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The Lives of Otters

Ideas, Place, The Lives of Otters »

As the ongoing BP oil spill disaster continues to make headlines and images of crude-soaked pelicans wrench hearts and stomachs from Pensacola to Portland, gay men in the DC metro area breathe a quiet sigh of relief knowing that the country is focused on a maritime biohazard only slightly more toxic than opening weekend at Rehoboth Beach. That phrases like “oiled dolphin” and “top kill” can now be used publicly is something we should all celebrate; at the same time, we owe it to ourselves to pause and reflect on the parts of our cultural universe that, like the fauna of the Gulf Coast, are doomed to a swift and well-lubricated extinction:

Poetry, The Lives of Otters »

Christopher Marlowe’s 1599 “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” is one of the best-known English-language pastoral poems (some readers might recognize it from high school literature classes.) Making artful use of the genre-typical features of idealized rural landscapes, shepherd imagery, and formal self-consciousness, it’s also a hopelessly romantic and heteronormative work. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote his “The Nymph’s Reply” in response to the piece, subverting the poem and the genre in interesting ways. In that spirit I offer this – if not the first indiequeer urban pastoral, then at least the first to run on TNG (the title comes from the sixth stanza of Marlowe’s original.)

Dating and Relationships, The Lives of Otters »

It is a spring noon somewhere on 14th street. The sun shines. Birds make noise. Somehow I’ve found the courage to bare my upper arms in short sleeves. Sometime in the past few days, like the tulips that color the well-tended flower boxes in front of coffeehouses, vintage furniture stores, and free clinics, couples have sprouted in public places. Pairs of boys – some of them attractive and all of them beautiful – hold hands, graze torsos, and gently meet each others’ lips. Testosterone and pollen have their way with my nose. Love is in the air in the District of Columbia, and I know we’re all much closer to our doom.

Health, The Lives of Otters »

Somewhere inside my mouth the blood is 104 degrees Fahrenheit hot. I sit naked on the bathroom floor, thighs folding and straining around the base of a toilet, arms and fingers trembling in cold sweat against a warming porcelain rim teeming with the exotic microfauna of two well-traveled college-age male urinary tracts, wrinkled books, shattered stemware, stained cushions and sheets strewn across tile in an incandescently-lit tropical hell scene combining the most horrific parts of an abandoned Ebola ward, the inner sanctum of Colonel Kurtz, and a BUTT magazine shoot.

Politics, The Lives of Otters »

In the two years we’ve shared as undergrads at American University, this will be the first time I’ve crossed paths with Alex Knepper. The self-described “renegade conservative” writes a column for The Eagle, AU’s independent student newspaper, and in that capacity has been involved in more than his fair share of controversy. His most recent piece, “Dealing with AU’s Anti-Sex Brigade”, has drawn heavy criticism from students who understood it to be trivializing date rape – criticism which quickly escalated from angry letters to the editor to organized protests, acts of vandalism, and threats of bodily harm.

I sit down with Knepper late Sunday afternoon. He seems remarkably well-composed for a college sophomore who’s been at the center of a heated debate on free speech and sexuality that has by now extended beyond campus to local and national media coverage, not to mention the flurry of blog attention from sources as diverse as the Huffington Post and David Horowitz’ News Real, to which Knepper regularly contributes. After chatting briefly about how lousy Randians are in the sack (Knepper begs to differ) and his recent encounter with Christopher Hitchens at a house party hosted by David Frum, I finally figure out how to work my audio recorder and get down to business with the young man who might well be, for the moment, the most notorious homosexual in the District of Columbia.

Commentary, The Lives of Otters »

In the last few weeks TNG has featured several articles related to the National Queer Poetry Slam’s “Capturing Fire” event, held here in DC earlier this month. Participants Kit Yan and Chris August have had work posted here, and have received nothing but positive comments. This seems unfair. As every pretentious English major I know is happy to remind me at cocktail parties, any idle 20-something with a pulse and a thesaurus can throw together decent free verse; it’s the old, tired, stilted verse forms with strict metrical and rhyme requirements which really test a poet’s mettle.

Commentary, The Lives of Otters »

I sit feet from a stage watching grown men dressed only in diapers throwing unwrapped Almond Joy bars into an audience. I catch one and eat it, laughing, indifferent to the warm chocolate smearing suggestively across my upper lip.

I stand in front of a bar urinal, fumbling my cell phone keypad with unhygienically damp fingers, intent on sharing a terribly clever sex joke I just thought of with the friends, co-workers, and professors indiscriminate enough to have given me their personal numbers. The words “successfully sent” will soon flash across the LCD field, and I will know that I have done good work.

I lean against a wall at a house party, desperate for the attentions of some dishy plaid-and-dark-denim liberal arts type, using words that have more syllables than I have inches of penis, hopelessly convinced that a formal lecture on French psychoanalysis will get me farther than a haircut compliment. No number of rolled eyes or nervous exits can deter this.

A dark magic binds these memories and other (unpublishable) ones like them, the kind of emotional alchemy most of us have stumbled into by our freshman years of college and can indulge in public after our 21st birthdays

Commentary, The Lives of Otters »

(…) For all of that, I’m convinced that there is an appropriate place for heedless, aggressively pornographic, employment-jeopardizing narrative ejaculation. Say, the kind of place where a community of differently-minded queer people come together in solidarity to exchange interesting ideas about sex, sexuality, culture, and identity on a flashy and well-managed internet forum to figure out, at the end of the day, what the fuck to do with their freedom. In a place like this, I think that another, even more basic ethical demand comes into play.

Blogging of the kind that we get up to on TNG shouldn’t be confused with autobiography. In blogging, we don’t tell stories about ourselves, as if some stable, self-contained subjectivity with interesting things to say about Japanese sexual subcultures or with hilarious poop jokes to tell is reporting, neutrally and transparently, on thoughts and experiences it pulls out of its stream of consciousness. In blogging, we tell stories that become ourselves, configuring emotions and ideas, memories and hopes, pasts and futures in a way that orients us in the world and, finally, keeps us sane.

Sex, The Lives of Otters »

The broad-shouldered, salt-and-peppered thirty-something stranger I recognized vaguely from an evening on U Street commanded me to open my mouth and stick out my tongue. More quickly than I’d come to expect in these situations, there was wrinkled plaid on the floor and firm, warm hand around my neck. A few minutes and fewer words later I found myself laying shirtless on a raised platform with a needle in my arm, cringing at the sound of a safety razor clearing hard-won chest hair off my torso in irregular patches like a Brazilian subsistence farmer at the edge of an especially musky tract of Amazon. The pain of submission would have been unbearable, were it not for the pills this same man had supplied me with a week before. Thirty unmentionable minutes later I was headed home, more relaxed and confident than I’d been in months and beaming an exhausted smile at the prospect of my next session.

Commentary, The Lives of Otters »

Bears, wolves, and dolphins are widely known and just as widely loved. But what about those alternatively follicular fags whose whorls and whiskers are underappreciated in a culture of overwhelming Mammalmetaphornormativity? Don’t they too deserve cute shorthands to describe their hair patterns, however far outside the mainstream or underwear line they range? For their sake, and for the sake of fellow fur aficionados everywhere, I venture these bold steps.