Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Mar

                                                                     (For John)

mar   (mär)

tr.v. marred, mar·ring, mars
1. To inflict damage, especially disfiguring damage, on.
2. To impair the soundness, perfection, or integrity of; spoil.
n.
A disfiguring mark; a blemish.
[Middle English merren, from Old English mierran, merran, to impede.]




mar

amb. Masa de agua salada que cubre gran parte de la superficie terrestre:
nadar en el mar;
los pescadores se hicieron a la mar.
Abundancia de algo:
mar de dudas.
a mares loc. adv. En gran cantidad:
está lloviendo a mares.
la mar de loc. adv. Mucho:
es una casa la mar de bonita.





The breeze tugged absently at the linen wrapped around her shoulders, a flowing slash of red in the dark navy night. She pulled tighter with jewelled fingers, her feet gliding across the cobbles with intent and purpose, but always with grace. 

She pulled at the gate and greeted the guard with his flame-licked torch, who waved at the guard in the tower some distance away. The orange glow waved back, and the guard turned his head at her. She gave him a half-hearted smile and touched his arm slightly, before gripping at her shawl and disappearing into the night. 

At the bottom of a small set of steps she removed her sandals, and left them there. She looked up at the sky beating with stars, tiny blurs of memory, a million gods' eyes bearing down on a world where her sole existence was her longing. She looked at the outline of the closest towers to her, burning watchfully at the top of their turrets, all along the coast. She noted the irony that the hope for the men in the towers was to not see a ship approach, and her greatest hope was to see one. 

Her feet were grasped by sand now, the journey slower. The more she hurried, the more she sank into the earth. Her anklets chimed with her paces, and the rings on her toes would probably be lost to the beach. The open-mouthed water-filled lungs of the sea breathed at her, the brine on her face, the salt on her lips, her destination teased her. 

She thought back to her rooms this evening, where after a dinner with her stomach tied up in knots she had managed some pleasant conversation and a few mouthfuls for the sake of appearance, until the opportunity of rushing back to sanctuary, her handmaidens a billow of silk behind her. 

Large wooden doors closed with a stated thump behind her, they began to work on this ritual that had taken up every evening for the past few moon cycles. Tonight was a sliver, darker than most and like every other night they begged her not to go, that she would be lost to the sea or a vagrant. She had every argument covered until it had exhausted her, she had now taken to not even replying. They knew to do her bidding, but the tears in their eyes remained, torn between duty and love for their mistress. 

Stripped of her formal attire, she had been bathed in warm goat's milk, wisps of burning sage wrapped around her while she looked up at the sky through the star-shaped openings in the ceiling. She thought about what life wanted for her, what she was enduring and how she could appease the divine. Goats had been slaughtered, food had been offered. She had covered her face in ash and wailed until she collapsed. Now there was this, and the thing that had endured the most. She would wait for him at the shore. 

She closed her eyes in the bath while two girls attended to her hair, packing it tightly with rhasool mud, and cleaning it out with warm fragrant rosewater. Tightening the thick black braids with a polish of argan, threading through small ringlets of gold, and to the forehead drops of honey. They took her out of the milk and rubbed her skin dry with cotton, massaging olive oil into her, skin like deep sunsets. 

They attended to her eyes with thick kohl, her lips brought to life with crushed powders married to water. Her cheeks beheld the dignity of her station, but her eyes betrayed her always on these nights, dark pools of want from which there was no hope of rescue but the promise of a man returned. 

Gold and jewels on each finger and toe, precious wealth on her wrists and ankles. One of her handmaidens felt almost obliged to tell her she looked like she was ready to greet a king, and then realised that is exactly what she was doing. 

The dress was white, with linings of gold thread, a fantasy of layered cotton she had worn every night for countless nights, that she had worn on the day he had left her at the shore and she would wear every night until it fell apart. Finally, around her arms the scarlet bronzed wrap of linen he had presented her with the night before he had set sail, the greatest treasure in her land. Everything else could burn to ruin, she would fight for the sanctity of his last gift. Every night she slept with it, refused to let it be washed for fear of being damaged, scented it lightly with the smell of him, lime and pepper, lavender and sandalwood. 

Every night this walk outside the palace, to the beach beyond the gate and the people who looked at her with pity and awe. Deep down, there was something else to this nightly pilgrimage, an escape from those who thinking themselves sensitive told her how brave she was, or asked her how she was, who condescended to her emotion like they knew he felt. Nobody knew, and that was a selfish emotion evoked in her, but that was the state of her grief.

The sand was wetter now, the waves between her toes like water gods gasping for tribute. She thought the major concern for others was that she might give herself to the sea. That she somehow knew he had done the same, but she knew he hadn't. The day he died she would also, she would be walking along a courtyard and she would simply drop dead. That was the way it worked, two threads entwined into each other so essentially there was no way of seeing the join.

She knew that if he was to come it would not be to this deserted private beach, but to harbour. There was no logic in waiting for him in the clothes she had worn the day he left, other than to satisfy her own deep longing. In this way, she felt he would recognise her, had she somehow changed in these months of his departure. 

She thought of him not on a ship making his way back to her, but on the crest of a wave. Triumphant in battle, upon a white horse to seek his beloved. she dared not think him weary or damaged, it would not do to be witness to his suffering. She thought of him at his best, skin sleek liquid embers, arms strong in their holding. His eyes were the entirety of the universe in its being gazing back at her like nothing was ever to be spoken again.

She sat on the beach, braving adversity of temperature. She threw a flower at the water, a small form of pink in tribute to the deep obsidian she felt so jealous of. The water had seen him, as it travelled across the distance to where he might lay sleeping. If she could only dip her fingers in and become one with the sea, she could feel beyond the shadow of his place in the world and although not together the unknowing would make the scar upon her chest a little less expansive. 

She sat until sunrise, worn in shield of burgundy to see the day break across the water's edge, like it had swum in ocean depth and arose to dry. Stumbling home to a bed that consumed her in it's emptiness of one, finally too tired to think.  

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Threads


There's something that has always summed up my relationships, a line from Radiohead's Karma Police:

"For a minute there I lost myself, I lost myself..."

With two lines of losing yourself for emphasis. It's the main reason my writing has been patchy, I run away into the sunset and my shadow stretches long. I haven't written for a while for the exact opposite reason, everything seems upside down these days. I feel good though, like the sea is a warm bath.

The dating column this was supposed to be has instead gained new life on an online magazine. Vada Magazine if you care to have a look. The column is called Hello Neverland, and I'm on about my fourth column but it's been quite a ride. Between, living, writing, editing and shameless self-promotion on a weekly basis, it takes up a lot more time than I ever could have. It actually feels like work, work I love nonetheless. I am in a happy place, but misterpalazzo.com has remained a touch neglected.

I woke up the other morning with sunshine streaming through the window, one of those hazy late mornings that steer into noon and there's nowhere to be but the womb of your blankets. Once I made it into the hallway My flatmate was playing Alanis Morissette, more notably Princes Familiar from MTV Unplugged. For most of my teenaged years I was completely obsessed with Alanis Morissette. She is the reason I started writing poetry, the soundtrack to my every heartache. Hand In My Pocket remains the song that best describes the person I am.

Somewhere along the way I lost that, I stopped listening to her, I stopped relating. Now I listened to the lyrics and related again. Yes, you grow up and you grow out of things, other things come into your life. There's an essence that's completely me though, the chunks I most happily give up at the altar of a man. I've spent the past year finding them again, realising I can make them fit with all the new things.

I was never pretty or stylish, those are new concepts in my life. The power of them slightly intoxicating, I have enjoyed bathing in those waters. At the age of nineteen I picked up a comic book again for the first time in a while and I have remained firmly in love. The past few months have seen me writing on a consistent basis. I'm piecing it all together, there is nothing I have to give up.

My flatmate's boyfriend has come of his books and DVDs on a shelf in the living room. I look at them and realise at some point they could have been mine, many of them I have read and owned and loved. Books on ancient aliens, conspiracy theories, religion, spiritiuality, Buddhism, philosophy, works by Joyce and Murakami, Alice In Wonderland, old beautiful editions. Japanese horror dvds and intense psychological thrillers. My depth, I gave up my depth and let it fly out the window.

I'm reading Patti Smith's Just Kids. I spent the entire afternoon reading yesterday, my legs propped up on the wall and the window wide open just like when I was fifteen years old and I found my father's vinyl copy of Radio Ethiopia.

Is it the third eye? You can look out the window and spend ten minutes observing the way the tree moves it's leaves in such beauty you want to cry.

I walked around the city today, I love that I live here. You can get so caught up on the minutiae of your daily bread that you forget the splendour of your environment. The walk from London Bridge through Borough Market, past the Globe Theatre and into the Tate Modern. You can't not walk in, you can't just pass it by. Except this time I go straight for my beloved Rothko Seascapes.

I see more this time, in that dimly lit room. It's not just movement and brushstroke, in the empty colour square I see figures, I wander deep inside and see my own life reflected. I used to stare at the curtains at night as a child and see figures, stories and strange visitors. Out of the corner of my eye I see a girl fixing her make-up using the front camera of her phone. For her it's just a bunch of colour, her lipstick is the world. For me the world is inside that square, and I feel a stirring like the religious fervour I have always wanted and have never been able to possess.

I am not giving this up.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Subject Of The Dream Is The Dreamer


There's that wonderful moment of half-sleep you can taste in your mouth, where the covers are soft against your warm body and the air outside is slightly chill. Not enough to be unpleasant, but a drop that makes you want to stay in bed, toasty warm.

This is not just a feeling I get on rare mornings, but it is the way my interior reacts when I am surrounded by literature. There is no place on Earth more pleasant to me than a bookstore or library. Creativity is pleasing to my ear, and this week I have felt completely immersed in the craft of writing by others. It has recharged me, washed over me like that tenderness of snuggled morning.

I had the pleasure of attending an evening with Joe Hill at Foyle's bookstore in Charing Cross Road. It is still a wonder to me to live in this city, to have such things at my doorstep. My parents inform me I was three years old when I learned to read. It is my first and most enduring love, it has given me everything. Not once have I attended an author's signing, and Joe Hill's fantastic work on Locke & Key inspired me to see him.

I can't say I'm one for having my book signed, for standing there and requesting that a writer sign a million books for the sake of vanity, or worshipping at the altar of celebrity. As much as there are many people I admire, respect and seek out for their work, I really do feel they are people and not objects of bizarre veneration. Would I love to sit and have a coffee with Joe Hill and discuss his craft? Absolutely. The notion of fandom, however, to turn up dressed up as a character and gush about my love for him is a little bit uncomfortable.

So this is the closest I was going to get to meeting the man and picking his brain a little. Above all, I wanted to hear him read from his work. He turned up in the room, all six foot plus of him completely at ease with the world, and under the guise of just being a big geek there is a man in control of a rapt audience, diffusing tensions with a deft wit and a relaxed tone. He read for about fifteen minutes, voices and all, enjoying the experience for what it was. He spoke about writing, and I felt the yearning inside me that this is what I want from life.

I had one resounding thought in my head the entire time. "This is going to be me one day". Not "I'd like to be there one day" but the constant feeling that all my life, the universe has conspired to push me towards a place where one day my profession will be that of a successful writer. I don't feel like this is me staring up at the stars from my bedroom window anymore, this is me putting into action and making it happen.

I've been listening to a lot of interviews with writers too, and reading a biography on Coco Chanel. I feel that opportunity comes and you grab it, then the rest is just a rollercoaster of right timing and hard work. Kevin Smith has a great Batman-centric podcast where he interviews some notable creative people around their involvement with Batman. The best part is the comfortable atmosphere inspires length and depth during these interviews, warm conversations that run for hours.

Grant Morrison's interview instilled me with the notion of higher purpose, of going out there and experiencing the world in all it's wonder, connecting with people and unplugging myself from the mundane bubble, that work/sleep cycle where you live for a job that pays the rent but ultimately nourishes you with little else.

Geoff Johns' interview reminded me that nothing should get in the way of your dreams and goals, that you create opportunity for yourself and above all you make it work. From being jobless in LA to chief creative officer of DC Entertainment in about fifteen years is quite the accomplishment.

Dreaming big, working hard.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Shadow


I've been thinking a lot about emptiness recently. What emptiness looks like when coupled with want. You're walking down the street and someone walks past with the most beautiful shoes and you think you need those, and how bad do you look. Except these days you can look in the mirror and feel and look well, these days you can appreciate what someone else is doing conscious of the fact you are doing your own thing. You cannot be everything, and something always gives.

It is so easy to be objective in your advice. You're sat in a bar at one in the morning with a beautiful boy telling you how he doesn't feel good enough, how he let a man control him and how even now brave faces aside he just can't let go. So you think incredulous thoughts about how this boy could have everything, why get hung up on some loser? It was never that simple working it for your own life was it. The thought hits you like a bullet.

Are we conditioned towards longing? They make for the best songs, but when you were sixteen and pined for something, then it was something else a month after the songs on the radio could be shut off at will. Your dreams are haunted now, no matter how hard you push your body to quiet your mind.

Let me tell you what real emptiness looks like, it is death. One day you are here and the next you are not, and to let that invade you might throw you into non-action. Does the imprint you make on the world matter when you are dead? Here is the emptiness, the thing you have not defining what you are. When you are single you are defined by the lack of a partner. When you are an atheist it is the lack of your faith. The opposite of love being indifference.

I dont think it is my own death that drives me, however much is disturbs me that one day I will stop existing, and there won't be a bargaining chip or moment of clarity that precedes it. It will be like turning off a television mid-sentence, or during the advert breaks. God flicks the remote and you're done. This doesn't make me want to live any harder, it terrifies me so badly if I dwell on it more than stray thoughts I would not move from the bed.

Some nights as I fall asleep I wonder if this is what dying feels like, and bring myself out of half-sleep with a scream. A real, loud, completely petrified scream that disrupts my sleep until I escape into the fantasy world of whatever book or comic or radio show I have to hand.

The real emptiness that drives me are the people who are not here anymore, those who can't do the things I can. I run for those who cannot run.

I walked through Portobello pushing my grandmother along in a wheelchair. My grandfather had died three weeks before, I have never seen a person with a broken heart before. She has lost her entire life, and she sat there looking around at the day telling me how sad she felt that she can barely walk. That she would walk these streets with my grandfather, together, hand in hand.
The emptiness, it is consuming.

I think there's a secret to life and it isn't that complicated. The secret is happiness. The meaning is happiness. Sustainable happiness, not the temporary high chasing from shopping or alcohol. To live in the moment, to see the moment for what it is and not be waiting for the next moment. To be healthy, to be happy, to be grateful and well-fed with a roof under your head and clothes on your back. To laugh often, and see wonder in your day. To not let power and glory and status and more money get in the way of your friends, your family, your life and your rest.

I feel like I need to take a risk towards happiness, or rather to keep my happiness going. I want to be in constant motion, to fill my pot with so much light that when emptiness comes I'll give it a damn good fight.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Murdering Phantoms (In Search Of Lost Tribes)

(With thanks to Hayley, Luke, Gareth and Pete for putting it all together.)


The day is full of such possibility when you can take a train into the heart of London. Each free day brings
with it the formations of a plan which lazily coils around your brain like an afternoon nap in the heat of summer, hazy in bliss as you work through your day.

I always have a destination in mind, and from there my experience of London stretches out into a day's worth of adventure until I have to consult the internet to make plans more concrete. Abstract concepts turn into train lines in colour.

The air of liberty and daring takes me on this day though. I only have one small thought in my head, which is to visit Bloomsbury. I haven't been in a while, and not since I moved to London proper. I've heard there's a cartoon museum there, and I love the peacefulness there, the simple evocative beauty of Russell Square with it's literary history. Bloomsbury has a genuine love of books ingrained into it's very pavements.

My online map tells me that from Euston I can walk to Bloomsbury, which makes me happier than sitting on a train for any longer than I have to. I wonder how anyone survived before mobile phones, and feel slightly wistful at the thought of the days when you would get lost, or the fact if you ran away into the city for a day nobody would be able to reach you.

I have my first payoff for having walked instead of taking a train. Once outside of Euston, the splendour of the British Library greets me, and I can't help but wander into it's courtyard, with an enormous sculpture of Newton crouching in intent study, completely ignoring me as I walk past his imposition. People sit relaxed in the cafe, and I think this is a place I will definitely visit again.

Once inside, I am a little overwhelmed at what exactly I can do here. I don't know how much it's like a normal library, and if I need some sort of membership. It's busier than I expected, and I feel like I should the library side of things to another day. There's an exhibition on propaganda but I am feeling broke, and instead stumble across a free exhibition on crime novels. This is my religion, rows and rows of rare books and first editions celebrating literature. I forget how much I love crime novels, and the fact I haven't read one in a while.

Like every teenager, I fell through phases of loving Britney Spears, The Spice Girls or Leonardo DiCaprio, but what set me apart were my intense crushes and obsessions with literary figures. At the age of ten, when everyone's sole focus was doing their best moves to Shake The Room by Will Smith, I was battling with my religious beliefs, head over heels in love with the X-Men and at the complete mercy of William Shakespeare. By the time I was thirteen years old, it was Thomas Harris and Agatha Christie I was reading by torchlight until well past my bedtime.

I make a few notes on authors I really have to read (PD James, Paul Auster, James Lee Burke) and move onto a spectacular exhibition with the many treasures the British Library has to offer. I am slightly giddy at seeing a 14th Century copy of Beowulf, ancient copies of the Bible, and Lady Jane Grey's prayerbook. It still floors me that we house such things, and that they are available so freely to be viewed and appreciated.

I carry on walking down towards King's Cross St. Pancras, and fall in love with what I think is the most beautiful building in London I have seen. The Renaissance St. Pancras Hotel is an enormous fairytale building of red brick and meticulous detail. A man behind me comments at his wife, as we both come into view at the same time and the architecture hits you across the cheek. "Now that's a hotel".

I've left my headphones at home, in a conscious effort to be present in the moment and to be an active part of life. I take delight in the little conversations I hear ("He's cute but he looks like Justin Bieber!"), and the conversations I don't. I realise I am a little lost and going in the wrong direction, and I love the sidestreet I take to get to my destination. Saturdays in London should be full to the brim, but it seems there are areas so leafy and quiet and full of peace they've almost been laid out for me. I spot small cafes and delis, and an immaculate french bakery with wrought iron chairs and tables outside. Beautiful apartments, each of them labelled "mansions" with precise mosaicwork on the front. A basement apartment where someone has taken a marble head off a statue and placed it on the sill outside, looking into their kitchen window. The front door opens to one apartment building and an impossibly beautiful blonde young woman tumbles out, entirely composed of legs stretched out in black leggings, handbag skimming on the crook of her elbow and mobile phone in the other.

Bloomsbury greets me in shock, with the Brunswick, a strange mixture of shopping centre, square, cinema and apartments straight out of the Jetsons. It is entirely at odds with the landscape, like a spaceship reneged from an eighties sci-fi film and life was built around it.

 I buy some food from a supermarket and find Russell Square, happy to see there are plenty of benches. People walk their dogs, children play in the grass, and others sit on benches reading, musing, smoking and eating. Virginia Woolf would have sat here once, contemplating life and her next set of books. There is a deep sense of awe in this, I feel her speak to me without words somehow. I am entirely at peace with the world and myself, sitting by the fountains watching people pass by and reading my book.

I wander up Marchmont Street, flowing out of my fuzziness and loving the little street, not quite as happening as Brick Lane but with so much charm and wonder of it's own. I walk into Gay's The Word, a bookshop I would love even if it wasn't gay. Small and cosy, simple yet warm in it's arrangement. It even has the old school loveliness of a creaky door to announce your arrival, and find yourself with the biggest smile from the man behind the desk.

The music is always impeccable, and today they don't disappoint with Lana Del Rey. The place is queer to the very floorboards, and I love it. In the back corner two women discuss how hard it is to be black, Christian and lesbian while I look at the secondhand books and smile to myself. This constant identity search, it never goes away. I think one day it will all click in my head and I will go "this is who I am, and that's that" but everything shifts, everything changes. I think the only thing that clicks in my head is that I am happy, and that this is my skin and this will be my skin ten years from now whatever shape it takes and that is that. The label above my head need not be there, and others can write on it what they choose.

There are too many books, and I am feeling incredibly broke. I feel almost pained to leave without buying something, but I make a mental note of about a dozen books I will come back and buy after payday. (Abdellah Taia, Fanny And Stella, a book on Tangiers, the uncensored version of Dorian Gray and of course, my beloved Virginia). I note how the shop is not full, and I am sure they do well and I hope it is a shop well supported, but I can't help but feel a little melancholy that I am sure Soho is packed on a Saturday afternoon full of lotus eaters and this amazing shop has five of us inside it. I almost want to hug the man behind the till and thank him, but there are limits I feel, to my inside and outside voices.

I walk past the British Library and I am surprised at how quickly I reach Tottenham Court Road. The afternoon has turned sunnier now, lazy in it's demeanour and I continue my weekend tradition of picking up a few cheap comics from Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue. From there, I am in the heart of Soho, and the Starbucks on Rupert Street has taken my affections a little. It is a great place to write and read while watching the very colourful world go by, so I trek through Old Compton Street (which is indeed busy) to reach my destination.

I've grown used to the sex shop on the corner and the half-naked posters for bars, but the men on the street with t-shirts that say "Free HIV testing" while handing out leaflets are a little jarring. The feeling persists through the day, and I can't shake my head as to why.

My initial reaction is to tell myself off. This is a great thing they are doing, raising awareness is always important and as cliché as the term has become, silence really does equal death. Yet, the feeling lingers. Something nags at me.

I've always had a stormy relationship with the gay scene, and the more I venture into it the more I realise it is a community that has become incredibly polarised. I feel like increasingly it is a community that people are rejecting outright, whereas I still feel like I stick my foot in it from time to time. The closest I came to truly "living" in it was when I worked in a gay bar, and even then I felt like some sort of Martian observing life very different to mine, or an anthropologist making tremendous discoveries.

My story is a long one, but cut short let's just say growing up my sense of identity wasn't paired with any sort of gay man. I found my home in, of all places, black women writers. Even at university when I was free to venture the big gay world and pick up copies of Gay Times, my heart and soul were healed and nurtured by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Terry McMillan and Maya Angelou to name a few. I still find the gay world aggressive, narcissistic and full of baggage nobody is much willing to talk about. When fragile egos clash, they break, and there's an awful lot of smashed glass in gayville.

Maybe it's just me. It's not about promiscuity, that's another story entirely, but in my mind I see HIV as a human problem, not a gay one. I thought we were past the "gay cancer" stigma, and that we've realised how much we are that man in Africa, that child who caught it from his mother, and the myriad other people around the world who are bravely living with this. So I applaud the groups who try and raise awareness and offer solutions to this problem, but why is this happening in the middle of Soho? Why not Oxford Street?

Are we really addressing this as a problem that's everyone's? Have we been bitten so hard by the world outside we've just given up? I remember a girl I used to work with always joking it was her mission in life to turn a gay man. When we were planning on going to Pride one year and I jokingly told her this was her chance, she thought I was serious at balked at the idea. When I noticed how uncomfortable she looked I asked her why. "Well, you know" she said "I might catch something". This was the same girl I had been with weeks before so she could get her morning after pill, and every girl I worked with in this place used birth control for the sake of preventing birth, not disease. As in the pill and not a condom. That remains their perception.

It's not just a straight person perception, and I get it. When I went a little rebellious after my recent break-up and had a few boys return to my bed, more often than not there'd be a fleeting comment from them about "not having to use condoms if you're okay with it, I'm not bothered", followed by the small embarrassment of them creeping out as I'd inform them the evening's festivities were over. The argument always being, as they sheepishly left the building, that "you're the only person I've said that to, I just got caught up in the moment". Of course you did, I feel so special.

The line runs deep down both sides. This ghetto that has been created, where people I worked with in the gay bar refused to go anywhere "straight". This safe place we have run to, this Neverland we have. This world of normality in going to a bar and finding porn on the screen and condoms by the bar. Is this prevention or permission?

In that street corner in Soho what I see are men offering HIV tests right next to a shop with crotchless rubber underwear in the window, and a superimposed photo of Prince Harry touching himself offering happy hour drinks. Is this the ambulance that picks you up at the end of the night after you've driven drunk instead of the psychologist that tries to understand why you'd consistently drink drive in the first place? Are we putting stitches on a wound we just keep tearing up anyway?

I don't feel like I have answers, and this irks me. Part of me feels this is an aspect, a world the outsider will never understand. Part of me thinks this is a hell of our own choosing (when I split up with a boyfriend a gay friend very exasperatingly told me "you know we gay men are very promiscuous and these things will never last"). Part of me is mortified that I would walk through Soho with my mother and the question I'll get as she's faced with leather harnesses and HIV tests is "is this what you do?".

I've always seen the scene as a circus, somewhere to enjoy the show but something you should never run away with. I dislike the term "non-scene" because it is more often than not followed by "masculine straight-acting" and a lingering stench of shame. I am also not into being that fundamental, and there have been many times I have enjoyed a night out in Wonderland, mostly by never taking it seriously.

I look at the gay friends I have and know, and most of them talk little about this hypersexual life. They talk about their commutes, the films they have watched, the comics they read, the music they listen to and their days at work. Even the ones that seemed to live it when I worked at the bar, confessed at those uncomfortable Wednesday nights propped at the bar when I served as therapist and absolver of all guilt that all they wanted was to be loved. The thought of the direction love was in and the road they were taking being at complete odds pained me.

 I just feel like from Bloomsbury to Soho there's a greater distance than I previously thought.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Grind It Down



I speak to any gay man these days and it seems they are in two states of being, those that are obsessed with Grindr, and those that have just deleted it. "I got sick of it" they say, but invariably a few weeks later there's an itch that needs scratching.

Since my break-up in November I have been spending time with myself, and a lot of that has been an exploration into the reasons behind my actions and thoughts. Not all of it has been pleasant, and my reaction against it has been to go into the complete other realm of being and feel like I need to experience everything without much thought. The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom, but I've increasingly noted I've been like a dragon chasing it's own tail.

Except in the past few months, in the moments I have given myself at night watching the sky and really conversing with myself, I have realised there's been a breakthrough. Those gaps between running away from being everything I could be and coming back limping vowing to be better than ever are slowly closing.

The embarrassing part is how simple it is. When I am exercising regularly, giving time to myself, eating the right foods and getting plenty of sleep, I am extremely happy and at peace. My productivity goes through the roof and I find I have a lot time for friends, family and the cultivation of myself.

Then there are the times I run away screaming. I wake up late, I spend hours on end looking at internet porn. I spend my work day sneaking off to check my Grindr, my evenings are spent online and before I know it I have to be up early and it's 1am.

I didn`t have a tremendous Catholic guilt moment right after sex this time. There was no vow to be a better person or an absolute intention of feeling unclean. I don't even know how long this moment of clarity will last, I just don't feel that way inclined so much. I've realised I've been making dates and hookups almost because it was expected of me. I felt like everyone around me was telling me to get a move on, that I was young and I should have fun. All I've been doing is giving these poor men the runaround, making dates and not keeping them, or turning up for an hour then disappearing, never to be seen again.

They haven't been disasters, they've been perfectly pleasant, and once upon a time one of them would have been my boyfriend by now. I am just simply not interested.

I'm excited by different things right now. My work excites me. I'm writing again. The progress I am making in the gym not just for the sake of my vanity but for the awareness of my body and how far I can go, all the discipline that accompanies having to wake up earlier to get there before work or going on your lunchbreak.

I've been watching movies and documentaries I've had forever, just aching to be watched. I stayed up late one night to watch Room 237, a film about The Shining and it made me remember how much I liked being challenged in thought. It hasn't happened for a while. I've almost been living my life as this princess airhead pretty boy for the sake of proving that I can. I feel confident enough now to not have to live up to what anyone else thinks. I know my own worth. I can really own that for myself.

I watched Beyonce's documentary last night and it really spoke to me. Say what you will about her, her work ethic is tremendous and she has reaped the fruits of her struggle. She's managed to keep herself scandal-free and isn't jumping out of cars with no underwear. She has a husband, a family network and a child. What I saw was a hardworking businesswoman in complete control of her life, and when she wasn't in control she knew enough of herself to engage in self-dialogue and own that moment of fear or doubt. It was wonderful.

I read an article the other day about Grindr on Vada magazine. It talked about how people slut shame those that use Grindr for sex, and how gay men shouldn't be ashamed of being promiscuous, I don't know exactly what it is that rubs me up the wrong way about it, but I know if it's not making me feel good and it's disrupting being a higher self then why do it? There's something terribly mercenary about putting your best photo up, and calling out a menu of exactly what you want in someone. Someone that could be sat right next to you but you can't even be bothered to turn and smile because you'd rather have the expedience of doing it on your phone.

Since about the age of fourteen I have been hung up on the internet discovering my sexuality. at the time I feel it was neccessary, if I hadn't done it I truly believe I would have died young. There was nowhere else to let me explore who I was, but it also left me wide open to a whole lot of abuse by older men who should have known better.

I look at all the time I have spent onliene compared to the amount of real lasting friendships or exeperiences I have had with people (and I am not discounting that I have) and to be honest the ratio is miniscule. To paraphrase Margaret Cho, I could have taken a pottery class. I could have mastered a discipline. I could have joined a book club and met people. I've made far better friends listening to podcasts and on Twitter, joining groups bound by interest rather than sexual preference.

There's a fear isn't there? In all that you could be. All that I could be sometimes terifies me. Less and so though.

Sometimes wisdom is in the strangest of places. I leave you Daredevil 226 by Frank Miller:

"Everything's up to somebody else with you. So somebody else is always to blame. You'll never be what you could be -- 'cause you know in your guts that if you were, there'd be nobody big enough to pat your head".


Monday, 13 May 2013

The Daily Bread


In some mad moment I decided this blog was going to be a dating blog, which falls afoul of my opening statement as to how this blog would be about everything, and essentially nothing in particular other than my whims and musings.

I read a passage from an essay by Joan Didion, who writes far more eloquently than I could ever hope to. I do no justice in paraphrasing the chord she struck around keepers of notebooks, who at once are fully aware that what they write is not in keeping with fact. Also, the perception of writers as wild and untamed, when in reality, in our depths we are obsessed with control. The filter is ours and we are completely in charge of our gospels. So this blog remains.

People don't scare me at first glance, I think this is something I feel proud of. I see others unsettled by meetings and interaction, terrified of the other. I can sit and talk with anyone, and I have grown from a very shy socially awkward person to the one I am now. I am not altogether sure of the journey, but travel and working in retail has certainly helped.

Dates are interesting things, and having a propensity towards seclusion sometimes I think it not an awful idea to get out there and just go on a few dates. Nothing fancy, just some coffee.

I used to come at dates from a different angle, I was completely on the search for a soulmate. Well, let me tell you I've been to Camelot and Guinevere doesn't exactly lead the charmed life. Let's not be bitter, I learned a lot from my relationships and I have loved deeply. I would not change those experiences for the world, whatever the result. What I mean is, I don't see them as the epitome of a life. I don't think the end goal is to find a husband, but relationships can be life-changing and I am not closed to the idea of spending a good chunk of my life with someone else.

So anyway, coffee.

I met two people for coffee this week, both so pleasant. No spark, and no bother. Just coffee and conversation and new people. I have talked literature, identity, race, music, Kindles vs. real books and Dr. Who. It's been fun, it has made me feel sociable and a little bit more complete. I have also learned I am in absolutely no rush, and not at all prepared for anything heavy.

I spent Sunday morning getting to work on a rail replacement service. Well prepared for the inconvenience, I downloaded three well-worn albums: Madonna's American Life, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill and Lady Gaga's Born This Way.

American Life has aged better than it had any right to, and although in my memory I thought of it as a messy sprawling album, it is actually very tight, and incredibly bared. I surprised myself to find more in Jagged Little Pill to identify with, I thought I had grown beyond the obsessive Alanis Morissette listener and just looked back with fondness, but the aggressive album-opener All I Really Want spoke to me like it never had. Hand In My Pocket remains my life outlook neatly packaged into a catchy four minute harmonica extravaganza. Born This Way still has a lot to give me, and it amuses me how turned off I was by the album on initial listen and how it slowly crept up on me and travelled through everything this past year has given me.

On the way home, my phone died on me, so I had no music to listen to. I had no book to read, nothing to distract me from the life around me. I realised how much I miss sometimes when I walk around in the cocoon of my headphones. I picked up conversations, sounds, and even smells I normally traipse straight past.

So much to learn, in sound and silence.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Submergence


I want to be honest, there is a chamber in my heart that has been in darkness. When all my blood has been pumping freely, and my face has been turned toward the sun, there has always been a small part of myself I have kept under water. When the sea wind blows, my heart aches, then I wake up and carry on with the day.

You break bread (or cake as the case may be) with friends, and the conversation invariably turns there, to that place we can't avoid. We venture sable in hand to the land of men and relationships. To be single, however at peace you are with the state of being, is to be defined by a lack of significant other. Much like atheism invites a conversation around faith, we do not exist in a vacuum. The polarity exists by the other, you cannot help but talk about what you don't have, and what it is you want. We are always wanting in search of want is humanity.

So I am cocooned as I prepare my armour, and my spirit heals and my body improves and it gets to that point where I feel wonderful. In the meantime there is the incessant need to feel wanted, but I also reject comfort, I reject skin,I reject intimacy. I sleep around, and it is so cold and devoid of human experience I might as well be ordering pizza. This is not me, and as quickly as my head is dunked into murky depths it comes back up. There is no lightbulb moment where I find myself in a gutter and think I need to turn my life around. It is just something that grows very boring, very quickly.

So what then? I date a little, nothing sets my world alight. Yet I am drawn by behaviour and expectation. Everything points to the fact that I should get back on that horse. The first person to show a little warmth, I throw my lasso around. After three weeks I notice that nice as he may be, I really don't need this. I feel like I have nothing to give, and he has miles to go of his own. Rather than let it drag out like I used to, I feel like I have enough confidence and experience now to end it maturely and in a dignified manner.

I have spent these months reflecting, forcing myself to confront my own self in that terrifying manner that made me jump from man to man in avoidance. I realise I have a lot of fire inside, and this attracts men. However, the age old adage rings true, that the wild horse men want in fantasy isn't the Victorian housewife they want in reality. Then the reality sets in and back to fantasy they go. That is me, through and through...I have let every man I've been with pour a bucket of cold water over my head, then sat crying as they run off to find something more exciting.

I'm not saying I'm wild, just strong-willed. I'm happiest reading on a park bench or meeting new people, taking a train or plane to anywhere and wearing what I like. I guess men love this independence, until they feel threatened that I might run off anywhere with anyone at any given moment. Then I start to get the arguments, the accusations of infidelity, and bend back I go.

For a man, I have cut my hair, changed my clothes, sat through rugby games in the freezing cold, cancelled moments with family, stopped speaking to friends, stopped going to bars and turned into a dumpy boring subservient housewife. I have been a coward, an idiot, a non-entity who has lost his spirit and I am done.

So what now? I am the healthiest and fittest I have ever been. I feel the youngest, the prettiest I have ever felt. I feel confident, I feel fashionable and sexy and so incredibly happy I feel a light glow around me when I walk down the street. I have a great job, the best relationship I've ever had with my family, wonderful friends. I live in an amazing city that doesn't bore me, I visit art galleries and sit in coffee shops in my spare time. I've had the possibility of a few online dates and when the time has come I've felt so lovely wherever I am I've ended up cancelling them. I just don't feel like they are something I want to run around for.

Once in a while though, maybe twice a month or so, I'd love to sit and have dinner drinks or coffee with a hottie, to enjoy the company and not take it so seriously and get back to my life. I think that would be nice, and I guess I`ll have to get up off my park bench to do that.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

11:11


The television screen crackles white noise, like a thousand pieces of fluff migrated to the inside of the box as the world sleeps. Under the mountainous cover of my bed I fall into dreams, tumbling down the spire of my overloaded subconscious.

The days collected, my eyes like sponges into shuttered moments of startling brilliance. It feels like you can take a lungful of air, centering yourself to the universe that offers you wisdom in the strangest of places.

Beyoncé tells me to be a light in the world, to live in love and to do everything that makes me happy. Khloe Kardashian looks right at the screen, and resists her family's continuance that she needs a boyfriend. She says she doesn't need a man to define her, that she's young and she can have fun and enjoy herself. Katniss Everdeen is the keeper of her own destiny, and she's the one that does all the saving.

I didn't really know what I wanted this blog to be about, because I didn't realise that I didn't have to choose. In the space of a day I can decide that what I want is to be single and have fun in the big city, then feel like maybe a boyfriend wouldn't be so bad. As night creeps in I'll think about the betterment of myself, to push myself physically, to get writing, to discover my spirituality.

I've now decided and realised, that in fact I can do it all. I've spent my entire life walking the line of polarity, I've seen it all and taken them all to the extreme, and then gone running in the opposite direction before daybreak. I've realised not taking things seriously doesn't make me a whore, and that seeing a man doesn't mean in the space of two weeks I have to be a happy homemaker and drop everything.

So I can be a young professional in London who works hard for their career, exercises regularly, writes often, tries to discover their spirituality, goes on a couple of dates a month, has fun with his friends and loves his family. I can do it all, and this blog is going to be about how I try.

I pulled every thread I had and made a tapestry.