Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rabbit Redux

I started this book, John Updike's Rabbit Redux, seemingly so long ago, and I remember then in those now seemingly far off days raving to just about everybody I talked to concerning such things, books and such, about this book, about what a great writer Updike was, and about how amazing, how absolutely great, some of these early passages were. Finishing the first section of the book, putting the bookmark in at page 93, I even remember thinking to myself that that right there is all there needs to be, that that section itself would make such a great novella.

Now, having read the following two sections, "Jill" and "Skeeter", I am wondering why that wasn't it, why anything had to follow that first section, why an editor wasn't kind enough to say, "You know, John, maybe we should reconsider the middle of this book." That is not to say anything against the writing in these sections - it is still excellent - however, the book veers wildly off the course it has set for itself in the first book and the first section of this second book. It becomes not only unbelievable, but absurdly so, and worse still indulges in a giddily racist hundred or so pages. It is not ruining the plot (since you read it for the writing) to say that in this middle section, after Angstrom's wife leaves him, he ends up at a black jazz club (in small town Pennsylvania no less!), where he meets a pimp and a young white prostitute, the titular Jill of the second section. Jill moves in with Angstrom and his son, which is already unbelievable enough, but then at some point, psychotic Skeeter, a black Vietnam vet and drug addict who believes he is Jesus, moves in with them while he is running from the law. The story has totally lost all its well earned sense of reality. The first section was so brilliant because it took the everyday, the mundane, the normal, the lived lives of a lot of people, and made literature, made art, out of the thing. Here in the middle section, Updike either doesn't have faith in his ability to do so anymore and ratchets up the excitement level just to keep you tuned in, or rather, and which I think is the case though I am having a hard time parsing it exactly, Updike is trying to say something big and ambitious here about race, about the sixties, about America.

I think the effort is a failed one and painfully so. It is embarrassing to read how Skeeter forces Angstrom, his son, and Jill to sit in the living room and talk about race, to do so in such absurd ways. Skeeter forces them to read aloud passages from Frederick Douglass's autobiography and moans whiles they read select passages, moans orgasmically, and at one point even has to strip naked so the words can make contact with his pores. There is that scene and then there is also a scene where Skeeter forces Jill to suck his dick for some drugs, forces her to do so in front of Angstrom, and all the while is babbling on about how he is a white lily, how Jill is black, and how Angstrom is a slave tied to a chair.

Surely, Updike is striving for meaning, attempting to say something, but the effort is painful, all the more so since Updike is so white. I would be embarrassed had a black writer written this, but for it to be Updike, man, it makes this section (and quite a long one it is) painful to endure, difficult to get through. Part of the reason why this book took me so long to read was because I really had no interest in reading anymore of what Updike was attempting to say about race relations, whatever it was he was trying to say seeming really offensive to me.

But then you emerge from that section, just as Angstrom emerges from his relationships with those two characters, bleary and feeling like a fog of delirium has lifted, that fog being Updike's take on the sixties, and you again start to get conflicts and passages that more closely resemble the lived reality of most people. There is this section of Angstrom looking out his mother's windows that does this, poeticizes the everyday:

He looks out of her windows. There was a time--the year after leaving, five years after--when this homely street, with its old-fashioned high crown, its sidewalk blocks and railings of painted iron and two-family brickfront houses whose siding imitates gray rocks, excited Rabbit with the magic of his own existence. These mundane surfaces had given witness to life; this chalice had held his blood; here the universe had centered, each downtwirling maple seed of more account than galaxies. No more. Jackson Road seems an ordinary street anywhere. Millions of American streets hold millions of lives, and let them sift through, and neither notice nor mourn, and fall into decay, and do not even mourn their passing but instead grimace at the wrecking ball with the same gaunt facades that have outweathered all their winters. However steadily Mom communes with these maples, the braches' misty snake-shapes as inflexibly fixed in the two windows as the leading of stained glass, they will not hold back here fate by the space of a breath; nor, if they are cut down tomorrow to widen Jackson Road at last, will here staring, that planted them within herself, halt their vanishing. And the wash of new light will extinguish even her memory of them. Time is our element, not a mistaken invader. How stupid, it has taken him thirty-six years to begin to believe that. (324-325)

And coming back into this section today, again feeling the thing that literature is capable of doing, feeling this life more intensely, I lived and I smiled and I had a great day, doing so many things I needed to do, doing these things aware of other things, so many things, and so happy for those things. I went into the Strand, coveting more feelings, more love, more life, and walked out with three books I am very excited to start reading.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

the revolutionary costume

At one point in Grey Gardens, Mary Louise Wilson, doing an amazing performance as Edith Beale, shrieks to Little Edie, "Shut-up! It's a goddamn beautiful day! Shut-up." There were a lot of lines that I laughed at during the performance, but this one I laughed at in the manner you do when you recognize a truth, something so correct and apt, something that you wish you had knew how to say before it was uttered, and you just laugh. It is cloudy out today, yes, and the forecast calls for thunderstorms, but the day is still beautiful - they all are - and more often than not, these beautiful days are ruined by people, including yourself, myself, that won't shut up and just take it in. It is possible to talk through things, to talk and fret and worry and spew an interior monologue, the neverending one that started with the cries of infancy and seems like it will continue right on until death, a base solipsism, an eternal neediness, feeling sorry for yourself or for something, and in such cases, there have been a few of them this week, I wish that I had had Edith Beale there to shriek at me to shut-up, that it was a goddamn beautiful day.

I had been suspicious of a musical production of this quirky documentary, thinking that such a thing could only be glib, but decided I had to see it yesterday since it is closing today and such amazing things had been said about the play. I had to see how such a transfer could work, if it could. It does. The first half of the play is set in 1941 and shows Grey Gardens, the estate, in its prime, shows Little Edie with the world before her - all stuff that is only alluded to in the documentary. The second half of the play is closer to the actual documentary, the estate falling into the ground and being overrun with cats, Little Edie and Edith bickering and being totally crazy.

The play is the stellar thing it is because of its two leading ladies. Mary Louise Wilson does an amazing job as the late Edith Beale. And then there is Christine Ebersole, who plays the 1941 Edith Beale in the first act and then in the second half of the play does the role, does it astonishingly well, of Little Edie. Christine Ebersole inhabits the role of Little Edie so amazingly well.

The audience was totally head over heels in love with these two actresses and were showing their love totally unashamed since it was closing weekend. The play opened with Mary Louise Wilson getting a few minutes of applause when she came onstage. The same occurred at the opening of Act Two when Ebersole opens the second half as Little Edie. It was again several minutes of applause and cheering, so much so that even Ebersole seemed overwhelmed by it and buried her head in her hands. The amount of love in that theater, the amount of energy (the same thing? energy=love?), made me so happy and I left that theater totally high off of the experience I had just had - the amount of love in the audience, as well as the superb performance. It was a magical couple of hours and coming out into the bright lights and packed streets of Times Square, I giggled and giggled, unable to handle how overwhelming everything was.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

hey charlie
everyone at twst loves your blog
hope you come in this week!

This comment left on my last entry definitely woke me up. TWST is the lingo, said as "twist", that workers of The Wall Street Transcript use around the office to refer to the publication. I am supposed to start working in the offices there for two weeks starting on Wednesday while my old boss is on vacation. This is super embarrassing is what this translates to. I don't really relate to my co-workers there at all. Most are older and all a bit bland, a lot more tame - the types of people that tend to work in offices. And they all gossip a lot and so surely probably everyone there has read my blog now. Recent entries include mentions of being a prostitute, obsessive masturbation, lots of dick sucking, some ass fucking, some unsafe ass fucking detailed in detail, pot smoking, excessive drinking, and on and on - enough to make me seem like the hellbent Sodomite I am, but which I had been able to hide so well under the bland circumstances of an office. I wonder though if anyone will actually mention my blog or my life to me in person, or whether I will just get different looks from people.

I can only fret about this too much because life is only so short, and there is another boring day of work ahead, filing things for some random health company in midtown. After work today, I saw Sharon Jones play with the Dap Kings at Battery Park, and that was awesome. Even more awesome was later this evening when I got a blowjob from this man who had a great view of downtown Manhattan. He sat on his couch and I stood over him, fucking his mouth and looking at this beautiful city, looking out his living room windows, getting more so off on the city and my life here than on the blowjob. I got giddy tonight walking the city streets in a way I haven't felt in too long. Manhattan's streets, which I am not on frequent enough, have such an energy to them, particularly so as you walk them at night alone, on your way to a total stranger's house to exchange sex for money, feeling nervous and young, and there is this city, and it feels like some movie, obviously a seventies New York one, and you are so happy because it's so brief and you get to experience it even for this short while, more than most.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Happiness comes in waves, washing over the boredom, loneliness, and aimlessness that I have been feeling for the past couple of days. It washes over the thing; it does not wash it away. The tide pulls back and it is still there.

Last night, for instance, I was at this bar, the Metropolitan, for karaoke night and, for indistinct reasons, wasn’t feeling it and did not particularly feel like being there. I had thought numerous times about dipping out and going to bed, told myself though that I should at least wait to sing the song I had signed up for. And then a giddiness and a joy took hold abruptly, took hold simply because eye contact, that certain type, had been made with a cute stranger.

After singing this song, Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know,” singing it terribly, I did not dip out of this bar like I had earlier resolved to do, did not want to. I was really happy because there was a boy, same one, at the other end of the bar trying not to let me see him looking at me. I went and talked to this boy and became the person I normally am, happy, smiling, full of giggles, and present. His name, Drew. Brown hair and brown eyes, obviously. But those brown eyes, man! Who wouldn’t be giddy with such things looking at you? 21. Works at Kenneth Cole. Half Persian. These and other basic details exchanged slowly between lots of staring. Each question, each answer, said at a pace that could only be sexy – to talk in such unhurried words and to do so through the hint of a smile is the best form of foreplay, tension there and quieter moments, potential openings for kisses, touches. Simply recounting these things, trying to get back at that experience last night and remembering how I felt, is making me smile, making me feel good – another wave soon to go back to sea?

But to recount these things, to recall the joy I felt, this wave of tenderness toward the world, seems silly, or even masochistic, considering the sadness I felt soon after this lovely interaction. That leisurely flirtatious conversation did allow for touching, kissing. Hands on his thigh, through his hair, along his side. Kisses to his neck, ear. All so lovely and so gratifying in a way I didn’t know I needed, was lacking. Mentally, I had been brainstorming how I would have to kick Rebecca out of my bed and send her to the couch so I could sleep with this boy, how I would still have to wake up early and finish the editing I had still yet to do for this job. I was planning for what seemed a foregone conclusion, sex with this boy I was really attracted to and who, at that moment, seemed to be really attracted to me.

I interrupted my conversation with Drew to run outside and say bye to a friend that had just exited and who I didn’t know was leaving. I came back inside and did not see Drew at the barstool anymore. I watched a friend sing a song and then went out back to find this cute boy. He was not there either. The boy had dipped out without a goodbye, with me never even getting his number. Certain he was gone, this brief surge of joy diminished and the original malaise again appeared, a bit more intensely after the disappointment with this boy.

Today, I masturbated most of the day, watching porn on the Internet, totally incapable of doing the things I kept telling myself I should be doing – leaving the house, writing, looking for work, etc. I finally did make it out of the house and hung out in Union Square with Niki and Rebecca for a bit. That provided some of the spark that I needed. I have since read things I had wanted to read (including that amazing bonobo story, which sparked many, many thoughts in my head about the nature of man and the organization of societies, both ape and human), have a temp assignment for the next two days, and am going to write before going to bed.

Sharon Jones is playing a free concert tomorrow night, which will surely bring a great wave of joy, perhaps one so great as to knock me senseless. Working will probably help alleviate the feeling of ennui that I too often get when unemployed and that manifests itself in me masturbating four times a day. [From the aforementioned article: “Captivity can have a striking impact on animal behavior. As Craig Stanford, a primatologist at the University of Southern California recently put it, “Stuck together, bored out of their minds – what is there to do except eat and have sex?”] And, this just in from the wires: the boy, Drew, has just responded to a missed connection I posted, giving me his phone number! Oh, these waves!

Friday, July 20, 2007

sans photos, sans other things

Last night, after a 22 hour train ride, I arrived back in New York from a week spent in Chicago. Ben and I rode the train there, switching trains in Washington, D.C., where we rushed to touch the moonrock, and with that, the touching of a piece of outer space, the trip started. The ride from DC to Chicago was really beautiful, riding through the mountains of Western Maryland, passing through Harper's Ferry, and watching the land slowly start to flatten out into the plains of the Midwest. We drank whiskey, hung out in the lounge car, and attempted unsuccessfully to complete the day's crossword puzzle. The train was freezing cold at night, over air-conditioned to a comical degree, and the two of us had brought nothing but shorts and t-shirts. We shared this tiny towel I had brought, using it as a blanket, and slept fitfully, being stung throughout the night by the cold on our bodies.

We arrived sometime the next morning and the action started and never stopped. I ran with a dog into Lake Michigan, went to Boystown, had a picnic on an abandoned elevated track, got drunk on local cheap beer, Old Style, and then danced a bit at some silly gay bars. And that was day one. Following that was the Pitchfork Festival over the next three days, where I saw lots of bands that I really love. Highlights were Voxtrot, Beach House, Girl Talk, Cat Power, Yoko Ono, and Of Montreal. The next day involved waking up super early and piling into a minivan for a road trip to Wisconsin, hitting up both the Dells and Madison. The Dells were totally crazy, a giant kitschy playground and series of waterparks in the middle of Wisconsin. Madison was a nostalgic trip as I recalled this place that I lived in for a summer and was totally in love with. It is still a really pretty city, though the gay bar I had been hoping to stop at for a drink is no longer in operation. The Rainbow Room, downtown Madison's one gay bar, is no longer in operation and some random bar, not gay, occupied the space of this old bar, this bar where I started to experience gay bar culture for the first time and where I spent many nights during that summer. That was the one sad moment of an otherwise absurdly fun trip to Wisconsin. Our first stop in the state was at a place in the Dells called "Top Secret," which was the White House upside down. We sneaked in through the exit, avoiding the entrance fee, and ran around this place like crazy people, giggling, both because the idea of an upside down White House as a tourist destination was so crazy and also because we feared getting caught. In the backroom of this crazy place was a monster and a T-Rex. I don't know why. I have no clue, but man it was probably the hardest I have laughed in possibly years. Cheese curds, both fried and regular, were consumed also.

There was an amazing queer dance party, Chances, that same night in Chicago, which blew any New York dance party out of the water in how fun it was, in how mixed gender-wise it was, in how friendly every person was, and in how every person was dancing. The following days included trips to the gay beach, to the Museum of Contemporary Art, to thrift stores, to a weird bar where I got totally shitfaced, and to see the Decemberists play with the Grant Park Orchestra. From that Decemberists show, we hopped on a bus through the pouring rain and got on the train back to this place, to home, to New York. And now that I am back, I am thinking about change, how to bring it about, about notions of home, and personal happiness. I am doing well. There is will to do things. As evidence, I cut my hair today.

to chicago, the dells, madison, and back

There are more photos here.

to chicago, the dells, madison, and back

There are more photos here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I am in Chicago and am having such a lovely time. I am writing from the computer of the house I am staying in while my hosts are asleep and while Ben is in the shower, and thus this will be brief. Today, I saw great performances from Voxtrot, Beach House, Cat Power, Girl Talk, and Yoko Ono. All were totally amazing. Yoko Ono led everyone in a singalong of "War is Over if You Want It." The experience was magical. Each of those bands listed provided a very unique experience, all amazing in their own way.

The train ride to Chicago was also really lovely and filled with amazing sights. All this hyperbole, you might say - what with the amazings and greats and lovelys - but the adjectives are true and fit.

I gave a love letter to Ramesh from Voxtrot tonight at this bar, made out with a cute boy, and drank lots of Colt 45. There is obviously more to say (there always is), but those things will have to wait until I have more time and don't have a bed calling my name. Tomorrow should bring about more good music, hopefully more nice weather, as well as nice interactions, and then Monday is a jaunt to Wisconisn, which has been christened Powerwaukee, called this even though Milwaukee is not on the itenerary. On it though are the Dells and Madison! I love you and want to love things a lot more and a lot more earnestly after watching Ono perform. God! I do! I love you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

page six six six

I still get brief tastes of dick, of this boy Dana's. Certainly this is not possible considering that this was hours ago and my teeth have been brushed since then. But in hungover moments, the taste, certainly remembered and not actually there, is felt.

The night started at a party at [a gay celebrity]'s house where I talked to some strangers, gave out my number to some of these strangers, and at one point smoked from a bong with [gay celebrity]. Also, I got really drunk. Drunkeness continued at the Cock, where I made out with several people and gave one of these persons a blowjob.

Then I ended up at [a certain 90's MTV News guy]'s apartment somehow. It was really weird to see this face of my teenage years, the MTV news guy, coked out of his mind, eyes crazy looking. I ended up in his bed, doing coke with him and this boy Dana, who is the roommate of Daniel, this boy I used to make out with until he no longer wanted to make out with me. Dana and I sucked each other's dicks and I loved doing so, and people kept coming in and out of this bedroom and the entire thing was so weird. Dana was also worried Daniel would hate him and kept on telling me not to tell Daniel about our sexual escapade. Whenever [a certain 90's MTV News guy] came into the room, Dana would tell him to suck my dick and he would. And that this man that I watched on my television in the suburbs throughout terrible teenage years, that this man had my penis in his mouth, man, I can't tell you what a weird sensation that was. I would like to, but the thing is I am at work.

Tomorrow, I go to Chicago for a week!

Monday, July 2, 2007

the view from the 42nd floor

There was him sucking my dick, this part of my body going in and out of this man's mouth, and, despite how many times I have now seen this physical act, that was a fascinating thing to watch. And beyond that, past his shoulder, was this city and an awesome blue sky, clouds seemingly at eye level, and the experience was magical, me floating on this bed through the clouds on view all around from his corner apartment. I am part of these things, the sky and its clouds, this city and its tall buildings, and with the freedom enabled by sexual bliss, by that fog of pleasure one enters when their penis is erect and being stimulated by another human being, I was able to float through these clouds, to be totally a part of these things, and, seemingly to contradict that boundness to things (but really not a contradiction at all if you knew the feeling), by being a part of these things I was also totally free.