Four Years of My Life I Can’t Get Back (but there is hope)

It’s been a week since Joe Biden became president of the United States. For four years, ten weeks, and four days I was in a shitty mood. Granted, it got a bit better after November 7, 2019, when Biden’s win became official but still, having Trump in office and spreading malice cast a shadow on every day until January 19, when I could finally say, in 24 hours Biden and the Democrats would be in control of two branches of the government.

Neither Biden nor Harris was in my top three during the primary season. However, once the votes were cast and Joe selected Kamala as his running mate, I put my reservations aside and wholeheartedly supported them. So far, I’m pleased with the direction they’re taking the country. Beyond treating COVID seriously, Biden’s moves signal a grasp on the realities facing the third decade of this century. No doubt, our new president and his team will do things I don’t like, but I think he is a well-intentioned person who cares about the good of the many, not the White, wealthy few. Perhaps I’m deluding myself, but after the last administration, I so want to believe that there are decent people who go into government service.

When I reflect on the trauma that set in on November 8, 2016, I am disturbed because I feel like I lost four years of my life. Every day I woke up wondering what screwed-up thing Trump did while I was still asleep. The constant barrage of hate wore me down. The rhetoric, the racism, the anti-LGBTQ policies, war on the environment and other species, additional destruction of public education…I can go on, and I know a lot of you are well aware of what I’m saying as you experienced the feeling of constant doom and gloom yourselves. Trump and the GOP’s behavior gave people license to be their worst selves. I witnessed bullying, lying, and misogyny (on the part of both men and women) among wine professionals that I never saw before in my 30-year career. He brought out the base instincts in so many. Even if you don’t know these people personally, to think that we live in a country where a significant minority is ok with fascism is frightening. The attack on the Capitol, the contrast in the way law enforcement handled it compared to the BLM protests over the summer, and the fact that Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are still allowed to make policy for our country boggles the rational mind.

That’s not to say there weren’t good things to happen or happy occasions. Entering a graduate program was one of the best decisions I ever made. It brought a lot of things I was grappling with into focus and helped put my life on track after years of depression. I met some great folks, both teachers and other students, who taught me so much more than anything I can read in a book. At the same time, taking a deep dive into Butler, Foucault, hooks, and other theorists satisfied an intellectual thirst that’s been dry for decades. While my 50thbirthday (13 days after Trump won in 2016) sucked, Cami’s the following year was one of the best parties we’ve ever had. A few weeks later, we went to Vermont for a fantastic wedding. I’ve seen my nephews turn into wonderful young men. I got back in touch with an old friend from when I studied in London more than 30 years ago, and we’ve become closer than ever. Moving in 2019 gave us a home that we love and an incredible community with our neighbors. I did some traveling, started a non-profit organization, and got to see the Warriors win two championships.

At the same time, there was always this underlying feeling of not being able to take a deep breath. I don’t say that lightly; I had severe asthma before I moved to San Francisco. Not being able to breathe is scary as fuck. Like so many others, my mental health was affected daily. Now that Biden is President, I realize even more how the period between 11/8/16 – 1/19/21 was one of constant trauma. Granted, Black and Indigenous people in this country have probably always felt this way. White people will never know what it is like to be Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, or of Middle Eastern descent in the US, but we now have an idea of what it feels like to have our values and humanity attacked. When I talk to older people, they say that they felt more threatened by Trumpism than any other political movement in their lifetimes. That includes McCarthyism and Nixon. This makes me feel very sad for people, such as my dad, who is 86. Like me, he lost a lot of sleep over the last four years. We cannot get this time back, and when you know that most of your life is already behind you, the present is ever more precious.

So how do we make sense of it? There were silver linings, of course. The Democratic party is now more progressive, thanks to women of color. More White people woke up to their privilege. Youth activism is driving discussions about equity and justice. Yet it still feels like a temporary reprieve, and that scares the shit out of me. Alt-right Christian nationalism is not going anywhere any time soon. The crazy train of Q-Anon and Marjorie Taylor Greene left the station. While I feel better about the federal government, there are still plenty of right-wing nutjobs wielding power. We can’t change the past, but we can use it to guide our futures. The four-plus years of Trumpism and trauma are over, and I’m cautiously hopeful that better days lie ahead for my family, friends, and the country. We can right the ship with Biden and Harris and show the world that imperfect as the US is, it is reckoning with its past and earnestly working towards a more equitable future.

But, as for our own mental health and how Trump and then COVID impacted it, it’s going to take way more than executive orders, promising cabinet posts, and stimulus checks. The United States does not take mental health seriously. We pay lip service to it but good luck finding a therapist who takes insurance. Insurance companies that cover mental health have massive restrictions, and their customers are limited to a list of therapists in their network. If you’ve been seeing a therapist for several years and your insurance changes, you may no longer be covered. Therapists are not interchangeable, and disruptions can have dire consequences. Mental health insurance often has a cutoff of so many sessions per calendar year. This determination is sometimes based on the insurers’ assessment of our mental health, not what the therapist thinks. Instead, psychiatrists push anti-depressants on people, and while many have positive responses to medication, they do not help everyone. Also, there are other forms of treatment with fewer side effects. Millions of people do not have any health insurance, let alone mental health coverage. The stigma that surrounds mental health problems prevents a lot of people from getting help. The Biden administration needs to address this and fast as we’re looking at widescale PTSD from COVID and Trump’s four years. It’s real.

If you feel like a war just ended and that you’re processing four years of anguish, you are not alone. I certainly am, as are many people I know. One of the dumbest things I’ve heard is that politics is not personal. It is entirely personal. We vote for leaders who we hope will perpetuate our values. Some are solely concerned with how government makes their lives better, while others prioritize the well-being of the many. Either way and anywhere in between, our personal interests drive our political positions. There might be a sizable minority on board with Trump’s malice, corruption, incompetence, and, to repeat, fascism, but I believe that the majority was horrified and that for years to come, we will continue to be affected by the hatred he engendered. We cannot get those four years back, but we can try to have peace going forward. I don’t want to hear about Donald Trump any longer. I hope but doubt he’ll get convicted in the Senate impeachment trial. I suspect that between his smoke and mirror finances, tax fraud charges, and whatever else Leticia James and Cyrus Vance have against him, he’ll pay some price, though probably not enough. If Cruz, Hawley, and Greene are allowed to keep their jobs in the Senate and Congress, I hope the good works of their benevolent colleagues drown out their petty, hateful voices. The best way to expunge Trumpism is to use government to make people’s lives better. No doubt, the collective trauma brought on by Trump pushed the Democrats and the country to the left on many issues. But there was a steep price to pay, one that we are only just beginning to comprehend.

The Cork Menorah

I don’t know how I ended up with this cork menorah. I don’t think I bought it…pretty sure someone gave it to me during the CAV years but embarrassingly, I can’t remember whom. Had it not been for this silly yet useful wine enclosure, I probably would never bother celebrating Hannukah. No one in my immediate family is observant, and most of us are non-believers. My sister and I share our lives with people who grew up Catholic and celebrate Christmas. Yet Cami, my partner, took all of the menorah photos posted on The Vinguard Instagram account and she’s been way more cooperative than Seamus, our cat/mascot/child who is into when he feels like, or if there’s a spinning dreidel for him to kill. But, like most kids, he often just wants to jump the fence and play outside.

Despite my atheism and not being a Zionist, I strongly identify as Jewish, but Hannukah is the only holiday I celebrate. The others are depressing. I’m down with the idea of reflecting on our past mistakes that we’re supposed to do on Rosh Hashanah but trying to be a better person should be a 365 days a year practice. I used to fast on Yom Kippur out of habit but, after spending one Yom Kippur eve at Martunis, drinking three martinis, and woke up the next morning with the hangover from hell, I said fuck it, I can’t wait to break the fast, I need an H&H bagel now. Sadly, H&H is no longer in business. If it were not for my mother calling to wish me a happy new year, the high holidays would be completely lost on me.

This year, Hannukah was a bit more fun. I said to Cami on the first night that we should try to have a good holiday season. I lost a dear friend over the summer, and others who are close to me recently lost loved ones. I’m at an age when I need to start getting used to death, and that in itself is hard to face. It’s been an incredibly shitty ten months for the world at large. I say this with a proverbial asterisk because even though so many people died from COVID and racial injustice hit a boiling point, inadequate and inequitable health care, and anti-Blackness have long plagued our planet. Fucked up as it was before, we’re really in the shitter now. I’m not super excited by Biden but at least it’s a pause in the destruction Trumpism wreaked on the country. I hope future generations get their priorities right and figure out how to take care of the planet and all of its inhabitants. However, we live in the here and now and as much as we can, let’s try to enjoy this moment. Though fleeting, joy is the best antidote to depression. For me, opening a different bottle of wine every night made by people I like and respect, and imbibing in the celebration of light, is a much-needed respite. It is a way of honoring some of those whose tireless efforts make our lives more delicious. They work so hard not because there is a financial windfall waiting somewhere in the future but because of their love for the juice, and sharing it with others.

I’ll leave it here. I hope that everyone has as best a holiday season as possible. It’s not about religion but taking the time to slow down and relish the precious time we have with those we love.

Peace – Pamela

 

For Marguerite, and all my friends…

A while back, my partner and I were talking about our fear of friends dying. We are at the age when it starts to become more likely. We’ve already lost some, but perhaps because they were a little bit older than us, the idea of peer mortality seemed less real. When I received the message my friend Marguerite passed away last month, I was flattened.

As the years go by, our friends – those with whom we share a deep connection – become, as my friend, Rebecca said, “part of our bones.” They often know us better than our family members, and bring out our best selves, in different ways. When we feel close to people, there are bound to be disagreements and qualities in one another that drives us nuts. That comes with letting down your guard, and revealing who you are, warts and all. We learn to accept some things and make adjustments. These annoyances are nothing if you can count on someone to be in your corner, make you feel loved, and laugh.

When Marguerite, aka Spanky, moved to LA, we saw each other maybe every couple of years, the last time in July 2018, but it was as if no time had passed. We sat outside on a warm summer night, laughing, catching up, and talking about life, past and present, and our hopes and aspirations for the future. Sometimes we can pick up where we left off, sometimes not. Our lives change with spouses, children, work, and the path of discovering who we are. Some friendships, even those that felt close at one point, run their course and become estranged. The death of a friendship carries its own set of grief, but we get through it, comforted by the love we share with other people and knowing that maybe one day, that relationship will rebloom and that if it doesn’t we did what we could to keep it alive. The death of a friend is final. We carry their energy with us, but it is one-sided…we are the only beneficiary. There is no longer anything we can give to them to show how much they matter to us in return.

Spanky was one of my first friends in San Francisco. We met at Café Claude, where her girlfriend, Elizabeth, was the chef, a few days after I moved here. Within a few minutes, we realized how much we had in common – she was 19 days older than me, both Scorpios, from New York and hella weird. We had an instant connection. I was – strange as this may sound – sort of dating a guy who worked with Elizabeth, and in disbelief that I was “straight,” they invited me to a lesbian club with them that night. A few months later, she was the second person I came out to. She was just like, “Look at you. You’re wearing aviators, a black leather jacket and ride a motorcycle, of course, you’re a dyke.”

Spanky had her demons – who doesn’t – yet, I think she found a way to turn her struggles into strengths. She was a great listener, and I appreciated that she never passed judgment, not on me, not on others. She had empathy, not just sympathy because she understood that life can really suck, and you never know what’s going with people no matter how well they seem to be doing on the outside. She was hysterical; even now, I laugh about some of the things she did and said decades ago. As our mutual friend Leslie reminded me recently, “her laughter was infectious.” She was brilliantly creative. More than anything, Marguerite was warm and kind, and we all could use more of that in our lives, especially now. Over 28 years, with numerous girlfriends/partners, jobs, businesses, struggles, and triumphs, she was always the person I met in January 1992, who got who I was right away, made me feel welcome in San Francisco, and helped me become who I am today. I feel privileged to have had such a dear friend.

I want to believe that Marguerite knew that she was loved by so many. I hope she knew how important she was to me, but I can’t be sure. So I’ve been thinking about the other friends in my life who I dearly cherish and am reminded that I need to make efforts to show, not just tell them, that they matter to me. We can’t go around thinking that we need to always be at our best with people because we might lose them one day; we are humans with our own moods, and timing is a tricky thing. Yet we can try to be better, be more sensitive and considerate, and realize that sometimes we’re going to fail. Failures become a success when we take responsibility and learn. Saying sorry is an act of great strength. It is also a gift because it lets people know that they matter to you.

So, don’t forget to remind those you love how much they matter because love is the best feeling, whether you are on the giving or receiving end. It makes this fucked up world a much more bearable place to inhabit. Losing someone does not make that love go away; enduring love gives comfort. Even if you haven’t talked to friends for a while, knowing that they are still roaming the planet is reassuring. To think that they’re gone, or will be one day, makes the world seem like a lesser place. But we can still keep our love for those lost alive by remembering how they made us better people and that even if they are gone, they are still part of our bones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Being Vegan

A year ago, I decided to become a vegan. When I was eight, I stopped eating red meat, went back and forth with poultry for about a decade, and fluctuated between pescatarian and veganism since college. Over the last few years, I’ve had a few spurts where I gave up fish, but still ate cheese, or vice versa. Finally, though, I decided on September 16, 2019, while I was on a plane back from New York, that I would see how it felt not to eat any animal products. At some point, I told myself I would try to make it a year. Here I am.

Honestly, it’s been easy. I thought I’d miss cheese…being in the wine business and having bought a lot of cheese professionally, it was a big part of my diet. But I don’t. I used to love cooking and eating seafood, but I’ve adapted. Being vegan certainly tests my creativity in the kitchen, but it’s fun…I’ve never cooked so much, but that is partly a result of the pandemic. I miss the ritual of going out for sushi with friends but I’m good with avocado rolls. I’ve never used a lot of honey so once I wrapped my head around the fact that being vegan also means not profiting off of animals’ labor, I gave that up, too. Before taking vitamin capsules I make sure there is no gelatin. I’ve gotten accustomed to reading all labels, even in natural food markets.

However, the difference between being vegan and following a plant-based diet is one of lifestyle…it’s not just food. Given the current situation, I haven’t had much need to buy clothes, but the few purchases I’ve made do not have any animal products. I’m on the fence when it comes to used clothing. I have a closet filled with leather, wool, silk, and cashmere and feel it would be senseless to discard the clothes I still wear. Maybe I’m just making an excuse but what’s the point in throwing or giving away jackets, sweaters, and shoes if I’m going to replace them with others.

The irony is that nature is cruel. Many animals, people included, have a predatory instinct. I witnessed this last week when my cat killed a baby mouse, brought it into the house, and batted it around until I realized that the gray thing he was swiping was not an extension of his tail. I get that many animals have to rely on other animals for food. What sets humans – in many but not all parts of the world – apart is that we have the cognitive ability to know that we have options. I can easily find plant-based protein.  Granted, living in California in this day and age, it is not hard. However, when I tried being vegan 30 years ago, it was more difficult. Still, though, if I was really willing to do the work, I could have stuck to a vegan diet earlier in my life.

I can understand killing animals for food, but not sport. People who hunt for fun are cold-blooded killers and belong in prison. Some cultures continue to rely on animal skins for clothing and protection, but there are no excuses in areas where there are abundant alternatives to staying warm. We’re all going to die at some point, so if our bodies can become a source of sustaining other lives, using animals for food or clothing makes sense – and here I include human beings…please feed me to the vultures or compost me when my time is up. Yet, I don’t think we should raise animals deliberately to profit off of their bodies. There are too many cows in the world already. Cow’s milk is meant for calves in the way that human milk is intended for human babies. Cows also produce methane gas, a contributor to global warming. Pigs are hella smart…you don’t think they know when they are being brought to slaughter? I’ve also read that human flesh taste a lot like pork. I can go on about the various reasons not to eat or wear specific animals, but I try to respect people’s choices, and sometimes it’s a matter of survival.

But we have to come to terms with the fact that a big reason why people eat so much meat is that our agriculture policy is upside down. Our government gives massive subsidies to an industry that treats animals inhumanely and uses hazardous chemicals to cut costs. This might make food cheaper, but in the end, it creates a tiered system where those who have enough disposable income can afford to eat organically and entertain the idea of not eating meat at all. Big Ag is a powerful lobby, and you won’t find too many politicians – Democrat or Republican – willing to stand up to them.

Being vegan has, more than anything, been a spiritual awakening. I don’t mean this in a religious sense, but it’s helped me feel more connected to the natural world, and that’s given me a sense of calm and heightened purpose. I try not to kill bugs though admittedly, I have my limits when it comes to fruit flies. I appreciate sitting in my backyard, surrounded by greenery in a way I didn’t before. I even long for having a garden so I can grow my own food. Being vegan has made me think more about the circle of life, how humans artificially changed it, and how we can get back to a better balance. I don’t think you have to stop eating and wearing animals to get here, but you need to stop and think about the role animals have in our world, and respect their right to live without undue suffering. Every life has value, and if we can treat animals with greater tenderness, we might have something left over for each other.

I can’t say that I’ll be vegan for the rest of my life, but I can say that I have absolutely no desire to reintroduce animal products into my diet or buy new clothing made from animal fur or skin right now or see myself feeling different in the future. Human beings can be cruel but we also have the ability to show those with less agency kindness and respect. Being vegan makes me want to be a better person.

 

 

Gender and Sexuality; Anxiety and Discovery

I originally posted this in July (it’s now late October), privately shared it with a few people and just left it there for those who stumbled upon it to read. After several revisions, I feel it’s time to go public.

Cowboy Bill and Louie Lilac

When I was three years old, I decided I want to be a boy. I might have been even younger…my mother said that after my younger sister was born when I was two and a half, she bought me a doll, and I said, “Dolls are for girls.” I adopted two male aliases, Cowboy Bill and Louie Lilac. The first, because I have no fucking clue, but there are pictures of me in cowboy clothes from that time and Louie Lilac because of Batman, which I watched religiously. Why did I choose a villain? Again, no idea, but Louie continues to be a nickname to this day, and I am far more likely to answer to that than I am to Pam (as opposed to Pamela), which I outgrew a long time ago. My toddler gender identity crisis was met with resistance from my parents. It began on the precipice of the ’70s, and even then, with all the hippie talk about peace and love, genderqueerness was stigmatized, even in liberal quarters. So, my parents sent me off to therapy, the beginning of my journey inward.

The First Therapist

This much I remember about the therapist. We played checkers, and she had dark hair and glasses. That’s about it. What happened afterward is more significant. I continued to identify as a boy, but so as to not be on a collision course with my mother, we compromised when it came to how I would dress. She decided what I wore one day, and I could choose my clothes the next. For several years I alternated between Florence Eiseman dresses and Lacoste shirts and pants. Even though fifty percent of the time I appeared to the outer world to be a well-dressed, well-adjusted little girl, that is not how I felt.

How did I feel? Like something was wrong with me. By the time I entered school, my sense of self was beaten down. This happens to a lot of queer kids, whether they are put into therapy or not. Society throws a bunch of messages at you that you’re not “normal,” and lesser than those who are normative, so you don’t feel comfortable in your skin. You can try to conform and be like everyone else, but you know deep down it’s a lie. Eventually, I internalized society’s phobias and talked myself into thinking I was the girl everyone else said I should be, but I still felt very isolated and mistook my differences for deficits.

Weirdo

The differences went beyond gender and sexuality. I was always a bit of a weird kid, at least when compared to most other children in my New York City suburban existence. I became a vegetarian when I was eight, listened to the Beatles incessantly, and was obsessed with baseball, especially the Mets. I had trouble making friends, one part shyness, another part missing a lot of school because of asthma, and a large part because I just didn’t relate to the other kids, and no doubt, the feeling was mutual. I used to write stories and felt solace reading books like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, about other misfits. My mother would tell me that I only needed one friend adding to the pressure. I had a beautiful, popular, and very feminine older sister, and I thought my ticket to acceptance and happiness was to be more like her. You might be wondering how that worked out? Stay tuned.

Until age 11, I went to Usdan, an arts day camp that I loved, but I hated the sleep away camps I was shipped off to for three years in a row. That started right after my parents split up, and I think they wanted to have childfree summers to explore their newfound freedom from one another. Most of the kids seemed to fit in with their upper-middle-class, heteronormative existence, much like a lot of the kids in school. It was super cliquey, and since I was marked not only as the new kid but also as a “space cadet” pretty much from day one, I was bullied. Sometimes I hung around with the counselors, who probably because they were older and in college, were cool with my eccentricities. At the very least, they didn’t pick on me. I inevitably ended up with a crush on at least one of them, making my Catskills summer experiences slightly more bearable.

Socializing got a little bit easier by the time junior high rolled around, but I often felt like an outsider, and once I was old enough to take the train by myself, I frequently cut class, left school early, and spent the afternoons walking around Manhattan, alone. When I was around 12, I started going to work with my dad nearly every Saturday. My great grandfather started a uniform business in 1892, and my father and aunt took it over when my grandfather passed away. In the ’70s, the company ventured into selling military surplus and developed a thriving retail business in a Chelsea loft, 50 West 17th Street to be exact. Saturdays were always the busiest day, and while my presence really wasn’t needed, I loved the scene and what it represented.

I can only imagine some of the people who came through from the downtown Manhattan art world. My father befriended an artist who lived in the Chelsea Hotel, and occasionally, he’d take me to his place for dinner. Les Davis, a jazz guru who had a primetime spot on WRVR, was a regular. The best part was that I got to hang out with my older cousins, Allan and Jackie, who were weirdos in their own right, very funny ones at that, and eat Rays Pizza. Yes, the original Rays on 6th and 11th. I hated my life Sunday – Friday, but on Saturday, I was in my element.

Falling in Love with Farrah

While I didn’t know what it was, I felt my first sexual attraction toward women when I was three, for my camp counselor. I was about seven when I figured out that there was a name for it, “homosexuality.” I made this discovery by reading Abnormal Psychology, a psychology textbook that was lying around the house. Even though I seemed to have all the symptoms of the affliction, I was sure, or at least hoped, that this illness was something I’d grow out of eventually.

My sister was boy crazy, and I consciously tried to mimic her behavior, adding another layer to the denial. By high school, I feigned crushes on boys who were handsome or charming in one way or another but didn’t have a sexual experience until I was 16. When it happened, I felt I needed to prove myself and in the process, degraded my self-respect. Still, throughout my teens, I went to bed thinking about women – Farrah Fawcett…actually, I went through all of the original Angels, but Farrah was the one. I had my first and only boyfriend in my senior year of high school, and that ended when I had a panic attack on a bus going down 5th Avenue when I realized I was gay.

The Fucked Up Therapist

That was not the first time paralyzing anxiety stopped me in my tracks and made me feel like I was losing my mind. I started having these episodes a year earlier and ended up seeing a therapist. Here’s what happened. I was on the bus, wearing a skirt, I think, playing the part when an older woman came on, so I stood up and gave her my seat. Granted, that is just common courtesy, but in a split second, that act triggered something in me, and I thought to myself, “only men do that,” and then I went into a tailspin. I told my parents about the anxiety but did not tell them what precipitated it. I did share my fear – this deepest fear – with my shrink, and she told me she was sure I wasn’t gay, but if I had a gay thought, I could talk myself out of it by saying, “No.”

We can try to let this school of fucked-up psychology off the hook by saying that it was 35 years ago. Still, even then, that was not professionally sound or with any scientific merit. This belief, in what was then called “reparative therapy,” was shared by my grandmother, who once told me that she thought homosexuals were sick but could be cured. How did I deal with this? I spent as much time as I could with my grandmother and thought that maybe if I shared her deep belief in God, I could be normal. I would tell myself that I’d rather be dead than be gay. Did I think about killing myself? I’m not sure. I don’t remember having serious suicidal ideation during this period in my life, but there is no question that I wasn’t in a good space. Anyway, we know how well this strategy worked out…I said no until I couldn’t. We’re almost there.

Coming Into My Own…starting to anyway

So much of who we are is informed by who we are expected to become, how much this correlates with who we see ourselves to be, how others react toward us, and how we digest our uniqueness. When you are given messages, from the time you are a young child that something that is part of your fabric is “wrong,” it stays with you forever, even if it just becomes a memory. In spite of this, I still had hope. Bonding with camp counselors and my cousins, and being exposed to the downtown scene in the ’70s, made me believe it would “get better” and that one day I’d find my people.

That started to happen when I went off to college. There were a few people in high school I liked, but I didn’t make meaningful friendships until I left home. The first person I met, my R.A., Vanessa, has not only become a lifelong friend but is one of the few people who gets who I am most, deep in my soul. Penn had cliques, many that were formalized under the Greek system, but it wasn’t the kind of place where your social life had to be ruled by one scene over any other. It drew a lot of the spoiled, superficial types I knew from high school and camp, but I was able to sift through that and meet people from all over the country with different backgrounds. I can see where just about anyone who gets into an Ivy League university has a certain level of cultural privilege, but my world and eventually world view widened.

Still, I had this nagging sense of dread. In an effort to deny who I was, I vacillated politically. I grew up in a family of Democrats. That doesn’t mean that my ancestors weren’t bigots or sincerely believed that Jews were the chosen people, but they idolized FDR, which knowing what we do about how many Jews he sent to their deaths, I find a bit crazy. I worked on the Mondale/Ferraro campaign in 1984 because I was too young to vote by two weeks, but come 1988, I was incredibly conflicted, and I think I might have even pulled the lever for Bush (the first). I so did not want to be the lefty, non-binary, hippie lesbian I was and still thought that if I could continue to say, “No,” I could be a conservative, heterosexual femme and fit in.

Coming Out

When you’re gay, you can’t fake it to you make it. When I left New York, nearly 28 years ago, I still thought that my attractions for women were something I’d outgrow. After three months in San Francisco, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Basically, all it took was one weekend when two super-hot dykes visiting from LA hit on me at work, and I didn’t mind. I told my roommate, Kirk, probably on that Monday and then slowly started telling other people.

My father said, “I’ve always known.” And that was that, complete and total acceptance from day one. I didn’t tell my mother right away, but she started asking my sisters, and when I finally fessed up, she said, “You’re my daughter, and I love you, no matter what.” She followed this up with, “If you’re bisexual, you should try to be straight because you’ll have an easier life.” I told her I was not bisexual and that I was going to live my truth. Being an out gay person in 1992 was not as easy as it is today, but once I came out there was no going back in, and what I heard was that she still didn’t accept me but loved me, nonetheless. The problem is that if someone doesn’t accept who you are, it is hard to feel their love. Feeling that rejection all over again hurt, but I was no longer a child, and I made friends in San Francisco – queer and not – who were supportive, no questions asked. I realized that there was nothing wrong with me, nor was there ever.

Coming out is not just about telling people you’re gay. It’s about coming to terms with who you are, how you present yourself, and striving to be real. Living this truth doesn’t necessarily make you a more empathic person, but it does alter your perspective and the way you see others if for no other reason than it changes the way they see you. We all have our faults, make mistakes, lapses in judgment and behave in ways that make us cringe later on but who we are, and all of the qualities that make us unique, are something to be celebrated. Everyone has their own journey, and I think for many, there comes the point somewhere around our mid-century mark where we start to reflect on the paths we’ve taken. Our perspective begins to shift, probably because we realize we have more good years behind us than we have left.

Middle Age

Turning 50 just days after Trump was elected was seismic in many ways, and it is hard not to take the outright bigotry, personally. In addition to the terrible policies, rhetoric, and positions regarding LGBTQ+ rights, his racism, sexism, and xenophobia are a reminder that many people still think anyone who does not conform to heteronormativity is damaged. I re-evaluated nearly all of my relationships and realized that I no longer had room in my life for those who did not see or value me. I made some changes like going back to school and refocusing what I want to do professionally, and I’ve never felt better about myself or more comfortable in my skin than I do now.

Much of this has to do with changing times, and younger generations who understand that gender is a social construct and that binaries are restrictive if not oppressive. The LGBTQ+ community in the Bay Area has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to trans and gender issues, so we shouldn’t diminish the role my generation and those who came before me had in prying minds open. If I were my 25-year-old self coming out in today’s climate, I’d probably do some things differently, but coming out is more of a process than a single moment. For me and many others, it is part of continual self-discovery.

The Second Coming

As for how I identify, genderqueer/non-conforming/nonbinary best sums me up. Some think of gender as performance, not identity, and many say that it is fluid. I buy that to a degree because my sense of gender has undoubtedly been influenced by many experiences. Since I’ve been labeled “female,” I’ve faced many of the same challenges/struggles, and some might say privileges, most notably those that come with white skin, as self-identifying women. Other people’s biases strengthened my identity as a feminist, and no doubt, my identity as a feminist is tied up with identifying as a lesbian.

I identify as a lesbian because this is my community.. I’m not saying that I feel a special bond with all dykes. I often feel pretty disassociated from those who do not share my intersectional worldview, but since gay women face unique oppression, I call myself a political lesbian. I could and probably should write a separate piece on this, but in summation, many men – and women – find us very threatening. Those who are willing to overcome their discomfort become allies, yet others try to take us down, at times viciously. Strong-willed, intelligent, independent women, regardless of sexual orientation, are likely to encounter a version of this toxicity somewhere along the way. Still, a special wrath seems to be saved for ciswomen who are not interested in having sex with men. Go ask Freud for further comment.

Yet my identity as a lesbian was not borne solely from oppression. When I came out, San Francisco had a thriving lesbian sub-culture. It wasn’t just lesbian chic; it was also lesbian pride, and for the first time, it was not intwined with gay men’s pride. While most of us don’t drive motorcycles, hang out in clubs, or sleep around any longer, that very specific sense of personal and social liberation became a significant part of my psyche.

At the same time, I’ve often felt like and have been treated as “one of the guys.” I relate well to men and have close male friends, yet as I’ve borne witness to quite a bit of toxic masculinity, I can’t say I entirely connect with maleness either. I’m not going to blithely say, “people are people, their sex or gender shouldn’t matter.” We cannot deny that both shape us and affects our lives. In the old days, I would say I felt androgynous, with a fusion of “female” and “male” qualities. Now, I’m not so sure what male and female qualities mean…I occupy some third or other space…just being me.

This is what I mean when I say I’ve had a second coming out, and as was true the first time, it’s freeing but not final. Consciously and not, we continue to strive throughout our lives to discover what makes us tick. I encourage anyone who is reading this – no matter how you think about yourself – to dive in. Go to therapy or do whatever it is that allows you to get to know who you are. This isn’t a sociopathic narcissistic quest; it’s about becoming a more authentic human being, fostering honest relationships, and having a meaningful life.

Love and Freedom

All anyone can ask for is to be able to be who they are and find love and acceptance from those who matter most. That doesn’t always happen, so it’s important to know that if your loved ones don’t accept you for who you are, it’s on them, not you. This is so much easier said than done, and that is why if you know anyone who seems to be struggling with their identity, in any way, pay attention and please let them know you care about them, period, not no matter what. Tell them it’s ok to let their freak flag fly, and don’t be afraid to show them yours.

As for where things stand with my family, it didn’t take long for my mother to come around and accept that I was way gay. Compared to many other people, I’ve had it easy. When I’ve asked my parents why they sent me into therapy when I was young, I’ve gotten pretty much the same response: that it was a very different time back then. Realizing how detrimental it was to my early development, they feel bad now. 

There is no doubt my childhood alienation impacted my entire life though not all for the bad. In many ways, I think I’ve benefitted from being the black sheep in the family, school, camp, professional circles, etc…At a certain point, you just stop thinking and caring about what other people think and realize that those “deficits” are actually strengths.  I am who I am, and I know and accept myself probably more than most people. What you see is what you get and feel very lucky in that I have so much genuine love in my life.

Epilogue

I originally wrote this because I know some people who seem to be struggling. Yet, as I’ve gotten deeper into, I realize it’s something I’ve needed to do for me for a while. The few friends I shared it with, in various incarnations, said they could relate to parts of my story and suggested posting it. Even in families and communities that are accepting, coming to terms with being something other than heteronormative is not easy for a lot of people. From birth, we are force-fed societies preconceived ideas of who we should be based on our genitalia. It’s very destructive, especially for those of us whose gender doesn’t match our sex, and sexual orientation is anything but heterosexual. While I wear the war wounds, I wear them with pride. 

I’m true to me. Be true to you — 

PSB, Pamela, Louie, Pamelouie

 

Kids These Days, I Might Have Given Seamus a Concussion and White Male Cluelessness

First, the cat…After 13 years together, I really don’t mind if Cami takes long trips to see her family and she doesn’t care if I do the same. It’s not that I don’t miss her, but I appreciate having several days of uninterrupted space. I know she feels the exact same way; that’s fine. But there is one thing I do mind: having to feed Seamus when he demands breakfast at 5 am, give or take, day in, day out.

He’s spoiled fucking rotten, I get that, but he’s not changing so I give in because he won’t let me sleep otherwise.  Sometimes I go back to bed, sometimes not. A week of this qualifies as a sleep disorder. The four-legged alarm clock has a variety of methods that range from knocking glasses of water off the night table to gently tapping his paw on my cheek. Last Monday morning, day ten, he tried to get me up by rubbing his face into mine, but I must have been really knocked out because I lurched up and his head smashed into my jaw. I think I fed him, went back to sleep and then kind of forgot about it but a day later I noticed my jaw was swollen and sore, and I remembered. Then I became concerned that our midair, middle of the night collision might have jiggled his walnut-sized brain and given him a concussion. One of his eyes was a little closed for a couple of days, like Bill Hader, but his voracious appetite was intact so let’s get to more pressing matters….

See what I mean about the Bill Hader eye?

Men mansplaining about sexism...Being that it’s March, officially Women’s History Month, I’m going to come out and say what a lot of people I know are thinking. When it comes to discussions about racism and sexism in the United States, white men really need to, in the words of Archie Bunker, stifle themselves.

Yes, that means you Mark Meadows, David Brooks and the person I had a ‘discussion’ with a week ago about the lack of women he’s employed at his place of business and the misogynistic behavior of some of his friends. To be fair, I’ve met a lot of white men who get this, but I’m astonished by how many do not. The gentleman I just mentioned is actually one of the more evolved white males (outside of vineyard work the wine industry is overwhelmingly white) I’ve come across in my field yet when I challenged him, he interrupted and lectured me for a solid five minutes. I found out yesterday from a mutual friend that he felt attacked, interesting because, as said, he did most of the talking. Many other women say that when they’ve called men out for their sexism, they too have been turned into the perpetrator with the poor guy becoming the victim. Why is it that men cannot handle hearing the truth from women about their and other men’s lack of awareness, even if it comes in straight forward language and with a no bullshit tone? When it comes to discrimination there is no need to mince words.

Trashing other men who’ve been busted for sexual harassment doesn’t make men allies. You know what would make a statement? I wish one man I know professionally would take stock of the ways in which he’s not only benefited from but also perpetuated white male privilege, listen to those who’ve been hurt by it, and just say, “Yes, I have a lot to learn. Where do we begin?” And stop defending your buddies who’ve done shitty things. While sexual harassment should be called out, so should not hiring or promoting women, bullying and spreading pernicious lies about women who’ve called them on their shit, and the myriad of other ways that misogyny pervades our society. When we start to see men getting this, I and others would be more open to including them in the conversation, so long as they are willing to step back and listen. 

On to David Brooks. Talk about clueless. Here’s what DB had to say the other day.“The left offers the idea of Social Justice. The left tells stories of oppression. The story of America is the story of class, racial and gender oppression. The mission now is to rise up and destroy the systems of oppression. This, too, is an electric idea. The problem with today’s left-wing and right-wing ideas is that they are both based on a scarcity mind-set. They are based upon us/them, friend/enemy, politics is war, life is conflict. They are both based on the fantasy that the other half of America can be conquered, and when it disappears, we can get everything we want.”

Ok, let’s stop there. Today’s left wants equity, and those who are privileged are going to have to give some things up, but that doesn’t mean they will become the new oppressed. The left believes that rectifying income inequality is a win-win for everyone, including those who currently benefit from white male privilege. His simplification and misunderstanding of the left’s position leaves me to think he is not really hearing those who have been most oppressed by white supremacy and the patriarchy. I get some of his concerns; unchallenged dogmatism can have ugly consequences no matter where it’s coming from. Yet the center he champions is really just a rehashing of the status quo, which has not served women and people of color well.

Furthermore, Brooks begins this column by saying, “Ideas drive history. But not just any ideas, magnetic ideas. Ideas so charismatic that people devote their lives to them.” And yet he fails to mention one such idea that allowed the United States to prosper: slavery/white supremacy. He talks about “four affections that bind our society,” through the rose tinted glasses of a white man who has benefited from a system of “moderation.” When it comes to “our love for our children,” childcare and education are mandatory parts of the conversation. When he says, “We are bound to our society by our work,” there should be an asterisk for *glass ceiling. He cites our “affection for place,” yet many Americans can barely afford to live in their communities. His final platitude, that “we are bound by our shared love of humanity” can hardly be said about the bigots who helped put Trump in the White House, roughly 25% of the electorate. Many of us value these things but don’t look upon them as affections as they are rife with conflicting messages and fertile ground for hidden agendas.

Moving along, instead of talking about Mark Meadows, I’d rather just point y’ll to this op-ed which praises Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as Jackie Spier and Katie Hill, who asked substantive questions during Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress on Wednesday. Forget about the Republicans on the committee, I expected nothing but the heinous complicity they displayed. Except for Elijah Cummings, I felt that most of the other Democrats asked a lot of pointless questions and wasted a bunch of time. But not AOC, Jackie Spier, Katie Hill or Rashida Tlaib.

Which brings me to Kids These Days. Every so often I get a craving for an oat milk mushroom latte from Fox & Lion, just to get my morning going. Yesterday, I decided to treat myself and often, when they’re not too busy, I’ll get to chatting with Xan, the owner. I don’t remember why this came up, maybe because I’ve been reading about women over 50, and how we are the happiest demographic in the country, but we started talking a bit about the change in mindset that happens to many when they reach the mid-century mark. Some of my friends have embraced the grumpy old man or woman identity. I also see others rapidly turning into cognitive retirees, not feeling they have that much more to contribute to the world. But many, and I put myself in this group, have a whole new lease on life, one that is informed by five decades of living. Since Xan is a few years shy of the big birthday, I mentioned one thing that has really made me feel energized and good about aging: the promise of the future. 

If we think about climate change and the spread of authoritarian governments and right-wing regimes throughout the world, it might be tempting to say, “Fuck it, we’re doomed.” Yet when I hear about the Oakland school children who confronted the patronizing dinosaur that is Diane Feinstein, I’m encouraged. From Parkland to the Sunrise Movement, American youths are taking the future into their own hands. 

People my age and older need to realize that younger generations are not the enemy and we should stop hating on Millennials. Sure, I’ve come across entitled, lazy 20 and 30 somethings but no doubt Baby Boomers had their words for Gen X. Every generation has its share of bottom feeders and superheroes. What I think might make today’s kids different is that they are painfully aware of how much of their world and future has been screwed up by us elders and they’re not willing to wait their turn to assume power. Good for them. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t old enough to run for Senate let alone President, but she’s caused more waves than anyone in the Democratic Party over the last year. History may evolve in incremental steps, but people need to blaze the trail, and we all stand to benefit from youthful impatience. 

So yeah, that’s it. Is anyone else getting tired of all this rain? 

Tuesday Night with the Bee Gees

Thanks to Spotify, we can ransack through the musical history of many bands and often discover some gems such as The Doors Full Circle, which was made without Jim Morrison who was already six feet deep in Père Lachaise. It may not be LA Woman but its more than respectable. For some reason, I had the Bee Gees in my head, probably because I flipped on the disco ball in the office when I came home. After a few songs from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, I decided it was time to explore their ‘deeper cuts’ and made the discovery that “You Should be Dancin’” is about as good as it gets.  

I’m sitting in a room illuminated by a desk lamp and the disco ball, drinking sparkling water, waiting for Cami to come home. She is more than 24 hours delayed, currently in the purgatory of the Phoenix airport on her way back from Texas. Seamus is nowhere to be found. That’s fine, Barry Gibb is keeping me company. “And it’s me you need to show, How deep is your love…” I bought a bottle of wine earlier because it’s been raining nonstop – every cloud has a silver lining, my hair looks great – but realized I actually don’t feel like drinking and considering how much work I have to do between now and June 2020, have opted for a sober evening. 

So, I’m writing a paper, and I get a text message from my friend Greg in NY about David Brooks column in today’s Times. My response…he’s an establishment hack though not as bad a Ross Douthat who is an outright caveman. In truth, as far as centrists go, David Brooks is tolerable, I’m just poking. I really want to keep chatting with him – so much basketball to discuss and baseball too – but this paper is due in two days, a presentation as well, and I have forty pages of Paolo Freire to get through before calling it a night. But alas, I just keep writing this nonsense…. OK, I’m going to take a break and get back to my paper. Wait, this is the break, from my paper…break over…

I wish I could figure out why the highlight tool isn’t working in this PDF I’m reading. I need a Millennial.  Cami is still in Phoenix, but she’s boarding soon. By the time she gets home, I should be done with Freire. Do I give myself permission to skip Kool & The Gang’s “Open Sesame”? This song is terrible…it sounds like the theme music from a 70’s cop show. Fuck it, I’m moving on to “Jive Talkin.’” Back to Freire. 

Greg and I were friends in college. We spent a lot of time together during the summer of 1987, with a group of mutual friends from Penn and my sister, who is a couple of years younger than me. We reconnected several years ago…I won’t go into that…but getting back in touch has been a treat. Other than our mutual, tragic love of the Mets, we often – sometimes – don’t agree at least when it comes to politics, but I enjoy sparing with him. And, he’s become a good friend. I don’t say that lightly. We’re actually closer now than we were years ago when clubbing until 5 a.m. was the basis of the friendship. Every friendship has its own history and this one has a happy ending…ending is not the right word…I hope we’re in one another’s lives for a long time. 

The Washington Post just sent me a notification that Michael Cohen is going to describe Trump as a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat.” Since we know what he’s going to say why bother having the hearing? The real question is why did the WaPo need to interrupt Pedagogy of the Oppressedand “Disco Inferno” to let me know what Michael Cohen is going to say tomorrow when they already told us yesterday? 

New notification, an iceberg is about to break apart in the artic. And now the PBS News Hour is also letting me know that Michael Cohen has some big things to say tomorrow. Thanks. Bars are opening early in DC so that people can get loaded and watch the testimony. Should I set my alarm so that C-Span can put me back to sleep? Can someone please send me a notification and let me know when Cami is going to be home?

Roma and class, race and gender in film

I used to see a lot more movies than I do these days and often felt that the best pictures were overlooked but this year, what seems like the hands-down favorite to win the Academy Award, Roma, could not be more deserving.

What made Roma stand out is not just its artistry but the messages about class, race, and gender. Alfonso Cuarón – who was the writer, director, DP, editor…probably even his own PA – grew up privileged in Mexico City. The story is based on a woman who worked for his family. It would have been so easy for him to gloss over or exploit the myriad of ways that classicism, sexism, and racism pervaded his home life but instead, he shows how the young indigenous housekeeper, Cleodegaria (Yalitza Aparicio), experiences constant degradation and profound loss – and keeps on going.

This is not a story about heroism; it’s a social commentary, a damning one that is deftly acted, written, directed and shot. The art direction is impeccable.  It’s easy to get caught up in the details, such as the way Cleo’s employers attempt to park their oversized 1970’s automobile in a garage that is the size of a sardine can. Every scene in this film has a purpose and overtly or subtly depicts how power imbalances manifest in seemingly small acts. Sometimes Cleo is treated as a member of the family, especially by the kids, but the dynamic is omnipresent even if she is seemingly treated well.

It also says something about alienation. Cleo is an outsider, a poor indigenous woman from a rural part of Mexico, who came to the capital for economic opportunity, and in the little she says, we can sense her disconnection. But so is Sofia (Marina de Tavira), her employer, who seems even more empty. They are both discarded by men and in a sense that bonds them but they’ll never really see one another as equals and that is an underlying tragedy of this story.

However, Cuarón’s not asking us to pity them for being female in a chauvinistic society, instead empowering their characters by imbuing strength and sanity, without turning them into cold, rigid…yup, bitches. We’ve all seen that film before and that in itself shouldn’t be seen a triumph. Even with the class divide, Cleo and Sofia can relate to one another as woman to woman, who understand that in spite of their gender’s lesser status, they are at heart badasses who will be fine, man or no man, in their lives.

Then there is Crazy Rich Asians. One of the most “popular” movies of 2018. It does the opposite of Roma: glorifies the uber rich, portrays women as bitter backstabbers in their efforts to capture men’s attention and for all its talk about having an entirely Asian cast, Prince Charming himself is half Caucasian. I actually sat through it twice because it made a rich topic for a pop culture critique I wrote for a class last semester. Years ago, I remember watching Roger Ebert discuss his dislike for Blue Velvet. Gene Siskel suggested that he see it again and examine his intense negative reaction. Since I wasn’t a big fan of Blue Velveteither, I heeded Siskel’s advice and realized that my disgust was part of David Lynch’s brilliant intent. That is not the case with Crazy Rich Asians…it was just as shallow and offensive during the second go round. 

I had a conversation with a young woman a few months ago, and she told me it didn’t matter what I thought because the movie wasn’t made for me but for heteronormative women in their 20’s, Asian or not, which I felt was a damning indictment of large swaths of our country. I know quite a few people who fit into this target audience and I’m happy to say that they are not vacuous and superficial, nor did those who even bothered to see it think much of the movie, so I don’t buy this argument. 

It’s not that the film is without merits; Awkwafina shines in the role of the wealthy but not crazy rich college roommate who, like many of the films viewers, knows that these people are ridiculous but is still willing to play along. It’s entirely possible that there is something here I’m not getting because I’m not Singaporean Chinese but if I watched a similar movie called Crazy Rich Lesbians I’d be really offended by the representation and characterization. That is one of the reasons why I thought the L Word was awful. Enough of that…see Roma

I’m still on the fence about Blackkklansman. I walked out of the theater thinking, “Wow, that was great,” but then I started reading up on the story and character that inspired the film and discovered it is a fantastical version of the actual events, with made up main characters and bogus storylines. This critique by Boots Rileyis pretty spot on yet if you can dispense with reality and just enjoy the acting and compelling albeit mostly fictional story, it’s very good. But not as good as another movie that came out about cops and race, Monsters and Men, which has pretty much flown under the radar. 

I went to see Monsters and Men with my father at the Angelica in New York last September. Unbeknownst to us, the writer and director, Reinoldo Marcus Green was on-hand for an interview and Q&A afterward and hearing him discuss why he made the movie and the issues it covers flushed it out. His story is about fictional characters but is based on the realities of racial profiling and police brutality. It shares the same star as Blackkklansman, John David Washington, who inherited his dad’s talent. Instead of pushing a one sided indictment against the police, it offers a more nuanced view, showing the complexity of characters who are just trying to live their lives and fulfill their dreams even though they have to deal with institutional and cultural racism daily. That’s not to say this is a pro-cop film…at all…Just see it. 

I’m a little surprised If Beale Street Could Talk isn’t garnering more attention. I saw it while I was reading The New Jim Crow, so the blatant racism and fuckedupness of the criminal justice system was front and center in my mind. Yes, this is a disturbing flick but it’s also incredibly beautiful, the entire cast is authentic and raw, of what I’ve read, hardly strays from James Baldwin’s story.

Getting back to Roma, I can’t help but wonder if the members of the Academy, many who are quite wealthy and no doubt have dynamics under their own roofs with domestic workers that mimic Cleo’s experience, will actually get it. Or maybe voting for Romawill in some way make them feel less complicit or absolved of their guilt. 

Really, it doesn’t matter which movie wins, not in the long run. Crash won in 2005 but Brokeback Mountain is more deeply etched in our minds. Rocky took home the Oscar in 1976 but will it have a longer shelf life than All the President’s Men or Network? What’s significant that many of these movies prompt us to ask questions about class, race and gender…but no one did it as well as Alfonso Cuarón and that is why Romashould win.

The Therapy Chair

Last weekend we had back to back dinner parties, the second one competing with an 18-year birthday party right above us. Before our guests arrived Cami came into the kitchen and said to me, “I smell pot,” which made me wonder what teenagers in Texas did in the ’80s. Anyway, at one point, just to show our level of maturity, we turned up Who’s Next to drown out the teenage cackling emanating from above.

Later on, I found a couple of our friends, J and S, in the office/disco and S said to me, “Pamela, all of your friends need to get together and find a base for the courvossier,” as pictured. Cami is not a big fan of it either which is why it’s not in the living room. Many years ago, I found this thing at the Alameda flea market and paid I think $50, not knowing what a courvossier was or that it was missing a crucial part of its design. J and I looked at one another, both thinking the same thing…

Pride weekend of, 2007 or ‘08, I left CAV a little bit early on Saturday night and met Cami at 2223. Granted, this was a place where a lot of people ended up after the Dyke March, so we knew we weren’t in for a romantic evening, but the last thing we wanted was to deal with anyone’s drama, and in those days, a lot was floating around. We sat through dinner with only one interruption from a friend who was shrooming and doing coke; tweaked out and seeing things that weren’t there. She mentioned a party a block away…yeah, we knew about it and decided to pass opting instead to go home and have an early night. That was the intention, anyway.

Around 11:30 I got a call from H, “Bushie, you up?” “Sort of…” “We’re coming over.” I had a feeling something was up. Cami let me know that under no uncertain terms, she was going to sleep and closed the bedroom door. A little while later, H, J and a couple of other friends showed up and one of them, let’s call her, “T,” was quite upset. I got a run-down of the events that we missed at said party…basically, one of the three, a former cop, had to wrestle someone I shall refer to as “F” to the ground in an elevator. F and T had something going which I think ended by then, but the drama lingered…and lingered, and lingered. 

J sat in a low Danish chair next to T, who was on the courvossier, and the others, who were three sheets to the wind, eventually fell asleep on the red couch. I sprawled out on the rug and listened while J, who is my kindred crazy Jew spirit, spent the next 50 minutes…a full therapy hour… analyzing and advising T regarding the situation with F. It was really pretty amazing to witness…If J was not my close friend and without a psychiatry license, I might have even let her have a crack at me. Shortly thereafter that whole situation straightened itself out, very possibly because of J’s help, and from that night on the baseless courvossier became known as The Therapy Chair.

As for the rest of last weekend’s dueling parties, I ended up dealing with a 17-year-old who had too much to drink…a serious buzz kill on my end but one of the boys paid me the ultimate compliment, “I hope that when I’m your age I can handle a situation like this as well as you.” Thanks, dude.  That incident led to this enthralling conversation on Tuesday night.

Cami: You’re like Angelina Jolie.

Me: How am I like Angelina Jolie?

Cami: You think the kids should be allowed to run around wild. That’s why Seamus is so bad. I’m the disciplinarian like Brad and I can’t deal with it so I need to drink.

Sometimes I feel like parents should face the reality that their kids are likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs and give them some pointers, so they don’t end up in bad situations. Maybe it should be part of high school health classes. Drink water, eat something, pace yourself, don’t mix. Granted, getting super sick from drinking too much is a worthwhile lesson, almost a rite of passage.

Anyway, after back to back nights of entertaining and then dealing with super drunk young adults, I want Cami to remind me that if I ever threaten to open a wine bar again, she has permission to strap me to The Therapy Chair and administer electric shock.

2020

January

With Cami at Sundance, Park City.

February

 

Cami and Stanley Mouse at The Haight Street Art Center.

March

WINeFare 2020 steering committee, from left, Ailis, Haley, and Sherry.

Patti Smith, March 9, 2020, at The Filmore. The last hoorah before lockdown.

April

The first Covid Zoom bday for my sister, Jenn.

May

Golden Gate Park during the first lockdown.

June

 

 

BLM protest and rally.

Our relentlessly gay pride. Michael, Ramon, and Scott top. 

July

Nancy at Blackbird. The first bar visit after the lockdown was lifted over the summer.

July 4th weekend in St. Helena with Vignon.

And then we went for a bike ride and I broke two ribs.

August

The stowaway.

My nephew, Luc.

 

Sister, Jolie. 

A very quiet Washington Square Park in August.

Mira, NYC in August.

#resist NYC

Jenn and Batman in Times Square.

September

And then there was the day when San Francisco had an orange glow.

Dolores Park during the apocalypse.

Castro Street, 10 am.

October

And then a hummingbird came to visit.

And spent the night.

Renee (friend and exhibit curator) and Cami at the Silence of the Good opening at Haight Street Art Center.

With Leslie at Golden Gate Park. October. Our tribute day to Marguerite.

November

And then this happened.

 

 

And all of SF started partying at 9 am.  With Matt in SF, 10:30 am, two bottles in. 

Kite Hill with Vignon

A last-minute visit from Luc.

Three surgical procedures, one foot. Next up for 2021, the right one. 

Isn’t she lovely?

My COVID bday celebration

 

December

Have a seat at the table.

Went for a drive down the coast with Doyle.

And made a friend.

Vegan Latkes

Hannukah.

Cami, Mini, J

Christmas

 

New threads from my sister’s company, Pipenn Threads…check it out…T-shirt and bag.

Seamus self-trolling

Happy New Year.

Wishing everyone a much better and healthier 2021.

 

In memory of Marguerite Lutton…and George.

Never forget your loved ones.

George and Marg (Spanky)

Peace to all. 

 

2019

2019 didn’t start off that great…more aptly, 2018 ended badly. I often suffer from seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as the winter blues, and December 2018 was a month I was happy to put behind me. No year is all good or all bad, but when I think back on the last 12 months, there was a lot of joy, new beginnings, reconciliations, great times with friends, old and new, and growth. It was complicated but mostly, great.  I will think of 2019 with lots of smiles. Happy New Year to everyone…

 

Seamus and Cami. January.

With Ed, our annual beach selfie. Ocean Beach. January.

Cousin Robin and Cami in Central Park. March.

Vignon, Dillon Beach. April. 

Beth dressed as a Games of Thrones character that doesn’t exist…it was all Cami’s idea for Vignon’s bday. Dillon Beach.

We moved in June and while all of us are in love with our new home, no one is happier than Seamus who now gets to walk the beams, and go outside.

Pride, with Jenny and Sara. Dolores Park.

The night of the blackout in NY. Luc and I were downtown, which was not affected. We spent hours walking around the village. Washington Square Park was packed, kids were jumping into the fountain…NYers know how to pull together.

Julian feeling the vibes from what was the Woodstock stage. Bethel, NY.

Making the pilgrimage to Woodstock. Bethel, NY.

Me and the stinker. Photo credit, Charlotte Fiorito. 

Jolie and I took Ryan to school in August. Tulane campus. New Orleans.

Fashion icon, Ryan Schifino. New Orleans.

My oldest and one of the most dearest friends, Vanessa. NY.

Mom and Jolie. NY.

Cousin Allan, Cami, Me. Album cover, 2019 Greatest hits.

Chatting with Daddy. NY.

Jolie and her loving nephew.

London with Cath and Alex. 

I think that what people have inside comes out more as they age. This photo of Cath says it all.

Brighton with Shana and Jane.

 

Cami, Rachel, and Linda. London.

One of the best parts of our UK trip was unexpectedly seeing Henry.

Gabriel at Remedy Wine Bar, which is coincidentally,  just a few blocks from where I met his parents at UCL 32 years ago.

Our daily selfie.

My Hanukah party. Becky, Matt, and Nancy, the human menorah.

True love.

2018

 

Cheffypoo Christine, Leslie and Seamus at his birthday party.

NCLR with Nancy. A time-honored tradition.

Seamus, dumbbell, Cami.

Buggin’ out. 

Hippies.

Spencer, Luc, Ryan’s graduation.

Ryan’s graduation.

Pride, Dolores Park. Nancy, Cami.

4th of July. Wasted hippies. 

Cath, Alex, The Pyrenees. 

Versailles, Ryan.

Happy bday Cami.

Cousin Galil in duh house. Hippies.

Beth, Vignon, separated at birth, reunited in love. Not hippies. 

 

2017

 

Cami, hiking, waterfall, Malibu.

Ryan, oysters, Zuni.

Tessie reflecting, LA. 

Is it a cat? In Colorado with Rob, Mandy, and the Erichson clan.

No caption required.

MUNI

Marty O’Reilly at the Chapel. Every time we see him play we’re in awe…

Nancy feeling manic elated. 

When Shana came to town. At Fig & Thistle, Hayes Valley.

Getting ready for Cami’s 50th at Rhett’s was as much fun as the party itself.

This might be the photo of the decade. Cami 50, with Michele and David.

Cami and Kirk, Cami 50.

Four September birthdays. Cami, Cousin Allan, Dad, and Barbara.

Squab and Tonya’s Alice and Wonderland themed wedding. Barre, Vermont.

The tea ceremony. J and Christine. 

Iceland.

Fleet Week has never been my thing but I have to give it to David and Michele, they know how to throw a party.

Spanky, in Pasadena.

 

2016

2016, not a great year. Beyond the devastating election, it sucked in a number of ways but as these photos show, there is still joy to be found even in the midst of sorrow and loss. 

Henry came for a quick visit. It’s a delight to have an adult friendship with someone I knew as a child. 

Paul and Ryan. Los Angeles.

With Luc. Los Angeles.

 

The blue-eyed side of Tessie. Los Angeles.

We were driving up north, somewhere in Marin, when all of a sudden this amazing cloud formation appeared.

An afternoon at Arlequin with Tony Poer. San Francisco.

Ferry hair.

These pix were taken on ferry from Connecticut to Long Island. We were at my aunt’s funeral earlier in the day. She died unexpectedly, leaving us sad and still shocked. I don’t know what made us laugh but, no doubt, it was much needed.

 

Leslie and Cami, NYC.

Mom and Jolie, Sag Harbor.

More Hardly Strictly. Golden Gate Park. 

Sergio Romo warming up at the last playoff game the Giants would be in this decade…that tells you who won. Not us, but the seats were awesome.

After the hellacious year, I just wanted on my actual birthday to be surrounded by those who I really loved. With a few exceptions, most of them are in this photo.

Thanksgiving. We were supposed to go to St. Helena but the election and death of a friend left us feeling very depressed…so we stayed in town and had a mellow time with Seamus. 

Figuring out a way to take down the Christmas plant with one good shake.

 

 

2015

Warriors! 

So Vignon does have the best smile.

I take that back, Cami has the best smile. Los Angeles.

Snuggling.

Pride, Cami and Katherine.

With David and Elizabeth at The Four Horsemen.

Cousin Allan at the Cloisters.

Dad on the roof.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

A few days before this picture was taken, I noticed some guy in a cafe checking me out, like he was there to meet someone. Then he asked me if I was Rodney. The name stuck…Rodney in all his glory.