Monday, December 24, 2012
i generally find it not to be a bad omen when i arrive somewhere and all the faces turn to me to stare. you’ve seen this scene in the movies if you haven’t experienced the sensation firsthand. needless to say, it’s not comfortable. it’s distinctly uncomfortable, liable to occur for several reasons, such as when wearing something scandalous or radical (a time at which staring is often not warranted,) or when having something awkward hanging from the body such as snot from the nose or toilet paper from the pants, or when having committed heinous acts such as war crimes or the spreading of gossip.
the other day, i will admit that a bit of staring may have been warranted. i have found myself a bit lazy this weekend, unable to convince myself to clean up, to take care of myself, to give myself a good once over before i step out of the house. the other morning, john and i went over to the overlook restaurant for breakfast. not until i stepped out of the car and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the car window did i realize how distressed and possibly distressing i looked: disheveled in the day before’s clothing, bags under my half-lidded eyes still heavy with caffeine withdraw, my hair sticking up in varied and awkward directions as if i spiked my hair with gel in 1992 and never corrected it. the looks then that i received from the other patrons in the restaurant were warranted, and if not warmly received, then at least accepted.
john and i ordered coffee. “and a light beer. miller light?” i said two please. the server looked us over, considered the hour, but complied without too much judgment in the end.
the other evening i stepped into monsoon, that thai restaurant on n. mississippi avenue, to pick up take-out john and i had ordered for dinner. i saw a friend in a booth toward the back of the restaurant. he sat with another man i did not recognize, so thinking they might be engaged on a date and not wanting to be disturbed, i waved to my friend and stepped to the counter to pay for my food. i did not stop to chat. waiting for the restaurant to finish preparing my food, i looked back around the restaurant. my friend and his dining partner stared at me. i turned back around, shifted, fidgeted under the weight of their eyes on the back of my neck. another peek behind me and they still stare, talking hushedly. they get up and leave, but their gaze targets me as they walk past the windows away from the restaurant.
certainly they must have noted my facial expression, a complex mix of incredulity and anger. what on earth were they staring at?
they may sometimes call me little bear, but i am not the dancing bear in the circus. i generally do not command a crowd’s attention. and though i had not been in contact with this friend for a long while, i had no idea there existed any bad blood between us.
times like this i think i must be clueless, that i must not have any idea what people think of me at all, that i have covertly affected some gossip to which i am ignorant. or that my initial ‘c’ stands not only as a metonym for me, but as a scarlet letter for crazy as well. keep a wide breadth around him. his crazy catches.
“guilty! guilty! guilty! guilty! call me!” my friend owen used to compare our friends to the quintessons, the face-faced judge from the transformers. judgmental? i really do not consider myself so, at least not anymore. but if i am guilty, then i’d like to know the charge. like josef k, their stares arrest me for an unknown crime, and i’m tried in their gaze. what did i do wrong? this time. what did i do wrong now? i’m at a loss.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
i would like to start photographing my houseplants. photograph them for a year. then display them in a gallery after that year with their portraits at different intervals throughout the year, show how they've grown, document their fertilizations, their blooms. document how i sometimes have a difficult time tending to different plants. cactus always get me. i say, oh hey, you look thirsty little guy. and the cactus never is. then it dies.
how about an exhibit that consists of two receptions. at the first reception, visitors to the gallery could make their own crystal geode things. you know, like those crystal growing kits. could i put one of those together, build one myself? so everyone would make their own crystal and we'd wait for the crystals to crystallize. how long does that take? i should figure that out.
then at the second reception, we'd have all the crystal caves out and displayed in their glory. glorious. and there would be so many colors. and everything would sparkle.
question: can crystallization be affected by external influence, as in can certain chemical process change the color and/or the crystalline structure of the mineral?
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
i like the mornings i find her in bed with me, curled up on my legs. when i am away at work, she sleeps in a cubby filled with knitted scarves.
though out of town right now, i like the mornings i wake up with adam. if cold, i can pull myself in close to him cuddle, warm up before i push out from under the covers and dress for work. sometimes he won’t look up when i wake; i’ll dress and quietly shuffle around in the dark, and before i leave i’ll walk to the bed and kiss him. he’ll sit up to kiss me, the covers falling off his shoulders and i think beautiful.
when the autumn turns cold like this i like being alone. i like the quiet of my house. and i like cooking for myself and drinking tea and reading before bed. but i like the loneliness because i also have a desire to be around those i love. hanging christmas ornaments in the apartment makes me miss my family, my mother and sister and father. if i were in alabama, i would lay around the house and care for the cat then have chinese for dinner with my family on christmas day. if the cold keeps in during this time of year, the time i spend with friends becomes more cherished. i want drinks with friends, unlayered, out of the rain, ruddy cheeked and smiling.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Sunday, December 2, 2012
and i’d like to believe we’re building something amazing in portland.
two years ago mikiel and i played together under the name djs ride or die. in the window of bar bar we djed at the beginning of a february queerlandia.
one of the best things about portland is its long history. mikiel and i started playing music at our friend john’s party. john has been throwing parties and djing for a while. through him i know a history of queer parties and events and communities back through booty and the original eagle and blow pony, through zebra and sissyboy, through gay culture on stark street. back through decades, back through a time many of us cannot know or remember.
at rooster rock two summers back mikiel and i started to think about throwing our own event, what that would look like, what we would want it to sound like, for whom we would be hosting this event. hot summer days and it was easy to daydream. but it was also at rooster rock that we ran into our friend kevin who put us in touch with alan, the owner of produce row, and our summer daydreams started to concretize.
a tea party: a queer afternoon day-drinking social event on the patio of produce row cafe. six hours, six djs.
january one year ago saw the first bridge club.
the crew that throws bridge club with us has become so invaluable. bridge club could never have worked out, never become established without all the djs and artists who invest so much into the event: rob (orographic) and brendan (pocket rock-it) and ryan (gossip cat) and john (huf n’ stuf). shawn brought an incredible look, flawless design. terrance brought his passion for early americana, for 78s and jazz and american music. each dj, each artist has brought with him a unique style, unique influences, and flawless art. together these men created an atmosphere, an environment, a beauty.
and this group of artists make and produce and dj and create art and music with so many others here in portland, at other events, for other communities. bridge club is a node in the dialogue with other parties and other parts of the queer community, with other aspects of portland life. it’s not just the amazing guest djs that have graced bridge club with their talent: mercedes and l-train and rafael from the miracles club and bruce la bruiser and dundiggy and eric hansen and nark (our guest today). i’m talking about the entire community. i’m talking about all the other parties and party people in portland. bridge club is in dialogue, creating something larger, putting together a larger community with other events: gaycation and bent (though ended) and hey, queen and twerk and queerlandia. we’re talking about a larger community; we’re building history on a long trajectory.
i love the people that throw these parties. and i love the people that attend these parties. and i love that in portland we come out and dance and we come out and talk and we come out and argue and flirt and kiss and create and invest. we’re all fully formed, free agents. we’re not just queer. we are djs and designers and artists and musicians. we’re psychologists and journalists and financiers and professors and politicians. we queer and so much more. we interact on so many levels. we come from so many different places, from so many different backgrounds, invested in so many different disciplines.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
my friend mikiel and i sometimes talk about the importance of what he has called "found family," those people who become your family in whatever place you live, no matter how close you are to your biological family. i’m talking about the people you choose to surround yourself with. john, mikiel, and zebra constitute my drinking family: our home is any bar.
from what i understand, mikiel finds himself still close to his biological family, though like him, his siblings have flung themselves outward from their parents’ indiana home. my family still lives back in the south, in alabama and georgia, but i try to keep up. i call them frequently. i visit them whenever possible. i miss them. but i think the propensity mikiel and i share to integrate others into our familial fabric stems directly from our parents, from the way our families functioned growing up.
mikiel has shared with me stories about his parents’ sociability: a backyard garden his house shared with his neighbors, other families that created a larger tribe, the dinners that his parents regularly prepared and shared with others, the traditions they built with other families. mikiel in portland has stitched together a wider net just as his parents did.
growing up my relations existed beyond blood. uncle dave (or super dave my sister and i called him in reference to his compulsion to speed) had befriended my father in years before in birmingham while my father had been in college. dave still lived a debaucherous life i’m sure; he and my parents young. as a child, we understood him to be a part of our family. he eventually came into trouble though. i found himself strangely reminded of him this past weekend when i received several phone calls from an unidentified number: “this is a collect call from ‘the tallapoosa county jail.’” dave eventually found himself estranged from our family as his own life fell apart.
i haven’t seen one of my other “uncles” in years either. my sister and i loved our uncle robert, probably because if dave was a friend of my father’s, our uncle robert actually loved us. as children he didn’t just dismiss us as children. he liked seeing us and playing with us and talking to us. he probably wanted children of his own. robert always gave us the best christmas gifts: large leather-bound national geographic special editions. books he thought we should read. books that made us feel mature and smart. books that were beautiful. one year he gave me a political biography of abraham lincoln, a little difficult for a nine or ten year old but a subject matter i found interesting when i finally read the book later in college. and one year he gave me a copy of look homeward, angel by thomas wolfe for my birthday with a note telling me he thought this should be my coming of age novel. three generations of steam of consciousness later and a decade of my life, i finally made it through look homeward, angel and it has become one of my favorite novels, something i definitely need to re-read.
eight years ago, i did not share any love for a particular novel with my friend jordan, but i did share art history with her. as art history majors in a tiny department, we attended almost every art history class in college together, sitting next to each other right by our professor dr. spies with whom we were in love. we held hands during the lecture and cooed over the smooth beautiful of a caravaggio or ingres, delighted in the painterly texture of john singer sargent or the talent of thomas eakins, laughed at the antics of marcel duchamp or yves klein.
eight years ago i lived in my first apartment, on a hill on sixteenth avenue south in birmingham. the dorms were closing for the thanksgiving holiday but jordan did not want to go home. so i suggested she stay with me for the holiday, come with me to my family’s dinner. and that’s what we did. jordan and i drove with my mother and sister two hours north to my aunt’s home where we dined with all the extended family: grandmother, aunt, uncle, and all my uncle’s family. a hungry hodgepodge of people pushing each other of out the way to eat. jordan and i smoked and bitched and laughed at the peculiarity of the group that had come together.
back in birmingham, the weather had become so cold we refused to go outside so we sat on the couch by the window and smoked through the screen, which really didn’t work at all.
as my parents integrated their friends into our family, so too have i collected and contributed to my wider circle. we all do. we come together and take care of one another and share gifts and meals and champagne. we will share this holiday together. especially the champagne. i have two bottles in the fridge and i am ready for a feast.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
to eat more like my caveman ancestors, i’ve cut grains and potatoes and legumes and beans and peanuts and dairy from my diet. i’ve quit eating the foods that were domesticated, farmed; that began appearing in the diets of humans only after the advent of farming. this leaves meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. the idea is to concentrate on a high protein, fatty diet and to consume carbohydrates in low levels in fruits and vegetables.
this strategy makes some sense to me for losing fat and gaining muscle. furthermore the diet prohibits the intake of foods to which large numbers of humans have historically been allergic or intolerant, specifically wheat (gluten) and dairy. i know personally i have problems drinking milk and it will interesting to see how giving up dairy (which i love) and wheat (i live on bread and cheese) will affect my body. i know those with a gluten intolerance can see significant changes to their health and body after removing gluten from their diets.
what i like and find simultaneously ridiculous about the adherents of this “paleo diet” is the fluidity of the practice. some practitioners add dairy back into their diets, or rice, or certain grain substitutes. they analyze nutrient levels to absurd degrees, research to which cavemen would not have had access. they romanticize our paleolithic ancestors as healthier, taller, more muscular - all attributed to their diets. they praise unprocessed, organic food, then expound upon the use of powdered protein shakes for exercise, for bulking up, for building muscle. i am writing they, but really i mean something of the opposite. as a group they all eat a paleo diet, but each member of this community has adapted this general diet to his or her own needs or desires. this exemplifies for me the flexibility of the human diet, the range of pleasure and satisfaction that can be derived from eating. from a basic human diet, in this case referred to as a the paleo diet, humans have and can start at a basic nutritional point which can then be added to and modified to explore and enjoy a range of tastes.
on the quotidian level i am discovering that this pared down, conscious diet may promote and sustain for me a better health.
here at almost three weeks following this diet i want to believe i already feel healthier. i understand this may be psychosomatic. i have lost some weight, though i believe the diet will help me build muscle (if i can get my workout routine together.) i cannot say that i have more energy. when i started the diet i felt constantly hungry, while my body craved bread and rice and potatoes, protesting the sudden lack of carbohydrates. these foods had been staples in my diet previously. but i have adjusted to the change. i no longer feel constantly hungry, but i think i have been eating more frequently, finding myself hungry more frequently.
i have been cheating. once a week i may take myself out to eat. mostly because at the weekend i find my house foodless meaning i need to go to the grocery store. and i’ll be honest, sometimes i get lazy. too lazy to make myself dinner. and i meant to keep myself mostly sober during november. i have been drinking a lot less than i had been this summer, but i haven’t fallen completely off the wagon. i’m still on the wagon.
and i’ll eat thanksgiving dinner. all the fixin’s. everything. it’s a holiday and this diet is not a religion. it’s more like an experiment.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
whether he wakes up not wanting me to leave, or whether he’s wants to get me dressed and out of the house so he can go back to bed, i like waking that way. dressing and biking to work and working through the day: it’s a good day.
small beautiful moments.
a friend hosted some of my coworkers at his house to celebrate the great success my company has seen recently. we drank together, told jokes, related stories that we might not have shared in the office together, happy to share a night together away from work, away from our duties and responsibilities and professional demeanor. one woman’s young son danced around the living room, danced through our legs, grabbed our hands and led us for chases.
but at the end of the night, i found myself left with the host and our friend with a kid, all of us young, finishing our drinks, having a cigarette in the backyard. we stood on the porch while the boy showed us his best moves in the semi-circle of porch light, the curtain black behind him. i felt older to have friends with children, felt responsible, felt as if i had found my own time in the world. and i felt young, somehow still too young to have children, not ready for families and houses and larger responsibilities.
the moment seemed beautiful and awkward and unusual and secret, but made me happy somehow to know that we three adults shared this private performance and the child danced earnestly then laughed.
in these particular moments i think i must be living the way my father and mother must have lived when they were my age. jobs and responsibilities and waking and sleeping and children around. i know that most of the time i must lead a very different life than that of my parents. social: i go out often with friends, and generally date casually, and attend plenty of parties. not to mean my parents were not social, but they had a family at an earlier age than me. i have my friends and my cat and my job and my various interests, but not a lot to tie me down. no judgement: just different lives.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012
i did not enjoy biking in the rain this morning. i forgot my gloves, the weather unexpectedly colder than yesterday. the back light on my bicycle has disappeared. my breaks need to be replaced. i wouldn’t describe the rain this morning as hard, but steady and persistent would be excellent adjectives. the morning dark, i had forgotten that in the winter i wake for work with night still hanging over the city.
friday, however, i revelled in the rainy pedal home from work, when i left the office: high hopes, high spirits, excited about my plans for the weekend. the rain seemed light as i began biking north from john’s landing. the weather seemed pleasant despite the chill of the showers. the frequency of the raindrops increased as i passed through the south waterfront. the wind forced the tiny splatters on the concrete into shifting patterns, lines formed by continuous drops snaked across the road. travelling up the west bank esplanade it began pouring, but enjoying the ride i decided not to stop and take the train home. the only other person out in the rain was a committed runner: shirtless, muscular, pushing a baby stroller, and though i, too, braved the rain, i did not feel half as fierce. he must be a true oregonian.
when i made it home to north portland, i found myself pretty wet despite my rain suit, but invigorated, happy. i walked down to amnesia to meet john, mikiel, and zebra.
during the commute from work, i remembered my first experience with the oregon rains four years ago. i remember october that year as painfully wet. the rain never-ending, knee high pools of water formed where leaves had piled up over sewer drains. i felt constantly damp, constantly cold, never comfortable.
i had started dating a man almost immediately upon moving to portland. he and his friends seemed indoctrinated to the wet atmosphere, accepting. this guy took me at the beginning of november as his date to his friends' wedding held at cannon beach. a large group of us carpooled from portland to the coast where we rented a house on the beach. gloomy, gray, wet, rocky, i'd never seeen the coast out here before and found myself fascinated, loved the starkness, dark but beautfiul. the wedding ceremony took place the next afternoon with a large reception afteward in a community center at the town square. late that night, with the even wrapping up, my date and four of his friends took the last few bottles of champage and walked the two miles down the beach back to the house in which we stayed. sprinkling, cold, the sand wet, the night pitch black, all i could do was take off my shoes and merrily march with the rest, singing, laughing, taking swigs of champage. at some point to live in the pacific northwest you have to learn to stoppy worrying and love the rain.
last friday night, i found myself at a party in southeast for the members of magic mouth (and boeke), the band having just returned from a month long tour across the country. the gathering spilled out of the house as friends went out to smoke. pouring we crammed in onto the porch, but as it let up, just sprinkling, we trickled out onto the sidewalk, not minding the rain too much, not minding our hair getting a little wet. my date to the party, new to the city, turned to me and said, "everyone here is wearing boots." i looked down at his own shoes and thought that soon enough he would understand his canvas shoes would not cut it in our rainy climate.
the rain here will not bother me until may. i find the cloudy skies then hardest to accept. the basil ganglia in my brain still accept the reward of spring sunlight and warmer days. but even if i can never accept the clouds that last until july, at least the clouds here both me less than they did when i first moved to portland. i no longer obsessively carry a raincoat with me everywhere.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Thursday, October 11, 2012
over the past week we've heard a lot about obama's performance at the first presidential debate and mitt romney's surprising and supposed victory. tonight the nation will watch ryan paul talk against vice president biden, two men who often put their foots in their mouths. so before we watch what could be a great disaster, i thought i'd share some thoughts i had about the presidential debate we watched last week.
last week in denver, colorado president obama met republican presidential candidate mitt romney to spend an hour and a half setting up distinctions between their politics. i watched the debate from portland, oregon with john and mikiel, relaxing on john's couch. after the debate pundits, both democrat and republican, declared for romney a win after this first face-off. i had commented to mikiel that romney's dialogue seemed bullish; that it made him seem strong, confident. mikiel thought americans must see that romney is bellicose, bullying. obama's speech seemed slow, sputtering whereas romney talked away at a quick, aggressive clip. romney faced his opponent most of the time, addressed obama directly; obama looked to jim lehrer, the moderator, or to the audience watching on their televisions. obama was subquently criticized as being too professorial.
the dials showed that romeny's performance during the the debate helped dial down worries from undecided or undeclared voters that romney seemed out of touch with the concerns of average americans. however, though obama's rejoinders seemed sluggish or absent, hopefully the commonsense obama promoted made it through, seemed clear to american listeners. romney can repeat all he likes that he does not want to add to the deficit no does he want to raise taxes, but he does want to lower the tax rate on businesses and close tax loopholes and deductions manipulated by the wealthy. obama is exactly right in countering that even if the wealthy pay more taxes should the tax code be strengthened, if revenue is lost from business and defense spending remains high, how can not either the deficit or taxes on the average american household increase? intuitively, romney's vague proposals do not seem to balance, and economists (contrary to what romney insists) criticize the romney/ryan plan as idealistic, vague, and ineffectual.
if mitt romney is confused about savings from his tax and budget proposals and his healthcare plan for those with pre-existing conditions, obama seems not to have a concrete plan for promoting employment and the creation of jobs in this country. he harps on the revival of the auto industry, but those results are not seen nationwide and the tend there may still be short lived. the president talked about encouraging and strengthening education, but did not concretely explain the correlation between education and combating massive unemployment. obama, like morst democrat politicians, tends to demure from fully endorsing keynsian government expansion to encourage job creation and economic growth. the american people love to believe that the american government's budget should be treated like a household budget; it's hard to see how much more intricate a national budget and an economy are. money is not just spent by the government; the effects of any expedinture cannot be just counted against revenue. romney was right to imply that government spending can create a trickle down effect. but the difference between money flowing outward from a central government and money trickling down from big buisness is profit. the government does not have to make a profit; it feels no pressure from its shareholders. the governments objective is not to create profit for its owners but to aid the country at large. and as we know, greater profit and income does not usually trickle down; it is accumulated, kept, saved. it does not circulate. it is not spent or reinvested.
there might be more discussion on the economy tonight as paul ryan is known for being a budget wonk. though no matter where the discussion turns, no matter how substance-less you could say any of these debates will be, this vice presidential debate could at least be more entertaining than the last. john fell asleep right in the middle of the romney/obama scrap, snoring softly over their posturing.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
this morning red and white and purple dominated the landscape.
leaving flagstaff, gary and i drove east and stopped through the petrified national forest. crystal forests they call them. 226 million years ago, arizona existed as a tropical paradise of trees and ferns and alligator-like creatures and early dinosaurs, close to the equator, pressed up against africa before continental drift. california and nevada lay under the ocean. and over the years trees in this area fell, sinking into sand and mud rich with silica and iron, mostly likely from volcanic activity. after the sand and mud preserved the trees from further decay, the silica replaced the organic material of the trees, turning the trees into quartz deposits. when erosion pushed away the mud, the petrified trees found themselves exposed to our aeon millions of years later.
logs strewn about in the sand, or entire trees felled and petrified, broken into regular segments by erosion. the exterior bark had become dark dark, tinged with red. but the sagittal view of the logs revealed geode interiors, white and yellow and red and amethyst crystal whorls instead of rings.
in the distance hills, sometimes jagged and sometimes flat topped, enclose us, breaking the skyline. the rock can be dotted with scrub, but mostly nude the rock is striated with lines of color. driving away from the crystal forests we drive by a vista of the painted desert, white and red and purple and striped. entire hills of red. red like mars. and empty. and i had to wonder who lived here ever and how. the land seems too hot, too inhospitable. beautiful but merciless.
tomorrow will be green. continental reverdie. in eastern oklahoma and arkansas the trees will thicken with the accents, and the shades of green will darken, the air become moister. driving the foliage will increase and our vision as my uncle and i drive will be a blur of greens and blues and yellows with just touches of orange, of brown. then the brown and lumbering mississippi river. (i will say, “there she is!” as we drive over.) and in the heart of dixie, in the deepest south, the browns and yellows of the grass and trees will jump forward, the heat having sucked away so much moisture and chlorophyl from the plants. then the tennessee river. and the trees thick, dense, the canopy creating a regular carpet held aloft. in the distance the hills rise low and curved, soft. the foothills of the appalachians surrounding the tennessee valley.
the old growth and dark spiked fir trees of the pacific northwest seem haunting and intimidating and spooky in comparison to the warm yellow green blanket of north alabama. there’s something lazy and burnt out about even the landscape here. blown out.
i will be back in ‘bama.
Friday, September 21, 2012
i bought a tallboy at the corner store. in vegas no one cares about your open container and i thought, well, if nothing else this town has that. vince, a las vegas veteran, led me down las vegas boulevard, charon down the river stix. this is what i remember:
throngs of people walk down the streets, fascinated and aimless. just walking to another destination. constantly walking. visitors do a lot of walking, which actually works in their favor, walking off all that liquor and the calories and the mindlessness of putting bills in a slot machine. throngs of people: trashy southerners and californians and latinos and australians and the brits and euro trash speaking german and spanish and dutch. i cannot comprehend what brought them to the desert and to las vegas.
my uncle and i walked out of the venetian on the las vegas strip and i said, “okay, well, i guess we should buy a tall boy and walk home.” that’s what i like best about vegas i guess: one, you can drink anywhere and no one cares about your open container, and two, no one cares how trashy you look. class in vegas seems to be non-existent, because everyone there believes they’re living like royalty for a weekend.
it’s no monaco. and one doesn’t need to read jean baudrillard’s america to predict exactly what that crazy old coot has to say about vegas. the bellagio amazes the crowd on the street with a huge fountain display, louis vuitton and prada and gucci and couture outlets strung about its entrances. the venetian holds a canal with neon lined gondolas, replicas of gilt baroque paintings. everything here is fake. and nothing works together.
las vegas is the ugliest city i’ve ever seen. the casinos do not work together to create a manicured landscape. vacant lots sit next to flashy buildings. half the city is under construction. the streets need to be cleaned, the buses need to be more efficient, everything needs a facelift.
when my uncle and i pass a slot machine, he asks if i want to gamble a little before we leave vegas. he does not gamble himself. i said, “no thanks. i’ll just take this five bucks and buy another tall boy of tecate.”
Monday, September 17, 2012
i arrived in portland, oregon on october 3rd, 2008, the night of the vice presidental debates four years ago. i have lived in that pacific northwest city now for four years. i’ve traveled back to alabama, too; i’ve visited my family there several times over the years, making the six hour flight there and back with lay overs in houston, and dallas, and phoenix. but this is different. this trip does not following the expedient logic of flights to atlanta or birmingham and home.
the plane takes off from portland, the sun setting in the west over the hills, the bright light at the end of the day and the end of the continent striking in through the oval windows of the plane. dots and saucers of white appear on the opposite wall of the cabin as we begin to lift off; ufo’s psinning and bouncing above the head of the other passangers. out the window to my left we rise up and i observe the inter-costal mountains far to the end of the willamette valley, the river directly beneath us. we fly north then turn east and i see mount st. helen, brown and rounded, exploded, and another whiter volcano past that. mount jefferson perhaps?
we fly over mount hood: dull, forest green half way up the slopes then brown to the peak with only patches of shiny glacial white now on this summer day. on a clear afternoon like this, i would have seen from the west side of portland mount hood floating over the east half of the city, a hazy mirage in the distance, a promise of warm, dry weather. i’m leaving portland during at the very end of the season, with one more week of clear, beautiful weather promised to the northwest.
let me try to explain why i’m on a flight to las vegas. it’s a little confusing. my cousin recently found a job in wyoming. he’s moving from atlanta to jackson hole, and has driven his father’s car with all his belonging from the southeast to central northern united states. i was six when my uncle moved to japan. he has a wife and children there, and though they do not have any immediate plans to move to the states, he bought a car here last year that he keeps in alabama for the trips that his family makes every year or so from japan. my cousin has driven his father’s car from wyoming to las vegas where my uncle and i are meeting him. my cousin will then drive back north and my uncle and i will drive his car back to alabama. make sense yet?
in short, my uncle needs someone to drive with him from the southwest back to alabama. i have a lot of vacation time accrued, no other plans, and a constant desire to see more of the country. so i said, sure, why not? drive from last vegas all the way across the southwest through texas and most of the southeast to alabama. i’ll get to see the country and my family back in alabama.
today i found myself nervous. i did not understand why i am making this very, very, very long trip; why am i driving across the united states. i did not want to fly. i did not want to spend two days in las vegas. my cat is sick and just wants to lay around with me, and i just wanted to lay around in bed, watch cartoons and read. i just wanted to stay home. it was too late. the southeast calls to me. in other words, the plane tickets had already been purchased.
i’ve never seen the hoover dam. i’ve never seen the grand canyon. i’ve never traveled across the southwest united states. and i constantly miss my family. i love madre. my sister and i are closer than any other pair of beings living on opposite sides of a continent. my father loves me greatly and wants to make the drive from atlanta, georgia to alabama to see me while i am in the region.
i’m repeating this litany because really, if i love my family so much, why did i move so far away from them? while i find my family integral to my identity and personality, i found myself thinking today that perhaps i needed to be away from them. if i say that i loved birmingham for so many reasons, i still found it imperative to move. today i started to worry that in moving away from alabama i really just attempted to move away from all the problems i had there.
these worries seem unfounded. i did inheret a constant anxiety from my parents if no other personality trait, but if there’s one thing i’ve learned from my time with friends it’s that sometimes you have to take the leap, let whatever happens happen, and wake up the next morning to say, “that was interesting” or “that was that.”
just like i expect to say, “well, that was las vegas.”
Saturday, September 1, 2012
i said, “do you think this is that scene in mad men when the parents just lay on the couch and the kids just pour bloody marys for them all morning?”
there was a pause, as if he and mikiel had not heard me.
he said, “yes... i like this song.”
mikiel responded, “i also like this song.”
they seemed dazed, out of it. the flow of the conversation bucked from under me, disturbed by the music, our concentration interrupted by the alcohol. the moment seemed uncanny or uncomfortable as the space our conversation had created failed momentarily until we found our footing again.
i’ve been told that i’m sometimes hard to follow because my thoughts jump around and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a connection between one thing and another. i believe all the connections are there; they’re just not laid out on the table. how long would my stories be if spelled out everything, processed everything?
i’ve been told that i talk a lot.
i’ve been told that i have logorrhea, too.
my favorite people can keep up. my favorite people demand that i keep up with them. smart, clever, funny. even we end up talking around each other, not quite listening or understanding, or perhaps hearing but not understanding until later.
i told ryan our conversations sometimes feel like dialogue written by tao lin.
via gchat, i wrote to ryan:
“i think the blog post i wrote makes me sound crazy.
i need to edit it.
edit the insanity out of it.”
“a book on existentialism would fuck me up.
i don’t know how i feel about the tao lin thing
but i’ll take it
because sometimes he’s funny
and lemme read it and measure your craziness”
“i like tao lin and existentialism. how would it fuck you up? it’s a humanism.”
“i’d start to fall into an existential k-hole
don’t make me go back!
DON’T MAKE ME.”
i don’t actually make ryan do anything he doesn’t want to. i certainly don’t force any intellectual exercise upon him. but he is a smart and clever guy.
the letters that my old friend writes to me are not intellectual, but i also know how smart he is, and always enjoy the letters i receive from him. the way we talk to each other differs from the late night bar conversations i find myself lost in every night with john and mikiel; it differs from the intimate, personal, quick and witty conversations ryan and i share all day over the internet as we’re working. the space between drew and i is greater; the time between the call and response longer. our conversations build like floes of ice, glacially moving and building.
in one letter he told me of his parents’ new country home in rural alabama and his experience reading absalom, absalom! (one of my favorite novels.)
in the next letter i wrote of a southern obsession with history and my ambition to write a novel.
in his most recent letter he writes:
“I think you’re right: as Southerners, we must be obsessed with history and time. There is something literary in our blood, however wise it may or may not be. I’m sure you already know how difficult writing a novel can be. And you’re right, too, that it would be much easier if you had a quiet, scheduled place to go for a while. I don’t know that moving back in with your parents would be the best option, considering the nagging and judgments that accompany prolonged stays with one’s parents. But perhaps you could go stay with my parents at Mulberry for a while. It’s very quiet there, and the countryside is beautiful. I’ve told you (I think) that I’d like to turn the place into a sort of Yaddo, but who knows if that could ever happen.”
our goals and projects differ; our lives have taken us to different cities. however, in many ways we’re cut from the same cloth, and our letters to each other easily maintain and build a strange closeness to each other, extraneous and yet influential to the quotidian life i need.
if silence provides those moments of meditation that allows one to collect one’s thoughts, put one’s self in order, escape the chaos of each day, then i would say the moments when we talk and converse sustain and fertilize, too. i need all of it. i need all the different layers and levels. and i need more, too.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
i’ve always had a fraught relationship with my body. acne as an adolescent. body hair. i had huge anxiety over how hairy my legs became when i was young. when i was twelve or thirteen my mother said to me, “your legs are as hairy as an indian blanket. like your father's.” it was a joke to her, but i felt as if the hair on my legs was disgusting, unsightly. it produced in me a self-consciousness and worry about being abnormally hirsute and unattractive. i hated how i could not be in control of this. my body would betray me no matter what i did. a forest of hair would continue to grow and expand, covering my entire body, rendering me repulsive. i wanted to be normal: hairless like the other guys i saw undressing in the locker room at school or like the brawny, tanned, and hairless twenty-something jocks on mtv.
i never grew out of being skinny. not sporty, not active as a kid, i have always been a tiny, bookish nerd. in adolescence i realized one didn’t just grow up into a man, fill out, gain muscle, become stronger, look more masculine. one had to work for that. and that seemed out of my control as well. i kept the body of a twelve year old. i weighed around one hundred pounds throughout high school, and still weigh only on average 125lbs.
some of that is fat. i haven’t been eating well recently, and if you’ve read my previous posts, you know i drink a lot. a lot. so i’ve put on a bit of flub. nothing i couldn’t work off. maybe. but i’ve always carried a bit of fat. a little. and that tiny bit always worried me, made me feel unattractive.
when i started college, i gained about thirty pounds as a freshman. i saw pictures of myself and didn’t recognize myself in them. the next year i started running. a little at first, then longer and longer distances more frequently. i tried to skip lunch. i ate a lot of adderall to help me study, and didn’t mind that it suppressed my appetite. i stopped eating but every other day if i could help it. i ended up seeing this man, a twenty-seven year old neurobiologist finishing post-doctoral research at the university. he would come to my apartment and instead of dinner i would drink a bottle of wine and get drunk. my date did not seem to mind since i was a twenty year old and the drink only made me more pliable and obliging. needless to say, the relationship did not develop far, but i ended up feeling ridiculous, drunk and hungry and unhealthy. i recalibrated my idea of a diet.
now i’m twenty-seven and i’ve recently had sex with this nineteen year old a couple times. he’s a sweet boy. he has a great body: toned, hairless, young. attractive, he’s not someone i want to have a relationship with, but sex with him is easy and fun.
i also recently fooled around with a man a little older than myself. tall, swarthy, hairy, muscular. he turns me on. i like feeling his thick chest hair through my fingers. my taste in men has changed a lot through the years. at some point in trying to accept my own body, i ended up accepting everyone else’s body. how can one not? i cannot judge. i find myself attracted to hairy men, men balding or with receding hairlines, men with beer bellies. nothing classic. men nothing like models.
when i have sex with the nineteen year old boy or some other man, i do not feel anxiety over my body. whomever he is can take it or leave it. and i don’t mind going nude at the beach, or undressing at the gym, or laying out half naked in the yard to tan. revealing my body to a man with whom i might have a connection scares me though. during sex i worry that the other man will find my body repulsive. i consider my flaws. i see myself through his eyes. the other gentleman i recently took home calls me handsome, and after we had sex, laying there in my bed he told me i was gorgeous. it feels amazing to feel beautiful and appreciated in the gaze of someone else. yet irrationally i don’t trust that feeling.
my hairy legs do not worry me any longer. and though i could be in better shape physically, i don’t feel ashamed of my body. mostly i know that i could drink less beer to lead a healthier life and get more accomplished. yet at the same time, i have to admit that part of the allure of that discipline, of working out and building a toned and muscular body, is the control it promises: control of myself, command of the gaze of others.
the little bit of time i spend at the gym each week, the runs i take through the neighborhood are meditative. it gives me an hour at least without talking to anyone (unless i randomly say hi to an acquaintance at the gym); i am away from my phone, not receiving messages or calls. like in yoga, my mind is concentrated is focused on the confluence of mind and body, shedding that illusion that they’re separate, a duality. but i must accept that i do not need to go to the gym, i do not need to work out for any purpose than that i like engaging in that discipline (read: foucault.) it’s part of accepting myself, my body, my mind, my limitations. it’s this living, this living, this living, however it may have never been a project of mine.
but i could also do to just cut back on how much i indulge in beer. at the end of the summer. maybe.