And With My Life…

I know for a fact that my father would pull down the very walls of Heaven if it was the only way to barricade his wife against a mortal danger. I know for a fact that my mother would similarly let nothing prevent her from saving her husband’s life.

Are these such difficult emotions to fathom in relationships? The married couple who are my parents, those married couples out there who are together because togetherness is the definition and identification of their lives don’t show the slightest tendencies towards equivocation or dissemblance here. Any sign of threat to their significant other is met with a ferocity that sometimes is indistinguishable from Fact.

On Facebook and the thousand other quiz-sources that abound you’ll see the mother instinct snarling its claws in broad cartoonish swipes at the first sign of a sign of a sign of predation against their cubs, sometimes as an almost feckless version of that overused political bon mot “for the children!”

Great, terrific. Moms are great and that’s well-established and I take nothing away because I couldn’t possibly detract from the mother-child bond. And that’s my point. People get that. People understand it so well that any attempt to debunk or even debase it causes casualties.

Extend this to fathers and generalize it to parents and the center still holds: parents are protective of their children and rightly so. It’s their job. It’s built into phenotypes as instinct. Thank genetics. Thank evolution. It’s why we’re all still there.

People are heroically protective of others who are not blood-related. Nothing would surprise me of the extent to which my father would go to save his wife nor vice versa. He would end himself if that’s what it took to perpetuate her. She would surrender her last breath just as readily for him.

How do I know this? How does any of us know this about anyone else? I can’t tell you how I know, but I do. And I know the same about other couples who are of the same generation as my parents and are of other, younger generations, and I know there’s nothing heroic in it. There’s nothing at all, as the Buddhists might call it, Special, about such self-abnegation or contra-prioritizing, it’s just a natural thing.

Just. Merely. Simply. As if I require some superior position, some elevation from which to proclaim these things by invoking such diminutions.

Recently, as suggested in the post about visiting Lisa Capaldini’s office, I had a rather nasty health scare. Severe shortness of breath from very minimal exertion. It ended up being a very high amount of anxiety. Odd, given that’s I’d just closed some doors completely, finally, on some very bad spaces.

I’m feeling better now. Simple pharmacological treatment and breathing exercises (no, not Lamaze) and the symptoms are addressed. I did have a few days of near-complete insomnia: three out of four nights I slept not at all except for one or two hours late morning and then finally managed to get back onto a healthy and solid schedule.

My first night of solid sleep I had a bad dream; a bad Allen dream.

Now, there are a couple of things to note here. Adults usually don’t tell another adult, “I had a bad dream!” That’s more like how a pre-adolescent might tell his mommy. And a “bad Allen dream”? That was a first. A First first. Like, ever.

That was the initial description of it to my very first Best Friend as an adult, Lisa Yalen.

In the dream, there were bombs going off and Allen and I were running, trying to find a place to hide from it all (all of the imagery from this anamorphic amorphous blob of anxiety takes the form of bombardment or with water images, usually waves that overtake and undertow).

We jumped to the ground or fell to it and I out of my caregiver habit to Allen I threw my left arm around him his upper back to cover it as best I could, and thought I had maneuvered my body to cover his as well as a fat 5’6” corpus could manage to do so on a 6’3” bone-thin, AIDS-wracked one. My hand was on his head and my head was buried in the crook of his neck. My forehead was pressed against his head right behind his ear.

Have you ever stroked the head and hair of someone who was very very VERY thin? It’s not soft, no matter how much hair is there, because there’s never a lot of hair there because the body is starving quite literally and so the hair doesn’t grow very well or very fast.

Have you ever smelled someone behind the ear and on his neck? You know that’s where all the familiarity, all the identity, all the intimacy comes from. You know without sight or touch or voice or without any context whatsoever who that man is when you’ve smelled him there. If he’s your husband or your partner or The One or all of the above, or he’s your world or he’s what your imagination requires for it to complete your own picture of you as a reified creature or however you’ve cobbled or assembled or accumulated your nest and sat him in it as a necessary piece, that smell is the smell that, when missing, turns the whole thing into a banner that announces to you what’s missing: Him.

And in my dream I could smell him, sweaty because his head would sweat every night (he put a towel down on his pillow) from one med or another and a little like Neutrogena Tar Shampoo (every other day we’d get his rangy, hingy limbs folded into the tub for a bath), and a little like shaving cream (when he’d let me shave his face) and of course, a lot like Allen. Just him.

Only there was something not quite right in the retelling of the dream. There was the bombardment and the danger and the noise. There was the falling to the ground and the continued bodily threat and the real chance we could both die.

But it wasn’t my body covering his, not my arm crossing his shoulders, not my hand atop his head. In this “bad” dream where I was so fortunate to have him there with all that immediacy and intimacy, it was Allen who was protecting my life, shielding me with his body, his arm, his face in my neck perhaps gaining that same strength and oneness?

Since before Allen died not once has there been a moment where I’ve been wrapped up by a lover-protector. Not once where I’ve gone into a situation knowing I had a boyfriend unconditionally on my side and no matter what.

Oh, there’s been generosity and fun and excitement and entertainment and passion. There’s been family, too. Senses of all those, but not once was there ever a sense from anyone.

Most togetherness has been either sexual or companionable, nothing ever put to any kind of test. Tests were things to be avoided if at all possible. But not everything is avoidable, and that’s where true devotion, true commitment, true, in the human sense of it all, comes to bear on the world.

Three years ago, I was eight days in a hospital room after an accident on my Vespa. I had a boyfriend at the time although in keeping to myself my expectations for his behavior were very low.

My eight days were spent in hospital with a boyfriend who didn’t give me a single reassurance that I’d be alright, who didn’t make sure I always had company in my hospital room, who didn’t keep me updated on how the cat was and if things were ok at home. I went through those same eight days with long periods of not even being able to get him to answer his phone.

I’d had already extensive experience of living with no safety net below me for the simple reason that no man I’d been with had ever seemed to care to install one there, but it’s quite another thing to expect nothing and have to cover to friends about why you’re getting no comfort from a boyfriend, and keep it all inside so that you don’t go mad yourself, all while trying to convalesce the shit out of yourself so that you can get out of the damned hospital bed and at least get back to being at home where you could live with a boyfriend-non-protector where at least you didn’t have to explain it all away to your friends.

So being without a single boyfriend-lover-partner-husband-protector all these years is quite entirely the single largest contributor to some of the more, let’s say, storied paths my life has taken since I was that quite centered, quietly strong, strongly-loved-and-protected-by-him 31-year-old man who was just as gifted walking amongst as he was walking away-from the things he knew were a bad fit for himself.

There was a man who once knew the special warmth of knowing that someone who loved you “had your back” because he had all of you, because you gave him all of you and he gave all of him right back to you. And none of it was about quantities or frequencies, scorecards or periodicities. It was about Showing Up. Just “Showing Up” when he needed you—without asking, because you’d already anticipated the need. Showing up when you needed him because where else would he be but there for you? Showing Up because all those blustering fools who start with constructs about “individuals” and “roles” and “boundaries” are the ones so afraid of the magic they first attempt to destroy it and then reconstruct these worlds as paper models before they lecture you on “healthy” relationships.

Showing up because you were already There for him and he was already There for you and so often not even a change of Venue was required.

I was helping to bathe Allen one day—we have a large spa tub on a platform so it was easy to get him into it, not so easy to get him back out. He was rinsing his hair and his face with the bath water right after I got done shaving him.

“We’re not done yet,” I said. “I know,” he said, still splashing around some. I grabbed the washcloth from him.

“Gimme that. I’ll get your back.”

“You always do,” he muttered.

There were usually too many little things to do in a given day-hour-minute for me to have time to get emotional, but he said it so cavalierly that I was startled by it. I started to cry and he swung his long bony arm around me and I leaned into his wet armpit. He was comforting me.

Untangle the love in that one; identify the protector.

Office Visit: Lisa Capaldini

JEFF: I love coming here, being here. It’s just too bad that the reason to come here isn’t ever…

LISA: What?

JEFF: Good.

LISA: WHAT?

JEFF: You come here because something’s wrong. It’s a doctor’s office. But I love being here.

LISA: Because you come here to get well.

JEFF: NO! Because you’re here. Because of you. Because of me. Because WE are here. Because it’s US. Because of fifteen years. Because of all of this.

LISA smiles

JEFF: As far as all this, what’s going on. It’s not a thinky thing this time, and that’s new for me. It’s a take it as it comes along, like we talked about last time, like how I can have the happiest memory in the world about Allen and it lives side by side with the most horrific memory I own, and one doesn’t affect the other. Paradox and Two Truths and all that, like you said. That’s what has to happen again. It all has to be integrated so that a memory one thing from the past five years, good or bad, doesn’t pull the sky down on top of me unexpectedly.

LISA: Very Zen.

JEFF: Very San Francisco.

LISA: Very Beginner’s Mind. I like it.

We walk out of the exam room.

JEFF: San Francisco has had her way with us all, hasn’t she?

LISA: Yes she has, many times.

JEFF: We’re cheap dates.

LISA: Speak for yourself.

Lisa enters another exam room and closes the door.

Now Ain’t That A Bear-Itch

So whose genius idea was it to schedule IBR on the same weekend as Valentine’s Day?

Don’t they know the soul searching that must be going on amongst the bears—assuming that there is soul searching that goes on amongst the bears during events like IBR and Lazy Bear and Beef and BearBust and Polar Bear and RootBear and BirchBear and yeah, some of those are made up, or yet-to-be, or both.

These are the kinds of weekends where those couples who at least give lip service to what most might recognize (if you squint and are standing at a distance) as sexual fidelity agree to furlough (look, I made a furrrrrr joke) the quotidian relationship rules so they don’t “miss out” on what fun awaits, what lies beneath, what dreams may cum.

Because, as you might learn from being a fly on the wall, “missing out” on a chance for a quick bit of friction and an an ejaculation is a tragedy of epic proportions approaching what might pass for Thou Shalt Nots in a world full of Sure Why Nots?

Do you suppose there are couples out there who postponed their romantic Valentines Days until after the International Bear Rendezvous weekend of whomever-you-can-get-your-parts-into and whoever-can-get-their-parts-into-you, or are there couples who celebrated their romantic Valentine’s Day before they headed off to the long, long weekend of dances and drink nights and bar gropes and “oh, new meat!” and all of thus and such and of the above Tabs-A into Slots-B and Slots-B atop Tabs-A with concomitant WOOFS and GRRRRs in no-cologne-zones…

Of course there’s always the third option: combine your IBR and your VD into the same time weekend.

Call me bitter. I know you will. No, go ahead. I’ll wait.

[pause]

Done now? Good. You’ve just questioned my motives in the attempt to completely avoid the content of my argument. What’s wrong with you?

But me? You can’t call me wrong.

So much of what we do goes unquestioned. Unquestioned by ourselves, each and all. In fact, we count on it. When we’re young, we count on plodding ahead with our lives and not stopping and questioning everything. If we did, we’d never get on and we’d never get anywhere. Parent’s are there to make sure we don’t fall too far off the path or go too far afield or end up too deep in the tall grass.

But as adults? Adults? We are adults, are we not? By the chronometer if by nothing else.

Is IBR for adults? IBR and things of its ilk are the perpetuation of adolescence. Partying all weekend. Taking drugs to stave off sleep. Taking drugs to borrow serotonin from the future week so that we can artificially induce fun fun fun all at the same time.

And at the end of the weekend? RECOVERY events. Yes, folks, we pat ourselves on our backs for having slogged our way through the difficult work of sustaining a weekend of backbreaking bacchanalia so we treat ourselves to comforting pleasures.

Aren’t we marvelous creatures?

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

I’ve lost a half a day.

I don’t know where it went and worse still, my body doesn’t know where it went.

I was up late—a typical thing for me these past couple of weeks, but I did go to bed and I did fall asleep easily (another blessed Typical), but when I opened my eyes the sun was clearly in the wrong place. I’d forgotten to set the timer on the television and receiver to shut down after a given time period to prevent it from being on all night so it was on—something I hate because it feels, in those first few moments, like I’ve awoken in a room full of people who are having a conversation all around me.

With that sense of dreaad—or misplacement (which is dreadful) I reached for the clock (which is my iPhone) and it was well after 14:00.

Now well after 19:00, I can’t tell you (and I can’t tell myself) where five more hours have diffused away to. It’s an odd place to be. Or not to be. I’d ask a question, but without two good footplants on solid firmament, questions are whisps of cloud and and words are doppler data that no one heard anyway and whose existence become questionable.

Had I responsibilities today? Commitments? No email left my inbox or outboxes. Messages were marked as read yet may not have been actually read.

So did I read them?

Did I leave the gas on?

No! I’m a fucking squirrel!

(points to those who got that reference)

IBR: The International Bear Rendezvous 2009

Bears, Bears and more Bears in San Francisco. Bar crawls, bingos, beauty pageants (with sashes!—and World Peace®!), Dance Clubs with details appreciates of dance mixes, trips to bathhouses and even “recovery” parties for all that hard work at personal self-directed hedonism.

Proceeds do go to charities (some of them AIDS-related) yes, but given some of the, ummm, sponsored activities here, that’s sort of like PETA raising money by sponsoring fox hunts…

Contradictions pile upon each other like a damnable-puppy pile, justifications for noble purpose as thin as bears are not. Thin. Yet another reason for yet another party. Yet another theme that isn’t a theme but only a variation on the only theme that matters: bear. A paw in poo colors slopped upon a flag striped in poo colors ranging from diarrhea to boy-you-need-more-fiber.

Still, it’s bears who touch bears who touch bellies which touch bellies which invade personal space because they’ve nowhere else to go but out and across so they must change the rules of personal space by eliminating them and gropey-gropey-gropey they go and they go and build a religion upon it all and call it Woof and pray it Grrrr and if you don’t like it, well, it doesn’t matter because if you don’t look the part they don’t like you. Not really. They don’t invite you into their reinbear games unless they can slap a label on you and find a matching tag on that dovecote in the back where they keep the safe, non-threatening creatures and take you out occasionally and spin you into their orbits—mass comes in handy at times.

Me, I’m off to Joe’s new Barbershop at 2150 Market Street for my annual Nair Dip…Think of it as negative-space camouflage.

MC to Contestant: How would you, as Mr. IBR, and therefore as ambassador from the bear community to the greater gay community at large, bring our two communities closer together in the coming year?

Contestant: I would point out that being a bear isn’t just about having beards and moustaches and hair on your back and your shoulders,and luxurrrrious hair on your chest and your thighs and long long hairs in the cracks of your ass and mmmmm…..could you please repeat the, ummmm, question?

For your beefy-hairy-tit-illation, the swimsuit-underwear portion of the beauty pageant competition during last year’s IBR competition (click on the image to go to the Flickr pages for more images):

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Unbearable Infinitude Of Being

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This video is just a collection of images in and around Enkhuizen, NL.

It makes me very happy to watch it. Is it geometries? Geometries of lines across roofs and gutters or tilts of façades to crane out away from falling rains or thatches of grasses of hills piled just so? Is it greens of youths long forgoten or lived over and over so many times that subtleties have reinforced themselves into a clear lock on an exact shade?

Rob says it’s just maybe time to reinhabit an obvious dream and I wonder if a dream at a distance is just a muddled mist in the midst.

So appealing, the views. So necessary, the tiny spaces that hug me in, the moisture everywhere that must be kept back but that wants to be kept close.

We know about the water, do we not? We know we do not control it but we persuade it and we channel it and we cajole it do we not? And when those things seem to fail, remember that we float!

Our language floats and laps and waves and baubles and bobs and bubbles and sometimes gurgles and plows itself into a wall of shore and it syllables tumble towards America when they pass through Britain—or do they come out American when they are forced into British regimentals?

Home is where you hang your hat, but we hatless ones must set sail and images that come to us over these internets speak to us and call to us.

What is our answer and do we even hear ourselves repeating the question over and over in our heads? Have we forgotten the way back? Do we need to be reminded of the cost of saying no?

Tears are water and salt has its place and that’s not always a welcome place.