Thursday, May 21, 2009

More ups than downs.

Above: a Spring sunset over NYC from my roof in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

I bought a bike this week. I haven't owned a bicycle since I was a child.

Last night I rode over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan. John and I hung out in the East Village, had some killer burgers, and went to Beastie's to celebrate her graduation from college.

Then we biked home. Oh, my gawd. I thought I was going to die. Did you know that those gorgeous suspension bridges are actually giant, artificial hills? Very steep hills!

And I'm out of shape. I nearly died crossing the bridge. I don't entirely remember the trip after that, as I was huffing and puffing too much to really pay attention to the world. All I could think about was getting home. Of course when we finally arrived home, then I had to carry my bike up to the fourth floor. My legs were noodles and I could barely stand!

Biking will definitely be good exercise. Hope I do it often enough to get super buff!

I'm heading to Vermont tonight with D for a glorious holiday weekend among the fae. I'm so excited I could pee.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Artichokes.

"The major novel about love and terror at the end of time."

That may be a bit much. Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delany, is a major novel. It's definitely terrifying at times, and terrible (in the "formidable" sense) in scope and construction.

The novel is classified as science fiction. I'm not sure I agree with that classification, but if we accept it, then it's one of (if not the) best science fiction novel I've ever read. Beyond the questionable genre assignment, it's one of the best novels I've ever read, in general. It should be studied at every level of academics. It should create its own genre and classification, because there simply isn't anything else like it out there, at least in my 33 years of reading.

The story follows the life and adventures of a man who cannot remember his own name, but who is soon given the appellation "Kid." It suits him, and of course it refers to a few of the Greek, Roman, and pre-Greco-Roman gods on whom the character is based. Reducing the character to its ancient references would be criminal, however.

Kid is a drifter, apparently, who has some mental problems in his past, has selected but deep amnesia, has a tendency to lose time (sometimes hours, sometimes days), may be a touch schitzophrenic, and writes poetry that may or may not be brilliant.

At the opening of the book Kid is headed to Bellona, a city in the American West that has been devastated by some unknown tragedy, and because of this has dropped off the map--both literally and from the consciousness of the country. Perhaps a few thousand people remain in a city which was once home to many millions. There is no law and no explanation for how this came to be. In time it becomes apparent that Bellona may not actually be in America anymore, though how and why it shifted into whatever dimension it now inhabits is never explained.

Kid quickly begins to meet the major figures of Bellona. Things get off to a good start with Tak, a gay leatherman who shows Kid around and takes him home for the night. Lanya quickly enters the fray and becomes Kid's girlfriend. She remains the next major character for the duration of the story, but don't think his relationship is simple--Kid also aquires a boyfriend before too much longer. What's that? A three way bisexual relationship at the center of a major literary work? Yes, this was first published in 1974.

Don't think for a second that Delany deals with the unusual sexuality of his characters in an oblique way. No, this novel is very nearly pornographic. In fact, had it not so much literary value, I would simply call it pornography. But Delany has written a lot of pure pornography, and to reduce Dhalgren to that status would be incorrect. Still, I have never had a hard-on so much while riding the train to and from work! Gay, straight, bi, butch, femme, interracial, gangbangs, oral, anal, vaginal...they do it just about every way possible in this book.

But I think I've been a touch unfair, as all my glowing praise and rampant sexuality may have the reader running out to buy the book. And you should! But I must confess, nothing about this novel is so simple.

Bonfire admitted, after he'd given me the book and I was drawn in, that this was one he had never been able to get himself to read. And, researching the novel as I neared the end of it, I found that some literary critics at the time the book was first published couldn't stand it--one literally threw it against the wall 300+ pages into it, and refused to pick it up again!

Because you see, Kid may be schitzo. Or time may be running in reverse, occasionally. Or perhaps Bellona is warping space, because nothing is ever in the same place twice. It's entirely possible that the book begins in the middle of Kid's story. And none of the mysteries are explained. That's right--none of them. Why do half the inhabitants of city wear an "optical chain" of prisms, mirrors, and lenses? Why won't anyone explain how they got the chains? What do they mean? Why do some buildings in Bellona burn for weeks, but never fall down, and sometimes show up whole and unburned at a later time? Why are there two moons?

Whatever is going on in his head, Kid quickly becomes a big man in town. He gets a job working for the Richards, a family whos matriarch is intent on denying that anything has gone wrong in Bellona, even as anarchy reigns outside her apartment building. Kid is smart and just, and so becomes the de facto leader of the scorpions, a rough gang who live communally, wear projectors that can surround their bodies with holographic shields, and who are feared and respected more for the violence of which they appear capable, rather than anything they've actually done. The town is lead by the never-seen Roger Calkins, who prints the local newspaper (and every day usues a different, apparently random date), and who ends up publishing a book of Kid's poems. The interaction between the classes who remain in the city, between Kid and the various outrageous characters who inhabit the city, and with his own mental challenges, form the basis of the novel.

But there is no linear plot arc. Kid doesn't have an arch nemesis to overcome. The story is circular. It returns to the beginning, repeats, refracts, changes slightly, and repeats again. There is no beginning, middle, and end. It's a riddle. It was not meant to be solved.

This novel is structured dramatically different than anything you've ever read before. If you can relax and enjoy that, then you'll love the hell out of it. But if you want the traditional rewards for reading, you may end up throwing it against the wall and never picking it back up.

One of the major themes is writing, which is definitely a subject that interests me. As Kid fills in the blank spaces in the notebook he finds at the beginning of the novel, he writes his poetry, but must struggle with the question of how much of that art is his own product and how much was inspired by the unknown previous owner of the notebook. From where does the urge to write come and why does it overtake him when it does? Are Kid's writings any good, and who gets to decide what is good, anyhow? Was the novel itself written by Kid, or was it written by an unknown third party who found Kid's notebook? When the passages of the book begin to break apart, end suddenly, begin in the middle, and repeat with small variations, how much of what we are reading is real and how much is fantasy, delusion, or simply recalled incorrectly?

It's a challenge. But in the end, it's a challenge I'm glad I was able to stick out. Because while the ordinary rewards are not there, I feel I may have learned more about storytelling from this book than I have since I was a child. I feel I have experienced something that is truly unique and has no peer in literature.

I really hope I get to meet Samuel Delany soon. I'd almost go back to college just to hear him speak.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thinly veiled.

Above: a pic of me at the faerie sanctuary in Vermont earlier this month. The black flies were thick, necessitating the elaborate chapeau, which I think is rather fetching.

And speaking of hiding behind a thin veil, D and I saw the movie Outrage last week. It's a documentary about closeted gay politicians who vote contrary to their orientation and community.

There's a lot to be said about this movie, both positive and negative. I won't go into it deeply here, because if you're all that interested you can find thorough reviews elsewhere.

What interests me most was a concept explained by one of the interviewees of the film. He said that closeted people often have an "I'm strong, you're weak" attitude. The assertion is that coming out of the closet is taking the easy route, and conversely, the person who refuses to discuss his or her sexuality is actually walking a more difficult, more noble path.

Of course, this is bunk. Out people are not following the path of least resistance--on the contrary, we face all kinds of discrimination and loss of opportunities because of being out.

The discernment that I make her is that yes, in a way, closeted people do have to work harder. They must compartmentalize their lives and work every hour of the day to keep those compartments separate. They must expend incredible amounts of energy lying to almost everyone in their lives. In that sense, yes, the out person has an easier life, because we don't have to play those elaborate games.

However, there is nothing noble about the lies that closeted people tell. The challenge of living a dual life is not greater than the challenge of living an open, out life. Even if it was, no credit for that work is earned by the dishonest person. Credit goes to those people who have the courage to be honest.

This concept especially struck me, because I think I have encountered it many times in my life, though I have never been able to articulate it. Now that the idea is crystallized in my mind, I am better prepared for the closeted person who tries to look down their nose a me.

A final note: I am sick of Jim McGreevy. He is generally portrayed in this movie as a noble, enlightened sort of guy who realized the error of his dual life and corrected it. Maybe I have it all wrong, but as I read the story, he only came out when he was caught in his indiscretions. I'm sorry, but coming out because your lies are found out is not noble. McGreevy is not a shining example of anything other than a sad coward trying to capitalize on the fact that he couldn't play the game as well as some. Dude, just shut up and go away.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Order! Order in this kitchen!

Above: our kitchen before new shelving (but after John had already cleaned it out a lot--I couldn't take a pic of how cluttered it was before that). Below are a couple "after" pics.

Some say that a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.

Um, yes. I am sick. Terribly, terminally ill in my head. Not only do I have an organized desk, I like to have an organized home. I like everything to have a place and be in it.

Of course, I don't always succeed. There are times when my dirty laundry and dirty dishes pile up. It's always a challenge for me to see a project all the way through to the end, including cleanup--all too often I find myself living among the pieces of a half-baked scheme or the detritus of a weekend whim.

Clutter is like awful static for me. My eyes can't focus on it. They slide off, looking for any unblemished surface. My senses shut down and my world begins to contract, until I am paralyzed in the small areas that remain relatively neat. I become uninterested in starting new projects or putting my space to its proper use, because I'm daunted by the noise.

Yeah, yeah, I know you feel this way too. Most do. But darlings, I am afflicted with this to a degree that I can't put into words. And I think it's getting worse as I get older.

I'm becoming my mother.

On the up side, I now have a roommate who understands this. John appreciates surfaces. Last night he and I went a little gangbuster crazy on our kitchen. I am immensely pleased with the results. I can't wait to cook in there--in fact, I already have the perfect recipe for tonight.

There are several young punk kids living on the second floor of our building. They're absolutely adorable--authentic, anarchists, destroyers, chaotic, circus freaks, head bangers, tattoed, long haired, insane kids. They're dirty, sullen, and indifferent to consequences in a way that only our post-grunge, post-everything culture can produce.

But if you want true depravity, look for it in the details. It's very easy to embrace chaos. One must be deeply disturbed to try imposing order.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Yeah, right.

Above: two weeks ago, Daisy and I went on walkabout to Roosevelt Island on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Ain't he cute?

I spend way too much time on Facebook lately. That is one big element that has cut into my blogging. I post so much there, especially pics, that I don't feel the urge to re-tell my stories here. That's a bit silly, of course, because writing is nothing like uploading a few iPhone pics.

Another annoyance about Facebook is the groups and pages some people create. Today I had an invitation to join a group called "Sarcasm!" Someone out there wants me to "become a fan" of it!

Sarcasm is an insincere form of expression. You're saying the opposite of what you mean. The Webster's definition says it is used to "cut or give pain;" it is "bitter," "caustic," and "often directed at an individual." In other words, it's not nice.

Much has been written about the origin of the bitter, sarcastic tone that is so often used by queer people. Some think that it's a mechanism learned to survive the discrimination and hurt inflicted by a world which torments minorities. I tend to agree.

I can be a sarcastic, sardonic, bitter, ironic, and all of those bitchy things, with the best of them. Lately I've chosen to avoid all that, in the hopes that I'll get something nicer out of life, having put something nicer into it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Still

Above: a photo I took last weekend while in Vermont, as photoshopped by Chris S. to remove some power lines.

I have resolved to write as often as possible, preferably every day, in order to build my blog momentum once again.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what to write about today. The zillion topics zooming through my brain all seem banal when reduced to writing.

I'll try again tomorrow.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Long Time Gone

I haven't been writing much lately. Life has been full of changes, at work, at home, with my family, and with my health. I have had a very busy six months or so.

Everything is going well, now. I have many fun projects on my list and lots of fun adventures on the horizon.

I hope this Summer will bring more time for reflection and writing.

I was in Vermont last weekend at the first work weekend of the season at Faerie Camp Destiny. We started planting the garden and getting the land open. I made a little video, which I'll try to post below, that shows some of our handiwork.

I am trying to write from a new place--a quiet place. In the past I've written the most when upset. I become loquacious when offended or emotional. I rant. I rave. I emote. All of that is fine, and often interesting to read, I'd just like to find my creative spark when I'm mentally in a calm, centered place.

I was quiet this weekend in Vermont. I often "lose my words" when there. More correctly, I lose my urge to speak: that little push that forces the words from my stream of consciousness out my mouth. It's a pleasant sort of effect. I spend more time examining the stream and choosing carefully what I want to express, so that my words of substance tend to be a little closer to the poetry I'd always like them to be.

This weekend, some of the quietness was simple fatigue. I am seriously allergic to Spring and the things that trees do during the season. I had to take so much medication to control my allergic reaction that I ended up rather lethargic, and while I could force myself to garden in order to keep my body moving and engaged, it was difficult to do the same with my mind. I spent too much time zoning out, instead of carefully reflecting.

I have a feeling I missed some of the lower volume, lower frequency rumblings of this weekend's song. I hope those harmonies will appear again when I'm better able to listen and join in.