19 August, 2010

To be Fair...

Yesterday I went to the County Fair. I haven’t been to a local fair in more than 15 years and then ‘going to the fair’ meant ‘going to the fair, paying admission and trolling the grounds for other awkward tweenagers (whom you may or may not actually talk to) until you’d blown all your spending money and used your last quarter to call so-and-so’s mother to come pick you up’.

So what do you do at the fair when you’re now a childless 30-something? You take your father. And, for the first time since your head finally passed the yellow line granting you permission to ride to big-kid rides, you suspend your cynicism.

Dad and I are big fans of the animals, so that was our only true goal for the day. We caught the first Alaskan Racing Pigs show (our designated pig to root for, Yukon, came in last). Normally something like this would be an amusing thought—pigs running around a tiny track, but today standing in the crowd with dad and cheering on the red-shirted little oinker, I felt slightly transported.

We continued on into the poultry barn where we were greeted with free cookies and lemonade or coffee by the ladies of the local Granges. I don’t usually get very fired up over turkeys or chickens in pens (I blame my neighbor and her howling hens) and this was pretty much just that: a bunch of clucking and picking feathered things in wired cages. That was, until I saw the warming box filled with rows of numbered eggs.

I had especially loved the chick incubator at our local garden and feed store as a child and would spend my time crouched down by the tiny peepers while mom sought after the perfect hanging fuchsia for our front porch. In all of that time I had never actually seen a chick hatching. This warming box, with its rows of shelled little lives, was my chance. A few fluffed up chicks, looking slightly inebriated, staggered around the bottom, adjusting to the new brightness of their world. One lay with wet feathers and splayed legs next to its shell. I thought it was dead. Within minutes it was lifting its head and shifting its chicken-shoulders. I wanted to stay and watch while another worked itself out from the tiny opening in its capsule, but for all I knew that could take hours and I could feel the pull of other animals from the room next door. I would have to just imagine the stages in between.

I could give detailed accounts of petting the soft noses of the rabbits, watching small aggressive goats butt heads and curling my fingers into the oily-wool of docile sheep (I befriended one particular Shropshire who enjoyed a hearty head-scratch), but I fear my memories do more for me than the retelling would for you, my reader. I will say that if you’ve never run your hand slowly down the muscle-thick neck and across the soft nose of a prize winning steed, you should. It’s probably one of the most calming things in the world.

We exited the barns, washed our hands and settled on having lunch. Dad, in a case of disturbing irony, decided to have a lamb-steak sandwich.
A bit more walking around, a chance meeting with a friend and a lumberjack log rolling competition later it was time to go. I had to snag the requisite fried-food item on my way out (bits of fried dough rolled in sugar) and stop briefly to catch the last act of a clown show entitled ‘Jest in Time’. I normally find clowns off-putting and down-right scary, but this time there was a reclaiming of joy in the act of watching the painted faces run around the stage. I found myself laughing at their tongue-in-cheek humor and cheering for the poor volunteers pulled on stage to complete the performance. It was the perfect end to a day both from my past and indicative of my desire for a light-hearted future.

15 July, 2010

Pride: Me, You and over 1 Million Converge on San Francisco

I've been putting off my Pride post this year because I wanted it to be done correctly. I wanted to give it the time and effective phrasing that would allow you to be there with me. But the truth is, I could never in a million years convey to you what my experience in San Francisco this past June was like.

It was my first time in the city and having no plans except to see what I could see and experience what I could experience, I would say I succeeded-- and then some. I don't think this is an event you "do right" the first time. I guess maybe if you have a seasoned guide to show you where the best parties are and when to be at this corner for such-and-such and which exorbitant cover charge to buck up and pay because *that* party is the end-all.

There was so much to take in, and at night there was so much to let out. People were happy and costumed and dancing and taking pictures with strangers. Every interaction began with "Where are you from?" and ended with "Happy Pride!"

So I've decided the best way to really tell you what Pride was like is to encourage you to hit the internet running. Roll your search engine out and type in: Pride San Francisco 2010, Dyke March, Trans March, Dolores Park Saturday June 26th, The Castro, Pink Party, Civic Center, The Parade, The Pink Brick, ENDA, The Pink Triangle, Dykes on Bikes...read the blogs, watch the videos, look at the smiles in the pictures.

Of course everything you read and see won't be my experience. You'll see outrageous nakedness, stories about the tragic shooting Saturday night and The Backstreet Boys. I can't control what you see and that's exactly the best way for me to show you. Because that was my experience: four days of uncensored, in the moment total acceptance.

And I encourage you to go. If not San Francisco, then go to your local Pride celebration. Show your support, meet some amazing people and experience life uncensored.

17 June, 2010

All in All a Good Time in the All Together

The weather here in the Valley has been—well, miserable. But gratefully, last weekend was in the low 80’s with clear skies. I spent my birthday with friends at a nudist resort. I am not a nudist, but did brave the pool and hot tub for a suit-free soak on Friday night. It was wonderful.

On Saturday, five of us performed our standup comedy sets in an event called “Comedy in the Raw”. To our delight we packed the club with 115 members and guests of the resort. They were the BEST audience. It was an unusually late showing for their crowd and people stayed until the end. We even had a few stragglers who suffered our post-show version of relaxation—karaoke. We shut down the bar with a slightly off-key, but enthusiastic, version of Abba’s Fernando.

As soon as I have pictures, I’ll post a few here. Did I mention I performed in a Star Trek uniform I made myself?

***Ta-da! A picture.

10 June, 2010

Another Year...

I am writing this the day before my 32nd birthday which leads me to immediately think that this is the day of my cousins 35th birthday. The latter is probably irrelevant to you, and, becoming increasingly more so to me. We’ve grown apart. I only mention this because it seems to be a recurring theme in the narrative that has opened and closed most of my days lately.

Growing apart is the slowest form a change, I think. Its subtlety is akin to the gentle rocking of a boat; a motion so slight it lulls you into a sense of calm until you find you’ve floated too far to contemplate a return to shore.

In the last few years I’ve grown apart from my need to look 20-something. I’ve grown apart from pretending to be happy when I wasn’t. I’ve grown apart from a few friends and even more family. What I’ve come to realize is that while all of those things sound like a loss, they have given me a sense of freedom in return. I’ve come to understand that the operative word here is “grown”. Out of these changes I have grown.

So with my 32nd year I proceed with the idea of growth, even when it means losing.

On a lighter note, I had the good fortune of attending a small group session with United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan. She was humorous and generous with her time and her talent. Her commitment to reaching out to college students was impressive. Her latest, The Best of It, is worth the read.

I also attended a reading by Ms. Elizabeth Woody, renowned poet and visual artist, who is the current national judge for poetry in the League for Innovation contest where I took First Place at the local level in early May. She, too, was generous with her time and openly talked about not graduating high school (at least, not on time) or college due to her stubbornness. It was nice to meet a fellow hard-head.

05 May, 2010

Mid-Week Whiner

I sat down today to write out a long-overdue section of notes for my research class and wound up writing here, on my blog, instead. It happened for a good reason, I am sure, because inevitably when I find myself easily distracted from a homework assignment it is simply because my brain isn’t ready to deal with it just yet.

How was that for a fine explanation for procrastination? Yeah, I thought it was pretty good, too.

I am wading through this term of school with a cement life vest. I can’t seem to find the motivation for any of my assigned work. I even tried going out on a limb with my research topic: Jack the Ripper- How Victorian Era Storytelling May be Used to Scare Your Children Straight.

And still, my impetus lacks. Instead, my brain says: you should really write about the conflicting message Ani DiFranco sends when she damns-the-man and supports independent thought through the use, and re-use and, dear god, the re-re-use of her songs. How is it anti-corporate to take a song you produced ten years ago, record it again with less enthusiasm, more live audience and, oh hell, a high-school band thrown in for good measure and package it, along with other re-recordings, as a new album?! Really, Ani? I doth protest.


On a more uplifting note, I received a letter last week naming a poem I wrote as taking first place in a local competition for college writers. It will advance to the national level of competition where they will name first, second and third place winners mid-June.

22 April, 2010

A Bird's Eye View

The birds have returned to my backyard.

My first spring here, I found them annoying. They would drop down into my yard, harass my dog and leave their, ahem, gifts on my car windows. But now, entering my sixth season here, I look forward to the return of the small fliers. They feel like friends who travel and return to tell you their stories. We’ve even adopted a squirrel that comes regularly to eat from the cherry tree next door.

It isn’t Wild Kingdom, but it works for me. It’s my little reminder that I can create my space, I can control the things within it, but the events over which I hold no authority often show me what real beauty is; even if at first they’re a tad annoying.

Did you just see the neighbor, in her fuzzy slippers?
Flit next door and
gather a bit of gossip.
Pump your wings, black and yellow
and bring me
tales from beyond my fence.
What does it look like from where you sit-
does my house look small or my flowers faded?
Do you judge, as we judge,
the green of the lawn
the over ornamentation-
The overcompensation.
Do you fear change, do you anticipate?
Or do you roll
one season into the other-
simply, and without strings.

13 April, 2010

On Being Fearful...

First: Thank you. Your 10 or 15 minutes here, on my blog, is a gift. We are busy, busy people and on the list of things you needed to do today, you decided to make room to read my words. This is not something I take for granted.

I am four months behind in returning to my writing. Four months of saying, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll write.” Four months of feeling as if the inspiration I need to put words into sentences was just beyond my reach. I have felt frustrated, argumentative, guilty, lazy and a bit fraudulent. Those are exhausting feelings. Those feelings all stem from fear.

Lately I have feared that I have nothing to say; nothing new anyway. Lines of thinking that feel even the slightest bit inventive have quickly spiraled into monstrous ‘projects’ that I couldn't fathom taking on. I fear I won’t be able to render a valuable likeness of my thoughts through my writing.

The temptation to bow my head into the wind and just let things blow past me has been strong. But I know through experience that I am not satisfied to be standing still; that for me, moving forward in fear is better than sedating myself to the world. So today, with fear, I write.

Singer Erykah Badu is known for an eccentric approach to her art and her latest video is a continuation on her favored themes of social injustice, self-worth, and a person’s right to free thought. Badu filmed her video for Window Seat near Dealy Plaza, the location of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Using a guerrilla style shoot, Badu walks through the populated area removing articles of her clothing every few steps until she is completely nude save for her headscarf.

The singer and her crew opted to acquire no permit for the shoot which meant the popular tourist location was filled with onlookers unaware that the scene unfolding before them was part of a music video. Perhaps the most dramatic moment occurs when Badu is “shot” by an unseen gunman; her head whipping backwards as she falls to the ground. The words ‘groupthink’ spill from her wound in liquid blue letters.

Groupthink is a term used to describe a pattern of thought exhibited by individuals within a group in order to reduce conflict without putting into practice their own beliefs; a manner of thinking in which going with the flow is rewarded. Badu argues that this mentality is the root of the “assassination of character” and her video was an attempt to align this idea with the physical assassination of JFK; a man historically considered to have been murdered for his unconcealed beliefs.

The video caused an outcry from a small number of people present the day of the shoot and from many more after its release a few weeks ago,ultimately resulting in a nominal fine for disorderly conduct. Some claimed that the theme is disrespectful to the memory of our fallen President. Others are offended by her public nudity. Some people feel she was simply looking for a sensational way to make album sales. Then there are those who feel Badu has done nothing wrong and in fact has rather eloquently addressed a growing threat to individualism.

What do I think? I think Badu was looking to boost album sales. I think she was looking to make a statement on an issue that means something to her. I think that people who are claiming ‘damages’ from the brief experience and confusion of having a nude woman on the streets of Dallas really should find better things to put their energy into. I think the people claiming that they, or their children, were needlessly exposed to a scene of a violent nature should consider the larger picture: we are thrust into most every experience without the knowledge necessary to be able to assimilate the conflicts and lessons which lie therein. But that process, that journey, from initial experience toward understanding and growth is the thing we can all benefit from; even when that process is occasionally violent.

I think Erykah Badu proceeded with fear and because of that, I have the ability to grow. And for today, I have the ability to write.

Click HERE to view Window Seat on Badu's website.

P.S. Click HERE for an amazing commentary from SuperHussy.com regarding her five year old daughter's take on the Window Seat video.