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 woman. 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.