Have trouble keeping track of where I am at any given moment? Me too!
Right now I’m sitting in the lodge at Loveland – literally on the Continental Divide.
I was born below sea level. High altitudes make me queasy! And no, I will not be skiing. My mother says I’m not allowed. My kid is, however, welcome to ride those terrifying lifts if he so desires.
He is at least a cautious sort; his sister at the same age was notorious for managing to take herself to the wrong mountain and have such alarming adventures she was rescued by ski patrol not once, but twice – after the park closed. Yep, this is me in a knitted cap. Revel for ye shall never see this in real life. Cheers!
An article I wrote for the Guardian was selected by the readership as one of the Best of the Year.
Want to know what I was rattling on about? Click for more.
I did not even vaguely attempt to do any holiday shopping before Friday afternoon.
After rampaging about the Bay Area for what seemed weeks but really amounted to about six hours (pretty good considering I don’t know my way around) I finally had it all covered.
Exhausted, I shoved the loot in Jen’s bedroom closet, closed the door and turned the latch.
Not realizing that the satisfying click meant that I had actually locked the door.
Or, more importantly, that said lock has no known key.
Jen was highly amused – in all the years she has lived here it has apparently never occurred to her to turn that particular knob.
This is now officially the Christmas Mommy Hired the Locksmith to Liberate Our Gifts.
Ho ho ho!
I have migrated to Oakland, where I am borrowing an apartment from an old friend. The first thing I found when I opened the kitchen cupboard was a mug featuring the name of a long-closed coffee shop and the slogan A Place to Be. By Youth for Youth.
Normally I would have frowned and immediately blocked the whole thing, but since I’ve acquired appropriate and timely emotions the sight made me wince in pain.
Twenty years ago my entire life centered on the creation of something called the Youth Initiative – and the corollary establishment of an autonomous multi-purpose center where we could do whatever we liked.
The coffee shop idea started from my particular vision but it was a group project. Ten or so people worked collaboratively to establish nonprofit status, raise money, work the media. I was the person with the clipboard, directing (KTS would say badgering) everyone to work together toward what in retrospect was quite a lofty goal.
The pain and rage of the car accident had stripped away everything else, and I threw myself into work as an imperfect solace. The Youth Initiative was the center of my life, the one thing keeping me alive long enough to testify in the lawsuits. It was the all-consuming passion that occupied me as school and friends were beyond reach.
My accomplishments inspired people to write my letters of recommendation for university, convinced half a dozen scholarship boards to fund my continuing education, put me in the papers and on television.
It was also the place where I learned everything I needed to know about organizational chaos, the limits of idealism, and the endemic nature of human corruption.
I remained fully committed until the whole thing was launched and viable, but eventually left to go to college, distancing myself from the group because I felt it really ought to be run by the people who used the facility.
Jen K remained on staff for a few more years, and helped navigate the eventual closure, a pattern she would repeat in other jobs. She was literally the last one standing when one of the most spectacularly famous dot.coms succumbed to bankruptcy; it was her hand that locked the door on the last day.
Toward the end of my grad school career I went back to do a case study about the Youth Initiative (participatory research methodologies, anyone?) and was not at all surprised to find that the project had been hijacked by well-meaning adults who imperiously directed that the activist portions of the endeavor – condom distribution and environmental protests, for instance – should be eliminated to pander to the foundations that gave us money. Of course, once the idealism vanished, the project died.
During the course of my research I obtained all of the institutional archives: the newspaper cuttings, videos, television clips, awards, the tangible documentation of what we accomplished.
By the time I finished the case study nobody was around to take the files back. The whole muddle is intact on a shelf in the basement of my Portland house. Jen K has the cups, t-shirts, posters, ephemera.
We’re both just two kids from the county who somehow managed to stumble away. The fact that we have this strange, complicated history is amazing. It is an honor and privilege to know her so many years later, and to be a guest in her home.
I’m currently perched in a twelfth floor hotel room in downtown San Francisco and it is so nice to be back in the states. Mmm, guacamole…
Earlier this week I looked about vaguely and realized that Jean had not joined the festivities. I texted Rachel to inquire and she answered He was kicked out, yo.
In other words, deported.
The government took away one of my favorite playmates! I sincerely doubt that the new immigration rules were intended to round up conservative legal scholars with posh accents.
Today I went to the post office to fill out a change of address form. Except, you know what? In jolly ye olde world they require proof of identity for such niceties, and I lack sufficient documents.
I do have a passport, with the relevant work visa. I do not have any secondary evidence of existence like: credit cards, utility bills, bank accounts, driving license, television license, council tax, mortgage or lease agreements, government benefits forms, UK Voter registration.
Yes, it is true…. I am living almost completely off the grid at this point. If I had extra passports I’d be just like Jason Bourne! The woman at the counter very reluctantly accepted my mooring license whilst commenting Now that’ll flummox em!
The sketchy cafe where I receive postal mail went out of business unexpectedly. While I was in Rome.
But some of my fellow boaters run a postal – slash – courier service out of a shed somewhere down river. Problem solved!
Yesterday morning was bright and sunny and I dragged myself over the river to a hotel, where I said goodbye to one of my dearest friends. We both have cold dark hearts so there were no tears shed, at least not publicly. Though later on the boat I built a fire and listened to music he gave me and felt quite catastrophically sad. I am not a naturally friendly person; it takes extraordinary effort for me to participate in simple social endeavors.
Instead I always choose the big, difficult, brilliant, exhilarating, and treacherous options. I like to perform, I like to throw feasts, I like to be surrounded by intense love. He asked when I will be back in Seattle and the honest answer is not until next summer, maybe not even then.
I have been invited to Budapest and Brazil and and and…. I really do want to lay around Capitol Hill apartments watching movies, and drink champagne in fancy restaurants with Mark Mitchell, and stand at Laura’s karaoke altar laughing as she tells me she has no sympathy for my problems.
The most significant of which is the fact that I love people scattered across the face of the earth. This has been a year of departures and change; I seem to be the sort of person who is always leaving something or someone behind.
Goodbye is my permanent state.
When I walked into the pub Rachel hollered Bee! Bee! Will you make out with me and ruin our friendship??
I laughed and said No!
During the course of the evening she inevitably seized my phone to send racy text messages to faraway friends. Then to make things really interesting she called a friend in California to talk about the penis of a mutual acquaintance.
No, the two ladies have never met. And I doubt either has direct knowledge of the penis in question.
In her texts Rachel informed assorted people that we were having sex in the bathroom which is of course a blatant lie; somebody else was, but not me! I care about hygiene. Just so you know.
How did I contribute? Hmm. I seem to recall telling the wealth of Williams about a dinner party that ended in a conquest for a certain academic…. and my storytelling skills were sufficiently graphic (and loud) that it cleared a strip of tables around us.
Though I disappointed Rachel with the fact that I have no local scandals or gossip to relate since even the most wicked of the crew have been behaving since she departed.
When I wished everyone a fond goodnight Rachel surveyed the evidence and exclaimed You even have a hot ass!
I retorted I have a hot everything! Then flounced away toward the river.
As Sarah always asks, how exactly does that girl get away with so much? Quite a mystery. Though Cambridge is way more fun when she is in town.
I’m in Rome, staying just off Campo de’Fiori, and have been zipping around in a fog of bliss because I love this city so much. Why did I wait six long years to come back?
Though I have been here three whole days and nobody has whistled at me. Pondering the fact I decided that this is because I am no longer cute (my preferred explanation). Though, alternately, it could be down to the fact that Jody evokes the bouncer archetype. I asked his opinion and he replied The latter, presumably.
One of my academic friends suggests that I should do an empirical study of whether people whistle at me when I am alone. That of course involves paying attention – so I will have to practice.
Tonight I took myself out to collect data but admittedly only as far as the grocery store to buy a Kinder Egg. I suspect I will need to go somewhere featuring, erm, other people. If I want to test the hypothesis.
On the way back to the hotel I stood about admiring the feral cats of Largo Argentina and it occurred to me that Gabriel is at heart a courtesan and as such, while he is always charming and adorable, he also enjoys his little schemes. Around me this often means pushing the edge of my inherent chaotic obliviousness just enough to force me to see a situation in a new way. While this often creeps me out, he finds it amusing.
I heart Gabriel. Gordon, on the other hand, has no clear mandate. I suspect he is either a trouble or a freak magnet.
My mother wrote to inform me that my home county has been declared a disaster area and that Gorst (aka the site of the first commercial airline in the NW, and the town where my paternal great-grandparents had a dairy store built on stilts over the bay, though memorable to real life friends who listen to my stories for more disturbing reasons) is under water.
This is indeed remarkable – I have never known the place to be so comprehensively destroyed, not even when the Hood Canal Bridge blew away. Major good wishes to those in the path of the weather.
Triangulating from various suggestions I attempted to make butternut squash pie (total failure) and then locate an alternate source of, well, anything.
One of the mad scientists had a rare practical glimmer of a thought and asked the caterer of the Death Star harvest feast where to purchase the raw goods. We hit on a fairly obvious solution the same approximate second – Waitrose!
For those not from ye olde world, this means Insufferable Yuppie Grocer, located at least favorable faraway point.
Today I went pillaging in yonder distant village to find comestibles. After quite a stark panic attack I found that which I was seeking…. and I was so excited to locate Libby’s canned goods, I literally batted them off the top shelf.
Twelve cans of pumpkin delicious goodness rained down on my head, and I hopped around with glee! Short-cut, yes – so be it. Whatever! I am covered with flour and egg and generalized goo and it is 1:45 in the morning and the fourth pie is in the oven.
The smallest facts are often the most important. Thanksgiving has arrived!
The Bus Stop has been closed for a couple of weeks, the entire block scheduled to be demolished to make way for condominiums.
I don’t know exactly how or why I managed to have an intimate relationship with a bar – I had never previously hung out in drinking establishments on purpose. Let alone planning my trips around the activities of fellow residents.
But it happened, and the single short year I had access to that splendid strange small community was vastly rewarding in every possible way.
What made the place so special? It was just a tiny little slice of real estate without any dominant cultural theme. If anything, those of us who congregated routinely were the strays, caught between other places and groups and people. If we had one trait in common it was, simply, that we did not fit better elsewhere.
Jeffrey dragged me there in the first place. Mark Mitchell took me in and made me stay. Ade, Zack, Michelle, Greg, Susannah, Niki Sugar, and Rodney served me an endless supply of sparkling water, wit, wisdom, and hilarity. If not for the Bus Stop I would never have met the illustrious Laura, and through her Jody, who managed to mysteriously become one of my best friends.
Who else? So many I cannot even begin to list – from genius folks like Kurt, Holly Chernobyl, Xin, Anouk, Sophie, onward through scores of brilliant beautiful people.
Under the auspices of this establishment and these people I learned how to flirt; conduct Ladychat; accept a compliment; and say I love you to someone other than my children. Can you imagine? That is a whole lot to comprehend – especially at age thirty-six.
There was of course scandal, subterfuge, and drama – it was, in fact, a family. In the end various people divorced themselves from the experience but I’ve remained friends with them all – and I do appreciate that I am lucky to know each and every one.
R.I.P The Bus Stop.