Category Archives: pittsburgh

farewell, lorazepamsam.

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that was your okcupid username. i use it in this post because i went on the worst okcupid date of my life with you. last march, at the end of a long and lonesome winter. i should have ended it at the very beginning, when i bought a pabst blue ribbon and you made a fucking joke about putting something in it. you apologized profusely when i called you on it & my instincts told me that you were awkward but not a threat. so it continued, down by the river with a sixpack, watching the lights on the water. i can’t remember what we talked about. it was okay, i guess, until you told me that that horrible thing had happened to our mutual friend, X. X was someone who i had known a decade ago and hadn’t talked to in years. i knew her at a very bad time in her life, and you told me something horrible that happened to her in that time, that i hadn’t known about. you mentioned this like it was just a casual anecdote to be shared on a date, a prelude before a kiss, just making conversation.

i said, “i have to go.” went home and fucking lost it. lost it. cried so hard that i thought i was gonna die. i couldn’t believe what had happened and i couldn’t believe that you’d told me like that.

this incident was a blessing in disguise. i reconnected with X, apologized for not knowing, for not supporting her more. she said it was okay. we wound up falling in love, for a brief moment, and healing each other in ways we couldn’t have imagined. throughout our affair, you were an awkward background figure. you were X’s roommate and occasional lover. you’d say hi to me when i stumbled messy-haired from X’s bed in the morning. your presence unnerved me. i didn’t feel safe around you. X kicked you out when you got into a huge, pill-fueled fight with a neighbor. the neighbor broke your nose with a punch and you threatened to kill everyone.

i didn’t think about you again. i was relieved that you were gone. i didn’t think about what happened to you, where you went, until this afternoon, ten fucking minutes before getting on BART to go to work, i looked at my phone to see a text from X, saying, “hey……i don’t know if you heard…….but [lorazepamsam] killed themselves last night……shot himself in the head…..just thought i should tell you.”

i work at a mental health crisis center. i was feeling a little crisis-y myself with this news, even though i hardly knew you, even though i didn’t like you. on BART, shaky hands, i took half a lorazepam (better known as ativan) because i thought i just would not be able to get through the day without having a fucking panic attack. i laughed a little at the irony. half a lorazepam because lorazepamsam is dead.

when i went on that date with you, i didn’t even know what lorazepam was. now i get paid to hand it out to people, write down what time they take it so they don’t take too many. now i take half of one on my way to work, to cope with the death of you. i don’t believe that spirits who die violently find rest easily. i thought about how uncomfortable it was to be next to your life for one night. i cannot imagine the raw discomfort and pain that you endured for 35+ years. i hope you are in a safer place, but i don’t believe that you are.

i thought work would be rough but it was actually mostly good. the clients were friendly and sweet, funny and happy to be there. reflective. about 6 hours into my shift, the small street became filled with cop cars. when the medical examiner’s van came, we knew that someone had died. domestic violence that had turned deadly was the rumor on the street. the clients sat outside, smoking. i was worried they’d be triggered–a lot have experienced violence at the hands of the police–but instead they grew reflective, commenting on the fragile nature of life, how at any second it can be over. how lucky we are to be here, on this side of the street, safe, alive.

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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.

i’m getting there.

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this is my darling friend danny & me, at pittsburgh’s dyke/trans march on saturday.

i made this sign in a burst of inspiration on my living room floor. amanda was on the couch and buggey was on the floor with me. these are amanda’s stamps. they were  a christmas present gone awry. when she opened them, she was shocked at their size. but they’ve come in handy many times since then. the font is called “center of attention”. & isn’t that what i sometimes want to be?

i love this sign. i love this day. i’ve come so far from last year’s march. last year my sign was negative and angry. i was negative and angry and about to go through hell, already going through hell.

this year i was surrounded with so much love. laid in the grass with a bunch of rad ladies, for hours, and talked about important things. it was one of those days when i realized i was really gonna miss pgh. just this act of laying in the grass, talking. half people i’m close with, half virtual strangers. still, we can tell stories to each other. we can talk honestly. we can inspire and do all sorts of good things.

this harsh year has taught me how to love myself. taught me strength and perserverance. i don’t want to go through that again. but, i can’t deny i’ve learned a lot.

i know it’s not over. things are still hard. i am still crazy, and getting crazier by the day. the world wants to punish me for being dykey and genderweird and outlandish. i’m not so shy any more, but it flares up during the most inconvenient moments.

after the long talk, i took m. to dinner at the indian restaurant. she got an awful text and sobbed. i held her in my arms on the street, and then we went to a community garden and lay in the grass. we held each other. i was laying 2″ from a piece of dog shit, but i didn’t notice until m. put her hand in it. gross! but we kept going. on the 31st street bridge, which is mostly closed to cars these days, i took the street and she took the sidewalk. i asked, “what the hell are you doing? don’t you want to be on the street?” because we’d just talked about how great the 31st street bridge is now, in its car-free form. she screeched to a halt, hopped on the metal divider between the sidewalk and the bridge, pulled her bike over her head and heaved onto the bridge. we laughed hysterically, despite everything. despite everything.

rhythm is a dancer.

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“purple represents, brings about, and is present during radical transformation from one state of being to another. purple appears at twilight and predawn. it stands at the gate between the land of material flesh in one world and the land of the spirit or soul in another and is present in the envelope of energy that surrounds the body, usually called the ‘aura’. […] I asked a traditional Witch to tell me the qualities of purple. […] [she said,] ‘purple has always meant power, spiritual power. it’s connected to the birth and death and all kinds of transformations, and to the number seven. And it’s also a color associated with the moon. but more than anything, it means power.'” -judy grahn, another mother tongue: gay words, gay worlds [an amaaaazing book! please read!]

so. i feel a little silly being 30 and dyeing my hair purple. but you know what? i never got to be 16 when i was 16. i had a job and a lot of family burdens and i was very old back then. and having fun hair was impossible (mainly because my job wouldn’t allow it).  i’m not so old now. and then i thought that anyone who might criticize me for this probably got to be a teenager at the age-appropriate time, and to them i have nothing to say but: fuck you! i’m reclaiming my youth, now that i’m old enough to enjoy it.

anyway. i just came back from a trip down south with two of my favorite heart-friends. it was wonderful. we slept outside & made a lot of silly jokes. listened to mix cd’s and talked openly. amanda went to a wedding in durham, NC while ben & i rode our bikes all around and cooled our hot feet in a fountain. it was just perfect.

i asked them, “did you ever have good vacations with your family?” amanda had. ben & i hadn’t. family vacations, for me, were just a new place for us all to fight and be unhappy. in fact, we often fought more and were more unhappy because there was the stress of traveling. i said that this vacation we were on now felt like a good family vacation. the way they’re supposed to (& yes i know they’re a privilege and i was lucky to go on any at all, no matter how miserable). i felt relaxed and loved. got to see some new things. i messed up a few times but it was okay. nobody yelled at me, we all worked together to figure out how to make things right again. and i did the same when amanda or ben needed me to. amanda said i was the MVP of snack-sharing on the trip & i’m glad.

last night i was biking home from my sweetie’s house at 2am. i’d been wearing a miniskirt and biking around all day. it made me feel awkward, the skirt, but i wanted to wear it. but i didn’t want to give pervy guys a thrill when i rolled by on my byke. but at 2am nobody was out. i felt safe. just hiked my skirt up so i could pedal faster. i thought, “soon there will be no more feeling safe at 2am. there will be no more sweetheart. [at least not this particular one]. soon i will be on guard every second again.” but i think it’s okay. think i’ve been nurtured enough, think i’ve been safe enough, to be able to fight again. safety. i never had it before i came here. and it has changed my life. i hope i don’t forget.

super moon & mayday & love & living.

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whoa, this weekend was off the CHAIN! i don’t think i’ve ever had a day like the one i had on friday. or saturday.

friday was the mayday variety show in bloomfield. i had one of those moments, sitting in a sweaty clump surrounded by friends, watching etta and suzy on stage–suzy dressed like a beautiful & strange & ethereal tree, etta draped in christmas lights. i tried to take a picture with my phone, but of course it doesn’t capture the moment at all–suzy is a mass of blinding white light (aura?). but it was one of those moments, so safe and cozy, where i realized how desperately i will miss all this, that weird magic that i’ve only found in pittsburgh. how will i live without it, & what will happen to my heart? i don’t know. but i guess i’ll find out. i guess i’ll manage.

i read marge piercy’s poem “for two women shot to death in brookline, massachusetts” which got a good response. it was the first time i’ve read that poem aloud and not cried at the last stanza, which was good because i hate crying in public, but also a little strange. i blame the anti-depressants. & it’s a relief to take a vay-cay from being over-emotional but it’s a little strange too! anyway. the guy who went after me gave marshmallows to the audience & we all threw them at him & he tried to catch them in his mouth while jumping rope. i love that these two acts can co-exist side-by-side & i love that people cheered for us both.

afterwards there was a punk show under the bridge & people got arrested. don’t want to say anything besides that here. walking back to larryville to get my bike, i ran into j. who was fleeing a hipster bar and we drunkenly played on the playground.

the next day was the mayday parade! no time for 8 hours of sleep, just go go go! oatmeal, coffee, sunscreen. sequinned gold booty shorts. bike up that damn hill, fast, that hill that used to seem so imposing and impossible. herron ave, you ain’t no thing anymore, my thighs are practically machines now, you don’t fuckin’ scare me. made it there in time, lots of good people and fabulous costumes, gorgeously decorated umbrellas, amazing vibes. i passed this along the way:

& it was so appropriate. i felt like i was living up to the urgings of this little metal doodad chained to a random polish hill fence. & then a bbq full of delicious free food. jail solidarity meeting, we decided to head down there. i went home to change out of my booty shorts, shower, and frantically cook and bake. released prisoners need food, jail solidarity people also need food. lentils and peanutbutter oatmeal cookies.

the tone was serious at the jail but the vibes were good. we commandeered a corner, set up our food and umbrellas, making each other laugh throughout this shitty circumstance. don’t forget to bring beautiful things to ugly places.

i can’t even describe how jail solidarity was, so i won’t. all you need to know is that i accidentally brought a lady bug into the jail and felt terrible. a wild bunny visited us. we all had each others’ backs. i made so many new pals! i was there for 7 hours, some people were there for 12+. waiting until everyone gets out. nobody left behind. the day felt like it had months of activity crammed into it. like we lived and laughed and cried and raged enough for it to count for at least a month.

i crapped out before everyone got out, but i was there for the first 3, and it was so good, marching towards them twirling the umbrellas, their huge smiles at seeing us. M and P and some boy i don’t know & i were all watching the supermoon from the upper corner of the parking lot. the jail almost obscured it, but it couldn’t. it couldn’t reach that high. the eerie light made the glass-y weed-y parking lot gorgeous. M said, “i’m always going to remember this,” in a way that makes you notice. makes you look around at what’s going on, makes you aware that you’re really living it.

this little poem was propped up against the light pole when i got there. i like to think that it wasn’t one of our crew who placed it there, i like to think it was a random person who believed in words and synchronicity and strangeness. who believed in the power of little, tiny things like this. because we all know it’s the little things, right?

untitled, untittied

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yesterday,  at a work meeting, my creepiest co-worker sat too close to me. i was wearing a cute dress because i was going to sister spit after work and wanted to look cute. but, i forgot that if i look cute that’s just a fucking invitation for every creepy man in the world to try & look up my skirt. pgh  is not like new york or philly–guys will look, but not touch, or say anything. for a while, i thought that was good enough.

but not this guy. he has such bad vibes. such sexual-assaulter vibes. there are times when a man looks at me and i feel like he just thinks i am attractive. and there are other times when i can hear him raping me in his head. and yeah it’s just a feeling, not an action, but it wears on me.

the meeting went on & on. he was so close. one side was him. the other side, a lunchroom table, jammed into my ribcage. across the table was another middle-aged, possibly aspie man who was openly staring at my tits. i hunched over and crossed my legs. of course, this put me with my back to the director, who was speaking & who already thinks i’m a disrespectful young whippersnapper anyway cuz i have piercings and tattoos and don’t look like a girl. but fuck. i could not allow this man to see my thighs anymore.

the worst part was not being able to escape. surrounded on every side by men, & it’s a serious meeting so i can’t just get up and leave. and if i did, they’d just see more of my body anyway.

afterwards, i was visibly upset. my friend b. asked if i was okay and i said no. i told him a little of what happened. my friend agreed with me that he is creepy, and said, he hasn’t gotten laid in a while, everything catches his attention. i said, please don’t refer to me as a thing. my friend is a straight white dude from the sticks. sweet, but hasn’t thought about a lot of things. i’m glad i said that because i think it changed his perspective a little.

i saw my lover later that day, when i was on break. still upset. still visibly upset. he asked what was wrong and i couldn’t tell him. because he doesn’t get it. because he’s a man. i hated him for being a man in that moment, even though he’s sweet and nice and respectful. i just couldn’t talk to him. so i was quiet and fuming and weird and it was awkward. but the gap between us just felt so wide then. and i just knew he’d never understand. (note: i have since talked to him about it and he did understand, kinda).

i bummed a cigarette off a lady friend at work, because i couldn’t stop panicking. such a little thing, really, but it reverberated so deeply. i said, “thanks, r! i feel so much better!’ she said, “yeah, i think it’s the deep breathing.” i said, “i’ve been trying deep breathing all day, it’s not working.” “yeah, i guess you have to go out and hurt yourself.” we laughed bitterly. then she said, “well, it’s better than cutting yourself!” i have big self-inflicted scars all over my arms. we aren’t close enough for her to know my past. i stopped in my tracks. i didn’t know what to say.

left work early because i just couldn’t take it. went home cuz i’d forgotten to take my pillz that morning and i knew that was part of the reason for me feeling so badly. ripped the cute dress off. pulled out my binder and cutoffs. i don’t want to look nice for men anymore. i want to be a genderqueerdo again. i don’t want them to be able to see my tits. i don’t want to let them win. while i was pedaling & crying, towards the bus stop to pick up emily, a girl yelled, “hey, dykes on bikes!” at me. i couldn’t tell if she was validating me or just making fun. it really could have been either.

sister spit was fun and hilarious. pretty much all of the performers had good energy & good things to say. but i was still having some residual anxiety from my day and had to go home. breathe in, breathe out, even with lungs compressed tightly under layers of meshy cloth. breathe in, breathe in. don’t forget, people love you. people think you are sexy who don’t want to rape you. i had written “someday…” on my wrist in red ink and it looks like a cut. it was a reference to a powerful line in the sarah schulman book girls, visions and everything: “someday, i’ll kill a man.”

don’t read it and think i’m advocating murder. don’t tell me you aren’t the problem. don’t tell me i am crazy. think about what has to happen to drive someone to make that statement, what drives someone to appreciate it. think about it and then think of a solution. because i’m tired. i’m so fucking tired.

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that i had a really good birthday party! comprised of my dad & sister, housecleaning stress, over 90 cans of beer (cuz that’s how we roll in my family, i guess), all my favorite people in pgh, this amazing cake:

(sorry, i can’t flip this photo. i feel like a dumbass for admitting it, but it’s true) (but isn’t that cake amazing?!?!?) (even more amazing: it’s gluten free. even MORE amazing, it was partially inspired by my okcupid username, which is “bravelittlonion”).

there were lots of stories and laughing hysterically and too many things to write about. like all good parties, it ended with me drunkenly drilling a xylophone onto a utility pole. i don’t have any pics of the event, but here’s a picture of my sister playing the xylophone this morning, with my dad in the background:

30, here i come. thanks to everyone who helped me get this far. ❤

a few things i have been thoroughly enjoying lately.

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+ SPRING!!!!!

+having very vivid, nuanced and colorful dreams that don’t haunt me.

+this quote by dean spade, who i honestly normally can’t really get into, but it says so much of what i need to hear:

One of my goals in thinking about redefining the way we view relationships is to try to treat the people I date more like I treat my friends—try to be respectful and thoughtful and have boundaries and reasonable expectations—and to try to treat my friends more like my dates—to give them special attention, honor my commitments to them, be consistent, and invest deeply in our futures together. In the queer communities I’m in valuing friendship is a really big deal, often coming out of the fact that lots of us don’t have family support, and build deep supportive structures with other queers. (i originally read this on amber’s tumblr)

+this fucking adorable and beautiful and amazing comic by cindy, about learning how to finally fucking be friends with your demons!

becoming friends with my demons is something i’ve been struggling to do for over a decade, ever since axi & i had a memorable conversation on our front porch in winter 2002, when i was freaking out about a shitty email my abusive ex had sent me, and we were talking about all the bad things, the haunting things, the horrible things, and she said i need to learn how to embrace my dark side. how that’s the only way i’m ever gonna be whole. i’ve got to go there.

& cindy’s writing & art is so fucking perfect, so poignant, because she goes places so fearlessly. that drawing of her holding hands with her demons, on the right, makes my heart hurt in the best best way. i’m gonna take it to the copy place & blow it up. hang it on my bedroom wall so it’s the first thing i see every morning. so i don’t forget. this image is from the excellent book the encyclopedia of doris, which i cannot recommend heartily enough. 

+all the readings i’ve been doing as of late! karen lillis and i just read at pitt and it went swimmingly. my next one, april 22nd at hambone’s in lawrenceville (42nd & butler!). i will be reading at a special library worker reading, even though i am not a library worker. i did go with amanda from branch library to branch library a few sleepy saturdays ago, where she showed up in neighborhoods like mt. washington (douchebag central, if yr not from pgh) and brookline (depressing) and inquiring at the front desk, “are there any writers working here?!” fortunately, i’m a library lurker, which is close enough i guess.

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yeah! so many people find this blog by googling terms like “deleted facebook so happy” or “should i delete facebook.” my answer: YES!

+listening to your heart breaks, invincible, jawbreaker & the fuckin’ no alternative comp that i found at the lawrenceville goodwill for only three dollars! i was just thinking about it and i let out a shriek that terrified my shopping companion when i saw it. holy shit, it’s SO good. i especially like soul asylum’s cover of “sexual healing”. as oliver so brilliantly put it when i played this song for him, “wow, they’re taking it SO SERIOUSLY!”

talkin’ shit about a pretty sunset. blanket & opinions that i’ll probably regret soon.

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this is what the view out my kitchen window occasionally looks like.

yesterday i was bikin’ up the hill and some teen boys were like, “damn, look at her go! how does she do that?” i sincerely regret not turning around and saying, “cuz i’m a toughass motherfucker, that’s how!” but i couldn’t figure out if they were making fun of me or not. i think this will be one of the major pitfalls of my life. not knowing when peeps are makin’ fun & when they’re serious.

p.s., pittsburgh,

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if you missed the born in flames show last night, you missed the hell OUT. (madison, WI and detroit, you’ve still got the chance! go go go!) invincible & jean grae, for free! in a smoke free all ages environment! before i went i was despairing. i had an awful weekend. triggering and panicked and thinking the worst things. the worst things. monday i called off work cuz i didn’t trust myself to make it through the day without crying in public. and my head feels muddled and confused and dizzy and injured. so. was pondering calling off attending this show, pondering calling off attending the rest of my life because it all just hurts so fucking bad, but i went to the show and i am so glad i did.

beautiful people and beautiful voices, saying the truth, yelling the truth, in a way that feels accessible to everyone, everyone’s hands in the air. jean grae stopped the music to say we were boring cuz we weren’t dancing hard enough. so we danced. harder and harder. alice walker said that hard times require furious dancing, and how could i have forgotten? i almost did, i almost forgot.

i have more to say but my time on this computer is running out, and amanda already wrote a stunningly beautiful account of this evening here and i feel like i just can’t say anything beyond it.

this is amanda in the chillout room before the show. we were tired. but the music invigorated us. i love you.