Saturday, September 15, 2007

I Heart Mormons.

Check out the t-shirts and try to tell me they're not the gayest thing you've ever seen in your life. I want one SO bad. (Dutch Oven brown, medium.)

Libraries and Sexual Identity.

I've been wondering, since the Senator Craig scandal has shed so much light on the previously esoteric world of tearooms, has sex in public bathrooms decreased -- because there's a big spotlight on it now, making people more afraid of getting caught -- or decreased -- because, now that the arcane signals have been broadcast to the world, everyone can play?

I can't say I'm an aficionado, but it's definitely on my radar when I walk into a public restroom. The first anonymous sexual encounter I had was in a restroom in the college library where my mother worked. It was a year or two after I'd left for college but I was home for the summer. I was waiting for my mom to get off work, reading in a small lounge next to the card catalog. It was summer, so the place was deserted, but there was another man in this lounge, also reading. He kept looking at me. I was looking back. I'm not sure how I knew to do this, but when he got up and went to the bathroom (which was next to the lounge) I waited a minute and then got up and followed him. It's been many years, so I don't remember the sequence of events -- was there foot-tapping? I don't remember -- but it ended with me on my knees with my penis under the wall getting a blowjob. At that time, I had only had 2 or 3 sexual partners, and it had not occurred to me that I could have sex with someone I couldn't even see.

When I was in junior high and high school, I spent a lot of time at this library. I liked books, I liked hanging out with my mom, I liked that it was a college library -- I saw myself as much more intellectually advanced than the shit-kickers I went to school with. (If you think I'm a snob now...) I even worked there a couple days a week my junior and senior years in high school, and full-time during the summer between.

It's where I learned about homosexuality, by reading the Kinsey books, and started to come to terms with my own deviant feelings. I worked in the reference department for a librarian who, I see in retrospect, knew I was a gay kid and made a great effort to let me know it was okay. She talked about her gay friends (she was a former Catholic nun married to a former priest, so she had a few homosexual friends), and she introduced me to lesbian feminist writers.

I was going to say I wonder how she knew, but I was going through my first wave of Judy Garland obsession when I was 16, so, duh. She consoled me when -- after I'd gotten tickets to a Liza Minnelli concert in Indianapolis 6 months in advance and looked forward to it more than anything ever before, but, a week before the date, Liza canceled "due to exhaustion" -- I was practically suicidal.

I still like libraries a lot. I feel at home in a library.


I had my first meeting with my personal trainer, a very fit young man who said, "yes, sir" and "no, sir" to everything I asked him. We met briefly to discuss my "fitness objectives." I felt like a shy high school girl crossed with someone's totally uncool dad. I know, scary. The trainers at the U.T. gym are studying to become certified. They're inexperienced, but inexpensive.

I have one fitness objective, which is basically, "yes." We scheduled two sessions next week. I can't wait to start. He told me I should see and feel different in as little as six weeks, since I'm starting pretty much at zero. He looked me over and said that he thought I was starting with a "good foundation." No one has ever told me that before. (I think he meant, "At least it's not like you're 350 pounds and asthmatic.")

Since I first mentioned that I was going to start working out at the gym and that I'm a little frightened of it, many of my gay men friends -- as well as readers of this blog, guys I don't even know -- have expressed sympathy and support. It's funny, and I've been very moved by it; I never thought of this step in the terms I'm starting to see it in now, as a reclaiming of territory that was denied me as a kid. Denied to me partly by other boys because they were cruel, were bullies, but I think mostly self-denied because of my confusion and discomfort with an environment where there was obligatory intimacy with other boys in the form of physical contact and nudity.

The sad thing is that an environment of natural intimacy among men would have been such a healthy thing for a little gay boy. I feel a great sadness and regret sometimes that I missed all that. For me, the first -- and only for many years -- situation in which it was appropriate or even possible to touch or be touched by boys or men was when having sex.

That idea of reclaiming male space is obvious now, because I'm staking a claim in this particular gym which is full of boys just barely out of high school who are masculine and athletic and, at least apparently, sexually confident, just like the boys I was afraid of 30 years ago. But now, because I'm as old as their parents, to these boys I'm either invisible or I'm an authority figure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Patti Smith Makes It All Better.

I had a vivid and rambling dream about Patti Smith last night. Through most of it, we were just talking quietly in a bright, white-painted New York loft. We were sitting very close, and I had to lean in to hear her. I don't remember what we talked about, but she smiled a lot and her eyes were so bright. When I got up to leave, we lingered at the door for a long time, and she hugged me over and over.

I had gone to bed feeling anxious because there wasn't enough time last night to study my Spanish as much as I wanted to, and I woke up reassured.

Monday, September 10, 2007

God's Gonna Send the Water From Zion.

It's raining, and I opened my windows for the first time in four days. J said a storm was coming -- his sinuses tell him these things. The weather has been absolutely, relentlessly stultifying for the last week, day and night, but now it's cool and breezy.

I took a break from studying so we could watch the two remaining episodes of Peep Show on DVD (we started watching it last night -- it's really really funny) and then we went to Hut's for 2 for 1 veggie burgers. Now back to Microbiology. We're still on the chemistry chapter, which is like a fascinating nightmare. I'm simultaneously enthralled and terrified. Is all that stuff really happening inside me? and how can anyone possibly keep it all straight?

Monday is a bear. I have Spanish lab at 8 a.m., biology lecture at 9, Spanish class at 10, and biology "discussion section" (which is a small-group review session with a grad student) at noon.

I have to study now.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Kane Welch Kaplin.

Our old friend Fats Kaplin was in town on Friday, playing with Kevin Welch and Keiran Kane at the Cactus Cafe. They go by the name Kane Welch Kaplin -- it's the three of them along with Keiran Kane's son Lucas Kane on drums. It's been a while since I heard such beautiful songs and beautiful playing. J and I were friends and neighbors of Fats and his wife Kristi Rose when we lived in Nashville, Fats produced and played on the record we made there (The Hey Y'all Soundtrack), and we met Kevin and Keiran at the Kaplin's house, probably more than once, but somehow I never paid attention to their music.

The Cactus Cafe is a funny place. It's a small listening room-type venue. The shows there are usually in the folk/Americana/Texas singer-songwriter camp which is revered here in Austin. It's on the U.T. campus, in the student union building, but I'm sure most of the students have no idea it exists. The audience is older, the grey ponytail and Hawaiian shirt crowd. It's the crowd that J and I spent so much time and energy wooing when we were doing Y'all. A faction of that audience loved Y'all, but we were never an ideal fit because we wanted to do more than sit and play. (The fact that the "more" that I wanted to do became, over time, different from the "more" that J wanted to do is what pulled us apart eventually.)

Kevin and Fats and Keiran sit and play. The stillness is what makes it soar. There's no detectable showmanship -- though they're charming and engaged -- but the trick is to make the audience feel like they're sitting in your living room, and these guys are good at it. I guess at some point, in the life of a touring folk musician who spends as much time on the road as at home, these little acoustic venues become their living room.

I fancied myself that kind of songwriter, because I love that stuff so much, but I wasn't interested in developing the musicianship that this genre requires. The simplicity of the presentation is what makes it so affecting, and it is also what makes it crucial that you be a very good player, because it's only you and your song, your voice and your guitar. I was aware of my musical shortcomings all along, but Friday night it was really clear to me.

I came home and downloaded from iTunes one particularly gorgeous song they played called "I Can't Wait." If you're a fan of songwriting, you might want to check these guys out.