My life will never be the same.

I’ve recently had another epiphany.

I know.  Another one.

This last one wasn’t the earth-shattering, jaw dropping, earthquakes-on-every-plane-of-my-existence, Razor’s-Edge-can-kiss-my-ass amazing that the first one was, but one thing is absolutely, without a doubt certain:  My life will never, ever be the same.

And in a good way!  (Excuse me while I do a bit of a Snoopy in Peanuts-inspired happy dance)

It’s amazing how a seemingly inconsequential shift in paradigm can have such a subtle yet profound effect on one’s life.

I might be smiling an average of .08% more from now on.

I jaywalk because I’m jewish.

I’ve been driving around in downtown Portland a couple times in recent weeks.  Did you know they totally revamped the whole bus mall area?  Yeah.  Now when you make right turns you have to turn into the FAR lane.  Because the bus and the streetcar are taking up the normal lanes you’d turn into.

It’s kinda weird.  But whatever.  I”m all for mass transit, here, people.  ALL for it.

But in conjunction with this whole bus mall revamping, I heard that the local PDX police were cracking down on jaywalkers in the bus mall area.  Cracking down hard.  Like they’re some sort of hardened criminal element, like oh say drug dealers.  Because we never have THOSE in downtown Portland, right?

Ha. Right.

I am a proud jaywalker.  I would gladly pay any fine for the privilege of crossing a street with intention.  I cross with intention by checking both ways and seeing whether or not there are any cars coming, and then crossing, regardless of what some stupid machine is telling me to do.  It’s a minor rebellion, but it’s important to me.  Allow me to explain.

Fully half of my mother’s side of the family died during World War II.  A relative did our family tree and of the 10 or so siblings alive before the war, less than half were alive afterward.  Under each name of a sibling (some very, very young) who did not survive, was just one word: Holocaust.  It’s a chilling thing to see.  And then there is this, from Pastor Martin Niemoller.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not protest;
I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.

What does this all have to do with jaywalking, you ask?  Relying on my senses instead of relying on a rule is my one small way of affirming to myself that I will never blindly follow rules.  I will protest rules that persecute others.  For all my relatives who died, I risk punishment for not following a rule that makes no sense to me, because I think that using my eyes, ears and brain works much more effectively.  Much like I protest against rules that prohibit gay marriage, or gays in the military, because they truly do not make sense to me either.

True, it may be a stretch to remember victims of the Holocaust by jaywalking.  But every time I step off that curb, regardless of what the sign indicates…it is the millions who died that are in my thoughts.

Beantown Diaries

I’m in Boston.

As I tweeted upon my arrival:

I’m in Boston, tweeps.  Hello Harvard Square.  Hello Newbury Street.  Hello stomping grounds of my misspent youth.

Whenever I’m in town, I always find myself remembering all the crazy shit I did when I lived just an hour, exactly, from this place.

What? What’s that you say?  You want me to regale you with crazy tales of my crazy exploits in crazy Beantown, Boston Mass, birthplace of the nation?  Just a hop skip and a jump from Lynn, Lynn, city of sin?

Well.  Have yourself a seat, little buckaroo, and I’ll dangle a couple tasty morsels of high school chicanery in your general di-rection.

Like the time I was waiting in Harvard Square for my best friend Kim.  I was fresh out of my first month and a half at Syracuse, on my way home for Thanksgiving break.  I was mohawked.  I was purple haired.  I was disillusioned youth-ed.  I was so punk rock.  I was going to hang out in Boston with my friend Kim for a day before heading home.  I was 100% rebel.  I was also going to Syracuse University on partial scholarship as an aerospace engineering major.

Right.  So in retrospect, I suppose the Boston street kid task force didn’t pick up on the whole engineering student vibe.  I tried telling them I really didn’t need any clean needles or a place to stay, thanks.  But the sandwich wasn’t half bad.

Then there was the time I totally ditched work the summer before I left for college and Kim and I headed down to Boston for a night on the town with some other friend of hers.  We went to a goth club and were gothy.  We emo’d all night long.  I met a boy named Derrick who I fancied.  He was very pale and full of angst.  WINNER!  I pined over him for a week or two, despite never seeing him again.  I remember walking back to my car, about 2 miles away.  Kim and our other friend were fast walkers, and sorta left me behind.  Drunk, you know.  So, I was walking down Comm(onwealth) Ave, at about 3am, essentially by myself.  I had my knife out, in my hand.  Ready.  Because I was not alone…and it was dark…and not well lit…and not a good part of town.  Plus, there’s the whole I’m-a-total-badass thing.

I also discovered Clannad that weekend.  Still, my favorite Irish band EVAR.  Maire Brennan is the shit.  Makes her sister Enya sound like a walrus needing an epinephrine shot.  (Total exaggeration there, in case you were wondering.  Enya is fab.  Just, her sister is More Fab.)

And of course there was the day I skipped school and Kim and I and a couple others (Kim was quite the bad influence on me, wasn’t she?  Wish I could find her 😛 ) We hung out on Newbury street generally being nuisances and having just a grand time being Not At School.  Being Not At School makes everything more fun.  It’s like…cinnamon.  With cherries on top, and a dollop of homemade whipped cream.

Now I’m here to visit my new nephew.  See my baby brother as a father for the first time.  Meet my sister-in-law’s parents, who are visiting from Brazil.  That makes them my inlaws, right?  Right?  Because I kinda like them.  Can I keep ’em?  I foresee a trip to Brazil in my future.  Who knows, maybe I won’t come back.

Anything’s possible.

Anything.

Just look at everything that started in this little colonial town.

But I do miss Portland.

And my dog.

The Politics of Silence

Shall I speak of silence?
It flows from me like an invisible tidal wave
Perfectly formed in its silent conflagration

Shall I speak of caution?
It is a paroxysmal pursuit
Couched in silence, draped in regret.

Shall I speak, then, of regret?
It flows through me with no ripple or trace
Dealing damage only realized with time

Let me speak of desire unknown
It consumes me and is consumed
Until nothing is left but glowing, ashen remembrances

Silence, caution and regret.
A stalemated, paralyzing trinity
Enemies of desire.

Vampires. I haz them.

Apparently I’ve invited vampires into my life.  Not the blood sucking, Nosferatu-ian undead creepy kind, but the time sucking, caffeine-endorsed kind.  And not just invited, but welcomed, sat on the couch and chit chatted, made them tea and crumpets, handed over my calendar, and flirted with their buddy Mental Overload.

Yeah, I’m busy.  I keep telling people that, and they give me the “right, sure, you’re ‘busy’…” look.  The look I give to people when they say they’re really busy.  The look that says you really ought to learn to say no.

Look, I have no problem saying no.  No problem at all.  My problem is I’ve already said no to everything I don’t really want to do, or that I feel doesn’t need me.  What’s left is all the stuff that I don’t want to say no to, or simply can’t.  And that really really sucks, because, well,  I don’t want to say no to all this stuff.  I’m pretty spoiled, you know.  I usually get what I want if I have any control over it.  And all this stuff is all stuff I want to do.

I just thought you all should know, for the record, that when I say I’m busy…I really really mean it.  Especially this month.  This month is a perfect storm of busy.

But I will always have time for you, interwebs.  You and a select few…I will always have time for you.

My Loss is My Gain

Everyone loses stuff.  For starters, you probably lost a good handful of hair today.

No?  Your wallet perhaps?  Gosh I hope not.  Losing your wallet is probably one of the worst things to lose, right?

Well I’m sure you lost something today.  Maybe just a couple hairs.  Your keys.  Some time.  Your way.

Sometimes though, you lose big things.  Big, by virtue of the size or amount of stuff lost.  Or big because the stuff lost was hard, or perhaps impossible, to replace.  Stuff that makes losing your wallet kind of …well, not quite as bad.

Don’t get me wrong, losing your wallet gives you days of headaches while you replace things.  I know, I’ve done it several times.  It’s not fun.  It sucks ass, in fact.  But really, the most important thing you lose is your time.

I’ve lost a lot of stuff along the way.  Lots.  Stuff that’s hard to replace.  And frankly, I’m glad about it.  By losing all that stuff, all those times, I’ve learned acceptance, to live in the moment, to find peace.  I’ve learned not to get attached to stuff.  Because it’s just that, stuff.  In the grand scheme of things, stuff is not what we’re here to collect.  We’re here to learn, grow, and connect with each other. Losing those connections is a far bigger tragedy.  Sadly, I’ve lost many of those too.

But there is one bit of stuff that I’ve never managed to come to terms with losing.  Something I cannot ever replace.  Something that has meaning only for me.  In memory of that bit of stuff, I give you this, something I wrote long ago.

And love is light
And light is warm
And warmth is safe
And safety is knowing
And knowing is good
And goodness is laughter
And laughter is belonging
And belonging is love.

Driver 8

On January 6th, 1990, I boarded a train in Boston with all my possessions packed into a couple boxes and balanced on my skateboard.

On January 9th, 1990, I arrived in Portland Oregon, where I found my friend and her parents waiting to pick me up.

In between those two events was one of the most profound experiences of my life.

Even now, looking back, those three days on the train feel like some strange dream I had. The colors were all muted, yet raw. Figures, people, floated in and out of my existence, but never seemed to really be present, or real. It was like I was passing through some sort of transitional dimension, and I would come out the other side changed.

Perhaps that’s exactly what it was, because I did change. The person who boarded in Boston was not the same one that arrived in Portland. The trip changed me, in subtle yet profound ways. Yet still, after all these years, I can’t quite put my finger on how I was different. I just knew, and still know, that I just felt different. And not different like if you dye your hair a different colour and look in the mirror. Not different as if you took a different path to work and saw some new stuff. Different, as if you just had a small animal die in your arms. Different as if you just witnessed your math teacher have a complete nervous breakdown, and you don’t know how to react.

So here’s what happened. It will probably sound quite mundane and boring. But something about it wasn’t. Perhaps this exercise will help me figure it out.

I spent a month saving every penny to buy this train ticket. My mother, who was dead set against the whole idea, refused to lift a finger to help, even though the passage from Dostoevsky I used to explain my reasons seemed perfectly clear. But fine, I hadn’t gone home for her help, I went home to say goodbye. I had enough money for a taxi to the bus station in Manchester, for the bus from Manchester to Boston, and my train ticket was already purchased. I didn’t have money for food on the trip, but I figured I’d raid the pantry on my way out. Fortunately, the night before I was planning to leave, my mom relented and offered to drive me to Boston. Yay for food money.

Although this was after CD’s were entering mainstream use, I didn’t have the money to buy very many. Most of my music was still on cassette tape. The two tapes I had with me were a mix tape that my friend Sean made, and REM’s Fables of the Reconstruction.

Awkward goodbyes at the train station. I boarded the train, stowed my stuff, and settled in. I was nervous. Not so much at the prospect of moving across the country with nothing, basically. For that, I felt a lot of fear. But the nervousness, that was for 3 days, alone. I wasn’t very good at talking to strangers back then. I was 19.

The trip from Boston to Chicago went pretty quickly. I remember passing through Syracuse and being in a foul mood just being in close proximity to that place. I so hated that town, and that school. It was years before I could even stand blue and orange together. Heh.

The first night comes. I slept. Sleeping in a train seat is not much better than sleeping in an airplane seat. Somehow, it’s worse, although less pressurized.

Change of trains in Chicago, and then the long trip from there to Portland.

They hand out cards to everyone when you board, with a list of interesting sights to look for along the way. I remember that I couldn’t wait to see the Rockies. I imagined how majestic, glorious and soul-lifting they would be. I had worked myself up to quite a fever pitch about them, in fact. But they were a day away still, at least. So the next interesting thing on the list was a beautiful statue of a wolf, in Wolf Point, Montana. The statue commemorates the town’s beginnings as a wolf trapper’s camp. I waited hours to see that wolf statue.

Hours.

Hours of nothing. Nothing but seas of wheat, and rolling hills, and emptiness. No towns. No houses. No people. No nothing.

And then…a house, in the middle of nowhere.

And then…more hours upon hours of nothing.

That’s the kind of thing that makes you think. Which is what I did. I thought. I wrote stories about G-d. Parables. I silently panicked at what I was doing. I thought about death, and family, and faith, and something deep inside me shifted, shifted away from the angry, disillusioned girl desperate for meaning. Shifted in subtle ways, finding flashes of calm, tiny moments of introspection and peace in between the fear and uncertainty.

And I listened to that REM tape. Fables of the Reconstruction. Driver 8.

The walls were built up stone by stone,
Fields divided one by one
And the train conductor says
Take a break driver 8, driver 8, take a break,
we’ve been on this trip too long

That song will always transport me back to those three days.

We pulled into Wolf Point, and I saw the statue. It was about the size of a medium dog, in a bank parking lot.

We entered the Rocky Mountains around 11pm. It was pitch dark outside. I saw nothing.

I met people, who were nice to me. I found them confusing, threatening, and comforting all at once. Confusing because they used strange words, like ‘pop’ for soda and ‘sack’ for paper bag. Threatening, because I knew I was different somehow, and they were (or seemed) normal, and I was afraid they’d see I was different and hate me for it. Comforting, because they didn’t.

I arrived in Portland the afternoon of the next day. Changed. A bit more accepting of life. A bit more introspective, and forgiving, and perhaps a touch less judgmental.

I wrote about the larger story of my move here a while back. If you’re interested, check it out. It’s in two parts.

Incidente en el Pescado de la Bahía de Banderas

Hola, mis interwebs amigos.   I have a very sad tale to tell you.  I like to call it the Incidente en el Pescado de la Bahía de Banderas, or The Fish Affair of la Bahía de Banderas.  It also explains my insane love of snorkeling.
 
See, it all started with my love of fishing.   Why do I love fishing, you ask?  Well, you know the feeling you get when you hop in a spaceship and fly to a mysterious planet and, upon landing at said mysterious planet, you find these creatures who are sort of edible and not very sentient really, and you’re hungry, and you pull out your trusty lasso and lasso yourself one up?  And then you combine that feeling, with the feeling of being struck momentarily blind, as if someone slapped a bandana over your eyes, and you had to stick a pin in some picture in just the right spot, and you do, and you take the bandana off and see how awesome your sixth sense is?
Well that’s why I love fishing.  Because it feels like that.  It’s like your blindly delving the depths of a strange world and finding little living treasures.  And then you kill them.  Yay!
 
Now imagine, if you will, that you’ve spent your life delving these strange little worlds, and finding these treasures, but they’ve always been only so big.  There’s no real struggle, no life and death battle between you and the fish; pretty much if you hook it, it’s a goner.  At least, I thought, if it was a bigger fish there would be Glorious Battle, right?  Huh.  Silly me. 
 
I was determined to experience that struggle.  So I go to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and I charter a fishing boat.  My trusty fishing guide, Miguel, takes us out to the beautiful Bahía de Banderas, or Bay of Flags.  I see dolphins!!!  And a WHALE!  (No really, I did!)  But we are hunting fishable fish, my friends.  Oh yes, the kind you spend 20 minutes reeling in, and then you LAND that sucker, and you take a picture! 
 
I really, really hadn’t thought this out very well.
 
Of course first, we had to find the fish.  That proved to be no problem at all, though.  You just scan the horizon and look for birds flocking.  Drive your boat to that location.  Look in the water.  Fish.  Seriously, the water was BOILING.  With FISH.  It was like some crazy fishy orgy was happening right there at the surface of the water, hundreds and hundreds of huge, silvery bodies all flapping and churning and going just…well…fish orgy, just picture it, right?  We set out lines, and starting trolling around.
 
WHAM!  FISHONFISHONFISHON!!!!
 
I start reeling in for all I’m worth!  Lean forward, reel back.  Lean forward, reel back.  It was a BIG fish.  I remember the first moment I caught a glimpse of it, it was like some beautiful silver treasure was flickering in the water, coming in closer and closer, sparkling in the sunlight, a silver glimmering jewel.  And I had it caught!  I thought about how I’d reel it up, and catch in a net, and hold it up proudly, its silvery skin sparkling no less than my smile.  It was beautiful, how this would end in my head.
Right.  Not so beautiful, actually.  Miguel, my trusty fisherman, snagged his bailing hook when I pulled the fish near the boat, and stabbed my poor defenseless fish IN THE SIDE.  He then commences to haul the poor thing up outta the water, a giant silver creature flailing with this giant hook stabbed into it, and hands it to me so we can take a picture.
  
Yeah, that's about right.  Funny, seems much smaller than I remember.

Yeah, that's about right. Funny, seems much smaller than I remember.

 
Um.  What? 
 
So I stand there, dumbfounded, smiling like an idiot.  Meanwhile, inside my head, I’m in shocked disbelief.  I ended up taking a very small portion of the fish, and giving the rest to Miguel, who assured me it would go to people who needed it.  And the filet that I kept?  Well, I took it to the hotel where I was staying, and they grilled it up for lunch the next day with a lovely pilaf and steamed vegetables.  And I couldn’t eat a single bite of it.  The thought of it made me ill.
 
Once again, like I’ve said so often before…I am a dumbass.  I mean, how did I think this would end?
 
Well then.  During this same trip, I discovered snorkeling.  Which pretty much puts the whole love of fishing dilemma to rest, because now I have the gear to delve those mysterious environs without requiring any pretenses of killing or eating things.  I mean really, I don’t like eating fish all that much anyway.  And I’ve never seen anyone go fishing for eagle rays, or puffers, or jellyfish, or any of the other hundreds of amazing things I saw. 
 
So farewell, fishing gear.  Goodbye, tackle and smelly salmon eggs and wiggly rubber worms and hooks which I have accidentally lodged in myself and others.  All I need now is my snorkel and mask, and I can explore those murky worlds and experience all their wonder face to face.  Now, I just hop in my spaceship and travel to those mysterious planets, and just enjoy the treasures that live there.

Amalgamation: a story.

“I’m leaving.”

“Hmm?”, I replied.  “Where are you going?”  I feigned obliviousness.  It’s a defense mechanism built out of hope that I was quite adept at using.

“No.  I mean I’m leaving”, she said.

When you walk into the surf at the beach, and stand in the water, just ankle deep, you feel the immense power swirling at your feet.  You’re just not in deep enough that it can really affect you, not yet.  But it’s pulling you out to sea, out to where its power is stronger.  I felt that power now, except this wasn’t the tide, it was fear.  Swirling just at ankle level, and rising quickly.  My heart skipped a beat.

“You mean…”

“Yes”, she interrupted.  “I’ve taken the offer.  I leave at the end of the month.”

I sighed, bracing myself for the discussion we had had so many times already.  Tapping into the seemingly endless pools of patience I always managed to find at times like these.

“I thought we decided you’d wait until I could find a way…”, I started.

“No.  I don’t want to wait anymore.  I’m doing this for me.  I’ll be back, but I need to go.”

Inside my mind, inside my heart, I heard a low rumbling.  With every passing moment, the rumbling grew louder, more shrill.  I recognized it; it was the sound of desperation.  The sound I heard when I gazed into the dark abyss of loneliness that I knew so well.  It was coming for me again.  The sound surrounded me, as the fear lapped at my knees, slowly engulfing me.  I faced that sound, faced the growing fear and what lay behind it, and firmed my resolve.

“Then,” I said, “you should go.”

The look of relief on her face spoke volumes, while I felt at once both pride and pain.  Pain, from the agony of knowing that it was over, that I would never see her again.  My skepticism would not allow that she spoke the truth that she’d be back; we both knew it was a lie, one for my benefit, and all the more stinging because I knew it.  Pride, in knowing that I could let her go to follow her path, that I could stand fast and remain true to my beliefs in the face of such pain.  I knew the loneliness that lay before me, and could still let her go.

But oh, how I hated the thought of being alone.  What a fool I am, I thought.  What a total fucking fool.  A fool for love, and a coward in the face of loneliness, unable to walk away from love even when it’s all wrong. But now the struggle was over, the fight lost.  Or was it?

It would be an end to the lies and confusion.  No more wondering who she’s sleeping with behind my back.  No more thinly veiled recriminations, or being told that nothing I tried was ever *quite* up to par.  No more struggling to be understood.  No more questioning myself when I knew full well the answer.

Yes, as always, this would be for the best.  She was not the one.

I pulled out my suitcase and began to pack.

This was not the end.

This is a story.  An amalgamation of those moments when the relationship, my relationships, end.  I’ve learned many things from my past relationships:

  1. There is always someone crazier than you out there.  You can’t fix them, no matter how much you love them.  Don’t make excuses for them either.
  2. Maintain your own identity.  Don’t lose your individuality.  You, and your relationship, will be healthier for it.  And always tell the truth about how you feel.
  3. Sometimes, the problem *is* you.  Fix it.  Be self aware.  But sometimes it takes screwing up something truly wonderful to figure that out.  Sucks, I know.
  4. Don’t settle for someone you’re not interested in just to keep away the loneliness.  Don’t sacrifice your standards; you’ll just both get hurt.
  5. Yes, you still prefer women.  And yes, you are awesome, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
  6. Attraction is very, very important.  So is communication, understanding, and compromise.  And letting the one you love follow their own path.  And not forgetting to follow your own.

Through it all, I have never given up on love.  I am frankly amazed at the fact that I keep bouncing back, willing to try again; for all the times I’ve been hurt, I ought to be jaded beyond repair.  But I’m not.   I marvel at my heart’s resilience, and look forward to the next lesson.

I said GOOD DAY SIR. GOOD DAY!

I don’t take offense easily AT ALL.  Really.  So when it does happen, I’m not sure how to deal with it. 

And I am offended.  Boy howdy, am I ever.  Actually angry, even, which feels very foreign to me of late.

So I’m trying to figure out how to deal with it.  And while I’m doing that, I’m finding that it’s hard to give the numerous blog post ideas I have stewing around in my head the proper focus they deserve.  Apparently, I am only inspired to write by negative emotions if I write about that which is influencing that emotion, and I don’t feel very motivated to do that at the moment, either.

So.  Tomorrow I’ll relate my sturdy cell phone stories.  Tomorrow I’ll wonder about the strange disease of the trees at Holladay West Park.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you how Kabbalah changed my life years before Madonna ever heard of it, and how it helped me discover intentional acceptance, and how important that is in my life.

Today…I’m just trying to practice that acceptance.