if, on a summer’s day, a traveler…

my computer lost its ability to connect to the internet a couple of days ago.  i’ve been traveling all over the place, using internet in hostels, homes, trains, and buses.  then, when we came to our brooklyn homebase, the apartment of t’s bff, i discovered i couldn’t connect to his internet.  then i learned i could connect to no one’s internet.

somehow, right when i was thinking of going on a solitary field trip to an apple store to get my computer fixed, my brain did something like:

busy saturday–> sunday’s free–>  go on sunday–>  quaker meeting!

so for i made a 2:00 appointment at an apple store and then looked up the closest quaker meeting to where i was staying– the brooklyn quaker meeting.  i learned it was just a couple of stops from where i was.

so this morning i woke up, went to the subway, went downstairs and sweated like crazy.  in the train stations here, i don’t even recognize what i feel as heat, but my forehead immediately starts streaming sweat.  i got off at the hoyt-schermerhorn stop, and started my walk.  fortunately, i started off in the right direction.  i passed the friends school family center, a teacher supply store, and the criminal court, and then knew i was in the right place, because i saw some foliage and a man walking a bicycle through an open gate.

i was enthusiastically welcomed into the beautiful old building by a young woman, and then walked up the stairs to the worship room.

before today i’d been to this meetinghouse, i’d participated in sunday morning worship at 3 meetings: whitby, england, in early 2001, san francisco regularly for the past 6 years, and the berkeley friends meeting once about a year or 2 ago.  possibly because of that, or because i’ve been in “soak up my surroundings mode” for the past few months, or maybe just because it’s how i’ve been in worship lately anyway, i spent most of the meeting contemplating my surroundings and the people in it.

one of the first things that struck me was that there were a few people of color there, who all seemed to feel at home, which is something that our meeting has continuously struggled with.

i also noticed that the doors never closed.  i liked the welcoming feel of that and didn’t think it was distracting, outside of the fact that i was distracted by everything anyway.

the other thing i noticed as i was scoping the room for my place to sit, and then afterwards, was that it had the old-fashioned benches, with the mysterious “facing benches” i’d mostly only ever read about.  i remember when i first started coming to the sf meeting.  the chairs surrounded an old braided rug.  i decided that the people closest to the rug must be the most insider type people of the meeting, so i sat on the fringes (and even though the rug is gone and i’ve been told the rug means nothing, i still tend to do that).  i couldn’t figure out the meaning of the facing benches at the brooklyn meeting, so i decided to just steer clear of them.

the meeting was good.  people spoke.  my mind was far too busy.  the children’s program made a cute quaker village out of cardboard boxes in the social hall.

… and then back to the subway for the apple store appointment.  i walked past some cop cars and some police officers and some more police officers and a newsstand and kept walking until i realized i must have missed the station, so i turned around and found it, right at the newsstand.   like on the initial ride, i sweated like crazy, but i eventually got out at my stop, 14th street.

i walked past the 16th street exit, and the 15th street exit, and then got out on the right side of the street but then accidentally walked up to 15th anyway.  i walked up to 9th and found myself at chelsea market with some time to kill, so that was fun.  and then i got my laptop fixed.  it took 4 minutes.

except then back at our homebase, it’s still not working.  so it might be the connection here.  but i know what he did to make it work there, so i will try it again with another connection.

after i got back, we went to the brooklyn museum.  and as per their tradition, t and friend took me up to see judy chicago’s the dinner party. and even though i’m not a lesbian anymore and i know that the vag doesn’t make the lady…  that may have been the most spiritual moment of my day.

or maybe i was just geeking out with my feminist b.a. in religion self, recognizing names and histories and references and connections.  proud of what i knew.  probably still thinking too much.

Advertisements
Published in: on 15 July, 2012 at 7:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

my summer of prequels, sequels, and nonconsensual sorrow

Three very important books came out this year: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal, The Carrie Diaries: Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell, and Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. I’m a teacher and as the summer approached, I was thrilled as I anticipated ordering the three from my local independent bookstore. When I called in the order over the phone, my girlfriend put her hand over her face in embarrassment, but I was too excited to care.

Books about girl friendship are my thing. I’m not totally sure why. I read or heard somewhere that every good TV show has as its base a fantasy ideal and maybe as someone who was socialized female but was always unpopular and confused, the cadre of girls who have my back is my fantasy. And I also have a distinct childhood memory of daydreaming about the future of The Baby-Sitters Club. I was excited to have found a series about young girls because we both had our whole futures ahead of us and I could read about their futures as I lived out mine.

The Baby-Sitters Club was my big series as a kid, and I attempted to start a book group about them a couple of years ago but I wasn’t as much on the pulse of my generation as I hoped I was. Fans are putting out “Where Are They Now” articles about them and my friends email me links to those because they know I will be pleased. Last summer, along with the first Carrie Diaries, a Baby-Sitters Club prequel came out. It was fine but I didn’t find it more engaging than just picking up Claudia and Crazy Peaches or anything like that. I’m a big fan of the graphic novels that were published a couple of years ago and I wish there could have been more of them.

Even though I knew of no big Baby-Sitters Club related publishing events, I was still thrilled. I’ve known about Sweet Valley Confidential for about a year and anticipated a second Carrie Diaries book since the first one hardly even got her into New York. I didn’t discover Sisterhood Everlasting until right as the summer began, and that was the one that my girlfriend was genuinely excited about.

The summer started innocently enough. We were actually having beautiful weather and while my girlfriend was at work, I would take Sweet Valley Confidential out into the back yard and read it, stretched out on a towel, even though I do not have a girlish size 6 figure with blond hair, blue-green eyes, and a dimple in one cheek. It was completely devourable, in the exact same way as the original books were- overly dramatic, simply written, and with familiar stereotypical/archetypal characters. There was some surprise gayness, an ending that untangled a lot of the romantic drama, and a list of “where are they nows” for an epilogue.

We had a trip planned for a few weeks into the summer and my girlfriend was planning to save Sisterhood Everlasting for that trip. She would grin when she saw the book, anticipating the joys it would bring. I would grin in response, pleased to be the provider of excellent girly fiction. Eventually she just couldn’t stand it any longer. She decided to just read the book, even though we weren’t leaving for a week. “Bee lives in the Mission!” she told me, as we were cuddled up together in bed. I was trying to extend my girly fiction summer and was reading The Dud Avocado for the first time. I felt the bed shake with laughter. “She had to dig through the trash to find her phone!” So like our impulsive Bee!

And then the bed was shaking again. I looked over, and there was my girlfriend, tears streaming down her face. “This is a bad book,” she said. My vision of myself as Good Provider Boyfriend shattered and I felt like Puppy Killing Boyfriend. She kept reading anyway, and her hints about loss in our own lives and my periodic peeking over her shoulder led me to figure out the tragedy in advance. And I’m going to tell you one part of it, feeling guiltless because it happens very early in the book and because it seems so frustratingly unnecessary as you are reading it. That one part is that, yes, one of the sisterhood dies.

How can this happen? This girl is not Beth March, Walter Blythe, Hilary Whitney, all deaths that you see coming and that have some sort of noble martyrdom in them. This is one of those “What the fuck? Why is this author mean!?” deaths. My theory, looking over Trisha’s shoulder, was that it was for the rest of the characters to grow. But as I watched my strong beautiful girlfriend who has already mourned so deeply in her life already, my opinion was still that the author was unnecessarily mean, even as I tried to comfort us both with my theories that growth would be involved in all of this. I mean, I hadn’t let her read Commencement, and here I had handed her this razor blade apple of a book.

I finished The Dud Avocado and then a reread of Rainbow Valley and then dove into Carrie Diaries: Summer and the City. I have a love/hate relationship with the Sex in the City TV show and movies, baffled in some ways by where the love comes from, having a lot to say about the socioeconomic, race, gender stereotypes and messages. But I’ve seen it all and think of “the girls” as some old friends who I know well and who never change. I read Sex in the City as I was about halfway through watching the series a few years ago and I thought it wasn’t very interesting, except that Stanford Blatch had long hair (I have only since watched There’s Something About Mary). But I grabbed the first Carrie Diaries book as soon as I could and read it quickly. It reminded me of Ellen Conford’s books or some other poky, sort of boring and dorky, sort of scandalous, somewhat dated paperback I would get out of the spinner at the library in the mid-90’s. Like in the other book and the series, Carrie’s epiphanies are not that impressive, but she’s just charming, flawed, and likable enough to keep you going. The last chapters get interesting as she finally makes her way from the suburbs to New York and one of the other “girls” makes a surprise appearance.

Summer and the City is set almost entirely in New York City and reminded me of all the ways being eighteen and naive makes everything seem like an epic adventure. It makes me miss the epic adventures but not enough to be stupid enough to make them happen again. I’ve only been to New York City once and am planning another trip, so the romanticized glamor of New York, amidst fabulous Carrie fashion decisions, made the book a really fun read. Nobody died and more characters from the TV series show up, and I was pleased by this fluffy read as well.

Trisha was staying up late nights to finish Sisterhood Everlasting and in the end she declared it a good book. I stalled for awhile, reading High Fidelity before braving it. Finally, I did. I brought it to a coffeehouse one grey San Francisco morning, and as I read it my insides got chillier and chillier. I got angrier and angrier as I read, telling the author, in my head, that I and the characters had grown plenty before this book and this was totally unnecessary.

The real problem with the book was that Ann Brashares was writing about grief in all of its specific steps and stages from the point of view of three different characters, and it was all completely recognizable. It was a bad, cruel book because it dragged you unwillingly through the steps you already know too well. You see, it’s all about consent. I did not consent to be grieving in the middle of my summer vacation. And I didn’t want to grow. I just wanted pants magic.

And then, like always, it came. I’m a sucker. Each character grew and changed and lived on the page, and I was right there with them, like Bastian to Atreyu. We went through the mirror gates, we faced the Southern Oracle, and when we were done, we were able to wish and hope again. And even though I hadn’t consented to any of the sisterhood dying, it turned out it wasn’t a bad book, because it shook me up, cleared out cobwebs, and actually wound up being fun again, eventually.

Published in: on 4 August, 2011 at 6:45 am  Comments (1)  

hi everybody,

i have Things to Say– particularly about my work retreat… which was a week and a half ago, now, but right now i’m just spreading the word that my mom has a beautiful website. she’s showing off her photos and asking for feedback, so if you like beautiful nature photos, you should give it a look!

hurray!

Published in: on 22 August, 2008 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

lift up your hands.

today, while talking to krista about my recent wrestling with the ghosts of homophobic religion, i said something about how i don’t understand god… and i fumbled a bit around my attempts and then said something about how all i know is that i’m being as honest as i know how to be, in my living and in my searching, and that’s what i’ve got. and then i said, “god isn’t a romantic hero in a teen romance novel where you have to pretend you like cars.” and that right there was a moment of clarity. just that remembrance that you can’t fake it with god. and if you’re trying to impress god by faking it, you’re not going to make it.

today at meeting for worship, i was thinking about the way that we think of religions as possessions– graspable, definable, and separate– and then i had this very vivid image of a piece of wet watercolour paper, with red drops of watercolour on it, separate, near, blurring into each other, red like blood which is pain and which is also something that we all have and that we all live with.

the other thing that i sat with is that i feel like my biggest task right now is to just like and accept myself. which sounds so selfish and self-centered and there must be more to that. but, folks, as i’ve explored in the last incarnation of this journal, my father was a man who spent his life self-destructing and my mother is a woman who was searching for someone to love her and felt like she got that once she had me. so i was raised by people who felt pretty worthless. and who told me over and over again that i was the best treasure in the world. i started banging my head against walls when i was six, i started contemplating suicide when i was seven, and when i was eight, i thought i was jesus (not as in a symptom of schizophrenia, but as in a “these people are telling me i’m perfect, and that there was one perfect person… and i think i heard somewhere he was coming again… oh, and remember i’m 8.”). so “sinners in the hands of an angry god,” reverend dimsdale, self-flagellation, hairshirt land, it doesn’t work for me. i know for a fact that when you loathe yourself, you are not good for other people. and i know how easy it is to loathe yourself and to think that it’s a virtue. and i know how, for me, it’s much much much harder to accept that i am my own gift from god. i’m not “god’s gift” as they say, but i’m the cubbie i’ve been given to work with, and i need to be a good steward and be careful with me.

which brings me to the realization i came up with today as i walked home from work… which is that this year was the year i broke into a million pieces, and discovered that i’m whole.

Published in: on 30 December, 2007 at 11:20 pm  Comments (3)