i was on the university photojournalism crew. we were on our way to cover members of a popular hair metal band play in a fundraising softball game. we stoped to get some food and there it was, my first pride parade…houston texas. one of my instructors sitting in a lawn chair right across the street from me. we waved. we may or may not have had a special encounter one day as i was leaving the racquetball courts….
as time went on, and i came out more and more about more and more, i got involved in pride events from organizing to activism to arguments to disillusionment. the corportization and the capitalization of pride….
tonight i went to a pride party in flagstaff. it was a bunch of drag queens, mostly from RuPaul’s drag show and vegas (a mear 3 hour away) and chris cox was the d.j.
drag queens are not my favorite entertainers. i just never really got it, still don’t to be honest.
they have always and forever been at the forefront of the queer liberation movement. they have raised more money for so fucking many causes. whenever anyone in the community needs money, it is the drag queens that get it done. and they are also the ones that get the shit for everything…assimilated gays and lesbians afraid of what the mainstream community will thing of them if they lead the parades or are visible anywhere but the bars. what if kids are there, people will get the wrong idea of “our” community…blah blah blah. fuck that. p.s. there were kids at this party, and they had a blast. they were even welcomed on stage to dance
do i wish that the music was not the same tired songs? yes, yes i do. do i i love to see people jump up and down and sing along? yes, yes i do.
also, most of the one’s i’ve watched are people of color, so there is that added to the mix of community dismissing. tonight, being the first Juneteenth celebrated as a national holiday, we had even more to celebrate and brought intersectionality to the pride table.
tonight i was finally able to dance like i haven’t danced in a very long time. i walked back to where i was staying drenched, my body wrung out. sweat dripping down my neck, off my hair and onto my face. i breathed deep. i smiled
tonight i remembered what it felt like to step into a queer bar where i didn’t (as much) have to figure out the normy social norms.
tonight i ignored the straight couples clinging to one another for dear life (it always seems to be the men with arms wrapped around the woman and i thought it was because they are afraid of them getting away, but maybe it is because they are actually afraid of their own temptation with so many good looking men around? but tonight i ignored them)
tonight my body remembered how to move
i bounced and twisted as my knee rose to my chest and my heal spun me around just as the other caught me to push me back the other direction. my arms my elbows pushed and pulled me. it was like a type of prayer feeling the rhythm and tension of the music. i have missed this. i have craved this
being in my body in a way that celabrates and is joyous in its movement.
i did not want to ride a loaded bike through kansas city. for some reason it just struck a deep fear in me. i like the idea of leaving directly from my friends house. i even had a route that others have riden. i finally picked a day and my buddy took me out to pleasant hill where the rock island spur trail takes off.
we explored some of the area the route is suppose to eventually go, checked some potential flood areas, all was clear. he, and his amazing pup, took me to the town park and we sat for a moment and shared some gratitude. i have no idea how to repay this man, and the dog(s), and his boyfriend! what wonderful, generous, loving humans! they made me dinners, they let me cook for them. and they gave me space to figure shit out! the only thanks i can think of right now is to have a most excellent adventure! and indeed so far it has.
pleasant hill was very pleasant. the town park was nice. the lake amazing. sunset, moonset, sunrise, and so many birds singing and fish jumping. i took my time leaving town. had a nice greasy spoon breakfast at the diner and enjoyed the amazing bike paths through town! kansas ciy, you could learn something from this little town.
from here i rolled into chillahooa. the corner market was closed, but i noticed an area across from the park that looked like camping spots. there was a group of women gathered at a house next to it, so i asked about camping. they were so nice and friendly. they offered some ideas where i might find water. when we realized all the spicketts had been turned off, they showed up later with a big jug of ice water for me. i later learned that the house they were at is unoccupied and there is a movement to turn it into a hostel for people biking through…and probably horses as well…multi-use after all! p.s. i have riden around so much horse shit, i am going to start pooping on the trail too!
that night it rained and rained hard! there was rolling thunder and so much lightening! these are the moments that i am happy to be carring a full on tent. i keep thinking i could go with a bivy and/or a tarp, but wow! when these storms roll through, i am happy with my set up.
i walked up to the little market for breakfast and met a couple that was riding the spur instead of the katy trail. they had wanted to do the bed and breakfast tour of the katy, but settled for this, for now. they were so nice. she was newer to bike touring than him, but she invested in an ebike that has a tour setting, so she can get out and have adventures. amazing. we will find a way when we want to.
from here i tried to camp outside of clinton, but the lake and area is flooded, so hotel it was…and catch up on handmaid’s tale. then its been a series of more small towns and city parks. humansville was super interesting. i rolled into town and went to city hall where the woman there shared so much information with me, like where i could camp and where to pick up another rail trail called the frisco highland trail. and the adventure has officially began.
in bolivar i had stopped for a late breakfast and picked up the rail trail. on the list of places to notice along the way was a “farmers market”. i’m always interested in a local farmers market, but this one was not for me. it was all about the meat market, so i rode quickly on. the other “historical marker” on this trail that i wanted to check out was called the “hobo camp” where people riding the rails would camp out during the depression. i never saw it marked but noticed a few places it could have been, so i stopped and imagined some of my heros that may have camped there.
along the way i met two guys going the opposite direction. they have done a number of different rail trails around the country. we swapped stories and suggestions and a few laughs. just before i ran into them, i friend who tried to by me a beverage at the winery that i wanted to stay at was closed for remodeling. the people at the winery suggested i go to a town 8 miles south of my destination for the day. as i was already turning into a tired block of salt, i said no, and then these guys told me there was some kind of festivities going on in walnut grove, and by goly there was.
the local masonic lodge does this fundraiser every year and this was the 14th or 15th year. they raise money to provide financial support for folks having some kind of family emergency like a fire, or health care, or what have you. there were bands from all over and all ages. the lodge putting it on took good care of me. one called the local police department to see where else i could camp, but then it was decided by everyone that if i was staying for the fest, i could just camp here once it was over.
i met so many wonderful people who came up and asked me what i was doing, and to let me know that this town loves bikers and welcomes anyone coming through. many folks here have traveled a great deal, mostly for military and geneology searches. many had gone to oregon for one reason or another so we got to talk about similar areas with different experiences. i was told many time that “this is as about as close to mayberry as you can get.” indeed it was.
the next night a wedding was my entertainment. i had just left the police station (this is taking some geting use to…going on purpose to a police station and asking where to camp. just as i had layed out to let my body turn into a big salt block as the sweat dried, i noticed a bunch of nicly dreased people start showing up. turns out they were parking in the park for a wedding on the other side of the creek at the old mill.
i chatted with the d.j for a bit to make sure i was out of the way. he invited me to come over. instead i just listened from a distance and read. not much is open in small towns on sunday or monday either, so i went to the local market and picked up veggies and hummus and had a lovely picnic. and i realized, i am tired.
the heat. the hills. thoughts and logistics. all this adventuring. i am tired. so i road a short but hilly 16 miles into the next town rolled into a bed and breakfast, the dickey house in marchfield. at first i was concerned about it’s history. it had the look of someting that could have been part of slave labor plantatioin days, but it was built after that time frame. still has an interesting history. i was the only one staying in the main house that night and thought for sure i would have a haunting experience, but nope, nothing.
morning brought nice breakfast conversation with a family from northern alabama traveling over to branson. i think i will stay in town for another day and eat more veggies. i don’t know what it is, but i haven’t been able to eat much this week. i know the heat is a big part of it, but it feels almost like a nervous stomach. i usually keep cliff bars around for these moments, but they are just too sweet for me and keep getting sweeter. peanutbutter is my other big stapple, but i can’t stomach it either. i have some hydration mixes that i have been using, and lots of potato chips. so i think i am going to cut back my milage to 30-35 miles a day until i can work this out. this isn’t the first time this has happened, it is my usual experience backpacking or long distance biking so i’m not worried so much as paying attention and adjusting accordingly.
yesturday i met 2 women biking the trans am also. i thought they were local riders due to their “light load”. when they caught me at the library, they told me they had a support vehical that waits for them up the road, so maybe i’ll catch up to them along the way…probably not, but it would be fun to see them again. they are sisters doing this together. they are the first i met going the same direction i am, and they are the first women i have talked to. i think there were 1 or 2 in a pack i passed riding west over the last couple days.
i have to say, i think i like riding this bike route thing vs. when i have just rode roads. but i think i have a unique experience compared to other women. men don’t usually try and tell me what to do or where to go or try to fix my bike. though the shop teacher at the high school in walnut groove did offer to open the school up for me if i needed the shop, or the locker room for a shower. i declined, but it was nice. he acknowledged it might seem a little creepy, but really i just wanted to sit and enjoy the fest.
sitting here with lots of wifi i’ve been able to kind of line out the rest of missouri. there are plenty of places that i want to stop in along the way. places that are welcoming to bikers. and there are rivers and national forests to explore, so i’ll most likely take another week to cross the rest of missouri. i mean, really, what’s my hurry?
p.s. just for grins this morning i turned on the “happy cow” app to see if there is anything vegan in the area, and there is!!!!!! it is called the polymath educational cafe! holy crap! i had a temphe blt and some pasta salad and got some snacks like a for real vegan cinniman roll! i had a lovely conversation with the owner! she sent me away with some extra treats! if you could see me, i’m doing my happy food chair dance still from my experince! if you are ever in marshfield missouri check out this cafe!
Going from cool brisk days to hot hot hot in just a quick moment is jarring. Also going from never really experiencing allergies to full on miserable is also disconcerting, however, none of that really matches realizing the first part of my adventure that I thought was pretty fool proof proved, well, foolish.
I kind of though making it to kc and then doing the Katy trail in late may, was going to be just fine, not like my idea of walking the Oregon coast in April. The Missouri River is experiencing flood stages it hasn’t seen in awhile. Lots of questions came up.
Are they still going to have ped jam? Can we still bike there? Ok it is on, but how are we going to do this? Should we do this? Is it even going to be enjoyable?
The organizers of said ped jam did an amazing job of redoing the route and making good event spaces. The bands showed up, and so did the sun…and rain. Friday was a perfect let it flow kind of day. We left late which effected meeting some people we hoped to meet up with in Columbia (the jam was suppose to start in Columbia, but the spur trail is closed, so it got moved to rocheport. The timing left us with an hour of wtf do we do until we can check in…so we went to this little town that my friend had found some of his ancestors were from. We had hoped to bike through there and do some exploration, so when we saw the sign for it, we detoured.
What is it about walking through cemeteries that can feel sooo hum connecting? I love reading the names and dates of people I have no known connection to.
We got to the kick-off party with a perfect amount of time to set up camp, get some beers and food at the food cart, then a friend met us at camp. Lovely conversations. Met the neighbors for the night, then celebrations were on. A giant bonfire. Music. Fire dancers. More music. Accro-yoga. More beers. Fireworks. More music. And no rain until the middle of the night.
In the motioning we packed up and gave our bags to people who transport them to Saturday night’s campsite. Got coffee. Watched allllll the other people start to show up. Listened to some music and then decided to head down to the next venue. We really wanted to see this band called the Barney sisters…so good! The are like 9 and 11 or something like that. (We got to meet their mom while they performed with the the Kay brothers later that night). There were a couple of bands here we wanted to see…and eat lunch. We knew we had somewhere around 10 miles to bike to the next venue where a band I really wanted to see would be playing so we headed out.
This section was a mixture of road and Katy trail….so much flooding. The river truly looked like a ginormous lake in so many spots. It was certainly more than 10 miles, but it was such a nice ride…hot but nice. The organizers did a wonderful job at putting up signs without holding our hands. We had heard that the people running this had been out well past midnight on Thursday putting up sandbags to keep space accessible for us. I wonder how many times they must have routed and re-routed this course to make it work.
I really enjoyed the Katy roundhouse that is just a few miles from boonsville. Here I got to finally see velvet and the undercurrents live. So good. We stayed for some of the next person. They would be super great to see in a different venue with a sound person that had skill sets that worked better with their performance style.
Rolling into boonville was exciting. The flooding was so unbelievable every time we crossed a high bridge to get a full view of the effects. Kemper park, where Saturday night’s festivities were held was perfect. We opted to camp along the right field foul line of a little pee-wee baseball field instead of up the hill. We gathered our gear and set up camp. Got oriented to where everything was or would be. Bathrooms. Water. Showers. Food. Beverages. Music. Fireworks. People we might know. And then we just sat and watched the park fill up with people. It was actually very interesting. So many different types of people from all over the Midwest. Their jersey’s or other apparel giving hints of their local bike clubs, breweries, or various landmarks.
Eventually we worked our way down to meet a friend, grab some food. Give phones to the solar charging station. And watch all the talent we were surrounded by. So much good music, the fireworks, those fire dances were using glow in the dark juggling pins and hoops to perform with this night…but we got tired…and I just don’t do well in crowds anymore, so we went back to camp and sat in our little camp chairs and listened to the last 2 bands…well the last one I listened to in my tent.
I have to say that the fireworks these 2 nights were perfect. The designs were on point…simple yet exciting. The boooms were not super explosively loud, just night pops. They lasted around 15 minutes, then we were back to music. I haven’t enjoyed fireworks this much in a very long time.
We had another nice middle of the night rain. The morning was cooler and we took our time getting our stuff together and heading out. We indulged in some good coffee. Breakfast was a fail for the vegan me so I had some snacks that I brought along, but did engage in some good coffee and a dirty chai. We may have been one of the last ones out, but it was nice to not feel rushed and too watch the whole camp break down…also we got to thank some of the organizers that we were introduced to Friday night, and had watched just stay so calm and, well, organized over the weekend.
We did miss the first band that was playing at the Katy roundhouse Sunday, but we made it to rocheport in time to see most of the set of Dawson’s hollow while we had some lunch. It was just 2 miles into the end of the road…up a big climb or 2 and it was over. We got everything tossed into the car, changed into not so sweaty shirts. Had one last beer as we listened to part of the final band. Thanked more people. And pointed our way back to good old kc.
After seeing all the flooding, watching people actually try to bike into flood waters, and wonder what the trail must look like under the flood. Wonder how long the clean up will take. Be super thankful for all the work that must have gone into clearing the parts of the trail we could actually ride on (especially considering the condition of the flint hills trail I had rode earlier). Well, I was at a loss as to what the fuck am I going to do now?!
We settled in. Hung up the wet and muddy gear. My friend went for a sleep over with his boyfriend. I started searching alternative routes. Should I just go west instead? Can I make it east at all. Tornadoes have been in every state around me, and just down the road from us. So what feels safe enough to go for and know that I can grab a hotel again if it gets super sketchy?
So I think I have a route sketched out. I will go a little south and then pick up the trans am route 76. I even found a winery were I will pick up 76 that is open to cyclists! What(?!) camp for free at a winery?! Yes please!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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
I’m not really open to the alternative
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
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.
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 thatbubble 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
i am not a fan of many american holiday celebrations, but to say the july 4th is one of my very least favorites is a fair statement. i can still remember one of my early childhood experiences. we all went with some family friends to any even smaller town for a whole day shindig. i can’t remember exactly how young i was. what i do remember… a competition where they (the adults i assume) grease up a little pot belly pig for the kids to chase around and try to catch. i remember a terrified pig squealing all over the park. i don’t know what happened when the pig was caught. maybe the pig was the prize or some other equally horrific award.
then there were the horse races. for some reason i remember the adults in the group being super excited about this, maybe the reason for us going? i don’t know. what i do remember was sitting in the grandstands where the rodeo happens (i think maybe there was even a tractor pull?) and people placing bets. i remember thinking it was kinda cool that whomever picked the winning horse got the pot of money. i remember it just being mostly quarters in our group of people and that it was supposed to be a secret. but it seemed like the whole grandstand had similar little groups. i know white middle and working class folks getting excited about breaking the law out in the open…
the next thing i remember….hiding under the blankets because of the sound of the fireworks. i can still feel the shaking and tremors in my body. i remember being made fun of because my little sister was more brave than i, and she was totally enthralled with them. i remember being torn between wanting to see them and the fear of the sound. i hated it and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
over the years i mildly participated. i really enjoyed bottle rockets. going out in the country. finding a field that had recently been harvested and cleared. setting up empty beer cans and bottles with the little rockets. the cute little pop they make when they go off. the whooshing sound of roman candles. drawing figures with sparklers. but then there were the high school years of going to the fair grounds to watch the big productions. i used comic relief of the oohs, aahs, and lovely to mask my internal tremors that never really went away. i just tried to hide them. as an adult i would make it a mission to find the most remote place to see them, but not hear them. i used work as a way to avoid going altogether, or a 4 day backpacking trip. in portland i would work then usually had an animal companion sitting gig and would cuddle the dogs, cats, or chickens until the nights turned to days and all our torments finally quieted.
so ya….i hate the 4th of july and all it represents. i hate the nationalistic pride. i hate the fuck you it seems to say to the indigenous people who’s land the country we are supposed to be celebrating, enlisted genocide, war, slavery, and religion to occupy and steal. i hate the gluttony and mass consumerism that goes along side it, the eating contests, people who spend hundreds of dollars to blow shit up and then leave messes in the streets for, i don’t know who they expect, to clean it up. i hate getting caught at dusk, riding my bike as fast as possible to get home before the nightmare begins. those nights i didn’t make it and felt like i was caught in a war zone. sometimes, depending on where i was, not know if those blasts where gunshots or fireworks. many times seeing roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers wiz past me as i dodged through the city streets. i hate the fourth of july.
so when the calendar flipped this year, i didn’t really think much about it. after all, i am in a town where i don’t really know any one, so no bbq to get invited to (actually i began to like the vegan bbqs i went to, i just went home early), no fireworks date, no animals to watch, no big deal. i was going to go to the farmers market, get some good food and watch some movies….then my housemate said “i’m going to go to the parade wanna go?”
i didn’t think about the parade. i pictured central oregon, flag waving, patriotism, huge amounts of white people waving the flag…but i am in ashland oregon….white liberal southern oregon. at the mention of trump people shake their heads and nervously chuckle. no one here admits to voting for trump, but i also do not see/hear many clinton or sanders slogans or stickers…its kind of a weird liberal stepford-town. so i could go and see how this town is going to celebrate this day and all of its awkwardness, or i could hide away and make fun of it from afar….i went.
i have to say, i rather enjoyed myself…eventually. the crowd was full of manners (as a friend of mine would say). they didn’t pile up on each other. kids were up front as they should be. paths on the sidewalks and crosswalks were kept open with out anyone directing it. when it got hot, room was made for elders and youth in the shade… but it started for me with a little trepidation. a little after 10 some people in front of us moved into the street saying “here they come! here they come!” i thought cool the parade started on time, but nope it was the f-something-or-other fighter jets in formation making a fly over. i hadn’t heard that sound in over 10 years and i have not missed it.
[wichita use to start the fireworks with the b1 bomber, canons, and the 1812 overture synched to the fireworks…i worked like mad to avoid these events.]
then the cops on motorcycles led the parade down the street. my heart sank and my stomach rose to my chest as i braced myself for either 2 hours of this, or a long walk home (i brought my backpack with notebooks and reading material just in case i needed to bail). then a woman walked up to me, a river rafting guide, who thought she knew me, and my guard dropped and i relaxed as the fun floats started to go by.
there wasn’t super overt patriotism. the people in the parades where on point. the environmental groups, the fire departments (for urban and wild fires), the representatives of ashland’s sister city, guadalajara in mexico, the library…the local bookstore dressed as the covers of banned books, the roller derby team, bands, silly folks, oh and we learned that the blacksheep english pub recently got new owners and will stay open!
it was actually a nice way to get to know some of the service organizations of the area. like talent (just up the road a bit) has a pollinator and bee project! i had no idea. there is one of the few health clinics here for immigrants to get the care they need for their application process. it was actually a fun day.
after the parade we walked up-stream of the people flowing to the park, as we searched for a place to have a refreshing cocktail.
when we got home, i was feeling brave, so i thought i would walk up to the movie theater and see wonder woman! maybe i could handle the red, white, and gold of a super hero movie with a woman as the lead hero. at first i was excited. the “older” women as badass amazon warriors on a paradise island?!
but then…i was heart-broken, and not just because it had to have a love story in it (why do they always have to do that? thank you once again madmax for not doing that). it felt like a feminist version of a gay film, in that we will except meritocracy and nods to issues without actually dealing with them, just for some visibility. and yes, visibility is great. i don’t want to make light of that, but….sigh. i’ll take sense8 any day over wonder woman. sure all the characters are flawed, maybe that is what i like about them. they also support one another without question or explanations: queer, trans, thief, hindi, korean female martial fighter, and the sex scenes? hot!….yes, you have to suspend some disbelief to follow, but name a show where you don’t.
so…my take away, if i may, for this “holiday” celabration…i don’t know. i like the idea of community coming together and dressing up and walking down the street like some kind of moving talent show where we are proud of what we do together. that we have a lot of work to do and so much to share. that we are imperfect and flawed, but if we can find these things that bind us together….well we just might survive for a little while. that we can share space, food, music, and good cheer. it doesn’t have to require buying or being some major consumer of capitalistic greed, hate, and delusion. in fact there were more than a few floats in this parade that called out capitalism as the major force of our current struggles in this country.
this is still not a holiday i enjoy. i don’t know if i’ll brave going out in it again. i am grateful that i got to stop at the farmers market and get fresh fruits and veggies for the week. i was able to hide out from the fireworks and snuck to work at 11 pm between the city display and the neighbors’ doing their bit. from the guests at the hotel, i heard that the jazz concert in the park was really good. and the next day when i went out, the streets were not full of firework trash.
maybe i need to make my own holiday….what kind holiday would a queer vegan on an adventure come up with…..hummmm
I’m here in lovely coos bay. it’s been raining and raining, again. one joke I’ve heard many times is “it’s only rained twice, both lasting 48 days” tonight I found my self in search of some green food, I walked by a brewery and heard some good music (they described them selves as surf country and I still don’t really know what that is), so I stopped to drip dry a little.
I ended up talking to two different fascinating groups of people. the first I had an unexpected conversation about being vegan and hunting. I had just missed a woman who is part of a vegan group in town and has almost convinced one of my companions for the night, to go vegan.
the other companion at this group and I had a wonderful chat about how we are truly related to every thing as just another species, another animal on this planet. I was warmed and filled and ready to leave, but first a trip to the bathroom.
upon my return was a fresh beer and an invitation to table where some friends of my companions were sitting. here I found out that the lead singer and guitarist is also the middle school principal. the stand-up bass player is the owner of the brewery. it seems the brewer has kind of been some what responsible for the uptick of musicians in the area. there was a kind of membership that gave one a free beer a month and funded bringing in music to the pub. people have seemed very excited by this.
the guy sitting across from me had been up dancing and decided to pull off his sweatshirt to reveal those really thick suspenders with the name of a saw company on them. he was an older man who has mostly worked at the timber/lumber industry. we started talking about this mandolin that someone he knows built out of different woods. he described the curves and the artistry and challenges of working with different woods by the way they twist and unwind in drying processes. he said the instrament sounds wonderful.
he then talked about a man up around grants pass who designs and builds complete sets of violin, cello, bass, and maybe viola. to buy these sets, for a large chunk of change, you have to be approved by the builder first. it was a wonderfully delightful conversation about wood and music and art and craft. all with a fine band in the background.
I walked back to where I was to find rest this night with a large moon showing it’self through the clouds. the rains stopped until I was about halfway “home”. I love these kinds of moments. there were so many other conversations about travel and adventure, about what it means to live and places we have loved. we laughed and tears welled up in my chest in finding such connections all day today. a day where I found myself sck of the oregon coast.
I yurn for something else. the walking is wonderful, when I find myself on a trail. the road walking is rough especially in the rain. I needed this night for some renewed energy.
I will keep walking down the coast until I find another direction. the thing that is hard to remember sometimes is that every thing, even and especially the challenging times, are impermanent. that the best times do out weight the cold wet days. i just need to wait it out.
one thing that is a challenge on this particular trail is the cost. so if you have enjoyed these post, please consider donating to my go fund me campaign. it’ll give me a little more time out here before I stop and get some work somewhere.
and thanks for reading! it is nice to know there are people on the other side of this!