Friday, May 30, 2008

Excerpts in Limbo, Vol. 9

Daniel dreamed that he was standing on a flat pyramid covered with twigs and crumbled pine bark, his bare feet nestled in a patch of strawberries. In the sky there were three suns—one large, burning yellow, and two smaller, pink and soft like newborn twins. The severe light flattened the landscape; colors were faded—green to a bland olive, orange to terracotta. His mother stood facing him dressed in white linen, her hair fell down her back. A braided chain of rose clover spilled out of her hands, wrapped around her wrists and poured down around her feet. She smiled at him, squinting, her face pushed gently toward the sky. When he reached for her, she stepped back off the edge and she drifted through the air, stiff like wood on water. Her body moved further and further away until it was no longer visible, just a dark speck in the enormous sky. Then, from the point on the horizon where she disappeared, there was an explosion of ribbons, dry leaves and crows.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Upcoming Excitement

Here's what's on the horizon that excites me:

--Cyndi Lauper, B-52s and the Indigo Girls at Radio City Music Hall
--Circus AMOK! planning and stuff.
--New AMOK! executive director.
--A friend says Amy Ray has a new record on the horizon.
--I'm taking a day off to see August: Osage County.
--Jeff Koons on the roof at the Met.
--Memorial Day picnic in the park with all the peeps.
--4th of July in Chattanooga with my family, and Kip!, and Nephews.
--I'm gonna be in two more queer anthologies in the fall. (Maybe that first novel does actually get published, only one chapter at a time, in 30 different volumes.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Could Use Another Doughnut

Last night, my friend Peter and I went to eat sushi in Little Italy. The meal was good, if a bit predictable. The problem with sushi in this town is that unless you're able to spend some REAL money, basically, everything is the same. (I order the same five or six things, which is both the problem with finding new and interesting sushi, and the reason I can rightly say that this: some highlights appear here and there--the cut, the sweetness of the fish, the temperature of the rice--but overall it's the same experience. The same is true for most any food, now that I think about it.) I always had good sushi at Hatsuhana, where Cicely liked to go. They loved her there.

On our way across town, I stopped at Balthazar and forced Peter to partake of Pistachio Doughnuts with me. They were, of course, fantastic. Peter felt that the pistachio topping was less successful, than, say, pistachios throughout would have been. I told him that the topping was more about texture. He said that, for him, the pistachio was more about aftertaste. As he said this, I thought about the subtle ways that unbridled joy can creep into your life. That we could spend half a minute on the street corner, discussing the minutiae of Balthazar's Pistachio Doughnut--you have to make note of the moments when they happen.

We saw the French film "Roman de Gare" at the Angelika theater, a place I try not to go. On a Tuesday night, however, it was quiet and no celebrities were there, which was both a bonus and a disappointment. The film is beautiful, creepy, deeply emotional and quite thrilling. The plot centers around a famous author and her ghostwriter--one or both of which may or may not be murderers--and the woman whom the ghostwriter picks up in a gas station. The woman asks the ghostwriter to pretend to be her fiance, for an evening, in order to please her family. Plus, there are magic tricks--Peter emailed this morning to say: "i loved loved loved it when he was tearing up the sports section."--some romance, and the divine Fanny Ardent, who, for me, and I presume for most everybody, can do no wrong.

On the train ride home, I read more of Joan Didion's "After Henry," a book of her collected essays. Something's wrong with me lately. I know that not because I sleep less or more, or eat less or more, or care about the world less or more. I know this because I am reading Didion. Believe it or not, she's security for me. I'm not sure what it is quite yet, what it is that's wrong with me. But the essays are soothing it. It may be gone by tomorrow.

On our walk from Balthazar to the movie theater, I took this picture of Peter standing in a huge St. Anthony shrine. Doesn't he look skinny? He could use another pistachio doughnut. So could I.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What She Said

I'm always thinking of Virgina Woolf and her "Room of One's Own." See, artists, I think--me especially--are always struggling with the big questions about what works and what doesn't. The question of whether words are the best possible way to explore an idea, to once and for all break patriarchy, to annihilate capitalism, to touch another person's soul, all these things. I think each of them are real, possible things, and I struggle with the idea that lining up words on paper will actually do any good. These big questions get in the way. They are paralyzing.

So, back to Woolf. I used to think she was full of crap. I knew, and still know, plenty of writers who have children tugging at their knees even as they plod away at their chapters and memoirs, or scrawl notes back and forth on their bus trips to and from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, for example. Writing doesn't really happen in a "room of your own," but it happens constantly, continuously, even if you want it to or not. But, of course, it occurred to me later--as obvious as this observation is, you still have to arrive at it yourself--this room of your own is really the space in which you have to force yourself to work without hearing these impossible-to-answer questions. (The questions that only lead to more questions, or return you back to the same old questions.)

If you sit down to write, and begin to wonder about how your tiny work of semi-skilled fiction will make any difference in the universe, you'll have no reason to continue. It's not about a physical place as much as mental space--room enough in your own head not to be bogged down by your own hideous bullshit. None of the rationale matters. But all art is like this, in general. Words or paint or opera. Right?

And a person like me, who has his hands is a few different big ideas--sustainable agriculture and localized economy, free political theater in your very own neighborhood, and equipping children to deal with the increasingly impossible future--I wonder sometimes how my writing has anything to do with any of it. I worry about how slow I am. About how I can't seem to move forward. About how sometimes I just don't give a shit about the novel and I'd rather go to the new Chronicles of Narnia movie. About how I want to lay in bed and think about food all day. About whether or not I want it enough. Do you know what I mean when I say, enough?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Success! New York Times!

The Circus AMOK benefit, GLAMOK!, held on Monday night at PS122, was, in a word, fabulous. In all, I think we raised a fair amount of money--perhaps an extraordinary amount of money for an organization of our size. (We have a full-time staff of 1, basically.) I think we're both extremely lucky to be given the reception that got--meaning, people came happily to party, drink, take in the performances, and donate their hard-earned cash to the cause. But I also think that we 1) know about throwing a party, and 2) we know how to work really hard.

Baby Dee is extraordinary. I felt glad that she was able to drive all the way from Cleveland, where she now resides, to grace us with her harp and her music and her presence. Her performance on Monday night was simple, powerful, honest, graceful and seemingly effortless. Check out her new record, "Safe Inside the Day," at her website. She describes it as: "This album is very much about the street I grew up on. Where The Earlie King ruled without mercy. And Bobby Slot and Freddy Weiss invented the Dance of Diminishing Possibilities." What's not to love about that? Also, she said something in the dressing room, which is not dirty or salacious or gossipy, but I shan't reprint it here. It was most certainly the quote of the week.

We also had Reverend Billy and some of the Stop Shopping Choir--they were a huge hit and lovely to behold in all their rag-tag (and yet not rag-tag at all) glory. Amen. Julie Atlas Muz presented a glorious, live performance that left the audience speechless, and then left them screaming with joy and begging for more. I think every time she graces the stage that happens. She's just so marvelous. I love the sheer energy and love that Carmelita Tropicana brings to the room; so present, so funny, so in-the-moment, so real. And, of course, Fabio Tavares; who will forget his extra-faggy take on the Houdini escape? In a tuxedo tee and tiny black briefs? Of course, The Dazzle Dancers were splendidly glittered and gorgeous, in all their naked, peace-spreading eminence. I love everyone in this community. I feel so glad to be a part of it.

Huge, incredible, deep, genuine thanks to all my peeps who signed books for the silent auction, and thanks to all the peeps who attended, bought drinks, put money in the hat, got drunk, hollered, dressed in something absurd and gorgeous, and helped Circus AMOK bring our bawdy, raucus, queer, one-of-a-kind, award-winning, one-ring spectacular--ALL FOR FREE--to city parks throughout the boroughs.

AND, AND, AND!!! We're now featured in the arts section of The New York Times. Go and check out the video in the multimedia section at the bottom!!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Look What I Bought!

A couple of weeks ago, something I can not explain drew me into the Salvation Army store. Moments later, I found myself gazing upon this gorgeous beast--an early 70s, Mediterranean-style sectional sofa in delicious green and gold. Plus, it still had all the horrible plastic covers for the seats and backs--so the upholstery is absolutely flawless. I had to have it, and an hour later it was in my apartment. Clearly, the pictures don't do it justice. You're all invited.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Choking Story

“I am surely choking,” he thought. This could have been nervousness, or just the last button on his shirt creeping up and rubbing against his Adam’s apple. Several times amid the AirFrance jumbo full of backpackers on walkabouts, the jet-set, the American tourists, he felt a trickle of sweat run down his face onto the broadcloth of his expensive shirt, darkening the blue pinstripe fabric.

Nobody asked questions. Nobody asked him to open his luggage.

Perhaps the security people were busy with a baby stroller. An old lady in a wheelchair. Perhaps he talked his way into something, out of something. He was worried that they wouldn’t let him on the plane with such a large, heavy carry-on bag. He was mostly worried about the X-ray at the security gate. He removed his shoes when he got on the plane. He relaxed. He started to feel confident, which was a good thing.

There were a few more drips of sweat. First, when the flight attendant asked him to return his seat to an upright position upon initial approach into the Charles de Gaulle Airport; and second, when the taxi driver commented on the heaviness of the luggage and he couldn’t think of what to say next. He hadn’t planned that far. He even said so. “I don’t know why,” he said. “I haven’t thought ahead that far.”

He made it to the bateaux mouche; it had been planned. Besides, he didn’t know anywhere else in the city. And he floated past antique bridges and one-of-a-kind street lamps. And the water was probably colder than he imagined, (Paris in March?) but it wasn’t like canoe trips back home when he was a kid, now was it? It wasn’t like he could just reach down and stick his god-damned fingers in the god-damned Seine, now was it?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Letter from Utah: Part 12 of 12

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

Rain. The wind blows the water against the window.

We set out for Temple Square, the center of the Mormon religion, before our flight in the afternoon. The square is walled in on all sides, and is crawling—somewhat benevolently—with young Mormons, who each have a black plastic nametag that includes the flag of…their home country? Country of origin? Nationality?

A young lady hands me a palm-sized postcard, a photograph of the temple, with the most bizarre, surely Photoshop-enhanced, purple cast to the sky behind it. We wander through their museum, through the spiraling-heavenward gallery in the North Visitor’s Center, where the enormous white statue of the Savior stands, surrounded by a gorgeous, if somewhat tacky, mural of the entire universe. Maybe there is some kind of piped-in narration, recounting the history of the heavens and the earth and we missed the beginning of it, or maybe there isn’t any, and we’re just supposed to sit here contemplating ourselves and basking in the wonderment. A few minutes pass, and we awkwardly get up, move through the aisles and back down the ramp.

The Mormons are all friendly and genuine. They are extremely happy to tell you about this building or that building, or to point out a piece of scripture that speaks of triumph through adversity or to the importance of family—one of them opens her Book of Mormon and points to a verse she’s highlighted in pink.

Outside, with the water sprinkling down on us, we stand in front of the Handcart Pioneer Monument, which stands in tribute to the thousands of Mormons who walked to Salt Lake City from Iowa in the 1850s. In the sixth grade, my friends and I were obsessed with the computer game Oregon Trail. Your quest begins in Independence, Missouri, when you purchase extra sets of clothing for your family, as much food and spare parts as your wagon can carry, and a team of 6-10 oxen, who will pull you across the land. This is not, I suddenly realized, the way many of the pioneers did it. Most of them walked. How many of them could afford oxen? Even less could afford extra clothes. It’s inspiring, this massive migration of people from one place to another. They made the difficult—the frightening, the only—choice, to set out for whatever challenges and hardships and frozen dirt awaited them. Because they had had enough.
We are too comfortable. We need more of that motion, that desperate, creative energy to make a new and better life each other.


In the end, we drove more than 1600 miles—265 more and it would equal the one-way distance from New York to Salt Lake. But that’s another trip, isn’t it? As the plane begins its descent, curving across the sparkling surface of nighttime Brooklyn, I mistake the wing’s navigation light for the moon.