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

 

Sports and Politics

It is challenging to separate sports from politics. You can say that this is part and parcel with a polarized nation, but I think that obfuscates the fact that sports and politics have always been enmeshed, in the US and elsewhere. Instead of pretending that this is a new phenomenon or a bad thing, we should try to understand why it is impossible to separate the two and how sports can pave the way to create a more equitable and just society. Two major events happened this past week that demonstrate this: the US Women’s World Cup Team won their 4th championship, and the NBA underwent a monumental team realignment because of a talent-rich free agency.

First off, how about from now on we call the women’s competition “The World Cup” and the men’s, “The Men’s World Cup?” In the US, where the women have been so much better for so long, that would make sense. This World Cup was not only a very American style free speech protest against Trump and the bile he represents, but it was also, maybe even more so, a call for gender equity in soccer, and not just from the American players. Ada Hegerberg of Norway, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2018, protested her country’s unequal treatment of its female athletes by sitting this one out, no doubt dimming its prospects for making a deeper run.

We need to hammer home the idea that this goes way beyond equal pay; as Hegerberg and others have pointed out, female athletes need to be valued as much as men, in every sense, and this means given equal access to opportunity and resources. Paying everyone the same is much easier to address than changing a culture that deems women’s contributions as less valuable than men. This is because in general, women’s lives are valued less than men’s. For more on this, check out this interview with Judith Butler.

In any field, this culture will only change if women are in positions of power, and that is a reason why I was pretty glad to see teams with male coaches lose. But it is not just about the coaches and organizational structure, it’s about deep-seated misogyny. Having women in more positions of power alone does not guarantee that other women will have it any easier. We can’t overlook that there are women – who might claim to be feminists or #MeToo victims – who internalize misogyny, and perpetuate a machismo culture based on dominance, not comradery or respect. We need to change this and get away from patriarchal norms which provide a haven for abuse and exploitation. Perhaps, with this spectacular World Cup win, the USWNT will pave the way for change in other fields.

This leads me to the NBA free agency upheaval. What happened over the last week in free agency went beyond the players using their platform to speak out about injustice. By effectively deciding who they wanted to play with and where they want to play, they exercised their power in a way that I haven’t noticed before in any professional sport. In a league where something like 90% of the players are black, but 29 of 30 teams are owned by white guys, Kawhi and Paul George, KD and Kyrie, and Lebron and AD put the word agency back into “free agency.”   It’s not just about the money but also being able to assert control over your work environment.They are among the most elite basketball players in the world so they have more power than say, Quinn Cook or even Ricky Rubio, but this sets an interesting precedent, and might actually make the league and its fans reconsider the use of the term “owner,” as Draymond Green suggested in 2017. 

Personally, I think sports teams that represent a geographic area should be municipally owned, and the inhabitants, along with the players and management should reap the benefits. I don’t see that day coming anytime soon, but at the very least, players should have much more say in how their work environment is shaped. No, I don’t think that Lebron, KD or Kawhi have too much power. I believe that other players don’t have enough, including at the college level, and perhaps this free agency will set an example beyond sports.

Many athletes are reticent to talk about politics or controversial issues for fear of offending their fans and/or management. I’d rather know where people stand, even if I don’t agree with them. Granted, some athletes are as apathetic as the rest of the public. Yet to the extent that athletes are role models, they should speak out when they experience or see injustice, not just use their celebrity to endorse athletic apparel.. You know who buys sneakers? Young people, many who actually give a shit about athletes using their platform for the greater social good. So let’s stop pretending that politics and sports don’t mix.

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.

Socialism is Not a Dirty Word


The past 48-hour news cycle has been rich. Let’s just gloss over Bernie…we all know that there is a range of opinions, but one thing that is significant is that he’s already raised six million dollars in small donations. Opinions aside, his presence in the Democratic party is sure to shake things up, in ways we may not realize. Is this good? People said they liked Trump because he shook up the GOP. That would be a false equivalency unless Bernie wins and gets so drunk with power that he subverts the law and will of the people. As Kirk Salanga pointed out, Bernie doesn’t want to get rid of the unconstitutional 60 votes to kill the filibuster. Is this an indication of how he would govern as president?

Junior gave a speech at the epicenter of our non-national emergency and said, “You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.” This is a fascist tactic. At this point, many of us are beyond being shocked by their rhetoric. However, the word socialist is being thrown around more often by the right now as a way to scare the electorate. What if the Democrats got out in front of it, for once, and every time the right said the S word, railed on crony capitalism, how it has produced immense income inequality and decimated the working and middle classes? 

Whether the Democrats want to admit it, we do have class warfare in this country that is tied into race and gender. Which leads me back to Bernie. Maybe this is why so many people are enthusiastic about his candidacy? Several socialist ideas are supported by a majority of the electorate – medicare for all aka socialized medicine, free public college tuition…The GOP is out of step with most of the country, but they are really good at framing/manipulating the issues in a way that gets people to vote against their interest. Whomever the Democrats nominate to run against Trump needs to be someone who can effectively counter their propaganda.

Death and French Fries/Missed Opportunities

Do people use death as an excuse to do stupid shit? OK, eating French fries is not exactly the dumbest thing anyone has ever done but during the period from the end of May through the end of July, I put more canola oil in my body than I probably had during the entire previous decade of my life.

Watching other people experience the death of someone very close hardly registers on the sorrow scale, at least not compared to what your loved one is going through. Yet, over the course of eight weeks my partner lost her father, my aunt died, and one of my best friend’s mother passed away, and it took a toll on me. I felt sad all of the time and started to see everything in a pointless time capsule. People ask me how I’m doing and even if I haven’t seen them in a while, “better” is all I can think to say. Bad things may come in threes but let’s face it, I’m staring at 50 and as the years go on death is going to be a bigger presence in my life than it has been over the last half-century.

Knowing this, do I just throw my lot in with fried food? Outside of French fries and the occasional fried oyster, I really don’t dig greasy grub, so that is not the answer. Every day I wake up and think about what I’m going to do. But life gets in the way. There is a last minute deadline or Seamus pukes so I might miss the train and MUNI being MUNI is always fucking delayed, so I get to the gym 45 minutes later than planned, forcing a reorganization of my afternoon. Or, I get a text from my sister telling me to call her, it’s important. And then I find out that my aunt, who I was just starting to get to know as an adult, didn’t wake up. I can barely wash myself in the shower. I think about how Cami felt the first time she tried to clean up after her father drew his last breath, or how my cousin felt that morning. Did she even bother bathing that day? All the French fries in the world will not bring them back and taking a shower won’t feel the same again any time soon. 

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Missed Opportunities

I wrote Death and French Fries during the summer of 2016, about a month after my Aunt Ilene passed away. It’s actually part of a series of other writings I was working on at the time.

One of the things that made me sad then, and still does now, is the feeling of a missed opportunity. A few years before she died my aunt and I started to speak more frequently and I really liked the person I was getting to know. The cause of death was never determined; she just didn’t wake up one morning. Today, 72 seems kind of young, at least in my family where people tend to live well into their 90’s. People say it is a blessing to go in your sleep. I don’t know. A friend of our’s passed away in December, just two weeks after finding out she had stage four breast cancer. Is that better? To find out the end is near, say your good-byes and then have a quick and painless death?

Aunt Ilene

Since my aunt’s death, I’ve gotten closer to her daughter, Cousin Robin. We’re just four months apart and when we were much younger spent a lot of time together. Actually, she is the first and only person I’ve ever married, sort of. When we were four or five, we had a marriage ceremony on the stairs of my house, with Aunt Ilene performing the nuptials, and then honeymooned in the backyard, on the swing set. Thinking back on this ‘major life event,’ I appreciate my aunt even more because as I was getting all of these negative messages about who I was, she, I guess, didn’t really see anything wrong with me wanting to be the groom or at least indulging my innocent fantasy. I wish I had a chance to thank her because it probably meant a lot more to me then than I can remember now. 

With Cousin Robin in Central Park, Sept. 2018

Which brings me to the sweet message I got the other day from Cousin Robin – maybe because it was Valentine’s Day and after all, we never officially got divorced – that made me smile and realize how much I appreciate her thoughtfulness. People say you never really get over losing a loved one, but maybe we can fill some of the emptiness by rediscovering those who are still with us and not letting missed opportunities slip through our fingers. 

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.

I’m Spooking the Cat and Other Tales from the Reconstruction

Prologue

This is a lightly edited version of something I wrote over a couple of weeks after my ACL reconstruction exactly five years ago. I dug it up recently when I was transferring files over to my new computer.

No Fucking Christmas Music

While my partner decked the halls of Texas with her large Catholic family, I joined my Jewish, atheist sister and her brood – husband and three teenage sons – in Deer Valley. Sounded like the perfect holiday…skiing without snow boarders anywhere in sight, quality time with my nephews and – the best part – no fucking Christmas music. Even though “P,” my brother-in-law was raised Catholic, my sister will have none of it. I’m more tolerant, much to the chagrin of my eardrums and heathen sensibilities.

All was good the first day out until my P led me to a trail that was clearly out of my league. Nothing but moguls at a 90-degree angle…ok, maybe 70. Rather ungracefully I made my way down and we met my sister at a private club at the base of the run for lunch. P’s brother is a member giving them privileges to dine with the richest on this already 1% laden mountain.

The next day I went out with my oldest nephew, who can ski the backwoods, backwards. By 2 pm, this stoned 16-year-old was ravenous and decided he too was royalty and wished to dine at the same place I ate the day before with his parents. OK, fine, so long as Uncle B is paying for it, I’m in. He was about 100 feet ahead of me when I heard P bellowing my nephew’s name from the chairlift and then, just to confirm that yes, they are the loudest family in Utah, my sister’s New York soprano chimed in.

I called to him, “Oh shit, I think I just heard your folks.” “Yeah, I know.” Luckily, they were heading in a different direction. With this distraction I didn’t realize that we were heading down the same run from the day before and this time it was ungroomed. FUCK! 

OK, I thought about the time I ended up at the top of 22ndand Sanchez on my motorcycle, one of the steepest hills in the city, and wondered how I was going to roll to the bottom without bodily injury. That turned out to be a piece of cake; this was not. 

Half way down the slope I felt a pop. Just a pop, and then fell. I laid on the mountain thinking, “Oy, not good.” My ski never came off, so I glided to the side, putting all of my weight on the good leg, slid down until we got to a relatively safe place to wait while my nephew, who was amazingly responsible for a kid on drugs, fetched ski patrol. By that evening it was clear I was done skiing for a while. Walking was the bigger the concern. 

Playing Poker with the Snitch

I spent the next few days wishing I could smoke some of my nephew’s weed, but I have boundaries and that seemed kind of desperate. Instead, I wrote, read, watched movies, played poker with the boys and fought with “L,” my youngest nephew, a 12-year-old Snitch. 

Basically, when he was nine, or six, or maybe three, no definitely he was at least four, I let him have a sip of wine. I remember it quite well. It was a Dauvissat Chablis, a premier cru at that. He freaked out later on and told his parents who are trying to be law abiding citizens and not let their kids have alcohol until they are 35. That resulted in a rather irate phone call from my sister. My brother-in-law was almost as upset as the time I told the kids that Santa Claus didn’t exist. After that I started calling L, “The Snitch.”

On Monday night, the middle of the three boys, R, The Snitch and I went downstairs to play poker. I brought a glass of red wine with me, ’99 Monteus, and since that’s R’s birth year I asked him if he wanted to try it but then we both looked at L and I said, “Forget about it, The Snitch will tell on me again.” The Snitch had it. He threw the entire deck of cards up in the air, followed by his chips, turned the board upside down and stormed upstairs.

R and I laughed it off at first but then I decided to be the mature one, so I found him and apologized. He was having none of it, so I figured I’d let him chill out, went back downstairs, this time with the rest of the bottle of wine, gave R a taste and played another hand of Holdem. But L re-appeared, ripped the cards out from our fingers, gathered all of the chips, neatly assembled them back into the card case and once again, stormed off, this time to the bathroom. At this point I actually really did feel bad – sort of – but then R reassured me that, “He just needs to poop, he’ll be fine.”

I think R was right. Later that evening we made up and I promised never to call him a snitch again.

The Straight Stewardess

When I got home a few days later, there was a little envelope in the mail, the size of a wedding reply card, from Deer Valley. Free lift ticket for next season? Not quite. In it was a note from the DV powers that be saying something to the effect of, “We heard you had a little spill on our mountain. We wish you a speedy recovery.” Thanks, don’t worry, I’m not going to sue your ass, I get it. Skiing carries a risk. Of course, the run was also very badly groomed but whatever, we’re good. 

Knowing my insurance was changing and not having any clue what was on the other side of Obamacare (which I fully support but…), I decided to have it checked out before the end of the year. On December 31, I saw the Giant’s orthopedic surgeon who sent me in to get an MRI.

Afterward, I had to go home and make dinner for seven people. Since the idea was to try to be up at midnight, it was perfect as I rarely get the first course on the table by nine. But then I found out that we were going to be either six or eight because one of my friends scheduled a blind date with a flight attendant she met online that very same evening. Who schedules a blind date on New Year’s Eve? Everyone else knew one another pretty well so that might be a bit awkward. After a series of text messages, we decided that they should just come by for dessert. Cool. 

At around 11 they showed up and as predicted, it was weird because they talked to no one but each other. And then at midnight they started making out. Did I mention that the flight attendant was also straight? Yup. So, her first foray into women was in my dining room with a person she met that night, online. The two other couples started going at it too and while all this was going on, I noticed that Cami had been missing for a while. I found her in the bedroom, crashed out in the fetal position lying next to Seamus. They looked like the married couple. And this is how I rang in 2014. 

Back to My Wounded Knee

Anyone who fixed Buster Posey’s ankle has some pretty good cred in my book. Ah, but the new insurance placed him at tier two meaning $2500 out of pocket. Cami arranged for me to see Dr. Ma, who she worked with before the UCSF orthopedic department migrated to Mission Bay. MRI’s don’t lie…a torn ACL, a torn MCL, a torn meniscus and a bruised bone. “You can try to rehab without surgery but eventually you’re going to need an ACL reconstruction.”

So, I’m supposed to leave for France in three weeks. I wasn’t in terrible pain, but my knee felt stiff. After discussing it with Dr. Ma and Cami I decided to have surgery when I got back. 

You hear about ACL surgery and think, if these athletes can do it so can I not admitting to yourself that your decades old body while in shape is not exactly about to get drafted into a professional sport of any kind. Realizing my limited athletic value, I let Dr. Ma recruit me for an arthritis study. This would mean having my blood, urine and knee fluid sampled several times over the coming year and undergoing a few more MRI’s which is just about as relaxing as lying still and listening to Yoko Ono for 45 minutes. 

The day before leaving for Europe, I had my first study appointment which was being supervised by a resident, and a research assistant, who I referred to as the “The Cute Little Dyke,” until I could remember her name. That was the fateful day when my naval ring, after 15 years, permanently came out. You can’t have any metal near you during an MRI because it uses magnetic waves. Very comforting since I have three fillings. Anyway, it was time, but the earring stayed.

France

On one hand this trip was not that eventful…lots of wine tasting and eating and tasting and eating and talking to people you will never see again and eating and driving around, sampling the coffee at French gas stations and eating and tasting and asking people who you will never see again what they think of François Hollande. You travel around a country with three guys and that’s that. There was a little gossip but nothing bad enough to use as blackmail. 

Every time I got in and out of a car I felt like my knee was being pulled out from under me.  Finally, when we were in Montpellier, at the Premier Classe, the French equivalent of a Motel Six only smelling like cigarette smoke, I emailed Dr. Ma and asked him to sign me up for surgery asap. I returned on a Saturday, saw Dr. Ma on Monday and on Friday, February 14th, spent the most memorable Valentine’s Day ever at the UCSF Orthopedic Surgery department. Luckily, Cami was off so we could celebrate together. That’s love. 

Pre-Op

One of the benefits of being married to a surgical nurse is that if you ever need an operation, you’ll be treated like a VIP. At one point there were six people hovering over me: a nurse drawing blood, The Cute Little Dyke – who was eagerly waiting for my blood, the operating room anesthesiologist asking questions about something or other related to my medical history, another anesthesiologist giving me a spinal block, his assistant and Cami. Eventually the pre-op drugs started kicking in and as I lay there, asking the various doctors, nurses and techs about the medical uses for leeches and cocaine, my leg numbed up. 

I remember being wheeled into surgery, being asked to count backwards from ten and making it all the way to nine. However, I found out later it took quite a bit to knock me out. The anesthesiologist told Cami, “She’s not a cheap date.”

A Bloody Mess

Once I was out, I was out and don’t remember a thing until I woke up in post-op, craving a chocolate chip cookie. Terrance, aka T-Dawg, took us home. That part is a blur. I didn’t really think about how I was going to get up 17 steps all narced up and on crutches. Seamus ran away when he saw me bandaged with my leg in a brace. He was completely spooked. I got into bed, took another Vicodin, and crashed out until 2 am when my bladder came calling. Cami is a great nurse. That is not just my biased opinion but a fact that has been confirmed by everyone who’s worked with her. Which is why what happened next has caused her so much grief.

I had to pee, so I hopped on my good leg to my crutches, which were about four feet away against the wall, and then, SPLAT! The next thing I remember is sitting on the toilet, unable to pee even though I had to because that’s one of the problems with taking narcotics, with my leg stretched out and half of my lip hanging out into space. The bedroom floor looked like a murder scene. Thoroughly traumatized, Seamus went into hiding and Cami was in utter disbelief. A few hours later she looked at my lip and said, “I don’t know what to do with this.” So, we called Ed. 

The three of us went off to the Davies emergency room, where I’ve accompanied employees, friends and Cami through kidney stones, diverticulitis and anaphylactic shock in the past. They know me. This time I was the patient and of course everyone thought I was there for my leg until I made an unintelligible sound and pointed to my mouth. I hardly noticed I was starting to feel sensation in my leg again because my lip fucking killed. Four hours and eight stitches later I was back home, the crutches were now next to the bed and Seamus went into hiding. 

A picture says 1000 words

I’m Spooking the Cat

This entitled, 15-pound feline, who struts around the house like his balls are still intact, has been freaked out by the very sight of me since the surgery. He’s completely forgotten that I’m his meal ticket, one of them anyway, janitorial service, scratching post and best friend. He sees the crutches and runs away. He’s completely spooked. 

Tea Time

I don’t really like narcotics so since we have a pound of weed in the house – a major bone of contention between us – I asked the smartest, most able-bodied stoner I know, Nancy, to come over and make chamijuana butter tea. Of course, one doesn’t go to Harvard just to learn the little things. No, that prized Ivy League degree prepares its graduates to ask probing questions like, “Indica or sativa?” She took this task very seriously, researching recipes and getting the proportions of flower to butter to chamomile just right. Cami was none to pleased because our place wreaked, but it really helped with the pain, not to mention my mood and the sheer boredom of being stuck in the house and mostly immobile for a week. 

After four days Cami was in need of a mental health break, so she got Vignon to look after me and went to dinner with Nancy. Bad idea. We drank some tea, ordered Thai food and watched the Olympics. There is a lot to be said for watching the Women’s Giants Slalom stoned…it’s quite amusing, especially when the skiers careen through the gates. After asking three times for a glass of water I decided to try getting it myself, only I fell backwards and instead of rushing to my rescue Vignon just sat there and watched me…and I watched her watch me as I plummeted. Seamus, who at this point was making occasional cameos, disappeared once again. He too needed a mental health break. Vignon is fired. Worst babysitter ever.

Epilogue

Since I mostly edited spelling and punctuation, the ending is a little abrupt but that is as far as I got. Five years later, the scar on my lip is more noticeable than the one on my knee, Seamus is long back to his tyrannical self and I haven’t called Luc The Snitch again, at least not to his face.