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Once again, I leave used up eyelashes everywhere.  It’s cold here and I’m sleepy.  Last night in the make-up room, getting ready for the thirty-girl live-on-the-internet lingerie pyjama party, me and Gia and Aidenn and Brande and Pony sang along to Belinda Carlisle and curled each other’s hair and shared beauty tips and it was like my ten-year-old self had imagined it all into being.  I’m old now, a real grown-up, drinking espresso on Saturday morning and writing post-wedding thank-you cards.

photo by Michelle Tea

In Akumal, it was nesting season, and the turtles came up on the beach at night like tanks with dinosaur heads.  From twenty feet away in the dark, you could just make out their big flippers flinging sand up and across their own backs, with a rough thwacking sound like in a movie gangster digging a hole for the body.  The CEA with their red flashlights kept everyone back and quiet, until one night when the turtle had stopped digging and been only a still black shape for at least ten minutes, and the man with the red flashlight waved us in close.   A dozen tourists from the US and Italy and northern Mexico moved in quietly to flank the nest, and the turtle became slowly visible, three feet wide, her shell crusted with sand and red-brown curls of seaweed that seemed to be rooted and growing there.    The man with the flashlight touched the turtle’s front flipper, shone his red light on the numbered metal tag there, and then moved around to her backside and used his arm to push the banks of the nest out wider so we could see right in.  The turtle didn’t move at all, just continued to lay her eggs and we watched them drop – a pile of sticky ping-pong sized tapioca balls deep in the damp sand.  We stayed there watching for thirty minutes or an hour, who could tell how long?  And the woman next to me held her little telephone out in front of her with its lights off – she could not possibly have seen an image on its little screen – making the world’s most boring vacation video to prove that she’d been there.   All of a sudden, seeing something we could not, the man with the red flashlight waved us all away, and we stepped back before the turtle began to move again.  Maybe she was tired or just careful – she moved a little sand into the nest with her flippers (like a child making angels in the snow) and then paused for an entire minute before repeating the motion.  Warm damp air, black beach, our skin sticky, the waves continuing to rush in and out, and this ancient animal slowly, slowly, burying her secret nest.  Finally she must have decided it was well-hidden; she began to turn around, clockwise, a few inches at a time, until she faced the water.  Then, her back still heaped with sand, like something out of a myth, she walked back into the ocean.

Back in San Francisco, Brande glues my lashes on one more time.  Next week she’ll go back to Los Angeles and I’ll go back to New York and last night was just one more party at which fifteen new girls learned how to wear a glitter dildo.  Next week I’ll return to my schedule of ten mid-air hours a week, doing my homework at 30,000 feet, and all of this seems like a kind of mythology.  Art-making and naked-on-the-internet and Hollywood movie stars acting out lines I’ve written.  Not to mention hurricanes in Manhattan and famous NYU faculty at the welcome reception eating grilled shrimp on a stick.  Last night there were nervous girls in bright lipstick and daring girls in bright lipstick and both of them reminded me of me.  Reminded me of being a grown-up, still pop sing-along, head still turned by ribbons, post-adolescent and still eyelashes everywhere.

Sugarland 2009

Early one morning, we heard shouting on the beach and ran down with our coffee cups and sleep-crazy hair to see Elyo, the head of the red-flashlight turtle-keepers, helping the new-hatched baby turtles out of the sand to keep them safe from birds.  They were small as plums.  Flat plums with strong legs and perky little faces, and when he let them go into the sea, two or three at a time, they scrambled like wind up toys, were turned over by the first waves and then got back up to try again until they finally got past the edge of the water and caught the current – tiny, determined creatures riding out into the wide water.


This is officially my gayest birthday.  Danced at the historic Stonewall Inn to Lady Gaga while eating pink cupcakes and wearing a gold plastic crown jeweled with miniature plastic breasts (thank you Mare-in Markey).  Drank champagne from sippy cups and sobbed through not one, but two Broadway shows about singing queens.

Gender-nonconformists in sequined gowns just get me every time.  Not to mention songs about how a little mascara can really turn your life around.  These are themes that resonate.

You know what else gets me all choked up? You tube home videos.

Exhibits A and B:

In Manhattan, yesterday afternoon when the hail was so small it click-click-clicked and bounced and glittered against my fur-hooded jacket, I couldn’t help but think of diamonds, being showered in diamonds.  In Brooklyn, this morning, the streets are made of slush and though the snowfall has stopped, white chunks of it are hurled from the elevated tracks every time the train passes – confetti or feathers.  Though technically I’ve lived here for over a year now, I’ve missed every major snow storm until last night.  During dinner in an east village apartment with big picture windows, lightening turned the white sky yellow.  Sky swirling popcorn.  Sky so full and blowing it looked fake, like we’d been shaken.  By midnight, only taxis creeped down Houston and everyone else slid, laughed, held each other’s hands and grew sugary, their shoulders and knit hats getting drifted.  We couldn’t tell where the street began.  “Isn’t it beautiful?” Charlotte kept saying with her French inflection.  Nicole got me right in the face with a packed ball of it and I threw one back and watched it shatter against her jacket.  All of this white.  A run on old metaphors.  Snow like love or death – a battered category – nothing new to say about it.  And a river of melt outside my window.  And still more.  All of this.  White cake, white trees, white dresses, strips of white rhinestones and soup bones in poems.

Lorca as translated by Carlos Bauer.  Lord how I wish I spoke Spanish.

It’s gotten colder and my dog wants to always stick his nose in my armpit while I write.  Why does he do this? I wish he’d open his mouth just once to talk to me in words.

I plan things and plan things.  Appointments for blood tests and x-rays and dinners with poets.  Flights to cities with airport codes I’ve memorized.  Reading assignments for the students I’ve yet to meet.  My library card gets so much action.

Wednesday I wade through the Market Street river of orange-shirted bodies, armed with my pink totebag stack of Baldwin and Dickenson, Notley, Bersenbrugge, and Wright – both James and C.D.  It’s a weirdly hot day for November and the people are walking on broken cups and crushed brown-bagged cans of Sparks.  In front of the Blick off Sixth, a teenager – so skinny like a clapper in the bell of his wind-filled t-shirt – climbs a streetlight to either hang or tear down a black and orange flag – it isn’t clear which.  Fifty people gather to chant at him and I can’t get through without holding the books in front of me as a shield or a weapon.

On Friday I bring mudcake to the bar and carve it up with plastic spoons and cocktail napkins.  We play slaps and I bust my foot on the heavy wooden door.  Nicole laughs her way through another birthday.  The first girl who tries to sell us lighted silk roses from a heavy tray reminds me how much better it is to be writing a syllabus than to be treking up Broadway in heels. But then Saturday night comes and I’m gathering dollars from a hotel carpet. I’m riding the elevator with fur-collared tourists on their way to the Top of the Mark, knocking on the door of an 11th floor suite with Lilah beside me, and between us our bags of heels and costumes, rolled lights and wet wipes and sharpies and cans of whipped cream.

The bachelor’s single friends have brought girls up to the room.  Female guests at a bachelor party can go either way – as Lilah and I are setting up I hear one of the girls say: “how much would you pay me to strip?” And I think: really? Do you go out to dinner and barge into the kitchen to show the chefs how well you can cook?  But the girl turns out to be sweet and curious, if naive.  Lilah and I lock ourselves into the bathroom to count out and the girl is in there with us, peeing.  The girl says, “So how did you guys get started? Did you take classes?  I want to go to your class.”  And while I’m glad for the recognition that this job requires skill, I can’t help but laugh at the image of a girl in a four hundred dollar hotel suite asking the stripper where to take lessons.

In the suite’s bedroom, men who are younger than me smoke cigarettes out the window.  They’re wearing khakis and button down shirts and they still have money in their hands.  Outside, it looks like Gotham.  Like every lonely hotel movie sequence.  As we’re leaving, one of the guys, slurring over a plastic cup of vodka and ice, asks “Where do you girls go to college?”  He turns to the guy slouched next to him on the beige couch and says, “All strippers go to college.”

1. The ocean and sky so blue you can’t tell the difference, looking out from the rise of Point Loma Blvd three days after my sister was born.

2. My man bringing me a cup of coffee in bed early in the morning when I’ve just come back from New York and the sunlight is rushing in through the window behind him.

3. Language – an infinity of tonalities and forms.

4. That melancholy in the grey of mid-fall when the air smells like metal and dryer lint and you’re lonely walking through a neighborhood where no one is coming to greet you and then the Hasidic women in clusters, the Puerto Rican teenagers, the skinny NYU students smoking outside the library, the jazz quartet in Washington Square Park, some combination of sweatered and work-booted subway riders makes you feel totally alone but alive, part of something bigger – the city – the story in your head – some kind of music – and then if I know what’s good for me, I go to the library and write it down, watching the lights come on uptown, above the trees, the seasonal, colored pattern of the Empire State building.

lithograph, The Hague, November 11, 1882

During the years 1882 and 1883, Vincent van Gogh lived in the Hague with a woman named Clasina Maria Hoomik.  Van Gogh called her “Sien”.  Sien had been working as a prostitute, and was ill and pregnant with her second child when she and Vincent met.  She became his model, and appears in over fifty of his drawings and a lithograph from that period.  Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo – on whom he was financially dependent – about how much he loved Sien, and about how he wished to marry her, despite how it would lower his own class standing.  Theo was against the marriage, and commanded that Vincent leave Sien, which he eventually did, though he swore in his letters that he never would.  Some time after, Sien drowned herself.  Vincent, of course, eventually took his own life as well.

letter 193 14 May 1882

“I ask you, Am I free  to marry – yes or no?  Am I free to put on a workman’s clothes and live like a workman – yes or no? Whom am I responsible to, who will try to force me?

To hell with anyone who wants to hinder me.”

drawing, The Hague, late April 1882

“What I mean is, one feels best what love is when sitting by a sickbed, sometimes without any money in one’s pocket.  It is no gathering of strawberries in spring – that lasts only a few days, and most of the months are grey and gloomy.  But in that gloom one learns something new”

letter 194 4-12 May 1882

“…neither she nor I is living in a rose garden or dreaming in the moonlight; we have a hard time ahead of us, so much the better”

letter 201 2,3 June 1882

“I ask nothing, not even an old cup and saucer.  I ask but one single thing: to let me love and care for my poor, weak, ill-used little wife as well as my poverty permits, without their trying to separate, worry, or hurt us.”

letter 193a, late December 1883

“But if something is broken, I feel it.  And I say, What is broken, is broken.  If I do, at least I regain my serenity; I should lose my serenity if I were not frank enough.  I am not afraid to face the future as long as I need not be involved in things which I feel to be dishonest.”

“And as I see it the situation is this: under the circumstances, if I get no support, e.g. from you, I can do practically nothing for the woman; for I think myself that it is not in my power to assist her, at least not at once.  So you have me at your mercy, you particularly, along with many others, none of whom can care to agree with me.  And yet you will not be able to force me to renounce her, whatever your financial power.  And seeing that I shall make no concessions in the matter of the woman – and I will clearly declare it, loud enough for even ears that are most hard of hearing – I announce in advance that I have resolved to share with her all that is my property and I do not wish to accept any money from you, except what I may regard as my property without arriere pensee.”

“In short, rest assured that I believe I am entitled to do anything which does not hurt anyone else and it is my duty to live up to the liberty which not only I myself but every human being has an unlimited and natural right to – this liberty, I say, being the only station in life one should live up to.  Before I act, I most decidedly ask myself, Shall I hurt anyone by doing this or that? but unless it is irrefutably proved to me that I shall hurt someone by doing a particular thing, I need not refrain from doing it.”

More here and here

A year ago in August in Nebraska – in the glass walled  cold-weather entryway of America’s Biggest Gay Dance Club – a blonde queen looked at my blue skirt and said, “Turquoise and chocolate brown – those were my signature colors for all of 2008.”  She turned to the queen next to her and said, “this girl knows what she’s doing.”

It’s always nice to be told that you know what you are doing, but particularly when it’s a lie.

Yesterday at work, I almost fainted, which was unusual and embarrassing.  I drank some apple juice with an icy washcloth around my neck.  I was fine.

Today, I accidentally touched the poisonous flea medicine on my dog’s neck.  He was fine.

In Washington Square there are so many delis and coffee shops, it becomes impossible to choose.  Even if you think – oh I’ll try that other one today, you end walking the same route up Greene Street, down East 9th, to buy the same cup of minestrone and cappuccino every time from the impatient woman with the big curls.

Some days it’s so much pink grapefruit body lotion and self-tanner and sweat and I can’t remember the way the chapter was meant to go – that paragraph composed between the vegetarian-meat-substitutes cold case and aisle nine ziplock and plastic cling wrap.  Faded into parking lot and grocery bag and public restroom.  William Carlos Williams says you have to live in, be in the world first, not memorizing for later as though the sky, laundry, pancakes are all just more material. There’s so much advice I meant to follow.

Last night, we had pho delivered and my man made me drink Pedialyte – a bottle of melted sugar-free lollypop.  And his arms, body, mouth – none of it material for later, all of it home.  All of it here and now and inside the details so that if I try to write it in the morning, after he’s left for work, I have so little to grasp, it’s just one more lovesick. Love well.  He says, do I need to start a fight with you?  He says, are you too happy?

What city should I be in today? Next week? A clue: on Saturday night I read two poems that are seven years old and I feel so fucking grateful to be here now writing about dogs and Pedialyte and the light at 10:36 a.m. Pacific, sending shafts through the crowded downtown apartments to the redwood stain that smells wet and toxic.

I know there are syringes on the block here and walls so thin we hear the crying lab next door and late at night the boys in leather boots suck each other off and vomit and tug each other’s arms and shout and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and kiss and laugh in the door frames up and down Folsom.  I know the washer-dryer blows lint into the closet and the bathtub drain leak is inexplicably rusting the outdoor light fixture.  I know the keys stick.  I am so grateful.  The dog pees on the carpet.  The kitchen drawers are inordinately narrow.  What luck.  The stairs, the stairs, always something that needs to be taken up or down the stairs.

And I forget to take the leftover tofu out of the fridge where it rots for a week before we figure out where that smell is coming from.  I forget to hang up my jacket.  I leave the curling iron and the hairdryer with their plastic cords all tangled on the counter.  After you’ve organized the kitchen cupboards, I put everything back on the wrong shelves.  I break something new every month and I lose the details and I can’t hear you and I love you.  What luck, what incredible luck.  A clue.  That girl knows what she’s doing.

Between the celebratory cooking of pork and oyster mushrooms and the negotiation of a strap-on harness with a leg brace, I wonder what I can tell you that will be interesting.  Truthfully, there’s more bandages and ice than strap-on, and internet effluvia makes both my jobs seem like picking pins out of hay/fleas off my dog/crumbs out of the carpet in our new, many-staired apartment one by one by one. Make a story, make an image, throw it in the pile and hope it swims.

In July, there’s the wedding at which one cow’s moan/moo underpins the vows of a multinational pair of actors and I stumble across the hay floor in my yellow dress, late, after catching a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge with a trumpet player.  Later, I’ll be nearly sick with zinfandel and salty chocolate and the bride’s brother will make a beautiful speech, flown from Cairo, his backdrop a galaxy of lights/sun between boards of the barn wall.  I’ll pet pigs, their ears like sharkskin.  In the dark, my man – his knee yet to be incapacitated – will carry me over potholed dirt, past the goats who jump straight up in the air over and over for no discernible reason.

In July there’s the federal obscenity trial during which I mostly pace the floor of a hotel room in D.C. waiting to be called/iron my court clothes/meet lawyers in the lobby during rainstorms/walk up the road to the Smithsonian Zoological Park where Tian Tian the giant panda sits in a pile of bamboo, eating it by the handful.

The week after the trial, back in San Francisco, my two baby sisters offer a totally different perspective.  I take them to the aquarium where sharks swim over our heads.  I take them to the Academy of Sciences where we walk through a rainforest and watch the universe begin.  I take them back to my apartment where we throw pizza dough in the air and improvise dances and make things out of colored paper, scissors, markers, glue.

In New York, there is record-breaking heat.  In San Francisco it’s the coldest summer in forty years. I shiver so badly, waiting behind the curtain on Saturday night in my pink ruched “dress” on the Mermaid’s Cruise, I’m afraid that my teeth will chatter during my first dance.  But the bachelor is surly and unobservant, and the best man gets so wasted he stops speaking, his jaw locked and eyes an unfocused, watery blue.  Over their shoulders, the black bay rolls past the boat window.  The skyline shifts and smears light with each swell.  Home finally, seasick and wrapped in sweatshirts, I drop fistfuls of ones onto the couch, shower, and walk the pup up Folsom Street, my make-up an unscrubbable smear of greys. The two-a.m. condensation is somewhere between fog and rain, fat and wet.  Two men in tight cotton t-shirts grip each other on the corner, squeal at Whisky Wilson’s leash-tugging curiosity.  A blond in cowboy boots bends to scratch my little dog’s ears without acknowledging me.  She whispers, her voice thick and boozy: “Hello little one. Hello.”

There is a disco-flash glitter of sunspots through skylights in our new apartment. I continue to consider entirely new career paths like nursing and cosmetology and songwriting while unpacking and scheduling shoots and submitting poems and fumbling through the writing of magazine articles and walking the dog who thinks he is a cat.  This is what June looks like.

Having no internet connection this month derailed my daily photo-blog project, but here is a retrospective slideshow, including select dates from the second half of June and Pride Weekend.  Some of the photos are out of order, because I simply cannot seem to figure out how to make them run in the right order.  This is exactly the amount of technology that I can handle, no more.

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The way I like to do my drinking.

June 6th

June 6th

June 7th

June 8th

June 9th

June 10th

June 11th

June 12th