Category Archives: Dreamer

Birthday butch, beer, books, berries, bear

It was a certain butch’s birthday this past week, and to celebrate, we went camping at what turned out to be the raddest spot ever.  It was quiet and remote, on a lake with a dock, lots of trees and a woodland trail, plus the bonus of nearby easy-to-hike logging roads into more mountainous territory!  All within a couple hours drive from our house.  Say what you will about the timber industry (and believe me, I’ve said it myself), but at least it makes for some great campsites.

My handsome companion. And her new gun.

What do dykes do in the woods?  Shoot guns, of course!

I preferred to steady my hand using my dear Audubon field guide... And the table.

Actually, there was only one gun:  An air pistol, which Oats bought with her birthday money.  I was pretty surprised, cuz she’s usually rather focused on things like art supplies and nice clothes, but then I quickly got over it… Because it turns out that I myself have an inner sniper.

Yes, we drank beer and then shot up the cans.  Classy!

I also spent many hours swinging in my hammock and reading… Got through 5 books in 4 days, which felt soooooooooooooooo good.  You’d think I’d read more, given that I’m unemployed and all, but I just don’t make the time.

What else did we do?  Oh yes, hiked.

I love a good view.

Even if it comes with sombre reminders of *why* there’s a good view… Hard to imagine how it would have been to walk up this slope before it was clearcut.  Those stumps are massive.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this land, and how I feel about it, mostly in light of the notion that I’ll be moving to a completely different part of the country this time next year (I hope!).  I read a lot of sci-fi, and it has forever altered my ideas about spatiality and colonization, complicating all my thoughts on “here-ness” in delightfully interesting ways.  I feel like my love for this place is so deep that I can leave and be okay simply knowing that it exists.

A wild larder:  Magic!  Not this fungus, I mean… It’s a lobster mushroom, and very much so edible without causing euphoric insights.  Or at least not yet.  I still haven’t eaten more than a nibble, because I was saving them for tonight’s dinner… I’ll let you know if they get me high.

More magic: Wild fruit!  I picked just over three pounds of thimbleberries (the ones that look like raspberries), tiny native blackberries, salmonberries (the orange ones), red huckleberries (the smooth red ones), and salal berries (the smooth dark purple ones).  Today they are becoming jam, to be sent off to my more eastern relatives as solstice gifts this winter, provided we don’t eat it all first.  I would’ve picked more, but there was much evidence of others wanting the fruit too and sometimes I like to avoid competition.

Yes, that’s shit… Bear shit, to be exact, which is what I’m referring to in my previous sentence, in case it wasn’t obvious.  It wasn’t totally fresh, but new enough to make me give careful consideration of the needs of my wilderness friends.  Three pounds of berries for me seems pretty good.

 

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The one that got away

I missed a phone call from my union. The battery on my phone had died and while I plugged it in to recharge, I neglected to actually turn the phone on again. The I got busy with simultaneously canning apple butter, making yoghourt, and brewing espresso, and the phone was the farthest thing from my mind.

So I missed out on a job.

ARG!

It was only an hour or so later that I got the message and called back the union dude who runs the job list. “Did I miss it?  Am I too late?” I asked.  The dude told me he was sorry, but yes, I’d missed the chance.

Fucking hell.

Overall, I’m frustrated with myself, because I should have been more diligent, should have kept my phone on.

On the other hand… Well.  If I wanted to, I could find a ton of excuses as to why it’s good that I didn’t get the job, so it’s probably better if I don’t spend too much time dwelling on it. Ambivalence, FTW! One thing I will say right now is just that the position being offered was with the biggest electrical contractors in town, and I’d really prefer to go to the shipyards instead.

On that topic, I’m watching the news reports like a hawk, waiting on the government’s decision on the federal shipbuilding contracts this September.  How ridiculous is that… Or rather, how revealing of the changes to my life since entering the trades!  Previously, my only comment on millions of dollars spent on naval infrastructure would have been to rant about the government’s misplaced priorities and to reiterate my own anti-militarization stance. Now, I’m all like, “I WANT A JOB!”  And I’d be likely to get one, if the west coast shipbuilding conglomerate wins their bid.  I’m still critical of the war machine, don’t get me wrong… But I also am pretty damn pragmatic, especially these days.

collecting cavities like nobody’s business

Lately, I’ve been having a bunch of dental work done, cuz I have the time and am finally covered by Oats’ extended health benefits.   I last had my teeth checked and cleaned by a professional around four years ago, also known as the last time I had extended health benefits (at that point, it was because I was still a student at the university).

As a side note, isn’t it completely weird that dental isn’t part of the Canadian universal health care?  There’s so much data out there about how maintaining healthy teeth prevents all sorts of other illnesses, and yet we’ve got to pay out of pocket for dental work… Which means people like me try to squeak by with just flossing and brushing.

(For more on this topic, please check out the awesome Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarashina’s piece “Things to do if you are a hustling class artist or other person with no trust fund or much of an economic safety net“.)

Considering how long it had been, my teeth looked pretty great, or so said the dental hygienist who gave them a thorough cleaning.  However, that wasn’t enough to save them all.  My old dentist, who was friendly and cheap and had an office right out of the 1970s (or so I imagine… I wasn’t alive yet in that decade), didn’t believe in removing wisdom teeth until they were infected:  I had one that got all swollen and so he took it out, but said he’d rather leave the rest.  My new fancy dentist barely glanced at the remaining three before simply stating that they were collecting cavities like nobody’s business, and it wasn’t really worth it to keep them in.

Now looking at two of these teeth, a couple days after the extraction, I see what she means:  I had no idea how completely disgusting they’d be.  I’ve got one left, but it’s impacted so requires me to be put under by an oral surgeon.  For these two, my dentist simply numbed my gums then yanked like hell, with some twisting thrown in for good measure. Once she saw them, she laughed and said that if she’d know how curved the roots were, she’d have insisted on the oral surgeon taking them out too.  I’m glad my teeth are so amusing… I’d like to continue to be amused by them, by making them into pendants that I could wear on a chain around my neck, but Oats thinks it’s too strange.  I don’t know… I first thought of it when she was taking me home after the surgery, a time in which I admit I was in a bit of a haze, but after two days of sleeping I still like the idea.

Being tough on ourselves.

Not Regina... This is the view along the highway somewhere between Winnipeg and Kenora, December 2007.

I once spent the night in the Regina airport, after hours, in the time before it was open round the clock.  My dad had given me a free trip to visit him in Toronto, which turned into one of those adventures that involved many airplanes and stopovers across the country.  In Calgary, my friend Oldandmoldy drove out to the airport from his parents’ place and we spent an hour talking about music and his latest crush.  When I got to Regina, I sat down on a bench and did a sudoku puzzle while everyone else left.  Eventually a security guard told me I’d have to leave too.  It was past midnight, on a snowy November night, and I had no money.  The final leg of my trip was a 6 am flight to Toronto. He relented, but apologetically explained that I’d have to move to a bench where he could see me on the closed-circuit camera system, and that both the heat and the main lights would be off within the hour.

Sure enough, I was soon pulling out all the clothes I could layer from in my backpack, trying to stop from shivering.  On his rounds, the security guard apologized again, and offered to buy me a soft drink from the vending machine.  I thanked him but declined, figuring that the caffeine wouldn’t help much.  Instead, I distracted myself with a book.  It was pretty dim, but light enough to read by:  I tore through Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness from beginning to end.  To this day, whenever I hear about Regina, I think about that novel, about being different and being yourself.

***

Oats and I have been having hard conversations about finances.  No, I should correct that:  Not hard in that they’re difficult, but hard as in we’re being tough on ourselves.  Hard conversations that are also inspiring, really, because they are focused on big questions such as what do we want, where do we want to be, how shall we live our lives?

The terrible truth is that we’re living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, while carrying debt, and while I attempt to retrain in a new career and Oats works in a career that she does not like.  Basically, if we moved anywhere else, we’d be doing better.  In particular, if we moved somewhere with a low cost of living and where Oats could cheaply go to school for her masters’ of fine arts, we could get out of debt and Oats would stand a better chance at making a living as an artist, illustrator, art instructor, or whatever else she wanted.

So where are we looking at?  Regina, no joke.  Also, Winnipeg… And Windsor, Ontario.  Three cities neither of us barely know, but somehow seem to be logical places to hang our hats for a couple years.  It’s crazy, that we’d leave, considering how much we love where we live, but it feels like that’s the only way we could eventually live here and be more than just treading water, financially.

I’m not desperate to own a house or a fancy car or attain many other parts of the middle-class dream: I love our cooperative household and am so happy riding my bike all over the place.  At the same time, despite our very frugal ways, we’re paying a lot of money for basics while also paying lots of interest on student loans.  Oats can’t get paintings done let alone network with the local arts communities because she works long hours just so that we can stay afloat.  Our situation isn’t dire, but it’s not getting any better either.  I want to have kids, and to travel more, and for Oats to be working at something she loves, and it’s not really gonna happen until we ditch the debt.

So that’s the plan.  This next year, Oats is going to fine tune her portfolio, and send off a bunch of applications.  Then we’ll move, not this summer but the next, to some far off urban centre that I can’t even picture… Well, except Winnipeg:  I’ve been there a few times, and enjoy visiting… But to live is a different story.  It’s all rather romantic, really, which I find very appealing at the same time as completely terrifying.  I spent my entire twenties on this island, and am hoping that if I invest some of my thirties in the middle of the Prairies (or the Great Lakes?), I’ll be able to enjoy my forties, fifties, and onwards, here as well.

Economic geography, FTW.

Dancing, dancing, revolutionizing

It was about a year ago that shit hit the fan with a group of folks with whom I’d been putting on an annual dance party celebration weekend.  I’d been involved in organizing that event since it started years ago, and yet felt like I wasn’t welcome, mostly due to my queerness but also because of my stance on the need for vocal inclusionary policies:  I wanted us to make it clear to all attendees that we were not going to put up with sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, bullshit behaviour, and that such actions would be grounds for removal. 

Apparently, this sort of policy “ruins the mood”. 

Hey, you know what really ruins the mood?  Being targeted for assault because of your gender, race, sexuality, and/or body!

Blech.  Whatever.  As I’ve written before, the good thing that came out of that experience was my decision to throw my energies elsewhere:  I got involved with another party-organizing group, this one queer-focused with an anti-oppressive mandate.

Together we’ve hosted 5 events in the past 10 months, including one just for teens that absolutely blew my mind with how rad it was… How rad the teens are!  Seriously, if you’re down in the dumps and want to get back some hope in the world, try spending an evening making buttons and playing board games with a crew of young folks.  They were so fun to hang out with.  I’m now friends with a couple of them on a social networking site and have learned how they personally face a ton of homophobia and transphobia at their schools. Knowing this makes it all the more special, the connection we made… Not to be cheezy, but I felt like it was actually doing something to make it better, moving beyond simply telling them “it gets better”.

Of course, in a lot of ways, it isn’t getting better.  I’ve sometimes been asked why I’m involved in putting on radical queer dance parties, when there’s a gay bar in our city.  Well, this is why:  In many gay bars, a commitment to supporting gender and sexual diversity is not taken seriously.  It’s all about being the right sort of gay, as Miss T.R. Gendered writes so well:  If you fall outside the “norms”  for your perceived gender or sexuality, you’re got to face the Gay Police, who’ll make you feel unsafe simply for being who you are.

Tying together my rambling thoughts about queer youth socials and the lack of safety for certain bodies at gay bars is a recent big decision made by my radical queer dance party collective:  We were approached by the organizers of the local pride festival and asked if we’d put on their official youth dance, in exchange for some funding and the use of their name and promotional clout.  After many long discussions that bounced all over the place, we said no to their money and credibility (?), but yes to the task.  We’d already been planning our annual celebration of queer resistance dance party for that week, and as we hold such events as fundraisers anyway, we decided to simply channel the profits from this one into a huge queer youth dance party the next weekend.

One pride week, one small radical dance party collective, two dance parties!!! I have no idea if we’re in completely over our heads here or not, but I’m totally excited.  I feel like we could have taken the offer from the offical pride group and it woulda been okay… Eventually, I’d probably have gotten over my initial sense of being a sell-out. Having said that, I’m thrilled.  More than anything, the decision to do it on our own makes me feel proud of us:  Proud that we’re willing to test our limits, to see what we can accomplish, to risk financial autonomy in a capitalist economy, to stay as true as possible to our mandate for providing alternative queer space.

For the record, we did thank the organizers of the local pride festival for thinking of us, because it is a tribute to our group’s reputation, that they’d consider us good enough to host the youth dance… And we believe that partnerships such as the one they were suggestion can be pretty great.  Going it alone seems to be a good deal for both groups, in this case though, since they’ll get to put their funding into other pride initiatives and the youth still get a dance party… And we get a crash course in putting on a really big youth event!

Does it change things, does it make them better, to have such firm ideas about creating queer spaces outside those sanctioned by a larger society?  I’m sensitive to stoking the flames of in-fighting among members of the minority group that is made up of those of us whose lives include sexual and gender diversity, and I don’t want to waste energy hating on those queers who’d tell folks like Miss T.R. Gendered to put their shirts back on… I’ll be writing those letters of complaint to the bar management, of course, and telling everyone I know to boycott the place, but I need more.  I need to turn this fury inside me into something pro- in stead of anti-, something fiercely loving instead of angrily frustrating.  Dance parties meet that need for me.

It’s not exactly revolutionary, to organize a liquor license and a sound systems and few DJs, but I like to think it’s part of a long queer tradition. Before gay bars were legal, in places where they still aren’t, all over the world and through history, this is something we’ve done: Gotten together to shake our booties, lick our wounds, meet new lovers, visit with old ones, share in a temporary oasis of fragile safety* in a world that would have us silent or dead or simply pretend not to exist.

* (Safety for some… Sadly, as with any community event, fucked up shit sometimes goes down at our parties too.)

As I Hiked One Early Spring Afternoon

Oh, the flowers! Blooming everywhere...

Typical Sunday night insomnia.  It’s not anxiety-driven this time, which is a relief… I’m simply thinking too much to go to sleep.  Usually I take some melatonin, then lie in bed until it kicks in.  Sometimes, nights like these will see me applying for jobs, or schools, or once, an international work visa (Australia, as you may recall).  Tonight, though, I’m passing the time with some internet-related tasks from my to-do list, which’ll reduce the number of things I have to think about when lying in the dark.

I joined a group of friends for a long hike on Saturday, a strenuous adventure that was both invigorating and exhausting.  We started on a trail that I’d visited several times in the past, but then followed it for another hour or so beyond the section I knew.  All up and down, the path well-maintained but kinda intense, with amazing views high over the surrounding hills and inlet:  It was just what I wanted, really.  By the end of it, my throat was sore and the glands in my neck were swollen… Apparently, all that sweating was pushing some sickness out of my body.  So I went home and crashed, sleeping in late this morning.

I’ve been hiking a little every week recently, finding that time in the woods or on rocky peaks or next to the ocean are the perfect antidote to school.  Even gardening, which has also been a preoccupation lately, isn’t quite as appealing as a ramble down a trail.  Springtime is when I rediscover all the reasons for which I live on the west coast.

Mo loves a good ramble too.

Did you ever read Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning? Our recent sunny spring weather has been reminding of it, and of how that book had an impact on my life.  I was too young when I first picked it up, maybe ten years old or so, and even then I was taken by the romantic notion of walking to London, and to Spain.  Later, rereading it as teenage punk, I was surprised to realize that it was my beloved anti-fascist International Brigades that Lee went on to fight for, in the Spanish Civil War.  In a weird way, Lee was a traveller punk before traveller punks existed, busking on the streets and sleeping in vacant buildings… Though in his case, said buildings were collateral from World War I as opposed to modern industrial capitalism.  At any rate, Lee made it seem right, to walk out the door and experience life.  I like to think that’s how I ended up here.

I’m going back to trade school.

I’m going back to trade school. Because it was so fun the last time, right, Dear Readers?

For those of you new to this game, I spent a lot of the 6 months of my entry level electrical trades course kicking up a stink about the casual homophobia, sexism, and racism among my peers. Ah, nostalgia.

This time won’t be like that. At least, that’s my story at the moment. I’m only there for 10 weeks, after all, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it’s to appreciate the art of choosing battles. A careful word choice in that last sentence, in case I once again find myself in multiple meetings with the campus ombudsman and crying in the office of the one instructor who really supported me. I appreciate the art, but I sure as hell haven’t mastered it.

So it’s the second level of electrical training, ten weeks of mostly classroom learning, though maybe there are some hands-on lab assignments. I don’t really know, and I can’t say that I care too much. I’m just glad that I’ve got something useful to do, to further my “career”. It’s a lot easier to shop myself around to electrical companies, asking for an apprenticeship position, when I’m currently engaged in the trade. Besides that fact, one of my favourite people will be starting the carpentry program at the same school at the start of April. In fact, it was her enrollment at the school that made me think again about doing my Year 2 course.

Yay, lunch buddies!

And also, washroom buddies, because there’s only one women’s washroom in the whole trades building, with only three stalls: Despite being in different programs, we may bump into each other fairly often on that basis alone.