Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Did I mention I'm loving Twitter as a writing device? Really – it's true! It's really true...

Of course, you can now find me @mbsycamore

Permanence


I wake up thinking: the worst response is no response. At first I’m not thinking about anything in particular. Then I’m thinking about the publishing industry standard: no response means no, right? Because it’s so hard just to say that: no. Even with people you know, or kind of know, and then suddenly no response. Sometimes people are flaky or rushed, but most of the time I think it’s about power. I actually love it when I get a rejection letter: someone actually cares enough to say no! Maybe love is too strong a word here, but I know that there are people who I’ve asked for blurbs, who have said no, and then I actually liked them better than before. Certainly much better than the ones who never reply. Or, even worse, the ones who say yes, and then you never hear from them again.

Then I’m thinking about my closest friend of 16 years who stopped talking to me without telling me. People keep thinking he was my lover, even though I don’t use the word lover. I guess I say relationship, people think lover is what relationship means. We were in love, but we weren’t lovers, which is the type of relationship I’ve mostly striven for: I thought we had permanence. And then I confronted him about something he asked me to confront him about, told me he was ready, I didn’t have to hold it in anymore, I was so ready, he was not: our relationship was over. We had spent so long holding one another, crafting these ideals of intimacy through disclosure, trust through shared struggles, negotiation through hard times. I knew he was moving away from these ideals, but I didn’t realize he was also moving away from me. Or, I realized it, but I didn’t realize it was permanent. Not the permanence I was looking for.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Looks like I'm behind on posting here because of the tour, the tour for The End of San Francisco, and speaking of the tour, here are the upcoming dates


NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

Tuesday, October 29, 6 pm

Kimmel Center for University Life, Room 912

60 Washington Square South

New York, New York

 

NEW YORK, NY

Bluestockings Bookstore

Wednesday, October 30, 7 pm

172 Allen St

New York, NY 10002



 

BROOKLYN, NY

Brooklyn Community Pride Center

Monday, November 4, 7 pm

4 Metrotech (corner of Willoughby and Gold Sts., entrance on Willoughby St.)

Brooklyn NY 11201



 

PHILADELPHIA, PA

Giovanni’s Room

Monday, November 11, 5:30 pm

345 South 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107



 

BALTIMORE, MD

Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse

Friday, November 15, 7 pm

30 W. North Avenue

Baltimore, MD 21218


 

WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY

Tuesday, November 19, 4:30 pm

Russell House, 350 High Street

Middletown, CT

https://www.facebook.com/events/372718752859492/

 

AMHERST, MA

Food for Thought Books

Thursday, November 21, 7 pm

106 North Pleasant Street

Amherst, MA 01002



 

BOSTON, MA

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, December 11, 7 pm

1256 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, MA 02138


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wanting to want to


Corporate lawyers on K Street, eating at Dunkin’ Donuts, whose money are they saving? Oh, no – the national headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign has a green roof – I wonder if the National Rifle Association has a green roof yet. I’m really bored with world leaders expressing outrage that the US is spying on them. I wish they would express outrage about something else the US is doing. It’s really confusing me to be the East Coast, where Democracy Now is not yet archived online in the morning, so I have to listen to a stream, and that means that when I pause the program I can’t come back to the same place. I can’t decide whether it’s more annoying in everyday experience when people hate me because of privilege or when people hate me because of lack of privilege, and whether this is the same thing.

Today, famous writer tells you everything about how to get published except what actually helped them. Don’t reveal what reveals. If you ever need to ruin a contact lens, vitamin E oil works perfectly. You probably don’t even need the good stuff, without 100 preservatives, which is a good thing, because you can’t find that anyway. Oh, no — it happened again. I went to a Famous Independent Bookstore, and probably 90% of their stock consisted of titles published by the corporate presses. There should be a rule that at least 50% of the titles in an independent bookstore should be published by independent publishers. If our cherished independent bookstores can’t support independence, what is the point? We rally around boutique venues for yuppie consumption as if they are community spaces for artistic production and intellectual engagement. I want a bookstore to make me read something I don’t know about, force me to challenge my assumptions.

I’m staying just around the corner from a sex club, and I haven’t even gone there once. I haven’t felt horny, but I feel like I should go there to see if I feel horny. Remember, I haven’t had sex in over 4 months, because I haven’t really wanted to, but I kind of want to want to, just to see if that’s better. Maybe I worry that if I keep not having sex, I’ll never have sex again. Maybe I won’t even want to. I want to want to, because maybe if I don’t want to I’ll never want to again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Undoing the hold

I’m thinking about why it’s a little disturbing that, since my short piece in the New York Times, I’m now seeing myself described in shorthand as “trans activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.” While I do identify as trans, if there’s one word used to describe me I prefer queer. As in rejecting hierarchies, subverting status quo normalcy, creating more possibilities for deviance and defiance. Trans can (and sometimes does) mean all of this, but unfortunately it has become assimilated as the T in the LGBT, a fixed identity melded to the marketing of sameness as diversity. I don’t want any part of the LGBT, an acronym enabling the same old power structure, dressing it up in rainbow flags and equality signs – tokenizing, marginalizing, policing the borders. Instead, I want to undo the hold of the LGBT on the queer imagination.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bring it on!!! A wonderful interview with Yasmin Nair in In These Times...

What’s sad to me is the way that gay people who moved to San Francisco in the ’70s, who were escaping from places where they couldn’t express themselves or families that really wanted them to disappear, then moved to San Francisco and ended up policing the borders to keep out the “wrong” queer people. For example, in the Castro, we have gay bar owners arresting homeless queers because they are getting in the way of happy hour. We have gay real estate development companies who advise their clients on how to evict people with AIDS and long-term seniors so they can get more money for their property. We have gay neighborhood associations that fight against the construction of a queer youth shelter; we have gay political consultants who engineer the elections of anti-poor, pro-development candidates over and over again. So we can see in San Francisco what happens when gay people actually become part of the power structure.
Straight people are not going to hold mainstream gay people accountable for their violence, because straight people are too busy trying to camouflage their own homophobia. The straight left has done no better job than the Tea Party at dealing with structural homophobia. So queer people have to hold gay gentrifiers accountable for that kind of violence. Alongside that smiling, happy, “We’re just like you” vision of gay normalcy, there has been for decades a radical queer outsider culture that’s dedicated to creating an alternative to that as well as an alternative to the straight worlds that most of us originated in.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To disappear


All the flowers planted in downtown DC look dead to me, which is perhaps related to but not the same as a metaphor. My grandmother, who has never heard me, is starting to lose her hearing, which isn’t the annoying part. The annoying part is when she keeps calling to ask me to call her, even though I already told her I don’t have the energy. Then my mother calls, to ask me to call my grandmother.

Maybe I will lose my voice from telling these people I don’t have the energy to talk. They never wanted me to have this voice anyway. Lying in the sun in the park, that’s what I want to do, I want to lie in the sun in the park again, like earlier today, but then I would have to get back. Or, first I would have to get there, then I would have to get back. My grandmother says it’s such a pretty day, would it tire you out to go on a walk?

Yes, I already told you that.

My grandmother is starting to lose her hearing, but she was already losing her memory, and even before she was losing her memory she was repeating everything, over and over, no matter how many times I answer her questions she asks the same ones.

I don’t have the right answers.

She wants me to tell her I’m happy, or content. Something like that. I’m never less happy than when she asks me that. My mother leaves the house to give my grandmother and I time alone, but she doesn’t tell my grandmother that. After my mother gave her the wrong code to get into her building, and my grandmother is afraid of the neighborhood, all the news about muggings, doesn’t want to take her phone out of her purse. She is 92 years old, on a street she doesn’t know, in a neighborhood gentrifying in the most obvious ways possible.

My mother leaves migrant outside, and then leaves us, and this is the part I like. Looking at photos. I asked my grandmother to bring these photos. Photos of her parents and grandparents, people I’ve never met, stories of family history, history I’ve never known. Her father owned a furniture store in Hagerstown, Maryland. His brother owned a department store. Her father was such a nice man, that even after she failed her driver’s license test the third time, he told her it was because they thought she looked too young.

This is so much less exhausting than talking about myself, repeating the same things that my grandmother will never want to understand.

My mother leaves my grandmother outside, and then leaves us, and there is a bottle of wine that my mother thought had a cork, but it’s twist-off, so my grandmother can’t open it. She doesn’t want me to open it, because it will hurt me, and I don’t want to open it, because for once she’s right, it will hurt my body.

When my mother comes back, everything is exhausting again. The way she creates tension, then says I don’t want to be in the middle of this. You are this. There is no this without you. Like today, when my mother called me to tell me to call my grandmother. I already called her. It took all of my energy to tell her I don’t have any energy. And then she call again.

I call my grandmother anyway. She wants to know if I want to come over, even though she told me beforehand that I couldn’t go to her house because people talk, it isn’t worth it, just to see her at her house every few years.

She already knows it’s worth it for me.

As a kid, my grandmother’s house was always calming, it felt sophisticated because it was a big old apartment building: I wanted to disappear, I wanted to disappear in my grandmother’s apartment. But, 5 years ago, after my last visit to my grandmother’s place, she decided it was too much, what people say, not even people she knows but the people working there. She doesn’t care how I look but she can’t deal with the comments.

And now she’s asking me to come over, why don’t I come over, it will be relaxing. There’s no explanation for this change in policy. I would say heart, but I don’t know. Maybe I will lose my voice from losing my voice.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Finally, an Amtrak success story…


When I was a night person, I met a lot of people on the train. Mostly smokers and drunks, since those were the people who were up. Occasionally these people were interesting.

Now I rarely meet anyone, I just hide in my compartment and try not to get a migraine. Most people on the train don’t want to meet me anyway. But this woman asked me what I do, what I do in Seattle. Ended up ordering my book online while she was sitting across from me, now that is a success story about the internet and digital media, right?

After I went to sleep, she wrote me a note: “I love your book so far. Got to chapter “The End of San Francisco” & didn’t want to put down, but need to go to sleep! So fast & yet a lot in common & nothing — I went to Texas to Camp Casey in ‘04 — Cindy Sheehan, remember her? Protesting Bush & Iraq — The next year, I went to DC & got arrested at the Peace Rally with Cindy & a bunch of others — Joan Baez too. A bit too empathetic for our own good — you and me — anyway, writing in dark, hope readable & I’m going to sleep — enjoy your tour!”

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bonds vs. Bombs

Now the HRC-branded equality sign replaces the rainbow flag as the symbol of the assimilationist “LGBT” movement, and I wonder if people will start to miss the sweatshop-produced nylon rainbow flag, think about it as an emblem of a more radical past. Like how people forget that when domestic partnership entered the gay landscape, it was seen by many as the most insipid, whitewashed, straight-crazed consumer institution, and now people talk about it as something radical. This is how assimilation works: it robs us of our creative memory, makes us forget that there are other possibilities.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bombs and bonds


Lake Michigan: sometimes it’s the ocean and the waves are blowing big. But sometimes it’s still and the green-blue of the water mixes with the blue-gray of the sky and it almost looks like you can walk on it, in it, walk somewhere, so soft. And then you turn around and there’s the city. Not sure what this means, but my mother says she read my mini-op-ed piece in the New York Times over the phone to my grandmother. My grandmother who won’t allow me to visit her building because what will people say? She wants to see me, but she doesn’t want anyone to see her seeing me.
 
I wonder if there will ever be a time when people on the phone don’t decide my name must be Mitchell. You said Mitchell, right, Mitchell? Or, when they ask me to spell it. OIUADSIGUJOSIG? KDAJFLKADS? How do you pronounce that? A Democracy Now guest says that the entire global financial system depends on the security of American bombs. Oh, he said bonds, right, bonds.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The color of the walls

Lying in bed thinking I hear someone screaming, is someone screaming? Wait, that’s my breath. At least now I realize that the sound of the rats running across the apartment is actually the blinds in the kitchen blowing in the wind. There’s a place called Green Laundry down the street from where I’m staying – unfortunately the only green thing about it is the color of the walls

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Oops -- the New York Times asked me a question...

"For me, the possibility of a trans or queer politic lies in using identity as a starting point for challenging the violence of the world around us, and building something else, creating more possibilities for everyone." In conversation with Susan Stryker, Laverne Cox, and more

A wonderful interview with Beyond the Binary on WDBX-Carbondale!!!

Here it is..

How I'm doing


Today I just want to be home. Except, I don’t know where that is. Of course, this is a common feeling while traveling, or a common feeling for me, but that doesn’t make me less exhausted. When the ideas are flowing through my head I feel okay, sometimes, but then they stop, and I remember when I felt this way before the ideas started flowing, and maybe that was just a few minutes ago.

Sometimes someone will ask me a simple question like what are you doing with the rest of your time here? And I think oh, do I have to do something, please, nothing more. Or, someone will ask how I’m doing, and I think oh no, do I have to talk about it, really? Or: let’s catch up. No, I don’t want to catch up, really. I mean I want to hear about you, please talk about you, I don’t want to talk about me, that’s too tiring.
 
I know this is just what I’m feeling in the crash, and if I could just crash instead of trying to do more I would probably feel better, or at least less overwhelmed, but when the crash happens so much of the time it’s hard not to try to do more.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another bed there

Remembering when the phone was the phone, and now people are surprised when it still is. Remembering when I met Tara-Michelle Ziniuk and she said: you called it feminism, and I called it anarchism, and it’s the same thing. Is there a special track in MFA programs to teach you how to write about someone when they win a Really Important Prize, but just accidentally, so that maybe accidentally you can win the prize too? Or do I mean coincidentally? Sometimes there are so many dreams in one night that it’s hard to imagine how they all fit. 1-800-SHADE is a real company selling blinds – they bring all the samples to your house. Sometimes there are so many nightmares it’s hard to remember to dream. This might work the other way around. Sometimes there are dreams that become nightmares, and sometimes there are nightmares that become dreams. Marriage is a good example of this. Sometimes there is so much dust under the bed that you have another bed there.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Time change


There’s nothing like 6 hours on the train to make you feel like there’s a time change, even when there’s no time change. And nothing like spending time in the country to make you realize how gross the city is. Like this place where I was saying before and it felt so calm, now I open the door and all I can smell is mold. The time change in my head, crinkling my sinuses, poking my forehead, in front of everything looms sleep, that’s what I need, more sleep.
            But the beach, cold and windy but still sunny, so I’m lying in it, that’s what calms me, almost give me enough energy to walk back, where there are about to film a Walmart commercial in front of the building where I’m staying. Inside, the headache is back, which made it means it went away, or maybe just means that I didn’t notice it as much.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A wonderful interview for Isn't It Queer on WDBX-Carbondale

I start about 30 minutes into the broadcast...

The stars


Driving from Carbondale, Illinois, six hours south of Chicago, to the place where I’m staying in the country, I ask the person driving me, who taught at Southern Illinois University for 30 years, if most of the students come from the surrounding areas, and she says no, most of them come from Chicago. She says they’re trying to get as far away as possible from their parents, while still paying in-state tuition.

            We drive through a state park, so many trees in the dark in the air. When we arrive, coyotes are competing with crickets and maybe cicadas, something buzzing and oh, look up, so many stars, I’ve never seen so many stars, not even in Santa Fe. In the morning, I step outside and there are butterflies flying all over my arms, monarch butterflies on the butterfly bush in front of the house, I’ve never seen so many butterflies at once — they love purple, and I love purple.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The biggest resource


Phone therapy, I do love phone therapy. Trying to sense into moments of calm, internal resources to get me out of this horrible exhaustion overwhelm. The feeling of the sun on my skin at the lake, the sand under my feet. Noticing the trees, the other night for the first time, oh, they are actually impressive, growing upward in all different gnarled directions, the streetlights illuminating shadows.
            But I forgot about the reading: the biggest resource. How that so quickly fades from my memory. How to bring it back, feel it, allow it to build energy inside. This feeling of making an impact, connecting with others. This feeling in my skin, tingling.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

But let me tell you about the lake


            Days when Democracy Now spends the whole hour with a renowned film director who informs us that the financial industry is corrupt, the middle class is shrinking, and bankers are rewarded, not punished for their wrongdoing. No kidding — should I just go back to bed? Sometimes you feel like you’ve been on the computer all day, you’ve been on the computer all day. Sometimes when you feel like you’ve been on the computer all day, it’s only been a few moments. Which is worse?

            The toilets in the public bathrooms on Lake Michigan in Chicago use harvested rainwater, but it’s still a bit inconvenient when there’s no toilet paper. Days when I go back to a bookstore where I did a phenomenal and packed reading the night before, and my books are nowhere to be found. Or perhaps they are somewhere to be found, but in any case, I can’t find them. The owners are there; I think they are the owners. We haven’t met. They are selling the store. One of them scowls at me. I leave.
            But the lake, let me tell you about the lake. The lake is the best thing about Chicago: the whole city fades away. You can see it, it’s right there if you look, but you can also look at the lake and see nothing but water and sky. And oh, this sand, all this sand they brought from somewhere, who knows where, but now it’s under your feet, so glorious, you could be on any almost-abandoned beach with seagulls resting and birds chirping and you would lie in the sand if you had a towel but you don’t, too much to carry, so you lie in the grass and the sun is warm and the air is cool because this is fall, fall in the Midwest, which is a glorious time when the air clears and everything softens. I was going to tell you how horrible I feel, how horrible I feel and this is how I thought I would feel right away but then I didn’t, it took a little longer, which I think is a success, but what is really a success is that now I don’t feel horrible either.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The layers of intimacy and experience


So touched by the layers of intimacy and experience, history and analysis informing and infusing my reading in Chicago last night. Thinking of one person who said I had described his San Francisco so eloquently, even though he lived there from 1975-1990, and I first moved there in 1992. A beautiful bouquet of fresh herbs from someone’s garden, left at the front desk with a note that says “I cannot thank you enough for your extraordinary work as an editor and author. Not just personally, but as a teacher, your writing has meant the world to my students as well. I know travel is very taxing, so I wanted to offer this bouquet of herbs from my garden. I apologize in advance if you are allergic to any of the particulars, but hope you can enjoy some. Wishing you the very best for any of your journey.”

            Someone who remembered me from when I was on tour in Chicago 10 years ago, and stay at his co-op in Hyde Park, said that I was one of their nicest houseguests. Someone who remembered me from a reading at the A-Zone, an anarchist space in Wicker Park/Logan Square 10 years ago, who also mentioned getting a used copy of Pulling Taffy from the bookstore where he worked. Someone who came all the way from Norway, Illinois – not sure exactly where that is, but I know it’s not close.

            A friend I’ve known for years, from the Bay Area, now living in Chicago. A friend from Santa Fe, who grew up in Chicago, along with her childhood friend and the friend’s daughter, as well as my friend’s mother. A gorgeous bouquet of colorful flowers from a friend in Chicago who I’ve met through writing. Another friend who I’ve met through the politics of writing, and the writing of politics. All these shared histories, in a town where I’ve never lived, a packed standing-room-only audience with so much energy and warmth and analysis and eloquence. People who told me my work changed their lives. So many great stories while signing books, so many great hugs. This is why I tour.

And, here are my upcoming events:
 
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY
Friday, October 11, 4:30 pm
National Coming Out Day Keynote
Kleinau Theatre
Carbondale, Illinois
 
WASHINGTON, DC
Busboys and Poets, 5th & K
Tuesday, October 22, 6:30 pm
Cullen Room @ Busboys and Poets, 5th & K
1025 5th St. NW
Washington DC 20001
www.busboysandpoets.com/about/5th-k
https://www.facebook.com/events/503954653024813/
 
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
Tuesday, October 29, 6 pm
Kimmel Center for University Life, Room 912
60 Washington Square South
New York, New York
 
NEW YORK, NY
Bluestockings Bookstore
Wednesday, October 30, 7 pm
172 Allen St 
New York, NY 10002
(212) 777-6028
bluestockings.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/510054982404981/
 
 
BROOKLYN, NY
Brooklyn Community Pride Center
Monday, November 4, 7 pm
4 Metrotech (corner of Willoughby and Gold Sts., entrance on Willoughby St.)
Brooklyn NY 11201
(347) 889-7719
lgbtbrooklyn.org
 
PHILADELPHIA, PA
Giovanni’s Room
Monday, November 11, 5:30 pm
345 South 12th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 923-2960
giovannisroom.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/557221790998432/
 
BALTIMORE, MD
Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse
Friday, November 15, 7 pm
30 W. North Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21218
redemmas.org
https://www.facebook.com/events/194860037360140/
 
WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
Tuesday, November 19, 4:30 pm
Middletown, CT
 
AMHERST, MA
Food for Thought Books
Thursday, November 21
106 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01002
(413) 253-5432
foodforthoughtbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/555762381156361/
 
BOSTON, MA
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, December 11, 7 pm
1256 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 661-1515
harvard.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/209181982584941/

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Incredible flavor


              I realize that most people, when traveling, think about where they can go to eat. For me, since I know I can’t really eat out anyway, I think about where I can go to buy groceries and where I can cook. And so, the produce update: the broccoli in Havre, Montana is the best I’ve ever tasted, and they have so many local sprouts at the chain supermarket to choose from. The organic kale, on the other hand, is from California in the 1970s: I have to boil it for a whole hour before it’s edible.

              Madison, Wisconsin has the best collard greens and turnips, and an even more amazing selection of sprouts – in Washington state the regulations for producing and selling sprouts are so stringent that you can’t find them anywhere. The shiitake mushrooms in Madison are also surprisingly good. And, the onions in the suburbs of Chicago are phenomenal. I don’t know where I got the bay leaves that I’m traveling with, but I wish I did because they have an incredible flavor that I haven’t noticed before, and I think I only have about five left.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Self-contained


One thing I’m noticing while I’m on tour is how self-contained I can be. Even here in Madison, at a hotel on the side of a thoroughfare, I feel pretty relaxed. I just need a trip to a good health food store, somewhere to cook, and a nice walk. Internet service, I guess. The walking possibilities here were looking kind of bleak, with the Toyota service shop next door, Pizzeria Uno down the street and the highway looming large in sound and sight. But then I decided to walk up a hill, and on the side of the road it actually smelled amazing, with all sorts of wild flowers and weeds and small trees growing. Then through some suburban low-end condo area, but there were birds chirping, I love birds. And then, up ahead, the hulk of an old farmhouse and an abandoned field. Even a park with a not-quite-path through a kind-of woods and everything’s okay again, the air feels so fresh, my feet into the different textures in the ground. And then I’m tired again, and it’s time to walk back.