A little reminder….

The other day someone asked me why I was not blogging anymore… and I replied that I was, though I had been a little slow, I certainly had not disappeared. The thing is – is I am over here now.

That is all.

Still Shaking The Tree. Just sort of next door.

Screen shot 2013-01-27 at 6.00.51 PM

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2012 in review: according to WordPress….

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 58,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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I need more space.

For real. I am an adaptable human, but I seriously need more space. Coincidentally, WordPress said the same thing to me. And while they offered more space for a small fee, I chose the more fiscally responsible option and set up a new page. It is here. As a new apartment will be for me, I imagine it will seem very familiar, if just a bit… off at first.

Then I went on this huge tangent wishing that it was as easy to get more space in real life as it is on the internet. Which led me, naturally, to Craigslist to obsess over apartment listings. Which is a completely bizarre experience that challenges all of the attitudes about wealth and possessions that I adopted as an untethered expat.

Then all I could think about was being an expat and all the lessons and experience that brought, especially in contrast to what I thought it would mean and subsequently what it has meant.

And then I went and looked at my friends photos from Dubai, London, Porto, Shanghai, Melbourne, Budapest, Jerusalem, Hong Kong… I got a little misty. Or I am tired. Or both.

Then I remembered some of the most hilarious experiences that I endured, which at the time were not all that hilarious – like how I had a Catfish experience before anyone was having Catfish experiences, or how I believed a heroin addict when they told me, well, told me anything. Or how I got absolutely ambushed by a former colleague on a misguided rampage. Or how I thought throwing my watch in the Gulf of Thailand was anything more than simply ruining a perfectly fine piece of chronographic equipment by tossing it into water and rendering it useless. Or how I knew I had to come home when I came home – and not a minute sooner, or later, though I had been talking about it for a long time and knew in my head that it was just another step along the way.

Then for the first time in ages I got curious about some of the people who have populated this digitally remastered past. And I found that the catfish now lives right where I live, the heroin addict is still only honest about his delusions, the former colleague has endured suffering too awful for Greek tragedy, the inspiration to waste the watch is hardly inspiring. The biggest lesson of all is how geography only adds context – it never takes anything away. This is something I definitely need to remember the next time I go on a Craigslist apartment listing binge.

Change is always a little weird. I guess you just have to take heart in remembering that nothing is permanent.

Or something. See you over here.

Photo on 2012-08-20 at 16.29 #2

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No explanation required.

Dedicated to my mom, my grandmas, my aunties, mis primas, my students.

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From November 4, 2008 to November 6, 2012….

River going to take me, sing sweet and sleepy,
Sing me sweet and sleepy all the way back home.
It’s a far gone lullaby, sung many years ago.
Mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since I first left home.

Goin’ home, goin’ home, by the riverside I will rest my bones,
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

What a difference four years, and 15,000 miles can make. When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 I was more proud to be an American than I had ever been before… it was so wonderful to finally be the country that was truly admired, rather than the one that had indignantly demanded it for the previous eight years.

I was hopeful and excited. exuberant even.

Four years later, the reality I knew was inevitable has set in. Like the new boyfriend in which you see no wrong, Obama has become the solid guy who seems less exciting. Less like he did at first. It would be easy to say, “I can find someone better.”

But I think that something better is not out there right now. I think that Obama, while relatively steady on his course, did let some people down. He is a human. Still he remains so much better in every way: socially, economically, intellectually, internationally, than the alternative.

And, he is HUMAN.

Please vote. Vote today for all the young women who deserve the right to make their own personal choices. Vote for all the young people who deserve an education. Vote today for all the immigrants that have made our nation great. Vote today for citizenship… as our founding fathers meant it.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” ~ Thomas Jefferson


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Evidentiary Maps of ‘Democalypse 2012’

I have been looking at a lot of maps lately. I mean, I love maps, so that is not that strange, but as I keep hearing people throw around incredible accusations about who is to blame for the state of the Union – much of it falling on this seemingly arbitrary (or… is it?) Red v. Blue or “Liberal” v. “Republican” divide that seems to have a real geographic basis. As we head into this Presidential election I have heard the most outrageous claims about who is better for America and who is not. I am particularly amused by hearing people call our Eisenhower Republican President a socialist. And though those who need to understand this most will not listen I thought I might offer up the definition of what socialism actually is:

a theory or system of social organization  that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

This could not be less accurate in terms of the American sociopolitical circumstances. If anything could be said with any degree of accuracy, it would be more to say that those all dirty Liberals are interested in seeing the means of production benefit  the whole. Which, by the way, Jesus was 100% all about. And, by the way, Obama is not.

No matter.

Inspired by the ire I wanted to look at some maps and check out some geographic trends. You know, between those Red and Blue states. What really differentiates them? Let’s see… We will start with our baseline: Red v. Blue. [ps: not one of these maps is mine. Check their credits.]

So what is the real difference?

How about average IQ? In spite of my own issues with IQ testing and labeling, I will go here. And remind y’all that population greatly influences averages, so the big population states are at a terrible disadvantage. Or something.

Huh. Well, you know, tests can be so biased. Perhaps we should look at familiarity with the world. I keep hearing how the Liberals are all about apologizing and stuff, and that they really don’t know anything about how the world works. It is probably because they never travel. I understand when you do not get out much, you are more likely to offend people. Where are all of America’s passport holding travelers?


Never you mind. How about we look at healthy living, because obviously all those opponents of universal healthcare must be the healthiest among us.


Well, you know those scandalous liberals are all about spending way more than they can afford. So let’s take a look at the amount of federal funding (Pork, if you will) per dollar of tax paid by all these states.

This map would be unsatisfying to Tufteists because the aesthetics interfere with the message, making it a bit challenging to extrapolate, so why not just look at those states sucking the most aggressively off the federal teat listed at the bottom of the image.

Or look at this other pretty map below.

Huh. So it appears that us welfare-abusing, tree-hugging, socialism-loving, big-spending liberals might not exactly be…

Surely though, we have lost our family values, right? I mean, we are for such big government and no personal rights and liberties, we surely would endorse rules and regulations on an individuals right to choose.

Oh, wait. I must have said that wrong. But surely those states that oppose a woman’s right to choose would then be sure to take care of all those children. Right?

Gee. That is peculiar. But who cares about that? I mean it is only data based on facts, and we already know we  should not let our policies be dictated by facts. So let’s get way more to the heart of the matter and look at how immoral all those gay-loving, marriage wrecking liberal states are. I mean, really, they are trying to ruin the sanctity of marriage! The Horror!

Erm…. well, I am sure there is some statistical explanation for that data. Because everyone know those Blue states are bastions of immorality. They boo God there, I hear. I mean, I am sure that the First Amendment and the Free Exercise Clause are not really all that serious. Whatever. Let’s get back to the immorality of those god-haters.
Hmmmm. This is interesting.

Or not.

Remember, I love maps. But also remember I am not stupid. I know maps can lie just as much as selective data. So people who don’t want to see this information will claim I have painted an unfair picture and look away. And that is okay. At least you got to look at a whole lot of purty colors. And TLC will be rerunning that episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo in a hot minute.

Because, really, at the end of the day? I am just so damn glad to be living in my long-haired, gay marriage-loving, tax-paying, welfare-approving, healthcare-supporting, triple-digit-IQ-owning, environmentally challenged-but-appreciative, people’s-republic-of-blueness.

Posted in Absurd Shit, California, Life, Perception, Politics, Population, San Francisco | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We have ourselves quite a misogyny problem up in here.

Perplexed. That is what I am on a good day. Enraged is what I am if I allow myself to ponder on things too long these days. I feel like Bruce Banner. Without the mellow jazz, bongo drums, huge bag of weed. [I would include an image but I cannot even find one that is not “Sexy Hulk.”

And these are the things that have got me all worked up. Green with fury, as it were.

In the latter half of the 19th Century some wild and crazy ladies got the idea they could – no! should – wear pants. It was an outrage. But, thanks to the work of these reformers, who never gave up their efforts to work on all sorts of social reform regardless of the fact that they were shut out of nearly every option to do so by the “progressive” men running the show, eventually, women could wear pants, short skirts, even a bathing costume here and there. It was wild.

In 1920 women fought for and earned the right to vote. This in spite of the fact that citizenship had been defined by the 14th Amendment way back in 1868 (and no, Virginia, they did not say that corporations were people) but they sure did say that every person [not blackbrownyellowredgirlypoorgayorjewish] born in the United States was a citizen and that every person [not blackbrownyellowredgirlypoorgayorjewish] so considered a citizen would be guaranteed the rights – all of ’em – set forth in that dandy little Constitution with the lofty aim of a more perfect union. It went a little something like this:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

So women could vote. Mostly. Then came WWII and women went to work outside the home, all the while multitasking like bandits and continuing to hold the home front together in every imaginable way. Rosie was a bad ass. (I wonder if she needed mellow jazz, bongo drums, a huge bag of weed.) But that didn’t really work out, in spite of the actual cost benefit of hiring women, because they can be paid so much less. Still.

Then we had that groovy Counter-Cultural Revolution where the aims included sexual equality, and all sorts of other extreme ideas like reproductive rights and choice started to be whispered about. Though in some of the most radical reform groups women were still the ones to sweep the floors, prepare the food and listen while the men ran the show – in its entirety. Consequently, people started talking about this notion of a double standard… actually saying out loud that it maybe sort of seemed like men and women were not exactly being treated equally or held to the same standards. It was like saying the earth was round.


And even though I can stand as witness that the Seventies pretty much sucked, even in the eyes of a child, it seemed like this known fact, that women were kind of promised all the same shit as dudes in this country, was (even if begrudgingly so) being acknowledged. Shut up Phyllis. I mean, Dick Nixon signed Title IX that was to guarantee equal spending on the girls in education, and the highest court in the land even ruled that it was really the private right of a female citizen to choose what would become of her body. (Ahh… 14th Amendment, how we adore you.)

So things were looking up for us girl children of the late 20th Century. In the 80s with all this talk about SMALL government one would have thought things would be looking even better, I mean, no SMALL government is going to find its way into my bedroom, doctor’s office, or workplace (where I am pursuing those golden rings: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness)… right? Right.

But no.

The 80s that I lived through were ruled by the double standard. Girls had to over achieve to show their worth, be thinner, had their athletic contests on shitty off nights. They were sluts if they hung with the same boys who were studs for hanging with the girls. They were expected to do well in English, and to suck at math – Oh, Ed Gary, you will forever remind me of this fact. We ushered in the decade that produced songs like “Smack that bitch up” with our own dulcet melodies, “Down with OPP” and the more direct, “Gotta get some pussy” and “I used to love her (but I had to kill her, I had to put her six feet under, and I can still hear her complain…)” All complemented nicely by comedians laying out witticisms like, “Hickory dickory dock, this bitch was sucking my cock…”

And what became of this? Binders, that is what. How so, you ask? Read on.

Girls out performed the boys and now outnumber them in college and gradation rates. They got jobs (though still were paid less – we will see how Lily Ledbetter comes through, but the need to legislate basic equality is embarrassing). They decided that maybe they could have families in less conventional ways or not have them at all. Scandalous, no?

All of this evidence of the basic parity among the human species has not been used to encourage the acknowledgment of what shall be now referred to as a known fact (women are at the very least equal), but instead has engendered a whole host of backlash. Things that one would assume to be the worst sort of fiction in any novelization:

And that is just a sample from this election season.

Add to this a “Fantasy Slut League” at nearby Piedmont High School, in the oh-so-liberal Bay Area, in which none of the students involved are going to be punished by the school because it is not a “school related offense.” The slut-shaming phenomenon has become the new trend in bullying, leading in some cases to suicide. Or how about the student rally dance at my school where one of the standard moves involves a guy grabbing a girl by the hair. Or the reality that every Halloween costume for a girl has the word “Sexy” in front of it. Note the aforementioned issue with finding a female Hulk. (As a side note, I am still wondering what it says about our men-folk that their top choice costumes always seem to involve dressing up in drag…)

It is enough to make a person – and not just a woman, but any thinking human – fill with furious anger. You want to hear what god has to say about that?

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and a finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee. – Ezekiel 25:17


Take your government out of my bedroom, my medicine cabinet, and my uterus. I am done hearing about how one particular political party stands for individual rights, but has no eye for my most personal rights. Who the hell do you think you are? And more importantly what the hell do you think you are teaching these generations of men about their women?

Your beliefs will be adhered to by me as much as mine are by you.

Until then, piss off.

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In search of the beginning…

You wake up (this has happened more often than not) and look urgently for the familiar. That strange segue from sleep consciousness to whatever we are now calling the waking hours is murky. Viscous, one might say if they were trying to offend your drowsy sensibilities. It is not that you are hung over (though that certainly has been the case at times) or that you are the type who regularly finds sleep in unfamiliar places (though that, too, has been a truism) it is a feeling of being unsure where the reality of your sleep and the reality of your life diverge. And this feeling is especially confounding as you have stopped remembering your dreams. Or have you? Scanning through your memory you realize that the way you are remembering the last couple of days, or the week, or the year, is marked by the same fragmented sensibility that is characteristic of trying to recall a dream. This is not a motion picture. There is no fluidity of motion. It is jerky, stop motion. A flip book of images that do not connect easily to one another.

You look around and see all of your things, exactly where they belong because you are a firm believer that everything has a place and there everything should be. There is sun coming in the window illuminating a slight haze of dust, impossible to completely conquer because you prefer to have your windows open to the vaguely urban neighborhood below you. There are books. Many books. This makes you think of a John Waters’ quotation that you love: “If you go home with somebody and that don’t have books, don’t fuck them.” There are plants, but only a few as your turn towards the urban has come at a cost of reduced space. And the cats eat spider plants. There are two cats. One knows exactly how to fit in every part of your life. She has transitioned through many strange and wholly unexpected places with you in her brief six years. The other is large. Huge. He lays languidly, looking like a jaguar. Or an oil spill.

As the sensation of being awake settles over you, you let go of the effort of trying to remember where your mind had been in sleep and feel a small relief. Things come into focus and seem almost clear.

Continue reading

Posted in Chasing the Life I was Supposed to Want, China, Geography, Home, Hong Kong, Life, Perception, San Francisco, The Future, Things I Wish I Would Have Thought Of, Travel, true stories, Work, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

On the occasion of a birthday.

My birthdays tend to be a bit over the top, in both style and duration. I realize this is a bit silly and juvenile, but so are many things that I also like. I also realize that this tradition would only be possible only as a result of the amazing people in my life (who will tolerate both my silliness and Juvenalian tendencies…) People who will dedicate a month of weekends to barbeques, junk trips, toga parties, lewd & lascivious street fairs, airfare, brunches & lunches, dinner parties, dance parties, cocktails, kegs, hotel pool parties, beach parties, picnics in parks, bar-hopping, Virgo-adoring, wine tasting…

It can be a lot to ask.

The good news, as any of you who know a Virgo well will attest to, is that we generally put on one hell of a shitshow. We are good planners. We are thorough, organized, detail oriented, and efficient. As a result I have volumes of fabulous memories of birthday’s past.

This year is different. I made no plans this year. Not in a pity party kind of way – it was more like I just adopted a more observant position and decided that I would see what unfolded. This is the first birthday since I have repatriated that did not fall precisely  on Back to School Night, which is a victory in itself. It has been a while since I had a birthday on a weekend, an obvious note to anyone who understands the Julian Calendar.

I found out recently that I share a birthday with the wife of my co-teacher at school. I thought that was not odd at all. As such, yesterday, when I was invited to have drinks after work I certainly accepted. It was a nice start to the weekend, unscripted, unplanned. When he asked what I would be doing for my birthday I said I didn’t know. I wasn’t really feeling it for this one.

The numbers are too even and divisible, I said.
I can see why that would be an issue for you, he answered directly.
Yeah. I prefer odd. Numbers.

And the reality [cue Captain Obvious] is that one never really knows what the day will bring anyhow. Even if you totally set the stage – the outcome is unknowable. Whatever does happen, it will occur with my nails and hair looking amazing, the sun shining, cats complaining. Could be far worse, of that I am certain. Not to mention that the connection I feel to the people in my life grows ever stronger. Looking through email and various social media posts this morning made me feel literally surrounded by a lifetime of amazing people, from all over, who (have) touch(ed) my life in so many ways as friends, travelers, students, teachers, parents, kindred spirits, mentors, colleagues, family…

I wish I could effectively show graphically what it looks like in my brain as I look across the giant chrono/carto-graph of my life. How to show the infant me, the high school me, the college me, the sub-adult me, the grown-uppish me, the together me, the broken me; the friends in India, Portugal, Britain, France, Dubai, China, Hong Kong, Germany, Norway, Mexico, Oman? and across the US – NYC, Chicago, Nola, SeaWa, SoCal, Tahoe, HI, ID, NV; the students I have known, the teachers I have emulated, the people who have shown me different ways…. there they all are in a light show of epic proportions.

Happy Birthday to the folks who share this birthday like Bilbo Baggins, Li Zicheng, Lord Chesterfield, Michael Faraday, Dame Christabel Pankhurst, Joan Jett, and David Stern… and Happy Equinox and Happy last day of Virgo.

I think I shall go get an iPad.

Posted in California, Chasing the Life I was Supposed to Want, Family, Friends, Holidays, Home, Life, true stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cowboy has left the building.

From the beginning A was uncomfortable with the label, The Cowboy. She said it objectified him and she did not like it. I giggled like the schoolgirl I appeared to be emulating, “But it’s cuuuuuute!” I countered. She shrugged.

In hindsight (goddamned hindsight) I fear the objectification may have been more damaging than I thought. Like perhaps it created a persona – regardless of its degree of accuracy – that may not have let the person be the person they wanted to be, or even just the person they are. That was so never the intent. But, you know, good intentions… bah.

On September 6th, I changed The Cowboy’s contact information in my phone to just say his name. It is a very interesting name. I removed the oh-so-Marlboro-Man photo that I had attached to his number as well. The new stripped down version of the man was just the man. What this means in a larger context is still being worked out.

I know that the man underneath the cowboy hat was enough for me. I also know that the hat distracted from real truths that may or may not have been pleasant to deal with, but I remain committed to my belief that they could have been worked through. I had been thinking for so long that I had created this stage for drama with my unintentionally intentional characterization of this man. I have blamed myself for not letting him be who he is. Blaming myself for every issue, every failure. And he let me. Today, I am no longer willing to assume the burden of these things.

Today I am also willing to accept that I may not be enough for him, or right for him, or whatever, for as many interesting reasons as there are stars.

I know that all it would take to try to make everything alright would be an apology. But I am done apologizing and the man under the cowboy hat will not apologize. It is not his way.

A friend of mine who is dating someone new has taken to referring to him in a titular way that keeps reminding me of how I spoke of The Cowboy. I want to tell her not to do it, to warn her, but I won’t. Instead, I will remain focused on these words offered in response to my circumstances (thank you Alex M.):

The first time someone shows you who they really are, believe them.

Posted in Chasing the Life I was Supposed to Want, Friends, Life, Philosophical Underpinnings, Relationships, true stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment