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Email from the father figure this morning informs me that he won’t read dogpoet anymore. Going from knowing very little about me to knowing “too much” was a tad difficult for him, I take it.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, that his curiosity won’t get the better of him again someday, why do I still feel kinda…yucky?

Could it be that I know he read the entire campfire, all ten months of archives included? (thanks for that questionable gift, Sitemeter)

Yeah, because now he knows more. More than I do about him. Much, much more. And I mean the real, interior stuff, not the daily minutiae. I asked for it, putting it up on the Internet, but it doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with the consequences.

The Tattooed Monk called last night as I sat in a funk; resistant to all expressions of friendly “help”, “support”, etc. After awhile he got me talking. Here in my hand I have my dad’s apologies and a request to move forward, but I resist. It became clear to me after enough poking and prodding that my identity is heavily invested with the energy it took to become independent of my father. A ten-year old boy decided that if his father couldn’t “be there”, then the father couldn’t have him: not the real him, not the inside him. Twenty-one years of independence have had their effect. He’s asking me now to relinquish that identity, to give myself to him. Oh lord, I’m resistant. Maybe I can just give him Secret Agent Fuzzy Kitten.

I blame my mother. But then again, who doesn’t?

It was a Google search on her name that brought family to my little site. I think she’s trying to have a little fun. Touched by an Angel? Uh, more like Bitch-Slapped, thank you.

So. (awkward silence that stretches on for a few hours)

So this happens a couple of weeks before I’m supposed to visit the father figure (which reminds me, if you want to show me all the scary places in D.C. from October 16-20th, let me know) so it’s like all fateful and shit.

I’ve grown accustomed to dishing out the junk in my cortex here, and now, well, there’s an urge to codify all my language and speak in fable-ese. (Secret Agent Fuzzy Kitten aka Pop-n-Lock Deep House Dancer here, you must enter your ID and password to access this campfire. Press fingerprint to screen NOW)


Let’s Just Talk About Kittens

I suppose it was just a matter of time.

My father found the site this morning, and is upset. That I talked about harboring a resentment all these years, that I hadn’t yet told him I am HIV-positive, among other things.

I suppose this was unavoidable; you can’t just post things on the Internet and expect certain people to never read it, or only read it when you’re ready. The costs of candor. Maybe I just just shut up for awhile. Or only talk about pop culture, you know, how fabulous was American Idol in Vegas, baby. Where’s my mountaintop? I need to go think.

Show, Don’t Tell

Just back from the first meeting of my memoir-writing class (through Berkeley extension). Baby steps. So there’s 18 students and as part of the introductions I mentioned the Campfire as background. The instructor seized on the fact that I have ten months of rough draft material here and asked me to be one of the first two students to have their work critiqued next week.

It’s strange, you know, this whole blog-thing. I can put something up here for any and every stranger’s eyes, but to share it face-to-face? I’m pretty sure I’ll use the Palm Springs story since it fits the 10-15 page requirement, but I’m a little freaked; you know; fear, sobriety, gay sex; it’s got it all. Am I really ready to share that? Guess I’ll have to be. If you’re one of my fellow students who asked for the link, well, welcome to my humble abode. If you like, hate my writing, click on one of my companion’s links to the right…there’s something for everyone.

This afternoon Louie and I left the fog at Ocean Beach and drove back towards home. San Francisco, in case you were wondering, has microclimates. In other words, each neighborhood has its own peculiar weather patterns. Out by the ocean they get all the fog, while the Castro and the Mission are often drenched in sunlight. You could stand at the intersection of Castro and Market on a summer afternoon and watch as the fog rolls across the city until it brushes up against Twin Peaks where, like the sea before Moses, it parts in two and drifts to either side of the valley. You can stand in sun and see the white fog roll past you. I’m just sayin’. If you’re like me, you never get used to it, you never tire of it.

So we sat in the sun at the top of Buena Vista Park, looking out over the city as the fog rolled in under the Golden Gate Bridge, drifting into the bay. A young couple nearby practiced lines from a script…”I’m not trying to be difficult, but it’s time you knew the truth…”

A pair of well-groomed gentlemen sat nearby, and Louie approached them, wagging his tail. He sniffed at their water bottle and licked it once, twice. I called him back to me as they wrinkled their noses. Apparently he was thirsty.

Where did it come from, where does it ever come from, that thought: someday Louie will die. He lay on the grass at my feet and I rubbed my foot against his chest. Oh yeah, my mother, that’s how it starts. Such a day, such a view, I think of her and say hello. She’s sort of my middleman, my conduit, my link to a spiritual presence that sometimes seems too abstract. So I talk to her instead.

I used to think I could never survive that; life without Louie. Now I know I can, I will. I’ll survive whatever comes my way, which was her gift horse, her bitter medicine. She gave me that much, at least.


– So how are you?
– Not so good.
– What’s going on?
– Uh, well, I think I may have to quit my job.
– Why?  Talk to me.
– Michael, I relapsed.
– …Oh buddy, I’m sorry.
– I didn’t think it could happen and it happened.


– Hey, I have this car now.  Do you want some company?  I can take us for a drive.
– I have to be at work at 9.
– I can bring you there.
– (pause) Okay, yeah, I could do that.
– Okay, fifteen minutes.


– You know, I’ve been meaning to talk to you anyway, and to apologize for something.  I know I’ve been kind of distant the past couple of months and I’m sorry.
– It’s okay, I know people have their lives and get busy.
– Well, yeah, but not just that.  I’ve uh…I’ve been struggling with my feelings for you and it’s been hard.  I wanted to be there as your friend and not just another guy lusting after you but it’s been hard.
– (laughs softly, turns and hugs me) Just be my friend.

And that was that.

Good Morning Sunshine

I’m brushing my teeth this morning when I hear shouting nearby.


Lots of pounding, followed shortly by my heart pounding. It sounds like it’s coming from upstairs, by the front door. I find myself trying to remember if I’ve done anything illegal lately. No. And my housemate just left on vacation.


I run upstairs and listen, trying to figure out if they’re at my front door.

No. Oh, thank God.


Suddenly I hear from behind our house a loud bang and splintering wood. I run to the back window and see uniformed men with guns drawn enter my next-door neighbor’s house. Lots of shouting. Flashlights. It’s 6:45 am.

My adrenaline is coursing through me and I’m literally shaking.

This is, by the way, a “nice” neighborhood. If you’re wondering. I don’t think my neighbor is home because things quiet down quickly. I’ve never met the neighbor, though my roommate told me that once he was at Mr. S’ leather shop and overheard the neighbor whining about the harness he just bought.

When I leave the house with Louie there are five rental-type cars in the street, and uniformed men and women walking up and down the neighbor’s steps. One of their car alarms starts to go off and the agent can’t figure out how to make it stop. They laugh at her. They’re all wearing uniforms with “DEA” on the back. A couple of them are kinda cute.


Then this morning in the locker room I see a guy next to me with two words tattooed on his butt cheeks: “Exit Only”.

Pema likes to talk about impermanence a lot, as though it weren’t a bad thing, you know, celebrate it as the central force of life; change, change, leaves fall breathe out love fades people die feel free the wheel of life says to rise up on my spokes but don’t bitch when we spin back down.

It’s all true, of course.

It’s the only thing you can really count on, you know, change. Things just, well, never stay the same so rid yourself of neurotic our love will last forever fantasies and just celebrate the moment as people come and go.

Like a bus station.

Two good friends in one week have relapsed, one on prescription (though not his prescription) painkillers and another on speed. As in, at eight o’clock he’s in an AA meeting and three hours later he’s got a needle in his arm.

I’d like a needle in my arm.

No, really, I would. I’m not just saying that.

I was the first person each man called, which might say something about my character. But I’m a little sick of character. I feel safe and comfortable with you, Ski says, I always have.

Well, screw that. The got-it-all-together character in this saga (that would be me) rarely leaves a mark on history. I want marks. Scars maybe. Motherfucking hickies.

Another friend has a new boyfriend.

At the gym I am surrounded by little boys walking around like they’re back in high school; cool, cold boys talking loud so that everyone can overhear their conversations; conversations so fucking inane I’m convinced I’ll never fall in love again.

That’s not what I meant to say.

I meant to say “I want to meet someone who isn’t covering up their insecurities with fashion and attitude; life’s short, time’s wasting, who the fuck are you, really?”

No, not that either. I mean, I don’t want to meet anyone. Really. Trust me.

I feel bereft. A week of “showing up”, “supporting”, taking you to meetings. Motherfucker. I’d like to put a needle in my arm and call you and say oops and then get all rescued and shit. I’d like to lose myself for a bit again, I would. Feel that lightning juice pump through my blood, yammer on at you like we’re motherfucking BEST FRIENDS and everything we say is BRILLIANT and HILARIOUS and then fuck all day in a windowless room, the world on hold till, well, later.

“Needless to say, after that we noticed very clearly what we did when we felt attacked, betrayed, or confused, when we found situations unbearable or unacceptable. We began to really notice what we did. Did we close down, or did we open up? Did we feel resentful and bitter, or did we soften? Did we become wiser or more stupid? As a result of our pain, did we know more about what it is to be human, or did we know less? Were we more critical of our world or more generous? Were we penetrated by the arrows, or did we turn them into flowers?”
(Pema again)

Stupid. I got stupid and I’m stupid enough to want to stay here for a little while and burn all the safety and comfort into the ground. Rise up like a movie star phoenix from the ashes of caring and compassion, everything I touch lit up like a rollercoaster at night, everyone throwing their hands in the air and screaming, their hair on fire.

“…and then I saw another plane veer and crash into the second building, and I knew then that the person I loved was not going to get out because I counted the floors and when I got to seventy-seven I knew because they were on the ninety-third and I knew there was no way they were getting out of there so I turned and started to run because the buildings were going up like Roman Candles and as I ran my foot turned and I stumbled and looked down and their was a finger with a wedding band and then I turned and looked to the right and there was a row of four airplane seats with four bodies in them on the ground and someone said look and I looked up in the trees and there were people’s innards hanging from the branches and I kept running over feet and hands and…”

It seems both wrong and necessary to hear it; exploitative and crucial all at once.

I’ve never really said it out loud, but that day and the ones that followed were like watching the world catch up with, well, me.

The two years and three months that stretched between my mother’s terminal diagnosis and her death were a surreal vacation in a parallel universe; I saw the world go on around me as it always had, now tantalizingly out of my reach. A plane of glass encircled my family, and within that space we walked in a stunned silence and I wondered what the fuck everyone was always laughing about. Like nobody else in the world understood that death walks hand-in-hand with life. America has no space for the sick or the dying; we shut them up in homes and institutions while all around us Britney Spears rotates her navel on a million screens of pixilated light. There’s no space between J-Lo’s endless marriages for the dying so the dying and those lives touched by the dying don’t exist. It was terminal and cure-less so I waited for that moment in the future while desperately pretending the moment wasn’t everything. We have to live, we can’t just shut down.

So when the country began to mourn, began to discover the things that really mattered; began to leave their dumb jobs for school and volunteering and quality time with the kids I thought yeah, well, I did that a year ago and when everyone became tense and depressed and talked about 2001 being so fucked-up I thought welcome to the club. I felt impatient and somehow, sickeningly, justified.

Once when I was visiting home I went to the Mall of America (or “The Mothership”, as my friend used to call it) and nearly vomited when I saw a “9-11 Store”. Yes, they did. I stood in that foul-smelling shrine of consumerism and hated everything this country stood for, hated the smarmy ubiquitous capitalization of tragedy and death, hated the NYFD t-shirts and flag pins and “we will never forget” stickers. Around me ugly white families clad in matching track suits that barely covered their sloping stomachs and hips ambled with shopping bags and baby strollers, so perfectly at-home and righteous in this horrifying place. I couldn’t leave fast enough.

So AOL says “Light a virtual candle and show the world we’ll never forget” and I just stare blankly at the screen thinking what idiot sat down at a computer and composed that vacant sentiment? Show the world? Like they’d notice.

Your fucking virtual candles aren’t good enough. They only clutter up the universe with more trite, empty symbols; candles that don’t illuminate anything except pretty American Idols.

I can’t live like that. I need something to get me out of bed in the morning. Something contained in the people I love, something that continually defies my expectations. Something mysterious that I can’t examine too closely because it’s the mystery I love and because any examination only reveals false conclusions; expectations that are thwarted or surpassed over and over. An awakening in a hotel conference room. An infatuation turned inside-out. A lover? Ha! No, dear, that’s not what we had in mind. Just bring him to a meeting and like, chill.

Enlightenment, if that’s what this is, kinda sucks. Can’t I just be selfish, just for a little while? Can’t I screw friendship and fuck the boy? Can’t I escape this sweetness, burrow into the bed, cry for my mom?

Yeah, I can. And then I can’t.

So just cry for a little while. Fuck the symbols and the prayers and the closure. You can’t find the ending to this, you can’t shut if off. It follows you home and eats your shoes, a mangy dog looking for love.

My initial reaction to the bearded man on MUNI, the one who called us “faggots” and followed us off the train, was not fear or anger but rather shame laced with idignation; I don’t really look like a fag, do I?


That weekend in Palm Springs I saw a couple I knew from San Francisco, though I didn’t know them as a couple; rather, I thought they were the same man. Until I saw them together. Their similarity was eerie, their desire one I don’t understand. I’m not my own type. A man similar in physical appearance to myself sparks no desire. There is a certain suspension of disbelief when I realize a man finds me attractive. When he leans in for the first kiss I supress an urge to push a hand against his chest and ask “You sure you picked the right guy?”


“I remember so vividly a day in early spring when my whole reality gave out on me. Although it was before I had heard any Buddhist teachings, it was what some would call a genuine spiritual experience. It happened when my husband told me he was having an affair. We lived in northern New Mexico. I was standing in front of our adobe house drinking a cup of tea. I heard the car drive up and the door bang shut. Then he walked around the corner, and without warning he told me that he was having an affair and wanted a divorce.

“I remember the sky and how huge it was. I remember the sound of the river and the steam rising up from my tea. There was no time, no thought, there was nothing- just the light and a profound, limitless silence. Then I regrouped and picked up a stone and threw it at him.

“When anyone asks me how I got involved in Buddhism, I always say it was because I was so angry with my husband. The truth is that he saved my life. When that marriage fell apart, I tried very hard- very, very hard- to go back to some kind of comfort, some kind of security, some kind of familiar resting place. Fortunately for me, I could never pull it off. Instinctively I knew that annihilation of my old dependent, clinging self was the only way to go.”

-Pema Chodron, “When Things Fall Apart”


I went to Glide again this morning, to hear the music, to try and participate in something beyond myself. I couldn’t quite shake my gray mood. Before the service I looked down at the end of the pew and my heart stopped short. I saw my mother there. But of course it wasn’t her. It was a woman in a wheelchair, her headrest supporting her where her neck was failing, her thin arms wrapped in wrist braces, her mouth open, slack-jawed, a sliver of drool hanging to her chest. It was the exact way my mother looked in the months before she died; even this woman’s face, pale and flushed with pink, was familiar and unsettling. I couldn’t stop staring at her, watching her eyes travel over the room. I wanted to see her in them, wanted to see some kind of recognition flash there, wanted to see her arms rise up towards me as they had so many times before, offering a weak embrace.


One of the good things about being single is that I can go for a three-hour car trip to Sea Ranch and indulge my obsessive need to listen to the same two songs the whole way there. And back.