Thursday, November 27, 2008

My YouTube Debut

Thanks for coming out last night. And for everybody who missed it, here's me reading a few pages at last night's event at Nowhere bar. Due to technological mysteriousness, the first minute or so is missing--but you get the idea.

Thanks again, also, to the incomparable Charlie Vasquez.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Town Hall, Twice.

Ani Difranco played The Town Hall on Friday and Saturday nights, and I was there. Of course. Because I'm a huge fan and I have to go to as many shows as I can. I tallied them up, and turns out, these two were shows #29 and #30. This is not that absurd--some people who are fans of, say, the Broadway musical "Rent," saw it more than 150 times.

Her band is simply astounding: relaxed but energetic, textural, goofy looking. And the new songs, although a bit on the obvious side when it comes to lyrics, are still spotted with those trademark Ani-isms that somehow break it all down.

Take this:
Promiscuity is nothing more than traveling
There's more than one way to see the world
And some of us like to stay close to home
And some of us are Columbus, what can i say
Both shows were so fantastic. Setlists are here, for those of you who also get it:

-Smiling Underneath
-Here for now
-Red Letter Year
-The Atom
-Alla This
-November 4
-Landing Gear
-Every state line

-God's Country
-Swan Dive
-Smiling Underneath
-Back, Back, Back
-Untouchable Face
-'Round a Pole
-Emancipated Minor
-As Is
-The Atom
-Way Tight
-Alla This
-November 4
-Both hands

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Partitas, etc.

Some part of me always wonders if, when I step into a church, I'll burst into flames. So I was a bit surprised on Tuesday night, when, at St. Peter's Church in Midtown, I didn't. I had gone to see a friend of a friend play one of Bach's solo partitas for violin, (Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004, to be exact) which was described by the program notes as the "Mount Everest" of solo violin. Wikipedia says that the piece is: "a pinnacle of the solo violin repertoire in that it covers practically every aspect of violin-playing known during Bach's time and thus it is among the most difficult pieces to play for that instrument." Truly, it was amazing. Beautiful, deep, moving, athletic.

And because I am the kind of person--and the kind of writer--who is as intrigued by the almost-missed details as the main event, I was as impressed by her playing as I was her moment of reflection before starting. She took a breath, closed her eyes, focused her thoughts toward something outside of herself, or perhaps inside. It was, I think, as important for her as it was for those of us in the audience. It said to us: I am about to try to do something very difficult. It's important, and I need your help. Should you have the chance to hear someone tackle this--do.

My friend (and downstairs neighbor) Mary was accompanying on piano for the other pieces on the evening's program. Mary has a grand piano in her living room, which is the same size as my living room, which is to say it takes up most of the space. I suppose it could be a nuisance, living above a professional pianist, having to listen to the hours and hours of practice and learning, of rote exercises and strange inconsistent blips of sound. But I like it. Years ago, I asked her if she knew Manuel de Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance," which is my favorite piece of music for piano. She said she didn't, but that she knew of it, and would learn it. I get to hear it now periodically, floating up through the floor while I'm cooking, or working, or sorting the mail.

I realized, while I was sitting in the aisles of the church, that there is a certain kind of older lady that I like--there were several of them seated around me. They've raised their children, and they color their hair, and they wear clothes that are a very specific kind of older lady. A vest with a busy print, maybe metallic, over a basic turtleneck and a long skirt. Large jewelry--big pendants on chains, brooches and big rings. It's desexualized, like a lot of older lady looks, but its kept a certain kind of style. Maybe in trying desperately hard not to look like what they think an old lady looks like, they've created their very own subset of old-lady looks. Dark, rich colors are definitely in.

Yesterday, I had to take the train up to Mt. Sinai hospital to make a hand off for one of my too many jobs, and I took the opportunity to walk across the park at about 98th Street, and take the train on the West side back down to the office. It was very cold, but also very bright. The park is a different place way up there, with bigger spaces, and practically empty. I buried my hands in my pockets and took my time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No on H8

It's been many years since I joined the throngs of fervent, angry, optimistic activists, carrying signs and candles, marching down Broadway in support of some cause or another. When I began taking my writing seriously--that is to say, when I began writing intentionally, for the purpose of writing--something in my perspective shifted, and I became even more of an observer. For better or for worse*, it has become increasingly impossible for me to include myself in the rants--"What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!" My own thinking became separate from the We, and I always think of the protesters as They. What do they want? When do they want it?

But Prop 8 changed things. And last night, with more than 10,000 other people--from what I saw this morning, the AP reported roughly 10,000; estimates from within the crowd were at about 16,000--I marched in protest of California's decision to deny equal rights to thousands of its queer neighbors. We began outside the Mormon Temple at 65th Street--surely it was empty. Surely they were wise enough to go home early? When we first arrived on the scene, I kept thinking, Why isn't everyone spread out? Why aren't they blocking traffic? Why aren't they climbing the face of the temple and pouring buckets of fake blood down the front of it?** Once the energy and numbers came to a head, we marched slowly down Broadway and into Columbus Circle. People in cars cheered and honked. People leaned out of their windows and off their balconies and cheered. It was great.

My queerness separates me from the heteronormal relationship model, and that's the way I like it. A few years ago, when it became clear that gay marriage would be a huge dividing line in the queer and straight communities, I didn't really see myself as part of the movement. I don't exactly agree that "marriage" is our greatest need. In fact, I think the religious right picked the issue for us, as a way to force decision-makers to take a stand. And here we go again, unable to define our own movement, our own self-identity. The right to marry, in itself, does not serve the primary needs of most of queer culture--you could argue that it actually further marginalizes an already marginalized group of human beings. (Add that marriage is a religious institution grown out of patriarchy, and now existing primarily in the realm of capitalism and this bizarre notion that "we are just like you.")

The gay community needs to address the fact that its face is primarily one of gay white males, who--for various reasons: race, class, power--have become the loudest voice in the marriage movement. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that our white male privilege has left us feeling more entitled to those rights, and therefore more affronted when they are taken away, or perhaps anger is a more acceptable reaction for white males. And in a state like California, people of color are going to have to get behind your idea. And I wonder if there was enough outreach into those communities--did a bunch of gay white men want to pass out information in a black church? And would they have been welcome? The gay community needs to address its own racism. The black and Latino communities need to address their homophobia--and true, most social movements in those communities begin in their churches.

But I wonder, too, about the choice to target Mormons, a religious group who's (arguably) been persecuted enough. But I realize the issues that are setting people off--the fact that roughly $20M of Mormon money was spent to fund advertising (among other things) that was made up of lies. And I think people are using Mormonism as a stepping off point to talk about the entire religious right's involvement in politics, and about any church's involvement in the state. I don't object to a religious group getting muscle behind an idea, but I do resent the money spent on absolute false presentations. If you're a Mormon in Texas who gave $50 to the cause, you should be upset, too, that in your name someone financed lies and signed hate into law. Did you know this when you signed the check? (It occurs to me that they probably did.)

All that said, the passing of Prop 8 in California is hateful, vengeful, disgusting, and wrong. It makes me sick to my stomach. No amount of talk about movements and faces of movements, about privilege and whiteness, capitalism and patriarchy, change the fact that what it finally boils down to is this: people want to love one another. And they want to say publicly that they are willing to take a chance. Even in the face of the fact that half--HALF--of all marriages end in divorce, that's how optimistic us gays are. We're willing to sign our names on the line for even a 50% chance at happiness.

I felt a part of something last night, as fractured as my feelings are about the issue. Kip and I held hands, we held each other. There were so many men kissing each other, both in greetings and out of love. One our way to the subway, I heard someone say, "New York is totally next."

*Sometimes I wonder if this ambivalence has made me a better writer, but a more distant person. Or the opposite. Probably, neither is true.

**Okay, theatrics. But hey, I'm one for drama. Kip kept reminding me that this was to be a "peaceful" protest. I heard some conservative news programs claiming that "gays" were "rioting" all over the country in response to Prop 8--so I figure, if they're going to report that, then hell, we might as well riot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Plath Would Say I Made You Up

I sat on the couch and watched you close
the door to your tiny bedroom
and then I listened to you call the boy
who interested you more than I did.
(Geography or age or body type.
I never knew what was the difference
between us. I stared at photos of him
trying to understand.)

I buried you like a botanical bulb inside me
cultivating you until you were a bright, amazing vine
that bloomed around me, while I willed
myself into the unconscious limbo of sleep,
or not sleep -- I wanted you in my dreams, too.
Plath would say I made you up.

You were still there in the morning, in your bedroom.
Alone, which soothed me. Some.

There are some people I know
for whom the longing is the point.
I watched the shadows made by
your body along the bottom
of the door.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reading Nov 26 @ Nowhere

I'm reading some new stuff:

Wed, Nov 26

Nowhere Bar
322 East 14th Street
(btwn 1st and 2nd Aves)

Featuring myself, as well as Carol Novack, Sassafras Lowrey and Matthew Johnson.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Summary of Text Messages Received

Capitalization and punctuation preserved.

-Whoo hoo! Feels a little brighter
-Its amazing. And majorities in both houses!
-in shock.
-Free at last!
-I don't even know this feeling
-I haven't been this happy in a very long while. I'm elated.
-Overjoyed. Overwhelmed!!
-Crying. Hugging. Never felt so full of hope.
-Holy sht
-Loves it
-Are you seeng ths?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Dinner at Pipa

For my birthday--which was more than a month ago--Kip and I went to Pipa with Robert and Sean. Pipa is that tapas restaurant that's sort of inside ABC Carpet and Home. Overall, the food was pretty inconsistent, now that I think about it. Some things were really phenomenal, and some things were strangely forgettable. But, with pitchers of delicious sangria--"Red, since summer is over," said Kip--who really cares? I say go, eat lots, and bring good company.

What we ate:

--Mini Chorizo, with sherry, olive oil, and chilies
--Crispy Calamari; with some kind of sweet paprika-ish glaze.
--Mushroom Croquettes; with rosemary, thyme and garlic
--Same for Ham Croquettes and Cheese Croquettes. Deelish.
--Mushroom Coca; wild mushrooms, caramelized onion, fig, serrano, almond, truffle oil.

As expected:
--Dates; stuffed with cheese (I think) and wrapped in pork.
--Asparagus; with some kind of truffle aioli.
--Manchego plate; with standard accessories.

--Scallops a la Mancha; with caramelized onions, manchego and crispy seranno.
--"Pipa Coca;" sobrasada, artichoke, tomato, pepper and manchego flatbread.