Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Cat's in Heat, but the Music's Fine

And no I don't mean me. I mean it literally. The normally docile, quiet puffball of a cat in my house is yowling uncontrollably and making me want to lock her in a room for the next 4 days. I love my roommate. He's a good friend. But damn if I don't wish his cat would vaporize right now. If he'd actually ever bred her like he intended, maybe I'd be more forgiving, but after an 11-hour work day, I don't want the cat slinking after me making hideous noises that remind me of horror movies.

Speaking of horrors... my thing to hate today is those god damn dancing silhouettes that pop up everywhere online these days as part of "lower mortgage" offers. In Yahoo! news stories, next to my Hotmail inbox, and so on. I literally had a dream that I encountered a dancing silhouette with the dollar amount $150,000 scrawled acoss it. I'd like to think I impaled it with something and vanquished it a la bad-ass Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens." But I woke up. And was totally annoyed.

Thankully, some things turn up in life that make the annoyances feel smaller. I saw Bruce and Chris for the first time in months over the weekend and I finally took Bruce a mix CD I'd had sitting on my computer for weeks. I'd meant to give it to him when he left his job at The Advocate...oh, 3 months ago. I didn't even give him a play list or name it, let alone create a cover for it--all of which I usually do when I give people CDs. But Bruce had been sounding less than chipper and I just hoped it would cheer him up a little.

The background here is that Bruce was my first "professional boss," in the summer of 1995 at Out magazine when it was still based in SoHo. I had been in Manhattan 2 months and was determined to work in the gay media. I interned for Bruce while working full time at Starbucks. In the process, I learned a shitload about writing and editing. And simultaneously I subjected Bruce to all of my music--eagerly bringing in the new CDs I purchased when I could: Throwing Muses' "University," The Amps' "Pacer," Bjork's "Post," and so on... indie rock, girl rock, obscure, odd pop. And Bruce always listened. Even if he hated something he still listened. And I learned then--as well as during the year I would live with him when Chris had moved to L.A.--what Bruce liked.

Flash forward over 11 years and I hand him a 19-song CD and get the best email I've received in a while about it: "Thank you thank you x 19 for the CD! It's amazing."

There was much more in the email, of course--much that reminded me what an effect music has on people, how much I like assembling sonic collages for people I care about, and why Bruce and I get along so well.

Thinking about it right now makes the horrible howling coming from downstairs a tad more tolerable.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Drinks, Rain, Aliens, Dates vs. "Dates"

Things making me happy right now:

1. Kristin Hersh's Learn to Sing Like a Star CD, which has a kick-ass title and which has one song that includes both the lyric "If you lived here, you'd be home now and suicidal" and "You messing with my head makes a terrible noise."

2. Patty Griffin's Children Running Through CD (out Feb. 6). Love, love, love her.

3. My new hat, found on a rainy day in Burbank. It's damn cute, I must say. Self-portrait to come.

4. Art for Empty Walls: Nicole's awesome little website that I am helping promote (therefore: see

5. Hanging out with friends. A simple statement, but a necessary observation for me right now.

Last Friday I was exhausted, having had a long day at work and wanting to just ignore the world. But I knew Joe was getting people together for birthday drinks at the Figueroa Hotel downtown, so I called Lesley and we decided to go. And what a lovely evening--to see people I always enjoy and whom I do not see often enough, in my opinion. It being Lesley and myself, there were many pictures taken. A smattering of mine include a hot closeup of Ms. Maness, a blurry self-portrait, a handsome shot of Brett, a charming one of Stephen surrounded by beer bottles he did not empty, and bizarro abstract shots of the sky:

How did I not get any pictures of Jeff, Jeff, Juan, Bryan, and the birthday boy? Oh, right, I was busy taking pictures of CLOUDS. Well, I at least brought my camera, which is better than I have been doing...

Saturday it was rainy, cold, misty and Lesley ventured with me to Ikea to be profoundly disappointed by the bed frame selection (sigh for me), but she did make me buy the aforementioned hat (brava!), and thus ensued an insanely chaotic night of us in and out of her apartment trying to entertain ourselves, ending up at Hollywood video on hands and knees digging through the 10 for $10 VHS clearance tapes. Now you all know how we find the bad movies we find. It's hours of arguing over which tape looks worse; "I think that one knows exactly what it is, which means we'll hate it"; "Sci-fi is always tricky. It has to be serious yet stupid"; "God, do we really want to watch that, though?" and so on and so on.

Totally self-satisfied, we headed home to eagerly watch "Stranded," a 1988 alien movie the cover art of which looked like it could be a mix between "E.T." and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." No such luck.

Here's Lesley's synopsis:

"It's about a bunch of aliens with mullets who hole up in some old lady's house with her granddaughter. And rednecks try to kill them. Also trying to kill them is an alien disguised as Geraldine Ferraro. And Ione Skye's in it. And they all learn the meaning of friendship."

Now you know.
And have been warned.

But, really, I think what annoyed Lesley most was that I really got emotionally involved in it, even with the alien who looked like Martina Navratilova in the '80s and then turned out to be male and wanted to kiss Ione Skye at the end. EVEN with that, and the fact it was essentially a hostage movie with aliens, I was riveted.

The unusual weekend bled into today when I spontaneously went on a dinner date with a man I'd been chatting with online on and off over the last few weeks, but who was not clear as to whether he wanted to just have a platonic get together or if it was somehow romantic. He's cute, horribly intelligent, and a bit odd, so of course I am terribly intrigued, but it was clear once we were seated that he saw this as a friendly get together, at which point I wished I was a horrible enough person to just dab my lips with my napkin, stand up, and say, with no hesitation whatsoever: "Since it's clear this is going nowhere I want it to go, I think I should just leave." Or better yet: "I am not getting what I want, and therefore I am no longer interested."

I don't know. For me, the function of the Internet right now is not really to find new friends. So why, then, does it lob intelligent, attractive men at me who want to be? Stupid irony.

Friday, January 19, 2007

'I am vibrating in isolation among you' (aka Why I Love David Wojnarowicz)

The quote that gives this post its title is one that David Wojnarowicz used in his writing. It's a tiny snippet of a larger work, and yet, to me, it still sums up something inherent in his work that I love, 13 years after his death.

I used it as the title of an extended essay I wrote about him in 1998 when I had only been working at Frontiers magazine here in Los Angeles for a short period of time. Fresh in L.A. from New York City, I was hungry to write about Wojnarowicz--an artist who meant so much to me for several reasons. Ostensibly, some would assume it was because he was so passionately angry, speaking out against injustice, homophobia, and corporate greed and how it decimated marginalized communities at the real political height of the AIDS era of the the late '80s and early '90s.

But tonight it really dawned on me why I feel such a connection to his myriad works--works that are paintings, stories, collages, films, performance, and photography. In the middle of Hollywood this evening close to 100 people turned out to listen to a scholar read about Wojnarowicz in honor of the publication of a new book of interviews with him and his peers. And then we settled in to watch a series of short films that were made by the artist, starred him, or were about him.

It was startling to see Wojnarowicz in the flesh, moving, talking, even masturbating on camera. After so many years of looking at his work, I forgot that a real, live man was responsible for these works and images that feel iconic to me--such as the stencil of the house on fire that I have tattooed on my left arm and the photograph of buffalos running headlong over a cliff, among may others:

What struck me so forcefully this evening was that at the core of Wojnarowicz's work was always the belief in love, in a connection that can be forged between two men when they simply touch each other. He believed in the power of feeling your hand and tongue on another man's body. It was often explicit that such acts were, by their very nature at the time, political. There was no way you could be a gay man of any intelligence and conscience and not be angry. And I was thrilled to hear the forceful words of rebellion coming from his mouth. Not because he was so angry, but because I think so many of us--arists or not--have forgotten how to speak like that--how to entertwine the feeling of love and desire with the righteous anger of protest.

Watching these films from so long ago, I was appalled to realize that so little has changed, except for the fact that fewer gay men are dying so rapidly of AIDS-related causes. Of course, the financial and health cost is still staggering, and to drug companies' benefit. Perhaps we don't have Sen. Jesse Helms in office now (Wojnarowicz's archnemesis), but we still have insidious conservative bastards who would be as overtly homophobic as Helms was if they thought they could get away with it.

I don't keep up with contemporary art as much as I maybe should to be informed about some of what I am about to say, but I don't feel like much art produced these days is so politically informed, so volatile and exciting. I hope to discover something that makes me think otherwise. What are the politics of being gay now? It can't simply be about marriage, can it? What happened to purposefully not living your life according to conventions laid down by religion and heterosexual society? I wish I could hear Wojnarowicz's answer to that question.

Wojanarowicz wasn't a saint, of course. Nor was he necessarily the most talented artist in the East Village during that era. But his openness, his raw nerve, his desire for love/connection, and his insistence that we keep vigilant against those who would rather we did not exist--let alone call ourselves equal to them--is something I truly admire.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My Dinner With Crazy

So I am in Las Vegas attending a dinner and the evening begins thusly (names changed to protect the innocent):

People are assembled, milling around socializing, an older couple joins us and it turns out they are here for the dinner as well, but very quickly it becomes an odd variation on "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," with the couple arguing with each other.

Her: You're embarrassing me.

Him: I don't care! (tries to sip Scotch and soda but is too infirm and can't really get a hold on the glass)

Her: I promise it will be fun.

Him: No!

Her: Don't yell at me. C'mon. Let's have a nice evening.

Him: You go. I'll wait.

Her: You know you can't be alone.

Him: Stop talking to me!

And so on.

And so on.

And so on.

At one point this man was sitting at a table and banging his head against it, like a severely mentally impaired person might. Thankfully, it was a 6-course meal with wine pairings. Praise wine! Hallelujah, because I was seated next to them and it was a long night of talking about things I can't even remember now.

And I spared you some details.

Not much else of note has happened of late, except for a jaunt to the OC with Lesley to see Steve and Nate, as Steve was here from Milwaukee and it had been far too long since we'd seen Mr. Nate. It was a lovely evening of food, drink, humming, and humiliating oneself by not being able to hum and so on.

But we look cute, no? Certainly not like people in their (gulp) mid-30s.

Oh, wait, there was also an insane drunken escapade with Tim that ended at 4:30 a.m. and then watching the Golden Globes at Matt's room at the Highland Gardens motel in Hollywood.

So ... much more has happened. And I remain mum on the drunken escapade. But it was very reminiscent of college--and Tim knows what I mean--as does anyone who went to Bennington.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pour This Heart Out

I've been pouring my heart out to strangers.

It's the weirdest thing, this concept of "chatting" with men online--people you barely know, people who at first seem interesting and cute, and who may indeed be those things, but who come with their own issues and baggage, despite their intellects and/or ability at taking sexy pictures of themselves.

One man I've been chatting with--who really had a sexy pic of himself in nice underwear and turned out to be smart, inexplicably--said that it's easy to do when you don't know really know someone. And yet by that point we were trading multi-paragraph emails, which I think means that I do actually know him in some way. I am good at sussing out someone's character from the tiniest slivers of information. This guy is smart, accomplished, and yet there's definitely a wall, a sense of removal; we can trade any words across the ether or wires and somehow that communication may not have the weight I think it does.

Not that it matters, really, because what role does his opinion play in the decisions I make? And yet three different men have told me eerily similar things in the last 10 days: "You're a born communicator"; "Clearly you're meant to do something with a higher purpose"; "You're a dreamer"; "You're clearly extremely smart."

Sure, I like hearing it. I don't know if I believe all of it, despite the existence of this blog, yet I find it weird how consistently phrases pop out, nearly word for word.

But I feel, again, like I am on the verge of something. Whether it's brought on by the new year, the itch I feel every day in front of my computer, the need I feel to untangle words, to tell the truth--plain and simple.

Chatting is supposed to be escapist and yet it's not. I can't be that kind of person, I realize, who trades in intellect for cheap interaction. Even casual conversations involve words most people don't use. I can't censor myself. I am not embarrassed about it. I wouldn't change it, either. But sometimes I wish I could stop myself from revealing what seems like a bit too much. And yet, if people respond with real questions and comments, they aren't just humoring me, right? After all, few people ever learn how to "communicate cleanly," as I like to call it. Besides, no one can ever fault you for telling the truth of how you feel. It hardly matters if it's a man with nice underwear online or an old friend. If you ask, I will tell you.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Glimpse of the Past

I seem to be thinking about death a lot. Not really a big surprise, I suppose, since I have been trying to write a book on that very subject and a few of my previous posts have touched on things like Gerald Ford. But I surprise myself when I sometimes spend a day feelng out of sorts, stare at the sun too long, forget to lock my car, leave my ID in my desk at work, and then find myself dwelling on such topics late at night in front of my computer. It's like I woke up at 11 p.m. and wondered what I did all day.

I was having a beer with someone last night and he asked me where my parents lived and added a question, albeit brief, about whether they were alive. I didn't register it in the moment, but I thought of it again today, and though it's been 20 years since my father passed away and I can talk about his death easily, no one had ever simply asked me whether my parents were alive or not.

It's a function of getting older, I suppose, but it stayed with me today, with the inevitable outcome being that tonight, when I stumbled across a bunch of photos of me as a baby with my dad, I couldn't help but wonder what my life would be like if my father had lived to see me past the age of 13.

When I was younger, angrier, and slightly dumber, I imagined that my father would not have been able to deal with his youngest son being a queer, that I would have had spectacularly bad fights with him all through my high school and college years. I even imagined there might be a few years in there where we would not talk to one another. I am not sure what I based this on, exactly, since my memories of him were so hazy, and I never really knew what he thought of gay people anyway. No one in my family really knows either. But imagining these scenarios made his absence much easier to deal with.

Instead, I had some spectacularly bad fights with my mother throughout high school and college and wondered whether there might not be a year or two during which she and I would not speak to each other.

I know that my father was funny--sardonic, ocassionally sarcastic--not to mention tall, lanky, imposing, knew more than he let on, and could be both kind and frustratingly uncommunicative. A few of these traits I see in myself now (well, not "lanky" or "imposing"). And I like to think that while he would have likely not been 100% comfortable with my coming out at the age of 18, he was too many of the good qualities above to cut himself off from me. Sadly, realizing this is what makes a 20-year-old death feel too fresh, too wrong.

I have faded, somewhat creased, aging photos of my father, of course, but those are fleeting glimpses, not full portraits. I have a hard time accepting that I cannot know something, cannot somehow intuit or guess at an answer. In trying to imagine a relationship I can never have, however, I am finally forced to.

Yet, looking at those snapshots, the fleeting glimpses can still be filled with warmth, even decades later.