Friday, April 30, 2010

$plitting

I often sit wondering, wrought with pensiveness and just short of teeth-chattering anxiety, where we as a nation are heading. I think to myself how will this nation be able to pull itself up from the depths of mediocrity where we currently find ourselves. How can we turn this all around? Too often I think we're too far gone. A farewell to what's already lost.

We are at a point of such deep rooted cynicism that no system seems to work. Customer service is in the garbage. There's no surprise when our leaders prove to be corrupt. Instead, we expect them to be. This one is spending money on strip clubs, the other one votes all anti-gay while being gay himself. Sports figures, our once past-time heroes, are growing to ungodly unnatural proportions, shooting themselves up while finding ways to bend the rules. One sport star apologizes to the whole nation for cheating on his wife while we all know it's an attempt to regain his sponsors. Why do I need his apology? Text-speak is our distracting new literature. Whole generations of kids shortening "ur" for your or is it you're? Does it matter? "Your!" goes beyond my 140 word tweet capacity! Obesity rates are nearly double what they were 30 years ago and the intersection of ignorance and arrogance is our absolved route toward education. I find it astonishing that in 2010 there's actually a call to reform Texas public school books to be more pro-Christan, pro-conservative in a nation founded on the separation of Church and State.

We are at a point where "singers" are auto-tuned into talent. Where they are unable to sell their image without some font-based-emoticon symbol spelling out their name. We celebrate the sing along to lyrics about cell phone reception in clubs, brushing our teeth with a bottle of Jack and a once church-going diva somehow paralleling female empowerment to lyrics like, "this is a stick up, stick up, I need them bags and that money." Oh, come on KnuckleCrack, it's just a song. Lighten up!"

I try to, but when I hear the lyrics to Ke$ha's latest ubiquitous song:

Got my drunk text on
I'll regret it in the mo'
But tonight
I don't give a
I don't give a
I don't give a

it's just too stupid not to get under my skin. The future of nit-wit cell phone girls in halter tops, drunk at 15 and giving their mother the finger, salute you. "Long live Ke$ha! For you were the first to tell me not to give a fuck!"

Obama, the man who was to turn it all around, was trampled upon before he was even out of the gate. "How's that hopey, changey stuff you were promised" the average speaking, conservatively fashionable woman at the podium asks her audience. She's knows she can incite a howling applause from her followers cut from the same cloth. I never once thought that Obama would enter office and that change would immediately preside over this nation. Instead, I believed he was speaking to us individually, saying that we can be the change we want to see. We can be the progress we want to achieve. That his only power was instilling in us that we, the individual, are capable of turning this world around. That it is up to us and only us to better our communities, fight for the environment, take responsibility for our children. But that would require work on our part and those too lazy and dumb to do it themselves, to even understand his very eloquently spoken words, neither supported him in the first place (he's from Kenya! He's not even American! He's not fit for the job! He's the Antichrist! He's a socialist! He's a communist!) or turned their backs on him within his first week. Not that they have any answers themselves - they're just happy to point a finger and blame.

In the eight years that our former President destroyed our nation never once did he receive the amount of public disrespect our current president puts up with. Yes, we thought Bush was an idiot, we knew very well he couldn't string a sentence together and he lied our way into a never-ending war but during this time never did any congressman stand up and scream "you lie!" Understandably people are upset about Obama's route to change our current situation. I understand people being weary of Government expansion, a change in health care, but I won't budge in my belief that a lot of the anger fueling the current anti-president movement, this amount of disrespect, lies in the fact that the old power-controlling white suits lost to a black man, a female house speaker and a newly appointed Latina to the Supreme Court. Argue me all you want that this isn't the case, I'll clench my teeth and sigh the more you deny it. Call me an elitist but I'd still prefer risky changes over a woman who speaks to the nation in "don't ya knows" and "drill baby drills." I prefer smart over average. Distinguished over dumb.

Right now a few Arizona politicians are calling for illegals to be rounded up and sent back home. "Oh Knucklecrack, it's not like that," a few disagreeing friends will plead upon me, "it's only people suspected of being illegal that need to worry." "Fine," I respond, "but when the systematic profiling begins, when the police are given too much power, when the beatings and rapes occur and when US Citizens of Mexican origin don't feel safe without carrying papers on them, don't say I didn't warn you." There is no easy answer to this problem but I can assure you catching immigrants like grasshoppers as one politician suggests, isn't the way to go about things. After all, Hitler compared the Jews to being sub-human too.

So where in all of this are we going? How can we repair ourselves? What is it going to take for all of this to turn around? As a nation we are splitting by the second, dividing further and further into some unknown course. I don't think any of us know where we're going and the idea of hoping for the best seems less and less useful.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At the Corner of My Mind

Recently a friend asked me where I see myself in ten years and I couldn't conceive even the slightest semblance of an answer. Then he asked what it is I want out of life and I couldn't answer that either. He suggested I begin a ritual of sitting quietly, searching the depths of my brain and asking myself what are the things I truly want in life. He believes that knowing oneself completely is the crucial key to the success of happiness, for once you know who you are and accept that, all else falls gently into place. He said memories are good to focus on and that knowing one's first memory is a good start in the process of self discovery.

I've found that to recount one's earliest memories is a difficult task, if not impossible. I rove my brain hoping for a first word, my mother's embrace but I only trundle up images in clip: The Green-knit blanket, the kitchen wallpaper, the feel of the linoleum floor. Everything else, whole important events and the pure, simple moments are scattered about like toys on the suburban front lawn of time.

The moment I may very well have been snapped into life was when I was three years old and wandered away in Disney World.

I was obsessed with the elevators. Well, obsessed with anything, really, as fidgety was my nature but on this trip with my family, the elevators dazzled me. We had been there for a few days and I in my black and red Michael Jackson sweat-pant suit was being led by my father's hand through the Grand Floridian hotel to the indoor arcade. My sisters are on the other side of him. I'm too small to play any of the games. I can't reach the joy sticks and without success my father tries to hold me up for the length of a quarter's game. There are not many people in the arcade and it's during the day. My Father and sisters are playing an arcade game. I am close by, a few feet away at most. I'm bored and I begin to fidget. I begin looking for a quarter on the ground, beneath the arcade games. I flop to the floor and look into the small space between the floor and arcade game. There are some popcorn bits and dust but no quarter. I turn my head around and see through the archway arcade entrance the elevators moving up and down. Up and down. Mom's upstairs. She's taking a nap. I'm going to go to Mommy. I glance up at my family. I see them there. Rachel, smiling, her pointy nose, so tiny at the time laughing and quickly hitting the buttons. Mer, my big sister, next to me, her hair pulled into a pony-tail, taller than Rachel and also hitting buttons. My Father watching with a smile. I am right behind him. Just right there and I walk away. My Father feels no departure, no slight gust of wind, no sneaker shuffled on the carpet. By the time he checks back, I am already gone.

Apparently there were lost child alerts. Security began screening the exits and somehow two hours had passed. None of this I remember. What I do remember is riding up the escalator. A pretty woman with gold bracelets asking, "where's your mother?" To which I reply, "She's upstairs." She takes me by the hand and leads me to a jewelery store which I think she works at. She puts me up on the counter and I sit there, looking around, kicking my feet. My mother comes running in, hand over mouth and hugging me. She thanks the woman at the store. She leads me to my Father, his eyes red and bleary, he takes me from my mother's hands and shakes me hard. So hard. Then hugs me. I can't tell if he's angry or happy it seems a frightening blend of both. "Don't you ever do this again! DON'T. YOU. EVER. DO. THIS. AGAIN!" He shakes me so hard I bite my tongue. I feel the pain. I remember the pain. The jerk of my neck. It is that pain. That one single flash of heat upon which all my memories are brought back. That is when my eyes first opened. When life as I know it, truly began.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Vengeful Closet

Three little pigs

"Was there news? If so, we didn't watch it. I don't remember Truman, or Eisenhower later, but maybe they hadn't perfected the White House hookup yet, the uranium shrine of Oval Office doubletalk. Besides, all the news that would define me twenty years later went unreported. The two sick queens who hunted us down when I was too young to know - Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover - were given free rein by the Red Scare delirium; they flushed out queers and wrecked lives to throw the scent off their own ravening desire. Cardinal Spellman being the third member of the homo death squad, postwar division. Three little closeted mama's boys, ensuring that the Aryan dream of elimination would continue."
-Paul Monette, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Butch Factor



you gotta be a man to watch

Friday, April 16, 2010

Grandma


(see also; two posts below)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It Wouldn't Have Mattered

I could tell you it was the White Party or The Winter Party or some weirdo after party where you dance in the middle of a zoo, but it wouldn't matter. I could also tell you that this was the party where the lights went out, or where the DJ collapsed on her turntables, or where Teddy and Eddy broke up, or where somebody took a dump on the dance floor, or where that guy I've seen a few times out died of a GHB overdose. I could tell you all that, but it wouldn't matter.

What matters is that it was Carmine and me, old pals, arms slung around the others shoulder, stumbling through loose-fit sneakers through the rocky terrain of empty water bottles and plastic cups. Danced-dazed-drug walking shirtless human apes, trudging for an exit. And we were with them.

It was balmy outside. Our bodies sticky with the crowd, the heat and sweat. The lights glowed, thumping lightly. We stood there rolling on our heels for awhile coming to our senses. Buoys in the middle of the sidewalk.

I lit a cigarette. "Where to now?"
"Let's go back to my room. We'll shower, sit down for awhile and head to the after party."
"Aye, Aye Captain."

The walk was pleasant and goofy. I kept grabbing Carmine from the back and squeezing his ribs, tickling him. Making him run away from me and then whining that he was too far away. Pals. Real true pals. It's the only word that comes to mind. That push-push, "I've known you forever/we've been through this thing together" familiarity and old-root strength. We've been there, with each other, the whole time.

At a stoplight I went to poke his ribs another time. He had a delayed response. He wasn't paying attention. He was somewhere else. He pushed away my arm and began walking closer to the wall. Our energy dropped.

"Hey," He said, "I have to tell you something."

I knew the tone. I stopped short, clenching my teeth.

Carmine and I go way back. Back to the gay.com days. Back to AOL Chatrooms. Back to the days when he would meet me after class and we'd take our fake ID's to the straightest Frat bar and pretend to be straight guys just "getting to know one another." It was good that we became friends and never had sex. There was never any interest on either of our parts. Instead we were allies. Comrades in a new terrain. The years of 19 and 20 were adventuresome. Flooded with memories of our delightfully shared secret amongst the keggers and house parties, of renting cars and driving to Phoenix on the dusky desert roads just to go to Pulse for the night. Man, how our hearts would pump. Together we were unstoppable. We we're going to figure this whole thing out.

I came out a little before him. And I was much more loud about it too. He was the jock. Played sports. Had a scholarship. Showed me how to work out. He was the reserved one. But what he enjoyed about my willingness to have fun, to be carefree I took from him his patient resolve, his even-keeled temperament. He challenged my urgent need to come out. He wasn't concerned about the fight or the cause or the plight. To him it didn't exist. It's not that he lacked compassion or was sheltered it's just that Carmine really is that guy who could live in the suburbs: "Give me a house, a dog a boyfriend and a 9 to 5 job and we'll call it a day." To which I'd respond with something like: "The Suburbs?! They'll lynch you!" He would shake his head, roll his eyes and continue sliding his tray down the line at the Student Union Panda Express.

He graduated earlier than I did. I had an additional semester learning how to put the useless "Fine" in Fine Arts. He held back, soaking up the desert sky. Going to the gym. Happy in his out-of-college entry level IT job making a buck and reclining before the sunset in his $400 a month Spanish style one bedroom house. I told him about my internship in Los Angeles. He wished me well. He told me he'd come visit and that I'd better too and with that we stepped out into the world alone, the first chapter of adulthood, waiting to be engulfed.

The years carried us. I bounced from LA to NY. Climbing up the ladder. Getting involved. Stirring passions and he doing the same in his own way. Finding a house, securing a job, jumping from one long term relationship to the next. Always these guys, his stability, contrasting my jump-about Rubik's cube restlessness. He was where he wanted to be, in the openness, and me in the thick of it, Tetris-like buildings falling all around me, encasing me.

The Cell phone crackled:
"So what are you working on now, big shot?"
"Big Shot? Please, I'm moving to Brooklyn."
"Still more money than I have."
"Yeah well, you've always looked better than I have."
"True."
"Fuck you."
"So are we going to this party or not?"
"Yeah, let's do it."
"Ok so I'll book the plane tickets and...we'll rage."
"I hate when you say that."
"....Is the latest coming? I promise not to say it around your beau. I want to meet him."
"Nahhh. He can't get away. It's cool. We're good."
"Cool. How you guys doing?"
"We're good, you know, I really like him. It's just that he's so young and, you know, with everything going on.... I just want to be there for him. It's really tough. But I really like him."
"I hear you, man. You just take your time, communicate. That's all I got."
"Ok speak to you later."

What I heard Carmine saying, although it wasn't actually said, is that Carmine's 22 year old boyfriend tested positive after a few months of them being together. Their lust for one another flowed in the turbulent waves that are the dramatics of the situation, the being there for one another, the passion, the taking of each other's hands through the complexity of this new found situation. The younger man coming to terms with his status the older man confronting it.

Through these waves they churned. Like magnets flipping sides. They were attracted and repelled by one another depending on the week. They loved, they split. They loved again. They saw one another. They loved again. They split. They opened things up. They split. They shared the latest information and medical research to one another. They visited the doctor together. Carmine remained negative, the younger man continued armoring himself.

A year and some months later we find ourselves back on that very same street. We're waiting for the light to change and I'm still clenching my teeth, bracing for an impact.

"Well, I am.......Positive."
I exhaled. I breathed in again. Turning toward him. Staring into his eyes. "Ok." I said in the calm way the voice allows for only the real life moments like these.
"And I don't need the lecture from you, okay?"
"I wasn't going to give it to you," I spit back.
The traffic light clicked. The blinking white man appeared in the black box across the street. Carmine started to cross, his back to me. I threw my arms around him, tight as a harness. I held him back, cupping my fists over the center of his chest and held him. Our bodies warm against one another. I kissed the back of his neck with one long meaningful kiss. A kiss which would translate how much I would be there for him, how much I loved him and how much everything was going to be ok. He took it in, allowing himself to be vulnerable. To let it all go and we stood like that until the blinking man had a chance to appear once more.

We released, dabbing tears from the corner of our eyes. Smiling at one another and sucking the loose snot back into our noses. Back to being pals again he pushed my shoulder. I pushed him right back.

"Alright asshole," he said, "Let's get going."
Nothing more needed to be said.

I received the call on a violet-laced Sunday night. The sun was fading fast. You could see your breath in the air and the bare twigs huddled together like fingers trying to stay warm. Autumn was almost finished, only giving an encore at this point.

The phone bleeped with Carmine's name as I took off my coat and ran upstairs away from the television my roommate had on. I tucked myself into my room. Not turning on any lights. I shared his call in the darkness.

"Hey dude."
"Hey," He said flatly.
"What's up?"
"I just don't understand it man. I don't know what he wants. He doesn't even know. One minute He wants to be together. Then on his own. The he wants a threeway. I just don't know. And on top of it I feel like a girl who just got pregnant and dumped."
"He's 23 years old! Do you remember us when we were 23 we had no idea what we wanted. Fuck, I still don't!"
"I just wish none of this gay ever happened to us. I just wish he could be an ordinary guy without all this gay bullshit to deal with. I don't want to keep going out, the drinking, the meeting people, I don't want any of it anymore! I want what I always wanted. Just a regular guy, with no issues and no hangups who just happens to be gay. I mean is that so hard? He wants to get all caught up in the scene and I don't want any part of it anymore. Positive or not, I don't want spend my time trolling around bars, trying to find a boyfriend who when the tough gets going all the sudden wants an open relationship. I just want," he yelled and then slowed his pace, "A regular fucking guy." "I don't want to do this anymore, man."

The room grew darker. The temperature dropping.
"I know, man. I know what you're saying. I see it too. I feel it too. We all do. We're all out there searching for something. It'll be fine. It'll be ok. Maybe you two just really need your own space. Break away from one another awhile. Take time to find yourself again. Weigh your own priorities. " I kept going, not waiting for pause. I didn't want him to interject. What he was saying was all too much, too real, too true. There was nothing more I could say. I finished another few sentence and when I stopped it seemed as though the phone went dead.

It had. I looked at the brightly lit LCD screen, the only light in the room. The screen bleeped, "call failed -- call failed -- call failed." I waited for him to call back and when he didn't I didn't attempt to call him either. There was nothing more to be said and anyway, it wouldn't have mattered.