Twin Peaks

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 10 minutes and 9 seconds.

Selected tracks: Eric Burdon & The Animals “San Franciscan Nights”, Norah Jones (covering Wilco) “Jesus, Etc.”, and Old Crow Medicine Show “Hard to Love”

His room was empty, save for a queen sized bed, the mattress clinging to the floor, and a single ordinary nightstand. The white nightstand matched the rug and walls. I was surprised at how undecorated the room was, especially considering he’d moved here from Kentucky almost a year ago. The only decoration he had was a name tag sticker slapped onto the beam next to his sliding door closet that faced the bed. It was from a career training program his company put on with middle schoolers. And it was confirmation of some of what we had chatted about over drinks.

We met at the Mix, the first time we’d met up in six months. Eric had thought I wasn’t so interested, so he didn’t push hanging out any further. But he had been mistaken. He came on strong through texting, which made me uncomfortable, but it did not fully diminish my interest. When I spotted him in the bar, he was heads above everyone. I’d forgotten how tall he was. A trait I often find very attractive.

We bar hopped twice until we came to Twin Peaks. Because many consider it to be the first openly gay bar in the nation, the crowd there is mostly veterans of the gay community. Not being of that generation, it hasn’t been on my radar of hang outs. However, I’ve always felt it was a place I needed to try. As I sat and sipped my rum and diet coke, Eric began to rub my leg under the table. I tried to ignore it as best I could, continuing to talk about random things. Two older bears sitting at the table next to us looked on. “Awww, look at the little cubs,” one commented at us. I gave the bear a rudimentary half smile. “You should come back to my place at Twin Peaks and see the wine I’m making and the garden I’ve got in my backyard. It’s just a five minute bus ride.” Eric’s offer was enticing, but I needed a little more convincing to get out of my comfort zone. “C’mon. It will be an adventure.” Adventure was the word that got me.

Inside his dimly lit room, he pulled out what felt like an ancient Dell laptop, which in fact was probably less than ten years old, and asked if I wanted to watch something. “Sure,” I said, indifferently, still taking in his bare bedroom. We both got undressed. He was quicker than I, and began looking for something on Hulu as I pulled off my jeans. Once I climbed into bed, we started kissing. Both of us soon forgot about watching anything.

In the heat of the moment, I climaxed long before and unbeknownst him. My mind had already been wandering, far off from my body’s actions. And now it was completely invested elsewhere. This was not love, I thought. This was physical gratification. Eric continued, not knowing I was miles away at that point. Because our conversations over drinks went well enough, I was uncertain if this was just sex to him. I admit the physical part of it felt good, but I knew I did not want to seek out a relationship with him. So here I found myself, in bed with someone of quality social characteristics, but just not ones that fit well with my own.

He finished and then we lay there together. “You hear that?” he said, as I lay my head on his broad chest. “No, what?” I asked. “It’s my wine. It’s the bubbles.” I lay still and quiet, looking up at the stars through the long, rectangular window over his bed. I heard the popping bubbles coming from his closet, in the big jar he was using to ferment strawberry and raspberry wine.

In the morning I walked home from Twin Peaks. He saw me out, showing me his spectacular view of the downtown skyline from his living room window. We kissed each other goodbye and made loose plans for getting together again. Neither of us made any mention of defining what we were out for.

That evening I took a walk to the Presidio, blowing off plans I had to see friends. I needed some alone time to think. I put in my ipod, listening to a cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” by Norah Jones, a soft and contemplative version of the song that relies heavily on a bluesy electric guitar. As I walked down Lover’s Lane, a sloping diagonal path at the bottom of the Presidio, I pondered what to do next.

Being with Eric did not feel bad, but there was something that just didn’t feel right about it. I’d suddenly realized that the type of intimacy I sought was more social, psychological, and emotional than anything else. It felt great that I had dissipated the hesitancies I had over physical intimacy, which was a huge personal obstacle to overcome. However, it left me feeling sort of empty. Now that that challenge I’d fully invested myself in for so long was over, what mountain was left to climb?

As “Jesus, Etc.” faded out, I heard the birds chirping amongst the trees in the Presidio. I took out my earbuds to listen to them and the howl of the wind through the trees. Gradually, I began to hear something else. In the distance, echoing through the canyon of pines, cypresses, and eucalyptuses, was the sound of a bluegrass band. I moved further into the Presidio, crossing grass valleys, roadways, and old brick Naval barracks that had been converted into offices and homes. I accelerated my steady stroll into a speed walk. “Don’t stop playing. Please don’t stop playing before I get to you.” I said to myself. The music got louder and louder.

Finally, the full power of the speakers ripped through a central grass area in front of the Walt Disney Museum. The bluegrass band was set up on a small stage next to a huge screen that looked to be used for a movie showing. There were four band members, one on stand up bass, one on guitar, one on banjo, and one on fiddle. They played a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Hard to Love”. The man on stand up bass sang. “The blackest crow that ever flew, will never turn to white. If you will prove your love to me, I’d turn my day to night. Well, it’s hard to love and not be loved. It’s hard to please your mind. When you’ve broken the heart of many a poor boy. But you’ll never break this heart of mine.”

The crowd, mixed of kids and their parents, applauded at the end of the song. “Wish we could say we wrote that one,” the man on stand up bass admitted.

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Viaje a la Luna

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 7 minutes.

Selected tracks: Animal Collective “No More Runnin'” and Best Coast “The Only Place”

The bus driver looked down at me quizzically. He had obviously noticed I was carrying a box full of school supplies: books, games, lined paper, legos, flashcards, and a large toy clock. Ms. C. had given me these tools to use for tutoring over the summer. Carefully I walked up the steps onto the bus, flashing my flimsy paper Muni slip with one hand and balancing the heavy box with the other. The driver nodded in acknowledgment. Quickly I plopped down into a seat in the first row that faced forward.

Coming down from my ritual morning caffeine high, I relaxed soon after sitting. My volunteering for the school year had just officially ended. However, just before leaving the school, I’d been introduced to a shy little first grader named Luna. Although she didn’t utter a single word when we met, I knew she spoke mostly Spanish. Ms. C. was going to have her as a 2nd grader next year and knew she could use a jump start over the summer with her English. I was simultaneously nervous and excited at the challenge that lay ahead.

Her father was there when I met her. He wore a weathered black ball cap. He was tall, built like a construction worker, and had a black caterpillar mustache. His dark eyes were kind. Luna’s first grade teacher had to interpret for us, as he only spoke Spanish. We set up a schedule for me to come to their house twice a week. I would be as independent in my educational volunteering as I’d ever been.

Normally I read when on the bus, but I was too preoccupied to focus on a book. Instead, I observed the other passengers on the bus. A bald man in his late 30s with a black beard read The Economist. A teenage boy with braces, dressed formally for graduation, wrote on the back of his high school glamour picture. An old Asian woman thumbed through the groceries in her plastic bag. And in my peripheral vision, I noticed a guy sitting next to me with a red plaid button up, short dirty blonde hair, and a boyish face defined by rosy cheeks and left over baby fat that clearly hid his true age.

The contents in the box on my lap shifted as the bus took a sharp turn. My post coffee relaxation slowly evolved into a daze, as I zoned out staring at the upcoming park. Suddenly the boy next to me spoke up.

“You work with kids?” he asked in a high pitched, decidedly feminine voice. He was a she. I snapped out of my daze, puzzled how she could guess that I worked with kids. I then remembered the firm grip I held on the box and noticed the toy clock peaking out of it.

“Yeah,” I responded. “I volunteer at an elementary school. Well, did. Today was my last day for this school year.” I turned, smiled, and made eye contact with the girl sitting next to me. Her oceanic green eyes glistened with a striking balance of warmth and nervousness.

“I used to work with kids back in South Carolina,” she said. I noticed now the Southern drawl in her voice.

“Where’d you work?” I asked. “At the YMCA,” she responded.

“So I guess it was easy for you to spot the toys and stuff in the box,” I smiled. “I’m actually going to be working with a Spanish speaking first grader over the summer.” The girl looked on, intrigued. “I just met her for the first time. She’s quite shy. I felt awful. She cried when she first met me. She’s very uncomfortable with new and strange situations and people. I’m sure she’ll warm up to me though. And her parents don’t speak any English. I’m nervous and excited about the whole thing really.”

“I can see that,” she said. “I think it’s great what you’re doing. I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience.”

“Thanks,” I responded. “I’m Max, by the way.” “Ashley,” she said. “But my friends call me Moon. That’s my last name.”

After a short pause, I asked, “So what brought you to SF and how long have you been here?” The Asian woman with groceries got off at her stop. “I’ve actually only been here for three weeks. My girlfriend got a promotion at UPS, and that’s what brought us out here.”

“So you’re no stranger to boxes either,” I joked. “So did you leave your job back in Carolina to come out here?” She nodded. “I’m actually just coming from an interview at Wells Fargo.”

“How’d it go?” I asked. “Pretty good, I think.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “It was a group interview with eight other people.” The teenage boy with braces texted across from us on his iphone. “Reminds me of what you need to do to get housing here,” I said. “Intimidating open houses with like 20 people you have to aggressively outmaneuver.”

Moon laughed as she eyed the upcoming stop. “Luckily we didn’t have to go through that process. This is me.” She stood up out of her seat.

“Nice to meet you Moon. Good luck with that job. And welcome to the city.” Just before she stepped off into Japan Town she called back, “Good luck to you too.”

I returned my attention to the contents of the box Ms. C. had given me. I rotated the hour hand on the toy clock to 12, pondering how I would teach Luna the difference between noon and midnight.

In Response

 

Normally I wouldn’t respond to such a hateful comment. But, upon heavy contemplation, I realized it was an opportunity to address much of my intentions with this blog/podcast: the acceptance of a nuanced and individualized gay identity versus a uniform one. My response is as follows:

Montey,

I am glad you voiced your criticisms on my content, even despite the defamatory and abusive language you used in doing so. Let me try to address your dissatisfaction as best I can.

“Really, really? really! Please give me a mother fucking break! The first two words out of your mouth were ‘I am a fag’.” —– I can only assume you were referring to an entry I published about my dating life. After researching your background, I know you to be a gay man also. And one who is very outspoken about the acceptance and embrace of a gay lifestyle. I sincerely applaud and am thankful for your actions, as it supports the type of welcoming society every human deserves to live in.

As for myself, I am an only recently out gay man who has had less than a year experience in dating men. It took me a long time to grow comfortable with my attraction to men, due much in part to how much I naively invested in society’s view of the norm. This is no excuse for repressing a real part of myself, but nonetheless it happened. The process of self acceptance, I admit, is not over, but I am most certainly in a place of general comfort about it all now.

Based on your outspokenness toward the acceptance of gay identity, perhaps you sense a hesitancy in my ownership of a gay identity. And, again another speculation, you see this perceived hesitancy as a rejection of gay identity itself. I relent that I do not like being classified as gay, much because it places me in a box of stereotypes, like it or not. However, in openly dating men, I certainly have not shunned that as a lifestyle. The gay identity is much more nuanced and individualized than most settle on seeing. It is not uniform. Both gays and straights alike are guilty of glossing over the details and the qualities each individual human being owns. Each and every one of us has different interests and traits. Just because I am not shouting that I am out and proud, with my actions, clothing, hobbies, friendships, or literally with my own voice, does not mean I am suppressing any individual’s right to be who they are.

Now the second part…. “The whole SF thing is even worse. Ain’t no fags here. How would I know. U should have set it in Bumfuck, OK. OMFG, just give me a break.”——- I actually do live in San Francisco. The city belongs to a wide variety of different people in race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation. There is no doubt that it is heavily populated by the gay community. The circles I’ve naturally chosen to run in don’t happen to involve so many gay people. This does not mean I ignore the gay community entirely. In fact, I’ve been on dates with what feels like half of the gays in the city. Ultimately, I’ve simply chosen what’s felt right to me. Isn’t that what we all want in the end? To have the choice, and even be encouraged, to be ourselves, whatever that may be?

Oh Deer

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 6 minutes.

Selected tracks: Hot Chip “Flutes” and Santigold “Disparate Youth”

Light poured onto a cluster of worn desks. They were all pushed just below the classroom’s large set of back windows. Mr. Allen leaned against a bookshelf beside the cluster. His students were divided evenly into two groups. One group to the left of the cleared room, and the other to the right. He flicked his eyes to the left group, then the right, then called out, “Oh deer!”

Both groups instantly reacted to his signal. Annie, one of his students in the left group, shot her hands up into a triangle above her head. Some kids did the same as Annie, while others mimed two other gestures: cupped hands at their mouths or fingers inside their mouths. Once Mr. Allen was satisfied with what he saw, he shouted, “Find your resource!” The mad rush began. The group on the left darted for the stationary group on the right.

Annie ran across the gap in the classroom. She weaved through the stampeding herd of her classmates, deadset on a peer who held his hands in a triangle above his head like she did. She reached him safely. Annie had survived this round.

“Ok,” Mr. Allen broke in. “The deer who survived and found their needed resource, whether it be water, shelter, or food, go back to the left side. Resources, if you were used, go to the left side, you’re a deer now. You’re the procreation. Deer who didn’t get the resource you needed, stay to the right. You’ve decomposed and are part of the earth. You’re a resource now. Resources who were unused, stay to the right. You’re still a resource.” The class shuffled after absorbing Mr. Allen’s directions. There were more deer now than resources.

It was my last day volunteering in Mr. Allen’s class, at least for this school year. They were playing a game called “Oh Deer”, a lesson on the fluctuation of animal population over time. Mr. Allen wore a broad grin on his face that grew as the game continued.

I looked beyond my teaching mentor at the view of the Golden Gate. The bridge’s two peaks were hidden by the morning fog. It was an unreal sight I’d grown accustomed to seeing every volunteer day.

“Adjusting to your style of teaching took some time,” I told him while the deer began to overpopulate his classroom. “I wasn’t quite sure how to best aid you or the kids until the last couple weeks.” Mr. Allen looked on intrigued. “Your lessons are so engaging and ongoing. You’re either engaged with them as a whole or you have them engaged with each other. It’s so different than most of the teachers I’ve volunteered with. It’s refreshing and I’m better off for experiencing it. I’m excited to come back next year.”

Mr. Allen smiled back at me. “Glad to have you back.” Then he asked, “So, should I introduce the effects of the industrial revolution and pollute the water that exterminates the deer and resources?” His grin grew maniacal. “I guess this game could be applied to humans,” he added. “We’re due for another die off soon. But it’s the end of the school year. Maybe we’ll keep it a little less morbid.”

At this point Mr. Allen was playing god, dictating how many of each resource there could be. The large population of deer began to siphon off. Annie, thus far, remained a deer.

“It must be reassuring that you’ll be teaching 4th graders here again,” I said. Mr. Allen nodded and then responded, “Yeah man. If we didn’t wind up meeting our school-wide fundraising goal, I would’ve been close to the top of the chopping block, since I’ve only been here this year. We just made it, so we get to keep the status quo for next year, at least.”

The deer population slowly dwindled down to one. Annie was now the only deer left standing. She looked across the room at all her classmates. “Oh deer!” Mr. Allen said one last time.

Take A Walk

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 9 minutes and 21 seconds.

Selected tracks: Jack White “Missing Pieces”, Simon & Garfunkel “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”, and Passion Pit “Take a Walk”

I took a left on Fulton toward Alamo Square, walking down Divisidero, coming from the Fillmore. Not in the mood to hike an urban mountain en route to Hayes Valley, I took a detour across a diagonal gravel path that cuts through the small park that is Alamo Square. Hill management is a skill I’ve acquired over the year I’ve spent in San Francisco. I was avoiding the steep hill on Hayes Street that is east of Divisidero.

Timothy, a former childhood neighbor, and surrogate older brother, who’s known me since I was in diapers, had invited me over for dinner with him and his wife, Miki, at their Hayes Valley apartment. I was eager to talk to him in person. I wanted to get clarification on romantic wisdom he’d relayed in an email. “The best advice anyone can give you is to be yourself,” he wrote. “Don’t force things. As soon as you stop caring, that’s when you’ll meet someone; because you won’t be pretending, you’ll just ‘be’, and that’s the most attractive feature you have. The more you stress over it, the less likely it will happen.”

The first date I ever had with a man came not a month into my residence of San Francisco, almost exactly a year to the day. As a man of twenty five, without any dating or relationship experience, I had a lot of catching up to do. Over the past year, I’d been a fast study on first dates, but not relationships. Over twenty men, two kisses, a short fling, and a year later, I was a pro at procuring dates from dating websites, and finding common ground and chemistry over coffee or a beer. But my success at developing relationships was severely lacking. I looked to family and friends for advice, now that I was finally openly seeking out a partner. Everyone’s words of wisdom proved useful at one turn or another. However, I found many times where I could not quite piece together all the advice that was given into one cohesive strategy. It’s felt all the more difficult because I am not discernibly gay in my personal interests or external qualities, nor are the guys that I tend to be attracted to. In the sexually segregated society that we live in, I feel my options are far more limited than heterosexuals or more stereotypical homosexuals.

At the bottom corner of Alamo Square, where Hayes and Steiner meet, I passed an SF Chronicle distribution machine. It displayed the paper with the day’s headline: “Obama First Sitting President to Support Gay Marriage”. I then glanced back, getting one last glimpse at Alamo Square. The view of victorian homes and city skyline parallel to the park were featured in the opening credits to the ’90s uber PC sitcom “Full House”. I’ve always defined convenient ending monologues that wrap up stories as “Danny Tanner Moments”. That term came from my friend Ash, but I’ve long thought about the idea of it.

Danny Tanner, the father in the show played by on overtly sentimental and goofy Bob Saget, sums up at the end of each episode, with one long thought, the moral of each character’s story. The sitting presidents when the show aired were H.W. Bush and Clinton respectively. Their stances on same sex romance mirrored society’s: discomfort and disapproval. Time had evolved the country and now much of the disapproval had faded, but the general discomfort had not. This still left me feeling stranded.

—–

“We first met at the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero, you know, across from the Ferry Building,” Timothy began. “I was twenty and still going to film school at the Academy of Arts and Sciences. I’d actually given up on finding a girlfriend at that point.” I brought a forkful of Miki’s Japanese Curry and rice up to my mouth, latched onto Timothy’s every word. “After many breakups, I just didn’t believe I’d find anything worthwhile, ever.

“Anyway, once a week I’d walk from the campus over to the Hyatt and have lunch there. For a couple weeks in a row I saw this cute girl off in the corner, sitting at a table taking lessons of some sort.”

I looked at Miki and asked ,”What were you doing there each week?” “Uhhhhh….,” she had to think for a moment. “Oh, I was there for broadcast lessons.”

Timothy continued. “So six weeks after I first saw Miki, I went up to her and said ‘Hey, so what’s your deal? I see you here every week.’ We started hanging out after that, just as friends. We weren’t even sure if we were into each other romantically until a couple weeks later. Once love sort of just happened without either of us seeking it out in each other, Miki told me she’d be returning to Japan in three months. We both decided, what the hell, we’ll date until three months comes to a close. Six months after she left back home to Japan, I visited her there and, impromptue, we got married. Fourteen months later, we were together again, living in San Francisco.”

Timothy looked across the table at Miki and sarcastically remarked in a baby voice,”The best foundation for love you can have is friendship, right Miki?” Miki looked back at her husband with an exaggerated pouting face. “Right Timothy!”

While I waited for Timothy to find his hard drive full of his digitized vhs films and home videos from his teen years, I looked down at Hayes Valley from his top floor apartment. The beer garden bustled below at the corner of Hayes and Octavia. I took a sip of red wine as I turned and noticed Timothy plugging in the hard drive into his iMac. He scrolled through a long list of video files until he stopped on one labeled “Bodega Bay Vacation”. He double clicked and up popped a quicktime screen. It was our two families on vacation nearly fifteen years ago. Me, Timothy, and Miki hunched over the computer, laughing at the younger, naiver versions of ourselves. I had a high pitched voice, much lighter hair, and a large gap between my front two teeth. It was my prepubescent self. Those were the times not only where “Danny Tanner Moments” were still on air, but also when they seemed more relevant and more profound to me. Love and sexuality were not part of the equation yet. Now the illusion of life as fair and bending toward a certain, positive solution was gone. All I could take now were lessons that might help me find some piece of happiness.

I said goodbye to Timothy and Miki at the door to their apartment and thanked them for dinner and their stories. Once outside I set my ipod to Passion Pit’s latest release, “Take a Walk” and set forward down Hayes Street, back home to the Fillmore.

—–

“All these kind of places
Make it seems like it’s been ages
Tommorrow sun with building scraping skies
I love this country dearly
I can feel the lighter clearly
But never thought I’d be alone to try

Words I was at sundace station
Selling light and white camations
You were still alone
My wife and I
Before we marry, save my money
but my dear wife over
Now I want to bring family state side

To rock the boat they sail a while
Scattered cross the course
Once a year I’ll see them for a week or so
And most had take a walk

I take a walk

Practise isn’t perfect
With the market cuts and loss
I remind myself that times could be much worse
My wife won’t ask me questions
It was not so much to ask
And she’ll never flaunt around an empty purse

Once my money lacking
Just to stay a couple nights
In the silence she will stay the rest of her life
I watch my little children
As I’m putting in the kitchen
And I se them pray they never feel my strive

But then my partner called to say the pension funds were gone
He made some bad investments
Now the counts are overdrawn

I took a walk

Honey it’s this loan I think I borrowed just to much
We had taxes we had bills
We had a lifestyle of fun
But I swear tonight I’ll come home
And we’ll make love like we’re young
And tomorrow you’ll cook dinner
For the neighbors and the kids
We could rent the part of socialists
and all their ten taxes
You’ll see I am no criminal
I’m down on both bad ends
I’m just too much a coward
to admit when I’m in need

I took a walk”

Summertime Brainstorm

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, art, love, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 5 minutes and 12 seconds.

Selected tracks: Rilo Kiley “Capturing Moods” and Justice “Newlands”

“KABOOOOOM! BAAARRROOOOOOM!” Jessica read the capitalized words softly. “Is that how loud thunder is?” I asked her. She looked back at me with her doe-ish eyes. Her blank face slowly transformed into a smiling one. She shook her head no. “KABOOOOOM! BAAARRROOOOOOM!” She shouted this time.

I’d worked with Jessica on her reading fluency over the past couple weeks. Her marked improvement gave me an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride. Today I noticed a pattern. When she could visualize and act out the text, she read more fluidly and gracefully, and with few mistakes. When she’d get stuck on a word or phrase she didn’t understand, she’d lose her footing entirely, incorrectly pronouncing words I was confident she knew.

On one occasion Ms. C had me test Jessica’s words per minute. We practiced the test passage once together, then I timed her next read. It seemed she suffered from test anxiety. Her untested read through was her better fair. On the timed read, she rushed and stumbled over words she knew and had long pauses when she was petrified by words she didn’t recognize. After the test, I had her read once more. I told her I was not going to time her. I lied. I secretly started the timer once she began reading. On this run through she was as flawless as she’d ever been. When the timer went off, she looked at me and said,”Hey!” My trick had been insightful.

Today, when we came to the last page of the story Thunder Cakes, I reiterated it’s main idea. “The little girl overcame all her fears,” I told Jessica. “Milking the kicking cow, climbing the trellis, taking the eggs from the mean hen, and going out in the storm, to help her Grandma make thunder cake. She did all these brave things because she was so focused on what she needed to do that she forgot to be afraid.”

“Good work today Jessica,” I commended her. We walked together out of the reading room. The class was lined up ready to go to lunch. There were twenty days left until the 2nd graders became 3rd graders. This meant summer vacation for them. And no more volunteering for me. I wasn’t ready to relinquish this activity. It grounded and balanced me. Plus, I felt my work was unfinished with a handful of struggling readers, Jessica among them. I was determined to build upon my skills as a reading tutor, but I had not yet sought out tutoring opportunities for the summer. I foresaw taking the summer off as a stoppage in my progress.

“I really hope you volunteer with us again next year,” Ms. C suggested as the lunch bell rang. “I’m thinking I probably will,” I replied. “In the meantime, I’m looking for tutoring opportunities over the summer. I get a lot out of reading with the kids and I’d like to improve at helping them learn.” Although it didn’t occur to me until after my talk with Ms. C, reading with kids had renewed my faith in stories. Three years working in the film industry had broken it. I found personal connection to the themes of many stories I read with the kids. It helped me understand and cope with a multitude of things happening in my life.

Ms. C responded, “I’m more than willing to refer you to my students’ parents. God knows they need the extra help. I’m sure you’ve noticed many of them need to practice their reading over the summer.” KABOOOOOOOOM! “And some friends of mine started a reading center in the Mission called 826 Valencia. They’re a great place to volunteer.” BAAAARRRROOOOOOOM! The thunderous realization was loud and clear. I could now visualize the arc in my own story I desperately wanted.

Stuck in my Id

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, art, love, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 4 minutes and 28 seconds.

Selected tracks: The Black Keys “These Days” and Reptar “Stuck in my Id”

“So, what you’re telling me is I’m not going to get into a relationship if I don’t put out as easily?” I asked. Bernie sat next to me in the back patio of a bar in the Castro. He gripped a Corona. The prescription glasses he wore were tinted to repel the sun’s rays. They hid his eyes, but not his gaze. He stared right back at me silently, as if he was telling me I already knew his answer.

I didn’t want to believe his analysis to be true, but he was the only gay male friend I had. And he had lived in San Francisco for fifteen years, feasting, in a matter of speaking, upon every inch of the city’s gay scene. “You may be right,” I acquiesced. Bernie put a hand on my shoulder and interrupted me before I could continue.

“I’m not gonna sugar coat it honey. You’re like my little sister.” The imposed feminine identity never appealed to me. I like my masculine features. I let the sister comment pass, as I usually did. “I’ve seen what I’ve seen. And I don’t want your little heart to continue to get broken. Over and over and over again.”

“I don’t want you to sugar coat it,” I responded. “How am I ever going to learn if no one’s there to give it to me straight.” I was half appreciative and half despondent.

Most of my friends are straight men and women, or lesbians, so their advice can be limited to encouragement and consoling. Bernie knew so much more about gay men from first hand experience. However, he was not one for relationships. What would he know about holding on to one partner? He jumped from one guy to the next, fearing attachment. He knew all too well that percentages were vastly in favor of heartbreak when it came to mutual monogamous, or polygamous, commitments. He had decided long ago that the best amends for that train wreck was to seek out men lustily, let the fire burn one night, and be done, without any delicate emotional strings attached. I respected Bernie’s lifestyle, and even understood his motivations, but I knew it wasn’t for me.

To help myself fully understand Bernie’s perspective, I began to think of his advice in another way. Would I be willing to date someone who didn’t want to be sensually touched or kissed? Even though I was unsure if this comparison worked, it did help me get Bernie’s point. Perhaps I was limiting myself by being so timid about sex. I was open to kissing, cuddling, foreplay, pretty much anything up to the actual action. Certain men have certain sexual desires. And if these men perceive that those desires will not be filled by someone, they’ll move on to another who will.

Nonetheless, I was not willing to concede that someone would not be willing to take it slower with me, trusting that I would get to a place where I could meet their pleasures. I met Bernie’s advice with a somber acknowledgement that my sexual comfort zone and the type of intimacy I sought, effectively shrunk my dating pool.