sometimes songs make you so sad, sometimes it mingles
mixing itself with everything
i prefer the cool mixes on the singles
and i like the way they sing
lyrics by stephen merritt:
you've been tearing out your hair and i've been drinking
listening to music in the dark
and i've been keeping to myself and you've been slinking
all around the trailer park.
there's no use even trying, because it's hopeless
all of our dreams are dying of overdoses
all of our plans are lying in ten-car road-wrecks
there's just no point in crying, you know it's hopeless!
eight hours in venezia. the last hour:
a new friend takes me to see the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. twilight is approaching the city, and the stench rises, as if the sewage was beginning to wade into the canals. i've got to catch a train soon, and it's beginning to get cold.
i should have been wearing jonno's jacket. oh, how appropriate. first, because my friend is telling me about renaissance paintings i have no hope of recognizing, nor understanding the significance of, especially when they are underlit, my glasses are dirty, and i am addled by travel uncertainty. in fact, the entire basilica seems to be lit by candles. it has suddenly grown dark out, rendering the interior of the basilica as a large underground cavern, surrounded by running water, inhabited by paintings that everyone except my friend, and possibly jonno, have forgotten. yet they are old and priceless to our civilization. i wandered off from my new friend. i was bored. i was worried i would miss my train and i would have to find a place to sleep in venice.
second, because of them. the couple. i saw only one first. italy is like a great prism, refracting the faces i am attracted to in new york into whole cities of people i recognize. i recognized this one, seen so many like him while i was there. generally, they have no idea that i'm cruising them, or at least laying down some serious looking in their direction. this one, however, did, and he looked back, hard. he was bearish (jonno the third?), taller, stocky, hairy, bearded, shaved head. i looked at an altarpiece with great interest, syncopating our glance-exchanges with absences, gauging his interest, verifying that he'd not just happened to notice, in the darkness, that i was unnaturally staring at him. he did the same. then i noticed the other one. looked the same. looked at me the same. a rhythm developed: me look and one looks, turn to art, me look and the other looks. repeat.
they began to cruise me. their stare, collectively, is constant, but soft. they were gauging my interest, too.
they were moving ahead of me. at greater and greater distances the connection lasted longer. i realized this just as evening vespers began, in front of a priest in the nave who'd just kneeled, facing the apse, facing me, close enough to touch. yes, i'm catholic, and those thoughts, the artistic and religious reverie, were being interrupted by an intense sexual drive. the men are beautiful, their bodies well proportioned, a sight even in their european casual raingear. slightly jarring to see in unexpected combination their gay bear beards and their causal, yet refined, attire, but it was this friction that caught my attention in all of italy, and in this ancient basilica, in sinking venice, at vespers.
i began to get excited in my jeans, in front of the priest. they wanted me in a church. that was wrong and good. i wanted to leave with them. i was afraid i'd miss my train, too.
my venetian host arrived at my side to collect me, drawing my attention. the low light covered my blush. i looked for them again. they were gone. we made for the door.
i pulled the great door back and and stood aside for my friend, extending my hand. as i did, i saw that bear number one was standing on the steps outside, directly facing the door, looking at me, as if he were waiting to be let in, spotlit from above. the other was pacing behind him. my friend refused to leave before me. although he was oblivious to the scene only a meter away, he provided an opportunity to take in my pursuers at close range. i looked them up and down. number one had a darker beard, clipped close, shaved head, a handsome round face, and dark eyes that invited me.
my friend refused to step through a second time, and so i slowly strolled through the portal, a casual gait buying me time. i passed within an arm's reach of number one. he kept looking, through the door, eyes following me until our eyes met, again, and he darted his gaze forward again. i could scarcely believe my friend had no idea what was transpiring. the couple acted as if they were studying the portal, although even an objective observer would notice that they appeared to be trying to storm it. laughable pretense because it was very dark in the piazza, no street lamps, nothing but the little light lighting the man, not the door. i continued my slow course and they shuffled off, ambling around each other like two beefy planets looking for a small star. my friend was headed toward the station, i obliged to follow. they were headed differently, across the bridge.
i also studied the facade, a pretense for studying them amble away in a different direction. my friend was bewildered. i was late for my train. he paused out of respect for an american architect with an uncommon knowledge for how certain cities work, whose writing he happened to also love, but would wait for no more than a few seconds. when i tried to take an alternate route, oh such as across the bridge, feigning my ignorance at the geography (barely feigning, venice confuses me), he said "we don't want to go that way, there is nothing in that direction." nothing was further than the truth at the moment, especially untrue in that imperious tone, and my heart fell, because we three know that i could not, and would not, ditch a new acquaintance and perfectly nice guide and critic to this strange and watery city.
but the couple: they kept looking back at regular intervals, on the bridge, until my friend and i slipped around a corner into a small alley.
look who has a website.
it's been prematurely launched so it can be part of an arts festival: premature in that he has no critical mass of writing posted, and the geek-side (which is to include far more than just coding tips) is not even ready. however, i have a little foresight on this, er, site, because i have copies of the next few entries on my hard drive. and so, i'm happy to announce it, to be the first to link it. barely, because apparently a couple of off-hand comments by me to friends, comments where i mentioned the domain name, have spread across the nation; stephen was getting emails the last week or two from people all over asking him when it was going to be up. goodness.
other stuff: he registered the domain on my cube. i made his favicon.ico, his logo, and chose some colors. that's all i did. and fuck blogger: he coded some software that allows him to post.
one of the things i most adore about stephen is his stories. he has so many. i can sit for hours, in bed or on phone, listening to him talk about stuff, where he would always peel out into a story after leaping through the world, the way burroughs had his 'routines', moments of cogency through a thicket of powerful non-sequitors. he likes to talk, and i don't think he notices that for once in my life, i'm sitting quietly listening to what someone else has to say. in fact, his stories leave me quiet, thinking, and i never have any reply. the stories are just there, like the city is just there, as a common condition that is tangible, but if you were to attempt to put your finger on any single detail, you would be unable to find it, it would slither, scamper, or dissipate, like trying to touch a cloud, or trying to touch the "real" new york.
it was stephen's brilliant stroke to put the stories in two categories. everything goes in one column or another. you'll see.
i was worried that his writing would be different. although i know stephen through our correspondence as much as through listening, his notes never became the stories. and so i was unprepared for the fact that his stories would be so perfectly transcribed. the leaps of logic were completely intact. his queens accent, or at least the outer-borough directness of thought, unblemished:
"A good spot to go and get drunk and, if lucky, pick up. You'd usually pick up fat chicks, fat German chicks. My favorite. They were easy and you could do what you wanted. "
my first impulse, when i read this entry last month, was to work on it. organize the thoughts. put the sentences in the correct order, so that each paragraph became a unit subject. expand what it was like to break up a fight in a shower. in short, to edit it. but i decided to simply correct a few glaring spelling and grammar errors (as anyone who reads this can attest, this is not exactly my forte), and save my dissatisfaction with the unexplored sections for when i saw him again, when i could lay on a pillow and interrupt with "what was that like?".
oh yes, the back-story. the unspoken given conditions. the fact that he's done all these things he's putting down in words. the fact that he's lived a wholly different life from me, and perhaps you too. yes it's true that there's always innate fascination with someone in a different world, but his experiences make me question if my life is full enough. he's weathered tides of sickness, been through every kind of sex, seen and done and is over every scene, bought houses with several long-term partners, and booked a decade of army stories that would make any gay man swoon, all the while picking up a body most men would kill their grandmothers for. and he is only eight years older than me. the diversity of his experience gives me pause because i wonder why haven't i done that?, and despite all my detailed and looping chronology, that question is transformed by his words into yet another question i really have no answer to.
but what i most adore about stephen, what makes me categorically love him, is the fact that he doesn't require a reply. his talk, his experience, is a gift to me. and now a gift to anyone who's quick enough to listen.
i usually don't link to the times, and especially the op/ed page, which i read constantly, but i was jostled by these opinions. it partially gelled my thoughts in a way that weeks of note-taking have not. i have been writing in loops, when writing at all, making endless groups of positions that i agree with and disagree with, on both sides of the board, compiling lists that whittle themselves down to obvious statements, unrelated facts, or peel off into diatribes about--.
about what? this has been the sticking point, hasn't it, little minx? despite my fevered notes, i've been unable to produce a single cogent entry on the topic they swirl around, that of impending war, because i've been unable to make a decisions about it.
perhaps indecision is the incorrect word. the quandaries arise because i am an architect with aspirations of art. i am forced to make things work, to constantly find imperfect solutions to real physical problems in the real wordless world and learn to be happy with them, all the while furtively, even schizophrenically, sustaining a belief in the evangelical power of beauty, the ability to make the world better by making it beautiful. it's my secret gift to myself, my teeth behind my smile, the reason i do anything. in short, pragmatic, with a pragmatic sense of when to be impractical. and so, i have been unable to formulate any statement on the political situations of the day.
got that? keep up.
i didn't go to the march saturday. setting aside the fact that i woke up far too late to even get near it, or that i have been extremely lethargic in this cold, or that i have mild crowd anxiety, i am deeply ambivalent about spending time amongst 300,000 people and having to deal with anyone's ideology for a whole afternoon, or at all, even though i'm aware of the power of pure numbers, and i know that most of my friends, the ones who had the foresight to get their asses out of bed early enough to get onto first avenue, share my ambivalence.
[aside: somewhere along the line i really want to march for civil rights, c'est tout.]
before you spam me, know that i've pretty much decided i'm against this war. there, i said it. but it's not because i'm against all war and killing everywhere (which i am, most of the time): it's because i think it's a stupid tactical move to up and attack an arab country that is being set up, within and without, as a victim, so long as we decide to attack it without a reason everyone cannot argue with. i also believe we have other priorities at the moment, and would hate to have another attack on an urban center in the united states be the only thing that can remind us of this.
but do not think me a perfect pacifist. in fact, i would always leave open the idea of the correct use of force, military might, when it is absolutely necessary (which it almost never is, in my opinion). there, i said that, too.
after september 11, after listening carefully to anti-war speeches left and lefter, i kept thinking "does no one allow for protection?". after all, the neighborhood i work in was attacked, on a huge scale. certainly some form of action, and by that i mean force, was allowed by these circumstances, and not revenge, but protection. yet the right immediately began a bizarrely brazen racist campaign against arab-americans in this country (and so against the rest of us), and to untruly imply that a whole host of nations were directly tied to events of that day, and that all conflicts in this world had a single solution, were part of the same war. i had to turn off the speeches, left and right, before i got too angry. i still do.
which is why the above links help to formulate some of these thoughts, inchoate as they seem to be remaining. it's a way to write something.
and i suppose it's a hidden layer in my psyche at the moment, which i ignore while constantly looking up down and around for the next attack on my beloved city, or constantly checking the news online for a pre-emptive strike by somebody. but when i examine this layer, i realize it is deeper than i thought, interfering with my day and night. i'm really tired of ineffectual and passive-progressive liberal parties (or people) that can only naysay, and not solve or lead. i'm sick and tired of feeling like citizens must continuously defend 230 year old civil rights every time a republican is elected to office. i'm tired of a passive-aggressive press that tries to be critical but leaves one feeling they were just even-handedly negative. and i'm really, really tired of anyone being called unpatriotic, especially by the secretary of defense or the whitehouse spokesperson. guys: catch up, we made it past that stuff and we talk about everything now.
saturday night i was finally awake enough to attend the opening of elmgreen and dragset's surprisingly delightful "phone home" piece at the tanya bonakdar gallery. (don't get me started on their post-9-11 show). in the main gallery: a row of 5 phone booths, complete with payphones. in the project room, a pentagon-shaped table with headphones and phone-signal activated recorders, one for each phone in the next room. i bought the bonakdar phone card and i called the only person who i knew was home saturday night, my mother. our conversation recorded and overheard, mom didn't seem to care, and she immediately asked if i'd gone to the march. under the gallery lights, i considered a lie, like "i tried to get in but couldn't". i paused and noticed that i had begun to sweat. perhaps the dimensions of the booth, and the feeling of being observed by people i couldn't see, speaking to my mom on a brand-new telephone (i can tell her anything, really, over the phone), wrapped my conscience in a hot pool of truth-telling, like those confessionals i used to frequent as a child, with someone behind the rectangular screen, and made me realize i needed to begin talking about how i really felt, whether it made sense or not, whether or not it made good sound collage for the art crowd, whether or not my friends would think i was a dick for thinking all sides of a thing. "no, but i feel kind of guilty about it." after explaining to her to myself why, i said "i'm probably going to the next one."
i'm glad i did that. i need to take some imperfect actions again. really, it's a constant struggle.
the bowels of a masonry manhattan building, crammed between other massive buildings, and things always seem clearer in this room, or anyplace underground really, even when the steam comes round, slowly occluding my vision, i wonder if this is what my mom sees when she gets a migrane and can't see, god i'm worried about her vision, god i'm worried about my own vision, and so i close my eyes, concentrate on how my thoughts today are as clear and invisible as air, and they are just there and everywhere around me (like air), so i breathe the hot air the way i open my mouth in a hot shower, drinking some of the hot fluid and let it travel down my throat, warming my insides, the way my thoughts are warm inside, palpable and real although invisible, the way i'm a real man when i wear boxers because the you-know-what is warm and positioned against my leg in a way that reminds me in a boring meeting i'm a guy after all, even though nevertheless no one can see the little actor.
first of all sickness and bad moods, how have i offended almost everyone i know, why can't i keep my mouth shut, why do i get into fights with some people over and over, how can i treat a friend or several, at some point or another, like i don't appreciate them, as if i don't value my friends as my sole means of emotional sustenance, how can i want to retreat into the latest TNG marathon for days on end and never speak to a living soul, or become irritated at all interesting people worldwide or citywide for not sending me more email (correspondance, not 'hey-heys') in the last few months, or not want to go to an after-party with celebutantes because it was snowing and i wanted to be in my bed when it snows, i ask myself how did i lose that nervous extra energy i had these last couple of months, the energy i was spinning my wheels with, that i got because i've not worked out, because i had a recurring illness that won't go away, although now that it's gone away i feel fantastic, because i woke up and i felt fantastic, as if like a binary switch i have two absolute states, on/off, and i went to the gym after not being there for a long time because it was ON.
second of all youngsters at the gym (early twentysumthin's) cruising me, fixated on my tattoos, the way i was fixated on david's, god i miss david j, and their young faces saying gosh he has a lot of those and their young minds going through the paths at once, what if i got those and should i get them, would i look good, and does he like me with try not to look too much you don't want to stare all the while they are working hard next to me trying to show off, get my attention, and i wonder at all the new NYU students working out in the gym, and a whole new generation of lil'homos have sprouted up just when i thought my gym was going straight, and i always find it funny that even after several months absence little small me can still push a lot more weight, sets, and reps that a bigger guy who just doesn't do the exercise regularly or correctly, and i feel fantastic, and by not giving them any eye or leg they work harder, a lot harder, and that turns me on, even though i don't give them any eye contact, except at the beginning when i start the set and the end a sharp tick when i return the dumbbells and turn to get a drink of water.
third strength is a state of mind, cliche but true, because upon my return to the gym after this long break i keep referring to i am mentally ready to bend spoons with my thoughts, and just so you know lifting weights is a relatively simple activity compared to that, and furthermore i, at once, begin other forms of active living, like reading, writing, and looking at handsome older gentlemen on the train, because my mind is starved for a challenge, and the physical state of my musculature is a detail, in the way the world's limited supply of oil is a simply a detail and not an obstacle to the larger issue of our love of automobiles, and by this i mean if you think big enough, certain conditions are simply problems to be solved or not solved, and certain conditions are simply wide and deep fundamental conditions of being, and the mind is what has us (me?) act on those big conditions as a way of contemplating them, as a way of figuring them, as a way of believing ourselves alive, and so the power to make things really needs to come from within to be sustained, like when i exchange with a lover six hundred thirty seven emails in about two months, or lose and find again an affection for certain automobiles, or create a large art school in georgia by building dozens of models in as many days, or am asked to consider new terms for a gallery in the city, or newly discover a need to transform some fallow terrain, like my pecs.
the geography of blogging
ps all work in this domain is copyright chad the minx.