Posts Tagged ‘ perspective

There’s Worse Things Than Being Alone

It’s funny how a move can shake up your life, change your perspective, force you to do things differently, but we always find ways back to who we are. Not that I think we are doomed to repeat things over and over. Just that we keep finding our way back to ourselves. We all have life changing experiences, but I know first-hand that amazing things can happen that change your perspective that just don’t last forever. Probably the most notable moment in my life like that was when I was hit by a car leaving the 400. It may be a reminder of the fragility of life in that moment, or for the days after, and it still is one of those things I look at and realize could have happened in an entirely different, and possibly deadly, way. But it was nine years ago, too. I just don’t think about it that much anymore. So I guess it’s not the events, but rather whether we can make lasting changes coming out of those events. I certainly realize that it could all be over tomorrow. But you got live like you’re gonna die tomorrow and plan like you’re gonna live forever. It’s a delicate balance. When is challenging yourself to do something taking care of yourself? When is telling yourself not to do something taking care of yourself?

Have I made any lasting changes here? Of course. I’ve gotten better at honestly answering those questions at least. But I find myself troubled by many of the same problems I experienced in the Twin Cities. Whereas I felt many of my friends were going in different directions with their lives in Minnesota, here I’ve just found it difficult to even make those friends in the first place. It’s still a pretty sparse roll call when I’m trying to get people together, which frequently leads to the same result. I do a lot of things alone. I have yet to really develop the same level of community with the music venues in this town. Some things I knew wouldn’t be much different, but I guess I was hoping for more in that regard. It’s not a bad town to be trans in, but it’s not much different than the Twin Cities in that regard. There are still a lot of assholes everywhere, which I’ve said before and I’m constantly reminded of. This move didn’t make my life easier, but then again, no one said it would, and I didn’t believe that it would anyway.

Even if it feels like it gets harder each day, I do a better job of taking care of myself. Whether that’s remembering to floss or paying more attention to what goes into my body or getting in a few runs a week. Or being honest with myself, at least. Sometimes it’s just processing how I feel. That could be the totality of feeling like I am an outlier in a lot of ways. Whether it’s as a bike commuter or as a vegan or as someone who still goes out on a Wednesday night for a show or as a trans woman, I feel like I’m in the minority a lot in regards to the decisions I make. Or perhaps not necessarily a minority, but someone for whom systems are not designed. In other ways, I am not. But I don’t make those decisions to consciously being different in any regard. I make those decisions because they are the right decisions for me. In some ways, I think being trans makes it a lot easier to make those decisions, because really, what other decisions am I going to make that are harder or people are going to treat me worse for. People laugh at me when I say I bike everywhere, they scoff at me when I say I’m vegan, but that’s nothing compared to moving through the world every day as trans, and as someone who is definitely perceived as trans with frequency. And I say this as someone whose experiences have been fairly tame. Many people might not believe that I could live without bacon, but many people straight up refuse to accept that I’m a woman.

But there a lot of positive ways in which I feel like an outlier too. When I look at all the great people in my life, or I think about the fact that modern technology means that even if I spend a lot of time alone, I rarely spend a lot of time lonely. I know my problems are fairly minor, and even if I get piqued fairly frequently. I have multiple friends I went to high school with only a few miles away that I’m still in touch with. And I live 2,500 miles from where I went to school. I feel like I will always have a home in Minnesota, even if I don’t live there any more. I have the means to go to all those shows on Wednesday nights, and have a drink or two, or a good meal. I can go to those cities and see you. That is a rare thing, and rarer yet for many trans folks, to have that security and means. And as frustrating as it is, there’s a reason people keep moving here, and it’s not just the jobs. There’s just something about this place. If I end up leaving tomorrow or I’m here for the rest of my life, there’s still a chapter of my life where I can say “this is my chapter in San Francisco”. It’s not perfect, but it’s important to remind myself of in those moments where I feel like things aren’t going anywhere, when I’m frustrated because I’ll never be one of the pretty ones, when I can’t seem to get anything done after work because all I want to do is sink into the couch. I remember that things are going places, that there’s a lot more to life than a pretty face (though it never hurts), and some nights, it is okay to sink into that couch. It’s just important to not keep doing those things.though. I don’t want to deny my feelings, but I don’t want to be captive to them either. And if I force myself not to dwell on whatever has me down at the moment, it’s pretty easy to see things are pretty fucking awesome. There’s worse things than being alone. As a car reminded me nine years ago.

Just For A Day

By the Sunday of Pitchfork, I was just plain tired. My legs are still a little sore today, and while I did a fair amount of walking (and some biking) in Chicago, it’s not like I feel like I did significantly more than I do many days in San Francisco. Though I did do a significant amount of just standing around. As I watched the bands that day play some of the best music I’d seen yet that weekend, I still felt it through my body. Some days I wonder if I’ll ever recognize when this world of live music has passed me by. When will I not have the energy to keep up with new music? When will I not have the energy to see all these bands? When will I not have the time? I suppose money could be an issue, but that’s sort of gone the opposite way as I’ve gotten older and further along my career path thankfully. I am now much better equipped to afford the shows I want to go, and I go to so many of them because of that. Of course, the next potential promotion or move at work always brings the possibility of less flexibility, as work responsibilities may grow or make it harder to plan for shows in advance. I don’t really see myself moving into a position like that, as that’s the balance (I’ve gotta be able to enjoy my free time, right?), but priorities change, so it’s probably more accurate to say that I don’t see myself moving into a role like that at present based on where I’m at. I hope, like a few people I know who continue to avidly see shows that are well older than me that the answer is never. But it’s hard to say. And like I said, any number of things could occur that would affect whether or not going to as many shows as I do is a priority anymore.

I always have stuff like that on my mind at shows. The first strains of Slowdive washed any of those thoughts away though, replacing them with all the feelings those beautiful, gauzy, shimmering guitars evoked as not quite dusk settled over the festival. I’m not 18 anymore. I was comfortably away from the stage, not close enough to get any impressive pictures (or impressive bruises during the bands that get people moving). Not that Slowdive is one of those bands to get the crowd moving quite like that. It was more of a sway, or to keep in spirit, the crowd catching the breeze. Perhaps I will be up front at the show at the Warfield, or maybe even at FYF, but that was not me on Sunday, and unless it’s someplace small like the Rickshaw or the Entry, I’m not likely to be that person as much these days. As much as I would have loved to have been right up front, to get a picture of that amazing dress that Rachel Goswell was wearing, it just wasn’t in the cards on Sunday considering my other priorities. That wasn’t something that I went for any of the days of Pitchfork. The closest I got to any of the stages was during Mutual Benefit. And that was only because I was able to walk right up on Sunday morning. Even the shows at Bottom Lounge, I stayed further back. I didn’t wait in line to be the first one in to see any of the bands. I cooled my heels two of the three days enjoying a beer across the street at Kaiser Tiger, because I’m not getting anything by Three Floyds once I get back to San Francisco, or even the next time I’m back in the Midwest. As I sipped a beer on Sunday just after noon because I got there so early, it couldn’t have been more obvious that I wasn’t 18 anymore.

When I was 18 the only artist I knew was Beck. While some of that was because many of those bands didn’t exist back then, it’s also endemic of the change in my tastes over the years, the gradual broadening. I also didn’t know the bands that influenced them then either; I don’t think 15 years ago I would have cared all that much about Slowdive. But you know, 18 year-old me wasn’t always that smart. What did I know? I had the opportunity to see great bands when I was younger at events like HFStival and Tibetian Freedom, but they were never the draw. It’s hard to believe that I actually saw Pulp. I don’t remember it, but I know I was there at that time, and by the accounts of reviewers then (thanks Internet!) it wasn’t all that memorable anyway, but 33 year-old me is still a touch embarrassed about that one. Then again, that’s a function of time, of changing tastes, of greater access. Besides, go to enough shows and you’ll have some moments like that too.

I came to Chicago to see music, and that’s what I did, with all three days of Pitchfork and two after shows on tap for the trip. As I struggled to stay awake during Deafheaven on Friday, I wondered if that was too aggressive. It certainly wasn’t the band’s fault. Even with some technical difficulties, they played another epically fantastic set, just like they would on Sunday. If I struggled to stay awake, it was because I’d been standing around for parts of 10 hours after spending the morning and early afternoon wandering through Lincoln Park and the nearby neighborhoods. It had nothing to do with the quality of the music and everything to do with my lack of preparation. If my schedule was too aggressive, I had no one but myself to blame. I was the one who purchased all the tickets, didn’t get enough sleep the night before, and didn’t necessarily ration my energy that well that day; I knew what I was getting into.

Because I also came to Chicago to relax. If I talked a bit more during some sets, well, it was because it’d been a while since I’d been to anything with anyone to talk to. It was because I was not standing 10 feet from the stage talking over an artist, but comfortably several hundred feet away. Besides, festival etiquette is a bit different from club etiquette. I still wouldn’t have been talking up front, of course. But I wasn’t up front. And I’d also already seen almost every band on the bill I’d already wanted to see, excepting Slowdive, Speedy Ortiz, and St. Vincent. I saw Beck as a teenager. After this weekend, I can say I’ve seen both Dum Dum Girls and Deafheaven five times, Perfect Pussy four times, Neutral Milk Hotel even three times (I may like them a bit too). Of course there were still plenty of things to discover and see. I say it more to reinforce how important seeing live music is to me as opposed to anything else. When I like bands, I like to support them by buying their records and going to their shows. But a festival isn’t really anyone’s show.

Perhaps that’s why it felt different. A club show, hell, even an arena show, at its best, is like a fine meal, with distinct and meaningful courses and a sense of flow and order. A festival, it’s more like a buffet, with a panoply of options and far too many things competing for your attention. Should you try all these things you haven’t had before or just fill up with what you know you like? It’s a valid question. And while both are enjoyable experiences, they are different kinds of enjoyment. And personally, I know I’m a club show girl. Not even a big club too. I love places like First Ave and the Fillmore, but for me, I love those little 200 person clubs the most. I know that’s the experience I prefer over the festivals, given the option. But there’s something magical about the spectacle, about all the other experiences that these festivals pull in these days, the food and the music and the clothes and whatever else people are hocking in the various spaces around the festival grounds. Still, it is a spectacle. It’s hard to argue that. My inability to stay focused during that is on me, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are more events than a single show at a single club. Or rather, they are a disparate collection of events all occurring at the same place.

This summer is my biggest festival summer in a long time. I think the last time I even attended three in a summer was 1999, but even then, only one of them was a multi-day affair. This summer, it’s one bigger one down, with Outside Lands and FYF still to come. And Treasure Island looking a bit further into autumn. I did Phono Del Sol, that’s small and local and very chill. It just felt like a great day at the park with my favorite food trucks, friends, and great music, so I don’t really think of it quite like these other events. I doubt next summer I’ll be as aggressive, but who knows? That’s easy to say now and harder to actually truly determine. Even though I’m still a bit achy today, still hoping to get back to a regular running schedule, and better yet, a meal schedule that resembles something like regular people that contains things like vegetables, I know there was value there. Because just for a day, I was in Chicago with however many other thousands of people seeing Slowdive play their first US show since ’94, where I wanted to be. It can be easy to gloss over the negative experiences as time passes, to hold onto the positive. Or to do the exact opposite. When the reality is most of these events are a combination of a lot of little experiences that tilt either good or bad that make up the entirety of the day. I’m sure I’ll ask myself the same kinds of questions before, during, and after Outside Lands too. Why’d I come? What was I thinking? What was I expecting? And then I’ll look down at the schedule and head to whatever stage I need to get to next. Certainly there are plenty of ways to support the music you love. But for me, the most tangible way I can do that is by showing up. Sometimes these bands have outgrown my favorite clubs; sometimes, they never even played them in the first place; sometimes it’s their only show in town. In the end, it’s the same reason I try to get myself to any of the venues around town (or elsewhere) any night of the week. Because I want to have the experiences, because I love these bands and their music and I want to support them, because I never know what might happen next, because I never know if I’ll get that chance again. Isn’t that reason enough?

Remember, Remember!

There’s a reason I’m not a huge fan of cabs in this town. It stems to my first trip here as an adult three years ago, when a cab driver managed to drop me off at the wrong hotel in San Mateo. Hey, at least it was the right town. My first actual time in San Francisco wasn’t until a few days later, up at the top of Diamond Heights, not all that far from where I stayed the first couple months I moved out here, something that I sometimes smiled and shook my head about. But back to the beginning…I schlepped my stuff across San Mateo until I reached my actual hotel, where I had to hustle because I was here for a reason, and I had an appointment. That appointment was with Dr. Marci Bowers. At this point you’re either going “Ohhh…” or you have no idea what I’m talking about.

You can find lots of names for it out there. Her own site refers to it as SRS/GRS. That’s sexual reassignment surgery or gender reassignment surgery if you aren’t aware. I don’t think there’s a distinction in what either refers to as much as the language around how we refer to such procedures is shifting and has been. Not too long ago, the shorthand anyone would have used for the kind of surgery I had was a sex change, which as I’ve pointed out recently, seems amazingly antiquated already, even if that was the kind of terminology I first encountered as I learned more about the process in the late 90s. Healthpartners, my insurance provider at the time, most amusingly referred to my procedure as a sex transformation. I still have the document to prove it. One does not just get a piece of paper like that every day. I am sure there are plenty of other names out there. And again, we’ve reached one of those distinction points where you either know what I’m talking about in terms of what occurs when you have that kind of surgery or you don’t. You can go Google that one if you’re really curious what the process is. I assure you, it’s a bit more complicated than you might think.

I spent a mostly sleepless night in a poorly located Courtyard by Marriott where I couldn’t have anything to eat or drink, not even water after a certain point. I watched episodes of The Family Guy and whatever else was on the television lying in bed waiting for sleep that would not easily come. I’d never had any kind of surgery before and I wondered what anesthesia would be like, how I would react, and how I would feel afterwards. I sincerely hoped that nothing would go wrong. It’s a weird feeling, looking down at your genitalia and thinking, at this time tomorrow, it won’t look like that anymore. Even if you feel like it’s the right decision, even if you’ve made a lot of decisions over the course of a long period of time to lead you to the point of having gender reaffirming surgery, it’s still just an odd thought to contemplate, a thought that a lot of other people in your life will never share or understand in the slightest. It wasn’t the longest night I’ve ever had, though. I was anxious for sure, but mostly serene, and hungry. I was not worried. But even without being worried, I had a lot to think about.

I woke up earlier than I would have liked the next day, but couldn’t get back to sleep. I couldn’t do anything I’d normally do, like go grab a cup of coffee, but I didn’t want to just sit around a hotel because I knew that I wasn’t going to be doing much of anything for the next few days and it would be good just to walk, so I got going. I checked out and checked my bag as I’d be checking in a few days later, and I got a ride in the free shuttle van to the hospital, but I still had an hour or so to kill as I didn’t have to be there until 11 am. It was a nice day for January, for someone used to the past decade or so of Januarys not being all that pleasant. I milled around the nearby area, past restaurants starting to get ready for lunch, still closed, but cooking up their buffet items. It was a terrible idea, walking around, smelling all that wonderful food that I couldn’t have, not yet. I mean, the walk itself was fine, it just would have been better someplace without restaurants. But I’d already made it through one long night, three+ years, or twenty nine years depending on exactly what kind of math you want to use in relation to getting to the point of surgery. I figured I could make it another hour or so. And I did.

When I checked in, I still wasn’t nervous beyond the general nervousness of having any sort of surgical procedure done. I filled in all the paperwork one more time. It’s almost like paperwork just exists to make sure you’re sure. I knew there wasn’t really any true finality to this set of paperwork, that there would obviously be more on the other side of surgery and that I definitely was by no means done. But I also knew this was one last little thing. They took my bag and my clothes, and I put on those oh so stylish paper gowns that everyone just loves about doctor’s offices and hospitals. The room was quite cold. The anesthesia nurse was very friendly, and kindly went through her questions, and I wish I could remember her name right now. The entire crew of nurses sent me a card later on, while I was still recovering before going back to work. I feel like it’s the kind of detail I usually remember. But I suppose it’s not a stretch to say I had a few other things on my mind that day too, so I can see why it’s not on recall right now. I remember confessing that I was a little concerned about going under, just because I never had before, and the nurse, she had me counting backwards from ten. I don’t remember how far I made it.

That was three years ago, January 5th, 2011. Some days it feels like a lifetime ago; others, not so long. In fairness, three years is not a short space of time. Not by any means. I have this fleeting urge to go down to San Mateo. Not for any particular reason I can name. Maybe it’s to try one of those nameless restaurants that still fills my memories of that day. Maybe it’s just because, by happenstance, what was once hundreds of miles away is now a short Caltrain ride. Maybe it’s just to try and fill in a couple blanks in that story, to try and remember things that I forgot because there was a lot going through my mind that day. I felt so incredibly fortunate on that day to be in that position. Even if I spent the night and morning alone, I knew I was supported and loved by so many people who helped get me to that point, privileged to live in a state and have an employer that really helped make that day a reality for me. I still feel that way now. That is something to never take for granted. I hope that if we are doing anything as a society, it’s moving toward a place where more trans people can know that feeling of realizing moments like that, the moments they truly want to, whatever and whenever those moments may be. It’s always one of those days I’ll remember, even if I was under for quite a bit of it, and the details are hazy at best. Mostly, though? I just want to say thanks once again to everyone who made that possible, the ones who are my best friends along with the ones I’ll never know. Living truly, being who you really are, that is never something to take for granted, so thank you.

A Footprint Doesn’t Look Like A Boot

I know, I know. Don’t read the comments. It’s a cardinal rule of navigating the internet most of the time. But as I’m trying to engage and be more actively aware of trans issues beyond what I experience in my day-to-day, I can’t help but glance at them occasionally in the articles that I read. While someone might not say those sorts of things to my face (though plenty will), it can also be instructive to see what kind of vituperation someone might spew under the guise of anonymity. Because it always matters. So with that in mind, I want to explicate some amusing/thought-provoking/tiring (insert whatever other emotions come up) ones that I came across after Transadvocate shared this editorial from Sacramento News & Review in support of a trans-inclusive school district in Sacramento irrelevant of the outcome of potential action against AB 1266 . In addition to being supportive, the editorial makes a great point that safe spaces aren’t truly safe if they are only that way for some individuals. I encourage you to read it. It’s one of the better pieces I’ve seen recently that eloquently makes some broader points about the difference safety and comfort. But let’s get back to the mission at hand. It also had a comment that really got my gears grinding the first time I read it, thinking about pithy tweets and such. A second comment in response to someone else and laid bare a bit more of a view point. These comments are from a user named bbgvl2. I have no idea who that individual is. It is both dangerous and foolish to try and assume too much about this individual based on a couple comments on an internet publication. As the Doctor said best, a footprint doesn’t look like a boot. But I do think the actual comments themselves contain some interesting ideas worth challenging. So without further ado, comments in bold, my thoughts are not. I’m going to try and preserve formatting and not break it up too oddly, but you know how that goes.:

‘“Transgender Inclusive” ‘?!…'”cisgender” ‘?! This is truly a state gone mad. At the risk of sounding a bit like Governor George Wallace, what bleeding-heart liberal and pointy-headed intellectual thought those terms up?!

I know we’re only one sentence in, but I’m gonna stop you right there. First off, anytime anyone employs the “at the risk of sounding like x”, it’s essentially doing the same thing as the “I’m not x, but” or “Not to sound x, but” argument where x can be anything that’s a mildly disagreeable to totally and wildly inappropriate. It’s a way of attempting to couch an argument in the language of someone or something else to try and make a point and absolve oneself from true association. It’s the “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic/etc., but” construction that just needs to go in a modified form. Own your opinions. Secondly, it’s not like those terms just came into being yesterday. I don’t know what madness has to do with coming up with a new vernacular to discuss what we face in life when we’ve been doing that. When we lack to vocabulary, we create it. English is particularly apt and found of that. In addition, there’s a well-grounded reason behind the move toward cisgender as a term, and that’s a move away from saying things like normative. Words have power. Normal is a very powerful one, especially as it relates to people. Because what does that say about anyone who’s not normal?

“Good God, exclaims this Norman from his “On Golden Pound”-like sanctuary!

Evoking the bucolic On Golden Pond ideal is at least less repetitive than evoking the bucolic Norman Rockwell ideal. But they are both tiring. The idea of a simpler America, a better time, a time when…what, transgender people didn’t exist? Or a time when people just weren’t aware and society just didn’t care in the same way it does now, or is at least trying to? Anyway, that America did not exist as one cohesive whole. It was one America with a lot of different experiences for a lot of people

“Stifle it, ya Ediths,” screams my inner Archie Bunker!

So we just shouldn’t talk about it? We should just pretend that these differences in how people are treated based on aspects of who they are aren’t there? Archie Bunker is a great cultural representation of someone stuck in time. There will always be Archie Bunkers. I am of the opinion that history will not ever look kindly on them, that that kind of attitude is actively choosing to be on the wrong side of history, that it is refusing to look at one’s own discomfort with changing attitudes or why one thinks that things just should be that way. But that could just be me. I don’t think I’d ever evoke an inner Archie Bunker. I hope I don’t have one.

The next set are in response to someone else’s comments, but still relevant to the overall discussion, and lay bare a stronger opinion less couched in pop culture and more couched in, well, what I’m more used to seeing.

“As you should be aware, the show “All In The Family” was not meant to be supportive of Archie’s view. It made fun of his opinions and beliefs. The show promoted a so-called progressive and anti-conservative agenda and did so by making Bunker’s character idiotic, reactionary and irrational.

Okay, good call. That is a pretty valid reading of a lot of what happened in the show. I’d argue they didn’t have to do much to make Archie look all that idiotic, reactionary, and irrational, but again, my opinion.

I, confessedly, grew up in a time when suspected gays were that couple who lived down the street, a couple of middle-aged “confirmed bachelors”. Neighbors winked at each other about them as they were a little too well groomed, too well and neatly dressed, their home a little too well-manicured.

Um…wow. Stereotype much? But okay, a lot of those stereotypes still exist in this day and age, even as many more individuals are out about their sexuality and society is getting to be more open about it (at least, in some places). But again, there’s a specter of that idea that I am this way because that’s when I grew up. It’s related to the “not to sound x” idea. Still, that’s not really what that’s saying, so moving on…

Gays have mostly had their way politically for a long time, a case of a small majority bullying around the majority.

Okay, that’s laying bare a thought process and belief structure a bit more. Because if that’s true, why can people still be fired for their sexual orientation in a lot of places? Why is it that we’re now finally getting around to granting the same civil marital rights to same-sex partners. And how is any of this bullying? And what the hell is that small majority? I think the term you are looking for is minority. A minority that still faces discrimination and a lack of equal rights in a lot of ways.

The recent victory of Phil Robertson and family over GLAAD and A&E Network is a sign we have had enough. GLAAD just got knocked down a peg and it is about time.

Alright, now we’re really getting into it. That we is firmly placing it. And the idea that any organization that’s fighting for equal rights for anyone who doesn’t have them deserves to get knocked down a peg? That’s just an odious, noxious view if you ask me. Also, I wouldn’t call what happened with Phil Robertson a victory, but that’s just me.

I ask you to think about how a young highschool freshman female will feel on her first experience in the P.E. locker room when the girl disrobing next to her for gym suddenly reveals his “equipment” when suiting out.

Why is this always the argument that people go to? If this is so much of a problem, why aren’t there ever stories about that happening in the adult trans population? Certainly we use gyms too. And why are people obsessed with the genitalia of trans girls? People have been in locker rooms before, yes? They do know how they work? There are people who appear to not feel comfortable changing in front of other people all the time in my experience, at least in what I’ve noted in locker rooms I’ve used over the years. I certainly didn’t go around flashing my “equipment” as you put it when I used the locker room at the work gym. I didn’t feel comfortable and I always had to be on guard. At least post-surgery, I can feel somewhat more comfortable in a space like that. But here’s my question to anyone who poses that question. Why is it always an evocation of how the cisgender person feels in this scenario? How do you think trans/gender variant/intersex people feel in these spaces? And why do people feel this incessant need to misgender even the fictional trans people in these scenarios? If misgendering is how you strengthen your whole argument, you’re sort of missing the point, don’t you think? But at least I get to see how you really think.

That’s a lot of words spent on the words of someone who will never read them. But plenty of people have those ideas and thoughts, frequently couched in much more vitriolic language. It can be hard, but it’s useful to take a look at them, to try and unpack the thinking behind those thoughts, to try and figure out how to help people see my point of view. Because I know I’m going to keep seeing them and encountering those sorts of mindsets. And much like this commenter, I don’t necessarily really know the people a lot of the time. They could otherwise be fairly progressive people who just haven’t given a lot of thought to trans issues, who still feel uncomfortable thinking about those ideas, or who have just never really thought about it and may say things like this because we’re finally getting around to the idea that it’s not okay to say things like that. Certainly, there are some people whose minds are cemented, plenty of Archie Bunkers who will never understand when I try to explain my point of view, plenty of individuals that whom I encounter that I will never reach. But if I assume that’s anyone who says something that’s transphobic, how am I any better? I’ve gotta give ’em that chance.

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.

Recrudescence

After a fair amount of ballyhooing in an attempt to talk myself into it and approximately 70 or so straight Mondays with snow, I finally managed to pull the bike off the hooks this morning and take it out for a spin. And by a spin, I mean the 11 miles to work. It’s finally not so bad out there. It was almost above freezing. There weren’t that many sheets of ice between the two cities. Most of the paths are fairly clear and you can ever start to see where the bike lanes are most of the time on Summit. And it took me quite a while longer than it will once I am riding more and it’s warmer, but it wasn’t all that bad considering the shape of the roads out there and the shape that I am in. Which is to say neither is too terrible, but both could use a little more work now that it’s getting warmer. It’s just been a while since I biked (my last ride to work was January 10th…ain’t technology grand?) and it’s different mechanics than going for a run or even jumping on an exercise bike. And all told, it was pretty good. I made it to work on time. The locker room wasn’t too crazy. The ride home felt a lot nicer other than the rotten shifting line (damn salt). I sussed out the maintenance my bike needs before the first truly nice day when Freewheel suddenly gets backed up 2 weeks just to get some minor work. And best of all, I didn’t use any gas today (at least until I randomly decide to go to First Ave later…that’s a different problem). Which is nice.

Sitting on a bike isn’t always luxurious. Waiting at lights, getting splashed on days like today when there are giant puddles, trying to augur exactly whether that driver wants you to go or just thinks you’re too incompetent to follow traffic signals, it’s not always particularly glamorous. I don’t miss that stuff when I’m not biking. I don’t miss the black ice. I don’t miss riding into a 10 mile an hour wind. I don’t miss the fact that it takes me a lot longer every time it’s cold just to put on all the layers. But all of that sure as hell beats sitting in totally inexplicable traffic. And while I know that it doesn’t (at least in any perceptible way), hopefully me being on that bike leads to a few slightly less frustrated drivers out there, and a little more space on the road. I’m not gonna go crazy and think that all of a sudden everyone out there is going to give up driving. But it is nice to change your relationship with it. Biking does that for me. Hell, biking does that for a lot of things for me. Even when I’m lollygagging (or at least that’s how it feels sometimes) on the bike, I’m still riding 22 miles a day, give or take a bit. And that’s still a lot of calories, so it helps keep me honest. But it’s more than that. There’s the cascading of driving.

Driving makes lots of things easier. I like to have a coffee every day, and I can get that at work. I don’t need anything fancy, I’m perfectly happy with a good cup of black coffee (or a mediocre one as the case is). And really, there are a ton of options for that. I also happen to enjoy a good pastry. The Twin Cities has a number of nice little bakeries that all have the fortune of being relatively convenient on my way to work. Which isn’t a problem when you are driving an average of once a week. Then it’s a treat. The stuff at work largely sucks, so it’s not that hard to avoid, but when I have the option to get a blueberry buttermilk scone at Isles Bun & Coffee sometimes I’ve got to avail myself. The problem is, I’ve had that option too much. Especially with the erratic winter road conditions. I leave early to make sure that I have plenty of time to get there and all of a sudden I have time to kill. And while there’s nothing wrong with something like that every once and a while, it adds up. In so many ways. Even if it is delicious. Biking doesn’t necessarily make me eat better anymore than it makes me spend less (at least relatively). But I do spend a lot of time working that off (and a lot more money on something I’d rather put it into). Not that I was sitting on my hands or anything. I still worked out. But another funny thing that biking does is it makes lots of stuff a lot more inconvenient.

I’m not a huge fan of stopping on the way to work when I bike. It’s a much more regimented schedule that I don’t leave a ton of room in to make a stop that’s inconvenient. Even when I used to stop at the Donut Cooperative (R.I.P.), which was all of 2 blocks off the Greenway, it usually ended up being a 10 minute affair. Nor do I particularly enjoy stopping on the way home. While I have more time in the sense that I usually don’t have to be somewhere right away, I still just want to get home and get on with whatever my evening has in store for me. Sure, if I need to pick something up at the store, something small like a prescription, that’s all fine and well. But picking up food on the way home is kind of a pain. So it just makes me go home. And then I’m home, and I have all this stuff here, so I cook or have some leftovers or whatever. I know that all of this must seem a little stupid. But we all only have so much willpower in a day. And after 8 hours of keeping my wits about me and trying to not say anything too stupid at work, well, I’ve spent all the willpower I’ve got many days. So yeah, I’m gonna swing by someplace a lot of times. Because I just want to be home, sure, but the difference between stopping in a car isn’t necessarily as big. Because I don’t consciously have to do the work. Right it takes more gas, and it certainly takes more time, but the difference just doesn’t seem significant enough to keep me away from it in regards to those aspects. I know myself. I know the easiest way for me is to just not make something an easy option. It’s the kind of personality I have. I’m not particularly ashamed of that. There are some good sides to the converse of that (another time). But I know biking does a lot of good things for me. Besides perhaps the obvious things that you might associate with biking. Because I tell you, it doesn’t end up costing a whole lot less. I just spend it on that bike. I’m sure if I got rid of my car, that’d be a totally different scenario, but at present, that’s just not the case.

So yeah, it’s gonna start to be that time where I complain about double-wind days. Or where I lament the fact that I’m getting up just before 6 am again consistently. Or where I curse how so many parts could break on my bike at once. But it’s also time where I get that great feeling of seeing the buildings in downtown are that brilliant pink-orange in the morning. Or when I see a bald eagle flying along the Mississippi like I did today (I know, without Instagram, it never happened). Or when I start to actually make better use of those bike racks in front of First Ave once more. It’s weird sunburns and rides to Wisconsin and rides by Minnehaha because one should go there often, regardless of season. It’s getting to bed a touch earlier because that’s what it takes though it comes easier after a day of riding. Anyway, early for me is probably different than early is for you.
Besides, it all gets a touch easier when I get back into the swing of things. So here is to a good first day of what will hopefully be many, many more. Perhaps one of these years there won’t be a need to feel this way because I’ll never stop. But I imagine a lot of things will change, even between now and next winter. And let’s face it, Minnesotans, we can finally say winter is on its way out, so let’s not think about that for a while. In the meantime, let’s get out there. You’d be amazed what you’ll find.

 
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