i prefer dreams. they seem to have the most obvious potential.

October 30, 2010

This is the title of a poem I wrote this summer thinking about my dad dying, which was when I began to get my writing head around the experience. I know I’ve written a lot here in my blog about what it’s been like for me to deal with my dad’s death and I’ve tried hard to do that without a lot of editing or crafting the text. My aim has been to get my feelings and thoughts documented and to connect with other people. The poem is more purposeful – put together in a certain way and the edited and laid out. It did come from something I mentioned in an old post, it just took a while to figure out what I really wanted to say.

Ever since my dad died

I keep waiting for him to show up somewhere.

It’s absurd

the way I’ve looked for hidden messages from him in

songs and poems and tv shows and things my neighbor says,

like how it makes her cringe

when she catches a glimpse of my cat darting

across the street in front of the bus. Have I noticed it’s getting

colder, she asks me and I nod that I have and then stare at the way her

bare feet look as though they’ve been folded into her slippers.

Her ankles are so red.

I have been wearing sweaters a lot lately, I almost say,

which means the tomatoes aren’t going to make it this year,

just like last fall

when the early frost got them.

I went out to the backyard one morning before work

and found them all split on the vine,

small clusters of seeds were spit out into the dirt,

and the Jays were chattering in the branches

that hang over our back door.

Everything dies. Oh, I

get it.

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i’m ok

October 30, 2010

I don’t know how to talk about my dad without it sounding terribly sad, even though I’m not feeling terribly sad anymore. I still cry sometimes, like last week when I watched these movies where one of the main characters was dealing the death of a parent, but in general, I don’t feel weighed down or numbed out by grief any more. Yay. It’s like writing those lists – I didn’t mean for it to be read as sad as it came off. Sometimes I think I normalized a lot of stuff that was kind of tragic about my dad and tragic about being my dad’s kid. But that’s what kids do to cope and you don’t just turn off those coping skills when you get to be an adult, even when you’ve been an adult for a while. I want to post these couple poems I wrote about Dad’s death, in part because I never thought I’d be able to write about it without getting sentimental and over wrought. But I did and I’d love to have read and for anyone who reads them to know I’m ok. American culture is funny about grief. We’re expected to keep it to ourselves. We’ve not developed a great skillset to talk about it. Or to talk about anything that profoundly changes your life, at least not if it’s about profound loss.

I’m not sure that it’s related, but thinking about that made me think of my grandmother, who is 99 and in a nursing home. The few times I’ve seen her there she either seems checked out or so sad. I saw her when I was home in October and she cried most of the time we were there. Not sobbed, but visibly teared up. We grow old and things go backwards kind of – our bodies don’t do the things we want them to do, our minds don’t always work right, and we usually need some extra help and then we die. And that whole process is another huge part of life we try and push away. We get born and most of the time it’s a celebration for the first couple years, but we get ready to leave the world and who even comes around to see us?!

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lists: things i cleaning out my dad’s room

October 28, 2010

My dad died in a house fire and he also horded stuff, including trash. Going in his house was kind of nightmare. The week my sister K and I came home to deal with everything, we went over to his house almost every day, but I only went in it twice. One of those times was with K. She stayed about 5 minutes before the horror of the whole thing got to her.

The other night I was thinking of the things I found when I went through his dresser drawers and his closet. I was thinking of what I didn’t find too.

Things I found:

  • black and white photos of the girl he fell in love with when he was stationed in China after Japan surrendered in WW2
  • three Indiana National Guard dog tags
  • color photos of artillery guns, maybe howitzers
  • notices from the IRS
  • expired Life Insurance policies
  • Indiana National Guard service medals and certificates
  • A letter from his half brother written in 1973 telling him his dad had died
  • His Marine Service Uniform which dates back to 1946
  • His Indiana National Gaurd which dates back to the mid-80’s
  • A photo of his dog
  • A roll of film he had developed with lots of photos of horses in a corral, especially this one grayish white horse and a couple shots of some ducks
  • A handful of books on sailing and building boats
  • Medals from races he completed and some where he won his age group

Things I didn’t find:

  • a wedding ring
  • photos of me or my sister
  • photos of his last wife or her kids
  • bank statements
  • extra car keys
  • checkbook
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my new york

October 12, 2010

Orchard street

Originally uploaded by proteanme

Some streets in New York feel a little like Paris, which is what I tried to capture here. You can check out other photos from vacation by clicking on this one of Orchard street.


wish it wasn’t raining

October 10, 2010

Second day of rain. Sigh. I think I’ll struggle against it for a little bit. I know it’s futile, but that’s ok. I get some satisfaction out of having something to rail against. Rain’s an easy target. Oh, I know that it’s good for the kale and beets and turnips and collards and herbs in the back yard. And I know all the rain keeps the temperatures milder here. Yay, for those things, right?!

I went to the Karl Marlantes talk at Wordstock yesterday. He wrote Matterhorn – this powerful novel on the Vietnam war. I read it this summer and it sent me into a tailspin of emotions, which apparently are still right there, right under the surface of my skin. Because from the time I sat down at the beginning of his talk, to the time afterward when I stood in line for Karl to sign my book, I thought I was going to cry. It’s like anyone who is intimate with the most profound experience of my dad’s life, that being combat, ends up being a means or a conduit for me to be close to my dad. And I feel like my heart is breaking because maybe that person also knows what it meant to try and be my dad’s child. I wanted to stand there with Karl Marlantes for a couple minutes because he had two daughters too and he dedicated his book to them. A lot of people in the book signing line wanted some kind of connection with Karl. I overhead conversations between former vets and parents of vets and other kids of vets. If you loved someone who served in combat, you catch some shrapnel, so to speak. God, I know that’s a cheesy way of saying it, but I don’t know how else to describe this particular kind of hurt. Or maybe this is grief. Or maybe it’s both – the legacy of PTSD mixed with grief. It’s part of why I wish it weren’t raining right now.


where i left off

October 10, 2010

Rain and trees. Trees and rain. Oh, Portland, please don’t start your rainy season yet.

It’s strange how easy it is to get back in the swing of things here. Get on my bike, ride to work, go to the store, buy some food, do the laundry, wash the dishes, pay the bills. Just kinda pick up where I left off, more or less. Even though that’s not what I want to do. I can’t quite articulate exactly what I want to do or what’s missing. I know it’s not as easy as moving to New York, which would not be easy at all. Anyway, I can’t quite sum up the thing that feels off inside. It’s like a crack in a fault line, maybe. Although that sounds too dramatic. Maybe it’s just that it takes a long time to figure oneself out and that’s what happening to me. I’m figuring myself out. I think I’ve said all this before. Alot. Before my dad died.

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and now for some really great rock lyrics

October 8, 2010

And we’re finally here

And shit ya it’s cool

And it shouldn’t it be

Or something like that


rock & roll is dead, long live rock & roll


urban longing

October 6, 2010

I returned from NYC with a terrible cold. I think I picked it up on the plane. At least half the passengers were coughing and blowing their noses. Also, I didn’t sleep well the whole time we were gone, which was almost 3 weeks. All in all, I’m in a a bit of a daze. I miss masses of people, especially masses who don’t look like me. I miss seeing one of my dearest friends whenever I want. I miss building as tall at small mountains. I miss the feeling that I might see the most amazing film, piece of art or performance right around the corner. The tree density is overwhelming here. I could walk down my block and not pass another human body. No one is sitting on their stoop. Hardly anyone even has a stoop. Maybe I’d feel different if I lived there, but that’s not a consolation right now because I live here in Portland, where I ‘m waking up in the middle of the night wondering where I am and missing the most amazing city in the US.


queer art

October 1, 2010

I’ve seen a fair amount of queer art here in NYC and it’s been an interesting experience to think about it. At first I struggled with a lot of what I saw. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I was not impressed or a little bored with the pieces, mainly because I was seeing a lot of the same kinds of stuff that I’ve seen over the last 30 years, which are basically variations on the themes “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” and “look at our bodies and watch us fuck.” For instance, when we are at PS1 I saw this giant photo collage by A.L. Steiner where there was lots of nudity and some shots of people making out and having sex, which were mixed in with a handful of photos of buildings and parking lots. And I thought to myself how many times do we have to go through this, make this particular statement, perform our visibility!? We’ve been saying “we’re here” since at least Stonewall, and we’ve been documenting what we do with our queer bodies since the Greek amphoras, which isn’t really true as the idea of an actual queer identity came along much, much later than the Greeks. But even if I omit antiquities, there’s been a butt load of queer body based art produced in the three decades since I’ve been out, including work by Judy ChicagoRobert MapplethorpeBarbara HammerJill  Posener and Tom of Finland. And that’s just to name a few. I keep wanting to think we’ve made some kind of progress as queers or as a culture more accepting of queers, which could result in queer artists doing something other than exploring their queer identity. But this horrible bullying and these tragic suicides have made me realize that every generation that “comes out” reinvents “coming out” all over again. And when they do they are still coming out to the potential of shitty world, less shitty than it was for me, but still shitty enough to make things unbearable. So of course those creatively inclined pick up mantel of art to protest, to assert themselves, to be seen and heard and to flip off the shitty world. There continues to be a constant need to get our queer lives and our queer bodies out in front of the larger culture, if for no other reason than to assert that we messily alive and trying to figure out what that means, and that alone is enough to make our lives as valuables as anyone else’s.

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america, wake the f*ck up

October 1, 2010

This shit should not still be happening. Young people should not be killing themselves because they are gay. The miserable bullying bullshit is despicable behavior. I’m sad and outraged. The college kids in this story should be expelled, at the absolute very least, if not charged with some criminal activity. God, I just can’t believe this is how it it is.

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