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I guess it really is Fall. I guess it’s Autumn. I guess this happens every year. But this elephant always forgets.

I am a sucker for Dumbo’s eyes. and Pinocchio’s.  I guess the thing they have in common, besides/because of the whites of their eyes, is that people want to exploit them as performers. In the circus, Dumbo has to dress up like a clown baby and stand in the window of a burning building. Top floor. While a bunch of fire department circus clowns “rescue” him. A clown dressed in elephant mommy drag histrionically screams “my baby! my baby! save my child!”  while Dumbo’s real mom is shackled to the inside of a car on the circus train. The car is labeled: MAD ELEPHANT. At the end of the act, Dumbo jumps out of the window (correction: he’s pushed and made to look like he jumps) to land on one of those fire department canvas landing pads. But the canvas is a facade. He falls right through it into a pool of whipped cream.

This sounds fun to me.  But you can tell it’s not fun for Dumbo.  He’s humiliated and scared.  The clowns/ringmaster were sort of banking on that feeling. They knew that’s what was thrilling about the number for the audience. the humiliation and the fear.

I feel very Phantom of the Opera fantasy mask about it. Like part of me is the ringmaster and the other part is Dumbo.  I can get into humiliation. I usually learn a lot about what my fucking problem is.

Tonight I’m going down to Occupy Wall Street for the first time.  So are a big group of Marines.


I was on gchat with Max earlier today.

“Wanna get coffee?” is what i said to him. He said he was blogging. Then he could get coffee. It reminded me of this blog. Of the feeling you get when you blog. I think it’s what Virgina Woolf was talking about when she wrote A Room of One’s Own. It is that room for 21st century folks who weren’t born into money.

Tying bricks to your arms and legs and walking into a river is the inverse of the problem that Ariel had in The Little Mermaid. I guess it cost both of them, Virginia and Ariel, their voices. But If Ursula was Ariel’s sea witch, then who was Virginia’s land witch? The only person who can answer that is Walt Disney. Since he is deceased, I am going to ask this nun, Sister Dominica, my Aunt’s best friend, who passed away in her sleep on Thursday if she could talk to Walt about it.

It’s about knowing the right people.

It was cold all night. I left my window open because my radiator is a temperature dominatrix and I like to let a window be a safe word.

I want to try a different coffee shop today in an effort to try a different life.  Maybe not even get a soy latte.  I heard there was a place that sold chicory coffee near me.

When I was moving away from Michigan, I had no specific plans or goals.  I gave myself two options.  New York City or New Orleans. Michigan doesn’t have the word “New” in it, so I knew i had to go somewhere that did.  I had visited New York City once before to perform a show at the Guggenheim. Sounds fancy, but we stayed at a YMCA in bunk beds and I got so drunk at an Irish Pub I woke up and found more than one tampon inside of me.  I guess that was the clincher.  I chose New York.

There’s a picture of Judy Garland in my bedroom and a calendar I made so I could give myself stickers for everyday i do a p90x work-out.

I made my bed this morning. I do that now in New York.

When I was little,  my Aunt Pat gave me a a teddy bear dressed in a nurse’s uniform.  I looked at it and saw some kind of future.  I don’t mean that I explicitly thought I would become a teddy bear nurse or even a nurse, but that for some reason, i felt like a stuffed animal in an employer uniform was a weird hint. Aunt Pat was the only woman in my family who had a job.  My mom, Aunt Chris, and Aunt Ruth were all homemakers.  Aunt Jo was a nun, and that just felt like she was a different gender than the rest of the world, and that that was a job, and that  job meant having short grey hair, singing way louder than other people at church, and joyously playing Kings In The Corner with me and Granddad on Thanksgiving.

When you’re a kid, people want to know what you want to be when you grow up.  Given my options, I obviously wanted to be a nun.

(I think it’s important to note that a subletter in my apartment who does a lot of coke is doing what sounds like filing his nails really really fast in the room next door to mine.)

I’m not a nun. And I’m grown up.  I’m an artist who accidentally took the vow of poverty.

The difference between taking the vow of poverty as a clergy member and accidentally taking the vow of poverty as an artist, is that, as a clergy member, you get to make up a meager budget that covers all of your basic needs.  Rome pays for it.  Nothing extravagant.  Shelter. Medical. Food. Utilities. Car. Gas. Stuff like that.  You work related to what you specialized in, medical, administrative, etc. in the context of your spiritual practice.

Rome doesn’t pay for my art.

But here I am dressed as an elderly teddy bear. Reading a monologue at an art party. a few years ago.

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:

I’m on a brunch-everyday kick. With Becca. Today, I cut the stalks off the greens.  De-boned them.  It’s as close as I’ll get to being a butcher.  When i was a bartender at the Dive Bar, the neighborhood butcher used to come in during the afternoon, get totally hammered, and then go back to the chopping block.  I had to ask myself whether or not I was responsible for the finger I imagined he would sever. When you’re 23 and you’re hired because you’re cute and the sight of you inspires liquor purchase, who should you protect at the bar?

One afternoon, he brought me a steak he had just cut and seared.  It was so good.

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.”

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