Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Oh in Oprah

The defections of friends from my place of employment continues at a rapid clip and it has me a bit depressed. The end of Charlotte's Web and all the spiders are leaving, everyone going off in their own direction. It has me depressed, one, because at this moment I am not really able to leave since I am attempting to save money for this European vacation happening in July and also know that no other job will hire me only for me to take two weeks off after working only a month. Two, it has me depressed because even if I didn't have these travel plans which I am claiming as the reason why I can't leave this job, I am so unsure of what it is I want to be doing, but not just that - more accurately I am unsure of what I want to be doing and what I would also be hired to do. There are many things I would love to do which I am sure I will not be hired to do as sending out countless resumes over the past year to no response has proven to me.

I have said this before, but I really mean it: I have to get out of there as soon as I get back from Europe.

I watched the very last episode of Oprah's show today and it made me a bit depressed for similar reasons, more people leaving, spiders going off to do other things, to live their lives. It also made me a bit sad because she talked about all of these things I am feeling lately, that one has to live a life that inspires them, that your career needs to be something you love. She put some parameters on that to make it more achievable, saying that this should not be confused with fame, but one should do things that one gets pleasure from or one finds rewarding and then she gave some examples. It was actually a good last kick in the pants from Oprah on her way out the door that has me again trying to pin down some idea of what a good career would be for me that I would find rewarding and which would not make me have a tight jaw all day long, which would not make me angry.

But I think the easy anger I have been having at my job lately is not only due to numerous friends leaving and me feeling trapped in some pathetic stasis, but also because I am sexually frustrated. I haven't had sex in far too long. I can't even think of the last time, probably about a month ago in all honesty. I have become very frustrated with Jacob because we sleep together every night and rarely touch each other. We have become so domestic, so boring, so asexual with each other. We get high and watch movies and fall asleep, rather than getting off with each other. Also at fault here are our totally opposite schedules, that I am usually asleep by the time he gets home from his evening shifts at midnight or later since I normally have to wake up at five something for work at seven. But even during his last couple of days off, despite hanging out together, going out to eat, going to the movies (Midnight in Paris and Bridesmaids), going to a club (Vandam), going to an improv show (Assscat 3000), we still never fucked.

For this reason, I have been angry and horny. The other night, I was at Rawhide with some friends and started making out with some boy I spilled a drink on, was about to go home with him, and then stopped myself, saw that I could, which is usually all I want anyways, more so the knowledge that I could rather than actually doing so. It's weird. I don't know. I do. I don't want to put it in words is what is more likely. I have been jerking off multiple times a day. I am happy when Jacob isn't home so I can really lose myself in porn and getting high and get off with myself and whatever bodies are dancing across my computer screen. I am going to try to start doing more sex work, not only to make money for this summer, but also because I love it. I miss the dirty, hot sex. The passioned losing of one's self, the submission to physical desires, the dropping away of everything else. When someone calls you for sex, they are not looking to chat, to get high and watch a movie with you a couch. They want your body and want to fuck or want to drink piss or want to be choked or want something specific that they masturbate to and fantasize about and you can have some role in that, help enact these fantasies, participate in them, get off in a passionate frenzy.

I came home from work and immediately got high and watched Oprah and jerked off at the same time, occasionally put the tv on mute to focus on a porn clip on my laptop. The two were not in harmony. Oprah was talking about something else that I wanted to hear, needed to, but these bodies were saying something I needed to hear for different reasons, and I paid more attention to them until I got off, wasn't sure which reasons should be held to be more worthy. Then I turned back in to Oprah and felt like shit because I wanted to fuck one of these boys on Grindr that weren't online, because I hate my job and feel stuck there, because Oprah was telling me to do something I loved, and I wasn't, I haven't been. She told me I was slowly dying and I was pretty sure she was right.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Macho Man Randy Savage, 1952-2011

On Friday, I heard the news that the Macho Man Randy Savage had died. The news startled me in a way that the constant stream of celebrity deaths usually fails to do. This was a huge figure in my childhood and though I hadn't really followed him in years, it was still sad to hear that this figure had died near the place of my birth, Tampa, Florida.

As a kid, I was fanatically into WWF, would watch all of its various shows on Saturday afternoons and Monday evening, would save my money to order the pay-per-view spectaculars. I subscribed to WWF magazine, had a large assortment of WWF merchandise, figures and sticker books, and went to a couple of matches held nearby at the Capitol Center. My sister and I were both enormous fans and for a long while the Macho Man was definitely our favorite wrestler.

As an adult gay male, I can look back at this and reread all of this as a redirected homosexuality under closeted conditions. I can look back and say of course I would love watching shirtless, oiled up men roll around with each other in sequined and fringed outfits. I could do that, but I think that would be an incredible misreading, too easy of one. There is something a bit ridiculous about the Macho Man looking back on him as I have been doing during the last couple days, watching YouTube videos of old matches and interviews from those golden years when the WWF was still the WWF, before it became WWE, when it was still an assemblage of regional wrestling circuits and wrestlers that had come up through them (when they still existed), of wrestlers who had learned to play for the crowds, for the stage, rather than the screen. I can still watch these and be transported to those years as a small boy incredibly wowed by these strong men, their He-Man abilities. Macho Man's grizzled voice sounds a little silly to me now, but as a kid, it was mythic action-figure stuff. I would mimic his husky voice, the drawn-out Oh Yeahs, and do flying elbow drops on to the couch, imagining an arena full of fans cheering me on.

This man had such charisma and such a presence in the wrestling ring. Listen to interviews that he gave back then and marvel at this man's verbal nonsense, an on-his-feet poet, potentially coked out of his mind, saying absurd rhymes and insane analogies, often at rapid-fire pace. Some of it is beautiful, beautiful stuff. He is clearly in love with language and you can see him take pleasure in his constructions, body twitching as he pulls each word inward toward the back of his throat, neck pulsating, and Mean Gene Okerlund looking on flummoxed. There is a cadence and a rhythm to everything he says; you can almost hear the line breaks. Watch him in the ring, how fearless and excellent a performer he is. He plays for the rafters. Appropriately entering to "Pomp and Circumstance," in his neon spandex and glittering attire, he was impossible not to notice. Proto-Gaga and Kayne sunglasses that allowed him to both hide something and project something even larger, he was an enigma of a man that never broke character. All of his actions were huge and forceful; all had the effect of neon fringe. Watch his match with Jake the Snake where he is bitten by a cobra snake and keeps going, how he "falls" off the stretcher as he is carried away from the ring, the point at which most performers would have been happy to exit the match, but instead after "falling off," he goes barreling back to the ring, knocking down people along the way, all to happy to give the fans more of what they want, giving everything he has in the performance, not ready for the show to end, him taking as much pleasure as we fans got from it all. It's actually incredible how good he was.

By comparison, today's WWE is composed of a bunch of oiled-up amateurs. The star wattage isn't there. These were outsized performers who were incredible at what they did. They had my sister and I enthralled. They had my friends from school enthralled. We would act out matches in backyards and gather at houses to watch big matches. Those days have been over for a long time. Childhood ended a while ago. Still, the passing of the Macho Man reiterated that fact that sometimes gets blurred amongst all the eighties and nineties nostalgia. Hearing that Randy Savage died of a heart attack behind the wheel at the age of 58 was a slap into the present with a layover in bygone days. A headline on a news site, brief news curio to most, sent me spiraling backwards and then staggering back to the present, aware of all the time that has passed, aware that things end, ended a while ago.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

the threat of rain, its promise

The rain held off all day long, held off until I was back in Union Station in DC this evening to catch my return bus back to New York. Waiting to board the bus in the parking garage, I could smell wet concrete, the smell that streets have after bursts of rain in warm weather. It evoked past days, vague and distant and non-specific, a comforting smell that I don’t encounter too often in New York for whatever reasons, probably chief among them that I am not hanging out on roadways and in parking garages too often in New York, ever really.

We just passed through a heavy rainstorm on I-95 that slowed the bus down to a crawl, everyone’s neck straining forward to look at the roadway through the heavy rain streaking the front windshields, everyone a little nervous, stories of these commuter buses having fatal collisions and accidents too frequent over the last few months. The clouds now are ominous and dark, a threat, that crazy person on the subway that you are leery of, not sure if their demands for money will morph into them pulling a knife out and slashing you in the face, commuter nightmares perhaps not based in any discernible reality. However, these clouds do hold real threat, will pull out that switchblade and throw it down straight into your shoe.

Chemical plants and strip malls dot the landscape. The green foliage on the side of the road is thick in the way things are in late Spring, heavy and bursting with life, a sight you haven’t seen in many months, all this water and these mild temperatures nourishing these things, bringing them forth, the same water slowing down our travels.

I went to DC to see a man that I saw a few years ago for sex work. I had written him an email recently to say hello and that led to an invitation to come visit him. It’s a ridiculous situation to spend a good eight hours in transit, essentially taking a bus all the way down there, seeing this guy for an hour or so, and then taking a bus all the way back. A waste of day if you want to think of it that way. But I got good reading, good dreaming, good road trip gazing/mind wandering done. That, and the large amount of money I got paid.

I was surprised by how sunny today turned out to be while I was in DC. The sky was clear and blue, the temperature was perfect, and it was an absolutely beautiful day. I saw the Capitol dome when I stepped out of the station and personal memories washed over me, of having worked nearby at an organic grocery store for a summer, of having grown up in this city’s suburbs and making trips to this area with my family, with my school, with my teenage friends, with college friends. This all washed over me and so did collective memories of our democratic republic, gatherings held here, things decided here momentous and life-changing for many. I am always taken aback by the sight of these national institutions, stirrings of awe aroused by such visions.

Right now, the rain has started lightly falling again and the sun has probably set or is doing so out of sight behind these really dark clouds. There is a blurred trail of red taillights going forward and across a grassy median a stream of white headlights illuminating a little patch of rain ahead of each one, this stream moving forward steadily. There is such a comfort I take in this sight, again it all going back to vague and non-specific memories, innumerable car rides throughout this life of mine through rain.

I walked from Union Station to Adams Morgan, a three mile walk, me with a couple of hours until our appointment time, DC’s traffic circles and jumpy streets only occasionally disrupting my journey. I paused in Dupont Circle, taking in all the beautiful people lounging in the sun, gay couples on blankets unashamed, straight people sitting on the edge of the fountain, crazy people muttering to themselves, and everyone seeming to enjoy themselves. I took a shit in the Starbucks there and then continued on my way.

I didn’t remember exactly what I had done with this guy years ago but remembered that he was into feet, that that was his thing, that he liked me to rub my feet all over his face. He asked me if I remembered what we did last time when I first got there, after offering me some water. I said yes, though I didn’t really. He said good. We went upstairs. He again asked if I remembered. I said yes, but tell me what you want so I know. He told me and we proceeded down that route.

He lay on his stomach and I gave him a long massage, eventually turning him over, and standing over him, pressing my feet on to his face. He pushed them down harder on to his face, making clear to me that he wanted me to be rougher. I was. I got real pleasure, perhaps it coming from a not good source, when I was choking him and his face was turning purple, thinking what would happen if I gave this fat old man a heart attack, how absolutely embarrassing that would be to have to call the medics and explain that to them. I eased up on the choking, but he kept on encouraging me, and so I did so harder, watching him turn darker and darker in the face, me getting harder and harder knowing that I was hurting this person, that if I wanted to I could easily strangle this man to death. He moaned Good Boy, Good Boy.

I smothered his mouth, covered it up with the force of my hand so he couldn’t talk, so he couldn’t breathe. I would choke him with my foot, stand on his neck, this man loved this. I smothered him again with my hand, made him unable to breath as I jerked him off. He came and I let him breathe again, left him spent and catching his breath on his bed while I washed off my hands in his sink.

Friday, May 13, 2011

an American trap hung open, crap pouring out

And the countdown begins. I am now a mere thirty days away from turning thirty. It's your last chance to have sex with me while I'm in my twenties. Get it in while you can. It's my last chance to have sex with myself while I'm in my twenties. Getting it in while I can. It's not like the world is going to suddenly come crashing to a halt thirty days from now, or that I will wake up and discover gray hair (the first couple already appeared a couple months ago). It does not signal the end of youth, certainly will not signal the end of waking up too hungover and perhaps regretting things I did or said the night before.

It does, however, cast about in my mind not only various thoughts on aging, which are one thing, but also on mortality, which are a far more scary thing to contemplate. That this body and this mind will one day no longer be interacting with this often beautiful world really makes my stomach drop out from inside me on to the floor, makes me want to still have a close relationship with my mom for her to give me a hug or tell me otherwise, and for things to somehow last forever. They don't; they won't. Thirty days from now I'll hit a new milestone age-wise, a big signifier of a number, signifying that I should be an adult, should be headed down whatever adult road it is my career takes me down.

What bothers me when I give it too much thought is that I am not headed down that road, that rather I pulled over quite a while ago at some rest stop and have been tapping my foot at the bathroom stall next to me ever since. I don't know where time has gone and also do know, have it all here on record, this online diary project started ten years ago at the end of this month, a long document of my twenties. I will celebrate their end and the beginning of something else in Fire Island for a weekend with my boyfriend and a couple friends. I cannot wait.

And so maybe I am not this or maybe I am not that, not where I wanted to be necessarily when I hit this benchmark, but in other ways am where I wanted to be. I am living in New York Fucking City, which let me tell you, kids, isn't the easiest thing, and I have lasted. I have seen others burn out, fade away, end up having to move back to the sticks. And I am living in this city with a boyfriend that I love a great deal and who I stare at every morning as he is still sleeping before I head off to work, thinking how adorable he is. And maybe I am not going to make it with every brain cell that I should be making it with, but I will be making it nonetheless. There are friends I love. We are in the month of May and the weather is gorgeous. There are books to read that still have the ability to move me, to make me turn back the corners of pages, thinking how good particular passages are.

The book right now doing so is Sam Lipsyte's Home Land. I really wish someone would have pushed this book into my hands a few years ago when it was getting so much good press and I saw so many straphangers reading it. Or maybe I am glad no one did, that I instead encountered it at this particular moment in my life when I am approaching thirty and not feeling too successful and really eating up the musings and digressions of this book's slacker narrator. A couple of weeks ago, I read Lipsyte's "Deniers" in the New Yorker, which absolutely blew me away with how well-written and funny and brutal the story was and which made me seek out this book by him. The story is still online right now and I highly encourage you to read it you haven't and you are interested in good writing. I was hooked from the first paragraph:

"Trauma this, atrocity that, people ought to keep their traps shut,” Mandy’s father said. American traps tended to hang open. Pure crap poured out. What he and the others had gone through shouldn’t have a name, he told her friend Tovah, all those years later in the nursing home. People gave names to things so they could tell stories about them, goddam fairy tales about children who got out alive.

"American traps tended to hang open." What a line! Lipsyte throws off these brutal one-liners throughout his fiction, often said deadpan. If I had had a pen with me during my reading of Home Land, a good half of it would be starred; instead, a good half the pages now have their corners folded in, reminders to myself of really good lines or passages. Among them:

My father, he's still my deep commander which is odd because he'd tell you himself his life has been a sham, and not just the sneaking around, the nookie-hunts. All he'd ever wanted was to play his horn in a cool jazz quintet. He could wail, too, had been offered a spot with some West Coast white boys on the brink of glorious elevator music. My father demurred, begged off, wasted his shot. Yes, those jazzbos spiraled into smack hells of their own devising, but not before slapping down some landmark lite wax.

"Failure of nerve," my father had once said, the words hard, soothing candy in his mouth.

"That's a good phrase for it," I said.

"I didn't make it up."

"No, but it's still good. I usually just tell myself I'm a pussy."

"Me, too," said Daddy Miner.

I knew I was in the vicinity of a serious lesson, if not about how to live life, then at least how to put some poetry into your craven retreat from it.

I'm like most of the men in my family, I thought now, or think I thought then, mopping up egg yolk with toast crust, which I've read is a sign of bad breeding. We'll chance anything to destroy ourselves, but we're such chickenshits when it comes to happiness. (43-44)

This is such an amazing passage with real teeth to it. Yes, yes, yes, I said when I first read this, thinking how true it was, and thinking about my own life, about all the mistakes I have gleefully jumped into and how we (myself most certainly included) are such chickenshits when it comes to the matter of our own happiness.

Catamounts, I wish I could say that was the end of that, but I guess I was still dreaming of our future together, our basil, our mint. Maybe I was my mother's son, living in the fog of tomorrows, shutting my eyes for the retinal burn of snapshots never snapped. Why couldn't Gwendolyn just settle for me? Don't we all settle, Valley Cats? Haven't you all settled, weighed the trade-offs, shaved down your desires for what was there, what worked, what wasn't actively bent on your destruction? Resigned yourself to the ear hair, the nipple hair, the watery farts, the fat behind the knees? The shoes in the doorway, the dishes in the sink? Isn't that what love is all about? Don't the experts tell us so? Don't the people on the street corner concur? Don't we all settle, barter our fevers for a partner, a mutual fondler, a talking animal companion? Catamounts, why couldn't she settle for me? (116-117)

I took her in my arms and we rocked softly to the soft rock for a while. (117)

My God, Gwendolyn was right, I must have been insane. Part of me, anyway. The part I should have kept cuffed to the bedroom radiator, begging for another moldy crust of pumpernickel. (121)

I thumb down pages and I think yes, brilliant. I laugh for a moment before the moment and the feeling transition to something else, before the brutality hits and I think yes, brilliant, and then stew about my own life choices and the trajectory of my own narrative.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

alexander mcqueen

I laid on the piers early this afternoon with Jacob and soaked up some of the sun's rays while trying to read this Sam Lipsyte book I recently purchased and failing to do so. Failing to do so because I was distracted by physical discomfort from a stomachache/headache combo. Letters just letters, their combination not forming words meant to evoke objects or feelings, just marks on a page. I couldn't focus. There were also a lot of shirtless boys nearby. I was also thinking about other things. And the sun's brightness was actually hurting my eyes too much. So we now have a few causes for why I was unable to read this book, though I'm not sure there was ever actually the intention to. The desire, yes; the intention, no. The book was always a prop, a thing to hold and occasionally glance at, something to make my staring into space, staring at the men around me, less weird, more acceptable.

After an hour or two of non-reading, day-dreaming, and boy-scoping, we left the pier, Jacob off to work, and myself off to the Met to see the Alexander McQueen show that opened last week. I rode the C train up the West Side, got off on 81st Street and walked across the park toward my destination, the one of the moment at least.

I found myself walking through the Rambles unintentionally, if there ever is such a thing. That I was walking through this section of the park surely intended somewhere by some little neuron in my brain when my feet chose to walk x way as opposed to y way. Several years ago, I got a blowjob in this section of the park, near the pond, hidden by trees, a stranger I had earlier walked past. There have been other moments, encountering people, a drunk man asking to see my dick, me showing it. These were all years ago. I don't know what exactly happened, at one point this turned into the safe, welcoming section it is now. They paved some of the dirt paths, have put up short fencing along most of the paths to prevent excursions through the woods, and there are streetlamps where there used to not be. It is still a beautiful section of the park, my favorite section for reasons both aesthetic and nostalgic, but the seediness was totally absent today. There were countless families and groups of twentysomething females with their New York travel guides in hand. I only saw one clearly identifiable gay man, looking lost, old and cruisey eyes, probably wondering the same thing I was, wondering what the fuck happened and where the other gays were. It was already an holdover from another era when I first moved to New York, public cruising existing less and less with Craigslist, Manhunt, and now Grindr. Even then most of the men were older and probably still hanging on to this sex ritual they had known. I think even all those old deer have now been spooked out of the woods by the German tourists with strollers.

After walking through this area, I walked past the toy boat pond, gorgeous. I contemplated how nice it would be to be one of these people who lived nearby and can come sit here just to contemplate the passing of miniature sailboats across a shallow pond. Finally nearing the other side of the park, I was walking toward the exit, lost in thought, when I heard the person ahead of me say hello to someone she had just run into. I stopped in my tracks when I saw who it was, turned my head quickly away, and walked in the other direction. I scurried out of sight and then turned back in that direction to see her from afar, to see if it actually was her. And it certainly was and I was so glad that I did not run into her, Niki, my old roommate who kicked me out of the apartment we shared several years ago, and which moment marked the beginning of a couple years of wandering and feeling kind of low. I did not want to see her, did not want any drama or sadness.

Crisis narrowly averted, I finally made it into the Met. I paid a dollar for admission, the cashier giving me the stink eye there the way all the cashiers at that museum do when you pay less than the suggested admission, and headed toward the exhibition, which I was told had a half hour wait. Once inside the exhibit, I was immediately taken in. That, and also feeling pushed out. The place was surely against fire code regulations with the amount of people crammed into all these rooms. You had to push and weave in and out of people to see any of the garments or read any of the text. Despite this, the exhibition is gorgeous, with beautiful staging, lighting, and sound. The entire presentation is so theatrical in a way that I have never really seen an exhibit at this museum do. A couple of the rooms reminded me of Disney's Haunted Mansion.

It's a really great show that I would like to go see again on a day when the crowds aren't as huge and you can actually look closely at all of the objects. Many of the dresses in the show are insanely beautiful. The videos of his runway shows are amazing. I only wish that the curators would have situated his work in a more historical context. The works are presented on their own with no relation to either fashion history or the global moment the garments were made in. The curators try to tie McQueen to the Romantic movement and position him as a 21st-century Romantic. This view allows them to present the clothes the way they have, as a retrospective of artworks by a singular artist. And the show is something really special. The lighting of the gothic room and the way the dresses are presented is so beautiful. I use that word a lot, but it was, and there are certainly worse words to use a lot.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Call Me by Your Name - Andre Aciman

I finished this novel either the day before yesterday or the day before that. I am not sure which at this point. My memory and sense of time has been mushy for the last few days, having worked far too much and also feeling a bit listless, the two combining to make me useless for much of anything, even the seemingly simple task of remembering which day it was I did a task recently, such as that of finishing a novel.

I plowed through the first half of this book in a day or so, into it and into what the story seemed to hold. It was also recommended by a friend I like and so I was eager to finish the book as quickly as possible so that I would be able to talk to this person about this book the next time I saw them, so that we could engage in a conversation, the text a pretext.

I soon though tired of the book, found it less charming, found certain things about it slightly cloying. The sentimentalism of the book and its desire to show off the writer's erudition both began to really annoy me. It concerns a brief summer fling between a 17 year old boy and a grad student that is staying at his family's house for the summer to work on his book. The writing itself tries very hard, sometimes succeeding, other times the effort too visible and it not succeeding. For example, this sentence, which the first half off really knocked my socks off with a really poetic analogy and which the second half of ruined by pursuing another analogy, its cloyingness making the first one seem less magical:

How wonderful to feel his hands all over me under the sheets, as if part of us, like an advance scouting party, had already arrived at intimacy, while the rest of us, exposed outside the sheets, was still struggling with niceties, like latecomers stamping their feet in the cold while everyone else is warming hands inside a crowded nightclub. (132)

The period should be placed after niceties and you would have a really beautiful sentence. Instead, the writer doesn't know when to quit, when to cut. It's a frequent problem in the book that really started to dampen my enjoyment of it. Aciman is a talented writer, no doubt, but the book lacks a really strong rhythm, lacks a natural quality. The text is too labored; it doesn't sing.

I was hoping for something else. It's an all right novel, not great, and life is so short, the books I read so few considering how many are out there, that I really cannot be reading anything other than great books. There is a benefit to books that one doesn't love though, that one finds flawed; they allow one to see the missteps to avoid, the things that you find annoying about a text, and the things that work for you with a text.

I could say more, should, but there's that general listless feeling I was mentioning earlier. I am listening to the Duke Ellington station on Pandora. Right now, the beautiful "Take the A Train" is playing. Osama bin Laden is dead. We are now in the month of May.