Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Wonderful Cut-Outs of Oz, part II

for Part I go back in time.

from the diary: “Friday 2/21/86

“Can y’believe I’m actually cutting out the Cut-Outs? It’s taken me an hour and a half to cut out half the book. And I haven’t glued any of ‘em yet.”

Then on the 24th I wrote, “[F]inished cutting out the Oz characters. Now hasta glue ‘em. And do the review and send it in tomorrow or the next day.”

On Tues 2/25: “I have one day – tomorrow – in which to glue all the Oz cut-outs and write the review. arg. and mail it, too.”

On Wed 2/26: “I’m working on the cut-outs review. I just did the first version and marked it for revision. I finished glueing all the characters’ bases this afternoon. Boriiiing. I’ve gotta wait till tomorrow to finish the review and type it. The pasting was what I did most of the day.”

On Thurs 2/27: “More misadventures in the life of the Cut-Outs review. I’m still working on it.”

On Friday 2/28: “After yardwork I took a shower and returned to the Cut-Outs review. I finished it. Took me about two hours and I don’t much like it, but I typed it and went down to the post office and sent it off to Doug Green [the editor of the Oz Club’s Baum Bugle]. I hope he finds it satisfactory. I’m on the verge of hating the thing. I mailed it today, one day before the deadline. It probably won’t arrive till Monday or Tuesday, two or three days late.”

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sex and Destiny, part II

from the diary: “Wednesday 2/20/86

Sex and Destiny just got interesting. Too bad it’s the end of the book – all that I waded through, but I think the conclusions may be worth the time. Homo Occidentalis may very well fade out, stop reproducing and fade away as the folks who aren’t so squeamish about bearing kids carry on and carry on. That means 3rd World people becoming Only World people. Provocative.”

Homo Occidentalist would be Western Industrialized People, right? Germaine Greer would hardly be the first to predict the end of (a) civilization.

I remember holding this book, its gray and white cover, a paperback with a hard plastic durashell glued to it (library book). I remember reading much of it sitting up on the couch, ill. (The jpg is pretty much how I picture it in my memory though I would have said more gray than sepia.)

Meanwhile I was trying to keep The Oogaboo Review going so was soliciting work that never saw print. And I entered the Writers of the Future contest, sponsored by L. Ron Hubbard. “I hope L. Ron Hubbard’s death doesn’t affect the contest,” I note in the diary.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sex and Destiny

from the diary: “Tuesday 2/18/86

“The Hwy 12 bridge out of town toward Santa Rosa is under water. …

“Mom returned the second [wet/dry] vac this morning and rented another. This one worked fine. …

“Reading Sex and Destiny by Germaine Greer. I’m reading it compulsively. I don’t know whether it’s because the book is so good (it’s not bad) or because I can avoid other things while I’m reading.

“The library was closed again today. I finally got out of the house, did some walking around town [Sebastopol, California]. The wind wasn’t bad and the rain intermittent so I didn’t get real wet. Walked down past Pellini Chevrolet but there was a cordon at True Value Hardware. Just a half block away the water had crept. Half swamped the deli parking lot – the businesses behind and lanes were covered.” Well, not covered covered. Surrounded by water.

Sex and Destiny is the only book by Germaine Greer that I’ve read. She’s most known for The Female Eunuch, published in 1970, which helped galvanize the Women’s Movement. As I recall Sex and Destiny was a history of the birth control movement and how its origins are linked with eugenics. Eugenics is selective human breeding. Sterilize the stupid, discourage the reproduction of the inferior races. One of the ideas that formed the complex that justified the industrialized genocide of World War II Germany. Greer seemed to use that historical conjunction to tar birth control with the evils of eugenics. And I sympathized with her notion that in the non-industrialized world women are more free than in the industrialized world, even though they had no birth control. But their relative freedom and social status isn’t because they pop out babies all the time. It’s because, as Hilary’s book has it, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Child-rearing in pre-civilized culture was communal. A child didn’t have just one Mommy but many and men were more involved in caring for children. In civilized industrial society the basic unit is the individual (or an atomized version of the family, “nuclear” anyone?) rather than the tribe. If you have kids you alone are responsible for them. Since my mother and father broke up when I was small, all I remember growing up was a single parent. She struggled for money; and I have often felt a sense of deep loneliness (which may be associated with the loss of my father and older brothers and sister, or may just be me, who knows). Humans probably do best in small and close interdependent units, units that are linked to larger groups through language and genetics and trade. I’ve spent the day by myself so far. I think it’s time I went out for some lunch, allow myself proximity to people.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Cider House Rules

from the diary: “Monday 2/17/86

“[M]ost of the day spent wrangling over wet/dry vacs. The one we got yesterday turned out to be a water sprayer. The motor vents – after the initial buckload – started ejecting water in forceful little jets. So we took it in and exchanged it for a smaller model which was not on sale, but cost the same. That one worked better. It got a full load and a half before its vent started to spray water, but this vent pointed straight up so it was like a misty rain. Immensely irritating. So there’s still a lot of water [flooding the basement] furnace room.” And most of the rest of the basement.

“Just finished The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Long Book. Not bad.”

I think I haven’t read a John Irving book since. I read World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire before Cider House. I’ve rather intended to read more Irving but there’s always plenty to read, isn’t there? I remember liking Garp but preferring the movie version both because it captured the funny, odd personality of the book and because it dispensed with the author protagonist’s fiction, which had gotten in the way in the novel. Hotel New Hampshire’s screen version, as I recall, was quirky, too, but didn’t quite manage to avoid being a bit creepy as well. As I recall, ever searching for a gay character, that there’s a butch lesbian in Cider House who ends up stalking somebody, the main character?, but I still thought her sympathetic, as peculiar John Irving characters go. I wonder if she made it into the film? I haven’t seen it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Beyond the Chocolate War

from the diary: “Thursday 2/6/86

“Finally finished Breaking with Moscow. Am reading Beyond the Chocolate War.

“Mom and I went to the art show reception at the library this eve. Ron Megorden and three others. I wanted to talk to Ron, but couldn’t gather the nerve to say anything while his friends were around. So I only said, ‘Hi,’ when I came in. I talked to one of the other artists, Sam somethingorother (Sam, short for Bruce, no actually for Margaret, which she hates). She did marvelously detailed vivid paintings. She’s done some children’s book illustration, which was on display in original form and two printed books – one by Isaac Asimov called Did You Know (I think) filled with clever trivia for kids to wow over. The drawings were fun. Mom annoyed me by introducing herself as my mother, me as her son, anyway, and saying I was a big science fiction fan (which I’m not). This was after I’d talked to her [that is, thought the conversation over]; Sam said, ‘You didn’t tell me you were into science fiction.’ She offered to give me some old sf books from the forties. I said thanks but no thanks, I wouldn’t know what to do with them. I told Mom when we got home that I wasn’t and never really had been ga-ga over reading science fiction. I don’t read that much sf, D[avid]’s always read much more than I.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Breaking with Moscow; coming out to Mom II

from the diary: “Friday January 31, 1986

“I was reading Breaking with Moscow by Arkady Shevchenko, sitting in the rocking chair, Mom came in and sat on the hat box.

“’When did you start feeling like you couldn’t get along with girls? Early? Or in high school?” Not interrogating, just curious tone.

“’Mom, I love girls. Girls are great people.’ Most of my best friends are girls.

“I don’t remember what she said next, but my answer was: ‘Ever since I’ve had sexual feelings they’ve been for men.’

“She expressed some reservations on the wisdom of the ‘choice.’

“I said, ‘Mom, I wish God had lined us all up before we were born and said, “Here, I’m giving you a choice. You can be a white, upper class American male or you can be a female Untouchable in Indian.” Now, that’s a choice. Too bad we can’t make these “choices.”’ Nice evasion, don’t you think? That way I didn’t have to say I would rather be straight but God burdened me with being gay. This way you can read it the way you want and I can still believe being gay is not my bum rap, it’s being scared that’s the shits. I still got the same feeling of anger and fear like a hot stone in my stomach when she asked me about getting a job.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

Coming out to Mom

Twenty years ago I came out to my mother. Here’s the account I wrote in my diary that night. [Don, mentioned below, was the therapist Mom was paying for me to see.]

from the diary: “Thursday, 1/30/86

“I told Mom. Used Don’s phrase, ‘I think I might be gay.’

“’Might be getting … ?’ she asked.

“’Jee. Ehyee. Wahyee.’


“Let me tell you how this happened.

“I’ve had this recurring (physical) pain in my right shoulder for, what, a week or so. It usually only hurt when I moved my arm a certain way and I didn’t move my arm that way very often so I tended to forget there was anything wrong. Well, last night I went to bed around two, trying to reverse the trend of going to bed later and later – if I got enough sleep maybe I wouldn’t waste the entire morning abed, plus maybe I’d feel better, maybe f’rinstance this pain in my shoulder would go away. Even before I went to bed it was getting pretty bad. But the longer I lay there, the more I tried to relax, the more I tossed and turned the worse it got. Finally the pain (like a constant excruciating pulling inside my right shoulder, upper arm and neck stretching up to my chin) got so bad I started whimpering and moaning and tossing frantically in bed; of course none of that worked. Mom heard my cries and came in. I asked her to massage my shoulder – more like begged. Went out to the couch and lay on my stomach. She started gently rubbing my back and I said, ‘No! no! my shoulder, massage my shoulder. My shoulder!’ I was hurting. She got the idea and the manipulations helped some. She ran a hot bath then came in and gave me hotpacks of ginger tea on the shoulder. I put on Bengay and a tshirt and she got a hot water bottle. By that time if I didn’t move my right arm my shoulder was just an ache. A bad ache, but bearable. Mom suggested acupuncture and I agreed. As I told her later, I would’ve agreed to anything. She called Dan Kenner [her acupuncturist] and he had a spot at 10:45.

“In the bath I got it into my head that my body was blackmailing me. Or perhaps torturing me for a purpose. ‘Tell Mom,’ it was saying, ‘or I’ll maybe you scream like this forever.’ Whenever I told my shoulder, ‘All right, I’ll tell her I’m gay,’ the pain seemed to lessen – only to return when I didn’t say anything. Finally I said, ‘Mom.’

“’Yes.’ She came in. I was lying on the couch.

“’I have something I want to say that’s been bothering me, tying me up in knots inside for a long time. I think my body is trying to tell me something.’

“She said, ‘Oh,’ concerned. ‘You mean about getting a job and how you’re having difficulties.’ Pause. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t say anything. You go ahead. I won’t prompt.’ She sat on the hassock.

“’Mom,’ I said. ‘I think I might be –‘ this came out fast. I let in another pause and felt like Fonzie on Happy Days saying he was wro – he was wro – he was wrong. Slower. ‘I think I might be gay.’

“She absorbed that a second while I stared at my fingernails thinking they needed cutting. This all seemed very comic. I suppressed a … smile.

“ … be getting … ?’


“’You might be getting … ?’

“’G … A … Y …’

“another pause.

“’How long have you been thinking this? For the last year?’ The questions weren’t rapid. ‘In high school or before? For the last ten years?’

“I said, ‘I can’t pinpoint a time.’

“’Have you talked to Don about this?’


“She went out of the room and called Dan again as the first time it’d just been the answering service. She was not taking it like I’d dreamed. Where was the pathos, the passion, hurt, anger, suspicion? Hell, I don’t know … drama? She was taking it light I’d told her something mildly distasteful (her lip didn’t curl or anything) but more that I’d told her something that didn’t really interest her, that didn’t really concern her. She wasn’t shocked. She said she had wondered when I asked her to stop kissing on the lips. I shook my head, saying that really had nothing to do with it, something about repression or suppression and my uncomfortableness touching people. She also wonders about David, his never seeming to have anything but friendship for all these girls.

“After she left the phone, [having gotten] the appointment, she said, ‘I think the world would probably be better without sexplay. If people just didn’t think about it so much it wouldn’t be such an issue.’

“She said something about being careful if I ever got involved in ‘sexplay.’

“Is Mom ASEXUAL? Does she not understand sex at all? She seems to think it’s pretty stupid. I suppose that makes homosexual sex dumber than heterosexual sex because at least hetero sex is nominally procreative, for at least that seems to be the paramount reason she engaged in it (and, I assume, to please Dad). Gays then engage in ‘sexplay’ for the sake of ‘sexplay’. And yet she doesn’t have a righteous fervor, she doesn’t condemn sex for sex’s sake as immoral or a mortal sin. But, minus Hell, she’s got the same idea.

“Like I said at the beginning, I’m bewildered. That was so flat. I was expecting something … else. Where was all that stuff I read about? ‘Get out of my house!’ ‘How could you do this to me?’ ‘All my hopes are ruined!’ ‘I don’t know you anymore!’

“After the conversation she seemed to forget it ever happened. Seems it would be stretching to say she was covering her despair, her anguish.

“Am I disappointed? I can’t say that. I didn’t want recriminations. But I am let down. Have I been basing my life of strife, tragedy, and trauma on a construction of my own mind? What is this? What’s going on?

“Now that I’ve told her, what happens? Do I subscribe to the Advocate [a gay news magazine]? I didn’t think about it until now, but I guess I could. I want to ask her, ‘What do you really think? Are you mad? Sorrowful? Do you not care one way or the other?’ She doesn’t seem to be thrilled for me (‘Oh! JOY!’) but neither does she seem upset (‘Oh! Woe!’).


“I guess I don’t have a big, bad, terrible secret to hide any more. What will I do now?

“I got dressed, bundled my scarf around my neck, and went to Dan’s. Mom acted as usual, said she hopes she gets a sub job tomorrow [Mom was a substitute teacher]. So do I, I said.

“I was still in physical pain. Dan had me lie on one of his slabs, take off my shoes and socks and shirt and he poked me with slender needles.

“(all this morning a commerical jingle and the phrase ‘diatomaceous earth’ had been fighting for dominance in my head. After I revealed my terrible secret to Mom they were replaced by ‘They’re coming to take me away – ha! ha!’ [a song by Napolean XIV])

“Acupuncture is really somethin’. I didn’t even notice most of the needles, but a couple he stuck in my hand and shoulder – thunk – felt like direct injections of novocaine. Muted, tho. Like cotton covering the pain. My shoulder seems a little worse than before last night. If I keep it relaxed it doesn’t hurt. No sudden moves or exaggerated gestures. Writing seems okay.

“And that was it.

“We came home.

“I napped.

“Ate dinner.

“Watched Hill Street Blues.

“Mom went to bed.

“I finished up the dishes.

“And wrote seven pages in my journal.”

Sunday, December 17, 2006

coming out stories

I don’t recall my mother making disparaging remarks about gay people or homosexuality. I remember my dad pointing out some guys on the street, calling them "pretty boys." And I knew he was saying they were boys who like boys. But Dad didn’t live with us. My parents divorced when I was 3 1/2. Dad lived in Alaska. He would visit when he could (a couple times a year when I was little) but he wasn’t a constant presence in my life. I remember as a teenager walking with Mom’s old buddy Jean in Alameda and Jean pointing out a house where the family had broken up because the husband had "gone gay." I don’t remember Mom saying anything. Murmuring sympathetically maybe.

So I can’t point to any specific attitudes at home that led me to fear her rejection should I come out. It wasn’t until I started reading some personal testimony recently that I remembered how many coming out stories included big grief, including total rejection by previously loving parents. And certainly whenever a gay person is featured on a talk show or news program there always has to be the "balance" of some censorious bastard who must assert the ridiculousness of love and acceptance.

I’ve been reading my old diaries and I found a full account of coming out to Mom. I’ve been considering posting it.

Coming out stories are the soul of gay literature. They are central to gay culture. There are lots of places on the web where coming out stories are collected and/or invited.

Here are a few:

Coming Out Stories Gallery

Gay Stories


Coming out stories at Avert

Human Rights Campaign collection of Coming Out Stories

A Hero's Journey

GLBTQ encyclopedia

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the Malayan jungle c.1965

Now & then I rescue a book from the library discards. Ronald McKie's The Company of Animals: a naturalist's adventures in the jungle of Malaya has probably been out of print for decades and it's not the source you turn to if you want to know the current state of the forest but the writing is engaging. I was struck by this description of the soundscape:

"The jungle sings, whistles, rings bells, squeaks, squeals, buzzes. It plays scales, pipes, hoots, howls, scrapes in a dry sandpapery way. One cicada I came to know well gargled so monotonously that one almost pleaded with it to spit. Another, the postman, waited just long enough between whistles to reach the next house. One chimed so that it was forever Sunday. One was a dentist with a water-cooled drill. One went 'Ha-he' up and down, up and down. And among all this noise there was still space for other sounds -- steam presses, grinders, squeaking wheels -- an entire foundry collection, metallic and harsh."


Later his guide alerts the author to a bird call. "I failed at first to pierce the insect wall. It was like listening for a special voice one has never heard in the chatter of a theatre foyer between acts. Then out of the noise came a new note, clear and different. My ears snatched it, held it, and let go. A little later I heard it again; and then still another, different call, faint but distinctive. I was beginning to penetrate the curtain and, with Jim's help, to recognise some of the more common bird sounds: the 'kuang' of the beautiful Argus; the 'pangan-pakau' of a Malay cuckoo; the dismal sermon of the brain-fever bird -- a long call followed by more tuneless descending notes, repeated and repeated."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Redwood canopy

I continue to work my way through the New Yorker subscription, little read when it first arrived.

Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone, that scary book about ebola that was the big thing a few years ago, has an article about coastal redwoods in the Feb 14 & 21, 2005 issue. Guided by Steve Sillett, a professor at Humboldt State, Preston takes to the trees, using a gentle-on-the-giants climbing method, soft ropes, no spikes, a lot of dangling hundreds of feet in the air.

Some excerpts:

"As a young redwood reaches maturity, it typically loses its top. The top either breaks off in a storm or dies and falls off. A redwood reacts to the loss by sending out new trunks, which typically appear in the crown, high up in the tree, and point at the sky like fingers of an upraised hand.


"The general opinion among biologists ... was that the redwood canopy was a so-called 'redwood desert' that contained not much more than the branches of redwood trees. ... The old-growth redwood forest, Sillett found, is packed with epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants. They commonly occur on trees in tropical rain forests, but nobody really expected to find them in profusion in Northern California. There are hanging gardens of ferns, in masses that Sillett called fern mats. The fern mats can weight tons when they are saturated with rainwater; they are the heaviest masses of epiphytes which have been found in any forest canopy on earth. Layers of earth, called canopy soil, accumulate over the centuries on wide limbs and in the tree's crotches -- in places were trunks spring from trunks -- and support a variety of plant and animal life. In the crown of a giant redwood named Fangorn, Sillett found a layer of canopy soil that is three feet deep.


"Sillett and his students have found small, pink earthworms of an unidentified species in the beds of soil in the redwoods. A Humboldt colleague of Sillett's named Michael A. Camann has collected aquatic crustaceans called copepods living in the fern mats. ... Sillett said, 'They commonly dwell in the gravel streams around here.' He can't explain how they got into the redwood canopy. A former graduate student of Sillett's named James C. Spickler has been studying wandering salamanders in the redwood canopy. ... Spickler found that the salamanders were breeding in the redwood canopy, which suggests that they never visit the ground ...

"Old redwood trees are infested with thickets of huckleberry bushes. In the fall, Sillett and his colleagues stop and rest inside huckleberry thickets, hundreds of feet from the ground, and gorge on the berries. He and his students have also taken censuses of other shrubs growing in the redwood canopy: currant bushes, elderberry bushes, and salmonberry bushes ... Sillett once found an eight-foot Sitka spruce growing on the limb of a giant redwood.


"Redwoods occasionally shed whole sections of themselves. Sillett calls this process calving. The tree releases a kind of woodberg, and as it collapses it gives off a roar that can be heard for a mile or two, and it leaves the area around the calved redwood looking as if a tank battle had been fought there.


"Trees are horrible to one another, and redwoods are viciously aggressive. They drop large piece of dead wood on smaller neighboring trees, which typically shatters the tree. Sillett calls this phenomenon 'redwood bombing.' In this way, a giant redwood suppresses and kills trees growing near it, including hemlocks, spruces, Douglas firs, and big-leaf maple trees. A giant redwood can clear a DMZ around its base, an area covered with redwood debris mixed with twisted and dead trees of other species.

[I'm not sure what the difference is between "calving" and "bombing" ... scale, perhaps?]


"At two hundred and ninety feet, I encountered Sillett. He was sitting on a branch inside a spray of huckleberry bushes, and he had a thoughtful look on his face. The main trunk had split open near the branch where he sat, and the opening revealed dead and rotten wood inside the trees. 'This beast is full of rot pockets,' he said. 'These huckleberry bushes are putting their roots through the scars into rotten wood in the center of the tree. One summer, we had half the normal rainfall, but these bushes still put out a full crop of huckleberries. They're getting their water from rotten wood inside the tree.'"

A redwood can be significantly hollowed by fire or, as described above, riddled with rot, but live on and live on. The living part of the tree is just under the bark. Even in an intact tree the core is not really alive.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

today's comics

Has it been another month already? I bought the latest (& last) of the Vertigo/DC published American Splendor. Harvey gets the neighbor to fix his toilet, Harvey has a flashback to getting laughed at in high school, Harvey buys junk food at the supermarket, Harvey is haunted by his youthful lack of quality control, Harvey worries about whether people will still be reading comics in five years -- and I'm only halfway through!

John Porcellino includes more than the usual number of strips of himself lying in bed worrying. King Cat Comics #67. Charlie Brown did that a lot, too.

I haven't yet read the first issues of the two new mini-comics: Let's Do This by Jeremy Arambulo (that's Jeremy above) and Monsters by Ken Dahl. Both look like autobiographical comics. Let's Do This has an original pen-and-ink drawing on the cover (smack in the middle of a "Hello my name is" sticker). I bought the one with the big wow happy face (somebody else will have to buy the sulking and irritated faces). Looks like Monsters is about getting genital herpes. I see it won an Igntaz.