Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Your Face, Portland

These last few days have been pretty heady for me. You see, I was born in Houston, Texas. Most folks who know me are quite flummoxed to learn that my natal city is in that great state. To them I say that this is the state of Molly Ivins and Ann Richards so you don’t have to act all surprised. I do not usually call myself a Texan having moved to the Great Left Coast when I was a mere kindergartener, but many Texans have assured me that I have well maintained my citizenship due to the fact that not only did I spend one month a year throughout my childhood in Texas, that one month was August. Also, my daddy taught me to make chili.

While being Texan used to carry a certain heady power over Europeans until George Bush screwed everything up - when I went to Europe in the 80’s, Americans were just as hated as they are now, but if you said you were from Texas, all doors opened for the small price of having to tell a few cowboy and injun stories… now, they will shoot you – being from Houston was always anti-climatic. Houston didn’t have the pop icon stature of Dallas or San Antonio, nor the hipster vibe of Austin. And although it has its megachurches, it lacks any FLDS ranches or Waco-cult style crazy. Say you’re from Texas and people ask if you own an oil rig. Say you’re from Houston and people just look at you funny.

But now, thanks to the election of Annise Parker, the first (openly) gay mayor of a top-ten city, I can finally get something other than vaguely pitying looks when I say where I’m from. I don’t have to describe the allure of 2.4 million square feet of blessedly air-conditioned shopping mall. Nor do I have to explain how Houston’s lack of zoning laws has enabled the city to have more than one skyline. And I don’t have to explain what an empanada is (although I still have to settle for just yearning for one.)

All I have to say is: In your face Portland. We are totally more major than you are.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Total Transformation

I instigated a total transformation over my Thanksgiving weekend. It started out simply with an idea to move some furniture in my apartment. I had one room that had lost all function and another that had taken on too many functions – so I ended up never do anything in it. I thought that if I switched a sofa and a big overstuffed chair – moving each to the room it currently wasn’t in - I could make the non-room into a living room and create more space in the other room for meditation, exercise and art. Seemed simple enough.

And my stepfather was kind enough to help out. The fact that I’d asked him for help was a miracle and a huge step for me. My stepfather is a generous, kind man who was more than happy to oblige, but I am nervous about putting my needs out there, always sure they will look ridiculous and unimportant once I give voice to them and this seemed so frivolous. Starving children, war, greed, and I want to redecorate.

But I am learning how to deal with those silly thoughts and carry on. Bits of me jump up and down saying, “Don’t ask, they’ll laugh! They won’t like you for bothering them.” And I say, “Shhhh, if they laugh, we’ll laugh too, then ask someone else.”

My silly bits say, “This won’t do any good. It’s such a little change.” And I say, “Shhh, if it’s a small change, it’ll be easy and if it doesn’t change anything, nothing is lost.”

They whisper, “It’ll hurt.”

And I take all my silly bits in my arms and say, “Shhhh, little silly bits, life hurts and life is wonderful. We will get through it all together.”


I used to think of goals as something to achieve. You decided what you wanted and then broke down the necessary steps, did them in order and voila! you achieved your goal. But that’s not how the cool goals work. The cool goals are goals you can’t imagine. I want to love living. But I don’t know what that’s like. I’ve never particularly wanted to live. But when things get bad, I pull myself up out of the muck with the determination to figure this puzzle out. How does one love to live? I can’t break down the steps to this goal. I can just keep remembering this is what I want and keep choosing to do things that have a chance in hell of moving me towards this thing I cannot yet comprehend. The cool goals like this are dreams.

So we moved the furniture. The big chair, which I thought would be the problem, moved so easily we got cocky. Now all we had was the sofa and that had gotten into the room, so we could get it back out, right? We pushed and turned, tried it this way, turned it over and tried again. Maybe this way, push it up and then to the left. Take the casters off, now the closet door. And don’t worry about the wall. I have to patch the hole made when we moved the sofa into the room… Oh yeah, it was rather difficult to do that, wasn’t it? Funny how you don’t remember those things years later.

I spent Sunday moving about the furniture I had left, the stuff I could move on my own. I tried this arrangement and that. I finally admitted I just had to get rid of the old, huge, color t.v. and the too low coffee table that was really a leftover from an old, cheaply made futon set. I discovered that the drop-leaf table worked better on the other side of the room than where I’d planned because now I can sit at my easel or turn a few degrees and have a large flat space. I discovered that the side tables from my grandmother’s bedroom set make perfect little altars with drawers for holding replacement candles, incense, matches. And I learned that my teak standing screen looks amazing with my dracaena and big chair in front of it. I mean like really amazing, like I’m going to take a picture and submit it to a design blog ‘cause this can’t be my house can it?

If you had told me last week, “Just switch the sofa and the big chair and you will create a space of beauty that can serve your quest for a life well loved,” I would have said, “Well, it’s something to do anyway,” but I would not have believed you.

On Monday, I sat in my new beautiful room, candles lit, checking in with myself, whispering to my old gods and holding my desire in my hand like a precious gem. I could not imagine when I started this little project that I would end up with this room. I realized that this is the small favor I asked of my stepdad. This was the plan that seemed so unformed, frivolous, and potentially disastrous. I could not have imagined this room, could not have set this room as a goal. In a million years or randomly setting and achieving goals I would sooner write a King Lear than aim for this room. And yet, here I am in a place of my own making, one step closer to my dream.

Winter Wishes

[The story behind the wish can be found here. Be warned. It'll take you *ages* to read because I write too much awesome.]

In the latest installment of Wishcasting Wednesday, Jaime Ridler asks, "What is your winter wish?"

I wish to keep dreaming.