Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's So Wonderful About Wonder Woman?

My friend, Tom, posed a question on Facebook: what is that people find so interesting about Wonder Woman? Now, before anyone gets into an uproar, know this: Tom is a comic book aficionado who doesn't find Wonder Woman to be a very interesting character. This does not make him a misogynist, and this question was asked in earnest; Tom has a long list of female superheroes who who finds to be more interesting and/or dynamic than Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. So, yes: chill out.

It was a fair enough question. It made me think. I am not a huge comic book fan, but I grew up sporadically reading the major titles and following the major characters. When it came to Wonder Woman, I'm also just the right age to have watched the television show, which was one of my favorites. I loved Wonder Woman. I still do. But why? Until my friend posed this question, I'd never given it much thought beyond the whole "she's a cool woman who kicks ass" angle and, let's face it, as Tom points out, there are other women in the world of comics who kick ass. I also love Jean Grey, but not the way I love Diana Prince/Wonder Woman which is weird because, in the entire comic book universe, X-Men is my favorite thing. Yet, my love for Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is steadfast and true. Why?

It came to me, suddenly.

Wonder Woman is essentially an immigrant narrative. Diana Prince is an immigrant who adopts the USA as her own, and does so with a vengeance. This appeals to me, I think, because I'm the first generation in my family born on mainland US soil, and raised with English as my first language. I'm the child of people from another place, who spoke another language, knew an entirely different culture, landed here without a word of English, and eventually grew up to wholeheartedly embrace every good thing about this country, even though they got called "spic." Even though they sometimes got the side-eye for being different. Even though the way they did things did not always fit in with their new surroundings.

My mother, who landed in NYC without one word of English, and who brought with her 'strange' ideas from the Caribbean ended up becoming the most kick-ass New Yorker, ever. No one had more street savvy. No one knew the subway system better than she did. No one had that New Yorker bullshit detector as finely tuned as she did. That's my mother's story. It's also Diana Prince's story.

If I love Wonder Woman, I don't have much time for Superman. I find him to be a bore. Superman lands on earth, in the USA, as a baby. He knows no other reality than that of being a milk-fed boy raised in the heartland. He is, for all intents and purposes, the all-American boy who grows up to be the all-American hero. He is dropped here and his destiny is somewhat preordained. Diana Prince, by stark contrast, makes deliberate choices which land her here as a grown woman. A foreigner in a strange land. She's the mother of all American immigrants and, like so many immigrants, she chooses a life of service to her new homeland, in the name of defending democracy.

There is something about this that is, and always has been, really attractive to me, although I'd never articulated it before Tom posed the question about Wonder Woman, and why she has such a huge and devoted following. The appeal, for me, anyhow, can be boiled down to this: Wonder Woman is an immigrant who embodies every good American value, and not really one of the crappy ones. She's my mother.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016: The Year in Review

This won't be another of those "omg-the-world-is-ending-because-2016-was-the-worst-year-ever" posts, because those are a dime a dozen. So, let's get the suckitude out of the way:

A bunch of people died, and a rich, straight, white man won the presidential election. There will almost certainly be thousands of year-in-review posts and articles focusing on these two issues, but this won't be one of them.

She gave it her all. I was with her, 100%. I regret nothing.

Ding, Dong, The Witch is Dead: good riddance to rotting garbage.

RIP: TV is dead. On the other hand, there was lots of great streaming programming. For instance, this. I almost need to light up a cigarette after watching this. The more fucked up you are, Cersei, the more I love you.

It must be said, though - no one kicks ass more than Thandie Newton's Maeve, on Westworld.

Haters Back Off. Netflix gave the lovable YouTube sensation, Miranda Sings, her own show, and it's not at all what one would expect. If you haven't checked it out - especially if you haven't checked it out because Miranda is not your cuppa - do yourself a favor and give this show a chance. It's funny as hell, completely original, has a great ensemble cast of new faces, and it's just teeming with heart. In the midst of this nutty, outlandish premise, these folks make you actually care about the characters. Seriously - give this show a shot. Surprisingly moving, in the most unlikely ways.

Well, the poster was cool: High Rise had a great trailer. The art direction was amazing. The cast was great. Portishead recorded a brilliant cover of one of ABBA's best tunes for it. This movie had everything going for it, except for the fact that it was bloody awful. Truly, truly awful. If you're an animal lover, and you're considering giving it a go, you deserve fair warning: the film basically opens with the main character spit-roasting his dog and eating the poor creature. It's supposed to be darkly funny. Instead, it's one of the most disturbing scenes I've ever watched in a film. And I don't mean, "OMG...they really broke ground and made that scene so thought-provoking!" I mean, "Fucking hell - that was obscene, completely gratuitous and, ultimately, made a bad movie worse." The cover of SOS IS pretty fucking great, though.

2016 was a great year for documentaries. Here are a few of my faves.

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures. Uncompromising, even as it celebrates his beautiful work. A lot about the way he carried out his life and work - especially when it comes to race - can be pretty problematic, but the work, itself is beautiful. This film never loses sight of either of those facts.

Author: The JT Leroy Story. You probably know some of this story. Don't read anything more about it before seeing this. If you know nothing, even better. Speaks volumes about art and the creation of it, about the cult of fame, the inner workings of the famous and celebrated, and about the truth, itself.

No Home Movie. This is not for everyone. If I'm honest, it's probably for very few people. I found it incredibly moving, and it stayed with me for days, after. I'm not sure I've ever seen a better representation of the emptiness left behind when the most important person we know dies. 

I don't care about the Olympic Games, but I love it that Puerto Ricans were a force to be reckoned with, this time around. 


Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Loved Ones FTW.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

One Week On: A Love Letter

This is not that kind of love letter.

One week ago, most of us woke up to what we considered upsetting news about the results of the presidential election. The results of the election surprised me but, as I've written elsewhere, there was and is nothing surprising to me about the amount of ugliness in this country. The day after the election I was most shocked to find out how many straight, white, Christian folks were taken aback about the thread of racism, homophobia and xenophobia that runs deep and strong throughout this nation. I was shocked because it never really occurred to me that so many people could be so clueless about what it's like, for many people, to live in America. I was shocked that they had not been clued in, long before, by the very need for LAMBDA, The Black Panthers, NOW, the ACLU, The Southern Poverty Law Center, the UFW, Black Lives Matter, the ADL, or a hundred other organizations and/or movements. How could anyone live in the USA, and not know?  But, yeah. Evidently a hell of a lot of heterosexual, white, Christian people had no idea how fucking terrible it is to be an "other" in America. Now they know. The election and, more so, the aftermath of the election, has made it impossible to ignore. And that's a good thing. But here is what is not a good thing, and where this being a love letter comes into play:

Straight, white, Christian people who are still crying and licking their wounds over this revelation a week after the election are not doing anyone a favor. If anything, they are being self-indulgent. I say this with love. Tough love, maybe, but love. If you are a straight, white, Christian person who is pained to discover that you enjoy immense privilege, while others bear the brunt of racism, homophobia and xenophobia, and you are still nursing the wounds of this revelation a week after the election? Snap the fuck out of it, friend. Seriously. Because your self-indulgent wound-licking over the discovery that others suffer is perhaps the biggest act of privilege imaginable. So, yeah - snap the fuck out of it, and look around. Black people, Hispanics, immigrants, homosexuals, Jews, Muslims,  - everyone around you who doesn't fit into that privileged mold? We all know. We have always known. We've been trying to tell you, but you wouldn't listen. And, while a lot of us love the idea that so many of you identify as allies and sincerely want to be a part of the solution, I don't think any of us has any interest in drying even one of your tears, let alone hearing how traumatic it is for you to learn that America is and has always been shitty to us. This does not get to be about you. Not if you really, truly want to be an agent of change.

One week on; snap the fuck out of it.

This is a love letter, but not that kind of love letter. It's a letter telling you that a lot of us would love to have you in our corner, but only if you bring something besides your grief. We have more than enough grief of our own. It's been ours for so long, we don't let it get in our way.  We no longer know how to live without it. It is so old and so strong and so much a part of who we are, that it empowers us. Grief that slows us down and makes us weak is something for which we have no room, no patience, and no desire. If that is what you bring to the party, then don't bother coming.

Monday, August 1, 2016


I used to be strong. I was the strong girl, and then the strong woman. That was one of my things. I could lift heavy objects. Move furniture. Open a tightly sealed jar. Beat most people at arm wrestling. One woman I knew marveled at how strong my hands were, when she asked me to help her wring out soaking wet towels that had fallen into a river. That strength, it was no small thing. It was a part of who I was and how I identified. It was a part of how people saw me. I liked that strength. It gave me confidence, not only in my ability to carry a heavy suitcase, but in my ability to carry myself through life in a way that suited me. Capable. Determined. Fearless. Without hesitation. Physical strength goes a long way towards building other types of strength.

A few nights ago, I found myself lying back, looking up at the stars, in the middle of the desert, next to the person I hold dearest of anyone I know. We were young together, once, this woman and I. We were not much more than girls, then, really. That night, though, in the desert, even though we felt young, it was just an illusion. It's easy to feel young when you're flat on your back, under a vast sky, with a beautiful woman for company.

"Damn it," I mumble, under my breath, trying not to yelp in pain.

"Your back?" she asks.

"It's ok," I answer.

"Can I do anything?" she asks.

"I'll be fine," I reply, "I just need not to move for a little while."

And so we don't move. We lay under the stars for a good, long time. We see a planet. Saturn? Maybe Jupiter? And shooting stars - lots of shooting stars. We see the waxing crescent moon, and the clouds slowly rolling in to block the moonlight. We hear coyotes and an owl. When we can no longer fight exhaustion, we stand up - me slowly, methodically - and head back into the warm house, where we don't bother turning on the light. Instead, we make our way to bed in the dark and, without words, we kick off our sandals and jeans, and climb in under the covers. Sleepwalkers - that's what we are like. Already asleep, for all intents and purposes, and just looking for a warm place to do our sleeping horizontally.

It is not much later when I feel her stirring, and then sitting bolt upright.

"Damn it," she says, under her breath, trying not to wake me, forgetting we're in this thing together.

"Your back?" I ask.

"It's ok," she answers.

"Can I do anything?" I ask.

"I'll be fine," she replies, "I just need to sit up for a little while."

In the morning, the sunlight streaming through the window wakes us both. Each of us wants to ask how the other is feeling, but neither of us does. Instead, we just lay still, letting the warm sun shine in on us.

I make a move towards rolling over to face her, but change my mind as I feel a twinge in my lower back.

"I used to be so strong," I say, dangerously close to sounding pathetic.

She sighs.

"I remember," she replies, "I used to be strong, too. I used to move so easily when I danced."

"I used to be able to move furniture. Now, I can barely hold myself up."

"We're not young, anymore, is all," she says.

"I'm not sure I know what to do, now that I'm not The Strong Girl, anymore, but The Woman With The Crumbling Back."

"We'll both do the same thing," she answers, without hesitation, "We'll hold each other up."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bubbles Break

I've never been one for clubs, and I've never hung out at a lesbian bar in my life. Not on purpose, anyhow. Still, when someone sent out this tweet, the morning after the massacre in Orlando, Florida, it struck a chord.

The late 80s. I am in my very early 20s. Looking back at it, I am still just a girl. I am traveling with a beautiful girl. After driving all day, we stop at a small town motel and ask for a room. The clerk gives us a strange look when we ask for the room with just one queen-sized bed, instead of two full beds. It is not a look we can ignore. It is not a look we can forget. We don't mention it to one another but, for the rest of the trip, wherever we stop for the night, we make sure always to choose the two-bed option, even though we always sleep together on just the one.

Jump ahead. 2001. I am with my partner, a woman I live with, and believe I will live with forever. We are riding a ferry between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It's always a lively trip - the Cook Strait is never calm, and people riding this ferry are generally on their way to a holiday, so folks are talking and laughing. We are looking at a copy of Vanity Fair together, laughing at some item about some celebrity. When I reach over to take her hand, she pulls away and, suddenly, it feels strained. "What's wrong?" I ask, "I was just going to hold your hand. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were on the DL." "I'm not comfortable calling attention to ourselves among so many strangers." she says angrily, under her breath, "I don't know any of the people on this boat."

We don't end up living happily, ever after, that woman and I, but we have many years together. Most of them happy, but sometimes the happiness is made slightly sour by circumstances. Like the long trip we plan to Independent Samoa - the holiday of a lifetime. We spend months planning, looking forward to remote tropics, clear, blue water, long nights spent not in a hotel room, but in a rustic fale on the beach. We pick up some papers at the travel agent before we leave. This is the young man who has sold us the tickets, booked everything. We know him. We like him. "Listen, girls," he says, "You seem like an old married couple to me, but I have to give you some advice before you leave: don't let anyone in Samoa know that you're anything but friends. Better yet - tell them you're cousins, that way no one will think it too funny, you two sharing a fale. Kin always stay with one another over there, but the whole gay thing? Friendliest place on earth, but they don't do the gay thing. Cousins, ok? You'll be safer." We spend a month in tropical paradise. As cousins. When strangers ask my partner about the ring on her finger - the ring I gave her - she laughs and makes something up. Sometimes there is a husband back home. Other times she is divorced, but can't bring herself to take off the ring. Always, though, we are cousins. An American and a New Zealander. We even have a back story. Nosiness is considered friendly in Samoan culture, so we concoct a whole back story. Our grandmothers were sisters, one of them raised in NYC, the other, raised in New Zealand, by an aunt. We two have found each other - second cousins! - through the magic of internet genealogy searching, and become fast friends, and now we are traveling through Samoa together. It is a beautiful trip. The trip of a lifetime, but parts of it leave a sour taste in my mouth. A whole month of being careful. A whole month of leisurely beach days, and not being able to hold hands or even embrace, for fear of being seen.

Even today, safe places can be few and far between. I'm not sure this can be imagined, if it isn't your experience. I live in a bubble, these days. I live in San Francisco. When my ex and I were still together, and living stateside, we ended up taking vacations to places like NYC and Healdsburg and Palm Springs. I work in a field practically run by gays and lesbians. I have doctors who, because they work in San Francisco, have probably received training on how to be culturally appropriate with and sensitive to the needs of LGBT patients. A bubble of queer-friendliness and never having to pretend some woman is my cousin. This bubble is small, though. The rest of the world is big, and often ugly.

Orlando's Pulse Club was supposed to be a tiny, little bubble.

Bubbles break.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

50 0f Us

I can't bring myself to turn on the television, or look at news streams. I just can't. They got 50 of us. Fifty queer people. Or people who enjoy dancing and having fun with queer people. Or people who happened to work at a queer venue. People. It's all "us," you know. But it can't be denied: someone targeted a gay nightclub, in the midst of LGBT Pride month. Hate fueled this. They got 50 of us, and it was easy to do.

Before things go crazy, though, before they start blaming Islam, or other nations, or extremist ideas, or even homophobia, I hope the rest of us can keep this one thing in mind: We can never legislate ideas or ideology. We can never legislate love or acceptance. We can never legally force people to like us, or respect us, but we can make it a hell of a lot more difficult for people with hate and violence in their hearts to kill us.

Hate Control would be unenforceable, Gun Control would not be.

Get involvedWrite your Congressperson, and demand tougher laws around firearms.

As for Hate Control? Don't hide. Don't be invisible. Show up in droves.  Love. Persevere. Take no shit.

Friday, June 3, 2016


If your children ask you, one day, what courage looks like, show them a photo of Ali.
RIP Champ. We will not see the likes of you, again. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Bare Essentials

A friend on Facebook posted a link to a ridiculous Kickstarter for a machine that makes tortillas. A big, bulky, electric machine to do what it takes just moments to do by hand or, if one invests maybe $15-25, do using a hand-press. It made me think about my kitchen. I love to cook, and I do like shopping for kitchenware, but we get bogged down in the ridiculousness of gadgetry. I decided to challenge myself: If I were forced to pare down to the absolute minimum - if I lost every cooking utensil and kitchen gadget in a fire, let's say - which items would I need to get back to having a fully operational kitchen from which I would be able to prepare three really good meals a day? The assumption is that my stove and fridge and sink have survived this apocalypse.

Here is my bare bones kitchen.

Ok, if you can have just one pan, it should be a cast iron skillet. You can fry in this. Sautee'. Broil. Bake. You can use this for your bacon, and your eggs, and for making a mean cornbread, and even for baking ziti or mac and cheese.  Quiche. Cake. A frittata. Ridiculously easy to care for. Indispensable. 

Good knives are important. If you can only have one, make it a cleaver. It's good for chopping vegetables, as well as for cutting meat, and hacking through chicken cartilage. That nice, wide surface can double for crushing peppercorns, garlic, ginger, etc. 

The only other pot/pan I consider essential is a decent saucepan with a lid. Boil eggs, make pasta or rice, morning farina. You can make chili in this, stew, or soup. You can even boil your water for camp coffee or tea. Makes a great mixing bowl in a pinch. The lid not only makes it useful for stewing, but serves as a makeshift strainer. 

More versatile than a spoon - a spatula can be used to flip pancakes, slide under eggs, and stir sauces, and even fold merengue, if one has a gentle touch. I like wood better than metal or synthetics. It holds up well to heat, washes well, and feels good in the hand. I'd need this. 

So, in my real life, I have a tiny kitchen which is jam-packed with stuff, but I only really NEED these four items to make a kick-ass meal. What areas of your life are jam-packed with gadgetry and novelties, and just STUFF, which are far from essential? Care to join this challenge? Imagine your entire office or wardrobe or living room or WHATEVER were destroyed in a fire, and you had to choose ten items or less to get it going, again, in such a way that you'd feel whole and functional - what would those ten items or less be? Tell me. I'm interested. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Anna from Queens

When I was a kid - like, a REALLY YOUNG KID...maybe 8 or 9 - my grandfather found a copy of Valley of the Dolls, and gave it to me. It had the word "dolls" in the title, and he figured it was a book for girls. And he knew I liked to read. So I read it. My parents, who knew it was NOT a book for little girls, didn't stop me from reading it. They let me read anything in which I showed an interest. I loved it. This led to me watching the movie, which got regular air play on NYC's 4:30 movie.

I was delighted that the role of Neely was played by Patty Duke, who I knew from The Patty Duke Show (which I watched in reruns, and loved, because it took place in Brooklyn Heights, which was just a spit away from Park Slope) and The Miracle Worker, which also got regular play on the 4:30 movie.

I was too young to know the word "camp," but certainly not too young to understand the concept that, sometimes, things are so bad, that they're excellent. After that, it was ON. I never missed Valley of the Dolls when it aired.

I was quite a bit older when I realized that Patty's performance as Neely was adored by queer people the world over, and older, still, when I found out that she embraced this fandom with all her heart. She was OUR GIRL, from way back. Anna - this outer-borough girl who loved her gays as much as we loved HER...who was ordained as a minister for the sole purpose of being able to officiate at same-sex weddings....who would speak at screenings of Valley of the Dolls at The Castro because she loved us and we loved her...who opened up about the hell her childhood had been and the mental illness she had lived with for so long...who fought for research into mental illness, and public understanding of it, and an end to the taboos we have around it.

People who only knew her as one of the identical cousins might find it difficult to believe she was radical, but she was radical as fuck. And she was ours.

Rest in peace, Anna.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Not Like The Others

When I was little, my best friend was this little girl whose parents were really racist. They'd say to her (right in front of me), "Don't play with any of the niggers or the spics on the block, except Lana and her sister. They're not like other spics." And then she would come to my house and play, and call my grandma "abuela" and we would pretend we were sisters. My parents would tell me to ignore her folks because, they said, "They're just ignorant."

These days, I find myself thinking about my friends who are white, "He/she isn't REALLY white. I mean, he/she is white, but not anything like actual WHITE PEOPLE are white."