Saturday, November 30, 2013

Well, hello Boston – a beautiful piece by Allison Francis in The Media -- and, it even comes with a magnificent illustration!!!

What really hurts is when the people we believe in let us down. We’re never going to get anywhere toward these beautiful ideas -- ideas of accountability and mutuality and creating relationships through desire and desire through relationships – unless we can talk about the places where we fail.      

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A gorgeous review in Baltimore City Paper!!!

The reading is an absolute treat, especially, I think, for those of us who shared Sycamore’s world then. She resists nostalgia, and yet there is something nostalgic about remembering queer dreams, even if they turned out to be fantasies for many of us. Sycamore has a glint in her eyes and a steady smirk that refuses easy interpretation. There’s a sense that she’s poking fun, at herself and the rest of us, as her carefully crafted prose layers meaning upon meaning. She tells the story of club life where all sorts of people reveled, breaking down social identities in a play of bodies and pleasures and possibilities. And then she needed a ride home: “No one would give me a ride,” Sycamore reads. “The club was called . . . Together.” And that is just it, the gap between what we say and what we do, what our words mean and what the world does with them in the messy play of desire with the rest of things: safety, solitude, independence, that part where we want a good bus system, but if we’ve got one, we still take the car.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A cheerleading squad


That line between feeling nourished and energized by the food I eat, and feeling exhausted, face glazed over, intestinal bloating overwhelm, I wish I could find that line. Just a bite or two more, and it’s over. And then a craving for more, why am I eating more, more in this place of feeling so awful from what I ate? When the US government talks about “core sanctions architecture,” why do I think of Pilates? And fascism, of course. Remember when farmers markets were cheaper than store? Whenever I hear that feminism is only about the relationship between “men” and “women,” I get so bored. Everything in New York is now gluten-free. Soon there will be gluten-free gluten. Gluten-free organic dry-cleaning. I get confused when I see people who allegedly don’t believe in marriage congratulating people who’ve just gotten married. Let me clarify: when I say confused, I mean exhausted, overwhelmed, despondent, and horrified. In the context of gay marriage, this becomes a public spectacle – who can be the most excited – me, no, me! Critical engagement is so 1990s. I’m worried about this thing called queer. Has it become self-congratulatory rhetoric, noncritical we-have-arrived groupthink posturing? Where does the critical engagement stop, and why? Who does this serve? How can we create something else?

            A lot of people are afraid of critical engagement: they think this means you’re not supporting them. But what could be more supportive than critical engagement? I don’t mean tearing people to shreds. I mean tearing systems of oppression to shreds, embracing one another and creating something else, something we can live with, something we can call home or healing or even just help, I need help here, can you help? That’s what I wrote in The End of San Francisco, about my first immersion in queer world-making over two decades ago. I’m still looking for the embrace that lasts.

            Sometimes I think queer has become a cheerleading squad, go team go team go team! I worry that queer spaces have become zones where the illusion of critical thinking hides the policing of thought. Like high school, with better outfits. I don’t want any team to win, I want to end winning. When I say critical engagement, I mean that we can’t tear systems of oppression to shreds unless we examine all the ways we participate in these systems of oppression in our daily lives, in our relationships, in our intimate dreams and creative imaginings. Sometimes I think queer prevents this analysis, glosses over the violence we enact against one another, enables it to continue taking place, over and over again while we congratulate one another on creating radical alternatives.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The reeds


            Here I am in Boston, at last. An immersive writing experience to remember sensory and spatial details for my new novel, Sketchtasy. Already this feels like a great thing. I forgot about the wind in the Back Bay — oh, the wind. And, the trees in the middle of Commonwealth Avenue, so wide like a park. I remembered it was wide, but I didn’t remember it was a park. And the grand old buildings — four, five, six, or even seven stories here and there, where as I remembered only two and three. The way the John Hancock Tower changes into the sky in the middle of the day, you can even see a cloud reflected at the top. If there is a cloud. And then at night so dark the glass is black, reflecting every light. The way the East-West blocks are so long. And the reeds in the Fens, 10 feet high or maybe even higher. If someone had said that to me before I got here, I would’ve said they were exaggerating. And, the sound of the reeds, the sound of the reeds in the wind.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A different signal

Has anyone noticed that John Kerry is looking more and more like George W. Bush? If dreams are literal, and we are literally dreaming, then what is a dream? Once, someone told me there was something they wanted to tell me, and didn’t tell me. Okay, more than once. Maybe this happens every day: a vitamin, a good-night-amin. An eternal question: how do I stop eating, without feeling sick? Helping me to help myself to help me. To find the real question. Okay, how do I eat, without feeling sick? What I mean: to eat, and feel better. To stop eating, before I feel sick. A different signal: how to eat.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A beautiful event preview in Baltimore City Paper for my reading tonight at Red Emma's...

"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s memoir, The End of San Francisco, opens by recounting her visit with her father as he approaches death. Sycamore is asking for something from him that will help her live—she’s the one who’s going to keep living, after all—but he won’t give it to her, and as readers we are right there, in the moment, all of us—author, words, readers—in the present tense. And then the memoir skips and jumps, taking us from place to place, party to party, need to need to need. There is an intimacy to Sycamore’s writing that makes reading it feel like getting right next to her skin, sniffing, touching, feeling, and opening up ourselves. It is really, really good, and it is all about cultivating precisely this vulnerability, hers and ours, together. For Sycamore, this shared vulnerability might be what we need to survive, to cope, together, holding on to queer dreams in a world that wants queers to disappear."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When the Village Voice was a newspaper


I love that people still use cash in New York. It feels more human. And, people still use rakes. I’ve only seen one leaf blower. Not that there isn’t plenty of other pollution and noise in New York. And pollution. And noise. This middle-aged guy with a thick New York accent stops me on the street and says you look great, everything about you, you’re 100% East Village. Why didn’t this ever happen when I lived in New York? I used to think everything good in New York happened at night, and that was the only reason to live here, but now I actually think it’s much better during the day. People are more like people. Yes, they say the freaks come out at night, and I was always one of those freaks, thank you, but the problem is that also the most horrible, fake, status-crazed, shallow, vapid, commodity-driven hideousities, that’s who also comes out at night. Maybe one of the good things about being out during the day is that so many of the worst people are stuck in offices or still sleeping. I will say that I get way more positive attention on the street here than in Seattle, and I don’t know what that means exactly.

But have you spoken to Julie, our automated ticket agent? Julie can assist you in planning trips or making reservations. I don’t read the New Yorker, but sometimes I pick it up to look at the book reviews, just to see what the New Yorker thinks we should think matters. The titles are almost never interesting, but sometimes there’s a good book essay, so I read it. Most of the reviews are on a page called “Briefly Noted.” Today, the first review starts, “This buoyant, encyclopedic history…” Is this seventh grade English?

I remember when the Village Voice was a newspaper. I remember when the Village Voice contained articles, information, insight, debate, sparks of light and darkness, intimacy, explosion, art, extravagance, wildness, vibrancy, hope, desire, clamor, tragedy, controversy, contradiction, and all sorts of bad consumer choices. I remember when the Village Voice was a big part of my experience of New York – before, during, and after I lived here. Now it is nothing. No, it’s worse than nothing. Because it pretends to be something. I look through it in 5 minutes, without interest, and then I put it in the recycling.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trauma and experience


I dreamed that my headache was gone, but then I woke up. For 15 years, I didn’t get up before 1 pm. This was neither bad nor good, it was just the way it was. Whenever the time changed in the fall, I was grateful, because I was usually slipping into 2 or 3, which made it harder to get outside before dark. Of course, the other thing that happened when the clocks changed was that it got dark earlier. But now that I get up in the morning, I can’t tell if I’m more confused or less. Maybe this is true in general. I guess I should say that I’m generally against daylight savings, across the board, why mess with our schedules like that? But the funny thing about traveling cross-country this time is that it hasn’t really messed with my schedule, and I wonder what that means too.
            I’m thinking about all the detailed footage of US wars circulating endlessly in left media – soldiers talking about their own violence and what they’ve witnessed, survivors of drone strikes telling their stories, etc. While it does seem extremely important to cover every detail of this trauma that the US is enacting, I wonder what exactly it accomplishes when broadcast for an antiwar audience. If we are already against these wars, if we already understand the trauma, and if many of us are also survivors of trauma, does this do much more than traumatize us? I’m thinking about when I went to see Boys Don’t Cry in the theater so many years ago, the dramatic reenactment of the story and murder of Brandon Teena, and aside from the over-the-top Hollywoodization of the movie was quite effective at portraying the trauma. So I ended up at a bar afterwards getting smashed, and then doing way too much coke because I needed to get away, and then I thought about the question my friend Kara Davis asked right after the movie: how do we talk about trauma without making survivors reexperience it? How do we challenge the violence without traumatizing ourselves?

Friday, November 08, 2013

Time remaining

I wonder if more independent bookstores would still be in business if the people working there were friendly. Of course, it’s hard to be friendly when you’re working at an exclusive job that pays you nothing. I’m thinking about structural homophobia at independent bookstores too, which of course goes alongside structural racism, misogyny, and all the rest. But structural homophobia is what I’m thinking about at the moment. I’m thinking about the LGBT section, sometimes called gay, and once in a while called queer. This section has been much maligned by gay and queer authors, many of whom I respect (and many I do not). The basic critique is that this section ghettoizes gay and queer work, pushes it away from view, marginalizes us. But the reality is that most stores do not carry queer work unless it is in this section. Sure, you may be able to find William Burroughs or Gertrude Stein, but try for something less vaunted or more contemporary and forget it. Ideally, a queer section would help me find some of the books I want, expose me to new authors. Often, though, the selection is awful. Which brings me back to structural homophobia (and transphobia, fear of difference, fear of anything not proven marketable), and the stores that allegedly have all this great taste when it comes to new literature, but then you throw the word gay (or the term "LGBT") at them, and they give you the most shellacked, odious, empty titles. I think we should have bigger queer sections, better, and we should also see queer authors cross-referenced in the supposedly general interest sections as well. Whether this will ever happen I’m not sure.

What about the term cultural capital? It’s obvious: every edition of The Norton Anthology of Poetry should be immediately replaced with Dodie Bellamy’s Cunt Norton. But how do we make this happen? “So this is my pussy, the outer compulsion, yet surrounded, driving your car.”

I’m still thinking about something Karma Chavez said to me in the car in Wisconsin, about how radical bookstores used to fund organizing projects through the sale of books, but now it’s become so difficult to keep some of the stores afloat that there isn’t any time remaining for other organizing projects.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Unquestioned


All the community gardens are locked, so I try to walk in a graveyard. There’s construction, so the gate is open. But apparently I’m not allowed.

They even have gates around the grass in the parks. I stand on the roots of trees, pushing through the sidewalk: I need something other than hard cement to align me. A downpour in New York is a taste of heaven, the rain washing all the smells away, the wind blowing us air yes air finally air.

I do remember when I used to piss on the gates of that graveyard after the bars closed, I never realized then that it was such prime real estate.  But I’m confused by unquestioning loyalty to the experimental canon. These are better writers, and often more elitist. How do we create something challenging and open?
 
Maybe I’m just confused by unquestioning loyalty.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Delighted to be included as a nominee in 3 categories for the 2013 Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art Awards!

What a beautiful, expansive, and inclusive list! Also I love this: "Winners will receive nothing but the winning title. Winners must determine for themselves if the title signifies recognition of the merit of their work." I wish more awards were so honest. Voting is open and starts now…

Monday, November 04, 2013

Flowers

For a moment I thought Pandora was pangaea. This could be a start to something. It’s a little disconcerting when the pollen-y parts of a fake flower start falling off all over me. I’m not sure what this says about real flowers. I can’t believe my mother actually did something I requested: she called, and I answered, and she knew I didn’t have the energy to talk, so she didn’t ask me to talk. On NPR, mystery writer Sara Paretsky says we still need feminist bookstores because “there is so much clamor out there in the blogosphere. It's hard for any one voice to be heard." That’s right – the problem isn’t the publishing industry or media consolidation, it’s the blogosphere. Too many voices! I thought that was what feminism was about.

I love these fake flowers, fake flowers on hats. I don’t know what this says about hats.

I am anything but an NYC booster, but the NYC subway is the only public transportation in this country that actually works. I know the NYC subway doesn’t work all the time, and definitely doesn’t work for everyone, or everywhere in NYC, but still it’s so much better than any other US city. I’ve been to. On a different note, the subway ticket agent told me I looked fabulous. More jobs, less automation, please.

Breaking news – Google is outraged by NSA intercepting traffic on its networks: spying not used for advertising purposes should not be allowed. Is the NSA an advertising agency? Maybe not yet. A new porn video: Tapping the Pope, starring Mel Gibson. Filmed entirely on location at Barney’s New York. People are outraged about racial profiling at Barney’s New York? I thought that was the point of Barney’s New York. I know there’s an advantage to freshly-ground pepper, but freshly-ground salt? Tell me if I’m missing something. On the street, this guy says oh, that’s a flower in your hat — I thought you were dressed as a pimp.

I guess pimps don’t like flowers.

Friday, November 01, 2013

A total eclipse


People who shake their heads like what’s that? Just me. You must be dressed like that for Halloween. Why I hate Halloween: the right people dressed like the wrong people. This really happened: I walked by a house where people were dropping piles of old books out of a 3rd story window, then loading them into a Department of Public Works truck. Pages fluttering in the wind. A memoir of Robert F. Kennedy, by someone else. A History of Arithmetic. Why is it so often the songs that tormented me, that became emblematic in my hatred of them, why is it these songs that come back to me, years later, sometimes for weeks, and then when I think about the lyrics and I think wait, those lyrics actually match, maybe they’ve always matched, and should I hate them more for this or less. A Total Eclipse of the Heart. There are very few things in New York that don’t feel fake, but Central Park on a Sunday afternoon is definitely one of the fakest. Suddenly I have an idea: maybe everything that ends in pain should be changed to -pagne. Paper bag inside plastic bag. At the health food store.
 
Organic dry cleaning: isn’t that kind of like clean coal? Soon we will have organic oil drilling. Organic fracking. Organic drones? Why does my brain speed up when I started eating? It’s like I’m trying to escape from what I’m trying to escape from. The worst thing about social media is when everyone posts about the same thing. Usually the same thing I don’t care about. Maybe that’s the social part. I love it when someone tells me I look like a celebrity I’ve never heard of, and then I look up that celebrity and think oh no. When I worked at a San Francisco newsstand in 1993, I read that Omaha had the largest gay bar in the country. somehow this intrigued me