He Said He Never Would Again - Collected Personal Social Media (text, 2013)
"What works for words may not work for things, and to say that two sayings that contradict each other cannot both be true is not to say that opposites do not exist. The word is not the thing: word and thing have each their own way. It is true that a town is made of stone, clay, and wood; it is true that a town is made of people. These words do not deny each other at all. It is true that a bird's way and the wind blowing make a feather fall; it is true that finding that feather in my way I understand that it has fallen for me. Those words deny each other in part. It is true that everything that is must be as it is, and that nothing is but the play of illusion upon the void; it is true that everything is and it is true that nothing is. These words deny each other wholly. The world of our life is the weaving that holds them together while holding them apart. The world is a bridge between the walls of a canyon, the banks of a river in an abyss, and words are the birds that fly across and across. They cannot be in two places at the same time. But they can cross and come back. It takes all one's life long to cross the bridge to the other side. But the birds fly back and forth across the canyon, singing and speaking from on side to the other."
- Ursula K. Leguin, (Always Coming Home, 1985)
There is no justice without judgement. And there is not a person on this planet who is in a position to judge another. This goes beyond our justice system and to the roots of every judicial system everywhere. This way of governance isn't working, and it never really did. What now? Power isn't something to be had, it's a relationship; a negotiation. Nobody on this planet is emotionally or spiritually prepared to kill a person with their bare hands - we can barely stomach the reality of where we get our food from - so definitely no one on this planet is prepared to hold something in their hands like a gun, something that turns a negotiation into a flat declaration. What now?
The soul of the most beautiful person I've ever met and someone I've been privileged to call my soulmate passed on to another way of existence this weekend. Me and everyone who was touched and loved by him, which is everyone he met, are grieving and it's going to be a long fucked up psychedelic haul but I have faith in us. For whatever reason such a beautiful diverse group of people have been brought together in love of one person and that is something that can't be changed. Thank you Grant for giving me an escape route from a bad time in my life; for giving me a home; for making me a bed with nice sheets that I'm still sleeping on that I could pass out on my first night with a sigh of relief that I survived that phase; for being my rock, my sun, my gravity, when it got darker and harder than I ever knew it could; for making me believe in the human race again, knowing that there was someone like you, who was the smartest person I've ever met, virtuosically talented and with incredible taste who could still find it in your heart to be nice to every one you met, no matter what, and sit down and find a way to connect and have a good conversation; for loving my music and bringing your beautiful guitar to my music and making my record the one I wanted to make; for loving all music in the way that I did, and making me so excited to show you music, be shown music by you and listen to music we both knew and loved every night; for all the head and back rubs; for letting me feed you my left overs and always keep you supplied with mouthwash; for letting me feel you needed me; for indulging my every vanity and insanity, expressed through my writing and social media and making me feel like a normal person and laughing at all my horrible jokes; for always telling me I looked beautiful when I was doing my makeup; and for a million unfathomable things I can't even begin to count or conceptualize. You are everything I was always looking for and didn't know, and everything I will forever carry forward into the world. I love you so much and I miss you more than I ever knew I could miss anything. I would give anything to talk to you and will be talking to you every day for the rest of my life. Thank you so much.
I don't really know what to say today. I'm so sad but also happy and excited and hopeful. Nothing changes, everything just moves from state to state on this beautiful, terrifying, endless cycle of transition, the circle so big it's hard sometimes to get perspective on it as it wreaks constant change throughout our lives. So privileged to have shared a stage and had your beautiful guitars grace my record. Even in small parts your shining presence draws my eyes immediately back to yours.
"Sit down before fact as a little child and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." - Thomas Huxley
Ok I'm going to try and make sense of this the best I can. I'm writing from Arizona Pizza Kitchen in Western Massachusetts. I played a show at a punk house and chromed all night with this really beautiful community of weirdos out here in this gorgeous old house in the middle of the woods. I waded in a river in the rain. It was really nice. I've lost all sense of time of when or where I am anymore. September 13. All I can think right now is counting backwards from the Friday 8 weeks ago.
I went to see my folks on that Wednesday. July 24th. I was slated to stay a few days in Lenexa and then go up with them to the cabin and stay for 10 days total before coming back. The summer was kind of rough. I'm working full time a lot of over time at the restaurant and trying to manage all of this other shit on the side. The weeks leading up were a lot of business stuff related to the book and the record. The record is out in the world. The book is almost there. In a week. Feels totally insane. 2013 signified a real corner turned for me with my depression and I was feeling happier and more stable than I've ever felt. Totally fulfilled. And confident in my future and Grant's and my future together.
He was gone all of June in Europe. I got confused just working so much, really putting a lot of myself into the job, pulling a lot of identity from this weird position of authority I newly found myself in, and I just got caught up. Finally when he got back I felt such a sense of relief that my man was home. My home. I told him kind of joking mostly serious, "Don't ever go away from me for that long again."
He said, "I probably never will."
I knew he meant it, too.
Touching down in Kansas City I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. No alcohol, no crippling depression, my mind blown and expanded finally past the point where I couldn't fathom my place in this place where I was born. Everything smelled and felt good. My sister picked me up and we had a real conversation. I walked up the concrete stairs in my parents driveway with the ocean noise of cicadas singing in the trees and my mom opened the door and looked at me and said,
"I have my son back." She just knew everything was different. And it was.
The neighborhood is so pretty. I settled into my old room and then walked over to Roy's folks house to pick him up so we could go to the city. The trees are such a canvas there, like their own sky, so many everywhere. I had no memory that I grew up in a place that the prairie was desperately trying to reclaim at every moment. Grass and animals and life just sprawling everywhere, nipping at lawns and gardens from all sides. It's really crazy.
Something I realized about drinking vs not drinking … I always said that drinking was connecting me to this water, this deep black river of sorrow that runs karmically through the human race in modern history for all the ills we've caused ourselves, but I think another thing it did is cut me off, numb me to all the good parts that comes with the sorrow, the beauty and the pain are so inextricable, and if you lose one you lose the other. I felt for the first time like I was really experiencing the life in which I'd come up, with open senses and a clear mind. It felt insane. Like drugs. Like a movie. I didn't realize too that everywhere feels like that now. New York of course because it's still so fresh but even going back to LA last week it's like that, too, everything is first. Making a decision not to drink was me making a decision to live, to finally accept my lot as a whatever I am in whatever this body is and take this momentous challenge head on. It's like I've been given another life, where all these strange phases have blended together into this beautiful narrative and fed into this one river that suddenly makes them all seem coherent and sensical together. I feel…tremendously lucky.
Thursday my dad took me to see my grandma and then to buy me a new phone. My grandma is really old and really lucid and also really aware of maybe how little time she has left. My grandfather died in 2005 and she's really kind of been ready to join him since, but she keeps living, that crazy Northern vitality just propelling her forward. She's still pretty spry for 94, 95? 93? Really with none of the typical depressing things you associate with old age. I mean she's fucking old but she's really on it. I hope to live that long I really do. My phone was really getting up there, too. The latest incarnation of Blackberries for me had finally manifested as this touch screen wonder Silver Raven, but she was tired. She has been a familiar for a lot of gods and goddesses over the millennia and she was ready to reincarnate into something totally new. She just couldn't work. Her wings were tired. She shut herself off in frustration every few minutes. Froze a lot. I loved her so much and she was my portal for the world for so long but it was time. I was going to get an iPhone.
The transfer happened faster than I expected. It took her a few strokes on the keyboard and then we were out of there and I was trying to regain my sense of the universe with a new phone. At first I called her Mercury. It was drizzling lightly and I found myself walking to the comic book store, the closest being a fair distance away near my high school. I walked through Old Town, past the lot where the man lit his property on fire to collect insurance money, past the old train depot, the church where I grew up, my surrogate grandmother for years Mrs. Zilner's old house before she went into a nursing home and passed on, the whole time taking it in with my new phone, trying to make sense of how new and bold and crisp everything was. It was a walk of soul transference - the spirit of my now gone Silver Raven into this new thing, this young thing, the same but somehow different, with a totally different way of relating to me and relating me to the world.
I wonder if this is how it happens for people. A sort of rearrangement of processes within the same general paradigm, from the same "brand" or reservoir of whatever we come from, but patently unaware of what came before. This phone is the same for me, the same magical process that connects me to everything else, but different, with different ways and wiles.
The walk felt transformative for me, too. Everything was coming together. The future seemed undeniably bright. I really couldn't even bare to look at it. It all felt so certain, the record release, the book, the new record and book that I had been loosely working on for almost a year at that point, but still hesitantly, as if something might happen and the others would be lost, I couldn't quite let go of them enough to start working on new ones yet, not fully. I felt paused, poised, hovering in limbo, but about to break free into the next plane, whatever that was.
I bought comics from a sweet older man listening to r n b. I walked past the big beautiful weirdly modern Central Library, where once I'd lurked on the fringes of a teenage boy and girl's conversation as a kid of about 10 and struggled painfully to hear and understand what they were talking about as he put his arm around her, comforted her as she cried, tried to fathom the feeling of being that close to another person. It was raining pretty steadily by then and I hadn't brought an umbrella, and the battery of my new phone had died. I trudged on, feeling like I needed the exercise, a couple days removed already from my yoga practice, which is so hard to maintain with the same fervor on the floor of my parents house. My sister happened to drive by and picked me up again, and we went to visit my mom's friend, who has kids nearly the same ages as me and my sister, this cool cuttingly funny chick and her husband, their small house always so well-done and decorated, so welcoming. We talked about my life. I thought about him. So much strength back home, so much stability, like I had won the lottery. I have this giant amazing apartment in Brooklyn with this person who wants me to be there, who wanted me to move across the country to live with him, who collaborates with me and supports me. Our life is so cool and perfect. I left their house really loving the people I grew up around, and their reaction to this new, happy, successful me. I had seen my aunt and uncle who I don't even particularly care for earlier that day at my grandma's, just in passing, they're racist and drunk and stupid, and even they I could tell were timid around me, could see that I'd finally left their kind behind, I'd made it in the big city with my handsome husband and I had seen things they never would. At the gay bar the night before I ran into Rocco, this whatever kid who had been a few years older than me as a regular at the restaurant I worked graveyards at during high school. He'd smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and wag his finger at me saying the belt I was wearing was a, "Gay no-no," whatever the fuck he thought that meant, with his dorky gel spiked hair and baby doll tees. He looked the same, but he was nice, he'd moved back home from some other similarly sized place, Denver maybe, to be close to his family again. All these guys at Missy B's, these guys that had once seemed to sneer at us for being the only alternative gays in the room, suddenly they didn't have shit on me. Nothing had shit on me. I had my life and I had Grant and that was all that mattered.
When I got my phone back on I had a Twitter mention from him. He was deeply offended I wasn't following him on Instagram. I thought that I had been. I was still figuring it out. I told him so via Twitter. And that was the last thing I said to Grant. While I was waiting for my connecting flight, I don't remember where, he texted me.
"You never said goodbye!" I felt a pang of guilt but also a fucked up sort of satisfaction that he'd noticed, though it hadn't really been intentional.
Grant and I had been fighting before I left. Well not really fighting as much as we'd had one fight. He wouldn't give me my assertion that many of the physiological differences we attribute to gender are actually rooted in the psychology of gender roles in our society. Really he was just seeing how far I would take it, kind of drunk and playing devil's advocate, pushing all my buttons. I got really upset. He was kind of testing all of us that week I think, maybe seeing if we were still there after his relationship ended. Of course I was, we all still were, but I really didn't expect that kind of needless semantic dismantling of my core beliefs from him and it really hurt my feelings. I left the table in a huff. He spent the next day and subsequent days apologizing via text and email in both direct and oblique ways. One email ended, "See? You are changing the world." In some ways he was telling me he actually agreed with me. Of course when push came to shove he'd always be on my side, and I never doubted that, but the whole thing had bummed me out. Why had I taken it all so personally, why had I not been able to spar with equal detachment, being an equal wordsmith as him … I thought if I couldn't spell this point, something so central to my belief system, out to my best friend and life partner, how could I spell it out a stranger, how could I translate this into a cultural movement, a global change? But it was fine. And he was being very sweet to make me know he felt bad about it. And I … I was busy at work. Opening like several days in a row, up at 6 am, not sleeping in the heat, 95 degrees inside, the sun already up and I was sweating before 7, just working so much. And withholding a little affection, too. I wanted him to know that he had hurt me. And he did.
On Monday I talked to him for a second in his room. I knew he was going through it. I looked at him generally … bemused. There were a lot of things I wanted to bring up, things I'd wanted to bring up all summer, all year even. You always think you have time. I wanted to spend more time with him. I lingered in the hallway for the next two nights. He slept with the door open, and the tv on, so I never really knew whether he was awake or not, could have just asked, or peeked in, but his sleep was so hard won, I was afraid to disturb it. I got home from work late on Tuesday night, looked down the hall - door open, a quiet symphony of fans running in every room, something we'd both tweeted about, blue light floating out, flickering with the movement of the figures on the screen, probably Law And Order, a show he loved, I never watched with him, but I heard the sound effects, the curt dialogue of a crime procedural from his room often.
When he texted me about not saying goodbye, I thought about this moment, and the hundreds of moments like that, coming home late, looking to see if he was awake, and the deep longing I felt every time to climb into bed with him. Not in a sexual way. Just to be close to him. I often found myself thinking that things would make so much more sense if we were to just share a room. We spent so much time in each other's rooms, mostly him in mine, sprawled out on my bed, smoking pot and listening to music, playing each other things we hadn't heard or things we'd heard a thousand times, talking about the song writers we loved and how crazy they were, giving each other head rubs, he loved to have his hair played with just like I do.
I've had a lot of close friends in my life, and a lot of transcendent friendships with men, relationships that blurred lines and confused us both, but a straight identifying man, even one who would share my bed, even one who would fully have sex with me, they will always draw the line, somewhere, somehow, they all found ways to let me know, just like in high school, that they would never quite go the distance with me. But Grant never drew a line. He never once made me feel I was at any distance except in his arms, at all times, even when we weren't together, which was frequent. Our lifestyles were similar, in that we both were always doing our own things, and though they often intersected, especially at home, they often kept us apart for days on end, and I missed him every second of it, but I always knew he was there, just a text or phone call away, if I needed something or just to check in or tell him something stupid that happened or needed reassurance during a moment of panic or sorrow. He was always there, this beautiful, immutable presence. He gave his affection so openly, so freely, with no expectations in return, no baggage about whether the person he was touching was a man or a woman or a drag queen or crazy or sane or whatever, he just loved. Every time he entered a room I was in it seemed he came to give me a hug, or a kiss on the head, or a shoulder rub, always so happy to see me. In my mind and out loud I referred to him as a lot of things: dad, boyfriend, soulmate, husband, brother, best friend, dream man, angel. I've never met someone who so perfectly complemented all of my insanity, and encouraged it, supported me for the things I did that were good and just laughed at the things I did that were stupid or crazy, not judging just relishing. Yeah, I was in love with Grant. I only know that now, and I didn't want things to get weird, which I know they never would have, but I was. He filled my every fantasy by the end of the summer, and I still felt he'd never draw a line, even when it came to something he just could never do, though I will never know, I feel he would have found a way to make whatever I needed happen.
So when he mentioned I never said goodbye, I told him exactly what I felt. I told him I thought about climbing into bed with him, as I did every night. His response, you should have. I got on the plane thinking ok, I've said what I want, and he's assented, not to any ulterior motive but that I just want to be closer to him, or feel like I can be in his space, share in it with him, and of course he was down. The fall was going to be different. We were going to get stronger as allies, as friends. We were going to address any issues that came up and find a way to thrive together. He said he was going to take me home for the holidays. We would be together. Forever.
I thought about that as I got in bed that night, in my childhood bedroom, which had been guest room, storage room, my sister's new room, and was now vacant, guest room again. My mom came and sat on the bed. It's a nice bed, one of us said. I lamented the bed I had back in Brooklyn, that it was too small, that my room was too small, too, but the size of the apartment made up for it, and it was cozy, and that I was just biding my time until I got one of the bigger rooms, which would only come if Nick were to move out, which I wasn't even sure would ever happen, though sometimes he didn't seem long for the house, spending lots of nights away, but I knew Grant would never move out. He always said he'd die there, or they'd have to drag his body out of this place, or something morbid to that effect. Hell maybe someday we really would share a room. Weirder things could have happened. He was so chill about everything. Maybe around 2 or 3 or 4 that morning I went to bed. I'd been thinking about him all day. I had wanted to text him from my new phone, about it, about the day I'd had and how transformative it had been, how happy I was to be cordial and even loving with my parents again, how my mom had said she would love to set Grant up with my sister, having met him the previous summer, how much strength I pulled from him, strength to put up with all the craziness back home and with my folks, beautiful confidence in our home and our lives together, I wanted to tell him I loved him, I missed him, I wished he was there, wished he was coming up to the cabin with us, wished he had been at the gay bar with us the night before. I thought about him very specifically, but for whatever reason I didn't get around to texting him. I told myself I'd text him in the morning. I went to sleep feeling energized, weirdly up, manic, like I was turning this grand corner, things were shifting, life was changing. I slept.
I woke up before my alarm was slated to wake me up. My new phone was ringing. It was a 415 number. I thought it was weird. I immediately thought of Grant. I texted the number.
"This is Grant's mom."
I knew my life had changed. I knew something beyond my ability to fathom had happened. I shut down. I went into crisis mode. I sat up in bed. I just knew.
"Is everything ok?"
"Please call me"
Everything was not ok. Did she say Grant passed away this morning or did she say he died? I know I said "Are you serious?" or "Oh my God are you kidding me?" or something like that. And she said, "He's gone, Alexis." I remember that part. He's gone. He's gone. Suddenly we were talking about him in the past tense. I couldn't deal. I had to get off the phone. I had to call someone and see that it wasn't true. I told her I had to go. We haven't talked since. I still feel badly about it but I just couldn't. I couldn't deal. I guess she had known for a few hours at that point. I guess I was in shock.
We were supposed to start driving up to the cabin that day. My mom had gone out on errands. I opened the door. I was in my underwear and a white v-neck I would wear for the next week. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in my parents bedroom as my dad came over to say good morning. I told him what happened and he hugged me and I felt myself die some. To say it out loud. I moved around like in shock. Like I was struck by lightning. I couldn't feel my body. I sat down and tried to text some people. I called Dia first. Nick called. The other Nick called. My mom got home. My dad told her what happened on the stairs. I heard her say, "Oh, god." Somehow I finished packing my bag. I guess tears were falling. We started driving.
I don't know why I'm doing this to myself. It hurts so much but I have to write it down. I'm afraid to forget. This is all I have left. I've cried so much. I've cried more than I've ever cried in my entire life. And I cry every day. Every single day. But it was always just a little. Just a few tears. Now it's different. Things have come out of me I never dreamed were there. Old things. Old feelings. I don't understand what I'm going through.
We drove. I cried. I tried to eat. I started tweeting. I texted constantly. Spoke on the phone. I spoke to his brother. My entire body hurt. I couldn't read. Couldn't listen to music. Could barely speak. I just cried. And when I did speak I talked about him. Suddenly I realized I had to go back. I had to be back at our house. What the fuck was I doing going up to the cabin. I had to go find him. I had visions of going to the morgue, of wailing and beating on his chest and kissing him and sobbing all over him. I was scared of the way he would smell. I've read things about the way a corpse smells. How could he be a corpse? I had visions of him getting up and walking out of the morgue. Of him gasping and bolting awake. I'm not a Christian but I believe in the resurrection. I believe so many things. I wondered if there was any way, any way … Then I knew I had to be in his room. I had to be in his bed. I had to lay in his bed for a long long time and cry and not leave and that would be my reality. I had to get ahold of his dirty clothes. I had to smell his armpits. He knew how much I loved b.o., especially his, sometimes at parties he would say, "Hey, c'mere," and lift his arm and let me smell his armpit, without me asking, just because he knew I was into it.
I changed my ticket. I would fly back Sunday from Milwaukee. We stayed in a hotel that night. I remember nothing. We got to Waupaca. I cried all over the town I grew up in every summer. In the Pick N' Save bathroom talking to Liza. We pulled up to the cabin. The soil smelled the same as it has always smelled. I don't know what's in it up there that makes it smell like that. It's kind of sandy. The wind moves the trees. It had gotten suddenly very cold, after a sweltering summer, it was suddenly in the 50s. I didn't understand. I didn't understand why Grant wasn't there. He would have loved that place. Would have had so much fun driving up and getting drunk with my parents and goofing off in the lake. He would have loved it so much. I sat paralyzed in the cabin and I cried while my mother held me. I kept forcing myself to eat. I talked to Noah, I talked to Sarah. I cried on the dock. I don't' really remember much of it. We watched Tootsie. I felt sick, like a weird invalid, like I was being tip-toed around, cared for, even though my parents never stopped their normal bickering, which was almost comforting. If they hadn't at least have met him once, I don't know if I could have dealt, but they knew, they knew how much we loved each other.
The manuscript from the novel had to go to press that day. We put a picture of Grant in at the last minute with a small dedication. I looked over it as best I could. I ended up missing an error. I talked to the guys about the record, about Grant. They didn't seem to understand. They had babies on the way. There were things to do. We had to finish the video. The record was going to come out so soon.
My parents drove me to the Milwaukee airport after we took a walk in the woods. It was beautiful, chilly, I didn't understand, I forgot about winter, about fall, I forgot about everything. My body felt abused. All I'd done for two days was cry in a minivan. They wanted to wait for me at the airport but I insisted I needed to be alone. I was at my wits end really. I needed to grieve alone for a moment before I could be with my friends, with our friends, in our home. Sam and Nick would meet me at the house, I would be taken care of. I don't let anyone take care of me.
My flight was delayed. A lot. I got a voucher for a hotel on the airport premises. I checked in and time kind of stopped. My hotel had a big window that looked out on the pool. I started to open the curtain and there were all these boys standing directly in front of it that looked right in at me. It was totally bizarre. I closed it immediately. Undressed. Spaced out watching a Harry Potter movie. I went down to the bar later. Too late to order food, but I had a drink voucher, but it was only with dinner, so I paid cash for a beer and shot, and I just left them. I told the bar tender that it was for a friend who had died. I couldn't hardly say it. But I didn't cry. I was in a time warp there. I stared at them a long time. Texted. Instagrammed on my new phone. Some pianist practiced on the piano outside the bar restaurant. I went back to my room. This dweeb from Grindr who worked at the hotel next door came over. It turned out we had talked on Dudesnude the last time I had been in Wisconsin two years ago. Totally bizarre. He gave me a hug. He was insecure. I slept and woke and got on the plane home.
New York was hot but not so hot. Not like it had been. Where was I? The cab ride was so bumpy down Nostrand. They had torn up the already bumpy street and were replacing it. It was insane. Nobody was at the house yet. The water ran brown, rusty, they had shut it off a few times for construction and it hadn't been run for a few days. Nobody had been staying there. "Too many ghosts," John had said. I put my stuff down and walked numbly into his room. The whole world closed in on me there. It was dark and hot. It smelled like him. Smelled like his room. I found a shirt and smelled it, lay in his bed, sobbed, loud, painful crying, sick crying. I walked out. Sat down on the couch. Laid down and cried and Nick walked in and sat with me for a long time while I cried. I don't think I'd ever cried in front of someone like that. Except Brande once or twice, drunk, having tapped some deep pain when drunk, and I remember her saying then, you're not crying for this person, and maybe I wasn't, maybe I was crying for Grant even then, years before.
The week before I left I finished, or almost finished, a text on Tibetthan Buddhism. It all made total sense to me but when I got to the last chapter, I just knew I wasn't going to finish it, that it wasn't for me then, or maybe ever, to be a true Buddhist. I wasn't ready to give up all my attachments. Many, most, but not all. But I knew I would have to confront mortality, I knew it would be an issue. I'd lost friends, known a lot of dead. My last bed before this one, the guy gave it to me died, the bed I had for years all over the Bay area. But what I really thought I'd have to confront was my own mortality. My own death. My own fear of dying before I had truly accomplished what I wanted. What happened to Grant. All those songs gone now. Little did I know how immediately I'd be confronted by mortality. I've seen death. I've touched death now. I wasn't there. But I've inherited another bed, I sleep with death every night, I live in my dead best friend's room, I breathe his memory every second, and I miss him in ways I haven't even begun to figure out.
I stayed with Nick for a few days. I took a week to get back to work. Well not even a week. You know I'm almost the most prepared for this of anyone, it's almost a joke, that I'm the one in the room, I mean I wanted it that way, I knew it that day even, I was going to take the room if we stayed, and we stayed, and I feel closer to the boys now, and Sam is here, but you know, I feel the most prepared, even though I could never have prepared for anything like this, and I've only barely realized that I will at least…not die of this. I made my decision to live, after Mark killed herself, after I quit drinking, I decided to live. But thrive, be happy … I will do what I have to do, and I am lonely, I am searching, searching still, although one tiny glimmer of hope remains, as if to say, if someone like that existed, there are more, but the rest of me is saying no, no no no no . No. He's not dead and I won't find anyone else and I'll never be happy. But I can't let that be the spell I cast. I don't know what I will find but I will find happy. Because I did find it. In Grant. In my angel, my dream man, this perfect human being, everything I could ever have asked for and so much more in a friend, a soulmate, a love, everything. I never got to cry and beat on his body. He was ash so quickly. But I feel him here. Toilet paper rolls jump off the holder. I get chills up and down my body getting off the subway. He's here with me. I wear his hat every day. Sleep in his bed. I have his old underwear. His toenail clippers. All the strange minutiae that make up a life, whatever his folks didn't take were left with me. I don't know what I'm doing. I have a lot on my plate. I was writing about Grant before he died so I'm finishing that. And working on several other things. Things I thought he'd see. He read my book before, after it was done, he read the chapter about him and far from being embarrassed he was proud, he texted me how sweet it was, that he loved me. I love you so much Grant. I am here I am alive for whatever stupid reason, whatever bizarre process has brought me here has brought you somewhere else, all these things we don't understand, and I don't know I'll ever see you again in that form, maybe in one of these alternate universes, maybe never, most likely you are just back to being a full-time part of the great ether of soul of awareness of love that I am and will be a part of sometime, any time, who ever can know, so in that sense I guess we'll be together, are together? But my body misses you. I ache for you. I hurt for you. I'm sorry I feel like I failed you. I love you.
LADY is about taking your expectations and setting them on fire in a holy place. What is a lady, woman, drag queen, person, place, thing, experience, emotion or element? What do we expect these ideas to be? Why? Who am I? Who are you? What are you? Why do you feel the need to ask yourself that? Exactly. She's a performance revue. The medium is vaguely drag but the method and the madness vary from performer to performer and show to show. Shows usually happen at 12 and 1 but sometimes there are encores and sometimes there are pre-shows. You can just text me I'll give you the details every night. There are seats. The show happens on the floor. There is food. The cocktails are nice. The space is nice. There is no cover. Tip your drag queen. She's giving you something you need whether you know it, like it or can even handle it. Show some appreciation. I DJ from 10-2 before between and after the shows. I have really good and weird taste. I don't play bullshit and don't ask me to. I've been doing this shit a long time. The sound system is good. They have subs. Don't touch the booth it's not bolted down. Don't get drunk and assume every object is in place to support your body. Yes I did put out a record this year, no I don't perform my music in a drag setting, which isn't to say that one shouldn't, but for me these are very separate ways of expressing similar ideas. I appreciate the autonomous chaos I can bring to an artistic medium while still staying within some of the vague confines of what that medium traditionally is. I appreciate and honor the opportunity to curate a specific cast of individuals who expand, explore and explode this medium within the greater context of performance art and performance, gendered or non; conscious, un or sub. Drag is fate. Drag is shamanism. Drag is interpreting the pervasive myths of ancient and modern culture into something immediate, direct and accessible. You don't know good drag like I (and my sisters) know good drag. Yes I invoke the goddess. I think on some level we all do. Yes I practice magick. Yes my yoga practice informs my drag, performance and hosting. Yoga, art, performance, these are all life practices for me that complement and sustain each other. We're looking for continuity here. Weaving it all together. A braid is a strand of 3 or more strands woven together, strengthened and enhanced by the presence of each. Music, drag, art, photography, written and spoken word, life, yoga, breath, body, psyche, spirit. As Barbra says, "Putting it together," in a spirit of gratitude to the universe, the All-Mother, for the continued opportunity to explore myself and seek and grow on so many diverse and beautiful stages everywhere and always. I encourage you to breathe into this and everything. Namaste.
Today in the meeting I was really letting things wander. My boss said she had to sit at the far edge of the long double table because she couldn’t see the notes on her screen in the light, midday light blaring silently in the windows tucked up near the ceiling of the meeting room, casting a really funny pallor on the decor which is intentionally dark, dark wood, dark stains, aging portraits of wild turkey and pheasant and similar fowl stuffed in corners, empty cages, beakers and vials and strange crinkled paper shapes draped with gauze, it’s a strange room, No Smoking, the window says laughably. The light burning through everything I thought I could see shades of everyone’s past lives, past permutations of their energy or carbon or who knows what, and I breath in and out and I felt I could feel the life force flowing through each of us, where it entwined, where it separated, this big gelatinous etheric mass stuffed into each of us at odd little angles but coming from some bloated hand at the root somewhere, some strange tributarial river. I often see myself as separate from people now, see them as primates, imagine their skeletons and see Neolithic tribes running with flared nostrils and bared teeth across steppes with spears, hunting and fucking other tribes with slight genetic variances, rotting and fossilizing in swamps. I see soft gray brains and imagine winking subtle energy patterns nudging neurons into place along invisible maps. And here are all these people and me too, improbably perched on these weird legs and wobbling around and slumping in these chairs that hurt, wishing I was at yoga, everyone wishing they were somewhere else, everyone of them trusting this fevered dream vision life a little more or a little less or a little differently than the next, seeing it as something different, seeing the work meeting as something different. I don’t know what I see it is. Just staring back out into that light through the window.
I realized this weekend that I don't remember my first yoga classes. Around the first time me and Seth broke up I was getting super sick after everything I ate. It started when I put myself on some crack pot diet of only berries and chocolate and cheap champagne for the most part. I also was only eating in bed. I lived in the garage house in Oakland then and had a leopard bed spread and just sprawled awkwardly against the wall with a mandalas and dream catchers and my crucifix and a long kameez that had pictograms of Buddha's life on it cut in two and pinned to the wall and ate blue berries, cranberries and dark chocolate. I wanted to live forever and I'd read that antioxidants are key. I got super sick but couldn't manage to right my life, my diet, or anything. I thought I should just be eating salads but those made me sick too. Nothing felt right in my stomach and every time I ate I got crippling heart burn which sent me to bed doubled over on my side which only made it worse. I meandered down a shady path of self-diagnosis, avoiding identification with chronic things like IBS and focusing on things I thought I could fix - an ulcer maybe. I read posts on acid reflux forums for hours and visited several doctors. They put me on PPI - protein pump inhibitors, super common billion dollar industry pills that damp down the acid production of your stomach, effectively rendering food indigestible, though I didn't know that then. I ate 8-grain raisin cookies and Klondike Bars at work for breakfast and then hunched painfully over my lunch of imitation sausage scrambles and wheat toast with honey, hardly able to stomach anything. I cried and whined and complained and Seth didn't know how to deal with it. I convinced myself I had an ulcer and juiced heads and heads of red cabbage, supposed to be restorative to the lining of the stomach. Finally I decided I had a hiatal hernia, which could be treated by chiropractors, so I went to a chiropractor clinic around the corner from the cafe, Alive Chiropractic, up on Piedmont. Their office was down a long path off the street that was trelliced with jasmine. The smell of cut lillies filled the waiting room. I can't even remember her name but the minute I walked in I felt like I had found someone who would help me. I had had shitty doctors and ok doctors. The one that prescribed me the PPIs was super nice, from the Order of Malta clinic right on Lake Merrit downtown. She had even given me advice about my inability to bottom anymore, but those pills didn't work. But this chiropractor was different. She wasn't skeptical or doubting at all, but she knew that I didn't have a hiatal hernia just by looking at me, and I knew she knew, but I didn't feel silly. The first thing she talked to me about was my relationship. What was going on in my life. What was going on in my life? I had moved across the country at 21 to be with someone 7 years my senior who was in a completely different place than I was emotionally and in their life. I had no idea what I was doing, what I wanted to do, but knew I liked to drink, and liked to perform, and was struggling to crystallize a drag and DJ career for myself and make music (the first song I ever wrote was called "Heartburn") while maintaining a safe focus on his life, his career, not ready or able to invest fully into my own. I wanted to move in with him and nagged him about it constantly. My entire life existed liminally until the days and nights when he would consent to see me. I lived for him and died a little bit every time he made me leave so that he could do his own thing. I didn't understand why he wanted to do anything that didn't involve me. I languished in my huge room with my walk-in closet. Shopped constantly. Formulated complicated style shifts with each season and filled my room with trinkets and music and strange movies and books. I wanted to marry. I wanted to rear children. When we were drunk together I had weasled him down to consent to set goals and dates for things like this based on my good behavior. If things went well he said we could marry in two years. Two years. I repeated it like a mantra, wore it like a talisman, and used it like a weapon against him, guiltily baby-talking him when he was mad at me, "What about two years?" We hadn't even been together 2 years at that point. I was sad. I was angry. I felt jilted. We fought constantly. I had successfully levied all the patterns I'd observed in the way my parents communicate onto our relationship. "You're talking to me like my father talks to my mother!" I'd shriek when he lectured me. "You talk to me like your mom talks to your dad..." he'd mutter derisively, having spent enough time with my parents to know how bitter and snarky my mom spoke to him, the man she's now been with for 36 years. I just didn't know what to do. I missed my community in Kansas City but coming unmoored from them I realized I had never really felt like I belonged anyway, but I felt popular there, and loved, and suddenly I was a Bay Area unknown with a few weird friends - I jammed with Party Effects, played video games with a hot metal bus boy from the cafe and trailed after Seth and his friends. I told him that he was my best friend and meant it.
The chiropractor seemed to see all of this and I don't remember exactly what I said that day but she totally got it. She understood the way he felt powerless to help me having gotten so sick, and burdened by the support I was demanding he give, and she understood how much I was beating myself up about not feeling good.
"What do you want out of your life?" she asked, looking deep into my eyes, this tall, dynamic woman with the physical presence of an athlete and the open face of a healer.
"I want to do drag, walk around on high heels, drink as much as I want and do some drugs and not feel like shit all the time." It was never just my stomach. My back hurt. My knees swelled up. I was tired all the time. My body felt like a toxic burden. I said what I said and meant it. And she looked at me.
"You can do that. You just have to balance it out. You have to take care of yourself."
She suggested I start doing yoga immediately, maybe get into a martial art, and change my diet. I needed warm things to stoke the digestive fire, soups and cooked vegetables, not cold raw salads, and I should probably stop eating gluten, which made most people pretty sick whether they reacted or not. Then she laid me out on her table and did weird things, scary things to my back, that honestly hurt, told me to take an epsom salt bath and come back next week. She said I should probably get an adjustment every week but that it wasn't really going to help if I didn't implement a lot of changes into my life. And, finally, I needed to let myself off the hook. It wasn't my fault that I was feeling bad. And it wasn't Seth's. I was a good person and I was scared and that was ok. I cried in front of her. I needed to hear that so bad.
I started immediately. Gluten was out. Googling around with this I stumbled onto huge swaths of communities that didn't eat gluten. One of which was paleo. Slowly but surely this started to seem like the right idea. All of the successive things I cut out had always made my stomach upset. I was bloated after every meal, would throw up in my mouth or even all the way and had insane gas. Eating had also always made me so tired. I had drank a 12-pack of beer a night for 3 years in Kansas City and towards the end of my time there had suddenly realized that everytime I drank a beer, even my first sip, I would have violent diarrheah, and had slowly replaced that with Andre's extra dry brut and Sutter Home moscato, or just vodka. So I cut the gluten. And I cut the dairy. And I cut the soy. And I slowly cut the beans.
I went back to my second appointment already feeling better, but knowing I couldn't maintain weekly appointments financially, and kind of snuck out of my second visit without making another. I had ordered a beginner's yoga DVD online and started to go through the routines in my bedroom at night. A kindly, middle-aged Southern woman lead me through subtle spine stretches and strengthening postures, but when it got into something like downward dog or sun salutations I freaked out. I wasn't strong enough. It was hard and scary. So I just kept twisting and stretching.
Seth and I broke up, got back together. Things got better for awhile, but old habits die harder than some subtle spine twisting can break, and we finally broke up for good on January 3rd. He said at the time that it was just a break while he figured out what he wanted to do. I held on so hard to the idea of the break. Of getting back together, getting back on track, though he knew, and deep down I did too, that we were done. He came to my house once in that maybe three week period. It was a pretty warm January in Oakland and I put on the shirt I knew he liked the most of mine - a cropped little long-sleeved tee with blue green and red horizontal stripes. We fooled around and then he left. And somehow I knew.
The main reason he ended things with me was that I was emotionally abusive. I said and did horrible things when I was drunk, letting all of the resentment for not being treated the way I felt I should have been during the day build and build and build and saying nothing until it just spewed out of me like venom when we were out drunk at night. It happened when we weren't drunk but it was the worst when I was drinking. The resentment paired with something that I still fear, something I still don't understand. I have a rage inside of me unlike anything else I've ever experienced from myself. Not like the transcendent sadness and power of drag performance, cousin to but very different from the miasmic depression that ebbs and flows and flutters like wings at my back, not like depression's twin the errant mania that keeps me awake and scratching itches and picking at scabs. There is a deep dark strange pool of anger inside of me that is kind of like the dark place that my best friend from Kansas City Roy goes to when he's drunk, kind of like the cold hard faces of all the kids who picked on me in school, the way they steeled themselves from thinking I was a human being and predatorily struck me down before anything gay or different about me could be deflected at them. It's kind of like that but it's not. It's a lot more like the weird wailing turbine of anger that would send my mom tearing through the house crying hot tears, breaking windows and dishes and screaming that she was quitting the family, she was done with being a mother. It's a lot like the huge roiling swells of anger that would come over my dad and drive him to drag me through the house by a leg or an arm and fling me against my bedroom wall because my room was a mess or I hadn't gotten my shoes on fast enough. We never cleaned the gerbil cages and one Sunday afternoon spent in the back hosing them down ended with him kicking them to pieces. My parents fought constantly. He never hit her like he did me, close, and she hit him I'm pretty sure, but they just screamed and broke things and slammed things and tore through the house that they had to refinance several times as bills piled up, messes accumulated everywhere, shit and piss and detritus from pets we couldn't afford but had begged them for clumped in the corners. My dad was just so so angry. And then he wasn't. It would flip on and off like a switch. The dishwasher was loaded wrong, the house wasn't clean enough for his relatives to see, he was a tyrant. I wrote a chart out on a piece of paper and pinned it to my bedroom wall: "Father's Moods" listing each one with levels and what to do. Past grade 5 and I advised myself in looping cursive to hide in my room and not come out, that his anger was beyond reason. The blow-ups happened a lot on our way to school, and I came up with elaborate lies about why my face was read or why I had been crying. Every interaction stressed me out, everything was horribly embarrassing and humiliating. I couldn't even go to the bathroom at school I absolutely hated it, hated my body, hated the idea of my penis around other penises, was so afraid of the weird burgeoning sex feelings in my stomach that I would cramp up and sit at my desk and shit my pants before I would ever go to the bathroom there. Even at home I would clamp up and hold it until my bladder liked to about to burst rather than leave where I was, some weird control issue about being exactly where I wanted to be and not wanting to lose time using the bathroom? I don't even know. I was so neurotic and so sad. I cried constantly. I had no friends and thought my parents were weird and humiliating and what's worse everyone loved them. My dad is a Gemini/Cancer and he flips the switch like that. He's adored at church where he works, in the neighborhood, at school. He has a huge smile and waves at every stranger - which I found soooo embarrassing - and everyone he touches falls in love, which made it all the worse when he would snap, driving the car with one hand while he reached around to sock me or twist my ankle until I screamed for something I'd said or done. Hours later he would come to me crying, huge genuine tears in his eyes and so much love on his face, hating himself for what he did, and I would flinchingly consent to hugs, cringing and feeling sick inside. Why did I have to be the one to have the power now? Why did I have to say it was okay when I knew it would just happen again? I came to hate apologies. Couldn't we just pretend like it never happened?
At some point my parents realized we couldn’t go on like this. They weren’t happy. My sister - who came into the world wailing like a banshee with a terrible cholic, and developed a host of neuroses from the moment she could talk. She couldn’t stand dogs or loud noises and balloons so horrified her by their threat of popping that she couldn’t be in the room with them. She and my mom fought like animals and my sister developed the habit of screaming, “STUPID FUCKING BITCH!” at the top of her lungs in the backyard to piss my mom off from age 4. Our house was fucking bananas. But still super fun? My parents were really cool and incredibly smart, they exposed us to so much amazing shit and took us on vacations and though we were poor and they constantly decried our financial situation, especially in comparison to their brothers and sisters who were all rich professionals, not like the babies of both families, my mom and dad, who decided to be musicians, we still wanted for nothing. We had toys and clothes and food and my mom cooked dinner every single night and my dad worked from the basement so we always had parents around, and our baby sitter Mrs. Zilner, a zany older Catholic rabble rouser who watched us every night while my mom worked at the airport and my dad taught piano in the basement. I talked to her and she had even witnessed all the things my dad did when he was angry but she always reminded us that he loved us so much, and that in her day every kid got his ass kicked all the time. I wasn’t consoled. But things changed. My mom and dad started seeing Darrel, a family counselor, and my dad learned things to do with his anger. The fighting never stopped, especially as two more thinking feeling screaming beings grew bigger and louder and angrier within the household, but my dad stopped touching me, things got broken less. We saw Darrel as a family and talked about our problems in erudite psychological language. We were smarter than all the other kids my age, we were reminded constantly. Most kids didn’t have it as easy as we did academically and we shouldn’t make them feel bad about that. My parents had me see Darrel when I came out of the closet, just to make sure I was ok - I wasn’t, but I convinced myself that I was for the most part then. I didn’t articulate depression to myself honestly until last year, though now I look back and see how depressed I was throughout my life. My parents and I mostly got along. I gave them hell in high school, and my father and I even had a fist fight my senior year which culminated in me being thrown out of the house for a time. I slept at friends’ houses and worked and went to school and eventually came home with my tail between my legs for a couple months before I moved into my first apartment. We didn’t talk a lot about my childhood. My mom’s continuous mantra was that families that didn’t fight were weird. That’s true. But no family fought like ours. But I didn’t know this then. I just careened from that into a violent love affair with drugs and alcohol and punk and music and Roy and then Seth. I started running at 16 and never looked back, and now here I was abusing the only person I had ever really loved, and he had left me for it.
So I sat down and I decided to change. Ostensibly to get him back, to prove to him that things could be different, but change I would. Right after we broke up I had told Seth straight up that we were going to be friends, we were going to hang out as if nothing was weird and we weren’t going to make things weird for any of our mutual friends. Which for the most part we didn’t. I was sick with jealousy when he started sleeping with a local writer and his boyfriend, and angry that he got Amy and Danny pretty much to himself in the divorce, but the bond I had created with Brande stayed strong, and she talked me through the whole thing so much, that it seemed like I could navigate it. Mark and Liza had split and Mark was sleeping on my bedroom floor, and sometimes in my bed, and I was starting to get really close to Myles, who was such a fun and amazing friend, I felt like I could have this life. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted but I could have it. But I still had to change.
One night we were at a party at the house the writer and his boyfriend shared. I was one-shoulder stretch jersey dress I’d hacked into a jagged mini, with no underwear, my balls dangling out and smelling up the room, and my calf-length studded fake Cavalli fake leather heel boots. The writer introduced me to two squares as drag luminaries and I went off on a drunken rant about how stupid and lame and boring the drag scene was in San Francisco and sufficiently offended them enough for them to leave. I didn’t care or know what was up. I was in a black out. (Years later I remet this couple - Fauxnique and her husband Marc, and have since been humbled not just by their forgiveness at my young drunk violence but by their respective talents. Fauxnique is one of the most transcendently talented performers I’ve ever seen and her one woman show brought me to my knees. That was a dark moment I had.) I wandered into the writer and his boyfriend’s room, had my friends take a picture of me rubbing my balls on their covers and then stumbled off with my new (or maybe he wasn’t my producer yet?) producer’s ex from college. I blew a bunch of coke and drove us back to my place in Oakland, bent him over my desk chair and fucked him, then sent him home and invited over this dude from Craigslist I’d been talking to - Rodrigo? - a stocky latino skater who drove like an Audio or Focus and was really into house music. I ate a bunch of mushroom chocolate before he got there so by the time he was there I could see cells dividing and we had the strangest most amazing sex before I sent him on his way, too, thinking maybe I would actually date this guy, his dick was small and weird but his touch was so perfect, he made me feel so good. I wandered into the bathroom then and stared in the mirror. And stared. And stared. For a long time.
I felt I could see through reality. See through everything, not just through to the molecules that weren’t static in solid form but moving constantly, slurrying around the empty space to give the illusion of something real. I could see why I was so angry. I could see where it was coming from, some deep dark cold blue well inside that wanted to rush up and swallow everything, especially when I poured alcohol in it, it frothed and glowed and bubbled like a witch’s cauldron. I looked at it, looked at my ratty fried platinum blonde hair with 3 inches of roots, and looked at my relationship to alcohol, and decided then and there I was going to change it up. No more angry. No more bitter. No more chip on my shoulder. No more walking around as if people should know who I am and treat me like a fucking superstar though I not a single credit to my name but a long CV of drunken drug-fueled comedy routines at parties that had often verged on violent and racist and some sloppy drag numbers. No more. But I wasn’t going to stop drinking. No I was just going to be a fun drunk.
It really honestly worked. Something snapped, or some door closed, or I pushed something so far away, that for the most part, though it came out many times after, I never gave myself quite completely over to the anger as I had before. The scary part is, I haven’t been in a relationship with anyone long enough since to test whether it isn’t still there. It comes in low cold doses to my friends who piss me off, or god forbid someone out in public, but it’s less of a tsunami and more like a laser, like a lightning bolt. It still feels shitty but I at least feel I have some reign on it. So a fun drunk I became.
Which is why I don’t remember my first classes at Yoga To The People. Or even my first couple of years of classes. This is what i was really trying to get to with this but I got side tracked so I’m just gonna let this lie for awhile. My wrist hurts and my calves are on fire. I start teaching an actual yoga class tomorrow, with senior teacher supervision. I’m incredibly nervous and scared and awed and excited. This practice has changed my life, made my life, and now I get to learn how to do that for other people. I’ll tell you more about that later. Thanks for reading.
Also you may notice with this post I'm shooting with a new camera. An actual camera. I've found it hard to continue to justify the plastic waste production of shooting with disposables, but I do feel like something visually is lost, but maybe something is gained? What do you think? Change is good, right?
Two years ago today I connected with an angel. Two weeks later I decided to move across the country to live with him. Grant enabled me emotionally, physically, spiritually, supported me through the hardest time in my life to that date and through some of the most difficult changes I've ever made. I'm so so grateful for this life-changing relationship forever, and for everything that I've learned through it and through losing it, though I know I've only lost a tiny piece of what makes a person, and I feel you with me every day. I love you and I miss you and I know you're proud of me. I'm going to fuck this world up for you. <3