Worlds & Time

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez

I'm currently reading a set of YA books aimed at gay teens (Rainbow Boys, Rainbow High, Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez). I figured they'd be candy soft books about characters that might as well be heterosexual except for an unmoving scene in which they come out to their parents. And kiss some cute guys.

Yeah, I couldn't have been more wrong about that. I've been very surprised by some of the issues that these books addressed such as unprotected sex, dating HIV positive guys, bisexuality and having alcoholic or absent father figures. Not to mention the genre classics of coming out and having a crush on your best friend.

In fact, some of the themes were more adult than some fiction written for adult gay guys. The three rainbow boys of the title have sex, drink, and occasionally fight amongst themselves. Yeah, they don't deal with any "hard" drugs but that's the only thing that I can point out that most gay guys have to deal with that the characters didn't have to deal with at some point or another.

After I'd finished them, I was wondering if I would recommend them to younger readers. I'm having this remarkably prudish "No" reaction, which I'm trying to fight down and kill. These are the kids of books that young gay guys need to read, involving interesting characters that they can both aspire to be and at the same time relate to.

Granted, there are some stereotypes at work in the books. Jason is the gay jock. Kyle is the geeky gay swimmer. Nelson is the flaming queen. Still, the book manages to turn these gay archetypes into interesting and well rounded characters. Jason is Hispanic and his father is an abusive alcoholic (his mother is in Al-Anon). Nelson's mom is the PFLAG mother but he has to deal with a distant and disinterested father and his own rash behavior. Kyle is supposed to be the geek but to me he comes across as the most normal guy, since "geek" doesn't lend itself well to gay stereotypes yet.

Kyle's also at the center of the plot, in a vague way. The books seem to pride themselves on approaching each chapter from another of the protagonists view, and this often provides valuable insight into the various personal problems all of them have, however Kyle is Nelson's best friend and eventually Jason's boyfriend. Were it not for his connection to the other two characters I suspect that Jason and Nelson's stories would have been completely separate books.

Aside from the heavy issues, I did like the variety of response that the characters faced. These books didn't portray and idyllic gay paradise where homophobia and disease don't exist but it wasn't a perfect hell either. For example, Jason the basketball player comes out to his team with the help of his coach and the guys on the team take it well. On the other hand, Kyle's swim team harasses him numerous times while the swim coach stands off to the side with a "What can I do?" smug smile on her face.

Personally, the person that I had the most problem with was Nelson. Nelson is incapable of pretending that he's not gay and I've definitely met people like him before in my life. Unfortunately, Nelson taught me that the ability to "pass" for a heterosexual is part of socialization: he comes across as nearly a sociopath, uninterested in the feelings of the people around him and unable to think about the consequences of his actions more than a few seconds out. Considering that he is the character that has unprotected sex, boozes it up, does the drugs, and intentionally tries to piss off the rednecks during their drive across country, I really felt that he got off too lightly. While Jason and Kyle have their own emotional drama to live out, Nelson manages to skate through the books without much more than a slow progression of hair color.

Despite my dislike for Nelson, I can't deny that the books were a pretty good read.

And I get to fantasize about Kyle. Mmmmmmm . . .

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another Extended Update On Me

So I finally did it. Tuesday I let my boss at work know that I'm only going to be in town for a few more weeks. After that I'm going to go to London and Ireland for a couple of weeks, and after that I'm going to going to move to New York.

Wow. New York. I'm going to make it happen this time. No more neck injuries.

Yeah, I've been terribly nervous about all of this. I was nervous about quitting right up until the point where I walked into my boss's office and the first thing out of his mouth was "Are you leaving us?" Uh . . . well, yeah. I'd had a whole little speech planned, starting with the line "I just want you to know that this is by far the best job that I've ever had" but that works too.

It is the best company that I've ever worked for though. I just want to make that clear. They've treated me great here and I feel bad for leaving them. It's just that I don't want to wait around for someone above me to die of old age in order to advance. That seems to be how it's normally done here and, while I love the fact that they can keep employees for that long, I need to find something more challenging.

So yeah, I've been thinking of doing some traveling before I move. I was torn between a gay cruise or Europe, and I've opted for the ga--, no wait, I'm going to Europe. I'll be in London for the third week of July, and I'll be in Ireland after that (although I'm still working on where in Ireland I'm going to be). While in London I'm going to hook up with an online friend who is going to be attending a conference there, and hopefully I'll also see Doctorow, so that he can sign my copy of Little Brother.

Heh. It's going to be a signed first edition. Awesome.

Other than that, I figure I'll just be bumming around London and Ireland. I'll be staying near the city center in London, hopefully within walking/Tube distance of most of the interesting things to see. If anyone has any suggestions of things that I absolutely must see, let me know.

My mom actually recommended County Cork, which is apparently where my family on her side of the family is from. Perhaps I'll stop by the Blarney Stone.

Gay Pride is coming up this weekend. I did mention that Pablo broke up with me at Pride, so I'm hoping to avoid that this year. As such, I doubt that I'll be taking a date with me. I'd rather take a straight friend (incidentally, thanks so much straight friend). At least I know he won't break up with me there.

Just like usual though, as soon as I have plans to leave a place I relax to the point where I actually have some fun.

In this case, his name is Harrison. Last weekend there was a Gay Pride train ride on Saturday and a pool party on Sunday. I had a nice time on the train so I decided to go to the pool party as well.

The pool party was sort of funny. First of all, it was empty when I got there about 2:30, even though it was supposed to start at 2pm. I know that there's straight time and "gay" time ("whenever you'd have a most fabulous entrance") but the fact that there seemed to be nobody there was annoying.

Second, all of the gay guys avoided the pool. Not quite like it was acid, because they would go over and dangle their feet in, but for two hours it seemed like I was the only person willing to get in the the water. Then there were a few dark clouds and some thunder and the gay guys realized that it was now or never (or maybe they all just had a death wish) and they swarmed the pool until it was like a concrete can of sardines.

Third, I met a guy, M., on the train, and he was nice, but the more I thought about it, the less attracted to him I realized that I was. He was at the pool party, and with encouragement from sympathetic lesbians I finally nerved up and apologize for not being interested in him.

I met Harrison at the pool party. He was older, but he was older in a really cute way. Short spiky blond hair, muscles without being Schwarzenegger about it, and a pair of really cute little swim briefs. He struck up a conversation with me and I thought, hey, at the end of the day he's not going to be interested in me, but I can enjoy his attention while it lasts.

Except then it lasted for a couple of hours, even after I bashfully got out of the pool and M. arrived and I had to tell him that I wasn't interested. About a half an hour before the end of the party, I asked him if he wanted to do dinner.

He said yes.

It's odd, the last person that I can remember saying yes to dinner was B. back in college and that was a fiasco. And now I've got another thing with Harrison tonight and so I've got knots in my stomach again.

Here are the two anecdotes about Harrison that I've added to my permanent repository of stories. First, at some point he asked me to guess his age, and suggested that I'd be off by ten years. So I took a long look at him, took a guess (39ish) and then revised that up by five years.

And I was still off by more than ten years. Wow. If only I'll look so good in my fifties.

Usually people older than I am is something that I have a problem with. I've never dated or just had sex with someone more than a few years older than myself. I think the largest difference prior to this would have been A. back in Miami, who was seven years my senior. Back when I worked for the gay B&B here in Santa Fe, I got a couple of offers, but that was back when I was eighteen/nineteen, and none of them were from guys that I was attracted too.

Harrison if nothing if not physically attractive and unlike Gabe, they psycho, he has some actual personality as well. For some reason, I just don't feel uncomfortable around him.

Second little anecdote: He invited me back to his place to watch television. I acquiesced, under the impression that this was a gesture similar to inviting someone back for coffee. HD setup, 5.1 surround, all of that, but eventually I realized that he wasn't making a pass at me. He was just really interested in watching television. Uh, okay. A friend said that it was a generational difference, but really, isn't that kind invitation universally understood as a come on in the gay world.

So, here's hoping that this thing tonight goes better, and I don't mistake an invitation to watch television as a pass.

This post is already running long, so I'll make a few final comments about books and then head out. It's funny, but I haven't felt as though there has been anything to write about for days, perhaps weeks, and yet when I sit down suddenly I'm pouring what easily must be a thousand words out.

(Note: My review of the "Rainbow Boys" books was getting long, so I've split it off to here.)

I just finished Where Late the Sweet Bird Sings by Wilhelm, and I liked it. It started off a bit slow, but by the time I got to the end I understood why it needed to do that to create the emotional impact of the second and third part.

Interestingly, this is the second sci-fi book that I can clearly recall that deals with multipart humans. The first was More Than Human by Sturgeon. Where I liked Wilhelm's book I despised Sturgeons.

It has something to do with the way that the multipart humans are depicted. In Sturgeon's book, there is the powerful "head" of the group, which leads through a combination of dispassionate manipulation and a desperate need from the other parts toward him. In Wilhelm's work, the various parts are just genetically identical clones that are raised in groups. One of them seems to have a dominant personality, but they treat their fellows as extensions of themselves, while Sturgeon's characters lacked that.

True, in Where Late the Sweet Bird Sings the multipart humans have problems which eventually lead to a schism and breakup of the Miriam group and they exploit the expelled member and treat her as a non-person curiosity, but separate from her parts she regains something of the individualistic experience that her human ancestors did. I can never imagine Sturgeon's twins ever gaining the same independence.

Both instances of multipart humans consider themselves to be, well, more than human. The next stage in evolution, as it were. However, despite the fact that Wilhelm's groups exploit, enslave, and degrade humanity more than Sturgeon does, her flawed characters were also the ones that I empathized with at the end of the story. Perhaps it's just a case of better writing.

That seems to basically cover what's been going on with me recently.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Matching Donations

I got an email from the Obama campaign today. I've donated before, and in light of their decision to forgo federal funding, they are looking for donations from new people.

I've been meaning to donate again since Clinton suspended her campaign, and so I decided to go through with it and donate again.

However, there was a twist in the email today. They were looking for people that had already donated to match the contributions of first time donors. So I took the money that I'd put aside for Clinton stepping down and put it up to match some first time donors.

Within four minutes, they'd already come up with three new donors to match me with.


Now, that's fundraising power.

And, until late October, here's my political message:

I support Obama. You should too*.

Support Barack Obama

*Among many reasons you should support Obama, a few notable ones are: 1) He carries nuanced and reasonable opinions on subjects such as foreign policy, the economy, equal rights, and health care. 2) He is a constitutional law scholar, and taught the subject at the University of Chicago. He graduated the top of his class from Harvard Law, and was president of the Harvard Law Review. 3) Unlike other recent Presidents, he can effectively communicate his ideas to others in English.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Joanne Rowling Gives the Comencement At Harvard

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Lex and Lia: Beyond & Behind

The bird was covered in sizzling energy, and hitting it burned Bliss' bare hands, but she did out of desperation.

Despite her flailing and the bird's apparent ability to be all around her at the same time, it took her several more seconds of pecks before her hand finally connected with a wing, and the bird fell backward.

It didn't even land on the ground though, flapping off and stirring up the dust, and circled around slowly and lazily, until Bliss realized it was going to swoop around to attack her again. It was big, the largest Raven that Bliss had seen before, and she knew it.

She reached down, to where the mirror that she'd been holding was, and flung it up in front of her.

The bird was already coming back, it's claws and beak stretched out in front of the vanishingly black wings, and it nearly collided with the mirror.

There was a brilliant flash, illuminating the dusty landscape and the huge bird swooping down on Bliss.

The silent explosion knocked Bliss off her feet, and when she opened her eyes and looked around, the bird was gone.

She'd lost her trademark smile when the bird, or the girl, or whatever it was, had attacked her, but she resumed it now. It wasn't necessary to let the others know that she'd been flustered. Besides, everything had gone well enough.

Careful not to look directly at the open door, Bliss crawled on hands and knees over to the small structure, felt for the doorknob, and closed the door. She'd come back later to finish her part of the deal.

She stood, swept the dust off of her with a flick, and set about trying to wake up the other witches.


There was no single moment that Lex awoke. When he finally realized that he was in fact awake, he seemed to know instinctively that he'd already been conscious for several minutes.

He tilted his head, and saw a fire going in a hearth. Despite that, the air on his face was sort of cold. He tried to move closer to the fire, and someone moved to help him.

He might have fallen asleep again, or he might not have, but he felt safe and warm, and he relaxed.

Eventually the other person moved away, and he drifted for a bit longer.

When he finally sat up, the fire was still burning but the air was still cool. He was in a little room that didn't look so much like a room in a house but more of a spherical tent or a cave. Everything, including the little ledge near the fire on which he was balanced, curved in multiple directions.

The walls were fuzzy, and two of them were covered with big blankets, like the Navajo blankets that he remembered from the state fair back in Texas. Across from him, there was a wall covered with shelves of little clay and glass pots and vials and other bits of things. There was half a buffalo skull up on the top shelf, and an entire section of it seemed to hold little twigs and sticks. At the bottom, under the shelves, were old books and piles of yellowing newspaper.

There was movement in the other room, and then a Native American woman entered. She was dressed in a brown dress with a black apron over it and had long dark hair gathered back in a braid.

Lex shivered involuntarily and pressed himself away from her. He felt that something was wrong although he couldn't say exactly what.

She smiled at him, and held out a black glazed mug. "Have some tea. Really, you shouldn't be bursting into people's houses, you know."

"You're not a witch?"

The woman laughed. "No, of course not. Call me Grandmother."

His eyes narrowed and asked for a second opinion.

A moment passed and the woman drew a three legged stool over and put the mug on it, within easy reach of Lex.

Sora? He said again to the inside of his head, and then again.

He must have looked surprised because the woman laughed slowly. "You're looking for the enchantment, aren't you. It was a complicated little thing. I can understand why she made the deal that she did now. The thing that I don't understand is why you let it in your head." She shook her head. "Bad medicine, that. More likely to kill than to cure, whatever it was that you wanted out of it."

"What did you do?"

"I took the knot out of your head."

"I thought you said that you aren't a witch."

"Witch? No. Just a Grandmother and a weaver by trade."

"I want it back," Lex said stiffly.

She shook her head. "Had to cut too many of the threads. Can't be fixed now." Her eyes went up to the shelf and Lex's gaze followed. Among the bottles and other objects he spotted a little figure of sticks and bits of black and white string.

Some of the threads were cut, and it slumped over on it's side. The woman's words sunk in and he suddenly realized that Sora's voice was gone, probably for good.

He tried to stand, and at that moment realized that he was wearing nothing under the blanket. He sunk back down, wondering how long he'd been in the house and how long his only ally had been dead, and he recalled why he'd come.

"Where is Lia?"

The woman blinked at him. "Who?"

"Lia. One of the witches called her the raven."

The woman shook her head. "The Raven? She's not here. Hasn't been in this lifetime. She may be back soon, she may not. Always was solitary, that one, and suffers for it."

Lex ground his teeth. "What does that mean? What does everyone know that I don't? I mean, there are enough secrets out there, vampires and werewolves and witches and all of them seem to know immediately what all of it means, but nobody has thought to clue me in."

"Their shapes are important. Wolf or Bear or even Cat, although that one was not one we knew before they were brought from the east. The shapes determine who they are, either by choice or by force. Ravens . . . they're old birds. Some of the oldest, and they control powerful magics. They're present at the end of things, and their presence is greatly feared by the ladies. She'll live and die of magic and have some powerful influence in her short life. At least till one of the great ravens comes, and that . . ." the woman laughed again softly.

"Then it will be Dreamtime again," she finished and she looked at Lex with an almost angry gleam in her eye.

To Lex, it seemed like more riddles, but one like, that Lia would have a short life, stood out like fire in his brain. He glanced around, wondering if he could use the buffalo skull as a weapon when the older woman finally moved again.

"You should have had some tea," she said. "It settles the mind and it would have made this ever so much easier. Still, Grandmother Spider keeps her promises."

Lex jerked back, as though he'd been hit as he finally woke all of the way up and realized that the Native American woman had been only a dream. She was only there in the loosest sense, and also in her position was a six foot long black spider with gleaming red eyes. Two of her legs caught him, pinning him to the ledge of stone and web and as her torso pressed against him he felt a pain on his side. He tried to roll away but as he looked up at her suddenly bloody teeth the room seemed to spin again.

He closed his eyes but the warmth was no longer enough to make him feel comfortable.


Thursday, June 05, 2008


I've been going to the gym for the last eight weeks. I started off three times a week, and now I'm up to six: twice with a personal trainer, twice on my own doing the training routine, and twice doing cardio. Occasionally my brother will train with me on a weekend too.

Oh, and I'm on a strict diet too: No red meat, no dairy products, no processed sweets or carbs (or as few as possible) and I have to eat ever two and a half to three hours.

Guess how much weight I've lost in eight weeks? Ten freaking pounds.

I felt great on Monday. Everyone has been telling me that I look great, "Hey, have you lost some weight," etc. I was actually feeling proud of myself.

Then I see myself in the big mirrors at the gym on Tuesday, and now I feel like crap. I still look like a pig.

So now I'm desperately trying to keep myself into this. I mean, I feel like crap, I'm hungry all of the time, and I'm not getting any results.

One of the trainers at the gym said that I have to try to stick to it, but that's getting harder and harder with every session.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

That Glass of Water (A tragedy)

(My junior-high-writing-project-like post for the day. Guess from where?)

Vic sidled up to the bar, inconspicuous in his leather jacket and bandana. The barman was about his size, that is to say large, and had a fuzz of gray hair around his perpetually unfriendly jaw line.

There was a glass of water sitting just at the bar man's as he wiped down shot glasses.

"Hey," Vic said, "Slide me that glass of water."

The barman looked up in surprise for a moment. "No."

"No?" asked Vic, raising his voice a little. "Just slide it down here."

The barman shook his head, so Vic stood, and went down the bar himself, reaching for the glass.

A hand caught Vic's hand, and he turned. A hulking figure of a man stood there, his grip as tight as steel. "He said no, man."

Vic frowned, clenching his teeth together. "It's just a f***ing glass of water, man."

"I think you need to leave," the bigger man said.

Vic twisted out of his grasp, and stepped back, like he was heading for the door but instead he lunged back at the man.

The guy was so huge that it was like throwing himself onto a bag of wet cement. The force behind his fist just dissipated, and *BAM*, out of nowhere a fist drove him back into one of the bar tables, right into the place where Vic had chipped a rib when he was a reckless teenager.

Pain lanced through Vic's back, but he rolled up to his feet just as another man joined the hulk, both looking down on him.

"You messed with the wrong guy," Vic said, and rushed them both.

He didn't go with the subtle. He ducked past a punch thrown by the hulk's friend and then jerked his knee up into the hulk's groin.

The big guy made a really funny sound that made Vic think of him as a plushy rabbit doll, and then went down. Vic grabbed an empty beer bottle from the table and smashed the end, leaving him with a jagged little slashing weapon. He threated the friend who raised his hands and backed off slowly, only to turn to find the bartender with a shotgun.

"Get the hell out of my bar," the bartender said.

Vic just eyed the glass of water. "Just--"

"Out," the bartender said, and his eyes narrowed. He cocked the gun, just like in the movies, and pointed it right at Vic's face.

There was a brief pause as Vic considered what to do, but hulk suddenly groaned and pulled on a tablecloth, trying to get up. Granted, all that was on the table was a bottle of ketchup and tin salt and pepper shakers, but they made a racket as they fell.

The bartender looked away.

Vic threw himself forward. The bartender tried to bring the shotgun around into Vic's direction, but Vic was going for the gun, knocking it back out of the way, and then falling heavily on the bar and the bartender.

They went down behind the bar. Vic was wrenching the gun back and forth, and suddenly it went off in his hands, blowing a hole in the wooden wall next to him. Everyone in the bar, even those trying not to involve themselves, jumped and the smart ones ran for the door.

BAM, went the gun again, and as it did Vic pressed it back. Suddenly deprived of a counterbalance to the recoil, the shotgun jerked back and hit the bartender in the face, knocking him completely unconscious.

Vic stood up, the shotgun now in his hands. His eyes went directly to the glass of water, which had been knocked down the bar and was now precariously on the edge of the polished bar.

Slowly he stepped across the barkeeper's unconscious body and barely breathing he reached for it.

It started to lean just before he touched it but he hadn't expected how slippery it was. His fingers convulsed, but it wasn't enough to hold onto the glass. He watched as it fell through his hands and shattered on the cold brick floor.

Vic swore, and then threw the shotgun into the bar trash, and stalked out of the bar. Next door was a laundromat with a vending machine. It had bottled water in it. Vic checked his wallet. All he had was a twenty.

He frowned, and looked around for someone who could lend him a dollar.