Saturday, February 17, 2007

Back to school.

I just submitted my FAFSA, the application for federal student financial aid. I remember it being so complicated when my mom and I filled it out way back when. Now it's all on the web, which makes it easier, and my financial data is probably simpler than my parents'.

If I understand this correctly, I will be expected to come up with a little over $2000 toward the cost of my first year's tuition and expenses, including living expenses. And I'm guessing they figure more for living expenses than what I typically spend, since I live on so little. The wrench in the ointment, or whatever that expression is, is that I will still have my credit card debt from the film to pay every month. I wonder if they let you suspend those while you're in school. Have to check that out.

I can't wait for school to start!


If this time here isn't good for writing, at least it's good for my Buddhist practice. I'm thinking mostly of the part where I'm trying to learn not to hate annoying people. And I'm doing pretty well. I want so badly to describe these people here, but I think I probably shouldn't.

Anyway, I haven't figured out how and where I'm going to write yet. There's a computer lounge with several computers and a few comfortable chairs and a sign that says it's a "quiet area." But it's usually not. Quiet, that is. The last two days, a woman has been sitting at one of the computers playing some sort of Where's Waldo-type game and talking baby talk to her girlfriend, going back and forth between complimening her "back," ("you are so sexy to me, it don't matter what you say, just you talking to me turns me on") and consoling her through what seems from this end to be some sort of crying jag ("oh baby, I wish I could kiss your tears"). How could anyone write when there's that to listen to?

I should just ask her to be quiet. I want to, but I don't. She's bigger than me.

Between meals, the dining room can be quiet. But there's a TV in there, so often someone will be in there watching it. If I come in here, like now, and it's just me, I turn the TV off. But at any moment someone might come in and turn it back on. The bedroom is my best bet for quiet, but it's hard to stay focused and alert in bed. I get drowsy and kind of achey if I lie in bed for very long. And even in there, people talk on the phone, or nap and snore.

Yesterday, several of us were waiting in the procedure room to have our vital signs checked, and there was a simultaneous lull in the various conversations, a rare silent moment. I was just becoming aware of it and feeling my body relax for the first time in days when someone said loudly, "It's too quiet in here. Somebody sing or something!"

Friday, February 16, 2007


Some friends of James Baldwin had a black cat named Jimmy, after him, which warmed my heart to find out, because J. and I used to have a little black cat named Jimmy. She was not named after James Baldwin, but she was a great cat.

Jimmy had lots of problems, starting with the ASPCA telling us she was a boy, which we believed until she went into heat. We thought she had gone insane, but it turned out she was not crazy, just female. When we pulled out her paperwork to take her to the vet, we saw that the ASPCA not only thought she was male, they thought she was a dog.

This was back when I was with B., my first long-term partner. When we got a dog, Jimmy started to pee on the floor and couldn't be persuaded not to. We didn't give up on her. She peed on the floor every day for 2 or 3 years until B. and I separated. I took Jimmy and our other cat, and B. kept the dog. Jimmy stopped peeing on the floor a few days after we moved to our own place.

When I moved in with J., he had two cats, so Jimmy was one of four. That's when she really came into her own and ruled the roost. Four cats in a studio apartment in New York. She was the smallest and the least likely to back down. Even during that very ugly spell with the infected anal glands.

She had a congenital heart defect, which we knew about all along. When she was about 15 years old, her heart swelled up, huge. She was very sick and suffering, so we had her put down.

James Baldwin.

I'm reading a biography of James Baldwin, by David Leeming. Baldwin's a favorite of mine, and I've read most of his non-fiction and some of the fiction. There's lots of autobiography in his essays and novels, so I already know quite a bit about his life, but this bio fills in the gaps.

He talked and wrote often about the tension in creating fiction that deals directly with social issues (in his case, racism) without being merely polemical. To really get at the life and soul of the characters and not just lecture. Which is not to say that a writer can't express strong opinions, or that a work of fiction can't make change. That it can't be persuasive.

Baldwin's thoughts on this are good medicine for me right now as I struggle with my little story about men and love and sex. I realize I'm being very timid at both ends of the question. I could stand to get deeper into these characters' souls, and I could stand to have a point of view on the subject.

The first couple days of this study are kind of hectic. We took the drug this morning, and at intervals they take our blood (starting at every 15 minutes, then every 1/2 hour, then 1 hour, 2 hours, etc. decreasing in frequency for the next 3 days) and our urine -- every drop of urine we produce for 72 hours they want. And they check our vital signs. So, except for the couple of days after we dose (which happens twice while we're here), we won't have much on our schedule except meals. I should get some writing done!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The power of music.

This is funny. Or really fucked-up.

I was going to give a copy of my CD (the soundtrack to my film) to Z., this guy I've been seeing for a few weeks. But I stopped myself because -- and these are the words that actually went through my head -- I don't want him to fall in love with me. Fucked up in so many ways. First, that I would be so sure that my music would have that effect is a little conceited, huh? And to think that I would or should have control over whether someone falls in love with me or not. Besides, I don't believe in falling in love.

Z. and I spent last Sunday together, most of the day. When I told him I would be holed up in this drug trial for 11 days starting Thursday, we decided we should try to see each other once during the week. So, we met for a beer on Tuesday. He asked me if he could see me at least briefly on Wednesday, and I was not at all reluctant. Downtown was crowded for Valentine's Day crowd. Neither of us acknowledged the day except in sort of a generic way, not related at all to the two of us and our situation. What I mean is, no flowers or chocolate were exchanged. It would be a little soon for that kind of thing, I think, even if I didn't think that Valentine's Day was the most inane holiday in the universe.

I like that he likes to do free or cheap things. Since I don't have much choice.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Jesus Is Magic.

I watched the Sara Silverman film, Jesus is Magic, tonight, because it's one of those movies everyone screams at you that you HAVE to watch it because it's SO GREAT, but all the screaming just makes you avoid it. I finally relented on this one.

She's very funny. A couple jokes made me laugh out loud. But after a while it was kind of the same joke over and over, and it got exhausting. The DVD also contained her scene from The Aristocrats, so I watched that too, and I didn't think it was funny at all. Her scene, I mean. I'm still avoiding the movie.

I don't want to be dismissive. I want to say that I appreciate what she does, but somehow that sounds mean. I'm sincere, though. At her best, she makes us see how ridiculous our racism is by making us laugh at it. She's working with really tricky subject matter, and she seems fearless.

What we can't talk about.

Tomorrow morning, I go into the drug study clinic for 11 days. I'll have internet access and my laptop and cell phone, so there's not much I can do out here that I can't do in there. Except sleep well and eat good food.

I don't know how much of what goes on during the study I'm allowed to share in this public forum. I don't think I signed anything that said I couldn't talk about it. I did agree not to talk with other study participants about any side effects we're experiencing, but that seems different.

Another thing I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to talk about here is this guy I'm dating. I've been pondering that question, and, well, I still don't know. I guess since he doesn't know yet about this blog -- to be honest, no one knows about this blog, so it's all academic for now -- it's okay to talk about him. So I'll do that. But not tonight. He's on his way over.