Friday, July 31, 2009

Two Movements to Circa Survive (or: Bored at work

"It Starts Out Like He Sees It In Reverse..."
Last night J. and I fucked at work. It was quite amazing, if for no other reason than it was, as it turns out, one of those rare moments when sex brings two people closer together. Though I should rephrase this: our sex has consistently brought us closer together. Which I think is amazing, and makes me realize how lucky I am to have found someone with whom I can be so open, and with whom my body, as well as his own, is respected in the course of our fucking. There is, as it were, nothing that is off limits because he just knows how to phrase things. He is a beautiful communicator. When he speaks there is so rarely the taint of judgment. For someone like me, who struggles quite regularly with sometimes rather profound insecurities about my body, my intellect, and my desirability, his simply--but not simplistically--stated expressions are all I could hope for.

We discover one another, I think, in small, quotidian moments of relaxation. In moments of stress, too, no doubt. Today we had another intense discussion about politics, subjectivity, and critique. He is incredibly smart, often quick to undercut himself for fear that he is contradiction. The struggle is bodily. I can see how his whole frame will contract with concentration and then how, frustrated, or perhaps realizing that his own argument isn't quite what he had wanted it to be, his body loosens again.
I have started to let slip with increasing frequency, "I love you." I do, and I suppose there is no reason not to say it.

Last night, too, I found myself realizing that J. had slept with someone I hold in rather low regard, and now simply am extremely irritated by. He is, this boy, the sort who enjoys sporting a knowing smirk, which he doesn't know drives me rather close to the brink of homo-cide. This is why I need this space. To chew it over, to taste the bitterness of it, have it fill my mouth with its rancid flavor, and then swallow it down, digest it, and be done with it. Here, in my pristine space--my "sensory deprivation chamber" of sorts, a place where I can battle myself without hurting anyone, without hurting myself. A space where, as Zarathustra proclaims in "On Reading and Writing," I can kill the spirit of gravity with laughter. Even if I need to laugh at myself a bit first.

We briefly spoke around the idea of monogamy, which is to say, we briefly spoke around the idea of what it would sound like to say, "I want to commit to you and I'd like it very much if you felt the same." We didn't say it so much as we tested out what it would be like to hear such a desire expressed, issuing forth from our lips, striking one another's ears, and sitting there, curled in the spiral of doubts and excitement. I think, if the opportunity arises and presents itself tonight, I will whisper the idea back into discourse, draw it out of its place of fermentation, see if its sweet yet, ripe for the plucking.
___

"Deeper Into a Murakami Novel" Continued
Over brunch you found out the piano player's name was Henry Cotton. The meal passed with the usual exchange of nondescript banalities. He moved to Chicago to study sound manipulation at the School of the Art Institute. When you asked him what sound manipulation was and how it could possibly be a major he laughed, as if at my naivete, and explained he once composed an entire concerto to be played by a video game controller. This sounded so absurd, but then, when you were a kid the idea that a sattelite could track your every move, even as you rode a city bus, displaying in real-time your current location would have seemed like a paranoid delusion straight out of a Hollywood thriller. One that starred an innocent young man wrongly accused of espionage, hunted by a cold-hearted military officer with distinguished silver hair who then comes to learn just in the nick of time that his quarry is genuinely innocent. It was his subordinate, the slick know-it-all that seemed suspicious all along, who was actually the spy and with the help of his once enemy, now ally, the grizzled military man saves the day, but not before being shot in the arm--he'll survive of course so that the movie can end with him throwing a sharp salute to the young man as he boards a Greyhound bus home: the camera pans out slowly, and you gaze at the earth as though you are the satellite. Cue the music, roll the credits, bring up the house lights. Everything is a movie, and only when movies come true do we get truly scared. 9.11, you think, was one of these moments when all the special effects sequences of massive destruction that sold millions of box office tickets seemed like cheap mock-ups. Hurricane Catrina, too.
Your mother emphasizes that while my generation may be growing up under the shadow of Manhattan's smoke plumes she grew up with the crackling gun shots that blew Kennedy's head open, and then Martin Luther King Jr.'s, and the Robert Kennedy's. Every generation has their traumas, she says.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Deeper Into a Murakami Novel

After four martinis the kid finished his set and with a sheepish if not outright furtive glance up at the all but empty room stalked to the bar like a wounded cat. The first two martinis had gone right to my head but I kept drinking out of spite. The bartender, noticing me waver my way back to my table had taken it upon himself to offer table service and I was more than happy to keep downing the chilled, metallic gin. Though now I couldn't taste anything anyway and my vision was on a time delay. Beads of sweat salted my upper lip and I could barely sit up right.
The silence in the room was suddenly very heavy. And dark, like being at the bottom of a well. I looked up as if to peer at the perfect circle of sky the lip of the well would shape like a cookie cutter and stars flooded my vision.
"Hey, are you alright?"
It was the black piano player. He smelled of a cat litter box. His face showed concern. His hands trembled at his sides.
I nodded. Yeah, I said, I'm just drunk.
"Would you like a glass of water?"
I nodded again, now painfully aware of the weight of my own head. He said something indistinct to the bartender and then I felt a cold glass slide into my cupped hands. The smooth iciness of the glass caught my breath and I almost got sick.
"You should really lie down," the kid said. Still, his hands trembled by the seams of his blue jeans. "Do you live around here? I could call you a cab."
For the concern on his face his voice was strangely neutral, not a tint of worry or contempt. These are the facts, his voice cooed: you are drunk and need to go home. It was like a banister that wrapped around a spiral staircase. I reached out for it, to rest against while my head was whirling.
I felt his hand grasp mine. I was standing, his other hand on my hip, like we were dancing the tango.
Face to face with this boy I saw his eyes were green. Two olives.

When I woke the taste of bile assaulted my senses. I groaned and this utterance caused a stir of movement to my left. I looked over and there, in my bed, was the black piano player. Roused by my noise he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and seemed to take a moment before recognizing me.
Hello, I said, not knowing how else to greet this stranger.
He smiled and said, "Hello." I noticed, again, his eyes: two olives.
I was home, in my bed, in the clothes I wore the day before. He was half naked, wearing only a tee-shirt and boxer shorts. Seeing my eyes range his body he self-consciously curled the comforter around his slender figure and seemed to blush, though through the deepness of his skin I could not see any discernible flush. But his eyes, like at the bar, gave me a guilty glance.
I shifted my gaze in embarrassment.
"I-," he started to say but he didn't know how to continue. His voice dropped off just as his head, which had perked-up as he started to speak lowered, his eyes studying the paisley pattern of the comforter.
I looked around my room. It was still my room. Everything was still in place. Books ordered neatly, each spine abreast and presented proudly like a battalion of troops under review. The ceiling fan indifferently clicked its monotonous revolutions. It was one-twelve in the afternoon.
"The alarm started to go off," the piano player said, seeing me register the time, "but I turned it off when you didn't wake up. I figured you needed sleep."
Thanks, I said and yawned wide and deep. The skin at one corner of my mouth split and I winced. I must have had a lot to drink.
As if sensing my thoughts the kid said, "You had a lot to drink last night." His hands were trembling in his lap. "You asked me to walk you home and then wouldn't let me leave you alone once we got here." He said this as though trying to expiate any guilt, as if to say: none of this is my fault, my being here, our not knowing what to say--you did this.
I nodded just to get the desperate pleading tone out of the air. I groaned again, but this time I was starting to shed the misty remnants to sleep.
Well, Mogers' is still serving brunch. Are you hungry? I said this with an artificial air of cheerfulness.
Whether or not he was hungry he was grateful for the change of subject and greedily devoured the chance to get out of the present feel of things, of my bed, of my apartment.
He asked where he could freshen up and I pointed the way to the bathroom.
I could hear the splashing of water while I changed my clothes. I looked into the mirror in the closet. My face was haggard, tired, old. Deep purple semi-circles sat underneath my eyes, my cheeks a pallid grey. What the hell happened yesterday? I'm lost, and it's all here on my face, these wrinkles, these blood-shot eyes.
J. is gone. And in his place appeared the piano player from the jazz bar he used to go to. Did I go there looking for him? As if it would be so easy to find him. No, he was gone, and to some place I didn't know to look in. There was always that deep recess he never let me cast light onto. He was there, I knew it. I opened the drawers to our shared dresser as if a clue lay upon the neatly folded columns of socks and underpants.
He's somewhere, I said to the cotton fibers. Maybe he couldn't show me the place he goes to, but there is a place. Not these drawers, not these halls or their corners, maybe not even the jazz bar. But he is somewhere. That space in his soul is real. It has a parallel home out here, I said out loud, I just need to find it.
"Find what?" the piano player asked.
I wheeled about to see him fully clothed again. Hands trembling. Eyes olive.
Let's go eat.

Before Mogers' was Mogers' it was called the Gargoyle Cafe. Two garish concrete gargoyles sat on either side of the entrance grimacing at everyone who passed. I used to take the nameless men I woke next to to the cafe and became, after a few consistent visits, a regular. I had a preferred booth, waiter, and breakfast dish. Lorrie, my waiter, knew to play it cool, pretending each time that I was actually passing by those hideous gargoyles for the first time.
"Might I suggest the avocado omelette panini?" he would say to me and I would feign excited interest and eagerly assent to his recommendation.
Around the time I met J. the Gargoyle Cafe lost its imposing statues and changed its name to Mogers', the name of the owner's just deceased tabby cat. Everything stayed the same except the layout of the menu, but he said he needed a change, Lorrie explained.
The third time I showed up with J. Lorrie dropped the act and I was grateful for it.
"Your usual?" he would ask and I would solemnly nod as he politely turned his attention to J., who never ordered the same thing twice in a row.
This was one of the many moments at that time that signaled my like was changing. The facade of spontaneity I relied on Lorrie to participate in had begun to slowly dissolve to reveal the pristinely ordered system of my life. Like my bookcases, my nights, too, had been exactly scripted. Each boyish body simply a book to read and consume and jot down a few notes about before shelving.
J. was the book I could never finish.
"This time I think I'll try the salmon crepe," and Lorrie would say something like "good choice" before turning on his heels and retreating to the kitchen.
J. would never offer to share the dish he would order and after tasting my avocado omelette panini the first morning I brought him would decline my offer, even though I meant this as a means of soliciting a reciprocal offer. Still, when I would ask to sample whatever he had ordered he never hesitated to gather a generous fork-full for me to taste.
Whenever I discovered a new layer of J.'s hidden self it was like this. He never offered up his secrets but he never flinched before answering my questions. Our relationship was like this: a puzzle. If I got the right piece in the right place he never withheld the sliver of panorama it showed. Our life together became like this. I would guess at the solution to the riddle he slowly unfolded and if I was right our puzzle knitted closer together.
Did he leave because the puzzle was too close to filling in and making visible the shadowy blank space he dared not show me?

Lorrie was startled when he saw the piano player and looked at me long and hard before finally asking me, "The usual?"
It was clear he was relieved when I nodded, a heavy nod but one that let him off the hook: he had guessed right. The piano player ordered and Lorrie, with another elongated stare, departed.
"You come here often?" the piano player asked.
Yes, I said, this place and I have a very long history.
"It's nice to be a regular somewhere," he said. "I'm new to the city so I don't have that yet."

I love you, I once said to J., but I never know what you expect of me. Please, tell me what you want. I'll do my best. I promise.
He had said nothing to this. My tears, the catching in my throat that made my voice warble--all of this kept him far away. Sitting inches from me, he was no place I could join him. In that secret abyss he never let me see. I wept more, wanting to be there with him, wanting to pull him out of whatever loneliness he thought I could never have the strength to occupy. I grabbed him, clutching him to my body as hard as possible, crying even harder knowing I was holding a shell. The harder I squeezed him the further he was swept from me. His hands touched me, folded my hair out of my eyes in an effort to comfort me, but they could have been anyone's hands. This loneliness, and my powerlessness in the face of this yawing black-hole that drew him away. I wished for a god to denounce, a father to blame, a bully to slaughter in ritual fashion. But there was only this extreme nothingness responsible for the gulf between us, the absence of responsibility itself. My body felt so small and meaningless as I lay against the hard contour of his neck.
Please, I begged of nothingness itself, give me something.

Yes, I'm a regular here, and we waited in silence for the food to arrive.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Free From All the Shame And Then I'll Hide

I read an essay by Sandor Ferenczi, a Hungarian contemporary and compatriot of Freud's, on the "Nosology of the Male Homosexual (Homoeroticism)". The Old Man sent me a collection of his essays, with the suggestion that I check out his work on introjection, but I have a tendency to gravitate towards these psychoanalysts' work on homosexuality first because I find that what they say in regard to that realm of psychic life usually is indicative of what they say in other contexts as well. Perhaps it is because I was introduced to Freud as a queer theorist, and my entree to his work was through a Foucaultdian/Butlerian lens, that I find many other theorists flat-footed when it comes to theorizing sexuality, which is a problem as psychoanalysis makes the libido (Eros) the animating drive of life. Klein and Lacan, especially, are miserable when it comes to homosexuality--their theories reek of heteronormativity. This stands in marked contrast to Freud, who gave a surprising amount of due diligence to the complexities and nuances of homosexuality.

The one advantage to Ferenczi's reading of homosexuality is that it diverges at the close of the essay from a "nosology" or classification of "types" of homosexuality--a rather mortifying attempt, to be frank, that simply rehashes tired notions of the "Third Sex"-- to a critique of society's response to homoeroticism. He writes:

"In modern European cultures, however, and in those dependent on them, not only is actual homoeroticism lacking, but also its sublimation, which appeared so obvious to the people of antiquity, the enthusiastic and devoted friendship between men. It is, in fact, astounding to what an extent present-day men have lost the capacity for mutual affection and amiability. Instead there prevails among men decided rudeness, resistance and rivalry. Since it is unthinkable that those tender affects which were so strongly pronounced in childhood could have disappeared without leaving a trace, one has to regard these signs of resistance as reaction-formations, as defense symptoms erected against affections for the same sex....
"A part of the unsatisfied homoeroticism remains 'free floating', and demands to be appeased; since this is impossible under the conditions of present-day civilization, this quantity of libido has to undergo a displacement, namely, on to feelings for and relationships with the opposite sex. I quite seriously believe that the men of today are one and all compulsively heterosexual as the result of this affective displacement; in order to free themselves from men, they become the slaves of women. This may be the explanation of the 'chivalry' and the exaggerated, often visibly affected, adoration of woman that has dominated the male world since the Middle Ages; it may also possibly be the explanation of Don-Juanism, the obsessive and yet never fully satisfied pursuit of continually new heterosexual adventures....
"In a brief summary, therefore...: the exaggerated repression of the homoerotic instinct component in present-day society has resulted in a rather obsessive reinforcement of heteroeroticism in men." (Ferenczi--"The Nosology of Male Homosexuality (Homoeroticism)")

(This line of thinking anticipates the arguments of Gayle Rubin and Judith Butler that heterosexuality, especially the incest taboo, presupposes a prior, less articulated taboo: the taboo against homosexuality. Ferenczi, however, positions the prevalence of this taboo not in some so called Freudian primordial horde or Hobbesian "state of nature," but with the rise and spread of Christianity--a move Foucault, too, will chart in his History of Sexuality: 1.)
___

Today my electricity was turned off, which blows something awful. It's finally a hot day in Chicago and I don't have a fan, nor a fridge to keep beer cold in. LAME! Worse still: My whole paycheck will be sucked into paying this fucking bill--apparently the only way to get your electricity turned back on is to pay the full amount you owe, which, for me, ranges in the hundreds. So much for being able to take J. out for a nice dinner. The upshot--and there is an upshot, I think--is that I won't have to worry about my electric bill again for a while. hahaha... this was, after all, a years worth of failure to pay. So, yeah, there's that. Still, the timing sucks. But, it could be worse.
The good news: I have a job, a wonderful, understanding boyfriend, and hopefully some money left over so I am not wholly destitute for the next two weeks.
In the meantime, I suppose I'll be leeching power from Caribou, work, and whomever else.
Things could be worse, but they're not. And, for this, I'm happy.
Day six of not smoking, but I'll be honest: I've been chomping on this gum in utter frustration, and only now am I starting to cool off a bit.
Oh, quick funny story about bad timing: I call my Gramsy to see if I can solicit some funds from her, but before I can launch into my sob story she tells me she's sad because it's her dead husband's birthday today. So much for trying to get a sympathy check. Hahaha, Fate: you can be so fickle some times--how can I do anything other than love your humor!?

Monday, July 27, 2009

And The Morning Sun Will Make Our Bodies Comfortable

Even though I slept through an hour of J.'s phone calls--the consequence of another sleepless night is a nap (I'm getting old)--when he finally succeeded in getting me awake he greeted me with home-made salsa, chips, dinner from Wholefoods, and other goodies. I don't know what that's like. When I dated my ex I was the one who would surprise her with little romantic moments, preparing a nice little dinner for us or something to this effect. Now I am also the recipient of such expressions of affection.

I like this about gay relationships: there is, because of our "sameness," the capacity to embody multiple positions--to be the "top" and the "bottom" and all the gendered meanings that such shorthand implies. I can be, as a man, treated with affection, cared for, holistically; I am not forced to sever from myself needs, desires, or means of expression for the sake of a cultural norm. In the true Freudian sense of "bisexual" I am allowed--encouraged!--to be both "active" and "passive"/"man" and "woman". With J. there is the beautiful fluidity to our roles. There is a joyous inhibition when it comes to care: he and I do not hesitate to lavish affection upon one another.

Last night I prepared us dinner--I'd say I "cooked" but really all I did was "arrange" pre-cooked foods in a nice, edible manner. He came over, we ate, drank a few beers, and then he went off to work. Tonight he will come over for a movie after he's done with work and we will hang-out tomorrow whenever it is we wake up.

He's amazing. Simple as that. I've never felt anything quite like the pleasure I do when I am in his company. The other night at a private house party through the Toy Gallery I was bragging about our relationship. These women were so desperate for answers, for me to explain everything to them, to make their sex life safe, predictable, satisfying. I felt like a priest and a therapist all at once, but I answered like an ubermensch: this is my way, where is yours? Of course, I never bragged outright. Instead, I gave answers like "I've found I needed to adjust my own expectations of what counts as communication because I realized he was 'saying' everything I wanted and needed to hear, but in his own way."

While he's at work I'm going to grade my students' papers, grab a movie, and shower. He'll come over and I'll be home.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Logic of Carrying an Umbrella During a Lightening Storm in a Plains State

So this is day two of chewing this gum, which has been strange, actually. I haven't necessarily wanted a cigarette per se, but I have been quite liberal with this gum (11 pieces in 2 days), which isn't really gum so much as a gum-ish substance that does the work of chewing tobacco. You chomp on it a bit and then slip it between your gum and cheek and enjoy a tingle sensation as the nicotine seeps into your blood. I can't imagine this being any good for my gums, but whatever. At least now, when I want a cigarette, I reach for a piece of gum. They say it takes a month-ish for your brain to start making new connections when it comes to cigarette smoking, and so I figure that a month-ish of not smoking but chewing this gum, which I should start needing less and less of. I know I can live without cigarettes, it's just that it hurts. Thus far the gum has allowed me to not hurt while not smoking.

J. is a huge fan of The Mars Volta, and one of the first times we fucked we listened to "De-loused in the Comatorium". This was somewhat bizarre, to be honest, as the sex mix I made once upon a time--yes, the one I listened to more often when writing than when having sex--is composed of music by Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Red Hooker, Mono, and Port Royal. J. says, when I begin to play this music--"( )" by Sigur Ros--that it is "too pretty." You need some raunch in your sex music, he says, and I start to become nervous: what exactly does he want the music to be raunchy for? Well, today I discovered that when you give a musician inclined to rhythmic music two hits off a new "water-pipe" (read: bong) and then play Chicago Afrobeat Project while having sex it is something along the lines of raunchy. Porn star pounding sort of raunchy. Which was amazingly hot. Because, as I also discovered, when you give a boy who is inclined to good sex two hits off said bong... well, you get the idea.

The Mars Volta: I'm not entirely sure this isn't just obscurity--brilliantly composed and performed, to be sure--for the sake of obscurity. That is: pretentious prog rock that involves spending more time trying not to be turned off by than actually enjoying it. Again, I'm not entirely sure.

I finally got around to installing this program a boy told me about while we were waiting for our multiply-delayed plane (departing, surprise surprise, from O'Hare). "Torrent" it's called, and you simply find a whole fuck-ton of music very quickly. Undoubtedly I am slow to come to this, but in lieu of a cd drive that actually enables me to burn/upload music, this will have to do. Which pisses me off: I have a brilliant-ish mix made for J. and I am very eager to hear what he has to say about it. This Sunday I am dropping the laptop off to get fixed.

Ok: writing makes me want a cigarette. Fuck.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Min[e] is a Razor Blade

J. noted that it was strange that I would go home, drink two beers, and, at 3am, write a blog entry. Well, this is doubly strange, then, because this is my second post for the night. But, prompted by the fact that I still have a beer to drink, and want to have a least one more cigarette (probably two) before I start not smoking, I was thinking about something I said to him tonight: I've been able to hear you sing, play your trumpet, and piano; I see you fold your cranes, sketch drafts for class; you've lent me books to read... And me, I've nothing to show you of what I do, no way for you to see what really excites me, what makes me smile, grabs my attention for weeks--sometimes years--on end.

I suppose I could lend him a novel to read, but we share the same taste, so whereas he introduced me to Murakami's novels (I knew his short-stories) I could only be said to loan him a book he wanted to read any way. I suppose, too, I could play my songs for him, but I'm still much too nervous for that, especially since he is a musician and actually knows what the fuck he's doing. And those songs reek of my ex, and the last thing I want to sing to him are songs about that time in my life. Though, I suppose some transcend the particular circumstance of my time with her and strike either "universal" themes, or are wholly narcissistic. I'll probably keep the latter of the bunch.

I wouldn't subject him to the papers I've written, nor would I share my lecture notes: both would require he read the text they address, and suddenly that seems like an assignment and not "exploring your interests".

Really, the most realistic way to let him have a glimpse into what it is I do, would be to let him read this. But I couldn't. At least not yet. I could, I suppose, when he wouldn't feel like he needed to read it to know me, when he could just trust me, the apparent me that he sees and hears and feels.

(A brief aside: I think my attention to the surface, to appearance, aside from the influence of Nietzsche, derives from my willingness to hold myself to what I say out loud. This got me in a lot of trouble when I came out. If I was out, I said to myself, this was the sort of thing that's all or nothing so, when I finally had the courage to say it to myself, I couldn't in good conscience keep it secret, as if there were an "inside" that was distinct from the "outside" everyone could see. Tellingly, when I came out to my friend Carly she said, "I could kinda tell anyway." Which is to say, it's quite possible that what I discovered "inside" was already "outside" and visible to those who knew to see it. It was a matter of courage, I thought, but also honesty: I can't look at myself at say, "I like men" and then look at other people and deny that. The other side of the same coin reads: I can't say to others, "x" and then look at myself and say "y". I can, I suppose, because I do, and perhaps here I become wishy-washy *every rule has, by necessity, its exception*, but I'd like to think that about important things I have the strength of character to make a promise and keep it: to conform myself in deed to the words I have pronounced.)

I suppose, that is to say, this idea that there are "two-sides" to everyone--a hidden "real self" and then an "act"--rings wholly off-key to me. I never know who I will be until I am asked: I become a question to myself, and an answer--provisionally constructed, of course--but the questions themselves are what define me: give me (and I've demanded this of myself numerous times) something to unpack: what are the fucking facts, how do you see them, what will you do with them? I emerge, always ever, from this dialogic process: this call and response is what I call my life: I love to think, I love my friends: with this I am given-over to myself, to life. He will learn, I hope, that what I say--even if I don't know I mean--I will live. So that if he ever needs to flee to this iteration of "Me" for comfort, for the Truth, he will only ever find what I've pre-sented for him.

In the end, after lamenting how "thin" I may appear to him, I said, "Trust that I am among the best at what I do." I suppose I said this to him so he would be able to feel the same pride I do when I listen to him play or look at his art. So he can say of me what I say of him: he's amazingly talented. I said this, again, so that he knew I wasn't just some kid who fell in love with him, who peddles dildos, and is perpetually poor, but runs his mouth on occasion--so he knew there was substance here.

So much of what I do that I attribute personal value to occurs in my own head and only appears on pages meant for certain eyes. It is lonely to realize that, unlike J., who can play to a bar full of strangers who will enjoy his music, I can only "play" for certain ears. I haven't really talked much about my work with him, mostly because I don't want to bore him, and also because I realize it presupposes so much other "stuff"--reading, acculturation, et cetera--that to just start from the beginning would devolve into a lecture and I'm not at all interested in that: it would feel like I'm condescending to him, and I loathe that feeling: I love him as my equal, which he is, and would never wish to come off as talking down to him. He sees the world in a beautiful way--not the way my eyes do, per se, but with a vibrancy and urgency that demands of me respect, attentiveness, care. I don't want to corrupt his world: his choices are his own to make, and he can see as he pleases. And I love to glimpse the world through his eyes: I love the overlaps, and I love to discover a new angle on a phenomenon that I'd come to know "all too well."

He will see soon enough, I suppose. I will be weighed with books in my satchel, reading perpetually. Even if he doesn't read my work, he will see me work. And I will be unable to shut-up about it, too. I'm like that: When I am attracted to something, when I start to fall in love with it, I can't stop myself from letting my body begin to slowly adjust its contours around it, even if for the 10 week span of a course. Thus, I've written so very much about J. And, once, about the Writer, and Freud, Judith Butler, Foucault, Nietzsche... I allow my body to begin to slowly--or not so slowly--adapt to life with these ideas and people. My body, I'd like to think, is an open book to those who take the time to read its verses.

I'm slowly beginning to allow my body to adapt to life with him. I think he is allowing his body to do the same. There is an ease between us now that we haven't yet know. I'm bragging. I'm no easy bird to get into the nest. Nor am I the sort that, once in the nest, is easy to keep. I've walked away from, or allowed to dissolve, plenty of possibilities. No one has excited me quite like he does. Excite is the right word: he pulls me upwards, fills me with an energy--not wholly raw, because it has focus, meaning, intention: a telos--an energy that I want and need: he sends me outside with the most beautiful welcoming: an ek-statis: upwards, to rarer airs. I gasp for air, holding to him as he pushes me, thrusting me on, and when I arrive, he holds me and I collect myself, in his arms, now with this new space opened--so full of questions, demands, possibilities...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Might Be Wrong (or: I hadn't quite expected this)

For the first time I'm starting to seriously consider quitting smoking. This chest cold, which really is bronchitis, is a bitch, and though it's going away, the uncomfortably familiar wheezing that accompanied it hasn't. When I was a kid I was a terrible asthmatic, so much so that I couldn't even be outside without an inhaler on hand, because it was inevitable that I would need it. I was, it seemed, allergic to the air itself. Running, swimming, biking--all were activities I couldn't indulge in without fear of suddenly not being able to breathe. Years of allergy shots and trips to the ER at 2am to get nebulizer treatments and steroid injections culminated in my finally being able to smoke cigarettes, a habit I've enjoyed for the last ten years. But I've come to enjoy my active life, my life unencumbered by fighting for breath. This bout with asthmatic symptoms has, to be frank, frightened me. I don't want to go back to that. I refuse to. I could do both: be active and still smoke. But if I have to make a choice, I choose activity over smoking.

Plus, J. said recently, "You smell old when you smoke." I haven't smoked in front of him since. That was three weeks ago. And then this bronchitis nonsense has made it impossible to smoke without coughing and wheezing, so I haven't been smoking that much anyway. If ever there was an opportunity to quit, now would be it, it seems.

But I like to smoke. I like the rebel image it is associated with. And the intellectual image, too. And it calms me, gives me something to do with my hands, something to put in my mouth to keep words from coming out.

When David Sedaris made a point of devoting nearly a full quarter of his latest book, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" to quitting smoking I was so wholly disappointed. I felt like he was selling out: he was queer, quirky, funny, macabre at times, and a smoker. And now, he was abandoning one of those traits that made him a kindred spirit. I didn't like this last book because of it. It was like he was leaving us behind, just when we were getting kicked out of bars, clubs, and restaurants. Just as America was becoming "respectable" one of the rough-around-the-edges guys was joining them.

I don't know if I wholly feel that way any more. I love to smoke, but I also love J., and I love my life as it is now, which I guess you could call "healthy," though many of my friends would laugh at that characterization. I'm actually thinking about buying nicotine patches. They are just so fucking expensive, and quitting is such a life-long affair. I quit once, for a decent amount of months, too, but I did that with my ex, and when we split I went right back to the comfortable practice of rolling and then burning down a cigarette. I would be so pissed if, now, when I am poor, I sink all that money into quitting without too much pain only to then go back to smoking. I'd feel like a sucker.

There are lots of reasons why quitting would be a good idea, not least my health, but I also know that when school starts I will be so quickly drawn back to the allure of a smooth inhalation of tobacco smoke.

But maybe I should just think about right now. About how easy it's been to not smoke around J., about how few cigarettes I've even been smoking with this chest cold, and how, with a small little patch I wouldn't really miss it much. And how, if I did start to miss it, I could take up origami--J. could teach me to fold cranes. Or I could just roll a piece of paper into a slender tube like I've been doing anyway, holding it in my fingers like a prop. I think it's going to happen, actually. Tomorrow. When I get my amphetamines. It's agreed. So smoke up now, boyo, for tomorrow you begin anew.

Monday, July 20, 2009

If You've Ever Been To Heaven, This Is Twice as Nice

Walking from J.'s apartment to the Wilson Red Line entails passing through a brief strip of nasty neighborhood. This afternoon, on my way home, I passed three black kids, one of whom carried a red plastic toy gun, which he pointed at me with a "BANG". All I could do was "pssh" at this child trying to be a man, pretending to shoot a faggot. Of course, humiliation was probably not the best response to give a kid whose pride is already challenged. Still, there needs to be a better way to display one's masculinity than by overtly playing out a violent fantasy.

I was speaking with friends yesterday, both of whom are black academic queers, and it was generally agreed upon that when we say "gay" we mean "White Bourgeois Men". In the aftermath of that conversation, confronting my own response to this kid took the following valence: Was this kid "shooting" me because I am a faggot--wearing Jackie O sunglasses, singing Brittney (whence this entry's title), and walking as though on a fashion runway? Or, was it because I am a White Bourgeois Man in a neighborhood that is swiftly gentrifying? Gentrification is, in no uncertain terms, a hostile action, a not so subtle displacement of a population through means of economics.

That said, let me be clear: there is no excusing this kid's violent pantomime. It was a punk thing to do, whether because I'm a faggot or a Bourgeois neighborhood-usurper, or both. While implicated in structural social injustice, I am not the power-player that should rightly be the target of this kids discontent--assuming, of course, he saw me primarily as a White Usurper, not a faggot.

This event, I think, highlights the "Foucaultdian Knot" of late-modernity: it is impossible to discern economic influences from sexual influences, the sexual from the medical, the medical from the moral, the moral from the juridical, the juridical from the economic, ect, ect. This is often called "intersectionality" and thanks to Angela Davis we know the famous "race, class, gender" troika. The advantage, no doubt, of pomo-homo politico-cultural theory is that it pluralizes the domain of factors framing any given social interaction. Whereas a Marxist would look with near exclusivity at the economic dimension of the interaction, or a Feminist would read the overt act of violence through a liberal lens of harm, the pomo-homo reads the scene without collapsing any of the multiple tensions that animate the scene of address. The capacity, therefore, for queer theory to aspire to the level of immanent critique, to, like Nietzsche, leave no stone unturned, hold its appeal for me. When practiced scrupulously, it resists reductionistic accounts precisely because it problematizes the entirety of the scene's foundations: the whole of the Foucaultdian matrix is under scrutiny in the synchronic moment of critique.

I talked to the Old Man just now about this scene, and he revived my profound appreciation for psychoanalysis. He said, you are right to see this kid over-compensating, and you are also right to note that humiliation is not the best tact, precisely because when you are willing to act in such a manner, you don't know what lengths you are capable of going to in order to prop-up the delusion of control. This, he says, is the paranoid posture, and it is dangerous to the extent that the there are no limits what people will do to flee confrontation with their own trauma. This, of course, launched me into a conceptualization of society writ large as an apparatus of escape: late-modern capitalist society is a perverse therapy of sorts, a schizoid-inducing flight from one's self.
___
Last night was something wonderful on a number of levels. J. met Moneypenny, with whom I spent more time over drinks, and then we rode our bikes up the lake and went to bed. It was the first time I've ever ridden my bike with someone other than my Old Man or my Momma. I value my time on my bike as a chance to challenge myself, to race against myself, to push my body and my limits. But it was nice to ride with J.
I don't work today, so I'm off to help J. organize his room, which is currently is boxes or tossed haphazardly all over the floor. I'm on the road to killing my chest cold--thank you modern medicine!
Life is good.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Love is Like Falling, and Falling Is like This (or: Gaily speaking of gravity)

Love, Ani DiFranco sings, is like falling, and falling is like this...
Flight, wings, gravity--all of these tropes recur when we read of love.
For Plato love gives you wings, for Sappho eros is a strong wind. For Nietzsche, the spirit of gravity is killed with laughter, and for Heidegger amo leaves one without firm ground.
One can fall off a cliff into love, as if into an abyss. Or one can leap forth, like Icarus, and ascend to the sun itself.
In both tropes, love's flight is doomed.
Not the whole story.
"The ostrich runs faster than the fastest horse, but even he buries his head gravely in the grave earth; even so, the man who has not learned to fly. Earth and life seem grave to him; and thus the spirit of gravity wants it. But whoever would become light and a bird must love himself: thus I teach.
Not, to be sure, with the love of the wilting and wasting: for among those even self-love stinks. One must learn to love oneself--thus I teach--with a wholesome and healthy love, so that one can bear to be with oneself and need not roam."
"And he whom you cannot teach to fly, teach to fall faster!"

Friday, July 17, 2009

"The Water is Warm, Sending Me Shivers" (or: In Praise of the Mundane)

Today, after being paid by the two jobs I work, I ran around and bought necessaries, and then rode down to pay the rest of this months rent and all of next months. I just barely missed the down-pour.
There is something simply satisfying about being able to take care of oneself. Recently I've been waging war against a chest cold, and for the last 2 weeks have managed to keep it from turning into a virulent bout of bronchitis. This, too, is satisfying. It's been ages since a parental bail-out and I am meeting my basic responsibilities--save the electric bill--and still have enough cash (for now at least) to take J. out for a decent dinner and drinks.
When The German sought to console me over my hyperbolic malaise over losing my youth he said, "Now you will finally have the means to do all the things you've been wanting to do." I suppose I am swiftly approaching that time when I can actually say, "I'm doing more than just 'getting by'." Perhaps this means I am becoming more and more a bourgeois fuck.
To this end, I'd like to share a passage from "Dance, Dance, Dance":

"That's capital investment. Granted, this sort of thing isn't new to the modern age. But everything before is nothing compared to the exacting detail and sheer power and invulnerability of today's web of capitalism. And it's megacomputers that have made it all possible, with their inhuman capacity to pull every last factor and condition on the face of the earth into their net calculations. Advanced capitalism has transcended itself. Not to overstate things, financial dealings have practically become a religious activity. The new mysticism. People worship capital, adore its aura, genuflect before Porsches and Tokyo land values. Worshiping everything their shiny Porsches symbolize. It's the only stuff of myth that's left in the world.
"Latter-day capitalism. Like it or not, it's the society we live in. Even the standard of right and wrong has been subdivided, made more sophisticated. Within good, there's fashionable good and unfashionable good, and ditto for bad. Within fashionable good, there's formal and then there's casual; there's hip, there's cool, there's trendy, there's snobbish. Mix 'n' match. Like pulling on a Missoni sweater over Trussardi slacks and Pollini shoes, you can now enjoy hybrid styles of morality. It's the way of the world--philosophy starting to look more and more like business administration.
"Although I didn't think so at the time, things were a lot simpler in 1969. All you had to do to express yourself was throw rocks at riot police. But with today's sophistication, who's in a position to throw rocks? Who's going to brave what tear gas? C'mon, that's the way it is. Everything is rigged, tied into that massive capital web, and beyond this web there's another web. Nobody's going anywhere. You throw a rock and it'll come right back at you."

I have aspirations to change the way we think, speak, and see the world--this is, after all, why I abandoned the pettiness and triviality of so much of recent philosophy for the field of political theory. At heart, however, I am a philosopher, I fear. It is a struggle to confront the world with receptivity and not simply recoil from its horror with disgust, and profound despair. I am working, still, to cultivate a "love of the world." To this end, J. has been wonderfully helpful. Though he may not always realize it, his simply stated distain for the hyper-complexity of academic thought that I've now come to accept as the norm jars me from my own complacency: theory outstrips practice and thereby renders itself masturbatory. He has, in the month we've been seeing one another, refused to indulge my flights of fancy into the ether world of abstraction, nor will he allow me to retreat to the solipsism of subjectivism. As I had guessed when we spent our first night together, he is the love-child of Nietzsche, Rimbaud, and Tom Waits.

Still, though I am fully implicated in this "web of capital," I can't imagine adopting a nihilist posture. It just isn't good for my blood, or my stomach. This leaves me, like J., and any of us who take seriously the concerns that we can see right in front of us, a bundle of contradictions. I don't ever think I can reconcile these contradictions--they are like a life-long ailment, like being born with emphysema or HIV: you simply must, daily, treat the condition. What sort of therapy is there for this, though? It is the logic of capitalism to insist that we find "satisfaction" in our own personal ways, to withdraw further and further into our own little atomized worlds all the while the fungus spreads across the surface. Activism seems like radical amputation, the sort of treatment that leaves you more crippled after the fact that you were before the "cure". And willful indifference strikes me as profoundly unethical.

I tend to think that being a professor was itself a political activity: I could introduce to my students the burdens of our time, bring them to acknowledge their own potency, and prepare the way for a new way of living. I wonder how many of the men and women I admire--these towering intellectuals--were drawn to this way of life for the same reasons. Of those whom I admire that share this passion, I wonder how many of them still do. I get so anxious when I think that all of this is a rather meaningless undertaking, just a job like any other: like shoveling snow, cultural snow (D,D,D).

When I think of myself in a few months, when I allow myself to imagine what it will be like to, again, be in the meat-grinder of that is graduate school, I wonder what will happen to J. I'm afraid that I won't have time for him, or, worst still, won't know how to perform the balancing act necessary for me to be both a successful student and an engaged lover. I've never been very good at balance, and I desperately hope I am up for the challenge. I will come to loathe my intellectual pursuits if they necessitate a withdrawal from the social world. But then, J. has always been firm about meeting his own responsibilities, to his band, to work, and to school. I think he will be able to understand the demands that will be made of me, and hopefully we will be able to negotiate those demands together. But they will be demands I make of myself, and here is where I fear I will falter: I will feel selfish, and therefore guilty, for putting my Greek homework or my Data Analysis readings before him. Though I swore to myself I would never again allow a lover to come between me and my ambition, I also fear loneliness.

Enough of this! Spinning my wheels in this muck isn't going to get me anything other than dirty and frustrated. Interrupt the feedback loop.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Reply to the Writer (or: "How come I end up where I started?")

Recently the Writer drew on one of my entries in his own blog, and I started to draft a reply in his comment page only to realize I was embarking on a full on entry. What follows is a reply of sorts, or, rather, the continuation of a conversation he and I have been having for the last four-plus months:

I am, of course, pleased to be featured on your blog--my second time now! I was, however, surprised that you while you quoted my anxiety, you didn't give much credence to my finding a provisional foothold in the quotidian moments J. and I have shared that served to dispel those anxieties. It's perhaps a minor point, but in thinking over what they amounted to, I was reminded of a conversation that you and I had the last time we visited the "Slums of Tokyo". That conversation gave rise to a (drunken) reflection on the value of fantasy (Freud), desire (Plato), and fiction (Nietzsche)--my (un)holy trinity, of sorts.

What I hadn't included in the entry you cite is that J., upon coyly letting slide that he lacks nothing when it comes to understanding the "Great Game" of gay cruising, very quickly asked that I not divulge any details about my own exploits with him. It would make him jealous, he said, to know specifics. As it stands, I feel the same way. Were he to tell me about his own past in any sustained manner I would constantly be measuring my own efforts against those of his phantasmic partners, sure that I was never quite as good as these mysterious men I was suddenly in competition with. At the same time, I would never be able to trust his own intentions: is he trying to replicate, and surpass, my own past anonymous fucks when he does X or Y? Suddenly, it seems, the intimacy of our shared space is invaded by so many fearsome phantoms. The only way to dispel them, to exorcise them, would be to have a drop-down, anxiety-laden discussion which ultimately affirms our trust in one another. Or, to never let them in in the first place.

This leads me to wonder about the conclusion you reach: "Mutual sharing is important for a sense that you and your partner are on the same page. It's important not to think naively of him and to attribute him innocence that you don't have either." Without sounding combative, isn't trust itself precisely the suspension of disbelief, the attribution of innocence to the other? Contra Rawls, doesn't trust always lie behind a veil of truth? To trust J., I must force myself to look only at the surface of what he says, to be superficial, as Nietzsche says of the Greeks, out of profundity. In the entry I wrote after our last meeting I was rather upset with you, mostly for being wholly unwilling to see my perspective as "objective"--as if such an ideal were even worth striving for! This time, however, I'll try to strike a more measured tone. At the time I was concerned to defend the importance of fantasy as the necessary mediating "force" between lovers. Your counter claim was, and I paraphrase, fantasy distorts the truth of a person such that you cease to see the person and begin to see only what you want to see of them. I suppose the counter- counter-claim would be to ask (rhetorically), you mean you think you've actually seen him "as such"? That's all polemics, however.

I think the real profound moment in J.'s request for ignorance lies in its negatively framed affirmation of the powers of fantasy. Yes, he was saying, I know you have been around, but let me pretend you are all mine. I was more than happy to go there with him. Details would have destroyed the ability to craft a necessary fiction that could bind us in our superficial trust. This is, I think, the redemptive moment in love: to be, as it were, "born again" as someone with no past to taint the future. But this, again, is wholly fabricated, and what the relationship is, in no small measure, amounts to the continued cultivation of this fiction we live. Thus, when the German says to me, "So, what, you have to trust him?" my response was, "Yes, but it's terrifying!" Terrifying, no doubt, because there is no "natural" ground, no "truth" to hold us up, other than that which we create, which ultimately rests nothing more than the good will to live together (Hannah Arendt).

Nietzsche was ambivalent about the "Will to Truth": on the one hand he saw its Christian origins, how it destroyed the "trust in life itself," but on the other hand, he saw how it was so corrosive it would eventually eat through itself: the Christian will-to-truth culminates in Darwin, in Einstein, in Science. The quest for origins, for the "first principle," the "ground" that supports, barbarizes men, he claims because ultimately it is a negative dialectic: it can only destroy everything it touches. Nietzsche's answer, as it were, was the will to power to untruth: to make the fictions we live binding such that we can live healthy lives. I suppose my response to J.'s history was to suddenly want to find out the "truth" of his past, probably so I could master it, neuter it, and make it less scary. That is, the fantasy I had, which was "natural"--after all, I had just assumed he was naive and innocent--now needed to be affirmed by me. But not exclusively, of course: he helped.

To be honest, it no longer bothers me that he has a past, just as it no longer bothers me that I do, too. That redemptive quality to love, I think, is like a new innocence, a new beginning. I think it's that dimension Plato (and Sappho!) bring to the fore in their accounts of love: it changes you, if you let it. And, perhaps, that change can be neither "true" or "false," nor can it be "good" or "evil".