The following online journal entries are from November 2004.
TUESDAY. 11:01 AM. I'm glad it's done. I woke up early (after tossing and turning all night long). Got ready and headed to my local polls. I got there when there were only about twenty or so people in line. After twenty minutes, they opened the doors at 7 AM. Waiting to get my ballot took less than half an hour. Voting itself took only a few minutes. I got my sticker and went to school. Now the real wait beings.
WEDNESDAY. 11:12 PM. I feel like I've been sucker punched. A bunch of times today. The electoral college did it's antiquated work again. I can't say that I'm surprised. But I am definitely disappointed, saddened, worried. I'm sure I have a lot more adjectives, but my brain can't get them to line up nicely right now. I have a ton of work. I'm barely keeping up with my reading. My NaNoWriMo novel is barely started. And work and teaching has been a little on the trying-my-patience-and-resolve-to-do-good side. Favorite highlight (see above): going through mid-term course evaluations for my English 101 class and finding such gems. I like the non-sequitur. And the underlining adds a nice touch. Of course, the rest of the "suggestions" the class makes are all about how the course can change, how I can change, and very little about how they themselves can change to do better. But, I have to wake up in the morning and carry the shepherd's crook once more. Maybe a cudgel would be better.
FRIDAY. 8:41 PM. The first two weeks of November are gone, done. I'm not quite sure which abyss of time they fell into, but they're finished, decidedly ex-weeks, lost days. The problem is that I hardly remember what I did with the time. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't working on my NaNoWriMo novel, of which I am already thousands of words behind (kind of like last year). Alas, the DC NaNo kick-off wasn't enough, it seems, to spur me into a writing frenzy. I haven't really been in much of a frenzy mood as of late. I know the first week of November was given over to the mourning after the presidential (and lest we forget representative and gubernatorial and local) elections. I know most of the people I spend time with were pretty shell-shocked. I was in a haze. I really didn't know what to do with myself. I felt dismayed. Honestly and truly dismayed. And there was plenty of depression to spread around. The rest of the last two weeks have been just doing the same old stuff: work, teaching, advising, reading, going to class, leading class, sleep, Tellings, running Archaea, and watching TV. It's all very normal, regular, usual, mediocre, necessary, and sometimes fun. But I don't have any particular highlights to report: oh, I did hang out with Cate and Skinner, I went to the monthly gathering of digital studies people from UM, I hung out with Will (one of the Archaea guys), my car battery died this past Tuesday after the first real cold, cold night (I had to get a ride from my father that morning and Skinner thankfully helped me replace the battery later that night), and I saw a squirrel who got its head stuck in the slats of an air vent of a building on campus (and called work control to save it). So I guess there were a few highlights. There are Halloween photos a la Jess. I still haven't gotten my pictures developed yet. One day I'll actually go digital. I have a ton of work to do this month: class reading, novel writing, starting seminar papers, and taking the GRE subject test in English, which might as well be the subject test in Evil, tomorrow morning. I should get to it.
TUESDAY. 5:15 PM. I am so full, but I want to eat more. I spent most of the last twenty-four hours fasting. As part of my physical (next week), I had to get blood drawn and bloodwork done this week. I went in today, and had to fast at least 12 hours prior to the drawing. Since I had to work and teach and go to class today, I couldn't head over to Kaiser Permanente till after 2 PM. The last meal I had was the night prior around six. I was fine till about one o'clock and then everything was about being hungry. Now, I hate hospitals, doctors, needles, and the whole thing -- but I've gotten over my phobic reactions. I got to the health center and was first in the waiting room. I was seen right away, there was a little nervous queasiness, blood was taken, and it was all over. But food was not had yet. I then drove up to the local Saturn dealer to drop off my old car battery (that I had replaced the week before). Then I went to Giant to do some grocery shopping; I am slated to bring food to my Arthurian class this week, and I figured I'd make a Thanksgiving Day feast. I finally got home around four, put the groceries away, made a couple of sandwich wraps, and ate at last.
I've been so tired as of late. I'm not sure what's going on. If it's a physical malaise, then at least my physical will identify it. I went to bed last night super early -- like at 9:30 PM. I think the full day of advising, trying to get work done, and worrying about various things going on in my world just wiped me out. I tried to read for class and managed to get through a section of Malory. But my eyes started going all blurry and tired. So I just hit the hay. I feel like such an old man sometimes.
I've been operating on full brain-drain. I think the weekend started it. This past Saturday morning, I took the GRE Subject Test in English Literature. It's 230-questions of pure hell. It was being given at the English Building on campus. I got to school around 8:15 AM. There were already a million people in the halls -- they were proctoring all the GRE tests in the building it seemed. I met a few other graduate students in line. The security at the test was stiffer than when I went to vote: my ticket to take the test said I needed to bring TWO forms of picture ID, they only needed one, you had to show your ID to enter the exam and to EXIT the exam, no mobile phones, and you couldn't have any extraneous things on your desk nor could you use mechanical pencils. What's up with that? The test was three hours long, but somehow I finished forty-five minutes early. People had complained to me that the test was too long and it was hard to finish all the questions. Maybe I'm just a freak? I was the first to leave. I have no idea how I did, though. It's not an easy exam -- obviously, it tests you on all of English lit. I know I knew some of the answers. I did my best to make educated guesses on the other answers. And I only left a handful of questions blank. So, we'll see what happens. Fortunately, the very first question was something I knew for sure (it was a question about A Passage to India) and that set the tone for the rest of the test. I had confidence behind me and I just went through and did the best I could. I don't like to second guess myself. It's too bad all of this is still on paper. I want to know my score! But I'll have to wait about a month to see how I did.
The rest of the weekend after the GRE was pretty much mush. I tried to do some work. I tried to write on my NaNo novel; I'm still thousands of words behind. Thousands and thousands. I hung out at the coffee shop this past Sunday. Briefly, though. I couldn't concentrate there. Then there was gaming. And that's it. I have a ton of stuff to sort through. I'm sure I'm going to be using most of my Thanksgiving break (short as it is) to get some writing done. I'd like to write one of my papers. Who knows? I'm reading like six different books right now for class, and it's all starting to run together.
Last Friday, I went to campus in the middle of pouring rain to go to a short panel on "Fantasy Art and Literature" at the Art Building. The talk was given in conjunction with he Art Gallery's current exhibit of fantasy art including a number of pieces I've grown so accustomed to seeing on fantasy novels and role-playing game covers. My myth professor Dr. Verlyn Flieger was one of the speakers. I ran into a few people I knew. It was an interesting event overall.
It's been a busy day today. I'm ready to go to bed early again. Maybe I'm being seasonally affected. I have a sudden craving for birthday cake. Too tired. More later.
THURSDAY. 9:04 PM. I feel a gay phase coming on. What the heck does that mean, you might ask? The answer is quite simple really: I need to nurture that part of my life ruled by my sexuality. Simpler answer: I need to get some (and not just of the amorous something-something either). My sexuality, in terms of being out and about and demonstrative, has been rather tricky, light-switchy. On or off. On or off. Now, I'm not saying that my being gay is on or off. That's pretty much hard wired and always on. But my sexuality has really been relegated to status rather than practice, idea rather than action. So, I feel that I need to swing the pendulum back in the direction of just being active, sexually, politically, socially or otherwise.
What brought this on? I'm not sure. I think the germ of it was planted at the election. I voted, I waited, I was disappointed, and then I took a good hard look at what the next four years would mean to me -- to me as a gay man, to me as an Asian, to me as a liberal man, to me as an educated man -- and I discovered that things might be a bit bleak. I realized that my rights, my politics, my citizenship, my body may be legislated away. And that, in plain parlance, sucks.
Then there was the whole car ride from my father when my Saturn's battery died. The "W'04" sticker on the back of his truck did little to warm the cockles of my heart. And, in the short ten minutes it took for him to pick me up, take me to school, and drop me off, I realized that my father probably hasn't a clue as to what his vote for 'W' will mean for me. And it pains me and frustrates me that I do not have a partner nor have had a partner all the while. He has never seen me with anyone really. There haven't been awkward first meetings or dinners or holidays. A man hasn't answered the phone at my house when he calls. There aren't pictures of me and my special someone vacationing or adopting a kitten or buying groceries. And there hasn't been any direct, immediate, material impact on my life because I cannot get married or adopt children (much less have children) or get access to certain Federal benefits or just walk safely down the street holding my partner's hand. He has never seen that. He has never hear me fight for my rights. He has never seen me treated like a second-class citizen. Oh, wait, he has--hello, racism? But can he connect the dots?
Come to think of it, my sister hasn't seen much of my gayness in practice. My friends have only encountered practice on rare occasions and quite a long time ago. My co-workers and grad school peers and students only know me as Ed, who happens to be gay. See? It's all status. No practice. (This, by the way, is whole problem, debate, issue, rub that the US military is having over queers in the armed forces.)
The next bit comes this week, last night, as I was making food for my Arthurian class, I watched Smallville and then Jack & Bobby. Now, I hadn't really gotten fully into the show since it used to air on Sundays, the nights I usually spend gaming. But since it moved to Wednesdays, I've caught a few episodes. I like it, well enough, but I am not sure I'm committed to it even though it's got two great looking guys: Matt Long and Bradley Cooper (who I loved back in his Alias days). I caught a brief teaser during the week that basically highlighted a gay-themed episode. One of Jack's friends comes out and professes his love for Jack and subsequently kills himself. I only saw it once. The rest of the teasers all week were about Jack and Bobby's mother and her brother. Surprise the brother is also gay. Crafty story arc, yes? The episode, darkly entitled "Lost Boys" (which hearkens me back to a whole different thing), is in part about Jack coming to terms with the fact that one of his best friends commits suicide and discovery of why it happened. The story is told in a series of flashbacks. Jack's friend has been very distant. Jack's friend throws himself into his studies. Jack's friend doesn't want to date any girls. Jack tries to set the friend up on a double date. Jack's friend gets jealous of Jack's girlfriend. Jack and friend fight. Eventually, Jack's friend confesses his feelings. Jack is not gay and therefore bumbles in trying to help his friend. Jack's friend kills himself. Meanwhile, Jack's uncle comes into town for Thanksgiving. Jack's uncle is gay and a drunkard and a drug addict and an adulterer (can you be such if gay men can't marry?) and a total loser. What picture are we painting here of gay men? The message, if there was one, got muddled somewhere along the way. The lesson, complete with "if you need help" message at the end, might be sending mixed signals. It was all well and good and admirable considering the political climate. But do all gay narratives have to end in tragedy, self-destruction, and loneliness? In the end, the story was supposed to be about the tragedy of Jack's friend but the show ends with Jack getting closure, Jack getting to cry, Jack getting to find comfort in his mother's arms. Can we extend that out to Jack getting to grow up, Jack getting to get the girl, Jack getting to get married, and Jack getting to have the life that Jack's friend will never have (even if he had lived)?
The show, which clearly was not targeted toward me, left me sad, disappointed, and wondering if my status as a gay man will ever really be okay. And what happens when I do becoming a practicing homo? So, I feel a gay phase coming on. I may have to break out the rainbow stickers and necklace and pins. I may have to dig around in my past and resurrect 'rainbow boy' when it was important for me to be out, be loud, be in your face. I don't know. I am just tired of status. I want to play. I want to be. I want to act. I want to live.
Then, of course, there are the daily things going on around the world, around the US, and locally. There has been some brou-ha-ha on campus about a number of things including transgender rights and Transgender Day of Remembrance. The University has also reviewed and rejected policies that would add gender expression to the list of protected categories. There has been quite a bit of violence around campus and disturbing signs of conservatism. I remember the days when the LGBTA would be out in force at the first sign of trouble.
I want to be more than just a label. I want to be more than just an idea. I want to be more than Ed who happens to be gay. Sometimes the adjectives have to be switched around. I just want to have a chance.
Food for thought, right?
FRIDAY. 7:45 PM. I am a winner! As of about five o'clock today, I crossed the 50,000 word mark and have once again coasted across the finish line of my fourth -- count 'em FOUR -- NaNoWriMo novel. Alas, again, I didn't actually finish the story. But at 51,865 words, I was ready to let the thing lie. I'm only a couple of chapters away from finishing out the arc of the plot, so I might just write to the end over the next few weeks. I'm pretty proud of myself. Four times in a row! I also really like this story.
The novel is called High Seeming. The concept is a little difficult to explain. I decided I want to do something narratively a little different this year. But I also knew that this month was going to be hectic as hell, and I needed some sort of crutch. So, the crutch is that I wrote high fantasy, which is pretty easy for these fingers to spin out in a sitting. But, I decided to write a novel that slips in and out of narrative 'dimensions' as it were. The novel is about a group of friends who play a fantasy live-action role-playing game -- and, no, it is not what you're thinking. But the story is told in three different valences: the real world, where the players interact and have real life drama; during play, describing how the players play the game; and in the adventure, the narrative of the game, told from the point of view of the characters, total fantasy. The novel switches between characters in the real world and characters in the game world. Each chapter is a different character. Plus, time is a little shifty and events are braided and concurrent. It's an interest experiment even though individual chapters are pretty straight forward prose. The novel, in a deep way, is about illusions -- the ones we create for pleasure and for fun, and the ones we create to protect ourselves or other people. Of course, my characters have issues. And I did a healthy bit of borrowing from the different kinds of live-action role-players I've met over the years. I like it and maybe it will turn into something much more polished in the future.
Suffice it to say, the past couple of week have been pretty busy. One of the big things that I did to write my novel was to work on it in chunks. I broke it down into separate, discrete chapters. I suppose everyone does that. But I really tried to think of each section as its own thing. I also employed my handy dandy gmail account, which I rarely use to do all of my composing in an email window. I have found it's one of the handiest tricks I know. There is something about email that circumvents a lot of the "this must be perfect" censors in my brain. So, I just write. Plus, I've done a lot of on-the-spot writing most of my adult life: storyboarding on BBSes, composing long articulate emails to friends and list-servs, and of course, writing from the cuff for my web journal. In fact, my email idea is quoted in (my friend) Chris Baty's new book No Plot? No Problem!, which he wrote about the whole NaNoWriMo process. I'm on page 123. I used the email trick for my cyberqueer seminar paper last semester, too. It works! Try it today!
Besides noveling, I had to juggle a bunch of different things. Let's see. Where to start? Work has been pretty crazy. It's that time of year! End of the semester. Registration time. I have over a hundred mandatory advisees who must come to see me at least once, sometimes twice, before they can be clear to register. So, now all of them are trying to squeeze into my already burgeoning schedule to get their registration blocks lifted. Why do they always wait till the last minute? Teaching has been all right. My UNIV100 class ended on the 17th. We had a little potluck party. I told them to be better advocates for themselves and their scholastic lives. It was poignant. My ENGL101 kids are working on their final assignments. They're semester is wrapping up, too, and they're starting to feel the burn. I have a ton of papers to grade over this weekend -- if I even decide work on them, that is. So, teaching is fine, wrapping up, on the denoument.
Last Tuesday afternoon, after fasting for most of the day, I went to get blood drawn for my physical exam. The lovely technician at Kaiser Permanente was very nice. I was in, done, out in less than fifteen minutes. Crazy. Then I went home and proceeded to eat everything in the house. I kind of understand the whole fasting, cleansing, mind-altering thing. By the time I got home, I had gone almost 20 hours without any food. Only water. I was a little dizzy, a little woozy. I'm sure if I had continued , I would have encountered my spirit guide or something. That might have been very cool or very disconcerting depending on what showed up. Cool: coyote, raven, hummingbird, superfantastic android from the future. Disconcerting: banana slug, ewok, any clown, cave=blind catfish, superfantastic android from the future.
Last Wednesday, after a full day's work, I went home and proceeded to cook for three and a half hours. In the spirit of an early Thanksgiving, I made a ton of food for my Arthurian class the next day. Each person in the class is responsible for catering the snack for the class period. It starts off as cheese and crackers and then escalates to bagels and schmears and then eventually becomes a full-fledged meal. One week, one woman brought a whole medieval meal cooked from actual medieval recipies. So, I was not to be outdone. Plus, last year, for my Myth Theory class, my sister and planned a whole Asian meal. This year, sans Alenda, I decided to go for a Turkey Day extravaganza! Here's a copy of the menu:
When Thursday afternoon rolled around, I dashed home after teaching, picked up the food, heated some of it up in the microwave at home, decided to make a last minute cornbread, zapped up the menus, packed it all up, and then dashed back to campus. The meal was a big success. Most of the food was gone by the end of the class. I was very happy. The class was very happy. I really love cooking for people. It was totally fun to do. Of course, I really don't need to be cooking for seventeen people while so busy.
Last Friday was spent pretty much goofing off. During the day, I went to a talk by Nick Montfort, a new media, interactive fiction big wig at UM's MITH. A bunch of the digital studies crowd was there including my digital studies professor Matt Kirschenbaum. A handful of us went out to lunch afterward at the Cornerstone of all places. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon. Friday night, I went to Guerilla Queer Bar, which was held at Local 16 (U Street @ 16th, NW). I was originally going to go down with a few folks, but they bailed at the last minute. So, I took myself to the metro. I got the bar a little early and met up with Andrew, one of my Friendsters. We hung out, chatted, and then waited for the Guerillas to arrive. It was a really nice night, a little drizzly at times. But warm for November and pleasant. We sat upstairs on the bar's rooftop deck area. Eventually, people showed up. It was nice to hang out with some GQB favorites and to meet some new ones. Then the bar got totally crowded. Local 16 is popular to begin with. Then toss in 150 of your new best queer friends. The place was wall-to-wall. I managed to stay for most of the night. Some UMD friends showed up. Shout outs to Jess, who stayed for like ten minutes, to Allison and her boyfriend and their recently out friend (who I thought was cute), and to the grad school girl posse: Margaret (happy birthday to her), Heidi, and Liz. I did not have a stellar night. I was a little peeved by the overall crowdedness. But it was good to be out and about.
The rest of this past week was pretty much work, teaching, advising, writing, reading, and sleeping. But it was a short week because of the Thanksgiving holiday. I got out of work early on Wednesday. I went home and worked on writing. My friend Shawn came by and hung out with me for a couple of hours. Then we drove over to the Maynards to hang out. Thanksgiving Day, itself, was spent pretty much indoors. I wrote for most of the day. I think I cranked out over 20,000 words. I did take a break to watch a little TV (and made the mistake of watching two back-to-back episodes of Dawson's Creek, which just happened to be Jack's coming out episodes) and make some food for myself. My father didn't call me. So, I spent Turkey Day by myself, which ended up being just fine. It was nice. Really. I had a couple of surprise calls from the West Coast. First, Dustin called me and we talked for a good while. He seems to be doing well. It was definitely good to reconnect with him. And then Lauren called me and we chatted. She's been under the weather, so I hope she mends up right quick. It was good to be reminded that my life out in SF is still alive, just on the way-back-back burner.
Today, I woke up and worked on my novel. Then I drove to the Kensington Medical Facility for Kaiser to get my first physical exam in probably over a decade. Crazy, I know. But after all of the medical stuff that people I know have been having, I decided that I better get a baseline look at my health. Fortunately, the medical center wasn't too crazy. I chalk it up to the holidays. The wait wasn't too bad. The doctor, Dr. Manipady, was very nice, a little speedy, and kind of reminded me of my father. We chatted a little. He talked to me about my bloodwork. Everything seems fine, normal, within tolerances. He said that I should get more exercise (big surprise). He said I should cut back on eating complex carbohydrates like bread and rice and pasta (because my triglycerides were a little spikey. (It turns out drinking can also cause high triglyceride levels. Hmm.) I should substitute some of the starch for dark green vegetables because my iron is a tiny bit low. Overall, I am healthy save for my weight. He says I'm doing well. And I didn't even need to get the prostate exam. Though I did make it to third base with my doctor (or more acurately, he made it to third base with me). I got a tetanus shot as a parting gift, and I went home. So, I'm glad that is over. I'm sure some of my past stress these past weeks is the ramp up to my physical. I really dislike doctors and hospitals and any kind of sharps. So, fortunately, my medical experiences as of late have been good. (Knock on wood.)
Now, I think I'm just going to chill this evening. I really need to get some work done for school. Blah. We'll see how it goes. That's it for now. Zapparooni.
© 2004 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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