Saturday, March 31, 2007


I did laundry tonight. A few of my t-shirts came out with big stains on them -- stains that weren't there before I washed them. The stains made me aware of how generally ratty and dingy all my clothes are, which made me want new clothes, which reminded me of how broke I am.

I think I'll go back to wearing nothing but black like I did in my twenties when I lived in New York. Wasn't everything easier when we were in our twenties living in New York and wearing black?

Friday, March 30, 2007

I'm just gonna lie down for a second...

I'm ready to take all these scenes and scraps of writing and put them into actual screenplay format. I don't mean to say that it's done, or that I'm even very close to a first draft, but I'm ready to start working in the format, which is a big step. It means, to me, that I can finally, however dimly, see this as a coherent work of art. I realized this as I was falling asleep last night, and I woke up early because I was excited to start.

Just as I was finishing my coffee and breakfast and reading The New York Times on the web this morning, J. knocked on my door to tell me he had a hankering for lunch at Hoover's. It was about noon. Noon to 1 p.m. is my scheduled time for showering and meditating. I had already showered, since I got up early.

Hoover's is a big, bright neighborhood restaurant, super-busy for lunch, serving a mix of Cajun, soul food, and just plain Southern cuisine. A tall, stout black man who must be Mr. Hoover in chef's jacket and check pants greeted us at the door and told us it would be about 15 minutes for a table. It was.

Our fast, efficient waiter warned us away from the tuna burger, complained about the TV in the corner playing the Food Network ("we can't eat till the end of our shift, but we have to watch it and serve it -- I'm starving!") and recommended the cobbler and coconut cream over the sweet potato pie ("it's just like pumpkin pie, but not as good").

Both of us ordered the "4-veggie plate." (Me: jalapeno creamed spinach, macaroni and cheese, garlic new potatoes, and green beans cooked with bacon; J.: butter beans, mac and cheese, the same new potatoes, and ? I can't remember his fourth one). Each portion was served in an individual bowl and would have been lunch in itself. Good lord, good food!

Now it's 4:45 and I haven't meditated or started writing. I'm not going to say it's J.'s fault. Hoover's is one of those things that, once you've said the word, it has ultimate power over you and you won't be satisfied until you're so full you're sick. It's been a long time since I was already stuffed but forced down dessert anyway.

Now I just want to take a nap.


J. got a wild hair yesterday, borrowed our landlady's vacuum cleaner, and vacuumed the whole house. Except my room, which I did. I hadn't noticed that it needed vacuuming until one evening when J. and I were watching a movie. There was only one lamp on, which for some reason illuminated the area under my desk.

I'm not much of a duster. The dust is not as bad here in Austin as it was in Jersey City when my windows were only a couple yards from a very busy street. Or southern Utah, which is pretty much made of dust.

Dust reminds me of Quentin Crisp. Quentin Crisp lived on E. 4th St. during the years I lived in the East Village. It wasn't really a boarding house he lived in, but it was a four story walk-up, all tiny, single rooms, each with a sink, and a shared bathroom on each floor. Two or three times over the course of many years living in the neighborhood, I went home to this building with a boyish man with white, white teeth and long eyelashes whom I met in Stuyvesant Park. (The two of us had remarkably compatible sexual tastes.) Quentin Crisp had violet hair. I passed him in the stairwell a couple times; he was coming up and I was going down. Quentin Crisp didn't believe in dusting; he said that after the first three years it doesn't get any worse.

That reminds me of Annie Dillard's amazing book For the Time Being, which is all about dust. Well, it's about other things too, but mostly it's about dust. (It's a shame about the word "amazing," another in a long list of ruined words, like "awesome," and "gay.")

Having caught the spring cleaning bug from J., I went on to scrub the mold off the bathtub, shower walls, and toilet. Let's just say the garden was not the only thing growing around here. I can tolerate a dirty bathroom for a pretty long time -- it's just a bathroom. But it sure is lovely when it's clean.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Drop it.

I was thinking while I was meditating just now that working with my mind is like walking a dog that keeps stopping to pick stuff up. I'm strolling along, suddenly I feel the leash pull, I look and the dog is holding something in its teeth, a piece of fast food trash, a dead mouse, whatever. I say, "Drop it!" He does. Back to strolling, half a block later the leash pulls again, and on and on.

And if you keep walking the same path, it's often the same damn thing the dog picks up every day. Meditating is just practicing dropping it. Every time. Over and over.

Something I picked up today on my walk was my view of myself as lazy. I guess writing about my schedule put me in mind of it. I've dropped this one a million times, and I keep practicing. When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me I was lazy. "Pick up your feet when you walk!" "Get out of bed!" etc.

I still drag my feet when I walk, and I still sleep in sometimes, but I've come to see these things as aspects of my personality, not moral defects. I'm slow, deliberate, and generally sort of still. Not lazy. But that piece of trash on the sidewalk is still there and still tempts me every time I walk by it.

Starting today.

Pema Chodron says, "Start where you are." What I would add is, "Okay, now again. And again. And one more time."

I realized when I was in the long slog of logging and editing my film Life in a Box -- the first and only time in my adult life during which I was completely free of outside work -- that I did well with a strict schedule. I had the day, and the week, scheduled down to the hour. Two hours for coffee and the New York Times, one hour journaling, one hour for showering and meditation, six hours of logging, and so on. It worked.

I had always thought, before then, that I was a little lazy and certainly not a morning person. But suddenly, with no extraordinary effort, I was getting up at 7 a.m. (with no alarm clock!), working at one thing or another all day, and going to sleep at 11. It turns out I was not lazy, I just didn't want to do a bunch of shit other people wanted me to do. I stuck to that schedule, more or less, for two years, until the money ran out and the film was done.

Even though, for the past couple of years, I've had to do various jobs to pay the bills, I'm trying to live by a schedule when my time is my own. Sometimes it works better than others. I have trouble recovering from any disruption. I plug along on my schedule for a couple of weeks, but then I do one of these drug trials and get all out of whack.

The drug trials are better than having a job as far as giving me time and psychic space to write. I have blocks of free time while I'm in the trial, and there's not much to do in the facility but read and write. I just have to nudge myself to do less reading and more writing. But it's been two weeks since I ended the last trial, and I haven't been able yet to get back on a schedule. Today, I'm starting again. At noon, I shower.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I was thinking I would get to bed early, so I can get up at 6 and have breakfast. I have a 1 p.m. screening appointment for a drug trial, and I have to have been fasting for 8 hours before they take blood. The first thing they do at these things is read a long consent form which we have to sign, along with all sorts of other paperwork, so it'll be at least 2 before they take blood. If I don't get up early enough to eat something at 6, I'll for sure have a nasty headache by 3 or so when I get out of there.

But J. and I just got back from Quack's, where we each had a cherry Danish (half price on all pastries if you go late), and two cups of decaf, which I'm skeptical of the decaffeinatedness of, since I feel a little wired. Well, okay, maybe it's the cherry Danish. So I probably won't be going to sleep any too early.

Tonight for dinner, I made a big pot of beans & greens (from Nick and Michael's recipe: white beans, greens -- I used the chard, beet greens, and kohlrabi greens from the farm -- lots of garlic and pepper flakes, cooked until it's soupy, salt to taste). I also made foccacia from a really easy recipe my mom sent me. It only took an hour from pulling out the mixer to putting the bread on the table. I topped it with fresh rosemary that I clipped from the huge bush in our front yard. And J. made jasmine rice. Perfect.

Between dinner and dessert, we watched a little French & Saunders. Dawn French is the funniest woman alive. Period.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Stormy Weather.

I'm listening to iTunes on shuffle, which is how I usually listen to music. I have the Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall recording (remastered a few years ago for a new CD release) which, on vinyl, was one of my favorite records when I was a teenager. I listened to it over and over and over. I'm still fascinated and mystified by that fact. I had no exposure to gay culture back then, didn't even really know I was homosexual, yet from about 14 I was obsessed with Judy Garland. I scoured the Reader's Guide in the library and photocopied every article I could find about her. Bought every record I could find. Poured over the TV Guide every week to make sure I caught her movies on the late show that week.

Anyway, it's still pouring outside, and Judy comes on singing Stormy Weather. Her arrangement is over-the-top huge, of course, building up to a big, sobbing bridge, and you can just picture her on the floor, pounding the boards with her fists: "Rain pourin' down, over every hope I had, this pitterin' patterin' beatin' and splatterin' drives me mad! Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop!" Then she slows down and gets all quiet and pleading: "This misery is just too much for me." And she kicks back in again, transposing up a step: "Can't go on!" -- and a huge thunderbolt cracks outside, buckets of rain are falling -- "Everything I had is gone! Stormy weather..."

Oh, my!

Didn't it rain, little children?

It's been raining on and off all day, but now it's absolutely gushing. Big storm, dark sky, I love it.

From my desk, through the screen door, I can see from the back of the house, where my room is, along the side of the house to the street. J. moved here a couple months before I did, and I guess the side yard was kind of a mess. The wooden stoop at my door was rotted and collapsing because the kitchen sink drained right out to the side of the house under it. Nice, huh?

J. paved a narrow path with bricks along the side of the house from the front porch to my door, and he asked a friend to build a new set of steps. When I got here, we bought some plastic tubing and diverted the grey water past my stoop and farther out into the yard. (It's probably illegal for gray water to drain into the yard, but we don't want our rent to go up if we ask the landlord to fix the plumbing.)

There are no gutters on the house, so when it rains water pours over the edge of the roof into the side yard. J. and I have talked about rigging something up to catch rainwater for the garden, but there's only so much you want to put into a rental house.

That brick path still breaks my heart, reminding me that J. put so much effort into making a nice home for me to come to. We'd been apart for several years when we decided to live together again.

Um ... ?

Z. called me "sweetheart."

At Whole Foods yesterday, when we were buying food to take up to the roof for a picnic brunch, he said something like, "the half and half is right over there, sweetheart," or "I'm gonna pick up some yogurt, sweetheart," I don't remember the exact sentence. But it hit me like a tap on the shoulder. Or a poke in the ribs. I felt an urge to make a dry comment about it, but thankfully my wit failed me at the moment. We don't know each other well enough, I don't think, for dry comments about the progress of our relationship. (I use the word relationship in its less fraught sense.)

The word "sweetheart" makes me think of my friend Larry, who I used to proofread with on the graveyard shift at Weil Gotshal & Manges in the eighties in New York. There was a group of us who were temps working through an agency, but we were permanently assigned to this one firm and this one shift. This was in the heyday of big corporate mergers and junk bonds and all that stuff (remember?), when law firms were cleaning up big time, and they hired boatloads of temps who did a few hours of work a week and spent the rest of their time on the clock smoking cigarettes and reading magazines.

Larry was this sort of regular straight guy from Brooklyn. For some reason we became buddies. He used to call the women we worked with sweetheart, and a couple of them really bristled at that. They felt it was demeaning. It seemed affectionate to me, and charming. He never called me, or any man, sweetheart.

But neither am I in the habit of calling a man sweetheart, unless he is "my" sweetheart. Not even my dear friends. Is this deeply ingrained sexism? Or just a natural gender differentiation? My friendship with Larry was the beginning of my consciousness that all these issues of bias and discrimination are more complex than I had imagined. This was around the peak of my ACT UP and Queer Nation days, and probably the beginning of my disillusionment with those circles.

Larry pushed more than one button there. Near the end of my proofreading career, Larry and I hatched a scheme whereby the two of us would jump to a different agency, take our regular gig, and ask for a huge raise in our hourly rate in return for delivering several of our co-workers to the new agency. It worked, but a few weeks later, the economy tanked and all the big New York law firms cut way back on temps.

The scheme didn't seem unethical, just a little cutthroat, but still several people we worked with took a dim view of it. I still believe that those people judged the situation negatively because Larry was Jewish and he was driving a hard bargain.

Anyway. Z. called me sweetheart.


I went to my screening appointment for the drug study, but found out when I got there that it's too soon after the last study for me to be eligible for this one. The waiting period is different for every study. I thought I had given it enough time, and I thought that the recruiter who signed me up would have told me if it was too soon, but I guess she missed it.

So ... damn. That $7000 was going to make life a lot easier for the next few months. Let's hope they post another big-money study soon.

The upside is that today will not be so frantic. I won't have to do laundry, prep and freeze vegetables, mail a package, pack, and go to the library to get books for a week-long stay in the study clinic which would have started tomorrow morning. Well, I need to do some of those things, but not all of them. And I can have coffee.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Farm produce.

Our box from the CSA farm this week contained collards, chard, kohlrabi, cabbage, a bunch of parsley, beets, broccoli, lettuce, and asparagus.

Z. is going out of town for a week, so we had breakfast together this morning. We wanted to eat at Kerbey Lane, but there was an hour wait for a table, so we went to Whole Foods and got a muffin and scone and ate on the roof.

Since we were there, I picked up some lemons and bulgur, and, when I got home, I made tabbouli. I also braised the collards with garlic and chipotle peppers (spicy and smoky like the traditional way, but meatless). And finally cooked a couple of those sweet potatoes that we had bought to root and plant in the garden. They never did root. My new favorite way to prepare any sort of root vegetable is to cube them, toss them in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and roast them on a sheet pan in a very hot oven. The roasting brings out the sweet in sweet potatoes which contrasts nicely with the garlic.

I found a great new way to make cole slaw too, in The Best Recipe, my favorite new cookbook. You shred the cabbage and salt it, put it in a colander over a big bowl, and let the salt pull out the moisture for several hours before you dress it. The cabbage wilts but it's still very crisp. It's easier to eat, absorbs more of the flavor of the dressing, and you don't end up with a pool of water at the bottom of the bowl.