Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What happens when I get back up

Oh, great – miso soup brings on the bloating – not a good sign, not a good sign at all. I started to notice that my belly button doesn't go in the way that it usually does, because of the bloating, and I'm not so sure that I'm grateful for that awareness. I didn't want to turn the music off, to start writing, and now that it's off I feel tired again. Not that I didn't feel tired before, but more tired, like I could get back in bed, but I already tried that. Had to go back outside again, to try to wake up – I watched the wind blowing the leaves everywhere, especially the little tiny hairs on the huge yucca in my yard, and the shadows they made against the adobe-colored wall, that was beautiful and at least the wind didn't feel as dry as yesterday, maybe because it's cooler out, I'm not sure, but anyway then I thought I was awake again, but now, well you already know. I guess it's time to eat. Should I put the music back on, or is it time for the news? Usually music makes me too wired while I'm eating, but maybe a little bit just before. Yes, let's try that.

I keep saying that my hands get so dry here that I have to put on moisturizer at least 10 times a day, but the truth is that it’s noon now, or 12:30 actually, and I've already put moisturizer on my hands more than 10 times. And today the humidity is 28% – a moist day for Santa Fe.

So much for that moist day – today the humidity is 4%, and I don't know if I'll ever get used to this dryness. It just feels more and more irritating, I’ve started to fantasize about Seattle and all that moist air, living on Capitol Hill with everything I need right nearby, except, maybe, what I need. I mean I didn't like living in Seattle last time around, 14 years ago I guess that was so it was a different Seattle, one much better I imagine in the way that everything is worse now, right? I mean when I moved there I was so startled by the way a middle-class suburban mentality surrounded everything, was everything, you had to move through it to find something else, if there was anything else, but then at the same time it's the only place I've ever lived where I actually felt kind of calm. Maybe not calm, but calmer. And now I'd be moving from this tiny town in the desert, where to get anything practical you have to go to 5 miles of stripmall hell, so what could feel more suburban than that?

Except all this beauty here, I'm startled every time I look. Or maybe not every time, but almost every time. Ananda said something about moving back to Maryland, and how the trees remind her of growing up there, feeling unsafe, and then I thought about how some of the trees in Seattle reminded me of that too, yes the Maryland suburbs and childhood a trap, but just some of them. Actually here when the daffodils started coming out I got kind of angry – I hate daffodils, I thought, but really I just hated the thought of that childhood landscape, bring me back my desert weirdness, but within a few weeks the daffodils shriveled up anyway and then I realized they were okay.

I need to live somewhere where there are people I can date – I'm not sure if Seattle is that place, I mean it wasn't last time really but really I wasn't looking then and at least there's a good cruising park and a terrible sex club that maybe could sometimes be fun, three of them actually, all in the same neighborhood with the coop and the pompous independent bookstore, so what more could I need? That's what it is about Seattle: it sounds easy. Except for those eight months of darkness, gloom, and all the mold, but here I am in the dryness that everyone talks about, thinking of rain, hoping for rain, what do you want for your birthday? Rain, please rain!

Instead I get 4% humidity, yes today's my birthday. I made plans to drive out somewhere and watch the sunset; now I'm just trying to decide whether to cancel those plans. Because I feel too awful for company, especially a group effort, but I guess first I'll try getting back into bed, just to see, to see what happens, what happens when I get back up.

My garden

Today I keep searching the floor for glass, every crumb of whatever stuck to the bottoms of my feet is suddenly a potential problem, and there are a lot of crumbs of whatever stuck to the bottoms of my feet. And then a prickly sensation, but maybe it always feels that way. I mean there's always a lot of whatever on my floor, even after sweeping or mopping or whatever, but anyway this is what happened: last night, soon after I got home and just before I was getting ready for bed, the glass cover on the ceiling fan light fixture fell down onto my kitchen table and shattered into who knows how many white shards, I mean a lot of them, some of them large and some of them small and some of them tiny, tried to get it all out before getting ready for bed, because the last thing I want to do is to wear shoes in my apartment, but when something shatters like that, everywhere, then it's still everywhere, even though I took a sponge across the floor, trying to find any tiny pieces, or not all of the floor, but four separate parts with four separate sponges that I threw in the trash so that I wouldn't potentially cut myself at a later date, like today, when I'm still wondering whether that prickly sensations in my toes is little pieces of glass, or just the usual athlete’s foot peeling dry skin.

But why is it so hot in my apartment? And so hot outside? It's after sunset, but the temperature doesn't drop so fast like they say it does, doesn't drop much at all until much later, I mean it's still 73.7°, and definitely hotter in here. I thought it would be like in San Francisco, when, as soon as it gets dark it's freezing, but it doesn't seem that way. And why is the wind still so blustery, drying me out everywhere I go – peeling away the coating inside my nostrils, making my hands crave moisturizer after just a few blocks, depositing those little piles of salt just outside the corner of each eye. Oh, how I used to love wind – those soft cool moist gusts that always delivered a freshness, but no – this isn't that wind at all, just dust and dried leaves blowing in your face, why are there still dried leaves blowing around at the end of May, maybe a little bit of gravel and sticks too and some trash that always lands miraculously in my garden.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer

The clouds roll in, and the humidity drops dramatically. Will someone explain this? But that was yesterday – today is the hottest day yet this year, 76 degrees on my morning walk, so that means by the evening it will almost surely be in the 80s. Last night I woke up a few hours after getting in bed, needed to rush to the bathroom to shit uncontrollably for a while – not sure what happened. At least I thought the bloating would go away with everything else inside my intestines heading down the toilet clogged, okay not clogged anymore, but even after all that clogging and unclogging there's still this awful intestinal pain.

But what makes my walk better than yesterday? Further, calmer, more interesting – why exactly, I'm not sure. Looking at all the weird things growing, but I always look at all the weird things growing. The sun on my t-shirt, almost too warm – what happens when it's 20 degrees warmer? I guess I'll see. Today the heat isn't bothering me too much, although my right foot hurts a lot, and that got much worse the day I wore sandals, because of the arch support, why do they have to put arch supports in everything? I mean Earth shoes were so great for me for a while, but then they added arch supports. I wish there were some kind of machine that you could put your shoes in, and the machine would pound down the arch supports so that the shoes would actually match your feet, because I'm going to have to wear sandals a lot this summer – I haven't worn sandals since the time I lived at the beach, Provincetown 11 years ago, but that first time I wore them here, in the car with Justin, I felt so much better – not as overheated. That's the biggest risk for me with this heat – driving around in metal boxes everything gets so much warmer.

And here at the computer, actually – starting around this time of the day, when the sun pours in directly from the skylight, I just called my landlord to ask about blinds for the skylight, but that will probably take a while. I asked for a screen door a few months ago, and my landlord said yes, but I haven't heard from any contractor yet. At least the kitchen faucet got fixed, now it's shiny and new and it doesn't even leak.

But I wanted to tell you about my first great walk in a while – I've had good ones, but not great ones, but this one was great. What made the difference? Well, I started out at dusk, entered the railyard with all this music coming from the Second Street Brewery, and wow, this enormous dog tied up outside the patio, should I go over and say hello? Yes, and what a soft and friendly dog, kind of like one of those bulldog-types that I always think are cute, except 10 times the size, probably about as big as me, and licking my fingers, a new friend. Then I keep walking, and it's not like I have energy, but I'm able to walk anyway without energy, and there's something about how this is the first warm night, more people out, and I'm just wearing a T-shirt and pants, plus a hat I guess, and the way the breeze blows on my arms but doesn't feel cool, something about all this makes me like summer I guess, now it's dark and I'm on Alameda, wondering if I should turn around, but first let me turn left, walk a little further, somewhere new, I think there's another bridge over the river up a few blocks.

I guess this is the way I can walk in my fatigue and then it becomes something else, of course this isn't always true, but I guess on this night, as the dark makes everything brighter somehow, and then when I get back to the railyard, there's some guy who's watching me, I mean he was walking behind me, now he's sitting down and looking over, and even though I'm not attracted to him I get that rush in my head or not just in my head but my groin, like an instant hard-on, ready for sex in the park, just because of that situation that doesn't happen here, that doesn't happen anywhere as much, I'm turned on by the possibilities of desire in a public engagement and there's the energy from the walk that will soon become exhaustion again I mean I can already feel it but there’s that sense of adventure too and even though this guy probably isn't cruising me, just resting is what I decide after looking back a few times, then I look some more at the strange things growing in the railyard, I love these strange things and soon enough I'm home, a long walk really, a whole hour maybe, slowly, very slowly, and then I end up cruising online even though now I've crashed, wanting the place before the crash but I don't find it, watch that silly porn again, probably East European boys in an orgy setting and what I like is the gestures that actually feel genuine, like this one guy walking around and touching some guy's chest while he's getting fucked or looking up at some guy getting a blow job with something like awe, a smile on his face almost and you rarely see any of that in porn, right? Sure, most of these guys are trying to approximate that hideous vagueness known the world over as "American"– bleached blonde hair, waxed bodies, tanning salon, too much time at the gym – but then there's this one guy who I keep waiting for, the one who’s watching as much as he's participating, participating even when he's watching, same body but paler, thick curly dark hair, oh there he is again and I don't really want to come exactly, until I do, then I'm more tired and still have to finish the dishes, time for bed.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Succulents

Waking up, suddenly I'm seized by an overwhelm of emotion, thinking about the piece I wrote for make/shift about Chrissie Contagious and crying a little about the paths we've taken to search for connection and hope and intimacy and the way these paths so often lead to loss, including my loss of Chrissie Contagious and how maybe it seemed, not so long before her death, that she was pulling something together, I'm not sure what exactly, but something, and then.

I don't notice that my jaw hurts until I start eating these blueberries, maybe the right number of blueberries this time because they don't cause any bloating, that's a good sign. But my jaw hurts, must've been clenching it last night. It's nice getting up in the morning, because then I get to see the clouds more, feel the cool air, even when I can tell it's going to be hot today, or at least that's how it seems.

Those cute finches are eating the succulents I planted right in front of my apartment, the ones I pulled out of the gravel on the side of the road, and then fucked up my hands planting in the dark. Because I got carried away – I took too many at once, my sister was driving the getaway car. The ones with the magenta flowers, every day I wake up and pieces are pulled out of the dirt, drying to brown in the sun. At first I thought it was the wind, or because I didn't water them enough, or maybe I planted them in the wrong direction, but now, staring through the blinds I catch those finches, and I understand how something so cute can suddenly become a pest, I mean I love watching those plants every day, studying their progress. I want to watch this whole little patch of dirt in front of my patio become nothing but succulents, so that you don't even see the dirt, but how can the succulents grow enough with all these finches feasting?

Suddenly I wonder if it's the new mulch that's drawing the finches over, there's bat shit in that mulch and maybe the finches like the taste of shit. Why did I get mulch with bat shit in it anyway? All it said was cotton burrs, and that sounds innocuous enough. For some reason I decide that if I take some dirt from the other side, and place it on top of the wounded succulents, the finches won't peck away, I do like listening to the finches chirping all the time but can't they stay up in the trees? No, I like watching them down on the ground too, but not when they’re pecking away at my garden. So I take off my socks, walk through the gravel of the driveway to get some dirt from the other side, throw it onto those succulents in pieces and I'm not sure that it will do anything at all, but anyway it's kind of fun.

Oh, no – typos!

Sometimes I look back at a post and notice some terrible typo caused by my voice activation software, something I didn’t catch because I wanted to post right away, and that feels important but then I look back and notice that typo that changes the meaning I intended, oh no, don't want to look over everything excessively before posting though, so I'm not sure the answer exactly, except to correct when I notice, and maybe to mention it now.

(This post would have been really funny if I left all the software errors, but also incomprehensible.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A good question

No more rain, just lots of wind blowing the dust everywhere, especially when I'm waiting for the bus on Cerrillos, at the bus stop without any shelter, I mean one of the endless number of bus stops without shelter – who needs shelter? Just sit outside in the sun, the heat, the wind, the car exhaust, rain, snow. Now I'm inside, thinking about going for a walk except something happened that made me too tired, so now I'm trying to write to get outside of all this fatigue, it kind of worked the other day but not now, what should I do now? I hate the book that I'm reading, but it’s short, and I don't feel like stopping before the end. I mean I don't feel like reading something else before finishing this book, why this loyalty I don't know. I thought maybe I should watch something, but actually I'm too tired for that. I was doing dishes, but then my arms started aching. No, not aching – burning. What was that realization I had at therapy? Not a realization, but a question. About consistency.

That's right – consistency. Or rather, inconsistency. I get overwhelmed by it – when people say one thing and do the exact opposite, over and over and over again this seems to happen in my relationships, even the ones that seem the most consistent. Until.

I think this started because I was talking about almost committing to organize a project that was my idea, but then once me and a friend started discussing the details I felt more exhausted than I’ve felt in a while. And that's saying a lot, right? I mean while we were talking I was wired, but as soon as we were done it was hard for me to think about ever doing anything again in my life, anything and everything sounded like too much effort, including getting up from the chair at my kitchen table.

And the point of the project was for me to feel more grounded here in Santa Fe, but once I got that exhausted I realized oh, I can't organize this project right now, so I called my friend right away to say so – I mean I needed to say so right away, because otherwise I would just do it, and it would continue to drain me, but I would do it anyway, because I’d committed to it.

Oh – but first, at therapy, I was talking about a conversation with Socket, where she was saying she didn't want to move anywhere again where she didn't have a support network in place, and then she listed the places where she feels those networks, and I said I guess the only places where I could move and have an already existing support network would be San Francisco or New York. But then as soon as I got off the phone I thought no, that's not true at all. I don't have a support network in San Francisco or New York – I mean those are the places where I know the most people, the cities I know the best, but I don't think there are more than a few people I could count on in either place. That was one of the reasons I left San Francisco – I’d hated it culturally and emotionally for so long, but I felt like at least I had a support system, until that collapsed, and then I felt like I had nothing – maybe an apartment with a beautiful view and a mold problem, a neighborhood I liked to walk around in, but that was about all.

But back to consistency, the flipside of abandonment, hopelessness, betrayal – or maybe not exactly the flip side, but kind of. I guess sometimes consistency is a problem, like when I do something just because I agreed to do it. Although sometimes that doesn't feel like a problem, as long as I'm following through, right? I need everything feels like a problem sometimes, doing anything I need, really anything, but then the therapist asked about the way I need to act like I'm okay in order to exist in the world, and whether that’s inconsistent.

I guess it’s the only way I can survive – it’s not inconsistent in terms of reliability, but yes it is acting entirely different from how I feel, in a way. I mean sometimes that's how I feel in the moment, and then as soon as I'm out of the public eye I'm a disaster. I guess the question is what would it look like to feel horrible, and emote horrible, and still interact in the world. To me that doesn't feel like a possibility, and I guess that means it's a good question.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rain, let's hear it for more rain!

For a moment, let's compliment the weather here: it's actually chilly today! The clouds are rolling in – I guess people were right when they said it doesn't get dramatically hot until June. Do you think it will rain today? I hope so!

Wait – is that thunder? Thunder! Yes – pouring rain, hear it comes, falling at a diagonal even, and then hail, and then more rain, and that wonderful moist desert smell, like wet clay maybe, but oh, is the rain stopping already? More thunder – that's a good sign. But I don't hear the rain anymore. I'll go outside and see. Oh – I guess it's stopped already, just a tiny bit of drizzle lingering but still the clouds, wind, thunder, will there be more rain? Let's hope so.

Monday, May 23, 2011

But everything looks good with my python-trimmed suede ballerina flats!

There’s this little, no I mean tiny tiny tiny window, somewhere between waking up, and going outside to sit in the sun, and sitting inside to eat raspberries, somewhere before I sit down again to eat my first meal, yes somewhere around there there's this tiny tiny tiny window when I feel like I can actually do all these things in my head, yes all of them, yes it feels like now, now is the time, now is the time when it all starts, and then I start eating, and a few bites later it all falls away, now I'm just trying to do one thing, one tiny thing with this way tinier window, not even a window just a crack and I'm pushing pushing pushing to maybe send this one email or respond to a phone call or call the doctor to ask about the ingredients in one supplement, something like that, or okay maybe I'm trying to do three or four tiny things but anyway it all leads to here, here with this horrible headache clamping down on my temples, drilling into my sinuses, back pain between my shoulder blades, shoulders ache, feet dry eyes dry hands dry but greasy because of all the moisturizer, lips dry but not as dry as they used to be the worst part of the dryness is inside my nostrils and I look at the weather report and see that the humidity just dropped dramatically and the pollen count surged so yes, maybe all this relates, I was going to go on a walk I mean I still am going to go on a walk but now I'm not sure how it's really going to happen I mean I'm going to get dressed and put on my shoes and step out the door and something will happen, the light will be beautiful I know that because the light is already beautiful, I mean it will be beautiful if I get out before dark and even if I don't get out before dark it will be beautiful and will that help, that's what I'm wondering, I mean sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't, but still I'm wondering, still I'm wondering, does it help, what helps, if this is what helps then what helps more, more is what I need and now it's getting hot in my apartment, yes I can open the windows, especially the one right here, these windows open and stay open if I want them to and still it's so dry, time for more oil in my nose, time to do some feldenkrais, time to eat something, time to think that no I don't need to look on craigslist, I don't even want sex, yesterday I actually had sex just at the moment when I thought will my sex life ever intersect with my life, and then he called, the guy from before, a few months ago, we tried to connect again but didn't, I was waiting for him to call but he sent a text message to my landline so I didn't get it, too late I realized, we realized as he was leaving but now here he is again, I mean here he was yesterday and yes it was fun, but not exactly when I wanted it then either, I was too tired before so afterwards I was way more tired I could hardly speak I mean once he left, the whole rest of the day which was really the whole day but I did want him to come over because, well, because it's so rarely works that way, I mean he called and there he was, a block away, so anyway what am I trying to say, that I don't need or want sex now whereas yesterday I didn't need it but I kind of wanted it, maybe when I go outside I will feel something other than this headache, maybe when I get back inside I will have enough energy to do something other than watching a DVD or even worse watching some terrible terrible gay show on Logo, Andee got me started I mean I watched it once and just felt sick no not sick but awful and claustrophobic and that was months ago but now that I'm so tired I can't read too much because then it hurts so much more, everything I mean now that I'm so exhausted I mean since I took those horrible pharmaceutical medications a month ago and since then I've sunken to this much much lower level than my already low level and now I can't do much of anything because it's too exhausting, now that I'm so tired it kind of feels like an escape to watch that terrible terrible TV show I mean I haven't had a TV since I was a kid, wouldn't want one, but on the computer and no, not really an escape because it's so terrible, always terrible, the one important thing I learned was about Marc Jacobs, how this 20-year-old or maybe 18-year-old fashion model, 22 in the show so younger than 22, anyway this fashion model was Marc Jacobs’ boyfriend but Marc told him never to bring anyone over the house, that was love I mean that was a rule and one time the fashion model got drunk and brought someone over, maybe a few people, so the next day Marc Jacobs had the locks changed, instructed his security guard or assistant or assistants to take all this kid’s belongings out of the house, tell him he could never come over again and really that's all you need to know about fashion, so yes I am grateful for that anecdote that illustrates so much, even if the rest of the show illustrates nothing except nothing, surround me with nothing, lots and lots and lots of nothing, call this nothing success, success this nothing, call this nothing, hello, hello, hello, oh someone with cancer is starting a nonprofit so that cancer patients who lose their hair can borrow hats, a hat rack but why is it so hot in this corner of my apartment, the hottest corner right near the computer but also right near this window, maybe it's just my body heat as I'm writing, my body heat as I'm writing at least I'm writing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The details

The story of my life right now: I wake up with all these ideas; I can't do any of them. I mean I'm too exhausted. Almost immediately. Today it’s going to be hot out, I can tell already – already it's pretty hot. Maybe it's time for a walk, all these walks – sometimes they make me feel better. And sometimes? Sometimes. Right.

At least my neighbors can't see me at this time of the day, now that they've started going out on their balcony I was wondering – but the reflection of the sun is too much, I checked. Because, the other day, someone looked through my front window when I was jerking off, not someone I was excited about, so I wondered what he could see – I don't like closing the blinds, makes me feel closed in too. Except when I go out – then I close the front window, which goes almost floor-to-ceiling – I mean I close the blinds of that window, the window doesn't open, which at first I thought would bother me, because I would want more air, but now I'm used to it. Although I wouldn't mind more air, now that it's starting to get warm, I mean now that it will probably stay warm for a while, except at night when I think it always gets chilly, since we're here 7000 feet up towards the sky. I will say that it's taken a while to get warm, and I like that – I was worried it would start much earlier – okay, time for a walk, an investigation, a rumination, or maybe just the spell of the light and everything that's growing, I do like studying the details, something new from the cityscapes I was and maybe still am used to.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rain!

It's pretty amazing when it actually starts to rain, I keep walking outside to make sure that it's actually happening, and then I decide well I better go outside for a walk and yes, rain, truly rain, for at least 20 minutes or so, and then drizzle for almost 2 hours, so that's pretty incredible. I'm starting to like this strange smell that happens when the desert gets moist, but especially the feeling of softness in my head like yes, this is okay, I can live here, please don't stop.

Then the next day is cold, truly cold, 40s for most of the day and 50 is the high and I like this better too, maybe because also it's more moist or at least it feels more moist because it's colder, or both, but anyway my headache isn't so bad, until, well, when did it start again? I mean right now it's awful. Still cool outside, though, maybe it’s time for a walk.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Michael Eric Dyson nobly struggles to take on the legendary homophobia and sectarianism of Amiri Baraka...

It's definitely worth watching this segment on Democracy Now, where Amiri Baraka, Herb Boyd and Michael Eric Dyson are allegedly discussing Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm X, but Baraka can't keep himself from expressing disgust at the "charges" that Malcolm may have engaged in homosexual acts (oh, no, any degradation but that!). Hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez seem unable to directly confront Baraka's (and Boyd's) homophobia, but, brilliantly, Michael Eric Dyson intervenes – thank you thank you thank you! Here's an excerpt:

AMIRI BARAKA: Are you going to talk about dead white people again? Are you going to talk about dead white people again?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I’m talking about living black people who are—I’m talking about living black—
AMIRI BARAKA: Because I didn’t know you were a racist. I didn’t know you were a racist.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right, right. Let me—
HERB BOYD: But Michael, Michael—
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: When I talk about dead white guys—that the construction of dead white men is a well-known formulation that refers to the classics and the degree to which the Western canon—
AMIRI BARAKA: But don’t you teach at a university full of dead white men?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Let me—let me finish. That the canon has an impact upon the construction of consciousness. But let me get to the point here. First of all, the deep and profound homophobia and the resistance of certain sectarian interests within African-American culture that refuse to acknowledge the full humanity wants to talk about black unity, but always wants to exclude—oh, my god. You don’t have a problem with Malcolm being a hustler, don’t have a problem. You haven’t asked no evidence of that, or the pimp. And it was exaggerated in the autobiography, with his amanuensis Alex Haley. Malcolm exaggerates his hustling itinerary to prove the redemptive power—
AMIRI BARAKA: You got that from Marable. You got that from Marable.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:—of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. None of that is being questioned. But when we talk about same-sex activity—and Manning Marable was talking about him as Malcolm Little, not as Malcolm X. He was speaking about what happened before the point of redemption from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
AMIRI BARAKA: How does he know that? What is facts?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: And he’s talking about another extension of his practice as a hustler. The fact—Rodnell Collins, the nephew of Malcolm X, in his letter. You see the citation that Manning Marable makes there. And by the way, Manning Marable was not the first scholar to suggest that. We know Bruce Perry, in his 1991 book, which is very problematic—
AMIRI BARAKA: You’re not going to quote that book.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But Malcolm—very problematic. But Manning Marable does the footwork and the spade work. And it’s two pages in a multi—
AMIRI BARAKA: Perry says Malcolm was white [inaudible]—
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:—a huge tome that engages in a serious analysis of who Malcolm X is. So if we’re going to sit up here, and with—Mr. Baraka, with all due respect—of trying to see Manning Marable through a narrow ideological lens and to see Malcolm X through an equally problematic lens—
AMIRI BARAKA: No, no, no. It’s quite the contrary. He sees Malcolm through a narrow ideological lens.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:—it distorts the entire understanding of who Manning Marable is and who Malcolm X was.
AMIRI BARAKA: Well, I know Manning.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: And we’re talking about ideological apparatuses, as opposed to the facts at hand and how we can best interpret them.

Sweatshop-produced rainbow flags…

Back in 2005, the brilliant, incisive, and unfortunately short-lived magazine LiP: Informed Revolt published a piece I wrote, "Sweatshop-Produced Rainbow Flags and Participatory Patriarchy: Why the Gay Rights Movement Is a Sham" – it's still one of my favorite essays, and editor Brian Awehali included it in a 2007 AK Press anthology, Tipping the Sacred Cow, which compiled some of his favorite pieces from the magazine and the preceding online publication – now, he's put the whole anthology online, and you can view it here

(Although hmm, where did that Christopher Hitchens quote come from – it's not a bad quote I guess, but definitely not part of my essay – Hitchens is so contradictory that he scares me…)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Temples

I thought I was waking up with a horrible headache because for the last several days I've closed my bedroom door, maybe not enough circulation, but then today the door is open and still the same headache. Worse, actually. I press my fingers into my face, to see where it’s centered. I thought for sure it was sinuses, and yes that part hurts, but actually it's way worse on the sides of my head, the temples, that's more like the headaches I used to get when I was a teenager.

Outside it's bad too – maybe it's an allergy? At least my garden is starting to look beautiful, there's so much pleasure I get just from looking at one or two flowers – I guess this is why people like gardens, I never thought much about it before. I kneel on the patio, studying the developments in the front, what's growing and what's drying out. But now it's time for therapy – have I mentioned therapy? I started going to this clinic where they specialize in art therapy, and actually I love it. The therapist really listened when I told her how much it tires me out to talk so much, so we always end with an art exercise or the sand tray, oh the sand tray! Who knew that just playing with a few figurines in the sand and clear away so much? So that I actually leave feeling energetic, or no, not necessarily energetic, but not worse, usually better, all right time to head over to the bus stop.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tacky

The good news is that he's staying at the Eldorado Hotel, so at least if it's terrible I still get to see the inside of the hotel, right? I'm exhausted but horny, or maybe just horny so that I don't feel too exhausted, and the hotel is further than I would walk otherwise, maybe that's good because it gives me extra exercise or maybe it's bad because it just makes me more exhausted, always hard to tell but anyway here I am, walking through the huge wooden door and here's the lobby, here's the hallway, it goes on forever, strange wooden beams in the ceiling but not really beams just decoration and once you've seen one hotel you've seen them all, right? I used to love walking into these hotels, but that's when I was turning tricks, now I'm just having bad sex and thinking about turning tricks, I mean not really – luckily I don't need to turn tricks right now, but at least there's a payoff at the end, right? I mean a payment.

Anyway, here's his room: knock, knock, knock-knock-knock – a friendly rhythm. Hmm, no answer, that's kind of like a trick too – oh here he is, opening the door in the pitch dark, naked, hey how you doing I say in that annoying casually masculine hookup voice that I can’t avoid and what is he saying: I've got someone else here.

I think of saying well, I can join in, but I can tell that's not what he means, so I say okay, turn around, more walking, why did I just say okay like that? I mean it's not okay. Oh well – here I am, walking down the street again, trying to remind myself how pretty it is, until I actually do get to that place when I'm staring at the light in the sky, now this walk is definitely too long though – okay good, the railyard, how did those yuccas get so big, I don't remember them being that big – the one I planted in my garden doesn't have the red flower yet, so I just planted a yellow one next to it, to see if that will stimulate the growth, okay I'm finally home.

I send the guy that just consists of the word tacky for 30 pages – wait, he actually responds. No, that's an email from earlier: are you partying? What? I respond: And no, I'm not partying – obviously you are, and it's so attractive with your JuiceAcceleration. JuiceAcceleration is the product he advertises in his email signature. Really. I mean I changed the name, for whatever reason, but you get the point.

He does respond to that one: I'm not partying. I send him 30 pages of tacky again. He actually responds to that too: lol I get the point. Oh great – now we're up to lol. But an apology, where's my apology? I already watched public sex porn, wondering if I'll ever be in a scene again where everyone's holding each other like that in total abandon or at least something that looks like abandon, coming on the floor, wiping it up. When did my landlord call, to tell me that the plumber called him and said he couldn't get in? What do you mean he couldn't get in, he didn't even knock. My landlord says something about coming over with him, is there any time that's too early – yes, not before 11.

But now I'm confused – I don't really want the plumber to come over my house when I'm not here, with or without my landlord. At least I wrote all this down – I was going to get ready for bed, but then I thought wait, let me do this first. Now I'll get ready for bed, feeling a little better.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Magenta flowers

Oh, right – what was I going to say, something about exhaustion I'm sure – or no, that's not what I was going to say, but what I'm feeling now, can't say much else. I’ve developed this habit of pulling succulents out of the sidewalk, planting them in my garden – now some of them are flowering, or actually the one that started flowering first was from the plant store, but then even though these others don't look the same, now they’re flowering too – gorgeous magenta flowers, a yellow one, a soft pinkish white.

I started pulling them out of the sidewalk because I figured if they grow there, they don't need much water, right? Not literally the sidewalk, but spilling out of gardens, into the street, with succulents you don't need the roots, just plant, add a little water, and now these amazing flowers. What else? Something about exhaustion, this pain in my shoulder, what is it from? Arms more tense because I did another edit on The End of San Francisco, there are so many parts that I'm stunned by, the ending, I mean the way each part spills into the other and the emotion, so much emotion and then you're stuck. But I don't feel stuck, not when I'm editing although it does make my body hurt more, need to stop but don't want to stop no stop. But now I'm at the ending. I slept later, shouldn’t that help? What does help?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Oh, my – all these upcoming screenings for All That Sheltering Emptiness – a six-city Canadian tour, two screenings in Zürich, and more in SF and NYC!

First, in case you wanted a reminder about the film:

All That Sheltering Emptiness (Gina Carducci and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore) 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 explodes the typical narratives of desire, escape and intimacy to evoke something more honest. (16mm, color, optical sound, 7 min)

WIDE OPEN WIDE: Queer City Cinema Canadian TourMay 26-June 25

EDMONTON
MAY 26 & 27 // 8PM
METRO CINEMA
9828 101 A Avenue
metrocinema.org

SASKATOON
JUNE 3 & 4 // 8PM
PAVED ARTS/AKA GALLERY - EVENT SPACE
424 20th St. W.
pavedarts.ca // akagallery.org

WINNIPEG
JUNE 10 & 11 // 8PM
VIDEO POOL - THIRD FLOOR STUDIO
300 - 100 Arthur St.
videopool.typepad.com

ST. JOHNS
JUNE 17 & 18 // 8PM
EASTERN EDGE GALLERY
72 Harbour Drive (between Clift's-Baird's Cove Road and Prescott Street)
easternedge.ca

HALIFAX
JUNE 25 // 7:30PM & 9:30PM
CARBON ARC @ The Khyber
1588 Barrington St, 3rd Floor
khyber.ca

VICTORIA
JULY 8 & 9 // 8PM
OPEN SPACE
510 Fort St., 2nd Floor
openspace.ca

Off_Pride
May 27-29
Dynamo
date and time TBA
Zürich, Switzerland

Videoex Festival
May 21-29, 2011
Zürich, Switzerland

Sex Worker Film Festival
2 pm, May 28, 2011
Roxie Cinema
San Francisco, CA 94110

Sex Worker CabaretJune 12, 2011
Time and location TBA
New York, New York

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Okay, I simply must show you this frightening picture that Carlos Motta kindly sent my way – yes, that's Lieut. Dan Choi and some other ladies...

Celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, of course…

(What a nightmare this country is.)

Dead and alive

I wake up and it's cloudy, but why does everything still feel so dry? Outside: gusty winds, dust and dead leaves and cottony plant pieces blowing everywhere. I check the humidity: 6%. I used to like cloudy days, all that moist air – how can we have a cloudy day, when the humidity stays at 6%? What a nightmare.

I'm sick of feeling so awful, all the time. Yesterday I felt a little better, like I could do something besides trying to do something. Today it's back to the usual. People keep asking me if my health is worse now, here in Santa Fe. Maybe before I took the parasite medications, it was hard to say, but now I can definitely say that yes, my health is worse. I can barely function.

There was something else I wanted to tell you, but now I can't remember. My mother is on the phone, telling me I'm not alone, she's concerned about me. Now I feel so terrible that I can't even speak. Hello, my mother says. Yes, I'm still here.

Then I get off the phone, and I feel bad for making my mother feel bad. When does this end? How many times in a day do I have to use hand lotion? I never used hand lotion before, I mean before the desert. My phone's ringing again. Oh, my mother. I don't want to talk about it.

Anyway, the desert – it's too dry. I just want a nice foggy day. On that cloudy day when the humidity was 6%, it kind of looked foggy – I'm not sure what it was, maybe just low clouds, since we are at 7000 feet elevation, right? Today it's sunnier, and there was a hailstorm for 4 minutes, what a tease. What else, there was something else. Something about the desert, it's too dry – I know I already said that. I know it shouldn't be a surprise. Wait – I need to put more hand lotion on.

What was different last night, when I went on a walk just before bed and there was something about the air that calmed me, that felt nurturing, looking up at the sky and those stars, a half-moon -- then a car drove by, and it sounded so loud, just that one car. That moment of calm that felt like hope, I'm getting somewhere, but it feels like those moments come less and less frequently, sure there are wired moments of inspiration from time to time but that's just the flipside of exhaustion. What about that calm – where, how, when? Today it’s colder and I have the heat on, the heat that dries out my head, my head that’s already dry. Maybe it's time for a walk in the somewhat moist air, no I don't have the energy yet.

Okay, Carolyn came over and drove me over to her house, showed me this alley that led to traffic barriers shielding a handmade wooden bridge over an acequia, that means irrigation channel I mean if there's ever any water, but anyway it’s beautiful. Especially the beginning of this walk with all these strange mansionish adobe concoctions, strange gardens and this one tree that grows outward more than up, yes this is the moment when the air is cool and moist again, I can study the details of light and texture, ground and lamp post, street and sidewalk, dirt and grass and gravel and asphalt, shadow and sky, new flowers and leaves and vines and everything in between dead and alive, and alive, yes alive, that's what I'm feeling.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A glamorous interview for We Who Feel Differently

Carlos Motta interviewed me in March for his global project, We Who Feel Differently, where he interviewed 50 queers from four different countries – it's all online now – and, there are even transcriptions! (Plus, the lighting is actually good!) Lots of material to browse – here's the interview with me, in four parts – the first part is more about childhood, the later parts more about organizing…

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore 1/4 from Carlos Motta on Vimeo.



Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore 2/4 from Carlos Motta on Vimeo.



Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore 3/4 from Carlos Motta on Vimeo.



Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore 4/4 from Carlos Motta on Vimeo.



Oh – and here's the transcription, yay for the transcription!

(I hope this isn't too much text for a blog post, but I do love that they transcribed the video.)

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore: My name is Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore; we are in Santa Fe, New Mexico at my new apartment. I recently I moved from San Francisco where I was living for the last ten years. I am a writer, activist, editor, social critic, a bit of a troublemaker, and a contrarian. My work is about challenging the violence of the assimilationist gay movement.

Carlos Motta: When and where were you born?


MBS: I was born in Washington D.C., one of the most horrible places in the world without a question. I grew up in the suburbs in an assimilated Jewish professional family. My parents sexually abused me, and their violence was allowed to remain hidden by their success. In many of ways I learned a lot from that about how systemic violence is camouflaged through class, educational and scholarly attainment. I went to a private high school; I was kind of an overachiever high school student. I went to a fancy East Coast liberal arts college, and thought I had finally gotten away, but when I got there I realized that I wasn’t really getting away and that I was just learning how to become my parents; actually to beat them, but I was beating them on their terms by going to a better college than them, doing better in school, being more of an intellectual and being more challenging and critical. I decided I needed to leave after a year and moved to San Francisco in 1992. That is pretty much where I learned my politics, not in the conventional way, but from radicals, outsider queers, many abuse survivors, people running away, activists, drug addicts, poor people, strippers, anarchists and vegans. It was a whole motley crew and we were all kind of a mess, but we tried to figure ourselves out. That is also where I became involved in Act Up.


CM: Let me go back to when you were growing up as a teenager. How did you come to terms with your sexual orientation and gender identity? How did identify yourself and how was it to be sexually diverse in that context?


MBS: Growing up I was called a “faggot” as long I remember. In school the kids would taunt me on the playground. I didn’t even know what that was, I just knew it was something horrible and it was something I didn’t want to be. I knew that set me apart from everyone else. I think people also hated me for being thoughtful, critical, smart or whatever. I think in fourth grade, I realized what a “faggot” was and I was like: “Oh, that is what I am, but how do they know?” I didn’t really understand that what they were seeing was mostly gender not sexuality, but the two were the same in terms of people's prejudices. They were seeing a queeny little boy. I liked to trade stickers with the girls at recess, I didn’t like to play sports, if we played Greek dodge, I would only dodge, and I liked the teachers better than the students. I internalized the message that this was a horrible thing, and I knew that if I ever said I was a faggot, I would never be anything else to my parents or to the teachers. I was still definitely in my parents’ mold of wanting to be really successful in school and really wanting to beat my father in particular.


CM: When you say you internalized it as a horrible thing, do you mean that you were repressing your identity?


MBS: Yes. But more than that, I would say it was that I didn’t want anyone to know. I would try to do things like seeing how guys walked, and I would try to walk like them. I would look to capture poses, have a hand in my pocket, I would practice those kinds of things, but it never worked. No one ever thought I was anything other than a faggot.


When I was fourteen I started having sex with men in public bathrooms mostly at a department store, but also at libraries and other public spaces in D.C. I would go to bathrooms almost every day after school. It was kind of a compulsion; it wasn’t fun, nothing was fun about it. It was something I needed to do and every time I would say: “I’m never going there again.” I knew I didn’t want to feel it; I didn’t want to feel anything actually. I just wanted to be in my head because it felt safer, I could have some control. I would go to the bathrooms and try not to feel what was happening. I guess what I discovered was that it was a secret world. After going there for a few years, I was more able to inhabit my desire, more than just trying to escape it. There were all these hidden rules, you would slide up a pen underneath the stall wrapped in a piece of toilet paper and it said: “Meet me in the stairwell” or “Let’s go to the third floor bathroom.” I had some adventures and weird conversations.


CM: Did you ever establish affective relationships with any of the people you encountered?


MBS: No. Never.


CM: Did you meet someone that you made friends with?


MBS: No. There were a few people who maybe wanted that. I remember this one guy; he drove me to my father’s office, which is where I would go after school to get a ride home, and he gave me his card. And of course he was a lobbyist! There were people that maybe reached out a little like that, but that was pretty dangerous for someone like that to give a fifteen year old his card.


CM: At what point did you understand that the life that you were constructing for yourself actually had a history and a background? When did you start to think of yourself in political terms and to construct a political articulation of your desire?


MBS: I probably did at the beginning of high school. I realized first that I was never going to belong, and then that I didn’t want to belong with these people who were enacting this kind of violence: The violence of social exclusion, of compulsive masculinity and of class attainment. I didn’t want to be a part of that system and I realized that I didn’t respect my parents on any terms and that I never wanted to have a relationship with them. But of course I had a relationship with them because I was dependent on them, but I didn’t want anything.


I realized that I was really scared in school. I was really introverted and I only wanted to talk to the teachers. I knew that everyone knew I was scared and I thought that I would never find the people that I wanted to meet unless I could show something other than fear. I made a very conscious decision to become more extroverted. I built a kind of a façade and also a sense of invulnerability. If someone called me “faggot,” I would just smile back. The identity I projected then was “freak.” I would also encourage people not care about what other people thought. I encouraged my friends to talk back to their parents and to the teachers. I cultivated that kind sense of self, initially more on the surface, but it ended up actually becoming who I was. But I still didn’t want anyone to know that I was a fag.

CM: When did you come out?


MBS: In college, but I don’t know that I came out. It was just like, “Well of course I’m queer.” It was a different environment where there were queer people. My first identity was “queer” specifically. I never did “gay” because I was already a freak and I wanted to be an outsider. I was already politicized then, especially about issues of environmentalism, misogyny, racism and I was very anti-war because it was around the time of the Gulf War. My high school graduation was the day when President Bush started bombing.


CM: How do you identify now?


MBS: If I had to do it in one little statement it would be: “A gender queer, faggot, and a queen, on the trans continuum, in a gender bending, gender blur kind of place.” But the words I relate to the most are probably “faggot” and “queen.” “Queer” would be more of a broader political identity.


CM: Can you describe to me the queer scene that you found in the early 1990s when you started to work politically and your experience with Act Up?


MBS: I discovered in San Francisco a bustling culture of radical queers that really wanted to live on the margins and that consciously chose to not have a mainstream identity, whether that meant education attainment, gay consumerism, or a conventional status.


When I went to San Francisco I joined Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). The point of Act Up was to challenge the violence of government inaction that was enabling people to die of AIDS. Act Up San Francisco had recently split, so there were two Act Up in San Francisco. One of them was Act Up Golden Gate, which was very focused on “treatment activism” or getting drugs into bodies. Act Up San Francisco focused on several different areas: Universal healthcare, needle exchange, prisoners with HIV/AIDS, and women with HIV. There was a really integrated politic where people said: “You can’t fight AIDS without fighting misogyny, racism, classism and homophobia.” It was all tied together.




I met many at people Act Up who had been activists for generations, including people who never acknowledged exactly what they had done, but were surely militant radical activists in the 1970s that probably bombed buildings. But there were also people who had recently graduated from college. Everyone had a very radical and feminist politic. There was this sense, even in mainstream gay culture, that everyone around us was dying, because they were. Especially in San Francisco, this is before the Protease Inhibitors and before there was really any drugs that worked. It was kind of a given that you were going to meet people who were going to die. In Act Up there was no shame about being HIV positive, the shame was on the government, the politicians, the Church, and the demagogues around the world who were facilitating the mass murder of people with HIV/AIDS.


In queer San Francisco, which at that point was very centered in The Mission, it always felt like people were dying. It wasn’t necessarily AIDS, but also drug addiction and suicide, all three of these were very prevalent and it seemed like that was what happened, people died young. Many people who became my queer heroes, or at least people who I respect, I found out about it in their obituaries. David Wojnarowicz is an example, I read his obituary and I was like, “Oh this person sounds great.” “Fags” living on the margins were dying, so there was that urgency around needing to engage in direct action immediately to change the status quo.


There were a bunch of different activist groups at that time in San Francisco and we all worked together. There was Bay Core, a radical abortion rights group, the Women's Action Coalition (WAC), Queer Nation, and Roots Against War (RAW). At one point another group was started by some people who were involved in RAW that challenged the scapegoating of homelessness. This was at the time when “Matrix Program” was in place in San Francisco, which was a precursor to Giuliani’s “Quality of Life,” from which Giuliani learned a lot. The whole idea was to get rid of homeless people in whatever way they could; they put them in jail, shipped them out of San Francisco, shut off certain neighborhoods, hired private security forces, the whole thing. The first action we did was a “Sleep Out” on the mayor’s steps and we all got arrested.


CM: Can you comment on the changes of the LGBT agenda, from the urgency of the queer activist movement you were part of in San Francisco in 1990s to the “politics of assimilation” that you often reference in your work?


MBS: In 1993 the “March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation” took place in Washington. A bunch of us from different Act Ups from all over the country went in order to have an organized civil disobedience action for universal healthcare. It was modeled after the big Act Up actions from the late 1980s. But it was already a very different political climate; Act Up didn’t have as many members anymore, a sense of apathy had started to emerge. We went to The Capitol where it is very easy to get arrested, but it was a very small action and it didn’t get much media attention. A million people from across the country came to the other march, which was so “assimilationist” in so many different ways. The big issue at the moment was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It was so telling to me, there we were talking about universal healthcare, which is something that would help everyone in the country, and about AIDS, but that march was organized around gays in the military, the fact that gay people should be able to go abroad and kill people. That was such fundamental hypocrisy.

CM: What do you think prompted that change? Was it the fact that Clinton had enacted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and people were immediately responding to that?


MBS: Yes, but actually I think the change began because Clinton was elected and that made many people completely apathetic, it immediately made people feel like, “Oh we’ve arrived…”


CM: It wasn’t Bush anymore...


MBS: Yes. It was like: “We don’t need Act Up anymore, we don’t need to be on the streets, we need to be in the board rooms, we need to be making policy, he’ll let us into the room, we need to be acting more normal and respectable and aiming for his ear.”

CM: Can you explain what you understand as “assimilation”?


MBS: The message of assimilation is the “We’re just like you” mentality, when gay people say: “We are just like straight people, we have no differences, except for who we might want to have sex with.”


The corner stones of gay assimilation have become marriage, military inclusion, adoption, ordination to the priesthood and hate crimes legislation. As queers we grew up in a world that basically wanted us to die or disappear. I think we shouldn’t grow up and want to become part of that same world and change nothing.


The issue of gays in the military is the most obvious. Instead of saying we want to be part of the military, we should be saying that the U.S. is responsible for more violence in the world than any other country, bombing, terrorizing, plundering indigenous resources, and establishing corporate control everywhere. We should be saying we need to end the military, which is a dominant institution of imperial, colonial and genocidal violence.


I would say the majority of us grew up in the ruins of marriage. Why are we now saying that is what we want? What does marriage mean? For decades, queers had been finding ways to live and love outside of marriage, and with the “assimilationist agenda,” it is all thrown in the trash.

CM: Do you think these politics of assimilation respond to the fact that the legislative system is heterosexual? What you asking for is a systemic change in terms of the kind of access that we have to the legislative system?


MBS: I think it is very basic. Marriage has become the answer to everything: citizenship, hospital visitation rights, immigration rights, etc. What are they talking about? They are talking only about the rights of people who are able or willing to conform to that institution, which has a history of thousands of years of oppression. People say marriage is going to solve fundamental issues of inequality, but marriage doesn’t solve anything. In fact, the marriage campaign has drained the resources away from everything else.


One thing that is very different now than in the early 1990s is that back then there was a tension between the gay and queer cultures, between assimilation and a liberationist perspective, between a narrow vision of gay identity and a broader vision of fighting racism, militarism and homophobia, all intertwined. Since the 1990s the assimilationist agenda has become much more powerful.


CM: Because it became professionalized, and because activists started to find positions of power within established organizations?


MBS: I think that is part of it. But also, in the 1990s mega rich people like David Geffen and Rosie O’Donnell started coming out and the priorities of the so-called “Movement” became their priorities. For David Geffen maybe marriage is the last thing standing in the way of his full citizenship, but does that matter if you live on the streets, if you just ran away from home, if you lived in an abusive family or if you are trying to figure out who the hell you are? To say to someone, “If you could get married, you’d have healthcare,” is so horribly violent if you don’t even have a place to live.


Rosie O'Donnell on the cover of People Magazine


My work is about exposing that violence. Most people with power hide behind the rainbow flag and figure out ways to oppress everyone else and get away with it. People ask me what the alternative is and I think the beginning of the alternative is to be able to articulate the horrible violence that is happening and not to conform to this sort of “sweatshop produced rainbow flag” vision of normality.


CM: And also to insist that there people that do not feel represented by that movement, and that there are people that exist outside of those ideas of what being gay, lesbian, or trans is, don’t you think?


MBS: Absolutely, and also to create more space for people on the margin.


CM: In your work you have talked about the idea of opening up more space for people to live better lives, as opposed to taking away things. Can you speak about that?


MBS: When I identify as “queer,” it is just not about being queer sexually, it is about being queer in every way: It is a way of creating alternatives to mainstream notions of love, who you fuck, what you look like, how you eat, and how you live. I want to be able to challenge the violence that is happening. That is what I learned from “direct action activism.”


I was also involved with Gay Shame, a group that emerged in New York in 1998. Originally what we wanted to do was to create a radical alternative to “Gay Pride.” Instead of having an endless gated procession of corporate floats, we thought we would just invite people for free into a space to share skills and strategies for resistance. We had bands, music, dancing and also people talking about welfare reform, trans liberation, or gentrification in New York. We thought we could make culture on our own terms.


When I moved to San Francisco we started Gay Shame there along similar lines, it was a “direct action extravaganza”; we were committed to challenging the hypocrisy, not just of mainstream gay people but also of all hypocrites. We would throw together these very elaborate events like the “Gay Shame Awards” where we awarded the most hypocritical gay people for their service to the community. We had categories like “helping right wingers cope,” “exploiting our youth,” an “award for celebrities who should never have come out in the first place,” etc. The award was a burning rainbow flag.


What was really interesting about Gay Shame’s actions, was that we wanted create a spectacle. We wanted to create something that used the militancy of Act Up, but fused it with spectacle, to focus on reclaiming the streets in an anti-capitalist, extravagant way, so that people would be drawn in.


CM: I want to ask you about the type of work that you are doing now, the books that you edit, and the novels that you write. It seems like your strategy is to be really vocal and out loud to the media in order to reach a mainstream audience.

MBS: I started writing when I was six years old. Writing for me has always been a way to understand the world and to create a place for myself in it. My anthologies are close to “direct action.” In “THAT'S REVOLTING!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation” for example, I put out a politic and look at what is happening in the gay world, the assimilation we have been talking about, but also at another world where people are always creating radical alternatives, which are being erased. This is important because our memory is so quickly erased.

CM: Because it is not documented?


MBS: Yes. And if it is documented it is done in ways that disappear and it is not allowed to be in the center. People will remember “Will and Grace” because it is on fucking reruns on TV all the time, but they might not even know about Gay Shame. I want to do document these histories of radical queer activism, but also to have a conversation amongst ourselves, where we don’t have to be justifying our existence to some right-winger or to some gay assimilationist. I want to create a place where we can actually talk about the things that matter.


CM: How is your work received by the official LGBT organizations? Does it resonate in any way or are you turned down as somebody that is too radical, and they don’t pay attention to it?


MBS: I don’t know. I don’t think I ever heard a response from an organization like that.


CM: Perhaps because you might represent an obstacle to what they are trying to achieve?


MBS: Yes, that is my theory too. The mainstream gay organizations, and especially the “marriage agenda” are very comfortable with the Christian right even though it is supposedly their a devout enemy. They are very comfortable because they can win any argument against them. If you have someone who says, “You’re going to burn in hell, all queers are going to burn in hell,” it is a very easy argument to win. It is much harder to win an argument against another person who is queer and says, “Guess what? Actually marriage is not the priority I think we should have as a movement…” I think those organizations very consciously make sure that radical queer opinions are shut out of the media. That conversation is very rare, it happens occasionally, but a radical queer opinion is very marginalized. We don’t have twenty million dollars to spend on a media campaign.


Another thing that I have been really consciously trying to do is to infiltrate the straight left media establishment. The straight left has bought the gay mainstream agenda entirely because they never did their work about anything queer. Now they have realized that it is not really cool to never talk about queer issues, so they have the fucking Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the most right wing gay national organization, on their programs all the time speaking as if that was a left agenda! The left establishment sucked in this entire stupid, insipid and reactionary agenda. I think it is because of homophobia and from their fear of not having done anything for thirty years. They are afraid of saying that the gay marriage movement is a “crock of shit.”


CM: Are you interested in a form of social organizing that may eventually have some kind of policy effect? To some extent the gay liberation movement began at the level of discursive infiltration but it moved towards policy change.

MBS: Unfortunately gay liberation failed. It failed because the original goals, end of the Church, end of the State, end of the nuclear family, end to U.S. militarism, a broad agenda of sexual liberation, none of that has happened. The reason it failed for me is because it turned inwards, it became part of the mainstream and it became part of the institutional structures.


I am not interested in becoming part of those structures in any form. I don’t even want my own structure. I believe in building something on the margins, whatever that means, and I am interested in infiltrating the mainstream media. I am interested in creating our own media structures, I am interested in creating radical alternatives, but not in terms of a narrow policy or legal framework. I think some of those legal battles are important, like the battle against sodomy, the battle to be able to determine your gender identity, or the battle to end to the prison system.


Becoming part of the National Gay Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and changing it or something, doesn’t do anything. It will still be an institution that does nothing except take people’s money and speak to the center. I don’t want to speak to the center. I am fine with speaking in the center and saying what I want. I had the opportunity of being on “Democracy Now!” debating with Lt. Dan Choi, which happened because I wrote a scathing critique of Amy Goodman consistently having Dan Choi on and never questioning him. This is the most famous anti-war program in the U.S., and she has this pro-war person on over and over and over again… That was great for me because that is the conversation that never happens.


CM: Did you send her a letter?


MBS: I actually wrote a scathing critique and they responded to it. When a left program speaks about marriage, military, hate crime legislation, etc., they should have a queer person on who is against those things as well, and doesn’t want to strengthen the same racist, classist, homophobic, hideous, violent, criminal legal system…


I received more feedback about that interview on “Democracy Now!” than anything else I have done, including my entire books. In that sense I am totally interested in being on those programs and debating, having an actual conversation between queers about the issues that supposedly mattered to queers, instead of having a straight homophobe debating a gay person, or a single gay person talking.


It is a cliché in a way to think that the margins determine the center, but it is true. If there are no margins, the center will never change. I guess the question is: “How do you create space without becoming part of that same structure, like the gay establishment has become?”

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The weather

I want to tell you something about the weather, no I mean I want to tell you something. I want to tell you how I'm feeling, no I mean I want to tell you how I'm not feeling, I mean I don't want to feel this way. Don't want to write about it either, really – or, I want to write about it more than I want to feel it, but actually when I feel this way it's hard to write about it. It's hard to write.

Soon I'm going on a walk, a walk to feldenkrais, a mile away, which sounds awfully far but at least that means I'll get some exercise. Then a mile back, that part is usually easier, I'll feel better, although right now that's hard to imagine. Trying to wake up my brain with something, but nothing seems to work. I looked through the paper to see if there was a movie I wanted to watch; there isn't. We don't get very many good movies here in Santa Fe – sometimes there's something that looks kind of okay, but not inspiring enough to actually get there, and then when I think oh, maybe I'll go see that movie about – what's her name? I can't remember. Some New York critic, a whole movie by Francis Ford Coppola, really? No, that sounds terrible. I mean it's not playing anyway.

Actually I read the whole weekly paper, in search of something interesting – nothing. No, I skipped the cover story – "The Hispanic Century?” Yes, the word "Hispanic" is alive and well here in Santa Fe, even in the supposed alternative paper, the one that always wants to tell you how great it is to live in Santa Fe, I mean I hope they're getting paid by the bureau of tourism or whatever. Okay, the weather: the weather is nice. The sun is out but it's not terribly hot. Not that it helps me, I mean here comes the sinus headache, okay maybe I'll sit out in the sun for a few minutes just to make sure, I mean just to see if maybe it will help, I definitely need some help, that's for sure.

My review of Jennifer Natalya Fink's Thirteen Fugues, in Time Out New York…

Here it is – it seems there's a strange typo at the beginning of the final paragraph, so feel free to fill in with the word(s) of your choice…

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The tall gangly flowers with leaves at the very bottom that turn orange when they get dry

Somehow I wake up feeling like today's the day, the day when I have energy because I actually slept okay, but sadly this delusional moment only lasts until I leave the house, walk for 10 or 15 minutes to get to my doctor's appointment and then I'm a mess, the doctor is asking all these annoying questions like what does it mean when I feel terrible or what does it mean when I feel worse or – I don't know – all these annoying questions and whenever I explain something she doesn't really seem to understand so why am I trying to understand I mean explain it just makes me more exhausted and annoyed and over it and ready to leave. Then she's asking me about anorexia again, why is she asking me about anorexia? I mean I was anorexic when I was a teenager and that was 20 years ago and now I regret I even said anything, she brings it up every time. I don't even want to talk about the doctor anymore, I thought it would make me feel less exhausted but now I feel more exhausted, and also my hands are sweating, why are my hands sweating, something about how when it's warmer out during the day then at night it suddenly get warmer I mean even when it's cooler out it's warmer inside. Then the doctor gave me some kind of cream to put up my nose so that it doesn't get so dried out in all of this desert air, but I'm pretty sure that this fucking cream contains some kind of synthetic fragrance, really a fragrance I can smell it but I put it in my nose anyway and then my nose starts running, and after that the cream dries out my nose and I have to put some other oil in – oh, the desert the doctor the desert the doctor!

Then my mother is trying to tell me to go to some other stupid doctor, I mean talk to her gastroenterologist and what the fuck is that going to do, I mean really, I mean she's already suggested this stupid doctor about 45 times and I already went to see a gastroenterologist and he wanted me to get an endoscopy because he owns the endoscopy clinic, I mean he said it was just a routine procedure to stick a tube down your throat and pull out some tissue, of course it wouldn't hurt. But I don't have a problem in my throat, I mean not before the endoscopy anyway, which my mother also thought was crazy and that is why she wanted me to talk to this gastroenterologist who isn't even in the same city as me, just what I need – another fucking doctor. I mean I didn't get the endoscopy, don't worry. But anyway here's my doctor who I kind of like in some ways but just waiting in her office makes me feel edgy there's no air in this room and the probiotics she gave me that are supposed to heal my gut just immediately gave me a horrible intestinal cramp and it made me feel like she wasn't listening to me, why did she give me something so complicated, something that tasted like Sweet Tarts I guess because of the vitamin C which she thinks is necessary but I can't take any of it, even 1/8 of a teaspoon gave me pain and she wants to know if everything is worse or if something is better, no everything is worse. But especially my energy, that's what the medication really did it brought me so so much lower and I knew that would happen but now that it’s happening it feels like a shock.

She wants to know if I'm suicidal – another annoying fucking question that I guess they have to ask, but I didn't say anything about feeling suicidal I don't feel suicidal I just feel horrible, completely exhausted, I mean everything is always an effort but now everything feel so much harder, all that sadness surrounding me in my exhaustion and making everything worse and the thing I hate the most, except when the doctor asks about anorexia, is when she sort of finishes my sentences for me, and of course finishes them wrong, because now they're not my sentences and I guess I'm going to do another stool test to see if the medication did anything to the parasites or if it was all just an attack on me, oh me, my life, get me out of his office please, okay great first I have to pay $150 and I mean she did say that at least she could fix the problem of finding a nose balm, but not even that, I could call the compounding pharmacy to find out what oil they use, she didn’t know, it's not petroleum, but now we already know that I stuck it up my nose and why, oh another why, here's my mother on the phone and the sad thing is that after I get off I want to call her back and tell her about the plants, the ones we got to plant outside, how they're doing, I mean I told her that some of them were doing well and some of them needed too much water, but I didn't tell her about this one succulent with the delicate leaves that spreads out so fast, the tall gangly flowers with leaves at the very bottom that turn orange when they get dry, the grasses alternating between gray-blue and whitish tan-brown, with little spindly parts, what do you call those?

Oh, and another thing the doctor asks: do you experience joy? Yes I experience joy, but it fades so fast – I mean just then I was talking about the plants, growing outside, thinking of those colors and shapes and watching them change, but then I thought about your annoying question again. And yes, I experience so much less joy now, I mean since the medication sucked out so much of my – so much of my what? So much of my cushion – sure, I see one of those tiny birds, and notice the red feathers by it’s head, that childlike excitement at discovery, but then it's back to this broken shut-off empty crowded losing it longing help no help no help I mean I'm so fucking drained that it's hard even to channel that drive that always gets me something, I mean helps me to do something that will help me to do something I mean feel something other than this feeling that everything is too much.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Rules of disengagement

There's something about that charge that makes me want that charge, right? I mean that charge from sex that actually feels connected, even when it leads to a dead-end there's still that feeling in my body pulsing for more yes more, and somehow that leads to this guy who I'm not attracted to – he's nice, actually, which can't be said for many of the people I am attracted to, but we'll get to that in a moment. With this guy I end up thinking let me just see if something in my body has really changed and now I can get fucked without too much difficulty, true enough it's true I mean it turns out to be true, in this second case too, even though it feels like some kind of physical experiment, afterwards I feel distant and annoyed, the kind of sex where you’re searching for the charge no I know there really isn't any charge and I'm going there anyway, that's what makes me sad. Like turning a trick and he even kind of looks like a trick, middle-aged but trying to hold onto youth slipping away and I wonder whether that uneasy resonance will ever leave in situations like this.

Then my energy drops down so low for the next few days, I'm not going to connect that to the disconnected sex necessarily, just terrible sleep and the aftereffects of the magnificent anti-parasite medications, specifications, ruminations, and what brings me out of this low? I mean nothing brings me out, but somehow I'm connecting with this guy who responded to my earlier post but then he flaked out, something about the weather and that was the day with a blizzard, gusts of wind although he was driving, right? I mean everyone here drives everywhere. And I'm looking for escape, that’s familiar, escape from the low of this low below low, and he responds right away, more emails but then he tells me he wants to text, hates email, I hate texting even more than email I mean I won't do it at all, never have, know it would hurt my hands and heart too much anyway so I call.

He sounds older and somehow what’s in his voice doesn't sound connected to his voice, something about how he's at his business downtown filling out tax forms but damn his pictures are hot, he wants to know if I want to meet him at a bar – I don't really drink, I say, but we could go on a walk or something. No, this isn't on the phone, it's from before – he's going to a bar for a drink, and then he'll call me later. He actually calls, wants me to text him my address, no this is a landline. He has text-to-landline service, he'll call a cab after he finishes his second cocktail, but wait, do you have anything to drink at your house? I have water. That won't work – maybe I'll stop somewhere on the way.

So, you can see how this doesn't exactly sound promising, right? But what could be promising about sex from the online world except that physical connection in spite of everything else, right? I don't know if I find that promising anymore, but no one’s promising me anything else, so, well, here we go. He's wearing the sunglasses from the first picture he showed me, the ones that make his face looks small – it's pitch dark outside, but I guess brighter inside, so he keeps them on while he asks me to pour his drink for him, I guess he likes people to do things for him, I'm kind of amused.

Did I tell you that he takes cabs everywhere when he's drinking, because one time when he was 17 he ended up crashing into four cars, and then another time when he was 19 and he got a DUI, but they changed it to a DWI and ever since then he doesn't do anything illegal, no he doesn't do anything illegal that will get him caught. He takes his sunglasses off, something sparkling in his eyes, along with disdain and alcohol or maybe that's just my attraction, he wants to know if I ever party, can't remember whether he told me he used to be a stripper, did the whole thing, porn, all of it, his mother died when he was 15 so he never had anyone to rely on, stripped from 18 to 22 and now he owns three businesses, moved here two years ago to open a spot, it's the biggest small city he's ever lived in – in June he's moving to Hollywood to open another business but he'll be here two weeks out of the month, promoting the business is a 24-hour thing.

What are the other small cities you've lived in, I ask. There are none. Oh – where else have you lived? Phoenix, Los Angeles. I tell him I moved from San Francisco – he likes San Francisco, the clam chowder at Fisherman's Wharf, and before I have a chance to call him a tourista he says something about how he used to strip at the Back Bar, downtown somewhere and Pier 51. Do you mean the Bench and Bar in Oakland? That's right. But what was on Pier 51? Club Papi -- he did the circuit -- Hollywood, Las Vegas, San Francisco, somewhere else, he was a Club Papi dancer, and I can't decide why exactly he's telling me all this, I guess to impress or scandalize me, like when he told me about the DUI at 17 he emphasized the 17 part, said something about how he shouldn't have been in the bar in the first place, right?

17 seems like the time for bars to me. I can tell he’s the type who will just talk about himself for ever and ever, not interested in anyone else and he's telling me about how it's hard to break through, something about how he doesn't fall in love easily, drinks the rest of his cocktail, asks me if I have any candles, something more romantic. Funny because I turned on more lights before he got here, always forget that people like dim lighting no I don't forget I mean it's just not my thing, I change the lights and when he comes out of the bathroom he says do you want to go in the bedroom, sure. I guess we were making out a bit on the sofa, once he finished the drink or whatever, now he lies down on my bed and I think about how the smell of his cologne is going to get into my comforter, but I lie on top of him anyway, we're kissing and then he says he doesn't like to kiss that much so I'm kissing his chest, biting his nipples, licking just beneath his armpits because I can't tell if he's wearing deodorant, probably not because there’s a stale sweat smell, much better than deodorant I'm just glad the cologne was mostly on the jacket.

Then he pushes my head down to his crotch, sounds good to me, and then he does that thing where he slams his dick into my throat right away like he’s testing me, no problem I'll go there and now he's hard, asking me the standard questions like do I like his cock and I'm giving him the standard answers, I mean with his cock in my throat and he keeps grabbing the back of my head, no problem but it would be easier if I angle to the side, at some point I say that but he says no I want you to get used to it, silly top talk but actually I think it's that thing of him imitating the way people treat you when you’re a hooker, you know how his stories weren’t really adding up I mean he didn't make enough money at Club Papi and the Bench Bar to open a business, that's for sure, but he certainly might still be in the business, if you know what I mean. But now I'm sucking his cock and he wants to see my ass, show business, he likes it, tells me he wants to come in my mouth and then in my ass, I know that means just in my mouth because he'll be tired afterwards and that's perfect, just what I want so he stands up and thrusts it into the back of my throat and somewhere in here I'm thinking about how he’s an asshole but I'm totally attracted to him, not the asshole part but his features, whatever that means, or maybe part of his features is the asshole part, but anyway then I swallow his come and he’s pulling up his pants, just what I thought so I put on my clothes too, forgot to tell you I took them off I guess and he goes into the other room for his phone, that's right I heard it ringing, he goes outside while I get more water, then I smell smoke, oh no, I close the door while he's talking on the phone.

He comes back in and says he has to go meet someone at the bar, Coyote Grill or something like that, have I been there? 25-dollar cocktails and steaks and fish, expensive but it's worth it, sounds like my type of place. He was supposed to meet these women earlier – I'm the cute young boy for them to be seen with, he says. But they'll spend $500 on one visit to my spa -- I'll give you a call later if you want to hook up again, that's what he tells me, but when does he tell me about how he's spending $17,000 to have all his top teeth replaced and his teeth did look particularly shiny, but no these are his old teeth, see the way those two in the middle aren't even, he could get braces for a year but instead he's having the front 10 shaved down to little nubs, fake teeth on top, and also he'll have everything move forward 10 millimeters to make his lips puffier, a bit further out too so his jaw is fuller, costs $1700 a tooth and since he owns three businesses his expenses are $15,000 a month, that's a lot for someone who's 23, usually he doesn't like to tell people about all of this because then they have ulterior motives for getting to know him.

23 my ass is what I'm thinking, but who knows really, when you get all that plastic surgery so young it always makes you look older – don't get me wrong, he's hot as hell, I'll let him talk at me about stupid crass consumerism and then fuck my face any day, even when he tries to get shady and says you look younger in your pictures. Younger and shorter. Do you party at all, he says. I'm just curious.

Then his cab is here, we hug goodbye, a kiss too and when he leaves I feel kind of satisfied, one of those strange interactions with that type of person I never want to know but somehow I know too well, from sex work and bars and sex spaces but anyway it was kind of fun, and then he actually does call, can't decide if I should answer because I'm getting ready for bed, definitely don't want to have sex again now, already told him probably not tonight but then I answer out of curiosity anyway, oh great a text-to-landline message, and here's what it says: "hey brother if you want to kick again you need to shower sorry brother but you were pretty rank."

Gross – why did he have to ruin it? Now I'm annoyed and can't figure out whether he's just saying something silly and shady because he's drunk, whether he's just trying to disavow his desires since remember, he's the one who said we should get together again later, or whether he actually did think I smelled. I mean he was pretty smelly, especially his crotch, but not in an overwhelming way, and I'm pretty sure I didn't really smell at all, although of course we all have different senses of smell, right, and I certainly wasn't wearing cologne or deodorant, to some people that might translate as smelly I guess. But the annoying part is this text-to-landline thing, there's no way to figure out exactly what he means and so I get ready for bed.

In the morning of course I'm still thinking about it, trying to decide whether I should call or email or just ignore the whole thing, I don't want to have sex with some pompous self-obsessed asshole anyway. I guess email would just be so I wouldn't have to talk to him, do you see how even the smallest thing just circles around in my head, like I keep going back and forth about email or phone, I mean I always think email is a terrible means of communication, and then when I start thinking about calling I notice I get kind of scared, what am I scared of? Some annoying interaction, I guess, something that feels like less truth rather than more, something that drains me or makes me sad, but when I realize I'm actually afraid of calling him, that's when I decide I have to call him, just to get over that fear, right?

So here I am all nervous at the first ring, second, third, fourth, oh good it's voicemail, his name or the name he told me anyway and not the name that shows up on my caller ID, and that's when I really think kept boy, right? But what do I say? Hey, I got your text-to-landline message, and I didn't respond right away so I missed my chance and then I thought I could email, but you don't like email so I'm calling. I couldn't figure out whether you were just being shady or whether it was something serious – I had fun last night and of course I don't mind taking a shower beforehand if we end up getting together again, but it was obvious that you didn't take a shower beforehand this time, so I assume you would next time, but actually that didn't bother me, what bothers me is cologne so if you wouldn't mind not wearing cologne, that would be great – anyway, hope you had a fun night, and feel free to call or email any time.

When I hang up I feel so relieved. I mean I'm pretty certain this guy isn't going to call me again, but I'm so glad I was able to say what was bothering me without getting shady, that I didn't let it stew in my head forever and ever or just say forget it and play by the rules of disengagement that I hate so much. Now I feel relaxed and ready for a new day and new promises and new possibilities, but I guess all I have right now is a new day.