Saturday, August 25, 2012

the endless argument in my head about my body

i want to change my body.  sometimes.

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.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

the end is near

i danced by the bedroom window, where every few minutes a white face bobbed onto the black field, a black block of night, a negative shadow puppet.  the boy in the window was outside in the garden, on acid i was told, and i wondered how the plants were faring or if we'd find all that summer vegetation trampled in the morning. ryan was dancing next to me, drunk.  he had just snatched the half empty can of tecate out of my hand, declaring, "this is exactly how much i need.  you should get yourself another." he looked very satisfied with himself.  a quiet boy with thick, dark glasses and dark hair danced in the middle of the room, someone i did not recognize.  and john stands to my left, facing away from me, facing toward the wall, his hand levitating over two turntables and a mixer, soft red lights glowing miniscule.  the record spun under his hand as he lifted the needle.  beyond john, his kitchen was filled with young men, most whom i don't know.

john invited this small crowd to his apartment to continue partying after mattachine had ended at bar bar, the throngs of the most faithful.  it was loud inside the apartment, heavy with music and chatter and movement and the hiss of beer cans being opened.  but as i was dancing there next to ryan, behind john, i imagined how quiet n. mississippi ave. must be outside.  the last of the revelers dancing home.  and i imagined how quiet portland must be.  and how dark america was with night sufficiently set in over the western hemisphere.  these hours, as the sun sets on the international date line.  we're on the edge of the world.  whenever i think about what living at the end of the world is, it's like this.

these are always my favorite nights: the nights at john's place listening to music, drinking beers, dancing around the apartment, a revolving cast of characters.

the weekend before, the weather had been unbearable.  in the afternoon, i biked to the lucky lab on killingsworth to meet zebra, john, and mikiel.  air conditioning, necessary in the hundred weather.  after cooling our heels in that cool air for a while, we swung back to n. mississppi, crawled into the dark recesses of the atlantis lounge for a couple slices of pizza and some beer.  a grotto in the back of mississippi pizza, the atlantis is lounge remains dark, cool, and cave-like, one of my favorite places to beat the heat.  and windowless, it becomes timeless; one can easily loose track of time there.

it had cooled out significantly when we crossed the block to john's place.  a package of tecates wre purchased.  hours passed.  we sat outside in the yard.  the four of us danced around john's house.  john played roisin murphy's "dear miami" for me, and john denver, and a sound of silence cover.  exhausted yet still giddy, i dropped to the floor, embraced its gravity, and invited mikiel and zebra to floor dance with me, which involved sort of swimming motions in the air with our arms and legs.  writhing.  i had consumed no drug, but the heat and drink and pizza and music had apparently compounded in my stomach to produce a delirium inducing swill.  zebra exeunt out the back door, with bryan and aaron suddenly appearing.  aaron, just off the boat from san francisco, found himself being dragged across the street to amnesia.  "welcome to portland!  you need to try the dopacetic they're serving at amnesia!"  then bryan and aaron left us to drink and chris showed up, tanned and fit and smiling and visiting from california.  we laughed and smoked and lay on john's carpet listening to music.  drinking, drinking, drinking.

when i woke up the next morning, i wondered who had seen me in that embarrassing state.

last night i found myself back at john's house.  john, mikiel, a pack of bud light.  we sat in white plastic lawn chairs as john puttered around the back yard, pruning back plants and shoveling dirt from a strip of land where john has slowly been installing a brick walkway, a railroad track extending east from the pond.  the tall thick cypress trees concealed us from n. mississippi avenue, a proscenium curtain from the pedestrian audience, still admitting however the shouts and laughter of the patio at amnesia.  mikiel and i chatted casually until the sun had completely set and we could no longer see the empty beer bottles on the ground next to us.  john stepped inside, opened his bedroom window, and began playing records, preparing for his next dj set.

the sun set on portland and had set on the century.  the sun certainly set on the british empire, and maybe america is waning now.  the country is certainly changing.  the sun passes over the international date line and the calendar flips over another day, each exhausted from east to west.  we will work and talk and drink and fuck and we will pass this great burden of living to others.  here we are, right at the very close of the day and always at end of the world.

Monday, August 13, 2012

a few more notes on iran

even as representatives from the obama administration and republican presidential candidate mitt romney visit israel to discuss tensions between that country and iran over the iranian nuclear program, i wonder how much the obama administration itself hasn’t fomented this tension.

at the beginning of the month, leon e. panetta visited israel to meet with top officials of that country to discuss tensions with iran and the possibility of israeli strikes on iranian nuclear facilities.  even as the obama administration professes concern that israel might be preparing for unilateral strikes against iran, white house officials have said that while “they remain hopeful that Israel has no imminent plans to attack and may be willing to let the United States take the lead in any future military strike, which they say would not occur until next year at the earliest.”  the administration is leaving the door open for possible military strikes in the future, seemingly delivering two different messages simultaneously.

james mann, in his recent book the obamians, argues that this seems to be a pattern for the obama administration.  the president will deliver a speech arguing for one thing and simultaneously pursue sometimes contradictory policies.  with israel and iran it seems to have taken a gamble that may have backfired slightly.

in 2009 when obama took office, mann points out that the new administration could not justify a military strike against iran, especially in light of the difficulty of the operation and the two ongoing wars in iraq and afghanistan.  however, mann points out that “the Obama team didn’t mind keeping Iranian leaders on edge about the possibility of some kind of military action, by Israel if not the United States.”  quoting a comment given by joe biden and another senior obama aide, mann notes that the administration was suggesting that the united states may not stop israel from bombing iran’s nuclear operations.

years later, israel seems to be edging toward some sort of aggression, unless this tension has been orchestrated by the u.s. and israeli government to keep iran cautious.  this is not the first time the obama has made suggestions in an attempt to manipulate the policies of other nations.  the palestinian bid for recognition at the united nations was originally an idea floated by obama, most likely in an effort to convince israel to negotiate with the palestinians and continue talks toward creating a definite border and boundary for the palestinians.  this unfortunately backfired when the palestinians actively pursued recognition from the u.n. and the united states had to vote against the initiative.

in reviewing obama's foreign policy in an article for foreign affairs, martin s. indyk, similarly to james mann, notes that Obama's "tone has been neither that of American triumphalism and exceptionalism nor one of American decline.  On balance, this approach has been effective, conveying a degree of openness to the views of other leaders and the interests of other nations while still projecting confidence and leadership."  in this essay, "scoring obama's foreign policy," indyk may praise obama for his even-handedness while simultaneously criticizing the administration for certain failures and deficiencies in this area.  indyk argues that middle east diplomacy has been lackluster.  While "Iran and North Korean face growing isolation from the emerging global order that Obama is shaping... The giant question mark hanging over these efforts, however, remains the prospect of Iran's potential acquistion of a nuclear weapons capability.  That would deal a blow to the nonproliferation regime - a pillar of the U.S.-led international order - and raise questions about the efficacy of Obama's pressure tactics."  so maybe the economic sanctions that the obama administration has engineered has put significant pressure on the leaders of iran, it has yet to be seen that this tactic will effectively deter iran in its mission to produce a nuclear weapon.

furthermore, in another article from foreign affairs, jacques e. c. hymans argues that "military attacks by foreign powers have tended to unite politicians and scientists in a common cause to built the bomb."  If a strike against the nuclear program in iran will solidify the iranian scientific community around nuclear development, i cannot see why these economic sanctions would not galvanize nationalism at all levels of the iranian economy.  but i'm not certain there's a better solution.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

where i live

my heart gets broken once a month.

at the beginning of each month i apply flea prevention medicine to the nape of my cat's neck.  she hates it, with good reason i'm sure.  the treatment seems overly toxic, unhealthy, but the fleas have been so terrible and i can think of no other way to prevent the pests from taking over my house, making us both miserable.  therefore, monthly, my puss gets her pest potion and i get dirty looks and scratches. her yellow eyes narrow and she will not let me touch her.  she becomes desperate to get outside.   so i let her escape out the window into the wild where she can cool off away from my well-intentioned abuse.

my cat genevieve and i live alone.  for this day every month, genevieve gets pissed at me and disappears outside, and it's just me in the apartment.  luckily my apartment is pretty small; i'm not bouncing around some huge empty house.  it's a studio apartment, big enough for one.

i've got a kitchen large enough to fit a table.  there are maps on the walls: the united states, oregon, alabama (the state in which i was raised,) and portland.  the fridge is covered in photos and mailings from my sister and my friend rob, a postcard with a bow wow album cover from andrew, and drawings my seven year old cousin created for me and my sister.  in one drawing he has depicted himself, my sister evian, and me, labeled with our names.  next to our figures he has drawn a black blob with two eyes and four legs hanging by a squiggly string.  we asked, "why did you draw this spider here?"  and my cousin responded, "that's evian's dog!  i didn't know how to draw her tail."  we agreed tails are hard to draw.

the rest of my apartment (aside from my bathroom) consists of a single room which serves as living room, bedroom, and study.  i have arranged the furniture to segment the room slightly: couch and tv, bed and nightstand, desk and armchair and shelves.  it's large for a studio apartment, but i've packed it in.  there's plenty of space to move, but sometimes it does seem crowded.  and maybe it only seems comfortable because at 5'7" and 125lbs i'm a pretty small guy.  the walls are bare and white, which i like, but i've filled the room with tchotchke: the red plastic lunchbox with a lion painted by paul wilm on it; the big penis book and a pegasus figurine sent to me by my sister; the pokey little puppy, a favorite book of mine; a crystal growing kit rob gave me; a small tin painted with babies in which i keep condoms; a glow-in-the-dark rosary my friend ali brought back from spain.  books are piled up everywhere: there are three on the bed, magazines by the sofa, books to read later next to the shelf and on my desk.  all these things probably just add to the sometimes overwhelming feeling of the room, but it all makes me happy.  i can't get rid of it.  i like looking at that lunchbox and remembering that my sister gave it to me, that paul wilm painted it, and my sister and i have been obsessed with paul's band the nowhere squares since we were seventeen.  sometimes i think this attachment to objects must seem infantile to visitors, but i can't imagine living any other way.

i have windows facing west and north, so the plants don't get as much light as they'd like, but they seem to be happy enough.  if i remember to water them.  i love my house plants; it makes me happy to watch them grow, to wake up to their green patterns, but i don't tend to them well enough.  there's the christmas cactus rapidly regrowing from when it almost died last year. three pots with succulents in the window. the jade plant grown from a cutting owen gave me a year and a half back. the aloe plant with two plantlets that need to transplanted.  the avacado tree shoot i grew from a pit this winter - it needs a home in a larger pot immediately.  and the spider plant a coworker brought me which has fallen over and started growing sideways for some reason.

my windows are always open, so usually the flat is filled with the white noise of th wind in the bamboo trees outside, the sound of the cars headed up and down n. albina, and the shrieks and laughter of the kids living at the anarchist house across the street.  the house seems noisiest though when it's messy.  my apartment is sometimes more like a staging ground than a barrack.  i come home, dump everything i've brought with me in my arms, peel off my clothes to change, maybe prepare something quick to eat, feed the cat, and it's out the door, down the street to john's house or amnesia or bar bar.  in the past few weeks, except to sleep, i haven't been home for more than thirty minutes to an hour at a time.

it's summer.  i want to be out in the sun, with friends, drinking and biking and finding our way through the city to the river.  i did not want to be home, alone, rattling around my cluttered cage.  but i need to spend more time at home with genevieve.  tomorrow she'll have forgiven me, or will at least be hungry enough to come home and eat breakfast.  even if those who know me may say i've grown up and grown jaded or bitter or irresponsible or apathetic, my little kitten has sweetened, calmed down, grown affectionate.  tomorrow morning, after her breakfast, my cat will climb in my lap and purr and i'll read a little before stepping out to get coffee across the street at the albina press.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


so there we were sitting at a bar...

my friend claims that from reading columns in gay newspapers and magazines, you would think gay men only ever sit at bars and watch men pass by or go out on dates with those men they saw pass.

i have spent a lot of time sitting at bars with friends, but i have not spent much time on dates.  most of the time i can’t convince myself that having dinner and awkward conversation with a stranger is a constructive use of my time.  for this reason, i’ve developed a simple criterion to decide whether a man is worth inviting on a date.  question 1: have you read the structural transformation of the public sphere by jurgen habermas?  if you have, you may be the perfect candidate for further conversation.  if not, let’s exchange some quick banter and leave me to my beer.

i’m joking about this.  i’m not that self-centered.  i just finished a year-long relationship though, which is a huge span of time for me, so i’m feeling picky about with whom and how i spend any amount of protracted time.

spending time with my friends has always been important to me, no level of inebriation.  alcohol just seems to lubricate conversation, to pull people together, as it has for centuries.

so there we were, drinking pitchers of beer of amnesia last night: john, mikiel, and me.  a lot of beer into the night, i dizzily and drunkenly tripped up n. mississippi ave to my apartment, made myself a quick dinner, and passed out.  at seven the next morning with spinning vision, a headache, and a metallic taste in my mouth, i snoozed the alarm twice before forcing myself out of bed to quickly eat, dress, and brush my teeth before jumping on my bike and pedaling the five miles to the office.  hung over commutes by bike are the worst.

i basically didn’t get anything done last night.  i dropped off some books at the library then headed to the bar.  the plan had been to clean up around the apartment, make some dinner, read, and relax for a bit before bed.

and so i get too drunk to date.  i'm okay with this.

and though i don't date, i gave seen a lot more gay men drinking beer at amnesia lately.  gay watch 2012.  mikiel, john, and i keep our eyes open for gay dates there.  it's a strange phenomenon.  we've been haunting that bar for years, are familiar with the bartenders and the other men who frequent it.  low-key, relaxed, sports always playing on two tv's, it's not particularly romantic, though it does serve my favorite beer in portland.  so why the suddenly surge of gay dates there this summer?  we will usually now see two or three gay couples everytime we're there.  which is often.

maybe all we do is drink and date and look for new bars. but there's probably something more to our lives than that.

on north mississippi avenue, there are two significant phenomena:

first, these gay men are choosing amnesia to meet their dates and buddies.  while i love that bar, it's not romatic like i said.  i wouldn't take a date there, though i drink there all the time.  but these men dig it.  it's not some loud gay club.  it speaks to different sensibilities.  they like the bar for the same reasons i do: good beer and a great patio.  it's just surprising to see so many homosexual men there, suddenly this summer.

the second significance of this change in amnesia's patronage may be that this indicates a greater change in north portland.  nopo has always had a significant queer population.  most of my closest friends live in the neighborhood, a minute's walk from me.  and more gay men seem to be moving to the fifth quadrant, of all types.  it’s easy to imagine the boise-eliot neighborhood becoming portland’s new capitol hill now at the final waning of stark street days.  and perhaps this will happen.  perhaps a year from now june on north mississippi will be marked by blocks of rainbow flags.  but as gay men have been moving to north portland, so has everyone else.  north portland is just changing and growing up and getting more expensive.  it’s what cities do.  they grow up.

the only thing that hasn’t changed about n. mississippi ave is that i’m still drunk.

and really what that means is that i need for one of these new nopo gays hanging out at amnesia to drag my ass to the gym and help get me in shape.  just let me finish my beer first.