Naught’s Landing

There’s a point at which an ugly on-going, ever-going present stops. The flow of time is stanched, the trailing end annealed and you call it an era. An era has ended and a new one has yet to begin. In-between times, I’ve called it, and in those previous times it has been a source of headache, heartache and lack of direction, as if Time Itself went into too steep a climb and Its Engine stalled out. I’m at that tipping point where acceleration up and down match and there’s a net zero gravity.

But that net-zero is just a moment, if I am to be completely candid. And moments pass into the past, pass into other moments, forming into threads into strings into ropes into cables into immutability.

This time I have decided for myself to pause time itself, extending the moment into something else. We all have such trickery and power in our fingertips…to stop time, to start it again, to accelerate it and to install torpor. We all have it, but often we are able to affect others’ Time more than our own. Causing anguish in another, for example, can make the passage of time interminable for her or him. Love can stop time and often does. Conviviality, joy, wonderment can speed time to the point of dissatisfaction.

So I pause, and in pausing, I do. And do nothing. It’s quite a lot of effort in doing nothing about what it’s all about: the heart still beats and metaphorically bleeds, but I remain standing outside the House of Time peering in the front window, a window kept clean and open in the finest of Dutch traditions.

I see and hear what moves, feel and sense what doesn’t move and soon I will stop standing beside Time and jump back in. I’m eager for it, in fact!

And friends are always there, and for all the passed past, I am hoping he and I will be there in the same rooms of the heart and home once again.

Caution never felt so invigorating.

Respect, Esteem, Image

As many of you know, I possess a capacity for positivity that may sometimes be mistaken for something unhealthy. But that would imply that I do not possess in equal measure a capacity to immerse myself in negativity as well, to live in and with it. But with negativity, I do my thing while in there and I get the hell out of dodge after I’ve learned the thing(s) I needed to learn.

There is a trick, of course, to recognizing those things which are lessons, and also to recognizing that point of diminishing returns. End-game is all important when dealing with negativity, and for me, positivity requires an infinite-play strategy.

It’s strange to invoke game theory in the matters that matter in my life right now, but here I am anyway. Tit for tat can be a good strategy. Hawks and doves populations vary wildly and unpredictably. Spannungsbogen is selfish behavior, but the delayed gratification can give birth to altruism.

And sometimes a dip into the arcane can be freeing in the more mundane world and that’s the lesson and so I’ll stop.

Bottom line is that it’s often the most selfish thing in the world to be selfless, optimizing for general good will instead of personal payoff and trusting in the future.

Blame, Responsibility, Consequence

There are so few unnuanced days, at least those that don’t come with a body count. I think it was Aaron Sorkin who wrote that. So too, there are very few unnuanced situations, or those that aren’t best described by the apportionment of responsibility to all parties at least in part.

There are very few virginal pollyannas in the world, and most certainly I don’t even come close to one.

That said, sometimes the responsibility is so clear cut as to point the finger of blame not with rancor but with simple truth. Sometimes one of the actors in a given drama is so over-the-top that sometimes the antagonist becomes The Antagonist, and “Pure Evil” isn’t such a difficult, distant concept at least for a little while.

I don’t mean to be abstract, much less abstruse, obtuse or any other -use, but there are things I must keep to myself even if right now all I want to do is shout the name of the Antagonist at the top of my lungs if for no other reason that to warn the rest of San Francisco’s pup-ulation that there’s a predator in the doghouse.

Everyone takes the blame for primary and secondary things when the world goes pear-shaped—everyone involved. Be sure of that. Comeuppance is a bitch and the universe finds ways of setting things aright.

Mornings Are the Worst

At home, in one’s own bed and bedroom, there are those few waking moments when the world is as it always was. A dependable cadence of days imbues balance and security and constancy to life, so much more than the boring rigor most describe.

The body awakes before the head; the eyes open before the mind opens up and shares its marvelous memory: the gift and the curse.

Those moments can vary from mere flashes up to many seconds, where he’s still here and the bed is not empty just because I’ve left it, where all those horrible, horrible things never happened and life is still companionable and the days along which I trundle are not borrowed from anywhere but his heart, his love. My heart, my love.

Half the house it used to be, and none of the Home. Splendor is a luxury unattainable.

The universe is inverted, tilted, half-empty. Which is the same thing as absolutely not full.

Alone is something comforting in the way that Givens are; it’s the way that one arrives and leaves this world. Lonely is quite another: the world has left you.

•••

Baby, where’s that place where time stands still?

I remember like a lover can,

I forget it like a leaver will.

It’s no place you can get to by yourself:

You’ve got to love someone and they love you,

Time will stop for nothing else.



And memory plays tricks on us, the more we cling, the less we trust,

And the less we trust the more we hurt,

And as time goes on it just gets worse.

So, baby, where’s that place where time stood still?

It is under glass inside a frame?

Was it over when you had your fill?


Here we are with nothing,

But this emptiness inside of us.

Your smile a fitting, final gesture:

Wish I could have loved you better.


Baby where’s that place where time stands still?

I remember like a lover can.

I forget it like a leaver will.

It’s the first time that you held my hand;

It’s the smell and the taste and the fear and the thrill.

It’s everything I understand,

And all the things I never will.

Where Time Stands Still, Words & music by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Redlining

Too much activity in my life right now, and too much of that is not good at all.

I have no doubt at this point that it all will fly apart. I have no reason to believe that anyone will be there to help sift through the wreckage.

Living in Interesting Times

I had every intention of sitting down at the Starbucks in the Castro to do some work. Core Image, a new technology in Mac OS X Tiger was the topic at hand. By “intending”, I mean to say that on the way to the Castro with Sam, Justin and Nathan I fully expected to work while Sam and Justin got haircuts at Joe’s Barbershop. By the time we got out of the car to head to The Welcome Home for breakfast, as we walked past the Sit n Spin Laundromat & Coffeehouse, as we sat down at The Welcome Home and were served by a waiter who once gave Allen and me a meal discount because he noticed that Allen had “a touch of the flu”—The Welcome Home gave discounts to all Persons With AIDS if you asked for it, and, obviously, even when you didn’t—I knew it was one of those mornings where my head would be filled with my own history and tradition. I knew I’d be lost in the memories of home turf.

I thought of Michael, specifically, when we passed the laundromat: he and I had spent the better part of an afternoon there one day last summer, not long before he headed off to New York. I wondered how he was doing, but then again, except for the day or two after I hear from him, that’s always true. I don’t worry about him, but at times I’m reminded of his being positive and I send good thoughts his way. I’ll never stop caring about those people with HIV, about their health, just about them in general. Maybe that’s just trauma from Allen dying almost ten years ago. Maybe it’s just a sensitivity borne out of my biogeekness and having been surrounded by the spectre of HIV for so long. Who cares, though, really, about why? The thoughts are there, a part of me as much as any thing else is.

I thought of Allen, as I said, when we walked into The Welcome Home. He and I would go there often. He was a man of simple tastes in food and so that place suited him.

By the time that the Posse had headed up the street to Joe’s and I made a left down 18th Street to “go work”, I knew already I would be writing instead of learning how to fake a motion blur in Core Image. I had hoped to flesh out a scene from a longer fictional work that I’ve been neglecting for far, far too long. And it was in this place where I wrote the original 550 pages of my first novel.

As I sat at a cafe table at the front windows, I looked outside and noticed the man pushing another man in a wheelchair, the ones I’d walked around in order to get down the sidewalk faster.

My heart sank, my jaw dropped, and I was right back there in that place that Allen’s death had created. The man in the wheelchair was gaunt and not well. He was wearing shorts that I knew he’d worn even when his legs were enormous—the biggest thighs I think I’ll ever see. Only now the shorts drooped like a sheet around thighs not even as big as my arms. I would not have recognized the man in the chair except for the man pushing him: his partner.

So many men have disappeared slowly and not slowly enough, quickly and not quickly enough. And here was another who was trapped by a pathology out of control. Here was a another whom HIV- people look at and think “That could be me” and whom HIV+ people look at and think “That will be me”.

For my part, I looked at his partner, someone with whom I have a very passing acquaintance, but with whom I suddenly felt a horrifying kinship. You want to protect him, you want to entertain him, you want to distract him. You want others to not look at him in that way even though you look at him that way all the time at home when you think he doesn’t notice. You want to believe that he looks good today. You wish that today was all the time there ever was and ever will be. You are desperate and tentative, like chasing after an infant whose motor skills and capacity don’t even increase and in fact diminish before your eyes.

I don’t ever want to be in that place ever again, but there’s nowhere else I’d be if I ended up there. I don’t want anyone else to be in that place either, but I’m glad they stick around to see life through.

I deny no one frippery and shallowness since everyone should be so blessed and fortunate to be able to afford those luxuries.

I can see why people turn back to god, even though I didn’t. I can see why people curse god or even the universe, but I only cursed those whose dogma and politics overrode their compassion.

I can see all the people whose sense of gravitas and respect for the seriousness of HIV remain compassionate and strong, those people, like me, who learned that strength sometimes requires a complete and utter emotional breakdown in order to dispatch grief far enough away and for long enough a time so that you can get to the business at hand: keeping yourself and others alive for as long as possible.

I could see all the people I’ve known and still know whose lives were inhabited by HIV in first person singular, second person singular or third person plural. I could see all of those whose chosen form of prevention of and protection against HIV is braggadocio or bluster.

Not that I’m criticizing the power of the mind. In fact, the subjective universe shows up far more often in San Francisco than anywhere else I know. I have written many times about the seeming ability for so many of us to conjure up the material from the ethereal. And today, in the bright sunny noon trying its contrarian best to dispense with my personal gloom-doom, it happened again: I picked up my head from my new little dream-catcher and there was Michael! I beamed, then wavered. He seemed to know what was going on with me.

It’s not easy to live in these interesting times. It’s not easy to live outside the consuming comfort of a smothering theology. It’s not easy to live and see death. It’s not easy to live with the dying. It’s not easy to chart one’s own path through the universe.

Not easy at all, but so worth it.

Let Her Die Already!

I fucking hate dogmatists.

Absolutism carries the burden—no, the requirement!—of Being Right all the time. Every time. No exceptions. That’s the rule.

And when you actually are Wrong, what do you do? You hedge, you change the nature of truth, and you claim Truth Once Again.

Bill Frist is on record and on tape as having watched a video of Terri Schiavo and concluding that there was no evidence that she was in a persistent vegetative state. Yesterday, after this,

An autopsy released Wednesday concluded that she had been in a persistent vegetative state and revealed no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused before she collapsed.

Bill Frist now says he never made any determination one way or another as to her persistent vegetative state.

He and he and they held on, held tight to the notion that she was not in a persistent vegetative state, that she clearly was alive and on the mend, and that everyone else was Wrong Wrong Wrong. All this, despite their being a martinet, an apologist and a bunch of Calvinist Catholic teens, respectively, with no evidence—much less authority—to claim truth.

They, like most of the rest of the Right Wing Machinery, came down on the side of literal life instead of quality of life. Let’s call them Quantity of Life advocates, shall we? When Science failed them—as it usually does in their more strident campaigns—they turned to blame. Blame the husband. Blame his “lifestyle”. Call him names. Call him immoral. Those are easy to do, because it’s all subject to interpretation, even as they call every last thing as black or white. Black or White.

Never mind that Schiavo rearranged his life to care for his wife. Never mind that he turned down $1M so that he could stay with her and make the decisions. Never mind all of that. He dared move on with his life after it was clear that his wife was gone in all but carcass. That’s unforgiveable, right?

As someone who has had a partner die, as someone who never wanted to move on and yet one day, admitted defeat and finally did move on, I think I have at least some personal authority to speak on the matter. Do these people?

Regardless, they speak. And speak and speak and speak.

They were drop-dead wrong about Terri Schiavo, so what do you do when you Must Be Right And Never Wrong? Easy, you go after the husband. Ol’ Jeb is investigating the husband, claiming that he waited too long before calling 911.

What total bastards!

They’re going to continue to ruin this guy. Why? Because they were made fools of. Because they were wrong and they lack the humility, candor and honesty to admit that they were wrong.

You were wrong, folks. Move on. And leave that poor bastard alone.

Where Went Wednesday?

Wow.

When I get sick, I feel capital-C Crappy. Sam started to get sick on Tuesday morning. It kicked in for me Tuesday afternoon while I was at work.

Bleah.

I ended up sleeping all day. Well, most of it. Having slept at least 6 hours overnight, I woke up and found Sam out watching TV. I laid down on the sofa there and fell asleep for another five hours. Yikes. Then awake for two hours, then asleep again for another two or three. Off and on. On and off. And last night I got a full night’s sleep. Yikes again.

Still sick today. Low-grade fever. Headache. Body aches. Head’s a bit clearer, however. It’s good that I have the kind of job where I can work at home.

I’m watching:

“The Witches of Eastwick” (George Miller (II))

It’s an almost-forgotten favorite of mine, and not because it’s my friend Dave’s hand that crashes through the kitchen window near the end of the movie. It was way ahead of its time. New England, as time goes on, reminds me more and more of Europe. And Magic. And Dark and Unscientific Things the world has Almost-Forgotten.

Ahh, the Things you Remember when you’re sick, when your schedule is off-kilter and your brain and body gets what sleep they need.