youngster years

The Unbearable Brightness of Seeing

When I was a kid, I remember my parents renting a mini-series called The Jewel in the Crown from our local video store. It was a prestige drama made in England, with fancy people in it like Geraldine James and Tim Piggott-Smith, and it had won loads of awards. The main reason they got it was because it was about colonial India and, although it was full of white people in almost every role, there were actually a few Indian actors. Actual Indian people who would play Indian people. Like, speaking roles and everything. The tv people were going to let some of us have screen time and say words, y’all. Stop the presses! It was a big deal. I remember feeling this sense of dread before we watched it, both for myself, and for my parents. We wanted those Indian roles to be good, those Indian actors to hit it out of the park, and for the script to not dehumanize them and therefore us. Please, let it not be terrible. It doesn’t even have to be great. Just let it not be terrible.

Recently, I heard the hosts on the NPR podcast Codeswitch use the term “rep sweats.” This term, as far as I can tell, was coined by writer Jenny Yang. In this article for Flavorwire about the show Fresh Off the Boat, she is quoted as saying “you get the ‘rep sweats’…[Asians] are so invisible, every time you have the opportunity to see yourself on TV, you hold your breath.” From that, co-host of Codeswitch Gene Demby adds his version of this feeling of POC-specific nervous anticipation: “I don’t know if I like this, but I need it to win.” This is what my parents and I were wobbling with as we popped that VHS in. I don’t know if I’ll like this, but I need it to win. Rep sweats. It is the perfect term for that feeling.

I know that I am becoming ever more ancient by the day, but let me remind you that this Jewel in the Crown viewing was not that long ago. It was in the late 80s. But this was a time when we never saw Indian people on tv, ever. I remember my mom calling me in my dorm room a few years later when I was in college just to tell me to turn on the tv because the barista on Frasier was Indian, and she got a line every once in a while. I would not be surprised if other Indian Americans my age remember the Frasier barista or had similar moments with their families. The character didn’t have a name, I don’t think, and she never had a story line, and she talked maybe a couple times per season, but she was there. I don’t know how to convey how much of a buzz we got from this. It was like seeing a shooting star. Did you see that? Just for a minute, it was there!

Although we are living in a time where we have a little bit more to go on than the barista at Cafe Nervosa, it is still a small handful, rare enough for the family alert system to go off for each and every one. In fact, I can probably name off every Indian person who has ever had a role in a major American tv show. Not probably. I could do it. And it would only take a few minutes. However, I think I may have, in 2017, for the very first time, had an experience that I need a term for, like rep sweats, but not.

Some months ago, I got a text from a family member saying: GIRL DID YOU HEAR MASTER OF NONE SEASON TWO IS COMING OUT?!?!?! The Indians-on-tv alert system occurs in all caps text format these days. In the weeks that followed, I started seeing publicity about it, and the descriptions alone sounded pretty great. Then it came out, and the alert system legit blew up. I got text after text over the next week or so. “OMG, have you seen it?” and “I cried, it was so great!” and “exceeded expectations, dude” and “it’s not just good, it’s maybe the best” and “maybe some of the best tv that’s ever happened?” and many more like it. My community had gone from I don’t know if I like this, but I need it to win to simply we need this to win, and it doesn’t just win. It fucking MURDERS.

I read a bunch of reviews, I listened to podcasts where people talked about it, I listened to interviews of the creators, writers, actors. I looked at all the plot summaries, and listened to my friends talk about their favorite parts. I didn’t care about spoilers. After a while, I knew all about every single episode of Master of None in detail, from beginning to end. But I hadn’t watched it.  I couldn’t watch it. Time went by, and more time. “Have you seen it YET?” my peeps kept asking. I kept putting it off because of this new feeling I was having. Not rep sweats. I wasn’t dreading feeling let down. I felt a giddy sort of heightened sensitivity. Like I had to prepare myself, emotionally, to see it. Like I was going to experience a way of feeling representational joy that I maybe had never had before. Having some part of my worldview portrayed on tv felt like being in the sun for the first time after a lifetime of being in a downpour. Exciting, lovely, beautiful, but one doesn’t just run out into the sun like that. I had to marinate in the idea of it before actually experiencing it. Does that sound dramatic? It was. Have you seen it yet?…Give me a minute, y’all. I need a minute.

Part of what was happening in my mind was that this was more than just seeing another Indian person star in a tv show. We have a couple of those out there already, doing amazing work that I love. But this time the representation was about a specificity regarding Indian-American-ness, about a sensibility, an entire lens and way of being in the world. This is what felt new.  I am not trying to say that Master of None precisely represents me or my family. The lists of ways we are totally different is long. But the pieces that feel familiar make up more familiarity than I have ever gotten from American pop culture in my whole life. Consuming pop culture for me is always an act of building a bridge in order to connect, and all I am saying is, this time I still had to build a bridge, but the bridge was shorter. It was the shortest one I have built yet.

So, I don’t know what you call this feeling I was having, but I do know that as delicious as it was, I wait for the day that I won’t feel this anymore.  Some point when there are all sorts of representations out there and it will be an everyday feeling to see them. When the brown peeps alert system is no longer in use. When seeing a really great rep doesn’t feel like squinting at the sun. Now that I’m seeing some sunshine, I feel like the rain could actually clear up. I needed a minute to prepare, but now that I’ve seen this, I’m ready.

 

 

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

Purple

For those of you who are sort of sick of Prince-talk and are drowning in the internets/media analysis, memories, and general lamentations, buckle up, because you are about to get one more. I’m still rolling around in it, and that’s just the way it’s gonna bes today.

When I was in elementary school, maybe like 3rd grade or so, I remember my parents had some friends over for dinner. Their kids were friends with my siblings and this was a family we hung out with a lot. We were sitting outside on the patio after eating, kids talking, parents talking, sometimes all talking. For some reason, Elvis came up in conversation. The mom from this family started talking about when Elvis died, and as she talked, she got choked up. I think she may have even full on squeezed some tears out. I remember my sister and I looking at each other across the table like: OMG. What sort of old white lady nonsense is THAT. Of course we were too polite to register our lack of empathy out loud, but inwardly, we were assholes about it, in that special way that kids can be towards people who are our parents’ age.

I also remember when John Lennon was killed. Mostly I remember my parents (and us kids too) riveted to the news as it came in. The Beatles were always in heavy rotation in my house since I was a baby and I knew this was big and important and sad, but at that age someone in the Beatles was like, I don’t know. Not a real person to me. Death wasn’t real to me actually. My Legos were real to me.

When Bob Marley died, that was big in my house, mostly for my older brother. I know that now, you probably think about Bob Marley music as something only young dummies like Seth Rogan would be into, but trust me on this one. Outside of the United States, in countries such as the one my family comes from, Bob Marley was like a god at that time. The confluence of the music and post-colonial/anti-imperialist thought was deeply meaningful in a way that pains me a little every time I hear it blasting out of a local frat house today. I remember my brother playing the albums over and over again when he died, but honestly, I wasn’t sad. Mostly because I wasn’t old enough to understand it, and also because Bob Marley seemed immortal to me so his actual dying didn’t seem to register in my brain.

When Marvin Gaye died, that was the first artist death that I felt throughout my community. Being Detroit-adjacent, his death was talked about at my school and by my neighbors in a way that was different than what I had seen before. I remember the young, hip student teacher at my elementary school misting up about it the day after it happened.

As a teen and adult, there have been others that have resonated more than others. There have been deaths that I felt very sorry over, like Aaliyah and Lisa Left Eye, and ones that I have felt the significance of in my head more than in my heart, like Kurt Cobain. Anyone who knew me when I was a child will tell you that I had a deep love for Michael Jackson back in the day, but by the time he passed away I had long put that away. I thought Whitney’s passing was sad, but for whatever reason it didn’t hit me hard.

When Prince died last week, I was in a meeting, with my cell phone sitting on the conference table next to me. You guys, my phone started blowing up like some sort of family emergency was going on. In the past couple of days, my friends, especially my childhood friends, have texted their memories and thoughts back and forth with me. People I know from elementary school, middle school, high school, and college- all talking to each other and sharing feelings about Prince. I think I may have misted up a couple of times when David Bowie died, but I gotta tell you, I have totally for reals cried several times over the last few days listening to Prince songs. I have been trying to think about why that is, when so many other artists have meant a lot to me too. Here’s what I think, and it’s not that original because you can flip to any page on the internets right now and get an eyeful of think pieces saying the same thing. If you were born when and where I was born, Prince busted onto the scene in a major way when you were about five years old and you just started to marinate in it. This kept going non-stop until early middle school, when Purple Rain knocked you out right when your need to hear good music crossed with your hormones kicking you in the pants, your curiosity about sex is at its most potent/confusing, your want for sheer COOLNESS is like a biological need. Carry this into high school and college and times the marination by a factor of 100 if you are a Midwestern kid of color who has always felt weird your whole life and BLAMMO. Prince is baked into your soul.

That lady when I was a kid who was crying about Elvis? That’s because Elvis was hers. For her age, for her demographic, for her sense of place and time, for her sense of self, sex, music, fashion, formation, love, art, all of it: Elvis was hers. Just like Kurt was someone’s and Bob Marley was someone’s and John Lennon was someone’s and Marvin Gaye was someone’s.

Prince though, man. For me and my friends? Prince was ours.

Prince

1999, heard in the 80s
With my older sister driving me around in our brown Chevy Citation, I hear a song on the radio about the impossibly futuristic 1999.
Little Red Corvette
My older brother’s friend Greg played this in his basement rec room and I had no idea what it was about, except that there were horses that run free somewhere in there, I guessed alongside the car? Something bitchin like that.
Delirious
Dancing around my basement with my friend Malin, making hyper robot dances and laughing ourselves sick. There was a lot of hanging out in basements in my childhood.
Erotic City
No idea what erotic even meant, but I liked that they were possibly eating cherries? I literally thought they were eating cherries, you guys.
When Doves Cry
This song/video made me buy fingerless lace gloves and I wore the shit out of them.
Let’s Go Crazy
MIDDLE SCHOOL DANCES
Darling Nikki
At my 7th grade birthday party we listened to this and Jenny told us all what masturbating was and we were like GIRL, WHAT.
Purple Rain
I told my aunt that this was my new fave movie and she rented it and watched it, was scandalized, and we had a super awkward conversation about it that lasted about three minutes.
I Would Die 4 U
I just love this song.
A Love Bizarre
Had it on cassingle, mothersuckazzzzz
Do Me Now
Went through a phase in early high school where all my friends and I would declare our attraction to our young cohorts by proclaiming HE CAN TOTALLY DO ME. When we would see a cutie we would simply say “DMN” to each other, to signify “Do me now.” Most of us knew nothing about doing nobody, but we talked a shit ton of smack.
Sugarwalls
I remember the precise moment my friend Shanelle and I were dancing to this song and realized what sugarwalls were. We both played it off like we had known it all along.
Batdance
This song makes me think about walking around town on a particular summer night at about 16 years old in a large group of homies. Was someone playing this song? I don’t remember.
The Beautiful Ones
SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD HEARTBREAKKKKKKKKKK
Little Red Corvette (again)
My freshman year in college I dated a guy who told me that his dad sang along to this song with the wrong words: “GIMME A BREAK, COLLETTE!”
Gett Off
I got into a huge fight with a guy about whether or not Prince’s songs objectified women or whether they were sex/women-positive or both. I honestly can’t remember who argued what but it was a barn burner.
Nothing Compares 2U
It was only in my early 20s that I figured out that this was a Prince song before it was a Sinead song. Played on repeat.
Raspberry Beret
Went on a date with a guy where he picked me up in his car on a spring day and we just drove around in the country all day, listening to music and talking. This was one of the songs I remember. I liked that guy so much, but it was our only date.
7
Working late at the theater, going to after-show parties, make out musix.
1999 (again)
The year 2000 is here already? At least we have this jam to listen to.
Purple Rain (again)
Re-watched the movie. Ooh dang. PROBLEMATIC.
Sometimes It Snows In April
Shit breaks me down every. single. time.
Pop Life
You may have noticed, the title of this song is the tag line to this blog.
Life it ain’t real funky unless it’s got that pop.

Stay Amok

You know how there are those scenes in Star Trek TNG where the Borg get untethered from their hive mind and they all start walking around like tipsy robots, their heads short circuiting from feeling their brain juice on the loose for the very first time? This is what Seattle people look like when the sun finally comes out after a long soggy winter. Certifiably AMOK.

Last weekend we ran around and did so many things we were swimming in amokness. Among the things we did was go to opening night of a gem of a show called Now I’m Fine, where musician, comedian, and writer Ahamefule J. Oluo told autobiographical stories, punctuated by music played by a 17-piece orchestra. It was heart-swelly and should you get the chance to see it, take it.

I also went to a screening of the movie The Last Dragon, starring Vanity. There was a time, around 6th grade, when my friend Sarah and I were obsessed with all things that had to do with Vanity, the frontwoman of Vanity 6. We had come to know about Vanity a little bit past when she became popular, via an old Rolling Stone magazine that my sister had with Prince on the cover and Vanity standing with him burning up the pages with her eyeballs. This was right at the point in my life when my curiosity about sexy business was all questions and no answers and when I saw her there was something that made me think: THIS LADY HAS ANSWERS, Y’ALL. I started listening to her music (she was a solo artist by then) and just rolled around in what I then thought was the dirtiest, nastiest, slinkiest music I could have imagined. DON’T LAUGH I WAS TWELVE I DIDN’T KNOW. When I listen to it now, yes, it is Velveeta levels of fromage. It is clear that this music was tailor made for sexually curious youngsters. It’s like My Little Pony rainbow unicorns but with horrible double entendres that are more impressionism than anything. “Sugar on your candy cane” = me: I think I know what she is talking about. Something boners something? IDK, so dirty, Ima pretend to my friends I know what that shit means.

So when I saw that a local cinema was screening The Last Dragon, starring my girl Vanity, I had to go. I had seen this movie as a kid and loved it for many reasons. It had: kung fu battles, breakdancing, music videos embedded (including one by DeBarge), a healthy sprinkle of cuts from original Bruce Lee movies, and Vanity. To my middle school self, this was the perfect cocktail mix of fabulousness. I was a little bit afraid of seeing it again because how can something like that retain any childhood magic? But you know what, you guys? IT DID. My expectations were set pretty low, but I am going to stand here and say THAT MOVIE AIN’T A BAD MOVIE AND I WILL STAND BY THIS IN A FAKE KUNG FU STANCE.

There are many things that you can point to about Vanity that are problematic, objectified female sexuality probably being a fair one overall. I can honestly say that this was not what I picked up from her work as a 6th grader who was curious about what was going on with Adult Touching And The Like. The thing that I picked up from her was a playfulness, a performative mischievous quality that appealed to me in a society that was telling me that, as a girl, it was not ok to think about sex as being fun. One thing I noticed about The Last Dragon was, as cheesy as it is, that movie is clearly in on its own joke. I can’t say whether that was true for Vanity in her work in summary, but I think it fair to say that it’s work that doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a concept I like, even as an Old who is, to be honest, a bit appalled that I was singing along to “and then he found my hallway that went all the way” when I was twelve.

 

 

Consumables #139 Listening: Death, Sex, and Money

When I got to college, I was the most extroverted I have ever been before or since. I talked to everyone, and I mean everyone. I made friends with every person I met. I had no qualms about starting up conversations with people I didn’t know, and I felt absolutely no intimidation about chattering to anyone, anytime. I have no idea what THAT was all about, or where it went (actually I do know where it went, but that’s a story for another day), but I look upon that version of myself with a lot of fondness. Openhearted to a fault, that girl was, and it eventually got her into a world of heartache in some situations. Come to think of it, there is still a part of me to this day that struggles with the balance between openheartedness and the heartache that can bring (also a topic for another day). The quantity of my words and the aggressive friendliness that I had may be tempered a lot now that I am longer in the tooth, but the thing that I loved so much about who I was at that time was the unselfconscious need to connect with people. It was so naked, like, soul-wise. In talking to all of those people, I was merely wanting to really see them and for them to see me. It’s almost painfully uncynical, when I really think about it. What a little baby bird I was, flying around chirping to people, expecting them to chirp back.

This is the same year of my life that I decided, one night, to barge in to an acquaintance’s dorm room, where a girl that I thought was nice and funny and cool was sitting in her bed reading a book, and ask to sit down. She said yes, and I sat right on her bed with her and told her all the stuff I had been thinking about lately. It wasn’t dramatic stuff, but I just wasn’t hiding from her, which is what people do mostly, right? Chirp chirp! I was saying to her. This chitter chatter is actually my heart. This is me. Can you see me? This girl, who was quieter than me, listened to all of my thoughts, and to my surprise, stepped right up to that and told me all of hers. Here is a thing that has always been true for me: if you act unguarded and kind to me, I will fall in love with you straight away. This is a thing all of my loves have in common. I cannot resist it. If you are out there and you know I love you, friends, there are many reasons why, but unguarded and kind is the real, true reason at the heart of it all. I chirped, and you chirped back.

For the next few years of our lives, this girl (you all know her as Palindrome) and I talked. A lot. We talked and walked, we stayed up late talking, we could not shut up. Neither of us stayed at that college for long, and when we moved away from each other I remember talking on the phone for hours at a time. I remember us writing letters to each other, with stories and funny drawings. I still have them. I remember one time she came to visit me when I was at my parents’ house for the weekend and we talked in such a non-stop diaherria of the mouth sort of way from the beginning of the visit to the end, that after she left my mom just looked at me with a sort of awe and said “do you two EVER run out of things to say to each other?” And I had to be like: nope. Not really.

The thing about my friendship with Palindrome though, was not the quantity of words we said to each other. It was the quality. We were keeping it so real. Not that we were having heavy, deep talks all the time. But we were talking about shit that really mattered to us. It could be silly stuff, funny stuff, hard stuff. But it was unfiltered and we just trusted each other to hear it. Even now, years later, though Palindrome and I don’t talk as often, when we do talk, I still feel that bond between us. We listen to each other. It’s gold, you guys.

It is this quality of talking with people that I have been thinking about today. I still have that sort of thing in my life, thank goodness, because I am drawn to it like a heat seeking missile. If someone says something to me that feels lacking in artifice, trusting that I will listen to it, it’s like something within me lights up. Chirp, chirp. I see you. I cannot think of something that I love more than that.

I went on a short little trip on a ferry from Seattle into Puget Sound the other night with two of my pals. Between the car ride to where we were going and back plus the ferry ride itself, we had a few hours together with nothing to do but talk, and talk we did. It was a fun, airy sort of time, but I could have listened to those ladies talk all day long. Good conversation with sincere people. Best, best, best.

All of this is to tell you about a podcast called Death, Sex, and Money. It’s your basic NPR, Fresh Air style interview show, but the host has her guests talk about things that fall outside of polite conversation (hence the name of the podcast). People talk honestly about their relationships, their families, their joys, their fears. It’s like having a friendly acquaintance barge into your dorm room and tell you her business.

Chirp, chirp.

Consumables #129 Reading: The History of Love

I distinctly remember the point at which, in my reading life, I started to really give a shit about following everything in a book closely. As a teenager, I was often reading books that were kind of beyond my comprehension level, but at that point, the gist was good enough for me. I remember reading The Sound and the Fury in English class and when the teacher was talking about certain plot points, I was literally like “what? that happened? I swear I read every page and I didn’t see no castration scene nowheres!” I was not a skimmer, but if I missed something (like poor Benjy losing his dangles) I wasn’t really sweating it.

Then I got into a phase where I was reading a lot of Louise Erdrich books, and for the first time, I was hella into every last detail. This person relates to that person how? Oh, that character is referring to another event that happened peripherally in another novel? I loved all the threads hidden everywhere, and I even went so far as to make little diagrams of character relationships and events within and then across her books so I could keep track of it all. It was like I had been reading for impression up until that point, and then, all of a sudden: focus.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is the kind of book that makes my brain feel woken up in just that way again. It’s a book where you have to pay attention, where a detail here will come back around and show up there, where people who aren’t connected much at all will turn a corner into each other and all of a sudden you see: ah, they have been puzzle pieces all along.

Stories like this can either feel like a chore or a treat. There were times when I felt both of these feelings– the chore part in the middle, but the treat at the end. Ultimately I feel comforted by stories like this, because there is a feeling of orderliness in finishing. Good, bad, happy, or sad- things end up in their place, tied together, no matter how complicated everything seemed when you were slogging through all those freaking details midway through.

Also, I should mention, the story itself has lots of love and lots of loneliness, and by the end it got me right in my gut bone.

Consumables #121 Reading: Starbird Murphy and the World Outside

My late teens/early twenties was a time when there was a lot of straight bullshit flying around. It was ridiculous. I mean, the DRAMA of it all. Even then, at the height of my own dramatic tendencies, I was like STAHHHHP, people. Everyone just calm yourselves, me included. I knew it wasn’t good, even as I fanned the flames of my own histrionics. It was like we were all compelled to be in a Melrose Place state of mind, which is a state of mind that Billy Joel could have written a more exciting song about, but is not a state of mind I would recommend. During this time, my pal Palindrome and I used to have long conversations about getting rich, buying an island, and starting a “Nice People Colony.” We would be the head cheeses of the Colony, and no one would be allowed to live there except people who were chill and kind, to us and in general. It would be drama free, if we could just control who we would be interacting with. Hmmm, if only in real life we could have controlled who we interacted with somehow, right? Like, perhaps with some sort of concept whereby one could set a kind of emotional boundary. But nah, I didn’t talk about setting emotional boundaries when I was 19. I went straight into talking about literal ocean boundaries with dictator-like immigration policies to solve my problems.

I know, that’s a bit unfair, because emotional boundaries help a lot in life, but if one is out in the world, engaged, living, interacting, then there are going to be bastards out there harshing your mellow no matter what. It’s just how it bes sometimes. So I suppose it’s a natural thing to fantasize about creating a little love bubble to live in with just your homies and you, where no one insults anyone’s mama or steals your lunch leftovers or what have you. It’s this sort of idea, among others, that makes me fascinated with communes and cults, especially the hippy dippy kind that seemed to proliferate in the 60s and 70s. You know the kind- the ones where people want to create their own Utopia via creating one large family and this takes the format of following a hairy dude with a god complex out into the woods somewhere.

This is the setting for the book I just read called Starbird Murphy and the World Outside, by Karen Finneyfrock. It’s fiction, but obviously well-researched when it comes to these types of communes and if you look hard may just be based on one that actually existed in Washington state. It tells the story of Starbird, a child raised her whole life in a place called the Free Family Farm. Starbird’s life has been a happy one, and she is a true believer in her community and its leader, whose name is EARTH. (Like, the name isn’t grandiose enough, he has to all-caps that shit too? Red flag, people). I really liked the details of this way of living throughout the story, and Finneyfrock is really evenhanded with her characters. There are a broad number of perspectives offered, and not a hint of condescension anywhere to be found, which was great. Plus, it’s a page turner. Starbird, in order to help her community, leaves it to work in the city, where she experiences mainstream culture for the very first time, which in turn starts to change some of her perspectives. Finding out which parts of her former life Starbird will stay loyal to and which ones she starts to question kept me reading fast.

Anger Potato

When I was working in the THEE-AH-TAH, I once moved to a new city and was flailing around trying to find my feet, trying to find friends, not knowing what the funk I was doing. I knew nobody, but was pretty good about “putting myself out there” (to use the favored parlance of The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise) and getting social. I was a very outgoing person at this time of my life, and I found friends everywhere I went. One of the friends I found was a guy named Jason, who worked at the restaurant/bar across the street from the theater where I worked and where a lot of theater types went to hang out. Jason looked like 20-year-old Billy Crudup, had a ponytail, was in a band, and was really, truly, honest to Ingalls sweet, sweet, sweet. Jason and I hung out sporadically for a while. He would get me free drinks where he worked. I hadn’t gotten a phone (back in ye olden times when I needed a landline) for my apartment yet, and he brought one from his house for me to borrow/have. He showed me where the nearest grocery store was to my new place. He gave me rides places (I didn’t have a car then). He once took me to his mother’s house where she fed us the first decent meal I had had in weeks. You guys, he was soooooo nice to me. He liked me, and he like-liked me, both, quite a lot. And you know what I did? I just stopped calling him back. Like straight up dropped his ass. It doesn’t matter why. He did not deserve it in the slightest. Not even a little bit. Let me say this another way: I stopped calling him back by not using the phone that he gave me so I would even have a phone to not call him back on. And I kept the phone! WHAT A HEIFER. To this day, I feel AWFUL about this. I never fancied myself a person who would treat someone that way. It was not how I usually behaved. It was not my thing. Except this time, it was my thing. Ugh.

About a year later, I saw him at a show. I called him the day after to tell him I was sorry. He was nice but obviously pretty mad at me still, and I didn’t blame him. I have gone back and forth in my mind about whether or not reaching out like that was selfish or if it actually maybe did something for him, and I like to think it actually was helpful (ish?). He got a chance to tell me how what I did hurt, and he did tell me, and I took it in. He got to tell me that he kind of didn’t want to ever hear from me again, and I took that too. Fair enough, for sure. He sounded like it was good for him to get to say those things to me, but I guess I will never know. Maybe he would have preferred that I stayed gone and kept my sorry to myself. Could be.

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about being angry about something. She was telling me about some article she read about anger being like a raw potato in one’s stomach, and that one way to get rid of it is to express it (barf it up!) but another way to get rid of it is do internal work in order to soften the potato so it will pass. We both loved this metaphor because (1) we get to refer to our anger issues as our BELLY POTATO, which, awesome and hilarious, and (2) it is a metaphor that refers to anger as a bodily function which needs to be expelled via metaphorical hurling or metaphorical Number Two-ing, which, also awesome and hilarious.

These two things– my memory of Jason and the raw potato conversation– both came to my mind when I was reading the chapter in Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler where she talks how a good apology goes. One of the things that she says is that the best apologies, the ones that are most likely to land, are ones where you take responsibility for what you’re sorry for, and you don’t add in a bunch of “but I did it because…” stuff to justify that although you’re sorry, really underneath that you still want to hold onto being right about the circumstances that made you do the thing that you’re now supposedly sorry for. I feel like this concept is a thing we all know about sorry-ing, but it’s a thing that is harder to do than to know. This made me think about Jason because I have said sorry for many things, but that one stands out as the clearest, cleanest sorry I ever can remember giving. I didn’t tell him that I dropped him because my life was chaotic at that point, or because I was going through relationship drama and couldn’t handle more boy stuff, or because I just got super busy, or because because. Somehow, in that situation, I knew that the “because” didn’t matter. I did a hurtful thing, and I was sorry about it. That’s all, the end.

I won’t get into what the whole belly potato issue is for me right now, but suffice it to say that thinking about apologies in this way has softened my potato a bit (come on, you know you want to join me in saying things like “softened my potato” DO NOT DENY IT). It’s made me think about apologies I have received and given, and how I can be better next time I have to dole one out, and how I can better process one that is given to me, shitty or not.

Remember: less “because” stuff and more “I’m sorry” stuff, or else you may be planting a raw potato in someone’s gut.

Younguns seem more refined nowadays

Friday night I went to my bro-ham’s house and spent some time watching my nephew and his friends for Halloween times. They seemed perfectly contented to be in the house, horsing around. They did head out trick or treating eventually but there wasn’t much urgency around it. It made me feel old and decrepit because all I could think about was how in my day (uttering the words “in my day” automatically gets you an AARP card) there was nothing more that my friends and I wanted to do than get out of the house and run amok around the neighborhood. I mean, we LIVED for it. When I was teensy, my dad would take me around from house to house to house. When I was a tween and teen, we just ran around in pods of pals, not even really trick or treating as much as just roaming the streets and yards, groups meeting up and parting and meeting up with other groups. I remember getting chased by a group of friends across a vacant lot that had grown squishy patches of grass that we called the Guacamole Patch, just running our asses off in costume, for no reason at all except to laugh and be giddy. I remember this other time that we ended up on a side street and some kids who had cars parked them all in a circle with their headlights on and their radios playing and we all had a dance party in the middle of the light beams. I am not even trying to start a “them there days were better days” argument. My nephew and his friends were having a hell of a time just maxing and relaxing at his house too, so that’s cool. It just struck me how different my young Halloweens looked, and how ragtag and rowdy it seems. All of my young relatives seem positively genteel compared to the scruffians we were.

Saturday we hung out with Delium for most of the day which is always good because that dude makes me bust a gut. Have a friend who makes you laugh until you have feelings of barfness? If you don’t, try to get one. Later that evening my friend H took me out for birthday dinner (eff birthday month, apparently it is now birthday season) at a fancy restaurant and then for drinkies afterward and the conversating was flowing and plentiful. Friends who will listen to your dumb jibber jabber and treat it like it is a goddamn Ted Talk are also a delightful thing.

Sunday (after some steadfast, dedicated sleeping we did with that extra hour of nighttime. I mean WOO WEE our sleeping was almost pornographic in its hardcoreness) was chore day, correspondence day, home improvement day. We built a hand rail for our front yard steps and put that in (and by we I mean mostly he but I got in there a little and made two supportive trips to the hardware store so that counts for something) because now that it’s dark around the clock I would love it if I didn’t die on my own front stairs.

I had signed up to help a friend who recently had some serious health stuff going on by taking her family dinner on Sunday night- a bunch of us are rotating the days. I bought her a delicious pre-made meal that she could heat up. It was from a really nice place and had good natural ingredients (just saying, I didn’t buy her no Hungry Man frozen dinner or anything janky) but there was a part of me that felt like I should have cooked up something myself, because the effort to do that seems more loving? Or because buying something seems like phoning it in? I do not think of myself as a person who does a lot of unnecessary judging of myself but I had a little twinge this time. I had to remind myself that the judgey self-talk just makes the situation about me at a time when it so isn’t about me. I got something my friend needed and I objectively knew she would find it helpful and kind. Sometimes you have to tell yourself to shut up, is basically the lesson I re-learned. I may still act dumb sometimes but at least I know when to tell myself to shut it a little more often, so that’s progress.

That’s my weekend roundup! I hope you are having a gorgeous day. Later, Mr. and Ms. Potaters.