plain speech

This is not finished or at least I know I have plenty more to say but today if the voices in my head were still saying things very loudly they would be saying post some shit already!

There are tons of unfinished things and this is one of them. I am going to go start on something else now and if I do not finish it maybe I will still be compelled to post some shit when I wake up tomorrow.

This was written specifically for a certain Thing so if it reads sometimes as though you are hearing only one side of a conversation that might be why. The gist of the Thing was Tell your story in 25,0000 characters or more and since that is more or less the gist to which most of my writing responds–that and Post some shit already–I decided to put it here as well.

20140412 2032 -0800

It’s Sunday. I am not sure I can write this today but I can at least put my name down or in and I can probably figure out how to begin to describe what occupies me much of the time so here those are:

I am named Erik Joseph Martin Schneider and maybe it is overenthusiastic to write it all out like that but there it is all of it so far. I started out with a different name and only became Erik Martin Setc at 35 and there is a story behind that and I will tell a little of it a little further on. We were a few years Erik Martin and then what I really wanted to do was name myself Will after my great-grandfather–Elsie Schneider’s father–but my uncle was named William long before I showed up and then he named my cousin Karl William and so I thought maybe William was mostly spoken for so I took Will Brugger’s middle name Joseph and moved Martin over.

Martin Schneider was my great-grandfather who was gone by the time I could have remembered seeing him or maybe even before that. I have a picture but it says almost nothing to me. If there are stories nobody has told them where I could hear.

Now I am inclined to somehow take on also Maggie Phillips Wilcox’ name but I do not know where to put what remains of her in such a way that I can promise her some rest and if not exactly safety maybe better odds on most days and I wonder was it she who was buried there underneath stones and books and chests of old clothes in the house that visits me still although I have not in some time been pulled down the long hallway dark at the far end with death at the least and sometimes cold soundings through the basement of the earth steep and always narrower and narrower but never reaching the absolute zero itself rushing up and rushing up and rushing up but never taking my wrist as I knew it would if it ever arrived but it never did.

This hell was unrecognizable all the others I used to dream up appropriately aflame and glinting and hot and complete with those recordings of ordinary human voices slowed down and detuned just enough to emphasize that devil’s note the one my mother always hears first before anyone else would suspect a thing.

She knows what evil is she says. Don’t you think that music is sick. No it is precisely the sort of melody I will learn to write as soon as I am out of your earshot but I never said that just shrug or maybe well you know they’re just trying to be shocking because that was my stock answer to throw off any possibility of meaningful connection in the face of such immense and cynical irony or disaffected and ironic cynicism. I threw whole theaters between myself and her questions so that no more questions would make any sense at all.

It worked insofar as the questions would stop but whether she believed me to be as earnestly jaded as all that–well it was not important whether she truly believed it as long as she had an excuse to pretend to so that we did not have to cross words. We were both relieved at the opportunity to say nothing.

But she knew that too already and I knew that she knew but I did not know very much at all about what I knew yet and so I only noted down at the bottom of the list what next never to admit loving until you have studied all the faces for however many years it takes to detect even the faintest distaste some milliseconds before it arises.

They call that hypervigilance or that is I recall the long hours of practice that began there. Today I can always tell you where the cats are or who is walking up the stairs.

Except right this minute I am not sure where one of the cats is and it is making me very anxious even though his distress call is loud and unmistakable and currently not to be heard at all so he is probably napping in one of those spots I never can find when I am looking for him while he silently cats along as he always has.

I am still in San Francisco. This was not the plan but whether that is because there was some other plan I cannot say for sure. I can say that I think I have learned by now that the part you cannot imagine happening even though you need it to will probably not happen in the way you cannot imagine it. The Rhetoric program produced teachers and therefore if I completed my degree I was to have been made into someone who could teach without first having to subdue panic that grew wilder with each and every time it was time to teach.

To be brief, that did not happen in precisely that way. I can teach just like I can sometimes get up on stage and sing or read which is about once a month for short bursts and then not at all for another year or sometimes a handful of years.

So I have the degree and once in a great while I have some chops but most of the time I practice alone or occasionally with a proven ally the rest of the time I cannot face them audiences or students or anyone who wants anything from me even if I do in fact want to give it to them. Sometimes especially then.

This is sort of how I also did not become a rock star even though I was in a band in Atlanta GA at just the right time and then when that did not work we moved to Seattle at just the right time which also did not work or not so much as we would have liked. That said, we do still have fans mostly in Europe. We are not big in Japan. We also have not made music together since 1992 when I decided to return to school to try for that magical transformation into a member of the professoriat.

We mainly referring to myself and the first family member that I chose upon leaving the family that had forced itself on me since the very beginning. I used to walk around as a body sort of recognizable as what is called female–in 1962 the Doctor was quite sure I was female and my parents were quite sure I was female then and mostly later while I myself remember puzzling over why I could not grow up to be a man since I identified with them so but I was a girl they told me so I guessed that was just something I would get used to somehow only I never did and then later on I sort of got distracted with other problems and so I was a tomboy for a very long time and that was that–and since Lisa recognized even herself as female we were lesbians at first that is not just best friends and then I was a dyke a little while later and we were partnered for eleven years and something. She still lives in Seattle where we moved from Atlanta in 1987 and although we are no longer not just best friends we are at least best friends and still even family although we cannot come up with a name for what we are to each other and we celebrate our whateversary every January 19 even if we cannot meet up that year.

In 1996 I left Seattle for San Francisco to start grad school at Berkeley and also to transition physically to what I called at the time male. It took me less than a year to figure out where to go and whom to talk to about the possibilities which were wider here even than I had guessed, and so I have been Erik since early 1997 or that is when the name began calling me out loud. To be slightly clearer, I have been taking injections of testosterone since 1 July 1997 and they have worked pretty much the way I had hoped they would physiologically speaking.

There is way too much story to tell about what my gender is or is not now so I will just note that I do answer to the pronouns labeled masculine but I did not become a man as it turns out which is fine since I did not transition from being a woman either. I think I may be too old to be genderqueer and besides I do not have the energy to perform various permutations of those genders that do not refer to me I just put on whatever smells ok when it is time to get dressed. This is just one of the many points at which I find myself looking over at the language I learned to speak the first time around while it looks at its feet and toes the dirt because it has nothing readymade for me to wear. Which is why when asked for my gender I answer with a short persuasive essay unless it is clear that either I need a long one or I can get by with a deflecting shrug.

Mostly I tell people I am transsexual and that I used to be a dyke. From there I let them add it up so at least they can get an idea of whose stories they might have heard that sounded similar to girl -> dyke -> transsexual -> bearded deep voiced person.

So at this point maybe it is looking like I grew up queer in a fundamentalist Christian family and it may have taken place in the Deep South or somehow I was there when the major record labels descended on Athens GA in the early 1980s? Yes all of that is the case although I only laughed at the stars on friends’ roofs in Athens from time to time I never lived there myself but Atlanta was just down the street and so it was easy to visit.

I do not know where I am from: born near Tacoma WA but shortly afterward my father got the same layoff from Boeing that everyone else was getting around the same time and then he found a job at Lockheed Georgia and so off we went. We moved to Marietta GA along with a small influx of other non-Southerners. I attended school with the children of Lockheed engineers from all over the country. One of our neighbors was from Ohio. Another was from Utah. All the native Georgians lived in houses a little older than ours there in that new subdivision carved out of a huge forested tract of land that may have been homesteaded by a family named Shaw.

My parents never meant to stay but they are still there or close anyway. Not so long ago they retired to a new house about twenty or thirty miles further north where the city of Atlanta has not quite reached yet. The one thing I do not regret picking up from them was their obsession with moving back to Seattle. They got over theirs but I never did and that is why when I moved here to San Francisco I was from Seattle but while I was in Seattle as an adult I was from Atlanta at least whenever its proximity to Athens was a topic and this was the late 80s and into the 90s and I hung out with other music geeks so it came up rather often. Starting from age two until I got back there at 25, I was from Seattle.

Now when I visit Seattle I am from San Francisco and I have been here long enough that it is credible to say so.

So for the most part I think I may be from the West Coast but a bizarre and awful 23-year detour into the very hide of the Bible Belt made me the non-specifically-gendered person I am today: wary and tenacious; not fond of sudden movement when humans are doing the moving; obsessive . . . [what. obsessive what. I am overcome with spontaneous bedtime!]

Yes there was, over and above the sheer abusiveness of telling a seven-year-old apparent girl that she will be going to Hell unless she follows instructions very closely and those instructions include at least one thing she will be terrified to do right up to and past the moment where she finally does do it about six more years after that and even then only after mortifying intervention from three church ladies. Yes there was other abuse also and so with my current permanent PTSD sideshow I get flashbacks as they may be popularly called of all sorts.

All I want to say right now about the other abuse is that everyone on my mother’s side of the family has experienced it and probably they continue to but I moved far away from almost everyone and I do not hear from many of them anymore just I know of my very large array of cousins many are becoming grandparents one by one as the family is far too fertile for its own good.

The salient details to the central points of my autobiography are these: my brother molested me after he had reached puberty but before I had and a year later I was raped by a total stranger who was probably completely grown up as far as I could tell then on a beach when I had been left alone for a moment. Because all this happened, you know, in the short life span that is childhood and so it all overlaps and collides and nearly any trivial innocuous event that might happen on Earth has the potential to stir up confusion andor panic andor paralysis andor that feeling that does not sink but plummets its leaden cosmic rays shooting right out your feet and through the ground and through the molten iron engine that spins us round and out the other side of the planet into deep interstellar space where nobody can touch it.

You know that feeling?

The older I get the more appalling this all seems. It was normal then.

I think maybe I will try to go backwards from here now. I do not claim any religion in particular but I practice zazen–Zen meditation–nearly every day and I vastly prefer Zen Buddhism’s take on almost everything to any other of the takes my culture has offered me as serious alternatives. That is I prefer it to, say, Christianity certainly but also wider Anglo-European-American mythologies and ontologies not that those two things are distinct at any point that I have been able to tell so far.

I think I stumbled upon Zen in two ways: I had to attend NA/AA meetings for a short while but every single one of them freaked me out because they are inevitably structured like Protestant church services in some alarming way or another. The only one I have ever been to that did not freak me out in this way and I mean by that I was in full panic for a few days after each one was the meeting held at the San Francisco Zen Center. And so I went to that one only for the necessary duration but I went back to the Zen Center to learn zazen not long after my required NA/AA attendance was no longer required.

The other vector was Dialectical Behavior Therapy which although I was not formally doing it did provide me with some remarkable and valuable insights when I read about it on the internet and since it is partially grounded in mindfulness and in acceptance without judgment it folded almost without a ripple into the zazen I was sitting at least occasionally and occasionally even regularly.

My current practice string began last winter that is the one that spanned 2012 and 2013. I was taken off of the ‘atypical’ antipsychotic Zyprexa in August of 2012 after something like fourteen years on it and if all the things you hear about withdrawal or what they call protracted discontinuation syndrome so they don’t have to call it withdrawal are bad it has been at least as bad as you have heard.

If you haven’t heard then it has been way worse than you might have guessed otherwise and it also is another story that will blossom quite out of hand if I begin to tell it so for short: I lost fifty pounds but that was ok they were mostly Zyprexa Pounds™ but losing all of them in one year’s time was rough especially since here at the other side of those fifty pounds I am not very big at all and so now I have to work very hard to get in enough protein to keep from getting smaller still. Most every other symptom made it and still makes it sometimes difficult to eat. Or walk very far. Or sometimes use my eyes.

I am fortunate though because all of the involuntary muscle twitches that remain are usually too small for others to be able to see because if they were bigger my face would be all bunched up all of the time now. Instead the bridge of my nose aches. And aches. And aches.

So I started meditating about six months into this because what else was there to do there is no cure that is not worse than the condition ie more of the same or similarly-classed medications and I am not interested in taking more of those than I am still on. The other alternative is wait until you feel better. Which is happening slowly and I think I can expect it to continue slowly to happen.

Also as I tell my therapist without the sedating effects of the Zyprexa all my emotional responses go to eleven now. Sometimes approaching twelve. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is interesting and the meditation helps me not to be reactive and not to freak out when some slight neurological shift manifests itself as something I am not sure what to do with. Oh hello full force of grief and terror that I swallowed in 1973. Um, come on in? Have a seat? You.. you would rather pace. OK. You can do that. Can I get you anything? Clothes? You would like clothes? I can get you some clothes; take my jacket and I will be right back. Don’t leave the room? OK. Here is a blanket. It’s sort of old but it is warm.

And then we sit because in zazen it is easier to hear what those parts of me who never learned to talk the first time around have to say and most of them have to say at least something and some of them pepper us with questions like bewildered rip van winkle children waking up thirty, forty, fifty years later to see that not only did we all survive but we even made it to San Francisco which was a mythical land on the six o’clock news with Walter Cronkite in the 60s and 70s all in black and white but colorful enough to spark my imagination to fashion my hippie self who of course grew long hair but was always puzzled about where the beard was going to come from.

This happened just the other night: I came home from a longish walk through the Mission in the evening where I saw that my whole neighborhood had been swapped out for some other neighborhood while I was mostly at home recovering from neurotransmitter/receptor assault the last almost two years. I was so stunned by what I saw that by the time I got home I did not even recognize my own kitchen at first.

We live here?
Yes.
It’s kind of dingy.

[See we live in an old-fashioned Mission flat where the lease is someone else’s distant memory and the maintenance is DIY and many of the furnishings were chosen by some other punk rock queers in the 1980s or 90s and it is easier to use what is already here than to go buy new things especially when the old ones work just fine. But so some of the dirt is also vintage MTV era and we some of the few remaining longterm residents in this part of town are also a little unkempt because this is where the unkempt people used to find places they could afford among people who knew enough not to stare.

By vast contrast, what I saw on my walk the other night were spotless new condos and storefronts and freshly-painted and redecorated Victorians and restaurants where I could not possibly afford even the tip for walking into one. This is a national story by now but I myself have not been paying close attention until very recently.]

Yeah it’s not as clean as Mom would have liked.
Fly paper? People use that?
My housemates do. You and I we just talk to the flies and try to keep them confined to the compost bin if they prefer to stay in rather than fly out the window when we open it for them.

I don’t feel safe here.
Honey we have been here for over sixteen years and it has been safe this whole time.
It has?
Uh-huh.

Where’s Mom?

::deep breath::
She doesn’t want to see us. You remember.

Yeah.

We have other people now. The people we live with here are not afraid of you. Or me. We’ve known S__ for almost twenty-five years. You remember? Nobody here is afraid of any of us in any way.

::nods::

And so on. This conversation went on for half an hour or so: the questions voiced in my head and the answers spoken quietly out loud so as to sound no different from the various topics I discuss with myself even when my housemates were home which they were at this point but in the other room. When I got to my bedroom finally things looked more familiar and it was clear that whichever of me had just seen the kitchen for the first time had been awake and aware here where I can close the door and be even safer than out in the kitchen.

If I had to specify I would say I was talking to an eight year old girl me. When I was about that age I had been told enough times that I was a girl that I believed that it had to be the case even though I could not imagine growing up to be a woman. And so I started at least that young to stop imagining growing up at all because nothing that was foretold to me concerning my eventual life as a grown-up made the slightest lick of sense.

I did not learn self-compassion. Or that is I was not taught it while I was being taught all the other things that were supposed to be the pillars of security and happiness in this world or maybe just the next I am not sure any of the teachers really knew which or even why they thought it was a good idea to tell young kids that Jesus loved them but they had better make damned sure to demonstrate how much they loved him back or he would do very very very very mean things to them for much much longer than they could ever conceive of having to wait even in the most awful boring ugly empty doctor’s office waiting room ever.

For a long time nothing I did was going to get me any brownie points with the Father or the Son or even for that matter with the angels who would be casting me into the Lake of Fire at the Last Judgment if I did not Repent and accept Jesus as my Personal Savior.

It was not enough that I believed with absolute credulity everything my mother told me, everything the Sunday School teachers told me, everything the preacher told anyone even when he probably was not aware of how absurdly dangerous it was to be lecturing adults and children at the same time in the same way. It was not enough that I had done precisely what I was told the Bible said to do ie ask Jesus into my heart and repent my sins and die to my old self by the time I was thirteen I was doing all of these things several times a week but it never took. Because there was this one last thing I was scared to death to do.

In our church, you had to walk.

You know: the aisle. Walk the aisle.

At the end of every service we of course sang the invitation while the preacher stood up front waiting for anyone who wanted to humble themselves before God and the congregation for whatever reason: to give testimony, to ask for salvation, to publicly humiliate themselves for any of a list of mostly petty and inoffensive sins. This was also the only way to make your decision and to be saved, to be born again. The one rationale for this that I recall clearly is that walking somehow counted as Publicly Professing Your Faith or rather that walking was the only thing that counted as such and if you had not yet publicly professed your faith you were still bound for the Lake of Fire no matter how many times you begged Jesus to let you off the hook for this one thing pleeeeeeeease.

Sorry. No. You know this is not going to work no matter how many times you try to get away with it and eventually you will give in and you will walk but no nobody is going to volunteer to walk with you or anything you have to do this by yourself or it does not count. And if you don’t do it soon we are just going to start the Rapture without you in fact we just did!

**panic**

until I heard the car our 1966 Plymouth Barracuda could be heard half a mile away or at least I could hear it and it was a midnight-hour reprieve each and every time but it motivated me not at all to do anything but cower when a late-afternoon thunderstorm made everyone else late and tortured me with bolts and crashes and the fury of a god who had no patience for girls who did not even know why they were terrified of walking they just were to the point that not even hellfire could move my feet out of the safety of the pew. The aisle was carpeted and it pointed a straight line between rows and rows of stares: the penetrating gauntlet that knew all your secrets as soon as they heard a rustle and plod behind them telling them to turn their heads to get a look at who had been sufficiently overcome by conviction to leave the anonymity of the congregation for the aisle that never held more than one traveler at a time.

As I got older, most of the other kids whose parents brought them to church more than a few times a year walked at some point or the other, got sobbed over by the older ladies, then baptized and sent on to witness to their friends or wait to be called to be missionaries or just to get married and have babies who would then be sorted out by the same mechanism to see who was going to enter the Kingdom and who was going to throw away the marvelous gift they had been given of this choice that was no choice at all: walk or burn forever.

Everyone waited for me to walk. I wouldn’t do it.

the day after after that other day

Written the day after Christmas ie about a month ago

26 Dec 2013

As usual I do not know where to start but I do have some idea or inspiration or compulsion or something to remark at least that this year’s Christmas day was one of the most grueling of my life even though–and I mean this emphatically and truly and truly emphatically–it was one of the nicest Christmas days to unfold in my house in quite some time. Which is to say one occurred and it was one in which we all gave each other however much room we needed to tend to the noises in each of our heads while also making it clear or clear enough that company was to be had if one wanted any.

Or at least that is how it looked to me. It may have occurred in an entirely different way for my housemates but their stories I have only heard bits and pieces of. Despite this low-stress atmosphere I only lasted for ten hours of consciousness before I threw in the towel and decided to reboot which took another ten hours and had me up at dawn instead of noon and so this might be the Quarterly Circadian Rhythm Shift.

I know I am not the only one whose voices were being noisy yesterday but I do count myself fortunate in that mine have quieted down to the point that I could almost say that we have quiet civil conversations instead of the shouting matches we used to have with their screaming liarliarliar at me and my screaming shutupshutupshutupshutup at them and neither of us managing to get our points across to the other in any useful way at all. Both sorts of exchanges bite off big chunks of what I always hope will be productive days and turn them into little spasms of almost no practical use from anyone else’s point of view but at least with the conversational method we stand some chance of reaching an agreement we are all comfortable enough with to let the organism get some sleep.

The lady sitting near the ATM yesterday seemed to be having much greater difficulties with her voices than I was with mine. Unless she was on the phone but I did not want to lean over intrusively to see if indeed there was not one that I could see. As I walked away I wondered what would have happened if I had asked her who was bugging her and trying to take Samantha away while she was reading to her but I did not really have it in me to talk to someone else’s voices so I took the Billy Don’t Be a Hero way out and walked around the block continuing to find no stores open and beginning to wonder if macaroni and cheese were really going to be Christmas dinner (they didn’t have to be but I fell asleep before the dinner being cooked was fully cooked and so they were what I ate. Sort of. My stomach rebelled halfway through for no apparent reason and so today I am eating everything in sight now that there are things to see and to eat that it knows it can handle).

I could say a little more about my day yesterday but I only have a couple of vignettes: in the first one Mission Street is quite nearly dead that is nobody is out there who has anyplace else to be and I am thinking this is not quite right or this is new or something. I am not sure of this though I mean I did see several people passed out on the sidewalk who must not have lasted their whole days either so it was surely desolate but whether I have seen non-desolate Christmas days on Mission Street I cannot say for sure without asking around first. So I might get back to you all with that. Two Mission Street Gift Shops were open and at each one a family was looking over the bicycles but there were no other customers in sight. My guess is they opened because they have done business on this holiday in the past but maybe they too had nothing better to do.

In the second I am talking to the housemate who speaks in ellipses because what else can you do and we are throwing out phrases to the effect that on this holiday you are damned if you do have family and damned if you don’t. Nearly every one of my close friends has a home to go to for the holidays of their choice and the rest of the year does not bother me so much but the way in which family spirits all of them away at one time for at least twenty-four hours and up to two weeks in some cases creates a kind of pre-determined and very local interpersonal drought whose menace is maddeningly self-fulfilling in that no matter what happened last year and how consciously I plan to keep it from happening this year this year is never anything like last year and so whatever precautions I take turn out to be completely orthogonal to the actual problems that arise.

But so my elliptical comment was something to the effect of all that but sounding more like “mmggppphhh…family…” and then considering how reports from family holidays usually turn out, I reckoned maybe I was not the unlucky one in my version of things.

· · · · ·

1940s Christmas Day Peoples

There is a story in this picture although I cannot say that I know what it is. I would hazard a guess that there are at least eight stories in this picture and probably more than that since in my own experience the stories I even tell myself about this or that thing we all lived through change depending on which one of me is narrating and even each of us change it around at least a little every time through and this is one reason why I cannot stop writing although not so many know this about me but that is a slightly different writing problem that I also have but am trying to work on and that is all I will say about it right now. Suppose though that each of these stories however many there are in this picture or were since not all of them are still here to unfold themselves suppose each were worth ten thousand words then that would be some piles and piles of stories just to go through once much less fifty times or sixty times or seventy times or more.

Here is what I think I know about it or maybe I should say here is some combination of things I have heard and the things I think I may not have heard but maybe glimpsed waiting silently and not even patiently and not even resigned but maybe only on the bare energy of having once or twice come to mind but there where there is not enough time even to get to all the stories that can be told and so those that cannot will bide but not their time so much as their will to remain through every iteration that cannot stop and wait for them.

The year is 1940something. I do not know which 40something but I am guessing there is still a war on only maybe not for much longer. Each kid has one toy: Santa’s gift perhaps if Santa was a part of this scene which I also cannot say for certain. There may have been other presents but those would have been things like fruit in the stockings and maybe boxes of underwear from an aunt or uncle or maybe aunts and uncles did not gift children with underwear until the fifties I do not know the precise origin of this gently dystopian unless you were the one who had to say thank you for the socks in which case it was not so gently dystopian of an American tale.

In any case money is short this year and the presents homemade in some cases and make-do in others. I am not sure which are which except for the little wheelbarrow which is still around somewhere and was crafted by hand and necessity if I have the story right which I cannot claim actually to have but the wheelbarrow looks sturdy from here so its continued coherence seems credible to me.

There are more facts I suppose that I could mention: facts like I do not know if this family was farming yet or if that happened later on after they moved north a little ways which I know they have not done yet. I do not know what sends them northward (slightly) nor how they decided where to go but they will move to a rural town in the Pacific Northwest of the US. They are already in the Pacific Northwest, which is why they will not be going far when they do go, but whether this house is in the country or a small town or a medium sized town I am not sure except that the area is certainly not a small town now. But you know, addresses being what they are, a person can live in a city without, you know, living in the city. So this house could be almost anywhere within maybe a hundred square miles or so and parts of it would have been more densely inhabited and others less so.

None of that makes much very clear does it. I will guess though that at the time nobody else in the US knew where the Pacific Northwest was, really. By the time I was nine or ten, which was much more than nine or ten years later than this, the east coast still had no clue about anyplace that was west of the Mississippi except possibly for Los Angeles and stories about the Yukon. And the Wild West wherever that was but it was not so much a place one could go although it may have been once but I would bet it was always already a scene that one carried around everywhere and maybe romanticized depending on the quality of one’s seats: much easier to do from far away.

There is a lot of space in between Los Angeles and the Yukon. Whole civilizations had already been decimated and were trying already to rebuild from almost nothing and people of all sorts were living in those spaces and doing things that might be forgotten by now except for those things that will not be forgotten until memory itself gives out and who knows when that will be.

I will confess: I do not know why I am writing about this picture or that is I could trace easily enough the chain of events on the outside and associations on the inside (to whatever extent those exist distinct from one another which extent I do not believe in all that much really) that led me to think I wanted to write about it but what to say next escapes me. This is an unreconcilable picture precisely because it contains more stories than it can actually hold. It whispers half-formed hints much like that strange and sweet mix of Douglas Fir and clover-fed manure rushing up and wrapping me in promises of comfort and escape there in that rocky driveway for just a moment before the always nameless always inarticulate apprehension arose telling me to keep to myself and away from everyone who might be even a little bigger than I was.

It was a feeling that like any other feeling never asked its rights before it arrived and never listened to reason although certainly it could be temporarily injunctioned at the behest of shame. But only temporarily and at a price that I would wager few would be willing to pay if they realized just how high it was or how long its memory of credits owed.

I do know that for me the greater destructive potential lies in deliberate not-knowing than it does in anything that I could possibly become aware of at this point and one thing this picture says to me is that I do not know the half of it.

so I said this is not finished so I said post it anyway so I said ok I hope you know what you are doing so I said of course I do

I do not even know where to begin.

I have begun. I have begun and I have begun.

So many starts that by now fifty thousand or so of me are deeply involved with their chosen labyrinths each one as necessary and urgent as all of the others combined which presents a logical difficulty but not a phenomenological one.

I cannot wait.

I cannot hold my tongue.
I cannot hold my water.
I cannot hold my liquor.

I cannot hold myself to any promises this I only learned in the last couple of years. Apologies if I promised you anything before approximately now. I would give you the world but I probably would not be able to complete the process of packaging it and printing out the postage and taking it to wherever it needed to be taken in order for you to receive it in this lifetime. It is not a matter of will or laziness or disregard nor have I yet been able to articulate what it is a matter of so far I can only watch myself spend hours trying to choose a direction to move in and being unable to intervene in the thought process that takes each direction up to look at its pros and cons and trace its dependencies over and over again until I run up against the hitch enough times to recognize it for what it is at which point I must deliberate how to resolve the hitch which usually requires much the same process in a slightly different direction and this can repeat indefinitely until if I find the lynchpin before five years have gone by I congratulate myself for a job well done.

Because it is a job well done even when the original job gets lost in the trash heap of what I could not do at the time some months or years prior to that.

We learn to heap praise upon ourselves for brushing our teeth.
For putting on shoes.
For washing something. Anything.
For walking down the street without panic on one side or exhaustion on another.
This is not me complaining. This is me carrying water and chopping wood.
This is life. This is what life is.
Trimming your nails without shame.
Can you do that.
Looking in the mirror without averting your eyes.
Can you do that.
Hercules himself would have collapsed in the effort.
Which does not make me a hero.

I cannot find the right words at the right time.
I cannot allow myself to speak even and especially when I have finally worked out with exquisite detail and exacting turns of phrase to evoke precisely the right scene with precisely the right amount of pathos supported by clear but not overbearing arguments to show that I mean no harm and I do not wish to win or that is I do not wish to be able to defeat or conquer even when I cannot do without what are called fighting words because the occasion calls for them and I cannot ignore that call.

There is no way as it turns out to keep everyone comforted or comfortable and so there is no way to guarantee my own safety even when the last word for me must be to stay out of harm’s way. Nothing I say (saw was the typo that snuck out before I caught it) can be without painful consequences because it is the issue of painful consequences which were the issue of painful consequences: the terror of generations terrorized into clinging to and defending to their deaths the most ruthless most bare and absurd imposters of comfort or calm or peace because comfort and calm and peace themselves fled so long ago none of us can remember when they last showed up as anything other than violation under gag orders.

It is not only that one side of my family is abusive without realizing it except when it looks into the windows of a sister or brother to see someone misbehaving and then all is consternation and confusion. That I recall the hushed conversations and puzzlement over why this kid was being bad or why this one here was showing signs of being unable to maintain even through grit teeth the brittle naivete that had brought us along so far to wherever it i was we had got which was itself widely known to be completely unknown. Nor is this the whole story because I am only here where I am and was only there where I was and only saw and heard what I saw and heard and only remember what I remember if that much.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

It is not only that another side of my family has successfully ridden its own stoicism all the way to the underworld enough times that at this point there is practically nobody left to answer to. All of us amiable ciphers to all of us or maybe that was just me. In any case we the survivors are of a loose knit to put it in amiable terms. There would be other stories to be told but the storytellers are dying out.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

It is not only that I live in a culture that enshrines violent domination exploitation and competition over its naturalized delusions of unending lack as not just necessary because hey life is hard toughen up but because we actually believe these things to be divine givens, moral imperatives, and the most perfect and just ideals ever conceived by human beings. To judge our own lives as miserable and in need of salvation immediately upon leaving the womb: the fetus is innocent and even sacred until it crowns into original sin and a personal responsibility so abject as to suggest that all of history is reset at every moment of birth in turn starting over and over and over and over until we are not only each our own island but each our own universe with time and space immaculate for that instant before the mark of Cain sets us against all the others vying for the reassurance that ours and only ours is the righteous and sanctioned path. Even the irreligious believe this religiously.

It is not only that. But it is that. Just not only that.

introductory preface to a prolog on the combination and recombination of networks of terrestrial systems on Earth for the next few billion

I have this manifesto. Well I do not really have a manifesto. I have been trying to write one or it has been preoccupying me more than usual that having something to say is not the same as having the wherewithal to say it or the energy to take down out of the vast wandering hoardes of sounds and images just the right ones in just the right order to say something like what all of them would say if any of them could say anything.

Wait a little while and you can make art out of it.

Which is true. You can wait. And you can make art out of it or anything else you care to. You can exchange long intimate notes with yourself refining each point down until it vanishes into its own infinite resolution.

 

You can speak plainly.

Except that never works well and I haven’t another whole lifetime to figure out why that is so to be unplain and unclear:

I do not know what to put here.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving as we call the last Thursday in the last full week of November here in the US is mostly to me an insufferable holiday although not as insufferable as the holiday immediately following.

William Burroughs says it well and I am not inclined to stretch the critique out any further this year but only to point out that it is convenient and simple to give his hymn a listen and a nod and then decide that cynicism is unbecoming and go back to doing just as we always have done. It might be more challenging to move from cynicism in some other direction besides attributing Burroughs’ attitude to young disaffected people and something to get over and grow out of and then never give another thought to unless some foundation that we have thoroughly researched as responsible with their funding and not actually any danger to our comfort asks for a little money and then we can open our wallets and do our bit for

 

what was it we were doing our bit for? Well whatever. I am glad that part of my life is over. It does get better you know.

 

I mean unless it doesn’t get better exactly or it just gets different and complicated in ways that somehow are always slightly enough beyond the scope of your current store of understandings that to understand and outline and craft the correct response to each point and then close the account catalog it and file it in the drawer marked domesticated seems at first only not quite possible and a little later on less possible than that.

Was William Burroughs always a disaffected and rebellious young man?

Did William Burroughs have a respectable American adulthood to retire to when he’d had enough of fighting authority?

Did he remain uncomfortable on purpose just to be annoying?

 

 

We can convince ourselves of most anything if it helps to prop up our worldview and our worldview is what gives us comfort and stability.

 

I am an old queer. I remember being a young queer and unearthing stories about and pictures of queers who were old when I was not. It used to be quite difficult even to find out that you could be old and queer at the same time. At first old queers seemed miraculous.

Old queers are miraculous.

By that I do not mean to say I am a miracle although the odds have never appeared to me to be tipped in my favor and yet here I am getting old. I am still young of course but any claim to youthfulness I have now and will have for the rest of my life will be metaphorical. The teeth are already starting to go. As are eyes and skin and joints and hair in one particular spot but hair in general is its own narrative for me but I am not going to write about hair now.

Your Holiday Mom is offering virtual families for queer children again this year. I followed them last year not knowing what the operational definition of children was for we are all somebodies’ children even if we are very old and our parents have been gone a very long time.

I still do not know. My parents are not gone but they are not here either. I have not seen or heard them nor they me for more than seventeen years. We have email contact at the moment. They were young parents and so are not terribly old just yet. I do not know whether I will see them again alive and the question of whether I want to is sort of complicated to answer although it is slowly becoming less so. Less complicated that is.

Last year I left a comment for a couple on Your Holiday Mom. I do not recall precisely what I said. They may have had a decade on me if that but it did not feel quite right to me to address as proximate parents anyone younger than I and I was not even sure I was supposed to be looking for familiar reception there given my age but I figured it was worth a shot.

There was no reply.

I do not know if I will do more than read their stories this year. It is said that many connections were made last year.

 

 

Sometimes it is so easy to write that I can barely type fast enough to take everything down. I thought this was going to be like that but I made the mistake of starting it with the knowledge that I wanted to post it. I tried to pretend that was not the case but it was too late for the elaborate offices of censorship that I myself built out of the need for self-preservation to reverse course or even slow down the procedure for the initial establishment of emergency services because he is about to say something.

Among the many projects that float around in protean form in my head is some sort of online, public but safe-as-internet-space-can-be writing project open to anyone who is unsure of their voice or who has experienced on a regular and or systemic basis their voice being shouted down or hushed or ignored or ridiculed or forbidden. You might guess that this would be one of many attempts to do an end-run around my own internal bureaucracy and you might be right. I am wondering though, if it is easier to do that surrounded by people in similar straits and or people who are willing to be patient with our bureaucracies as we try to spit out whatever we have to say.

I am fairly convinced that what we have to say needs to be heard. Almost convinced enough to burst out here on my own, but that may or may not happen. I have hundreds of thousands of words already arranged in mostly sensical sentences in text files on various digital storage media. I could just post them. If I tell myself this a few more times maybe I could get undiagnosed out a little more quickly than its current faint trickle of a few thousand words every three months.

Or maybe I need some other strategy.

Fits and starts. Throat-clearing. Setting the stage.

Continual reduplicating of effort.

Exhortations to speak.

Exhortations to keep quiet.

 

Making the Sale

When I was a Girl Scout–about first through fifth grade I’d say, until I got bored out of my skull sitting in this one church basement doing hideously useless “crafts” using Elmer’s Glue and paper plates and construction paper and maybe if we were lucky colored pipecleaners when what I wanted to do was go hiking and camping and bicycling and actually building real things like the Boy Scouts got to do–the big event of the year was selling Girl Scout Cookies.

They always presented us with the cookies and gave us some pep talk on being the Girl Scout who sold the most cookies and how wonderful it would be to be that girl and how great it was to sell the cookies and get a sense of whatever it was that selling cookies was supposed to give you–I have to admit I never figured that part out, but I’d take home my carton of cookies and the pep talk and I’d resolve to sell as many cookies as I could.

And then I’d take my carton out into our subdivision. Neither Mom nor Dad would come with me: if you’re going to sell the cookies, you’d better learn to sell them yourself. OK but I really have no idea how to sell cookies but supposedly these things sell themselves all I have to do is ring the doorbell.

My subdivision was made up of three and a half square blocks of new-at-the-time houses, perched on the side of a wooded hill. Two of the blocks were downhill from our house on one side and the other was downhill on the other side as we lived on top of the hill which presented its own disadvantages when it came to things as disparate as bike rides and thunderstorms, but advantages in the occasional snowstorm that made it that far south.

On my street I sort of knew two families: our next door neighbors and the people that lived at the other end of the street. So I would take my carton of cookies and I would walk to the end of the street and start with the family we knew there. They would usually buy a box or two. Then between me and the other family I was familiar with were houses of all kinds, including the one belonging to the crazy lady who took pictures of children when they strayed onto her lawn. I wouldn’t go up to her door for all the cookie money in the world. (Like all neighborhoods’ crazy ladies or crazy old coots, there is no way in the world to know whether she really was crazy, really took pictures, or really shouted the things she was said to have shouted that one time. All I know is that back then she was scandalous to us kids and deserving of the greatest amount of scorn and ridicule we could manage. We might even have our parents call the cops on her.

Children are so innocent.)

In fact I barely made it to anyone’s door. I’d stand in the street looking at the outsides of the houses and all those doors with all those doorbells and I would practice my speech which consisted usually of “is your mother home” and/or “would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies” and after fifteen minutes of this I might decide that a particular door looked friendlier than some other door and so up I would go and ring the doorbell. Because Mom said I should wait a full minute before assuming no one was home, I would count to sixty as deliberately as I dared and if no one came to the door by “sixty” I would breath a sigh of relief while hurrying back to the safety of the street to start on my next project of choosing which door to approach.

If someone came to the door I would immediately dissociate and go into autopilot Girl-Scout-Cookie-selling mode, using whichever line was appropriate for whomever opened the door and then I would stand there somewhat doubtfully waiting for the answer.

“What kind have you got?” I’d list what I knew I had. If I had sold any yet sometimes it would be necessary to consult the carton to see what was left.

“Well I guess we can take a box of xxx”
or “you don’t have yyyy?”
Or simply “no thank you” or “not today!”

In whatever way the transaction stretched itself out I would stand there gamely offering my prerecorded response to any question or statement that resembled questions or statements I was expecting. If something unexpected came up, I’d try to make do and move things along as quickly as I could.

I didn’t care how it ended, as long as we could bring the exchange to a close as soon as possible and without my having to ad lib anything. Success came in varying quantities. In any case, whether or not I sold any cookies was completely immaterial. I’d managed to ring a doorbell. Nearly always, the experience of having someone actually answer the door was so exhausting that I would let myself skip two or three or more doors on my way back towards my house. It was simply too much to ask of myself to go through that, what, like fifteen times? The world was nuts. Why was I doing this??

When I got home mom would ask how many I had sold and I would say “three” or “four” or whatever meager count I had managed to unload and she’d ask whether I’d rung everyone’s doorbell. As I got older I became more and more adept at shrugging off questions like this, but generally I’d say something vague like “most of them” or “no one was home” or “I got tired so I came home” but whatever I said to justify my poor sales record was received with due scorn and suspicion and then dropped. The carton of cookies would go into my room and sit there, neglected. If I had enough allowance money I’d buy myself a box of the chocolate mint cookies and eat them as slowly as I could, one or two a day until long after the ordeal of the sale was itself over.

As the week or two or however long the sale lasted began to wind down, sometimes mom would pester me about the carton of unsold cookies. “You shouldn’t have taken so many if you couldn’t sell them.” Well pretty much everyone took the same amount of cookies unless a girl knew her parents would take the cookies to work–many would but my parents would not “do your selling for you”–or if Mom would sit with them at a table outside the grocery store, which my parents had no time for, but I knew my cookies were my sole responsibility so I took the single “unit” assortment, whatever it had been determined to be.

But so I might go out again but this time I felt I couldn’t ask the same people that had bought some before so I would go to even fewer houses because my first pass had filtered out the friendly-looking doors and if anyone at any of those houses had bought some and I made the mistake of showing up there again a few days later I’d usually get a “weren’t you just here on Monday?” And so repeat sales efforts were not positively reinforced so after one or two of those sorts of responses I would decide that trying to sell people too many Girl Scout Cookies was a socially unacceptable thing to do.

At the end of the sales period we’d bring back our unsold packages. It was difficult to tell at this point who had sold the most because some girls would have taken home multiple cartons full and brought back a number of the less popular cookies and others of us would have taken one carton and brought back most of it except for the three boxes we had sold to the neighbors and the one box we had sold to ourselves. One year it seemed like we stood in a circle and announced how many we had sold. Some of the numbers seemed outrageous to me. Impossible. Unreal. One hundred boxes of Girl Scout Cookies?? Who on Earth could sell that many cookies??

Oddly, I don’t recall feeling particularly ashamed for hardly selling any but I thought that the whole process was rigged in some way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

All I can really say about it now is that I hated selling those fucking cookies.