Category Archives: nostalgia

my love, she keeps me warm.

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i was just thinking about safety. about how my friends & i say “get home safe,” when we are parting. especially the women & the queerz. how we say it with a note of wistfulness, a hope, a fear that it might not come true. thinking about my clients, the ones i have connections with, the sadness in their voice when they say it to me. “be careful out there, sweetie. get home safe,” spoken by the witnesses, the survivors of the most terrible things you can think of. spoken with the heavy sadness, the knowledge that it’s not safe, that none of us really know anything about safety.

a new friend of mine didn’t make it home safely last week, died in a car, in the suburbs–supposedly safer than walking home in the city, but it didn’t protect her. i didn’t know her that well, but she was very loved by everyone who knew her. i felt so sure that she was going to do great things with her life. i can’t stop thinking about it.

today i was on the phone with e., one of the 8 or so people i refer to as my “best friend”. we have known each other since childhood, been tight since we were 15. we were reminiscing about the bad old days. i brought up m., the only other out gay kid at my high school, who we took on as a project. we drove him to the gay coffeehouse, and then when we dropped him off at his house, he wouldn’t stop trying to force himself on e. i was sitting in the back and i punched him on the side of his head, screamed, “get the fuck OFF HIM,” i was so timid back then, but i guess it was easier to stand up for someone else.

anyway. we were talking about him and e. said, “i heard that he died,” and i googled his name and it’s true. he died on new year’s. cause of death vague. my gut tells me suicide. this blog has turned into a memorial site & i didn’t mean it. it just seems that a lot of people are dying lately. i guess that’s what happens when you’ve lived for a while. it feels sometimes like my dad goes to funerals constantly. that’s partially because he knows a lot of people, & partially because he knows people through heavy drinking. & the longer you live, the more funerals you go to. or, in my case, when i am living 2,912 miles from the place of my birth, when most of the people i love are somewhere else, you light candles and write blog entries and try to figure it out as best you can. nobody in your daily life gets it so you keep as quiet as you can.

you ride home and the cars are so close. you know your days are numbered. you’ve always, always, always known that your time in this life is limited. the cars are so close by on your bicycle, they come so close but still you rise unharmed. this time. you know you won’t always be so lucky. gotta do what you can, so that when it’s your time to go, people will write nice blog entries. i hope they say, “she tried,” i hope they say, “she brought that aries fire, she inspired me,”  i hope they say, “she wrote something good,” but i guess you can’t control what they say. i hope they play “the trapeze act” by iron & wine, then storytelling, then “i was here” by beyonce. i hope i have a little more time to say what i need to say. i hope i get to dance with my best friends again. i guess i don’t know. i guess i won’t, until it’s too late.

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farewell, bikey. 1998-2013.

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here is a shitty picture of me and a good picture of you, at the beginning of our biggest adventure yet–crossing state lines, living in the woods, really going somewhere. but that was in 2010. let’s start at the beginning.

my dad got you for me when i was sixteen, which was sweet of him, but i didn’t ride bikes then because i smoked too much and worked too much. my town had too many hills. i could walk to work. i could make it back up the hill on foot but not on bike. so i let you languish in the garage for two years. when i was 18 i had a change of heart. realized that one could bike everywhere. that shitty winter, you showed me the magic and fun that could be had on long island. we biked through the drive-thru and all the mcdonald’s employees laughed. i took you on the LIRR, every day, three stops, to a town seven miles away. the conductor always talked to me because of you, and didn’t take my ticket.

i got kicked out. left my family behind and moved to memphis. for the first time in my life i lived in a city. i got pretty much everywhere i needed to go with you. i’ve never known how to drive, always been dependent on other people or public transit. but with you i slogged through the humid heat, in the bike-hating south. my co-workers called you my cadillac, and i smiled and said you were better than one.

i fled back north, to philly. your tire blew out the same time the towers were getting hit a hundred miles north. i pushed you home in a crowd of weeping, panicking philadelphians. i’d spent my last dollar that day. waiting for a sketchy check to get cashed. i tried so hard to repair that hole with no money. patches, duct tape, friends’ old tubes. it just would not work. i got my money and spent $15 getting someone else to fix your flat & felt so stupid. eventually i learned how to change tubes, patch flats.

you were my favorite for so long. so many good times, too many to list here. sharon and i ran a red light to beat that snarling motorcycle and laughed in his face. amanda and i decided we were going to be social. we went to a party despite the snow but the most fun part of the evening was biking by the river singing “parentheses” by the blow. or when we rode around the whole city with aaryn and branden. i know these memories are mostly good because of the people in them, but you were there too.

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you were crappy, ornery, after tens of thousands of miles, too many lousy fixes by people who didn’t quite know what they were doing (mostly me). when i brought you into the fancy bike shop to get tuned up before our big journey, the mechanic called me at work to yell, “i can’t fix this thing. you shouldn’t be riding this. i can’t believe you haven’t gotten killed yet! you’ll never make it to DC, never.” i got my ex to pick it up for me and drop it off at a more low-end shop. got a new chain, and made it all the way to DC with only one flat tire. all the long, slow, heavy miles. we learned something then, but i’m not entirely sure what. about strength, endurance, something, maybe. i don’t know.

the years wore on. many people tried to convince me to give up on you. but i wouldn’t. then i moved to the bay area and everything went to hell with you. brakes, pedals, spokes, seat. 9 flat tires in 6 months. i bought a new back wheel because your spokes wouldn’t stop breaking. as i handed the bike guy my credit card i thought, “this thing’s gonna get stolen.” and i was right. 3 months later, it did. right out of my own backyard.

i’d promised myself, after the wheel, that i was done putting money into this shitty bike. with the amount i’d spent since moving i could’ve bought a new, infinitely nicer bike. i would borrow my housemates’ bikes when you weren’t functioning & i’d get jealous. i’d fantasize about getting a new bike, one that wasn’t so old, so heavy; one that would let me fly. remember how we used to fly?

i guess it makes sense. you were so much a part of my youth and i guess i just don’t feel young anymore. like wild dance parties will never again be a part of my regular life. like biking down the street isn’t an adventure anymore, now it’s just what i do. now it’s just how i live. now you’re in the basement and i won’t ride you again. the last time i rode you was fun, sleep-deprived, heading home from a good show. i guess you (usually) never know when something’s gonna be the end. whitney houston and jawbreaker shuffling on my headphones. i don’t remember too much about this particular ride, just that we were happy.

by the sea.

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today was my mom’s birthday, and we all went to rye playland to celebrate. it’s an old amusement park in westchester county, NY. kind of falling apart at the seams but still charming as hell. i didn’t take any pictures but i spent all day with my mom & my sibz, strolling around this strange park we haven’t seen in over 20 years. the rickety roller-coasters, the murals and displays that stubbornly and obviously haven’t changed since the 60’s or 70’s or 80’s. peeling paint and clacking carousels. it’s still beautiful,

beautiful and sad like the rest of NY is, i mean the trueNY, not what you see on movies or on TV. it’s beautiful and diverse and joyous and celebratory but with a real layer of sadness on the bottom. or maybe floating to the top.

i wish i had taken a picture of the carousel horses so i could show you. the gorgeous whittling, the roses and some odd items hanging from the saddle, like pistols & dead pigeons. but still, totally gorgeous. a work of art. S once told me that amusement parks were invented by factory owners so the workers, doing 14-hour 7 day workweeks, would have something to live for. whether that’s true or not is unclear, but it’s interesting to think about.

i had a really sweet moment just as we left. a sad-looking girl of about 11 or so was sitting on a display rollercoaster car, looking pensive. she had long, tangled brown hair and really intense blue eyes. we saw each other, we made eye contact, and we both smiled at each other so big, and so genuinely. i’d been frowned at all day for being a freaky pierced hairy-legged genderqueer person, by everyone else in the park, but her smile was all i needed.

i remember being young, & seeing weird adults out & about–not too many, because i lived in a small town, and i remember the very strong hope it gave me. the feeling of being less alone, so strong. it’s nice being on the other side of that bench…

legacies. & it’s not that easy to pick a side….

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today as i was biking here to the library i was thinking about grandparents because i got a postcard mentioning someone’s grandma. 3/4ths of my grandparents were dead by my 2nd birthday. the only grandparent i’ve ever known was my dad’s dad, who was kind of a jerk. he died when i was 18.

some days i am worried that i am turning into him. he lived alone and was set in his ways. his house was a big pile of old newspapers, “national geographic”s and readers digest condensed books. my house is a big pile of zines and queer/feminist books and clip art and backgrounds and other stuff. i like my mess, even though (in part because) it is alienating to other people. i don’t expect anyone to understand. my grandpa was a mean person but he loved his garden & grew the most delicious stringbeans i’ve ever tasted.

he was a jerk. when i let my bad side dominate, i am a jerk too. i was thinking, “my bad side’s been in hiding for the past few months & that’s great” but then i was thinking, “is there really such a thing as a bad side?” my “bad” side is savvy, street-smart, honest, self-preserving, and tough. my “good” side is naive, silly, ridiculous and a tad lazy. when i was bad, i wasn’t all bad, and when i’m good, i’m not all good. and what is good? and am i really that good now? and was i ever really that bad? isn’t it all a matter of perception? well, duh, of course it is. but which one am i? WHICH ONE AM I?

i sigh angrily at computers all day.

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had a premonition i’d get severely hurt if i rode my bike to work today. so i walked. saw this graffiti as i was walking down penn avenue and even though i was gonna be late i took a picture anyway. what else is there to do. the thought one day this will not hurt so badly is mocking & useless. it does not offer sustenance or any real hope. but it is all i have to give myself and it is all anyone has to give to me. ironically, i am paid to give the exact same threadbare sympathy to people who are in situations far more desperate than i am. and it’s all i have to give. and it’s more than most people give. and it is not even approaching enough.

today on break i was complaining to j. how i have no vices left. jokingly said i need to become a pillhead because i can’t drink or smoke cigarettes and i hate weed. i had two puffs of his cigarette because i was feeling stressed out and sad and a little bit selfdestructive. i actually do have some vices left, but he doesn’t need to know about them and neither do you. immediately upon returning from break, i had a client with severe chronic bronchitis. she claimed it was from second-hand smoke. every so often she would be overcome with coughing that would wrack her whole body. i felt guilty. at the end of my interview with her she gasped, between coughs, pray you don’t ever get sick, honey. i said, i do.

in my mind i’m actually in minneapolis today. it’s summer and a lot of the bad things haven’t happened yet. debbie and i are walking around powderhorn park, barefoot and laughing. her cat is still alive and waiting for us in the zinemobile. the sun is sinking and we’re feeling okay. i don’t know where debbie is now, i think her phone was shut off. i’m in minneapolis, the vibrancy of the streets in cedar-riverside. i’m about to go swimming in the lake, but first i have to figure out the right light rail. that’s where my mind is today, not here. not here. i can’t fucking stand it.

RIP paul c., 1984-2011.

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i haven’t seen you in years, but you were fucking amazing. the best cupcakes, hilarious one-liners, a perfect blend of bronx-faggot street smarts and sassy silliness. “spill that tea, girl, that shit is hot!” i hope heaven is full of fashion shows, good cookin’, and truly scandalous gossip. the world will miss you.

road full of promise, head full of doubt.

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on thursday, i had a really fucking good day, light-hearted at work, sweet people left & right, and a really meaningful convo with a young trans client that i think changed both of our lives a little bit. and after that, i ran home and packed and headed out to philly in a car full of queers. i was wearing my super fun adventure hat that i liberated from target last weekend. it’s a tiny cowboy hat that sits on a headband, cocked at an unlikely angle. every day that i’ve worn it has been fun! and this was no exception. at a rest stop in nowheresville PA a suuuuper gay employee chirped, “well aren’t you cute! i love that hat!” and it made my night.

friday i rode bikes around philly with steph & danny. we ate the most delicious sweet potato fries and read in the warm comfort of giovanni’s room, my fave queer bookstore in america, i think. maybe the only one i’ve ever been to that’s still standing? i love that fucking place. and it was so cozy, reading books with two good friends, so far away from home. the day was bright and sunny and i was kinda sad because philly brings up sad things for me, but we laughed and rode around the schuykill river, on the trail, and it was super good. that night i got real drunk and ate some delicious mexican food at carey’s mom’s house, i told stories and worked shit out with someone i love. and then stayed up until 5am dancing and talking with rob & carey. i love my philly friends, we’ve been through so much together and they really feel like my family.

saturday i puked. all day. i forget i can’t drink like i used to. i felt better around 7pm and we all went out again around 10. i didn’t drink, but i did have a random man pet my red fake fur jacket and yell, “man, i want to cover my whole house with this shit! it’s like the 70’s all over again!” he also lifted his shirt to reveal his stomach tattoo that said, “BEST FUCK EVER.” i was like, “ooo….kay.” i just didn’t even know what to do, because he wasn’t even being creepy up until that point.

on sunday we went home, but not before making a brief appearance at the philly zine fest. steph, danny & i pranced from the car to the rotunda singing “party in the USA” by miley cyrus at the top of our lungs. while we were doing this, i found a checkbook smeared with blood, with a cryptic phrase written on the back (which i’ve already forgotten.) i hugged j.bee and sari and talked to them for like 5 minutes each before i hustled myself back into the car for the long drive home. i came home to peace & quiet & it was so nice. i realized that this is the first time i’ve left town in nearly 2 years where i haven’t been worrying the whole time that my partner is cheating on me & i’m gonna come home to a shitshow. it is SO NICE to just come home to exactly what i expected. it is SO NICE to not have to worry about that.

yesterday i woke up to a text from my mother saying my dad’s dead best friend had come to her in a dream and said, “someone is trying to kill you.” it startled her awake. my mom, like me, is slightly psychic–not enough to predict things with any regularity, but enough to feel kinda crazed. yesterday i shared a meaningful handshake with a heartbroken stranger and got interviewed by a canadian journalist about riot grrrl (!!).

today is still young. something happened at work that had me crying in the bathroom at 9am about the unfairness of the fucking world. and now it’s my lunch break. the urge to write is stronger than the urge to eat, sometimes.

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last night i had a moment. dancing hysterically with steph & danny at lez liquor hour of all freakin’ places. drunk and silly and it felt like a junior high dance in the best way. it’s been so long since i have danced in public. steph said, “we can dance any way we want, because we don’t know anyone here and we don’t care what they think!” and in pittsburgh, it’s rare to be somewhere and not know anyone. but she was right! so i danced, & i thought, why do i always have the best times during the worst times? not that i was gonna question it or try to make it go away. i was just wondering.

later, we were at the bar, going to town on a vegetable-and-cheese platter that someone had left behind. at one point, i put a piece of broccoli in my mouth, and i was transported back to this place: winter 2004. sitting in a cold punk house (that has now been divided into yuppie apartments) with sharon & axi, on a torn-up couch. the only lights are christmas lights wrapped around the TV, which we don’t really use. i am secretly overly happy about this, that we are those kinds of people who use the TV as a shelf. anyway, we all had a really great conversation that lasted for hours. the only line i can remember is the one that i wrote down: “if i have to be a raver, i TOTALLY want a broccoli floret as my pacifier!” i forget who said it, me or axi.

so here i am, 2011, the stem in my mouth, the leafy part out, remembering that moment, that long-ago moment with two wonderful ladies who i never see anymore. looking at my reflection in my mirror across the bar, my eyes so huge without glasses. smushing my face up, trying to pretend that i’m a cheeky 90’s raver sucking on my pacifier just to be weird or whatever.  i thought i want a picture of this, and then caldwell came barrelling in the door with their camera slung around their neck like always. so they took a picture of me and all i could think was, oh, 2011. oh, how did i ever wind up here?

closure weekend/annotated heartbreak.

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boarding the bus to DC, i heard the bus drivers making fun of the guy a few spaces ahead of us. “damn, look at all the scars on his arms!” “he cut himself up, ugh!” “ahh, must have fallen in a pricker bush!” and then raucous, hateful laughter. i wondered if people ever say that about me.

by the magic of fate, ray wound up sitting next to this guy. he was semi-obviously trans and his arms were covered in really thick scars. meticulous. we both wanted to reach out to him. ray thought about slipping him a note that said, “i’m trans too!” with a smiley face, because ray is stealth and totally passes. while that makes his life a lot easier, it also makes him unable to nod meaningfully at strangers. (incidentally, this guy shared a “what’s up?” nod with me. a lot of you gender-nonconformers know what i’m talking about. being genderqueer sucks in so many ways, but exchanging solidarity nods with strangers can be so sweet, sometimes.)

random bus guy seemed so sad. he got off in fredrick, MD, which also seemed kind of awful. we got off the bus too, for a ten minute smoke break. we were running around the parking lot, trying to get to the train station to exchange a kiss (because ray used to pick me up at the train station here, back when he lived in maryland) and we saw random bus guy get swooped into the arms of a tough, mouthy femme. they both looked so happy! it made us both feel kind of hopeful.

and now we are in DC, for the zinefest. we bought our bus tickets as a couple and are going together as broken-up-but-still-best-friends, as he-lets-me-cry-all-over-his-chest-after-reading-this-article-which-reminded-me-a-little-too-much-of-us. as more-than-friends-less-than-partners. as heartwrenching-but-loving. (gawd, have i used enough hyphens yet?). i don’t know what to introduce him as tomorrow. ex-boyfriend? friend? sweetheart? all of these words feel wrong. but i guess that’s the least of my problems.

dc was where things started for us, in a way, and it’s where things are ending. of course, they’d started before DC, and probably will not be over when we get home. on that magical DC trip it was bone-chillingly cold, now it’s stifilingly hot. the windchill was around 10 then, the heat index is around 107 today. nearly a hundred degrees. i always fall in love with people when it’s cold out and we break up when it’s hot. why is that. he says it’s because the cold makes you want to hold people close and the heat makes you want to push them away.

but i’m ok, i’m ok. probably moving out real soon. i can’t even think about it, really. i’m going to be traveling for 19 days in august. not all in a row, of course. i’m excited & scared. i think traveling for a long stretch is easier when you’re not looking forward to going home. when yr life is at a crossroads. so here’s to the chaos! today we went to the art museum and ate delicious food at busboys & poets. we held hands and whispered at the museum and it felt okay, like just a few degrees away from normal. i’ll take it, i guess.

drinks & fun & apocalypse.

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so, you know how most of the time, getting drunk won’t solve anything? last night was one of those rare nights when it kind of did! i was feeling really stressed out and awful, like a tense little toad (as we say around my house) but it was my friend’s birthday and she was hanging out at the local gay bar, so i went and it was super fun, lots of peeps were buying me drinks too due to MY recent birthday, and drunkness & loudness ensued.

so fun, & kind of just what i needed. danny & i went to the diner late at night & we were giggly driving talking so fast and so loud, and i said, “i feel ALIVE again!” he said, “yeah me too,” and it was a sweet moment.

i went to bed at 1:45 and woke up at 5 to the tweeting of the birds. even though it was a mostly successful night socially, i laid awake obsessively replaying my one  faux pas of the eve. whenever i remember something stupid that i’ve said or done, i often say, “fuck!” or “blah!” to myself. i kept doing that as i replayed the moment in my head. i thought i was being quiet but then ray said, in a very exasperated tone of voice, “baby, your blah-ing is keeping me awake!” and we had a giggle.

this afternoon i was eating lunch at a certain corporate-yet-delicious burrito chain, sitting at a window facing the street, when i saw five vans with this exact message:

hmm! apparently someone has used a very confusing math equation with the bible & gotten that exact date. normally i’m one for getting at least a little scared about apocalypse hysteria, but this is just too silly. here’s an article about these people who are, uh, spreading the word…

in other fundamentalist news, i have found one of my favorite magazine articles of all time! from spin magazine, spring 1996, where elizabeth gilbert (an unknown hack at the time, now the powerhouse behind “eat pray love”) goes undercover at exodus (kind of a boot camp for ex-gays.) it’s hilarious and heartbreaking and reading it at age 14 probably shaped my queer consciousness at least a little bit.