Saturday, September 1, 2007


I loved Heart when I was in high school. I was obsessed with Ann and Nancy Wilson. There was a group of girls in my high school who were a few years older than me, the older sisters of my group of friends, sort of pothead bad girls but beautiful and, I thought, glamorous in their frayed jeans and gauzy tops. I idolized them. I still swoon a little when I smell patchouli because Carly, who I thought was the most beautiful of those girls, wore patchouli. Ann and Nancy Wilson were the apotheosis of that type of girl. I thought they were the most desirable people on earth. I sat in my bedroom and stared at the Little Queen album cover and longed to join their caravan of rock and roll gypsies, imagined what it would be like to be married to Ann and Nancy would be my sister. I drew pictures of them, I listened to Little Queen and later Dog and Butterfly over and over, I knew every word, every inflection, every guitar riff. Ann Wilson is the only woman I was ever sexually attracted to.

Around 1977 or 1978, I saw Heart play at the Indiana State Fair. I can't think of any show I've seen since that surpassed the thrill I got from that concert. I don't even remember who I went with -- maybe my brother? -- I was so single-minded through the whole thing. I devoured it.

The concert started with Nancy in a tight spotlight, playing the acoustic introduction to Crazy on You, her hair blowing like a flag. (It's not short, that intro. Nancy Wilson is a great guitar player and this is her moment, at the very top of the show, to show off, because once Ann is out there she's going to get all the attention.) Nancy hits those harmonics at the end of the intro. She pauses, and you can see her wind up for the opening riff. The beauty and suspense of that moment. The band kicks in, the whole stage is flooded with light, and Ann strolls up to the microphone. I probably cried.

When I moved to New York and became a cynical, detached young art student, I found I could keep my Heart obsession if I turned it into camp. If you're going to say you're a Heart fan, it's better if you're wearing black and chain-smoking in an East Village cafe than if you're wearing a Doobie Brothers t-shirt and a mullet. Or so I told myself. I was such a smart-ass. I probably used to say that Ann was like a drag queen. It helped that she gained weight and turned from a sexy rock and roll woman-child with a huge voice to a big, flamboyant rock star with a huge body to match her huge voice. But what never fit into that reductive view of Heart is that they were a great band, and that Ann was and is a great rock and roll singer, the best. Who is better? Okay, Janis Joplin. But who else? Etta James? Anyway, Ann is up there with very few peers.

One thing I love about the youtube age is that you can easily find clips that confirm or refute your memories of public events. The clip above must be from around the same time as the concert I saw, maybe even from the same tour. It's exactly as I remember it. The clip below is from some sort of tribute concert a few years ago. Ann doesn't look like a drag queen -- Wynonna, who appears in another clip from the same show, looks like a drag queen, bless her heart -- Ann looks like the motherfuckin' queen of rock and roll. And Nancy is still kickin' it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I had time between classes today, so I decided to check out the gym. It sounds so casual to just say it like that, but it was a big deal for me. Next week, I plan to start working out for an hour 5 days a week. I haven't been in a gym since I was 16, back when I would cry myself to sleep on nights before P.E. class.

I rant a bit from time to time about the soul-destroying culture of body perfectionism that either springs from or at least feeds the fitness industry. Not that I don't still believe that, but all that bluster also functions as a great excuse not to be in better physical shape. And I've come to see that a big part of my aversion to gyms is simply fear. I'm surprised -- I shouldn't be -- to realize how traumatized I still am by the experience of being forced during puberty to parade naked in front of, and compete in athletic contests with, boys whom I was just discovering a (horrifying and deeply shameful, but powerfully stimulating) sexual attraction to.

So I just walked right in that gym today, puffed up my chest a bit, and sniffed around. It's gargantuan. Lots of big rooms full of big machines. And a cafe.

My friend the Gardener, who knows all about physical fitness (did I mention he was a helicopter rescuer?), offered to come with me to the gym a couple times and show me what to do, and that's exactly what I need. I'm a little reluctant to put myself in such an uncomfortable and vulnerable position with a very new friend. But I'm gonna do it.

So Far, So Good.

All but one of my classes has met at least once now, Spanish twice. My American Government class won't meet until next week, but I've received a couple emails from the instructor and she seems enthusiastic and engaged. I like my American Lit. professor quite a bit. He obviously loves teaching. The reading and writing for his class is going to be a bear, several novels in addition to a stack of shorter readings each week, a critical journal, and two more formal papers. But that's what I'm here for.

I dropped Environmental History, reluctantly. It looks like a great course, but I'll take it later. When I looked at the syllabuses of all my classes together, I realized I would be reading a book a week for Lit. and a book a week for History. I'm used to reading a lot, and I could probably get through two books a week if I weren't doing anything else. But I'll have a lot of reading for Biology and Government, and Spanish homework, too. Without the history class, I still have 14 hours, so it's still a full load.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day One.

I love my biology teacher. The class is called Biology of AIDS, so it dips into many areas: molecular and cell biology, genetics, immunology, epidemiology. Today she gave a very condensed history of the early years of the epidemic, talking about the Reagan 80s like someone who remembers what it was really like. I was the only person in the room besides the professor who was alive in 1981.

My Spanish teacher is a small, shy young Asian woman who speaks halting English. I'm sure she speaks Spanish beautifully. (But she did a very weird thing this morning. I'm still trying to figure it out. She was sitting at a desk in the front row as the students came in and took seats, so she looked like just another student. At 10 o'clock, she turned around and said loudly enough for everyone nearby to hear, "Is this Spanish 506? Did you know the instructor for this class has been changed? Who is this Sheena Lee? Oh! I'm her! Ha ha ha!" and she got up and started the class. It was a bit surreal.)

My only other class today was the discussion section for my American Lit. class. Here at U.T., the big lecture classes are broken into small groups that meet once a week to discuss the material with a graduate student. The instructor didn't show, I guess because, since we haven't had a lecture yet, there's nothing to discuss. Still, it would have been nice if someone had let us know. We all just sat there for 10 minutes and then one by one got up and left.

I spent $350 on books today. That's just for two classes. My Spanish book cost over $200. I have one more textbook to buy, for my government class. The books for my other classes are regular trade paperbacks which I hope I'll be able to get cheap used or maybe even check out at the public library. There are about 10 books on the list for my lit. class and just as many for my history class.

On another note, my jaw hurts. I have TMJ. Usually it doesn't bother me much, but last week I strained my left jaw muscle while I was chewing. I could barely eat for two days. Now it's just a dull ache. When I told J that I had strained my jaw, he said, "That's not very good for dating, is it?" And when I told Z, he said, "How'd you do that?" and he smirked. One bad thing (or good, depending on your sense of humor, I guess) about being a gay man is that there are times when your life feels like one long blowjob joke.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Off the Hook.

I heard from Z. He'd been trying to call, but he's climbing a mountain somewhere (South Dakota? I can never remember, he's always climbing a mountain somewhere) and couldn't get through. He told me I wasn't as much of a freak as I thought I had been, and that his new boyfriend thought I was very nice. Much relieved, it occurred to me that maybe it's good the marijuana threw me so far off balance Friday night, because if all I'd had was a couple beers I probably would have done something like pull his boyfriend aside and say, "You better be good to him, 'cause if you break his heart I'll kill you." (Not really. I wouldn't do that.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I Feel So Young.

I forgot to write the best part of the story about the woman older than me in the counseling workshop last week, the woman I came very near to insulting. About ten minutes into the thing, she fell asleep. Full-on, head rolling back, mouth open, asleep.

Somebody Please Turn Off My Brain.

I still haven't heard from Z. All day in my head: Please tell me that a) I wasn't as ridiculous as I thought I was, or b) I was ridiculous, but it's okay, you forgive me. Please let me off the hook! I don't think Z has seen this needy, insecure side of me -- I tell him how insecure I am but I don't think he believes me -- and I'm not sure I want to show it to him, but I might not be able to stop myself. I had one chance to meet his new boyfriend and I fucked it up. I wanted so badly for it to go ... better. I hate that I could not rise to the occasion.

I keep going back to the question, why do I resist him? Why withhold so much of myself from him and our relationship? Why not let it follow its natural course? I hear women who have grown children and accidentally become pregnant talk about the feelings it provokes, mostly, "I can't do this again. I just can't do this. It was beautiful but that part of my life is past.... I don't have it in me." That's how I react to my feeling of attachment to Z. That's how it feels.