Archive for January, 2013

Live And Let Live

I know this is a couple weeks old now, but I wanted to talk about it, and while I tangentially addressed it last time, that was much more about language and much less about feeling. And while the intent of the post is that I shouldn’t really have to say much (if anything) about my experience, I still like talking about it. As I mentioned, it’s how I’m wired.

So for those of you who still haven’t clicked on the link, let’s catch up. A couple weeks back The Observer in the UK put out a column in which an author was responding to some criticism a fellow author received for stating in her own article that women were too often expected to look like a “Brazilian transsexual”. Sounds like she ended up writing a screed instead of a defense. I don’t know, it was removed from The Observer’s website, and while I’m sure it’s still kicking around on some corner of the web, I’m not in any particular rush to find it. I’ve read it before. And I’ll read it again. Just like I’ve heard it before and I’ll hear it again. So a writer named Dan Solomon wrote a pretty cool piece about compassion framing it through general trans struggles in response to that piece and everything that happened with it. Which I haven’t really heard much of. Which got me thinking about some of the other elements that he tangentially touched on.

Sure, I spent an entire post complaining about indignities just prior to this, but facts as they are, I’m a fairly privileged trans person. I live in a society that is far more accepting than some. After insurance, I paid all of $2000 for my surgery. That is pretty fucking cool, right? And I live in a place in the Twin Cities that is also pretty accepting. I’m not gonna say my friends and family just shrugged it off and moved on with their lives, but by and large, the whole process of coming out to them was far more terrifying in my head than it was in reality. I kept my job and have never really encountered anything worse than missed pronouns and the such. Which isn’t to say that should happen either, but I haven’t received any threats or anything like that. On the grand scale from totally passes and never faces any questions ever (which I don’t think exists truly) to facing down potentially deadly violence just to be who you are (which definitely exists), I am definitely much, much closer to the former than the latter. And that’s a good thing. That’s a mark of a lot of progress. That’s the mark of a lot of individuals who came before me, who lost their jobs, their families, their lives in some cases just for being who they are and those who still are or will face those kinds of struggles. And that’s something I try to never forget. Because if a lot of people did that for me, then it’s my job to keep doing that.

So it’s nice to see someone else noting that and therefore doing it. The problem is, and it’s the same problem I have when I meet people who are different than me (which, of course, is happening all the time) is translating that logical thought that compassion is good into actual behavior. Right, plenty of people have no problem with who I am (at least that they outwardly show), but it’s still kind of astounding how often it feels like people still essentially treat me as male. Or put another way, how much people know I’m female but have to think about it instead of intuitively processing it. And that’s to say nothing of sexuality. I get that people ask me all sorts of importunate questions because I’ll answer and because they are curious, but I don’t understand why my sexuality is such fair game as a topic for discussion. Right, you wouldn’t just ask those kinds of questions to just anyone you meet. It’s not even the kind of question you’d ask your casual acquaintances. And yet, I have been asked that kind of question with people that I have just met or people that are casual acquaintances. I think it harks back to the idea of self-correction that I brought up last time. Most people do not immediately correct themselves when they screw up my pronouns just as they don’t think anything about asking me a question that they would not ask a lot of other people. It’s inevitably awkward, too, listening to someone try to spit out a question that they don’t quite know how to finish about either my gender or sexual identity (or sometimes both). I mean, I’m happy to talk about my experiences and break that kind of stuff down (at least from my perspective), and I’ll tell you when I don’t feel like it. But sometimes I really am just trying to enjoy a beer at the Bulldog and I don’t mean for my evening to turn into a seminar on gender. In much the same way, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone try to set me up with anyone. Granted, that has just as much to do with my personality as anything else, but it’s hard not to feel there’s not an element that’s also reflected in how people think of me. Or rather, how they have to stop and think about me instead of intuitively processing who I am. That’s not to say you should rush out and set me up with someone. It’s just something that I’ve noticed.

That isn’t to say that I expect any of this to change tomorrow. Honestly, keep asking the questions. If I don’t want to answer, I won’t. It’s great knowing that I live in a world where there are more people who are willing to speak up on my behalf, unsolicited, about my general experience. That’s the same sentiment he ends on. But I’ve learned that most peoples’ understanding of gender identity is still a fairly nascent thing, and the more people I talk with, the more people I’m establishing that rapport with. Because while someone may already feel like Dan Solomon even though he or she doesn’t know anyone who’s trans, like anything, it helps to ground the experience. And I am that ground. For my part, I want to pay it forward, and if I have to suffer through some indignity to get to a point a couple of generations down the road where trans people truly are met with a shrug, then that is the least I can do. Because while he might note that people like me shouldn’t have to assert our right just to be, the fact is we do right now. It isn’t an issue of fairness; it is an issue of reality. Even for someone relatively privileged like me. Neither us want to live in that world, but it’s the world in which we live. And if we want to change that, we’ve still got some work to do.

No Sir

Language is full of little tics and rhythms that we don’t even think about. They happen all the time, every day. They happen when I am in line at Target, when I am trying to call to get something straightened out with a bill, or when I am returning something to a co-worker in the office. They are, for the most part, unconscious. We learn them in our youth, either through the reinforcement of our elders (parents, teachers, etc) in the more formal cases or through our peers in the less formal ones. Depending on the kind of discussion going on, either kind can surface. It’s why you say like as a place filler, if you do. If not that, than it’s something else equally less acceptable in Standard American English. Because we all do it, especially amongst peers in less formal settings. The divide in more formal settings is only knowing when to check those impulses and shift gears, after all. On the more formal end, it’s knowing the right time to say whom (it’s dative and thus requires an indirect object) from the more bookish end, or it is knowing when not to use apostrophes to abbreviate words, or it’s knowing when to say ma’am or sir. Let’s talk about that one. Because I was in line at Target earlier, and as per usual, it reared its ugly head.

It is a rare occasion when someone calls me ma’am. It’s rarer still when someone calls me miss. But almost every day (at least every day I have interactions with people), someone calls me sir. Someone bumps into me when I am in line at Target and says “Excuse me, sir”. The employee at the call center tries to establish empathy and says “I am sorry, sir”. I return a file to someone at work and I get a “Thank you, sir”.

Here’s the funny thing. I cannot speak for all trans experience by any means. Hell, I can hardly speak for my own half the time. Sometimes it requires the grace and tact of an Issola (I really ought to wear more green and white). But one should never, ever confuse the fact that I do not say something with the fact that I do not notice. I always do. I see the double take that people sometimes do when I enter the women’s room. I hear the question mark when someone says back to me on the phone Jane (if they bother to get it right at all). And I definitely notice when someone says sir. Always. So I reiterate, never, ever confuse the fact that I do not say something with the fact that I do not notice. I always do, and I always will, because I am not anticipating a time soon where that will particularly change. Because I am not the one who needs to change. At least not in this regard. It is not my job to educate you about my experience. That I do a lot is simply a function of who I am as person. I do like talking about my experiences, and most of the time I am willing. Honestly, I hope it helps. But it is definitely not my responsibility. It is a choice.

Besides, it isn’t always the right time and place for a discussion of gender dynamics. I am usually not in the mood when I am in line in Target to tell that employee exactly what the problem is. I don’t particularly think I need to either. Certainly I present a more complex set of unconscious markers than someone definitively at either end of the gender spectrum. I am aware of that. I am also aware that I don’t see that many guys in a skirt carrying an orange purse either. And while all of that may flash through my mind during an incredibly brief encounter at the checkout of a Target, I am also aware that I will probably never see that particular employee again. The ephemeral nature of it doesn’t make it any less hurtful; it does make me less inclined to say anything. It is over and done almost before there is time to do anything.

When I am on the phone, it’s a whole different matter. While I know that I am giving even fewer clues on the phone (there are no images after all), I also know in a lot of cases I am dealing with someone who, after a bit, has a lot of information about me in front of them. And yet they constantly refuse to believe it. Trust me, having to negotiate the negation of your identity almost every time you pick up the phone is not exactly the best way to spend your time. What always bothers me is that refusal to trust that I know who I am. That I could not have possibly said Jane. Look, I get it, we all do that from time to time. The brain is great at filling in blanks if you give it a chance. At the same time, I know that I have to definitively carve that space out on the phone. Sometimes I just have to set the person on the other end straight. Because I am going to hear sir or James or whatever other wonderful names they come up with for me that are not my name. Stiil, the purpose of the call dictates how much I speak up. Sometimes, I know I will be done in 15 more seconds and whoever is on the other end will neither remember nor care for my corrections. Sometimes I know I am in for 15 more minutes and I have to set that person straight. And every so often, the person on the other end of the phone just gets it right.

When I am at work, much like when I am in social situations, it can really depend on my mood. But it is always equally dismaying. I would say only a tiny percentage of people I knew before I transitioned still have issues. It was almost 5 years ago. Most people have processed what they need to and life has proceeded apace. Which is really cool, actually. It’s great to know I have so many people in my life like that. What really bothers me is that so many people who do screw up my pronouns and call me sir are people who never knew me 5 years ago. we have no past history. They did not know me by the name my parents gave me. And again, it comes down to that trust. That I cannot possibly know who I am better than they can unconsciously process it is a really disconcerting thing to encounter in your day-to-day.

The worst part of it is that most people don’t even think about it. Pronouns, like saying sir, are really reflexive aspects of language that we learn. I really wonder how transitioning would be in a more inflected language. So what I get to hear, at least unconsciously, is how people really perceive me as a person. Look, I get it. It is an uphill battle, being trans, even in a relatively privileged position like I am. What bothers me is that even when I take the time to point out these (possibly) unconscious slights, most people don’t even show the slightest contrition for what they said. They don’t stop to think about how many times they have fucked up. They certainly don’t seem to stop to think about how many more times they will. The sad part is, at least when it comes to something like sir, they are actually trying to be polite. And failing.

For my part, maybe I will be in a mood to say something the next time it happens. It is really inexcusable, but that doesn’t stop it from happening, and that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to keep happening. Certainly, I understand. I know I have said this all before. Most likely, I’ll have to keep saying it. What would be nice is if people took their supposed politeness and substituted it for the real thing, if they corrected themselves before I had to, or if they just believed that I do, in fact, know who I am. And if I have to say something every day and keep writing about it, well, that is only because it keeps happening. It’s not just about being trans though, it’s about being different. I don’t expect most others to understand my experiences. Just like I don’t understand a lot of other peoples’ experiences. But I do expect we can each take the time to stop and respect that difference in others. It’s about realizing how, even if you don’t say sir 99 percent of the time, there are some people to whom that means quite a bit and maybe you should. True politeness is accepting and respecting all of those differences, and showing that. And maybe, just maybe, taking some time to occasionally think about the effects of the things we do reflexively. If you are trying to be impolite, but all means, please continue to call me sir. I don’t think most people are trying to be impolite. I just don’t think that most people think about it.

What I Did This Weekend

Here’s a few of my favorites from the weekend:

Crashed Ice

Crashed Ice 01

Crashed Ice 02

Crashed Ice 03

Crashed Ice 04

Crashed Ice 05

Minnehaha:

Minnehaha 01

Minnehaha 02

Minnehaha 03Minnehaha 04

Minnehaha 05

Mixtape 1.1 – As Long As It Needs To Be

I wasn’t really expecting this kind of week, but I should have known better. Whenever there’s almost no buffer between vacation and real life, it’s like it’s 4-5 days of just running around. I was simultaneously heartened and disappointed when Morrissey cancelled; obviously I want to see him, but I also finally had some time to just relax and sit around my place taking care of things. Granted, there was a lot of self-imposed show-going during the week, so that’s nobody’s fault but mine. Anyway, there have definitely been a few ideas bubbling (definitely something about how awesome this is for example) but that’s not what I’m here to take care of right now. Right now I’m here to pick up something that I stopped doing after a friend gave me the perfect motivation.

I wasn’t really in a mix kind of mood. I hadn’t done one for quite a while, but then a friend came along with an idea to put a group together that shares them, and who am I to deny a good idea? So here I am trying to figure out what the hell meant what to me in 2012. Sometimes I just need a good swift kick. Because musically, I really really liked 2012. You might suspect that I just fell deeper down the rabbit hole when you look at this. I suspect there will be a pretty sharp divide in terms of recognition, considering the most recognizable label on the entire list is Sub Pop and much of it is a lot further away from even that end. I did somewhat intentionally avoid more major songs, but only because I figured others in the mixtape project would pick up those threads. So while a true “best of” might require a little further thinking because there was a lot of other good stuff out there, I do feel like this is a pretty good snapshot of what I’ve actually been listening to and buying (with the exception of Beach House, whom I will always unconditionally love, but y’all already know about that). So there’s lots of love for Moon Glyph on this list because those bands and Steve deserve it. That isn’t to say that I don’t love a lot of the other labels represented (I think Sacred Bones, Captured Tracks, Mannequin, and Night People all had really good years too and any time I get a Chromatics record, Italians Do It Better did something right), but the right combination of things just made it a Moon Glyph sort of year. I wonder what 2013 will look like in retrospect already as I’m figuring out what shows are coming, what I want to buy, and exactly how much more space I need to start setting aside for cassettes in addition to records.

So here’s a mix that tries to capture 2012 for me. I’m not going to say these are all my favorites or they are ranked or anything like that. I went more for flow with these than anything else; they are just some songs that definitely say 2012 to me. Most of them came out this year actually, though a couple have been skulking around the interwebs for longer than that. Without further adieu:

Prologue: In The City OF The Dead by Digits (from the digital serial release In The City Of The Dead)
Unicorn by Sweatshirt (self-released)
Marina Del Ray 6 PM by FWY! (from the San Clemente cassette on Moon Glyph)
The Driver by Xander Harris (from the Xander Harris/Dylan Ettinger split 7″ on Moon Glyph)
Brains by Lower Dens (from Nootropics on Ribbon Music)
Kill for Love by Chromatics (from Kill For Love on Italians Do It Better)
Glyphs by Sic Alps (from the eponymous release on Drag City)
Cul-De-Sac by Death & Vanilla (from the eponymous release on Kalligrammofon)
Behind Curtains by Lust For Youth (from Growing Seeds on Avant!/Sacred Bones)
Long Time No See by Tara King Th. (from the Uncoloured Past Pts 1 & 2 cassette on Moon Glyph)
Your Side by Fear Of Men (from the Mosaic 7″ on Too Pure)
Stay Useless by Cloud Nothings (from Attack on Memory on Carpark)
Headache by METZ (from the eponymous release on Sub Pop)
Open Your Heart by The Men (from Open Your Heart on Sacred Bones)
Egyptian Ring by Leisure Birds (from Globe Master on Moon Glyph)
Borrowed Time by Parquet Courts (from Light Up Gold on Dull Tools)
Die Life by The Soft Moon (from Zeros on Captured Tracks)
BC by Cold Showers (from Love And Regret on Dais)
Stranger Love by White Hex (from the Heat mini-LP on Avant!)
Flas by Featureless Ghost (from Personality Matrix on Night People)
Glory, Glory by Claps (from the Glory, Glory cassette on Moon Glyph)
Bennington by John Maus (from A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material on Ribbon Music)
Oh Mercy by Food Pyramid (from Mango Sunrise on Moon Glyph)
Held by Holy Other (from Held on Tri Angle)
The One Left by Tropic Of Cancer (from the Permissions of Love 12″ on Mannequin)
The False Cross by Boy Friend (from Egyptian Wrinkle on Hell, Yes!)
Luther by Eaux (from the Luther/No More Power 7″ on Morning Ritual)
I Don’t Care by Mushy (from Breathless on Mannequin)
Four Hours (Away) by Young Prisms (from In Between on Kanine)
Cold Nites (Koreless remix) by How To Dress Well (self-released)
Snow Falling On Ono by Flavor Crystals (from Three on Mpls Ltd)

Missing

Needless to say, the past week in LA has been quite restful. While I’ve done a bit of this and that (Parquet Courts at the Echo on Tuesday; Yo La Tengo in-store at Amoeba; quite a bit of record shopping), the bulk of the trip has really just been relaxing in Burbank. So that means going for runs outside, sitting around catching up with friends over meals, and generally lazing about. Some trips are like that. I have found it a necessary one to say the least. While I identified plenty of things that I could do so far this trip, the actual number I’ve done has been pretty minimal. And I am okay with that.

Sometimes the predication of a trip is to hit the ground running, and keep going the entire time. The common joke around that is needing a vacation from your vacation. And while I’ve certainly planned some trips like that in my life (like my last trip to Virginia, which featured jaunts to both Baltimore and Charlottesville while operating out of Arlington in a 4ish day span), as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten away from it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also come to realize that no matter when I leave or what else I do instead, I’m always going to be missing something. We are all constantly running into these decision points, and there’s frequently no right decision about the things we do with our time. I do think that social media has changed that quite a bit, though.

While it’s definitely not the purpose of a service like Twitter or Facebook, they can easily foment regret if one isn’t careful. So far while I’ve been out here, I’ve missed numerous shows, including Prince’s run at the Dakota, The Current Birthday, Chelsea Wolfe, and probably a couple others I’m forgetting. The US Pond Hockey Championships are currently going on on Lake Nokomis right now, and they are really worth going to for those of you in Minnesota (to top it all off, it looks like it’s going to be the coldest it’s been all winter in Minnesota pretty much when I get off the plane. It’s currently 83). Right, we are all trying to share our experiences with the world. We want to show that we saw this band, this quirky sign at our nearby supermarket, or whatever. I try not to approach any of that with the mindset of saying “oh man, you should have been here for [band name]” as much as I’m doing it to catalog my experiences; also, I just feel like sharing them. But I see how it can easily be interpreted to other way. I think a lot of it is how you approach it.

Still, that feeling can hang there. Not that I think anyone I follow on Twitter or any of my Facebook friends have that as an explicit goal. It’s the creeping doubt, right? And that is all my own. That I should have done this, I should have seen this band. Hell, I sit here in Burbank thinking, you know, I should have just shelled out whatever it took to get tickets to the Kings game. Because how many times to you get to see a team raise the banner? It’s an experience, and I could have had it. Perhaps the cost would have been too high. It’s tough to say because it can be difficult to put value on experiences like that. Anyway, I’m having experiences right now. Perhaps they aren’t as noteworthy as a show so I won’t take a picture to help me remember. But they are happening, and I am having them, and in that process, I am always missing something. We are all constantly missing things all the time, as we make decisions about what to do and the paths of our lives bifurcate infinitely based on all those little branches.

For whatever reason, it feels easier to focus on that which we are missing than that which we have done. Who knows why the things we miss can seem more poignant than the things that we did at times? My friend and I were talking about that last night, how it can be easy to look back and regret that we didn’t spend more timing practicing guitar or working on writing. Or whatever it is to you. But I don’t particularly feel regret any more. The experiences I’ve had are what make me who I am and it’s how I got to where I am. There are always going to be things that I’m missing. That’s just facts. There’s just too many other things to focus on, though. Yes, had I been in Minnesota, it would have been fun to see Prince. I still haven’t done that yet. Who knows when I’ll get an opportunity again? It does sound like it was a good time.

I’m not trying to make any excuses and say that I wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing Prince or pond hockey or anything like that. I’m just saying that I have to take everything I see on face value. It’s just someone else sharing an experience or a thought that they want to share. Even if I’m at whatever event it is, I’m probably not having the same experience with it. What is notable to one person may in fact be quotidian to the next. That’s another aspect of the social media filter: it only tends to focus on the very good or the very bad. It’s not like people take to Facebook to tell all their friends about their most recent incredibly mediocre experience after all (though it may feel that way. Hell, this may even feel that way to you). You can’t force resonance of an idea or picture anymore than you can force experience. It just happens. It’s always happening. Even when we aren’t doing whatever it is we for some reason think we should be. Conversely, we’re always missing something. What I think does matter is making more of an effort to get to the things that matter with the knowledge that I am still not going to do it all. All the tweets and phone pics in the world can’t make me feel bad unless I for some reason want to feel that way about missing something. But they do remind me that you never know what’s coming. Who knows what the next cool random thing that will just pop up will be? My social network does just as much to inform me what all those various events will be as it does to show me all those pictures and words about the events as they are occurring. And I will still end up missing plenty of those events. Missing is a natural function of life. As it is with music, the spaces are just as much a part of it as the notes are. Do not confuse fullness with busy-ness. And take a few photos and share them with me, because I’m curious what I’m missing.

Twenty-Eight Dollars

Today, I had the good fortune to visit Mount Analog in Highland Park; it’s just another fine example of a great record store here in Los Angeles. Anyway, while I was picking through the stacks, I found a copy of Sleeperhold 5.2, otherwise known as Tropic Of Cancer‘s new, fairly difficult to obtain one-sided 12″, for the low cost of twenty-eight dollars. Which sure doesn’t sound that low when you get down to it, but considering it’s that or twenty euros, it seemed a fair sight better. All the while, I’m still trying to track down a copy of Permissions of Love, the EP before that, and it’ll probably run me about the same amount unless I get lucky. All told between the two, that’s six total songs.

By this point, I am sure you are asking yourself, why the hell would I spend this much on two pieces of wax? Which is a valid question. I think it’s just a function of who I am. I would never say that I’ve led a spartan existence. While I may only use a small number of the things I have, I do like to have a decent number of things. Because I’m a collector of sorts. Maybe not the completionist I started out being, but still a collector. I love physical media. Nothing against digital, it gets me through the day, but there’s nothing quite like hitting play on the tape deck and watch the wheels spin or dropping the needle on the record player. Much the same as an emulator might provide superior game play in some form or fashion, but it’s not like playing a game on the original system, crappy controllers and all (here’s looking at you, Alien Crush).

All of this gets to a central point, I suppose. What is the value of the originalness of an item, for lack of a better term? I can listen to those Tropic Of Cancer songs on any streaming device for nothing (well, not nothing, but I’m not going to parse out how much of my Internet/phone bill exists to cover music when it covers a lot of other stuff as well). Intrinsically, they are the same. The music sounds the same (given the same equipment). If I stream out of my computer through my receiver and to my speakers, it functionally should not sound any different than it would if I just put a record or tape into its respective player, assuming everything’s in working order, of course. But I feel an important thing that people do not understand about audiophiles is the extrinsic value of the experience. Hell, I think many audiophiles don’t even get that.

Whenever people ask my about why I collect records, a lot of what I talk about is about the ritual and the experience. Digital music is a very cold experience. You push play; it happens; it keeps going until it gets to the end of whatever run you have specified (song, album, collection, etc.). It is easy to control, to go back if you missed something in a track or pause when you need to go to another room in your house or somewhere else in the office. There’s nothing particularly exciting about any of that, but there is a lot that’s convenient about that. Playing a record isn’t an opposite, per se, but it is quite a manual experience. An LP requires your attention every nineteen minutes (at the most), a good 7″ is done within a couple minutes. It’s not like you can pause vinyl; you either pick up the needle and try to put it back or let it go and wait for the side to be over. And you can’t just walk away from it, or else the record keeps spinning. That’s not good for the cartridge or the record or the motor. Listening to records just demands more of the listener. Not in a musical sense, just in a physical sense.

Does it sound different? Hard to say, really. I think it does, but I’m also putting so much more into it, and that has to color the experience. But the fact that I’m willing to put more into it just shows how much more it means to me. Which probably also explains why a twenty-eight dollar piece of vinyl is worth more to me than it would be to you. Yes, the dollar amount doesn’t change, but the amount that someone else is willing to spend on their music versus me obviously differs. Twenty-eight dollars just isn’t the same to another person. Or rather, the overall value is: we all agree that twenty-eight dollars is the same amount, but find three different people and they’ll tell you three different things they might do with that money, given the condition that they just had it to spend on something they enjoy without consequence.

It’s not like it’s something that’s easy to rationally explain. I have passed up on other things this trip so far at other record stores that I also want (like a copy of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me on vinyl at Wombleton for twenty-four dollars). Of course, I already own that in a couple other formats. So I’m just adding it to the collection. Which changes the parameters of the decision. I passed on Sand Circles’ Motor City cassette for six bucks. Though I’d rather have their previous cassette, Midnite Crimes much, much more. On the other hand, it costs much more. And I can’t have it all, because I like being able to eat or have a roof over my head or have a good dress or two to wear. There are a lot of different things pulling my money a lot of different directions, and I have to moderate my collector tendencies at times.

So I do what anyone would do. I make uneven decisions based on present factors and try (and mostly fail) to be prescient about future factors. It was probably not the wisest money I’ve ever spent. But I’m on vacation. And I have not seen it physically in a store, nor do I think I ever would in the Twin Cities. These are not excuses or rationales, but simply factors. I recently took to eBay to make a couple Field Mice 7″ singles appear at my door (and by magically, I mean after spending many pounds sterling) because I wanted them, and I thought the price was fair . There’s not necessarily logic to it all. There will be just as many times that I will rightly lay off of buying a record, at a show, online, or in a shop, that is even cheaper, but in this specific case, it happened. I suspect that most of us do the same. Right, I still have the money for my mortgage and my bills. The next time I see something, I may not react the same with whatever things we love from time to time. Some shows, I’m deeply annoyed the the band wants twenty dollars for their record, others, I’m thankful just for merchandise, irrelevant of the price. I can’t explain. In this case, as I stood in Mount Analog this afternoon and I saw it on the shelf, I said, I’m not going to worry about the price, and it was not outside of my expectations. Would it have been the same if it had been, say, forty dollars? Probably not. Perhaps it’s just a matter of expectation management just as much as it is a matter of timing. So much of music is expectation management, though. But that’s a topic for another time. On this day, I am twenty-eight dollars poorer and one 12″ richer. That’s a trade I’m comfortable with.

Looking California, Feeling Minnesota

When I was a teenager, I remember making my first trip to Los Angeles. And all I could remember thinking at the time was how dirty it was. Mind you, this was the mid-90s, LA Law-esque LA with smog hanging heavy. And it was mid-summer, just before the 4th of July. I remember it being hot, full of traffic, and generally unbearable. Of course, it didn’t help that I was also waiting to get on a flight to Sydney in a couple days, and Australia is a fascinating place, so there was a lot of looking ahead going on as well. My return trip featured a 9 hour layover at LAX where I played cards with a family from Charlotte waiting for the red-eye (they were nice, the airport as not). I pulled my first all-nighter on that trip, having already been up for 24 hours by the time I hit LAX. Neither the front nor back end of that trip particularly impressed me and I never really had any intention of heading back any time soon, nor did I. There were a lot of other places out there higher on my impressionable teenager list of places to go.

Fast forward about 10 years. My best friend from high school was now living there and I was living in Minnesota, only occasionally wondering exactly how that happened. Not that I regretted it by any means, just that if you had asked 18 year old me where I would have ended up, I don’t think Minnesota would have really registered. (I am Minnesotan now, through and through. Then I still wondered and had only caught glimpses of what makes it so great). Of course, Iowa State wasn’t exactly the most obvious college destination (happy accident), so I guess I’m just full of surprises. Anyway, at that point I was still slumming it at my second shitty post-college job and I was in the throes of another Minnesota winter. While it was not as harsh as some (here’s looking at you, 2010), January and February in Minnesota can definitely test your meddle. I like the cold, and the things that it brings (frozen waterfalls, snowshoeing, etc,), but there are always a couple weeks that are just unbearable. Consistent sub-zero windchill, blowing snow, and all the fun stuff that goes along with that. I needed a break from it. I’d spent the last couple of years not generally going anywhere or doing anything. I was eking by, mostly thanks to my parents, who for reasons still unbeknownst to me, chose to subsidize my slacker existence (I suppose I did repay their faith by finally getting back on track shortly after that). My life wasn’t really going anywhere at that time either. This was pre-transition, pre-Wells, and while still I embrace the fact that I have no clue where life is going, at that time, I didn’t even feel like I was doing a good job of steering like I at least do now. I was just scraping along from one day to the next waiting for…something? I am not really sure, looking back. I banked enough to get out of town, at least for a few days, at least to somewhere other than Virginia or Iowa, the only two places I really felt I ever went for the first few years after college.

It wasn’t even like it was the craziest trip. It’s not like either of us were rolling in it back then. We were your typical post-college 20-somethings trying to figure out where the hell our lives were going and taking occasionally circuitous routes to our destinations. There was a lot of sitting around, playing video games, playing board games, drinking beers, and just generally relaxing. There was a lot of story-telling and joking, and I wrote a fun little short story that definitely actually happened in the aisles of the Ralph’s in Glendale (or at least most of it). There was definitely some Porto’s. And LA (well, the Valley at least) seemed much different than the last time I’d seen it. In as much as I could see LA, which I didn’t really remember being able to do all that well the previous trip. I’m sure part of it was the time of year. And the fact that it was 55, not -5. And the fact that I had, for at least a couple days, left my rudderless life behind in Minnesota. But all in all, I just remembered leaving that trip not only refreshed, but with a renewed sense that LA isn’t such a bad place after all.

I think I missed a year, but otherwise, I’ve been back to California at least once every year since. Once again, I find myself on a plane back to LA (via Sky Harbor). This is my 3rd trip there in 16 months, spanning almost a months’ worth of time. Several of my best friends from high school now call the state home, which I’m sure helps, but it’s more than that. Last time I was there, I saw Hearst Castle for the first time, finally made an all-too-brief visit to Yosemite, and picked up my copy of Death & Vanilla’s amazing 2012 release at Aquarius. I wonder what new things I find on this trip? Between LA and San Francisco, I seem to find that most of my trips just keep taking me those two directions (sometimes both, as has happened twice in the past couple years), still full of the sense of discovery every time. And if all goes well, I’ll probably be back in California in May, because, well, why not (actually, because of this)? I’ve gotta balance out the Northern/Southern trips anyway. Who knows, maybe I’ll sneak in another trip before that too, but probably not since I occasionally have to be professionally responsible, which may involve an expensive day-trip or two. Or no trips at all.

The tenor will be a little different this time, I’m sure. My friends are more settled, with kids, which just means we have to get a bit more creative about how and when we get together. But that’s okay, that’s just a function of getting older. I will still be my usual self. Just look for check-ins at The Echo or The El Rey instead of First Avenue or Tony’s and a horchada smoothie at the aforementioned Porto’s. I know I could go other destinations for my trips. Hell, I know I will one of these days. But I find there’s still so much more to explore every time I go to California. I’m about 95% certain that someday I will live in California. At least a few years. I don’t know if I could ever really abandon Minnesota, though. The list of places I’d be willing to live besides Minnesota isn’t all that long, after all. Regardless, California just has a draw on me. For now, it’s just a visit. I’m sure the traffic will still be terrible. It always is. But that’s what they made surface streets for.

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (Apologies to Aldous)

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a professional personality inventory (Clifton StrengthsFinder for those of you keeping track at home). It’s as useful as any of them. I think it definitely had some good insights, some I’m not sure I totally agree with, but it’s not really like any of these corner the market on useful business suggestions, strengths, slotting people appropriately within organizations, etc. This one spoke to me because of the fact that the focus is on doing what you do well, notdeo spending too much time worrying about the things you don’t. That is to say, instead of spending too much time and effort shoring up weaknesses, you should spend more time focusing on that which you do well. Add to that the fact that that is one of my strongest traits per the inventory (Strategic, Ideation, Maximize, Input, Competition, again for those of you scoring at home) is already about being the kind of person who believes in that, and that’s probably why it resonated so much with me. But I do think there’s a lot of us in it. And it really explains the Q12 focus at Wells. But it also got me thinking about a couple other things.

One of the entertaining aspects of the inventory is that when it returns your top five (after approximately 170 questions) you get a more thorough explanation of what those traits mean. That includes potentially elucidating bulleted points you might do if you have that trait. Some hit, some didn’t. One that definitely did in terms of the list was Input, which is all about devouring media, information, and everything that goes along with it. Especially when it talked about things like reading the dictionary for pleasure (guilty) or keeping a vocabulary list (also guilty). Not that the others didn’t hit. I am definitely all of those traits too.

Anybody who knows me knows I have a penchant for long words. Whether Aldous Huxley cultivated that or I love Huxley’s writing because of it is hard to say. But anyone who so effortlessly puts words that no one in their right mind would know page after page after page is not really for everyone. And while I am no Huxley (I can craft a plot, thank you). there is certainly a larger overall point to consider: namely, plenty of people simply do not enjoy reading something that challenges them to look up a word (or four) every page. While it is foreign to me, there are those who find that enervating to have to constantly do that. Consider the expectations of a novel. Most people that are reading them are doing it for a reason, and prime amongst those reasons is pleasure. After a certain age, we tend to stop reading things we have to and instead seek out that which we enjoy. Even a book club you might join should ideally be engaging in that fashion. And think about the last time you read something because you thought you should versus whether you thought you’d enjoy it. The predication with which we approach what we read matters. It’s why we enjoy books we were forced to read in high school that we didn’t enjoy then (well, there’s more to it than that, but the point stands). For example, I had the pleasure of being forced to read Walden three times before I voluntarily sat down with it and enjoyed it. At that point, I was ready, able, and willing. And I still had the vocabulary list at hand in case I missed a word the first three times.

I have a voracious desire to learn more words. And an almost equal desire to share them. The only way to truly reinforce all of those great words is to actually use them. I never know when they will be useful, after all. You lose the command and utility of them if you don’t. So I find myself saying things that don’t seem all that odd to me, but then I remember that plenty of people do not care about words like inchoate or comportment or tachydidactic because there are equally simple ways of expressing all of those words in English (though not necessarily on a one word substitution basis). And while there are plenty of times where my word choice is genuine. there are other times where I’m being deliberately obtuse. I’ve been on a project at work where I’ve been editing instructions. I have found that the more annoyed I get at how it was written the first time (or how much feedback and editing I have to provide), the more obscure my word choice gets. So yes, bifurcated is the word I wanted there, but it isn’t exactly making for pellucid language (see, there’s an example). It creates a terrible feedback loop, too. If they can’t understand why I thought that didn’t make sense or should be changed because I didn’t explain it in a way that makes sense, well, why are they going to change it?

Still there’s a part of me that’s confounded in the modern age; people can look up words much more easily than they ever could at any time in history. Many of us have smart phones or are sitting in front of internet-connected computers when we do a variety of the reading we do. When I send an e-mail at work, it’s going through Outlook. The program has a built-in dictionary. I use it, and I think that everyone else should too. And I only occasionally use words that Outlook refuses to recognize. But there’s a browser window sitting right there too, most of the time. And this is where I think the personality inventory comes in handy. I was certainly aware before that we all have different strengths. But I hadn’t really found myself reflecting on that in a while. Yes, it is a strength of mine that I have excellent command of the English language. I remember words more readily than many people I’m sure. And I do much more to cultivate it. There’s those vocab lists. I constantly look up words and learn about other words because of that (I do miss the physical dictionary for that…). I read a lot. And actually, not really books that much of the time these days. But there are plenty of different streams of written media in existence these days, and they are teeming with new ideas and new words and new ways of thinking, all worth filing away in my brain. While I certainly do not have encyclopedic command of the English language, I do have a lot of it at my disposal, possibly more than a lot of other people. It can be easy to forget that since it comes naturally to me; when I look up a word, it’s curious and enjoyable, not perfunctory. And it’s worth noting that I could be creating or reinforcing a negative image of myself when I do that. Not that I should let that drive my vernacular. Just that I should keep that in mind if I’m reaching for a word and there is a simpler way to say it. Conversely, it’s something that people should understand about me. I’m not doing it most of the time to make them feeling dumb or anything like that. It’s just what comes to me. Sometimes, I can tone it down. Sometimes, I should tone it down. Of course, I didn’t really do that here. And I probably never will. But if you’ve made it this far, and you still haven’t looked up the word in the title, it means “a fear of big words”. If you remember that for the next time you need it, I hope it serves you well. And if you don’t, well, that’s okay too.

Mostly Written In Two Bars On Two Nights For One Purpose

I generally am not one for resolutions, but I enjoyed Farhad Manjoo’s tech resolutions for 2013. While I certainly don’t find myself in lock-step with all the ideas presented (I did finally sign up for a Twitter account after all because…that’s what one does, right?), I see the rationale behind all five. And one that I can definitely get behind is becoming a better mobile typist. One of the things I lamented was feeling that I don’t necessarily have enough time to sit down and write. Yet here I am with a phone that has a slide-out keyboard I hardly use. And I do have an abundance of downtime at the things I do when I am not at home. How hard is it to get the ideas down while I am between bands.?

Certainly, I spend plenty of time with my phone out. I am Swyping out a text in one hand while holding a beer in the other the vast majority of the time. Or I am checking up on scores. Or doing a bit of research on the band I just heard. Or seeing if I can get there record for cheaper in a store. Or even just trying to find something on the vast interwebs to entertain myself. But I don’t particularly enjoy utilizing the time to put cogent thoughts together, and that is a shame. See, I think a lot of the resolutions that Manjoo presents, when you get to it, are about using your time better. It is a fact of life for most of us that smartphones are a big part of our life, or some other equally nimble mobile device like an iPad. Yet it is questionable how much effort we invest in getting better at using these devices even though they are big drivers in our lives. After all, how many times do we need to check our Facebook or Twitter feeds or our e-mail? Is it just because we can and it’s something to do? Any time there is an awkward pause in conversation now, what is your first impulse? Do we even know how to face that kind of thing any more or do we just find solace in the warm glow of our phones? These are all valid questions. I don’t know if there is a simple answer to it.

I find another important aspect, one that I think Manjoo’s article tacitly gets at most of the time, is how we mete out our time. Our expectations have shifted so that we require immediate answers: we need that most recent score or email. Right, that is the idea behind Inbox Zero. But frequently, we’ve just got better things to do than sift through all of that. I am constantly trying to tweak my flow of information to what is most efficient. That is one of the reasons I decided to use Twitter finally. Or at least more actively figure out who/what to follow. It is constantly shifting, too. I find something amusing one day only to realize most of the tweets are bothersome or useless, and then I stop following. Sometimes it’s Facebook that’s best for capturing information. Sometimes it is an email account. Hell, sometimes it is good old-fashioned mail that does the trick. At times, there is overlap, but I find many of the things that I follow utilize various social media differently, and therefore I adjust. There is just so much information out there that it is a chore to try and capture it; it’s a worthy goal to figure out how best to sift through all the detritus of modern life to find that which is worthwhile.

Conversely, there is the question of how much we should balance the capturing of all of that, the tour dates and the one-off events scattered throughout the Twin Cities, and the acting upon those bits of information. That is where I think being a better mobile typist starts to matter. It is, if anything, a rebalancing away from the passive capture and perusal of information and the active dissemination of it. Or even just the simple acting on the information. Obviously, I enjoy doing this, but I have felt like it is hard to fit in. But it isn’t hard to fit in. I just haven’t taken the steps to incorporate writing into all the other things I do. This is an attempt.

Life isn’t necessarily a puzzle, nor should it be. But there are more copacetic ways to fit the pieces of your life together. Whether it’s dropping a habit that once had meaning but no longer does or just figuring when it’s rewarding to sit there and do nothing or when you are just using that to put off something you don’t want to do, it all matters. We all are living finite lives after all. We have to figure out how we want to use them, and in what ways our daily actions will be meaningful to us. Which is to say, there is nothing wrong with checking my Facebook feed, it just probably didn’t change that much from 10 minutes ago. Yes, it is something to do. But so is this.

Awkward

Yesterday, as I was browsing Slate, I saw one of those headlines that just made me point to my screen and say yes. And while the point of the story may be slightly different, Online Dating Is A Horrific Den of Humanity is really a great attention-grabbing headline. And a fun little read to boot. That kind of idea I tie to the headline was already kicking around my head because of the night before; I had one of those online dating experiences that would yield a sentence that fits nicely into the fifth paragraph as follows: “a guy who believes that the entire cause of the downfall of our society is the patent system”. Seriously, I spent a bit of my evening listening to raillery against capitalism, anti-science thinking (that was itself devoutly anti-religious, which isn’t exactly an upgrade in my book), and the patent system. It was almost a surreal experience. At multiple points he mentioned his IQ, and there were lots of weird, unexplained sentences that I might have challenged if I hadn’t just been wisely nodding to avoid making a bad situation worse. At the end of it all, he was even the one who said that he just didn’t think we were compatible (though, in fairness, I did my best to be demure while having already made that assessment well before that). But at least it was entertaining. Or for the most part it was.

Online dating isn’t even one of the areas of my life where I feel like being trans makes it any more awkward than it is for most other people. After all, we are all structuring our profiles to have a certain effect, and when and how I choose to disclose that I’m trans, I don’t think it’s exactly a secret. Many times in many online profiles, I use my actual name. Go ahead, Google me next time, online daters of the world. I am not ashamed of who I am. But that doesn’t mean that I have to put it out there in flashing lights. And while I definitely have experiences where I’ve met guys and it’s been an issue, most of the time, I don’t feel like that has much to do with the lack of any spark or anything. So I don’t really mind point blank statements where people ask me whether I’m male or female, in whatever form or fashion they do. It reveals a lot more about them and their world view than it does about who I am (especially if you explicate how people put those statements together).

What does bother me is when people make the claim (like the winner from Thursday) that I don’t look like I do in my pictures. While I’m constantly engaged in a battle regarding how people out there in the world interpret my gender identity, I do think that we can all at least agree that I look like myself. Again, I don’t think this is exactly an issue that is exclusive to being trans. They are not a trick, or a ruse, or professionally shot for any sort of particular effect. They just happen to be good photos of me. We all definitely have some photos that make us look better than others, right? And certainly, if we are all selectively putting information out into the world about ourselves, we are going to probably try to select that which makes us look best. Or to at least make a blatant statement about ourselves. But I don’t think anyone goes out of their way to make themselves look bad. We do things that make us look bad, but I don’t think most of us consciously set out to do that in our online dating profiles.

Of course, because I’m trans, I could just be more sensitive to the issue of appearance in the broader sense. I’d like to think that who I am isn’t smoke and mirrors. Then again, there are always going to be people who have a problem with who I am. Does my hair not look exactly like it did in that photo? Or my make-up (if I’m even wearing any)? Or my clothes? Of course not. Pictures capture a specific time and place, so it’s a bit futile to expect that someone’s always going to look just like that, or to read too much into a photo. Anyway, there are always going to be more jackasses who think I don’t look like I do in those photos in a more euphemistic sense. I might get piqued by those sorts of comments, but there’s no sense in letting that get too me too much. I cannot truly judge the intentions of the people who say things like that completely, after all. There’s no sense in wasting too much time trying to figure out the intentions of an ephemeral meet-up for a drink.

What I do know is that if I want to meet someone, I’ve just gotta keep trying if I’m looking for a relationship, irrelevant of whether it’s more old-fashioned ways or online. That’s just how it works. These things don’t just happen. Which means that I’m going to probably have the opportunity to meet more people that aren’t thought-provoking enough to write about. And more people like the patent genius. And hopefully some people who are thought-provoking, but for better reasons. But for me, it’s always just going to be a little awkward. Again, I don’t think it’s because I’m trans. I’ve met plenty of people out there for whom that is not an issue. I just think that for all of the things that I know I do well, dating isn’t one of them. And transitioning didn’t magically cure that. It a lot of ways, it made it easier, but that’s just a function of being a more honest representation of myself. At least now, I have embraced the view point of enjoying it. Even if it’s a bland date, hopefully I learn a little bit more about myself in the process. So it might be a bit far to call it a horrific den of humanity. At least in my books. But it’s also just a process, as are most things in life. Now to tweak those profiles a little too hopefully get a few less people like Thursday…

 
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