Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The other half

Sometimes I feel like I spend half the day cooking, and the other half trying to recover from what I ate. But now I know why they said to take that supplement before bed. I succeeded at waiting too long to take a walk, so that now I’m too tired and it’s okay. Looking up into the sky is my favorite part of the sky. In Santa Fe, you don’t have to look up because the sky is at eye level and that’s the only thing I miss. Okay, I also miss the color and texture of adobe, even when it’s fake, the mythology of the architecture like hills, the way so much desert is growing and you can’t figure out how.

Maybe there is no recovery, only discovery. This sounds better than what I’m trying not to remember. Maybe there is no health, only stealth. There’s always that moment in bed, where I’m trying to figure out if this is the right time to get up. Maybe there is no right time: I’m sitting on the floor of the kitchen, trying to remember how to get up—this probably isn’t a good sign. There’s that place in bed before deciding whether to get up, sometimes this happens so many times, and I’ve never figured out how to make the right decision. I know there’s something called restful sleep because I heard about it in someone else’s dreams. In my dreams I’m writing essays and then when I wake up I can hardly figure out a sentence.

One of the funniest things I ever said was that I didn’t need to drink, because I felt so happy: this was sixth grade. Soon enough, positive thinking would give way to positive drinking. Ride Sally Ride, and I know we were supposed to be excited. Somewhere around sixth grade I learned to smile because it hurts, lie don’t cry, I got too good at this. But there’s good news: somehow I survived sixth grade and I will never dissect a frog.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Editing the new novel, here I come…

The first two readers of the manuscript for my next novel, Sketchtasy, have the opposite opinion of the beginning of the third chapter. One thinks that suddenly the voice of the narrator feels more forced and distant, like a stand-up act, and the other thinks this is the part where the narration really takes off. So, now I know that something is working—I just have to figure out what it is. Today I hear from the third and fourth readers—editing is so fun! Oh, did you want a taste? Here’s the beginning of the third chapter, as it is now:

It’s true—I’m now doing time at the exclusive Copley Place. Not in the mall, darling, but in those upstairs offices facing the magnificent atrium. Now, don’t get all excited thinking I have a view of the broken-sun sculpture pouring water onto the hallowed granite where Neiman Marcus shoppers tread. No, no, my dear, this is classic office realness so of course my lovely cubicle faces another lovely cubicle, and behind that lovely cubicle I can glimpse another lovely cubicle, facing, well, facing me, my cubicle, and I.
My highly sought-after position consists of making crank calls for the Uncommon Clout Visa Card—you know, the card that gives back to the gay and lesbian community. With every purchase. And, when I say Uncommon Clout gives back, honey, I do mean gives back.
That's right—every time you use your Uncommon Clout Visa card, we make a donation of 10 cents to the nonprofit of your choice. You heard me right—10 cents. That nonprofit is going to be rolling in dimes way before you can click your diamond-encrusted ruby slippers and say: There's no place like Saks Fifth Avenue. Before you know it, you’ll be using that card, honey, using that card and saving our gay children 10 cents at a time.
And, now, you don't even have to call 1-800 GAY CLOUT because you’ve got this bitch on the phone to set you up with the debt bondage you’ve been waiting for. Yes, I know gay clout is eight letters and your standard phone number is only seven, but GAY CLOT just wouldn't be as catchy. Don’t worry, there’s absolutely no annual fee. We offer a low 9.9% APR for your first six months with credit lines of up to $25,000—and, you can request an additional free card for your domestic partner or domesticated French poodle. If just a few hundred thousand people use this card regularly, we can truly make a difference by supporting worthless nonprofits and other exploitative businesses that happen to call themselves gay or gay-friendly.
But there's absolutely no pressure. I'll just sign you up, and then you can cancel when you get your balance up to $24,999. I'm not working for the collectors, honey, all I need is your name, address, and Social Security number. Or, actually, if you want, you can just give me your abusive father’s name, address, and Social Security number, and we’ll go with that. We here at Uncommon Clout are nothing if not flexible and I would like my two-dollar commission. Talk about a shopping spree.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

That hint of approval

This is a true story: I’m looking for a bandaid I lost in a pot of kale I’m about to steam. It’s a red bandaid, not red as in blood or metaphor but just red as in red, in the shape of a crayon, which makes it stronger. Sometimes it’s hard to play music if I don’t want to listen to the same CD over and over. Every bad movie is about trying to get back into a dream you never really had, and I’m still trying to get out of that movie. Meanwhile, there’s this mall like a pathway between parking lots, but still it’s a hangout, I’ve just been to the thrift store so I’m holding clothes on hangers, wearing the eyeglasses I would never wear in public, so that’s how we know this is a dream. Some guy looks at me and says he’s young, and there’s that hint of approval from someone embodying the masculinity I could never attain and then rejected, there’s always some kind of allure in that.

He’s talking to someone who’s an outreach worker for youth, she says I could just say 19 and check off a box; she’s joking. I say seven. I realize two people I know have recently tested HIV-positive, but where did I see that? One of them is my best friend who died almost 20 years ago, and the other is someone I’ve never met, and I know I could look on Twitter to see if it’s really true, except you can never see if anything’s really true on Twitter. The comfortable part about dreams is when you go to a place where you’ve been before, in another dream, or at least it feels like that, this mall between parking lots or the place where I’m living in a corner of a room that’s another room and I’m on the phone with Chris, trying to tell him where to find me, but there’s too much wind, and I don’t know where I am anyway, and I guess that’s why I want to go back into the dream because in the dream I haven’t lost him.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It's getting dark — Stranger by the Lake, help!

I can’t believe I watched that movie, I really can’t believe it. I can’t believe I went to that movie, and I sat there, and I watched the whole thing. I watched the whole thing. I really can’t believe it. Strangers by the Lake, that’s what it was called. I read about it — a murder in a gay cruising area, please, so I certainly wasn’t thinking about going. But one of my oldest, closest friends told me I must, he said it was the most detailed portrayal of gay cruising that he’d ever seen in a movie — they showed everything, he said — every type, they showed every type. Almost every type. You have to go.

But isn’t there a murder, I asked. Yes, he said, it’s a thriller, but you don’t see anything. It’s not traumatic like a Lars von Trier movie? No, it’s not like that — I saw that first Lars von Trier movie with Jason, and I told her that if she ever brought me to something like that again then we wouldn’t be friends.

I wasn’t convinced, but I guess I was convinced. I mean, I don’t generally go to thrillers — anything with the hint of that horror aesthetic just throws me over the edge. I’ve had enough of that in my life already. I’m still trying to get over it every day, the trauma of childhood and what happened. What still happens, here in my body, but anyway, this was one of my closest friends, who’s known me for 20 years — 20 years, really — I can say things like that now. I mean, I can say something like that, and it’s true.

So anyway, I went to this move. You can tell from the beginning that it’s a thriller because every time he goes swimming in the lake he looks out at all the guys cruising and the camera is shaking, he’s shaking, he’s looking around. Nothing happens, at first. Maybe there’s cruising, maybe there’s sex, I can’t remember. The lake is beautiful — it almost looks like the desert, but it’s in France somewhere. They’re talking about something called a silurus that someone found in the lake, a 15-foot silurus, and can something like that really exist? What the fuck is a silurus — there must be something wrong with the translation. Maybe a jellyfish.

Yes, there is cruising, and there is sex, and it’s graphic, and it’s kind of realistic — I mean you actually see people coming, so that’s a surprise. But this can only happen because there are three murders. There’s a good line, someone accosting the main character in the cruising path through the woods, asking him: have you seen any women, have you seen any women here? I know I’ve seen horny women around here before.

And the main character, he’s pretty self-confident, a young guy, waxed and gym-toned in this small town in France, wherever it is. Anyway, I laugh at that line, you’re supposed to laugh, and some older queen further up in the theater of 500 seats is very upset that I’m laughing, or that I’ve been so loud, chatting quietly about some of the ridiculous things, isn’t this what you do in the theater? Isn’t this why we go someplace together, so we can be together?

But no, the myth of the dead audience. Sit there, be completely still, don’t even breathe, don’t read too much, not if it’s too loud, don’t make noise unless you’re supposed to. I’m beginning to think that the requirement of the dead audience is its own kind of violence, making us silence ourselves in order to experience public engagement with emptiness. Emptying presence in order to be present. Requiring our silence in order to experience the silencing of the screen. I mean every time someone tells me to shut up in a theater, it ruins the whole thing for me. Not to mention that this is clearly an older gay men, and so of course I’m assuming he’s having issues with queens and I live in this town of deadness, watching this deadening movie, and anyway I almost want to get in a fight with this bitch but also I don’t want to get in a fight.

Anyway, some of the shots are gorgeous: it’s very still. The water is incredibly blue, the sky changes dramatically, the framing of the place where people park and the way that shifts and doesn’t shift, this I can appreciate. The sound is pretty dramatic too, but also kind of stupid because when there’s dialogue there’s no background sound, but then suddenly when they’re walking through the woods you hear every bug. So there’s a murder, first it looks like play with this one guy dunking the other in the water, but he’s saying stop, stop, and then there’s no more dunking, and one guy swims back to the shore, puts on his clothes, and walks off. The main character witnesses this — this is the hunky guy he has a crush on, killing off the boyfriend. Actually, it’s not just a crush — he talked to him once, and he already knows he’s falling in love.

So then the next day, the main character has passionate hot sex with the murderer, and I wish this was a critique of gay culture, but it doesn’t feel that way at all, it just feels like another movie about the pathology of gay sex for a straight audience, it won a prize at Cannes. So now they’ve had sex, and it really is love. The only person with any moral compass is the detective, of course, a straight guy who says one of your own just died, and you all act like nothing happened? One of your own: can we sit here with that, and try to imagine people in a gay cruising area thinking us? A collective: I wish it was that. The detective who says I’m not looking for compassion or solidarity, but some sense of concern?

I guess this is the only straight character in the movie, unless you count the guy looking for women in the gay cruising area. I love it when the straight cop is the moral compass of a gay movie. Oh, I guess there’s the fat older guy that our young, healthy hero befriends, he comes to the gay cruising area, but not to cruise. He’s done with sex, he just wants companionship. He’s in love too, or falling in love — whoever wrote this script needs help, serious help, like permanent institutionalization, without any writing materials. I thought I had it all figured out, this day. I was having an energy crash, and about to hang out with my newest close friend — how fun to actually make it to this movie that one of my oldest close friends suggested. How fun to make it to this move, and relax, forget how tired I am.

The worst is yet to come, and I don’t just mean the aftermath, my body in so much pain from sitting in a fucking theater and watching such a pathologized piece of shit, I mean when I see a movie like that I don’t want to see any movie ever again, except the problem is that when I see a movie like that it will stay in my head until I see another movie, the worst movies always stay in my head, the longest. I just want to lie down, and go to sleep, and sleep for the next — oh, never mind.

So anyway, now we have the detective, the older guy, the love interest/murderer, our hero, and lots of sex in the woods, so what could go wrong? Here you go: the older guy approaches the murderer to tell him he knows what’s going on — and, hey, he says, I’m heading out to the woods, see ya. Our hero is swimming in the lake. Since this is a thriller, of course, we assume this is a setup, especially when the older guy looks back in that cruising way, and the murderer follows him, and we figure our saviors the cops will be there to rescue us, or if not the cops then maybe it’s just so our hero can see the murderer fucking this other guy and realize he’s not in love, something like that, it happens all the time, in movies.

Let’s back up. Remember when my friend said that you don’t see anything, right? So, when we do see the first murder, the guy is underwater, so maybe that doesn’t count? But this one, our hero sees true love has run away so he shakes the camera back to the shore and then runs out in his magical cutoff jean shorts to hear some kind of grunting, what is it, probably sex, right? But then true love/murderer runs off, and the hero looks over, and the old guy’s lying there, his throat slashed open and blood dripping everywhere. And our hero tries to save him with his shirt, but he says: It’s okay, I got what I wanted. Can we say that again? It’s okay, I got what I wanted. (Blood dripping from his throat, blood everywhere, this is the end of his life.)

Yes, I laugh here, but how can we ever laugh enough to erase such a disgustingly pathologized narrative for this movie that won a big award at Cannes, and it wasn’t the homophobia award either. You know — the old guy who’s so sad that he just wants some hot murderer to slash his throat. So edgy.

Murder number three happens when the detective shows up and he gets stabbed, bye-bye. Now, our hero is in hiding, but will the murderer find him? It’s getting dark.

Oh — best director, in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes, that’s what this film won — are you serious? Who is this fucking director? The worst part about seeing this movie is seeing it, but then the second worst part is when I have to go online to look all this shit up. I mean, I don’t have to, but I will, probably. I just learned they used body doubles for the sex scenes because the actors didn’t want to do them, that must be why we always see them in silhouette, great — homophobia here, homophobia there, homophobia, everywhere — must be the next great gay movie.

I can’t believe my friend told me that you don’t see anything, those were his exact words. You don’t see anything, except three murders. I wonder if he was so mesmerized by the allure of gay sex projected in elegant glamour on the big screen, nothing like this since the 1970s when porn briefly merged with high art, and now we have this: come shots and the slashing of the throat, and I don’t even know what to say anymore, I just feel so sad, that’s the truth, this sadness, weighing me down, just what I needed, more sadness.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What happens

I never understand what happens when I cut myself chopping vegetables, because I’m always chopping vegetables, so what happens with the other thousands of chops in between the one that actually cuts me? For example, today I chopped three bunches of collards, two bunches of kale, one watermelon radish, one half of a butternut squash, one golden beet, a little bit of red cabbage, two heads of broccoli, one red onion, a bunch of rosemary, basil, a turnip, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting, so how many chops would that be? Let’s say, 20 for each bunch of greens, so that’s about 100 right there, 10 for the radish, 20 for the squash, 15 for the beet, five for the cabbage, 15 for the broccoli, 20 for the onion, 30 for the rosemary, 15 for the basil, 10 for the turnip, I guess that’s almost 250 chops just this morning, and I think the last time I cut myself while chopping vegetables was in Boston, in December, so maybe three months ago, but that time it was because the cutting board was slippery, glass, and glass cutting boards are ridiculous, not just because of the slipperiness, but because they dull the knife, although I guess that doesn’t relate to cutting myself today, where the knife went right through my thumbnail and sliced off the top of it, it’s pretty deep, this cut, the blood just keeps flowing, I mean, I was just about to go on a walk, but then the blood was pouring out of the bandaid – or, the three bandaids I’m using as one, really, or the three bandaids I was using, before I had to take them off because the blood was pouring onto the floor, a little got on my pale yellow-green pants but luckily I noticed that right away and got it off, changed the bandaids, and now maybe I’m ready for a walk, again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An hour earlier

Sometimes there are songs in my head that I made up, and sometimes there are songs someone else made up, and how does my brain decide? I thought about calling someone, but I decided on the news instead. I used to hate daylight savings, because it messed up my sleep, but now I’m glad I can go to bed an hour earlier and pretend it’s the same. Sometimes a dark day after a sunny one can seem so much darker. I always have various keys lying around, and I don’t know what these keys relate to, but what if I throw them away and they open something?

Monday, March 10, 2014

An interview about depression!

I did an interview with Sarah McCarry for her wonderful project called Working, a series of interviews with writers about depression, and after I answered the questions I found myself thinking: I hope this isn’t too depressing. Which is ironic, right, because the project is about depression. This made me think about how often those of us with chronic health issues (including depression) filter our experiences so that other people don’t feel too overwhelmed. Even healthcare practitioners, sometimes. And how this doesn’t serve us, or them. But what would it mean to say everything, to express it all, and how would this feel? I think it would help, but I don’t know how, exactly.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

As a craft

One consistent failure of safer sex messages is that they tend to individualize safety—communal safety is rarely invoked. And perhaps one of the reasons that communal visions of intimacy through sexual safety/risk-taking don’t seem possible, is that focus on individual safety in safer sex messaging. When I wake up and listen to a track that goes freedom freedom freedom freedom, and think maybe, this might be a good day. But then I’m trying to remember that feeling, and I can’t. If I lie down, will I ever get up?

In my dream, I pick up a copy of Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots and I realize something is different. Wait, it’s a biography of H.P. Lovecraft, but at least the cover is still pink, and it still says faggot. I’m on my way to a reading which is crowded way before it starts, always a good sign until someone accosts me to argue about gay marriage so I go to the bathroom. This person was holding the book, but she’d put a different cover over the cover, so she didn’t have to look at the word faggot. The good thing about this dream is that even though I go to the bathroom, my father isn’t there, and so it’s stressful, but there isn’t any horror. When I get back in the main part of the store for my reading, the space has grown but people are still arriving.

Since I don’t know anything about H.P. Lovecraft, I can only assume that his appearance on my book cover is because of his name. And it’s true, if more people could see love as a craft, rather than instinct, we would be in a much better place.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

The American dream

It seems to me that saying nothing in an eloquent way is still saying nothing. That dynamic between hating the town where you live and wondering if you should buy a condo must be what they mean when they say the American dream. I remember when this doctor I was seeing in Santa Fe wanted to do some new blood test that didn’t sound that useful, but I said okay, as long as it’s not too expensive. Then I went out and the receptionist told me it would be $775. I said you definitely do not have my permission to do that test. Then I got a call from the receptionist telling me the doctor thought I was abusing her medical privilege, she didn’t want to see me anymore. What is it about doctors that always ends up going wrong? I guess that’s the point of doctors.

Friday, March 07, 2014

What it feels like

Breaking news: the two sides of John Kerry’s hair have agreed to continue talking. Oh, a few dead potted palms in front of the entrance to the building—time to raise the rent by $500. Walking by a new building that looks like it’s made of styrofoam, I touch it to see. Wait, that is styrofoam. Here in Seattle where it’s always raining, I watch all these new buildings go up — soaking wet particleboard, that must be mold-resistant, right? Sometimes people talk about the endings of movies I’ve never seen, and I rarely wonder about the beginnings. I’m trying to remember what it feels like not to feel like this.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A level I don't need

Sometimes the morning brings such a clear thought, I mean today I suddenly realized one of the reasons I can’t deal when people are deliberately shady in public is that it’s so hard for me to exist in the world at all, but I’m always friendly, or I always try to be friendly, and this takes a lot of effort, a lot of effort to seem effortless. And then these people who are deliberately shady, and it wrecks me. I mean, I’m already wrecked. But then I’m at the next level, whatever level that is, a level I don’t need.

Oh, look — The End of San Francisco is a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, hooray!

Here's the list...

Monday, March 03, 2014


Meanwhile, someone is poisoning me through the air duct in my bathroom, yet again. Is there some way to close me off from closing off? When I get produce, they always think I’m cooking for a cooperative house. The cooperative is me. It’s hard to make decisions. When someone says does the weather affect you, that’s a trick question, right? I thought it was a moving truck, but actually it’s here to cut concrete. Maybe this is a metaphor. In Seattle, we don’t need umbrellas—we just drink our tears.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

One problem

One problem with chronic health problems is that they are always a problem. Even when they are not directly a problem. For example, you’re sitting at a reading or a performance or whatever, and wondering how much this is going to hurt afterwards. Or, even when waking up in the morning filled with ideas crossing into and interacting with one another, and then ideas about ideas, so many thoughts coming together and you want to write it all down, but then by the time you sit down to write it all down, it’s gone. Or, not gone, but you can’t access it. Maybe one day it won’t seem delusional every time I think I have energy. I mean afterwards, sitting here and trying to remember.