Gender Ambiguity for Dummies

Hermaphroditus, sculpture, Del Prado Museum, Madrid

I can’t stand it when misinformed people make dismissive, derogatory comments about transgendered people. Worse yet, some of these people go as far as to commit hate crimes against trans people and gay men. It makes me all the more sad: that there are people, especially in the U.S., ESPECIALLY in New York, who are not evolved enough to accept these individuals for who they are.

The recent beating and consequent death of Islan Nettles, a black 21-year-old transgendered woman in Harlem, New York, is being investigated as a hate crime. Another transgendered woman posted a blog in response to this calling for awareness and a coming out of the people that know/like/love trans people. Their family and friends, their lovers, their co-workers, people that have interacted with them in any way, who would know that trans people are just people like you and me with a different set of insecurities. Everybody has them. It’s just that theirs revolve around being born in the wrong body/gender as opposed to whatever your own insecurity might be (be it the size of your breasts, your lack of career accomplishments, your trailer park background, your weight, whatever). Continue reading

My Two Cents on This Twerking Frenzy

mileycyrus

All this talk of twerking following Miley Cyrus’s performance has really reached obnoxious levels. Really? What’s the big deal? People (mainly, black women) have been doing this twerking thing for years. But of course it took some trashy, Madonna-wanna-be tween to make it the talk of the town. Or even the talk of the country when the VMAs haven’t even produced anything of quality in years and MTV (that’s Music Television, guys) hasn’t even been showing MUSIC VIDEOS in a long time.

If you want to see some good live twerking, I’d direct you to Bushwick Burlesque, a burlesque and variety show that happens every third Tuesday of the month in Bushwick, New York. The show is put on by Scary Ben and Darlinda Just Darlinda, masterminds of everything absurd and bizarre, and is held at the appropriately named Bizarre bar on Jefferson St.

bushwick burlesque

The show always features a (male and female, and everyone in between) booty bounce competition. A staple left behind by one of the original founders of the show, who has since left to go on tour with Big Freedia, the authority on booty bouncing. And here’s what she had to say about Miley Cyrus’s performance. Basically: Guuurrrlll, you ain’t got shit on this. Try again.

So if you want to learn to twerk or just watch some of-the-hook booty bouncing, come to Bushwick Burlesque next time, and please, for the love of God, turn your TVs off.

Portrait of an Artist

circle museum

While I’m friends with a lot of artists in the Burning Man community in New York City and think many of them are very talented, I’m still often turned off by the insular and self-celebratory nature of this scene and others like it. The tendency to assume that all the good, currently relevant art and creativity is happening within the scene and nowhere else. And if anyone, God forbid, is creating something outside of the scene, they must at once get involved in the community.

Bijan Mahmoodi, Circle Museum, Austerlitz

Some people need such a community of like-minded people and artists in order to thrive. For others, some aloneness and detachment from the bustle of big cities and scenes might be more inspiring. There are plenty of talented artists out there that are living in seclusion in the middle of nowhere and creating great, original works of art.

Case in point: Bijan Mahmoodi, an artist of Iranian origin, who has been living on a sprawling plot of land in a small town in upstate New York (near the Berkshires) for the past 27 years. The land contains over 100 pieces of original metallic sculptures, some small, some gigantic, that are bent and welded and strung together to look like birds, people, knights, globes, chairs, armor, and various abstract characters that seem to have surrealist and cubist influences. Continue reading

Some inspiration…

“Most of the writers I know are weird hybrids. There’s a strong streak of egomania coupled with extreme shyness. Writing’s kind of like exhibitionism in private. And there’s also a strange loneliness, and a desire to have some kind of conversation with people, but not a real great ability to do it in person.”

—David Foster Wallace

The Blackout, Sex, Coincidence and Fate

The 10-year anniversary of the NYC summer blackout reminded me that this date is actually quite significant to me. Not only did I have (blackout facilitated, I’d say) sex for the first time that night, but it’s also the anniversary of my immigrating to the United States. What’s even more uncanny is that the guy I had sex with that night had the same immigration anniversary. I don’t mean just the date. The year was the same, too.

Of course, I took this to mean something at the time. And of course part of the reason I finally gave it up to this college boyfriend, when I was 20, after all my Catholic “I-have-to-wait-till-marriage” hang-ups, had something to do with believing that these coincidences added up to “fate.”

I was working at a job in Queens that summer, when I still lived with my parents in Brooklyn. I’d go to his place often after work, but never stayed the night (my parents were overprotective. I was trying to keep my virginity intact, etc.) He was the one in my introductory post who kept saying, “let’s get naked” for months before the blackout.

That night, when the power went out at my office and we were all sent home around 5 p.m., I had nothing to do but walk to his house, as the trains weren’t even running. The power outage continued throughout the night and into the next day. Public transportation had shut down. Even most cell phones weren’t working. The traffic lights were out so getting a cab home was impossible, too. And everything had essentially “conspired” for me to stay there that night and finally “get naked” with Alex*. Continue reading

Let Me Take You On a Trip

Sukhush, Vish Kalra, Rachel Sacks, Brooklyn

Strutting in style in Brooklyn. Photo by Todd Muchow.

I first met Vish Kalra some eight years ago, when we were both waiters in an Indian restaurant near Union Square. Little did I know, at the time, that he had descended to this role from the heights of near-celebrity in Bombay, India, where he and his wife, Rachel Sacks, were owners of a popular club, which often got them page six treatment in the press. The club sought to bring different kinds of music, sound, atmosphere and food to India. And ever since they met 10 years ago, they’ve been collaborating on many creative projects that aim to bring something new and different to the table.

Now in New York, where they’ve lived together since 2005, they’ve been recording psychedelic trance and chill-out music under the name SuKhush where Vish DJs and Rachel plays the flute, improv style. The combination of her instrument and the decks makes for an unparalleled fusion of otherworldly, ethereal sound. (The name means a higher state of happiness in Sanskrit).

Even though they are disappointed, at times, that there isn’t as much of a psytrance scene in New York, as there is in Europe or India, they want to play their music here particularly because there is room for growth. Rachel, who has lived all over the world (including Bangkok, Bombay, Manila, Geneva, Paris and Toulouse) and is originally from California, calls New York home because of its potential to do, or be, anything you want here. Continue reading

Truth is stranger than fiction…

…is something a professor of mine in college, and a well-known current novelist, Colum McCann, once told his class. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, yet those of us who write, feel so strongly about the strangeness/wonder/absurdity/craziness of truth that we feel it necessary to then re-tell our stories, and those of others, in the form of fiction, and hope it can hold a candle to the truth. Some of us are happy just telling the truth. Others put a fictional spin on the truth. Still others put a truthful spin on the fiction. And, at the end of the day, there is an element of both in either. Because any truth is still filtered through our own memories, imaginations, perceptions, ideas and is not, after all, some objective version of truth (if such a thing even exists).

Anyway, I have a point (this is not just some philosophical rambling, cause everyone would love that, right?).  After I started blogging, many of my friends have asked me this question: “Are all the stories true?” And the answer is: most of them are. The interviews/profiles (and there will be more coming your way soon) are certainly true. I wouldn’t spend  hours/weeks working on them if they weren’t. Most of my own stories are also true. Some of them are fiction and are labeled as such. Some of them are mostly true, except for a few details that are changed, but are still labeled as fiction because…. creative license. And others, like Circles, are complete fiction. You can also see the bottom graph in one of my introductory posts re: what I’m planning to cover, and in what medium, on this page. For anything else, just ask me. And I’ll gladly tell you. You’re more than welcome to post your comments and inquiries below, too.

Most things, after all, are a never-ending stream of life imitating art imitating life…

Just Tell Everyone You’re Closing…

closed sign

…would be a good marketing strategy for a party, bar, restaurant or any business, really, that’s been flailing.

I recently went to the last Contempt party–a goth party that had been running for 15 years. They decided to shut it down seemingly because there wasn’t much interest any longer, the parties were usually sparsely attended and the DJs/organizers probably had other things to do. There are also a good handful (or more) of goth parties to choose from on any given weekend in New York these days (which is nice, I remember trying to find a goth party on a Friday night some 7 years ago and coming up empty handed), so the competition is fierce. But the closing night of Contempt (held at The Hills on 29th and 3rd, not downstairs at the Delancey, where it’s been for the past few years) was packed to the brim. Some 200 or more guests, I’d estimate. Kind of made it look wasteful that the party was closing in the first place. But then of course everyone came out because it was “closing night.” So, yes, just tell everyone you’re closing…and then… don’t? And keep doing “closing parties” for as long as you can, would be my advice…

Hey, hedge funds do it all the time. They tell people they’re “closed” to new money and everyone rushes to get in (And, of course, they still get in. Who would refuse new money?) So they keep that going for as long as they can. And if you want to make a killing, then following in the footsteps of the wealthiest and sneakiest people in the country would certainly be the way to go, n’est-ce pas? Continue reading

Circles

blue circles

The brown sign above the door reads “Aroma” and next to it is a drawing of a coffee cup with steam rising from it. We walk in, looking a bit delirious as always. In the morning, the aroma here, instead of the one implied, is always that of lemon-scented Pine Sol. It’s 8 o’clock. We sit at the same round table with tired eyes, tired hands, and tired thoughts, having been typing all night. What for?

Our waitress approaches—the same one with washed-out red hair—looking more tired than we are. Tired from working in this place her whole life. She must be in her forties now. She smiles like someone forced to say “cheese” for a photograph and comes to confirm that we will be having “our usual.”

“Two black coffees and plain bagels with cream cheese, toasted? Right?

We both nod. You grunt something that sounds like a “yes, please” in addition.

I stare out the window. There is a young couple walking by, holding hands. The two of us have stopped doing that long ago. They are dressed all in black with their long unbuttoned coats flying behind them. Hair loose, wavy, and unruly, down past their waists, also flying in the wind. They look like a cross between hippies and goths—not quite sure which way they want to be different. They are staring straight ahead, not talking, walking fast, with immense purpose. Seemingly unaware of being on this street, in this city, in this country, on this planet. As if they are from another world. I wonder where they are going; what their story is. No, no more stories. I’m tired of stories. There are already too many of them running amok in my mind and fist fighting one another to be written. Continue reading

The Julie Chapters (part 1 of tk)

“So how was jail, Julie?”

“It was the best experience of my life,” she says.

“How so?” I ask, looking puzzled.

“It made me stronger. It made me tougher. It taught me a lot. After you survive in a place with no heat, no hot water and where everyone is trying to kill you or rape you all the time, you can make it anywhere. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

She tells me this even as she’s trying to convince me that she was wrongfully imprisoned and charged. Hhhmm… Perhaps Frank Sinatra’s song should be updated to: “If you can make it in a New York jail, you can make it anywhere.” Continue reading