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

2020-07-08

When I’m Grieving I Turn to Two Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Bevin @ 11:06 pm

(This post is a series of daily letters from me to my future children reporting from the emerging paradigm.)

Dear Kids:

Two things that help me with grief the most are talking to my friends and dancing. Right now a lot of people in the world are grieving. Grief about actual death (we’re at 131,000 deaths reported in the US–not including those that weren’t diagnosed which has to be thousands).

Plus regular other human mortality experiences with funeral services put off due to covid quarantine. Without grief rituals it can be harder to move through the difficult feelings.

Plus all the things 2020 might have held for people that got canceled including graduations, weddings, retirements, making a living wage as a performing artist, making a living period. Change is also full of grief, like losing a job.

Dancing, especially opening up my shoulders, is so good to move feelings through me. All of our emotions just want to pass through us. 90 seconds is all it takes for a big feeling to pass. Movement helps those feelings pass before they get to the big feeling part.

Plus endorphins take the edge off grief.

And calling. Connection with other people. It’s why we’re on the planet, to be in relation to one another. All the most life satisfied people talk about how their relationships matter most. Talking to people takes the edge off grief, too. I don’t not talk about what I’m grieving but I don’t focus on it. It helps to be distracted by listening to other people talk about their life!

Call your people. Dance.

Call someone you haven’t talked to in years. Dance.

I think this is the best kind of simple live your best life advice I could give you, for real.

xoxo,

Mom

Sometimes I can see bats diving among the tops of the trees and it is the most magical thing.

This blog is entirely supported by Patreon. Every dollar counts to making this work sustainable and maintaining the archives of this blog. Thanks to my awesome Patronus supporters (as my mom calls them) for co-creating with me!

2017-03-28

General Life Update

Beloved readers, here’s what’s been going on in my life lately. Anyone following me on Instagram probably knows about what doozies life has been hurling at me lately.

Me and Dara at the Cuties fundraising carnival on Sunday. Their fundraiser is going on for a few more days, you can still donate to this vital safe(r) space for queers in LA!

Your Girl is Getting Great Press

I’ve had a couple of fabulous interviews come out in the last week!

Fat Sex Week XXL is coming! It starts on Thursday and I’ve already gotten press about it. I love serendipitous press. I was nominated as a Sex Hero and I was already thinking about another Fat Sex Week because a lot of great content was floating my way and poof! Check out this fabulous chat between me and Noah Michelson Editorial Director of The Huffington Post Voices about fat sex, why Fat Sex Week matters and what you can expect! (Spoiler: Fat Sex Week is always fatter than a regular week.) What an honor to be called a Sex Hero!

Me, April Flores and Tristan Taormino, also big time sex heroes!

I’ve been telling everyone about Jeffrey Marsh’s incredible book How to Be You (seriously should be required reading in high school) and so admire their work helping people to love themselves. Jeffrey and I have such in sync life purposes.

I was totally thrilled to be interviewed for their new Facebook fan page. We had such a beautiful conversation about how I came to be a body liberation activist and how my turning points to love myself came about. Check it out here and be sure to like their page! (Like my fan page while you’re at it! I’m always popping in great articles and self empowerment.)

I Started Fat Kid Dance Party

A month ago I launched my new dance aerobics class Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression). When I heard about EVERYBODY the new body positive gender inclusive gym opening up just six minutes from my house I had to figure out how to get involved. I started taking dance aerobics in LA and was frustrated that the classes were so fast-paced and not really open to all levels, even though they said they were. So I decided to do it my way. I had been producing body positive queer dance parties, this just meant that I was not only Femmecee and Producer but I was the choreographer and DJ, too.

This is what a gender neutral locker room looks like! Now if only they would install in a make-up mirror/vanity for the Femmes of all genders who want to put on their face/take well-lit selfies.

I spend hours on this every week as I learn this new art form and healing modality. I’m so excited how I’ve been able to use the concepts I’ve incorporated in the workshops I teach about body positivity into lessons during aerobics numbers. It is a very unique class and, I think, very healing with high joy vibrations. I’m getting great feedback from folks coming (bring friends, it’s so much fun in a group). Last week we did a cheer dance routine to all Missy Elliot songs, we did an aerobics dance for peace, a Prince song exploring body postures that give confidence, a 90s dance retrospective to Vanilla Ice and more. Every Thursday at 7:30PM! When you sign up online ahead of time, your check-in at the gym will be very fast.

My philosophy is if I would go to a dance party wearing it, I can use it to teach class. I love wearing overtly political shirts to teach aerobics. You can grab this and many other fabulous shirts/tanks/onesies from Genuine Valentine!

Since I often use exercise to prevent depression, I think my partner Dara genuinely believes I am going to be a happier person because I’m an aerobics instructor. Using an actual line of factual reasoning from one of my favorite movies, Legally Blonde.

We’re Finally Moving

My beloved Grandmother POTSA (Passed On To Something Awesome) on January 26, exactly a year after our lease on our little house in LA began. Two days later our landlady told us she was selling our house. Things here haven’t ever been great—it’s an old house and took a lot of work to become comfortable. We put heart and soul into it and even did a very DIY remodel of the attic to create a Mariah Carey closet for my clothes and Femme accoutrements.

Photo by Jes Baker of the Militant Baker. I’m still working every weekday monitoring her social media.

Our landlady used to live in the house behind ours that shares our driveway and while she was there with her grown children it was chaotic but not awful. We even had some really sweet holiday gatherings for Seder and the High Holidays in the courtyard between our houses. However, she moved out in October with her son and things got way worse. Basically, her daughter is selling meth and we suspect that at times have been cooking it. (Based on tells, like rotten egg smells, SO MUCH GARBAGE, etc…)

This is the Epic High Holiday. I used glitter burlap to artfully cover their weird pile of junk that included three old TVs (one was a big screen) that sat there for months until they cleaned it out and immediately replaced it with a broken down convertible that is now collecting a different pile of junk. But this pic is a great example of that old adage “When life hands you a pile of junk in the middle of your event space, break out the dreamy twinkle lights and glitter burlap.” Photo by Rick Sorkin.

I’m a person who believes really strongly in body autonomy and people getting to make their own choices about their bodies and what they do to them. That’s why I don’t shade fat people who make choices about weight loss and that’s why I don’t shade folks who use whatever drugs they want. However, one of the first things I learned as a young adult was “Never trust a tweaker.” That’s really stuck with me and I keep my distance. I also work hard at a 12 Step program for families and friends of alcoholics and drug addicts and I know the realities of that life very well. It’s been hard to have that energy so close by, the Trigger Train is making all stops.


The foot traffic next to our house has been rough. Imagine strangers constantly streaming past your living room and kitchen windows. It’s like having a coffee shop open up but not exactly coffee. The worst part is Macy, my dog, now has cancer and I highly suspect it’s from the stress and energy of the people passing. If you’re not a spiritual person, from an earthly logic place any dog would get stressed by so much foot traffic. From a spiritual place we had Syd, our energy healer, come by to do a healing for Macy and Biscuit Reynolds and she described the energy of the person walking by as being “hit by wasps.”

Things got to the biggest breaking point when we were up in San Francisco for my friend Amanda’s memorial. The folks in the back house had a party and someone was screaming about a gun. 9 cop cars and 2 helicopters later our pet sitters left Macy alone in the house overnight and I just hit my own breaking point. I knew I couldn’t be present for a memorial while scrambling to coordinate pet care from afar. We turned around and drove home the next morning. (Only one arrest, they are very good at hiding their drugs and guns.)

Anyway, we’re happy to have finally found a place! It was a difficult search. I’ll write a post about it in the future, but we were looking at a leap in rent no matter whether we got a smaller 2 bedroom house or a bigger 3 bedroom house. We could say yes to this paradise in Eagle Rock because it is well set-up for a room to be an occasional air bnb, which will help with our rent jump until Bevin’s Tea becomes wildly successful. And once we get the motor fixed, we will have a hot tub! Healing Oasis!! Thank you to everyone who sent us good vibes, woo, and prayers that we would find a great place!

I’m Throwing Myself into Spiritual Work and Grieving

Clinging to anything leads to suffering. I know that intellectually but I struggle with that a lot in grieving. I’m definitely still mourning my Grandmother big time but without a lot of capacity to do so because of the new aerobics class, house chaos and the moving. I’m also grieving all the stuff I wanted to do in our current house to bring it to fruition that I don’t get to finish.

I have been struggling to stay in faith these past two months about finding a place that works for us, and trust that something better was coming along. Many thanks to Alex, my fabulous psychic, for the pep talk that there was something better.

A quick trip to Sacramento last week while Dara attended a conference was just what I needed. My bestie and soul sister Spunky just moved to a fabulous new apartment in Sacramento. We toasted to NOT SETTLING and trusting the Universe to always deliver bigger and better with change.

Energy healing, going to an astrologer, card reader or psychic, or attending a class like a sound bath meditation, yoga or any of the Heal classes at EVERYBODY is a combination of therapy and spiritual practice. I have been throwing myself into all of these things because I know they help and will help me keep my energy moving. Grieving is part of life, and as someone with a lot of losses I want to do my best to process it and still really LIVE. It’s hard to live when you’re stuck in grief and sadness. This blog is a chronicle of my relentless pursuit of joy and I believe you can have joy no matter what, but that you gotta look at and acknowledge your darkness and sadness in order for it to pass.

When I know I’m not processing my grief enough it is really helpful to throw myself into healing modalities. It’s a thing you can do helps to turn on a spigot and let all the feelings out. About a month after Grandmother POTSA, I realized I was constantly in classes and environments where people were guiding me in taking deep breaths.

I’ve been enjoying Jasmine Danielle’s classes at EVERYBODY. They are strengthening, Barre, and yoga infused and so great. A three pound weight packs a bigger punch than you think!

If you feel so moved, take a deep breath right now. Breathe in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, four times. This Four by Four breath I learned from Tara Magalski, is a real savior in centering.

The next big spiritual work I am going to do is to let strangers pack my house. I will leave my current house with Macy and Biscuit Reynolds on Sunday, let Dara supervise the packers we are paying to pack up our house, and come back with the pets on Monday to the new place. We both have had a lot of work taking up our time, we knew getting packers was essential to our being able to move quickly. Dara said I should just leave and let her handle it (she admitted later it was both a gift for my sanity and it will be easier for her without me around).

California is gorgeous right now. Due to all the rain this Winter the wildflowers (and bugs) are poppin! The hills look like they’re painted orange but these are just swaths of flowers. So beautiful.

I’m a controlling Capricorn and have serious issues with people moving my stuff around but I also know this will open up my capacity to write more and get more done. I can heal more folks and do more work in the world if I learn let other people do things that bring me stress. Plus, my friend Katy is in town and was just going to chill at her pet friendly hotel all day and invited me along. Yes please, Universe, I will accept this gift and learn these lessons while being a fat babe at the pool with Katy.

Bevin’s Tea is Still Brewing

I’m still hustling my tea business, though much of my business development was put on the shelf in October when Grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Right now I’m kind of a low-key tea dealer, selling to my friends and folks through my blog. Soon I’ll launch on Etsy, once I have the photos done and new labels designed. I am thinking about investing in a fancy label printer and I’m also deepening my work as a healer so that the blends become even more powerful energy healing. I want to return to blogging the process of developing a product based business, because the more work I do with Marie Forleo’s B-School the more I realize how much I benefit from reading other people’s small business journeys.

Got to hang out with Jes Baker a couple weeks ago when she was in town for a speaking gig at a college!

So, beloved readers, get ready for the launch of Fat Sex Week XXL on Thursday! It’s going to be fatter and louder than ever before. For now catch up on the last Fat Sex Week!

2016-10-21

You are Stronger Than You Think: Grief, Resilience and Capricorn Resistance

Last week I was shaving my newly adopted cat’s legs in an effort to mitigate his pee smell from peeing on his legs. “Shaving Day” was not a success and continues to be the official low point in our three week relationship. Lucky for me, it was a very consumptive process because I missed the texts from my mother when Grandmother went missing.

biscuitreynoldsHe’s so cute but the pee smell is so gross.

After I released Biscuit Reynolds to his 18 hours of post-shave sulking, I checked my phone. Mom’s series of texts were heart-wrenching, but I was already relieved to have read the most recent one. “I called Eisenhower and talked to Grandmother. She was in the hospital getting tests. She’s being released right now.” The first texts talked of asking me to join the hunt looking for Grandmother. She lives independently and doesn’t love her cell phone so we have to catch her at home in order to reach her. Mom hadn’t reached her in too long and got worried. On a whim she called Grandmother’s favorite hospital and asked for her room—and got her!

bevingrandmothermay2015Me and Grandmother in May 2015 on a visit from NYC. Being closer to her geographically was a big reason I wanted to move to LA.

I’ve been kind of wrapped up in my grief around Amanda’s suicide, so I was glad for a happy and swift resolution. Then I recounted the story to my partner Dara and started weeping. A coping strategy I have from my traumatic childhood is to be able to stay separate from my Feelings during crisis. I’m a complete rock star in crisis, I can solve shit, I can organize, I can motivate—I know how to stay safe and I know how to keep other people safe. This is a great skill but not great for emotional health and the Feelings always come. The weeping while I was telling Dara gave me the warning bell that I wasn’t done having these Feelings about Grandmother going missing.

Later that day I walked into Target and then started melting down. Have you ever sobbed at Target? It’s not cute. Part of what has been hardest for me with Amanda isn’t just the loss of her, it’s how much I identify with her and it’s scary. If the world was too hard for Amanda, will it be too hard for me? This thought often propels me to make the phone call even though I feel awkward talking about my Feelings in Target. I know I need to not isolate and I need to ask for help. So I called Bridget (she’s been so amazing this past month).

grandmotherbevinshermansMe and Grandmother at Sherman’s on Friday. When I asked the waitress for Shabbat candles for the table she was very confused.

I got through everything and then talked to Grandmother. Her test was a biopsy on a mass on her lung. She had gone to urgent care because she was coughing up blood and then they sent her right to the ER who admitted her to find the mass, do the biopsy. Grandmother didn’t call us because she doesn’t get a cell signal at the hospital and “didn’t know anyone’s numbers by heart.”

The fact that Grandmother might have cancer was a lot for me to take. Dara just celebrated two years out of cancer treatment in August. I, unfortunately, know a lot about cancer from supporting her through it. In spite of looming work deadlines, Dara offered to come with me to Grandmother’s the next morning to keep her company while she got the biopsy results from the doctor.

cancersurvivorpark1In May 2015 we did this photo shoot at the Cancer Survivor’s Park in Rancho Mirage, CA. We had NO idea Grandmother would have cancer–that’s the one thing that doesn’t really run in our family.

That night I was snuggling with Dara in “the nook.” My thoughts started floating to the grief places and I was crying. I realized I was soaking her shirt with my silent tears and I rolled over to my side. I felt like I was getting away with something. When you’re grieving sometimes you think your sadness, hurt, confusion, anger, depression is too much for your loved ones. Because often, it’s too much for you. Normally I spit in the face of anything that says I’m “too much” but I’m an independent Capricorn and sometimes I like to seem more together than I really am. Crying silently on my side of the bed felt like I could be more of a mess than Dara thought.

I instantly related to Grandmother. Like me and Dolly Parton, Grandmother is a Capricorn. So is my Great Grandmother and my Great Great Grandmother. An epic line of Capricorn women who in each past generation with deepened misogyny had to seem together and not lose it in front of anyone about grief and abuse and alcoholism and who knows what other trauma legacies are in there. Capricorns are the goat climbing the mountain. Persistent, ambitious, success-driven, not showing weakness. The cardinal Earth sign. The Keep It Together and Look Good Doing It sign.

I understood Grandmother’s reticence to ask for help when she got swept away to the hospital, to sit in a bed by herself and not call her kids or grandchildren. Just to do it on her own and not bother anyone. Getting away with not seeming like a mess or like she needed anything.

cancersurvivor2

I felt glad to relate to her and understand her motivation to isolate. I understand it with love and not judgment. I was also glad to be forcing myself on her to support her through the diagnosis the next day. I was sure she didn’t need someone to be there. She is always so happy and grateful when I come to visit I knew it wasn’t an imposition.

Dara caught on to me crying eventually and got me tissues and was her rock star supportive self. She drove two hours with me into the desert to Grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage. She sat at the table with me and Grandmother googling the diagnosis, a mass on her lung but possibly a type of adrenal cancer or maybe lung cancer I still don’t know. She showed Grandmother her chemo karaoke video from her cancer vlog “Cancer Can Be Cool” and talked Grandmother through her experience with cancer treatment and how Dara insisted on positivity from everyone in her life.

daragrandmotherchemokaraokeDara worked so hard on that Chemo Karaoke video–she filmed it on her birthday during a chemo infusion at the Memorial Sloan Kettering chemo center where she got her treatment.

My idea was to go out to Sherman’s, our family’s favorite restaurant, a Jewish deli. (Better than most places I’ve been to in NYC—there I said it.) I wanted us to have a celebration for Grandmother’s cancer survival and success. I believe in the power of positive thinking more so than just about anything in my faith arsenal. If you’re going to go for a positive attitude might as well celebrate and have fun.

celebrationfood

We’re in the day by day diagnosis phase right now, where we wait for the next test result, next doctor referral. It’s maddening to a Capricorn like me who wants to plan and know what’s happening. But that’s not how the world works and I have to keep using lots of tools to be cool with it. I’m on my second listen to the just-released audio book The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein and it’s got a lot of tools for working with the flow of the Universe, womanifestating and for finding serenity.

I told Grandmother that part of my vision for being a rich lesbian is having a big ol’ compound where she would be able to live in her own space in our house, hold court with my friends (who all love her or will love her, she’s so charming) and she won’t have to deal with telling the gardeners they are not doing a good job she can just tell my house manager. But since I’m not yet a rich lesbian I need her to hold on a lot longer. We gotta beat this.

cancersurvivorpark2The Cancer Survivor Park in Rancho Mirage is really great. Worth a visit if you are in Palm Springs.

There’s a lot to worry about, both me and her. She’s older than she looks and that means she gets a lot of ageism when people look at her chart instead of her whole picture of human health. I can certainly relate to doctors looking at weight and not the whole picture of human health. She is always concerned that she won’t get to live independently anymore. I want to be able to be there a lot for her treatment but we just adopted this cat and he stressed out with us gone for one night that he started pooping blood. I just recommitted myself to finishing the memoir I shelved during Dara’s cancer treatment.

I get that worry is a misuse of imagination. I’d rather focus on how fun it will be to make art projects and adventures out of her cancer treatment. We almost convinced her to sing a Dolly song for an instagram video to help me promote Dollypalooza LA on October 29th! She’s got cute stories about being almost famous early in her life, about being constantly mistaken for a celebrity while living in Beverly Hills and now I think everyone thinks of her as an older celebrity while she’s tooling around Palm Springs. We are hopeful she’ll consent to being part of Dara’s cancer vlog. Grandmother is basically a gay icon waiting to happen.

daragrandmotherwalkingHeart emoji. Literally every time I write a gratitude list Dara is at the top.

Before Amanda died, the phrase “You are stronger than you think” kept popping into my head. I didn’t realize it then but that was the Universe telling me I am ready and resilient, even as I don’t really feel either just yet.

cancersurvivorpark3

2016-09-30

I Promise My Personal Tragedy Will Not Interfere with My Ability to Do Good Hair: Remembering Amanda Arkansassy

It happened again. The phone calls and texts started, trying to give me news of a friend’s suicide before I found it on Facebook. This is what we have now. Who knows the protocol?*

bevinarkansassyMe and Amanda at a dance party in 2010. Yesterday I met someone who had tiny flying birds coming from a tattoo on their head and it reminded me of her shoulder tattoo.

This is a post about my friend and it’s a post about my messy grief process. I don’t know what to do right now, but I think modeling how I am grieving may be of some help to other folks out there who are bewildered and confused and don’t know how to keep processing these suicides of bright light Femmes.

My friend Amanda and I became close in 2008/2009 when she was a member of Femme Family, a Femme organizing group that sprung to life after the Femme Conference in August of that year. We wanted Femme community in NYC, and me and Damien, Amanda, Sophie, Chris, Taueret, Bryn, Bridget, Rachel, Hana, Dylan, Erica, Heather, and a lot of other Femmes who popped in and out, made it happen. Mostly we were cultural organizers, throwing dance parties, fundraisers, Femme poker nights, a Femme literary reading series, we had a book club and published a zine.

femmefamilyClockwise from top left: Bryn, Sophie, Damien, Amanda, Rachel, Me, Chris, Dylan, Erica. We were all so busy working our party that we had to do a group photo in stages.

femmefamilygroup2webTaueret, Heather, Me, Bridget, Amanda.

Amanda was the Madam of Country Glam, me and Damien weren’t yet roommates but we were Co-Head Madams. Taueret was the Madam of Ferocity. I forget which Madam title Bryn had. Taueret took her life in February of last year and Bryn just this past January. The last time I saw Amanda was when she was out for Taueret’s memorial (on Amanda’s birthday, October 3rd) and the last time we spoke on the phone was after Bryn passed and Amanda needed advice about posthumous art curation. It was such a beautiful moment, we talked for an hour while I was in a park at sunset, Dara and I having just seen what would become our quirky house in LA. I watched the beauty transform around me in my new neighborhood, we processed about Bryn and she filled me in on her new romantic adventures.

Amanda had the biggest heart. She was so sweet and welcoming. She was from Arkansas and it was a huge part of her identity. She was brilliant and political and knew how to show up for people. She always drove a huge SUV and made it look really easy in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She was a little younger than me and in some ways I think that played into our dynamic. A couple of days ago a friend of hers told me Amanda referred to me an inspiration but to me she was my fiercely loyal Femme friend.

birthdayamandaI’ve known so much grief and loss for so long that I know that even in sad circumstances we need to celebrate life. So even though it was the day of Taueret’s memorial and that was the reason for her visit, I knew our Femme Family reunion brunch needed to include birthday candles for Amanda.

I was still rebuilding myself after my painful break-up with my ex fiancé and she witnessed and held space. She showed me solidarity. She loved Steel Magnolias and Dolly Parton as much as me. She loved to get dressed up and take pictures. She loved other Femmes and loved to peacock for and with us.

0008_ability-to-do-good-hairThe title of this post is an homage to a shared favorite movie.

She started performing burlesque as Lola Dean and I think her first performance ever was at my Queer Family Holiday party. Taueret’s first burlesque act was at my previous party, a Queer Zombie Cabaret, and they both bonded over learning burlesque. When I competed for the title of Miss LEZ I asked them both to be my back-up dancers for my “talent” (hosting a gameshow/being surrounded by hot Femmes) as the Baconettes.

arkansassywiththosepastiesAmanda loved these pasties so much, she bought them special for the show on Etsy. Photo by Alison Picard.

Amanda was amazing backstage at the pageant. She was a former pageant queen in high school and gave me great advice about my interview portion and poise and other pageant stuff. Taueret was also amazing and told off a former date of mine who had recently stood me up. I remember leaving with Taueret after losing the pageant and feeling both physically famished (they don’t feed you backstage) and emotionally supported while kind of crushed that I lost.

misslezbevinamandaIf you want to read about my pageant platform and my play by play of that night check out this blog post. Photo by Syd London. Shout out to original Baconette Melissa Davis!

We brought the Baconettes back together the following Spring. I was Queen of Honor at Hey Queen, a queer dance party that was a staple of Brooklyn nightlife for five years. I was “Size Queen” and wanted to compose a really hot number to Madonna’s “Hanky Panky.” Me, Taueret, Amanda and Hana met up in my tiny living room to practice. We did it again at That’s My Jam the next month and from the buzz off those events I started Rebel Cupcake at Sugarland on International No Diet Day, May 6, 2010. Amanda performed as Lola Dean along with Taueret at the first Rebel Cupcake and once more before she moved to San Francisco.

bevinbaconettes

She, Sophie and Rachel all moved to San Francisco at about the same time. I felt really sad that they left but felt kind of okay, too, because I knew they had each other and no doubt they would do magical things out there.

rebelcupcakequeerrootWatching the blossoming friendship of Rachel and Amanda was really special. Photo from the photo booth of Rebel Cupcake, by Nogga Schwartz.

I think a lot about how Femme Family was this beautiful incubator for those of us involved. It gave us confidence in our abilities and we got ideas that were firmly based in our Femme identities. I started Rebel Cupcake, a body positive dance party for fat kids and fabulous weirdos. Damien started Heels on Wheels, a Femme art tour, show series and now a book with Heather. Sophie started Shameless Photography a feminist body positive pin-up photography business and many of the Femme Family were her first models.

Amanda went on to create Femme Space, a reclamation of space for Femmes and a beautiful portrait project. The stories and photos are stunning, I highly recommend a deep dive into them.

Long distance took an understandable toll on our friendship, but it never lost all of its love. I would see her and have epic conversations about all the things but mostly romance gossip because it was a fav of both of ours. Just six months ago she got on snapchat and she posted the sweetest thing on Facebook about how she loved my “snapchat stories” and for a bit there we would have girl talk and lingerie sharing over snapchat private message 10 seconds at a time.

bevinamanda2015

As our friend Elisabeth said memorializing Amanda, she was the ultimate “Hi Femme!” which was her actual license plate. She had to appeal a bunch to the CA DMV to get it–they thought it was about drugs and she schooled them that it was an actual identity. She was tickled every time she caught someone taking a photo of it behind her in traffic.

We constantly bonded over country music and I still think of her every time a good block of country music sung by women is on the radio (which is rare). When I was in LA last year learning my way around I heard a whole hour dedicated to women in country music and was so excited to tell her about it.

A couple of years ago she told me her plan after she moved to San Francisco was to eventually go back and head an organization for Southern Queers in Arkansas. I loved seeing Arkansas through her lens on social media. I loved seeing places she had told me about.

sfcrew2011Visiting San Francisco with Mackenzi, outside of the Lexington with Sophie, Dagger and Digg. Amanda was always a poly-identified Femme and there are a bunch of really good looking folks that had the pleasure of knowing her romantically in mourning. She was so special as a friend and I think she was extra extra special as a lover.

Another toll of long distance is when your friends throw parties you hella want to be at. She had a birthday party at the Madonna Inn one year and I was SOOOOO SAD I was too broke to go because I had always wanted to go to the Madonna Inn and they were taking lingerie photos with all the theme rooms! It was going to be Femme Slumber Party birthday magic. And I got to go to Dollywood which I know she always wanted to do and I wanted to do it with her! And she had a Dolly Parton themed getaway birthday party.

rachelamanda2010Femme Conference 2010.

Now that I’m in LA I am closer (wouldn’t ever turn down an invite to the Madonna Inn now!) but her housewarming party in Crockett, where she just moved to get more rural, was a night when I’m doing a big event here. I remember thinking “SOMEHOW SOMEWAY we will have a party we can both attend.” She died before I could even pester her to come be my photographer for Dollypalooza next month.

One of the things that is most beautiful in Femme friendships is seeing yourself reflected in one another. Amanda was positive and upbeat, like me, and sparkly. She was the kind of Femme who threw herself into activism and organizing and also had good hair and impeccable nails. I always told her she was my nail inspo and had stiletto nails long before they got really mainstream popular. She kept a few fingers on the right hand short, for sex. I was living for her ombre. Honestly, her hair just kept getting better and better.

arkansassyNashville fans, she declared Juliette Barnes one of her fashion icons. Amanda left behind a perfect shiba inu/chihuahua rescue named Memphis and her cat, Kitten Butt. And a gorgeous white bedroom set she moved cross country.

I’m taking this death really hard. I am replaying all of the ways in which I feel like I could have done things differently. Like what if I hadn’t flaked on hiring her to photograph me at my high school reunion reclaiming space that felt alienating to me as a teen. Would we have had a heart to heart two weeks ago that could have changed things? Should I have finished writing my book already since it’s mostly about how I survived this epic heartbreak and betrayal and bloomed even bigger and brighter than I ever thought possible? Could it have been a road map for her?

I shared these feelings with a friend yesterday who said, “You can’t put your lightness in someone else’s darkness.” And then confessed that they must have been channelling Spirit because they would never have said that. I’ve also gotten similar messages about Bryn and Taueret when I asked my psychic Alex about their possibly related suicides.

queerfamilyholidayallofusPhoto by Alison Picard.

I feel like there’s this way that when you shine really bright like Amanda did, like Bryn did, like Taueret did, that the world doesn’t want you to survive. Just being a bright light superstar that by your very identity challenges the white heteropatriarchy is dangerous. That manifests in the experiences of trauma caused by oppression, misogyny, heterosexism, ableism, fatphobia, transmisogyny, slut shaming, classism, and on and on. It’s hard to stay sane and positive when the world is relentless with heartbreak, police brutality, apartheid, and all of the other horrific things you see just by turning on the news.

The world is made better and sweeter for me by activists and artists like all three of them. I try like hell to take care of myself. I try like hell to model self care for the corner of the internet where people pay attention to what I say. When I’m modeling self care, I am saying “This is how I am staying alive today.” Because self care is vital and survival is vital.

amandaonthemuniThe same month she took her life her face was on the side of a Muni bus. Her light was shining bright. But it goes to show that we can have a good face on and be battling darkness really deep.

And let’s talk about our fucked up mental healthcare system. Why don’t we have walk in clinics, where you can start treatment without a giant ball of red tape and bullshit. Why don’t we fund this? Is it because the people who are in charge find our bodies disposable? We have such a fucked up world we need to make it more survivable. Instead the fuckedupness is making it harder and harder to stay alive.

It’s important and good we know about what’s going wrong in our world. We have to see it to change it, right? But we also need to recognize the toll that takes on everyone’s mental health.

We need to stop treating self care like it’s optional. Take care of yourself and take really fucking great care. And fund easy to access free mental health for everyone because we need it . All three of these friends of mine were brilliant women with different access to help and different ways of soliciting it. What about the people who aren’t as resourced or good at self advocacy as Bryn, Taueret or Amanda? Somehow we need to do better at getting mental healthcare into the hands of people who need it. The amount of people who need it is mounting.

speakingoffemmegroupSpeaking of Femme.

I keep thinking about the idea of feminizing the world as a means of creating world change and world peace. Amanda even mentioned it in the article announcing her as one of KQED’s 20 Women to Watch.

In response to the question, “If you could live in a book, TV show, movie, play or painting, what would it be?” She replied, “It hasn’t been written yet (to my knowledge), but I’m looking forward to media exploring a futuristic femme oligarchy. Until then, Steel Magnolias will do.”

Maybe that’s how I need to womanifest my thoughts about how to feminize the world. Write a TV treatment for a show exploring a Futuristic Femme Oligarchy. If Femmes ruled the world? It would be amazing. Amanda dedicated her Femme Space project that was poppin’ off to the memory of Taueret and Bryn (check the footer on the page) and I would dedicate that TV show treatment to all three.

amandaspeakingoffemmeblue

In the meantime we need to figure out how to survive. This is why I blog. This is why I talk about the things I’ve figured out for self care and to take good care of myself. I’m writing a self care zine so I can brain dump to whoever wants it all the stuff I know about self care. Because we don’t live in a world where mental and emotional healthcare is free and easily available. ’Til we do we need to be taking care of each other and ourselves.

I talk a lot about becoming a rich lesbian. I mostly want to be rich because I want to start a foundation to support the kind of hard to fund amazing grass roots edge of social change groups that don’t usually get grants. I want to give them cash and provide support for their sustainability and helping have the kind of structure that ensures the legacy can move forward if the founders either move on, burn out or have shit go down in their lives. My friend Jenn and I brainstormed that I need to have a social worker on staff who can provide therapy for supported organizers, coaching people in self care.

bevinandthebaconettes

I see a lot of activists whose work and care taking is dedicated to the point of compulsion. There’s always more to do and not enough money or resources. I see people who are broke who give what little they have to folks who are broker than they are. It’s in the giving nature of people dedicated to world change. I wonder if Amanda needed more care than she was capable of receiving. I wonder if there’s a way to teach people to receive the love that is around them. Because Amanda, Taueret and Bryn were all beloved.

These deaths rip open the wounds that I work hard to heal. I’m grieving hard the loss of all three, grief compounded upon grief. I was putting dishes away and a wave came. I was literally sobbing into my kitchen cabinet when I came to. I find it’s easiest to grieve when I just open myself up to it. I don’t try to pretend that I’m cool when I’m not and I work to practice radical honesty with people who ask me how I’m doing.

femmepicnicWhen I was doing my deep dive into my photo archives I realized that right after this Femme picnic in Dolores Park I met up with my queer Femme friend Melissa Tracy who also took her life this year.

I’ve learned a lot about grieving over the years. I was sending a blog post about break-up grieving strategies to a friend and I realized a lot of it was very applicable to death. Try to be present. Try to let it flow. Commit to your plans so you don’t spiral out for too long. For me, preventing the darkness is easier than being swallowed by it and having to crawl out, so I’m trying really hard to not fall into that place.

This week I asked for a lot of help. Dara has been out of town for work for almost two weeks. On Saturday Amanda’s suicide hadn’t been announced yet and I had to figure out how to get the help I needed without doing the endless phone calls and messages thing, so I put an all call on Facebook. I don’t give a fuck about seeming vulnerable. I think we should be more vulnerable with each other, it’s a sign of strength.

amandaonstageatbellhouse

In some ways it’s been good that Dara’s not here. I have been relying for primary support from my friends and it’s important to lean out of your primary for support. I’m also crabby and listless, and I’m actually feeling shitty about how I am not a pile of sunshine for Dara right now. So being independent from her has been helpful.

Yesterday I knew I had a ton of work to do and in the in between times might need brightening. So I asked Facebook once again for sweet memories. Remembering connections to other, living folks is a sweet way to remind me that I am loved, and taking breaks from work to sit with a few at a time has been so helpful.

queerfamilychristmasstage

I keep remembering all the hot people I was going to set her up on dates with. I keep thinking about all of the collaborations I wanted to do. Over the past year I thought a lot about what Amanda would do my Femme Space photo about. I thought maybe my rainbow mumu and me in a Home Depot because I am definitely a power tool wielding Femme, I do not let stereotypes about women and femininity stand in the way of me getting what I want to get done. And then I definitely thought it was going to be me teaching my new fitness class at the body positive gym opening up in LA. But whatever it was, it’s a collaboration that won’t happen. Because something about the world was too painful for her.

I want to make the world more survivable. I wrestled with the choice to not go to her funeral on Wednesday but the thought of making the travel plans was so overwhelming I was paralyzed. So I took that, and my big chronic digestive disorder flare as my signs that I needed to stay put and take care of myself. I can’t make the world survivable unless I take care of my own survival.

*For me, just in case this is relevant to any of my friends reading this, I prefer a phone call. Almost all of my calls are scheduled because that’s how I roll, so if you call me twice in a row and text “Call me ASAP” I know what that means. So that’s my preferred protocol. I changed my number to a 323 number when I moved to LA so check your phone and delete that old Jersey 201 number!

wafflesinbmoreI have all these new friends I just made and I wonder if they think it’s weird that I say I love you literally every time we part ways. It’s because I’ve known so much loss and I’m only 37 and I know it might be my last opportunity to say it. So I always do when I feel it. Grief is an unfortunate side effect of love, and I love really big. I loved Amanda a lot and my grief reflects the size of that love. There is no timeline on grief, I will never get over missing her. I will never get over Bryn and Taueret. I will only do what is the best case scenario and get used to the idea that they aren’t here. 

More Amanda Love:

Go Fund Me Campaign to help with Amanda’s memorial costs.

KQED Holding Space for Amanda (lists a lot of her artistic accomplishments if you want to learn more about her prolific work)

Femmes Before Literally Everything

To be added: Memorial information for next month’s memorial.

2015-10-08

Saying Goodbye to NYC: On Leaving, Change, Grief and Anxiety

I have this grief about leaving Brooklyn that hits me in waves. I am profoundly curious and excited about this new chapter in my life. I haven’t experienced a drastic geographic change in 15 years. I’m a totally different person than I was when I left CA. I’m so curious what it is going to be like. But also, I’m bummed about leaving a lot of the things I love about NYC behind. I’m working really hard not to let my grief and anxiety interfere with my ability to love the process and let go of NYC in a mindful way.

bevinatnybgOn my NYC Bucket List was going to the New York Botanical Gardens, which currently features an amazing Frida Kahlo exhibit. It includes fourteen pieces of her artwork and a whole recreation of the gardens of her famed home, Casa Azul.

When I was 29 and my fiance had just broken up with me and I was kind of a disaster, my friend Kelli Dunham gave me a cd about the grief process. I didn’t realize at the time that you could have grief about things that weren’t death. I just thought you powered through yucky feelings by ignoring them. Learning how to deal with grief and anxiety has been a long road and I’m still working through it.

I am going to miss my friends. I’m going to miss all of the tremendous cultural opportunities living in NYC–mostly all of my weirdo Downtown artist friends’ shows. I am going to miss Fall foliage (strategically moving just after foliage, when the gorgeous Gaywitchmas decor lines the streets and just before deep snow times). I’m going to miss the ability to skip car traffic and hop in a subway car to get places. There is grief about leaving that behind.

FridapyramidSince I’m moving someplace in a warm climate I got a lot of great ideas for my future gardens in LA. I love the way the colors of the plants popped against the bright colors of the buildings and pyramid at Casa Azul.

I want to approach this move in a mindful way that is as low stress as it can be. Last night I mentioned to Dara my anxiety level and she’s like “What are you anxious about?” I said, “Um, how about my impending move across the country?” Even the best laid plans and the most time you have to execute them still come with lots of unknown anxieties and that’s kind of buzzing along in the back of my head. I do all the things I know to do to handle my anxiety, including buckets of self care, meditation, faith that the Goddess has a plan for me and is taking care of everything behind the scenes on my behalf and still more self care. Yet still, part of having feelings that are difficult to experience is just acknowledging them. Hi anxiety. You are there still.

So my anxiety is telling me “Do ALL the NYC things you might possibly miss! Schedule ALL the hangouts with your friends! Fill up ALL of your time with moving prep!” But my self care mind is telling me, actually, slow the fuck down you started getting sick this week. Do what you can. It will all be okay. It will all be okay. It will all be okay.

casaazul

Ever since I stopped doing monthly queer parties, I definitely changed how I interact socially. Going through chemo as Dara’s support was a big part of recentering myself towards hanging out at home. At first it was out of necessity and then it became part of how I interacted with the world. I think this is also a product of getting older, and have heard queer friends in their thirties, forties and fifties talk about shifting priorities and not focusing on nightlife for socializing any longer.

There’s also this thing where everyone in NYC is really busy. There’s a necessary hustle to living here because it’s not cheap and my friends tend to be working artists. So they hold down day jobs/day hustles, side hustles, artwork, gigs, rehearsals, etc…

Remember that line in Clueless where Cher’s dad says “Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes!!” In NYC I think that’s more like 45 minutes. The subway is convenient but it takes awhile, and busses take forever–often they just don’t show up. So if you factor in 45 minutes to get to Crown Heights from South Brooklyn neighborhoods it is hard to squeeze that into an evening. Am I naive to hope that things are a little bit different in a town where most folks drive?

bevinmacvictoriaThe other day I got to do one of my favorite things which was a spontaneous dinner hang with two of my favorite people at once! Mackenzi and Victoria!

I also just got kind of fatigued with how much work it takes to schedule a hang out in NYC sometimes. When people are busy and you get to the third round of times that don’t sync up… This summer I made plans with a couple of friends of mine 2 months out to go to Spa Castle. I totally guarded that time like a precious jewel because it was so hard to get it on the calendar and I wanted to see my friends.

I have also been on a journey to move towards centering self-care into my life–making taking care of myself a priority. Having blank space on my calendar to work on my day job work or my art work is important, it’s also important that I get to the gym, and not to burn myself out running around. Where I used to say yes to everything and fill up my calendar with back to back plans, now I’m more hesitant because I want to conserve my energy for the work I want to be doing in the world. I changed the way I eat, which means I cook for us a lot. It’s much easier and cheaper to eat a whole foods diet* if you cook at home, but that also means I spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning.

nybglilypond

So I had all of these shifts in my life, many of which contributed to my decision to move in the first place, but it also means so many of my precious NYC friends became people I see only every 4 to 6 months.

When I was doing my “should I or shouldn’t I” thinking about moving I realized that if I move away and am still working somewhat bicoastally, I’ll still see my NYC friends about every 4 to 6 months, just in more concentrated doses during visits rather than sporadically during our busy New Yorker lives. I’m hopeful that will work out.

Each time I catch-up with a friend I haven’t seen in 4 to 6 months (or sometimes longer) I am struck at how connections don’t necessarily have to have time limits. I love the experience of having so many friends with whom I have connections that time does not expire. That’s radical, beautiful abundance. It’s kind of weird to be like “Okay, so in the past 6 months all this has happened” with someone who is not a friend from out of town, but that’s a totally legitimate way to sustain connections with people we don’t get to see day to day. And in NYC there are few folks we get to see day to day unless we work or live with them, roll in a crew that prioritizes group hangs, or you see your neighbors often. (I have some neighbors I really love who I rarely see because our schedules don’t overlap.)

meandamandaAmanda moved away from NYC years ago and it is always a joy to get to see her again! Photo by Sarah Jenny.

So in part, my handling of moving anxiety and grief is going with the flow when it comes to getting my last minute NYC enjoyment in. I can’t possibly go to all the museums I’d like to see before I go, I probably won’t get to squeeze everyone before I go. Having an abundance mentality, where I know I can try to see folks as much as possible, putting it out there that I want to have hang outs while I’m decluttering and packing, sending around potluck invites, prioritizing quality time AND self care… Even looking at my life and being able to acknowledge that I’m having grief and anxiety is huge progress compared to who I was just 8 years ago. That’s what I’m experimenting with to handle my grief and anxiety.

That and remembering that I get to see lots of people I love once we are headed to LA. Both on the trip out through the South and once we get there. Life is change, the Goddess is change, and with change comes grief and anxiety.

bevinpyramid

*It is also not cheap to eat a whole foods diet and food justice programs that work towards making whole foods more accessible to low income folks is work I really admire and want to amplify. Do you do food justice work and want my help amplifying? Please get in touch!

2014-09-16

Post Cancer Treatment Life in a Nutshell

It’s been awhile since I posted substantively and when I get to this point I get into these quagmires, “But there’s no context for me on my blog anymore!” I like this space to be an ongoing narrative of who I am and what I’m doing at the intersections of these identities of queer, fat and femme. So to kick off more posts about what I’m excited about, here’s a newsy update.

IMG_20140816_203125Dara and I had a great “progressive dinner” date where we went to three different restaurants for different courses. This was for the vegan ice cream course at Van Leeuwan in Brooklyn.

Post Cancer Treatment

Dara is doing well post-cancer treatment. She is really loving life, she has a zest that is similar to her love of life pre-treatment, except her zest is more gentle and self-loving now. She has a way of really being present and relaxing into the idea that a day doing nothing is the perfect way to keep from working too much.

IMG_20140822_220118Me and Dara at a rooftop party a couple of weeks ago. I love when you get to tower over a sea of blingie skyscrapers.

We have so much fun together. We had fun during cancer, she often tells me I “made cancer fun.” My opinion throughout was why should cancer treatment not be a series of tumblr post worthy, good photo opportunity adventures? So that’s what it kind of was. But even as we made the best of things, it was still with a bit of a pall covering everything. Without most of that damper we’re having even more fun now. Everything feels a bit more joyful, with the gratitude of not being in cancer treatment.

We’re doing tons of new stuff. We went to a park neither of us had been to at the foot of the George Washington Bridge on the Hudson River to take a tennis lesson. I haven’t played tennis as an adult and I never took to it in high school; I don’t mean to brag but I lettered in badminton. I was all set on racket sports and didn’t need that clunky tennis racket to cloud my badminton focus!

IMG_20140821_204956

But tennis as an adult! It’s pretty fun and quite a workout. I’m sold! Dara and I went to another tennis lesson in a different park and it wasn’t nearly as fun, so now we’re on the hunt for the perfect city tennis situation.

She has her zest back but not quite her endurance… she injured her knee and two other body parts within a week. She has insomnia from the Tamoxifin, a hormone blocker that she has to take forever. Or like 10 years. So that’s another ding for energy.

We are hoping to go apple picking and camping this month! And next month we’ll reprise our trip to Southern California we were supposed to take in June when her father passed away suddenly. It feels healing to schedule out the adventures we want to take and folks we want to visit. I feel really lucky we’re able to do that.

Lucky is a great way to describe how we feel post treatment—we saw the movie the Fault in Our Stars, about a teenage girl with terminal cancer. It really hit home how temporary love can be. And even though the length of love is sometimes short, it can still have important, life changing intensity.

I feel like Dara’s cancer treatment was a life changing intensity time for me… as it was for Dara. We’re excited to see what our relationship is like after cancer treatment. I think we’ll both be different after treatment. (This was also why I declined to move in with her after cancer treatment—I want us to just have fun together for awhile instead of adding another pile of stress to the end of what has been a really difficult year for me.)

Macy’s Recovery

20140821_175210Family selfie.

My beloved dog Macy had surgery for a ruptured disc in July and her recovery is ongoing. Her intense separation anxiety post-hospital has finally waned. Perhaps it was taking her to that first tennis lesson with all that noise and flying balls that convinced her that insisting on being with her people 24/7 wasn’t necessary, but she is finally able to be left at home alone again. For awhile I couldn’t even leave her in my bedroom for two minutes without her wailing. It was very intense.

Macy has to begin pricey physical therapy for her hind leg. She is walking on all of her legs, which is huge progress from the surgery, but she’s limping really hard, her body is shaped kind of like a comma when she walks, curved to the right. She can’t jump onto furniture and she can’t push open the doors in the house anymore like she used to, and she’s bearing 80% of her weight on the front legs which can lead to more problems down the road.

I hope that the physical therapy involves hydro therapy because it is very cute to watch in you tube videos. It’s also very successful at strengthening weakened legs so I’m hopeful for a full recovery.

IMG_20140816_214812The third stop on our progressive dinner date, short ribs poutine from Mile End. Macy in her “accessibility backpack” that enabled us to take her all over the place this summer when she couldn’t be left alone. She even went to an outdoor YoYo Ma concert with Dara in the Berkshires! I picked up the backpack on Amazon for $44 and think it’s a great value.

Macy’s only ten years old and she’s otherwise perfectly healthy. Her veterinary neurologist expects that she’ll live out her days (Shih Tzus live to be about 16). So here’s a pro-tip, if your friend’s dog has had major surgery, don’t say anything like “She’s had a great life!” It’s really different to have a pet diagnosed with a chronic illness or an injury than to get a terminal diagnosis! She has had a great life (she was photographed in Time Out New York and Curve Magazine before I ever was!) but she has a lot more life to live!

I am still visioning for Macy to make it into People Magazine and Southern Living Magazine, two of my favorites. Maybe even Oprah Mag. But mostly, I’m still visioning lots of fun adventures for my charming and magical Shih Tzu!

Plus Size Party Girl

Instead of producing monthly parties, I’m now focusing my energy on less frequent bigger productions. Though, in lieu of all of that, I took a hiatus while Dara was going through treatment.

I just finished producing Dollypalooza, an Epic Fan Tribute to Dolly Parton on 9/5 (get it?). It was the biggest production I’ve ever taken on single-handedly. (Way to come back to party planning with a bang!)

bevingroupsingdollypaloozabyJenaCumboDrae Campbell, Miss Mary Wanna, Me, World Famous *BOB* and MILK from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6. Photo by Jena Cumbo for the Village Voice.

It reminded me of the intensity of Picnic Day when I was in college. That was the UC Davis open house—all departments, student organizations, sports teams, etc… put on some kind of exhibit or event. There was a parade, six stages of entertainment, a student activities fair. Legendary events during my tenure on the Picnic Day Board were the dachshund races in the basketball stadium, cockroach races in the Entemology Department and the fistulated cow demonstration by the College of Agriculture. The fistulated cow was a cow who had a hole cut into her stomach so people could put on a glove and reach their hand into the cow’s stomach to retrieve partially digested grass–cows digest the same food several times. It was rightfully shut down by animal rights protestors in the late 90s.

Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into coordinating that kind of event, involving a board of 20 and 500+ volunteers. There was a frenzy that overtook me and the entire board of organizers of Picnic Day the week before the event. I remember super late nights in the Picnic Day office laminating photographs into security passes. Dollypalooza was the closest I’ve ever come as an adult to that feeling. I love planning and executing major events, especially unusual ones that bring people joy. The lights in folks’ eyes when I fliered for Dollypalooza let me know I was on to something.

IMG_20140906_153536Me and my hero World Famous *BOB*–as her performance she told an amazing story about meeting Dolly Parton and had everyone from the show on stage at the end to group sing Hard Candy Christmas.

We made almost $700 for the Imagination Library in the raffle, Dolly’s literacy charity that sends books every month to kids in need, and it was an unforgettable show. I am brimming with ideas for next year. But I definitely know I can’t take on anything like that single-handedly again. I’m super grateful for Dara’s help—she did some amazing PR work that got a videographer from ABC News to come by, and some interest from People Magazine. My friend Jess, who brought me to Dollywood for the first time, took over the raffle and made that part so easy for me. We also figured out how to do a contest to send the performer who brought the most people in the door to Dollywood and got a raffle donation from Dollywood Cabins! At the end of the show, I felt like Oprah telling people “You go to Dollywood! And YOU go to Dollywood!”

IMG_6337The gorgeous view from the Dollywood Cabin I stayed in last May.

Mental and Emotional Health

Seeing a counselor with the Lesbian Cancer Initiative was the best choice I made as a caregiver during treatment. She pointed out to me going into post-treatment that I would have an adjustment period, and so would Dara. It is a significant energy shift.

IMG_20140829_162150This isn’t for the LCI but it’s from Callen Lorde, my physical health provider.

I’m in the weird process of looking for a therapist for the first time in my adult life. I’ve got about 50 possibilities from friends and am whittling it down. I am intentionally being really public about this process because my mental and emotional health are really high priorities for me and I want to encourage folks to feel empowered about seeking help. While things feel like the “calm after the storm” right now, I also think that the amount of life traumas I’ve faced in the past 12 months is unusual and I’d like to sort through them with a professional. Last night I had a dream about a friend of mine who passed last November and I’m about to go to Atlanta for the first time since her funeral. Crisis mode means you just scoot from one trauma to the next without digesting time, and I want to make sure I can go back in and digest things. Kind of like a metaphorical fistulated cow demonstration.

So that’s me in a nutshell (I really wish I had a picture of me in a nutshell).

Oh, and the first stop on our progressive dinner date (all in outdoor venues that allowed us to have our special needs Shih Tzu) was crispy kale salad in the backyard of Battersby… It was a great date!

2014-06-20

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

I read a lot of blogs, especially design and mommy blogs, where it kind of seems like the blogger has this magical, perfect life full of sunshine and roses. I know that’s an easy thing to think about someone who publicly shares about their life that things are easy all the time. But it’s part of my artistic intentions that I talk about the way shit is hard sometimes, too. This piece is about how it is okay to not be okay sometimes.

On Father’s Day every year for the past four years my magical, powerful, wonderful roommate Damien Luxe produces an event called Fuck You Dad: A Cabaret to End Patriarchy. It is a way for her to reclaim Father’s Day, which always falls near her birthday. It’s such an empowering event and I’ve really loved getting together with other artists to perform in a cute backyard and DIY empowerment we maybe (probably) didn’t get from our dads.

14428960215_f66d930428_oFrom a previous year’s Fuck You Dad offerings, as published on the Heels on Wheels instagram.

As an only child raised by a single mom in off and on working class/poverty, with a family legacy of alcoholism, I’ve got lots of dad issues. I work through them in a few venues, most helpfully in a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. Much of the time, maybe even 95% of the time, I’m really fine. I have lots of compassion, detachment with love, etc… But this year it took me by surprise.

My girlfriend, who has been going through treatment for breast cancer, just lost her beloved father. He was a wonderful man, he radiated love and support and everything a Good Dad can be. (And I’d like to point out here that the patriarchy makes it really hard even for Good Dads to be Good Dads.) I am so grateful I got the chance to meet him.

The day after Dara’s last chemo treatment her dad went to the ER with chest pains and a little over a week later he passed away. It is really shitty to want to be celebrating a cancer treatment milestone and instead be packing up to go to a funeral. We were supposed to be getting together for a family vacation where I was going to meet her brothers and their families for the first time and her folks were going to meet my mom and Grandmother, my two closest biological relatives. It was weird how all of our travel had changed and it was a grief tornado.

As far as I could tell for myself everything was fine, considering. I was holding it together and feeling really helpful with the family. Dara’s family rules, they are really sweet and awesome. I really appreciated being able to be helpful—managing food as it came to the house, cleaning up, grocery shopping, making sure Dara was eating. All the kinds of things I’d learned to do as a cancer caretaker in a more concentrated form.

14445164014_98c990f573_oDamien emceeing and Heather and Daniel Rosza preparing for their Fancy piece.

We flew home from staying with her mom for the week after the funeral and the next morning was Father’s Day. I was working on my piece for Fuck You Dad and it wasn’t gelling. I was feeling really distracted and moody. Dara and I got into a really dumb fight and I didn’t know why.

Until I got to Jacqueline’s house to workshop our pieces and I kind of lost it during her rehearsal. And then when I got to the cabaret and started crying as soon as I hugged my friend Heather, I just realized, I’M NOT OKAY.

This was both a surprise to me and also kind of sucked. When I perform I want to have more control over myself and not feel like I might cry when I get up to the mic.

What I’ve realized about resilience is that it’s there when I most need it. During a crisis, I’m a rock. I am a logistics mistress, I will get everything taken care of. I generally am not feeling my feelings when I’m going through something hard. I’m just getting through. Given all the dad grief going on so acutely for the previous three weeks, given all the caretaking energy I’d been putting out for the past six months, I just didn’t have all my resilience I usually do on Father’s Day.

The dad stuff that’s usually on the shelf and very tidy for me was a total mess. But because I was performing in this space, with these people around me all at once, all these amazing Femmes who have been my rocks (some of them for years), I could afford to lose it a little and have time to collect myself before I went on stage. And it was okay.

Being a Feelings Squirrel kind of person, where a squirrel saves her nuts to eat during the long winter, I kind of unconsciously save my feelings for later when I have space. I recognize that this is a survival mechanism that I learned out of necessity in a not great childhood. This is something I’m only recently learning about myself so I am still working on how to constructively let out my feelings when it’s time instead of having them come out in not so great ways later.

I’m experimenting with ways for me to have some space to feel feelings. Like when we were in Vegas I took a friend’s recommendation for a Korean day spa, one of those places where you pay $20 and get to go lounge in a sauna or hot tubs for as long as you want. I went there because I knew I needed a place to feel feelings.

14435415852_70ef34c5bb_oJacqueline spray painting Fuck You Dad on a comforter. Photo courtesy @mxjackdawson on Instagram–the modern day Getty Images.

But it wasn’t enough. I totally got to the point on Father’s Day where my feelings were coming out of me like I was an overfilled sandwich cracker and the peanut butter was squishing out the sides.

When I found out that my performance at Fuck You Dad was the last in the line-up I knew what I needed to performed. I scrapped what I had prepared and I decided to do a healing exercise with the audience.

As my introduction I had the emcee call on three people that new me to solicit compliments. This is a totally hard thing to do, solicit compliments, but is a really quick and easy way to access strength and resilience when you need it.

When I ask my friends for compliments, I’m not doing it from an insecure place. When I’m feeling not okay, having my friends remind me why I am a babe or a bad ass or competent or whatever really helps me get out of the negative thought patterns that love to rush in when my vulnerabilities are high. Try it next time you need a boost—call on folks you consider body positive allies when you need a boost about body self confidence, or call on folks who you trust to support you when you need general confidence reminders.

They were perfect compliments, too. One was about being a good dog mom, one was about my blog and the other was about how I have a spirituality that is very big but I don’t push it on other people. It was helpful to have that framework for what I did next with the crowd.

14430104821_d0d57e77f4_oI didn’t even get it together enough to dress how I wanted to for Fuck You Dad and Jacqueline loaned me this babely leopard dress. I’m pictured with this totally nice person who looks like my bestie Leo who has been on the West Coast for months.

I told the audience I was not okay and that it was okay that I was not okay. I testified a one minute version of this post about my dad stuff. I thought that probably, like me, hearing 11 acts, many of which really went there with exorcising Bad Dad stuff, brought things up for people and they might need some centering, healing and cleansing.

I lead a breathing and prayer exercise. Breathing in healing and breathing out fear. Breathing in love and breathing out anger. I offered a Reiki healing to everyone for their childhoods—at my present level of Reiki training I can heal through time and space. I had them picture a time in their childhood that needed healing and I beamed the healing out to them.

Then I did a centering exercise based in gratitude, where I had the audience turn to someone next to them and thank them for being with them in this moment. I find it really helpful to make human connections in times when I’m not okay.

So that was my offering at Fuck You Dad. I wanted to share it with folks out there in my blog audience. Kind of like how even the most ardent fat activist still has “bad fat days” even folks who have done lots of work on different areas of their lives have hard times and it’s okay to not be okay. It’s taken me a lot of work to release the shame that comes up for me when shit I thought was long settled gets stirred up for me again.

And Father’s Day is almost a week over and I’m working on doing the things I know that work to take excellent care of myself. And I know I’ll be okay, even though I also know it’s okay to not be okay.

2013-12-25

Leo’s Hammer and the Meaning of Christmas

My bestie Leo has been working hard to reclaim the Christmas spirit for the last couple of months. In the years since her mom passed it’s been hard and this year her dear ones have been watching her diligently working on figuring out what she can do to bring Christmas cheer back into her life.


Photo by The Think Theater Queer Photography. I swear Leo and I are just friends, we don’t date even though we take great photos together.

You should know a little bit about Leo. She’s extremely kind and generous, introspective and intentional, capable and handy. She’s also extremely dapper and wears a hanky every single day. In fact, one of the Christmas cheer things she’s done is to wear a hanky with snowflakes on it. She fixes computers as an IT professional for a living but she really loves working with her hands. Carpentry has become a recent passion of hers and she knows a lot about tools and what it takes to build things.


Leo at my house helping me weatherproof windows. Note the hanky in her left pocket.

We decorated for Christmas at my house, she got a bunch of us together to go to a holiday market outside with apple cider because it reminded her of her childhood Christmas tradition with her folks going around to tree lots in Jacksonville with warm beverages and finding the perfect tree. So we did the adult version of that and she had a flask to spike the apple cider.


The whole time we were at the holiday market I did a new exercise to be okay being un-partnered during the holidays by “Husbandifesting*” with holiday gifts. It was a visioning exercise where I told my friends what gifts I would get the future Mx. Branlandingham–a wooden brain teaser puzzle because they would be super into solving things but not so into getting lost in the iPad, a nice tie with a cool pattern on it, a pocket watch, etc… And I told them what Mx. B would get me–a gift certificate to a tea vendor I was excited about, a teapot with a steeping basket inside, a teal glowy glass lamp of a goddess for my altar. It made it really fun and my friends totally played along!

In the same spirit of visioning for what she wants, Leo has been talking about this hammer for weeks. This very expensive ($200) very light (11oz) framing hammer that is titanium and does your taxes or something. At first I was like, that’s sweet, asking for what you want but where would I get $200 to buy you a hammer. But then I thought, well, maybe I could get it together to get friends to throw in for it. With all the stuff going on in my life I didn’t think I could actually rally the support needed to coordinate a Queer Kris Kringle army to buy a $200 hammer. But then after planning our outing to the holiday market, seeing how jazzed she was about reclaiming Christmas, I was like, “Fuck it, I want to make Leo happy, let’s see if we can do this.”


At the holiday market with Tommy, Marico and Leo.

Leo and I run in three distinct mutual circles that only overlap a little bit, so I’m kind of the perfect person to coordinate this. I started a Facebook message and put about 15 people on it who I knew loved Leo. I asked them to add folks to it. I asked someone to step up and take care of the paypal logistics (Jacqueline, with help by Miss Mary Wanna). Then more people added more people to the “Hey, That’s Leo’s Hammer” thread. Then out of nowhere we got WAY more money than we needed–good because the price of the hammer spiked to $199 from $169 the week before Christmas). Everyone just loves Leo so much they wanted to make her happy. So we did it! And then there was the natural queer processing about what to do with the extra cash and Tommy took care of that part, getting a gift card to a restaurant she likes near her house.

Our friends Miriam and Victoria had a holiday brunch and we totally commandeered their brunch to do the Leo surprise. Jacqueline, a very talented videographer, came up with the perfect way to surprise Leo on camera by asking her to “help” with a project she was doing on the meaning of Christmas. I think you’re going to love the results in this super touching video starring Leo!

*Husbandifesting is a word from Avory Agony about those visioning exercises you do to bring forth a masculine of center version of “The One.” I recently wrote a piece about marriage for Autostraddle that talks about all the different ways you can acknowledge love relationships that aren’t just about marriage. I also still believe for a loving, supportive future spouse while being happy with my life as it is in this moment.

2013-04-08

Lean into the Discomfort and Breathe: 10 Strategies for Moving Through Grief and Loss in the Wake of a Break-Up

I love to match make for my friends, and occasionally this comes in the form of me logging into someone’s OK Cupid account while we’re hanging out and soliciting people for them. It’s often a lot easier to hit on someone if your friend is doing it for you.

One of my besties let me loose on her iPad and OKC profile last Fall and reported that she ended up getting a few dates from my efforts. Ironically, one of these dates ended up talking random shit about me to my friend. This date said she didn’t like “Bevin or Sarah Jenny,” another party promoter friend of mine, because we “seem happier than normal,” in a way that was about maybe we didn’t deserve to be happy all the time. (My friend, of course, stood up for me and isn’t going out with this girl again. When the date was informed that Bevin was the reason they were even on the date the girl about died.)

IMG_4089.JPG
Me and Sarah Jenny in November. I want to point out that SJ and I are both fat femmes who promote parties but we’re really different people and don’t look much alike. I want to believe this girl didn’t say we’re “happier than normal” because we’re both fat and maybe don’t deserve to be happy because of that. I think being happy in a society that tells you that you should hate yourself is a radical act.

I take this (and most) criticism from people who don’t know me with a giant grain of salt. This statement says more about the person than it does about me.

I’m sure a lot of people perceive me to be very happy, perhaps event “happier than normal.” Most people who are not my close friends or even my acquaintances only have a really limited view of my experience. On my blog and in public I tend to focus on the positive, joyful things about my life. That’s a choice I make to live in a positive framework. But, please do not mistake that I am living a happy 24/7 lifestyle because that is far from the case.

Right now, for example, I feel like dead flowers in a vase. My resting state is sort of wilted and sad. The person I had been keeping company* with for a few months in an intensely connected, spiritual, sexual, emotional, intellectual powerhouse kind of way broke up with me two weeks ago. I am heartbroken and focused on healing. My creativity has been sapped and I’m back in a familiar yet different place of heartbreak.** I contain a lot of conflicting emotions at once, which is a hard place to be in because it can feel like a war is going on. I love her and want her to be following her path which, right now, excludes a relationship. I also love us and want to fight for us.

In helping other heartbroken and healing folks out there, I made a list of strategies I am using right now to get through when the only way out is through. My friend Elisabeth told me last week, on a particularly bad day when I listened to too much Taylor Swift (she helps until she hurts), “Lean into the discomfort and breathe.” Much easier said than done, but I know it can be done because I am actually doing it right now.

I am also using things that have been helpful from the Heartbreak MFA post I wrote in 2010 and from Zoe’s Break-up Survival Guide that she wrote in 2007. At least all of this collective pain is turning into a break-up survival treasure trove.

RB-19.jpg
At Rebel Cupcake/Sweet Fox Mariah Carey tribute last week. Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

1. Remind yourself that Feelings are temporary and Feelings aren’t facts.
I know feelings are temporary. I know this from a strong belief but also I know this because I am living Feelings on about a six hour cycle. If I feel really shitty right now probably in about six hours I’ll feel less shitty or differently shitty.

2. Be in the present moment.
When I can get into the present moment fully, I can sometimes distract myself. And sometimes I just really let loose and have a lot of fun, dance with my whole body or engage in a full gut laugh, or a full experience of art. But those in between times are a killer and the sadness seeps in.

I never knew how to “be in the present moment” (which sort of sounds like new age hooey, but it really works) until I practiced it. Here’s a beginner trick. Look around where you are and do an inventory of noticing things. Like when I’m walking/traveling my Feelings are the most dominant so I try to check in with my surroundings. “Look, there’s a cute bird,” “Look there’s a place where the wires look like they spell a lyric to a Bruce Springsteen song,” “OMG that sunset is painting the sky full pink and orange how beautiful.”

3. Stick to the plan even when you don’t feel like it.
Making sure I have plans outside the house with at least one other human and at least once a day has been crucial. I work for myself by myself, my beloved roommate has been on tour this whole time, so I can get really lonely, especially because of that void left by the person you used to talk to multiple times a day. Even though sometimes these plans outside the house involve a lot of internalized kicking and screaming, faking it till I make it often means I end up having a great time and usually/almost forget about my heartbreak for several minutes at a time.

RB-24.jpg
During the entire performance at Rebel Cupcake last week I felt elated. I realized during the second act, “Good lord I haven’t felt bummed out in over a half hour!”

4. Name your feelings.
I’ve learned that Feelings just need attention sometimes in order to move through them. Being okay if I can’t name them at the moment and maybe just getting into the quality of the feelings. “Sucky” and “bummed” totally suffice in this category.

5. Take excellent care of yourself.
Going to the gym, doing all of the regular self-care work I usually do but treating it like my job is crucial right now. I actually have a really hard time eating when I’m emotionally distraught and I’ve been scheduling meals out with friends a bunch so that I can distract myself enough to eat. And at home I make sure I have V8 and smoothies and vitamins so I can just get something in there even when I don’t feel like eating.

Have you ever written out a list of what it means to take excellent care of yourself? Maybe now is a good time to start.

RB-16.jpg
The genius of Shane Shane. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

6. Doing whatever spiritual work makes sense to you.
I’m a really spiritual person, so much of these things fall into my regular self care, but some are special things that might fall into “treat yo self.”

Here’s a list of spiritual activities that help me:

Prayer
Meditation
Tarot reading
Astrological reading
Past life reading
Yoga
Meeting with a spiritual group
Doing rituals by myself or with a group***
Attending or listening to services (I don’t belong to a religion but appreciate spiritual wisdom in many forms and listen to services via TV or podcast by folks who preach positivity)
Going out to sit in nature and watch birds, the ocean, the trees or whatever
Gratitude lists (there is so much to be grateful for)

Tarot reading with Jacqueline. #babestagram #lesbianteabasket
Jacqueline reached out to me upon hearing about my break-up to offer her tarot services. We met up at Teany and now are blossoming a new friendship! Also it really helped me sort through my stuff.

7. Feel your feelings right now. Be a liberated hot mess.
There’s a lot of empowerment from feeling your feelings as they come. I’ve been crying a lot, wherever whenever, just to let it out, and thus have added to my old lady chic by stuffing tissues in my bra, every pocket and keeping my fancy hankies in all my handbags. I already did that hanky thing, it’s just more diligent.)

I’ve been very honest about my feelings to everyone. Obviously I’m a social butterfly, but the thing about me is that I cannot stand small talk. I also know how empowering it is to be honest about how you are and so I just let people know. Sometimes I soften the blow by making a joke out of it. (“This is my lot in life as a lesbian.”) But even though I soften it being real about my experiences helps me get through it. Authenticity is a very important value to me.

I’ve learned stuffing my feelings as a coping mechanism, hiding from them or doing that classic escapism, rebounding, just makes me have to feel them worse later. Feeling shitty comes with a late penalty. I’d rather just get the grief over with.

Sometimes I feel a little bashful about how sad and needy I am right now, but I know I have people who are safe spaces for it. Spunky has done a lot of watching me cry on google video chat when there’s nothing more to say. (Also, though I am wary about being an energy suck, I actually got a great compliment from someone about how positive I am being in my grief.)

RB-06.jpg
I was sitting like this eating with my friend Bridget before the party started and Hana walked in and said, “All I can see is tits and barbeque.” Tits deep in BBQ is one of my favorite things to be.

Reaching out for help has been great for me, and letting people who have capacity to lend an ear, text, dinner out come to me has been really successful. Using facebook filters has been a great way to all-call for this. Also, it’s nice to get sympathy from people (and I got a lot of sweet, supportive comments on the “I’m going through a break-up I can’t stop crying” post). That first day when I couldn’t go more than a few minutes without crying, my eyes were so puffy I could barely see, I was supposed to go to a dinner party. I debated going (especially since my ex had been invited so there would be all those weird “She was supposed to be here” realizations) but then I realized that this group of people is part of a spiritual work group I’m in, they support me, and if I had to keep running to the bathroom during Seder to cry they would get it. It turned out that it was a perfect distraction, and I didn’t have to worry about “sparkling” with these women, I could just bring my sad self.

It’s incredibly amazing how, if you learn how to receive, times of heartbreak can really show you how loved you are.

RB-08.jpg
Moment of woo before Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

8. Doing new things with your appearance.
I rarely wear my hair “flat” to my head because I like big hair. But I’m just trying a new thing because new things while I’m feeling intense discomfort help me feel better. And also there’s a lot of empowerment in reclaiming your body after a break-up. I am vaguely considering going all the way blonde.

9. Proceeding with unconditional love.
I used to play the victim role big time in my break-ups. Learning to acknowledge my loss without vilifying a person in it is a new experience for me. I am hurting, that is my truth. She can’t be in a relationship, that is her truth. I learned a lot from this relationship, including what it is like to really experience unconditional love and conflict from a loving place. I want that to be our experience in a transition place from sweethearts to whatever we’re going to end up being, whether that’s friends or Boston Friends**** or just people who were very connected once but don’t really interact anymore.

This is very difficult work, unconditional love. Especially when that’s not always modeled well, in families, in past relationships, even in the media. How often do you see exes who remain friends in popular culture? How often is it complicated? (Also, as an aside, I think we can all agree that Rayna and Deacon on Nashville are totally Boston Friends.)

My friend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha told me today, “I hope you are being sweet to yourself and opening your heart to transformation.” That’s what I’m intending to do with this break-up. Transforming myself through love. I think with love all things are possible, even hope from a really sad place.

RB-41.jpg

10. Throwing yourself into a big art project.
This was mentioned in a previous break-up post, but this time around I’m combining my love for traveling in the wake of a break-up (my last one had me heading out on a cross country road trip two weeks later) and my love for consumptive art projects to get through loss. My friends Sarah Jenny and Avory of Hey Queen asked me to produce the decor for the “Queens of the Road” themed party this weekend the day after my sweetheart broke up with me. I thought it was a very serendipitous call to action and I’m knee-deep in hot glue, maps and glitter getting ready for this upcoming weekend.

*Our actual relationship status. Our previous relationship status was “dating or whatever” after I said, less than a month into it, “If we’re still dating or whatever this summer I want to go…”

**It’s sort of crazy how much I can open myself up to loving even more after every heartbreak! And then I feel hurt again when it’s over in a new and different, yet somewhat familiar way. It is a comfort to remember I got over this before, in bigger and worse break-ups, therefore I know there will be gifts waiting for me on the other end.

***A ritual I did recently, after I pulled a tarot card that told me I needed to exfoliate, was to rub my skin with oil, soak during a long, meditative bath, then took great fist fulls of epsom salt and scrubbed my skin invoking newness into my life. I rinsed off and smoothed it all out with lotion.

****My new friend Jacqueline gave me that expression for “More than Friends.”

RB-42.jpg
This is my “Know Your Own Strength” tattoo. Photo by Kelsey Dickey. Tattoo by Jason June. New year’s intention by me.

***
I’m fundraising to sustain QueerFatFemme.com and my art projects! Please consider supporting with a gift subscription (and getting some great prizes) if you have been touched by this site!

2012-06-28

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP at a Theater Near You!

Filed under: Events and Announcements — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Bevin @ 5:48 pm

United in Anger-Poster-24x36-w_credits.jpg

I was invited to a press screening of United in Anger: A History of ACT UP last week.

I highly recommend it. The 90 minute movie is a beautiful summary of the organization in great detail and so tangible. The movie is full of archival footage of radical, inventive, creative and well-organized protest actions by the coalition of folks who were in the thick of the AIDS crisis. The story is told in the words of the folks who were doing it, meeting every Monday at the LGBT Center, making media and strategizing. The press information from the movie says the archival footage “puts the audience on the ground” with protestors and that is incredibly accurate.

United_in_Anger_3.jpg

The film progresses through a dozen or so of the most infamous of the ACT UP actions and it was incredibly moving. I found myself chanting along by the end and cried during an action where ashes were spread on the White House lawn. It was so moving to see how folks were using their intense grief to also channel that into activism.

I also enjoyed that it addressed what it was like to be in the movement. I think it’s nice to know what folks did but it’s great to hear the dirt. There was a lot of personal impetus to be part of the movement–everyone’s friends were dying. And also, I liked that folks were honest about how they didn’t go cruising in bars, they joined this activist movement so they could cruise and also do something important with their time. I don’t know, it was an important thread of realness that definitely made this documentary feel like a homegrown history rather than a documentary from an outsiders’ perspective.

United_in_Anger_5.jpg
This is still true. Also, I cheered out loud when this was raised during an action.

It is also so important for us to absorb the strategy. So often in queer generations we’re reinventing the wheel. ACT UP already did so much of that strategizing and organizing! We can learn so much from it.

United in Anger is touring film festivals. It opens at Quad Cinemas in NYC on July 6 for a week. Check out their screening schedule!

2012-04-11

Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip Part 6: Salt Lake City to Bay Area, CA

Dubbed the Lesbian Jack Kerouac by my BFF Brian for my propensity for long distance romance, “A girl in every port and on the road with a broken heart,” he describes me, I set out on a life-changing adventure in November of 2011. This is my tale of deep heart exfoliation via asphalt. Check out all the tales in this series at the Gay American Road Trip 2011 tag.


To Castro Valley, CA from Salt Lake City, UT via Interstate 80–through Utah, Nevada and Northern California.

I left Salt Lake City at 9AM on Thanksgiving. I didn’t realize until the night before that my Thanksgiving day journey was going to be a twelve hour drive. There’s a big difference between ten and twelve hours in the car.

IMG_1089.JPG
Stunning view from the parking lot of the Salt Lake City La Quinta.

When initially planning my trip I was planning to stop just Northwest of Sacramento for the holiday as one of my BFFs lives up there and we love spending Thanksgiving together.*

In a twist of fate Spunky was going to be in the Bay Area but my mom was hosting Thanksgiving at her house. And my beloved grandmother was going to be there, up from Palm Springs! My mom rarely hosts big holidays—she was a single mom and I’m an only child—and while she’s married now it’s not like there’s a big kerfuffle of family around. She often spends holidays with her best friend Linda or with my Aunt and cousins in Southern California. Linda’s husband, Peter, who has been in my life since I was 14, almost twenty years, passed away in a sudden boat accident at the end of August. After their loss, Mom offered to host Linda’s family (daughters, husbands, grandkids) at her house.

I was really sad that I couldn’t afford to fly out for the memorial service earlier in November. So the twist of fate that helped me be able to go to my mom’s for Thanksgiving was a wonderful opportunity to hug family friends in this tender time.

IMG_1094.JPG

In planning the details of the trip I never updated my estimated travel time from Salt Lake City to Spunky’s house to SLC to my mom’s house (another two hours). OOPS. So twelve hours in the car it was, and leaving at 9AM was way later than I wanted to start but I was so wiped the night before I needed to just let myself decompress and sleep. Lest we forget that my goal of driving solo across the country in five days was ambitious.

IMG_1095.JPG

I only lamented the lack of a human passenger on this trip a few times, and SLC was one of them. I drove past the Great Salt Lake and with a mind on hustling through my twelve hour drive without dawdling, I wished someone had been shotgun to read to me from my AAA guide books.

IMG_1097.JPG
My view of the lake.

As an aside, I am a huge fan of Sister Wives and have always wanted to do more than sleep in SLC, so it is a goal of mine to go back for a couple of days and poke around a little more. All the snowy mountains in the distance were beautiful!

After the Great Salt Lake I hit the Salt Flats. I had no idea what I was driving through until Macy and I stopped at a rest area and read a sign that told us about it. We took a little walk to the edge of the Salt Flats and poked my little boot into it.

IMG_1101.JPG

IMG_1103.JPG

IMG_1106.JPG

IMG_1108.JPG

IMG_1109.JPG

The next part of our journey brought us across the Utah/Nevada border. I stopped for gas, knowing from previous experience driving across the country that Nevada is extremely desolate with not a ton of consistent cell phone service or frequent gas stations. This oasis was exciting, there were casinos on one side of the block and the other side of the block were Utah pawn shops.

IMG_1113.JPG

IMG_1114.JPG

It occurred to me in a moment of panic that the fact that it was Thanksgiving might mean I had no access to food on the road. What if all the fast food places in Nevada were closed for the holiday? I bought a lunchable at a gas station and threw it in my road cooler.

The high desert in Nevada is gorgeous. I saw a lot of mountains in the distance. Tried to get photos of them. Lamented that I hadn’t downloaded the audio book of Kerouac’s On the Road before I left. Started Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer instead. Started taking photos of Macy on the roof of my car because the scenery around her was so stunning. I felt like I could see forever, which is something I miss a lot living in the city.

IMG_1133.JPG

The day wore on, stopping occasionally in desolate towns for gas or a stretch. I ended up finding a McDonalds and immediately regretted eating it. I listened to Liz Phair’s “Go West” a lot, a song I heard with new ears on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway when I was in the midst of the grief/emotional crash times of last September and fantasized about hitting the road and disappearing for a few weeks. (The little nuggets of inspiration to go on this trip were all very tiny but persistent.)

IMG_1130.JPG

Nevada is a huge state and I was near the border of California as the sun started to slip slowly toward the horizon. I followed some signs on the outskirts of Reno for a Starbucks and was super delighted to find one open in a strip mall. Inside was a flamboyant boy who was excited to learn I was from Brooklyn. When I see that glimmer in folks’ eyes when I’m far away from home I encourage them. “It’s a lot cheaper than you think to live in Brooklyn. I pay $875** a month for half of a 2 bedroom. The Starbucks are always hiring. I throw a queer dance party called Rebel Cupcake. If you feel like you want to come to New York you totally should. Look me up.”

Anyway, seeing this young queer was the highlight of my trip that day. I just love seeing queer folks on the road.

IMG_1136.JPG

IMG_1137.JPG

I started down the Sierra Nevada after I got through Reno and this was my second great OOPS of the day, timing-wise. Had I realized how treacherous that drive was going to be I would have gotten a motel room and called it a night. In fact I almost stopped a couple of times to do just that but couldn’t find an easy spot to do that while traveling down this huge mountain range.

Recall this was the end of November. The Sierras are mountains about three hours from where I grew up that I got to go camping and hiking in with my girl scout troops and sometimes we would be adventurous and go cold camping. Sometimes in college my sorority or women’s honor society would take a weekend trip and we would go rent a cabin in Tahoe or Reno and experience the joys of Nevada gambling and snowpack. None of these occasions required me to drive or put chains on a car.

I have lived on the East Coast for 11 Winters now (does this past year count as a Winter?). We don’t really have chain requirements here. Sometimes you get special snow tires for the winter but not me. I just review tips for snow driving before the season starts. (Another benefit to AAA membership—this road trip/car magazine that is really practical and interesting.) I have driven through a lot of scary snow storms on all of the local highways between Philadelphia and New York City. I don’t prefer to drive in the snow but that’s my life now.

IMG_1128.JPG
Macy, DJ and snack distributor.

However, I’ve never driven through steep, dark and twisty mountains like the Sierra Nevada while a rain/ice storm starts. Chains were not required but had the temperature been just a bit colder they would have. Of course, it was dusk so the risk of deer was real and a doe darted out in front of a car a bit in front of me. I was white knuckled and terrified.

This did not stop me from enjoying the last bits of daylight. Man, the mountains were beautiful. I stopped at a lookout area to pee in the woods (not even a single restroom along the highway during this stretch) and really appreciated the grace and glory of the trees, the waning light, the crisp air. It was the wilderness of my youth and I loved it.

IMG_1129.JPG
Earlier in the day.

I went about 30-40 MPH the whole time, sometimes slower. This is on Route 80, where cars were just speeding right by me, all self-assured about their driving in the slippery downslope of the Sierras. You do you, cars. I’ll do me.

I pulled off to go to the bathroom again (the whole stretch of mountains was probably close to two hours of drive time) but couldn’t find somewhere, so I just took a break and walked Macy in a closed for Thanksgiving grocery store parking lot. It helped me regroup, and it helped to smell the pine trees.

We hit the road again and I was so thankful to find we were finally in the foothills (near where Spunky lives) and Sacramento was imminent.

There is something about the smell in the air in Sacramento that just smells like home to me. I lived in Davis, CA, just 20 minutes from Sac, for four years during undergrad and I had so much fun (and depression, but that’s a larger story). College was a meaningful time for me and it was exciting to be there.

I always love driving through Davis, even if it’s just to get a quick cup of coffee or something. I stopped for gas on Mace Road. I wished it was still light and I wasn’t running late for Thanksgiving dinner (Mom was making me a plate) so I could have gotten a photo of Macy on a statue of a cow or on the UC Davis sign or in front of Thoreau or Regan Hall or something. One of these days I’ll bring Macy out for Picnic Day (the largest student-run event in the country—I was Vice Chair my senior year) or something.

I got back on the road and it was a quick 90 minutes to my mom’s house. I thought about going the back way zigging and zagging through tiny North/East Bay highways but the extra 10 minutes it was going to take me to go on 80 all the way to the end was sort of too awesome to give up. I drove past my birthplace in the North Bay and along Berkeley and across the Bay from San Francisco.

And then I was at my mom’s place in Castro Valley. It was 9:30PM (even with the hour change of time from SLC it took me 13 and 1/2 hours to finish my drive). Some folks were leaving and I got to say goodbye to them on their way out.

And on the inside of the house was my mom, her wife, Linda (who is like an aunt to me), Grandmother and more of Linda’s family. It was wonderful. And I dove right into that green bean casserole like nobody’s business.

Next up! My first day of rest and a quick trip into San Francisco!

IMG_1123.JPG

*I learned early on that the best way to plan this epic road trip was to let the plans shake out as they were going to and not force anything. In fact, other than the first three people I was stopping to see, I didn’t make any firm plans regarding arrival dates and gave everyone I was visiting a two or three night range, to be confirmed later. This flexibility proved to be crucial when accounting for road conditions, my whim and where the Goddess was taking me.

**My rent is also a little cheaper now, BTW, and I know folks who pay $500 who live in tinier places or in Queens.

2012-03-15

Glitter on the Gravestone: Grief in the Age of the Internet/Remembering CallOutQueen

Last year I knew five people who passed away. A close friend of the family, friends and members of communities I was involved in. There was a lot of pain and loss for me, mitigated somewhat by a well-timed deepened spirituality that has helped me come to a place of peace from each loss much easier than my life prior to spiritual practice.

I am struggling today because someone I “knew” on the internet took their life. Mark Aguhar, who I knew as “CallOutQueen.”* How did I “know” them? I cruised their blog. I appreciated their incisive wit. I appreciated their vanity and glitter. I loved their art. The juxtaposition of “Be ugly/Know Beauty” (this is a genius meditation, if you do that sort of thing). The swish of hair back and forth. Looking dressed when wearing nothing at all. Owning a brown, fat, genderqueer, femme, fag body. Absolute Femme realness at all times. Vulnerability. Stark honesty. Cutting honesty.

CallOutQueen

I mean, I know she died, right? Like, because everyone says so. But when it happens on Tumblr, unlike on Facebook there’s no real clarifying post that says “This is what happened.” Sometimes on Facebook there’s a news article tagged with their name that pops up on a profile. Even when my ex-lover passed away I only sorta knew what happened because her best friend was dating one of my besties, it was never clear, from Facebook. With Luscious there wasn’t a news article. Just a heart broken community of queers putting it together.

So that’s what we have here with CallOutQueen. She’s gone. I was hunting through the tumblz Tuesday panning for a gleam of what happened. PrettyQueer.com and a few other outlets indicated she took her life. I mean. Who knows? I’m not even certain of the pronouns (thinking they with a leaning toward she/her, but when you only know someone through their writing in the first person you don’t always know).

I know what I feel is real sadness. For a lot of things. But so grateful she put her art out there. Expressed herself. Told her stories. Was a presence on the internet for so long before she was no longer a presence. A lot of people depart and haven’t told their stories.

tumblr_m038jqCwKP1qao7z5o1_500.png

It feels weird to have this connection to someone from the internet. In this day and age, sometimes the internet is a really important place to connect. Sometimes our friends are in the computer and our community is in the tumblr or livejournal or wherever. Some of my best friends I met on blogging platforms (hey diaryland).

It reminds me about the importance of cherishing every moment and enjoying it. It reminds me that I am a presence on the internet. I was recognized on the street on my way to work Tuesday, before I found out. That’s always both weird and awesome. It made me think. what happens when I leave? What legacy do I leave?

A lot of my friends have had illnesses, knew they were leaving, and had time to get some last words out to the world. Tell us to have compassion, as was the case with V, or to take care of our health, as was the case with Heather. Some had life partners who could say things like “This is what so and so would want.” I think a lot about mortality and how fleeting life is. Treasuring every moment. Sucking the marrow of the bones of what we have, every single moment.

And here I am. I don’t have a life partner or anything. Trust that my BFF Brian has the password to my blog and will come make an update if something (Goddess forbid) happens. I want those folks out there to know what happened. Who knew me from the internet.

Also, I want you to know, if anything happens I want you to love yourself as much as possible and remember self-love is a life-long process. Be gentle with yourself and be gentle with each other.

What does Mark want us to know? How can we know? How lucky that they left so much of themselves on the internet.

One of my spiritual beliefs is that I think we are all on this earth to do a certain amount of work and we’re done when our work is done. I also believe that we recur and keep working on our higher selves. And we have souls we come back and work with. It brings me some solace to know I was affected by Mark. The swish of pretty hair. The soulful videos of full make-up and emotion. Existing as Femme and solidly as she did in a world that told her she was wrong and ugly at every turn.

tumblr_lzba8gdAsK1qc3h79o6_250.jpg

This world is temporal and cruel. This world is beautiful and possible.

I don’t have anything more profound to say except that I’m feeling it and expressing it and those are really important to me on my journey.

Rest in Power, CallOutQueen.

Here is a link to the fund to help Mark’s family with funeral expenses.

Here is a link to an article from The Qu about Mark.

*I’m certainly not the only person who calls people by their screen names in their head, even when I know their real name. I wonder how many folks who read this blog, follow my twitter or tumblr who only think of me as QueerFatFemme not Bevin?

IMG_1379.JPG

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress