I found this letter in a book containing notes from the "deconstructing masculinites" class I took in college and assorted scribblings from the performance studies conference in Tempe (must have been 2000 or 2001) and my stay in South Africa.
In the same notebook is now nestled an envelope with the following written by my Johannesburg housemate, Lawrence:
The big white box on the wall that you have unplugged is the alarm system. It needs to stay on. Old African proverb 'White man with no alarm living in Africa will probably die'.
Wlecome to JHB.
And here's a letter I called "dramatribe" dated March 12, 2000
Dear Eric and Jack,
I was writing iin my gender studies notebook as thouh it had been a journal when I felt, as I often do when writing in a journal, that I would be better off writing a letter. So, I'm transcribing what I've written on one page onto another and beginning this letter. I believe you have both received "stream of consciousness" letters from me before; this one is no different.
First, I must set the scene. I am in a plane (as I often am when these letters erupt) bound for Chicago. I have recently departed Tempe, Arizona where the 6th Annual Performance Studies International Conference has just concluded. It is getting dark as the plane moves east.
At the conference, a grizzly man whom I imagine must be someone's favorite uncle, Philip Auslander, from Georgia Tech, presented a paper on glam rock, focusing specifically on David Bowie. Eric would have loved it.
Anyway, I was at thi conference to try out performance studies, shop for graduate programs, and expand my mind.
As I sit here, the number of topics about which I want to write and the palces I want to go, and the projects I want to start is increasing at a rapid speed. "So," I think, "okay, it's time to pause and reflect."
"My interests are extremely varied." A phrase I once used with pride is now the cause of infinite angst.
I am 20 years old and I have no idea and yet every idea of what I want to do in this world. I realize that I'm not unusual in that respect, but so what?!
1) I must write a proposal tonight for Amnesty International
2) Stop, wait?!
My life is a constant struggle, the kind of struggle that can only result from an extremely privileged life. I am forever doing things and being things that I am told do not belong together. When I attend a performance studies conference, I ask questions about public policy. When I sit in a political science class, do I think about or ask about performances? No. Does that mean I am *really* a political scientist? Maybe. No. Yes. Why would it?
I am stumped by this paper for my masculinities class. First I'm writing about drag kinds and camp critiques of masculinity. Then I think maybe I should write about male strippers. Or male escorts. Or male rape survivors. Or all of them. I have to ask the question, then, why do I want to write about them? What is it that causes me to consider them in the same brain space, at the same time, in the same plane ride, in the same 15 minutes? Does this mean that I am stymied, stilled by the class, the discipline, the intellectual paradigm itself? Maybe. But then what?
How do I explain the fact that I write really well about performance, that I read films, plays, performance, art, music in critical and critically astute ways? What about the fact that I am drawn to the theater, the gallery, the performace space? What about the fact that I try and fail and want to keep trying to make photographs? What about the fact that I miss singing and that my embarrassment about my body is really the only thing that stops me from learning how to dance again? What about the fact that I would like to make installation art and that I can make a "morning after" bed with cumstains, wine bottles, tissues, cigarette butts, handcuffs, and a wastebasket out of a single 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper? What do I do about that when I consider that I also spend 6 hours in a single night researching the juridical definitions of recklessness and spouting my reactions to police brutality, legal procedures, and the need for building grassroots coalitions? How can I go to my political theory advisor and tell her that I'm interested in looking at the shift in violence in South Africa from the state to civil society, but not be writing about that because, instead, I find myself writing about plays? What I'm really hoping for, at the end of the day, is a strategy to end the violence, though, not a brilliant play about it.
Why must I have a calling when I feel like I have 20? What can I do to create a world to match myself instead of creating myself to match this world?
Why do I imagine that the answers to my questions exist?
I love you both.
I wish I could remember the name of the teacher of that masculinities class. I keep wanting to say "Paul Frank" but, obviously, that's not right. He was great.