Saturday, February 24, 2007

Don't. push. me. 'cause...

I've taken to setting up my computer on one of the ECG tables (like a massage table with no hole for your face) in the "procedure room," which is the big main area where most everything study-related happens. All in all, I think there are more quiet hours here than anywhere else, though, as always, anyone can come in at any time and start playing loud funk music or having a marathon screaming match on the cell phone with her teenage child.

I haven't been writing much the last three days. Just distracted and ready to go home, I think. But I have been having great ideas for my screenplay just as I fall asleep at night. I value that even more than the time spent writing, because when I have one or two of those on my pad, I have something to get my pen moving when I sit down. I know I have something to write.

I was trying to read this afternoon, but I couldn't block out the conversations in the room, so I shuffled off to the TV room to see what folks were watching. They were just sitting down to watch The Guardian, so I stayed. It was long and, well, stupid. But I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do more, so I sat through it. I was hoping for more wet t-shirt shots of the Coast Guard boys. Can't we at least have that?

Now I'm back at my ECG table/desk. And there's a guy 10 feet away from me practicing harmonica. He has a little device that plays the tune, and then he has to play it. Beginner tunes, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I want to feel supportive because he's learning to play the harmonica and anyone who wants to learn to play the harmonica should be encouraged. But it's about to drive me insane.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Home stretch.

Today is dose day again. No breakfast, so I have a nasty headache. Starting with the dose this morning, it got busy again. We're running from station to station, giving blood (12 times today, I think), having our vital signs taken, and giving them every drop of urine we produce for 72 hours. This means we're near the end. As soon as they get our last drop of urine on Monday morning, we're free.

While I've been incarcerated, J. has been turning the soil in our garden. As soon as I get out, Z. is going to take me around to his favorite nurseries and help me pick out seeds and seedlings. It's time to plant! For the warm season, we're putting in lima beans, peanuts, sweet potatoes, chilies, tomatoes, cilantro, and basil.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

American Idol II (and I promise never again).

Tonight I watched a shorter episode of the show, maybe only an hour long, and, though I walked in about 20 minutes into the show and could have missed something, I don't think there was much singing. They spent the whole hour dragging each contestant up to the stage, repeating the humiliating comments made last night by the judges, and then telling them whether or not they would be returning for another round.

They only eliminated two contestants! How long does this go on?

So, they sent home one boy and one girl, and then what did they do, right after delivering the crushing news, but make the rejected kids sing the same song they sang last night which got them booted! I was really perplexed -- it just seemed over-the-top mean -- and I asked aloud why they did that. Food-hater said, "So they can see what they sound like with crap in their pants." That made my whole day.


Our study coordinator arranged for us to have some time outside this morning. It's 80 degrees and sunny today. My fellow study subjects were practically drooling in anticipation.

I guess I'm not a real Texan yet, because I don't have that visceral need to be outdoors. I like a nice day, and I get stir crazy like anyone, but not so soon. People here are so used to mild weather pretty much all year round that if they're stuck indoors for more than a day and a half, they get antsy. Last week Z. and I went to a coffeeshop one of those nights when the temperature dipped into the low 30s, and the patio seating area was still full, everyone huddled and shivering by the gas heaters. I spent most of my life in the Midwest and Northeast where the winters can be so nasty you feel lucky to have someplace indoors to be.

The outdoor break was not mandatory, so I decided to stay inside while they all went for a walk in the yard. Not that I didn't want a break, but what I really wanted a break from was them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

American Idol.

I've finally seen American Idol. It's on at my dinnertime, and endlessly -- it's on when I sit down, for the last two nights I've watched it for about an hour, and it's still on when I get up to go. So, what's the object of this show? To find the loudest singer in America?

Even though I hadn't seen it, of course I knew a lot about it because people talk about it constantly. The buzz seems to be that Simon is cruel. Simon is not cruel enough. These kids are awful. Where do they come from?

Good lord, last night was the boys, and not one of them was better than bad. I mean really bad. Bad pitch, for goodness sake. If you can't sing on pitch, then what are you doing? Tonight, at least a couple of the girls were good singers. One of them was even a great singer. But I don't think she was louder than the two girls who sang Celine Dion songs, so I guess she won't win. Two. Celine Dion songs! What?

I don't understand this show at all.


I guess it was bound to happen. The guy who hates the food and the woman who talks loudly on the phone 18 hours a day (usually having very shall we say intimate conversation with her girlfriend) got into it today. In the "quiet" lounge. Which is never quiet, so I wasn't too surprised to hear shouting in there while I was showering. There are a couple people here who sound like they're shouting whenever they talk, and one of them is phone-sex woman. But this was real shouting, and apparently it was almost real fisticuffs when Food-hater told Phone-sexy to shut up and she invited him to make her shut up.

The altercation was about the volume or the style of music (hip hop) Phone-sexy was playing. In the "quiet" lounge. It turned into a racial clash (Phone-sexy is black, Food-hater is white) because apparently she asked him if it had been country music would he have asked her to turn it down and he said no. I think the word "cracker" was used. I couldn't take sides if I wanted to. I think nearly everyone in the study has had it up to here with the orgasmic phone conversations. And some of the guys have been taking bets before meals on what Food-hater will complain about first on his plate.

Five more days.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


One of my fellow study subjects, sitting down to a lunch of taco salad, says, "What is this shit? What am I supposed to do with this? I don't even know how to eat this. Too many fucking Mexicans in the kitchen. We need some real food here, instead of this fucking Mexican shit." If I hadn't been so taken aback by the careless, offhand bigotry -- not to mention the appalling rudeness, since the woman who prepared the food was standing about 20 feet away -- I would have enjoyed a laugh at the thought of blaming the Mexican people for taco salad.

I'm a little sensitive because last night during dinner two young guys were loudly sharing their views about gay marriage (explaining why they would never vote for Guiliani), the usual blah blah about going against god. We all know I'm not a big fan of the gay marriage fight -- the irony of gay marriage being the progressive issue of our time is almost as funny/sad as blaming the Mexicans for taco salad -- but the standard arguments against it are all about saying one group of people is better than another and deserves better treatment. So, even though I'm not out there begging to get married, it still hurts to see how vehemently some people think I shouldn't be allowed to.

And anyone who says I'm hearing this stuff because I live in Texas just isn't listening. I heard just as many bigoted, mean-spirited conversations when I lived in New York and San Francisco.

Monday, February 19, 2007


I don't have a TV, I haven't in quite some time. Pretty much anything I ever want to watch on TV will come out on DVD soon enough. The times when I have had a TV in the house, I end up addicted to Law & Order and other stuff that's not really bad, but not really good either. I don't think it's necessarily destructive or evil, but it's not productive or edifying either, so you might as well have never had that hour or two in your life. That's what's sad. It's like smoking. Maybe it doesn't seem like such a big deal, but, truth be told, it shortens your life.

But I've been hanging out in the dining room here for the last three days, which has been great because between meals it's quiet and I can read (mornings and evenings) and write (afternoons). I just stay put and ride out the little noisy flurries three times a day and enjoy the peace otherwise.

There's a TV in here -- because of course there has to be a TV everywhere -- and when people come in they turn it on. It doesn't matter what's on, and it doesn't matter if they're going to watch it or not. In fact, most of them don't watch it, except incidentally while they're talking on the phone or chatting with someone or listening to music on headphones. Yet, they're visibly uncomfortable if it's not on.

Earlier a guy came in wearing headphones, which were attached to a small portable DVD player with a movie playing. He turned the TV on and sat down and watched his movie for about half an hour. Why? And just now, someone came in, the first person to arrive for snacktime (I had turned the TV off after the last of the dinner crowd left), and asked me if I minded if he turned the TV on. I said I didn't. He turned it on, sat down and ate his Rice Krispies treat, got up and left. He was in here for 2 minutes tops. He didn't even look at the TV, but it had to be on.

It's almost like an orienting device. If he was left with only his Rice Krispies treat and whatever happened to be in his head at the moment, he wouldn't have known where he was or what he was supposed to be doing.

I was reading an article in the Times this morning about MTV and how they're struggling to stay hip as people turn away from TV toward new media (the web, mp3 players, etc.). But from what I'm observing here, it doesn't seem like anyone's giving up TV. They're not as engaged with it, but they need for it to be on in the background while they do other stuff. They're not turning off the TV, they're adding layers to it.


Librarians are banning a book because it contains the word "scrotum"? The book is “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, and from what I've read it's geared to ten to twelve year olds and the scrotum referred to in the book belongs to a dog. And because of this word, librarians all over the country are banning the book.

No one in my family talked to me about sex when I was growing up. Not a word. Not once. I don't blame my parents. Sometimes you know you should do something and you just can't bring yourself to do it. God knows, there have been things in my life I couldn't face. My parents were uncomfortable with the subject because we are all -- despite the fact that erotic images of teenagers are used to sell products to us every day -- uncomfortable with the subject of teenagers' sexual lives.

I had about an hour of sex education in 5th or 6th grade. All the girls were sent to another room and a very young woman in a tight, low-cut seersucker pants suit came to our classroom, gave the standard biology explanation of human reproduction, and then giggled and blushed her way through a half dozen questions from a room full of boys. "What's a vagina?" "That's what you might know as a pussy." It was not helpful.

Nobody ever acknowledged how fucking weird everything had suddenly become. Nobody ever talked about love, or intimacy, or affection. (And -- and this is a whole nother reason to get indignant -- nobody ever ever ever even hinted that boys might start to find other boys sexy, or that girls might start noticing girls in a different way. Queer kids are pretty much on their own in that shame spiral.)

Thirty-five years later, people still can't see how it might be a good thing for their kids to be able to talk about the dog's balls and not feel ashamed or embarrassed? Can we just grow up, for god's sake? My heart aches for the kids who are trying to figure out what's happening with their bodies and their minds, who, instead of information and compassion, get a bunch of freaked-out adults pretending it isn't happening.

My favorite blog about gay stuff is Joe.My.God. and I loved what he had to say about this whole scrotum mess:

"Librarian Dana "Pee Pee" Nilsson says, "This book included what I call a Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they could push the envelope, but they didn’t have the children in mind. How very sad." Nilsson then excused herself to have a tinkle and powder her dirty pillows."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Maybe this time.

I spent three solid hours this afternoon writing. I think I may have discovered the secret -- the dining room. It seems to clear out in the afternoon, with the exception of a few stragglers, so if I set up in here before lunch and then just stay, eventually I can turn off the TV and get some work done. This is also the only place in the facility with a strong wi-fi signal, so I think it's gonna be my office for the next week. I'm trying not to get too happy about this discovery, because there is a TV in here and these people are drawn like moths to a TV. Cross your fingers for me.

Three hours! And it's only dinnertime. Maybe it'll be quiet in here again tonight. At this rate, I can have this screenplay in some kind of shape by the time I get out, next Monday. Reading the Baldwin bio inspired me.

Writing an email to my friend M. this morning, replying to her question, "What's it like in there?" I realized that it's like moving in with the group of people you would encounter in the waiting room of a free clinic. It's the same demographic mix.

The woman who coos to her lover on the phone all day is sitting behind me. She has one of those phones that clip to your clothing so you don't have to hold anything and there's nothing obstructing your face. She's eating and telling her girlfriend everything that's on her plate. "Peas, mashed potatoes, meatloaf... that's right baby, meatloaf!" When you're on the phone, does the rule about not talking with your mouth full still apply?

Public Displays of Affection.

I was just reading an article in the Times about same-sex public affection, about how it's still kind of a big deal. I guess the discussion was spurred by that Snickers commercial. I don't have a TV, but I saw the commercial later on YouTube. What is the deal with American heterosexual men being so grossed out by two guys kissing each other? It's so childish. It's like the whole cooties thing in 2nd grade.

When I was maybe 21, living in the East Village, I said good night to a guy I'd spent the evening with -- I don't remember who it was, I think maybe we only had the one date -- on the corner of Broadway and 10th St. We talked for a few minutes, and then we kissed before he went west and I went east. I lived on 10th between First and Avenue A at the time. I had walked about a block east when a car drove by, windows open, full of young men who shouted "faggot!" and threw bottles at me. None of the bottles hit me, but they shattered on the sidewalk at my feet and scared the hell out of me. The car kept moving, and I kept walking. I'd lived in New York long enough to know that it's usually not a good idea to let your attacker know you're afraid. But they went around the block and came at me again, throwing more bottles. This time I ran like hell, turning right on 3rd Avenue (it's one way the other way, so the car wouldn't be able to follow me). I ducked into a store for a few minutes and then ran all the way home. I was terrified. Much more terrified than I was either time I was mugged in New York, because this attack was personal.

Many years later, J. and I often held hands when we walked down the street in the East Village, where I still lived. This was in that period of infatuation in a relationship when it's just really hard not to. I don't remember any negative reaction, but, more than once, people we passed smiled and gave us a thumbs up or some other sign of approval. It was nice, I guess, but it made us self-conscious. Maybe nobody was throwing bottles at us, but we didn't blend in. It takes a real toll on same-sex couples to know that every time they express affection toward each other they are committing an act of civil disobedience.

And now, Z. I don't think I mentioned before that he is younger than me. By about 15 years, which is a whole generation, at least down here. He is completely unself-conscious about expressing affection in public. Last week, on Valentine's Day, he took my hand and held it across the table in a restaurant without the least bit of shame. I almost cried when he sat next to me on a couch in a crowded coffeeshop, put his hand on my knee, asked me for a kiss. And I didn't see anybody around us react. They didn't roll their eyes, or look away. Nothing. And we're in Texas. I almost cried because I realized that I didn't feel afraid, or ashamed. I didn't feel like a freak. Okay, I was still self-conscious enough to be looking at the moment and taking note of my feelings. But I do that anyway.