Saturday, August 15, 2009

A mid month obsession update, brought to you by yard sale weather

Today has been yard-sale day in Bernal Heights!

A recipe for neighborhood mayhem. Everyone is out in their skimpiest, summer-worshipping threads, treasure-hunting their way through the highlands of Bernal, stopping to drink iced coffee, buy flowers and rifle through our books. I've been slain by honey-dripping stares, made dizzy by breaths pickled in booze, made flabbergasted by the demands of the occasional madman.

All in good fun.

I also hear it's national relaxation day. I'm doing that now, in my window nook study, sipping "sweet-spicy" tea, jumping between different pieces of writing. In a little bit I might walk up to the hill and stare at the water as cypress-tinted breezes tickle my arms. I might lay in the grass too. Today has been busy in a good way. My legs hurt contentedly. My mind hums pleasantly. My senses feel grass-fed and wild-roaming.

This morning my bookstore, which is right in the center of the yard sale circuit, was selling books by the pound. I was there, making signs and weighing books and helping people. We had an antique scale and we had boxes of books out front in the sun and the streets filled up and people dove through the boxes and filled up the store eagerly and hungrily. Some doubted the accuracy of our scale. Most were thrilled. It was controlled chaos and it was wonderful. I love the improvisational flourishes of the job and, in a larger sense, this neighborhood.

Improvising and thriving on chaos are two things I need not forget how to do. Especially as my manhood becomes a fuller and richer reality, with new challenges and new ways to resist.

The sun is still out but I'm inside for awhile, not wanting to be tempted by commerce. I like using my study too. It's odd being inside sometimes. I've gotten used to wanting to escape my house. Now it feels like a refuge from other refuges. A persevering chain of refuges.

At our book sale, I weighed an immaculate copy of Sexual Personae. It weighed one pound. I paid a dollar for it.

Here's the first paragraph:

"In the beginning was nature. The background from which and against which our ideas of God were formed, nature remains the supreme moral problem. We cannot hope to understand sex and gender until we clarify our attitude toward nature. Sex is a subset to nature. Sex is the natural in man. . .Society is an artificial construction, a defense against nature's power. Without society, we would be storm-tossed on the barbarous sea that is nature."

I have never read her, I only know she is considered provocative and controversial. If her thesis is that art arises from pagan chaos, then I can whole-heartily agree.

I've decided that Camille is a good name for a female character too. I also like names like Octavia, Esther, Rose and Lynne. Right now, I'm trying to visualize a novel protagonist who looks like and has the same nervous energy as a certain Crispin Glover.

I'm working on too much: short stories, the beginning of a novel and several long-winded episodes from an "apocryphal memoir". Maybe that's the most fun project of the moment, fun in that it reeks of pure self-indulgence and spins on a typical obsession: reading. Oh, reading and "desiring". Moreover, learning how to desire. What to desire. Who to desire.

I mean, who teaches us what we want? I think books have taught me a lot worth sharing.

My idea for this "memoir" which I call apocryphal just to be a pain in the ass, has coincidental resonance with a recent memoir by Nathan Rabin, a writer for the Onion. His book, The Big Rewind focuses on particularly formative and traumatic parts of his life through the lens of certain cultural works that he enjoyed at the time, like Dr. Dre's The Chronic or the film Grey Gardens. It is, he claims, a "memoir brought to you by pop culture."

Now what I have in mind is slightly different: more about books, for better or worse, and certainly far less traumatic, at least based on what I've read about Rabin's life and the disease, madness, homelessness and incarceration that has colored it. I just want to talk about times in my life through the filter of books I've loved and learned from.

This seed might have been planted when I read Henry Miller's essential The Books In My Life.

I hope to limit this to several long essay-stories, including one about queer culture in San Francisco, the long, weird summer and fall of 2001, learning about Death in college, figuring out what Sleaze means in high school, and getting my haircut and talking to my hairdresser about failed affairs, lurid liaisons and ridiculous misunderstandings.

All with books throughout. Ok, then. . .onward!

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