I wasn’t in the mood for emotional devastation. I mean, I was lukewarm about going to see “12 Years a Slave”, but I got drawn in to the obvious indignity at some point. That’s two remarkably poignant films based on true stories in a row for me (went to see “Dallas Buyer’s Club” with Sergio before he left for Laredo, his car making a sinister purr with the heat on).

It started with sparks at the East Austin Studio Tour. Did anything really begin? Not another embellishment……? We joked about robbing the West side rich on Thanksgiving, trading them turkey-flavored ramen for their feasts, which we would deliver to East side homeless. I have the zipper mask; he has war paint. But, in reality, he worked a 12 hour shift on Tgiving. I have not worked nearly enough the past 3 weeks.

He (a different ‘he’) was a nice guy. He wore a bowtie (do jerkfaces ever were bowties?). He joined me for 2 for 1 veggie burger night at Hut’s. But I’m quite sure I offended him with my two cents about the tech industry takeover in SF. He smoothed it over, moved the conversation on, but I felt kind of bad and awkward. Reflecting later, however, I think I shouldn’t feel bad. It’s a travesty what is going on there. I can’t comprehend anyone enough to be friends with them or respect them if they don’t have it in them to condemn arrogant, entitled bastards who somehow, in their feeble corporatized minds, justify evicting elderly longtime residents. Or that everyone but them can just up and move to Oakland. No, this will not turn into a leftist rant. I got sucked into the comments section on one of the articles VanishingSF (activist Facebook group I probably should not have added) posted. Yikes. I felt utterly abject (and enraged) afterwards.

 

 

The best thing about feeling romantically rejected is that those Trembling Blue Stars (and all the magnificent melancholic music that comprises my library) records sound even better. They always sound lovely, but at times like these I can feel them, a soft buzz of bitter consolation through my frail body. (side note, “All I’m Doing is Losing” may be the best saddest song ever)

The worst thing is the inertia, the distraction from matters at hand. I have an article to write about LGBT asylum, a personal statement to construct for the University of Chicago. It is infinitely more important that I impress EDGE readers and the admissions committee at one of my top picks of programs, yet this guy, a decade my junior, for whom I have fallen keeps imposing himself on my thoughts. Am I such a poor gauge? He seemed to want more time with me, asking to come in. Days have passed, and he hasn’t responded to my concession of affection. We talked, in general terms, about dating and romantic passion over Indian buffet. He explained he prefers ‘cold cuddles’ to inflamed embraces. I sort of concurred but said ‘casual cuddles’ seemed like a more apt description. I had no idea how to tell him in the car (not in the restaurant; this is not a French film, alas) that I wanted to be the guy he cold cuddled and with whom he balanced passion and reason, so I took the chickenshit route, and emailed him when I got home. He has not responded. I should know; I only check my phone and email every 7 minutes.Fucker.

Not to dwell on failings, but it seems I’m operating with a serious deficit when it comes to men (or boys) and technology. Both trick me into thinking we have an understanding, a harmony of sorts, then deviate without contrition. This darn alarm clock I bought for my NY trip refuses to be set, yet it goes off every hour on the hour.

The ultimate, much-anticipated interview for my asylum/refuge article finally happened Friday morning. I spoke, via skype, to Neil Grungras of ORAM, a leading expert on LGBT refugee resettlement – and attorney who has devoted his life to this. First, we bonded over Turkey a bit. He joked that he fell in love with a hot Turk (I asked how he initially got involved with this work). He is a genuine, big-hearted dude. But listening to the recording later I couldn’t keep from cringing while listening to myself. Ugh. I have got to be more conscious of the way I speak, to sound more professional. I sound juvenile and ludicrous. Still, I’m grateful for the interview and that I was bold enough to tell him I am trying to make this work my focus in future graduate studies and that I would like to have a sustained relationship with ORAM.

I also desire a sustained relationship with NYC. My five days there were pretty blissful. It was my first time staying in Brooklyn, at Glen’s flat across from Prospect Park. I found autumn there, astounding yellows and oranges seeming to ensconce….My talks with faculty at Fordham and Rutgers were fruitful, encouraging. Both schools have disappointing campuses (Columbia’s campus is much more impressive but don’t think I’ll be applying there), but they have great programs, with opportunities for refugee work. There is a great deal I could write about my time there, but because I am writing about boys this time around, I’ll say that it was nice not to think about Stephen during that time and that I made minor friendly/lustful connections with a Lucas, Larry, and Lawrence. I seem to have a sort of beginner’s luck with guys in NYC. I guess I should be looking for L guys from now on, though it would be kind of strange to have something with someone who has the same name as my father. Lucas was an incredibly friendly Taiwanese-American guy who toured me around Prospect Park, explaining its contrivance and construction, then treated me to heaps of dumplings at his popular East Village restaurant, Dumpling Man (pumpkin and banana dumplings! yes, please!). We saw “Blue is the Warmest Color”, the much-hyped French film with an astonishingly long and explicit lesbian sex scene, together at BAM and loved it. I could tell he was disappointed I opted to crash in his room with a Japanese style door instead of in his bed. I would have been happy cuddling with him but couldn’t really imagine more than that; chemistry is a bitch.

Lawrence, a cute Filipino guy I met at The Cock, was the only guy I got naked with. He is as skinny as me (I almost never connect with skinny guys), a 22 yr old (for some reason, I attract either guys ten years my junior or ten years my senior, never my own age) Parson’s fashion graduate. I doubt I would be long term potential with a fashion major, but they apparently make great flings! He is adorable, pulled me from the seedy Cock to his favorite Village gay bar, The Boiler Room. I could say more, but that’s enough frivolity for now.

 

“Next time be more amicable”, a tender, grey-haired, vaguely handsome alcoholic man said to me before exiting the bus, from the seat beside me. I had seen him several times on the 7 northbound before. His eyes are always bloodshot, and he is clearly intoxicated, yet he is always smiling at least a bit – never quite out of control or irate despite being clearly not on sure footing. He has watched me, stared a bit and smiled, but I tend not to be too friendly to strangers, particularly ones that seem to have some conflict going on, on the bus. This time he sat beside me and engaged me. Commented that I must be “intellectual” because I am always reading. I mumbled replies, offered diminutive smiles, evaded me the question when he asked if I am gay (I answered that I was sleepy). He was unperturbed. When I answered his offer to buy me a beer with the truth that I was meeting someone soon (much-anticipated Cocorosie date with Stephen), he assumed it was the “boyfriend”.  (Do I wish it was?)

He strikes me as a kind and interesting fellow- apparently a homo (or exceedingly homo-friendly hetero guy). Why should I be so put off by the awkwardness of his approach? His comment made me reflect on the fact I should be more adept at engaging with people from disparate backgrounds/circumstances. Why be cold? I can’t completely chock it up to introvertedness, I suppose.

 

And then there’s the surprising, burgeoning interest in a pale man a decade my junior. His birthday is today; I wished him ‘mutlu yillar’. I think he wants me to touch him. There is still some ambiguity, even after Halloween night. I should be bolder – and more amicable.

My roommate commented this morning that he has never been so horny before. He is newly on T, transitioning from female to male. I told him I am in the opposite position at the moment. I am at my least horny. For the two weeks since I got back from NC, my only erection has been in bed as a result of positioning/physical pressure or whatever quirk of slumber. It’s refreshing to be completely disinterested in sex, actually. I watched a porn that I borrowed from work, just because I feel I should take advantage of those privileges. The scenes were quite hot, actually. I enjoyed them without actually being aroused, without any desire to jerk off or hook up. I wouldn’t want this to be a lifelong condition, but for now it is pleasant and appropriate.

I have also had the thought that I will never look at my penis the same again. Because of this godawful allergic reaction, it has become and object of pity and disgust. I don’t want to look at it, engage with it at all. It only evokes dread. My leg is mostly healed, and my rash has mostly withdrawn (thank god, that was the biggest distraction and most persistent discomfort at its peak), but the gruesomeness in the groin continues (though improvements have occurred thank god, partly because I have minimized the horrific sticking of gauze).

Luckily, my drive and focus are healthy, unlike at the peak of my physical problem.

There aren’t many occasions when I’m conscious of being the only Caucasian, but I feel like it has been the case before when I was in a situation related to being low income. I noted being the only white guy in the room yesterday as I was waiting in the MAP determination meeting. MAP is a program in Austin that provides health care access to those who can prove they cannot afford to pay for their own. I brought my pay stubs, bank statement, and forms of ID (thank god a passport can fill in for a birth certificate because I have no clue where that particular piece of paper is, something that caused me strife in the past); I had already swallowed my pride as I made my way through the ER system without insurance. I have a renewed determination now to get a full time job and insurance. At least I have this government assistance for 6 months. I have only a $10 co-pay for doctor visits and something similar for prescriptions and dental visits. Of course, there are limitations, including extremely long waits for appointments. Still, I’m grateful that Austin has this program. And that I have supportive parents who constantly check in on me.

I am also grateful that there is much more going on in Austin than college football (of course, I wouldn’t have moved here if there wasn’t). But on rare occasions, such as today, I am reminded that this is also a football town. The bus routes are all on detour because of some big game.

Regarding the MSW effort, I had a heartening conversation with a University of Denver prof two days ago. I was much more composed (less of an awkward turd-dork) than I was with the U of Chicago folks, and she was very friendly and encouraging. Though I would rather live in Chicago or the NYC proximity, I should give a real thrust to getting into DU; they have a great program it seems like, and I’m really interested in their Bosnia program (it’s an easy hop over to Istanbul,too!)

Right now I’m nervous about my letters of reference. Do I dare ask the two professors who pumped out lots of letters for me the last two years? I really need a solid academic reference, but I cringe to think of asking them again, dread the possible exasperation/rejection. I wrote them and told them my change of heart and plans. I just emailed the writing professor two days ago, but she hasn’t responded, which worries me.

On a positive note, I broke ground on my first personal essay (for Rutgers), and tonight I’ll book my flight for a visit to NYC so I can attend the Rutgers info session and stop by Fordham.

Yesterday was my most miserable day in a long time. It was certainly my worst in Austin. It was an epic day-long journey that began when my Mom declared, upon hearing the description of my wound by cell, that it must be infected and that I needed to seek out a clinic immediately. I managed to accomplish my original task of getting a new power chord for my laptop, as I am completely non-functioning without a computer, but before and after I limped and bussed through 100 degree heat, cursing and faltering and making mistakes.

I felt like I was making my way across Saudi Arabia and hallucinated robust Texas women in hijabs. I cursed Austin and America’s lack of viable train systems and my lack of a career – or at least a decent job with health insurance.

I wound up at the ER (way up north) because the problem was too big for the minute clinic. They offered some assurance and antibiotics and took $300, and counting. Reyne, a new friend, saved me from being stranded at St. David’s. Saturday night: no buses, no taxis (or a 2 hour wait, to be precise).

Once home and out of my sweaty clothes, I started to calm down and remember that I do love Austin (though not completely).

Back story: The mountain camping trip that I had been planning with Laura evolved into setting up camp in the backyard of Erin’s (a mutual friend from UNCG) partner, which was cool because he has a beautiful property with apple trees and a silo with a sleeping chamber and a castle turret. Unfortunately, there was also a 4 wheeler that I was coerced into driving. Well, I was happy, if apprehensive, to take one lap around the property (no problems), but on my second round I idiotically lost control, turned too tightly I guess, plowed through his asparagus patch, panicked and accelerated downhill, and ended up throwing myself off the damn machine and running over my left thigh. I thought the scrape on the right leg was nothing too notable and on its way to healing, but it turned out to be the problem….I’ll stick to  horses.

Anyhow, I got to visit Asheville, the best and cutest NC spot, which I hadn’t been to in over a decade.

When I got back I had a letter from my inmate penpal, who goes by Uno. Seems like a very smart guy and was very grateful for my correspondence. I wonder what it’s like to be vegetarian in prison. I wrote him back two days ago.

I got a voucher for giving up my seat on my first flight and now plan to visit some of the schools to which I am applying. It looks like Joy and I might be able to have a little road trip and NYC adventure!

I have had tipping anxiety for awhile, but I feel like it has come to a head now. I’m specifically referring to the tipping of baristas, as the 15-20% for waitstaff is more clear cut. I worry that I under tip and am resented or tip more than I can afford. Two days ago, the young woman at Hideout, one of my regular spots, added cherry syrup to a chocolate milkshake for me, improvising because they were out of mint choc chip, my first choice. We had a friendly exchange, I was appreciative; but then….She have me five singles instead of a five dollar bill in my change, and it occurred to me that she was doing that so that I would have tipping money. Still, I slipped her a quarter, as I usually do. It was subtle, I”m not certain about it, but I think she noticed and was offended. I felt uncomfortable.

I thought a modest tip at coffee shops was appropriate because it’s not table service as in a restaurant and I think that baristas are paid at least a minimum wage salary (unlike waitstaff who truly depend on their tips for their income). I’m also tight because I’m low income myself. I would be more generous if I had a career job. However, when I casually brought this up at work yesterday, one of my coworkers was livid and launched into a tirade, proclaiming that I would be better off not tipping at all, that a quarter was just an insult.

This could have become much more heated quickly because I have a  history of disputation with this particular person (who I adore but whose feisty argumentativeness I find hard to deal with at times), but I decided to diffuse it, to change the subject.  The last time the two of us had a heated confrontation he told me that I was “cheap” because I didn’t want to spend the money to buy a DVD that I could have previously borrowed for free. I told him not to be a bourgeois bitch, that being frugal or cautious with your finances because you are low income is not tantamount to cheapness. Now, I’m not poor in the sense that I come from privilege, and my family is a safety net in the case that I had an emergency. I also have an education that may or may not one day prove useful in landing gainful employment. I am open about this and grateful for it and am careful not to equate my situation with the life long, entrenched poor. Still, the current reality is that I am financially independent, low income, and have no proximate prospects of increased income. And I think calling someone “cheap” because they opt out of buying something that is not really in their budget is, well…..fucked up.

But, anyhow, this is about tipping. I guess I should tip a dollar to baristas. I come to coffee shops 3 or 4 times a week and am already sort of splurging on mochas or other sorts of lattes because I can’t stomach regular coffee. I guess the argument can be made that if I can’t afford a generous tip, then I shouldn’t make a purchase in the first place (I wouldn’t eat at a restaurant if I knew I couldn’t afford a reasonable tip). But rely on coffee shops for my productivity. I guess the bottom line is I must find a way to increase my abysmal income.

Completely unrelated GOOD NEWS: My short story, “Brooding Intervals”, got accepted into the Best Gay Romance 2014, whose editors I spoke with at the Saints and Sinners conference in New Orleans in May. It’s romantic at the core, but also quite sexual and psychosocial…..They said it was the “edgy” piece they needed to round off the collection. Psyched. It’s my first time to be  published in a book. I was emailed the table of contents a few days ago.

 

A novel can be useful as a tool of diversion from staring. This was my reflection as I sat on a bench downtown waiting in the + 100 degree heat for the 10 bus, Zola novel in hand. Beside me was a 40-something man of ambiguous ethnicity (seemingly a confluence of Caucasian and Hispanic), reading proverbs from a leather-bound Bible. He had leathery brown skin, and when he lifted his ball cap he revealed a bald head, and I got a better look at his remarkably handsome face. He was also of ambiguous class. His clothes kind of suggested blue collar (loose jeans, hiking boots), but he was also groomed and perfumed in a way that complicated that perception. He captivated my attention for some reason. He apparently wasn’t waiting for a bus; when a bus pulled up to the stop he didn’t bother to check which one it was. I’m usually repelled by artificial fragrance, but the scent that wafted over to me from him on the slight breeze that cut the heat, aroused me somehow. Discreetly (that word that gay men adore so), I glanced over at him every few paragraphs. Eventually, he simply got up and crossed the street.

Learning about the refugee crisis is occupying my time more and more. I had a phone discussion with another University of Chicago faculty, this one less awkward than the first. What a dreamy program. I feel like this is what I want to do with the rest of my life (in addition to and in conjunction with writing); I hope I can make it happen. I need to begin working on my essays. I really want to return to Istanbul and work with Iranian LGBT refugees, but I haven’t heard back from Helsinki Citizens Assembly yet.

I shampooed my ‘stache for the first time. Is that something I am supposed to do?

I finally wrote a gay inmate, through the Black and Pink (NGO) pen pal program. Man, I have been meaning to do that for more than a year now. I chose an Afro-Latin guy who is vegetarian. I kept it simple and told him I’ll be glad to say more if he writes back with interest.

I interviewed at the hostel by the river, thought it might be fun to work in a hostel for a while. I have had some interesting times in hostels over the years (before I discovered couchsurfing). I didn’t get the job, but it was occasion to reflect on the month I spent in a hostel in Beijing, desperately job hunting. What a stressful and exciting time that was.