(Because it’s the holidays, we’ll be having three posts this week: this one, a special flashback story from Daron on Thursday, and then a regular chapter on Saturday! The flashback story will be posted overnight both in text form and I’ll be posting a video of it. Merry merry everyone! -ctan)
A little while later Jordan asked, kinda casually, “So you been writing much? Other than the soundtrack stuff, I mean.”
I think I was actually lying on the floor at that point, just because lying flat felt good. “Are you kidding me? I never stopped.”
“Yeah? How many songs would you say you’ve got in inventory, as it were?”
“Hundreds. I wrote a ton while we were on the road last summer, Ziggy and I had worked on stuff before that. ” I sat up a little, thinking it over, and made a note to switch back from whiskey to beer. “There’s everything I wrote in Spain. And there’s everything I wrote while in LA, the previous stint, I mean. Shit, I wrote a song a day some weeks when I didn’t have anything better to do.”
“Huh, really,” he said, you know, like he was just being polite or acknowledging I was answering his question. But as I was starting to learn, Jordan’s placid demeanor hid a lot of brainwave activity.
Let’s see. Who else did we catch up with that week? Matthew and Archie: they had just come back from a vacation in Aruba and both were tanned and healthy-looking. Sarah also came over and met all the guys and this turned into her inviting us all to her place, where there was a piano, so that we could sing Christmas carols. I think Remo was really impressed with her. And the small world syndrome continued, of course: she brought her girlfriend with her and it turned out she knew the woman Court and I had met on the train who had known Jonathan, which only reinforced that feeling that all of us queers actually knew each other somehow, like an entire parallel network of humanity hidden from the straight world. Jordan, too. I guess there’s a reason the term “family” is used as a euphemism for “gay like us.”
I guess I should come right out and say, hey, that was a big, big lesson for me to learn. Huge. Because despite all the business about me feeling like I didn’t fit into Gay Men’s Culture as it were, I did feel like somehow I was starting to belong. Somewhere. To something.
To something besides an industry and a profession which was regularly screwing me without lube, I should say.
Belonging is a heavy concept. A deep one. A complicated one to describe or analyze, but a really simple one to feel. Right? I felt it on a deep, basic level. It was something I hadn’t really experienced consistently before. I’m used to being the outsider. The kid. The closet case. The queer. The hired gun. The foreigner.
But with these folks for a holiday, I could just be… Daron. No secrets, no posturing, no jockeying for control, no agendas. It was downright… weird. Good. Very good. But weird.
We went out dancing at Limelight one night. We went to a museum one day. We went to an art gallery where Matthew had a couple of pieces hanging. But it didn’t really matter what we did, exactly, because we were kind of free-flowing from one thing to another. It was like a big ongoing party and yet I didn’t feel the slightest bit stressed out. Maybe party isn’t the right word because I associate stress with parties. It’s something else when you know everyone and everyone knows you, too. Am I making sense?
We played guitars a couple of times and Remo had brought a mandolin he’d been playing around with and I learned to play it, too. Nothing like some Appalachian folk songs to make it feel like Christmas, you know? No, really, there’s something about traditional songs that seems fitting.
I brought a guitar and Remo brought the mandolin to the party at Sarah’s. Okay, that was much more like a party-party because there were a couple of industry people there I didn’t know, including people from her new management team, the vocal coach, her personal trainer, and so on. But you know I’m always fine in social situations when I’m behind a guitar. I could even hold a basic conversation while providing my own instrumental background music.
Jonathan and Sarah’s girlfriend and I had a conversation in the kitchen at one point. I often seem to end up in the kitchen at parties if I’m not behind a guitar. I don’t know why that is. Sarah’s apartment had a kind of entrance hall that had no wall, just a patch of polished wood like a runway, with the kitchen on one side separated by a countertop and the living room on the other side basically open floor plan. So it wasn’t like “hiding” in the kitchen.
“Okay, you two,” I said. “You’re smart. Explain to me what people mean when they say ‘identity politics.’ I think I know what it means? But I’m not totally sure.”
May, the girlfriend, was Asian, shorter than me, and her haircut and glasses reminded me of Velma from Scooby Doo. So did her voice. “Well, it’s about forming political ideology based on elements of one’s own race, gender, or sexuality…” She trailed off as she thought about what she had said and knew her thought was incomplete, even though it sounded like a whole sentence to me.
“Is that really what people mean by it, though?” I asked. “It seems to me more like…like by politics they don’t mean it in the sense of Democrat or Republican but more like…”
May actually moved her hand in a circle like she was trying to encourage me to spit up whatever was stuck in my throat.
I decided to say something that might come across politically incorrect, but it was really bugging me. “It feels like the way I hear it used is kind of negative. Like when people accuse someone of ‘identity politics,’ what they mean is ‘you drag your personal issues into everything.'”
Jonathan was leaning against the counter, wearing a new black corduroy blazer over a gray turtleneck and looking very much the dapper literary figure. His mother had given him the blazer. “Like, ‘Jim would have gotten along fine with his roommate’s boyfriend except for identity politics.’ You mean like that?”
“I think so?”
“Ah.” May waved a hand excitedly. “I see what you mean. Colloquially, yeah, it’s an idiom. I’d say it means…the way people define their lives and actions on certain kinds of pseudo-political affiliations. Meaning they define as lesbian, for example, and they define their identity and interactions on a set of assumptions and attitudes associated with, well, predominant lesbian political culture.”
“And even disagreeing about those predominant ideals is a form of politics,” Jonathan agreed.
“Yes. Like whether you’re a pro-sex or anti-sex feminist, you’re still defining yourself by a feminist agenda,” May said. “Where it’s a real drag is when you have things like, in your fictional roommate scenario, a vegetarian, say, can’t live with a meat eater because of they identify so strongly as a vegetarian that they would find it politically abhorrent to live with a meat eater, as if that were tacit approval.”
“Jeez,” I said. That sounded like even more ways people could be judgmental about each other and wasn’t, therefore anything I was much interested in.
“What got you thinking about identity politics, D?” Jonathan asked.
“Courtney mostly. We’ve been having a lot of debates about what is–or is not–bisexuality. Part of me says it’s kind of a pointless exercise to try to label human beings like flowers in a botanical garden. We’re more complicated than that.”
“Well, especially when you consider each of as… as a living being… is built not just on our DNA, but on the complex mental inner life built of up our experiences, memories, and dreams,” May said. “Our essence is intangible, psychological, made of ideas. We are ideas. We are our thoughts.”
“Deep,” I said. May had just put to words something I’d felt at a core level since the Sydney acid trip a year before. We are ideas. We are our thoughts. If it’s all just ideas, then why can’t we think differently? Wait, we can think differently. That was why I had been ready to go to therapy when I did. I had been ready to realize I didn’t have to think what I thought. I could think something else if thinking the old way made me miserable. Right? Well, up to a point. Maybe it’s all about finding the right dosage of self-delusion. In fact, I said that aloud: “Maybe it’s all about finding the right amount of self-delusion.”
“Or maybe it’s about finding your comfort level with yourself,” May said, “whether that means embracing labels or rejecting them.”
“I guess. I find myself with more and more reasons to reject labels, though. Even if a person has a label that they like, we can’t be reduced to one word. Or if we can, we’re living a very reduced life.”
“Well, of course,” Jonathan said with a smile. “That would be like you only playing one genre of music–or only one song–for the rest of your life. I don’t think you’re suffering any self-delusion about that.”
I joked, or thought I did: “Oh yeah? So what am I suffering self-delusion about?”
I kid you not, at that point the front door opened. I’ll give you one guess who was there.
Well, okay, two guesses. No, it was not Digger, though that was a good guess. Who’s the other person I can refer to without ever using his name and you know exactly who I’m talking about?