Thursday, July 30, 2009

A lostmissing announcement

Just wanted to let you know that I’m sensing a grand finale to the lostmissing project, so if you are saving any images, do send them my way at any point…

After the finale, I will start figuring out how exactly to turn the project into some sort of book/zine form (which will incorporate all the posters + lots of your photos), and of course I’ll keep you posted!

Make/shift reading next Thursday!!!

Okay -- you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t done any readings for a while -- that’s because I always end up in more pain pain pain, oh no, so I thought I’d take a break, but, next Thursday I’ll be making an exception to do a special event for the brilliant feminist magazine make/shift, where I am the reviews editor and contribute a column. The coeditors will be up from LA, so it’s the perfect time to show up to introduce yourselves and stimulate a delicious conversation after four vivacious contributors (myself included) deliver auditory magic -- here’s the announcement:

Make/shift in San Francisco
Thursday, August 6, 2009, 7 p.m.
Modern Times Bookstore
888 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
FREE

Hosted by make/shift coeditors/copublishers Jessica Hoffmann and Daria Yudacufski, with readings by columnist and reviews editor Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore and contributors Hilary Goldberg, Lailan Huen, and Stephanie Yang.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When the moments become

Here’s what people always say to me at sex clubs: why do you look so happy, you’re having too much fun! Trust me, I’m not having too much fun. I don’t say that, I just smile. Maybe I’m trying to make these places what they should be, places to laugh and chat and fall all over the place in that friendly way, laugh between bodies and hands and lips and mouths and cocks and things. Here I am, and I’m dancing -- it’s hard to dance here, with all of the shut down bodies craving some kind of opening shut down. Whatever -- I’m dancing, that’s what makes it fun right now, the music and walking around in circles instead of walking I can dance a little this is fun and then someone says. Well, you already know what they say.

This story is about one guy, the one with the sideburns and a wife-beater, what is it about this thing with one guy, I’ll go to these places and I’m only attracted to one guy? Anyway, he’s staring up at what’s going on upstairs and I miss my opportunity to touch him on the chest, kiss his neck dammit where is he now did I really miss my opportunity? I don’t see him anywhere.

Oh, wait there he is at the front desk, cuter in a grey argyle sweater even though his posture is kind of strange the way he’s leaning back and leaning forward at the same time maybe he’s drunk, he’s talking to the guy there and when he heads to the bathroom the guy at the front desk is shaking his head, I say what did he say? He said I owe him a dollar. I say what did you tell him? I told him I could shit on his face. I say people pay a lot more for that, that’s a good deal.

There he is in the bathroom, washing his dick off and I get some water, when he’s done I catch his eye in the mirror and I say you’re already leaving, and you’re the cutest one here. I’m not leaving, he says, but I can’t tell if he’s interested, I mean he did look right at me in that surprised maybe excited way right when I walked in the door but things change here in a few minutes, right? Back in the hallways of longing, I grab him from behind and kiss his neck, and guess what he says. Yes, why do you look so. Happy.

But what is it about this energy that doesn’t tire me out, I mean I kind of go to that playful place and I’m not exactly pretending. Usually in public I get so drained just from interacting that afterwards I’m falling apart, maybe just from a reading, but here I don’t understand what’s different, I mean all these walls walking around like guys looking for sex looking for walls but somehow I get to this place where I am kind of -- not happy, really, but maybe kind of amused no not really amused, what is that?

He also says: I like you. Okay, I say, then I’ll follow you around and I put his hand on my dick and he says what do you come here for? I come here for the music. Really. Most people don’t like this music, I mean it’s one of the things that everyone jokes about when they talk about sex clubs, but really it’s the best thing. I like talking about these 1995 beats what happened to these beats I want more of these beats I want more.

I don’t say that. I say I don’t know. But then I realize I do know, I mean maybe he wants to know what kind of sex I want, instead of just finding out from the push pull of fingers lips tongue arms, I say suck cock, get my dick sucked -- and hug cute boys in argyle sweaters. Somehow it takes him a moment to get the last part, and then he smiles, I say what about you? He says I like to watch, and get my dick sucked. I say well I’d love to suck your dick, he says maybe later. I say anytime, I mean I’m really good at it.

I can’t believe I say that last part, like I’m auditioning or something, but it’s the only way, the only way in these places when I’m only attracted to one guy really, I mean I could have sex with some of these other guys but I don’t want to.

This is how silly I get, outside in the back he’s smoking and I get on the table or the bench whatever it is that you sit on outside and I hug him from behind, even though he’s smoking, I mean after I try to dodge the smoke and then he blows it in the other direction, maybe that will work. He says I haven’t had human contact in two weeks, maybe he means the way I’m holding him. Here’s how you know the way desire can do strange things, because he’s telling me about one time when he was standing outside of BurgerMeister, smoking 20 feet away from this woman eating outside, and she asked him to move further away and he said: it’s a free country.

Smoking. BurgerMeister. A free country. He’s one of those guys who looks like maybe he’s always depressed, or maybe he just looks like he’s always depressed wait that’s the same thing, masculinity that goes inside more than outside and I like hugging him, I tell him I’ll suck his dick anytime, anytime you’re ready, and he says how about 20 minutes, and I say I might leave in 20 minutes. He says 15?

I’m getting tired, maybe I should leave but instead I’m eating the peanuts and trying not to go back to the front where he’s talking to the guy at the desk so I walk around to see if there’s anyone else I’m interested in. Not really. Maybe I should go home, I’m getting tired. I haven’t noticed the murals on the stall walls before, big cocks and drawn-on explosions kind of like a comeshot I guess but huge. That’s kind of funny. I focus on other funny things, like the disco ball -- it is kind of pretty the way the light goes round. And then I’m outside again, I never noticed the bamboo before.

There you are, he says, and I say where do you want to go? We go in back, in back of the outside and I start biting his neck and then he surprises me by kissing me right away on the lips, mouthwash, he used mouthwash for me that’s cute, and then it’s everything but mostly this drive the way our lips connect even when our lips aren’t connecting its like our hands are lips too. Desire is so strange, that’s what I’m thinking here in this stall with this boy and his soft argyle sweater, my hands are too cold for underneath, my hands grabbing his head his armpits chest and down, here it is, here I am where he’s told me he wants me, or someone like me but right now just me and yes, the way his dick curves even more dramatically to the side than mine that’s rare and I look up to register the moments where his head leans back I reach up for his neck he grabs my hands and yes.
At some point he pulls me up again, back to lips and then we’re inside, inside now with the heat blasting he’s sucking my dick he says he doesn’t do that often, no he says that later but I kind of know because I have to ask him. You already know how I could stay here on my knees in this tiny overheated cubicle forever if I could stay here with his arms, at some point on my knees with all this hunger and moisture and thrusting and what’s that other thing it’s that thing between us and I remember that he was washing his dick off in the bathroom and oh, that’s why he wanted to wait, he wanted to wait because he already came. It’s funny the things people don’t say, the things people don’t say in sex clubs and then we’re making out again, now my hands are warm enough they’re everywhere they’re everywhere with him, he says he’s going to take a break. But first, first he says: that was the highlight of my night. He’s talking about when I come, because I come for him and maybe he knows that. I mean I tell him. Then he can take a break.

He won’t call me, and I want him to, he won’t call me and this is when I wonder about this ravenous gorgeous soft raging glory this explosion of what-the-hell I’ve always loved the splendor of these sudden moments I mean when the moments become, when the moments become and I wonder if there’s something sad about it too. I mean I’ve reached for these connections where there may be no other connections I’ve reached and I’ve held and I’ve hoped and I’ve nurtured and craved and dreamed and still. And still I’m left here, I’m left here with these moments and nothing else.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Can't



Sometimes I don’t understand how my energy works, I’m in the middle of a sentence and all the sudden. All the sudden there’s no sentence. Nothing has happened, it’s just that now I can’t.

Or with the sun -- one moment I think this is the best thing that’s ever happened, sitting here in the sun on the fire escape, and the next moment it feels too hot, maybe I’m getting burnt maybe I’ll turn to face away from the sun but then it’s too cold.

I guess it is my sinuses, here inside with the computer I can feel all this pain, here it is, this pain, this sinus pain. My new strategy: this is just my sinuses, I’m not sad, this is just my sinuses. But then there’s me, and I’m sad again

Monday, July 27, 2009

So much love

First there was the end of everything, and then there was childhood, a trap, and then there was that place between childhood and the world. Here I am at twelve again, standing in a field I’m wearing the same colors as the scenery, my hair reddish in the setting sun with the reddening leaves of the trees, green shirt with the evergreens, navy pants between the mountains and sky. Why do I pull my pants up so high, is my waist smaller there? My left arm juts out like it’s stuck somewhere, it’s telling us there’s more than this scenery, my out-of-focus face blending into the surroundings.

And then there’s the beach, here I’ve come out of the water to face the sun, chest arching forward like it’s cold out maybe it’s cold out or maybe I’m just getting ready. Bathing suit bunched up with the water and my hair is long here, pressed against my forehead and behind my ears and again those arms they don’t hang they pull up and out like they’re stuck they won’t go down. When did my father and I start those bike rides, another opportunity for him to scream at me, scream because I was going too slow over bridges I was worried I would fall off. Scream at me when he was trying to teach me to throw, to throw like a boy this was baseball, the first sport I was required to take but it didn’t work out I was afraid of the ball when they threw it at me I knew I was supposed to hit I wanted to run.

The next sport was basketball, they said I was tall I would be good at basketball, those arms. I couldn’t understand the connection between my body in this room the ball in my fingertips and legs. We settled on soccer, I mean we didn’t settle they just left me there, left me there on that hill in all that sun and loneliness. Soccer was better because I could kick the ball and then everyone would go away for a few minutes. I was okay, okay at playing soccer and is that what this is, this picture of a group of guys on a picnic bench, six are kids and two are adults, one of them almost naked so that’s where my eyes go now, where did my eyes go then?

It was hard not to have girlfriends, because I always had girl friends. Like Robyn, my first and only girlfriend, they probably wanted more. I wanted to think more could be something else, and that’s what we had. I wonder if I’ve kept to that model for the rest of my life so far, and whether it’s failed me.

Somehow I got to the makeup counter, I was looking for a suitable base for my mother, she had the same skin color as me -- oh, we could test it out on my wrist, what a good idea. Maybe a cover-up for under the eyes too, how does that work exactly? And an eye cream for these bags under my eyes, I mean my mother’s eyes. A powder, what kind of powder would be best? By the time of that first bathroom it was karate, the sport I was required to take, at least with karate you were on your own. And they had these great dance moves that they called forms, where you twirled around to Beethoven or Brahms I was great at those forms.

But wait -- remember that picture of the girl building a heart-shaped sandcastle, remember I was wondering if that was Cindy Daniels? That’s me -- I’m that girl! But back to my parents, secrets between children and the threat, the threat we posed. The biggest threat to the biggest secret is another secret. We didn’t even know there was something to tell, breathing. When my sister would wake up every night screaming help, HELP ME, even though there is an end there is no end.

We were closer, my sister and I, outside of the house we were even a model, a model for a relationship between sister and brother that didn’t seem like power. Like with the Daniels, our own little family, Steve would tell Cindy what to do but I wanted us all to come to agreement. At school, I never remember an awkward moment between my sister and I, even though there were so many ways she was succeeding socially and I wasn’t. The car on the way to school was a different story, still home, home was a battle don’t breathe, home. Don’t tell.

Never again, never again I would say after every time I visited Woodie’s, the bathroom, or Mazza Gallery across the street, the mall fancy enough to think of itself as art, where I really wanted those Gaultier sunglasses with the blue lenses, but they were more expensive than my sweaters and there were no tags to change. Pretty much every day after school, even though I would always say never again. They would look at me with so much hunger, these men, old men mostly, older than my father and paler too, so many of them would get so pink and I would try not to feel it, what was happening between my legs I wanted to win.
I didn’t call it sex, not even to myself I didn’t even call it. I couldn’t, or else. I mean, I knew I was a faggot, but I also knew that if I ever said anything I would never be anything else. I would practice standing, standing with my hands in my pockets and my knees slightly bent, head cocked up oh that’s this pose in the picture in front of the tiled wall in Mexico, 1987, where I almost succeed at looking tough, tough for the camera there was always someone watching. Here’s one from later, undated, I think it’s later because my face has lengthened, this time I must be in Europe because of the stonework behind me, Europe was always my dream when I wasn’t dreaming of New York. In Europe, our arguments were fiercer because we were supposed to be on vacation. The moment I remember most was at a restaurant in Munich, right across from the City Hall, trying to vomit in the bathroom but I was never good at vomiting. We were arguing, it was awful, I ran outside into the dark city square, thought about what it would be like just to keep running.
In this picture from Europe, my eyes are squinting and I’ve moved on, moved on from that earlier pose into the same pose but more defiant. I’m telling the camera: you don’t matter, nothing matters. Maybe this is the same trip, maybe that stonework is in Mexico because I’m wearing a similar outfit, T-shirt under plaid shirt, the over-shirt flung back like I don’t care about that either. No I think it’s one year later, my face does look different I’m angrier and less afraid. My aesthetic took longer to develop than I thought, but I can see this kid in those bathrooms, I can see what they were seeing in this kid.
But let’s go back to that bottle of Gilbey’s gin, we already know that bottle is long gone but there are more and now I like vodka better anyway, my sister likes the darker liquors so it works out okay, this one might be Gilbey’s vodka. This is Baltimore, after Steve and I have realized we both drink but before the four of us in our little family start climbing out the windows of the beach condo to go downstairs with the other kids out drinking late at night, the kids who look up to me because I don’t care that my sister is running off with random boys I’m not worried on the beach oh the beach this is when the beach really matters. But before the beach, there’s Baltimore and that bottle yes that bottle I’m with Steve and three of his friends, we’re in the drug-free school zone while our fathers are touring the Irish bars, neither of them are Irish but Irish bars have good beer.

There is so much joy, so much joy in this bottle. Everyone else is drinking beer and that makes me tougher and I hold the bottle out for anyone else. This is when I’m succeeding, no one knows and no one cares and I’m just everything, everything that matters exploding into this world and we’re on a hill looking down but also looking up because that’s what this bottle means and there’s so much love, that’s what I’m feeling I’ve never been allowed to feel this love and we’re laughing, laughing when we’re not sucking seriously on cigarettes we need more cigarettes on this hill looking down we start walking. I take the bottle in my mouth, the rest of that burning joy to my head I shake in that way that you have to and my eyes, now we’re in an empty parking lot, no one’s around I take that bottle I hurl it straight up into the air as far as I can get it, underhand like I’m not supposed to but I don’t think about that I don’t think about anything except the sky and these boys look at me like I’m crazy we start to run I’m crazy the glass shatters that sound I love that sound and they’re running but I’m walking because I’m crazy and I love it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Borderline

My father reveled in saying things piss, I need to take a piss, or shit, I need to take a shit. At a restaurant, when the waitress turned around he would say: that waitress was stacked, that waitress was stacked like a brick shithouse. He thought that if he said things like that often enough, in between writing papers about the borderline condition, maybe that would make him working class. Karla, let’s fuck. That’s who he was talking to. And then they went into their room and locked the door -- they were liberals, they shared everything equally. The borderline condition, as in my father’s specialty: borderline schizophrenia. He wrote a book about it, his first book, and everyone was very proud, especially his mother, the artist, the artist who liked to tell a story about when my father wanted to become a writer, before or after college I’m not sure but she said to him: okay, you pay all the bills. He went to medical school.

Sundays at Celebrity Deli, didn’t the four of us used to go out together but now it was just me, me and my father-- where was everyone else? Now my father was talking to me: that waitress is stacked, stacked like a brick shithouse. I stared at him like he should die, die right there. On the walls: signed pictures of celebrities, these celebrities couldn’t have come to Celebrity Deli, off the Rockville Pike, in the Maryland suburbs. Maybe Goldie Hawn, because she went to my mother’s high school, but not the rest. When I thought about New York, I didn’t think about Jewish delis, I thought about a commune in the East Village where we were all artists and refugees, do you see how everything on the East Coast is colonized by New York, everything that involves imagination?

My father’s favorite thing at Celebrity Deli was the tongue sandwich, they didn’t have tongue in every Jewish deli, tongue on rye. He would gobble it down, smacking his lips, and then put all his greasy napkins on the table. Maybe he would pause to burp once or twice. I would stare at him, stare at him like he should die -- that’s disgusting, I would say, my eyes filled with scorn, lip pulling up, and my father loved my disgust -- oh how my father loved that, it meant he was winning.

I had my own napkins, stuffing half-chewed pieces of a sandwich, another sandwich into bundles for a rush to the bathroom, it was so much harder if we didn’t get a booth where I could stuff everything under the cushions, there weren’t many booths at Celebrity Deli but Hoffberg’s didn’t have tongue. And maybe they weren’t open on Sundays. Eventually we moved on to the bagel pizza, when Jewish became something everyone could eat, there were special places for it, bagel places almost like doughnut shops without the sugar. But this was Celebrity Deli, I did like my cup of matzoh ball soup, which was really just a matzoh ball, even though I wasn’t sure how many calories to count, these matzoh balls were much bigger than the ones pictured on the box of matzoh meal at the grocery store that listed calories per serving.

My father and I are shopping for a refrigerator, this takes a lot of strategizing, strategizing on my part because I want the one with the icemaker, the one that’s top-of-the-line. Everyone has an icemaker now, I say. That doesn’t work: we’re not everyone.

My father thinks it’s too expensive, might not fit in our kitchen anyway but then we measure and it would fit. We go back to the store, the store that’s right around the corner from tongue sandwiches, and all those lox jokes on the walls, bagels with combination padlocks, get it? They were fun when we first started going, but now they’re just another way for my father to annoy me. This refrigerator is the sturdiest, it will definitely last longer, it’s a better deal, don’t you think? The other one doesn’t have enough space.

We ended up with the refrigerator I wanted, do you see how victory was never really victory? I realized where to find the softest sweaters at Bloomingdale’s, in the designer section with all the strange fabrics. The good news was that a $360 sweater would eventually go on sale for $36, and you could make that happen faster if you just changed the labels. The black one that was wool but stretchy, the mustard-colored one that was way too large but look at the way the color changed in different lighting -- I could roll it up and tuck it into my back pockets. This was when I tucked everything into my back pockets, I didn’t want it to cling to my body and I didn’t want it to hang. Then, the green chenille one that got ruined in the dryer and then I got another one, this one was larger so I didn’t like it as much but they didn’t have any mediums left. It got ruined too, these expensive sweaters weren’t made too well.

My prize was the pale blue one that rolled up at the top, wool so soft that it didn’t even scratch your neck. I mean my neck, my neck was very sensitive, my father’s hands but that was already gone, gone from my memory I just wanted sweaters to cover it. Oh, and the navy one made of some strange synthetic that already looked vintage, and then it seemed like threads were hanging from it within a few days, but that was okay because then no one would ever guess it was Giorgio Armani, especially since the collar was uneven. This was when I would add up how much everything cost in each outfit, so when I wore the Armani one, which I got reduced from $187 to $36, and a black Calvin Klein t-shirt, $12, black jeans that originally came from The Gap but they faded and I dyed them burgundy, or maroon, actually, closer to brown but not too close, $28, Adidas Sambas with the white part colored in with black designs, $32. Or, when I wore the mustard one that was my first discount find, that’s the one that went from $360 to $36 or something like $36, I’m just using $36 as a marker here, an estimate -- maybe no one wanted it because it was such a strange color like vomit I liked that color. I’d wear that one with burgundy Girbaud jeans but I blacked out anything that said Girbaud and they weren’t baggy like the usual ones, people would say where, where did you get those, $56, another black Calvin Klein T-shirt underneath, $12, those green John Fluvog shoes with the buckles that were a prize because you couldn’t find those yet in DC, $82, they were one of the few things I actually got in New York, although New York was where I told everyone I got anything that looked a little unusual, I guess Bloomingdale’s was kind of like New York. But not unusual. You could find a lot at Bloomingdale’s, and it was actually cheaper than Urban Outfitters where everything really looked like New York and they didn’t have such good sales, this was the beginning of Urban Outfitters or at least it seemed like the beginning. Maybe there’s no beginning.

There was one thing my father and I agreed on: rich meant evil. Yet somehow I felt like if my sweaters could get soft enough, this might save me. I wanted everything to add up to $100 or more, even though I didn’t want anyone to know that it had cost more than Value Village.

You know the saying about how, if you circle around something enough, then eventually you’ll find it? That’s not as saying. I’m just saying. It was hard for me to get to the makeup counter, I didn’t know what to say. I’m looking for a base to cover up my acne, I mean my mother’s acne? So then there was that bathroom at Woodie’s, I was on the way from school to my father’s office, I would wait for him until he was done with his patients and then he would drive me home. I stopped at Woodie’s to look for that base, but I was too scared to talk to the person behind the makeup counter-- you know how boys aren’t supposed to wear makeup, right? So I ended up buying an Evian Brumisateur, Evian water in a metal can, with a nozzle so you could spray a delicate mist over your face, actually in the DC humidity it was wonderful, did I have the Woodie’s credit card yet, no one used that one much

But then the bathroom, black tile and I’m standing at the urinal because that’s what my father says I’m supposed to do, even though it’s hard not to get too nervous that someone will think I’m looking but there it is, reflected in the black tile, this guy next to me, he drops his hand. I can’t breathe, I mean I never really breathe but now I’m really not breathing. I mean I notice, I notice I’m not breathing. I drop my hand too; I reach for his and it’s spongy, warm, he reaches for mine and we stand there like that for maybe 30 seconds or three minutes or three years there’s no way to know there’s no way to know anything except I can’t breathe and this warmth in my hand and then someone comes in and I pull back quickly, stuff it into my pants, and walk as fast as I can without looking like I’m running, out the back door, down the hill and up the block to my father’s office.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The light on his face

Puberty, a body, this worked out better for my sister. Whenever I looked in the mirror, my mother said I was vain, boys weren’t supposed to be vain. But when my sister looked in the mirror, she got another facial cleanser or a perm or a new hairbrush or an acne treatment or something more mysterious like this creamy white product from the Body Shop that smelled like lemons and I was so angry about it that late at night I pissed in it, my sister said do you think this smells strange, I think it’s rotten. Her stereo sounded better than mine, I tried to break it but only ended up cracking the tape deck on the outside. Once, I lit her jewelry box on fire, the one with a dancing ballerina I would never be able to have a jewelry box. She walked into her room, and there was that flame, probably a tiny flame but still scary. I mean we walked in together, after I noticed the flame, I was just walking by and I noticed the flame. No, now it was just smoke. Maybe it was the way the sun reflected off the mirror at the top, that’s what I thought. Do you see how I couldn’t speak, not with my sister who read my journal and then told all my secrets. In my journal I wrote I HATE MY SISTER, and we never talked about it until last year.

Not those secrets, my mother already knew those. There were no secrets in my journal. I mean the other secrets, the ones I told my sister, I keep trying to remember them, maybe just one, what were they about? Other secrets I remember, the ones I would never tell anyone, like that first time in that bathroom at Woody’s, it’s tempting to call it by its full name of Woodward and Lothrop because Woody’s sounds like a gay bar and not the department store on the way to my father’s office, but then I didn’t know about gay bars. I knew there were restaurants in Rehoboth Beach, restaurants where my parents went because the food was delicious but we weren’t allowed, my father said there were too many fairies.

Oh, that bottle of Gilbey’s gin, that feeling in my head, the stomachache. New Year’s became so much more fun, except for all the vomit in the corner of my room and I would try to hide it. I can’t remember how we would pretend that we weren’t drinking but it’s easier when everyone’s drunk, we would lock the doors to our rooms and hide there, run back and forth to tell each other something. We all started drinking around the same time, Allison and Cindy were younger but succeeding at becoming popular in that way that would never work for me or Steve, but for different reasons. I didn’t understand his reasons exactly, but maybe that’s why we got along. We didn’t ask. Anyway, there was that bottle of Gilbey’s gin or let’s not be silly there were other bottles now, luckily there were two liquor cabinets in the house, one downstairs behind the built-in bar where my parents had an elaborate party when we first moved in, over 100 guests, but after the party they never looked behind the bar again, except. Except that smell of mold in the bathroom sink, wait hand me that Gilbey’s gin again.

I remember when my sister and I watched Less Than Zero with the Daniels, this might have been the same time as when we went to the Chinese restaurant -- maybe I hadn’t even smoked pot yet, but I watched Robert Downey Jr. shake from line after line of all that pure white pure white until he’s in a car smoking from a glass pipe and oh the light on his face I wanted to be that light on Robert Downey Jr’s face. This is when I didn’t want to be perfect anymore, I didn’t want to keep anything together that shouldn’t be together. Or anyone, like my parents. At therapy, I would talk about how trapped I felt, doomed, maybe just like Robert Downey Jr. at the end of the movie when someone scrawls faggot on the wall of his house or some bungalow where he’s slept with some guy for more coke, way after graduation with all the champagne and palm trees and mirrored bathrooms and runny noses and tearful hello-goodbyes. At the time I thought it was in Florida, but it must’ve been Southern California -- growing up on the East Coast, somehow they seemed the same: it was hot, there were palm trees, people wore bathing suits. But I didn’t say that. I just said I felt trapped.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The top floor

But before this conversation, after I stopped eating and after I decided I would never have a relationship with my parents again, I started cooking my own food. I started cooking my own food because I didn’t think my mother should have to cook everything. And, I could make sure that there was no fat, no fat on my boneless breast of Dijon chicken. My mother was in a good cook, anyway. I started doing my own dishes; I thought everyone should do their own dishes, it shouldn’t be my mother’s job. I did my own laundry, and shut my door so that the housekeeper didn’t have to clean my room but then she always went in anyway.

My mother opened my door, I’d go into my room and there she was reading my journal at my desk. What are you doing in my room? I’m reading, I like the light in here, I’ll get out of your way.

But okay, the beach, and two sets of pictures. First, 1984, I’m squinting at the camera but I don’t look like there’s too much pain. Maybe it’s the way the sun in skin can somehow cover. There’s my mother’s pale arm to the right, I guess that can’t be my father lying in the background with his ribs showing, although he did have a bathing suit like that, maybe even those shoes, but no there’s someone’s tan arm leaning over that body and my mother’s pale arm is over here. But wait: here we are in our condo, Steve Daniels and my sister are kind of grinning for the camera and I’m looking over at my sister, there’s that lost look in my face again and my jaw, always my jaw is this tense it’s still this tense, maybe I’m upset that my sister has jumped into the picture, she has a look in her eye like she’s a cartoon character.

In the other set of pictures there’s that strange person who I can barely recognize, 1987 and I’m in shadow, the beach is behind me. My hair is feathered back, layered down with mousse yes that’s my hair but maybe 1987 is still before, before I’ve figured out who I want to be. I guess this is right before high school, and if I look close at the t-shirt I’m wearing I think it does say Generra. But didn’t I get rid of Generra already, maybe this is just for the beach because in my junior high yearbook pictures I’m already looking as tough as the Clash but maybe things take longer, longer to transition.

Back to 1984, here’s my sister, squinting in the wind and she’s listening to something on her Walkman, she’s nine but she’s already a teenager. No, wait -- I’m nine -- I guess my sister’s seven, but she’s already a teenager. Here’s my mother, separately, smiling for the camera and she looks angry. Who is that girl in this one picture, 1985, digging in the sand -- it’s true that girls could go shirtless up until a certain age, but she looks older than that age, building an enormous hill in the sand oh wait it’s shaped like a heart. It kind of looks like Cindy Daniels, but I don’t remember Cindy digging in the sand that much. How did my sister choose these pictures, these pictures are from my sister, after I asked her if she could find some for me, to find some in the house from that transition. She gave them to me as a birthday present.

I want to tell you about the beach, if I keep digging in the sand then eventually I’ll get to China. Sometimes I find water, and then I remember oh, there’s a lot of water, so much water I won’t be able to swim that far, in the darkness under the sand. The best part is when Steve arrives, and then I can go deeper into the water without my father nearby. My favorite thing is to jump up into a wave and float over the top, but Steve likes to go under. I’m worried about choking from that salt in my mouth, but then eventually we both end up getting pummeled anyway, sand coating the insides of our bathing suits that later we’ll have to turn inside-out. Or the undertow pulls us in too far and Anne Daniels gets worried, no one else is paying attention. The only way to get back is to let a wave hit you. I think Steve likes getting knocked over, but sometimes, rolling around underwater my head into the sand I get scared like maybe I’ll be buried with the sand crabs and someone will have to dig me out.

The good thing about the sand crabs is that they go right back under. They’re so fast. And the tiny little baby clams, you can watch them pushing water away to get back underneath the sand. There’s so much to watch, as long as those flies with the red eyes aren’t all over the place like right after a storm, when there are huge horseshoe crabs littering the beach and even stranded sand rays. Sometimes the horseshoe crabs are still trying to live, and it’s sad. In the water after a storm, there are too many jellyfish, you have to keep dodging them; even if it’s raining, you want to be in the water.

This is the Sea Colony, really a colony the way they built eight nine-story condo towers right on the beach, in this tiny town that barely even has a boardwalk, not like Ocean City with huge glittering towers like a big city or Rehoboth with a lot of people but no Towers. This really is a colony, it stretches on across the street which is really a highway, whole neighborhoods with different names and lakes and tennis courts, there’s always a new development -- on the other side, you can get a whole house for cheaper than a condo on this side, but my parents chose this side because of the beach. We can go on our balcony, and right outside, past the elevated cement walkway that goes from one building to the next, is the beach, nothing but the beach and the ocean and it’s fun to sit at the glass table we got with the chairs you can sit on when you’re still wet and just listen, listen to the ocean.

They’re always trying to reclaim the dunes at the end, but we’re not exactly sure where the dunes went. It’s better when the Daniels are there; then my parents don’t argue as much. Even my sister is quieter, and then there’s the beach, all that floating in the ocean sometimes I try to swim out as far as possible, just to see if there are any islands, but not too far because I know it’s not fun to drown.

When do we get to go out by ourselves, Steve and Cindy and Allison and me? Walk into Bethany for miniature golf and peppermint ice cream, salt water taffy, the video arcade with the local kids who wear all black and smoke a lot and don’t talk to us? Except when one of them leans over me while I’m getting the high score on Galaga, he says are you a boy or girl? One of my favorite things about the Daniels: no one ever asks me if I’m a boy or girl.

It’s like we’re our own little family, Steve tries to act like a parent but Allison won’t take any of it; I try to help Cindy not to feel bullied. There’s a time near our house where we go to this Chinese restaurant on the Rockville Pike, right near the video rental place, and either we have our own table or our parents leave us there. This is when we share knowledge: there’s a show on TV about ice, the new designer drug, and Steve saw it once. Does it really look like ice?

We lived in Rockville, but went to school in the city, so we never knew any of our neighbors except the ones next door and that was only because their dog would come over to play with us. We lived in Rockville, but we didn’t call it Rockville, because we lived in a neighborhood called Potomac Highlands, which was in Rockville but not really like Rockville. Rockville was subdivisions where all the houses looked the same, but in our neighborhood every house was different and the yards were bigger, kind of like Potomac, the wealthiest neighborhood in the DC suburbs, at least on the Maryland side, and since our neighborhood was even called Potomac Highlands, Potomac sounded better. Our mail would get sent back if we wrote Potomac, 20854, but most of the time it worked out if we wrote Potomac, 20850, which was the Rockville zip code, so that’s where we decided we lived: Potomac, 20850, all by ourselves. Actually, I decided that, and then everyone went along -- do you see what I mean about power, power that’s not really power at all? This is what privilege did for me: it kept me there.

Sometimes we would drive around -- DC, Maryland, Delaware, wherever -- we would drive around, looking at houses. I was always planning some kind of escape, some kind of escape to a house where there weren’t problems, maybe something bigger or more modern, like the new development down the street from us, but it wasn’t really like a development because there were only six houses and they were all different. Even better would be one of the mansions on Embassy Row, where I could have my own entrance. Later I would look at any high-rise, it didn’t matter where it was as long as it was tall and I would think about my own apartment, my own apartment on the top floor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Look at these two, look how well these two are getting along! (Thanks, Socket, for the encouragement)


Upper middle class

But back to puberty, a body I didn’t want, that time when I was ready to say something, something other than what they wanted. I wanted contact lenses. This is when I went to the doctor, they were worried about my weight: 81 pounds. The doctor looked at a chart -- 80 to 120 pounds was normal for my age. I was normal.

A victory, and a defeat: then I wanted to get under 80 pounds, but my body wouldn’t let me -- it’s hard to lose weight when everything is changing, you were tall before but now you’re 6 inches taller. I understood this, I understood it meant I would never win. I still wanted to, wanted to win. I looked at Dan Abraham one time when we were changing for PE, and I saw all this extra flesh on his body. We had been friends a long time before, he was the first one who showed me Pac-Man, we went to the theater and watched Tootsie, a forbidden movie, where Dustin Hoffman dresses up as his grandmother, or someone’s grandmother. By 13 we weren’t friends anymore, now that we had bodies. But what was that extra flesh, muscle was the same as fat to me and he was an athlete, always good at sports and I was so glad, glad to see that extra flesh at his belly when he bent over, I didn’t have that. I went back to my calorie book: 3 rice cakes, 37 calories each; 10 carrot sticks, 30 calories total; a bagel, 160 calories; an apple, was that a large or small apple?

But wait -- that wasn’t power, when I was allowed to choose my own school. I was my parent’s biggest investment, they needed me to be invested. When I was a broken toy, my father winding me up, picture a toy soldier right hand up left leg down, switch, left leg up right hand down together crack that sound of metal against metal the joints rusted open closed open closed he’s winding me winding me help there is no help there is just this broken toy this. There is this broken toy, and there is this, this me this investment. No. There is no no. There is just this investment.

There is a book, Hardy Boys all of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew when they weren’t looking. There is a book, HMS Hornblower on the seven seas I’m on the seven seas. I was a good investment, they knew that: this broken toy the way that my head opened up closed. Closed and there was the way light became dark my father’s eyes like charcoal I see my father’s eyes through charcoal the light ouch. There is no light, there is only my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes and his hand from my hand, holding I’m holding on until there is no holding I’m split the way light becomes dark becomes light becomes something else I’m still there. I’m not there. I’m here, here with all this pain with no. There is no no.

The way the room could become everything except the room, everything into this toy, this broken toy, this is why toys hurt. I knew about the Velveteen Rabbit, the skin horse that said what is real? Take this broken toy, and then wind me up again.

There are double doors, double doors to my father’s office. This is so his patients don’t hear his other patients. In my psychiatrist’s office, there are double doors too, and his doors serve another purpose -- one of them swings open, and blocks the view from the waiting room: maybe there are no other patients.

There is a knife, and there is my father, my father is a knife, and there are my father’s hands, and there is my father’s, my father’s, that, there is my father’s that, and there is me, there is what used to be me and there is a broken toy. Can I tell you about my body, my body a broken toy, wind me up? There is a time when my father said: you could put dead bodies in a mulch pile, and no one would know. We had a mulch pile in the back yard, the backyard of our new house, and this was when I was floating, like suddenly there’s all this space my throat locked I can see everything except what’s inside. There is a time when my father said: you know, you can inject drugs into someone’s head, and no one would know. There is my head, my head and my father’s eyes and there is no one, no one would know.

When I first remembered, I remembered the sink in the back of the rec room, this sink and all that mold my father fucking me over that sink and all I can smell is that mold my father’s fingers in my mouth choking me my mouth. I must’ve been four. We moved to that house when I was six, do you see how this works, the way they trap you into thinking you need to know, you need to know when you were four, or when you were six and all I know is this pain, this pain and my father’s eyes and that smell and my body.

I will never know whether I was four or two or six or whether it was happening the whole time, because it was always happening he was always there and I was broken. I will never know whether I’m on the counter a table the floor the fireplace the carpet and there he is with a knife, cutting me open I know I was not cut open because here I am but then there’s that knife, my fingers shaking just taking it out of the kitchen drawer years later I was thinking about that knife and I will never know whether it was that knife or that’s just the knife I thought about. I know about my father’s eyes, all that darkness and a knife, cutting me open, and that was my father’s cock my father’s fingers, reaching in, reaching in to take something, me, or his fingers and then his cock, his fingers in my mouth, choking me my mouth I can’t speak and I will never know.

When I was six, it was very hard to go to the bathroom, it was always scary because it hurt so much, there was blood and there was shit and there were worms and the doctor always said wash your hands. I always washed my hands, there was never a time when I didn’t wash my hands and I always had worms and the doctor would say don’t forget, don’t forget to wash your hands, always wash your hands.

I will never know whether he took a syringe and injected it into my head or somewhere else there were always drugs around he was a psychiatrist and there were always drugs around, needles until he decided the needles might be dangerous, we shouldn’t keep the needles in the linens cabinet where the kids might find them but there were always drugs around and I will never know whether I was floating because of the drugs or whether I was floating because of the pain and whether that’s why it’s so hard to remember, because of the floating, or because of the drugs, or because it’s just hard to remember, it’s hard to remember my father’s hands my father’s cock the smell of his breath but I remember his eyes and this pain.

How did he know that my head would survive, my head that was everything, everything he wanted except. Everything he wanted. For me. Except. Everything he wanted. Take this head, kick it like a beach ball, blowing in the wind, bouncing on the water -- take it, kick it until it bursts.

But we haven’t even gotten to the beach yet. In second grade, I brought two bags of lunch to school -- one for food, and one for candy. I would crack those sour balls one by one in my mouth, more energy for math problems, reading. My teacher called a conference with my parents, no teacher had ever held a conference with my parents -- they were worried, they were worried that all my friends were girls. Like Jeannine LeFlore, who lost her ring in school one day and this was a terrible tragedy, she was crying and we all searched the whole classroom until eventually I found the ring, it was on a shelf in the corner. Was that before, or after I hid my grandmother’s keys, or sometimes jewelry?

Another conversation with my father in his office, maybe I’m 14. I tell my father: you’re not middle class, you’re rich. This is a big deal -- I am learning how to fight, how to fight to win. He is enraged, he starts screaming, I stand there so calm it’s unbelievable, or not calm because I don’t know calm but quiet, cold, remember I’m fighting to win. Finally my father backs down: we’re upper-middle class.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Practical

This was the thing with our family: we were always moving up, but we always stayed middle class. The cars changed from two-beat up old US sedans to a Datsun 510 and a Volvo, then a Volvo and a Saab, then a Saab and a fancier Saab and the Volvo eventually became my car. My father’s clothes changed from Izod and OP to Alexander Julian Colors and Polo; my clothes changed from Sears to Bloomingdale’s; my mother did most of her shopping at Lord & Taylor; my sister wore Benetton and Guess. We moved to a house with over an acre of land, a huge downstairs where my father had his second office, after the other one that was a condo he owned, and the other condo he owned in that same building, as an investment. My parents bought a beach condo at the place where we used to go and rent, the Sea Colony. My sister and I always went to private school. First we had a housekeeper one day a week, and then two. My father was saving enough to pay for college and grad school, without any assistance. So we were middle class.

My parents shared everything equally; that’s what they told us. So, even though my father was a psychiatrist in private practice, and my mother was going back to finish her undergraduate degree, they shared everything. That’s why, when they got in an argument, my father would scream at my mother: Karla, I’m taking away your credit cards! Or, when he felt like there was less money in his wallet than there should be: Karla, did you take money out of my wallet? My mother did all the cooking, washed the dishes. When she started grad school for social work, sometimes she would ask my father a question, maybe a question about Freud’s theories, something my father knew a lot about. Karla, he would yell -- how could you be so stupid?

Actually, we weren’t just middle class, we were struggling -- if my mother spent too much at Bloomingdale’s, or I got too many bottles of Evian, there might not be enough for college. That’s what my father said. He and my mother would get in screaming fights about everything, but especially about anything financial that didn’t directly involve his decision. One time we were at the dinner table with the whole extended family, in my mind it’s that same time I threw my plate of food to the floor, but it couldn’t have been the same time, could it? Anyway, we were all getting ready for dinner and my father said to my mother: Karla, let’s fuck. My mother looked slightly stunned -- Bill, you’ve got to be kidding! They went into their room and locked the door.

My father fetishized these types of habits -- burping at the table, farting and talking about it, pissing with the door open to the bathroom, eating with loud slurping sounds, smacking his lips -- manners were for others, others who weren’t struggling like he was, that’s what he wanted us to think. My sister and I would look at him like an animal, not the type of animal you wanted in your house. This is when I practiced looking through him, looking through him at the wall behind his head although on Sundays the TV was on and that helped.

I don’t know if I’m doing a good job of describing my father’s anger: sometimes there was nothing else. But let’s go back to the Daniels -- Dan was my father’s childhood friend, the only one we ever heard about. We would visit the Daniels in Baltimore, ever since I can remember, and probably before I can remember so it makes sense that they are here in this narrative; other than the grandparents, they were probably the only ones who knew us the whole time, or kind of knew us. We would see them about once a month -- my father and I would go down for baseball games, and then after a number of years of this we started going to indoor soccer in the fall and then my sister and mother came too but my mother didn’t like it so she didn’t come very often. The Daniels would visit us every year at the beach for a week of our two-week vacation, and then my father and I would go with Steve and Dan to New York once a year. They would come over our house for New Year’s too, when my parents would have parties. There was something that didn’t click between my mother and Anne, it might have been something about how my parents were raising us. Anne didn’t understand how we were allowed to talk back.

When we moved into the new house, we also switched schools. This wasn’t because of the move, it was because our old school was closing. There were three schools, three schools we had to choose from. My parents wanted me to go to St. Albans, the poshest of the three, part of the National Cathedral, an all-boys school. An all-boys school? I refused to even go there, I mean even go to visit. I did visit Sidwell Friends, the elite Quaker school, but the classrooms were too big for me, and that scared me. Georgetown Day was the one I chose, where they gave me a Rorschach inkblot test in the hallway and I thought that was fun.

What do they test for, when you’re in second grade? I’m just trying to show you that even though we had no power, sometimes we had power. I guess that’s what childhood means. Besides the end, the end of everything. This was around when I would hide my grandmother’s keys, my mother’s mother, the one who asked me: how come all of your friends are colored? I knew this meant she was racist, but it didn’t teach me anything else about racism. I would hide her keys under a heating vent or behind the pillows of the bed, and then she and my sister and I would look all over the house for them, until finally -- oh, there they are. I wanted to tell her something. That’s the other thing about childhood.

My parents were very suspicious of their parents, they didn’t want us to spend too much time with them. My mother’s mother, Florence, was a realtor and her husband a stockbroker -- Florence was always trying to get me to think about business school, but this was not one of my options, I mean not one of my options according to my parents, who presented only two: doctor, or lawyer. Florence was too materialistic, that’s what they said.

Rose, the other grandmother, was an artist -- she would take us to this store where they had huge bins of recycled buttons, and we could pick whatever we wanted. At her house, we would work on art projects -- that’s what I wanted to do. That’s not practical, my parents said -- you can’t be an artist.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moving up

Puberty, a body -- I didn’t want any of it. I wanted to keep pulling this belt tighter. More layers, why do you wear three shirts? I wear three shirts because I need them. But somewhere I go from wanting no one to see, anything, me, to wanting everyone to see. I mean I always wanted them to see my mind, what you can’t see, but what you can see I didn’t want. This is when I realized that I would never find anything if I couldn’t make my outside reflect, so other people could. Kids, I mean. Other kids.

This was a problem, a problem to my parents. Everyone noticed. Before they had only noticed my mind, now they were noticing something else, a change, a problem. It was very calculated -- I remember so clearly thinking to myself: I don’t have any respect for my parents at all, and I will never again trust them on any level. Of course it took more than that realization, but it was there, there in that place with all these changes.

I needed to count how many calories -- that’s what my first datebook was for, it was so hard to get under 1000, so hard when I would rush to the corner store after school, buy every candy bar I couldn’t have, take one bite of each and then throw it all in the garbage: 1/10 of a Twix, 1/12 of a Milky Way, 3 Skittles -- how many calories is that? Oh, no -- there’s another Skittle in my bag, should I eat it? I don’t remember the bus, the bus on the way to therapy, but I must’ve taken the bus because I got there on my own and then my father would pick me up. Maybe afterwards was when I would go down into the basement, the fallout shelter, waiting for my father. At therapy I would say: of course I eat, of course I eat because I have all this energy.

This energy in my head, I realized: no one will ever find me, no one will ever find me if I can’t get out of this body, this body holding me here. I needed to show them something else besides fear. I stopped eating first, then I stopped trusting my parents, and then I started dressing in clothes that I thought might reflect something: first it was Generra sweatshirts, baggy Union Bay pants, black sunglasses like Tom Cruise except now when I see pictures of Tom Cruise from that time he didn’t wear those sunglasses at all, so who did? I realized quickly that this didn’t work, was it really when Gabe asked me to borrow my sweatshirt so he could look trendy? And I gave it right to him, before realizing.

The bad kids were the ones I admired, like Zelda Alpern when she bleached her hair with Clorox and it all fell out in the front -- we’d been close friends in second and third grade, I still remembered her mother, who was single, and that Zelda was allergic to wheat, was it wheat? She was allergic to something, so we always had ginger snaps. But anyway, now she was dating Gabe, one of the new bad kids at our school, the mod kids who listened to The Monkeys and The Who before they realized mod wasn’t bad enough so then they became punk. They were from Capitol Hill, or at least they went to Capitol Hill Day School, which ended in eighth grade so some of the students were moving over to our school, moving over to get a head start before high school I guess. It’s funny that Capitol Hill was considered kind of rough, because you know what else was there. I mean it was kind of rough because white people with kids who went to my school were buying houses there and renovating them, right around one corner was poverty and around the other corner was government, it’s always that way. But anyway, Gabe, who I respected because he knew he was smart but he paid no attention to what people wanted, or at least that’s what I thought.

I graduated to pegged jeans and V-neck sweaters over black turtlenecks, black loafers with dimes instead of pennies because I liked the color better: this was eighth grade. The mods who later became punks never paid much attention to me, even when I got of leather jacket in New York that looked way too tough on me, they knew I’d bought it new. I just looked like more of a faggot, most of them never said that because they were too cool but I still knew it was a problem. Even when I went to the smoking area, a small hill on the other side of the Safeway parking lot, and recess, this was in high school and I was scared, scared that they would reject me and they did. I mean they didn’t pay any attention.

I was always nice to everyone, this was part of my strategy, on two fronts: I didn’t want to be like everyone else. And: I wanted people to think I was someone else, someone besides that scared kid who answered every question first, the one who got to our school in second grade and sat down for reading, quickly read everything that was available for second grade, then went through the entire reading series, up to the eighth grade level. This was the kind of school where everyone remembered that kind of thing, once you are someone you couldn’t be anyone else but I was trying anyway, high school was a good time because there were all these new kids, these new kids who didn’t belong. Soon they belonged and I still didn’t, or I realized they weren’t the people I wanted to belong with anyway -- many of them hadn’t unlearned their suburban behaviors yet, something the rest of us have had years to practice. Soon enough I realized I would never belong anyway I mean not soon enough but soon, looking back on it, and that’s when I realized that was the way I would find people.

Growing up, it was always my sister who told our parents to fuck off. I mean literally. Maybe around four or five, she would say shut up! Because that’s what they were always saying to us, to each other; this was supposed to be an egalitarian household. At the grocery store, she’d turn to my father and start screaming: shut up, shut up you fucking asshole! Soon, only my father and I would go grocery shopping.

People would say to Allison: where did you learn those words? As if they didn’t know. This was when I hated adults, why did they think we were the ones who played make-believe? Here’s a picture of my sister and me in our first house, the one that came after the apartment where my parents and I lived together, before my sister was born. I don’t remember that apartment, except once I saw a picture and I asked my mother: where’s that? That was where we lived when you were born, she said.

Anyway, around when I was two we moved to the new house, the one where this picture was taken: it’s 1977, I’m four and my sister’s two. We’re sitting on the floor, and in front of us on the rug is a pile of Legos. I’m smiling huge, and my sister looks kind of like she’s been caught, caught by the camera she’s just knocked the Legos over and her mouth is in between expressions. In the second picture I’m leaning down towards the Legos, and my sister has her arm around me. We are softness and beauty, the shine of our hair and my sister’s smile but if you look closely at my smile in the first picture, it’s like every muscle in my face is tense: I’ve already learned to pretend, pretend for the camera. If you look closely at my sister, she’s holding on because she might be falling. It must be my grandmother who took this picture, you can see my father’s arms in the distance, back at the dining room table.

Take these Legos, I want to say -- we can take these Legos and build a bigger house, a house where they can’t find us. My sister knocks it over, and then we smile, smile for the camera. What does this mean? Soon we’ll leave this house, but we will continue falling. Looking back it feels so fast -- why only four years in that house, that house where we could walk to the end of the block and there were actually neighbors? My parents wanted something bigger, this was excitement, we were moving up.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

But wait -- if you're so tired that you can't function, and then you start reading the stupid fucking yahoo news I can't believe they call that news..

Whatever that stupid shit is that pops up on my email, anyway, besides the fact that chocolate has usurped vanilla as the favorite ice cream flavor in the US, and that at some ice cream convention (an ice cream convention?!) in Japan everyone was aflutter about beef tongue ice cream, which I'm sure my father would've loved because his favorite sandwich was a tongue sandwich (a Jewish deli specialty) -- I know, how's that for symbolism, I better add that one to the writing I'm doing! But anyway, then I read this, about a woman who was *killed* by some cop on motorcycle while watching the Tour de France:

Jeannette Stoeffel, 61, had been seen crossing the road many times before she was hit by the motorcycle going at 90 kph.


Okay, so she was seen crossing the road -- kill her!

And then, from Tour de France spokespeople:

“Security is the Tour’s top priority. Everyone must take their responsibilities.”


Right, kill her! She was not responsible, but she was responsible for her death...

But wait -- what about the responsibility of Tour security for killing her?

Oh, I see:

"We are certain the victim has died because of her imprudence.”


That's right -- kill her! Oh wait, she's already dead.

She didn't die because a speeding motorcycle from the bloated ceremonial guard ran into her, she died because of her imprudence. How dare she attempt to cross the road! How dare she!

I love sports, I really do.

(Oh wait -- it's the next day and I realized I didn't link to the story -- now they've updated it and it sounds more sensitive, and I can't find the original story -- the internet is so great for journalistic accountability!)

The sex life I was missing

For a few minutes in the morning I actually had energy, oh I guess that was before I got out of bed I mean when my brain was going everywhere so I thought I had energy but then I fell back asleep because when I feel that way it really means that within a few minutes I’ll become completely drained and then when I got up I didn’t have energy. But first, before I got up, I wanted to write, everything, and then I wanted to go somewhere to find sex, whatever that is, I mean at least writing gives me satisfaction -- at this point I’m not sure what sex gives me. I had this thought earlier, when I wanted to write there was so much to write that I didn’t think I would write about this thought. I thought: I wonder if I felt more embodied when I was a hooker, because I had to be in my body in order to turn tricks. When I stopped turning tricks, I thought that suddenly I would have this wonderful sex life or at least I would figure out the steps to take to try to get there, and I haven’t figured out anything. But actually, when I moved back to San Francisco almost nine years ago -- nine years, has it really been nine years? Anyway, when I move back nine years ago, I thought I would immediately find the sex life I was missing, because San Francisco is more liberated than New York, right? But now I realize that the sex life I hated in New York was much better than the sex life I have now, which I wouldn’t necessarily call life or sex.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Perfect

When I was younger I wanted everything to be perfect. I knew that nothing was perfect, and so I wanted to be perfect. I wanted people to think I was perfect. Inside I knew I was a monster, maybe the most evil person who had ever existed on the earth -- no one could ever know that, or I wouldn’t be able. I wouldn’t be able to go on living.

I didn’t know that yet, the part about able. But I knew I wanted to live, that’s the hard part. The hard part to understand, from this distance -- what makes that child?

I mean what made me, that child of three or four or six or seven because here I’m going way back -- I was the one smiling the widest in the family photos, the ones that my grandmother paid for, a photographer at her house. When I was at her house recently, I studied that photo, that smile. It takes over my whole face, even my eyes look tiny in comparison. I don’t remember much about that photo shoot except that we argued, or probably I didn’t argue it was my parents that argued; I was trying to hold it all together, soothe the edges there were only edges. We never did another photo shoot.

That’s what I prayed to God for: I prayed to God that no one would ever know I was evil. Some kids wanted to fly, but I knew that we didn’t have wings; I wanted to float. Maybe I would still have used the word fly, that place in the forcefield with all my best friends, the other girls, the other girls in the forcefield, we would always be 13 until I turned 13 and then we would be 16 but by 16 I’d found other ways to float. But first I wanted to keep everything together, back at five or six and this family of four: we all had roles. My father would scream, scream at my mother. My mother would threaten divorce. My sister would threaten to chop them up in a frying pan. I would try to get everyone to get along. Somehow I believed I could do this.

Other roles: my father would teach me. I would teach my sister. My mother would go somewhere, somewhere in the house where was my mother? There was so much in my head, so much that I thought I was an adult, an adult with so much in my head. But I knew they didn’t know, except sometimes they did know and then I didn’t know.

More roles: my father would tease my mother. My mother would tease my father. My father would tease me. My father would tease my sister. What would my mother do? My sister would tease me. I was floating.

When I was really young I wanted to save my sister, I wanted to hold her and teach her to dream I wanted us to hold each other because of them. To hold each other because. To hold each other. This was what my father was afraid of, he was afraid of secrets between children. He was afraid we would keep these secrets. Anything to get us not to keep these secrets, these secrets to keep each other.

More roles: my father was angry. My mother was angry. My sister was angry. I, I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to keep those secrets, anything. I wanted to keep anything that they hadn’t kept. I gave her a secret, she gave it to them. I gave her a secret, she gave it to them. I gave her a secret, she gave it to them. I didn’t want to hate her; I didn’t even want to hate them; I wanted secrets.

More roles: my father was angry and he made money and he taught us. My mother was angry at my father but she held us and she cooked. My sister wanted to fight. I wanted to read. I knew we were alone, I didn’t want us to be alone. They argued because they loved one another, that’s what they told us; maybe that’s what my sister believed. I kept these secrets for my sister -- I can’t even remember what they were; I didn’t want to learn not to tell her.

But here is a picture of me at the beach, poolside at age 12 -- how can my body be so stiff, my face in so much pain oh wait this isn’t the beach I can see houses in the background; this is the swimming pool, the swimming pool we joined. In this picture, you can tell that I’m scared, you can tell that my body is a rock, you can tell that I’m trapped, but you cannot tell that I wanted to be perfect. Sometimes everyone knows what they cannot see, and what they can see they don’t know. That’s what I’m learning from these pictures.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sweating anyway

Let’s look again at 1988 -- I guess what’s so stunning to me now is that this would be the end of the transitions I’m thinking about, but it’s almost hard for me to believe: this was the kid who was drinking pitcher after pitcher of margaritas at Las Rocas on weekends, having sex with men in public bathrooms almost every day after school, confident and secure enough to encourage others to try and exist outside convention? I mean I would never have said kid, but there’s no way else of looking at this picture: I look like a kid; I look like a kid who isn’t doing too well.

Let’s go back again to 1985, here I am with my sister and it’s the closest I’m going to get to looking happy, mostly because I’m looking down at the ground so you can’t see my face, and the picture is out of focus anyway: everything looks better out of focus. We’re grabbing on to a branch of a cherry blossom tree, I always loved the cherry blossoms: this must be in Kenwood Gardens, the neighborhood where my parents would take us every spring and I wanted to be those kids selling lemonade to everyone walking around and gazing up at the trees -- we had a bigger yard, but here it seemed like people actually talked to one another and I liked the way the houses felt aged, white paint peeling off red brick to reveal something stately.

But here I am, in focus, my clothes hanging on me like maybe they don’t know I’m there. I’m squinting in the sun, but the sun’s behind me. Somehow my face looks fuller, maybe just because my hair is overgrown the way I liked it better, but still it’s like I’m caught somewhere between not looking and not wanting to look. Back in New York, I’m with the Daniels on a tram at the Bronx zoo, I’ve never noticed the way Dan and Steve give off a vague sense of counterculture -- Dan’s newsboy hat and mustache, Steve’s black-framed glasses -- I mean I never sensed that then, and I wonder if it’s just the distance of time. They’re looking vaguely at the camera, a calculated distance; I’m looking right at my father, but it’s like my head hasn’t figured out how to stay on my shoulders.

Soon I will stop wearing short-sleeved shirts, I don’t want anyone to see too much of my body. At baseball games with my father and the Daniels, I’ve never really figured out what to do except to keep score -- then I can pretend that everyone isn’t looking at me like I’m in the wrong place. I mean I am in the wrong place. The Baltimore summer and I’m sweating, my father says it’s because I’m not wearing short sleeves. I say why does it matter -- I’d be sweating anyway.

This is around when the back pain starts, like my body is going to split apart right above my waist, no not when the back pain starts but when I start going to doctors for it. They tell me there’s nothing wrong except a slight curve in my spine and we’ll give you cookies for that -- that’s what they called arch supports in my shoes. I went to specialists, they sent me to other specialists. Then I got a headache that lasted for about nine years, no one knew what to do except ibuprofen, or fancier drugs that were kind of like ibuprofen but more colorful. I learned to like the texture of the pills.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Everything else

Before my bar mitzvah, I’d already rejected God, but on desperate nights I still prayed, face down into the pillow, before or after or maybe even during that press press press into the other pillow between my legs. Seventh grade and I started to listen to music, the Top 10 at 10 on my headphones when I was supposed to be sleeping. I rooted for “Rock Me Amadeus,” Amadeus, ooh ooh Amadeus, Amadeus. But more evidence: here is my bar mitzvah program, Shabbat morning service for May 17, 1986. My parents were the type that called themselves agnostic because they couldn’t risk the social exclusion of atheism, Yom Kippur and I told them I was fasting. My mother was worried I was going to become religious, for a moment this overrode her fears about my eating: almost a cover, but not quite a cover.

Did everyone in my Hebrew school choose a quote from Shel Silverstein for the opening of their program? I guess Shel Silverstein in bar and bat mitzvah programs was kind of like Walt Whitman in a high school yearbook: there’s nothing to choose except choosing. And so: “If you are a dreamer, come in…”

Mostly my dreams were nightmares, except the ones that happened when I was awake, flying around with all my best friends in forcefield bubbles and saving all the kids who everyone refused to see. Where were these best friends, except in bubbles? Now I’m studying this program for more clues, but all I get is my carefully drawn cover with two torah scrolls, my carefully-practiced curlicues delineating the rolling part of the scrolls. I guess someone named Heather had her bat mitzvah at the same time as mine, I mean we shared the service and it’s interesting that I designed the cover and I chose to put her scroll above mine, more to the center I didn’t want to take up too much space.

Everyone knows that most bar mitzvahs are all about the gifts, I tabulated the amounts of the checks in my head and my parents decided who had given enough and who was stingy. I saved everything, everyone always said I was good at saving but soon I would be good at borrowing money from my father’s wallet too; that was what saving really meant, maybe everyone knew that too. All I remember about the party was walking around in a big white room; talking to Robyn in a surprising moment of intimacy in the hotel hallway; watching my not-quite-friends sneaking drinks at the corner of the dance floor; meeting relatives I would never meet again.

My father loved to drink, but he loved control more, so he made sure that he would only drink on Wednesdays and weekends. Starting sometime before our teenage years he would always encourage my sister and I to join. I would stare at him with the studied indifference I was learning to craft; my sister would skip hungrily and my father would get all excited. Boys Night Out was different, that’s when I used to love the cheesecake the best but now mostly I tried to figure out how to get all my food into napkins that I stuffed into the vinyl booths of the Jewish deli. Actually this was after Boys Night Out was over, no more dreams and now it was Kids Night Out, which somehow meant dinner with my sister and my father, but where was my mother? My father would exaggerate his excitement at every bite of cheesecake -- don’t you want a bite, just one bite? It’s funny how I feel like An Officer and a Gentleman was the only movie that ever played there, but I don’t know what that means because it wasn’t a movie I ever saw.

They did have big terra cotta animals out front that we could climb on, this was way before -- maybe when An Officer and a Gentleman was actually playing, 1982 it seems, and I would stare in the bathroom store at the shag area rugs that you could get to cover your toilet seat, they didn’t look comfortable but the puffy seats did. I wanted new bath mats to match, but my father said we didn’t need them yet: this was probably an argument. Originally I just wanted to write about the beach, and drinking, and freedom, but that means writing about everything else and I don’t even know what everything else is.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Congee, congee to the rescue!

Ready

And here I am again, why is my breathing worse than ever, I mean worse than a while -- my whole face clogged shut, is this because of that egg? Wait, burning at the corner of my eyes -- this is familiar -- must be detergent on the eye mask, okay I’ll switch to another, good thing it’s not that light out yet, I don’t feel wired but should I take the homeopathic remedy again right away, just to prevent any more sleep interruption, it helped yesterday. I’ll wait. Oh no now there’s that burping thing, I’ll turn back to the other side where my shoulder hurts more, but it’s easier to burp, now I’m awake, I better take the homeopathic remedy. Oh no now the burping is much worse, right I think it’s the homeopathic remedy that’s giving me this burping -- that’s when my indigestion started last night, right after I took the homeopathic remedy, why does something so delicate as homeopathy do this to me?

I’ll switch to the right side, the feldenkrais practitioner thinks the burping is worse on the left because I don’t relax my body as much of there, but actually my body feels better on the left right now, except for the burping, I mean the inability to burp but the feeling like I need to. Okay, it’s still too stuck on the right, back to the center, oh no I’m too nauseous I have to get up.

I kneel in bed with the eye mask still on, but then I decide maybe the lack of vision is making me more scared, so I take off the eye mask, but I’m still nauseous, so I get up and start walking around, okay TUMS, maybe TUMS are good for this, right this is acid, TUMS are good for acid. But then there’s all that sugar, I’ll have to brush my teeth. Why do I only have Rolaids -- I know it’s the same thing, or almost the same thing, but what the hell is pregelatinized starch? I don’t think I want to eat that.

Okay, a few TUMS in my bag, I’ll chew these, oh no will the sugar keep me up? Into the bathroom to brush my teeth, where is my hot water bottle, I know I used to have a hot water bottle. I’m out of Posumon, so I can’t rub that on my belly, and Tiger Balm makes my eyes burn -- maybe that other one that makes me cold, oh good it helps now I’m burping more, walking around my apartment I wish these blinds worked better, still too much light but I guess it’s dark enough for now. Okay I’m still burping will I always be burping when did this start? I guess a few months ago, although off and on for a long time right after taking various homeopathic remedies in liquid, somehow it’s the liquid that makes me burp even though it’s just water, just the energy of something in water but it makes me burp. It wasn’t awful until that flu, when it ruined me for those two days when I couldn’t do anything, I mean anything except bed, get out of bed, more bed.

Maybe a bath would help, a bath with Epsom salts. I’m trying to avoid writing about how awful I feel -- I don’t want to write about how awful I feel, ever again. Okay, I’ll get back in bed. Oh, I love this bed -- you can take everything away, but I still love this bed. Here’s the burping again, and now I’m nauseous, okay I’ll get up again. Oh no now the pain has expanded upwards, like my stomach is pushing up into my chest. I guess that’s from the TUMS, the TUMS are the only thing in my stomach. This must be the egg, I should’ve stopped after a quarter or a half, I mean I did stop because I felt full but then I didn’t know what I would do with the rest, I mean I could put it in the refrigerator but would I really eat it again -- I didn’t want to waste it, all those chickens in the free range barn with their beaks chopped off, shitting all over one another but they change the water, the water is fresh and it’s handled mechanically so there’s no contamination.

Ouch my stomach hurts so much ouch, should I eat something? Should I eat something, or will that just make this worse? So much for this experiment, this experiment of eating an egg -- I don’t want to write about how awful I feel, ever again. Okay I guess the bath is ready, but will the bath make me nauseous? Should I eat something before the bath? Maybe some quinoa, quinoa is comforting. I don’t know if I’ll eat an egg, ever again -- I mean, is this something worth trying? I don’t know if I’ll feel better, ever again. Some people move to the Southwest, they move to the Southwest because it’s dry, so they can get away from the mold. The mold, and other allergies. I hate hot weather -- I don’t think I could live in the Southwest.

I don’t want to write about it how awful I feel, ever again. Some people just take a pill, they take a pill and then they feel better. Or, if they don’t feel better, they take another pill. If that pill makes them feel better in one way, but worse in another, then they take another pill. Maybe they need a pill to help with that pill. Or another pill. I guess no one just takes one pill.

I get back in bed, ouch, I get back out of bed. Maybe I should have a prescription for some kind of sleeping pill, just for an emergency. I have a bunch of expired ones, I should probably throw those away. I hate sleeping pills. That might be the worst thing I ever tried -- six months of sleeping pills and wow, that was really the bottom. But then the bottom of the bottom was when I decided to stop the sleeping pills, and everything got so much worse than so much worse, I’m so glad I don’t take sleeping pills.

I don’t want to write about how awful I feel, ever again. Some people write about flowers, they write about pretty girls and flowers, oh that makes me think of Alice in Wonderland, the first movie I saw. I was proud that I was going to a movie with my father, I want to say that I was three, this was at the theater in Wheaton, we only went to Wheaton when my father went over to Flora Paoli’s house to pick up something she’d typed for him, a paper he was working on or maybe this was his first book. I liked Flora, because she had a lot of cats.

But Alice in Wonderland, Alice is falling in black-and-white, why were they showing this black-and-white movie? Alice is falling, her hair in the air and mushrooms are talking or maybe that’s the little creatures’ hats, somewhere there must be flowers but Alice is falling and somewhere I scream, did my father really reach over in that theater, so bold no bold is not the word I’m looking for so brazen, did my father really reach down and Alice is falling.

I need to let go of literally, literally was my father’s weapon he knew that I would sit here, years later, and think: literally? Or was it something about the way Alice was falling that reminded me, reminded me of me? My father was a psychiatrist, he knew how memory works. Alice is falling, and my father reaches over, that huge claw that digs into my center, my center that is never my center, my father bends down and rips apart everything in the middle with his teeth devouring my flesh, blood and guts everywhere he’s smacking his lips like he does at the dinner table in an exaggerated attempt at eating like a man, a regular guy, he’s pulling apart my stomach my guts and there, down there -- take it, I don’t want it -- take it, I don’t want any of it, just take it away, take it all away and Alice is falling. My father is a crane, one of those huge metal cranes, pounding into me, tearing me open until there’s no more, no more to open, close. There’s always more -- my father is drilling down through my head, down through my center that isn’t my center, there’s just my head and that pain down there and Alice is falling Alice is falling and I scream.

I don’t remember ever going back to that theater. My father said he was wrong, I was too young to go to a movie, I wasn’t ready.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A dream

There must be some way to describe everything that’s going through my head, my head in his bed, without describing everything because everything is too much to describe. Crisis, mostly that’s what it is. Not a new crisis, just this crisis that is my health, not getting anywhere except I guess here, awake again in this cycle of hopelessness.

Right now I’m thinking about eggs, because I tried that thyroid hormone, one pill of the lowest dose dissolved in water and then just five drops of the liquid, which probably translates to about 1/200th of a pill, and immediately it made me wired and angry, my tongue doing that weird thing in my mouth like with speed and my stomach clenched tight. The next day I tried two drops, but it was still too much -- obviously it’s not the right thing.

I already told myself that if the thyroid hormone didn’t help, then I would try eggs, so then here I am in bed thinking about whether there’s any way to live ethically, and obviously the answer is no, there is no way to live ethically in the culture that exists now, in the US, in San Francisco -- but it is possible to try to live ethically.

I try to find organic, free-range eggs from a farm that doesn’t also slaughter the chickens, but I don’t think there is such a farm. I try to figure out whether free-range means anything, and it doesn’t. I get depressed just looking at all the details, and then I end up buying free-range eggs anyway -- they can’t be worse than the regular ones, right?

I’m starting to think of veganism as an ideology -- ideology is something I’ve always tried to avoid. In some ways I think it makes the most sense for me to talk about my ethical dilemmas with other vegans, right? But then the other day I could sense this person was implying that I’m some kind of dupe of the system, maybe a brainwashed bimbo believing the lies of the medical industrial complex, and I realized that I used to think the same thing about vegans who decided to try eggs or fish or whatever. Like, when someone would say oh I was vegan for two years but I just couldn’t get enough protein, or something like that, and I would maybe listen but inside I would think they just weren’t trying hard enough.

People always used to ask me: oh, how do you feel, do you feel better? I mean the ones who weren’t telling me to eat meat. And the truth is that no, for 17 years I’ve felt all different kinds of terrible, but of course before that I felt worse but that was before I escaped what I was supposed to be. I’ve always thought that I must feel better than I would otherwise, but, after 17 years, I’m just not sure anymore. Of course, there’s so much violence from childhood that I’m still trying to survive. Still, I feel like I need to try this experiment, this experiment of eating eggs or fish, just to see if it helps, because I’ve tried everything else. Absolutely everything, I mean if another person says to me: have you tried yoga? Or: have you tried therapy? Or: have you tried -- whatever -- fill-in-the-blank -- I’m just going to scream. I’m just going to scream, and never stop screaming, and then my throat will get so sore that I’ll never be able to eat anything again. Or speak. Sometimes that’s how I feel -- I look at people doing the simplest things and I think: I can’t believe she’s reading like that, on the bus. Or: I can’t believe that person is walking down the street with all those bags. I mean without pain.

A few months ago, I thought of writing a list of everything I’ve tried, but just starting this list made me so completely exhausted and overwhelmed.

I would say that, in its simplest form, there are two core parts to veganism. The first is that you don’t consume any animal products at all; that’s what I’ve done for 17 years. Everyone interprets this slightly differently, but the basic belief is the same. The other core belief is that you try to exist in a way that doesn’t participate in the slaughter or exploitation of animals. “Cruelty free” is a catchphrase that has emerged -- often, at least in San Francisco or places like it, this mostly means some form of “responsible consumerism,” which, of course, is still responsible for the mass degradation of the entire planet. Sometimes I feel like I’m abandoning myself if I let go of a dream I’ve struggled so hard to hold onto, and so I need to look at that dream.

I’m talking about veganism as an intrinsic part of a radical, anti-authoritarian, queer worldview, and it’s a beautiful dream, a dream I certainly don’t want to abandon. Maybe it’s the ideology that I need to discard, the part that makes me think I’m a horrible person for eating an egg.

And here I am, eating that egg, hard-boiled from a recipe I found online, since I can’t even remember how to hard-boil an egg. It’s hard to chew it -- I’m not exactly nauseous, but I’m kind of gagging. I feel this lift in my head, like everything in the room opens up for a minute and I’m kind of floating -- usually this indicates an allergy, soon my jaw will feel locked or I won’t be able to think. But it doesn’t go further: maybe it’s just a lift. I eat about half the egg, along with some collard greens, and then I already feel kind of full. My stomach doesn’t clench, there’s a little rumbling when I come back to the second half, and the whole time it’s like I’m chewing something alien, but my body doesn’t seem to reject it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Color in the neighborhood, yay for color!







When we are looking

But here’s what it is about these photos from 1988: I look tiny, my face all hollowed out whereas somehow in 1987 my face looks fuller, my expression more convincing. But let’s go back to 1983, this time I’m wearing the blue and red striped Alligator t-shirt, you see we didn’t call it Izod, and some kind of navy denim-type pants, I remember those from sixth grade and that bathroom at recess where I could hear people playing outside, the smell of institutional piss surrounding me -- this was a building my school rented, just for the sixth grade, so we were almost on our own. Behind the sports fields stood the Psychiatric Institute -- that’s where girls got sent for anorexia, came back tougher and sadder and more worldly. Sometimes I felt jealous.

Anyway, of course my belt is pulled around my waist as tightly as possible and somehow there’s a duffel bag suspended from my shoulder, behind me there’s a view. I don’t know where this is, so much green it’s hard to say. This time I’m squinting because of the sun and my lips are turned to one side like I’m crying without crying, maybe that’s what it felt like. But another picture with the same outfit, this time I’m on the New York subway, it’s one of the trips when my father and I went to New York with Don and Steve Daniels. The subway was one of my favorite places, here Don is looking pensive into the distance, Steve looks vaguely into the camera and I looked skittishly past my father, my head on my body like I’m some kind of doll, the kind you don’t give your kids because they might learn something.

But what was I learning? I loved the buildings, the taller the better -- it didn’t matter if my ears popped, as long as I could look down at everything: this is where I will eventually escape to. I loved walking out onto the street in front of the hotel and going into a corner store with all the hot food laid out on tables, sometimes this is what I would do with Steve when our fathers went drinking. We took the subway everywhere and I studied the neighborhoods: this one is run-down but filled with excitement, that one looks scary, this one has so many trees it’s not even like New York -- the end of the line was my favorite place, just because that meant we got to ride all the way back. Even better would be an empty subway car from Coney Island when Steve and I would flow between the poles in the center, trying to stand up. In New York, everything was an adventure. Even the zoo was bigger. But the only time in these pictures when my face softens is when I’m feeding animals -- here a goat eats out of my hand and I’m studying it so closely it’s like there’s no one else there and that means maybe me.

But wait -- here’s 1986, and I’m feeding the pigeons in some square, where did I get this tiny cup for them to eat directly from, squatting on the sidewalk in shorts and that same red and blue striped shirt I’m leaning towards my new friend while trying to stay balanced on my shoes, I didn’t want my knees to get dirty. I’m confused about this picture, because I look the same as 1985 but in my memory by the time of my bar mitzvah I’d already rejected the bowl cut in favor of my hair swept back. Wasn’t my bar mitzvah in 1986? I guess it seems silly for such a ritual to mark any actual transition, but somehow I think it did land in that place. Maybe this photo was developed later than its actual date: where is history when we are looking?