Monday, November 30, 2009

My sinuses, oh no!

Technical writing

When I moved back to San Francisco at the end of 2000, I went to a Chanukkah party. At this point I didn’t generally go to parties, even though I keep writing about them, but a Chanukkah party sounded innocuous enough. It was at the house of one of JoAnne’s former lovers, who lived less than a block from where we used to live. Actually, their house was kind of like our house, in the way that it became kind of like a destination. It was the house where I stayed when I went to San Francisco after JoAnne died, in Laurie’s room -- that room kind of looked like the middle room in our old apartment, only one window facing an air shaft, so when I first thought about that time I kept thinking about that other room: did Laurie really move back in? That didn’t make sense. No, it was down the street, and Andee was staying there too but I didn’t remember that until he mentioned it. The building was falling apart, but they’d painted the walls so many gorgeous clashing colors that it welcomed you with mania.

At the Chanukkah party, I thought we would sit around a table spinning dreidels and eating latkes, but when I got there it was packed and the rooms were dim, all those clashing colors jumping in shadows. Everyone was working the rocker junkie look -- trucker caps and eyeliner, fake fur coats so ratty they looked like they had skins, and maybe they did. It was like the worst New York high-fashion disaster, except cheaper clothes and harder drugs. So many glazed eyes it was hard to keep track -- heroin here, crystal there, some acid in the hallway and there’s the doorbell -- cocaine!

This was the new San Francisco: peer around any corner in the Mission Or South of Market and you’d see enormous luxury lofts that looked like they were made of particle board and aluminum. Drunk yuppies crowded the sidewalks in front of posh bars in practically every neighborhood they were afraid of: a new discovery! Hummers sped down side streets like they were doing reconnaissance: they were looking for parking. One famously-cited driver admitted he ran over someone’s grandmother to avoid spilling his cappuccino, inspiring a bus shelter ad.

My closest friends had warned me, but they had also convinced me to move back -- we’re you’re family, that’s what they said. The two people who said that the most left San Francisco within a few months -- I guess that’s what family does. Most people I knew had moved to Oakland and they said I should live by Lake Merritt, I would like the buildings, but Oakland wasn’t like Brooklyn -- you couldn’t get around after midnight. I needed to live in New York without New York, I knew that meant the Tenderloin. The dot-com frenzy was in full swing, so I found myself entering buildings without front doors, walking down bare hallways lit by exposed bulbs, to enter moldy thousand-dollar studio apartments facing other people’s fire escapes. Often I didn’t even have enough time to wonder if it was possible to live in these dumps, because they were already taken -- or, there would be a dozen people with computer jobs, checkbooks in hand, all vying for the manager or realtor’s attention: Is the neighborhood safe? Is there anything nearby? How far is Union Square?

On my application, I became a technical writer who made a preposterous amount of money -- everything except my name and social security number was fake. I got lucky, and ended up with an apartment on the top floor, set back from the street because of a burned-down building next door, facing Polk Street and the sun. Or, okay, maybe I didn’t get that lucky -- I had to outbid someone to get the lease, but it was the nicest place I’d seen. I didn’t know about the roaches or the rats or the pigeons yet, but the kitchen was big enough that I could put my bed in the dining area with a screen between sleep and vegetables, which felt luxurious. Certain people thought it was a strange set up -- why did they put the bedroom over there? No, darling -- I did.

Of course, my technical writing consisted of giving blow jobs in plush off-white hotel beds while the TV flashed stock prices behind me. I remember one Tuesday night, after my third trick and on my way to a fourth, stepping into the W and finding so many people in the lobby that they spilled into the elevators to make deals on their cellphones, cocktails in hand. Outside the Ritz-Carlton, there was a couple who looked like they couldn’t be older than 25, stepping out of a Rolls. The guy was wearing a waistcoat and holding a cigar in one hand and an attaché in the other; the woman was wearing a full-length fur and gold slip-on heels. At least I was making cash. In fact, I was making more than the outlandish figure on my rental application: no longer would I take the bus to save money, or turn down tricks who called when I was hanging out with a friend -- I would show up within a half-hour, in full preppy drag. The tricks loved it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Names names names...

Yes yes, I’m changing some names around for my next series of posts -- in case you notice, and get confused. It may just be temporary, we shall see…

Friday, November 27, 2009

Northwest air

I guess the good thing about forgetting to open the bathroom window before going to sleep is that now I know that it really helps. I mean I never suspected that it didn’t help, but now I really know. Because I wake up with so much congestion in my nose, just from the lack of air circulating -- the other windows were open, but it’s the bathroom window that brings in the breeze, gusts of wind really, and the air from that side is always cooler, I’m not sure how really but that’s one of the things I still like about San Francisco.

Today is a strange day to say that my trip was worth it, before I was thinking about that balance between complete exhaustion and inspiration, how it’s always hard to figure that out when I travel because travel wears me out so much but then it also gives me energy to interact with people in these different places, to interact with people interacting with my work it makes me feel useful. What’s going on in these places: I get a little glimpse -- here is what queers are doing at Oregon State University; they have a drag room in the basement of the Pride Center but the erotica books are in a separate room from the rest of the books; there’s a flyer about internet dating among all the safer sex info, plain STD flyers but also more elaborate and updated ones coming from all over the place. Here’s what the co-op is like in Corvallis, I love the co-op in Corvallis; here is the parking lot in front of the hotel, the back of a movie theater and stripmall sadness but oh that enormous spruce tree, the mountains in the background, the way Oregon towns can be sprawl and conservation at the same time I mean of course that’s not really conservation. But the mountains, look!

At my event, someone asked if I’d ever thought of writing for children and I hadn’t, but it was interesting to think about anyway, especially in the context of reading from So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, telling my story through my books and other work and what would that mean to tell that story in some other way that I can’t imagine. I mean almost all the writing for children I’ve ever seen is so polluted, hideous and simplistic, empty and filled with false hope and imaginings leading nowhere. So it was a good question.

I spend a lot of time in the hotel, staring out the window at that spruce tree. Really, I’m so exhausted that I can’t do much else -- groceries, dinner, chatting with my host and breathing that Northwest air I love so much, oh it’s my favorite. There’s a hot tub in the room, I mean a big bathtub with jets, huge and I soak in it a lot, it really helps with my pain and I sleep better there than at home, 12 hours every night and I wonder if it’s something about being in a smaller town, without so many types of electrical current and a cell phone tower right across the street from me, and of course it’s way quieter and darker to in the hotel room I need better blinds at home. Or maybe I sleep better in Corvallis just because I’m so exhausted that I can’t do anything else and then when I get back, the train arrives at 8 am, the worst time in the entire world, and I’m ruined, but only for a day or two until now, when I’m ruined again but from something else or maybe not something else probably still the train that’s why my sinuses are a disaster but anyway somehow I decide that it was worth it. I mean I hate it when someone asks me how I’m doing and I say I’m exhausted, sometimes they say but you’re always exhausted, right?

But wait -- I was trying to tell you that I’m exhausted. I mean maybe they’re trying to be understanding but they end up silencing me. But that’s not what I’m feeling now, even though right now I feel terrible I feel like maybe I’ll be okay.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whoever said... that you can't get jetlag from taking the train... was wrong!!!

Slipping away

When I got back to San Francisco, I tried not to go to the Mission. Luckily I was staying with Chris in the Haight, earlier I was thinking that JoAnne was the only person who I’d shared a bed with for a month, but actually I stayed with Chris in his bed for a month too. In a tiny room barely larger than the bed, I think he paid less than $200 for it and we split that for the month. It was kind of like we were lovers except we didn’t have sex, we just talked about everything and slept with our arms touching shoulders around backs lips brushing against necks and sometimes Chris would wake up screaming and I would pet his head and say it’s okay, it’s okay, just like when we first met. I guess it was a while before I couldn’t sleep. And did I really say it’s okay? It’s not like anything was okay, except in that bed with Chris and I wondered if we should have sex but I didn’t want to lose the safety. So I didn’t mention what was maybe under the surface.

I ran into Zee at a café in the Lower Haight -- we hadn’t talked since I’d left San Francisco because he didn’t want to talk to me and I even threw out the Cocteau Twins album that was always on when we were fighting, were we falling apart because of that album or did we put it on as soon as everything started to come apart? But then I ran into him and it was like suddenly we were friends again. We made plans to go with Chris to Corona Heights to watch the sunset, but then I got a trick so I couldn’t go and then Chris and Zee ended up sleeping together. I hated that narrative -- the uncontrollable gay desire -- why couldn’t they have said something to me first? Chris didn’t even tell me for a week.

But then the strange thing that happened was that I actually kind of liked seeing them together, they were arguing right away and that was the part that stressed me out; I tried to help them to get along. This was when everyone was talking about how expensive San Francisco was getting, it was hard to find a room for less than $400 but I found a place for $247, in a huge flat in the Lower Haight with all these random people who talked about what they were going to do for Burning Man -- it was eight months away but they were already planning. One day, the person who had the lease came home from work with a vintage black Mercedes, and I knew something was wrong. He had some kind of computer job, but people didn’t use the word dot-com yet. At least not people I was around.

When I did go to the Mission, I looked at the buildings and all I could think about was death. Chris and I were planning to get an apartment together, but then he and Zee ended up moving to Oregon to work at a retreat center -- this was their faerie phase, and I stood there at the bus station with tears in my eyes, I felt like they were leaving me. I mean they were. What was I doing in San Francisco? Chrissie Contagious came to stay with me -- remember her, she was screaming naked in a tree when I met JoAnne. And Zee that same weekend, back at the March on Washington in 1993, I guess that was only three years before but it already felt like several world ago. Chrissie was another one of JoAnne’s close friends, when someone so important to you dies like that you become closer to the others who are left; you have to. This was when I’d decided that K was the only drug that was safe for me, it was the answer, and I ended up buying a ton of it for someone who disappeared, so then I figured I’d sell it, Chrissie and I could sell it together since she was the party girl. But then I’d come home and she’d be cutting it up on my mirror. Oh well -- might as well do some.

One night we went out to the Hole in the Wall, the bar that was the most popular at the time for faggots trying to act like they weren’t trendy, just masculine, they liked rock and beer and tattoos, if I wasn’t having sex in the back then I was scaring everyone with runway. That night Chrissie met someone and afterwards they wanted to go to Blow Buddies. I’d never actually been to Blow Buddies before -- even though I’d heard it was mostly circuit queens, it wasn’t like I was ready for bed, I was never ready for bed when the bars closed. While we were in line, Chrissie’s new fling took out a credit card and poured some crystal on it, then held it up to my nose. I’d always said that people should do their drugs in public, so I got caught up in the moment and inhaled, then the first thing I thought was: oh no, I’ve just ruined my life. And then: might as well have fun. So I ended up doing more crystal than ever before, but first we got kicked out of Blow Buddies for saying girl too much, and then Chrissie and the fling tried to fuck in my bed while I rearranged the room and tried to pretend I wasn’t thinking about more crystal until they took it out again -- oh, sure -- just a little. Then when Chrissie went to film a porn video I was waiting at the End Up and I bought two more quarters, I was alternating it with huge bumps of K and then on the dance floor it was like I was 10 feet in the air but somehow my feet still touched the ground and I could bounce in the stars except it was daylight now I was still bouncing.

Maybe 20 hours of drugs later we were back at the Hole in the Wall, I figured I would do this huge bump of K, like a whole capful, the kind of thing that normally would guarantee you a K-hole but I figured I’d be fine because of all the crystal. Soon enough I was sinking into the corner, the lights a toy for my eyes I couldn’t speak but it was okay, I knew this feeling, it was okay until the bar started to close and K wasn’t big in San Francisco yet, they didn’t know what it meant when my friends said she’s in a K-hole; the staff picked me up and dropped me onto the sidewalk outside. Then I couldn’t get up off the ground because my head felt like it was cracking open, I was holding Rick’s hand and I felt like if he let go I would be gone. I didn’t mention Rick before but he was the one with barrettes who I told to leave Brown, and then he did, and when I got back to San Francisco he was there too and we would go to bars together and try not to go to bars together, this time we ran into each other by coincidence and I was holding his hand because I could feel my life slipping away, eyes closed but everything was flying by. No one knew what to do until this homeless guy came over and said pour cold water on him and it’ll bring him down, my friends weren’t convinced but I nodded and they poured cold water on me and it worked. After I recovered, I decided to go on a food elimination diet, to figure out all my allergies, and also the strictest anti-candida diet because when else wouldn’t I be drinking? I wasn’t drinking because alcohol just made me think that of course I would decide to do drugs, even if I hadn’t had anything to drink. I went to look for an apartment, but they all emphasized the credit check -- my credit wasn’t good and I didn’t want to live in San Francisco anyway; I decided to move to Seattle so I could feel calm again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just to be provocative

When JoAnne died, it was important to all of us to say that she didn’t die of an overdose. She died because the hospital refused her health care. She was kicking heroin and they admitted hooked her up to an IV for two days but then said you need to leave. She had active TB and a bladder infection. They gave her Tylenol. She couldn’t walk, her roommates carried her home. Later that night, they found her in the backyard, naked in the grass and laughing. The next day she was dead.

I don’t know why it mattered so much for us to say that she didn’t die of an overdose. Either way, the hospital had killed her. JoAnne never made it to visit me in Boston, where I was still living; New York would come several years down the line. I’d just confronted my parents and it was awful, I thought I’d feel some kind of release but I guess I felt all the release I would get while preparing a 15-page document saying what I remembered and what it had done to me and how I was healing, and that I wouldn’t talk to my father ever again unless he could come to terms with it. And then I sent that document to my four grandparents and my sister, Express Mail so they would get it at the same time as when I confronted my parents. I planned all this so that my father couldn’t twist everything around, everything I wanted to say was in that document. I knew he wouldn’t let me speak so I handed him the envelope first and said I know that you sexually abused me that you raped me that you molested me and right then he started screaming; he told me I was psychotic. We were in a public park and I walked away, away from my father’s screaming I was worried he was going to come after me and when I looked up at the buildings for a minute I couldn’t figure out where I was. Then I was stuck in Boston with nothing really except Gabby and drugs, and I was trying not to do drugs. A few weeks later I got a call from Laurie saying that JoAnne had died and I flew out to San Francisco the next day.

I didn’t want JoAnne’s parents to get her journals, that was the most important thing to me at the time. San Francisco welcomed me like a widow and that’s why I decided to move back. I returned to Boston to prepare, decided to take the train cross-country in a few months -- in those days, you could buy one ticket and travel anywhere you wanted for 30 days, I guess I knew I was going back to San Francisco but first I wanted to spend some time in Minneapolis and Chicago and Seattle, just to see. A friend of JoAnne’s from Seattle leant me her one-bedroom apartment in Chicago, she went to stay with her girlfriend -- I couldn’t believe she had so much space, in a fancy neighborhood even; Chicago was still cheap back then. I was in Chicago for the music, the music that I lived for, that hard clanky knock-you-down magic. The problem was, I didn’t know where to find it exactly -- it wasn’t what they called the Chicago sound, deep and soulful, it was the new Chicago sound. But I found the place that sounded right, from the description, and I put together an outfit that was relaxed enough for a Thursday but not too relaxed -- this was when I was really into tights with shorts, when my grandmothers came together to visit me in Boston I wore the crazy neon plaid ones, with contrasting polyester plaid cut-off shorts, of course, and maybe clips in my neon hair and they couldn’t believe I wasn’t doing this just to be provocative.

I wanted them to see me as me. I showed them the photo booth pictures from the clubs and they asked if I was a transvestite. I told him that language was outdated. Do you wear dresses? When I’m in the mood. In Chicago, I was wearing the silver tights, which were thigh-highs so I used the clips that looks like garters too, with striped red polyester cut-offs, a big mohair sweater and a pink scarf. On my way I stopped at a bank machine, maybe I noticed two guys in a car looking over at me like I didn’t deserve to live, but this happened all the time. I realized I’d walked the wrong way, so I went back down the same street, a dark street really but I hadn’t thought about it -- that’s when they jumped out of the car, from behind, one of them held a gun to my head and the other one said give me all your money, so I did, but it was only 20 dollars, they said something like let’s teach this faggot a lesson or maybe they didn’t say anything but I knew.

No, first I remember thinking: what are you supposed to do, what are you supposed to do when they have a gun? Oh, scream, scream for help and so that’s what I did, and then they hit me in the face with the gun, several times, and then slammed my head against a brick wall, and then they got in the car and drove away and there was blood everywhere, pouring down my face and onto my pink scarf and I remember thinking okay, at least I know where I am, I’m right by the apartment, I can get back, I’m right by the apartment. And then, once I got upstairs, I thought: don’t get blood on the carpet. In the mirror everything was red, especially the pink scarf and I didn’t know what to do so I wiped off the blood with paper towels and got some ice for my face but there was too much to cover. I called Melissa in San Francisco, maybe because her roommate was a nurse or maybe I didn’t remember that, I’m not sure, but her roommate said Mattilda should go to the hospital right away, with a head wound she might have a concussion, and then I remembered her roommate was from Chicago, so I said where should I go? And she said oh, she’s in Chicago, don’t go to the hospital -- wait until tomorrow, and go to a clinic.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Roses

But I don’t like where all this is leading -- I want to tell you about the time JoAnne finally came to Boston, after Gabby and I had moved into our own place, we had a three bedroom to ourselves. JoAnne loved the list I had tacked up on the wall in the living room, actually it was all of my daily lists taped together, maybe a month of them -- various colors of scrap paper with tricks’ names and numbers; grocery lists; and then certain things written over and over again like INCEST, because I was getting ready to confront my parents. Sometimes JoAnne and I would stand in the living room and look at the lists -- there wasn’t any furniture in there, and we didn’t like looking outside at the kids leaving the school across the street -- JoAnne would look at me like a professor, purse her lips and ask in an exaggerated parody of a British accent: children, what are we going to talk about today? Then she’d wind her hand around in the circle with her pointer finger out like she was getting ready to read, Boston style, and boom the finger would land right on INCEST. That’s right, Professor JoAnne would say -- incest. Repeat after me: incest. Spell that -- I…N…C…E…S…T… Exactly -- now, go home and tell your parents.

Or, when Andee and I went to that party in New York -- it was a birthday party for Gregory, this boy who I had a crush on for at least a year, I mean we were friends and there was all this sexual tension but I knew he was never going to sleep with me because I was a whore. That happened a lot in New York, not the crushes but the part where they wouldn’t sleep with me once they found out what I did for a living. Anyway, that night I was in an after-trick spending mood, so on the way to Gregory’s house I thought I’d buy him a dozen roses, half yellow and half peach, but the person at the flower stand got confused and mixed two dozen together -- oh well, I thought, I guess I’ll give him two dozen. Globalization was hard at work providing roses for scarily cheap prices to East Village consumers like me. When we got to the party, I was embarrassed because Gregory’s boyfriend had brought flowers too, but only three Gerbera daisies. This was the party where, at one point, Gregory and three other fags were comparing Nikes -- they were all wearing the same ones, and I said something like: that’s enough to fund an entire sweatshop. Then one of them looked down at my boots, and said: well, together you’re wearing a whole cow on your feet. I want to tell you about how JoAnne jumped in and said: these boots are vegan! Then, on the way out, she somehow managed to stuff all the roses into her bag without anyone noticing, I should’ve bought them for her in the first place.

That was around the same time when my roommate’s brother started staying in our apartment -- we shared this enormous commercial loft space so there was plenty of room, but it was still kind of annoying the way Devon’s brother literally pitched a tent in the middle of our apartment, and then he would bring home women to fuck and there weren’t any walls and they would make all this ridiculously gendered hetero noise. I want to tell you about how JoAnne decided that if my roommate’s brother had moved in without asking, she could move in too, so she got a bigger tent, and pitched it right next to my roommate’s brother’s tent, and then when he and some new fling were fucking she started screaming along with them. Later things got messier, after the landlord broke in and stole everything, but at least we didn’t have to listen to my roommate’s brother. But back to Boston, Gabby and I were selling K to save money so that we could take the train cross-country and figure out where the hell to move -- we needed to get out of Boston, that was for sure. But then, instead of saving money, Gabby ended up doing more drugs, and I want to tell you about how JoAnne ended up going with me, but I can’t because JoAnne was already dead and I was moving back to San Francisco.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The view from the hotel in Corvallis: Oregon produce, textured wallpaper, and yes I thought those logs were real...





Camaraderie

JoAnne was turning tricks on Capp Street, I can’t remember when she started but Capp Street was the bottom of the line for hookers, why not take out an ad? JoAnne said she liked it on Capp Street, the girls watched out for each other, she wouldn’t be able to turn tricks on her own -- and I’m a fat dyke, she said -- no one would call my ad. JoAnne was proud of being a fat dyke, she was just reading the marketplace. She would get in cars for $30 blow jobs, but it was so convenient -- Capp Street was literally a block away from the house where we used to live together. In Boston, sometimes I went to the boy block, usually it was empty but I did get my best trick there, I mean the one who paid me the best, by the hour. We would always talk for at least two hours before doing anything else, but then during the sex part it was so hard for me not to freeze because of the way he touched me so soft and his body was all bones. I want to say that he was a crackhead, but actually I don’t think there were drugs I think he was dying. I liked the part where we talked about music, he would get all excited and even though it was classical music I would get excited too.

The first time I worked the boy block, my friends got worried because I didn’t come back for a while, they left me notes on the parking meters: call us as soon as you get this. We’d gone out to the block together but they hadn’t turned tricks before or if they had they weren’t admitting it yet. Gay culture was scary, but I did appreciate the camaraderie. It wasn’t so lonely at the clubs, waiting for the music to become everything. I mean I still had to wait, but it didn’t feel so lonely. Now Gabby and I would rush to the photo booth to get pictures of our outfits, at the big club that happened every Sunday, the highlight for Boston gay nightlife and I always stayed in the back where the music was harder but we would all reconvene at the end of the night to get home or to figure out the next stop. JoAnne started taking care of one of her lovers who was kicking heroin, she’d hold her in all that shit and vomit and I can’t remember what happened to that lover, I mean whether she got off heroin but then JoAnne was trying to kick, she sent me a book that I never read because it was about recovery from drug addiction as a spiritual quest and I wasn’t interested in spiritual quests. In the margins JoAnne wrote: considering my place on the social totem pole I’m rare to be alive at 21. And: addicts are my teachers now.

JoAnne didn’t want me to leave San Francisco, and I’m not sure I wanted to leave either, I mean right at the moment when I did leave it actually felt like home, at least in our kitchen, making stirfries and reading everyone. Later I would realize that always happens right before you leave. Afterwards, JoAnne tried to be friends with Angie again, or the people who were friends with Angie, or both, and I was never quite sure why except that it was hard to be a certain kind of dyke in the Mission unless you were friends with certain people. But now JoAnne was a junkie and the rule in the Mission was: a junkie will steal everything from you. It’s not that they didn’t talk to her, but they wouldn’t let her in and I blamed them, blamed them for everything.

I always had rules for my addictions. I never did drugs during the day, unless I was still up from the night before. Every week I would stop for several days and everything would get much much worse unless we went out for cocktails, yes please cocktails. Sometimes I would stop everything for a week or even a month, just to make sure I could do it, and everyone around me would be stunned and JoAnne would say: you know you’re an addict, right?

You can move to Boston, I said -- we could get an apartment together, you’d be away from all your sources. But JoAnne said: you don’t want to see me this way. She moved back in with her mother, in the Seattle suburb where she grew up, a town getting richer and leaving all the earlier inhabitants behind, the ones who were just middle class. Her mother wouldn’t let her leave the house slone because she was worried she would get drugs, that was one of her rules for JoAnne staying there so I went to the health food store in Boston and borrowed the largest size containers of all the fanciest vitamins and sent them to JoAnne, along with a 36-ounce bottle of Bragg’s liquid amino acids. Her mother remembered that later: JoAnne really appreciated those vitamins, she said -- she talked about you all the time.

But first, JoAnne’s mother kicked her out, after JoAnne left the house and went to Seattle for the day, probably to get heroin. Soon JoAnne was back in San Francisco -- Melissa was doing outreach on Capp Street when she ran into her. Melissa said: JoAnne doesn’t look good. What does she look like, I asked. She’s lost a lot of weight and you can almost see through her skin, Melissa said. JoAnne called me to tell me about running into Vanessa on the street, JoAnne was spare-changing and Vanessa wouldn’t give her any money but she told her she looked great, she might’ve even said amazing.

JoAnne was so angry about that -- Vanessa had never complimented her in that way before, it was because of all the weight she’d lost.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sketchtasy

When I lived in Boston, someone was always playing the Priscilla soundtrack, I mean when they weren’t watching the movie again. My room was right next to the living room, sometimes I would wake up to Priscilla, I can hardly think of anything worse. Or Abba, which was also on the Priscilla soundtrack. The Pet Shop Boys were bad enough, but when their new album came out it was at least a break. My roommates even liked To Wong Fu, where Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo play three drag queens on a road trip -- it was Priscilla, relocated from the Australian outback to the US heartland -- in Boston, I was living inside gay culture. JoAnne would call me up and say: you know you’re an addict, don’t you? She was high, I could hear that hollow sound in her voice -- kind of like Erin, the coke-head hairstylist who my Boston friends and I would run into at all the clubs, whenever she was really high all she could talk about was quitting: as soon as I finish this, I’m going to quit -- do you want a bump?

In Boston, sometimes drugs were the best thing in my life, a good night would start with a few cocktails, continue with a hit of ecstasy, maybe a bump or two of coke while waiting for the ecstasy to kick in and then oh, that place in the sky and then Special K when it was fading, so you could sink into the ground while flying, pot to bring it back on, a Xanax to relax. When the drugs got really bad, it was the dealer’s fault -- the dealer gave us something awful. Like that batch of big flat tablets a yellow brown color instead of white, there wasn’t really any ecstasy in that ecstasy I called it sketchtasy. You would take the pill, and just when it started to kick in you had to rush to the bathroom to vomit -- because of the heroin, that’s what we thought, and then when the speed kicked in it would knock you over the head like the whole room was expanding and contracting at the same time. Everyone got used to that back and forth slam, and then when we got real ecstasy again people complained -- where was the rush?

The problem with real ecstasy was the crash, that beautiful place in the sky your body it wouldn’t last. I remember this one time when I crashed I kept taking more, in the café across from Neiman Marcus that was somehow the big gay hangout, that’s how awful Boston was, I walked down three stairs and into a hole and when I woke up on a sofa it was like reverse ecstasy: people were talking to me through a cave and there was this buzzing in my head, everything vibrating and dark, when someone looked at me I could see their eyes in my eyes. Kind of like the ecstasy that just made you nod off -- that was the worst kind, heroin for sure and one time we tried to fix it with more K and then I opened my eyes and there was this show on TV that was all about K I mean I can’t remember what it was really about -- oh I think it was the KKK, do you see what I mean about how everything could go wrong? Then there was Madonna in a video fitting herself into boxes -- Madonna’s in a K-hole, everyone kept saying -- and one of our friends kept trying to crawl or fly or fall out the window when we all started nodding off again -- someone would open their eyes and say: what are you doing? JoAnne, I would say, I know I’m an addict, but you’re the one who’s high right now.

Away from the computer, but the glamour will not stop...

Yes yes it's true -- I'm taking a break from the computer from Tuesday through Saturday (during my trip to Corvallis) -- hopefully it will help my hands arms shoulders!

But I have scheduled some things ahead of time for this blog -- it's possible that you might not even notice that I'm gone, except I wanted to let you know in case you posted a comment and were wondering what the hell, why isn't this comment showing up? Yes yes -- please continue to post comments I do love comments, but they may take a little longer to appear...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm coming to Corvallis, Oregon!

If you’re in Corvallis, now’s the perfect time to see me -- and if you’re elsewhere in Oregon, tell your Corvallis friends to come and say hi!

I’ll be giving the keynote talk for Trans Awareness Week at Oregon State University -- I’ll be talking about everything from the tyranny of niche marketed publishing to passing crises to sex work to radical queer activism to sexual abuse to experimental writing to accountability to fibromyalgia to how the hell I got to this place of writing and editing books… Pulling It Together is what I’m calling the madness of it all -- oh, and I’ll also be reading from my newest novel, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly…

Wednesday, November 18th @ 8 pm
Oregon State University
Memorial Union, Journey Room
Corvallis, Oregon, 97331
(University contact: queer.affairs@oregonstate.edu)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Add concrete

It makes sense that this is when I decided to leave San Francisco, but actually I decided earlier, sometime after I got back from Seattle, before or after Laurie moved out I’m not sure. Probably after, because otherwise she might not have moved. San Francisco was done for me, until JoAnne moved down. After she moved down, I probably wouldn’t have decided to leave, I mean except that I had already decided -- isn’t it strange how these things work?

When JoAnne started doing heroin, it wasn’t a big deal, or at least it didn’t seem like a big deal. She would sit in her room on the rocking chair, eyes closed and I would ask: are you sleeping? No, she would say -- no, I’m wide awake. What do you see, I would ask. Everything, she would say.

Then the next day, we would go on making carrot juice and reading, and JoAnne would tell me: you really have to work at it, you have to work to get addicted. It’s not like crystal, she would say. We both knew about crystal -- you definitely didn’t have to work to get addicted to crystal. Sometimes JoAnne would sit in her room on heroin and paint -- she thought we should do it together, it would be fun. I didn’t want to make art on drugs -- I’d stopped doing crystal when I realized I needed it to dance, or not to dance but to really dance. I didn’t understand why JoAnne was shooting heroin instead of snorting it, but the truth was that heroin just wasn’t the drug for me: I wanted to be on all the time, I didn’t want to close my eyes and watch. I don’t even know if I wanted to close my eyes.

Before Garrett moved out, back when we were still friends with Angie, or friendly at least, we all went over Angie’s office and got together with a few of Angie’s friends who were maybe still our friends and made a zine together. Maybe Andee was there too, was Andee there? Laurie was probably at work. Angie worked at a nonprofit, and she had the key to the office, where there was a photocopier, so we were taking advantage of the resources. We each made a page in this zine and a lot of it was about rape and incest and sex work and rage and it’s funny to think we made the zine right before we became enemies, because at that moment it felt like we were finally getting along. Maybe that’s why I ended up talking about riot girl, I mean when I started to write about this period of my life, even though riot girl never meant anything to me: we were writing about rape and sex work and rage and then we were enemies.

Andee says: yes I was there, I was there when we made that zine, it was called The Cruelest Zine, and you were supposed to write about the cruelest thing you had ever done to anyone. Me: that’s a different zine, I don’t think I was there for that one. Andee: yes you were, we only went there once, I have that zine in storage in Montana. Me: but I have it right here, and it’s not called The Cruelest Zine. Andee: that’s right -- we made two zines, there was the other zine where I drew a diagram of a cock ring unfolded, because that’s when I was making sex toys out of rubber with Vanessa, and then I wrote: The Day I Learned Codependency Was the Word on Valencia. Me: I don’t think that’s what it says, maybe that was in the other zine. Andee: no, that’s definitely what it says, because in the other zine I wrote about throwing this boy out of a party in Seattle because he told me he’d slept with my boyfriend, I picked him up by the collar and dragged him out of the flat and down the hall and threw him out into the rain. And then I wouldn’t let anyone let him back in, even though it wasn’t my apartment. Me: that’s right, I remember that story, we talked about it in the kitchen beforehand, and you were still angry at that boy. Andee: But I felt terrible about it. Me: I know -- that’s why you wrote about it in The Cruelest Zine. But what did I write about? Andee: you did that stream-of-consciousness piece that was a list, like two cups of this and a teaspoon of that and I can’t remember exactly what it said but then at the end you said -- add concrete. Me: oh, right -- like a recipe. Andee: yeah, like a recipe -- and everyone was stunned and fawning, because you had just pulled that out and it became the central piece in the zine, even though the whole thing was a setup so that Ellen could write about that dinner party at your house. Now they were all saying to you: that's amazing, you're amazing. Me: oh, right -- Ellen wrote about how that dinner party was the cruelest thing anyone had ever done to her -- no wonder I don’t remember that zine.

Lostmissing in Chicago (at an office cubicle in the Loop, no less -- thanks, Kathleen)!



Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's the world premiere of my first film!!!

It’s true -- Gina Carducci and I made a film together and it’s gorgeous!!!

The premiere is next Tuesday during the opening night of MIX NYC, New York’s only queer experimental film festival -- are you ready?

Here are the details:

Tuesday, November 17 @ 8 pm
THE MIX FACTORY
125 W. 21st St. (btw. 6th and 7th Ave.)

It’s opening night, so tickets are $20, but I’m sure there will be tons of jewels to make it worth it -- sadly, I will be on the West Coast so I’ll be unable to make it, but I would love to hear what you think!

Here’s more info on our film:

All That Sheltering Emptiness is a meditation on elevators, hotel lobbies, hundred dollar bills, the bathroom, a cab, chandeliers, cocktails, the receptionist, arousal, and other routines in the life of a New York City callboy. Gorgeously hand-processed in full 16mm glory, this film is a collaboration between Gina Carducci (Stone Welcome Mat) and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (author of So Many Ways to Sleep Badly; editor of That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation). All That Sheltering Emptiness explodes the typical narratives of desire, escape and intimacy to evoke something more honest. (16mm, color, optical sound, 7 min.)

There’s more info on the festival here

Oh, no -- this building used to be pink!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Val Valley Pep Squad

In the kitchen, we would remind each other to breathe and to chew, we were trying to stay calm but we also celebrated our mania; we held each other and made carrot juice with ginger and then we would read, honey we would read. The first person JoAnne read was Garrett, she couldn’t deal with the way that he wanted her to be his mother, that’s what he wanted from all the dykes he was friends with and she thought it was oppressive. That’s when Garrett started getting really depressed, I mean he was always depressed -- all of us were always depressed and that was fine or not fine but it was just a given. But now Garrett would come into the house and slam the door and I would try to get him to understand why JoAnne was angry but then he started slamming the door on me. After that, when he would come into the house, Joanne and I would stay in the kitchen and continue making carrot juice and laughing.

I don’t know who decided this first, but eventually it was Garrett and Angie and everyone around Angie who decided that I was evil, and that I had possessed JoAnne -- trust me, it sounded just as ridiculous then, but it’s really what they decided. Now Garrett was moving out, so JoAnne made these cards that looked kind of like tarot cards but without the illusion: they said things like, "I'm just another brainless woman," and, "Don't ask me, ask Matt," and JoAnne also made cardboard horns for me and I wrote 666 on my forehead with lipstick. And when they all came over to help Garrett move, I sat in the kitchen smoking and staring them in the eyes like I could kill them just like that, yes we must have smoked in the kitchen. JoAnne chased them down the stairs and screamed for the whole neighborhood -- you think you’re feminists, you’re not fucking feminists it’s just misogyny turned the other way.

Another time, we both wrote 666 on our foreheads, and JoAnne taped her mouth shut with duct tape and we went over to that fateful café and handed out cards that said Val Valley Pep Squad. We were trying not to feel silenced -- if they thought we were possessed, then why not show them possessed? But I almost forgot the hardest part, I mean the hardest part for me. Right when Garrett moved out, he spray-painted the sidewalk in front of our door, huge letters that said MATT IS A RAPIST. I felt my whole body pull in, I didn’t know what to do except to call Laurie -- I said: you won’t believe what Garrett wrote on my doorstep. Here he was calling me a rapist, just because it was the worst thing he could say. But Laurie still took Garrett’s side. I guess that was really the end of our relationship -- later, we were friendly again, but it was because of what we had once meant to each other.

I didn’t know if I would ever again believe in this thing called community. When people invoked that word to mean something vague and amorphous, it made me sick; it still does. Even now, 15 or almost 16 years later, just writing this story it’s like I’m there again I can hardly breathe and I’m on the phone with Andee, he says: I never realized all that affected you so much. But it did, honey, it did: at the time I still wanted to be invulnerable, or at least to seem invulnerable, and so I channeled all my emotions into a politicized rage, rage at this culture that had made and betrayed me -- what do you mean community? Kind of like when I’d said to Zee: what do you mean nature? Except that now my scorn was justified. I dissected the betrayal, step by step; I asked what it meant when this was all that community became; I went off on scenesterism, on followers, on the emptiness of Mission dyke rhetoric; but I didn’t talk about how I’d believed, or how it all had hurt me.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Tumbling

I remember those nighttime walks through the Mission and underneath the highway, crossing into South of Market to go to Junk once it moved to the Stud and we all agreed it was over, but it wasn’t totally over because we still went there. Now there were straight tourists looking for three-ways, since the club got written up in one of the papers. The first time I went to Junk once I got back to San Francisco I was so worried about running into Zee and how would I feel and then he wasn’t there and I could breathe until he was there and I tried to talk to people and act like it was okay, I mean like I was okay but behind their heads I was looking out until I was dancing and then it didn’t matter no it still mattered but it made my gestures mean even more.

I remember those conspiratorial walks on the way there, down dark streets and past warehouses and how we would always have these elaborate conversations -- we were trying to prepare for the drama and if you looked up at the sky it would frame us, that’s what I’m thinking now. Sometimes we looked, and sometimes we didn’t. I can picture Laurie first and then Garrett and Andee, since he had moved down to San Francisco while I was in Seattle, we had met at Bauhaus but we really met in my kitchen, once I got back. There were others too and then there was JoAnne.

And Melissa, she was the one who liked house music too so sometimes we would go to Your Sister’s House instead of Junk, just the two of us and then there wasn’t any drama just dancing, Melissa would wonder if any of these women were dykes but if they were then we never found out. I met Melissa at ACT UP and we were the token queers in the activist group that got me to stop doing direct action for a while, there were other queers but they were tokenized for other reasons. That was the group where we held a sleep-out at the mayor’s house and at meetings everyone started screaming at me because I thought we should operate by consensus. Or not everyone, but the two people with the most power. Melissa was one of the people who agreed with me but she didn’t say anything in the meetings; neither did the other people who wanted consensus. Melissa was kind of like some of my childhood friends, someone so awkward that most people couldn’t see her, but her analysis was more skillful than anyone else who I’d met. Like when she met Zee, back when he wanted to be friends with all my friends and so the two of them went out for tea and I got kind of scared that they would become friends and leave me, I knew this was irrational so I didn’t say anything. That’s how I dealt with whatever I thought was irrational, like when I got jealous sometimes of the people Zee would sleep with, but I knew I shouldn’t be jealous and so I didn’t talk about it.

After Melissa met with Zee, she said: you know, he totally objectifies you. And I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but she was right. Melissa was stuck at her parents house after dropping out of school -- she went to Yale and it traumatized her in some of the same ways that Brown traumatized me, but she stayed longer and it got worse and she tried to kill herself. After she got out of the hospital, she stayed in New Haven because she liked it there, just not Yale, but now she was back at her parents’ house, scared of her father in the hallway and sometimes she would stay at my house, especially after Junk. We would share my bed and I would try to encourage her to get away, away from her parents but there was something that meant she couldn’t, she would look away when she was trying to say it, voice shaking and I knew.

Once JoAnne moved in, we were a whole house of queer vegan incest survivors. I would go JoAnne’s room when I was scared of my father’s eyes and then JoAnne started talking about the dirty old man she needed to picture in order to get off, there was no other way -- she needed that dirty old man. Finally she realized it was her father and we would hold each other in that way that meant it was okay if nothing was possible and it was okay if everything was possible and then it was just okay. We would sob together, really sob -- Zee had held me in this way but then it would all fall apart. With JoAnne the connection was a constant-- she had felt it right when we met in DC and that’s what made Seattle so possible, and all that space.

But back to our storied San Francisco kitchen, did JoAnne really move in right after Laurie moved out, or was there someone in between? JoAnne and I would paint each other’s nails and soak our hands in ice water, we would help each other with our hair dye, the hard to reach places in the back, and then we would get ready to go out or get ready not to go out. Sometimes we would combine weird drugs that didn’t quite feel like drugs -- black beauties that JoAnne brought down from Canada that were supposed to be speed but they were so calm to us that we decided they were caffeine, or ephedrine and Xanax, I still had a lot of Xanax that I’d gotten from my father’s medicine cabinet, samples from the company arranged in a big box. We snorted everything on a shard of an old mirror because that’s the way we liked it best, we were avoiding the drugs that squeezed us too hard but still we wanted that burn. Then we’d go to La Rondalla for margaritas and the photo booth, was there a photo booth at La Rondalla? There was so much laughter as we would tumble around.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Lostmissing in Chicago?!

Tim Devin brought my attention to this event in Chicago called SOMETHING NEW -- basically it's public art all over the city that takes place anywhere and everywhere on November 11. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to throw down some Lostmissing -- if anyone wants to put up Lostmissing posters in Chicago, that would be delicious -- just let me know!

Amazing

When I got back, there was melted candle wax on the sofa in my room -- Garrett said oh, that’s wax Zee poured on someone at the party, they were having sex and it was part of the scene. I guess I must have already hated parties, that’s why it took place while I was away. I lifted the sofa and tried to push it out the window, the window was big but still the sofa wouldn’t fit. So I dragged it downstairs and outside to the street -- that’s how I was feeling. I’d originally found the sofa on the street anyway, back in the Inner Richmond. I can’t remember if I got another one -- I think somewhere there’s a picture of JoAnne and me sitting on a sofa in my room, I’ll have to take a look at it.

Since Laurie had invited Garrett to move in, I told her there was no way I would move out. Everything was tense for a while and then Laurie moved out; maybe our relationship was over. Laurie moved in with Angie, who was starting to have a lot of power in our little world -- she would hold court at parties with her tarot cards, telling people what to do, she saw it in the cards. Angie made movies that were like rants and when someone she liked performed at an open mic or at someone’s house or showed their art at the dyke café where everyone went for coffee and drama, Angie would say: that was amazing. Sometimes it was amazing, but sometimes it was awful; soon there was this whole group of dykes who followed Angie around, they were constantly congratulating each other on bad art and bad relationships and bad behavior that they thought was truly amazing. When Laurie moved out, Angie decided I was abusive, so that’s what everyone who followed her around decided too. I didn’t know exactly what Laurie thought, because we weren’t really speaking, but I felt like she had a right to be as angry as she wanted. Angie and I barely even knew each other, but you remember what I said about loyalty, right?

The strange thing was that Garrett and I actually ended up becoming close, we would sit in each other’s rooms and talk about flashbacks and desire and our fathers and the masculinity we were horrified by; we talked about consent, and whether it was really possible. Garrett couldn’t believe I rarely got fucked, and I couldn’t believe he thought getting fucked was the only radical choice for faggots like us. We got arrested writing anti-police graffiti on a bus shelter -- the ad showed a stick-figure drawing with a gun, shooting at other stick figures, black lines on a white background: “Children Draw What They See, and What They See Is a Crime” -- we made a simple alteration, labeling the stick figure with a gun as a cop and the victims as unarmed people of color, and then we went to a nearby café. It turned out that some store owner called the cops, and since Garrett and I both had bright-colored hair we were easily identifiable; they took us to jail, overnight, first to a holding cell by ourselves, once they decided we had sugar in our pants, that’s how they put it. I was grateful for that sugar, once I took a look in the other holding cell, everyone arranged almost on top of one another, there was a fight and someone started screaming and the cops ignored it. After a night in a blank room with those crazy-making pale green walls, we ended up in the queen tank, where everyone assumed we’d gotten arrested for prostitution -- I stayed awake while Garrett dozed; some guy was screaming on the phone to his lawyer, probably he was the only one with a lawyer. Eventually the cops took Garrett and me to separate interviews where they tried to get each of us to say that the other one was the problem but neither of us did -- we ended up with time served and 40 hours of community service.

Maybe that’s when we really bonded. We decided to practice French together, even though we thought French was snotty we also thought we shouldn’t forget the language we had spent so much time learning, with all of our high school dreams of expatriotism. Garrett made those stickers that we loved, his favorite was TRASH because that’s what people had always told him he was, white trash but this was when people in the Mission were always having white trash parties, even though none of these people had actually grown up white trash -- these were the people who had grown up kind of like me and so I avoided them, not just because of their white trash parties but because I thought they would never learn anything I wanted to know. At the kitchen table, we would talk angrily about those parties, not just the upper-middle-class fetishism but the emphasis on whiteness. Garrett thought the two of us should have sex, but I was never interested -- I still noticed how he was trying to be me, at least when he was with me, and I was trying to encourage him to emphasize his differences; sex wouldn’t work between us, I said, even though at this point we used the word love to describe one another I just wasn’t attracted to him sexually.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ouch, what am I doing online so early -- ouch, my arms, ouch! Okay, time for a hot shower...

In case you want to see how assimilationist gay marriage proponents respond to a scathing satirical indictment...

Well, here you go (in the comments section) -- but don't forget that I warned you...

Running away

Seattle was totally different from San Francisco -- it seemed like most people were actually from Seattle, or from somewhere in the general region. The whole city felt suburban -- even the counterculture kids looked like they bought their clothes at the mall; there was even a counterculture mall with tiny stores that sold things like piercing needles and tattoos and I Can’t Even Think Straight t-shirts. The apartment building where JoAnne lived looked like a suburban cul-de-sac with blue prefab townhome-style apartments arranged around a parking lot. In Seattle, people would get in blowout fights about which café served the best coffee -- I’m not kidding. Even the neighborhood that white people were afraid of felt middle class. People would get dressed up to go to cafés, I mean like they were going to a club, especially goth kids with long layers of black touching the ground, or ravers with baggy jeans and bright-colored piercings, or goth ravers -- these were kids who couldn’t get into most clubs yet, since Seattle was strict about IDs. There were cafés that stayed open until 4 am, and you could hang out all day and night without buying anything -- that’s because Seattle actually had a youth culture. A few times, JoAnne and I went to the Lambert House, the queer youth center, for dinner, and it was kind of astonishing the range of kids there -- 13-year-old drag queens practicing runway; dykes with facial piercings who talked about running away, some of them had already done it and some of them were waiting; kids who would show up with bruises on their faces, covered up with makeup, and talk about all the clothes their parents were going to buy them. Once I saw this butch, clean-cut gay boy burst into tears because his parents were forcing him to join the military-- he already looked like he was in the military, until he started crying. His parents showed up in a big white station wagon and he got in.

We only went to dinner at Lambert House a few times, because the food was disgusting and everyone was shady, but it still made me think about things differently. I decided I would see if I could cook meals at LYRIC, the queer youth center in San Francisco, when I got back -- the meals were what made Lambert House actually feel like a gathering place, not just somewhere for support groups. People could even stay there when they didn’t have anywhere else to go, even though it wasn’t exactly okay. In San Francisco, I wanted the meals to be vegan, of course, and everything would be cooked by youth, for youth, unlike at Lambert House where someone else did the cooking. I guess I was sort of saying that I was a youth, I mean I knew that officially that was the case but I wouldn’t have said it before.

When I went to LYRIC, they told me they didn’t have any pots and pans. I said no problem -- I’ll bring my own. Then they said I needed supervision, they needed someone over 25 or whatever the cut-off for their services was, so I said I’ll find someone. Then they said they needed to get a permit from the city to use their kitchen. And that was the end.

The strangest thing was that in Seattle I actually kind of felt calm -- people had always told me to relax, whenever someone said that I felt like they were telling me to die, right then, just die -- I felt like if I relaxed, there would be some mysterious gooey thing on the sofa and people would look down and say: what’s that? Oh, that used to be me. I thought about staying in Seattle but I didn’t want to run away. At one point Laurie called and told me one of our roommates had decided to move out, I can’t remember exactly who it was because there was one room where someone was always moving out, and Laurie asked what I thought about inviting Garrett to move in -- Garrett was subletting my room while I was gone. I said no way in hell, but do whatever you want. And when I got back, Garrett had moved in -- that’s how Laurie and I were getting along.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Us

Maybe we did smoke in the kitchen -- I just keep picturing it. With the window open. I don’t want to edit the past to make the future clearer, does anyone remember? Last night, in my endless quest to find somewhere to dance, I went to the bar right on the corner where we used to live, the bar that was originally a dyke bar, but by the time we’d arrived everyone just talked about how it used to be a dyke bar. We all hated that bar, but Camelia hated it more than the rest of us, because every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 2 am the street would get super-loud with suburbanite screams and she had to get up at 5 to go to her job at the bagel shop, the place where they boiled the bagels instead of baking them, so they actually tasted like bagels.

I forgot that if you go to an electronic music show, everyone stands around just like at a rock show, stands around and doesn’t move, staring at some cheesy art school antics by straight boys with fancy hair. Like, there’s a film projected on a sheet and behind the sheet, they’re making finger puppets and then the sheet pulls away and there they are, just like in 1967 or whatever, they’re even wearing the same clothes. I was waiting for a moment when maybe something would change, like a DJ in between sets or something-- there was pot smoke right away, but I was trying to pretend that the ventilation system was blowing it away from me, I could feel the fresh air coming down from the ceiling but then at one point I noticed something strange going on with the lights, maybe just steam because it was so hot, but then I looked closer at the ceiling, and sure enough, perched right above the stage was a fucking smoke machine. Rushing outside past to the weekend throngs on Valencia, this one blonde woman saying to another: he asked me where I lived, you must be from the Sunset -- excuse me for looking good! And another, a straightboy with long curly hair so perfectly coiffed he must be a model, modeling this hair: so this chick says to me, are you a Leo or a Pisces? Meanwhile I’m yelling what the fuck, what the fuck am I doing on Memory Motherfucking Lane? Or, okay, I’m not yelling, but I’m thinking about yelling.

I went to Seattle to get away -- for a month, anyway, to figure things out. My two biggest relationships were falling apart, and maybe also my relationship with the queer cultures that meant everything to me. But I need to tell you about JoAnne. We met at the March on Washington in 1993, right in Dupont Circle where the freaks would come up to one another we spotted each other among all the white T-shirts, but JoAnne and I really met at Caffe Paradiso when I arrived in Seattle and right away we were talking about sexual abuse and rape and crystal and everything us and how we were trying not to feel destroyed and mayb finally working. And then I spent a month in her room, we shared her bed and it never felt crowded. How could that be possible, that’s what I’m wondering now, now when I can’t sleep without everything arranged in the right way and then everything goes wrong anyway, but this was a different time.

I would go to Paradiso or the new café, Bauhaus, during the day and read The Courage To Heal, and then when JoAnne would get out of her phone sex job where she actually worked in an office with a bunch of other women and office dividers, eight dollars an hour I think and when she got out of work we would cook dinner or sometimes I would’ve already cooked, huge stirfries with ginger and a homemade peanut sauce or if JoAnne was cooking then she used dill and cashews, and we both used tons of Braggs amino acids which were every vegan’s wild dream at the time and there was this way that we held each other and we held each other’s rage, that was the key, the key that made us us.

Monday, November 02, 2009

I forgot to tell you about this article -- it's called... Why Gay Marriage *IS* the End of the World (or the queer world, at least)

I neglected to mention that I organized a sassy roundtable for the queer issue of Maximum Rocknroll (the October issue) -- the issue is now off the stands, but here is the roundtable for your viewing pleasure…

These days, lesbian soccer moms and gay military intelligence experts are all over the media, whether sermonizing in op-eds, befriending the liberal intelligentsia, or speaking softly to closeted cable news anchors: We. Are. Just. Like. You.

Supposedly gay people have made lots of progress, and that’s why the only issues we hear about involve marriage, gays in the military, gay cops, adoption, ordination into the priesthood, hate crimes legislation, and unquestioning gentrification and consumerism—please, stop me before I choke on my own vomit! In honor of the Maximum Rocknroll queer issue, it’s time to pull together a gang of queer troublemakers to tear this assimilationist agenda to shreds, okay?

Here’s the cast of characters:

Hilary Goldberg is a San Francisco-based filmmaker currently in the finishing stages of recLAmation, the definitive movie about reclaiming Los Angeles from Los Angeles, and oh are we waiting! Yasmin Nair is a Chicago activist who delivers delicious rants about the war against single people, the tyranny of religion, fake immigration reform, and bachelorette parties with equal fervor and finesse. Gina Carducci throws Switch, New York City’s only monthly “genderqueer/women/trans BDSM party” —she also fetishizes film, and is currently working on All That Sheltering Emptiness, a devastating short experimental film created in collaboration with your host for this splashy article.

Okay, let’s get going…

MBS: I don’t know about you, but have you noticed that freshly mined, blood-drenched South African diamonds are the new accessory for the gay elite, or they might as well be with how much the gaysbian “LGBT” agenda has become nothing but marriage marriage marriage—oh, and maybe a little bit of marriage with that marriage, thank you! Many of us grew up experiencing the lovely embrace of marriage or its aftermath, so we, and most queers, certainly know a lot about how marriage is, and has always been a central place for beating up, raping and abusing women, children, queers, and transpeople. And, even better—getting away with it! What are the other problems with marriage, and the gay marriage agenda in particular?

HG: I was at a protest against HIV budget cuts in California, but only four other people were there. because the rest of the gaysbians had done their recommended yearly protest allowance for gay marriage a few months prior. And what is the point of marriage if everyone is sick or dead, how do you register for that—at cemeteries and Pottery Barn? Wow, that makes me think of health care—remember health care? Something universal-based, not privilege-shaped?

YN: Yeah, I don’t get why a community of people who have historically been fucked over by their families and the state now consists of people who want those exact same institutions to validate their existence. I think marriage is the gay Prozac, the drug of choice for gaysbians today: It makes them forget that marriage isn’t going to give everyone health care, it won’t give us a subsistence wage, it won’t end all these fucked up wars that are killing people everywhere else. I wish I could say that gay marriage is like Viagra, but alas it’s actually making us forget about sex so that metaphor won’t work.

MBS: Speaking of sex and metaphors, let’s move on to gays in the military. It’s time to forget about opposing all these bloody US colonial wars, we just want to throw on those humpy battle fatigues so we can go abroad to kill people and get away with it, right? U-S-A! Can we say that again? U-S-A! Okay, so obviously the real answer is the end of the US military, not rainbow Humvees. Anything to add?

HG: Let us not forget the Gay Bomb -- much like the acid tests the CIA performed in the ‘50s and ‘60s, if that technology fell into savvy hands we could open some serious doors of perception to end the military industrial complex with some good old fashioned loving.

GC: Oh, but military service is the best way to break down gay stereotypes and homophobia! The more we kill kill kill, the more respect we get from our country— we serve our country too! We are a valuable contribution! Show them you know how to be a man!

YN: It’s time for us to call out the “gay patriots” as the enablers of U.S imperialism. Has anyone else noticed that the public faces of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell tend to be relatively privileged and from the officer class? And that the stories go like this: “Oh, no, he was an educated Harvard graduate who spoke four languages in which to colonize other countries, and we let him go!” One of the funniest photographs I ever saw was of a rally in downtown Chicago. A gay Army vet stood pontificating about needing to be recognized by the US military. Right behind him, his friends held up an anti-war slogan banner with the words, “US Out of Iraq.” I wondered: Now, does that mean just the non-gay soldiers? Do the gay soldiers get to stay behind and kick the ass and blow the limbs off darkies?

MBS: Speaking of darkies, let’s move on to adoption—if Madonna, Brad Pitt and Angelina, and any other jetsetter can run around the world in search of the cutest kids in the countries most devastated by transnational corporate violence, and then snatch those kids up and hold them in their arms, how will gay people compete? We all need kids, right? Kids are the next big thing! How do you feel about the issue of gay adoption, and child-rearing in general, as a central preoccupation of the so-called “movement?”

HG: Why don’t Madonna and Angelina, in their gay wisdom, adopt some adult queer artists and activists instead? For a fraction of what they spend on a handful of appropriated transnational youths, they could adopt queer artists en masse, and foster a global queer trust fund for the movement. No need for nannies and we’d love them even more than their children, and could be just as dependent, if not more so. Average gay couples could do the same thing, direct their money towards something more expansive and useful than a handbag—I mean a gaybie. I’m thinking of a website that pairs queer artists with gay couples who have big hearts to share their love and help.

GC: Yeah, no need for pacifiers, no need to push us around in strollers, and you don’t have to wait nine months for us. We’re right here! Mommy!!!!

YN: If you’re white, beautiful little blonde children are the best, because then you’ll look like a normal and natural family. But adopting one can be next to impossible! Little brown babies make the best gay accessories. Although, like every gay fashion accessory, babies have shifted in trends. I think Mongolian babies are now much more hip. Central and South American countries were once popular, maybe NAFTA opened up free trade in cute Latin babies! Until they discovered that some of those babies were most likely kidnapped. Awkward. They may not have those pesky rules in Mongolia. Of course, if you can adopt an HIV+ African baby whose mother is still around to waste away in the last throes of the disease, so that you can show the world what you rescued the baby from, all the better. Why is it that lesbians generally give birth but gay men usually adopt?

MBS: It’s because gay men are busy studying for the priesthood. I know you’ve been studying hard too! Of course, one of the central demands of early gay liberation was the end to organized religion and all of its layers of violence, but that’s old news. What do you all think about the issue of “LGBT” people becoming powerbrokers within organized religion?

HG: It makes me cry blood. The only atonement gays should be thinking about is a nice bondage scene. And the last time I interacted with organized religion, a drag queen nun, in full make-up, yelled at me to get into a degrading gender-enforced line at a corporatized “pride” event colonized by so called do-gooders. Fuck her and the rest of organized religion.

MBS: Oh -- and let’s not forget the holy grail of the gay movement, hate crimes legislation! Because if you shoot those goddamn homophobes twice, that’ll really teach them a lesson—the electric chair will end homophobia! Seriously, hate crimes legislation does nothing but put more money, energy, and resources into the hands of the notoriously racist, classist, misogynist, homophobic and transphobic criminal so-called “justice” system. But then they trick us into thinking that hate crimes legislation will keep us safe. What is hate crimes legislation keeping us safe from?

HG: It keeps us safe from long-term solution-based healing. It’s a real time saver, so we can focus on earning money instead of focusing on root causes of hatred. We can continue to own property and assimilate into larger society by avoiding any real discourse around the source of the hate, and perpetuate it instead, while upholding that pillar of community, the greatest benefactor of the hates crimes bills—oh-so-thriving, even in economic turmoil…Private Prison Business.

YN: Hate crimes legislation keeps us safe from the silly delusion that the justice system should actually work fairly for everybody, not just gays and defined “minorities.” After all, a justice system that actually provides justice seems, well, just ever so 1970s and sweetly retrograde, darling. All bell bottoms and compassion. Hate crimes legislation keeps us from a world where people might actually have a chance to show that they have moved on from their mistakes, by locking them up for perpetuity. And it keeps us believing that letting people spend their lives in violent prisons where they’re likely to be raped and beaten every day is somehow a way to … end anti-gay violence. Huh?

MBS: Speaking of anti-gay violence, let’s move on to talking about the national institutions that drive this wonderful inclusive agenda. We’ll start with everyone’s favorite diamond merchant: HRC, the Human Rights Campaign. Also known as Helping Right-Wingers Cope, or Homogenous Ruling Class -- what else are they good for?

GC: Harvesting Righteous Caucasians. Hiring Riot Cops.

YN: Press Releases. HRC can turn out a press release on a dime. Oh, and they’re great at taking credit for every “gay agenda” item, through said press releases, whether or not they had anything to do with the action. So, yeah, cocktail parties and lobby days. HRC is really good at going to cocktail parties and hobnobbing with the rich and important.

MBS: Of course, HRC also likes to keep trans people out of so-called employment nondiscrimination legislation, and to make any hideous corporation look good, as long as they like HRC’s press releases. Then there’s NGLTF, the National Gay Lesbian Task Force. They’re especially talented at recruiting well-meaning college students, and turning them into nonprofit office drones -- Creating Change, their annual conference, is a great launching pad into the nonprofit industry, and a job at NGLTF is sure to get you more lucrative foundation work in the future -- what else is NGLTF good for?

YN: For creating the illusion that the battle royale between Democrats and Republicans actually means anything. And for perpetuating the idea that there are no alternatives to either. For pretending that a few days of a conference filled with words like “organizing” and “social” and “progressive” actually changes much. For pretending that using the word “progressive” over and over again will a) actually make that stupid word mean anything b) make us believe that their support of marriage, hate crimes legislation, and repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell does not make them conservative.

GC: NGLTF is good for creating robots who are stuck repeating, “Do you have a moment for trans rights? Do you have a moment for trans rights?” And asking why why why why can you not come to our office for hours of volunteer calling calling calling and repeating what we tell you to think and say. “Why can’t you make the time for trans rights? Why? Two of these robots were harassing myself and a group of friends once and I was just waiting for my trans friend to say, “If you really want to know, I need a little time to recover from trying to overdose and kill myself last week.” And for the robots to ask, “Why? It’s trans rights.”

MBS: Oh, and I love the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD -- I think they should be called SAAD, the Straight Alliance Against Defamation, since most of what they do involves giving awards to straight people for not saying “faggot” too much. What else are they good for?

YN: Being very confused, mostly. And whining. A lot. I think Bruno confused the hell out of them: “We object to this movie. We think. It’s a set of offensive stereotypes. Although the lead character is so over the top, he couldn’t even possibly be a stereotype. But wait, we live to be offended. Cohen’s not gay. And he makes fun of gays. Even though he also makes fun of homophobes. Wait, are we offended? Or not? It’s so hard to tell, because we have no sense of humor or logic. Even the gays are sick of us. Can we call that homophobia?”

MBS: Then there’s the juicy Lambda Legal Defense Fund -- fighting for our rights, one marriage at a time…

YN: Lambda might be scariest of the lot, because they’re mostly lawyers who know how to twist any inane, conservative, retrograde idea like gay marriage into some kind of sterling social justice cause -- and they do that by drowning us in legalese. I once watched Camilla Taylor, a Lambda power attorney in Chicago, spend an hour talking about the legal ins and outs of Prop 8. By the end of the hour, I was so stupefied by boredom that I was almost ready to sign on to gay marriage -- just to get out of the room. There was, of course, not one word about whether marriage ought to be the way to gain any rights in the first place.

MBS: That’s right -- remember that the fight against anti-gay Proposition 8 in California that those marriage morons lost actually cost more than any other ballot measure in California history! Those maniacal marriage organizations spent $40 million on that shit -- can you imagine what we would have if they took that $40 million and fought for single payer universal health care, or built an enormous queer youth shelter in San Francisco or Sacramento, Fresno or San Diego? With the leftovers, we could create a collectively run, all-ages, 24-hour sex club with free vegan food, knock-you-down music of all types, free massage, acupuncture, and healthcare for all needs, as well as a special area for training people in squatting and neighborhood redecoration projects -- bricks, stencils, spray paint, you get the idea. Anything else you want to say about marriage marriage marriage, and what we need instead?

GC: Donate Donate Donate! Do you have a moment for Prop 8? Do you have a moment for Prop 8? But really -- we need to be able to choose our own families and who visits us in the hospital and who shares our assets and who makes decisions for us, whether we are officially single or partnered. And gender is defined by us too, not by presentation but how we define our own identities. Sexual liberation and freedom and places to fuck without being policed. Housing. Healthcare. Social services. Protection for the environment.

HG: The last time I checked -- the nuclear family model -- was a disaster! Enough already. The gay rights movement needs to divorce marriage and pull it together. The system is broken, these institutions are failing, why are people so set on shoring them up? Let’s focus on ending capitalism, abolishing prison, ending militarism, ensuring immigrant rights, clean air, great food, love, equality, interdependence, independence, autonomy, non-hierarchical structures, and most importantly the universal reclamation of all land and water as public property.

YN: And, of course, the abolition of the prison industrial complex, the end of the illusion that more punishment and enhanced penalties in the form of hate crimes legislation will benefit anyone, safety for young queers who are beaten and/or raped by families and have nowhere to go, intergenerational sex that's not immediately stigmatized as pedophilia, an end to sex offender laws that do nothing to end the abuse of children but only add to the coffers of the prison industrial complex, an end to the death penalty, an end to the idea that life without parole is an acceptable alternative, queer sex in public without paying a fee in a bathhouse and without being harassed, jailed, or beaten for it, an immigration rights movement that acknowledges that it’s a crisis of labor, not about “families” or spousal partners, an end to the disappearance and/or deportation of undocumented people, and oh, I could go on.

There’s this popular line going around about how gay marriage is the rising tide that will lift all boats. But if we are to use a seafaring metaphor, it might be more apt to call it a Titanic, doomed to crash into an iceberg and take the rest of us down.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Loyalty

Garrett was someone who I definitely didn’t trust. He would follow people around, mostly dykes, first it was Angie who was one of Laurie’s friends, and then Laurie, and Laurie told me I was being judgmental because I didn’t like the way Garrett would become whoever he was around. We’d had this conversation before -- who the fuck wasn’t judging everyone all the time, that’s what I wondered. But now we were in a different place, a place where we didn’t always know our relationship would survive, maybe it would survive but maybe it wouldn’t and it’s true that I would take one look at certain people and make pronouncements: She just wants to be friends with you because she doesn’t have any sense of self. He’s a pathological liar -- didn’t you notice the expression in his eyes? She’s just a hipster who's using you.

So I decided not to be judgmental, and then Garrett followed me around too, even though I didn’t want people following me around and so I told him that, and then we kind of became friends. But I forgot about hipsters -- hipsters were the enemy, we all agreed about that. They were vapid culture vultures who didn’t have any politics. They looked kind of like us, so we had to constantly draw the boundaries. I still talk about hipsters, it’s hard not to. In the early-‘90s, we were always talking about how hipsters were taking over, pretty soon there wouldn’t be anything but hipsters in the Mission, why did you invite that hipster over your house? I can’t believe you went to that hipster bar. We walked in the door at that party, and it was nothing but hipsters, so we grabbed a few drinks and then turned back around.

Of course, there were larger conflicts going on in the Mission, not just the gentrification advancing with the crepe place right around the corner, the one everyone made fun of, or the tapas restaurant because maybe Spanish food was kind of like Mexican -- was that what they were working? And the vegetarian restaurant that some people actually went to, I mean people we knew. This tension was between those of us who cultivated critique, polished it, held it up and turned it around to examine ourselves and everything around us, all of the time, even if sometimes it tore us apart we wanted to change everything. And then there were those of us who distrusted critique, or trusted it when it was about something seemingly far away, like straight people or parents, but not when it got closer -- in this vision of queerness, loyalty was the most important thing, loyalty could mean safety but it could also mean reenacting high school popularity contests but taking on the victors’ roles. Remember: high school was only a few years in the past for most of us, even if we might have been stunned if you told us that.

The truth is that we all cultivated critique; we were dogmatic in our alliances, self-righteous in our beliefs. I’m still talking about us, because that’s what we believed in: us. I’ve already told you that my critique was relentless, that sometimes I tore apart the people I loved and I was trying to get somewhere else, but that didn’t mean that I distrusted critique: it still meant everything to me. Without critical engagement, what was the point? You might as well go back to who you were supposed to be. But this other culture, the broader Mission dyke culture which we called queer, so much of it was about loyalty at all costs: it held us, and held us hostage. Accountability only occurred when people would get in dramatic fights and it was more about whose team was stronger or more popular than about what actually happened. This was what made me hate San Francisco.