na foine ting

Friday, April 30, 2004
The problem isn't coming out gay.

My problem is always coming out bi. Everyone knows I'm gay (even people I don't know know me). The trick is going... "but wait, you, you I'll fuck" to people I find particularly tasty.

Then there's the whole inevitable "but I thought you were married and gay..." thing. So tedious.

I want a button.

"I'm gay and married.

Except for you, sweetass. Get over here."


Yeah, yeah, I'm all talk.

Anyway... so last night despite things being the chaos they've been, my fabulous family gave me some very precious, much needed writing time.

I cloistered myself away in the office, ate garlic pasta, drank, mantled over the keyboard a while, and emerged after some time to take some things to the washer.

Bec said, "I thought you were writing."

"I am writing," I said. "I've written two words. That's good, isn't it?"

"Only if they're 'the end,'" she said.


Rebecca's bloggin'.

Not the one I'm married to; the sevenling-writin', marathon-runnin', fellow mnemonic plague carryin' one.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Yes, the rumors are true.

My truck, reliable, fabulous old Bronco II burst spontaneously into flames yesterday.

Well, not spontaneously. And not really flames.

But still, there we were at the red curb of my office building with the hood thrown up and the engine still running and the

fucking starter still engaging

and smoke pouring everywhere and my office field service manager and two guys from the building janitorial service trying frantically to disconnect the battery with found objects from their pockets.

And me, standing by with the fire extinguisher after having flung all the expensive hockey gear, goalie pads etc. out onto the perfectly manicured lawn.

Something of a nightmare, which the funniest things usually are.

The ultimate irony is that I'd just written a several-page paen to our friend and babysitter, on whom I'd hoped to foi-- I mean bestow this vehicle, waxing on about its finer points and how

fucking reliable

it was.


These things are funnier in flush times, where cars are easily replaced and repair bills easily paid and bosses aren't breathing down one's neck grudging every moment of lost work time.

Still, even now it's funny, with the goalie pads lying flung in the impatiens and me on my cell phone alternately crying and raving to my mechanic, whom I'm sure by now fervently wishes we'd never moved to Sunnyvale and he'd never, ever met me.

Thanks to Becca for the many rescues, and to Brian and Margo, who kindly offered to take me to the Mexican circus.

Or sell me to the Mexican circus.

Or something like that.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
This is the post about Spaulding Gray's suicide.

In Cronenburg's "Crash," there's this moment where there's been a huge car wreck and Hunter's character's husband has just been killed, and Hunter and Spader's characters are just sitting there in the mangled cars, staring at each other through their respective shattered windshields. It's a long moment, a long stare, and the first moment of real contact in the movie, where characters have solid eye contact, where for the first time they reckon with each other.

Hunter's character, in that moment, rips aside her jacket and bares her breast to Spader. Not just bares it, but thrusts it at him. It's not invitation; it's statement.

Critically, a lot has been made of the relationship between technology and sexuality in "Crash," and most of the commentary seems to follow Cronenburg's "this is about man and machines" red herring with some relief.

But it is a red herring. "Crash" is about the violence of connection, about risk and vulnerability, about how we can't be sure of having truly known someone, or experienced something until we see the blood, the marks, the scars.

As the film's sexual ringleader says, it's not about "the reshaping of the human body by modern technology."

It's about the point of real impact, the resonance and bruising of a moment where two people have had genuine effect on one another and no one walks away untransformed.


We've demystified pain, for the most part.

One "gets over" things. You take pills for this depression or that disorder, you "feel better." You "function," which means going about your day in a routine way. Without coming apart, without falling down.

Without visible signs of distress, like screaming, crying, hollering, or other blood or contusions.

When you climb out of the hole people say "I'm so glad you feel better."

Relief, usually shared, at having to returned to life in the light, busy and productive, the functioning, "normal" state.


Jon's mother wanted to believe that in the final analysis, Jon had been happy. More to the point, that I had made him happy, that I had fucked his depressive dysfunctional brains out and that he really just had been that stoned that day and had died with a big smile on his face.



Bullshit, it was suicide and if anything in my usual bacchante way I probably woke Jon up from his hibernation and isolation just in time to think

fuck, this hurts

and then end it quick, before too much more than that registered.

Yeah, you're welcome.


Good humor, good comedy, good art is violent by nature. It impacts, it registers, and the best of it leaves a mark, the best of it scars the audience. It hits in such a way that the audience cannot walk away unchanged.

The best art comes, likewise, from a place of impact. It is an expression of the resonance of life in someone willing to not only fully experience, but relate it.

This is generosity.

This is -- if you can say the words just right or if the notes fall onto the staff the way you hear them or if you can make the paint or stone go just that way -- virtuousity.

Failure is most about isolation, where either we are sure we fail to communicate or feel that for all our pings and soundings, we have been largely unheard.


I can make you laugh, right here:

A few weeks after the funeral, Jon's parents invited me over to dinner.

Dinner involved extensive conversation about autopsies, police reports, Jon's mental state and the new dining table, which was imported from Japan and made of some kind of expensive maple.

I said the table was very nice several times in several ways, hoping it would cover my silence on the rest of it.

After dinner Jon's mother took me into their garage, which she'd remodeled into a sort of temple. The cars lived out in the driveway; as we walked in my first thought after

"Wow, it's a fake temple in the garage" was
"They have no garage: where did she put all Jon's crap?"

Jon's mom took me in there and sat down and took a deep breath and picked up the mallet.

Bong, went the gong. It was a small gong, so it wasn't a big, powerful or serene sort of sound. Less of a bong, in fact. More of a clunk.

"Was he happy?" she asked me, without opening her eyes.

I realized I'd been cornered and there was no escape and that in addition I was about to lean on the garage door opener button, which would be, in this scenario, nothing short of disastrous.

Bong, or rather, clunk went the gong again.

"Was he happy?" she said.

I contemplated a lot of things at that point including the truth, which obviously wasn't going to work here any more than pushing the button under my shoulder and running out into the driveway and daylight was.

She stopped with the gong and I realized she'd opened her eyes and was looking at me.

Down in the backyard, her bare feet had worn an errant oval through her garden. I had followed her around it, once, twice, again, hearing stories about Jon. My palm slid on the smooth spot worn on the tree branch where she'd just ducked under; her hand had trailed there a moment before.

"Sometimes," I said.


In "Crash," disfiguration is beauty, is sexuality. Rosanna Arquette's character admires but does not envy the clean lines of a Mercedes, leaned against it in her awkward mechanical leg braces.

She smiles at the salesman, who is simultaneously fascinated with, aroused and repulsed by her.

"Could you help me into it, please?" she asks him. "I'd like to see if I can fit into a car designed for a normal body."

She can, with assistance and difficulty.

But not without -- deliberately -- tearing a hole with her leg brace in the buttery perfection of the leather seat.


Looking life square in the eye and living to tell the tale is a mean trick. It has been done, often with the help of stable families, acclaim, wealth, drugs, alcohol, or (as in the case of your odd Bukowski or Ellison) sheer cussedness. Or a combination of these.

Some folks make it look easy, at least until we realize it hasn't been.

I'm telling you about Spaulding Gray here, and about how it wasn't just about depression.

And how like it or not we are accountable.

And how it shouldn't have been a surprise.


Monday, April 26, 2004
Two games last night, with a sushi dinner and my truck breaking down in between them.

The sushi was great.

My truck eventually made it to the shop. Prognosis: dead starter and solenoid, to the tune of a mere $218, thank you Ford and the guys at the Fair Oaks Union 76 station. Yay for cheap, honest mechanics.

Ice Hounds lost 5-1, which is a record in terms of low goals against, and in that we also actually scored. Bec played a spectacular game, including a truly fantastic sliding kick save which belongs in some video game somewhere, along with a sparkly light trailer thing behind her and little "eeeeeeyaaahahhhhh!" cutie girl sound effect.

Pirates also lost, but it was a close 6-4, and the game was in all ways different than last season. A nice, for the most part tight-knit bench, a lot of kudos and support (without being annyoingly smarmy), and being on a line with James and Reed was kind of like pickup all over again... do what they do, fill in the gaps, don't get in the way of their scoring, don't trip on my dick.

I mean, you know. So to speak.

It was nice to find out that I have it in me to play two games all-out without much rest in between. I thought I'd be fried for the Pirates game, but didn't give them any less (even with James and Reed's marathon 3 minute plus shifts--thank GOD for short ice!!).

Glad to find that I can finish one game feeling low and ambiguous and dig up fire for the next game, turn it around, give what I didn't think I had.

Which brings me to my next problem. If I can play 2 games in a day without too much trouble, what I've been suspecting is in fact true:

There just is not enough hockey in the world.

Thursday, April 22, 2004
Trickling In

I told a frustrated unpublished writer recently that most of us never "hit it big." Most of us trickle in.

A friend of mine is considered hot. Big. Part of Kelly's "New Wave." He barely scrapes by. I mean, like Top Ramen and beans barely scraping by.

I know very few writers, hot or otherwise, who support themselves--much less themselves and their families--with their fiction alone.

So I'm not looking to be the next Rowling. I don't define that as success. I know better.

I do.

But there's still this little petulant part of me that believes Virginia Woolf and knows that that room of my own doesn't just have to do with a physical space (although that's nice too), that it has to do with enough income to be reasonably comfortable, it means a nice supper and most importantly time. Time and quiet.

Ray Carver moved his office into the garage to avoid the day to day traffic of his family. He resented the laundry.

Honestly, I do too.

When I met LJ in person, he was in the last year of his life. Sick, and destitute. He stayed with us longer than we'd intended, and we put up with his illness, his smoking, his temper and demands with what we felt was a fair amount of good humor.

I owed him, for one. He'd mentored me on and off, and he'd gotten "Parker" out of the slush pile and onto Schmidt and Dozois' desks.

The real reason I helped him, though, was this heavy empathy. Not just because he was a sick old man, dying more or less alone. But because he'd been a part of science fiction since I was born, widely published, and when I mention his name to anyone who's been around for a while at a con, they know who I'm talking about. Most of them can remember a novel of his, or a short story.

And here he was, out in my backyard, chainsmoking and admitting he didn't own a single copy of anything he'd published. Everything he owned was either in his suitcase or in the battered cardboard box he'd brought with him on the plane.

I didn't want to be like that, down the road. And I could see it happening. That's the thing.

I correspond on and off with a guy who used to be a pro defenseman, probably an enforcer. He's been around a long time, you can tell from how he talks about hockey and players as far back as Howe and Orr. He lives up in Vegas, and lives every day with pain.

He's lonely, and in moments when I suspect he's been drinking he confides that he's not sure that it was worth it. That pro hockey was amazing, but he's got nothing except a wrecked body to show for it now.

TH sat in my truck and admitted to me that when it's done, when his career inevitably ends, he's nothing more than an undereducated punk from Canada whose kids know more about his computer than he does. He sat and didn't look at me and said "I don't know anything but hockey. Nothing. I'm not sure what I'm going to do."

I work my eight hour day, I take care of my wife and son and when it's eleven-thirty or later sometimes, I go in the study and close the door. I reckon with how tired I am, and how if I write for three hours I'll get about four hours sleep before I have to go to work again.

Most of us hammer this out of the tin of very mundane lives.

We have our families, our jobs, things like hockey and friends taking up time that could be spent forging brilliance at the keyboard.

The ultimate irony is that this may save us.

The ultimate irony is that I don't have the luxury of living and dying by my work.

Which means that I have a lot more to live and die for, at the end of the day.

Monday, April 19, 2004
Everyone else's words are better. So here they are, the top quotes from email recently:


I've been craving sushi and having dreams about moving into our dream house, which in my dreams is so precipitously close to the ocean that the waves break against our bay windows.

Then I went downstairs (the floor plan of the house has solidified and is recurring except for what I find in different rooms) ...and almost stepped off the bottom step into water full of chum.

No sharks, though.


Thursday, April 15, 2004

No, really.


Fucking OW.

That's about it. As you were, carry on.


(After mass quantities of Advil)

Consider this fact: I think of myself as reasonably highbrow. For example, a lover of classical music.

This is complete horseshit. I have been--in the absence of my LaunchCast personal station, which is mysteriously malfunctioning--listening to LaunchCast's classical station. I hate about 95% of what they play.

In contrast, I can listen happily to anything and everything they play that's big band. Like, indiscriminately.

That's just awful. Awful. It is.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
You'll note I linked Dan's blog to mine.

Dan's hilarious, and brilliant. And pretty much a stone fox, and that's saying something considering he doesn't play hockey.


I have a great story to tell you all about my hairstylist.

My hairstylist's name is A**** (sorry), and if you live in my area, I'll tell you where his salon is, because you have to go get your hair cut by him. In fact, if you're living in Toronto or Ohio or Vancouver or wherever (and you know who you are), you still have to come get your hair cut by him, because he's a riot and everyone in the world has to experience him just once.

And actually, he does a pretty good job on my hair.

The first thing you need to know is that A is not gay. Let's get that stereotype out of the way right now, because it's important to what happens later.

So a month or so ago A's salon got busy, and he did too many sexy haircuts in a row. He messed his back up with all the standing around and snipping and leaning and spraying and reassuring people that they looked great.

So, not having a regular chiropractor or massage therapist or anything, A did the sensible thing and looked up "massage" in the phone book.

(You see where this is going, don't you?
Well, A didn't.)

"So I found this place, 'ORIENTAL MASSAGE,'" he said. "Seemed pretty good to me, I mean, I'm Oriental, it said 'Oriental Massage,' OK, so I called them up."

It will come as no suprise to you, dear readers, that they had an appointment for him available at once. It was particularly convenient, he said, that this--how shall I say--massage studio was practically around the corner.

So A drives over there, and finds himself at a residence, rather than a place of business. You know, with things like a receptionist and... well... a storefront.

"But you know, I'm thinking," A said, "maybe they do it to save money, you know? It's expensive, having a shop, I understand being a little cheap. So I knock on the door."

(You see what's about to happen, don't you?
Well. A didn't.)

A woman answers. A bit, how shall we say, scantily clad for A's idea--in fact probably anyone's idea--of the average massage therapist, but A being who he is, he went with the flow, took off his shoes ("hell, I do that at home too," he reasoned), and went in.

And lo, there in the living room sat a number of Asian girls, all wearing lingerie.

"With nothing on underneath!" A said, with all the shock he apparently felt. "I mean, you could see their nipples and..." --gesturing-- "you know."

The woman who answered the door invited A to choose his masseusse. "There was this cute little Japanese girl," he said with enthusiasm, and I thought, "cool, they let you choose who will do the massage, so I chose, what was I supposed to do? I didn't want to seem rude or anything."

So he was led by the cute little Japanese girl into the back of the house. There was as much of a lack of massage paraphernalia, he told me, as... well... storefront.

"Just a room with some candles and a big bed," he said.

(You see where this is going, don't you?
Well. A still didn't. Or so he claims.)

[Insert here a slightly less interesting interlude which involves haggling over the charge for "full service," in which A still fails to get what he's paying for but talks his way into a bargain anyway.

Now, on to the good stuff:]

The Japanese girl told him to take of his clothes. "All my clothes?" asked A, and a moment later, in fact he said in less than thirty seconds, she had skillfully divested him of every stitch. "She was really fast," he said.

Then she told him to lie down facefirst, and according to A, got naked herself.

"And that was the worst massage I've ever gotten," A said, shaking his head. "Then the next thing I know, she takes some of the oil, and covers herself with it, and starts massaging me with her breasts!"

(You may ask here how A could continue to think he was still getting a--very unorthodox--massage.
I did. He had nothing resembling a good answer to the question.)

"Then she told me to roll over," he told me. I'm thinking, "but the hurt part is on the other side, but you know, I don't know very much about Asian massage"--yeah, but baby you're starting to get better and better acquainted, aren't you?--"so I thought 'might as well,' and rolled over."

He stopped cutting my hair, looked at me in the mirror. "You'd never guess what she did next," he said.

"Go on," I said.

"She puts a condom in her mouth!" he exclaimed. Pantomiming.


"Really," he said, and then continued to pantomime, opening his mouth and


"and the next thing I know the thing is on my--" a gesture in the region of "you know", and he straightens with an expression of utter astonishment.

"BLAM!" he exclaims, with a sudden clap of his hands. "David Copperfield! Unbelievable."

(You want to know the rest of the story.
A, fortunately, continued.)

"So you know what happened then," he said. As if I'd know, which I had, apparently far earlier in the game than he did.

(And so did you.
Which brings us to the irony of this, which has to do with who of all of us got his milk and cookies and the reason to smirk, in the end.)

There's more to this story, which maybe I'll share sometime. But suffice to say that A is somewhat wiser, and there are quite a number of working girls in the area sporting very nice haircuts.

There's only one problem.

"My fucking back still hurts," A says.

Thursday, April 08, 2004
Ice is the warmest element.

Sunday, Logitech: Bec and I showed up for pickup and half our EEE team was there. More or less spontaneously, and then Brian from OHC pickup showed up, and then Eric from Vallco and then finally Buzz and Reed from San Mateo strolled in like their presence there was nothing unusual.

Brian told me about his girlfriend woes. Eric listened with astonishment while I recounted to my teammates about the first time I'd sat on a bench with him.

"I was terrified," I told them. "Babbling. I mean, just sitting there talking and talking, because it was my first pickup game ever and I was scared out of my fucking mind, and finally Eric turned on me and snapped 'Shut up. Play.'" I affected his heavy Russian accent, and even Eric laughed.

"Hell," he said, "I said that?"

"Yep," I said. "You did."

On the ice, my crappy week ceased to matter. The better players worked around us or through us, the bored goalie left his net for an unexpected breakaway.

I laughed, and yelled, thumped the wall when Bec made good saves and hollered encouragement to everyone, including guys I didn't know.

Part of me loosens, on the bench. Severino calls me "Babycakes" again and grins when it still fails to get a rise out of me, and Erik gives me crap about coughing it up in the neutral zone and how I made a stink to everyone on the team who'd listen about having to play D.

I spent four years in firefighting, trying to fit my personality into what I thought was the shape of a hero.

On the ice it doesn't matter. I bring what I have, I simply give the best of whatever it is I am.


Primeau scores the game winning goal. Stuart scores two in twenty, and Vinnie ends the season with a bang.

I watch, and cry and laugh and scream and scan the bench for faces I know won't be there.

Like suddenly Wilson will pull Marco and Parker out from some secret panel behind the bench, saying "just kidding, seriously, here they are."


When I quit fire I worried that I'd never see an engine or a truck again without regret. So many stubborn years, clinging to something that now only resembles pride.

My truck is full of gear, now. Bec's goalie sticks and my sticks and even my son's half-sized stick rattling around in the back. The bag of turnouts is gone, and I keep my EMT kit mostly for stopping for accidents, on the rare occasions when those old skills might actually be needed.

I miss it less than I thought I would. I've threaded into ice, sometimes lighthearted and talking too much for all the guys, sometimes deadly serious, sometimes leader sometimes follower. I have my off nights, my on nights. Regardless, I'm always happy to be there.


I've watched most of a season of Sharks practices. I started after Hockey Workout closed, and kept it up because it made me happy, and had become habit.

I learned a lot about hockey from those guys, over the season.

And a lot about the variety of ways a person can relate to the game.


I wonder if they know that for not being there, their presence is indelible. That Marco's grit and heart and selflessness is retained like a thumbprint on every play in a Sharks game.

That what Parker brought of blinding courage and toughness cannot help but linger, even when he's gone.

I'm not sure why L's dad got cozy with me, but people sometimes do. I register as agreeable, I suppose. Mostly harmless, easy to talk to. Interested, because I am.

He talked to me not about his son but Parker, in the kind of tones that sounded uncomfortably wishful.

"Huge," he said, and then considered the ice and the players and his kid, called up and paying his heart out. "Parker toughened them up during training camp. Some of those guys were soft," he said.

The admiration in his voice was clear. I followed his gaze to Parker, nodded, smiled, didn't have much to say.

I think about that now, watching. I think about the teams they'll come up against and how they'll carry that with them, all the way.


A few weeks ago the ice was reserved for someone else who wound up elsewhere, maybe over at the arena. A gal at the front desk who shouldn't have, but favors me turned a blind eye, and I took their ice for the hour or so instead.

Practicing, circles, shooting, quick starts, turns, edges. Flying down to the other end of the ice, turning too sharp, bailing with a godawful slam into the boards, the resounding crash echoing along with my embarrassed laughter.

I love this game.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
The more there is to say, the less I say.

So there you have it.

Or rather in this case ...don't.

Although a special thanks to Brian for sparing me a very ugly, possibly dangerous situation last night by cutting me off after a pint of cider. I sulked. I stopped for an accident on the way home and might have gotten into serious trouble with the cokehead wacko in the car if I hadn't been as lucid as I was.

So, thanks, Brian. A whole lot, heartfelt, as usual.
Friday, April 02, 2004
So I'm posting nothing but poetry. Fucking sue me.

And if you haven't checked out High Thin Wire yet, please do. Because it's all I'm writing recently. No, I'm not submitting, no, I'm not getting anything published.

Except for hockey porn. Every damn piece of hockey smut I've written to date has been picked up. So hah. Nee-ner-na-boo-boo.

More Rebecca (the one I'm not married to) poetry.


Thursday, April 01, 2004

N. Merchant

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