i know it's there.
down the road.
on the ground.
at the corner.
more important than food.
a building, romanesque, mostly, but the only one in a field of gray, like the courthouses in the fields.
it waits for me every time.
it's the turning point of this journey. the trip from home to the grandparents' farms.
(or the trip back, it happens both ways).
it's the midway point, or, more precisely, the first recognizable point that is beyond midway.
(this happens both ways too.)
too far to go back, but a magical long ways still.
after all, i'm travelling on the air, floating over endless gray fields, the indifferent fields that spawned me.
i glide slow.
once, in this journey, the fields were red. in fact, everything was red, a deep brown-red. the country intersection is red. the building is red. the air is red. the sky. the roof. the stones, the archways, no people, just me, red, flying in, slowly.
the only point of culture i think but don't hate me for saying that.
actually, it was:
the only point of culture i think but isn't it strange saying that.
the only point of culture, as i know it in my adult life, that of artifice, motivations that lead to building something beautiful, as one would a warm house.
but this is bigger than a house.
because i've flown this way, many times, i know there is a bronze gas station around the corner, low canopy attached to the old building like an appendix, but the same color, one dead pump, a lit sign the only color.
(this account is not my adult life?)
too small to be a courthouse, and around where the gas pump is there's a thin wing that arches over the intersecting road, curling around the other side to make a street front, as if a loggia, as if to make a little urban moment amongst counties of gray fields for grain.
no matter how high i decide to fly, i must always pass under the archways over this road. they are low.
i've flow over this place, flown under the arches, approached the pump from the parking lot, from the road, from the sky, and can now look around, in my mind, the windows, the roof, quickly or at my usual lethargic rate.
anticipation seeps in like boot oil through a sock, machine grease through hay, and it touches me.
i want to recoil, but i cannot.
i cannot connect this moment to the land.
yet it has the same color.
cannot connect the color to anything.
the architectural style unlike anything in my home state.
my birth state.
i'm not in europe.
i cannot connect the moment to the long monotonous stretches before, or to the ones after, on my trip.
i have left home, one way or another, and i'm nowhere near anything but myself.
three home-made commercial puns, seen on my trip to ohio and virginia this last week:
paint misbehavin' craft painters / retouchers in leipsic, ohio, home of my dad's side of the family for about four generations.
more faux your money faux painting service, fairfax, virginia.
just bead it place where my brother and sister-in-law bought my christmas present this year.
late in the day yesterday, one of my employers snuck up next to me and handed me a brown paper-wrapped book, and flipped it over to show an early payroll envelope taped to the back. they'd given everyone books to suit them (difficult for me; i have a ton of architecture books), and in my case a lil'sumpin extra. lagniappe
so by the time i got to dinner with sah, i was in a wonderful mood. can finally pay off my credit card bill and start saving for an apartment. a special gift from people who were thinking about me. sah also showered me with two gifts, gifts special because he knew they would only have pleased me. i was also very surprised: i'd told him, and everyone else on my list, that "daddy came up a little short this year" and i wouldn't be buying gifts for anyone.
it's that time of year. i'm only in town for a few more hours, the threshold of a gap in in-new-york-city time, a gap i can never conceive of until i'm on the runway at la guardia ready to take off. a gap that i mistakenly believe, beforehand, is filled with a block of time from the past, i've done it so many times: go home to the farm, see parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. see the land, remind myself about independent architectural projects i've been meaning to get started on. hear my heart beat among the cold wind in a field. fly to another state and visit brother and his family, listen to my three-year-old niece exclaim "uncle" and my name. while away ennui in suburbs of an uninteresting city. but time away from this, the emailing, the calling, the posting, the subway, the dating, the relating, the laying, the always-in-communication, the exchange of words and feelings as if they were a continuous flow, represented. the gap shows me that there is such a thing as my family, and people with emotions, and that they do not flow continuously, and that that is what gives one time to be inspired.
the threshold of the gap is preceded by weeks of heavy work; my fun client signed a contract with the contractor for my loft project yesterday, after weeks of tough negotiations; a different, crazy, client is calling me constantly from london with stressful trivia, and accusational tone, and his wife has the nerve to call me the next day to tell me his holidays would be better if i think of but don't tell him answers he told me he didn't even want me to think about the day before; a third client also trying to get prices and everything else wrapped up; barely time to shop for the little gifts for my family; holiday parties amongst friends and acquaintances where i feel like the only single man, and the only gay man, among a sea of married-and-having-children-and-owning-property couples.
i've written about these things before, as i'm sure my future editors will tell me, but i wanted to tell you, reader, that the this year they combined differently, and like all series, i take delight in the minor differences in sequence. this year, less feeling blue because i'm single (a little less), more stress from trying to wrap up affairs on several large projects before the holiday break (a little more), and a tiny feeling of joy in the last forty-eight hours (tiny but growing).
growing because i was on the train wednesday, coming home from the gym, a few days after my entry about that station, walking past a guy shorter than me, with a five o'clock shadow, deep eyes peering over a handsome nose, and a young gaze that was precocious, soft, and mine. we got on the same car, sat across each other in a way where we could casually glance at each other, make eye contact. i smiled, and, a first, he smiled back. i got off at his stop and he shyly asked for my number. i kept seeing his eyes that evening; i went to a birthday party at a hideous club where the birthday boy, a pal, was deejaying. i never saw him. the crowd was circuit muscle queens, and none of them would smile. i kept thinking about this guy's face, his casual dress, his lovely body, his height, and the words he said to me with his eyes. you are so very beautiful to me, can we say hello?
it's hard to believe that there was a time when i looked at the west 4th platform through the eyes of someone who was not out, not looking out for men (outright), completely not at ease with who i was, not see the material and structure of the station as an extension of my self, an old familiar friend. hard to believe that there existed a time when i was not perfectly comfortable with glancing over the old glossy green paint on the columns, the stained tiles, the even more stained concrete deck, the rat-maze tracks, to find one other lovely who would be going my direction.
it's hard to believe i witnessed an attack. i've spent so little time thinking about it lately that to recall anything i've had to allot time remembering the exact timing, the sequence, my exact emotional state, the sounds, the singularity, the confusion, the horror, unable to look away, all so that i might place myself, as i would on a map, and make the futile realization, now occupying the same space in my head as its fiction, that there was once a city, at the time not-alien, but now not here, that used to have two huge male twins over it, always facing each other while looking around.
last night (this morning). returning from several parties in red hook, getting dropped off at lafayette and houston in my friend's 1980 diesel mercedes wagon, 12:45 a.m., suddenly seasonal weather meaning that the hour, the location, and the atmosphere sees every wedding reception in the area getting out and spilling to the street corners, and the silly denizens of upper nolita are all ready to go home. the streets were filled with automobiles, mostly yellow, a surfeit of cabs, but every one of them already taken, and as many people were waiting on every corner for one. living in a state of always-having-a-cab because i've been trained by one of my employers in the art of always-being-able-to-catch-a-cab, my situation last night a rupture in my normally continuous city, the rupture where the terrain is alien, each yellow car a simultaneous hope and rejection. feelings of native entitlement (denizens of nightlife should get cab priority?) assuaged by a useful feeling: satisfaction that i know how to find the best subway in the area and get my ass home for free.
2. TECHNICAL (YOU'RE SO)
F:133211 G:355433 F G
You have prosthetic wings
You drive a surveillance van
You're always doing seven things
You write the code for brain implants
email is fast. (you already know)
There are no papers on you
The law doesn't cover what you do
You and your think tank entourage
Are all counterculture demigods
email offers me an expanded emotional self. my best friends don't live in town anymore. my mother and father have become closer to me than ever. (happily and mostly)
You're so technical, you go
hacking around the world
You're so technical, baby,
Are you a boy or a girl?
email is how i got to know cooter, brad, marypat, steve, jonno, matthew, dante, david k., phil, henning, jocko, dean, victor, L, charlie, and several others. (chronologically)
You have some extra limbs
You look like a Swiss army knife (with wings)
Dance like a Hindu deity
Best friends with Timothy Leary
email dismembers, multi-members, and re-members in a productive way. it taught me how to write. (unhinged)
You're so technical, you go
hacking around the world
You're so technical, baby,
Are you a boy or a girl?
email put me to work all over, from new york, right now. (distance delivery)
You're a Libertarian
The death of the Left was you
You look like Herbert von Karajan
You live underneath the zoo
email takes time. (you don't think so but)
You're so technical, you go
hacking around the world
You're so technical, baby,
Are you a boy or a girl?
email is anything because it can be anything. (i can say that)
some nights one can't get a break: the coatcheck guy, who has repeatedly spurned impassioned declarations of undying love, promises of fealty, loyalty, piggish submission, and several dinner parties a year, all ignored, he was looking impossibly even more sexy than normal, with shirt unbuttoned completely, hanging off his ample chest.
(in reality i can barely speak to this one: he's just that attractive to me, so over the top that i do, actually, feel the strength in my legs sapped immediatly upon spotting him. kryptonite: rock of your home planet conflicting with your powers while on an alien planet.)
overheard while at bar number one, taking in a swell dj and some wonderful pool playing (after an englishman called me a "consumate american"):
"he's got a website."
[crowd, recoiling]: "eww!"
"but he's formidably intelligent"
i look over, they were looking at me. after some time, i left.
bar number two, another group of queens spotting me upon entering:
[to friends, but while looking at me, so overheard]: "go back to 516 from where you came"
is it possible to write without explicitly connecting anything? to take notes artfully, in time, and let the meaning emerge, on it's own? do events connect themselves, inside one's head, despite their apparent disparity?
the bitches who made the 516 comment were still laughing about it, after i'd given my coat to the coatcheck guy.
i limited myself to two drinks last night, an exercise i attempt unsuccessfully often, but i was then depleted of dollar bills, and wanted some for the jukebox. i went to the bar to buy the forbidden third drink, but only to break a ten. some piece of pleasure, juke manipulation in a bar where you can't give it away (Martin later: damn, you looked really good last night), a very kind and happy obese bartender who loves me, and a bonus drink. he took other orders efficiently and in the order they were waiting, not a small task in the bustling, jostling, savvy-ordering new york bar crowd. he kept me in order, but pointed me out by saying "i'll be with you in a second honey." after twenty seconds and six fulfilled drink orders, he pours my pint and says "it's on the house. i'm really sorry you had to wait so long" and whisked himself away with other drink orders, not giving me a chance to tip him (which would have required him interrupting his flow and break my bill).
no juke. a buddy only had a few coins. someone put "ABC" on again. i took a piss in protest, for pleasure, and so i could get a look at coatcheck again. a good friend caught me doing this, perfectly aware of my hopeless and abherrent crush.
there was a moment on the L, as the train slowly slided into 6th avenue, my closed eyes just as slowly opening, and the top half of all the characters from the same era, different from my own, the early 1930s, long shapeless coats, flapper hats, sharp suits, sharp overcoats, painted faces, outlined eyes, lashes, lips, trim ties, cheap brooches, cheap beads. the platform inhabitants were dispersed yet consistent in costume, so it appeared, again, as if i had moved not only east by two avenues, but back in time by several generations. they entered my car when the doors opened, and the chronological displacement was complete: shoes matched outfits. i was wearing camo pants and my running shoes, still taking pleasure in pre-september camo attraction (a beautiful, useful, tactical, tactically displaced in an urban environment, never repeated but always the same, pattern). in dress i could not have been more different, more individuated, more alone.
is it possible to have the entries connect themselves, internally? write the day, the night in pieces, but as an infinite whole, and reassemble them when they reach a critical mass? will i ever need to reassmble them, or can i make oblique notes here and have a series of editors, in the future, have a take on their interpretation? are events, so disconnected, self-organizing? will the successive projects be issued in volumes or merely chapters? how useful is the time/date stamp in this situation? links at littleminx or will wholly separate domain names be devoted to each?
then i began talking to this pecan-pie-perfect fellow who rolled his own cigarettes, and was charmed by the fact that i could recite Wilde's quip regarding the pleasure of that object, and who, like many attorneys i know, had as ambivalent an attitude toward his career as he had admiration for the creative bent of my own. i had to keep him in the conversation, adding energy, which he did not deflect, but did not sustain much on his own, clearly pleased by the experience of having me chat politely and cleverly. after some time, he excused himself to go to the bathroom, perfectly polite way to break from a new acquaintance. no problem, i'd enjoyed the conversation. but as he slid by, after his small but pleasant excusing words, he somehow had a hold of the back of my upper right arm, although he had passed me on my left, and had my hand in his, squeezing both arm and hand, and prolonging the goodbye with a smile and more words.
later, as i left, i waved to him in the middle of his group of friends. he reached through, parting the crowd, and again grabbed an arm, hand, touching my tummy, and whispered to me "i'm so glad i met you" as i smiled and left the exquisite, fractured, aesthetically pleasing yet physically unsatisfyingly pleasure of his kind face.
friday, the client for the loft decided on a contractor. we are almost left the phase bidding and negotiation and begun construction contract administration.
(i know you don't really care, but the difference, beyond those noted here, has enormous billing consequences: bidding and negotiation ends our lump-sum billing and on to the more profitable hourly rate that accrues during construction).
bidding has given me my first taste of contractors who want to build the project because of it's design. that's right, the project that will be the first test of my design freedom in the office, in the built world, has attracted interest in its own right. contractors are generally attracted to a project because of its ease: few unknown conditions, ease of assembly, minimum of complicated connections. these laws of construction (word: economy of scale) are as firm and unspoken to an architect--they are laws that must always be accounted for, for every project everywhere--as the natural laws that govern the phycial properties of materials, industrial production, and structures.
yet this project has reversed gravity, so to speak: two contractors were trying to out bid each other, lower their prices as much as they could so that they could participate in the project's extreme eccentricities, technical challenges (which will entail some not-profitable testing and exploration), and unresolved regions. they want to do it because it's new, unknown, and challenging.
to be sure, the contractors in question are also going for my ego: complimenting the designer (they know it's not my employer in this case) as a way to grease the wheel, so to speak. but they both know me very well enough to know that i'll only use that to my advantage on behalf of my client (ask for more reductions in cost, ask for more consessions in expertise) so that cannot be the true motivation for being so negotiable. and at any rate, going for my good side would be convincing the wrong person: the client ultimately decides who the contractor will be: after all, the legal document in construction is between my client and the contractor: the architect simply mediates the discussion. in fact, if i were to directly recommend one contractor over another, beyond simply discussing my past experience with each (facts) and what we've discovered through the bidding process (facts), i would be opening up the firm to serious legal liability. the client decides, with the help of information collected by the architect.
so they like the design, and have become excited by the material challenges (challenges our client is only now becoming aware of) this project poses. in fact, the design, completed in april, has ceased its dormancy and begun its life again, this time awakened by interest from outside parties who will be paid to build it. the contractors are adding to their simple contractual obligations (execution of the project) by lending their imaginations to the project's possible life.
the project has ceased its momentary petrification as a series of construction drawings, specifications, and material samples, and is again a thing that is indeterminate, always moving, perceptually peripheral, and having a presence.
i came out in 1996, and became sexually active only after the first wave had happened.
i've never known anyone who died of aids.
i've never known anyone who has gone from hiv positive to having aids.
i can, in fact, count the number of people i know as acquaintances who are hiv positive with four fingers. (and one for people i consider friends, coincidentally).
why did this make me feel guilty, and liberated, before i found about the friend (who i only found recently has been positive for some time), as if because it hadn't affected people i'm emotionally attached to, it somehow wasn't as dangerous to me, as real a threat, as large a social problem, with any political ramifications?
what are the odds that my first sex act put me at risk, darling?
how easy would it be for me to ignore the political, economic, social consequences of aids? for you? why?
how easy would it be for me to take comfort in medical achievements of the last ten years, the seduction of protection through sheer technical advancement of my culture, and use that as part of risk assessment?
why have people developed a taste for risk as component of sexual attraction?
how easy would it be for me to slip up, not use protection, think this isn't my time, the odds are in my favor? why are these sophisms more persuasive than ever, even as they become more difficult to sustain?
ps all work in this domain is copyright chad the minx.