Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Support

When I first started turning tricks, back in San Francisco, I would tell these elaborate stories, I knew that every hooker had stories. Like the one that started like this: it’s my fifth trick, he calls around eleven, says do you go to Concord. I say 100 an hour, 250 for the night, wash up, catch the last train, and of course he isn't there. So I'm standing there waiting, thinking he's not going to show up and there isn't another train 'til morning and what the fuck am I gonna do. Finally this guy shows up in Speedos and a windbreaker, says are you Tyler, like there's anyone else around with pink hair. Then we're driving along, he's pushing my head to his crotch saying suck my cock suck my cock and I'm sucking his limp dick, he's doing Rush every few minutes and squeezing my balls and we're driving in the pitch dark -- I don't know where the fuck we are.

Often I would tell those stories back at that kitchen table in San Francisco, kitchen table that was also the living room people didn’t have living rooms in those days I mean not people we knew, a small green sofa on one side that was our prize, it wrapped around the table. Andee kept saying you need to write those stories down. A lot of people said that, but Andee was the most persistent. At the time I wrote poetry, so at first I wasn’t interested -- I thought the details of these tricks were too mundane, I wanted to change language. But Andee said girl, you need to write those stories down, and then when I started to write them down I realized oh, these are good stories, I need to keep writing them.

I started turning tricks not so long after I remembered I was sexually abused but I’d planned it before. It made sense and I didn’t necessarily know why, except that once I got to San Francisco I lived in a culture that made it possible. Not in that pathologized way of leaving my body I knew that too well. I stayed conscious of when I would start to float up to the ceiling and then I’d move into not away from skin.

When I went back to Providence, I performed that first story at the big queer performance event of the year, I’m not sure how I found out about it except that I was venturing as far as possible from that school, exploring all the bars downtown where there was a whole strip, really -- a video bar, drag bar, male strip club, leather bar, and then the one I never went to because everyone said it was racist I mean they all were probably racist, but that was the one everyone knew was racist. Then, further from downtown, there were two clubs, the new one which was the most popular, the only one where people from Brown would go, actually people from neighboring towns and cities and even in states would drive to that club, and then there was the one where people from Brown used to go, before the other one opened, and then there was a huge dyke bar but they weren’t so happy about me unless I showed up with dykes. Even then. Actually, I’m not sure any of these bars were so happy about me, but I was happy about these bars.

Anyway, I performed at that event, ‘Stravaganza, which took place in a big performance space downtown, I even had the actual shorts that I got from that fifth trick, yellow lycra with black stripes down the side, after ecstasy and niacin and pot and cocktails and straightboys and another hooker and at least one blackout, and I stripped down to the shorts before beginning. This blond guy who seemed really young, I mean I already knew him but he still seemed young, even though he wasn’t much younger than me, maybe not younger at all, he came up afterwards and said I really like those shorts and I didn’t know what to say because the shorts were a joke I wasn’t sure he was in on the joke. And I still didn’t know how to interact with fags when they were flirting with me, fags who didn’t hang out only with dykes.

Then there was this guy who was a theater director, the big theater downtown, he said he really enjoyed my performance, he’d like to take me out for dinner. I never called because I couldn’t figure out what he wanted, and that scared me, I mean I didn’t like those awkward situations where you didn’t know whether sex was what was supposed to happen, and that’s something that hasn’t really changed. The one time I tried to turn a trick in Providence, this guy wanted to take me to Gerardo’s, that was the club that wasn’t as popular anymore, now that the new one had opened, he couldn’t believe I hadn’t been to Gerardo’s. Then we were there and I didn’t know what to do really, so much easier when there’s just a bed and you with this guy.

After I got thrown against a metal pole at that other club, the straight one, I wrote to Richard Bump, the author of the queer column in town, in one of the weekly papers, saying that I wanted to get a group of people together to get dressed up and go down to Club Babyhead to show those homophobes that we would still flame, before it was just me but now it would be we. It wasn’t the first time I’d written to Richard -- before I moved back to Providence, I found his zine at A Different Light Bookstore in San Francisco when A Different Light still sold zines, all punked out and queer and I couldn’t believe this existed in Providence, I wrote to him and asked if he knew of anyone who was looking for a roommate, anyone who didn’t go to Brown.. Turned out he’d gone to Brown a few decades before, which was kind of funny, since I’d assumed he was closer to my age, but anyway after I sent in that letter for his column, and he published it, I tried to gather everyone I knew, and everyone I didn’t quite know, to go down to Babyhead. I pulled together a special outfit, which was this tiny silver dress from Contempo Casuals almost like a neglige, the kind of thing that would only look good on someone like me, someone who wasn’t wearing it seriously, or was seriously wearing it in a different way.

Then I accessorized with silver thigh highs and black stretchy clips that I used to wear that looked like garters, they connected the thigh highs to my boxers underneath but you couldn’t see the boxers. This might’ve been only the third or fourth time I’d worn a dress out into the world, but I didn’t tell anyone that. And then I added big silver clips to my magenta hair, and I called everyone I knew, talked to everyone who I ran into: most of my friends didn’t show up, only two people from Brown, the boy with the barrettes and my friend Eve, she was one of the only people at Brown who didn’t seem like she’d changed for the worse, maybe because she was honest about herself and her privilege before and she was still honest. Maybe 10 more people came and they were all random people from Providence who I didn’t know or barely knew, and that taught me something about where to find support, at least in Providence, even though soon I would decide to leave, I was leaving again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It was just sun before

Somewhere there’s an interview with Luke Vibert, talking about Kerrier District, one of his side-projects, and he says something like people won’t believe it’s me, they won’t believe it’s me because the beats are so cheesy. But the truth is that all his beats are cheesy, that’s what makes the music so swing down bent over fly away fly away fly I mean that’s what makes his music so glorious. Or one of the things, anyway, along with the twist around shakedown funked up flurry that flinging you into bounce. Although this album hasn’t been my favorite, I wouldn’t say it’s because the beats are cheesy I would say it’s because the songs are more straightforward. Except for the last one, which builds all over. But now it’s track two, the evenness that matches the unevenness of my heart, body, which is it, heart or body it’s just these beats these beats that match the way I can jump bounce, bounce and sway, shake like I’m in that room with all these bodies except it’s just me and that means when I turn there’s more air, or a different kind of air and who’s to say these cheesy beats don’t match our heart, these bodies just me and still, still I can dance in and out of these moves like I’m shadowing and shining, the sun is shining in, the sun wasn’t sunny it was just sun before and now.

What, you call that therapy -- I need therapy to deal with that therapy session!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rhubarb

But let’s take a musical break. I don’t know what happened when I first got this CD, the second or third album by Chicks on Speed, really the third because first there was The Releases of the Unreleases, my favorite because it goes from basically noise music into this melodic take on Eurotrash Girl, which was originally some guy singing in that kind of misogynist way and they are that eurotrash girl so they bring it up a few notches. Oh -- and that first album was on K Records, one of those Olympia labels -- what are we doing back in Olympia? But anyway, then they started their own label, in Germany, and this was their second album on their own label, the same label that released the last Le Tigre album, I mean the last album before they signed with a major label, and then that was the last album. I think it took me a while to get this Chicks on Speed album because they didn’t have it used at Amoeba but then when I got it I didn’t listen to it. I mean I listened to it once. Like the last Le Tigre album, I mean the one that was really the last one, the one where you listened and you tried to listen and you couldn’t, it was just too disturbing the way it kind of but didn’t sound like anything. I mean nothing.

But anyway, now I’m listening to this Chicks on Speed album, maybe five years later and what, what was I doing not listening to this? Maybe it was the way their critiques of commodity fetishism felt like part of the commodity, but listen: “paper tiger, this is your call, come with me let’s burn down the mall.” With a runway beat. Then there’s a whole second CD with all these remixes of “We Don’t Play Guitars” that are so obliterating in that 7 am club disaster marathon except with glitchy dj danger beats, each one different, really a different song switching up a vocal that might say “We like gaffer tape, but we don’t play guitars” and really, really, I haven’t been listening to this? Maybe I should listen to that Le Tigre album again -- I mean I just tried.

A few years earlier and I was all about runway, I mean I’m still all about runway there’s just nowhere to turn it. When I say runway, I’m talking about late at night when the queens come out, the queens come out to walk, and when I say the queens and I’m talking about runway, for the most part I mean black queens, they were the queens who were turning the runway when I first gasped. Probably for the first time in San Francisco, but then all the time in Boston, remember Boston, I mean I haven’t talked about Boston at all so there’s nothing to remember yet.

The point is that you walk like no one can touch you you walk like you’re going to die right now so you better walk you walk like you’re never going to die you’re never going to die as long as you can keep walking and you walk like you’re going to kill, kill with this walk and you walk like no one can touch you. And the truth is that no one can touch you, no one can touch you as long as you’re walking. Well, maybe not the whole truth, but the truth in your eyes and that’s the whole truth that matters, at least when you’re walking. Usually at the end of the night, the end of the night before you have to walk home, or onto the subway or into a cab, but that’s a different story.

And sure, you’re also walking like a model, a model on those other runways, that’s part of the turn, pose, but it’s a different kind of model, at least the way I looked at it. Maybe a model for getting away, even if you’re never going to get away you will get away on the runway. Once I did walk in the other kind of runway, this designer in Boston who took used clothes and re-sewed them into high-end designer items, Gabby and I walked in this show because they wanted some freaks, there were club kids working for this designer but they wanted more. My special move where I kick my leg up like I’m going right into the crowd but then other leg behind, twirl around, keep walking. When we auditioned, I remember that the designer or whoever was making the decisions said now walk like normal, no like normal, and my friend who was one of the club kids working there said no, that’s how Mattilda walks.

Boston was where my name became Mattilda, I was a club kid there because there was nothing else. I mean, clubs had always been part of my life, but in Boston they became my life. Clubs, and outfits -- Gabby and I would head as early as possible on delivery days to Dollar-a-Pound, where our only competition was old white women and Haitian mothers looking for clothing for their families, and they weren’t looking for the same type of clothing so I’m not sure why we felt we needed to get there so early, get there so early which meant staying up but oh, the outfits. At one point I accumulated so many wedding dresses, wedding dresses that didn’t fit but why not, why not accumulate wedding dresses when everything is a dollar a pound? So we decorated the dining room with them, yes we had a dining room -- Boston was so cheap at that point, I mean once you left the destination areas it was so cheap that we had a three bedroom apartment between the two of us, plus living room and dining room, and paid $300 each. We never even got a single piece of furniture for the living room, we would just peek through the shutters to make sure all the elementary school kids weren’t flooding the sidewalk before we went out. Before that apartment in East Boston, we shared an eight-bedroom house in Dorchester where each person paid just a little over $100, but I’m getting distracted. The point was that in Boston is where I got the name Mattilda. At the time I was experimenting with the name Rhubarb, since it was my favorite color, the color of my hair, but when Gabby started calling me Mattilda it made more sense.

Anyway, in Boston you really needed to know how to walk if you were going to walk. I mean, everywhere I went, people looked at me like they wanted to kill me, sometimes they would tell me, they would tell me they wanted to kill me, and that’s when I needed to walk. You look at them like nothing can touch you, and then you hope, you hope that nothing. Nothing will touch you. Like, when Gabby and I were walking home, home from doing laundry, and this guy stopped his baby carriage and started screaming at us: what are you doing in my neighborhood? Or, when someone dropped a cinderblock out their second story window, and it fell down with a thud just a little bit in front of us, you keep walking. The most important thing is that they don’t know that they’ve touched you, or at least that was the most important thing for me then.

In Providence, which was right before Boston this time around, my second time doing the New England thing, remember how I went back to Brown? I mean I just left, just left in this story, but when I went back that was after three years in San Francisco that meant everything, I mean I was a different person, an entirely different person at the end, the end of San Francisco. I think I’m trying to avoid getting there, getting there because of all the disappointment and how you change, but then you think about these moments and you’re still there, you’re still there in all that hopelessness and that’s why I’m writing this, I’m writing this to get back there, to get back there so I can finally get away, but first let me tell you about going back, because now it’s all going back, now that I’m further away, but this was a different back, after everything that made me, or everything that made me think that I could make myself no not everything but everything that felt like me, a different person than where I started. Okay, so I got there, and then I went back, back to Brown.

I went back to Brown because I was getting ready to confront my father about sexually abusing me, so I figured I better go back, just to make sure I never wanted to go back. I mean, I wanted to tell my father that I would never speak to him again unless he could acknowledge sexually abusing me, raping me, molesting me, he could choose from these terms but I wanted him to acknowledge. I didn’t think he ever would, he was a psychiatrist so he had access to any means of dealing but I didn’t think he would deal. So I thought maybe I’d go back to Brown for a year to get off academic probation, that’s how long I needed a year, and then I could figure out what came next.

I also wanted to get away, to get away from what San Francisco had become, had become for me, but then after I decided to get away, that’s when it finally felt relaxing and hopeful, isn’t that always the way it happens? It already felt like home, home in that third apartment where I lived that first time, lived in the Mission with first Laurie and Camelia and someone random person, and later with JoAnne and Camelia and another random person, and a lot of other people in between, some of them random and some of them not. It was home because I finally felt it, felt like it was home, felt. In that apartment where we lived on an alley called Sycamore, yes of course that’s where I got my name.

When I went back to Brown, I was stunned, stunned at what people had become. The people I remembered as alienated and quirky, weird and overwhelmed yet expressive, most of them had become pompous and disaffected, shuffling around abstractions in order to gain stature in the battle of ideas. Before they’d just left, home or whatever they called it, and now they were ready to leave again, graduate, they were ready and I was stunned, stunned at what they had become. Looking back, I wonder if I had changed more than they, I had changed and I could barely remember the way I’d been before.

In one of my classes, there was this first-year with a barrette in his hair, alienated and quirky like the people I’d remembered and I kept saying you need to get away, get away before this is what you become. And he left, left at the end of the year, moved to San Francisco. I would walk across campus as fast as I could, rush to my classes and rush away, and then second semester I decided I would live in Boston, that was the only way I could continue going, I would drive down to go to class and then drive back, Boston was only an hour away.

Before I left, there was this club in Providence that was the only place where I could go to dance, I mean there were other places but the music wasn’t that good, wasn’t as good as Babyhead on Sundays which was totally straight and people were always harassing me but I didn’t care, this was where I could really go crazy, crazy on the dance floor -- you remember crazy, right? In a club full of straight people who were also dancing -- straight guys, mostly, since most straight clubs are mostly straight guys, especially the ones that center around the music and I didn’t think about that yet, I probably wouldn’t think about that for a while since I mostly didn’t go to straight clubs unless I was there for the music and this one night it went from from piano to those horns I craved to those beats gliding under me those beats helping me to swim this was the dance floor.

People didn’t dance with me, they danced around me but I knew how to study the shake the hips feet into ground to ground me and this was one of those clubs where everyone watches, everyone watches the dance floor and at one point this guy picked me up and threw me against a metal pole, held me there for a moment and said: I’m going to kill you. Just like that. No one said a word.

It happened so fast and I just got that rush to my head, that rush of fear but remember what I said about runway, the most important thing for me was that they wouldn’t change anything I mean I would not let them know. So I started dancing crazier like my life depended on it, because it did, this was my life this dancing and then when the club closed I went over to my friend, and I said did you see what happened? No, he said, except he already looked scared, his chair was facing the dance floor, facing me. Although he always looked kind of scared, he didn’t want anyone to know he was gay, anyone out in the world outside the school where he went, which was the other school, the other school on the hill, the art school where people in Providence usually assumed I went too.

Actually he was closeted to most people at the art school too, but I said someone just threw me against a pole and said he was going to kill me, would you mind going outside and getting the car? The guys had already left, I was worried they were waiting outside, waiting for me. My friend said no, I can’t do that. I said they don’t even know who you are, they don’t even know you’re gay, they don’t even know you’re with me. He said I can’t, I’m scared.

I didn’t think about the fact that the guys who had threatened me were black, and my friend was also black, and the people he was most afraid of were other black people, other black people who might find out he was gay. I wasn’t sure we were going to be friends anymore. We were new friends anyway, he liked to go out, he wanted me to take him places. I walked outside with a cold rush, yes the air was cold but this was really runway over to my car and there it was with all the windows smashed, or most of the windows anyway. How did they know it was my car? I brushed the glass out of both seats, and drove around to pick up my friend, my friend who maybe wasn’t my friend anymore.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I love this time of day

Everything at once

I have this sense that if I can be absolutely specific about everything that has failed me, about all my hopes that have now become hopeless, about everything that I’ve wanted that I might still want or maybe I want something else, if I can be absolutely specific, ruthless even, completely open then maybe I won’t feel so hopeless anymore. I don’t even want to say what I’m talking about, I mean I do but for now I want to stay here in this feeling, this feeling which is my writing, writing this. When I’m writing I’m fine, actually I’m more than fine I’m amazing, especially recently, when I’m writing about everything that I haven’t written about, or haven’t written about in a while, the places and people and feelings and moments and losses that have made and unmade me, when I’m writing this I get so excited, I start thinking about several different parts of my life at once and how to connect them, how to connect them in the way that it’s always everything at once, even when you’re looking back and then I stop, just for a moment, like today I stopped to go outside, go outside before dark and look at the sun, I love this time of day, I’ll remember it all when I get back inside, I’ll remember it all it’s all here now it’s all here buzzing inside me I’ll remember.

But then I get back inside, and it’s not that I can’t remember it’s that I’m surrounded by this other side of me this side that shuts me down is it the same side, the same side that makes me think if I can just think, think some more than I can get there. I can get there to that clarity, that clarity when everything comes together and all this energy flows through me I get all warm and cold and I’m almost crying I’m holding myself I’m holding all of this. But then the other part of this is this shutting down, how will I get back to words, how will I get back to writing about this shutting down, this writing, how will I get back?

Friday, September 25, 2009

A farce of a farce

But I almost forgot to tell you about my wedding. We both wore black, of course, a very sophisticated black. I was featuring a jacket I got at Le Chateau the first time I went to Montréal, it must’ve been junior year of high school when I was visiting colleges and I went up with my father, was it just my father? The thing I remember the most is going out to a bar called Les Foufounes Electriques, I’m not sure how I ended up going out to a bar by myself if I went up with my father, maybe he went to bed and I went out? Anyway, just down the street was this bar that turned out to the legendary, a legendary punk bar although I didn’t know that yet but I did go there two nights in a row and I was trying only to speak French, I wanted to become fluent -- vodka orange, s’il vous plait? A few people came up to me and asked, avez-vous du mesc, or at least that’s what I thought they said, and I’d just read Burroughs, so I figured they thought I was the mescaline dealer, how sophisticated!

Pas maintenant, I said -- not now. I’m still not sure exactly what they were asking for -- maybe meth? Or a match? But anyway, at some point my father and I walked by Le Chateau, a whole display window filled with nothing but Eurotrash black dresses and sleek black modified military punk-industrial type jackets, I couldn’t believe they were so cheap. Either this was before Le Chateau was a trashy store at the mall where you bought tacky clubwear, or I didn’t notice I was buying tacky clubwear, or both, but anyway I was definitely excited about that jacket but then there was never anywhere to wear it, I mean I must’ve worn it somewhere but then I didn’t wear it until my wedding, it was perfect for a wedding. Looking at a snapshot, I see that Laurie and I look positively resplendent in the office of the justice of the peace in Providence, Rhode Island, ‘70s wood paneling to our right, a bouquet of fake flowers behind us, an overstuffed file cabinet to our left. Laurie holds a bouquet of real flowers -- carnations, even -- and I wear a boutonniere just below my shoulder, emphasizing the metal buttons up the right side of the jacket, and yes yes of course we stare into each other’s eyes.

Here we hug in a photo with the other guests, and I’m relieved to see that it’s a mishmash of all different types, not the edge-trendy Modern Culture Media majors for the most part, or at least not yet. And yes, the rice they threw in our direction was bulk organic whole grain brown rice, we certainly wouldn’t have allowed anything else. Oh -- but why were we getting married, you ask? Simple! Our lovely university required all students to live on campus for three years, to make sure they could collect as much money as possible on their overpriced dorm rooms. You could rent a whole huge house with a bunch of people off-campus, and pay about half as much as the university charged to share a dorm room. Not that we wanted to live in a dorm room anyway -- I mean, my dorm wasn’t so bad, but Laurie’s was right on frat row!

And so, as with all marriages, Laurie and I were planning for the future, although we had to borrow a ring from a friend, a big plastic silver flower. We called the whole thing a farce of a farce, planned on getting big chunky silver rings for that special finger with that slogan wrapping around. Oh, right -- you’re still wondering. Here’s the thing: there was a loophole in the university housing policy. If you were married, with the requisite documentation from a justice of the peace, then of course you could move off campus and into conjugal bliss. We’d gotten the idea from a senior who had done the same thing a few years earlier, a senior who strangely lived on campus, maybe it was something about what his financial aid would pay for? Maybe there was one other couple who had done it before, but mostly it was the kind of thing people talk about but didn’t dare.

Later that same senior sold us fake cocaine as we headed away, but anyway we got married and then received off-campus housing permission. We even rented an enormous oldhouse nearby, the same house where earlier in the year one of those Modern Culture Media students told me flat out: last year, I was the coolest first year, but this year that’s you. The Minutemen were playing -- the band, I hadn’t heard of them before: one of their songs said: “I think I’m gonna get married, buy a ring, for the second toe.” The strangest part is that here I’m looking at a sheet of notes I took from a meeting to organize a SAMA protest where we were planning to encircle University Hall, and maybe even symbolically burn EQUAL ACCESS in the front, and here is the name of that exact same student, one who in my mind I was so certain would be too jaded to move in any direction towards protest, and here she is, at least in my notes, committing to coordinating video documentation. Do you see how everything wraps together?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where I learned the most

In 1997, I went to a queer writers conference in San Francisco. I think it was called Readers and Writers. I was living in Seattle. It wasn’t my first queer writers conference, but it was the first one I went to after getting published. I went to Outwrite in Boston in 1995, when I was living there, and I met Michael Lowenthal and he took me into a room with all these white gay male establishment writers, and I didn’t know what to say, didn’t know if I ever wanted to be anyone to these people anyway. All I could think about was doing ecstasy, I needed to get out of there and get high. At Readers and Writers in San Francisco, I met Thea Hillman and Elizabeth Stark. We went to a panel where Jennifer Levin said you can’t write anything truly great until after you’re 30. Or maybe she said 25. Elizabeth, who had just written her first book, raised her hand and said: I’m 25, and I’ve already written something truly great.

I was 23. There were things that I knew then, that I couldn’t possibly know now, and there are things that I know now, that I couldn’t possibly know then. But if we move back to Brown, 18 years have passed since then, that means half of my life was before and half of my life after. When I left I was fond of saying that everything I learned there came from protesting against the university. But here I’m wondering if I learned more, except that then I’m wondering if I’m giving the university too much credit, even if the credit doesn’t have anything to do with classes. Because the truth is that, as soon as I got away, got away from DC and childhood, there were already so many more possibilities, possibilities which would have existed anywhere. I mean I’d already created those possibilities, possibilities for living outside of my parent’s dreams, maybe what changed was that I realized that.

Or maybe I didn’t realize it yet, but I was about to realize it. Maybe that’s what happened at Brown, even if for so long, just saying that word, Brown, just saying that word made me feel gross, like I was a part of something horrible and violent, it still makes me feel gross, even now, even now I prefer to say that school, to leave it at that, when people know. That school I went to for a year, for a year and then three years later I went back for a semester, and then I never went back.

Before I arrived at Brown I had already developed a way not to think too much what other people thought, and a way to act like I didn’t care at all, but then I got to Brown and suddenly I felt a sort of social ease that I’d never experienced, this was one of the things that gave me a certain kind of status or maybe it was the other way around, sudden social status gave me a certain kind of ease? At first I felt an intoxication from this shift, but then it made me feel like I was inhabiting a space that represented everything I’d always wanted to challenge, and that’s when I realized I needed to get away. Maybe I already said that.

But let me tell you about SAMA, Students for Aid and Minority Admissions, we took over the main university building and it was a big deal. We were protesting the university’s policy of openly excluding potential students based on their inability to pay, they called this “need-aware.” So we took over the main university building and 253 people got arrested, the cops came and took us downtown to jail, not to a cell though but right to court the university charged us with five misdemeanors, which included a $2000 fine if convicted; we were there until 2:30 am, it must’ve been a special proceeding just for us but I don’t remember realizing that. I do remember thinking about the irony of the university trying to get a bunch of students, many of us on financial aid, to pay a $2000 fine, we talked about this a lot.

After that arrest, SAMA became the most important thing in my life. I must’ve been involved before, because I vaguely remember going into University Hall early in the day for the sit-in that later became an occupation, looking outside at the demonstration, which was larger than we’d expected. Later, I remember standing upstairs in the room where the famed Corporation met, they were a group of ruling class white men, and one black man, I don’t remember any women but there must’ve been a few, right? They were the group that came to campus once every several years, and they made all the decisions about core policies. In secret. We took over University Hall a few weeks before the Corporation was scheduled to meet, and we ended up having our own meeting in that room, to decide how long to keep the building, whether to resist arrest, things like that, I mean we were probably meeting all day, I’m sure it was frantic. I do remember walking outside in pairs, they took two of us at a time to a bus that was waiting to take us down town.

Afterwards, I would go to steering committee meetings every day, I think they were every day and sometimes there were a bunch of meetings to go to in a day, usually instead of class, which made sense because this was where I was learning everything, everything I wanted to learn. Two other first-years and I wrote a 17-page document about how “need-aware” was racist and classist, this became part of the SAMA press kit. Since we were at Brown, this was national news -- the Washington Post did a story a few days later, CNN came to campus, we were trying to get Jesse Jackson to support us.

The university denounced us, they called us violent, they continued to press charges. We had specific demands about how much more money the university should raise, in order to make their admissions policy “need-blind” or close to it. At one point, the president of the university agreed to meet us, or 12 of us or so who were representing the steering committee or maybe we were the steering committee, I’m not sure. Of course, now I don’t believe in steering committees, but I didn’t know that yet.

Anyway, we met with the president, and it was kind of eerie because he knew all of our names before we introduced ourselves, he came right up to me and said hi Matt, shook my hand and looked me in the eyes. We smuggled in a tape recorder because we knew he would lie and we wanted proof. At some point, the tape ended and there was a click -- I don’t know how the president knew this meant we had a tape recorder, thinking about it now I guess he probably knew in the same way that he knew our names ahead of time. Or maybe it was really loud, I’m not sure. Anyway, he became enraged and the meeting ended.

Remember what I said earlier about how everything can change in two months, everything in your life and that’s how it felt back then? I was talking about when I first moved to San Francisco. But just now I was wondering, when did the Rodney King verdict happen, I remember it was around the same time as our University Hall occupation, so I looked it up: April 29, 1992. One week later.

When the Rodney King verdict was announced, there was a forum in one of the largest halls on campus, right next to University Hall, and also next to my dorm. You know what they always say about kids in ivory tower institutions living in a bubble, we had that conversation a lot in those days, I guess that’s what kids in ivory tower institutions like to talk about. I didn’t think I was living in a bubble, that’s for sure -- but here I was engaged in this struggle for racial and economic justice, and I didn’t even know beforehand that the Rodney King verdict was about to take place. I’m not even sure that I remembered who Rodney King was.

These days I say that there were three things that were especially important in my early activist awareness -- the first Gulf War, which made me realize the audacity of US imperialism; the Rodney King verdict, which made me understand the brazenness of structural racism; and ACT UP, which helped me to understand how racism, classism, misogyny, and homophobia were intertwined and that you couldn’t fight one without fighting the others. So the Rodney King verdict was announced, and for weeks beforehand I’d been flyering for the upcoming SAMA action, talking to blank and not-so-blank faces but mostly blank, unfortunately, mostly I would say blank faces about the importance of need-blind admissions, but here was this huge event, emblematic of the racist audacity of the powers-that-be, and I wasn’t even aware that it was about to happen. The police officers were acquitted for the beating of Rodney King, the famous video broadcast across the country but somehow they were still not guilty. Across the country, people rioted, but especially in LA and I remember going downtown to join the protest in Providence, and then back to organize more SAMA actions.

I’m glad that I save things, because here’s what I just found -- a whole file on SAMA, I mean I found a file yesterday -- that’s how I remembered the date, and a few details -- but actually I have another file, this one includes that 17-page document I wrote with Polly and Alexis, now condensed to eight pages because it’s single-spaced. Plus, a series of angry university press releases, even a large packet addressed to my parents, I’m not sure which of these things were originally in the packet and which weren’t, but the postage says $1.22, $1.22 in 1992 so there must have been kind of a lot. Then there’s a weird letter that maybe those of us who got arrested in what was apparently the largest university takeover in the history of Brown, maybe we signed this letter -- it asks them to drop the charges, and to give each of us two semesters of academic probation. What were we thinking? Maybe this was just a proposal, a proposal that went down.

When I left Brown, I felt like I was fleeing -- fleeing everything I was supposed to be. Three years later I went back to make sure I never wanted to go back. I was getting ready to confront my father about sexually abusing me and I thought first maybe I should get off academic probation. Because I didn’t finish my classes that second semester, but now I wonder if that wasn’t the reason at all, I mean maybe this probation was some sort of university penalty for daring to protest. Did I sign that letter?

Our University Hall takeover was the culmination of several years of activism on the part of students, including everything from a 164-page report presented the year before, including research, analysis, and recommendations -- in other words, students were doing the university’s job. And paying the university at the same time -- what a racket! Anyway, we sent out press releases and held press conferences and went flyering and tabled and made banners and signs and pickets and organized another big demo where we were going to encircle University Hall while the Corporation was meeting, we got faculty and administrators involved and contacted other schools protesting for equal access, across the country but also in Rhode Island, and I even kind of remember a march through downtown, the strange thing is that most of this I’m getting from my notes, my notes that I just found, because I don’t remember it that well, even though in some ways it was my activist foundation, did I block it out because of everything else, everything else I didn’t want to remember, this place between away and away? What did it lead to, all of this struggle -- years of struggle really?

Nothing, that’s what it led to. And that’s where I learned the most.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Status

Laurie and I would talk about who was crazy and who was insane, crazy was good but insane was even better. One night Laurie saw the world in blocks, she was surrounded by blocks, Robitussin I was not going to try that high I remembered that taste too well from childhood. When we were on mushrooms, I got scared because Laurie was on a different level of reality, closer to the world maybe I wanted her to come back to this level but she kept changing her sweatshirt, you keep on changing I will not know who you are -- I called myself to leave a message, a message for me. Are you there? Wait, there’s no one on the phone. Laurie left a note: death is room temperature.

Maybe that was it -- we were finally finding a place where we could be dramatic and then talk about it: I talked about the way my body was broken shards, I was ruining my life to beat my parents on their own terms, I’d come to Brown to look for activism and instead there was so much apathy, why were people so apathetic? And scheming -- everyone was scheming, like there was some high-stakes game to find it, find it now, it was me, us, have you tried this yet? Try it. But I’m not getting this quite right. Everything in my life had been leading up to this point. I grew up believing that I was evil, that if anyone ever saw my true self they would know, they would know that I was a monster that deserved to die, and I didn’t want to die, except when I wanted to die, but I didn’t want to know that and so I knew that I always had to hide everything. I had to hide everything so they wouldn’t know, I wanted them to think I was perfect.

They were my parents, kids at school, teachers, my grandparents, everyone. I didn’t want them to know. I wanted them to know that I was perfect. So I grew up in a family where I was supposed to be perfect, I was supposed to be perfect and to believe that I deserved to die, and one way this worked out for them was that I did very well in school, I always did well in school, and since I always did well in school it was always assumed that I would go to a good college, I mean it was assumed for everyone in my school that we would go to college, but some of us would go to college, and some of us would excel, and I was one of the kids who everyone believed would always excel.

This was childhood: I deserved to die, and I would always excel. I needed to do better, better than my father, my father who taught me I deserved to die -- he went to a respected liberal arts college, medical school, became a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist -- I had to go to a more prestigious school, become more successful, buy a bigger house, make more money, this was the only chance I had, the only chance not to die, except then I started to realize that this was death, and since I didn’t want to die then I didn’t want this either, any of it. That’s when I knew I was trapped.

In high school, I hated my parents with a passion, it was pretty much the only thing I had to say about them, and this was helpful. I didn’t know how to get out of their trap, but still this was helpful. When I made friends, friends to sustain me, Erik and Keidy and Ellen, this was one of the things we bonded about -- we hated our parents, and we were trapped, doomed, doomed to keep going in this direction they’d chosen for us we didn’t know what else to do except talk about it, talk about how much we hated them and what they represented. The difference between us, or one of the differences, was that I would say it, I would say it right to my parents’ face and I would encourage them to do the same, you don’t have to do what your parents want, my trump card was that I knew I was doing what my parents really wanted, the bottom line, going to a college that would make them proud, and so really it didn’t matter what else I did, I mean it mattered and we fought, fought about every detail but especially about money, money for a taxi or books or music or dancing or whatever, we fought about money but really we were fighting about control. And the bottom line, the bottom line was that they had control, even if they didn’t have control, I mean they didn’t have control over where I went or how late I stayed out but on that deeper level, that deeper level of dreams, still I thought that the only way to get away was to go to that school, that school that would make them proud.

In high school, my friends’ parents didn’t really like me, they wouldn’t necessarily say that but they knew what I told their kids: don’t worry, don’t worry about what they think. I wanted all of us to get away, to get away from their influence. Their parents didn’t like me because they were worried about my influence and that was a good sign.

So when I got away, but not really away, some things were immediately easier. Like, I could be vegetarian, just like that it was a snap it was easy -- even though, beforehand I’d been brainwashed into thinking I would die, I would die if I didn’t eat meat. Since I wasn’t really eating, in a way maybe that was true, but that’s not what they meant. And I was queer, queer already although I don’t mean to suggest that it wasn’t hard to say it, just that now everyone knew like they had always known but knowing this didn’t mean I deserved to die.

But here’s the thing I wasn’t really conveying, I mean I think I knew what I meant already, or what I could mean, the thing that was different is that I didn’t know that other people could see it, other people I didn’t know. That’s what changed when I got away, away but not away, it was like right away nothing and everything was different and I was finding people in a way that before didn’t seem possible in my everyday life, by the end of high school my only close friend who actually went to my high school was Erik, Erik who was the devil’s advocate conservative but then we bonded when we realized we hated our parents and we liked to drink, of course we were both fags too, and that was part of it, and unspoken romance, or unspoken between us except most people knew, knew the way they knew we were fags.

The whole year I spent at Brown, I didn’t sleep with anyone -- this was the thing about status, I knew I was a fetish item for the older students to trade, so I couldn’t figure out when people were attracted to me, whether they were attracted only to this status. And the thing that hadn’t changed was that I couldn’t approach the guys who turned me on, in that realm I still would go to that place where I felt like if I said anything I might die, sometimes I still go there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tacky

San Francisco was supposed to be just like New York, except on the West Coast and always foggy, so when I got there I was kind of confused because where were the tall buildings? Plus, it was hot and sunny and dry -- I hated the sun, would cross the street just to get out of its glare. Sometimes I even carried a parasol. Laurie had arrived earlier so she’d found us an apartment and we were surprised because people had told us that it would be so expensive we’d have to share a room, like New York again, but actually we each had our own room for $300.

I met Laurie at the ice cream social, the ice cream social at the school where we both went to escape, except it wasn’t what we were trying to escape to and that’s how we ended up in San Francisco. Growing up, school was always the answer, the way to get out of school I mean the way to get away. And at first it felt like that, I remember I had this incredible feeling like finally I could be someone, I mean myself. I’d gone to the same school from second grade to 12th and when you go somewhere like that there are always people that see you exactly like you were in second grade, those 10 years don’t matter there’s still that kid with his own reading group he was so far ahead, that kid who traded stickers with the girls at recess, that kid with glasses who wanted to be friends with the teachers because other kids were too scary, teacher’s pet faggot sissy nerd. Sure, by this point you’re reading Sartre and thinking about freedom, going out to clubs with the girls instead of trading stickers, and talking back to all the teachers because you know what you didn’t used to know, you know you’ve outgrown them.

Sure, you’re encouraging people, other kids, not to think about any of that, not to think about them. They could mean parents or teachers or other kids or anyone telling you to die, inside or outside it was the same thing. But the truth is that the first time you really knew that you could have an impact was maybe when you got to school, even though it wasn’t away in the way you thought it would be it was still away. Maybe even at the ice cream social, where you met Laurie and thought: she’s crazy, I like her. You were definitely not eating ice cream, but it was right by your dorm. You were wearing a Lollapalooza t-shirt, the first Lollapalooza so people still thought it was cool. This was Brown University, where Amy Carter went and you remember in fourth grade when her parents, the President and his wife, sent her to public school in DC, the public school right down the street from your private school, she was in junior high when you were in elementary and people talked about Amy Carter going to Hardy, this is what people talked about in DC, certain parts of DC. Later, at Brown University, Amy Carter got arrested, she got arrested for protesting something.

Was that one of the things that made me think Brown was an activist school? Soon I would get arrested for protesting -- that’s funny, I said earlier that that protest for universal health care was the first time, but no no it was in a historic building at Brown University. But this was before, before that arrest and I’d just arrived at Brown where at first I felt like people could see me. Laurie had grown up in a small town in northern Maine, just across from the Canadian border, a town where people spoke French almost as much as English, a paper mill town or right near the paper mill and her mother was on welfare and now she was at this school with so much privilege it was hard for her to leave her room. Her room was on frat row, and even though there weren’t really frats at Brown there were frats on frat row. I would come over and pick Laurie up to go to the dining hall and then the library, where sometimes we’d stay so late we’d get locked in, we did this on purpose to study more but mostly we ended up talking about everything that wasn’t anything we were studying and we thought that was funny, funny that we got locked in, locked in the smokers’ lounge where everyone was watching everyone except now there was just us.

I’d grown up in a school where there were Senators’ kids and no one really cared, a Rothschild and a DuPont and more lawyers and doctors and bureaucrats than you could count, this was normal. This was the school for guilty liberals, so the people everyone called rich weren’t really the people with the most money, those were the ones who always asked if they could borrow a few dollars for some food at recess. They never paid you back. But at Brown, so many people came from boarding school and that was a different world of articulating privilege and then there were the international students, my roommate was the son of a German industrialist, he was 21 and had dreads and he didn’t like living in the dorms so his parents bought him a house, a huge old mansion really, so close it was practically on campus, and then I had two beds in my dorm room so Laurie stayed over a lot, it was lucky that I was in the environmental studies dorm, in the morning I would make her coffee, we were practically roommates. But wait -- roommates don’t make coffee for each other, do they?

I don’t think anyone ever asked if we were sleeping together, because now it was okay, okay that we weren’t sleeping together. No, people must have asked, but it didn’t matter in the way it used to. We’d always been queer, but now it was acknowledged in a different way, a way that meant we could acknowledge it, this was important, a way to dream. I wish I could say that my relationship with Laurie started differently than those with my high school friends who were girls, friendships that started when someone had a crush on me and I wanted to make it more, more meant something else, but the truth is that Laurie had a crush on me and we talked about it, talked about sleeping together -- we were both queer, but queer meant you could still sleep together, everyone’s bisexual was still the way to talk, everyone’s potentially bisexual but soon it became clear that the potential in that direction on my part would probably stay potential.

When you go to a school like Brown, they always tell you not to get overwhelmed, not to get overwhelmed because you’re used to being the smartest person but now you’re surrounded by everyone who’s used to being the smartest person. I wasn’t overwhelmed at all, I mean there were smart people and there were clueless people, just like anywhere else. The difference was that it was actually okay to be smart, smart and creative and strange at the same time and that made me feel stronger, like finally I could express myself without so many walls.

I’m writing all this like it’s just something casual, but the truth is that for years I didn’t even want to say Brown, for fear that that’s what would make people think I was smart, it disgusted me, disgusted me when that’s how people would react. Even when I said I dropped out. I didn’t want to hide the class privilege, so I would just say some posh elitist school on the East Coast, and then if they said where, where, then they really looked silly. I also said: I didn’t learn anything there, except when I was protesting against the university, which was kind of true, but not quite true, and now I’m trying to tell you the rest. But then I wonder if I’m making all this up, because of after, after when it just felt traumatizing to even say the word, the word Brown. Even now, now when I’m talking to Hilary on the beach where we’re watching the sunset, and she asks if I went there for four years and already I feel terrible, terrible that I said anything, terrible that I ever went there at all and I guess that’s the other side, what happened later or maybe it was already happening it was all happening at the same time.

Laurie and I learned a lot from taking ecstasy that was actually acid, although I wouldn’t learn that part for years, Kayti had sent it to me, she called it Joy, ecstasy in tab form, and it was joy the way you could see the structure of things, the structure you were trying to escape. One time Laurie and I walked by one of those emergency fire alarm things and it fell over, just like that, no alarm. That was on mushrooms. We made up songs for the cars: don’t run us over, that’s bad, because then we would be dead, and that’s sad. Sad was one of the ways we connected, we could finally say it, finally say that we felt trapped, hopeless, every day was another opportunity to break down, and to break down the breaking down, and this didn’t necessarily feel hopeful but it felt, we felt, we were feeling.

Of course we felt trapped in different ways. Late at night on weekends, we would often end up at Dunkin Donuts, after whatever party ended and we were still high, we smoked a lot of pot it made us crazy and we loved that, we loved being crazy so late at night we’d end up at Dunkin Donuts. I was eating things I would never eat, never eat if I wasn’t high, maybe muffins more than donuts, maybe I would eat muffins when I wasn’t high too. And we would smoke pot in the back of Dunkin Donuts, do you see how everything was different? Sometimes we would pass out there, in the morning people would come looking for us, our friends.

If we left before morning, tripping over ourselves and I would start to feel disgusting, back in my body the way I usually felt out of my body. I mean I’d worked not to feel my body I didn’t want it, I didn’t want this body but then, then I was back in this body. I would hurl the donuts or muffins, mostly muffins into the street and I remember Laurie was stunned, stunned that I would throw something away like that, something you could eat. I don’t think she told me that then. Once, her mother sent her a rug, a woven Guatemalan rug in the style that was very popular at the time for fratboys who drank Cuervo and wore ponchos, it disgusted me but remember her mother was on welfare and she had sent that rug to Laurie, a gesture of care and I took one look at it and said: that’s tacky.

I might’ve even said: get rid of it. Or, if I didn’t say that, that’s what I meant. Laurie and I were becoming an item for all the disaffected kids on campus, the ones with dyed hair who studied semiotics, older students, they saw our confidence and came right up to befriend us, bring us to parties where only upper class students were invited. I mean upper class as in older. We were the new item, a prize traded for avant-garde cachet and I’d never experienced anything like that before, I mean I was never that kind of item and it made me feel grandiose and then dead. In a way it was my confidence, my confidence that finally someone could see me, and that’s what helped me to help Laurie to see that too, see that about herself, but then I also wanted her to get rid of a gift from her mother because it looked tacky.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rest area

But the thing about that action, and Queeruption in general, was that it drained me so much that afterwards all I could think about was coke, I mean I thought about coke the whole time but I kept thinking not now, not until afterwards. So afterwards it was time, time for cocktails and coke, for a few weeks that led to a few months I even would carry coke around, do a bump or two while walking around in the East Village and then the lights became softer and brighter at the same time and one time I even did a bump in the bathroom during my queer incest survivors support group. You see how the exhaustion had already started, maybe I didn’t know about the physical pain but I definitely knew about the exhaustion. One time I went over Johanna’s house, she was teaching me how to make borscht, which was pretty much the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted, and just before we sat down to eat I went into the bathroom for a quick bump, did that make the borscht taste better?

So that first Le Tigre show must’ve been right after this coked-out period, or who knows, maybe it was in the middle I mean I definitely wasn’t coked out at the Le Tigre show, it was a different social circle I wasn’t even drinking. But maybe it was the same time period when I kept ending up at the after-hours coke den right around the corner from the Cock, the key with the Cock was just to go right to the backroom, or start dancing and ignore everyone and then it was just perfect-- sex and dancing, what could be better? But usually something else happened like the bathroom and cocktails and the bathroom and by this point I knew the dealer at the Cock but sometimes he wasn’t there and even if he was there I would end up at the after hours coke-den talking to these horrible people, I mean I would get so high I couldn’t speak but it didn’t feel high it just felt like my head was locked and these people were talking and then I needed to do another bump, rush to the bathroom to shit again because of all the laxative in that powder, and then go back to the counter and act like I could listen. Starlight women’s night was better, really kind of like a flashback because here I was again partying with the style-dykes except some of them actually knew who I was outside of this other part of who I was.

At that Le Tigre show Andee said how come you’re not in the slideshow -- I’m not sure how I felt about all those names I mean something was exhilarating but it also felt kind of like cheerleading. Although I was glad Andee was thinking about me: we all want our place in history. But wait -- was Andee at that Le Tigre show, or had he already gone to Montana? We all want our place, maybe that’s what it felt like Le Tigre was trying to create, even if some of their lyrics were a bit on the cheesy side, like “Giuliani, he’s such a fucking jerk.” Still they were trying to express this time in our lives, especially on their second album, an EP, where they started by screaming “get off the Internet -- I’ll meet you in the street,” something I could certainly relate to, and at one point they count off the 41 bullets used to assassinate Amadou Diallo, making a protest chant into a piece of musical documentation, what could be more important? I mean more important for music. I mean they made me think I could make music. At the end of the song, the beats stop and it’s just the counting, that chill in your back until the beginning of the next song, NPR host Leonard Lopate or is it the Talk of the Nation person asking about the future of feminism and the song title tells us all, “They want us to make a symphony out of the sound of women swallowing their own tongues.” We’ve all swallowed, and we’ve all choked. Although the most personal song for me was the final track on the first album, those child’s chimes, nine years old, and Kathleen softly singing about the neighbors playing piano next door, the song that made her think she could escape, that’s the kind of song that I wished I could have heard. We never knew our neighbors, I mean occasionally we saw them when they were looking for their dog.

When I moved back to San Francisco, Le Tigre played right around the corner from my house, this was the height of electroclash and they performed with Chicks on Speed, a band who was becoming part of the art world by satirizing the art world but still they were brilliant and their beats were amazing, to tell you the truth I might’ve been there more for Chicks on Speed than Le Tigre. I can’t remember if this was before or after Le Tigre played at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which was a big deal because of their womyn born womyn policy or maybe it’s womon born womon or wimmin born womyn, kind of like riot girl versus riot grrl but anyway they excluded anyone else. I mean Riot Girl didn’t, or didn’t necessarily, but the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival did. And right outside was Camp Trans, organized to protest the exclusion, but Le Tigre played inside. I wonder if they even stopped at Camp Trans to say hello, hi, thank you for buying our album.

Back in San Francisco, I remember going downstairs to say hi I mean it probably wasn’t downstairs just backstage which kind of felt like a cave, and the person who I was with, Zee actually, remember him from DC and civil disobedience, later pepper spray, why do you have to be so overt? But anyway, I’d just come from Sugar’s birthday party down the street, I mentioned I was going to Le Tigre and she said oh, how much are tickets? Twenty dollars. And at that she went off, when she was a teenager in Petaluma no not Petaluma, where was she from? Somewhere in the North Bay, or at least North, but anyway she was trying to organize a Bikini Kill show, but Bikini Kill had this rule that they would never do a show for more than five dollars, that was an ethic that a lot of bands from that time held onto, I mean I remember it from Fugazi shows and Sugar couldn’t find an all-ages space cheap enough so they did the show in a field with a generator, they used car headlights to illuminate the not-quite-stage. Santa Rosa, that’s where it was. Anyway, backstage at the Le Tigre show, Zee complimented Kathleen on the slideshow, and Kathleen said oh, we got a new projector, and it was $2000, but we figured we could just raise ticket prices.

Even if you don’t have idols, there are those moments when your idols let you down, like that time when I saw Dorothy Allison read, and I rushed to the front afterwards to be the first person to talk to her, I wanted to tell her how much she meant to me as a queer incest survivor, and she nodded her head but looked right past me to the woman next in line, opened her arms and hugged that woman who she didn’t know any more than she knew me, I didn’t mean anything because I wasn’t one of those women.

But what about those moments when someone else’s idols let you down? When I lived in Seattle, I never went to Olympia, even though Andee was always trying to get me to go. I didn’t really understand what was in Olympia, except a small town and a bunch of scenesters and I wasn’t interested in either. I was never much of a Courtney Love fan, but when I first heard that song at the end of the first Hole album where she sings, “When I went to school… in Olympia-ah-ah-ah-ah… and everyone’s the same,” I was floored -- it’s pretty much how I felt about Valencia, the epicenter of dyke hipster San Francisco, after I lived in it and it let me down so hard I could never believe in anything calling itself community again, and Valenci-ah-ah-ah-ah sounds as good as the original, right? So maybe that’s why I didn’t want to go to Olympia, it sounded like Valencia.

But here’s what Andee has to say about Kathleen Hanna, and Bikini Kill, and Olympia: they were outwardly expressing my inner emotions, at the world in general, but also at the punk scene -- I was a fag in the punk scene and here were these angry feminists from a small town and I was from a small town and here they were saying exactly what I was feeling. And they were accessible, I used to hear them in basements and for some reason I just loved Kathleen Hanna, she wrote those zines about community as anyone you come into contact with and I was never a fan of people, I mean in high school I was but not after and Kathleen Hanna was an exception.

Me: And what about that zine that Mary made, what was her last name? Andee: I can’t remember. Me: that zine called Rich Girls Make Art, or maybe it was a manifesto -- was it a manifesto, or a zine? Andee: that was a drawing in a zine, a drawing of a knife and on the knife it said, “Rich Girls Make Art,” I think I have that zine somewhere. Me: I’d like to look at it again. Andee: I think it’s in Montana.

Speaking of rich girls making art, in 1992 I drove cross-country in my parents’ cherry red Saab 900S, previously the third car in the hierarchy of the driveway, after the newer, fancier Volvo and newer, fancier Saab pushed the two older cars back, safe cars for your kids to drive and so I drove cross-country except I’m not sure how safe it was. I was by myself the way I always knew I would be, except now I was driving out to meet Laurie, the first person who I trusted I mean finally I’d realized that it was okay to need someone and we were moving to San Francisco for the summer, just the summer we said that we knew better. We didn’t know, but we knew.

We made a list of all the cities that sounded interesting, cut out the ones on the East Coast because they were too close and even Toronto or Chicago didn’t sound that far, decided against Mexico City because we didn’t speak Spanish, and then we just had to decide between Seattle and San Francisco, Laurie always liked flipping coins to make big decisions. But driving across was a different story, I kept getting so tired that I would see myself falling off the road I mean I wouldn’t see myself until I was falling and then I had to swerve back. Coffee and NoDoz and a few stops to stay with the parents of people I didn’t know that well, or didn’t know at all because it was Laurie who knew someone not me but I tried to pretend anyway and there was this one rest area where I remember stopping, turned up my music to dance which was how I stretched, took some trash out of the car and then this attendant came out of the rest area with rubber gloves going up to his elbows, pulled my trash out of the trash can and put it in a separate bag, a blue bag like maybe you would use for something bloody in a hospital and then he looked at me and said: if you don’t leave now, I’m going to call the cops. What do you mean, I said -- isn’t this a rest area, I’m resting! He said: if you don’t leave now, I’m going to call the cops.

But then there were the girls who would stop and say: I like your hair! I think that was at Little America. I was working the goth bob except it was magenta, dark tulip I think the label said, and then in the back the shaved part was fluorescent green, green apple. Or, when I got a flat tire in the middle of Kansas, a flat tire that I had no idea how to change, some guy actually stopped his truck and helped me. Then there was a rest area in Wyoming or not quite a rest area but this abandoned store where you could buy gas except there wasn’t any gas so I went inside for coffee or Trident, back then I chewed a lot of Trident, I could eat a whole pack of 18 pieces in an hour on my way out these guys behind me said: should we fuck him first, or kill him? Later, I remember looking at those crazy plateaus in the desert, mountains that just ended and I thought they couldn’t possibly be real, someone was hiding something. But I wasn’t hiding, that was the good part.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Always in the mood to write about David Wojnarowicz...

Here I am in the "Rave On" series on the Bitch Magazine blog...

I think I'm probably going to use that first paragraph in the book I'm writing now, and other parts you might recognize from my letter to David Wojnarowicz in Second Person Queer -- and yes,from this blog -- this blog in fact, yay for this blog!

Is that blood on your hands?

Back to that first Le Tigre album, some of my friends already thought Le Tigre was a sellout project because they didn’t look tough and Kathleen was dating some guy from the Beastie Boys so maybe she wasn’t even a feminist anymore and synthesizers drove the music and not just guitars, but I was never that excited about guitars. I was excited that Le Tigre was trying to make dance music that was actually political, homemade and messy and not just empty except for that feeling in your head. Sure, they were in on the ‘80s electro revival, old tools to make new music but this was before electro became electroclash so there was still hope for scenesters critiquing scenesters. Maybe they were actually trying to represent something. In one song, they managed to name-drop Leslie Feinberg, Angela Davis, Dorothy Allison, Marlon Riggs, and even Mab Segrest, the author of Memoirs of a Race Traitor -- not just name-drop, name. David Wojnarowicz. As in: this is how we came to be, thank you. Like in the early ‘90s when we would exchange books to start a conversation, a conversation which was our lives. That’s when Sadie Benning got famous, all the buzz was about this teenager making movies, so when I saw her at first I was kind of surprised she wasn’t a teenager anymore. The names that made us, I mean them, do you see what I’m saying?

Gina says: I hope I don’t sound too stupid, which is funny because actually what she says sounds familiar, touching and intimate and not stupid at all, and what’s also familiar is that feeling, I hope I don’t sound too stupid, that’s how I’m feeling the whole time I’m writing this, like when do I get to go back to that place where I’ve figured everything out? Instead of figuring it out now, as I’m writing, I mean when I started this it was about Le Tigre except now it’s about everything and I don’t even know why I’m writing about Le Tigre. Or Riot Girl -- I mean, Riot Girl never meant anything to me. But here’s Socket saying: I was 15 and I was living in LA and I heard Bikini Kill and it was like I could do that, they weren’t doing anything I couldn’t do and I started following their fashion and grasping their politics even though I didn’t quite understand what they were and my friends and I loved them and most people around us didn’t and that made us different, we were picking up pieces of things, trading tapes and reading books and Bikini Kill was one of the first bands that talked about rape, Kathleen talked about being raped and Mia Zapata of The Gits had just been raped and murdered right before she was going to play in LA and it was a big deal, Bikini Kill used the word revolution and I was a girl and identified as a girl and it was for me, there weren’t many things like that.

But if that Le Tigre show actually took place in 2000, then first there was Gay Shame, and I was finally finding activists, and then, in October 1998 when the murder of Matthew Shepard became front-page news, a few people decided that something angry had to happen immediately, so they called everyone they knew, and then about 20 of us met and planned a political funeral for just a few days later. We went out and flyered every gay bar we could get to, like this was the ‘70s and bars were still community spaces, and the crazy thing that happened is that we expected 1000 people if we were really successful, but we ended up with 10,000. And the cops started attacking us instead of letting us march in the street and all the marshals got arrested and I was the one person in charge of front-to-back communication, so you know this was before all my pain started, or before I noticed. I was running back and forth like crazy as the cops were swinging their clubs or charging us on horseback and in the end I remember standing in Madison Square Park, hours later when there were maybe only two other marshals left, since it was the marshals’ job to risk arrest except my job was not to get arrested, I was doing the communication. And we had a press conference, and I stood next to someone with blood dripping down his face, blood from the police batons and we were on all the TV stations saying: this is what happens when queers try to protest when one of us was murdered, they attack us.

Since most of the people at the action were not the usual activist types, a lot of people in office clothes coming right from work, my hope was that people would become politicized to do anti-police activism, not just activism against police brutality which was already more than they were doing but I was thinking big. We tried to create a large-scale radical queer activist group, but we got stuck in endless process and the meetings got smaller and smaller, some of formed an affinity group called Fed Up Queers to do smaller, targeted actions, but remember this was a state of police tyranny so we ended up planning a series of political funerals for murdered queers, always careful to connect NYPD murders of unarmed people of color to lynchings of black and gay people in the South to the disappearances of transwomen in the meatpacking district to the murder of Brandon Teena in Nebraska, we were a small group organizing these mass actions and we ended up getting stock.

Maybe this is when I transitioned from being an activist who got involved with existing struggles to an organizer who instigated my own challenges to the status quo. Originally the idea with Fed Up Queers was that we would only meet when someone had an idea for an action, we wouldn’t get bogged down in process, but then we mostly went from one action to the next, since someone always had an idea, sometimes there were several ideas at once.

When Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African man, was gunned down in a hail of 41 NYPD bullets, there were protests but no one was getting arrested and we wanted to raise the stakes. We wanted to block the Brooklyn Bridge, but we only had eight people who could risk arrest so we said okay, we’ll block the bridge with eight people, that’s how desperate and angry and empowered we felt. So we measured the width, bought chain so that we could cover several hundred feet, scouted the location, planned it all out. But when we got there, we found cops waiting in the exact spot we’d chosen, since this was a covert action we had obviously been infiltrated but we didn’t think about that right away we went to plan B but plan B wasn’t possible either, I can’t even remember what plan B. was. We went to a new plan, chained ourselves across Broadway in rush-hour traffic except the middle link somehow disappeared, that was the infiltrator, the only time in an activist group when we’ve know for sure. But it didn’t matter -- we blocked the street anyway, the chains made it more dramatic they had to bring out electric saws to get the locks off, and we were right near the larger, permitted demonstration organized by black church leaders, the action our civil disobedience was supporting. So we were lying in the street in the freezing cold February streets with reporters bending over to ask what a bunch of queers, most of us white, could possibly be doing with this other demonstration nearby. I said we’re here because unarmed people of color are being gunned down on the streets of New York, and it’s a state of emergency. That’s how it always felt, a state of emergency.

Queeruption was different, more like Gay Shame, an attempt to gather radical queers from all over to share strategies for resistance over Columbus Day weekend in 1999. since it would take place over Columbus Day, I figured we needed an anti-imperialist action, so I suggested we target the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of US colonialism, connecting NYPD murders of unarmed people of color, the US occupation of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, police attacks on queer visibility and the crackdown on public sex -- here we would have hundreds of queers coming to New York and what could be a better opportunity to challenge all this violence? You know this was a different time, because we actually started planning this out, the few people who were interested, we even wondered if we could get Lady Liberty to drip blood red paint, would we occupy the Statue or try for some sort of banner drop? We figured out theatrical stunts for people who didn’t want to get arrested, but I was going on a trip to the West Coast so I told the committee to go ahead and plan the action without me. But then when I got back no one had planned anything because the group had decided that this action wasn’t queer enough.

I wasn’t willing to concede that the people planning a radical queer gathering weren’t actually interested in direct action. Then I was at some kind of meeting relating to Fed Up Queers, I guess it wasn’t a Fed Up Queers meeting because our meetings weren’t open to the public, but at this meeting some guy showed up in his work clothes like some of the mainstream gay men at the Matthew Shepard political funeral, the mainstream gay men who I thought might become politicized after suffering police violence but that mostly didn’t happen. Anyway, this guy told us about one night when he was cruising the Ramble in Central Park, and he went behind a bush to piss, and behind the bush was a cop who arrested him for public indecency. And then in jail the guards instigated the other prisoners against him and he was raped with a razor blade at his neck, when he got out of jail he tested HIV-positive.

This guy was asking us for help, our help -- he didn’t know us, or even know much about our politics and in a way that made this more important. I realized oh, this could be the Queeruption action -- this was obviously queer, right? And since I’d realized most people in Queeruption weren’t interested in direct action, most of the people on the direct action committee were my friends in Fed Up Queers, who weren’t interested in Queeruption but they were interested in direct action. And so, at the next Queeruption general meeting I proposed this new idea. We would take back the park with a queer carnival to connect the entrapment of gay men who were cruising with arrests of transwomen on prostitution charges just for hanging out in the street, with police targeting of queer activists at protests -- all of these were attacks on queer visibility. We would challenge the cops in the park and at the same time create our own idealized queer space for the evening, a place where queers of all genders could come together to cruise and celebrate with the pageantry and play of public confrontation.

Kathryn said: I don’t understand how this action relates to lesbians. And since most of the people in the room were lesbians who were there because of Kathryn, Kathryn who had started the feminist bookstore where we were meeting, the proposal went down. This was so different from organizing with Fed Up Queers, where almost everyone was a dyke but no one ever asked: how does this action relate to me? Because we knew that wasn’t the point.

Don’t get me wrong -- there was plenty of drama in Fed Up Queers, but a different kind of drama -- people would get in crazy fights about what time we should meet or the wording of a flyer, but then afterwards you would realize they were really fighting because of who was sleeping with whom. I didn’t find this out until much later because I wasn’t a dyke so I wasn’t sleeping with anyone in the group and I didn’t have a history with these people, we were making our own history but that was different.

Kathryn and I did have a history, starting with when she invited me to help organize the Matthew Shepard political funeral -- or at least I think it was Kathryn, right? Then we were always in conversation about feminism and identity and our place in the world when she was opening Bluestockings, and when we made the Gay Shame zine with Scott we bonded because we were all vegan, there weren’t many vegans in New York. Especially not vegan queers. So I sat down with Kathryn and figured out how to get her support, which meant the support of the group and I think Queeruption was a disaster for most of the core organizers, those of us who were doing too much, but inspiring for many of the people who came from all over the place and I guess that’s the way a lot of activism works. When it came time for the direct action, most people weren’t interested, I organized pretty much every aspect of the action and basically harassed people to go, and we did end up with over 100 people, the crowd was multi-gendered and intergenerational and even included a few Stonewall veterans, Sylvia Rivera and Bob Kohler, who weren’t icons yet because they were still alive and we marched into the park with cheerleaders and queers in dragged-out glory and we actually found a cop hiding in the bushes. We caught him in the glare of our flashlights and the head of the park precinct came out to talk to us, I remember yelling: is that blood on your hands? And then we marched back out of the park, no arrests, it was amazing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More freedom

So once I moved to New York, I realized I was fully West Coast, dreaming outside of the workaday world, I couldn’t find that in New York. When Kathleen had a show for Julie Ruin, her new solo project after a few years without Bikini Kill, and she needed someone to work the synthesizers, that was Johanna. I think they were in a band together in Olympia, or maybe it was Portland, and then Johanna showed some of her artwork in Kathleen’s gallery, or maybe Kathleen played a show in Johanna’s gallery, I’m not sure. I don’t remember the show that well, I mean the show in New York, I remember that the beats were interesting because they were messy, and Kathleen’s voice sounded soft in a way I hadn’t remembered, but there was a lot going on that night and so then I forgot about Julie Ruin for a while, I’m not even sure I knew there was an album.

But really I had no idea until years later that Riot Girl actually started in DC, the first time someone mentioned that I thought they’d confused Washington for Washington, everyone knew Riot Girl started in Olympia, right? But no, truly it started in DC, officially right after I left, which means that probably it started before, but maybe it was in the Virginia suburbs and I was on the other side in Maryland, although there was that connection to Positive Force, which was the group that put on those Fugazi shows where Ellen and I would dance in the back. There was no evidence of a feminist presence then, just guys slamming into one another and people tabling for Greenpeace. By this point I was also falling apart to La Da Dee La Da Da at The Vault, dancing and passing out and dancing in the bank vault until 2 am and then if you were in the know you’d go upstairs for the unofficial after-hours where you could still buy liquor, or else I was on those dance cubes at Faze warehouse parties shaking it to People Are Still Having Sex, I don’t think I would’ve met many riot girls in these places but anyway, now we’re in New York, just after vegetable kuzu stew with tempeh and my third cup of mu tea.

So it turned out Johanna was working on a music project with Kathleen, along with Sadie Benning who became famous in the early-‘90s for the pixel vision movies she made, but this time they were making music together. And I think it was their first show, their first show took place at Dumba on freezing, snowy day in the winter of 1998, right? Or maybe it was 1999, the album says 1999 but that would be after Queeruption, which was also at Dumba, but in my head that was after this show and there was another anecdote I wanted to share, but later, but first I should figure out the order. Maybe I’ll call Scott, I haven’t talked to him in years, but I did recently leave him a message and then he emailed me back. Okay, I’ll call him again.

But the crazy thing about that show was that there was this huge line that went down the street in the snow, there had never been a show like that at Dumba. This huge crowd of riot girls, or post-riot girls, since riot girl was over or maybe it wasn’t over because there was this huge crowd, there were people who had driven from Illinois and Ohio just to see Kathleen, since it was her first official show since the end of Bikini Kill, I guess that Julie Ruin show wasn’t official and Kathleen kept saying: who are all these people? Johanna said Kathleen, there are whole websites dedicated to you, and to me it seemed that Kathleen was just pretending, but the truth is that every time you do a show, you worry that no one’s going to show up, I mean that’s what happens for me and maybe that happened for Kathleen too but at the time I just thought she was being fake. I was biased against Kathleen because I thought she was a star, I mean she was a star the way people lined up afterwards just to talk to her, women in leopard print coats with vintage dresses, clunky heels and big purses.

I never liked leopard print, but I never associated it with Riot Girl either. Although winter isn’t just the end of the year it’s the beginning of the next year, right? Gina thinks that first show was definitely in 1999, after she moved out of Dumba, or early 2000. But what was it about Kathleen Hanna, or Riot Girl, that made Gina want to make music? Gina says: I was at school, doing all this reading and writing about child abuse and feminism and the male gaze dominating film theory and patriarchy dominating everything in the world, that’s how I felt at the time I mean now that seems silly of course there are lots of other issues but at the time that’s all I could think about -- women and children are being abused -- the world around me seemed really extreme and horrible and I was studying gender role development and kids and how to create more options. I wanted to look at movies with kids and re-edit then in ways that would give them more freedom, but I realized that going to a preschool with Disney movies, and re-editing them wouldn’t change the violence, I couldn’t sit in a classroom and act like it was okay, that’s was when I discovered Riot Girl, 1997 I was a little late and I dropped out of school and I went back to my mother’s house in Boulder so depressed I couldn’t function I bought a drum set right before I left school and I put an ad out to start a band because I needed to make music, hit stuff and scream and get angry and snobby about it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are you in fashion?

In New York there were always people, but it was harder to find the people who would mean something; you needed to know someone in order to know someone. I knew Ananda, who I met through Andee, and she invited me to join this group loosely called the Fuck the Mayor Collective although we never necessarily agreed on that, the name kept changing and it was a small group of queers who made stickers connecting Giuliani’s quality-of-life campaign to the dismantling of social services, the ethnic cleansing of New York City streets, and the removal of any hint of sexual culture from the public realm. I got involved right before this group, but not quite this group, was planning a big event called Gay Shame to create a radical alternative for queers to create our own culture and share strategies for resistance instead of swallowing the corporate “pride” agenda.

Most of the people in the Fuck the Mayor Collective were shy intellectual types and no one wanted to be the emcee. I was more flamboyant, comfortable addressing crowds and so I volunteered to host the event, which really was successful at creating a cultural space for queer trouble-making for a certain group of queers who weren’t actually a group because most of us didn’t know one another. We were mostly young, and mostly white, but dedicated to a queer analysis that foregrounded race and class and Dumba kind of became a place where we could find something, or someone, or sometimes it was nothing because mostly it was a space for punk bands, at least for a while, and we already know how I felt about punk bands, but a least this was nothing that wasn’t the same nothing that surrounded us on the billboards inside people’s hearts.

So I guess I met people at Dumba -- this is helpful, I’m trying to think about where to meet people now. Anyway, the good thing about meeting Johanna was that we were both intellectual and driven but not driven like most of New York, Prada shoes and a penthouse, I was driven by radical queer direct action, trying to figure out a way to confront the violence of the Giuliani regime and sex to escape and connect and writing to connect and escape, and Johanna was a painter and zine-maker and then she started making music, with Kathleen, although they’d made music together before too. We both did drugs, but didn’t really want to do drugs, except when we were doing them, or maybe Johanna did, but I didn’t. We didn’t really go out together, because Johanna mostly went to straight hipster parties and I mostly hung out at East Village gay bars, so instead when we got together we talked a lot, about sex work and how it changed us, although Johanna wasn’t really doing sex work anymore, and we talked about New York and all of its layers of violence and then the West Coast since that was where Johanna was from and I felt like I was from the West Coast too, even though I grew up in DC I really grew up in San Francisco.

I never bought into that whole West Coast-East Coast thing until I moved to New York and there was no flamboyance except money. Whatever the trend of the moment, pretty much everyone in New York was working it, if they couldn’t get Prada shoes than they would get the ones that looked like Prada shoes. If you met someone at a bar, the first question they would ask was: what do you do? Or, they would decide ahead of time, and say: are you a stylist? Or: are you in fashion? I mean that’s what they would decide for me. If you were there, they might’ve asked you different questions.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A gorgeous quote on "doing justice," from Avowed Virago...

Typing this, I’m afraid that it’s going to read like “anti-oppression work is BS and we just need to hold hands, sing kumbaya, and love each other” which is really not at all what I’m going for. I’m not talking about a lack of accountability, or pretending that we should all just be friends and that it would be enough to right the wrongs in the world. What I want is to remember the humanness within each person we interact with; that they will always be more than their boxes and their elbows will always poke through the sides. And sometimes that humanness will manifest itself in beautiful moments of compassion and community, and people will surprise you. And also that humanness will be flawed, and people will make mistakes and be thoughtless and crass and they will have trouble learning and they might hurt you, and often those gaffes will be compounded by and entrenched with years of built up institutional inequity and privilege. And that privilege and inequity will probably make thoughtless mistakes more painful for those on the receiving end, and easier to ignore for those committing them. And we need to encourage learning and growth and accountability in those moments. But those are human errors, always. Not just straight errors or misogynist errors or white errors. Which, again, is not to say it is immaterial how heterosexuality and whiteness and cisgendered-ness and masculinity and ability and wealth play into the whole thing, or that they should be obscured, apologized for, or ignored (I’m all about identifying isms for what they are) but that those qualities of a person will never be the be-all-end-all of them.


Read the rest here

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How they were doing this

But I thought I was writing about New York, I met Johanna at a party, but what was I doing at a party? I never really liked parties, even in high school they were boring -- I would play drinking games, and end up drinking twice as much as everyone else and then it was okay but this was New York and not that kind of party, I’d left those kind of parties behind in high school. It was Dasha’s party, I must’ve met her at Dumba, the anarchist living/performance space in Brooklyn started by four people who wanted to create an alternative to the misogyny and homophobia at the legendary ABC No Rio.

I met Gina at Dumba too, I thought she was so cute with her shaved head and lip ring and we would flirt with each other in the way that dykes and fags flirt, and later she lived at Dumba or maybe we met after she already lived there, but anyway Dumba kind of became a safe space for a queer outsider culture that didn’t really exist in New York, there were queer outsiders but we were outside. It’s where the first Gay Shame event happened, that was when I was looking for activists -- I’d taken a break from activism after San Francisco, trying to figure out how to engage in these groups without taking everyone’s anger and putting it in my body, that’s what I realized after I remembered I was sexually abused, before then I thought it was okay. I mean I knew that these people really weren’t angry at me they were angry about the issues we were fighting, in ACT UP meetings you had to be ready for someone to tear you to shreds, every time you spoke it was possible someone would rip you up -- no, you didn’t have a right to speak about people with AIDS if you weren’t HIV-positive, or to talk about women with HIV if you weren’t a woman, and I’m not sure who had the right to talk about prisoners with AIDS, because none of us were in prison, and definitely if you said something kind of wishy-washy or unprocessed than maybe several people would jump on you at once. The good thing was that you had to become really meticulous, critical, and alert in order to speak in these meetings, luckily I was good at that and it was an emergency, we were trying to save people’s lives.

But then I was in this group organized to challenge the Matrix program, we slept over on the steps of the mayor’s house to call attention to his crackdown on homelessness, I mean we got there with sleeping bags and then they arrested us and then we were excited about creating this group, we were all from different groups, coming together to challenge this pre-Giuliani quality-of-life campaign and we had these meetings at the Coalition on Homelessness about what to do next, we were going to target The Gap because Don Fisher, the head of The Gap, was one of the big funders behind the Matrix program, but since we were a new group we had to figure out our process, democratic majority or consensus. I was the person most in favor of consensus, since I was in ACT UP and it worked so smoothly or at least that’s how I felt but most people didn’t have that experience, I mean there were other people in favor of consensus but most of them didn’t say anything during meetings because of the way people would get up and literally start screaming at me, how could I even think of consensus we would never get anything done I was holding up the group there were important things we had to do, and I would sit there so calmly and explain exactly why I thought consensus was the best choice. And since we hadn’t decided on our process, we kind of had to use consensus at first, but after a few of these meetings I realized oh, actually it’s not okay when people to tear each other to shreds, even if it’s about the issues, I mean it’s not okay for me because I just put it all in my body. So I had to take a break, a break from that type of activism, that type of activism that was the central thing in my life.

This was the period where sometimes I thought my father was following me down the street, at night I worried he was under the bed, behind the curtains with an axe, sometimes I asked my roommate to look. Luckily she was an incest survivor too, the first person I met and it was her mother who was a dyke who had abused her and so this took apart a lot of illusions at once. But the important thing was that she understood, she would look and say no, there’s no one there. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night and it was like everything in my room was my father’s eyes and I was tiny, smaller than any one of these eyes and sometimes I would be sitting on the bus and suddenly I couldn’t figure out what people were doing, how they were doing this, and then I would remember oh, we’re on the bus, I can get off the bus and then when I got off I would say no, my father is not following me, my father is not following me down the street, my father isn’t even in San Francisco, but then I would get this sudden panic anyway, just before turning around and I would shake and stop breathing at the same time, my whole body was sweat but okay, okay, it’s not my father, there’s no one there, because it was when no one was around that I was worried my father was around, if there were people then maybe I could be okay.