philly

where to start.

i could go the linear way…today and the next…i could group it into activities…my thoughts i had there…humm

well let’s start with getting oriented and see what happens.

i left off with the arrival to philly, getting the basic rulelessness of philly and eating dive take-out chinese food that really hit the spot. i met the roommate and the house doggo. we caught up a bit before it was passed time to get some sleep.

i woke and listened to the city around me, then i got a text from with-in the house. it surprised me at first, but eventually i came to enjoy the quiet interactions from the comfort of soft clothes. usually it was an update on work schedules, ideas for the daily activities…

everyone went to work and it was just me and mr. dog. to get my bearings i went for a walk around the neighborhood. i found the local punk coffeeshop/cafe with lots o’vegan options (p.s. i really enjoyed this place and it was below a super cool bike shop that mostly i watched people of color go up and down the stairs with every day bikes and wearing regular clothes). i also found the all vegan donut shop, (yum), and the local co-op that i had heard a great deal about (not all good not all bad).

at some point i texted another friend of mine that i lived with for a minute back in the portland years who had moved to philly. we made plans to get together while i was in town. we had a good catch-up and they let me know about a couple of actions happening around the city that i would end up going to.

this first day (and most days i was there) the sun was shining. it was hot, but not humid and super hot. this part of west philly reminded me of portland 10 to 15 years ago. especially north portland. perhaps it is because of the cusp of rapidly encroaching gentrification of a historically black neighborhood. i could see myself trying to find a way to spend the summer here. these first few days it was super tempting to look at job and housing options for the season.

that night we met some of my friends’ friends for happy hour at the taco place and chowed on vegan nachos and margaritas…yum. the conversations were fun and lively with lots of laughter and smiles. it is always nice to get to know my friends other friends, especially friends who don’t live in the same place i do…to know friends are well cared for and loved is a wonderful feeling to me. also, one of the women hails from russia. while in n.c. i read part of a book on the oral history of punk music in russia that my friend did the cover art for. she actually knew some of the bars and places in the book. it was a super cool connection.

our days together were spent in lovely relaxed (to me anyway) ways. we went to the museum. saw a wonderfully disturbing exhibit as well as the rocky statue and footprints. it was remarkable to me how many people come to the museum just to see the rocky statue, so much so they moved the statue from the top of the stairs (you know where he ran up in the first rocky) to down and off to the side of the stairs. we walked the historic streets of philly (once crashing the filming of some t.v. show we had never heard of). we talked and caught up on what’s been happening in our lives, our minds, our hearts. we ate good food, consumed good beverages, and had lots of fun.

the moments we were off doing our own things, i walked the streets of philly, explored so many varied parts of histories that philly holds from pre-revolution to social justice actions, including an action against ICE that i went to with the other friend i have here. all the walking and wondering, the pouring over maps that listed important names as the names of parks or centers: malcolm x, paul robeson, du bois, MOVE, and mumia just to name a few. i tried to get to the edgar allen poe house, but just couldn’t get make the time for all the things.

one day i was walking around the historic area where independence hall is and the liberty bell, historic homes that had “servants quarters” i.e. slaves. i rounded a corner and spotted the “first bank” of the u.s. it stopped me in my tracks and i read the plaque. it talked about how it was proposed as a way to pay of the huge debt that this new founded country now had due to the war for “independence.” within just a few blocks i would run into at least the first 5 banks in the country. the last couple i ran into trying to escape the area. i was overwhelmed by the obviousness of the connection between war and banks and the merchant class and just how much we have not changed at all, the cycle this country spins to keep the capitalists of capitalism in control of the labor class. i needed to get away and clear my head.

there is a park by the house of the statue of liberty so i found a shady place and sat and calmed my thoughts and did a favorite activity of mine, people watch. there were people of all backgrounds speaking many languages, and i could not calm down. it was much more like a punch. normally this is a scene that warms me from the inside, but with the fascist want-to-be dictator that the u.s. has as a president right now, i was embarrassed (?), saddened (?), pissed for sure. that we as a country of immigrants (unless you are native american), that we would do any less than welcome those seeking refuge with open arms, is outrageous to me. granted these were tourists with some level of privilege ($$ everything in independence area cost money to enter except the liberty bell), and most likely would not have border issues when trying to return “home”, but i held some doubts for sure.

it was decided that we would take a day to go to the roommate’s parents house in jersey to swim, and break the city’s heat, so refreshing. what a great idea, go play and splash in a pool during the heatwave. it was a super fun day. we swam. we drank. we ate. we played games. we watched a couple thunderstorms roll by. we drove back to philly during another storm, tuckered out. i fell into a deep sleep.

i woke with the urgency of needing to make plans to get moving again. i couldn’t stay in philly. maybe i will return one day. there was a deep part of me that wanted to stay and see what i could get involved in, but i had a deeper need to get back west of the rockies. no matter how hard i try, i am not an east side of the country kind of kid. also, i could tell by the conversation i had with many people that i would most likely fall in to the cycle of working too much to make ends meet and consume things i don’t want to in the long run, and not make the time and space for the creative ventures i am trying to get started and move ever more forward.

eventually i found the route that would take me west. i chatted with my pals in oregon to make plans for my landing. and then i relaxed into my final few days in philly, and this led me to some great conversations that helped me work out some of my thoughts i’d been having while there.

my friend and i had a conversation one night about whether living so close to the deep history of the neighborhood, and racist history of philly, lent to having a sense of responsibility to that history? it is related, i think, to how i feel about living so close to nature and feeling a responsibility to protecting and making responsible choices in how i move around in my life. i mean, i can’t imagine white people calling the cops on black folks while having a picnic in malcom x park…just sayin’ but if gentrification keeps happening…

another night, at the first micro-brewery in philly that is right next to the punk cafe, i chatted with the bartender. he had recently returned to philly after going to school on the west coast. he was able to give himself the time and space to return and and come out to his family and the challenges of being a young gay black man in west philly (and the world). we talked about many things, including the similarities he is witnessing from his time in oakland and being back in philly around gentrification, housing, and wages.

but make no mistake, my last days weren’t all politics and heavy conversations. i ate a lot of vegan foods…went to the straight edge pizza place for amazing vegan “wings”. i had all the vegan treats i could get in my mouth. we went to an irish punk bar for some tasty vegan snacks and good beers. p.s. i do love me a good irish punk bar.

the morning of my departure was to be early, so we said our so longs the night before. i had decided to bike to amtrak instead of waking my friend and loading up the car for a ride to the station. this would be the only time i would bike in philly, and i am glad i did. i had been wanting to ride, but touring bikes are not really city prepared as everything is quick-release aka easy to steal. i rode away in the early morning during rush-hour traffic in busy bike lanes. it was a beautiful morning and a nice ride.

while waiting at the red cap post to be directed to where to load my bike i met a nun from a west philly church who encouraged me to get confirmed or something like that, just to be safe, like an insurance policy for my soul i guess. she was very nice about it. i told her i’m more along the lines of buddhist. she assured me that was ok, but i should still get to a catholic church. she reminded me of what dorothy day of the catholic worker movement might have been a little like. i also met a couple that would be on the train with me all the way to sacramento. little did we know what was in store for us in the coming days.

a couple of side notes. after getting into eugene, i read that the chinese restaurant we went to closed it’s doors the end of that month. rent was getting too high. the owner told the story of his family coming to the united states, and the support he has had since arriving in philly.

i also learned why a pizza shop i had tried to go to a couple times, but had a paper note that they were closed. seems that the staff believed the owners had fired a black employee for racially motivated reasons, so the staff locked up shop. the sister bar/restaurant did the same a couple days later in support. well that explained my confusion, and also reinforced my feelings that people were taking actions and not just sitting in meetings talking about the theory of racist management practices.

i can’t express just how much i am grateful for this friend, and this visit. we’ve known each other for over 20 years now i guess. we met when i lived in syracuse, and this is the second time we visited in person since i left ny. there are for sure gaps in our knowledge of the others’ experiences in those years, yet our friendship has stayed important and strong to us both. who knows where we will meet next.

i can’t wait to tell you about the adventures i’ve been having in oregon!

the apocalypse gives me hope

welp, this is my third, and final, attempt at this post. i started it in the spring as the snow was melting and revealing what people left behind to be covered up by the snow. mostly beer cans, bags of dog poo, lost socks, underwear (?!). it was also when i heard a new, to me, definition of apocalypse.

i listen to a great many podcasts at work…so many. one of my favorites is how to survive the end of the world. i wait with great anticipation for new episodes. being in this small mountain town with few people that i feel want to delve into these deeper conversations that i am hunger and thirsty for…that i crave…so i get that with these podcasts. they are all created by people of color; black folks to be specific, mostly all women, some identify as queer. this one, in particular, is by a couple of sisters, adrienne marree brown and autumn brown. the episodes are based around octavia butler’s writings and philosophies. not surprisingly, one of the sisters coedited the book octavia’s brood. if you haven’t held this gem of a book in your hands, i highly recommend it. it can be somewhat embarrassing to listen to this as i walk around town or at work as i’ve laughed out loud, cried, and scratched my head with each one. many i think of daily until the next episode pushes my thoughts deeper than the previous.

so apocalypse…the common understanding of an apocalypse refers to the end of the world, probably involving zombies. however, the origin goes back to latin, greek, old english, and old french. but the new to me meaning is what i want to dive deeper into. and that meaning is about the uncovering, to reveal. i, and many others that i have been reading and listening to, might translate these two meanings to say that maybe if we dare to try and give voice to the uncovering of history and stories to reveal what has been left out, we might finally be able to end this chaos of a mess. the result of imperialism, capitalism, too many power hungry that have drowned out the voices that we need to hear. the voices that perhaps, if we listened could cause such cognitive dissonance that we would have to stop this insane greed that gives way to the endless destruction of the planet….the climate apocalypse if you will.

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it is also what is happening with the #metoo movement and much of our society in general. perhaps things are not getting worse, as mainstream media/social media would like us to think and fear, but the atrocities are getting uncovered, revealed. the truth of just how widespread the injustices of our society is. this unraveling of the patriarch and capitalism, of the pains caused by the few to the many, well it gives me hope.

some are afraid of just what will be unleashed. i’m curious about what we will learn about the ancestors, our neighbors, and ourselves. maybe we will learn that all our social and economic theories are wrong….once again showing us that science is ever-changing as we learn new things that prove the old knowledge is wrong…more storytelling and more myth-making…true joy.

the part of this unveiling of another meaning to the apocalypse that truly excites me, however, is the uncovering of the voices that have been vailed, covered, drowned out. something that has bothered me since i started the dive into animal liberation and social justice is this ego-centered idea that “we” are the voice for the voiceless…buuuuuull-shit. i deeply believe that everything that is of this world has a voice and uses it. but the more narrowly we define what is voice, what is alive, what has value to whom, the less we are able to listen to anything not human…english only speaking humans are probably the worse. believing that if one is not speaking english they can not communicate. i have watched how my co-workers who speak spanish and very little english are treated by english only speaking”bosses”. to be clear, i speak very little spanish, however, i am learning how to listen to them to figure out what they need me to know.

i think, and the more that i think the more i believe it to be true, that we have forgotten how to listen to anyone but ourselves. we are so ego driven in the western world that we are incapable to hear anything else. animals and trees and rivers and plants and fish and birds and….all have a voice. if we didn’t believe this to be true, disney would be fucked. and we wouldn’t try so hard to learn to understand when our companion animals are requesting something from us and us from them.

the earth is constantly trying to communicate with us. it is currently fall, almost winter here, and i see the trees getting my attention with the daily shifts in color. the flowers with their scents, berries with their sweetness.

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but this voice for the voiceless myth has so greatly affected the voices of people. we’ve started to acknowledge this in our history books, creating special courses for women, people of color, black folks, queer folks. we are starting to realize that those who won the power dynamics tell the stories of even those they have been conquered. maybe people are starting to see this in other realms as well, like in movies and music. but white cis-male voices still dominate over all the other voices out there.

there are genres of writings out there that i didn’t think i liked until i read books written by women, black folks and people of color. i hated, and i mean hated, science fiction until i read octavia butler. she led me to le quin and then neil gaiman. but speculative fiction changed everything for me involving storytelling. then octavia’s brood came out and my mind/heart exploded with possibility.

so when i was at the whitefish bike retreat for the wtf bikexplorers and there was a bipoc panel FOR bipoc people not OF. this little shift in language is so key. i’ve organized and been a part of many organization’s panels of qpoc people but, let’s be real, they were for white folks, queer or not. this panel was moderated by a person who identified in the panel’s identity, and the q&a was FOR bipoc folks. of course, as soon as the q&a opened up, a white person tried to ask a question (the question usually heard at these events asked by good white folks “what can we do for you?”). the moderator was wonderful. she said you can shut up this is not FOR you…or something very similar. my heart burst open because so often i’ve seen such panels continue to serve white folks by answering their questions.

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there was only time for 2 questions, both were great and led to wonderful conversations, but the people who organized the questions and discussions with this group was amazing. the conversations went deep. there were tears and much laughter. then a much needed and requested dance party!

for me, this panel of amazing people was the exclamation point to a heart blowing weekend. i didn’t realize how hungry i had been, and am, for these conversations and work. i listen to podcasts and read books and articles, i listen to music, and take in as much visual art on these topics as i can, but without people to share and learn with, well maybe this is the source of isolation i feel at times. these voices, these forces of life is what i am wanting to experience over the noise of pop-culture.

so for me, the zombie apocalypse is already on. it is all the people wondering around addicted to their phones, scrolling through social media looking for connection and validation that they are doing the sheep thing. but the other apocalypse is also happening, maybe on the same devices. we can start amplifying the voices that are pushed to the edges; raise their cultural dB sort of speak. put down the phone and listen to the water and trees. have a solid conversation with your cat…maybe she’ll stop pissing on your shoes.

my advice to those who ask, “what can we do to support you” google the shit out of those same people. read them, listen to the music, invest in their commerce, be a patron. because the answers are out there, we just have to be silent enough to listen. i, unfortunately, talked way too much at this event. i was so hungry for real talk that in my excitement, i forgot to shut the fuck up. i am searching for ways to apologize for that, maybe this post is a way to start until next time when i can practice active listening.

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so my personal action for increasing the momentum of the apocalypse is to amplify as many voices as i can. to share the amazing wonderfully inspiring work of people i am learning from. to stand BEHIND them as they lead the way and step in front when it is time to deflect the hatred and violence away from them…to use my whiteness as a kind of shield when wanted.

there is so much i’ve cut out of this post. so many ways that i believe that the apocalypse can help us find our way. i believe that we can all start by asking who is missing from our communities, conversations, view…how can we (re)build relationships. how many different ways are there to listen, speak, give voice to…what happens when we embrace the apocalypse to facilitate understanding, empathy, curiosity, and understanding.

so i will do my best to listen more and to sharing the voices that are being silenced, covered up and overpowered. to start here is a small list of podcasts i listen to on the regular…that are not white, cishet males. it’s a start.

2 dope queens

sooo many white guys

snap judgment

nancy

we live here

 

apocalypse

borders and boundries

i have been so super grumpy these past couple weeks. grumpy like answering questions with grunts and silent head shakes. i’d like to say i don’t know why. maybe it is the moon, eclipse. but the world is on fire, again, or maybe still. each time there is another fire or shooting or idiotic political ruler says/does something stupid and people continue to act surprised. then a 3d printer gun….naw i have no idea why i’ve been grumpy.

then i started reading the book overstory by richard powers and the connections started gathering forces inside me.

i’ve been thinking a great deal lately about borders and boundaries, i kind of always have. as a kid, i use to wonder how water, rain, streams, ocean, birds, fish, bears, dear…knew when they crossed over to another state, country. but then i read about the bison massacres when they roam outside the national parks looking for food…migration doesn’t give a flip about borders or boundaries, but meat farmers don’t like competition for grazing on blm land….

then one day i saw a map of the united states without any state lines or national borders drawn on it or even time zone changes for that matter. that map looked so free to me, so wide open. it looked like such a wonderful place to explore and move about. but to be honest, it is not the imaginary lines that bother me, it is the internal struggles that crossing over into another state can have on my psyche. and this is what leads me to think that all these imaginary lines and borders and boundaries are not meant to provide a safe area for people, but to create a state of fear and thereby control people on one side and a false sense of security on the other.

as a queer woman, i use to get really nervous and anxious if i needed to drive through mississippi, lousianna, alabama on my way to florida to see my grandma. i would get in and out of the gas stations as fast as possible with as limited interaction with other humans…especially white men. later i reflected that at least in the “south” i knew how people felt about me. in the liberal “north” of pc country, it was said behind my back and supported by legislature and propaganda…aka a false sense of security.

but last week i went through the rocky mountain national park and my thoughts bubbled up again, mostly because of what people in the united(?) states are doing to people, refugees, from the global south. i see and hear the fear in the voices of my co-workers who have their “papers” but are afraid to visit family for fear of well so much fear. and i actually hear the arguments of people born and raised here that their family came over legally. really? reeeally? who stamped their papers? crazy horse? geronimo? chief joseph?

this resurrection of this particular fear is happening at a time when farm workers and domestic servants (damn what a horrible word) have been organizing and gaining momentum in their demands for fair wages and treatment for themselves and their children, especially farm workers. if you do not think these issues are connected, you are forgetting history: ceasar chavez, the bracaro project, the Immokalee workers

anyway, approaching the boundaries and entry gate to the rmnp stirred up these old feelings, but really what i want to know is why. why all these boundaries and borders? i believe deeply, that it is to keep people in and not talk to others. to keep the manipulation alive and well. to keep people in fear and control.

what i have noticed is that every time the global north enforces their boundaries, it intensifies the need for people to assert their individual bounderies and identities, which then reinforces the us/them fear and defensiveness.

margaret thatcher is known for saying “there is no society, there are only individuals”. this individualism fuels some of what is keeping us from making the changes we most need to make in this world, from climate change to foreign policy. it has fueled the fire of identity politics in an unhealthy way and i have been trying to figure out how we have gotten in our own ways soooofuckingmuch. so here is my theory.

identity politics is important. as gloria anzandula taught so many years ago at an international queer studies conference in iowa, to imagine one’s self as a tree and all our identities, all the parts of us that make us unique are our roots. if we don’t know all the different roots, and accept them and integrate them into ourselves as a whole, when the cultural winds come by, we will be knocked over. i’m not sure that anzandula knew about the intricate network of communication that the root systems of trees in a healthy forest provide all beings in a forest. the network of communication, of shared resources, of protection, for all, and that is all before they become nurse logs.  if she had, well this analogy gets even stronger. a whole intact forest stands together in all its colors and shapes from the microscopic to the giant trees. yet, as lone individual trees, without interconnected root systems, we topple in one fell swoop, taking out our neighbors.

so what troubles me is that the more we identify with OUR individual identities, the more we isolate ourselves and others. the more we get offended when someone steps on our individual toes. and then more fear is fueled and the more isolated we all become. on top of it, we kind of refuse to be uncomfortable. we are told that these boundaries and identities will keep us safe. but i believe we need discomfort on some levels to push our limits, to go past these boundaries and commune with others not like us, to learn what the other side of the line needs so that we can all do this together. and perhaps grow over the lines and past the barriers. but western capitalism is what fuels the walls. it tells us that we can relieve any discomfort with a pill or a game or a new device. it keeps us in the cycle that makes reading howard zinne so frustrating, and important…and we are at it again. and we are more alienated and isolated no matter our number of social media friends we have.

capitalism”s magic bullet, if you will: naming. we love to name things. if we have named it, we know how we are supposed to feel about something or act towards it, and this includes gender pronouns. (doubt this? talk to someone who has been both he and she at some point in their lives, or someone who is intersex, someone who is willing to talk about the differences in their treatment based on perceived gender and self-identification…this is a life/death situation often). but if we “named” based on relationship instead of ownership, well that is different. a mountain “named” based on a cosmology of a creation myth will be treated differently than one named by conquest and ownership. the responsibility we feel for a place or person changes if we see it as sacred and part of all of who we are.

and that is the crux, right? maybe? that by creating these name/labeled boundaries and borders, we mark off ownership of areas and control of those areas and all that happens to be there: animals, water, minerals…people. but if things are “named” based on relationship, that is a whole new level of freedom and movement….and responsibility.  you can’t control, manipulate, mine, and harvest what you do not own in one way or another. however, you are responsible for all that you hold some relationship to, and that is everything in this word: food, water, air, what you use for shelter, clothing, one another.

what if we were able to drop just a little of this border-mindset? what if we saw the people that were coming across the border for what they are: people. people who are in danger due to the violations and unequal trade/economic situations that “we” created. that turned these families into refugees, not immigrants. no one really and truly wants to leave their “home” for the unknown…to a country that is openly hostile and violent to one’s culture and people. no one wants to do this. and we as mobile amaricans don’t understand this. i’ve actually had arguments with (former) friends of mine on this issue. when your family has lived in a certain place for so so many generations leaving is not going to be your first choice. people and places we have denied our relationship to are in danger, and this is how we treat them? back to the tree/forest analogy, our survivals are interdependent.

so i ask, “what is more important? what someone’s label is or how they participate in community.”

i know my stance. and i believe that the only way we will survive as a species is if we return to relationship-based communities instead of isolationalist/nationalist idealism.

we need to make a choice, as a species. i have no doubt this world will continue, but most likely, without humans. unless we can make some changes really fast. and these will have to be internal, non-governmental. we can’t wait for the “leaders” to make the changes. we will be uncomfortable for a little while, but eventually, more quickly than we might think, we will find actual joy and happiness at leaving so much misery for so many behind us.

i know that this sounds a lot like preaching and pointing fingers, and it is. mostly at myself for sure. we all have a great deal to unlearn and re-educate ourselves. before we end up like this:

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this week, 2 years ago, i would have probably given up hope for the humans, but talking to strangers…making connections with people i have no reason to except that we are sitting next to one another on the bus, bar stool, bike ride, campsite, sandy beach, at the wall, in line at the border…we all have stories to share if we are willing to listen…but like i said, its just a little theory i’m working on.

 

flooded by memories

today more than any other day

i think of you

reflections

the knowledge of your death has brought back so many memories

everyone talks about how deep the loss of you is for individuals and a community. why is that? you are not lost. infact, since learning about your stroke and inevitable death, you have been very much present in my life. but i do know that there is a deep chasm in a community that greatly depended upon you, counted on you, expected you to always, always be there. perhaps death is the only place you will find rest….

it was just a usual day of using facebook to distract myself from any of a number of projects i am working on. facebook is funny. usually within the time span of just a mere 10 seconds, i can go from laughing at some cat video to enraged over some gross injustice and back to some kind of benign version of whatever. this time it was like a punch in the heart. an old friend had died or was going to die. she had a stroke with little hope for recovery. i got a text on saturday that indeed she did pass.

as i kicked myself for not getting in touch with her last time i passed through town, my mind raced with the huge void that would be created in the community, and for her son. and the impact she had on my life. then i heard her laugh and say “what?! its cool! just be cool”. i don’t think i ever got to thank her for the inspiration, for her belief in our community, for the chance for me to build some skills and well just so much that amazing people in our lives do when they shake shit up for us.

it was the early-mid 90s when parker first walked into the lgb student group that the person i was dating at the time and myself kind of ran/organized. it was a group that welcomed all the people looking for a place to get involved, or just find their cohorts. she would come in her “work drag” as an accountant for an oil and gas company. it is a very specialized kind of accounting and that kind of creative attention to detail is what made her so good with all that she did.

quickly she got involved in other areas of the “gay” community of wichita. then during pride of 1994 i think, the pride guide got kind of dumped in her lap. then she started talking about turning the guide into a monthly paper for the gay and lesbian community of wichita and all of kansas.

i don’t know how many beers and tots we shared as she talked herself into it, and all of us into playing our parts. none of us could say no to parker. i offered to take pics since i had been a photojournalist in one of my lives. catherine was going to write. our friends who owned the bookstore contributed. from the beginning, there were regular columns.

great. could you go ahead and write the article/review….i’ve got to be at this other thing.

i don’t write

it’s cool. just write up something. oh and if you are going that direction could you drop off a bundle of papers?

sure

knowing what parker was up against trying to start a new press when others were shutting down or cutting back, how could any of us say no.

but wichita was ready, we were hungry for community. we were ready for pride events to be out of the bars and into the streets and riverside park and old town.

people started taking chances.

together we all got a community center started.

there was an informal speakers group and a way for teachers, nurses, and others to reach out and hear stories, to tell stories that opened doors for so many. none of us had emails then. all our contacts were our home phones. catherine and i had an answering machine that had 2 or 3 options to leave messages. one for us personally and the others for the groups we were involved in. many messages were people just looking for a group, some group, any group they could participate in. others were looking to be educated or find ways to educate their co-workers. maybe they were in the closest or had lost a loved one to hiv related issues or suicide. families trying to hold on. if your name was in a byline for the liberty press, you got a call.

i don’t know all the places we went. i know i was in a couple high schools, 2 local universities in (one catholic), a small baptist college in nebraska for diversity week, and a hospital north of wichita, and a bunch of groups around town.

we held dances for youth. i was the social coordinator at the community center and my focus was to have a place for youth to go so that they didn’t have to always jump the fence by the pool at the bar to find their people and be themselves for a few hours, or who they thought they were supposed to be.

parker and the liberty press was the center of it all.

i remember one events that parker and i were both at. somehow the pansy division was playing at kirby’s beer store. a place we had sat on the roof on hot summer days with a pitcher of warm beer and parker would put on patsy cline. this night it was packed! it was hot, sweaty and sticky. parker kept talking to me about whatever we were trying to get done next. i was in shock that i was actually in wichita kansas with the pansy division’s sweat flying my way! catherine, my partner at the time, was somewhere near. every once in a while some guy would hand parker and i a couple of fresh beers. we didn’t really think much about it. this happened often enough. whoever was closest to the bar would get the round and people would pass them through the crowded bar until they got to the intended people.

catherine came over and gave me a kiss goodbye, she was either going home to prepare for class, or maybe the bi group she got started, or something. soon this guy, a drunk white straight guy entered our conversation –

so all those beers were a waste huh

oh shit. those were from you?! thanks so much.

no no that’s fine. i just realized that those guys on stage-they are gay?

well, that is a giant penis on the bass player’s shirt

oh, yeah, now i see it. well have a nice night.

you too, can i buy you a beer?

no no. i think i am going home.

the conversation was on the side that was difficult for parker to hear so when i explained the conversation, she busted out laughing…whaaaaat? that is awesome.

 

soon catherine and i left wichita for syracuse for her to continue her studies. and we promptly broke up. i stayed involved a little with queer activism, but the more i identifies as queer, the harder it was for me to be involved in gay and lesbian issues. i had become vegan and got involved in more wide-ranging issues that would later be called intersectional. plus all the resources (time and money) started going into marriage equality, and i just couldn’t abide. it was leaving so many people behind. they said they would win this fight and come back….p.s. they never come back. youth suicide rates are out of control and continue to climb.

a couple years later i moved to the kansas city area. parker and vinnie had started a kansas city edition of the liberty press. one day i was chatting with kristi. i was stopping in wichita on my way to solo camping in colorado and try to figure out what was next. restaurant management suuuuucked for me.

why don’t you edit the kc issue? its too much for us to keep going back and forth

they were trying to get pregnant and time was ticking…literally. kansas was passing a law to keep single women (i.e. lesbians) from access to fertility clinics and insemination processes.

now, one of my many favorite things about parker was we could fight, and argue about all kinds of different things, but there was never a grudge. probably because even with different opinions or ideas about things, we knew each of us was coming from a caring place.

i remember trying to write about the attacks on planned parenthood and women’s health clinics that provided abortion.

kim, not all lesbians are pro-choice

ugh, how could that be? then i would remember those republican gays when i lived in dallas.ugh, why can’t they see the connection of control of peoples’ bodies?

but there was one place i told parker no

we were going to have all our writers and contributors participate in kansas city’s pride parade, but i was not going to wave or carry or be near a flipping rainbow flag. i did not search high and low to have non-sweatshop shoes and clothes just to carry a dang sweatshop rainbow flag anything. i was holding my ground.

no problem what do you want to do

and the i can’t even write straight shirts were born.

i don’t know how many of mine i gave away or traded. a few at post rugby hot tub parties.

eventually, they made the wise decision to shut down the kansas city issue. it was doing well, but pulling on the main paper.

they got pregnant and had jack. i went into massage therapy. our groups disbanded as we got involved in other things, but not parker. she kept it going. she touched so many people and so many generations.

i remember one visit to wichita, parker had me come and drop in on a youth group she and vinnie got started after catherine and i left.  years later i was watching two of those young people singing on stage at a club in lawerence, one of them i worked with. just recently i learned about a trans-identified youth that my niece played softball with who found support with kristi.

there are so many good stories of kristi. she was always rooting for the oppressed, maybe its her, confusing to me, fascination with disney animation. she loves disney. even her dog gizmo, a little Pomeranian, had a special disney pillow he humped non-stop it seemed. whatever it was, she seemed to believe things would work out, if you worked hard enough and listened deep enough, the answers would come.

she never stopped, she rarely took a break. the only vacation i know of that wasn’t related to some lesbian or gay event was when she got to take jack to disney world. she was so excited to get to do this.

maybe this is why she died so young. (she is just a few months younger than me. a stroke at 49-damn). it would take death to make her stop and rest, but i doubt it. i don’t believe in heaven or hell or whatever, but wherever her spirit is, she is probably sitting with a group of people and trying to find a way to meet the needs of all the other spirits there, laughing and telling everyone to just be cool.

i am no longer in touch with any of those people that i was deeply intertwined with at that time. i didn’t lose them, we just went other ways. i almost reached out to a couple of them when i learned of parker’s death but it felt like an empty gesture; me reaching out to share stories with people who were there and understand or feed the memories. truth is, that is not where i get my support these days. i turned to my current family by blood or bond and fresh mountain air. for me parker’s death does not feel like a void, and why should it. there is no loss, parker will always have a place in my heart, a vast number of memories, and continues to impact my life.

 

p.s i use the lesbian, gay community because that is what wichita was at that point, and i feel still is. it never really took on a queer community attitude. catherine was shunned often for identifying as bisexual. i was questioned and pushed for being in a relationship with someone who identified as bi. the only place for the trans folks in the community at the time was our organization at the university. the community very much pushed for assimilation and acceptance/tolerance. i can’t speak to where it is now.

sounds of life

[the sounds inspired 2 lines of thought so there will be two soundful posts]

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about how the sounds in my life have changed.

It really hit me the other week when my waking and sleeping sounds of drip drip drip changed tempo. The temperature was slightly increasing but mostly it had been super sunny. one day it was in single digits but sunny. the snow was melting and freezing as it dripped down the branches of this tree i was walking by. i would have taken a picture, but there were these drunk white dudes in the hot tub in the background.

It’s been melting for weeks and it is February. But that isn’t what I want to write about today.

I’m working on that one.

This one I want to simply recognize the changes

So I woke the other day, and there was no drip

No dripping

No little trickle

It was completely silent.

No….no. nonononono

Is it mud season already?

It was around 3 am so I padded off to a window to see what I couldn’t hear

It was snowing!

It was snowing big fat fluffy flakes.

I needed to go back to sleep, but I just couldn’t bring myself to turn away. It was like the ocean all over again but not….the roaring silence of snow falling in a quiet mountain town (we were between music festivals).

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I didn’t realize just how much I’ve missed the roar of the unpacific Pacific Ocean (as Brian Doyle refers to her in his novel plover).

She was such a companion for so long and it’s not like I forgot all the sensations, it’s just that I got distracted by others. There is so much to absorb in this world. But for more than a season, my rhythms and her’s were synched up. I paid attention to the rise and fall of her tide, so I was also aware of the moon, it’s phase and pull on us all.

I woke and slept to the crashing of waves, or the rare occasion when the ocean was still and smooth and reflected the sky in a perfect mirror.

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Here my skin is rarely exposed to the elements. my hands sometimes. my face mostly. i miss the sun on my body. i don’t miss the sandy grit in sensitive places, but the white salt that would accumulate on me and anything on my body as i rode in record-breaking heat. i do actually miss that. i may for reals belong in a warm tropical environment.

And the smell of the ocean air…and its effects on my sinuses. I don’t think I realized just how good that air was for me until it was gone and my nose congested from the dry mountain air. a pot sits simmering on the stove when i am “home”.

I noticed the shift in my scent sense a couple days ago. It had been snowing for a few days. The air was crisp and clean and dry and I smelled pine. It was subtle, maybe from a fire, but I saw no smoke (most people seem to have gas fireplaces). But the smell was clear and it wasn’t sea air.

Nor was it the smell of dead fish, seaweed, or sea lion.

Nor the taste of the salt air in all that i eat. instead, it is the taste of snow with every breath as i pump up the hill each and every day i leave my abode. there is something clean, crips, and just a little sweet on my tongue most days.

I can’t say that I miss the ocean

I do but not really…it’s complicatedly simple

I miss her like I miss lovers and friends who are off doing their things while I do mine. I’m excited to hear about their adventures while I have mine

We had a mighty fine times

Very supportive

But now she is crashing on the shores as someone else gets to sit mesmerized while watching appreciatively wondering what is beneath those unseeable depths.

And I am gazing off at mountains barren or snow peaked in just as much awe.

So no I don’t miss the ocean

I am grateful that she is there and I know that from here I can still care for her and have an impact on her either positively or negatively based on how I live my life and the choices I make. that the snow i see now will melt and flow down through the rivers and merge into her waters.

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An exciting thing about remembering to be in the moment is the noticing. it is a sensation i appreciate about meditation and yoga; paying attention to where i am now. the more i pay attention to specific moments, the more i recognize the subtle shifts and changes in myself and my environment. that means i go slower, i do fewer things but i do them more fully, hopefully…

The drips returned today…it was 1 degree when I woke up

One degree and warming.

Celebration aka how the f#@k did I turn 50

Not only how the fuck did I turn 50? Seems odd that I made it through some situations that maybe I shouldn’t have.

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about this since I decided to leave portland last spring. I hoped to be out on the trail or at least in a tent in Mexico somewhere when this time was marked. But things shifted and changed. And then I was looking forward to being with friends and family on this occasion, but that plan also took a different turn. So here I was in a little mountain town.

I actually worked the day of my birth. No big deal really. Work a bit (that is why I am here) then off the next couple of days to celebrate and go a little nutty in planning and reflection. My co-workers welcomed me to work with a rousing mixed language version of happy birthday and a bottle of whiskey…these are some great folks. I was doing great.

Then I got off work

I decided to treat myself to dinner and a beverage and was going to head home. At a beverage station, I sat down to write and it hit me, when I wake up in the morning, I will be 50 fucking years old. Not that old to some, really old to others, just another day to most. I’ve never freaked out over a birthday before and didn’t really know how to do it so I just rode it out. My decision was to not go to sleep…then I won’t wake up and then I won’t be 50. I was very rational about the whole thing.

I wasn’t ready

Not yet

But

I’m not really open to the alternative

Not yet

I was headed to one of my usual hop-water spots, but at the last minute I went up the stairs instead of down and found a new place where I wouldn’t know someone…yet

The bartender asked what I was having.

When I wake up I turn 50 what should I have tonight

A local whiskey its on me. Happy birthday

Soon I was chatting it up with the band that was about to play: guitar, bass, banjo (mountain music)

And I headed home

I did sleep

I did wake

Everything was a o k

Mostly

I had things I needed to get done that day before I could get into celebration mode, but first, breakfast….remember those vegan rancheros I had a few weeks ago? Yup, I went back for more.

Soon I was caffeinated and fed and the day just took off. And I was into the swing of things.

Then I would get a text

Or a call

Or an email

All fantastic and loving and amazing

Meanwhile, I just kept trying to work out what this all means.

Nothing really. It all means nothing

Not in that nihilistic way of nothing, but really

I have been fortunate enough to “hike my own hike”

I have danced to my own songs in my head/feet in my own way. (I like to think emma would be proud)

Every day since I drove the hell out of that town I grew up in. Each day since has been a lesson in how to do that. And how have I been inspired to do that? People. Strangers. Friends….

ART. Art has inspired me.

Music

Photography

Writers: journalism, fiction, non-fiction, the uncategorizable

This song helped me understand myself (thank goodness it came out while i was still in my 20s)

Anyway, back to the celebration, celebration

It took me to the next day to go out and actually celebrate.

I made a great breakfast and started the day slow and easy

I went to the hot springs that  bubble up in the middle of town and had a nice soak and some good chats

Went to get a snack and some beverages

And the people I’ve gotten to casually know at my favorite spots bought my drinks as I told them I was celebrating my day. I had so many lovely conversations with so many great people

So here is what I have learned about myself in the last year…last year I spent my day with my great pals…pals who are like brothers to me

I was having a tough time trying to deal with so much from the co-op I worked at and making plans to take off to the unknown

Trying to make sense of it all. I really couldn’t have done it without them and all the pals that inspire and instigated with me (p.s. if I know you, you are one of them)

I actually did it

I took off

I set myself free from all of it

Well actually I traded one kind of stress for another

Stressors I couldn’t and can’t understand for ones I can

Makes one hell of a difference

It’s a journey that I hope does not end anytime soon

I don’t know what is ahead, but I relish the mystery

I yearn for the mystery

What and who is around the corner? I look forward to finding out

I am 50 years old

If my genes tell me anything, I am likely to live much longer depending on speeding trucks and texting drivers and rising seas and burning lands and toxic air and nuclear button pushing nut heads

I don’t want to settle down

But I do like going slower and looking and listening and smelling and tasting and touching and feeling

A reminder that home, for me, is a verb: a place in motion and I am just trying to not fall off

 

simple happiness

it was an unassuming setup of a day with a slow but steady start. a day that i thought was going leave me feeling like i was just chasing my tail. i had been trying to get a copy of my lease so that i could get a po box…life in employee housing. the hr person sent it to one place and when i went to pick it up, it had gone to another place, but it was fine. i had stopped in at the office where i report to for work, thinking it would be there, but it wasn’t. so my boss said he had to go up to the main housekeeping office and offered me a ride. we rode around together and chatted. i enjoy his conversations and musings. when i go to the other office, the lease had been moved once again, so i just went back to the main hr person and she got me a copy, whew.

from there the day just rocketed….

but maybe i should start with the day before….

i have mentioned that i am the only white woman, not a manager…only white person at all that is not a manager. so this day i came in on my day off and was just going to go around and prep rooms and make beds for the other housekeepers, but my manager, who was driving me to different properties, would leave me and not come back for awhile. so i would stay and work with whoever was at that condo. eventually, it was just me and the jamaicans. i really like working with the jamaicans, but i am cautious. they are all steeped deep into the island’s religious beliefs which to say are homophobic is not true. the laws in jimaca are not phobic at all, they are down right hateful and violent, so i am cautious, but open with those i work with. (by the way, i think we need a different word for homophobia and i’ll bring this up on a different post just like ethical vegan needs to be readdressed).

i am constantly asked where my husband is and about kids. i tell them i do not want a husband nor kids. they look confused. on this day the questions came again (every time i work with them) and one asked if i was stragiht, and i said i am not straight…i think they were using straight in a different way than i was. however, a few minutes later, the music cranked, they asked if i dance.

well, yes, yes i love to dance! i use to go to the 4 day reggae fest in kansas city.

then come in here and dance.

so i did. i came sliding into the kitchen and danced with one of the women. i followed her moves and my hips swung side to side and around and around to cheers all around.

then i was told to watch out, i just may end up with a jimacan husband….uuugh.

however, lets note that my dancing was cheered on by a group of jamaicans! yes!

now, where was i? yes. slow moving to my day off chores list!

with my lease in hand i headed off to the post office and aquired my po box! yes! but first….i want to go out for breakfast! i almost didn’t because it was lunch time, but as all good folks who have lived in pdx know, brunch is a whole different food group and i haven’t heard many people talk about brunch around here. so i took the risk and swung by this place i heard was vegan friendly, and i have to tell ya. the vegan rancheros were the best f*#@ing rancheros i have ever had! and i have gotten around when it comes to rancheros!

so now i am fed, and po box aquired… i got to thinking…with my lease, i can get my library card! so i headed to the library 9 blocks down the road. amazing little walk! i told the librarians that i never really felt at home anywhere until i got a library card, and it is true. my reading life has been subsisting on the ebook library of multnomah county; a most excellent of libraries, and i perhaps the reason i have managed through some struggles…access to books is worth so much to me. yet, i have missed the pysicality of a bunch of paper full of words bound togher. maybe i am vain just a bit. when i use an ereader, i don’t feel as connected to the book. also, i like to see what others are reading and for them to see what i am reading. it is a great way to start a conversation with a stranger. (side note, my dad passed along one of he and his partner’s ereaders to make my reading life easier, and it was totally kept me sane. i really don’t know what i would do without access to reading!)

 

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for real, this is my library card

 

anyway, i got my library card, wondered around, collected a stack of books and found a place to sit….and what a view!

 

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view from my library perch

 

i didn’t want to leave, but the day was so blue and clear that eventually i had to leave my perch and walk along the river to my next place to explore….a bike shop.

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i miss my bike. i miss riding my bike. i know i can’t ride here yet. there is too much ice under the snow for my little tires. so i went into this amazing bike shop. so great and funky. the guys there that day were only a little brotastic. i got my fix and kept walking along the river.

oh on this walk earlier, i found black sulpher hot springs.

it was an accident. i was walking along the river…it is freaking cold by the way this day, like less than 10 degrees with the sun beaming down, but the sun felt so very good. so as i am walking along and i see steam entering the river! everything else is ice and snow, but here is steaming hot water flowing into the river. sure enough, right after i figure it out, i follow a trail on the other side of the river to a sign that tells me i indeed did find black sulpher hot springs! sweet!

floating a little higher, i head over to the bookstore for their happy hour. that is right. the bookstore has a happy hour, and a statue that discribes by day perfectly!

 

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exactly how i felt this day

 

i get a glass of a local beer and sit down with my stack of library books and just soak in the feelings and emotions. then i walk around the little store and scan a few new books into my goodreads account. they have a whole section on local writers and i look forward to exploring them.

then it was off to this little brewery for a pint before going home to make dinner. tuesday is token tuesday. with every pint you order, they give you a token to donate to a local organization. so i sit there and have a pint, chat with a few people, and look over the vegan cookbook i picked up at the library. see i have missed cooking. i have missed mixing up the sauces and spices that sets the aromas of my imagination running.

i made a list and headed off to the grocery store.

i smiled the whole way home on the bus. i was thinking about how i would fix the veggies in my back pack, what i would read while eating, and then prepare some oats for breakfast for the week.

the whole day was so simple, so easy going, so beautiful, so…so….so spectacular that it seems redicuous to remember how simple it was and how happy that made me, but it was and it did.

it reminded me of days biking or hiking with the simplicity of a great view and movement. of totally acceptance of where i am and what i am doing…so simple. so full. so complete.

i had also stopped at a couple thrift stores and such as i wondered around that day, but as little as i have in my little room, i still don’t need much, and the less i realized i need, the happier i become. it is truly amazing and gratifying. i have appropriate enough clothes and gear for the season. i have a way to read books of my choosing. i have access to healthy food concidering i am surrounded by snow in a small mountain town….thank goodness wealthy people like to come here. i have free transportation around town. and i have a job to pay for it all. i have good friends and family that i can regularly share stories with. i have my health. i have my sence of humor. and i have my sense of adventure. so simple…what else do i need?

where are they now-an update

i totally and completely fell in love with baja: the place, the people, the ocean, and even the heat. however, the one thing that i thought i could work around was kind of my downfall. and by downfall, i don’t mean physical or health or any of those things that tend to end adventures. it was language.

you may be asking yourself, language? how could that be? you have talked at length about many of the conversations you have had.

yes, but you may notice that, with the exception of some american women, these have all been conversations with men. so my whole perspective thus has been by men. there were women present in the area of these conversations. many of them looking at me, smiling, nodding their heads, smiling some more. if i learned anything at all from all the strong-minded latinx folks i’ve met and have actually talked to throughout my life, those smiles and nods are not necessarily about agreement or consent or even a friendly acknowledgment of one’s acceptance in the social situation. in fact it could mean the exact opposite.

it was after i left the cool bike cafe south of rosarito that it hit me, and my desire and need to return to kansas via texas, emerged to give a slight glimpse in helping me make sense of it all…p.s. i’m still sorting that all out.

i’ve hinted that as i approached, crossed, and descended into mexico i got the sense that i should return to kansas. as this became more and more of an internal drive, i knew that i should go via texas and get my dad and his partner involved. all this time i still felt the pull to keep going south, just a little bit more. go at least to k58.

for a while, i thought that this was just because i needed to camp at least one night on the baja beach. and this was somewhat true. i needed a couple more nights in my tent and on the ground. and i am glad i did. but there is a moment i cannot get out of my mind.

at that super cool bike shop cafe with all those great conversations going on around me in spanish, there were two women there. one the girlfriend/wife maybe co-owner who was also definitely a biker too. the other the girlfriend/wife’s mother. the one who closes up when he goes to work in san diego for his night job.

the girlfriend/wife (sorry, he said one or the other but i can’t remember and maybe it doesn’t matter and i should just pick one because who cares, but i care and don’t want to just make something up. this woman seemed strong and independent and well i’m ashamed of missing this piece in my excitement of all the other things going on), and i had some friendly conversation. when everyone was shaking my hand and giving salutations, she joined in….she was certainly one-of-the-guys and wanted me to know it.

the mother….

she sat in the comfy chair in the corner. we made eye contact several times with smiles. i wanted to ask her so many questions…really i wanted to listen to whatever story she had to tell me, but i knew that english was not going to be the vehicle for that and if i wanted her story, it was going to have to be in spanish, and my spanish is just not that strong! curse words!

the final time i looked her in the eyes and smiled and thanked her for the hospitality, in spainsh, i knew that i would have to improve my skills and that i wouldn’t return until i did. could i continue on down the coast and make things happen? yes. i could have kept riding, gotten some side jobs to keep myself fed and nourished. most people spoke english where i went. even when i went to get coffee (instant with snagged sugar packets from the oxxo store it was in front of while closed) from the women setting up stands on the side of the road. we made it work, but i didn’t want to make it work. i was in their country and i wanted to know them better. i wanted to share stories and i’ve been able to do that, but i want to be better. i should and need to be better. i’m willing to fall back on english when i need to, but i need to be able to lead with spanish.

so as you know, i caught a ride back up to playas with that surfer, rode up to san diego. while there i stayed with my amazing friends again…. their hospitality goes way beyond anything i can imagine.

so while in san diego for the 2nd time i had an interesting experience….i’ll make a separate post for. but i had some fun and some insight on still being bothered by gay/lesbian mainstream culture.

so i stayed with my vegan/activist/writing friends then caught the train up to los angelas. hung out with the union station homeless folks until the train that would take me to ft. worth, tx arrived.

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train sunset view

the days and the people who traveled with me to texas were fascinating. i met so many people in so many different situations, traveling for a wide range of reason…all of which also deserves another post of their own. but i arrived in texas. my dad picked me up. we dropped off my bike and bags and picked up his partner and headed off to a vegan diner. that is right! ft. worth has a vegan diner, and not just any old vegan diner, but a well-known one. it is the spiral diner. oh it was soooo good! we all got the meatloaf special with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts!

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i stayed with them for two weeks. we caught up. worked on one of the hardest puzzles i’ve ever tried, and we got their house sold so that they could move to new mexico and start their for realz retirement. i’m so excited for them. i also got to really have some great one-on-one conversations with the person my dad has been with for 30 years now. i’ve always thought the world of her, but we’ve never really had the time to have some deeper conversations. gosh she is great! i can’t wait till my bike adventures take me to las cruces, nm to visit them.

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fall bike ride

my dad then drove me up to wichita so that i can winter, save money, and plan some more adventures. i’m staying with my mom, catching up with my sister, trying to catch up with my niece and nephews who are growing up so fast, and into such amazing humans that i can’t believe we are related.

so here i am. in kansas. i place i never thought i would return to for more than a week. i’m trying to write. i joined the national novel writing month hoping to get more of a story done, but trying to find a job and catching up has thwarted some of my momentum…also i have very little discipline.

however, i am outlining the next phase of an adventure that i hope helps me bring together the multiple ideas i have for connecting all the parts of me: vegan, queer, a person concerned about what we are doing to this planet, an adventurer, food lover, pro-craft/antigentrifracation /artisianalism /hipster bullshit person. wish me luck….

in the meantime, i will try to tell some good stories.

 

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chilin like a surfer

i left the super cute bike shop and did seriously consider camping close by. the views of the ocean where certainly worthy of good nights stay, but i really felt like i wanted to get down to this campground that i had heard so much about. i had already skipped a couple places that people had suggested i go to, like papas and beer. to be fair, i probably would have stopped if it were called papas y cervesa. i do love potatoes and i do love beer and i believe that they are fantastic when paired together. but it was just too much of a tourist place and not much of a visitors place.

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so i kept on peddling up hills and coasting down hills. i only had about 30 km to ride today, so i decided to take all the time that i wanted. there was a graciously wide shoulder to ride on and some damn fine nice people to return waves to. the road was hilly all the way.

hills were not the tricky part here. the tricky part was the way the highways merged traffic entering and exiting the highway. fortunately, there were signs for cyclists to watch for traffic before crossing the merging lanes. i was usually accompanied by a pedestrian or two, and i still don’t know why but i think it was to catch the bus/vans that would be packed with people going to and from the towns. this version of public transportation fascinates me! for real! it did in peru as well. there are these minivans that people can flag down, and if there is room or someone is getting off there, they stop and you get on. i have no idea how much they cost, nor where/how you get off. i wanted to test it out, but no room for a bike…also i think i need more language skills, well actually i know i need to up my spanish game.

i eventually rolled into the the little village that held the k58 campground…so many things in this area are named for their location down the coast. so k58 is at the 58-kilometer marker.  this little area also goes by the name alisitos.

alistitos holds around 4 hotels, pretty nice hotels, all of which have a restaurant and/or bar of some kind. there is also a couple convenience stores and one sells beer/wine/alcohol. somehow this little way stop has 2 thai restaurants! it also has a shit-ton of americans! more on that soon.

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there weren’t too many people in the campgrounds when i arrived, it was friday afternoon, so i didn’t think much about it, but as i walked my bike up the coastline looking for a grassy area to pitch my tent, i met a few people living out of their vans or trucks that had set up camp….all with american accents. i eventually found the smallest of small patches of grass close to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach (this whole area overlooks the ocean with paths down to the beach. so i set up camp and then took the unloaded bike for a ride “around town”.

first thing i did was grab a cold beverage! in those 30 km i drank 2 full liters of water and was still thirsty, so i grabbed a mexican version of powerade. i was still having a hard time with the idea of buying bottled water and so far had avoided it. i was able to fill up at the hostel with “purified” water out of a refilled jug type thing. and i knew that if i kept going south i was going to have to get a couple “gallon” jugs to refill at water stations as if found them. the other option was to buy liters of bottled water to fill my vessels.

eventually, i found my way over to a courtyard and grabbed a cold tecate and sat to do some writing. i had some feelings and emotions to get out, and at some point, my phone was in just the right place to get a couple text messages! in playas i got some because, i was close to the border, but here i wasn’t expecting to get anything. so i bounced some ideas off some people about what i was thinking of doing and going. it always feels good to get some reassurance.

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i then walked across the courtyard just to see what was there, and it was a cute place with about 6 people sitting up at the bar…all americans who have been living in the area for a great deal of time. they didn’t talk to me much, just kind of looked at me funny (i had leaned my bike against a big pole in the courtyard. i don’t know that they liked seeing people that they didn’t know. also, they were all fairly intoxicated. they were talking about property, businesses going in and who owned them and who was doing the work. then this other guy came in.

the first thing i noticed about this guy was not what he looked like, but the noises he made. his first stop was at the drum kit set up on the stage. he was a pretty good. come to find out, he would be playing in the band lined up for the night. they were playing in support of an organization that he ran in the area and with just a few questions i found out a little more information.

this guy was born in the area but went to university in the u.s. and worked there until retirement and then returned to the area and eventually started this organization to help keep kids with their parents. there were a great number of “orphans” in this region, not because of death but what they called economic orphans – kids abandoned or dropped off at orphanages because the parents couldn’t, or didn’t think that they could afford to raise the kids themselves.

so this organization has a center where the parents drop the kids off on their way to work super early in the morning. they feed the kids breakfast and takes them all on a bus to school, then pick them up and brings them back to the center where they can do homework, be fed again, and also get introduced to people who can teach them various trades in a type of mentor-type program. then the parents pick them up in the evening and take them home. i believe that the organization also takes them to church on the weekends when there isn’t school. it seems that it is pretty tied to the church and his connections with various people in the united states for funding. the church isn’t you know my kind of gig. historically, i believe that “the church” has been one of the major colonizers of the americas. that being said, this projects seems to have really been effective in keeping families together and for giving young people the belief that they can do more than just run around town causing un-necessary trouble and just stealing to get what they want/need. the things this guy seemed really excited about was: keeping families together, educating and feeding young people, and helping young folks find skills so that they could work in a field that was beneficial to their community.

the other thing this guy and i got to talk about was a number of american ex-pats that lived in the area (the other americans had left by this time). i had asked him how people felt about the type of potential hypocrisy of the border issues with so many americans living cheaply in mexico. especially considering the proximity to the border (60 km is only 37 miles). he took a deep breath first.

the local people actually like it, they don’t mind it. it is good for the local economy. the local mexican people are able to get jobs in the businesses started by americans, or in their houses as cleaning or construction/repair. americans spend money here which is also good for the economy. so the locals they don’t mind, they like it. but the government. that is a different story. they don’t like it at all.

the way he talked about the government’s feelings i knew that i shouldn’t push it, so i didn’t. but it made me think some about all these things. i genuinely believe this to be true. though he is the only person from mexico that i specifically talked to about this, others i talked to encouraged me to come back, to consider moving there, and at the very least spend much more time in the area.

he told me to come back for the band later, and really i did plan on it, but then the sun went down….

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i got back to my campsite with a full belly of thai food and a soul full of good conversation, that after a wonderful sunset, i passed out…well i wanted to pass out.

the sunset was spectacular, but soon i was ready to lay down and read until i fell asleep. it only took a couple of paragraphs for me to be ready for headlamps out. then all the warnings and fears for my safety rushed into my mind, plus the ocean’s roar kept me from being able to hear anything else. normally i know that i will be able to hear some creature sneaking up on my little world, which is really only squirrels. but what really hit me was all the stories about thieve, which was only about 2% of the stories i’d read or heard of this area of the world, just came rushing into my mind.

then i would find headlights coming for me, well it felt like it anyway, but it was just people coming in late to the campground and they were clear on the other side of the park. it was making me feel like i’d completely lost myself because i never ever feel like this. the fear and anger was rising up in me in a strange storm of confusion  and bewilderment. so i took a deep breath.

in this breath i asked myself, is this my fear or other peoples’?

do i really feel unsafe?

what is the worst that could happen and then what would i do about that?

and eventually, i asked if i truly felt fear or is this just me taking on other people’s shit?

and really? i felt completely safe. everything that was playing in my head was other people’s stuff and not based at all on my personal experience. i knew my surroundings. people knew who i was and i had made myself known, in a good way, to those around me. the lot was closed off to anyone not camping there. this fear is not my own.

then i drifted off into a sound sleep.

when i woke to a wonderfully sunny but slightly cool morning, i noticed new vehicles had shown up overnight, so i stretched and headed off to get a cup of coffee and meet my new neighbors

as i walked up to the shop, i passed a guy who was getting ready to go on an early morning surf run. we chatted a bit. he was so excited to have the weekend to just surf and rest and eat and surf some more. i said that was trying to decide if i wanted to hang out here for two days, or start my way back up the coast that day, or just haul ass to be up in playas by sunday night.

he said, well stay and i’ll drop you off on my way back up to orange county. well ok sounds like a plan! and he went surfing and i grabbed some coffee and my book and that is how we spent the day. his plan was to surf all day saturday and then sunday get up early, surf some more, and then we could head out.

saturday was fantastic. i just sat and read and watched the surfers show up and head out to the beach. now to watch surfers get excited is something to see. as they changed into their wetsuits they would watch other surfers catch some waves and they got excited about what they witnessed which made them want to get out there even faster. so the campground filled with people there just to surf and have a good time.

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the surfers had some great setups. they had vans or trucks with all their cooking gear, camp chairs, food, beverages, hoodies for the cool evenings. i spent this time watching these folks and i came to understand surfers in a new way. and it wasn’t until waking sunday morning to a cold and foggy day that i really started putting it all together.

the months that i had been traveling down the pacific coast, i’d been watching surfers and the way they watched the waves. when the waves rose they ran out to catch them. when the ocean became smooth as glass, the surfers sat on their boards and chatted with one another until the swell returned.

but when i woke on sunday morning with a fog all around, i wondered what the day would hold for them, especially when i noticed that the fog was rolling down from the hills and out to the ocean, vs rolling inland from the sea, and it was beautiful. when the sun finally came up over the hills to burn off the fog, the surfers finally started stirring and walking around. what really shocked me was the fog rainbow. as the skies blued up and the fog was still hanging in the ocean, we witnessed a full rainbow from the coastline over into the ocean.

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then the fog returned and the surfers disappeared.

i walked around with a cup of tea watching the shifts and changes of the environment. and i caught up with my ride back up the coast. we set up a timeframe to leave our little paradise at a leisurely pace, but so that he wouldn’t be caught in a long line at the border.

as i walked around i noticed that there were people in the ocean surfing in the fog. which shouldn’t have suprised me. i watched people surf well into the end of the sunset the last couple nights, and what i way to watch the sunset…i can only imagine.

so why did i gain a new appreciation for surfers and surf culture? well there was no one out there maintaining the ocean wave so that they could have a perfect run. there wasn’t someone with an anti-fog machine to make it a perfect day, nor even a warming or cooling hut for when the water or weather was too cold or hot. you just take what you get and make the most of it. if the swell is rising, you run out and forget whatever else you had planned. if the waves disappear, you wait it out and enjoy the people around you.

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sure this is not unniversal. i’ve talked to some seriously type a people who ran people out of the way to get a specific wave, but down here, it ws so chill. they aslo sharred tips and ways that work for them, or wax that they perfered. if people gained trust, there might even be a sharing of special surf spots. and when someone else had a really nice ride, they were cheered them on.

so surfing is something that is going on the need to do list. this whole area had places to rent boards and wetsuits, and get some instruction. Next time i am sure to do this.

it didn’t take long to get back to playas (i was surprised at my ability to give directions that took us right to the hostel), but we managed to have some great conversations around mid-life and quarter-life crisis, and all the ways and reasons to step away from the race of capitalism. by the time he dropped me off, i felt like i had met a kindred spirit. who knows, maybe our waves will cross again.

 

so much kindness

i finally packed up and headed of playas de tijuana. my plan was to get down to rosarito, about 30 km south of playas. i knew for sure that there was this bike shop down there and i wanted to get my bent wheel fixed. i figured if i got it fixed early enough i could just keep going south and find a place to camp. however, coming out of playas was straight up! there was no easing into it. i had looked at the elavation profile before leaving, and figured it was just a few hundred meters, should be ok, but wow! within minutes i was sucking air and drenched in sweat and my legs were burning. and as for the long tunnel? it was frightening. not because of the traffic flying by. there was plenty of room. but because it was still going straight up and now curving and the just kept building. i jumped off the bike and started pushing. it gave me time to catch my breath, drink some water, and take inventory of my situation.

this wasn’t really anything new. i’ve been through this at some level almost every day. its called bike tour, and anyone who ever thought that the world is flat has never backpacked nor gone on a bike tour. something else was happening to me. i just wanted to go home, and not just home as in back to portland or oregon, but kansas. it was a little disturbing. i have never really wanted to go back to kansas except to see friends and family. so as i climbed hill after hill alongside traffic that was flying by me i was more than a little flustered.

one thing i count on when hiking or biking is the general rule of what goes up must come down. eventually, i was able to roll downhill and into rosarito. i couldn’t decide between getting a hotel room, not something i had planned on doing until i started to get so flustered, then head over to the bike shop. however, as i rolled into town, i started to feel better so i went bike shop first, figuring that if it got fixed quickly, i would head on down the road to a camp spot.

so i rolled into the bike shop…super small and in a residential area. well i rolled my loaded up bike into the shop and started to explain what was going on. turns out, he spoke less english than i spanish! eventually, we worked it out and he stopped what he was doing and fixed my wheel. we did use his computer for a little translating. when we put the wheel back on, i asked him what i owed him and he wouldn’t let me pay. he also wouldn’t except a tip. i left with a good wheel and a hotel suggestion, and yet one more story of kindness.

it didn’t take him long to fix the wheel, but i was emotionally exhausted, so i opted for a hotel and a swim and a shower. that evening i walked down to a taqueria recommended by “happy cow” app. however, the smell of all the cooking cow turned me to this cute little cafe with an outdoor patio. it was so delightful, that i went back for breakfast. that night, i turned on some movie and started making plans to turn towards the mid-west. this wasn’t an easy decision and one i will talk about more later. but with the pressure of how to make it further south with a record heat wave off my mind, i made some playful plans.

after breakfast, i started south again. i knew that i wanted to make it down to k58 campsite. it is a fairly well-known spot for surfers to come from all over baja and southern california, and well, the more time i’ve spent around surfers, the more i like them and their relaxed laidback attitude. yet, just a few kilometers down the road, i made a little stop.

i had seen that there was a bike cafe about 15 minutes south of rosarito, but it didn’t look like anything was there via google maps. still, i kept an eye out anyway. i’d been told about this amazing bike culture in this area and that there were a few organized big rides between rosarito and ensenada. so when i saw the signs for it, i jumped six lanes of traffic and rolled up to the back porch.

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i leaned my bike up against the patio’s fence and walked by these fancy pants road bikes. inside i found 3 guys of various ages in their fancy cycling gear, two women off to the side, and a young guy behind the counter. all heads turned towards me with full friendly smiles. i was asked where i was going/coming, and where was my bike? eventually they asked if they could get me anything. soon i was holding a huge cup of hot coffee and our conversations continued. it was lively and fun. eventually, the “older” guy sitting at the counter turned to me as he was going through his little seat/tool pouch and pulled out a pocket knife.

you have one of these?

yup, two. one for food and one for other things.

hmmm, you have a gun?

ha! no! i’d probably get shot.

hmmm well, your president thinks we are dangerous and bad people

fuck that guy (oh shit gotta watch that knee-jerk reaction). i mean he’s not my president. i can’t stand how he talks about or treats people. as for border imperialism…..

well. i bought your coffee.

no no no

already did.

i’m standing next to him now and reach out my hand to shake his as we continue with conversations about biking and such. when he is about 1/2 way to his bike he turns and comes back to me, now with his bike glove off.

that was a very friendly shake and i want to do it right.

so we shake again.

soon it is just me and the owner and my still very hot cup of coffee, and we continue to talk for about an hour. he was born in san diego, went to school and college in that area. moved to rosarito to be with family. his wife and her family (his wife and her mother were the two women at the shop) live in the area. he opens the shop at either 6 or 7 in the morning. leaves for san diego around 3 or 4 to work nights (the mother of his wife closes the shop). he has some kind of special pass to get back and forth quickly over the border. i actually talked with many people who do this. so if you think the people from mexico are lazy and such….come talk to me.

 

i didn’t want to leave this area. everyone i talked to was so kind and shared so much with me. the owner of the bike shop gave me a few suggestions of places to camp. he even said “hell, camp across the street. i open early tomorrow. come in for breakfast!”

i was so tempted.

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finally, i climbed back on my trusty stead (i should come up with a name for by wheeled friend). i had around 30 km to ride for the day before i could rest, and i was pretty sure it was going to be one rolly ride.