Wednesday, September 26, 2007

what’s new

I was going to wait for a paperback edition but last week I felt flush (selling used CDs!) so I went ahead and bought the hardcover of John Porcellino’s King-Cat Classix, a best-of compilation from his self-published King-Kat Comics. I’m sure I have a good chunk of these in their original photocopy, saddle-staple versions. Now it’s high quality paper & printing! Sewn bindings!

As long as I was buying new stuff I also picked up I Love Led Zeppelin, a collection of “panty-dropping comics” by Ellen Forney.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

pile of reading

The Complete Peanuts, 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schulz
This is the Fantagraphics reprint of all Schulz’s Peanuts strips in chronological order. As a kid I owned several reprint collections. I remember resenting the fact that they were selections. What was I missing?

The Poem Behind the Poem: translating Asian poetry edited by Frank Stewart
I wish I knew another language well enough to feel comfortable attempting translations of poetry.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Finely crafted prose, colorful characters, a story without surprises

Asian American Poetry: the next generation edited by Victoria Chang
I was searching for a book with work by a particular poet. She isn’t in here but when I came across this one I thought, there are poets in here I’d like to read.

Muelos: a stone age superstition about sexuality by Weston La Barre
This was a library discard. The cover copy doesn’t tell you what the stone age superstition is. What a tease! There’s a photo on the front of a corpse’s heavily tattooed head. Rather gruesome. Having read a few pages into the Introduction I find the superstition to be the belief that semen and brain are composed of the same material, which notion explains the idea that spending your semen depletes your brain. Fun!

Southern Poetry Review 45:1
When I bought this at the student union on campus the clerk cracked, “Is this real poetry?” He flipped the pages. “Yes,” he said, “I guess it is!”

Sunflower Splendor: three thousand years of Chinese poetry edited by Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo
When I find myself equivocal about three thousand years of poetry I begin to wonder.

Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry, 1980 edited by Alan F. Pater
I read this more than twenty years ago before I’d begun my copying-out project. When I was reading it the first time I put a placemark in when I read a poem I wanted to read again. Then I went back and read the poems I’d marked, took out the marks, and returned the book to the library. It always seemed to me something was missing. I’ve long wanted to come back to this book and see if there are poems in it I want to keep.

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
These are all poems Hughes wrote to his wife Sylvia Plath, all written, I believe, after her death. They are rather over the top. Which makes them charming.

In the Hub of the Fiery Force: collected poems, 1934-2003 by Harold Norse
After hearing Norse read in North Beach (& after finishing his memoir) I felt committed to working my way through his collected poems. So I’m doing that.

Premonitions: the Kaya anthology of new Asian North American poetry edited by Walter K. Lew
I like the look of this book. Nicely designed object. I haven’t checked to see where it overlaps with Asian American Poetry: the next generation.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The family, part III

Everything in this diary was written during the London semester. As I work my way through my diary I find myself curious about people who appear in it. Sometimes I don’t leave myself many clues to follow up. I have the first names of many people but few family names. I didn’t record the last names of Chris or Shawn or Tanya or even Julie. Unless I want to do more serious research than Google that’s where it’s going to have to stand.

Since the father of the family I stayed with was an elected official I thought he would be easy to find. I knew him as “Robert” but a BBC page has him as “John Atkinson”. Still, that’s his picture!

Wikipedia has “Robert Atkinson” running (or, as they say in the UK, standing) for election as member of Parliament for the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 1997. Say the anonymous writers, “It is one of the safest Conservative seats in the United Kingdom.” In the 1997 election Atkinson (Labour) got 10,000 votes to Conservative Alan Clark’s 20,000. Tch.

Daughter Catherine seems to have gone on to a career in politics herself. I can see the eight year old girl in that face.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mrs Dalloway

from the diary: “Wednesday 12/7/88”

During a class discussion: “Lulie cries incredulously, ‘Virginia Woolf must have been thinking about it [suicide] back then [when she wrote Mrs. Dalloway]!’, I go huff! like How silly of course she was. And I commented on the temperature of the water in the Serpentine when V. Woolf drowned herself. Was it summer or winter?” (clarifying []s in orig.) The Serpentine is a man-made lake in Hyde Park. “[Prof] dint dignify that with a reply & everybody seemed to think I was horrid but, I mean, Septimus in the book worries about dirtying the bread knife – everybody who contemplates suicide worries about such relatively trivial details. As someone who has considered suicide I thought the temperature of the Serpentine was relevant.” Then I add, “Of course, I was sitting in the back of the room next to Brent quietly making snide remarks about everything.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

reading for class

from the diary: “Sunday 12/4/88

“Didn’t even leave the house yesterday. Read Guide for the Perplexed [by E.F. Schumacher] from begin to end. Oh, I guess I did leave to mail postcards but that’s all.

“Finished [Schumacher’s] Good Work this morning.”

E. F. Schumacher was an economist exploring ways out of our destructive exploitation of the world to a more creative, symbiotic relationship. His books were assigned for the Economics & Environment class.

“I’m lying on my bed tonight reading Mrs. Dalloway [by Virginia Woolf]. P’raps if I have time I’ll start that essay for Eng 1A.”

12/6: “I borrowed the [British Life & Culture] textbook, Modern Britain from Julie & holed up in Maria Asumpta library this afternoon. [Julie] only loaned it to me for the afternoon. Fortunately it’s short. Read it all the way thru. Not sure how much I retained but I feel a little better about the BLC final.”

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Major Great

from the diary: “Wednesday 11/30/88

“[English Prof] went on about how there aren’t any major writers in English now. Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s got something to do with there not being any grand arbiters to annoint ‘great writers.’ Lulie (Beulah) was protesting, ‘Why don’t they write poetry like this anymore?’ Because, dear Lulie, it sucks. Nobody reads it because it’s boring. The only reason anybody does read this crap is because it’s assigned in English class.

“Oh fiddle. What makes anyone think they can extol one man or woman, say man as it’s usually a man – almost always, shall we say – as a Great Writer or Poet or Dramatist? There’s lots of damn good work out there. There’s lots of crap. And who cares? The English teachers have to teach somebody.

“Everybody thinks Shakespeare is the best thing since the world poked her head between the thighs of the sun. Gack! Everybody thinks Shakespeare is great because everybody thinks Shakespeare is great.”

Friday, September 14, 2007


from the diary: “Tuesday 11/29/88

“I’m sitting in the main room listening to the tape of my last [radio] show. [The family’s] tape player component is fucked up, so I have to hold the play button depressed in order for it to work. I sit on the couch, my right leg crossed over my left, my right big toe on the button. I have a pillow stuffed under my right foot to keep it moderately comfortable.

“… I had to return a book to the library. While there I found a book of E.M. Forster’s ‘unfinished’ stories. Contained a story, ‘Imper’, in which men are a scarce commodity. Women just aren’t giving birth to them anymore. So this old guy comes to this village of women doing his duty – he’s gotta get ‘em to begat, y’know. Well, the central committee screws up and sends this young fellow named Imper to the same village. [The two men] tussle in the ‘Birth Room’ and their spunks mingle and begin to … grow! [ellipsis in orig.]”

I had checked out books from both the university library and the public library and even bought a few but I was not listing their titles nor commenting on them in the diary. Which makes the book project part of DIR a mite problematic.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

“’I have a cousin who’s a lesbian. Do you think I could use that?’

from the diary: “Friday 11/11/88

“I went to a gay youth group meeting in Westminster. And it was pleasant enough, altho’ I wish it’d had some kind of focus or direction. We were all just s’posed to sit around and get to know each other.

“The fellow on the couch next to me was named Andrew. We got to talking. He’s 19. Not really ‘out’, thinking about it, though he doesn’t seem to have all that much problem finding lovers and sounds like he’s ready to try cruising – rather likes the idea. I walked him back to his place after the meeting, then he asked my advice.

“How did you tell your parents? [he asked me.] Should I come out?

“I gave him the usual It’s-your-decision-to-make. I-personally-felt-better-feel-better-as-out-of-the-closet. blah blah blah.

“’I have a cousin who’s a lesbian. Do you think I could use that?’

“’Oh, yes. The next time someone makes a faggot comment, you could say, “I don’t like words like that. I have a cousin who’s a lesbian.”’

“Oh, but he couldn’t do that. ‘This may sound snobbish to you, but I wouldn’t want to say that, and, you know, lower the family name. Soil it, maybe.’”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

a week in England, 10/31 – 11/6/88

October 31 is my birthday. I was awakened at 6:40am (the family was away?) by a ringing telephone. When I picked up, my mother sang “Happy Birthday”, then spent most of the call complaining about how hard it had been to get ahold of me.

Dragged Chris to Drowning by Numbers, my first Peter Greenaway movie. “Lovely weird little black comedy.”

Kept up my journal for English class and was bored to tears in class. Following the advice of classmates I began bringing letters to write and textbook reading to catch up on so when Prof droned I had somewhere to turn my attention. I had two English classes. The nonEnglish classes were British Life & Culture (I remember one visiting lecturer who said he loved real American names like Massachusetts and Narragansett; was contemptuous of such nullities as New York and New Hampshire. Too bad the names he preferred are sometimes all that’s left of the people who owned them.); and a class on Environment and Economics. Small is Beautiful was one of the texts for that class. It was a consistently interesting class. I got the highest score (an unamazing 94) on the midterm. Prof McP had me “read aloud one of my answers. So, with a lot of throat-clearing and in a monotone, I read it.”

Chris & I visited Parliament and listened “in the strangers’ gallery while the MPs debated the new govt policy of denying airtime to the Northern Irish Sinn Fein Party.”

I bought more 45” singles at the used record store in Camden Town – 10p apiece. Also stopped in at Forbidden Planet and “bought AARGH!. It’s another one of those benefit comics – Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia. Pretty high quality. Edited by Alan Moore.” Margaret Thatcher’s government had instituted something called Clause 28 (or Section 28, once enacted) that directed schools to say nothing positive about gay people, so there was noticeable activism over that.

I raised my daily budget from 2.50 to 5 pounds.

Took a coach tour to Avebury, a town build inside an ancient stone circle. It was cold but I liked the place. “Bath wasn’t so exciting, though I did enjoy the Roman bath. Wish we could’ve jumped in, the warm water was so inviting – they told us not to touch as it’s untreated.”

On Saturday the usual group of us took an independent trip to Hampton Court Palace, mainly for the hedge maze. “I managed to get pretty well lost, which was what I wanted.” That night was Guy Fawkes fireworks and bonfire at Battersea Park. The bonfire was huge. I remember feeling the heat far back from it.

I got some DJ training at the student-run Imperial College radio station. Started planning playlists.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a history of Bath

from the diary: “Sunday 10/30/88”

We got back to London at 9:00am on Saturday. The family was away for a few days so I had the house to myself. I invited over Shawn, Tanya, and Chris, the girls I’d been hanging out with. I played them records I’d been buying in Camden Town and we ate ice cream. Chris had gone to York “and nearly froze to death. ‘Everything was closed,’ she said, ‘like a ghost town.’ Shawn had fun in Ireland, she says, but for her traveling companion. … Tanya [had visited] the Soviet Union [and returned] bearing trinkets. She unwrapped everything and let us look. She got a couple packs of small propaganda posters. She says everything was colorless. ‘You look out the window of the hotel and see gray and white and a statue of Lenin.’”

“Am reading a book of the history of Bath in prep. for going there this Friday.”

It was a rather dry book, as I recall.

Monday, September 10, 2007

“pulled her from the arms of the mime”

from the diary: “Fried egg [Friday] 10/28/88”

Julie & I had planned to take a ferry & train back to London and hadn’t realized our tickets only allowed us on the 9:30am. We’d missed that. There was nothing for it but the 8:30pm and paying a “night supplement”. Finding ourselves with another day in Amsterdam we went to the Van Gogh museum. I bought postcards.

“As we came up the Dam Rak a mime in a black suit and silver face paint was just getting into his routine. He had a boom box for accompaniment and began with the usual pressing-hands-against-invisible-wall and moonwalking. …

“Julie fished out 2 of her last guilders and took them to his paper cup. As she turned to come back, the mime ducked behind her and followed her to the edge of the circle. When she turned around there they stood, face-to-face. He stuck out his hand & she shook it. Then he lifted the camera from around her neck and handed it to me. Whoop! he lifted her up. ‘Take the picture!’ cried Julie. ‘Take the picture! Help!’ So I, quick, snapped the picture, took Julie’s hand and pulled her from the arms of the mime.”

Sunday, September 09, 2007


from the diary: “Thursday 10/27/88”

In Amsterdam I found “the Gay Center [where] I saw awhile, met another Californian. Jack. He’s 23, also – wait. I’m 22, aren’t I? I said I was 23. I will be in a few days anyway. [Jack] was busy marking a map of Amsterdam with gay spots and asking the gentleman behind the counter about this or that bar in the guidebook. I asked where the Homomonument is and got that marked on my map. Jack asked about slang terms. Eric S. will be thrilled to know that ‘flikker’ means faggot. [Eric Shanower included a character in one of his Oz graphic novels whom he named ‘Flicker’.]

“Jack and I went in search of the Homomonument. We passed it about three times before we finally figured it out. There are three large pink marble triangles in the shadow of a big church. One [triangle] is flush with the sidewalk, another is a foot high and the third pokes into the canal and is divided into steps. All 3 are connected by a thin strip of marble which makes them a large triangle. We were disappointed that it was quite so understated. There was a sign describing the monument’s purpose. ‘celebrate, commemorate, incourage …’ That’s my paraphrase.

“We stopped in at a bakery/deli for lunch. I had a small meat pie, he had a quiche. Then we bought dessert. I saved mine in my knapsack for later. ‘Do you smoke?’ he asked. ‘No.’ I thought he meant tobacco but he had gone to the Bulldog [coffeehouse] and bought some pot. So then he found a corner out of the wind & lit his pipe. I took a hit, got slightly buzzed.”

Jack and I wandered around the Amsterdam city museum together but parted ways when he couldn’t pass up a visit to a torture implements exhibit.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


from the diary: “Tuesday 10/25/88

“Tonight while wearing out my legs I came upon a tattoo parlor. Closed. But in the window a small black & white cat, its eyes wide, wide. I leaned down and held my fingers to the glass. The cat wiggled and pressed itself against the glass – whenever I took my hand away it stared up at me plaintively and mewed. So I held my fingers against the outside while the little cat rubbed itself back and forth against the inside of the window pane.”

On our Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam midterm trip Julie & I arrived in Brussels on Tuesday. “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium,” Julie said as we detrained at the station. This struck as us hilarious, probably because we were plumb wore out.

We left London Friday. Took the train to Dover and the ferry to Calais. When we arrived we sat on the train for an hour, there being a train strike. We were supposed to meet a friend of Julie’s homestay host at the Paris station, so we were anxious about missing her. She was still waiting when the train finally pulled in. She took us out to her house in a nearby town.

The next nights I stayed at a Paris youth hostel and we wandered Paris, together and separately. Visited the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre, the Eiffel Tower, Le Sacre Coeur, etc. Julie and I got on each other’s nerves, but, it seems, never quite fought.

Friday, September 07, 2007


from the diary: “Friday 10/21/88

“Woke from a dream about [English professor]. I dreamt that I was in a room, maybe a classroom, maybe on the tube, and I was talking to a friend on the other side of the room (ten feet away?) about what Ken [a student from one of the other participating community colleges] had told me. 6 authors to our three, more interesting. I glance to the right and there [my prof], standing against the wall. He glowers at me. Then pulls up a chair next to me and starts dressing me down for my criticism. Sweat breaks out on his face, arms turn white like the skin under an adhesive bandage. He’s gasping and ranting.

“[Prof] is an impostor. A never-has-been. His wife claims to have studied under this famous genius-type teacher when really she and [Prof] offed the guy.

“Cut to scene of riverbank, man hands tied behind back. [Prof] & wife drag a hood over his head, lash it tight and shove him into the dark water. It is night. The [killers] smirk conspiratorially in the shadows, wife’s face lit by the yellow lights of a ship at moor, [Prof]’s face seen in 3/4 profile.”

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gay Plays

from the diary: “Sunday October 16 1988

“I stayed in most of the day again. Read a play from a collection called Gay Plays edited by Michael Wilcox. I’m not sure the title is appropriate.”

I don’t know which play I was reading. I presume I read all of them. The Claremont Branch has a copy of Gay Plays. I’ve seen it sitting on the shelf and thought, “I’ve read that, haven’t I?”

I went to grade school with a Mike Wilcox. Not the same, I’m sure.

One more paragraph from the diary:

“I leaned against one of the big lions under Nelson’s pedestal in Trafalgar Square, strolled down the mall to Buckingham Palace. I liked the fountain with its scowling men spitting water and clams likewise gushing. Looked through the gate at the man in the silly red suit. People live there?”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

planning the midterm trip

from the diary: “Friday Oct 14, 1988

Julie and I “were in Waterstone’s Book Store looking at guidebooks and she picks up … The Complete Guide to Amsterdam for Gay Men and Lesbians. She notices not the latter part of the title.

“‘Have you looked at this?’ she says.

“‘Yes,’ I say, ‘but you might read the title. I’d be more likely to pick up that book than you.’

“She laughs. As we’re leaving the store she runs this over in her mind. ‘”I’d be more like to pick up that book than you.’” She sort of doubletakes and half-seriously, ‘Why, are you gay?’

“’Yep. That’s what that means.’ I flip off my cap and point to the pink triangle button.

“She says, ‘Does this mean I’m not supposed to talk to you?’

“’No. Unless it bothers you.’

“She’s recovering. ‘No, actually, it might be easier.’”

Julie was about 15 years older than me with two kids at home. (She also had a 20 year old boyfriend.) We both wanted to take a midterm trip through Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam – that was a touring ticket you could buy. Neither of us wanted to go alone so we decided we might as well go together.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Boswell’s London Journal, part IV

from the diary: “Tuesday Oct 11, 1988

“Went to Maria Asumpta Centre & finished Boswell’s journal. Gad but that took a long time. If this diary turns out as uninteresting as his I hope the only people who read it are researchers in biography investigating the minor poets of the late twentieth century. They deserve the stress.”

Monday, September 03, 2007

the diary, 2/25/88 – 10/9/88

The diary opens with the Spring semester at SRJC. I had just been elected president of the Gay & Lesbian Student Union. I roped a young lesbian, Donna D., into being co-president, “welcome to call herself President whenever she wishes,” because I didn’t like the idea of being called the president of anything and because we were the Gay and Lesbian Student Union and I knew seeing men running things always scares off the women.

Got my first parking ticket in March. Expired meter.

More unsatisfying dates. Which had me down. Shortly before I flew off to London for the fall semester a boy developed a big crush on me. I wish I had been into him. Maybe it was just as well. He wasn’t yet 17.

Late in the summer I got a job at McDonald’s. Not the one in Sebastopol. I didn’t want anybody to recognize me. I needed more money if I was going to London. A friend from the GLSU was working at this McD and I was looking forward to working with someone I knew and liked. She quit the day before I started. Four weeks into it I gave my two week notice. Which led to some disgruntlement from my supervisors. Who were nice enough. It was an easy job. I didn’t like the uniform but the work wasn’t bad like I’d expected. I preferred it to other jobs I’d had: dishwashing in a Sebastopol restaurant, flunky at a butcher shop (no, I didn’t do any butchering).

I’ve been quoting a lot from my London diary. Talking more about it would be repeating myself.


Phantasm II
Married to the Mob
Bringing Up Baby (on TV at home)
Big (on the plane to London)
I’ll Take Manhattan (in London, on the TV at friends’ flat)
3 Men and a Baby (in London)

stand-up comedy with Robin Tyler & Linda Gerard (in London)

Mr. Dog (live show in Santa Rosa)
“A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)” by Momus (a song I liked on a sampler album from Creation Records; bought at Tower Records in London)
singles by Big Pig, Housemartins, which I bought from a bin at a street market in London

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Spiral Path

from the diary: Saturday 10/8/88 day 31 [continued]

“Am reading a book by a gay Marxist [David Fernbach]. The Spiral Path. It’s fairly interesting. He advocates the abolition of gender – he also seems to idealize science and says, ‘Any good Marxist must’ look forward to the elimination of sex difference. One sex then.”

Bob Nowlan has an interesting follow-up to The Spiral Path, which you can read if curious.

“In order to even begin to struggle effectively against male supremacy, it is necessary to stop defining oneself as heterosexual,” Nowlan says.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Gay Guide to London

from the diary: “Saturday 10/8/88 day 31”

I met the girls at Hamley’s, the giant toy store. Afterward Shawn and I found a park where we could throw her new boomerang. “Shawn got pretty good. I made an awful job of it; when I threw the boom-a-rang [sic] it tended to come back, hesitate, turn around, then dash off in an entirely new direction – a long way away. Pretty blue.”

That evening I attended the coming out group at the LLGC. Met a 22 year old from Berkeley. And a Canadian “who I developed an instant liking for. It’ll come to nothing, I’m sure; it always comes to nothing.” I left with another Californian, “Franz (looks filipino maybe). We rode the tube in the same direction, sat & talked. He had one of those little Gay Guides to London like mine and he knew of a pub (The Champion) near where he lives. So we dropped in on the spot together – ten min. to closing, pubs close here at eleven. He got somethin’ to drink but I just stood back and felt uncomfortable. Big mass of men, few looking like anything I wanted to talk to (or [presumably] vice versa).”