January 23, 2024

Goodbye, Timo

My sadness will come out in various ways. Yesterday, when I said goodbye to Tim, I told myself I had to be the strong one, as he cried quietly and quickly on my shoulder. It was the end of an affair--a passionate one, though brief--and now that he's in New York, we'll move on to being other things to each other. I do hope this is the case.

I met Tim at a party before Christmas, but he left before we could really talk to each other. As he left I had this urge to run after him and tell him to stay. Instead, I emailed our friend in common to ask for his number as soon as I was at work that Monday morning. Turns out, he was emailing that same friend that moment as well, so we quickly arranged to get together.

Over pints at the 19 Bar (a mutual favorite watering hole for us), we got to know each other a bit more. On the walk back to my apartment--and it wasn't the beer talking--I said, "you know, I don't care that you're moving away to New York in month. I like you, and I'm going to keep liking you." He replied that he felt the same. Thus begin our brief affair.

We tried very hard to keep perspective on things, while still not allowing the impending date of departure (plane tickets purchased, furniture sold on craigslist) to dampen things too much. Perhaps it added to the passion.

I've always been acutely aware of the time-bound nature to life in general. And, perhaps for me more than others, the time-bound nature of relationships. You never know when the river we're all standing in will sweep us away to a new city, a new school, a new part of our life in which the man we're with doesn't figure anymore. Some might have called me and Tim foolish--why bother investing emotions and time with someone else who you know is going to leave someday? But we never know the opposite--that he's going to stay forever. I spent time with Tim because he's beautiful--the way he looks while he's sleeping, the way his body looks lying on top of the covers, the sounds he makes when he kisses, the kind things he says or the kindness he conveys in his own touches.

We were bound to South Minneapolis. No week-long trips to Montreal, no gifts, no expensive meals (except for Friday night's at Bobino). Instead, we touched each other where neither of us had been touched for a while.

It was last week when I realized that, throughout this period, as is usually the case, something had been tunneling under my fortifications. It was the same with Tim. We had tamed each other, and we had only ourselves to blame.

I hope New York is everything Tim wants it to be. I hope he finds the kind of guy that always eluded him in Minneapolis--the kind of guy, he would tell me he found at the end, ironically, here in Minneapolis. I know I'll be happy for him. For now, I'll be sad, and take comfort in its implications.

Posted by jason at 07:39 PM | Comments (5)

January 08, 2024

Is it just me, or has everyone recently finished writing a novel?

journal_fade

A few days before Christmas, my radiator broke in my bedroom. Luckily, I was taking a nap in there at the time, and the hot sound of hissing work me up. To my initial horror, a thick jet of steaming radiator water had taken aim at the journals I keep on the shelves at my desk, level with my right knee. These are the spiral bound notebooks I've been filling since the age of fifteen, when an assignment for a freshman creative writing class became the discovery of an obsession. They catalogue my juvenile obsessions with murder, death, and family life, first inklings of sexual desire (written in French, if I thought mom might be interloping), dreams for myself, escapades in Minneapolis, Montreal, London, and LA. I have twenty of them or so, some spanning a year, some only a few months. And my radiator was pissing on them.

I have to say that my initial horror quickly faded, replaced by a calm acceptance. Dust to dust, and all that. Before I had even had a chance to examine the evidence, I was over it. I laid out the worst ones on other, more stable radiators, quietly pumping away in other rooms. As the pages began to crisp and curl, the destruction became evident--certain character sketches and plot lines: vanished. Most of my trip to Seattle with Brian: erased. The rest of the damaged pages, I'm happy to say, could still be read by any future biographer.

Which raises such silly questions...Am I writing these things for a future biographer? For a boyfriend who will sneak a peek when I'm in the shower or out buying a newspaper? Am I doing this to capture that trip to Seattle, as though it doesn't already exist in much more colorful form in my head, or as an assemblage of digital photos? "Archive fever," someone might say, but I'm not sure what that means yet. But there's something to it. I never refer back to my old journals, I never re-read them to try and recapture some lost personal arcadia of my youth or of my years in London. While they're catch-alls, in a way, for plots and lines of poetry, they serve the purpose of workbooks you trace your cursive letters in and then discard. They're mimeographs or carbon copies. It's the process of writing it down which embosses something of the thought on my mind. What's leftover gets stacked on the shelves. Who are they waiting for?

There they seemed so permanent, and the growing stack was reassuring, I suppose, in the same way that those people you know will be reassured by their stacks of newspaper dating back to 1982. Until you realize how easily some types of ink will run...

Is it just me or has everyone recently finished writing a novel? Jack Kerouac is finishing one, among the pages of his journals which I'm reading, Jack Kerouac: Windblown World, edited by Douglas Brinkley. I should say I'm reading it despite the inane blurb from Johnny Depp. It's 1947, Kerouac is around my age, and he's finishing The Town and the City, counting the words he puts down each day and writing long, rambling essays about Jesus Christ. Although when you apply the theorem I've developed regarding sexually-confused Catholic boys (Religious iconography = latent sexual tension), his mini-essays reveal a rather more interesting subtext. In Minneapolis, Kerouac had "a short talk with a young man in the bus station who had a Fire of Phenomenality in his eyes and ended up giving me religious tracts (one more involved & free-thinking than the other, designed for blokes)"...[religious tracts = latent sexual tension].

The journals are filled with jokes and take on a tone that suggests he was quite aware of how they would play into the hands of future readers. Of course, I've never read a set of journals that didn't come across this way--as just another tentacle of the author, another type of story. In our present age of blogs and Tarnations, perhaps this is the new dominant form?

Joan Didion, in my favorite essay of hers, "On Keeping a Notebook," almost comes to a conclusion about its point:

 It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about.

But who am I keeping in touch with? That future biographer? That long-gone boyfriend who snuck a peak and found something he would have been better off not reading? That boy who back in 1994 wrote about another boy he loved, in French? It probably doesn't matter.

If you haven't just finished writing a novel, then your New Year's resolution has been to finish one. Or at least write more. Kate Silver has had some good posts on this topic the past couple days, such as this one. Nothing comforts me more than knowing that someone I consider a friend is writing more (because then I don't have to!). Kate writes,

Kinda-sorta related -- something I read yesterday -- Jeremy has resolved to write more. That's been my resolution as well. Sometimes I only get to write between 6-9 AM. Sometimes I ignore my notebooks altogether, which is a shame. I like to write something every day, even if it's a smattering of ideas, like what's above (for better or for worse). I'm thankful for Brimming, because it means I get down a few concrete thoughts per week.

I think about this all the time, especially in the winter. Unlike Kate, I do my writing at my job, after five pm. Have you noticed, like me, how little energy there is to go around these weeks of January and February? It seems a horrible Sissyphean condemnation to have to spend those hours making money. When five pm rolls around, I barely have the energy to pull out my notebook. Last night I didn't even try. Fell asleep on the bus, walked into my apartment and crashed on my bed, fully clothed. Lest this devolves into a pity-party (more than it already has), I like to tell myself that this is part of it--the feelings that it should be easier. So much of writing is just forcing yourself to sit there and exhaust your hours with the banality of the process. Even Jack Kerouac gets in a funk....
THURSDAY JAN. 22--Tried to write and wrote nothing at all, what I wrote was crossed out. This is one of the worst ones yet, especially after all I've written. FRIDAY JAN. 23--Went out finally last night, but I had already overcome the depression by thinking 'right down' to it--I think. Binge, slight one.

Perhaps as Kate and Cooper suggest, it should not be about quantity, but quality. Perhaps my mantra for the New Year should be Make It Good. Of course, resolutions only you set you up for recrimination. Here's mine: buy a big plastic bin for my journals, and don't worry about the why.

Posted by jason at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2024

Who Do You Think We Are?

As the debunking continues--fake websites archived, ip address tracked (from within the Star Tribune), fake photos identified--some of us have been feeling a bit betrayed. While not many of us have admitted to extended conversations via email with mesouthern's made-up persona, it's obvious that there was a kind of communication involved between whoever performed those identities and the true, genuine individuals who visited his blog. Now, those histories feel tainted to some people, perfumed with malice. For those who communicated forthrightly and honestly, they're left with a feeling of betrayal at mesouthern's 404 Not Found.

On the one hand, isn't that what you get for allowing yourself to form a connection with an entity that can be so easily faked? I'm amazed at some of the comments that appear from time to time on blogs such as my friend Aaron's. These are people who have never met Aaron in person (luckily, Iíve actually seen him frolic in an astronaut costume made out of Fedex paks, so yes, heís real), and yet they share in the carefully constructed narrative of his life that is his blog and trade with him their emotions via typed comments to his post, comments that in my opinion often resemble a vacuous form of witnessing. Aaron's writing moves people--at least, his visitors want us to believe that they are moved by his writing. At times, the emotions expressed require very little effort. It's the declaration that's important. Itís not a circuit that has formed but two looping tracks, pointing back toward the self. Bloggers arenít speaking to their readers, theyíre speaking to a conception of themselves. And readers arenít speaking to bloggers, theyíre reassuring themselves of their place within an imagined community.

I don't mean this as an indictment of those who claim to form connections with bloggers. I find it fascinating the way easily manipulated rows of pixels engender true emotion (if emotion feels true, isn't it true?). Deceitful misrepresentations bring about genuine feelings. Just like some of my past (real-life) relationships!

And these are true feelings. I've been thinking back to a very old article, now seminal, included on cultural studies reading lists and in cyberspace readers, on how virtual actions in cyberspace bring about real feelings in participants. Julian Dibbel's A Rape in Cyberspace tells the story of an online fantasy world in which one character raped another. This absurd virtual rape, represented not in images but in words, nonetheless caused trauma among certain participants.

Those of us who came of age online, who formed their first connections with other gay men via IRC or AOL's gay chat rooms, know that it is possible to form genuine connections with people who, for a time, exist only as words on your computer screen. I met my first boyfriend on a local BBS. Years later, he informed me he had instituted proceedings to emigrate to Australia to be with an online boyfriend he had never met, but had fallen in love with through words. Whether or not his decision was rational (he never actually went through with it), I canít deny that the online relationship had a strong affect on him. Often, these online relationships need to move quickly into the physical realm in order to have a chance at sustaining themselves, though sometimes they donít. I ďmetĒ Glen online, salaciously, I might add. We corresponded for a year before our first phone call. That long exchange of emails sustained one of the most fulfilling relationships Iíve been fortunate to have, at least until we had a chance to meet in person. But how many great conversations have I had with folks on gay.com (well, hardly enough to count on one hand, but there have been some!) that have gone no further than that initial conversation? How many fake monikers have I found attractive?

In his very first post (archived at and I am somebody..., mesouthern writes,

hi there. i'm from the south. i now live in the north. i'm with a boyfriend that i don't really like. we get a long fine, most of the time. he just annoys me. i don't really like to be around him, but i love him. i'm crazy confused about life. i'm not a fan of the snow or the cold, but i'm in minnesota. i'm gay and happy. i don't believe people who say being gay is a sin. i don't care what people say about my choices in life. believe me i've made tons of mistakes. i'm jewish and don't wish to be converted. i have slept with more men than i've dated. i've had my heart broken tons of times. i've been knocked down and survived. i'm not sure why i'm willing to air my life in a blog. i guess i'm just self centered. more to come...

Self-centered indeed, but arenít all bloggers? Isn't that what blogging celebrates, sometimes at the expense of your readers, who expect you to be a certain way (i.e.: genuine)? Whether what you publish is a daily collection of pertinent links or a intimate account of your sex life, youíre focused on how these represent your life, not on whether some anonymous reader out there will find it interesting. When IRC was popular, the #gayminnesota channel would hold real-life events at the 19 Bar so that people could meet each other for real. Gay.com is all about falicitating a real-life hookup. But bloggers donít seem to be that interested in meeting other bloggers, or their fans.

Mesouthernís most commented-on posts had to do with his HIV status. If anything touched a psychic nerve among the gay men who visited his blog, it was his discussions of HIV. People wrote in saying that they had just found out they were poz and that his words had been an inspiration. One person wrote in saying he had been thinking about mesouthern earlier that day, fascinating evidence of a fiction replicating itself offline, among the everyday lives of its readers.

Now that we know it was a fake, this aspect of his blog has caused some resentment. Why couldnít he have just made up stories about tweaking and fucking and made us all laugh (of course, he did that too). The resentment is understandable. Take for instance the comments on Aaronís blog from Johnny, who writes on johnsdreams:

i am sort of blown away by this. i dont see how someone could make all that up? ALL that? mesouthern's blog pulled on my heartstrings. he echoed a lot of what i pften feel (much more fluidly too) s someone struggling with this hiv shit. now his blog is just gone? and everyone is convinced its a big hoax? i just dont get it. at all.

i'm sort of tempted to shut down my blog. i feel totally betrayed if what you say is true. it's a piece of crap anyway. i don't have talent like aaron here, who expresses himself so beautifully.

i hope you are wrong. :(

As someone who was able to commiserate with mesouthern on that ďhiv shit,Ē he understandably feels dupedóitís pretty fucking cruel to pretend you have HIV when others donít have that luxury. What I wonder is does it really matter in this day and age whether or not what provided your momentary sense of community was real or not?

Mesouthernís images seduced. He did not poach photos of ugly guys to construct his persona. Though they didnít match up, that didnít really matter for those who noticed; they visited anyway. Is there a commonality to those fake photos? On what criteria do we choose our masks?

To salvage something from the moment, I ask, how fake can these websites really be? Donít you get the feeling that something real, however ungraspable, is lurking behind the fiction? Our online personas canít help but be somewhat schizophrenic extensions of our self. Even when we fake itópretend to be the opposite gender, assume someone elseís photos as our own, pretend we have HIV, weíre nonetheless providing shape and color to some internal impulse, revealing something of ourselves that could only be represented in symbolic form. Though he lies, truths can't help but come through. The sum of the banalities he posted (I'm dating someone I don't love / my T cells are down / I love smoothies / I'm dating a bi boy / I like running around Lake Calhoun) creates a metanarrative on gay life.

Including Michelle Bachmannís son in this and characterizing him as gay was a brilliant suicide for the triumvirate of blogs that the fakester orchestrated. That the gay boy was the son of an anti-gay legislator, that the whole thing ended on the first day the legislature convened, and that a real boyís identity was co-opted with such shameless veracity, is to be applauded. If only we all could be so bold. It was the most fascinating short story Iíve read in a year.

Posted by jason at 08:02 AM | Comments (10)

January 05, 2024

A Question of Ethics...

Hey everyone, here's a question for you...Let's say you had solid evidence that a local public official known for bigoted and anti-gay legislative actions, had a homo for a child. While I'm comfortable with the outing of public officials, the ethics of publicizing this hypocrisy is muddier. On the one hand, exposing the hypocrisy has a rhetorical effect, but on the other hand, a child and a parent should be treated as separate entities, right? The child can't necessarily be held responsible for the parent's bigoted actions, even though acknowledging the child's sexuality would undermine that bigotry. Does it make a difference if the child is out? Or out to the parents?

I don't think it's ethical, but what do y'all think? Whether or not its right, it's still juicy!

update: and yet, on the other hand, a blog is public. And if you sign your name to a blog, and talk about details from your life, and make it public, isn't it to be expected that people are going to come around and put 2 and 2 together?

update: eh, draw your own conclusions, after the jump...

update: well, the other blogs associated with STB, mesouthern and uptown diva, are down now too, suggesting that it was indeed a hoax. a good one, and fun for a day!

Plus, there's this.

And here are some screen captures from mesouthern's blog, which was also taken down today...

Posted by jason at 09:55 AM | Comments (20)