Monday, March 02, 2015
I'm only beginning to learn exactly what that means.
I know that there are a lot of stigma and assumptions around it, and that many of them are completely wrong. I know that it's inextricably tied to having survived years of violent and sometimes deadly abuse at the hands of ignorant, intolerant, queerbashing bigots, and two sexual assaults that happened to occur during seminal periods of my life when I should have been building a sense of self. I know, thanks to a wonderful friend of mine who also lives with BPD and has an amazing blog on the subject, that my extremely heightened sense of empathy, something I developed as a survival mechanism, is a part of BPD.
Being diagnosed with something that carries such a stigma is scary, but having a name for why I spend so much of my life feeling disconnected from others and empty inside, or why I've dealt with suicidality since I was 8 years old, or why I have such an intense fear of abandonment, feels oddly hopeful; I know I'm not the only one in the world anymore, and for that, I'm thankful.
Thursday, December 04, 2014
I can breathe because
Although I'm terrified whenever I see a blue uniform, I pass easily as white, so chances are, their attentions are elsewhere.
I can breathe because if I do get stopped for any number of reasons, chances are, I'll go home after little more than a desk appearance.
I can breathe because
Although I am trans, queer, poor, disabled, of mixed non-European heritages, pierced, tatooed etc., in this country, even after a civil war, Selma, Dr. King, Malcolm X, and countless others who fought for dignity and equality, my skin tone alone, an accident of birth, still grants me greater privelege.
I can breathe because
I am not Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tarika Wilson, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, etc. etc. etc. etc.
I can still breathe
Until however, my siblings are safe
I will not breathe free.
I will not breathe free.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
One by one
by one by one
This is how it will work:
First they take your freedom, your autonomy and your choices.
Then, they take your hope, until you think you've nothing left.
Finally, they take your voice, so that no one can hear you scream. That's when you take to the streets.
When you've little to lose but your own life.
That's when you become their worst nightmare.
This is a lesson they'll never understand.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
She spent her days in warm thought of what that life would be. One day, while eggling about in eggy ways, she bumped into another egg.
"She was so heavy", she thought, "I think I've cracked my shell. "
She felt the spot that was still warm from the contact, and sure enough, there was a crack.
"Oh dear", she said to herself, "I'll have to patch that", and that's exactly what she did.
The patch held well for quite some time, and the egg enjoyed being as eggy as possible. "Afterall," she'd say, "we eggs are delicate. We do get cracks sometimes, but it's hardly reason to sit in the nest! What kind of life is that? "
One day, the egg decided to go to an egg party. It was the egg event of the year, so she readied herself carefully, polishing her patched shell, artfully fraying the edges of her patch, and checking herself in the mirror over and over again.
When she got there, there were so many eggs! Some were- like her, beige, others were white, some were brown, and some were small and blue with brown specks, but all of them were oh, so beautiful.
"Finally", she said to anyegg who might be listening, "I feel like I'm home. "
As she egged herself through the beautiful crowd, she found herself bumped from every side. It felt so warm, this contact with other eggs, but she became worried about her delicate, already patched shell, and decided she'd better go to the restroom, and make sure the damage wasn't as bad as she feared.
She waited in the line, and when it was her turn, she shut and locked the door behind her and looked at herself in the tiny, high mirror.
The damage was in fact, worse than she'd thought: she'd developed a pit, where several cracks joined together.
"It's so unfair, " she thought, "all these other eggs, bumping into each other, and they're all fine, but I try to do what they do, and I break.
She began to sob, and as she did, her little eggy body was filled with shakes and quakes, which only served to worsen the cracks.
"Oh dear, " she said, over and over again, "oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I don't know what to do. These other eggs are so beautiful, and feel so heavy with life and warmth, and when I'm alone, I miss their warmth and heaviness and life! Oh dear, oh dear oh dear oh dear! " she cried.
Eventually, another egg knocked on the restroom door, for while she'd been inside, a line had developed, so she blew her eggy nose, and wiped her eggy eyes, and when she did, the pit that had fallen in on her eggy forehead, collapsed into her. She was stunned, and scared, and she hoisted her eggy self closer to the tiny mirror to inspect the damage. When she looked closely, she could see, and she understood: the other eggs had felt so heavy, so warm and full of life to her, because all along, unlike them, she'd really been only an empty shell.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
We've jostled and twisted, just to be able to feel like we could breathe.
We have been octagonal pegs in square holes, and there's not one amongst us who hasn't known the strike of the hammer that tried- through force, to make us fit.
We've been "problems that need to be addressed", and "why can't you just be normal"s.
We know what it is to be the butt of jokes, and then told that we take these things far too personally.
We have been beaten, raped, and stripped of our identities and bodily autonomy and, when one of us is murdered, as so many of us have been, and as so many of us will be, we know that we will likely be misgendered, and slandered by media, and maybe even family, even after we are dead.
We are not pathetic clowns; we paint ourselves brightly because our lipstick is war paint, and our lives are a daily war in a world that's determined to marginalize us, to humiliate us, and to kill us. We may lose this battle, but we will win this war.
Stonewall was only the beginning.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Because when I tell you I don't want to have a conversation about my breasts you go on to tell me that they "look like they could use a good manhandling",
Because when I tell you it's not a compliment, and that you're making me uncomfortable, you value your own ego too much to lay off,
Because when I reveal to you, that I was sexually assaulted when I was fifteen, you feel entitled to tell me I'm making YOU uncomfortable with "too much information",
Because you feel entitled enough, to break me down into the parts of my body, to weigh them for my worthiness,
After all this, you tell me, I have no sense of humor,
and that I'm
Thursday, September 11, 2014
I was fifteen.
He was nineteen.
We had drama class together.
We went to the same school.
He invited me over.
"We'll hang out", he'd said.
He answered the door in
I followed him into the dark in-
terior of his house.
In his room, a super 8 projector machine-gunned silent 70's porn onto his wall.
He sat on the floor, his back against the
metal closet door.
In his lap, he'd placed a
two-handed vibrating massager,
the kind, I remember thinking,
Burgess Meredith might have run over Rocky's back before a fight.
He asked if I wanted to help.
He'd framed it as a question,
A request, but
He made me hide
crouched down on the floor of the frontseat of his parked car,
Under the steering wheel
In his unlit driveway,
for four and a half hours, until after midnight.
Until his parents were home,
until they were in bed,
until they were asleep.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Humidity free, May morning air on the skin of my upper arms-
seventy degrees, yet
a small chill
Crystal yellow sunlight, too developed I think for eight, but the sun's been up for a while now
(my winter tempered internal clock?)
And the smell:
Our Upper East Side block smells like Florida
(I wonder, will anyone understand what I mean?)
I could take out my cellphone and snap a picture of all this
Then I realize:
Standing squinting shivering slightly smelling feeling
o'er my phone's keyboard,
That that's exactly
what I've done.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
I love my body
every curve, every roll, every hair producing follicle.
I love that the simple act of eating in public is a revolutionary act.
I love that I take up space,and I love that this pisses off all the right people.
I love my body, and I will celebrate it, by wearing
loud, bright, polka-dotted dresses that show off my beautiful stomach, and short skirts that display my powerful thunder-thighs,
by dancing in bliss, and enjoying the natural movement of my fat,
by fucking and owning every ounce of my pleasure.
I love my body, and I will continue to love it, because according to just about
every page of every magazine,
every TV show and every commercial,
every movie that would relegate me to
the role of one dimensional comedic sidekick,
I am unloveable
but I know that that's not true
I love my body
and those other
fat, full-figured, zaftig, obese, beautiful and perfect women who I allow to love my body as intimately as I do, and who's bodies I in turn am privileged to love, know, and they can tell you
that this body can
rock your world.
Friday, January 03, 2014
Monday, December 16, 2013
Friday, December 13, 2013
so much loveliness here
in these three-o-clock shadows-
the naked trees that spread their claws
o'er the slick black road
ice spikes that threaten
from stone ceilings of transverse tunnels
and in the cold that promises to wait out my patient bones
So much loveliness, that
I would be fine
to leave it all behind
so long as I might depart
taste yet upon my cold lips.
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Being depressed, in addition to making certain feelings of helplessness and hopelessness extremely pronounced, causes me to feel more or less worthless, and as someone who feels worthless, the other feelings of pain start to feel like an unearned indulgence, because no matter how I know that it's not my fault, there's that nasty stigma- that nagging inner voice that tells me I should be able to move through my life productively, like "everyone else", if only I would "just get over it".
I know that these are lies I tell myself, and that I'm not worthless, (that's how I'm able to share these feelings,) but much of the time, that's how I truly feel.
I know I'm not the only one who's daily life is a battle with major depression and/or crippling anxiety, and I know I'm not the only one who victimizes herself with this kind of hurtful self-talk. I'm sharing this part of myself, because, as we are with our queerness, it's time we were about all the aspects of who we are. We ought not suffer from shame because we fail to represent some shining ideal of emotional and/or mental and/or physical fitness. Instead, we should revel in our strength, the strength we find when we reject the outside expectations, the power we reclaim, when we choose live our genuine lives without shame.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Although I'd originally congratulated you, my conscience wouldn't allow me to leave something unsaid; understand that I think highly of you, as both an actor and as a human being, and that I don't fault you in the least for innocently taking on what promises to be both an interesting and challenging role. That said, I have to admit that when I read your excited pronouncement, I found myself shaking, and that soon after, came tears, nausea, and a level of upset that at first I didn't understand.
The fact is, frankly, it's unacceptable that the creators of your film chose you, a cis woman, to play the part of a trans* character.
Maybe I sound harsh, but hear me out: Time and again, trans* lives are used by popular media as little more than awkward plot devices, or worse, (as in recent episodes of both "Mike & Molly" and "Two and a Half Men",) the punchline of harmful and hurtful jokes; more often than not, we're cast as predators, out to trick unwitting straight men into betraying their heterosexuality. The usual joke goes like this:
Joe Stud meets a gorgeous chick at the bar. The two of them are getting hot and heavy, when suddenly, it turns out that the gorgeous chick has (or had,) a penis. Joe Stud is now a laughingstock, because he fell for a dude, and the whole world knows it. That's right, according to the ever repeated joke, the trans* woman isn't a woman at all; she's, or, "he's" a "dude". Do you see what I'm getting at?
Wait though, it actually gets worse, because you see, as the studio audience (or laugh track or whatever) titters nervously, or groans, or laughs at a character revealed to be trans*, (and the emasculated guy who got duped,) another would-be attacker of a trans* person is validated in his feeling that we're dangerous or even just "icky", that our lives are inherently "less than", and that it's therefore okay that scores of trans* women (and although less frequently, not less notable, trans* men) are killed each year, simply because they're trans*.
Look; I know that you're a good and thoughtful person, and that you'll do your best to play this role with as much sensitivity and understanding as possible; I also know, that had you any understanding of how insensitive and hurtful it is when trans* roles are played by cis actors, you would have never accepted it, but how could you have known? Afterall, you only know me through my Facebook posts since we haven't seen one another since 1985; otherwise, it's more likely than not that your main understanding of trans* lives comes from those aforementioned misrepresentations popular culture is so fond of. You're not trans*, and so you enjoy the privilege of moving through your daily life without ever having to worry about passing, or not passing, or being harassed or arrested for using the restroom consummate with your true gender, or how or when or if to safely "come out" to a prospective romantic or sexual partner. None of these things, nor the myriad of others that sometimes render so many of us trans* folk's lives a neurotic nightmare are issues for you; you're both privileged, and lucky.
Unfortunately, it's because of just that, that it's so inappropriate for you to undertake this role, and so, while I wish you joy and success, I simply can't congratulate you or share in your excitement.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
the dark has such advantages
Its course runs smooth and known
and it brings with it the warmth
of old familiarity
but the light
is a tourist here
a brash neophyte
who makes assumptions and generalizations
and so, so many promises
one ought never hope
it will keep.
Saturday, September 07, 2013
I want to feel light.
I want it to be December already, so I can finally have my "enso" wrist tattoo.
I want gluten free pizza that
tastes like pizza
a dress that's easy to wear, machine washable and looks great on me.
I want to master mindfulness meditation, and
I want to visit my parents
and for my mom to tell me
that I'm pretty.
I want to feel
as if I've
earned the exhaustion that sometimes creeps into my bones like mold, and
I want more lazy, sunny days with
and a high of 60.
I want Republicans to suddenly, and universally lose all credibility, and
"reality programming" to
fall out of favor.
I want more unhurried morning sex, and more and better choices on Netflix.
I want you to want to learn my body.
I want you to be happy.
I want you to be able to walk 20 blocks without getting tired, and
I want to be able to do that too.
Middle-of-the-night-half-asleep-sex is awesome too by the way.
Most of all,
I want to stop passing time,
and to stop having to choose
being in the world,
being with you.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
The people you killed and maimed today have nothing to do with your war. They were innocents, with people who love them, people they love/d, dreams and fears, children and boyfriends, girlfriends and wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends, and they themselves were all these things too.
You did not win your cause, but you disrupted worlds, caused grief that will never end for some, fear that will live on forever for others, and again, these people had nothing to do with you. Your act was selfish and petty and mean.
You may have intended to make a point, but you did not. You may have imagined you were fighting for some glorious cause, or that you were defeating some great satan. Neither is true.
What is true, is that you caused pain beyond belief, set back immeasurably, whatever cause you represent, and for some innocent people who had no quarrel with you, and perhaps even sympathized with you, you brought their entire universe to an end.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
It evoked a dream she'd had 32 years before, in which she herself had been a stick of waxy makeup and lived in the bottom of an unknown lady's purse; as the dream progressed, she was aware of the temporaryness of her existence. She was aware that she was being used up. She was aware, that she was disappearing. In her dream, it felt like she was dying, and when she awoke, she was both sexually aroused and incredibly happy.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Would there be a slew of corporate and tourism booths dedicated to opportunistically courting the almighty "pink dollar"? (Predictably, yes.)
Would there be incessant, inescapable and incoherent babble coursing from loudspeakers over a driving bass thump from the back of the room? (Annoyingly, also yes.)
In fact, most of what I expected to fill the large conference room at the Javitz Center did, but there was something else.
This is where I should let you in on a little secret: This was my first time at the GLBT Expo. Therefore, I have no idea what was there previous years. That said, I was struck at how completely family oriented the whole thing had become, and not in that Sister Sledge- "We Are Family..." kind of way, although it was that too.
Amidst the free HIV testing booths, the booths promoting the latest Broadway shows and the queer, ethical porn booth, were booths offering at home fertilization devices, promoting sperm cryo-banks, adoption services for same-sex couples and foster parent advocacy groups. The whole thing was so normal, so nice, so... non-subversive, which is a good thing. Right?
I mean, sure there was the occasional bear or leatherman walking around, or the odd old school butch/femme couple- one in a slinky dress, the other with a lead gray crew cut, but the overwhelming feeling I got walking around the expo was, "we're here, we're queer, and, let's face it, America's used to it."
Now, before you get your carabiner clipped keys in a tangle, let me explain. I'm not romanticizing the days of unrecognized partnerships, daily gay bashings and general societal homophobic ickyness.. Hell, leave New York City and you'll find that that world still exists. In fact, I think it's amazing and wonderful that I can go with my WIFE to her new doctor, and when he asks what our relationship is, answer "I'm her wife". I love the fact that we live in a city (and time,) where the love of my life and I can walk down almost any street holding hands and barely get a second look from passersby, and it's incredible that- if we were a bit more solvent and in a position to adopt a child, there are services to help us do just that.
All these things, and so much more that have come about with this great sociopolitical shift are more than I could have dreamt of when as a child, I first realized that I could never follow in my parents' socially sanctioned footsteps, but there's a part of me that wanders if, along with all these gains, we as a people haven't lost something precious.
Gay culture has always given its proverbial middle finger to the bourgeois, middle American ideal of white bread, Bible thumping conformity. As dykes, queers and trans* people, we've always had somewhat of a rebel cachè. What now, now that we're becoming that bourgeois cliché? Does the fact that we're out and proud on Kindle commercials, raising adopted children before coast to coast network TV audiences and a frontrunner in the NYC mayoral race mean that we're slated for sociocultural lesbian bed death?
Maybe not so much. As out front as our collective fight for equality has become, (even the POTUS has publicly sworn his support for marriage equality,) it's easy to forget that in several states, conservative lawmakers are still proposing laws as heinous as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and rates of anti-gay and anti-trans* violence have barely waned.
Events such as the GLBT Expo are designed- not only to support GLBT owned/friendly businesses, but to increase opportunities for LGBTQ people, and to make more visible our presence in the world.
Being an out and proud dyke of trans* history may make me feel a little badass, but I'll gladly trade that little bit of outsider cool for a world in which my sisters and brothers can celebrate their loves and lives and enjoy the same privileges as the rest of the hetero world.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Friday, February 01, 2013
No woman owes beauty to anyone else, but we're all treated as subhuman if we aren't at least "pretty"
I need feminism because being fat, and unabashedly eating a Butterfinger on a crowded rush hour bus ought not be a revolutionary act
but it is
I need feminism because
"feminist" is still viewed as a dirty word
I need feminism because
politicians are still trying to regulate every woman's uterus, but any yutz can still walk into Walmart and buy a gun
I need feminism because
my wife, the woman I love more than anything in the world thinks she's ugly because she's also fat
and has scars
I need feminism because she thinks that not being "beautiful", somehow detracts from her worth as a woman
I need feminism because
My sisters and I continue to make only 77% of our male peers' salaries, work harder to receive less recognition, and are often passed up for promotions in favor of far less capable men
I need feminism because
every woman is taught to think of her virginity as a "gift to bestow", rather than her sexuality as something for her own enjoyment
I need feminism because
even today, on Facebook and elsewhere, women who choose to appear in sexy outfits are exhorted to "respect themselves" by practicing modesty, lest they be viewed as complicit in their own sexuality
I need feminism because
no woman becomes a lesbian just because she's never been fucked by a really great dick
(just remember..strap-ons don't need Viagra!)
All kidding aside, I need feminism because I don't hate men
In fact, I know many men are victimized by the patriarchy as well
I need feminism because
I'm exhausted from crying over my sisters:
14 years old and shot in the face for saying that girls should go to school too
15 years old and throat slit because she wanted a brighter future than being forced to marry her 28 year old cousin
23, and gang raped to death on a bus
I need feminism because
this list could go on for a hundred thousand pages, and the world will continue to invent new ways to make my sisters and me feel that we're somehow failures- as women and as human beings
I need feminism because
I will reject each one, and I pray that my sisters will all find their strength
and stand beside me
Thursday, January 17, 2013
I've been thinking about the word "transgender" alot lately. Although I'd never dream of denying my own history, I'm no longer certain that I can identify with the term, and here's why: first, I must begrudgingly confess my compulsive disorder regarding language, particularly when it comes to grammar and the obsessive drive to find the exact right word for any given situation. Mind you, I don't always succeed, and much self-flagellation has ensued as a result, but this is slightly beside the point.
The "point" is, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines "Gender" as, "sexual identity", not biological sex. The selfsame dictionary defines the prefix "trans" as "across; on the other side; beyond".
In that light, let's examine the word "transgender":
"Across gender": this would mean encompassing more than one gender.
"On the other side of gender": this suggests that there was some initial place from which an original gender identity was formulated prior to being changed; while I'm certain this is applicable to many who identify as "transgender"- and for the sake of argument, I'll include myself, it doesn't exactly match my own experience in that, I always knew I was female, regardless of what the doctor stamped on my birth certificate. This brings us to...
"Beyond gender": while I've known many who legitimately identify as "genderqueer", or outside the male/female binary, I do not. I identify as female and I always have, regardless of my presentation at any given time.
So you see, in several ways this "transgender" thing is a conundrum; if when asked about my identity (this kind of thing comes up in conversation far more often than I'm comfortable with,) I simply say "I'm a woman", it will be read one of two possible ways: either more or less at face value, (I'm exceedingly thankful for "passing privilege"!), or that I'm challenging the socially accepted definition of the word "woman" itself. For my part, both apply. While I was not born with ovaries, I was born with an XXY chromosome and a female gender identity, and while I have had to utilize medical and cosmetic intervention for the purpose of aligning my external gender presentation with my internal identity, I'm far from alone; there are millions of women the world over who- for one reason or another suffer from hirsuteness (typically male pattern body and facial hair growth), have no ovaries, etc. Would any concientious person have the gall to suggest that they aren't women?
Equally important, there's the issue of the personal as the political: as an "out" "transitioning woman who was at one time thought to be, and presented herself as a man (etc. etc.)", whether I like it or not, any way in which I explain my identity to the world matters. If I reject the mantle of "transgender", I will be perceived by my trans* sisters and brothers as a turncoat, and by the
cis world as "proof" that trans* experiences are somehow less than genuine.
Maybe I can find a way in which the term trans* is personally applicable. Afterall, my entire life is in transition: my wife who met me when I was presenting as male, is straight, (I identify as lesbian,) and finds herself grappling with her own identity within our relationship, and my parents who, for 43 years believed that they had had a son, must now come to grips with the fact that they suddenly have a 44 year old daughter.
Perhaps I need to come up with a new term, one that more accurately fits my identity. Maybe, the next time some probing questioner asks me what I am, (and I feel safe to answer truthfully,) I'll reply, "I'm a woman living a life in transition", or, maybe that's far too long winded and will lead to too many other probing questions I'd rather not deal with. The fact is, if some future gatekeeper or self-appointed gender gendarme has the chutzpah to ask me "what are you?" I'll likely answer "I'm a woman ", and simply leave it at that.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Friday, January 04, 2013
Monday, December 03, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
I did not choose isolation or
of leaving the house
unshaven and without my face
I did not choose this otherness, this
life apart, of complexities
I never chose anxiety
over which public restroom to use, nor
to be a target
just for walking in daylight
I did not choose this otherness
any more than to have two hands
or to be 5 foot 6
or to have curly hair
I choose only to be myself
Let others be shamed by their sameness, their lack of courage
I did not choose this otherness
but I will accept it with
wide open hands.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
I need feminism because
people think it's ok to suggest that:
(a) I've sacrificed status, and
(b) I shouldn't be surprised or upset when people
regard me as a joke because I'm transgendered.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Saturday, August 11, 2012
in the country house
Is like some perverse exercise
in something the opposite of archeology;
In yellow rubber gloves and with
I erase the ketchupy finger prints
of a brother-in-law, 4 years past,
some short black hairs from Spikeword,
the German shepard who shared my wife's bed,
2 years before me
and crayon marks from my 3 year old niece
(who's now nearly 17).
"Powerful Cleaner- No Bleach Harshness" reads the blue and white canister, but
what it fails to warn me of
are the myriad other ways
the harshness of a clean refrigerator
might be felt.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
drive in silence
She sits beside me
listening to cricket gossip
I, driving, write this poem:
The Kerhonkson roads
have a smell in summer
At 62 degrees, and 70% humidity,
They smell of old wood houses
and lush green roadsides
ancient trees with porous bark
Occasionally, a skunk
(a smell I like.)
My t-shirt sleeve grows wet by the open window,
And slow motion moths change direction before the windshield
white wings blue in the dashboard light
We round a bend where 3 local boys died
Their truck split in half on a telephone pole
(the newest ghosts of Samsonville Road)
At this bend, I hold the wheel a little tighter
resisting the seduction
We're almost home now,
There's a pickup close behind;
"better signal early, so he doesn't rear end us"
-my practical wife pulls me out of my own head
"remember to put the ice cream away before you sit down to write your poem"
She says to me as she
disappears down the hall.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Through no small amount of therapy and gentle coaxing, I finally get Granny's vacuum to agree once more that it is, in fact, a vacuum, and clean up our now war torn living room. I still have to pee, and go to do exactly that, but first I don yellow gloves and flip the circuit breaker to make sure I don't get electrocuted as I surgically extract the root of the terrorist bulb from its socket. Carrie gives me the once over, says of my naked-but-for-yellow-rubber-gloves-and-black-crocs look, "You know, I'm certain there's a fetish for that somewhere if you google it", and helpfully shuffles back to bed. I meanwhile, replace the terrorist bulb with a new one, one of those twisty new bulbs which promise four hundred years of use and mercury poisoning if they break.
Job well done, I congratulate myself with a well earned pee, flush and get up to wash my hands. As I stand before the sink, I notice how bright the new bulb is. As I notice how bright the new bulb is, I glance in the mirror, and when I glance in the mirror, I see something stuck to my forehead. Is it dried blood? Had a kamikaze shard actually gotten through to its' target, missing my left eye by less than an inch, scarring me for life? As I lean closer to the mirror, it becomes apparent that it's not in fact dried blood at all, but a clump of dried tomato. "Where on Earth did I get dried tomato on my face?" My brain races through improbable scenarios until... Suddenly I remember last night's failed chili con queso operation, exploding salsa and all, and, as images of techni-color culinary misadventures splash across the movie screen of my mind, I make a decision: I'm going back to bed, and staying there until October.
Monday, June 04, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
wore our guts on our sleeves
Open and ragged, bleeding and raw
Our strength was in our difference, and
With razor cut arms we pledged our allegiance
to all of the gods of
“not one of them”, and with
boots laced high, and
hair painted and spiked, we
while the parades passed by
mocking the band with our
own frantic beat.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Tell me all about female privilege, because
my sisters and I would love to know;
You mean like
getting dry humped from behind during rush hour on the
6 train, or
Paying more money for
haircuts and clothing
all while making
33% less than our male colleagues for the same exact work,
for the same exact job?
that patient condescending smile we get
go to the auto parts store, and
actually know what we're
Or how about
year after year
sitting in a cubicle
20 something Jack or
suddenly gets his own windowed office?
Tell me about female privilege.
Tell me again how most
any woman could go out to a bar, most
any night, and
never pay for a single drink,
How lucky we are, that
even on a frumpy day
we can get laid,
whenever we want,
I'll counter your assertions by telling you that most
some poor woman who let some strange man
buy her a drink, gets
drugged and raped
and sometimes worse,
but never mind,
You were saying,
You were about to tell me
all about female privilege,
I'm pretty sure I speak
for my cis and trans sisters alike
when I say we'd
love to know
what it is we've
all been missing.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
at home in my own skin
For years, so worried
over minutiae, like
the proper way to carry schoolbooks, and
the masculine way to walk
How I covered up my body
in the South Florida heat
Covered my soft curves
in denim and leather layers
Now how blessed
not to hide
unembarrassed for my soft hands
and to no longer fear
the natural sway of hips
to take off the mask
How blessed it is
to be myself.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
"cut it off",
it’s none of your damned business, and it
reduces me to
an object of
Don't ask me who I'll be tomorrow,
I barely know
who I am today.
Ask me instead, how does it feel?
What was it like to be
forced into boyhood,
to have been made to don some kind of
all the while fearing the fragilty of my disguise.
Or, ask me what it's like to be a
a secret spy in the
war of the sexes;
I'll happily give away all my learned secrets,
see, I've always been kind of an antiwar activist!
what was it like to grow up in a world that told me
time and again that it's
better to pretend,
rather than to risk anyone finding out the horrible truth.
ask me what it feels like, at the age of 43,
to grow tired of pretending, and I'll gladly tell you,
taking off a pair of someone else's shoes,
shoes that have always been 2 sizes
Monday, March 05, 2012
When I’m an old woman, I’ll wear denim shirts
and big turquoise rings on my
tanned, knotted fingers
When I’m an old woman, I’ll paint in my garden
mixing red dust from the earth
into oil, and light
I’ll grow out my gray hair
way down past my ass, and be
“that strange old woman, who barely ever comes to town”.
When I’m an old woman, I’ll laugh about the time
when everyone around me, thought that I was a man.
When I’m an old woman, I’ll smile at the mirror,
because the woman smiling back at me, knows
who I am.
to tell you about the place that I’m from
but I can’t use words such as
female, or male,
you’d never understand how they don’t apply.
So I’ll tell you instead how I
come from a marshland:
a soft place between
two fortified nations with
impassable borders and
natal requirements for citizenship.
If I tried to explain how I’d been handed
the wrong disguise
by the border coyotes when I came to this place, or
if I told you I don’t have a green card
and that I feared discovery
every second of every day,
maybe you’d see,
maybe you’d understand, how
try as I do just to fit in,
and try as I have all of my life,
none of that matters.
I’m just not from here.
And I wish I could tell you
how lonely it is here
when nobody else can
speak my language:
a language that
even I have yet to learn.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
I was 17.
There was the time I was cornered in the boy’s room at the point of a switchblade, and called a “Faggot”. No, "worse", (in his eyes,) I was a “girl”.
“What’s a girl doing in the boy’s room? Take off your clothes, girl.”
My button down shirt and orthopedic saddle shoes ended up in the toilet. Only my blue J.C. Penny pleated cords were spared by the timely entrance of a teacher.
I was 8.
Then, there was the time I was surrounded on the P.E. field by 4 bigger kids. They called me "fatso" and "faggot". They violently kicked and shoved me as I tried to get away. When finally they pushed me down, my wallet fell out of the elastic waistband of my polyester P.E. shorts, and as they taunted me with it, one discovered the condom I’d hidden within, stolen from my father’s drawer, but worse for me, he also found something to really get me in trouble about: a baggie of small red pills I’d taken from our home medicine cabinet.
The pills were nothing but Sudafed, I’d carried them months as some kind of ill conceived exit strategy: In case things had gotten so awful I couldn’t stand another second, I would swallow them all in a bathroom stall.
When Mr. Fontana, our school's vice principal got a hold of the pills, I wasn't sent to the school counselor, nor was I asked what they were, or why I had them hidden in my wallet. The school rules were firm, and instead of a sympathetic ear, I was bent over his desk, my pants pulled down. He pressed his large, hot hand on the back of my neck as he stood over me with a heavy perforated wooden paddle. It was three strong strokes. (It could have been five, he'd warned, but he was being "lenient".) The four bigger kids, who'd bullied me didn't even get a detention.
This was at Highland Oaks Junior High School in North Miami Beach, and I was 14.
I’ve never been what you'd call masculine. In fact, there was a period in my early twenties when after years of living in a body I'd always felt sentenced to rather than gifted with, I’d finally decided to pursue gender reassignment. At that time however, the fact that my primary sexual/romantic attachments were with women, led the inept therapist to whom I’d been sent (the only one in Miami at that time, who dealt with the Harry Benjamin protocols for gender/sexual reassignment,) to concede that I wasn’t truly “gender dysphoric”: I was merely “confused”.
Not that any of this is truly pertinent to the above, but I am, and always have been quiet, sensitive, interested in things like fashion, (which, believe it or not, before the whole “metrosexual” thing, was thought largely to be the province of women and gay men,) art, philosophy, literature, music, etc. I've never had a bit of interest in sports, (though, if I'm being really honest here, and I am, I’ve occasionally enjoyed watching them under the right circumstances,) war movies, or fixing cars. In fact, I always preferred the company of women with intimate conversations and sisterly relationships, to that of men with what I always perceived as its brevity, lack of depth in bonding, emotional honesty, and "pissing contests”.
Beyond the whole masculine/feminine thing, I was always more of a creative person, and this came out loudly in my personal approach to fashion. As a teen, I was a regular punk rock peacock. I eschewed the popular mall bought fashions for thrift store treasures such as a bright orange plaid over sized suit which I’d customized with safety pins, scissors and patches, cinched at the waist with an extension cord, and roughly cut off just above the top line of my extra high combat boots. I wore a mohawk, (the only one in North Miami Beach,) and spray-painted it fire-engine red, and, at the height of my piercing fascination, I wore 26 earrings in my left ear, 12 in my right, and two tiny gold wire hoops in my right nostril.
Had I grown up in the East Village, it's likely that none of this would have so much as raised a pierced eyebrow, let alone inspired the violence I was so often subjected to, but this was the mid eighties, and I didn't live in New York. I lived in Miami, that pastel bastion of Miami Vice machismo, and all things conservative conformity.
Even my parents would ask me almost daily, why I couldn't "just fit in", why I felt the need to be so "weird”, and at the time, I didn’t have an answer. In retrospect, I know that they were pained as I was by the way I was treated, that they were worried about my safety, and that they were doing their best to protect me. At the time however, it felt like criticism, and to my fragile teenage ego, it amounted to little more than another egg upside my head.
The truth is, there was little I could have done to fit in. I just wasn't like those I was surrounded with. I couldn’t have cared less about homecoming or prom, high school football, or “banging” the hot "J.A.P. chicks" at North Miami Beach Senior High, had no interest in hanging out on the Ft. Lauderdale Strip and getting trashed on Friday nights, and I wouldn't have been caught dead in Guess, Sasson or Sergio Valente. I wanted more.
The morning I turned 18, I walked into my high school at just after ten. My mohawk which was usually more poodle like than fierce, was responding unusually well to the half a can of Aquanet I'd shellacked it with, and I felt celebratory and resplendent in my tattered thrift store jeans, brand new Docs and motorcycle jacket. It was the best "fuck you" outfit I owned. Rather than going to class, I walked into the principal’s office, and declared I was dropping out, and just two months later, in February of '87, I got my G.E.D., and was ready to enter college.
Once at Miami Dade Community College, (and later Florida International University,) no one said a word about my shaved head, piercings or carefully tattered rags. I found that as long as I contributed well thought out arguments in class, turned in fresh and interesting papers, and was generally just myself, I was rewarded with nothing but appreciation from my professors, and acceptance from other students.
Before I’d discovered my source of strength, (which maturity and experience have shown me to be nothing more than living within my own truth,) the years of bullying had left me a raw and bleeding nerve; I was weak and afraid, and— although I’d found creative ways to hide (such as dressing in what I now call “guy drag”), it usually took all the emotional energy available just to walk out my front door.
Now I live in New York. I am an outspoken, (and just plain "out",) transgender lesbian, a spoken word artist, writer, poet and activist. I’m in a committed, long-term relationship with a wonderful woman whom I love, who in turn, loves me as I am.
Being out as transgender affords me a kind of power I've never felt before. I am for possibly the first time in my life, genuinely unapologetic for my existence. It's wonderful beyond words to feel unconstrained by others' expectations or imposed definitions of who or what I should be, and I'm pretty sure that if I wanted to, I could walk down Fifth Avenue in a pink prom-dress and Doc Marten’s and no one would look twice at me, except maybe the tourists who would ask to take pictures of the "wild, crazy chick who's just so very New York!"
*Note: Mom and dad, don't worry, the pink prom dress was just comedic hyperbole; I'm so much more of a punk rock, black t-shirt, jeans, 'n' Converse kinda chick!
Sunday, January 08, 2012
brand new home
(The land of your father, who’s re-
turned with a new beard)
you hiked up the “snake trail”
On a tour through Chevron you
donned your new pride like an
olive green shirt
I can see them indoctrinating you
Twisting you into them
Why am I so worried about you, you say?
Because you’re sensitive and kind
And I know that world well
how they think of these things
as weaknesses, or worse-
(they’ll call you a frier, and
knock you down
until you develop
your tough new Israeli scars)
so you stand up straight
and puff out your chest
and dream of the day
of your giyus
where you’ll lace up stiff boots
and look serious for your ID
and again you ask
why I'm worried about you?
Because it’s apparent
they’re already scarring you
And can’t you see? I bear
those scars too.
Monday, December 19, 2011
nightly, you visit me in my dreams
We invent a language to
connect over you, not wanting to be trite,
(but who am I kidding?)
And now, each time
I leave my apartment, I carefully step
'round the stain on the walkway, which
might afterall, be from
your spilled brains.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
There's an almost mystical quality to the process of writing a good poem; one might even assert that in fact, a poem isn't so much "written" as realized. I'll explain by personal example: When I sit down to "write" a poem, I pay little attention to the words I'm going to use, the form it's going to take, etc. Instead, I open myself to the soul of the poem; "what exactly do I need to convey?" Believe it or not, this is usually an almost painless process. When a real poem is ready to be born, it just won't be denied!
The next step is somewhat harder: getting out of the poem's way.
Anyone who has sat at their desk, a cafe table, on the edge of a cliff, etc., wishing to "compose a great poem", will have no doubt found themselves painting with broad strokes of ego. This is annoying, and almost never results in an enjoyable, interesting or enlightening poem. That's not to say that one can't write a great piece that exhibits his or her own point of view, (think "Two roads diverge in a wood...",) but it must not come from the desire to "prove something", or force something down the reader's throat, otherwise it'll result in little more than a self indulgence at the reader's (or audience's) expense.
Try instead, to allow the poem to be organic. I've found that thinking of it as a living thing, with its own set of needs and desires, helps me do this. This is very handy when it comes to the next step: editing.
When I edit a poem, I do my best to remove any extraneous content that might interfere with its purity. Usually, I begin this process with a chainsaw, and only later, when I’ve hacked off a sufficient amount of “fat”, do I go back in with a scalpel, finely trimming here and there, surgically shaping it. A good poem is, if anything, distilled.
Adjectives and adverbs are poetic potholes!
When Gary Snyder wrote "The Dead By The Side Of The Road", he relied on the cleanest prose:
" Zac skinned a skunk with a crushed head
washed the pelt in gas; it hangs,
tanned, in his tent"
He could have expended great energy on adjective laden descriptions, but instead he allowed the events or the moment to move it forward. Therefore, it has energy and immediacy.
This is equally true of both Raymond Carver's and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's work. Neither provokes inertia with wasted adjective or metaphor; When Ferlinghetti writes
"Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass
Kids chase him
thru screendoor summers"
there's nothing unnecessary; in fact, the only adjective employed- "screendoor", is so new and specific, that it almost disappears, or takes on the same quality of motion as the rest of the poem.
Lastly, don't impose some artificial format on your poem. A poem, being organic, and having its own needs, tends to grow into its own form. This is not to say that there aren't some great and very enjoyable formalized poems; the dusty world of "Poetry" (notice the capitalized "P") is littered with them, but modern sensibilities tend to relegate these to the realm of the "quaint", and (rather unfairly,) the boring, so while I very much enjoy work by the likes of Donne, Wordsworth and Coleridge, the type of writing I'm discussing here is more akin to that of Snyder, Carver and Ferlinghetti.
Early readers of these three must have experienced one of three possible reactions:
"That's not poetry!",
"That's poetry?" -or-
"That's poetry!" .
All three largely disregarded earlier Western notions of what a poem is. Snyder studied and emulated Japanese and Chinese poetry with its pared down sensibilities. Ferlinghetti tuned into the music of the world around him, and Carver wrote almost as if he was writing fiction, which just happened to be readable as a poem. Whether one enjoys any of these approaches or not, it’s undeniable, that these three did something new, something interesting, something enjoyable, and something irrevocably poetic!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
בחוץ, זה כבר חושך
ובפנים, זה חם בתוך ההילה של הנרות השבת
השבוע המטורף, היא היה לעזאזל
I enter the apartment, fresh from my poetry reading
Outside, it's already dark
but inside it's warm in the glow from the shabbat candles
Let this crazy week go to hell
This now, is ours.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
petual state of exile,
but exile is not always
imposed by place;
there are those who are left there
by the passage of time,
and those who were simply
born misfits into the world.
All who live in exile however,
have this in common:
we carry small pieces of our
native worlds with us,
like round, worn pebbles,
sometimes in our pockets,
and sometimes in our shoes.
Friday, October 07, 2011
Sunday, October 02, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
For oil and air
For screen doors and Tuesdays old paint cans, and stairs
For grandmothers and chickens
For Volkswagens and quarks
For malcontents who protest,
and nervous dogs, who bark
For oaken tables and magazines, for computers and for gold
For rust and for decay, for mushrooms and for mold
For all that we once were
For all we shall become
It's really all the same
All is one. All is one.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
It's been a terrible year; every time we turn on the news, some extremist somewhere is doing his or her damnedest to make life impossible for you and me, and corporations are strangling democracy to within a milimeter of its existence. Religious fanatics are citing recent earthquakes and economic turmoil as sure signs that "the beast" is afoot, and with a well intentioned but wishy washy Democratic incumbent going up against the likes of either Romney, Bachman or Palin, 2012 isn't looking so promising either.
Nevertheless, something about this hurricane business makes me smile a little bit. In about 20 minutes, our windows will rattle threateningly, our power may go out and we will be reduced to cold canned kidney beans for breakfast, but come Monday, the sun will rise. People will walk out their front doors, and having communally survived another near catastrophe, will actually say "excuse me" as they walk into me, their eyes glued to their iPhones. The news stand guy will smile as he refuses to look to see if he still has a copy of last weekend's Haaretz, and people will graciously acknowledge that I was at the bus stop before them, even as they elbow their way past me onto the 86 St. crosstown. For 5 minutes, New York will be glad the world is still here. At least until the next big scare.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
So, we’re sitting on the couch reading the weekend paper, and I say to Cleo, “There’s this new picture at The Quad that sounded good.. Directed by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, it’s called “Paradise, Nu?”
Robert Eger says, “It stars Mike Burstyn of Kuni Lemel fame, and Gene Wilder as two madcap would be suicide bombers who do their best to cross borders and blend in as Haredim. Hilarity ensues as Mahmoud (played by Wilder) tries to buy a shtreimel from a shop in Mea She’arim, but the shop owner speaks neither Hebrew, nor Arabic, forcing Mahmoud to communicate in a combination of charades, and something approximating "pig" Yiddish, meanwhile, Omar (Burstyn) just wants a lafa, but the Falafel shop in Ben Yehuda is crawling with border police on their lunch. Will he risk the mission for a sandwich? Will Mahmoud get his hat? Will the two ever make it to Paradise? Two thumbs up.. this movie is the bomb!”
“I'm not sure,” says Cleo, “it kinda feels like it’s been done before.
Haredim - ultra-orthodox Jews
shtreimel - a hat made of a fox's tail wound around the head, typically worn by Satmar and Netureikarta chasidim
Mea She'arim - "Hundred Gates", an ultra orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem
lafa - Iraqui pita, larger than Israeli pita, with no "pocket". Used as a wrap, rather than being stuffed.
Ben Yehuda - A pedestrian mall in the center of Jerusalem
Monday, August 15, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
How much is say, a container of the best soup in the world worth to you? Say you’re sick, and the best soup in the world is across town, in a little hole in the wall called Mogadishu Café. Say you have a fever, and the only thing in the world that would make you feel better, is this soup. Now, say your roommate, who’s this quiet Indian guy who the Foreign Student Union set you up to live with, would have to race if he left right now, just to catch the cross town bus to get to this place before it closes for the weekend, and say the owner is willing to wait an extra 15 minutes, but no more, because he had a good day. Now, say your roommate races out the front door, and it’s starting to rain, but neither of you has an umbrella worth its salt. Your roommate get’s soaked, and you promise to yourself, you’ll make it up to him. You’ll set him up with the cute blonde on three who laughs at your jokes in the laundry room, the one you were hoping to score with yourself. You’ll do his laundry for the next three weeks. That seems fair. Maybe you’ll finally clean the apartment, top to bottom like he’s been asking you to do for months now.
How much did you say that container of soup was worth to you? Say that, while running for the crosstown bus, his glasses blurry with rain, your roommate doesn’t look and darts out into 72nd St, hopelessly as the bus pulls away from the curb?
Even if it was a semi-trailer that hit him, and they said it was instantaneous, was the soup worth what you’ll carry the rest of your life?
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Sunday, August 07, 2011
on whose center I walk:
On one side the flowers
are heavy, and sweet,
and hanging from a cactus,
a sabra, ripe and tempting.
On the other,
glass and steel, and
Guo's Garden, whose
kung pao sets your
tongue on fire.
The road is wide,
the sides far apart,
and the sabra after all,
is growing behind a fence,
But look at the red sky,
the Friday sun is setting;
will it be omelettes in front of the
T.V. on the couch,
or will we
sit together at the table,
eating slowly, playing sheshbesh
This road we walk is
a balancing act.
We take from what's familiar,
arrange it as best we can;
the narghila sits in the corner
and Keret and Kishon debate
"HaMatzav" on our dusty shelf.
just for this week,
we'll put off clearing the table,
instead, take out the bag of menus,
and hold hands on the couch.
Sabra - A cactus pear
Sheshbesh - Backgammon
Narghila - a water pipe, also known as a hookah
Keret and Kishon - Etgar Keret and Efraim Kishon, two well known Hebrew writers who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum
HaMatzav - Literally, "The Situation"
Friday, August 05, 2011
He sees people dancing at The Fifth Dimension, people smoking on the beach, riding scooters, etc. His mother puts her hand on his shoulder, and says “Chaimka, you have to do something about this.. It’s not kosher! They’re making a freyer out of you, can’t you see? Yallah, send another flood.”
God smiles at his mom, says, “Dai ima, it’s how Israelis are.. stam.. nudnikim. They do things to annoy, it’s just how they show affection.”
"Oof," says God's mother, shaking her head, "come eat. Your soup is getting cold."
The Fifth Dimension-a club
freyer-someone who gets walked all over, a fool
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Monday, August 01, 2011
I have no idea what she's talking about, until I look down, and remember I'm wearing a blue t-shirt with the collar torn out, and printed with (in large, white Hebrew letters,) "ETZEL ITZIK- MAKOM HAMIFGASH HA'ISRAELI - MIAMI". I think, "Even when you try to do something nice... damn, I hate bad stereotypes."
Saturday, July 30, 2011
You broke it when you fell off your skateboard at 12, or maybe when you got punched in front of that Chinese resturaunt near your high school at 16. Maybe it was when you were 23, and you swam into the wall of the pool at full speed, face first with flippers, because you were showing off to that girl… it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that every morning you’d stare at the bathroom mirror, half your face shaved and notice how lopsided you really were.
Now you got your nose fixed, and noone’s really noticed the difference. Even your wife, who loves you says you look the same, but now when you look in the mirror, razor in hand, half your face covered in foam, it’s a stranger who looks back.
Friday, July 29, 2011
at seven a.m.
is not a good call.
Ed McMahon never calls
at seven a.m.
to say that you're a millionaire.
Your publisher doesn't
wake you to say
"you made the Times' Best Seller list".
Any call at seven a.m.
Is a dreaded call:
What hospital or- is it
already too late?
Can I even get a flight, or
car to the airport?
I'm out of clean underwear..
I'll never put off laundry again.
At seven a.m.
when the phone breaks your sleep,
be thankful if it's only
some drunken wrong number.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
“And what of Sisyphus? Is it true that his labors brought him nothing?”
“Nothing was gained.”
“Poor man. All that work for nothing.”
“Yes, all that work was for nothing.
I’d say he was quite fortunate in that.”
“The tub keeps backing up” I told my wife last night.
“Well, have you cleaned out the trap?”
I told her that I had.
“We share the drain with the Gundars
in 4H, don’t we?” I asked.
“Maybe they don’t have a hair trap—
maybe it’s from them.”
“well, call the super in the morning I guess.
maybe he can snake it, or pour some Drano down.”
This morning I saw our neighbor Joan;
she was paler than usual, and
thin, and her black hair, which
in Summer graced
the backs of her bare knees
The chemo'd left blue rings
under her eyes.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
or novelty would
propel me through the
“can’t sleep” streets,
but familiarity negates novelty
and ubiquity, nostalgia
so instead I look
for something to hold
something to push
deep into my pocket
but everything I find
falls to the ground
through my open fingers
my open grabbing fingers.
cause you to describe him
guy with a mustache.
He wore a polyester shirt
leaning over me.
It was hot out.
It was over a hundred degrees,
leaning over me.
both hands on the bar,
the bar above
his head on the
I sat by the
in the single seats
as he stood there
leaning over me
with his hands above his head
on the metal bar
with his mustache
in his polyester shirt
and his polyester pants.
It was hot out.
It was over a hundred degrees.
He smelled of garlic
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Friday, July 01, 2011
by "Blogger". They were originally published between August and
I’m vacuuming over by the
kitchen, and suddenly surprised by the length of the cord, (I’d thought
it was only 9 feet,) I look behind myself to see my wife holding the
plug in her hand, and she shouts to me over the whir of the motor,
“Something strange happened to me today”.
Gitty And Esther
“Mommy what does self-righjus mean?”
Gitty took one last drag off her cigarette before stabbing it out in
the styrofoam cup that held the sludge from Esther’s hot chocolate.
“It’s like your father, not letting us see each other more than twice a
month, and not letting you live with me because I refuse to wear a wig
and skirt, and keep Shabbes”, she wanted to say, but instead: “it’s
self-righteous, and it means, you think your way is the only right way
to do something.”
She watched as her daughter tried to select a color for Yogi’s picnic
basket from the crayon fragments scattered around her on the floor,
before settling on purple. “So what do you think you’ll want for dinner
mameleh? I bet we can have pizza delivered to our room, you want
As she passed the bay window on the way to the phone, she
surreptitiously parted the vinyl curtains and scanned the motel's
parking lot for the familiar white vans.
While the two waited for their dinner to arrive, Gitty lit another
cigarette, and studied the gas-station map, while Esther continued to
“What the hell do I need with advice from a goddamned tea bag” I
thought. I got that fortune cookie on Tuesday night, and it says to me
“Good clothes open many doors. Go shopping.” I figured I needed some
new interview clothes, so I did. I bought a new tie, a new shirt to go
with it, and just for the hell of it, a new suit so I could make the
Now, my rents due, and I’ve got three dollars and seventy eight cents
in my bank account until next month, so I go to the bank to see if I
can get an overdraft, and while the bank managers in the back office, I
see there’s this bowl of candy on his desk for anyone to take from, so
I take one, and I take the little red square Dove chocolate, even
though it’s the last one, and there on the inside of the red foil
wrapper, it says “Success comes to those who have no fear; simply leap
and the net will appear”, so before the manager even comes back, I get
up and leave. Just like that. I go next door with my last three bucks,
and I buy a cup of tea, the evening paper, and a lotto ticket. I open
the tea bag, and there, printed on the back of the little tag, it says
“Don’t believe everything you read”.
Each story begins with a choice, one made either by or for its main
character. Consider Yaya. Yaya is a 40 something year old man who works
in garage; though he isn't supposed to accept tips personally, (there's
a lucite communal tip box for the benefit of the entire staff,) from
one customer to whom he's been exceptionally helpful, he accepts the
neatly folded five dollar bill pressed into his hand. Later that night,
he'll use it to buy himself one extra drink, which will effectively
keep him at the bar an extra 17 minutes; during that extra time, he
will meet his next girlfriend, or get in a fight. On the other hand, he
may use the extra cash in his pocket to buy himself two lotto tickets,
a cup of coffee, and a bag of Doritos.
If he chooses to save the bill, and use it that night at the bar, and
he meets his next girlfriend, perhaps she will become the love of his
life, marry him, give him two children, one of whom will attend
Princeton one day and earn a doctorate in physics, specializing in
magnetics, the other of whom will die of leukimia on her 11th birthday,
or maybe the woman will give him herpes.
If he gets into a fight, maybe he will accidentally kill the man who
started with him, or before the first punch, perhaps the two will
reconcile and become fast friends, and discover they are from the same
obscure part of Kenya.
Maybe one of the lotto tickets will win 2.00, or 34,000,000.00.
If it wins 2.00, maybe he will count himself lucky, bless God, and buy
himself a muffin to eat later for desert, or maybe he will buy himself
two scratch-offs, win nothing more, and curse himself for wasting 2.00
when he could have had a muffin. Or maybe he will win a million dollars
a year for life.
Each story begins with a choice, and with each choice there are a
You're drunk, and the cold feels like something else, as you stagger out of
her basement apartment, barefooted and bloodied. Damn it, she should
have listened when you told her to keep quiet.
The book in your hand is already falling apart, but you do your best to
keep the pages from scattering in the wind. "Just once more", you tell
yourself, and behind you, just a bit to your left you hear the click.
Applicants must be able to accept criticism, take being misinterpreted and misunderstood
with aplomb, have a high threshold for stress, and be comfortable
making life or death decisions. Extensive knowledge of world history,
politics and religions required. Executive experience preferred. Must
be multi-lingual, able to multi-task, and have advanced problem solving
capabilities. Work schedule is for 6 days a week.
Predecessor is exhausted but will thoroughly train replacement before
Interested applicants may leave their curriculum vitae at any
synagogue, mosque, church, temple, ashram or ancient grove.
I had a dog named Shorty once. I got him from the pound, because they said they were five
minutes away from killing him. Shorty had one eye, a coat of about 7 different colors,
and his back legs were just a little longer than his front ones, making
him look like he was always in the mood to play. My friend Meiron said
he looked like Frankenstein’s dog. When I went to pet Shorty for the
first time, he took a bite out of my left hand, but he must not have
liked the way I tasted, because he never bit me again. When we took him
to the park on Saturday afternoons, he would always chase other
people’s soccer balls and pop them, and when a lady soldier was bending
down to get something out of her backpack, Shorty bit her on the ass.
He must have liked the way she tasted, because he didn’t let go for a
really long time, even though she was screaming, and it took her
boyfriend, Meiron and me together to pull him off. Meiron said we were
probably the first people in the history of Independence Park, to be
kicked out and told never to come back.
When I met Neta at “The Moon” one Friday night, it was love at first
sight. Three days later she moved in, with a footlocker full of her
CDs, Books and clothes. When I picked her up from work on Tuesday
night, we came home to find her locker pried open, her CDs scattered
and scratched, her books torn to shreds and her clothes piled in the
four corners of the apartment: one pile had been shit on, one pissed
on, one vomitted on, and on the last pile was a very tired dog, on his
back, sound asleep.
“It’s him or me,” said Neta.
When we took him back to the pound, the lady smiled at me, took the
leash without a word and led Shorty into the back. As we walked out
into the bright afternoon sun, we heard her say, “Poor thing, we were
beginning to wonder how long you'd be away this time."
You’re not one to give up easily, you tell yourself, as slowly, you ease your
left, then right foot into your own mouth. You swallow. Now, if you can
just manage to get your legs down you think, the rest will be a breeze…
you’ll show them all, and you slurp at your knees, but you can’t seem
to make any headway. Your back is on fire, and your jaw, throat and
stomach feel like they’re going to burst. “Tommorrow,” you tell
yourself, “tomorrow I’ll show them what happens when they say I can’t
Let’s just say, the bus you’re on goes boom, and you survive, not only
survive, but you’re totally fine, like, not a scratch on you… now,
let’s just say, all around you, everyone is dead, there’s no way
they’re still breathing, and let’s just say, you’re walking through the
corpses, and instead of blood and guts spilling out of them, there’s
half a woman lying by your feet, and hanging out of her torso, where
her guts should be, there’s a bunch of CDs and a Walkman, and there, to
your left, is the chest of some kid popped open like a pan of jiffypop,
and where his heart and lungs should be, there are two slightly
deflated soccer balls, and a Sony PSP, and over by what used to be the
front of the bus, you see what used to be the driver, and he’s got a
book sticking out of his chest… so you pick up the book and open it,
and amid all the sirens, and the smoke, and flashing lights, you sit
down on the street and you read, and it says “Let’s just say, the bus
you’re driving goes boom…”
Second Hand Reminiscence
The song “Ein Li Eretz Acheret” comes on the radio, and it reminds you of
her, and on the movie screen of your mind, you see her sitting alone on
the corner of her mother’s bed, listening, like you are, to Gali Atari,
and moved, like you are, because it reminds her of her childhood in
Fade to flashback she’s lanky and nine, sun tanned, pigtailed, sandaled
and shorted, and her brother, Tzion, is there; carelessly they’re
devouring enormous yellow and red summer peaches that drip down their
chins and stain their shirts. Though you're not there, she looks at you
and smiles a drippy smile, the peach’s stone apparent under her cheek.
As the song ends, she’s there once again, sitting at the foot of her
mother’s bed: neck bent, head down, face obscured by that mess of
curls, waiting for something to begin.
When Fidget was in kindergarten, his teacher gave him his nickname because he couldn’t sit
still. He kicked his feet through naptime, drummed his fingers through
story time, and, rather than coloring in his coloring book like all the
other children, he’d play rockets and missles with his crayons. When
Fidget was 22, he won a trip to London by being the millionth customer
to walk into a supermarket, and when he visitted Sotheby’s, unable
contain his fidgetting, he accidentally bought Queen Anne’s sleigh bed
for 93,000 dollars at an auction.
When Fidget went to a benefit dance for Hadassah, he met his future
wife, Na’ama, who thought he was funny because, even though he was
sitting on his own, he seemed to be enjoying himself, dancing in his
seat; when she introduced herself to him, she told him how impressed
she was that even though he was there without a date, he seemed to know
how to have a good time by himself, not like all the guys who just
stood around, lined up against the wall trying to look cool. Every
night in bed, Na’ama would think that Fidget wanted to make love,
because he would shake his leg against her; she interpretted it as him
reminding her of his presence, and not wanting him to feel rejected,
she’d start to stroke his thigh. Six months after they were married in
Cyprus, their daughter, Miri was born.
When the terrorists broke into their house, they hid in the attic;
While the terrorists went room to room, shooting their guns, throwing
handgrenades, Na’ama held her hand over their daughter’s mouth, and
Fidget sat crosslegged, holding them both tightly, but his left foot
was free to fidget.
Getting Used to Anything
I guess it’s true what they say, you really can get used to anything. I
mean, I’ve been here a week and it’s cool and all, but it really got on
my nerves at first, how wherever you looked, just on the fringes of
your vision, everything would go all fuzzy like, and I mean, other than
that, it looks pretty much like my old place, except, you can’t find
anything good on tv, only mushy love stories and Disney cartoons, and
even watching boxing is pointless, because at the end of the game, both
guys win and all they do is hug each other, and you can’t get really
good schoog on
your falafel, no matter how much you put, it’s just never that hot, and
even though I threw myself on a grenade to save a bunch of the guys in
my unit, the girls around here are never impressed, so I haven’t gotten
laid simce I’ve been here, but like I say, I guess you really can get
used to anything.
“It’s the speckled white ones that send you into the next world” says
the candy lady with the pretty blue eyes. You hold the little wood box
in your hand. It’s made to look like a miniture orange crate, and it’s
full of different colored jellybeans.
“What do the purple ones do?”
“That’s a mystery” she says, “I’m only allowed to tell you about the
white speckled ones".
You take your candy home, and the first one you taste is like a trip to
New Mexico; small octagons appear on your ceiling in vibrant shades of
silver, yellow and white, and you go through them. There’s a vague
taste of blue corn tortillas to this one, you think.
Back at your kitchen table, you choose the next one; its surface looks
like liquid opal, and you think to yourself, how could the plain white
speckled one be more special than this? Tentatively, you taste it, and
you’re sitting in a movie theater in Pittsburgh, Pa., and it’s 1943.
There’s smoke swirling around your head, and Micky Rooney is just about
to lay one on Judy Garland, when you feel a Jujyfruit hit the back of
your head. You turn around, and see your microwave flashing at you.
Now, there’s simply no holding you back. You pick up the white speckled
one, and pop it into your mouth.
When the neighbors complain about the stink, the super breaks down your
door, and when they find you on the kitchen floor, you’re still
smiling, with a chunk of meteor sticking out of your forehead.
After Daddy died, Grandma moved in. Since she had a hunched back, she couldn’t
sleep in a bed like normal people. Instead, she sat in our old easy
chair in the corner, so that she wouldn’t be in the way. As Mom and
everyone grieved, she sat. She sat through summer, when we had a
blackout, and the air conditioning stopped working and it was 100
degrees in our apartment, and she sat through fall when we had company
over for the first time since the funeral.
One day Grandma said, "I feel like this chair is swallowing me", as
little by little she became smaller and smaller.
When I asked Mom, she explained, “it’s just her scoliosis; she used to
be much taller, but that’s what happens. You just shrink. Plus, she
doesn’t eat much.”
One day, when we were doing spring-cleaning, Mom handed me a broom and
told me to go sweep the living room. When I got over to the corner
where Grandma’s chair was, she wasn’t there.
“Where’s Grandma?” I asked. Mom came into the room, with her yellow
gloves, carrying her bucket and sponge, and wiped a stray hair out of
her face with the back of her wrist. “I don’t know,” she said, “she
must have gone home or something.”
I sat down in Grandma’s chair. It was much cushier than I’d remembered
it. I leaned on the handle of the broom and cried. She never even said
Last night my brother in law died. When we went to the apartment he’d been
staying in, we found his wallet, cellphone, keys, slippers, clothes,
and a half crushed, half smoked pack of Marlboro 100s. It was in truth,
the Marlboros that were the saddest thing to find: something so
personal, and so disposable: a half smoked pack, from a half lived
The Trouble With Cheap Tampons
Ma’ayan was in the bathroom and I asked what the problem was.
"I just got my period and I'm out of tampons. I hate to do this to you,
but will you run out and get me a box?"
It was 11:45 at night, and the only place open in our neighborhood was
the corner bodega. When I got there, there was one box of tampons. They
were in a dusty faded red and white striped box, looked about 20 years
old, and the writing was in some language I'd never seen before, but
they were definately tampons, as far as I could tell. I bought them and
shuffled home to my dear girlfriend. She was a little grossed out when
she saw that the box was so dusty and old. "They're gross!
I could get toxic shock or something!"
Nonetheless, she used one, and we went to bed.
The TV or my need to pee or both woke me up at 4:34 and I groggily made
my way to the bathroom. When I got back, there was Ma’ayan sound
asleep, naked and spread eagle on the bed, and there, poking out of her
vagina was not the usual white string, but something that looked like
the tip of a tiny lion's tail, and it was wagging.
"Ma’ayan!" she snored at me in response. I opened up my cellphone and
shined the blue light on her crotch. It was definately a tail of some
kind. I gave it a little tug, and suddenly saw a little cloven hoof
sticking out below a small brown hairy rear. As I pulled more, Ma’ayan
began to wake up. "What are you doing? We can't have sex.. go back to
"But there's a little horse or a goat or somthing in your vagina!"
She sat bolt upright, turned on the light, and looked down, and
suddenly began to sob, but not like she was upset or even shocked or
scared... she actually seemed happy.
"I knew if I waited long enough, I'd get one... don't you see? It’s the
giraffe I wished for on my sixth birthday!" and she pulled it the rest
of the way out.
There, sitting on the bed, between my girlfriend's open thighs, was a
3-inch tall baby giraffe, trying to get its land legs and failing
"He’s so cute!" she squeeled. He was, but...
"I want to call him Benny. Quick, go get me some milk from the fridge."
It's been 3 weeks now, and Benny has become part of the family. He's
brought us closer than we ever were, and he's not even high maintenance
or anything. The trouble is, he's now nearly 9 feet tall. The Karils,
our downstairs neighbors have started to complain that they hear
clopping on the floor at strange hours of the night, and plaster is
falling on their heads, and our chandelier, the one my mother bought us
for the new apartment is broken. The other day, Mr. Karil cornered me
in the elevator, and I had to tell him that my 300 pound Aunt Margi is
staying with us and she’s a slightly deranged aging flamenco dancer...
I had to promise that we'd only let her practice in the afternoon.
Also, the ashtray that became a litterbox that's now a sandbox that's
sitting in the middle of our living room is becoming insufficient, and
since Ma’ayan works days, and I stay home, I'm the one who has to empty
it 3 or 4 or 5 times a day, and I've already stuffed up the toilet
several times. Giraffe poop doesn't smell much but it's pretty big and
can really stuff a toilet. Don’t quote me on this, but I think we're
going to end up having to move to Jersey or something soon.
The Episode With The Lizard
At first it didn’t register. It’s like, when you see something out of the
corner of your eye and your subliminal mind tells you in great detail
why you couldn’t possibly be seeing what you’re seeing, so your
concious mind, the wimp that it is, just says “ok, you know better”,
and gives in.
But there it was; on the top edge of the black marble backsplash, in my
kitchen on the Upper East Side, was a green Anole, looking like he had
every right in the world to be just where he was. Searching
surreptitiously for something to coax him into, I considered the
possibilities that might have brought him to me, but the more I
considered, the less sense it made. The last time I’d been in Miami was
over a year ago, and I was fairly certain that, had he stowed away in
one of my suitcases, he’d have either been discovered by now, or, more
likely, dead, a sneaker casualty; but like I said, here--
incontrovertibly, (and apparently in good health,) he was. I settled on
a black oblong plastic take-out container from Noodles 28, and poked
two small holes in its’ lid with a pairing knife before gently scooping
him up between top and bottom. Figuring I’d take him where we always
take mice to be released from our “have-a-heart” traps, I slipped on my
top-siders and headed out the front door towards the East 86th street
entrance of Central Park.
“So, have you done anything about finding a job yet? What about school?
Are you doing anything about going back to school?”
Annoyed, I was about to answer when I realized I wasn’t on my
cellphone, and that it was my perforated take out container that
talking to me.
“You know, your life is just passing you by. You’re not getting
younger, and I’m just concerned your going to wake up one day in your
sixties, and realize you’re still waiting for your life to begin”
“Shut up.” I hissed, “You’re a lizard. What would you know about waking
up at sixty and realizing anything? Besides, I’m waiting to hear back
on something I submitted to The New Yorker.”
I quickened my pace towards the park, while it occurred to me, the two
smoking barbers I’d passed on eighty-eighth and third had interupted
their own conversation and were staring at me.
“You know,” he said, “ you can wait forever. In the end, nothing really
comes from waiting. Why don’t you call them back? Be proactive for
crissakes! And what about that volunteer position you were talking
about? You know, a lot of valuable contacts can be made that way.”
“The guy from The Central Park Conservancy already emailed me back. He
said they only have high school students volunteering in the office in
the Summ… I’M TALKING TO A LIZARD!!!”
“And? And what if I was a guy with a long white beard and a staff?
Would you take me more seriously then? Look, don’t let the package fool
you guy, I’ve been around a bit.”
“Yeah? Like where?”
My take-out container sighed impatiently. “For 24 years, from the day
you and your family moved to Miami, I sat in your room, just behind
that red toy clock on top of your bookcase. I watched you throughout
junior high, high school, college… all those part-time jobs you got and
lost, every time you came home depressed after school, or a bad date,
or just a bad day… I’d crawl out onto the ceiling over your bed and
read over your shoulder when you were writing in that sketchbook of
yours, I read every word. You were good, morose, but good. You showed
promise. You had keen insight. But you never could get over what
everyone on the outside kept saying… you’re not normal blah blah blah,
you’re weird, you insist on doing everything differently, just to be
different, anything possible just to not fit in… you don’t know how to
take direction… and what did you do? You ate it all up. You believed
them! You let them get inside you, until there wasn’t anything left.
I’ll tell you, it makes me sick what they do, these self-riteous
cannibals of the spirit. They took you, a creative, dynamic,
intelligent and sensitive individual, and, because they were afraid of
that side of themselves, or maybe, who knows? Maybe because they
were jealous, they did everything in their power to crush it in you.
And now what do you do? You spend your days in your room watching t.v…
or maybe you poke around on the Internet, or you write a clever
sentence or two in your blog. You’re wasting your life! Honestly, it’s
Stopping for a red light on the median of Park Avenue, I sighed, a wave
of something that felt like sadness and the realization that I was,
even after so many years of therapy, living the victim of others’
conceptions. “So, what do I do now? I’m lost. I feel like I don’t have
anything inside me. No ideas come. And if I do get an idea, it’s like I
just don’t have the mental energy to do anything with it. So tell me,
please, what do I do?”
The take-out was quiet for about ten seconds, then,
“I’m a vegetarian!”
“You’re not exactly asparagus though you know.”
“If you eat me, the weight of your past will become like steam; in its’
dissipation, you’ll become light yourself. You’ll have drive, vision,
and clarity. You’ll finally get over every failure you allowed yourself
to be defined by. If you eat me, you can let all that go.”
I opened up the white plastic box and the lizard crawled out onto my
cupped hand. I looked into his face and he looked back at me and
blinked. I closed my eyes.
He just goes to me, “You’re going to misunderstand what’s about to happen to you, and for
that, I am profoundly sorry.” and sticks the knife in, and that’s it,
game over. Except that it wasn’t over at all.
So, what happened see, I'm on my way home from Food Emporium, when I
see this homeless guy I kind of know. Well, I don’t really know him,
but whenever I see him and his dog, (he has a dog) I usually give him a
couple of bucks or buy him some food or something. This time, I was
broke, and I’d just used the last of my foodstamps for the month, which
sucked big time, because it was only the seventh. So, I see him sitting
out front and it’s freezing outside, I mean like in the teens and
windy, and he’s sort of huddling behind his cart inside 3 or 4 coats
and when he sees me, he says hi because I usually give him some money
or buy him some food. So I notice his dog isn’t with him, but there’s
this other homeless guy, maybe 60 or 70, (it’s hard to tell) talking to
him, and he’s really skinny and he's wearing this old looking army
jacket but he looks kind of peaceful and stuff, so I ask my friend,
well, he’s not really my friend, but you know what I mean, where his
dog is, and he tells me he’s been leaving his dog with a friend because
its been so cold and this way he can go into the subway at night or go
to the shelter and stuff...so, I’m standing there, talking to him and I
feel a little guilty, you know, standing there holding groceries, on my
way home, so I tell him I don’t have any money this time, but I just
got him some cheese and a bottle of water, and I take a package of
string cheese and a bottle of water and give it to him, and tell him I
just used the last of my food stamps, maybe so he realizes it’s kind of
a sacrifice for me or something… then the other guy smiles at me, and I
smile back, thinking he must see that I’m a good person or something,
not like all the rich snobs that live around here, and I say to the two
of them have a good night and stay warm.. so I’m on my way home now,
and I turn onto my block and suddenly he’s right there in front of me,
and I have no idea how he got there, because I just left him in front
of Food Emporium, and he’s got a knife, so the thought “how the hell
did he get in front of me so fast?” is replaced by “who's this asshole
in front of me with a knife?” and he just goes to me “ You’re going to
misunderstand what’s about to happen to you, and for that, I am
profoundly sorry.” and that's it.. it's like a flash, no pain even, and
I’m here, in this stupid waiting room, and some guy's tellin' me I'm
about to be drafted into Heaven's army or something, because there’s
some kind of angelic war going on..
So, what about you? How’d you get here?