In which The Gay Recluse rebrands and retires.

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In the effort to be less ‘gay’ and less ‘reclusive,’ I’m ‘rebranding’ with a new blog written by ‘Matthew Gallaway’, which not coincidentally is the name I’ve used for my novel The Metropolis Case, which will most likely publish at some point in 2k10. I hope you’ll join me there! Please let me know if you love/hate the new design, or if you have any technical difficulties with feeds/subscriptions/linkage. Hope to see u soon — miss u! xoxo TGR


On Spring Break

22Mar09

In which The Gay Recluse goes on a trip.

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I’m going away for a few days/weeks/months. Hope you have a beautiful spring (via the mythical Helibores)! xoxo TGR


In which The Gay Recluse becomes increasingly obsessed with the George Washington Bridge.

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For the past ___ years, I’ve been neglecting my guitars and amplifiers; for example, I stored my ‘blackface’ 1960s Fender Princeton Reverb at my friend John’s house, and everything else sat in the forgotten recesses of closets, which is not exactly the best thing for intonation (in the case of the guitars) and — for some reason in the case of the amps — reverb, which was shot on both. After the long, slow and oddly painful (via ‘learning to be an adult’) denoument of my old band Saturnine, I wasn’t sure that I would ever really want to play any of them again; they seemed to represent a feckless quality to my youth that had left me careening from one pursuit to the next, without ever really considering whether I had sufficient skill/talent/devotion to ‘make a living’ at any of them; at the same time, the idea of doing anything ‘as a hobby’ seemed ‘too mainstream,’ and so I ended up taking jobs that in most cases could not qualify as the foundation to any kind of traditional career, e.g., I sold lens-cleaning fluid, I watered plants, I worked at a record store, and — most humiliating — I ‘temped’ at law firms where my former classmates were a$$ociate$.

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In retrospect, of course, all of this can be understood to represent a desire to fuck/buck/rebel against tradition without acknowledging the most obvious way in which I would never be traditional, i.e., the state of being gay/vext/non-heterosexual. This is also why when I see movies about wayward youths who have trouble ‘settling down,’ I tend to project my own past and conclude that he/she must be gay/vext/non-heterosexual, although I’ve learned to be somewhat more delicate in phrasing this opinion (if I phrase it at all) via all sorts of disclaimers, after being told quite vehemently on numerous occasions that ‘not every1 is geigh, u know.’ (To which I always respond with a smile and a nod and an unstated mental rebuttal: ‘that’s what u think.’)

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But since subsequently working in a corporate office for almost 1000 years (via the evaporating publishing biz) and experiencing the true weight of ‘fiscal responsibily’ (via lawsuits and Manhattan real estate); I not only became more resigned to the idea that I would never be ‘Steve Malkmus,’ it was a thought that seemed vaguely disturbing and repellent to me, not unlike the way I think of myself as having ‘tried to date girls.’ But as much as I once tended to disavow the past completely, it has more recently occurred to me — via iTunes — that it was not a complete lie; I still genuinely love/admire much of the music from that period of my life — even if it’s not ‘geigh’ like Britney/Madonna/Cher/Coldplay — and moreover there was still a certain satisfaction to be found in writing/recording songs — via Apple Macbook — even if I no longer have a band with which to take them ‘on tour’ and play them to a thousand ghosts in as many empty rooms.

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So I took a few months and gathered my gear; I drove to John’s house ‘in Yonkers’ and picked up the Princeton, I threw out ten bags of garbage that had accumulated in the closets on top of the guitars. I plugged them in and like any neglected child, each one had issues — there was hissing/crackling/moaning/howling — and I gradually set about finding repair shops, which due to the ‘vintage’ status of this gear is never an easy (or at least obvious) task in New York City. In the past I had used some stoner in the East Village for my guitars and a toothless genius/punk rocker in Brooklyn for my amps, but nobody seemed to know what had happened to either one of these guys, though everyone agreed it was unlikely that either had endured the most recent decade, which may/may not go down as one of the worst of all time (via Dick Cheney/Alan Greenspan/the Donald/Tumblr).

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But eventually for the guitars I found a guy who (miraculously) lives/works on the Upper West Side, so that wasn’t too difficult, while amp guy was in the middle of Queens, where the grid system breaks down and Google Maps will torture you by say, directing you to take an exit from the Grand Central Parkway that doesn’t exist. But luck was with me, and both were technical savants, which you can tell pretty much instantly from the decor of an apartment/workshop, i.e., are there amps/guitars/wires/soldering irons/blowtorches everywhere and no art on the walls, except for perhaps an autographed shot of Stevie Ray Vaughan? (In short, these guys are never geigh.)

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Today I picked everyone up and was informed that — after some minor repair$ and adjustment$ — they were all in excellent shape.

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This has been a post in which ‘repairing your vintage guitars and amplifiers’ is a metaphor for ‘coming to terms’ with your past. (These guitars/amps are part of me, now.)

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I have some vacation days coming up, and can’t wait to spend a few hours playing, even if nobody ever hears them sing but me.


In which The Tsarina takes over The Gay Recluse.

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On your entry tonight, The Tsarina remarks by quoting Henry Miller (1941):  “There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy.”

[Via reader CBNY.]


In which The Gay Recluse becomes increasingly obsessed with the George Washington Bridge.

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Today I read a disturbing post on the NYT’s City Room blog about a pair of teenagers who broke into a vacant apartment in Brooklyn, doused a cat with lighter fluid and then set it on fire. According to the article, “[t]he cat was later ‘found outside crying, unable to move, but still alive’… It was taken to an animal hospital with severe burns, and was put to death.”

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Coincidentally, I was reading Richard Rorty on the subway, who (via Judith Shklar) defines a ‘liberal’ — philosophically speaking — as one who thinks that cruelty is the worst thing a person can do.

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He also describes the role of fiction in our culture as a means to 1) empathize with those who are suffering and 2) understand our own capacity for cruelty.

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It’s not difficult to imagine telling a story about two teenagers and their decision to torture a cat that fills both of these purposes: in terms of the kids, we might describe the bleak terrain of the neighborhood in which they were raised, the loveless existence they endured for the first ___ years of their lives, the physical and mental abuse they suffered at the hands of others; the slow escalation of mayhem and violence that led them on this particular day to hatch a plan for such a pointlessly repulsive act. We might even try to imagine them as they ignited the cat and listened to its terrified screams, and whether to witness this was as satisfying as they had hoped, or whether they looked at each other with a familiar expression of disappointment. What did they say as it happened? And later, did they laugh or cry or simply not acknowledge it at all, as if they had simply shared a bad dream?

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I remember being in Paris 20 years ago, when I happened to go see A Short Film about Killing by Krzysztof Kieslowski; the story involves a young man who directs a taxi out into the countryside, where for no apparent reason he brutally murders the driver; he is quickly caught and sentenced to death, and throughout the proceedings shows absolutely no remorse or really any sign of ‘humanity,’ despite the best attempts of his defense lawyer. It is only near the end — after he shares a painful memory from his childhood — and as he is being led to his death, that we feel any compassion for him; in one miraculous shot he looks up at the lawyer, who is watching from the window above, and we understand from the prisoner’s expression that something has melted in him, that he no longer wants to die, and we — as the audience — no longer want him to die either.

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In time, I may write a similar story about two teenagers from Brooklyn who torture animals and live to regret it.

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But for now I would like to think about the cat, about how small and defenseless it was, and how the universe showed such little regard to its fate, and how in this sentence ‘cat’ is a metaphor for ‘any of us as individuals at any given moment.’

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And how when we grieve, it is really for ourselves, and — finally — how we look to the sky with a certain anger and longing and forgiveness as we remember that despite everything — and this by turn cruel and comforting — we are still alive, at least for now.


In which The Gay Recluse becomes increasingly obsessed with orchids.

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It is in the nature of certain people (ahem) never to be satisfied, which — depending on the context — can be a curse or a blessing.

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For example, I just finished a very delicious chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting (but not too sweet!) and am already aching for another. This is also why it’s sometimes better to leave the contours of life blurry, so that we can be distracted by questions of interpretation instead of fixating on crossing boundaries that all too often we realize in retrospect might have been better left uncrossed. But at the same time, relentless dissatisfaction can sometimes yield work of improbable beauty, and this too can provide a measure of unexpected relief.

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It seems like the unhappiest people — by which I mean ‘the happiest’ — are those who never give in to either extreme, and exude satisfaction and contentment. I was like this once, until I broke my glasses and everything was a blur for several weeks. I grew to appreciate this, so that when the time came to pick up my new glasses, I told the optician to grind the lenses back into sand; this made me happy for a little while, until I grew fatigued with everything this new world offered, and more than anything else, I wished to possess what I had once had. Now that I am older and a ‘productive member of society’ I sometimes attempt to nostalgically recapture these extremes through photography, and intentionally blur images; I am vaguely aware that this is actually an exercise in memory, which is equally susceptible to distortions in the attempt to make them more beautiful than real life.


In which The Gay Recluse becomes increasingly obsessed with the George Washington Bridge.

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Today I finally read the New Yorker article about David Foster Wallace, which was by turns inspiring and depressing; inspiring because (and this is hardly a surprise) he seemed to genuinely believe in fiction as a means to reflect/analyze/transform currents of our society, and depressing because of his unending doubt about everything from his ability to write a compelling novel to his own mental health, which was apparently precarious for many many years before he finally committed suicide.

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His unfinished novel, which will be published next year, supposedly examines boredom as a potentially transcendent force in modern society; it’s set in an IRS office in Illinois, and describes a group of tax auditors, some of whom are better able to deal with the mind-numbing tedium of their work than others. Ultimately, it sounds like DFW was unable to resolve — or at least to his own satisfaction — the fundamental dilemma of how to make a novel about boredom not boring.

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Whatever the merits of the novel, it seems that he was touching on an important theme in our culture; seriously, are there not days when the meaningless implications of everything you do at work becomes such a towering wave of ennui that you wonder how you can possibly live another minute, even if by most measures you have a job that is ‘interesting’ and ‘valuable’ and possibly even ‘lucrative’? (In this post, ‘work’ may/may not be a metaphor for ‘life.’) And do you — as DFW postulates — resign yourself to these waves? Do you quit fighting and simply allow them to pass through you so that you emerge on the other side more ‘mindful’ and able to ‘live in the moment,’ so that perhaps you can find gratification in composing say, an elegant e-mail to a senior VP or finally figuring out a mathematical function on a spreadsheet or even participating in a ‘team project’? Ultimately, it seems to me that the issue DFW confronted was (in two parts): 1) ‘how do we stop thinking, when thinking is so painful?’ (or, via Huysmans via Pascal: ‘The soul is pained by all things it thinks upon’) and 2) if we do stop thinking, can we still feel ‘meaningful’ or ‘human’ in modern society, and not like ‘just another corporate drone’?

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In this post, there are four photographs: three of them contain an airplane, which may/may not be a metaphor for our desire to ‘leave our lives behind,’ whereas the one picture without may/may not represent the desire to contemplate that which we have seen so many times before with the (irrational/sustaining/instinctual) hope that we will find something there that we have never seen before.




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