The following online journal entries are from January 2003.
WEDNESDAY. 11:00 AM. Happy New Year!
I hope everyone had a safe and festive New Year's Eve. I still need to sleep a bit more before I can write anything coherent. More later.
THURSDAY. 7:35 PM. Over six hours later, my labor is done. I finally got around to writing my New Year's email update for all my friends, family, and paid-in-full subscribers. It's a doozy. Enjoy!
"YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... YOU SEND OUT HUGE ASSED EMAIL UPDATES..." (LONG)
It's that time of year again. For one-horse sleighs? For chestnuts roasting on an open fire? For turkey and tryptophan hazes? For resolutions and renewing gym memberships to shed those winter pounds? Actually, it's time for another long-awaited, breath-baited update of unusual size from your friendly neighborhood spikey-haired East Coaster turned West Coaster turned East Coaster again. I can try to promise sleighs, nuts, fire, turkey, hazes, and winter pounds. Everything else will just be left up to your vivid imagination.
I'm actually a wee bit late (two weeks) on getting my new year update ready and willing to go. My website has a sad sentence for January 1, 2003 and nothing but blank, blue space afterward. I just haven't quite figured out what I wanted to say, how to say it, and what to say. Wait, didn't I say that already? The Gregorian New Year is generally quiet (if not somber) and contemplative (if not solemn) for me. It's a natural reaction to the very celebrated if not concretely pointed up and demarked passage of time. Americans (to be surpassed perhaps only by the Japanese) are probably far too obsessed with time, the passage of time, and more importantly with the literal and metaphoric Power = Work / Time (better yet, Work = Power x Time).
I have stopped wearing a watch. Actually, my watch died on me after being subjected to the tide pool at Camelbeach, Pennsylvania last summer. For its claim to being waterproof to a depth of a 100 meters, it didn't survive. Actually, that's not the entire truth. I found it recently and it's running again. Some sort of strange Timex sorcery as resurrected it (no wonder they keep on ticking). Its fancy Indiglo (tm) face doesn't work anymore. And I feel strange about wearing an undead watch powered by nether chronokinetic forces.
I admit I am a clock watcher. I generally like to know what time it is even if I'm doing nothing that is time sensitive. It is a habit that I'd like to break so I can relax a little more. Not wearing my watch has helped. I now have to use my mobile phone (another technology that instills compulsive timekeeping habits forcing people to think about minutes like currency or breaths of air or meals a day) to see what time it is. It isn't as readily accessible as simply turning my wrist.
I digress. Basically, New Year's is when I think about the past year, the stuff that happened (or didn't happen) in the past year, and what I'm walking out of the past year with into the new year. In the past, New Year's has always been a pretty awful "holiday" for me. It's a time when I get to pick at myself for all of the things that I didn't do, didn't accomplish, lost, or left behind. More recently, the año nuevo has been more balanced, less fraught with the crazies. I try to think about, list, and articulate the things that I have done, I have accomplished, I have found, and I have changed for the better. And 2002 was full of industrial-sized change.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... YOU DESIGN DETAILED FLOORPLANS BEFORE MOVING ALL OF YOUR FURNITURE AROUND*
I left San Francisco. That is probably the biggest change of the past year. And I realize now that it's been nearly a year since I transplanted myself back to Maryland. The year has gone by pretty quickly, almost too quickly.
To no surprise, I've been asked more times than I can remember (and received a number of random emails) as to why I would leave The City. Whenever I go into DC, down to Dupont or Adams Morgan, and politely chat with people at a bar or club or restaurant, the subject invariably comes up. I tell them I am originally from Maryland, lived in San Francisco for three years, and just recently (not so much anymore) returned to the East Coast. And invariably the immediate response is "Why?"
I've asked myself that question a hundred times a day. The number has dwindled to an occasional "Why?" every now and then depending on any number of factors and stimuli: traffic on the Beltway, having to parallel park in Adams Morgan on a Friday night, the shocking price of avocados, winter, a Republican governor. I know on some level that I made the best decision I could given the circumstances last February to return. I had high hopes that I would be pursuing my MFA at the University of Maryland, I would be living in my old house in Calverton, and I would get the chance to delve into the heretofore unexplored alternative, artistic, independent underbelly of Washington, DC. Alas, my best laid plans were dashed on the rocks of "Oops, like, I don't think so!"
I have adjusted as best as I can. And I am trying to make the most out of what I've got. I have to believe that I have returned "home" for a reason, that there is some lesson or enlightenment to be had from this experience. I think the simplest thing I have learned is that I really don't enjoy living in surburbia -- not at this point in my life. I derive a certain amount of vitality and motivation from living in a city environment. I have also learned that, ta da, I have changed since I was last in Silver Spring. There are certain constants about my personality, but there are also new flecks and pinpricks and bits of stardust that I hadn't noticed until they were put against a backdrop of a different state. I think I am also "here" because my family is "here" and the gravitational pull of flesh and blood can be extremely compelling.
I enjoy my life here. I enjoy my apartment. I enjoy my freedom to drive my car if I choose to. I enjoy living two floors down from my sister and five minutes up the road from my father. I enjoy the familiarity of places, the nostalgia of certain streets, buildings, trees, stores. I enjoy that it has snowed a number of times this winter. I enjoy encountering old friends and meeting new people. I enjoy teaching again.
But I don't love it. Not yet. Nor will I ever love this place the same way again. So, my goal for the near future is to figure out where the love is and make sure I'm there with it. I can be content with the present while reaching for the future. I don't think it is as paradoxical as it sounds. I know I don't want to make my life miserable by selling myself that being back in Maryland, being away from San Francisco is miserable. I know that I cannot convince myself that my choice to leave The City was a bad one and that Maryland is now my punishment. I know that I cannot put San Francisco on a pedastal. No good can come of that. I have to think and behave my way to what I want and need and desire.
But what is it that I want and need and desire? It's something I'm going to have to rub for a while. Actually, double entendre aside, I am glad for the opportunity to reflect. I have contrasting experiences "here" and "there" to use, to compare, to evaluate. And armed with that knowledge I can make plans.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... YOU DON'T HAND IN FINAL PAPERS UNLESS THEY'VE BEEN FORMATTED ON A DESKTOP PUBLISHING PROGRAM*
School is (still) my main plan. Last year's applications to the University of Maryland, to San Francisco State, and New York University were rebuffed. The main reasons for their rejection (deferment) were the unusually high number of applicants last year (thanks Mr. Bush and the downward spiraling economy) and my portfolio (no one to blame but myself). My original intent was to bulk up my writing portfolio and reapply again. The bulking didn't happen. Homelessness and joblessness for nearly six months put a damper on my muse and penmanship.
So, I changed my tactics. My writing mentor, Dr. Olmert, really encouraged me to reapply to be reinstated at Maryland in the MA English program. My father also really wants me to go back to school, to finish my higher degree(s), and I think by extension become miraculously financially stable. And I know that getting my Master's (in the least) is what I need to do to further my vocational and avocational aspirations.
This year I have applied to the MA English Literature programs at UMCP and at SFSU. I have a much stronger chance of getting into a straight up MA program at this point; that's where my education, my experience, and my strengths (at least on paper) lie. At this point, those are the only two schools that are in my sights. I couldn't really commit to any other schools or locations. I rewrote my statement of purpose, which I think is pretty good, summoned up three of my best advocates to write recommendations, and got my applications submitted before the end of 2002. December 31 was my deadline and I met it.
If I am accepted to UMCP only, then I will happily remain in the area and go to school. It's ironic that I will be re-enrolling in a program that I nearly completed half a decade ago and that my sister is currently a grad student in. She will be a year ahead of me if I start this coming fall. If I am accepted to SFSU only, then I will happily return to the Bay Area, take up residence in any number of friends' homes until I can find a place of my own, and get my degree done there. If I am accepted to both schools (which is what I am hoping for), I will most likely head happily back to San Francisco.
Once comfortably ensconced in my program, I am still going to work on my creative portfolio. I have to get some writing done. (Though, I honestly think that the personal narrative of my weblog of nearly five years, two role-playing games, a book of poetry, and two National Novel Writing Months completed is a pretty fair shake at the writing thing.) I will most likely apply to the MFA programs of the school I end up at to see if I can rollover into the creative program. It seems like a bait and switch. It is. I honestly think I will be happier in a MFA program. But, if push comes to shove, I'm finishing my graduate degree (whatever capital letters it may be).
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... YOU WORK IN A BUILDING WHERE YOU NEED A BADGE TO MOVE BETWEEN FLOORS*
When I worked for Brobeck, Phelger, & Harrison in San Francisco, I had a magic magnetic isolinear chip card thingy that did exactly that -- it let me in the building, on weekends it allowed me to use the elevators, and it let me on to different floors. Now, my job is less 007 and more English 101. Though, the University of Maryland is automating its buildings to lock up/open up by themselves (gives me flashbacks of the Sci Fi Channel original movie Dream House). But I'll need to use my faculty ID to be able to get into the buildling before or after hours or to get into special rooms or supply closets.
Teaching is going well. It's old hat for me. And I still love it. Though, my love for English 101 as subject matter is waning very quickly. I would love to move on to other stuff. Last semester was fun, interesting, amusing, challenging, and a eye-opener for me. I taught three sections -- two regular 101s and a section of 101X, which is for English as a Second Language students.
The biggest thing I came to learn about myself is that I'm old -- really. When I first started teaching I was twenty-five. I was only a handful of years (ok, more than a handful) older than most of my students. I could pass as one of them. Now, I am over a decade older than my students and I don't want to pass as one of them. I grew up somewhere. I still really enjoy working with college freshmen, but my role now is less and less as a peer and more and more as a mentor. Somewhere in the mix is friend. I think my students see that, understand that, and respect that. Sure, they're all giggly when they realize their teacher has green or blue or pink or red or orange or yellow spikey hair. But they soon understand that they have a lot of work to do, moreso than some of the other 101s, and they still stay. Every semester I usually get a couple of amazing evaluations from my students and occasionally I will get a personal note or two. It's time to toot my own horn. I'll share a couple of choice excerpts:
"When I first signed up for English 101 all I wanted to do was do well on my papers get an A and then not have to take English ever again because I absolutely can't stand it. I wasnt even worried about learning, I just wanted an A so I could get it over with. Well, I felt like I needed to tell you that your English class was the first one I've ever had (middle school and high school included) that it hasn't been a chore for me to go. In all seriousness, I enjoyed ur class. I didnt really enjoy the material but u made it so much more interesting than I ever thought it could be. For that I thank you...All that being said, I really would like to thank you for helping make my first ever semester in college a pleasant one, and I honestly mean that. I really feel like you have a gift for teaching and I think you really should explore the other opportunities available to you outside 101...Anyway I just wanted to say thanks and make sure you realized how much of an influence you've had on me this semester...Once again, thanks for being the teacher that I could look forward to going to that class. I'm sure my friends who hated their English teachers will hear about you." -- Phil, English 101, Fall 2002
(I must point out that I strongly dislike the internet/chat/e-mail conventions of using 'u' = 'you' and 'ur' = 'your' and other such nonsense. Thankfully, it is an informal medium and I'll leave it that. No student of mine would dare do it in a formal paper.)
"English has always had a special place in my life, however, being a part of your class has nourished that love for English and developed it into something much more special. I honestly looked forward to attending your class so that I could hear your ideas about the subject. But furthermore, I wanted to attend your class because I knew that you would extend my views about our culture and the world. I have never been so cognizant of what is going on around me. You truly stimulated my thinking process and now, even during break, I continue to question and seek answers. You showed me what it means to be a living person, not just a waste of space that is completely naive and does not care about life. Through the papers, the video days, and your thoughts, I now understand what it means to live life to the fullest and acquire a true sense of knowledge and wisdom. I want to thank you so much for the way that you have changed me...I do not know who else could have done that and who could have done it so thoroughly. You truly are an inspiration to me and to all...Thank you!" -- Candace, English 101, Fall 2002
It gets me weepy. It really does. When you don't think that you're actually reaching anyone or making a difference, students have a way of surprising you and reassuring you that you are making a difference. I thank them for the opportunity to boost my ego and to give thanks for the experience. This is what I do. This is what I'm good at. This is one of the things that I want, need, desire. And it's definitly boldfaced, underlined, and bulleted on my plan of plans.
This coming Spring I am only slated to teach two sections. I keep praying to the gods of hiring and funding that I'll get a third section. Let there be a deluge, a flood of incoming, mid-year freshmen that need to take English 101. Let there be some kindly faced benefactor atop the Mt. Olympus of UMCP's English department that will smile down upon me and say, "Hey, he could teach this class..."
As I said earlier, I would love to move on from the rhetoric and composition of English 101. I would love to teach a beginning level fiction workshop or a 200-level literature class or a class on film and media. In fact, if I stay at UMCP for graduate school, I'm going to try to put together a few proposals for classes to teach. For example, I have in mind to teach a readings course on John McPhee for undergraduates. We would read a dozen or less of his books and talk about reading and writing literary nonfiction. I would love and welcome the opportunity to expand my repertoire.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... YOU GET SUDDEN ATTACKS OF BITTERSWEET NOSTALGIC FEELINGS WHEN THINKING ABOUT YOUR LONG-LOST OLD COMMODORE 64, SINCLAIR ZX-81, TRS-80*
I used to have a TRS-80 Color Computer (otherwise known as the CoCo or the Trash-80 depending on which side of the Tandy fence you walked on). It was my very first computer. I remember campaigning for it for Christmas. I think my parents got it for me so I would stop talking about, stop leaving notes around the house about it. When I saw it under the tree (actually, it was leaning up against the wall since it was in a big box), I knew exactly what it was and promptly flipped out (in a good way). I actually still have my TRS-80. It's in my old room at my father's house. I bet it still works.
I do really cherish the fact that I live near my family. I think I've said before that no matter where I live I would like to be near one of my family -- either my father or my sister (and by some strange ancestral extension, my mother). Before I moved back, I hadn't been to visit or seen my father for over two years. I think it was one of the overriding factors in my return. I needed to see my father, to see the place where I grew up, and to visit my mother's grave. Again, it's all about the emotional and spiritual gravitational pull of family.
It's pretty darn neat to live in the same building as my sister. Alenda and I visit each other. She borrows my vacuum cleaner or my printer. I go up to have dinner or to pet the cat Nemo (I miss having a kitty of my own). All in all, it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. We can share, we can get together, we can commiserate, and then we can go back to our own spaces, our own places, and shut our own door. (We still have to try to get on Trading Spaces...)
I am glad that I can see my father, too. I think Alenda also likes living so close to my dad. On a personal level, the relationship between my father and me is good. There is love. There is respect. There is hope. We are using this time to figure one another out, I think. His relationship with my stepmother is probably the biggest bone of contention at the moment. It is something, she is someone that unfortunately places a huge barrier between us. It is a situation I find sad and intolerable. I hope the near future will bring positive change.
My stepmother is currently in Taiwan. Her father passed away late last year. She's been gone for a couple of months now and in that time, I have seen my father on a weekly basis. My sister and I spend time with him, invite him to do things, and we function as a family should. Her absence is a mixed blessing. And I hope that this time of separation will help my father sort out a few things. I know that when my stepmother returns, things will go back to the way they were. Estranged. Deceptive. Antagonistic. And I have vowed no longer to play by those terms.
I will accept no less than my father being in my life, fully in my life.
Well, there's probably a few things that I could do without. Funny story -- my father, my sister, her boyfriend Brian, and I were driving down to have lunch at a Japanese restaurant in McClean, Virginia. It's the best restaurant for sushi and sashimi according to my father. As we trundled around the outer loop making our way to the American Legion Bridge to cross the Potomac, my father casually asks if my sister and I would like tickets to go to Robert Ehrlich's inauguration as Governor of Maryland. At $100 a ticket and in support of a Republican gubernator, I elected to pass. The conversation then turned to the fact that my father is quite proud of the fact that he is part of the Republican party (hence the Bush stickers on the back of his SUV). I am not quite sure what the purpose of the conversation was. He has to know that he was in the car with three pretty liberal, democratic-ish, green-ish people. Hello, Northern Californians! (I actually don't know my sister's exact political leanings. I am just assuming.)
I am glad, however, for the fact that my father is communicating. That in of itself is important and amazing. And I think it really is about trying to discover who his children are and also in a way to let his children know who he is. It's charming (even though I disagree with his politics). It's a step in the right direction (even though I hope my father steps more to left). And I think it's a result of growing up in a very tight-lipped, non-demonstrative, emotionally-muted Asian household. It's taken decades, but I think my father is breaking out of his shell (at least a little bit).
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... YOU HAVE A DEFINITE PHILOSOPHY OF STACKING WOOD FOR FIRES*
For some reason, the above statement reminds me so much of my friends. After numerous campouts, barbecues, and gaming nights by the fireplace, I learned that nearly all the people I know here have a philosophy for how a fire should be built. In fact, there are people "famed" for buildling outrageously large fires, for MacGyvering fires from soaked wood with nothing but a bit of twine and a burnt out matchstick, for burning cue balls (which was a prop for a magical orb at a live-action role-playing game) in the fire pit because they were bored (ahem). Who knew that a few twigs and logs could be so controversial?
Actually, this section of my udpate is probably the most difficult to conceive and write about. I think the reason my website has been so quiet is because much of what was going on in my world, which I normally write about and blab to anyone who would listen, had to do with me, my friends, and how me and my friends get along. I actually had an evening or two where I thought about my editorial policy for my weblog. Do I write about everything and anything? What about sensitive details? What is too personal? What is inappropriate? I certainly do a little bit of nipping and tucking when it comes to my online journal entries. Clearly, I want to maintain tact and sensitivity. But what happens when you want to write about people who are in your audience? Web life and real life often are very different things.
But things are slowly coming into focus for me. I decided that one of my best means to cope, to explore, to express myself is through my writing and I did not want to deny myself an avenue so important to me. So, here goes.
I am having a heck of time adjusting to being back in Maryland. I remember writing in past updates that I felt culture-shocked. A lot of things, even though they were familiar, took a while getting used to like climate, driving, being back at the university, social scene, and more. I think one of the biggest shocks and adjustments is trying to figure out my relationships with the people I know here. Intellectually, I knew that things were different, people had changed. On some level, though, I was hoping that my friends and I could just pick up where we left off. Now, I know better. But I don't think the expectations of "things being the same" are solely mine to claim. I think a number of the people I know figured I would be exactly the same, too, and would simply embrace me, interact with me as they used to and not discover what's new and improved. Now, they know better.
My friend Skinner and I were having a discussions about this very subject over email. I wrote to him, in part to explain some of my perceptions about things, and said, "I think there's a lot of pressure (and guilt) right now for this group to welcome me back with open arms. I think you and others are looking at their lives and going, 'Hey, I already filled Ed's spot with other things, other people, other interests' and now what am I going to do? I think it's part of it, for me at least. I've been gone over three years. And I understand the difficulty of reintegrating AND that reintegration may not be the best thing afterall. I had expectations. I'm dumping them and starting over. I think people have expectations and some are not dumping them and starting over."
I have learned over the years that not all friends are friends for the same reasons, for the same interests, for the same space in my life. Different people are different things for me. I didn't used to get that. I used to think that friendship was a monolithic thing -- you either are or you aren't, you either are my friend forever or you aren't. But as with most things in nature, in the universe, there are degrees, strata, and varied densities. Some people will be there for the parties and the celebrations. Some people will be there for the job or the duty. Some people will be there just because there's no where else to be at the moment. And, if you're lucky, some people will be there for the length and breadth and depth of your life.
I have come to the painful realization in the past three months of my adaptation here in Maryland that I am uncomfortable around a some of people I know, that I dislike things that people have said or done, that I don't feel like myself when faced with people I so desperately want to be my friends. So I had to step back. I had to look co-dependency in the eye. And I had to simply let go. There have been marked times for me when I have been surrounded by people and suddenly feel deeply sad, deeply alone, and most remarkably (which is the main reason for a lot of this introspection) deeply ashamed.
I wasn't ashamed for the people I was with. I know I cannot change other people. I was ashamed because I allowed myself to succumb to familiarity, to be seduced by the promise of nostalgia, to be trapped by "that was then" instead of asserting loudly, VERY loudly "this is now." I was closeting myself and not necessarily in the strict sense of sexuality. And that kind of pain, which I've felt before, is the biggest warning sign that I need out -- out of the behavior, out of the expectations, out of the past, but not necessarily out of the friendship. For me, that is the main exploration right now.
I can only take responsibility for what I am responsible for. I know that there are friends I missed terribly, there are friends that I really wanted to stay close to, there are friends that I want to be closer to. In a lot of ways, I conjured up certain ideals that really weren't real. The truth is now how to sort out what I wanted and what I have. Change doesn't always mean dissolution. Change doesn't always mean disaster. I figure most of the people I know are also figuring out how the Ed-shaped puzzle piece fits into their big picture. I know I most enjoy the interactions with people I don't really know all too well and whom I've gotten to know better over the past year. There are fewer expectations to prove or disprove. There are fewer skeletons to uncover. There is less laundry to air. They can take me at face value and I can do my best to be myself.
I got one of these email friendship things a while ago. In it, it listed a whole bunch of different criteria for friendship. According to the email, the final estimation of friendship is: "Your idea of a good friend is still the person who gives you the better of the two choices, holds your hand when you're scared, helps you fight off those who try to take advantage of you, thinks of you at times when you are not there, reminds you of what you have forgotten, helps you put the past behind you but understands when you need to hold on to it a little longer, stays with you so that you have confidence, goes out of their way to make time for you, helps you clear up your mistakes, helps you deal with pressure from others, smiles for you when they are sad, helps you become a better person, and most importantly loves you!"
I have to wonder how many people in our lives would pass such a litmus test. I have to wonder how much of the criteria above is mutually shared on both sides of people's friendships. I have to wonder how many of my friends would trust me with all of the responsibility above and how many of my friends I would trust to do the same.
For me, though, actions speak loudest. Behavior speaks loudest. And words, which are actions, speak loudest. I want to be with friends that support me, honor me, engage, even occasionally question me and challenge me. Those that do don't need to pass a litmus test. They already do because they act, they observe, they understand, and they reciprocate. What else is there?
Somewhere along the line, I have been characterized as being moody, overly sensitive, upset, frustrated, deeply unhappy, disappointed, not fun to be around because I'm always critical of what people say or do. I own the truth in all of it. But I think I have been typecast, mischaracterized as well. The funny thing is that I know I am also funny, joyful, motivated, honest, forthright, beautiful, and respectful of those who respect me. I have to ask myself what causes me to be the prior as to the latter. I have to ask myself who brings out the prior and who encourages the latter. I have to ask myself is it just me or am I reflection?
All of this is to better my life, my quality of living. I have tried really hard not to act out of blame or guilt. I don't think I'm doing wrong by trying to figure out how to nurture and care for myself. All of the verbage aside, I do what makes me happy and I hang out with people that make me happy. It's the best that I can do.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... SOMEONE MENTIONS THE Q CONTINUUM AND YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS*
I think one of the biggest qualms I have being in Silver Spring as opposed to San Francisco is the fair amount of internalized, institutionalized, and status quo homophobia and heterosexism that I encounter on a near daily basis. I know it's going to be everywhere including gay mecca. And I realize that Silver Spring isn't exactly the most liberal of places. But I really wasn't prepared for how truly different it is to live in a place that isn't really as progressive as it'd like to think it is.
And I don't mean capital 'H' homophobia. I see that enough as it as on television or the movies or in our government. I witnessed it as it descended upon my university in the form of Rev. Fred Phelps who protested UMCP's choice of the The Laramie Project as the First Year Book, who propagates hatred and violence against LGBT people every day. I mean little 'h' homophobia. Subtle, covert, and disguised as innocent fun or humor or ignorant bliss.
I have already had a number of conversations with people, particularly those much younger than me, who use the word "gay" as an adjective for anything they find lame, stupid, weak, silly, wrong, or dumb. A number of people I know in my extended circle of friends here use the word without so much a thought as to what it might imply, who it might offend, or what damage it might do. One of my own students disagreed with something I was explaining in class by blurting out, "That is so gay! Oh, geez, I'm so sorry!" I am not sure the discussions changed any real behavior other than people know not to say the word in such a way around me. I mean if you're describing a sequinned pantsuit by Versace complete with ermine collared full-length cloak, then the adjective "gay" works just fine for me. However, I dislike the connotations the word as a pejorative comment evokes particularly since it is a word that I use to describe myself. I do not think words can be so easily removed from their history, their prior meanings, their spirit particularly if the word is still in usage as a means to demean, denigrate, and hate.
Regardless of intent or supposed lack of prejudice, as I have explained, if you respect me as a person and friend, I dislike the term and I think that is sufficient reason to stop using it. It offends me. It hurts me. What more reason could there be to stop doing something?
More insidious than the "that's so gay" thing is the use of the word "faggot." I heard it twice at the New Year's party just recently. It was used as a way for one man (boy) to tease and put down another man (boy). I wanted to leave. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to beat the crap out of whoever said it. But honestly some part of me froze. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. And for a good five minutes, I crawled back into my closet because I thought it was safer there rather than challenge what had just happened. I couldn't understand how a room full of people could let such a thing slide. I couldn't understand how my friends could say nothing. But like I said I did nothing. I left the room. I chose not to fight that battle at that moment. And I am so very sorry that I did that to myself and put myself in emotional harm's way.
I forget sometimes how much shit hurts. I mean I'm out on campus. I'm out to my students. I'm out to friends and family. I'm out on my website. I participate in LGBT programs and speak on speakers bureau panels in front of hundreds of students a year. And I think it's all okay. I think I'm strong enough to let it roll off my back. I've been called a faggot while walking down the street in San Francisco. But that was a complete stranger, those were complete strangers. I think what hurts about the other instances is because I thought I was someplace safe.
Another way homophobia has surfaced in my life recently is in a simple task: writing a letter to my friend Rob. How could such an everyday thing evoke homophobia? Well, my friend Rob is at boot camp for the United States Marine Corp. Can we say institutionalized homophobia? Most of my friends have been writing letters to Rob for some weeks now. He's doing well (as best as can be expected) and will be graduating in February. I haven't written him until quite recently. Mainly because I have been faced with a quandry. I want write my friend to tell him what's been going on with me, what I have been doing, how I have been so he can feel connected to something more than just combat boots and forced marches. However, there are most definitely certain do's and don'ts when it comes to sending letters to boot camp. Mainly, the reason is that letters are not private by any stretch of the imagination and often the impetus to harass, embarrass, or punish the recruit. So, what would I write about?
I have been told that a male recruit who receives a letter from another man as revealed by the name on the return address is grounds enough for some good old fashioned jocularity (har har). The best policy is to only use a last name on the top left hand corner of the envelope. I have been told not to mention anything too radical, too strange, too problematic. I have been told not to get Rob into trouble by sending anything contraband or controversial. Again, what would I write about?
What if I wanted to talk about my boyfriend or rather my search for one? What if I wanted to talk about the new gay bar that I went to? What if I wanted to talk about how much fun I had down at Dupont Circle or at Nation? What if I wanted to talk about the last documentary I saw about Lance Loud, reputed to be the first openly gay person on television?
Granted, I could. But I think I know how that story would end. Given the fact that our culture still believes that you can be queer simply by association, I'm sure a letter from a gay man would mean a whole shitload of trouble for my friend Rob. So, what would I write about?
I wrote a letter to him. I figured I wanted to be supportive of him regardless of his employer's fucked up sense of reasoning and prejudice. It was very neutral. I wrote about teaching. I wrote about going out. I wrote about applying to grad school. I wrote about friends. Sure, I put together a pretty good letter without having to bring the whole gay thing into it. But I would like to have been able to without recrimination.
Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore (but we're not too far from it either)!
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... YOU CAN SING ANY SONG FROM GREASE 2 AND IF YOU DO THE HAND MOVEMENTS WHILE SINGING YOU SHOULD GET OUT MORE*
I have been trying to get out more, fear not. I have been trying to recreate certain things I really enjoyed about living in the big city on some scale while living in suburbia. (Though the issue of transportation is still a problem particularly when some of those re-creations involve recreation of the imbibing sort.)
My friend Nancy moved into DC, in Adams Morgan, this past year. It gives me more than an excuse to head down for dinner, drinks, hanging out, and walking around the town. I have really enjoyed exploring the city more. I have been to more new places in the past year than I did when I was living here the last go around. I haven't found my favorite haunt yet, but I don't think there ever be a bar like POW! again.
I have gone to a couple of lounge nights called FEINT, also in Adams Morgan, started by a group of people who wanted to create an alternative/indie/queer night in DC. They have been pretty chill and fun. I also joined a couple of local net groups -- one of which is a collective of former SFers now living in the DC area. I have met quite a number of San Franciscans in DC already. It seems many of us are drawn to the same kinds of venues, events, and aisles in Target.
I have done a little bit of surveying of Baltimore. A few of my friends are from that end of I-95. But I find that I enjoy DC more. It's definitely closer to where I live.
I occasionally head down to Nation on Thursday nights or Saturday nights. Thursday for goth/industrial night. Saturday for big, gay dancing night. Both have been fun, but I miss the good old days of Tracks. The last venture clubbing was a couple of weeks ago when I took a contingent of people down to Dupont. People wanted to go dancing. So, we went to Apex (formerly Badlands) on Saturday night. I expected it to be your average Abercrombie & Fitch crowd, but it turned out to be Women's Night. You wonder why I never get a date? We actually had a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun. I saw my first drag king show. It was crazy.
What else have I been doing?
This year, as I have announced many times already, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I got involved with some of the local writers participating in the 50,000 word marathon. I've managed to make a few decent connections and I hope to continue to develop the friendships. I really enjoyed the group of people I met out in SF through NaNoWriMo. I hope to repeat the phenomenon here in DC.
I am also still actively gaming. It's something that won't ever leave my life. I enjoy it and am running three groups at the moment. I have my near-weekly Tellings game on Sundays. I have my bi-weekly Call of Cthulhu game on Friday nights. And I have ventured back into the world of live-action games by running Archaea every other weekend. It helps keep me busy.
Basically, I have done my best to explore and to keep myself open to the possibilities. Granted, financial and vehicular and current weather challenges keep me from exploring as much as I want. But I'm having fun in the meantime.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN.... YOU HAVE MORE E-MAIL ADDRESSES THAN YOU DO PAIRS OF SHOES*
What if your a gay geek?
This is supposed be the section where I talk about my love life. I hope you're ready for it... I'm sure you're dying to know... I'm sure it's been on your mind since you got up this morning till after you pee'd and had breakfast... I guess I really should tell everyone exactly what's been going on... Ready... set... ahem, my love life...
...well, that's it. I know it was probably more than you wanted to know all at once. I mean I only have so much room in one of these updates. But I just thought I had to be thorough and complete.
Actually, there really isn't much to tell. Still single. I even spent some hard earned money on match.com after recommendations from a number of people. But I sorely think that it really only works for straight people. I have access to it for three months. It's been nearly a month and I've gotten nothing. Here's my profile...
So, again, that's it.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GEEK WHEN... YOU WRITE WEB PAGES ABOUT YOUR WEB PAGES*
I guess it's time to bring this baby to term. I'm finished. I'm done. I'm spent. I wonder if I beat my previous records for unadulterated rambling? I know that I've pretty much talked about everything that I could think of to talk about. Granted, I'm sure there are topics that I have left unturned. But I've got to save material for the next show.
There is nothing really left to do but to fold it up and put a stamp on it and chuck it into the mailbox. Of course, if you want to revisit the land of Ed, you can always read it again (now with better tasting hyperlinks!) on my website.
"If we shadows have offended,
Cheers and all,
*P.S. The aforementioned "You know you're a geek when..." come from this site.
© 2003 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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