June 26 2015

It is 11:59pm. If I had to pick a single day to live over and over and over again, today would easily be listed in my top three, maybe in my top two.

 

This morning, I awoke just after 8am in Grass Valley, California, Pacific Standard Time. I was afraid to pick up my smart phone. I was afraid look at my Facebook Feed. I awoke in a haze from a night of staying up too late and worrying.

I went to bed just after 11:30pm on June 25th. The last thing I posted on social media was, “Tomorrow may be one of the most important days of my life, and for many of the lives of people I love. Tomorrow, the Supreme Court may be handing down a decision about Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that may decide Marriage Equality for the entire country. Having lived through Prop 8, every bone in my body is on edge and every tear in my soul is ready to move. Hold us gay people in your hearts. We need it tonight.” I tossed and turned for the next few hours waiting to find sleep.

I knew that when I looked at my phone this morning I would need to prepare for one of two things: We were going to march or we were going celebrate. I wasn’t prepared for what followed.

One of the first pictures I saw was of my friends Nicola and Diana. It was the picture they took, all dressed in white, just after they were told that they could no longer apply for a marriage license in California. They were in tears. It was seven years ago. It was next to a post that announced that the Supreme Court had made a decision to uphold the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Gay people could marry in all 50 states.

I immediately lost my shit.

My wife, sleeping next to me, awoke to me whimpering, tears streaming down my face. She stretched like she was about to roll over for snuggles and then saw my face and immediately sat up.

She went to bed early the night before so I didn’t get to tell her about the impending decision. She sat up and asked me what was wrong.

That’s when I started ugly crying and handed her my phone full of rainbows.

“The Supreme Court made a decision.” I managed. “Everyone can get married.” I sobbed.

My wife and I spent the next hour in bed looking at our social media feeds, sharing stories and anecdotes. We looked at pictures and quips. We looked at old photos of protests we had attended together. We looked at the news about people getting married. We forgot about coffee. We laughed and cried. Our cats looked up at us like we were crazy.

 

We eventually got up and happily did chores. I watered the plants in the garden and my wife went to pick up the mail from the post office. She bought us coffee.

We woke up our nieces, who have been staying with us for the summer, and told them the good news. They jumped up and hugged us. Then we made them do chores and help us clean the floors. Sometimes, even on the best days, life is still life.

After chores we headed into town.

 

We scheduled a field trip for the nieces. We scheduled a private tour of a local brewery in town. It included lunch and we were excited to show our nieces the science of fermentation. Beer-making is very chemistry-based and the process has very accessible applications that young people understand. (They did not drink beer.) I’m not entirely sure that the nieces were entertained by the brewing lesson but they were happy for lunch afterward. We had two kinds of pizza, a plate of olives, and a brownie for dessert.

We spent the afternoon shopping in Nevada City. We went into a few clothing stores, some specialty stores, a science store, and a toy store. After an afternoon of shopping, my nieces and I decided on an R2D2 model, a sticker book of Disney Stickers, and a book of Star Wars Mad Libs.

We finished the afternoon with ice cream cones.

 

When we got home I took a nap with our cats and my wife hosted arts and crafts hour with the girls. They made gift boxes out of old newspapers and takeout cartons.

My wife woke me up from my nap and we prepared to head out for an evening concert. We had tickets to see Randy Newman outdoors at the beautiful Nevada County Fairgrounds. We played Uno until Randy Newman took the stage. I lost at Uno. Randy Newman was great and his songs were beautiful. The evening was warm and the sky was filled with stars.

After the concert, the nieces decided that we needed to make a trip to the store for crayons and coloring books. We went to an all-night drug store and picked up coloring books and crayons. We also found Otter Pops, a delightful frozen treat from the 1980s.

When we got home, we sat and colored. We sat and colored as a family until the last minute of the day.

Terrorism, Racism, and the Bullshit We Tell Ourselves

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”        -Desmond Tutu

In March of 2003 I remember staring at my television in disbelief. I kept flipping through the major news channels in hopes that something would change. One of the major news stations had a countdown clock ticking off the seconds of George W. Bush’s ultimatum to Saddam Hussein; Saddam and his sons were to leave their country by a certain time or the United States would invade Iraq. 57, 56, 55, 54… The clock counted down.

When the clock got to zero I turned white and collapsed to the floor. I felt frantic. I laid on the wooden floor of my Sacramento apartment and sobbed. I cried like a child who couldn’t find her blanket. I wailed and gulped between gasps for breath. Looking back, it seems a reasonable reaction. We were at war.

The protests lasted for months. The coverage of the protests lasted for a few days. I still have the sign that I carried as a testament to the anti-war effort.

In the months that followed, our country pretended that we weren’t at war. Less than two months after the countdown, on May 1st, 2003, George W. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and declared “Mission Accomplished.” It was an incredible lie and a ridiculous sham. There are still American soldiers in Iraq today, more than a decade later.

confederate flag

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”      -Soren Kierkegaard

We tell ourselves a lot of stories. We are great at telling stories. America is famous for its stories. We invented the Hollywood picture, the Animated Feature, and the Broadway Musical. Our stories may be what make us quintessentially American.

Many of our stories make us great. In many ways, stories can make us feel human. They bind us with universal narratives and colorful language. Stories can give us give us comfort in our skin and validation to our souls.

But stories can also painfully mislead us.

For too long in this country we have made our stories a reality.  We have pretended so many things in order to get by.

We have pretended that our elected officials have had our best interests in mind. We have pretended that our mainstream media is a reasonable source of unbiased information. We have pretended that processed foods aren’t making us sick. We have pretended that the Star Wars prequels didn’t totally suck.

Some of the lies we have continued to tell ourselves are harmless. Many of the lies we tell ourselves in this country are killing innocent people.

We have to stop lying. We have to stop lying to ourselves and others. We have to stop pretending that the “War on Terrorism” isn’t racist. And we have to stop pretending that the long history of racism in this country is something of the past.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”         –Proverbs 12:18

I watched a lot of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show during the early years of the Iraq War. It was the only thing that kept me sane. I know that there is a line to be drawn between the unnamed war that we are fighting in this country against people of color and the many wars we think that we understand abroad. I haven’t been able to form a sentence with regard to what happened in South Carolina. So, instead, I’ll share with you some of Jon Stewart’s observations:

“What blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think that people who are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves. If this had been what we thought was Islamic Terrorism, it would have fit into our… We invaded two countries and spent trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives and now fly unmanned death machines over five or six different countries…all to keep Americans safe. We’ve got to do whatever we can. We’ll torture people. We’ve got to do whatever we can to keep Americans safe. Nine people shot in a church? What about that?

“This is a terrorist attack. This is a violent attack on the Emmanuel Church of South Carolina, which is a symbol for the black community. It has stood in that part of Charleston for 100+ years. It has been attacked viciously many times as many black churches have, and to pretend…I heard someone on the news saying, “Tragedy has visited this church.” This wasn’t a tornado. This was racist. This [incident] was black and white. There is no nuance here…

“Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them, who wanted to start some kind of civil war. The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals, and the white guy’s the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him. We’re bringing it on ourselves. And that’s the thing. Al-Qaeda, all those guys, ISIS, they’re not shit compared to the damage that we can apparently do to ourselves on a regular basis.”

We have to stop. We have to stop lying. We have to stop lying to ourselves about the reality of this country. We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to be honest with each other. We have to be honest so that we can start doing something. We have to start doing something.

We have to start doing something.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”  –Howard Zinn

What do you say at a moment like this? There are no words.

So don’t use words. Use actions. Use acts of kindness. Use acts of kindness that are so significant they change the status quo.

Take The Day Off

Today was as good as being on vacation. I decided to leave work early today because A) things at work are going really well and because B) I wanted to. I spent the morning buying supplies for work, including toilet paper and a new answering machine. When I got into the office, I put the supplies on the shelf and made sure that everyone knew we had plenty of coffee. After 45 minutes, I decided to leave. I was done for the day. I had returned phone calls, responded to email, and paid invoices. It was a beautiful day and there was no reason to stay at work.

IMG_5457

It’s good to take time off. This has been a philosophy of mine since I was probably about 16 and it was a personal philosophy that I solidified in my 20s. Just ask my friend Josh. He was my manager when I worked in a coffee shop in my early 20s and I called in one morning to tell him that I couldn’t come into work because “it was too nice of a day.” I got my shift covered and I took the day off. I cannot recommend this enough.

I skipped a lot of class in high school. I spent four years in community college because I didn’t always show up for class. I didn’t get great grades when I transferred to a University. I graduated though. (Both high school and UC Davis.) I don’t regret skipping school at all. (If my nieces are reading this, please take note that I graduated. Key thing.) But sometimes you just need a break.

When I skipped school in high school and college, it was never to smoke weed behind the bleachers or to make out with a boy or girl. My friends and I almost never got drunk and, if we did, we designated a driver or stayed the night. My friends and I were forever nerdy and we usually did nerdy things. We hiked in Mt. Diablo State Park. Our favorite spot was the Black Diamond Mine Cemetery. We occasionally left to get lunch at the good burrito place. Sometimes we just sang songs in one of our friend’s cars. My best friend, Liz, and I would sometimes take public transportation all the way to San Francisco and hang out in Buena Vista Park on Haight Street to people watch. On my 18th birthday, I skipped school and went to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley with my Best Gay Boyfriend; I got a tattoo on my tummy, close to my left hip. (It was meaningful and something that would apply to me forever and I still love it.)

Actually. Maybe we weren’t that nerdy. I was in the drama club and choir but the things I did in high school sound kinda cool. Maybe I was sortof, kindof cool growing up. Either way, I have no regrets.

“It is not the things I have done that I regret. It is the things I didn’t do.” Thanks to the internet, this quote has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to the Butthole Surfers. Whoever said it was absolutely right. In the long run, people never regret the life experiences they had—with the exception of a drug addiction and a tattoo of someone’s name. Those two things are always regrettable and something to completely avoid. Except those two things, there are no regrets to life.

Today was amazing. I left work just before lunch and bought a few flats of flowers to plant in my garden. My neighbor had given me a six-pack of milk weed yesterday. We talked about how bees and butterflies need a substantial space for flowers in order for them to be attracted to a garden. She is a master gardener and works in a nursery. I am forever deferring to her expertise and forever jealous of the beauty in her garden.

FullSizeRender (2)

I had planted a few flower beds but nothing too substantial and nothing too concentrated. I have sage and salvia and foxglove and thyme. I have strawberries and mint and rosemary. I have marigolds and dahlias planted here and there, mostly around vegetable beds. I haven’t tried to concentrate bunches of flowers to attract pollinators. I just figured a few flowers would do it.

Today was fun. I cracked open an expensive bottle of wine for no reason and I spent six hours in my garden on a Thursday afternoon. I listened to folk music. I pulled weeds. I hung out with my cats. I cleared off my potting table. I organized my potting bench.

When my wife came home, she hitched up the hammock between the two cherry trees and read a book in the garden about art. I decided where the plants would go. I threw wild flower seeds under the fig tree, and I planted delphinium and pin cushion flowers next to the patio.

FullSizeRender (3)

I took several breaks, entertaining my cats and listening to my wife tell me about Wassily Kandinsky. I took pictures of my cats, and my wife, and my garden. It was nothing short of bliss.

There was nothing particularly special about today. It was a Thursday. I woke up and did the dishes. I made tea. I brushed my teeth. I cleaned the cat box. I started a load of laundry. I thought about making the bed. I went to work for a little while.

And then I did something that I wanted to do.

I did something for me and I poured my heart into it. I lost myself in it. I made no excuses. I took no pauses.

And today felt like a vacation.