I could write a thousand words about this, but it’s a beautiful, sunny day, so I’ll let this picture say it for now:
I will be studying Near Eastern Civilizations. I will learn Arabic and I will get my ass kicked by the best public university the U.S. has to offer. And thanks to six years of military service, I will not be footing the bill.
It feels pretty goddamn good.
Hi! Wondering what I’ve been doing whilst blatantly neglecting ye olde blogge?
Well, I’ve been traveling, of which I have taken many, many photos, and I’ve also started a nonprofit to help veterans get free art lessons. And, I’ve been learning the ukulele. I’ve even written a few songs. Wanna hear/see/love them? Okay!
(By the way, I am not left-handed, as this video would have you believe – not that there’s anything wrong with lefties, hell, I even married one, but in this case, the issue is with PhotoBooth, which I used to make the video. I have since amended the problem, but don’t care deeply enough about it to make a new video. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.)
So, yeah. Not lazy, just busy. (But you’re always on my mind. I love you.)
I watched It’s a Wonderful Life Saturday night, and for the first time, I wasn’t entirely sympathetic toward the people of Bedford Falls. I’m not saying that George was right to go apeshit and freak everyone out the way he did – I’m just saying I understand. Since it was four a.m., I decided to break it down.
Uncle Billy should not be entrusted with a newspaper, let alone a giant wad of cash. He is clearly insane.
There is a reason why, in Non-George-Bailey Universe, Uncle Billy goes to the insane asylum after losing his business: He is a lunatic. His brother, then nephew, are basically paying him hard-working people’s money as a salary for being alive – and perhaps for cleaning up after his creepy, twenty-year-old raven. He is inarguably the most irresponsible person in Bedford Falls, but for some reason it is he who is chosen to make the deposit to the bank – a deposit totaling more than seventy thousand of today’s dollars. Whomever authorized Uncle Billy to carry that much cash anywhere, it certainly doesn’t seem to have been George, who is obviously much smarter than that.
Drafty houses should not have to be tolerated.
George didn’t want to live in that house. He thought it was an old dump. His wife wanted it, and she coerced him into moving in – he had no other choice. What was he supposed to say, as he danced with his bride, Hawaiian tunes lilting on the Victrola: “Um, thanks honey, but I’m more of a condo man”? He was screwed from that point on. No wonder the kid catching a cold was the last straw. Jesus.
Why didn’t Zuzu’s teacher make sure her coat was buttoned?
The woman is a teacher in an idyllic little town where it just so happens to be snowing continuously, yet she fails to send a five-year-old child outside in a coat that is securely buttoned. She fails. George’s tax dollars are indeed paying her salary, and she is indirectly responsible for his child’s illness. He has a valid point in yelling at her – although the “stupid old cow” remark may have been a bit much.
It is truly annoying to hear a child play Hark the Herald Angels Sing over and over and over again on a piano. Seriously.
Even if it’s your child, you don’t want to hear it. Especially if it’s your child, because then you have to accept responsibility for it. George isn’t a huge fan of Christmas carols, and he later mentions he’s “not a praying man,” on top of which he’s having a nervous breakdown already, yet somehow he’s supposed to good-naturedly put up with clang clang CLANG CLANG clang clang CLANG CLANG on Repeat? Come on, that’s worse than water-boarding.
Mary really doesn’t understand his problems.
Why does she prattle on and on about parades and decorations when it is blindingly obvious that there is something, shall we say, violently amiss, with her husband? The man’s hair is falling rakishly across his eyes, lady, get a clue – this can only be a sign that something troubling has happened. Take a break from stringing tinsel and ask George why he looks like he just escaped from prison. There appears to be a disconnect here.
When your life’s goal was to travel the world, it is reasonable to hate your office job that your family guilted you into taking and keeping for your entire adult life.
Poor George, all he ever wanted was to pursue his own dreams, like everyone else he knew. Even Ernie, who was happy to drive his little cab around tiny Bedford Falls till he keeled over, was free to change careers if it ever crossed his mind. George was his family’s last hope because, let’s face it, he was a bit of a sucker. He didn’t have to stay back from school to run the business or give his brother all his college money; the kid was about to get a football scholarship and a job after graduation. It’s completely natural that George would regret a decision or two – he’d never wanted to do anything in his Bedford Falls more than he wanted to leave it.
Angry George Bailey is tired of conforming to his community’s idea of what and who he should be. He’s had it with cleaning up other people’s messes and saving everyone’s day. He wants to go exploring, and then he wants to build things, didn’t we hear him the first time? Unfortunately, every single person in his life insists that he stay put and take care of them. Amazingly, they’re shocked and horrified when he finally loses his shit.
I request an alternate ending, o gods of movie sequels. I want to see George Bailey shake Clarence the crazy angel’s hand when he grants George’s wish never to have been born. I want to see George Bailey fix his hat on his head, straighten his back and whistle “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” right on down the road, through the snow, in any direction, and keep on walking. As the snow covers his tracks, fade out.
So, I’m a shitty updater still – my 2010 New Year’s resolution was a dud. Maybe this, the most excellent holiday song ever, will make up for it. Also, our holiday card:
There he goes again, off on tour. It’s not the first time we’ve been apart since we got married, nor the longest, but every time he goes, the house gets quieter. No instruments being plucked or plonked, no sports radio turned all the way up so he can hear it from the kitchen, no foot or hand tapping, constantly, upon the nearest available surface. I would call it peaceful, except that we still live on 14th Avenue, and there will still be sirens, shouting and the occasional gunshot ringing out periodically in the night sky.
It’s part of Oakland’s charm. The neighbors behind us have chickens for eggs and roosters for fighting. The roosters crow angrily each day at six a.m. to wake us up, at noon to remind us that getting up should be followed by dressing, and at five p.m. to let us know it’s happy hour. The neighbors’ dog, Brownie, has no voice box, which doesn’t stop him from barking every time we enter our backyard. We’ve lived here for a year and a half now and still, the second I step into the garden, I hear Brownie’s hoarse wowwr! wowwr! I tried to go back to their house and meet him once, but as I approached, he lunged toward me and into the fence. It held, surprisingly.
Eric and I have made this strange setting our home, not because we’re trying to prove anything, but because we can’t exactly afford the Berkeley hills on his income and my lack thereof. Luckily, neither of us minds our neighborhood, probably because we’re away from home often enough that all the things we’d find annoying under normal circumstances, we instead find appealing. The landlords don’t speak English? Great, we can maintain a friendly distance, convincing them of our upstanding character via enthusiastic waves and sparkling smiles. The neighbors are loud at all hours of the night? Well, as it turns out, so are we. We also like to have parties, which they never crash or complain about. There’s a bus stop and a shady liquor store across the street? Yep, and they sell cartons of a half-dozen eggs, which is perfect when you’re only going to be home for two days.
As G.K. Chesterton said, an inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. I firmly believe that applies to our living situation. After all, what are we doing in this low-income, high-risk city if not having a twisted little romp through reality? It’s definitely a step or two closer to safeness than Baghdad, the only other place I lived for more than a year after the age of sixteen, so it seems I’m doing something right.
The inconvenience-as-adventure idea comes in handy when he’s off in another state while I’m at home. Sometimes I go into my happy-housewife routine and clean up some dog hair from the couch or whatever, but usually I use his tour schedule to plan my own. Of course, he makes money on his tours, while all I usually make is friends and sometimes a wrong turn in Wyoming or what have you, but it’s still in my heart to travel. If it’s beyond the realm of rationality for me to accompany Eric to Chicago, Denver, New York City or anywhere else equally appealing, I make peace with the situation by simply going somewhere else, usually in my car. Sometimes it’s nearby (today, it was Sonoma, only a ninety-minute drive) and sometimes it’s not (the car and I made it to New York this summer, then stopped in Colorado for a couple weeks before heading home through Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon). Either way, it makes me feel better.
I have to wonder, though, if this is how I’m going to be forever. I know, I know – I’m still relatively young and full of energy and blah blah metabolism etc., but sometimes it seems like I’m doing all this traveling compulsively, you know, the way alcoholics drink and politicians lie. I do it even when my body is tired and my mind dulled by the white noise of the interstate. I do it when I can’t afford it. I have trouble driving onto a freeway without being nagged by the urge to keep going to the end! until I reach my exit and breathe a sigh of relief. I can’t help but ask myself: Self, do I have some form of addiction? Well, maybe I do. But I also have a whole fuckload of adventure.
Thank you all for the wedding wishes! Man, the twists life takes when you least expect it, eh? I still can’t really believe that I’m the same person who peddled Army propaganda for six years. Most people I meet are skeptical, too, by the way. When it comes up that I was once a gun-totin’ member of the armed services, their reactions usually range from surprise to disbelief.
These conversations always happen at the strangest times. Because Eric’s band plays a lot of festivals, it’s not uncommon for most of the fans in attendance to be dressed in some sort of outlandish get-up. As a supportive spouse, I like to get with the spirit of the occasion and dress up, too. I meet dozens of people at a time, some weekends, and when a person I’ve just met at a festival asks me what I do, I usually just say I’m a student. If the conversation goes on for a while, often my military history comes up (it was, after all, six years of my life).
“But … you’re covered in glitter and wearing a tutu,” they say. “What did you do in the Army?”
So I tell them I was a journalist, and there’s a bit more disbelief, followed by the inevitable, “Did you go … over there?”
Most people have no idea that the military trains its own journalists to write pro-military articles, so I offer a short explanation of the whole miserable deal to them – still covered in glitter, wearing a tutu, holding a margarita, high on … life – before returning to the party. After these interactions, I often ask myself if I didn’t just make the whole thing up. The person I am now is, I like to think, almost entirely removed from the person I was then.
Believe me, I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Most former soldiers – most people, in general – never get the chance to start life over in their mid-twenties with a bank account full of tax-free combat pay. Not only did I get that chance, but meeting Eric brought my “starting over” plan to a whole new surreal level. For example, at midnight on New Year’s Eve 2007, I was on a shitty base outside Baghdad, sneaking off to have a couple of beers with the British soldiers (since they were allowed to have alcohol). At midnight on New Year’s Eve 2008, I found myself dancing on the stage at the Oriental Theater in Denver, while Eric and his band played “Lovelight” for hundreds of acid-headed fans. If that doesn’t fuck with your sense of reality, I don’t know what will.
Sometimes I feel like everything is happening so fast. My world went from desert camo to sequins and feathers in such a very short time. It’s a big part of the reason I haven’t been blogging much – I’m sort of in a constant state of amazement that this is my life, and I have to savor it, every moment of it. When I was miserable all the time, it was easy to write about it – just hit the “Bitch Mightily” button and you’re there. Now that I’m happy all the time (or, well, most of the time. There was an Experience at the DMV yesterday that I’m still recovering from), I often find myself with writer’s block, unable to focus.
But now it’s time to half-click, center and recompose, as my photographer friend puts it. I’m applying to three schools for next fall – UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and UC Santa Cruz – and all of them are going to require me to get myself some goddamn focus. In the meantime, I’m attempting to plunder my Iraq blog for possible book fodder, and working with a new, local nonprofit group called Veteran Artists, which helps veterans connect with local artists to get free art classes as a way of dealing with PTSD or other combat-related stress issues. On the weekends, I don my sparkliest costumes and head to the show, wherever it is.
In fact, on Halloween night, I’m going to be performing in a drag show benefit for VA (like it? “VA”? We’re taking it back from that silly old Veterans Administration) at a theater in San Francisco. If you’re in the Bay Area and want to come support us, check out the deets:
Hey guys! I got married three weeks ago! To Eric! Woo hoo! That’s part of what’s been keeping me away from this blog. The second part is school applications, and the third part is Facebook. I don’t think I need to explain much further than that. The important thing is, I’m here now.
The wedding was as perfect as I could have imagined it being. We held it on our friends’ ranch in Santa Cruz, and let me tell you, if you’ve never gotten your West Coast hippie friends together with your East Coast Christian family members, you’re missing out. (Surprise! they all get along quite well.) It would take me about as long to write about the whole thing as it’s taken me to actually complete an entry here, so instead I’d like to share a few favorite moments.
- On the morning of the wedding, Eric got his men friends together for a chest-beating breakfast before the ceremony. I got my ladies together about forty-five minutes later. The men’s plan was to have breakfast, then walk up to the ridge (the whole property is on a huge hill, from the top of which you can see the ocean and the mountains) and have a testosterone-y send-off for Eric. The ladies’ plan was to gather several bottles of champagne and citrus mixer, then walk up to the ridge and drink mimosas. Unlike the men, we didn’t think to plan for food (who needs it, when you’ve got mimosas!). Luckily, as were were passing the site of the men’s breakfast, we discovered that two of the men had stayed behind to clean up. Like true gentlemen, they cooked us a delicious spread with all the extra food they’d brought. Completely un-ironically, it was mainly sausages.
- We decided to have the dog be the ringbearer. That kind of thing works out splendidly when the temperature is cracking 100 degrees, the ceremony is next to a coi pond, and the dog is a lab. Disaster was narrowly averted. The best part of this is that in the video of the ceremony, you can’t see the dog making a beeline for the pond. I say, “Come here, Bones!” and then there is, shall we say, a commotion, off-camera. We plan to let those who weren’t there draw their own conclusions.
- Eric and I wrote a song together and sang it during our ceremony, and I didn’t fuck it up. Booyah.
- Because we didn’t have a limitless budget, we stocked our bar with only wine, beer and champagne. Because our friends are wonderful, they set up a second bar, stocked with only a hookah, high-grade tequila and margarita mix. Thus, we had a lot of extra wine, which is never a bad thing.
- My dad and brother played harmonica and guitar, respectively, with our wedding band, a string band from Portland called Fruition (check them out! I will send you a CD if you want!) for a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy.” Then Eric’s friend beatboxed with them for a cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” Both songs were met with massive approval by our guests, all of whom had by then discovered the margarita bar.
- Rather than asking any specific people to make toasts or speeches, we invited anybody who felt so inclined to step up and say a few words. Our housemate, whose pseudonym will be P-dizzle, is a performance poet who competes in poetry slams nationwide. He performed an amazing poem that he had written for us, completely unsolicited. Then my cousin got up and told everyone about how, when I was eight, I dressed up like a mermaid and sang “Part of Your World” from Disney’s The Little Mermaid for our whole family. “It’s on video!” she made sure to mention. Luckily, it’s hard to get embarrassed when you’ve been drinking champagne for three hours.
- A friend in Wyoming sent us twenty pounds of elk meat for our dinner, which was barbecued shish-kebabs. I repeat: twenty pounds of elk meat. That she and her family had personally killed. I can’t really think of a bloodier wedding present. It was delicious.
- One of my oldest friends is an artist who works in all sorts of media. Most recently, he had been doing airbrush stencils on people’s skin at Burning Man and other music and art festivals. He brought his airbrushing supplies to the wedding, and painted anyone who so desired. By the end of the night, at least half of the people were painted – and not just the hippies. And let me tell you, friends – once you’ve seen your conservative aunt from Buffalo with flowers and the word “gratitude” airbrushed down her arm, dancing to string band music alongside your friends from Northern California who grow medical marijuana as their primary source of income … well, that’s when you know you’re doing something right.
Here are a few photos from the day: