Showing posts with label sex. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sex. Show all posts

5.6.19

Short Film Review: Reckless (2013)


The Short Film "Reckless" - 2013 (22 minutes, in Norwegian with English subtitles)
Film still from the short "Reckless" (2013)


The 2013 Norwegian short film "Reckless" is the work of director Bjørn Erik Pihlmann Sørensen and writer Einar Sverdrup. I saw the film in 2013 and passed it off as a public service announcement about the need to rein in irresponsible teenagers. But as you will notice as I write about the movie, my views have changed a bit since I last saw it. To give you a brief rundown, the movie is about a teenage girl who has to babysit her younger child-age brother - and through a series of related events tragedy strikes. I thought maybe the movie was funded by parents who want their adolescent-aged kids to take better care of their siblings. However, I recently watched it again and the short made me think more about what message it is trying to convey. I haven't read much about the movie online nor have I talked to anyone else I know who has seen it. I am going to take a critical plunge and articulate in a flat-footed way what I think the movie might be suggesting about adolescence, sexuality, and responsibility. It's also a movie about the absence of authority.

22.8.10

Is It a Good Idea to Do the Traditional Date?

Rule #1: don't read weird shit on a first date.
Wow. Times have changed.
A recent New York Times article quoted an 1860 personals ad, of a man in want of a wife:
“The advertiser, a successful young business man of good education, polite manners and agreeable address, having recently amassed a fortune and safely invested the same, wishes to meet with a young lady or widow."
A woman in want of a husband read:
“A young lady, rather good looking, and of good address, desires the acquaintance of a gentleman of wealth (none other need apply), with a view to matrimony.”
Wow. Very direct. No co-habitation. No confusion about which gender holds the bank account and which gender wants the bank account. And no confusion about gender either.

And that was for straight people.

In 1860 gay men were not posting personals in the New York Times. Maybe they were getting hot and heavy on the battlefield, but I am sure the documentation for that is somewhere buried deep in the Civil War record books. I'm not sure what they were doing, but read this article from BNAP and email me.

Anyway. I digress.
Today things are not so simple. We live in tough economic times but people want their contacts to be sexy, not frugal. Whether you are gay, straight, queer, bi, transgendered, or curious, dating is a messy game. At least in 1860 you knew what you were getting into: eventual matrimony. In 2010, it's anyone's guess what our motives really are. First of all, you have to stop to think, who really dates anymore anyway? When you just want a date, the whole scene can be a bit tricky. Who pays what? Do you hold the door open? What is the modicum of respect required? Do you kiss on a first date? Do you make out? Do you go all the way? How specific are you supposed to be? How vague?

Is it all about getting into each other's pants?
While men may think only with their nether regions, women think with their nether regions too. Getting into each other's pants is somewhere on the horizon, but the rules of engagement are not always so clear. If you're a single parent, you tend to be blackballed more than if you were married. Plenty of guys go on dating sites and eliminate 99 percent of the dating pool. I knew a guy who was in his 50s and he would only date blond-hair blue-eyed intelligent women in the 18-30 range. Guys tend to look down on girls "who put out" but do not expect girls to judge their promiscuous desires. Gay guys are branded as promiscuous (or are they?), skipping the dating scene altogether, and heading for the bedroom. Or the broom closet. But this is all changing, it seems. More guys are getting into the dating scene. I'm not sure if it is a victory of the far right, but sexual liberation and "free love" seem to be losing out, and monogamy and paying for the meal seem to be cashing in.

While Justin Templet over at the Maroon wrote an amusing piece on the possible benefits of shacking up on the first date, most people, gay and straight, tend to consider sex on a first date as a good ride, but a death knell to a future relationship.

Fuck revolution. And getting stoned. It seems we may be going back to the 1860s after all.

What's a guy to do? I was born in the wrong century, I guess. Or decade.

So, I decided to post a personal ad the other day and try this whole dating thing to see what it was really all about. I didn't even know gay men COULD date. I thought all we did was sit around and watch True Blood. Or the Big C. Or watch that damn Liza Minelli concert re-run on Showtime.

I geared up my writing chops and fired out a résumé of sorts:
A gentleman with aspirations for collegiate studies (but no employment) seeks like-minded chap to eat an ice cream in Times Square and check out that new Angelina Jolie flick.

26.5.10

Quote: Cheever on Marriage


 “Liza sent us a wheel of Brie.” “That’s nice,” she said, “but you know what? Brie gives me terribly loose bowels.” He hitched up his genitals and crossed his legs. “That’s funny,” he said. “It constipates me.” That was their marriage then - not the highest paving of the stair, the clatter of Italian fountains, the wind in the alien olive trees, but this: a jay-naked male and female discussing their bowels.

John Cheever, The Falconer

Subscribe to stones of erasmus by Email

photo credit: canarygirl

22.1.10

The Problem of the "Innocent Child" (Thanks, James R. Kincaid)


Shirly Temple 
image credit: movieactors
The notion of the “innocent child” is a powerful narrative in the West, so much so, we forget it is even a narrative to begin with. The Romantic child (boy or girl) historically has been around since the Greeks, immortalized by Sappho and also the Greek epigramists. This image of the child, unmediated and innocent is typical of the poetry of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience and William Wordsworth’s child of spontaneous, overflowing emotion in the “Prelude” but also, the image, at least partly, of Thomas Mann’s Tadzio in Death in Venice and Nietzsche’s Romantic depiction of the child as the pure child and bringer of a new philosophy in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. But, it was Jean Jacques Rousseau who made the claim that the child exists a priori in a state of innocence “in nature” which in time, through puberty, is corrupted a posteriori by the mediating forces of “society.” Rousseau famously advised nannies to allow children to wear loose-fitting clothes (or no clothes at all) so they would not be constricted by anything other than their unmediated innocence. Rousseau wrote controversially that children are not inflicted with Original Sin but are born innately innocent and pure. He made the then radical claim that Original Sin is an erroneous doctrine. Taint is not inherent on the soul of a newborn, but, the soul becomes corrupted by a misguided society. For Rousseau, the innate innocence of the child must be preserved through careful education. Education is what maintains innocence along with the child’s developing consciousness. For Rousseau, then, there is a general suspicion of nurture. In Rousseau’s Romantic (and I use this word purposefully, and critically) political vision, the good state is inscribed within a social contract that works to protect and preserve the inherent goodness of children.  It is an unguided introduction to society that corrupts the child and separates it from nature, thus distancing the child from an original innocence, its true and unfettered state.
One of my favorite cultural critics who explored further the idea of innate innocence is James Kincaid. He wrote a book called  Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting. In this book he argues once "adults" name the child innocent, such naming empties the child of a meaningful signifier. "Innocence," then, becomes a metaphor for an empty container, a blank face, devoid of substance which can be filled in by the adult’s desires. The innocent child is the “present” child — the ubiquitous Shirley Temple — who by being shed of experience, of sexuality, is in fact made to be molested. It seems in the West we are at odds with the binary of erotic/innocence. We cannot seem to reconcile ourselves with this strange pairing. Kincaid argues that the very construct of "innocence" is paradoxically warped to mean "protection" against experience but also, simultaneously, a disavowal of the child as inherently erotic. He uses some great examples from popular culture: the Home Alone kid: both cute, cunning, but utterly innocent. Shirley Temple, of course. Jean Bennet Ramsey. Poor thing. She was made both to be erotic and innocent. You can't have your cake and eat it too, kids.
I guess we could blame it on our Judeo-Christian heritage but, it does not take long to look into "recent" history: just look at the Genesis account of Adam and Eve (or at least how it has been interpreted). We were once innocent, until some dame messed things up for us. We were happy naked and in union with God. We got knowledge and now we're screwed. Seen from the view of the Fall, we've been trying to get back to the garden ever since (thanks Joni Mitchell). What a perfect scapegoat is the child (and the woman). They look kinda cute: a perfect face to throw all of our hopes and insipid wishes for innocence on them - poor, innocent creatures! So what has been created as a sort of compromise?! Well, adolescence of course. At first we were happy with merely the child/adult dyad, with the emphasis on the adult. It could be argued that the only truly human being in the West for thousands of years was the blue-eyed, blond hair man. The child? Not even considered as subject. The supposed invention of the child, as distinct from the adult, apparently is an eighteenth century invention that did not exist even as recent as the Middle Ages, according to the cultural historian Philip Ariès in his book, Centuries of Childhood. So, we go ahead and create the child three hundred years ago and then, to add insult to injury, create the adolescent. An even further blurring of the lines. It is no wonder that we are wee bit confused. But, that is fodder for another discussion.
The Good Son: the duality is brought out ad absurdam in the film, The Good Son (1993) also starring the kid from Home Alone, in a complete role reversal. From cutesy kid to serial killer. Mark, a boy of about nine or ten, played by Elijah Wood is sent to stay with his Uncle and Aunt in Maine after the death of his mother.  He quickly learns that his cousin Henry (Culkin) is in fact evil. He shoots dogs, wears a spooky paper-maché mask, drowns his brother, almost kills his sister, and attempts to push his mother over a dangerous precipice.  The movie, with cute child actors to boot, is almost certainly playing on the innocence/experience duality, the virtuous, innocent boy versus the abject opposite, an evil child, with no apparent explanation to why he does the cruelty he does — and why, no one, except Mark, Elijah Wood’s character, realizes his evilness. It is as if the child has to be either completely one or the other: any venture into the gray is taboo.
    Mark, the good child, is all-knowing and incredibly intuitive.  When his mother dies in the first scene, he is literally committed to the belief that she will not leave him, and, almost immediately, transfers the mother image to his aunt, as if he knows this must be the case.  We do not agree with his logic, perhaps, but we cheer his innocent intuition and allow it to endear him to ourselves, thus creating a convenient matrix to explain the Mother/Aunt Son/Nephew bonding.
    The evil child is also all-knowing and incredibly intuitive, but he uses his “gifts” to curse, convince people to fly, smoke cigarettes (the epitome of evil?) — and we are made to revel in this only as a ploy to convince us that he really ought to die!  Both boys, consequently, are inverses of each other: Culkin is blonde, blue-eyed and light, the other, Wood, is brown-haired, blue-eyed and darker complexion. In the movie’s final scene, as James Kincaid brilliantly observed (and I am ashamed to say I have capitalized on his argument), the mother dangles both boys from a Maine precipice in the hopes of saving both children, ostensibly her sons.  Her strength is not enough to hoist both children up, so she has to let one of them go to save the other or risk losing both.  What would you do?  Do you destroy the good child or the evil child?  As James Kincaid notes, audiences cheered when she destroyed the evil child (159-60) and we thought nothing of it, deeply satisfied she did the deed. It is as if the film is stating not quite subtly, we can now wash our hands of the problem once and for all.  We have saved the good child from obliteration and we somehow seem sated by this fact.

Is there an alternative narrative? I wonder, is there a narrative out there that does not fall into this duality Rousseau set up for us so long ago? Is there a way out? In the present narrative, the child is discarded (like the Wild Child of Averyon) or is the child beatified (the child of innocence)? Kincaid suggests at the end of his book that to free ourselves from the current narrative we must free ourselves from suspicion, from repression, from nonsensical legalities and the like that threaten to blind us from the child qua child. Stay tuned. Peace.

14.11.09

A Journal & Rant: "On the Uses and Misuses of Age"

"Age doesn't matter, but dammit I look old" is what my friend Suzy Q. said to me last night.
Evelyn Couch : I can't even look at my own vagina!
Evelyn Couch said it best: "I can't even look at my own vagina!" 

My grandmother looked in the mirror one morning on her 92nd birthday and shrieked, "Who is that woman? It's not me."

On the playground of life it is like Freaky Friday: Young kids want to be adults; adults prefer to act like kids. The age divide splits us from baby, to toddler, child, school kid, pre-adolescent, tween, teen, young adult, young person, 20-something, 30-something, "Over the Hill," old, octogenarian, centenarian, dead. In the middle ages you were rudely a child, a man or geriatric. 3 stages of life. Now, the stages grew to 9 thanks to Erikson, now up to 30 thanks to Super Mario Brothers.

By increasing the stages of age, the strictures are enforced. The subtlety in development is painstakingly tracked. By 30 you must have acquired maturity. If not, you lie.

Middle age women are smart: they don't reveal their age.

Gay men lie.

Straight men don't care. Unless were talking about controlled substances.

Kids lie to get alcohol or cigs. But they expect adults to uphold integrity.

An online buddy asked me if it was ethical to lie about age on a personal ad.

It is apparently a controversial topic.

If you're 25 on a personal ad, in real life your true age is probably anywhere in the range from 21 - 29.

But if you are 30 on an ad you are actually more likely to be 40. If you're really 17 you are most likely going to say you're 18. If you are telling the truth, you're either desperate, or taking what you can get.

A bouncer asked for my ID and after looking at it said, "Hey, you look 23 and still in college, but when you opened your mouth and started talking, I knew you were 30 and working"

The face (or body) says one thing while our words says another. Our age belies our wisdom while our wisdom never depends on age.

The youth Benjamin Button dies forgetting what he learned as an old man. Rip Van Winkle wakes up and literally times has flown by. If it is true that "every day a little death" then all of us should feel a lot more humble.
image credit: Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) © Universal Pictures

21.3.09

Online Video Chat Review: Adventures in Stickam

Adventures in Stickam (pronounced STICK CAM)
    People with addictions know (if only at the level of the subconscious) that the addict is searching for the next big hit. The addict thinks, "yeah, the next shot will be better than the last." Well, addictive websites act according to the same logic. On Stickam, the same addictive cycle plays itself out. I must confess (*wipes back tears*) I am an addict. I go to CA meetings monthly (camwhores anonymous). Hah hah. lolz. ROFL. (oh wait, this is a blog, not an I<) With that said, I do not intend for this blog to be a moral diatribe. 
    If you are offended by this kind of thing, don't read my blog. Lots of ink has been spilled about the risks of Stickam. I will reserve moral judgment for other plebes. If you don't know about Stickam, it is a site where you can chat and cam with dozens of people simultaneously. The site allows you to register for free with a username, a profile page (where you can add personal information, stats, quotes) similar to Facebook and myspace. In the chat rooms, Stickam is a free-for-all.
    The phenomenon called Stickam was started in 2004 and is owned (according to the site) by Advanced Video Communications. The site states that Stickam is "the pioneer of live streaming video and the largest live community on the Internet." Yippie! Oh, Stickam, I love you!

Stickam Chat Rooms    See, Stickam chat rooms are created by Stickam users, so chat groups can be anything from {str8.gay.bi} to {Vampire Nation™}. I am serious! Inside a chat room are usually dozens of users, having various conversations at once. The funny thing about Stickam is that people are usually chatting. I have never been online and seen empty chat rooms.
Another feature of Stickam is the option "to go live." This simply means that anyone anywhere can view your webcam, not only the three million registered viewers but anyone with a computer and a web browser. Or you can limit your live to friends and people you select. The live feature gives Stickam an advantage over other cam sites because a user can embed their "live" into their websites and create, on the fly, instant personal webcam pages. In reality, live is so dumb: who cares if you are brushing your teeth, no one wants to see it.
     Stickam is pure hilarity. It is mindless. Sometimes, utterly profound. A typical tour through Stickam will desensitize even the most unsensitized of persons. To me, Stickam is like a fast-food drive-thru. Cheap, temporarily fulfilling and quick. Like most chat rooms, people are rude, crass, stupid, demoralizing, impish, inane, and usually vapid. All rules of grammar and spelling are void. Shallowness is the new deep, folks.
     But, I am not knocking the experience. Stickam is fucking funny. Especially when someone is like super high, talking as if no one is listening (which is the charm of the live entertainer, btw) and having conversations with other cammers, reading their comments, and rocking out. It is hilarious. But, hey, maybe I am just shallow, man.
     The quintessential feature that makes Stickam unique is its egalitarian front. You got all kinds, dawlin'. Also, it is the one place on the web where you can see with your eyes, hear with your ears, read with your brain, all at the same time people just doing otherwise banal, stuff. It is so funny: some people actually are on Stickam 24/7. You can tell: they are sleeping, eating, talking on their cell phones, or doing homework.
Some users I have met:
    Mature guys like Cheech 
 I met him and his parrot  will demonstrate to anyone who will listen how to be masculine type, be a Puerto Rican top, wear leather properly, and at the same show professionalism and decorum (he is a social worker by trade). Immature folks (like lil gangsta) say whatever is on their mind ("I just farted" or "I am bored"). Calicob is from Atlanta and enjoys discussing quantum physics. Ender is an intriguing lad who loves to speak about Frederic Jameson, but he is usually shirtless, drinking, and a potty mouth. Mr.Brian lives in Oregon, mid-life, and says nothing except, "how is everyone tonight?" Canadabeef is scary. Patrick is Canadian and loves to hate on Americans; he splatters the chat with French phrases and he is super mean.
    Although I have to admit with lil gangsta, most Stickam sessions are kinda boring. To be a true hard-on, junkie, basically quit your job, stock up on food and booze, never leave your house and set yourself in front of the webcam and wait.
    One user, Cocoboy, is a boy, but he likes to dress up like a girl and he is from Scotland. He is fucking hilarious. If he is on, I mute everyone else and listen to his rambling monologue (it goes on for hours). Or lindababe: she is a girl, I think, and she has her iTunes on randomizer and she loves to jam out and make obscene comments.
Some Stickam vocabulary:
     If you never say anything and don't go on cam you are called a "lurker". For example, "hey lurkerz, come in!" If you go on cam and say things but you are kinda scary you are called a "creeper". For example, "That dude is such a creeper." Mods are moderators. Dock and undock: on Stickam the user chooses (docks) people they want to see or removes (undocks) people they don't want to see. Pedos = anyone who is creepy. Pedobears = hairy ones. The penis is called a peen (cuz you can't curse). If you want to send a private message you PM that person.
    If you show pubes, you're out. Although, this rule is occasionally broken. Frontal nudity on Stickam is actually hilarious. It happens sporadically. Lasts for about fifteen seconds, before a mod notices and kicks them out. The most disturbing incident I have ever seen on Stickam was a drunk adolescent was with his friends, said he was gay, flashed his peen, then wrote "death to all faggots" and then wrote his phone number and location for all to see. Or another time: a girl was live and she was obviously severely overdosed, crying bitterly, and talking about killing herself. Her friend was also live, on the phone with 911, waiting for the cops to arrive. And we could call see the events transpiring.
Now Voyeurs!
Voyeurism is the attra
ction of Stickam. No one ever says it but it is the reason why the cammers gather. Let's face it: we are a nation of secret voyeurs (well, not so secret). Stickam is Rear Window for the rest of us. If a user is not on cam he is instantly suspect. Doubly suspect if he or she is not on cam nor does she have a profile pic. Either you want to be seen or you want to see. Even though exhibitionism is banned, everyone loves the thrill of the occasional girl or guy who shows all. Because it is prohibited means it is more exciting when it happens. If Stickam were unadulterated it would not be as fun. That's what porn is for! If you want skin on Stickam you got to ask for it or just wait patiently. On Stickam, most folks follow the rules. But, rules are made to be broken. When they are broken it gives everyone a thrill. Even the prudes. I would not be surprised if Stickam's developers are forced to can the site. I have noticed the web watchers are getting nervous. It is only a matter of time before something hits the news: "teen commits suicide because someone on Stickam told them"
    Which brings me to my second to last point: sex. I guess sex underscores the entire Stickam phenomenon. Sexuality is such a colorful cornucopia. I have never met so many bi people in my life. Everyone is bi. OMG. If you want sex it is not prudent to just start doing it on cam. Even the camwhores get all puritan on you. Sex on Stickam is like sex in real life: flirt, reveal some potent information, proposition yourself, exchange instant message names (or use Stickam's C2C feature).
    Stickam lies in that interstitial space: not so highly prohibited like pornography, but at the same time, most people would not want their colleagues (or their kids) to know that they cam every night in the {rock_with_your_cock_out} room.
Caveats:

  • It eats up your time
  • Mostly uninteresting
  • Don't forget to turn your cam off
  • Gender ambiguity is a given
  • People lie
  • Haters abound
But, hey, compared to other empty garbage like Reality TV and QVC, I'll take Stickcam anyday.
Read more about Stickam:



15.7.07

Google Maps and the Christ Haunted Way to Jackson, Mississippi

Read about a backroads car trip from New Orleans, Louisiana to Jackson, Mississippi.
Figure 1: The route I took on a recent backroads car trip from New Orleans to Jackson
    Obsession with the world’s best search engine and an itch to travel led me to plan a trip for myself earlier this summer with Google Maps.  With Google’s clever map service I can actually get satellite imagery of my own backyard, sans the barking dog, by typing in an address and presto -- after a couple of seconds, an overhead satellite image appears on the screen. Like electrons swirling in a vacuum, maps are possibilities, discovery.  Looking from above like a god over a cosmic machine, I can see the earth’s surface, tops of houses, beaches along rivers, even the shadows cast by buildings. The ripples of water over a lake. Matchbox cars parked on the sides of the streets. If you peer closely, even mailboxes. The odd thing is, I noticed, after playing around for an hour or two -- the streets are empty, hardly a person in sight, which causes me to believe that the planet is vacant.  Where are the people? Inside, hooked up to high-speed internet? Well, why not? It is delicious information accessible to the layman. It feels intrusive, yet enticingly fun; almost too powerful for the ordinary person. Without even being there, without the aid of an airplane, from a chair, I can pan over a river that follows a paved two-lane road. When I click on the Hybrid button it indicates in startling yellow that this is Highway 17 (See figure 1). Wow.  Well. That’s awesome. I check out my friend Tony’s apartment.
   I can’t peer into his window with Google, but it’s pretty darn close. There are limitations to this voyeuristic peeping tom engine. Limitations. Restraint. I am restricted to the US and a little bit of Canada and Mexico and an outline of the rest of the world. As of this printing, you can’t get a bird’s eye view of the Louvre or the Great Wall. And, even in the ole US of A, you can’t see everything crystal clear. There are coordinates that Google won’t allow you to see. Either the satellites didn’t take pictures of these regions or Google technicians haven’t gotten to it. Or maybe Uncle Sam wrote them a letter, saying -- whoah now, you can’t be showing the tops of those oil refineries or those top secret coordinates. When I scroll over those areas with my mouse, it’s all a gray ambiguity but I can outline the details of every housetop in the French Quarter in New Orleans and survey the breach in the levee caused by Katrina along the industrial canal. I enjoyed the aesthetic of taking note of the design of the roofs, a strange patchwork of L’s and Z’s built on a solid uniformed grid. Strange.
    It is interesting what Google purveys to the common user and what it shuts out; maybe it’s arbitrary. Some of the satellite images are discolored and difficult to zoom into, but urban areas are crisp and easily zoomable. I can get a great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Lower Manhattan. I can even zoom over the roof of my own house. While I’m in it! It becomes a tad solipsistic: here I am with a laptop computer outside a coffee shop wirelessly tapping into the world wide web, looking from above, exactly where I stand. As I get a bird’s eye view of where I stand here, I stand before me, looking straight out into the parking lot. I look up into the sky to catch a glimpse of the satellite that took my picture. All I see is blue sky, clouds on the edge of the horizon. No sight of the all-seeing eye. I found out later Google Maps is not a real-time camera. The images are created by still Landsat satellite images.
    And most practically, I was able to map out a trip to Jackson, Mississippi without using interstates.
    I wanted a Christ-haunted trip through the old south. The back lanes of rural Mississippi. I wanted to see the white starched steeples of every church even before I drove by. So I packed some notebooks, a pencil, my Power Book G4, a flashlight, trail mix, a few books and a bathing suit in case I wanted to swim in the Bogue Chitto River or the Pearl and I set off in mom’s car. I was on a mission to find the South I had read about, her regal lords and ladies, whitewashed churches, myths and images of Eudora Welty, Beth Henley, Lewis Nordan, Walker Percy. Even O’Connor (not born in Mississippi, but I am sure that her characters populate its hamlets).
    And in reality, there they were. I saw ‘em. On Sunday I was there. And saw. Looked. Wrote. Every town I drove through was like a queer recursive. In Tylertown. Georgetown. Monticello. Florence. Pearl. Lexie.
    I started out on Highway 437. It’s called Lee Road by the locals because supposedly General Lee marched down it with his troops. I stopped at the corner store to fill the gas tank. As is usual with corner stores, there is a dumpy matron positioned behind a counter who serves you without a smile, suspiciously eyeing any stranger who walks in; I wasn’t a regular so I didn’t get a cordial “hello,” just a stare. I was in and out of there but I did notice on the way out the cover of the Times-Picayune: Local Gas Stations Fudge Tax Rates. Through no fault of their own, it seemed, local corner gas stations were overcharging tax on goods without realizing it. 
    From seven in the morning until three in the afternoon everyone was in church. Every time I drove by it was a different stage of worship: the gathering at the steps; the Sunday waltz inside the main doors, the big-bosomed belles pulling themselves out of their cars in time for service. By half-past one I was still seeing the same scene, becoming a little afraid that I would be caught inside this never-ending reel of praise and worship. On Sunday along Highway 27, the only “hopping” places are the churches. If you aren’t in church you’re reminded of Jesus on every corner. Jesus saves. Jesus the Lord of All. Have you read your bible today? Jesus over Tunica. Get right with Jesus. It is a constant reminder inscribed on every inscribable pulp, branch, and tree. Names of the churches stick in my mind: Abundant Life Church. Starlight Church. New Life. Living Word. King Solomon’s Church (White and small with a big propane tank out front with a graveyard on the side). Cornerstone Church. New Bethel. Saint Paul the Apostle (that was the one Catholic church I spotted). Some churches were plain white clapboard edifices while others were veritable theaters, replete with jeweled studded bas-reliefs on the sides which at night lit up in neon like the downtown cineplex. All the Baptist churches had similar architecture. Reddish brown buildings with a simple white steeple. The differing characteristics were the size and the extent of the stained glass windows. In one town, the largest Baptist church I saw, boasted tall windows detailing the life of Jesus in stained glass. Graven images, I thought. But no. These windows are didactic, not worshipful.
    Also status. The name of the pastor printed in large letters on the front. People ask, “Which church do you got to?” At the Catholic church, the priest processes out with a handful of children at his side, the electric organ bubbling away orthodox tunes while boys sitting next to me snicker and yawn. At Greater Starlight Church there is a menagerie of color and light, the pastor not processing out but skipping, jumping. Not chaotic. It is very organized. As if everyone knows their role. The older folk get into it much more, while some of the younger people fold their arms. In one church there is a coffee shop just outside the sanctuary so you can get your joe on the way out, just before picking up the kids at Children’s church. Clever. One church proclaims: Make your family apart of our family. Doughnuts and jam available in the parish hall after Mass. Signup sheets for vacation bible school.
    I swear I was waiting to see Manly Pointer come out of church with his hard top bible and shitty grin, gin underneath the flaps of his books. But I didn’t seem him. Nor Hulga. Everything looked clean and decent. But I didn’t check the contents of folks’ bibles. The dilapidated Hard Times junkyard was certainly O’Connoresque. As well as the propinquity of the bars to the churches. The downtowns were unchanged; old store fronts. Some closed up with boards while others still open for business. 
    Walking the streets of Jackson on a Sunday afternoon confirmed my suspicion the South is still alive. A car stopped at an intersection I wanted to cross. The window rolled down. A beefy African American woman eyed me down. “Wanna come to my place?”
    “Ummm. No. Have a good day,” I said.
    I walked around her car. And walked through the park. I realized the city was mostly dead. Everything was closed on a Sunday. But the park was full of people. And the few cars circulating traffic were ladies looking for a quick fix. I was not really in the mood to pay out cash for a quickie, especially with a beefy lady. And none of the blokes in the park looked that attractive. So, I found my mom’s car and fled Jackson and headed for the burbs. Ate Chinese food. Found the interstate and avoided the Christ Haunted route.

28.2.06

On St. Ann and Bourbon

Inez says Bourbon in French (BOR-bon) while flirting with Lanette from Poplarville. “LAAAnettE, pass me a clOve, s’il vous plait.” Lanette laconically slithers one out of a white and blue cigarette box and shakes it onto Inez’s hand. “OUAI. Merci,” Inez cries in rapt glee, using the word “yes” as a sign of joy rather than positive affirmation. Lanette is smeared with cakey doughy make-up and her teeth shine with the brightness of adult braces; she’s a dishwasher at a corner hotel restaurant on Dumaine and Royal. Inez wears a grey t-shirt and jeans, her hair cropped, her face round like a kewpie doll. I had never met them before; they’re my friend’s Tony’s friends but they had graciously given me a ride from the corner of Magazine and Elenore to the Quarter. Standing at the corner, watching the défilé of cars, I felt like a street prostitute, early in the morning -- the people perched in their cars eyed me up and down, everyone, as they rode passed, following the chartered Magazine, that follows the chartered Mississippi. The mind-forged manacles I hear.

I am dressed blandly, but I figure I complement the colors with my bright yellow collared shirt adorned with Endymion and Bacchus beads and a blue blazer, looking bohemian in performance but nothing compared to Bianca Del Rio, the hostess on stage -- she wears a whole new set of eyes to look pretty and a Raggedy-Ann hair-do two shades of orange to the left. She only has three jokes in her repertoire: ‘Dam that levee with a tampon, hon’; ‘Bitch, you need to get off this stage’; or jokes that were only funny because she peppered them with, ‘fuck, whore, and mother fucker’.

The crowd is full this year. It is hilarious to see the mix of people on the street filing pass centre stage. I see an octogenarian and his octogenarian wife decorated with sequins and grinning from ear to ear. A couple from MinneSNOWta cupping their mouths in fake horror at the debauched language push through the crowd and out of sight. A Dallas football player with a Yin-Yang symbol on his abdomen grabs my ass and tells me he loves Bianca. A mealy, shirtless dude is pawing the concrete floor for fallen dollars; he claims to be a priest.

Jason, a Tulane architecture student (with a Roman-style haircut) told me about his plans to rebuild Tremé, a rotted out neighborhood plunged in depths of floodwater. There were two Adonises in greeney vines who kissed one another on the cheek every time a joke cracked on stage, holding tight to each other’s buttocks. One was younger than the other; the older like a handsome middle-aged spirit, an Oberon with his Puckish fairy in tow -- a sight to behold. One of my favorites. They looked like a Pierre and Gilles photograph. Tony took a photograph of them with his cell phone.

Lanette flames a cigarette with the quick light of a match on the back of a red pub matchbox. The balcony above us is filled with spectators and Larry, the compulsive liar in our group, claims to know the most beautiful of them all. He points to a River Phoenix god and grins. Waving. He is Capote-esque in his flair and deceit. A large, reddened scar, adorns his right cheek and I am afraid of him. He is my best friend Tony’s boyfriend. Larry, dressed in a boa lifts his beer to the Olympian skies. The sky cover is azure blue and pimpled with one-dimensional wisps of smoke. That night, in my dreams, I dream in black and white, over-stimulated from reality’s rainbow of color. Tony thrusts his canteen with gin and tonic in my face, “Drink it, you’ll need it.”

During Mardi Grass, I think of Judith Butler and Divine. Pink Flamingoes. Whew. Gender Trouble. Is that a boy or a girl in front of me? I don’t know. Although I had dressed up as a Georgia floozy once for kicks, I had never before been so unsure of sex! Are we really imposed with post-Freudian categories of sex, inscribed on our bodies? Is all this a show or is this true identity? I am getting really sick, quick, of the stupid post-structuralist categories and take another swig of a gin and tonic. Looking for something to interpret without being mired in Queer Theory, I stare at a cute boy, my mind all tabula rasa and the images infiltrate my brain unmitigated by my insane hermeneutics. Unanamuo is right, “Consciousness is a disease!” (Or is it Nietzsche?). Note to self: never think of literary criticism when you are dranking and smoking in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras, I say to myself. “I’m not drunk! I’m just dranking!!” goes the old jazz tune.

In France on Mardi Gras, Inez tells me, in her village not far from Lourdes, they wear masques and profess their love or hate to those they would never confess in the flesh. A boy kisses a girl hidden beneath a masque he would never dream of meeting during Ordinary Time. Mardi Gras is a time to be someone else, to wear a façade for the evening. Social class collapses and the streets glisten with artificial egalitarian glory. The queers, dykes, jeeves, proletariats, monks, nuns, whores, bosses, boys, nerds, punks, skaters, preps, WASPS, bible thumpers, republicans, and democrats converge on our city in harmony -- for a while. Utopia, indeed. Mardi Gras is a weird version of Passover. You get rid of all the old leaven by consuming king cake and Abita Beer. You act out your repressed desires and try something different.

At the end of the party, on Ash Wednesday, the faithful crash at the end of this blitz and drag their tired bodies into church to be smeared with cendres mortes du souvenir. We all become one body in need of salvation on Mardi Gras. Vincent, also from France, tells me, though, he isn’t getting ashes on Wednesday. "Maybe next week," he says. His red and yellow costume looks a little faded and I ask him who he is supposed to be for Mardi Gras. “This is not a costume, mon ami. I wanted to dress up but couldn’t decide what to wear.” A shirtless bear passes us by with a placard that read, “God Loves Gays. After all, why did he make so many of us?” The drag queens were thinning out and people were being forced down the street like an insane parody of the entrance into Inferno: "Abandon all hope ye who enter here"

Camouflage underwear, usually not my type, but from all the boys dancing on the bar, I choose stripper #1 to tuck a five-dollar bill underneath the slip of his pants, shortened 
 staring up, like a kid awing a parent, my mouth drops open and I motion him to squat down to my level, “what are the rules?” I ask and he replies, “Whenever I want you to.” The place is dirty and dark, the only visible lights illuminate the trash and ATM receipts on the floor. The music is too loud for intimate conversation. Raw energy invades the place. A threesome in one corner. Two high school boys in another corner dancing. A drag queen who looks like Lucy Rubble smokes a cigarette by the stairwell. A drunken kid appears by my side and gives me an orange-tinged drink; he is so drunk that he falls toward me and I have to hold him up. I walk him outside to the light and prop him up against the concrete wall of the bar; he is a tan boy about sixteen years of age. I can’t help but be paternal, and say, “Aren’t you too young to be drinking?” He mumbles something as if I have said something horrible and casts his eyes to the ground. Two women come by who claim to be his mom and aunt; “He’s a little worldly for his age and we are trying to help him out.” Oh my god, I think. The poor thing. I have no fucking clue to what they mean by “trying to help him out” but I become maternal and stray my wrist against his cheek and tell him to behave. I am stunned at how soft his skin is; the women help him along the Mardi Gras streets of New Orleans and he disappears into the din.

When I go back into the bar, stripper #1 is about to go back to work. I put my arms around his shoulder and tell him he doesn’t have to do anything for me. “You’re just beautiful. I just want to tell you that." “That’s the nicest thing somebody has told me today. Thanks.” I imagine him coming back to my hotel room but the fantasy vanishes as quickly as it comes and I feel depressed. Stripper #1 climbs back on the bar and winks at me. All he needs is a can of Pepsi and he could be an advertisement in Advocate.

Tony calls me on my cell phone, upset. Bianca Del Rio has just confessed to him that his boyfriend is a compulsive liar and that she can’t stand him. “You deserve better than that bitch,” she told him. Bianca is very talented and has become nominally famous with a fashion designer in New York. Her photograph on a poster in the bar has her looking up into heaven, her eyelashes longer than a #2 pencil. Tony has vacated Larry’s hotel room and we exit the French Quarter quicker than Bonnie Clyde out of a Kansas bank. I am still really sad about Stripper #1. I can’t keep my mind off him and half pay attention to Tony’s break-up story. “It’s over with him. I can’t stand to be lied to. He told me he loved me. Now I am never going to believe it when someone says they love me. You know? And I haven’t even seen my mom in days. Because of Larry. He buys me all kinds of shit as if that’ll make up for all the lies he has been spreading. It’s over.”

We walk underneath a sign spread out between the streets, “The Mayor of New Orleans supports GLBT issues. Go to glbtnola.com for more information. When I get home I check out the site.