The restless yearning
towards my Self
A Musical Collaboration
and a Transformative Work in Healing the Heart
“I see it as I am rowing on the dark waters
towards a rock, large and bright—like a moon,
rigged, distant, rising at the end.
It is that marker, moorage, beckoning;
I dreamed of it in the cold, my body rolled,
amphibian-soft, primitive as defense….”
from The Restless Yearning Towards My Self, Perry Brass.
Most people take many detours in the course of their lives, as they follow their goals and ambitions, often finding themselves detracted by a confusion of byways and misleading directions.
But at the center of their actions (and themselves), lies a psychic/emotional core, that they often lose sight of but the loss of which leaves them with an almost indelible sense of its absence. So, instead of re-discovering this core, they erect “impostors,” stand-ins for their real selves: bright, glowing public figures, of significance, certainly, to them and much of the outside world—while the real “Self,” that almost physical realization of the inner soul, still waits, until some moment of starkest Self recognition, which brings with it an almost uncontainable feeling of contentment and a much longed for, blessed unity.
“The restless yearning towards my Self” is about realizing this search, and finally achieving its goal, when the Self after years of denial recognizes and claims you; when the deepest part of you speaks to you, and offers you that genuine feeling of achievement and unity most of us seek. It is this great recognition that in many ways powers the most lasting of the Arts, and we have brought to life once more this recognition of the Self by merging the text of a starkly moving poem by poet/novelist Perry Brass (“The restless yearning towards my Self”) to music by opera composer Paula M. Kimper, scored for counter-tenor and string quartet.
THE DISTAFF SIDE: WOMEN AT WORK:
Thursday night, May 31st, a nice contingent of White Crane folks descended on the Lambda Literary Awards held at the Fashion Institute in New York City. These events are always a lot of fun as they afford an opportunity to see a lot of writers and artists whose work has meant so much. Dan drove up from with partner Pete and went with Bo and his partner Bill Foote.
When we got to F.I.T. we were delighted to meet up with Toby Johnson and Kip Dollar, in from San Antonio. Toby was a finalist in the Anthology category for the White Crane Books project he and Steve Berman edited, Charmed Lives. Berman appeared a few minutes later and we had a great time talking with each other, catching up (such is the nature of internet publishing and editing, that one relishes the opportunity to just look at each other in the face and be in one’s presence!) The winner, alas, was not our book, but Love, Bourbon Street, edited by Greg Herren and his partner, Paul J. Willis. Next year…All: A James Broughton Reader!
Other friends at the reception included Jeff Mann, author of the amazing collection of poetry, On The Tongue (reviewed in the Summer ’07 of White Crane) and the scorching A History of Barbed Wire, winner in the category of Gay Erotica.
Tom Spanbauer, who was nominated for his latest novel Now Is The Hour was there from Portland with mural painter, theatre technician/designer, tattoo artist, and permaculture specialist, Sage Ricci. It was wonderful to meet them in person after the interview (online excerpt) Bo had with Tom in White Crane a few years ago.
Frequent contributor and friend Stuart Timmons was a double winner last night with the Lambda Literary Awards for GLBT Non Fiction and GLBT Arts going to the book he co-wrote with Lillian Faderman Gay L.A. Since Stuart wasn’t able to attend the ceremonies Bo and I had the good fortune of stepping out of the hall and calling him to give him the good news after each win. The book is really a wonder and it’s a well-deserved double win.
It was also great to see Gregg Shapiro, a wonderful writer and poet we’ve featured in White Crane at the ceremony. Gregg has a book of poetry coming out next year and we had a chance to catch up with him as he’s on a whirlwind tour of the East Coast doing some music reporting and generally being a charm in every circle he enters.
It was great to see many legends at the event too, like Martin Duberman, author of the brilliant biography of Lincoln Kirstein, The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein, was honored with the Pioneer Award at the gala event, and the brilliant Alison Bechdel, of Dykes To Watch Out For and author of Lesbian Memoir/Biography Lammy winner, Fun Home, to name just a few. Bechdel got to present a Pioneer Award to Marijane Meaker, author lesbian pulp novels in the fifties, to groundbreaking young adult books like Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! to her amazing memoir Highsmith, A Romance of the 1950’s, which is about her relationship with Patricia Highsmith. She just turned 80.
The winner in the Spirituality category was Michael McColly’s The After Death Room (Soft Skull Press) which is reviewed in the Summer 2007 issue of White Crane. We will have an interview with the author in an upcoming issue.
The After-Death Room is McColly’s chronicle of the events that took him from the day in a Chicago clinic when he heard the news that so affected his life, to the many steps he took to reconcile himself to the diagnosis, to becoming a world traveled AIDS activist and journalist.
Jim Elledge’s A History of My Tattoo won in the Gay Poetry category.
I count myself among the "word-loving, book-besotted" and last night I found my people.
I sat with author and White Crane Institute Advisor, Perry Brass and the Gay Glitterati, last night, at a lovely evening honoring LGBT writers, the annual Publishing Triangle’s Awards presented in the Tishman Auditorium at The New School.
Eight Publishing Triangle Awards were presented to various men and women, including The Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, which was awarded to Kenji Yoshino (at the left), for his groundbreaking and important book, Covering. Other nominees in the category were Bernard Cooper for The Bill from My Father and Rigaberto Gonzalez for the beautiful and poetic, Butterfly Boy.
Nancy Bereano (below right), a frequent Lammy winner, was honored by PT for her two decades of work as the founder and publisher of Firebrand Books, one of the most successful lesbian/feminist presses in the world. The press publishes such titles as Alison Bechdel’s (another honoree last night) Dykes To Watch Out For, Audre Lorde, Dorothy Allison and Barbara Smith.
Along with Alison Bechdel, who won for Lesbian Nonfiction for her masterful Fun Home, Catherine Friend was nominated for the delightful Hit By A Farm, and Marcia Gallo was acknowledged for Different Daughters, an important history of the Daughters of Bilitis.
Chris Weikel, a founder of the Tosos II Theater Company, received the Robert Chesley Emerging Playwright Award.
Poets Jennifer Rose and Justin Chin won, respectively, for Lesbian and Gay Male poetry. Justin’s Gutted was nominated along with Jim Elledge’s A History of My Tattoo and Greg Hewett’s The Eros Conspiracy. Robin Becker and Kate Lynn Hibbard were nominated for The Domain of Perfect Affection and Sleeping Upside Down, respectively.
Fiction was ably represented in both Men’s and Women’s categories. Rebecca Brown’s The Last Time I Saw You, Lisa Carey’s Every Visible Thing, and Ivan E. Coyote’s Bow Grip in the Lesbian Fiction catergory. Men’s Fiction was acknowledged with Martin Hyatt’s A Scarecrow’s Bible (from Suspect Thoughts), Steven McCauley’s Alternatives to Sex and (the winner) Christopher Bram’s elegial Exiles in America.
The truly remarkable renaissance man, Eric Bentley (at the left) was recognized for his lifetime (when he mentioned in passing that he was 90, the room gasped!) of writing and activism…critic, playwright, editor, translator of Brecht, chronicler of Oscar Wilde in the play, Lord Alfred’s Lover…Bentley’s comments, which we hope to be able to reproduce here or in the pages of White Crane, reminded everyone present that LGBT people are still the targets of religious fanatics. He spoke of the pivotal roles that "love and death" play in the arts and literature and cautioned that there was still plenty of both in store for LGBT people.
Thirty Seven Ways to be Seductive with a Man by Perry Brass
One of my prime feelings lately is that too many gay men have lost the talent of being seductive—that is, understanding how to invite intimacy. A generation or two ago, it seemed to go with the territory. Maybe too many of us had seen too many old movies and knew the moves that the stars of old used, to keep them stars—but seduction I feel has become a lost art, but one which with a little practice we can bring back again. One of the sad things about this lack of seduction is that once we have lost seduction, we have also lost a lot of the way toward intimacy with each other—sexual, emotional, and otherwise.
So to reacquaint you with it, I offer 37 ways to be seductive.
1) Repeat his name after you hear it. Then say, “I like your name.” Even if you don’t and his name is Jerky McSmirk, say it. Then smile a bit, but make sure he does not feel that you are laughing at him.
2) Ask him what he does with his time that is important to him. Almost every man loves to talk about his work, and even if he doesn’t he will have something that he likes to do with his time and is waiting for someone to ask.
3) Keep his hand in yours for more than moment, but not long enough to embarrass him if he is embarrassed by public displays of affection.
4) Touch him behind the ear or neck. Very gently.
5) Get close enough to him that he can smell your breath, and make sure that your breath is worth smelling.
6) Tell you like . . . the way he smells, his skin feels, his eyes look—something completely personal.
7) Invite him to sit down with you.
8) Invite him to stand up, go to the bar, go outside for a breath of air; anything, just invite him to do it, so he knows you are including him in your plans.
9) Ask him how he feels. And repeat the question often. In most of “normal” life, no one cares how men feel. It is considered uncool to ask. Don’t be afraid of being uncool. Cool is for kids. Warm is for men.
10) Ask him to taste what you are drinking. And then smile.
11) Offer to buy him a drink. Or, if not a drink, then something else. Don’t offer this to reciprocate for something he has already done; make it a freewill offering. If it is simply tit-for-tat (whatever the hell that means), it loses a lot of its seductive power and even your tit may start to pale compared to his tat.
12) If you offer him a business card (and people do nowadays), write something on the back of it that is personal, even if it’s just your signature and “call.”
13) Touch his hair or forehead lightly with your fingers and smile while you’re doing this.
14) Sophia Loren was once asked who was the most seductive man she had ever met. “Cary Grant. We met on a plane. What struck me immediately was how he smelled, with a very subtle citrus cologne, and how nice his manners were. So many men use bad manners to seduce, and that’s bad.”
Learn something from that.
15) Wherever you are, find an excuse to invite him outside for a moment. Then enjoy the fact that the two of you are breathing the same air without a lot of other people breathing it.
16) Invite him to your—whatever. Apartment, palatial estate in Hoboken, hotel room, or even the curb where your car is parked, or the curb next to the subway entrance. But make sure he knows this invitation comes from you.
17) Ask him out for something. If he asks if this is a “date,” say, “No, but I just thought we’d get to know each other and have fun.”
18) There is nothing so seductive as a man who knows when to laugh at the right time. Never laugh at him, unless of course the whole situation at some point becomes so absurd that even while laughing at him, you are really laughing at yourself.
19) At some point make sure that your cheek is close to his. You can do this by getting close enough to him to whisper into his ear. There is something tingling and nice about having someone whisper into your ear anyway, but having your cheek next to his cheek means that you are inviting intimacy, something that most men find appealing, even if they are not capable of doing it themselves.
20) When he shows up at your apartment, tell him how much nicer he looks without a lot of people around him.
21) Don’t expect him to sit next to you his first time in your “space”; allow him to have some other alternative seating. And don’t take offense if he does not sit with you. He may be too shy to plump down next to you when he hardly knows you.
22) But this should not keep you from approaching him and smiling.
23) Always offer a man something to eat. It may be light, but it should have some texture to it. If he’s nervous at your first meeting, having something like celery or carrots around for munchies can be good. Don’t just offer him a drink. Although “liquor is quicker,” it often makes men feel out of control.
24) Sex and intimacy are great appetite suppressants, which is probably the reason why so many people are over-weight now: they don’t get enough of either. So if things heat up, dinner can wait.
25) Admire something he’s wearing, then tell him, smiilng, how much better he might look without it.
26) Don’t jump all over him. Let him have a moment to enjoy the intimacy of physical closeness with you. Sexual dysfunction is now on the rise, and part of that may be that people expect too much to happen too fast, in an already stressful work-driven culture. So no matter what “deed” happens, enjoy the fact that he is there enjoying you.
27) Ask him, “Is there anything we can do that would make you more comfortable?” If he hesitates, then tell him what would you more comfortable.
28) Try taking off your shoes, and then his.
29) Massage his shoulders. Most men carry huge tension in them. Use a light touch, and don’t try to do anything unexpected that would surprise or bother him.
30) Point out something around the apartment or space that interests you, and talk about it in a way that can bring him into the picture. (“Do you have anything like that? What do you usually show your friends?”)
31) Turn the music to something that is soft, no matter what your taste in sound is. Never make either of you talk over the music, and if the news is on turn it off.
32) Bring out some pictures to look at it. And invite him to sit closer to you.
33) When you are sitting closer, have at least one part of your body (an elbow, knee, hand, or shoulder) touch his.
34) If you offer him something to eat, give him a moment to try it without being all over him. Seduction requires a moment for him to enjoy being near you without you being aggressive about it. So, draw away from him for a moment while he eats. Or drinks.
35) If you feel that he is withdrawing from you (and sometimes this happens from nerves or self-consciousness), then take a breather. Don’t get into his face, but back off a bit, and then come back with (in a nice, non-threatening way): “What’s your day been like?” Get him to talk. Again, most men are never asked about their feelings or themselves unless it has to do with work and is done in a threatening or challenging way. So the fact that you are not asking in a threatening way is wonderful.
36) Touch his shoulders gently. And then work your way up to his ear or face: gently. Kiss him, but not on the lips. Now start to touch his chest, and unbutton a button or two. After unbuttoning a few buttons, stop, kiss him, then begin unbuttoning or removing more.
37) Once things get down to bare skin, tell him you did not expect him to look so good with his clothes off. And then say, “I really like your shoulders (or chest, or neck, or arms, or . . . ). Most men love having their bodies complimented. And, if he does have a great body, and it’s too obvious that he’s spent time on it, tell him, “You should keep your clothes off all the time.” In other words, you are not so foolishly “cool” and self-involved that you are going to ignore something that means a lot to him.
These are only 37 ways: there are about 100 more, but these are a good start.
“To Be Loved”
I had been intrigued about seeing “To Be Loved,” the play by Alex DeFazio at the tiny Chashama Theater on East 42nd Street because the drama is based on a famous kabuki spectacle, “The Scarlet Princess of Edo,” from 1813, and I had been fortunate to see the Grand Kabuki of Tokyo perform it on one of their once-a-decade tours of America in 1986. I remember the Grand Kabuki very well; it was headlined by Tamasaburo Bando IV, perhaps the world’s greatest inagaka actor, a kabuki term for a man who specializes in female roles, and “The Scarlet Princess,” at tale of karma, reincarnation, and the eternality of love, is a tour de force for inagaka: a priest and a young acolyte, in love in a monastery, are forced to commit suicide when their forbidden love is discovered. In the next generation, the reincarnated priest discovers his lover in a young, virginal girl and pursues her, only tragically to lose her. The actors have to show that they have other characters inside the characters they are portraying, with maleness inside femaleness; in fact, in kabuki tradition, maleness inside femaleness inside more maleness. Quite an order. In “To Be Loved,” a similar tale is told, set in a post-Apocalyptic world after the bombs have gone off (we’re never quite sure which bombs), centered on an older priest’s love for a young student who kills himself by jumping off a cliff (the same method used in the “Scarlet Princess”) leaving the priest, twisted by guilt, to depart the priesthood and try to go “straight.”
Straight means that he, Seigen, played ably by Albert Aeed, will bed Dorian, wildly acted by Kelly Marcus, the filthy rich daughter of a bomb-making, omni-horny privateer, who is oft alluded to but not seen in the play. Dorian is man-hungry, and has a boy-toy of sorts in the gorgeous shape of Dis, Bobby Abid, a Stanley Kowalski-type (but sexually dysfunctional) hunk who is also a pimp for Anon, a young whore of a certain androgyny. So, of course you can see what will happen: Seigen will discover the lost soul of Paul, the boy, in the personality of Anon, who, played by Elizabeth Sugarman, is a pivotal character in the action; she is sensitive, tough, wily, vulnerable, and goes through the gamut of bondage and liberation, but, alas, is never really allowed to be really androgynous. In fact, it is hinted that she is hermaphroditic, although I can’t understand why, as a $20-whore, she is so popular and nobody knows what’s really “down there.” You’d think that at a certain point the equipment would come out; and with better direction, Anon’s undeniable, androgynous attractiveness would have been more evident. She is a Garbo-esque femme-fatale in a brutal world where technology has broken down, violence is everywhere, and human connections are barely tenable. (I know, you’re asking what else is new?) As a character, she could be a stunner, and I don’t think it’s Sugarman’s fault that it’s not happening here, because she’s an interesting actress.
What I liked about “To Be Loved” was that it held to some kabuki elements in its crazy-future setting: the costumes, which were inventive, especially Anon’s ratty kimono and Dis’s deliciously cartoony body armor, reflected this; also the use of red silk scarves to denote blood: very Grand Kabuki. Also the acting tended to be stylized, and the use of loud snapping sounds and other tonal devices were Eastern. Where the play soured was the author’s use of portentous speeches; the plot, or what was trying to be the plot, became so elliptical that at points in the first act I, and a lot of the audience, was lost. The first act could haven been trimmed by 20 minutes; the second, though, came together better, was easier to follow, and shows us that in the drear future, money will trump passion all the time: or, duh?, did I miss out on the last six episodes of “The Bachelor”?
Albert Aeed as Seigen is a fairly Ted Haggard character: all lust, prohibitions, inhibitions, guilt, and meanness. But he is redeemed, sadly enough, by his own true heart, seeking Paul, the Ganymede-like boy he pushed earlier out of his life to suicide, then finally finding him. This is a play about the worship of strange beauty, something I am thrilled with, and Chashama kept much of that intact. The tiny theater backs on to a plate glass store-front window on 42nd Street; the stage’s rear black-out curtains are opened at moments in the action, and life in New York pulses in. Strange beauty, always.
To Be Loved will be performed at Chashama, 217 East 42nd Street, until Dec. 23rd. For more information: www.elixirproductions.org
by Perry Brass
I was able to attend the Gay Spirit Gathering, held at Easton Mountain Retreat, in upstate New York, near Troy, from Sunday evening, October 29, until Wednesday afternoon, November 1.
The gathering was actually a “sequel” to the larger Gay Men’s Spirit Culture Summit held in Garrison, NY, two years earlier; but this gathering was smaller, with about 35 participants, and wonderfully intimate and moving. I took brief notes of some of the comments and quotes given during activities which often consisted simply of men talking about their involvement with spirituality, their communities, and other people like themselves. Some of these have speaker attributes, others do not.
“Gay does not have a monopoly on joy, but has a real nifty corner of it.” Tim Cooley, Easton Mountain
“The longing is the path. Heart connection is a concrete force we use. We’re all longing for something. There is a power in longing, compassion, and peace. Assertive is not being violent. I want to emulate the ferocity of flowers.” Joe Weston, California
“Have I given people a sense of their soul?” Harry Hay, just before his death, quoted by Dan Vera, Washington, DC
“The necessary beauty of their lives—our gift is to remind people of that.” Dan Vera
“I spend a lot of time in the world of shadows, that dark place of fear and power.” Rosey, New York
“I don’t believe in self-help. I believe in inhabiting the masks completely.” Rosey, New York
“Passion comes from holding my outrage and idealism together.” John Stasio, Easton Mountain
“Surrender to the truth of your own experiences . . . what drives me is the choicelessness of my life.” John Stasio
“I seek the company of my fellows because I know how dangerous the world we live in is.” John Stasio
“My passion comes from the strength to keep my innocence alive, and to honor that innocence in others.” Perry Brass, Bronx, NY
“My passion comes from knowing God loves me . . . Lead a full life, claim your spiritual heritage.” Michael Kelly, Easton Mountain, via Australia
"We all stand beside our own pool of tears.”
“This thing called the body, and using it to connect with desire makes me passionate.”
“Words—I’m passionate about things being said well. I act through the body. I’m passionate about healing through pleasure . . . To be alive in your body is to be awake in the world.” Don Shewey, New York, NY
“I had long-term short relationships. But I did not know what love was; I was not big enough to know the fullness of love.”
Thoughts of my own:
Structure is a point of entry into each other.
The problem of people who become conduits for the Eternal is that they become aware at some point of their own emptiness.
Statements from a panel on the future
of Gay Spirituality and the movement toward it:
Audio Links to each panelist’s talk are below each summation and will open in a separate window. Audio is in mp3 format and will take a few seconds to download.
Toby Johnson (writer and therapist):
“We are part of the ‘new myth,’ a shift in consciousness. Gay consciousness sees the world from outside and above, since we don’t fit in. Homosexuality is a dynamic of psychology rather than of biology; a function of consciousness. The Gay Movement is in two forms: political and society; and gay spirituality, addressing ourselves directly.
“Let’s change each other.
“Homosexuality should be a spiritual gift. It is a dynamic of consciousness, and makes use of kindness and spirituality. We need to change our vision of homosexuality. Wake up the boddhisatvas!”
Toby Johnson’s Statement (mp3 audio) (first few words are missing, apologies)
Michael Cohen (therapist and Body Electric facilitator):
“I see lots of hungry men wanting information and permission to be in a body. Initiation is important; Body Electric is about initiation. The secret mission of Body Electric is to ‘crack open your heart,’ to make men fall in love with themselves again.”
Jay Michaelson (teacher and writer):
“Gay spirituality is powerful, transformative, and limited. I am not interested in the ‘origins of homosexuality,’ the debate in pop culture. We need to bring our work out into the world.
“Are we the alternative to Western religion, or are we trying to make Western religion more open to us?
“Marketing is important to understand in the growing of the movement.”
“I want to acknowlege the ‘Lord,’ or the people who’ve made Easton possible. People are still struggling with spirituality, liberation, and consciousness. Church is home for Afro-Americans. We want to recreate a church where we can feel spiritual.
How many black gays have done Body Electric?
I’m a Unitarian because they support what I do.
“It’s about our relationships, and that white gay men exist in their own planet.
Katrina shifted the consciousness of this country. If Katrina had happened in Connecticut, wouldn’t things have been different?”
Each one of us has a dimension in our experience connected to a larger experience or community. The work of this movement is help us navigate in that inner world. I had an experience as a boy of being connected to the galaxy. It made religious rules have no reality. I had that religious experience at 17. At 19, in bed with man I was infatuated with, I had a vision of Jesus coming down from a picture in my room and entering a threesome with us. So helping people have a profound experience about themselves is what my work is all about. It is irresponsible of us to look at people who can’t help us—such as organized religion—instead of ourselves. The epidemic made us ask big questions about the meaning of life. Death is a profound teacher. We need to have rich, meaningful lives together. If we can support that, we can have a community together.
John Stasio’s Full Statement (mp3 audio)
“We need to be a source of action in the world.” Rosey
“In terms of historical moments, we, the community, haven’t had that much time. We have the resources to go further.” Chris Bartlett, Philadelphia, PA
“Not being ashamed is work, and transformative.”
“We’re winning; things cannot go back.” Toby Johnson
“Everyday something happens that tells me I am an oppressed person.” Harry Faddis, Easton Mountain
“There are people who need to receive the invitation to open spaces.” Dan Vera
“This is a fruit of grace that we can meet and be here.” Michael Kelly
“Ask yourself: What is the next right thing to do?" David Coleman