Friday, July 20, 2007

One of Those Days.

I sometimes say -- jokingly, because actually it was the fact that I couldn't get by on what I was making at the job that I hated -- that I left San Francisco because it rained every day for a month and a half. It really did -- that part is true.

It hasn't rained every day for a month and a half here in Austin, but damn near. And for a lot longer than a month and a half. It seems like it's been raining since March. Everything smells like mildew. There's mold growing everywhere. The garden is as over it as I am.

Today I had orientation at U.T. That's why I'm so aware of the rain, because I walked around in it all day. Somehow in all the confusion about my financial aid, I missed the earlier orientation session, so this was a makeup session. I can't register for my classes until August 23, but I had a great meeting with an academic adviser who strongly recommended I major in American Studies, which is an interdisciplinary major. I might just.

I'd been thinking about majoring in English, or something they have here called Rhetoric and Writing. But American Studies is broader and less concerned with theory, and I like that. As far as credits toward my degree, I'm in pretty much the same boat no matter what major I choose. There's a handful of general requirements I have to fulfill, and the rest will be courses in my major.

Right after I walked out the door this morning, I turned around to go back for something (I can't remember what), but I couldn't get my door unlocked. The deadbolt was stuck. I tried for a minute, but it wouldn't budge, so I gave up and left. When I got home this afternoon, I went in J's door in front (same key). I tried my lock from the inside but it was still just as stuck and while trying to get it unstuck I broke my key off in the lock.

Browsing through the course schedule on line, it looks like pretty much every class I want or need is full already. Nice.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ouch.

Tuesday evening I went to Whole Foods and bought one red onion, a bunch of cilantro, a 6-pack of Real Ale, and a small container of kalamata olives. The total was about $20. I used my debit card to pay, and I asked for $40 cash back. I don't often do cash back, but I was completely out of cash.

The cashier was very friendly, in fact I wondered if she wasn't pushing it a little hard -- "Did you do anything fun over the weekend?" After the transaction was complete, she noticed that I had brought my own bags; it was too late to deduct my bag refund, and she apologized for that.

Last night, when I took out my wallet to pay for my beer at the bar, I realized I didn't have any cash. The cashier at Whole Foods had not given me the $40. Or the receipt.

I went to the customer service desk at Whole Foods today and told them what happened. I guessed it was a long shot, especially after two days, but I thought maybe the cashier, when her drawer came up $40 over, would have put it aside, she would have told someone.

It didn't happen. $20 for one red onion, a bunch of cilantro, a 6-pack of Real Ale, and a small container of kalamata olives hurts. $60 hurts a lot.

Pussy.

I could write a book about gay men and how they feel about vaginas.

I have never had sex with a woman, but I think my experience is unusual among "gay" men. I don't think I have one gay friend who hasn't had some significant sexual experience with women. And not because they were closeted and oppressed and forced into it, but because they wanted to and enjoyed it. (A good friend of mine from years ago, we're not in touch any more, but he used to go on and on about cunnilingus, how much he loved it. He eventually fell in love with and married a woman.) Then, at some point in their lives, they veered toward same-sex relationships. I think, even in more open, urban communities, there's a great deal of pressure to pick one. Bisexuality is confusing, even to liberals.

So I think I might be an anomaly, a gay man who has never had any sexual attraction to a woman. I did make out once with a woman friend in a bar when we were both sloppy drunk. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't sexy.

My first roommate in New York was a woman, a fellow student at Parsons. She would get naked at the drop of a hat. She walked around the apartment naked all the time. She had big breasts and narrow hips. You might be chatting and she would get up, walk into the bathroom which was just off the kitchen, leave the door open, sit down on the toilet and pee, wipe herself, and get up, never missing a beat in the conversation.

I think she was the first woman I saw naked from the waist down. She had lots of blond hair on the inside of her thighs that I remember thinking she really should get rid of. (I was only 20. Where did I get such ideas about women's body hair?)

But we were in art school, so it wasn't long before I was seeing lots of naked women modeling for my drawing and painting classes. Mostly women models, I think because I had mostly male teachers. My painting teacher, who was a woman, had models of both sexes in her classes, but the rest of my teachers, all male, had only women models.

One time, in painting class, the model was in a pose that had her legs splayed and I noticed the little white string from her tampon dangling in her crotch. It took me a while to figure out what it was. I grew up in a family that didn't talk much about bodies and their natural processes.

My good friend M in San Francisco hates the word "pussy." I'm not sure if she finds that particular word offensive and she wouldn't mind if you called it something else, or if she'd rather one didn't bring up the subject at all. I think it's a funny word because it means "cat." Straight men say it a lot, mostly to each other, and without irony. Straight men get very serious about pussy. I myself can't say it without smiling (and probably blushing) a little. Just saying the word brings out my lisp.

I hate when gay men have that "Ew, yuck!" reaction to the mention of a vagina. It feels ugly and hateful. But I have to admit, though I'm fascinated, I have never wanted to get very close to one. It's partly a visceral reaction to something that is so "other." It's like contemplating the genitals of a giraffe. Interesting, but there's something deep within me that says, "no."

Perhaps vaginas make me feel inadequate. They want something I don't have to give.

For a long time, in my 20s, I was plagued by the notion that male homosexuality might be caused by fear of women. I still wonder sometimes. A big part of my sexual interaction with men is guided by my familiarity with their bodies, and I can't imagine what it must be like to have sex with someone whose body is so different.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What My Bathroom Smells Like.

Sorry to go on so about this, but, besides a lot of reading and thinking, it's the only thing going on in my life this week.

I decided, being a little stir-crazy after spending the whole rainy day in my room, that I would go out for a couple beers. Wednesdays there's live music at my favorite bar, and it's hit or miss as far as quality of the bands, but I need to get out of the house.

I wanted to brush my teeth before leaving -- I had rice with shredded zucchini and pesto for dinner -- but A was in the bathroom. So I waited. And waited. And waited. Still in there.

Half an hour later, someone emerges and closes the door behind him. I didn't see who it was, I just heard the door open and close and saw a shadow pass my bedroom door. Two minutes later, someone else emerges. I go in to brush my teeth, and the bathroom smells like pussy. And not faintly.

Right now, any attempt to convey my feelings about this will make me look foolish or misogynistic -- both of which I'm sure I am at times -- so I'll just let it be for tonight.

Hospitality II.

There's a party in my house. A, his girlfriend, and a least 4 of their friends are here, hanging out in the front room (J's room).

One thing's for sure, I am learning a lot this week. I was feeling really quibbley about things like schmutz on the kitchen table, lights left on, too much a/c use, unrinsed beer bottles in the recycling bin, inordinate toilet paper consumption, etc., but I had a change of heart. I realized, "A is J's guest. I should treat him like a guest. Is it really such a big deal that he brought his girlfriend?"

So I relaxed. I washed their towels with mine. I cleaned up after them in the kitchen. It felt good.

But the situation continues to test me. I am struggling to treat A like a guest, but does a guest invite a group of people over to his host's home for a party? He's not acting like a guest, but more like a sublettor. And a sublettor pays rent. But that makes it an issue about money and property, so I reject that line of inquiry.

I try to separate the money issue from the consumption issue. I bristle at the excessive use of electricity because I know our utility bill will be high. But it's also important to me that ours is a low-impact household. J and I both make a great effort to follow certain guidelines about consumption. J is often better at it than I am, and he keeps me on my toes. We reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost religiously. Is it less than gracious to insist that guests follow our rules? I hate telling people what to do.

To use the bathroom, they have to walk through the kitchen and past my bedroom door. I don't like how it feels to look up and see a stranger walking through my home.

My home. Mine, mine, mine. I don't believe that this corner of a run-down old house is mine, not in any real sense. I've been in too many fucked-up situations with landlords to get very comfortable in a rented apartment. Maybe that's why, in the end, it's hard for me to take any firm stand in this situation. I'm paying rent, but really we're all just squatters. I might be here longer than A and his girlfriend and their friends, but that doesn't mean it's not going to end at some point. We all get kicked out sooner or later.

Coffee, Iced Coffee, Beer.

I'm not a real Austinite yet, because I don't carry a water bottle around with me wherever I go.

I make a pot of coffee in the morning, which yields 3 mugs of strong coffee to drink while I read the paper. Sometimes J will have a cup, but not often. If he has a cup, then I make another pot, because I have to have at least 3 cups or I'm not done. I put what's left in the fridge for iced coffee later.

Usually in the afternoon, I have at least one tall glass of iced coffee. I like iced tea, but I like it sweetened whereas coffee I drink unsweetened. But I can't drink it black. I have to have some milk or half and half. So it's a choice between sugar and fat, isn't it? Also, when I have an iced tea, I only want another and another. One iced coffee is enough.

Around 6 or 7, I want a beer. I want to sit on the porch and drink a cold beer. Now, one beer definitely makes me want another, but that's an urge I usually fight off or I'd be out cold every night by 9.

I hardly ever drink water. And I hardly ever feel thirsty. Every once in a while, I feel suddenly, extremely thirsty, but that happens very seldom.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Censorship.

I have a new friend I haven't written about here, because he reads this blog and, every time I start to write about him, I get self-conscious and I chicken out. I certainly have other friends who read what I write about them, and I'm less concerned about what they'll think, but still I do catch myself -- to different degrees, depending on who it is -- being less than completely frank.

I think I'm fairly transparent when I write about J. After all these years, that's just how we are with each other. I am pretty frank about Z, but he doesn't know I have a blog. Even so, if he were to stumble upon it, there's nothing I would be horrified for him to read. Embarrassed maybe, but he's a big boy, and he appreciates honesty more than most people I know.

My family doesn't know about my blog. They, especially my mom, tend to worry about me, so I don't always share every little disappointment and hardship. I don't want to confirm her view of my life as a minefield. I can write more freely, knowing my family won't be reading it.

But this new friend: he was a regular reader here before I met him. We met back when I was battling the bugs in the garden. He posted a comment telling me he was an organic gardener and would be happy to give me advice on the bug problem.

I think by now organic gardener has usurped fireman for Sexiest Occupation for Gay Men, hasn't it? In my Book of Lists, it has. So I emailed him and said I would love some help with the bugs. We made a date to look at the garden and go out for coffee.

Not only is he an organic gardener, he's a former helicopter rescuer. His resume is sexy before you even meet him. But then he looks the part, too. If you were making a movie and you had to cast the role of an organic gardener and former helicopter rescuer, he's the guy you would cast. He's handsome. He’s the guy your straight sister would find sexy. (I just got goosebumps when I wrote that, thinking about him reading it. Maybe I have the air conditioner on too high.)

I told him over dinner the other night that I feel a strong urge to flirt with him but a corresponding confusion as to whether that's the best way to act in this case. He lives with a long-term partner, and I'm not looking for a boyfriend anyway. His take on it was so clear and simple, and helpful. He said, more or less, "A lot of friendships between gay men start with some sexual attraction. Sometimes you end up having sex, sometimes you don't. So we're attracted to each other. It doesn't have to be a big deal."

Here's where I would say, "It's all good," if I didn't absolutely hate that expression.

Pickles.

I was just now in the kitchen making pickles. We have a serious cucumber glut here, and, though I've already made 3 quart jars of bread and butter pickles, we got a bunch of small cucumbers in our box from the farm on Saturday, and they taste too bitter to eat raw, so I decided to try one jar of sour pickles, what they call "half sours" in New York.

Anyway, while I'm doing this, a young man wanders into the kitchen from the front of the house (J's room) looks around, sees me, and says, "Is there a bathroom back here?" Not "May I use your bathroom?" or "Hi, I'm so-and-so, a friend of A's. May I use your bathroom?" Not "Hi, are those pickles you're making? Can I use your bathroom?" Just "Is there a bathroom back here?" Like this is a gas station convenience store where some random guy is making pickles in the back room.

I kept my rebuke to myself -- that is so not the person I want to be -- and pointed him to the bathroom. When he was on his way out, I said, "Hi, I'm Steven. Who are you?" and he introduced himself and shook my hand. Whatever. He was cute.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hospitality.

Someday I want to see the footage from one of those secret video cameras installed in a women's bathroom. Not because I have a prurient interest in women with their pants down, but to find out what they're doing with all the toilet paper.

J is in New York for two weeks and he invited a friend to stay here while he's gone. A is a very agreeable college student -- he goes to school in Boston, but he's here in his home town for the summer, and, I think or maybe I just made this up, he's couch-surfing to avoid staying the summer at his mom and dad's house. At any rate, for a 20-year-old, he's quiet, considerate, does his dishes, makes an effort to get the garbage in the right container, etc. (he doesn't always rinse the beer bottles before he puts them in the recycling bin, but that's such a minor thing to complain about).

A has a girlfriend who is here pretty much whenever he is here. (The deal was one college student, not two, but she's nice.) The other day, after they had breakfast together -- either she made him oatmeal or he made it for her -- she washed their dishes, but didn't wash the two plates and a coffee cup of mine that were in the sink, which I thought was a strange choice. Still, any negative reaction I might have had was obliterated by the overwhelming sweetness of two 20-year-olds sharing a breakfast of oatmeal after spending the night together. I'm not a parent and don't imagine that I will be, but I'm at the age where, if I were a parent, my kids might be their age. I wonder sometimes if it's hardwired in me, this sudden, abundant affection I feel for people now in their late teens and early twenties.

J and I have known each other for so long, and we live together with so little effort, that it is disproportionately jarring to suddenly have someone else in the house. I find out how dependent I am on things being familiar in my home, on knowing that things are in certain places. I like how this domestic regularity makes my life simpler, how it makes my day flow smoothly. No peanut butter in the fridge or jars of spaghetti sauce on the spice shelf, stuff like that. When all the little household objects are in their places, my mind is free for other things. But A is a guest, and I want to make room for him in my tranquil abode. (He commented, as he was moving in, on what a wonderful home we have and how grateful he is to stay here.)

So I try to keep my incipient annoyance in check by reminding myself of all the people all over the continental U.S. who offered J and me hospitality during our years on the road, some of them sharing their homes with us for weeks on end.

But what do they do with the toilet paper? Though I can't say I really keep track, I would guess that it takes J and me more than a week to go through a roll of toilet paper. It takes long enough that I don't notice it getting smaller, it's just there until it's gone and then one of us replaces it. If we buy one of those big 16-packs or whatever, it lasts for months. But when there's a woman staying with us, like when J's friend C visited last month or like now, we just fly through it. It goes so fast that I notice and keep track. This week, with A's girlfriend staying here, one roll lasted a day and a half. Now, I know women use it on both ends, so to speak, so I can understand that they would use more. But that much more? What's going on in there?

Okay, now I feel like I'm doing a bad Richard Lewis monologue -- Have you ever noticed ...? -- so I'll stop.