Friday, June 28, 2002

Brand-New Glasses

I wish I had a webcam so I could show you my new glasses. My sister doesn't like them, but I think they're awf'ly cute, oval lenses in tortoiseshell-color wire rims and titanium arms and bridge...although they tend to slip down my nose so I look over the tops of the frames. I went in today to get a new pair, since my old pair was not only unflattering but were also rather scratched. Turns out that they weren't strong enough, either. My eyebulbs are steadily (though slowly) degenerating into myopia. Eventually I'll be as blind as a bat with coke-bottle lenses.

Anyway, it's terribly refreshing to see very very clearly again. I can see not only all the way across the street, but actually can catch details all the way down the street as well. I can tell if the guy walking toward me is cute before he enters my personal space. I can see the name of the street before I pass the intersection. I can watch television without ever squinting. O Bliss! O Rapture!

After I got my glasses, I got on BART and headed out to the City for some shopping. I'd got my heart set on two things: a brown leather satchel that is bigger than a purse but smaller than an attache, with a shoulder strap, for carrying the increasing number of loose objects that are suddenly cluttering my life (two sets of keys, cell-phone, glasses-case, etc); and a pair of cream or white dress slacks. Of course I found no such things. I never do find what I'm looking for when I'm hunting something really specific. But it's fun to hunt, anyway. I found a pair of winter-white Dockers that I almost bought, and I found a brown leather satchel that I almost bought, but neither was close enough to what I really wanted to be worth paying full price.

And this is what really shocked me: NOTHING was on sale! I mean, there were sale racks at Macy's, as there always are, tucked into the corners and carrying the leftovers from last season...but there were no departmental sales. There also weren't any sales at the Gap. It struck me as very odd.

The other thing that struck me as odd was the unusual number of fags wandering around (yes, I can say it). It seems people are all arriving early for Pride Weekend, or doing some last-minute shopping for that Just-Right Outfit. But there were simply Too Many Queens in Macy's...where nothing was on sale — do you think these can be related? None of the queens were in Ross or Burlington or Marshall's, though (discount stores are for straights, I guess).

Well, I'm very much looking forward to the Parade on Sunday. For the first time in my little life, I will actually be in the parade! I am marching with the Miss Gay Marin and Marin AIDS Project contingent, along with Miss Candie Swallows and Miss Romy Michele (the current and first Miss Gay Marins) and a bunch of go-go boys.

My problem is that I can't decide what to wear. See, Candie and Romy are going to be the only ones in the car, and I am a Contingent Monitor so must be outside of the car. If I am in drag, I will be the only drag queen in the contingent on the outside of the car, and I'm not sure I want to do that. There's something about the propriety of it that bothers me. It's asymmetrical, to begin with, two drags in a car and one on the outside. I will also be the only one without a tiara. I will also be the only one walking all two miles of Market Street in heels.

Not to mention that after the Parade I will be helping set up for the Living Sober dance, then going to the Pride festival to see Dead or Alive, Pansy Division, and Marc Almond perform (all within one hour, with fabulous fillers like Snatch and Oryon between), then heading back to the dance for a long afternoon of fun and schmoozing. It's a long day, and full-paint makeup has about six hours' shelf-life before it starts getting uncomfortable and itchy (it's funny, I usually get irritated by the makeup before the shoes, the wig, the girdles, or the dress). And then there's the attention...though it's really quite nice to have so many people paying attention to one, it does get a little trying after a while to pose for pictures that you'll never see or get copies of with strangers you've never properly met and will never meet again, just because you're a flamboyant spectacle wandering around in daylight.

But if I don't wear drag (I was planning a green sequined halter-neck gown with a green voile jacket in case it's cold, with gold lace pumps and the usual overdose of jewelry), that leaves me with the thorny problem of what to wear out of drag that is fabulous enough to do Marin County and myself credit. I pretty much decided on baggy dark-green slacks and a nice blue-and-white striped shirt and green-and-burgundy floral tie, with the tie undone and the shirtsleeves rolled up, and my cream-and-brown saddle-shoes and a tan straw fedora — a sort of 1940's Office Boy Casual. It's one of my only nice male Looks. It's very comfortable, too.

So two possibilities. Drag would be more fabulous, but would be physically and perhaps emotionally uncomfortable. Boydrag would be comfortable, maybe even attractive (one never knows when one might catch Mr Right's eye), but not nearly as fabulous. Oh, what to do, what to do? Any suggestions? That's what the Commentary box is for.

Fortunately, I'm going to Shiloh's birthday party tomorrow (he turned 25 on Wednesday), and there will be plenty of queens with opinions there. I think what I'll do is just keep a running tab of everyone's opinions and treat it like a vote-poll.

Those are my thoughts for today. Sort of jumbled. But if I can't think clearly, at least I can see clearly, and that's what matters when it comes to things like this:

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Hump Day

Well, this is turning out to be a very boring day. The Boss-Lady isn't coming in, and coworker BB is on vacation, and other coworker JB is out sick. I'm sitting here all alone, and the phone isn't even ringing. I guess I could clean up my desk, catch up on some filing, and/or tidy up the mail room...but these laudable things are just not going to happen today. I think I'll take a long lunch, and maybe a walk around the lake? Or just sit here and surf porn the rest of the day. But before I get started on that, let's jot out today's Alliterative Weekly Meme.

The Wednesday Whimsy: Jobs

1. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a butler, or a tap-dancer, or a magician...pretty much anything where I could wear a tux and be either supercilious or flamboyant or both. I had a fascination for tuxedos, and it rather surprises me that I've not bought one yet. I also had a great fascination for dance, and am very disappointed that I was never able to pursue tap or ballet in my childhood. I could have pursued it later, but, like the tuxedo, I just haven't.

2. If you could have any existing job anywhere in the world, what would it be?

I would love to be a nationally-syndicated advice columnist. Or an interior decorator. Or perhaps a fashion designer. The latter two were my planned professions when I was in high-school, but the training and competition sort of turned me off them (color theory was unspeakably boring, and I broke every sewing machine I touched). The former I tried to start here on the blog, but unfortunately most of the people I know are quite capable of handling their own affairs and didn't need my advice...I guess I don't know enough stupid people?

3. If the leader of the world told you that you could create any made-up job positions that you wanted, what would they be?

(Why can't I be Leader of the World? Okay, I'll play along...)

First, I would be created International Arbiter of Taste. I would be empowered to destroy or punish tackiness, ugliness, and poor design. I would lead international symposia on how to obliterate crudeness of actions as well as objects from our universal consciousness. I would found Schools of Aesthetics and Propriety to ensure that my message of Unviersal Perfection would live on beyond me.

Next, I would have to create the International Manager of Kindness, who would have to keep the Arbiter of Taste in check, and who would further be empowered to encourage kindness in all the citizens of the world (the position would only be open to Grandmothers). Finally, to keep everything on an even keel, there would have to be the International Chairperson of Levity, who would prevent the Arbiter of Taste and the Ensurer of Kindness, as well as the governments and citizenry of the world, from taking things too seriously.

4. Describe a recent dream.

I had really strange dreams last night, so strange that I wonder if I ate something I shouldn't have...I mean, all dreams are 'strange,' that's what makes them dreams, but some are stranger than others. Everything was extremely sexualized, very confused, and completely bizarre. The only thing I remember clearly was a silk kimono that was jade green with gardenias printed on it. I wanted to get hold of the person wearing it so that I could find out where he or she got that I could get the material for a rattan sofa that was for some reason very important to me. A lot of other things in the dream were green, too, I remember when I woke up I was inspired to do some reasearch on the symbolic values of the color green.

Having done said research, (here and here and here and here), I discover that green in dreams can mean, among other things: fertility, renewal, wealth, health and growth; can also mean, news from a distance or upcoming travel, success, good luck, prosperity, money, rejuvenation, ambition, and serenity; there are projects which you are enthusiastic about; great pleasures from simple things.

Okay, that doesn't make any more sense. I guess people associate green with verdant pastures, plant-life, and money. I'm not so sure that these are my immediate associations, or subconscious associations. But if so, I seem to be yearning for the above things, since I spent so much time in the dream chasing after green things.

Here's something lovely and green to chase after:

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Monday, Tuesday, Cha-cha-cha...

Well, I let myself sleep in this morning, and boy I feel a lot better. I'll have to try to resume getting up early again tomorrow, though. Just because it is my nature to wake up at 10 am or later doesn't mean I have to wake up at 10 am or later. I really want to get up before 8, do some things around the house, and get to the office by that I can leave by 4 and have five hours of daylight and retail time in which to revel and frolic (metaphorically, that is...though I often "revel," I never actually "frolic").

So when last I left you, I had just written a terribly fascinating account of my first parental discussion of the Birds & the Bees for the Monday Memory...and then somehow deleted it before I could post. Since then, I went and visited the Tuesday Too, and found that the questions were more-or-less unanswerable, and therefore inconducive to amplifying my text (which is what these memes are supposed to do, I think). Since the Globe of Blogs is currently down for renovations, I couldn't go hunt up a new Tuesday meme, so I just jumped ahead to tomorrow's meme, the Wednesday Whimsy. Katie at Rien d'Importance, the author of the WW, maintains her page as a series of weekly meme surveys, and so from there I was able to access her preferred Tuesday meme, the This-or-That Tuesday. But then, visiting that meme's author, Christine, I was confronted by a barrage of cat snapshots. Have I ever mentioned that I do not like cats? So I guess I don't get a Tuesday Meme!

"But why do you have to have an alliterative survey meme every day?"

What? You think I should create my own content all the time? Geez!

The Monday Memory...on Tuesday...cha-cha-cha...

Share your memory of getting "the talk". Who told you about the birds and the bees? Were they uncomfortable? Were you?

I had to sit down and really think about this question before I could come up with an answer. I had no memory of learning about sex from any of my parents. But after a while, I did manage to tap into that supressed memory. Memory is a mixed blessing...I haven't quite decided if I really wanted to revisit this memory.

When I was six, my mother and stepfather and sister and I lived in Twain Harte, in an apartment over the bakery. Among mother's circle of acquaintance, all of whom were socially equal or inferior to herself (and after Mother's many and quite successful attempts to become white trash, it was sometimes difficult to find socially inferior persons to befriend), she had a friend who I believe was a prostitute and who, in turn, had a daughter my age. Mother was babysitting this little girl in her own rather slapdash and inattentive manner in the afternoons.

I can't remember the little girl's name, but I think it was Melissa or Tiffany or Heather or something equally kittenish and fashionable in my generation...we'll call her Melissa for the sake of the story. One afternoon, my sister was playing at someone else's house, leaving Melissa and I to our own devices; she suggested a "grown-up" game that her mother played quite often, in which two players get undressed, get under the covers together, and then I was to stick my "pee-pee" into her "coochie."

Of course, as everyone knows, such things are not really possible for six-year-olds. I've heard the attempt described as "trying to put a marshmallow into a parking meter," though I think it was more like trying to get a dead catterpillar into an apple. Or, really, it was like trying to insert something that was not capable of insertion into a closed orifice. Since this was my only attempt at genital sex of the hetero variety, I don't have anything else to compare it with.

So eventually my mother came into the room and discovered us in this ridiculous yet compromising position. Little Melissa was sent home forthwith, along with a note instructing Melissa's mother to call my mother at her earliest convenience (I would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation!)

I think Mother was rather uncomfortable with the ensuing conversation, as she hadn't expected to have to come up with it for at least another ten years, and would hopefully be able to delegate it to my father. In fact, I think she wished right then that she was still married to my father so she could foist the responsibility elsewhere (she could have tried my stepfather on this, but remember he was a total psychotic...I also think he wasn't around at the time).

Anyway, mother told me that what Melissa and I were doing was a sin outside of marriage (she was in one of her more ascetic born-again phases...Mother has been reborn in Christ so many times that I'm sure God has become tired of hearing about it), and further that we were too young to be married, and that the reason our attempts at insertion had been so unsuccessful is that God didn't want us to play that particular "game" until we were grown up and married. She said a bunch of other stuff I don't remember, but that was the gist.

Later on when I entered the room while she and my stepfather were "in congress," I saw what she meant, and decided that waiting to grow up before I started such untidy wrestling with members of the opposite sex wasn't such a bad thing.

Later still, I discovered considerably more about sex in the pages of Playboy and Penthouse and Hustler, of which my father owned many volumes of issues. I have always been a voracious reader, and so was more attracted to the articles than the pictures (though they had their fascinations as well). I had read Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint when I was eleven, and had been reading my stepmother's bodice-ripper romance novels for years. I was happy, when puberty finally began in earnest, that I was able to learn all about masturbation and a number of other topics from Xaviera Hollander's monthly advice column in Penthouse. I was probably the best-informed little boy in my school.

Then of course, we had a very thorough section of Sex Education in the seventh grade. Having already figured out about erections and ejaculations, sexual intercourse and masturbation, I was quite over the titillation of those topics and therefore prepared to absorb menstruation, hormones, pregnancy, venereal disease, and other such related topics when the time came. It was probably the most interesting part of that year's Science class.

A couple of years later, I had "the talk" with Daddy, but basically I already knew more than he did about the Birds and the Bees (not to mention gonorrhea and condoms), so it became more of a personal discussion about his own discovery of sex and his concomittant Birds-n-Bees talk with Grandpa. Quite fascinating. He wasn't really uncomfortable about it, but then he has always been very frank about his own desires (for example, I know exactly what types of women and pornography turn his crank...not something one necessarily needs to know about one's father).

So these were the things I remembered first when I asked myself about who first gave me the Birds-n-Bees Talk...I learned them from books, expert columnists, and trained professional educators...which strikes me as the best way to learn about anything. Perhaps the choice of reading material was somewhat questionable, it may even have warped my sexuality in some way, but it was certainly better than learning about it from my peers and having to unlearn some of the ridiculous assertions I've heard made by other children.

I wonder what a developmental psychologist would make of these stories? Perhaps I've been wrong all these years, and that in fact my mother did turn me gay? Or maybe I can blame Larry Flynt instead?

Well, whatever...I think it doesn't really matter, how much of Gay (or anything else, for that matter) is nature, and how much is nurture. I mean, I know loads of people with rather more traditional upbringings than what I enjoyed, and who are nevertheless considerably more screwed-up than I am. I also know people who are rather more put together than I, despite their having rather more unpleasant or inappropriate childhoods. So it just goes to show, that you can do everything right and still fail, and do everything wrong and still succeed, and you never know which is going to happen when you set about bringing children into the world. One of many resons, besides my gayness, that I am not part of the baby-making culture.

I guess that's all I have to say on the matter. Have a lovely day!

I'd like to have a "talk" with this one!

Monday, June 24, 2002

Monday Memoirs

It's long after Monday is over before you'll read this, but it's been a long day. Cut me a break.

In fact, it was a hell of a weekend. Who knew that so many ugly people could be herded into one place? I speak of Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, CA. I mean, if you ran a beauty contest between most of the patrons I observed from various standpoints around the park, and a selection of the less attractive elephants and walruses, the latter would win tusks-down.

Of course, I do have a somewhat prejudicial fondness for elephants, and I quite like walruses (or is it walri?) as well.

Still, I don't consider myself a raving beauty, or even above reproach...but damn, most of these folks should have been drowned at birth, they were so ugly! There's a certain level of ugly where you start crossing the line that separates Private Homeliness from the more criminal Defacing Public Property with one's presence...and these people could bring down the property values of Fifth Avenue and Pacific Heights together!

So anyway, Saturday: I went to Dalton's company picnic there at Marine World. After having spent all of Friday bent over cases of antique jewelry and objets de vertu, walking ten or twenty miles of uncarpeted boutique floors, and stuffing myself with unwholesome sweets in Petaluma (you remember...if not, read below)...after all that, I came home and couldn't quite get settled down. I watched television for quite some time, after writing the very long post below this one, and didn't get to sleep until after two.

Then I had to get up at 7am on Saturday morning so I could do a couple of errands for the Grandmother before getting out to Dalton's. There was traffic, of course, and it was boiling hot, and the park was terribly crowded (yes, crowded with ugly people, which is worse than just being crowded), and the price of beverages was ridiculous (three dollars for a regular old cup of coffee...yet hot dogs were only four dollars, and a huge helping of soft-serve ice cream in a waffle cone was only $2.50...those strike me as very strange priorities).

But we had a lovely time. We watched the dolphins perform (Dalton's favorite creature, he has more than thirty depictions of them scattered around his home), and the elephants (my favorite animals, after young men), and paid our respects to the flamingoes (the gayest wildlife) and the walruses (the most sedate). I went on one ride called "Dinosphere," which was somewhat entertaining though I couldn't see the 3D animation very well (my eyes are different strengths), and the line was much too long, and was populated by many quite unmannerly people (yes, you guessed it, rude and ugly people...though there was a German man in front of us who looked exactly like Friedrich in The Sound of Music, except shorter and somewhat less-well-groomed, and there was also a bevy of teenage boys who were fairly easy on the eyes though too young even for me). I even went on a roller coaster, "Roar," which is wooden and rather silly (the highlight of that sojourn, aside from spending quality time with Dalton, was the Super-Hottie who was about five people behind us in the amazingly long line...a true pearl before myriad swine).

So after we had squeezed all the fun out of that joint, we trekked back to the car and headed up to Guerneville to see Holatta Tymes' fabulous drag revue up at Club Fab. Remember that this was after a long day, which came after a short night's sleep, after another long day, after another short night's sleep, after a long work-week...needless to say (so why did you waste so much time saying it?), I was One Tired Queen. So I wasn't quite prepared to take in a drag show. I should also point out how seldom I find myself in the audience of a drag show. It was a very strange feeling, to be a spectator where I am so often a performer.

On the other hand, I simply am not the kind of performer that those gals were! Holatta Tymes, Nikki Starr, and Pippi Lovestocking (all three formerly of the fabled Finocchio's) were among the luminaries to grace that stage, not to mention the infamous and terrifying Buttlicka and a couple of other not-ready-for-prime-time know, that whole Trannyshack crowd. Way above my head. I mean, it's a whole different kind of entertainment from what I do...apples-and-oranges different. I was very impressed and more than a little intimidated. But I had a good time anyway. I got home after two a.m. (the drive back from Guerneville is a long one), and fell into bed, so dead-tired I couldn't even masturbate.

So then Sunday rolls up on me, and Grandmother wakes me up to go to church at 9 a.m. Then after church, we went to lunch at Baker's Square, and after that we went shopping at Target for plastic flower pots. When I finally got back home, I went straight back to bed and slept until seven that evening. Then after a few hours of television (I saw Hannibal on Showtime, and quite enjoyed it...gorier but somehow less scary than The Silence of the Lambs...the character of Hannibal Lecter was given a great deal more scope and was presented quite sympathetically, which made for a rather interesting film), I crawled back into bed at 11 and stayed there until 9 this morning.

So anyway, I'm fairly well caught up, and it's getting very late. I was just writing about something from my past, in participating in this week's Monday Memory, but I just managed to erase the whole thing somehow. That is sign that I'm too tired and should go to bed. I'll have to share my memories of learning about sex some other day.


Friday, June 21, 2002

Thank God It's Friday!

I sometimes wonder why I think of God as male...and I wonder why I think of my car as female. All cats are female until proven otherwise, all dogs are male until I know their names. According to the French, my desk and my pen and my notebook are boys, but my chair and my peach and my suitcase are all girls. And let's not even get started on my gender...the jury's still out on that one.

So I took the day off work today and went out to Corte Madera to meet with my vacationing coworker and dear friend JB. We met in front of Nordstrom's and then got in her car and headed to Petaluma for the day. Petaluma, or rather Old Petaluma is a lovely little town of Victorian vintage with wall-to-wall antique stores. There were vintage clothing stores, shops of collectibles and collectables (I could not discern the criteria, but apparently there's a difference), jumbled antique collectives and great glossy antique collectives (at least two of which are in converted Gilded-Age bank buildings, most fascinating), and multitudinous little boutiques specializing in one kind of vintage antiquity or other. Apparently an object has to be more than fifty years old to be sold in Old Petaluma.

My shopping had a "T" theme. I bought a tie (brown silk with gold and rose embroidery, from Kowloon, China, circa 1955), two tomes (Cartier Platinum; Triumphs of the Jeweler's Art and The Short Stories of Saki [HH Munro]), and a turtle.

"A turtle? Did she say 'A Turtle'?"

Not just any turtle, my darlings. It's a striped turtle. A dead striped turtle. A dead striped turtle, stuffed, lacquered, standing up on its hind legs and playing a real seven-sting wooden harp, from Vera Cruz, Mexico, circa 1940. It's the funniest thing you ever saw! The expression on his little face, as if he were singing his stuffed heart out whilst playing the harp! Every time I look at it I giggle. When I think about it I giggle. When I remember that I plunked down $37.50 cold hard cash for a stuffed turtle playing a harp from Vera Cruz, I giggle. I'm giggling now as I type. I wish I had a digicam so I could take a picture of it and show you. But really, disturbing as it sounds, it really is the funniest thing!

Another great discovery in Petaluma was the XXIst Century Bakery, where from 5pm to 6pm they have Happy Hour! At late tea-time, everything you eat in the bakery is half-off. Now that's forward thinking, if you ask me...Happy Hour in a bakery. I had a pot of Earl Grey tea and twelve different kinds of cookies, each one more delectable than the last! JB had a hot-fudge sundae and coffee, and we split an espresso/hazelnut-cream tart. Oh yummy yummy yummy!

Now take into account that the newer part of Petaluma is home to the Petaluma Village Premium Outlets mall, you come to realize that Petaluma is practically Heaven on Earth. If only it weren't such a long drive from here.

Speaking of here, today's Friday Five seems to have a homey kind of theme...

The Friday Five

1. Do you live in a house, an apartment or a condo? I live in a house...a three-bedroom, one-bath sorta-Tudor-style house built in 1928, with large double-height cathedral-ceilinged living room and well-proportioned airy dining room for entertaining, recently remodeled eat-in kitchen with laundry included, spacious private backyard, plenty of closets, full insulated attic and a half-basement, two-car garage, and many elegant old-world details. A realtor would call it "charming"...which, in realtorese, means that it is falling apart at high speed.

2. Do you rent or own? I do neither...I just live here. My grandmother owns the house. My grandfather bought it in 1934 for $6,000 (and now it would sell for almost a hundred times that); when Grandmother married into this nuthouse in 1945, Grandpa's mother, Great Grandmother Chin-Shee, was still living here, and Grandpa's sister Auntie Wai-Hing also lived here (taking care of her mother and keeping house for her baby brother). Quite a hen's-nest. Great-Grandmother died in 1948, leaving most of her stuff here (she was the first, but by no means the last, confirmed packrat to occupy this place), and Auntie Wai-Hing went to live with her own son. My father grew up here, I more-or-less grew up here, my nephew sort of grew up here.

Here's something interesting...we've had the same phone number all this time, seventy-six years.

3. Does anyone else live with you? The Grandmother. Here's a new picture of her...a picture where she's smiling! Isn't she sweet?

Grandmother is going to be 84 this August. Doesn't she look great for her age? She credits avoiding the sun as her beauty secret.

People often ask why I live with my Grandmother at my advanced age. Well...

There are a variety of reasons...the most easily explained is that neither of us is capable of living alone. Grandmother is arthritic, overweight, short, and prone to tiny strokes, slight attacks of angina, and may possibly be in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's (which runs in her family); she can't drive, can't walk very far, can't operate electronic devices of any kind, and can't reach high cupboards. I, on the other hand, am irresponsible, forgetful, and incomprehensibly of those people who always win trivia games and work the New York Times crossword in ink, who can remember the exact succession of the Monarchs of England starting from the Tudor dynasty (those sticky Plantagenets are too confusing even for me), use thousands of truly obscure words and phrases (a couple hundred in other languages), and recall the characters and plots of at least a hundred vintage films and perhaps twice as many novels...but I can't remember to eat regularly, pay my bills, or get my oil changed.

So we have developed a sort of symbiotic relationship: I chauffeur her around, push her wheelchair around the malls, administer the answering machine and the VCR, make phone calls to delivery restaurants and services with multioptional routing systems, and transfer things to and from the cupboards out of her reach (and since she's 5'2" and the cupboards go all the way to the 9' ceiling, that's most of them). At the same time, Grandmother provides me with a spacious home with all the amenities (washer/drier, my own room, use of a spare car, furniture, heat, electricity, etc.) in a quiet semisuburban neighborhood, something I could never afford on my own unless I worked a lot harder (which, aside from being against my nature, would leave me too little time for TV and resting and writing); she pays for most of the food, keeping the fridge and pantry full, and cooks or instigates our meals, and reminds me to eat regularly; she nags me about my car and my mail and my job, making sure that I am at least aware that these things exist, even if I don't always follow through.

The arrangement is not without domestic relationships run perfectly smooth. For one thing, there's the whole politico-religious difficulty, which is the great trunk from which most of our disagreements stem: she is a conservative, reform-Christian, traditional-morals Texan; I am a liberal, agnostic/platonist, humanist Californian... worse, she loves children and worships marriage, and I'm an uncloseted homosexual and very interested in population control. So we often have these little set-tos about such things as Republicans, civil rights and liberties, religion, gay pride, censorship, history, war, ethics, and morals.

We have worked around this with the "Don't Talk About It" Solution, the usual WASP way of dealing with disagreements in soon as we have one big knock-down-drag-out fight over a given topic, we simply drop it from the repetoire as best we can. I don't do or discuss "gay things" around her (which unfortunately includes dating...but then that's another story altogether), and in return she doesn't remind me that I'm going to go to Hell; she doesn't eulogize George W, and I don't call her a drivelling idiot for so doing. It's dishonest and problematic, but it's the best we can come up with: our mutual need outweighs our differences.

There are other problems, less serious things that tend to make life difficult for us. One of these is in the Age Thing...she thinks I'm fifteen and I think I'm twenty-five — and we're both wrong. More difficult than this is the Tone of Voice Problem: she doesn't hear very well, and doesn't listen very attentively, yet she is always asking questions; I dislike being questioned in general, but I become irate when my answers aren't heard, and apoplectic when made to repeat myself. So when I do have to repeat myself, especially after being assaulted by that Texas-twang "HANH?" that passes as a querying tone, I tend to be just a little snappish. And then she gets snappish, and we fume at each other for a while. I usually end up apologizing for yelling, and then tell her that she really ought to consider getting a hearing-aid.

And then there's her exasperation over my complete and utter disinterest in housekeeping. It's not just the cleaning that's a problem — though I'm a complete slob, I don't even like clean rooms, and I won't clean anything unless it smells bad...I will, if reminded, tidy the public rooms, load the dishwasher, empty the garbage, fluff the dust off the knick-knacks, or push the vacuum cleaner around — but the actual maintenance and care of a house doesn't interest me. I just don't really care what the house looks like from the outside, or what condition the garden is in, or whether or not the foundations are sinking unevenly. Maybe if it was my own house, it would matter — but I'm pretty sure that if I owned this house I'd sell it as fast as I could and move into a condo on Lake Merritt.

But as it is, the house is first Grandmother's, secondarily the entire family's, and (with the exception of my own room) mine only tertiarily. And that, friends, is the final trouble we have. The rest of the family always comes first with her...particularly those who are under the age of 12 (it comes as no surprise to the regular reader that I am not fond of children). And some of the family tend to treat me as if I were mooching off Grandmother. But this, like the other troubles, is still outweighed by the fact that Grandmother can't live alone, and I don't want to live alone.

But there's more to it even than that. Grandmother and I have always had a very special relationship, and the echoes of our friendship in my childhood have kept us from each other's throats in my adulthood. Though we are now rather far apart, emotionally and philosophically and mentally, we can still relate to each-other as the companions we used to be. She has always loved children, especially children who are very quiet and a little shy and a little strange and very lonely...she always treated me more gently and more lovingly and with more patience than any of the other parents in my life, my parents and stepparents and stepgrandparents and so on and so forth. When others would become exasperated with my eccentricities, infuriated by my silent rebellions, she would just accept them. I learned a lot from her, reading and color-harmony and patience and family history and an appreciation of the past.

I always thought of Grandmother as my fact, my stepmother used to punish me by not letting me come visit...and when my father and stepmother separated when I was fifteen, I was overjoyed that we (Daddy and my sister Suzie and I) were going to live at Grandmother's. Grandpa was still alive then, but he was sick...he'd had several strokes and was suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases; he didn't talk much, was often confused and frustrated, and was just becoming difficult to handle. After a while, Daddy and Suzie moved out — I was sixteen at the time, finally happy at home, with friends at school, so I was having none of this "moving-away" business.

About that time, Grandpa started going downhill. First he stopped speaking English and only communicated in a few stock phrases of his first language, Cantonese. Then he stopped talking altogether, and then couldn't walk, and finally became bedridden and incontinent. All through this period Grandmother and I took care of him at home, and he was a bond between us, the project we had in common that saw us through all the difficulties of an old Texas woman raising a teenage gay boy.

Grandpa finally died when I was nineteen, and we lost our bond. I moved out of the house about a year later, first living with a boyfriend and two female friends (and staying there after breaking up with the boyfriend), then with another boyfriend who became a buddy after about a week, then with my sister and her first husband and son while my sister was expecting her second child. All through these moves, Grandmother was helpful and supportive, loaning me money when I couldn't make rent and taking me to dinner and letting me do my laundry at her house. It was in this "independent" period that I did all my screwing around, all my drinking and drugging, all my unemployment, and when I started doing drag. Eventually, my sister and her husband split up, we lost our lease, and I was faced with two choices: couch-surfing and hustling, or going home to Grandmother.

She took me in without argument, with only one demand (after a summer of loafing around): that I either get a job or go back to school. Well, I was virtually unemployable: I'd been fired from my last three jobs for tardiness, the Bay Area was in the midst of a recession, and all I had to recommend me was my fading looks, a drinking problem, and a high-school diploma. So I went back to school, I liked it, I stayed there. Then when I was finished at community college, I also quit drinking. Then I went to SF State, then started working...and the rest, as they say, is history (recent history, anyway). And so, here we both are, still stuck together.

And that, Gentle Reader, is why I live with my grandmother. Now back to the Friday Five...

4. How many times have you moved in your life? Oh, more than I can remember. My mother had this idea that First and Last Month's Rent was all you had to pay...and since her landlords always disagreed with her on this point, we moved a lot. But here's what I know of or remember from my infancy onward: when I was born, we lived on base at Fort Ord; then we lived here in this house with the Grandparents; then we lived in an apartment on Stow Avenue, where my sister was born (actually, she was born at Kaiser Hospital, but you know what I mean), and which was directly across the street from my Great-Grandfather's former mansion (which burned down a year later and was replaced by two condominium complexes); then another apartment, I forget where, when Daddy left; we then lived in the Buena Vista apartments in Alameda, right next to the Naval base (which was good...none of the other children had resident fathers, either, so we didn't feel left out). A couple of other places in Alameda that I don't clearly remember; then in a big pink Victorian that I do remember, we moved from the upstairs left to the downstairs right when Mother married her second husband (who was a complete psychotic); then back to Oakland, where we lived in two different apartments with my evil stepfather, one of which was on 10th Avenue and the other was somewhere off lower Fruitvale (I started the first grade there); then we lived in Twaine Harte after a while, first with my maternal grandparents and then in an apartment over the bakery. Then my sister and I went to live with my father and stepmother in Hayward. From there we moved to Concord where we lived in a three-bedroom townhouse in a huge complex on Mohr Lane for about five years (the longest I'd lived anywhere); then we moved to a house on Dawn Drive in Pleasant Hill, and lived there for about a year and a half (I remember reaching puberty there); then my father and stepmother split up and I came to live here with Grandmother again. After Grandpa died, I lived first with the two strange sisters (my friend Kevin referred to the house as "Eastwick," for obvious reasons), then with Jason, then with my sister and her husband. Then I came back here...and it's going to take Death, Disaster, or Marriage to get me out of here.

So, to make a long story short (too late!), I count at least sixteen moves.

5. What are your plans for this weekend? Tomorrow I am going to Marine World with Dalton, then going up to Club Fab to see a drag show. Sunday I plan to do laundry, clean my room, and attend a Wheel Monitor Orientation meeting so that I can march in the SF Pride Parade with the Marin Contingent! It's gonna be fuuuuuun!

Thursday, June 20, 2002

I'm not judging you, darling...I'm critiquing!

It's sometimes difficult to be a person of discernment in a live-and-let-live world. There's this idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that all things are a matter of taste, that one man's meat is another man's poison, etc., etc., et cetera.


Some things are simply better than others (is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Discuss) ...some things are more beautiful than others...there is good taste and there is bad taste...certain substances are meaty and certain substances are poisonous. There is such a thing as Æsthetics, and æsthetics has absolutes.

The trouble is that people don't take the time to consider what is truly Beautiful, finding it easier to be content with what one finds personally interesting or pleasurable. There are things which are erotic or which taste good or which satisfy our egos or which we find fascinating or which remind us of some happy memory, but which are not beautiful in and of themselves. There are things we like which are not necessarily good. There are things we want which are not really worthwhile.

As with the word Love, the word Beauty has come to be corrupted in the modern world. And it is one of my goals in life to purify that word for my own use so that I can understand exactly what it means...not just what it means to me, but its universal meaning. In the case of studying and contemplating æsthetics, I have to ask: what is universally beautiful? What physical things reflect perfection? (Physical things include light, sound, scent, and texture as well as shape...all that we can discern with our senses.)

The Ancient Greeks believed that physical perfection was a reflection of the Divine...that things (people, animals, buildings, pots, poems, plays, stones, trees, cloud-formations, etc.) which were physically beautiful or perfect were more divine and worthwhile and closer to God than things which were not beautiful. I believe this, too...that we can understand the nature of God by contemplating and seeking to understand nature and perfection and beauty. That one can worship God by seeking to understand, to reflect, and to add to the total amount of Perfect Form (which indicates the presence of God) in the universe.

But anyway, that's just my religion and philosophy. In practice it comes down to trying to keep my mind open to strange forms of beauty, to try and appreciate beauty outside of my cultural perceptions and pleasurable preferences. For example, I have a personal preference for Baroque Italian art over, say, African tribal art...the Italian Baroque painting appeals to me on erotic, social, and psychological levels that the African totem sculpture does not. But I try to study these things and discover what objects in each paradigm reflect actual Perfect Form. There are pieces of Baroque Italian art that I love, but which I can see are flawed or sloppy in their form; there are pieces of African tribal sculpture which, though they are not to my taste and not something I would want in my living room, are nevertheless breathtaking in their formal perfection.

It's also very difficult to separate Perfect Form in people from sexual attraction. There is no doubt that a young man or woman in peak physical condition, with a good complexion and all the hallmarks of sound health, contains a great degree of Perfect Form. This perfection causes pleasure in and of itself...but there is also this tie into our sexual æsthetics, which not only colors our perceptions but which also goes so far as to cloud our judgement.

For example, it is difficult for me to find Perfect Form in a nude female body because I find such things sexually repugnant, due to various psychological influences on my sexuality...and sexuality is stronger than intellect, no matter how intellectual you are. For the same reason, it is often difficult to see the pure æsthetic value in an elderly person, because he or she has passed beyond the norm associated with sexual reproduction that is instinctively built into our psyches.

I'm getting into deep water here. It's time to paddle back to shore, and play on the beach a little. If you want keep swimming and read more about Kant's Æsthetics and Teleology, I heartily recommend it. But I'm going to go play on the beach. And here on the beach, we don't play with philosophy, we play with...

Alliterative survey memes!

The Thursday Thumb-Twiddler for June 20th

1. You receive notification of jury duty. Do you go willingly, or do you try and find some way to beg off (or get yourself disqualified)? What if you were told that the case you were being impaneled for might go on for months? It has long been a dream of mine to serve on a jury. I've only been called for Jury Duty once, and the jury call was cancelled before I even got there. But I absolutely yearn to do my civic duty and lend my judgement to our Judicial System. Once there, though, I would probably be disqualified by my relationship with the Police (my uncle) and my off-with-her-head! temperament, though I would be highly desirable for my lack of knowledge of news events. It would suck to be on one of those endlessly-sequestered juries, like those poor schmucks in the OJ Simpson trial...but I think I would find entertainment therein. Hotel living is fun, and so long as the other jurors were worth socializing with, and so long as I had plenty of books to read and a computer to do some writing, I could manage.

2. Would you be willing to give up sex for one year if you knew it would give you a much deeper sense of peace than you have now? Honey, I haven't had sex in six years, and you would not believe the amount of inner peace I've achieved from that. But if we include masturbation, I think I would find it extremely difficult to "go without" for a whole year...I get grouchy if I go three days without. The only Inner Peace I would find at the end of that would be a shock-therapy-induced coma. On the other hand, if I was in a great deal of turmoil, and felt that total abstinence would cure me, I would probably give it a shot.

3. What's the most violent television show you watch? What about the most sexually graphic? The only violent shows I watch on television are cartoons...old Warner-Brothers classics, Invader Zim, the occasional Japanese anime whatnot, that's about as violent as I ever get. Physical violence in live-action TV tends to disturb and upset me, so I avoid it. The most sexually graphic TV show I watch is probably Queer as Folk...that is, in fact, my main reason for watching it! I'll watch almost anything if it's sexually graphic, those stupid straight faux-porn things that come on cable late at night, so long as the guys are cute...I have a most prurient mind, and love porn in all its forms and levels.


Well, my darlings, that's it for me. Have an æsthetically, erotically, and critically fabulous day!

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Contemplations of the Afterlife

I have always been fascinated by certain supernatural lore...especially as involves ghosts and immortality. Of course Anne Rice is a big favorite of mine, even though I've been sorely disappointed in her more recent output (I think The Tale of the Body Thief was her last good book). The idea of cheating death, or of remaining after death, or of living beyond natural means, anything that allows you to see what happens next, absolutely fascinates me. Like I shared before in this blog, my feeling about death is one of is my feeling about life. I want to know what happens next.

I am also fascinated with the idea of being able to go back and fix the mistakes of our past. The film Peggy Sue Got Married has always fascinated me, presenting the ability to go back to one's youth and do things differently, to get a chance to fix some horrible mistake you made that you've always regretted (and what made the movie even more interesting was that she made so many of the same mistakes anyway). For years I have lain awake nights thinking about my past (not so much nowadays, but I spent a lot of time on this in my twenties), seeking those little places in my life where I took a wrong step, contemplating the moments where my life took one direction instead of another, and thinking about how my life might now be different if I had chosen a different path.

Which all makes this week's Wednesday Whimsy very interesting to me (I was going to use last week's in the Week in Surveys I did last Friday, but I couldn't think of anything to say about that topic).


What do you believe happens after death? I don't have any specific belief of what will happen. I think it's possible that one might be reincarnated, that one might become an earthbound spirit, or one might ascend to join with the souls of those who have gone before. Or some combination of or choice among these. What I hope happens, after I die, is that I am released from the flesh to become pure spirit, that I am reunited with loved ones who have gone before, that I find out what it was all about, that all the mysteries are revealed, and that I am able to watch from beyond what happens here. That is my idea of heaven.

If, when you died, you were instantly transported to the moment in your life from which you would have done things differently, what would that moment be? That's the one I often think about. My first answer would be birth, because I really started making mistakes the moment I was born to the wrong people. But to be serious, I think I would go back to being 13 and start over from there (knowing what I know now). Puberty would be a walk in the park if you actually knew what was coming. I would spend more time with my Grandpa and get him to tell me about his life before he had his strokes. I would do better in school so I would have more choices when I reached adulthood. I would have drunk a lot of water and taken better care of my skin. I would have started having sex a lot earlier. I would not have started smoking. I would have begun exercising when I was young enough for it to make a difference, before my body set. I wouldn't have wasted all that time falling in love with straight boys. I wouldn't have colored my hair.

The really interesting question is this: would I have not become an alcoholic? That's the tricky one. If I weren't an alcoholic, I wouldn't have met most of the friends I now have. So I think I would have allowed myself to become an alcoholic, but I wouldn't have wasted so much time on it and would have gotten sober a lot earlier.

Some say that when you die you remain in the place you were most connected to in life. What would that place be for you?

It would probably be my house, just because I've spent so much time there. But I have never really connected to places...I tend to connect to moments and feelings. If I could choose a moment, it would be a performance, the moment went the crowd applauds and you feel all that love.

Describe a recent dream. This morning I had this dream, a very confused dream, that involved ice cream, Canada, children, falling in love, and moving away from home. In this dream, I had been to Canada and fell in love with someone, and then I came home (not to my own home but to some fictional place that seemed to be a converted watermill on the Colorado River) and had to hide this new love, who was somehow connected to this pint of ice cream, from my family of small children and a father (who was not my father, but rather some TV version of a father, sort of a tall forty-ish Wilford Brimley with red hair and a plaid shirt). He found out about it because I wouldn't leave this pint of ice cream, which was over six feet tall, in the freezer...instead I snuck it into the bathroom with me and talked to it, where this Dad found me. He told me I had to choose between my family and this pint of ice cream, and so I said I'd move out. I didn't have anywhere to go, or any money, but I was going to go anyway (I should point out that I wasn't me in this dream, but someone who might have played me on TV...a young Kyle McLaghlan, perhaps, or a late-teen Matthew Laborteaux)...after making this decision, I pulled a piece of paper out of my pants-pocket (which was down by my ankle...I was in the bathroom, you remember)...I don't remember what the paper said, but I started weeping because I knew I was going to grow up now and become a man, leave my home and begin to relate to my father as an adult, and go to the person in Canada who loved me. Then I woke up.

Hmmm. Weird dream. Oh, well...there's plenty of weirdness in the world. So until next time, may your ice cream give you lots of love in the bathroom.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

So Many Right Wing Christians, So Few Lions...

In the few times I've been tempted to buy a t-shirt bearing a slogan from one of the several overpriced shops in the Castro specializing in such things, the above slogan was perhaps the most tempting (followed by "You say 'bitch' as if it were a bad thing!" and "I can only be nice to one person per day, and today is not your day...tomorrow doesn't look good, either.").

The Christian Right, the Moral Majority, and all these Family Values dickwads get right up my nose. The nerve of people who believe they have the right to dictate how other people live their lives...not to protect the rights of others or of society, but merely to force everyone to follow their own religious just galls me. It all makes me so mad I could spit! Ptui!

Now, most everyone who knows me is aware of my head-in-the-sand approach to this sort of thing. I mean, you can't reason with such people, and you can't kill them, so all that's left to do is ignore them...for that reason, I do not read newspapers or news magazines, I don't watch the news on television, I do not have headlines in my personalized start pages, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, you can't keep all the information filtered out, and every now and again I'll follow a link from a blog or an email and get a faceful of infuriating info.

Just such a thing happened when I was visiting JF to participate in the "Tuesday Too." I followed a link to an article in the Washington Post about right-wing Christian groups allying themselves with conservative Muslim groups in order to lobby the UN for a cessation of rights to gays, women, and children. And now I'm good and incensed. So incensed, in fact, that I feel it necessary to write about it (after answering the to other, rather benign questions in the survey).

The Tuesday Too (#17)

1.) What's your favorite browser? Why do you hate "the other one"? Huh? I use Internet Explorer because it came installed in the computer. I've worked with Netscape on other people's computers, but not enough to note any differences besides the placement of buttons. Now I hear of all these other browsers, Opera and Mozilla and whatever, but I don't really get it. I prefer to stick to Microsoft products because they always work together...but more to the point, I don't like to change anything that comes installed. The machine worked when I got it, and I'm not gonna screw around with that.

2.) Are you fascinated by technology and the internet, or is it just a handy tool for you? How did you get involved in blogging?

No, I'm actually sort of baffled by technology. The only way I can deal with technology is to accept it without trying to understand it. For me, all technology is just tools, and trying to understand how they work just messes me up. But I am fascinated by the way the internet has grown over the years. I got started blogging when Rula Planet launched the Galaxy Girls website. I have always loved writing, but this brought me to a much bigger audience. Now with my own blog site, I find that it works very well to keep my writing skills honed, but also to keep a journal of sorts...I have never been able to keep a personal diary because there was no audience...but with an audience, even only an implied audience, I have the motivation to record my thoughts and my doings and my states of mind.

3.) What do you think about the alliance of conservative U.S. Christian organizations with Islamic governments (Iran, Libya, Iraq) "to halt the expansion of sexual political protections and rights of gays, women and children at United Nations conferences" (Washington Post article by Colum Lynch, June 17, 2002)? Well, let me tell you what I think (note...if you're going to read that article, eat a banana or some kiwi fruit'll need the potassium to keep your blood pressure down):

If this doesn't prove that the Christian Right is evil, nothing will. For these people to ally themselves with their own religion's enemies...not to mention enemies of our order to further their oppressive political agendas, shows the depths of their depravity, ignorance, and lust for power.

This makes me so angry that I'm having difficulty organizing my thoughts...and that is exactly why such groups choose such hot-button issues as gay rights, abortion, censorship, and "family" to build their platforms around. These are topics that people will react to in a visceral rather than an intellectual way.

There are certain facets of life that the average person will instinctively lash out to protect...especially their children and their family or tribe. Gay rights is never presented by these right-wing types as ensuring adults who happen to be homosexual the same rights that all other adult citizens enjoy: they are presented as "special," "extra," "unearned" rights for a tiny and perverted segment of the population who are out to seduce and destroy their children. Abortion legislation is never presented by Pro-Lifers as a woman's right to choose what happens to her body, or even as an intellectual question of when individual life begins, but rather as "killing babies." Whenever these right-wing crusaders get started, they never claim to be promoting Christianity or promoting conservative agendas—they are always "protecting the children" and "protecting the family."

Everybody wants to protect their own children. Everybody wants to protect their own homes and families and communities. And if you can convince people that their children or their homes are in danger, you can get them to do almost anything. And religious leaders know do advertisers and politicians. They know where the buttons are, and they push those buttons to gain support. This is called "demagogy." And for those of us who don't remember our Ancient History, demagogy destroyed democracy in Greece and Rome. Demagogy is the enemy of democracy because it appeals to prejudice and instinct instead of fairness and intelligence. It promotes fascism and dictatorship by encouraging ignorance in the general populace. That's all there is to it.

The thing I always have to ask myself is "What does this group seek to accomplish?" Beyond what they ask for or demand on the surface, I mean:

Q: What does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ("the Mormons"), or the Catholic Church, or the various and numerous right-wing Protestant religious groups in the U.S. want that isn't already guaranteed them by the Constitution?

A: I believe they (or rather powerful groups within them) want to recreate the world in their own images, to inflict their own value systems on the nation and then the world.

Q: What do Pro-Life groups seek to accomplish beyond illegalizing abortion? What do they think should be done with all those "little lives" they want saved?

A: I believe you'll find, if you interview any of the key players of the movement, that they don't have any ideas beyond the simple power of preventing people from doing something that they (the Pro-Lifers) believe is wrong...not for any intellectual reason, but because their religion says so and they personally believe so.

Q: What are conservative politicians really seeking when they crusade against gay rights or integration or Affirmative Action or welfare?

A: I believe they are seeking to divert the attentions of their constituents away from their own corruption and power-seeking and focusing that attention on scapegoat minorities.

What it all boils down to is power and the quest for power. Why does the Vatican hold so closely to its doctrine that all forms of birth-control are sinful? Because once you cease to control people's sexuality, considering that sex is one of the most powerful motivators in the human organism, you lose a very important hold on them; furthermore, people with children are more tractable than people without children because you can always threaten their children, directly or indirectly, appeal to their most animal instincts to preserve their offspring, and thereby bend them to your will. That, my friends, is serious power. All the power held by the Vatican stems from weilding a threat, usually in the form of a scapegoat group, to your offspring, family, and tribe...and if that doesn't work, they scare you with threats of eternal flames in the afterlife (another pretty good motivator for those who believe in such things).

It's very easy to scapegoat gays...we are very few, to begin with, and our dissappearance or suppression won't effect most people. The average straight person doesn't understand what being gay is like (any more than gay people really understand what it's like to be straight), because sexuality is really one of those things that you have to experience to understand—so there's an absolutely invaluable wall of antipathy a demagogue can tap into. There's also a kind of jealousy involved, particularly as concerns freedom from family responsibility and a tendency toward matter how much one loves one's family and one's mate, you're bound to be jealous of a group that seems to be having more fun than you.

It's also very easy to scapegoat abortion. Most women could never bring themselves to have an abortion; most men would be highly insulted and hurt to know that their seed was disposed of. Even the Pro-Choice women with whom I have discussed this issue would never have an abortion themselves. The very idea of abortion (particularly if you can frame the idea retroactively to apply to children one already has) is so loathesome to most people that the reaction to any mention of it is severe and emotional. So any leader or politician who wants to distract the majority of constituents from looking too closely into his or her private life or voting record can always bring up abortion and get a lot of support and a lot of talk and a lot of confusion. It's a cheap sleight-of-hand trick, a sort of "Look behind you!" while they pocket the coins on the table.

"But what about the rights of Christians?" I hear whenever someone uses the Constitution and Bill of Rights to slap down these Bible-thumping demagogues. That's where the real money is: tell your constituents that their religion, their spritual and cultural practices, their very salvation and their right to worship their God is in danger. Even the most level-headed and liberal-minded live-and-let-live Christians will get their panties in a wad if you can convince them that God Himself is being threatened.

This is what made prayer in schools such a hot-button issue: those who were defending prayer in schools focused all their attention on the implied suppression of Christianity, not on the liberation of non-Christian students. Illegalizing school prayers does not prevent Christians from praying whenever and wherever they prevents them from forcing their beliefs and practices on others. But many religious people of all sorts, Christians and Jews and Muslims and what-have-you, are so accustomed to being told what to think by their church's doctrines or leaders that they tend to become indiscriminate in their beliefs...they believe whatever they are told by their leaders without question, bequeathing to their leaders, ministers and elders and priests, the Perfect Faith that should be reserved for God alone.

The thing is this: One person's rights end where the next person's nose begins. That is a very simple way of dealing with and understanding civil rights. Christians have the right to worship as they choose...they even have the right to attempt conversion and missionary themselves all over the place as they choose. But they do not have the right to dictate other people's behavior on the grounds of their own religious convictions. If I am an atheist or agnostic (or, in my case, a casual neoplatonist), then I have the right to conduct my affairs without the guidance of the Judeo-Christian Bible. I am bound by the law, but the law must conform to the US Constitution and Bill of Rights...and the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion...not Freedom of Christianity, but Freedom of Religion. That means freedom to not follow religion, as well as the freedom to follow any religion one chooses. Any law that rests on a Biblical basis, even if it is passed and enacted on majority feeling, is an unconstitutional law and is inherently illegal and un-American.

Anyway, I think I'd better stop there. I was about to launch into a theme of "the Constitution was drafted to protect the Majority from itself," but I'm getting tired and need to go get a snack of some kind. Thanks for hearing me out, and I'd love to hear anything you have to share on the subject down in the comment window.

Monday, June 17, 2002

A (Father's) Day Late...

I was going to blog about my Daddy and my Grandpa over the weekend, but unfortunately I didn't have the energy on Saturday or the time on Sunday. So I'm doing it a little late. But then, better late than never.

I was thinking about my Grandpa on Friday when I was writing about the Barbie doll he bought me when I was five. That was just one of the many kindnesses he showed me when I was little. He was a very thoughtful man.

Some memories of Grandpa Manners from my childhood (this was my paternal grandfather...he was Chinese, so of course 'Manners' wasn't really his name): he used to cut our nails for us, take us in his lap and hold our hands and feet over his pedestal ashtray and trim away with his special gold-plated clippers; he always had jelly-beans for us, Brach's jelly beans, which he kept in the pockets of his snazzy sportcoats (he always wore a coat and tie, even after he retired, whenever he left the house), and sometimes to keep us surprised, he would have lollipops instead...and when he'd been to Reno, he gave us silver dollars; he smoked a pipe sometimes with that sweet floral tobacco that always smelled so good, the rest of the time he smoked Chesterfields (which also smelled pretty good, especially with the Tres Flores brilliantine he used on his hair); he was smarter than anyone else I knew, and worked three crossword puzzles a day. Grandpa had the same thing for breakfast every day for fifty years: two eggs sunny-side-up, two pieces of bacon, one slice of white toast, one slice of raisin toast, a glass of milk, a glass of orange juice, and a cup of coffee (when we were little he'd give us bites of his breakfast...and since there were four grandkids, he wouldn't get much himself). When he had his first stroke, such meals were only indulged on the weekends. After dinner (which he insisted always consist of a meat, a salad, a vegetable, a potato, and a bread, without exception ever...he once walked out of the house when Grandmother served hamburgers for dinner), he would take the afternoon Examiner crosswords out to the living room and sit in his chair with a cup of coffee and a bowl of peanuts and watch television...usually cop shows, his favorite was Mannix.

I started off earlier talking about my grandfather's life, but it got out of hand, so I'm going to create a tribute page to him on my website with pictures and everything, and publish it in time for his 99th birthday (he won't be 99 himself...he passed away in January 1987).

I don't remember my other (maternal) grandfather very well. I remember he enjoyed doing handicrafts, like paint-by-numbers and rug-hooking and making decoupage from Christmas cards and origami from cigarette wrappers. He was very quiet, overshadowed by a domineering wife, and all I remember about him was how gentle and kind he was. He had a very sweet smile. He died of leukemia when I was ten. I was eating Red Vines when they told me (I just now remembered that!...I guess my step-mother wanted us to have something sweet to soften the blow when she told us). It was my first family death, and I took it hard, but forgot about it fairly soon since there was no funeral or memorial service.

My father is still alive, but apparently not everyone knows that. I was talking to a fellow AA I ran into at the grocery store today, and he remarked (after I told him about spending Father's Day with my Daddy) that I never talk about my father, and with such an omission he wasn't sure I still had one. Even when I was a teenager, people would ask if I had a father. I do have one, he's alive and reasonably well and living in Concord. But I guess my relationship with Daddy has always been fairly benign...his presence in my childhood was kind of vague, he was an easy-going guy who always married and got overshadowed by rather dramatic women. I don't spend a lot of time with him, so he doesn't come up in conversations so much, and he also doesn't drive me crazy like my mother and grandmother (Daddy's mother) tend to do...which is why they get so much more airtime in my AA shares than Daddy would.

I can't really think of any childhood memories of Daddy. I remember when I was very very small he told me the story of how he shaved off his is my earliest memory, trivial as it may seem. I remember after he and Mother divorced, he would come by sometimes and read me stories, and he'd always leave me one of his pocket t-shirts to sleep in when he left. I could probably remember a lot more, but so much of my time with Daddy was dominated by the presence of my stepmother and his substance-abuse problems, and so much of that part of my life has been blocked out by a self-protective memory.

One of the things I feel guilty about as an adult is that I don't spend enough time with my father. There's no real reason to avoid him, but he doesn't live terribly close by, and we often have difficulty talking for very long. Daddy used to be a very loquacious, gregarious person, but the years of drug and alcohol problems (though he's clean and sober now) have seriously escalated his natural manic-depressive personality, and he now has to be medicated for that condition so much that he's rather subdued these days. Along with that, he doesn't hear very well any more; the encroaching deafness and the medication (and the fact that he still smokes and is always ostracized to the porch at family gatherings) have combined to turn him into something of an introvert. And I guess that change in his personality has made it difficult for me to find topics of conversation with him. But I still enjoy spending time with him, even if we aren't talking at all.

And this is the most important thing: Daddy always let me know that he loved me and that he was proud of me. Every one of my achievements was met with congratulation, all of my failures were met with encouragement. He didn't always know the right thing to say, in fact he often said the exact wrong thing, but he always tried his best to be supportive. That is so important with a father.

So yesterday, Grandmother and I went out to Concord to attend church with Daddy and my step-sister Heidi. Aside from the fact that I am not a Christian, and Daddy's church starts at the most ungodly hour of 9:30 a.m. (so I had to get up at seven on a Sunday...that's just wrong), I nevertheless enjoyed it immensely. It was nice to see that Daddy does get out, that people besides us know him and like him. It's a fairly nice congregation, too. I sat in with Heidi's Sunday School class (I was going to go to Daddy's class, but it was in this teeny-tiny room, so Daddy dissuaded me from straining my claustrophobia there), and it was really quite fascinating: they're studying the book Letters from a Skeptic and were discussing Free Will in relation to some of the questions and theories put forward in that book. Questions like "Is there free will in Heaven?" and "Is love possible without free will?" and "Did Satan or Judas act of their own free will when they rebelled or betrayed God as foretold?" It was a really fascinating discussion, even though I hadn't read the book the discussion was based on, and I got a lot of ideas. Someday soon I will have to write a post about Free Will, it's one of my favorite topics (another thing I just now got...the pun inherent in the movie title Free Willy! God, that's awful!)

After church we met up with my sister Suzie and her brood (she is more anti-Christian than I am, and would not enter a church for any reason short of a wedding or funeral, and then only under duress) and went out to the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch. We all had a great time, the food was good, it was fun watching Suzie and Heidi and their children interacting and giving the waitress a run for the money (I had to tip her 20%, even though the service wasn't so good, as a form of apology).

So it was a fairly nice Father's Day, and Daddy seemed to enjoy having us all together.

It was unfortunate for me that I also had a Galaxy Girls show that night...after getting four hours of sleep and then spending all morning and part of the afternoon en famille, then eating a huge and wildly starchy lunch...after all that, I had to rush home, shave again for maximum smoothness, throw my drags into the car, go jetting off to pick up rising new talent Miss Angelique deVil, and get over to Miss Daisy's house (through all this heat and Sunday-driver-slowpoke traffic) then get into face, then get over to San Rafael, squeeze into very tight dresses that were not designed to contain huge starchy Italian lunches, then put on one hell of a show with every scrap of high-energy I could muster (I performed Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine," and my arches are still killing me), schmooze with some of my favorite bloggers and some bloggers I'd not met before as well as other (nonblogging but no less dear) friends, then schlepp back and do the whole thing in reverse. I was exhausted! But it was all worth it.

However, it left me so tired that it's taken me the last six hours to complete and publish this one little post! After having accidentally published the unfinished and truncated version much earlier in the day! Jeez! I'm going to have to tell you the rest of what I was going to say tomorrow...if I remember what it was. God grant me the strength!

Good night, sweet darlings! (last edited and finally finalized at 11:15 p.m.)

Friday, June 14, 2002

The Week in Surveys

What do you do when you want to keep your blog moving, but you can't think of anything terribly interesting to post about? You steal memes from others, that's what! But since I am a drag queen and a literateur, an oversized femme fatale as well as an overaccessorized pedant, I find it necessary sometimes to juice things up a bit, to make everything bigger and sparklier and harder for the traffic (and bandwidth) to bear.

So in the spirit of Over-Doing It, rather than merely indulging in just the Friday Five today, I went to The Globe of Blogs and sampled the selection of weekly memes...which I present here to you!

The Monday Memory

Share a memory about your favourite toy. What was it, why was it your favourite, do you still have it, where did you get it? My first reaction was to cite the Barbie doll my Grandpa bought for me when I was five; but I think that I liked that toy mostly because it enraged my mother (she was concerned about me turning out a "sissy"...silly woman, as if she could stop me) rather than because I loved the doll itself...though I did and do love playing with dolls, especially Barbie. But now I think of it, my favorite toy of all time had to have been the one I made for myself when I was 11: my "Borrowers' House."

This was based on Mary Norton's The Borrowers series, which concerned the lives and adventures of a race of tiny mouse-sized people who lived in the walls and floors of an English country-house. The main character, Arietty Clock, lived with her parents under the kitchen floor (they were called Clock because the entrance to their warren-like home was under the hall clock); they lived on the castoffs and scavengings gleaned from around the house, using jewelry-boxes as chairs, birthday candles for illumination, coins and bottlecaps as dishes, thread-spools as tables, postage-stamps as paintings, and blotting-paper for carpets; they occasionally visited their cousins the Overmantels, who lived above the drawing-room fireplace and were very snobbish; Arietty's bedroom was made from an old cigar box, her bed a velvet-lined silver trinket-box, and she became friends with the little boy who lived in the house.

Aside from the enchantment of people living in the mysterious and inaccessible crannies of domestic humanity, I was enchanted by the way they went around building their lives...with things to which I also had access! I assembled an enormous doll-house from shoe-boxes and small wooden crates, filled it with furniture created from scavenged jewelry boxes and thread spools and matchbooks, with old patterned washcloths as carpets and trading-cards on the walls.

Then I started cannibalizing other toys, "borrowing" accessories from my sister's and step-sisters' Barbie cottages (my stepmother, like my mother, was determined that I should not be a sissy, and so I never got the doll-house furniture and accessories I requested), adapting things from our old Fisher-Price Play Family houses, taking pieces from disused board games (especially Clue, Monopoly, and Masterpiece, which yielded an excellent tiny art-collection), and utilizing the personnel and furnishings of my second-favorite toy, a PlayMobil King Arthur's Round Table set (this was way back in the late 70s, when PlayMobil was first marketed, and not nearly as elaborate as they are now).

I spent hours playing with that thing, creating new furnishings, making up stories for my Borrowers, and rearranging their little rooms like the mad decorator I always was. I don't remember what happened to it, though...I guess I must have outgrown it, or it was lost when we moved, or something vague and tragic like that.

Tuesday Too

# 16

1.) The New York Times recently had an article by David Gallagher on the war bloggers (after 9/11 and mostly right-wingers) vs. techie bloggers or so called veteran bloggers. Do you think the very nature of blogging is revolutionary?
First, responding to the article in question, I think it's dangerously simplified. There are a lot of people blogging and web-posting about the 9/11 tragedy and various other war-related topics; all forms of opinions are expressed. There are a lot of people blogging about tech things, too. But these are not the Whole Enchilada, two sides of one coin...there's a huge world of bloggers out there, and this NYT article covers only two corners of that world.

But the problem with the War-Bloggers and those who've gone up against them is that there is this anger involved, and anger has a way of heightening differences of feeling and opinion. I myself have brushed up against some of these "war-bloggers" when I dared express my pacifist opinions on this blog. I have also encountered tech-related blogs, and leftist blogs, and radicalist blogs and feminist blogs...but with the techies, I had no idea what the hell they were talking about. Most of the blogs I read are personal, intellectual, literary, and generally humorous.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I don't really know what they're talking about over at the New York Times.

I think that Blogging is revolutionary, in that it encourages people to share their writing and ideas in a public way that was not possible before can publish without having to be asked by a publisher, you can share your ideas with people who you would not otherwise know, you can become part of an information community larger than what you could ever experience socio-geographically.

Every time a stride like this is made in communication, there is a revolutionary alteration in the communications themselves. The invention of spoken language revolutionized human life; the invention of writing revolutionized it; the invention of printing revolutionized it again, the invention of radio revolutionized it once more.

Blogging, as much a revolutionary tool as the moveable-type printing press, has already begun altering the ways in which we gain information, just as computers and word-processors, coming after type-writing, which came after hand-writing, altered the way we write our the novels of Jane Austen, which were written and edited laboriously by hand, to the novels of John Steinbeck, which were tapped out easily on a typewriter and then laboriously edited, to the novels of, say, Anne Rice or Stephen King, that are easily typed and quickly edited. The styles, the content, and the accessibility are different in each of these instances because of the tools used in the writing. It's interesting to think about.

2.) Are labels (i.e. feminist, left or right) really important? What if the meanings change over time? Is there some particular label you're proud to wear and why? They are important only insofar as they imply a meaning that the person labelled would agree on. Labels are merely shorthand tags you put on something so that others know more-or-less what is inside. By saying "I am a feminist," the listener has a fairly good idea what sort of political ideals you might have. These shorthand tags further the dialogue by dismissing a great deal of explanation at the outset.

When I use the label "gay" for myself and others, I mean uncloseted homosexuals who take part in a certain lifestyle...there are differences between what people label as "gay," and between what people hear when they hear the label "gay," but the label pretty much covers all the people it is meant to cover. The problem with labels, though, happens when people do not agree on their meaning. If someone uses the word "gay" negatively, that person is engaging in a lazy mental behavior...using a label of one's own personal feeling without considering what it means to the people it is meant to describe.

Any label that is applied ignorantly is a misused label. To call someone a feminist who does not call him- or herself a feminist, and who does not display features that other feminists would consider feminist, then you are misusing the word. And then, once you're engaged in misusing the label, it becomes very easy to herd people into your consider "gays" or "feminists" or "pacifists" not as people but as one-word abstracts is to divorce the labelled people from their humanity...and once that is accomplished, evil automatically follows.

3.) Would you be willing to give up, or reassess something you strongly believe in because hard evidence suggests that you are totally wrong?( "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." --Mark Twain) Yes, I would have to...because my deepest conviction is that the Truth is All, and is something that is arrived at by Scientific Method (create a hypothesis, investigate it, test it against every task you can find to disprove it, and see if it works); with Scientific Method, you can never become attached to an outcome before all the evidence is in.

This is something that makes science very difficult for some people: they want to prove something that they've already concluded, when true Scientific Method demands that you must accept having your theory disproved, that indeed you yourself must try to disprove your own theory, before it can be accepted as a True Conclusion.

On the other hand, it is hard to disprove a belief. That's what makes it different from a fact. But I do believe that one ought to test one's beliefs against other people's beliefs via rational argumentation. The problem is finding people who are rational who don't believe as you do.

Wednesday Wanderings

Name or describe a person from your past with whom you have not spoken in many years. Why did you stop speaking to them? Would you like to speak to them again? If you had a chance to speak to them again, what would you say? I talked before about Kevin, which covers all of this. So I guess I'd better choose someone about Eva?

She was my best friend in high-school, even my girlfriend in Senior year (one has to flirt with bisexuality at least's part of growing up). But she got married (to someone I didn't like) and had kids after college. We kept in touch after this, but her entire life was her children, with a little room for her husband, and even less room for her friends. Since I not only don't have children, but in fact do not care for them in the least and am not terribly interested in them as a topic of conversation, we necessarily grew apart. We still have mutual friends, so I imagine I could talk to her any time I wanted, but I don't think we'd really have anything to say.

Thursday Threesome

Special Edition: CLUE

The Answer: Miss Scarlett in the Library with the Lead Pipe.

Onesome. Miss Scarlett, what makes your face turn red?
The sun (within fifteen minutes I look like a lobster). Niacin (which I don't take anymore). Rouge (sometimes it gets away from you...I've never lost control of my car, but my rouge brush has been known to run away with me). Certainly not shame or embarrassment, I lost the ability to blush ages ago.

Twosome. The Library. What books are a must in your opinion for a personal library? For a 'library,' rather than just shelves full of books, you should have these multi-volume sets, hard-bound and well-dusted: a really reliable Encyclopedia with Gazetteers and Atlases included; the Oxford English Dictionary; the complete works of Shakespeare; Will and Ariel Durant's The Story of Civilization; the 100 Greatest Novels; and finally, the complete works of Poe, Saki, Proust, Sayers, and Mordden.

Threesome. The Lead Pipe. Ever have a plumbing related woe? Tell us all about it... I can't really think of one...the usual toilet-backing-up, the occasional clogged drain, but nothing dramatic. But regarding pipes: I remember during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, when I was living over off Fruitvale, one of our more alarmist neighbors induced us to shut off our gas main, and it took two weeks before PG&E came out to turn it back on...during which weeks we were without hot water or a stove or heat...we had to boil water in the microwave to shave and bathe and wash dishes in. Wildly inconvenient! When the PG&E man came around, he asked who had turned the gas off in the first place, and since that one neighbor had covered the entire neighborhood, he told us he wouldn't turn her gas back on for another week (yes, Virginia, there is Justice in the world).

The Friday Five (my old fave!)

1. How often do you do laundry? On average, about once a month. At any rate, I have enough underwear to last a month. But I haven't done laundry in about seven weeks. I have nothing left to wear that hasn't been worn at least once, with the exception of my dry-clean dress clothes and the socks and underwear I bought this week to tide me over until I get off my lazy ass and do my laundry.

2. What's in a typical wash load? I separate my laundry by color, rather than by item-type...whites, off-whites, tans, browns, greens, blacks, greys, blues, purples, and reds, each containing socks and underwear and shirts and pants and sweaters and whatever else is washable. The whites, if all my clothes are dirty at once (as they are now), make two loads; the reds also usually make two loads, since my sheets are burgundy. I often can blend adjacent colors when the loads aren't very big or when they're all different sizes.

3. Front or top loader? Powder or liquid detergent? The washer loads on top, the dryer from the front. I use Tide powdered detertgent.

4. Do you use fabric softener in the rinse cycle? April-fresh Downy! I have to have April-fresh Downy, or I don't feel that my clothes are quite right. I love the smell, I love the softness, I love the fact that I haven't had static cling in almost twenty years. But remember this helpful household hint: do not use as much on your towels as your regular clothes, maybe only a fourth the amount...otherwise your towels won't absorb water.

5. Dryer or clothesline? What is this, the Stone Age? Why would anybody put something on a clothesline? We took down our clothesline when we got a dryer in the early 70s. Actually, my Grandmother still line-dries most of her clothes, but we just put them on hangers and hang them on the back-door awning rail or the shower-curtain rod. Anything I have that can't go in the dryer (like some sweaters) is spread over a towel on top of the dryer to take advantage of the heat.

Weekends: None of the Saturday or Sunday memes were interesting, doable, or still in production, so I am substituting with the one non-day-specific weekly meme listed.

Eight from the Eighties

Eight questions derived from eight songs in the Eighties. Posted at eight. Ish. (Eastern, PM, US) Hence, the Eight From The Eighties.

1) Do you be illin'?
No, I feel pretty good! I'm hungry, though. This surveying really takes it out of you, and all I've eaten today is bagels.

2) Who's simply the best? Better than all the rest? Dalton. I think he's probably the nicest, most honest, most sincere, and most caring guy I know.

3) Do you want to party all the time, party all the time, party all the time? Oh, please, no! I like to party only occasionally, and then in a rather low-key conversation-and-collation manner. Give me a weekly buffet dinner with twenty friends and I'm happy!

4) Are you a maniac? No...just a demented bore.

5) Do you believe in spirits in the material world? Yes, I suppose so...though I've never seen or communicated with one. But why not?

6) I got my mind set on... That's just the mind just won't set lately...I totally can't concentrate on anything. I think it's because all of my mental energy is going into preventing myself from buying jewelry (I've declared a three-month jewelry embargo, I can't buy any until September 1). It's so hard being virtuous!

7) Do you love dirty laundry? What's with all the interest in my laundry? No, I don't like dirty laundry, because then you have to wash it. I hate doing my laundry! If I ever found someone who could do my laundry the way I like, without my having to ever touch it before removing it from the drawer or after taking it off, I would marry that person! Grandmother would probably do my laundry if I asked her, but she does it wrong (she folds socks funny, and folds jeans with a crease, and doesn't use enough fabric softener), and I don't like her to do more work than she already does.

8) Say, say, say what you want: I want two hundred and fifty million dollars, a tan-and-black male pug puppy (whom I shall name Lord Sebastian Manners Flyte Mountbatten-Jones), a forty-room Beaux-Arts mansion in Pacific Heights (tastefully furnished in the Louis Quinz and amply supplied with hot houseboys), a 250-foot yacht, a heart of gold and a mind of steel, and to look just like this (but in color):