Family Dinner

Hello blogosphere.  I went to a writing workshop tonight and was reminded how much I need to be doing this on the daily.  I’m gonna work on posting regularly again.

Here’s a piece I wrote in one of my grad classes.  The assignment was to write about a significant event in your life in three pages or less.  Here she is.

Family Dinner
Pleasantries. Oh, the pleasantries that evening. My family dinner table was not one that usually entertained a lot of manners.  Mouths full of food talking, elbows everywhere, reaching over each other to grab some box-prepared meal before Michael ate it all.  Bickering. There was usually a lot of bickering.  But I came home knowing that Mom and Jessie would be out of town, so the usual sources of dinner explosions were not around.  Just me and the boys.  Oh, and Heidi the dog, begging under the table for food as usual.  Good old dog.  If all went horribly wrong, at least she would still love me.

Michael was sitting next to me as promised.  Thankfully he had forgiven me for all the torment I put him through as a child.  He had LOLed at me on Instant Messenger earlier in the week.  He was sitting next to me now.  He’s a good brother.  Makes me laugh.  Has my back when it matters.

Matt finished eating and ran up the stairs to go play video games without much of a word.  Now was the time.  I thought back to the night before, at the concert in the dorm cafeteria.  It was such a cheesy setting for the biggest realization of my life so far. But it was there, with my friends around me, rocking out next to the tray return, that I knew this was not just some college experiment that would be a major turn on for some future boyfriend.  And for the first time, it didn’t feel threatening.  It didn’t feel uncomfortable, unholy, conflicted, or any of that.  It felt like home.  So I called up Michael and asked him to help me out with my conservative Catholic father.  As usual, he laughed.  “Oh, I wouldn’t miss this for the world, Rach.”  I knew it was more about the entertainment factor than the moral support, but hey, he was there. I didn’t have to do it alone.

I took a deep breath: “So … Dad.  I told you I wanted to talk with you about something over dinner.” He was shoveling another bite of Stovetop in his mouth as he looked up at me expectantly.  Good old Dad.  So kind.  So proud of his daughter.  So excited I was at his alma mater earning my degree. He was more excited than I was the day they moved me into my dorm, while I sat in the back of my mom’s minivan smoking a cigarette, already annoyed at my new neighbors.  I didn’t think he was going to be so excited about what came out of my mouth next.  Yes, college had taught me many things.  Biology.  Chemistry.  US political history.  How to be a lesbian.  Oh Lord. This was going to be difficult.

“Yeah, Rach, what’s up?”  He had this crumb on the side of his face, hanging off one of his whiskers.  I stared at it intensely as I tried to form the words.  How could I explain this to my dad?  The man who gave me life; the man who had such blind faith in me that he put me on the pitcher’s mound at age 10 and beamed with pride as I walked four batters in a row; the man who took a picture of me with my first piano trophy at age 9, carried it with him through 3 different jobs and still had it on his desk 10 years later; the man who took me to Sunday school and catechism and taught me how to ride a bike; the man who had borrowed the money for half my college tuition.

How would I explain the way I felt the first time I met Janelle, before I even fell in love with her? How months later, after spending the evening stoned and laughing with my best friend about her latest escapade, I finally worked up the nerve to go home and write in my journal: “I think I like girls.  There.  I said it.” How that first kiss, sweetened by strawberry chapstick, the sweat in the small of my back on an August night on the lake, and the anticipation of breaking all the rules, woke something up inside of me that I didn’t even know I was capable of feeling.  How would I explain to him that this had saved my life?  What are the words for telling your dad all that?  “I’m dating a girl” was insufficient. But then, my parents and I had never been really close.  No need to go into the details.  Alright.  I’m going to open my mouth. Whatever comes out, comes out.

“Dad, Janelle’s my girlfriend.”

“Oh yeah, she’s nice.  You met her in your dorm, right? How’s your other girlfriend, Stephanie, doing anyway?”

“No, Dad, not my girlfriend.  My girlfriend.” His forked stopped halfway to his mouth.  He stared.  Oh man. He doesn’t get it.  Why doesn’t he get it? This is awkward.

“You know, like Michael has a girlfriend.  Like … we’re sleeping together.”

What? What did I just say? Oh God.

“Oh God,” said Michael.

“Oh God,” said I.

“Oh God,” said Dad.  His fork dropped.  Then. Nothing.  Silence.  For a good 15 seconds.  The dog sneezed. We all stared.  I avoided Dad’s eyes, but they landed on that creepy picture of “Jesus Laughing” my mother loved so much.  That didn’t help.  I was ready for an explosion. I was ready for Dad to douse me in holy water from that little bottle Mom kept on the mantle.  I was ready to make a break for the door.  I was ready to borrow the money for the rest of my college tuition.

Then, in his best Fred Phelps impersonation, Mike broke the silence: “Not my daughter.”

And then we all laughed. And then I cried.  And my dad cried, and I gave him some long impassioned speech about how I was in love and love was never wrong and a bunch of other cheesy things a 19-year-old idealist would say to her father when coming out to him on a weekend home from state college.  An hour later, my dad and brother and I were hugging and talking about God and feeling pretty okay.

Granted, it took him a couple years to actually acknowledge any of my girlfriends.  He never even told my mother; it was news to her three and a half years later when I came out to her in the family minivan.  The ladies came and went, and there were a few random guys in there (who my dad ALWAYS loved.  Even if they were the most nondescript, marginally attractive guys on the planet), which confused the man even more. He is still trying to figure out, a decade later: how to come out as the parent of a queer child.  He will get it eventually.  We all have our story.

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Girls Will Be Boys

My friend clued me into this great new website Outhistory.org:

Historian Katz describes OutHistory.org as “a dynamic, developing  website that makes the history of sexuality newly accessible to a  diverse audience. It has the potential to reach a wide group who  never before had access to reliable work on LGBTQ history.” In its  early stages the site will focus on the United States, but OutHistory  is working to expand its geographic scope.

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Brooklyn

This music video was shot in my neighborhood🙂

I don’t like the part where he is talking about rats. I crossed paths with one sunbathing on the sewer cap, munching on an old napkin, on my way to the Y today. Gross.

I hadn’t heard of Chen Lo so I googled him and found this. He does work in NYC schools doing “creative liberation” work. Sounds hot.

School starts back up tomorrow. Looking forward to meeting my new students. Hoping I have more time to write now that I’m settling out of all these transitions.

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This guy (and gal)’s intense!

I haven’t been watching the olympics that much, but I really like the track and field events. Two pictures that inspired me this morning after my workout (that was interrupted by a fire alarm at the Bed Stuy Y!  There was something sort of comical about everyone filing out all sweaty and annoyed in their gym clothes and standing on the corner):

Usain Bolt kicking everyone’s ass in the 100 m. This guy’s unreal! He broke the world record with an untied shoe and very cocky end zone antics while he was still running.


And this one, of Lolo Jones when she caught her foot on the 9th out of 10 hurdles and blew her gold medal to finish 7th. Ouch

I’m not an olympic athlete these days, but I am starting to do yoga on a regular basis, and I can almost put my heels on the ground in downward dog! Woo! Small victories, people.

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McCain Suggest Military-Style Invasion in Inner City Neighborhoods

I haven’t been reporting much election news here, but this was so appaling I had to post it. John McCain has been proposing military tactics to “clamp down” on crime in inner city neighborhoods.

See the story and hear the audio here

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More Than Just Stopping the Locusts

Check out this hot docu-music-video made by some talented Detroit mediamakers for Invincible and Finale’s track “Locusts.” You can find it on Invincible’s first full-release album, available on the Emergence music website.

I particularly like the parts in the video showing the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization housing takeovers and Detroit youth talking about their visions for their city and what they would do with the empty structures and lots.

There’s also a segment where Mike Wimberley is walking down Forest Ave on the East side, showing the open air markets and performance spaces they built to encourage independent business, local commerce, and community culture. There is a peace zone in the same neighborhood where people can go to work out their problems as a way to combat the violence that is so abundant in a city with one of the highest murder rates in the country.

These are all good ideas that promote a sense of community and healing for people in a city that has been pushed to the brink of implosion by capitalism. The docu-music-video is an inspiring piece; the track offers good analysis and promotes a spirit of struggle and resistance, and the visuals are really powerful.

But how do we translate these ideas into action that will bring us closer to systemic change? What further organizing strategies are being presented to transform the city on more than just a neighborhood level (or on the neighborhood level; who is organizing the markets and who is being outreached to? Who is using the peace zone? What strategies are being used to mediate conflict? What are the solutions coming out of these sessions to solve the problems that people bring there that are alternative to violence?) I really jive with the ideas that are being presented here, and like I said, the youth talking about their plans for taking over empty lots and spaces is really fantastic. But what’s the strategy to get the building into the youth’s hands? And how does that fit into a bigger strategy of taking control of the city at large so that people who are taking over empty houses (like with the MWRO) are not eventually forced out by the city/police?

Is there a strategy for that?

I want to know more.

I’m struggling with bigger picture organizing strategies these days and wanting to know the next steps. As a teacher, I do everything I can to create a safe, positive, environment where real learning can take place; I’m working to prepare my students for a pretty hostile world. Good things happen there. But after they leave school, they are going to a place that does not mirror what we have created in class. Unsafe neighborhoods and/or project housing, profiling by the police, lack of funds to further their education once they graduate, and a lack of work that will feed them, pay their rent, and fulfill them as human beings are all problems that need to be dressed on a larger level than what we can accomplish as a small band of 40 or so people.

So I pose this question to Detroiters (who I have learned so much from and give me energy and hope whenever I’m here) and everyone else: What next? Where do we go from here and how will these tactics that are being used going to create the revolutionary change on a broad scale that we will need for survival and human evolution?

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