I just know I’m going to forget someone, but there is an unwritten rule in blogdom that if you attend a blogger event you must blog about it, and you must mention everyone there. And I am not immune to unwritten rules, nor to the charm of my fellow bloggers.

Last night I picked up Vince in my lesbian Subaru and took a Bay Bridge ride together, filling the car with boy talk. Well, it was more evolved than just boy talk, but we did talk about boys. We skimmed over the bay and onto the fair island of Alameda. When the Ex and I first moved here, five years ago, we stayed with a friend on Alameda. He tried to convince us to look for a place there, but after two days of enduring the bridge commute we nixed that idea. Besides, when your dream is to live in San Francisco, well, you want to live in San Francisco. Vince and I drove past the little pet hospital where the Ex and I had to kennel our poor Louie because our friend was rather prissy about dogs. Poor Louie, I remember when we got our keys to our new apartment in the Haight we grabbed Louie, a couple of sleeping bags and some candles (the electricity wasn’t turned on yet) and squatted the night before we were supposed to move in. Ah, good times.

Vince and I arrived at a very cute house where we were welcomed by Cheyenne and Mike (both sporting new, fresh tattoos) and their friends Gretchen and Chris. Lovely, warm people who were complete strangers to me. Where was the man of the hour? Someone had to drag him downstairs, and there was Jhames, wearing a t-shirt he picked up at a Hare Krishna temple. Jhames had spent the whole day cooking for us, and because I was perilously close to a large bowl of guacamole, I stayed put. Yum. A few minutes later Jill joined us, and I managed to grab a few minutes of good chat with her. I had a great time hanging and eating and trying not to pose for pictures. Jhames gave me porn and a CD. We all ended up watching an hour of “Jackass” and I think Mike and I were the only ones to remain in the living room for the “regurgitated omelette” scene (“Look at how the milk just makes it rise up!”) I think I will forever be scarred. But in a good way. Thank you Jhames for the wonderful dinner and the great company…as anyone from the East Bay will testify, it takes a lot for those of us in San Francisco to cross the bridge. Trust.

And more! Tonight I met Vince and Jhames and Cheyenne and Mike for a vegetarian dinner (mmmm, this Neatloaf is like Mom’s!) downtown and we were joined by three bloggers much more famous than me: Min Jung (very beautiful and wearing bullet-proof lighting bolt wrist warmers) and Ernie (cracks me UP, I giggled all night long), and one of my all-time favorite humans, Aaron, who drove all the way from Sacramento. Later we went for coffee and drinks and were joined by Robbie and also Robert (whew, I think I got everyone). We quickly developed an adversarial relationship with our waitress and drove everyone else out of the dining room, while someone at a piano around the corner sang “My Funny Valentine.” Massive desserts and lots of laughter and more of those damn digital cameras flashing everywhere. I will tell you now, my eyes will be red in every single one of them. Because I am a demon seed and you are all now under my spell.

P.S. I have won a highly-coveted award from Corey. I know the rest of you are jealous, but as he clearly states, there’s only room for one “Person I Don’t Know But Want to Marry. ” It’s okay, boys, there’s always next year.

P.P.S. A special shout-out to my monkey boy, my atomic saint, a man who shall remain linkless but occupies my head. It’s raining hard here, the wind is sweeping over the hill and shaking my bedroom window. You should see it, it’s great.

That’s MISS ROSS to You

I seriously think there’s something wrong with me. All day this scene from Ordinary People keeps playing in my head; when Timothy Hutton meets his friend Karen at a restaurant for coffee. They had been buddies while hospitalized for suicide attempts. Karen says, “Conrad, let’s have a great Christmas, okay? Let’s have a great year. Let’s have the best year of our whole lives, okay? We can, you know. This can be the best year ever.” And well, you know what happens. Karen kills herself within a week.

Welcome, again, to the abandoned carnival that is my head. I blame the TNT network for playing reruns while I was laid up in bed last week.

I have every intention of staying alive this year. Moreover, Jennie (who says it better than me) has me convinced that this is the year we will rock the shit OUT. No kidding, Diana Ross is singing “It’s My Turn” while landing in a helicopter outside my apartment at midnight tonight.

To the girl who found my site, the girl scared that she can’t escape the crystal: May this year be full of mystery and friends who’d fight to the end for us. May there be many mornings where we wake with excitement. May there be good food and laughter. May we contribute to life every single day. May there be companionship and may there be warmth in our solitude. May there be naked people of our preferred sexual orientation throwing pebbles at our windows late at night. I’m gonna rock the shit out, won’t you join me?

Rough Drafts

I swallowed fistfuls of ibuprofen and lay on my back for most of the last week. Some back muscle and some faulty move at the gym, I guess. Didn’t feel it at the time, just woke to pain that got worse; that dug at my spine as the hours passed; no sitting, no standing. Stress? Oh God I can’t go there, isn’t everyone stressed, always, everywhere? It’s a given now.

Laying in bed watching a NYPD Blue rerun. Inexplicably I’ve only seen the show twice this year, and both times it’s the episode where Jimmy Smits dies. Me bawling in spite of myself; yeah, shit it’s your birthday, the first one, and I’m still pissed. All those little set-backs, the gradual, incessant decline, the lines in the sand crossed again and again, the expectations adjusted to every-worsening developments. Your bed wheeled out of surgery and the sight of your tracheostomy slamming me like a sack of rocks; a hole the size of a baby’s fist in your throat, some horrible plastic necklace blowing steam on the wound to keep it fresh. Fuck I hated everything at that moment; God, yes, and everyone else’s normal lives and the pile of empty whiskey bottles in my kitchen and the loss of hope. That night I ran around the lake in the dark, my hate driving me forward, skimming over the potholes and the half-frozen puddles.

I’d take you to church every Sunday, early, the service in the small chapel. I sat beside you, hung-over, my arm wrapped around you as if I could squeeze it out of you. Your tears running when the music began, when those around us sang. Every time. The pain and confusion in your eyes; yes, yes, you’re a good person, no, you’re not a bad mother, no, He’s not punishing you and if He is He fucking better watch out. Wanting to punch everyone, the polite and distant Minnesotans, the minister’s concern, everyone always telling me I was a good son. Fuck that, I just wanted you alive.

You’re with me, I know it, there’s no question there. But still. I put up pictures of you around the room. One in the bathroom, when I brush my teeth in the morning it reminds me what you looked like, one summer day in your backyard, before everything. Your dog and your cat under each arm, you laughing. It was like that once, wasn’t it? Sometimes I forget. When I moved to San Francisco you told me that you couldn’t drive past my old house. I won’t ever shake that one.

Ask the Dawg

No, I’m not attempting to pull an Ann Landers. But I received an e-mail from a friend that was like several I’ve received lately. I thought I’d write about it.

Dear Michael:

I have sorta become involved with someone who it would appear has a serious crystal problem. Who knew? 🙂 It was a chapter that was missing from my portfolio of disasterous relationships, so i felt compelled to fill it in. But the bottom line is that, beneath all the shit of the addiction, I can still see he is a sweet, lovely, gentle guy and I hate to just walk away. Since you are my inside track to addicitions of such a flavor, is there really nothing else I can do to help? I mean, it feels like desertion of a really decent person in serious trouble.

It was like smoking cigarettes. Nobody ever likes their first cigarette. But if you persist, against all wisdom and evidence, smoking becomes your new, clingy friend; if not exactly good for you, then at least very dependable.

I didn’t like crystal the first couple of times I tried it, snorting a bump on a South of Market dance floor very late at night, a friend of mine showing me with his finger how to rub the residue along my gum line. It gave me the energy and drive to stay longer, to move more, to sweat more. But later I’d lay wide-eyed in bed, anxious, heart pounding, unable to fall asleep.

I think it was the third time that did it, sitting in a car with three other men outside a South of Market club. They showed me how to flick the lighter under the glass pipe, to wait for the smoke to form, and to suck it into my lungs for a split second (any longer was supposed to be dangerous, imagine that!) and then release the smoke. The bitter chemical film covering my tongue; someone handing me a bottle of juice to clear the taste. My pounding heart and our laughter filling the car, an overwhelming feeling of power and sex. Driving with these new, barely-familiar friends to my house where I put on a CD of house music that I still find difficult to hear to this day. I shared my stash of GHB with them. Another round with the crystal pipe; opening the living room window so we could blow the smoke outside. Then back in the car (driving while intoxicated, who, me?) and down to the Power Exchange, my first time in a sex club. The crystal and the G forming a chemical atmospheric perfection that I would never be able to duplicate again; the energy and the power and the sex, the sharp edges rubbed from everything; every man that passed a shadowy figure of potential. I wouldn’t touch anyone that night; I just watched, the vicarious thrill pumping juice through my veins; porn playing on a big-screen TV in a musty, thin-carpeted room tucked around the corner, honest-to-god pup tents set up in a gymnasium; boys walking by carrying dixie cups full of lube. Two men clutching each other in a flourescent-lit, poorly equipped weight room.

Again back into the car and now on to the Pleasuredome (my breath constricting with these memories, I have to pause now and look out the window at the overcast San Francisco sky, the pale houses stacked together on the green hills, the dark line of minor mountains behind them) where we danced on a half-empty floor. Later as I stood off to the side I could not stop moving; the drugs and the music synchronized in my bones like black magic; me unable to resist the bass, my eyes flying over the boys around me, again and again. Hours later emerging into the fucking sunlight, wanting sunglasses to shade my dilated, tweaking pupils as a boy leaning against his white Mercedes bore holes in my body with his eyes.

We weren’t finished. We drove to an after-hours club, some dark ruin of a bar in the Tenderloin that didn’t seem to have a name. As we walked in, a bus passed us and I caught the eye of a man dressed in a suit on his way to the office. He gave our motley group an amused once-over before turning his gaze away. Twenty people in the bar, my friend disappearing into a bathroom stall with a boy he just met, me finally wanting to go home, to get the hell out of there and to get back to my bed, sleep or no sleep. Driving home after letting the others off, hands gripping the steering wheel, and underneath my shame was a throbbing excitement, having glimpsed the city’s underbelly for the first time, the desire to shed “good boy” for awhile. I had already begun planning how I’d call my dealer and ask not for the Ecstasy, but for the crystal instead.

“Once inside a neuron, methamphetamine causes that neuron to release lots of dopamine. All this dopamine causes the person to feel an extra sense of pleasure that can last all day. But eventually these pleasurable effects stop. They are followed by unpleasant feelings called a “crash” that often lead a person to use more of the drug. If a person continues to use methamphetamine, they will have a difficult time feeling pleasure from anything.”

That was the beginning. There is a good two years worth of more scandals and stories. I would spare you from them but I keep writing about them, little by little, as the doors unlock and the regret fades into a need to understand. But not today.

To sum it up: the shame turned to fear as the months passed and I began to realize that I could not stop. I tried every goddamned week. I’d snort or smoke the last of the powder (visions of gasoline and drain cleaner emptied into a bathtub ringed with grime) and by this point I was such a tic-ridden wreck that I often threw it out, into the swirling toilet or once, following the final rehearsal for a play, into a gutter in the Mission district). This would be a Sunday, or a Monday. I was bartending by this point, so normal business hours didn’t apply. And I would quit. And I’d suffer the crash, the darkest depression, the inertia and the hopelessness and the dwindling afternoon light. And by Wednesday I needed it again. I needed it to breathe. I rarely made it past Thursday before calling the dealer again.

I could not stop for my boyfriend. I could not stop for the play (for which I received very mixed reviews in a role that one critic said had more lines than Hamlet). I could not stop for my job. I could not stop for my dying mother. When I finally slunk into the rooms of AA I still could not stop; I’d get twenty days and then use, I’d get twenty-eight days and use.

What changed? I gave up. I was beaten down into a state of total despair, of what they call “incomprehensible demoralization”. I had come into AA with the notion that I didn’t need to do what everyone else did; go to meetings everyday, find a sponsor who’d help me work the steps, ask for help. My individuality was still so crucial; I needed to be different from all the other drunks. Terminal uniqueness, they call it. Finally, after yet another night of reckless despair, I slunk in; hung over, tweaked-out, hopeless. I turned to a friend who had asked “how are you?” and replied, “I don’t think I can do this.”

He found me the sponsor, who I refer to as Bearbait on dogpoet. And the next time I wanted to use, the next time I felt completely alienated from everyone and everything, I called him instead. And somehow the urge disappeared. I called him everyday. We began working the steps. And little by little the days stacked up, one upon the other.

I’ve been sober a little over two years now. I’m not an expert in addiction and recovery; all I have is my experience and my observations of other people’s experiences. There are people who have stopped without the help of 12-step programs. All I can offer is my experience.

I don’t think it’s possible to get sober for anyone else. I’ve seen people try, and they always fail. I think someone needs to lose nearly everything before they have the willingness to try something new. Benjamin Franklin said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The half-baked attempts to cut back, to control, to modify one’s drug intake; doomed from the start. We are very stubborn creatures, raised to believe we are all masters of our destiny, that we can control other people, circumstances, events. The fallacies that kill us.

Some people need to lose everything; love, jobs, homes, cars. They need to end up in jail or institutions or dead. I’m a bit of a lightweight; I needed to have only the threat of homelessness before I came into AA. And even then I needed to lose more hope before I finally changed.

Crystal is epidemic; Like AIDS in the eighties, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Crystal is so highly addictive. People who may not have become alcoholics are brought down by crystal. I am haunted far more by the visceral, throbbing memories of snorting and smoking crystal than I am by my drinking memories. I can be around alcohol quite easily. I doubt I could stay in the same room with crystal.

There is still such a stigma about needing help. Some people who are not addicts think that everyone should be able to control their usage. If I hear one more bitchy queen get on her rickety, glitter-stained soap box to tell us why she’s so fierce because she can control her drug use, I’m gonna start bitch-slapping. Such opinions are akin to a healthy person telling a cancer patient “You’re sick? Get a life.” Grrrr.

Yes, this is an issue I am passionate about. I rarely preach on dogpoet. I can’t stand preaching and soapboxes. But I’m going to ask those of you who think that everyone can just “control” their usage to think about it, think about the repercussions; who are you helping? (That is, if helping is even a concern of yours)

I was telling a friend recently that the media depictions of AA meetings are all wrong: they’re always dark and grey and depressing, and there’s always the mocking of “Hi, my name is…”. That hasn’t been my experience. Meetings are jovial, boisterous, full of laughter and yes, sometimes tears. Not because of despair. Because all of us in that room have visited the antechambers of hell, and have returned, and are busy creating better lives. Yes, sometimes I miss drugs. Sometimes I want to get really fucked up. But now and then I get the kind of high that is sustained, that is pure and overwhelming and I don’t have to pay for it the next day or the next week or the rest of my life. Oh yeah, and as Bearbait once said, “Sober sex can make your toes curl.”

What can you do? You can tell your friend that you love him no matter what, and that you will help him get sober, if that’s what he wants. But addicts are master manipulators; they will squeeze every ounce of compassion and money and love out of you as long as it helps them stay fucked up. Don’t buy into the excuses and the lies. If you need to, cut him out of your life. Maybe the loss of friendship or love will be the final straw. Or maybe not. Unless a man is willing to surrender, he will always find a reason to use; to celebrate or to console. Always. Always. If he questions whether he’s an addict or not, challenge him to go 30 days without using. This is a list of questions that may help someone decide if he is an addict (substitute “drugs” for “alcohol” in the questions)

If he does go for help, it may be a long journey before he finally “gets it.” It took me at least a year. Many friends of mine found the structure of a treatment program very helpful.

If you have a problem with co-dependency, read some books, go to Al-Anon meetings, find support from people who’ve been through it themselves. I’m not going to lie to you: the odds against the addict are staggering. Of all the people who got sober the same time I did, there is only a small handful left. The good news is that many who leave do return, and they try, again and again, and many of them do finally get it.

If you know someone who is sober, ask them if they will talk to your friend (in person is the most effective). That is, if your friend is willing. There is something about one addict talking to another that seems to work where other attempts fail: one alcoholic helping another is the basis of AA’s success. It was crucial to me to have men and women in my life who had been through it, too, and who had survived. They gave me hope; they showed me that it was possible. The power of example is much stronger than words. And here I am, with so many words. I will leave them with you as my little offering. I don’t know if they will help.

My life when using drugs was so tiny. Now I must struggle to keep up with an ever-widening life; with days that spill over with joy, pain, and possibility. I must learn, each day, how to get out of my own way.


Although cystal may have been my “drug of choice” (believe me, it chose me) I ultimately found that the best sobriety in San Francisco was in AA. Other cities and regions of the country may differ in that respect. Some AA meetings are much more open to drug addicts than others.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous

Crystal Meth Anonymous

Jennie and I wrote each other newer, fiercer biographies:

Jennie’s most recent book, “I Exist? : The Cultural Implications of the Postmodern Marriage of Jesus and Karate” has remained on the Time’s bestseller list for the past 32 weeks. When not engineering fresh-water irrigations systems for struggling Third World economies, she fronts her
enormously popular rock group, ‘Shut Up, Queens” in sold-out stadiums around the world. Much better looking than Dr. Phil or Ben Affleck. For booking, please contact Lizzie Grubman.

Michael’s most recent book, “Christmas” knocked deepak chopra out of his constant top spot on the NYT book review, and continues to shock and haunt us with his incisive and brilliant dissection of the modern world. this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection AND CAME BACK FOR MORE, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too MUCH feeling and hope. Michael is a captain of industry, hilarious and woofy. He’s cuter than Faith Hill. He wins.

Also, neither Jennie nor Michael get up for less than $25 a day.


Talk to Me, Baby

I once fell in love with a nuclear cat. Four years ago I was in my first term of employment with the animal shelter. I worked more closely with the animals then, almost exclusively with cats, actually. I cleaned a lot of litter boxes back then.

One day I was over in the medical department, where some of the shelter animals stay while they’re being treated for various illnesses. I was walking by a bank of cages when I heard the funniest, warmest, most good-natured “meow”. I stopped and scanned the cages till I saw a beautiful old cat, a lynx-point Siamese with bright blue eyes and a lavender sheen to his short grey coat. He looked back at me, blinked slowly, and meowed again; a hello-meow, a thank-you-for-walking-by kind of meow. A warbly, old-man “mrow.” He looked like a cartoon character with his wise old blue eyes, his stooped posture. Like any minute he’d start up a discussion about the weather. Then I saw his cage card with a bright yellow sticker that said, in bold lettering, “RADIOACTIVE”.

“Hello, old boy,” I said. According to the card he was sixteen. I looked through the vet’s notes and saw that he was being treated with radiated iodine for his hyperthyroidism.

“Mrow,” he said again, and I mimicked him, “mrow.” We talked back and forth like that for a couple of minutes. I stuck my finger through the wire cage and he sniffed it once, then rubbed his chin against my fingertip. I scratched his ear and said “mrow.”

I started calling him Oscar.

I visited him everyday while he was under treatment and then, the first day that he was made available for adoption, I took him home. Louie had lived with cats before, and he and Oscar settled immediately into an agreeable companionship.

Oscar talked all the time, especially when I’d come home from work. He and Louie would greet me at the door, and I’d pick him up in my arms and he’d place a paw on either side of my neck, and rub his cheek against my chin. He’d talk to me while purring, his “mrows” vibrating in my ear, and we’d walk around the house like that for awhile, talking to each other. He’d lay in my lap while I read or watched TV, and he’d nap on the red ottoman that caught the sun’s rays in the afternoons. Sometimes I’d find him sleeping in the bathroom sink.

This was during the spring of 1998. After eight years of sobriety I had decided to try drinking again. After all, I was nineteen when I quit. Perhaps, I told myself, I’m not really an alcoholic. I was 27 and feeling left out; I was missing out on my twenties, damnit. All the fun. I had left Minneapolis and my AA friends behind, and now in San Francisco everyone I knew partied a little. I wanted in.

I caught up pretty quickly. The drinking escalated in the first week to a daily habit. The boyfriend would come home and I’d be passed out on the bed, taking a “nap”, four or five beer bottles under the bed. He started teasing me about tasting like beer when he kissed me. As the months passed, the teasing turned to irritation, and then anger.

I had my first hit of Ecstasy on Gay Pride day at the end of June. It was so important to get it right, to make the experience as powerful as possible. I ate very little that day, so that my stomach would be empty. I avoided beer and took the next day off from work. My friends, on very familiar terms with E, marshaled me through the night. They slipped the tiny pill into my palm and I washed it back with a berry Calistoga, standing near the peanut barrel at the Lone Star. We walked over to the Powerhouse and it started to kick in. A tingling in my fingertips, flowing slowly upwards through my arms and washing over my body. I was radiating. The music expanded. My friends smiled at me and even though the Powerhouse was not a disco, I couldn’t stop moving to the music. Everyone thought I was hot. I kept catching the sexy bartender looking at me. My friends dragged me out into the night.

“Oh, my god, look at the sky!” I shouted. It was alive, boiling, colors popcorning through the clouds. Not hallucinations; just fleeting visions of the world’s inner energy; everything around me humming with its own life. My friends groaned and rolled their eyes and pushed me into the car, where I laughed and stroked their buzzed heads all the way to the Pleasuredome. They fed me another hit, and I was off. The music, not just louder, but bigger, like the sky, the cavernous club filling with vibrating, pulsating life. We pushed our way into the center of the writhing crowd, the lights flashing above, my vision blurring at the edges, into the center of the heat. I loved my friends. I took my shirt off, reveling in the sweltering, sweating masses that surrounded me; everyone smiling, everyone full of love.

They say Ecstasy isn’t addictive. Maybe the chemical isn’t, but the experience of Ecstasy was, at least for me. Of course, everything is addictive to me. I had suffered from depression my whole life, and had now found in a $20 pill the key to an overwhelming, confident happiness. Yes, I paid for it dearly the following week, but that just heightened the weekend’s importance. My life became all about the weekends then; the week emptied of pleasure and meaning. I just had to get to the weekend, and the E. And one hit became two hits became three hits, weekend after weekend, the nights out multiplying. I tried new drugs, the K, the GHB, the crystal. I loved them all. Yes, it’s true what they say; it’s never again like your first time, but who could give up trying? Certainly not me.

I knew, underneath it all, that I was in trouble. I knew I thought about drugs more than my friends did. It was, no doubt, an obsession. My first bout with AA had ruined me; I was never completely rid of that guilt, that little voice that whispered in my ear, sing-song, “You’re an alcoholic!”

So getting high became necessary; to drown out the voice, to run away from everything, if only for a couple of hours. To run from my stupid job and my cheating and my ruined potential. The obsession to get and stay fucked up clung to me, through the gray fog of my eight-hour workdays, the wasted evenings of beer and television. Each day slipping away.

I found a website that sold the ingredients to make GHB at home. They’d send it to me via Fed Ex, maybe to avoid federal laws concerning drugs and the US Postal Service. Since I worked days I’d have them hold it for me at their San Francisco hub. Each time I’d pick up the package my pulse would be thundering. I thought for sure the feds were going to bust me; everyone around me was an undercover agent. Every time the clerk slipped into the backroom, every minor delay at the counter was another reason to cut my losses and run. But the obsession was stronger. I held my ground, I got my package, I slipped out into the night. I drove home and mixed the two chemicals with distilled water and voila, a pitcher of GHB. Each pitcher emptying a little more quickly than the last.

I wasn’t a bad father to Louie and Oscar, in those days. I’d come home from work and pour myself a little G and take Louie out for a walk. If other people could relax after work with a little drink, a little G wasn’t all that different, I told myself. All that crap about it being the date-rape drug was mostly media hype. Sure, if you took too much you’d pass out. So don’t take too much.

One night I came home from the Fed-Ex station, package in hand. I unlocked the front door, and Louie was there, looking somewhat anxious. Behind him, down the hall, I saw Oscar laying on his side on the living room floor, an unusual place for him. I hurried down the hall. Something was wrong. I came to where he lay, and he seemed to tremble a bit. His sides rose and fell; once, twice. Then nothing. I dropped to the ground, put my face up against his. “Oscar?” I said. There was nothing, no “mrows”, no breath. His eyes open and staring. I picked him up in my arms and his neck fell back at a horrible angle, his head fell motionless against my arm. I squeezed him against me, I moved his head, I ran my hands over him, again and again, “Oscar? Oscar?”

I think he was dead by the time I picked him up. I think he waited till I got home, and he breathed twice, and he died.

I held him to me and I cried. I kept talking to him, unsure if he was really gone. There was no clear moment or sign of death; he was still warm, and I asked him, “Oscar, hey old boy, don’t go yet.” But the warmth faded, and he cooled in my arms. I held him for over an hour, because I couldn’t be sure, because I didn’t want to put him down. My buddy, my nuclear baby.

Oscar had lived with me for six months. He was an old guy, and I knew when I adopted him that he’d only be with me for a little while. I knew he had been happy, that I had given him a good home for those last months. I knew from the way he put his paws around me and held on, from the way he talked in my ear as we walked around the house.

There wasn’t anything I could have done differently, but I look back on that day with guilt. For where I had been as he lay on that floor, waiting for me to come home. For the package in my hand that had been more important than anything else. It’s not a rational shame. Oscar did not die because I was a drug addict. But his death and my drugs are caught up together in memory, and you can’t reason with memory. When I remember Oscar I remember that day, I remember the sight of him down the hall, the package in my hand. As if I could drop the package and somehow save him.

I wish I could say that it changed everything; that losing him made me stop. But I didn’t. Or I couldn’t. In memory, it was just the beginning.

Lighten Up, Dawg

Whenever I tell my “story” at an AA meeting, people cry. Sometimes I wish I had one of those stories that made everyone laugh every fifteen seconds. But no. When I finish everyone looks like they just received very bad news in the middle of a very fun party.

Maybe I’m exaggerating slightly. But, you know, I’m not that serious. And really? My life is pretty cool. For instance, this morning my cashier at Trader Joe’s was a girl with a Thrasher sweatshirt and a nametag that said “Rhiannon.” Now that is fucking cool. And right now I’m listening to Roberta Flack at work. And my dog is laying at my feet and tonight I get to have dinner and watch a movie with my buds the Studly Couple, while it rains and rains outside. And my instructor from the writing class I just finished asked me to keep working with her, and I have a shiny new Subaru and my arms hurt from the new biceps exercise I did yesterday and I’m going to have tamales for lunch. And I have you and your inappropriate sense of humor and my own bathroom at home. See?


I’m telling you right now, I never pretended to be a grown-up. Just so we’re clear.

From some secret e-mails and comments I received yesterday, I get the impression that I’m not the only one having trouble with friends. The difference is that I will stop at nothing to embarrass myself publicly by airing such immature, gaudy-colored laundry on my proverbial clothesline. But if you can live vicariously through my humiliation, it’s all worth it. After all, I have this candid, ugly-truth-telling reputation to fulfill.

I’m like that spoiled little princess who can’t sleep when there’s a pea under her pile of mattresses. I tongue the tooth-ache, pick the scab. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Okay, you get it.

I told Bearbait yesterday that I’m dreading tonight. I’ve been asked again to “tell my story” at an AA meeting, a meeting with a special focus on those with HIV. It’s a rather small meeting, maybe 20 people, and my very very close friend goes there every week, as I do. Of course, he’s HIV-negative, which isn’t the issue at all. The issue for me is that I’m pissed at him but I want to appear calm, wise, and super-well-adjusted. I want to sound, at the end of my story, like I have all my shit together and that I am a sparkling pool of serenity and inner-peace. Which I’m not.

My very very close friend was so crucial to my success in early sobriety, and I usually mention this when I tell my story. But guess what? I don’t want to mention that tonight. Because I’m pissed. Because he’s playing a game and I hate games. And because even in the structure of the game he is breaking his own rules. Not that I’m playing the game. I’m not, I tell you, I’m not!

Isn’t that silly? Don’t you just want to pat me on the head and tell me “awww, that’s a cute DogPoet. Evwything is gonna be alwight. Now go take a nap.”

When I tell my story I usually talk about what’s going on in my life now. You know, the joys and the challenges. I can’t really talk about the challenges tonight, without sounding bitter and vindictive and passive-aggressive. Not that I would ever be any of those. Not me.

Actually, I think that testing positive was a milestone in more ways than one. At the time, my mother was still alive; it was another 7 months before she died. When I was actively using drugs and alcohol I often gave her tearful confessions, trying to elicit as much sympathy as possible in the hopes that revealing all of my problems would somehow explain and excuse the mess I was making of my life. When she was diagnosed with ALS I tried to get sober, mostly on my own. It would be another year before I became demoralized enough to slink into an AA meeting and ask for help.

I look back and wince at the spectacle I made of myself during that year. It was my way of seeking help, I suppose. But I was blind to the effect such confessions had on my mother, until her partner became exasperated and wrote me a very terse e-mail asking me to keep my confessions to myself, because my mother would get so upset that she couldn’t sleep at night. I still remember filling with hot shame as I read that e-mail. “Fuck.” I thought, “I am such a fucking loser.”

But I was also angry. If I couldn’t tell my mother the truth, who could I tell? Although she would live for another two years, I lost my mother in stages. I lost my confidante, and I lost my parent. She became, slowly, someone who needed my care. I lost my mother’s voice when the muscles that controlled her speech stopped working. The dementia wore away her sharp intellect. Her written sentences became shorter, and after many months, nearly incomprehensible. She’d get one word stuck in her head and she’d write it over and over. No amount of questions or gentle prodding could push her from that stuck spot. The woman who was my mother was changed beyond recognition, but she was still my mother, and she still needed us. And even at the end she was, at her core, the same generous, warm, funny soul she had always been. She gave everyone hugs, several a day. If you happened to glance her way she’d raise her arms and you’d lean over her in bed, wrap your own arms delicately around her, and accept her hug.

Man, I miss her.

At six months of sobriety I broke up with my partner of five + years, and I didn’t tell her. At nine months of sobriety I tested positive, and I didn’t tell anyone in my family. For once I could see that sometimes the truth hurts more than it helps. I finally had enough sense to see that I needed other confidants during that time.

And my very very close friend was my confidante, and I miss him very much right now. Oh, I know we’ll be okay. Enough time will pass and this will look in retrospect like the tiny bump in the road that it is.

Funny, I started out writing about him and I ended up writing about her. Who knows what it is; her birthday on December 21st, or this being the first Christmas without her. There’s nothing quite like losing your mother. In many ways the world becomes a colder place, but without her I’ve had to grow up. I’ve had to make my own family, with a rag tag bunch of queers and alcoholics. Like any family they sometimes drive me nuts. But I need them, I love them, I can’t get by without them.

Feliz Cumpleanos

I call myself a writer because I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies.

I think the most painful years of my life were my mid-to-late-twenties, after I had won every poetry slam I ever entered.

I’m looking for a way into this and I can’t find it.

Sitting down to write an “important” post is an exercise in futility. And if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that it’s all about the process, baby. Just write, and let the rest take care of itself. So, write. Right.

A year ago I was a little less happy than I am today. I was living in a flat in the Mission with three other guys, three other dogs, two cats, no privacy. One of my roommates, who was also a co-worker, was an emotional black hole who sucked the energy out of every room he ever entered. We didn’t like each other much (he actually got fired yesterday for time card fraud or something and I can’t say I’m torn up over it). Those of you who’ve been stopping by this little campfire for awhile know the rest of my litany of pain and trouble: i.e. early sobriety, HIV diagnosis, my mother’s terminal illness. She was clearly near the end. I was depressed and out of shape. I hadn’t written much in the last six years.

Then I received an email from a friend with a link to his new online diary. Though I had read, off and on, the blogs of twoother men for the past couple of years, it was my friend’s email that inspired DogPoet. With Blogger I didn’t need to know HTML or how to build a website. When Blogger asked me for a title, I put two odd words together in the hopes that no one else had a blog called DogPoet. To be honest, I have only one poem about my dog, but I guess that’s enough.

And so it began. Back then I would get two or three hits a day. I remember the first day I got thirty hits! Most of them were people in Saudi Arabia who didn’t know how to spell the word “lesbian” when Googling. Jonno graciously linked me when he saw that I intended to stick with it. I figured out some basic HTML, linked to a few blogs. Maybe four or five. A couple linked back. And it grew from there.

DogPoet, you saved my butt last winter. You were there when my mom died. You went with me to Minneapolis for Christmas and then later for the funeral, and you kept me company. You let me write some stupid shit sometimes, and helped me grow up a little along the way. It was always you, my constant companion, and to you I cried and laughed and threw tantrums.

And it was you, my gentle and perverted reader, who kept me coming back. I couldn’t let two or three days pass without a post. And many of you linked to me (oh, how giddy I got, each and every time) and many of you wrote to me and encouraged me. I met some of you in real life, and I know I’ll meet some more. I get many more visitors than email, though, so if you need a reason to say hello, you’ve got one. Say hello.

During this year I moved into a wonderfully quiet apartment with my own bathroom, a view, and plenty of street parking available. For much less money than I was paying in the Mission. I started working out again, lost some fat, gained some muscle, went out on a few dates. I celebrated two years of sobriety and recently started sponsoring two men in AA, which basically means they call me everyday and I listen for long stretches of time, saying “uh huh”, “right”, and “you’re doing great.” I signed up for a writing class through Berkeley extension that I will finish on Monday. I somewhat gracefully handled an unrequited attraction for my friend Ski. I’ve made some great friends along the way who keep me company, make me laugh, and challenge every single notion I have about being a grown-up. I bought a car. I paid off my credit card debt. I kept my job through four or five rounds of lay-offs. My t-cells are high, my viral load is low. I’ve successfully handled depression, with a lot of help. And damnit, DogPoet, you got me writing again. Yes, I can look back now and I have a year’s worth of posts, some stupid, some not so stupid. It’s helped, more than you’ll ever know. I have this feeling, no, fuck that, it’s faith, that life is just getting better and better.

Today DogPoet turns one. Which is, like, eighty-four in blog years. I hope you’ll stick around.