The following online journal entries are from April 2002.
At the start of April, I decided I wanted to change the look of my website. Nothing drastic--just a bit of simplification and a focus on a more natural narrative flow. I really liked the two-column layout for the text but it didn't allow for an easy continuity. Therefore I switched to a single column of text grouping all of one month's entries on one page. It makes for rather long pages but I think reads more smoothly. For extremely verbose months, I may break the text up into two or more pages.
TUESDAY. 9:24 AM. Congratulations are in order. First, congratulations to my sister Alenda who received her acceptance letter to the grad program in English at University of Maryland at College Park. She is now in deliberation as to whether she wants to move back to Maryland from San Francisco, leave her job, convince her boyfriend to move as well, and do the English thing. She is most likely going to take the opportunity and I will most likely remain in Maryland to be geographically close to both my father and my sister.
Second, congratulations to the Terrapins on their first ever NCAA Championship win! It is exciting and I'm glad to be in the area as my alma mater gains such a prestige. I'm a little embarassed to say now that I have never been to a basketball game (or any game for that matter) during my long stint at Maryland. Regardless, I hope UMCP bears the fame well.
Back to your regularly scheduled program.
WEDNESDAY. 10:58 AM. Well, I got my rejection letter from NYU yesterday afternoon. Big shock. I'm collecting skinny letters with just a few sentences on them explaining how there are more applicants this year than ever blah-blah-blah and how my application is not one they can accomodate blah-blah-blah. All that remains is San Francisco State.
MONDAY. 12:00 AM. Midnight. It's just turned Monday. And I don't really feel tired because Daylight Savings Time has started. My body still thinks it's only 11:00 PM. I really hate DST. It's antiquated. It's unnecessary in this day and age. Now everyone's sleep cycles are going to be screwed up.
The weekend was full and tiring. I'm still coasting in limbo-land. As long as I can keep busy, I'm generally all right. I try not to think about what's to come. So going from activity to activity, from adventure to adventure is a good thing.
Last Thursday night, I drove down into DC to meet up with Nancy and Meghan to go to "The All New Feygele Feud" night at Titan (above Hamburger Mary's on 14th Street NW) hosted by Ester Goldberg. It was an okay night. It was good to get out into the city. Meghan lives in the U Street NW area just outside of Dupont Circle. The bar was in the same area. Everything was within walking distance. It really brought me back to the Mission District of San Francisco. I miss city living. I really do. Meghan's neighborhood is pretty cool. Maybe I'll look into living in Washington if I decide to stay in the area.
Friday, Dustin and I went down into the city to do a little more sightseeing. We went to the National Museum of Natural History and the Hirshhorn Museum. Then we walked up to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. We were joined by Nathan from SF, who was in town for the weekend. He met us at the Mall and we went to the National Gallery of Art. Then we walked up to the National Building Museum.
Friday night, folks came over to play Call of Cthulhu. The players: Kate, Meredith, Lou, Shawn, Ryan, and Dustin. Skinner was out of town doing his bachelor party thing in Las Vegas. Gaming was fun. It's been a long time since I've game-mastered Cthulhu.
Saturday day was spent lounging around. Saturday night, Greg L. came up to the house. Dustin, Greg, and myself got dressed up and drove up to Towson (north of Baltimore) for an 80's party at a friend of Kate and Meredith's house. The girls met us at the party.
It was an interesting party. Pretty fun. I really couldn't drink because I was driving. But I managed to stay entertained. The sheer nostalgia value of the music was worth the experience. But I got to see some people. I got to meet some new people including a fuzzy-headed guy named Tronster (yes, that's his legal name) and his friend Dave; both were celebrating the same birthday that night. Happy birthday to them both. Tronster took a bunch of pictures. I've stolen a few pictures from his site. I even got a mention on his website.
I also had fun playing with a group of military boys (I think they were Navy). They were very sweet, very young, and played their drunk-straight-boy games. I don't remember all of their names. There was Mat, the mohawked boy from Kentucky who somehow was always shirtless and falling down drunk. He was totally cute and polite and such a boy. There was Fonzie (yes, his name, see above picture) who was really friendly and who really liked my jacket with all of the safety pins. There was Mack -- otherwise known as Hawaiian Shirt Boy -- shavy headed and handsome, who called his girlfriend in Chicago in the middle of the party. I took the phone from him and she and I chatted about her man. There was Rice (I forget his first name), the designated driver and Well-Behaved Mormon Boy (see picture above). He was red-haired, broad-shouldered, and Irish-faced. He looked like a Irish boxer. Then there was the twenty year-old (see above picture, last in series) who drunkenly took every single of his friends aside and told them that he loved them like a brother ("I love you, man!"), that he knew he was drunk and only while drunk could he express how he cared for each of them. In fact, he decided to adopt me as well. There was a lot of high-fiving. There was a lot of arms thrown over one another's shoulders. There was a lot of Whitmanian camraderie. It was all very fun to behold. It reminded me of the Coast Guard boys I made friends during my Tracks days.
Oh, by the way, I was the oldest person there. Humbling.
Today, Sunday, after the switch to DST and the late night, I am just a little tired. But, Dustin, Kate, myself, Greg, and Brooke managed to get out of the house and make our way to Annapolis. We walked around historic Annapolis, enjoyed the sun, gawked at all the colonial buildings, and oooed at the gates of the United States Naval Academy. Then we drove down to Sandy Point, a small park and beach on the Chesapeake Bay.
So, now the weekend is over. Another week begins. I need to go to my father's tomorrow morning. I've been doing some office work for my father. I started last week. It's basically just data entry. It's not what I want to be doing. But it's something. It's a routine. It gets me out of the house. Plus I get to help my father and earn a little money.
Dustin heads back to California on Wednesday afternoon. He's been away for a month now. I guess it's time for him to collect himself and figure out what to do next. He may still try to find work here in Maryland and move here if the job is right, the reasons are right. It will be strange to not have him around. In a lot of ways, he represents my connection to San Francisco. Once he leaves, I will have left San Francisco completely. I'm not sure how I feel about that. But, I think it will be good for him to go back. It will give us both time to figure out what the next step in our lives will be.
More introspective stuff later.
MONDAY. 11:30 AM. Welcome to the experimental [ green ED pages ]. And happy Tax Day, too.
I'm tinkering around with the formatting of the site. Just making little adjustments here and there. Leave me comments on my message board about the new format. I'm not completely sure of the new color or the new single-column layout. Let's see what the readership thinks.
Something has to be new in my life, right?
I'm not exactly sure what to write about really. I'm still in the Land of Limbo. And I hate it. I have yet to receive my letter from SFSU. My friends that went to SFSU all say that they're excruciatingly slow in responding about anything.
This past weekend was all right. On Friday night, I went out with Kate and Skinner to Adams Morgan, a trendy neighborhood in DC with a lot of bars and restaurants (it's been called the Greenwich Village of DC but it needs to be a bit queerer in my opinion). We met up with some other folks at Club Heaven and Hell; Hell is the bar in the basement of the dance club Heaven. Afterwards, we walked up the street to Asylum, a biker/goth/grunge/alternative bar. It was pretty cool. After all the carousing, Kate, Skinner, and I had to catch the Metro home. Of course, leaving Asylum, I tripped and fell into the middle of 18th Street. I clearly didn't have enough alcohol.
On Saturday, a bunch of us went down to Old Town Alexandria. The primary reason to go down there was to get fitted for kilt jackets for Skinner's wedding. I am a 46 regular. We had lunch at an Indonesian restaurant that was very good. Then we went to pick up Kate and Skinner's wedding rings. Then we drove home. (Might I add, I dislike driving around the DC beltway and in Northern Virginia.)
On Sunday, there was Tellings.
Now it's Monday. Another week begins and I'm still just hanging about. The weather in Maryland is warming up. It's going to be in the 80s this week. Unseasonably warm. Plus there's the rising humidity, too. I'm just not used to it. I'm already running around in shorts and trying to find ways to stay cool and dry. But spring is underway here and it's nice to see things turning green, flowers blooming, and wildlife other than pigeons and rats.
It's been nearly a week since Dustin went back to California. After spending every day of over a month with someone, I do miss his presence. But I also am glad for some time to myself. I think we both need our own space for a while. Of course this solitude is giving me ample time to think too much, obsess about things, and to just plain feel stuck.
I'm trying to figure out if I'm ever going to sync up here. I'm not sure if I'm resisting fitting in or if I'm just not fitting anymore. It's a puzzle. I am also having a difficult time articulating how I'm feeling to people around me. I'm finding I tend to shut up and shut down rather than saying something. So, suffice it to say, I'm having worlds of issues.
I guess the ultimate question is am I happy? Unfortunately, I don't think I am. The next question is why am I not happy? I think it's a combination of a number of factors:
• not knowing what the hell I'm going to be doing in the next year or so
• saddened by the fact that my original plan to go to Maryland isn't happening
• saddened by the fact that I may not get into any programs and I will have to delay my goals at least another year
• playing the comparing game to the friends and folks around me and realizing that I'm nearly thirty-two and have very little to my name, my legacy
• feeling the conservatism of Maryland, feeling the profound difference in the way being gay plays out here as opposed to San Francisco, realizing that SF totally insulates the queer community from homophobia and heterosexism
• the "old" Ed combating the "new" Ed, falling into old patterns of behavior (even speech) just to do what's comfortable, what's expected, what's familiar and not liking it one bit
• gaining weight since I'm not walking all over the place and as a corrollary, disliking driving in the insanity that is any amount of traffic
• and I do miss San Francisco and my friends back West
I guess I should counteract the "bad" with some "good" points. Alas, I'm journaled out right now. I'm still not convinced that the new layout is a good one. I'll have to think about it. Stare at it. And see what other people have to say.
SUNDAY. 10:30 AM. Happy birthday to my friend Nancy!
TUESDAY. 2:54 PM. The following is an email update I sent out to my family and friends. Enjoy!
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY-LAND: TALES FROM THE RIGHT COAST (LONG)
Testing... testing... one... two... three...
Nearly two hours have passed since I opened this e-mail window to compose a long-overdue update. However, it has taken me all of the past two hours, a few dozen games of Yahoo! Pyramids, a couple of phone calls, and a shower before I have found the inspiration to put e-pen to e-paper.
Why the harangue over writing a simple e-mail? I guess because these updates are never really simple and because I'm finding the past month or so difficult to summarize. But the various rituals and distractions to get me writing have paid off. The blank page has oggled me oggling it long enough. And the words are slowly forming like sugar crystals around a nail.
Perhaps my apprehension in writing comes from a sudden change in audience. My e-mail updates were originally for friends I was far away from when I moved to San Francisco. Now, I'm back in the state of Maryland and I can simply talk to, visit with, or call up those friends. Now my audience has shifted like a swinging pendulum and these updates are for the friends out West. I had pondered whether to write only those far away from me. The distance serves as insulation. But since this letter will invariably end up on my website, I might as well toss it like a silver dollar into everyone's wishing wells. Will it be heads or tails? That's up to you all to make out.
I certainly have been in a state of confusion. I cannot make head nor tail of my life right now. I kind of have a firm grasp of the middle as it squirms about. Or is that me squirming? I can't quite see what's behind me. I can't quite tell what's ahead. All I know is the present, which seems long and sinuous and drawn out. I've been cranky. I've been disappointed. I've been moody and morose. I sound like an Edward Gorey character: "Normally perspicacious Ed mistook a snake for a stick and was aptly bit by an asp in the ass."
My motivation has been less than satisfactory and is all the more reason why I have been incommunicado. I think I suffer from a case of the "if you don't have something nice to say, then don't say anything at all" syndrome. I think from that line of thinking I'm supposed to make lemonade out of cherries in a pit after I pull myself up by my silver lining. Or something. At least I have my rapier sharp wry wit to save me. Or something.
Remember a grain of salt. Remember this is just a fraction of the present.
QUOTING WIL WHEATON
Since the dot.com derigible's rise and fall, there has been a sharp increase in the social currency of geeks. Not nerds a la the type that wear pocket protectors and plot revenge against Alpha Betas. But geeks. Intellectual but suave. Brainy but groovy. Geeks that sport Buddy Holly glasses and urban-retro-thrift. Geeks that can play twelve rounds of Streetfighter and drink twelve rounds of Grey Goose martinis up. Geeks that are as much Star Wars as they are porn stars. These aren't your parent's geeks anymore.
In that vein, I have been reading Wil Wheaton's (famed for his roles in Stand By Me and Star Trek: TNG) website. And the other day he wrote about something he called "hyper-nostalgia", a kind of visceral, painfully lucid, and emotionally charged feeling of remembrance, of longing for the past, and ultimately of loss.
I, too, suffer from hyper-nostalgia. I have returned to my home though it isn't my birthplace. It is the place where I grew and learned and lived as child and man. But the initial glee that I felt in packing my things and setting off for home has gone, faded. I have returned and found my old home still standing looking much like it did three years prior but there's someone else living in it. It is difficult to reconcile the past with the present particularly when the samples are years apart. Places look a bit more worn (the falling down fence at my father's or the aggravating construction on 495 West) or disturbingly new (new buildings, new roads, new signs). People are strangely the same but different (new haircut, new dress, new goals) and always have that look in their eyes like the want to quietly ask, "Why did you leave?" Or better yet, "Why did you come back?" It's been surprising. It's been more painful than I thought it would be. It's made me want to read Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native again.
My second adolescence is coming to a close and I am on the brink of a new found adulthood. It's like I have gone away to college. Three years have passed. Now I've come home and it's all weird and jumbled and square pegs, round holes. It's all a bit schizophrenic. I don't know what to make of it. Which Ed am I supposed to be? I find myself reverting back to old patterns, to old habits, even to old insecurities. The pathways in my brain are still there like ruts though worn, more faded by the wind and rain of new experiences. It freaks me out. It pisses me off. And the more I rebel, the more I exert the Ed of the present, the more I find that I distance myself from "here" and the more I dislike "now." As they say, "You can never go home again."
I don't think it was a mistake for me to leave San Francisco. But I do think I was being fatally idealistic. Naive is a better word. I had put all of my eggs in one basket -- the University of Maryland's MFA program -- hoping that school would decide it all for me. Of course, as we all know now, I didn't make it into UMCP (nor NYU). You'd think I would have learned my lesson? But I'm still waiting on San Francisco State. Their acceptance or rejection letter will be the catalyst for my next move. Or maybe it won't. I don't know.
Coming back to Maryland has been fun, amazing, comforting, and relaxing. But it's been more like a visit than a safe-landing. I feel like I'm going through a time capsule. I'm a visitor to a living museum of who I once was. I think this must be what amnesiacs feel when the memories come rushing back all at once. Again, the reconciliation is slow going. I feel like I'm at the end of a long vacation and it's time to go home. But where is home? Here? San Francisco? Someplace else? In the end, I have to decide if I'm going to stick it out or end the visit.
Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are common to the Eastern and Southern coast of North America. And it turns out that three of my family members are terps. University of Maryland Terps, that is. My father went to the University of Maryland at College Park in the 70s. I knew Testudo as my mascot in the 80s and 90s. And now my sister, Alenda, is returning to Maryland to pursue graduate work in English Lit.
She and her boyfriend Brian were in town this past week for a short vacation. She had an interview for a graduate assistantship in the College of Letters and Sciences (which I hope she gets) and an advising appointment with the English Department. I took her and Brian around campus. We did a short tour of the school, looked at a few buildings, visited McKeldin Library, walked through the Student Union, and rubbed Testudo's nose. It was strange to be back on campus. It was strange to be hanging around Susquehanna Hall (formerly the South Campus Surge Building where English is housed) while she was in her meeting. It is strange to realize that Alenda will be entering the same program and will be taking classes with the same teachers. Somehow I think it would feel different if I had actually finished my MA.
I am really happy that my sister got into Maryland. I think returning to school has been something she's been wanting to do for awhile, especially after spending a few years in the "real world." I think it is also good that she's headed back to Maryland to be close our father and the closest thing to ancestral ground we have on this side of the world. She was born and raised in Maryland. Plus our mother's remains are here as well.
I think one of the biggest pulls for me to stay in Maryland is my father and sister. Family is a potent gravity. I decided a while back that I wanted to live near to at least one of my family members. And now that Alenda is returning to the area, I feel obligated to stay. I know I don't have to do anything I don't want to do. I know no one is asking me, forcing me to stay. But I am a loyal son and a loyal brother. Plus, truth be known, I have fear when it comes to being separated from my family. Since my mother's death, I instinctively want to be close just in case something happens, just in case of an emergency. It's a terrifying feeling to live in fear of a loved one's death. It's irrational and compelling even when there's nothing wrong, everyone's healthy, and there isn't even a hint of danger. Loss breeds the fear of future loss.
How do you forgive yourself for something you couldn't control? I work on the answer to that question every day. I mean I know it's only natural and conceivable and understandable but it's not an easy thing to express, to explain, to exorcise. I guess I know I have to do what is going to make me happy ultimately. I know that fact.
Talking about terrapin turtles has pointed up a telling metaphor and irony. Wouldn't it be great if I could carry my home around me with like a turtle? Better yet, wouldn't it be great if I realized that I am a turtle (it's actually one of my totem animals...representing mother earth, creativity, groundedness) and I do carry my home with me wherever I go.
A SENSE OF WHERE YOU ARE
Everyone needs a compass, something unwavering and guiding. I haven't figured out what my compass is. I remember in 8th grade outdoor education (basically a week of camp on the Chesapeake) my friend and I were paired up for an orienteering race. Using a map and a compass, we had to find as many markers as we could in two hours. Orienteering is all about not getting lost. Well, we did just that going for some difficult markers. We ended up using our directional skills to wend our way back to the main road leading back to camp. We had been gone far longer than two hours. Eventually, a van full of teachers found us. We got back to camp in the middle of dinner and we got to tell everyone about our adventurous excursion.
I think I have a pretty good map of what I want out of my life. I can see the markers. Some of them are far afield and difficult to find but I know they're there and I want to get to them. Unfortunately, my compass is unreliable. Some days I can't find it. Some days it seems to be off by a few degrees or there's some sort of huge interference in the way. And some days I just don't remember how to use the blasted thing. I guess I need a new compass (or get an upgrade or download a new driver or patch or something... yeah, I'm a geek).
I guess I just need to plow ahead and take the terrain as it comes. But I don't let go very easily. I'd rather explore the area thoroughly before striking out to uncharted territory. I have always admired those people and friends that seem to have a very good compass, that don't really need a very good map, and that seem to navigate through life pretty easily. Though I'm sure I'm just seeing the end product, the polished travelogue, and none of the bramble and pitfalls. But there is still an elegance to their way of wandering that I want to emulate. I also have met people that have no compass at all nor map nor sense of direction. Everything is a trial, everything is trailblazing, and everything is struggle. I am certain I don't want to live my life that way except I can't help feel like I am lost like that at the moment.
God, the metaphor has gone on too long. I am way too cerebral for my own good. Cripes. Too much Gorey-ness. I got an email from a random reader of my weblog that basically said, "Lighten the fuck up." I'm pretty sure he meant it in a helpful way (nor did he say it exactly in those words) and not a mean way. Go with the flow, said he. Live with grace and ease, said she. I should put some of my Californianisms to good use. I always forget to breathe.
(Of course this update will go on... there's no lightening in today's forecast... maybe tomorrow...)
WE'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE
They say you can take the boy out of the city but you can't take the city out of the boy. I can distinctly recall when I was younger that I could never live in the big city, that I preferred suburban life. I think that assumption has definitely changed. I really loved living in the city. I loved living in The City even more. I think it is a matter of convenience, opportunity, diversity, and community. I like being able to walk out of my front door, hop on a bus, and be exactly where I want to be. I like being able to walk down to the corner groceria and pick up a few fresh vegetables for dinner. I like knowing that I'm part of a neighborhood and participating in the neighborhood's economy, well-being, and culture. Granted, no situation is perfect. Without a car, I didn't have the ability to just jet off to wherever I wanted to go or to simple get out of the city. The density can be maddening. Neighbors can be noisy. But overall I am pleasantly surprised at myself for wanting to go back to all of it.
Suburbia is a strange planet. (The same could definitely be said of the city.)
I'm also feeling culture-shocked at returning to the East Coast. Somehow I just don't feel the groove here. It's an ephemeral quality that I have really found a way to adequately express. It just feels different. I know it's such a simple statement and such an obvious one. Of course it's different. It's a different freaking place. It's three thousand miles different. But that difference in climate, in color, in attitude, even in dress makes me uneasy. Sometimes it makes me unhappy.
For example, Maryland is a straight planet. (For that matter, throw in DC as well.)
I have taken for granted that the rest of the world is not San Francisco. Being queer in San Francisco is such a different experience. No wonder everyone wants to flock there. Difference in sexuality (difference in general) is so ingrained in SF life that regardless of your stance on homosexuality (or whatever) you must accept its existence and pervasiveness. It colors everything.
Most of my friends back West are straight. Most of my friends here in the East are straight. But there is a distinct difference in how my sexuality is included in their lives and in their perception of me. All of my friends, whether lefties or righties, are accepting of me. I don't think they'd be my friends if they weren't. But my SF friends are so used to the "gay thing" that it's no longer a "thing" and just a part of normal, conversational, colorful life. I am not only one of three queer friends or coworkers. I guess out East I feel my token status. It's not a status that's pushed upon me but nonetheless I still feel it. And beyond just my social circle, I think the area as whole makes me more guarded, more sensitive, more aware that the person sitting next to me in a restaurant may take strong umbrage to the fact that I'm different.
I am curious to see how things play out in the days to come. I know that I am no longer as wary about being "out." And I'm becoming more comfortable with encouraging folks to be more inclusive of me. I may be single, I may be queer, I may have different views, but I can still dish with the best of them.
EDMOND IN THE MIDDLE
Remember the snake analogy from like twelve paragraphs ago? I'm hanging on to the whole wiggly middle part? Well, that's exactly the sum of things right now.
I have been in Maryland for nearly two months. It's scary how fast time has past. I have to figure out when I lose my California residency status. My letter from San Francisco State University has yet to arrive. Unfortunately, I have little recourse but to wait right now. SFSU's communications with me have very boldly stated that calling will do absolutely no good and that letters will be sent out at the end of April. So, I wait.
I have been doing some light office work for my father, which is helping me keep financially afloat. Kate and Skinner have been really cool about extending their hospitality indefinitely. Though, I think I am reaching the point where I have to make some plans to either find my own space here in Maryland or plan to crash land someplace else. Where am I to go?
I have put in my name and resume with the University of Maryland's English Department for teaching this coming year. The prospects are pretty good that they'll offer me a job (particularly now that UMCP is the most popular school in the world since the Terps won the NCAA basketball championships). There should be a flood of incoming freshmen who all need English 101.
So, I have a manyfold predicament. If SFSU accepts me, I should follow my initial plan to go back to school, get my MFA, so I can teach at the college level. If SFSU does not accept me, then I am inclined to remain in the Maryland area so I can be close to my family. Furthermore, if UMCP hires me to teach, then I'll be doing one of the things that gives me the greatest joy. If SFSU accepts me and UMCP hires me, then I'll have to decide what I want to do most. If neither school wants me, then I'm balancing where it is I want to live.
What the hell am I going to do? I don't know. Is that your final answer? I don't know that either. (Now the audience has to sit in painful anticipation while I fidget, talk about useless things, and get acerbic encouragement from Regis.)
What do I want? A home. Friends with whom I have agency, share life, reciprocate ideas, experiences, and understanding. A job worthwhile. And throw in a little happiness, too. What would Dr. Phil say?
I think this update has really become a treatise (albeit insecure and itinerant) on my day-to-day thoughts rather than events. I'm really trying to figure some stuff out in the long run and working on writing some of it down has been helpful. I also welcome useful feedback. I'll put up the more "what I did over summer vacation" stuff on my website.
Thanks for hanging with me,
© 2002 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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