December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment
I was 56, and long past the age of hope, young lust, love, and bewilderment. I was 56, and a time traveling, part Persian expatriate. I was 56, and had spent two years injecting testosterone into my flesh twice a month. I’d reinvented myself every seven years, but was considering settling down. I had been an outsider all my life, and felt insulated that way. Insulation is protection, but it is also isolation. Even though I lived in San Francisco, that bastion of sexual and gender freedom, I lived outside of the galaxies of the FTM, genderqueer, and leather communities. I’d hitchhiked across the country, I’d been a streetwalker, smoked opium with princes, raised children, been fisted on Twin Peaks, sung in punk bands, grew up in Iran, had threesomes with bikers and Members of British Parliament, followed family tradition and become a librarian, I’d buried one daughter and two lovers, spent decades in the Midwest, kneaded bread, got sober, been homeless, pretended to be a boy wanting to be a girl, driven across town in a blizzard at 5am to slap a gigolo who was wearing pleated black silk panties, taught preschool, attended PTA meetings, tickled grandchildren; It’s-a-long-story was my middle name. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
Little Manhattan of the West,
Built of tinted glass and artisanal kale,
Cleverly hand-crafted – you know the lingo,
And priced beyond the budget of the ladies on the bus,
Shopping bags of eggs and cereal and flowers,
Pinching dollars as they bleed making a soup of need.
This week you’re arrogantly demanding love,
For your twee sensibilities – your liberal authentic sincerity,
Your flatly blatant shallowness is stunning,
But I’m easily stunned sometimes.
From Rush to patchouli to campfire cologne,
You root through cellars looking for great armfuls of culture,
Culture – with at least three syllables,
To cultivate in your kitchen, in your head, in your heart,
Tramping down Market in your elegant velvet slippers, your torn sneakers, and your polished leather boots,
Always changing, always changing.
And now, the gleaming ice buses prowling the street,
Always clean and gliding silent doors,
Like elevator music and chaste socialites,
Something quiet like dead fireflies after a midnight picnic,
Cloth Toms slipping down the steps to scurry into your glass houses,
Sometimes swarming in Delores Park, drinking PBR and toothily sprawled,
Across the park like a hair coat woven by sad-eyed women in Marin,
I want to grab you by your twig bird-nest beard,
A handful of your ratty hair woven in a collage of Frieda Kahlo homage,
I hiss, “Will you ever stop taking up so much fucking space?”
I meditate these days – in bed with my heating pad tuned on high,
I take photos of alien waxy fatsia japonica on Fell Street,
And construction cranes lifting phallic metal pipes into the cornflower blue morning,
Write and remember that I used to flirt,
Admire the lilting sensuous hills of sandy dirt and salty sea smell as the glass monoliths rise.
A lesson is this; everything is temporary,
Someday you will look up from the glass in your palm,
Your ear buds will tumble out of your baby shell ears,
Your child’s shit filled diaper will slam you into 10am,
Faster than a fixie rushing past Octavia and Oak,
The stink of MUNI chasing you into your buildings,
And someday this aching growth won’t matter any more.
The tinted glass will be old hat,
The kale will have wilted,
You tilt your grey felt fedora forward,
Frisky oblivious into the night stoned on atonality and preciousness,
You don’t need to believe me,
I am disparagingly blithe, and on bad days I don’t believe me,
We will be something different,
Be. Something. Different.
The glass buildings, the hard streets, the trees waving in the fog, our feet running,
Past the windmills in the park, past the lovers and clandestine meetings, past the slow-brewed cafes filled with laptops, past the homeless folks with their metal carts, past the glimmering Victorians teetering upward, past the bodegas spilling kiwis and cacti, past the glass buildings with their cubicle penthouses, past the yapping always the yapping thousand little dogs,
We are running through the streets, one replaces the other,
The present is the past, the future is here, and you are home.
September 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
Why am I writing this memoir? I haven’t done anything particularly exciting, haven’t traveled as an adult, invented anything, or been notably altruistic. I’m not a politician or a renowned academic. Hell, I’m not particularly politically savvy, nor am I studiously bright. I have not educated the poor, or even been a notable parent to my own children. All that I’ve experienced has either been done to me, or has been the result of a reckless disregard for propriety. I have a few interesting stories, but there is no moral at the end. I guess it boils down to, this is pretty, here is what I learned, there is no accounting for fate, don’t let this happen to you, and isn’t this amusing.
And where does this memoir end? So many memoirs end tidily with a life changing event such as sobriety or true love. I’ve had both, but that doesn’t wrap anything up, it just opens up the possibilities. I could end it with getting sober at 30, but then we’d miss my beard growth. I could end it with my so-called sex transition, but I’m not sure how I feel about the concept of transition. In Farsi, there are no pronouns; no “he” and “she”. We have “it”, U or او. This is not indecision or disregard, but this is the way the Persian language is constructed. This is the way I am constructed. I’m not traveling from one place to another. I am. Isn’t everything transition anyway; what makes sex and gender so special? I also transitioned from living in Ohio to living in San Francisco, from living in a collective to living alone, from living with my child to living without her. These were major changes that affected my heart and future; what makes one more of a pause or full-stop than the other? Inclusion and endings are tricky.
When I was 14 my best friend at Iran Zamin was Suzi Azima. Suzi was whip smart and beautiful, with a sophisticated French mother and a lawyer Persian father. She had manicured and plucked Persian eyebrows, thick black wavy hair, and an air of quiet insolence. We’d cut school together and hang out at the Iran American Society cultural center. The I.A.S. Cafe was on the first level of a sprawling complex of buildings containing theaters, galleries, workshops, a bar, a cafe, and a library. I learned to smoke cigarettes there, attended silent film festivals and jazz converts, made out in dark theaters, drank my first martini, and flirted with Persian Marxist revolutionaries over coffee. Suzi and I would go through the cafeteria style line, order grilled cheese sandwiches and eat them in the corner, dipping them in ketchup. I was called Jenny in those days, and Suzi would sing The Saga of Jenny to me as we ate our buttery sandwiches:
“Poor Jenny, bright as a penny
Her equal would be hard to find
To Jenny I’m beholden, her heart was big and golden
But she would make up her mind”
When Suzi leaned across the cheap cafe table to croon Gerswin into my ear, I was marked as surely as if she had dipped her thumb into a dish of ashes and marked a cross upon my forehead, or sewn a downward-pointing pink triangle onto the breast of my jacket. Did Suzi know that even back then I was the wanderer, or was she anointing me with my fate, the whispered song floating between us and sealing my doom.
I’m shallow. Although I’ve always been despondent, it is obvious to me that despair is not to be confused with depth. I’m shallow because I leave, my roots stunted by early change. I steal away under the auspices of change and boredom, with any new growth hidden away. Is this why I’m writing; to reveal my tracks to the world, to unsteadily grow roots through the act of creation and the publicity of my life through a book? All I have is a hobo nature and a handful of stories. If there are any morals to be had, you’re not getting them from me. That requires too much commitment from me towards your well-being. I care for you, however I’m not invested in you except in the most distant and ethereal sense.
Perhaps my secret super power is my ability to remain upright. Life has had it’s way with me, tossing me about. This isn’t so different from all of us; we have hidden stories and in many ways we’re are all the same. We have much more in common with one another than differences. We are tender and rough. We yearn and become angry. We are surprised and we reconcile. My history has lead me to suicide and back; does this make me anything at all? You will not find positivity nor platitudes dripping from my veins, only self-deprecating slyness, bitterness, and humor. I’m less suicidal than I was at 13 or 25, but I don’t anticipate ever being non-suicidal; the ability to conceive of self death is part of me. I’m generally optimistic and content, however I recognize the limitations of possibilities. Things end. Some things will never happen. Some things happen that I never expected. Life changes. Everything is different.
I believe in fate. I believe we all have a destiny ready to become and spreading before us. Fate is the shaking palm of tomorrow’s hand as it reaches for today. Is this memoir my fate? I’d hoped that by remaining shallow I could avoid my fate, escape unscathed. My secret is this; I have a fate, I know what it is, and I’ve tried to walk away from it for decades. When I was 19, my husband had my chart cast by his astrologer, but she refused to give it to me. When I was 22, a clairvoyant read my palm at a cocktail party. Startled, she told me that I would be famous for my art. That is a lie. She said that I would be known by many, but art did not play into her prediction. I added that part because it is the only thing I do really well. Besides fuck. It happened a third time, but no one scampered after my paintings, I possess a miniscule amount of ambition, and my sex conspired to enslave me domestically and keep me hidden artistically. Are these words that are being squeezed from my pen onto paper, and siphoned into your heart my fate? Are you my fate? Are you my family?
And what of my stories? Is there a morale? Maybe it is “Don’t try this at home.” or “Only do this with adult supervision.” I can’t take this seriously. My stories are just the endless loop of my past winding through my body at night. I went to a sexological bodyworker for a year after my second divorce, and as she touched my naked body, she asked me how I felt. I described a pink ribbon flowing through my body, winding in curlicues through my belly and lungs, up my throat, and bursting in a glow of brilliant golden yellow from the top of my head. My stories flow through me, richer than any familial blood. My stories live in everything that I see, I touch, I smell, I taste.
I’m writing this while sitting on a weathered, unpainted wooden bench in the Fragrance Garden in Golden Gate Park. A child runs past me, sandals flapping on the asphalt path, dried magnolia leaves scattering. Am I here, or am I in Crete tramping through Knossus, my sandals flapping and my small sweaty hand clasped in my father’s bear paw. Or am I in Virginia, waxy magnolia petals fluttering to the sidewalk as my grandmother and I walk to church, my white sandals flapping and my Ivory soap scented hand clasped in my Little Grandmother’s white, gloved ladylike hand, her leopard skin stilettos tapping down the pavement with her matching pillbox hat in a stately tilt and my crinolined Easter dress prickling my legs. I am writing this in my dreams. I am writing this, my cat Lulu-bear beside me licking her butt. I am wearing my overalls that say “TRAINED”, my feet bare, my hairy breasts unfettered, my left leg aching, three fingernails bitten shy, and tired from little sleep. I’m writing this with the trees swaying like seaweed outside of my window. I’m writing this.
August 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
The OED word of the day is “moonlit”,
As an example they quote;
“1817 Shelley Laon & Cythna v. i. 93 The City’s moon-lit spires and myriad lamps.”
I’m transported into your arms,
Some times past – I’m fortunate to remember so much,
I conflagulate decades and lovers and countries;
We are in the Marv Dasht desert by fierce lightning and sodden moonlight,
Hovering in our blue van – eating chocolate, butter, and potato chip sandwiches.
We are dancing outdoors to the Rolling Stones singing Wild Horses,
Clasped in one another’s arms, the sand shifting beneath our feet,
Knowing this was just a reprieve to our leaving.
We are adrift in bed – the attic window shimmery moonlight pouring over our feet,
Reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment,
Later we will fight about the ending and not speak for a week.
We are walking home after eating round food,
Moonlight is our witness to devouring of another kind,
Our faces raised upwards like feral dogs,
We bathe in lunar radiance.
This minute, a woman shouts “fuck you” outside of my window,
Her voice swallowed by the sounds of six lanes of traffic,
Filtered through my desire for something – anything.
It will be dark soon,
A waft of moonlight blowing smoke through the trees,
Outside my window, their leaves sway like kelp
The magic of night and moonlight – my heart flies into your arms.
May 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
Things change at the wink of a hat,
I mean to say,
Here today – here tomorrow,
And never close enough to hold,
The wind, a whiff of spring,
Of white flowers delicately cloy,
Some kind of leaf spicy and pungent,
A mantle of the future whenever I’m near.
And the moon is rising,
A disc of light to bath under,
A pearl so luminescent,
That it sticks in my eyes,
My heart shattering with beauty.
I wanted to say to you,
Harshness is not worth forbearance,
Our hearts full of tears and mystery,
Take that blanket of jasmine and moonlight,
Laid over us gently so sweet,
Slumber together with me tonight.