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La Playa Perdida

31 Aug

“Check out her tits!”

Such was the beginning of the end of my family’s multi-year sojourns to Burning Man.  We’d enjoyed a good four- or five-year run, towing our elementary school-aged son out to the Playa for a week’s worth of wholesome, dusty family fun and creative inspiration in the desert.    All of those years had been, up til the point I overheard the above prophetic utterance, blissfully douchebag-free.

Ye Olde Adage that Nothing Lasts Forever had, in that moment, suddenly proven itself true. The “thing” that did not last, in this case, sadly, was what had been my favorite aspect of Burning Man: no Regular People.  The straight world held no quarter here; it was the land of Freaks Only, and participating in it was liberating.  Any of my fellow Weirdos out there can attest to what a burden it is to have to live among the rest of you, half-assedly feigning interest in your football games and Kardashian dramas and Black Fridays and latest apps and exclamations of “check out her tits!” It had been so thoroughly refreshing to be free of all that on the Playa, to meet nothing but smiles from other outcasts, maybe have someone hand you a giant pickle, make up your fortune on the spot, or sing you a song.


My little man with The Man, circa 2002

But now the people and consumer culture we’d come out to the desert to escape were here. Booo.

Each year we had dutifully packed everything in and meticulously out, brought our own food, shelter, water, artmaking materials, and homemade gifts to hand out to strangers, all in the spirit of Burning Man’s professed celebration of Radical Self-Reliance.  It was a lot of work, but worth it for the pure joy of a dusty week of freedom. Thus, that blaring clarion call of “Check out her tits!” wasn’t just the sexist banality of some blockhead.  It was the encapsulation of all that is wrong with the straight world, and it was utterly crushing to discover said world had found its way out to the Playa. Not at all surprising, really – much of the best art and ideas ultimately get co-opted and absorbed into the mainstream – but a bummer nonetheless.

Fast forward another 15 years, and Burning Man is now so famously highfalutin, it attracts visits from celebs like the actual Kardashians.  Google and Facebook execs stake out entire air-conditioned compounds, and – actually, I don’t really care what other emetic nonsense is going on there nowadays.  I just know that paying an extra couple grand on top of your admission ticket to join a theme camp where caviar is delivered to you by drone and all your other needs are provided for on demand doesn’t sound much like Radical Self-Reliance to me.  Nor does that sound like anywhere I want to be.

But don’t listen to this curmudgeon! If you’ve always wanted to go and haven’t yet – do it.  The art will absolutely blow your mind, and you’ll have the immense satisfaction that comes with crossing something off your bucket list. Most likely you are not a Freak (since we are in the minority), thus better adjusted than I when it comes to comingling with non-Freaks, so will have a perfectly lovely time.

And don’t forget to check out some tits!


Being 2nd Class Feels Like #2

11 Nov

Mere days before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, a young male colleague overheard another female co-worker and I make passing comments about “always having to be ready” for some asshole to step out of the shadows (or even in the light of day!) and rape and/or otherwise mess with us.  Not because we’re shit-starters, but because we’re, y’know, women.

Wide-eyed and amazed, my young male work friend admitted “Wow, I never thought about that. What a drag!”  I gave him a pass on that ignorance, given that he has only fairly recently entered the realm of adulthood and is, in fact, a genuinely nice guy.  However with the international shit storm now transpiring around sexual harassment in all its forms & milieus, I imagine (hope) my previously ignorant friend is experiencing a Big Education right about now.  Because, well, I sort of am too.

I was a 70s California Kid raised in a Single Mom household energized by the new promise of Women’s Liberation.  For much of my young life, I was under the misguided impression that all the Bad Stuff had been fixed for us gals, and we were now free to do as we pleased.  Sure, maybe we didn’t make as much money as men yet, but surely that was right around the corner, ya?  Oh, most certainly.

Other than having my virginity taken from me in high school via what the kids today call “date rape” (at the time I just thought of it as “going further than I really wanted to go”), I am fantastically fortunate in that the degree of sexual harassment & violence I’ve suffered throughout my life has been relatively low-level.  It is the garden variety kind that any American woman or girl can most likely attest to: annoying cat calls and uninvited conversations, the need to cross the street to avoid potential Male Hazards, never going certain places alone, and the occasional discomfort of an inappropriate comment made by a teacher, co-worker, and sometimes even a “friend.”  While I can’t say I’ve taken all this “in stride,” as the realistic pragmatist that I am, I’ve just acknowledged all this as a Very Unfortunate Given.

And that is why I’m experiencing my own Big Education right now.  The first harsh slap came on November 8, 2016. Like many people, I was weepy, bitter and nauseous for days afterwards.  I felt utterly belittled and humiliated by a country that so enthusiastically reinforced what I already knew:  I am a Second Class Citizen.2nd Class

As the current, progressively Nastier Year** unfolded, the secret misogyny that has simmered below the surface of polite American society for, apparently, decades, is now boiling over all over the place.  Need birth control?  Oh no, we won’t allow women controlling their own bodies or destinies.  Want to speak your truth?  Be prepared for a vicious onslaught of trolls!  Don’t like your creepy Uber driver?  Too bad, you called him so he is now free to express his need to rape & kill you with total impunity.

And now, the Weinstein story and ensuing clusterfuck of sexual harassment revelations amongst a myriad of professions.  While I am not the least bit surprised by any of it, the apparent magnitude of the issue is shockingly beyond what I had imagined. Because I have spent my entire work life entrenched in mid-sized arts nonprofits – a business sector predominantly run by women and not generally motivated by the pursuit of power – I’m guessing that is why I seem to be one of the rare few women who has suffered absolutely no on-the-job harassment.  Sure, a Board member once asked me to go “fetch him a sandwich” (I refused), and I’ve had to literally wrestle a fake priest to the ground to retrieve a stolen checkbook from his grip as he called me “a worthless gutter punk and insult to womanhood,” but I consider those particular episodes personal victories.

I’m still not sure what to do with all these new realizations.  I feel suddenly vulnerable, lucky, sympathetic and enraged all at once. But I guess that’s womanhood for you – us females are just so emotional, you know.  Yet we endure, and as many people have been made aware as of late, we persist.

** BTW:  This year hasn’t been 100% horrible:  I DID get married to the love of my life.  And he isn’t a misogynistic asshole – there are, thankfully, still a few of those left.

Now For Something Completely Different

1 Jan

I was born a Skeptic.  I literally came out of the womb that way; my mother can confirm this.  I never believed in Santa Claus, spent a lot of time irritating adults with uncomfortably penetrating questions, and have a total lack of ability to just take things at face value.  It’s physiological, I swear; my brain just naturally gravitates in that direction, without any assistance from Conscious Me.  i.e., I’m not TRYING to be a pain in your ass, I just AM a pain in your ass.

Yet also I am, inherently, an Optimist.  Many who know me may question that statement, but it’s true.  For whatever reason, I have a hokey underlying faith that Good usually prevails, and that humans and Humanity will ultimately work out our vast array of problems.  (Granted, “ultimately” may be centuries in the future, but that’s OK – it’s a process.)  I try to send out as much positivity as I can, usually in the form of Gratitude-to-the-Universe type vibes, with the hopes that keeping cosmic Good Juju afloat will do someone some good, somewhere.  So while I may constantly question the Universe, I guess it’s just because I want it to be the best it can be.

(Egads, sounds like the twisted logic of an abusive spouse -“Melania, I only criticize you because I know you can be better!” – Er, well, that’s totally not me. Or at least I don’t think so …. )

ANYWAY it is with that same dichotomously skewed eye of optimistic skepticism, or skeptical optimism perhaps (depending on the day), that I have approached social media since I first signed on (resigned?) to that particular party some years ago.  After all, I say Yes! to freedom of expression and Yes! to alternative, emerging forms of communication and Yes! to Why The Fuck Not? and figured I should at least try it before I knocked it.  The Skeptic said fuck-that-noise, but the Optimist said there’s-gotta-be-something-worthwhile-there, and the Optimist emerged victorious.

For most of the ride, I’ve managed to keep social media at an arm’s distance.  While the Theatre Major/attention whore in me would love to constantly post post post, a vague sense of decorum, as well the general understanding that the world does not, in fact, revolve around me, has fortunately reined in that impulse. My interest at first was, like most folks’ I’d imagine, primarily recreational – staying updated on various friends & family’s doings, taking one of those stupid fucking quizzes (why?), and maybe getting in a little News Lite.  I remember that the passing of Lux Interior (RIP 1946-2009) was the first crushing celebrity death I learned about on Facebook (sad face).

It’s only the past two or three years of touring the wonderful world of Facebooklandia (I am a relative Luddite; FB is the only social media waters into which I care to dip a toe) that my Skeptic has really kicked in.  Not surprisingly, in the most recent of said years, that skepticism was in full-blown overdrive.  Yet almost never in the midst of that ever-increasing media hysteria did I point out to friends that the “news” source they’re citing isn’t all that vetted, or that fixating on the various hollow shenanigans of Our Evil Overlord-Elect To-Be was just a distraction from likely much greater horrors, OR – full disclosure – did I myself manage to remain completely free of the pull to join the downspiraling frey, chonies temporarily bunched into thick wads over something OEOE To-Be said or did. I too am guilty of allowing myself to be flushed down that particular toilet.  Even the Skeptic gets pulled in. Blame the Optimist, I say.

So as I face a new year with much trepidation, I still don’t know which of those two attributes will serve me best in the New World Order.  Excessive optimism is perhaps partly to blame for the “disaster” (to echo some of OEOE’s favorite hyperbole) of November 8th, but to move forward into this new horizon without at least a shred of that optimism will be unbearable.  Skepticism is useful, but applying it indiscriminately doesn’t win one all the friends and collaborators needed to make the future a more rockin’ place.

Deep sigh.  The answer is out there somewhere.  Or, quite possibly, it’s not.  I may be only skeptically optimistic, but that’ll have to do for now.


On My Mound

24 Oct

What IS it about The Baseball?  Or perhaps, more specifically, The Giants?  When once I was a non-believer, interested only in enjoying the architectural beauty of Our Stadium, eating garlic fries and gazing wistfully out across the Bay – invariably missing the sporadic, unpredictable bursts of action down on the field – today, mysteriously, I am one of the converts.  In Bruce we Trust.

“What happened to you?” my family members keep asking, suspicious not only of my newfound enthusiasm, but the mere fact that I would have the slightest interest in any sports whatsoever.  My lifetime Punk Rock Aversion to Sports was once perhaps greater than that of my ilk, aggravated as it was by sour memories of my father, simultaneously watching football on TV while listening to baseball, his transistor radio held inches from his head as he ate dry handfuls of Grape Nuts. I would spend that precious father-daughter bonding time bouncing around the living room, jumping from sofa to floor to tabletop with a furious, desperate “Dad look at me Dad look at me!” energy, but to no avail.  But I’m not bitter:  if it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have ended up in gymnastics, and later, as the notoriously attention-demanding adult that I am today.

Zen. Fucking. Perfection.

Zen. Fucking. Perfection.

I am not going to bother to try and describe the layers of beautiful Zen perfection that is The Baseball. So many others have already done this time and again, considerably more adeptly than I would no doubt, so I won’t join the fray.  But it IS there – the layers of beautiful Zen perfection that is – and I am awed by it.  Also at my age there is now the added bonus of unabashedly discussing the fuckability/lack thereof of each player with my fellow Giants fan/cougar housemate, and comparing how much nicer baseball bodies are to football bodies (ew!).  And the addict in me deeply appreciates the rabbit-hole quality of knowing that this game, this inning, or perhaps the next one, or surely the one after that, will really be IT, you know?

We just have to keep watching.  Vamos Gigantes!

The Pariah Chronicles (yes, again), Vol. III

26 Sep

Lately here at Pariah Central, we’ve been contemplating the ever-growing possibility that the Wounder (yours truly) and the

This Guy.

This Guy.

Wounded (baby-daddy) shall perhaps never speak again.  He and I have settled into a comfortable habit of terse texting, characterized by a predictable pattern of lengthy logistical questions reciprocated by one-word answers.  What would we do if we were suddenly transported to an earlier, pre-texting era, I wonder?  Hopefully I would be fortunate enough to have a manservant at my disposal to deliver beautiful, handwritten notes on the highest grade parchment.

And oh! At one time we were so close to actually exchanging words!  Several months ago we both attended our son’s high school graduation, driving there together in the very same car and sitting on either side of the same corner of the dinner table at Boulevard (fancy restaurant name-dropping totally unintentional, btw).  That was followed a few weeks later by an email exchange that involved full sentences, as well as some thoughtful responses, so I felt encouraged that perhaps Resolution may soon be around the corner.

That's the ticket.

That’s the ticket.

But since then, something has gone amiss.  Either some sort of decision has been made – to which I am not privy, of course – or perhaps a tinge of mental illness has started to settle in.  Based on intimate knowledge of the Wounded’s proclivities, my suspicion is that it could very well be the latter, unfortunately. Not meaning to be cruel or glib (me?), in all actuality, it is not outside of the realm of possibility that he has created an entirely new reality for himself, one based on a memory of spending the past 18 years at sea, exploring new lands, whaling, carving scrimshaw and collecting specimens for his vast collection of rare gemstones.  The progeny that now lives with him is the result of a chance, passionate encounter with a mysterious Nordic maiden who disappeared into the night as ethereally as she entered it, returning many years later only to deposit their teenage son at his doorstep and slip away without a word.  Yes, the silence and solitude would appeal to him.

Though I suppose I don’t blame him.  I conjured up a bit of an emotional shit show thank you very much, so getting as far away from that as he could was probably a pretty good idea.  And as we all know, fantasy is considerably more appealing and satisfying than reality … unless you’re talking about the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Or World of Warcraft.  Or basically anything in that same vein with pointless quests and clanging swords and ridiculous beasts and whatnot. Horribly tiresome, that.

So. Much. Safer. In. Here.

So. Much. Safer. In. Here.

Of course, Option#1- that of making some unknown personal decision that has sealed off his already difficult-to-access self from me permanently – is an equally plausible potential reason for the silent treatment. Unfortunately, that option leaves me to dwell in the world of Conjecture, Hearsay and Rumor, and I’ve never been a fan of that neighborhood, so I best be getting on the 14 Mission back to the Excelsior straightaway.  Fuck, my Clipper Card’s empty again. I guess I can walk.

So what will this future of sustained non-verbal communication be like?  (And by non-verbal I in no way mean the fun, pleasurable sorts of non-verbal communication with which most adults are familiar.)  When I try to envision it, for some reason I keep thinking of that scene in Walk the Line when Joaquin Phoenix/Johnny Cash is pouting and moping about Reese Witherspoon/June Carter, and he’s all fucked up on booze & pills and gets his tractor stuck in the mud down at the bottom of the hill. Reese/June’s mom tells her daughter to go talk to him, to which Reese/June replies “oh Momma, he needs to figure that out himself, I’m not gonna go down there with him!” and Momma says “You already ARE down there with him, girl!”

Yeah, it’s like that.  Only without the storybook ending part.

The Pariah Chronicles, Vol. II

9 Jul

In which The Disgruntler continues to whine about her current state of affairs; see previous post for backstory.

Revelation of the day: Being a pariah means that you 1) wait around a lot, and 2) generally have to keep your mouth shut, or at least try to.  Funny story, though: it just so happens that those are the two things I’m worst at.   Both of them are standard expected etiquette of a pariah, because as the vilified one, you are never to take the lead in communications with your Injured Party, insert your opinion into any conversation, or otherwise draw undue attention to yourself (like say, by blogging).   You have to be a reactor, not an actor, and always Know Your Place. good-dog

What’s unclear is how long this state of docile humility is supposed to last.  I know of other former pariahs who have paid their penance, then moved on to the much-coveted state of Resolution in a matter of months, weeks even.  But most likely, in those cases, their Injured Parties aren’t as emotionally constipated or prone to a glacial pace of decision-making as mine.  Also my particular Fuck-Up(s) – the ones that earned me pariah status – are fairly stellar, and I imagine the severity of the Fuck-Up has a direct correlation to the ultimate duration of one’s pariahdom.  Surely there must be a handbook for this somewhere; I’ll check the interwebs.

In other news, the upside to Waiting Things Out is nights out with girlfriends for cocktails, live music-enjoying, and general carousing.  Which is, of course, not something to be flaunted before the Injured Party (like say, by blogging), but it does help mitigate the Wait.  Not so great for the Keeping One’s Mouth Shut part however, though in my case, so far so good; I adhere firmly to the edict Don’t Drink & Text, You Fucktard.  Words to live by.

Stay tuned for more informative missives from Pariah Central, where I’ll continue to report out from the front lines. Er, well, to the degree that I can anyway, given the imposed restrictions of #2, above.  Actually #1 is also giving me a little trouble here too, since there’s only so much to report until I see some signs of life from my Injured Party. But there’s ways to jump-start that …. like say, by blogging.

The Pariah Chronicles, or, Why I Haven’t Posted Anything Here in Exactly One Year

25 May

Hollywood’s interpretation of Disgruntler as Pariah

Vol. I – November 2013

So I recently ended a long-term relationship, a transition that started off sort of OK, then I royally fucked it up with a Death Spiral of Lies, and then basically got booted out of my house. That’s the abridged Reader’s Digest version. Actually I think that summation may be short enough to be a tweet, plus no-one probably even knows what I’m talking about when I mention Reader’s Digest …. So yeah, I guess that’d be my Twitter feed on what went down … except that I thankfully have no personal bandwidth available to participate in Twitter. And if I did, I really hope I’m not self-absorbed enough to go ahead and tweet something like that for the entire blatho-sphere to suck down.

However I am the person guilty of the Death Spiral of Lies, so who knows what I’m capable of these days.

Let’s back up.

I fucked up big time, I’m a fuck up, I’m living the fuck-hole life of a fucking pariah right now (I think I need to invent a new word that combines “fuck” and “pariah” in order to really capture it), which is, as I’m sure one can guess, perfectly fucking lovely. Among many other things, being a pariah automatically precludes one from publicly airing snarky commentary or making humorous observations about her predicament (if there actually are any to be made), which is sort of my general M.O., so it’s been especially tough. Writing like I am now is the best way for me to process and make sense of things, but I haven’t dared to since this whole thing started. I guess I feel like I don’t have the right.

Vol. II – May 2014

Jarring jump-cut to the present day. Have my rights yet been restored? Perhaps partially. But I can’t speak to whether or not time heals all proverbial wounds, since I am the wounder, not the woundee. Things here in Pariahdom have gotten a bit smoother, a little less pariah-y, and some of the people peeved at me have grown slightly less peeved, I suppose. Unfortunately, the only existing route to the Wounded Party still remains the Eggshell Highway, and most likely this will continue to be the case for some time. It’s a road I must traverse regularly I’m afraid, given that we have a kid and a house and related logistics to negotiate and whatnot. Ah, modern life.

What’s proven trickier, however, is the slow unfurling of my suddenly very tightly-guarded self. Virtually overnight, some 7 months ago, I went from Open Book status in almost all affairs, to holy shit, Circle the Wagons. And when you are a Wagon of One, your circle is very very rigid. Since barricading myself here, I’ve barely dared to breathe, lest I make any pariahdom-aggravating missteps. I painstakingly question and evaluate every move I want to make before I make it, putting me into a perpetual state of second-guessing myself that has been an especially difficult adjustment, given that my natural emotional state is Casual Friday. I don’t really have the wardrobe for anything else …. so I guess that’s why I haven’t ventured out much. Emotionally, that is. Jesus I’m getting lost here inside this ridiculous metaphor … where was that emergency exit I saw a few hallways back?

oh, here it is

As for the unfurling, I suppose it will come with time. I have so much I want to overshare and blather on about, good things as well as bad, but I can’t just yet. Actually, almost all of it is good, but of course “good things happening for oneself” is an especially taboo topic of discussion for a pariah, so I’m keeping a lid on it for now. In the meantime kids, my recommendation is – don’t try this at home!