Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama: The Word on the Street

In the last few weeks I have seen at least half a dozen black folks wearing Obama t-shirts with his face on them. Today at the barbershop the talk was a street level analysis of McCain's desperation choice for running mate Governor Palin (R-AK). Outside of the bagel shop, a few moments later, two people were standing waiting for the street light to change and discussing Obama's acceptance speech from last night.

I am a radical individual. Most of my friends have a great radical analysis. All of us know that Obama, as an institutional candidate, has little chance of truly altering the fundamental fabric of U.S. society but ANY organizer that has any clue as to how social movements move forward must know and realize that right now there is a ground swell of massive proportions the likes of which have not been seen since the Civil Rights and Power to the People movements of the 60s and 70s. I may be only 30 (31 on Sunday), but I have now been politically tuned in and cognizant of five presidential races. No race in my lifetime has ever had the weight, importance, and on the street impact of the race between Obama and McCain.

I am not ashamed to say that last night, when Obama said the words, " I accept the nomination for the President of the United States," I had tears in my eyes. I will repeat what I wrote before, the fact that it was a person that looks like me, even though I know that fundamentally at an early point our politics depart radically from one another's, is for me, the great-great grandchild of slaves, a fundamental affirmation that yes, indeed, we can.

Last night I stared history in the face, and the face looked like mine. Now the challenge is to capture the spirit on the street and channel it into the kind of work that must happen to fundamentally address the systems of oppression that keep our people poor, beaten, hurting, and dying. This is another step that was begun in a march that started the day that Columbus first put his foot down in America, when the first indigenous person fought back and killed the first colonizer, our struggle continues. It is for us to recognize the power of this moment and its limitations, but to dismiss this moment, particularly by radical folks, is not only a mistake but fails to honor the hope that I have seen in the faces of those that, for most of my life, have had little to hope for.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cousin Jimmy III

Mom called tonight. Jimmy has been given two weeks to live if he does not continue chemo. He has two months to live if he does. The cancer has spread to his heart and to his lungs. My Mom asked me all of the questions that I poured out in my previous blogs. I couldn't give her any answers. I don't have any answers.

What do you do when death is staring you in the face? It is one thing to lose someone unexpectedly. My Grandma, bless her, is over 80, if she passed away I would be sad, but she is an elder, and it would not be a surprise. Jimmy is 29 years old. He is a good man. I saw him this summer when he was in remission. He looked like he was going to kick this thing in the ass. And now, less than two months later, the cancer is not only back, but he is going to die. What is my Aunt Susie going to do? What about Uncle Joe? And his older brother Joey? His identical twin Ed?

When I was growing up, the best thing my Mom could say to me was that Aunt Susie and Uncle Joe were going to drive up from Beloit to Duluth and would be at Grandma's house. No matter what was going on in my life, that would make me happier than I could imagine. Jimmy, Eddie, my brother Jason, and I were inseparable during the summers and at holiday time. I can't remember if it was Jim or Ed but I learned to ride a bike on one of their bikes. As a matter of fact, I wasn't able to stop until I slammed into my Grandparent's garage door.

Growing up I would get so angry, because whenever my Mom or I would talk about an achievement I had made, my grandma would counter with Eddie or Jimmy did this or that. I thought my Grandmother only loved them. Until, I found out, that she did the same thing to them but with me. If Aunt Susie would say, Jimmy won this or that award, my Granny would say...ahh but Billy did this or that.

I can't cry right now. I started to, but I can't. Not this time. Not while he is still alive.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton

Once upon a time I loved Hillary Clinton. Then she ran for President and turned into the Wicked Witch of the Northeast. After tonight's speech, I love her again. I am wholeheartedly behind Obama. But Hillary would have been a tough as nails president.


So this morning, I was putting myself through the quasi-torture of a new exercise machine at the gym. It is a stair climber and eliptical machine combined. For those of you that have seen the Dark Crystal (or committed it to memory as have I), then to give you a proper mental imagine, the machine looks like a land strider aka the giant bunnies with stilt legs. As I watching the news while dreaming of riding across the land to find the shard, I noticed that the Colorado police had picked up a white dude that had a car full of guns, drugs, and a bullet proof vest. He was cute until he opened his mouth, when I noticed the nasty teeth and the even nastier shit flying off his tongue.

As to be expected he and his friend Adolph (enough said) had decided to kill Barack Obama because, well, nigras ain't supposed to be in public office.

Now...please...white people...if you want to be taken seriously please do not send country ass white folks that barely speak English with shot guns and drugs to kill the future President. Lord please do not send anyone named Adolph, as that is just so stereotypical that should you have been successful, you would still have lost in the court of public opinion as even most white supremacists know enough not to use the name Adolph publicly. And please, oh please, make sure that whoever you send in the future has a full set of teeth, has had some sort of media training, and is wearing something other than an AC/DC or White Snake t-shirt.

Swastika tatoos are also verboten for the same reasons as anyone named Adolph. For more on Adolph, please see the above paragraph.

In the end, even though the folks that were going to make an attempt on Senator Obama's life were laughable, I was still irate. For about five minutes I was so angry that I burned an additional 200 calories on the Land Strider. The fact that these ignorant bastards still received national airtime for their hate speech, makes me want to remind the press that along with their freedom to report comes a responsibility to not spread hate and injustice. But justice rarely sells ads.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Camera Phone Eye's View Part II

Yesterday, the gays took the afternoon off from remodeling the house to tour Sharon, Roger, and myself around San Francisco. Here are a couple of my favorite shots from yesterday.

The first is a photo of the Palace of the Arts. The Palace was built in 1915 for the San Francisco World's Fair. Josh was telling me, and I confirmed, that originally the Palace of the Fine Arts was surrounded by acres of other palaces, which, unfortunately, were torn down. When we first arrived at the Palace, I swore that I saw an Elf Maiden emerge from the bushes across the lagoon from where we were standing. Thankfully, other members of our party also saw said Elf Maiden, so I did not have to rush myself to the nearest hospital.

As we continued to walk the Palace grounds, I snapped a picture of the columns holding up the palace. Josh insisted that the entire palace was crafted from plaster of Paris. Upon closer investigation, the columns, at least, were constructed of good old fashioned cement. Just after taking the photo of the columns, I noticed that the pond arched under the eaves of the Palace and formed a sylvan lagoon. The perfect hiding place for Elf Maidens.

I was fascinated by the framing of the lagoon through a beautiful flowering tree, which is where I took this next photo.
As I stood up from snapping this picture with my trusty LG Musiq, I realized that my co-explorers had moved on without me. I continued to follow the edge of the lagoon, and there, just in front of me were the Elf Maidens and their human photographers.

Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the Elven ladies, as one of them was so pale that I was afraid that the glare from the flash would blind me permanently. Which would have been my just desserts for trying to capture an image of one of the Fairy Folk.

On a related note, yesterday I mentioned that I believed the World's Fairs take place every ten years. Josh, however, thought they no longer took place. In fact, the World's Fairs also called Expos continue, and they are the third largest event in the world after the Olympic Games and the World Cup. The next World Fair will be Expo Shanghai in 2010.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Camera Phone's Eye View of the Bay Part One

So, I have decided to do a couple of posts about my meanderings around the East Bay and San Fran. Minneapolis is a beautiful city, but it has a penchant for tearing down older buildings and replacing them with new structures. It seems to me that both San Francisco and Oakland have retained much of their 19th century architecture. Every place I go, I run into some little placard or a cool statue. As a matter of fact, I have some film that should be ready to be picked up today that, if they turned out, will have some amazing shots from the two cities. But here are a few for now.

This is part of a two part placard set into the ground outside of the old mint in San Francisco. The larger of the two tells the story of the start of the California Gold Rush. The placard does not mention the devastation of the gold rush on the indigenous peoples of California.

There is some awesome flora running around the bay the likes of which I have not seen before. The flower in this picture was part of a ground cover on the boulevard that runs through the center of my neighborhood. I sent a snapshot to David aka Mr. I Know All Plants On Sight, but his knowledge of the California flora failed me. He has brought shame on his family.

Back in 2005 when the Creating Change Conference made its second appeareance in Oakland. RJ and I had a fun filled adventure for lunch through Oakland Chinatown. After walking for what seemed like a thousand years, we finally ate at this Cambodian restaurant. RJ said that white people only eat at Asian restaurants where there are those cheesy pictures on the wall. He was right.

And finally, this tree grows everywhere in the Bay. Josh said that the street name for the tree is a Princess bush. No wonder I like it so much. It was named after me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Being Fearless When You Are Afraid

It would be an understatement to say that my world has radically changed. I am living in a new city (realistically at the moment I am living between two cities: Oakland and San Francisco). I am starting a new job on Monday. And I met a human being that challenges me and creates in me such a wonderous combination of fear and joy that sometimes I wonder if I am on an episode of Punk'ed or Hell Date...and at any moment...a midget in a devil suit is going to jump out of the bushes.

A new city is a challenge that I am well equipped to meet. I have spent the last few days walking, getting lost, turning down side streets, snapping photos of flora that I haven't seen before, and meeting new neighbors, and letting my mind adjust to a city that is stunningly beautiful but looks nothing like home. My roommates are both great. Josh is an old friend that I dearly love. His partner has awesome energy, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being with Josh's family this week.

My new job is going to be a great adventure. I am really looking forward to getting started on Monday. I am looking forward to getting back into a healthy work environment. My boss is someone that I can already tell that I am going to deeply respect. And I get to work with some of my favorite people across the country.

And then there is David. David is great. He is brilliant. His art moves me. We communicate open and honestly...and do not tell each other things that we think the other person wants to hear (even when we are playing!). And I am terrified of fucking it up! My favorite therapist taught me to go with my feelings...and I am going with this one. But I need to figure out how to go with my feelings and know that letting your feelings run means letting go of control. That is some scary shit.

Ahh well... here's the living and life changes!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The First Few Days

So my first few days in Oakland/San Francisco have been an adventure. Yesterday, I spent the day at the house in Oakland, tearing up floors, ripping out a fire place, spackling, and painting my bedroom ceiling. Talk about racking up the butch points. One more heavy lifting project, and I advance directly to Lesbian Level One.

This morning, I told Josh that I was going to take the morning to run some errands: mail my Mom my old house keys, so she could move some boxes into storage for me and joining the gym. I was successful in both endeavours. On my journeys this morning I grabbed pictures of the two buildings above. One of the buildings is San Francisco City Hall, and the other is Oakland City Hall. I sent a copy of the picture of the San Francisco City Hall (which looks like a state capitol) to my friend Dawn. I wrote, "why the hell is the San Francisco City Hall larger than the Minnesota State Capitol." Dawn wrote back a succint explanation and said, "The gays."

That's where the fun basically ended. So I am trying to learn my way around Oakland. I have the downtown area pretty much covered, and I was pretty sure that I could get from the downtown area to the shopping district at the foot of the hills from my neighborhood. I called Josh and got him on the line. I told him that I was going to call him once I got to Lake Shore Drive, so I could get directions on how to actually get up to our house. He said sure. That was the last I heard from him. I successfully navigated to Lake Shore Drive and to the shopping area. I recognized that I needed to turn up one of the streets and begin going uphill...and it was at that point I started calling my dear roommate. Unfortunately, my dear roommate didn't answer his phone. I think it died. Bad luck for me.

So, I retraced my steps back into downtown Oakland and caught the train back to San Francisco to Josh's condo. I basically walked this morning from 9:30 to 3:00pm minus an hour for eating and train transit. I felt like an Incan messenger.

Tomorrow, perhaps, I will make it back to my house, that is, if I can find it.

But wait...there is more. Yesterday was pure hilarity. So my neighborhood is the stuff that reality show folks dream about. Across the street is the hip straight girl Lisa who comes by and tells us the best places to get our toes done. Next door to her is Mike, a homosexual. Next door to Mike is CeCe the black tranny drag queen that drives a shiny black BMW, and directly next door to us is crazy ass Suzanne from Iowa who is taking care of her sick Aunt.

So yesterday, I am standing outside talking to David on the phone, and the generator we have working at the house, starts to smoke a little bit. It smokes for perhaps five minutes and then stops. I see CeCe outside and say hello, and then I go back into the house. A few moments later I look up, and here are two fire tracks on our narrow drive, and the hottest firemen in the world come piling out. Turns out someone saw the smoke on the OTHER SIDE of the block and called the fire department. They were very good natured about it. Later that night, we saw the same firemen at the Subway on Lakeshore Drive.

I walk outside and CeCe is standing there again chuckling. And then she says, "I have been trying to reach Joshua all day. You just tell him I got an extra long extension cord that I can run across the street if he wants to use my power." And I thought to myself, "yes girl, I am sure you do have an extra long extension cord."

Other than the initial shell shock of realizing that I have, indeed, left Minneapolis, I am finding Oakland to be delightful. The reality of the move will set in more when I actually start working next week. I miss all my peeps back in Minneapolis. And ya'll got a place to stay out here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The VFW in Crystal, MN

Last night, Shannon, Melissa, Jael, Samantha, and I piled into Shannon's chic Acura and headed out to a fundraiser at the VFW in Crystal, MN. Crystal is an old school first ring suburb just outside of North Minneapolis. Walking into that VFW was like walking into the heart of rural middle America. I was the only visible person of color in the joint. The hairdoes and knit sweaters were soemthing straight out of the late 80s. It was a working class joint, with working class folks, coming together for a good steak for a good cause.

I was seated at a table with some of the kids from the Femme Mafia. Our server was the Mother of a young woman that passed away from cancer. The server also happened to be the mayor of Crystal. We loved her. If you are reading this, and you happen to live in Crystal, MN, please vote for Mayor RaNae.

Last night, after return home, full of sadness at the fact that I will not be able to join the other Femmes and Femme allies at the national Femme conference in Chicago this weekend. I wrote my first ever set of lyrics (to be set to music at a later date) about our trip to the Cyrstal VFW.

Cyrstal VFW

I went to the VFW
and met a girl name Cristal
in the city of Crystal
Cristal I found
I bought me a ticket
to a steak fry
She brought me her heart
I thought I had died
I went to heaven
the day I met Cristal
in a VFW just up the way
I went to heaven
the day I met Cristal
such a sweet name
for a girl or a town
There was cole slaw and A1
Butches and femmes were
sitting together
enjoying a meal
The mayor was the server
a right nice old lady
but my eyes were on Cristal
my soul she did steal
I went to heaven
the day I met Cristal
in a VFW just up the way
I went to heaven
the day I met Cristal
such a sweet name
for a girl or a town

At the end of the steak fry
I rushed outside
to try and catch Cristal
just to say hi

But just as I got there
I saw her disappear
on the back of a Harley
she rode away

I went to heaven
the day I met Cristal
in a VFW just up the way
I went to heaven
the day I met Cristal
such a sweet name for a girl or a town.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Never Can Say Goodbye

So, I am sitting here and the Michael Jackson song, "Never Can Say Goodbye," is running through my head. I totally blame Rodrigo for that, as we were listening to Jackson 5's greatest hits on the way home from his house to my place on Saturday night. Rodrigo may be Peruvian...but he gots him a 1970s boy band black soul. Or offwhite, or whatever color Wacko Jacko is today. I don't care how wacko he is...that boy is a musical genius.

Anyway. So it's official. I actually have a plane ticket. I am leaving Minnesota in a week. Too look at my apartment, you would never know it. But, the fact remains that I am looking forward to moving to California. I have my transition plan in place. I've got my recovery plan all set and ready to go (it helps there is a CMA meeting right down the street from my office). Josh has already been scoping out churches in Oakland, and I will be hitting up Glide Memorial. I love Minneapolis, and all the festivities of the last couple of weeks have reinforced my love for my peeps here, but not only am I ready to go, I need to go. I am looking forward to the opportunity to take all the life lessons I have learned here, apply them, and leave the baggage, temptations, traps and pitfalls behind.

To end how this entry began, I quote Michael Jackson, "I'm talking to the man in the mirror. I am asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make that change."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cousin Jimmy III

I am a person of faith. I am not ashamed to admit that I believe in God, that I have always believed in God, and that I will always believe in God. I am a Christian, and I believe that Christ walked the earth, died, and rose again. But none of that means that I do not also believe that the faith paths that others walk are just as valid.

I need your help. I am asking for your prayers. Whether you pray to God, multiple Gods, or if you only believe in the material universe, I am asking that you offer up a thought, a prayer, or a wish for my cousin Jimmy. I heard from my Mom today that the doctors have downgraded his likelihood of survival to 30%. In whatever it is that you do to center yourself, I am asking you to take a moment to send out energy and light to James Wakefield. This world will be a darker place without him in it.

And God, I am asking you, please do not take my cousin away. If not for me, then for the people that he has loved and served selflessly in Chicago. For his new wife Marie. For his parents. For his identical twin brother. Or for his young nephew that loves him dearly. Please do not take this beautiful brilliant light from the world. There are so few people that walk this earth with your spirit and light so fully bright in them. He is one of those angels that walks disguised as a man. I don't understand your will and your plan half the time. But I am asking today, please do not take Jimmy from us. If not for his family, then for the people whose lives that he has touched about whom we will never know.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

With Love from Home

Last night, I had a going away/birthday party at Pi right down the street from here in my hood. I had my party at Pi for the following reasons:

1.It is the most kick ass community centered bar and restaurant in the Twin Cities.
2.Pi was literally built by the community. The owner is from the neighborhood. The staff is often seen running about the neighborhood. The artists selected to make the inside purty are from the neighborhood. This bar does this the way a local business should.
3.My friends like to drink and eat. I would much rather than dollars go to a place that takes care of the community and its workers than a corporate establishment.
4.All of the bartenders and servers are like the most amazingly beautiful women (and one man) I have ever seen collected in one place.

More than 30 people showed up last night to wish me well and celebrate my birthday with me. On top of the money they spent on eating and drinking (and getting me drunk beyond belief), they also collectively donated more than 200 dollars to the Headwaters Foundation for Justice. How friggin' amazing are these people.

My friends brought their children, all of whom I have watched grow up either literally from birth or from close enough to it that I have had the honor of knowing them for most of their lives (even if I don't see some of them often enough). Mary, Farheen's daughter, actually made a painting for me of Ralph the Caterpillar. Original art from a super cool young woman!

On top of that...folks sang...and sang...and sang. Now, most folks who know me know that music is central to my relationship to God. So, last night when not one but four people got up and dedicated songs to me, I was seriously near tears. One of my newest friends, Mike, got up and sang “Ain't No Sunshine.” I danced with his amazing fiancee, and again, we had such an amazing time.

At one point, Charlotte noticed that folks had bought so many drinks that they were lined up on the bar. And she did what a good friend does and cut me off. And that, I deeply appreciated (even if I wasn't able to express it last night). From Pam Olson my high school Citywide Student Government advisor who, one on days notice, drove me from Minneapolis to Asheville, NC to Denisse and Mike...the folks last night ran the gamut of my life. I felt so amazingly loved last night (including by the staff of Pi who were super amazing), that even with the hangover that I deserved today, I woke up knowing that no matter where I move or where life takes me, I have a home. I may have a second home in California, but I know that my first home is here and always will be. I love you all. I appreciate you all...whether it is celebrating with me or calling me to hand me a smack down that I deserved (that's for you Pookie) are my family!

Monday, August 4, 2008

One More Haiku

David left today
unexpected memories
from so few moments

thank you.