1.29.04 skanky

By the time we finished editing Breeder both of my wrists were thrashed. I literally could not turn the wheel on my Honda, which had a tendency to stop running in the rainy season anyway, and finally had to get rid of the thing. Normally the money from the book advance (if memory serves my share was about $1,000 though this sum might be an exaggeration) would have gone to cover critical bills since we were a family living on a graduate stipend designed to support a single adult.

But while I was shuffling papers around Byron went to a conference in Texas and started dancing with these Swedes who offered him a job over the thumping beat of the music. They said he could live wherever and finish his PhD while drawing a salary - a deal that could not in fact have been any better. He accepted and when my book advance turned up I had already paid the overdue utility bills.

I petted my check for awhile and then set off to find a car with power steering. I located it parked on Hawthorne. It was powder blue and had ski racks and a dubious title and I haggled the guy down to fifty percent of his asking price and then drove home in my luxurious 1984 Volvo 240 sedan with cloth seats.

One day during carpool my daughter slammed her hand in the door, gouging the skin completely off and breaking a finger. This would not have happened with the Honda; the door would have simply bounced open again.

The cloth seats figure prominently in this story because at some point during a picnic someone left a bag of recycling and garbage in my car without notifying me, and since I lacked a sense of smell the car was putrid before a passenger gasped and pointed out the problem.

From that point on we fondly referred to the vehicle as Skanky and I drove it with pleased affection until we were packing to move to Seattle. The week before we left I was running errands and turned a corner and the door that broke my daughter's finger fell out of the frame with a loud clunk.

We knew that the car needed more investment in mechanical work than we had originally spent on the vehicle. We debated the veracity of bringing it with us but didn't think it would actually survive the trip. In the end we left the car parked next to our house, turned over the keys to the friends renting the place, and waved as we drove off in our (new to us) marginally less decrepit 1994 Volvo 240 station wagon.

Gabriel and Danielle wrote this week to say that Skanky has suffered what might be the final illness. I'm sending good wishes to the intrepid old car and the wildly optimistic people who are trying to get it running again.

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1.29.04 authors

Daphne had this idea - we should have a support group for authors who have books in the pipeline so we just set it up:

This community is expressly for writers who have a book in production with a publisher, or for writers who have had a book or books published. The goal of this community is to give support to authors leading up to and directly after book launch (including aesthetics, marketing etc.), as well as share information about touring, publicity, contests and the like.

If you are a writer in the process of publishing, welcome! If you are a writer who has not sold a book, or if you are a self-publisher (including print-on-demand), we respectfully request that you find or create another community that is appropriate for your specific and valid concerns.

http://www.livejournal.com/community/hard_pressed/

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1.29.04 lost

The New York State Museum has gathered a collection of artifacts for an exhibit titled:

Lost Cases, Recovered Lives: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic

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1.27.04 memo

Memorandum

To: Family, friends, colleagues, etc.

Re: Time

As you may recall I had abdominal surgery in November. The recuperation from the illness took more than eight weeks, during which time I hosted two large family holiday celebrations, finished writing a book, and edited another. I am still working and my stomach still hurts. If you have in any way felt slighted or neglected during these months, I would like to refer you again to the major abdominal surgery and intense work schedule. I know that it is difficult to believe that I have any problems whatsoever because I am always so glib and efficient. However, you will have to believe that this is in fact the case. I trust that we will resume our plans, projects, and sundry entertainment schedule somewhere around the middle of February. Thank you for understanding. If you are one of the people who sent letters, packages, email, dropped by with casseroles, or entertained my children, you have my lifelong gratitude.

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1.26.04 proficient

I have a photograph of myself at age seventeen. It was snapped on a street corner in a small mountain town. The day was gray. I had a yellow paisley scarf holding my hair away from my face but the wind picked up strands, blowing locks of slippery blonde hair around and forward. In the picture I am looking steadily away toward the mountains. My eyes are fixed on an unknown horizon and my expression is solemn.

I showed this picture to some friends and many of them reflexively used the word beautiful. Many commented that I did not look seventeen, but rather much younger. The photograph is technically proficient.

I look at the image and remember that day, that month, that year. The photograph shows the gash where my eyelid was split open but otherwise gives away no secrets. The scar is hard to make out in a black and white print.

I do not have an impartial perspective. I look at the picture and remember that the scar was actually red and purple, with small flecks of glass working their way up from the depths of a cut meticulously repaired by a plastic surgeon.

I look at the picture and remember what it felt like to have a fractured cheekbone, to lose my sense of smell and part of my hearing and the ability to track text on a page. I remember the fact that my jaw was dislocated along with most of my ideas. I remember the headaches that turned my world red, the rage and fear that surged through my mind every day. I remember that everything tasted like blood.

Beautiful? Not then, not ever. I had already survived cancer and learned to keep secrets. The damage to my face turned a confused seventeen year old girl permanently away from any interest in physical beauty. I wanted to hide the shredded nerves and muscles and splintered bones. The horror of the event did not show on my face because I didn't let anything show on my face.

The picture sitting on my desk gives away none of this. The picture does not even reveal the fact that my arm was still, seven months after the accident, in a plaster cast stretching from my knuckles to my shoulder. Other photographs over the years occasionally capture a different expression, but for the most part I still have the same solemn face of that young girl.

I look beyond the people in my immediate surroundings toward a horizon that is never clear. Beautiful? No; damaged, and determined. The truth is that I am not attractive by the standards of a larger society or even of the subculture I am generally aligned with. The reasons go beyond the fact of my scars, because of course some people find the scars interesting.

Before you rush to tell me otherwise, I want to be very clear. I do not believe in the idea of beauty. I do not know any beautiful people. I have never experienced the transient physical compulsion of a crush. I see everyone the way I see myself, as a complicated array of problems and secrets.

I wear what I like, eat what I like, go where I like, do what I like. I don't care one bit what anyone thinks of my appearance, and I frown at compliments. I would never let anyone else determine the perimeter of my desires.

The only limitations I respect are those related to the fragile state of this body. Although I photograph well, most people find me rather frightening. Nobody has ever dared flirt with me. The people I have dated have all found their way to me by more direct methods. They are compelled less by appearance -- because they do not have permission to care about something so superficial -- than by the intensity of my beliefs.

If you can look at a picture of a smashed face and use the word beautiful then you are responding to something other than the features depicted. The only thing clearly conveyed by this picture is the fact that I was staring straight ahead. If you can look at me and use that word then what you are really saying is more of a compliment to your own corporeal reality. If you see beauty where it is not present then you are in fact the beautiful one.

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1.23.04 shortlist

The shortlists for the 2004 Lambda Literary Award Finalists were announced and major congratulations should go out to everyone who made the cut... I'm particularly pleased to send good luck wishes to Michelle Tea, Lawrence Schimel, and Daphne Gottlieb.

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1.23.04 abuse

The Pacific Northwest Inlander offers this article about the child abuse scandal in the Catholic diocese of Spokane:

Sins of the Father

This story is important for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that many of the people who were victimized are still not talking. The cultural stigma of rape and sexual abuse often silences the people who need the most help. When abuse happens in the context of a family or institution the level of denial is extraordinary - people do not want to believe that it can happen. Boys and men are particularly vulnerable because they are not given permission to admit that they were hurt, that they could not defend themselves and their friends.

One of the men who came forward in Spokane remembers I began to create a world in which I could live alone and let no one else in.

We need to protect children, and prevent future abuses through systematic structural activism. But we also need to untangle the damage of the past.

We need to acknowledge that these men are telling the truth. We need to thank them for their brave and honorable choice to come forward. We need to pay attention to the people who are willing to speak out about abuse, and categorically welcome those stories, no matter how difficult it is to listen.

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1.19.04 work

In grade school we watched a film strip of Martin Luther King Jr. giving his most famous speech and the phrase I have a dream made a strong and lasting impression on me.

The message I gleaned from the crinkly film strip was solid: it is necessary to appreciate the progress made in the past but we must also maintain constant vigilance in demanding more. We must work as hard as we can, in every part of our lives, to improve the world we have been given and create change. There is a moral imperative to engage in the struggle.

I can see and appreciate the glacial pace of progress, the things that are different now because of the civil rights movement, the free speech movement, and all the other philisophical and action-based movements that intersected in the past century. But I know - in a distinct, urgent way - that it isn't enough. The dream hasn't been realized. And even in a time of despair, of war and economic collapse, we have to keep trying, keep dreaming. Dr. King embodied not only an ideal but an example - of hard work and persistent action.

The King Center

Brother Outsider

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1.18.04 secrets

This weekend we walked on the beach at Alki, just before sunset, during low tide. It seemed like all color had been washed away, leaving only the gray of the water and sky and sand. The Olympics seemed to float, the foothills obscured by fog, and downtown refused to sparkle. I watched the ferries go back and forth and decided that I know too many secrets.

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1.18.04 round-up

Some facts for your perusal: Byron will be giving a talk in Versailles, France and visiting the research labs in Cambridge, England next week. Ariel has a new book coming out soon. Check out a Rosyvelt show if they play near you. Plus, if you happen to be attending Sundance this year, Ilya Chaiken is presenting her short film The 100 Lovers of Jesus Reynolds.

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1.16.04 mamalicious

The first issue of Mamalicious arrived in the mail today and I heartily recommend it (and not just because they gave me a very sweet review). Oh, and the art director is Ana June; how nifty is that?

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1.14.04 city dreams

I started to write this report and then ended up in the hospital -- now my notes are a mess and I can only provide an overview instead of the piquant details I had planned:

The New York City Adventures of Bee Lavender and Anne Elizabeth Moore

First day

Standing around Sea-Tac at midnight waiting for our cheap flight we realized that we were surrounded by an unusually large number of indie rockers with disheveled hair and ironic tshirts. Anne persisted in referring to them as our boyfriends but I was more interested in figuring out which gate was our departure point - the airline evidently cuts corners not only on snacks but also on signage.

The flight was noteworthy only insofar as Anne was seated next to someone who insisted on sharing his life story and repeating over and over that he would not be the kind of annoying person who would talk the whole time. We both reverted to defensive napping. The guy tapped Anne awake to tell her that he wouldn't be bothering her and as we arrived in the city he jumped up and went to the back of the plane, where he vomited voluminously and at top volume.

Second day

My central nervous system was crackling from lack of sleep and too much bad coffee by the time we dragged out to Jersey City and then back to Manhattan to pick up our event passes. Along the way we agreed to a division of responsibility: Anne would navigate and I would plan. Or at least we would get credit for those activities, even if we failed miserably in our endeavors.

The registration, day stage, and vendors were all located in a Hilton on the Avenue of the Americas. The hotel vibe did not enhance the event; alternative or independent media is not well served by the ambiance of corporate chains. I've never been willing to use hotels or conference centers for my events even when doing so would be practical or convenient, and CMJ didn't reverse that rationale in my mind. We walked around picking up free stuff from the various record companies and organizations (including lots of gruesome stickers from PETA) but couldn't handle the space and took off to check out the city.

I always pack with fiendish precision and take more stuff than anyone could possibly need - and always find myself stranded without something necessary to deal with the weather. Ayun had advised me to bring my fuzzy hat (she says that it looks like a knitted toilet seat cover) but I couldn't find it. So of course the wind kept picking up my crispy hair and whipping it straight up and across my head, where it decided to stick to my lips and then drag bright red lipstick lines across my face.

Most important stop of the day - buying a fuzzy black hat and gloves at Filene's Basement, which is actually upstairs in a mall type building and looks nothing like my 1964 era daydreams. Anne claimed that my new hat was cute but it gave me a sort of exiled-to-Siberia look for the rest of the trip.

We stopped in a falafel restaurant and read our CMJ guides to decide which shows to see. The guide is literally a book - 150 glossy pages of schedules and descriptions. Our panel showed up on page 41 and thankfully offered accurate bios for both of us. The number of times my bio has been distorted or just plain wrong is startling.

Over the last couple of years I have developed a basic strategy for attending festivals. I have decided not to care. Browsing through the guide I made note of scores of shows I wanted to see, but knew that the likelihood that I would get to any of them was extremely small. It is better for me not to fixate and be disappointed; I enjoy myself more when I have no expectations.

Hours receded - what did we do? Most of the gaps in time that day and for the rest of the trip took the form of wandering, cold and lost, or riding subways in the wrong direction. We met Anne's brother in Washington Square Park in the middle of an anti-police rally that he didn't know was happening when he picked the spot.

Late that night we went to the CMJ opening party at Webster Hall. Anne introduced me to Douglas and I offered to hook him up with resources in Portland. I chatted with a nice woman from the Village Voice but didn't catch her name over the noise in the room. Someone told us that Belle and Sebastian would be playing a secret set. The news about Elliot Smith had trickled through and some people were stunned. Drinks cost $10 each and there were girls passed out in puddles of vomit in the restroom. We saw an amazing set from VHS or Beta and then went back to Jersey City to sleep.

Jumbled days

I had a dream about going on a long ferry trip and seeing a pod of Orca whales. Then it morphed into bureaucratic drama about the recall of candy, somehow related to vampirism, and I went on a long trolley ride and met Muffy Bolding.

The rest of the trip is a blur; the event too large, spread out across several boroughs, my friends likewise scattered here and there.

I met Richard for the first time at the Soft Skull offices and he was surprisingly enthusiastic; he even hugged me. It is a good thing I took lessons in the subject because the trip would involve many more friendly embraces.

At some point we had dinner with Karl and Allison. Max was sitting on the couch and as we talked it came out that she is roommates with Tennessee from Soft Skull. This is in fact a strange coincidence, given that I know Karl from my impoverished youth and Max, distantly, from Olympia. We caught up on friends in common, intricately connected groups of people who have been on the periphery of my life since the mid-eighties. I never thought I had anything in common with them but now that we are grown up this appears to have been more about fashion than facts.

We met Ayun for drinks and she gave me a copy of the new book. We talked and laughed and made arrangements to meet again. During Anne's editorial meeting I caught up with Justin Hocking for coffee and we talked about the books we are doing for Soft Skull (another coincidence - how strange is it that so many of my friends sold books to the same press, when none of us ever discussed our plans? Very strange is the answer). He mentioned that Jon Reitfors was visiting too, but I had missed him - this made me sad. We always seem to wander through a city just hours apart, never meeting.

Jess met us for dim sum with Lli and Opal, visiting from Pittsburgh. Lli showed me an illustrated road diary that is gorgeous, and I blinked at how tall Opal is -- the only lapbaby from Portland days still keeping pace with the growth of my own son. We waved goodbye to our Pittsburgh friends and walked up to ground zero, but only lasted a few minutes before the enormity of the site sent us fleeing. Jess graciously invited us to her apartment, and we arranged for Maia to meet us there. It was the first time Maia and I met in person -- even though we are doing a book together -- and a lovely time was had by all.

Another visit with Ayun - I elected not to attend a lice picking party but showed up in time to help stuff the new EVI into envelopes. Inky wasn't home but Milo sat on the couch looking at comics. He is so large - astonishing - the same age that Inky was when we first met, and looks just like her.

We had food at fantastic restaurants, guided usually by Anne's brother John. Thai, Senegalese, Australian - Australian? It was even a theme restaurant, but the food was excellent. The best dinner was in Jersey City at a traditional Indian restaurant, Christmas decorations blinking outside the windows. We went to Katz's deli for seltzer and later searched out Italian desserts.

The Utne showed up on newsstands and I opened it to see my picture; a mistake. I spent the better part of a day fighting off a panic attack that was hard to trace in origin but has to do with the notion of identity. I grew up mutilated, ugly. The fact that I have learned to manipulate my public image and trick people into using the word beautiful is a political choice. Something that derives not from vanity but rather from commitment to my own dear freakish community. I'm not attractive by mainstream standards. Nobody would ever dare compliment me in person. But I photograph well and it seems important to cultivate that dichotomy. I want to force people to reconsider the value of the image.

Our panel at CMJ went well. What else to say? I dropped into another session and stood behind Wayne Kramer. This was my only celebrity encounter during the event. He has excellent posture. I waited for Richard to finish his panel and then grabbed him and insisted he should go out to drinks with us. None of us knew of a good place in the area so we ended up at a sports bar, where we discussed marketing and publicity plans for our various books.

The best individual performance we saw was Carolyn Mark. The only full showcase we made it to was the K records session. This seemed rather silly since I go to K shows all the time, but on the other hand, I was feeling awfully homesick. We stood around in the cold forever chatting with a nice fellow from North Carolina. When we finally made it to the door a boy in a pilot's cap shouted Bee! -- it was Kenneth and we chatted for awhile about his new life in the city.

We went to a private CMJ party and convinced Ayun to come along too. The bouncer was overly familiar with me, some might say flirtatious, and in fact stood with his arms crossed, barring my exit from the venue. He was perhaps a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier but you know what? Nobody. Ever. Does. That. To. Me.

I've taken down scarier men in my time. Not quite as large as this one, but definitely more dangerous. But since we were at a fun happy party and he didn't know that he had just violated a huge Bee rule I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I had the element of surprise on my side; one strategy would have been to crack his fingers but instead I reached out with both hands, grasped him under the arms, and moved him out of my way. He was completely shocked and stood there, mouth open, staring after me.

During the subway ride home I lamented the fate of my cancer book. Anne pointed out that if I publish it I will become the patron saint of all pariahs. She didn't seem to think that would be the best career move.

On the way out of town we stopped in Brooklyn to hang out with Justin. He picked us up at the subway because of the torrential rainstorm that seemed to want to wash us out of town. We lounged around his apartment, converted from a warehouse, where he lives with other Glenwood Springs expatriates. It is in fact the only residence I've visited in New York that looks like my juvenile fantasy of a NYC life. On the way out the door I passed Jon Reitfors coming in - and we goggled and smiled and then said goodbye.

During the transfer to get on the correct subway for the airport I somehow managed to get caught in the doors -- completely trapped, unable to push them apart -- and my brain flipped through all the stories James told me about his job printing photographs of people killed or mangled on the Chicago subway system. Anne demonstrated superhero skills by yanking the doors open.

The trip home was uneventful. I watched television shows about competitive gardening and home renovation projects. The most puzzling was the one featuring the singer from Suicidal Tendencies, who allowed a macho crew of people to come in and do what they liked to his house trying to beat an arbitrary time deadline. Later there was another program about a postmodern building project back in my old Portland neighborhood - the weird house on the bluff, and all the various problems building it because no sensible mortgage company would pay for such a thing.

I turned off the television after accidentally encountering a real life medical series showing teenagers with gaping head wounds being treated after an accident.

To summarize: the trip was lots of fun.

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1.13.04 privacy

From the ACLU:

Despite strong opposition from airlines, privacy advocates and Members of Congress, the Bush Administration is pushing ahead with plans to implement a computerized airline passenger profiling program that would -- without making us any safer -- create secret blacklists of innocent people prevented from flying.

This new profiling system would use giant databases of personal information and secret intelligence information to perform a background check on any person who wishes to fly. Innocent people misidentified as terrorists could be barred from flying with no way of clearing their names.

This system will not only create a false sense of security since terrorists will easily circumvent its basic protections, it will also compile private information about you and your family. Airlines have refused to participate in the program, but the Bush Administration is planning to mandate their involvement.

Take Action! Urge your Members of Congress to oppose this dangerous program.

Click here to get more information and to send free faxes to your Members of Congress:

http://www.aclu.org/Privacy/Privacy.cfm?ID=12108&c=39

2) Send us feedback you receive from Members of Congress

Finally, please remember to send us any letters you receive from your Members of Congress in response to ACLU action alerts. These can often help our lobbying efforts by providing important intelligence about the positions being taken by Members of Congress. You can email letters to field@dcaclu.org or snail mail to:

ACLU Field Department
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005

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1.8.04 contributor

From Bret Marion: Individual Contributor is part three of the project The Four Mists of Chaos, a representation of the landscape investigating factors that block the perception of change. Individual Contributor is based on the notion of self and consists of the series Two Departures. The project will exhibut at SOIL in Seattle, January 8 - 25. click for more

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1.7.04 day

I am a changeling so everything is always slightly strange. It is literally true that I was switched at birth, but returned to my own mother. It is also true that I was diagnosed with cancer on my twelfth birthday. Something odd has adhered to every single birthday and today is the thirty-third attempt at, if not normalcy, at least a decent and calm good time. But I do not have any expectations.

Today will be interesting; the power was out for most of the night and morning and the phone lines are covered in icicles. I hope that we can go downtown but if we are stuck here huddled around candles I'll be just as happy.

When I woke up the voice mail contained birthday wishes from Erin Scarum, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny. I'm surprised the Tooth Fairy didn't call. Maybe she had to take shelter in a cheap motel somewhere.

Many thanks to all the friends who have emailed or phoned. I'm not the most demonstrative person in the world but I love y'all.

xoxo

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1.5.04 authors

Yesterday we drove to Olympia to have breakfast with Stella and Al. We were supposed to go to their house for a New Year party but the weather interfered. It was lovely to be able to visit and talk. I'm so lucky to have good friends.

We headed home early because the roads were icy, with entire sections of I-5 between Fort Lewis and Lacey quite slippery and frightening. Or rather, I was scared. Byron learned to drive in Colorado. He listened to his old warped cassette tapes and hummed happily. The rest of us fell asleep.

Snow is such a rare experience in these parts I can remember no more than a dozen storms. I'm excited that there may be more snow tonight.

Last week the children sculpted a snow kitten and named it Skid Bladnur.

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1.1.04 party

I turn thirty-three on the seventh and my eighth wedding anniversay is the next day. When we lived in Portland I always threw myself a party and an astonishing number of people would show up. Often I did not even know most of the guests.

I used to think the parties took the edge off the persistent existential crisis of this week - the anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer, the darkest part of the year - but it never actually worked. I just ended up with more cleaning chores and a deeper confusion about the experience of living in community.

Other people born this week have always told me that I should give up the parties completely. They try to hide the fact of their birth date or quietly resist celebrations. I have decided those friends were right all along. Winter is depressing.

So I'll turn thirty-three and tell you a few funny stories about birthdays in the past. But the existential crisis will have to fulminate without the benefit of guests to distract me.

I've also decided to move my wedding anniversary. It is an arbitrary marker of a legal contract. I think we will push the date back to May and recognize the anniversary of moving to Seattle instead.

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