Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2014-12-17

Introducing Hell’s Bells, Handbell Butt Choir

One of the things I am most grateful for about my living situation is that my roommate is one of my favorite artists. The things that this femme creates are incredible. Like, stick in your head remember for a bunch of years incredible.

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Last month Damien started getting a bunch of packages and I was wondering what they were. She casually said, Ariel [Speedwagon] and I were thinking of creating a handbell butt choir. I responded, “Oh, really?” But didn’t get to all of my questions about it. Which were many. How are you going to get the handbells to stay in the butt? Do you know how to play the handbells? (Damien has churchy origins so I figured some time in a youth handbell choir was likely.)

Then the night came when Ariel was over (and Lizxnn) and the handbells were opened and I could hear them in my bedroom… clear as a bell. And this was clearly a thing that happened.

So much work went into this choir. Figuring out the mechanics of making butt plugs out of handbell handles. Casting the bell ringers–finding people who were okay with Christmas stuff, playing a handbell with their butt, and at lease slightly musically inclined, plus the more difficult aspect, whether their schedule permitted both performance dates and a couple of rehearsals. Artists in NYC are busy, especially during the holidays!

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They had to select the songs to play out of the thousands of holiday songs out there. They had to rewrite the music for the songs in some sort of music software Damien learned, and arrange it for handbells in the correct key. And learn what a key was. And decide which four notes were the best for the butts…

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I was impressed during this entire endeavor as it unfolded at my house and excitedly went to both performances. The finished product is in the below video. (You can see my little head cackling away with Heather, I’m in the bow in the front row doing backup videography for the first performance.) TOTALLY worth a watch this holiday season!

Not safe for work (unless your work is butt friendly). It’s really funny and heartwarming. Hell’s Bells Handbell Choir!

(Also I was definitely already calling the handbell player second from the left “Jingle Bells” because of their important role in that song… but then after you see the video you know why that name will be seared for life!)

For further holiday related video wonderfulness, allow me to remind all about the amazing Leo Christmas Hammer video from last year. It still makes me cry. Miss you Leo!!

2013-01-31

Casserole Party

My BFF Brian told me about an annual party thrown during the summer by his friends in New Jersey. A casserole party with prizes! Encouraging folks to bring casseroles to compete in competitions for expensive cooking gear. It’s a huge gay hurrah with over forty people and a theme. Brian noted that this year’s winner (chicken kiev or something) did not adhere to the theme (carnival).

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Me and Damien. Vintage Aprons, Damien Luxe Private Collection, my navy blue dress courtesy Brooklyn Boobala.

I had this nugget in the back of my mind for months when I asked my roommate if she wanted to throw a mid-Winter get together for our friends. I thought it was a great Winter theme because casseroles are typically served warm and are great comfort food. Our apartment is especially good for parties in the Winter because it gets pretty warm from the living room’s abundant heat and we can easily seat 20 folks on our glamorous couches.

As we prepared our own casserole offerings for the evening, Damien and I discussed what we would have done if we were Baller Lesbians. (Which I like to relanguage, Law of Attraction style, as “When we are Baller Lesbians.”) Like bought some party favors of cute pot holders for everyone. Had a Le Cruset casserole dish as the big prize and a few other kitschy kitchen items for the runner-up prize categories. Like best name, most compelling casserole transport saga, best vegetarian dish, etc…

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We made numbered index cards for fauxnonymous voting. There was a big discussion about whether people should know who made what because popularity might be a factor.

What we did, instead of a Baller Lesbian Prize, was a $1 buy-in, winner take all. I think the total was $13. We also told everyone who came to either bring a casserole or a beverage. Everyone who tasted the casseroles could vote.

It was sort of necessary to define casserole for some of our attendees. Since our friends consist of folks from all over the country and the world, not everyone is familiar with the concept of casserole (or “hot dish” as my friend Victoria, a Minnesota native, calls it). This is what Damien came up with and I really loved it:

Not just a combination of sticky and cooked foodstuffs, the casserole is a wintery dish that sticks to the ribs AND the heart, just like your favorite femmes who would love you to attend!

I was once engaged to marry an Iowa native and have dated my fair share of Midwesterners, so I know folks have really strong opinions about what makes a casserole legitimate (often “cream of whatever” soup is that legitimizing ingredient) and whether or not Jello can be considered salad.

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Cole and Amanda, clean plate club.

I once made up my own casserole recipe in honor of my favorite dyke stand-up comic, Kelli Dunham. She had a birthday and I encouraged folks to bring food inspired by her comedy and she tells a joke about being asked not to bring her Spotted Owl Casserole to the dyke potlucks anymore. I made up Spotted Owl Casserole based on a tater tot casserole recipe I read on a blog in 2002 but it’s actually vegetarian so there you go.

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This is Kelli Dunham, unveiling her casseroles.

Early on in the evening our friends wondered if the vegetarian dishes would have an advantage over the meat dishes, since everyone attending would be able to eat the veg dishes and not everyone would be able to try the dishes.

In that realm, I thought that perhaps Jess bringing a lamb and beef shephard’s pie might be a risky entry at a queer potluck, as both of those are controversial meats.

I made Oklahoma Baked Cheese Grits, adding a bit more Worcestershire sauce to them, using half parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese, and forgetting to put in the eggs. Thankfully, it did not suffer for the omission. I also made Chicken and Dumplings Casserole, but I used a Paula Deen chicken stock recipe and free range chicken legs for the meat instead of just commercial chicken stock and chicken cubes called for in the recipe. I think it was a wise choice, and the extra chicken stock I made has helped the leftovers. I think it made the recipe extremely flavorful.

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Damien made her famous Food Bank Casserole in three versions: vegan, gluten-free vegan, and full-meat. She describes food bank casserole as the use of typical food bank treasures. Usually you get a can of mixed vegetables, a can of “cream of whatever” soup, a can of tuna or fish, a container of biscuit mix. My understand of how the casserole comes together is to mix all canned ingredients, prepare the biscuit mix and layer it on top. Bake it at the typical casserole degrees (350) and voila! Deliciousness!

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Other casseroles brought to our home were: Asses of Fire, Kelli named this hot as hell vegetarian dish. The secret ingredient was some kind of chili. She also made Midwesterner’s Socially Awkward Meaty Surprise which was careful layers of cheese, sliced potatoes, chicken and bacon. A vegetarian casserole of black bean tostada variety. Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster which was sort of like a vegan pate’ and something was definitely off in the texture. Emily, who brought the dish, had two major items that were missing in the preparation and I can’t remember what they were.

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This one was Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster.

We had everyone vote at a certain point and then we had another round of guests arrive before we tallied. Jessica Halem even brought a salad which was certainly welcome after all of those carbs. Also, we had a latecomer casserole that was a braised beef shephards pie that was incredible but hardly anyone had room to eat it. Sam left me the leftovers so I felt like I really won a grand prize.

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This is Emily, showcasing a very Virgo-style tasting method. She ate this plate clockwise.

All of our guests sat around digesting casseroles and chatted about many things, including a long story about San Francisco performance art, food bank policy, a redux of the epic Myth party the weekend before and social justice strategies.

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When it came time to announce the winner of Best Casserole we did a couple of side categories, Toddlers and Tiaras style. We had “Best Casserole Transportation Saga” because it was snowing that night and transporting casseroles on public transit in New York is hella harder than you think. Kelli had this epic thing where everything was wrapped in towels, ace bandages and packing tape. Jess won, though, because she lives near where that dolphin was stuck in the Gowanus Canal, she found out the dolphin died, the casserole was leaking on the subway and then when it got to our place it almost set our oven on fire and set off the fire alarm in the hallway of our building.

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Creative transport via cardboard. Sam and Jessica Halem.

We also gave an award for best name and Kelli won that for Asses of Fire, though I believe Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster was a close second.

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The overall winner of the potluck was… the Lamb and Beef Shepherds Pie! Jess really took home a lot of glory on that fine Winter’s evening!

I hope some of you out there are inspired to have a warm and inviting party for your friends this Winter!

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2012-12-27

Bringing Woo to Nightlife: Group Solstice Ritual

My friend Mackenzi told me once “You really bring the woo to nightlife.” She is totally right. I think if you have humor and sincere intention you can easily create something very meaningful in nightlife. It may seem counterintuitive, nightlife is often perceived as very shallow, looks-oriented and perception of people without depth. (And, honestly, how deep can you go when you can’t really talk to people over the deep thumpathumpa of the music?) I pride myself on creating events that help people connect, together with my spirituality and deep lez inclinations, every so often woo finds its way into my productions.

I like queer dance parties because it’s a place where the community comes together to celebrate life. I think dancing is a really spiritual act, especially to pop icons like Nicky Minaj (“Moment for Life” anyone?). There’s also a lot of Goddess iconography in pop, as pointed out by my bestie Rachael.

There was a great article about the Mayan calendar ending on Solstice 2012 from the perspective of actual Mayan elders and I really appreciated the following quote.

Go to the sacred places of the Earth to pray for peace , and have respect for the Earth which gives us our food, clothing and shelter. We need to reactivate the energy of the sacred places. This is our work.

Rebel Cupcake is certainly one of my sacred places. One of the best compliments I’ve gotten about it is that the person felt like this was the place they felt they could most be themselves in queer nightlife. The December 20, 2012 show being the night before the Winter Solstice I wanted to make it extra special. I put together six acts–four more than I usually book–at the intersections of the theme of Muppets, the end of the world (as we know it) and the darkness transforming to light that the solstice represents. I also adapted a group solstice ritual for use on the stage. The following is what happened.

All photos by resident Rebel Cupcake photographer, Kelsey Dickey.

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The cupcakes were Mexican Hot Chocolate flavored (with dark chocolate and tequila) by Cupcake Princess Morgan, who said if it was the end of the world that’s what she’d want to drink.

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Our first act was Miss Poison Ivory, with a fallen angel burlesque act to Alanis Morrissette’s “Uninvited.” It was really moving and beautiful. (It also made me recall Alanis Morrissette’s role as God in Kevin Smith’s Dogma.)

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Our second act was the first public musical instrument act by spoken word phenom, Kit Yan. It was so tender! He began with a poem about Kermit and Miss Piggy that involved a lot of Muppet voices and then a really sweet, soft and tender version of Rainbow Connection that invited audience participation. It was so heartfelt!

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Next up was a burlesque act by Rebel Cupcake virgin Abby Fantastic, who was top of her class in burlesque school. It was to Rihanna’s “S&M” with an underlying Mad Max and the Thunderdome theme. The crowd went wild!

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Damien Luxe brought the next act. A performance art piece as an argonaut who had just landed in her pink spaceship with a message from the future. Her message was about the qualities we will need during the apocalypse. It was hilarious. I need to learn how to build a log cabin.

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I did an interlude with a Solstice ritual I had prepared to be shared by the entire audience. Fancy Feast, our wonderful Stage Kitten, was my Spirituality Bottom. I had her walk through the audience in a circle with burning sage to cleanse the energy, because the first part of the ritual was a cleansing. Part of the power of Solstice is the letting go of the darkness and moving toward light, which is also what the prediction for the Mayan Calendar ending, a changing of the world towards a more humane civilization.

I based the ritual on a group releasing ceremony on this website that I had done with some friends around a bonfire last Solstice.

Ritualizing release is a way to “bind the medicine” of moving beyond the past, the pain, the obstacles, the resistance, the old traps, the excuses.

The premise is that we release those things that no longer serve us by writing them on a piece of paper, binding the list with string, and burning it to transform them into light and then ash.

I knew that as a group we could do something together with our energy. So I had everyone focus their energy with the things they wanted to “write” to leave behind in the darkness of 2012 onto a piece of cupcake stationary. I took the paper and rolled it up, gave it to Fancy to hold, and tied string around it.

I set it aflame from my candle and burned it in a bowl. Fancy then took a dream weed and burned it in a circle around the room to encourage us to have clarifying dreams about our future and what we want to manifest for the new, humane world order.

I really like this ritual for groups as well as individuals. It also doesn’t only have to be during Solstice, I think anytime you have something you want to let go of, writing and burning is really good for an energy cleanse.

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Bikini Thrill brought a burlesque act to “Revelations” by Yoko Ono and Cat Power. She stripped out of a cloak and handed out stars to the audience. It was so touching and felt as though Bikini Thrill was performing more with her energy than with dance or stripping. It was incredible.

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Now, our last act was the third annual holiday act by Ariel Speedwagon. She asked me if she could bring a band of unicorns to do a dance and present a Solstice ritual to the Rebel Cupcake crowd. There were flashlights, silver capes, horns, and passing out candles and lighting them throughout the audience.

It was a really wonderful way to end a very moving show. I am so grateful to all of the artists for bringing their acts and energy, the crowd for being such a great audience–they were rapt! Fancy Feast for always being willing to be an all-purpose bottom for whatever performance creativity need I have. For DJ Bryan Black who was on fire all night and celebrated his last Rebel Cupcake after two years of being our resident DJ. For Morgan and the insanely delicious cupcakes that happen every night. For Kelsey Dickey and all the amazing photographs she takes. Hana for running the door, Nicky for holding down the coats, Laura Delarato, our incredible videographer who also celebrated her last Rebel Cupcake.

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I hope everyone is having a great Solstice/Christmas/Gaywitchmas/New Year and you are able to release those things that no longer serve you and welcome in new and exciting ideas.

2012-12-05

Brooklyn! Two Great Parties This Month AND An Incredible New Year’s Eve Bash!

Dear Readers, I’m back from California and have THREE really fun events in the month of December!

Yes Ma’am, Saturday, December 8th

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Me, DJ Average Jo, and Vicky Sin, our go go for the first Yes Ma’am.

The first Yes Ma’am was a wild success! It was so fun. The chatio was filled with folks meeting and mingling, the dance floor was popping.

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Our bar staff setting up.

At the end of the night everyone started chanting “One more song! One more song!” DJ Average Jo was on FIRE. The bar sold a steady stream of the Yes Ma’am punch and I am experimenting with some new concoctions for next month to try to ease the hangover. I’m 33, these things matter to me.

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The chatio. Full of queers! My heart burst.

We had the New York Toy Collective tabling and this woman who was cleaning up from the event before Yes Ma’am said to me, “So, really, what kind of party is this exactly?” I assured her it was a dance party and for queers sex toy tables are really no big deal and not neccessarily indicative of some kind of orgy happening at any second. I mean, sure, sometimes but not always.

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The New York Toy Collective pack n plays are so soft, and each is handmade by queers in NYC! Way softer than Vixskin.

Here are the details for this weekend! I hope to see you!

Saturday, December 8th, 2012 * Brooklyn, NY
Bevin Branlandingham, Nicky Cutler and DJ Average Jo Present
Yes Ma’am
10PM-2AM Dancing * $7
($2 off admission if you are on our texty texty list)
CASH BAR
886 Pacific Street @ Washington, Brooklyn, NY
Prospect Heights (2 blocks from Clinton/Washington C train, 5 blocks from 2/3 to Bergen)

More info and accessibility notes on Facebook.

Also, we’re doing a Yes Ma’am New Year’s Eve party on 12/31/12 (obvs) and the tickets will be $15, with a champagne toast and lots of swanky additions to the Yes Ma’am roster. Stay tuned here for information, but it promises to be swanky, unpretentious, fun and just licentious enough to be epic.

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Rebel Cupcake, Thursday, December 20th

This month’s installment, being so close to my birthday, is encouraging folks to bring their Muppet flamboyance hard. It’s also on the last day of the Mayan calendar, when it is predicted that we will shift to a more humane civilization. I think Rebel Cupcake is the best way to celebrate that!

On the (expanded because I’m feeling indulgent) performance roster this month:

Kit Yan
Kit Yan, playing Rainbow Connection on the ukelele.

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Ariel Speedwagon, in her third holiday season Rebel Cupcake, with a tribe of holiday unicorns. (Ariel is pictured in the center of the photo next to me, with the Menorah bling.) Photo by Nogga Schwartz.

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Damien Luxe, performing the end of the world alphabet. Photo by Nogga Schwartz.

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Abby Fantastic, fresh burlesque bottom to the Rebel Cupcake stage. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

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Miss Poison Ivory, back to the stage, bringing a fallen angel act. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

All this and gourmet cupcakes!! All the info is as follows (and on Facebook for pre-cruising):

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 * Brooklyn, NY
Bevin Branlandingham Presents
Rebel Cupcake 32: Muppets @ The End of the World
10PM-2AM Dancing; show 11ish * $7
($2 off admission if you are on our texty texty list)
Late night dancing til 4a
Sugarland: 221 N 9th St @ Roebling, Brooklyn, NY
(3 blocks from the Bedford L subway stop)

*Sugarland DJ Bryan Black spins slow jams & riot grrrl favs to get you going, dance beats all night to keep you moving at a house party level–perfect for dancing and mingling!

*Kelsey Dickey is our photographer and excited to decorate your facebook page with antics from our wild photo booth! The photos are up on our group page–join!
http://www.facebook.com/groups/110847398949000/

*Check out Rebel Cupcake TV by Arsenal E., the Rebel Cupcake Videographer! http://www.youtube.com/user/rebelcupcakevideos

*Hella foxy Hana Malia, our stylish and charming door captain.

*Stage Kittening this month: Fancy Feast.

Suggested dress: Muppet chic, Miss Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, Beaker, Kermit. Remember, Rebel Cupcake is the place to wear that outfit you have no other occasion to wear. Bring it. It’s the end of the world as we know it (as predicted by the Mayan Calendar).

We’ll have chairs out during the performances and there is a lot of seating available in grottos and at the bar. This is a great party to be loungey and social or dancey. The show will be over by midnight so earlybirds can make it home–the show is about 30 minutes long.

As always, free gourmet cupcakes while they last! Morgan Hart is our Cupcake Princess.

Accessibility notes: The stage area and bar are wheelchair accessible. Coming into the venue is a little narrow but there are no stairs to enter or to get to the main seating area for the show. Lots of street parking available. (Please let me know if you need any accommodations!)

2012-11-21

Sandy’s Aftermath

I’ve been working on this post for a couple of weeks and I’m still not totally done with the sentiment. But in the efforts of not being a perfectionist, here it is! More thoughts on the hurricane to come, I’m sure.

I was just telling someone about my experience living through the Loma Prieta earthquake when I was 10 and that I was less scared during that than I was during Hurricane Sandy. I was raised with earthquakes and disaster drills so I knew what to expect from it and what to do. I was home alone and I weathered it pretty well and waited patiently for my mom to get home from class.

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My cats, Bear and ALF.

I didn’t grow up with crazy weather and last year’s preparation for Hurricane Irene was the first time I had ever prepared for a storm. I mean, a lot of it is similar to growing up with earthquakes. Having an emergency earthquake kit on hand is just something we did as California kids. I remember having to bring a separate one for school each year to keep in our homeroom. The addition of filling up the bathtub with water is new and interesting disaster preparedness.

So the hurricane came in and I left my house on Sunday before the MTA shut down and I wasn’t going to get to go anywhere. It was just to a coffee shop to work on my book but I figured it was better to stave off stir crazy if we did get stuck in bad weather. Thought I didn’t really believe we would, I’m glad I took that break.

I hunkered down alone. My wonderful roommate was off visiting her sweetie in Philly and I have three pets and my apartment isn’t in a flood zone so it seemed like a safe thing to do. I have all of this Girl Scout wilderness survival skill and I don’t worry about crises and emergencies. One of my favorite sayings is “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” This philosophy works for me about 90% of the time unless it’s about dating.

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About 24 hours after the subways shut down the storm really settled in. Everything was rattling, windows, the kitchen cabinets. It was sort of terrifying. I also felt like I was starting to get sick so I just crawled into bed and tried to rest a lot and drink tea.

Eventually my internet went out which was awful because that was where I was feeling social support. Constant updates on my friends’ Ariel Speedwagon and Sarah Jenny’s awesome alternate news network plus other folks’ updates about their safety and sentiments in the storm.

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Ariel Speedwagon.

So I was alone and feeling isolated in my apartment, calling my best friend in California periodically to get reassured and watching TV to distract myself.

The next morning in my neighborhood wasn’t so bad. Tons of branches and leaves everywhere, a couple of fallen trees but not much happened that was catastrophic. But something felt very unsettled.

The news began pouring in about the devastation throughout Brooklyn. Red Hook, the Rockaways, Lower Manhattan, New Jersey. Dis/abled and elderly folks stuck in high rise buildings with no electricity or running water. Disaster after disaster.

I couldn’t shake my anxiety for a couple of weeks afterward. I felt scattered and weird. It was awful. My roommate came back to town and shifted into full-on community organizing gear. She was coordinating donation pick-ups and drop offs, getting volunteers out to the Rockaways. It was incredible to experience. Ariel Speedwagon came over one day and kept creating amazing round-ups of where to donate money and where to volunteer. She’s a pro at information dissemination.

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We went forward with our housewarming/naming ceremony on November 1st, and the moment of woo was actually very healing. The power of community woo is pretty amazing.

I could signal boost information and I could cook for people. So that’s what I did. Somehow pouring love into the universe in whatever way I could was how I could help.

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Not pictured: many casseroles.

I guess I’ve been slow to write this post because I was waiting for the aha moment of why I got so anxious after the storm. I think some of it was how connected human beings are–in Brooklyn we were literally surrounded by devastation. Some of it was the mistake I made of weathering the storm by myself. I can be confident and independent to a fault sometimes. I think having someone to be with during the storm I probably would have felt a lot more secure. It felt similar to the time I had emergency surgery when I was 22 years old and I told my mom not to bother coming out, but when I woke up from the surgery alone I knew it was a huge mistake.

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I think some of it was feeling really trapped. The subways weren’t working yet, we were just able to go as far as we could walk (since I don’t have a bike). And the gas shortages were freaky. We were okay, thankfully, but we couldn’t really leave.

I gave up on Halloween entirely and went to bed at 8PM that night. The next week we had a Nor’Easter snowstorm and it just felt so weird.

Some things were so odd. Like how Park Slope seemed “Business as usual” within a week of the storm but folks were still without power in so many other places. And in spite of the gas shortage people were still driving around.

The gas stations stopped having gas, they just ran out. Then when they would get gas there would be these hours long lines to fill up. The NYPD started doing gas rationing at the stations–it was full-on martial law at the pump for a couple of weeks.

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Martial law at the gas station near my house at 4AM.

When we found out that the gas shortages were going to continue because so many refineries were affected by the storm and you could only buy gas every other day. I told Damien, “What if the Mayan calendar is right and it really is the end of the world?”

Well, then I guess people should be having more sex,” she answered. I think it’s a good response. Go have more sex, folks!

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Things aren’t back to normal yet. I was at a Butch Burlesque hurricane relief fundraiser this past Saturday night and someone who has been doing a ton of relief volunteering got up to talk about what is going on with the relief efforts. That the Red Cross was only just then getting to the Rockaways. That they really need day care services because kids can’t go to school. That they only just got power back. That’s three weeks after the storm, with no power, isolated in the aftermath.

That benefit was the first time I went into Manhattan since the storm. I hadn’t even gone further than Williamsburg prior to Wednesday. It’s been a slow recovery process. I’m still not sure what’s left to come.

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Me and Damien.

Damien wrote an amazing post a week after the storm about a progress report.

You can donate money or time to Occupy Sandy. Grass-roots on the ground volunteers are really effective in the post-Sandy recovery.

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