Archive for November, 2013

Feels Like The First Time

Last night, I did something I haven’t done since 2006 and finally found my way to a Pearl Jam show. For some reason, they never really seemed to hit Minnesota with a ton of frequency, so I hit a bit of a drought, but I had a strong run in high school of seeing them several times between 1996 and 2000. I had the distinct pleasure of catching all three of their MPP shows, for example. But after 2000, the timing just never worked out for a while. Even that 2006 show was a bit of serendipity as a friend had an extra ticket. And they weren’t even there on their own, they were supporting Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Opening doesn’t seem right in the sense they still cranked out an 18 song set. Either way, that was the first time I’d caught them since those wonderful few years as a teenager. Even then, I didn’t particularly feel like much of an adult, still bouncing around between shitty jobs and not entirely sure of where my life was going, etc, etc, etc. My arrested adolescence and all that. Now, though? I have a hard time arguing that I’m totally an adult all the time (who among us?…) but I definitely feel like an adult now. Both in the sense that I am more responsible and in the sense that Pearl Jam played until just short of midnight and I was feeling it.

Musically speaking, though, there’s a reason I’ll still see Pearl Jam given the chance, even if the price tag is $85 now instead of $25 and I have no real desire to pick up their new record. There just aren’t a lot of artists out there that can still rock in the capital R sense. While there were still a couple moments that lagged (which isn’t too surprising given the set length), Pearl Jam still roared through most of the 37 songs in their set, forgotten lyrics, busted guitar tunings and all. They have been playing music together pretty much longer than I’ve managed to do anything other than be alive. They have the reputation as an engaging and entertaining live act for a reason. I can’t think of many bands that could even play for that length of time, let alone largely play well for that long. Not that I expect that or even want that from the vast majority of the artists I see. There’s something to be said from knowing when it’s time to go (see: Broken Social Scene). But there’s an undeniable energy in just seeing a band do what Pearl Jam did last night.

Pearl Jam is really my first true musical love. Timing certainly helped. So did the classic rock upbringing. I inherited a lot of bands from my parents’ listening habits, spent plenty of time with Foreigner’s self-titled and Led Zeppelin IV and other great classic rock records, but Ten was the first record I owned that felt like it was mine. And despite all the grunge or alternative labels attached, they are at heart a rock band. Irrelevant of the whys and wherefores, they were the first band that I really delved into the catalog of, causing me to hunt down singles and b-sides with fervor and explore other projects and past roots that were really educational (I know more about Green River than I ever would have thought, and by that, I mean I know anything). I drove (or rode with) friends to shows all across Virginia and Maryland (and occasionally other places). I had wonderful experiences with a lot of great people going to those shows. Digging through CD singles at record shops across the country? Not quite as exciting. But I did it, and I filled out a pretty thorough collection at one point, though most of those have since found their way back to the various used CD resellers of Minnesota. And in the end, I suppose that’s fitting that they have ended up there and even the albums I still have I don’t pull out much.

Because not long after I got to college, I started listening to a lot of different music. I discovered bands like Boards of Canada and Spiritualized and Bright Eyes and Neutral Milk Hotel. I started to delve deeply into bands like The Cure and The Clash and The Pixies. Suddenly my collection was shooting in all sorts of new crazy fun directions. There was less money for CD singles that cost more than entire albums. There were all these people around with all these various collections to learn from, and high speed connections, and all sorts of things that didn’t really exist just a couple short years before. I’m in that weird cusp between Gen X and the Millenials that I fall in like so many of my peers, where the Internet wasn’t even all that good for transmitting ideas easily in high school, let alone songs. And I didn’t really have a ton of other things that shaped my influence that much in high school besides radio and peers who were also informed by radio. So college? It took me a bit, but then, it was like there all these different paths to go down, and so much to devour, and slowly, I drifted from Pearl Jam.

It’s a lot like that concept of a high school flame. There’s just something about college that expands your world view. Certainly the concept is cliche, but it’s an undeniable reality. I suppose the converse is true, but that’s a topic for another time. There’s so much…for lack of a better term? Else. So many other ideas and people and bands and activities. The world you thought you had figured out? Turns out there is so much more of it. For me, that’s sparked a journey further down the rabbit hole, one where digital access is better and better every day and I can listen to debuts from bands based in Manchester just as easily as I can go see Scottish bands touring the US on the strength of a tape or pick up a cassette from a Chinese rock band. It’s not to say I turned my back on my past; it’s just that I learned there’s so much more out there, so much more that I wanted to and still want to explore.

But seeing that old flame again? It’s fun for a few hours. I remember why I loved them so much, why somewhere deep down I still do. Even if I’m a fundamentally different music listener now than I was on September 24th, 1996 the first time I saw them. I have more than my parents’ old record and eight track and cd collections, DC101 and WHFS, and my peers to help drive my musical consumption. I’m certainly no tastemaker, but I do my best to stay out in front, to keep looking for things, to keep pushing. Because now it is so easy to hop onto a band’s Bandcamp or Soundcloud page to check out the latest song and I’ve got nothing but time at work to delve into an hour-long house mix followed by a blast of minute-long punk songs. But there were also times last night where I remember why I haven’t picked up the last couple albums, how perfunctory some of the new songs felt and sounded. I remember why I’ve found other things too. My love of Pearl Jam wasn’t meant to last forever, not that I felt that way back in high school. But what did I know? Like an old high school flame, though, I can still make a few hours for them when they manage to make it through my city, though, so that I can remember what I miss (and what I don’t). It’s fun to think about for a bit, too, those old days. They are old days. 17 years since the first time I saw them. Hard to believe. But in a few days, it’ll be back to whatever’s next in my Soundcloud feed and spinning the new Tropic of Cancer LP and finally digging into the PAWS cassette I picked up on Monday and it’ll be a while until I pull out a Pearl Jam LP or dial any up through Google Music at work. I can think that this time it’ll be different but it won’t. It just won’t be. That’s not who I am anymore. Since then, there have been a lot of others; there will continue to be more. It’s just in my nature. But there’s still something special about that first time.

Ennui

There are three reminders in my phone for tonight. There’s the one for the Lumerians at The Chapel. Or the one for 100% Silk showcase, though Octo Octa canceled. Or there’s the John Vanderslice show at the Rickshaw. That’s not even including ones that I forgot to put on the calendar, but were still on my mind, like Wax Idols at Milk Bar. And yet, I’m sitting on my couch, with hockey on (though I’m not really paying attention) and all I do when I look at that list is sigh a little. I’ve seen three of the four headliners and the fourth canceled. Besides, I don’t really feel like dancing, so 100% Silk would probably be a bit wasted on me. Hell, even my shoes are untied yet still sitting on my feet. I just have to face that tonight is one of those nights that I don’t feel like doing anything.

There’s danger in that attitude, but there’s no shame in it. Last night, Poliça and Marijuana Deathsquads brought a little bit of Minneapolis to the Fillmore. It was wonderful, and much needed, and I saw a Turf Club hoodie and suddenly, just for a second, didn’t feel quite so out of place in my own Entry hoodie. And I didn’t really have much down time prior to that. I left work and went to The Bold Italic microhood in my own hood, up on Clement, with its fun mix of affordable storefronts for cool vintage and style shops mixed in with Irish bars and Asian markets and restaurants. I basically came home to change before I was back out the door again to the Fillmore. It’s been a long week where I am not quite over whatever laid me out last weekend, so I just haven’t had as much energy as I’m accustomed to. It’s actually been the first week I’ve worked a full week since…the second full week in October? I dunno, it’s been a while. Even without a ton of stuff outside of work this week, 40 hours is 40 hours, and it takes a bit of getting used to to get back into it. Besides, Friday is just about the worst night of the week to go out. Everyone’s tired from working all week. If you’re like me, you spent most of the week going out. Plus, that’s when everyone else is out. It’s just a mess.

Besides, I was out on Tuesday, too, learning about, well, amazing things like Slaughter In San Francisco and the Golden Dragon Massacre for another engaging and entertaining Atlas Obscura event over at DNA Lounge. And Monday was Social Studies third residency night for the month, and the only one that I could make. And who am I to say no to Social Studies? Or Brick & Mortar (where I may well end up tomorrow night)? Not that having a busy week has stopped me from going out before. No tonight, it was just the profound sense of ennui that washed over me on the near-empty 31BX. Perhaps it’s that it’s already dark when I leave the office. Perhaps, it’s like I said and I’m just not feeling that great. Perhaps it’s the fact that now that I look at it, I guess I actually have done a fair bit this week.

But like I said, there’s danger in it. Look, I’m all for sitting around and doing nothing. We all need those moments. And I’m not really one for going out and shelling out money on shows just because they are there. I just know how quickly one day of not wanting to do anything can slide into the next if I’m not careful. It’s probably a contributor to the fact that I sometimes pack my schedule fairly full. Though I know there will be nights like tonight, where I look at the calendar and think, I’ve seen many of the artists I was thinking about seeing tonight, so I know what I’d be getting, and obviously none of it was quite enough to get me to buy a ticket ahead of time. And there are a lot of shows coming down the pike, either in the next couple weeks that I already have tickets to or that I want to get tickets to now that they are on sale (though it kinda hurts my head to already be buying tickets for stuff 8 months away). I know there’s things coming up.

What I dislike is the intense feeling of not wanting to do anything, when even lazing on the couch trying to find something to watch on Netflix is effort. And perhaps it’s just semantics, but I’d rather do nothing than not feel like doing anything. Tonight, I am being honest, it feels like the latter, and while there are good excuses for not doing some things that I could do sitting around like laundry (lack of quarters), there are also things that I just don’t seem to have the energy for, like writing (well, sort of made myself do this, but I’m thinking about the story I’m working on, not this). There’s no shame in deciding not to do anything. I’d just rather feel a bit more agency in the matter. There’s no problem in deciding not to go out tonight. But it can be a little concerning to just let it slip by if I really want to do something.

We all have to force ourselves into action sometimes. There are times where it’s a must, where for whatever reason, wanting to do anything is just an unbearable thought. I think we need the downtime, probably more than we realize. And there’s times where it’s definitely true that I shouldn’t force myself into action. Like those times where I’ve been hitting too many shows in a row and I’m not listening to my body. That’s almost the opposite end of ennui. That feeling that if I don’t keep going, then I’m never going to get going again. That I’ve gotta keep the momentum going lest I peter out. Which I can definitely do. It’s why I try to keep writing every day. When I exercise, I like to try and sink into as regular a routine as possible to keep it going as long as possible, knowing that all the other events in my life will slowly chip away at that time. Perhaps that’s why I fear this feeling sometimes. I wonder if I’m ever going to get going again, if I’m slowly ebbing toward a life where I sit on my couch every night just watching hockey and Netflix and generally avoiding things I want to do as I begin to dwell on the time and money it costs me. That is, perhaps, my own issue. Perhaps one I should think about more often. Or perhaps one I consider plenty enough.

As for the reminders on my phone tonight? I dismissed them. I’ve learned to not worry about or regret the shows I don’t go to. We are all, in the end, defined just as much by that which we do not do, the empty spaces in concert with the overly full portions. A rest surrounded by notes is just as much a part of the music as the rest of the score. And some of the best music makes rather elegant use of those spaces. My decision to not get tickets to any of the shows tonight is a reflection of who I am as well as much as my decision to get tickets for Pearl Jam on Tuesday right when they went on sale. There is something to be said for being discriminating every so often, of not just going to everything to go to it. And that ennui that I don’t want to feel because I’d prefer to think I’m in control? Well, that’s probably a reflection of who I am sometimes too, even if I don’t want to admit it all the time.

Small Steps

Today I got on the bus. I went to work. I ordered a bourbon pecan pie. I dipped out early to watch hockey. I joked with my coworkers and tried to give a guy directions to the 30 and ordered a couple drinks while listening to a bunch of random bar talk. By all accounts, it’s been a fairly uneventful day, as it should be. It is just another Wednesday like so many others before it and so many others to come.

Yet it’s not just another day. It’s Transgender Day Of Remembrence. Which, perhaps, you don’t know much about. It’s still not all that old. If I’d been particularly enterprising, I am sure I could have gone to an event somewhere around town. I am not really the marching type; perhaps it’s time to change that, even if I fancy myself the more actorial introspective type. Of course, I am probably a little late to the party to do that today. But the point remains.

There’s a large part of me that wishes a day like today wasn’t necessary at all in the sense that no one should die just because of who they are. But that is an age old problem that has gone through many, many iterations. It will probably go through many, many more (though hopefully not). I recognize that it is important to have a day to remember those who died for something so simple as who they are, irrelevent of what that is. And an effective way to get people to realize that, to really think about it, is by having something like a day of remembrance.

In as much as I am able to have regular old days day after day, I can help provide a nice reminder that some trans individuals have boring old lives where they get up and go to work and they do the little boring things that make up our lives. In as much as I am far more statistically likely to be sexually assaulted or killed? Hopefully I am never a reminder of that. Hopefully no one is. But obviously, a lot of people have been. Sadly, I don’t see those statistics shifting overnight. Not because I am pessimistic; it just takes a while to affect real change in that regard.

I hate reading another story about a trans woman killed and then callosuly misgendered by multiple media outlets that apparently are too confused to get it right. The only way not to (at least while keeping up with what’s happening in the trans community) is to just bury my head in the sand. Because there will be more people. Next year, there are unfortunately still going to be way too many lights snuffed out, replaced with new candles to light.

It’s awareness that matters. I may have only a little reach, only my little sphere. I am not so deluded as to confuse my ability to write with my ability to influence. And hopefully, those of you that do read this are already aware. Because you know me. But perhaps this is your first time here. Perhaps we’ve never had this discussion, or many, many others and you still know nothing about this.

And that obscures the fact that no day is ever just another day. It’s always a day to make a difference, to heighten awareness, to increase your reach. 16 years ago, there was no Transgender Day Of Remembrance. Not because it wasn’t needed. Just because it hadn’t coalesced yet into what it now is. Every day is a chance to make a difference, to raise awareness, to let people know. Every single one. And you never know when that day is going to become important. Because even helping to increase the perspective of one person makes a difference. For most of us, it’s a lot of small steps. But if we all take those small steps together? Then we cover a lot of ground.

Time Must Have A Stop

History has a funny way of obscuring some facts while profiling others. I suppose it’s the job and discretion of those who are trying to share that mass of information that is history to decide what is worthy and what isn’t. Certainly, it’s a challenge. There are various social considerations, how important the event is, for example. But those can vary by geography. We hear a lot about the Civil War. But you know, everyone else in the world probably doesn’t just call it the Civil War without at least saying something like American on the front of it. It’s easy to have those blind spots and lack that perspective. Historically speaking, I would imagine geography also limited what we learned. But in this day and age, it’s easy to learn about events happening all over the world, provided you can find something that at least provides coverage.

For example, we are in the throes of heavy JFK coverage. Given that it’s the 50th anniversary, it’s not that surprising. Big doors, little hinges and all that. And it’s important coverage. While for many that was an event that they will always remember, those people are much older now, and there are fewer of them. That’s how history fades. So it’s certainly worthwhile to explore that as entire generations do not have the first-hand visceral reactions that we will never have no matter how many things we read or how many times we see the Zapruder film. And we love nice round numbers when reflecting on things, so it’s no surprise that this is blown out to this proportion (as opposed to say, last year, where it was obviously something that people remembered, but not like this). Given that I live in the US, that there have only been so many Presidents and that they are powerful men, and that one of them was gunned down in Dallas, TX 50 years ago, it’s no surprise to read all of that.

But did you know today is also the 35th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre? The only historical event in which a member of the House of Representatives was killed in the line of duty? The historical event that gave us the phrase “drank the Kool-Aid”? Over 900 people died in Guyana on this day. It’s not comparing or putting historical events side-by-side or anything. Each event is its own unique iteration of amazing confluences and everything that follows. But that’s a pretty crazy historical event too. And on the whole, I haven’t noticed a whole lot about it. That could be the round numbers. Who knows? And that’s just getting into a siloed American view of history. I really truly wonder how this week would look if I lived in another country.

Did you know that JFK, Aldous Huxley, and C.S. Lewis all died on November 22, 1963? I knew Huxley, because he’s my favorite author and that’s one of those things you pick up when you’ve read a fair amount of his work. I didn’t know about C.S. Lewis. Obviously, being American, it’s impossible to avoid JFK. And with something of that much gravity, it makes sense. At least today, we have access to information in a way that generations prior just lacked. Nowadays, the concern is more that so much information is going by that it’s impossible to capture it all. The same amount of stuff was still occurring 50 years ago, but our means of transmitting it have obviously changed quite a bit. So I guess it’s not all that surprising.

But now we do have the ability to get information in unprecedented ways. It’s all a quick Google search away these days, as long as you know where to look or what you are looking for. Of course, now things like Wikipedia, constantly refreshed homepages of news sites, and crawls across the bottom of news channels are the arbiters of what we hear and learn about. There’s still always going to be something that’s filtering that information. It’s important to remember that, even if it feels like we are now surrounded by a deluge of information. It may seem that the olds ways of transmitting information seem antediluvian by today’s standards, but there are still gatekeepers determining what gets out, even if there are more of them and there’s more information readily available (don’t confuse that with the amount of events that occurred).

I’m not expecting you to go out there and pick up a Huxley novel other than Brave New World (though you should!) just because of this. And certainly, continue to read up on JFK. It’s curious to see what we think the historical significance of an event is 50 years removed versus right after it happened. It can be fun to be an armchair historian and try and put your own spin on important historical events. Me? It’d probably behoove me to read some C.S. Lewis at some point in my life. Just as it would behoove me to remember there’s a lot of world out there, and there’s always something to learn about what already feels like a historically significant day. For my generation, it’s hard to argue there’s any more salient historical event than 9/11. I mean, we can all tell you where we were, who we watched coverage with, what we did that day, etc. But ask a Chilean and you are likely to get a different answer about the significance of that date, one that is older and is also important to American history, albeit a chapter that we’re not so fond of talking about. Don’t just remember. Learn.

Return The Gift

I still don’t have a microwave. I’d prefer to think of it like some sort of badge of honor, like not having a television (which seems a bridge too far) or at least not having cable (which I’ve only had one of the last 6 years or so). But it’s really just a mark of laziness and timing. It’s one of those things I thought I’d use the last week of my car to take care of. Instead, the brake disintegrated, I played musical couches, and I got the big stuff into my place through the kindness of my friends and their vehicles. The couch I finally got? The cover came from Sweden, but the sofa itself was less than a block away. I was able to walk it back to my place. So far, no dice on someone on Craigslist putting up a microwave that’s at 5th and Cabrillo or some similar lucky strike. Not that I’ve been looking that hard, mind you. I’ve just been thinking now it’s time to start looking again.
It’s been just over 6 months since I arrived in San Francisco. There’s still a surprising list of things to take care of (isn’t there always?). It’d be nice to have an ID that actually matches the state I’m living in, and while I originally wanted to hold off because I wasn’t sure what my permanent address would be, that no longer seems to be apropos. Now it’s just not wanting to go down to the DMV. There’s a small chance that will become a full-blown debacle, but I am guessing it won’t. So I suppose I might as well pull out the driver’s manual, reacquaint myself with questions about motorcycles, child safety seats, and which way to cut the wheels on a 3% grade (not I’m likely to make that $57 mistake again) and see if California deems me fit to drive even though I don’t have any plans to do it again any time soon.

And of, course, there’s tons of other little things that I still need to get, minutiae like measuring cups and plates, picture frames and plastic cups, and all the other things that slowly turn an apartment into a home. I’m getting there. Now that I’m done with all my traveling for the foreseeable future, I’d like that make it so that when you come visit me, you have someplace to sit or sleep, and something to eat or drink with. Because I’m guessing people like to do more than sit on the hardwoods listening to records and playing games. Myself included. But hey, it’s a process, and I’ve been working on it for a while. So that’s the next few months. Besides, if I learned anything at all the different places I’ve lived at in the past few years, it’s that getting around to that isn’t always my strongest suit.
What is surprising this time is not that I still want to do things I will probably never get around to (that never changes). It’s that I can. I came into this move with the best of intentions, but let’s just say I knew it was going to be tough for a while and for the first couple months I was fairly convinced it was the worst idea I’d ever come up with. Not that living here is bad. It’s fucking fantastic. You should try it sometime. If you’ve got a boatload of money, it’s even easier. I managed to go the second route and find a mythically cheap rent (it’d only be better if my building were called The Pegasus). Before I scored that, though, I was fairly convinced that I was just going to find some overpriced place in Civic Center or The Mission, pay way too much in rent for a year, and then figure out my exit strategy because no matter how great the city is, there’s a point where it doesn’t matter. I was fairly convinced until the moment my new building manager called me. Even after that, I wasn’t entirely sure. That really hung over me for a while.

In fairness, some of that was because I’d sunk a fair bit of money into the things I just spent the past month doing, a four different trips in just under two months, and those sorts of things don’t come cheap. Even with places to stay and friends waving you off, traveling is still just an expensive enterprise Besides, there are going to be times where I pick up the tab. I’ll always want to return the favor if anyone makes it out this way, with a drink or a meal or a place to stay. All in good time hopefully. Because I want to show of my place, and I want to show off my new home city. I want you to come and share bombolinos from Heartbaker with me. I want to have a sausage from Rosamunde over drinks at Toronado. I definitely want you to come and see the sites, whether they’re the ones you know like Golden Gate and Alctatraz or the ones you’ve only seen on Instagram like the Mount Davidson Cross. Hopefully, as I’m taking the next few months to further acclimate to living here, I’ll know even more cool people, I’ll have more time to see the people I already know, and I’ll come up with that much more that’s worth seeing out here. I want to share it with you, like friends before me shared it with me. I want you to see the city for all its worth, whether that’s the amazing collections of humanity that gather in places like 16th and Mission or Haight and Stanyan or pretty much anywhere in the Castro.

People asked me when I was traveling whether it felt like home yet with some frequency. And I have to say, yes, yes it does. In all its wonder. Whether it’s the next mindboggling map of inequality by neighborhood or it’s Batkid or it’s BART finding a new way to strike, those are all the things of my everyday life now. Even if that life lacks a microwave. Let’s face it, there’s a lot more to life than a few kitchen appliances. I still don’t know how long I’ll be here, whether I am still a year and done if the right opportunity strikes or whether the next step keeps me right here (or possibly takes me to Oakland, at least professionally). I was really worried about it before, because I felt like there was no possible way to make this work for much longer. And it’s still a niggling thought, whether San Francisco is worth it. How can it not be? You have to make a lot of money to not ask yourself that question, because it seems the bills only manage to go up as the incomes do here. But there is so much good here. And that’s hard to leave. It can be difficult to pin a direct answer to the question of why I chose to move here, or really why anyone chooses to live here. But, at least right now, I feel like as long as the right opportunities are here, I’ll be here for a while. And if you want to try and answer for yourself exactly what it is that makes this place so great? I say come find out for yourself. My couch isn’t too bad for sleeping.

Enervated

Perhaps it’s the hectic schedule over the past few weeks. Perhaps it’s the fact that all the late nights out and early mornings up do add up. Perhaps it’s the fact that I sort of ignored my body to go out to see Lord Dog Bird because damn it, sometimes you have to do it. But no matter what the cause, I’ve spent most of this week dealing with something sinusy. I actually used my first sick day since I got out here on Thursday, which even impressed me. I thought I’d run myself down sooner than that given how much there is to do. But it all finally caught up.

I’ve never been a huge fan of watching fun things tick by. I thought tonight would be a decision between whether or not to go to Tera Melos et al. at Rickshaw Stop and Quasi over at Bottom of the Hill. I had free tickets to The Besnard Lakes, but I couldn’t quite figure out how I would get through a show with throbbing sinuses. I could barely figure out how to sleep like that. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to come to terms with that. There are always going to be things that I’m not going to be able to make it to. Even if I’d purchased tickets to anything, it’s a sunk cost in as much as I already spent it. And as much as I thought I might have the energy for it this morning (finally feeling much better than I have in the past two and a half days or so), I quickly realized as I sauntered down Clement that I wasn’t going to have the energy tonight. People went running by and I thought about how I should be getting out for a run too. But I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors doing that either.

There are plenty of times in life where I have not particularly listened to my body. Plenty of those times I should have. I’m not the kind of person that’s going to tell you to keep pushing through. I have a pretty decent capacity for getting through the night at shows, but I realize not everyone else has that. And there are plenty of occasions where I should have gone home. I have a lot of trouble leaving early unless a show is really bad. Just like I like to enjoy a beer when I get the chance at a show. And the way I’m feeling right now, I definitely shouldn’t be standing around at a show or drinking a beer.

Perhaps you don’t have that issue, but I’ve always had a bit of trouble taking care of myself. I don’t think it’s inherently self-destructive, though. Not like that. Just in as much as there’s so much I want to do and even when it doesn’t feel like it, time is finite. So I spend a lot of time and energy (and let’s be honest, money) running around trying to make those things happen. That’s what leads to two-show nights, those days when I leave at 7:45 am and get home at 12:30 am, and trying to travel to as many places as possible in a small space of time. Eventually it all builds up. Or as is perhaps more appropriate, it all drains out, and I find myself sick, enervated on the couch, with calendar reminders and Twitter to help remember all the things that are going on outside of my apartment. So no, I’m not dipping out tonight to a show and I probably won’t for the next few days, either. Tonight, at least, I’ll just curl up on the couch and watch the Battle of Alberta and fall asleep early. Once I get rested up and reenergized, I am sure I’ll be back out there doing all those things that San Francisco affords (or all the things I can afford in San Francisco). I can already look down the calendar and see there are good shows most nights for the foreseeable future, and all the other fantastic non-musical things this city provides will hopefully fit somewhere in between those shows. It doesn’t mean I have to go to every one, or even can. Though I’m guessing once I feel better again, I’m gonna try.

Advocacy

When I was back in Virginia, my parents and I got dinner and happened to run into some friends of theirs at the restaurant that I had previously met several years before, prior to my transition. And though they remembered me and knew some details of my life (like the fact I currently reside in San Francisco) they were not aware that I had transitioned. This piqued me momentarily, but I decided to follow up with my parents another night to get their take on the entire encounter. I also wanted to more thoroughly explore some of the thoughts that kicked up in my brain because of the encounter and the further discussion.

When I talked with my parents later in the trip, my dad noted that they were not exactly in the business of going around and just telling everyone that I had transitioned. Certainly many people know, but it’s, as my dad put it, a need-to-know sort of issue for them when they tell other people. And as I noted at the time, I am not expecting them to put an ad in the newspaper. I get it. They have a completely different thought process about me, who I am, and how they choose (or choose not) to discuss that with people. It’s not like I am around all that much anymore; it’s also not like my parents have ever told me not to come around post-transition. As my dad said, they will deal with it when it comes up in cases like what happened on a Wednesday night on DC.

That idea doesn’t really work for me, personally. I like to control the narrative, and I especially wanted to control that narrative when I came out. As someone who is openly out, I like the opportunity to continue to control that narrative (to some degree, of course). It’s my story and I like to tell it. Some trans individuals would just as soon say nothing about the process ever again. And that makes plenty of sense. You shouldn’t have to say anything you don’t want to in that regard. I have always felt this compunction to talk about what this crazy, wonderful, occasionally maddening journey has been like (and what it continues to be like). And that should ultimately be each individual’s decision

My parents are also in the process of coming out as well. Right, not as trans, but as the parents of someone who is. And that is ultimately their decision in terms of how they choose to approach that and work through the issues therein. I am not going to pretend I understand what they are going through, because I don’t. The whole process is totally different for them. It’s not my place to denigrate what it is they are going through in that regard. Honestly, as a family, I do think we are past any sorts of issues in the greater sense. I love my parents, and my parents love me. They didn’t tell me to never call them or come back. They didn’t disown my existence. Sure, some things are still harder for them. They still have a harder time with things like pronouns. That they have a slightly bifurcated view of me (who I am to those who know I am trans versus those they have not told) certainly helps explain that.

One of the ideas I encounter a lot when reading is the concept of advocacy. Trans people shouldn’t have to be their own advocates and explain everything. And I totally agree with that. They shouldn’t. But you know what? That doesn’t mean my parents have to be my advocates either. Like me, it’s their choice as to who they share what information with, and how. That I happened to be present with them when they ran into old friends forced their hand a bit. But that is always a risk someone runs by choosing not to disclose something. They didn’t seem particularly embarrassed about it in the present tense of the encounter nor did they seem too concerned when we discussed it later. They have the same motivations that I frequently share about disclosing it, how people will react, what it shows you about the people around you. I decided a long time to get out in front of that by being very open. For lack of a better way of putting it, I like to get it out of the way. Not that I am ashamed of who I am. But if who I am is a problem to someone else? Fuck ’em. I’d rather move on to people that are more worth my time. This isn’t to say that the first thing out of my mouth is “Hey, I’m trans”. This is to say I am not going to shy away from that aspect of who I am either, whether it’s a quick joke or a serious discussion. That’s how I choose to handle who I am.

How my parents do it? Well, I got a glimpse. And as I said, frankly, that’s their choice. Much as they respect who I am (and I sincerely feel that they do), I need to respect their process. Is it exactly how I think I would choose to approach it? No. Does that mean it’s wrong? Of course not. It’s important to not confuse a decision not to tell everyone they know everything about the present state of my life with a rejection of who I am. I don’t tell everyone either. So why should they?

Is This It?

If you’ve been paying attention to current events here in the US, you might be aware that the Senate voted on an EDNA bill, and passed it 64-32. It’s great to see that and it has led to all sorts of tweets and blurbs and more thought out ideas about what it means. Call me cynical, but I would like to see it get through the other side of the legislature before I get too excited. At this point, I’m not so much interested in political scorekeeping as I am rights. Given that I currently live in solidly liberal area (and moved from a solidly liberal one) I have no doubt that the legislatures that represent me will do right by me, even with a watered-down version of the bill. But I think a lot of people out there just don’t care. Sadly, and more to the point, I think a majority of the individuals elected in the House of Representatives don’t care. They do not see anti-discrimination protections for sexual identity or gender identity as all that important, or even as real things that need protecting (you know, since we’re all just making it up).

The numbers bounce all over the place, but a lot of people get discriminated against for the sexual identity. That number goes up to a whole lot higher if you look at gender identity. I, therefore, am somewhat of an outlier. I was not discriminated against when I transitioned on the job. I don’t really feel that I have been discriminated against at work in the years since. I’ve certainly had a couple hand-to-face moments over the years, and one awkward moment in an phone interview. Not that that should happen, either, but it did. It mostly reinforced my already developing thoughts that I wouldn’t want to work in that area anyway. And I don’t feel like it had any real bearing on whether I’d be offered the job. While I certainly had some other uncomfortable encounters (they’re kind of an everyday thing when you’re trans, I hate to admit), I have not felt anything has happened that has been detrimental to my ability to do my job or get a promotion or a new job or anything like that. Which I guess is a way of saying I don’t feel like they’ve been workplace related as much as they’ve been dealing with other people related. I’m not trying to be flippant about it, I’m just trying to accurately diagnose what I experience. Cases like that are more errant pronouns and things that I could run into just about anywhere, which is why I’m not considering it a workplace issue as much as a people issue. Though I suppose it is in the sense that it affects how my co-workers see me. But even that is blessedly minimal at work. There’s something strange about actually getting to know trans people that makes cis individuals less likely to screw up pronouns on the whole. Who knew?

Considering that, I am in the minority of the minority. I’ve never once thought I was going to be fired just because of who I am. It has never crossed my mind post-transition. But it’s worth taking a step back, and heaping a whole bunch of praise on my employer for their open-minded nature of dealing with my transition. Because before I had that conversation, it was at least something that I had to think about. So here’s my admittedly somewhat boring take on all of it.

Let’s spin the wayback machine to 2006. After some personal circumstances finally convinced me that I needed to be doing some better things to be myself and take care of myself, I decided it was time to stop slumming it at a sandwich shop and get a real job. You know, the kind all my friends seemed to be doing that gave them better benefits, better pay, and didn’t treat them like shit. I didn’t have a hugely developed plan, and strangely, I actually had pretty decent insurance when I worked at Milio’s, but I needed better insurance and more money. Because transitioning isn’t cheap. That’s just a fact. Even if we get to some point in society where we remove the gatekeeping barriers (which add to the financial cost), there’s still issues of medical care that wouldn’t involve that (hormones, etc) as well as the sundries (clothes, shoes, stuff like that) that influence gender presentation in society. And I knew I was not exactly pushing myself at the time to do more with my life. So I did what anyone would do in my position. I got a haircut and I got a job (literally, it turned out). Well, not really a permanent one, but something to work with.

Given that I had no really plan or approach to how I was really going to deal with this inchoate mess that was my life at that time, I didn’t have career aspirations. Or much useful experience. So I did what I should have done a few years before and went to a temp agency, particularly one that had temp-to-perm opportunities. I wasn’t just looking to pick up odd jobs (though I certainly did work a couple entertaining short term assignments for them), I was looking for something that I could latch onto. It didn’t need to be something that I enjoyed as much as it needed to be something that I could count on for the next couple years, something at the same time every day that would pay me more (both through pecuniary and other means). So in February of 2007, that ship came in and took me to Wells Fargo, in the Correspondent Mortgage side of things. I knew nothing about mortgages then, and most of us knew nothing of excitement that was to come in the mortgage industry, but it was close to where I lived at the time, paid much better, and was something that I ended up being pretty good at. Good enough that Wells Fargo, in their good graces, decided to take me on as a full-time employee a few months later in June of 2007. In six months, I’d executed the first part of my plan to take care of myself (not totally knowing what that meant) by finding something to pay the bills and provide better insurance for whatever was next. At that time, I still wasn’t terribly sure of what I wanted to do. I still had a lot of insecurity around the idea of actually transitioning, that I just couldn’t manage it. But I knew I could at least be banking a little money in the meantime as I was working my through that.

The fact that I landed with Wells Fargo is probably one of the happiest accidents of my life. I’m sure I could have ended up with some other decent-sized employer in Minnesota hiring out of the same pool, like Allianz. I thought I had a job that was going to pan out with Thomson Reuters (though still Thomson West) at the time that didn’t end up doing so about a year before I ended up with Wells. I know nothing of the relative merits of the policies of a lot of those companies (haven’t not really spent much time looking into it), but I do know that Wells Fargo is particularly proud of its diversity. The more cynical amongst you might say that’s any sort of big company talking. I am, perhaps, an unreliable narrator. But I really feel like Wells Fargo does care about that sort of thing. In fact, it’s one of those things that gets noted, that a lot of Fortune 500 companies do have policies in place to ensure that sexual identity and gender identity are not bases employees are discriminated against. Because if you want to hire the best people, you need to open the pool. Completely. I didn’t really know that at the time. But in 6+ years with them, I’ve certainly seen that, as a culture, they have lots of people in place who also feel that way. Having that kind of ideal at the top takes time to implement. But if your managers and other people on down the chain truly reflect that ideal, then it will come to fruition. It takes time, though. I’m glad Wells had that in place for some time before I started there.

But back to the story at hand. I was plugging along, working my job, talking with my therapist, and slowly coming to some conclusions about what I wanted, who I was at the time, and who I wanted to be, more importantly. Slowly, toward the end of 2007, I started to share who I really am by coming out and having a lot of conversations a lot of different ways with a lot of different people. But I still didn’t have a timeline or a plan about how I was going to approach the idea of coming out to my employer. In fact, that was one of the things that waited until almost the last moment. But in the beginning of 2008, the timeline started to crystalize. And then I started to tell people that I would transition in June. So then it became a tangible goal. Once I’d had that conversation with most everyone else, I asked to meet with my boss for what was undoubtedly one of the strangest conversations I’d ever have with my employer.
My manager at the time was an older gentleman. And what could have been a really weird and awkward at a lot of places wasn’t. Obvious it wasn’t the conversation he was necessarily expecting when I asked for the meeting. But he took it all in stride and approached how to update everything in the systems at work and tell my co-workers and all in a matter of fact manner that I only got to appreciate more as I met more people who had less smooth experiences with on the job transitions. Irrelevant of his personal feelings (and honestly don’t know what those are, though he didn’t seem to be overly concerned personally either), it was always just a question of what steps we needed to take to make things happen. Which was awesome. His boss (the head of my overall area) was the exact same way about it. They both typified the approach of saying what needs to be done and doing it, and not much else.

I also had another pretty amazing resource at my disposal being at a large company. Wells has a group called Employee Assistance Counseling (might have a different name now, but it’s still there) that any employee can call and talk with about all manner of things that are confidential. No one there was going to say anything about what they told them and my concerns. In fact, they helped with a lot of the internal resources about who to contact in terms of acquiring resources like a general form letter for how to disclose transitioning, etc. I still had to do a lot of the legwork and education and my end. But I wasn’t the only person that was my advocate, even if it was a relatively confidential advocate. They are there for many other things, too, but that’s the only time I’ve had cause to use them. It’s a pretty amazing benefit that most people don’t think about, but just being at a big company that has the resources for something like that.

Personally, I’m torn on the whole issue of advocacy. I understand it’d be great to be in a world where I don’t have to be my own advocate. It sucks that when I go to my new doctor I have to provide basic education on trans issues. It’s great to meet people who correct other peoples’ errant pronouns in regard to me without me saying anything first. But I am something of an expert on the matter. Or if not an expert, someone who has a lot of lived experience. And I know that a lot of other people just aren’t aware of the issues therein. It’s hard to expect people to be advocates of a concept that is finally gaining a lot more attention as something that just is as opposed to something that is stigmatized. And we’re still a long way to go to get to a point where most people aren’t stigmatizing gender identity. So yeah, I did have to do a lot. My doctors at the time at least questioned whether or not I was doing too much work on my own. But I did have people who were helping with it, who provided resources in terms of what to say and how to approach transitioning on the job. Hopefully those resources are getting better. But in the meantime…someone still needs to be that advocate. In ten, fifteen years, perhaps there will be more people who are not trans who are better educated about the issues therein in human resources departments, but it’s still a nascent concept for a lot of places. Even a company that prides itself on its diversity needs to learn those skills. I was still the first trans person that all the various people I spoke with (my HR rep, my bosses, etc) had worked with in terms of actually handling the paperwork. But they all approached it like any other thing they’d have to deal with at work.

In terms of the actual process at work, it was all fairly smooth. We figured out some good approaches for how to disseminate information about my transition, who needed to know what, etc. They really let me be in control of that. I personally wouldn’t have felt comfortable without some sort of statement to most of the people in my immediate area, but I got the impression that they would have been perfectly fine with me saying nothing and just transitioning on the job. It really felt like their approach was the following: tell who you need to tell to be comfortable how you want to and we’ll handle the other aspects. In the end, I drafted up a letter, I spoke in front of most of the managers, and I spoke immediately with the people I worked with. I probably made it a bit more of an event than it needed to be in the sense that I knew I’d be more comfortable putting some basics out there to try and head off any problems. But I was mostly met with shrugs from the part of my co-workers, who had more of that “okay, I need to get back to work to get my production up and I don’t care about your personal life” attitude than I really expected to run into. In a certain sense, it was necessary to communicate that my name was changing because people would e-mail me or try to contact me, but beyond that, most people didn’t seem to care.

Of course, that’s on the surface. Below that, there were still a lot of little things, people who contacted me individually or had conversations with me. Perhaps some people had some conversations with their bosses or EAC or whatever else. But professionally, it was heartening to see a company and a group of co-workers that treated it exactly like what it was: an update to my e-mail address and how to address me and not much more. Everyone treated me the same as a worker afterwards. I don’t feel like the opportunities I got (or didn’t get) in the immediate wake of transitioning hinged on anything other than my ability as an employee at Wells Fargo. Which is great to see. And that was 6 years ago. It has since blossomed into a place where I’ve developed a career and found my direction professionally. It’s a great place to do that. I found something that I enjoy doing that I just stumbled into with a company that I know has my back in regards to who I am. And I feel that having that comfort of knowing that has definitely helped me grow personally, outside of Wells Fargo.

Most of the time, we hear about the negative stories. But I think it’s important to say there are places that are getting it right, or are at least making an effort. I can’t guarantee that’s been everyone’s experience with Wells Fargo. But Wells, as a company, has always been really good to me in regard to who I am. I feel like the only thing that matters to them when I walk through the door is how I perform as a worker. I feel like any issues I’ve had (and they’ve mostly been minimal) have been handled in an extremely professional manner, and I’m not being blown off as someone lesser for who I am when I raise concerns because I’m a bit frustrated if I have a moment where I feel people aren’t respecting my gender identity. I do feel like they actually care about creating a work environment where everyone, no matter who they are, can be who they are. And I do feel like it’s important to share that. The negative stories certainly merit attention. Especially in regard to attitudes on gender and sexual identities and their impact on our jobs. Because plenty of people are still dealing with the repercussions of losing their jobs just for who they are when it has no bearing on their ability to go in and do their job. In plenty of places, that’s still acceptable behavior. For plenty of companies, that’s still reason enough to show someone the door. People need to hear that side of the story. But there are companies that don’t do that, that realize when employees can be who they are, it’s probably going to make them better employees because they don’t constantly have something weighing on them. We shouldn’t need EDNA because that seems like a pretty basic concept that people and companies would adhere to, to hire the best people irrelevant of who they are. But we need EDNA because that’s not the world in which we live. At least, not yet.

Analogy

Some days I wonder what the biggest challenge to helping make a better world for trans people is. Is it outright hatefulness and violence? Certainly challenging and changing that makes the world a better place. It’s a terrible thing to read about, every single time I read about someone beaten, someone killed just for the audacity of being who they are, wherever they fit in the gender spectrum. Is it the mendacity of those less inclined to violence? That’s a different challenge entirely. Both still require self-defense, just in different ways. And the work of undoing one simple little lie can be quite difficult. They are both pretty terrible things to have to wonder about in one’s everyday existence, something that far too many trans people have to worry about all the time. Or is it just plain old thoughtlessness, the malaise large swath of the population who aren’t so moved by hate or fear as much as they are moved by the artful lack of curiosity and concern? Perhaps it’s just something as simple as lack of awareness. I had a lot of trouble figuring out who I was when I lacked the vocabulary to articulate who I am. I lacked knowledge of the general concept and unlike some other people who may have a more defined idea of what that meant, for me, it was kind of this inchoate mess in my head. I doubt I’ll ever have a solid answer as to what the biggest challenge is. They all seem like fairly major challenges. And it seems a bit useless to assign a rank to them. Some days, it’s just what crosses my mind that. To that point…

I was reading Katie Baker’s mailbag as I am wont to do. I enjoy her hockey writing and though her mailbags are a bit more scattershot, it’s still usually an entertaining read in the Simmons tradition. So I am reading along in that generally amused way one goes through writing like that when I get to Brad S.’s question/statement/whatever passes for publishable material that the writer wants to talk about and I reach the following total head-desk sentence in his attempt to express his disappointment that she likes the Mets instead of the Yankees like a true New Yorker:

“I feel like the guy in the last scene of The Crying Game.”

You can go read the rest. You aren’t missing much. There, caught up? Okay. Let’s unpack this sentence. Let’s just talk about it for a bit.

First, have you seen the Crying Game? I actually have. I’m pretty sure this guy doesn’t mean the last scene of The Crying Game. It’s the prison visit with “Stand By Your Man” playing. It’s a pretty poignant scene. And I highly doubt it’s the scene that guy is actually referencing. I suppose it’s possible, but that’s…well, let’s be generous, that’s not what people tend to evoke when they bring up The Crying Game. Am I perhaps being a bit oversensitive on the subject? Sure. But if you are going to evoke gender variant individuals for your tenuous “I was surprised by something I think is awful” analogy, you could at least get the details right. I mean, we’re talking about sports. You are cheering for laundry. Don’t get me wrong. I am a lover of sports for sure. I have an irrational level of unrequited love for Washington Capitals that they will never return. I wrote most of this while one of their games played in the background. I understand how it inspires all sorts of weird, irrational behavior, like trying to find logical reasons for why someone else might cheer for different laundry from the same general area. But hey, who doesn’t enjoy the casual callous insouciance of someone reaching for a dumb analogy to make an even dumber point? (Also, one of the points of the movie is that he does love her and accepts who she is. Just putting that out there).

But the problem isn’t that I’m overly bothered by it. I am definitely not pleased to see it, and I was piqued for a couple minutes, but it’s subsided into more of a head-shaking sort of frustration. The problem is that a lot of people do not bother to think about those kinds of things when it comes to any sort of cultural portrayals of gender variance. Please go ahead and find a cultural portrayal of trans individuals or issues in television or movies other than Orange Is The New Black right now. Hell, at least that’s a show that also has a trans woman playing a trans woman (I know, shocking). I am aware of a few, but most aren’t nearly that mainstream. Go ahead, I’ll wait a few minutes while you ponder it. Bonus points if you can find a trans man anywhere. It’s hard to have cultural awareness when something doesn’t appear anywhere in popular culture. There are still enough problems in terms of how concepts like race and sexuality are portrayed in popular culture and there’s certainly a lot more awareness around those concepts. Gender identity still seems to be several rungs down the ladder. But the only way any of that changes is with awareness. It’s hard to think something may be offensive to someone when you aren’t even thinking about what you are saying, and the real meaning behind it. Besides, the real problem I have with this isn’t that it’s a tired culture reference or that it’s dated or anything like that. The real problem is that a trans woman who hasn’t had surgery is shorthand a revolting and terrible surprise that colors how someone sees that person. Because why worry about people who don’t want surgery, or can’t afford it? Why worry about the fact that for a lot of trans women, that’s something that might get them beaten or killed? Why think about any of that when you can make your pretty little analogy regarding disbelief over which sports team she cheers for?

Look, I’m sure I also do this with issues and ideas that I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about. I am trying to challenge myself more to think about how I do that in my day-to-day life. I am hoping that other people do challenge me on it when I do I make casual assumptions and references, that I have the voracious curiosity to continue to come across those ideas, and the humility to listen and accept when people tell me I am doing it. But when it comes to gender identity, well, I’m pretty good at recognizing that. It’s kind of my forte. Like I said, I spend a lot of time thinking about the challenges. And I think that awareness trumps all of the other challenges. Because I feel like awareness is what helps challenge all those other ideas. It’s disappointing to see something like that. Increasing positive cultural touchstones of gender variance would definitely help, though that is a little beyond my control. I can take a few minutes to say what it’s like, or a few minutes to break down how something that someone might think of as fairly benign is in fact probably not, though. I would have hoped that maybe Katie Baker or an editor might have said something about it before it got to that point and ended up in a reader e-mail. I don’t think it was malicious as much as it was thoughtless. So here’s hoping someone thinks about it next time. Or that they are at least aware.

On The Road

As I’ve documented in recent entries, I’ve gone carless. In my home life at least. But in the last week and a half, I spent some time behind the wheel of a couple different vehicles while traveling. I suppose I didn’t absolutely need a vehicle in Minnesota. Though I don’t know how else I would have gotten a couple other places, the majority of the places I visited would have been just as accessible via public transit. It’ll only get easier when the Light Rail finally opens (2014 is almost here?). But for this trip, I went through a nice little off-airport company that hooked me up with a car made in the same decade I was driving it (a rarity for me). It was, on the whole, a pretty nice experience. In Virginia? Well, if I’m only trying to get around Arlington and DC, sure, I don’t need anything, but otherwise, I don’t know how I would have done a wedding reception in Lorton without a vehicle. My parents, as per usual, let me use a car, which I always appreciate. First, it’s good to periodically brush up on my manual vehicle skills (don’t worry, I’ve still got it, just don’t ask the clutch for an opinion). Second, between staying with them and being able to borrow a vehicle, it really makes any trip to Virginia much more tenable (both in cost and access to things). Now I’m heading back to my personally carless life in San Francisco. And I’m happy about that. Here’s some things I’ve learned with a bit of perspective. Some I’ve mentioned before; some I’ve subtly realized over the past 11 days; some just hit me right over the head:

1) Even when gas is only $3.09/gallon (like it was at several places in Minnesota), I’m glad I’m not paying for that anymore. Even if it was only twice a month, that adds up pretty quickly. That’s $100 pretty quickly. Not that I’d be driving all that much. But I’ll take all the found money I can in San Francisco. Not that it was found money, per se. I still pay for transit in San Francisco, but the majority of it is a flat monthly fee of $76, pre-tax (thanks Wells!) that lets me take most modes of transit in the city. I don’t think I ever appropriately appreciated how much I spent on gas, even when I did a better job at budgeting. Even when I was biking fairly consistently, carpooling to shows, and using MetroTransit occasionally, I still managed to rack up a decent monthly bill. Even as the cost has gone up, it’s still just an expected expense to most of us. Now I think about it a little differently.

2) I definitely did a couple careless things in the first few days in the car. It wasn’t because I was texting or trying to eat while I was driving or anything like it. It’s just because I forgot how taxing driving is. It really demands your attention. I don’t miss that at all. I don’t miss nearly hitting people that you swore weren’t there before, because even when all of us pay attention, things like that happen. It only takes a second for those sorts of situations to become something much worse. I don’t miss vehicles that probably didn’t come out of anywhere even though in my mind they sort of felt that way. I’d rather save my energy for other endeavors, thank you very much.

3) I found my relationship with parking changed a little bit. Obviously it wasn’t an issue everywhere, but it’s sometimes it’s just a tedious waste of time trying to find a space or a lot. Of course, the same argument could be made of waiting for MUNI or BART. But at least when I am doing that I can just relax and wait for the vehicle, or check my phone, or just stand there. Sometimes I spent more time trying to park than I did at places I went. And I also embraced pay parking a lot more since I don’t do it all that much anymore. Logically, in my city-dwelling mind, I know that free parking is a myth. We (as a society) pay for that one way or the other. That’s a resource that the city is deploying, whether it’s on street parking that could be used in other ways that benefit the area (wider sidewalks for better walking and outdoor seating for businesses or bike lanes come to mind as alternatives) or surface lots begging to be turned into just about anything more useful like apartments or businesses. But I grew up in the suburbs. I grew up going to malls and shopping centers that had endless miles of parking lots in my mind. Free, endless blacktop was sort of an expectation. So I still feel like I should be able to find parking anywhere I go, just a little. Even if I know it’s ridiculous. Perhaps some time away from a car as an everyday item will help me finally get away from that attitude. I had much less trouble pulling into garages and feeding meters on this trip.

4) I hate traffic. I really really hate it. I certainly still get stuck in it, on the bus, riding with other people. It’s a big problem that plenty of people have spent a lot of energy on, and will continue to spend energy on. I sincerely hope there’s anyone out there who enjoys it. It’s nice to not feeling the frustration of sitting in a car inching along a city street or a major interstate more often in my life. The bus does it all the time and it’s still a problem. My commute could still take a lot less time if there were some magical solution to congestion (though there are definitely good ideas, like congestion pricing). But I’m pretty nonchalant about it on the bus. When I’m sitting in the car? It’s a whole different issue.

5) Driving can really makes me angry and apoplectic. I have more colorful invectives for a guy who squeezes into the space I’m keeping between me and the car in front of me than I do for a lot of other things in life (and some of them probably deserve those invectives a bit more). I wonder why that is. It’s like driving fills all of us with the same amount of vituperation this guy had for the person who made his poor burrito. Is it because it’s a safe space to be angry at someone like that? I mean, the other driver is definitely not hearing whatever it is I’m saying. I pound steering wheels like the best of ‘em. Why do we do that? I am not the only one. I’ve been a passenger many a time and seen other people who are normally pretty staid individuals string together curses that make me blush when someone doesn’t signal. I am certain I’ve done the same.

6) Despite all of that, I really miss nice, open road driving. The kind where you just go. Dropping gears when going around a corner on a winding road on Virginia that no one else is on? It’s like a birthright. I miss popping on the right song or record and just going when you get the chance. I miss the illusory feeling that I can go anywhere. I had places to be most of the time when I was driving and it wasn’t like I just got in the car and drove west or anything crazy like that. But it always feels like, even if it’s just for a moment, you always have that potential with a car. It’s still that expression of freedom. Other vehicles require more planning, but the car? It’s the biggest embodiment of that feeing. Most of us will never get in a car and just do that. But haven’t you thought that, just for a second behind the wheel?

7) It’s nice to not worry about the kind of responsibility that driving entails. Think about it terms of alcohol. It’s no secret I enjoy a good beer or cocktail when I get the chance. With a good meal or at a show, it’s just a nice compliment. Some nights, I have a couple more. I’m still thinking about the cost, or whether I even want to have a beer. But as we say in the business, by not using an automobile as my primary transportation, it’s just mitigating the risk. I am still mindful of how much I drink in the sense that it’s my job to take care of myself. As I should be. I still stay completely sober the majority of the time I go out in San Francisco. In Minnesota, I had to exercise that extra layer of discretion for the first time in a while as I was drinking and had access to a vehicle. I have no problem exercising that discretion. There’s plenty of awareness around that and I am not an idiot. It’s not a little thing one just forgets about driving. I am still trying to be responsible because that’s on me. But if I’m being honest about one of the benefits of being carless, that’s an honest thing to consider. Not an excuse to get wasted by any means, but still a true aspect.

I don’t think I ever appropriately appreciated the cost of driving. I doubt many of us spend our time thinking about it. Or at least appropriately understand it. I still am only scratching the surface on these kinds of thoughts. It’s obviously a great thing to be able to do. I love driving at times. There are places I never would have been, things I never would have done without the cars I’ve owned. I will at least continue to rent cars or borrow them on occasion and I think it’s a worthwhile skill to have even if I’m not using it all that much. Some day in the future I may own one again. But there are obviously a lot of costs associated with it that I never really paid much mind to, because they are subsidized by society in one way or another. It makes me realize there are probably a lot of things I do that I don’t really question my relationship with. I’ve begin to challenge those things a bit more as I’ve gotten older. Where I live in relation to where I work, the true cost of the things I use in my life, what I eat (or don’t eat), how I get around, those are all help make up who I am. It’s good to challenge those ideas. It’s also good to revisit them. I am sure my relationship with the automobile will continue to evolve. This is a reminder to continue to think about even those things that have been integral to our lives. Because those things can change. Quicker than you might believe. I’m not saying you should go out and get rid of your car tomorrow. But spend a couple minutes thinking about it. I assure you, it’s a curious exercise.

 
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