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.


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.

Phoenix lately 2

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.

Maroussi phoenix lately

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.

New hurr


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.

New HairNew Hair 2New Hair 6New Hair 5New Hair 7

Hope you enjoyed. :)

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.


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?”


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?


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.

“…someday we’ll all start laughing…”

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



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.


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

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.


PS Staff Orientation starts in a week. (letsgetweirdletsgetweirdletsgetweird)

currently obsessed

I don’t know how to jump back into writing, so I’m just going to start with little snapshots of things I’m obsessed with lately.  It’s like a happy medium between writing and…not.

Currently obsessed with these new friends; currently-obsessed-friends

Currently obsessed with hanging around the farm; currently-obsessed-porch

with red nails, springtime and baby chicks; currently-obsessed-chick

Currently obsessed with this piece of art;

currently-obsessed-garden-girl (visit the whole gallery here)

and dancing; currently-obsessed-dancing (This was at my brother’s going away party.  Kid’s now in Chicago for school.  Its back to myself being the only one of my family still making a home out of Arizona.)

and inspiring artists who wail on the harmonica currently-obsessed-harmonica (brb trying)

(…and crying, because its so frustrating to be terrible at something you love.)

Currently obsessed with this song;     “…mercy me, oh god, oh ecstasy, oh yeah, right there…”

Currently obsessed with this food; yeast

and, always, green smoothies in recycled jars; currently-obsessed-smoothie

Currently unemployed, getting ready for SXSW next month, half-way through the Mindy Project, twenty-three years old and playing house the best I know how.  Happy New Year, friends.  Hope you’re rocking the universe.


Let’s talk about shame, baby.

I’ve been thinking a lot about shame.  More specifically, I’ve been thinking about why certain people feel shame about things that other people don’t think twice about.

Shame and guilt are different psychological phenomena, by the way.  They can arise at the same time, but they’re not the same.  Guilt is more of an awareness of having done wrong, while shame is more of an externally driven awareness of how we look to others, as well as how we seem to ourselves.  Like, I want to impress my vegan friends, so I feel shame when I eat free cookies at work.  I also feel guilt because I know all the facts about milk and egg factories and it is completely atrocious.

What I want to talk about today is why we feel shame and guilt.  I want this, actually, to be more of an open thread than anything.  Why do some of us feel shame about eating, but not sexual escapades?  And vice versa.  Why are some of us convicted about our spending habits but not drug and alcohol abuse?  (Cigarettes and coffee count as drugs, mmkay?)  It’s an interesting topic, for sure, and I’m just wrestling with the annoying ways my convictions fall short of who I actually want to be,  Like, yeah its all good and dandy I feel convicted about wasting time online, but why don’t I feel convicted about being an asshole sometimes?  I’ve always heard you can tell a person’s beliefs from their lifestyle, but I believe so many things.  And apparently what I believe in most in indulgence.  I’m frustrated at myself for holding convictions, up until I’m presented with an opportunity not to.

Some shame is founded and some (most) is not.  So what do you, reader, feel shame about, and why?  And also do you feel like your shame is founded, or is it irrational?  Please comment! Let’s dialogue this beezy.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

I still want to howl.

The first time I read Warsan Shire’s poem, “For Women who are Difficult to Love”, my stomach churned with recognition.

Yes, I thought.  That’s exactly what this is like.

Last night I told my brother, “I’m scared I’m gonna fuck this up.”

See, I’ve been seeing the previously mentioned Nice Boy pretty consistently ever since our first date a week or so ago.   I like him.  I’m pretty sure he likes me.  And I’m scared I’m gonna fuck this up.

I told my brother that I could feel myself trying to be less while I was around this Nice Boy.  Matt asked what I meant, and I tried to explain. 

“I don’t know, I’m just trying to be less…offensive.  I’m less vulgar.”

He nodded and I think he really knew what I meant.  He knows because he’s the same as me.  He feels like the bad one, too.  He knows what it’s like to feel dirty in a room of nice people.  He’s “too intense”, too.    He knows I wasn’t talking about bad words. 

He reminded me that we’re on equal playing fields, we Jesus freaks.  “We’re all died-for.  Grace alone.”

Yeah.  I know.   And yet…

I still feel myself trying to be less than what I am around him.  Look how soft I am.  Look how pretty.

Melancholy is an inoperable tumor, and even when dormant it’s still in the back of my head.  I can still taste it on the back of my tongue.  I’m constantly shifty-eyed, swallowing, knowing it could seep out at any moment.  I don’t trust emotional health, like a cancer patient doesn’t trust remission.  I remember hitting my walls in anger at seventeen, and I remember screaming with my car windows rolled up this summer. I’m still reeling from this past year, and I’m still mourning innocence.  I’m still infuriated that people are raped, that friends die, that I’ve done reprehensible things, that there are children not being adopted, that animals are tortured, that people are mean.

I still want to howl.

I’m trying to be less angry, less sad, less opinionated, less cynical, less doubtful, less restless.

But I am angry.  I’m sad, I’m opinionated, I’m cynical and I’m doubtful.  I’m so restless.  I believe in offensive things.  I’m tired of saying things like, “I’m not ugly”, and “I’m not stupid.”

Fuck it.

I’m beautiful.  I’m intelligent.

And I still want to howl.

Why I’m not going to Burning Man

When I started mentally drafting this post, it sounded a lot like a defense.  “Lady’s and gentleman of the jury, let me explain.”  It read like a persuasive rather than informative and (hopefully) encouraging speech.  Gross.  Why do I feel like I’ve got to defend myself?

Then I got annoyed at myself and decided I wouldn’t write it at all.  Eph you, fake audience, you don’t get an explanation.

Then I got annoyed again and realized this was an actual thing that needed to be addressed.  Mostly I want to address the fake audience we’ve all got, and the image we try and project.  I know you do it too.  I’m not that unique.

So here it is; why I turned down a free ticket to Burning Man this year.

It all started when I was homeless after camp and a friend of a friend let me move in.  Mollie lives in Phoenix (so I do too) and does theater-y stuff.  She’s friends with e’erybody, and while I peaced out for California to go on a #postcampportland road-trip with Camp friends, Mollie’s friend offered her a free ticket to Burning Man.  Mollie’s a real adult with a real job and things, so she declined, but gave this friend of hers my phone number and convinced him that not only am I totally un-psycho-y, but that he should give that free ticket to me.

So there I was, somewhere in Napa Valley with a belly full of wine, and I recieved a text offering me the ticket and the ride and a bunch of new friends.


Naturally I said yes.  My method is to agree to All The Things first, and then think them over.  We all stumbled to bed and the next morning, my camp friend and I headed back down the 5 toward Los Angeles. We debriefed our weird week of driving and camping and discussed the foreseeable future.

The more we talked about Burning Man, the more anxiety I felt about it.  For those of you unfamiliar, Burning Man is a week-long festival sort of thing in Nevada.  Lots of nakedness, lots of drugs, lots of “art”.  Then they burn a giant man.  Its supposed to be this spiritual thing and its really popular.  It used to be free but now tickets range from a couple hundred to (I fuck with you not) six-hundred dollars.

Its many people’s dream to attend, but for some reason (the price?!?!) I’ve never actually cared to go.  I’ve never had this burning (har har har) desire to experience it, and especially after my physically and mentally exhausting two months at Summer Camp, followed by being a bridesmaid for my old roommate, and then this weird West Coast Roadtrip, I’m just tired.  I’m homesick.  I want to buy a bike, get a job, start writing for my newspaper again, frequent my coffee shops, run around with my real friends, and not live out of a backpack for a while.  Plus I’ve already played around in Slab City and at the Rainbow Gathering, both of which aren’t total sell-outs yet.  (Want some ice for that wicked burn, Coachella?)

The problem is, this was free.  And what a way to cap off the summer!  And how envious, on a scale of envious to super envious, would this make everyone?! And how consistent with my wanderlusting, constantly curious, random and hyperactive lifestlye!

I tried to find the source my my decision-making anxiety and this is what I found; going to Burning Man upholds the image I project to my fake audience…but I didn’t actually want to go to Burning Man.


Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely am fairly adventurous.  I like spontanaiety and I like new places and people.  I genuinely like Kerouac.

But here I go defending myself.

The painful truth is that I want you all to think I’m this carefree Dharma Bum, endlessly adventuring and having a ball everywhere I go.  I want you to think I’m beautiful and fun-loving and never tired.  “Eyes incapable of anything but wonder…” just running around the world digging everything.

Its this totally one-dimensional idea I’m safe hiding behind.  If they think I’m a gypsy, they won’t question me.


Because friends, people are all kinds of dimensions.  You are not a description, you’re a human being.  Sometimes you may like to hop in a van with strangers (see west coast roadtrip to the Rainbow Gathering, circa 2011) and sometimes you want to watch New Girl re-runs all day.

I don’t know why I pressure myself to be so easilly defined.  People mentally categorize everything because it makes processing them easier.  If I were to describe myself to you, I’d hand you some adjectives and you could file them away.  When I cross your mind you could quickly pull out my binder and see “vegan” and “writer”, along with a paragraph or two on “chronic depression” or “logical theism.”  There might be a whole page dedicated to “wanderlust”.

But those are just neat little adjectives and they’re one-dimensional, the way that we are not.  There’s more than two sides to a story, and there’s more to a person than the About Me description would have you believe.

I don’t want to categorize people like that.  I am consistently surprised by people wrecking my simplified judgments of them, and I’m learning not to put anyone in boxes anymore.  I want to extend that same curiosity and authenticity to myself.

All this to say, I’m not going to Burning Man.  I’m going back to Arizona.   Here’s to busting out of the box.  Here’s to not being impressive.

jess1 <tired selfie on the train.

(Last week I bussed from Phoenix to LA, caught a cab to Union Square, and was quite pleased with myself on the train toward my dad’s house.  Two days later three friends and I drove to Portland, camping in Big Sur and spots like it along the way.  Sometimes life is really good.)



letter^found a camper’s letter to another camper this afternoon.  Totes adorbs.

You know what I’m good at?  Walking into a pre-established environment, being a newbie, and learning the ropes.  I don’t like too much responsibility.  I like jobs like restaurant gigs because my presence isn’t the most crucial thing.  Being a manager would terrify me.  I like helping out at the garden downtown, but truly being in charge of those chickens and plants would drive my anxiety up the wall.  This tendency even creeps up in dating; as soon as someone starts counting on me, peace out.  If I could be a hermit and have no one depend on me, I’d be content.

But not really.

And there comes a time when you’ve gotta get over your commitaphobe, can’t-fence-me-in mentality.  You’ve got to actually do things that matter, take on responsibility, and start doing those things you secretly have wanted to do for years.

Enter, this summer camp.  Stage left.

Here, I’m the garden coordinator.  I’m in charge of mapping out the greenhouse (which Drew, the program director, and I did this afternoon), working within the budget for supplies and plants, and coming up with lesson plans that will not only entertain kids, but hopefully instil in them a sense of responsibility for the earth.  There’s no compost bin here; I’ve got to start that, and Drew and I are building it tomorrow.

Not going to lie, starting something is super overwhelming for me.  I choke at the idea of failure and disappointing anyone.  I’m sort’ve terrified that there aren’t pre-packaged lesson plans and an already working greenhouse for me to mesh into.

The good news is, I’m sick of being transient and undependable.  I want to be part of something that matters.  I want other people to care about animal husbandry and sustainable food systems, so why hang out on the sidelines hoping someone pulls me out there with them?  I want to teach people things that matter, so I’ve got to go learn those things.

Here’s to learning new things (like how to build a compost bin, cool down the summer greenhouse, and writing up seven weeks of lesson plans) and bringing what you’ve learned to everyone else.

Check out the start of our compost; egg shell, two coffee filters with grinds, two banana peels, a mushroom that fell on the floor, and grapefruit peels.


To come;

pretty things aren’t always good things.  (see; poison oak)


How to build a compost bin from a trash bin.


And what to do with a greenhouse in California summers.