Paintbrush

Cinnamon orange green tea. Who knew?

And it’s really good.

Zimt.

When the barista brought the tea over he lit a candle underneath the tea pot, and I mumble the words, “fancy…” A little bit uncomfortable with my tea display, but looking around and realizing that other people have candles adorning their tea pots as well.

I relax into the ambience of the place. And play some Gin Wigmore.

I’ve just used their bathroom to take a mini shower and brush my teeth, and I feel ready for the day.

Yesterday I was hung over as hell.

And days when I am hungover are the days when I expect the most out of myself. And then become frustrated and doomsy when I cannot perform up to task.

I wanted to write the world yesterday, but nothing was coming.

So I’m going to take today to catch up on some much needed reflection and writing, and hopefully keep the blog up to speed from here on out.

Last night I could have been asleep by nine, but we stayed up til midnight to go to the Rocky Horror Picture down down the block. I tried really hard to weasel out of it at the last minute, as I’m falling asleep on the walk there.

“Can I just go back and grab my laptop?”

We head back to Lisa’s house, and I sneakily and frustratingly go back to the tent and fall asleep.

“No, Anne. You’re never going to get back up!” My brother argues, in Maggie’s wedding dress.

“Just twenty minutes…”

I do wake up again, and we do go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Both my brother and I’s first time seeing it in a theater.

*I found a book by my favorite author at the women’s center library the other day that I had never read, hadn’t even heard of. And I’m going to spend the afternoon powering through it before I return it tomorrow, and finishing this blog post. She empowers me to write exactly as I want to write. She should kick start some creativity and drive in me. She almost always does.

These are two reasonable requests for myself for the day.

Then we are going to see Bernie Sanders with Maggie, John, Lisa and possibly Regina.

“Bernie and Rocky in one weekend, that’s one hell of a time,” Maggie announced Friday night as she decided my brother had to wear her wedding dress to the show Saturday night. Maybe he’ll wear it to see Bernie, too.

Last night we had dinner with Regina and Lisa and met their friend Kevin. Kevin has a huge garden in town, and provided an abundance of zucchini and tomatoes for the meal. We ate pizza with zucchini crust and fresh caprese with wine. It was a beautiful cloudy night, and the heaviness of the almost rainy sky made all of our eyelids gravitate towards the floor.

Kevin was a former Peace Corps volunteer in Belize, and told us about his time there. He is now the coordinator of the youth homelessness shelter in Portland, but is retiring in the next month.

Later, as we’re cleaning the dishes, we ask him about the burnout rate in the field. Has that affected him?

“Oh, very much. Why do you think I’m retiring? But it’s not the homeless shelter in itself that is getting to me, it’s one of my other projects working with young kids in the sex trade. Having to pull 12, 13 year olds out of hotel rooms… that’s something that you can’t really get used to…”

Kevin is quiet and sweet and unassuming. And he continues to surprise me with his life experiences, and his openness when you ask the right questions.

He’s looking to be a country director for the Peace Corps.

Friday after I left Stumptown, I took the car and headed across Portland for “In Other Words.” The feminist bookstore from Portlandia.

I don’t really do touristy things like this, but there was more than a touristy desire behind my journey here, I realized as I walked in. I was just in need of some good feminist literature.

I hesitate before walking in, I always get really nervous about activism hot spots. I try to manufacture a degree of nonchalance. “I don’t really care that much about equality. Oh, feminism? Don’t really give a shit.”

I realize what a joke this is, that I always feel like I have to tone my politics down around people that probably share similar passions. But it’s something I’ve struggled with a long time, and it looks like I’m still struggling with to some extent.

Once I steel myself up to walking in, I am greeted by a moon cycle table, with diva cups and washable fabric pads and bumper stickers informing the world on all of the carcinogens that are inside of tampons.

I head for the back, toward the books. My safe space.

“I am not that much of a FEMINIST.” I want to declare as I peruse the books, peeking behind me at the watchful eyes of the women at the counter.

But we all know that I am.

The woman from the front counter walks up to me.

“You look like you’re pretty familiar…”

“No. I’ve actually never been here before.”

“Oh, really? You want a bookmark? This is the library section. Over there are the books you can buy.

I buy a book that I know I will never see in any other bookstore. A sign on the counter informed, “Due to patriarchy, we require a $5 minimum.”

I write down the names of many other books in my notebook. My mouth waters over their eclectic zine library.

Then I decide, why not get a library card?

I get a library card, then cross couches and tables in the feminist community space. “Break the Cis-tem” on posters all over the walls, and pamphlets on local events happening. Tomorrow afternoon is a real life feminist discussion, with exclusively female identified persons. Following the leads from the universe, I find a flier for a Black Lives Matter conference taking place this weekend.

I leave the center, and thank the women. I’m still not able to make eye contact with the other women in there, as I am scared of what kind of conversation might come up.

This is something I need to work on. But the first step is just physically showing up places, and I stepped foot in that bookstore and lived to tell the tale. Progress.

I jump in the car, and trust in the flow.

The flow takes me around Portland for about thirty minutes, visibly lost.

I begin to doubt the flow, and my place in it as I miss my third exit.

Giving up and setting the GPS to head back to Lisa’s house, I make one more spontaneous decision and switch my direction back to the Unitarian church address where the conference is being held.

This kind of traffic is amazing to me, I’ve never really had to deal with it much before. Still getting used to it. And still not heeding the rule about avoiding rush hour.

The flow of the universe finally lands me there, and I walk in.

“You here for the Black Lives Matter conference?” a beautiful girl my age asks me, tons of piercings and a traditional African scarf adorning her head.

“Yeah, I can’t stay long, though. I’ll come back tomorrow-”

“You just take this, my friend, and head that way,” she says with a smile, and hands me a pamphlet and pushes me in the direction of the conference. “I love your necklace, by the way,” she comments on my hamsa.

This is always a good sign. Some sort of camaraderie. I’ve realized that once I get people commenting on my hamsa, I’m generally heading in the right direction.

I sit down in the back, and take it in. This is great. There is a panel, which coincidentally is all women, and there is an audience from a vast array of ages, races, incomes and identities.

“Sitting in our own networks, talking about what’s bad isn’t going to do anything. We need access to justice, and to do that we have to connect. Recognize these people up here on this panel as justice advocates in your community,” the MC, a young black woman with a baseball cap and a gift for speaking, announces. She simultaneously makes you feel at home, while also just uncomfortable enough light the fire under you to move and start doing things.

A woman talked about the beginnings of Oregon’s history, and noted the new documentary, Whitelandia, being produced.

“Whitelandia is a single word description of what Oregon Original constitution defined in its Article I Bill of Rights, Section 35 and Article II Suffrage And Elections, Section 6 that stated, ‘No free negro, or mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall come to reside, or by within this State, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws, for the removal, by public officers, of all such negroes, and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion for the State, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the State, or employ them, or harbor them.”

I realize the fear I felt at the feminist bookstore, and the fear I felt walking in here needs to be overcome. Because there is so much more at stake than my comfort. And learning to be comfortable in the uncomfortable is what I want to make my life’s work. Baby steps.

“You’ve been at “In Other Words?”

“How was it?”

“You’ve been at the feminist book store?”

All of the women ask me at different intervals upon me arriving. My brother has informed everyone that that is where I am at. Everyone is at least two drinks in when I get there, and I run to the cooler to catch up.

East coast ladies on my left and right, it’s a night of wild conversations and drinking. I talk to Regina about her recent time spent in Rwanda, her nonprofit job, and her views on religion and Israel and Palestine.

“Are we material for short stories?” Maggie asks, commenting on my note taking.

“Yeah, probably…” I say with a guilty smile.

“That’s great! I love to write! You need to join a writer’s group. Most published authors are still in writer’s groups. They are so helpful.”

We talk as a group about Clinton/Bernie/Trump and we talk about weed.

It’s been legalized in the city of Portland, and you’re even allowed to grow up to four plants in your yard. One of the women at the table, who I would vote for for president, talks about her son’s business in their backyard. And how much she’s benefiting from it. And would you like me to bring over some brownies tomorrow?

Later that night I head off to Division street by myself, and land at the first bar I see: Victory bar.

I order a beer, and am entertained as the bartender lights candles on the counter. Only in Portland.

The bartender tells me he’s just moved to Portland from Dallas, Texas. He moved here to follow his friend’s band, but they broke up two weeks after he got here. I tell him I’m from Kansas.

“Oh. You get it then. How long have you been here?”

This has been my secret pleasure since being in Oregon hipster cities. No one asks me where I’m traveling to, they ask me how long I’ve lived here.

Body as a paint brush again, I feel like art again.

I write the whole night at the bar, and then I order spatzle and eat a dish of it in the candlelight.

I find out the next morning that my brother has spent the evening sitting on the Hawthorne street curbside, talking with homeless youth. They are part of the Rainbow Family, and have places to stay most of the time through this connection. But beg for money on the street for drugs. They called themselves “humbums.” My brother said this interaction has decreased his hesitancy to just go up and talk to people on the street. They just want to tell stories, like the rest of us.

We talk about the power of communication, and how smart people seem to use communication to get what they want by opening up their lives to others, and being seemingly vulnerable. But more powerful in the fact that they know how to embrace opportunity.

“Life isn’t the ends, it’s the means. Most people don’t really want anything out of life, they just want more life. If you want something, you’re ahead of the game. Follow that.”

I asked Kevin, the director of the homeless shelter who at zucchini pizza with us, how the population of kids who chose to be homeless on the West Coast affect the population that don’t have a choice. He said that everyday people don’t really see a difference between the two, and they’re really not hurting anything. They are lost just like everyone else. Or found.

Saturday I ate lunch with Ben at a food truck commune with dishes from all over the world, for relatively cheap. I chose India, and was handed a heaping plate of basmati rice, naan, chana masala and coconut curry Indian eggplant. We also drank beers as only seemed appropriate, and sat in the sunshine next to Belizean and Scandinavian food trucks.

Previous to this decision, we made a halfhearted decision to try out the famous Pok Pok Thai restaurant. We were brought up to this tiny little attic of a room and sat down to the strong smell of sewer and fish, and limited breathing air. A woman brought us complimentary peanuts, spiced and freshened with lime juice.

They tasted like dry, old peanuts.

I looked at my brother, the fear of entrapment real in my eyes.

“We gotta get out of here, man. We gotta get out!”

“It’s fine. Maybe we can just get something small…”

Everything was small there. We were going to get a plate of food the size of my palm for the price of three or four good burritos. My anxiety heightens as I scan the menu again, and I look for escape routes.

“We can just dip, bro. Let’s go. We can just leave!”

“No. We’re already here, we might as well just get a beer or something…”

“We could also just go, bro. I want to get out and do other things today. I don’t want to be trapped up here in this attic for hours while they serve us tasteless peanuts and promise that their food is completely authentic, shipped straight from Asia.”

The waitress walks back into the kitchen, and we look at each other, and then make a run for it. Backpacks hitting the table next to us as I grab the handle, and we zoom down the staircase, and back onto the fresh, free, Portland streets.

“If we had stayed and willingly put ourselves through that, we would have deserved to have paid fifty bucks for a lunch.”

Last night, walking to the Rocky Horror Pictures show at the Clinton street theater, Ben got three cat calls within five minutes. The first one was from Lisa’s neighbor, Judy. The second was by a man in a black convertible. The third was by some woman yelling from across the street,“ YOU ARE A PRETTY PRINCESS!!”

“Out of all the nights to be stone cold sober, I chose the night that I am walking fifteen blocks in a dress,” my brother comments.

We land at the theater about twenty to midnight, and are greeted by a “YES!” from the boys in corsets, heavy eye makeup and skirts waiting in line, seeing my brother.

Thank you, Josh and Maggie for gifting Ben with your wedding dress that fits Ben like it was made for him, also.

Last night around nine o’clock, Lisa and Regina were about to go to bed. But then the doorbell rings, and Josh and Maggie are running through the doors, white wedding dress in hand and pure joy in their hearts.

“I can’t believe you actually remembered!”

“Oh. She’s been thinking about it all day,” John comments with his easy going smile.

They dress Ben up, and then we eat gelato on the front porch.

The Rocky Horror Picture show. Something that I’ve done once now, but something that I probably won’t ever do sober again.

We survived the initiation, pledged allegiance to “the lips” and then settled back into our seats for a few hours of campy jokes from the MC with his ongoing commentary.

“He just keeps going, doesn’t he?” I turn to my brother and comment. “Singing profanities over the musical bits. What a job to get paid for.”

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