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December 2000

I Still Hate Christmas

Hey, whaddya know? it's Christmas Eve and I still hate Christmas. If you've been reading any of my incessant bitching and moaning you'll know that this hasn't been the cheeriest Christmas season around here, but I’d probably still hate Christmas anyway. I hate the pressure to pony up and make a gesture of love all at once to all the friends and family — I’d need to take a mortgage to do that properly. I try to show the love all year long, so I don't think it's especially meaningful to do it under duress. And the last thing I need is a million extra errands to run.

At least I can say that I’ve been distracted from the Christmas phenomenon this year. Miki and I did most of the shopping in Italy, so I mostly was spared the agony of wandering through hordes of consumption-crazed zombies in frightening places like the Manhattan Mall or Macy's, the most horrible place on earth (but that’s another rant altogether). Instead I’ve spent the last week tapping into a political-activism zeal I never knew I had.

This whole Brooklyn loft issue has made me realize that I don't just like the cool place that I live, but I’m actually part of a big community of nifty people who like where we live and feel we have the right to be here because we all get to live in places where we can live, do our work, be around a diverse group of people doing the same, and be part of the city without being shoved into apartments the size of storage lockers. so for now I’m still looking after the EWAC page and I’ve already gotten involved with setting up a site for the Brooklyn LiveWork Coalition. We may have passed inspection and been spared eviction, but now the larger battle for legal protection begins...

I'll stop being so serious now and get back to the reckless self-indulgence you've all come to know and love from your ol' pal Sparky. JockoHomo (if that’s really the nickname he goes by), who I keep hoping I'll run into somewhere so we can become pals, makes a mention of this German diary that makes mention of a few of use here in NYC. If anyone knows German and can translate this for me, I’d really appreciate it:

Zum Beispiel die von Daniel Rhatigan. Kann man sich virtuell verlieben *gähn*? Absolut! Mir ist es mal wieder passiert, ohne daß ich IHN, also Daniel, auch nur ein bißchen kenne. Wohnt zum Glück in NY, was Großstadtphantasien weiteren spielraum gibt. *seufz*

Of course, maybe my old chum (and current Doctor of German), Jen Marshall (nee Cizik) can do the honors for me when she comes to town this week.

Domestic Disturbance

Imminent ThreatHow much god-damned shittiness am I supposed to put up with in one month? I apologize if that’s not the most articulate, informative way to express the extreme aggravation, frustration, loneliness, disappointment, and despair that have been swirling around these last few weeks. Lots of things have sucked — family trauma, financial strains, work nonsense, regular holiday crap, and plenty of guy trouble — and now this fucking article comes along to let me know that I may be suddenly evicted at any point. A threat like this wouldn't be welcome under the best of circumstances: It really sucks ass right now. It's not perfect, but I really adore my bachelor pad, and I really don't wanna get kicked out to the curb just when winter is setting in and my bank account is perpetually overdrawn as I deal with piles of various bills. I can't even afford to live anywhere but here, much less put together the scratch to actually find a place and haul me and all my crap there.

You know, I was going to write a fun little entry about my sexy new cell phone ('cuz I lost mine this weekend) and how size envy with electronics is all about being small instead of big and what an incredible paradigm shift that is for luxury items. Maybe I was going to gripe a little bit about how demoralizing it is when guys you really like wind up with one another instead of being interested in you, but no. Now this last straw onto the camel's back is provoking the crying jag that’s been building up the last couple of weeks. so rather than figure out what the fuck I should do right now, I think I'll go cry myself to sleep like some fucking baby and prepare for the humiliating ritual of tucking my poor, loser tail between my legs and asking my parents for help.

Merry Christmas kids!

Dude, Where's Your Script?

TV is often so much more horrifying than regular life, especially weekend TV. so I turn on the set as I sit around bored today, and I see this guy wearing a tank-top and leather chaps, and he's on ice skates. OK, I’m already confused. But then he climbs up on this podium where there are some arty looking metal things, and he makes a big show of welding them together. Whatever. Then he picks up a curtain, covers the podium for a sec, there's a flash of smoke, and then this lady in a silvery leotard jumps down and they skate off together, presumably to the gay/leather/ice-rink bar where he's a go-go dancer. Is this a simple retelling of Pygmalion? No, it apparently is Starskates Magic! I think it's time to just go back to hunting for MP3s. (No offense, Metallica. I’m not looking for any of yours.)

By the way, you must go see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's outstanding — the story is rich and layered, in a mythic sort of way; the fight scenes are unspeakably elegant and beautiful, favoring dramtic tension over straight violence, and...and...well, I could just go on and on. It's not a kung fu movie, it's not an art flick, it's just very moving and poetic and beautiful. (some weird moments of under-par cinematogrpahy, but easily forgiven, considering how well it's put together otherwise.)

Whatever you do, do not follow my example and follow up such a treat by sneaking into Dude, Where's My Car? Your brain will hurt, and you will feel cheated that not even the scenes where the two hot boys wrestle and kiss can make up for the movie being so tragically unfunny and pointless.

Hemmin', Hawin', and Hair

So not only did last night make it painfully obvious that the current boy just wants to be friends (and I’m net even sure of that much), but I also lost my cell phone during one of the cab rides. I’m glad Dave came down for the weekend to keep me company and read comic books and watch movies and junk. It's been good timing to just hang and chill with someone who knows me inside and out and appreciates how useful it is to just sit around and read comic books right now.

If you've ever noticed the Sparky cartoon over at the Rumpus Room, you may have wondered what the point was. Well, kids, that Sparky cartoon is a collage of various pieces of clip art including the head of one that looked just like I did for many years. And that particular skater-hair look I sported back when had an eerie resemblance to one of my earlier childhood influences. so may I now present A History of Sparky's Hair:

step 1: Hermiestep 2: High schoolstep 3: Sparky

Recovering, Thanks

My sister is about a million times better than when I saw her last week. she's still in rough shape, objectively speaking, but she's lucid and talking and lookin forward to getting up out of bed once in a while, especially so she can get washed. she's very eager to be clean again. she's even managing to crack a joke or ag on her husband a bit, so things are looking up.

One gruesome detail, though, that I hope I never have to see on someone I love again: metal staples in the skull. The human body just doesn't seem the appropriate place to use a goddamn staple gun.

So after that was just another night of sliding into a slack-jawed, stress-induced coma in front of the TV last night. Well, actually there wasn't much on TV, so I topped off the evening by doing more hunting with Napster. Now that I have DSL, I hate to wste the bandwidth by not using it.

I have another houseguest this week — A Danish choreographer named Rosa who studies with my my friend João in Holland — who makes me feel a little bad because I’m such a poor entertainer this week. Luckily, she's pretty independent, so I don't need to be hovering over her and offering her things to do all the time. But still, my host instinct make me feel bad.

Duh...Uhhh...Wha?

I was totally unequipped to commute this morning. I’m tired, I’m worn out from the stress and the cold I’ve had for weeks, I’ve had all kinds of stupid and serious stuff on my mind, and this morning I reacted poorly to every bit of normal, everyday aggression and hostility on the subways and in the streets. I just want to feel a little peaceful, you know? I just want to see a little consideration around me. Every asshole who squeezed onto a car that was obviously too full, every idiot who pushed off the train as if no one else was getting off, every moron who wouldn't pay attention to the way he'd be standing in the least convenient place just got on my nerves like all get-out today. I just need to sit quietly in my nondescript little TempCube and chill the fuck out.

Well, I guess that’s not really what I need at this point, but for lack of any better offers it'll be a start.

Update for those concerned: Patti is doing better. It looks like the stroke didn't do any serious damage, that seizure she just had is apparently normal under the circumstances, and she's more awake and aware now, which is a mixed blessing. But things are looking more up than down.

Haunted House

I’m working today at ASME's not-so-elegantly appointed offices on the 20th floor of a midtown skyscraper. It's got a really eerie haunted-house vibe going on today. The wind is blowing like crazy outside, and the facade of this building has enough protrusions that the gusts are howling like banshees as they whip around the tower. In addition, the wind is causing the building to sway just a bit, so there are mysterious creaks and groans all over the place. I half expect the scooby Doo gang to bust in, pull the face off a pen-stealing gremlin, and discover that he's secretly a crusty, disgruntled carny with an axe to grind against the organization.

Insecure Freak

God, I can be such an insecure freak sometimes. This isn't helped by my occasional inability to make sense of a situation when I like a guy. Usually, it's no problem for me to figure out the who-likes-who dynamics of a situation, but with this one I’m just lost. It's happened before: I know I have an interest in things working out, so I just can't make heads or tails out of the situation if it doesn't all happen easily. Good grief. Just when I was convinced that he was trying to butter me up for the brush off (the infamous "You're the nicest guy ever" remark was my tip-off), he calls all happy to talk to me and asks me to dinner.

Now, the big question is: How much of this is a reflection of my own fears about the risks of sleeping with him some more? Is it pathetically passive-aggressive of me to assume he's being a jerk so I don't have to figure out how comfortable I can be dating someone who's positive?

Speaking of which, it's high time I get tested again. It's been a long time since my last test, and I’ve been a bigger slut during that time than ever before. As fastidious as I am, I know I’ve slipped a couple of times out of those dozens and dozens. Between this one (who still hasn't actually mentioned anything about it to me) and my sister's bout with a brain tumor, you can imagine how thoughts of mortality are darting around in my head.

If I Had a Hammer...

...And a staple gun, and a few other choice tidbits, I could handle almost anything. Of course, I love hardware stores far too much to keep myself from picking up all sorts of specialty tools as the need arises, but I assure you that having a few key items around will make you much less dependent upon the kindness of strangers in an emergency.

All of this stuff costs only a few dollars for a serviceable version of each, and it'll be an investment that will make up for itself in no time at all. Not only will you earn valuable brownie points with that cute college boy working at the local True Value for the summer, but you'll also save a small fortune in dumb repair bills, and a lot of headaches from exasperated superintendents.

Hammer Time!Never, NEVER underestimate the importance of having a good, full-size hammer around the house. In a pinch, even a decent ball-pean hammer will do. Some day yoou'll need to hang a picture, loosen an old valve on a water pipe, pull out a nail where a picture used to hang, or something else that will require something more efficient than the heel of your shoe.

There are basically two tricks to using a hammer. The most important is to swing it from your elbow, not your wrist. Little, limp-wristed, girly wrist-hammering will hurt you and it won't do a damn thing. Hold the hammer firmly in your hand, and let the momentum of your whole forearm do the bulk of the work. The second trick it to know how much force is needed, and USE IT. If a sticky valve or tiny picture nail just need a tap or two, just give 'em a good, firm tap. If you have to drive big nail into a block of wood, tap once or twice for position and then swing like the mighty Thor — it'll feel very cathartic, and there'll be less chance of screwing up the nail or the angle of approach if you can drive the nail in with just two or three whacks.

Screw Me!Screw You!

The other most useful thing you can have around the house is a Phillips head screwdriver. that’s the one with the x-shaped tip, in case you're wondering. A flat-head screw driver will also be handy to have around. If you're worried about having too packed a toolbox, you can always get a screwdriver handle with a reversible bit, Phillips on one side and flat-head on the other. But if you've managed to get this far in your life without owning a screwdriver, I assure you your streak of good luck won't last forever.

Someday you'll have to open the back of that computer, or attach that shelf to the wall, or tighten that table leg, or hang those curtain rods, or chip that ice out of the freezer (which is, of course, a foolish and dangerous use for a screwdriver, but a use nonetheless). The screwdriver is your friend, believe me.

Pinch me, I’m dreamingSlip-joint pliers are universally handy. Purists will say that everything they're useful for is the wrong way to use them, but that’s all horsecrap. Got a bolt to tighten or loosen? Plier it, baby. Missing a knob on the stove? Fire it up with your friendly pliers. That showerhead leaking again? You know what to do. You can tell if you're using pliers for the wrong thing if it seems like it takes too much hand strength to get a grip on something, but the beauty of pliers is that they'll still get the job done if you work at it. And get a pair that can also be used as a wirecutter.

Monkey BusinessOf course, we can't forget our trusty friend the adjustable monkey wrench. This is the one that you should be using all those times when pliers don't seem to work well. If you have a bike, for instance, you probably already know that a monkey wrench and one or two Allen wrenches (see below) are your magic best friends at tune-up time. You can think of this as a hardcore pair of pliers. If pliers can grab it, a monkey wrench can grab it better, and give you more leverage. I suspect that when I eventually start to learn car repair, I'll develop a whole new appreciation for the monkey wrench.

Stick 'em upNo party would be complete without the amazing staple gun. Maybe Martha Stewart can work wonders with a hot-glue gun, but trust me — it's the staple-gun that can really hold the world together. Do curtain rods and drapery hooks seem too labor-intensive? A few well-placed staples behind a fold will hold things up until Mom's next visit. Is that phone cord tripping all your dates when they come by to pick you up? Secure that baby up against the baseboard and show it who's boss. Found the perfect kitchen chair at the Salvation Army and then discovered the upholstery's rotting away? that’s right — a staple gun and a piece of fabric (and a hammer or screwdriver, depending on how the seat's attached) is all you need to raise it from the dead. And any staples you use are removed in seconds flat with your trusty flat-head screwdriver. See how it all comes together?

The Big LThis may seem a little more special-interest, but a set of Allen wrenches will make you very happy if you own a bike or any piece of do-it-yourself furniture from Ikea. They're those black, L-shaped doohickies with the hexagonal ends that often end up in people's junk drawers. Those babies are the keys to the kingdom if you ever have any intention of taking apart that Sufflör bookshelf or Krokshult table that’s taking up space in the corner, or putting that new bottle holder on your mountain bike once and for all. There couldn't be anything easier to use — just find the right-size end that fits in the bolt, and twist a few times using the other side of the wrench as a handle. Bolts that require Allen wrenches usually only require a twist or two since they're flat don't get knocked around a lot. But there's no way to grab 'em at all unless you have the right wrench.

Post-Op

If you've ever seen someone you loved after a 12-hour surgery, then you know that even if all went well it's a shocking, horrifying sight. The human body can withstand a lot, apparently, but 12 hours of anesthesia, incisions, clamping, and such doesn't leave the human body in great shape. When I saw my sister in the ICU Thursday she looked like she had been run over by a truck. It broke my heart. she was tanked on morphine, unable to swallow or speak or move, bruised, frustrated, and inconsolable. she could barely open her eyes, and when she did they looked desperate and miserable. Tubes and monitors were everywhere, and it was hard to even find a spot to hold on to her to show some comfort. My other sister and I sat with her for a few minutes, trying to console her somehow, until she choked out the word, "Go." she passed out moments later. It's terrible to love someone so much and know that there's not a damn thing you can do to alleviate her misery one bit.

But it looked like things went well, considering. The tumor was successfully removed from her acoustic nerve, leaving her deaf in one ear, but otherwise unaffected. The tumor wasn't cancerous — there was never really a risk of it spreading or returning — so things were looking good, even though it would be a while before she was out of critical condition.

Yesterday, in the midst of a long, frustrating day of work (dealing with work and dating and life in general has just been added burden all this week), I got a call saying that Patti was going back into surgery. A follow-up MRI discovered some swelling in her cerebellum, and the neurosurgeon wanted to go in and remove some regenerative tissue to alleviate the pressure. Again, things looked serious but OK, but nevertheless when I hung up the phone and took a deep breath, a little switch went off in side of me and the waterworks began. Tears were streaming down my face as I took off for the restroom to have a minor breakdown in peace.

The first real bad news came last night. During the second surgery, they discovered some dead brain cells, evidence that Patti had a stroke, probably during the first surgery. she's so immobile from the surgeries that the doctors can't determine how much damage the stroke has caused, so we continue to wait and watch and hope for the best. At any rate, it looks like she'll be in the hospital for a few more weeks now, and have to go through a lot more suffering and frustration and misery. And all of us who are sticking by her will have to hold on, do what we can for Patti, and take care of each other as best we can.

This week has highlighted one thing that usually doesn't get to me that much, though. I’m the only one in my family with no one around to lean on during all this. I usually enjoy being the bachelor uncle, but right now I envy my folks and my siblings for the families and spouses they have around to provide some solace, company, distraction, and help. The bachelor pad here seems a whole lot bigger and colder this week. Having someone I’m beginning to really like tell me during all this that I’m, "a nice guy. The nicest guy ever, maybe" (a sure sign that the rest of the thought is something like "so please don't ever touch me again"), doesn't make it any better.

But this isn't really the best time for me to get grouchy about the woes of being single. Instead, I just wanted to send thanks to everyone who's written with info, good wishes, or something to ditract me. Y'all are really helping an awful lot.

As long as I’m in the doom and gloom groove, I should mention that Noah beautifully articulated something that has also nagged me for years, but I was never quite able to sum up so well. OK, take a sec and go read, then come back. OK, for me it was my older brother Bob who killed himself when I was 14. I totally had no mechanism yet to appreciate the enormity of that, and I just sort of shut off after some initial distress over watching everyone around me crumble. I chalked up my cool reaction to the fact that we weren't close. Nope, just a weird coping mechanism at work. Years later when I was 23 — the same as Bob when he died — I was at work thinking about River Phoenix's recent death and the whole tragedy of my brother finally hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Having gotten to the same point in life as he did without feeling the same desperation to end things just made his death seem to so incredibly sad and wrong to me, such a tragic waste. There but for the grace of God yadda yadda yadda...

Star-Fucking

so I said to Madonna...It's not everyday that you find yourself sitting around with a group of friends gabbing when you come in on a conversation midstream to hear a woman you know say, "so I said to Madonna, 'You gotta get out!'" True story. Apparently Madonna had sublet a room in Mimi's apartment back in the early days when they were both struggling dancers, and Madonna had this thing for wandering around the place naked after she showered. Mimi asked her to knock it off while her mother, who was freaked enough about her daughter living on the mean streets of New York, was in town. Well, Madonna still let it hang loose — hairy pits and all — so Mimi decided to give her the old heave-ho (so to speak).

Kiki & HerbIt was a moment of jaded, insane name-dropping that could have come directly from Kiki & Herb, whose brilliant, terrifying, hilarious new Christmas show we had just seen at the Fez. I always enjoy bringing people to see Kiki &' Herb for the first time, and I hope that you, friend, are also someday able to experience the jaw-dropping display of blasphemy, psychosis, and musical acuity that makes them so special. Read the clips on the website to get a better idea of what their act is like, but suffice to say I think you'd be hard-pressed to find another cabaret/drag act that mixes Radiohead, sarah Vaughn, Britney spears, Belle & sebastian, Christmas Classics, Kate Bush, and styx into one show. This time around, they even did a song that December 3, 2000 3:17 PM | Comments (0)

Soapbox

I’m not participating in A Day Without Weblogs. This is not because I don't think AIDS awareness is important, or because I think it's a hollow gesture to remove your weblog for a day. On the contrary, I think any effort to shock people out of any complacency is vitally important. I think, though, that I would rather participate in World AIDS Day by taking a moment in this forum to make a call for continued dialogue and continued openness about the issue.

People I love have been deeply affected by AIDS and HIV. It's touched my family and my friends, and it's been the cause of grief, anger, and fear. The fear is the worst part, I fear, in terms of how our society on the whole deals with the presence of AIDS in our lives. When people react, ond overreact with fear, it breeds a climate that punishes the sufferers rather than battles the disease itself. I don't want to live in a world where peope are ostracized and feared because of a health condition, especially one which is preventable and containable. I don't want to live in a world where compassion and understanding and lucidity are shoved aside by hysteria, suspicion, intolerance, and moral indignation. screw that.

I have friends with HIV, and it doesn't freak me out. I have a brother with HIV, and it doesn't freak me out. I’ve even dated guys with HIV, also: sometimes I’ve known about it, and sometimes I haven't at the time. Either way, I’ve discovered that it doesn't freak me out as much as I once thought it would. I’m grateful to know so that I have a chance to be a voice of reason rather than fear. What I’ve discovered each time I’ve learned about it is that it doesn't change who that person may be, or how I feel about that person. The presence of HIV in their lives and mine may sadden me or make me angry sometimes, but it's not the carrier I mind, it's the virus. And it's the way people react to it.

Don't fear HIV. Don't fear AIDS. Learn about them. Be smart and compassionate and careful. Prevent the spread of the virus. Don't make martyrs or victims or pariahs or villains out of the people who have it. It's not a judgement, it's a disease. People get it, and that’s a tragedy, but pretending the tragedy doesn't exist in your world will never ensure that it won't.

December 1, 2000 3:20 PM | Comments (0)
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