Friday, February 29, 2008

All Their Manipulated Acquisitions

Over on Ted's blog, he suggested we just tag ourselves with this meme, instead of waiting for someone else to do it. (Lots of life is like this, right?) So I'm tagging myself, and after this you tag yourself.

These are the meme rules:
  1. Look up page 123 in the nearest book.
  2. Look for the fifth sentence.
  3. Post the three sentences that follow that fifth sentence on page 123.

The book I have nearest to me is Business as Unusual by Charlie Vazquez, a fabulous queer punk writer here in New York City. Charlie and I are both included in Best Gay Erotica 2008--so not only should you check out his book, but check out ours, too. So, on to the sentences:
"Eleanor vowed to fight for the box's contents. Whatever mystery awaited us belonged to Benito and no one would have time to track us down. Chances were they were too busy with all their manipulated acquisitions to ever care."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chili with Cornbread

At some point in your cooking life, you stop wondering about what goes into a recipe, or trying to follow a recipe, and you just coast through the aisles of the supermarket and pull things off the shelf that you've got the urge for, and voila!

Tonight I decided to make a pot of chili and a pan of cornbread. For some reason, though I probably ate hundreds of pounds of cornbread baked by my mother as a child, the cornbread that is the most forward in my mind is Andrea's. The way you heat the shortening in the skillet in the hot oven, throw the batter into the hot oil so that it crackles. And when it comes out, you turn it upside down on a plate so the bottom cools properly. (Sorry, Mom.)

So, my cornbread turned out fantastic. The chili is good too, if a bit thin. But that's probably because I don't really like hot liquids--tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cider, and thin soups, apparently. I'm always reminding myself of this.

And--how do you make soup for one? Or even soup for three or four, so you have leftovers for a few nights, but not so many that you want to die before eating another bowl of FUCKING CHILI. And for some reason, I made about a gallon. At least. I live alone. What is wrong with me?

Ed. note: I put most of it in two-portion tupperware and put all that in the freezer.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Letter from Utah: Part 4 of 12

This post is part 4 in a series of 12. You can download the entire essay by clicking here, or you can read the serial installments as they appear.

On Tuesday we drive south. Kip spends most of the week sitting next to me with the atlas in his lap. I do all the driving, which is my preference, and he doesn’t drive at all—or hasn’t in about a decade. We pass through Monicello, Blanding, Bluff and Mexican Hat, moving on toward Monument Valley, which lies within the borders of the Navajo nation along the eastern part of Utah’s border with Arizona. There, we stop at a grocery store, buy some lunch and other rations, stand along the side of the road and take a few pictures—none of them will capture it, I know. I rush us on through to the next town, disappointing my boyfriend, I fear.

This trip, these hours with nothing but Bjork and the Scala Choir and Dolly Parton on the stereo, the flat open highway, it all has me obsessed with surfaces, with the line—visible or invisible, actual or imagined—that separates one thing from another, one matter from the next. Miles of deep black ocean is separated from the endless blue sky by only the smallest molecular skin. Where the light falls onto the facade of the stone, what do the molecules do there? At the atomic level, do they become each other—the way our memories of two distinct moments can fuse to become a single experience. Can you mark the alchemical moment? Are surfaces beginnings or ends?

Perhaps they are their own breed entirely.

If I peel away this layer of rock, exposing it to the air, and the light falls on that fresh piece of stone, which, arguably, hasn’t seen light in millions of years, does that change anything? I imagine our car as seen from above—shifting back exponentially, like changing lenses on a microscope, back, and back further still, until we are a speck traveling the edge of the planet, along the thin, unverifiable instant when earth becomes air.

Here we are again at surfaces.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best Gay Erotica at Rapture Cafe & Books

The reading last night was a lovely success. We're lucky that the writers who happen to live in New York, and thus were a part of the evening, had produced some of the best, and most diverse, stories for the anthology. It that way, especially, it was a treat. Thank god for queer people of all sorts and shades!

Here's some pics. First, me at the mic; then below, me with Emanuel Xavier, the collection's guest editor, and the writer Andrew McCarthy. Sadly, I don't have pictures with the other boys, Sam J. Miller, Tom Cardamone, Taylor Siluwe and Charlie Vazquez--everyone was fabulous.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eight Things About Me

I was tagged by the thoughtful blogger over at Leaf-Stitch-Word with this strange, boundless meme, in which you are supposed to write eight things about yourself. As far as I can tell, those are the only rules. Usually these things come with a set of constrictions--and thus you get to work within the form to find something interesting. This, however, is so freeing as to be impossible. So--here's my stab at it:

1) The first CD I bought was the Indigo Girls record "Nomads. Indians. Saints." It came in a long box, and I picked it out after having seen them on the Austin City Limits songwriter's special. This would have been 1990. The opening chords of "Hammer and a Nail" sounded so right, as if I'd never heard music so perfect before. They were from the South, they were out, they wrote about themselves with folky-abandonment. I still buy their records, nearly 20 years later.

2) If you ask my what my favorite movie is, I will tell you "Farewell My Concubine." This is not my favorite movie, but who has just one favorite movie? It is an important movie for me. What I want to say when someone asks about my favorite movie is: "Ask the question that you really want the answer to."

3) I don't like to eat apples without cutting them into pieces, and if then: Mutsu, Braeburn and Ginger Gold varieties.

4) I started writing a novel in the 6th grade called "Thomas and Herman's Incredible Adventure at the Bottom of the Sea." A turtle and a hermit crab go to the bottom of the sea and have incredible adventures. I was saving it on a black floppy disk, back when you did that sort of thing, and hiding the disk in the broken wall of the computer lab. When I moved on to the 7th grade, I abandoned it.

5) I love The Suze Orman Show. "Oh, Barbara, you are so denied, you do not have the money to buy this car, what are you thinking...?"

6) My kitchen looks clean, but it is not. Trust me.

7) I don't think there is such thing as good music or bad music. There is only music that you like and music that you don't.

8) Every day I fantasize about winning the lottery and having millions of dollars. With the money, I buy a huge building and create a center for artists and writers to work and live together rent-free. I support a small number of non-profit organizations. I hire my friend Keith to decorate my loft. I go to Iceland once a year, by myself. I buy a Prius and spend 6 months driving around the United States, visiting all my friends. I write a book about the travels. Trouble with all this is: I don't even play the lottery.

I'll tag: Aaron, Mario, How History Feels, and Amanda.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dialogue, 2/15/08

M: Do birds have orgasms?

L: Uh....

M: I mean, because their brains are so small and uncomplicated.

L: They must, right? Everything must feel good when it does it. Right?

M: I don't know.

L: Dolphins masturbate, so there's that.

M: So you've got a bird with no orgasm, or a masturbating dolphin. This is what it comes to.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Flu, Day 4

The flu sucks. You feel pitiful. You are tired, but can't sleep. You can't breathe. You stand up and have to lie back down. Horrible, horrible, don't get it.

The upside? I am eating whatever I want: ice cream, fried rice, rice pudding, Coca-Cola. And I am laying in bed with my laptop, watching movies: Alien vs. Predator, Michael Clayton, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Letter from Utah: Part 3 of 12

This post is part 3 in a series of 12. You can download the entire essay by clicking here, or you can read the serial installments as they appear.

Monday morning. A thin column of light shines through the curtains. Kip breathes in, out, rustles against me, that strange twitching you perform during dreams. All around us are the rumblings of water sluicing through the walls—toilets and showers and sinks, everyone shifting toward the day.

The movement of water is the constant of our trip.

Also, of course, the road, the sky, each other.

After breakfast, we set off for Moab and Arches National Park. Elevations in Utah shift like weather. One minute you are switchbacking up a rocky face to the summit, and the next you are descending into a craggy canyon, trees clinging to the surface, their roots gnarled by wind and erosion. Mountains next to valleys, stretches of nothing past junctures of roads. Wherever you look, there is the landscape and it’s complement.

Four and a half hours later, we arrive in Moab—my back is twisted into odd shapes by the drive, buzzed on Coca-Cola and M&Ms, or whatever other crap we have eaten along the way. The city fans out on either side of Route 191 in low, square buildings. There is some argument about how the town got its name—either from William Pierce, a postmaster, or whether it has some Paiute origin. Uranium ore was discovered in the 1950s, and the town boomed. A little less than 5,000 people live here now, with thousands of others passing through as tourists and outdoor enthusiasts—primarily visiting Arches and biking the world famous Slickrock Trail. It has become a strange oasis of hippie kids and crunchy, earthy types; none of it looks much like the rest of Utah. Bike shops advertise hot showers by the minute. Restaurants offer sides of quinoa.

The drive into Arches itself is extraordinary—formations like buildings surround us, made almost religious by the light, the scale, the quiet. We hike to Turret Arch, Double Arch, to Balanced Rock. We take the rough trail, marked only by cairns around The Windows. The temperature changes quickly here, the sun and shade performing drastic feats of disparity. At the turnaround, we stare into the distance, at the horizon. I feel calm. Kip touches my arm.
For about an hour, all of it uphill, every step, we hike toward Delicate Arch, certainly the most famous of Arches’ formations. Finally, at the top of the trail, after scrubby trees and veiny, red slickrock, sand and the heat—the chill of the wind—we make it to the last curved section cut into the side of the mountain. The arch appears at the very last instant, as you come around the last bit of the path. It is magnificent. There are a few other people around, European tourists and third-generation cattle ranchers from Wyoming—I’m good at eavesdropping. Everyone looks tired and satisfied. Everyone snaps pictures.

Delicate Arch is a peculiar entity, and there are thousands of other such formations across the globe. This one is 45 feet tall and 33 feet across, carved from Entrada sandstone by tons of water over millions of years. It is dazzlingly picturesque, so…finely balanced on the edge of the stone, as if some ancient monument to grace. It confounds the brain. Ultimately, it is here as proof of what? Of the power of nature? Of how randomness can be a promise of beauty? Of the constancy of time? I am tempted to mention God here, to mention some higher thing—this kind of wonder brings those words to your lips.

Our language is limited.

Questions only lead to more questions. The answers do not appear.

But a message does: Regard this moment. That you stood here.

That you were here together.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Truth About Grade B

At the Greenmarket today, a woman asked me, as dozens of people do each day, if I had any Grade B maple syrup. She was planning to attempt the infamous Master Cleanse, in which you drink a cocktail made of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne for anywhere from three to ten (or even more) days. You eat nothing else. Most people combine this with "laxative tea," or some other such natural, or unnatural brew. The idea is to remove all the toxins from your body--whatever that means, if that is indeed possible.

At this point in the afternoon, I had only a single half-gallon of our Grade B syrup left. (It is quite popular these days, especially after having been recently featured in Style section of the New York Times.) A half-gallon wasn't enough. She wanted a whole gallon. "Sorry, this is the best I can do," I told her. She complained that she had intentions of starting the cleanse right away.

"You can use the other grades of syrup," I told her. "There really is no difference other than the taste." She made a face. "Grade B has more minerals," she said. "Actually," I tell her, "it doesn't. There is no nutritional difference, only taste and color." Then she had the nerve, the insane, foolish, ignorant nerve to proclaim that "Well, maybe in Western medicine it doesn't, but in ayurvedic medicine it does."

I'm fine with ignorance. People are constantly asking me, genuinely asking me, about the difference between the syrup grades. But ignorance plus stupidity really bothers me. At this point, I put the half gallon of syrup down, "Okay," I said. "This is what I have, and you're welcome to it." What else is there to do, or to say, when someone has made up their mind that you are wrong and whatever cockamamie stuff they read somewhere is ingrained in their brain to the point of no return?

So, for the record, I present:

The Truth About Grade B:

Maple syrup is graded by color and taste only, with the darker syrups having a more pronounced maple flavor than the lighter. One is not better than the other. Think of white wine versus red--both are suited to a person's particular tastes and uses, and neither is better or worse, just different. I like lighter syrups for breakfast things like french toast and waffles, and I prefer a darker syrup for salad dressings and baking. Some people like the opposite.

Take this, for example, from Squidoo, which is factually incorrect: "Grade B maple syrup goes through a special refinement process that keeps the vital nutrients in the syrup. Other grades of syrup don't have these vitamins and minerals." Similar false information is available all over the Internet. As any sugarmaker can tell you, the syrup-making process does not change from one grade to the next. In fact, there is absolutely no refining taking place when you make maple syrup. Step one: Tap the trees. Step two: Collect the sap. Step three: Boil the sap. Step four: Filter the syrup for solids. The only thing you're doing is taking water out of the tree sap via evaporation, and the filtering process is the same thing that happens when you use a coffee filter in the morning--it's not changing the composition of the liquid, but just removing any solid parts.

As a general rule, the darker syrups are made toward the end of the sugaring season, and the lighter syrups are made at the beginning. But maple syrup is an agricultural product, subject to the whims and wonders of nature. Thus, the general rules do not always hold. In 2007, for example, this "light to dark" rule was totally debunked, when the syrup ran back and forth from one grade to the other, finally ending in late April with Fancy grade, the lightest, which is normally made at the very beginning. (If we could double the amount of Grade B syrup we make each year and sell it at the Greenmarket for what you pay in the stores, don't you think we would?)

Lastly, I realize that I don't know anything about ayurvedic medicine--but I'm sure there are no sugar maples growing in India. And I'm sure that glucose, which is the major chemical compound in maple syrup, does what it does in western bodies the same way it does what it does in eastern ones.

So--master cleanse all you like. If you love it, great. If it makes you feel fabulous, great. But get the facts straight. A customer once told me, "I think it's really important to know exactly what's going into your body." I can't agree more.