family ties

Home. Town.

OH HI. You thought I forgot about you, huh? No, in fact it is a true statement that I think about you pretty much every day. But life keeps going fast, filling up every dang minute, and this is it, May, before I blinked. “This is it, this is it! This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball!”

If you read that and knew it was the One Day at a Time theme song, we are still friends. If you don’t know what One Day at a Time is, I won’t say we have to break up, but we may need to have a talk to realign our hearts. And the procedure for realignment may include watching One Day at a Time episodes.

I have many things to catch you up on, dear friends. Mainly, I TOOK A WEEK OFF. I am terrible at taking time off for the past couple years all of a sudden (WHO HAVE I BECOME) and it is straight bullcrap of the highest order. So many people don’t even have the luxury of such a thing as vacation days and here I am just letting them sit there. For Pete’s sake. More egregious than For Pete’s sake, actually. For Pete Gallagher’s eyebrows’ sake. Anyway, I did take a week off last month to go visit my homies in the homeland of Flint. First of all, my dear friend Map was celebrating her wedding anniversary and her kids threw her and their dad a surprise party for it. The entire party was a surprise, but me and my other friend Ali showing up from out of town was the surprise within the surprise. The goop inside the Freshen Up gum, if you will, only less disgusting. I have been to surprise parties before but this one was by far the best. First of all, because Map and her dude were HELLA SHOCK. It was so satisfying. And then, when she saw me and my dude and Ali, she was DOUBLE HELLA SHOCK. I mean, she looked stunned and she cried and was just speechless. I felt, in that moment, what it must feel like for Oprah. Just walk in and make someone lose their shit, you know? It was fun being Oprah.

Seeing those ladies fills up my soul. I am definitely a Friends-for-Life sort of person and if you are in my circle I give it my all, like FULL OUT, and if I am honest my Seattle friend-life has been sort of lonesome these days. It was so beautiful to be around these people that love me so unabashedly and unconditionally, the way I love them. THOSE LADIES! Love them like the dickens, for real. Plus, just the week was really blissful overall, hanging out with my beloved mama and tooling around town. It was perfect spring weather and flowers were blooming and everywhere we went we felt that Flint friendliness piling on. Seattle is cool but it doesn’t love me like that place does. My dude loves Flint as much as I do and we walked around my mom’s neighborhood and tried to figure out if it could be feasible to move back there somehow, because shouldn’t one live in a place that loves you back? We just couldn’t make it add up for now, for various complex reasons that are boring, and truth be told I know in my heart I would be singing a different tune if I got a taste of those ridiculous winters there again. I don’t have what it takes to live in an ice-based environment, as a person who is sitting here typing this while it is 65 degrees and wondering where my blankie at.

Anyway, dear Flint, thanks for making me who I am, and for still being there for me. I know part of it is that I am now an Old that feels almost nothing but nostalgia for better days, when my dad was here and my Flint friends were always there for me and I danced every day and the world didn’t seem as cruel overall as it does now. But I also love it for the parts that aren’t about me at all: so much beauty and dignity and fight there. I cherish that place, y’all, and will always be back. And my Flint ladies: until next time. LOVE YOU 4EVER and I wish I could Oprah you every day.

Stereo up and the windows down. Same old city, still driving around. It’s the only place I clear my mind. Passed the 7-11 and the neon signs.

Hold me close, then hold me tighter cause the world I know is falling apart, the world I know is falling apart 

–Michigander, Nineties

We Three

When I was a teen, I met a guy. I dated that guy for a quick minute until we realized that what we really should be for each other was homies. So homies it was, shoulder to shoulder, just thick as mothereffing thieves. When my actual dude came along eventually and I paired up with him, my kindred homie inducted him into the BFF-ness as well. The three of us moved around the Midwest for a while, never far apart from each other. When Seattle came calling, we answered together. The two of them roomed together Oscar and Felix style until it was time for me and my dude to room together Coach and Tami style. My guy and I bought a house and our homie bought one just down the way. We hung out pretty much weekly for two decades. Our friendship never failed, never flagged, never fizzled. Tried and true. That’s my dear Delium, who I call Delium because one time he got mail addressed to him as “Delium Ulrichter” which is not at all his name but I wanted it to be so I made it so.

My dear Delium changed up his job and life and stuff and part of that deal was for him to move to another state. Which he did. This past weekend. Leaving a Delium shaped hole in my life. Like, it doesn’t compute that he isn’t just down the way no more, waiting to hang with us this weekend. I really cannot comprehend it. His final night in Seattle, the three of us went to dinner, and it all felt normal, us just yukking it up with our usual nonsense, because having him around is so normal; he’s like one of the main pillars that holds up the house that is my life. WHOA WHOA POETRY TALK, TAKE IT EASY. I am just saying, when you live for so many years with a friendship in your face, it becomes like air. They are just what you breathe, until one day, you don’t.

As we walked out of the restaurant and said our goodbyes, I gave him a hug. And when we started to unhug, I all of a sudden could not let go of him. So I hugged him, and cried, and hugged him some more, and cried some more.  And he cried, and my dude cried, and it was truly awful. I know we are still homies and he is just moving away and this may sound dramatic to you, but whatever. It felt awful. I know a part of the awfulness is because, in the past few years, huge parts of my life have fallen away and although I have worked hard to let them leave gracefully, I have disliked every last bit of each time. The holes that those pieces have left have yet to be filled in and maybe they never will be. Maybe the way life goes is we walk around with gaping holes in us, I don’t know. At any rate, letting go has become a practice, and I could feel my Letting Go muscles flex, and I hate those muscles, you guys. I never really allow myself much time to think about how much I hate it, because what good does that do? It doesn’t stop the leaving from happening. But this time, I let myself feel it. Outside of the restaurant, freezing our butts off, on Delium’s last night in Seattle. Our little family unit tearfully held on, held on, held on for the last few minutes of an over-twenty-year streak. And then. We let go.

 

What we wonder, what we know

Well.

This is a difficult one. What to say. What a weird feeling, to simultaneously feel the urge to speak and yet have no words. Shall we stream of consciousness it? Why not.

I have been engaged in thinking about race and social justice on some level for literally my whole life. First of all, I was raised by parents who not only had lived experience in this arena, but talked about it a lot. We were a talk-about-politics-around-the-kitchen-table family. It was just a part of what I was expected to know about, and I was not protected from the grown up conversations about injustice or empowerment. What we think politically, I was taught, is part and parcel of who we are. I can tell you who my parents’ political influences are, very specifically, and why, and it seems strange to me that other people can’t do the same with their parents. As I got older, I worked for an arts organizations and academic departments centered on race and social justice. It is a huge part of my current work, that I talk about pretty much every day. I say all of these things not to proclaim myself any sort of expert, but only to make the point that I am not new to the idea that our country struggles with these issues. I know that we try and often fail to be inclusive. I know the stats. I can quote the research. Racism, both personal and institutional, is not news to me. Like many other people of color, the embodiment of virulent racism that was being expressed in the presidential campaign was not shocking to me. I knew this was here, living and breathing, in our country. I just figured I was watching it being given a clear, loud, narcissistic voice.

And yet. This outcome is…well, shocking is the wrong word. Surprising is not the right word. What is the right word? I have not found that yet.

If you are a white person reading this, I am going to tell you a secret. It is a deep, choking secret that it pains me to think about overtly and pains me even more to tell you. For most of us of the brown persuasion, because of the things we have seen, the things we know, our history, data, research, everything about our lived experience, it is hard to trust. We (and forgive me for speaking for all POC so I will stop that now although I am confident about what I am saying)… I see something racist happen, let’s say in the news, or in a movie or tv show. Some depiction of us as less than human, as a caricature. And it’s hard for me not to look around at my white peers, my colleagues, even a lot of my friends, and wonder: Is that what they think of us? Deep down, in their hearts, is that what they think of me? That I am lesser than them? That I do not deserve what they have? And a lot of the time, these questions remain unresolved. There is literally no way to know, especially with nice people, with polite people. People who would never say that they have these thoughts or indeed even understand that they are having them, they are so ingrained. So many times I sit through terrible racism in pop culture and when I point it out, I see that they have not seen it at all. What could that mean? It could mean that those images, so obviously terrible to me, are not terrible to them because that is what they think of us, in their hearts. And so I try to make a conscious decision at times to just trust, to hope, to believe, that people are not thinking those things, even while knowing that some must be. With some people I build trust to the point where I never have that doubt again, like that beloved dude of mine. But not as many people as I would like. Not as many as there should be. Truth be told, when I consider how many people I know, hardly any at all.

And so, in this lifetime of doubt, we come to Tuesday. And when the results started pouring in, it was not a surprise. It was like a terrible awakening. I recognized it right away. Ah, I thought, there it is. Millions and millions of votes for our current president elect. Each of those votes, as clear as a bell, saying to me: this IS what we think of you, after all. You are lesser than us. No wondering necessary, no shadow of doubt. All that speculation that I have had over the years, that many of us have had, confirmed by millions of people, all in one night.

Imagine sitting in a room and looking around and wondering if anyone in the room had qualms about your basic humanity. Imagine wondering if anyone in that room had dehumanizing thoughts about you without them even knowing it, it was so normalized to them. I have been in that room. I am so often in that room. And on Tuesday, that room was our country. And I did not have to wonder. Sixty million people, individually, told me.

I have known this issue to be a reality for my whole life. I guess I just never knew it quite this way, on such a scale.

It’s taking me a while to take that in. I don’t know that I ever will.

Presidential Suspensial

I understand why having voting day be a holiday is a good thing for all the social justice type reasons and the get-out-the-vote type reasons but this year, the reason I am wishing for that to be the case is for the I AM FREAKING OUT reasons. Ugh, so much anxiety, y’all. Can’t we all just use the day to vote and then sit down and breathe? Well, if you are lucky enough to be able to slice it up that way, which maybe you are not because you live in a disenfranchised area whereby you apparently have to stand in lines that are hours long to vote. Anyway, I am stressed out, is all I am saying. Not just at what the results may be, but also about what happens after the results. I feel like some very scary things have become normalized, and by scary I mostly mean things in the racisms and the sexisms family, among other isms of which I am not a fan. These are not isms that should be normalized and increased. We should instead be increasing the feminisms and the anti-racisms. WE ARE NOT DOING GREAT WITH THE CORRECT ISMS IS WHAT I MEAN I KNOW IT’S NOT ARTICULATE BUT DID I MENTION ANXIETY IS HAPPENING.

Not to expand upon the bummerness, but I really wish that my dad was here to vote for a lady prez. He would have been so excited to do that and I would have been so excited to talk to him about it. My parents grew up in a non-democracy situation (LOL what a way to describe colonialism A NON DEMOCRACY SITCH) and when the Brits first started letting us brown people hold local elected office, my dad ran and won in his town, becoming the first democratically elected mayor of that town and among the first in the country. Voting was never taken for granted by him. Add in my mom, a dynamo in her own right, kicking patriarchy’s ass and taking names, and I came up in a politically engaged family where the isms were in the right place. There is something about growing up with a feminist mom and there is a different something about growing up with a feminist dad, and I am so happy I had both. And I wish he was here for this. Then again, I wish he was here for everything.

I have voted in several presidential elections thus far in my life, and here are some snapshot memories I have of them. Ready? Ok.

  1. When I was in elementary school there was a mock vote and I remember that some of the kids were running around saying that the democrats would make us all go to school on weekends so don’t vote for them. THIRD GRADE PROPAGANDA MACHINE, Y’ALL.
  2. There was a vote for prime minister in Fiji one year and we were there that summer and I asked my older cousin who she was voting for and she WENT OFF. Apparently there it is truly a secret vote in that people don’t ask each other who they are voting for. People talk a lot about politics and are engaged, don’t get me wrong. But asking someone how they will vote? DO NOT EVEN.
  3. Maybe my all-time favorite election moment was the year I was watching the Democratic National Convention and everyone in the crowd was doing the Macarena (democratically uncool is how I vote on that) and lo and behold THERE WAS MY FRIEND ALLISON’S MOTHER MACARENAING HER HEART OUT.
  4. The first time Obama was elected all of my neighbors ran out into the street to celebrate in spontaneous joy and the kid directly across the street from me was about 8 years old and he busted out his trumpet and played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a very wobbly but loud and jubilant fashion. (That kid is pretty much grown up now HOW DID THE TIME PASS SO FAST)
  5. My parents used to take me to the polls with them when I was a kid. I loved the old ladies that staffed the polling places. I loved that my parents dressed up to vote. I loved hearing them talk about it with each other. I had no idea what they were really voting about but I just loved the feeling of voting day.

The voting part is a big thing. The bigger thing, especially this time around, is all the work we need to do after the voting is done, no matter what happens. Let’s stay excited about the voting thing for today though. A lady could be president tomorrow. A LADY COULD BE PRESIDENT TOMORROW. Just think! And the thing is, my Dad would have loved to see it, but more than seeing it himself, he would have wanted me to see it. So I’m going to see it, and know it, and let that fill me up. Pretty great, right Dad?

You’ve Got a Friend (Cuz I said so)

Two things are becoming clear. One, Hayden thinks that I should be on the Bachelor. I know this because she has used the universal language across all Bachelor seasons that signifies a good contestant: she has deemed that I “put myself out there.” This is a phrase that is most often used to dismiss a bad contestant– “she just didn’t put herself out there”– so to say that I am doing the opposite means that at the very least I am still in the running to be offered a rose. This a great news! Two, I think that she has added data to my growing data set that for those most important to me in my life, I boss them into being my friend. I bossed my dude to hang out with me when we first met, even. If you are a close friend to me, think about it: how did we become friends and is it because I kind of made you? Aggressive friendliness: it is a common practice in Flint, where I grew up, and a cultural hallmark of Fiji where my family is from. I have significantly tamed this impulse in Seattle, where people do everything they can to not cultivate friends, and I will boss you only if you seem like you want me to. Most people I know are hanging out a figurative shingle on themselves that says “I MAY HANG OUT SOMETIMES IF I REALLY HAVE TO BUT DON’T GET ANY CLOSER” and I am good at heeding that sign because ain’t nobody got time for that BUT if you seem like you kinda want to be for reals friends? BOSSYPANTS ARE READY TO BE WORN. I am glad Hayden is ok with my predatory friendship ways.

Subject change! I went to see my nephew in his very first crew race this weekend and I don’t even understand what I saw, y’all. I was a very disciplined teen myself, what with the dancey dance and all, but the fact that he has chosen, of all of the things in life, to do a thing that requires him to get up at the crack of ASS really does not make sense to me. I did not wake up early as a teen unless someone was making me. Ok, well, I take that back- my friends and I used to sometimes get up at 4 or 5am to go get a fricking hashbrown at McDonald’s before school and hang out but that’s only because we often never went to sleep the night before, so I don’t know if that counts but ANYWAY. This kid is getting up early to exercise. WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THAT. I mean, I get up at 4 or 5am nowadays but I am an old crone that no longer requires sleep because I have my life regrets to fuel my brain. In fact, I have that to get back to right now. Very busy.

Flight Times

I am back from my travels and you know that scene from Almost Famous where Patrick Fugit has been on the road for what seems like months with a bus full of sweaty hairy hippies and he walks into his bedroom at home for the first time and raises his arms up and says “AHHHHH” like coming home to his own bed is so beautiful an experience it is almost painful? TOTALLY ME.

Remember how I was saying that everything in my life was happening in thirteen hour increments? Well, let me tell you that my trip home was not thirteen hours, and that’s not because a normal Michigan-Seattle flight is about 5 hours. Not for me, honeys! For me, it was sixteen hours. In sixteen hours, I went from Michigan to Ohio to North Carolina to Seattle. Why you do dis, airliners? After the grueling week I had, just, nope nope nope.

My dude had flown out to Michigan so he could spend the weekend with me and my mom, and so we got to experience our Flight Across America together on the way back. When we landed in Richmond, NC, he went to get his backpack from the overhead bin and IT WUDN’T THERE. Someone took his on accident, y’all!

We got off the plane and started running through the airport looking for the backpack person. It was so DRAMATIC- we both fanned out and just dodged our way through the crowd, scanning everywhere. It was just as though Jason Bourne had lost his backpack. I am sure that is how he would have handled it. Although he probably would have found the person and chopped them in the throat to get it back. We neither found it this way nor chopped anyone. We were in a panic though, because inside that backpack was not only an iPad, but there was also a giant ziploc bag full of my mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls. LIKE, GOLD DUBLOONS, BASICALLY.

Finally, we admitted defeat and went to the gate to report it. By that time the person had returned the backpack so it was sitting there all innocently, waiting for us. The gate agents had the nerve to scold us about leaving the backpack on the plane and we were too tired to argue the point that it was someone else’s case of Mistaken Backpackity.

Anyway, now I am home, it is total sunny gorgina in Seattle this week, I have had two nights in a row of sleep, glorious sleep, and all is good.

Cleveland

Lordy Lordy Barry Gordy. My week has been straight banaynays y’all. I went to Cleveland for work all week. It started out with a bang when my flight from Chicago to Cleveland got cancelled which meant my six hour trip turned into a thirteen hour poopsicle. Follow that with thirteen hour work days each day with no breaks WHY IS EVERYTHING HAPPENING IN 13 HOUR INCREMENTS and I am thirteen hundred percent wrung out.

The positive side of that sob story is that Cleveland was a lovely city. Gorgeous architecture and you know I’m a sucker for that upper Midwest no bullfeces friendliness. I went to this restaurant called Crop, which was in a building that used to be an old timey bank. Vaulted ceilings, marble columns, two story murals. It was breathtaking.

Anyway. I’m tired and my brain is dried up. So I rented a car and drove three hours to the place of my birthingtimes. Flint! Where spring has sprung and my mom is waiting to bust my guts open with delicious eats.

Ahhhhh, weekend.

North and South

I am taking trips faster than I can write about them, fellas. I knew something was up when I started looking forward to getting on a plane because that was a few hours of guaranteed quiet and sleep. Who looks forward to sitting in a sardine can for hours? I do. Bring it, upright, open-mouthed sleeping slumped next to strangers! Pass the Calgone!

Two more trips to tell you about. Ready? Ok.

I went on my very! first! ever! trip to the state of Texas. San Antonio to be exact. I looked for Tim Riggins and Six everywhere I went but no dice. I did try to make my hair as Tami Tayloresque as it could possibly go (to dreammmmm the impossible dreammmmmmm). I did not make it over to the Alamo which was disappointing but did not stop me one bit from saying all the Jan Hooks parts from Peewee’s Big Adventure to my traveling companions even though they didn’t know what I was doing because I. am a DELIGHT. I did the River Walk thingamabobber and I ate some fricking delicious Mexican food that most definitely did not have New York City salsa on it (NEW YORK CITY?? GET A ROPE. I just have to). Oh, and the hot weather. LOVE YOU HOT WEATHA.

Then last week I got on another plane/upright napping pod to visit my dear sweet mama in Michigan. We were there for a week and that lady put us to work. We fixed stuff, did yard work, winterized the house, cleaned out the garage. I still find it hard to be there without my dad, which makes me sad on a couple of levels because I used to love being there so much and now it’s more difficult than it is enjoyable, but keeping busy and focusing on what my mom needs makes it feel ok. I got to see my pals Alli and Chris and Steph who all happened to be in town that weekend, and catch up with my favorite cousin of all times for a quick second too. My mom watched a Harry Potter movie with us for her very first time and provided fresh and insightful commentary (on Snape: “What is wrong with that guy? I think maybe it’s his hair.”) and I was introduced to Tiny House Hunters on HGTV. Michigan was in full October gorgeousness the entire time.

Now: back in Seattle, it hasn’t stopped raining since we got back, my dude is sick, and there are many, many hours of work to catch up on. Two more trips coming up in November. Deep breaths, me. Deep breaths.

Tick Tock and It Don’t Stop

Ok ok ok ok ok here’s the thing that you should know about me. When I am feeling mid-level whiney times, I tend to shut up. My feeling is, no one needs to hear my whining. No one, that is, except maybe my dude because he sort of has to. And so this is why it has been hard for me to get up the gumption for blog times lately. I AM TOO TIRED (whine whine). Also I JUST WANT TO WHINE ABOUT BEING TOO TIRED (meta whine whine). This does not make for great blogging.

The thing of it is, I have been working a lot. Like, more than I really should be. Quitting time seems to come and then go and yet there I sit, working myself stale, like a first class chump. Add to that the fact that Fixy McNordic Boy works even more than that. Like we are talking pulling 16 hour days like they are going out of style. I’m worried about that guy, and it’s stressing me OWWWWT. I also have other worries that are feeling a bit heavy and our lives have been so frantic that they have gotten really small, like I haven’t really reached out much, and where are all my friends again? I know they’re out there but we’re too busy running around like our asses are on fire and also my mom went home on her own again and I miss her but also am worried about her and then also I have some sort of grumpy cold that causes severe sniffles and grump symptoms and on top of that I busted my phone and when I transferred all my shit off my old phone to the new one all of my saved voicemails from my dad got erased forever and I hadn’t even listened to any of them since he died and I certainly wasn’t ready to do that soon anyway but I thought that some day there would come a day where I would want to hear those again and it was like I was saving them because I thought that when I was ready to listen to them I would then know that I am no longer devastated with missing him so anyway I was saving them and now they are gone and also AHHHHHHHHHHH

What I am saying is that this past month or so has had a frantic quality to it. I DO NOT LIKE IT. There’s never any time. I feel like life is getting away from me, days are going by like frames in a movie, flick, flick, flick, and I’m just like: wait! What was that? Go back! Can I see that part again? I missed it! And time is like suck it, sister. Why is time being a jerk? Time used to be my friend.

This is why I haven’t been blogging. This past week though, I have been turning my shit around. I MEAN IT. Come on, lady. Honestly. Get it together.

Mid-level whiney times OUT

Comsumables #122 Watching: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

This weekend, three of my mom’s cousins piled in a car and drove down from Vancouver to visit her, and honey, they were fabulous. I mean, in every sense, but mostly in a badass lady sense. One of them had a scarf made entirely from silver sequins. Another one of them was rocking a mixed pattern trend like a boss: zebra print shirt under a leopard print cardy. Like, FAB-OOH-LUSSSSSS. They tumbled into the house and proceeded, along with my mom, to have a gab/giggle/guffaw fest like no other. Why do people think old ladies are feeble? All of the old ladies I know are rowdy. Especially in groups.

After going out for a big family dinner, my dude and I left these ladies with the run of our house, and went over to my brother’s house to spend the night. My nephew is twelve and had never seen PeeWee’s Big Adventure before. Obviously I had to remedy this immediately, as I consider that a pop culture emergency, especially for a 12 year old kid with a silly sense of humor and a love for his bike. This not-12-year-old lady dug it too.