Sunday, July 31, 2011

Connection

Santa Fe is a tricky place. I'm walking down the street, thinking why the hell do I live in this place, there's nothing for me here, there isn't even anywhere to go except on aimless walks looking for connection and I never find it. But then I look up at the sky, the clouds towering the mountains, oh. Or: I go into an art gallery, study the way the light comes through the colors in these paintings of trees, single bend and broken trees surrounded by sky. Or, in another gallery, large-format photographs of decaying buildings in Africa, one of them is a formerly grand hotel in Mozambique where now it looks like people are living, maybe squatting, it looks like a rundown housing project except for that huge crumbling veranda, laundry hanging at the edge and the person working in the gallery is so friendly in her clunky cork wedgies, maybe those shoes are getting popular again. She opens up another building to show me more of the photos – I ask about the muted colors, she says he does something to make it that way, tonight there’s an opening and the artist will be there. Where is he from, I ask. Johannesburg, she says – although I don't think he lives there anymore, somewhere else in South Africa – I'm not sure where. I better study up before tonight, so I know the answers to these questions.

People are friendly in galleries here, I mean the people working there. Or, not always – in the gallery with the trees, the owner-type-person didn't even acknowledge me – he was directing someone to pack up one of the pieces, ship it off today. In the second gallery, the art isn't for sale and I like this woman, just a little bit of connection and I feel better. The walk back to my house doesn't feel as draining.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A history that's disappearing

Yes, I’m here at the Denver Swim Club, but swimming. isn’t part of the agenda. But what is the agenda, exactly? On the way here, I kept thinking I was too tired to go on, especially when I got off the bus because my feet started hurting, the ride was too long, and then I sat down on the side of Colfax, thinking it would be cooler outside since the sun was going down, but it was so hot it was stunning. I kept thinking I was going to cross the street and go home, but eventually the express bus came, and I got on that instead.

At the door, the employees stare at me like they can’t figure out what I’m doing there. That seems to happen a lot in sex spaces these days, and maybe it’s always happened but no, now it seems more pronounced. I guess I don’t look like what sex club customers are supposed to look like, which I think means that I’m too friendly, too clean-cut, maybe too young in appearance and not so abject, I’m not sure. Of course I’ve been going to these places for 20 years now, but that’s certainly not how the employees look at me, that’s for sure. One of the employees says: can I help you? Like maybe I've wandered into the wrong place.

They make you sign something at the door that says you won’t do any illegal drugs, or have any unprotected sex, which is especially funny because the two guys working the door or the register or the entry area, whatever it’s called behind the maybe-bulletproof glass – those two guys are completely twacked. No, something beyond twacked I think – twackerjacked. One of them is super-skinny and Latino, chewing on his time while his eyes bulge in and out and he waits for instructions from the other one, shaved chest with stubble growing, nipples hanging there from too much steroid use in the past I'm guessing.

I didn’t really come here because I was horny, I came here because this is a piece of gay history, a history that’s disappearing. On the way I was thinking: I better go now, while I’m here. Even though I don’t have any energy. They’re playing sex-club standards like “I like to move it move it” with that rattle Latino house beat, they always used to play that one at the West Side Club in New York when I went there over 10 years ago, what an awful place. But then everything else sounds like Lady Gaga. Or maybe Lady Gaga sounds like everything else. Like nothing. “I want you-ooh – to take control of me-ee.” And then: “We need a taxi because you’re hung oh-ver… Get up and shake the glitter off your clothes now – that’s what you get for waking up in Ve-gas… Get up and put your money where your mouth is – that’s what you get for waking up in Ve-gas.”

The place isn’t empty, but there’s only one guy I’m attracted to. Eventually I end up in the porn room on one of the mattresses they have arranged on risers, sucking his cock and that’s fine until I realize he’s not touching me, so I sit up to kiss him, but that doesn’t last long, and then he’s just sit-lying there like a blow-up doll or something, I can’t figure out what he wants so I kiss him again and say I’m going to walk around. There’s an indoor pool with a big mural, I like the smiling shark more than the guy in the pool jerking off. But everything looks gray in that room, even the water.

Eventually I find the outdoor pool, which is more cheerful, big square colored tarps covering the fence that separates us from Colfax or the parking lot, forming a fabric rainbow as the sun goes down. There’s a guy holding onto a pink raft in the pool, talking on his cellphone. How deep is the pool, I wonder. I walk to the back: grass! Flowers! It’s not exactly pretty, but it kind of makes me want to play like a kid. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen in a place like this.

Back inside, walking across soggy office carpet. Maybe I’m here because my hair looks good, you have to do something when you like your hair, right? I almost write this on a bandaid box, but then I remember I can use paper towels, that will work better. I’m getting more tired. I should leave. Back around again, I do like that smiling shark. And, an octopus. Outside, I’m sitting on a chair looking out at the sky and someone comes over and sits next to me, takes off his towel and puts it on his lap. I can’t tell if he’s cruising me. He’s pretty cute, but I can’t really imagine having sex. I forgot – no one’s having sex here. I mean I haven’t seen anything yet, except annoying muscleboy porn and a few guys jerking off under towels, staring blankly at the screen. Some Latino queens – one of them got pushed by another into the indoor pool, shrieking until I walked in and then, were they trying to act straight? It’s interesting that now these places are more racially diverse than most gay spaces, but still empty.

The only really snotty, distant ones are middle-aged white guys who were once the cream of the crop. The guy who’s dick I sucked was Asian, a hint of bleach in his hair giving it a reddish tone, or maybe that's the light in here. This guy who’s maybe cruising me is Latino, is he the same one who was in the pool earlier on. I notice there’s a waterfall coming over the roof somehow, pouring into the pool, and I wonder if that’s to camouflage the sound of sex from the street. I mean, when there is sex. I like the poster in the back corner, a naked guy bound and gagged, with the heading “Got Attitude Tied Up.” And, underneath: “Be Submissive and Safe.”

There are no condoms in any of the public spaces, only one in each room. No lube. I say to this guy sitting next to me: I think it’s funny they have a waterfall. He mumbles something, but I’m not sure what exactly. I try again: I like the waterfall!

He says: they have another one in the indoor pool, I think it’s broken. Then he walks over to the pool, and dives in. I notice the pink-and-white striped petunias in big silver Romanesque planters. I don’t usually like petunias, but these are pretty. The guy in the pool swims over to the waterfall: oh, you can climb into a raised part of the pool and then the water hits your back, flesh in a fountain I guess. His back.

The sky is dark now, you almost can’t see the clouds. I watch the light from the club as it filters through the translucent pink raft, making it look like there are glowing yellow bubbles on top. There’s another raft, clear and shark-shaped and I watch as it floats towards the pink raft, slowly gliding through the bluish water. I look up at the sky, back down at the rafts. When they meet I turn to go back inside.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New adventures, I hope...

Things I’ll miss about Denver: buses that actually take me where I want to go. Living right by a real bookstore, where I can go inside and browse all I want, find articles in magazines that I wouldn’t know about, look at new and used books, sit down at actual tables and chairs, use the bathroom, wander around, kind of get lost. There is no real bookstore in Santa Fe, as far as I’m concerned. There are serious limitations to the Tattered Cover in terms of their ordering, but I’ll get to that later, if I can just find that piece of paper where I wrote everything down. What else will I miss? Thrift stores that I can get to without getting a ride, and get home too. At least one great record store. Maybe seeing people out on the street, although these aren’t really the people I want to see anyway.

I will not miss the terrible air, the ugly buildings, the way everything is so flat, uniform, grid-like. Maybe I’ll miss the view of the mountains from this balcony, and the way this apartment actually stays cool during the day. But I’m looking forward to hearing all those birds in the morning, going on walks where everything seems beautiful or maybe not everything, but where there’s beauty that I don’t need to look for. I’m ready for fresh air, although I’m not sure how much I’ll get of it, with all the fire I mean. I’m ready to be back home, whatever that is, even if relatively soon I’ll be getting ready to leave I guess. I’m ready to be back home, so that I can get ready to leave. No – I’m ready to be back home, so I can feel like I’m home.

I’m not looking forward to the dryness, that’s for sure. At least I tried it – now I know that the desert air doesn’t help me, at least not in any way that I can sense. Might even make things worse. In Denver at least I only have to put moisturizer on my hands a few times a day. Maybe I’ll even miss the humidity, as much as I’ve always hated humidity, but yes I’m ready to be back in that tiny town, going on my familiar walks, feeling familiar comforts and loneliness no I’m not ready for loneliness, familiar or unfamiliar, but still.

Oh – and I’ll miss my new friends in Denver, and this anarcho-queer world that certainly doesn’t exist in Santa Fe at all. But, I’m also ready to be back with my new old friends, ready for all that space and sky and adobe and new adventures in the high desert, here’s to new adventures…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We Die, You Get Married

Coming Out for Change,” Richard Kim’s recent piece in The Nation (July 18/25, 2011), starts by talking about the risks that Pulitzer Prize-winning gay Filipino journalist Jose Antonio Vargas took when he recently came out as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine. Coming out as the definitive act of gay identity has in recent years lost much of its power—while some still use the act as a brazen challenge to status quo normalcy, often it’s a self-congratulatory ritual of initiation into a vapid consumer gay culture more concerned with accessing straight privilege than challenging social norms. But when Vargas and other immigrant rights activists (both queer and straight) come out as undocumented, they consciously use this act of disclosure as a challenge to racist, xenophobic immigration laws.

There’s much to critique about the mainstream immigrant rights movement, especially it’s obsession with portraying all immigrants as flag-waving patriots who just want to “clean your floors” and “grow your food,” or maybe go to college on scholarship and get a good job at Morgan Stanley. The DREAM Act, the signature piece of legislation that many undocumented immigrants risk deportation in order to promote, would offer a potential path to citizenship only for those “of good moral character” who arrived in the US before age 16, and are able to complete a four-year college degree or enlist in the military for a six-year term. When questioned about whether this is just another opportunity for the US military to use people of color as cannon fodder in unjust wars, DREAM Act activists, mostly of the hyper-achiever college set, steadfastly maintain that everyone should have the “right” to join the military. In spite of this limiting rhetoric, there is no doubt that, when undocumented immigrants come out about their status with the hopes of enacting social change, they are risking their lives, or at the very least their future in this country.

When Richard Kim compares Jose Antonio Vargas’s brave act of publicly declaring his undocumented status to that of gay couples “willing to weaponize their personal lives” in the fight for gay marriage in New York, it’s a strange comparison. What exactly were these gay couples risking with their disclosure? Certainly not deportation.

Kim goes on to laud the work of gay marriage proponents who “looked at their friends, neighbors and elected officials and told their stories with an urgency that precipitated a crisis, that forced a choice: you’re either with me, or you’re with the haters – but you can’t have it both ways.” This is exactly the strategy the gay marriage movement has used to systematically shut queer critiques of marriage out of the national conversation, insisting that there are only two sides to the debate – whitewashed straight-acting gay people, and rabid anti-gay Christian fundamentalists. But what about decades of queer (and straight) critiques of marriage? If you point out that marriage is still a central site of anti-women, anti-child, anti-queer and anti-trans violence, you must be a raging homophobe, right? If you think the single-issue obsession with access to marriage shoves aside decades of radical queer visions of kinship, love, lust, intimacy, family and community not predicated on state approval, you certainly must be in bed (or in the bushes) with Michele Bachmann (post-nuptially, of course). Richard Kim, an erstwhile critic of the gay marriage movement, should know better than to participate in the silencing strategy of the gay establishment.

Kim goes even further when he declares that the gay marriage movement “calls out accommodation as farce, and it converts sympathy into radical energy.” It’s hard to imagine anything more accommodationist than the flag-waving (yes, gay people love those stars-and-stripes too), “we’re just like you” rhetoric of a movement that insists that accessing tacky, outdated, oppressive institutions (marriage, the military, even the priesthood!) is the only way towards “full citizenship.”

Kim calls this the “politics of personal crisis,” and compares it to the actions of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) activists in demanding government accountability for the mass deaths of friends and lovers in the beginning of the AIDS crisis. But there’s an important difference: AIDS activists were (and are) fighting for people’s lives. Gay marriage proponents are fighting for tax breaks and inheritance rights. ACT UP demanded (and continues to demand, where chapters still exist) access to life-saving medications for people with AIDS, but also universal healthcare for everyone. The gay marriage movement argues that marriage solves fundamental problems of inequality – that’s right, if you’re HIV-positive, addicted to heroin, and homeless, just find someone with a nice stock portfolio and a good health plan to marry, and you’re set!

While Richard Kim argues that the most powerful legacy of ACT UP was the Ryan White CARE Act, “which in principle guarantees that nobody dies of AIDS in America because they can’t afford drugs,” he’s missing the point. Sure, Ryan White was an important legislative victory, but the power of ACT UP always existed in the potential to create radical systems of care, conflict and controversy outside the halls of officialdom, forcing change within. When Kim says, “What began as a movement based on friendship and interpersonal relations became something more egalitarian and far-reaching; it became a part of government,” could he really be talking about the same government that, as Jose Antonio Vargas points out, deported 800,000 undocumented people in the last two years? What kind of egalitarian system guns down migrants on its borders, supports every corporate-cozy dictator it can get its hands on, and consistently guts social services (Ryan White funding included) to continue vicious wars of aggression?

ACT UP not only forced the US government and the scientific establishment to hasten the approval of drugs that eventually became life-prolonging, but it articulated an oppositional queer politic that made connections between government neglect of people with AIDS and structural homophobia and racism; between the US war machine and the lack of funding for healthcare; between misogyny and the absence of resources for women with AIDS; between the war on drugs and the abandonment of HIV-positive drug addicts and prisoners. The gay marriage movement does just the reverse: enforces (or “weaponizes,” as Richard Kim phrases it) a single-issue politic at the cost of broader social change, literally funneling tens of millions of dollars into the drive for gay legitimacy while the needs of queers (and everyone else) with the least access are ignored. It’s the gay marriage movement, with its stranglehold on resources – political, intellectual, emotional and financial – that is preventing the kind of activism represented by ACT UP. The popular ACT UP chant, “We die, you do nothing” might now be rephrased as “We die, you get married.”

Maybe not as horrible or hopeless

The other day I decided to call my mother when I was annoyed at her, although now I can’t remember what I was annoyed about. All I remember is that it didn’t work. I mean I wanted to call her while I was still feeling annoyed, rather than after it dissipated, or after she went to bed and then I could leave a message and act like I felt okay, or at least not annoyed, but I decided to call in the moment because I’m trying to break that pattern, right? The pattern of waiting, processing everything in my head over and over, which just ends up making me more exhausted. But then I called her. And I felt worse.

Today I called her, and I wasn’t annoyed, or maybe I was a little annoyed that she kept calling me, and I did think oh, I could call her back after she goes to bed, and not tell her that I’m taking the bus home, because when I started talking about the bus she got all worried, I’m not sure exactly what she was worried about, probably because it’s not an official bus line exactly and it goes to Mexico and they only take cash, and I think when I said something about that was when my mother started getting worried but maybe also because the bus to Santa Fe is too long for me and my body will be ruined and also it’s too late at night so my fragile sleep will get worse, but anyway I decided to call her before she went to bed. And she didn’t even say anything annoying, or I don’t think so, I mean she offered to make any calls I needed, but oh, here she is on the phone again.

But wait – first let me tell you how I ended up feeling: part of this is because I’m so exhausted, maybe I didn’t realize how exhausted I was before I called. Or no, I did realize how exhausted I was, but then maybe I forgot? Sometimes it’s hard to think that I’m always this exhausted, and then when I’m this exhausted and I start talking to my mother, it can only become a flood of speechlessness that then makes me feel like I’m an awful person, just because I can’t respond to simple questions or I’m completely annoyed and angry even, and then angry at myself, but anyway, here’s my mother again. Now she’s offering to pay the exorbitant rate it would take to rent a car to drive back, since someone was going to drive with me, but then I called all the car rental companies and almost every one was totally booked, and the one that wasn’t booked was insanely overpriced, several hundred dollars more than I expected, I guess because it’s a one-way rental, and also because they charge a drop-off fee, but then I guess the reason every company was booked was because of a hailstorm at the airport that damaged all these planes, or least that’s what someone working for one of these companies said to me.

I don’t even know if I want my mother to pay this ridiculous amount for the car rental – I mean I appreciate the offer, but it almost sounds unethical. Or do I just feel guilty about the privilege of paying an exorbitant fee for something that should cost much less? I don’t know. I do know that I wanted to tell my mother about my reading, but when she asked I just felt so exhausted that I couldn’t say anything, and then when she acted excited that made me more exhausted. And so, now that she’s back on the phone, I try to tell her something, I mean I do tell her about it, and she does ask questions, and actually some of her questions are about the questions that other people asked, and I still feel just as exhausted, but maybe not as horrible or hopeless, is that really what I mean? Yes, that’s what I mean – I just thought about it. If I think about it too much more, I’ll get more exhausted.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Integrated

One of the amazing things about doing a reading is when I connect with people who are already connected with my work – immediately there’s this intimacy, a shared experience of facing the world, and I love it! A great crowd too in Denver—interested in the textures of writing as well as the politics. Sometimes when I was on tour for So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, I felt like people didn’t know what to do with this crazy text – they were immersed politically in my work, but not necessarily textually, stylistically, formally. Which is fine, of course – but, a little awkward when it’s the whole audience. Especially when I give so much in my performance, right?

But this time it wasn’t that way at all – people were really laughing, and asking great questions both textually and politically. That’s a strange word – textually. Because, if it’s a question about the text, it is textual, right? I guess that’s what happened sometimes when I was on tour – actually the questions weren’t necessarily about So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, but about my other work – activism, politics, anthologies. Here in Denver it all felt integrated, which made me feel integrated – and, it was the first reading I’ve done since leaving San Francisco nine months ago, crazy. Because, I haven’t actually found a good reading in Santa Fe. Or any interesting reading series that would welcome me. Strange, right? When I get back, I’ll have to get to work concocting something – otherwise my first reading will be a going-away party, and I certainly can’t have that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Don't forget -- if you're in Denver, tomorrow's my reading!!!

Here are the details:

Saturday, July 23, 7 pm
27 Social Centre
2727 W. 27th Ave. (enter through side entrance)
Denver, Colorado
A benefit for the Denver Zine Library and Sent(a)mental Studios
$5-$10, no one turned away for lack of funds
I will be reading from So Many Ways to Sleep Badly -- books will be available for sale, and of course I'll be available to sign them!

Oh -- and I just realized this will be my first reading since I left San Francisco nine months ago, oh my! I better start planning some readings for Santa Fe...

Yes, darling -- where every day starts...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Something better

Lately I’m so tired that I can hardly do anything at all, and then I wonder how on earth it is that I became this tired, and sure I always wonder that but then when it gets worse I really wonder. I mean it feels so constricting, hard to even dream through it, to want anything except something else, something better, something like waking up in the morning and thinking oh, what am I going to do today, not oh, how am I going to do anything?

Today somehow I walked over to the bus station, not the actual bus station but a station where there’s a bus that goes to Santa Fe, I guess an alternative bus station, for Spanish-speaking people it seems, seven hours it takes to get to Santa Fe which is better than the Greyhound which takes eight hours and doesn’t even go to Santa Fe. Eight hours to Albuquerque, which is an hour in the wrong direction. At this station I guess you have to pay in cash, it’s the same fee if you go half the distance or twice the distance, and when I hear they stop in at Raton, New Mexico, I think okay, now I have it figured out – I’ll take the bus to Raton one day, and then the next day from Raton to Santa Fe, because I try not to take any bus that lasts more than four hours, just because it ruins my body and everything else, and with this bus in particular I would have to get up too early or stay up too late and I guess staying up too late would be better, that’s what I’ve decided, but then I worry about how that will affect my sleep, not that my sleep seems to be helping or anything, I mean last night I slept 11 hours, woke up feeling horrible. Like why did I wake up so early? Like maybe if I just stayed in bed I would feel better, but I try to keep my waking time about the same, between 9 and 10 these days, and I don’t really know why except somehow it seems imported, like at least I’m accomplishing something.

So with this strategy I can take the late bus to Raton, and then the early bus will be late enough for me to get on the next day to Santa Fe. But then I get home and I’m looking at hotels in Raton, and the first one I click to says sorry, closed due to wildfires. Oh, great – there’s a fire in Raton too, so much for that idea.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Oh, good -- another billboard, that's just what I was hoping for...





The best way to fight the heat

Should I try to write something, before I become too tired to write anything? Today is such a strange day – I woke up feeling like yes, this is the one, the day when I feel okay and suddenly I can do all these things I was thinking about doing before, and maybe even things I wasn’t thinking about doing, but then. You know. I crash. As soon as I eat. Not so strange I guess, since this always happen, but still it feels stranger today, more pronounced.

I’m thinking about the different kinds of people who walk around with their shirts off, on a hot day like today, maybe the hottest one yet, since I’ve been here. There are the butch muscular guys, showing off sculpted bodies. A few skinny skaters with pants pulled down low, no boxers in sight so you can only imagine that they’re showing off their asses. Or, that’s what I imagine, anyway. And then there are the guys who have given up at passing as anything other than masculine. Maybe a few people who are just too damn hot, warm I mean, sweaty. And then, guys coming from the pool, in this building.

I’m thinking about what I’m afraid of – because I want to go downstairs to lie in the sun in the grass, just across the street, and it seems like a waste to wear a shirt, because then I’m going to pull it off and then I’ll be too sweaty to put it back on before I come back up. I experiment with the idea of a sweater, just a thin cotton cardigan, because then I could just unbutton it instead of pulling a tank top over my head, much easier, but no it’s way too warm on a day like today.

Somehow I’m worried about walking around with my shirt off – I mean I did it the other day, on the way back from the grass across the street, I’m sure the city of Denver calls it a park because they talk about over 400 parks here and you know that means they’re counting every blade of grass, that’s for sure, like this little area in front of an office building. But anyway, what is the fear, exactly? Part of it is that I don’t know if I like my body, and then everyone staring – already they stare at me because I’m a faggot, because I’m a queen, because I’m a freak, so why do I care if now they might look at me like I’m trash?

Good point – so then I’m out on the street, on my morning walk with my shirt off, which feels kind of nice actually. I can’t tell if people stare more or less, if it’s different people or the same -- I’m just a little more uncomfortable, but also more comfortable. I worry about male privilege, but I’m not sure that shame has ever accomplished anything. A female jogger smiles. I notice that the 16th Street Mall is much more crowded on weekdays, at least at this time of day – not just for tourists, I guess, but office drones too.

I get to the grass, lie down and put my shirt over my face, the one that was in my back pocket just for this purpose. Within a few minutes, my whole body feels like sweat, like I’m in a steam room, sweating out toxins, must be good for me, right? The best way to fight the heat is with the heat. Only 15 minutes I guess, but it feels like I’m in another world, body more present too or looser, because of sinking into the hard ground I think, back scratchy from all the poison they probably put on the grass but I’ll keep sweating for a few minutes anyway and then back inside to the laundry room where people think I’ve just come from the pool.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

For now

This is the time of day when the mountains play tricks with your eyes, the sun starts to go down and there’s lightning, clouds streaming in and you see the way the ones in the back disappear, making the closer ones suddenly greener, but then look over there and you see the snow on the tops of those mountains and in front basically blue, more lightning but then the sun is back and I’m inside dancing to the new Wagon Christ album, at first I wasn’t sure I liked it but then here I am in the mirror pulling in my stomach to shake my arms and chest at strange angles, dancing with myself touching my skin the way I want someone to touch me, thinking I need to take a dance class that teaches you falling the way I learned falling when I first moved to San Francisco and then whenever I would go out I would end up on the floor, sometimes covered in powder because that’s the way the dancing experts slid across so effortlessly, or part of it anyway. And that was the part about falling, not to be afraid, and now I’m certainly afraid again, afraid of hurting my body and so that’s why I wonder about a class, teach me again, but am I ready?

See, dancing helped – my body doesn’t hurt as much, back clenching ouch, maybe because I haven’t seen a feldenkrais practitioner in almost 4 weeks, dammit, so hard to find one here who I can get to. Instead I listened to CDs that help but now is the time when I need more help but for now this music, yes moving my body into this music and maybe it’s that centering thing that pulls my back out of spasm, I’m not sure, or at least takes my disastrous fatigue and make it into something beyond fatigue I mean into my body in a way that means my body works, can work, in my dream I tried to do a somersault but I couldn’t quite figure it out, these easy motions that suddenly becomes so fraught, like what will I hurt? But for now I’ll put the music back on.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Less abandoned

Did I tell you about these pianos on the side of the tourist strip, painted wildly and just sitting there on 16th Street, waiting for anyone to play, play – actually kind of friendly for street musicians, right? Anything for the tourists – Denver loves tourists, that’s for sure. An amusement park right downtown? Sure, fireworks every night, 365 days of the year! What do you mean the neighbors complain?

Denver is a noisy town, that’s for sure – the coal train going through the middle of the city, blowing it’s horn all day and night, or maybe not all night but into the night and then early in the morning. I wouldn’t have known it was a coal train, except I read about it in a letter to the editor, the person wasn’t complaining about the coal train but the fireworks and they mentioned the coal train just to show that they were okay with noise, just not something so useless and stupid and wasteful I guess, although they didn’t say that exactly. Or anything about mining, did I mention there’s a big statue of someone digging for gold right outside the building where I’m staying? Maybe 20 or 30 feet tall and he’s got a big chunk of gold in his hand, one of the lucky ones I guess.

I don’t notice the noise from the fireworks so much, just the smell of all that burning. But then there’s the noise from the construction, pounding and drilling and grinding into my head on the balcony. Even the buildings are noisy, exhaling through all their vents even when no one’s around, or maybe that means I’m used to the quiet in Santa Fe. I mean I was used to the quiet, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to that quiet again, at least for a little while, don’t remind me that I have to figure out where I’m moving next.

I’m on my way to the big club in Denver, past the pianos that are covered up at night in plastic sheaths, protected from the rain and non-tourism-related uses. Past those loud buildings, down Broadway and past the guy who says you dropped your head -- no, that’s a few days later, on 16th Street again, crowded with more workers than tourists on a Tuesday morning, really morning, sometimes when someone says good morning, I think they must be on a late schedule too, but then I remember oh, I’m not on that schedule anymore. So it’s Tuesday morning and this guy is giving me shade, says it under his breath so I can wonder did he really, and what is he commenting on, anyway? The purple velvet hat, and whether it matches or clashes with the purple plaid belt definitely clashing with the plaid shorts blending into the magenta tank top?

But if I did leave my head on 16th Street, and you happen to see it there, please do give me a call. My number’s on my website, but anyway I’m on my way to the big club, in a neighborhood that I hope people don’t really call SoCo, South of Colfax, all the clubs in a row in an otherwise abandoned strip I guess, that’s what I learned from a flyer that led me to a website, even if I couldn’t figure out how much this club would cost I figured I’d better go, just to see, because it starts at 4 pm and it’s on the roof, so even though I’m sure there will be tons of smoke at least it will be outside so maybe it won’t destroy my life quite as much, can we hope?

Let’s hope. So I’m walking through the rain yes rain I do love rain, I mean when it’s like this, soft and soothing so I don’t get too wet, just walk faster down the abandoned street, hoping it doesn’t get too hard before I arrive. I almost took a shower before going out, to look fresh and sassy, right? But then I remembered oh, when I go dancing right after washing my hair, all the sweat makes my hair a mess so it will be better after four days of not washing my hair, cute little curls that look like I’ve spent a lot of time sculpting, keeping them in shape, but really it’s just the glamour of grease, the humidity here, no one needs to know, and then when I sweat it will still look fine.

Here I am – oh, good, it’s free. Perfect – I was worried I would be tempted to spend $20 to stay somewhere for 20 minutes, but inside I go, through the empty downstairs and up into the stairwell, and yes onto the roof, which is huge, I mean I guess it’s the same size as the floor below although not empty or painted black but super-designy with white booths that go all the way down the middle, a bar at the end and on the side, and some areas with raised glass garage-door-type ceiling pieces that shelter from the rain. It’s pretty crowded, and not as uniform as I expected. Everyone’s in little clusters – circuit boys in the front, poking dollar bills at the stripper’s ass; a little group of 1989-style preppies, tailored khaki shorts and floppy hair; some straight-acting baseball cap types; a muscly guy with a newsboy hat who kind of cruises me or maybe he’s just staring; a group of dykes in matching tie-dye outfits; some stylier post-L Word dykes who I try to get to dance with me but they’re staring at the other stripper. He’s inside, so he’s not getting as much attention as the other guy was, even though he’s a much better dancer, working street trash with the backwards baseball cap and the wild moves and this fancy woman who reminds me of some of the people I used to go to clubs with in high school, especially because she looks Persian and like most gay clubs this one is almost all white but anyway comes up to me and says: get up there with him, I heard you’re good!

No one’s dancing really, just drinking and watching the strippers, now there’s a skinny woman on the platform outside instead of the circuit boy, shimmying while this drunk, grinning 40-something woman in casual business attire is taking a full-length video of her, you know she’s gonna put it up on Facebook or something and not tip the woman even one cent. Oh, and the music – not worth talking about, although the sound system is certainly loud. I walk around a few times, which takes longer than it sounds. Oh – and don’t forget the hairstyle fags, mullethawkish, I guess there’s just one of those but he’s pretty cute. And, one super-tan puffy muscleboy with his shirt off and a cowboy hat. Oh – and then three guys arrive in their gay rodeo outfits, complete with their big white numbers still pinned to the back, realness I guess.

Yes I keep dancing a little, seeing if anyone will join in. This one sporty dyke shakes it for one moment, but then she just wants to know if I’m on drugs, everyone always thinks I’m on drugs. It’s okay if you are, she says – maybe I am. Then she wants to know if I’ve tried Molly, like ecstasy except you’re not out of control, or TCI, which is like TCP but not so shaky. She doesn’t like to get shaky. And then I notice people are starting to dance inside, which might be even more dangerous than all the smoke outside, since it does blow that way, right?

“Express Yourself” comes on – yes, that’s what the music is like. But wait – does Madonna really say “Express yourself – ‘cause baby you were born this way” – no, that must be a mix with the other Italian stallion, yes Gaga herself in all her pandering and of course here’s where everyone gets excited but the moment you won’t believe what comes later, when I’m dancing to “Groove Is in the Heart”—yes, that Dee-lite monstrosity that I’ve complained about for decades now, yes literally decades, right? But now I don’t go out, and I need to dance to something, since I’m here ruining my sinuses anyway and so then I just go there, kind of amazing the way I can blow it out just like that, to music I don’t even like, with people who aren’t giving me anything, at least for a few minutes.

There’s this one older woman with dyed red spiky hair and a flowing ‘70s disco outfit that could be from her closet way back or could be from Nordstrom, let’s say her closet way back because I like her – she’s smiling so big and she comments on the sequins lining my tank top, she has sequins too, bigger than my purple ones but silver. She’s twirling around and then she takes my hand and the hand of the tall preppy guy right near me, twirls us together which is super-sweet, thoughtful in that way that could only mean she noticed the way he was watching me, from all different angles on the roof, big white polo shirt and bigger eyes, but then he entered the dance floor right next to me and turned his back. We all get shy like that, so I try not to take it personally – dancing with him is fun for a few moments but he can’t do much more than stare at my crazy moves, drunkenness and crashing from who knows what I mean he might know, that’s what makes his eyes look so big I realize now although he does have some cute floppy moves with his hands and it’s time for me to go because I’m getting too wild, I’ll tire myself out and then I’ll be a wreck, but first I notice these two people pointing and laughing in a booth so I go over to them: what are you laughing at?

Not at you, one of them says – her! And that makes me sad because she’s the best thing about the place, the woman in the flaring ‘70s silk pants, so I go right back to her and shake it out for one more song and then down the stairs to the bathroom to wipe the sweat off my face, back onto the street that now feels wider but less abandoned.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wait, did I tell you that I'm doing a reading in Denver? Hello Denver!!! Tell your friends...

Okay, so I'll be reading from So Many Ways to Sleep Badly -- since this is my first time in Denver, this will be my first reading here too -- bring your friends, your enemies, your lovers, your haters, and especially your questions and conversation -- I can't wait!!!

Here are the details:
Saturday, July 23, 7 pm
27 Social Centre
2727 W. 27th Ave. (enter through side entrance)
Denver, Colorado
A benefit for the Denver Zine Library and Sent(a)mental Studios
$5-$10, no one turned away for lack of funds
Books will be available for sale, and of course I'll be available to sign them!

Oh, did you want a reminder about So Many Ways to Sleep Badly? Here you go...

"A gender-bending novel [that] unearths subjects still relatively untouched in popular culture... you're not going to be reading anything similar elsewhere."
--The Times (London)

“When I read the first chapter of the newest novel by San Francisco poster child for surviving-and-thriving gender/queer punks everywhere, I felt like I was being yelled at by an excited, manic friend who was pacing around a roach-infested kitchen, occasionally breaking into a runway walk while wearing hot pants made of burnt rainbow flags… The rapid-fire, honest glimpse into the post-gay ruins of San Francisco will likely break even the toughest punk heart.”
-- NOW Magazine (Toronto)

“Like William S. Burroughs meets David Sedaris, offering a sort of surreal urban grit with poisoned-arrow that stings and sometimes reveals.”
-- San Francisco Chronicle

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s exhilarating new novel is about struggling to find hope in the ruins of everyday San Francisco -- battling roaches, Bikram Yoga, chronically bad sex, NPR, internet cruising, tweakers, the cops, $100 bills, chronic pain, the gay vote, vegan restaurants, and incest, with the help of air-raid sirens, herbal medicine, late-night epiphanies, sea lions, and sleeping pills. So Many Ways to Sleep Badly unveils a gender-bending queer world where nothing flows smoothly, except for those sudden moments when everything becomes lighter or brighter or easier to imagine.

And yes, I know everyone is obsessed with Facebook, so guess what? There's an invite over there, so you can tell your friends that way too...

This is the kind of thing that makes me happy-- even on a day when I feel terrible, I can read these sweet words about That's Revolting! and cry a little and try to dream...

It’s narcissistic, but I’m completely convinced that fate brought me to this book. Because it’s exactly what I needed at exactly this moment.

The last time I saw Anne R. Kissed (you remember her right?) we spent a lot of time hemming and hawing about how white, rich, racist, and easily offended Denver queers are. I told Anne that I was beginning to question my own convictions. Maybe I really was the bad ignorant fag every one said I was and I should just shut up and help paper-mache the pride float with everyone else.

But That’s Revolting! was like a rally cry, or a neon sign, or a smack in the head from my mother.

I feel refreshed and inspired and validated. I feel less bad for hating Glee and sending hate mail to Dan Savage and crashing GLBT Student Services parties and picking fights with girls at the lesbian knitting circle. I don’t feel so beaten down.

And yes yes, please keep hating Glee and particularly sending hate mail to Dan Savage, I would love to see that hate mail he certainly needs more...

Read the rest of Kat's post here, and also check out this other great post...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tired

I want to go outside and do something, but I don’t know what. I mean I’m too tired. If I wasn’t too tired, I would go out and do something. But I still might not know what. Yesterday I went to the Tattered Cover, even though I was too tired, and then I stayed there turning pages and finding out things that maybe I did or maybe I didn’t need to know, bought The Nation because Katha Pollit wrote about SlutWalk and I was curious, but I turned too many pages and then my arms hurt and so I told myself I wouldn’t go back to the Tattered Cover today.

I could take a shower, but even that sounds tiring. Should I sit outside on the balcony? If I call someone, they might want to make plans, and that sounds tiring too, so maybe I should call someone who isn’t in Denver. I just talked to my mother. That was really tiring. She called me. Three times. I could call City Lights, to make sure copies of So Many Ways to Sleep Badly are on the way, but that definitely sounds tiring. Maybe I should lie down, but lie down and do what? I just did a whole feldenkrais CD, but that brought on the bloating.

I made an appointment with an ear doctor, to take the wax out of my ears – I’ve waited too long, and my whole head hurts. I don’t know if that’s why, but it might be. Especially when I get those pressure headaches, right? My mother wanted to know about Denver, but I was too tired to really talk about it. She always insists on talking to me when I’m tired, I mean calling me three times and then asking me questions but I don’t have anything to say. Or, maybe I have something to say, but I’m not saying it. Because I’m too tired. Sometimes I’m not tired, or not that tired, and then I talk to my mother, and then I’m so tired I can’t speak. But now my jaw is hurting, so I better stop writing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Living the dream

I wake up with a new word – collegified! No, that’s not it – collegized? Well, something like that, anyway, the way sleep brings you clarity and then you wake up trying to pull it back out. A character study: a study of character. This guy who Israel and I meet when we’re walking into the café, I mean Israel already knows him and that’s why he comes up and says hey you two! Realizes that maybe he hasn’t met me, but the way he starts the conversation is by saying so, how’s this for a snapshot? I get so smashed I’m in the 404, sucking this big black guy’s dick in the bathroom and then outside I’m yelling at him as loud as I can, making a big scene right there in public: hey, I just sucked your dick for 13 minutes!

Sounds like some kind of hustler story, so at first I’m not sure if this guy is making fun of Israel for some night that I don’t know about, since I do know Israel is a hustler, or if he’s talking about himself. But it’s kind of a good first impression, makes me look past the straightness of his delivery and into the possibilities of something much weirder. I mean I’m not sure why exactly he wants us to know that it was a big black guy in the bathroom at the 404 except to emphasize something out of the ordinary, and why should it be, so I say no reason to get smashed to do that, right? I’m assuming the 404 is a bar, but I guess it could be an area code. And also I say: 13 minutes is a long time. Because I’m thinking he’s saying the guy didn’t pay him, that’s why he was yelling in the middle of the bar or area code, right?

Meanwhile, I’m focusing in on his straight punk boy demeanor, overly masculine in that head-bobbing way that makes no sense with the rest of what he’s saying or wearing or even what he puts in his hair, which is cute, a curly faux-hawk that I’m sure he wouldn’t call faux so should we -- I mean he’s cute, that’s for sure, so I’m studying the contradictions. Like he’s reading or not reading but holding Nausea and something by Baudrillard. Now, Baudrillard seems pompous for sure, but there’s something juvenile about Nausea, right? Sure, it’s part of the Existentialist canon, but don’t you usually read it in high school? Wait, that’s my high school pompousness seeping out – I should probably go back to those books at some point, see what they can tell me now. Sartre in high school and all I could think about was how trapped I felt, I would never get away, but then I did so maybe it helped.

This guy tells us he’s been trying to read, but he’s been doing nothing but drinking – if I didn’t start drinking and smoking when I was 13, maybe I would be your stature, he says to me, and I wonder about the word stature, makes me pull in my stomach like I’m afraid he thinks I’m fat. And then I’m worried about saying something like that, I mean even acknowledging that I think of it, when I’m 6 feet and 150-something but oh the bloating in my stomach brings all those old body issues back. If they ever went away: nothing does. I guess this guy is small, but I didn’t notice it before, just the way his eyes were studying something around my shoulder, armpit, tank top, I mean probably it was the earrings, right? But really it did look like somewhere closer to my armpit, his eyes sizing me up in a jumpy sexual way that I couldn’t exactly read I mean I could read it as excitement but I wasn’t sure what kind.

I don’t tell him that I started drinking and smoking when I was 13 too, or maybe it was 14, but now we’re all sitting at a table, somehow talking about Chuck Pahlaniuk, this guy says his books were important to him in high school, but they’re all the same and listen, in Fight Club they meet on a nude beach, I mean what could be gayer than that? Right, he’s saying something about how Chuck Pahlaniuk came out, and I say I guess I liked Ayn Rand in high school – somehow I didn’t notice the reactionary politics and I really wanted to be an architect after I read The Fountainhead, that was the one, right?

And this guy says yeah, he rapes her, and then she falls in love with him. And I say: sounds like marriage. And this is when he eyes me and says: damn! He wants to know how Israel and I know each other – well, we just met. What do you do? I’m a writer. What do you write?

Oh, he says, once he figures out that I write books, and that they actually get published, and that’s how I know the person I’ve never met who introduced me to Israel, I mean he knows my work, and this guy says: you’re living the dream! And the nightmare, I say, and I’m not sure exactly why because writing isn’t the nightmare, just everything else.

He wants to start a screamo band called DRA -- Dead Russian Authors—the hipsters would eat up the T-shirts, he says. Turns out this is the hipster neighborhood, that’s what I’m learning now – the same place with the old-school gay bars but last time I came here the only place where there were people was the ice cream shop filled with straight jock couples licking cones. July 4 I guess. Some people even call this neighborhood SoBo, although it’s just South Broadway so shouldn’t it be SoBro?

One thing I like about Santa Fe is that no one talks about hipsters; there aren’t any. Or, there are a few, but not enough to make them hipsters really. Hipsters need other hipsters to feel hip, right? Israel says the hardcore scene is dead, but he’s going to start a screamo band too. I say maybe you could be in a band together, but I guess they’re both lead singers, or will be. To tell you the truth, I’ve never heard the term screamo before, although of course it immediately makes sense and maybe that make me some kind of hipster. Are you always a lead singer, or do you start as a lead singer and then become one? And, if you play the drums later on, are you still a lead singer, just someone playing the drums this time? Until you can lead again.

Cooking with an electric stove: it’s very tricky. I have to leave the pots open until they boil, then right when the boiling starts, turn them down low until it goes down, then put the cover on. Otherwise everything bubbles out and then I have to clean the burners again.

This guy, what’s his name? Let’s call him JP, short for Jean-Paul – I’ll admit there’s something about him that reminds me of Chris and maybe that’s part of my comfort, right away when I walk in – maybe it’s the oversized masculinity in a body where it doesn’t make sense, the intellectual straight boy thing although this guy is taking it more seriously, the straight part I mean – Chris never wanted anyone to think he was straight, but he always held onto that masculinity. Actually it became more pronounced over time, but still he would get angry if anyone called him dude. Turns out this guy is 22 and I didn’t meet Chris until he was 26 but I bet he wasn’t all that different at 22 except he wasn’t a college grad, maybe tougher, that’s what this guy just finished. He says Denver is the best city in the country – everyone is 18 to 29 and laid-back and loves to party.

Then there’s the strange flirtation where he says something silly and abstract and I make fun of it by saying something sillier and more abstract and he likes that. Where did you grow up, I say. Colorado Springs, he says, where everyone stared at me because I had dark hair and eyes, me and my mother were the only Jews in town. The only Jews – really?

Well, not really – there were two synagogues, but still it felt that way. We’re talking about the collapse of Bash Back, I’m kind of curious about how exactly it happened and Israel says it’s just that everyone was arguing all the time and so we didn’t feel like we were creating anything. So we had to end it. But I want to know what exactly they were arguing about, whether the problem wasn’t the arguing but the lack of any process to facilitate the discussion, the lack of clarity about what anyone agreed on in the first place, and Israel says something about how most of the people were young and white, it wasn’t very diverse, especially in terms of age, and JP says yeah, the queer scene tends to be young and white because those are the people who have the luxury of thinking that being queer is the most important thing, when you’re a person of color you’re dealing with a lot more homophobia and so much else too.

You know when you take a breath and you miss your chance to intervene? Now Jean-Paul is saying something about how Israel looks more Jewish than he does, even though Israel says he’s mostly Japanese. There’s something comforting about the way I think JP is so hot, and he’s Jewish too, and the way that lately I’ve noticed that some of the features I’m attracted to – that curly hair, for example – are often attributed to Jewishness. Comforting because, well, I am Jewish, and even if I don’t have those features that means I’m not afraid of them.

But let’s back up to that point about the luxury of queerness, and all that’s missing. First of all, that stereotype about how people of color are more homophobic. But mostly what I’m wondering about is whether this straightish guy with knowledge about queerness actually has any experience in gay worlds. I wonder what he would think if he went to the queer youth group at the Center and talked to some of those kids. Whether he did deliberately mean to distinguish queer from gay or whether queer is the only gay that he knows, and whether any of this matters.

I guess we already know that he doesn’t hang out with anyone over 29. Somehow we get on the subject of how I didn’t go to bed before 2 or 3 am for 20 years, but now I like to be home by 9, and he says what happened – you turned 30?

No, I turned 65. Unfortunately I don’t think of that line in time, slightly taken aback because before he was talking to me like he was talking to himself but I guess when I mentioned my books, and living in San Francisco for 10 years and living in tons of places, but pretty much all of them big-city moist coastal until Santa Fe, maybe that tipped him off that I’d stumbled and tumbled past the 30 line and I wonder what that meant to me, turning 30, nothing really I don’t think, I mean maybe beforehand it seemed like it would mean something but once it happened I’m not sure.

JP is saying something about living in a real city, meaning: this isn’t a real city, honey. Not directed at me, obviously, since he’s the one who’s only lived here and Colorado Springs. He’s talking about the people who think this is a real city, which wakes me wonder what a real city is. Maybe somewhere where you never feel safe, go out on the street and get mugged or raped and still know how to get up and go out the next day, right? Maybe I don’t want to live in a real city, anymore.

That’s right -- by the time I turned 30, I thought I would’ve been done with sex work, but then 30 came around and I was as involved as ever, except the freedom was gone and it only felt like a trap. Tracy Quan once said something about how 30 is really the beginning of your career – she worked as a super-high-end New York City callgirl, and I know she meant something about finding clarity in the role, learning it, producing that seamlessness all the tricks unfortunately crave. By the time I turned 30, I’d been turning tricks for 10 years, and that’s when I really knew how to act like I was 20. To act like I wasn’t acting. To shift my demeanor so subtly I didn’t even have to think about it, and tricks would ask me crazy questions like: are you gay?

I wasn’t even trying to pass as straight, just that casual masculinity they fawn over, demand. Then I would go out into the sexual worlds I craved, that also craved that same masculinity that sometimes felt like it would kill me. Embodying it: sometimes it still does. What makes it convincing? And what makes me attracted to the straightness of JP’s queer delivery, not so convincing as the way he wears his shirt, black of course, a button-down, tight, untucked but barely hanging over the waist, which probably means that it’s been altered.

Sarah Schulman said something about how you age out of those worlds, and then it won’t bother you as much. We weren’t talking about the sexual world, but the scenesterism; the way people treat each other; the way you believe in something for so long and then it lets you down in every way possible and you don’t know what to believe in anymore. Like when Chris stopped talking to me, and suddenly this relationship of 16 years was over, without any process at all. Like everything we ever meant to one another, everything we built together, all the values of intimacy and trust and accountability and negotiation, all of it was over, just like that. Three years ago, so Chris was 41, right? I don’t know: so many people get older, and then they don’t believe that anyone younger knows anything. That’s not what I’ve seen. If Chris betrayed me, and part of that betrayal was about aging into the systems that we always hated, no the betrayal was when he refused to allow for both. What is it about youth culture that makes it the only place where it’s okay to dream? And my relationship to it.

But when the dreams are so polluted, can we even call those dreams? I do see the way that people read me as much younger, and so then when that shifts sometimes it feels jarring. I turned 30, and I’m living the dream, I like to be home by 9, and when I wake up I’ll think about this conversation as collegitized, that was the word, right, but now I like collegified better. Like mummified. I’ve never been suspicious of youth, except my own, but I’ve seen the way college can drain people of life, certainly not always but since I went there, and then fled, and then went back just in case, fled again, to save my life, fled into drugs because that’s what would hold me, and that last time was 16 years ago I guess, the last time for college because the drugs went on for another six years. Except when I go back to give lectures, and then I appreciate the critical engagement -- take this paradox, even as it takes you away.

I remember going to a reading by two gay male authors, and they were talking about how most people in their audiences are in their 40s or older, how it’s hard to appeal to a younger audience, but with my work is the opposite. I’m 38 now, and most people in my audiences are my age or younger, sometimes much younger. That’s who relates to the politics I’m invoking. The politics of challenge, outsider intimacy, insider vulnerability, breaking the rules of community in order to create something that might be. Community. And so I remain inside youth culture, wondering about the people who lose the ability to think that young can be smarter, even if often it’s not that way at all it’s certainly not the reverse: aging only gives you something if you learn; most people don’t.

Yes, I do see differences when I hang out with people in their 30s and 40s, differences in what we do and how we see the world and how things like who we know and what we wear and where we go don’t always matter as much, and I appreciate all of the knowledge we’ve obtained, fought for, fought over, maintained. Still I find myself in this place where I don’t know what does matter, or I know what matters but I don’t know how to create it, at one point I did and I miss that certainty, not hope because I wasn’t hopeful, but I believed, and believing is its own possibility. What are the possibilities now? One day maybe there’s a dream we can live with.

But first Israel and I are on our way out while Jean-Paul yells something about how he’s a straight boy who likes to suck cock and it turns out that’s how he actually identifies. There’s something amusing about holding those contradictions, but can there ever be possibility in sucking cock but holding onto straight? So here is where I do think about age: he’s 22, five years away from Colorado Springs; there’s still time. Israel’s saying something about how JP’s always asking if he can suck his cock, but he doesn’t like to sleep with straight boys. I wonder whether, if the straight boy is telling you he wants to suck your cock, it’s not the standard tacky gay narrative. Especially when he’s so open about it. Although then I’m thinking I wouldn’t want him to suck my cock, I mean the way it would feel so objectified but in a gross way because he would be acknowledging his desire for this thing in my body, but not for me. Except, if he said get on your knees and suck out my load, faggot, well then I’d be there in 10 seconds flat. Living the dream.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The space between buildings

So I’m walking down Broadway from downtown – not exactly sure what I’m looking for, except I know there are some gay bars around here somewhere but I’m not looking for gay bars, am I? I mean I guess I’m looking for gay people, some kind of neighborhood, just to see, but Broadway seems pretty abandoned. There are the first two gay bars – they look abandoned too. I wonder if that’s the old LGBT Center across the street – I mean it says The Center, which could mean anything, but I know the other one is new so maybe this is the previous gay neighborhood, and I wonder if anyone maps these changes across the country, the way one neighborhood starts as the gay neighborhood, but then another takes over, and sometimes both coexist so that one is more down-and-out and the other more gentrified, like with the Tenderloin and the Castro in San Francisco, or sometimes there is a leather-specific neighborhood like South of Market or whatever, but at the moment I’m just walking down Broadway, past some condoish building, what’s that doing there?

But I have to stop here for a moment – not on Broadway, but with the writing, because I need to talk about this headache, on the sides of my temples, where is it coming from? And why am I so exhausted all of a sudden – I guess I woke up too early, started getting wired before I ate of course, delusional ideas of all sorts of things I wanted to do while I’m in Denver, people to meet, maybe plan a reading. Then I went outside, and crashed. But now I’m crashing below that crash, I guess, headache in my sinuses too now, so I’ll have to take a break from writing about Broadway I guess. Does every city have a Broadway?

No, I sort of still feel like writing. So this Broadway is crazy – there’s nothing around except tons of cars, empty parking lots, fast food restaurants, maybe a car repair shop or two, but then all of a sudden there are these enormous condos. I mean enormous—30 stories or something, with maybe 10 stories of parking at the bottom. It doesn’t make any sense, because there’s nothing else around – I guess these people drive there, and drive away, but what is the appeal exactly? You’re close to downtown, but it’s not like these people are walking anywhere around here – I mean these condos are posh, one of them is aiming for the French château style and they’ve even managed to tarnish the roofs, metal turning green. I guess you get a view, but really – this is insane.

Now I’m crossing something like a highway – not sure why I keep walking, except I guess I’m still looking for a gay neighborhood or something, more bars down low on Broadway and some guy’s walking his dog, I say hi – do you have anything, he says? No thanks, I say, before I realize he’s looking not selling. He says anything?

It’s funny how this type of white guy looks the same as the uber-white types around town from the distance, but then you get up close and his face is all need and hopelessness, the kind of whiteness that only fails to mask failure. I’m getting tired – I mean you already know I’m tired while writing this, but I’m tired on Broadway too, although I keep walking anyway and wait, what’s that up ahead – if the Mayan Theater—one of those Landmark theaters so it’s nothing to get excited about, but I figure it means there will be something else around, right? Did I already pass the enormous porn theater—Kittie’s South, even bigger than Kittie’s East over on Colfax, if I had more energy maybe I would investigate the differences, or just investigate, but for now I’m investigating Broadway.

Okay, now there are stores – a lot of used bookstores actually, all closed because it’s almost 9. Two branches of The Crypt for some reason, not sure what the difference is exactly. A Pride Resource store modeling rainbow flags on mannequins. There are the gay bars, but I’m not curious enough to go inside. The only people around are the ones in this ice cream store – actually it’s packed with young affluent straight couples licking ice cream cones, just who are looking for. Okay, now I’m at the end of the commercial strip – I guess I succeeded at my goal, sort of, so I’ll ask this person if he knows which way I go to get the bus back, okay that way.

So then I’m sitting on the corner of Lincoln and Alameda, what an ugly intersection, waiting with the usual people for the bus. This old white guy starts yelling about all the fat women he saw on the bus on July 4, and this drunk Native guy tells him he likes fat women, fat women are happy, and then they go back and forth about this for a while, getting more and more graphic until finally the bus arrives and I realize I miss my beautiful walks in Santa Fe. All I get here is urban blight, pollution, tourists, and condos – and yes it’s interesting in a way but my feet hurt from all this asphalt.

Did I mention that I was wondering how much people pay for these hideous condos, and then I saw a sign saying starting in the 500s. What? In Denver! Another sign starting in the 300s, and later a few in the 200s, but still. On the bus we drive right in front of the French château, so I can see what’s on this side too: Spicy Pickle Sub Shop. Somehow I’m pretty sure that predates the condos.

New day, new walk: this time I’m back on Colfax, because now I have a tip about 17th Street. The tip was really about a hair salon and I’m going there tomorrow, but when I asked where the salon was, Israel said it’s in Uptown. Uptown – where’s that? On 17th Street where those bourgie gay bars are – JR’s and Hamburger Mary’s – and I did see that JR’s and Hamburger Mary’s were on the list in the gay paper, but I didn’t think much of it – who knew that those were the bourgie gay bars? I mean I didn’t know.

But now my investigation continues – it’s drizzling out, and I love it. I also love the grass on the curb, something besides asphalt and cement to walk on, right? Okay, so turning this direction off Colfax, north instead of south like the other time the houses get fancy too—these ones are Victorian, and super-renovated, could be a sign of the gays, right, or some kind of dramatic gentrification, anyway. First thing I see on 17th Street in some kind of hip children’s boutique, not a good sign, but the buildings are interesting to look at and it kind of looks like if you just walk a few more blocks in either direction it’s back to urban blight, can’t see for sure but anyway I turn down 17th, oh it’s really bourgie, the bourgiest place I’ve seen in Denver actually, some straight couple walked by, tall overly tan woman with bleached and straightened hair who says I love this neighborhood, there’s a restaurant on every corner, and she’s right – there is a restaurant on every corner. Some of them are all done up in contemporary urban dining chic like LA or something, and of course there are more condos, which here seem even weirder because the buildings that were there before must have been kind of gorgeous, but they tore them all down.

Okay, there’s JR’s – lots of people sitting outside, but they’re all straight – maybe that one guy is gay, I can’t tell. There’s Hamburger Mary’s across the street, it’s a whole complex – there are gay people eating there, and an older straight couple, none of them bourgie but it’s early. I mean not early for dinner, but early for the bar. There’s the most over-the-top trendy restaurant – mostly straight yuppies outside, but also some understated high-fashion gays at two different tables who all look over at me in that snotty but slightly curious way that somehow feels comforting, is that what I was looking for? I can’t explain it at all, but somehow I feel validated – what on earth? I’ll have to think about that more, but here’s the Wrangler, two guys are actually kissing outside, and I forgot about the young couple with black-rimmed fashion glasses from earlier, maybe not a couple just friends in front of another restaurant, they were cute in a silly way, and here’s downtown again – oh, before I was wondering where the hill was in Capitol Hill because it totally seems flat to me, but now I see there is maybe like a 4-degree grade for a block as you head into downtown and it’s that time of day just after sunset when even these buildings look gorgeous. Or at least the space between buildings.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Connecting

Speaking of both worlds, what is up with this trend of buff shirtless guys wheeling strollers around? I mean guys taking their babies on walks, while parading their sex appeal? I mean it is 99° out today, so I can understand not wanting to wear a shirt, but it’s kind of strange seeing these tough tattooed specimens of masculinity growling at the world while pushing the stroller. The white people in Denver are so white. Actually these guys pushing the strollers aren’t as white as the rest -- more working-class, not passing as carefree. I’m talking about the white people in the tourist district, flip-flops and bleached hair – these huge tall guys with broad shoulders and tiny girlfriends. Everyone looks strikingly healthy, except the ones who looks strikingly unhealthy. Even the bookstore is filled with jocks, or that’s how it seems to me anyway. It would be dangerous for me to live here, for sure – I might end up with a jock fetish again, and this time they would be straight. I keep looking at these guys together, thinking they’re gay people acting straight. But they’re just straight. What do the gay people look like?

You want to hear about the cruising park, and so do I. I’m on my way there, but first I take a street that I think goes through but instead it ends at a gated townhouse collection, I know I’m supposed to use the word community. But no community so I turn the corner, and did I mention that just a few blocks ago I was on Colfax? But then, as soon as I turned off, suddenly everything was a big old mansion. Most of them have been converted into apartments, but still they seem grandiose, especially in comparison to the7-11 and Walgreen’s and rundown bars and storage and empty parking lot just around the corner.

The park is very green, that’s the first thing I think. The grass just seems ridiculously lush – suddenly I feel like I’m in a suburban white enclave, or I guess an urban white enclave because of the high rise condos and apartments surrounding the park. Mostly the park is empty, but there are straight people playing frisbee, straight people having a picnic, and straight people walking dogs. Maybe a few gay people walking dogs, I’m not sure. No cruising. I thought right before dark would be the best time, but maybe I’m too early. There isn’t really anywhere to hide, that’s what I realize after I walk all the way through the park, about a half-mile is what I think from looking at the map earlier on – I guess this back corner where there’s construction, that would be the most likely place, and there are two guys sitting at a bench together, but I can’t tell exactly what they’re doing, talking it seems and usually people don’t talk when they’re cruising. It’s getting dark so I don’t feel like acting extra-conspicuous by walking up to them all the way in this neglected corner, so I just turn around.

No wait, it is dark now. There are a few cars in the middle, but I hate car cruising. I look in anyway, just in case – one maybe-straight guy with a baseball cap in the first car, two super-mainstream gay guys in the next car; they all ignore me. A bit further up, there’s some guy in his late-50s in jogging shorts, scowling while grabbing his crotch, but that’s not very appealing. Actually my favorite part of the trip is when I step into a sinkhole, mud up to my calf – yes, it’s gross at first, but then I get to take off my sandals, rub everything in the luxurious grass, try to get the mud off before heading on my way. Now that it’s dark the park feels more soothing, that was another reason for coming right at sunset – just so I didn’t get all edgy wandering through a dark park that I’ve never been to. I guess stepping into the mud brought me back into my body, or out of the exhaustion I was sinking into. Anyway, back onto the bus on Colfax, which comes pretty quickly this time, I’m impressed.

Now you want to hear about the bathhouse. I’m glad I looked it up online, because when I get off the bus I realize dammit, I got off too early, this is the 3500 block but it’s on the 3900 block. But then I look over, and there’s that big gorgeous brick coliseum-style building with a rounded corner, could there really be two of those in this area? And so, sure enough, the numbers skip from 3500 to 3900. Some cute guy comes right up to me in the locker room, says hi I’m Johnny, did you just get here? That’s pretty friendly, right?

He also says he likes my hair – good thing I washed it right before leaving the house. He takes me on a tour of the usual – glory holes, dungeon, sauna, gloomy hot tub, TV room. He doesn’t understand the glory holes, and I don’t say what if some guy isn’t so hot, but his dick is? He says he prefers a room, which is funny because you can rent rooms here but he chose a locker. Sure it’s cheaper, but actually not that much cheaper. I say I like being in public, so then we’re making out in the TV room and just as he’s going for my dick I switch it up and start sucking his. His persona shifts too – before he was talking about wanting me to fucking him, now he’s doing the top talk. Oh, right – I forgot that right at the beginning he said are you more dominant or submissive? No, worse – right away he said are you a top or a bottom? And then later, as if to rephrase the question: are you more dominant or submissive? I don’t know, I said. Because I don’t.

Oh, and he keeps saying: you seem so happy. Because I’m smiling. People always do that. I guess you’re not supposed to smile when you’re having sex, or talking to someone at a sex club. I will never learn that lesson, and I’m glad. The best thing about this place is the backyard – usually when there’s a backyard at a sex club, that just means cement and cigarette butts, but here there’s actually grass and flower pots, a wooden fence, a deck, trees, and lawn chairs. The sun is going down, so it’s not as hot as it was earlier. Still hot, but not overwhelming like before when it was 99 degrees out, until I start making out with this guy again, oh there’s the heat and then I say let’s go back inside for a bit.

That’s the best part – it feels relaxed. Like we’re friendly, and having sex too, which is rare in these places. I notice that I’m not staying hard, and I wonder if it makes me nervous to feel relaxed, it’s true that I’m not really used to that. Just the immediacy of the charge or nothing and really it always does lead to nothing but for now I’m relaxed, and aware that feeling relaxed makes my body nervous. Like that time with Aaron back in Chicago whenever that was, and we were talking for hours, flirting for days, and then I was leaving the next day so suddenly it seemed like now or never, right? And then we both got nervous like that – nervous in body, because we were comfortable in mind, which made us nervous in mind. Because we were connecting. Not that he ever called me back after that, but still. The irony of sex without connection beyond the physical as something easier, more familiar, to many of us anyway.

There aren’t many other people around this evening at the club, I thought Sunday around now would be the most crowded time but I guess I was wrong – maybe six or seven guys total, all of them in their 60s or so, white or gray hair. Some of them watch; some of them ignore us. So this guy really wants to fuck or get fucked – we try it in all positions, but neither of us can stay hard in the condom. Doesn’t matter to me—eventually I come all over him in the grass, it shoots right onto his eye and I say wait, keep your eyes closed. I wipe it off with the towel, all of it, and when he says he wants to take a shower I wrap the come-covered towel around my waist. I’m a lady with manners, right?

We exchange numbers, he likes my shorts – he’s really attracted to me, I can tell, I mean he keeps telling me, which is sweet and interesting too because usually with this dynamic the other person is older; he’s definitely younger. Or maybe I’m just thinking of tricks. Something makes me imagine he was the stripper from earlier on – there was a 4 pm show, but that was several hours ago. Not that he looks like a stripper and he’s too shy really, gets nervous when people are watching us and I say turn around and I’ll face them so maybe it’s just that he’s the only other youngish person here. Oh, I know – maybe it’s because, when he asked how old I was at the beginning, and I said how old do you want me to be, because usually when people ask me that they think I’m really young. He said however old you really are, 38, and I said how old are you, 20 is what it sounded like he said, so that’s why I thought maybe he was the stripper, used to lying like that, but then I thought oh, maybe he said 28, which would make sense, but really it didn’t matter so I didn’t ask again.

Anyway, if the stripper came at 4 pm, he must’ve left soon thereafter, right? Unless he had a lot of work to do, all these guys with gray hair.

Now I’m rushing out to catch the bus, which of course I miss, but the sky is that pink-yellow color so for a while it just feels fun to watch it. I eat; I crash. Now I feel so tired that I can hardly move, tired in a different way than before, tired like everything falls out of my body and I’m just this, this tired, this tired waiting for the bus that isn’t here and I can’t get up to go back to the club to call a cab. And retrieve the lube that I bought from the shower, I washed it off and then set it on top of the soap dispenser and I would like to get it, it was $14 and it would be useful to have around anyway, but at the same time I can’t bring myself to walk back there.

I’m not even sure that I’m waiting on the right corner for the bus, yes it’s 45 minutes later and this does look like an interesting neighborhood to explore, old brick buildings and I’m not sure what else because I’m too tired, plus I brought my bag so I can’t walk around and maybe I shouldn't have gone to that bathhouse if it ended up making me this tired, maybe it was all that smiling but eventually a cab comes by, I mean a cab that actually stops for me, and then I get inside.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Both worlds

The bus arrives and I jump off. First person says: those are the gayest shorts I’ve ever seen! His drunk female friend says so, I’m gay! Actually this happens at the beginning, but on the same corner. Now when I turn the corner some young tomboyish girl says what are you up to tonight? I’m just going home, I say. Can I come home with you?

See what I mean, I say to Andee. Was she working, Andee says. No, I say. What did she mean? I guess she wanted to go home with me, probably do drugs or something.

Then I turn the corner and I’m back with the tourists, this time I already know to expect the change but still it’s kind of wacky how many people are out. Some guy comes up and says can you buy me a one-dollar burrito, I’m serious I just want a burrito will you come inside with me? Okay, I say, and Andee says what you doing?

I’m buying this guy a one-dollar burrito. Where – at Taco Bell? Yes, I say, and I can’t help laughing, even though I’m worried this guy will think I’m laughing at him. He says I know it’s pathetic. I say no, not at all. Actually I’m just glad I can help him – I would just give him the dollar, but something makes me think he actually wants me to go with him, maybe he’s worried that if I gave him the dollar he wouldn’t end up spending it on food or maybe I’m overanalyzing, but anyway I go with them. He’s a muscular young guy, attractive except for that hollowed-out drug-damaged look in his face, I’m guessing crack.

Andee and I get disconnected and the guy says something about his wife and how she has a headset like this one, much better than holding the phone. Of course he says something about his wife, where is she now I wonder. It seems like he wants to talk, and I kind of want to talk too but I also don’t want to miss my chance to talk to Andee, especially while walking around this strange town – I always like to talk to Andee when I’m walking around, a strange or familiar town it doesn’t matter, I mean it’s never where I’m living because I don’t use a cellphone at home anymore, now that I’m not a hooker, but there’s something about the immediacy that’s exciting, even though Andee’s in London it feels like we’re together again, exploring.

Andee calls back and we talk some more, first in Taco Bell and then back out on the street where I keep saying who are all these people? I mean, I never thought so many tourists would go to Denver – where do they come from? Andee says they come from Wyoming and Nebraska – and other places too, because they can live in the mountains. I guess there are a lot of blondes in Wyoming and Nebraska, that makes sense. But the air isn’t even fresh here, it’s totally polluted. But you’re a half-hour from the mountains, Andee says, you can have both worlds.

I know -- I had the same problem -- I went to get my nails done at Urban Removal I mean Urban Renewal, but what? They were closed! I mean permanently! Is that what people are celebrating today?.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The gayest shorts I've ever seen (wait, I just realized this title doesn't make sense because it's referencing something someone says to me later, thought it was clever but oh well might as well leave it anyway not to confuse you more)

I’m having trouble placing this town in the realm of the cities I’ve known – I mean I know I’ve only been here a few days, but I guess it’s also the way that I didn’t necessarily have any expectations. And usually when I go somewhere, or move there, I already know a lot about it. I guess when I first moved to San Francisco back in 1992 I didn’t know much – I thought it was like New York, on the West Coast, so when I got there I was shocked that there weren’t many tall buildings. But I knew there were queers and that’s why I was there and I found them. Maybe not that fast, were not the right ones right away, but soon.

But anyway now I’m here in Denver – and right, that’s the other thing: usually when I travel I’m on a book tour, I have a specific reason, but here my reason is to get away from the fires. And then explore, I guess, which is what I’m doing – have a taste of a big city before going back to Santa Fe, the quiet, that light, better air. I hope.

When the bus first pulled in I thought Baltimore, HarborPlace without the water—that view of the city in a bowl when you’re coming in, redevelopment and partying suburbanites. Then I thought Pittsburgh, with all the brick and trees, but much bigger. Or Chicago, with all the new condos that seem out of place, more out of place here but also of course not so many as Chicago – dozens, not hundreds. All the new buildings in Portland too, but not as contemporary. And then the 16th Street Mall with throngs of tourists, I didn’t expect so many tourists – I guess it’s my coastal bias, I mean who exactly travels to the cities that seem more random to me. These people, I guess.

Oh – and the free bus on the 16th Street Mall—I do like the free bus, even though it’s packed with tourists. Packed at all times, even though it arrives literally every one or two minutes – that’s how many tourists I mean. I’m on the bus right now, going to the other side of 16th Street that feels more bloated with hotels and big glitzy chain stores and malls, Hard Rock Café and even some huge bar in front of the Sheraton, I mean not in the Sheraton but on their property, a separate building with huge high ceilings and bright pink decorations, something right out of Miami, South Beach is what I’m thinking. And then there’s the other South Beach, that wall of corporate condos in South of Market San Francisco, there’s a little bit of that feeling here to, young professionals out on the town, that suburban urban attitude I love to hate.

But anyway, back to the South Beach Miami bar, everyone sitting outside and dripping with hair products and class driving – there’s a lot of money here, I’m not sure I expected that either. Tons of blonde women, I mean where do all these blondes come from? Of course I realize they bleach and dye their hair, but most of them actually look blonde too, fair-complexioned even if overly tan. Lots of jocks, but a bit softer in their machismo, or maybe that’s just the look right now: straight guys looking like gay guys imitating straight guys. Then there’s the mountaineer look, or almost-indie-but-not-quite facial hair, hippie jocks too, store-bought tie-dye with no hint of glitter in their hair, dude. Women in little dresses that look like something their mothers would wear—short enough to show off, but just not too tight, right? A Midwestern preppiness to almost everything, no I guess it’s Western, right? But no cowboy hats here—the tourists don’t even seem to wear sunglasses, just walk around squinting -- maybe that’s something that sets them apart from the locals.

Okay, here’s the end of the bus – it didn’t take that long, but I have a lot to say. I’m walking over to Colfax, one of the big thoroughfares in town, to investigate Capitol Hill – maybe that’s the gay part of town, I’m not sure. I know the LGBT Center is there, and I do want to get the gay paper, just to see what it is, since I can’t find it on the street anywhere. I’m pretty sure there’s a gay paper, saw one online, a monthly, and it made it sound like there was more than one, something about the best source of gay news in town. No – I’m sure they didn’t use the word news.

Oh, but I almost forgot to tell you: just after I mentioned that at least my headache was better here, well then guess what? I suddenly got this horrible pounding tension headache on the sides of my head, like I could feel the skin and the veins expanding, what the fuck? I figured I better listen to a feldenkrais CD, just to see if it would help, even though I listened to one earlier. This one was for the tongue, or not for the tongue but about the tongue, which I guess means for the tongue too, but wait, let me see how they phrase it? Okay: Relating the Tongue to the Jaw, that’s what I was doing, which felt okay I mean good actually, calming, I’m taking care of myself, and I did notice this bloating in my stomach, not down below like the intestinal bloating exactly, but up above by my chest, figured it would get better through the lesson, right? But oh no – when I got up it was the worst bloating I’ve felt in a while – stomach and intestines, everything in pain, and actually the bloating has been getting better lately. I didn’t want to say anything, because sometimes as soon as I think something is getting better then it gets worse, you know what I’m saying, but anyway it has been getting better overall, I mean I wake up and I look in the mirror and there isn’t much bloating at all usually, and it still does come on in the evening but not so awfully that I hate my body, hate this feeling, hate eating because it leaves me this way, hate drinking water even or whatever it is that triggers it.

So anyway, here’s my body and this pain, my body and this bloating and pain and I decide to go on a walk because maybe that will help or maybe it won’t and I’m rubbing my stomach as I’m walking outside and some guy selling the street sheet-type paper says you look like you ate the whole thing. He’s trying to be friendly I guess but it makes me feel gross although I buy a paper anyway, turn the corner and jump on the free bus and that’s the ride I was just telling you about – jocks, blondes, South Beach, but then I get off and walk towards Colfax, turn the corner towards the Capitol and right there there’s a dramatic change in the streetscape – before everyone was white pretty much except maybe one or two street musicians, now almost everyone is a person of color, hanging out in the street too but in a different way. I walk another block and there’s a used bookstore, unfortunately closed, and then residence hotels and across the street this gorgeous old building that looks like where I would live if I lived here. Although I don’t know if that type of building is exactly where I want to live anymore, certainly not on this polluted street or in this polluted town except really I don’t know where I want to live anymore, that’s what I’m saying. But anyway I’m walking past residence hotels and rundown bars with gorgeous neon signs and lots of people out on the street drinking and selling or looking for drugs, so many people out that I’m kind of stunned, I mean sometimes I come to so-called big cities and there’s no street culture at all, but here it’s like everyone’s out all over.

Suddenly the landscape feels like LA maybe, Hollywood Boulevard and lots of dilapidated ‘50s or ‘60s or ‘70s bars, older buildings though and tons of people – a big theater with a fence around it so people can smoke, tons of people, the wrong side of the suburbs is what it looks like – mostly angry straight guys and a few women wearing dresses that look like swimsuits. I guess it is summer – maybe that’s why there are so many people out, but it’s kind of overwhelming and I can’t tell how much I’m surprised by Denver, and how much is just because I’m in a city for the first time in a while. I guess the last city I went to was Albuquerque, and that had certain things like buses that actually took you somewhere, but mostly it just felt like sprawl, not the urban density that I’m surprised to find here, and yes it does seem like the streets are really loud, not just the sounds echoing from down below like I hear from the 29th floor where I’m staying. Then there’s the air thick with pollution, maybe that’s where I’m getting LA too but no it’s not that bad, I mean it doesn’t surround me and make me feel sick, like I’m walking through sludge, it’s just that the air never feels fresh. There’s the LGBT Center, a modern building and it’s closed, no gay paper for tonight I guess, two goth kids sitting outside. I’m guessing the gay area isn’t quite here – Irish bars, packed, a few hipster places, 24-hour restaurants, fast food parking lots, – this seems like the all-purpose seedy straight night area I guess and I go to Walgreens to look for Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges but they don’t have them.