Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For a moment

I remember when I was driving down from Denver with Robert, and he said one of the things he likes best about Albuquerque is that there are so many days when there are absolutely no clouds in the sky – that sounded kind of scary to me, I said I don't think we have those days in Santa Fe. That was in the midst of wildfire season, and the days when it looked cloudy but actually it was just poison – all the smoke would roll in just before sunset, choking everything.

The clouds I like are the big puffy juicy ones, almost like stuffed animals in the sky. But now that it's fall or winter almost, I see that we do have those days without clouds, or sometimes just a few stringy ones at the horizon and then the sky is a soft bright blue different from the kind of blue that I usually think of as sky-blue. It is pretty, but flat. Like a background that makes the leafless trees more developed, striking, startling almost.

But the strange thing is that today, on my walk, the air finally feels fresh: for some reason, everyone's chimneys aren't choking the sky. There's just that one car, pushing out endless exhaust, but otherwise, no hazards and yes, I can sense the air, this air that I came here for, giving me something, a clarity, a lightness, for a moment, at least.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And then it's gone

It's funny how often people in other cities ask me about the weather here – no matter how many times I tell them it's a four-season town, they still think I'm going to say it's 90 and sunny. Actually, winter here starts earlier and longer than many places on the East Coast, even though it's not usually quite as harsh. Winter was one of the reasons I moved here –I mean I've always hated the heat, but then when I found out it was a four-season town – snow in the winter – that's the first thing that got me excited.

Does anything here get me excited now? Even the air – it doesn't feel nearly as fresh as it was supposed to be. Allergies and wildfires in the summer; fireplace soot and car exhaust in the winter – every time I go outside for a walk it's like an obstacle course. Sure, there's the light just before sunset, but everywhere has that light – maybe it's not as gorgeous as here, but it's still gorgeous. Maybe I won't get that strange calm of looking up at the mountains, but that only lasts for a moment anyway and then it's gone.

Um, yes, that is a teepee at the Occupy Santa Fe campsite ("For ceremonial purposes," I'm told – um, for *whose* ceremonial purposes?)

Monday, November 28, 2011


Every day in my datebook I write a list of things I need to do, but then I always know that I'm not going to be able to do the whole list, so I highlight a few things that I absolutely must do, and then often I don't succeed at doing all the highlighted items either. But yesterday, I actually did everything on my list – and, I didn't feel terribly exhausted and drained the whole time – until the end of the day when I crashed – early, yes – but still, a few hours of feeling kind of okay, able to do things, that was pretty exciting. Today I woke up thinking – no, I didn’t wake up thinking, I just woke up feeling absolutely horrible. Or, I must have woken up thinking something, but then it was all erased when I realized how horrible I felt. Can’t I have more than one good day in a row?

Walking outside, trying to remind myself: it's beautiful, right, it's beautiful? But I couldn't feel it at all. Now it's the end of the day, and I feel a little better, or at least ready for bed, I mean in a few hours, that’s pretty exciting, right? Except, then I have to get up again. Hopefully tomorrow I won't feel so awful – it's all about the quality of my sleep, whether it's interrupted. Last night it was interrupted. And so, I felt interrupted all day, disrupted, desperate, cloudy, over it, over everything, over this town and getting groceries and going on walks and trying to hook up on the internet during the 15 or 20 minutes when I actually have a libido, and then for a few hours afterwards, until I realize I'm too tired to speak, too tired to do anything, too tired, always too tired, I'm sick of feeling so tired.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Refusing universal narratives: Andrew Haigh's Weekend

This movie made me ask: have I ever seen a movie representing contemporary gay male casual sex/dating culture that felt realistic? That I could relate to? And, I'm not sure. I don't even know if that was something I was looking for, but then I saw Weekend, and I started to wonder. So I went back to watch it again.

I'm not saying that this movie is necessarily groundbreaking or earth-shattering, just that it feels authentic in its intimacy, in its gaps, in the way it depicts those gestures towards and away from self-expression that we all make when we meet someone new and we don't know whether it will lead anywhere but we do know there’s that jittery nervousness in between or even during those moments of connection. So then we wonder, keep wondering, wonder about this wondering.

Russell meets Glen late at night at a gay bar ("Love love so much love to give" is blasting as he enters.). First he looks nervously around, but soon enough he’s so drunk he can hardly do more than close his eyes and shake his body on the dance floor – you know those moments, right? You’ve gotten past the alienation and into liquored-up imagination, maybe now you can approach that guy who makes you feel like you're going to die if you don't say something. Searching for that connection you crave and sometimes you don't know why, but still you crave.

Russell follows Glen into the bathroom, tries to get his attention at one of those group urinals all bar-crawling faggots must learn to love or else, where we linger, mirror above the trough. Commode, maybe you're supposed to say. (But wait, after my third viewing I notice that isn't a commode at all, just three urinals close together, no mirror so how are we supposed to get a look at his… eyes?) But anyway, there’s another guy between them – Glen heads away and Russell turns his whole body to see if he can catch his attention, but no luck. Heart falling inside stomach. And so, then he finds himself making out with the guy who’s left, trying to find him attractive but it's not exactly working. Oh, how many times has that happened to me? And, how many times have I seen it reflected in film? I mean, never?

Or, rarely enough that I can't remember. It's a simple scene, but one so rarely portrayed in the endless slew of gay coming-out/coming-of-age dramas (snore), or gay tragedies where the hero dies or goes back into the closet at the end (old-school), or love/lust stories so hackneyed you might as well rub jello all over your face and call it mascara. And, now we have blockbuster gay movies made by straight people, and indie versions of the same schlock made by gay people, for straight people. (Gay for pay or pay for gay, you decide!) Oh, and don't forget those hour-long product placement exercises known as "reality shows." Every time I want to see a legitimate representation of gay culture, I just turn on The A-List Dallas!

But, wait, there is at least one other category of gay narrative cinema– the one that usually affects me – those movies so gorgeous and stylized in their depictions of desire that longing becomes the way you fall through the ceiling – like Todd Haynes’s Poison (made almost 2 decades before he got awards for remaking that, um, scintillating Mildred Pierce), or Derek Jarman’s Edward II. (Yes, sometimes I think the art was better in the early-‘90s, I'll admit it). So, yes, it's those high-lo art heartbreakers that I usually seek out (and, of course, an endless range of documentaries) – which makes it even more surprising that a movie so mundane like Weekend, bordering on mainstream in its middle-of-the-road attractive characters and it's packaged indie aesthetic – that a movie this simple in its goals could still get me excited in a way that sent me back for more. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't just starved for any representation of gayness, stuck here in the Santa Fe of the imagination. I mean, in the Santa Fe without imagination. Help – can someone give me a ride? Anywhere!

But wait, time for scene two: the morning after. It turns out that Russell and Glen did hook up – Russell's in the kitchen in his white briefs and black T-shirt, making instant coffee to bring into the bedroom. Russell is nervous, Glen enjoys provoking him – wants him to talk about last night’s sex for the benefit of a tape recorder art project. "I saw you in the club and I thought you were out of my league, but I liked your T-shirt," Russell starts.

And here we see the development of the two characters – Russell, out to his straight friends but still afraid of expressing affection or a gay identity in public; Glen, who revels in talking about sex and obsesses about making art to push private desires into public discourse. “You didn't want me to fuck you, because it would make you feel too… gay?” Glen accuses Russell. And then, when he hears a homophobe yelling QUEER outside, he leans out the window and yells "I'm going to come down there and rape your holes.”

Russell is nervous the homophobes will throw bricks through his windows. "You're 14 flights up," Glen reminds him. After programming each other's numbers into their phones in the hallway, Russell struggles to say goodbye when his straight neighbors enter the hallway, expressing their own affection. Glen shakes his hand – "You really do have a lovely home," he deadpans.

Russell is a lifeguard at the municipal pool, and Glen works at an art gallery. If in some ways their connection is about difference, it's also about sameness – both model the facial hair trendy in gay settings and casual attire that telegraphs an awareness of current trends without calling masculinity into question. ("Not too camp," a phrase Russell uses several times in the film, broadcasting his insecurity in a way immediately familiar to anyone who's spent time in masculinity-obsessed gay cultures).

This movie portrays more or less mainstream (indiestream, I would say) gay characters in their 30s or so (age is never mentioned), who are, in spite or perhaps because of subcultural affiliation, not particularly class-striving. Glen makes fun of Russell's thrift store decor, but he’s also impressed by it. Perhaps he does show a bit of discomfort when he tells Russell, "There's nothing wrong with being a lifeguard," even though Russell hasn't indicated any shame about his job.

And sure, Glen is modeling the 1970s gay clone plaid shirt de rigeur in London gay fashion (this movie takes place in the midsize working-class English town of Nottingham). And, just in case you don't notice the fashion intent, Glen sports a t-shirt underneath the plaid that features an image from 1950s gay physique photography, with “PROVINCETOWN" spelled out above. Still, there isn't the usual spread of brand names and moneyed braggadocio so typical in most media representations of what it means to be gay. Yes, Russell does take out a new pair of Nikes before going out to meet Glen, but otherwise it's mostly Russell's apartment we see – meticulously decorated in thrift store finery for sure, but nonetheless a subsidized council flat.

The editing is crisp and generally tight around the conversations that form the core of the film, occasionally pulling back to remind us of the distance from which we are gazing. These wide-frame moments are reveal loneliness and connection at once: a virtually-still life where Russell stands under the DEEP END sign at the pool; an illuminated gas station where he and Glen wait for the bus later on; and, most effectively, in a scene towards the end of the film, where we see the pair illuminated in the 14th floor window from outside – the building takes up half the frame, the other half the foggy nighttime cityscape.

But first, Glen picks up Russell from work – “Did you ever save anyone's life,” he asks snidely, handing him an energy drink. Yeah, Russell says, unfazed. But then it's Russell's turn to throw Glen off-guard – Glen, a smoker, is out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs that leads to a highway overpass on the way to Russell’s apartment; Russell asks him if he wants to ride on the back of his bike, pretends he's going to leave him otherwise and so Glen jumps on. "Do you feel safe?" Russell asks. "No," Glen yells back, but soon he’s holding out his arms in the air and yelling like a little boy; it's the first moment of unbridled intimacy in the movie.

Back in the apartment of desire, Russell wants to know about Glen's tape recording project, how is it art and not just people talking dirty? Glen wants to know what’s dirty about someone's sex life, opens up into a tirade about straight privilege that’s definitely convincing for his character, the type of gay guy who becomes more impassioned with every rant. He's not entirely eloquent, but that makes the monologue all the more believable. And then, the anticipated conversation about coming out – Glen says he came out to his parents on Mother's Day when he was 16, told them "nature or nurture, either way it's your own fault." A brilliant retort that Russell is suitably impressed by, but slightly hard to imagine for a 16-year-old to come up with – more convincing as an anecdote Glen uses to broadcast invulnerability.

It's pretty impressive that this movie, which consists mostly of dialogue, manages to stay so true to the characters – sure, there are moments that feel a bit too overwrought – like when Russell tells Glen that he never knew his parents because he grew up in foster care, yet it’s Glen’s character that this serves to illuminate – "that's interesting," he reveals, his eyes excited. And, once suitably stoned and slap-happy, "Is it really wrong that I find the whole orphan thing really sexy?" It's the exact type of thing that a gay guy like Glen would say – snide and falsely revealing. Yet somehow it leads to the two of them making out, panting, that openness of sex in their eyes, come all over Russell’s chest.

It shouldn’t be unusual to see the immediacy of gay desire, the evidence on the chest, but it is. Which brings us back to Glen’s comments about structural homophobia, not the phrase he uses but here it feels quite important – because, another of the things that this film does quite well is to show the way that homophobia undergirds everything – from thugs in the park yelling QUEER to Russell’s discomfort talking about his own sex life. Glen rails against the straitjacket of straight control over self-expression, over gay dreams, but it's more than that – it's the landscape we all learn to live with, sometimes don't even notice, internalize.

Then there’s the awkwardness of saying goodbye for a second time – Glen exits the door, but knocks again just moments later. "I'm going away tomorrow," he says. To Portland, Oregon, it turns out – for a two-year program called Contemporary Perspectives on Modern Art in the 21st Century. Here it's worth mentioning that Glen fetishizes “America” as a land where gay people actually fight for what they want, and yet, if this movie were made in the US it would certainly have been doomed to an NC-17 rating for its frank depiction of gay sexuality (Todd Haynes received the first NC-17 rating for Poison, in 1991).

Russell is trying to act like Glen’s departure doesn't phase him – and, why should it? They’ve just met, after all. Glen "doesn't do boyfriends.” Glen bows his head nervously while inviting Russell to his going-away party. It's these awkward moments that make the movie so true to life and its difficulties large and small, those lapses in communication that sometimes mean as much as the communication, the pounding of everything inside.

And so, soon enough, we’re at Glen’s going-away party, which takes place at a straight bar downtown, somewhere he finds campy because it's unfamiliar, whereas Russell finds it uncomfortable because it's familiar. Glen tells loud sex stories to his friends, and gets in an argument about straight privilege with a straight guy who asks him to keep the volume down. Glen asks Russell if he wants to kiss him, but Russell doesn't want to do it in a straight bar so Glen pulls him outside. They're on the tram, and then at a carnival – Glen says his friends make him feel like there's "a noose around my neck." "You don't mean that," Russell counters. "Yes I do," Glen responds.

Then they’re talking about childhood again, Glen says when he was 15 his friend caught him watching A Room with a View with the VCR paused during a scene where everyone goes skinny-dipping. He wanted to catch a hint of Rupert Graves’ cock vibrating with the paused VHS tape. "In that moment I could see myself through his eyes," Glen adds, “and it didn't matter." If they thought he was a dirty faggot, then he would be a dirty faggot. Afterwards, this former friend told the whole school, and that was the end of all Glen's other friendships too.

Sometimes Glen’s monologues feel a too stagy, Russell’s doe-eyed openness a bit contrived, but isn't it always a bit stagy or contrived when you meet someone new? The way these intimate conversations happen in both the public and private domains – that's what this movie captures so well.

And drugs, don't forget the drugs! The movie opens with Russell smoking pot, continues with his straight best friend handing him a shot for one hand and a beer for the other -- alcohol literally lubricates every interaction, so it's no surprise that when Glen and Russell end up back at Russell's apartment they are giggling maniacally and snorting lines of coke. Here what is refreshing is that the movie contains absolutely no shred of a moralistic stance -- drugs are just there, everyone does them, and rarely thinks about it. Sure, maybe they contribute to the intensity of the emotions, but the characters are unaware.

I'll admit I'm somewhat obsessed with figuring out how old Glen and Russell are supposed to be. From the opening scene, I assume they are somewhere in their 30s – the way their faces change so dramatically in age depending on the lighting. A Room with a View is an exact reference from my preteen years, so I guess that they are about my age, but then sometimes they say things that make it seem like they are supposed to be younger, like when Glen describes his art project and Russell asks: "is that what you want to be, an artist?" Not that it matters exactly – 20s or 30s, somewhere in that realm. (Besides, my friend Andee in London tells me that scene in A Room with a View is iconic.)

But back to the coke party – it turns out that Russell has his own sex diary, privately logged on his computer; he reads some of the entries to Glen, and then Glen takes over just as he reaches an entry that turns out to be about the ex-boyfriend who cheated on him. It's the second dramatic moment in the film that feels a bit false, but still it leads to a conversation about gay marriage and assimilation, straight privilege and the tragedy of gay pretensions to normalcy. But Russell wants to know: what if it's about love? Marriage, that is. Glen is on a coked-out rant – "We have a chance to grow our own shit." Russell interrupts him: you want everyone to think for themselves, but then you don't want anyone to disagree with you. Another monologue about love, what if it's about love? Russell gets quite animated about this. Glen is unconvinced, yet suddenly silent in that way that happens when you're talking to someone new and you realize the conversation has reached a dead-end. That happened with my last boyfriend a lot. Russell asks: do you want another line?

Another line – of course! Then it's Russell’s turn to confront Glen – in spite of Glen's rhetoric, Russell thinks he wants a boyfriend. They go back and forth for a while; it gets emotional – Russell ends up in the bathroom staring into the mirror in the way that always happens when you do too much of something – drugs, in this case, or arguing. Reemerges with a joint, and as the two stand by the window a sudden musical dirge comes on, piano and wailing as the two start to caress, making out tenderly and yes, that's when we see the pair illuminated in the building from outside, all the other lights off -- stunning because it's also so simple. I think of my last apartment, with a view kind of like this one. I think of some guy I met 12 years ago in New York and we did a bunch of coke, ended up in his apartment a few times, he was an asshole really but still there was that intimacy that happens when you're with someone for 12 or 24 hours in a row. I think about how I’ve left this world of bar pickups, and whether I want it back.

But back to the sex, somehow neither over-determined or underrepresented. Yes, the scene is carefully cropped to avoid revealing too much (for the British censors, I guess), but still we get to see those suddenly wild facial expressions of desire made real, Russell's nervousness when Glen starts to fuck him, and then his moans when he's ready to come just a few thrusts later. I know I keep saying this, but I'm still marveling at these moments that feels so authentic yet so rarely delivered, the sex that does mark a crescendo, but then ends so fast. That's why I'm hooked.

Later, the curtains frame a purple-pink sunrise, smokestack in the distance – another one of those atmospheric still shots that I love and I could use more but it's not exactly that type of movie. But still, it’s those soft hues that frame the intimacy of the next scene, that hazy feeling of morning-after-drugs loneliness that feels like intimacy. Russell says that he's fine as long as he’s in his apartment, he's not ashamed of being gay, he doesn't want to be straight, but then every time he goes outside and he struggles with indigestion. I'm a grown man, he says, why can't I just get over it like you?

Something changes here; we can see it in Glen’s breath – that's how intimate the acting is. Glen says how about if I pretend to be your dad and you can come out to me? Russell isn't sure about this game, but he has that half-asleep look of childlike vulnerability in his face and so he tries it. Glen responds as the father: "I couldn't be more proud of you, than if you were the first man on the moon." It's a silly moment, but it opens up the possibilities of intimacy between the two – Glen makes instant coffee in the morning, and we’ve come full circle.

But I need to come back to the way the film talks about homophobia. It's not just the guys yelling QUEER at the park, or beating up Glen's ex-boyfriend one night when he went cruising. It's not just the way gay people imitate straights, try not to talk too loudly or express themselves in ways that might appear too flamboyant – “too camp,” as Russell would say. It's also when Russell spends time with his best friend and the rest of their circle of straight friend, leaves the drunken house-party at the beginning of the movie because he says he has to get up early for work, and then heads right to the gay bar. He doesn't think that his straight friends would really understand, so it's touching at the end when his best friend urges him to leave his daughter’s birthday party (Russell is her godfather) to go see Glen one last time at the train station.

Yes, at the train station, the way so many movies end. Russell is struggling to articulate the intimacy he feels and Glen doesn't want him to, we can't hear what they're saying over the noise of the train until Russell says. "I just want you to know that…" And, Glen starts crying: "I don't know what the fuck I’m doing." A typical feeling after a weekend of drugs and sex, but then it's also true that he's leaving for the US with a little backpack and one rolling suitcase, no intention of coming back. (Todd Haynes lives in Portland, now that I think about it.) Russell holds Glen as he cries, kisses him as someone whistles mockingly from the distance. Ignore them, Glen says, and we see Russell’s eyes look over with so much vulnerability. The train leaves, and it's Russell's turn to cry.

This isn't a film that eviscerates the gay narrative of growing up, coming out, coming into privilege; in fact, it situates itself from a questioning place within it. The word "queer" is never uttered except by the homophobes, and perhaps that's something that makes me uncomfortable about praising it too much – I don't generally think there’s any hope within gay culture, with its status-crazed obsessions and drive toward normalcy at any cost. Still this movie enters my heart. While the movie is very current in its aesthetic and conversations, its preoccupations – disclosure versus secrecy; freedom versus silence – almost seem dated. And yet, secrecy and silence have returned as hallmarks of the gay experience, shinier now but no more honest; perhaps that's what makes this movie feels so important.

Reviewers are calling this a love story, but that actually takes away the power and possibility of the film. To call it a love story is to make it conform to a heterosexual narrative. It's not a love story at all – it's about a hookup, and the possibilities that might or might not be possible. It's about what happens anyway, the openness that sometimes we can feel in our hearts. It's not just love that we learn from, not just love that makes us grow. By refusing "univeral" narratives (which always means playing to the imagined center), we can start to hope for so much more.

Friday, November 25, 2011


I'm not sure when this not-quite-cold will end – seems like I've been waking up for over a week with more and more phlegm – I mean, really, am I a phlegm machine? Still waiting for that day when I wake up and think oh, yeah, health – although, I guess I've been waiting for that day for at least half of my life, dammit! Maybe just a little more energy, please, more energy?

Today I woke up and it was raining, yes, rain in the desert, what could be better? Snow! Which came next – and then more rain – yes yes, please more rain, please more rain! Dammit, it still feels dry in my apartment – time to put more coconut oil up my nose – of course, I won't need to put oil up my nose when I live in Seattle, right? And, hopefully, there will be way way way way more improvements than that! A few more months to prepare for my book tour, then a few months of travel, and a mid-March arrival in Seattle – that's what I'm predicting, anyway. Planning.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Directly on my skin

Ted from the vacuum store keeps calling to tell me that my vacuum is ready. I don't have a vacuum. Or, maybe his name is Bob, Todd, Rob – yes, I think Rob. Is this the beginning of a romance, a romance in Santa Fe? As unlikely as anything else.

Speaking of romance, did I tell you about my new file cabinets? Four drawers each, 26 1/2 inches deep – I'm so excited! I looked for a month for just the right ones, but didn't find them, so I bought these – at least they are 85% recycled material, and the best part is that I'll have space, space for more files instead of the three smaller cabinets. They were jammed so tight and so hard to open and close, now I have these smooth-rolling big ones. This is the kind of thing I do when I'm getting ready to move – I like to get everything more organized, so that when I arrive at the next place it will feel like I'm progressing. I have two months to get everything ready – I think that will be perfect.

Last night I was talking to Randy and he said how are you? I said I have a cold, but I'm not bad. He said that's pretty impressive – you have a cold, but you're not bad. And, I think he's right – I'm glad I have friends that are actually paying attention. I’ve decided that this would be the best time for a cold, anyway, since then I can get my immunity up before leaving – no colds on my travels, that's for sure. And, the thing about this cold is that I have tons of congestion and my voice sounds raspy, but otherwise I don't feel worse than usual. Maybe I'm even starting to feel better.

Oh, but you wanted to hear about the thallium. I talk to this person who my mother knows, some kind of doctor who mostly focused on research and I guess I supposedly know him too since he and his wife were the people that would have taken care of my sister and me if our parents had died when we were kids or something, but I think I only met the two of them once, at my bar mitzvah. I don't remember meeting them then either, but that’s what I’m guessing.

He is pretty informative, says thallium is something that people use to try to kill their spouses, since it has no odor, taste, or smell. He thinks I should try dialysis, which sounds completely crazy to me, but I listen, anyway. The other option, he thinks, is Prussian blue, a dye that somehow convinces your body to take potassium instead of thallium, and then you're okay except your stools are blue. That sounds scary too.

But wait, what was the helpful part? Oh, I know – we were brainstorming potential sources, and he was thinking maybe any supplement from Asia, Africa, since they haven't banned thallium like in the US, and I couldn't think of anything until I realized oh, what about the liniment I put on every day, several times a day – it's just four ingredients, all of them healthy, but it is manufactured in China where there are basically no standards. So, okay, another thing to cut out of my routine, just in case, since thallium is absorbed through the skin. And, I am kind of enjoying the new liniment that I got, it almost feels the same, actually, I'm glad that I looked at everything on the shelf, twice to find this one – Olba’s oil, years ago I used it for a bath and it kind of burned, but directly on my skin somehow it feels soothing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time to start packing

Actually, this walk feels nice. The sun in the middle of the day at this time of year is comforting – not overwhelming like when it’s warmer, makes me feel calm instead of jumpy, don't need to worry so much about getting burnt. I'm walking to the pollution intersection at St. Francis and Cerrillos to look for a protest but there's no protest there so then I walk too far because I'm guessing I won't make it out for another walk today, after dark it gets colder and then it just feels like too much work to put so many layers on, go outside with my shoulders all tense.

Last week I was craving Denver – thinking about the independent theater, the bookstores, even the Colfax bus. If there was a train I could take to get there and back, I would have gone for sure, but it's too complicated to go there before I leave in two months. I need to be in the city, but the only one that's easy enough to get to – Albuquerque – just feels like more of nothing. Is it really worth taking the train an hour and a half in each direction to go to Buffalo Exchange and a used record store downtown?

Today I've been thinking about different intersections in Seattle, feeling the softness of the rain on my face, walking around Capitol Hill, and actually thinking about it right now I almost have tears in my eyes. Really. So, maybe that means is the right place to go. To move, I mean, even if I'm worried about all of that darkness and mold.

I was looking online at temporary rentals yesterday, saw this place that looked nice enough, they mentioned it was sunny all the time which I knew really meant that there was light coming in the windows, and then I noticed the location: exactly where I want to be. I've even started to think I could live in one of those motel-style ‘70s atrocities, as long as they've taken out the carpet, even if those buildings have always made me shudder, I mean I started to think one of those buildings might be the best option for the most space, and maybe even a balcony. See how I'm thinking about all the details already? Have been for several months now, really.

Remember: if and when I move to Seattle, I need to be in this one part of Capitol Hill, within a few blocks of the co-op, the big independent bookstore, the small independent theater, and the terrible sex club that I'm ready to endure, or at least investigate, once again. I need to be within a few blocks of all of those things, in an apartment with enough sunlight and no mold, so that I can actually function. I mean, when everything gets so dark and seasonally depressed, I'll still be able to go just a few blocks for my basic needs. That's what I'm hoping for, planning for.

It's ironic that the first city I'll visit on my book tour will be LA – all that pollution and sprawl, I can't imagine it will feel like the relief I want. And then, San Francisco: what will that be like? I know when I first got to Denver, and I couldn't believe all the people out in the streets. Will it even feel like that in LA, where it's always seemed like no one’s on the street? What will it feel like walking down familiar blocks in San Francisco, noticing the air shift as I move from neighborhood to neighborhood? People say that when you live in a high-altitude area, and you go somewhere that’s at sea level, suddenly you have all this extra energy. Will that happen for me, or will I be so exhausted from the train, the pollution in LA, the travel – so exhausted that I just feel worse? I guess soon enough I'll find out – in a few months, that is. Time to start packing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I do love this cloud…

Community, immunity

I think I had a libido for a minute or two. Or, maybe not – I was thinking about what a libido feels like, so then I went on craigslist and saw “My hot cock” and right then I was hard, sending a reply and then I went on the awful cruise site, but wait, someone actually sent me a message, wanted to get together, but then I realized I kind of have a sore throat and I don't want to get someone sick. Didn't tell him that, said I made plans, I'll never hear from him again, there goes that libido.

Now I'm just sitting here, trying to decide if I have enough energy to go outside. Whether it will make my sore throat worse – is that what this is, a sore throat? Started with a scratchiness, now I'm taking osha root to cure it but still this scratchiness. Didn't take a walk earlier because I had a phone appointment with the doctor, a phone appointment so I wouldn’t get too exhausted, but then after we talked I was too exhausted to go to therapy, had to cancel. Which was why I'd scheduled a phone appointment – I mean so I wouldn't get too exhausted, but then, well, you already know.

Strangely, my lab work looks much better – balanced intestinal flora, even a tiny bit of gut immunity inching up from nothingness – I mean, before it was .1, now it's 13.7 – the reference range is 51-204, but still I'm going in the right direction, or so we can imagine, right? I just wish I could feel it, something, anything, better. Of course, the doctor asked again if I would know what it would feel like to feel better. Why does she keep asking that? I guess she thinks that maybe I would feel better, but I wouldn't notice? I mean, that doesn't even make sense. When you feel horrible all the time, even feeling slightly less horrible feels better. I mean, I have delusional moments all the time, like this morning when I was planning out the call for submissions for a new anthology, before the crash, reality, whatever it is – one day the reality will be something else.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Question of the day

It's getting to the point where 5 pm comes around and I already can't function, so exhausted that the exhaustion becomes sadness and then I'm waiting, waiting until it's time to get ready for bed. The only thing I want to do really is to read, but of course I can't read much without hurting my hands. 6:55 pm, and should I get ready for bed? At least I succeeded in going on my second walk before dark, just before dusk actually and the light was so fantastic that everything became beautiful, everything. Maybe 6:55 pm is my new bedtime, when will this end?

And, the question of the day – the next day, that is – do you like how it switches, just like that? A dryness in my throat, almost a dry cough, better make sure that doesn't develop. But right, the question of the day: why is the bloating getting worse? Again. Worse again.

All right, now that that question is out of the way, and I don't have an answer, maybe I can tell you how sunny it is today, and how it's nice to get up a bit earlier, to see the earlier sun. The way it illuminates the pine tree plant in my house, shimmering in different hues of green making one. The light through the skylight in the kitchen, brightening everything, my heart? Pain in my belly, and I will finish cooking.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Seasonal, just in case

It's funny to think about bringing out a seasonal affective disorder lamp in a place where it's almost always sunny, so sunny that even in the middle of the winter you have to wear sunglasses – even on a cloudy day. But still, here I am, bringing out the seasonal affective disorder lamp – maybe because you have to wear sunglasses all the time, you don't really get enough light through pineal gland, the part that regulates mood and sleep, right? The idea is that the lamp makes you more awake in the morning, so then at night to fall asleep easier. In the past it hasn't worked for me – in San Francisco, it made me too wired at night, I mean I was already wired but then I was really really wired although maybe part of the reason was because I was getting up in the afternoon, and not in the morning, so then I was actually making my brain think it was earlier, and then 3 am came around and I was ready to walk to Texas.

So, mostly the lamp hasn't been used for the last 10 years or so, but I kept it around because it's one of those things that you buy and think, I don't want to get rid of that, just in case, right? So here I am, trying it again. It does wake up my brain a bit, but then as soon as I turn it off I'm tired again. Is it time for bed yet?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh, here I am in this place again

What is this place? My head. This place in my head. My head hurts. I want to form sentences. Sentences other than this one.

I've just come back from feldenkrais, my favorite place in the world. Or, two hours ago. Two hours ago I came back. My head. My head hurts. What is this stupid message from the doctor's office? Something about a test that I need to do, they want to make sure. They don't even know what they're talking about. I ask for answers, and they don't respond. Then they leave this message.

I wanted to tell you about the fall, I do love the fall. When you walk outside on the day after the first freeze and there are just piles of leaves everywhere – I never noticed that before. The snow on the mountains and the way green goes to white goes to yellow goes to brown. The softness of the light and my head hurts, why does my head hurt? Maybe soot from the fireplaces or my jaw. I guess it's time to lie down again, lie down for more feldenkrais, not the same here in my apartment, but still.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Hello sand tray -- "Childhood: all these fragile things near death"

An island without water

It's official: I hate living here. I was trying for so long to appreciate the good things – the startling beauty, my apartment, what were the other good things? The startling beauty, my apartment. Beauty isn't enough. I can find another apartment – maybe not one as spacious and comfortable as this, but actually I'm good at finding apartments that I love. I'll just have to put some stuff in storage, probably.

I walk around, and even when I'm staring at those clouds so bouncy you can imagine personalities, even when I'm looking up at that bright blue sky or the mountains changing colors so often it's like every time you look another realm – even in these moments, I think: what the fuck am I doing here? There's nothing here for me – I hate this town.

Sitting outside in the morning, and a gay couple walks by – hello, I say. Good morning, they respond, and I wonder if I'll ever be able to say good morning, after so many years of waking up way into the afternoon. And, that's an exciting moment. An exciting moment here in Santa Fe.

Which is not why I hate it. I hate this town because everyone is so separate, living in individual worlds only accessible by car. I hate this town because everything is so depoliticized and self-congratulatory – a terrible conversation, if there ever was one. Combination, I meant to say – a terrible combination.

And, a terrible conversation. I hate this town because of all of its hideous contradictions – the way outside (and inside) money controls everything, and people pretended it’s creativity. They actually believe that! The way multiple histories of colonialism wind through everything – the art, the pageantry, the official celebrations, the tourism, the environmental degradation, the way people treat one another – multiple histories of colonialism wind through the everyday, and people call this harmony.

Oh, and queer Santa Fe: an island, interacting with other islands from time to time. But why? Couples that disappear, reappear from time to time. At an event – oh, there you are. No fags in this world – there are fags in other worlds, and they are so far from me that there is no way I could ever have a sex life that means anything.

Everything is an island here – an island without water, oh my. I've known for a while that my book tour will start at the end of January, wondering if that's when I will leave. And, for a while, I worried that was too soon. I'm not worried anymore. I mean I am worried, but I'm definitely not worried about leaving too soon.

This I will never get tired of photographing…

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Imagine we're on drugs together

Imagine we’re on drugs together. Imagine I'm wearing two sweatshirts and a sweater, wool hat and scarves but why do I still feel so cold? Why is it so cold, I say, as I turn on the space heater and get under the covers. I can hear the music in the other room, puncturing my head is what I'm thinking and I want to turn it off. But I can't turn it off because that means I have to get up and go into the other room. What about the colors on the walls, have you ever noticed how the pink wall blends into the green at the corner? I don't like this green anymore, why did I choose this green?

Until I notice the stripes coming out from underneath that small piece of art in the black frame above the closet: four shapes and I wanted them to frame it so that you could see the rounded corner on one side, but they matted it in a rectangle instead and I didn't feel like telling them to change it. Four shapes: pale blue, paler blue, yellow inside a red line, another blue. On that green background that clashes with the green wall. But remember, the stripes of plaster coming out from underneath and have you ever noticed the way the knots in the beams on the ceiling poke through the white paint? Whitish paint. And I'm in so much pain.

I'm in so much pain and I'm not on drugs, we’re not on drugs together I'm just in bed because I thought maybe it would help, why am I so cold and every position hurts because of this bloating that started when I did the feldenkrais lesson that was supposed to help with another pain, between my shoulder blades, a lesson on my side which usually I don't do because lying on my side on a mat hurts my shoulders but now I guess I can do that lesson except for this bloating, I mean this happened the other day too but then I thought it was because of the soup I ate at a restaurant, split pea maybe with ground nuts in it, delicious really but you know how I can't eat anything at a restaurant.

I told the feldenkrais practitioner about the bloating after that lesson, he said it must have been the food but no, today even worse, so awful that when Eric calls on the phone and I answer because I want something other than this pain but no, I can't talk, too much pain, can I call you back in a few minutes? No, not a few minutes is what I think after I get off the phone, I should have said later, can I call you back later? So awful that I get this cold, why am I so cold and my whole face hurts now too I guess my whole body is reacting to this one part stretching out in contortions, ouch, no, ouch. Ouch!

So awful that any position – standing or sitting or lying or half-lying half-sitting or leaning over the sink or sitting on the toilet or crouched on the floor or on my back on the sofa – any position, every position hurts. Hard to breathe. Hard to think except how, why, now, this again? Hard to think except about now, every day it seems, early in the evening I sink into this horrible drained sadness and exhaustion. Makes me feel like I'll never feel like I'm getting better. Makes me feel like I'll never get better. Makes me feel like I hate my life, everything, makes me feel like what is the point, makes me feel like everything, everything leads to this place, always, will it ever change?

Makes me think about that doctor, I hate that doctor, now the office keeps calling me to get my blood drawn again because the doctor fucked up last time but that's not what they say, they say the blood hemolyzed. The blood hemolyzed because they waited too long to send it in, that's what I'm thinking. And even if it wasn't their fault I'm never getting my blood drawn at that doctor's office again, after last time when the doctor was holding my arm with one hand or no not holding my arm but drawing the blood, while frantically reaching for the next vial with her other hand, calling for the assistant who came in and looked at me I guess I didn't look good she was trying to comfort me with all that essential oil she wears that floods the whole office and then when we were done the doctor said that didn't go well, your hands are clammy.

Was that before or after we got those tests back about toxic metals and I have this high level of thallium, whatever that means, no one seems to know how except the level is so high that it must be a recent exposure so I go through all these random things like color drinking glasses from the ‘60s because thallium is used in the production of colored glass, colloidal silver maybe, or silver flatware, could it be in silver flatware? All these things from my grandmother like that artwork I was looking at earlier, seems so long ago, but that was less than an hour, right? What about that ointment I was putting up my nose, from that same doctor, of course – it always left a metallic taste in the back of my throat, or could it be the rice I eat sometimes that's from Thailand, since thallium is in a pesticide that was outlawed in the US in the 1960s, or maybe people are still using it to grow vegetables in northern New Mexico? Could it be poison from the Las Conchas fires, something in the air or the ash? The water purification place says no, the water filter would take all that out, and apparently my level is too high for an exposure through the air, that's what the lab, told the doctor anyway. How much of something would I need to ingest, that's what I'm wondering. The doctor doesn't know.

I call the lab, because the doctor says they will have more answers and I can ask all the questions I want, sounds like a good idea except the lab has a policy that they don't talk to patients under any circumstance, so then I'm waiting for the doctor to call, again. How do you get thallium out of your body and does this relate to how I'm feeling, probably not since no one else seems so worried, wasn't what they were looking for, they were looking for mercury, or lead, maybe arsenic. Or probably it does, I don't know, all I know is that this doctor doesn't help. Hasn't helped. Do they ever?

How much I hate it when something so careful and consciously chosen to help, something like feldenkrais, a new lesson, a new way of moving my body, something so gentle and soothing leads me right into this wall of pain so intense it makes me feel like I might need to go to the hospital. Except I already know that going to the hospital will make everything worse, what could the hospital do for me except give me drugs? Probably wouldn't even see me, it's not an emergency. But stop – let's imagine that we’re on drugs together: I'm so cold, will you hold my hand? I'm scared: it's already dark, how did it get so dark? Please hold my hand – I'm not sure if otherwise, do you know what I mean – I don't want to say it. I'm shaking again, am I shaking? Do you think it's okay if I close my eyes?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Positive energy

I'm doing all right here in my apartment in my head, or in my head in my apartment, but then as soon as Jessica calls from the march to tell me they're almost at the Railyard, I'm suddenly so sad I almost don't want to go. Something about the noise in the background, and the hint of excitement in Jessica's voice that a group of anarcho-types were at the front, and succeeded at marching in the street for a little while, and what makes me sad is that this counts for exciting in Santa Fe, five or six people marching in the street in a march the doesn't really mean anything.

As I'm walking towards the campsite, I see the people, maybe 100 or so, drumming and someone with a hula hoop and someone dressed as Uncle Sam, a few people actually, and I'll admit it does feel festive. Another be-in, that's what it feels like to me. Someone from last night's general assembly comes up to ask me how I am – that was a hard place to be, he says – regardless of whether you agreed or disagreed with your proposal, it was a difficult place to be. I can tell that he's genuine, and part of me can appreciate this empathy, but at the same time of course I notice that he's making sure not to indicate any opinion. I say it was very instructive – I learned that people will never be interested in doing an action on Canyon Road. I don't understand that, really – because to me Canyon Road is some sort of colonial Disneyland shopping mall experience, but people are really attached to it – they were reacting like I was attacking their identity, and I don't know what that means exactly except that maybe they are attached to that colonial mindset.

One thing people are really good at in Santa Fe is detachment, that's for sure. Suddenly this guy is busy with something, I'm not sure what exactly but I know it's not this conversation. Someone else says: don't be a quitter. I say: this isn't about quitting, it's about recognizing that this group will never be interested in doing an action on Canyon Road. This is what I keep repeating, when people come up to me, just a few more, they want to voice some sort of awareness of the groupthink horror around doing something the slightest bit confrontational, but they don't want to go so far as to say that, to say anything really, except to personalize the emotional experience, and that's not enough. Just more feel-good fakeness.

Later, I'm sitting in the sun with some of the organizers and Jessica says you can deal with hanging out with these people after last night? It's not like I have anything else here, I say. That's the reality.

The funny thing is that all of this strife has actually made me feel more engaged with being here, rather than less. Recognizing the horrifying limitations but feeling empowered in my articulation, my self-expression, my communication, my anger and disappointment with the whole thing. And so, when I get home, suddenly I'm wired with all these crazy ideas that may or may not happen. Wild and festive and confrontational and silly – the first ever Canyon Road FART WALK, that's what I'm thinking. I can't help it – I start to plan it out:

This month's themes are:

Colonial Couture

We know there's overlap there, but stop thinking and start spending!


It’s time to show off your manliest blood-drenched cowboy hat, your raunchiest turquoise-studded rattlesnake bustier, your bossiest Gulf oil-soaked colonial cotillion gown – and, naturally, don't forget those blood-saturated South African diamonds…

Or, if you want to be slightly more understated in the $anta Fe $tlye, of course any recently uncovered artifact peeking from behind your coyote-lined caftan would be truly magical…

And, honey, you know it's going to get cold, so don't forget to wear that fabulous blood-soaked chinchilla – if it's not bloody, we'll get it bloody…

Bring your maracas, your rattling tambourine, that pounding Taiko drum, and of course a few whoopee cushions – and, get ready to see some… gorgeous… ART!!!

The bidding war starts now…

Brought to you by SANTA FE IS ALREADY OCCUPIED/We Are the 1%

And so, here I am again with wired ideas spinning me out of exhaustion, into exhaustion again I know but for now I'm here with the mania – in some ways it doesn't matter whether this will really happen, it’s the engagement that matters – sure, in a few hours or maybe even a few minutes I'll be staring at the computer screen in brain-drain headache heartache, but at the same time there's something that makes me feel like I'm back. Wait, let me be honest and say that while I'm writing this paragraph I'm already in the middle of that headache heartache, which makes it harder to say what I was feeling before, feeling like yes, these ideas, yes, this engagement, yes this rage at the preposterousness of the delusional thinking in this town. The delusional thinking that makes people write to me just to say: “I do hope that we can organize an event or series of events that allows the artist community to come into solidarity with our efforts in general. This is not our Wall Street... this is the creative community that can bring us to a new level of engagement with the Occupy movement in many other centers of art around the country and around the world. And if there is anyone who can make this happen, it is you, Mattilda.”

"If there is anyone who can make this happen, it is you, Mattilda." Um, there's only one problem – this is the exact opposite of what I'm interested in. Whatever the fuck the "artist community" is – more delusional thinking, that's for sure. Of course, these people don't know me, but if they did they would know that all of my work is about exposing the violence that lurks beneath the empty rhetoric of some tired phrase like the "creative community." And, what are "our efforts in general"? Really? And, "solidarity," another empty word.

Efforts to mimic what's going on with Occupy Wall Street, without applying it to the actual reality of Santa Fe. While I dropped the rhetoric of "Canyon Road Is our Wall Street" because, even if most of the businesses on Canyon Road are hideously upscale and hopelessly derivative, many of them are, so the rumor goes, independent businesses. But, there is no question in my mind that it's the art market and the tourist and real estate industries that run Santa Fe. I'm not sure where people think all that money comes from, if not from Wall Street – organized crime, perhaps?

Oh, I know – the creative community, that's where it comes from! If you don't have the dough, must be because you weren’t creative enough, right? All these magnificent artists toiling to make trinkets for out-of-towners with more bank accounts than change purses. Do some artists make a living in Santa Fe? Certainly. Does this mean that we shouldn't critique the way millions and millions of dollars (billions, even) are siphoned into the hands of bankers disguised as art dealers and New Age healers? Is that what they mean when they talk about "positive energy?" The tentacles of the art market have saturated this town to such an extent that random people who have no real involvement actually believe the most ridiculous mythologies – in a movement that’s supposedly about critiquing the market, try to critique this market and you must be out of your mind!