sunlight. It's an older guy, and when he gets up close he stands right in front of me, maybe two feet away so I have to look up and squint to see him and he smiles and puts his arms out in the air and says you're very colorful!

So I'm kind of excited, here’s this fag about my grandfather's age coming to talk to me and I don't often talk to fags of that age, and never before in Chicago he wants to know where I'm from, how old I am, basic questions but then are you married? What kind of work you do? Who do you write for? Do you live nearby?

He's 84, lives at the Catholic home down the street he did something and then something and then something else and now they take care of him. He looks at the postcard for So Many Ways to Sleep Badly and then hands it back to me. Do you live nearby?

Oh, San Francisco, there are a lot of gays there.

Hmm -- not quite the conversation I was expecting. I say yes, a lot of gays, like me.

Oh, but did I mention that he wants to know if I pray, heaven means happiness forever don't you want happiness?

I tell him I'd rather have happiness now, but don't say that I'm pretty far from that. He says: what kind of work you do? Who do you write for? Do you live nearby?

When I hand him the postcard again, this time he tucks it back in my bag, he says you must have a lot of talent. But do you pray? There's no hope for your prayer?

No hope. And then he hits me really hard on the back, in that hyper-masculine buddy straight guy way that he wasn't projecting until now, way way too hard like maybe he's 35 and trying to prove something except he's 84, and I guess still trying to prove something.