Saturday, October 31, 2009

The colors are kind of pretty, but can you say pollution?

These tiny little worlds

House music as endurance test, and I know what you’re saying: honey, it took you this long? But no I don’t mean the general feature, like when I walked into Blow Buddies and is that really the same song I was playing earlier at my house, the same song but a different mix, really? And that’s the best part -- hands down, the best part. Not like there’s any competition -- I’m there to get away from my hands, arms of pain because in my house there’s no way really, I can sit down for a few minutes and then think: oh, maybe I’ll just wash that dish. Or check that email. Or read that thing I’m not supposed to be reading.

House music never dies -- ha ha, that’s a particularly horrible house song, of course there is so much horrible house music and this is part of it, this CD and I can’t figure out why I’ve kept it -- there’s some part of the CD that I like, right? Oh, but the awful part, the awful part is these trancey builds and falls, how do I describe exactly what I hate about a trance beat that isn’t like a house beat it’s like the build without the boom. And then these terrible distorted vocals, I mean I like distorted vocals but not breathy stupidity and we’re supposed to all put our hands up in the air at the same time. Okay, I’m trying to find the part of this CD that I like -- I guess I need more music, that’s why I’m listening to this, but the part I like is definitely not this weird sample of some guy talking about how a hooker ripped him off, it’s one of those samples that goes on for a while and I can totally picture a bunch of straight clubbers standing on the dance floor and cracking up to this terrible thing I mean it’s so terrible that you don’t even know what to do except listen, maybe that’s part of the point but then I realize I’m too exhausted, I got up too early, I kind of slept well so I thought it was okay to get up earlier, not that much earlier I think only 20 minutes, maybe that’s not the problem, the problem is my sinuses. You see -- Blow Buddies actually works at helping me get away from the pain, except for that moment when I’m jerking someone off and my arm starts to burn so I stop, I mean afterwards my hips and my neck hurt, but at least it’s not my arms, right?

But now my sinuses -- it’s because of the heat, you walk into Blow Buddies and the heat is blasting, it’s always that way, and at first there isn’t any smoke residue at all, I keep inhaling just to see, but later there’s definitely pot smoke wafting in from outside and I told myself I was only going to stay for an hour or less but the thing about these places is that they make you stay, there’s no way to get out, you just keep walking around, that’s how it’s designed. So now my sinuses, I’m lying in bed with the music blasting, thinking there’s nothing I like about my life, nothing, no Mattilda that’s just your sinuses, okay it’s my sinuses, and the music is blasting I’ve never noticed before but you can actually feel the bass shaking the bed -- maybe that’s because I don’t usually listen to music in bed, why did I leave the music on I don’t want to get up to turn it off and I guess he does use some mixing tricks like stopping the whole thing and you think it’s going to end but then he slams you, I like those mixing tricks but why in my bed, kind of like drugs I mean really like drugs although did I really lie in bed with the music blasting or did it just feel like that? I do remember closing my eyes and watching these tiny little worlds right behind or in front of my eyes, I could never quite figure it out, all these little people and bright colors, sometimes they would dance together we were all dancing together and it was fun, even if I was trying to sleep at least it wasn’t the next day, the next day I knew I would feel awful.

Today my throat is so dry it’s like I could attach a spigot of water and still there wouldn’t be enough. I’m thinking about what it would be like to live somewhere else, somewhere else where six months of the year they have the heat on that high, everywhere you go, whether it’s the bus or a restaurant or someone else’s house or even your own apartment if you can’t get the heat to turn off. How would I be able to survive? Meanwhile, the colors of the sunset are so crazy it has to be pollution, I mean it’s kind of pretty but it’s definitely not the way it’s supposed to be. My hand hurts just from holding the fork, and I have to hold this fork a lot. Ouch, let me take a break from doing my hair: it looked so much better the other day, the other day when the weather wasn’t so humid, another reason to fight global warming.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reading

I guess I kind of like the sleep class, except that once I’m done I’m kind of tired. No, first I’m calm in a good way I mean I actually like Noe Valley even watching straight guys talk to each other about froufrou dogs until I wait for the train for too long, and then on the train some guy wants to party with me, that part’s okay, except that the capsule I’m taking is a digestive enzyme, I mean I don’t want to party with him anyway but I don’t mind that he asked, and this Latina queen is talking about how far a Jew has to go in New York to get a briss -- not far, right -- not far -- a joke her friends don’t get and I’m not sure I get it either, she’s drunk and her eyes are glazed over but we all get the part about aisle 6, there are no cameras in aisle six so you just fill up your purse and then buy a pack of gum if you’re going for a little bit of realness.

It’s still okay, maybe it’s okay until I get a $75 ticket for a transfer that’s expired by a half hour, but then at least the next bus comes right away and I guess I don’t realize quite how exhausted I am until I get upstairs and that’s when somehow I start reading the Guardian even though I’ve banned myself from reading books for a few days, this insane pain overload that makes my arms feel like they’re wrapped around my arms all tight and twisted and burning but all I want to do is read so then I’m reading the Guardian it’s a newspaper not a book, right, and I’m probably reading faster because I’m worried about reading, even though I’m not thinking about it I’m probably thinking about it, and then reading faster hurts more, especially when I stop breathing, and that’s when I notice, I mean I notice my arm is twisted and burning, the right one, what am I doing reading? I notice I’m sad and that’s why I’m reading, because I don’t want to feel this sad -- I’m exhausted from getting to the sleep class and back, exhaustion never helps me rest. But what am I doing reading when reading is all I want to do, what can I do to stop from reading?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wait, there's a cat in the hallway -- did someone bring me a cat?




Lostmissing #43



Lostmissing is a public art project -- I’d love it if you’d participate.

And, in case you can't read it, here's what lostmissing #43 says:

Then I was on the train, the train that goes right by your house, and for the first time I didn’t get all tense when we passed by the places where you might get on, instead I was thinking: go ahead, get on the fucking train, get on the fucking train and I’ll kick you in the face. I don’t mean literally -- I don’t want to kick you in the face. But I was ready, finally ready. At least for a few minutes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wait, guess what? It's... lostmissing #42!!!



Lostmissing is a public art project -- I’d love it if you’d participate.

And, just in case you can't view it, here's what lostmissing #42 says:

Fuck this attempt at narrative closure -- I think about you less, but when I do think about you it hurts just as much. I almost walked to your house the other day, I mean the other day two months ago. I arrived early to meet someone nearby and I thought okay, I’ll walk around. Maybe I’ll even walk in that direction, just to see your front steps.

But why would I want to see your front steps? So then I walked in the other direction.

All those times when you said oh, this is something new, I need time to think about this. And then I gave you time, at least two years’ time, but you never brought anything up again, I had to ask you what you thought. You thought these were old issues, old issues you didn’t need to think about.

Or when you said that I knew this was a hard time, a hard time for you, you were going through a hard time. Of course two years can be a hard time, no question about that, but then shouldn’t there be time in a difficult time for thinking about issues that might matter?

I wish you didn’t matter, that’s what I’m thinking now -- it’s been a year and I still haven’t seen you and I saw your old roommate again, this time she didn’t say anything, but maybe the music was too loud. We waved. Then I thought about you anyway, in the middle of the night I got all manic and decided maybe we should get together to say goodbye, even if we did it in silence. We could meet somewhere in public, stand there and look at each other and then leave. Just for some kind of closure. Maybe I would feel it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Darling, sometimes when you're not looking for anything -- then you find this!

How everything changes so fast

Laurie kept planning to move out and get her own apartment, but then she would decide that she didn’t have enough money to move. So then we would talk about who was going to move out, since we thought it would be better for our relationship. I started becoming aware of the ways in which I wasn’t so welcome in certain dyke spaces, I mean I’d always noticed the way I sometimes became a sort of fetish object, oh I like your hair your nails your pants your politics, and other times everyone would ignore me because I wasn’t on the sexual menu, but I always thought it was okay, I mean just look at the way that dykes were treated in fag spaces. There was a certain kind of status about being one of the only fags welcome in dyke spaces, or almost welcome, it meant I had done my work. Kind of like being one of the only white people invited into some of those early activist groups, like the one where we fought over consensus and then I realized I was taking everyone’s rage and putting it inside me, like with my father, and that I needed to stop, to step back and figure something else out. Maybe part of figuring this out meant questioning that type of inclusion, I mean when it wasn’t really inclusion.

One time Laurie and I went to a party at a new art space that was also someone’s house, this was a different crowd, a newer crowd in the Mission, do you see how everything changes so fast? More money or maybe just attitude like money or college or something like that but some of the same people and this one person who was known for walking her slave around on a leash came up to me in the courtyard out back and said: do you mind if I piss here? Sure, no problem, I said, and she pulled down her pants and pissed all over my legs, mostly on my boots but on my legs too and I knew this game, I knew this game even though I’d never played it, never played it in this way but I stood there and acted like I didn’t even notice. Afterwards I felt so distant, maybe shaking a little bit like childhood too but enraged and maybe this was one of the things we talked about in the kitchen, how SM was becoming so trendy and how, when something becomes really trendy it can only go wrong. Sure, we were also angry about plaid pants on the runways, fashion victims who dyed their hair with Manic Panic, and mainstream gay men who wore combat boots, but this was different because it went deeper. Kind of like how I never wanted to recommend turning tricks to anyone, because of how it would change your life, I mean I would share all my knowledge but I never said do it, you should do it, it’s easy, like a lot of people said, because it’s never really easy.

But that was later, soon I would be a hooker, I mean in just a few months and it was already familiar, and then it would last for too many years and then when it was over it still wouldn’t be over and that’s where I am now. But back to the Mission, in the early-‘90s, earlier I said something about how New Age was just above trust fund trash in the hierarchy of morals, but the truth is that this was the West Coast, so you’d go to a party, any party, and someone would be doing tarot. Sometimes even in our kitchen, and I was aghast but really it was everywhere so eventually I learned to act like it was okay, like with altars, it seems like everyone in San Francisco had an altar, sometimes it was a bunch of Eastern religious symbols, take your pick and presto -- meaning -- but other times it might just be an empty cigarette pack from your ex-boyfriend, a yellowing black-and-white picture of a city you’d never been to, twigs from the street after a big storm, a rock from the beach, and a few club flyers -- and then it might become beautiful because it wasn’t just someone else’s feelings.

A lot of people had boundary issues -- Zee would put his arms around Laurie to cuddle, and she would cringe. He thought he knew her because he knew me, but I didn’t think all my friends needed to be friends. Actually, I cringed too -- what was Zee doing? Soon we were breaking up and getting back together -- we would stand on the sidewalk for hours in tense conversation, maybe I was smoking or on the verge of doing crystal again and Zee might have been stoned or pretending not to be or one of us was trying to run away or something was stuck, I guess we were stuck. At one point I threw something against his wall when we were fighting, and it scared him and I didn’t understand because I wasn’t throwing it at him but then I understood. Another time, I decided to take a break from sex because I was overwhelmed by the flashbacks that were surrounding me, like the time when I started screaming because someone was coming after me in the dark but it was Zee, coming out to hold me or maybe not originally to hold me but then he was. I wasn’t afraid of him, I was afraid of my father, under the bed with an axe, hiding behind the curtains, he was still there. Sometimes I would leave my house and then I couldn’t figure out where I was, oh this is the bus, oh people are getting off, can I get off, oh I can get off, okay I’ll get off the bus. Zee called me to be in a porn video with him, we were always planning to do sex work together but then we would break down, actually he would break down, something about how it would change our relationship and now I’m sure he was right. But you remember what I said about his physical boundaries? Anyway, he called me because his costar showed up strung out on crystal so they had to send him away, and I took his place because I needed the money, maybe I’d just gotten fired from the used clothing store where everything was a dollar a pound, I’m not sure.

It was always difficult for me to get fucked, but more difficult on camera when they kept making us stop and start again, the painful part and afterwards I couldn’t come and Zee got kind of angry because that meant we would have to go back, he didn’t even hold me afterwards and I felt like a broken toy. Maybe this was around the end of our relationship, I’m not sure. But we kept breaking up, or almost breaking up, which was kind of the same thing, and my relationship with Laurie was imploding, and that’s when I decided to go to Seattle. Just for a month, to take some space and figure out what to do. JoAnne was in Seattle, she was another person who I’d met at the March on Washington but we hadn’t stayed in touch, was it Garrett who gave me her number?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Together in hysterics

Andee says wait, I should have said I liked you because you were a shady bitch with politics. Remember: this was the period when everything was falling apart, Laurie and I were still throwing pint glasses out the window when we were breaking, here in the new apartment which wasn’t new anymore it felt like we’d lived there forever, the way a few months could become forever so fast. Once we broke one of our downstairs neighbors’ windows, but we didn’t like them anyway -- they were straight guys, and hippies too, or at least they had long stringy hair. Camelia would get scared every time she heard those glasses shattering, but she never told us, and we never wondered.

One of the contentious conversations in our kitchen was about guys with long stringy hair, first there was the boyfriend of one of our roommates, he said he was bisexual but we weren’t convinced. More contentious was the guy who would go to Junk in a dress, but then he was always hitting on dykes -- some of them were his friends and some of them hated him. Actually, his hair was long but healthy. We talked about whether S/M was a reenactment of abuse or whether it could be liberating too. We talked about who could use the word bitch -- most of us agreed that dykes could call other dykes bitches, or anyone really, and fags could definitely call other fags bitches, or, even better, fags could call straight boys bitches, but if a fag called a dyke a bitch that might just be misogynist.

I want to say that we sat on that kitchen sofa and smoked, the way we tore down a piece of an anti-smoking billboard and put it in the bathroom as an ironic decoration, but the truth was that we didn’t smoke in the house, we would walk through the laundry room attached to the kitchen and then across the back stairwell to the roof of the garage behind our building, where sometimes we’d see the landlord wandering around for no apparent reason. That was our smoking area, sometimes in the sun and sometimes in the dark, overlooking an alley that would later become famous for acceptable graffiti, an art project.

People smoked pot inside the house, mostly Laurie, since I didn’t really smoke much pot anymore I thought it was boring. Laurie’s dealer had a crush on her, so she would buy an eighth or a quarter and then he would give her a huge bag of shake, like a whole ounce -- you couldn’t sell that on the West Coast, but on the East Coast it would have been better than anything we bought. Once, Laurie took that whole ounce and cooked up a batch of pot brownies -- when we tried the first one it was disgusting, but then we got high and the brownies tasted better, we ate the whole batch in one sitting. We were high for literally three days and it was like we were back together again, together in hysterics. Otherwise our life together was becoming as much tension as extension, we would still do that thing where the whole world would become our eyes into eyes holding steady when everything else wasn’t, but now usually one of us wasn’t looking.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Okay, so sometimes I find some crazy things in my file cabinet -- 1998 schedules for the Long Island Railroad -- really, hello gentlemen callers!

Shady bitches

Remember all those activist meetings where everyone was always tearing each other apart? I would sit so still, respond so calmly. But inside was a different story, the story of my childhood and that’s when I realized I needed to take a break, I needed to figure out activism that felt like something else. This is when I started to realize I did that same thing to my friends, respect meant tearing them apart and this would take longer to unlearn.

I always had friends in different realms: the realm of activism, which intersected but kind of didn’t intersect with Mission dyke culture, and then there was the club world, which didn’t intersect with anything. Of course, we were all between worlds, but most people didn’t want to be. One time I decided to have a big potluck, and invite my friends from all these places, I wanted to see if I could connect these worlds, I mean I wanted to feel connected. It was a disaster: my activist friends were silent; my club friends rambled on about outfits or music or the weather or how vegan food was kind of weird; everyone else just stared into space. One of our roommates who we rarely saw because he was in art school ended up getting smashed and chasing me down the stairs, grabbing me and trying to make out: I love you. I love you, he kept saying. We’d barely even had a conversation.

Afterwards, people accused me of conducting a social experiment, a few of my activist friends in particular -- they were enraged; I didn’t try that again. But that was our kitchen -- people would flow in and out and entire relationships would be negotiated and transformed over that table between a curving sofa and the chairs we borrowed from a laundromat. Like with Andee, he entered our house passing flawlessly as a clueless rich kid, asking a lot of questions and everyone was vicious: we thought he wanted us to do his work for him. We didn’t ask those kinds of questions, or if we did ask it was in a different way, a way that meant we’d always known, even when we were learning. Andee came from Seattle as an official queer youth working for the American Friends Service Committee -- in Seattle their project was the queer youth center, but we couldn’t figure out what they were doing in San Francisco, other than giving Andee a place to live in a rich neighborhood just above the Castro. When Andee started saying he was working class, everyone was aghast -- who did he think he was kidding? When he died his hair blue, we thought he just looked like some prep with blue hair, like the guy he was dating. When he said he wanted to be vegan, we laughed.

But we also listened. No, that’s not true: I listened. I mean, it was Andee who first told me I needed to write my stories down, Andee would sit there for hours and we would drink tea and talk about everything and nothing and still he was kind of outside of our circle, even if he was inside he was outside but then do you see how things work? You remember: when he came to visit me in Boston, and he said: you need to take responsibility for your influence. And that’s a question I’m still thinking about; that’s how influence works. I’m on the phone with Andee, telling him what I’m thinking, what I’m thinking about that point when we met. He says: I liked you because you were a shady bitch. I laugh -- I know I was a bitch, but was I shady? He says: you were from the East Coast and you would read and I appreciated that; I’d come from Seattle, where people thought they knew how to read but they didn’t, but before that it was New York and all those shady queens and I missed it. And: you talked about house music and I liked house music too.

Maybe I was shady: I forgot that we talked about house music, but I remember when Andee would talk about punk and I would change the subject. The other day I thought I should call the people who live in that apartment now, the one on Sycamore Street, I wanted to go back into that kitchen and see what I could find. I mean I did call them, at the same number we had 16 years ago, I guess I still remember it. The phone rang, but no one answered.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dots

I’m talking about us, because it’s what we believed. I don’t know if I’ll ever believe again, and that’s why I’m writing this. It’s why I don’t go to the Mission now, or I try not to go, or if I do go then I go in a different way. There are still people who go there for the same reasons, but I don’t think they find what they’re looking for, or what I was looking for, or if they do find it then I still don’t believe. I can’t tell you everything, I can only tell you what I learned.

When Laurie and I moved to the Mission, we lived one block from ACT UP meetings, two blocks from Junk, three blocks from Rainbow Grocery -- most of our friends lived within 5 or 10 blocks. Someone was always having a potluck, or an activist meeting, and if there wasn’t a potluck or a meeting then maybe cocktails at a neighborhood bar or some party where everyone would argue, or try not to argue but get in fights anyway and then there were all these different allegiances. This was when I met Zee, in DC, 1993 and I went to the March on Washington to protest with ACT UP, we thought there would be hundreds of queers ready to get arrested protesting for universal healthcare, but I think we only ended up with 41. Maybe it was 141, I’m not sure. But there were a million people at the march, literally a million. Remember those white fags in white T-shirts? That’s who was there.

But Zee was also there, I met him at an ACT UP demo, a tiny nose ring just a silver dot that matched his braces, we were both 19 and we got arrested together, what could be more romantic? And then bashed together and already we were taking care of one another. Soon he moved to San Francisco to join me, even though we didn’t call it that. He said he was already planning to move to San Francisco. When he got there, I was in the middle of a two-week dance intensive, getting up in the morning to do contact improvisation all day and then afterwards I was a mess, a mess but there was something else there, my body and this boyfriend, his body, our bodies and there was the way he held me but mostly his eyes, they would always get glossy when he looked at me, even when we were fighting, which happened pretty soon but what happened sooner was that I remembered I was sexually abused. Zee was telling me about a professor who raped him and I was holding him on the outside but thinking why can’t I feel it or actually I went past the not feeling to thinking why, why get so upset about something like that, it’s happened hundreds of times to me and then I was thinking what the hell, why can’t I feel it?

I was looking at the outline of Zee’s face and there was an extra dimension, everything was moving diagonally upwards and back. Not just a physical dimension but an emotional dimension of terror. I shut my eyes and saw a cylindrical blue metal tunnel to fall into and get out of the house but it was floating, shifting angles. Layers of fluorescent dots in chains: blue, lavender, green. Remembering when I was younger and I couldn't sleep because of the same dots, thought it had something to do with the way I shut my eyes too tightly. I'd wake up screaming and my mother would soothe me back to sleep. Later it was my sister who was screaming, but first it was me, or maybe it was always us both until I stopped: I'd see faces in the navy blanket, eyes on my walls and the same terror, like something horrible was going to happen and I couldn't stop it, I was paralyzed. I used to think the dots related to atoms, that somehow I could see the structure of things. Afraid of the dark, had to keep my entire body covered, even my head, run for the light in terror if I needed to get up.

Everything in the room was flickering and shaking, no stillness except for my body. I was crying like I did when I was four, exact tone and everything. I wrote: is it something to do with my father, his naked body? Just that sentence, I mean that sentence among everything else, everything else I was feeling. Zee knew what it meant, he’d dated someone before who’d been sexually abused. He knew what it meant when there were places where I didn’t want him to touch me, towards my neck or down my belly and I would freeze. I just thought that was sex: I leave, they can have fun. No one had ever noticed before.

Camelia, who lived with me and Laurie, was the first person who ever told me she was an incest survivor -- do you see how lucky I was? How lucky to live in this house in the Mission, in a culture that talked about rape, a culture where we could go crazy and it was okay, it made sense, sometimes it was the only thing that made sense except sometimes it felt like we would get stuck and some of us did, but there was still so much potential. Zee and I fought because we didn’t really understand one another, he’d grown up in a small town and so for a while it was hard for him to walk more than a few blocks on his own, I mean when he first moved to San Francisco and he was sharing my room and I would go out to the dance workshop and when I got home he hadn’t gone anywhere, he wanted to get groceries, groceries were only a few blocks away, but he was worried he’d get lost. We fought because he would use words like nature. I would say: what do you mean by nature? Nature doesn’t mean anything. We fought when he would disappear for several days into a new affair and neither of us were ever interested in monogamy but it was hard for me not to know what was going on, I just wanted him to tell me. I became his beautiful object, something bold to hold. But first we held each other and that was enough, there was so much in this physical intimacy I’d never experienced before, even if we couldn’t figure out the rest at least we could rest, I mean when we weren’t fighting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Drama

When Laurie and I moved into the new apartment, the new apartment in the Mission, this was the beginning, the beginning of all our dreams coming together except our dreams together were already coming apart. But when your dreams are coming apart, that’s the best time for dreams, right? So let’s talk about the Mission, in the early ‘90s -- when we first moved to San Francisco, we did live in the Mission, but we didn’t know what that meant yet. We were living in the Outer Mission, so mostly it meant that we were white people in a Latino neighborhood, when we walked down 24th Street everyone stared. A three month sublet and we moved to the Inner Richmond, which meant extremely cheap rent, but it way too far away from everything else we wanted. Although we didn’t leave because of the distance we left because we were getting evicted. We were running out of time with our rent strike.

But now I’m not talking about Laurie and me anymore, or not just Laurie and me, but a whole generation of queers who came to San Francisco to try and cope, we were scarred and broken and brutalized but determined to create something else, something we could live with, something we could call home or healing or even just help, I need help here, can you help? We were incest survivors, whores, vegans, runaways, anarchists, dropouts, drug addicts, sluts, activists and freaks trying not to disappear. We paraded down the streets in bold and ragged clothes too big or too small, we shared thriftstore treasures and recipes and strategies for getting day-glow hair dye to last. We exchanged manifestos and ‘zines and fliers and gossip, got in dramatic fights over politics, over the weather, over clothing, over who was sleeping with whom, we held each other, we painted each other's nails and broke down, honey we broke down.

We were the first generation of queers to grow up knowing that desire meant AIDS meant death, and so it made sense that when we got away from the other death, the one that meant marriage, house in the suburbs, a lifetime of brutality both interior and exterior and call this success or keep trying, keep trying for more brutality but when we got away it made sense that everywhere people were dying of AIDS and drug addiction and suicide because we had only known death. Some of the dead were among us, just like us, just trying to survive. Others were more in the distance, the elders we barely got to know except through their loss. We went crazy and cried a lot, or went crazy and stopped crying, or just went crazy. Some of us talked about surviving rape and childhood; some of us organized potlucks and office takeovers; some of us fought for syringe distribution and universal healthcare; some of us fought against police brutality, gentrification and prison; we all fought one another.

We knew that the world wanted us dead, but we were ready for something else -- we didn't always know what it was, but we were ready -- if we weren't ready, then we were getting ready. We were huddled and dreaming outside of the status quo, plotting shoplifting expeditions and travelers check scams, creating defiant and desperate ways to love and lust for and take care of one another in crowded, crumbling apartments painted in garish hues and decorated with other people's trash. But still we were gentrifiers -- we knew that. Some of us had grown up rich and more of us poor, but we could see the way that queer freaks and artists and activists made the Mission a safer place for the yuppies we despised. We had crazy hair and strange piercings and facial tattoos, but still we were mostly white and young and hip, even if we would have denied the young and hip part. We brought the trendy restaurants and boutiques that we gazed at with anguish and disgust, the partying suburbanites we scorned -- it was our fault that the Mission was no longer known primarily as a high-crime Latino neighborhood or just a place for thugs and welfare cheats and crack addicts on disability. We were the beginning of the end and we didn't know what to do because we'd just found the beginning.

It was us against them, that’s what we believed. They were straight people, they were abusers, they were rapists and landlords and cops, they were parents and politicians and anyone with designer clothes. They were the gay people who congregated in the Castro -- apathetic, straight-acting gay men who went to the gym and dressed like clones in white t-shirts and baseball caps, who bought new Doc Martens because they were trendy and not because they knew anything else, gay men who hated women and fat people and people of color and sissies and anyone who was different, really, and we were different -- we were absolutely certain of that -- we were different.

We weren’t different, and that was the problem. I mean we were different, but not different enough. That’s why I’m writing this. Even now, now that the Mission is rarely or barely the same place it’s still the same place in the imagination, more than 15 years of gentrification later. Not in my imagination; I try not to go there at all. Not just because it’s the partying suburbanites who live there now. They live everywhere. We were once partying suburbanites too, many of us, but we came to San Francisco to escape. We thought we were creating our own system of understanding the world, our own values, our own ways of challenging the status quo.

We were vicious and vibrant, we judged with a purity that can only be imagined when you’re really imagining. We held elaborate conversations, debates really, about when and where it was appropriate to shoplift. Some of us thought that anywhere was okay, because the actual crime was the selling and marketing, we didn’t want to get caught up in that violence. Unless we had control over it, and were selling something like time in the bodies we were learning to call home: sex work didn’t feel like shopping, at least not for us because we were the ones selling. Sometimes there was a store for sex work to, and then it was just as exploitative -- they stole from us, but usually we got paid better than a coffee house, although it changed us too and that wasn’t always a good thing. Some of us thought that you could steal from chain stores, but not independent stores; some of us thought that anything that was posh made a legitimate target, or maybe someone we knew got fired so that meant we had free reign and maybe even insider tips, but it’s also true that people ended friendships when they thought someone was getting carried away, not carried away in the glamorous way, like when you walked into a store and put a futon in your car and drove away -- that made you a legend. Or stole CDs from one store and went down the street and sold them at another. But if you started stealing from your friends, that wasn’t the same thing. You were becoming someone to avoid.

We considered all jobs bad, one of the most popular posters at the time was the one that said I Don’t Think I’m Going to Work Today -- I Don’t Think I’ll Go to Work Tomorrow, although Your Body Is a Battleground was also popular; my favorites were the Homocult posters -- Give Us Your Children -- What We Can’t Fuck, We Eat, and the one that said Bent Fucker: Stolen Bent Cheap Filth. Most people thought the best job was welfare if you could still afford your rent, even better if you proved yourself crazy and got SSI because that was permanent although those of us who got arrested doing civil disobedience were worried about SSI because we thought maybe it meant it would be easier for them to take us away. If you grew up on welfare, then most people didn’t look down on you, even if you had a corporate job. Better to work at somewhere dead-end that could still be used as a resource, like a copy shop or coffeehouse. A corporate job could be overlooked, as long as you didn’t care about it, and you brought home free office supplies and complained all the time and then maybe you eventually became a stripper, or you became a stripper while you were still working at the corporate job, but if you started moving up at the corporate job, not just something like data entry or telemarketing, then you might be getting kind of suspicious. Unemployment was definitely a good thing, although the worst thing anyone could say about someone was that they might have a trust fund, that meant they couldn’t be trusted. No, the worst thing that people could say was that you were a rapist, a rapist with a trust fund.

We argued about revolution -- most of us thought it was the stupidest thing we’d ever heard of, you’d just take power and oppress everyone else, right? But then there were the ones who believed we were the stupid ones because we didn’t believe. We argued about drugs -- drinking and pot were always okay, unless you started flaking out and couldn’t leave the house, and some of us liked all drugs, the more the better, but then others liked all drugs except crystal and heroin, or all drugs except heroin. Coke wasn’t around, even though I was always looking. Most people thought that heroin meant you would eventually steal from your friends, which was almost as bad as having a trust fund.

Some of us were vegans, and we looked at everyone else like they just didn’t have enough courage. Some of us believed in activism, it was the central thing in our lives, it was the dream we believed in more than anything really, sometimes even more than our friends, our friends who weren’t activists but then some of us thought activism was stupid too, we would never get anywhere, we must have trust funds if that’s what we believed in. We were all sluts, or if we weren’t sluts then we were trying to be sluts, and if we weren’t trying to be sluts then we were talking about sexual abuse and that was even better, although we could also talk about sexual abuse and sluttiness, the two together and we definitely believed in that. Obviously we believed in attitude, if someone said something about not wanting to judge people, they were New Age garbage, New Age garbage was almost as bad as a trust fund, it was the same thing as stealing from your friends because you were stealing their rage and rage was one of the most important things, as long as we embraced it then it could embrace us. There was good drama and bad drama, but there was always drama and this didn’t necessarily feel uncomfortable to us because we had always known drama.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My bag and all those tourists

Okay, the Asian pear was tricky. The first bite, I felt kind of a lift to my head which maybe felt like an allergy, but maybe just because I don’t usually eat pears. Then it felt like too much sugar, but after a few bites it felt calming, soothing even, my head felt clearer, maybe an Asian pear is the answer.

But then: of course there’s then. Then means now, now is less than a minute after then, no now is the same time as then, but less than a minute after maybe. Now, my throat is inflamed, I remember this allergy from childhood, the one where you keep scratching your throat with your tongue but nothing works. My sister described it as hives in her throat, I think it’s the same thing. Oh well -- no more Asian pears. No more pears at all, I guess, since I’ve tried a few different kinds -- some kind of fruit without too much sugar to try at the beginning of the day, to help me get my enzymes. Berries are great, but then they go out of season.

I was just going to tell you how much my biceps hurt from dancing, why my biceps I don’t know, biceps and shoulders I guess, shoulders make more sense. But now, actually there’s less pain -- more allergies, but less pain. Actually, not more allergies, just different ones, because now the air feels fresh again, I just need to work on my throat.

Never mind what I said about the pain. Now it’s back, because I did something, did something with my hands. I picked up the vegetable steamer, to put more water in. Then I picked up one of my plants -- in the pot, I mean -- and I went over to the sink and turned it upside down to empty out any loose soil, because the wind is blowing the soil onto my table, or mostly onto the books and papers on my table, since that’s most of the table, but it bothers me more in the one clear area of the table, where I will put my plate of food, once it’s ready.

At least the throat spray worked, now my throat doesn’t feel so irritated and I still feel somewhere closer to calm, somehow the pear helped with that, the pear helped even though I’m allergic. When I was in bed, I thought: what’s one thing I can do today, one thing to make me feel pleasure and I thought oh, maybe the sea lions, maybe I should go see the sea lions, and my eyes got all wide like a kid so I thought yes, even though I don’t have the energy, except now I really don’t have the energy -- even if I take a cab there, then there’s still the walk down the pier with my bag, my bag and all those tourists and my pain.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Allergic

I wake up feeling like it’s one of those days when I need to take a nap, I mean if I don’t get in bed then I’ll just fall apart, even though whenever I take a nap maybe I miss the apart but I wake up at the bottom of the fall. Or, I wake up fine for an hour or two, until. What’s that part called? Part. That’s how I feel. Is that before, or after apart? In this case, after.

But wait -- this case is the beginning of the day, I’m just getting out of bed, I’m getting out of bed because every time I close my eyes it doesn’t help, I mean I’ve been in here for 12 hours, shouldn’t 12 hours help? I keep trying to close my eyes to get to some place that feels like calm, just for a moment, just for a moment so that then I can get out of bed and into calm but forget it, there’s nothing but this, this smell of fabric softener, fabric softener everywhere -- where’s it coming from? I lean over to smell the towel, freshly laundered from the place that says they don’t use fabric softener, never, they never use fabric softener, there’s no fabric softener in the facility, the towel smells like fabric softener. What about my eye mask? Fabric softener. What about this pillow? Fabric softener.

But why does my whole apartment smell like fabric softener, I mean even the air blowing in through the windows, I lean out to see: fabric softener. I close the windows, the windows in the living room, it’s foggy out today anyway. That’s a little better. I go in the kitchen: everything smells like dried shrimp, someone’s frying dried shrimp -- actually, it smells like fabric softener, and dried shrimp. There isn’t even any laundry in my building -- it must be coming in from one of the buildings next door, seven floors up and into my apartment. Unless someone managed to sneak a laundry machine into their apartment, and then attach it to the kitchen sink or something -- but we never have enough water pressure for that. Or maybe that’s why we never have enough water pressure. What about the bathroom? Febreeze. Someone must’ve just sprayed Febreeze downstairs. Or maybe it’s coming in from the hallway. I open my door: actually, that smells fine, just dusty, musty. Febreeze and dried shrimp from downstairs, fabric softener from outside and in my bed.

Oh, no -- now the kitchen smells like mold, is that mold or dried shrimp? At least there’s the music, on a day like today all you can do is dance. I mean I can’t dance, can’t dance for more than a few minutes but let me just have my few minutes, okay? How is it that my body goes right into those moves, just like that, just like that on a day like today: this -- is -- it -- bitch, this is it -- bitch -- it’s always fun to create a repeating phrase, repeating phrase for dancing although I should stop, it’s getting too good, it’s getting too good so I should stop.

This is one of those days when, if there was an after-hours club open, I would throw on a wig and some sunglasses and take a cab over there and just work it out, I mean if I could do that without hurting myself too much. Maybe even if I couldn’t. An after-hours club at 3 pm on a Monday would be the place to find people who feel like I feel -- that’s the thing, that’s probably why I started thinking about drugs again, because I already feel like I’m strung out, when you’re strung out on drugs at least you know how to work it.

I remember when Rehab opened at The Pit, Monday mornings at 6 am maybe around 1993 and crystal was replacing ecstasy as the club drug of choice and everyone knew this wasn’t a good thing, but Monday mornings at 6 am in that dark basement sounded great, no need for sunglasses although I never made it there. Now that space is Asia SF, Asian drag queens serve you cocktails in a city that’s something like 40% Asian but there isn’t a single Asian gay bar -- but there’s Asia SF -- fratboys and bachelorette parties, any day of the week. But no Rehab.

Anyway, this is the point in the song or not the song but the mix, Doc Martin is throwing down Cevin Fisher, she already warned us right at the beginning, there’s a sample just before DJ Sneak, “hey party people we’ve gotta keep this thing going -- the way we used to do it.” And now we get the whole thing -- “at the Paradise garage, everybody was freakin’” -- and I wish, I wish that there was ever a time when everybody was freakin’ but I know club child nostalgia when I hear it, club child nostalgia is dangerous, especially when I’m giving those drama moves, body everywhere in spasms but my eyes stay still, club child nostalgia is dangerous but not as dangerous as fabric softener. The Blue Angels are flying over, heading to their next destination. Yesterday on the bus, this ordinary middle-aged couple came on, ordinary middle-aged couple probably homeless or on the verge of homelessness, lubricated with alcohol, maybe lubricated with alcohol for several decades and the guy said something about the Blue Angels, when’s their big show?

Actually this was Saturday, because their big show was yesterday. This guy said something about how they can just flip over like that and I said yeah, one of these days they’re going to flip over into some building, and he said but imagine, imagine if you were the enemy -- you’d be gone, just like that. He was excited, excited about the Blue Angels and I was trying to think of something to say, I said something about how much money they were wasting, probably millions of dollars just for this show and he said: yeah, imagine all the money just for gas. But he was still excited.

The new acupuncturist thinks that digestion is the answer, and food allergies -- I need to eliminate my food allergies or nothing will ever get better, there’s this one test she says is accurate but I’m worried that I’ll take the test and then everything I eat regularly will come up on the list. I’m getting hypoglycemic, I mean I’ve been hypoglycemic since I got up, maybe I was even hypoglycemic all 12 hours in bed, maybe that was part of the problem -- I thought I didn’t need to eat right before, right before I got in bed maybe I was tired enough it just sounded gross, gross to eat again I didn’t feel hungry but maybe, maybe that was part of the problem. Anyway, I’m going to try this Asian pear -- don’t worry, it’s grown in California -- I’m not sure when it becomes a Californian pear, probably not for a while though. I’m going to try this Asian pear, and I’ll let you know if I’m allergic.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Emerging, I hope

Oh, but right -- what I meant to write about was how, when I was on a roll, a roll with my writing and I would start writing and think: I can’t stop, I can’t stop until I get it all down. But then I thought wait, why am I so frantic, there’s no deadline, I have plenty of time, so then I slowed down. And now. And now I’m in a hole.

But luckily that now has spread out -- last night, when I wrote the previous paragraph, I was still deep in that disaster, but today I think I might be emerging, or at least that’s what I’m hoping. I slept better last night -- that helped. Will I sleep better again tonight? Let’s hope…

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yes



A roll, a hole, a roll, a hole...

Andee: I thought you were on a roll.

Me: I was on a roll, but then I fell off the roll, and now I’m in a hole.

Oh, no -- today I took a nap, because I rushed out for an early reading and then when I got home I was so exhausted that it made me feel desperate and enraged, so exhausted I couldn’t possibly think of anything I could do except get in bed, even if naps always make me feel like a mess, and at first I just got more wired in bed but then there was that moment when oh, oh, here it is: sleep.

So then, sure enough, I got up into a cave, but actually I felt better for an hour or two, until now, when all I want to do is read by my hands wrists arms are hurting too much and that’s nothing unusual, except don’t I need my hands wrists arms to get out of this hole? I guess we’ll see.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize -- what's next?

Is this a joke? I mean -- seriously -- at first I thought it was April Fools, or something, but then I realized it’s October, but maybe in Norway they have October Fools?

Let’s review Obama’s peacemaking record… Okay, expanding the war in Afghanistan, more drone attacks in Pakistan, continuing to support the Israeli war machine, engineering the Wall Street billionaires bail-out, rolling out the health care industry giveaway, supporting extension of the PATRIOT act, delaying the closure of Guantánamo -- what’s next? Oh, a Nobel Peace Prize and $1.4 million -- that should push him in the right direction.

What about Blackwater founder Erik Prince -- wasn’t he on the short list? I mean, he did just recently say, “I will be taking on new challenges that I have not yet had the chance to tackle." Just to make sure he doesn’t kill any more employees, or engineer the mass murder of thousands, I really really wish the illustrious Nobel committee had given him the medallion -- it’s a medallion, isn’t it -- you do get a medallion, along with the $1.4 million, don’t you? That prize pressure worked so well with Shimon Peres -- shalom aleichem.

What about the Blue Angels? I mean, they’re flying over San Francisco this weekend, and everyone stops in the street to stare at “America’s number one pasttime” -- nope, sorry darling, not baseball! You see, if they give the Nobel Peace Prize to the Blue Angels, then everyone will have more time to stare, and that means more time for peace, right? And, more time for Blue Angel Vodka. That’s right -- how about a Blue Angel Martini -- BAM!!!

But can vodka win a Nobel Peace Prize, I mean has vodka ever won before? What about Sean Penn, for playing a gay… a gay… a gay… person. Dammit -- he already won an Oscar! Can you win an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize in the same year? And what about Brangelina, for saving all those kids? David Hasselhoff? Oh, I know -- Mary Cheney’s second baby -- that’ll be a winner, for sure!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Further and further away

Today I feel awful. I’m writing about how awful I feel, because I just called three people and told them how awful I feel, I mean I told their machines, and then I felt better, so now I figure if I write about how awful I feel then I’ll feel better than I feel now, after calling three people. Actually, the third person I called was my sister, and I didn’t tell her I felt awful, just that I felt tired, but that maybe I was starting to feel less tired, because that was after I called Gina and Andee and sometimes it’s hard to find enough people who you can tell how awful you really feel and it’s okay, but now I’m telling you, I’m telling you too.

For a while I was on a roll, on a roll with my writing and then that made me feel like maybe I was on a roll too, I mean on a roll with something else but really I was on a roll with my writing, not something else, not anything else really. I mean I still feel awful. I mean, for a while, maybe the energy I got from writing became so expansive that it spread out into everything else, not just the usual rush and then crash, rush and then crash, that’s the usual. But then I crashed -- of course I’m still writing, but writing from the crash.

So today I feel depressed and exhausted and my sinuses hurt and my body is as fragile as always and I almost thought maybe today, maybe today is a day for cocktails. I haven’t had cocktails in 8 1/2 years, that’s a long time, a long time without cocktails. I mean I don’t really want cocktails, but when I feel awful, awful like today, then I think maybe I’ll just try, even if I know that cocktails would just make me feel way worse, when I feel this awful, then I think maybe just one but that’s what I thought nine years ago, maybe just one, there’s never maybe just one, I mean there’s maybe just one but there’s not just one. Anyway, I hate cocktails. They just make me dehydrated and depressed, but for a moment, a moment that might even still be now, I thought oh, maybe I’ll go to some bar, except immediately with that thought I couldn’t think of what bar, but let’s go further anyway, just further into the idea, I thought maybe I’ll go into some bar, and I’ll order a cocktail, and then I’ll pick someone up, and then we’ll start dating. Just like that. Isn’t that how it works, how it works in the movies people make into their lives?

Maybe because I had a dream that I was still together with my ex-boyfriend, the most recent one which was seven years ago I think, seven years ago is a long time, almost as long as no cocktails and should I compare the two?

Anyway, we were together in this dream -- that’s right, I was in bed telling him how awful I felt, we were staying in a hotel and somehow it fell comforting to tell him how awful I felt, I don’t think I used that word in the dream but that’s the word I’m using now. He was going to work.

When I was thinking about cocktails, maybe just one, do you know the thing that actually made me decide against the idea, I mean I haven’t decided for sure yet although I’ve sort of decided, how do you sort of decide something? I guess that’s what most people do, maybe that’s why don’t like most people.

Oh -- but I thought oh, no -- if I start drinking cocktails, then I might start looking worse, and that felt like too much to risk. I mean I actually kind of like the way I look, the way I look healthy, even if I feel awful. Maybe because I feel awful, then I’m even more attached to the way I look. There’s no bar to go to, no bar that would be fun except for one with a smoke machine, and I already have the sinus drill, I think it came on because the heater was on at the sleep workshop, I mean it wasn’t that hot but the heater was on -- do you see how fragile I am? That’s why I want cocktails -- just for a moment, just for a moment I won’t feel fragile. Oh, right -- let me try that technique I learned in the sleep workshop -- you put your hands in your lap and you feel the pressure of your thumb against your palm, it’s a relaxation technique, to calm you while you’re awake so that when you go to sleep that helps too, there was some cheesy quote from the guy who created the technique, something about how if you’re more relaxed during the day then your sleep will be more relaxed too, something obvious but not really true, but anyway I liked the technique, the technique was okay, I’ll try it now.

Okay, I did enjoy that, I did enjoy that technique, except that it was hard to arrange my hands in a way that didn’t make my wrists hurt, actually now my wrists definitely hurt more but my head is calmer, although calmer and more sad -- is that what this technique helps with -- bringing me back down, into the sadness? Oh, and more sinus pain.

Leah said something in her performance the other night about how people with these various chronic illnesses -- fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity, multiple sclerosis, there were a few others she mentioned -- we disappear. That’s what she said -- something like that. Maybe she said: we go away. We stay in our houses and try to figure out how to cope.

I’m finding it harder to connect to people, harder to connect and then when I do connect I suddenly feel all these gaps and then I don’t know what to do, what to do about connecting. It’s not like I can just go out, go out and find all these new people, I mean just the other night, I went to this great performance, Sins Invalid, my favorite part was talking to people afterwards and I got this energy but you know all about this energy: then I crashed. The next two days, I was in more pain than I’ve felt in a while, all over my body. More exhausted, too -- after going to this night of performance about disability and scars and possibilities. It hurts to sit in a theater, I mean it doesn’t hurt while I’m sitting, but then afterwards, I guess afterwards means now. And now, now I just feel awful. Don’t get me wrong -- I was already awful before the show, when did this wave of awful start? Oh, no -- here comes that closed-off sadness in my head -- sinuses, remember? Wait, I thought I was feeling better, better while I was writing, or maybe not better but something in that direction and now here’s the other direction. I guess everything I do today just makes me feel more overwhelmed, like just now I tried listening to a feldenkrais CD, I mean doing a feldenkrais series and then I felt like I was getting hypoglycemic, time to eat, but then I got up and it’s like my whole face is closed off, sinuses again or maybe this is sinuses on the way to sleep, sleep while awake so listening to my voicemail I’m just getting further and further away.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Influence

The time when I really lived for drugs was Boston, in Boston it was hard to find anything that could possibly mean anything to me. Except for clubs, which had always meant something but nothing. There was one club I went to every week, even before I moved to Boston, when I was still living in Providence, Paradise on Thursdays, the first club I ever went to where the dance floor was so clearly segregated: black fags in the front, white in the back, one little area where the dancing freaks congregated and we were more mixed and you’re probably wondering where everyone else went who wasn’t black or white or a dancing freak but in Boston it was black or white and I always went right to that one place in the back with the dancing freaks, in every club there was that one place and once I found it there was nowhere else. It took me a while to realize that, on this particular night at least, it was the black queens who owned the club, I mean they were in the front, remember? Everyone else had to back off. Once I went there on Christmas, and instead of that tiny place packed tight with everyone and everyone’s sweat it was just 10 or 15 black queens and me, really queens this time none of the usual straight-acting cruising types it was just a bunch of queens on the dance floor, we worked it out in the middle.

But oh the music, the music, that’s what it was all about. I mean, pretty much everywhere in Boston was segregated, especially gay Boston -- by gender, by race, by class aspirations, but some of those dance floors were the best I’ve ever been to, I mean the music, the builds, the jumps at Paradise with that one guy, who was that guy oh how I loved his jumps and that song with the child’s piano, that first child’s piano for me maybe I could be that child in the sky. Paradise was the one club in Boston where I never did drugs because the music was so good, that music and the one little area with the rest of the dancing freaks, crowded in the back by the DJ booth but there was so much space. Thursdays like Fusion, the club back in San Francisco with those shaking glass floors, I remember the time when I was dancing but something was wrong, I needed a bump to take it to the next level to really dance and that’s when I realized I needed to stop doing crystal, maybe that was one reason for Paradise without drugs, even if Boston was when drugs became everything, for a little while that felt like a lifetime the way lifetimes are collections of lifetimes and sometimes we can’t get in or out of each one, that’s when we’re trapped.

When Andee visited me in Boston and suddenly we became close, close in the way that might mean forever, one of the things he said was: you have to take responsibility for your influence. In Boston, I was kind of an anomaly, at least in the worlds where I circulated, which were gay worlds mostly, maybe one of the few times when my worlds were gay not queer I mean I was trying to make them queer but this was Boston, these were gay clubs, there were limitations. One of my favorite parts was after the clubs closed and when we didn’t want to hold the after-after-hours at our house anymore I mean I didn’t because one time someone got a hold of crystal and it’s a totally different world being around a bunch of vacuous queens on acid and ecstasy and special K, maybe a little bit of coke or pot or pills but when crystal showed up I went into my room and locked the door.

So then after that, when the after-hours club would close our little family of club queens really a family a kind of felt like a family at least with the drugs and we would get in my car and drive back and forth over the Mass Ave bridge and I would always be way higher than everyone else because I was always trying not to do ecstasy so when I finally did it it was later, in the middle of the after-hours club instead of at the beginning, that’s why the after-after-hours came to our house at first, because I was so high I’d say come on, come over our house, everyone, and then we’d have a caravan of queens crowded into cars and driving through neighborhoods they were scared of, they couldn’t believe we had such a nice place. But then after that was over, no more after-hours over that house and Gabby and I were fighting with our roommates, the ones who got up at 6 am instead of going to bed then, and we’d drive over the Mass Ave bridge as the sun was rising and then when we got to the end I’d say please, please can we drive over again, because someone else was driving, I didn’t want to drive when I was high but I would give my keys to anyone really, it’s easier to drive with someone who’s high, as long as you’re higher than they are, that’s the key, just enjoy the ride.

This was the Volvo, remember the Volvo? When we were kids, my sister and I had gnawed away at the armrest on the side, it was this weird squishy material that you could pull apart. This other queen we lived with, Gabby and I, I mean we didn’t really live with her until she slept with Gabby and then she just moved in and stole things from everyone: T-shirts, drugs, money. She had a Volvo too, but hers was fancier or that’s the way she made it sound, I mean she wanted it to be fancy and I wanted mine to be invisible so sure, she could take fancy. We called her Champagne because she was so snotty, but she didn’t even realize it was a joke. She would talk about all her gowns-- Versace, Armani, Gaultier-- but no one ever saw any of these gowns, supposedly her father had taken them away. She called herself the mother of the house, but let me tell you she was no mother. It’s true that her Volvo was one model up in the totem pole, and mine was ancient at this point, but really they weren’t that different -- we all know about liberals and Swedish cars, how safe, how safe until it broke down like that other Swedish car now trapped across the country, it broke down just like the rest of us. I was never very good at taking care of cars.

Oh, but responsibility, and influence. Andee meant this little world of queens around me in Boston, maybe I’d inspired them to kind of not care about everyone who wanted to kill us, I mean about what they thought, those people who wanted to kill us. But they still cared and so that made them kind of believe a bit too much in the drugs because they were trying not to care and drugs help with that too, but it wasn’t the same thing as a critical distance, it was just distance. Or, with Gabby, when I met her she was this red ribbon fag who worked at the gay bookstore, and then within a month or two she became a tranny hooker clubkid, and it’s not like I ever said honey, I think it would be great for you to become a tranny hooker clubkid because really I wasn’t that into clubkids and sure I was a hooker but it was never something I recommended. But there’s the way people see something about you and they think it’s what makes you, for me that was really my politics, it’s my politics that helped me to exist in my own world but my politics were harder to understand than dressing up and going out and turning it out, that was mostly my influence although no, it was also about disregarding the morality imposed upon us, especially the layers of hypocrisy in gay Boston, where people would make jokes about all those trashy hookers on the block, but then you were working the block and wait, who’s that over there?

So that’s what I mean about not caring -- you can’t care about bitches like that or your life is over. But then these other queens, the ones who weren’t exactly queens before they met me and sure, I might have given them a bit of a boost in that direction. But if I wanted to encourage people to claim their own autonomy, then how could I take responsibility? It’s a question I’m still thinking about, 15 years later.

Monday, October 05, 2009

I'm reading on Saturday at Litquake!

Here are the details:

Litquake Koret Reading Series
“May You Live in Interesting Times”
Saturday, October 10, 4 pm sharp
San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium
100 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
with Wagner James Au, Edward Humes, Geoffrey Nunberg, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Jane Vandenburgh, and Jess Walter

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Pie a realtor for Marriage Equality? I'm serious!

Okay, this might be the weirdest ad I’ve ever seen, in the current issue of the Bay Area Reporter -- at the top it says:

“PIE A REALTOR FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY!”


And then -- yes yes, a picture of someone in a suit, a pie in their face!

And beneath this somewhat enticing image:

“Herth Real Estate invites you to donate to Marriage Equality USA by putting a pie in the face of your favorite realtor”


Really?

I’m certainly not against putting a pie in the face of your “favorite” realtor, but for Marriage Equality? Isn’t that kind of like throwing a pie at Obama to support more funding for the war in Afghanistan? Or pie-ing some health care industry executive to support more price gouging?

Apparently this particular pie-ing experience will take place at the Herth Real Estate “lounge booth” at San Francisco’s Castro Street Fair, but maybe this is a practice that will take on at future “marriage equality” events. Or, wait, isn’t there some kind of March taking place soon in our nation’s capital? Didn't Cleve Jones just say, "We have a dream too?" Start baking…

Friday, October 02, 2009

Direct from the news: "pushing the envelope over the edge"

Comfort

Back to the first time I left, when Laurie and I were getting ready to move to San Francisco, and we would listen to, “I live for drugs, I live for drugs, I live for drugs -- and it’s great.” Thrill Kill Cult with those industrial beats and campy at the same time, I loved it. Sure, there was that time when I called myself on the phone because I couldn’t find my existence, or worse the time when the dealer might have laced the mushrooms with something that brought my body into knots so much pain Laurie was massaging my back to try to help but all I could think about was the ambulance, I hope she calls the ambulance -- sure, there were the times when Laurie would go deep inside almost fetal and I’d be flailing, but even those times felt like living which is learning anyway. Crystal was different -- just a bump or two and you’d be up to the sky for dancing until whenever, until forever, until that crash. That was the problem: the crash. Like your whole body was splitting apart and this was just you, this would be your body, your body from now on there would never be any hope until the next bump. Day after day of just thinking about it, maybe just a bump, it’s all you could think about but you didn’t want to do more, more meant there would be nothing else. Even just opening up a bag and looking at it, okay, okay I can go on, I can go to bed.

Did I really do a bump before bed, on the worst nights, on the worst nights in that apartment in the Inner Richmond, the one after our first two months, but before we found what we really wanted? I mean, if we ever did. Laurie, did we find what we wanted? Actually I’d already found activism and ACT UP and even Junk, the club where activism and dreams came together, and sex that finally felt like dreaming and more hair dye and shoplifting competitions and industrial clubs and house clubs and much more, much more but I also found crystal, maybe once or twice a week but a few times a week meant that everything else was the crash. Maybe a bump before bed, just so I could feel pleasure, it was the only thing that felt like pleasure, that was the problem.

This was one of the things that split us apart, Laurie and I, split us apart in that time between. We were used to breakdowns, a breakdown was every day. We celebrated those breakdowns, called ourselves crazy, manic, insane, which was what we wanted. Or maybe Laurie was more worried about that part. We both knew that everything wasn’t as simple as we’d thought it would be, back when we’d read that article in Rolling Stone or maybe it was Spin about how you could make $45 an hour doing phone sex, but then we tried and Laurie made about $8 an hour working for a phone line nonstop like a regular job I don’t think I ever made more than $8 a day. We were working for different lines, hers was the standard straight woman deal and mine were more specialized: Dial-a-Daddy and Lola’s Line, you get the idea. We both got on general assistance and food stamps, which was actually enough to live on since our rent was only $200 each, once you added in a bunch of other scams and this was how people lived, most people we knew, I mean Laurie had grown up on welfare but for me it was a way to get by without giving in, at least until they took it away and then I would figure out something else, Laurie got a data entry job at a computer company in Berkeley.

But right -- Laurie and I were used to breakdowns, breakdowns were every day but this was different, this breakdown with crystal, especially when we weren’t doing it together, so the breakdowns would happen separately and then we’d be back in the house, time to do laundry or get groceries and maybe I’d be on day three without crystal and Laurie would have just crashed or maybe the other way around. This was when we started letting each other down, especially when Laurie was just getting home from work and I had my head in my hands.

We’d grown into this relationship that meant always, always was hard when we hadn’t quite grown away from what we’d fled, childhood and everything we were supposed to be. For me, critique meant love it was the same thing -- if I really loved someone then I would tell them everything, everything I was thinking, that meant respect. That’s how those early activist meetings felt so comfortable, when everyone was tearing each other to shreds, not comfortable but familiar. That was what I’d grown up with, that was the Ivy League that I was fleeing, that was my father’s rage, that was how I’d survived.

So when you’re trying to survive away, away from what you’ve survived, sometimes you try the same things that might’ve helped then but maybe no longer. At the time I knew that our relationship was falling apart, we both knew it, we were living together but growing apart. Laurie decided she didn’t like those clubs, the clubs I went to, she wasn’t that interested in activist meetings, her job kind of blended into her social life and I wasn’t interested in that social life at all and then, of course, we were always breaking down, I remember I had this idea that we would collect pink glasses from all the cafés we went to, since we both still liked cafes, and when we were arguing we would throw them out the window to try to defuse the tension, but still there was tension. There was a way in which Laurie would subsume her identity to the other person, the person who she loved, me, and I didn’t yet know how to see that pattern and break it. I’d always wanted to inspire self-expression, something I probably would have seen as truth, but there was also a way in which my place in the world with Laurie, our place as a different kind of unit felt so charged.

Let me give you the scene from New Year’s Eve, 1993: just before midnight, Laurie got caught trying to steal a bottle of champagne from the corporate supermarket, but in an Academy Award-winning moment she brought tears to her eyes and said: this is for me and my husband, it’s our first New Year’s together, and the security guard let her call me to pick her up. Somehow we ended up at a party in Oakland with Laurie’s friends from work, except we got there after the party ended, this was familiar but not uncomfortable and then we were doing lines of crystal in the bathroom, maybe we started that earlier because I remember passing out at the party, but not really passing out, maybe Laurie passed out and I did more crystal. We were listening to Throbbing Gristle on the boombox, I must’ve brought the CD with me, and maybe we were trying to pretend we weren’t on crystal, I can’t remember but I remember this crystal was sharp like the lights were all in your head, not edgy like some of the stuff we did, and we were looking for ecstasy, maybe that’s how we ended up in Oakland but anyway 24 hours later we were back at home, back at home with two of Laurie’s friends from somewhere other than work but I’m not sure where, one whose name was also Laurie and she shot the ecstasy because she was a junkie, her eyes rolled up into her head and she wouldn’t get out of my bed, the other friend just closed her eyes and mumbled and Laurie thought she was having a heart attack, can people die on ecstasy?

Then I was on the phone with Laurie’s friend from work, a straight woman with bisexual tendencies who said she was in love with Laurie, Laurie was a Greek goddess, I guess she must’ve been on ecstasy too, back at home with her boyfriend who she wanted me to fuck, she wanted to watch us together. I don’t think this was the same time I thought about walking out Laurie’s window like a door, no that must’ve been on mushrooms, mushrooms were always messy, this time I ended up sleeping in Laurie’s bed, after she didn’t think she was going to die anymore. One of the things about Laurie and me, one of the things that was different from any relationship I’d had before was the physical comfort. Maybe that’s what I’m thinking about, not just the breakdowns, the breakdowns magnified by drugs or the drama of figuring everything out but not quite, but that comfort: it’s what held us together. And held us. Even if we were drifting into something broken and familiar, maybe it was almost like we were married, complete with gendered power struggles about identity and the ways we saw the world, the ways we sometimes existed in the world like a composite that might have been more me than Laurie, these conflicts we were aware of but didn’t quite recognize, even then there was the comfort.