We Are Not Alone

When I walked into the room, I knew I’d be the only trans person. I experience that feeling a lot. Unless it’s a PWR BTTM or G.L.O.S.S. show, I know what kind of crowd I’ll see at the Rickshaw or the Knockout. When I sit at the bar at Church Key, I know who else is coming in for $7 beers; hint, it’s not a lot of other trans folks. But this was different. This was an LGBT focused event hosted by my employer. There were over 30 people there. But I still knew. Well, I don’t really know. We never really know. That’s what makes moving through any space as an out trans person so important.

I was having a conversation with someone about my professional goals, talking about how I want to keep moving up in the company. Obviously this is not an entirely altruistic goal. I’m a good employee and I feel I bring a lot of value, but I also like paying my rent, and San Francisco isn’t getting any cheaper. But I also want to provide an example I’ve never seen as a trans employee rising through the ranks. I don’t know any out employees in senior leadership positions. That’s a gap we still haven’t closed. It is better than it used to be, but coming out can still have an adverse affect on one’s career. I want to see that example of someone moving up, of someone not being held back because of who they are. I think about possibility models, and we’re not all going to be actors, models, writers, and activists. So sure it’s a little selfish, I want to get mine, but I also want to be that person who shows others being yourself won’t hold you back, no matter what it is you do. I want someone else to see that. I want to become the example I never had.

There is power in harnessing being that out person. I don’t want to be THE trans employee. But I am a trans employee. I own that. There is power in being that out person willing to start those conversations. Not that it is any trans person’s job to educate others. Many folks just want to live their lives.I can only provide one person’s experiences and thoughts. I don’t speak for the entire community anymore than anyone else. But I do have the capacity to have those conversations. Some of that is the fortune of a life that has unfolded quite well. So part of me that likes to pay back that relative fortune by giving back where I can, whether that’s time, money, or words. But I just like having those conversations. Not everyone does, but I think that’s just who I am, who I’ve always been. Hopefully it’s better than 2008, but there’s still a chance that I’m the first trans person someone actually meets.

A funny thing happens when we start telling our stories. We realize we are not alone. Our stories are acts of recrudescence, and in that renewal we forge connections. Despite our differences, many of us have more in common than we sometimes remember. With an LGBT audience, there is the shared experience of trying to figure out who we are in a world that goes out of its way to bury examples of who we are, of who we can be. The shared pain of being punished by a world for who we are, the shared joy of overcoming that. It can be easy to focus on the differences, and we should talk about them. HB2 affects me on a much more personal level, just by virtue of the fact it was explicitly passed to try and keep me out of bathrooms in many places in North Carolina. But it’s not my struggle alone. It never was, and it never will be. These bathroom bills may explicitly target trans women, but they rely on noxious enforcement of specific gender norms about who looks like they belong in places. That’s something anyone who’s a little different than society tells them they should be can understand. And I was in a room full of people who are a little bit different than society has told us we should be.

I can’t reach everyone, of course. But it’s not about reaching everyone. It’s about reaching those I can. Sometimes it’s just starting those conversations. Sometimes it’s standing up to be counted. Sometimes it’s pushing back when the next person shares some terrible meme on Facebook. The most powerful tool I have is my voice. And while I don’t go looking to pick fights with bigots, I also won’t back down. I refuse to be silenced. Other people need to hear our voices. There are still folks out there who need to see they are not alone. Keep talking, keep reaching out, keep an open mind, keep hoping, and keep working toward those hopes because they just don’t happen on their own. That’s what I can do. The next time I walk into that room? Hopefully I won’t be the only trans person there.

No One Tells Me To Smile

“What’s up baby?” He almost whispers as he gives me an upnod. It’s like he doesn’t want anyone else to hear. I almost don’t catch it as I am running by. It’s unwanted male attention in its mildest form, not lascivious but still uncalled for. Harassment almost seems like too strong a word yet that’s what it is. By the time I process all of what just happened, I am already gone, 10 strides up the street and more focused on finishing my run than anything. But it sticks with me. Both in the sense that it was unwanted and it is exceedingly rare in my life, which I appreciate. But I never like dwelling on why.


I am in a Uber in Charlotte, on my way back to the hotel. The driver of the Dodge Charger, he’s telling a story about helping these two women change a tire. He keeps laying it on thick, all hand gestures even as he speeds down I-85. He spits out a string of puerile terms to describe what he seems to think is just his objective appreciation of these two women, slamming, smoking, and so on. Objective and like an object are so similar and yet so different. I am reticent to say anything, so I opt to say nothing at all. I just want to get back to my hotel safely. I know the tenor of these stories, the way men talk when they don’t think women are around. I still hear them with far too much frequency.


My contact in Charlotte is introducing me to folks in the office. It’s good to put faces to names, but this is the entire reason I dreaded this trip. Once or twice, people are pretty good about pronouns. But over and over? I’ve heard this script before. Before long it’s just he, over and over. Did everyone else notice? Of course they did. Later I learn someone did notice, but was just following my lead. Maybe I should speak up. But I don’t know what to say. It’s hard enough with people I know better; it’s even more difficult on a work trip surrounded by strangers. No one else says anything either. No one else ever says anything. I tell my boss about it after the trip. He gets madder than I did about the whole thing and asks if I want to do anything about it. I say no. He did the exactly the same at our last team gathering.


I sip on a Metro Lager at Sutter St Station. I am running early for a meet up with a guy from a dating site. He comes in a couple minutes early and gives me that look. You know that look. Actually, hopefully you don’t. It’s loud so he asks if I wanna go someplace quieter to talk. I agree and finish my beer though I’m in no rush. I already know where this is going. The first thing he says when we get outside is that I didn’t say I was trans. He demands to know why. I respond with a question, why I am obligated to make that one of the first things I say about myself? It’s a valid question, one he doesn’t even attempt to answer, one no man in my experience ever attempts to answer. He then demands to know if I am fully trans. I wish I didn’t know what he means by that. But I know exactly what he means. I have spent my whole life trying to distance myself from people like this. But there’s just as many of them in San Francisco as there were in Minneapolis. I tell him that he can keep walking toward the Ferry Building. I turn back towards Sutter St Station.


This is all just the past month or so. I am sure there are more examples, but I forget more than I remember. I don’t know how else to survive. Next month will provide more anyway. I know I am luckier than most, that despite the psychic toll, what I deal with is largely benign with regard to me well-being and safety, and much less than many trans folks. That realization leaves me speechless some days. I know who I am. I don’t need the validation of others. But it’s hard to shake those specters. After eight years, I thought people would be better. Certainly many things are. But not nearly enough. I can’t keep waiting for the world to catch up. But I can’t make it move any faster either. No one wants to be harassed and no one should be. It’s rare anyone touches me awkwardly; no one tells me to smile. I am grateful, since that should not happen anyway. But it’s not because men have magically figured out how to treat me alone better. Without asking, I’ll never really know why. But I know why.

Questioning Myself

Do you remember when you were good at anything?

I turn up the music in my headphones and look back at the screen. Two cubes over, coworkers drone on about whatever they grilled this weekend. Typically meaningless Monday banter about what we did this weekend. As opposed to typically meaningless Friday banter about what we are going to do on the next one. How often do our visions of the weekend on Friday line up with the sad realities of Monday? Or do we just need 48 hours to come up with more meaningless banter? I don’t know. Some people seem to be an endless wellspring of that. I start hammering at the keys.

Do you?

The cursor blinks as I stare down unending strings of numbers on the screen. No matter the education, this is life for so many of us. Or life for me. The only suite you and I will ever know anything about is the Microsoft suite. How many widgets do I have to move today? Or how many bits and bytes do I have to move since I have nothing to show for what I do every day? It’s not like I can ever point to something and say “look at this thing I made with my hands”. I won’t ever be able to take any of this home and say “I did this”. In fact, if I took any of this home, I’d have to find something new to do rather quickly.

Were you really ever?

My boss sends me an email. Can we meet in 15 minutes? Of course we can. It may be polite to put it as a question, but it’s a statement. The illusion of choice. I’m sure plenty of smart people somewhere have written volumes about why that matters, the difference between being asked and being told. But is there a difference when you can see right through it? How many relationships are built on false politeness? How many people do you tolerate because you have to? How many do you actually like? I shake my head and get to work on my first widget of the day. They don’t produce themselves, and if they did, then they wouldn’t need us anyway.

Do you remember what that was like to care?

The door clicks behind me. My boss begins with a grandiloquent speech. Tightening belts, hard times, everyone making sacrifices, and then she slides a piece of paper across. This is how many extra dollars all the widgets I produced last year are worth. I was shocked by the number years ago, now I’m just inured. How much is your CEO worth? A lot more than you. At least he looks good in a suit. Sometimes I think that’s the only qualification; you’d think he could buy better ones with all that money. My boss has been talking the entire time, so I nod. Keep it up and next year something good will happen. Next year. Carrot and stick. Mostly stick. I’ll get less for the same number of widgets next year, because now I have to do more to get the same. That’s how it’s worked every year. It’s perverse, but nonetheless true.

Did you ever actually know?

No, no, go to lunch without me. I can’t stand the thought of staying late just to hear about your dog. Maybe at a happy hour. At least then there’s beer. And we can say the things we want to say. We still speak in code though. Everyone still has rent to pay, so it’s hard to be too truthful. It’s all qualifiers. It seems, I feel, I believe. But we all know. I know you get paid for me even though I do more just because you’re a man. I know we can’t talk about that either. They say it would breed resentment, make us less productive, but I’m no fool. Information is power. None of us have power; no one intends to change that. Please, though, tell me more about your dog.

What happened to you?

Another email. They are switching the creamer in the office to a cheaper type that lasts longer. Also, please bring in your own mugs. For the environment. Next email. Record profits. We couldn’t do it without your excellent work. Yet another email. We’re going to need those widgets a bit quicker now. I hear muttering from a few other cubes around me. I guess that’s just less time I spend reading Buzzfeed. It doesn’t really matter how many widgets it is. Less Sisyphus and more Zeno, but neither of them ever finished. I roll my shoulders. Time to start pushing again.

Is this it?

I power down the computer. It’s not my computer. Nothing here is mine. There’s been a string of break-ins so lock it in the drawer. I’m the last one in the office, so there’s no one left to say goodbye to. I grab my things, out the door. Make sure it’s shut. We wouldn’t want another break-in after all. Down the stairs, and already I can barely stand the thought of doing this all again tomorrow. I match my record of making it to the platform before feeling that way. How much longer can I do this? Either way, I have a train to catch.

You Know I Dreamed About You

One of the cool things about modern life is the ability to connect. As a trans woman, that would have been awesome when I was younger, but I was not quite savvy enough for the channels that were there then. These days? A Twitter handle and a hashtag will do the trick. And once you end up connected to the periphery, you soon find yourself connected to exactly as much as you want to be, whether that’s a lot or a little. Perhaps I would have been more connected, but I had already been out a long time before I really came to Twitter. No matter though. It’s still nice to be connected to a community no matter when you find it. One of the messages I see kick up is that you (you being the trans person) are worthy of love. Which is all fine and well. It’s a great and true message. But where do I find that?

Perhaps at a previous in point in life, I’d feel that I were not worthy of love. I am wise enough now to know that is not true. But I feel live pithy wisdom elides over the gap between “you are worthy of love” and “you can find the people who are willing to be those people”. Which hey, I get it, we all face that. It’s neither fate nor does it happen on accident. Some degree of it is just putting in the effort. It’s not the most glamorous way to think about relationships perhaps. In a society that shoves true love down your throat it’s definitely not how you want to think of it. But all relationships are work. Love doesn’t obviate the need for effort. Perhaps it makes it easier, but it certainly does not obviate it.

I’ve mused on it before. I still don’t know an answer. I vacillate between whether I need to put more work in or not. Sometimes I agree with that, but I don’t know, at a certain point diminishing returns kick in. There’s only so many guys you can meet that are already in relationships, guys you meet who can’t get your name right even though it’s simple (and yes, I know what that means, thank you very much), only so many “ur hot” and 5,000+ character exegeses you can receive on dating apps before you just realize that you are working with a limited pool. There’s nothing wrong with me for being trans, but I still need to bridge the gap between nothing being wrong with me and finding a pool of guys that I connect with that also feel that way. Then narrow that pool a bit more and find guys that I actually click with. It’s not so easy. It’s especially not easy when you are trans. It’s easy to blame yourself. It’s easy to say so many things are wrong with you.

But like I said, even when you realize it’s not your fault, that there’s nothing wrong with who you are, that doesn’t change anything. I’m still moving through a cissexist world. I’m still judged not on how much I am like myself but how cis I seem. Or I have to find people who exist outside those standards, but good luck with that. This isn’t to say that it’s easier or harder than it is for other people, but just to say that it’s hard. It’s really fucking hard and I want you to understand that. Even if the rest of my life is in order, it still feels like there’s a big hole there. Part of that is societal. Even as more people live alone, it still feels like we should all be together. Some of that is messaging, but some of that messaging comes from how we feel. Beyond that, I still feel like learning how to form relationships is a skill I just missed out on, something that a lot of trans people miss out on when they don’t get to have a normal adolescence, and now I don’t know how I am supposed to catch up. I still have to deal with the fact that somehow disclosing trans status is a material admission that could have an effect on my personal well-being, not just something about me like where I grew up. I may see examples of positive relationships, I know they exist and certainly can be (and am) happy for people who have found them, but they still appear Barmecidal at best from where I stand.

So how do I connect with the person I’m looking for? How do I find him? What do I try now? Who else out there can’t decide between whether “Slow Show” by The National or “When You Sleep” by My Bloody Valentine would be a better first dance song? I don’t know. I go through fits and spurts of just not trying at all. I am ebbing out of one of those, but there’s still that hopelessness, gnawing, waiting to pull you back in. Everyone interesting I meet personally is in a relationship anyway. No one is going to try and set me up with anyone. I’m not saying you should. I am saying that to point out subtly how you think of me. I don’t think that’s just my personality. But again, that’s not a challenge. It’s just an admission of how the world thinks of me. A better world does not mean a good one. We are not there yet. Plenty of people don’t think of me as a man, but that doesn’t mean they think of me as a woman either. I’ve written a lot of these entries before. Chances are I’ll write quite a few more. It’s how I process these kinds of feelings. I’m good at being alone, but I’m terrible at being lonely. Like anything, though, it’s a skill. You learn how to live with this feeling. Even if you want it to change. Even if you know there’s nothing wrong with you. I may have come that far. I may have done all that I can. Perhaps I just need the world to catch up. Perhaps it just won’t. All I can do is keep dreaming about that world. All I can do is keep trying to make that dream real. We all need to dream. If we don’t dream, we die.

Live Deliberately

Maybe this time I’ll get it right. No, no, that’s not the right approach. There are plenty of things in life you will not get right the first time. Perhaps I shouldn’t foist that upon you, but I know there are plenty of things I didn’t, haven’t, and likely won’t get right the first time. It’s taken me a long time to come around on tenets that comprise the core of my being, whether that’s as a vegan, a non-driving city dweller who wants more city for everyone, or as a woman, to mention a few key ones. Each of those has taken me years to refine. It’s never about being the best. What’s best, anyway? It’s about being a better person than I was yesterday. Sometimes I don’t do a good job with that. We all have our bad days. Hell, some of us have had bad lives. Perhaps a younger version of me would have blamed a lot of people for that. The current version knows damn well a lot of us are doing the best with what we have and some of us don’t have nearly as much as we should.

As I become a more realized version of myself, though, I live in a world that does not seem prepared for it. I trundle through a city with laughable bike infrastructure, wondering about what the next pothole or trolley track or car might do to me, aware that the article would inevitably point out that I was not wearing a helmet like that excuses the body count of our car-first culture. I watch as your jaw drops a little when I say I don’t really miss bacon at all, because that’s a difficult world for so many to comprehend. I stand mortified, afraid to correct a co-worker who misgenders me because I hope against hope that no one else even noticed and then my heart drops when I realize they probably didn’t notice because that’s how they think of me too. I used to think they were all demonstrably different aspects of who I am, the cyclist, the vegan, the trans woman, and in some ways, they are but they aren’t really, inasmuch as they are all elements that very much set me apart from the mass of men who lead lives of quiet desperation,  trapped in their cars, trapped in their masculinity. Efforts to push against that will not be tolerated.

Of course, in some ways, they are demonstrably different. People give me strange looks when I say I bike to work, they look like they pity me when I say I’ll pass on the milk chocolate, but they give me downright hostile looks just for assert myself as a woman. There’s a slim chance I’ll get in an accident riding, and I might go hungry for a meal, but being trans is enough to put your life in danger. Less so for me than for many others, less by virtue and more by luck, but it is still a more real possibility than any other danger I face. Some days, I feel I am living less deliberately and more defiantly, though that is just a function of a society that treats any deviation from the norm as defiance. We may encompass vast ranges, but so much comes down to binary choices: yes/no, man/woman, black/white. Ours is not a culture of nuance. It is barely a culture of change. We stake to calcified opinions that we do not question. It’s hard to change your mind on something, and it’s even harder to share that with the world. It always requires an explanation, and even then, we still hold old versions of ourselves over each other. Even as I have changed so much, I still do it. I know this is something I have struggled with and continue to challenge myself on; I understand it is difficult. I know it’s easy to forget how everyone else’s life is in motion just like our own when everything appears static from the outside. I get that our realities complicate and compromise our best efforts to live deliberately. So many things outside of our control affect it. I get that we all have to make choices with the finite time we have. I get that what is right for me may not be right for you, as there are so many different ways of living. Or at least I get that now, though I doubt I understood that nearly as well even a few short years ago.

It’s not about getting there first. I want to live in a culture that celebrates trans realities, and if you are already there and realize that trans people are just that, people, cool. But there’s no special ribbon for getting there first. And it’s also worth remembering there was a time when perhaps you didn’t think of it that way. I don’t take that as a sign that some people are more evolved or anything like that. I take that as a reminder that there are areas that I probably don’t challenge myself on that I may come to realize in the future are absurd. I take as a reminder to be open to thinking another way. I may have once struggled to see myself as the woman I am, but now I can’t see myself as anything but. The act of living deliberately isn’t about questioning every little thing all the time. We still have to function on a daily basis and it can be paralyzing to always be like that. But it does mean we should engage those questions. Being trans is really great preparation for that. Perhaps you have a different teacher in that regard. We can’t change the past. But luckily, we aren’t those people anymore, even if we see ourselves and others that way sometimes. I know it’s hard. I know other people may not understand, perhaps now, perhaps ever. I know it’s a lot easier to look back and ascribe a purpose to all of it than it is to see in the moment. Maybe I will finally get it right this time. But if I don’t, then how am I going to be better tomorrow?

More or Less

More or Less

Less concern about what others think

More concern for others

Less drinking by myself

More drinks with you

Less television

More reading

Less half-scribbled thoughts

More writing

Less collecting records

More spinning ‘em

Less reunion tours

More the first time around

Less buying bread

More baking it

Less excuses

More running

Less travel elsewhere

More California

Less crankiness

More sleep

Less noise

More focus

Less worrying

More adventure

Less blame

More acceptance

Week 4: Explore a neighborhood you haven’t previously.

25) Explore a neighborhood you haven’t previously.

San Francisco is 46.87 square miles. Given its roughly square shape, that is the source of the 7×7 appellation (if you’ve ever wondered). As for the number of neighborhoods? Your guess is as good as mine. Wikipedia indicates over a hundred, but then, it’s Wikipedia, so you take what you can get from it (though it does seem to be pretty good as Wikipedia goes). The San Francisco Planning Department shows a much more conflated number, defined by the neighborhood group associations, which is a different metric altogether. But that is a conflated list itself, and they will tell you to go to the neighborhood groups themselves for more details. I live in a pretty clear cut neighborhood (I think we can all agree Inner Richmond exists and has fairly defined boundaries), but you can find more nebulous examples out there (Is Jordan Park really a neighborhood? Many people don’t even really know the neighborhood it is conflated with, Laurel Heights. so…?). In addition, there are many disputed areas that share names, Nopa and Western Addition (which is what it is, c’mon) being a prominent example. So how many are there? I don’t know. I just know that even after almost three years, there are several I’ve never really spent much time in. I work in the Financial District, and I spend a lot of my free time in the neighborhoods that have venues, Fillmore (not just a clever name), the Mission, whatever part of Hayes Valley/Civic Center the Rickshaw gets lumped into, Portero. I have spent a fair amount of time in many others, especially the ones with parks, like Bernal, the Sunset and the Richmond, and that even gives me a good excuse to go to further flung ones occasionally like Crocker-Amazon and Bayview. Some are just neighborhoods I pass through but never stop.

For this card, I decided to go to one of those places: The Marina. While I have certainly been around the edges of it, biking along the Bay, stopping by the Palace of Fine Arts, I have never walked down Union or Chestnut. And there are a lot of shops and bars and restaurants over there. It’s just…not my scene? The neighborhoods here are very defined entities. Which is true of every city. But here, they feel hyper defined by the type of people who choose to live there. While that metric has been screwed (and probably always has been to some degree), there’s a reason you hear people complain about the same businesses in the Mission that appear long established in the Marina, and that’s because the Marina has already been gentrified, if it ever wasn’t. That happened a long time ago. Or no one cared. I’m not sure which. The Marina doesn’t really have much of a history. Certainly there was likely class displacement, but it’s not the Hispanic hub of the city (though that was Rincon Hill until they were all displaced to make way for the Bay Bridge). Of course it’s not on top of a BART station either (and may liquefy again like in 1989, but hey, whatever). It’s just a place where rich, young post-grads drink whatever rich, young post-grads drink and do pilates and whatever.

Of course, it’s not. That’s just a reputation. If you want to dispel that kind of stereotypical thinking, the easiest way to do that is go and see for yourself. But there’s just not a lot there to pull me there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the bars and restaurants are fine, but I don’t know anyone who lives there, and it’s not the most convenient neighborhood for me to get to. The shops looked cute, and I did have a good piece of chocolate banana walnut bread from a nice little vegan cafe, but I hardly ever go to the very similar nice little vegan cafe five blocks from me. A little crunchier than I tend to gravitate toward on my own. I saw lots of parents with strollers, lots of people watching the Warriors game, and the occasional car with doors that opened up. It didn’t really feel all that different than wandering down Valencia these days, which puts the fear that many people had about what the Mission’s becoming (has already become?) in stark relief. But let’s be real, that’s a deeper problem than one neighborhood’s or even one city’s here in the Bay Area.

If there’s still some quirkiness left to a place like the Marina, which seems to have long since lost and probably never really wanted that edge, it’s definitely along Lombard, with its magnificent stretch of motels. These days they look like most motels look (kind of run down), but it’s a reminder that used to be a gateway to the City, with people coming in over Golden Gate and driving along that stretch until the 101 turns on Van Ness. And while some of them are Super 8s or similar sorts of affairs, most of them are their own unique entity, each vying to lure you in with a heated pool and free Wi-Fi. Of course, they all had vacancies. We don’t stay in hotels any more. We stay in Airbnbs. It’s another vestige of a world that is slowly disappearing, perhaps a last vestige over there in a neighborhood that has no apparent interest in standing out or drawing in outsiders. No one comes to the City to go to the Marina (I mean, I’m sure someone does, but work with me here), and perhaps that’s the way they like it. Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad place. It’s just to say that it is probably (rightly) not the neighborhood for me. Though I wonder sometimes how much we are defined by where we live and how much we live where we are already defined. But that didn’t look much like a place that was interested in asking it.

Week 2: See a band you’ve never previously listened to live

31) Week 2: See a band you’ve never previously listened to live

Like I said last week, I ended up getting behind pretty much right away. January has…not been the best. But hey, I’m an adult. You get back up off the mat and get back to it. That’s all there is to do. That or stay there. While I definitely have some decisions to make about things in 2016 as I try to make some better choices about where I’m going and what I’m spending my money on throughout the year, the deck becomes something I can channel my energy through in terms of finding outlets. Perhaps it has a different purpose than last year. Last year it was an excuse not to stand still and to keep exploring San Francisco. This year, it becomes the thing that gives me stuff to do while I figure everything else out.

 

Part of that is remembering the shows I enjoy most. While I certainly appreciate legacy acts and reunion tours, they come with quite the price tag, and for all of that, it’s the small rooms I love most. I imagine this year will feature a lot more Rickshaw and Hemlock than the Fillmore and Warfield. It’s just hard to stomach $300+ festivals and $60+ gate prices in the big rooms over and over. I still want to support bands though. And here’s the thing, as much as I love bands that are selling out rooms like The Fillmore, that’s just it. They are selling out The Fillmore already. They are going to with or without me. And good for them if they do. But those are expensive tickets. In my heart, I am the kind of person who loves getting a ticket and a beer for less than $20 if I can. I like being there with 50 other people. Perhaps it’s just a desire to get there first, or perhaps it’s just fun and worthwhile to support bands in those positions. I don’t know. I love First Ave and the Entry equally, but I can tell you which room I spent more time in (and probably more money).

That is to say, it’s fun to be in those small rooms as bands are cutting their teeth. To see them their first time in a city, or to see them go from 50 to 200 people even is something. It’s something to see them sell out to 1,600 people too, but it’s a different something. It’s one of those things I cannot adequately explain, but I just know about myself. The intimacy of small rooms and sell-out arena shows can both be excellent, but I know which I prefer. It’s with that spirit that I got a ticket to see PWR BTTM on a Monday night. I had heard many things about them, as venerable local label Father/Daughter Records had a hand in their new record and they just seem to be catching some good press recently.

On the one hand, they are wholly unremarkable, just another duo singing songs about the post-college doldrums of loans and shitty jobs, looking for love, or just looking for a good time. Plenty of bands have and will continue to sing songs like that. On the other, how many queer bands are there out there doing that? Why does it still sound so unusual to hear someone sing songs about shopping and boys when that singer is a guy? Because that just doesn’t get played out much, and it certainly doesn’t get the attention of so many people that frequently. Not that there haven’t been awesome and awesomely queer bands prior to this, just that they are catching the right thing at the right time. They aren’t just queer artists, they sing very queer songs, and it’s something that you just don’t hear about as much. But that’s still where we are at. They aren’t the first to do it of course, but sometimes it’s just about timing. Being in a fairly full room with a lot of people who I can’t imagine would have been at the show 10 years ago, that was something to see. Much of it is on me for not finding and support artists like them sooner, because they have been there and you just don’t hear about them.

But I guess none of that matters if the songs and the show aren’t good. The songs and the show were both beyond good. It’s something you need to see and experience, something that would be a different experience every time. This isn’t about the setlist and precision, about how the show will generally be the same from night to night. I imagine it could oscillate wildly.  I hope that somewhere down the line queer loves songs become more normalized to listeners (myself included in the sense that they still sounded so refreshing and unheard), though I doubt you’ll ever see a band like PWR BTTM be anything less than who they are. A couple guys in drag crushing it on stage, telling good stories, having a good time, and making sure we do too. I said it at the time. I am usually feel like the queerest person at many a show I go to by default. Which is more of an indictment of the kinds of shows I see and the kinds of crowds they attract. If I learned anything, it’s that I want to be at more of these kinds of shows. That these kinds of shows tend to align with my goal of spending a little less to see a little more is just a nice bonus. You can still be surprised by the shows in the bigger rooms. I know I have been. There’s magic there too. But I’m not seeing the bands I want to see as much make it to those rooms. Perhaps it’s just time to get back to it. Someone’s gotta help support those bands until they get to the Fillmore, after all.

Week 3: Go to a City, County, or Regional Park site you’ve never visited

08) Go to a City, County, or Regional Park site you’ve never visited

So you may notice Week 3 came before Week 2. I’m working on that. January has presented some…challenges in other areas of my life. So don’t worry, I have plans for Week 2 this upcoming week, and I’m sure I can manage to squeeze Week 4 in as well. Anyway…

CranebowThere are not that many parks in San Francisco I have not visited. It’s less a brag and more a statement of things that matter to me. I was the same way in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, too. I love to explore the outdoors, to see different vistas, to find not just the parks that everyone says are great like Land’s End but the hidden gems that people really ought to get to but don’t as much, like Bayview Park. For every Minnehaha, there’s Shadow Falls. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy immediate access to Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. They are amazing places. But sometimes it’s good to go see if other places are amazing too.

The TownWith that spirit, I rode my bike over to Heron’s Head Park, one of the last parks I haven’t made it to in the city. Bayview and Hunter’s Point are not the easiest to get to, a legacy of freeway construction and poor transit options dividing a city. You can either bike through the tangle of Cesar Chavez (officially: Cesar Chavez-Potrero-Bayshore-US 101 Interchange) or come down through Dogpatch. The 44 will get you there, too, but it’s a long ride to Evans. Oddly, Bayview has some of the best protected bike lanes in the city. You just have to get to them first. Heron’s Head, and the greater India Basin are, are tucked away by Hunter’s Point, which, if we’re being honest, doesn’t have much because the rest of us in the city neglect it. It doesn’t have to be that way, of course, and won’t stay that way as the redevelopment of India Basin on the whole and whatever is happening with the shipyards and Candlestick, change is coming. It might not get as much attention as what’s going on in neighborhoods like the Mission and Soma, but gentrification will likely be just as ugly there.

Looking back at the CityThe neighborhood I found now, though? It was a pretty quiet ride through low-rise commercial, by the main Post Office and Speakeasy, near some of the few still active shipyards of the city. I don’t want to sound like some bumbling asshole “discovering” it because I certainly didn’t. I just think there’s something about the quiet over there, something about the fact that even if it’s a small city, at least by square mileage, there’s a lot to this city, a lot you might never see if you don’t challenge yourself to get out there and see it. The park itself is basically a little marshy peninsula jutting out into the Bay, with excellent views of Oakland and the flattened remains of Point Avisadero that the shipyards rest on. I stumbled upon an open house about the future of India Basin with multiple firms there to pitch their plan for the future. So perhaps that future is sooner than we think for Bayview. As for the present? Get over there and see for yourself.

 

A Little Light

I noticed a little light in the sky as I rode up Market just before 6 pm. Not much, mind you. But a little. It may not feel like it between the waves of clouds and rain, but the days are getting longer. It’s one of the underrated aspects of January. It can be hard to appreciate in the dead of winter, I understand that, but it’s true. The evidence was right there over Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights.

January has always been one of my favorite months. I like summer, but I’m not really a summer person. Everyone loves fall and spring, sure, but winter is my season. I get this is not everyone’s opinion of winter, but give me frozen waterfalls, downhill skiing, the heart of the hockey season, and a good winter beer. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the other seasons. I just really enjoy winter. And I particularly enjoy January because the days are getting longer again, because even if I had nothing to do with it, it’s a damn fine month to be born in. Even if it’s arbitrary, watching the calendar roll over and the sense of recrudescence it foments (even if it is short-lived in many cases) because it’s a new year is pretty cool. Perhaps it would make more sense to time that with spring, but who ever said the Gregorian calendar made sense?

The 2016 edition of January has not been my favorite so far. Work has been…not that great. I missed applying for the job I meant to, have been working way more weekends than I ever want to, and I’m finding myself burned out. And the short-term ramifications are that I find it harder to get done the other things I need or want to do. The dishes pile up, the laundry doesn’t get put away, I’m not cooking as much as I’d like to. Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep some other things in motion. I’m still getting my running in, and there’s still time for trivia and I am taking care of myself okay, but not as well as I’d like. I find I’m making more mistakes in little things too, at work, or in the kitchen, almost putting in the wrong ingredient or running out of something I could have sworn I checked on before I started halfway through. That’s why I missed applying for the job I meant to, I saw the email, it didn’t magically mark itself as read, I just didn’t really see it. I’ve felt that way a lot this month.

We all make mistakes. I’ve learned to own mine. Sure, there are a lot of other unlucky little things that happened, but the first mistake I made was missing something I said was important to me. I didn’t take the proper steps to ensure I took care of myself. There’s not always going to be someone to catch you when you fall. In this case, there wasn’t. While the ramifications feel bigger right now, everything just feels a bit more exaggerated. And it feels like the lows have been lower. Or perhaps not lower, but just way more frequent than I’d like. Lots of little indignities piled up on each other. It’s just been one of those stretches where I find myself muttering “of course” a lot. And it’s easy to get distracted by the fact that if I’d received an offer for the job (strong possibility), that would have meant more money, more prestige, I don’t know, whatever you imagine goes along with that kind of stuff.

But mistakes also present opportunities. If I’m feeling overwhelmed doing the position on an interim basis, why do I want to do it on a permanent basis, while adding an hour to my commute each day? Is it worth it? Is this really the best opportunity for me right now? Sure, some of that is spin, bargaining as I work my way through processing the mistake I’ve made. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Perhaps this isn’t the right fit for me, or the right time. How do I juggle a longer commute and more responsibility with still wanting to have the flexibility to make it to the Hemlock on a random Wednesday? Time is a finite variable. What gives in that equation? How can I use my time more fully in ways that I want to? Money is not the only measure of success, and due to a fair amount of luck, I’m doing just fine. I won the lottery when it comes to my living arrangement. How much do I want to actually enjoy living in San Francisco? Even in its (current/constant) broken state, it’s an exceptional place. I am exceptionally lucky; I have a good thing going on right now. How much do I want to disrupt that?

Of course, I’m not just thinking about present me. I’m thinking about future me. I turn 35 tomorrow. Which is not old. But it’s hard to call myself young anymore. How many more shots am I going to get at that next chance? Do I want to delay it another year? Well, now I don’t have much of a choice. I did delay it, at least for the indefinite future. But that also creates new choices.  I can evaluate the path I thought I was going down and ask myself why I really was. And the answer is…I’m not really sure? Because it seems like the right thing to do? Because the rent doesn’t pay itself? Because it allows me to do the other things I want to do? Because it is the right thing to do? It’s probably all of those things, and a few more.

As I pivot, I applied for something else. Now I can wonder if that’s the right fit. There are different challenges to that position, as it’s a lateral move, not a move up; it does not present any immediate financial reward, which let’s be real, never hurts. I still need to be offered a job before I get too far ahead of myself. But that position is where I thought I was heading if you’d asked me a year ago. And then some things changed and I thought I was heading somewhere else. Now I may be heading back to where I thought I was going all along. On the surface, it plays to my professional strengths. While it may be short on the immediate bump, perhaps it is what’s best for me professionally in the long run. There’s not really any way to know that, of course. Perhaps they are all justifications. What isn’t? When I write it out, it’s a ridiculous thing to be hung up on. But that’s a reason to write. It helps me step back and remember I am objectively a very lucky woman. I am mad at myself for missing this opportunity, but that I had it at all would have been hard to fathom even a few years ago.

Perhaps that’s the clarity that comes with acceptance. It’s still real a couple weeks later, but I’ve processed it. Not 100%, of course. I’m in no rush to say that I’m past this, or I still won’t feel the effects for a while. I will. We live with our mistakes. They are not our sum, but they inform who we are. How we respond, who we are in the face of them, who is there for us when we make them, how we move past them. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes. We make changes. We become more fully realized versions of ourselves. We explore new opportunities. We take new chances that lead to new mistakes, and through this cycle, we continue to grow. It may not feel like everything is going the right way right now. But there’s still 10 days left in January, still time for it to be the month I know and love. Sure, it’s gonna rain tomorrow. But we need the rain. And behind the clouds, it’s only getting brighter.

 
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