7.30.03 answers

For the friends who have sent important email - please pardon my lack of reply. I'm trying to organize a new zine and get ready for the symposium, which involves monotonous hours of collating and searching for lost items.

Speaking of which, the button machine is missing. I do not recall loaning it to anyone, but it is nowhere to be found in the house. Perhaps the people who stole the birthday cake made off with it?

It is way too hot to be doing this. I want to go swimming.

Sigh.

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7.29.03 autodidact

I had classic obsessive-compulsive characteristics before I started kindergarten; I remember being driven by habits and persistent thoughts from the earliest possible age. Doing research as an adult I learned that childhood OCD is often caused by strep infections, and this would be a good explanation for my woeful need to smooth my eyebrows, since I had antibiotic resistant strep for nearly a decade. I accepted the theory and sublimated my twitchiness; it takes about as much effort not to appear OCD as it does to count the bricks my feet touch.

Recently I've realized that my son, nearly seven, has many of the same mannerisms I had at that age - he flicks his finger and thumb, taps, organizes objects. He has never been sick with more than a mild cold so the strep explanation doesn't work. This whole thing, if it is OCD at all, must be a genetic trait.

I wouldn't even call it a disorder since for the most part our sensitivity pushes us to stay busy and safe. Chances are he will just be an autodidact mathematician like his father.

Last night I knocked over one of my porcelain Mary figurines and as soon as my finger touched it I knew that it would shatter, that I could not catch it, and I was filled with tremendous sorrow. Byron cleaned up the mess and I retired to the dark bedroom and curled into a ball, anguished by the loss. My son started to cry and narrated at length how painful it was to lose something special, how much he cared.

Clearly he is healthier than I ever was, if he can feel this way but also talk about it. I unfurled my sad self and we went and watched the Avengers.

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7.26.03 zine scene

This is a great article (and not just cause she quotes me!)

The Zine Scene
by Miranda Hale

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7.25.03 perception

The other night we went to the Madonna Cultural Inquiry at the Hugo House. It was great fun, with an interesting mix of essays and performances and contests. Allissa Nielson offered up a video of herself dancing at age twelve. Several writers read essays and Craig Trolli did a bit of singing before showing his comic strips. Rock critic and EMP curator Ann Powers had audience volunteers act out Critic, Academic, Fan, and Hater. At the end of the evening my daughter decided to go on stage and tell a hilarious impromptu story - and won $50.

For the last phase of the birthday celebration we went swimming in the lake and then to Piecoras. I was bedraggled and dirty and dazed from the sun. The girl pouring our water looked at my tattoo and asked is that a reference to the book? which startled me. I smiled and nodded and looked away, but my daughter exclaimed in ringing voice She made the book!

This led to the astonishing announcement that this girl and another had been reading the book as we walked in. The waitress, a phenomenal woman who has handed us pizza dozens and dozens of times, came out and talked to me about the book and the zine and all the work I've done. She was surprised she hadn't recognized me - but my tattoo is almost always covered up. I was really happy to meet someone in the course of regular life who likes the book; especially people who work at a place I've been going since high school. The leftover geeked out adolescent in me is still intimidated by the effortlessly hip people of the world, and I consider just about everyone who works at Piecoras to be way more cool than I could ever hope to be. It was really, as my daughter would say, nifty.

Yesterday I met an old friend from the HM boards at the zoo and we wandered around for three hours, watching our boys as they enjoyed the penguin and jaguar exhibits. It was a very interesting sensation to be at a place I half-remembered from childhood, catching up on half-forgotten facts about people I used to know so well. I was able to offer news about many of the women who were the first generation of the board community, the people I knew when my son was an infant, the people who remember the first iteration of the technology and all the drama of expansion. Those days have taken on a nostalgic fog in my mind - how many of us were there? Perhaps one hundred people. Easy to know each other even across the barrier of technology. Later it was different, chaotic, and the work of running it meant that I never really had a chance to interact with the community. But the early days were different, and I do miss those friends, in the same way I miss the good friends of my youth who grew up and went away.

These three anecdotes are connected, at least in my own mind, because lately I've been thinking about the gap between perception and experience. I've met some people recently who claim to be intimidated by what I've achieved in my work, and this is baffling. Because I'm still in awe of the barista who knows how to pull a perfect shot, or the tattooed girls at the pizza parlor. How does this relate to Madonna? I haven't figured that out completely, but I imagine it has something to do with the fact that the first concert I ever went to was the Virgin Tour. Liking Madonna in the rural hell of my childhood separated me into a category with a bunch of other people I would not have otherwise known. It was the cultural reference that helped me find friends, solidarity, community.

I'm still working on the same projects I dreamed up back in the seventh grade, hiding in the art room during lunch, wanting to die but choosing to throw parties instead.

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7.23.03 birthday

Special wonderful happy birthday wishes to our own dear Gabriel!

In the mail yesterday:

The Mamaphiles compilation zine - it is really great! My daughter read her own birth story for the first time (because it is too complex and macabre to tell at the knee, she has always received a vague I was so happy to meet you version). She found it very interesting and even funny, which is nice. I didn't have a chance to do more than glance at the other stories but I'm very excited to read what my friends have been up to.

Miranda from Burning the Letters zine distro sent an extremely nice letter and a copy of her latest:

The Pleiades
Issue Nine
PO Box 1800
Spokane, WA 99210
http://www.burningtheletters.net

It is really good, and evocative of something important and little understood.

Anna Ruby paused in Mountain Home, Idaho to mail a postcard she wrote in Europe last year. She also sent a letter written on the back of technical guidelines for building mandibular prosthetics, with illustrations. Just like my dental plate collection.

I am so lucky to know so many interesting people.

One of my particular OCD habits is a compulsive need to track dates - I rarely know what day of the week I'm actually living in, but my brain ticks away logging anniversaries of all kinds.

July 23 is significant beyond the birthdays of loved ones. When my daughter turned three she insisted that she wanted to spend the weekend with her grandmother and the person I was seeing was out of town so I was at loose ends. Without any practice in proper adult activities, I wandered off to watch movies with this boy I had evicted from a roommate house a few months before. We weren't even especially friendly, but that night we sort of accidentally became a couple.

I found the whole thing excessively annoying. Not just because I was supposed to be seeing someone else and had already misplaced a husband. No; it was disturbing because I could tell that this was the real thing, the permanent and inclusive and nonrefundable type of relationship that can't be discarded.

I remember feeling that I had more than enough to keep me busy; love was not on the agenda. It would require work and I didn't understand why I was always burdened with tasks and commitments. Why couldn't I just have fun and be young?

But of course, this tale had a happy ending - and true love offers a different kind of reward, something more substantial than parties and casual attraction. I have no regrets, and it is awfully amusing that my love story is so mixed up and backwards.

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7.22.03 oldtime

From Michael (Chorus friend and formerly of The Dickel Brothers):

I'm going to be touring the U.S. this summer on freight trains with an oldtime stringband called Blinkin' Freddy and the Lowbaggers. It consists of various train hoppin' punks from around the country (Matty the canadian, banjo Andrew, Scott Carsick, and Tiger) playing two fiddles, banjo, guitar, and a five gallon bucket bass. We are leaving July 30th headed for Seattle then east to Minneapolis, then to Trampfest in Superior, WI then, who knows? maybe vermont, maybe Asheville, maybe your town? We will be traveling for all of August and September provided we have good train luck, don't get split up, and get along with each other. if you want to put on a free show for us in your town or let us sleep on your couches or want to play tunes, then get in touch. but keep in mind we will only be able to give you a couple days notice before we show up. So let me know where you are and what your current phone number is and maybe we will see each other this summer. you can call the toll free Blinkin' freddy hotline to check in on us and leave messages while we are traveling. see you soon, hopefully

Michael Ismerio

the Blinkin freddy toll free hotline is 1-800-360-9886

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7.22.03 names

Tonight at the grocery store the children were plucking at me and jostling for position and the check-out clerk laughed and laughed at our antics. When we walked away, the daughter whispered did you see his name? Apparently it was Byron; I was too busy being mauled to notice.

I have a strange affinity for this name, given how unusual it is. One of my favorite people in high school was a kid named Byron, who said he wanted to be a composer. When I tracked him down last year I found that he had managed to achieve this rare goal; he was easily located via a google search because he is the composer Byron Au Yong. My lovely sweet friend Gabriel is in fact named Byron but goes by his middle name. And of course, my own true love is named Byron.

It is a good name.

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7.22.03 swan

A few years ago I was at a party at Chloe's house, standing on the porch talking to Miranda July about vitamins and nutritional supplements. Framed in the window in front of us was the back of the couch, and arrayed across the couch was a small blonde boy.

Miranda stopped in mid-sentence and said That is the most beautiful child I have ever seen. Who does it belong to?

I blinked at her. Well, me, I guess was the reply. My small boy was about three years old and his favorite song, long before I met Miranda, was from a Dub Narcotic album. My boy had a sweet high voice and sang along: I wanna tell you something.... it's about my past.... everyone has a past.... and Miranda was the voice following Calvin on that track.

Miranda asked if my son was available to appear in her next movie. In the end both of my kids were in The Swan Tool; I never did get a chance to see it.

Miranda has a new show in a Seattle gallery right now, all of you local friends should check it out.

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7.22.03 skin

Recently I wrote my daughter's birth story for a compilation. Tomorrow is her big day, but thirteen years ago I had already been in the hospital for awhile, waiting.

The main thing I remember is the heat, and the horrific rash. It felt like my skin was attempting to crawl off my skeleton. The induction itself failed; twenty-seven hours on Pitocin is a stupid idea anyway. Late on the evening of the twenty-second I went off the IV and asked for Benadryl, which I am not allowed to take, but the risk seemed minimal compared to the scratching.

I spent the night out of my mind on shots of antihistamine. I wandered around the hospital and found a back passage into the medical school, walking slowly and looking at the jars of specimens, assuming that one of us would not survive.

That is all that I have to say on the subject for now. My daughter was born on the twenty-third, a triple Leo, a bright shining new person who hasn't paused for breath in nearly thirteen years. I am honored to know her and to have earned the privilege of her friendship.

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7.21.03 sterilization

When I checked into the hospital in 1990 I signed a series of release forms, but crossed out the portions of the paperwork that gave the doctors license to make choices about issues beyond the scope of the actual process of giving birth.

I specifically, formally refused to be sterilized.

Someone not familiar with the subject might be surprised to hear that the employees of a large urban hospital would suggest that a nineteen year old girl should never have more children. But that is the daily reality, not only implied but counseled and reiterated for anyone who does not fit the middle class ideal. If you are young, poor, sick, or somehow not up to cinematic standards, you risk being subjected to intense efforts to halt your childbearing abilities.

Several nurses, two doctors, and a social worker were dispatched to woo me on this point. They wanted to make sure that I understood. It was for my own good.

I was hooked up to an intravenous drip delivering Pitocin at an alarming rate. I was extremely ill, and awfully young, but nobody has ever mistaken me for a fool. By the end of the first conversation I was enraged, and by the third I was making explicit threats to discharge myself from the hospital.

My medical charts detail my allergies, illnesses, and eccentricities. The medical staff were fully capable of understanding the directives I gave. They had read my birth plan, which included detailed preferences in all reasonable scenarios including maternal or infant death. They knew that I had received genetic counseling. But the institution itself had an agenda, and that agenda included tubal ligation.

My case may fall into the shadowy category of unusual but during my week in the hospital I witnessed this public health mandate being exercised on several other women - all young, all poor.

Six years later, pregnant and bleeding, I walked out of an HMO and drove myself across three counties, a city, a river, and the Sunset Highway to check into a Catholic hospital. It was a calculated risk - I knew that if I was able to keep the pregnancy I would be in the hospital for the duration. I also knew that the HMO would not be as polite about birth control. I suspected, and still believe, that they would have taken my uterus rather than risk the expense of additional pregnancies.

If I had ever been properly socialized I would have listened to the doctors; I would have consented to their plans. The fact that I did not is entirely idiosyncratic and the legacy of my youthful rage.

I am politically, philosophically, and morally pro-choice to a degree that is frightening to some people - because I define choice literally and pragmatically. It is my right to have children, no matter what anyone else thinks. I conceived two pregnancies and produced two children.

On purpose.

Some history:

Memos show how California civic leaders helped popularize eugenics around the world, including Nazi Germany. Case histories offer a glimpse of the more than 20,000 people who were, by law, sterilized in state hospitals from 1909 through the 1960s in anticipation of curing an array of social ills from poverty and promiscuity to overcrowded institutions.

Click here for more

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7.16.03 documentary

Really nifty Seattle event:

This Thursday. July 17th at 8 p.m., the Black Cat Orchestra will play at Jem Studio Workshop in Georgetown.

The show will open with work by our Portland friends Vanessa Renwick and Bil Daniel, their Lucky Bum Film Tour. The show includes "The Girl on the Train in the Moon", Bill's hobo campfire and video installation on the the secret world of hobo graffiti, and "Go, Baby, Go!", a powderkeg of Vanessa's short experimental and documentary movies. You will see rodeos, a naked bicyclist, inspirational obesessivists, creepy peeping and panting poochies. More info is at www.odoka.org. Their work is gorgeous, and we hope you come see it!

After the films the Black Cat Orchestra will play a lively set for you and the Georgetowners. There will be beer, and or you might dash around the corner to the friendly Nine Pound Hammer for a stiff drink.

The show will start at 8 p.m., with a requested donation of $5 for the artists. Jem Studio is at 6012 12th Avenue South.

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7.15.03 kissing

This has been such a jumbled month. I really want to go to What the Heck Fest, but with one adult out of the house I can't easily just pop over to Anacortes. Stella invited me to perform with her and that makes the whole thing even more compelling. It is calling out to me... but I'm not officially on the performance roster, and I made a pledge at the start of the summer that I would only do the events that list me in their promotional materials. Since I have neither childcare nor transportation, I'll just be wistful.

Though this leads me to wonder - do I even know how to be wistful? I may need lessons.

Gabriel says he might visit this week, perhaps he can instruct me. The last time he visited I realized that I have extremely dull dreams, and tried to train myself to dream of kissing people. But I couldn't think of anyone I would like to kiss other than my one true love.

Gabriel suggested that it is fun to kiss people just for the shock value. I recoiled and said that is simply not in my lexicon - I have slept with more people than I have kissed!

In other news, Hiya and Jonathan wrote back and I'll be staying with them in SF. They promised they will not make me ride in their crazy old beautiful cars, and that they will take me to the Tonga Room.

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7.15.03 reproduction

I find it fascinating that this particular ideological backlash is happening while advances in genetic testing are accelerating so rapidly. I'm pro-choice but anti-eugenics and I'm guessing this public debate is going to be a train wreck.

From the ACLU:

Within the next few weeks, the House is expected to vote on a dangerous piece of legislation that is being heavily promoted by pro-life extremists. The Senate could also take up the measure shortly. This legislation seeks to alter the legal status of a fetus by creating a new and separate offense to punish anyone who injures or causes the death of a fetus during the commission of certain federal crimes.

Although proponents claim that this bill is intended to deter crime and punish violent offenders, it is in reality an attempt to separate a woman from her fetus in the eyes of the law. Such separation is the first step toward eroding a woman's right to determine the fate of her own pregnancy and to direct the course of her own health care.

The bill's supporters have rejected alternatives that would protect women and punish violent offenders, while doing no harm to reproductive choice. This bill is thus a backdoor attempt to undermine the right to choose. It is critical that this bill be stopped.

Click here for more information and to send a free fax to your Members of Congress

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7.14.03 solidarity

Two of my newest livejournal friends are people I share real history with - though I will not give you any juicy gossip, I will say that I met Mot du jour in 1984 when I was in the seventh grade. We were waiting in line at the waterbed store to buy tickets for the Madonna Virgin Tour. He knows all of my secrets; this does tend to keep a person honest.

Sticky_wicket went to high school with Byron and turned up later in the HM community. She lives in Portland now, and is best friends with Danielle and Gabriel. She is part of this interesting swirling community of alternative school grads, and is a true and kind friend.

Knowing people over the course of several years means you see them in all sorts of different situations. I am always honored when a friendship flourishes not only in the happy fun times but also through the difficult bits of life. It is risky to love people and it requires grace to maintain true friendship and solidarity.

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7.13.03 pirates

Last night we stayed at the all-girls party until almost two in the morning. We were going to play a strange Barbie game about girly careers but we couldn't handle the aesthetics of the game pieces, or the rules, so we had to make up a bunch of our own. We drew placards and career chips for President Barbie, Librarian Barbie, Fisher Barbie, and Adult Entertainment Barbie, amongst many others. My son designed all the game pieces, and here is a snippet of dialogue:

Boy: so what else does Reproductive Rights Barbie need?
Anne: ummm. . . a picture of Gloria Steinem!
Boy: uhh, how 'bout a tube of toothpaste?
Anne: ok!

As it turned out we had too many careers for the number of people playing so the pieces were taped together and we each had two sets. My son & I played President Barbie taped to Stupid Barbie and of course, after diligent cheating, we swept the game. Nobody was really paying attention.

This morning I went all zen about the fact that I do not own appropriate clothes for weddings. My compulsive worry over this issue appears to have been transient. I am following etiquette rules of some obscure previous decade, but at least I'm dressed up. I would never wear a tube top to a wedding, for instance. Not that I care if anyone else does....

This evening on the way home we succumbed to temptation and stopped in to see the Pirates of the Caribean movie. Johnny Depp played his Captain swishy. If I had normal human emotions I might even say he was delightful.

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7.12.03 labor

It finally occurred to me that I could just google to find an email address for my friend Hiya, and sure enough - there she is writing for the SF Weekly. This sounds interesting:

LaborFest

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7.12.03 ladies

Last night we went to a girls-only shindig. It was a dinner party at the home of an artist, with many interesting women to meet.

We were lounging in front of the house with Anne as people arrived and she introduced us to several of the guests. One of them nodded pleasantly at my daughter and asked are you writers too? and my girl blinked and nodded.

Later, upon being introduced with just a name, my girl asserted I'm her daughter and pointed at me. The recipient of the comment shuddered and stared at me and after a pause said I can, um, accept that.

We were in the living room reading an old guidebook about kittens and making up captions for the pictures when someone asked Anne Are they sisters? and my girl (who can track a dozen conversations) replied No, she is my mother!

The woman looked truly shocked and said What? I thought you were in your twenties! and my daughter giggled. No, I'm in my twelves.

There is another girls-only party tonight but I used my only babysitting favor so I'm just going to take the boy. Propriety and access to childcare are in direct conflict and I would rather go out than stay home.

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7.12.03 joy

Byron just emailed from Colorado - his father is now home! With a nurse visiting - but home.

This is so amazing, I have no other words to offer on the subject.

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7.12.03 soundtrack

My daughter is a big fan of Ozon films; she saw several while visiting friends, and then insisted that I watch 8 Women with her. It was very interesting - particularly since I remember being her age and the best thing on offer was Sixteen Candles. It is startling to evaluate the cultural differences between my childhood and hers.

The soundtrack to the film is on constant rotation in our household. My favorite song is Papa t'es plus dans l'coup. Or maybe Mon amour mon ami.

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7.12.03 paraphilia

Daphne offered a link to an article about:

apotemnophilia

I have many jumbled reactions to the article and the topic generally. I've known about the fetish aspects for over twenty years because I run around with the radical disability crowd. I have one pragmatic comment: the desire for amputation is becoming more socially acceptable (at least to the people who wish for amputation) in part because the crip rights movement forced major social changes. People with disabilities are guaranteed a place in society. I don't think the issue would have looked the same before access to services and buildings was mandatory.

One of the strongest negative reactions I have to the issue is personal. As a woman with hundreds of surgical scars and a rare genetic disorder, I refuse to be objectified. But I think my scars are beautiful, and I write about some topics that people fetishize. It is always a subtle and complex thing to talk about. The basic idea is that I can choose to display myself, but nobody is allowed to look unless I give permission.

Other than that, if people want to needlessly hinder their movement in the world, it seems like it is their own private business. Nobody can stop a determined person with a skillsaw.

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7.11.03 mail

It is a terrible daily conundrum to be a disorganized compulsive person. I woke up with a horrific sense of doom at five in the morning and spent the first part of the day scrambling around to find all the unpaid bills my dreams insisted I could no longer ignore; I had to send the mortgage payment by overnight mail.

Luckily, going to the post office is always a treat. Today I received two books wrapped in brown paper and tied with an origami kite. The children grabbed the books but I did get to look at them for a few minutes:

Windy and Sunny by Robin Mitchell and Judith Steedman are delightful. They remind me of my favorite book from childhood, Greg Finds an Egg. These books are excessively pretty and highly entertaining, and the second one includes a bonus cd with songs from members of Young & Sexy and the New Pornographers. Though apparently they are using other names so as not to confuse normal parents.

For more information: Windy and Friends

Barry Graham mailed a copy of his book Before. I haven't read it yet but this is what the cover says:

Graham's words are raw and gritty, and his observations unrelenting and brutally honest. This is a bleak present filled with post-punk notions: heroin addiction, welfare living, alcoholism, and general apathy. Graham deftly portrays decaying culture and the ripples of violence flowing through every level of society. - Booklist

Graham's stories are peopled with the desperate and the mad... a young master. - The London Times

Now that sounds like something I'll enjoy!

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7.11.03 spit

It appears that I'm doing a Sister Spit reading at the Wildrose when Michelle Tea is in town next month.

The only Sister Spit shows I've gone to have all been at houses, and I usually lurk in the shadows of the yard or porch whispering with performers between pieces. It will be interesting to see how it translates to a Saturday night bar scene. There won't be anywhere to hide.

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7.10.03 canada

On the way to the ferry we drove past the place where I learned to handle guns. I had forgotten the place entirely, but there it was, the sign and sheds exactly the same as they were fourteen years ago. I never cared for rifles; the retort was too much for my wounded arm. But I loved the handguns, especially the semi-automatics. It only took a little while to get used to the grip and trigger.

I grew up with double vision and even after the surgery my focus is acute - I was never able to shake the legacy of seeing everything twice over. My motor skills are all mixed up but I can aim with deadly accuracy. At age eighteen I could put five bullets in a space the size of a fist.

Recently I've exchanged interesting email with a novelist friend about writing. One of the things that I realized during the conversation is that my work lacks anger as a motivating force. My obsessive ethical standards prevent me from writing anything that might harm someone, even if they have rendered me great damage. I don't seem to have the capacity for rage that drives a lot of memoirists.

I choose not to fight, whether in real terms or in my writing, and this choice is not easy. I have lost friends, and watched projects perish, because I am cold and honest and absolutely opposed to vengeance in any form. People misinterpret my stance as offensive but it is in fact defensive. I choose safety over sanity.

***

Stella and Al claimed they would be on the 8:20 ferry from Port Angeles. We woke up late and shoved all of our gear and a sleeping boy in the Volvo and hit the road without coffee. We left Seattle at 6:07 and knew that if we stopped even for a second we would not make the boarding. It was a madcap effort, and my brain (especially after spending the night doing research for the Seattle's Best guide to bars) was addled from lack of sleep and caffeine and I had a hunch that my polyester galaxy dress might not have been the best choice for travel.

To get there, we had to flee in advance of morning traffic, go south through Tacoma, dash through the muddle of construction at the Narrows bridge, avoid the speed traps across the entire length of the Kitsap peninsula (driving variously north, south, east, and west around the inlets), cross the Hood Canal, and then drive north up the coast of the Olympic peninsula. Check a map - it is an absurd journey.

We were the last car on the ferry. Stella and Al were not there. Ha! We congratulated ourselves and sucked down bad public transit coffee and watched the water and the receding mountains.

Since our companions would not be able to catch a ferry until the middle of the day we had a morning to explore the city. I had decided in advance that I would make no demands of the trip, and take whatever came with full enjoyment. I felt a pang of regret that I would not be able to visit one of my favorite places, Miniature World. But then my son paused in front of the facade and asked if we could go. It appears that I have at least one family member who shares my love of all things miniature and mechanical.

We used up all of our extra time wandering around looking at the dioramas. In front of the Battle of Saratoga my son asked how we won the war and I launched into one of my history lectures. He grew bored before I was finished but a woman standing nearby came over and said I assume you are an American citizen.

Miniature World has not changed much at all. My other favorite places - Enchanted Village, Never Never Land at Fort Nisqually, vintage Disneyland, the B&I Store - have been obliterated by time and commerce. It was an extraordinary experience to see the little trains and dollhouses and depictions of scenes from Dickens. I ran right through the battery on my camera and stumbled back out into the sunshine.

***

Leaving Victoria Byron was deeply upset by the fact that we had no map.

I said this appears to be a peninsula. It is impossible to get lost - just follow the water and you will be fine.

He shook his head and gritted his teeth but I hummed and fiddled with my hair. I have perfect confidence in my navigational skills when it comes to small towns hedged by salt water. Even if I've never visited before, I get the logic of how they were established and can generally even make a fair guess at where the sawmill or cannery once stood.

We stopped twice for restrooms and snacks and the further north we went, the more people stared at me. The diners at a chain burger restaurant in Sooke turned around, mouths open, to gawk. I always forget this part of traveling; in the cities nobody cares, and in my own hometown they know me to be strange for reasons other than fashion.

For the first time ever, I did not pack a book to read on the trip. This was a deliberate and challenging choice. I even dragged magazines and books to Rome and Paris. But I wanted to find out if I could make it through a whole trip without falling into someone elses imaginary world.

Instead of reading I interrogated my one true love about various ideas I've had lately.

For instance, is it so bad to dissociate? Isn't my ability to disconnect my brain from my body the kind of skill that the mystical traditions cultivate? So long as I am exercising my own will, isn't it really a very nice trick?

Also, repressed memory: good, bad, or neutral? Seems to me that some of the memories I have dredged up in the past few years are just depressing, not useful. I know that some people need to figure out their mysteries, but it doesn't seem like a mandatory chore for everyone who has experienced trauma.

Byron blinked and offered qualified agreement before noting that he really needed more coffee.

***

We arrived in Port Renfrew at suppertime but our companions didn't show up until dusk. Normally I would have been worried but my chosen trip attitude was still holding up and I sat on a tree stump and sewed the rip in my jammies while my small son played with some sticks.

Port Renfrew was awfully reminiscent of the place I grew up - second growth forest and massive clear cuts and bumpy gravel roads. Except in my childhood there were no espresso huts on the beaches.

We ate hoppin' jack that Stella brought from Olympia and watched as fog drifted down from the mountains and settled around the lodge. We told Al about our sincere love of the show Fishing with John and suggested that he could do a similar show with all of his interesting friends. Perhaps a cooking show - with the Microphones or Dennis Driscoll helping in the kitchen. My son decided that it would be much better to do Rolling Dice with Al and they acted out a whole episode.

We went to sleep in our bunks and in the middle of the night Byron had a serious asthma attack. I woke up and listened as he struggled for breath; the nearest hospital was at least two hours away. Byron does not enjoy it when I draw attention to his illness so I waited and worried. I have known three people to die of asthma - one in the hospital, one in the emergency room, and the third driving to seek help.

Morning arrived and Byron could breathe more easily, but we knew that we would not be able to stay another night. Stella talked to the host of the lodge and we packed.

***

On the way out of town we stopped at Botanical Beach. We arrived at low tide and could walk far out to peer in the tidepools. We saw urchins and anemones and little black fish and all manner of marine life. Some of the pools were shallow but others were big enough that a human could swim around inside.

The day was gray and foggy and we pushed off to find a warmer spot for lunch. Down the road we stopped at a sandy beach facing the Western Trail. I told my friends the facts I had gleaned: that there were 137 shipwrecks at the mouth of the bay during early settlement and the gold rush. The Western Trail was built in response to a tragedy, when a ship went down and the authorities were unable to respond. The provincial government wacked a huge path through the forest to put in telegraph lines.

There were, in fact, approximately 400 shipwrecks in the Pacific Northwest inland waterways during a relatively short period during territorial expansion.

The fog was lifting off the water in a solid mass and we sat in the sun eating artichoke and grilled pepper sandwiches. The children built structures out of driftwood. Eagles swooped overhead.

My son decided to build a sandcastle and I waded in the water. Byron napped in the sun. I wasn't sure if our friends understood the seriousness of the problem, because my one true love is so convincing when he claims to be fine. I knew that we should probably head straight back to Seattle. But it wasn't my decision to make, so I poked around in the sand and rifled through a guidebook to find a place to sleep.

***

You might wonder how did Bee wade in the water if she never takes off those black tights? and the answer is: I cut the feet off. My swimming costume was exactly the same as my regular costume, except my feet were naked. Plus I had a white parasol with a rhinestone handle.

Later in the day we found a hostel near Sooke with beach access. Byron played darts with the children and Stella and Al made dinner. I stood in the middle of the kitchen and talked about domains (I own way too many) and the server and statistics. I stopped keeping stats because I thought it was unhealthy to care about such things, and it was impossible not to look. The only practical reason to know how many visitors come to the site(s) is to convince someone to pay for advertising - and I don't work for money.

After dinner I borrowed a hoodie and walked down to the beach with Byron. We sat on a log and watched the sunset.

The sound of the water slapping the shore made it impossible to hear anything in the forest.

Hey Byron, do you think there is an axe murderer sneaking up on us? I asked.

No, we would hear the music, he replied.

I thought about that point. Fair enough. I guess maybe our hoodies are like the universal symbol to ward off serial killers.

***

After the children went to sleep we talked for hours about sundry and assorted topics. I told our companions about Miniature World and Stella had a truly thrilling story to share in return. She said that years ago she was hitchhiking with Bret and they were picked up by a man who created the public diorama called Space City, outside of Mount Vernon. He took them to his house, which was wired with flashlight bulbs, and showed them some of his precious objects. Stella said that she and her friends went back many times, and Rich recorded hours of conversation with the man. I am entranced and must hear the tapes.

We slept inside the hostel and our friends camped out back. I could hear the rustle of the trees and the sigh of the water on the beach. The hostel looked just like the last house we had in Olympia, on a ravine above Mud Bay.

I put my hand on Byron's chest; as the barometric pressure drops, the asthma gets worse. He does absolutely everything that can be done - the right medicines, the right foods, yoga, accupuncture. If he were at all careless he would have died years ago. The fact that life can be snatched away without warning is never far from our thoughts. I listened to his raspy sleeping breath and thought about when our son was born, premature, his lungs not yet ready for the world. He was so small; five pounds and twenty two inches, a skeleton with skin. He didn't even cry. It was terrifying, and my body was in shock after major surgery without appropriate anesthetic.

We refused to send the baby to intensive care - he needed to be warm but I believed he needed me more - and the doctors were angry but let us keep him so long as we stayed awake and kept constant vigil. I tucked the baby inside my gown and fell in and out of consciousness. Byron stayed awake all that first night, watching to make sure we were okay.

***

On the way to the beach I could not stand it any longer and picked through the car looking for a book. I found The Liar's Club in the glove compartment, leftover along with some sunflower seeds from the Breeder Tour.

The next destination was French Beach, a beautiful and extremely windy stretch of land with gigantic pieces of driftwood. It was a three hoodie beach for me; I had to tie one around my waist to keep my skirt from flying out of control. My son picked a large stump to be his rookery (perhaps I have not mentioned this before, but my son has been a penguin for about six months now) and we all nestled into little hollows to enjoy the day.

I was fairly certain that we would be leaving within hours; a two-day asthma attack generally means that we pack up and go home. But the trip was a sensational success, if I looked at it in the abstract. We are such a sensitive lot, it was amazing that we even left our homes in the first place. With one person who cannot abide the sound of fireworks, one with asthma and dander allergies, one with food and chemical allergies, and one with skin cancer and photosensitivity, not to mention the opinionated children, the trip should have been doomed. But we were okay; we laughed together, visited amazing beaches, enjoyed good food and conversation.

I've gone on many trips and for the most part the ones that are relaxing are those I undertake on my own. To have fun with a group of six in another country, in the midst of a medical crisis, was truly unexpected.

We said goodbye to our friends and headed toward Victoria. I shucked off the hoodies and pulled my galaxy dress back on just as we pulled into the city.

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7.9.03 linux

This interview is worth reading:

Linus Torvalds on Linux, lawsuits, and convertible automobiles

If you want to know more about the open source movement, the documentary Revolution OS does a good job with the history of the subject.

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7.8.03 cameo

Today we went to see the second Charlie's Angels movie.... and quite liked it. Watch for cameos (like Eric Bogosian).

I'm all for popular entertainment that depicts women kicking serious ass. The rest? Problematic. But fun.

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7.7.03 drinks

I squandered enough money at the chain grocery they gave me a 5% deal off any one shopping adventure... so this evening I drove way out to one that has organics and scoured the store for deals. The children are currently moving 27 bottles of seltzer (on sale for 80% off!) from the Volvo to the garage.

Earlier today KTS emailed his new address and I popped a green zine in an envelope and sent it off. Hours later, I remembered that he is not one of my modern newfangled friends. We met at age seventeen. He should have been in the car when the accident happened. It was his shirt that was cut off my body, and he is the friend who came to the hospital and watched with horror as I talked around a dislocated jaw. We were not bosom friends but we share a huge collateral teenage history, and attended the same college. We have remained in touch all these many years - fifteen years, in fact, this summer.

To state it differently, he knows who I am writing about.

The Speak Out zine was something I never intended to distribute - the first run was only thirty copies. Since then I've reprinted over and over, and there must be thousands floating around... but I have never intentionally handed one to a person who might recognize the characters from their first college seminar.

I guess that this means I have made a deliberate choice to go ahead and publish the work. Or something.

In other news, the night before we went to Canada I went out with a flock of writers because one of our chums landed the job of writing the Seattle's Best guide to local bars. We hit the Capitol Club, Cha-Cha (where we were served by the woman from the Fastbacks and Visqueen, which startled me), Man-Ray, Barca, and the Ju-Ju Lounge before stumbling home. I may have spelled all of those names incorrectly, but the basic premise is that we hopped all over and asked silly questions of the staff and I marveled anew at the habits of the young and single. I kept saying things like So the premise here is that people spend money to drink in public? On a Tuesday? Why, again?

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7.7.03 incidents

All of the public events I've done have been appropriate for children, and it is very interesting to do something that will likely be adults only. I think that I'm going to read part of the Speak Out zine in San Francisco next month. It will be interesting to find out if I have the nerve to do the really grotesque parts. There are incidents that are not even included in the zine - but my plan at this point is to add them for the reading. Since many of my sensitive friends could not even read the censored version, it will be fascinating to see what happens.

If Hiya & Jonathan read this journal, please email me... I've lost your contact information.

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7.6.03 camp

Check out the IPRC web site for lots of exciting workshops, and tell all your Portland friends about this:

SUMMER ZINE CAMP!
Zine Camp for Educators
Wednesdays July 9-30, 2003
1-4pm at the IPRC
$60-100 sliding scale registration (includes materials, copies and 12 month membership to the IPRC)
Limited to 10 people

This 4 week zine intensive includes technical skills, historical background, and tips for using the zine format in your classroom. This workshop format will introduce participants to self-publishing, exploring each aspect of putting together a zine in a little more depth. Instructors are experienced zine publishers, and guest speakers will round out the course to cover all facets of self-publishing. Historical context will be given, as well as discussion on expression, identity and independent media, and technical information concerning the production of a zine. Participants will use materials they have or create during work times as the basis for creating their own zine. We will duplicate and distribute the zines in completion of the course. Optional to attend the Portland Zine Symposium August 1-3, 2003. Pre-registration required. For more information contact outreach@iprc.org

Zine Camp for Students (entering grades 9-12)
Tuesdays July 8-29, 2003
1-4pm at the IPRC
$60-100 sliding scale registration (includes materials, copies and 12 month membership to the IPRC)
Limited to 10 people

This workshop format will introduce participants to self-publishing, exploring each aspect of putting together a zine in a little more depth. Instructors are experienced zine publishers, and guest speakers will round out the course to cover all facets of self-publishing. Historical context will be given, as well as discussion on expression, identity and independent media, and technical information concerning the production of a zine. Participants will use materials they have or create during work times as the basis for creating their own zine. We will duplicate and distribute the zines in completion of the course. Optional to attend the Portland Zine Symposium August 1-3, 2003. Pre-registration required. For more information contact outreach@iprc.org

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7.6.03 quiz

I think that everyone driving around with big flags on their vehicle should be pulled off the road and administered a Patriotic Pop Quiz.

This test would consist of only one question:

Name all the wars waged by the United States of America.

To be fair and offset the abysmal state of civic education, the answers count for points even if the pupil mixes up the chronology. I would also allow for some grading leeway on whether the war was officially declared or not. Bonus points for anyone who can succinctly explain the political crisis preceding the War of 1812.

Here is the story behind that fantastic hit song The Battle of New Orleans:

Lyrics Too!

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7.1.03 sorting

We're going to Canada.

Stella and I are both Capricorns. We have packed, oh yes, we have packed. I went to six different stores to find organic cherries and natural bug spray and looped back again to get the tamari almonds and other assorted snacks.

The teenager has abandoned us in favor of friends, so it will just be Stella and Al and their daughter, us and our son. I found someone to stay in the house, the lawn is being raked and sprayed with water right now, and I don't think there is really much more to do. Except fret.

Hope everyone in the states has a lovely holiday!

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7.1.03 proof

I'm thinking not of changing my true stories into fiction; rather, of abandoning the real stories entirely.

This is how I felt when I decided not to do photography. I didn't find that technical proficiency was rewarding. Making art has to be more than skill - doesn't it?

Or maybe the connection is that a camera (at least my camera) recorded exactly what I saw, with no conversation between self and subject. When writing I have a clear understanding of the facts (what happened) and an imperfect grasp of the importance (why it happened).

I think that the essays I've been writing for the last little while are more like photojournalism than truly creative work should be.

With fiction, a whole new world is created. I might even be surprised by what happens.

To put it another way, writing a memoir and taking photographs creates a record of the past (whether flawed or imperfect or beautiful, still a record). I do both, every day, compulsively -- looking for proof. Notebooks fill up, and there are boxes of pictures stacked in the basement. The online journal I kept last year was over 60,000 words. Like James said, I want to fix things, to make people feel okay again. But the past cannot be manipulated, only described.

Whereas the future is something we create every minute, just like fiction.

I'm probably just feeling moody. Seeing the remnants of my extended family always kicks off an existential crisis. They are sternly opposed to recorded history and have destroyed, for many generations, any scrap of evidence that we exist. There are few photographs other than the ones I snatched off the fires. They do not approve of storytelling.

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