life and threats on trains

i am jumping some stories. mostly i just need to get this one out of my head.

trying to find the way i wanted to travel west with my bike for the least amount of money as soon as possible was my mission. after pouring over options that just were not going to work, finally one popped up.

it would take me early wednesday morning to mid-day sunday, but i could load my bike up without the need to box it up. seemed good. i packed some foods and beverages and prepared to be able to just kick back, write, read, look out the window and day dream. what more could a kid ask for?

philly to chicago was fairly uneventful, in fact, was delightful thanks to the woman i was sitting next to. her youngest child had finished high school, so now it is her time to do whatever, so instead of the kids leaving the nest, she left.

she had seen me run around the station with my bike and that is what started our conversations and connection, leading many more. she got rid of as much of her life as she could and is moving to montana where her eldest child lives. she loves to bike, run, swim, and basically just be out of doors. she “hates the city”. we would go to the lounge car for our own happy hour moments, a night cap, or morning coffee. our conversations always shifting and changing, or involving whomever decided to chime in. upon arrival in chicago we both had a four hour layover, so we went out in search of salads for lunch, and wine for her to take to her sleeper car for her next train ride. we helped each other find our next trains, exchange contacts and say so long. a very delightful 30 hours.

while waiting for the next train, the califonia zepher, i ran into another person loading their bike. we didn’t really chat until we were waiting to take our bikes to the baggage car to hand up to the loaders. i should have known this leg was going to be an interesting one. we didn’t get to hand hand our bikes up to the baggage people. we had to lay them down in a different baggage car, and the guy that was showing us which car to load on to, made it clear that he did not appreachiate bikes on trains. did he know that we most likely would not be using the train if it weren’t for the ability to bring our bikes? later, when i was trying to claim my bike, i kept getting sent back and forth until they finally listened to me about where i had put my bike a couple days before.

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the conductors on this first section of this train were just rude. they treated us all like we were misbehaving children before we even left the station. later i would wish that they would actually address the parents of the children running over people all day and night. i spent a good deal of the time either in the observation car or the cafe beneath it. here i met so many people studying or practicing so many different kinds of physics. our conversations were amusing. to me it was about who was so certain of their knowledge vs. who acted curious and inquisitive. i also met a cycling guy from england who had also over heated and decided to go west. we both felt validated by our decisions based on our conversations. we both asked and listened, gaining insight from one anothers’ experience. so nice.

infact that was something that followed throughout this train ride. certainity vs curiosity. traveling through lands that i knew very well and over hearing people sharing information with their traveling companions about what things were or did, and being so very incorrect. one person actually tried to argue with me about sunflowers. insisting that they were mustard seed plants. i didn’t aruge. why would i? didn’t seem worth it, but it did lead me to this whole different internal dialogue about who knows what and how do we know what we believe we know and why do we cling to that knowledge so tightly?

is this how we end up so certain in our believes? in our own dogma? what makes some so certain and others open to different or alternate possibilities? is it possible to move from firm dogma to open possibilities? i was thinking all these thoughts as we were moving through various canyons of the colorado river. there was a bear, a fox (again arguments about fox or coyote), and some mooning from river rafters.

then we were back to the desert. we had entered navada and those getting off in reno were very excited. we were running a few hours late due to the need for amtrak to yield to rail/cargo trains. however, about an hour from reno things would change.

the engineer, or lead conductor was on the intercome giving us updates on times and various pieces of information about the gorgous forested lands we would once again be traveling through when all of a sudden the trains emergency breaking system kicked in and gasps came over the speakers.

soon we were told that there was some kind of mechanical issue and that they were going to do an inspection of the train and then get back to us. having the same kind of thing happen just outside of philly, i doubted that this was the truth. i should also mention that a rail train was stopped on the tracks next to us, heading east, and also at a stop.

the train outside philly stopped for a long time because there was a fear that we hit some trespassers on the tracks. i couldn’t help but think that something of the sort had happend here. we were pretty close to a major highway (and i had just seen a person on a bicycle peddling by wishing i could get to my bike and peddle away).

eventually they told us that we did indeed hit a “trespasser” and that we needed to stay and make sure that the “trespasser” was ok (they never mentioned if it was a human or non-human animal, it was always the trespasser). eventually, naturally, we noticed the various vehicals showing up and since we were the last car of the train and all the action was directly behind us, we knew some kind of shit happened.

couple of hours later we are told that we did hit a “trespasser” and that we “were waiting for the coroner before we could leave.” then we had to wait for the crew to give statements to the sharriff, then waiting to be cleared by the sharriff’s office or police crew. don’t really remember. i just figured we would go when we could go and no amount of questioning was going to change our situation. the crew in our train just kept trying to reassure that amtrak would make sure that everyone eventually would get where they wanted to go.

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we would sit there outside of reno for 4 to 5 hours. the train was running out of food and beverages…and patience. they ended up having to make an emergency meal for all the passengers on the train. the complementary meal would be a beef stew and mashed potatoes. i went down to the snack car to see if mike still had some vegan burgers. nope. we was out of almost everything, but encouraged those of us that do not eat meat to go to participate anyway to put it in their minds that they need a different plan for emergency meals. the diner crew was not happy and was down right pissy to anyone asking if there were other options. i get it. they were way late to get off duty, were tired, frustrated, and probably a little traumatized as well.

mike, the guy who worked the snack car, told me a little about what had happened. the “traspasser” was actually a crew member of another train (the rail car stopped already) who was walking along a live track with earbuds in, knew our train was on its way in. the whole crew broke all the safety guidlines. we were going full speed when “he” was struck. he most likely died instantly and didn’t feel it, or at least not for long. the question remaining on many minds: suicide or accident.

i thanked mike for all the work he did, and the service he provided all of us, and i wished him and the rest of the crew well. i can’t imagine how the crew must feel under these conditions: a person dying, being so late getting into the end of the line before they had to turn around and go back the other directioin, having to answer all the questions from everyone about where to and how they were going to get some place.

my 10 hour layover in sacromento became a 3 hour layover. it was late enough that i didn’t even bother trying to load my bags on the bike and look for food. some of the screaming kids from the last train were in this waiting room, so i just went outside then up to the platform to wait for my train. it was a nice summer evening and i wanted to enjoy as much as i could. in reflection this could have been a good or bad thing.

our train was only 20 to 30 minutes late coming out of l.a. i was told that i would load my bike up in the front baggage car, then would board in the last coach car. i’ll tell you that is a long haul with full bike bags.

i got in line to board, and this would be the first time on this trip that i would have to wait for an assigned seat. the guy handing out seat tickets would become known as the “beanie guy” as he was the only crew member wearing a beanie. this guy actually sent me up one car, so i was in the next to last car now. we boarded a little after midnight so i had all my sleep stuff on the outside of my backpack making it easier for me to set up my sleep station, put on headphones, cover my eyes and pass out.

in the morning i woke before 6 (when the cafe opens). a few people around me were already up and were talking about there being a second mass shooting. i knew about one, but not the other. this was not how i wanted to wake up. i wanted to at least acknowledge my internal noise before the external chaos of the world permeated my being. so i went to the observation car. we were approaching mt. shasta and the sunrise views were outstanding. i struck up a conversation with the woman next to me who was returning to eugene after a weekend at the national storytelling confrence in california. we had a wonderful conversation before she went to the dining car for breakfast. i eventually went to my seat to read some more after a really long wait for a rail train to pass while we were next to kalamath lake.

the people around me where interesting. all kinds of conversations where going on, but mostly people were sleeping or reading or listing to something with earbuds in. i had just told my friends when i would be coming into town just before we went up the pass and out of cell range. at odell lake we came to a slow stop and told we were waiting for a rail train to pass.

funny how time passes when stuck on a train with no where to go. an hour passed and nothing. no train. no info. the conductors where kind of pacing around. going down the stairs, up the stairs, leaning against a wall behind the seats just in front of me (i was sitting in an aisle seat at the top of the stairs, so it was easy for me to watch them. the one conductor would talk into his radio thing from time to time. at one point, as we could hear the radio crackle with information, he said there should be something soon, that it appeared that the train we were waiting for to pass was having engine trouble.

our car was getting a little antsy, as i’m sure most people were. a few of us stood up and stretched and chatted. i told the people behind me that i didn’t think the conductor was telling us the truth and explained to them my experiences thus far. i was pretty sure we didn’t hit someone up here, but that something was going on.

i had smelled cigarette smoke several times that morning, and it appeared that a few people kept going downstairs by the bathrooms where carry on luggage can be stored, with empty cups, but coming back up with full ones. i knew they had thrown people off the train for such things, but why stopped here for so long for that. none of it was making sense.

the guy that had been sitting across the aisle and behind me came up the stairs and tapped me on the shoulder and said that everyone was suppose to move to the back of the train. that the conductor was going to have us all move back. this didn’t make sense. i stayed in my seat.

meanwhile some guy that i couldn’t see kept yelling about wanting the “fucking dog off the train”. a young guy in our car had a service dog.

the beanie guy kept coming up and down the stairs with wide eyes, yet unable to make eye contact. something was happening, but what the hell was it. not having cell service was not easing anyone’s situation and internal dialogue was quickly becoming external, making its way to whomever was nearby to listen.

by this time, i was already suppose to have arrived. my friends have traveled by train often and know things happen and how to get info. i found out later that where they were waiting for me, the happy dive bar across the street from the train station, was close enough for them to hear the amtrak announcements letting them know that we were late, but not how late or why.

so here i am chatting with the people behind me, telling them that i didn’t think any of this was making sense when i looked up and on the other side of the door, in the next car is what looks like a gaggle of riot cops or swat team trying to open the door to our car and charge down the aisle. shotguns up and pointing red laser beams at us as they moved our way.

at first i was laughing, as i reached for my phone to record anything that may happen. there were lots of brown and black folks on this train. i was laughing because the lead swat like guy couldn’t get the door open. it took 3 or 4 tries before they all came charging down at us, fully armed and pointing shotguns at us all. and i was laughing because this is what would happen now here.

and where did they go, but to the back of the train, pointing their guns at all those who did move back there (so happy i did not move). eventually the guy who told me to move, told the cops not us, that guy over there.

the cops backed up, pointed all weapons on the guy who had been yelling about the dog on the train. the cops asked him his name, i didn’t hear his answer, then asked if he was armed, “yes, i have a 45”. then shouts “i got it! i got it!” after we had heard him drop it on the floor.then they hauled the guy off the train as he kept asking what he was charged with and that he had been sleeping for the last 3 hours. and off goes another angry white guy that’s been carrying a gun ready to fire away at any moment.

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what the fuck

5 fully armed officers from various departments had boarded the train. then they started taking people off one by one to interview them. seems this guy was threatening people since the sacrmento station, starting with a woman’s pre-teen daughter. people had been alerting amtrak employees about this guy from the go.

on the train he had a coutdown going for when he was going to start taking hostages,  had been smoking on the train several times, and it seems everyone in our car had some story about this guy, except me. i had managed to miss almost everything.

eventually they let us all off the train for a “smoke break”. i did suspect some of the people came forward with a story once they saw people getting to smoke while talking to a cop.

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eventually we got back on the train and we got to start moving again. all of us sitting near one another shared stories and asking what were we suppose to do now. those who had the guns pointed directly at them started to breakdown into tears and sobbed on shoulders.

the woman who had been sitting/sleeping next to the guy overnight had been in the observation car during the time we were stopped and came back once we started moving again. i had seen her in the morning. she thought he was just another crazy white guy and she was a strong black woman tired of crazy white guys. i ran into her later when i went down to the cafe car for a beer and a snack. the cafe was closed but i saw her in the back by the bathrooms alone, looking shaken up.

i asked if she needed anything. we talked. well she talked. i listened. she had no idea he had a gun. she had yelled at him. they had faught pretty much all night until she got up and left. she had bad feelings about him from the go. “he could have shot me at any time!?”

we didn’t see or hear from a conductor until we were abut 30 minutes from the eugene station (our next stop). someone came over the speakers as the guy sitting next to me and i went in search of some kind of information anouncing the approximate new times. some of us did our own math and believed that they purposly went slower than needed to talk about what and how they were going to respond to what had happened.

when a conductor finally did come back to check in on those of us getting off the train in eugene, he had no response. no one was going to come make sure that we were “ok” or that those personally traumatized had access to support via amtrak or some other means. i found out, by talking to others while in line for bathrooms or drinks, that unless one was in our car, no one knew anything about what happened. even those in the observation car that the armed cops came through to get to him, were told nothing.

to be a little fair. once the incident was over and we were moving again we saw beanie guy head to the front of the train with his bags packed looking none to happy. we never saw him again. we assumed he got off at the unscheduled stop before we got into eugene proper. he was the one conductor people had voiced their concerns about the guy since before boarding in sacramento. this could have all been handled quickly in a station with support.

the conductor who did talk to us had only been on the job for 6 months, and he was the one we saw back in our area. the lead conductor i only saw once early in the trip. she was recalculating arrival times in the cafe car after the stop we had in klamath. i did see her in the baggage car when i went to claim my bike. she apologized for any inconviencies. i wished her well. i just wanted to load up my bike and point it to my pals who by now had gone home and were cooking up a nice curry for us as the beer was chilling. have i mentioned how much i love my friends?! all of them! everywhere!

it took awhile for some of us to take in everything that had just happened. i still am i reckon. many of us that follow just how much gun violence there is in this country. how many mass shootings there are. how much fear people live in and with every flipping day; sometimes it takes a minute to realize what was experienced.

as for myself. i’m ok. i’m good, as pools well up in my eyes right now. i don’t know how i felt as i was instructed to stay in my seat and keep my head down as i could see it all go down. it was so instinctual. the arsonal of the police/military weapons at eye level, the brown man i was sitting next to me waking up as everything was happening, me putting my hand on his back telling him to stay down. i trusted no one in this situation but my own privlage keeping me more safe than those around me…and as a queer low-income gender queer person in this country being white and educated was what i had going for me…as usual. i say this with no ego or good for me moment, my concern  was for those around me. i never believed i was in physical danger, but that others would be. i don’t know why. as others processed what could have happened if….i listened. i never felt the danger. as i’ve taken some time to process and talked it out with my people i still don’t feel like i was in physical danger. maybe part of my laughter of the military police having problems opening the door, was the idea that “of course this is what is happening” with no sense of suprise.

but i am certainly feeling something

i feel for those who did feel threatened

those who were sittting near this white man spouting violent threatening language

those who feel this threat each and every day due to how they look or move through their lives

where their families moved here from as refugees seeking asylum

forced here

colonized here

no matter who we are

no matter how we vote(d)

where we live

for so long now

this is our reality.

the people behind me? they were suppose to be at that garlic festivile that was a scene of a recent mass shooting.

everyone had some kind of close call with a mass shooting in this country, or white supremest hate filled violence to share.

so i have a question(s) for all those who voted for this administration, for this way of governing for this hate sponsored politics. those of you who don’t believe that this is what you voted for…that you voted for the economics or whatever you thought was going to provide you with a sense of safety and future you wanted to see, who think this is not the america you wanted to make great again.

for all those who believe that there is a grave threat from people who seek refuge along the southern border, or are muslim, black, brown, queer, trans

how do you “know” that this is the source of violence or some kind of risk to your safety, financial or physical. how do you “know” this to be true?

i also have questions for all those who have asked me if i feel safe traveling alone? camping by myself, biking by myself. i have never felt a threat until i entered the places more populated by people.

because of all these and so many more questions i have, i don’t know how to end this post.

thank fucking much that i had some of the best people in the world waiting for me with food and beverages and hugs and listening skills when i got off this train to help me deal with a fairly benign situation comparitively.

i shouldn’t have to deal with this, no one should.

the things i should have to deal with have nothing to do with fragile egos with guns, fists, white houses fed by congress and mega corporatioins.

i’m tired too

i’m tired of being angry

i’m tired of deciphering if that sound was fireworks or gunfire

i’m tired of filtering

of self censoring

and if i am this tired, how do others who have done this for generations, centuries feel?!

a final note. i looked this incident up on line just to see what if any news would be reported, because we never saw a news crew. there was very little reported. mostly that we were delayed for 5 hours costing amtrak lots of money in lost revenue due to missed connections and such. that there were 272 passangers and 15 crew members. that there was no injuries reported and no weapons. really? no weapons??!! we saw the weapon. i heard the man say he had a 45. i heard the cop drop it then pick it up and repeat several times “i got it! i got it!”

know who to trust with what you know is true

 

 

 

and i am off

so long steamboat hello…adventure

so much has happened since i last wrote. i had good intentions of writing and updating, but i’d get home from work with just enough time to make some dinner, do a few exercises/stretch, do a little research, read, go to bed, repeat.

my days off i spent staring at the mountain, watching the snow melt and fall and melt and fall. it was a long grey winter in steamboat. my mood shifted a great deal to similar to how i felt living in the pnw. it took me a minute to figure out what was happening. once i did, i relaxed into self-care vs. self-doubt and loathing. aka took more vit-d!

anyway, let’s start with an update and laying the foundation of the adventure! yahooo! adventure times!

so i left the boat in great disarray that will continue for a little while. thank goodness for friends.

why i start these things in a season not compatible with adventures where i am currently living i just don’t know. so i rented a car and drove down to gunnison for a sneaky little journey to some of my favorite parts of colorado. my thought was to get down to lower elevation and higher temps. from here i could bike over to salida. meet some pals who will take me to wichita for fam time.

driving over monarch pass i began searching for other plans. of course the pass is long and steep, that i expected. but the hairiest part has no shoulder, still has snow, and where i would ride is full of the rocky traction crap they put down…no fun to breathe.

i rolled into my hostel, the wanderlust, and weighed my options. i found a bus that goes from gunnison to denver, rolling through salida. yes, please. i’ll take that option. the downside being it leaves at 6am, arriving in salida around 7:45 and i can’t check into my next hostel until 4. deal with that later.

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so i stay another day in sunny gunny! i ran up to crested butte and rode around one of my favorite towns, taking note of all the changes. and i had my very first impossible burger! i can’t believe this was my first. it was good, not great, but good. i drank good beer, i rode to bike shops that are coffee shops and beer stops. i blew off white dudes who wanted to talk over the women who were sharing their bike adventure stories. i actually watched this guy get all cry baby because a woman would not give him her car keys to drive to the grocery store. 

i love this area of colorado. its sunny. its dry with rivers. views of the big peaks…so many 14ers. it’s relaxed, not polished, working class, and people are active year round. plus, so much of my adventure history is here. my love fore solo camping, hiking, hiking with friends, climbing my first 14er, sharing these passions, heartbreak, grieving/processing deaths of loved ones, finding myself, losing myself, finding solace in the outdoors, learning how much i have to learn, finding out how strong i am and am not….

salida is where i feel like my adventure really started. i had just sat down at the closest coffee shop i could find to get my bearings and do some writing when an older couple (not much older than me actually) joined me and started chatting me up. they are from nebraska, the middle of where so much of the recent flooding happened. they talked about the actions their town took that limited the damages they experienced. but their friends were not so lucky. they said one of their friend’s ranches likely will not recover in his lifetime.

this couple and i could not be more opposite. but we had a very lovely conversation. we knew many of the same places in colorado. me from hiking/biking/wondering. them from hunting. they rarely get to leave their home because they take care of “people with disabilities”. i go and do what i want when i want (have enough money and/or pto). this trip they were on is a once in a decade get away. we had a lovely conversation, and they offered to cook me a steak and give me a place to stay if i ever pass through their town. i smiled and thanked them. i most likely will not cross nebraska and if i do it will be via the cowboy rail trail. 

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it was still early, so i rode down to the river park. salida is part of the arkansas river headwater area. going from one end to the other end of town in the early morning was lovely. i saw people driving by stopping when they saw a neighbor. i ran into deer grazing in people’s yards.  i was a dirtbag at ease. eventually, i leaned my bike against a tree and sat along the river to read a book…mostly i stared at the blue sky and green leaves budding out on the trees. damn, it felt good! it finally felt like spring!

i couldn’t get much cell phone reception, so i went to up the block to this cute little coffee shop. the person behind the counter asked about my rig and what i was up to. i explained friends by bike tour. they seemed happy about it. i made some phone calls and logistics related contacts then found a place to eat. after i finished eating, a woman who works there came up and asked me a few questions about my pack and what i was up to. more cool conversations and inquiry about the book i’m reading, and stuff. now, i finally feel like i am embarking on this adventure again. conversations about doing something out of the ordinary for many people. an opening for others’ to talk about what they have done or want to do or have planned to do.

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later that night i met another woman who recognized the book i’m reading, or at least the author and that led to a great conversation about climate chaos and well a very pleasant chat before the band started. after the show, my pals who are taking me to kansas, met up with me and our adventure started. it was great catching up and walking around. the next morning we met up early for hiking and outdoor fun. then we loaded up my stuff and headed to kansas.

and here i am for a couple weeks. as it happens, i arrived in time for my newphew’s graduation, another nephew is playing tennis, it is a buddy’s birthday, mother’s day, and much family will be gathering during this time. what a great way to kick of this leg of this adventure.

so what is my plan for this leg?

good question.

if you haven’t already figured it out, it is friends by bike tour. i was calling it friends by bike 2019, but really who knows when it will end, so friends by bike it is.

the starts off with, well new friends sent me off from steamboat. long time friends met me in salida, by a river (the arkansas) that flows into where we first met, wichita. here i will enjoy some time with friends and family and friends who are family. then i will head up to kansas city and pick up a pal who will ride the katy trail with me along the missouri river into st. louis. from there i will pick my way along to n.c. where i will catch up with some amazing people who i get to call friends. then up to philly where there are more people who i am fortunate enough to know after so so many years and we have remained close friends.

from there i have no idea what or where i will go. there are some things i want to do, some trails i want to ride and hopefully, people will join me along the way. my goal is to get to the west coast by mid to late august for an event and play with buddies. then maybe finally get to ride the sierra cascade route down and be in the desert by winter for adventures with even more friends and family. we’ll see what happens.

i’ve acquired some new cameras and other gear that i will share soon. i’m excited to find new ways to share what i’m up to with everyone. and at some point, i will share some of the amazing adventures i stole some time away to experience. probably as some kind of photo montage.

i hope to meet up with as many people as possible along the way, so if you want to join in, join along, go for a ride, or just say hi, let me know and we will find a way to put it on the “map”.

 

 

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

vaca bound after a little rally for the public lands.

today starts my summer vacation and i am so flipped-out excited i can hardly stand it, but also trying to stay deep in the moment because, well, i live in a vacation destination town so it is kind of like i am always on vacation except for those pesky 40 hours each week i work.

the other thing that helps me stay in the moment is my sister and her family just came for a visit! it was so nice to host them for a few days and get time with the kids who are not kids anymore but growing into wonderful humans. to say i live a little different from them is an understatement so to share my life and ideas is fantastic, mostly because they listen and ask questions. it has been a summer of visitors. a benifit to living more to the middle of the country.

this is why is was a difficult decision for me to steal myself away for an hour while they were here. that asswhip of an excuse of a secretary of the interior, ryan zinke was in town so there was a little rally to show support for public lands, or more fitting, against his and trump’s policies to desecrate what is left of these sacred places. i gave up going to rallies and protests and such a few years ago out of frustration and just disgusted by the digression of solid ethics. it reminded me of going to church when i was a kid. living in a small town, i would listen to what people took in on sundays, and then witnessed their behavior the rest of the week. really? so listening to people talk about the actions needed to “save” this planet, the trees, the water, the air, etc. then i see them using single-use everything or continuing the participation in the mayhem. so to save my nerves i stopped going. you may be asking why not get involved in the organizing….see above.

so i decided to go to this one. there aren’t as many chances in this little town to make some noise while a major political (i.e. corporate) figure is in town. so what the hell, i show up for this one. about 1/2 of the county here is public lands. the whole state of kansas has less than 1% of public land. the entire ski industry is built on the back of public land, as is most of the off-road cycling (motor or burrito powered).

wondering around the people tabling at the rally was interesting. i ran into people i have seen at other events in town, mostly at the library. i found out there is a wild horse sanctuary about 100 miles from here and learned about the renewed attack on wild horses. i learned more and more people want renewable energy sources, but they don’t want to cut back on energy usage. i met the woman running for sheriff and her platform to bring empathy training and diversity training to the police force and county officers. she was a whistleblower on sexual assault in the department. then i got to have a chat with a journalist from the high country news. then eventually the rally started.

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it opened with a poet from the dinè tribe, layla june. she gave an amazing talk and opening prayer, reminding us who’s land we were actually on, ute, known as parianuche or nuche people as they refer to themselves. i was moved to tears from her words and her passions.

then the person leading the rally got the crowd to start chanting “our land” and my heart sank. here was a large crowd, estimated at 1400 people, in a town with a population of 12,000. the vast majority of the crowd was white shouting “our land” and i couldn’t believe it. sure it is an easy chant it gets people riled up…don’t take our land say the colonizers and settlers. but it isn’t our land. sure it is public land, supposed to be protected from corporate pillaging, but it is not our land. it has never been our land, just as a stolen object never belongs to the thief. and here my internal dialogue fuse was lite.

the next speaker was a county commissioner, an older white guy. a pretty good talk based around the love of growing up backpacking and being outside,  i only cringed a few times. another white guy talked about being an entrepreneur that depends on public lands for people to buy/rent/use his gear to go on public lands to recreate. more money talk. then a rancher talked about land usage and care (the fuse burned a little faster and brighter). but i have to say i resonated with his world more than the other white men or women who spoke.

he started with a story about coming into town with his younger son who asked what he was doing this afternoon. when he responded with giving a talk about the land, the kid asked that if he gave a bad talk would they take their land away?  well, son, its not really our land anyway. it is mother earth’s. then he went on about how deeply the family knows the land. how he repairs daily the fences broken due to cattle and moose interactions that he also gets to witness. i’ve heard and seen him talk before about water and land usage. i like this guy, this reluctant public speaker.

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that was followed by a female olympian who gave a great talk about the need for public lands for people to ski, hike, backpack, walk…for mental and physical health. then came the speaker that sent me home, a ceo for an outdoor industry. she brought all the numbers. sure it is important for people to know that the outdoor industry creates more jobs and revenue than does oil/gas/coal/timber industries combined. these jobs have more benefits, better pay, typically safer than the other industries. but there are people behind those numbers. there is so much more to these issues than numbers. i just started feeling sick over all this so i left before the fuse came to the end and i exploded in public.

the next speaker was a state rep who i have seen speak before at a pow (protect our winters) gathering. then lyla june was to come back up to talk about indigenous rights. i really wanted to hear what she had to say, but i just couldn’t. all those white people had gone way over their time and my emotional time limit that i allowed myself was expiring. however, as i was leaving i ran into lyla june and got to talk with her for a minute and thank her for making the journey up here.

so why am i even mentioning or writing about this?

i would like us to be more intentional with our words and what we are doing when we stand up for anything besides ourselves. this land is not “our” land. this land has never belonged to “us”. if we truly want to protect this sacred land (as was used often) we should return it to the people of this land, the indigenous people of this continent. this could be the start of actual reparations for the theft of place, culture, people… i would gladly pay the fees to recreate on the land of the people who truly know how to live collectively with the land.

but also, picking certain places for protection from capitalistic extraction or abuse…like saying its ok to pollute and pillage from here, but not here. it is this valuing of one over another that also bothers me. people don’t think kansas, or much of the midwest is beautiful because they have never gotten to experience the majesty of tall-grass prairie in bloom at sunrise. pretty much all of it has been tilled under to grow food, mostly food for livestock…or fuel. why? because the way the prairies created such rich and fertile soil that is now depleted due to overuse.

i just finished reading this book called overstory by richard powers. it is a story where the main characters are just regular people who had extraordinary situations bring out the activists in them in one way or another. and by deeply interacting with the natural world, they begin to hear the trees who never stopped speaking, we just stopped listening to them. he writes of scientific books that i wish were written, and people i feel i know.

he shares a glimpse of the greek story by ovid based on the word xenia or guest-friendship, to take care of traveling strangers. it is the story a couple with limited resource, baucis and philemon, who took in 2 strangers who turned out to be gods. baucis and philemon were turned into an oak and a linden upon their joined deaths as a reward from the gods.

“huge and gracious and intertwined. what we care for, we will grow to resemble. and what we resemble will hold us, when we are us no longer….”

I finished this book just before i started this post. the end brought me to tears. tears of recognition for people who want to do what is right by the non-human life on this planet. but i believe that the deeper wisdom here in the story, as well as from the rally, is that we can fight all we want to save the trees, the rivers, all water, for clean air and food. to save wild horses and dolphins and whales and sea turtles….we can try to fight for laws to protect all that. we can fight corporations to stop polluting and contributing to climate change and feeding the disasters that are killing everything they touch.

or

we can take deeper looks into ourselves

we take the time to get still and quiet and listen

i think we need to take those frightening deep meditative looks inward. to make those changes within ourselves to point inward instead of outward. and perhaps, when we see the work we need to do with ourselves, we can collectively find more common ground.

but fighting? fighting leads to more fighting. listening leads to more understanding. some say we don’t have the time to listen. i don’t know. fighting doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere.

don’t get me wrong, there are times and moments to stand up and fight in our protections, but not over possession and ownership.

i was once, many years ago, sitting and meditating in an amazing sacred area in arizona. an outcropping along a somewhat popular trail. there is a definitive feminine and masculine side to this section. i had touched the masculine side first. it was full of grief and sorrow and pain. a belief that they had failed to protect the women and children/land and water.

when i got to the feminine side, the place that the women gathered, i was in tears and full of pain and sorrow myself. as i meditated i asked what i could do to save them to protect…blah blah blah i was still full of white savior ego. they laughed at me and then gave me a long lecture that boiled down to: the earth will survive, you will not, humans will not. unless there is a massive shift and change among the whole population. as soon as humans are gone the planet will begin to regenerate once again, as it has over the ages. humans may or may not be part of that regeneration. it is up to us.

i know i have a great many changes to make in me. i don’t know where to start, to be honest. i often feel out of balance and off-kilter. but i do know that the more i sit quietly in nature, the more i am playful with nature, the more i regain my equilibrium. the more clear my answers become.

i don’t think i can fight the opposition with outrage, or statistics, or prodding confrontation. but maybe with understanding. with conversations. with deepening my empathy for those who i do not understand. listening and sharing stories…

ahhh i don’t know. but i do believe that the more those who are trying to profit off of our rage, pitting one another against the other, the more they keep us occupied with the distractions that they create, the more lost we all become. the further we move from our objectives.

so how do we take to the streets to show our opposition without turning upon one another?

how do we stay focused and on point when they throw flash bombs and pepper bombs at us.

when corporations are feeding the police state so that the disparaged turn against their neighbors?

how do we step outside all this for just a moment to see a different path

how do we stop and hear the pain under all the rage? for in the precepts we learn that pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

so i am off to go get lost in the woods for a little while. i am very excited about this particular trip for many reasons that should unfold as i explore places, land, water i have never ventured before and research for my next leg of this journey.

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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.

a night for Al Mutanabbi Street

last night i got to experience such a moving event. i was brought to tears on so many occasions, and am choking them back as i write this.

it was part of an international event called “Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here”. it is the reaction from a massive car bombing that happened march 5, 2007 on Al Mutnabbi Street in Bagdad. with all the car bombings and violence happening during that time, this one, well maybe this one signifies just what has been done to Irag with nearly 20 years of unending violence and war.

this street is the cultural, literary, intellectual center of Bagdad. it is full of booksellers, printers, cafes…it was a target for being a place to share ideas, words, and to freely express them.

if you are thinking yeah yeah yeah, but in that culture only for men. don’t believe it. before the 1991 war started Iraq was known for its high literacy rates, one of the highest in the world, including women and girls. education was mandatory and free through the university. instead of just copying a very good article i’ll just post it here for you to read and i’ll get back to last night.

common dreams article on Al Mutanabbi Street

the night started with a very moving video of the owner of the famous Al-Shabandar Cafe, a cafe that was opened by his great-great-great grandfather in 1917.

Forgive but never Forget

i highly recommend watching but be prepared. it goes into detail about what he experienced that day as he watched the car with the bomb pull up and his experience of finding his dead sons and grandson, and friends.

so after that video, 13 people (12 women and 1 guy) that have lived in steamboat springs for 10 to 20 years came up and read a poem in their “home” languages. all except one came to the united states as refugees from all over the world. all were read in different languages (one was read in 3 -sweedish, german, and english). none of them were translated, but copies could be found in the back of the room. the reason being, its poetry, you’ll understand by listening. and we did.

each reader gave a little of their history of how they came to steamboat, and why they chose this particular poem. at the end of the night, all 13 people went back up and read their poems together, at the same time. so there was spanish, french, farsi, hebrew, arabic, dutch, russian, and others that i apologetically cannot remember. when it was finished, i couldn’t talk. all i wanted to do was burst into tears. tears for all that was lost and has been lost and continues to be lost because of this unending war…for all the wars. there were tears for those who can not – will not forget the dreamers, the poets, writers, artists – the heart of a culture. and there were tears of joy and excitement and gratitude for this little town, its library, and all who are brave enough to participate in this world with hearts exposed.

thankfully i pulled it together before i stepped out to the beautiful but cold night, so no frozen tears.

sometimes it is easy to write this town off as an affluent, white, enclave of adventure sport tourists and outdoor bums. but like more cities and towns, if i am willing to dig deeper, look harder, ask more questions…well who knows who i will find.

p.s. later this week is another event put on by a local art collective, the young bloods collective. the event, SPEAK, is an all women’s art and performance event. so heads up (hearts up?) for perhaps more feelings.

 

grief follow up

so have been trying to sort out the grief that was coming up for me in ashland with all the fires and life stuff.

for sure some of that grief is stuff that i have just pushed down while i am figuring out other things in my life. things that needed to wait until i had the space to face it and have a good talk with myself or a good pal.

some of it is that life is not what i thought it would be and i don’t know how to be in this world. i’m ok when i just take it moment to moment, but when i look up and out….i can’t handle it! i don’t know what to do. and that is where i get stuck.

however, some of it is old grief. you know things i thought i had dealt with and made amends and found some place to be grateful for the lessons, or if it was heartbreak gratitude for the love i had recieved…usually it has been more about grateful for more lessons on how to love more deeply and completely!

so i wonder…

is grief a lot like forgiveness?

you know like the way forgiveness is talked about in buddhism? where you feel like you have dealt with it, and then out of nowhere, it reals up and bites everyone around?

i think it is.

i think grief and forgiveness and probably so many other emotions/feelings do this. and i’m finding that each time one of them comes up i learn more about the experience – i’m able to go a little deeper into whatever needs more examination. like yoga, the more i practice the deeper into a pose i can go.

i still can’t believe that i am taking this time…i’m accepting this time as a huge gift to just be! to learn about myself and those around me with the distractions of…well with different distractions.

as the world is erupting around me and there seems so many reason to out right hate what is happening, i am meeting people who give me some solace that not all is lost. i’m reminded that people are good and governments suck. i know i can’t fix the world, but i can make each moment as posi as possible!

burning down the grief

as the fires have been raging all around me for a solid month now, and more popping up, and the twist of reprieve with thunderstorms that bring lightning and potentially more fires, i wonder why is all this old grief coming up? i mean, my lungs hurt, my eyes burn, my throat is itchy.  then i really started digging into my education in herbal medicine (thanks arctos herbal school and so many others) and tcm as i went to some community acupuncture here in ashland. and one day, i took a deep breath and almost sobbed with so much grief that i don’t even know, and i remembered, tcm…lungs….grief…

with all the fires, mostly i have been thinking about rejuvenation and regrowth; cleaning and clearing. there are so so many things we can only accomplish if it burns first….take rage…how often have i burned all the fear and hesitation to take action via rage? rage just burns it off and all i am left with is love and care at its most rare form.

maybe today’s youth won’t see an area in the type of vastness we have seen it, but they will get to watch the evolution of a forest in a rare and wonderful way, if “we” don’t interfere (inter-fear?) too much and fuck everything up. same holds true for all the storms wiping out entire communities. maybe they can take the lessons from greensburg and rebuild in a much more intentional way with solar, wind, and water as the focus vs. capitalism and commerce.

i’ve been trying to tap into this old grief for a long time. every time i tried to go to the places that i find refuge for my grief, i’ve gotten derailed or had to take care of someone else who was maybe trying to help me too as best they could. when we all have so much un-addressed grief how do we console and care for one another? it’s not for a lack of want or desire, but maybe we no longer have the practiced skill sets for it? as a culture that likes to negate the negative and proliferate the positive, it makes it difficult to just sit with the hard times sometimes. mix that in with the bag of tricks that is customer service “smile, it can’t be that bad”, fuck you, here is your over-priced, over cultivated, over entitled raw coconut chocolate product…sometimes i really hate customer service

add to the mix one part dealing with the transformation of dream job to nightmare, two parts city life not jiving well with environmental concerns, and so many parts lots of pointing fingers with limited showing of examples on how to move forward.

i think it is this last part that has had me in option paralysis. i don’t believe that all these efforts to get governments to make agreements and such are going to have the same impact as collective individual actions….same as my feelings about legalizing “gay” marriage, or weed, or….really fill in the blank.

i don’t know what else to do. i’ve watched cowspiricy, and what the health, i’ve read the book drawdown. i walk or ride my bike. i eat as consciously as i can where ever i am at.

the hardest part of this for me is finding the community to do this work within. i actually don’t see many people in the queer community addressing these issues, and the vegan community a little, environmental, some. i have some good friends doing great work, but i am looking for a community that brings all this together, and i am not finding it. i’m sure it’s out there, i just don’t know where, and i guess that is what i am looking for. either that or a place and the people to create it with.

but some days, i feel lonely, isolated, and exhausted. i just want to lay in my tent and not move. is it the grief? is it the fear? is it all the above?

for now i’ll just keep peddling my bike down the road and stay open to finding a community.