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Well, There’s the Stone Cold Guy

Exchange on the street, on my walk to work:

Man walking towards me: “SIR! DO YOU LIKE WWF WRESTLING??”
Me: “Um, no.”
Man: “WHAT??”
Me: “NO.”
Man: “WHAT??”

Hedwig has been on repeat on my CD player at work (quietly) since I bought it this week on payday. (I know I am seriously behind on this phenomenon, forgive me.) I’m almost afraid to shut it off or change it, like something terrible would happen if I did. I bet she’d like that.

A lawyer working (volunteering?) on behalf of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force emailed me with some suggestions of people/groups to contact regarding the discrimination against my mother’s partner. I’ll just take each step carefully, and see where it leads me.

Cute bodybuilder boy has been fielding each of my fly balls as I try to figure out ways NOT to get naked with him (am I a twisted soul, or what?) My latest attempt was to inform him of my HIV status. He wrote back, “We talked about that before I think, I am + too. ;)” Silly me. It seems I have a date tomorrow night. I need a haircut and a new body by tomorrow. Any suggestions?

Coincidentally, a package arrived from Lee yesterday. A framed photo of my mother, her dog and her cat under each arm, smiling so wide. The same photo that was on the alter during her service, the one I couldn’t look at for very long. In her card, Lee writes that she’s received well over 150 cards from friends, strangers, co-workers, etc, expressing their sympathy. The fact that so many people thought so highly of her makes me proud, makes me want to emulate her, makes me angry that she’s just…gone.

I had worried that without my mother as the glue holding our odd little family together, my brother and I would drift away from Lee and her kids. But as we talked on the phone yesterday, I sensed a connection that was new, that was raw. She said the hardest days came after the house emptied of family and friends and she was there, alone. I told her about me crying as I watched the Olympics, which made her cry. Right or wrong, our new connection is the bitter, sharp-edged absence of my mother.



This guy makes me laugh out loud (in an entirely good way). This guy is too good to me. I guess men ain’t all bad.

I woke this morning at six, quite suddenly. Something about the night of my mother’s death, something I’ve only mentioned once, in passing, hooked into my bloodstream, churning out adrenalin and pushing me out of bed.

My mother and her partner were together for nearly 20 years, following my parent’s divorce. Lee and my mother stuck together through times I thought would surely tear them away from each other; they raised four children from elementary school through college, they traveled the world together and ran marathons and volunteered and created a home that’s still the envy of us kids. They stuck it through when my mother began to exhibit signs of a serious neurological problem, stuck it through when such symptoms were not yet classifiable, when my mother was fired because her work had deteriorated (keep writing, Michael) and when for several months they thought it might be Parkinson’s. They stuck it through when the diagnosis was conclusively ALS, a much more serious and cruel disease. And they stuck it through as my mom’s body began to shut down, as the muscles that controlled her swallowing and speaking failed, taking away her voice and her ability to eat. They stuck it through as my mom had two surgeries; one for a stomach tube and the other for a tracheostomy. They stuck it through as her legs gave out, necessitating a walker then a manual wheelchair and then an electric wheelchair. They stuck it through as all her muscles gradually stopped working and my mother was confined most days to the bed they had moved downstairs from their bedroom. They stuck it through until the very last second, when my mother’s lungs could no longer sustain her, and she died, surrounded by friends.

Enter the Hennepin County (MN) coroner, who came to the house, filled out his paperwork, and then refused to release my mother’s body to her partner of nearly 20 years because she was not considered “next of kin”. He left only because I was on my way from the airport, and only after posting a cop car outside the house.

I know the coroner was not to blame. I know there are laws, and he was following the law. I know there are many hurdles facing any opponent to these laws. I woke this morning wanting, somehow, to fight. I don’t know how to do this, but I will find out. If you have some advice, let me know.


I woke and stumbled around the house feeling scattered, wandering into rooms forgetting things, my head about five seconds behind my body. I walked out of the house with Louie and realized I left the leash inside, etc. We walked to work in the warm sunlight and I tried to shake off this sense of dread I’ve had, recurrently, since my mother’s health first went south. I’m feeling behind on life and frankly, tired of trying to meet it half-way. I simply want to retreat, escape, slip away in a puff of smoke.

I’m realizing that the cute bodybuilder boy’s invitation to get naked sometime has me nervous because it’s an invitation to a performance, one that’s been out of my repertoire for awhile. I’m flattered and interested and yet scared to go there, scared because I don’t want a performance; I want a union of sorts. I’m scared that the minute someone touches me with something resembling compassion, I’ll break down and never return. I guess I’m more scared of engaging in something that’s purely physical, without the compassion; something I’ve never particularly desired.

Okay, isn’t that enough information? Shouldn’t I just stop analyzing and just live for a few minutes? Hah! As if.

I realized I lied a little when I wrote awhile back that Ski was the only man I had wanted to date over the last year. I failed to mention that I had also cultivated a crush on my other best friend, the Tattooed Monk. Sobriety has changed me, changed the way I’ve grown into relationships. I used to see guys a little more black and white: if I thought you were hot, I’d do my best to seduce you, quickly. Becoming friends wasn’t a comfortable option, therefore if I couldn’t seduce you, I avoided you. My friends were not people I wanted to sleep with.

So sobriety comes along and everything changes; I become friends with the two men I most desire, hoping something will develop but not pushing it (much), trying to accept with each day the growth of a friendship. In each case the attraction was mutual, making it more confounding and yet more beautiful, in a way. Beautiful that I could become a friend to each, confounding because I was finally attracted to two amazing, humble, compassionate men with big hearts and yet in each circumstance, when I finally said I wanted more, I was let down. Gently enough, I guess; not a hard rejection, just a not-right-now rejection.

In the months since each rejection I’ve become closer to both. I didn’t run away or avoid either; I just tried to show up for each one as the friend I assured them they had. With Ski I guess I haven’t given up hope that something else would develop. With the Monk, we were becoming such good friends that I’ve tried to accept him as is. During this time he’s done a lot of soul-searching and has decided to return to a monastic way of life (I mean that literally, not figuratively) and so has become celibate in the process.

Last night the Monk and I grabbed some take-out and went back to his place. It was hot and stuffy in there, and as he has done several times before, asked me if I minded if he stripped to his t-shirt and boxers. I say “no” if only because I can’t say “yes, I do mind”. As he undresses he says “I probably shouldn’t say this because I’m celibate now and it could seem like I’m teasing you, but there have been times I’ve thought about seducing you.”

Hmm. Men. I just don’t know how to win.

Oh it’s so inappropriate to post stuff like this, isn’t it? But I have to brag a little. Cute bodybuilder boy from last night sent me an email when he got home: “Nice seeing you tonight… looking sexy…. let me know if you wanna get naked sometime ;)” I guess he is pretty flexible concerning his rules. Lucky me.

Kiteless, content

Today was a spectacular day in San Francisco; tall cloudless blue skies, warm bright sun, a clear view across the bay, people spilling out of buildings and cars, bears standing three deep outside Starbucks, people’s third-hand copies of porn videos selling five for a buck at corner rummage sales, boys sipping wine out of plastic glasses on Kite Hill, where I wandered with the Tattooed Monk now that he’s returned from a week-long retreat at a Trappist monastary. It’s good to have him back. I told him about the Campfire, for some reason I’ve been so reluctant to tell my “real-life” friends of this effort, but I worried more that he would find out some indirect way, and considering the fact that I discuss him, even with only an initial, it was important to me to make sure he was okay with it all. And he was, happy for me that I am writing again, trusting enough of me to say that he knows I speak of him well, in all circumstances, but especially in writing. We sat on a bench overlooking the City and beyond to Oakland and farther, the ground below the bench eroded away so our grown legs dangled like children’s over the grass.

On our walk back down the hill we stopped and walked through an apartment for rent and open for viewing; the rooms bright and airy. We talked about moving in together, as he plans on staying in the City for another year before he joins a monastary, and he called the landlord and discussed the particulars. The rent was a bit steep but “manageable” (which means if you don’t live in SF, don’t ask me how much it was, because I don’t like it when people faint around me) but they’re looking to rent it in a week, and currently I have a crappy credit history as I try valiantly to clean up the wreakage of my past. So it’s probably not meant to be, but thus begins my search for a new place; either a studio alone or an apartment with a roommate (like the Monk) whom I like.

We ended up back at his place, with a rented copy of Bully, the disturbing latest output from Larry Clark, who directed Kids. It was not quite the way to end such a beautiful day, but the tragedy of these kids’ lives made me appreciate what I got: good friends, a great dog, a heart, a roof over my head, this Campfire, a conscience. What else do you need

We’ve got a winner

I substituted for Ski, running an AA meeting at a church referred to in sobriety circles as “Our Lady of Safeway”, given it’s proximity to the grocery store. It’s the only thing he’s asked of me since he’s been gone, so I gladly stepped in. Though he called this morning from Jersey, he seems to enjoy talking on the phone even less than me, so he almost always cuts our conversations short; not the most promising sign of his inevitable declaration of love to me. Ahem.

Later I wander back into the ‘stro for the second time today and head over to another sober event; a fundraiser for the annual AA convention here in SF this summer. Drag Bingo, co-hosted by Marlene Manners, one of the Galaxy Girls. And you don’t think sober people have fun! She fared well with us, not the easiest crowd. Towards the end, massive battles involving air-borne bingo cards and pull tabs raged on and on, much to the ladies’ chagrin. I found myself smiling and upbeat, the first in a long time, though I have to admit it probably had more to do with the fact that I was engaging in some flirting with this cute bodybuilder boy at the next table. I’ve run into him once online, when he told me he doesn’t date guys from AA, though the way he was looking at me tonight, I might get a chance to break some rules with him sometime. Been a long time.

The Kandinsky. It’s painted on both sides.

Took Louie for a good walk, ended up in the ‘stro at the deserted dog run behind the Colllingwood rec center where for a short while I watched these two men practice synchronized baton twirling as a John Phillip Sousa march rang out on their boom box. Later I ran into Bearbait and some friends who hadn’t seen me since I got back. It was the Studly Couple, giving me bear hugs and kissing me and telling me I looked good. They had both recently buzzed their heads and they make such an adorable couple that I’d probably reconsider my personal rule against having sex with more than one person at a time, but then again, nobody’s asked me to.

I return home and catch the last half hour of Six Degrees of Separation, my favorite part where Stockard Channing as Ouisa has her rant and breakthrough at the stuffy Park Avenue dinner party as her husband tries and fails spectacularly at steering the conversation back into safe terrain.

Since I’m out of shape I hit the straight gym (not that you could call any gym in San Francisco straight) for back and biceps and a twenty minute run on the treadmill that I barely complete. I’m back to looking like Frankenstein’s monster, lumbering gracelessly along , lungs struggling to sustain me.

Back home with groceries and I rummage through some boxes in the garage to find my copy of Six Degrees, the original play, because what her character says at the end applies so well to blogging (at least for me).

“OUISA: You were attracted to him-
FLAN: Cut me out of that pathology! You’re on your own-
OUISA: Attracted by youth and his talent and the embarrassing prospect of being in the movie version of Cats. Did you put that in your Times piece? And we turn him into an anecdote to dine out on. Or dine in on. But it was an experience. I will not turn him into an anecdote. How do we fit what happened to us into life without turning it into an anecdote with no teeth and a punch line you’ll mouth over and over years to come. “Tell the story about the imposter who came into our lives-” “That reminds me of the time this boy-“. And we become these human juke boxes spilling out these anecdotes. But it was an experience. How do we keep the experience?”

-John Guare, Six Degrees of Separation

I don’t know, Ouisa. I keep writing these experiences, I post them here and 99% of the time there’s no voice back, no dialogue to sustain. But there are a few exceptions, and I’m beginning to remember what I loved about writing; about the futile, addictive challenge of describing life with only a few words, stringing them together in such a way that it hopefully trandscends the status of clever anecdotes and instead connects with others’ experiences.

I want more revelations like yours, a sudden shift in perspective that causes a rippling movement through your entire vision, changing the self you project towards others, opening yourself to things you couldn’t possibly see before.

Like Bambi

Last night I was walking down Castro St and coming towards me was this incredibly hot guy, and as we got closer we made eye contact, and I decided to hold it just for the hell of it (because even though I’m not very cruisy, I still like to flirt) and as we passed he pursed his lips and made a kissing noise at me and suddenly I felt like a floozie with large breasts or something walking by a construction site and I couldn’t help but laugh. I mean, it was so ridiculous that I immediately lost interest, walking forward, no glances behind me or anything.

I remember standing in a club in Tampa, of all places, when I was 20 or something, and this hot boy was cruising me but I was getting irritated because he was looking at me like he wanted to kill me; a prey-drive sort of scowl that I see guys do when they are cruising that just doesn’t work for me. I don’t know, call me crazy, but to me the sexiest thing a guy can do when we’re noticing each other is to just smile, maybe laugh to acknowledge the silliness of it all. I can’t take the game too seriously, otherwise it’s like we’re acting out scenarios we’ve picked up from porn movies (not that I’ve seen any).

It’s been almost a year since the end of my relationship, and I’ve been out on maybe three dates. It worries me a bit, wondering if I go too long I won’t know how to do it anymore, but I acknowledge that it’s been a pretty crazy year and I’ve had other, more pressing matters to confront. Lest you think I’m like, desperate or something.

My site is finally the first listed for “Dogpoet” on Google. You wouldn’t think that would be hard, but then you’d be surprised.

Any resemblance…

hmmm…it’s striking me, looking back at the last few entries, that the manner in which I’ve discussed Ski seems to imply a relationship that doesn’t exist. We’re friends, despite the context and weight of my words, nothing more. Yeah, I’m infatuated, yeah, it could be limerence, but it seems unfair to the truth to conjure romanticism out of a friendship. If authenticity is my aim, this should be clear. Having only begun the Campfire in December, I’ve yet to face the inevitable conflicts that can arise when some “real life” people begin to read these words (not that you aren’t real, darling) and I truly have no idea how that will affect me. Anyway, qualification seemed necessary.

Devil Children

The funny thing about working for a dog behavior department in an animal shelter is that I am surrounded by trainers who understand best how to rehabilitate problem dogs, yet have the most ill-behaved dogs in the world because they are drawn to the sad cases, adopt them, and then are too busy training other dogs to work on their own. Which means that I am left for hours at a time in an office filled with trainers’ dogs who misbehave, bark at every sound, pee on the floor, howl from separation anxiety, surf the desks and counters for food, and generally cause headaches with each passing minute.

There are good dogs, but because like mine they curl up quietly under the desk, you don’t notice them. Only the devil children. There is one next to me now making a noise through her throat that sounds like a cross between a pigeon and a velociraptor, pining away despite my comforting presence. The sad irony is that I’ve become a little callous towards dogs, spoiled by my own quiet, well-mannered companion. I’m like the crotchety school teacher who thought she loved kids but over the years has suffered their torments too poorly to continue with grace. Then again, I’m writing this from work, and I get to bring Louie everyday, I wear jeans, I have health insurance and a regular paycheck.

Ski’s father’s funeral was today and he called me a little while ago to update me. He sounds sad and tired, trapped in his mother’s house in Jersey which is like everything you might imagine; crammed full of loud, drunk relatives reminiscing, shouting, crying, and getting lost on their way to the bathroom. As we talked, someone picked up the extension and starting hitting the digits until Ski yelled, then a gruff voice says, “Ski, is that you? Get off the phone, we have an emergency.” Who knows what that could be, but when he asked me to help him cover a commitment back here, I welcomed the opportunity to do something.

The day of my mother’s service was the hardest, if only because the presence of all those people coming together to share memories made it impossible to deny that she was gone. The pictures of her up at the alter, holding her dog and cat and smiling so wide, ah it was cruel.

I’ve been so caught up in the craziness at work since I got back that I haven’t had much time to think about her. Which is not to say I feel the need to be busy, nor to wallow. I ‘d rather have some more time off, but I’ll plan that out. Authentic would be the word I’d choose; I want to remember her authentically.

I bet they all don’t know the side I got to see last night…

When I came home tonight, the door was wide open. Loud music (somebody covering Cher, covering someone else, I believe) blared from within, and every light in the place was on. A bluish cigarette haze hung in the air, cutting in half the forms of dozens and dozens of unfamiliar partygoers moshing in the living room. Michelle Kwan spun in an endless loop on the television, my dog was eating chicken wings off paper plates left all over the floor. The toilet had flooded, spilling out into the hall and soaking the Art Deco rug that had been a gift from a cherished friend. Cigarette butts littered the entire house, bottles of cheap beer balancing precariously on the edges of tables and counters, and in every bed a collection of naked and tattooed bodies writhed about, lubricated with bottles of olive oil leaving wet sticky circles on the nightstands. I stood in shock, surveying the mayhem. “Who are these people?” I wondered. Then it hit me. They’re all your friends. Well, er, welcome.

Woke late from a dream this morning that Ski had come home and we hugged, and it lingered, and eventually our clothes just…disappeared and he was showing me two tiny new tattoos he had done, one being a ridiculous little flower on his neck, like something a ten-year old girl would draw, and it made me laugh and I told him it was beautiful and I did all this while never letting go, even when other people came in upon us, I kept my arms wrapped tight around him until I woke up.

I’d like to think that I am pretty content figuring out how to be single again, but then at times I get like Hedwig, reflected in the magnified side of a vanity mirror, whispering it’s clear I must find my other half…

But let’s take it down a little ladies and gentlemen, dim the lights, sit on the edge of the stage and keep it real for the moment. This ain’t love, folks, it’s limerence.