blog, poem

Bedroom

I want to stand in awe of you.

I want to point my lens and linger over the shutter with a boyish hesitation that leads only to a grin. The snow is heavy and falling in a gentle way. Like snow in a book. A blinking skyscraper radio antenna sets the cadence of the night outside. It is dreary cold, but we are warm and tangled.

Behind your bed, the wall collapses into a nook that runs the length of your body.  Cuddled into it, your body silhouettes, and I want to snap the shutter. Click.  The chilly air is humming against the window pane behind you, and beneath your feet falls twenty stories suspended by sand and steel. It is quiet. The city is still as the flakes gather on the dampened cement below. Down below, a taxi cab slides across the icy tar like a stick of butter on warm porcelain.

The red light blinks through the foggy glass. Blink. Blink. Like a toddler gazing upon a zoo-kept python, you press your nose against the pane and peer into the night. You are in awe, and me too. I want to tame your lion hair. It is a mane neglected, a worn trophy of the love made, a lazy fluff. Blink. The red light spreads opaque through the dewy cloud gathered on the glass.

In your bed I stretch my sleepy legs. They are sore from the run. In your bed I roll onto the heavy quilt and stare into the ceiling, like Galileo, like a child on an empty hill beneath the sky. Your bedroom is mine. You are mine. You are mine for now, and for ever, as a jumbled blotch of words and colors. The photos burned onto the frame are lesser than the ones in my head, the ones I want to form into words, into pages in a book. The snow falls like a story, and through the powdered haze, a distant red light flashes. Like shipwreck.

You are nestled in your window island, terribly far away. Terribly far away.

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XXVI

I ran around for a couple hours on Sunday; the sun was spilling yellow all over the place, and the city kids had it stuck on their clothes. When I finished, when my legs fell out from underneath, I tore open an orange and took in that nectar, that orange juice.

Two hours before, I watched a video of a man yelling into the desert sky, hollering about the urgency of being on the planet. The man cares and you can hear it in his voice. He’s out there yelling “your lungs are temporary” and “this dirt is so special” and “ah!” all loud, all over the desert. Listen to this man.

Listen to him!

Makes me want to shout it out. This earth is so goddam special. Being alive is jazz hands. I am so stoked about this.

Met a chick a couple nights ago who asked if I thought she was a “tit” and it made me laugh out loud. A real good chuckle, as I waddled back to my subaru, hobbling on my achey knee (on account of all the sun-running). That laugh echoed into the chilly night.

Dipped this mint tea bag into the hot water and took it in.

Stop listening to the shitty irony. The type of nonchalance that spews from the mouths of folk who grew up thinking it’s cool to not care about anything. I am so sick of this. I am so vehemently sick of this. Instead, you must rip out your heart and staple it to your sleeve.

I’m calling you out. Give it up.

The only two resolutions I’ve given myself this year are to give more gifts and meet more people. I think about my uncles who would walk around town shaking hands with everyone, holding doors open, making the chat. People love that shit. I love it, too, when the chat is nice and easy. I want to say hey to more strangers.

I’ll run a marathon in february. I’m not ready, but you’re never ready. That goes for it all.

Sometimes you have a dream that you’re waking up next to your old lover, and you don’t think twice about it. You just roll over onto them and fall back asleep in their hair. There’s no doubt that you can love someone your whole life, regardless. I wish we could be more honest about that.

Fuck, shit, and goddam are three words that academia is lacking.

Dallas Clayton is teaching us how to love again.

Wherever you go, leave flowers in your wake.  Leave flowers in your wake, burn pastel memories into the gray.

I’d like the girl I love to be there, at that race. I’d like her to be holding up a sign that says something good, something that gets my toes to the very end. I haven’t been too good about keeping love around, but I’ll work on it. One day, she’ll be there, and she’ll love me, and I’ll love her right back.

You gotta tell people exactly what you want, because traffic is loud and everyone is on their phones. Say it slow and well, and do 80%. Only then will you find your help.

I don’t think we need coffee scented candles, really. You just gotta put a pot of coffee on.

Certain words just grab the eye right, like “occult” and “pestilence”. The best part about writing is juggling around the alphabet and bending up all the rules. Lots of folks tell me I write nice, and I always tell them to read Kurt Vonnegut.

I read more Vonnegut this december. He has a way of springing up from the page and flopping right into your tomato soup:

he was watching the clouds. they were lovely things, and the sky they drifted in was, to the color-starved space wanderer, a thrilling blue.” – The Sirens of Titan

“A thrilling blue.”

That’s a good juggle.

I don’t preach it a lot, but eating vegetables is the truth. Everything else is poison.

Bowling is also the truth. Don’t chill with anyone who doesn’t want to bowl. They’re probably the same kids tweeting about wanting to die (ironically), forgetting that they will (unironically).

When your birthday comes around, take a minute to read all the comments. Chances are, you’ll be taken back to a real happy time with everyone that scribbles on your wall. Chances are, most of these people won’t know each other. But they all know you.

Weed is worth smoking once, but it’s not worth smoking once a day.

I want to give more gifts because it taps into the real warmth. Better if the gift isn’t something you can buy. For some odd reason, I think about the line Bradley sang back in ’95, about giving all your money to charity. The Chili Peppers sang about the same thing. A lot of us teeter on the edge of giving it all away.

I think we give it all away when we run marathons. When we conceive. When we teach a class, when we jump off a bridge somewhere tethered only by our ankles. When we hold up signs in the bitter wind at the end of the race.

I ran around for a couple hours on Sunday; the sun was spilling yellow all over the place, and the city kids had it stuck on their clothes. When I finished, when my legs fell out from underneath, I tore open an orange and took in that nectar, that sweet orange marmalade.

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Musings

I’m a sucker for striped shirts and empty white hair.

There’s something strangely human about opening the door of your home and knowing if someone else is there. You know before they speak, or turn the faucet, or close the underwear drawer. As if they left their presence on the threshold.

All of us have friends who are mad at us. They get mad the moment we start to do what we want and cease to do what they want. Ultimately, it’s a matter of possession. We want to own our loved ones the same way we own our favorite jeans. We confuse what ‘trustworthy’ is; i.e. it is the jeans that are always there for you.

There is a girl who stands taller than she really is. It’s because she talks about bigger things. She orders an Apricot Blonde and her voice gets loud when the conversation becomes about dreams. About ambitions. People are surprised to learn she isn’t six feet. She acts like it, though, and it reminds me of the word ‘monumental’.

“Everybody’s crazy.  Nobody makes sense,” she says.

I don’t know how they did it, but Zeppelin found the human spirit and plastered it on a vinyl saucer.

The reason I run so much is because of a lady at a race. She held up a sign that said ‘One day, you will not be able to do this.‘ I think the same goes for coloring your hair and going on dates and drinking liquor in swimming pools. I feel like there’s not enough time. It makes me think about the word ‘urgency’.

Plump, red grapes are Earth’s way of saying ‘you deserve this.’  They remind me of globes.

The reason everything is such a mess is because:

a) we think we are right, or
b) we are okay with being wrong.

My roommate and I scrubbed our shower before I left for the summer. He said “you can’t clean anything without getting something else dirty.” This thought has haunted me since.

Remember that nobody is ever impressed by how much you hate something.

Sometimes Monday morning feels like throwing a party when you’re hungover. I imagine this is what the first ten years of having kids is like.

There is a tangible energy abuzz in the air of a night when seemingly everyone else is doing something, together, and you are witnessing it from afar, alone. Fridays and New Year’s Eve are notorious for providing this nagging sensation.

Sometimes you can just think of someone’s gigantic laugh and turn yourself hysterical. I encourage you to try. This is especially fun in places where tension thrives, like a room in the library or the DMV. You start giggling and it draws the glances of the miserable, which only elevates the stress, wheeling the hilarity round and round like a hurricane.

I think all things melancholy are born on Saturday afternoons.

Few skills are more magnetic than knowing how to tell a good story. Along the same lines, saying someone’s first name, mid-sentence, when the conversation is thick with good thoughts, is wildly arousing.

One of the best ways to ease your mother’s mind is to take good care of yourself. When you are doing well, and you are healthy, and you are happy, it is the same as saying “I love you, too.”

The best part of taking photos is that in the moment, everything is unexciting, and routine, and nothing is special. Yet, when you look again, years later, when sprawled across the carpet, real magic appears. A photographer is like an angel from your future who paints a life your memory forgot.

I have all these photos of the people I love. I like looking at them, and I like looking at you.

I wanna look at you again.

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Thought-Mush

I’m thoroughly convinced that if we could extract a human specimen from the year 1739, a real Post-Renaissancey type bastard, and blindfold him, and place him in the center of Times Square, and spin him around like a child before a dangling piñata, and give him a real quick debriefing consisting simply of “hey bro, welcome to the future”, and quickly untie the knot, and yank that old handkerchief from his gangly and ill-kempt mug, and yell “tada!” like all facetiously and shit, and strike a real good thespian pose full of bent knees and irony, and beam a fat row of shinies at our poor old subject, our left hand out, grazing a chilly New York breeze, well…

Well I simply think that mother fucker would explode.

I think that the sheer shock of our world would send his old gulliver into oblivion, like an uncut potato in a microwave set on HIGH. A few seconds would pass, and the jester in tights would gaze around, mouth open like a great collapsed dam, drool gushing out in pure astonishment of the sights and sounds and suits and suites of La Manzana Grande, and a fantastic hemorrhage would split between his ears, faster than the lightbeams that Einstein spent years dreaming about riding, and the sheer lack of horses and carriages, and the sheer abundance of TAXI 777-7777’s in their wake, would simply send his Latiny-Smatiny brain right through his pantaloons, and the godsent stinky-faced mother fucker would instantly collapse, like a black hole, like The Witch-King of Angmar, like a timelapse of crumpling tin foil set to 1000x speed, you know, like, real real quick. And suddenly that bloke would be inverted onto himself, and we’d still be standing there all hat-and-cane, wide-eyed like the sold-out audience of a legendary comic, right before the punchline, almost ready to squeeze out a roaring HAHAHA even if the joke ain’t funny, even if the next line isn’t the end of the joke. We’d be there, goddamn, just hollering at that poor old soul, our trustee abductee, who simply couldn’t handle, or even fathom, or even understand, the chaos that is our everyday.

Anyway. I think about shit like that a lot. Like, how nuts this fucking world is.

I like girls. I just goddam love girls. I love women. I just love women to death. I really do. I love kissing women and I love looking at a real pretty girl that knows she’s pretty, and I love smiling at a real pretty girl that doesn’t know she’s goddam gorgeous like Aphrodite, and I love dancing with a silly ole eccentric kind of chick, out dancing at the pub, just grooving like a big beautiful fool, her curls bouncing around like a company of cake-and-soda nine year olds at a birthday party, in a jumping balloon, shooting around like springs, for hours and hours. Her hair is bouncing everywhere, and she’s jumping around all silly to the sound of like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons themselves, and I’m just trying to stay out of the way of her noodle hair that has vigorously taken over the dance floor, and the entire bar, and is now flowing out onto the damp roads of midnight, over the whole city, stretching as far as love can take you, and even further, ’till it’s just me and that hair, dancing around to good falsetto tunes of greasy-haired men and the smell of mediocre gin.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to just lose everything you have.

That it would be more relieving than anything, at least after a couple of days. You could find a place to run some hot water into a yellowed-up tub, in a Motel 8 or Hacienda somewhere off a highway, and you could lay there in that godlike hot water and just crack a big ole smile, and start laughing like a fucking madman, like a mad clown, at the trivial nature of owning things. You hear stories of folks who like, lose their entire estate to a fire, and a couple of months down the road they say something heroic like “I’ve never been happier! I have my health, my thoughts and my dog, and that’s all a man really needs anyway!” and a part of you wants to hold a real big bony middle finger up to that plastic smile on the TV set, and curse him for being so typical, just so cliché in the face of his tragedy, but another part of you is just damn jealous that this guy could take his life anywhere, jump on a train and head for the hills, for a city built in the clouds, for Atlantis, for Rapture, just pack up his dog and his thoughts and his memories into a duffle and live in the alley of Nowhere, USA, and you’re stuck with your satanically sharp set of cutting knives, and your discount recliner, and your thread counts and your iComforts, and suddenly you wonder what IS the boiling point of my life? and you semi-erotically, semi-thermodynamically, start to fantasize about your house going up in flames. You crave a good hot bath.

I like to look around at everyone. Sit in the coffee shop and look at every funny face that passes by and makes noise.

I’ve got sensitive nipples that get real hard in the cold, when I exercise, or when I’m vehement, like when a girl sits down quietly and recites her story about being raped to me, then finishes with “I’ve never told anyone else in my life before,” and I start breathing heavy through my nostrils, looking at my lap, and there they are, the nipples, hard as a rock, hard as her past, hard as those bloody visions of vaginal injustice, sticking out through the fabric of my shirt. My nipples also tend to become chaffed when I run, but only the right one, and only when I run real far, and but did you hear that people are still being raped?????

???????

I’ve got a cynic that’s buried in a vision of a better world and a happy life and a default setting that requires me to be nice to fucking everyone I know, even the folks that don’t deserve it, even the ones that have broken me into a million little ants of my former self, ready to rebuild the colony after a real big flood (that’s actually just a curious, yet criminal, nine-year old with a garden hose), but I’ve never been raped, but I was a shaken baby, and god damn it I thought I never would write that down, and now I feel that sudden rush to the heart, to the nose, to the eyes, right before you kinda cry and lose your shit, out of nowhere, but I can’t because I’m in a coffee shop and a sad song is playing, and I’m wearing a pink shirt, and that shit would be too good for anyone watching, headlines read LOCAL EFFEMINATE BOY TEARY IN STARBUCKS, SAM SMITH ON RADIO, but I spent my first Christmas in the hospital, tubes sucking goo and pressure from my skull, needles the size of number 2 pencils gauged into my brain, like The Matrix, pulling the trauma of the shaking and my jelly-like brain right out of me, leaving scars and dents of events I’ll never remember, that I never knew happened, if it weren’t for those scars, and those photographs, and statistically speaking I should be dead, or mentally dead, but yet here I am, and here we are, and I’ve never really told many people that before, and ain’t that just something?????????

I’m going to take a bath to Paul Simon’s Peace Like a River and imagine the love of my life.

~

I know that a lot of folks read The Leaky Faucet. I really, really, cannot thank you enough. Every time one of you comes out of the woodwork and lets me know…well, that’s magic. So if you could do me a favor, my dear reader, and reveal yourself, publicly or otherwise, if you got to the end of this piece, to where we are now. And just tell me your favorite color, just so I know you’re there, that you’re a face in the dark rows of velvet seats, invisible to the bright lights of the stage that is this space.

Just tell me your favorite color.

Grazie mille.

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On Books (or: An Epitaph for the Immortally Dead Men)

One day, I will write a book.

I will write an entire book, from start to finish. I will bind it in a deep, forest green. It will look terribly simple on the front, the title written in a pale, yellow Times New Roman. The back will feature absolutely nothing. Inside of the book will be words, mostly, because that’s the fodder for imagination.

I’ve been reading quite a lot lately, which is something I typically can’t still still long enough to do. Like everything, I have no patience, but at least enough to almost finish something. That’s how it has been with books lately, except I really love finishing them.

One book I’ve read recently is called Slaughterhouse-Five. It is written by Kurt Vonnegut, whose name I have been mispronouncing my entire life. Here is one of my favorite lines, which I have highlighted with a cheap, yellow marker, in the copy that I’ve bought:

“I don’t think Trout has ever been out of the country,” Rosewater went on.  “My God – he writes about Earthlings all the time, and they’re all Americans. Practically nobody on Earth is an American.”

Ain’t that just something?

This book also features other fantastic literary nuggets; alphabetical orgasms, if you will, such as:

On the ninth day, the hobo died. So it goes. His last words were, “You think this is bad? This ain’t bad.”

“Valencia was snoring like a bandsaw.”

and

In went water and loaves of blackbread and sausage and cheese, and out came shit and piss and language.”

I’ve been reading these books and I’ve been feeling all sorts of things. I’ve been hallucinating vividly and I’ve been giggling to myself in the corner of the coffee shop. I’ve paused a hundred times to look up at all the passing people and wonder if they’re catching on to me, on to my secret, on to this feeling that all of my books have been giving me.

I feel like I just found infinity.

And I don’t wanna share it!

You know, there’s a voice inside your head when you read. Except it’s not your voice. It doesn’t really have a sound at all, actually, and that’s something I can’t stop thinking about. Who is that voice? What is it, in all of its androgyne and colorful monotone? Who’s reading to you all these little words right now? It ain’t me. I promise.

I read a book called The Little Prince two weeks ago, and that’s because of some wonderful human in California who told me I should. It only took me an hour to read, but I’ll think about it forever and ever. Ain’t that just something? Here are a couple of things I highlighted from that book in my cheap, yellow marker:

“It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.”***

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”***

and

“When someone blushes, doesn’t that mean ‘yes’?”***

***It must be emphasized that The Little Prince was originally written in French, and these are simply the closest versions of those thoughts, replicated in our silly bastard of a tongue.

I am experiencing a spiritual awakening, and it is simply because of all these books I’ve read.

It’s funny to think about hearing the thoughts of dead men. Nowadays, we get about 80 years, give or take, and Orwell got 46. And 64 years dead, he talked to me, in that little monotonous voice inside my skull, and he made my blood pump through my heart, and he carved a few new valleys in the gelatin that is my brain. Orwell isn’t dead. Orwell is conquering at the imperishable age of 112.

You know, I think everyone has forgotten how to be sexy. I think we all forgot, because our whole life is an image. It’s a filtered photograph on the screen of some horny teenager, masturbating in spouts of 6 seconds at a time to a scanty-clad pale, naked body on the other side of the state. The image disappears and he’s feasting for the follow-up.

There’s a 25 year-old woman somewhere who is drinking water for dinner. In the morning, an IV of morphine will push her into a sugar-filled fantasy-land while silicone inflates a pair of plump, throbbing nipples. In three weeks, she will throw out all of her used brassieres in the advent of the Semi-Annual Sale. Also, she’s still drinking water for dinner.

The internet rages on about fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, big assess and the thesis statement of All About that Bass. They will make flipbooks of the “ideal” woman from the 50’s and empower themselves with the words of Kennedy’s closet fucktoy. They will blame photoshop for Justin’s dick and stylishly worship the winged heroines of the apocalypse.

Sexy, my loves, has nothing to do with your body. You will learn this only when you read more books.

Sexy is a vocabulary. Sexy is confidence and radiance and a magnetic laugh. Sexy is knowing what makes Venus spin backwards and the taste of red wine. Sexy is a glowing bead of sweat on the brow of a 6:00am run. My god, sexy is the way you move, the way you think, the commentary of your dancing hips bathed in the lanterns of a summer patio party. Sexy is the imagination and the expression of the soul. Sexy is what you don’t show. Sexy knows when to fuck and when to make moonlight love, when to wear a black dress and when to wear nothing at all. Sexy is the elegant antithesis of that stupid, minuscule image you have in your head of the ideal ass. Sexy is why the book is always better than the movie. Always.

I’ve been reading these books and they’ve been turning me on. And you think that lacy underwear is the trick.

It’s funny, to hold faith to one book. I’ve read ten books at least that brought me some sort of enlightenment, and have pushed me farther away from worshipping the crucifix. But a lover of jesus isn’t looking for that at all. I could throw a believer in a sea of literature, in an ocean of knowledge that puts a bible to shame. They’ll drown in martyrdom, willingly, stubbornly, holding the failing raft that is the new testament.

I bring that up only because a 52 year-old man is sitting behind me with a group of three, 15 year-old girls. Collectively, they’re not even his age. They’re as desperately impressionable as a wet sponge, and all I can hear from his flabby mouth is “Christ is the answer.” Their eyes are glassed over as they nod like puppets. He smiles plastically.

Just as easily, I could lean over and whisper “Don’t eat your breakfast and you’ll lose 5 pounds a week!” And they would listen. And they would skip breakfast. And that is because they’re 15 year-old girls.

Ain’t that just something?

I read this book recently called The Alchemist. Some people say it saved their lives. Personally, it makes me want to go to the desert. In that book, Paulo Coelho writes:

The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”***

***Similarly, this book was originally written in Portuguese, which they speak in Brazil.

I guess I’m just clinging on to all these words, the stories and hearts of dead poets. And it made me want to write, to dream, to breathe,

to touch infinity.

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The Sound of Silence

Hello.  Good evening.  And isn’t it such a good evening?

I’m cozy at the moment. My life is still and quiet. When I wake up, I add cinnamon to a fresh cup of black coffee.  I fry two eggs, one of which is always oblong and runny, the other too chewy. I draw a picture, write a thought down into a little black journal that I’ve kept for five years, learn a couple of words, then listen to this mountain wind blow through the cracked windows. I put on a podcast. This is where I am.

Tonight, I wish to write about death again.  I once wrote about the afterlife, and the frontier of passing into the black that nobody knows. It was out of fear, but this death that lingers in my head is not spooky. I just can’t stop thinking about it, though.

I think that it has stemmed from suddenly realizing that people get old. I blinked and everyone around me got a lot older. My mother is aged. My grandfather is halfway to 90. My favorite rockstars are wrinkled and wedded, with children. I can see the years on everyone’s faces. They wear them like old scarves riddled with holes chewed from moths.

Do you know Simon & Garfunkel? I think you should know them. I’ve spent a lot of time with them recently, and I wish to share two videos of one of their most successful pieces. If you have a few minutes, I’d like you to listen to this song. I’d like you to listen to the lyrics especially, and let your mind wander as far as it will take you:

This is a video from 1981. That was 33 years ago.

In 33 years, I imagine that both of these fellows will be dead. That’s not really long at all.

I have to try to avoid the cliché here, in writing about dying. Carpe diem, seize the day, fuck while you’re young, explode or burn out, yada yada yada. They’re always telling you that time flies. It’s always fleeting. Everything is changing and running away from you, and you have to keep up. You have to keep up, or it will leave you behind. People and their lives.

I guess what I’m thinking about a lot is the reality of living. That existing is such a phenomenon. It’s so incredibly unbelievable, and yet, so overlooked. It’s just constantly overlooked and underwhelmed.

You always hear about the woman who has cancer, who has six months to live. You always hear about the bucketlists and the people who know they’re going to die. You always hear about people dying, but they’re never real to you. No death is ever real to you; not even your own.

In a sickly curious way, I wish I had an idea of my death. And lately, I’ve been a bit obsessive over it. Not in a suicidal way, or a longing to die…simply, a desire for an encounter with the end of my life. And in entertaining this idea, I’ve felt really alive. Just, really alive.

I imagine it as such:

I am well-dressed, walking down a hallway full of wooden doors. Everything is quite illuminated and the soles of my shoes glide across the linoleum beneath me. At the end of this hallway, I see a gentle old man, sitting quietly with a pen and a sheet of paper. He is tiny and well-kept, and he’s sitting in a school desk. As I approach him, his globular eyeballs peek over the rims of his glasses and his eyebrows wrinkle upwards. He is delighted to see me.

I look at him and have a seat on the floor. He nods his head and chuckles a bit, then peers down at the piece of paper. I am calm and curious, but I feel safe in his presence. Like a child I watch him from the floor below. His pen is etching and it’s the only thing I can hear. Finally, he wiggles away from the desk, walks towards me and looks me in the eyes: 

“Hello young man,” he says, grinning from ear to ear. “I am proud of you.”

I smile back, and suddenly realize that I know this man. I know this man like I know my child, like I know my favorite scent. I know this man, because he is me. He is the man that I become.

“I leave this with you now, young man,” he says, still smiling through his eyes. “Don’t read it quite yet.”

I take the folded note and place it in my suit pocket. I begin to stand, but the old man waves his hand, motioning me to rest. He then places the pen back onto the desk and turns away.

“Wait!” I yell, “I have so much to ask you!”

The man chuckles again, then turns to me. His eyes are full. His hand grabs the doorknob, and with a swift movement, he is gone. Through the doorway I see nothing.

The room is silent.

I look down at the desk and try my best to wiggle into the seat. It’s quite small, and in my effort to squeeze my knees beneath the table, the wooden legs squeak and squeal, echoing through the hall. I am uncomfortable. But I manage to sit, then pull out the paper. It reads:

Steady, now, young man. Remember the end. Steady, now.”

~

I guess I just want to say this: I feel lucky. I feel really lucky. I feel like I’m doing this right, because I know that it’s going to end one day. I suppose I’ve never been so motivated before now, before my brief meeting with the imaginary man in the desk. It has been the most enlightening experience for me this year.

I feel like one day, I’d wish to be in this exact moment. That one day, I’d give anything to be 24 again, in shape and good-looking. Healthy. A head full of hair. A mother to call. A day in the sun without medicine or crutches. I feel like I was just awakened by the advent of mortality, and because of that, I am somewhat invincible. This is invigorating.

So here I am, just ecstatic to be where I am. To be who I am, to be looking forward to a life of love. A life of misery and a life of kissing and a life of drinking to turning 30. A life of long winter nights and quick summer days and poems and sitting in movie theaters and crying. A life of running and eating spaghetti and being crushed by the weight of being, then revived by the way she says your name in bed. A life of having twins and getting in car wrecks and buying chocolate and flicking a straw wrapper across a dim-lit bar. A life of singing in the dark and wishing she was there and remembering the day you turned 13. It’s all so mystifying and relentless and loud and silent.

I guess I’m just happy to be alive, and I hope you are, too.

Here’s a video of Simon & Garfunkel, as old men, singing in 2010:

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XY Arbitrary

Hello again, reader.

I’ve found another social issue that I’d like to explore in this conversational piece of thought. The topic at hand is something that I’ve been challenged by all of my life. Its omnipresent, not only in my world, but in the everyday events of our global system. And recently I’ve built a lot of identity around one term that could wrap up this entire post:

That term is gender-bender. And this writing is all about attacking gender roles.

If you’ve followed my thoughts since I started writing them on this little website, you’ll know that I had a pretty influential anthropology class at the end of my junior year in college. The infinitely bright professor of the lecture had much to say and didn’t fear the voice of his own opinion, which I respected and valued as a student (because it’s nice to have somebody with a spine in control of the podium for a while, don’tcha think?). One of Dr. Van Gerven’s main reference points was a dear friend of his called Mickey who thought herself to be completely female despite the nature of her physical body (i.e. Mickey was transgender). As he told his stories about his friend, I found myself growing more and more frustrated by the way these folk are outcasted for a seemingly hollow reason. After all, we stress the whole “I was born this way” mantra, yet the gaping holes in that preaching are constantly exposed when we can’t accept people because of their “sinful choices” (i.e. being gay, or dressing as a woman).

Then Dr. Van Gerven started to talk about the formation of the fetus in the body, and since then, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my role as an ‘XY’.

You see, in the first stages after an egg is fertilized and the body starts to grow, it doesn’t know gender at all. Days pass as the little human begins to take shape until a critical moment weeks into development when one’s sex is determined. Interestingly enough, we all start as female, because it’s the default setting before that switch. Once that moment passes, the reproductive organs begin forming. The penis, after all, is just an oversized clitoris. The labia are a re-organized scrotum, and we all know about the location and pain associated with eggs and testicles. Basically, once your junk is formed, the powder blue / tickle-me-pink paint is ordered from Home Depot and Samuel / Samantha is printed on all the baby shower invites.

It’s that exact moment when your entire life as a person on Earth is essentially determined.

Granted, we’ve come a long way in this civilization with regards to the male/female dichotomy. But in my eyes there is still an ocean between my progressive view on being a boy/girl and the point from which we operate today.

Departing from the notion that our private parts are the determining factor of our lives, I couldn’t help but think about how ridiculous that idea really is. I noticed these arbitrary behavior systems that we constructed around this philosophy start to pop up everywhere almost immediately after leaving that lecture. Girls wearing nail polish. Boys jogging without shirts. Girls having long hair. Boys having body hair. Girls kissing girls. Boys afraid to hug boys. Girly drinks at bars. Manly food commercials. The list goes on and on.

Slowly, however, I started to get a bit pissed off by all these things I noticed, because they’re all-exclusive and ever-limiting.

If you know me, you know I’m nothing close to being a ‘manly-man’. I’m not the big and bulky Bradley. I’ll never wear a mustache. I can’t tell you every team in every division in the NFL, and I certainly have never been uncomfortable with showing my other dude friends some TLC (I tend to be a sloth around the people I love). Oh, and I’m also not afraid to tell them that I love them. Basically, I’m no Spartan and I know it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m super comfortable with the way I view myself, but it hasn’t always been that way.

I grew up around women, almost exclusively. And because of that, I never really learned the things that one would learn from their fathers, like changing the oil, and the sweet spot for taking down a 13-point buck from 50 yards out. But I can clean the heck out of a house, and I know when to shut up because you’re on your period. In short, I’m a purebred momma’s boy. Since I swam in the sea of estrogen for eighteen years, I understandably came out kinda ‘girly’. Then, once I went to college, I noticed just how manly I wasn’t.  It took some time to accept that. My freshman and sophomore year were filled with frustration, lots of self-doubt, self-consciousness for being the thin geeky dude and a major dose of the ‘I’m-gonna-die-alone’ cocktail. Then one summer I just started smiling and girls started liking me again.

As of last August, however, that frustration has manifested once more, and that twenty-something rebel inside me has been itching for a fight. So let’s break down the gender roles that we all play like oscar-winning Hollywooders every day. And then I hope you kinda just shit on at least one of these silly behaviors for the rest of your life.

Scene one: Your naked body and the inside of the armoir

Welcome to the first thing you do after the first things you do every morning: dress-up. Take a peek at the average male’s closet and you’ll see a sloppy pile of blue jeans and an array of tees and tanks. There’s probably a collared button-up somewhere wrinkled into the mix, but for the most part, a boy’s closet is a slew of socks, shirts and trousers. Now a lady’s wardrobe is vastly different, always evolving, and filled to the brim with thousands of colors, styles and accessories. At first glance, a woman’s closet is a madhouse. But after further investigation, you’ll realize that inside the chaos lies something remarkably beautiful: variety. A woman has ten purses, fifty five bracelets and neckpieces, earrings, hairpins, scarves, socks, shirts, blouses, skirts, cocktail dresses, sun dresses, dressy dresses and casual ones too, hats, beanies, tennis shoes, running shoes, heels, flats, glads, boots, leggings, belts, headbands, sports bras, old bras, push-up bras, new bras, lingerie, and just about every other thing that us guys love to see you in.

What the fuck kinda shit is that?!

To be real honest, the ‘girl’ inside me is pretty jealous about all these things. We, as men, are limited to what we’re allowed to wear, and girls get to have all of the fun. Of course my reference point is that of an American youngster living in the 21st century and other parts of the world seem to blur this division a little better (or stretch it further). Nonetheless, I still find a massive gap between what girls wear and what boys wear. And I can’t figure out why.

I’ll be honest again: I’ve grown infatuated with the color pink. More specifically, colored jeans are pretty ‘in’ right now, and I’m a sucker for chicks that wear light pink denim. Man, it kills me. At the same time, I’d absolutely love wearing some of my own. I’ve grown a collection of dyed bottoms myself, but there will always be a few shades that are tougher to rock than others, if not impossible. Question: why are we still operating under the difference between red and pink? Why can’t I wear pink pants? Why?

Why?

But someday soon I will. And I’ll challenge my own discomfort every time I put ’em on. My best friend Zach has a family friend from Holland that wears all types of colors. His reason: “because I like them”.

So fuck color roles and stuff.

Scene two: Your fancy dinner and a movie (and any first kiss)

You’re primping for a date. If you’re a chick, that means an hour of prep, a natural shade of make-up and a not-so-revealing top that will still accentuate some of your assets. If you’re a dude, that means a couple quick glances in the mirror and a spritz of the cologne that you’ve had since high school. Once any two people have agreed to a night on the town, everything we’ve seen in movies suddenly strikes down upon the evening.

Step one: the boy must drive. Always. So he goes and picks her up from her house.

Step two: the boy holds the door. He also pays. This is courtly love and respectful kinda stuff, which shows you’re a gentleman, and I’m not too upset about it.

Step three: the boy makes the first move. Always. Until then, the girl will wait and flicker her eyelashes and flip her hair and do all the other things that us guys go crazy for.

I’ve been here before. I hope you have, too. Truthfully, I don’t have too many problems with the roles of the first date, because they’re fun to play. It’s what comes later that bothers me to heck.

Recently, a girl told me that I was being the ‘girl’ in the relationship, and that she was the ‘boy’, and that sometimes she just wasn’t into it. And because of my complacency I brushed the comment off and didn’t think too much of it. Later on, it kept coming back to me, and now those words boil my blood. What she really should have said was: “you’re an emotional person and I’m not, and sometimes that is overwhelming.” Instead, I was called a ‘girl’ because I felt things.

This is the kinda stuff that I’d like to debunk now.

Girls: stop believing in the image of what it means to be a man. In reference to my Spartan comment earlier, crying and feeling strong emotions used to be considered extremely masculine. Now, we’ve taken all of that away and have proposed that men must be statues. Because of this, I’ve lost my ability to cry. I’m not allowed to. And if you’re reading this and you’re a cryer, I hope you can understand the frustration of not being able to discharge some sadness via the waterworks. Recently I cried and I had to write about it because it was so rare. But it felt so good.

Boys: stop promoting rape culture. What I mean is, stop holding girls to physical expectations. Enough with the perverted pig attitude and pursuing the ass and tits. Stop it. Now.

Girls: stop waiting. So much of my frustration in gender roles spurs from the fact that girls are typically obsessed with waiting for him to make the move. This goes for the first kiss as well as anything before that, like being approached at a bar. Being such a go-getter myself, I can’t understand the mentality of not pursuing what you want. If you’re out to talk to some boys, then talk to them. If you want him to kiss you, just kiss him first. If you want something, get it. Stop waiting.

Boys: in the dating world, we’re forced into a highly competitive environment. This will work wonders with our testosterone. Now, what we must do is stop disabling each other. This is not the Serengeti. This is Boulder, Colorado. So let’s start being a little more respectful out there in the field and start encouraging our homies to talk to the chicas. Don’t be the big douche that comes flying into a group of friends and stealing the chick from our circle. This makes you look like a fool. I promise that she’s not into it either. So mind your business and cool your jets.

There is much more to comment on with regards to our interactions. How about you tell me what gender roles you find in your love life endeavors that just seem so boggling?

Scene three: The rest of your life

Since we’re pretty much stuck with what’s between our legs, it’s time we start changing the things outside of our bodies. On the daily, I find something that we’re forced to believe in just because of our gender and sexuality, and like I said before, it’s oppressive. Just as much as race, we do not choose what we look like. Being male is not a choice. But it is an imposed lifestyle, and I’m doing my best to warp those boundaries. Here is a rapid-fire series of thoughts that relate to the subject of gender-bending:

-I grew my hair out recently to challenge the male image. Then I cut it for other reasons. But in that time when my locks were long, I felt empowered by the idea that I was doing something that less than 10% of males do. I was also frustrated when my trip to Target supplied me with only two different shampoo/conditioner hybrids and zero choices of wide-tooth combs. Did you know that the only piece of human information that we can’t gather from an anonymous strand of hair is the owner’s gender? Why do we associate gender and hair follicles? Why?

-I have a hard time understanding anybody that says they’ve felt love and disagrees with universal marriage rights. If you really have embraced and felt so strongly for somebody, you’ll realize that it’s so far out of your control. Being homosexual is not a choice, just like being heterosexual isn’t either. Gender roles in loving somebody cannot continue to apply; stop with the Adam and Steve excuse. If anything, your sexuality is another one of those limiting factors. Can you imagine the freedom and lightness of being attracted to anybody? What of the opportunities of setting sexuality aside and pursuing people and not pussy?

-I’m gonna try to stop saying ‘manly’ and ‘girly’. It’s not productive.

-Sometimes I imagine what my life in this exact moment would have been if I hadn’t grown up as a dude. It’s almost an impossible thought, when it really shouldn’t be.

-I think men forget just how easy their lives are. No periods. No pregnancy. No worrying about walking home at night. And all of those things are pretty fucked to forget about. On the flip side, I think women have taken advantage of their roles as peacocks. Help a guy out and stop thinking you’re worth the entire world, won’t you? We’re all people. So let’s give each other a helping hand.

-The list, like most of my lists, goes on and on. I really hope you do your homework and tell me some of your thoughts on the subject.

To leave you, my dear reader, I’d like to do a little bit of shameless art promotion. Here’s a piece I finished yesterday that I’d love to share (and that intentionally carries the same title as this post) :
XY Arbitrary

The idea was inspired by these two beautiful people that I cut in half and merged into one:

Man2 woman1

The notion is simply this: what if you played the other role? What would that change?

Why?

-Sam G
http://www.facebook.com/samgaglioart

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