2 June 2007

I am sitting in a tent in Dordrecht. It is 22:37 and the mosquitoes are swarming. Little bastards. I was supposed to be much further along today, but for some reason, I left map 9 at home. We spent all of yesterday and part of today on map 9.

The major cycle routes here are (mostly) very well marked. But not always. Much of today was spent going in unplanned directions. One of those directions took us down a tractor path through a line of canals (pretty normal) but which were supplied by working windmills like you see in the Holland Dutch Delft pottery stuff (not at all normal). some guy was mowing the lawn in front of one of them. Xena stopped to relieve herself. always a good citizen, Nicole stopped to pick up after the dog. “What do I do with this?” she asked the lawn mowing guy. He told her to throw it in the canal.

Dear citizens of the Netherlands, Your canals are really lovely to look at, especially in the summer. They have blooming lillypads, ducks and other waterfowl, moss, little bridges and cute little boats and sometimes awesome windmills. But they would smell a whole lot better if they weren’t also full of cow shit. Sincerely, me

Yesterday, we biked from Den Haag to Gouda. We followed the major cycle route. They have routes like highways for bikes all over the country. They’re perfect for tourists. They take you through the woods, in twisty paths around fields and canals and through historic centers of adorable villages. They add several kilometers to the trip, but it’s still great. Except the marking is sometimes lacking. So there are maps you can get, which also list fun things like ferry crossings and camp grounds. Today, Xena had her first ferry ride.

I think a skeeter just bit my foot through my socks. gah!! bastard. I should put on toxic bug spray.

Last night, we camped near Gouda. We were biking in Gouda, on the LF-02, hoping to stop by the VVV (tourist office) around the central train station, when an old woman and a little girl stopped us to ask about the dog. I explained in broken Dutch that we’d towed her from Den Haag and wanted to camp tonight and continue on to Brussels in the morning. The woman didn’t know about camping, but soon assembled a small crowd of passersby to solicit opinions. One woman knew exactly where the camp grounds were. Another biking by, heard her describe the route and stopped her, since the camp ground is closed for a week.

If some stranger asked you about camping in your town, would you know two alternatives?

So she described another camp ground, 10 km away and described the route in detail. We got there and soon figured out why she knew. In addition to caravans (known to Americans as “RVs”) and folks in tents, there were a bunch of tiny cottages. The cottages all faced a road on one side and a canal on the other. Almost all of them had a small boat on the canal. All of them had a little patio by the boat, with a little umbrella. The camp ground was full of people. I’m guessing many middle class people have these little summer cottages that they come to on weekends. They were charming, but packed together at very high density. This is amusing about the Dutch. They escape from their high density cities to go to their high density camp grounds.

We went to the bar seeking food, but, unsurprisingly, they only had bar food. I had friend cheese. Nicole had a burger.

We sat down next to a Dutch woman who had lived in Dallas for 22 years. Then she came home because her father was dying and she realized she had enough of Dallas. She was talking about taking care of her dying parent while her marriage fell apart, something I can also speak about. And we talked about how loss makes you really see the beautiful things in life. The conversation got intense. Nicole started to cry.

Today, there is no bar, except for the mosquitoes. Alas, I am the bar, as is Xena. I forgot to put her pesticides on her before we left, so this morning I went to a pet shop and bought flea and tick stuff to put on her. I asked if they had stuff for heart worm. The pet store clerk didn’t know what I was talking about. I hope this means that it doesn’t exist here. Her immunity from last month has not faded away yet. I will ask again in another shop tomorrow and I’ll ask after that. Maybe there’s heartworm in Belgium but not here.

Today, after we passed the windmills, the tractor lane got very narrow. We let Xena out to run along side the bikes and stopped after a while to give her water before we went on. We gave her the very last of the water. Alas! So we biked on some more kilometers until we came to a grocery store. I was hungry, which is bad for being in a store, but also very thirsty. they were having a sale on soymilk. There is now 2.75 liters of soymilk packed on the front of my bike. I purchased one liter more than that, but then drank it quickly. Things not to do: chug most of a liter of chocolate soy milk and then go to get a heavy dinner. *urp*

I am suffering from massive pack creep. Not only am I taking around the computer which I am not typing on, but also a small coffee-making setup. It includes a tiny gas stove. A tiny pot for said stove. Two gas cartridges. An adaptor for the other kind of gas cartridge in case those two run out. Two 0.25 L cups with coffee filter attachments and little tote bags for them. And bag of ground coffee, stored in a plastic container with a scoop. Also, I have two settings of silverware, two plates, two wine glasses, two napkins, a cutting board, a cheese knife and an insulated container for food and an insulated wine holder, which is, alas, empty, or the mosquitoes might be getting tipsy. (little bastards).

Now is time for sleep.

On etsy / getting royal / advertising

While I work my way through the eBay appeals process, I’ve moved my eCommerce to Etsy. I exchanged a few emails with them before setting up shop, and they’re totally cool with hosting music commissions. Their fees are also less than eBay, but there’s no chance of anybody bidding up the price.

I’ve got 22 opportunities for commissions remaining. Well, 21, because I really want to get one from Queen Beatrix. To show my appreciation for her allowing my use of the Royal Conservatory, I will wave my fee. It’s the least I can do. And, of course, I’ll use her equipment to make the piece.
Since I attend the Royal Conservatory, there actually is some connection to the queen. She regularly exchanges letters with the head of my school. So, to reach the queen, I have to convince his secretary that I’m worth his time, and then him that I’m worth the queen’s time and then the queen herself. I’ve heard that she likes ballet and goes to the ballet performances at school, so I could wait for one of those and attempt to approach her. And/or, I can try going through the three filter approach. I really am quite fond of Stravinsky, so I think I will aim for something like Stravinsky-meets-IDM-meets-noise, with emphasis on the Stravinsky. There’s now some documentation to use the OSC->CV converters at school, so I can get the kind of tuning I need to make a (micro)tonal piece.
I’m not sure entirely how to pitch this. I mean, I really want to write something that she’ll like. And all my pieces are really short. If I write something a minute long and she doesn’t like it, at least I haven’t taken up too much of her time. I think I’ll leave that last bit as unspoken, since it’s not really compelling.
Anyway, if any of you, dear readers, has some connection to the Queen of the Netherlands (or, you know, any royalty, but other monarchs will need to pay the $14), please let me know.
Of course, there are still the other 21 unpurchased commissions. Apparently, it’s possible to buy metro ads in Rotterdam for 17,50€ / week. According to an ad I saw. I haven’t contacted them to see if I can really just get one. I haven’t put any effort into buying banner ads on the web yet, but I think I’ll approach some New Music blogs. I’m not sure what to put in a print ad. a picture of myself? A cool closeup of some synthesizer knobs? A picture of myself in front of some close-up synthesizer knobs?
Yesterday, I discovered a pocket notebook that I got in 2003 to jot down my musical ideas. This morning, I went to read it. What half-forgotten ideas could I return to and realize? The sole idea that I wrote down starts with, “Patron system: possibility of running a commission service” and continues like a Marketting Requirements Document. Ha ha ha. Awesome.
Composers, of course, have something called cultural capital. They help forge identities for their communities. American composers bolster the American identity. Gay composers bolster the gay identity. And so on. Many composers are slightly outside of the mainstream of their culture. By writing music, they gain additional access to the shared culture, while having a hand in forming it. The problem for the last several years has been how to turn cultural capital into monetary capital.
But I see the commissioning/gift economy as something more than just a capital-based solution. One of the huge problems of the current broken copyright system is that people do not own their own culture. Our shared myths don’t belong to us, they belong to corporations! The gift economy of music puts our culture back into our own hands. Furthermore, commissioning directly involves the community. Commissioners have a say in the formation of their culture. They share cultural capital with the composer. They directly participate in society and culture. Commissioners are catylists for cultural creation and change. They help build a shared identity and strengthen their culture. Commissioning music is the patriotic thing to do.
What is a country? Is it just a land mass? Is it a particular government? Is it a collection of people who happen to live within certain geographical borders? No, a nation is an identity. A country arises from the people. When somebody loves a country, they love the people, they love the art, they love the history, they love the culture. And if you love something, you don’t passively watch it, you participate. You vote. You hike. You create community and participate in institutions. Art is patriotic.
I, like most folks, have many different identity affiliations. I’m American. I’m queer. I’m Californian. I’m a student. I’m a composer. I live and learn in Holland. (I’m a manly man.) I have an exerimental asthetic. etc etc etc. When I make music, I am all of those identites making music.
So how do you concisely, pictorally represent the possibility of expanding cultural capital on the basis of music and identity and sounds? Maybe a screen shot of Ardour?

Gender Therapy in the Low Lands

I’ve been putting off posting about this for a long while, so I’m hazy on the details. But how many Americans can give a first hand account of gender therapy in the Netherlands? I feel a duty to post. This kind of meanders into TMI a bit, though. Be warned.

Ok, so when I last spoke of my therapy issues, I’d seen a regular shrink who wasn’t sure what to do with me and who did not speak very fluent English. (I want to clarify that I’m not criticizing anyone when I say they don’t speak English well. It’s not like I speak Dutch well, which is the language of the land. When I mention that somebody doesn’t have high English skills, it’s just to clarify that communication was not overly clear. This is a sub-optimal situation to have with a shrink.) She asked me about going to see the gender specialists at the university in Amsterdam. There was back and forth. Finally, she referred me to a center in Voorburg.
Several days later, a letter came in the mail giving me a date and time for an appointment. Fortunately, my assigned time did not conflict with my class schedule. I biked the several kilometers to the PsyQ building there. PsyQ is some sort of organization that deals with people’s mental issues. I don’t know if they’re public or private or some mixture thereof. People seem to largely have private insurance in this country. Anyway, so I showed up and walked through an automatic door to an entry alcove. There was a large glass window with a woman behind it and a microphone. There was no opening in the window at all. It was solid glass (or whatever). I had to show ID to the woman behind the glass and also present my appointment letter. She pressed a button and the automatic glass sliding door to the lobby opened.
Of course, they deal with crazy people, so they need security to protect themselves. From people like me.
The woman took my insurance card (they only reimburse and don’t cover anxiety, which is specifically mentioned on my appointment letter, but whatever) and asked me questions so she could fill out paperwork for me. Because my Dutch skills are too low to fill out any of the forms by myself. People are generally very nice about my inability to communicate in their language. Anyway.
I went to the waiting room and a woman came to meet me and explained that she was filling in for whomever I was actually supposed to meet with. She asked me all the stereotypical shrink things while taking copious notes. How did I get along with my mother? My father? What was my childhood like? I told her about coming out in Catholic school. The first girl I kissed. blah blah blah. She wanted to know about my earlier childhood. At home, I played with boys. At school, I played with girls. My parents and grandparents always got me girl toys. I had a collection of Barbies, but found them to be dull. You dress them up? Who cares? Until, one day, my friend Christy from school came over one afternoon and wanted to play with my Barbies. She pulled off their clothes and a bisexual Barbie orgy ensued. Apparently, what you do with Barbies is make them have sex with each other.
“So she taught you how to play with Barbies?” the shrink asked, very seriously. Um, yeah, am I paying for this? Because I suddenly feel like I’m stupidly wasting everyone’s time.
She changed the subject. “So what makes you think you might be -”
“I don’t know.” I cut her off. I said “I don’t know” a lot. She asked me if I would rather talk to a man or a woman. Was this a trick question? If I say woman, then I’m really a lesbian? If I say a man, then, I’m really a man? Which way should I go? Ack. I asked for a fluent English speaker. Then I started coughing and couldn’t stop. I went home and felt crappy and got a fever and was sick in bed on my birthday (I’m 31 now, btw) poor me.
A week or so later, I went back to the same place, still feeling like I had a cold. I met a different woman, the head of the sexology department. She explained that the woman I had talked to previously was no longer employed by PsyQ and since they are having a staff meeting on March 5th to figure out what to do with me, somebody there should have met me in person. I was very careful the whole time not to say the word “transsexual.” (Because I am totally logical.) She asked me a few times the same question that the other woman had asked more than once. Did I have problems during sex? (Problems only in that the ladies can’t get enough of me. heh heh.) I asked her to explain herself. Well, my lack of a penis might make it difficult. (good lord) Then she asked me how I felt about my period. (um, well, questions about it make me feel uncomfortable.) I don’t think I dislike it significantly more than anybody else I know who has it. She asked me why I hadn’t stopped it with birth control. I explained that I really don’t like taking pills or whatever and don’t want to mess too much with things like that unless I have to for some reason. I’ve heard women talking about birth control side fx and stuff and always have felt glad I don’t have to mess with it. Emotional messes. Mojo killing. No thanks. “But it’s possible to stop it. Why don’t you do it?” she pushed. Yeah, but it can make your breasts bigger, I pointed out. She accepted that. She wanted to know why I hadn’t gone to Amsterdam to the university. Hey, I’ve just been going where y’all have been sending me.
I got the vibe that if I had asked for a referral for testosterone, she would have been willing to write one right then. (Actually, normally, they make you get 5 appointments in Amsterdam and then you carry forward. I don’t know if the appointments are to get a note for hormones or for surgery.) She clearly thought I was – that word that I was carefully shying away from. Which, I mean, what did I expect? A pat on the back and a “good for you being genderqueer!”? If I was fine just the way I am, why am I seeing a shrink anyway?
Then she talked to me about what she’s going to recommend they do with me. Anxiety therapy is the first priority.
god help me, I’ll get off Zoloft soon.
I’ve been off school for the last week. No classes! I didn’t go anywhere. I did an application for Birmingham (UK, not AL) and sat around. Today, I had a duo recording with a improv guy from the composition department. I took a deep breath and screamed “I don’t know who I am” as loud and as long as I could, though my tuba. (Metaphor, but not really.) Blat blat blat, I screamed, inhaled, bellowed improperly attacked breathy notes that don’t know where they’re going, what pitch they want to be, how they will resonate, where they are now, what valves are pressed or how much. Wail, blat blat blat.
Afterwards, I felt so much better. I didn’t even know I felt tense, but afterwards, I just felt so like I’d worked something out. so maybe the key to getting off Zoloft is playing loud, angsty tuba? I came home and actually mixed a piece of music. this entailed both me getting Ardour to work and having the attention span to mix something. Tuba is key.
I’m trying to be proactive. I used to tell myself to wait on things. I didn’t need to worry about my mental health problems as long as I could walk and eat and stuff. In the book Breaking Silence, I read about lesbian nuns developing stomach problems from stress and what I got form that was that I could wait until I had stomach problems. Yeah, last summer counted. I always wait like that. I went to a support group for FTMs once in San Francisco. One old guy there said that if you have to transition, eventually you’ll have to. In She’s Not There, Boylan writes of her experience at age 41, just being totally unable to carry on without taking action. I don’t want to be a mess in 10 years. I don’t want to delay and have my first stubble come in grey. I want to deal with this now and take action or put it behind me. I want to move forward from where I am now.
I know that’s it’s not a path of discovery, that it’s a path of creation. I have agency. I apply technologies of the self to create my own identity. It needs to be an identity I can make some peace with. that might require some more therapy. Or more tuba.


Before I begin, I want to clarify that the Dutch are actually pretty ok as far as restroom etiquette goes. Best are the French, then the Dutch, then a tie between Californians and Germans (I think CA might be a teeny bit better) and at the very bottom is Spain. (Also: waa, waa, waa, nobody understands me.) Ok, so on to our story.

I went to see a Dutch shrink on wednesday. Over the summer, I got a book that said that therapy can cure anxiety. Zoloft can also cure anxiety, but it stops working if I stop taking it. Also, it has not been stellar for my concentration. I haven’t written much music since being on it. So a long-term cure that leaves me able to think would be very good.
“Why do you think you are anxious?”
If I knew the answer to that question, I would have a solution already. I dunno. I think there’s something bugging me that I’m not thinking about. When I have something that is really bothering me and I try to ignore it, I tend to have panic attacks. Maybe that’s the cause of all my panic attacks. I don’t know. Lyme disease was pretty stressful. Lack of sunlight might be a problem. I dunno.
I said “I dunno” a lot. She took copious notes and asked extremely open-ended questions. One of them was “how is your identity?” Ok, this was not out of the blue, since I was sort of without one right after I got divorced, but how does one answer such a query?
“Is there anything else?” she asked.
“How do you mean?” I asked.
She noted that it was open ended.
I took a deep breath. “I have a lot of friends who are transexual. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about.”
She started a new page of notes. “You know people who have had The Operation?”
Gah!!! The Operation. What operation would that be, exactly? Would it be the operation where folks take T (or E, since I’ve known folks going both ways) until they pass? Would it be top surgery? Would it be a hysterectomy? Would that be a medioplasty? A phalloplasty?
“Um, I know a guy who had a hysto?”
Did you mother know? Did your ex-wife know? Does your girlfriend know? How long has this been going on?
no. sorta, not really. yes. I dunno, a few years. You know, I’m not at all sure about this.
So you think you are denying your real self and that’s making you anxious and maybe having The Operation would fix that?
What?!! No, I don’t know! Augh!
Would you like to speak with gender specialists in The Hague?
“I don’t know.” I’m all wary now. Outside the window, a gigantic orange cat has climbed to the very top of a barren tree. It’s among the empty branches, looking around. It’s not acting uncertain, but I wonder if it must be stuck, up so high in the tree. Why did it go up there?
“You don’t have to make any decisions. It’s your life, you know. You can just talk about it. It’s an emotionally safe place to talk.”
That’s easy for you to say. I looked at the bookshelf behind her head. It was red and in the shape of a first-aid cross. “Um.”
“They can also help you with anxiety.”
“Ok, I’ll talk to them.”
“Your friends who have had The Operation- are they happy?”
“Um, as far as I know. I dunno.”
“Well, I think we’ve probably covered enough for this session. How do you feel now? Relieved to get everything out?”
No, that’s not exactly how I would describe my mood at all. How does it make me feel to talk about anxiety? It makes me feel fucking anxious!!
I speak virtually no Dutch. Her English skills are probably not high enough to be doing therapy sessions in English. No, I was not relieved. I left and went to class where I was all jumpy.
On the way out, I tried unsuccessfully to explain to the desk person that while I was happy to provide any insurance info they wanted, my insurance specifically excluded treatment for anxiety and regardless, they just reimbursed me for things, so it would be really better if I just paid cash now. The desk person went to ask a supervisor. Out the window behind her, I saw the orange cat running along the top of the fence, like it was on a mission, had a plan, had a place to be.

Pre-jet lagged

I never sleep well the night before flying and I seem to enjoy procrastinating, so now it’s 5:00 am and I’m not packed and every dish in the house is dirty. And, I forgot about garbage day. And, while putting the (potted) xmas tree outside, I flung mud all over my bathroom (by which I mean bathing room). The upside here is that I’m all pre-adjusted to CA time, except if I don’t sleep on the plane, I’ll be a major mess tomorrow.

Let’s see . . . I went to Amsterdam a while ago to see some sort of art opening. There’s a German guy who runs a really, really tiny night shop out of just a shop window display. It’s one of those life-as-art projects, where it’s art because it’s just a bit odd, and the artist embodies it. He was having a small showing of another artist in the shop. The other artist does nothing but pictures of sausages. He handed out tiny real sausages to everyone present. I read the program notes and they were truly insane and mentioned something called the “wurst club.” It’s a real club. I joined it and got a membership certificate which is actually a watercolor painting of a bunch of sausages. I’m the 6th vegetarian to join.
The next weekend, I went to Amsterdam again to go to STEIM’s open weekend. They had a bunch of interactive toy instruments out for folks to play with. They were cool. then some STEIM folks improvised. I went and got my haircut. I really like my hair cutter (Cuts and Curls) because they never argue with me or try to talk me out of things. I say, “make it short and square” and the guy just nods and does it. He talked me into buying some product. I haven’t gotten the hang of using it yet. I look like some sort of cross between an overly-enthusiatic-for-the-wax teen boy or the covermodel for the Amsterdam Gay Guide.
On Monday, I went again to Amsterdam to go to something called “Upgrade.” There were two guys speaking about degradable art and then a couple of guys played sounds and fed them to a video projector via a video aD converter. Destruction of stuff, like data or old photos is fine, I mean, if folks don’t want it anymore, it has to go someplace. But shredding old slides isn’t really getting rid of them. It’s just breaking them up so nobody can use them. In once sense they’re destroyed, but in another they’re not. Somebody with way too much time could probably reconstruct them. What’s more, the amount of space they take up has not diminished. They have not transformed, only been broken into pieces. Degradable art is not biodegradable art. Contrary to audience suggestion, shredding computers is not a good idea. Our leftover technological scraps from forgotten tools and memories are toxic. They might be broken into bits, but those bits will stay around forever, unusable.
Maybe I should go pack or do the dishes or something. I wish my laundry were dry. I’ve been adding labels to my oldest posts and eventually hope to tag everything I’ve ever written here. It seems to be screwing up the feed on lj. Sorry.
Oh yeah, I’ll be in CA starting tomorrow until Jan 4th.