Saturday, 8 August 2020

I, Theresa Tam

despise my name. There should be no ‘h’ in it. The ‘h’ is not pronounced. So why is it there?  I cannot stand things — or persons — that have no reason. Some —many in fact — don’t like the things I say. Too bad. I only speak the truth. I speak science — if I had a gospel it would be that. If people do not wish to listen, it is at their own peril. But much more than that — it is to the peril of others. They call it finger wagging. Hah! For years we wagged our fingers — we warned you about diseases like this, but no one listened. Now are you happy? Of course not. The expectation of happiness is of course ridiculous anyway. I certainly do not expect to be happy, I know that life is not easy, and requires self-sacrifice. Certainly mine has. It’s not easy being ‘Canada’s Top Doctor;’ I toil tirelessly from dawn until dusk, and yet people are often deaf to my decrees. What deluded children they are. Certainly I care. I do nothing but care — but at a distance, not with tears and pity, no — with information. I care with data, I care with charts, statistics, I care with graphs that soar yes —to alarming heights!  Stop this endless partying, socialising, drinking, dancing, singing and God knows what else! I know you have a stupid affection for these things, but you are a long time dead, and more importantly so is your neighbour! It is your neighbour you infect, your neighbour you endanger with your reckless acts! I, Theresa Tam have your best interests at heart. No, I do not wish to be a public spokesperson. I have no vanity. Truth be told, I didn’t used to be this way. I had a dog once. Yes, I, Theresa Tam had a dog! Useless creature. It was a miniature French poodle. Miniature, and French — two quite useless things to be! I thought I loved that dog. Love! How deluded I was. I spit on love, I spit on all French poodles. Well yes I had her put down. Her name was Fifi. Fifi! If you can imagine. I used to coo and cuddle with her, my ‘darling Fifi,’ my ‘gorgeous Fifi’ and I thought this was love — but I’ll tell you what it was! It was germs! I had allowed germs into my life. Yes, yes I was kissing that Fifi. I was kissing that filthy dog on the nose! It was not easy for me to give up something that I sincerely believed was love, but I had to do it, because I, Theresa Tam was kissing an unsanitary thing, all because I imagined it was cute. It was a painless death after all, and ultimately, truth be told — there are too many dogs. The world did not need my Fifi — and she was not mine anyway, she belonged to nature, to earth, to science. Yes I donated Fifi’s body to the study of diseases that are spread between animals — particularly miniature French poodles — and humans! Do you love a poodle? Stop now. I tell you the love of a poodle is dangerous and ultimately lethal. I endured the same thing too, with humans. Yes, I, Theresa Tam was once in love! I did not of course have sex. I am asexual. Sex is pointless because the world is overpopulated. You have an urge? Pah! Repress it. Why must you indulge — what sort of weak thing are you? Think of the diseases, why if I think of them my mind becomes densely populated with the colourful and horrifying images from the pages of medical textbooks. Closeups of rotting, stinking genitalia! No, stop now! Do not put that in your mouth! Would you put a used shoe in your mouth? Would you link a manure plow? Then why would you lick that? Though I am asexual, I am not of course heartless. I am not aromantic. I realise the necessity for romance. Not for me, but for men. Women are strong, they understand science, but men are weak, indulgent, irrational beings, and they need to imagine. The imagination is the culprit really! They feel the urge to imagine castles in the air — perfect endings and dare I say It — perfect ends! I understand that men are by nature unthinking beings, and I therefore, because I am not an unkind person — whatever you say, you cannot, must not say that I am unkind — I will occasionally allow a man to love me. Not because I want to participate in that love -- for I certainly have no need for it. And love has no need for me. It will go on it’s merry way -- wrecking lives and logic and dreaming of everything when there is nothing. I won’t let men get near me, as they have germs, they are worse than Fifi. But I would not have them put down, I would never have a human being put down, even though it is undeniably true that some humans should be put down, painlessly, in a sterile room, with music playing —  perhaps Mozart -- no — just a recording of the ocean, that would be nice — and they would just fade away, because so many people bring so much disease in the world, and spread COVID-19, without masks and without thinking. But I would never advocate mass extermination. I am not a Nazi! I am Theresa Tam, and I have a soul! Yes, people can and must be allowed to live — no matter how stupid, thoughtless and infectious they are. But soon, I hope, for your sake as well as mine — people will learn to follow the rules. Or else. Or else what? I have ways — we have ways — of making you into good and caring people. But please do not ask me exactly what those ways are.  For you do not want to know.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Sometimes there’s God so quickly

— the phrase from A Streetcar Named Desire when Mitch kisses Blanche — though it is called an ‘embrace’ in SparkNotes — and ‘embrace’ is a lovely word. (Sorry I don’t have a copy in front of me.) Williams had a habit of equating sexual ecstasy with divine intervention, and so do I. It seems to make sense that the two come from the same place. But there is also a fear of abandonment here, one has the feeling that Blanche was meant to be abandoned, and I’m not sure where I got the idea I was. One of my therapists said it was my parent’s divorce. But honestly that didn’t bother me once it was over — I never liked my father much, and so was relieved to have him out of the way (what could be further away than Buffalo?). But my therapist said “No, it’s not that — with him gone you only had you mother, and the fear was what would happen if she disappeared?” The thing is my mother was inordinately attached to me — at the hip, as it were — we were a Siamese twin mother and son, and I think I knew that, didn’t I? And was perhaps secretly afraid more of her love for me itself, than of it disappearing? But my (partner/significant other/lover/whatever-term-suits-your-fancy) seemed to love me tonight, or I believed he did, or he was more convincing than usual, or maybe I deserved to be loved for at least a moment, I really don’t know, I really don’t care, but sometimes God does come very quickly, and it was a breath of fresh air. It’s cooler tonight, and it’s been rainy and I have needed something — I think all along I knew it was him, but I was afraid to wonder. The ‘new normal’ has hit him pretty hard, so this momentary flirtation with an angel may turn dreadfully sour at any moment — well there I go again. The problem is that when it’s not all dancing on rainbows I assume that it’s over. I do. I start plotting divorce, loneliness, years alone, walks in the rain. How would I leave him? I will take the cat for sure, that’s what I did the first time I left him, about 14 years ago. I went to our apartment — sorry, that is far too sweet a word — it was a sordid room in a sordid rooming house that we rented — or mostly I did — once a week, in Toronto, so I could proceed with my debauches (with his permission of course). But there wasn’t much actually in that room, so I grabbed the cat and whatever else I needed — a computer I guess, and took the train to Toronto and left him forever. I really can’t explain it. Was it a threat or a bribe? I suppose so, I was very angry for good reason I think, but I’m also painfully aware that I’m no summer vacation to live with. Eventually he came to see me in that squalid room and brought some man to defend him (very much the kind of thing he would do) in case I beat him up. I am constitutionally incapable of beating anyone up (as he knows) so this was a kind of fantasy-compliment. But anyway we made up, and the abandonment was officially over. Though it always looms as something I could do again. For I could leave him (I can’t imagine him ever leaving me) but if I left him it is I who would be abandoned. Explain that? Because my ‘abandonment issue’ doesn’t mean that I worry about specifically being left by things, or people, or institutions, but just that my whole life is uncertain, on shaky ground; everything could fall apart at any moment. Or else it’s the opposite of that, and God is here, and all is right with the world, perfect. This either/or existential dichotomy is apparently very psychologically unhealthy, and not everyone lives this way, as they don’t have abandonment issues. They carry on as if things will continue in the same manner and there is never any threat. This daily ‘something in between agony and ecstasy’ is what I have been told by my present therapist to strive for. But I am dead set against it, inside. Even though intellectually I understand its necessity. This is because my mother’s voice — and I know it’s hers — pops into my head saying quite unequivocally: ‘Don’t listen to them. You are better than that. You are not like other people; you deserve to be ecstatic all the time.” ‘Ecstatic all the time’ — that’s what the little voice  in my head says. And yes my mother was an alcoholic with no friends (duh!) and my therapist keeps saying “and where did that ‘demand for constant ecstasy’ get your mother? And she’s right. But these things are much easier to write about in a blog that you think no one is reading, then they are to convince yourself of. In the meantime I will keep my eye out for God, who does appear in all things — not that kind old man with the beard — he doesn’t exist — but the ecstatic eternal moment that is everything but eternal, that is it is experience, and it only comes occasionally, when you least expect it. But you certainly have to be alive and ready if you want it to happen. The stranger I had sex with last night (no not my boyfriend, this is someone else at the baths later --  keep up!) was just there, which is fascinating; he was absolutely present for every moment of our lovemaking. This is odd to me, as I was kind of drunk of course, but constantly wrenched back to reality by his being there. I’m quite used to having sex with cracked-out guys who are doing some crazy thing over and over again obsessively, banging into my room then running away (you don’t need to know) but this guy was actually present with me and responding, and making it impossible for me not to respond to him. That’s God in my view. Actually being there, not planning the future — or worrying about it — or worrying about what ‘they’ think about you, or comparing them — or the moment — with something else. I am an aesthete, so I’m not going to go as far as to say that I’m in favour of ‘reality.’ Let’s just call it being present in the now. (Because you can also be present in the now with a work of art, because art is, an alternative reality, and not inferior to the one we are prone to calling ‘the real.’) And all  ‘realities’ change into another reality before you know it. So does it follow that anything that takes you away from ‘the moment’ is the devil? But you see there is no devil. You are merely here in the room with me, or you are not.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

I'm trapped

and to some degree it’s due to circumstances of my own devising. I didn’t need to start smoking, but I did — because of COVID-19. But COVID-19 is no excuse, and truth be told I smoked a little bit before anyway (don’t tell my ‘significant other’). Yes it became suddenly this: every day I must have a drink and a smoke (with my friend Denise) or I can’t get through the day. (And she had to listen to me read her this blog, because she’s a very dear friend.)  But that’s weakness, and bad for my health blah blah blah — so I’m trapped into stopping smoking. (I’m down to about a pack a week — yay! — but it will be a torturous last pack.) And bars are still barely open in Toronto, ergo, I'm in Montreal. There are men here, and there is craziness, and the luck of the draw, but I have no friends here, and we don’t have internet access (don’t ask me why). These two traps are thus of my own devising. I certainly don’t need to smoke, and I could afford the internet — but why can’t I make friends? Because I’m a semi-alcoholic (be kind, please) loner who loves crowds, and needs constant stimulation, and very few people are up to either a) providing stimulation for me or b) putting up with me providing it. But then there is another trap, not completely, I posit, of my own devising -- the aesthetic trap, the trap of words — the literary cul-de-sac we now necessarily find ourselves in. I just finished reading a novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim — Vera. You must read it: it’s Jane Austen writing Jane Eyre — a gothic novel with a realistic twist. A woman is trapped into marriage by a man who seems nice but then turns out to be a controlling monster. The last couple of days I felt that this novel was my life. It’s a realistic portrayal of what sexist men do to women; it’s Ibsen’s A Doll’s House written from the perspective of a woman married to a man who will not love her unless she agrees to be infantilised. And what ’s going on now in the artistic community is a kind of infantilisation. I ask you, who can be an artist right now? I know how Shakespeare felt — writers were never to speak of a monarch being deposed unless they wished to be drawn and quartered (except Shakespeare’s Richard II does deal with a deposed  king— we’ll talk about that later) — or what it must have been like to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era. I’m tempted to use a pseudonym because I am to some degree infamous (I understand my fame is quite limited  — I’m not deluded -- I know how small my influence is) and though I’ve always been associated with rebellion — never has rebellion been so rebellious, never has culture been so polarized, and never has the greatest sin been the spoken word. I encountered it first with the trans community, and now with COVID-19. It’s all very claustrophobic and makes me want to run around screaming like Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket  — except that I actually identify more with Eleanor Parker in Caged because I can somehow believe she is actually nice. And I am nice; honestly I am — despite what you've heard to the contrary — I’m nice, but very flawed. (However unfortunately those credentials won’t get you very far these days.) It all started with the trans community,  I discovered I could not speak critically of a book by a transgendered person — Vivek Shraya — without the wrath of the entire internet coming down on my head. (At least that’s what people told me, I don’t do ‘social media’ so I don’t know, honestly. I only went to Facebook once — because someone told me about some praise I had gotten — go figure, doesn’t that just say it all about my narcissism? — only to find Gwen Bartleman, a dear old friend who I loved for so many years, was saying horrible things about me. Well all I have to say to you Gwen Bartleman are two words: 'David Pond.' And to those of you out there who don’t know who David Pond was, he was a kind, gentle man, who died.) Well anyway, apparently the whole digital world caved in around me, and I was a pariah, though Vivek herself never spoke to me — or of me (publicly) as far as I know. Though one of her friends (and mine — a mutual friend) did email me and said essentially: ‘I don’t think Vivek would have minded your blog’ — and they actually cc-d Vivek on the message, which is the closest I ever got to getting a reaction to my blog from Vivek herself. (Gee whiz, maybe we would have been friends if the worldwide web hadn’t intervened!) Anyway, I realised there were certain things you can no longer say about gender without getting your testicles cut off. Then along came COVID-19, and now I seem to be the only person in the world besides some morbidly obese, half-brained, gun-toting Trump worshipper in Omaha who has anything negative to say about Anthony Fauci, WHO or the effectiveness of lockdowns. (Oh yes -- of course an epidemiologist in Sweden — Anders Tegnell - agrees with me, but people seem to regard him as a mass murderer). So I am trapped by language, and this trap is not of my own design. (And yet it is, for I have chosen to speak this way in a kind of jumbled code that confuses memories, stories, poetry, theory, and opinion.) You might say ‘well if only you didn’t have outrageous ideas’ — but I can’t help that. Or ‘why do you have to express them?’ — but that’s me, too, I don’t know where it came from —  I wish I could beat it out of myself, and the world is trying, let me tell you. So the only way out of this trap is this blog (which is also a trap), i.e.,   this futile attempt at saying it but not saying it, at equivocation that can — because of the paradoxical nature of all language — revel only in persuasion and obscurity,  lies and truth. But there is no truth, so how can I claim anything I say here is true? I am trapped by my own trap: in the funhouse mirror universe I call art, where all is distorted and we see — not reality — but a freakish monstrosity which seems -- at least momentarily -- to calm me down. I know I’m not an Edwardian newly married virgin being terrorised by her tyrannical sexist husband, it just feels that way.  But ‘I think therefore I am,’ right?  Though lately I’ve realized that his oft-quoted phrase was, for Descartes, his only escape from being consumed by infernal, eternal doubt. Sorry, Descartes. Doubt will not go away. Though it frightens us all — it is perhaps the wretched key to unlock the door to — what? I won’t say to freedom, but to a place where we might not be quite so certain, again?

Sunday, 2 August 2020

I wish to speak on the subject

of chance and fortune; these notions are not particularly popular these days, and I think that is to our peril. I am not in favour of superstition; to accept that life is often a series of co-incidences — sometimes tragic and sometimes not — is not necessarily to endorse the idea that it can be predicted or changed with a deck of cards or a crystal ball. In fact if we accept chance we can accept life, because that is essentially what life is: change, flux and all the things that many of us dread, especially now. Life is also death as well as life. It cannot be predicted or controlled, ultimately, and it is this idea that is most frightening of all. Is it perhaps the acquisition of certain technological advances that makes us so foolhardy as to imagine we are not ultimately ruled by chance? Obsession with health flies in the face of acceptance of chance and change. Of course we can mitigate certain circumstances — we can choose not to smoke. We can — as we are told over and over again these days — wash our hands. We can put on that condom -- and yet still, somehow, still people die, and no one knows why. And it is especially wounding and terrifying when it is the ones who followed the rules most closely, the ‘good,’ who fall. Shakespeare said “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.” This is a markedly pagan sentiment. First of all Shakespeare says ‘gods’ not ‘god.’ And second, Christianity preaches that even in the most tragic circumstances there is some order or at least justice (i.e Christ on the cross), even if it is of a kind that we are not privy to because it is beyond our comprehension. And Shakespeare’s boys are definitively not adults, and definitively wanton. ‘Wanton’ for Shakespeare had sexual connotations, and also literary ones, in 12th Night (or ‘What You Will’ — a title particularly appropriate to this discussion) Viola suggests that language is wanton, which means that it is promiscuous, that one word may team up with another word and cause trouble. This is all very Derridean in it’s relativism — for we are to understand then that words have no discreet meaning, but only derive their meaning from the context — which is the basis of puns — and why Shakespeare so liked them. ( I promise to stop being pedantic soon). Wit and especially puns were virtually banned in England after 1700 — people were interested in what was called a kinder gentler humour — wit was considered cruel and dangerous. (This reminds me very much of present day trans activists who disapprove of gay camp — well yes it is cruel, filthy, and might incriminate you and everyone else, that’s why I like it...) What I’m saying, is all about — what I’m saying. Speech, in it’s own way — if allowed to have its own way — is as dangerous as life, because words don’t always have reference a single object or clear ideas, they are allusive, and what is allusive is tempting, and may make us laugh, and/or turn us on, and/or make us think about things in a different way; even in a way that was not necessarily intended by the author. If God is an artist then he or she created a world which is deceptive, one whose meaning can be read in many ways by many different people, and one which cannot be necessarily ‘figured out.’ Aristotle attempted to explain tragedy -- I would argue, with limited success. We have no idea what it would be like to sit beside that singing, dancing foot stomping chorus, weeping and wailing with pity and fear in the tribal pit, and it certainly couldn’t have been divided into six elements. Plato banned poets in his ideal school, and quite rightly. But Plato and Aristotle were wrong to think an acceptance of the irrational denies us free will; morality is still necessary, in fact believe it or not I am extremely moralistic and judgmental — but I also recognise such tools can only get you so far. My best friend in my university days --Matt Walsh (where is he now?) -- was obsessed with injustice, and I have always been, to some degree too; at least when face to face with it. I wish I was more altruistic in my justice obsession, but selfishly I specifically abhor injustices done to me, not because of the consequences — I can live with those — but because it’s just not right. People are like the world itself— unpredictable and not to be trusted, but nevertheless to be enjoyed when possible. Last night I was flying on the wings of chance. In Montreal I don’t know a soul and am virtually incapable of starting a conversation in a bar (I tried that once about a month ago and the person seemed, well, disgusted). Anyway I sat down beside what turned out to be an attractive young man (it was an accident believe it or not) at Campus (a strip bar ) and when I was outside having one of the few cigarettes I allow myself, lo and behold he chatted me up. He’s attractive, nice, somewhat effeminate, probably we have nothing in common but strip clubs, but it’s a start. And it just happened; I didn’t make it happen, or do anything other than to be there, as usual. Then later, at the baths, I met Nick Scolaire— God knows, he must be famous, that is I would imagine God knows him. (isn’t that what fame is?) At any rate God had granted him an enormous — well I needn’t go on. But when I entered his room he was balancing a chocolate chip cookie on it. I found this profoundly witty (am I nuts?). I must say I did not eat the cookie, -- that would have been --  I don’t know — too much? (Do I have a right to use that expression about anything at this point?) No I didn’t eat the cookie but — well you get the idea. And he was just something that The Gods had planted there, perhaps to kill me from COVID or AIDs. But remember God is not vengeful, just crazy. I think I am more likely to be hit by a truck then be punished for my challenges to the medical establishment, because that would be a wanton act of the gods. Or I may just fall down the stairs. (I will not, however, be pushed by anyone!) Though many would have good reason to push me down the stairs, I insist that my death will be ignoble and most of all, and will not make any sense, because none of it does. It’s natural to want to protect oneself from disease, it is unnatural to think that the a vaccine will make us all ‘safe.’ There is a freedom that comes with embracing uncertainty — or so they say. — of course I trust ‘them’ about as much as I trust anybody.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

An ‘Ava’ is as ubiquitous as a ‘Karen’

perhaps more so. ‘Karen’ — as we all know by now — is a slang term for a white woman of privilege — someone who thinks she deserves the best of everything. She is demanding and right-wing, perhaps an anti-vaxxer. Wikipedia says the term has become synonymous with.’middle-aged white woman’ which suggests it’s not only sexist but ageist, as it also means ‘bitch.’ An ‘Ava’ is a left wing version of the same thing; but she’s really not the same at all. (I chose ‘Ava’ because I didn’t want to use 'Eve,' as that would be damning all women). The Ava is most commonly employed in politics, academia, or the arts, but you can find her anywhere you find well-meaning, left-leaning people. What distinguishes an “Ava’ from a ‘Karen’ is not only her political views, but the fact that an Ava is definitely not a bitch. She is not rude, quick to anger, or even remotely contrary. You might very well think you are close friends with an Ava. Butter does not melt in the mouth of an Ava; she really is very reasonable, fun, cheery, and seemingly malleable. She even seems to have a sense of humour (but there are, believe me, limits). Such behaviour is de rigueur for left-leaning persons — who generally wish to appear as just ‘folks’ (they use that term a lot these days) — as generous — as opposed to appearing like cold-hearted, greedy right-wing persons. So in one’s daily interactions they are inevitably nice. In other words an Ava is invisible — and quite appealing, until she reaches her breaking point, and that can happen at any time — and believe me there will be no warning. I knew an Ava once who let me chatter on for hours about love and sex (she used to give me rides to work) and then finally at some point — I think it was when I used the word ‘boy’ to refer to a male person (‘boy’ is a term that gay men often use for anyone under 30 — or for anyone who is considerably younger than them. It is not, as in heterosexist culture, a term for a child — nor is it used in diminution or as abuse, on the contrary it often implies great praise). Anyway, I was talking to her about my sexual partners, so I was certainly not talking about a child or even a teenager. But suddenly this Ava was very concerned.” You’re not talking about pederasty are you?” I told her that I was not. And I continued talking.  “I don’t really feel comfortable talking about this, because I have two little girls.” I can’t think what her two little girls would have to do with my crazy debauched love life, but a dark curtain had been drawn; her demeanour was suddenly very severe, and I felt very hurt. I never quite felt comfortable talking with her about anything personal again, and generally came to understand that she saw me only as an old middle-class man; that is I was necessarily an exploitative patriarchal figure, someone not to be trusted, someone from the ‘other side.’ As well all know, this tendency to classify people as either being on one side or the other is a relatively recent development, at least in friendship situations. It used to be a big thing on TV in political debates, but one didn’t expect it do come up while having tea or being driven to work in a friend's Volkswagen. Nowadays someone’s attitude can shift from lovely to malignant with no warning, that is until an Ava lets you know (and believe me, she will). So what is an Ava, exactly? She is a middle-class white woman of enormous privilege, but the hallmark of her personality — the defining feature, is that she does not see herself as a privileged or an ‘entitled’ person, whereas most likely you  — are (at least in her eyes). It’s a tall order to count as ‘lacking privilege’ for an Ava — one would necessarily have to be female, deaf, and perhaps in some other way also — disabled — and a recent immigrant from the third world, and perhaps a trans person? — to qualify. Since the Ava lives her life in the tangled web of victim politics (where so many practice to deceive) she is quick to judge, although, as I say, you may not know you have been judged until you have been cancelled, called out, publicly denounced on Facebook or until, as in my case, she won’t pick you up in her car anymore. But I haven’t really made the defining feature clear. The Ava is not merely politically correct, she is devoted to supporting — but much more importantly speaking for people of colour, trans people, the disabled, etc. — those on the margins of our society. No one can deny that these people need speaking up for, and normally I am quite happy to support anyone who supports those who do not have a voice — but the Ava is unique for not only appropriating the voice of those less fortunate than herself, but for building her life and career on representing them, to the point where she believes she is one of them and that her privilege has been erased.  I know a woman on Facebook who refuses to go to a party if it does not have a certain quota of people of colour (I can’t remember but I’m pretty sure it’s more than 50%). On the one hand, I’m not a fan of white only, un-diverse parties (when I do go to parties) but announcing your virtue everywhere and shaming others who do not agree is nauseating and that is what an Ava, when riled, will do. And it is the ‘riling’ that is a nightmare, for when an Ava rages free — bounding from her self-imposed cage of left-wing sweetness, and comes at you fangs bared, it's an appalling experience-- for you realize that ice runs in her veins. Didn’t you actually like each other? Haven’t you been, to some degree — intimate? But now because she is virtue-signalling her way to becoming the first NDP female prime minister she is all too eager to throw your intimacy under the bus. Nancy Pelosi’s daughter once said her mother could “cut off your head and you won’t even now you are bleeding” and though I adore Pelosi’s politics (and thank God she was there to impeach Trump) these are the tactics of an Ava. I won’t recite any more personal incidents, and please don’t try and figure out who I’m talking about. Ava’s are everywhere these days (it could be anyone) — kind as hell, but waiting to pounce. And when it happens, you will feel not only be depressed and betrayed but deeply shocked at how inhuman human beings can be. I prefer a Karen, when it comes down to it -- at least you know where you stand. When someone openly lies about themselves it should be celebrated and acknowledged as a beguiling and brilliant performance; the tragedy comes only when they  intend us to mistake such lies for truth.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Is this the last summer?

I only ask because everything associated with summer is gone. I remember a summer four years ago in Vancouver, by a pool, with friends; we were at a theatre conference together. These were people I had known for many years — mostly women — we bought food and shared it. I don’t do this often — that is attend a party — I’m mainly alone in groups with strangers. (I don’t know why, because I like parties — but then I don’t, because meeting new people is perilous, being trapped with a bore even more so— I know, awful of me to say— and worse yet is being ‘Sky Gilbert,’ that is, meeting someone who won’t tell me their name, so awed are they by talking with ‘a star.’ I’m not bragging, it’s just a reality and crazy and wrong. I won’t speak to such a person if they don’t identify themselves. And then there is the awful memory of my first gay parties — because in my imagination it was there I would meet men. What frigid condescension and high-school cliquishness! I was immediately excluded, and hurt — no wounded. I only seem to enjoy parties when I am the centre of them, which is sad, I know.) Anyway, here is Lewis Carrol on the end of summer days: “Dreaming as the days go by, / Dreaming as the summers die: / Ever drifting down the stream— / Lingering in the golden gleam— / Life, what is it but a dream?” I’m talking about touching,  cavorting, swimming (naked?), being less than six feet away from each other, sharing food, kisses, drink, drugs, and who cares what else? I don’t see the new normal ever disappearing as this paranoia about human contact is not only related to our increasingly digital lives, but to increasing paranoia about disease. I do not see the world getting less infections, but more so. (Not in reality, in fantasy. But, fantasy is all that matters.) Who knows whether we will be living in a more or less ‘infectious’ time, nevertheless living and breathing will be perceived as essentially dangerous, and other people perceived as potential agents of harm. We are biologically wired to fear difference, so it’s a hop skip and a jump to this particular brand of madness. We can talk about anti-racism forever but if we are pretending to embrace the ‘other’ but simultaneously viewing every stranger as a potential carrier of the plague, our pious social justice platitudes will have no effect. The 50s notion of the ‘family’ — has also made a return. One is safe in it’s ‘bosom,’ while God knows what kind of abuse, at worst —  or emotional manipulation, at best — is going on there. But it’s all misery. We are ordered to love our families though they are often more strange to us than those with whom we are not yet acquainted. The bond of ‘blood’ is insidious and the very source of hatred. But all this valorization of the family heralds our upcoming winter; it’s best to scurry home every night, and not look about. We’ll turn on the lights and start the fire in our little safe cave — a bulwark against the dangers of touching, drinking, carousing, singing, and dancing. I echo Nashe’s sentiments from “Summer’s Last Will and Testament”: “Go not yet away, bright soul of the sad year; The earth is hell when thou leav'st to appear.” Summer is gone, we must try and forget it ever happened. But I’ll always remember that party by the pool where we laughed quite cruelly, viciously even, at others, we laughed at Brendan Healy and his gang of beautiful boys who swam nightly and didn’t seem to want to talk to us, we laughed at anyone who was not there and was our perceived enemy, and we also knew of course that we were wittier and more profound than anyone, for nothing seems quite as charming as that which happens on a summer night. Last night ‘beauty’ visited the baths. I was in my room minding my own business, and I saw him approach. Was he a stripper who had gotten lost somehow? What was he doing there? And why was he looking at me? He entered and I was all over him; doing things he very much wanted to have done to him — if I was to believe the noises he was making. I won’t go on — but it was heaven and then after getting into a few of odd positions and situations, he was very nicely and apologetically gone. I went to shower a few minutes later, but I could not take one, because he was about to get into into it with someone else. And this is the image that will stay with me — the future smile from this summer night: because whoever he was climbing into the shower with was not, obviously, protesting. Why would they? It was a minute epiphany: this is what it means to be young and gay and beautiful (for I never was) and to know that if you are in a sexual environment (and even sometimes not) you have absolute license to invade anyone’s personal space, to start kissing anyone, because quite simply everyone not only wants you, but can’t get enough. So partly it’s never having been that young man and never having had that experience, but it’s also knowing that’s the way things should be — for everyone — at some time or other. And if not, that’s somebody’s fault. What a crime to tell you my dirty stories in the middle of a COVID Summer of suffering! But remember, it’s not really summer, if you’re not gathering freely (shall we call it) if you’re not getting into some sort of mischief, even if it’s just badmouthing somebody with a drink in your hand under the stars. It will all be a dream, some day, a remembrance, so I wanted to say goodbye. It’s not easy. Lewis Carroll again:  ‘Still she haunts me, phantomwise / Alice moving under skies / Never seen by waking eyes.” We shall not be awake but we shall know that summer exists always in our minds eye  —  not just  to help us cope — but so that we might enter it through a private door, when are sitting home, snug and cozy, content with the morally approved loneliness of society’s chosen eternal winter.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

To call it the end of reason

 is too dramatic; let’s just call it — ‘Sky doesn’t want to write essays anymore.’ This means I am announcing my abhorrence for a certain structured, cohesive, argument that is persuasive, but only to the extent that it is logical. No, that’s not for me. So you can hold it against me if and when I write one; but I really never want to again. I didn’t want to end my endless Plague Diary either, but I didn’t know what to do. So I’ve settled for this —which is something else, certainly not the same — but inspired by it somewhat. I feel that ‘reason’ is over, for me. Much the same way it was over for the Dadaists after the World War I; they saw the carnage, so many young men exterminated, and why? Has ‘reason’ led us here? We must have something else, the unreason; the ‘unart.’ But I don’t think art has anything to do with our present dilemma, or rather it has everything to do with it but in a very sly way. Art — as I knew it, is over — the dream, the fantasy, the made-up concoction, the candy floss or perhaps nightmare artificiality, we will have none of that. We demand a lecture on environmentalism, preferably delivered from a podium by someone who is perhaps grandmotherly, and reassuringly inept, but well intentioned. We demand right-mindedness. Indeed we want to be corrected and art must scold us, it’s all ‘teach’— the delight has never been so far away. So just as art has become a statement of truth,  our real life has become fiction. We consume it every day, it’s what constitutes most of our so-called lives, in the form of pornography, Netflix, Apple News, and social media. COVID-19 has taught us the digital world is the only safe place, and that it is a very appropriate replacement for reality. This is the truth, it must be, because our computers are the only place we dare to live. So consequently to write a well-reasoned essay on the subject of COVID-19 — or anything else — is no longer helpful. As I am a Covid Radical (I think shutting down our whole society is a big mistake) you will disagree with me; but most likely you will not argue. That is something people used to do, when there was ‘reason.’ You will be shocked, or most likely just laugh at me in a shocked way — ‘that’s ridiculous, you’re ridiculous, I won’t even dignify your idea with a response.’ Oh yes and: ‘What you’ve said is dangerous, do know that?’ — the requisite distrust of my actual person. Perhaps I am a child molester —certainly I am causing danger to others by having such ideas, or at least ’mentally ill’ in a very unbenign way. The argument from intimidation is the only argument we trust; ‘if he says that, he must be bonkers.’ All this is a very reasonable excuse for being unreasonable, but to speak frankly (why not?) I’ve never really been very fond of reason, and felt I was masquerading as a boring, predictable, ‘nice’ person — very unlike my real self — every time I wrote an essay. (But Shakespeare doesn’t count; I will write essays about Shakespeare, but not here, because Shakespeare is sacrosanct, don’t ask me to go on about it, that’s just the way it is.) No. The writing of ‘articles’ is a ‘hat’ I don’t want to wear. It just won’t work anymore. (Truth be told it always felt kind of ‘heterosexual’ to write an essay that made a whole lot of sense.)  All media has become underhanded, no one is reporting news or presenting arguments (or if they are no one is listening). What we have is much more eloquent: photos — or better yet videos — of children with inflamed limbs from COVID-19 (a fantasy that doesn’t exist). This speaks much more eloquently than any rational argument. So what will I put in place of an essay? Not art (that’s not what this is) instead a kind of unexpurgated, unwanted, un-asked-for, ultimately unnecessary and certainly not in any way useful regurgitation of my personality, my feelings, impressions, hopes, fears, what turns me on (God help us!).  It will quickly separate the adults from the children. It will be a kind of spilling of myself — yes orgasmic (sorry). It will be like Jack Kerouac’s endless typing on a scroll — I think it was Capote who called in typing not writing — so this may be just that. And inevitably, it will be very personal and very self-incriminating. Because it’s time for self-incrimination; writing which does not do that no longer has any value. Reasoned criticism has become character assassination, so let’s get my self-immolation out of the way. I hereby assassinate myself, I am an untrustworthy narrator, I am not a ‘good’ person, I have endless faults, I am narcissistic and insensitive, I love very unwisely and not very well. There is no reason to admire me (but I’m sure you’ve figured that out) best to be suspicious, I have my own motives, and could be — in fact am — trying to put one over on you. I think this is how we should approach every piece of writing, and especially anything that purports to be truth or dispassionate observation. This writing is not the truth, it is simply my truth (unless I’m lying, or even when I am). I was sitting in Union Station yesterday looking at the tiles on the columns. This was after having discovered that the humungous men’s bathroom (there must be 20 toilets in there —counting the urinals) is only — by order of the Covid Police — to have 2 people occupy it at a time. Anyway, so I was idly staring at the tiles, thinking about this, and the ceramic tiles reminded me of something else very tedious — the time my father invited my sister and I over to his house to meet his second wife. She was much younger than he was, and more beautiful, and my father had decided that in order for us to have something to do and mitigate the awkwardness, we would all sit around together and glue ceramic tiles to his new coffee table. I needn’t tell you, it didn’t work. Whenever I see ceramic tiles I think of that evening of terrifying, fraught dullness. So now I am in Montreal and the night is endless and mysterious, and it’s not at all like Ontario. There are no ceramic tiles anywhere to be seen — except those that someone has either thrown at the wall in a rage, or vomited there, and all I can hope for is that the possibilities here are endless.