Wednesday, December 27, 2006
And the answer was no.
We had forgotten the presents that were supposed to be from the Big Red Suit Guy because they were hidden in the closet, where they would not be seen by suspicious little eyes. Nor by hurried car-packers, apparently.
After the family party, K and her Dad drove all the way to Portland and back (3 hours) to pick them up. After which we wrapped them (they had not yet been wrapped because S is getting better and better at spotting Santa inconsistencies--like the fact that he sometimes uses the same wrapping paper as mom, so we were going to borrow some paper). Then we got a solid three hours of sleep before little miss sunshine woke up for the gift-unwrapping frenzy.
I'm going to remind her of that when she someday tells us that we never do anything for her.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
They did a chest x-ray to see if I have pneumonia. I don't. It turns out that I originally had a cold, which turned into an ear/sinus infection, and which has aggravated a previously-unnoticed asthma and allergy situation. So I got steroids, an inhaler, nose spray, mucous thinner, and some sudafed. I feel so much better, although a bit like a walking pharmacy. But all this does mean that I have to end the longest relationship of my adult life--which is with cigarettes. Pisser.
I do know how bad smoking is, etc., etc. I mean, I'm a college-educated person in the twenty-first century. And things are kind of in upheaval in my personal life, so it's not an ideal time, because smoking is ironically one of the ways that I deal with stress--ironically because I know it causes more stress in the long term. I mean, what's more stressful than emphysema, really? But it's funny how knowing all of that somehow doesn't make it easier to quit. Looking back, I think I've tried to quit at least four times this year, and probably thirty times during the seventeen years I've been smoking.
The upside of the doctor's visit is that I got to see an x-ray of my chest. Lungs are so big! Mine are apparently "hyper-extended" because of the asthma, which doesn't let all the air out every time I breathe out. I wish I could put a picture of them here.
And my heart, which is, according to the doctor, "small" (and please no comments from any of my exes here. Thanks). It looks like the undeveloped beets that are attached to the beet greens when you pull them up in July. Kind of longer and thinner than I would have expected. Cool.
Friday, December 15, 2006
We got our tree a few nights ago. I like having a tree up for the
holidays because I feel like it's fairly compatible with my vaguely
pagan belief system: bringing a bit of greenery into the house and
lighting it up seems like a wicked good idea during these dark days.
Also, it smells really good and my daughter likes it.
Because of recent illness and compounded by lack of planning, we
resorted to a parking-lot tree. Wednesday night we stopped by that
place on the corner of Brighton & St. John and picked out our holiday
tree. It was sort of romantic, in an urban way, with the lights
strung up all around us and a damp mist on our faces as we
contemplated the leaning trees and smelled the pine needles under our
feet. At least it was until we saw the prices on the trees and
hurried over to the $20 rack--the cheapest one next to the rack of
mini-trees for people living in tiny apartments.
The $20 rack had two trees on it. One of them was shaped like a
marshmallow on a stick, and the other one was a little taller than I
wanted. K and S lobbied successfully against the marshmallow-shaped
tree, and we hoisted the other one up and lugged it over to the
salesman, who cut the end of the trunk off for us and helped us get it
into the trunk. The whole time he talked to us about how these were
Maine-grown trees, that they were from the western part of the state
and did we know that it takes 8-10 years for each tree to grow? I was
charmed, a little, and glad to finally have our tree.
We got it successfully home and wrestled it up to the third floor.
That's where things started to do wrong.
Did I mention that it was raining outside? Well--a heavy mist,
really, but the tree was soaked and so were we by the time we got it
into its stand. There were pine needles and muddy puddles all over
the floor, and the tree was definitely listing a bit to the right. K
and I readjusted the tree, me lifting it, K trying to get the things
lined up on the stand so that it would work. Both of us swearing a
little, and S in the background doing a little ballerina dance and
humming the Nutcracker.
Once the tree was up I saw that we needed to turn it a little to cover
a bald spot. I turned it. It didn't help. The bald spot was an
internal ring of completely bare branches that went all the way around
the tree. Then I noticed the brown patches.
"This tree is dead," I said. I actually may have yelled, but I'm not sure.
"Of course. It's cut." K said, teeth gritted.
"No, I mean, look." We contemplated the brown branches. What can you
do? Buy a parking-lot tree in the dark, get a half-dead misshapen
"Can we do the lights?" S asked.
I explained that the tree was too wet to put the lights on because of
the rain, and that we'd do it the next day. S cried, mostly because
it was an hour past her bedtime at that point. I may have cried too.
It only has to last two weeks, I figured. We'll water the crap out of
it and see how it goes. The next morning the floor was dusted with
pine needles but the tree had drank almost the whole pan of water. We
decided that the lights will never be left unattended on this thing,
because Christmas fires are never as fun as they seem like they might
Thing seem to be holding steady at this point, but I'm fully expecting
that we'll wake up some morning soon to find only our ornaments and
lights hanging on completely naked branches. Keep your fingers
crossed for us.
And we could use a fire extinguisher, if you're wondering about
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
So I've mentioned before that being in a relationship really brings my *ahem* issues into focus. Living alone (well, with child) for the past five years, I really settled into my own habits and routines, and they did not brush up against anyone else's, mostly. Nor did they seem outrageous, or strange, because there was no point of reference.
What has become clear to me recently is that I have some food issues. I mean, Food Issues.
It works out that K despises grocery shopping, because it seems that I really, REALLY like to do it. I see it as a challenge: OK, we have $50 this week, how can I come up with seven meals and lunches in a healthy, environmentally friendly way? Which usually means buying exactly what we will eat and not a pinch more, bulk food whenever possible, lots of whole grains, and everything else generic.
Which all sounds great, except that I kind of... well... have a hard time with the exceptions to that. For example, it's perfectly logical for me to want the package of Name Brand Organic Brown Rice Lightly Salted Rice Cakes for $3.49 (my not-so-secret and kind-of-boring vice), but if my daughter wants the Froot Loops for $3.49 I veto the choice. Or if K wants the Asian Rice Snacks for the same amount, I will mount a long and difficult argument against it that cannot be won in any satisfactory way for anybody.
Also, this kind of food is not necessarily my family's favorite. Which is a problem. I mean, can I really buy rice-a-roni and not feel like I'm personally responsible for global warming and the dangerous habit of gluttonous consumerism? The answer, folks, is no. No, I can't.
In addition, any kind of waste makes me feel like my world is tilting. If, by chance, we should have to throw away any of the food that I felt was unnecessary in the first place, I am victorious in a kind of twisted way. And if it was food that I chose, well... anyone makes mistakes, right?
And it's all compounded by the panic I feel when we run out of a staple, like milk. Or coffee. It's totally irrational, since there's a convenience store right next door. But there it is.
The long and short of it is that it's a good thing K and S are good sports and like bulgur. Or pretend to. Because the kitchen is mine, and my control issues about it are way to big to fight with right now.
Plus, I'm always right anyway. Mostly.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
So, this Sunday is the one year anniversary of the death of my friend Meg Perry.
This has, of course, and inevitably, led me to a lot of introspection and thought about the nature of life and death. The past year has been irrevocably changed by Meg's passing--and my life as well. It's a little strange for me to say, because we weren't that close. We worked together on organizing and social justice work, sat through hundreds of hours in meetings together, moved in similar social circles, and had a few random encounters outside of those large-group settings. But I never did hang out for the afternoon, or spend one-on-one time with her at all. Although I did help with doing PR and fundraising for the trip down to New Orleans, and my best friend was on the bus with her that day.
Nevertheless, Meg's death has prompted some great changes in my life. I can honestly say that I probably would not be in grad school now, nor would I be taking romantic risks, nor have this excellent job. Her death prompted that (of course, and again inevitable) consideration of my own life, and what it would mean to me if I should die tomorrow and would I be happy with my life choices in that situation. I think that I can now say yes, which is pretty incredible.
I recently read a book called For the Time Being by Annie Dillard. It helped me a lot in thinking about the overwhelming sense of Life On The Planet--as in, more people have died than have ever lived; my life (and Meg's life, and everything I know) is just a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the amount of human life that has and will existed. In the face of this, how to go on? What's the point? Et cetera.
The quote that I wrote down from Dillard's book is this:
Ours is a planet sown in beings. Our generations overlap like shingles. We don't fall in rows like hay, but we fall. Once we get here, we spend forever on the globe, most of it tucked under. While we breathe, we open time like a path in the grass. We open time as a boat's stem slits the crest of the present.
And also, this quote, from the same book, by Rabbi Tarfon:
The work is not yours to finish, but neither are you free to take no part in it.
Friday, December 01, 2006
As a fan of psychoanalytic critical theory, I firmly believe that
there are things going on in my mind that I can't know. Things below
the surface. The image I get when I think about it is of machinery
working under a smooth surface of water.
An example: one of my professors liked to tell the story of how he was
always losing his keys. He'd find them in weird places, like the
freezer, under the dog bowl, in the linen closet, etc. His theory was
that subconsciously he rejected the responsibility the keys
symbolized, and so his subconscious "made" him "lose" them.
(As a sidebar, have you ever noticed how the number of quotation marks
expands exponentially whenever critical theory is in use?)
Anyway, I think my subconscious pulled one on me last night.
K and I were having one of those emotional conversations that happen
sometimes in relationships. You know what I mean. They start with
angry voices and end with weeping and kissing. (And if you don't know
what I mean--if this is unique to my relationships, I don't really
want to know that, so just keep your comments to yourself.)
Let me set the scene: I was sitting on the edge of the bed, about to
disclose something that is extremely difficult for me to talk about.
Because I was nervous and looking for something to do with my hands, I
leaned over to push in the bureau drawer, about two feet away from
where I was sitting.
But somehow, I managed to lose my balance, fall off the bed, grasp at
the bureau, lose my balance again, and fall down to hit my cheekbone
on the (still) open bureau drawer. It was exquisitely humiliating,
causing me to huff and cry and laugh and grab the side of my head.
I think the deep machinery was trying to keep me from disclosing by
making me lose my balance.
It didn't work, by the way, and the conversation did end up with kissing.
And a nice swelling on my cheekbone that nobody's commented on yet.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
It looks like I'm going to be a regular sidekick (I think that I prefer "faithful companion" or "communication partner," but the terminology is still under negotiation) on Lesbian Radio.
Yep, Virginia and me, having public conversations about queerness and feminism. Hopefully I don't get so anxious my head actually does fall off, because that's what it feels like is going to happen every time I go on the air. And it would be wicked inconvenient if it actually did.
Looks like it'll be the first and third Wednesday for now. And the show for 12/6 looks like a whoppah--prob'ly about holiday gifts: Are they a good idea? Is there any way to do it meaningfully? Is there a limit on the number of Nomia gift certificates you can buy for your friends and family? All that and more.
I wonder if I'll be able to resist talking in a Maine accent on the air. I wonder if it matters.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Today's Pet Peeves:
1. Trendily low-cut pants that expose my lower back and which cause a chill
2. Wearing trendy clothes in general
3. Secret frustration that I will never be able to wear truly trendy clothes because I'm too poor and am stuck with one or two fashionable items that must be combined with older, hopefully "classic" articles of clothing, coupled with disdain and disgust for the fact that I would secretly even want to be trendy
4. Reviewing and revising my sexual orientation yet again
5. Figuring out which term best describes me (see #4)
6. Cheap coffee
7. Illness that appears just as it's become completely impossible for me to take any sick time for at least a week
8. That bread at the Eritrean restaurant
9. Not knowing what's going on
10. Knowing what's going on but not being able to do anything with the information
11. Lusting after items in the LL Bean catalogue
12. Wondering if I've sold out because I'm getting paid a decent wage to do what I love
13. Having a conversation with myself that goes something like, "If you're wondering, you probably have," rebutted with "If you really had, you'd probably not even worry about it" (see #1, 2, 3, 11, 12)
14. Missing people who live on the left coast but not getting off my butt to write
15. Early morning discussion about whether the honeymoon is over
16. The honeymoon being over
17. It being cold enough to snow but having no snow on the ground
18. Knowing that there is no way that this year's Holiday Tree can in any way compete with last year's
19. Lists of pet peeves
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I have been out as a lesbian for most of my daughter's life. In fact, I don't believe that she remembers the time before I came out. But for most of the six years since then, I have identified first as a single mom and then as a lesbian. Raising a child alone has shaped every facet of my existence: what jobs I can take, because they have to be during daycare hours; what my social life is like, because good evening childcare is expensive and hard to find; what I eat, because care of a growing body is time-consuming; and most of all, who I date, because it is rare to find a person who genuinely likes children and who doesn't mind dates that will probably consist of a rented movie, and could be interrupted at any time by nightmares, illness, or temper tantrums.
But mostly, I think it's me that's been difficult. Here's the thing: when you're a single parent it's almost impossible to be fun and to get things done. It comes at the expense of my sense of humor—because who has time to laugh when there are Things I Could Be Doing Instead. I found that in the wake of the endless rounds of work, supper, cleaning, laundry, soccer games and girl scout meetings, taking out the trash, changing the oil in the car, disciplinary conversations, all with the inevitable deadline of bedtime looming, my sense of silliness—and sometimes my sense of self—got buried, only to appear at those rare times when the bills were paid and everybody washed and fed.
I have survived single-parent-dom by planning far ahead, anticipating potential problems, and being prepared for anything. I always carried snacks and toys in my pockets in case of a cranky kid (and finding them during my infrequent nights out was a guaranteed way to keep me from feeling attractive, since old apples and hairy gummy snacks tend to be the opposite of sexy). Meals were planned a week in advance. I cleaned furiously, because I figured that if the cleaning got behind, I would never have time to catch up. And I spent any free time trying to figure out how to squeeze more in.
Truly, it was a little scary. I recently found a schedule that I made for myself on graph paper early in my undergraduate years. The days were vertical strips, and the hours were on the horizontal lines. Every single hour of every day was marked with different colors for different activities—red for work from eight to five, yellow for commuting and daycare pickups from five to six, blue for the time from six to eight designated for supper, baths, and reading time, and purple for homework from eight to twelve. I also somehow went to class three nights a week while my parents watched my daughter. I don't even remember that semester.
For the past ten years, it's as if I have been afraid to stop, for fear that I would not be able to start again. I didn't have time to stop. Needless to say, it has not always been good. My goal—that my daughter and I be a happy, functioning family—was not met. We functioned, but nobody could say that we were happy. I was grim and stressed out, and my daughter petulant and clingy because all too often, and ironically, she got lost in the shuffle.
This is not to say that single-parent families can't work. But being a parent is a full time job all by itself—one with no days off or health insurance—and most of us still need to work at other full-time jobs for money. I don't believe that the nuclear family model is the perfect one, but I also don't believe that anyone should ever be wholly responsible for the life of a child all alone.
Anyway, this year, I got very lucky and met someone who saw through my manic planning, someone who is queer and who loves my daughter; who is not afraid of the implications of getting involved in our lives and who is an amazing person whom I love very much. We moved in together earlier this fall, and the experience has been both easier and more difficult than I expected. The relationship happened at the same time as I drastically reduced my work hours, and all of these changes have been nothing less than a revelation.
My daughter loves my partner, and with the attention of two adults, she is blossoming. And I am re-learning how to live. For the first time in ten years, I am able to actually begin to relax. And most beautifully, the shared responsibility happens out of my partner's genuine generosity and caring spirit. This is our family, and it is amazing to me.
However, my single-parent coping mechanisms are hard to let go of, and have caused a few conflicts. Like when I start getting anxious about Wednesday's dinner on Monday morning because Wednesdays are girl scout night and it's such a big rush to get home so we'll have to plan something quick but it should be nutritious because my daughter gets cranky if she gets too much sugar and I don't want her to behave badly in front of those troop leaders. Or when I burst into tears over the unwashed dishes because I'm still thinking that I'll never have time to do them before it's time to start cooking dinner again tomorrow. Someone once told me that people who seem insane are sometimes having a perfectly sane reaction to a crazy situation. Changing that crazy situation to one in which I am supported and loved has made me realize that, while objectively completely freaky, my single mom habits served their purpose and now can be left behind, gone the way of four-coffee mornings and that control-freak schedule. I can finally slow down, and sometimes stop, knowing that I will have the energy to get up again, because I am rested.
I want to be present for my daughter and my partner, enjoying the time when we are together. And if I ever am a single mom again, I will order more pizza and serve more mac and cheese and not sweat so much if the house is messy or if we miss soccer practice. The dishes can wait, the night will roll on, and we'll figure it out, together.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
No, it wasn't because the building is the ugliest one ever built, nor because there is ice underneath the floor.
Not because they are simply coasting on the glory of a decade ago.
Not because they should no longer be calling themselves Guns n' Roses since Axl is the only original remaining member of the band (and what is GNR without Slash, folks? Nuthin, that's what.)
It was because they couldn't drink onstage.
The first step, Axl, is admitting there's a problem. Seriously. Dozens of GNR fans were weeping.
PS: I heart GNR. I showed my boobs to Axl Rose once at a show (I was fifteen) and Appetite for Destruction is a fantastic album. But now I'm getting a little embarrassed for them (and not because they saw my bare chest).
Thursday, November 02, 2006
WHAT DID HE SAY? CAN ANYONE AT THE PAPER PUT THAT INTO ENGLISH, PLEASE....THIS IS AMERICA, IF WANT TO LIVE HERE SPEAK AND WRIGHT ENGLISH.
Monday, October 30, 2006
My first apartment in Portland was a weird little third-floor, three bedroom apartment near Maine Med. I lived there with my daughter (who was about 2 at the time) and two roommates.
It was blazing hot in the summer, had a leaky skylight and a problem with bazillipedes (if you live in Portland, you know which creepy-crawlies I'm talking about) and occasionally bats, but it was also the scene for our infamous Superhero Party (at which I made my Goatgirl debut). It was super cheap and super sketchy--the rent was paid in cash only and I never met the landlord. It's where I came out, where I met my best friend...
In today's newspaper is this picture of the building:
That's my old apartment you see there hanging out in the middle of the air. I used to sit in that window seat that's no longer there and watch my downstairs neighbors fight on the street. Those were the days...
Thursday, October 26, 2006
The Bollard reports that thanks to a behind-the-scenes intervention by a city councilor, those tow truck drivers are no longer "acting like a bunch of freakin' renegade cowboys or something." Read more here.
Excellent. Now if they'd just do something about the West End. And pigeons.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
So thanks to J for suggesting a crock pot recipe share. Because the crock pot is one of my very favorite things about winter. I broke mine out two weeks ago when it was yucky/chilly/windy outside and made up some fabulous mustgo** chicken chili.
I really do think a crock pot pot luck would be excellent.
Also, check out a book for sale at just about any supermarket called the Fix-It And Forget-It Cookbook, which lays out the basics of crock-pot cooking. Keys to success are:
1)don't put in too much water
Actually, that's about it. Throw a bunch of stuff in the old cooker, leave it all day, come back and it's hot and done. You can even just boil taters that way. And according to that cookbook, you can bake bread and cakes and stuff too. Incredible.
Of course, leaving the crock pot alone all day tends to make me half-think that the house will be on fire when I get home, but I'm just like that. And it's never happened. Yet.
Here's my very favorite crock pot recipe.
Soak overnight and then drain
1 lb. of Great Northern Beans
Place in bottom of crock pot:
1 peeled onion
1/8 c. molasses
1/2 c. brown sugar
3T. prepared mustard (or 2t. dry mustard)
1/4 c. ketchup
1 t. allspice
(optional: 1 T. liquid smoke. I don't know what that stuff is but my tongue loves it.)
about 2c. boiling water (enough to cover the beans)
Pour this mixture over the beans.
3 pieces of bacon OR small a piece of salt pork OR 1/4 c. vegetable oil
Put on the cover, cook on HIGH 4-6 hours or on low 8-10 hours.
I like to add a little more molasses after the beans are done (if you put too much in at the beginning, the skins get hard. True story.)
Let me know if/how it works for you.
**Where the hell did all those tomatoes come from? How old is that chicken? It MUSTGO. Today.
Monday, October 23, 2006
I know a song that lists that fifty states in alphabetical order so
you don't forget any of them. I can teach you, if you like.
There's also one that lists the sixteen counties in Maine. My
daughter sings it too, but the counties are in a different order in
the one that she learned this year. Interestingly, we both learned
them in 4th grade. But mine was twenty years ago, and hers is now.
I should not have spent the day on the couch--I should have been car shopping. A week and a half ago, K was driving my car when a big-ass construction pickup truck rear-ended her and totalled the car. Everyone's pretty much OK--some minor back stuff going on for K--and the other guy's insurance is covering everything, but it's a huge pain in the butt and a lot of paperwork and phone calls and stuff. And I have to go shopping for a new car. Which I hate not just in principle, but in actuality.
So, continuing in the avoidance tradition, we took S to her painting class on Saturday and then spent the rest of the day having home improvement fun, partly in preparation for a friend's going-away party. She is going to Seattle on Thursday, and would someone please tell me what the heck is so ever-loving great about the west coast? Seriously? Because yesterday afternoon we ran into a completely different, unrelated friend who is planning a move to San Diego next year. And pretty soon I'm going to be the only queer left in this city while everyone else is dodging earthquakes by that other ocean.
Yesterday there was grocery shopping fun, some work at USM, and a jeep that got winterized at the sketchiest self-storage place ever.
Did I mention that I heart my new job?
Monday, October 02, 2006
Yeah, I know it's been a while. I just thought I'd see how you're doing, you know, maybe hang out a little.
What do you mean, you thought I'd be in touch. You could've called me too, darlin.
OK, that's a good point.
No, you're right.
I said I think you're right. But I do think you're reading a little more into this than is necessary. I've been real busy, you know. I moved in with my girlfriend and started a new job and stuff. Plus S has been pre-adolescent cranky and--
I know, sweetie. You are a priority to me.
Don't say that. You are. I think about you all the time.
No, it's not the same, but you are on my mind. A lot.
Well maybe you're expecting a little too much from this relationship, you know? Just because we've been hanging out a lot for a few months doesn't mean I have that kind of obligation to you.
Yes, I said obligation. Isn't that the same thing?
Hold on, there's no need to talk like that.
I never said how often I'd be in touch, you know.
No, implying is not the same thing.
Well maybe you shouldn't have.
I'm an autonomous individual, you know. I don't have to--
Yeah, maybe that's for the best.
No, it doesn't have to be like that.
I know you do. Me too.
Look, why don't I call you next week and see how you're feeling? We can talk?
You, too. Bye.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Packing = stress
Cell phone = preoccupying
School bus = f'ing convenient
Work not downtown = where do you people eat lunch?
Girlfriend = miracle
Shopping for professional work clothes = horrifying
New job's firewall that keeps me from checking my email = unspeakable
Friday, September 01, 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
When she began school in Portland, I thought it strange that transportation is not provided for students (but I guess that the point of community schools is that kids tend to live close to the school they're attending).
Growing up in rural Maine, the bus was an inextricable part of my school experience: we caught the bus every day and rode for nearly an hour to and from school. It meant that, in the winter, we got on the bus in the dark and got off the bus in the dark. When I started high school, I had to catch the bus at 6:40 a.m.--which meant that I was up at 4:30 so that I could curl my hair to standard heavy-metal-chick height (that's 2 1/2 inches or more, for those of you who didn't live through those special days).
Our driveway was 1/3 of a mile long, so it was a long haul in the snow sometimes to stand out there for ten or fifteen minutes. And of course I was way too cool to wear a hat (and, of course, did't want to mess up that big mane of hair), so I was almost always freezing.
Now it seems like a novelty to have the bus actually come to my house to transport my daughter. Amazing! What will they think of next?
Monday, August 28, 2006
Friday, August 25, 2006
Today was my last writer's group meeting, and several of the people who are regulars at the group came to say goodbye. It's been amazing to work with these folks, hear their stories, and create some fantastic pieces of writing with them. I have learned so much about teaching and learning, about my own prejudices about poverty. I figured out that this kind of work--working creatively with people who are often voiceless--is what I want to do, and that's been a lovely gift.
One particular man has been coming to group since it started. He camps in the woods within the city. Year round. He is also a very talented writer who is receiving some notice for his work. He wrote me a very nice letter, and also shared the first draft of a piece he's been working on about dying on the streets. He said I could share/publish it, so I wanted to put a little piece here.
He says in the letter to me, "this poem (eventual performance piece) is dedicated to the man who passed away, earlier this year, under the city's marginal way bus shelter."
The ellipses within the paragraphs are his. The phrase "don't forget to spike the door" is a reference to train-hopping etiquette: before you leave your car, you use a railroad spike to jam the door open so that someone else can climb in.
The police officers stand over my demise. This
empty vessel, God's child; talk into their mikes; move
back the small crowd. Fearful of desecration, one lawman
hurries, runs around the park benches, wrapping crime
scene tape... never in my life... has anyone on the streets...cared
about me, given me this much room to sleep.
I witness an old drinking buddy protest aloud "this
is not a crime scene!" But, oh, it is, old friend. This is a
crime scene. A crime, what I did to myself. The crime, unto
my dear loved ones... and my unholy self. I can... no
more... defend myself. I can not answer. I will not reply.
But, every last one of you know the story, and the crimes.
I could not, would not, defeat the bottle. I would not
surrender the glass of raging spite. Only now, my dear
friends, do I discover I have regained my self esteem. I...
I... I am sorry, my dear friends. It is time for me to take my
leave. I hear the lone, lonesome whistle of a freight train.
Remember, when it is your time. Don't forget to spike the
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Skirting the Issue
“You should wear a skirt more often,” my lover whispered a week ago, sliding her hand up my bare thigh. I want to, when she speaks to me like this, and she does every time I wear one. We were in the kitchen, preparing for our separate daily work when her appreciation for my attire took precedence over coffee and toast. I had a meeting later at my office job, which had prompted the skirt in the first place, but this was a lovely side benefit. I put down my mug of coffee and allowed myself to be distracted, feeling beautiful.
Later, as I carried the mail between the post office and my work, noticing how the late-summer breeze held an undertone of fall, a car approached me and slowed. I knew what was coming, even before the call floated out the open window: “Hey baby, you got some of that for me?” and the car passed down the street. My legs felt suddenly exposed, and I wished for thick jeans to cover them. I walk this street every day, every season, but wearing as skirt will almost always bring comments about my body from strangers.
Ah, the skirt. Weird symbol of the feminine, enforcer of crossed legs. Open to the ground and to the breeze, accentuating my vulnerability, my sensuality, my femaleness. Catcher of wind and symbol of my gender. Binding and airy, sweet and threatening: I have had to make my peace with this particular article of clothing, and it has involved my deepest conceptions of myself and my world.
For many years, the kind of person I imagined when I thought of “lesbian” is now what I would consider butch—like my lovers, like many of my friends. Generally short-haired, often broad-shouldered and big boned, sometimes slim and boyish, these women are as awkward in dresses as most men. They are the ones my baby-dyke self would notice excitedly in the grocery store or walking down the street. I would nudge my best friend during those coming-out years—a slight blonde boy who was the only other queer person I actually knew—and whisper, “is she?” “Definitely,” he would answer. “Family.” And we would somehow feel bolstered by this sighting, proof that were not alone in our Central Maine town, that there were others out there who were like us.
Made visibly queer by their gender transgression, butch women became my icon of lesbianism. Thus, when I finally decided to be out, my hair came off and my wardrobe settled into a very comfortable dyke-chic: baggy jeans or dockers, button up men’s shirts or t-shirts, boots. The dresses and fancy shoes went in a big bag to Goodwill, the makeup and razors into the trash can. I wanted people to know, when they looked at me, who I was, who I loved, and what I stood for.
But as I learned about the distinctions between gender and sexuality, and became more comfortable in my sexual orientation, I began to collect skirts and dresses once more, at first hauling them out for special occasions and then for almost regular days, like the one last week. I have begun to understand a more fluid sense of my own identity that blends and crosses traditional boundaries. The armpit and leg hair stays but the baggy dockers go; the high heels will never return but the lipstick does, for dates and job interviews. I appreciate the feeling of air and freedom a skirt gives me, and I enjoy feeling pretty—to myself and to my lover.
Still, often, dressing femme—or at least femm-er—makes me uneasy. The skirts and dresses that hang mostly unused in my closet have become heavily fraught symbols of my identity and desire. Many times, wearing more traditional women’s clothing, and especially when my daughter is with me, I unintentionally pass. Since my wardrobe has shifted towards more feminine clothing, I have to come out a lot more frequently; people often unknowingly refer to a boyfriend for me, and I have to state what used to be much more obvious: I am a big old dyke, and there is not, nor is there likely to be, a boyfriend. Probably. And I can forget how it feels to walk visibly queerly through public space—that funny ripple of attention that sometimes trails you like a canoe wake—though when I hold hands with my lover I am quickly reminded.
The kind of attention I get wearing dresses is sometimes unwelcome—like the guy in the car. Sometimes it reminds me of how gender norms are enforced by social practice, as when I waitressed a few years ago and my tips were consistently higher if I wore a skirt to work. Putting on a dress means putting on a whole way of being in the world. It affects how I feel, how others see me, what kind of space I occupy, and what power I appear to have.
Likewise, I find myself dressing in a more masculine way when I am feeling especially vulnerable—like the day after a man in a passing car comments about my body—and I have to remind myself that equating masculine clothes with qualities like strength and safety is the worst kind of essentialism.
Clothing is often shorthand for the various categories we all occupy; it’s a quick way to sort out people and their affinities. Our clothes do often serve as our armor, our exoskeleton. But people are more complicated than their clothing, more flexible, more hodge-podge. Less like cotton or silk and more like the layers of light reflected off water. More like the way skin stretches seamlessly over muscle and bone.
What I would like for myself and for my daughter—for all people—is a world in which any person can dress in the way that makes them feel comfortable, regardless of the body they were born with; where anyone can enjoy the cool softness of their legs together under a skirt without fear of violence or assumptions about who they love. For now, the best I can do is to challenge what I know of gender essentialism, to embody that paradox with heart, and to proudly wear my queer skirt on my hairy legs, with my lover’s hand planted firmly on my bare thigh.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006
We are going to a historical re-enactment village to celebrate the day (her idea, not mine, even though I'm kind of excited about it).
People say we look alike. Even strangers say this as we walk down the street.
I guess I don't look at myself that much. Maybe I don't have to because I look at her.
Ok, it was actually me who said that. But I did realize its ridiculousness as soon as it was out of my mouth.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Also, linked collections have always seemed wicked clever to me, and I like being clever. It feels to me a little bit like working within a poetic form--faking a rhyme or rhythm never really works, but when it does work the appearance of effortlessness knocks you on your ass.
I found an article today that had the following quote from the ever-sage Michael Chabon (pronounced, I learned the other day, as shay-bonn):
A group of linked narratives can create an effect you can't get from a novel or from one story alone. It's like a series of snapshots taken over time. Part of the pleasure is turning to them again and again. The interest lies in what has happened in the interstices.
Exactly. And how can you not love a quote that uses "interstices" correctly?
I have just put together the following list of short story collections to investigate:
Last Call K. L. Cook
All This Heavenly Glory Elizabeth Crane
Miranda Stories Katherine Anne Porter
Go Down, Moses William Faulkner
Beck stories, John Updike
The Elizabeth Stories Isabel Huggans
A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain Robert Olen Butler
Stones for Ibarra Harriet Doerr
Craft book: The Short Story Cycle: A Genre Comparison & Reference Guide Susan Garland Mann
My mentor and I already agreed on
Bastard Out of Carolina Dorothy Allison
Brownsville Oscar Casares
The Golden Apple Eudora Welty
Winesburg, Ohio Sherwood Anderson
I read Allison and Casares for my annotations last month, and am starting on Welty and Anderson for this month. There are a few extras in that list, since I am dependent on the local library for my reading material, and not all of it will be available when I need it.
Yes, I'm a nerd. You got a problem with that?
Monday, August 14, 2006
I got it.
Hi, my name is Jen, and I'm professionally gay.
PS: More on the lovely Burdock weekend later, but here's a teaser: poison-ivy-ass, milkweed poisoning, and meteor showers.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Spending so much time with this lovely woman has forced me to have a few revelations about myself, namely, that I am difficult to get along with and that I have gotten distressingly rigid about my living habits.
Hm. Maybe those are related.
It's good to know these things about yourself, so that you can be knowledgeable in your apology when when you freak out about them eating some of the frozen blueberries instead of saving them for January.
My landlord is being a complete dickhead about this whole thing, and is not "open to the idea of adding another person to the lease," even though I've been a good tenant for two years, and even though she's been a good tenant at her place for two years, and it's time for me to re-sign my lease anyway. He's a controlling bastard in general (ie "I see you've been smoking on the porch" as evidenced by the neat and closed container of butts hidden behind the chair, and "please don't put your empty recycling bin on the front porch"). The decision to move out became easy (well, easier) yesterday when he had some comments about my parenting choices. I was gleeful when I called him back today to say we'll be leaving.
So, after getting buy-in from the nine-year-old, we're moving to K's apartment about four blocks away.
It does make me wonder, though, how many major life changes can I go through within one month without developing facial tics or trichtillomania.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
There has--rightly--been a ton of media coverage, and today's Press Herald reports more on this story. Listen to what the pig-roller's lawyer has to say:
I'm speechless. Is ignorance and racism really a defense in the 21st century?
"It's basically a run-down storefront in Lewiston. It's not like there's any wording to the effect there's a mosque there," said Matthews' attorney, James Howaniec, referring to the Lisbon Road mosque.
Howaniec also said his client did not know pigs and pork products are offensive to Muslims.
Howaniec also alleges that police and corrections officers laughed about the incident the night of the arrest and as his client was being booked, adding that one officer even said, "I wish I had thought of that." He contends rank-and-file officers
and the community at large do not consider the case a serious hate crime.
"It was an act of stupidity. Not every stupid act constitutes a crime," Howaniec
"[Lewiston police Lt. McGonagle says that] officers may have appeared to make light of the incident during the investigation to elicit more cooperation from Matthews. Suspects often are more likely to cooperate with investigators if they believe the officers are sympathetic to their view, McGonagle said. He said Lewiston officers do treat the incident seriously.
WTF? Is McGonagle covering his ass? Does anyone have any doubt that Lewiston cops are less than enlightened about, say white privilege and race relations?
Sigh. This stuff makes me so tired.
[EDIT: The online comments on the above news article are developing exponentially & I am suddenly ashamed to live in this state. These comments are mostly horrifying and racist and awful, but there are a few bright spots. Of note (because getting angry makes me strangely satisfied and probably suspiciously superior):
RC from Damariscotta: Brent Matthews disgusts me. He knew exactly what he was doing when he rolled that pigs head in there. I don't like all of these foreigners here either; a majority of them sucking the life out of Maine and the USA in general, but a person needs to have some common decency.
c, no town noted: Haven't your politicans and cops anything better to do than crucify some guy over a pig's head? When you come to this country, better bring a thick skin. Everybody else did.
Renee, from Biddeford: the fact remains that crimes commited against any group of people are not any more or less severe because of what group the victim is part of. Beating up a black Somalian and telling him to go back where he came from is no worse than beating up a white American in an upperclass neighborhood and telling him to go back to his own neighborhood. Violent crime is violent crime regardless of who is the victim. ]
Friday, August 04, 2006
After Deam Kamen introduced his scooter, "segway" became a popular misspelling for "segue". Thirty years earlier, Thomas Pynchon used the same spelling in Gravity's Rainbow: "But segway into the Roxbury hillside."It's like when I was at the district spelling bee in sixth grade, and I lost when I spelled raspberry R-A-Z-Z-B-E-R-R-Y because the company that made my shirt spelled it that way.
Segue/segway into book talk:
Gravity's Rainbow is one of two books that I began and never finished. Ulysses is the other.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Double stuf mint oreos (dairy-free!) eaten at lunch: 3
Dollars found in Monument Square: 1
Approximate debt, in thousands: 28
Before 8:15 am, number of times I asked my daughter to please get ready: approximately 15
Evening's dinner guests, excluding those related by blood: 4
Number of above dinner guests under the age of eight: 3
Job interviews scheduled: 1
Days until I leave my full time job: 28
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I woke up this morning with a serious grump on, and the day has been filled with tiny irritants, like dropping all of the cards out of my wallet while paying full price for the vitamins because I forgot my chain-store-discount-card. Plus I wept while preparing breakfast, for no reason besides pure crankiness and misery.
It's not even That Week.
There will be consolation and apologies tonight over garlic shrimp and thai iced tea, that I know.
PS: I found out what Bret Michaels has been up to for the past few years: getting a plastic face.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Yesterday was perfect and that's all there is to it:
I woke up slightly sleep-deprived but for all the best reasons, and just ecstatic that the soul-crushing humidity had passed. I had a very productive morning cleaning the house and doing laundry, which meant that I could feel free to enjoy the rest of the day with no guilt about what I should be doing (except homework, of course, which I should always be doing but am not.)
Then my daughter, her little friend, and I spent a delicious couple of hours out at the Winter Cache farm in Cumberland (where we grow winter storage vegetables--squash, carrots, onions, potatoes, kolrahbi, kale, cabbage, beets--that are kept in a root cellar here in the city and then are distributed for free to participants throughout the winter). I got a huge bunch of kale that I am going to blanch and freeze this evening, and which will be thoroughly enjoyed in January. I also got that distinctive sunburn on my lower back that comes from weeding--where your shirt pulls up above your pants when you bend over--and I learned how to use a scuffle hoe. Which is more fun than humans should be having, really. Weeding is indescribably satisfying.
I picked up my girlfriend K at her job and, after an unintentional nap on the couch, we cooked an incredible supper of grilled chicken with homemade barbecue sauce, boiled new potatoes that I tossed with a fruity olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and cabbage stir-fried with garlic, onions, and tamari. There were also sliced fresh tomatoes, and then cherries for dessert. My daughter decided to be our waitress, and wanted us to pretend to be "snobby rich people eaters," which we did, with glee.
We made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go watch The Karate Kid, which was showing on the roof of a parking garage downtown, and sprawled on a sleeping bag in a cozy pigpile on the still-warm pavement there to see the movie.
Besides the perfection of the day, things are just going well in general. I'm heart-over-sense in love with K, and have just one month left of full-time work. I got child support (!!!) this week for the first time in a year, and I won a gift certificate to a local bike shop, with which I'm going to buy one of those things that attach to the back that your kid can ride on.
Joy, joy, joy.
Friday, July 28, 2006
More importantly, are these guys going to be touring into their sixties? Will they be the Rolling Stones of our generation (minus the talent and groundbreaking music)? And will Bobby Dall throw out his back again onstage?
I checked out their website, and the pictures there are suspiciously small and can't be viewed larger. Hmm.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
I've been in grad school since January, spending (allegedly) 25 hours a week on that, plus 35 hours a week of work, plus being a single mom. Somehow that all worked fine until late spring, when my gears started popping out and no amount of coffee could make me go any more.
I had a bit of a crisis, trying to figure out the purpose of life and human existence on the world. Then I realized that I was just tired. (And how typical of my coping skills that, when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I decide to take on something bigger, so that I can have no way to succeed.)
I decided that either the job needed to go, or school did (since clearly the parenting piece is immovable). That prompted another crisis, during which I decided I needed to move. When I settled down, I decided that it has to be the job, and that I'm staying in this apartment for the time being. Maybe.
It's taken me six months and a lot of planning, but I finally decided that it's time, so I gave my notice at work, my last day being September 1.
But how are you going to live? you ask, your brow wrinkled in concern.
Pshaw, I answer. I shrug at such concerns!** I may be getting a roommate. I'll be working part time, and I have a workstudy job. Plus sucking at the government teat so that that I can be a better mom and better person.
Now it's just a matter of waiting. I've never been unemployed; I've been working full time pretty much since I turned 18--minus seven weeks to give birth and take care of a newborn, and one semester at college when I was living off an insurance settlement (three broken toes & a near death experience = $4,000. really).
So I'm looking forward to having time to actually parent--I'll be meeting my daughter right off the bus from school! We'll have six whole hours a day together! Which is a huge improvement over the skimpy three we get now, half of which is taken up with supper.
Guess we'll see.
**That's a joke. Actually, thinking about it makes me want to pee my pants so I just try not to think about it.
Friday, July 21, 2006
**A word about the term "conelicker." If you've been in Portland for the summer you know exactly what I mean; I believe it was coined by my friend Monique, who used it to describe those sunburned folks who wander through Old Port traffic dazedly licking their enormous ice cream cones and carrying big shopping bags. But I have since expanded its usage to include all tourists, since they are all, potentially, conelickers. I have occasionally been a conelicker myself in other places (Bar Harbor, P-town).
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
Although perhaps that is just assumed when I say "Masters in Fine Arts."
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Monday, July 03, 2006
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Friday, June 23, 2006
Only it's not just her artwork that I'm busy throwing away. Almost every hour that I spend with my children is disposed of just as surely, tossed aside, burned like money by a man on a spree.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
But anyway, for example:
|Recent Visitors by Location|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Falmouth, Maine|
|United States||Boston, Massachusetts|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Portland, Maine|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Falmouth, Maine|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Redwood City, California|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
|United States||Falmouth, Maine|
|United States||Boston, Massachusetts|
|United States||Biddeford, Maine|
I know the Dublin visit is prob'ly my goodbuddy bec, who is cutting the shit out of some sod and marching all over the countryside when she's not reading my blog... and Portland, well, clearly... but apparently I have some friends (or people whose servers are located) in Biddeford.
Hello, Biddeford friends! I like to say it Biddifid. How about you?
I also got hits when someone was looking for info about the Dyke March (hope I could help) and several because I link to the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest (which is almost the coolest thing ever. Almost.)
Fascinating. Just fascinating.
Maybe someday something exciting will happen in my life and then I can write about that instead.
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