Monday, September 18, 2006


Organization has always been my own personal bugaboo. You’d think that for a librarian, I’d be organized. But that isn’t the case. And just so you know, when I was in Information Science school, none of the professors were what you’d call paragons of organizational ability. Not outwardly anyway. Stepping into one of their offices was much like stepping into mine – books and papers everywhere. Files piled on files. And worse. Yet, they always seemed to get lots done. Many of them were highly accomplished people, published in all sorts of places, speaking at any number of conferences. I know, it’s not good to point to bad examples and take that as the benchmark. I’m just pointing it out as a curiosity. Most people think, librarian = organized – but it ain’t necessarily the truth. We know how to organize not necessarily how to be organized.

And therein lies my problem – if I were organized, I could do anything. Well, at least I fantasize that I could do anything. At the very least I could have more control over my own life and that wouldn’t be half bad. I’m not a control freak (well, who isn’t a little?) but I would like to have more say over how my days goe and how I manage time. Organization is the key. I just know it.

Coming up with the solution is not so easy. But maybe, just maybe… a cute, personal secretary/administrative assistant who works cheap. And if they could throw in a little personal coaching – like “Stop procrastinating! And get busy!” That would be good. I’d pay extra for that.

One of the things on my plate these days is Mysterical-E – an online mystery magazine, which as our front page says is:
A Dangerously Good, Free ezine, packed with short stories, articles, reviews. Focusing on mystery, crime, suspense, fantasy, spec fic; and featuring neo noir pulp inspired art Thrilling, Exciting, Mysterious, and Smart - It's Mysterical E!

And if I do say so myself, it’s pretty good. The staff and the material are all top notch. Of course, we’re always looking for new staff and submissions.

There was a mad rush to get Mysterical-E out on time and almost exactly on the date we’d set for this issue. But we did it. I was away on those three adventures while awaiting the artwork and a couple of columns. When I got back, the dash to the finish line began. And I’m happy to say we made it. Jason and Ginny helped immeasurably and I couldn't have launched the issue without them. The Fall 2006 issue is up. This is the seventh issue since I took over the reigns at M-E and it’s been a lot of fun even though it’s a lot of work.

I’ve always loved mystery – maybe it ties in to my sense of wanting organization. The detectives bring organization and order to a very messy world. Most mysteries usually begin in either of two ways – you get a glimpse of a “world” in which things are running happily along, the world of the characters where everything has a place and things work the way they should. Then something happens to turn that world upside down – a murder, a theft, something. And it’s got to be set right or else. That’s where the detective comes in – whether she or he is an amateur, a professional, a trained P.I. or just an average shmoo who stumbles onto the crime – they get to set things right. The other type of mystery usually hits the ground running – meaning it opens with the crime or the aftermath of the crime. Then we get to see the effects of the crime but still the detective sets everything in place again.

That’s the beauty of mysteries – they bring order to an unordered, sometimes inexplicable world. They make sense out of baffling circumstances, and bring a miscreant to justice.

Is that why I love them? Maybe in part. Maybe I just love the tone and feeling of some of them. But most of all, in the ones I really love it’s the characters. After all, character is what makes all fiction memorable.

But that’s another story.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Naked Soap

I guess the operative words at GNI were/are friendly, convivial, hospitable – and all the synonyms Roget can supply. Right from the very beginning, everyone was terrific.

We found our way to registration and the handsome guy in the office, the one with the cute smile and the slim waistline, was sweet. He handed us each a GNI bag (suitable for carrying all the little necessities for which you no longer have pockets), and a bar of Naked Soap. A nice touch.

He then told us to rush over to the dining hall where would could still get something to eat (dinner would be ending in 15 minutes). We pointed to our clothing and he told us to just go on and not to worry. People would understand. And they did.

There weren’t too many stragglers left in the larger dining hall but no one raised an eyebrow as we scooped up turkey, veggies, and the fixin’s and sat there in shirts and shorts. I felt more and more at home, more relaxed, more like ripping my clothing off and getting into the spirit. But I also felt hungry, not having eaten since breakfast.

Later that night, after meeting the cabin mates, sitting through the opening session, and lolling around the cabin getting to know the guys, we went to the disco.

Yes, a disco. The Tropicana, specially set up by GNI for this gathering. A totally naked disco. A large building on the grounds had been converted to a disco hall – one side with drinks and tables, the other a genuine, disco ball, disco lights, loud music disco. And it was wonderful.

Until you’ve seen hundreds of naked men dancing and enjoying the fact that they are free from any encumbrances, you will not understand it. The utter joy on the faces of some of the men was uplifting. They were ecstatic and jubilant as if they’d been freed from some prison.

It was also a little surreal – one remix, included the flower duet from the opera Lakme (I’m gay, we know these things), woven through with the inevitable disco thump-thump-thump. It was a beautiful mix infusing the air around us with a kind of magic. As this music cascaded eerily over the naked bodies, a jet of snow-like confetti spewed out over evryone and smoke rose up from jets around the base of the room. It was almost sensory overload. I felt transported. It was surreal but in a very, very good way and I allowed myself to luxuriate in it.

Jason, for his part, was dancing atop a pedestal and looked transfixed with happiness. So did the guys staring at him.

It’s just one of the moments I won’t ever forget.

At some point Jason decided he wanted some air. So, out we went into the quite cool night air. It can get a bit chilly in the mountains, even in August. We traipsed down darkened pathways until we came to the wooden bridge which crossed a narrow band of water and led to the other side of the lake. Other men walked ahead and some trailed us. Most of them met around what was to become a blazing campfire. Not as big as a bonfire yet bigger than a campfire – this served as a meeting point for a handful of men each evening.

Walking toward this group, on the darkened side of the retreat grounds, was eerie. I thought about times I’d had in the Boy Scouts, camping out in the open, taking walks at night, being surrounded by guys and filled with this unnameable longing. Now years later, I’d put a name on that feeling and here I was surrounded by guys again. And everything seemed new: the air was cold and fresh, the sound of the gravel crunching under my feet was crisp, the night sky blazed with stars. More stars than I’d seen in a long time. I could even see the Milky Way, or what the Chinese call the Silver River. It was magnificent. Dizzying. I wanted to stare into the sky for a long time, but there were other things at hand.

Each night, I couldn’t wait for the fire to get going so that at least one side of me would be warm. Once the flames rose up, licking the logs and sending showers of sparks into the air, I got a better look at the men standing with me. There was a warm camaraderie in the way they stood, in the way they stared. They spoke, sometimes in hushed tones, about their lives and loves. Then silence would sweep over the group and we enjoyed each other’s company. The company of like minds, of similar longings, of hopeful expectations.

It is something I don’t wish to forget. Like the bonfires of my Scouting days, the flames consumed the logs but forged new bonds between strangers.

Slowly, as the flames died back, men would leave the circle and tread back to their cabins. Often it was only then that some of us actually noticed the chill in the air. Before that the fire and the company served to warm us. Sinking back, one by one, into the darkness sapped the warmth.

But not for long.

Each day we woke to something new – whether it was a volleyball game, an erotic massage workshop, or… well… there are just some things you have to see for yourself.

And there were shows to fill an evening. They were all unforgettable – from Jolene and Stormy Weather entertaining an auditorium of naked men, to the naked talent show. And believe me, all some of these guys had to do was stand there and look pretty. But they weren’t just pretty… uh… faces, yeah that’s what I mean, faces. No, they all actually had talent. These boys could sing or play the piano or cello, or do whatever it is they said they could do. These guys had talent. Which is often the one thing missing in talent competitions.

And not just talent. It takes guts to get up in front of an audience and perform – and to do it naked? It takes more than guts.

If I had to sum it all up – GNI showed me how to free myself, that guys can be decent to one another, that we can love ourselves (and still find room for improvement), that one experience can make a difference in a life.