That’s What ATMs are For

Last night at the gym I head into the locker room to change back into my street clothes and there’s this young blonde guy on his cell phone in my row of lockers. Being young and blonde, he didn’t exactly grab my attention, but since he’s only a few feet away I am priveleged enough to overhear his half of the conversation, or at least some of it. He’s talking to someone when he gets another call, and it takes some verbal maneuvering to clue the present caller in to the fact that he’s got another call. Then he clicks over.

“Hello?”

-(long pause)

“Who’s this?”

“Hi, Steve, this is Brian”

“Oh, just chillin’. ” He turns away from me and starts to lower his voice.

“Where are you?”

“something something in the Castro. Yeah.”

“um, blonde. something and Dutch.”

“21″

-(long pause)

“Well, we could do that, but you’d have to wire me the money.”

“I know, but I’ve done that so many times and ended up getting screwed so…”

At this point I leave. I take a backward glance, only to see his back, all huddled over the phone. He might not have been 21, but he was young. On my long walk home I picture him at work, kind of. I imagine all the potential clients, horny and broke, wishing for free love.

Wings

My entries are growing sparse, reflecting a somewhat empty interior space the past few days. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me.

Lots of time playing Tomb Raider this weekend. I’ve played TR2 and 3 so many times that they’ve become habitual. Anyone want to buy me TR4 or 5? My birthday’s in April (5th).

Talked to Michael last night when I forced myself to get on the phone and return some calls. I was in the mood to roll around some more, but he was sore from going to the gym and running all over SOMA all weekend. Imagine that. I was a little bummed. But it made me wonder again what I think I’m looking for.

I used to be a rather depressive romantic, back in my early twenties when unrequited love was a great poetic issue. Hence the depression, and my reservation at returning to that territory. But romance, love it or spite it, can keep one tethered more tightly to each day. We all know it. Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And what’s wrong with that, I’d like to know?

I tell myself to accept life’s harsh realities, and not to gild the lily. But where’s the poetry in that?

I can picture a monastic life for myself. And then I hear a song, Springsteen singing “Valentine’s Day”:

“I’m driving a big lazy car

rushin’ up the highway in the dark

I got one hand steady on the wheel

and one hand’s tremblin over my heart

It’s pounding baby

like it’s gonna bust right on through

And it ain’t gonna stop

till I’m alone again with you”

The Make-Out Room

It went well, I’d say.

He came over to the house (nice face, a few pounds heavier than in his pic, but that doesn’t bug me much in the short term) and we walked over to the Valencia corridor, and wandered into a tapas restaurant. The food was good, but the portions were small and the brownie cake at the end needed a small pick axe to consume (it blew, he said, later)

Anyway, he’s a nice guy, in his forties, from Rhode Island (sexy East Coast accent). His name is also Michael. He’s got a good sense of humor and picked up on the fact that I’m in recovery pretty quickly. Has his own apartment in SOMA but is looking for both a different job and a different apartment.

I realize that I am writing a bit dispassionately about this.

We came back to my place, where all three roommates and the various animals were up and about. Edie spooky-barked at him as he came in the house, and J pulled her back into his room. So I show him my room, introduce him to Louie and Bryant the cat, and pretty soon we are making out on the bed while the cat climbs all over us and the other dogs are barking and people are walking up and down the hallway. It was pretty funny, actually, and we laughed. I have to admit, it was very very nice making out with him. We got pretty riled up but left our pants on. He’s pretty hugely endowed, and I was not quite ready to go there, shall we say. He told me he was respecting the line that was unofficially drawn, although I hadn’t said anything about it. But it seemed to be a good rule, and we made out some more, leaving the rest for later. He left by ten. I think we’ll see each other again this weekend.

I don’t really want to be one of those men other guys always complain about, which is another way of saying I don’t forsee a committment to this guy, although I could be proven wrong. In the light of day I don’t know what I want, but in the heat of the moment I do. The challenge then is to live in a way that honors both, if possible. And not to be an asshole about it, either.

I have a date tonight, someone I met online, and I’m nervous.

I feel out-of-practice and unsure. Unsure if I’m up for this, unsure if he (or I) will live up to our pics, unsure if I’ll have something stuck in my teeth. I kind of let the easy momentum of chatting online carry me on to an actual date, and I’m wondering if I meant for any of it to actually happen. As one friend will testify, I kind of prefer the literary relationships.

Oh well. Here goes.

Thank God for Michael Jackson

Last night at Gold’s I am finishing up a half-hour stint on the treadmill, when all of a sudden, ‘Wanna Be Starting Something” comes on over the speakers, and it’s like a shot of adrenalin, carrying me the last five minutes with a smile on my face. Ma ma say ma ma saw ma ma mu sah, ma ma say ma ma saw ma ma mu sah. I don’t care who saw me, I was singing along.

While I was writing yesterday’s philosophic novel, I managed to burn out a pot of rice on the stove. How fitting.

Today, in therapy (yes, I go) I talked for a long time, filling him in on my trip to Minneapolis and the “crisis”, and then he asked me after a long pause how our time could be best spent, with our sessions just giving me a chance to talk, or as a way for him to help me find ways to cope with “life”, as it were. But after a minute I realized that I’m NOT drowning in misery or depression. I don’t really need rescuing, because I have myself pretty well taken care of. This blog has helped tremendously, I think, providing a focus and rewarding myself with hard evidence that I AM writing again.

Tonight, as I walked home from the gym, I passed by Mission Dolores and they had set twenty-three small Christmas trees (all under 5′ tall) out on the sidewalk, one after another, in a long string down the length of the sidewalk.

Kill the Buddah

TV I’’ve watched in the last 24 hours:

Poltergeist
Children of the Corn
Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 3: Dream Warriors
Prom Night
(Father to son: “C’mon. For a guy who’s so fast on the disco floor, you sure are slow.”)

I love scary movies. I just wish they’d make em better.

Last night after the candlelight meeting, the Tattooed Monk and I stroll slowly through the Castro. He’s aware enough to see that I’m not quite all there. As we pass the bus shelter on 18th St, something catches my eye. Someone has torn out a page of the phonebook from the payphone nearby and has fixed it to the plexiglass window of the shelter with a piece of gum. On it, they’ve scrawled “KILL ALL FAGGOTS”.

Maybe I am grieving, if only a little. This isn’t quite depression, it’s probably sadness. I look out at the world from an interior alcove, unwilling, I guess, to engage much. It was good to talk to TM, as he realizes the dilemma of a slow dying; the world won’t validate your loss until the actual death takes place. In the meantime there’s some other kind of existence to experience; one slightly removed from the ongoing reality surrounding you.

What I can see, lately, is that I’m envious of others, the ones who seem to blithely walk through their days unburdened; gregarious and earnest, the world is their playground. It’s like how straight boys seemed to me growing up; they moved and engaged with the world as though it was (and it was) made for them. I’m envious, but as I told TM, I wouldn’t trade it for what I’ve got. It’s certainly been a crazy kind of life for the last couple of years: a life extinguisihing through drugs and whiskey, giving that up for the raw ache of early sobriety, the end of my five year relationship, testing positive, gradually losing my mom over the course of months and months. And yet. I wouldn’t trade it, for it’s mine.

The Monk has lost both parents, has helped a boyfriend through his dying, and now has a sister and another ex dying; both from cancer. Why is it, I asked him last night, that some of us seem to get more than our fair share of grief and suffering? He told me he’s stopped long ago trying to figure out what a fair share is. Believing that God only hands you as much as you can take is to believe in a sadistic God. One who parcels out pain like a game. Instead, he said, God does not create suffering, but walks with you through suffering. If you want to believe in that God, that is. And I do.

I do envy the gregarious. I wonder if I carry this life a little too heavy around the shoulders. It helps, though, to have this campfire.

Looking back on this, I feel obliged now to temper my words a bit. In the wake of wars, of AIDS, of what we’ve come to call “September Eleventh”, my own suffering pales. Of course, I want to say, my burden is lighter than those carried by others. I don’t mean to be saying “Look at all my pain.” Rather, I want to join those other voices that have asked, since the world was young, “Why do we suffer?” and “How do we make it through?”

Maybe that’s why I like scary movies.

“Happiness is not a destination, it’s the journey”*

I’ve been trying out various templates for the Campfire, trying to fit the mood while also retaining some of the more extensive link listings that the obnoxious templates have. I’m still novice to HTML, so templates have to suffice for now.

I’m at a loss the last few days as to how to write, or what to write. I feel a little empty, or maybe just detached. I’m on the edge of engaging in all of my classic depressive behaviors; isolation, lethargy, silence. But I’ve hit the gym the last three days, if for no other reason than I’m a little disgusted at the weight I gained after starting the Remeron and the lack of exercise I got in Minneapolis. I don’t necessarily feel hopeless, which is the worst aspect of the depression. Hopeless, no. Confused, yes.

Somehow I feel cut off from myself, that I am just existing; unwilling or unable to engage in my friendships, in work, at home, etc. Mom’s crisis, for lack of a better phrase, has left me a little confused as to how to proceed with life now that she has grown a bit stronger and continues to live her own life. I guess I had convinced myself that the end was near, that by now I’d be grieving an actual death, rather than resuming my usual routine. I feel stuck between the two, unable to grieve yet also unwilling to pretend that everything is the same.

It’s okay, though. Campfires gain strength from silence.

*inspirational poster tacked to the wall of my childhood Sunday School classroom

Happy New Year

Back in SF now. Hanging around in Minneapolis was beginning to feel a little too morbid, i.e. writer-as-vulture, so after a three and a half hour delay at the Minneapolis airport I land in a drizzly, dark San Francisco, happy to be home.

The first thing Bearbait says as I hug him at the baggage claim is “I see you’ve been eating.”

Pause for gasp of betrayal. Bitch.

You try sitting around a house in ten degree weather while a never-ending procession of family, friends and neighbors drop off food rich in carbs and sugar, I want to say.

Instead I let it simmer on my backstove for awhile, and ask him to take me to The Ex’s, where Louie’s been staying. It’s good to see my dog again. Traversing the terrain I have lately, it’s been lonely without companionship.

Monday I go into work and pretend that I care for awhile, slowly digging through the pile that has accumulated on my desk. I’m getting wanderlust, and the trip to Mpls only made it worse. I daydream about packing up a car with Louie and driving through parts of America I’ve never seen, camping along the way. I never really picture anyone with me, simply because everyone I know has to work for a living. Including me. I burn a bit, wishing America would carve a little place for grieving out of its shape. America, Open for Business. Indeed.

Last night the Tattooed Monk, some friends and I go out to Green Gulch Farm, a Zen Center off of Highway 1 on the way to Stinson Beach. It was a beautiful place, tucked down amid the trees near the ocean. A couple hundred people gathered in the meditation hall for what I’ve never done; a four-hour sitting meditation before midnight. Luckily it was divided up by segments of 25 minutes, followed by small breaks. At ten we broke for a quick meal of noodles and miso soup, then took lotus candles (colored tissue folded around a floating candle), and set them adrift in the pond outside the meditation hall. Very California, I know, but it was kind of perfect for where my head was lingering.

After the final hours of meditation, we gather around a bonfire outside, and people throw scraps of paper into the flames, upon which are written dreams or fears. I scribble something about my mom’s suffering, and about wanting clarity for my direction in life, and it burns quickly with the others.

Before I left Minneapolis, I sat with Mom alone for a bit. I told her that I was glad she was doing better, that she’d see the New Year and a bit more of life. “But I know it must be frustrating being trapped in this body, and if you want to go, I want you to know that it’s okay, you can go if I’m not here, and I’ll be okay,” which may or may not have been very convincing, as I cried throughout. She reached out her weak, stickly arms and I pulled them around me for a bit.