Thursday, May 31, 2007

Old Familar Road

I forgot to mention that Zirpu and I are going out of town for a little while. In fact, I'm writing this from Clackamas, east of Portland, because we are on our way to Bellingham, WA, for the 50th birthday party for our brother-in-law, which has become a family reunion. We're spending a few days in Bellingham, with a side trip for me to visit Bink and Lilwil on an island, and then slowly working our way back down I5 with stops in Tacoma, Portland, and Redding.

Obviously I plan to post throughout, which will probably be easier than it was in Puerto Vallarta. Here is today's post, which I wrote, appropriately enough, while we were driving through the Siskiyous.

+++ +++ +++

We are heading up to Bellingham today, splitting the 900+ mile trip into two days, which is good because we left as late as I've ever left on a road trip, finally getting onto 580E at 1035 this morning.

Road trips are mostly tedium punctuated by beautiful views, slowdowns through construction, and cries of "Sheep!" or "Cows!" Now I've been on so many, not just along the west coast but between the west coast and Denver, that the individual trips recede and just the interesting bits come to mind, like a highlights reel.

At the beginning of winter break my sophomore year of college, I caught a ride to the Bay Area with a friend whose dad lived in Monterey. Heading into the Siskiyous, it started to rain very hard just as night was coming on (there's very little twilight during Pacific northwest winters, because of the clouds). Around 8pm we were just outside Ashland, about halfway, when traffic came to a complete stop. We observed others had turned off their engines, so my friend turned off his too.

It had stopped raining and I put on a jacket and walked up the highway to see what I could learn. A trucker told me that the jam was caused by two trailer rigs that had jackknifed around each other earlier i the evening at the Siskiyou Summit, about fifteen miles away, due to snow and ice.

I don't remember how my friend and I passed the time (it was too cold to stay outside for every long). I do remember that we were there for three hours, and it's because of that experience that I always pack snacks and beverages when I go on the road.

When the cars started moving again, OHP only allowed those vehicles with tire chains to continue. My friend and I were sent back into Ashland via the highway on-ramp (!!) and spent the night there.

I got home midafternoon the next day, and Mom greeted me with a pot of my favorite food in those days, Bombay-style curry.

Downtown Egret Brown

The wildlife people think of when they think of downtown Oakland doesn't usually include herons. I saw this one a couple blocks from the Lake Merritt BART station, which isn't very far, but neither is it very near, to the bird refuge at Lake Merritt.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In The Spotlight

So, there's no chance in hell that I would get tagged with a blog meme, like "take a photo of your fridge" or "five things you must eat before you die" (and yes, I know about these because I read some food blogs). But... I just started reading Boobs, Injuries, and Dr. Pepper from time to time and she got tagged by someone else for this interesting meme In The Spotlight (see rules). The person who wrote it says, "If you are not tagged by anyone and would like to participate in this meme, then I officially tag you now. (You're Tagged By Christy of Christy's Coffee Break)!"

So, I'm tagged. One of the rules is that I have to tag five people; I'm not going to do that, because I don't know how. However, if you want, Christy will tag you if you just go to her blog. I can't cut and paste the questions I choose, so I will write them out in the answer in bold, so you can see what the question was.

What I hope to have at the end of my year of blogging is something like 365 entries, mostly intelligent and intelligently written. I established this blog to make myself write every day. With the exception of when I was away from home, so far I have accomplished that (this is my 157th post). I hope what I write is intelligent; certainly there are days that are much worse than others, but I hope the overall effect is better rather than worse.

However, I would be satisfied to see that I wrote every day.

My favorite childhood memory is this: I don't remember when this was, but I know I was younger than ten. There were several nights when Mom came home from work and announced that we were going to Baker Beach for a cookout. She would load up the Weber Smokey Joe and a cooler and off we'd go. All of my memories of this include Saj, and at least one girl from the neighborhood, J Jump Joyful or DeeKay.

One night most of the parents in the neighborhood came (this is how I remember it, though it seems unlikely in retrospect). That meant that there was half a classroom's worth of kids at the beach, and we had hot dogs (I liked mine burnt, and still prefer them that way) and s'mores. The picnic sites were up from the beach, in the trees, sheltered by the wind, though I don't remember the wind; I don't even remember wearing a jacket. We ran around on the beach, started digging to China, and made sand angels at the picnic site.

The sun went down and the park ranger drove through the parking lot. Our Horizon and the other families' station wagons were parked in the lot, but the ranger didn't come up to the picnic site. At least an hour later when we were leaving the beach, we got to the gate and it was closed! JJJ's older brother got out and determined it wasn't locked, and we went home. It was very exciting for us kids to imagine that the park ranger hadn't made us leave when the beach closed.

Another favorite one is of the April Fools' Day in my second or third grade year when Mom had all the neighborhood kids over for breakfast before school - and served hamburgers and French fries!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Flower Power

This was written by Ken Kesey, in the "Tools From My Chest" section of Kesey's Garage Sale:

All our symbols rust and fall; our flags fray; our banners are ripped off by Seville Row; our slogans are snapped up for Coca-Cola commercials. . . Only the flower has survived, just as potent as the first time we put a jonquil in a pop bottle for the third grade teacher. Flower children change but the effect of the tool that gave them their name remains the same. How about more flower adults?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Political vs. personal

Last Saturday I gave a phone interview to a reporter with the Bay Area Reporter, who is doing a story in the Pride issue (to be published June 21) about bi visibility. We had a forty-minute discussion about being out; her first question was whether I had been out at work, to which I answered both yes at some places and no at others. That led to her second question, which was how it felt to be out at work versus in at work. Her last question was if I thought it was important for people to come out. I said yes, because the more people come out, the more people who think they don't know any queer people will know that they know queer people. That will lead to a liberalization of attitudes, which will make it easier and safer for people to come out.

For me, it was a pretty productive conversation, having to articulate things I've felt for years about coming out and not coming out. I definitely have this strong feeling that people should come out, including myself, for political reasons, like the one stated above. On the personal side, I feel that each person should do what they feel comfortable with, coming out to the people they choose when they choose, also including myself. I recognize that it's safer for some of us than it is for others, and I don't believe that people should be yanked out the closet (much as I wish they would open all the doors in Hollywood and on Capitol Hill). I often feel guilty about not coming out, because the political angel on my shoulder tells me I should, at the same time that the personal angel tells me I should do so when I feel safe. It's a big struggle for me, and has gotten much worse since I married, due to feeling defensive about protecting my husband and my marriage from other people's stereotypes.

Later that day I sent the reporter an email saying that I wasn't comfortable with her using my whole name in the story. I acknowledged that this might mean that I can't be part of the article, but explained that an acquaintance lost her job because her employers discovered she is bisexual. I also explained that a friend who had been positively profiled in a local paper was slaughtered in an online news"paper" due its very different slant on the same story. It would be different if the BAR was a paper paper, but it is on the Web, too, and coming out in this article literally means coming out to the whole wide world, without being able to control any of it.

I do not feel good about the choice not to come out in the article, though it was supported by Zirpu, who has been stalked and who is more than 50% responsible for my use of nicknames, and by a friend who has more than one presence online to keep her vocational and her avocational lives separate.

The reporter and I finally talked today, after I left a voicemail message following up on the email I sent. She said, and I wasn't surprised, that she wouldn't be able to use my remarks because I'm not willing to use my whole name for the story. She quickly added that that is BAR policy, which she hadn't mentioned at any time during the interview last weekend, but was especially true of the Pride issue, which only made me feel worse. I did not engage her again in my reasons for not using my name, and said I was sorry for wasting her time (I was annoyed that she hadn't mentioned the policy until over a week later, so it came out passive-aggressively. Oh well). She said I hadn't and thanked me for participating anyway.

I was really disappointed. Sure, part of it was because I wasn't going to be in the story, but also because I felt like I had some valid things to say, and because of the irony that I didn't want to be named because of homophobia.

Shobi-wan and I talked about it. She is currently out as bi at work, though, like me, she has worked places where being out felt comfortable and where being out didn't feel comfortable. She supported my decision to be unnamed and therefore not in the story. She said that she and her husband have a friend who was stalked by someone who read his blog about having and receiving treatment for cancer. She said it turned into a big ordeal that their friend had to endure while going through chemotherapy, and his blog was about cancer, not about sexuality. She feels that coming out online is a potentially unsafe thing to do, and said I did the right thing.

I'm still not sure. I did the right thing, the personal angel says. The political angel says I did the hypocritical thing, especially in the face of a person who is totally out online. I feel better than I did before I talked to Shobi-wan, but the political angel has a very loud voice.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Goes Around, Comes Around

A Story In Several Parts.

About ten years ago, I was driving east on highway 26 through Portland at about 830 on a weeknight, when my car broke down. That is to say, the engine stopped running, though due to inertia I had enough power to get the car over three lanes and onto the shoulder. This had happened before (for a different reason) so I knew what to do, and I was lucky because there was no traffic to navigate thorough in the car's powerless state.

I got the car onto the shoulder a few hundred feet or so from an entrance onto the highway. This was in the days before cell phones, so I walked up the exit to call AAA, an organization with which I have had a long and useful relationship, for a tow. The entrance came out in a residential neighborhood bereft of pay phones, so I walked a bit, looking for a house with the lights on. I found one in which not only the lights were on but I could see people sitting around a table in the front parlor, so I rang the bell.

I explained my situation and asked if I could use the phone to call a tow truck, and the person who answered the door not only agreed but insisted that I wait at her house for the tow truck to come, rather than on the highway shoulder. I sat on the stairs in the hallway and made my call to AAA, and then waited for the yellow truck to arrive to take me back to the car and ultimately to the auto shop.

I didn't speak to any of the people in the house, except to say thank you and goodbye. They were playing a dice game like Yahtzee or Boggle. At the time I felt strongly that they were so kind to me because the kindnesses I was doing in my life were coming back around to me. I hadn't had to walk far to find a household that would allow me to use their phone, and I had been asked to wait inside, where it was warm and safe, until the tow truck came. I was very aware that I had received kindness from strangers, and felt enfolded in the arms of the universe.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Through The Glass

A few weeks ago the executive director at the Pacific Center sent a couple of us facilitators an email saying that he had received a request from a college student "to sit in [our] group and observe."

I sent my response back to him and cc'd all of the facilitators so everyone could be in the discussion if she wished. I'm particularly exhausted on Fridays after the food bank so perhaps my email could have been more diplomatic, but I said NO in capital letters. Some time ago another student came to the meeting and announced at the beginning (fortunately) that while she is not bi, she was interested in doing some research and her professor told her to find and attend a meeting of bi people, to which my friend privately responded later, "What kind of professor doesn't say, 'Go read a book'?".

It made me feel like she was an anthropologist and we were some weird tribe, the "other." Or Jane Goodall and the gorillas. I expressed that at the time and another woman said she was also uncomfortable with this person being there to observe, and the student left the meeting. She hung around until it ended and came with us when we went out for a drink afterward. She "interviewed" people individually while we drank our beers. Even I talked to her. And then she disappeared.

So when we were asked if we would be open to this person observing, my answer was unequivocally no. I did offer to meet with her one-on-one, if she would settle for that. There is very little research out there on lesbian women and even less on bi women, so if it's research subjects she's after, I don't have a problem with that. She went through appropriate channels, by asking first.

I wasn't the only facilitator who rejected the idea of being observed, I was just the first (and that was because I look at my email all the time when I'm home). I am protective of the group as an entity and of the individual members. Recently we have had several new people coming to the meetings and I already feel like I'm working hard to make them comfortable and feel safe. I do not think allowing someone else to "observe" would make that mission any easier for me. I know that if a straight person attended one of the first queer meetings I went to (shortly after I came out as a lesbian) I would have wondered whether this was where I belonged.

I keep coming back to the idea of others thinking we are members of some odd tribe, as if we are not like anyone else. I heard recently that the majority of people in the LGBT community identify as bi, which of course fits right into the Kinsey Scale. If there are seven points people can land on, and only two of them are "one or the other," well, that makes sense, doesn't it? But we are invisible most of the time (for example, I wear a wedding ring so most people who don't know me, but pay attention to the left hand, will assume I'm straight), so it doesn't seem like there are that many of us.

I'm not really sure how I want to end this, because it's part of a larger, ongoing conversation in my head. But the fact is that it is creeping toward midnight and I'm tired from adjusting to the new hours and I want to go to bed. Tune in next time...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

True Christian

Unfortunately due to my early exposure to a Catholic school, and to my later exposure to Christians who wanted to take over the government and destroy the state constitution (not to mention the federal one), I have a poor attitude about Christians. I've known a lot of people who went to church but didn't live what I think of Christian values (and not just Christian). One exception to that was Denver D's father, who in his mid-70s was running a meal program "for old people," was working for Meals on Wheels, and baking many dozens of cookies for prisoners in Canyon City.

Thus, Denver D's dad became my gold standard for a good Christian, a standard to which I don't hold non-Christians.

I met a good Christian today. He works for the postal service, and is about my age. He noticed on his drive to work a homeless encampment under a highway, consistently numbering about a dozen people. As the season was turning from summer to fall, he started a blanket collection among his coworkers for the homeless. He was in the process of trying to figure out which agency would want the blankets and then one night he couldn't sleep. He got up and took the blankets to the encampment.

Now, it's moments like these that I think ignorance is bliss because if his man had had much interaction with the homeless he might have been reluctant to go their campsite in the middle of the night. Of course he was warmly received, and for the last nine months he and a dozen or so USPS friends have been delivering food to the encampment twice a week. Out of their own pockets, they have been purchasing little- or no-prep-required food and delivering it to the folks at the camp. He said they deliver the food, talk with the campers, pray with them, and that they've become friendly with the people at the camp.

From some of the of things he said I gathered that he is serving these folks because his faith tells him to do so, the way Denver D's father's faith told him to serve the elderly, the shut-ins, and the prisoners.

It's possible that this man I met today "hates the sin" and wants a government that is run on some kind of fundamentalist Christian agenda. But I don't know that about him. I know that he is feeding the hungry and warming the chilled. It happens that his faith gives him the reason. I don't think that's a bad thing.

"I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

Those are pretty good words to live by, regardless of their source, I think.


I am going to have to think about Wednesdays.

I left the house for the second time this morning at 9:20 and just got back, 15 hours later. Sheneleh and I planned to meet for dinner, so instead of coming home after work I went to Berkeley and hung out until she arrived. After dinner we went to the BWG meeting. After the meeting, TL and I went to Au Coquelet for steamed milks.

I suspected that working close to full time would tempt me to affect my ability to write every day. I'm still committed. That means that on the evenings when I have plans before the meeting I'll also have to plan when I'm going to write here. Even if it means writing it longhand while hanging out and then typing it in when I get home.

My thoughts about Thursdays: Thursdays are going to feel very early. I plan to leave tomorrow at 715am. I have to be at the base site at 8am, and I don't know what traffic will be like at that hour, nor do I know any alternate routes to Alameda from here.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A change in my direction

I won't be volunteering at the food bank anymore.

I'll be working there for wages. The volunteer coordinator gave her notice shortly before the director would be going on parental leave, and between them they decided that the director would ask me to take over the job for a few months to get the food bank through a couple of big transitions. The director knew that he would not have time to do a full candidate search and train someone before the VC planned to leave when he knew he would be out for a couple weeks with the new baby.

I knew this was coming. For one thing, the VC had told me that she was planning to leave when she finished her degree, and that when she had had to suddenly go home for a few weeks in March she told the director at that time that he could and should rely on me. In one of our conversations, I remarked, lightly, that I would "do her job" when she left. I didn't know the timing was going to practically coincide with the parental leave, but it has. When the director came to me a couple weeks ago and asked if I would be willing to take on additional responsibility and "be a key holder" I let him talk himself out, to see what he was thinking, even though I knew I would say yes.

So, this volunteering thing has led where I wanted it to: a "real" job at the food bank. It is just through August and anything could happen then, like I could not want to do it anymore, or the board of directors could decide they want to do a full candidate search (for whatever reasons) and not hire me. That's okay because that's the position I would be in anyway.

I'm feeling sad about losing all of the time I have now to do whatever I want whenever I want (I guess I'll be at the gym much earlier in the morning, for example). But that's another position I would be in eventually anyway, unless Zirpu wins the lottery. I'm going from working 16-20 hours a week to full time, though the hours aren't all 9 to 5. I'll be working two Saturdays a month, but I'll have the preceding Thursdays off in trade, and the Saturdays are half-days.

There are exciting things happening at the food bank this summer: We're getting a new building and will temporarily be in a couple of different locations while they take away the old double-wide trailer and bring us a triple. We will also be going electronic, which just in itself will probably result in some volunteer turnover. I'll get to be part of all of that!

I'm not that concerned about transitioning from volunteer to employee. I'm already kind of bossy so I don't think most people will find it odd to be suddenly taking my "suggestions." A lot of the volunteers seem to be pretty committed to the mission and are, for the most part, really easygoing. No one is there because they need the paycheck or the retirement plan, like people I knew at the state university.

I start tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Intent Versus Impact

I sent an email to a friend in which I mentioned that I made this resolution to write every day this year. I explained that I decided to do it on Blogger because it would be a good place to store the work and that this way I would be kept "honest" about doing it if there was even the illusion of an audience. I said that one of my friends keeps in touch with my goings-on by following the blog, because we don't talk that often, and this is why I mentioned it to her, because the friend I wrote to yesterday and I aren't in a lot of touch.

I know that people don't always mean to say what I hear, especially over email. I worked with a guy at Odyssey who talked a lot about "intent vs. impact," saying that when he says something his intention may be different than what the impact is on the person he is talking to. He also said that he isn't responsible for the impact, if his intentions are good (and at Odyssey, we liked to think that all our intentions were good). So when someone says something that hurts my feelings, and it's not obvious that that is what they were trying to do, I examine what's going on inside me that caused the impact to be negative. I think that it's possible that I misunderstood or am having a visceral reaction, not that the intention was to hurt my feelings. Especially when the other person says so upfront.

I received an email back and I don't want to post tonight:

Did you ever write a diary? Ever read them years later? Mine were full of junk, over and over again. Most of us give far too much weight and importance to what we think.

Don't mean to be rude. Maybe you can tell me more about why you think blogs are valuable.

At the moment I feel pretty stupid and I'm feeling pretty crappy about this project.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hey Boo-Boo!

We went to a picnic today at Lake Temescal. Being the OPPP - Original Picnic Party People - TL and I were the first to arrive and the last to leave. Unfortunately as we were the first of our party to arrive, I got to tell a few guys who were sitting in our picnic area that "tenemos una fiesta con muchas gentes" and tell them they had to leave. When their English-speaking friend came and pointed out that they got there first, I explained that we had paid $80 to reserve the site, the sign said that the space was reserved, and that we're not responsible for the park rangers not putting the sign up first thing in the morning. They left after that, and then Zirpu arrived with TL's husband MM and the kids, Lizard and Batman.

The weather was perfect - hot in the sun, cool in the shade, and not too windy. Zirpu and I brought hot dogs and buns, and I made berza con cilantro, a coleslaw type dish made with cabbage, onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and salad oil (not olive oil!). There were chips, Cheetos, hummus, crackers, brie, potato salad, brownies, and some people grilled salmon, buffalo burgers, and pineapple. You know, the usual California picnic goodies. There were frisbees, balls, and paddle ball, but mostly the adults sat and talked.

The kids climbed the big rock and investigated the lake shallows.

There was a big birthday party next to us, with two pinatas. The drum-shaped one presented quite a tough hide, with what totally looked to me from a distance like the Virgen de Guadelupe inside (turned out to be Tinkerbell on closer inspection) plastic windows.

They invited Batman and Lizard over to help them break it open. Batman and Lizard each gave it quite a lot of good strong hits but it didn't break. The adults allowed a

12 or 13 year old boy to swat at it, then one of the smaller moms did. Then one of the dads, a fairly big man, went after the pinata, and after about three minutes he caught it in his hands and ripped it open.

It was a very relaxing day, and nice to be out of the house. Quite a few people I haven't seen in a while showed up, and a fair number of husbands. A really nice day, in all senses of the word.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Almost forgot

I have a lot on my mind and I almost forgot to post anything today. I can't write about most of what I'm thinking (yet) so I'm not going to now either.

I was going to make Tracy's Blondies this evening, and even though Tea brought me 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, I'm still short four ounces for the recipe. I wound up watching the last hour or so of a John Wayne film called Red River. I have seen very few westerns, one of which was Brokeback Mountain, which the Duke would have hated, hated, hated, and another of which was Tampopo, a Japanese movie about a noodle shop (among other things).

I know that I'm stressed out because I've been biting my nails the last few weeks and because I am getting easily sucked into stupid, stupid television. Watching TV beats thinking. The thing that's a little mysterious to me is that I either don't know why I'm stressed, or I don't understand why I'm as stressed as I am about the things I think I might be causing any anxiety. This often happens to me, that I notice these behaviors but I'm not sure what is triggering them. When it gets to the point where I'm not sleeping, by then I usually know what the stressor is, but I'm sleeping well, though I've had some strange dreams in which I'm angry or upset.

Maybe most of it will be resolved shortly when hopefully life settles down. Who knows?

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Down And Up Day

We served 37 households at the food bank today. We had pre-cut melon, fruit salad, prepackaged salads, strawberries, six flats of mushrooms, tomatoes, leeks, beets, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and some other random things. At the end of the day we had some mushrooms, a few salads, and some of the random stuff left, plus some eggs (usually we go through them all but we had sooooo many! I don't know what is going on with inventory ordering at the store that donates to us).

One of the people who comes to the food bank is a young man in his mid-20s who has been doing data entry for the FB as a volunteer. He only comes to the FB when there aren't a lot of people around, because being around people scares him. He suffers from (at least) serious depression, and he doesn't like to take his medication because of the side effects. He didn't sound suicidal today, saying that he was trying hard to take care of himself so he didn't destroy himself, but he is clearly in bad shape. He doesn't want to go to the hospital or his therapist because they will only medicate him and he doesn't want to suffer the side effects. He talked to the volunteer coordinator for awhile, but she doesn't know what to tell him.

When we were running our program, we had some people "piled up" waiting. Our operation is that a volunteer calls the number that the client got when she or he signed in and then while one person is getting the pre-set boxes and the meat or fish, the client selects the produce, dairy, and eggs that we have out. They go down the counter (sort of) and when all of the client's stuff is together, then the next person is called. The process works about as quickly as a grocery store with one checker. I was the number caller and while I was waiting for some of my coworkers to help a client, I overheard a woman complaining into her cell phone that our "process is really f---d up... It's really slow."

When I called her number and she got up, I thanked her for waiting and apologized that it seemed a long wait. She immediately placed a call on her cell phone and I said, "This process will go quicker if you get off the phone." Yes, it was snarky but I was annoyed. I was trying to help her, after all, and she was being really arrogant. Of course she did not get off her phone, though I think I heard her say that she would call the person back (who must have ignored her, because she was still on the phone when she was choosing bread).

Late in the afternoon, like at almost 4pm when there was almost no one in the FB, a woman signed in and when I asked her how she was, she said she was blessed. "I woke up this morning and someone else didn't." She went on to tell me that she was feeling particularly blessed. She said she had struggled with her "German pride" but had finally come in because she was hungry and we had food. She has gotten a good paying job that starts in a couple weeks, had gotten away from a dangerous domestic situation in another state that she was in for more than five years, and had gotten her daughter on a trip out of the country. She was feeling happy, blessed, and grateful that things are good and getting better - and that we had all this great food for her to take home and cook. She gave me a hug when she was done getting produce.

Almost the last people we served were a man, about 40, wearing slacks and a white shirt, and a woman who had the kind of big smile that makes you think of toothpaste. She signed up and did the paperwork, and went down the counter with me getting produce; he looked tired and hot, and sat in a chair. The woman was happy. Happy that she could get food from us, happy with the selection when I explained what was in the pre-set box and bag (for a household of four), and happy that we had eggs and salads left when she got there. She was also happy, she told me, because they had just gotten the word that her husband had been hired at a new job. I gave her a high five (we do this a lot at our dance studio and it's become a habit) and congratulated the husband.

It's nice to end the day with smiles and gratitude, and hugs. It's totally not necessary, of course. But it feels good.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

King Samatakah

There was a period several years ago when I considered performing as a drag king. At the time, I was hanging out a lot at AsiaSF, since it was down the street from my office. I hung out there so much that despite its ambiance, it felt like Cheers to me. I sat at the end of the bar and often drank the drinks that didn't turn out right (the cosmos that were too sweet, for example, which is why I don't drink them anymore) or experimental recipes. Around that time they had a male-to-female gender illusionist (who looked about nineteen, to me) and I thought maybe I could do that too.

I discussed it a little bit with an AsiaSF acquaintance whose boyfriend was about five feet tall, and she had some suggestions about how to dress to hide my natural curves. I knew what song I would lip-synch, because I knew the clientele of the restaurant and I knew they would like Bob Malone's song "It Took An Older Woman (To Make A Man Out Of Me)," part of the lyrics of which are "I can't lie when I look her in the eye/ 'Cause she's heard all the lines/ And she won't stand for no slack in the sack/ I got to keep her satisfied... I'm not the way I used to be/ It took an older woman to make a man out of me." I'd noticed that songs that touched directly on the "Is she/isn't she" mystery and were full of innuendo were very popular at that time.

Furthermore, I felt that with practice I could pull forward the "male energy" to play the role. Aside from the costume, there would be mannerisms to practice and a voice to learn, but I felt like I could do that... I seem to have a lot of memories of being told I was walking or standing "like a boy." I'd acted in a few plays and I loved "Let's Pretend" as a child, in which I almost always played a boy or a man.

Ultimately I didn't do it. I didn't need to badly enough to follow through, and drag kings weren't and aren't what AsiaSF is really about (in fact, the one female-to-male gender illusionist didn't work there very long). Sometimes I think about just dressing the part, to see what I would look like, and what it would feel like.

It's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world except for Lola

I went with some friends to the White Horse after the bi meeting tonight. Most of the time some people go out, and we hadn't been to the White Horse in a long time, Well, since we last went, the schedule has changed and every Wednesday night now they're hosting a Drag King Contest. People who want to perform sign up and then do their numbers. I was the last of our group to leave, and I left after about six performances.

I've had a lot of exposure to drag queens, from hanging around AsiaSF and seeing the "gender illusionists" perform, but I've had very little exposure to drag kings so I thought I should check it out. The people performing at the WH aren't in the same class at those who perform at AsiaSF, but the divas at Asia are professionals: Professional drag queens and professional performers.

The main thing I felt, which was all about me, was that I was much older than many of the audience members and the performers. I know that this wasn't necessarily the case. There is a certain "look" that some young lesbians adopt, which can often include baggy jeans, men's t-shirts, and short hair (in fact a look that I myself had years ago). To me, most of these women look like very young men whose beards haven't come in. Babyface boys. So I wind up feeling much older because what I'm seeing is a crowd of 17 year old boys, even though I know that's just an illusion - they're not boys, and they're at least 21 (or they wouldn't be in a bar).

I was also wearing a silly hat with a big red rose on it. People think I look cute in it but I think the hat is silly. A short time after my friends left, I started feeling out of place and I took off. I'm not done with this topic, but it is way late for my 5/16 post.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

First Kiss

I am thinking of my first boyfriend because of this memoir in which Rebecca Walker talks about her first boyfriend (she was younger than I when she met him, but said she was older). She reports that she pretended she was much more sophisticated than she was, but she was much much more sophisticated than I was.

I was twelve and in 7th grade. I wasn't looking for a boyfriend, but my best friend J Jump Joyful had one. JJJ was way ahead of me, socially. In fact I think it was around this time that I started to realize that we didn't have much in common anymore. She was living REO Speedwagon at school and I avoided the afternoon "socials" between CSH and Stuart Hall during which the boys and girls would hold each other in hugs and rock back and forth, no matter what song was playing. JJJ didn't know about the socials, and she got her boyfriend to find me a boyfriend too. I don't remember the details of this at all and I probably didn't even understand them at the time. Maybe she had to double date; I remember one really fun Sunday afternoon when the four of us went rollerskating in Golden Gate Park.

The boy's name was Aragorn. I know I generally use nicknames for this blog but he really was named Aragorn. His parents had been hippies and I thought it was really cool that he had a Tolkien name. He was in ninth grade and had longish brown hair. I didn't know anyone who went to his school - JJJ's boyfriend didn't go there, and JJJ and I were middle schoolers (I wasn't even that since my school was K through 8). I learned later that he was rumored to be his high school's main Quaalude and Valium dealer.

So, I had this boyfriend and I had to pretend I was not only into him but much more sophisticated than I actually was. He sang the chorus to Your Kiss Is On My Lips to me. I was so nervous, and JJJ was so much more used to even just being around boys than I was that I couldn't ask her to help me, even if I'd known what to say to her. I knew that she would think I was being an idiot - if a boy likes you, you kiss him. I was told that I "liked" him; certainly I liked the attention I got when we were together. So I should kiss him, because that's what boys and girls did.

This is where I received my first kiss, standing next to the pole in the parking area of Aragorn's mom's building.

I don't remember anything else about that relationship (such as it was), how long it lasted or why we stopped dating. Maybe JJJ broke up with her guy so I was off the hook, which is probably what happened.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Heebie-Jeebies

Some images give me the heebie-jeebies. This one was provided by the great Walt Disney Corporation, which is a little surprising at the same time it isn't surprising at all. Besides giving me the heebie-jeebies, I think it's funny, and I think it's funny that it gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Kinda like all those headless Barbie dolls, but worse since this was so much bigger. You know, we had a two-piece Barbie floating around our house for years... You'd find the head, put it in the drawer where you found it, then months later find the body - and the head was gone. I wasn't big on Barbies growing up. I preferred Weeble-Wobbles and Adventure People.

I think it's funny, and I think it's funny that it gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I really like having a cell phone with a camera in it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fun lesson

We had a dance lesson today. Because of the literacy training, I missed two weeks in a row, and I'm still adjusting to having just one lesson a week. Most days recently I've been feeling like I would prefer to have no lessons a week, feeling burned out on dance. And it is hard to go from three lessons to one, when you've had three lessons a week for three years (not counting leading up to the '05 Dance-O-Rama in Las Vegas, when we had five or six lessons a week).

However, I had fun at our lesson this morning. We warmed up with the west coast steps we learned from the video, and danced some foxtrot, and then studied tango and bolero. We got an introduction to a new step in bolero, which we haven't danced for awhile. Tango is my least favorite dance, because it's too staccato for me. Just when it seems like you're going somewhere, you stop. In fact, I refused to learn tango until after the aforementioned Dance-O-Rama when I realized that if I was ever going to dance in an All-Around I would have to know the six major dances. We reviewed a complex step we learned in a group class a couple months ago, so it wasn't totally new.

This photo is from the March 2006 Showcase (that's my re-purposed wedding dress).

I like learning new steps. Knowing lots of steps makes dancing more interesting to me. Zirpu and I want to be social dancers, not competitors. I tend to lose interest (and on bad days, patience) with lessons that concentrate on the finer points of technique and styling. Since we learned a couple new steps today, and they went relatively easily, it was fun. While we were dancing our foxtrot around the downstairs ballroom, I was thinking to myself, "This is fun, and it feels like a long time since I had fun in here."

I'm still thinking about what I do for fun, or could do for fun, by the way.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The News On TV

Last night I caught most of American Masters, a series that examines "the lives, works, and creative processes of our most outstanding cultural artists." Last night's episode was a rerun about Walter Cronkite. I was mildly interested in the words about him, spoken by all kinds of people I've been reading or hearing for years, including two who have recently passed away, Molly Ivins and David Halberstam. I was much more interested in the news films, because of course Uncle Walter was reporting on everything, and they showed pieces of his reports.

Turns out Cronkite loved the space program and followed it everywhere. He gives a report about the astronauts practicing weightlessness, during which Cronkite is strapped down on one of those parabolic flights and four guys are flying all over the place, one of them even hitting the camera with his foot. The first manned Mercury rocket, with Alan Shepard in it, leaving the launchpad, with a glorious U-S-A running up the screen, and later, the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

(It is really difficult for me to believe that NASA got those people up there using slide rules and pencils. It's like the smart people then must have been a lot smarter than the smart people we have now).

I don't think I've ever seen the film of JFK getting shot. Knowing, now, that he'd been shot in the head, it was easy to see that the President had been terribly wounded, and surprising to see the First Lady, always presented as terribly gracious, climbing in fear over the trunk of the car. I've seen the film of John-John saluting his father's casket before, but it again brought a tear to my eye. Such a little boy, and he did exactly what he was supposed to do, the way he was supposed to do it.

There's interesting film at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, during which Dan Rather, in his late 30s, gets manhandled and eventually wrestled to the floor, and though Rather says he is all right afterwards, a clearly disgusted Cronkite basically says that the press is getting treated so badly that they want to pack up their cameras and go home. Not to mention the riot outside the Convention Center, which I've heard about but never seen before, police beating people and pulling them into paddy wagons while you can clearly hear the chant, "The whole world is watching!"

There's a short clip of Cronkite reporting before, during, and after bombing run early in the Vietnam War, and he hops out of the plane and says something like, "Well, that was a great run, right, Colonel?" Like, Whoo hoo! We dropped a bomb and flew really fast! Later, his opinion changed (one of the people they interviewed, and I don't remember his name, pointed out that at the beginning of a war everyone's supportive) and the reports became more critical, and there was film of women crying while soldiers set their homes on fire with lighters and flamethrowers.

It was interesting to see the films, most of them for the first time. And interesting to see Cronkite in action; he retired just as I started paying attention to world events, and I never watch TV news on purpose now. The important stories are too short... Something that Uncle Walter would not have found acceptable, I think.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I've been going through a small box of photographs, cards, letters and a bunch of essays and fiction I wrote a thousand years ago (seriously, some are from college but most of them are from junior high and it's too painful to look at them). I also found my high school mortar board tassel in purple and white with a gold-colored plastic '86 attached.

The photos are generally from 1997 to 2002, though there are a few from very long before that, like a senior prom pictures (oh my god, the gloves!) and some pictures from freshman year in college in which Spudwhip and I are dressed like mimes for a fundraising event. There are pictures I don't want anymore: Some are just lousy pictures, and some are of people I barely remember. There are a lot of pictures of Denver D, because we did live together (not very happily, half the time) for three years and we did travel a lot together, mostly to Colorado, but also to Big Sur, Death Valley, and Maui.

So what to do with these pictures of Denver D? We haven't spoken in over four years, and I'm not willing to do anything to change that. It's possible that someday we could start speaking again; I believe we have two friends in common even now. Once upon a time, I loved him, and he loved me, and we had a close relationship for most of fifteen years. I don't want to throw the photos all out, and not just because I would feel guilty about doing so. He's part of the record of certain things we did together, or we look so cute in the photo that I want to save it because I'm so adorable in it.

I've decided to send several of them to Spudwhip. He's in a lot of them, anyway. Then he can decide what to do with the photos.

I really want a scanner. I know there are more pictures somewhere, because I know that as diligent as I was for awhile, I know I didn't put everything in photo albums.

I'll write later about the stuff in the box that isn't photos.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"That's a weed."

I love these flowers. I don't know what they're called and when I asked at a nursery once, the staffer wasn't interested at all.

Here's some with a bee doing the bee thing. Hopefully its hive is alive and well. The flowers don't last long and have all laid down their heads.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Once again, not what I was going to write about

I was thinking about posting a couple of things, a long thoughtful post about identity, or another story from my life (it's still hot, and I'm still thinking about ice cream with Mrs. P).

But I slammed my index finger in the front door this morning and I can't really type.

I was heading to the gym and shut the door by pulling it closed from the side rather than the doorknob - and then I didn't pull my hand out of the way in time.

It hurt so much that my whole hand hurt. I almost caused myself to faint from hyperventilating while I tried to think of anything that would make it feel better. I held the finger in a cup of cold water and I took some ibuprofen, which helped, but it still hurts like the dickens. The end of my finger is swollen with the bruise (which has gotten worse over the preceding twelve hours), trapped under the nail. It's taking me a long time to type this because I can only use four fingers. Because I don't use the ten-finger method, I rely a lot upon my right index finger and I can't even bend it without putting pressure on the bruise, so I am stuck using my middle finger for index finger letters and my ring finger(!) for middle finger letters.

I wonder how long this is going to take to heal, how much more purple my finger is going to get, and if I will lose the nail (I don't think so, but I've never had this happoen before so what do I know?).

Monday, May 7, 2007

Ice cream

In the summer of 1990, Mrs. P and I had just graduated from college, she and Mr. P were newly married, and Shobi-wan and I were shacked up in the top half of a yellow house about half a mile from the Ps. In those days there weren't a lot of places to go "out" in Tacoma, or at least in the half of town we knew. There was almost nowhere to go, other than the Denny's on Pearl or the Dunkin' Donuts on 6th (which has apparently since closed), or the E-9 brewpub. A group of us went to the Java Jive a couple times, but it was a dive in those days and wasn't a place for two young women to hang out in. This was in the time before the Northwest coffee culture took hold, and most coffee not found in a home kitchen was in Seven-Eleven stores.

Shobi-wan worked Security for the university and worked the typical summer shift of four noon-to-midnight shifts followed by four midnight-to-noon shifts, with a couple days between. Our apartment was not air conditioned and nights when Shobi-wan was working I was often hanging out with Mrs. P and sometimes Mr. P.

Sometimes I would call Mrs. P and suggest we go out for ice cream. In fact I don't know how many times we did it, but in my memory it was often. We went to a family ice cream parlor, a place like Fentons or the Ice Creamery. We sat on curlicue metal-backed chairs, ate ice cream, and talked under the cooled air blowing from the ceiling vents. I remember feeling like it seemed so old-fashioned to go out for ice cream rather than a drink. Ice cream's not much of a vice when you're newly 21.

I don't remember what we talked about, probably love. Now when an evening feels summery, like today's did, I want to call Mrs. P and ask her if she's interested in joining me for some ice cream.

Mrs. P, August 2004

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Behind the curtain in my mind

I had one of those "mom trigger moments" when Mom and I were hanging out the other day. Mom and I don't have many of these as Mom generally says what she means and I don't usually over-read her remarks. However, when she suggested that I seem stressed out, and seem to often be irritated or irritable, I felt like I had to explain myself. She said this to me as I was telling her about a conversation Zirpu and I had about how each of us manages anger - not about our being angry with each other.

Even in the moment I felt like if this was Tea, or TL, or Desi or any other of my friends saying, "Hey, you seem kind of stressed out lately" that's what I would hear, and I would consider if I am indeed stressed out, and why. But because it was my mom, what I heard was, "You should mellow out. Your life would be easier because you wouldn't be annoyed all the time, and because people wouldn't think you are a pain in the ass, (though even in my mind the voice isn't saying she finds me a pain in the ass)," and "You could be better, nicer, etc."

Still, my first thought was that I will have to start editing what I talk to her about. Last weekend I complained about some things that happened in the training I'd attended, but I can't remember about complaining to her about being annoyed about other things, though I probably have because I don't think Mom would make stuff up. Maybe I have been irritable; I know I have been feeling some stress even though I'm not sure why.

This afternoon while drinking coffee with a new friend, I asked her what she does for fun, and she gardens, climbs rocks, hikes, and watches anime with friends, among other things. She asked me the same thing, and I couldn't really name anything quickly. I do things I think are fun, like go to Bi Women's meetings and work at the food bank, but those aren't really things I do for fun. Because I'm not feeling that happy about our last conversation, hanging out with Mom didn't make the list, though I think usually it does. I've only had one dance lesson in the last three weeks and I've been feeling burnt out about dance so dancing didn't either.

This may be why I have been reading so much lately (and Raven was a downer). I feel like I have been struggling writing this blog, though I have been faithful to my original resolution and keep doing it, quality (and audience) be damned. This is work too (and harder than the food bank, for sure). Because I don't know why I'm stressed I can't really do anything to alleviate it, other than not pay attention (read a book).

Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Food Bank On TV

A couple weeks ago Sherry Hu from Channel 5 News (local CBS affiliate, KPIX) came to the food bank warehouse to talk about from where the food we give clients comes. This was not a story about the food bank, though; it was about the shocking fact that an educated, housed, white woman "Dumpster dives" for food. She doesn't do it because she can't afford food, but because she doesn't want unpurchased food to go into landfills.

The reason why Hu and a cameraman came out to the food bank was because they were chasing down what happens to the food that doesn't get purchased, and our food bank receives food from Trader Joe's and Safeway (neither of which could be mentioned by name in the story). They came out on one of our "USDA Days," which is the third Wednesday of the month. It's a bigger operation, serving twice the number of people in the same amount of time that we serve at the trailer, with the funds for the program coming from the feds rather than the city. We see some of the same people as we see at the trailer, and we often see the same people month after month.

Hu and the cameraman came late in the day, after 3pm. I wish they had shown up earlier, when we had thirty people either being served or in line waiting to be served. I know that it's better for them that they came when things had quieted down, because the FB director had time to talk to Hu and wouldn't have to shout, but we had only about five clients come while they were there and it happens that the people who agreed to be on camera didn't represent our client base very well.

It's an interesting story, and of course fun to see someone I know on TV. You can read the story here, or click on the "play" button to the right to see the video.

Friday, May 4, 2007

What's cooking?

I made dinner in the crockpot* this evening. I crock often; when I was working regularly I generally did it once a week. I usually use either Better Homes & Gardens Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes (which I found in a remainder bin) or Mable Hoffman's Healthy Crockery Cookery. I didn't have high hopes for tonight's dinner, which came from Hoffman. It was a layer of cabbage/carrot salad (for coleslaw), topped with a layer of ground turkey, topped with a layer of chopped onion and uncooked rice (the answer is yes, Tea, you can cook rice in a crockpot, but only as an ingredient), topped with another layer of cabbage, all drenched with a jar of spaghetti sauce. Sometimes I leave the house with the crock on and the regrets start to creep in. I thought it might taste like cabbage rolls, but I can't remember if I like them or not.

I thought it was okay and Zirpu loved it. The beauty of the crockpot is that most recipes are really easy - a lot of recipes are casseroles, but certainly not all. I've roasted chickens a couple different ways in my crockpot. It can be done! But that's why I get sucked into using the crock: Ease. Any prep can be done the night before if necessary and you can get away quick with the dump-and-run if you need to.

I didn't write in my college textbooks, but that may be because I learn by rewriting my notes, but I do write in my cookbooks. I almost always want to tell my future self how to make something better, or not to bother making it again. My two favorite notes are "Even Zirpu didn't like this!" and "What was I thinking?" because they're different from the usual notes, which are often along the lines of "add more seasoning" or "this takes longer than it says." I've been writing in my cookbooks so long that I pretty much assume that if there's nothing written there I haven't made it before.

Probably like a lot of people, my really favorite thing to see on a recipe page is a smudge mark. The recipe for Aunt Syl's Enchilada Sauce is covered with tomato stains, and Blackbottom Cupcakes has cocoa and dried egg white on it. One of my cookbooks has many pages of the outline of an eggplant slice on it, from when Shobi-wan lost the slice during the salt-and-drain step. I think that is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I had a clever friend who wrote "scratch-and-sniff" next to a coffee ring on a letter he sent me once.

* "Crock-Pot" is actually a trademarked brand name owned by Rival. However, mine really are Rival Crock-Pots and anyway I think the word "crockpot" is well on the way to generic, like aspirin and band-aid. By the way, my sources tell me that the frozen crockpot meals are really awful, which is really no surprise to me.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

What We Write

Last night a friend told me about another friend of hers who was recently fired from her job because of content on her website. The friend had gotten a job directing a program that involves children and youth. She was really excited about the position and was happily getting things started when she was called to a board meeting at which she was fired because of her sexual identity. She was ordered to immediately empty her desk of personal items and escorted to the exit.

The friend is a writer and as such has a website which includes information about herself and about her creative endeavors. She also has content on the site identifying herself as a bisexual person. The board did an internet search for the friend's name, according to my friend, because they panicked because by the Virginia Tech killings. They found her site and decided that because she isn't straight, this single mother is a menace to the children of their community. Of course the friend has no legal recourse for being unlawfully fired, because she wasn't. She's not in a community where sexual identity is a protected status for employment. The only suggestion that my friend could think to make was that her friend contact the ACLU because the board's action could be perceived as a movement against free speech.

I feel angry for the friend, because it's so ridiculous, stupid, and ignorant that this happened and doubly so for the reasons why. However, because I write about my sexual identity in this blog, I immediately thought about what I've written here. I think I'm protected because I do not use my real name on the blog, nor do I generally use the real names of the people who appear on these "pages." I don't do that because of what I write; I do it to keep my identity in general protected, however imperfectly. I also don't use this blog to advertise my business or show my skills, which some people do, so they have to attach their real names.

I'm really angry for this friend of my friend's. I've never seen it, but I imagine her website is a representation of herself, because it seems like that is why she was fired. Wrongly, regardless of the local laws. I'm also angry that people continue to be so damn ignorant! I could go on and on but I think that you can probably fill in why I think this whole situation sucks. I hope that the friend lands on her feet, and that's about the best I can do from here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Climate Change

We saw Children of Men the other night. It's an adaptation of a novel by PD James which doesn't sound very much like the film. For a film about the lack of women's fertility in general but the pregnancy of one woman, the story revolves around men: The people who have put themselves in charge of what happens to the mother are all men, and the mother is more a vessel than anything else. In fact there are hardly any women in this film at all - I think three of them have speaking roles. Neva Chonin, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, noticed this in a January column.

I was considering reading the book (the premise of which is that men are infertile) but I don't think I will. This is the thing: I don't like reading or seeing dystopian stories. I read 1984 the first time 23 years ago, and Brave New World not much later, but the stories written in my own time are hard for me to take. It doesn't matter if the dystopia is based on the weather, the culture, politics, technology, disease, or humans reverting to their baser natures (violence, xenophobia, superstition, etc.).

In my heart, I think this is what the future is going to look like. I could get pretty depressed about it so I avoid dystopian movies. Sure, I recycle and I drive a hybrid Civic, but I'm an American so am still responsible for a lot of global warming. And then there's China, and other countries for which economic development is more important than environmental impact (which is a fancy way of saying people who are hungry will burn forests to build farms). In fact, when a friend of mine mentioned recently that she is really concerned about global warming, I couldn't respond because I wasn't up for a conversation about the world going to hell in a handbasket.

I believe that people generally try to do the right thing for other people, and that the more we learn the more kindness we show each other. When I talk to a child or learn an acquaintance is pregnant, I feel hope. I'd rather feel hope than hopelessness, and I would rather imagine Gene Roddenberry's future than George Orwell's. I suppose that this makes me rather ostrich-like, but I try to do those things they tell us will make a difference even when I allow myself to think it won't make one.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Writing about writing II

Today after dropping Zirpu at BART I went to Eon Cafe. I have learned that sometimes I have to take myself away from the computer to get any writing done. Mostly of course it's the internet I need to cut off - there is a lot of stuff to look at out there. Eon's a local business and I'm trying to patronize local businesses if I can. Supporting small businesses and keeping the sales taxes in town are probably good things to do. I don't like their drip coffee that much, but the Vietnamese Cappuccino is worth checking out - it's made with sweetened condensed milk. They have wifi, but I don't have a laptop.

I opened my notebook and wrote down some of the things that have been happening, and what I think about them, for the last few weeks. I feel like I have been doing a lot of writing recently, like long emails for business (yes, business), a financial aid post, and the daily posts here. In fact I think the quality of my daily posts is suffering, and I suspect again that this is because I am waiting until too late in the day to write them. I also think that it is because I was feeling like I was behind on "all this writing" I had scheduled in my head to do so I wasn't putting as much thought into the posts and certainly not as much editing as I should have.

Writing is the one task I put off and put off the more of it there is to do. Now that I am through all that stuff, I hope that I will be able to concentrate again more fully on this project.