Tag Archives: bowling

All alone in the moonlight

I had an epiphany yesterday, round about 2 in the afternoon, that I should be contacting LGBT agents for my memoir. Why, I wondered, have I been trying only the mainstream folks—that’s like dressing up in my nerdy best and asking out the lead cheerleader to a rodeo (no offense to cheerleaders who like nerds). Trouble was, I didn’t really know how to find them, aside from searching for them on Google, your friendly neighborhood search engine. And that approach was fraught with danger, read, the Big Bad Fraudulent Agent. Apparently, they lurk everywhere, in the corners of the interwebs, waiting to steal one’s money (I don’t have much, so I’m safe there) and ideas (hey, if they can do anything with them, more power to them!). So I figured that for every name I identified, I’d just double-check them somewhere else. This presumes, of course, that there is a long line of clearly identifiable gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender literary agents just lined up for writers like me.

Perhaps I was off the mark a little. Or maybe I can blame the search engine algorithm. I did get some lovely lists of agents, and then . . . then I had to do some text searches. In a list of 100+ agents, there were maybe three or four who admitted they worked with GLBT writers specifically, or who represented gay/lesbian work. This was going to take some time.

I did come up with one name, for the few hours of my effort, and I sent along a queery [sic] to her. And then it was bowling time. I made the hour-long trek, grumbling that my iPod strangely decided not to play about a quarter of the songs I’ve fed it over the years. Damn update.

My bowling mate asked me how I was doing and I said I’d figured out I should try to find GLBT agents. She gave me a look.

“See, and I thought you were all smart and stuff,” she said. I lovingly punched her in the shoulder.

I figured the hunt for an agent would be renewed in the morning. But again, it’s like looking for a four-leaf clover. I’ve already gone through the small gay presses and not heard so much as a ping back, but looking at their book releases I can see why. I don’t write about being drug-addicted, or living in San Francisco, or going through a string of abusive lovers, or being homeless, or anything else edgy. I do write about mental illness, but well, that’s been done by very good writers. I write about the wonderfulness and insanity of city living, and we all know that great writers have tackled that one, many times over. So I think to myself, well, being an Arab American formerly gay transgender professional city-turned-country dweller who survived a bout of major depression, a bad relationship, and a dozen years of Catholic school, and grew up in a mixed race and ethnicity, mixed religion household in New Jersey and somehow came out of it without a Jersey accent, well, there are some marketable things in there, somewhere.

I’ve been working on something like a short story a month, cranking out the ideas that have been crowding around for attention, and then launching into rewriting for a few versions before beginning another one. I’m sure I’ll go through and revise them again, but my point this winter was just to keep writing, identify my best simmering point of productivity, and play with all of the things I love about the craft of writing, until I either decided it was time to go back to the super/stupid power story (in which queer folks save the world) or I decided to tackle another long-form project. The superpower story needs a major rewrite/redesign, and I have to change one of the stupid powers because I really can’t allow myself to reference Dan Savage anymore, after he came out with that ridiculous column last week about the Washington State Attorney General.

I’ve got a good outline for a mystery novel I began a few years ago, and I’ve wanted for a very long time to tackle a memoir or close-to-real story about my childhood, centered on my epilepsy. Really, I’d like to try to relay the experience of having memory gaps and false memories that petit mal and grand mal seizures gave me. They each had their own strategy. The petit mal seizures (which no one calls petit mal anymore) stole time away from me, leaving me hanging in the middle of a sentence and restoring me, many seconds or half a minute later, either attempting to finish what I’d started, or leaving me disoriented about my thoughts. My mind was wracked with 90 of them a day before the doctors—who wouldn’t tell my mother what was wrong with me—got them under control.

The grand mal seizures (they’re not called that anymore, either) played a different trick. They filled in the lost time with whatever my child’s experiences could cobble together. Singing Thanksgiving carols around a grand piano my school didn’t own. Winning the Showcase Showdown in a bright orange t-shirt. Seeing buildings by Route 33 in Hightstown burn to the ground and feeling, really feeling, the thick wave of heat it gave off. I’ve spent hundreds of hours thinking about this book, even as the gender change story was more urgent for the telling of it. I want to write this book in a way that isn’t trite or cliche. Agents apparently loathe book openings with dream sequences, but darn it, false memories aren’t dreams. They’re closer to near-death experiences, in the way I’ve encountered them, like reaching to a different plane or a sticking one’s face into a parallel universe for just a moment and then trying to write down everything seen. I want to write this book.

And I’ll write it even if there are no agents for it. Because writers are supposed to just push on and write.

Skunk smell FTW

the bowling pins are a blurBack in DC, I bowled regularly, a.k.a. was in a bowling league. But not just any league, I was in a GAY bowling league. My colleagues had fashioned snarky team names like Men with Balls and Always in the Gutter. My team was called the Evil Bitches. This was much closer to how we wanted to see ourselves than our actual collective temperament, and there was more than one occasion when the opposing team members would shake our hands at the end of a night, only to say, “you know, you aren’t really that bitchy.” We considered changing our attitude to suit the title, but were too lazy to make it happen.

Blowing my knee out at my wedding, it was a while before I could execute my proper bowling approach and land my weight on my left leg. Seven months from my surgery, to be specific, and I felt a little unsure at first. But now the knee is comfortable. Good thing, since I joined a league again. A GAY league. Now now, there is no gay league in Walla Walla, but there is one in the Tri-Cities. This means that out of a population of 170,000 people (according to 2008 Census estimates), there are 40 gay bowlers, or GLBT bowlers, to be exact.

There are still the tongue in cheek team monikers—I’ll note here that a women’s team stole the “with Balls” phrasing in this league, Dolls with Balls—but at this point the similarities with DC’s teams cease. They are much more laid back players, classic Northwest, if you will allow me the indulgent reference. Gutter ball? No big deal! Missed the head pin? Just try again!

Trust me, I never, never saw this during my three or four years of league play in Virginia. I think people would have ejected their hearts right out of their chests if they’d had to actually say cheerleady things after bad throws.

Not that we weren’t nice out east. We just really wanted to do well, and reward greatness. We gritted our teeth after an errant ball and grunted, “next frame,” or the more desperate, “next game.” Sometimes these were followed with a half-sincere “it’s okay.” More common was the line of strikes and spares down one team’s frame, followed by cheering and high fives. There is so much high fiving in bowling that it is practically a sport within a sport.

The high fives are often done by teams who are very peppy, the kind of team that one hates to play because they’re just so in your face about their excitement, when all one wants to do is just figure out the oil pattern and throw a good rock or thirty. There’s the team that went to great expense to procure matching bowling shirts that look fantastic until you see the simply awful-looking attempt at a logo on the back. People, sometimes less is more, or at least, more easy on the eyes.

The funniest opponents are the teams who are either mad at each other that night, or who are so frustrated with their bowling that they begin taking it out on each other during the night. I can really mess with their already wobbly psyches, like telling them, almost condescendingly, that maybe this next ball will be The One, like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. (Seriously? All hope for humankind rests on Ted Logan’s shoulders? I’ll never get over this.)

Such attempts at sinking a foundering ship don’t work in the Tri-Cities league, which is so close to the Hanford nuclear Superfund cleanup site that everything in that area begins with the prefix of “Atomic.” Atomic Muffler, Atomic Storage, and Atomic Bowl. The best part about this atomic neighborhood, in my opinion, are the little hydrogen atom graphics that accompany these buisneses, friendly little electrons that practically have a smiley face, as if the last thing they would ever dream of doing is harming anyone. Hanford, of course, is the place that created the nuclear material that the US dropped on Nagasaki. I don’t suppose those hydrogen atoms had smiley faces that day.

The folks in the Tri-Cities league are well aware of this history, and yet, they all carry on in what is basically a factory town’s final resolution, courtesy of the Department of Energy. Bowling is a release for them from their work days, to be savored and enjoyed, even if it is only a few pins knocked down at a time. For me, traveling the 50-some-odd miles from Walla Walla every week, it’s a way to be around geeky and fun gay people again, and to help string together things I’ve enjoyed before with my life out here.

It is a 50-mile drive, however, and it takes me right past the awful Boise Cascade paper mill. Last night I was relieved of the putrid odor by, of all things, a skunk. It’s saying something when dead skunk smells better than the process of turning trees into cardboard. How nice of Mr. Skunk to take one for the team.

All around the Hannukah bush, the Hannukah bush, the Hannukah bush

Boxing Day was our pretend Christmas, and I started off by stuffing a 22-pound turkey with my mother’s recipe for dressing goodness. Such an enormous bird was a bit beyond the needs of a 7-person group with one vegetarian and two minors, but as it was a free gift from Shop Rite, how could my sister refuse? So four days after coming out of the freezer to thaw, it was still solid ice inside. Susanne and I ran some warm water from the tap in it for about 45 minutes (sorry, Connecticut water resources staff), and considered it good enough to get started. My surgically repaired sister made it to the table long enough to enjoy the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, creamed spinach, and salad, and I later brought her a slice of the cheesecake her friend Sherri and I had made. I wondered vaguely how cheesecake must taste when you’re drugged on Oxycodone and butter shots. I suppose I should ask Rush Limbaugh, since that guy has clearly had his fill of sweetened cheese.

We went for a visit to the mall with the girls so they could use their gift cards, and I was astonished to see that there is now a vendor selling cutesy underwear to teenage girls. My nieces came out of the Aerie store with peace symbol thongs, because how better to support world peace than by wearing a small strip of fabric that cost $20?

Afterward we went duck pin bowling which I can handle with my bad knee, since the balls are the size of my palms. Duck pin bowling is a treat — the tiny pins crackling like snapped twigs, and the girls cheering each point. We came back and made some turkey soup and dumplings and then retreated to the solace of the hot tub, which was a fine way to mark the end of each day there.

Monday morning we kissed the gang goodbye and road down to DC to see our old pals and their families. With each day, the frustration of the snowy fortress back in Walla Walla receded and we visibly exhaled into the places we visited back in our old stomping grounds.

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