When I left Portland I declared that I was tired of having a house that functioned as a community center. Now I think that I was just burned out from all the relentlessly negative political discussions of wartime. We have been in this house for a whole year now and I am quietly happy to have friends around again.
Last night I cooked spicy salmon and greens and Tizzy made sushi and inari. Jeff and Don played with my young son and the daughter begged for extra chores to earn money. I offered her an hourly wage to copyedit my manuscripts and she accepted the job, thus relieving my tired hands and improving my life by an incalculable factor. She will do a good job, if she can fit the work in her schedule of making zines and reviewing comics for Punk Planet.
Tizzy left to work on her P-I column and Anne showed up around the same time Don faded out from jet lag. He went to bed and the kids retired to read books and I sat at the table with Jeff and Anne for hours, talking about life and trips and family pictures.
After everyone left I cleaned the kitchen and read an article about Wesley Clark in Rolling Stone. I was deeply impressed by the accomplishments and stated views of the man. The thing that made me swoon was the fact that he talked about improving quality of life for military families, and specifically cited improving selection at the commissary.
I grew up in a militarized county and half of my extended family worked at the naval shipyard or the undersea warfare station. I married young and depended on military benefits for cheap food and health care until my mid-twenties. Even though I am politically a radical pacifist, I am also pragmatic and view the armed forces as the best social equalizer and jobs training program available to poor kids.
I moved beyond abject poverty, teenage pregnancy, and scrabbled my way out of my hometown. Would I have been able to do it without commissary rice and vegetables? Probably not. This decorated veteran and powerful military leader (he was central to negotiating the Dayton Accords and served as supreme allied commander leading NATO forces at Kosovo) has a public record of improving services to families.
This is not palaver; this is kicking ass for the working class.
I have no prediction about the upcoming election or opinion about this candidate. That will require more research. I am simply delighted that someone is moving the public discourse in this direction.
From the interview:
If soldiers lives are at stake, the time to criticize the policy is now, not when it's over. I think the height of patriotism is to speak out. Even in wartime in a democracy, you need a democracy. You need people with the courage to stand up and voice their opposition without being labeled unpatriotic. I've always thought that the height of loyalty is to ask questions and help sort things out.
Yesterday we were tidying to prepare for a visit from our friend Don and I developed a keen inspiration to turn the downstairs kitchen into a zine laboratory.
We never cook down there except during parties. The counters are the perfect height for collating papers. The shelves are both capacious and empty - fairly ridiculous to contemplate since for the past year I've kept most of my research materials in stacks around the edge of the living room.
Converting the space for work seemed like a stroke of genius so I started boxing up all of my papers and books and drafted family members to carry stuff down. This led to a sincere and abnormal desire to do a thorough cleaning of the main floor of the house, including the thicket of toys in the boy's bedroom.
This is an excessive amount of preparation to greet the old friend who once left a car in our backyard and moved to another continent, promising to return and claim it, although he never did.
Visiting with Don is always delightful; we've known him for nearly seven years. He was astonished to see the kids so grown up, since he knew the boy as an infant and the girl as a six year old. Now he has a child of his very own, a baby girl, and he told us about her birth and life. He played catch in the backyard with our boy and then we went to dinner and talked.
The last time he showed up was two years ago. We took him to a party at the church house and talked about Europe as the sun went down. Gabriel and I were sitting side by side and we started to lament never having the time to live abroad. Don asked us why that was not a possibility and we both shrugged; we were not only single teenage parents, we were responsible and pragmatic. Other things took precedence. Sitting there as the day waned I felt, if anything, lucky to finally have friends who could understand the subtlety of this point.
But the conversation went haywire somehow and our friends decided that it was necessary to reward us for our decade of diligence. Within a few hours they had purchased tickets to send us to Rome for a month. I kept saying why? and Polly replied because someone has to go. Ariel wandered by and I asked her what to do and she said what else can you do?
It was all rather unexpected and quite alarming.
Last night Don asked why we haven't visited him in Cambridge. I don't know the answer to that question; I have always wanted to spend time in England.
This morning I experienced a flash flood of enthusiasm about wiki and stood in the kitchen talking way too fast about how exciting it would be to implement the tool for Hip Mama.
Byron stared at me in dismay and then tried to look very busy.
I have a long and torrid history with the internet. I was the only person in my graduate program who had email. I was a first-generation web designer, back in the days when knowing the bold tag was a really hot skill. I was the first person to suggest that the government agency I worked for should have web sites to improve customer service. What a concept; it took many meetings to even begin to explain what the web was, let alone why anyone would want to use it. I later thought up a cunning plan to innovate how Braille documents were produced and crashed the entire divisional computer system.
I am also a hardcore open source zealot. At the height of the Hip Mama site phenomenon we had over three million hits and fifty thousand new messages posted to our boards every month. Throughout that time the entire project was strictly open source and run from my cranky old Linux machine. I didn't even have freeware other than Pine and textedit and an ftp client.
But I am a dangerous hybrid - a geek girl but not a hacker. I do not know any languages, and can only remember unix commands with the help of a tip sheet. The core Hip Mama site has always been coded by hand and I still update each feature laboriously, even though people assure me that software is both available and helpful. I simply cannot use proprietary software - I am diligent and idealistic and fundamentally committed to DIY ethics.
Every iteration of the Hip Mama community was open source, and every single version of the boards crashed under the weight of too much traffic. Most of my time was spent patching together a network of volunteers to restore the scripts as they buckled, and organizing crews of volunteers to purge and clean the boards routinely to hold off the inevitable chaos of collapse.
I still believe in open source and feel slightly dirty now that I use MacOSX. I still believe in the necessity of online community development even though the tools I've tried in the past have not been sustainable.
This morning I had a huge thrilling idea that wiki might be the answer. Byron pointed out that I do not have time to undertake the project and that I am the most fiendishly optimistic person he has ever met. Then he removed himself to another region of the house to avoid any further discussions about my crackpot notions.
I have always thought of myself as a smoker.
My mother was a smoker, taking long drags of cigarettes perpetually, even between bites of food at dinner. My grandmother was a smoker and such a powerful woman that when she stopped, all of her kids hid their habit, sneaking outside to huddle in the rain near the plum tree while they fumbled for their packs of Merit or Marlboro.
I sat next to the bed as my grandmother drew her final, rattling breaths before her death from lung cancer. I watched my aunt fade away as the cancer in her lungs and trachea worked its insidious way toward her brain. My own mother only stopped her thirty year devotion to the ritual of imbibing nicotine after the ashes of her mother and sister had been scattered across the fields and streams of the old homestead.
I think of myself as a smoker, think of myself holding a cigarette at the perfect casual angle. I follow the smokers outside for breaks at the curb, watch them blowing smoke into the still night. I lean toward Ariel or James or Inga or a dozen others and breathe in the burn of the smoke.
But this is the truth: I have never smoked a cigarette. I have never held a cigarette in my hand. I have never purchased nicotine, not for my mother when she tried to send me to the corner store with a note, not even as a favor for a friend in a hurry.
Furthermore, I never will.
I'm going to be on a panel at CMJ in New York City on October 25.
The plan is to talk about DIY, independent publishing, and the internet.
Be there or be square.
Last night at dinner my daughter inquired (not just once but perhaps three hundred times) if she could please go to Tokyo to visit James. I pondered the question; massive earthquakes and threat of nuclear attack from North Korea? What a fun vacation.
Apparently our friends experienced the earthquake as a minor annoyance, but James informatively tells us:
this website offers:
above the map in the center is a pull down menu showing the last 99 quakes. usually there are about 100 or so in a month. but many many aftershocks from this most recent large quake. if you look around number 41 (or maybe a lower number by the time you read this) you can see the effect of the quake across north and central japan -- tokyo is there at the very farthest reaches of the quake south, in blue.
be aware that the scale numbers for strength are japanese numbers... different from richter scale. richter measure the amount of energy given off from the epicenter of the quake... but the japanese shindo scale measures:
its a funny explanation... watch out for toppling vending machines!
some scientists have been predicting a big massive city destroying quake on tokyo sometimes in the next few weeks.
One of our old friends showed up yesterday. She is looking to buy land in a rural part of the state and we talked about the peninsula but she really wants to be on the high desert. She says that she is tired of Portland, tired of roommates, tired of punks. She sounds, in fact, just like we did before we moved. We tried to convince her to move to Seattle and she seemed interested but wants property and gardens.
Speaking of land, today I received a letter from a real estate investor who went to all the trouble of figuring out that we are the owners of that house in Portland. His letter says I deliver what landlords need: A fast sale of their rental properties in "as-is" condition. I pay a fair price, and can handle "difficult" tenants.
This is hilarious - not just the idea of Gabriel, Danielle, and Angie as difficult but also the idea of selling the house as-is. We could sell it right now for a tax free profit of $175,000.
We choose not to. We love the house; my weak hands scraped down the attic, Stevie painted the living room, Donna installed the bathroom doors, a significant portion of our life is contained in those walls. We love the neighborhood; gentrified though it is, some of our dearest friends still ride their bikes through those streets. We love the people who live in the house now, and one of their children was born there. Knowing that we can help those people stay in that neighborhood is worth more than any sum of money.
Michelle assures me that I have an essay in this book, but I have no memory of the piece whatsoever. Perhaps it is a portion of the stolen manuscript? But anyway, I find it extremely amusing that the publisher calls the contributors a dream cast of literature's new avant-garde. I've been called many things, but never avant-garde.
Apparently it will be out in February, and you should definitely buy it; looks like a great book:
Last night we watched Little Miss Marker.
Several days ago we watched Escape to Witch Mountain.
I'm steadily working through the favorite movies of my childhood. This will take awhile; the one extravagance of those years was going out to theaters. I saw everything, no matter what the rating, and this left me with both a sincere appreciation of film and a marked dislike of depressing plots. Give me light entertainment any day - I wish that I could live in a Cary Grant comedy.
There is a rumour that Stevie and Erin Scarum may visit again today. The last time they showed up they bleached my hair and Stevie said I needed to cut off the cracked black ends. Hopefully she won't remember.
This last weekend was, as always, a strange jumble of fun activities. Byron came home late Friday with reports about the essentially dull town of Salt Lake City (his perspective) and we pestered him to explain how it has changed since the time of The Great Brain.
He told us that on the flight home he sat next to a military sniper who shared all sorts of trivia about the trajectory of bullets and how weather conditions and other factors impact performance. I knew all the that stuff from way back but Byron was impressed.
On Saturday my son had a playdate with AEM. He has been very concerned that although she owns a Playstation console she does not know how to play video games, and offered to give her lessons. I was confused by this since he has never played video games either, but his worry was sincere and he counted down the days until he could go visit.
After we dropped the boy off we went out to Susan and Paul's house for a Revolutionary Ice Cream Party. Much tasty fun was had by all, though Sophistimicated appeared and then evaporated before we had a chance to talk to her. The party was particularly interesting in that it featured a majority of people who were either Leo or Capricorn. My daughter was particularly entranced by a fellow Leo and they chatted away the hours.
We had to leave to go get the boy and picked up some food along the way. Just after we finished eating a lovely pasta dinner Tizzy and Jeff called to invite everyone to a barbecue. The second dinner of the night included salad and various grilled vegetarian items, and for some inexplicable reason, barbecued cookies. One of the other guests studied computer science with Byron back in Olympia, but he is a traveling musician now.
Sunday was bright and sunny and we lolled about the place for hours, desultorily suggesting trips to far off destinations. Then I remembered that we live in a town with lots of beaches and we launched the family off to eat a picnic lunch at Fauntleroy. We sat in the sun, watching the ferries and container ships going back and forth across the sound, for hours. Some kind of work picnic was happening and a live mariachi band played in the background.
I was reading a book that referenced my work, which surrpised and pleased me.
On the way out of the park we stopped for awhile at the play structure and realized that a large group of people on one side were doing some kind of group movement, with synchronized stretches. The people on the other side were having a dance party under the fir trees. It made me wanna put on my boogie shoes.... except of course I do not have any. Nor have I ever danced.
My bicycle is a vintage Raleigh frame chopped with high handlebars. Erin Scarum built the bike for me about three years ago and I loved it with a sincere passion although my hands were too weak to depress the handbrakes. Bob swapped out the parts to make the grip easier but I was still too weak to make the bike stop quickly. Finally Eli and Byron switched it over to pedal brakes.
Right after the bike was finished I broke my tailbone in a stupid manner. But because this is how my luck runs, the injury was severe.
I miss riding my bicycle. I think that I'll pull it out and see if my shredded muscles and tendons can handle the jostling of a nice spin around the neighborhood.
Recently several people, upon hearing that I believe myself to be a Capricorn with a Scorpio moon and Aries rising, blinked and cautiously questioned the veracity of the claim. Muffy Bolding flat out refused to believe it. I asked Trixie and she checked my charts - she has always had the precise information and could look it up quite easily. She agreed with Madame Bolding; the correct chart states that my moon is in Gemini.
I've been working with false information! During the Breeder tour I should have changed to Gemini, not Scorpio. Now it all makes sense, particularly the part where Stevie and I taunted random frat boys.
Our house is a little bungalow set above the street - there are perhaps twenty steps down to street level and I can't see the sidewalk from the front window. We use the back door and park behind the house.
Yesterday I drove past the front of my house and was absolutely shocked to find that someone has decided to turn my front sidewalk into an illegal dump. Not garbage - I could deal with that - but large appliances, dead raggedy couches, toilets, and so forth. All of which appeared between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
I am at a loss. I guess that I need to call the city to report it, but will they fine us for the nuisance? And beyond that, who dumps that kind of stuff in front of a house? This is worse, to me, than when someone broke in and stole the birthday cake. I can grasp the point of theft, even when I disagree with the object or consequences.
But this situation is just plain nasty.
Byron is staying at the old fort erected by the United States to suppress the Mormon community in Salt Lake City. The facility has been converted for use as guest housing for the school and the Olympics.
Before he left we were talking and we settled on a common theme that we will both take to all lectures and workshops henceforth:
If contrarian, autodidactic, sickly, and fundamentally weird people like the two of us can invent new lives then anyone can do it. Credentials and ranking (especially academic credentials and ranking) are only important insofar as you can spin the story. It doesn't matter where a person starts, only where they arrive. Attitude is everything.
I mention this not in a dismissive way but rather to encourage those people who need the message that they really can do what they like. Even if it isn't what the people around them would prefer they do, or what they feel they ought to do. Life is too short to hang around waiting for everything to work out.
I really love The Dolly Ranchers, not just as friends and underground circus performers and all-round great people, but as musicians. The shows they put on are both fun and just plain good. The band is touring now and I am sad that I won't be able to hook up with them; the tour we did together stands out as one of my favorite memories in this life.
If you have an opportunity to see a show you should definitely go.
Today the mail brought:
*Letters from Juleigh and Eli
The mail I didn't have time to list over the last few weeks has been just as spectacular. Whenever I get upset it is always about living in community. Sometimes I have trouble remembering that one setback is not the end of the world, and tangling with one mean person does not in fact ruin my reputation. I am always surprised when I feel tired and sad. But years pass and look at all this bounty - people I have known for a lifetime along with people I have only just met are good and true friends. I am so lucky to know so many people.
Having said that, I am now officially going to worry about becoming relentlessly sappy in my old age.
My friend just emailed me this report of an accident on the same road where we nearly died. The news is horrible and tragic and not even vaguely surprising. The road is not safe.
R.I.P. all the people who will die on that cursed highway.
My one true love had to go somewhere cold to give lectures and workshops about formal methods (or something). His flight was at six in the morning and he stayed up most of the night preparing, disturbing my nightly routine. Then we both woke up over and over worried that the alarm had not gone off.
When I fell asleep I was listening to Mary Poppins, always a disturbing bedtime choice. I drift off after the children meet Mrs. Corry and before the stars from the gingerbread are released. I probably woke up three dozen times, and each startled release from sleep led me to improbable ideas. Around four in the morning I thought a really good plan might be to have my broken tailbone amputated.
I think that I need to go to the library and pick up some new P.L. Travers, and then keep myself to a strict regimen of daytime reading.
Al emailed and made the following suggestion for local people tonight:
There is a show tonight at COCA in Seattle that I want to recommend to you and Byron. It is a band from Japan called Maher Shalal Hash Baz. I saw them last night and to me it was an experience probably on the level of getting to see the Velvet Underground, or the Shaggs, or the Microphones or Sun Ra's Arkestra or something like that. -Al
I would take a nap but sleeping during the day leaves me in a foul mood. Much better to stumble around in a daze.
James mailed a postcard about his show, and it is easily the creepiest postcard this household has ever received. I find it is hilarious that the press materials mention that the work is difficult to understand.
The work makes perfect sense to me.
I see from Consumptive that Jess is visiting Tokyo from NYC. The only time I have ever been in the same room with Jess and James was one afternoon seven years ago when we ate tacos in downtown Tucson, Arizona. I see them both frequently, just never in the same time zone.
Speaking of mail, I have been way behind in noting all the amazing things that arrived this month. Lots and lots of orders and presents and letters - even one from Ghana, asking for extra copies because some of the A Beautiful Final Tribute zines were destroyed by a rain storm! It is really strange and cool to see how zines move through the world.
I am sitting here with my official ballot and have no idea which bubble to select for all the council, commission, and port seats.
I am in fact so far out of the loop of local politics I had no idea we would be voting on an espresso tax.
My strength as a citizen and voter is not located in my opinion on whether or not someone should tax my latte to fund early childhood education. Or to state this differently, I believe that we should tax Starbucks at the corporate level and give free schools to the kids and free coffee to the parents.
Reading Poets & Writers always makes me feel like I should take this whole career thing seriously and apply for grants and whatnot.
The feeling passes quickly.
I love the magazine though - there is always something new to think about. The current issue includes too many fascinating ideas to ponder and I am almost afraid to read past the Maxine Hong Kingston interview.
When my friends and associates get depressed I listen and commiserate and then I suggest that they try to think about their problems in a practical way. Life is hard enough without succumbing to despair over things that cannot be changed. I have enjoyed furiously good luck in the last year and it is more important to recognize what I have than worry about what is beyond my reach.
This is what today brought:
One - Stella Marrs is now selling her amazing Democracy Meow! calendar.
This is so excessively cool I have no choice but to be happy.
It seems that many people use their online journal (or message board persona) as a sort of destination vacation from real life - they talk about troublesome work situations or personal issues with the secure knowledge that these posts will never be viewed by the people concerned.
I wish that I had a similar venue to talk about problems. But my real life and my virtual life are nearly indistinguishable, and because of that I am constrained both in choosing topics and in reporting my honest reactions to various difficult problems. Some of my loved ones do not live in the public sphere and I wish to protect their privacy. I also have a strict and repressive code of ethics that prevents me from issuing complaints, even when they are valid.
Right now I am profoundly sad but unable to tell you why. There is a significant problem that requires attendance and over the course of a long week I have not been able to locate the solution. This problem strikes at the core of my personal politics and commitment to community. This problem involves several sensitive and vulnerable people. This problem may hinder my ability to work for the next three months, specifically the number of hours available each day.
I will not say more tonight. I am tired and melancholy and should just turn off the computer and listen to Jim Reeves albums until I fall asleep.
Last night we were talking about reading preparedness and it occured to me that my son, now almost seven, never asks about billboards. My daughter kept up a constant stream of patter about billboards, signs, and all manner of words printed on surfaces. She started asking about letters and words when she was about fifteen months old, and could read a variety of common words and phrases before I was ready for her to do so. For instance, the old Joe Camel advertisements.
I'm worried about my son not reading books. Boys are sometimes slower to read, and his real affinity has always been for music and numbers. He can see the pages, and pick out stories from picture books.
But last night I remembered that when I was his age, I could not see billboards. Or the chalkboard. Or very much at all unless I was within ten feet of the object. But nobody noticed until the fifth grade, and only then because my profound double vision was diagnosed along with the fact that I needed glasses.
He had an eye exam four years ago but should have had another before kindergarten; we were just too befuddled by the move to stay on top of all those details.
Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems quite likely that the boy never asks about certain aspects of his surroundings because he cannot see well enough to be curious.
I guess that we will be looking for a pediatric opthamologist tomorrow. The main challenge is that I resolutely refuse to go to the children's hospital (or even drive past the building). I guess I'll have to do some research.
Yesterday we went to a Mad Hatter Tea Party to celebrate the birthday of a lovely small girl. It was so nice to see Susan and family. I held the new baby (not so new now, actually about seven months old) and she would have fallen asleep in my arms but the bustle of the party kept attracting her interest.
Later we had to put on a brave face and organize a shopping expedition.
I was poor for the first thirty-one years of my life. My family has always been working class and I was the first person to inch out of that life and join the ranks of the educated and impoverished. My household has only been nominally middle class for the last nine months and I believe (for good reason) that we hold this status with weak and injured hands.
This means we buy everything with cash. It is true that we waste lots of money on frivolous adventures and restaurant dinners, because we lived with deprivation for such a very long time. But we do not leverage our future for the dubious advantage of owning a new car or fancy furniture.
It has taken months to organize enough money to buy a dryer. If we were healthy people I would not even have bothered - but between our injuries and allergies it is impossible to make do with a clothesline or hauling wet clothes to the laundromat. Last night I counted out my hoarded dollars and now I will once again be able to dry our clothes and then abandon them in baskets all over the house.
Yesterday the gang went on the town to entertain writer Andrew Conn. Much fun was had by all, though our rather pedestrian idea of fun often involves Perry Ko's South China Lounge. Lucky for whoever is within our grasp, my friends are excessively hilarious people with many strange stories.
If you get a chance, check out Andrew reading from his novel in your city. He'll be at Disjecta in Portland tonight.
R.I.P Johnny Cash.
Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
I did an interview for Utne and now they want to send someone to photograph the family in our natural habitat.
The family is resisting the plan. The family is not very cooperative sometimes.
I forgot to mention the most extraordinary thing - during Bumbershoot I was looking at journals made from old records with my daughter when a woman approached us. She tapped my shoulder and introduced herself - she was the person who sold us the coconut monkey in San Francisco. She remembered us because at the time she was shocked to realize we were mother and daughter, instead of sisters.
We were exceedingly pleased to see her again; she is a very nice person.
During a side discussion about some of my earlier statements on this journal it became apparent that I need to clarify my point about identity and community.
I do not belong where I come from or even where I have arrived. I lack an identity that can be summed up in two or three words. This is a source of concern for many people who know me - they can't put me in a tidy category. I confuse people.
Last week I realized that my allegiance is to a specific cultural group: those people who do not belong. I am specifically talking about people who do not have a sense of entitlement, who are always aware of boundaries, even if they choose to smash them.
I genuinely feel most comfortable with people who know that they do not have permission to do what they want to do. This is true regardless of whether those people prefer to hide in a cupboard or participate in a grand social revolution. This is a handy heuristic because it ignores fashion, credentials, age, or any other characteristic.
If someone is aware of the message telling them not to do something, they are by definition one of my people.
I'm tired of dealing with counterculture people who are just as picky and judgmental as any mainstream high school kid. I'm tired of people judging each other for superficial and silly reasons.
I think we should all have solidarity - weirdos of the world unite! But it doesn't really happen. Since I can't fix it I'm just going to proceed with the assumption that everyone who feels marginalized is my friend.
It doesn't matter if they are a superstar in their particular scene or hiding in a corner trying not to make eye contact; if a person feels judged and somehow not worthy, they are my friend. The more friends we have collectively the more powerful we will be! I pledge lavish support and practical tips! We can storm the barricades of social repression together... by whatever means necessary.
We battled our way through sports related traffic to go to Uwajimaya and meet Badtz Maru. Sadly, he didn't have fingers and thus could not sign autographs. The visit did have the expected result of convincing us to spend too much money on Sanrio products, and I have officially changed my allegiance from the belligerent penguin. My favorite character is now Deery-Lou the Cheerful Fawn.
After we made our selection we ran into Tizzy; she was buying chocolate.
Next stop, Seattle Center. Last year we failed to buy tickets months in advance and thus missed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This was tragic at the time. Listening to that series on tape was central to helping the boy settle in our new home. I was very upset with myself for this lack of planning, though the family attempted to console me.
This year, my son asked me to find out what day the tickets would go on sale. Since he doesn't know how to read he made a sign with drawings of a lion, witch, and wardrobe and taped it securely to the door. The paper fluttered each time we walked out of the house.
He was deeply disturbed that I did not go and pick up tickets the first day, and had halfway convinced me that waiting until the weekend would mean certain doom. But yesterday we went to the box office and now our worries are over! We have tickets in hand and can plan the rest of the year around that date.
Yesterday I was impossibly lost for the better part of four hours both going to and leaving the baby shower. Because of my poor sense of direction I arrived as everyone else decided to leave, then had less than an hour to see my good friends before heading home again. They were all impressed with my girl, now officially taller than me, and the same age that we were when we all met.
Conversation at the shower briefly touched on radioactive isotope therapy, and the fact that safety guidelines preclude holding babies or even eating near other people (doctors generally suggest that patients stay in hotels for a few days.... too bad for housekeeping staff).
Of course I went right back to school after each set of scans and even the large dose that eradicated my cancerous organ. I blinked and then pointed out this interesting fact to my friends, and then we talked about our eccentric home economics teacher. She was a tiny, tanned, brittle person with four inch fake nails and large curly wigs. I am mildly shocked to remember my radiated self mixing up chocolate chip cookies and serving them to fellow students. In fact, the very same women who showed up for the baby shower.
Hurrying back home, I accidentally ended up on a highway. Yes, it is true; I drove not only over 35MPH, I had to drive 60MPH to be technically within legal parameters. It was truly harrowing, and I was on a road that intersected with the highway where my accident happened. Just about the time I would have had a panic attack the sky turned stormy and rain came down and the radio offered up Gordon Lightfoot. I laughed and leaned forward and started to talk to my girl about the party and her life now compared to my life at her age.
We were late so Karl and Allison were already in the kitchen talking to Byron. My daughter walked in the house first and startled Karl - he saw a half-remembered ghost, because the girl looks exactly like me.
I made sushi and yellow curry and an amateurish version of mango lassi and we ate and talked and laughed for hours. The visit was in fact wonderful. I always had faith that our friendship was real, even through the hard years, and I am pleased that my instinct was right.
My children were in rare form and obviously loved the guests, because neither child stopped talking long enough to eat or breathe.
It occurred to me that even though I am theoretically antisocial I seem to be more friendly than so-called normal people. I emailed Ayun to test the theory and she shot back the answer: yes. Plus she wishes I lived in Brooklyn.
Today I'm going to a baby shower for a girl I met back in junior high. She lives in Puyallup now and I'm not even really sure where Puyallup is, let alone how to find the house. The directions provided involve getting on I-5 but I don't drive over 35MPH so I'm about to set off on a grand backroads adventure.
Online maps offered up an extremely sketchy set of instructions involving about twenty-seven esoteric turns on roads that may or may not exist including the following interpretation:
Drive down mystery road for about a mile.
I figure that the girl who was in the accident with me will be there, amongst other people I truly liked back home, and I'm fairly excited to see everyone again aside from the chore of driving myself somewhere outside the city.
Before I leave I need to at least shift my papers around and make a nominal attempt at tidiness. KTS aka DJ Karl is coming to visit this evening and we have not hung out in thirteen years, except to exchange caustic witticisms standing around outside Thekla.
This whole day is kind of like a reunion, except I'm only seeing the people I actually still wish to know.
I am completely exhausted. I am in fact too tired to provide a comprehensive description of events and excursions.
Here are some highlights from the weekend:
*Bumbershoot rattled my nerves; the crowds were enormous and the sounds were intense. The venue for the workshops consisted of tables with ropes around the perimeter set next to enormous windows. People pressed their faces up to the windows throughout all the sessions, and other people swarming through kept interupting to ask for directions to the bathroom. It was by far the worst venue I have ever worked in. However, the people who showed up to give workshops or attend workshops rocked my world. I met several amazing people. Much fun was had by all, except the event organizers. Since I couldn't really deal with crowds I hung out in the zine space for the better part of two days, making erratic forays for snacks.
*Walking home from the Center on Sunday Anne found sets of relationship books on the curb - matching pairs of each title. Back at her house there was a small party with Christa and Cleveland expats and we sat in the dark backyard laughing and telling stories. We headed home at midnight, the entire family drooping, only to discover a message from our friends claiming they would arrive shortly. I didn't believe it and went to bed but Byron rifled through the extra bedding and unlocked the front door in anticipation.
*Stevie and Erin Scarum showed up with Ananda from NYC at about one in the morning and I stumbled downstairs to greet them wearing my pyjamas. I told them all the wicked anecdotes I cannot relate in this journal and we laughed so much my voice started to fail.
*On Monday morning I woke up before everyone else and downloaded all the book submissions that arrived throughout the night. Labor Day nearly doubled the total number of essays received.
*When Stevie woke up I asked if she would consider bleaching my hair, stating that it was entirely up to her and no was fine but at the same time allowing a note of despair to enter my voice as I blinked at her. She frowned at my head and picked up a strand, then asked haven't you bleached it since I was here last summer? and I told my tale of woe. She agreed to do the job but said she needed to eat breakfast first. We enjoyed vegetables Erin brought from her garden and some kind of vegan cream cheese thing and then the bleach kit came out. Stevie wandered away to nap in the middle of the process but Erin told me when it was time to rinse and now it is back to normal: crispy.
*Anne called to inform me, based on a series of coincidences and surprise encounters that are too detailed to explain, that I am the vortex of evil. Not just a vortex but the vortex. Many people would agree with this statement, particularly the ones who have experienced the uncanny aspects of my personal associations, but it is not technically true. I explained to Anne that she should think of my life as a train station, with evil and good intersecting on erratic schedules. My philosophy of community organzing is not discriminatory; everyone who needs the resources is welcome to participate. This means that strange things happen all the time. I've grown used to it over the years.
*At the end of the day I told Michelle Tea that I finally figured out who my people are: the people who do not belong. She objected and said that she is one of my people, and I replied Absolutely - I'm talking about people who do not have a sense of entitlement, who are always aware of boundaries, even if they choose to smash them.
*On the way out the gate we saw Mary Lou Lord busking. There was a drunk man standing too close to the singer and Erin and I both immediately assumed security stances - she stood near him and I kept the kids far enough away that they could enjoy the music without tangling with trouble. Erin shares my birthday; we are alike in perplexing ways, generally having to do with sensing danger in the world. MLL broke her set with an invitation for audience members to perform if they liked, then lit up a cigarette and started to talk to people. It would be impossible for a single Chorus person to resist, and there were four of us present. We stepped up and surprised the singer by doing Big Iron Skillet. She blinked and asked if we are in a band but Chorus dissolves quickly after performance; there was a small interchange of information and then the others stepped away and I introduced myself. We shook hands and I pointed to the girl and said this is my daughter and MLL was visibly shocked. She said you're shitting me - I thought she was your sister! I laughed and we wished her well and departed.
*Back at the car, I was horrified to find a parking ticket. My first ticket ever, for any reason.
*We met at my house and I showed Michelle my dental plate collection and assorted oddities. She has a pickled shark too! I told her how many submissions have arrived for the anthology and she offered lavish sympathy; it is hard to reject good work (and the work of friends) because the page count is limited. We sat around eating cheese and Stevie and I made wildly inappropriate jokes about being smashed up by cars and I laughed so hard tears streamed out of my eyes. We decided to go to a party down in Columbia City but arrived after the puppet show ended. Standing around in an alley eating blackberries, Anne found a matched set of candles shaped like wedding cakes. She was thrilled with the find until I pointed out the symbolism of the candles in combination with the books she found earlier in the week. Stevie and I noticed a naked guy lunging around his second story apartment and we all stood there trying to figure out what he was doing for awhile before heading home.
*After Michelle and Anne departed Stevie and I stayed up talking about important, treacherous subjects until five in the morning. This is what I have to say about accountability: it starts with one word and one gesture and must encompass every act chosen throughout a life. Excuses and apologies do not change the world, positive action changes the world. People who live in activist and underground communities are not exempt from responsibility because they wear the right clothes or listen to the right music. In fact, people who live in this world must hold their own actions to higher standards. I've been telling Stevie that her archetype is superstar for years but she laughs at me; she doesn't want to do the music or performance thing. But I think that she may have found at least the first part of her true calling. She is talking about self-defense and crisis response and her ideas are pure genius.
*Three hours of sleep and then up working, running errands, taking kids school shopping. My daughter wanted pants and my son wanted shoes. Both needs were satisfied without resorting to branded products - or at least, my son wanted the Italian sneakers, so the logo doesn't promote a company I know anything about. Neither child wanted to buy actual supplies like paper or pencils which simplified my life. On the way home I picked up fixin's to make a full vegan dinner plus salmon for the flesh eaters. Stevie showed up with Sunny; I haven't seen her since the old days at the Delaware House and it was fun to talk again. Apparently she lives just blocks away from me - the punk enclave of North Portland is much like South Seattle except of course I don't really know where the houses are here. Lots of people came to my housewarming but I haven't run into them since then. After dinner we went to the beach. The season is over, the diving platform gone.
*First day of school. The doors crashed open and a swarm of girls swooped down and carried away my daughter. I had expected my son to cling but for the first time ever he walked away and calmly took his place with his peers. This was immensely sad, but at the same time thrilling and hopeful, and I nearly cried.
*Back at the house I had a long and fascinating discussion with Erin. It was in some sense a continuation of the topic Stevie had brought up and I gave my perspective on organizing, conferences, community. I don't know Erin as well as Stevie, and I don't think she has read my zine, so she was hearing some of the history for the first time. It was a good and productive conversation but left me with all sorts of stray ideas to ponder. It was in fact the kind of conversation that leads me to huge new projects - it will be interesting to see what happens this year.
*We went to breakfast at the Globe and Stevie recognized people and went to talk while Erin and I ordered, and then they were gone before I had a chance to process the information and say hello. It was Carolyn and a New Mexico person who is friends with the Dolly Ranchers and the circus. I did in fact feel rotten about not saying hello. This social faux pas must be rectified at a future date.
*Stevie and Erin took off to drive around the state. By the time they left my voice was gone and I would have crumbled from lack of sleep and the absolutely overwhelming weekend, but there was still work to be done - mail to catch up on, children to pick up, a book to edit.
Did I mention that I'm tired?