Thursday, September 27, 2012

read my weave you wasted pony czar

Me: What was the last thing you did before reading this email?

R: The last thing I did before I read this was look up what the longest word is that can be typed on one hand of the standard keyboard position: left hand tie between aftercataracts, tesseradecades and tetrastearates. Right hand winner appears to be hypolimnion.

Me: OMG ridiculous!!! Tesseradecades!!!!! My desktop password is "defecate" because I anticipated I'd want to be eating a sandwich with my right hand each time I log into my computer! A fun game is to come up with sentences that alternate between left-hand and right-hand only words: Savages limn faces in feces milk. Try it!!!

R: breasts in area kill erect oily secrets.

Me: effete polyp secretes monopoly crazed pinky

R: read my weave you wasted pony czar

Lesson learned: I am so lucky to have the friends that I have.

Read it, you pony czar!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

December 31, 2001, 3:18 a.m.

Thoughts of a twenty-one year old.

December 31, 2001, 3:18 a.m.

H. died two days ago. He was drunk and he slipped and he fell under the Tube, the subway in London. He died like that. Some suspect suicide, but information is incredibly sketchy. He was an only child. M., his mother, collapsed when she heard the news. He used drugs. He constantly smoked pot and was either almost kicked out of or actually kicked out of Cambridge for selling drugs. He was frequently drunk.

He lived in Palo Alto for a while, and went to Paly for a year. We were freshmen, and he was in my photo class. I remember his curiosity about the edges of life, and those beautiful eyelashes that always made him look angelic, no matter what he was doing. I heard through the grapevine that he had (facetiously?) suggested to B. that they were so intelligent they could easily kill someone and get away with the murder, because they knew how to plot and plan perfectly. I was afraid of him after I heard that he’d said this, but the last time I saw him, we were both nineteen and he was rolling a perfect joint. He was spending that summer in Palo Alto, after years of living in Kazakhstan and England. I never really knew him. I thought he was a curiosity. Once K. told me that H. thought I was interesting, and she said he’d said this with a hint of a sexual suggestion, and I was at once flattered and intrigued by this grapevine knowledge. Everything I heard about him I heard about through grapevines, because have spoken to him directly very few times. When we were fourteen, we played soccer with C. in the mud pits behind Paly. C. had a crush on him and I did also, but I didn’t know how to express that and I didn’t know how C. and I would reconcile that. I knew so little about him. Years have passed since I’ve thought of him.

Today, I arrived at T.'s house late for a night of board game-playing.  T. said to K., “Does she know the news?” and immediately I knew something was very wrong. K. said, “No, I don’t think so.” And then she paused. “H. died.” T. released a paroxysm of laughter. I was shocked, holding a donut in my lap that I’d picked up to eat. K. reprimanded T. for laughing, and I felt disgusted that T. had laughed, but mostly I was scared and stunned by the news. I hardly knew him but it turned my stomach to think of it. “He was very drunk and he slipped and he fell under the Tube and was hit.” Everything turned leaden and I struggled to breathe. "Why did you have to show up late?" T. said. "We went through the same trauma earlier."

We chatted, nonsensically, about the possible circumstances of his death, and how we would tell our other mutual friends, and whose task that would be, and how his family was dealing with his death, and finally, about memories we could piece together about a person briefly and vaguely in our lives. K. knew him best among us in the living room but B. had spent a summer as his best friend. The summer capped with an expression of desire undercut by fear. B. is in Turkey with his family on vacation. K., unwilling to write him an email, left a weeping voicemail instead and now we dread to see how B. will take the news.

I’m frightened of it, the premature death of this insanely taut-skinned youth. But mostly I didn’t know H., I didn’t know him when he became "Fred" in London, and I knew almost nothing of the person who slipped under the Tube. Would he have killed himself? Why was he so drunk? Who was he with? What did he think those last drunken seconds as he was waiting for the train to kill him? What of those plans he’d made to go to grad school to major in “rocket science,” whatever that was?

K. and O. and I, unwilling to go home without having spoken, drove out to Lake Lagunita on the Stanford campus, and stood on a drain cover for two hours talking and balancing on the metal lip. When we arrived the stars were clear and the moon was full, but by two, a thin layer of storm clouds covered the moon entirely. O. didn’t say much of anything, but K. wanted to talk. And I was relieved that she expressed sentiments similar to mine; we grieved, but we didn’t know why, or really, for whom. Neither of us knew him so well, and we felt guilty in our grief as we knew we’d feel guilty if we didn’t grieve. We didn’t know if we pained for him, or for his family, or for the generic fact of a young person dying. K. loathed herself for not feeling immediately able to grieve for him as a person, but rather for the circumstances of his death and for his devastating youth. I didn’t know how to respond to her but to understand, to empathize, and to stand silently beside her on the drain, hands thrust into pockets with shoulders shrugged. We stayed late and then drove home, talking distractedly.

After we dropped off K., O. and I drove to her place in silence. I hugged O. when we arrived.  She is leaving for Seattle tomorrow. I feel like this is sort of an end, because most of our high school crew will graduate this June, and then scatter indefinitely. What now? Our friendships have survived through college, with the aid of the regularity of our returns to Palo Alto. O. is going to grad school next year and can probably be counted on to return, but where will everyone else be? I will be at Harvard, and then I will visit Palo Alto and write very similar words in my journal about the crushing ennui that is Palo Alto, this and that, etcetera. I will sit at this desk and sleep in the bed that is now four feet behind my back, and I will swim in Rinconada if I am still able to swim. I don’t want to move on. I don’t want to think that I cannot always see everyone I love, all at once. I don’t want to think that there won’t be the reassuring regularity of board game nights, or movies where we all scream and clutch at each other and annoy the other theatergoers with our commentary and giggling. O.’s leaving tomorrow, K.’s going back to Boston in four days, R. is going to Vancouver. I detest the ends of things. They leave me so hollow. I don’t even know if this is the end but I'm not considering it. I don’t know anything else. I didn’t know him so well.

Friday, September 21, 2012

twenty-two photos

1. My morning commute. This is my bike ride to work. Past the Vietnamese supermarket, left at the climbing gym, dog park on the right, under the highway to the roundabout, dodge left, dodge right, follow the train tracks, zip past the new architecture, watch out, techies from the Caltrain! and hit the Embarcadero for the cruise. The bike is named Killer, but the name is no longer appropriate because I fixed the brakes and secured the rear wheel. It has a coffee cup holder, to make the mornings easier.

2. The bay. This is the waterfront. The gantry cranes you see are at the Port of Oakland. I bike with this view for a mile. I accelerate when I go under the Bay Bridge because I remember the 1989 earthquake. Many days it is sunny. Moody days it is foggy and immersive. 

3. The space shuttle.  This is the waterfront with a space shuttle in the middle of it.

4. The piggyback. C. had told me to expect the flyover of the Endeavor, but I hadn't planned to watch. The crowds on the waterfront this morning convinced me otherwise. It was delayed coming west from Sacramento. Thirty minutes late. I was happy to have applied sunscreen this morning. The natives grew restless. Youngish smartasses I read as Googlers (they were making fun of Leif Ericson - who else would do that?) pointed at every airplane and said, "There it is!" Heads spun. Then the shuttle appeared, low to the ground, touring Oakland. It flew west over the Golden Gate. Then, finally, it passed over the Bay Bridge. Those grumbling about the delay stopped grumbling. Thousands of photos were taken. Murmurs in the crowd: "Wow." R. called it "cute": a shuttle piggybacking on a plane (with a T-38 trainer escort). I put down my camera and gaped. A seagull could have shat in a thousand open mouths then, had it had the initiative.

5. The oceanic crowd. People everywhere. The rooftops were filled. The waterfront was lined. When the shuttle dropped out of sight, the streets rang with applause. It made me shiver. "Good job, NASA," said one youngish smartass.

6. My office. My sweetheart the drunk sent flowers and macarons yesterday, to ease a difficult morning. Ordinarily I keep my things more orthogonal, but anyway it's a losing battle because the window is an arch and the muntins are angled. At least my binders are color-coded.

7. My view. I look out onto the Ferry Building marketplace. It's an internal view but there is a skylight so the light feels natural. Every day I look at the fruit stand for a while, to see if I will catch a shoplifter in flagrante delicto. It hasn't happened yet. Ordinarily this walkway is crowded with people. The din reaches my office but the reverb acoustics of the space makes it an indistinct background sound that feels sometimes like companionship.

8. From the skybridge. I am lucky to look upon this geometry every day.

9. Friday night at the Ferry Building. The mezzanine level is sometimes rented for parties. Maker's Mark held a "country"-themed one. Barrels were rolled in; a wooden shed was erected. This was late at night on a Friday. Why was I in the office? I rolled Killer through the throngs to reach the stairs. I hope my blinky lights and fluorescent green safety jacket added to the intrigue.

10. Saturday night at the Ferry Building. The Saturday before Labor Day, I worked until 4 a.m. on a research project that made me say to myself, "Fuck yeah, genius!" and also, "What the fuck am I doing, here, now, how, why?" On the weekends there is neither heat nor light in my office. I spent eighteen hours at a desk without speaking or laughing. When I left the bakers had already started the day's work. It was just the lawyer and the bakers, toiling. I paused to take this photo.

11. Market Street at 4 a.m. Here is one of the busiest streets in San Francisco, at one of the least busy times of day. Mid-Market felt like an apocalypse. No cars, just disturbed people staggering in the street.

12. Supermarket. Instead of going home that night, I biked down Market until I got to the 24-hour Safeway in the Castro. Why? Because between work and rest I need a spell of being alive. Everything was empty, quiet, and off. People inside were either restocking the shelves or homeless and staying warm. Here is where one leans a single-speed commuter bike and fills one's basket with unprocessed food.

13.  Walkways not for walking. The aisles become work sites.

14. Dairy in the dark. The supermarket shuts off the lights in the dairy section. To save money?

15. Consumer decision making. One pauses before the cheeses for five, ten minutes. Which of these fragrant plasticities to place into the basket? One molests one, and sniffs another. Finally one settles on the least likely choice, a "raspberry Wensleydale," perhaps recalling Wallace and Gromit. One's cheese selection is disgusting, but must be ingested for the next two weeks.

16. Rainbow fantastic. Unicorns have apparently come alive to sprinkle processed foods with fabulousness. Why do GOLDfish need to be multicolored? I had to leave after this, because I was losing my mind. It was 4:30 in the morning.

17. Fish car. From Castro to the Mission is mostly downhill. I threw my weight into the turns and hopped over the tracks at Church. Nobody saw me. Then I ran into this, parked on my street. A Burning Man art project, a dusty van that looked like a piranha. This day turned out to be one of the best I've had in San Francisco.

18. Bumper stickers. The English teacher whose classroom hosts our mock trial practices is the best kind of English teacher, someone who lets you feel free to be your weird-ass self.  I guess that is what happens when you love expression. Here is her podium, which captures only a third of the bumper stickers posted around her classroom.

19. Double rainbow. B. stepped out of my house recently and screamed, "Oh my God!!" This is what she saw. The color of the atmosphere was an unreal shade of pink. Directly in front of us was the most magnificent double rainbow, visible end-to-end, spanning the sky. We walked out to 18th Street, where people were leaving restaurants to look at the sky. I overheard conversations people were making to their loved ones, to share the moment: "You have to look outside right now . . . "  I left breathless voicemails. A woman in a van driving the opposite direction craned her neck out the driver's side window while still rolling the car forward, exclaimed, "DAAAAAMN that shit is HELLA beautiful!!!!" It only lasted fifteen minutes.

20. Dahlias. They're in bloom at the dahlia garden next to the conservatory of flowers in Golden Gate Park. Mom, Dad, Boo and I toured it last weekend.  Daaamn that shit is hella beautiful!!!

21. S&M flag. I stepped out of the Muni yesterday and heard a popping overhead. It was this bedroom-sized S&M flag snapping in the wind above Castro Street. This weekend is the Folsom Street Fair. This city plays to its strengths.

22. Naked pedestrian. I saw this man strolling down Castro immediately after I noticed the S&M flag. He is wearing flip-flops, sunglasses, and a fedora. I happened to be walking the same way as him for four blocks, so I took this surreptitious photo (haste indicated by finger in lower half of photo). Most people didn't look twice, until he passed, and then they gaped. He ambled along. I bubbled with delight. A tourist murmured, "Is that even legal?" I responded, "It's legal, but it's cold." Because it was shady, and windy, and cold.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

work culture

This was a journal entry from my last day at work at my last law firm. Just some thoughts on the work environment/culture that I need to be happy:
I dressed in a suit yesterday. I spent some money putting this outfit together, but I wanted to go out with a bang. Black suit, skinny black tie, red silk pocket square, high heeled spectator shoes, pompadour. People noticed. I showed up at my going away party and they gawked. I wonder why I waited so long to be this person. I wonder if I had been more daring with my expression earlier, I might have been happier? 
I stopped by John's office to thank him for teaching me legal writing. This was sincere. As much as I've been unhappy with his management style and the culture he creates around him in the last two years, John is a fine lawyer and a fine person to learn writing from. I told him that I remember working with him as a summer associate and him being the only person the entire summer to pay attention to the work I was doing. I said, "I learned a lot just watching you take the first draft to the final." He said, "Stay out of trouble," a few times, because I don't think he knew what else to say. The first time he said it, I said, "Wait - no. I can't guarantee that I will."
I asked him, finally, about having ass-length hair and facial piercings at the start of law school. I wanted to know where that person went. We talked about his nipple piercings. I told the story of Jessica Rockstar shooting me in the face with her breastmilk, how the piercing left holes that made the spray come out like a showerhead. He talked about his brother's Prince Albert doing the same. Yesterday at my going away party I felt like I could express my personality, say the slightly off color things that are so important for me to say. Not even risky stuff, but things like, "I want to eat my own name" when offered a slice of "Good luck, [Bananarchist]!" cake. M. talks about being a prankster at work, of disregarding hierarchy and being playful. I'm fascinated. This is the person I need to be in my workplace, otherwise I'm not going to like it. Why did I wait so long to wear a suit? 
I took the suit to Home Depot and Ikea yesterday. I was running some errands. People really don't know what to do with a person of indefinite gender wearing a tailored women's suit, a necktie, a pocket square, and high heels. Double takes and stares. The kind of staring where you look back and they look away quickly, as if they were just looking at something in your direction. This used to bother me so much when I was young. When I would get called sir. I would feel the urge to correct. When people would say, "Are you a man or a woman?" But now, the running dialogue in my head is not that they stare because they hate or judge or anything negative. I say to myself, they stare because they have never seen a person so striking and attractive. If someone asks me, "Are you a man or a woman?" I want to answer, with a smile, "I don't know! Take your pick!" and lick the side of their face. The latter I mean metaphorically only. I wore a chest binder yesterday for the first time. Note to self: ask boi friends how to get in and out of the thing without dislocating a shoulder.

Monday, September 10, 2012

a lesson on dominance

Watch this performance of power, then pant. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

richard bigman

Readers, for many reasons, the absence.

One, the last year involved considerable low-level angst of my own doing, precipitated by life changes I was pretty smug about at this time last year but turned out came faster than I was ready to process. The ambiguity is deliberate because somebody told me not to write the specifics, says the asshole who signals the specifics in the very sentence claiming to suppress them. At the lowest levels I found myself asking my empty office, aloud and alone, "Is this it?" It's hard to write when one is not happy with oneself.

Two, Angst beseitigt, I write now for my best reader, in private. Sometimes the parts that would not trigger diabetes make it onto the blog, e.g., thoughts on Justin's Beaver, but you're really just getting the dregs.

Three, this blog is at 972 posts. 972 posts. EIGHT YEARS. I told myself long ago that I wanted to do something with it before I hit 1,000 posts. A child born when I started this blog could have grown big enough to span the distance between San Francisco and Portland, Maine. Yet this blog remains the same old shit it was eight years ago, evidence of my continuing failure to mature past the "Why do girls make me cry???" stage of boihood development, now with legal vocabulary. Well, I cannot blame the girls, because in pari delicto melior est conditio possidentis.

What in the fuck am I saying?!!!! One thing this blog has taught me is how to be totally obscurantist in my writing, because I want to share, but I am afraid to be too public. So I just write in puzzles! SOLLY! The first time I joined an online dating website (screenname "DogEater") I embedded my personal email address into the profile, in an acrostic, to see if anyone would bother to decipher it and write me directly. Nope! I dismissed the entire universe of online daters as literalists I would not want to date anyway.

Two years ago I took a memoir writing class. Not much came out of it, except I wrote notes on one of my classmates and said to myself, "I'm going to post this on my blog in two years, when I have let enough time pass that there is little chance the subject would discover his portrait."

Well, it's two years later, so you get to read about Richard Bigman. The name is slightly changed but is very true to the original, in spirit.

Richard Bigman

This class is giving me insight into one of the most self-centered people I have ever met. The very pejorative meaning of the word is hard to escape but that's not exactly what I mean - Richard is not cruel and petty, but merely unable to conceive of the world as separate from his inner life. He is like those infants you read about in child developmental psychology textbooks who delight in peekaboo because they believe the thing disappears when they cannot see it. Though he is mostly blind to other people's needs, and this leads him to say and do appalling things, he is nonetheless appealling because he is friendly, positive, scruffy, stupid, and well-meaning. In this way, Richard reminds me of America.

A few examples of what I mean:
  • Professor tells a story about her afternoon. She is riding the bus in San Francisco, reading a book of poetry. A man approaches her, looks at her face, looks at the book of poetry, and says, "Now that's an old girl with a dream." A kind of mean but funny thing to say. I point out that it requires insight to see a poetry reader (especially an older woman reading on a city bus) as a dreamer. Richard follows up: "Oh yes, was this person black? He sounds like he was black. Black people are just so insightful! They are just more intuitive than other people. They just really feel things. Have any of you all found this to be true?" He looks around the room, nodding, expecting support, not noticing the horrified rictuses on our frozen faces.
  • Professor asks us all to bring an object with deep personal meaning to discuss at the start of class. Her object is a fragile coral necklace - so fragile, in fact, that it breaks as she is handling it, scattering red beads across the table. She gingerly re-ties the strand and passes it around for us to inspect. We each cradle the necklace like a baby bird, handing it carefully to the next person. When it is Richard's turn to pass it on, he drops it on the table and slides it four feet to the person sitting to his left. Nobody notices this, because somebody else is talking, except Professor, who gives the necklace a quick glance, and me.
  • Richard tells a story about the year he spent living on an Outer Banks island after his divorce. He picked up some new hobbies, including collecting sea shells. Around the holidays, he thought it would be a cute idea to write messages onto the shells - one letter per shell - and send them to his friends. M-E-R-R-Y C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, and so on. "When they got the packages, they didn't understand," he said. "It was just jumbled up letters." It wasn't some fun word game he was playing with them. He just failed to understand that letters on sea shells would become jumbled in a shipping box and would be hard for other people to decipher.
  • He is obsessed with sex. He is a flaccid-bodied 65 year-old man, but he is obsessed with sex. His stories feature girls' tits and asses; not in any crass way, but in that deeply interior and self-centered way, as in when his protagonists think, "Why do girls wear thongs in churches? They must know how easy we men are!" He also says, in his stories, that he knows when it is gross when older men hang around younger women, hoping. He praises stories as "sexy" if they involve sixteen year-old girls getting a little bit of tongue kissing from 37 year-old men.
R.W. brought a game called Stix and Stones to game night last Friday. It's sort of like Pictionary, except with a limited set of drawing utensils. You're given a clue, and then given a certain number of plastic twigs and rocks to illustrate it. Gets pretty difficult when your teammate draws a three-stick triangle and you guess "hat" but he means "pizza slice." The game really shines a light on the dark inner workings of another person's mind. It's all about the execution of an inner vision. For example, I tried to draw "UFO" - it looked so good in my head! - but on the coffee table looked exactly like a vulva. O.L. made something that looked like the kind of pronged branch you use to spear marshmallows for roasting; the clue was "gondola." S.E.'s two-story house with a chimney? "Ice." One woman illustrated something patently nonsensical, directed us to look at a certain portion of it, and could not understand why we did not see it as "tunnel."

I think this is what is going on with Richard. He sees something in his head. Most people see things in their heads. What's notable is that Richard's vision is farther from the truth, and he believes his vision much more strongly than most people do theirs. Add to this the fact that he is a white man named "Dick Bigman" who feels entitled to speak his mind, and you get this very weird, chummily ignorant man who cannot control at all what he thinks and says. I am more appalled then intrigued, but nonetheless I am still intrigued.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

so happy i could die

I set up a music studio in my basement. Here's a piece of candy I recorded. Thinking of you.