Monday, October 29, 2012

Blue stripes in a hurricane

Sometimes when there's a hurricane, I have a strange urge to run outside and let the wind take me wherever it wants. Maybe I'd end up with broken bones in a nice hospital somewhere, being tended to by nurses soothing me with morphine. Or maybe I'd end up in San Francisco, where I've been wishing I was for weeks now. If I had broken bones, there would be much less pressure to run around in this very tiring city. I could just sit about in my grey-and-blue-striped shirt.

I'm never prepared in emergencies. My bathtub doesn't fill up because the stopper is broken. I just found that out today. My neighbors buy up all the bread and peanut butter before I can get to the supermarket. The hand-cranked radio my sister gave me after the 2003 blackout doesn't actually work. But I have boxes and boxes of protein bars, enough protein bars to ride out the week, at least. And then after that, I can always eat the Colonel. 

I just turned 40, and I resolved to change my life again and be that person who wakes up at 6 a.m. and goes to the gym, and is friendly to everyone and not stand-offish. That person who edits his unpublishable novel every day after work, until all that's left is one amazing page of super-tight prose that could change the world. I was all super-psyched, but then the hurricane touched down and turned over some deck chairs, and there went my momentum. 

On evenings like this, I find myself wondering what happened to that fellow who "gave me the eye" over the summer. I saw him pretty regularly for a few weeks, but then once I resolved to ask him for his number, I never saw him again. It reminded me that people used to give me the eye once, when I was immortal and shy, in the age of Methuselah. I wonder where he is now? Knowing my history, he's probably dead. Or out there in the hurricane, about to be. May Sandy evade you, my prince. It probably wouldn't have worked out between us anyway. 

Apparently, there is just one more day of hurricane to survive. I eye the window that leads out into the maelstrom, more than a little tempted to open it. I am comforted to think that if they give you morphine in the hospital, you don't have to feel guilty about enjoying it. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cat tee in L.A.

Completing my West Coast tour, I touched down in Los Angeles in time to celebrate Alia's 40th birthday. I love L.A., and I would gladly live there if I could. If I lived in L.A., I could get a nice used car and drive around Silverlake and West Hollywood, idly listening to NPR and missing New York.

On this trip, Alia and I mostly just hung out in her backyard in Eagle Rock, being stalked by the stray cats that live in the neighborhood. This picture was taken in the backyard. I'm wearing, whimsically enough, a cat tee. We bbq'ed at one point, and we threw pieces of hamburger at the hungry cats. We just tossed the meat with flips of our wrists, like little lords. I had purchased some cupcakes for us, and I snuck into the kitchen during the bbq and ate five cupcakes (just the tops) in secret.  

I ate so many desserts on this trip that I'm surprised I didn't gain twenty lbs. In the airport on the way back to NYC alone, I ate a whole bag of Lindt chocolate truffles, a See's chocolate bar, and a whole Toblerone. I must have been stressed out. On the plane, I sat there reading "Room" by Emma Donoghue, just abuzz with sugary energy. Abuzz!

In just a couple of months, I, too, will turn 40 years old. I don't know what I'm doing to celebrate. Maybe karaoke again? But what could top last year's karaoke night, where I sang "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian and bummed the whole room out? Plus, last year I got a good turnout, but who's to say that I haven't alienated all my friends by now? 

I feel like 40 will be a good age for me. For most of my life, I've sensed that something terrible was about to happen, looming just out of the range of my vision. Now that something terrible - turning 40 - is happening, I imagine I will feel like my fear has been vindicated, made useful. I'm glad that Alia turned 40 before me, though. On that fateful day, I will call her up and see if she has any words of wisdom for me on growing old with grace. I will begin the conversation by addressing her with respect. "Grandmother," I will say ...

Friday, August 24, 2012

SF cap and hoodie

When I lived in San Francisco, I was always chilly after, like, 3 p.m. The cold would settle down upon me like an existential cloud, and I would shudder through the streets, wondering what the hell I was doing in such a city, such a world. Why then didn't I carry around a nice cap and a hoodie - nothing more than a simple shell, really - like the one I'm wearing in this pic? I might have lasted more than a year there.

I flew to San Francisco from Portland to catch up with friends, and I went out to dinner with Joshie on my first night there. We had pizza and sundaes, and we spoke, as ex-lovers do, about the state of our lives, our hopes for the future, and real estate. Joshie took this pic of me on Market Street somewhere downtown, close to Lehman Brothers - where, years ago, Hilz and Dagsy and I would menace the office with our tales of debauchery and assemble Public Information Books for the bankers. Now Hilz is living somewhere over the Golden Gate Bridge in wedded bliss, and Dagsy is lost to me, and the world, forever, which I am still unbelievably saddened by. After dinner with Joshie, I took a cab up to Castro Street and then limped all the way down Market Street (my knee was acting up on this trip for some reason) to my hotel downtown.

When I lived in SF, I used to do this walk all the time. I would get loaded in the Castro, and then I would set out by foot down Market Street, braving the cold and the homeless, passing the Safeway and Sweet Inspirations, until I ended up home. I lived in the Mission for a bit, then in Nob Hill, and then finally, completing my downward spiral, in an SRO on Market Street. What else did I do in SF? I know I went to used book and record stores a lot. I spent a lot of time at the Trannyshack party at the Stud. I find it hard to remember other details, and when I think of my time in SF now, I think of the color of fog, before it burns off in the daylight.

I visited my old SRO - the "Chase Hotel" - on this trip. Van and I walked past it after a delicious breakfast at the "Little Griddle." I wonder if they still get mail for me at the SRO? I briefly wondered before I caught myself. It's probably just credit card offers now, or entreaties for money, or political tracts. "Little Griddle," "Public Information Book," "South of Market" - I don't know how to speak the language of SF any more. But every few years, I like to remind myself of why I once tried.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Che Guevara jacket

I flew to Portland, OR to visit the wonderful Tim Blue. Tim just moved back from Berlin, and I wanted to visit him to check up on him. Here he is wearing a jacket that was inspired, seemingly, by Latin firebrand Che Guevara. He is blinking one of his eyes in this picture (sorry, Tim).

Alia says that I will grow old and die in Portland, but really, Portland doesn't call out to me. All I know of the city is that most of Brooklyn seems to hail from there, and that the former members of Sleater-Kinney live there too. On this my first trip there, Tim took me to a divey Mexican place and a fancy eaterie, and we stopped by Powell's Books and this fun record store, too. I bought the new Neneh Cherry record there, and Tim and I listened to it in my rental car, but it left me cold. We also saw the movie "Farewell, My Queen" and walked along some esplanade, talking of Joni Mitchell, of all people. We managed to escape Burnside without being offered a gluten-free, sprouted, fair trade snack.

In this picture, we are on the block that Tim grew up on. Tim walked me up and down the block and related his history there. He told me of families touched by violence, mental illness, and tragedy, and I was struck by how little I know of the street I grew up on, Ditmars Blvd. in Queens. Sure, there was that little crazy kid Sakyi who kicked in my parents' storm door one time, and that hoarder lady two doors down. But if I were giving someone a tour of Ditmars Blvd., I'm not sure where I'd take them. I guess that's because I mostly stayed in my room reading Madeleine L'Engle and Louise Fitzhugh novels as a child. I was a very sheltered kid, which comes back to haunt me now in my middle age when I still don't know how to keep from freaking out when I find myself part of a group of people. I've always walked alone.

I was very moved to get a look into a dear friend's childhood. I don't know if I'll ever go back to Portland, but perhaps from time to time I'll just inexplicably find myself there, the way I sometimes inexplicably find myself in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nostalgia outfit

Over the past month or so, I've been suffering from an attack of acute nostalgia.  I don't know what brought it on.  Perhaps my mid-life crisis, which makes it hard to listen to songs from the 1990s?  Perhaps because the NYU students in my neighborhood (and yours) have been getting ready to graduate, and my heart goes out to them - their hopes, their futures, the unsteady job market that I hope does not thwart them. 

The 1990s were my prime, musically.  I was just out of college myself, and I had bought a Sinead O'Connor record and heard the rock, breathed it in, felt it come down over me like a veil.  I saw most of my heroes play live often - the Sineads, the Juliana Hatfields, the Jeff Buckleys, even the Morrisseys (what a strange phase that was).  Then I moved to San Francisco, and I discovered the used cd stores of the world, and was introduced to Barbara Manning and Lisa Germano, among others. 

Years passed, and my own catalog of songs grew.  I knew that one day I would record an album "just for fun," and that I would play songs with my imaginary band and take over the world.  Then, cold reality set in ... it's hard to make a record, and it's harder still to get people to come to see you play.  It's hard to imagine that you'll become a rock star when your songs consist mainly of homoerotic flourishes.  I put my rock star fantasies on hold.  By doing so, I became less and less interested in music (today I barely even listen to my headphones, and I don't even have a speaker for my computer at home).

But when I heard that That Dog was playing a show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, I had to go.  I'd wanted to see That Dog perform for years.  They opened up for Weezer once in Los Angeles, and I flew in partly to see them, but Alia was pregnant then, and she stalled and stalled until finally I went to see them by myself, but just missed them.  Another time, in New York, they were opening up for the Amps and the Foo Fighters, but again Alia stalled and stalled and I missed them again.  Then they broke up.  I thought all was lost, and that I would never get my chance to hear those songs from "Retreat From the Sun" that I loved so much. 

Anyway, Zon and I went out to see them on Friday.  From the very first song, my heart sank, and I realized that they suck live.  The ladies were a little too cutesy for my taste, and Anna was using some jive open tuning for every song.  Still, I stayed to hear them play "Minneapolis," and it was awesome, even though Anna punted the solo.  I practically ran out of the Music Hall of Williamsburg after that. I was wearing a "nostalgic" outfit ... something I thought I might have worn in the 90s ... an "ironic" orange-red polo from Lacoste and a pair of grey Levi's, plus some Pumas (of course). 

I don't know when this current wave of nostalgia will end.  Usually, my method of keeping nostalgia at bay is to have sex with one different NYU student per year, just to prove that I've still got it.  I sort of did the same thing this month, though it was disastrous, life-altering sex that I wish I could take back for his sake.  But then, this show, and a different sort of temporary salvation.  For one magical night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a band named That Dog cured me of my regret and poignant, bittersweet sorry - just by making me realize that I missed nothing - nothing! - by not seeing them 15 years ago.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Peace in Pumas

In recent years, I've only felt utter peace on two days.  As soon as I felt the peace, I thought to myself, "uh-oh.  Probably the world will drop from underneath me tomorrow."  Sure enough, it did. Stupid peace!

I felt a little bit of peace today, although by the time I realized it, the anxiety had crept back in.  Probably because an anxious person can't enjoy a moment without getting anxious that the moment has arrived, and that it can only go downhill from here.

What did I do today to achieve peace?  I flaked on going to the gym before work.  Instead I snuggled with my cat.  I put together an optimistic outfit of Steven Alan, Levi's and Pumas.  (I put on the Pumas because they are quite uncomfortable, and I thought they might force me to make an appointment at the podiatrist).  I went to work, where everything was busy and where a couple of authors sort of got on my nerves.  I had a nicotine lozenge.  I looked forward to seeing Jeanne tonight and my new therapist tomorrow.  (She has her work cut out for her, as they say). 

I don't know why peace comes when it comes.  I know by now it doesn't come from outfits, and it certainly doesn't come when I drink cup after cup of coffee, as I sometimes do, unwisely.  Maybe peace is like a man walking next to us on the street.  Some days, we keep apace with him, and sometimes he pulls ahead of us, or falls behind.  Maybe he falls behind us so that he may stab us in the back, which I always fear whenever anyone is walking behind me.  One day, of course, that final man of peace will arrive - the sweet, sweet peace of Mr. Death.  Or, maybe there is no peace in death, just nothing at all.

Heidi took this pic of me.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Yellow ribbon

My sister continued her tradition of giving me an Easter basket filled with candy yesterday. I think she is trying to give me diabetes. (No, it's sweet, I know. She is telling me she loves me by giving me the candy. Sometimes I give her candy, too, but she's an actual diabetic, so it's bad when I do).

Because I try to only eat hard candies, not chocolates, I took the candy to work so that my co-workers could get fat instead of me. I valiantly resisted the lure of my own candy all day, but finally I decided to eat just the ears of "Parsnip Pete," the hollow milk chocolate bunny. I sat in my office and felt the delicious sweetness of the ears spread through me. Then I walked out of my office and returned in a minute with the rest of Parsnip Pete. I sat down and ate the entire box. Look at poor Pete in this picture. He's just a bunch of crumbs and a yellow ribbon. (Why didn't I just finish these crumbs off? What prevented me from saying, "Well, I already finished the whole bunny; why not just finish these last two bites?")

Soon, it will be spring and I will have to somehow get into a pair of swim trunks and brave the beach. Because of my discouraging weight gain over the last year (thanks, Risperidone) I have my work cut out for me if I really want to fit into my trunks. But perhaps moments like my moment with Parsnip Pete today tell me that I really don't want to go to the beach this year. Or, if I do, I just want to sit on the beach dressed in black and covered by a towel, reading a paperback. My beach body will have to wait, perhaps, for a year without so much mental upheaval. If anyone has any experience with this topic, please let me know: how do you maintain a healthy weight on bipolar medication? Is it even possible?

As some people know, last year I was manic; now I'm blue. I just quit smoking for the umpteenth time (maybe for good this time? Who knows). Over the past three months or so, I've put a lot of things "on the shelf" for now. Music. The gym. My need to be thin. The fellows. My blog. I really want to re-join the world, and I will try to from here on out, I swear. Depression is my longtime companion, though I usually have a good reason to be depressed, and I don't have one currently. If you see me in the streets, give me a hug, don't give me any chocolate, please. If I make fun of your outfit, that's a good sign. :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

La Isla Boniva

I went downtown to hang out with my friend T (not that friend T), but he wasn't ready yet, so I walked around Soho for a bit, waiting for him to text me. I happened upon this sign advertising Madonna tickets, and was jolted to learn that tickets had already gone on sale, two days before. I didn't even know! Usually, I get an email from American Express about a pre-sale, but I didn't get one this time around, I guess because Madonna is working with a different credit card company now :(

I have seen every single Madonna tour since 1990's Blond Ambition tour (my very first concert), mostly because the gays can be very dismissive of you if you are not on top of every gay trend. I didn't want to be the only gay in the gay rest home twenty years from now who didn't see this particular tour. By now, though, having not gotten Lady Gaga and not caring about "Glee," I am pretty much officially persona non grata with the gays. And, after seeing Madonna almost fall down during her performance of "Music" at the Superbowl half-time show, I had all but decided that I didn't want to see her tour again. All she ever does now is project images onto a screen and hump a chair! So why does this news that I've missed the chance to get tickets for her show bother me so much? Maybe because I wanted to be able to symbolically reject her; I didn't want to just not know about it! Sigh.

Back in the day, I loved Madonna, and I would gleefully clip out pictures of her from magazines and wallpaper my room with them. My mother would just as gleefully rip them off my wall when I angered her about something, and I would be heartbroken, and the cycle would repeat. But right around the time that "Erotica" came out, I finally realized that Madonna's music mostly sucks. I still kept buying those albums and attending those shows, though ... you can't be the only gay who doesn't. And as we both aged, I guess I felt some jealousy towards her ... after all, she has exercised obsessively over the years just as I have, but I have lingering joint pain because of it, and she doesn't seem to. And she fell off a horse.

In this poster, Madonna is wearing a simple white jacket, showing her cleavage. I say "Madonna" is wearing it, because that's what the poster is telling you; although it is pretty obvious that the real Madonna no longer looks this way, and perhaps never did. Whatever outfits the real Madonna chooses to wear during this upcoming tour, I think it's safe to say that they will be age-inappropriate. And tonight, I will be wearing a Steven Alan shirt at a Bookforum party at the New Museum, featuring Adam Wilson, Ben Marcus, and Dale Peck. See you there, gays?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Henry family reunion

Maxine and I (and Mary!) traveled down to Antigua to visit with some of the Henry family. I owed my niece Melany a visit, as she just had a baby (my grand-niece!) and I wanted to meet her.

I could have predicted this, but I did not enjoy sharing a hotel room with my sister. She likes to watch the Cooking Channel into the wee hours of the night, whereas I love going to sleep really early and then waking up in a panic at 8:00 a.m., smoking cigarettes and drinking cup after cup of coffee. A couple of times, I ended up down at the Coconut Grove by myself in the morning, waiting for my traveling companions to join me, smoking away at the bar and being stung by mosquitoes.

Maxine rented a car, and terrorized Mary and I by driving into ditches and generally menacing the (terrible) roads there. With Mary in the back seat videotaping us (unbeknownst to Maxine) I tricked Maxine into launching into her favorite argument with me, that I was "shown a lot of attention" by my maternal grandmother when I was a baby, and so therefore needed a lot of attention when I was adopted by my aunt and uncle in Queens. Attention, according to Maxine, that they were unwilling to give me - just on the principle of the matter, from the sound of it. In Antigua, Maxine unveiled a new angle on the argument - that my aunt Grace, when I was living with her and my late uncle Max in St. Croix before embarking for Queens, used to dress me up and have me come out and "perform" for her guests, singing and dancing and reciting Bible verses. It sounds almost lewd, doesn't it? That's the power of Maxine - to take the innocent foibles of a child and make them sound damning and perverse. But she's my sister, and I love her, though I am putting extra money aside to care for her when she finally goes insane.

We drove into town and I bought an Antigua keychain, a very stylish Antigua t-shirt, and a (zipped! very rare!) Antigua tote. I like looking at Antigua t-shirts online, but the ones I like are always expensive, so I was glad to find a nice cheap one. I also wanted to buy some Antigua rum, but unfortunately, whenever I get my hands on a bottle of liquor, it is my custom to sit down and drink the whole bottle, then take my clothes off.

Here we are at a party Ann threw for us, with some assorted (and very fashionable!) Henrys. Because I left Antigua when I was two, some of these people I had never even met, really, so it was fun to catch up with everyone. Louise reminded me a lot of my mom, with her stories of being outraged, and Pat sort of reminded me of me. (He told a story about taking a poop and finding a frog in the toilet). I had a good time with my relatives. Because I was raised by crazy people, I keep expecting my relatives to dislike me, because I'm sure they've all heard crazy stories about me from my crazy immediate family. But life has taught me that everyone is crazy, and our families are too busy dealing with their own craziness to care too much about ours.

Afterwards, Maxine nearly killed us again in that car. When she was returning the car the next evening, she found the Antigua t-shirt and my "precious bag," as she put it, in the trunk, and returned them to me with an evil, knowing chortle, as though my forgetting them in the trunk was indicative of my whole persona. Harrumph!!!!!!!