Empire Mine State Park

There was an arson arrest made related to the fire that broke out near my house and my mother’s house. We live in the foothills of Northern California and fire is a very real danger here.

We are still watching the details of the fire, as it is still an active incident.  We are still prepared to evacuate.  With regard to the arsonist, I’m very sad that someone set fire to our neighborhood and Empire Mine State Park. I say this as I listen to more sirens drive by.

Empire Mine has been my morning walk and my happy place for the past three years. It is my community park.  It is my place of nature and peace. I have hiked every trail more than once. More than twice. More than ten times.

Empire Mine State Park is the place where I get my steps. It is the place where I listen to Mozart or Joni Mitchell or Eminem, depending on my mood. It is the place I take friends and family to show off the beauty of my neighborhood. I have met humans and dogs there. I have met squirrels and lizards and deer. I smile every time I pass by a fern or a wild flower or an interesting leaf.  I have watched trees grow there. I have marveled at the colors in the park.  Lately, I have loved the green and the yellow and the crimson.

I took my mom for the first time last week.  We walked from Penn Gate (an entrance mostly used by locals and horse riders) to the visitor’s center.  I gave her the three-penny tour and told her that I’d show her the rest of the park in the coming weeks.

Right now, I don’t know how much of the park is left.

There is a bridge in the park that my wife and I cross on a regular basis. I usually make her stop and kiss me when we cross the bridge.

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It smells like pine and dust and grease and something like linseed oil.  It smells a lot like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  We cross it every time we walk through Empire Mine State Park. I’m not sure right now if it is still standing.

This year, in the spring, at the back of the park, my wife and I paused to watch bumble bees going wild amongst the sage. There were purple flowers for days and an incredible buzzing. It was so alive. Yesterday, as I walked through that part of the park, I caught a whiff of the sage drying in the autumn heat and I smiled for the changing of the seasons.

I still don’t know the extent of the damage but my heart breaks. My heart breaks about the fire and it breaks that someone could have been so careless or mentally ill or downtrodden or desperate to unleash such an expense on a community.

I don’t know enough of the details to be mad or vengeful or heated. I don’t know that any details will ever make me feel mad or vengeful or heated.

I feel sad. I feel really sad right now. And, based on the initial reports about damage, I’m probably going to feel sad for a really, really long time.

I have taken pictures almost every day for the last year. This is my park.  This is my heart.  This is my place.

Pictures:

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*If you feel inclined to do something, please donate to Yubanet.com, our local fire-safety website. ($2 is fine. $200 is nice too. Donate what you can. There is no auto-renew and no additional obligation.) Yubanet has kept so many people aware and safe in times of devastation. The site in run by an incredible person and is the go-to communication when it comes to fire danger: http://yubanet.com/subscriptions/

Best Girlfriends

I keep seeing annoying articles about how having best girlfriends will help a woman live longer. The posts are usually accompanied by a picture of a group of women in tiny outfits with drinks in their hands.

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My best girlfriends and I don’t live as close together as we once did. We aren’t as skinny as we once were. We don’t get to see each other as often as we would like. We don’t wear maxi dresses. We don’t post pictures on Facebook or Instagram of us going out with our nails painted. We don’t visit L.A., New York, or Las Vegas. We have rarely gone on any vacations together in our adult lives.

My best girlfriends and I have been friends for more than 20 years. My best girlfriends are my people. They are my heart. My best girlfriends and I love each other. We look out for each other. We worry about each other. We talk to each other. We talk about each other. All of us would go to battle for one another in a heartbeat, even if we knew ahead of time that we would face defeat. We are sisters and that’s infallible.

Also, we are adults. My best girlfriends and I, for the most part, grew up together. But mostly, we grew up.

We have jobs. We have hobbies. We have classes. We have debts. We have to pay our rent or our mortgages. We have to pay our bills.

Some of us have children and we have to think about childcare or babysitting. Some of us have husbands or wives and we consider our partners in our plans. Some of us are dating. Some of us have more than one job or more than two jobs or more than three jobs. Some of us are struggling with money or depression or both.

Some of us have lost family members. Some of us have aging parents. Some of us have family members who are struggling and take up our time. Some of us live paycheck to paycheck and are trying to get by.  Some of us are working on our Master’s Degree. Some of us would rather work in the garden than check email. We all have different lives.

For the last six months I have tried to make plans with my best friends. Sometimes the plans work out.  Most of the time something comes up and we have to reschedule.

Never once have I wondered if my best friends have forgotten me. I don’t need a trip to Vegas or a fancy manicure or a medical study or a cheesy stock photo to give credence to a relationship that is obviously sustaining and precious.

I love my best girlfriends. I know that regardless of what life brings us, we will always have each other.

If having best girlfriends will help a woman live longer, I’m excited to live forever.

Pulse

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I was 18 years old in 1998 when two men tied Matthew Shepard to a fence and beat him to death.

I had just finished high school.

I had spent most of my high school career trying to convince the principal to allow a gay-straight alliance club on campus.

We were told that our club wasn’t in line with the values of the school.

It wasn’t in line with the pulse of education.

 

I was 12 years old when I had my first “family life” class.

I was taught about menstruation and relationships and sex.

Relationships were between one man and one women.

I remember my face turning red and my pulse quickening.

I was five years old when I kissed my best friend on the lips and told her that I loved her.

 

I was 19 years old when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed 13 people at Columbine High School.

I watched the news in my parent’s bedroom with the covers pulled up to my chin.

I wished then that I would never again see something so awful.

That was 17 years ago.

That was too many lives ago.

 

I was 21 years old on September 11th 2001.

I heard the news on the radio on my way to my community college.

We cried and sent confused glances at each other in the parking lot.

I had a test in my philosophy class that morning.

We were 60 kids filling out scantrons, trying to make sense of the world.

Nothing was the same after that.

 

I was 22 years old when I went to college at UC Davis.

The pulse of the world had changed.

Between classes, we protested the war.

Between classes we protested rape.

Between classes, we protested the military-industrial complex.

In 2003 we protested Lt. John Pike who was sued for gay-bashing one of his fellow members of the force.

Eight years later Lt. Pike became famous for brutally pepper spraying students for protesting.

 

I was 28 years old when Prop 8 passed.

I had protested that too.

And I had been spat on and chased and followed and terrorized.

Prop 8 gave a legitimacy to haters and bigots.

They felt empowered by policy.

We learned to take different routes home if we were walking, just in case.

 

I was 16 years old when I understood that I was queer.

I knew I was different and I knew that it mattered.

My mother had read my diary.

She told me to pretend that I was straight.

Not for social graces.  But for my own safety.

 

I was 33 years old when I married the love of my life.

We got married in Disneyland.

Our families were there.

We exchanged vows and rings.

We rode the train and it roared like the pulse of our heartbeats.

She wore a tux.  I wore a dress.

We ate red velvet cupcakes.

It was the best day of my life.

We still check our surroundings when we hold hands in public.

 

 

 

I’m 36 years old now.

And I feel like I have spent most of my life either grieving or living in fear.

This isn’t the world I had expected.

This isn’t the world I was promised.

This isn’t the world I had wanted.

I don’t want a world where people are shot for being gay.

I don’t want a world where people are shot.

 

We have to stop telling our children that it gets better until it is actually going to get better.

It has not gotten better.

 

I want to believe that love conquers all.

It’s just that love is a verb, an action word,

And without action, love does nothing.

 

We must be active in policy making

We must be active in peace making.

We must be active when we see injustice.

We must take action.

We must change the pulse of society.

 

 

 

 

My Top 20 Favorite Albums

My Top 20 Favorite albums:

(In no particular order and with a few addendums.)

 

Ophelia by Natalie Merchant

The Stranger by Billy Joel

Little Earth Quakes by Tori Amos

Falling Fast Awake by Joshua Macrae

Various Positions by Leonard Cohen

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie

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Faith by George Michael

The Concert in Central Park by Simon and Garfunkel

Closing Time by Tom Waits

Kid A by Radiohead

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The Story by Brandi Carlile

All the Way by MaMuse

Ani Difranco’s entire discography.  (I couldn’t pick just one. #sorrynotsorry)

Hallelujah World by Jacob Golden

The Trainspotting Soundtrack

The Joshua Tree by U2

Graceland by Paul Simon

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Bird on a Wire: The Songs of Leonard Cohen by Perla Batella (This is a cover album but what Perla Batella does with the music merits its own mention. Unbelievable.)

Live in London 1976 by John Denver (But with a caveat that I‘m adding the song “For You” which is not on this album.)

The Free to Be You and Me Soundtrack (Because I grew up with it and because I didn’t have anything else with Michael Jackson on it and because it’s perfect. Mel Brooks, Harry Belafonte, Carol Channing, Diana Ross, Alan Alda, Marlo Thomas, Roberta Flack and more.  I mean, c’mon.)

Enough Enough Enough

Today, a lot of my friends on Facebook circulated the video of Ellen’s monologue from her talk show condemning new discriminatory legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi.  At first, I didn’t watch the video.  I had already seen so many comments from my friends and from several activists.  I read the legislation and I know what it means for LGTBQ people in North Carolina and Mississippi. It means that they would be safer if they moved out of state. There’s a scene from the movie, Milk, that keeps playing over and over in my mind:

I love Ellen.  I love her show.  I admire her trailblazing.  I adore her for what she has done for women in comedy.  I will forever be grateful for her role in LGBTQ visibility and progress.  There is no doubt that she sacrificed her career and personal well-being when she came out publicly.  What she has done for LGBTQ people is nothing short of revolutionary.  I appreciate everything that she has historically put on the line for the LGBTQ movement.

That said, I thought her commentary about recent legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi was frivolous and insensitive.

We are past the point of cute jokes and ha-ha interludes. They belittle the argument about human rights. From the perspective of a queer person, from someone who has also experienced discrimination for being a lesbian, I thought that Ellen’s monologue was weak. Since North Carolina’s discriminatory law passed, at least two LGBTQ people have committed suicide, citing injustice and a lack of protection. We will see the same in Mississippi. Children and friends are dying, literally dying, because of these laws. There is no room for joking.

For some people within the LGBTQ community, it is easy to feel tired about the the fact that we are still fighting. On many days, I feel tired.  The privileged, passing, white, middle-class part of me, feels tired.  Because the privileged, passing, white, middle-class part of me can, for the most part, live in peace.

Recent legislation in the south is a stark indication that we are not yet out the weeds on the issue of human rights for LGBTQ people.  This is especially true when it comes to particular cross sections of the LGBTQ community–transgender people, people of color, young people, and poor members of our community.

It is not okay to make light of recent discriminatory laws enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi.  It’s not okay to use a mass media platform to joke about spelling or references to musical groups in the context of discrimination, suicide, and hate.

There are many of us in the LGBTQ community who have seen incredible progress in the last decade.  We have seen incredible victories.  Let us not forget that in more than half the states in the union it is completely legal to be fired from a job for no reason other than one’s sexual orientation. Essentially, in more than 27 states, it is perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay.  In many states, an LGBTQ orientation can lawfully get you kicked out of a restaurant or refused service from a retail store.

The elders of the LGBTQ community in the United States have worked loudly, smartly, and diligently for years to gain the equal rights and protections that so many of the LGBTQ community enjoy today.  There has been incredible progress.  But, to be fair, the LGBTQ community didn’t earn “equal rights” because our small percent of the population was loud enough to make it happen.  The LGBTQ community was granted marriage equality and a smattering of other equal protections because there were several communities, including privileged and straight allies, who came to the table and demanded equal protection. Marriage equality and other protections happened for the gay community, not because we were here and queer, but because we worked for it and because we had help.

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There are still many people in the LGBTQ community working and there are still many people within the community who need help.  Not all of us live in big cities.  Not all of us have financial resources.  Not all of us are white.  There are many people who live under the LGBTQ umbrella and who live in places with laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation. There are many people who face discrimination even when the law is supposed to protect them.

Right now North Carolina and Mississippi are the most glaring cases because they are current and have been in the news.  However, there are people all over our country living in fear.  Subtle discrimination can be just as dehumanizing as lawful and overt discrimination.

When a state passes legislation that puts an entire population of people at risk, it is no time for making jokes.  There is nothing light or funny about the lawful marginalization of people.  It is up to those of us who live in places of privilege, or who come from places of privilege, to stick our necks out for those who are hurting the most.  It is the only way that justice can be realized.

 

Just Be Nicer

Last Tuesday morning I pulled into the parking lot of my local veterinarian’s office to pick up some flea medicine and dry food for my cats.  Some guy had backed his large pickup truck into the parking lot.  His truck was parked slightly slanted, with the bed of the truck facing the door to the vet’s office.  The truck was taking up residence in more than one of the parking spaces.  I decided to pull up next to the truck and park as straight and as close as possible just to make a point about what good parking looks like.

I went in and paid for my cat food and flea medicine.  I talked to the folks behind the counter for a while.  I was there for about ten minutes and then left to get back in my car.

As I loaded my bag of cat food into my back seat, the owner of the pickup truck came out.  He was a big guy in jeans and a flannel shirt.  He had a head full of messy blond hair and a pair of tough looking boots on his feet.  He ran up to the gate of his truck and pulled it down quickly.  He stood next to the bed of his truck and looked back toward the vet’s office expectantly.  His face was pink and his eyes were red.

I quietly realized that he had been crying.

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The door to the vet’s office opened and a small family of people came out together carrying a dog bed like a stretcher, heavy and woolen.  The bed was filled with a golden-colored lifeless dog.  Each of the grievers had tear-stained faces and puffy eyes.  I realized that one of the people in the party was our regular vet, also with a tear-stained face.

The family and our vet lifted the dog into the back of the truck.  I heard a few of their exchanges.  They planned to bury the dog in their yard, next to the other animals that the dog had spent his life with—a cat, a few goats, and a bunny.  I watched the man with the boots hop down from the bed of his truck and put his arm around a young girl that was probably his daughter.  She tucked her face into his chest and started to sob.  The man with the boots followed suit, unabashedly crying into her hair.

I felt like a voyeur as I put my car in reverse.  The man and the girl continued to cry.

The man who parked like an asshole, wasn’t an asshole.  He was probably just trying to save his dog’s life.  He probably pulled into the parking lot with his family, the family dog in a fit of emergency.  All of them were probably hoping for a miracle.  Or course the man driving didn’t make it into the lines of his parking space.  It just wasn’t important.

We don’t always know what people are dealing with.

It was unfortunate for me to think that someone had just casually pulled into my veterinarian’s office with no concept of parking spaces.  That wasn’t it at all.  A man and his family were about to lose their family dog and they parked in the best way that they could manage.

We don’t always know what’s going on for people.  We don’t always know what has happened. We are often quick to judge.

Maybe we should just be nicer.

Weight

I’m the fattest I have ever been.  Or, more precisely, I am four pounds lighter than the fattest I have ever been because I started dieting nine days ago.

There is something about dieting that makes me feel hyper-sensitive about the way I look.  It’s as though, through the act of dieting, I am constantly acknowledging that I am unhappy with my body and current appearance.  It’s something that I am constantly fighting.

My weight has fluctuated my entire life.  I was a chubby kid in middle school, skinny in high school, and then chubby again in college.  I weighed 185 pounds when I was 25 years old and then lost 60 pounds to weigh 125 by my 26th birthday.  I gained most of that back, then lost it again, then gained it back again, this time with several extra pounds.

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I am generally a very happy person and my current body mass isn’t something that depresses me. I have friends who love me. I feel fairly healthy and strong. I have a very happy and healthy relationship with my partner. I enjoy outdoor activities and like to go hiking. But right now I feel really uncomfortable in my body.  I enjoyed running when it was something that didn’t hurt my knees.  I miss being able to wear skirts and dresses without my thighs rubbing uncomfortably together.

I’ve learned to be happy at the weight I’m at.  It has taken a lot of practice but I’ve decided to love the body I live in because it is the only one I have. And because, when I look back on all the times I was unhappy with my weight or appearance, I find that now, when I look at pictures or think about it, I was completely beautiful.

If I could go back and tell my past-self one thing it would be to feel happy in my body—no matter what size.  Because even at my fittest and strongest, I was still miserable and critical.  I never felt beautiful in high school, even though I was.  I never felt pretty in my 20s, even though I was quite stunning.

Most women are incredibly critical of themselves. We receive messages almost from birth.  We are always too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too pale, too dark, or too something. When I was in high school and weighed 115 pounds I used to think I was “fat”.  Even when I was running 7 miles each day to train to climb Mt. Whitney, I never thought my body was good enough.

This is the first time that I have started a diet at a time when I actually think my body is beautiful.  It has taken constant vigilance on my part to not fall into the trap of hating myself because I am “over-weight” or not at a standard of beauty that society expects from me.  I have to constantly remind myself that I am dieting for myself and not to conform to something.

I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin again. And I want to love myself on the journey.

Dear Bernie and Hillary Supporters

I love you.  I love your fucking conviction.  I love your gumption.  I love your incredible badass, unapologetic approach to the 2016 election.  I love everything you stand for.  All of you.  (I’m having a hard time with your Facebook posts though.  Just sayin.)

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The Democratic Party has TWO incredible candidates this election season. TWO. Two trend-setting, status-quo-breaking, qualified, smart, incredible candidates. Two! The Democratic Party has two fucking unbelievable human beings who actually have the qualifications, the record, and the vision to help the middle and lower classes in this country to lessen the wage gap, create jobs, manage health care, and go forward with a living wage as a standard.  The Democratic Party is committed to reforming policies to help students, to reduce student loan debt, and to make college affordable.  Both Hillary and Bernie want to ensure benefits for people on Social Security now and into the future. Both Bernie and Hillary are working to foster relationships with others to set America and its allies on course for productive international relations.  Both Hillary and Bernie have a record of success and integrity.

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The Democratic Party is fucking KILLING IT RIGHT NOW.  Hillary Clinton could be the first woman president and has a list of qualifications that make both FDR and Dwight Eisenhower look like amateurs.  That is fucking amazing.  Bernie Sanders has a democratic socialist agenda.  His policies are cutting-edge and completely legit.  That is fucking amazing too.

Neither Hillary nor Bernie have tweeted things like:

Or:

I’m voting based on record and I am voting based on policy.  I have thought long and hard about it.  I have researched the candidates and I am absolutely solid.  I cannot wait to cast my ballot. (Spoiler alert: I’m voting for either Hillary or Bernie!! I just fucking love those two!)

I don’t know about the rest of you but I am so FUCKING EXCITED TO VOTE!!!!!!  I cannot wait to go to the polls and mark my ballot for my chosen candidate.

AND COME NOVEMBER, IF I HAVE TO VOTE FOR THE OTHER CANDIDATE, THAT IS FUCKING AWESOME TOO!!!!!!!  WOOT!!!!!!!!!

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The Art Hotel

Sacramento has changed a lot in five years.  One of my favorite old art galleries is now a coworking space.  Some of the older buildings are either boarded up or in the process of being torn down.  There are new trendy cafes and restaurants.  Some of the restaurants have moved or have gone out of business.  There aren’t as many cats sitting on porches as there used to be.

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I stopped by an art installation today at the random suggestion of an old friend on Facebook.  Her post said, “Pictures don’t do the experience justice. Just go. Before 2/13 when it will all be torn down.”  The pictures didn’t do it justice.  But the location was on the way to The Crocker Art Museum which is where I was headed anyway.

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The installation is called The Art Hotel and it takes place inside an historic building known as The Marshall Hotel.  The Marshall Hotel has been a point of contention for Sacramento residents for years. It was known as a slum but for many Sacramento residents who suffered through the worst of the housing crisis, the Marshall Hotel was something of a beacon of hope and refuge.  It contained small, affordable, studio apartments and housed some of Sacramento’s long-time residents.  The residents of the building were evicted last year and the building is set for demolition later this month so it can be replaced by an upscale Hyatt Hotel adjacent to the new arena.

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Sacramento, like a lot of Northern California cities, is suffering from an identity crisis created by gentrification in the name of economic growth. It is sacrificing the cool for the trendy, the affordability for the temporary, the stable for the possibilities, the people for the corporations, and the art for the new.  I just hope it doesn’t lose all of what makes it awesome.  After visiting The Art Hotel, I still have hope for Sacramento and for what’s to come.

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The Art Hotel, located until February 13th at 7th Street between K and L in Sacramento is a temporary art installation and possibly one of the most important art pieces of our lifetime and particularly the most important art installation that has ever graced Sacramento’s stage.  (I’m not an art critic and this is merely conjecture.)  Sacramento needs The Art Hotel and all of Sacramento should wait as long as they have to in order to see it.

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What is taking place at The Art Hotel in Sacramento speaks volumes to an overall trend in economics in cities and communities all across America.  I came to the installation blindly.  I learned later that there had been a kickstarter campaign and a handful of art-loving donors who had helped to make the art happen.  From my outsider perspective, a group of artists converted what had once been the homes of many, many low-income people, into a statement about what happens when we evict the artists, the elderly, the down-trodden, the poor, the mentally ill, the disabled , the addicted, and the general diversity of a community in need.  Maybe the artists weren’t trying to be that involved in a message.  Maybe it’s just art for art’s sake.  Either way it’s really good.  Quite simply, it’s revolutionary.

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I started my morning in the car driving down from the foothills listening to a report about the all-time high rates for renters in America and the lack of affordable housing both in cities and in rural areas across the United States.  I moved to midtown Sacramento in 2002 because it was affordable at the time.  I bought my first house in east Sacramento and lost it in the 2008 housing crisis.  I moved back to midtown after less than three years as a home-owner and back into affordable apartment living.  My last apartment in midtown was a studio for $700/month.  It was little but it was cute and I was happy living there.  The same place would now cost me $1,300/month, according to a recent Craig’s list ad.

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As we continue to let the divide between the rich and the poor deepen, we continue to allow the gap between the valuable and necessary widen.

The Art Hotel is temporary.  The art there has a time limit.  It exists in a building slated to be demolished and there is no chance of saving it. In a year the The Art Hotel will be forgotten and the space will be filled with cell-phone talking executives waiting to go to a sporting event. That’s a part of why The Art Hotel is so important. It speaks volumes to how we go forward with art.  It speaks volumes to how we treat our cities and how we develop our communities. There is no saving the art in The Art Hotel.  The people who lived there are already gone.  There is only going forward.

Hotels are valuable.  Art is necessary.

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How We Grieve in the 21st Century: Grief, Death, and Pop Culture

“When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

-William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

 

The first weeks of 2016 have been heartbreaking for anyone who cares, even peripherally, about art, creation, and trend-setting.  We are 30 days into 2016 and things are looking very grim for this calendar year.  We still have eleven months left to contend with, plus an extra day because 2016 is a leap year.

Francisco X. Alarcon died a couple weeks ago.  His was the third reverberating and heart-wrenching death for me in what has been a very short year so far.  He was a poet and a very nice man.  His death came after a few weeks of bad news and at a time when I didn’t think things could get worse.  Since I started working on this piece, there have been more names to add, like Glenn Frey.

I am 35 years old and I find myself trying to be very brave these days. I’m trying to be okay with the next new experience, in the same way I had to be brave when I was a little girl starting kindergarten.  I’m finding that I’m not very good at being brave.

When I posted my hopes for 2016, I was very clear.  I didn’t realize that, four weeks later, several of the people I consider dear friends would be gone.

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When my grandfather died three years ago, his youngest daughter, my Aunt, emailed the family to let us know he was gone.  Given the circumstances, it was probably the best form of communication.  He was 93 years old and had been ailing for some time.  We knew the hours were few and we knew that she had gone to say goodbye.  The email came across around dinner time.  I didn’t make any calls.  I didn’t reach out.  I responded to my aunt’s email and copied the family members that had been included in the original email.

I wrote, “Thank you.  I love you all very much.”

I had been throttled at the moment I received the email, even though I knew that news of my grandfather’s death was inevitable and on its way.  Still, I felt crumpled and paper-thin.  I just wanted to curl into ball. And yet, I didn’t call my cousins.  I didn’t even call my mother. I just suffered in the silence of incredible and private mourning.  I might have made myself tea.  I might have crawled into bed with my grief.  I don’t honestly remember what I said to my wife at that moment, who had never met grandfather.  I remember feeling so helpless and sad.  But I also remember doing absolutely nothing.  I remember not understanding what to do.  I remember that nothing felt somehow reasonable.

 

When David Bowie died, I had been up late writing.  I had put my phone on silent and had shut down all access to the internet.  When I laid down to go to sleep, I pulled up the browser on my phone to look something up and I saw the news of Bowie’s passing on my Facebook feed.  I shook my wife awake and told her what had happened. It seemed okay to wake her. I was sad and the person who had died was famous. She was still half-asleep and didn’t totally understand.  She could tell I was upset and put her arms around me.  I immediately felt bad for waking her because she had to get up for work just a few hours later.

After she had fallen back to sleep, I untangled myself from her arms and got out of bed to put myself in front of my computer to write my Bowie Heartbreak Blog.

At around two in the morning I saw that one of my dearest friends posted something on Facebook about Bowie’s passing. I sent her a text message at 2:23am that said, “I’m still up. If you just need to cry about it. Because I kind of need that too.”  The phone rang within seconds.

My friend and I spent the next two hours on the phone sobbing honestly and horrifically about David Bowie’s death.  We didn’t hold anything back.  We cried.  We cried loudly.  We cried ugly.  We coughed and choked between crying.  We said things about god and the universe that we didn’t mean.  We said things about music.  We talked about justice.  We concluded that the world is horrible and unfair.

It was honest and exhausting and I couldn’t get out of bed the next day.

Four days later, after I had started to recover a bit, after I had decided to put on a brave face, I awoke to a group text message between friends who had waited in line for Harry Potter’s Book 7. “Alan Rickman died. My heart hurts.”

I immediately fell back into a child-like and socially-unacceptable petulance.  Famous people, iconic people had died.  I was sad.  Several other people were also sad.  I sat awake in bed holding my copy of The Half-Blood Prince.

 

My generation may be the first generation where so much of our culture and familial identity is fiction.  And yet, our fiction is so vast and stretching that it is indeed real and tangible, soul crushing and penetrating.

If I try to say to a coworker, “My grandfather died.” I’m likely to be met with something like, “Dude that sucks.”  It’s an understanding but it’s a calculated response.

But if I say, “David Bowie died,” my friends and acquaintances might actually understand what I’m saying.  They might actually accept that what I’m expressing is about grieving and common interests, and human intersection.  Because that’s what pop culture is.  Popular and Cultural.  Meaning, all of us feel it and noticed its merit.  Even if weird. Or different. Or incomprehensible at the time.

It’s really hard for me to admit that my heart is broken and that I’m still hurting.  I don’t think of myself as star struck.

But, as we lose so many incredible people whose talents have touched us so wholly, I realize that my generation may be the first generation growing up in the way that I grew up.  My generation may be the first generation where so much of our culture is vast and stretching yet real and tangible, soul crushing and penetrating.  We have so much love for our well-known heroes.

 

But when it comes to our closest people, when it comes to those that matter so much, we have no protocol.  We have very little support.

grandma and grandpa

I wish I could look at random strangers with tears in my eyes and say, “My grandpa, Doc Morasch, was an amazing man and I miss him very much.”  And I wish that, in response, those strangers would put their arms around me and say, “I know.  He was a great man and great grandfather.  He played a mean clarinet and his sandwiches were out of this world.” I wish that were real.  I wish that every person who felt grief for someone they love could feel that kind of honest connection and response.

And I think that our connection for our fallen pop soldiers is our way of translating our grief. It‘s our way of making sense of something we need desperately.   If I say to friend that, “’Five years’ on vinyl was brilliant,” and they say, “I know.” It means we somehow understand each other.  It means that we have love in common.

We need to know that the people we love mattered.  And we all need to know that our love in this world matters.  Maybe our collective grief for our artists and heroes is our way of knowing.