The reading is done. I gave the audience permission to laugh but heard only a few startled gasps in different quadrants of the room. They were listening, and responding, but they were not laughing.
My main concern was feedback off the microphone; I hate hearing my own voice amplified.
Yantra and Sal showed up and I was able to talk to them between sets, though the music in the place was extremely loud. Anna Ruby was there along with the usual crew so I didn't have an opportunity to have an existential crisis; the presence of friends limits my ability to be fretful. Michelle was great and funny, Anne was great and funny, and after the reading we milled around outside talking with Leslie and the woman from Fierce and Christa until people were tired and had to go home.
It was almost two and we caught up with the Spit posse at another bar for one last drink before splitting off to find a cab. Walking around with Jeff and Anna Ruby was a relief after all the noise. I like walking at night.
Back at home I had to wash out all of my clothes to get rid of the smoke; did I mention that I've been in bars perhaps a handful of times in my life? To say that bars are not my scene would be to severely misrepresent the facts. I really do not understand why people enjoy the experience, or why they would pay a cover just to get in.
Byron woke up and told us that Stevie and Erin Scarum might show up today. Astonishing. More Chorus friends! I wish they had been here for the reading. They would have laughed.
I told Byron about the event and he sighed and replied the piece is not funny. It is extremely serious, and extremely scary.
I went to sleep with fragments of Chorus songs tumbling through my brain.
I feel queasy. Byron says this means I am nervous. What an odd sensation. I'm not sure that I like it.
Yesterday evening while I was collating papers Anna Ruby showed up. This is a special bonus gift from the universe, a Chorus friend unexpectedly willing to join our madcap weekend.
We zipped out to Ballard for the Yantra and Sal party. This fantastic woman I met in my first year of college looked at my daughter and said this can't be your baby? and I laughed and we talked for awhile. Later I told the story of meeting someone online who lived in the dorm where Byron squatted and Sal said was her name Jennifer? Shortly thereafter I was telling a story about the Breeder tour and Galaxymama walked by and I yelped with delight. Coincidences rule my life.
The party broke up and we caught up with Anne, Tizzy, and Jeff at the 5 Spot to have dinner with Joon and Christa Donner and Michelle Tea. Our friend Leslie was working and we introduced her around the table and then her coworkers recognized Michelle and there was more introducing and smiling. Over food we talked of various things and Dishwasher Pete came up; Michelle asked me to pass along a greeting - so hello from Michelle to Pete and Amy Joy far away in Amsterdam!
The restaurant was loud and many jolly stories were conveyed at high volume. I had a side conversation with Michelle about the quandary of identity politics. I pointed out that I've never fit in anywhere, although I am capable of offending almost everyone. We all laughed and laughed and then it was time to go home.
I need to go to the reading now.
Nervous. Ack. I was better off without this evolutionary characteristic.
I used to have this great metal stovetop coffee maker, but the handle fell off practically the same day the door fell off my skanky Volvo. We were moving and it was too complicated to figure out a solution so I left them both in Portland.
Since then I've been using a disreputable aluminum coffee maker that does not produce a tasty product. This morning I realized that the rubber ring in the filter is actually coming up with the coffee each morning... that is why the grounds on the bottom of my cup have looked so odd lately.
I need to find a good kitchen store, apparently.
Scott is still talking about going to our hometown for his fifteenth class reunion. I simply do not understand; I didn't go to my tenth, and I won't go to my fifteenth next year. I'll have two new books out around the same time and could go back and fulfill the ultimate misfits fantasy of bragging about my exciting life.
But you know what? We were entirely miserable in high school. It is arguably true that I was one of the healthier people in our little group, and I had major tragedy running through the core of my daily existence. I feel lucky to have made it out alive, and have absolutely no allegiance to the school, the place, or the era. That town is just no fun, and the people who hurt me are probably suffering enough by just living there.
I'm not really as noble, or as cold, as that sounds. I would like to see D. again but it strikes me as more practical to fly to London and look him up in the phone book. I've kept track of most of my actual friends, at least tangentially, and would go to some kind of freaky kid festival if someone else organized it. Something along the lines of all the artists and autodidacts and punks and wavers and mods and thespians and queer kids from the whole county meeting up at some safe place. The thing I will not do is drive sixty miles to go to a bar with sticky floors and spend a couple of hours with a false smile on my face as I talk to people who tried to set my hair on fire. Though I suppose those kids are dead or in jail, so a different and more basic example is in order. Too bad I don't have any that are actually funny.
This morning I realized that my name is in the Seattle Times, the Weekly, and the Stranger, and on posters all over town. I am actually worried that one of the people I misplaced long ago will see it and find me. I won't recognize them. I won't know what to say.
Last night we swooped through and picked up Jeff on the way to dinner. Over pizza and beer we talked about various things and the conversation drifted along until we realized we were all at the same Jello Biafra show almost ten years ago. Both Byron and Jeff recall Mr. Biafra stopping a kid who was filming the event, though I mainly remember how strange it was to be in the gymnasium; it was the first and only time I ever went in that building.
Talk of college always leads me to a standard rant about how laser printing in the computer center required small red tickets that could only be purchased at the bookstore during business hours. Each ticket cost twenty-five cents, but you had to have the tickets; you could not simply pay for the pages. If you were working at night and ran out of tickets, there was absolutely no way to get your print job unless the night staff took pity. During the months I was finishing my masters thesis, the people working at night were not sympathetic to my situation. In fact, they were rather mean.
Since I worked during the day, went to school in the evening, and had a child, the whole ticket thing was hugely problematic and even now functions as a symbol for everything that I hate most in the world.
Jeff is younger than us so by the time he used the center the red ticket era was long over. In fact, it ended immediately after I finished my thesis. Byron worked there the year after I graduated and he said something about the green vests. Jeff blinked and then said I remember you.
I knew he would, eventually. Olympia is an extremely small town.
Our years in that place were devoted exclusively to school and family and consequently we did not have friends in the scene. We were too busy. But I do have many friends from that era who were similarly focused on work, and a host of friends who lived there at the same time even though we met years later.
After dinner I poked at the piece I'm reading on Saturday and checked my email. Our friend Leslie worked at the Smithfield back in the day and she wrote to say that she can't make it to the reading but she saw us on the monitor at the Storm game. So it appears that AEM's appeal to the players did make it on to the big screen.
The deadline for submissions to the Mamaphonic book is a few days from now. My work on the book doesn't really start until after the submissions are received, so I'm not even thinking about the project until next week. But from my own experiences meeting deadlines, I know that some people are stressed out - trying to finish their pieces, or worried about what they submitted, or trying to grasp the potential psychology of the editorial process. Friends report that they have been approached by people who want an inside track on what I like.
It is strange to be on this side of the divide all the time. Years of editing have not hardened me to the feelings of other writers, quite the contrary. I feel sad that the deadline might upset anyone. This is one of those rare times in my life when the necessary course of action leads to some degree of unhappiness for people who do not deserve to suffer.
Of course there are many other things for me to worry about this weekend, but my brain doesn't focus on what it ought. I am about equally divided in fretting about the feelings of the writers and worry about my hair.
After the SF reading Kevin said that based on my journal entries he expected my hair to look far worse than it actually does. Other friends have been boldly dismissive of my concerns. But I still don't like this grown-out look, and I do not have time to get it fixed before the festivities start tomorrow.
Today on Mister Rogers we learned how people make zippers.
Last night I went to see a sporting event on purpose for the second time in three days. This whole girl basketball thing is truly fascinating, a remarkable statement since I have never been inclined to care about sports of any kind. Though I waited until the last two games of the season (our team did not make the playoffs, or whatever they call it) to notice or care.
One of the players from the other team spoke before the game. Apparently she has cancer and is back on the courts after rounds of radiation. This is quite nifty. Go team.
Anne remembered to bring her sign and my daughter held it up for most of the game but our row never showed up on the big screen.
My son wanted to help Anne paint her bathroom so we drove to her house and did that for awhile, and then I told Jeff anecdotes about my stomach surgeries. My son was irritated by my slapdash and silly story. He pointed out that these tales are serious and awful and not funny at all.
Nobody thinks my stories are funny lately. This is hard for me to understand, because my presentation has not changed. I'm saying the same thing in the same way, but now people cringe and their eyes get all watery.
It would be easy to attribute this to some kind of change in my approach, but I think there is something else going on. Last night I stayed up too late reading online journals and thinking about conversations I've had with various friends and you know what? It appears that everyone is struggling. Depression is endemic.
Maybe it is the political climate, or the economy, or a combination of social factors. But it is literally true, and distressing, that the current general mood in our particular level of the culture is one of profound sadness.
The worst aspect of depression is the sense of isolation. I want to offer up this memo to the world at large and to anyone feeling sad right now: you are not alone. Jobs are scarce, money is short, bombs are killing people, the forests are burning. Life sucks. But you are not alone.
On Saturday we went to a basketball game with AEM, Tizzy, Jeff, and a bunch of other people. It was the first sporting event I've ever attended on purpose, and I quite enjoyed the whole thing.
Anne forgot to bring her sign, but she told me it says Another writer for the Seattle Storm! Sue and Lauren, will you write the afterword for my book? with her cell phone number prominently displayed.
The next morning we had breakfast with Andy the Decadent Australian and his awesome girlfriend Ren and some of their friends. It was great to catch up, and interesting to see new people do a double take when they hear which group Byron works in. Apparently the term Base OS has a certain cache in their world.
Later in the day KTS wrote to say that he is visiting next week and wants to have dinner. He also asked if he visited me in the hospital after the accident; he doesn't remember, which is merciful. The answer is yes, he is the T. in the Trail of the Shadows zine. My jaw was dislocated and I was all cut up and the first time I looked in the mirror the nurse came running because the monitor showed a possible heart attack. He was the person who showed up the first day. The others probably think they visited but it was KTS who came and sat there for hours listening as I talked like a maniac, insisting that I was not injured and wanted to go home.
Our friendship has always been quirky and prickly, because it takes a serious amount of reinvention to leave the places we came from. It is often easier to abandon the friends of youth. But he has been my friend for fifteen years because he showed up that day at the hospital. This is probably one of those large and murky mysteries about life. Just showing up is the the real trick.
We had dinner with AEM and Tizzy and walked around Greenlake at dusk to find ice cream. Talking with Tizzy, I realized that she is 28 and asked after her Saturn Return. She had never heard of such a thing and I explained it as best I could.
Four years ago I had no time for astrological predictions or fate. But then something changed and I found myself untethered, floating free above my own knotty ethics, writing stories that made audiences cry. Before that tour I never knew that my stories were sad. I thought they were amusing.
After the Saturn Return ended a few people looked at my chart and told me that my Return was about death. Not my own literal death, but my escape, and the consequences of that choice. Death as narrative theme, the death of childhood, of innocence.
Earlier today I read news of a suicide, the deliberate death of a brilliant young man who could have literally chosen any life he wished. This was his decision: he purchased a rope and hanged himself in a park and now he is gone.
I never knew him, but he was the colleague of a friend. He was a treasured son. He was brilliant and sad. I cried for this unknown person and then I went to the lake and walked with my friends and children, talking and laughing and moving forward in the dark.
Guess how much the bill for critical care was, not including surgery, rehabilitation, or additional services.
Half a million dollars.
I am thankful that my father-in-law has excellent health insurance, and reminded yet again that the health care system in this country needs to be reformed.
We trundled all over doing errands today and on the way home I stopped for a red light at an intersection in the CD. Two young girls dashed against a yellow light to get across the street before the cars. They were laughing and one girl was pushing a stroller containing a jolly toddler.
There was no reason to worry; my twitchy sense of spatial relationships and the inherent danger of cars did not kick in. I watched idly, thinking that they looked happy and vigorous.
From the corner of my eye I saw a police car up the hill on my right whip out of line and into the opposing traffic lane, watched as it swerved wildly down and pulled sharply into the right turn lane next to me and then up on to the curb.
My first worry was for the girls - that they might be walking into the middle of a crime scene. My second thought was a quick mental calculation of whether there might be a robbery in progress in the convenience store at the corner.
The cops jumped out of their car with clubs drawn and proceeded to intimidate the girl with the baby.
I was absolutely horrified to find myself copwatching as a teenage mother stood on a corner being vilified by a public servant.
I stayed long enough to know that they would do no more than lecture and shame the girl (incidentally scaring her child) but finally had to drive away with the force of commuter traffic.
Let me be clear. I really do hold safety in high esteem and coldly tell my friends that they deserve what they get if they refuse to wear bike helmets. No passenger is allowed in my car unless they use the seatbelts. But this girl had done absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, and far less than what I have witnessed middle class parents do all the time. This girl was targeted because she was young and poor and walking in the ghetto.
I feel sick to my stomach.
Last week I received a letter from the phone company informing me that they did not have my current address and needed it to send the Portland phone bill.
Of course, I moved to Seattle thirteen months ago, and do not have phone service in Portland.
Also - they could write to me at home to inform me of their problem because the company is my current provider; I have never lived outside the service area of this organization so my account with them goes back to 1989.
So yesterday before I packed for the trip I had to use the dreaded device to straighten out the problem. I called and a fellow asked me clarifying questions, security questions, etc. then said:
You are Bee?
Are you sure?
Pretty much, yes.
Well.... (long pause) our records show that you are deceased.
So the phone company, believing me to be dead, wrote to me at my current home address to ask me to pay a bill that should have been canceled last year.
I wrote all of my notes on scraps of paper advertising food specials and events, then promptly lost them.
Trip Diary: San Francisco
The flight was not particularly interesting except that Southwest elected to serve packets of cookies for breakfast. My girl took a sip of the orange juice and declared that it tasted watery with turkey undertones.
Flying to Oakland and catching the shuttle was easy compared to Rome or even Paris, though it would be handy if the BART actually connected with the airport. Or if the shuttle took passes the way the trains do, deducting funds instead of requiring a separate two dollar ticket.
We made it to the Mission around noon and Jonathan carried my suitcase up to the apartment. We had lunch at a place that makes slices to order and my child declared it the best pizza in the world and then we walked out to a locksmith to make a set of keys. Our host gave us directions to get to our evening engagement and then left for work.
We were exhausted and took baths, then lolled around the apartment all afternoon. If people keep their high school yearbooks on shelves in the living room I assume they do not mind having said yearbooks reviewed and commented upon. My daughter found the whole late eighties aesthetic of Hiya's annual hilarious, and it was actually interchangeable with my own. Except that Hiya belonged to the Peace Club where I ran the International Club. She was also heavily involved in theatre, where I merely hung out with thespians. Most significantly, she won Nicest Hair.
Jonathan is a few years older and lived in Delaware and went to an academy of some sort, and his yearbook consequently describes a life vastly different than the small town west coast upbringing I'm most familiar with. Each of the few dozen people in his graduating class had an entire page to design. They appeared frequently posed next to trees, or their cars, or their horses, with quotes from bands like Kansas. Or Dan Fogelberg. It was easy enough to spot who Jonathan hung out with because they all quoted the Violent Femmes.
I am notoriously capable of being lost in the town where I grew up, and in my own neighborhood, but traveling changes all that. I have no problem figuring out public transit or directions. We arrived for dinner with Michelle Tea and Rocco too early, in fact an hour early, and whiled away the difference by climbing up the nearest hill and looking at the views of the city and the water. I told my lovely child that SF looks like Seattle might, if not for the regrades, but she wasn't very interested.
We knocked on the door promptly at seven. Michelle was in the kitchen and she proclaimed that she was just learning how to cook, and we watched and laughed as smoke billowed from the roasted vegetables. Rocco kept climbing up on the couch and waving pillows at the smoke alarms when they went off. It made me very happy to see someone else exercising the level of skill I have in the kitchen; people who know how to cook like they were born to do nothing else intimidate me.
Michelle asked my daughter if she wanted bread and cheese, or toast, or something, and then went about diligently assembling one of the most awesome cheese sandwiches my girl has ever had the honor of eating. This was incredibly endearing and sweet; most of our grown-up friends make some token attempt to feed my kids but they never really go the whole distance.
We admired the coconut monkey collection and then sat at the table eating yummy vegetables and tasty soup. We talked about music, writing, events, life. It is always fun to spend time with Michelle, because she is a truly nice person, but also because I don't have very many friends who grew up working class and ended up doing creative work. There are not very many people, at least not in my social scene, who really know what it means to make this choice. Even fewer of those people can talk about the politics of memoir.
I had dinner with Rocco once years ago but this time we had a chance to really talk, and what can I say? They are both simply delightful. More fun and real and passionate and interesting and savvy than you might believe.
We said goodbye and walked back to the apartment. Hiya and Jonathan were playing music with Linda when we arrived, talking about different songs they didn't know how to perform. Someone mentioned a few titles; they were all songs we knew from Chorus and we offered to demonstrate. Our hosts had a songbook and we sang The Pill and Union Maid and Big Iron Skillet and a few others before the group broke up for the night. It was strange to sing again; I haven't since the last big cancer scare, when I decided to move away from Portland.
Just as Linda was leaving we heard gunshots and she called a little while later to say that the sidewalk in front of Osento was roped off.
Jonathan inflated a mattress for us and we fell asleep listening to the bustle of the neighborhood.
Both Hiya and Jonathan had to work so we wandered around the neighborhood. We stopped in at 826 Valencia to check out the pirate wares. While we browsed the girl at the register issued an urgent call for change and I sold her my quarters. She looked at my coin purse with the 3D ship and asked where I found it. Reading Frenzy, in Portland I replied and she tilted her head and said Oh, are you here with Chloe?
Apparently Chloe had been in the shop just minutes before. We poked our heads out and looked up and down the street, but no luck. Funny that we ended up in SF just days after seeing each other, without knowing the other would be there.
We stopped at a thrift store and bought a strange little porcelain kitten but on the way out the door spotted a coconut monkey. My lovely girl insisted that we had to purchase the monkey as a gift for Rocco.
Back at the apartment I had to buckle down and make the final edits on my piece. My daughter listened and timed it but stopped me several times, shocked at the content. The kids are fairly well protected from my grim true life tales, but the girl is older now than I was when these things happened. I asked her to listen and advise me since she is such a talented performer, and she helped me cut the piece down to the required ten minutes. This meant that although she did cry at certain points - the rock throwing scene in particular - she did not hear the worst parts of the story. She did not ask to read the whole piece.
Jonathan showed up in time to travel with us to the reading. In the end I didn't wear anything fancy. I was too worried. I am not accustomed to depressing an audience, and I am also not used to reading for adults. Hip Mama events are always populated by babies and toddlers, and I like to make people laugh. The piece I planned to do was only funny from certain angles, and the audience would surely be grown-up. I never get nervous before events, and it was surprising to feel all jittery.
I was supposed to read first but Hiya wasn't there yet so Jeremy Lin took my spot. He read a piece about memory and longing, though I might be wrong as the room had taken on a general white buzzing appearance by that point.
I read my piece. I have no idea how it went, except that I forgot to tell the audience they had permission to laugh at the funny parts.
Tara Jepsen did a hilarious piece about working that turned starkly tragic with the death of her brother. Kevin Killian read about friends who died. All four of the pieces seemed to touch on the theme of death, whether literal or figurative. It was extremely interesting to be part of the sequence.
During the Q&A I heard a voice that seemed familiar and saw a girl at the back of the room who simply had to be Amber. But no; she would have said hello. My brain flickered and then pulled up the information that Amber has a twin. How funny that I would meet her at a public event in another state. The questions posed by the audience were markedly different than what I am used to, and I just talked off the top of my head. I'm sure that I made a fool of myself in many ways, and certainly contradicted my own well-considered opinions at several points.
It is important to know that I am a caustic critic of my own work, particularly public events, and that I fall apart after each of them. I truly believe that my performance was terrible. The friends in attendance disagree, but they are my friends and that is their job. My daughter also claims that it was great, and she is not at an age where she would lie about such things, but this does not soothe my nerves.
I had offered free zines and a whole mob of people swarmed up to take away 100 copies of issues #6 and #7. It makes me happy to give away zines.
After the event we went to a vegan restaurant with our hosts and Michelle and Tara and Jessica the astrologer who is a triple Capricorn. She sat across from my triple Leo daughter and we had an entertaining conversation ranging from the fact that I am a changeling to the practicalities of syndicating work.
I had calmed down by the end of dinner and after we settled everyone at the apartment Hiya took me out to talk about the ambiguities of life, the hardships of moving to a new town even when the move is desired, and what it means to have a calling. We talked until closing and walked through quiet dirty streets back to her home.
That night, the inflatable mattress developed a leak, and as I slept the mattress gradually deflated. Each night we went to sleep on a cushion and woke on the floor.
Jonathan graciously offered to guide us in our adventures and we set off to find things we might not be able to see elsewhere. The first stop was the Cartoon Art Museum, where we viewed selections from weekly syndication strips and portions of American Splendor. There was an exhibit about cats in comics, and some other things, but my daughter whizzed through and decided it was boring before I had a chance to look at more than half of the work on display.
Next stop Chinatown, where we picked up lucky cats and assorted trinkets and I dazzled myself by remembering exactly where the fortune cookie factory is located.
We were going to ride the cable car up to our next destination, but after walking all the way through Chinatown we realized we were only a block from the hotel.
The Tonga Room is one of the absolute best things about San Francisco, and I was delighted to realize that it is a restaurant. This means kids can go too! For those who have never been, going to the Tonga Room is essentially like eating dinner inside the Disneyland Jungle Cruise, minus the tour guides, plus expensive brightly colored drinks.
Linda brought Barbara and a bunch of friends, Hiya showed up after the first round, and then Marilyn from Fat? So! arrived with an intern and other friends and a jolly time was had by all. I sat between my daughter and Marilyn and we talked about agents and independent press controversies before rambling off into general topics. My daughter really loves dairy products and Marilyn told us about her cheese friend who has an online journal and I expressed delight; it must be Gordonzola, right? What a small world we live in.
We decided to go to the Bernal Heights neighborhood garage sale. Jonathan bought a gadget that theoretically keeps track of how far he walks, by counting each step or something. The sale was a bust other than that and we headed back down the hill to meet Hiya and eat Indian pizza. The theory appears to be Indian food, on a pizza. It was strange but yummy.
My recollection is that the rest of the day was lazy and calm. My daughter showed our hosts the wonders of Strong Bad and later we ate tapas and talked. It is nice to know people who use vocabulary like anodyne and sinecure in normal conversation. I like invidious words, when used correctly. We watched But I'm a Cheerleader before falling asleep on our deflating bed.
No trip to the city is complete without a visit to the Musee Mechanique. It has moved from Cliff House to Fisherman's Wharf, which is good for the museum (more tourists) and bad for me (big crowds). But we decided to go all out and take the cable car from the first stop to the end of the line. Jonathan and my girl stood holding poles and I sat next to Hiya and the crowd around us was funny and interesting and included a professional rodeo champion.
Our hosts left us at the wharf because they had other engagements and we whiled away our time in the Wax Museum. It would be easy to be cynical about all kinds of things, but you know what? I like tourist traps and waxen statues and gadgets and bad food. At least the wharf is tacky and dirty and mixed up. It hasn't been taken over by Starbucks and the Gap. My only regret is that I never remember to reserve tickets for Alcatraz.
Back at the apartment we made dinner and talked about jobs and I went into one of my speeches about how I'm not special. Jonathan held up a finger and said Except that you are a really amazingly good writer and this made me pause for a second because he is an academic and has a PhD in the subject but then I just shrugged. There are lots of good writers in the world. If there is anything unique about my work it is the fact that I am not afraid to tell the truth.
Everyone decided that I had to see The Matrix and then they all fell asleep in the middle of the movie.
Our hosts had to go to work so we said goodbye and thanked them for letting us monopolize their time and living room. There was time for one last hurrah and the girl decided we should go to the Paul Frank Store. She picked out a blue corduroy skirt and Julius tights and I bought a shirt for Byron that says Don't Be Down On Clowns.
Exhausted and completely happy, we headed back home.
Oh, and have I mentioned that my natural roots are now grown out to below my ears? I have extremely glossy hair and it is really not acceptable.
I had hoped that someone would fix it in Portland, and Lli was willing, but the timing didn't work - when I had the bleach she wasn't around, when she was around I didn't have the bleach.
The other day I went to a salon for an estimate and they said it would cost at least $90.00 for a basic bleach job. They also said it would take two hours and that they would tone it down, whatever that means.
Bleach kits cost maybe ten bucks, Stevie could do the job in thirty minutes, and I don't want to be toned down.
On the way to the family picnic my son said Seconds remind me of wheat, minutes remind me of buckets, months remind me of hills, and years make me think about cars.
The picnic was at Island Lake in Poulsbo, down the road from the old farm, and the day was overcast. I am always surprised to see that my family is very nearly extinct; hardly anyone left, compared to childhood gatherings. I was the only cousin from my generation to show up, including the new married couple for whom the event was organized; they couldn't make it after all.
One of the great-aunts asked Where is your daughter? and I replied She turned thirteen! and everyone laughed and agreed they wouldn't see her for a few more years.
Somewhere in the middle of eating fried chicken and fixin's my mother whipped a copy of the Time article out of her purse and told the aunts they had to read it. I protested but they ignored me and I ducked my head, face practically in the potato salad as they read my interview comments.
People talked and laughed and I took my son over to the lake. We could see the sun reflecting in the water, the clouds obscuring the intensity so it looked like a full moon. We gathered pine cones and threw them out to test different theories about the ripples on the water.
When I walked back to the table one of my cousins said I've never met anyone who was interviewed for Time and I didn't know what to say.
After the picnic wound down we drove around looking at the town. I read recently that there is a Finnish cemetery in Scandia but I don't really believe it; my mother grew up there and she has no recollection of such a thing. Perhaps Briedablik or another district, but not the actual portion of the town she knew so well as a child.
We did find a cemetery near Island Lake but the names were mostly German and Norwegian. One grave claimed to be that of the first Norwegian settler. The sun came out and we decided to retire to the shade of a thrift store.
Before heading home we had a snack at Tony's, my favorite restaurant in the whole world, where I used to go for birthday pizza dinners. We sat in the addition with a view of the bay - Oyster Bay? and watched the sun cast pink and gold light across the boats below.
Leaving at sunset, we tried to catch the Bremerton ferry but it wasn't running for another two hours. We decided to get the 8:50 from Bainbridge Island, technically an impossible goal since there wasn't enough time to drive that far, but more entertaining than staring at the shipyard for two hours. We rushed across the peninsula and past the new casino and then got stuck in a caravan of other Volvo drivers desperately intent on making a ferry leaving imminently.
The sky was dark and the moon revealed: a huge nearly full moon that seemed to bob just above the road. The radio offered up a string of excellent 70's ballad rock and we sang along and pressed forward, laughing as the drivers in front of us kept tentatively swerving and then deciding not to pass each other.
Rushing to catch a ferry is a thrilling experience, one of the rare times in life when everything is either absolutely perfect or absolutely terrible and there isn't much to be done except stay on the road and hope for the best.
First we ran into (almost literally as the boy was pushing the cart) Queermama in the produce section of the grocery store. How cool is that? I haven't seen her since the Breeder tour....
Then we had dinner with Yantra and Sal and the kids; it was so nice to catch up with them!
After, we stayed up talking with Eli until two in the morning.
What a great day this has been.
I just finished collating 150 zines, all of which had envelopes waiting.
This means I have to do another print run.
On top of the 350 I made for the symposium, know what this means?
Papercuts! Papercuts galore!
Plus my tongue feels weird cause I've never been able to master the art of the sponge apparatus.
Amongst many other things.
Anyway! Everyone expecting a zine should get it within the week....
Just as I finished stapling Eli came home from her dance conference. We sat in the kitchen and talked for hours about education, careers, family, ethics, and aesthetics.
She was the second person to ask me this week if I still like my tattoo. The short answer is yes; the long answer is that the dominant red of the heart rather bothers me because I feel compelled to coordinate all of my clothing with the scheme suggested. Not because I think I should, but because I must.
Visiting with Eli is so lovely -- I really do enjoy her company and conversation.
Memory is a funny thing; it took several days of listening to her talk about dance to remember that when Byron presented his PhD dissertation at a zine party she did modern dance to accompany his speech.
Trip Diary: Portland Zine Symposium
When we moved to Seattle Byron's new employer gave us a passel of benefits including two free trips home. We could not quite grasp the concept of actually using the trips because Portland is so close and we go down so often, but the benefit was about to expire so we decided to use it to fund our Zine Symposium adventures. Consequently, we may have been the only people in attendance with a daily food stipend and a swanky downtown hotel room. Or at least the only ones not paying out of pocket for lodging just off the park blocks.
I finished the layout of In Time of Emergency in the car on the way down I-5 and after we dropped our stuff at the hotel we drove over to see Gabriel and Baby Sophie at our old house. We sat on the porch and passed the baby back and forth. Danielle was helping Angie move in and the girls were all off visiting grandparents and fathers; even my son's best friend from across the street was gone, in NY on vacation, and he was extremely sad not to have a playmate. Gabriel called Lli and invited her to visit with her daughter, and I took off to make copies of the zine.
When I got back to the house the evening was well established, the two kids playing intensely in the living room I painted to match the playroom in Escape to Witch Mountain. Byron said I missed seeing the elusive Justin Hocking, who said he might visit us in Seattle. Lli was in the kitchen showing Gabriel sketches and journals and I set up the zine to collate and staple. It took a full thirty minutes to realize how strange this was; Lli moved to Pittsburgh when we moved to Seattle, but all of these people are so central to my thoughts I never miss them. In my mind they are at my house, eating food and talking about art, not scattered across the country.
Back at the hotel the girls stayed up for hours making hundreds of buttons.
When we walked into the ballroom to set up our table the first person I saw was Nicole, who does the Invincible Summer zine. She threw open her arms and embraced me.
The day had secret significance; it was the fifteenth anniversary of the car accident. Who is the patron saint of accidents, the thaumaturge of skull fractures? What is the novena for neverending sorrow? I don't know, but I hugged Nicole, comrade of traumatic injury, and turned to see so many other friends, hugging each one in turn.
I had just greeted Five from Fagazine when Miranda from Burning the Letters distro walked up to say hello. I was so happy to see her I didn't stop to think, I just opened my arms and hugged her, as though I knew her better, as though I had permission. This is truly out of character for me; all the affection on top of the anniversary must have addled my brain and I immediately felt guilty for being so presumptuous. Though Miranda is as lovely and nice as I expected.
I met Rhonda from Zuzu and the Babycatcher zine, and Kate from Miranda zine, and talked to Chloe for a few minutes. The girls set up our table, with Christoph from 28 Pages Lovingly Bound with Twine on one side and Thoughtworm on the other. How did we get so lucky to sit between some of the nicest people in the whole world? We made sure the girls had money and snacks and then we left them to their own devices and went to eat at the Paradox.
Later that night we picked up some curry and went to visit Michelle B. and family and sat in her huge yard talking. She told me that people ask her what I am really like and I was astonished. People talk about me when I am not present? How strange. Tizzy and Anne and Jeff showed up with their friend Adam and we all told stories and laughed and laughed into the night.
We were running late but met up with Kara and the others and walked over to the lecture hall to do a panel on parenting and zines.
Kate, Rhonda, Christoph & I were the panelists and Kara the facilitator. It was fun to talk with the other panelists and the audience. If I'm not mistaken, this included Kate's parents.
After the workshop I went back to staff the table while the girls attended the Selling Out workshop put on by Anne and Tizzy. I watched a steady stream of people hover a few feet away from not only my table but all the tables. The mood of the room was anxious; zine makers are not an especially socially joyous group, when gathered in large number. The people who did stop to talk and take a button were great, and I insisted that people take zines even if they didn't have anything to trade.
Byron was overseer of a grand boy adventure and Michelle B. came to check out the conference. She looked about as overwhelmed as I felt, but while I was trying to walk around with her the girls came back and needed assistance.
Inga showed up and gave me a big hug and said she moved to Portland; Ariel came to give me HM merchandise. It was great to see them both but the ambiance of the place compelled us all to step outside to chat, and then I lost track of them when I went off to buy pizza for my posse.
I talked to scores of people, friend and stranger alike, but socializing wears me out so quickly that I found myself retreating to the ladies lounge to chat with Anne and Tizzy, or sitting on the floor next to their table conversing with Jeff. It was startling to realize that I was seeking out the people I know from Seattle - the ZAPP kids, my writer friends, Five since I've hung out with him mostly in Seattle - over people I haven't seen since we moved.
Andrea stopped by the table; amazing. I've known her since she was eight and she is completely grown up now. I miss her family, and I miss all of the friends we had in common. Moving away is so difficult, and if you actually love the new home more than the old, visiting is sometimes impossible. The symposium struck me the same way I imagine people feel when they go back to a high school or college they loved. Bittersweet nostalgia ruled.
Toward the end of the day I realized that I had not managed to see Liz Defiance, many of the other zinesters I expected to see, or any of my chorus friends. I had managed to introduce Anne and Pablo, Miranda and Ariel, but the wash of people and sound and light and printed matter was overpowering. During a low moment, as I stood at the table staring at the ceiling and humming, Moe walked by and said It's okay, Bee, it will all be over soon.
We dropped the girls off to watch Bend it Like Beckham and went out with Tizzy, Anne, and Jeff. Apparently we were drinking with all sorts of super famous comics people but the only thing I know for sure is that we scared Jesse Reklaw with a story about silverware and the Queen of Sweden.
Feather set about trading with an industry that was amazing to watch. I'm not sure of how many zines were sold on the first two days, but by the end of the weekend she had a huge box of trades and we were absolutely sold out of those we had brought. This means that 350 of my Final Tribute back issues, 30 of my current, and 50 each of the Panda zine and Lego zine were distributed. Not to mention those we were in charge of for other people. Perhaps 300 buttons moved into the world. Mina bought some sock monkeys, shirts, patches, and buttons. Both girls had been amazing throughout the event and I gave them some money to do with as they wished.
They wished to go to the Goodwill bins, a semi-magical place on the other side of town, and that meant we had to leave right away to have enough time. As I packed the table I paused here and there to talk to Chloe, then Kevin Sampsell, then some interesting new people. I felt a wash of regret that I had not managed to see Stevie or some of my other dearest friends. Since I do not know their mailing addresses and they do not use email, our communication is nearly nonexistent - I had assumed they would know I was there, that other friends would tell them. I do not want to impose more than necessary; so much has happened. I didn't know the kids who died this year, and I can't guess at the complexity of daily life in the community now that I live elsewhere.
I didn't want to go, but it was time.
Anne and Tizzy had not returned but I figured we had just miscalculated. I felt strange leaving and at the last second ran back upstairs to the ladies lounge - and they walked in right after me, trying to find us.
The bins were as always a thrill. I found dozens of vintage outfits for Baby Sophie and dozens of pristine hardcover Hardy Boys for my son. Anne found snazzy clothes for herself; same for the girls. But Tizzy made the best bins score ever - a toy piano.
We ate dinner on NW 23rd on the way out of town, after we said goodbye to all of our friends. Through the window of the restaurant we saw Stevie and Erin Scarum flying by on their bicycles, too far away to hail, providing a perfect symbol for the end of the journey.
I'll provide a detailed account of my adventures at the zine symposium next - right now I have to mail the zine I made during the madcap trip down I-5 and then failed to make enough copies of before the event started.
After Portland we raced home and cleaned frantically to prepare for a week of socializing. Eli arrived on Monday; she is in town for an experimental dance conference. We met through the Chorus and we were excited to have her as a guest for the week. She had a friend along for the first evening and they are both vegan so we had to think about what to make and came up with yellow curry (with red peppers, green beans, potato, fresh basil, and fried tofu).
Curry is so easy - why didn't I know?
The second night we were stumped and Jennifer was about to arrive; she is in town for a management conference. We have been friends since Governors' School in 1988; exactly fifteen years. We also grew up in the same general geographic place but I went to local schools and she took the ferry to Seattle for Catholic girls school so she never really socialized with the locals. We went to the same college at different times, know many of the same people, have had similar work and educational adventures, but always staggered.
Jennifer bought us lots of fancy dinners when we were impoverished students and she had a real job, and we wanted to reciprocate, but froze on what to do. Take her out? Make food? But we don't know how to cook. Tizzy offered tips via email on good restaurants, but the kids were all squirrely so we decided we had to stay home.
I was going to have Byron call Stella and ask for cooking advice but apparently we lost our private phone book during the trip. We plunged into the cookbooks with no luck; they use words like sear and suggest precise measurements and such things. Finally I looked at Stella's site and printed a copy of the salmon postcard.
Eli helped me make a list of the ingredients I needed and I ventured forth with trepidation. I had to find things I know nothing about, like shallots.
Most of my shopping adventure was consumed by an attempt to purchase good wine. My personal preference runs to cheap and red. This is not a good heuristic when the guest actually has a palate.
Why is there always someone insisting they must advise me in the produce section, but never in the wine? I'm capable of picking out greens and onions. But wine? The best I can ever do is evaluate the relative savings when the bottle is on sale.
In the end we made veggie sushi with avocado, carrots, and tofu; spicy glazed salmon; spicy glazed tofu; fresh corn; and brown rice. Our friends found our fumbling attempts at cooking quite hilarious and said that we are better than most comedy shows. Just because we don't know the difference between table and tea spoons! But Eli helped us roll the sushi and "mince" the fresh ginger, and Jennifer supervised the fish so we didn't poison anyone.
It was a very tasty dinner and we talked and laughed and read the conference proceeding titles.
Anne dropped in to pick up the copy of her manuscript my daughter commented on, then Tizzy dropped in to meet up with Anne, and I told crazy stories and accidentally made a pun.
The children were amusing, the friends were amazing, and everyone was well fed.
After Jennifer took off to go on a 93 mile hike around Mt. Rainier, the others left, and Eli went to bed, I sat down at the computer and bought my tickets for California. I waited too long, expecting a fare sale or some kind of deal, but my cosmic luck with cheap tickets seems to have evaporated insofar as San Francisco is concerned. Or rather, there are no decent ways to save money on that city these days unless you book a hotel and airline at once, and I'm going to be staying with friends.
Oh well. The tickets only cost $20 more than a month ago, and that isn't a huge problem except that I'm a cheapskate.
Now back to the mail!
I'm sure that this surname is not truly my own; someone assumed it long ago to cover up a dastardly deed. But it is my legal last name from birth and this is what it means:
Lavender: A laundress; Lavandiere, French, one who washes, from the Latin, lavo, to wash.