Monday, January 30, 2012

Santa Barbara, in case you were curious...



Sand under my feet

Waking up into that terrible sinus headache familiarity which means I guess it went away for a while, since the summer maybe, but now, now will it ever? Go away. Rushing out of bed for diarrhea -- oh, I need a vacation from this vacation. Outside, someone’s smoking in the designated smoking area, help -- that's where I wanted to sit in the sun to welcome the day, but then I realize oh, I'll just walk to the beach -- shorts and a hat, nothing else, not even contact lenses and as soon as my feet touched the sand I'm somewhere else, I mean here.

Everything looks more beautiful than yesterday -- sure, muted because of my vision and maybe that makes it all softer too. I did this in San Dimas too -- went on a walk without my contact lenses in. Actually it's kind of fun. As long as no one tells me they want to kill me, it's always important to know where the threats are coming from.

Oh, the beach -- I wish I could live on the beach. I've gone through in my head, but no, I don't think there are any beach towns that are culturally bearable really. It's always been my ideal space, though -- and then I moved to the desert: plenty of sand.

Santa Barbara doesn't seem as tacky as yesterday -- in Santa Fe, everything is fake too, but it tricks you with the weirdness and wildness. Here it's all Spanish colonial palm tree California capture. Somehow there are still too porn shops, though. In one the employee is an unfriendly woman who looks at you like you’re trash, and the wrong men in a dank hallway smelling of smoke with a sign that says no smoking, big rooms too where you could fit 10 people comfortably, but not these 10 people, please. At the next one, there's a friendly guy working, flirting with a girl who acts like she's never been in a porn shop, but no one else. You can walk out the back, or the front.

On the main strip: sports bars and places that look like they sell vintage clothes but actually it's just costumes -- flashy facades, cheap interiors. Or, cheap facades, flashy interiors -- what's the difference, really? The air is thick with the highway nearby, actually now I'm walking underneath it, and even when I get to the beach everything still feels clogged.

But then there’s today -- this is after State Street, fog or clouds rolling in and I need to get back to the beach, get as much sand under my feet as possible, while I'm here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The best part

Now I know why I don't eat canned beans -- because they taste like a can. Doesn't matter how long you cook them -- it's been three hours with these adzuki beans -- forget it, time to cook the dried mung beans. The fluorescent lights in this hotel room -- ground-level, facing a parking lot: you get the point. I can see the neon sign of the Lowe’s, that's my view.

But then there are the train tracks, behind the hotel and that's where I'm walking, shirt off in the sun it’s just me on the side of the tracks, wrong side which means the right side, whatever side I'm on -- gravel and dirt that feels like sand and for a while I wonder why, nowhere near the beach I mean probably 50 or 60 miles, right? But then I remember: this was desert, before it became farmland feeding and draining the whole country. Gravel and dirt that feels like sand in my body in the sun, suddenly there’s desire too and I'm touching my skin, a hard-on even and I wonder about jerking off here on the side of the tracks where jerking off was meant to be but then I'm tired again and back in fluorescents.

Sundays in San Dimas, sung in my head over and over to the tune of Sundays in Savannah, one of Nina Simone's most beautiful songs, even if it is about church. Even if I won't be in San Dimas on a Sunday, I do understand these towns more, after Santa Fe -- you look up at the mountains, past strip mall hell, and you wonder. Back on the train tracks, maybe it's the next day or maybe it was earlier, I watch someone scale the wall behind Lowe's, climb up to her bike, sunglasses half on and half off and she waits a full minute or two to catch her breath is what I'm thinking, catch her breath from whatever she’s obtained in the best way possible, before riding off.

The Claremont event is fantastic, soothing actually – yes the space is gorgeous and I am relaxed, but more than that it's about the way the audience is breathing and laughing and learning with me, that's what I'm feeling anyway, especially afterwards at the reception, where people come up to get their books signed and tell me stories about my work, their work, to dream about public sex spaces and spaces for the intimacies we all crave and that's what I feel somehow, these intimacies.

Oh, the air conditioning on the train -- yes, I wish I left that car with all the air conditioning and my head, today, my head, but also there’s the exhaustion, my head, today my goal is to go to the beach, feet in the sand, sun on my body and that I already did but yes I need more except my head: so hard to feel anything like pleasure, this exhausted, this drained, the train, even with the ocean on my feet, soft wet sand, now I will lie down.

Wait: not just air conditioning, but the horrible toxic floral scent in the bed, why the bad why I should have run into one of those department stores Davka and I drove by and bought a new bottom sheet I mean I thought of that, but then I thought no, that's not something I need, is it? It is. It was. It will be.

I mean I travel with a top sheet, for that exact reason, and who knows if just getting rid of the bottom sheet would have gotten rid of the horrible toxic floral scent anyway, didn't I ask about that ahead of time? I must have, right? But let's get back to the beach: the second time is more exciting somehow, turning the corner and there are the mountains. Yes, an endless row of hideous palm trees too and straight people playing volleyball, soccer, golden purse swing-about, someone whistles at me but still, the rocks in the wet sand and my feet in the water oh my feet in the water I didn't realize that would be the best part.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh, but the award for the question of the evening last night at USC goes to...

When did it become so heartless?

Oh, by -- what a good question!!!!

A video surprise (for me, at least) over at Wild Gender...

Imagine my surprise when I clicked play on this video over at Wild Gender, and realized wait -- that's my voice! Remixed from the interview on Uprising Radio from just the other day, I love it...

Fresher

In LA, people apologize about the weather: sorry it's raining! But the rain rain rain, I love the rain, what could be better in LA? Especially on this cold day where I can wear my red wool coat, hat and two scarves, and walk outside on Hollywood Boulevard and the air actually feels kind of fresh -- there's no one on the street except a few people with umbrellas, it seems like so long ago when I could use an umbrella, I mean when it wouldn't hurt my hands too much -- 11 years I guess, but now I'm used to the hat strategy, and I wonder if Seattle will actually turn out well -- I'll have to get some more rain hats to go with these sun hat collection, maybe it will be fun.

Of course, eight or nine months of rain is different than a few hours, way way different, but still that freshness. Darker too, way up north in Seattle, I mean here at noon in the rain it's still kind of light, not as light as in Santa Fe I mean I don't need sunglasses. But way way lighter than Seattle, that's for sure, but still this freshness, way way fresher in Seattle of course I mean here the next day after two days of rain the air is already gross, clear to see things in the distance but nothing much to breathe. I guess the fresh air didn't work too well in Santa Fe, right? But what about the fresh air in Seattle?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Intimate and intoxicating

It's funny -- with my Santa Fe reading, I arrived right as it started, so I avoided that edgy nervousness that always happens when I arrive early, can't relax my body, can't really talk about anything, keep rushing to the bathroom to shit. I don't know what it is really -- I'm not worried that I'll fuck up, really, so what is it exactly? Maybe I am worried that I'll fuck up, somewhere deep down that's very physical, instinctual or something -- I know I worry about whether people will show up, whether it will be packed, that sort of thing.

People do show up, it's a great crowd, really varied, and they actually sell out the book again -- two in a row, this doesn't usually happen. I also have to say that I'm really excited that fags are showing up -- I was a little worried that I would be on tour for this book called Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?, and there wouldn't be any faggots in the room -- since, for my last book tour, the audience was overwhelmingly dykes, queer women, trans guys, people on the transmasculine spectrum, and then a few fags thrown in for good measure -- which makes sense because my politics come from those cultures. But this book, of course is for fags -- for everyone else too, but especially for fags -- and so I might get kind of depressed if there weren't fags in the audience. Thankfully, that hasn't been the case -- I think press coverage really helps to bring gay men out for the events. One person wrote to me about driving in his car from Cathedral City to LA, hearing me on the radio at heading right over to Stories to buy a copy. Someone else in the audience last night told me how he was in the Gay Liberation Front in LA in the '70s, and he heard me on the radio and thought yes, this is what I've been thinking for all these years and finally someone is saying it!

And then all my friends, writing colleagues, my sister, people who have read my books in college, younger and older queers rounding out the audience to make it intimate and intoxicating at once. The store had a great microphone also -- that's certainly not always the case. I wish wish wish, though, that they had a podium of some sort -- without one, ended up holding the book with my hands for way too long oh no pain pain pain pain pain but I have my feldenkrais CDs, listened to one last night right before bed and I think that really helped. For some reason, whenever I call feldenkrais practitioners in LA, they don't call me back. I would love to see one, that's for sure, but I guess for now I'll stick with my CDs, and hope that I can avoid a pain catastrophe.

I have another event today, and then I go to Claremont later in the week -- here are the details for the next two events:

University of Southern California
VCK 100
Monday, January 23, 5 pm
Los Angeles, CA

Claremont Colleges
Scripps College, Balch Auditorium
Thursday, January 26
7 pm doors, 7:30 pm talk
Reception and book signing to follow in the Hampton Room above Scripps Dining Hall
Claremont, CA

Oh -- and, apparently there's been a bit of controversy at USC about my use of the word faggot -- I wonder what will transpire...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sea level

Leaving Santa Fe, I think about how I will miss the clouds, and how people will not understand what the hell I'm talking about because of course it's cloudy all the time in Seattle, right? Sea level: what will that feel like? Why a stomach ache almost immediately after I get on the train, the desert flowing into night and, to tell you the truth, I actually sleep better on the train than I do in general, if only they could leave me alone for another two hours I might actually feel good, or something.

Except for my sinuses, right? All that recycled air and then there’s what they call air in LA, which actually is much much better than usual because of the rain yes rain, but still, it is LA. On a side street everything can feel kind of calming, fresh almost in the rotting suburban urban way that is LA, all these weird things growing and how? Birds chirping and why? But still.

I settle into this apartment where I'm staying, convenient and comfortable almost like my own place I mean it is my own place while I'm in LA, but then there's this pain in my sinuses, pressure in my head, is this the pressure of my sinuses or the pressure of sea level, dizziness, sudden confusion when everything rushes around me and I look up at the sky to see what it is, yes it looks like sky, different, not as dramatic, the sunset happens so fast you can miss it, the apartment buildings alternate between rundown and overpriced, and upscale and more overpriced and actually it's kind of quiet too you when you're not on one of the thoroughfares with cars zooming into my head at that sudden burst of pollution overload and I wonder about the train, or actually when we stopped in Albuquerque and this guy in tie-dyed shirt with big curly hair came up to me and asked: are you tripping, you must be tripping.

Projection: we all do it. It's funny how that walk through Albuquerque surprised me more than LA -- skateboarders, someone kicking a soccer ball, homophobic snickering at the bus station, what are all these people doing out? I mean Albuquerque is pretty abandoned for a so-called big city, but still a city and then I came here, driving crosstown with Campbell, driving driving driving which was actually kind of interesting because I could sense the sprawling geography at the different way, I don't think I could ever relate to it really because I don't relate to sprawl, but it started to feel more familiar, rundown stripmalls blending into opulence. People on the street: curiosity and disdain. A nice comment here and there. Somewhat surprisingly friendly; somewhat predictably snotty; someone surprisingly snotty -- somewhat predictably -- no, friendliness is never predictable, unfortunately.

Yes, more rain, I think, did it rain again last night? A construction drill outside, but then it stops. Looking out the windows at these impossibly wild palm trees, walking around and seeing those evergreen hedges that grow so tall and skinny, how? And then you turn on the street suddenly so wide, palm trees arranged like sticks on the sidelines and there’s a dieting store called Organic Liaison. Kirstie Alley started it.

Back on the train, the guy with the big hair remembers my name, comes up to me in the lounge car: hey Mattilda! Tells me about this drunken guy who was bothering him, and the conductor called the cops and had him thrown off the train. But then this guy’s stuff disappeared -- the conductor said it was the drunk guy who stole it, mostly this guy was worried about his hat, sentimental attachment. So he called the cops to ask about it -- no, they said, there wasn't any hat. When this guy confronted the conductor, the conductor said are you calling me a liar? I'll kick you off this train.

Sea level: are we there yet?

Friday, January 20, 2012

A great interview from today's Uprising Radio on KPFK-LA!

Here it is -- and, if you're in LA, don't forget my reading on Sunday:

Stories Books and Cafe, Echo Park
Sunday, January 22, 6:30 pm
1716 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026-3225
(213) 413-3733

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For some reason I wrote this down months ago from a movie I didn't like that much...

Except for the final scene where this is the conversation that happens between mother and daughter, and suddenly it was incredible the way the mother who paid no attention to the daughter suddenly heard her and said the right things -- oh, the movie was/is Tiny Furniture...

I had sex with him
In this house?
No.
At his house?
No, he has a girlfriend.
On the street?
No, worse.
What’s worse than the street?
Inside a pipe on the street.
Were you cold?
No.
Did you use protection?
No.
I want you to take care of yourself.

Do you hear that sound?
Yes, it’s the alarm clock.
Can you do something about it?

I moved it in the other room
I can still hear it.
But not as much, right?

Monday, January 16, 2012

And, the Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots tour information – updated for your viewing pleasure – please spread the word…

Prepublication launch party (books will be available almost a month early!)
Sunday, January 15, 2 pm
op cit books
930C Baca Street (next door to Counter Culture Cafe)
Santa Fe, NM 87501
www.opcit.com
(505) 428-0321
http://www.facebook.com/events/139120089533419/

Stories Books and Cafe, Echo Park
Sunday, January 22, 6:30 pm
1716 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026-3225
www.storiesla.com
(213) 413-3733
http://www.facebook.com/events/348593838486877/

University of Southern California
Monday, January 23, 5 pm
Los Angeles, CA

Claremont Colleges
Scripps College, Balch Auditorium
Thursday, January 26
7 pm doors, 7:30 pm talk
Reception and book signing to follow in the Hampton Room above Scripps Dining Hall
Claremont, CA
Friday, January 27 publishing conversation
Pomona College, Queer Resource Center, 3 pm
Snacks provided
Pomona, CA

University of San Francisco
Wednesday, February 8, 5 pm
University Center (UC) 4th Floor Lounge
San Francisco, CA

THE BIG BOOK LAUNCH
Valentine's Day 2012 – Tuesday, February 14, 6 pm
(come early for heart-shaped refreshments)
San Francisco Main Library
1100 Larkin St
San Francisco, CA
A delicious discussion with contributors Jaime Cortez, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Debanuj DasGupta, Booh Edouardo, Eric Stanley, Harris Kornstein, Gina de Vries, Horehound Stillpoint, Matthew D. Blanchard, and your lovely host Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

City Lights Bookstore
Wednesday, February 15, 7 pm
261 Columbus Ave. at Broadway
San Francisco, CA
(415) 362-8193
www.citylights.com
with contributors Debanuj DasGupta, Harris Kornstein, Booh Edouardo and Gina de Vries

GLBT History Museum
A Panel on the Past, Present and Future of Public Sex
Celebrating the release of Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?
Thursday, February 16, 7 pm
4127 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 621-1107
www.glbthistory.org/museum/
with contributors Jaime Cortez, Debanuj DasGupta, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and Horehound Stillpoint – hosted and facilitated by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
$5-10 requested donation, no one turned away for lack of funds

Pegasus Books Downtown
Monday, February 20, 7:30 pm
2349 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704-1552
(510) 649-1320
www.pegasusbookstore.com
with Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Horehound Stillpoint, Matthew D. Blanchard, and Jaime Cortez

Sonoma State University
Stevenson 1002
Thursday, February 23, Noon
Rohnert Park, CA

RADAR Book Club featuring Mx Justin Vivian Bond & Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Hosted by Michelle Tea
Saturday, February 25
Viracocha
998 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
$10, Doors 2:30/ Show at 3
Limited seating. Advance tickets will be available
Books available for sale courtesy of Modern Times
www.radarproductions.org

University of Oregon
Thursday, March 1
Eugene, OR

Powell's on Hawthorne
Monday, March 5, 7:30 pm
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 228-4651
with contributors Ezra RedEagle Whitman and Willow Aerin Fagan
www.powells.com

Olympia Timberland Library
Wednesday, March 7, 7:30 pm
313 8th Ave SE
Olympia, WA 98501
(360) 352-0595

Evergreen State College
Thursday, March 8
Olympia, WA

Little Sisters
Wednesday, March 14, 7pm
1238 Davie Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 669-1753
www.littlesisters.ca

Elliott Bay Book Company
Tuesday, March 20, 7 pm
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle WA 98122
(206) 624-6600
www.elliottbaybay.com
with contributor Booh Edouardo

University of Washington
Monday, March 26, 6 pm
Allen Auditorium, North Allen Library
Seattle, WA

Thank you again, Santa Fe!

What an incredible reading in Santa Fe last night – the store was packed, and such an amazing variety of people. Dana and I arrived right at 2 pm and the parking lot was filled so we had to go across the street, but that parking lot was filled too. When we went inside, everyone was sitting patiently waiting – I couldn't believe it, usually no one shows up on time to readings!

It was so great to the see my close friends in Santa Fe, a few friends from Albuquerque, some acquaintances, a few people from Occupy Santa Fe, a few people I'd seen around, a few from the Gay Men's Discussion Group, and then plenty of people I'd never seen before – the questions were great, and the discussion inspiring. And then, so many people came up to say hello, and bought books – I always like those one-on-one conversations too, and especially the anecdotes, like Sheridan who bought the book for her closeted ex-husband who didn't support his gay son. Or, Jerry, the person who started the Gay Men's Discussion Group, who bought a copy for himself, one for his lesbian daughter and her lover, and a third for his straight son.

So many more stories – and, such a beautiful store, the light streaming in during the day – everything felt supportive and intimate and explosive – thank you, Santa Fe!

And, I know that op cit only has a few copies of the book left at the moment, but they will definitely be getting in more soon so do support the store! And, I've heard that Collected Works ordered a few copies, so if you're in Santa Fe then that would be another place to go until op cit gets more in…

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The reading in Santa Fe was AMAZING – thank you thank you thank you!!!

Something bombastic

Classic: I sat down at the computer to write this wide-ranging and flowing, bustling and booming – bombastic, even – maybe even bombastic piece about media and gender and explosion, but then. But then all the energy was gone. Is gone. Just this cloudy head, thinking where, where did it go?

Or even: what was that? I mean, I woke up excited, excited about this prepublication book launch today – Santa Fe, better show up at 2 pm at op cit books next door to Counter Culture, okay? So I want to hold on to that excitement – so often people ask me if I'm excited, and the truth is that I'm not. I mean I'm too exhausted, too exhausted to be excited.

So I woke up today thinking yes, this work is important – I'm excited. And now it's gone. I want to hold on to it, but it's gone. Maybe I can bring it back. I mean I know I'll bring it back at the launch, but I want it to be something that builds and doesn't just crash. Something that flows from energy and not just push. Something that holds me when I'm holding it, holding me holding it, holding and now I need to eat.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

If you can't sleep, don't count sheep

This might be one of the best quotes ever from a doctor – and you know there are a lot of good quotes out there, right? But, check this one out: "you're abusing my medical privilege." What do you think?

Well, actually, that didn't come from the doctor directly – one of her assistants called me to say that the doctor thought I was abusing her medical privilege, because I went in to get blood drawn for two tests, and when I got there she had three test kits out – what's that third one for, I asked. Testing for a bunch of chemicals in my body – she explained it, kind of. I wasn't sure I wanted it, but I said yes anyway. Then, after she had drawn my blood, she said I needed to pay ahead of time, which had never happened before – usually they just bill me. I hadn't brought any money or methods of payment – how much is it, I asked.

$700. For that one test. $700 – I don't want that test, I said. Definitely don't do that one. The other ones I know you can bill me for, because they're the same companies that we've used before.

Then, a few hours later, when I checked my voicemail, it turned out that the doctor had called my mother to tell her that I desperately needed this test. My mother does usually pay for my medical bills, but of course I didn't authorize the doctor to call her at all. She had no idea what the doctor was talking about.

And so, as you can tell, I was abusing the doctor's medical privilege.

I love that line – I really do. And, it came with a directive that, because I was abusing her medical privilege, I really didn't need to come in for my final appointment, she didn't want to see me ever again, I could just have my new doctor call her to fax the paperwork.

Right – that doesn't sound suspicious at all. I'm sure she wasn't the slightest bit worried that I might tell her that she hadn’t been of any use to me at all, that I feel worse than when we started, that her office is totally incompetent and disorganized and frantic and that's her responsibility, that half the time she doesn't even listen to me, that she’s smart and has a lot of information but she doesn't follow up on things – you have to keep reminding her, no matter what, and when you're there for a chronic health problem it's kind of annoying to keep reminding the doctor of what she's supposed to do, right?

Remember when she called in the wrong prescription, and it took me a week to figure it out? When she prescribed a drug that didn't actually exist, and the pharmacy was looking all over for it. When she kept asking me useful questions, like: do you think you would know what it would be like to feel better?

Do you think you would know what it would be like to feel better?

Do you think you would know what it would be like to feel better?

Or, on our last appointment, no before I was abusing her medical privilege I guess, the appointment before: do you think you can get better?

Oh, I'm sorry – I thought I was in a doctor's office. I thought you were trying to help me get better.

And, she even asked, eight months into seeing me: do you smoke? Really? Have you paid any attention to me at all? Do I smoke? Do you breathe?

I'm going to have to use that line, though – stop abusing my medical privilege, okay? It's almost as good as that sign outside a church that I've seen a few times, but every time it rings as true as the last – but, dammit, somehow I can't remember it exactly now – something like this:

DON'T COUNT SHEEP
WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO GO TO SLEEP
TALK TO THE SHEPHERD

But better – I’ll have to go back there to get the exact wording – the ending I know was definitely that, because I kept thinking talk to the hand, right? No, honey – talk to the shepherd.

Oh, wait – I think I remember – here you go:

IF YOU CAN'T SLEEP
DON'T COUNT SHEEP
TALK TO THE SHEPHERD

Words to live by!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yay -- some love from the local media in Santa Fe…

Perfect timing – the Santa Fe Reporter chose the prepublication book launch for Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots as the pick of the week!!! The article includes a delicious half-page image of the glamorous cover – Santa Fe, I hope to see you this Sunday, 2 pm at op cit books -- spread the word...

Monday, January 09, 2012

One of my favorite stories is in the new Best Gay Erotica…

It's true -- my story is called "Before the Plane," and it's all about New York, New York, and New York (and cocksucking, of course). Details are here – and yes, that cover is a bit scary…