Category Archives: nostalgia

erie, schmerie

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for reasons strange and complicated that i don’t feel like going into here, my boyfriend had to do something in erie, pa this weekend, so i decided to go with him. i needed a roadtrip, plus erie seems kind of magical on the internet. it has cute street names (parade street, sassafrass street, etc) and for some reason it seems really gay and there are these 2 guys riding  around town on a tandem bicycle–they’re a queer couple, they dress wackily and go everywhere on their tandem and live in a beautiful strange house with lovely pictures painted on the outside. i admired their courage and cheerfulness, but now that i’ve actually been to erie i REALLY admire it. it was SO depressing (not to mention bike-unfriendly). the next time i hear someone complain about pgh being a depressing pit i’m gonna recommend they drive 2 hours north. pittsburgh looks like a haven of love and contentment! i am so happy to be home, even with a broken furnace!

but i’m getting ahead of myself. we had one of those good drives up, where you talk about things and it all feels so meaningful, when you feel like you’ve got a good co-captain in your life. the only sour spot was an overpass with “FORNICATION IS A GREVIOUS SIN =)” spray painted on it. the smiley face (which was the right side up, of course) was the creepiest part. i’m glad i don’t live in a condo by the side of the highway where every house is painted beige. why do they do that? because they’re afraid. i’m glad i don’t think fornication is a grevious sin. yeah me too.

pittsburgh on friday was gorgeous, so warm. i found out it was 71 degrees not by checking the weather channel or looking at a website, but by observing a man in front of my job wave his iphone in a woman’s face and yell, “see, i told you! 71 degrees!” the woman responded with an angry, “your FEVER’s gonna be a HUNDRED and 71 degrees when i’m done with you!”

anyway, upstate snow was still on the ground and it was in the 30’s. we rode around presque isle state park, riding straight into the wind and the gray. it was beautiful but sad too. when we got to the lake erie side we were kind of surprised to see it was frozen!

i realize this makes me sound like an idiot, but you gotta understand, i grew up on long island, totally taking the ocean for granted. i’m used to big roaring bodies of water that never ever freeze, no matter how cold it gets. so, we looked out on this body of water and felt appropriately small. the wind sluiced right through our coats and got into our lungs. time to go.

we accidentally went to an anti-choice thrift store after that, and were feeling discouraged and grossed out (didn’t buy anything, thank goddess). driving around feeling dejected, we saw the guys on the bike! and waved to them. “i feel like that’s a good sign,” said ray, and then we found the salvation army, which had not only a waffle iron, but the exact waffle iron i had been dreaming of, for $3.50! it’s the kind that makes waffles that are kind of heart-shaped. i was so excited to see it, i gasped loudly and people looked at me like i was going to fall to the ground. but i didn’t!

okay,, that’s enough. i also saw “jersey shore” for the first time in a long time and i don’t know what to think. why isn’t ronnie kicked off the show for being an abusive asshole? and why, on a show where people talk about shitting (and even show their clogged-up toilet on camera on more than one occasion) is menstruation the last unspeakable taboo? bitch magazine wrote an interesting piece about it a long time ago. oh well. i’m from long island and i grew up with TONS of people just like the jersey shore cast members, and even though they’re total idiots and really annoying and stupid, they’re also funny in this particular way that i miss, that i don’t get out here.

oh, and today the sun came out, so we rode our bikes some more, and then ate some really good sandwiches and met a british woman who said that when i’m in europe i need to drink coffee in a sidewalk cafe and watch life go by, because americans don’t do that enough.

and now we’re home! our furnace broke (?) but who the hell cares, winter is over and i’ve lived in colder houses. drinking ginger tea in my insulated carhartts. hooray.

2010 in review! (feel free to steal this. self-reflection is good!)

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What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

COMPLETED A NOVEL!!, saw a man dressed as sarah palin pull an amerikan flag from his ass onstage, rode my bike across state lines, rode my bike 320 miles in a week, camped for more than one consecutive night, visited mainland canada, had a 2-guy threesome, had a full-time job with benefits, got my passport! (not in chronological order.)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

yes, they were to get my passport and finally leave the country and make a significant dent in my debt. i’ve done all 3. next year’s goals: leave the continent, get outta debt, find a home for my book.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
someone who i used to be close with did, i think.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
no one close, as of this moment.

5. What countries did you visit?
canada!

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
some new stamps on my passport. a published book. friends at work that i actually get to see during the workday.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
mostly awful things that i don’t really want to remember, or else sexy/romantic things that i don’t want to share here. um. i remember getting pizza tattoos on valentines day, the aforementioned american flag incident, that beet dinner with stephanie and pino, toronto funtimes, going swimming with my sibs in the polish hill pool, some dinners at landslide, a ridiculous time on the southside,  the bike trip, some other things…

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

besides the book, i really didn’t achieve anything. i spent most of my time working jobs that made me really sad; giving most of my money to student loan officers; being misunderstood by strangers, friends and lovers alike; raging, crying, being heartbroken in every sense of the word.

9. What was your biggest failure?

see above. also, i really wish i’d gotten off the bus when i’d gotten a certain beseeching text message, but i just kept on going like a drone.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

not really.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

the front rack & panniers for my bike. the occasional cute outfit.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

most pittsburgh people, my siblings, my old-school friends and my sweetheart.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

my co-workers & my sweetheart.

14. Where did most of your money go?

student loans, delicious food, cute outfits, and good books and music. oh and the bike trip!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
quitting my god-awful job with child prtective srvcs. getting more tattoos. going to toronto. going on the bike trip. seeing the ocean again. and several things that didn’t happen.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

i don’t want to be reminded. but probably arcade fire, lil’ kim and 70’s punk rock. (i know these are artists/genres and not songs)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?  sadder.
b) thinner or fatter? the jury’s out. i really don’t care.
c) richer or poorer? richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
writing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

crying in the bathroom at work. trying to explain things to people who just don’t get it. working, in general.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

already spent it. in new york. got off to a rough start but then it got way better. full of delicious food, berets, a vuvuzela, much hilarity, and my long-lost sister!

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?
no.

22. How many one-night stands?
two. surprised?

23. What was your favorite TV program?
ru paul’s drag race.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
no. but i have stopped being friends with a lot of people this year!

25. What was the best book you read?
i actually read a lot of really great books this year. some of my faves were “a visit from the goon squad” -jennifer egan, “will grayson, will grayson” by john green & david levithan, “sex changes” and “public sex” by patrick califia, “freedom” by jonathan franzen, more i’m sure.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
i really loved “the suburbs” by arcade fire.

27. What did you want and get?
a finished book! and a halfway-decent job (although it’s been AWFUL these past 2 months)

28. What did you want and not get?
sympathy. empathy. consideration.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 28 but you woulda thought i was 12 by how i celebrated: cake & girl talk (the game, not the band) & lots of giggling. it was actually REALLY fun.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

see question #28.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

have i ever had a personal fashion concept? i mean, really? i wore skirts more often than i ever have in my life, perhaps.

33. What kept you sane?
reading good books, my bicycle, my ipod (esp. at work), sometimes my friends and lover.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
i am numb.

36. Who did you miss?
kastoory, eric g., emily, sheena and lucy. axi, as always. and a few people who i don’t want to name.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
danny and hilary, i think.

snowy times, tough dykes, & possibilities

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winter is here and it sucks the breath out of my lungs, that first step outside. i didn’t believe it would happen. i don’t know why, i just thought things would be different. but i’m sleep-deprived & over-caffeinated, just like most people, wandering through the days in a numb haze. already tired of it, with many months to go.

i saw “rise against: the tribe 8 documentary” last night with a bunch of fun queers, and it was so good, so snarky and relevant to my life both now and long ago, made me miss my crazy punk dyke friends, all gone now in one way or another. and just seeing a movie, seeing something, that made sense to me, that i could relate to, was like a salve. there’s one line i thought about all day, where silas flipper says, “i read somewhere that a woman’s worst fear is being raped, and a man’s worst fear is being laughed at. i think that says a lot about how things are in our society. so, i try to laugh at men as much as i can!” i spent all day wondering how any woman gets by in this world without subverting it in some way. all the women that i work with, who i don’t like at all, i still feel bad for them. all the dieting, the endless trying to please everyone in their lives, all the casual self-hatred tossed out all day. “i’m so fat.” “i’m so stupid.” how have they done it for so long?

i don’t think that i’m making the point that i want to make. so i will change the subject. i was thinking of moving back to new york, not this summer but next, and working for the union for a little bit, mainly because i want my next novel to be a lesbian construction worker romance (which will not be as ridiculous as it sounds!) i worked construction the summer of 2004, in the union that my dad is a member of, that my grandfather and great-grandfather were a member of. fourth generation. all the grizzled old union guys were impressed when i told them. it sucked, getting up early and sweating all day with a bunch of dudes, half of whom were so pissed that i was there because they felt like they couldn’t scratch their balls all day or whatever the fuck. but it was also a really interesting environment that i kind of want to talk about. and i want to talk about how the women in that environment took care of each other; we had to. there were about 500 guys in the building and about 20 women. and it was so beautiful, what we saw in each other, what we nurtured and protected.

plus, funny things happened there every day. just little things. i don’t feel like telling any of the stories right now, but maybe i’ll be in the mood some day. the graffiti was great, the conversations were sometimes great, just being in those buildings while they were still new, before anyone else, high above the city as the sun slowly crawled above the buildings. and the first-born in my family has always been an electrician, for three generations before me, and i usually hate tradition but there was something about swinging that hammer, about cutting that pipe, about running that wire through the ceiling, that felt so right, that i felt deep in my bones. so maybe i’ll do it again, just for the summer when i’m off from my other job, gathering stories like little figs, underslept and overcaffeinated, just like i am now.

and we were just trying to make something beautiful.

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hi. i am drunk, freshly home, 2:03 in the morning. did i tell you that i am drinking again? i still get letters about the zine i did two years ago, where i talked about being sober & being single, and it’s so the opposite of where i am. i live with my boyfriend and i drink again; but here’s the thing. i know, for a fact, that i am better off alone, even though i love my partner, even though i acknowledge all the ways he’s bettered my life (and the few ways he’s fucked it up, i can acknoweldge those and still, somehow, love) and still miss those days before him, alone in my teal room on a twinsize bed, surrounded by words, living for words and art and activism and love. i miss those days, and i have been trying to relive them, going on adventures by myself, riding my bike long ways alone at night. i almost had an affair this week, with a straight boy (and oh how weird that is, how embarrasssing almost) and it didn’t work out but it made me realize how great it is to be queer, to make our own rules, to be fiercely autonomous and independent always,
i forgot who i was, i forgot for so long, but riding my bike home drunk i thought, it’s a good day to die, it’s a good day to die, not because i want to die but because i want to be brave again. i was brave for so long, and then it was easier not to be, but then i realized that’s not who i am. i’m not meant for safe, for nice, for easy. i have been having adventures lately, sweet times with friends, grated curry beet tacos that are so fucking good i want to eat them every day forever. remember new york? remember those long hours? remember feeling passionate about anything, about everything, outside of your own constrained life?
my boyfriend is watching “six feet under” and i am having a hard time typing because i am trying to plug my ears and hum so i don’t have to hear that boring, annoying dialogue. i loathe that show, and i know many of you (the “you” that read my blog, i’m imagining like five people) like that show. i guess i don’t care, i hate it. here are some other things/beings/people that i hate that most people like: youtube, dogs, gin, children, facebook, the institution of marriage, i can’t think of anything else but i know this list is much longer, time for bed.

on names, identities, and the 90’s. plus some other things.

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so, my new job has really been going swimmingly thus far. i think a lot of the reason is because i’m no longer using my legal first name professionally. i’m not going by my preferred name of ocean, because i still feel weird asking people to call me that. i can’t just act like it’s part of my legal name, because i work for the government and they check evvvverything. plus, i really like keeping my personal and professional life separate, and googling “ocean capewell” brings up not only this blog, but a whole lot of things that i’d prefer random middleaged middlebrow co-workers not know about me. (not that i really think anyone’s gonna google me, but you never know)
so, i’ve switched to alice, which is my middle name. i don’t know why this didn’t occur to me years ago. i really, really dislike my first name, not because it is such a bad name in and of itself, but because it is a very real reminder of a terrible time in my life. i used the first name for the first 12 years of my life, when i had pretty much no friends and when absolutely everyone hated me. i was really quiet and considered boring and creepy by pretty much everyone; i was abused at home and tormented at school and was never happy unless i was reading or writing (two activities for which i was routinely made fun of, or which were taken away for little to no reason). it doesn’t sound all that bad, typing it, but it was bad to live through, and once i changed my name my life got interesting and strange, and it’s pretty much stayed that way since.
but, you know, i have to use this name i hate for straight jobs. i’ve definitely had some jobs where i could be ocean, but i’ve spent the last few years working white-collar office jobs. and yeah, i could be brave, but i already have so many strikes against me being weird-looking and not quite gender-conforming, i just don’t want to add another. so i use that name, and it’s weird how much it brings me back to that socially paralyzed, extremely awkward, hopeless place. it’s weird how it seems like the last 16 years of adventures and bravery and gumption have all been erased, and i’m mute again, i’m so afraid and so unable to connect with people. but using “alice” doesn’t bring up any of this, really. it’s a little odd using a name that i don’t associate with myself at all, but ultimately not that big a deal.
some of you readers out there know my legal first name, and that’s fine. it happens sometimes, and as long as you don’t use it in conjunction with me, i don’t really care. and some of you may be wondering what it is. please don’t ask me. i think it’s a good rule of thumb to follow trans name etiquette with everyone who’s changed their name, regardless of whether they are trans or not. (in case you don’t feel like clicking that link, here’s a rundown: don’t ask what my ‘real’ name is. don’t go around telling people my given name if they know it. even if you think my name is stupid, or doesn’t fit, keep that information to yourself and respect that i can make decisions about my life that are important to me. etc.) most people don’t go through all the hassle of a name change–be it legal or informal–for absolutely no reason. we often have very good reasons for keeping our birth names private.

anyway! i have more to say on that subject but i am tired of writing about it. kind of weird that i have used an “illegal” name for 16 years now and this is the first time i’ve really written publicly about what it means to me emotionally and my frustrations around having a name that i’m legally tied to but absolutely can’t stand. (i have not been able to get a legal name change for various reasons)
okay, but really, new topic! another reason why i like my new job is that there is a very relaxed dress code. today i showed up looking kind of like harmony korine in sassy magazine from, like, 1995:

and nobody breathed a word, or even seemed like they noticed. i also wore my ridiculous bright red fake fur coat that i love SO much, and i met amanda for lunch, and i said, “isn’t it weird how i have a real job now but i still look like a total weirdo?” she said “yes” and we giggled together. it was really great.
speaking of the 90’s, i may be a little late to the party, but this “you may be a 90’s woman if…” post totally made me laugh, and realize that i am more of a cliche than i realize. i could relate to every single one of those, except that silly list of people to crush on. i’ve never been the crushing-on-celebrities type. what an odd note to end this post on, but i really have nothing else tonight.

legos!!!!!!!!!!!

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on saturday, ray & i went to the toy & plastic brick museum in bellaire, OH (about an hour west of pittsburgh.) if you are ever in the western PA/eastern OH/northern WV area, and are moderately to incredibly nerdy, i would highly recommend a visit. it’s in a mildly creepy abandoned elementary skewl, and it is in actuality a lego museum, but they have to refer to it as a “plastic brick museum” because they aren’t officially affiliated.

anyway! this whole place is, like, a museum of obsessiveness, or a shrine to every weird, quirky, interesting thing one can do with legos. i won’t ruin the whole museum, but here are a few highlights:


uh oh! looks like there’s some dischord in lego land! a lot of these little lego guys were doing such funny, weird, quirky things. i wish i had taken more pics of them. i especially liked the king tut randomly hanging out on a city street corner, and all the skeletons wandering around…basically the whole thing is like being invited into a really strange, imaginative world.

fake assembly line! this was also really strange and creative and i wish i’d taken more pictures.

i think my favorite thing is this genderqueer pirate that ray bought at the gift shop! this little pirate and their pretty pink bike makes me so happy.

this whole day reminded me of playing legos for hours with my brother when we were kids, the whole worlds that we created. i always liked playing with the little people more than actually building stuff, so i guess it makes sense that i was more drawn to the little people than the gargantuan structures. the whole day was strange and sad and beautiful in a way i can’t even explain.

other than that, i’ve been pretty good. my new job is going well and i finished my book proposal!!! i’ve been working on my book since 2006, and i’m pretty much done, i just needed to sum it up to send out to potential publishers. i’m not actually done done, because it needs an epilogue, but i’m getting really close…

oh, the things one thinks about when one is bored.

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remember school? remember the hours of sitting, pointlessly, how it wore on you, how it brought strange things to the top of your head? work gets boring, yes, but it’s different than school, because there’s usually some work, or gossip, or drama to distract you from your own boredom.
i’m in training for my new job, all week, and it’s kind of like school. sitting numbly in a windowless room, watching power point presentations and trying to sift through an endless stream of rules, policies and forms, often making little to no sense, or contradicting each other. such is the life of a government worker, i know. and every so often my brain can’t take it any more, and i check out.
i’ve been reading the most excellent and highly recommended (by me, and probably a lot of other people too) book a visit from the goon squad by jennifer egan. it’s the kind of book that gets you into other peoples’ heads, makes you know them, understand them, sympathize with them even when they’re awful people. so this has made me more aware of my own thoughts, made me remember things more in-depth and meaningfully.
one memory that i’ve been dwelling on is so mundane. i don’t know why i’m even thinking about it. it’s just a food not bombs cooking from seven years ago. my friend walt0r and i sat on the couch of my girlfriend-at-the-time’s punk house and made sandwiches for serving from a garbage bag full of almost-stale bagels. slice bagel, smear with veganaise, lettuce, tomato, wrap in saran wrap. nothing interesting or poignant happened. we made sandwiches until we ran out of veganaise. i remember nothing else of that day, but i’ve been reliving that strange, pointless memory over and over again at work. why? i have no clue. when my brain tires of that it moves to another strange lettuce-and-tomato related memory–this thing, which i don’t remember ever owning as a kid but i must have played with it at someone’s house, and i’m thinking about how you could put a tiny blob of play-doh under the lever and press it down and a tiny, perfectly-indented tomato would come out. it was so cool, and as i sit there pretending to pay attention my brain does it again, and again, and again.

i have accomplished very little else this evening, besides listening to “the queen is dead” twice..

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…and uploading a select few pictures of ye olde bike trip to my flickr. for you real life friends out there, ray is putting a much more extensive collection on his facebook, but it may take a while.
today was my first day at my new job. it was mostly okay, except a co-worker expressed dismay that we aren’t mandated to report to INS if we discover a client is in the country illegally. (i now work for a government agency that provides assistance with heating bills for low-income peeps). like, she was seriously DISAPPOINTED that she wasn’t going to get anyone deported! i missed about 20 minutes worth of important info imagining smashing her face into the oyster-gray table we were all sitting at, and/or giving her a good talking to.
other than that, it was okay. and i have nothing else to share!

oh, the dogs on main street howl, cuz they understand

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hello! i am finally done with work. it’s monday and i got enough sleep last night, woke up when i wasn’t tired anymore. a novelty. when was the last monday i did that? i don’t even know. memorial day? it’s such a simple thing, sleeping until you’re refreshed, but it’s so rare in the fulltime employment world. but i have forgotten that, when i’m refreshed, two cups of coffee can make me jittery and crazy. when i’m tired, two cups of coffee is what keeps me alive. so i feel a little crazed right now.
i’ve been re-reading old issues of “chainbreaker” and eating an everything bagel my siblings brought me back from new york (like five days ago, so it’s kinda stale & sucky, but i still appreciate the kind gesture, so i’m gonna keep on eating it.) it reminds me SO much of college, those long moneyless days, where i was mostly unhappy but took such joy in simple things. that was six years ago, my chainbreaker-and-everything-bagels-phase, my dreaming-of-a-long-bike-trip-with-my-lover phase. now i’ve made my dreams real. my lover and i are leaving for a 325-mile bike trip in a few days. mckeesport, pa to washington, dc! i am afraid my elderly, troubled bike won’t make it. but, options are few–i can’t exactly afford a new bike this late in the game, so i’m just gonna go for it, ovaries to the wall, see what happens. it’s not, like, a super-junker, but when a bike’s 12 years old and has probably 5000 miles on it, things happen.
i’m also folding zines for a big zine order and listening to a mix tape i listened to all the time in the summer of 2000. oh, ten years later. no longer listening to that tape on a walkman as i chainsmoke outside of mcdonald’s on a fifteen minute break from my job at CVS. so strange to think a decade ago, when it feels like it wasn’t really so long ago at all. the girl i kissed all that summer is now getting married to a man. the boy i kiss all the time now was a female junior high student in massachussetts ten years ago, and we each had no idea the other existed. so strange.
as you may have noticed, i changed the appearance of this blog. i think it’s an improvement. also, this summer has really sucked (because of work troubles and relationship woes dominating my life and headspace), but i put up a few pictures of the non-sucky parts on my flickr page if anyone is interested.