“I do wanna hit up the forest…”

Today was good.  Today was so good.

You gotta savor days like today, when three close friends are able to spur-of-the-moment peace out to Flagstaff for some coffee and tree-therapy with you.

(Before we move on, know that Ric took a frickin’ instagram video of our drive up there and its mostly me talking to no one in particular about the cool forest, the good coffee, and “the outdoor gear store…awesome”.  At one point I’m like, “I’m cool with whatever.  I do wanna hit up the forest at some point.”

God, when did I start speaking like that?  I wanna hit up the forest?  wtf.)

Flagstaff 4

I found out I had Saturday off and mass-texted the Neighborhood crew, but only Bryan has the kind of car that can safely get us all the way to Flagstaff.  Becca, Ricardo, my puppy Maroussi and I hopped in Bryan’s truck early this morning and fled this concrete jungle for bluer skies.  We listened to NPR and took selfies and talked about racial tensions in the United States, and how our lives are different from our parents’.  Thank god.

It was a really sweet drive, and I mean that in the taste sense.  It was sweet like the honey we harvest at Hope House or the way my puppy’s fur smells when I bury my face in his neck after he’s been playing in freshly mowed grass. Just…sweet.

It was sweet because we’re four friends who volunteer/work at a nonprofit that seeks justice in very tangible ways down here on the ground, and it gets a little discouraging sometimes.  Sometimes we really need a break.

Case in point; yesterday was real bad.  So bad, that when some homeless lady walked by my apartment while I was outside with Maroussi and asked for spare change, I flippantly told her I had none.  She asked if I had cigarettes.

“Nope.  I got nothing.”

“Well how about a bite to eat then?”

“I have nothing.”

“What about inside your house?”

“Seriously? I literally have no food inside my house.”

“Really?”  She was incredulous.  “You have no food inside your house?”

I literally have no food inside my house! I have nothing, ok?  Fuck.”  I really did, truly and literally, have no food in my house.  That’s been a problem.  We’ll get to that.

“Ok, well,” she continued, now almost as furious as I was.  “I’m homeless and you’re not, so-”

“Jesus fucking Christ I have nothing to give you, ok?! God!”

“What about dog food?  I’ll take dog food.”

“GO AWAY! WHAT THE FUCK!”

etc.

I wanted to punch a hole in my wall (impossible; they’re brick) and fall face down on my bed (er, futon from Meg) and scream and cry because I am an asshole.  A real and total asshole.  I wanted to burn my apartment down because it smells weird and I wanted to rip up all my clothes because they’re old and don’t fit, and I wanted to not have mirrors anymore because I’m sick of seeing my tired asshole face.

Instead I hung out with friends and talked about the movie Filth and how much I love it.  It was great.

Then I texted everyone about desperately wanting to go to Flagstaff and lo, fifteen hours later I was there.

Everyone who’s ever written about the forest is right.  Get up and out there.  Thank that ole diety you used to be enamored with for forgiving you for being a depressed asshole all the time, and goof off with your friends up there.  We went to Macy’s for coffee, and all the “awesome” outdoor gear stores, and everyone loved Maroussi all over town.  We drove to the lake and smoked cigarettes by the water, and walked through the trees way out into the forest and giggled at the deer carcasses hung by the legs at some hunters’ campsite.  We enjoyed each others’ company and laughed at my adorable little puppy.

Ric said something cool in the truck.  It’s stuck with me all day and I guess it will forever and it should.  We were talking about our affection for each other, the work we all do and the things we believe in.  And where we came from.  The four of us are, respectively, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Irish (with some Italian and whatever else splashed in for me.)  Our ancestors may not have been friends.  Hell, even our parents probably wouldn’t know how to relate to each other!

But we love each other.  We do life together.  We take random trips to Flagstaff together and make food for each others’ parties and lean against the same walls at church.

So Ric said, “we’re living reconciliation.”

I like that so much.

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Reconciliation is a messy mosaic kind of process and there isn’t actually a rule book, or if there is none of us received it.  Sometimes its beautiful and perfect and there’s pretty trees and things, and other times its wretched and you snap at a frustrated homeless woman for no reason other than you’re tired of all the sad broken things.  Somehow this is all part of the same painting.

Actually…you know, that makes sense.  Have you met artists?  They’re crazy mothafuckas.

Anyway, I’m thankful for today, and all the shitty days too, and I’m all crazy sorts of thankful for my friends who continuously save the day.

Also I’m thankful these ones humored me and blasted the entire Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack all the way home.  I’m gonna be hoarse for a week.

Lately

Lately Phoenix has been breaking my heart.

I feel like we’re not fighting a losing battle anymore; we’re fighting a lost one.  I feel like Monsanto won, gentrification won, racism and sexism and all the isms I rage against have won.

And we’re going to be a failed ghost town in a matter of years anyway.

Phoenix Lately

Last night at Ric’s birthday party I sat at a big table outside with many of the people I love most in the world and we talked about it all.  How the elections went, how the Grand Avenue Festival made us sad, how we don’t know how to reconcile our lives.

Two days ago was the Grand Avenue Festival and man, was it a sight.  Grand Ave, you remember, is the Fuck You street that slices through downtown at an angle.  It always screws up Phoenix newbies.

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The festival featured artists, food, crafts, etc.  A street littered with fanfare.  I was working my new hiptastic coffee shop, slinging lattes and bagels all day, while my buddy Raquel wandered the festival with my new puppy.  (We’ll talk about him.)  She said it made her heart ache to see the white-washed charade all over our avenue.  She said she kept hearing heart-breaking snippets of conversation.  People saying they were so glad Phoenix is being cleaned up, how its getting safer, how there’s getting to be some “culture”.

Its the same well-meaning but ignorant rhetoric I hear all the time.  Restaurants keep opening and failing on Grand Avenue and every business owner seems obsessed with “bringing people downtown”, as if there aren’t thousands of people here already, who have been here for years.

My heart is breaking because, oh man, there is already “culture” down here, its just not one of which you speak the language.   You say you wanna grow Phoenix up but what you mean is “fix” it.  We don’t need to be fixed.

It’s the same with the do-gooders who “just want to serve” at my downtown church.  Y’all come down here with your lofty ideas of what it means to “reach out” to a group of people.  You think you’re “bringing Jesus” to a place where he’s been for literally ever.  You wanna be a light?  Well you’re fluorescent and you’re giving us a headache.

Stop making service projects out of my friends.

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Last night we laughed about it.

“I’m always like…yeah,that’s cool, awesome…hey this is random; have you heard of the book, When Helping Hurts?”

Like, how do you subtly tell someone they’re ruining everything?

Johnny’s outside from sun-up to sun-down working in the garden, fixing fences, taking care of animals, dealing with plumbing and cleaning and planting and sowing and everything, and when we get a group of garden volunteers they spend two hours dicking around on the farm and taking water breaks every half hour.

Johnny says if nothing else, he tries to make sure everyone gets fed and that he’s not an asshole.

I’m trying to adopt that mentality.  We all are.  All of us who’ve made our homes and lives down here on the ground are just trying to not hate the ones who are “reaching out” to us.  We’re all just trying to reconcile growth with preservation.  Johnny says we need leaders who know how to nurture. We wanna be part of the community that’s already here.  We want racial reconciliation, we want to be heard, we wanna hear, we love your hipster cupcake shops but we need you to vote for our candidates, yo.  We are making friends, falling in love, dealing with our addictions and our hopes and each other, and no one here is a service project for each other.

So Phoenix is breaking my heart, because the well-meaning do-gooders are fucking it up and because the soil is polluted, the air is polluted, the food is poison, my friends are disillusioned and everything sucks and I’ve been sick with chemical allergies or something since I came back from Summer Camp.  I’m trying to regain some sense of hope.  I’m trying to remember why we’re fighting, why we’re still breathing this poisoned air.  And I think of that Andrea Gibson poem, where in it she says,

anyone who has ever sat in lotus for more than a few seconds
knows it takes a hell of a lot more muscle to stay than to go.

So I’m flexing.  I’m staying.  I’m a mess and I’m trying.  I’m in love with the stubborn resiliency of this community and the way their incarnate love seeps into every hang-out.

But man its hard for a lotus to grow in depleted soil, ya dig?

PS this is my new puppy, Maroussi.

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One of the girls at Garden Club told me about her brother’s pitbull having puppies, so I went to “look” at them.  That was five weeks ago.  I fell in love with this baby and now he’s mine and hangs out with me at the coffee shop every day.   I live a pretty charmed life sometimes.

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Chopped

Welp, that happened.

We drove home listening to the the Vitamin String Quartet’s rendition of Fall Out Boy songs,  and I tried not to cry while simultaneously feeling like a total badass.  We bought liquid eyeliner, eye shadow, and styling product.

And when we got home I in front of a mirror with my fingers in my hair, mortified and excited.  I took like million selfies in terrible that lighting, so here’s a few for your enjoyment.  I think they capture the spirit of the whole deal.  Styling gel is way too fun.

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Hope you enjoyed. :)

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I’m selling all my hair online so as afford rent at a house downtown.

Like…all of it.

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It’s funny because I never really realize how much of my sense of identity is tied up in something until it’s taken from me. It takes the rug being yanked out from under me to see the unhealthy ways I find my self-worth. This experience with Hairsellon.com has me reeling, second-guessing who I’ll even be without my Rapunzel hair. If I’m not the girl with locks that strangers gush over, who am I? Will you still think I’m pretty when it’s gone? Will I lose my hippie card if I do this?

Ah, vanity, ye ole sonofabitch.

But it goes a little deeper than vanity. Listen, a lot of this is tied into the fact that my hair was literally falling out in high school because I was starving to death.

See, from the time I was fourteen until around seventeen I was obsessed with losing weight. It started with an innocent “let’s be good stewards of our bodies!” and ended with me in the hospital. I remember looking in the mirror in the hospital bathroom and really seeing how skeletal I was and wondering how in the hell something like this could happen to me.

That’s the way sin is though. You’re never tempted into something evil because it looks evil; it always starts out looking holy. The best lies are simply truths that have been tweaked a little. I’ve been watching Breaking Bad again and reveling in the character development of “good” people like Walter. BrB’s appeal is in watching “the nerdiest old guy” we know become a ruthless villain. We all like this show because it exposes how these little compromises, these little sins, pave the way toward greater and greater evils. What begins as a good thing (a man sacrificing for the ones he loves) eventually has boring old Mr White poisoning children.*

It’s like that with eating disorders much of the time, too. We start out with the biblical truth of being a good steward of our bodies and wind up weeping in the bathroom because we ate a couple M & Ms at a Christmas party.  I used to wake up terrified from nightmares of having to eat in front of people.  I fantasized more about my funeral than my wedding day.

I was sick.

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Anorexia ruined my hair, something I’d taken so much pride in from the time I was a little girl. I’d always known my hair was beautiful and so much of my sense of self was in that. Suddenly, at sixteen, when I pulled my head off my pillow every morning strands of my hair stayed behind. When I brushed it, it came off in clumps. It was stringy and brittle and I hated myself for how I just couldn’t seem to stop.

When I turned eighteen, after treatment and counseling and much, much support from my community, I chopped off all my stringy hair as a defiant “starting over” point. I wanted a new life. I wanted to be free. I moved out of my parent’s house with short brown hair determined to never hurt myself that way again.

Five years later, my hair is thick, 28 inches long, and perfect. Many of my friends are horrified that I’m cutting it. I’m a little horrified too. This hair has been a testimony to my healing. It has been a symbol of the grace I’ve been shown, the second chance I was allowed. When you tell me I have pretty hair what I hear is, hey, look how far you’ve come. You’re doing so much better. You’re doing so well. You’re not as sad as you used to be.  There was a deeply spiritual reason for letting my hair get as excessively long as it did, and it’s going to be a trip to not have that reminder every time I brush it. It’s going to take extra effort to remember the mercy I found myself hidden inside when I slowly tried to end my life in high school.

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And you know what? I’m a little excited to be stretched like this. I’m excited to have to start over, to not have a physical reminder of my own redemption, and to learn to be a person even without beautiful hair.   Does this make sense?

And really, you know what? I’d rather be back in the neighborhood than have pretty hair.  So whatever.  See ya downtown.

 

*Yeah, Walter White’s a friggin’ sociopath and probably was from the beginning. Screw that guy.

Pss obvs. the hair-selling thing is a temporary solution to an ongoing problem (ie paying rent).  I’m only using it to get back downtown, where I’ll mosey on into a new job and back into Normal People Life. xoxo

Guiltless pleasures and that cow I bought.

*technically a baby steer. We’ll come back to him.

Summer isn’t over until I rejoin society, I think, and that’s definitely not happening until after my brother’s and my roadtrip next week. So this is still summer, and I’m pretty sure when I look back on the spark notes of my life if I get to be an old lady someday, this chapter’s gonna be “Marvel, Fall Out Boy, and I Bought a Cow.”

Marvel, because in the midst of a total personality crisis last April I found myself alone in the back row of a movie theater watching Captain America; The Winter Soldier. I think something about Captain America’s isolation and loneliness hit home because I, as they say, lost my shit and proceeded to go on a five-month (and going strong!) Marvel binge that’s rivaled my teenaged obsession with Johnny Depp. Like, hot diggity dawg, gimme super heroes with tragic back stories and mental illnesses! The Hulk tried to commit suicide? Gimme. Iron Man has panic attacks? GIMME.

I hit all the levels of fangirling, including spending hours at my buddy Brian’s apartment reading old comics by his pool.

I ate that shit up.

I was embarrassed about how much I adored the Marvel franchise until I realized, hey, when I’m really, really depressed, I don’t like anything. I don’t get excited or nervous or heated about anything; I’m listless and tired. It’s like when you’ve been swimming all day and there’s still a ton of water in your ears, distorting the way everything sounds. Depression is like that watered-ears feeling, but with emotions.

So I realized, oh my gosh, I can’t be that sad! I LOVE MARVEL!

From then on I totally owned it. Hell yeah, I know the back stories of every character in the MCU. Yeah, I dressed up as the Winter Soldier during Super Hero week at camp and cracked myself up saying, “who the heck is Jess?” when kids called my name.

Sometimes it’s the silly things, and sometimes all you’ve got to hang onto is the mantra at least I’m not as sad as I used to be.

Avengers

Fall Out Boy.

Ah. This. So, a couple months ago my little sister and I really liked the band New Politics, and I saw they were opening for the Monumentour. Some bands called Fall Out Boy and Paramore were headlining, but whatever, NEW POLITICS. I bought us tickets and waited.

Meanwhile, my sister did some “research” for the concert.

In May when I made it to LA, she frantically introduced me to the Holy Trinity of Pop-Punk; Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and My Chemical Romance. All of the sudden the music I may have listened to at thirteen was all I wanted to hear at twenty-three. It was amazing; all the intellectual sad bastard music I’ve listened to for the last ten years or whatever faded until all I resonated with were these eyelinered emo boys.

I told my sister that “pop-punk” was my guilty pleasure and she gave me a really weird look.

“Really?” She asked. “You feel guilt about something harmless that you enjoy?”

Touche’.

So I stopped feeling guilty. I started just openly enjoying these fun little bands I should’ve liked when I was in high school.

fishnets are for when you wanna feel awesome

We’ll come back to Fall Out Boy after I tell you about the cow steer.

Mine.  This one's mine.

At camp this year I had a baby dairy cow named “Boca” to care for. He came to me skin and bones and nervous around people. My co-worker and I worked fervently to put some weight on him, feeding him separately during the day and making sure to spend extra time petting him. Soon he was like a puppy, following us around and mooing when we left the arena. Everyone at camp fell in love with him.

The last week of camp we learned he was to be auctioned off in the Fall as cheap hamburger meat and again, my shit was lost. I don’t know what happened, but I went to my boss in tears, mortified that this baby creature who we all loved and who loved us was going to be slaughtered for such a wretched industry.

And like any absurd person with a heart…I decided to buy him. The camp director donated a hundred and random counselors pitched in, and we bought the cow. I thought my dad was going to cry when he realized I was serious.

I found Boca a home near San Francisco and last week my mother and I rented a trailer and drove halfway there to transfer him to his new owners. Now Boca lives with another cow in bovine paradise and I’m short a few hundred dollars, but grinning like a loon because I did something I believed in and frankly, I don’t care how ridiculous it is.

Ridiculous, like knowing everything about Marvel and listening to bands that were all over Teen Magazine ten years ago.

Sometimes in life you feel like you’re losing yourself, like you have no idea what the point is or who you are anymore. And sometimes it takes an act of futile compassion to regain some sense of direction. Driving down from the halfway point, after leaving Boca with his new cow apologists, I thought of Marvel and the Pop-Punk music I’m usually too “mature” for, and felt like myself for the first time in a very, very long time.

It’s a soul thing.

It’s taken me longer than it should have to realize a few things, like how life doesn’t follow a linear trajectory and how even if I felt like I was soooooo far beyond this point three years ago, this is ok. This is more than ok.

Friends, I urge you like I urge myself; lighten up. This is a season of becoming. This is a season of rediscovering. This is a time to be moved by things other people may not be moved by, because it shapes and solidifies our personalities into something that can be used to uniquely rock our sphere of the universe in a good direction. Yeah, some of its futile, but it’s a soul-thing. It can’t be translated and it doesn’t need to be, because most everyone has their little pointless, soul-enriching pleasures they can’t explain.

I like superhero stories and catchy music and it made a difference to me to make a difference to one baby animal.

What are your soul things? What are the pleasures you shouldn’t feel guilty for anymore?

“Life’s a bitch and then you die,” my friend Amber says. It’s really hard and we need each other, says my old pastor.

So damnit, enjoy those things you enjoy.

We can talk theology and philosophy and all that stuff later on. Right now though? Relax your shoulders. Breathe. Listen to whatever you wanna listen to and watch all the Iron Man movies in one setting, and spend your paycheck on something frivolous and pointless and foolish because you need to do it for your heart.

Two nights ago was that Monumentour concert I was telling you about. You know who’s a good front man? That punk-rock pretty-boy Pete Wentz. And you know why? Because he never once even humble-bragged. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show where the band’s frontman spoke so intentionally to positive self-care, camaraderie, and work ethic. This guy knows where he’s been and he knows where his fans are, and he uses his platform to speak about mental health and to encourage people to stop the “it gets better” rhetoric and just make it better.

pete wentz no h8

I was impressed and encouraged and somehow reaffirmed. Yeah, I started listening to Teenager Music in my twenties, but did you hear these bands applaud the kids in the crowd who are beating suicide’s lure?  Did you see how happy my punk ass little sister was?

FOB

So yeah, that’s Summer ’14 in summation. And that’s how we’re moving forward. Tell me what makes you happy, tell me what gets your heart worked up, tell me if this friggin’ rambling post was too long.

See you soon, P-Town.

Today I did yoga to the Oh Hellos and that is the closest thing to church I’ve experienced all summer.


 

“It’s been a long road loosing all I’ve owned
You don’t know what you’ve got ’til you’re gone

it’s a nasty habit spending all you have
but if you’re the one doing all the leaving
then it’s never your love lost
and if you leave from the start then there was never love at all
and heaven knows I’m prone to leave the only God I should have loved,

and yet you’re far too beautiful to leave me”
-In Memoriam

“…someday we’ll all start laughing…”

This is from my Myspace “blog”, circa 2007 or ‘8.

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Trekking home from my short hike this morning, I realized my dog was ignorantly enjoying a potentially life-threatening experience.  She bounds through the desert, chasing things, panting with exhaustion, dives into brush, yelps at chollas, etc.  I forget that this is Arizona, home of ridiculous heat, diamondback rattlesnakes, and prickly ground.  And the Valley Fever capital of the world.

Okay, I made that last bit up.  It may very well be the capital, but I don’t know.  There’s just…a lot of Valley Fever incidents in dogs out here.  In fact, my good friend’s neighbor’s puppy just died from it.  (Valley fever is a fungus disease that is transmitted through air, basically.  Dogs are especially susceptible because they’re low to the ground, where fungus spores float around and are breathed into dog’s lungs.  Once in the lungs, the spores turn into multi-cellular spherules that expand and grow and suddenly explode, releasing more spores into the animal’s body.  These new spores turn into spherules, and the sometimes fatal cycle continues… its actually kinda cool how it all works, if not a bit tragic.)

This should have served as a warning to me; do not take your pup hiking in dusty, spore-infected areas!!  There is potential danger! Keep her in the manicured, mowed-grassed back yard where it is safe and she can chase leaves and flowers.

Maybe I’m disillusioned, but that seems to correlate to a lot of human decision-making as well; if this be potentially dangerous, don’t do it.

This freaks me out.  I see 99% of America living their comfortable, clean-cut lives, with their 2.5 children, and their 10% tithe to their fancy evangelical church, and their fifteen cents a day to some charity group…

It horrifies me.  I want to be on the front lines, I want to be experiencing extreme cold and extreme heat.  I want famine and high cliffs.  I want meaningful conversation.  I want to suck the marrow from life and flip the bird to fundamental conventionalists.  I absolutely do not want to play it safe.

None of my heroes sat back and hoped for a comfortable, simple life; Jesus walked all over the place loving people and rebuking the self-righteous.  Rich Mullins made minimum wage, even at his most famous rock-star potential moments, and lived on a reservation in a trailer.  Shawn Mullins ( no relation to Rich) traveled the California coast in a van with his dog and wrote songs about the people he’d meet.  Chris McCandless took off into the back roads of America, and the hauntingly cold wilderness of Alaska.

    And so on and so forth.

Was it all safe?  Not at all, not even for a second.  Was it controversial?  You bet.  Were there times where each of them despaired?  Uh-huh.  Were they afraid?  Very often.  Did they find peace?  I don’t think so, but maybe.  Maybe they found something very like it, though, or at least some understanding.

So no, “I do not chose to be a common (wo)man”.  (-Dan Alfange poem-thing: look it up.)  Truth is out there, you guys; but because its so blatantly presented to us, we have to actually look harder to find it.  Make any sense?  Not really?  I know, huh, that’s the kicker.  And the thing is…what do you do when you find truth?  Theres so much about the quest, but what about the aftermath?  How do you go back to mindless materialism, self-centered consumerism, if you think you’ve got a glimpse into the Absolute??  How do you not live after such epiphany highs?  How do you shut your eyes, ears, and mouth in the name of comfort?  How could I do that?

“Hey sugar, take a walk on the wild side.”  -Lou Reed.

So, though there is an outside chance of my dog breathing spores into her lungs, she totally digs hiking and chasing rabbits.  I can’t deny the dog something so natural and so enjoyed, and I can’t deny my own natural inclinations to be out there.  It simply brings too much joy to pass up.

Its an introspective Saturday here at camp.  I’m resting from the past two days of zest, sorrow and exhilaration.  I’m processing Thursday night at Rage, all of Friday at Magic Mountain, and the death of Kira due to Valley Fever, as seventeen-year-old me so audaciously braced herself for.

I got the call Thursday evening from Meg that no, it wasn’t early-onset arthritis keeping the dog from playing with the kids anymore, it was a rather nasty case of the aforementioned infection.  Both weeping, we agreed that the best option was euthanasia.  (I get it if you could afford lifelong treatment for your fevered pup, but we here are not made of money.  Magic Mountain was covered by my boss and I ate granola bars I’d sneaked in, as I have a literal three dollars and forty-two cents in my account.  Please don’t tell me how you had the means to treat your dog’s illness.  I don’t want to hear it.  I cannot hear it.)

It is still a surreal and stomach-churning idea that Kira the Wonderdog is gone, and with all the distractions of the last two days I haven’t had much time to wail my friggin’ eyes out. I was, however, crying at the base of a roller coaster yesterday at the time of her appointment.  My camp friends (I was there with twelve of those lovely dorks) bought me iced lemonade and a batman cape and bear-hugged me until I couldn’t breathe.

All I can think about is sixteen-year-old me seeing this wriggling furball at Petsmart and knowing, that’s mine, and of all the haphazard adventures of the last seven years, including the heart-wrenching decision to give her to my friends last Summer.

When I was a kid we had season passes to Six Flags and I never touched a single ride, that’s how terrified I am of roller coasters and heights.  Yesterday, however, I rode every single one we came to and screamed my lungs out for Kira, for the tragedy and humor of life, and helplessness and bliss of it all.

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I don’t know.  I’m just sad about Kira and overjoyed about my camp friends and those roller coasters.

Staff Orientation, first night off!

Gah! Monday night! Our one night off from Staff Orientation! LET’S GO CRAY!!!

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and by “cray” I of course mean “to dad’s house to do laundry”.

I came home tonight to wind down for a few hours and be alone.  I absolutely love camp, and camp culture, and this year is especially wonderful so far, but I needed a break.  As they say in Wet Hot American Summer, “Its nice to get off camp for a while, even if its just for an hour  (or something like that.)

So far I’ve been reunited with my favorite camp friend, Haley, of last year.  She runs the ropes course and laughs at my stupid jokes and in return, I laugh at hers.

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We’ve fallen into a quote unquote clique with this guy from Wales, another guy from Australia, and this guy from LA who was my Counselor in Training last year and is a full-fledged grown-ass adult counselor this year. The five of us discovered the rolling chairs in the staff lounge the other night and nearly sling-shot me out the window.  I’ve never seen mischievous grins turn into horrified O’s so quickly as their’s did just before I smashed into the wall an inch away from said window.  Next thing you know we’re all crawling around, tears and drool streaming, while we laugh and gasp for breath.  Bets are being taken as to which one of us gets tragically killed first.  Or worst; fired.

We have a baby cow, a pregnant goat, pregnant bunnies and of course, the love of my Summer Camp existence, Grace the Pot-belly Pig.

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There are like, eleven Israeli staff this year and they are the literal coolest.   I’m learning how to say so many bad words in Hebrew.

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Orientation is great because its a chance to get used to the camp schedule and you’re flung into team-building exercises with people you don’t know, but who you’ll most certainly know all too well by the end of Summer.  We’re learning about positive reinforcement, nasty first aid tips, and how to eat your EIGHTH VEGGIE BURGER IN TWO WEEKS without grimacing.  It’s awesome and tiring and my dad gave me his video camera to better document all the mayhem and beauty that is Summer Camp.

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The laundry’s almost out, and I’ve got to get back to Camp by curfew, but I wanted to check in.  Hey friends.  I miss you all in Phoenix and I love you from California.

Less like Billy, more like Jean; Pt. 3

Ah we’re here, part three! We get to sum it all up now.  (Go read part one and two if you haven’t and you’d like to.)

This will be short.  All I want to share is that the more life experience I wrack up, the more I want to be less like Billy and more like Jean.

All of you who actually know me are chuckling to yourselves because you know I am nothing like Jean.  I’m way more Billy Jack than Jean Roberts.

You know how I know this?  When someone dismissed my assertion of Jean’s heroism on Facebook I was like “FIGHT ME IN REAL LIFE!!!1!“.

*face palm*

This is the kind of thing I want to change.  I want to learn to care about things without loosing my mind when no one around me does.  I want to be a consistent in the things I say and the way I behave. I don’t want to be offended by people who don’t share my values.  I want to not be so damned defensive when someone disagrees with my lifestyle.

Because man, when I’m confronted with things I don’t like (say, misogyny or racism or someone telling me cigarettes are for dummies) I get totally rattled and burn bridges with people.  I talk more than I listen, and I dismiss more than I encourage.

I don’t want to be like that.  My favorite thing about Jean Roberts is the way she lets the politicians in town explore the school, and then invites them to see an improv skit the students put on.  She’s inviting and compassionate with the people who need it the most.  I want to be like that.

It’s not that Billy’s bad.  Billy’s awesome. He has a really good heart and he believes in the same things as Jean.  He cares about people, cares about causes, thinks of the big picture and has been through more than he can really share, but he’s impulsive and reactionary.  He gets caught up in the moment, has a grandiose self-image, and like myself, burns bridges.  He is justice while Jean is mercy.

Justice is great, but the causes I find myself fighting for are blatantly self-serving more often than not.  I’m not an activist if I’m only engaging in self-preservation.  And frankly, I’m too often a jerk about things.

I want to be a person who’s safe to be around.

I’m not saying I want to be a pushover.  Jean’s not a pushover.  (In one scene you learn she was marching along with Martin Luther King jr, and she’s the one negotiating a fair trial for Billy as well as bargaining for the school’s safety in exchange for his surrender.  Jean’s a boss ass bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch…)

I’m not going to shy away from the hard issues, but I have plenty of inspiring, tender-heated friends and I’ve choked on enough humble pie to know I need to be softer.  I want to be softer.  I want to be empathetic, and I want to learn how to pray for the redemption of people I view as problematic.

So I guess that’s it, the three-part Billy Jack shindig.  I don’t know how to become more like Jean (and really, Jean reminds me a lot of that one guy from scripture) other than prayer and the practice of extending grace, and while those are two virtues I’m absolutely,undeniably wretched at, I think its worth a try.

coyote

PS Staff Orientation starts in a week. (letsgetweirdletsgetweirdletsgetweird)

Less like Billy, more like Jean; Pt 2

I introduced Billy and Jean to you in the previous post and also gave you a trigger warning, so we’re going to jump right into the heart-wrenching parts of the film now.

Billy enters the film protecting the wild mustangs from Bernard Posner’s father and co.  (nothing more villainous than big men with guns hunting helpless animals, amirite?) and then moves on to Barbara, the fifteen-year-old pregnant runaway who’s brought to Jean’s Freedom School after Barb’s father beats her up.

While there is general mistrust when it comes to Jean’s school and her hapkido fighting friend Billy, this is the conflict that brings out the catastrophic events in the film.

Hiding Barbara at the Freedom School puts Jean and Billy in jeopardy, and then there’s that ice cream shop scene (if you don’t want to watch the video, basically what happens is the shop owner won’t serve the Native American kids and Bernard, piece of shit, takes it upon himself to pour flour down all the native kids’ faces to turn them white.  Billy shows up, tries to stay calm, and then kicks the shit out of Bernard and his friends.)

Billy Jack ice cream shop 2

There’s a lot more to it all then this, but I’m trying to sum it up so I can tell you more about Jean.  In brief, there are bad bad guys in town and Billy gets into fights, while Jean tries to calm him down for the good of all her students.  A Native boy gets murdered, Barbara miscarries her baby, and here’s the kicker; Bernard rapes Jean at knife-point.

At this point in the movie, you’re aching for Billy Jack to wreck havoc upon Bernard’s life.  You want the rapist dead, and you want his friends dead too.  You hate Barbara’s father, you hate the corrupt politicians in town, and you desperately want a happy ending.

I don’t want to give the entire plot away (because you need to go see this movie; its awesome) but here’s why Jean’s the hero.  I know it, you know it, and most importantly, Billy knows it too.

After the rape, one of the students finds and unties Jean, and cradles the woman in her arms while the two weep. This scene’s raw heartbreak is sickening and powerful.  The student has gritted teeth, spewing hatred against Bernard and calling for vengeance, and Jean tells her to stop it.   Jean, battered and vulnerable, hurt and defeated, strokes her student’s hair and softly cries, begging the girl not to tell Billy about it.  She explains through shaky breathes that if Billy found out, he’d kill Bernard without a second thought, and the Sheriff would then have more leverage to shut down the school.  If the school is closed, Jean says, everything she’s worked toward and fought for will be for nothing.  She reminds her trembling rescuer that the students have nowhere else to go.

“Don’t rob me of this opportunity to turn the other cheek,” Jean weeps.

Jean from Billy Jack

See, Jean is a woman who believes in something greater than herself.  She values her mission over her well-being.  Her love for her students outweighs her need for vengeance.  Jean has her eyes set on the greater good and the future of her loved ones and, honestly, racial reconciliation in general.  Bernard’s crime is a hate crime and she looks at it as so, and begs her friend not to fight fire with fire.

Jean is, as I said, a badass.

I watched this movie with a bunch of my women friends the last time and two had to leave the room while the rest of us just wept.  Sexual violence is something every woman deals with in some way or another.  I’m not saying men and boys aren’t raped as well, I’m just saying its more prevalent for the ladies.  There is a special hatred reserved for women and there seems to always have been.  In Billy Jack, its not even that Bernard is attracted to Jean; he’s angry with her for her activism, for the fact that she’s a pillar of inspiration to the counter-culture kids, and because she’s a friend of Bernard’s primary enemy, Billy Jack.  Rape is a war tactic.

Moving on.

Billy, of course, finds out about it all and does indeed kill that rapist some of a bitch, and like Jean predicted this unleashes a full-on war between Billy and the townspeople, culminating with Billy wounded and defiant inside a church and surrounded by police and news crews.

Jean is there and the cops let her go inside to try and convince him to surrender a couple of times.  These scenes are pivotal, and showcase their two characters so perfectly.  Billy is sweating, bleeding, waxing poetic about Indians not being afraid to die, and how he and Jean’s souls are so different from each other’s.

And Jean, resident badass of the film, calls bullshit and tells him why.  She tells him how she hates just as fiercely as he does, and reminds him that she was the one brutally raped, not him, and that she’s the one living with that memory.  She tells him she’s killed Bernard a million times a million ways in her mind, every night.  She explains through gritted teeth how easy it is for him to die a martyr while she’s got to keep trying.  Billy’s shoulders slump and Jean reminds him that she’s in it for the long-haul, and that those children worship the ground he walks on, and he has no right to take himself from them.

Billy Jack Jean 2

Jean destroys the ridiculous misconception that pacifists don’t get angry.  She’s furious, she’s hurt, but she’s made a choice to do the right thing no matter the cost.

Jean is the band’s roadie.  She’s the sound guy.  She’s the tech person.  She’s behind the scenes.  She’s the parent working doubles at a shitty job so the kids can go to college.  She’s the unassuming stronghold behind the heart-stealing antihero with the sexy motorcycle.

Billy is the swashbuckling warrior and Jean is the actual agent of peace.  She believes in something and she’s not only willing to die for it; she’s willing to live for it.

Is Billy?  That’s his challenge.  Is he willing to be handcuffed and put in prison, or will he go out in a blaze of glory?

Find the movie.  Watch it.  Its seriously so good and you won’t be able to get those first flute notes from One Tin Soldier out of your head for weeks.