Saturday, May 20, 2006


After high school I was a member of a couple different writers’ groups. One was an offshoot of the Russian River Writers’ Guild readings. This group only met a few times. In my diary (1/13/86) I recorded a critique:

“Stan brought the same thing he brought last time. We picked at his grammar and construction, transitions and such, all the way through. Then I wrecked his punchline. The philosophy went something like this: You (the man in the story) will not have any new dreams until you have made real the dreams you have already had. I said, “There are two different kinds of dreams in this statement. The first is sleeping dreams that, it is made obvious from the preceding, the man cannot have. But the second is dream in the sense of wish or hope as in The dream of universal happiness. Peace on Earth. Love between peoples. etc. 'Why,' I asked, 'cannot the man have sleeping dreams? These two different types of dreams seem to me unrelated. Why can’t the man have sleeping dreams?' Stan couldn’t answer. He said that wrecked the whole thing. I don’t really think it did, but I leave that up to him.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Black Sunday

from the diary: “Friday 1/10/86

“I find myself identifying a bit with the luny who plans to blow up the Superbowl. He has/had a rotten self-image, only able to see himself in short pants, a sissy. I can only see myself ‘fay’ with long hair I push behind my ears, long slim fingers, folded legs, swishing. And I don’t swish. Try to replace this image with reality. at least.”

The next day, “I did today what I do most every day, sat around and read … Black Sunday (which was an okay book, but for a thriller it didn’t produce enough thrills). Then I went for a walk.”

Ach! I was being so fastidious about the chronology of the diary. Then! Today's entry was written before the Mother Tongue entry. And I overlooked it when it came time to post. My development as a person is getting all confused!

The right metaphor?

I don’t really remember anything about Black Sunday other than what’s obvious from the cover or the poster for the movie – something about bombing the superbowl from a blimp. But reading the old diary entry I’m reminded of the killer transvestite in Freebie and the Bean. I remember rather rooting for her. Yeah, she was an evil queer but a kickass fighter – and she kicked ass in a dress. Who else was I going to root for? Freebie? The Bean?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds

from the diary: “Sunday 1/12/86

“Almost every time I read a particularly good book on theories/histories of human development – cultural, emotional, physical – little clicks go off in my head as the previous theories are checked against the one I’m now reading. Inadequacies are discovered, fallacies struck out, gaps filled or opened. And they subtly shift and change to accommodate one another. That’s delightful. I’m not chagrined that no one theory works perfectly to explain all behavior, all human characteristics, because no one person in one culture can see everything at once. What thrills me is that so much can be discovered beyond the taken-for-granted. Even the taken-for-granted casts new shadows in a different colored light.

“The latest good book -- Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds by Judy Grahn. This book is helping me transform the shame. I can’t say ‘I’m proud to be gay.’ Because I’m still closeted. Still terrified of myself and the world. But it helps to know that ‘gay’ is not an aberration or an accident, not a failing [that needs] to be corrected or cured, but an essential, integral part of the human being. Modern Western civilization views the world scientifically, morally, socially through its own set of skewed spectacles. Perhaps what we need is not a polishing of our glasses, a new prescription, or an operation on our corneas. What maybe we need is a taking off of our glasses so we can see ourselves as we really are. But then again there rises the question – Who are we? And who’s got the answer?”

We should close our eyes sometimes. Even when that makes it difficult to read a book.

I’d like to read this book again. I bought it a couple years ago. It’s sitting upstairs in the library waiting to be filed. We need more shelves.

Gay men are called faggots, says Grahn, not because they were as cord wood to be thrown on the pyre but because the word recalls the role of firecarrier, firebringer for the tribe. Lesbians have long been teachers, healers, warriors.

I was damn grateful for a book that told me I wasn’t a biological curiosity at best, an example of “social deviance”, but a person and valuable. Poet is a gay role. And Grahn gave me permission to own the role Poet as well as Gay man.

One of Judy Grahn’s poems is included in the Berkeley Poetry Walk and at a reading to celebrate the installation of the poetry panels I shook the woman’s hand and said, “Thank you. I read Another Mother Tongue at a time I really needed it.” And she bowed her head over my hand quietly then looked me in the face and smiled.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Ox-Bow Incident

from the diary: “Friday 1/10/86

“Read The Ox-Bow Incident. Books don’t affect me the same way as movies. If I’d watched the hangings in a movie the thing would still be haunting me. As it is I’m reading Black Sunday and Ox-Bow is fading.”

It disturbed me at the time but, consonant with what I said then, I barely remember The Ox-Bow Incident. Wasn’t it about a lynching?

On the other hand the visual of the two teen brothers hanged for rustling in the Clint Eastwood starrer Hang ‘Em High throws itself up on my mental movie screen every so often and does not fail to disturb. That at the beginning of the movie Eastwood himself is lowered from a tree where he has been strangling after a botched hanging adds something (brotherly? fatherly? erotic?) to Eastwood’s watching the execution. He’d argued for their lives.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

book buying

Wednesday I went to the gym, checked my mailbox (I could go on an Olivia cruise, subscribe to The Lambda Literary Report or send money to The Pacific Center; plus a card from my brother who is going to be in town Friday); I ate lunch at the Jazzschool cafĂ© and wrote in my diary; then I browsed Half Price Books, mostly the clearance shelves. Surprisingly good shit turns up on their clearance shelves. I’ve even seen a buyer from one of Berkeley’s other used book stores filling up a basket at the Half Price clearance shelves. The books below (‘cept for the Dykes books which I paid more for) cost me a buck apiece:

Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel

More Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel

Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee: an authentic Eighteenth-Century Chiense detective novel translated and with an introduction by Robert Van Gulik

The Old Man in the Corner twelve mysteries by The Baroness Orczy

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

A Member of the Family: Gay Men Write About Their Families edited by John Preston

I do like poking around bookstores. The two mystery books are Dover editions and I have a fondness for Dover’s mission to rescue long out of print, public domain literature and make it available in sturdy editions. My first and favorite edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a Dover edition. That thing stuck together through several readings (& much travel).

I guess I buy books for comfort. I imagine all those cozy hours tumbling through their pages. Then, of course, it takes me ten million years to get around to reading them. The library is cheaper. Free! But when you’re spending a dollar or less for a book isn’t it almost free?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


from the diary: “Tuesday 1/7/86

“I been reading Rumblefish, my first S. E. Hinton, so her and me’s style’s getting screwed around together. Not doin’ neither of us justice excuse me.”

Pretty early I noted the effect a strong style would have on me. Shakespeare was the worst. If I read any Shakespeare I would but unable to write anything but execrable Shakespeare pastiche.

These days styles are pretty much a jumble in my head. I switch between them almost as fast as Robin Williams doing stand-up (or just an interview, have you seen that guy?). It’s one of the things I like about poetry. I have more leave to mix things up than I feel in prose. Writing prose I think I’m supposed to maintain a consistent voice. And the longer I gotta do that the less likely it goan hapn. Y’dig?

Every time I pass Hinton in the library’s Young Teen fiction section I tell myself, I’ll read one of her books someday. And it turns out that one day was ten years ago. Boy, that takes the pressure off. I wonder, if I saw the movie version of Rumblefish, would any of it seem familiar?

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Caves of Steel

Twenty years ago I was living with my mother. My brother had moved out. My father lived several states away. I was having “Anxiety Attacks” and feeling, as I say below, “trapped.”

from the diary: “Thursday 1/2/86

“I’m starting to read Asimov’s Robot novels starring Lije Bailey. Only a few chapters into the first [The Caves of Steel] and it strikes me as historical fiction – “This is what they thought the futue would be like back in the olden days. But we know better now.” I wonder what the third one [Robots of Dawn] will be like, being as it was only written a couple years ago. Well, science fiction dates, sometimes easier than mainstream fiction. Asimov, though, is always a quick read.”

A few days later: “Finished The Robots of Dawn. That was a good series. I particularly like the titles, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun.”

The diary goes on, “Slept late. Didn’t wake up till 12:30. Did I already say I decided I’m agoraphobic? That’s ‘fear of the marketplace.’ Asimov uses it as ‘fear of open places/spaces’ in the Bailey books … but my phobia seems more a performance one, except that it relates directly to the marketplace – I’m too terrified to ask anybody for a job.

“A lady was on Donahue some bit ago … defining phobias. [She] gave the profile of a phobic. ‘Bright, creative, perfectionist, etc.’ don’t remember the rest, but it all fit. Yes, yes, amateur diagnoser me. But I’m not a hypochondriac, I don’t tailor diseases to my symptoms. I’d thought about phobias before and thought they didn’t really bother me. But now I’m trapped. I can empathize with the woman on the show who’d been cooped up in her home 30 years. but shit. I wanna get unscrewed up much, much faster than that.”

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Dayna Macy

So I was wandering around this afternoon with my camera. I don't do that much. When I'm walking with the camera I'm searching for a good photo. I see things that I like to look at but many times I know what I'm seeing won't end up a good photo. I posted a snap of an elephant carving over at LoveSettlement. Shortly after taking that I was walking through the new gourmet food court on Shattuck when a woman looked in my face and said, "I know you." She raised her finger, "Uh," she said, concentrating for the name. "Glenn," I supplied. "Wait," she said. "Not Craig. Glenn! That's it! You worked at Nolo! Do you still write poetry?"

Yes, I said. Google me. Lots of Glenn Ingersoll and it's just about all me.

I didn't remember her name. Dayna Macy. That's right. I remembered her. She was the woman who ran Nolo's PR. She also attended some of our afterwork yoga classes. As I recall she had good poses. Dayna has a website. But many of the internal links seem to be broken. One of the pages has links to writing, including this one in Yoga Journal about foraging in the East Bay parks. "When my foraging walk at Tilden comes to an end, I thank Muscat for a truly eye-opening day. My pockets are filled with chickweed and miner's lettuce, which I'll prepare for tonight's dinner. I head home, already tasting them, fresh and sweet."

My mother knew a few edible wild plants and miner's lettuce is one I learned from her. (Or maybe we both learned about it from one of her hiking buddies.) Whenever I go for a walk in the woods and see fresh leaves I pluck a couple and munch as I walk along.

Mom knew puffball mushrooms so I'll pick one if I see one and pop it in my mouth. There's such fear of poisonous mushrooms that whenever I've done this with someone around they gibber at me. There was a recent feature in the SF Chronicle about mushroom hunters. And another article in the East Bay Express covers the likelihood of getting ticketed for foraging in the East Bay parks; it's illegal.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Lost Girls

I like Alan Moore's work. I can't say as I quite love it. There's something a little Victorian curiosity case about it. He likes magic & mysticism. He has allowed eroticism into his mainstream comics writing in a way that feels adult rather than adolescent. He's always detailed and his work well crafted. A bit cluttered. A bit high strung. Kind of chilly.

As an Ozzy I'll have to say I'm feeling more trepidation than anticipation over Moore's forthcoming Lost Girls. Says the publisher, "For more than a century, Alice, Wendy and Dorothy have been our guides through the Wonderland, Neverland and Land of Oz of our childhoods. Now like us, these three lost girls have grown up and are ready to guide us again, this time through the realms of our sexual awakening and fulfillment."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Little Women

from the diary: “Thursday 1/2/86

“finished Little Women. Louisa May Alcott’s sweet preachments really got boring after awhile.”

Doesn’t everybody like Jo the best, Jo the tomboy? At least until she finds her Darcy … and becomes just another male appendage like her sisters.

The whole text is on the web if you sold your own at a garage sale.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thomas M. Disch

Yes, the poet is also the science fiction writer. And he's gay. I think I thought there were two or three Thomas Disches out there.

But (wracking his brains) have I read anything by him? I'm pretty sure I've read a poem or two.

Judging by these, though, I can't say's Disch is my dish.

"How many moments make one slice of cake?"