Thursday, May 25, 2006

All My Cares Just Drift Right Into Space

OK. I lied. I can't go to bed just yet without cranking out another blog entry. I've been too negligent lately with the blogging. Sometimes there's so much I want to blog about - I've been re-re-re-revising my Grand Theory Of Female Bisexuality so much in my head that it's booklength at this point, and it's not going to get blogged about till I'm really in the mood for it.

But sometimes the best blog entries just happen. Greg moved out a couple days ago for the summer - off to internship 8 hours away. And the sublettor doesn't come for a couple more weeks. Which means that the attic - his gorgeous suite - is empty. And it means that any time I want to, I can crawl through the tiny-ass dormer window onto our gently sloping back roof of our DC rowhouse. I sunbathed nude a couple days ago while reading a novel. A couple people drove through the alley, and maybe someone saw me. Oh well.

I got to crawl out on the roof just now and be happy. (It's the place, Carole King's song tells us, where all your cares just drift right into space). I'd had a nice, albeit brief cry for John Lennon (see post below - he deserves one every once in awhile) and sometimes crying for sad things makes me tremendously happy for good things. I had to quit taking Adderall about 3 or 4 weeks ago. I was becoming tolerant, and upping the dose was upping my heart rate & blood pressure, and I didn't want a heart attack. But the Strattera my shrink switched me to is bullshit. It's an antidepressant, basically, that is supposed to help ADHD, but of course it doesn't really work. People who truly have ADHD need stimulant medication. I'm going to have to go back sooner than planned and try to get something Ritalin-based. It's supposed to not give people heart attacks, and it's known to work.

Going without the medication that changed my life irreparably for the better was a reminder of the dysfunction that my life can have when I'm in my non-medicated state. Yeah, I've had a lot of dysfunctional fun while medicated - drugs don't make you do everything "right" - but the type of unwanted dysfunction that you have when you are severely hyperactive and impulsive isn't fun. I need drugs (specific drugs, not the fun ones per se) to keep me regulated, and I'm A-OK with that. I took Adderall the last two days and it was like being fully myself - the real myself, really - again. But I can't stay on it, and I pray that some form of Ritalin will do it for me.

But being able to think again - to function again in a non-head-in-the-clouds way - makes me elated. I love having full mental powers. Anyone who's had successful pharmacotherapy for depression, bipolar, anxiety, ADHD, whatever - knows what I mean. Psychotherapy is soooo important for mental illness, but sometimes some people have general chemical issues that need general chemical cures in addition to psychotherapy. And it feels good when it works.

I miss Greg already - he's such a mellow, stable factor in our Real World house of madness - and above and beyond our friendship, I also feel like we have a lot to teach each other what it's like to be us. I've had a handful of straight black male friends over the years, but none that were terribly close. And I don't think he's had any close gay white male friends before. And we can all be loveydoveytouchyfeely liberals that are so enlightened into the pathos of other collective groups of The Oppressed, but how can you really understand what it's like to be a unique person in a labeled/pigeonholed group unless you actually have friends who are unique people within those groups?

I didn't understand Judaism for shit until I moved to DC. Being against the Holocaust/Inquisistion/Jerry Falwell is like being against pedophilia. Who's going to take the other side of that argument outside of debate class? But being against the Holocaust has very little to do with knowing Jack Shit about the lives of people who are Jewish.

You can intellectualize all you want to about same-sex sex, but if you don't know anyone who's gay, how do you have any idea what it's like to grow up with crushes on your canoeing merit badge counselor at scout camp and not being able to tell anyone because of the sex of who your crush is on? Or what it's like to go to third base with a girl to realize that despite what you've been told, not all men - for example, yourself - don't actually want to be there doing that? You have to know people, and love people, to understand where they've been and what they've been through.

And I can't say all this without thinking of the amazing woman who's been one of my best friends for almost a decade. She's had sooooo much in her life that she's fought through for the better. Such a strong - and fundamentally, phenomenally good person - who has taught me again and again the power of empathy for others. I can't think of a single other person on this planet who's taught me more through experience how important it is - and how good it feels in the long run - to really pick yourself up, put yourself in someone else's shoes, and get to work (to paraphrase Bob Dylan) knowing their world, knowing their kind, understanding their pain.

She'll laugh when she reads this. She knows that everything reminds me of song lyrics. It's the way my brain is wired. But I'm not listening to Dylan's "Is Your Love In Vain?" although I'm thinking of its truth-under-the-schmaltz. I had to put on yet another gorgeous gem of truth-under-schmaltz (don't wince) - The Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." True, they admitted in their name an embarrassing level of worship for Buddy Holly, and my boy Graham Nash had taken his credibility with him when he left for CSNand/orY a long time before they cranked that puppy out, but it's the kind of cheese that resonates with my worldview. We gotta be here for each other. Helping those in need never hurts, but it might make you cry.

I will get to bed in the near future, but as I'm going through a nostalgic cheese-music-scored journey through lovin' the world, I'll leave you with one last musical thought that sums up my mood right now. There's a bootleg recording (an amazing one) of buddies Carole King and James Taylor from 1971 where they run through a bunch of songs that Carole wrote for Doo-Wop groups in the Sixties. I'm not a fan, in general, of the music industry's semi-shameful history of forcing black groups to record music written by whites. This kept the money in white hands and stifled actual black voices in music. But Carole King wasn't responsible for larger sociological trends, and the anthem she gave Aretha screams sisterhood. Even if you need a man to make you feel inspired, at least he's inspiring you to be natural. If anyone told it straightforward time and time again that you needed to be yourself, it was Carole. So she and James are at some concert, and his guitar is unfortunately under-mic'd, but her piano is dead-on, and the two of them can really harmonize at the S&G/BeachBoys/CSNY level. And they start singing "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" which is one of my favorite songs ever. Anyone who hasn't felt that song, directly, personally, and immediately hasn't had the same human experience as the rest of us. But - Will - My - Heart - Be - Brooo-ken... when the night [when the night] meets the morning [meets the morning sun?]

But that's not the end of it. Really - get this mp3 from me if you don't have it. It's eight minutes long. They touch ever so lightly on "Some Kind Of Wonderful." Not the also-great Grand Funk song, but the one Carole wrote for the Drifters. And then they soar into drenched harmony for "Up On The Roof."

At night the stars put on a show for free / And darling, you can share it for me / I keep on telling you, right smack dab in the middle of town / I've found a paradise that's trouble-proof / So if this world starts getting you down, there's room enough for two.

Up on the roof.

Everything is all right, up on the roof. Come on baby, come on honey, come on now, come on now, darling, up on the roof. Everything is all right, Everything is all right, Everything is all right.

Up on the roof.

I Get Melodramatic About Dead Musicians

You can ask my ex if you want. I cried when Nina Simone died.

It was kind of random tonight - I was digging through Wikipedia looking for some dates & cover art for some Paul McCartney singles from the '70s that were sitting around under-labeled in iTunes (a sin considering my anal-retentive devotion to iTunes), and wouldn't you know it, pretty soon I was reading up on Brian Epstein, Beatles manager and a minor personal hero of mine since high school, and of course before you know it you're re-reading the gory details of John Lennon's life.

You know that there was mamadrama going on, and that she (Julia) died young, and he knocked up Cynthia, named son Julian after dead mom, ignored wife & kid to tour with the Beatles, was the best straight buddy/unrequited love interest of genius manager Epstein, weathered the bigger-than-Jesus storm, became enmeshed with unattractive/bad singer-yet-provocative/intellectual-feminist/artist Ono, had painful public fights with Paul, was harassed by the Nixon administration, did the Elton John concert thingy, became a housedad to son #2, returned to music 5 years later & gave us the gorgeous "Watching the Wheels"... you know the history... and then you just have to read up on the details of 12/8/1980. It's a date that's been stuck in my head since high school. John Lennon was 40 years old. That's been stuck in my head for over a decade, too.

It is melodramatic, on some level, to really mourn the death of famous people that wrote music over the death of, I don't know, servicemen in Iraq that were 19 and died. Or crackheads who got hit by cars and died. John Lennon was himself a junkie (though technically only a junkie in the truest sense for a couple of years, but you knew that too). His life was hardly a model for greatness: flunking out of art school, knockin' up bitches, doing every drug available, writing petty (and yet terrific!) songs mocking McCartney, etc...

To sit around 25-1/2 years later and mourn the loss of someone who died when I was a toddler, whose death has been a fact of life for my entire walking life, is a little silly at 2 AM on a weeknight. Lennon didn't die yesterday, and when was the last time I actually sat around listening to a John Lennon record end-to-end? There's so much music to listen to out there. There are so many dead musicians to mourn.

I intentionally didn't write a eulogy for my man, Wilson Pickett, who wrote one of my 2-3 favorite songs of all time, a couple months back. In the pre-blog years I wrote lengthy eulogies for Nina Simone & Johnny Cash. By the time Ray Charles died, I felt like I'd eulogized enough. Then Wilson Pickett died a couple months back and I tore the shit out of "In The Midnight Hour" at karaoke a couple times that week. Mostly at gay bars where the two-to-three non-Aryans in the bar were surprised/impressed/embarrassed (take your pick) at the farmboy belting out Memphis soul, while being thoroughly ignored by the rest of the crowd who had no idea what was going on but knew it wasn't a Cher cover. But I just couldn't find the nerve to draft up my own from-memory-Wikipediaesque entry & send it out to the world. Pining for dead musicians is just so lame or something.

But it occupies a strong place in my psyche. People who have given me great music but suffered so much pain (and maybe it's not that shocking for the two to co-occur so often) get a lot of empathy from me. Sometimes when they die, I cry. I can't imAGine what it will be like for me when Bob Dylan dies (he almost went a few years back after breathing some bad airborne fungus at Bonnaroo). And fucking John Lennon. He died before I was toilet-trained. The dude's been dead longer than I've been sitting on the crapper pinching out turds, and yet I'm still capable of feeling profoundly sad about it, at 2 in the morning. Well, he gave us "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Imagine," not to mention countless other pieces of inexplicable beauty.

Oh fuck, "Mind Games" just came up on iTunes and now I'm crying. I have got to get to sleep.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My Love-Hate Feelings Re: My Own Writing

I'm back to posting after about 3 weeks off.

Part of what drives my love/hate relationship with this blog is the public nature of blogging. There are a billion articles out there, if you Google for them, regarding the social changes effected by the internet. People like me get to rant and rave in our underwear from our home computers and the whole world (not that the whole world cares - but it's out there) gets to read our lunacy.

I guess if I always said polite, nice, appropriate things then I wouldn't get paranoid about my blog. But I don't, and I do. And the funny part is, I'll think "oh gee, I shouldn't say anything controversial because it could get back to me" and I hide from the blog for a couple weeks. And then I come back. And the blog didn't go anywhere - it was right here all along, and people could & might have been reading it anyway.

I don't know what the solution is: do I try to censor myself more, such that I don't say things I think could bite me in the ass? Or do I just suppress that little voice that says "watch yo'self!"? Attempt to find a middle ground?

"Oh, I Don't See Color"

Don't you just love how it's become trendy in recent years for White people to "not be racist" by not ignoring racial issues? When Martin Luther King said that he wanted his children judged "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," I don't think he was giving White Americans carte blanche to ignore de facto racism.

I haven't read the actual news articles directly, but apparently there's a storm a-brewin' in Logan Circle. An almost-entirely Black church in what used to be an almost-entirely Black neighborhood is now in an almost-entirely White neighborhood. And its congregation hasn't run away; they just drive to church now on Sundays, and because parking is tight, they're double-parking on the block in front of the church. Apparently the people who now live in the pricey homes in the area don't like the people who have to drive to their church and double-park. However, the churchgoers probably used to walk to church - that, or they always drove but Logan Circle was less trendy and parking was easier back in the day. And now they have to double-park on Sundays.

This is the perfect moment for Whites to say "Oh, I don't see this as a race issue."

How the fuck would you see it as a race issue when you don't understand what de facto racism is? It's really great for Whites to not see issues of gentrification and church membership as race issues, even though housing and religious attendance are two of the three areas I can think of (the third being schooling, of course) in which we are most strongly segregated in America. If you don't notice that everyone at your religious institution is the same race, or that everyone you went to school with was the same race, or if you are especially cognizant of the fact that people in your neighborhood ARE of different races to the extent that you feel the need to tell everyone - you probably don't realize that gentrification is a race issue.

Greg (the roommate) recommends the following article on Whiteness (i.e. being White and "not seeing color"):

"The Boondocks vs. Jump Start"

It's pretty funny (if you are capable of finding academic articles "funny") to hear what Whites and Blacks had to say about the funniest, most racial Black comic strip ever vs. the tamest, lamest one. It's also pretty embarrassing if you're White and get embarrassed about how blind our people can be. It's probably terrifically un-shocking if you're Black and have lived in America for 7 days or longer.

Go read.