100 Happy Days: 73

This is going to be meta, I guess, but what made me happy today was getting up to date on several different projects of one type or another. They included updating my Tumblr account. I’d begun putting these #100happydays posts there with that hashtag, but I was, oh, about 43 behind. All caught up now!

This is always a touchy subject with me, because Aries are known as idea people and great starters but poor finishers. I’ve been disproving that theory for a couple of decades, but it’s still a criticism that stings because it contains a stupid grain of truth.

For example, tonight I talked to Marika on the phone and told her an idea I’ve been kicking around for a novel.

“WRITE IT!” she demanded.

“Oh…I had the idea…why don’t you write it?” I suggested.

Aries are also great delegators.

Marika declined.

Hanging on the telephone

I think a lot about technology and how writers use it. Cell phones and the Internet, in particular, have changed the way many of my favorite authors write romance, mystery, and suspense. In young adult fiction, teens and twenty-somethings of the new millennium have very different access to one another and to information than did those of, say, the 1970s. Sometimes technology drives the story, sometimes it’s woven into it, and sometimes a writer has to account for why it’s not working so a character can’t make use of it.

Even with all our technology, all the apps available to us, all the connection and the wealth of accessible information that cell phones, computers of all shapes and sizes, and social media seem to provide us, writers and our characters still grapple with the same human concerns. The desire for love and companionship. Feelings of loneliness or isolation. Fear of failure or irrelevance. Anxiety about growing old or impaired and how that affects our physical and emotional security. Wonder about why we’re here, whether we matter, what we should be doing with our lives and our talents.

In his story “Symposium,” Andrew Holleran deftly allows writers–and by extension, anyone, as we’re all writing our own life stories–to laugh at ourselves (gently) as we navigate our way in a world that’s speeding up while many of us are slowing down (or want to slow down). Two writers, the narrator and his longtime friend Maroney, are sitting by the pool of a Fort Lauderdale guesthouse with other writers and a publisher following an event discussing the past, present, and future of gay books.

But there does come a time [Maroney says] when you really have to ask yourself why you have ended up alone.

Why have you? says our host.

I don’t know. But last night I was lying in bed, wondering, Who do I love? I mean whom.

That’s what I want you to write about, says the publisher. Even though gay men seemed to have stopped reading. Even though the mainstream publishers have given up on us, the bookstores have closed and the gay audience has gone elsewhere.

You mean movies and computers, says our host.

Yes. Before gay books, there was no place to read about yourself or your life. Then came “Will & Grace”—and all its spawn.

The publisher puts down his cocktail and says, “Will & Grace” killed gay publishing.

Everything in your country, says the British scholar, seems to end up a sitcom.

You’re right, says the publisher. How I hated “Will & Grace.” It was so L.A.—so vacuous and bitchy. It had nothing to do with our emotional lives.

But you have to appreciate the challenge they faced, says the young man from Miami. They had to satirize gay stereotypes they knew homophobes would take literally. They had to instigate a discourse within a heteronormative hegemony.

So not what you write, says the publisher to Maroney.

If you’ll forgive my ignorance, says the British scholar as he leans forward, but then I’m a historian, what is it that you do write?

Wistful longing, Maroney says.

Every writer has a tone, says the publisher. Maroney’s is regret.

But, Maroney says, regret is out.

Oh, says the scholar, and why is that?

Gay life is about different things now, he says, it’s about marriage, service in the military, adopting kids, “Will & Grace.” It’s post-gay.

And is wistful longing, says the scholar, pre-gay?


But surely homosexuals have as much right to be wistful as anyone else, says the scholar.

Not anymore.

The wistful longing in Maroney’s books is about being homosexual, about the impossibility of love between two men, says the publisher.

Which is now considered retrograde, says Maroney.

Then why, the British scholar asks the publisher, do you want to start this company?

I want to start this company, says the publisher, because I like wistful longing and regret! Won’t you give me something, he says, turning to Maroney, a book of essays, your collected book reviews? I’d kill to have anything from you on my fall list!

But I don’t have anything, mumbles Maroney against the plastic weave of his chaise longue. I’m dried up.

I’d give you cover approval, says the publisher.

Thank you, says Maroney, but I just don’t have anything…to say, about love or anything else. I’m post-gay.

But your readers need something from you, says the publisher, your readers want to know what you’re thinking. Gay people need someone to describe this hopeless longing, this demented search for love!

Maroney lifts his head like a plant responding to sunlight.

We’re starting to receive reader reactions to the stories in Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction. It’s exciting to hear how the work of these writers is being praised. Tim and I aren’t surprised, though. We’re not just the stories’ editors, we were their first audience and fans. Now that the anthology is available from booksellers everywhere in trade paper and ebook format, you can join us.

Excerpt reprinted with permission from Cleis Press. All rights reserved.

You Don’t Want to Know

When these words circulated around the Internet a couple of years ago, they tickled me for several reasons. My ongoing distaste for many facets of Facebook has been documented so I won’t get into it again. But even though there’s a lot of criticism for the way we use social media to record the “banal” parts of our lives, that actually appeals to me. I like knowing about people’s daily lives and the things that are occupying them. Maybe sometimes those things seem boring or predictable, but what a nice counterpoint that is to the grim realities we get in the news. Especially when people share details of those things that make them happy–the music they listen to, books they read, friends they saw, time with their families, projects they’re working on, fun they’ve had–these things make me happy to know. When they share their challenges or worries, it provides me a chance to offer encouragement or gives me perspective about my own.

However: Would I like to read people’s minds? HECK NO. Our thoughts are still our sacred and private space, thank goodness; we need that. And speaking as an avid reader and a writer of fiction, think of the stories that wouldn’t exist if we were all mind readers. No mysteries. No romances. No suspense. Fiction depends on the secret threads of our lives to weave compelling stories.

Misread signals and misdirected messages are used to humorous effect in Mark G. Harris’s short story “The Green Sweater.” After enjoying a flirtation with a stranger at a party, protagonist Jay becomes the unwitting recipient of too much information.

Jay washed his hands and contemplated his luck. He didn’t have a conceited bone in his body. To his mind, it wasn’t the magnetism of a winning chin, but more likely a kind shove of luck that had propelled him into sublime collision with Doug tonight. No other power besides luck could have dropped Jay within kissing distance of the golden lump of that Adam’s apple above the silk purple knot of Doug’s safety-pins-studded necktie. They’d hit it off. An hour’s conversation was sufficient to make Jay want to mate socks with Doug at a Laundromat years from now. He wanted to steal bacon off of Doug’s breakfast tray. Though modest, Jay was in love with the unfolding idea of Doug and himself getting immodest. He corrected himself; he was in lust with the idea and hoped it might unfold days from now, instead of years, but he was prepared to wait it out.

Jay’s laryngeal musings at the sink might have continued to curlicue unchecked had he not discovered something.

Beside the soap dish stood a folded piece of paper, arched like the roof of a house, or a sawhorse, or a displeased eyebrow. It read, HELP ME!

He opened the note.

If you are reading this you have to help me. This boring guy who is really, really stupid has latched on to me and WILL NOT LEAVE ME ALONE. I’m at this party on my own. I don’t know anybody, so you have to come up to me and pretend you know me and RESCUE ME FROM THIS FREAK. I need a ride home, too. You can’t miss me. I’m the VERY CUTE BOY being tortured by the JERKOFF in the GREEN SWEATER.

Jay placed the note against his chest and examined the hole he’d just noticed in his sweater, near the collar. He also noted, as if seeing it for the first time, that his sweater was the jarring, unnatural color of TV- dinner peas, or golf courses in wintertime.

“So…” Jay said, not really knowing where to go with the word.

You can read the entire story in Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, available now from booksellers everywhere in trade paper and ebook format.

Excerpt reprinted with permission from Cleis Press. All rights reserved.

Five Days to Ponder

Let us live simply in the freshness of the present moment, in the clarity of pure awakened mind.
Matthieu Ricard

My mind is a constant storm of should be/should do/should think/should go. Sometimes that translates into action, sometimes not.

Often I impose structure by using this blog: for example, the year I wrote a poem each day from randomly drawn words; the year I used a family photograph each day to inspire me to record memories or events or observations about my relationships and life. This past year, I opted not to attempt a daily anything here, though I missed very few days of posting something, even if only a photo. Some months I participated in Photo A Day. Throughout the year I also featured books: favorite books, books authored by people I know, books that have meant something to me, books that I found fun, interesting, or insightful.

Also over the past year, I consciously cultivated an attitude of gratitude. For a while, I made daily entries in a gratitude journal (a real journal, not an online journal), and then I realized that I’d stopped because gratitude became ingrained in all my thinking–I no longer needed to write it to remember to feel it. I think that was, too, part of healing from the losses of 2012–and by that I don’t mean there is no more grief or sadness or yearning. Just that it is not as consuming. There is more breathing through it and accepting that it will ebb and flow.

Each year since I moved my blog here from LiveJournal, I’ve let the masthead reflect my purpose. A pile of Magnetic Poetry words. Old family photos scattered on the table. My take on My Ideal Bookshelf. For the past few days, I’ve been wondering what “theme” the new year will bring and how my masthead might show it.

The phrase that stays in my mind as I think about all this is “mindful living.” I keep stumbling over this concept with people I know or meet and with things I read or see. I’ve always believed a message or a lesson comes when you’re ready. But what makes this particularly challenging for me is that I feel it’s a journey I took in the latter half of the 1990s, and it led to a flowering of creativity. Then my energy and focus went in other directions. I don’t see that as bad or good, although certainly there will always be other people willing to tell me–to tell any of us!–You’re doing it wrong. (Tip: This is an ineffective way to motivate an Aries.)

I’m not sure what any of this means. The title of this post is my attempt to make myself feel that I have a deadline. To come up with a masthead. To come up with a purpose for keeping this little bit of the Internet alive. To come up with a plan to live mindfully. That seems a little silly and counter-intuitive: mindful living means being in the moment. Yet here I am trying to take on a whole new year. Maybe I won’t have a new masthead by January 1. Maybe no master plan will have unfurled in my mind.

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s enough just to be. And to know each day may bring a new way to be that I should welcome.

Photos: Sun catcher gift of David and Geri. Book gift of Brad. I’m grateful for both the gifts and the people.

February Photo A Day: Where You Stood

Today I got up very early so I could take my computer to the Apple store because I had some concerns about it. Usually if I have reason to go to the Apple store, I go to the one in the Galleria. But since they’ve opened a store more accessible and closer to The Compound, I decided to go there. I’ve shopped at that store, but this was my first time to use the Genius Bar, and I was able to turn something that should have been easy into a morning fraught with drama.

First, because I didn’t have an appointment, I arrived well before opening time, thinking, FIRST! The doors were already open (Good grief; what retailer does such a crazy thing? I never did.), so I went inside, lugging my computer in its box. The store was already rocking. I needed an appointment and there wasn’t an available slot until one, but since Tim needed the car in the afternoon, I didn’t want to push my luck on the time. So I lugged the computer back to the car with the intention of calling the Galleria to find out if the Mac could be seen sooner there. Only you can’t actually get through to the store; you have to make an appointment online. I went back inside the first store to see if I could just leave the computer, thinking maybe Tim could drop me off later for the 1 p.m. appointment, and the woman who’d talked to me before said, “You came back! We had a cancellation! They can see you at 10:30!”

YAY, right? I went back to the car to get the Mac so I could wait inside for thirty minutes. Except…I’d locked my keys in the car with the computer. I NEVER DO THIS. I called Tom in a panic; his workplace is almost a straight shot from where I was, and traffic was abnormally kind, so he arrived with a key to unlock my car before my appointment time.

I then proceeded to sit there for nearly three hours as my Genius did all kinds of tests and cleaned some stuff off the Mac, but she never found any problem connected to what I was worried about. It was kind of cool as my computer was running scans to watch her help other people and to share computer stories with them in which we, the users, are generally about ninety-five percent of the problem with our computers.

So that’s where I stood today–at the Apple store. As an aside, I’ve read a few bad reviews about both the Galleria and Highland Village stores. I’ve always had great customer service at those stores, both when purchasing something and when needing computer support. Thanks, Erika–you made those three hours fly by.

Prompt from FMS Photo A Day.

I wonder…

I wonder how many people are trying to read my blog and getting a message that it’s been suspended? It was, because it was ruthlessly attacked by malware. It was like something out of Star Wars! But Han Solo or somebody at my hosting site and I spent a lot of time on the phone Thursday morning getting it all fixed. Only if people don’t clear their browser history/cache, whatever it’s called, they’ll keep thinking the account is suspended.

If no one can see my blog, DO I EVEN EXIST?!?

Y’all can totally see me sitting here at my desk, right? Hello? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?