Wednesday, 29 April 2009

I Love You but I Can't Say So

My computer is over five years old. The letters have been worn off most of the keys for ages now. Two days ago I got her a new battery & power cord (farewell duct tape!). I love her and I plan to keep her as long as possible.

But the old operating system limits any number of possible software updates. This can be good--I can barely do anything on Facebook anymore, for instance--but also not so good. There are now several blogs on Blogger whose comment functions don't work for me anymore. I think you all have the same template more or less.

So this is a confidential post to say I love you, but I can't tell you so on your own blogs. I can't even email you, 'cause you don't have addresses listed on your blogs, either. I love a good tease as much as the next guy, but I'm starting to worry you think I'm just not that into you. Not the case.

The main suspects (but I'm missing some, I know it):
Asphalt Cowboy: Dude, we have a lot in common. Your sex stories are awesome, and B.C.S. sounds like a ton of fun. Go fucking Sox.
Dyke Evolution: I'm glad you're blogging. It really does help with the tough times. And may you get some proper butch loving a.s.a.p.
Good Ship Priory: You started out with a brilliant first post on trans issues in mainstream science. Now you have a teaser up about femme invisibility. I wanted to encourage you to write more, but I couldn't.

Monday, 27 April 2009

How to Fail to Wash Your Car in 10 Easy Steps

1. Get in your car and wash the inside of the windows.
2. Open one window so you don't asphyxiate yourself. Don't feel bad about the fumes or getting your leg stuck when climbing from back to front seats. It's all down hill from here.
3. Start the car and head towards car wash.
4. Avoid collision with dude blowing through four-way stop.
5. Get glared at by pretty pedestrian for honking at dude.
6. Drive past car wash, confused by the maze of contruction on the street outside.
7. Bang a U-ie.
8. Return to car wash and enter only non-closed, non-busy self-service bay.
9. Get informed by fellow car-washer that the bay is broken.
10. Back slowly out through contruction maze and return home. At least the inside of the windows are clean, and surely you didn't have anything better to do with that half hour.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Number 100

That'll teach me to suggest I'm going to start daily blogging. Not so much apparently.

While I was gone I won an award from Joliesse, who started her blog not long ago but has already covered all sorts of interesting topics, on being femme, on mental illness, on topping vs. bottoming, on whether or not spring has started, and that's just what comes to mind. Thanks, Joliesse. There's a bunch of stuff I'm sposta do now, like reposting a very pink & flowery picture & awarding it to some other folks. (You want it, Jess? I know how you like pink flowers...) Anyway I'm feeling lazy and maybe I'll do it one of these days or maybe not. Still, I was very touched by Joliesse's post and her kind words.

This is my hundredth post. (I think. Could be 99 or 101. I deleted one for privacy reasons a while back and I forget how it affected the numbering.) 100 or so posts in a little over a year. I'm amazed at how much I've written and how much has changed. Maybe the biggest suprise, but also the nicest, is the way that I feel just like myself these days. When I think back to myself, oh, 18 months ago, it's like looking through a fog, or at a drugged zombie version of myself. It's hard to make myself believe I really was that person, living in that body and making those choices. Weird how the mind works.

I went to a drag show at my college the other night and found it a strangely emotional experience. I was out in college but I didn't have any queer friends or community. I went to the gay group once or twice but never saw anyone who was anything like me (it was only 4 or 5 people total each time so that's not exactly a shock). I used to think of my college experience as one of the happiest times of my life, but walking around before the show, I thought maybe it was a bit more complicated than that. There was joy to be sure, the sheer elation of having gotten out of my childhood home and the fierce joy of the crazy quantity of intellectual learning I did then, but it was a strange, solitary kind of exaltation. Whole days and weeks would go by when I hardly spoke to anyone outside of formal interactions, especially in the first couple of years. I experienced a new kind of happiness but I spent a lot of time desperately lonely, too, on the verge of breakdown or hallucination. The drag show, though, was all kinds of awesome and I was glad to be there.

Work-related stuff shows no signs of letting up in the near future, and then there are real-life distractions too. I'm about to run out of this cafe where I'm typing this after dropping off a job application and pick up FG and try to squeeze in dinner and some more work and maybe something a little more intimate before a birthday party. And that's just tonight. But even if another long time goes by before I post again know that I am reading your blogs as often as I can and am grateful every day for you all. And I'm working up to another 100 posts, just you wait.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Book Meme

My sexy FG did this meme and I'm doing it, too. I'm feeling very happy this week & pleased with life, in spite of having insane amounts of work to do and deadlines looming, and I just feel like blogging. Maybe I'll blog every day this week just for the heck of it. (Hello, ecstasy half of spring! Hello! So glad you've dropped by!)

1) What author do you own the most books by?

Salman Rushdie. One of my good childhood friends loaned me his children's chapter book, "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," when I was a 14 or so and I was hooked. ("Look out! Slow down! Don't be funny! Life is precious, cars cost money!") That summer I took "Midnight's Children" out of the library, feeling very daring. The public librarians in my town were very old-fashioned and barely approved of kids being in the adult section at all, much less borrowing thick foreign novels by authors with fatwas against them. I mean, it just wasn't done. Anyway I worked my way through the book that summer on the porch, mesmerized by the language and the descriptions of Indian life and history. I even bought myself a jar of mango chutney. Over the next several years I worked my way through most of the rest of his books: "Shame," "Satanic Verses," "The Moor's Last Sigh," "Imaginary Homelands." I bought "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" new when it came out in hardcover and devoured it. I living in California when "Fury" came out and was distraught at having to wait several extra days for it to be shipped from the East Coast. But, ultimately I didn't think much of it, and I haven't read any of his more recent stuff, either.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?

I think I don't have any repeats. I give them away when I end up with them.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

No. Silly rule. Like Winston Churchill supposedly said, this is English up with which I cannot put.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

Vina Apsara from "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" (Salman Rushdie)

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon. I think it's brilliant. Every time I read it I find something new. And I also find the language oddly soothing.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

Hm, I'm not really sure. I read a lot of cotton candy books when I was ten, Encyclopedia Brown and kids' mysteries and Baby Sitters Club (yes, really). Life didn't get interesting for another year or so, when Joseph Heller's "Picture This" sent me on a binge of reading grown-up books with Big Ideas. Oh, and I discovered and inhaled the complete Sherlock Holmes.

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

I don't know, something I wanted to cite that I probably just skimmed.

8 ) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Judith Butler, "Gender Trouble"

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

I wish I could say Leslie Feinberg's "Stone Butch Blues" but I'm not sure it would work. I'm not sure they would get it. Wait, I mean 'everyone in the world' here. I'm only tagging Jess, of course. Jess has already read it and definitely got it.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?

Me! The first person to win for their blog! (Hey, I could use the prize money, ok?)

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

No idea. I'm horrible about watching movies. I drive FG crazy with movie deprivation. I'm a terrible partner.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?

See above.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.

I think I dreamed I was in Jean Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear" once. But it was a long time ago. I don't really remember.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?

Can I go for magazine here? For several years in my late teens/early twenties I had an unhealthy adoration for "Men's Health". You're stunned, I'm sure.

15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics" There's so much brilliance there and it's not easy to read but it was so worth it. Lucky for me I was reading it on a train that broke down and I sat there in the sunny train seat for two hours and soaked it in, and after that, it made a lot more sense. I saw her speak recently, too, and again my brain felt like it had had a workout. I'm a fan.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?

Dunno. I have trouble keeping them straight.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

I like the Russian novels I've read: "Anna Karenina" and "Crime and Punishment" leap to mind. I almost let a boat float away when I was reading the latter secretly on a summer job in college. But I love French literature too, though I have an idiosyncratic view and modern & Francophone taste: Michel Butor rather than Victor Hugo, Maryse Condé rather than George Sand.

18) Roth or Updike?

Roth. I haven't read anything by Updike but I thought "Portnoy's Complaint" was so much damn fun. The scene where he wanks with the liver...

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

Like my darling FG, I have only read Sedaris. He made me laugh.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

All of the above, though none with special enthusiasm.

21) Austen or Eliot?

All of the above: Jane Austen I came to late, but love; George Eliot's "Middlemarch" is a favorite; and hey, I quoted T.S. Eliot a few posts back, I can't be dissing him now.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

American fiction. I didn't even finish "Huckleberry Finn". That's how bad it is.

23) What is your favorite novel?

I don't really have one. I have about 25 favorites. And don't worry, I'm not going to list them here. Each favorite is so special that I couldn't rank it.

24) Play?

Not sure, I'm not that into plays. We just saw "Endgame" (Samuel Beckett) though and damn that was some good stuff.

25) Poem?

I haven't read as much poetry as I'd like. I really like W.B. Yeats and what I've read of T.S. Eliot.

26) Essay?

I like Joan Scott's "Gender as a Category of Historical Analysis"... it's smart and well-constructed as an essay in my opinion. Not sure it's my favorite but it's what I thought of.

27) Short story?

The Bank Robbery by Steven Schutzman. Gotta agree with FG on this one. (And don't go pressing any alarm buttons or I'll blow your head off.)

28) Work of nonfiction?

Judith Butler, "Gender Trouble"

29) Who is your favorite writer?

See answer for novels above.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

Oh, what a mean question.

31) What is your desert island book?

"Ulysses" by James Joyce. I know I could get more each time. As it is, I don't have time for even a second round.

32) And… what are you reading right now?

My own fucking dissertation. (Oops, did I say that?)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Red Letter Day

Friday was a red letter day for me: I changed the oil in my own car for the very first time.

First off, I have to say I was incredibly fortunate to have the generous guidance of a genuine Butch Big Sister aka Dawn on MDI. (Not my real sister, of course. I don't even have a sister. I'm being Metaphorical here.) Anyway, Dawn provided extensive consultation on the question of tools and preparation, and told me to call her once I had the car jacked up and ready to go.

It's going to be difficult to convey here how off the charts excited I was. When I bought the tools & equipment, it was like freakin' Christmas. Only better. I sat on the floor and sorted out the sockets and the various wrenches and everything. The night before the big day, I literally couldn't sleep, I kept waking up and thinking: I'm going to change my own oil tomorrow. With my own tools.

On the morning itself, FG and I drove out to her sister's house (we don't have a driveway, and FG's sister kindly offered the use of hers). While the engine cooled off I washed her sister's car. Then I got out the jack and the owner's manual and I worked out how to jack one side of the car up. When I got my pair of brand-new jack stands out, though, I hit an obstacle: the directions said to place the stand in an appropriate spot. What the heck did that mean? I couldn't put it in the jacking location, because the jack was there. I looked around under the car but nothing seemed quite right. I wasted a lot of time on this mystery, and eventually Dawn wondered what had happened to me and she called me. She agreed that "an appropriate location" is like "bake until done": if you haven't done it, you just have no clue. With her help I positioned the stand under the axle, did the other side, and then I was ready to go.

Now, FG's eyes kept glazing over when I described the blow-by-blow of the oil change, and she was a captive audience. You, dear readers, are less captive, so I'll spare you the details: searching for the oil filter, using my socket wrench for the first time ever, learning the relationship between a gasket and a washer. One moment stands out in my mind: when I'd finally found the filter, and I loosened it with my hand. BBS had warned me, "This is the part where you get dirty," and she was right: when it came loose, there was dirty oil all over my hand and running down my arm. I was lying under the car at this point, my back on the damp sandy gravel of the driveway, the cool spring breeze contrasting with the warmth of the oil, and I have to tell you, I was just about transcendentally happy at that moment.

I have to give major props to Dawn. After a lifetime of being made to feel like I'm about to break something or get in the way or generally cause a disaster, her guidance made me feel reassured and competent. She threw in useful little remarks like, don't worry if you drop the drain plug into the oil pan, it's not the end of the world and it happens to lots of people. (Luckily, I didn't.) And even when it took me forever to find the oil filter, she didn't get impatient. (Or, she didn't let on if she was impatient, anyway.) I'm so used to acting tough and figuring stuff out on my own--acquiring knowledge and competence painfully and in secret and only showing the world when I'm 110% sure of myself--and this wasn't like that at all, and it made an awfully nice change. Not to mention, I'm dying to go for some long drives so I can do it again.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Springtime Drives Me Crazy

Spring is my favorite season. I don't understand starting the new year in January because for me everything is reborn and remade in the spring. This was especially clear last year but it's true every year in one way or another. Spring is ecstatic and wild and liberating.

The flip side is that it also makes me crazy. Or, I can hear FG's objections already, it makes my craziness more volatile, harder to control, more liable to spin out and crash. Sometimes the new bright sunlight streaming through bare tree branches seems horrible to me, raw and unbearable. I am reminded that spring is a time of starvation in the natural world, and once in ours too, when the winter food supplies run out and the new ones aren't available yet. Spring is nature red in tooth and claw, as Tennyson wrote. Or, better to quote T.S. Eliot, who describes exactly how I feel in the opening lines of The Waste Land:

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."

I want to write a summary of the last year here, answer E.'s question about how we reinvented ourselves after that April Fool's Day, but I can't bear to immerse myself in the quiet of the past right now. The future seems equally impossible to contemplate. I want to lose myself in the immediacy of the present. My mind is filled with wild thoughts, but I'm holding on to the details of life, making coffee and arranging to watch a friend's cat and working on my dissertation, and reminding myself that rebirth hurts every year but the leaves will break through the buds and the light will soften and mature and I will come down off this ledge, cleaner and hopefully wiser yet again.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Happy Friday Meme

This one from the enchanting Queer Rose.

Five names you go by:
[Real Name], that damn girl name I'm not such a big fan of
[Nickname], which I love more and more every day
Leo MacCool
Sweetie (but only to FG)
I think that's it, only four names for me.

Three things you are wearing right now:
My beloved black hoodie from my martial arts studio
Black Doc Marten boots

Three things you want very badly at the moment
My lovely FG (yes, I mean it that way)
To get one of the jobs that would let me graduate this year

Two people who will probably fill this out
Jess!! (well, ok, Jess already did it.)
FG, cuz QR tagged her, too, and I bet she's gonna do it.

Two things you did last night
Went out for beer & southern food with FG and one of her pals
Got stuck in traffic

Two things you ate today
English muffin
Peanut butter & butter sandwich

Two people you last talked to on the phone
Hair-cutting-place person

Two things you are doing tomorrow
Something else I'm sure I'm forgetting

Two longest car rides
Driving from Mass. to Calif. and then back again! FG and I lived there for five months right after college. We made so many stupid mistakes. Oh youthful folly.

Two of your favourite beverages
Cranberry juice

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Tough Day, 2008, 2009

A year ago today I played an April Fool's Joke on FG. We were about a month into our gender awakening/sex explosion/life & relationship reinvention that happened last year. I went into the bathroom and put my hair up (it was still long), put on her lipstick and her bra, and came up behind her in the bedroom. There was a long quiet moment in which she stared at me, and then I said "April Fool's!"

It was just about the least funny joke I've ever played on anyone. Maybe now I could do drag humorously but then, in the raw first weeks of truth and discovery, when we were acknowledging how deeply dishonest and fucked up our relationship had gotten... it was a bad idea.

FG was spectacularly angry. So angry, I actually slept on the pullout couch for the next week. I remember that week with a vivid sensory recall: the smell of the dodgy, thin couch mattress, the prepared meals I bought at Tesco, the cheap brandy I drank. Listening to Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart Again on endless repeat. The smell of the English springtime coming in through the windows. Working my way through Sinclair's archives. And, of course, starting my own blog. I started working on it the night of April 1 and blogged my first post the next day after I'd settled on a name.

So tomorrow is my first blogiversary and I hope to write a little more about the blog & where it & I have been over the past year. April 1, 2008 was a tough day. April 1, 2009, is kind of tough, too, though my life is so much better now than then. But there are no pat happy endings, there's always more to do and live through and think about, and the damage and loss we sustain stays with us. I talked on the phone with my dad last night and due to a variety of circumstances I realized, or articulated to myself, for the first time how hurt I have been by him, how small and worthless I have felt. We were never terribly close but after my parents' divorce when I was 15 we were on strained speaking terms for a few years, and then we didn't have any contact from when I was 19 til I was 22, about three and a half years. And I've been angry and all sorts of things about that, but I never really admitted how vulnerable it made me feel and how much it hurt to be rejected by my masculine role model at that juncture. Anyway I'm feeling sad about that relationship today, and wishing I could call in sick to my life and go watch the planes land over Boston Harbor or something. But nothing doing, I've got things to do, and probably that is for the best.