Monday, February 26, 2007

An Exerpt from an Old Email

... which still rings true somehow...

Yes, sex is so very VERY good... unless it isn't, in which case it's really hard to remember why one spends so much time and does so much work to make it to happen because DAMN, when it's bad, it's BAD, and you don't know why you bother, and maybe you'd be better off devoting all that energy and frustration into something constructive like building houses for the poor, or raising cockatiels, or collecting doilies or SOMETHING which will result in something to show for one's efforts, except for the fact that sublimation/redirection DOESN'T WORK, I don't care what anyone says, FREUD CAN 'SMOKE MY CIGAR' because when you want sex, you want sex, it's not like urges are just fuel that one can put any old place (shall I gas up the stove, the jalopy, or my wife?), that approach doesn't WORK. DOESN'T DOESN'T DOESN'T DOESN'T. Does not.


I'm sorry... what were we talking about? Someone needs to go run around Manhattan. In a cold shower.

What is salt peter, anyway? And where does one find it?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Be a Man!

So I started physical therapy this week. Not wanting to overwhelm me, my lovely young therapist gave me only one exercise. It consists of keeping my head level, and pulling it backwards, holding for one/two seconds, repeat. One set consists of ten reps, and I'm to do five or six sets a day. Though I doubt this was the plan, it seems designed to draw attention to my extremely weak chin; when I'm doing the exercise correctly, my chin disappears all together into my neck. This being one of my particular neuroses, you can understand how seriously I take this, when I tell you I've even done the exercise on the train.

This is the first, tiny, glacial step in addressing pain I've had since 1992. I suspect I may have given myself whiplash by playing a Pentecostal snake-handler who speaks in tongues and has seizures. Sixteen shows, with me flinging my head backward violently. Yeah, that seems likely. But the pain has been a slow, creeping deterioration, making it hard to pin down, diagnose, and fix in the past. Initially, since my teeth seemed to be the source of the trouble, I thought I might need another root canal (having suffered one the previous year), but while I was relieved to learn that wasn't the problem, it still left me with no real solution. Next I had a doctor examine me; he was perplexed, but suggested I try antihistamines, speculating maybe my sinuses might be involved. Then he sent me on my way as well. Over the years I tried other doctors, dentists, and for a while, a chiropractor. The latter was the first medical person in a while who seemed to take my concerns seriously. Unfortunately he didn't help; in fact he may have made things worse.

During all this time I was staying reasonably active; my performing has generally been quite physical, I was taking lots of dance and movement classes, then I eventually started dabbling in tumbling and acro-balance. The pain by this point had become much more decisive in its characteristics, and it had moved down my body, eventually including, well, basically everything on the right side of my body. Eye, sinus, jaw, back of head, neck, shoulder, right arm (tingling down to my three smallest fingers), lower back, buttock, down my leg to my outer toes. The pain has been some kind of presence in my life for the last fifteen years, and has covered half my body for at least the last ten.

I got used to ignoring it. I worked at ignoring it. No one seemed able to help, or particularly concerned about it. I'm wary enough of medical people and their habitats, so if no one seems to want me to come visit him/her, I'm only too happy to comply. The dentists were typically a bit more sympathetic seeming, but generally I was also paying them more. Most of my medical care has been provided by low income clinics, and while it's probably just paranoia, I can never shake the sensation that the people who work there are always a bit irritated by my presence. "We've got indigent folks dying of AIDS here, white boy, we don't really have time to listen to your whining." Being accused of whining is worse even than being accused of condescension in my book, frankly. Even the idea that someone might be thinking that about me sends me running for the door.

So I soldiered on. Then about two years ago the pain got still worse, and I found myself starting to limit my activity. While we're cataloguing weird shit that Patrick is secretly neurotic about, I'll mention another one. Periodically I've asked myself, if I were to lose a sense or an ability, what would be hardest for me to handle? Sight, yeah, I'd miss it, but I'd deal, so much of what I love in the world would still be available to me. Hearing, that one would be harder, I think, but I think I'd still cope... no, when you got right down to it, the biggest fear I had was of becoming paralyzed. The idea of losing my ability to move has always been my special vision of hell. Why do I bring this up? Because recently I found myself thinking "wow, I do everything I can to avoid moving these days." I'm certainly not paralyzed, THANK you Jesus, but it was startling and frightening to think I was no longer really connecting with the world physically. This threatened a core sense of myself, how I relate to the world, other people, and it scared me a lot.

That may have been the deciding factor that got me to try getting help again. That, and a lucky encounter with a very nice therapist who was a friend of a friend, and gave me a free consultation (THANK you Sue). My first meeting with Kelly (lovely new PT), I realized I was just grateful to have her listening to me, taking my concerns seriously, acting like my problem was legitimate, treatable, and most importantly, WORTH treating. No idea how much of a difference this treatment is going to make, but just having it legitimized by someone else has been surprisingly gratifying.

I've also found myself examining my attitude towards pain. As a pretty young kid I began priding myself on my ability to withstand pain. I'm not sure exactly how this got started, but I have some ideas. This may come as a grave shock those who know me, but I was an extremely effeminate kid, and I was terrible, TERRIBLE at sports. Since in grade school and Jr. High, sports ability was the way you differentiated boys from girls, this presented me with some identity problems. With athletic ability off the table, that left me with few options to show my male bona fides. Chasing girls was a possibility, and I actually did that with some enthusiasm, until puberty had other ideas. So, sports and girlfriends were out, what did that leave me? I began cultivating a certain kind of stoicism, where physical pain of any kind was not to be acknowledged. This of course was a tricky way to prove oneself. One can't draw attention to any suffering, because that immediately defeats the purpose of being stoic about it (I understood this early on). Responding with Vulcan-like emotionlessness to accidents and obvious injuries was one way. But I also took great pride in suffering in private. My ninth grade year, when these things were reaching a fever pitch, I ran cross country with a twisted ankle. Every practice, every meet, I retwisted it. I managed to come in second in the city-wide race though, and felt more than ever that this was a way to establish some kind of nascent machismo. I even tried using cross country as my very own aversion therapy. Running long distance (which I actually hated, and probably wasn't well suited for, being a much better sprinter), I would fantasize about guys. Showering in warm water, I fantasized about girls. Then to end, I'd turn the water to cold, and think about guys again. This didn't cure me of homosexuality, but it sure as hell ruined me for long distance running.

My stoicism had all sorts of repercussions. I find it extremely difficult to ask anyone for help most of the time, though I've gotten better over the years. I sympathize with other people's emotional pain reasonably well, but a person's (particularly a man's) physical suffering has got to be obviously dire for me not to feel secretly smug. My first boyfriend was one of those guys who wanted 24 hour nursing when he had the sniffles, and I was a grave disappointment to him. I never told him to suck it up, but I felt the temptation frequently.

Add into all this the fact that most of my professional life has been spent pursuing disciplines that cause pain, albeit usually the healthy, 'things are getting stronger' kind, and it's not surprising that I stayed in my just-ignore-it mode. My PT asks me questions about the qualities, intensity, persistence etc. of the pain/tingling, and I often find myself growing a bit impatient with her. I don't KNOW anything about it, I've been IGNORING IT for a decade, don't you understand? I think I'm also somewhat suspicious still, like I think all her questions are really just designed to catch me out, like a police detective, and eventually she's going to accuse me of making it all up. Poor Kelly, she's doing great and I'm mostly being cooperative so far.

I suspect most American males would recognize this behavior. Maybe Americans in general would, since we as a culture have started to act like ill-health is a sign of moral weakness, sin, even. Writing this entry is triggering my 'stop whining' impulse even still. But I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. Both PT's I've spoken to have been careful not to promise too much. But with any luck, over time I might be able to move and sleep better than I have since my twenties.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Things I'm thinking about, that don't deserve their own entries, and don't really have much point.

I haven't heard all of Fergie Ferg's new album, The Duchess, but I'm curious; does she (or someone else) spell out a word on every single track? It's like an episode of Sesame Street.

Also, when did she become Fergie Ferg?


If you are starting a brand new massage parlor, or rather 'massage' parlor, I don't really think you should call the first event a "Grand Opening". I'm just sayin'.


I went to a cold reading workshop with a very nice casting director on Tuesday. Lots of useful information, and reaffirmation of old useful information. She made no bones about the fact that 'typing' is a central part of the process, ie. the people you're auditioning for have made decisions about you based on your look and energy from the minute you walk in the door. She recommended that you not waste a lot of time trying to figure out what your type is, but she also said that having a general sense of how you're perceived is a good idea. The gauge she recommends highest is looking at how you've been cast in the past. This seems reasonable, but still manages to frustrate me a bit. I look at my resume; let's see, I've been a dog, a wolf, a ten year old boy, the ghost of a seven year old boy, a several different dinosaurs, assorted insects, three different demons, the Archangel Michael, two rent boys and a femme fatale. Just to name a few. So, what does that tell me?

Then she handed out scenes to each of us in the workshop, implicitly letting us know how she was typing us. I got the role of Marc from "Ugly Betty", the flaming queen assistant to Wilhemina.

Oh, right. That.

Okay there wasn't really anything in the scene that immediately told us he was gay, I only knew he was being portrayed that way because I'd seen the show, so I wondered if I should avoid making that choice, since it seemed like I would just be playing the choices of the actor who got the role. I went later in the session (just luck of the draw) so I watched her tell person after person to avoid 'theatrical' choices, drive the scene, really connect with the scene partner, etc. So, my time comes, I say my lines, I connect with my reader, I keep things understated, there is no flaming of any kind.

Uh uh. That was not what she was looking for here. "Have more fun with the language, this isn't a realistic character, he hates Wilhemina, but wants to be her. Play him gayer."

All Righty.

I flitted, I flounced, I minced my ass off. My voice swept from highs to lows on virtually every line.

She liked it.
No one else was given this scene. Only one other gay role was handed out at all. Maybe I should take note of the fact that she gave that part (also written to be rather bitchy) to a large, muscular, dignified, older black man.

I'm still mulling over what I think of all this. What I think of this role in particular. And how I feel about being typed as a flaming queen before I've even opened my mouth. Whether that's the message I should be taking away from this, and if so, is that a problem? I guess if it gets me work, and doesn't play too strongly on stereotypes, then I can handle it. I think. It did make me uncomfortable. Still does. It still feels a bit like I was boxed in, given a 'type' that most people (me included, apparently) consider quite limiting. I can't decide if that's her problem, my problem, or not a problem at all.
Time to find those gay roles that don't feel like compromises.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Word Cloud

So this is what happens when a computer analyzes my blog to see what words have appeared there most often. The larger the font, the more often I use the word. It's called a word cloud, and it seems like it was custom-designed to appeal to me; there are words, but they're being used as a visual medium.
I wish I had realized the program would include all the graphics on each page; that's the only explanation I have for why every single word from every blog title I'm linked to is included, and all pretty much the same size. So if you want to know what I've been rabbiting on about, look at all the titles I've linked to, take those words out of the mix, and you'll get a sense. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that the epic entry posted immediately below (2/11/07) ended up making a big splash; the names Niko and Dion both made it into the graphic, and I imagine that's why 'god' 'good' and several other words show up as well (though I'm sure they have appeared in other entries too). The other word clouds I've seen seemed to have a greater variety of sizes; looking at mine it seems as if there are only two or three different sized fonts being used. Not sure what that says about my usage pattern.
Love the sequence 'gay god good'. 'Little Loose Love' is also rather nice.
Frankly I was hoping to make some discoveries from this, but so far there is only a single, rather distressing one.
Do I really use 'like' that much?
Oh, Brother Jeff asked for a link to this site; how rude of me. If you want to make your own word cloud, go here. And if you figure out how to make the image bigger, could you let me know? This is the largest size I could come up with on blogger.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Favorite Books: Honoring the God: The Pursuit of Ethical Art in The Mask of Apollo

POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT. The following is a look at one of my favorite books. If you think you might want to read it, and hate to know anything about a book’s plot in advance, you’ll want to skip this entry. 

Those who know me well know that I avoid ever being pinned down to a single favorite anything, and certainly when it comes to books, choosing one would be like choosing a favorite song, or food. That said, if someone were to insist that I had to answer the question "what book has most influenced you" with only one title, I would, without much hesitation, answer Mary Renault’s The Mask of Apollo.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hoist That Petard

I don't know if many of you are following the most recent tactic in the battle to legalize same-sex marriage taking place in Washington State. The Supreme Court there just handed down a decision saying it had the right to limit marriage only to those who could procreate. This has long been batted around by various right wing fuckheads, sorry, pundits as a legitimate idea, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time it's been the official, and sole reason given by a legal body.

In response, a group called WA State Defense of Marriage Association (WA-DOMA) has filed a petition with the state government stating that if after three years a marriage has failed to produce any children, then the marriage is annulled. The government has accepted the initiative, now the organization just has to get the necessary number of signatures to put it on the ballot. The organization plans to get two more initiatives before the voters as well; one would make it illegal to get a divorce or annulment of there are children resulting from the marriage, and the third would state that having a child would mean the parents were now married.

I can see all sorts of pitfalls to this sort of action. It's possible it will alienate potential allies, offending any fence-sitters who might feel personally attacked by it. It might upset gay activists who will want to know why a gay organization is spending time and money on an initiative it doesn't actually support, and won't want to see passed. I suppose it's possible it might even fall into the hands of the right wing Christian Taliban whack-jobs who would actually love to see this kind of legislature passed.

DON'T CARE! I LOVE this initiative. I think it's brilliant. I've always wondered why, when someone trotted out the 'procreation' bullshit no one asked, well, what about couples who are infertile? What about people who are paralyzed from the waist down? What about the couples who don't want children, never did? What about the women who are past child-bearing age? My Great Aunt Ardith got married at the age of 72. If these morons seriously believe their claims, then they should have no problem signing the petitions, hell, actively campaigning alongside their g/l/b/t brothers, sisters, and others to see this stuff passed. This ties in completely with their Old Testament nonsense about being fruitful and multiplying, because one thing we don't have enough of in this world is people. I hope WA-DOMA contacts the WA state chapters of Focus on the Family and its ilk first off.

Maybe this is rank justice. Maybe this is me succumbing to baser instincts, embracing a petty, punishing approach to a complex and difficult issue. I repeat, DON'T CARE DON'T CARE DON'T CARE! Too many nice, polite, well-meaning people are trying to sit this one out, wishing it would go away, because basically in their heart of hearts, they do believe that same-sex marriage is not as valuable or important as heterosexual marriage. Plus it's kind of icky. I am not a rabid activist on this issue, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not asking anyone to go out into the trenches, but it really rankles me the number of folks who just don't seem to GET it on this issue, and don't bother to try. This initiative will never ever pass, seeing as how none of the DOMA people working for it will vote for it if it even makes it to the ballot, but if it brings new attention to the hypocrisy of the homophobic right, and greater insight to the fence-sitters and 'polite people', then I'm all for it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

This is Not a Metaphor

I have too much stuff. Normally this realization is cause for celebration, because I actually love getting rid of stuff. Purging possessions is one of my oddest pleasures, and after eight years in the same place (new two year lease starting today!) it's still not unusual for me to look at something that I've had forever and say, "time for that to go."

The problem I'm facing right now is, I have too many plants. Too many big plants. Ones that have fairly specific needs lightwise. And getting rid of plants is sort of like getting rid of pets for me; not so much in the emotional attachment department (though there is a twinge of that, have to admit) but in the "I can't just throw this out, I need to find it a new home, a GOOD home, with someone who will love it, care for it, and give it all the things I'm no longer able to provide fully."

That sort of getting rid.

The clearest example of this is the angel-wing begonia, a cutting from my mother's, which all started as cuttings from her mother's, so like many of my plants, this one also has a feeling of being a living family heirloom. Sitting on a milkcrate, in order to lift it up closer to the available windows, it's as tall as me. This would be hard enough to deal with, but it's much much wider than I am. This summer I moved it into the living room, near an east window (on a courtyard, but still). It had space around it for the first time in years, I was able to rotate it easily, so as to encourage it not to grow lopsided. For years it had been forced to lean against a wall, never moving, because it had grown so far in one direction and always tipped over without the support. So it did reasonably well for the Summer months in the living room, but as the seasons changed, and the amount of light actually hitting the living room lessened, it got more and more sad and spindly looking. I finally had to move it back into my bedroom, which has southern windows.

The thing is, there I have to squeeze it between my dresser and my art desk, in a room that is already too crammed with furniture. And even there, the plant didn't look like it was doing as well as it could. So now I'm trying to move it as close to the window as it can go, which means my desk has to move into a more cramped, awkward position. I am battling for window space with my houseplant.

And this plant used to be bigger. It was allowed to grow without check for a few years when Brian and I were in sole residence of this apartment, meaning I had access to every single window, including the southern facing ones with deep window-wells in the room that was our bedroom, and is now my roommate's. When the begonia had to come out of there, (where it had grown well over six feet), I was forced to cut it back; I did so with a fairly clear conscience, though, because I dutifully took all the cuttings and set them to rooting, confident I'd be able to find homes for all the new baby plants, because people were always oohing and ahhing over my plants, and saying they'd like cuttings. Except they didn't. Not so much. They'd usually get scared, or think they didn't have the right light, or space, or were always away for long stretches of time, or somehow it just never happened that they would actually pick up the plants, or meet me anywhere to pick them up. It took years to get rid of the cuttings, and by that point, the begonia really needed to be trimmed again, but I didn't have the heart to do it this time.

(Frequently, when the plant has been moved, or when it's lived for a while in an area that isn't quite right for it, some parts have withered or broken off; it's not happened in a particularly shapely way, but at least I can discard those parts off without feeling too guilty.)

So, now I've got a plant that really doesn't quite fit anywhere in my apartment. There are two windows I have access to that give it the light it needs but since one of them is right by the radiator, and houses the air conditioner in the Summer, really there is only one window where it can go. So I put it there today. And am taking a break trying to figure out where to put my art desk, and the plants (three of them) which got displaced by the begonia. All of whom (naturally) really need direct sunlight on a regular basis. I'm resisting finding some sort of metaphor in all this; a natural thing desperately trying to survive in a space that is barely hospitable to its existence, and really only can live in one fairly cramped portion of the whole apartment. Its history is also revealed in some funny ways; over all it's a fairly handsome plant, but if one looks closely, one notices that there are strong stalks, bamboo-like, perhaps an inch in diameter rising up to hold maybe three leaves aloft. Those stalks formed to support much more extensive foliage, but a lot of it is gone now, leaving these superstructures that feel like reproaches to me somehow. The over all dense and lush look of the plant comes from having LOTS of those stalks, wrapped around one another to just the right degree, with just enough leaves, to create the illusion.

Even placing it in the only location in the apartment that is likely to give it enough life doesn't make it happy really. It's stuffed in a corner, meaning there are two walls for it to bang against as it tries to spread its fronds. I think at its widest point it may be four feet in diameter. This is a plant that wants its own room. Or it should be in an office somewhere. A big office, with lots of light, maybe a skylight.

Obviously I love this plant. I love all my plants. But remember, I mentioned this is just the one giving me the BIGGEST problems at present. My roommate has been here for going on three years now, and just recently brought home a couple of plants of his own. He has cared for all of mine when I've been out of town, and like his predecessor, K, before him, he began to fall in love with the plants too. Which led to him getting some of his own. He took his life into his hands though, by bringing in not one but TWO kinds of plants we already had in the apartment, a golden pothos and a spider plant, rather than taking some of the ones ALREADY IN THE APARTMENT under his care. There was no malice to this, I know. I'm sure he felt I wanted MY plants to be where I could get at them, not understanding that I would happily have MY plants become HIS plants, if that meant they were living somewhere good for them, and were no longer making me feel guilty. (K actually did much the same thing; note to self, act less possessive of the plants.)

Where am I going with this? I really don't know (though of course, dear readers, if any of you would like some houseplants...?). Somehow though, an arrangement needs to be found where I can live with my little green pets, where we all have the space and nutrients we need without crowding one another out. Being able to sweep and dust everywhere would be nice too. I mean for me, I'm not expecting them to start cleaning up after themselves. If they could chip in a little for rent, I wouldn't say no, but for now I'm content to let their air purifying, and blood-pressure lowering abilities be payment in kind.

But I still have too much stuff.