Monday, November 22, 2010

Queers in Space


Our first few days in NYC are almost disturbingly familiar. We’re staying in Williamsburg, a ‘hipster’ neighbourhood in Brooklyn; home to coffee shops, bars, vintage clothing stores, artists’ and flea markets and skinny boys with beards. It’s basically like a blend of Sydney’s inner west with some Melbourney flavour and really terrible coffee. As Panda pointed out in regards to the perceived lack of ‘difference’: “I didn’t fly half way around the world to feel like I haven’t gone anywhere.”

It’s supposed to be a ‘gay’ neighbourhood too, but like the rest of the city, as we find out, there are some gay(-friendly) areas, but the community itself is pretty dispersed. Even in ultra-gay Chelsea, there are far too many straight people and not enough rainbows for my liking. It can’t hold a candle to the camp extravagance of San Fran’s Castro district. Speaking of the Castro, as I whinge about the straightness of gay areas overseas, I’m reminded of my last trip to America with my high femme bestie, who for the sake of privacy I will call … Lady Pigeon (she knows why). Staying in the Mission with her highness, and enjoying (and bemoaning) the one dyke bar in all of San Fran, we traipsed over to the Castro to get a hit of the gayest suburb in the gayest city in the world. As we approached through the side streets, rainbow flags began to line the residential areas (“Ok, we’re definitely close…”), and we popped out onto the main street and took our bearings. “Oh. I thought it would be gayer,” Pigeon says, clearly disappointed. I stare at her, agape. “What? How is this (encompassing gesture) not gay enough?” At that point, as if the denizens of the Castro have an automated system to deal with the inevitable disappointment of queer mythologizing, we look behind us to see two leather dykes, riding a motorbike and smiling down on us from a massive gay mural. A bear emerges from around a corner, walking his matching pair of English bulldogs, and then, to top it off, we step quickly out of the way of a gay man on roller skates. Resplendent in his vintage 1970s gay-man-moustache, he is wearing short-shorts and a tight white t-shirt that says “Ho. Ho. Ho.” He swirls around us, flashes a cheeky grin, and vanishes down the street … “Ok, now is it gay enough for you?”

But now, I have much more sympathy for what I saw as Pigeon’s rash judgement. New York may not represent the queer pilgrimage that San Fran does in the eyes of some of the international QuILTBAG community, but it’s representation as a nexus of historical and contemporary queer art, politics and (night)life is pretty damn convincing (Hello? Stonewall?). At least in my head. And the reality will always pale when judged against the glowing, cinematic images in my imagination (Shortbus…you have ruined me).

Panda in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

But there is something else going on, and it has to do with the inevitable comparison with home. Of course our first instincts when confronting something new and unfamiliar are to read through lenses already in place. It’s pretty impossible not to interpret something through frameworks of understanding you’ve already developed. You can’t help but look through your experiences, memories and subjective little eyeballs. “It’s like Newtown.” “He looks like a young John Malkovich without the crazy eyes.” “It’s like…really, really bad coffee.” “It does taste a little bit like chicken.” Allowing difference to be pure difference is impossible, and perhaps ethical readings (of anything) involves a constant balance between recognising difference, sameness and (critiquing) subjective interpretations that are often far too reliant on simile. So the dip in my enthusiasm for “gay” bits of New York (really, only spotted two queer couples holding hands the whole time), is also based on the fact that I get to live in a tiny, queer/trans/gay/dyke bubble. And I get to choose, in my day-to-day, to avoid heterosexuality as much as humanly possible. Maybe when Lady Pigeon stood at the top of the Castro, and I stood in the centre of Williamsburg and Chelsea and the Village, we were quietly thinking of home, and how both of us are surrounded, every single day, by our community. We bitch all the time about the lack of anonymity in our neighbourhood, and the incestuous nature of the queer/dyke scene in particular, but when it’s gone, even temporarily…  What else makes a queer (or gay) area definitively queer (or gay) but the people who inhabit it? It is only when we have a conversation with some of the boys who work in a queer shop in Chelsea that we start to feel properly (gayly) located. I had to buy a Tom of Finland magnet (oooh, ouch stop twisting my arm) to get this experience, but it was well worth it to feel that fleeting, anonymous, affectionate contact you get with people who are you-but-not-you. I’m not a leather queen (GOD DAMN IT), but close enough for this brief nod of community-feeling, experienced by my slightly lonesome self as the conversational equivalent of a hug.

Yes, but is it gay enough?

I’m in a small, painfully cool café in Williamsburg, meeting for the first time the dyke who will be staying in our flat in Sydney. She’s a Brooklyn butch, formerly of Chicago, who fell in love with Sydney when she visited three years ago. Partly, she explains when I ask the obvious (“Sydney over New York? Really?”), whilst she loves her femme and trans friends in New York, she finds it difficult to locate other butch dykes and misses the butchy crew she had in Sydney. “So,” I ask, “you found the community better in Sydney?” (‘Sydney’ by the way, meaning the inner Western suburbs of Newtown, Enmore, etc. Living there, we are often only dimly aware that other parts of the city even exist. “You’re in the city city? What the hell for?”). Alex almost explodes with enthusiasm. The bars, the streets, the people, the sun – she has been “boring” parts of Brooklyn to death about the merits of living gay in Newtown and its surrounds for the past three years, but I cannot see how anyone could be bored listening to her passionate, ardently told stories about her life in Sydney. Alex is a fantastically gestural storyteller; the flurry of her limbs and wild gesticulations are utterly compelling, and I find my energy rising to meet hers as we swap stories and gossip. Alex admits that she may be guilty of idolising her former and future home, but there are elements which are not exaggerated. Walking down the street (or bar hopping, or café jumping), you are never really alone. You bump into friends, nod to familiar faces; you know the bartender, the waiter, the barista. You’ve slept with the bartender, the waiter, the barista. We have sacrificed our anonymity to some degree, but I’m quite willing, after listening to Alex and other NYC queers talk about the difficulty of creating and maintaining community in this busy city, in this fragmented scene, to let anonymity go in exchange for the day-to-day maintenance of my gayness (though I would like my invisibility turned back on for: walks of shame, hungover excursions for milk, and that time I spilled coffee on my crotch). Recognition – be it constantly running into other queers who know you, or love you, or sitting at a café and hearing a friend shout out “FAGGOT! WOOOOO!” – can feel intrusive at times, but it’s also pretty nourishing.

I’ve been feeling slightly undernourished in New York. While people are friendly enough if you engage them in conversation, and there is the occasional shining example of American good humour and extreme confidence (some people here have the best laughs), the lack of daily contact with people on the street is missed when I finally manage to work out my uneasiness. Or at least I think I have:

Even the walls are judging me.
Piggy: “People do not do eye contact here, do they? I feel like it’s all “OUT OF MY WAY! I LIVE IN A GRID CITY AND THEREFORE MOVE ACCORDINGLY! STRAIGHT LINES! TURN CORNER! STRAIGHT LINES!” And everyone is carrying take-away coffees. Like no-one has time to sit… I mean, that’s like all we do at home. Sit, coffee, sun. Sit, coffee, sun… OK, weird. Having no eye contact at all is really strange. I feel invisible. And seriously unpretty.”

Panda: “I get lots of eye contact.”

(I could write an entire book about my experience of feeling like a frump next to Panda – whose long legs are often encased in tight jeans tucked into long, black boots or cute-as-pie grandpa trousers with tan-coloured docs…I could rave on about how round and dull I feel standing next to his athletic, graceful body clothed in cute, bright sweaters…his colourful headscarves and perfect foundation and studded leather belt… The way he seriously works his tight, bright pink t-shirt with the sarcastic queer slogan (which used to be mine…sigh)… He has a brown leather dandy hat which perches jauntily on his head most days, and it makes him look all rakish and handsome. He was featured in a fashion blog recently, for goodness sake. So I could definitely rave on and on about this issue, but I’m not going to because it will make me sound all bitter and jealous. And I am not. At all.)

Later, I listen to another ex-Sydney queer called ‘Panda’ (who I will have to call ‘Panda 2.0’) compare Sydney and New York. She feels, on the one hand, that it doesn’t matter what she wears (I would describe her style as gentle-punk-dandy-fag) because no-one looks at or comments on fashions that are different or even (from a conservative perspective) ‘strange’. But the flipside is that no-one looks. Even with the crap Panda 2.0 (and Panda 1.0 for that matter… and everyone I know) puts up with on the streets of Sydney from people who wish to comment unfavourably on her fashion/gender presentation/sexuality, the reverse creates a surprising absence. A voidy, invisible feeling which has led Panda 2.0 to actually question her fashion choices! Panda 1.0 and I gasp in horror – “No, honey! You’re doubting your fashion?!” Panda 2.0 wavers while she explains this. I feel like she misses the recognition of difference – both good and bad – she got living elsewhere, but she feels guilty for missing it. You’re in a city where people don’t care how kooky you look? Great! Utopia! Hurrah! But the downside is that people don’t care. Good or bad, they actually can’t be bothered caring. Which is part and parcel of the anonymity of a city like this, I suppose. The good and the bad. 

Alex says something similar, but reassures me it is more to do with a strict public/private thing: “People do not know how to react when they bump into someone they know on the street. Living in a city so busy and crowded you don’t really expect it, and then when it happens, you have no idea what to do.” Alex describes the inner monologue (with very cute miming) of the confident-appearing New Yorker completely thrown by unexpected contact, even with a close friend: “Walking, walking, rushing, busy, busy, coffee, transfer, subway, busy, busy… WHOAH! Person stopping me to chat! But I had my flow on! Flow disrupted! Can’t remember how…talk…people! ARGH! Run away!” She thinks this is due to the speed and ambition which drive the city. When Alex moved to New York, she promised herself she was not going to get caught up in that way of living again, but has found it impossible to swim against New York’s neurotic stream. It’s clear that Alex is longing for some good, old-fashioned Australian apathy. Well, we have that in spades. Welcome back, my dear.

I meet up with another Sydney friend, Miss D, an actor who has been in New York for over two years and loves everything about the city which Alex longs to escape from – the anonymity, the speed, the crowds, the endless, endless options. When she hears my observation (Ok, it’s a complaint along the lines of: “I am not pretty here at all!”), and Panda’s description of all the unfriendly stares he has been receiving, especially on the subway, Miss D interrupts, “What about all the eye-fucking on the subway?!”


Panda has been responding as he usually would to weighing-up, judgmental, and unfriendly glances, and has been pulling his “wary cat face” at people: ears back, eyebrows slightly raised, head slightly tilted; alert but too superior to be truly alarmed, and completely contemptuous. It’s a truly excellent face, and I’m glad it is getting a good workout, but as it turns out, the face has been deployed pre-emptively. “No, no,” Miss D explains, “That’s flirting.” Something has been lost in translation and I, more than Panda, bemoan the lack of understanding: “All those people were flirting with you!? And you pulled the face? Oh, think of all the lost suitors!”

French bulldog xmas decoration
Everyday we head out into the city, sometimes not straying far from our hostel on Bedford Ave, Williamsburg. On a few sunny days we get utterly, delightfully stuck drinking coffee in cafes around this area for hours, stopping people walking past to comment on their dogs. French bulldogs are the dog du jour in this area, the trend currently favouring the golden, honey coloured variety, whose coats look like the hues of a really good coffee. A dyke couple, one Belgian and one German, are the most talkative (black and white chubby French bulldog), and helpful in mapping out the ‘new’ gay New York. They are both artists, so (not unusually, for homos still infect the arts, thank goodness) their descriptions are both sex- and art-based: “There are lesbians here, yes, but the art is more edgy over that way … there are plenty of lesbians in Park Slope, but they all have children now [implication being that, naturally, their art has suffered] … Chelsea is ok, but the boys are all in Hells Kitchen now…”  It’s a pleasant, gossipy conversation and it revives me somewhat. I haven’t realised how effected I’ve been by the lack of… it’s kind of embarrassing to admit… attention. This small interaction in the sunshine, with Frank the bulldog snuffling hopefully at my lip balm, has made me feel much more relaxed; this conversation with a Belgian, a German and a French dog has made me feel, strangely, much more at home, and pleasantly visible. I feel pretty again…and witty…and gay. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010




I feel the need to revisit some of the themes of my first blog post. That blog was a “cold blog” - I put this down to the stress of getting my head around embarking on such an extravagant journey.  I spent many long hours having conversations with myself, and some with Piggy, about the difficulty of embracing this trip when I come from a background where no one usually gets to do this. Opportunity meets mistrust: “who do I think I am?” Just deciding to take three months to travel and see sights, meet people, when I really don’t have the resources to justify it?

Well, after talking to my dead parents on more than one occasion, which I do from time to time in the knowledge that I now know them as well as I ever will and can therefore anticipate what their answers and reactions will be, I quickly discovered that my people never feel that they have enough resources for extravagance. There will never be “enough”, always something to “beware of”, it will all run out, there is no magic pudding, blah blah blah.

Piggy comes from a similar background, be it the first generation northern English equivalent, and could totally relate to my anxiety.

I finally “exorcised” most of these internal roots that have been planted so well and continue to haunt me through my adult life, if only for a short while.  So now we set off temporarily guilt free.


Last entry I felt that I tackled the subject of Africa rather generally and coldly. I need to include that in my search for a queer African context, I have met some remarkable people. I am over the moon about being able to meet some of the people that I have found online, and think that they may become lifelong friends.  I won’t give too much away, because I want to wait for them to have agency regarding how much they want to disclose of themselves in this forum.  But I want to just mention that all of them have been wonderful helping me to organise this trip, taking time out to meet Piggy and I as we land on foreign territory in countries where politicians and law makers would in some cases like to march us both straight from the airport into the nearest jail.

This is really at the heart of visiting Africa for me, meeting communities that are resilient and courageous within dangerous surroundings.  While the world’s media focuses on the appalling conditions of gay Africa, concentrating on how “at risk” they are, it too easily misses that within this lies a strong community, one that is under siege, yet still manages to have pride, even without an official festival to celebrate it, and live their day to day; having relationships, friendships, falling in love, fighting, gossiping, all the usual stuff really.  I would like to see this, hopefully write about it, if it is considered appropriate by the people we meet, and celebrate it as a sign of solidarity with other queers from other cultures who kick arse just like the queers back home.


As Piggy mentioned, the flight was pushed forward for some boring reason that I refuse to retain. All I do remember?  All the last minute preparation that I had planned to do in the morning before 2pm was out the window!  No visit to Dick Smiths to register equipment for insurance, no time to finish unpacking those boxes in the communal laundry that had been pissing off the other tenants, no time to carry my dining table that had been sitting in the communal side yard wrapped in plastic to the house of a friend, and definitely no fucking time to have a good sleep and “faff” around leisurely deciding what I should wear for the flight, and making myself look worthy and presentable enough for an international flight, yet maintain an essence of “boho chic”, sending the message to all the other seasoned travellers that this may well be “work a day” for me as I board my flight to New York.

We get there relatively unscathed, a few stress arguments.  I am still holding a grudge against Piggy because she thought that it would be a good idea for her mother to come around the night before and clean our apartment!!! Without consultation with me, and that this would happen while I was there trying to get ready while Piggy went out to the “public sphere”, sewing up loose ends while whilst I stayed at home keeping domestic company.  Parental cleaning sends shivers down my spine, it reminds me of my own displeasure and discomfort in my younger years, when my mother came to clean ritualistically, proving that my perpetual domestic unworthiness will stay constant.  This is an extra burden for a gay Panda of my generation who has grown up enviously looking at all the other gay animals successfully climb the evolutionary ladder of domesticity under the proud watchful gaze of their obsessive compulsively driven mothers. This has always been a big fail for Panda.

In retrospect it was a fine idea, of course Piggy’s mother capably cleaned far better than either of us ever could have, and the apartment was left spotless for our sitters.  So job well done Piggy, and eventually I got over my stubborn grudge.  Also, I love Piggy’s mum, and the thought of implicating her in my act of regression? Seemed cruel.

Piggy and Panda get to the airport on time, no dramas, lamenting some lost opportunities regarding last minute fine tuning, feeling excited none the less.  Panda’s ex “bearfriend” turns up at the airport with a requested moving picture device, and another contraption filled with an endless array of music for the travel. Many thanks to ex “bearfriend”, and nice to be farewelled by what is for Panda, one of the most consistently supportive friend imaginable, only disappointment is that ex bearfriend did not bring gaybee cub along to say goodbye. Gaybee cub is still hibernating, and as I have found out through past experiences? Is a way less cute gaybee cub when woken prematurely.

Piggy has explained most of the flight well, I would only add that my growing anger against other passengers on long haul flights is that they seem to go into a state of stupor, not unlike sheep, under the duress of becoming slowly aware that they are in reality just dressed up meat being moved around the globe.  My reaction to this dilemma is to try and make myself more visceral, optimistically trying to express and reinforce that this meat will be alive and well at the end of the journey. This Panda decides somewhere midway over the Pacific that a session of yoga in the largest space outside the toilets of business class is in order as a show of resilience.  Needless to say, he is met with a sea of scornful disapproving  faces, ruddy podgy faces poking out of business suits and grey bobs framing thin red lips confirm that Panda has once again stepped out of line.

I have been warned over and over about the US customs and immigration officials. Friends that perceive a playful Panda romping around his home turf, stumbling over boundaries and occasionally crushing well-constructed walls, are not convinced that I will be able to modify or adjust appropriately to pass the rigid officialdom that seems to be necessary to safely pass through the gates into the “free world”. I am slightly offended by this, and determined to be the most polite Panda possible, one that would be invited back, maybe even given a scratch on the tummy and a few kind words in the process.  Now this is where the problem lies. This desire for extra affirmation is actually the driving force behind most of Panda’s unconventional behaviour.

I pass through several gates, show my passport several times, my visa papers, and feel stupid being so nervous, jesus, I’m a 42 year old Panda! Surely I have earned some leeway? At the last checkpoint of entry at Los Angeles airport, boarding the flight to New York, I am aware that the brown leather hat that I am wearing will probably need to be removed, as has been requested at the other checks, apparently wearing a hat confuses the passport checkers, making my face unrecognisable. I decide to pre-empt the request and I say, “I guess I should take my hat off to you?” The officer looks at Panda amused, and says, “Why?” This not unattractive man seems friendly enough, there is the hint of a smile, one that may actually spread out to reveal beautiful American teeth - I decide to take a chance.  With all the voices of warning in my head, I say “Because you’re cute! And American.” BINGO! He smiles with appreciation and warmth, I am vindicated, boundaries are made to be challenged, and walls can be rebuilt in many alternative beautiful ways. This is a good omen, and a wonderfully affirmative way to enter the USA.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lift Off


Day Before Take-Off

I am on my knees in the kitchen, hindquarters in the air, front trotters and head stuffed into the oven. It is 1:30am, and our flight—contrary to popular belief—does not leave at 5pm tomorrow, but 10:50am. It has been about 3 hours since this interesting discovery was made, which means that we have lost half a day especially put aside to plan, pack, organise… and essentially spring clean the living daylights out of our apartment, which is being handed over to our friend to sublet. Hence, the midnight oven shenanigans. To give you some perspective on the nature of this task, this oven has not been cleaned in 4 years. Add to that the layers of grease and neglect we inherited from previous tenants… I have taken on this mammoth task in part because I really pissed Panda off, and I think self-flagellation via really disgusting domestic duties is beneficial both spiritually and for one’s relationship. However, I did not foresee that, having packed and shipped off any clothing I was not planning on taking overseas, I was left to perform this gruesome, sticky and toxic task wearing a red t-shirt and a pair of bright turquoise underpants. Adding to this indignity, the fumes of oven cleaner, being toxic as well as noxious, demand certain safety precautions, so I capped off this marvellous outfit by wearing long white and pink rubber gloves, blue swimming goggles and a make-shift gas mask created by wrapping a tea towel around my face and holding it in place with a clothes peg. Granted, this did go some ways to making amends with Panda, because really, how could you stay angry at someone scrubbing out your oven while dressed like that? Honestly, I looked like a really bizarre sex offender.

The tea towel had Labrador puppies all over it, too.

Looking back now (from the warmth of hostel in Brooklyn), it seems a fitting beginning to our travel tales: disorganised, chaotic, sleep-deprived, ridiculous and with interesting fashion choices (not to mention those eternal themes of love, conflict and redemption). 

Little Tales On the Road / In the Air

Squished into economy class with the rest of the plebs, Panda and I set off, having had very little sleep on Wednesday night due to our farewell drinks and zero sleep Thursday night due to that itinerary mix-up which was in no way Piggy’s fault at all not even a little bit. It’s not a bad idea to travel without sleep, assuming you will be able to crash out on the plane, but on the first leg of our 24-odd-hours journey, we don’t really sleep at all. At one point I was seriously drifting off, finally, when all of a sudden a flight attendant spilled hot chocolate all over the tray table of the woman sitting next to me. Fortunately, I only get a mild dose of splashback. Unfortunately, it is all over my thigh and heading around to my arse. Half asleep and in some shock, I interrupt the woman next to me as she attempts to mop up her table, “Do I smell chocolate?! Is this chocolate all over my arse?” Oddly, it seems very important to clarify exactly what is scalding my bits (On a brighter note, the flight attendant gives me $150 to spend on in-flight duty free. Noice one. I get a waterproof camera and travel speakers. Panda plans to throw me in front of hot coffee on the way home so we can get some vodka).

Meanwhile, Panda has taken it upon himself to passionately hate every other passenger on our flight (not on their own merits per se, but for ‘controlling his space’ – ie. being in it).

So a rather grumpy Panda and Piggy arrive at their stopover in LA and proceed to the next leg, LAX to JFK (check me out with my airport lingo). At this point, we have not slept in about 48 hours and have gotten a wee bit…snappish with each other, but thus far no storming off or throwing things. The next flight is only 5 hours, and finally we both drift off. The only activity is dragging sluggish bodies to the bathroom, and spending some time discussing why the people in first class insist on directing their pinched, constipated faces in our direction whenever we deign to walk down their aisles. Panda is wandering back from the bathroom, trying to negotiate the dark aisles while half asleep and not wearing his glasses. He has an aisle seat, and remembers that he left his hat on his seat so reaches down to move it. Reaching down his hand closes on the hat, whose eyes pop open in shock. Panda is one row off, and has just clamped his hand on the face of the woman behind us, who has spread out across two seats. Her eyes stare up in shock at the claw clamped around her head. Panda says nothing, and gracefully moves into his seat in front of her.

“Um… did you see what I just did?”

“Oh god. No, what did you do?”

“I just grabbed that woman’s head.”

“What? Why?!”

“I thought she was my hat.”

Panda and I spend much of the rest of flight bursting into hysterical, sleep deprived laughter and debating what the proper flight etiquette is for grabbing someone’s face while they’re asleep. We end up saying nothing to the woman, who we hope has written the incident off as a strange dream.


When we arrive it is night, and the taxi queue is massive and unmoving. Panda, having just arrived in a strange city, decides that it would be best to catch the airport train and catch a cab at the next stop: “My pigeoning instincts are telling me to go that way.” (Panda does have an excellent sense of direction—or ‘homing instinct’—which he calls his ‘pigeoning’, but whether this applies to foreign cities and as yet unseen hostels, we shall have to see. It’s possible his ‘instincts’ are just heading towards the inner west of Sydney, no matter where we are in the world.)

Naturally, there is nowhere else to get a taxi on the train’s circuit, and we end up on the city’s subway, laden down with overweight luggage, tired, slightly lost and getting progressively more hungry. We decide to leave the subway at Broadway Junction, where we would have to change trains anyway, and try to get a cab. After heaving our cases over the turnstiles (I have now named my suitcase ‘Cunt Face’), we head outside to wait for a taxi. Two minutes later we head back inside the station. It is clear that, like some suburbs in Sydney, there are places in Brooklyn where cabs do not go. We did get to set an arrest though, that was nice.
Back in the subway, someone pushes open the emergency exit gate, and Panda, wanting to avoid the hassle of getting our luggage back over the turnstiles, slides through the open gate, with Piggy following. It is as this point that we get pulled up by two undercover police for fare evasion.

Fortunately, we play the naive tourist role incredibly well.

“We’re trying to get to Brooklyn.”

“You’re in Brooklyn.”


The police very kindly let us go with a warning, as they can see that we are jet lagged and quite possibly actually stupid, not just tourist-stupid. So we get clear directions from the nice detectives  and get back on the subway. I am not going to get into how difficult and trying it is to get luggage up and down (and back up and down) subway stairs, but I will say how much I appreciate the emotional honesty of American people. While most people in Sydney surely feel like telling off the slow-moving tourists heaving enormous bags around public transport, the people of the New York City subway have no qualms about telling you that you are, in fact, a fucktard (or regional similar). My English politeness was at first affronted by this, but I think I am envious that they feel comfortable enough to express their consternation, whereas I hold everything inside, and my irrational frustrations at slow-walkers, couples, prams and old people bubble and boil away in my stomach, unexpressed and untended. Perhaps they get less stomach ulcers here.

Friday, November 5, 2010



Clearly, it has been too long between posts, but as we are creatures of chaos (or for the less poetically inclined, 'massively disorganised' and unprepared) the last weeks before departure have been full of anxious anxiousness. Here's a conversation I transcribed a couple of weeks ago, and then forgot to post, thus getting the leftovers out of the way before I document the last 24ish hours of our first day travelling together (we left Sydney yesterday... already behind on blogging duties):

“Because our relationship is sexless, we need to hype up the conventional bullshit of normal relationships, to expose them, and to keep us entertaining for other people (because it’s sexual investment that keeps people interested in relationships). So we camp up the conventions of hetero relationships.” - Panda

That’s how Panda describes our relationship dynamic, born of a neat synthesis between how we see ourselves and the projections of others. The hyped-up camp performance of heteronormative relationship dynamics and practices is certainly pleasurable for us to perform and play with, and often helps to mediate the intensity of sharing a life with someone in a non-conventional way.

For example, sometimes Panda can be slightly controlling about our sleeping arrangements. The other morning I was having a pleasant sleep-in when he clearly decided it was time for me to get up. He communicates this by diving into bed and staring at me until I open my eyes (anyone have a cat? Sound familiar?) and then starts harassing me bodily until I am completely and irrevocable awake (see Bad Kitty for techniques and strategies). This particular morning, it took longer than usual to get me out of my stupor, and Panda started to succumb to the temptations of the mid-morning nap. As he started to get sleepy, I woke up completely and decided to get up. But now Panda wanted a napping partner, and so against my struggling to get out of bed (which is what he originally wanted), he clamped one arm around my belly, forcibly big-spooned me, and planted the other hand securely on the top of my head, keeping my in place like, well like a clamp.

His rationalization for keeping me in place in such a forceful way was that because he had gotten up first (the first time) he had to get up first again (the second time). So I was not permitted to get out of bed until he had completed his nap and was out of bed (again). I’m not going to pretend to understand the logic at play here, but you have to respect the level of commitment to a (however unformed and illogical) concept.

And Panda slept.

Yesterday morning Panda proved to be capable of more creative approaches to controlling my sleeping patterns. Once again he decided that I couldn’t get up until he was ready. I was lying on my back and he curled up on his side, facing me, and slid his hand under my neck. Then he started wobbling my head around like a puppet, and making chicken noises in time to the movement of my bobbing head: 


“What the fuck are you doing?! I have to get up. I’m going to miss my bus! Stop that! What the fuck - I am not your chicken puppet!”

“Ok, I know you were speaking then, but all I heard was: ‘Berk berk berk berrrrk?! Berk, berk berk berk. Berk berkberk berk BERRRK!!’”

What followed was about eight minutes of me trying to convince Panda to let me go, and him translating everything I said into ‘neurotic chicken.’ I can’t really communicate how bizarre this is, nor how frustrating.


Finally I started laughing with him, because even though I was probably going to miss my bus and ruin my day, there was something so ridiculous and kind of sweet about his dedication to a bit, that I cracked. Of course this meant that he now translated my laughter into chicken language.


This made me laugh even more, uncontrollably, which made Panda make more chicken sounds, in between rubbing my belly with his free hand and crooning: “Aw, who’s a happy chook?” 

On that creepy-cute note, here's is an artist's impression of what a hybrid pigpanda would look like.