Monday, February 26, 2007

"you shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you"

It has now been almost a month since I have quit my copyediting job and I have lost all motivation to apply for other jobs right now, not really sure what it is I want to be doing, but also wanting to put those decisions on hold for a while, thinking to myself that I might want to just try to procure shitty temp jobs when I have to so that that way I can have more time to myself for a while, hopefully write some, and hopefully take lots of little trips and visit people and places I have been wanting to. And were I to obtain an amazing job, something more along the lines of a career, then I surely would have trouble taking any vacations a month or two after getting the job.

I am not totally umemployed right now and have been working at the P.R., though last week I did only work eight hours for them. Hopefully though, I can counterbalance that by working a lot for them this week if they have work, and then next week, I think I might be working for the business mag perhaps for the whole week, and so little pieces are coming together, allowing me to not have to wake up early, allowing me to linger around the house in shorts for hours in the morning, eating and drinking coffee, reading, masturbating - whatever it is exactly I feel like doing. And if I ever want to do anything, if I ever hope to become the thing I sometimes say it is I want to become, then these weeks are the time to put that in motion, to utilize this free time for the precious thing that it is, and truly, I am going to start that today.

This weekend, though lots of fun, was bad in the sense that I totally bombed out my mind, getting so drunk that yesterday I could do nothing for most of the day except stare into space, totally braindead, slowly recovering my basic mental faculties. On both Friday and Saturday, the party started early for me with galleries in the evening and the drinking continuing until too late. There were some truly nice moments to this weekend, among them getting to see Jaymay play at Pete's Candy Store, a round of bingo, dinner with friends, a bunch of new pants obtained for free, and a boy at a party, a very specific boy, Matt, allowing me to sniff his armpit, him rubbing it against my face, and coming home alone afterwards with the scent still on the tip of my nose, and beginning to masturbate to this smell, to the memories it evoked as well as the fantasies that may yet (put probably won't) be realized, and did this, not even coming, until I fell asleep, lights still on, contacts still in, and things that I had hoped to realize, simple things like jacking off, unrealized, and that, my friends, is the issue at hand writ small; the thing, the issue, is this inability to realize things I want to because of distractions like booze and social interaction. Nice as they are, they are not the things I tell myself in ambitious moments I would like to be doing with my life.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Life as a Man

If I ever felt superior to you and your way of life, I don’t any longer. Besides, it’s to you that I may owe my literary career. Trying on a recent afternoon walk to figure out how I got into this line of work, I remembered myself at age six and you at age eleven, waiting in the back seat of the car for Mother and Dad to finish their Saturday night shopping. You kept using a word that struck me as the funniest thing I’d ever heard, and once you saw how much it tickled me, you wouldn’t stop, though I begged you to from the floor of the car where I was curled up in a knot from pure hilarity. I believe the word was “noodle,” used as a synonym for “head.” You were merciless, somehow you managed to it stick it somewhere into every sentence you uttered, and eventually I wet my pants. When Mother and Dad returned to the car I was outraged with you and in tears. “Joannie did it,” I cried, whereupon Dad informed me that it was a human impossibility for one person to pee in another person’s pants. Little he knew about the power of art. (114)

In My Life as Man, Philip Roth, again as he does in just about all of his fiction, contrasts the adult life of his altar ego narrator with that of his narrator’s idyllic childhood, how with the complexity of sex, relationships, and the burdens of adulthood, he fails miserably. In this novel, the first to make mention of Nathan Zuckerman, he also starts to flesh out a theme that he works at for the rest of his literary career, the question of identity and the relationship between fiction and real life, whatever that term means, actually whatever either means, both fiction and real life.

The book is a choppy format for the first hundred or so pages and is hard to get into until you realize what the format of the book is, which is that the first section, two stories about Nathan Zuckerman, are thinly veiled fictions written by Peter Tarnopol, mirroring his life, which also mirrors what we, as readers, know to be the life of Philip Roth. The second section is about Peter Tarnopol and his struggles as a writer, but more so as a husband trying to divorce his wife, and to take it out one level further, as Roth does in the title and later on in the book, it is about his struggle to live as a man.

This novel is meta on top of meta, Roth as a series of Russian dolls, Peter Tarnopol, a smaller version of himself, and Nathan Zuckerman, a smaller version of Tarnopol, and yet it suffers from none of the lack of grace that the meta-fiction appearing around this same time and following would suffer from – the ham-fisted cynicism or unreadable prose.

Though obviously an emotional trainwreck and probably doomed in relationships for the rest of his life, there is something completely appealing about Roth’s altar ego, as sexist and neurotic as he occasionally may be, that his doubts and insecurities, and the fits of mania they produce, are just escalated versions of ones that I also experience. And through this character and this sometimes manic and caffeinated voice, prose that reads super fast, flying past you are sometimes amazing insights into human life, into art, America, how one goes about living a life, and how one goes about living life as an artist.

Peter Tarnopol is a young hotshot writer, who found fame at an early age, much like Roth’s own situation, winning the National Book Award at the age of 26 for his first book. He comes from “a nice Jewish family” and has not really experienced much drama outside of the stuff he read in his college studies. He meets Maureen, a psychopath who becomes his wife through trickery, and soon he is living a life of intense drama, such as one would find in the fiction he adored and in the fiction he aspired to write. Maureen is aware of this and sometimes hints in rages that she is real life, that she is giving this sheltered boy who hopes to write about real life a dose of it. Again, there is this tension between life and its representation and from whence forms of representation come.

My trouble in my middle twenties was that rich with confidence and success, I was not about to settle for complexity and depth in books alone. Stuffed to the gills with great fiction – entranced not by cheap romances, like Madame Bovary, but by Madame Bovary - I now expected to find in everyday experience the same sense of the difficult and the deadly earnest that informed the novels I admired most. My model of reality, deduced from reading the masters, had at its heart intractability. And here it was, a reality as obdurate and recalcitrant and (in addition) as awful as any I could have wished for in my most bookish dreams. (195)


Something similar, something not too distant from that desire to have a life with as much poetry and meaning as the ones I read about in the novels I love, is present in this activity I do here and which I have been a little neglectful of lately, that being the activity of diary writing, of recording my life perhaps as a method of bragging about it to whomever may be reading, trying in some ways to make my life seem thrilling or cool if not to you, than at least to myself. There is that potential reading of what my intentions are with this act of diarying, though I think that that would be a cynical one and miss much of what my true motivation is here.

It is that I read all these things, all these amazing books, and sometimes (though far more rarely) I will see an amazing movie that makes me long for a certain type of living. The most recent ones to do this are the series of Eric Rohmer films that I have been watching lately. There is this desire to live a life of meaning, of beauty, and yes, that is surely done in those actual moments of living, but those moments, those instances of beauty become amplified and things take on more meaning in the recollection of those things, of those moments; that when we sit back and think it over, that is when we actually begin to fully appreciate the thing that transpired. There is that Wordsworth quote, which I always tended to disagree with, which I found perhaps just a little too mannered, but which comes back to me verbatim in various moments and which I am becoming more and more sympathetic to; he said that poetry is “emotion recollected in tranquility.”

And the sentiment is certainly one that Roth, in a decidedly unmannered way, mirrors in this novel and also perhaps is the impetus behind my own love of this diary project.

Last night (always with the last nights, the yesterdays, here; never the nows), I went to this crazy Italian restaurant in Bay Ridge, Tommaso’s, for Carvnevale dinner with Gabriel and Ben, treated by these two older gay men and this straight couple. This recollection might be more attributed to that first mentioned motivation rather than to aspiring to live and relive a life of meaning. Here it might be that I just want to mention how amazingly delicious this food was, how good the wine, and how pleasant the evening. The amount of food I ate was truly obscene, quite a few courses of cheese heavy and meat heavy food. The owner was dressed as a clown and was singing opera and would occasionally rest his hand on my shoulder when talking to our table in a way that made me feel at ease in this world. There were several other people, an amazing old lady being one of them, also singing opera.

Toward the end of the evening, drunk on all the food consumed and all the lovely Cabernet in my belly, one of the singers broke into “New York, New York,” and that moment right then is what I want to capture, what all of this is being mentioned for, what a picture could never capture, nor even video. The pleasure of all this stuff coursing through my body and the proximity of friends I cared deeply about became all the more pleasurable, all the more special, and the focus of my thoughts as this woman was singing about how great New York was, how if she could make it there, she could make it anywhere. And I got totally giddy, thinking back to how I felt, approaching four years ago now, when I first moved here and what that meant, what the idea of New York meant to me then, how in many ways it was the place of that particular song, and how it appears to me now, how sometimes I forget that earlier giddiness I had about the place, but in certain moments, last night for instance, I get those butterflies again, knowing how special a place this is.

Friday, February 16, 2007

the commodore theater

The destruction of the Commodore totally breaks my heart. I have mentioned this theater before, quite a few times actually, it moving me incredibly for all that it had seen and all that it had shown. It is, or now was, this gorgeous old movie theater by my house, far and away the prettiest relic in my neighborhood, which I would walk by everytime I was coming home drunk from the JMZ on weekends when the L was shut down. Drunk, it would look even more magical against the night sky and the elevated subway tracks next to it, this boarded up movie house from the 1920's. Kids who watched weekend matinees in those early years are probably all dead, and so many people have written of what theaters meant culturally in those early years of cinema, writing of them as palaces of dreams, places where the underclass entertained dreams of escapism or wealth, and I think about those things every time I see an old movie house, thinking of all those people who sat there and watched movies. And to think that some developer was so short-sighted, so lacking in this same reverence for old movie houses, and tore down this really gorgeous building upsets me so much, especially when I imagine the bland condo that is likely to rise in its place. Following is a picture from October when it was still standing, and then pictures from today as it is being torn down.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Feb. 14th, 2007

I arrived back in New York a couple of days ago, a bit sad for reasons including the L train being down, a boy not wanting to hang out with me, and the exterior demolition of the Commodore Theater that I saw the beginnings of on my way home. Since arriving back, I have worked at the P.R. for two days and at the copyediting job today from home. In that respect, things are working out better than I had hoped for when I was afraid of being unemployed.

Today it snowed and hailed and I walked around town and listened to Lou Reed's "This Magic Moment" on repeat and exclaimed a lot in amazement about life and snow and hail in my face. It is Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 9, 2007

jack in the box

Last evening, after a day of thrifting in the East Bay, Bonnie and I went to some gallery opening where I got way drunk off rum and cokes served by this gallery attendent who I was in love with and who I presumed was a homo, but, because I am apparently totally awful at judging such things, as it turns out was actually straight. With each sip of my drink, I was aware of who had prepared it, this man with the boyish smile, this man making this thing for me, a gift offered. His hands, the ones I wanted on me, had prepared the thing; an imagined prelude to sex. Then Matthew, Bonnie, and I went to Regina's house where we drank some wine and had what I considered to be a really lovely conversation.

Bonnie and I caught the last BART train back to Oakland and I was starving and was already planning what food we could possibly get when we got off of BART since burritos were not an option. We went to Jack in the Box, walked through the drive-through since that was the only thing open. And it was while we were eating curly fries from the bag while walking back to Bonnie's house two blocks away that, in what is now all a blur, these two men grabbed Bonnie's purse. We screamed and yelled and I grabbed one of the guys, hoping to get Bonnie's purse back, but the other guy had the purse and he was already turning a corner, running away. The other guy took off running also and we went around the corner, trying to find the guy with the purse, but to no avail. The police came and we talked to them. While Bonnie was giving a statement in the police car, I found our Jack in the Box bag, sat on the curb and ate the bacon cheeseburger I had ordered, the crime doing nothing to mitigate my hunger.

It has been raining for the past three days, but really, the end of last night excluded, it has been so lovely here even in this wet weather. In other wet news, supposedly tonight we are attending a wet jockstrap contest. I have lost both games of Scrabble I have played while here in California. I need to get back in the habit of playing. I have also taken to drinking my coffee black.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Yesterday, I started my day off at SF MoMA. There were some of Joseph Albers' "Homage to the Square" paintings there and which were my favorite things there, already having fallen in love with the series at the Whitney a month or so ago. I have a great idea that is going to involve this series and my experiences with them, which I will commence work on once home in New York. I am going to commence work on many things once I am home again in New York. I am really excited about being inspired and realizing what is important to me while here, and also excited that while here, while away from it, New York has more than ever taken on all of the associations, lovely ones they are, of home. Then there was a long walk wandering through the Mission, through the Castro, and then a trip to Golden Gate Park, a walk through it, and a view of the sunset from the beach. I then went out dancing with Bonnie and Matthew at Aunt Charlie's where Brontez was spinning old girl group records and which was pretty amazing.

Today we ate some mushrooms and went to the science museum, becoming totally overwhelmed with all the optical tricks and things to play with there, until the kids and the busyness of the place became too overwhelming and we sought refuge outside in the drizzling rain, in this weird pavilion. Eventually we decided to try to walk to Golden Gate Bridge, giggling all the way there, umbrellas flying every which way, and doing this for too long before the absurdity of the hike became apparent and we got back on the bus, back to the main part of town. It was a lovely, lovely day, capped with Scrabble and The Smiths.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

big sur

Highway 1 is totally gorgeous. Today we drove down the Pacific Coast listening to good music and I took in such totally beautiful sights. All I could do was take out my camera and click away, trying to save these things, to hold on to these sights, as if that could do anything to prolong the beauty.

Monday, February 5, 2007

He strained; he pushed; he looked; he saw Regent's Park before him. Long streamers of sunlight fawned at his feet. The trees waved, brandished. We welcome, the world seemed to say; we accept; we create. Beauty, the world seemed to say. And as if to prove it (scientifically) wherever he looked, at the houses, at the railings, at the antelopes stretching over the palings, beauty sprang instantly. To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves n and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now and again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks - all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere. (52)

This book, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, is the perfect book to be reading right now, on this trip to California, taking in all these new sights. There is a beautiful relationship between a book and the place it is read, both appearing more magical in the transaction, both taking on characteristics of the other. I read the above passage in a park in Oakland, waiting for Bonnie to get off work, a couple of redwoods standing nearby.

My first night here I went to some lesbian dance party at The Transfer called Cockblock, which was mildly fun, but not really what I was looking for. Afterward, we went to some other gay bar, The Deco, which was just closing and were about to go to a motel across the street for an afterparty with the people throwing the party when we decided it'd be awful, it probably being just be us plus them, and so we started to run away. While sneaking away from the bar, a group of bike kids passed us by, Bonnie asked where the party where was, and this guy hopped off his bike. He walked us back to some guy's house and we hung out with these straight bike kids, listening to amazing old records that one of those boys was spinning, listening to one of the boys, Doug, talk about graffiti and fashion, and doing lines of coke with this photography student. It was such an amazingly random and weird interaction, it being just what I wanted and making my night five million times better.

Saturday there was walking around Oakland with Bonnie, the already mentioned reading in a park, a gallery opening in the Mission, ate an amazing burrito, and then went to this really fun, though totally straight, Britpop night at Annie's Social Club, probably made more amazing by coke done in the backseat of Matt's SUV.

Yesterday, I tried to go to John Coltrane Church, however it was closed because the congregation was in Paris for the week. So I walked around San Francisco, taking in all these sites and all these various neighborhoods, some neighborhoods, Chinatown and the Tendorloin, seeming particularly amazing in their distinct characters. I went to his male strip show and video arcade place, "Knob Hill," watched someone younger seeming than me, a skinny boy, do a strip show for me and two other men, not too many people watching strip shows at one in the afternoon. Bored with that, I went downstairs to the video arcade, where in one of the booths, I got a blowjob from an old man. Then I walked up some big hills, sat in a park by the water, and ate an orange. After Bonnie finally woke up, she met me in the city at the Eagle for their Beer Bust event. I stared at a bunch of leather daddies, watched Prince perform briefly on my way to the bathroom, and got totally shitfaced, trying to get my money's worth in beer. I smoked far too much pot with some crazy man and basically that was it, that was calling it a night. By seven o'clock, I was wasted as possible, and could not deal with talking to any of these people because I was making no sense and nothing anyone else said was making sense. My brain was totally fried and I just stood close to Bonnie so I wouldn't have to make the extreme effort required to talk to strangers that wanted to talk. Jeff gave us a ride back to Oakland, at which point I fell asleep in Bonnie's bed, recalling long lost memories, long thought forgotten, in that hazy prelude to sleep.

Bonnie is in the shower now, thus the rush in the composition of this, the quick detailing of things, and soon we are going to Big Sur and to Santa Cruz! I am so excited.

(the nice bike kid strangers)

(the really cute and nice doug, who loves fashion)


(yeah for student discounts!)

(refer back to that earlier woolf quote)

(the state of my sobriety is proven in how I did not notice this photo was blurry at all)

(i am in love with this eagle statue. someone told us it had a spirit. possibly true.)

Thursday, February 1, 2007

school's out for summer, school's out forever

Only after his really outrageous dancing and singing did I decide that this needed to be documented, but once I had got out my phone, he had already toned down his singing routine somewhat. There are so many things in this world, all so brief, quick flashes, and then there is the desire to extend their shelf life, to hold on to these things. Sometimes I cringe at the shutter happiness of people, which with the onset of digital photo devices was enabled to the nth degree, but then there are other times when the naturalness of the act is apparent to me.

In the bathroom at Eastern Bloc last night, some man, for what I believe are similar reasons, also wanted to capture images of a moment, to hold on tight, and to extend our erotic encounter indefinitely, to have it called into being again whenever the picture is glanced at. I had approached this man as I was leaving the bar, attractive and with sex in his eyes. Within two minutes of meeting him, we were in the bathroom, me sucking his surprisingly large dick, he taking photos with his camera. The thing I don't like about shutter happiness, that it encourages a hamminess, that people are performing for how they may look on a screen, is the thing that made that encounter in the bathroom perhaps hotter than it otherwise would have been.

Today is my last day of work. I am so excited. It feels like the last day of school. I can taste freedom, and the idea of change, scary as it is sometimes, has me totally giddy and thrilled. Tomorrow, I am going to California for a week, and about that I am also so excited.