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

2016-01-02

Remembering Ellie

Cancer has claimed another amazing queer pal of mine at a young age.

Ellie Conant was a kind, magical creator of community space. Her parties (Choice Cunts, among others) were legendary in the NYC queer scene when I moved to town and I was honored to join her as a party creator. She was exciting to party with and really fun to be around. She was the kind of person who showed up and instantly made you feel like a friend. And even though maybe you never ended up grabbing that coffee together because. NYC. Busy. We saw each other in crowded bars, clubs, community events and always shared squeezes and managed to have a five minute meaningful conversation.

elliebyleslievanstrattenPhoto of Ellie by Leslie Van Stelten, from this GO Magazine article about her that I loved.

I remember once we talked about how we really needed to help one another as queer party promoters and plug one another’s parties. She wanted to do a THING and get us all together and it was a brilliant idea that kind of remained in the club because we got busy.

I remember when she was ending Choice Cunts and we talked about life cycles and how much we give of ourselves as party promoters. I don’t think that people who aren’t queer cultural producers understand how much work goes into creating things. It’s not about the money for most of us. (When I was doing Rebel Cupcake I was lucky if I made $100 and once lost $400.) Queer cultural producers have an idea of how we as a community can have fun together and want to help direct that fun, bring people together and create new opportunities. It’s a joy to help people find joy.

She had a real way of acknowledging that being a party promoter was way more work than we were paid for, and I’ve worked to emulate that to other cultural producers. It was a way in which she honored the work of party creation that I really appreciated and I learned from her how to value it.

Ellie did what so many people aspire to–she changed and improved New York City.

ellie

Ellie embodied that generosity of spirit and fun shepherding. She had a gregariousness I admired and a fantastic sense of style.

She will be missed and she was spectacular. All of the loss I’ve experienced in my short life has reminded me to live life to the fullest and savor every adventure. It’s also reminded me that taking care of myself so that I can enjoy the adventures is important, too.

Ellie posted this really great quote to her Facebook wall last week.

wearealldying

While rooting through my photo archives for that selfie I know I took with Ellie at a random party that I can’t find, I found so many photos of my queer departed friends. Especially of Taueret, whose suicide in March I’ve still not fully processed.

taueretatpurim2012Taueret, at a Purim Party in 2011.

I like to say this thing Glenn Marla once told me, which is “We’re all going to be gay for a real long time.” It’s a nice thing to remember when you feel like you’re not going to bang that person because they’re monogamous or the timing’s not right. But it’s cold comfort when someone passes away and you know you’re not going to have the joy of running into them again in this life.

In these moments, I feel really grateful for opening up to spirituality. It helps me out emotionally to feel that the afterlife is something awesome beyond our wildest imaginations. That our departed friends and family move into a new way of interacting with us. Dara made up an acronym when she was diagnosed with cancer called POTSA (Passing On To Something Awesome) that she insisted me and those close to us use when we talked about death.

Given how generous and friendly Ellie was in life, I have no doubt that in POTSA she is out there conspiring to create magical good times for every person she touched. The effects of her influence in human form are beyond what we can possibly know.

I really hope that her transition is peaceful and brings her excitement. I’m sending prayers for her family, her partner Melissa, and all who knew and loved her and are feeling this tremendous loss.

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.

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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.

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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!

2015-09-18

I’m Moving to LA and Here’s My Process

I’m really getting right to business in the title of this post. Yup, I’m moving. From Brooklyn to LA. I’m a queer, let’s process about how I got to that decision!

Two years ago, if you had told me I would be moving to LA at 36 years old I would laugh in your face. I grew up in Northern California. I have lots of complex feelings about my hometown and the East Bay surrounding it. I love to visit SF and Oakland and especially the Northern California coastal lands (e.g. Marin and Half Moon Bay). But I wouldn’t want to live there. Dot com stuff really changed how expensive it is there and most of the Bay feels pretty suburban and not appealing to me.

bevininbigbearMe visiting Big Bear, CA, which I LOVED and is only 2 hours from LA.

When you grow up in Northern CA you are taught a kind of regional disdain for Southern CA. I think Northern Californians buy into stereotypes that LA is all airy fairy and image-obsessed. Whenever I’d flip through LA Weekly and see nothing but ads for plastic surgeons I would allow that to be my perception of the entire region. (Not to mention the fact that I’ve become pretty airy fairy as I’ve become spiritual in my 30s.)

Much of my extended family is in Southern California and I thought that because I’d visited it twice a year most of my life that I had an understanding of the area. But mostly I know their suburbs (Ventura County, which is actually phenomenal and beautiful, and Palm Springs, which I adore) but not LA proper. I literally only stepped foot in LA for family events or the airport.

I moved to Camden, NJ for law school in August, 2000, from my cozy college town in Davis, CA. I didn’t expect to stay on the East Coast. I thought that I’d go to school and come back to settle in the Bay Area because that’s what I knew and my friends from college were mostly concentrated there. But things changed. One of my favorite people from college moved to Jersey City and I spent a lot of time visiting John in Jersey City. John’s couch generosity for those two years really changed my life. I got to experience NYC the best way you can as a broke law student, with close friends and a lot of alcohol.

MeJohnGroveStPath2002Me and John at the Grove Street PATH station.

I was drawn to NYC by magic—I genuinely felt a creative life force energy in me whenever I would come up to NYC and frolic in the East and West Village. It was a different place back then, Meow Mix was still open, and The Cock was somewhere by 9th Street and the Lower East Side was really queer whereas now it’s covered with hoardes of drunk straight folks on weekend nights.

JohnNicoleTheCock2002John and Nicole in front of the Cock in about 2001 or 2002.

That creative life force energy when you visit NYC and it is calling to you is pretty different once you get here and have to hustle hard to make rent. Midtown during the day has a really different energy than nightlife in the Village. But still, NYC kept her promises and I got really creative here. It’s always been a struggle for me managing the practicalities of feeling “safe” with the call to produce and create cultural events, community organizing, performing and writing. Surrounded by the artists and activists I know here I was given so many great examples of creating art while holding down a hustle.

I always knew that I wasn’t a lifer in New York City. I don’t know if I’ll have kids, but if I do I would love to do it somewhere with a driveway. I really enjoy parking in a parking lot that is attached to Target. I love going out into nature, I find it really soothing and centering. One of my favorite most spiritual things I can do is be somewhere where I can look in one direction and only see what the Goddess has made. (The beach is great for that.) I guess I always thought that I’d eventually move to Atlanta or Austin or another medium sized city.

Enter Dara, my wonderful and supportive partner. The first time we dated, she brought up that she was thinking about moving to LA. Having lived there just after college for two years she loved it and always wanted to go back. She pulled the trigger, deciding to become a “single nomad” and broke up with me. (OMG if this was the Mindy Project I could make a funny joke right now but mostly I’m just happy for the messy beginning so we can have a stronger now.) She traveled the country, ending up in LA and just after she landed was diagnosed with breast cancer. She wanted to be treated in NYC, so back she came, her attempt to move thwarted. When she got back here and I reunited we talked about her desire to move to LA and I laughed because I didn’t want to go, but that we would figure out our departure from NYC when the time came.

grillinginbigbearWhen we move to LA my intention is to get one of those adorable 2 bedroom bungalows with a backyard and a detached garage. You can rent them for about what each of us pay in NYC for apartments. Macy is going to love a backyard.

I could feel my swan song with NYC beginning last Fall. Coming off the most chaotic and difficult year of my life (but still really great in complex ways) I started doing some heavy reflecting on my values and priorities. I realized that my seasonal depression (which can be as long as six months) was grinding me to a halt creatively. As I work on developing my psychic gifts, I realize how draining it is for me to be around a lot of people all at once. For me, even going to the gym can be draining because there’s at least 100 people on the trip from my house. And self care is one of my top priorities. I realized I was living in a place with an expiration date. Here I hustle hard for the money to live here, as well as hustle hard to maintain the self care that helps me feel good and that doesn’t leave a lot of time or energy to do the work that I am passionate about.

On our post chemo road trip through CA last October we stopped in LA for a day. Dara really wanted to show me what she loved about it. We just went to Echo Park to meet my friend Taylor Black for lunch and a wander, but it surprised me. The energy was different than I thought. It was a mellow city hustle bustle, but with nature right in there, with big, undeveloped hills and regional parks throughout the East LA area. I started opening up to the idea of moving there.

As a spiritual person, I understand the decision making process to be self-correcting. If I’m following my inner guidance from the Goddess, I’m going to be on the path I’m meant to be. So if I were to decide to move to LA and it wasn’t right, I’d get signs. Doing self care is really important for me so that I can be calm enough to notice the signs and feelings directing me.

I think sometimes the Goddess guides me nicely in a whisper, the stern voice is somewhere in the middle and then I get the hollering through pain. A lot of my biggest turning points in life happened after really painful endings before I had the chance to act on that gut instinct about how that day job really didn’t suit me and I wanted more flexibility to work on my art or how my fiance and I really wanted different things in life… Things like that. I was worried that I would stay in NYC until it got painful.

bevinwatchingeclipseWe visited LA last October during a solar eclipse, and this juice bar just gave out glasses to go watch it. So magical.

So, when I’m making a big decision, I start out by just acting as though I’ve decided. What does that look like, how does that feel? I spent about 4 months considering the move to LA, and then a friend of mine passed away. We weren’t close, but I took it as the sign I’d been praying for. (The thing I knew about her most was that she had moved cross country from a comfortable existence and a job she liked and then moved on faith and it was a great choice for her. Laura Mulley’s blog is here, I recommend starting fro the beginning it’s amazing.) I’ve had lots of friends pass under the age of 40. It has really sucked to get this practiced at grief. But I also know there is usually a learning in my grief and it was that week that I decided moving cross country was the right choice. This was March, so I gave myself 9 months, human gestation period, to get my ducks in a row and ready to go.

My Grandmother is another big factor in my move. She lives in Palm Springs, she’s still very independent and we have a lot in common, being Capricorn glamour babes who love woo. I have always hoped that my money situation would pop off and I would get to go visit Grandmother every couple of months from NYC but that hasn’t happened. I would love to get to spend more time with her.

Also, my Aunt and her progeny all live in Southern California and I love them a lot. I don’t know them very well, since I was raised 8 hours away and we saw one another twice a year. But whenever I do get to see them as an adult I enjoy them and I think it would be rad to see them more often.

I genuinely never thought that I would be one of those queers who moves to be closer to family. But I guess I am? I watched a lot of 19 Kids and Counting over the Winter (I have a LOT I can say about the Duggar scandals) and one of the things I loved most about the show is seeing what it is like to be intimate with your family. As the only child of a single mom, I did not have an experience of unconditional love and support and family intimacy growing up. I’d love to know what it’s like to have someplace to go every holiday, even the little ones I don’t super acknowledge in my hustle bustle NYC life.

So, all of this came down to feeling pulled to LA. I visited in May to get to know all the various areas of LA and finalize what neighborhood we’re looking to move to (more on that in another post).

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It was important to me to have my own independent reasons to move rather than just going with a partner. A friend of mine pointed out it’s totally okay to move for and with a partner and she was right. I am really excited to do this with Dara because doing things together is fun as we love an adventure. We haven’t lived together formally (though she stayed in my apartment with me during the last two months of chemo) and we are fatigued with the schlep inherent in not living together.

I’m really looking forward to the changes from this move. God is change and I want to be open to the next big things happening in my life by opening up all this energy!

I’m also kind of scared. I don’t know what my day job is going to look like. I promised myself when I took the Bar exam that I would never do it again, and I am going to keep that promise. (When I looked into the CA requirements the yearly bar fees are double the ones I pay in the two states I’m licensed in and I got that feeling in my stomach I had when looking into a law career 12 years ago when I graduated law school.) Also, as a real estate closing attorney out here, my skills translate to either a real estate agent or a title company attorney and I’d 100% rather be a Realtor. My Grandmother was a big deal real estate agent in Beverly Hills in the 80s & 90s so it’s kind of a family thing. And, with any luck, my line of Reiki infused teas will pop off and I won’t need a day job and can just focus on stuff I’m passionate about! (I enjoy real estate but it’s not like my life blood energy the way doing work in the world to help people feel at home in their bodies is.)

I’m also presently planning the logistics of the move (just to get a quote from PODS I was on the phone for 40 minutes… $5,000) and starting a project management plan for getting everything done. I have no idea how and when to get rid of stuff, so I’m going to do some interviews of folks I know who did a cross country move before.

Me, Macy and Dara leave NYC on December 20th, and arrive in LA around March 1st. We’re taking a month for a DIY artist residency so I can finish my book finally, and then taking a lingering trip through the Southern route to see lots of friends/family and for me to do readings and parties. Currently we’re planning stops at Dollywood, Atlanta, Key West, Ft Lauderdale, New Orleans, Austin, Albuquerque, Tucson and Las Vegas.

2015-03-19

I’m Presenting at the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in DC, SEXx Interactive in Philly and Deadline in NYC

Hey dear readers! One of the things I love most is teaching workshops about body positivity, authenticity and sex positivity. It’s a great combination of my passion for performance and information sharing. I have some upcoming appearances I want to share with you in case you happen to be in the area and want to come by.

(P.S. Please introduce yourselves! I promise I will be just a normal amount of awkward. And nobody ever died of awkward.)

10860953_734925559936428_5472055412046050292_oAll photos here are me doing a reading from my almost finished memoir at Drae Campbell’s TELL, a queer storytelling show, last December. Theme was holidays, so that’s why the Santa beer sweatshirt. Photos by BGSQD because it was at the BGSQD, the queer bookstore in NYC.

Washington, DC Area March 21st (this Saturday) I’m on a panel at the annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Arlington, VA.

Sex-Positivity: Educate, Empower, and Self-Define

Time: Saturday, 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Description: Sex positivity is the belief that consensual sexual expression is both healthy and important in contributing to a safe and inclusive campus climate. Sex positivity is grounded in comprehensive sex education, exploring and deconstructing gender norms, and promoting body positivity and self-love. Implementing sex positivity is transformational on a multitude of levels, ranging from your relationship with yourself, to relationships within your community, to influencing policy. Join us for a fun-filled conversation that explores how your feminist club can bring sex positivity to your campus!

Moderator: Kelsey Carroll, Feminist Majority Foundation

I’m excited to join the following panelists: Natalie Dibo – President, Goucher College Feminist Collective, Ponta Abadi– blogger, Sex and Privilege, Bevin Branlandingham, blogger, QueerFatFemme, Sophia Kerby, State Policy & Partnerships Coordinator, Advocates for Youth.

10842183_734927129936271_3649774888158777087_o (1)Me with (L-R), Drae Campbell, Kelli Dunham, Topher Gross and Robin Cloud. All of us performed at Meow Mixx back in the day when it was still a bar on the Lower East Side and when I told that to the audience Robin said it meant we were old. But I thought it was kind of beautiful, to perform in this new amazing space and bring that energy of the old bar poetry/comedy/drag/queer performance scene into that space together. Maybe we are kind of old, but at 36 I still feel like I have a lot of life left to live.

Philadelphia, Friday, May 8th, SEXx Interactive Conference.

My talk is last in the 1PM slot (scheduled for 1:36). I’m presenting a TED style talk entitled “Reclaiming Sexuality From a Society that Wants You Disappeared” about my journey to embrace my sexuality as a fat person who was really disembodied for my entire adolescence and into my young adult life.

SEXx Interactive: a journey for the mind, heart and body taking place in Philadelphia May 7-10th. This event is sponsored by GALAEI, a queer Latin@ social organization, in collaboration with a team of sex-positive community members. We seek to: connect the complexities of the intellectual, spiritual, and physical dimensions of sexuality; create spaces for interaction and conversation across gender, race, and sexual orientation; and support the empowerment of the curious and seasoned alike. This interactive forum will engage participants with informational presentations, sexuality-based performances, “how-to” workshops, and sexually-themed art exhibitions. We expect this forum to expand the viability of a sex-positive culture by uniting those of like mind in the pursuit of knowledge and comradeship.

10644320_734925399936444_1684985250348298_oSpeaking of being old, when I saw the logo for one of the presenting organizations for the SEXx Interactive conference it looked very familiar and then I realized that my graphic designer ex partner, Seth, designed the logo when we were together over a decade ago! Small queer world.

New York City, April 3rd, 7PM Deadline: Works In Progress from Cutting Edge Queer Artists. Facebook event here.

Deadline is at the amazing queer bookstore, Bureau of General Services: Queer Division, that now has a permanent space inside the NYC LGBT Center on 13th street.

I’m performing the work in progress of my TED talk from above at this incredible event curated by Sabrina Chap, the roster of former performers at Deadline is really incredible and inspirational.

LA: May 13-27th–I am going to be in LA for two weeks, visiting family and accompanying my partner while she does some education policy conference stuff and a stunt driving course for her 40th birthday. Since I’m in town if you have a college or retreat center or want to produce a thing and want me to perform or present or do a reading or facilitate a discussion, let me know! queerfatfemme at gmail.com

2014-12-17

Introducing Hell’s Bells, Handbell Butt Choir

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

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

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

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

1907875_734849713259779_1475339536878244670_nPhoto by Zachary Wager Scholl for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

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

10445597_734849459926471_6872289149922360399_nPhoto by Jacqueline Mary for Heels on Wheels Roadshow.

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

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

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

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

2014-11-07

MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival is Next Week and Why You Should See the Bambi Lake Documentary

Wonderful blog readers, if you have the capability, I’d love it if you opened this video in another tab and listened to the soothing tones of the “Golden Age of Hustlers” by Justin Vivian Bond while you read this blog post. I’ll wait.

Bambi Leaning 1Silas with Bambi.

My friend Silas Howard directed and produced an incredible documentary Sticks and Stones about Bambi Lake premiering in NYC on Tuesday Bambi is the chanteuse, erstwhile sex worker, performer and songwriter of “The Golden Age of Hustlers.” I absolutely adore this song, I’ve seen Vivian perform it several times over the past few years. Sticks and Stones follows Bambi through her old stomping grounds (the ’70s along Polk Street in San Francisco). The 14 minute film has Bambi reminisce about those Golden Days, a three year period before drugs diminished the spirit of the hustling there, pre-AIDS during the Harvey Milk days.

Bambi talks about how she got into performing in the 1980s punk scene in San Francisco and when she developed the courage to begin songwriting. For anyone who is a fan of the song, hearing her tell the beautiful story of San Jose Johnny the Libra is really touching.

Silas cuts into the footage of Bambi and the archival footage with shots from the video shoot for the Golden Age of Hustlers (the video I asked you to play in the background of this post) that Silas co-directed. Sticks and Stones is a really touching story but also very, very sad. “We all get a golden age of about three years,” Bambi says.

The documentary has premiered in San Francisco and LA and is having it’s NYC premiere next week on the opening night of MIX NYC, the queer experimental film festival.

12274733794_a0084c23f1_zHere’s the scale of MIX! It’s giant! A big art factory! All of the photos of MIX here in this post are by Tinker Coalescing.

Last year I went to MIX for the first time and had a blast. I always thought it was just a film festival, but it’s also a huge-scale community art installation featuring epic lounge areas, a stage, performances and so much eye candy to absorb. I plan to spend a few nights there next week during it’s temporary run. Tuesday, November 11 through Sunday, November 16 and then it’s gone.

12774420383_97ba2940db_zLast year one of the installations was the Breastival Vestibule by my friend Rachael Shannon.

The films I’m planning to see are Un(dis)sing Our Abilities–a sexplicit series of shorts about sexualities not seen in the mainstream, queer, fat, disabled, of color and otherwise; One Size Fits All, a series of short films about bodies including the Sins Invalid documentary. Sins Invalid is a performance project based in the Bay Area about sexuality and disability that I’ve never been able to see and am excited to see the film. Nomy Lamm and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha are in it!

Here’s the calendar of films. There are so many to choose from!

12272014053_30bd05f2ca_zHeather Acs produced and performed in a show one evening at MIX. You’ll spy Mizz June there on the left. Heather is producing another show, Ms. Heather’s Drama Club, on November 18th and 19th in NYC.

I’m hostessing at Psychic Fall, a huge nightlife gathering in the MIX NYC space on Saturday, November 15th. RSVP here on the FB or buy presale tickets!

1278807_276340495896758_7447648647983650576_oMe, Cristy Road and Avory Agony at last year’s MIX.

1781559_276340119230129_1756652014182454650_oMy friend Sabina, a queer punk from Sweden.

12272019533_155d6fb28c_zThe MIX Screening room gets tucked away amidst all of the art.

I’m also going to spend a bunch of time hanging out with my friends in the epic art space.

If you can’t make it to MIX Sticks and Stones will release online in the Spring and I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Now go watch the Golden Age of Hustlers video!

2013-03-25

Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel and Upcoming Queer Party at the Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel

A few weeks ago I embarked on another journey into New York City to look at possible party venues. My friend Emily (who runs Hot Rabbit and is my co-producer in the new Sweet Fox / Rebel Cupcake joint venture into First Thursday awesome) took me to a couple of places she was excited to produce at. First stop was the Manderlay bar at the McKittrick Hotel. “You know, the Sleep No More venue,” she said.

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At this point, the only thing I knew about it was that my dear friends Miriam and Victoria were planning to go and had told me their understanding of the show. Experiential theater, where you arrive at a reservation time and are unleashed into a world created to support a play loosely based on Macbeth. I knew you could walk around the sets, open drawers, read books and that it was an interesting place to roam. Every now and again you would see actors performing a scene and you follow them from room to room piecing the story together yourself. And that it is impossible to see the whole thing in one visit.

It sounded intriguing already, and going into the Manderley Bar at the hotel with Emily was an awesome way to see more of it. We were greeted on West 27th Street by a burly bouncer who radioed Emily’s friend the bar manager. Shortly later a tuxedoed gentleman opened the door and brought us up a back staircase into a bar like none I’ve ever seen in real life.

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Red velvet curtains line the doorway, small tables fill the space in front of the stage where a jazz band performed live. The bar itself was straight out of the 30s, and most of the staff was dressed in swanky formalwear. Emily and I were seated in the VIP section and served the house specialty absinthe cocktail (Emily) and a gourmet seltzer (me). It was pretty crowded and dimly lit, but felt very much like a movie from the ’30s, though most of the guests looked like regular New Yorkers.

Emily talked about her new party Dandy/ette at this very bar. I was excited! I imagined the place filled with queers. It’s perfect for meeting people–a great mingling bar, with great lighting that makes everyone look 20% more interesting than they would in the light of day. She asked me to be a “Lady of the Parlour” for the inaugural event on March 28th.

We left and went to go talk about our party mash-up, Sweet Fox / Rebel Cupcake and I put in the back of my mind to go see Sleep No More when my finances are more abundant*.

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A couple of weeks ago I was being taken out on a surprise date and my date (who’s not part of my nightlife adventures and knew nothing about my lady of the parlour gig or that I had ever been to the bar) started driving towards the far West side of Chelsea. I asked if we were going to Chelsea and she said, “Maybe…” And as the car swung towards 27th Street I sort of screamed, “Omigoddess are we going to Sleep No More!?!”

She was shocked that I had guessed so accurately what the next stop on our date was. Her friends had been raving about it for years and by the seventh person who had told her about it she knew she wanted to check it out. Neither of us had ever seen Macbeth so I read aloud from the wikipedia page (where were these extensive cliff’s notes when I was trying to get through college).

We got in line with the other folks for our reservation and were herded into a very dark line past the mandatory coat and bag check. I said making me give up my purse was Femmephobic but they still did it. My bra turned into “nature’s pocket” and I stuffed a credit card in there (the only thing they suggested we were allowed to keep).

We were given our “room keys” (playing cards with numbers on them), and walked in a line through some creepy dark hallways that switched back and forth and were downright scary. Then we were in the Manderley Bar again. They offered us absinthe shots for $10 and as our numbers were called we shuffled towards an elevator in the back. (We were in the bathroom when one of our numbers was called, so we ended up going to the elevator together, and it’s strongly encouraged that you experience the show separately.) They handed us these creepy white masks to put on and up we went. The elevator stopped on a floor, I got out, and unbeknownst to me the elevator operator stuck his hand out preventing my date or anyone else from getting off the elevator with me. So there I was alone, walking through some creepy infirmary that was straight out of American Horror Story last season.

That’s basically the best analogy I can give this theater experience. If you like American Horror Story, you’ll LOVE this stuff. It’s like being on the set!

Also if you like antiques you will also love Sleep No More. There are so many rooms to explore, chock full of delicious antiques. I went through an infirmary, some doctor’s desk, snooped in beds and drawers, I found all this taxidermy. At one point I was in a room full of bath tubs in a row (institutional realness) and then this dude in a white mask like I was wearing hopped through a window and ran to a drawer, picked something up, wrote it down (I totally snooped over his shoulder) and ran off again. The same dude came running into a different room I was snooping in and knocked over a bunch of stuff.

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I went “outside” into a giant fake garden maze that was spookily lit and foggy. There were a bunch of mask people staring into this straw hut off to the side but I couldn’t get a good look at what they were seeing. I ran into a woman actor doing a dance on a table. Then I found a staircase and decided to try a different level.

On this level I found a huge replica of the Manderley Bar, only it was abandoned. It was so creepy how much it looked like the bar we had just been in. Dusty bottles behind the bar, everything was dark. I hopped up on stage (natch) and tinkered with the piano. Suddenly an actor came in and dramatically sat at a table and poured himself a shot. A huge group of white masked folks ran in after him. There was a lot of running by the actors (and the people following them).

I had no idea how big the hotel was until I started following an actor from one scene to another and I ended up down in the basement of the hotel. It was like four or five flights down from where we came from. There was an elevator but we weren’t allowed to use it, though I have heard they make accommodations if folks pre-arrange it. I was ready to bail but I wanted to see where the hotel ended up.

We were in the basement and there was some sort of body carrying happening but I couldn’t really tell what happened because there were too many people in my way. I gave up and wandered back upstairs.

I was warned to wear comfortable shoes, so I wore flat boots and a bright dress, which looked sort of hilarious against the backdrop of the play, since everything was so muted and dark.

After exploring another floor with a big outside graveyard, an abandoned baby pram, a baby room with doll parts hanging above it, a creepy girls’ bedroom with a two way mirror showing a disheveled bed in the mirror (though the bed in the room I was in was perfectly made) I was starting to get a little frustrated. I wasn’t really understanding what was going on and was creeped out and a little annoyed that when there were actors they weren’t speaking so I couldn’t tell what was going on unless I could actually see them. But as soon as I thought that, some actor would end up right next to me acting out a scene. The acting out was all done in dance, running and dramatic gestures, and it really was easy to get the gist of it eventually.

I found myself in a parlor wondering if we were allowed to sit on the furniture. I sat down on a velvet sofa and started reading the Book of Common Prayer. Then an actress I had seen rubbing out a blood spot in a big bathtub in what had to be the Macbeth bedroom suddenly appeared above me and told me to get up. I was started and stood up and then she did a big solo performance using my couch and the one parallel.

Eventually I found a room with a bunch of old timey candy in it. I considered briefly not doing this, but I was thinking that if I got bored again I could just eat some candy, so I stuffed some lemon drops, peppermints and rootbeer barrels in my bra for later.

I found my date a couple of times, and the second time I had been feeling a little lonely and squirrely and I realized she was standing right across from me (though she was in all black I could recognize her body language). We silently (oh yeah, you’re not allowed to speak at all) agreed to hang out together for awhile and went exploring together. This was the last hour or so of the show and I think there are more scenes being played out around that time. We saw a couple have a tryst on a pool table, we saw another out damn spot enactment by someone else. There was even nudity!

Eventually we got herded to the downstairs ballroom for the finale. And then we were delivered back to the Manderley Bar where our coats had been moved for us to pick up.

The whole thing was pretty incredible and mysterious. I would recommend it to anyone visiting New York, who is nosy, who likes antiques or loves theater and can get over non-linear storytelling. I still don’t totally understand what happened. But I did enjoy that my date and I got to compare notes afterward in the bar (VIP section, thanks to my magical life). I was glad we spent a big chunk of it apart and then got to see some of it together.

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I’m really excited that my Sleep No More experience just gets to keep rolling as THIS THURSDAY is the debut of Dandy/ette, a queer party at the Manderley Bar! You can get $5 tickets at this link!

*And also, P.S. I still have a TON of vintage plus size clothes available at this photo set. If you’re interested email me at queerfatfemme at gmail. Shipping is $5 for first item and free if you buy two.

2012-06-28

New Episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket! The Gossip at Terminal 5 Redux!

So I went to the Gossip concert at Terminal 5 in New York City where Beth Ditto et al were celebrating the release of their new album A Joyful Noise on May 22nd.

My friend Bridget wanted to get together to gossip about the Gossip and re-watch the episode of Watch What Happens Live where Andy Cohen gives Beth Ditto a corn dog bouquet a few times (I still have this saved on my DVR). Bridge and I decided to film our gossip sesh as an episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket! We rate a Rooibus Mint iced tea by Rishi and have some cinnamon rolls, too.

We rehash good Gossip memories from their early punk days, discuss Femme jealousy, talk extensively of Beth’s outfit and Hannah’s seriousness and Bridget’s foibles at the afterparty when she met Hannah. Grab a corn dog and an iced tea and enjoy!!

2010-10-23

Miss LEZ! Sunday, October 24th! Buy Tickets in Advance!

Recall the time that I competed for the title of Miss LEZ. I can’t believe it was a year ago already. Murray Hill is bringing it back again, better than ever!

Check out the hot contestants! (Not pictured, N–The Only Letter in Burlesque.)

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MISS LESBIAN LOVE OCTAGON // VICKY SIN, a lipstick wearing, ballad belting, glitter loving Burlesque babe

MISS REBEL CUPCAKE // DRAE CAMPBELL, a performer, filmmaker, choreographer, comedic gender bending butchy with an adoration for bow ties

MISS CHOICE CUNTS // GOLDIE PEACOCK, a Bed-Stuy based genderblender, movement artist, go-go dancer and muse

MISS HEY QUEEN // ARIEL SPEEDWAGON, a performer, a dancer, a dandy, and a romancer whose work has been seen on Broadway, Lafayette, Chrystie, and other fine streets and avenues in New York City

MISS RE/DRESS // AFRO TITTY, a Power (For not Over) Bitch Femme Shark with fierce politics and a bangin’ rack/shimmy/shake

MISS WILDCARD // N, The ONLY Letter In Burlesque, is a kitty loving, graphic designing, burlesque dancing, drag queening, singing sensation! The show is going to be incredible. I’ve performed with every contestant within the last six months and I can tell you that no matter who wins it is going to be a fabulous journey.

My friend Drae (teeth bared in the photo) is representing my party as Miss Rebel Cupcake! I’m so excited that Rebel Cupcake is only 6 months old and already we’re presenting someone to become the queen of Lez nightlife. The little party that could. We got four of the contestants at the last Rebel Cupcake on stage (photos forthcoming) and it was a really fun to present them to the audience.

As part of Drae’s prep for the pageant I’ve been grilling her with potential judge’s interview questions. Apparently I’m a bit of a pageant mom. “No, that’s wrong. Always say this. No, no, do this.” Mostly I just hope Drae shows the audience and judges how weird she is, because I think her wit and weirdness are her strengths going into the competition.

Buy tickets in advance! The show sells out every year! And stay tuned here for a recap!

More info on the Miss LEZ Pageant here!

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Other fun New York City things to take note of:

Justin Bond’s new play starring QFF.com favorites Glenn Marla and Heather Acs. More info on Justin Bond and the House of Whimsy: Re:Galli Blonde (A Sissy Fix) through the link. The play is running this weekend and next weekend only!

The Lesbian Love Octagon musical runs for one weekend only, November 4-7. It’s an incredible show and I can’t wait to see its current incarnation. The brainchild of Kimberlea Kressal, she’s been working on it for 11 years. I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished and the cast is extremely talented. Buy tickets in advance!

2009-05-26

What’s the Fattest thing you’ve done today?

Right now I’m on Gaycation with my Bestie Rachael (The founder of Femme Mafia International and FemmeCast’s Sexpert), which basically means I get a cheap flight to Atlanta and come live down here for a few days, going to parties and living life cheaper than in the Big Apple. Plus I love the South with a great passion.

One of the nicest things about Atlanta is that socializing is fundamentally different. I find in NYC we’re all so busy and it takes so long to get from one part of one borough to another that we tend to meet one another at events and restaurants instead of loafing around in our apartments being casual and relaxed. Plus our apartments are pretty small. In Atlanta they have big houses that cost less to rent per month than my 2 bedroom apartment.

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Me, Rachael and our friend Angela during a dirty south bar crawl (through all the dirtiest gay bars in Atlanta).

Since I don’t have TV at my house, I binge on BS tv when I’m gaycationing with Rachael, cozied up in her king size bed. Last time I was here she introduced me to the Real Housewives of Atlanta*. This time I discovered the magic of the BBC documentary Should I Smoke Dope? It is hysterical watching this reporter get high for thirty days and try to record it for posterity. “I don’t want to eat the crisps but then I wake up and I’ve had four bags and a chocolate cake!”

Part of the joy of not watching TV regularly is not being exposed to commercials, and especially diet commercials. I have now seen this new Weight Watchers ad campaign** about Hunger as a cute fuzzy monster plush doll. It’s as though Hunger is a Muppet. He even tap dances like he’s on a vaudeville stage.

The concept of the commercials is that these women (and only women) ignore/defeat their Hunger, despite the fact that he’s hella cute and chilling in the vending machine at work. However, I think Hunger is totally awesome and I want to take him with me everywhere and make sure he gets chorizo when he needs it.

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I introduced the concept of the fattest thing you did all day in FemmeCast episode 3.5. In brief, last summer Glenn Marla came up with the brilliant idea that fat people (and fat allies) should start cataloging the fattest thing they do every day***. It’s a great way to train yourself to relearn fat as a good, positive and fun thing instead of the mean, crappy word it usually is. I also like to use humor to gain some power/control over oppression and it’s fun to joke about oppression with your other fat and fat ally friends.

The fattest thing I did today was try to go into a Weight Watchers (clinic? meeting space? storefront? what are they called in strip malls?) so that I could see if they had Hunger plush dolls. They did, but they weren’t open, sadly. I totally want to have one to bring with me to restaurants and take photos with, doing lots of creative things with Hunger. And also maybe have one with a squeaker inside for Macy, my Shih Tzu, to play with.

Not that I’m saying hunger is a good thing, I’m just much more likely to want to have fun with it in order to make fun of the diet industry. I think instead of trying to fight hunger, you should try listening to your body and what kind of information your hunger is giving you. And let it give you a good show when it is tap dancing.

*My favorite quote from that series is “Have you ever seen such beautiful feet on a man? I am fifty years old, have you EVER seen such beautiful feet on a man??” That series is delightful.

**I also really like the F-Word write-up about the Hunger campaign and Janeane Garafalo’s schilling WW.

***This also works with other identities. To celebrate queer femme identity, I like to have all of the Femme Family Madams do a go around before each meeting answering the question “What’s the Femmest thing you’ve done today?” Today Madam of Southern Glam, Amanda, tweeted “femmest thing i did today: use a power sander on my newly purchased antique makeup vanity.” That’s my favorite answer so far.

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