The Scary Gays

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article. It creates a thunderstorm of emotion for me, because it is an exact description of the kind of crap I’ve lived with my whole life. The good thing is that now I have better answers than when I was a teenager.

When I was in middle school/high school, the gender roles “wave” hit hard core. I wasn’t sure I was a lesbian, but I for damn sure didn’t want to be a “woman.” By that, I do not reject the fact that I am female. I reject all the bullshit that is required to be “a lady.” I dress the way I dress and talk the way I talk (and write the way I write) to expand what it means to be female. I do not, in any way, want to feel that I am for sale. I do not want to dress so that men look at me that way, that tantalized look that says “I want her, and she’ll give in eventually.” I genuinely enjoy male company when it’s just “being one of the guys,” but when the same guys turn around and look at me differently because I don’t have the same parts, I’m out of there. In short, I dress to protect myself, and it confuses me. I don’t want to be part of the weird gender-assigned roles that argue I should be submissive to men, and I don’t know enough about myself to judge whether that’s totally weird or not. Stay tuned.

It’s hard to step out of my comfort zone, because to me, dressing up is putting yourself out there. I turn on the charm and flirt with everyone, male or female… also in protection because I think if I’m funny enough, people will focus on that instead of the outward shell. If I punch you with humor, you’ll be laughing too hard to notice anything else… like my baseball cap with REALLY short hair underneath. If I’m lucky, you won’t notice I’m gay.

It’s true, and I didn’t even put that together until now.

Growing up in the South taught me that I wasn’t normal at an early age, and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. I just wanted to be me, and it seemed like everyone had an opinion on whether I should be gay or not. Never mind that I could change my sexuality as easily as I could change my eye color. Actually, I could change my eye color easily with contacts, and that would turn out as real as “being straight.” It’s a mask where authenticity should be.

Moving to Portland and out of the Bible belt allowed me to start asking who I really was, because Portland doesn’t have a problem with gay people being affectionate in public. I do.

I friggin’ remember all the gay bashings in the Montrose. I remember getting royally hassled at High School for Performing and Visual Arts- a school that would lead one to believe I’d be safe(r). It’s a good thing that when bad things happen, it makes for good writing. I wrote a lot.

I come by it honestly, and I’m still working on it. In the meantime, though, I have to believe that I am hilarious.


The following is a repost from Facebook on Feb. 1

Dear Joan,*

There is no easy way to say this, so I will try to put it as gently as I can. If you are gay, God cannot help you right now. What I mean by that is not to say that God can’t help you later. As scary as this sounds, you’re on your own.

I do not mean this in the absolutely terrible way it sounds. You have been harmed by religion and told that you are less than perfect. You have been told that these feelings for women will go away, but you haven’t seen any evidence of it. You think you must be celibate for the rest of your life, never experiencing the joy of a really great marriage. The constant messages that have been drilled into your head have made you feel the fear that comes with thinking that God doesn’t love you.

Walk away. Leave that where it is. Give yourself time to heal from those wounds, because you need time to work out what you really think. Trying to undo years and years of indoctrination is going to take time, especially if you want to reach out to a more liberal denomination and keep church in your life. Stop going to church, and don’t go back until you’re ready to, in a sense, take it on. Knowing God is bigger than you think. It can and will absolutely change your life. But right now, you need to rest.

You need to rest in the same way that a church gets what they call an “interim pastor.” After a beloved pastor leaves a church, an interim is there (for lack of a better term) to take all the bullets. The congregation can be angry and upset~ why shouldn’t they be? The person responsible for teaching them things that change their lives emotionally and spiritually is not going to be one of those people that leaves without incident. The interim is a time to take a breath so that the congregation can welcome a new pastor, having resolved the issues and conflicts that came before.

In the same way, I think you also need the “peace of interim.” Leave God where God always sits on your heart. Fill the time that you used to fill with church with something else. Join a soccer team. Learn to make beer. Go to concerts and read books. Stimulate your senses in a way that you haven’t done before. Think about something else and let God fade into the background.

Eventually, there will be a time when you can think about God and not the hurt that you endured. You will see the everpresentlovingkindness. You will want to pray for your friends and family. You will see the amazing clarity that comes from getting your thoughts organized enough to speak to God one on one. There is no specific order to prayer, but in my own life, I find that if I have some idea of what I want to say, the answers come more easily.

And when that everpresentlovingkindness has arrived, you cannot nurture it in isolation. Christianity is not a solo endeavor. You’ll want to reach out to a group of people that will hold you accountable. Pray with you in pain and ecstasy. Give you the opportunity to give back to your community and feel the uplifting feeling you get when you’ve helped someone else. Allow yourself to feed your soul… that part of you that is your still, small voice.

But in order to feel that level of joy, you have to work through that level of pain. That’s going to be the hard part. In order to make yourself open to what God has to say, you have to work on yourself, first. Get a therapist. When I pick out a therapist, I go through the directory listing and write down all the names that sound like New York Jews. It’s profiling, yes, but it tends to yield the best results. My current therapist, for what it’s worth, is absolutely friggin’ brilliant and could pass for Larry David. But that’s my system. You’ll have to find what works best for you.

The point is that in order to receive God, you need to give attention and love to yourself so that you are able to recognize God when you’re ready. Again, you need to separate your old relationship with God and give yourself space to create a new one. Give yourself permission to protect your heart, because you are about to go through a tremendous loss.

The friends you currently have that are not enlightened enough to let go and love you for who you are will drop you in a hot minute. It’s going to be lonely, you’re going to be more scared than you’ve ever been in your life, until you realize that friends who don’t love you for who you are aren’t really friends. You’ll find new ones, and welcome the old ones back into your circle as they finally realize that they were wrong. And not only that, but embarrassingly so.

Your former friends won’t know what to say when they realize that they’ve been acting like segregationists in the Jim Crow south. Worse than that, they acted that way toward you, their old friend, the one that despite their condemnation, you’ve loved them the whole time. Despite their brazen attacks on your personhood, you still remember the time they stuck a glue stick up their nose in second grade. You will follow this path over and over as more and more people seek you out to tell you just how terrible they feel that they made your childhood so much more difficult than it had to be. It’s a good time to pull out that glue stick story.

You are going to be fine, because you are already sitting in the perfect white light, the everpresentlovingkindness of the Holy Spirit. Turn inward, and see what happens. Knowing yourself is knowing God, knowing what you are capable of giving and receiving in this absolute abundance of joy. But take your time. Don’t try to accept all of this at once. It is a journey, and not a race. I am here to walk beside you. I do my best thinking while mobile.

Grace and peace from the everpresentlovingkindness of that Holy Spirit, both now and when you decide to put the first foot forward and step down on sacred ground.



I’m sitting here with my laptop after practically having eaten my weight in junk food. It’s only 6:00 PM, but it’s dark. Not dark as if it were night. Dark as in there’s plenty of daylight and it’s overcast to a startling degree. It’s Portland, where the state motto should be “meh…” at least from November to June.

I never understood what Seasonal Affective Disorder was until I came to the Pacific Northwest, particularly because in other areas of the country, the lack of sun isn’t drastic enough to cause it. Because I take depression medication, anyway, SAD doesn’t affect me as much as it does others. However, I know it when I see it.

The gloom affects the flow of conversation around here, as if the “looking inward” aspects of Advent and Lent (which together are only about two months) are now an ever present metaphysical state of being. Portland is extraordinarily unique. There is an ebb and flow of communication to weather. Bright blue skies and the yellow moon create a mood of giving, sharing, joy… Rain does not make people mentally ill so much as it prevents them from having enough energy to get outside their comfort zones and imagine that they’re having the kind of time they’d be having if it wasn’t raining. It makes sense, really. Heat makes things expand; cold makes things retract. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s the same with mood and behavior.

I know that I feel stronger when it’s sunny outside, that there’s something welcoming about the climate that makes me want to be there. My happiness spills into others’ happiness and communication comes easier.

When it’s grey and raining, I feel the urge to nest. I don’t want to talk to anyone besides a few close friends, and sometimes that is pushing it. My lack of want to get outside or in fact, leave the house, diminishes. In the Portland spring, I only have enough energy to care for myself and my family, because every interaction requires so much more of it.

In other areas of the world, spring is highly regarded as being the bringing forth of the warmth and other stupid crap like that. I’m in love with the stories, but I am unconvinced with evidence. In Portland, the weather uses spring to stop taking its medication. The beginning is cold and obnoxious. It’s raining all the time, and a little harder than normal. The temperature doesn’t get above 45. Then, as March starts to unfold, we get a couple of sunny days and there’s a collective sigh of relief as the grey starts to lift. March doesn’t like it when we’re comfortable, so she just starts throwing random days of batshit crazy to make things interesting… or grateful, I don’t know which. Either way, I am not fond of March and April. We need to send those two to Hopworks and get some Zyprexa in their beer. Who am I kidding?


Kitchen Rules

Here, in no particular order, are things I’ve learned about working in a professional kitchen. Please note that I am not specifically talking about my current kitchen, just an amalgam of stories taken from every kitchen job I’ve had thus far.

Rule No. 1

No one is coming. Count on that. If you are knee deep in tickets and you are the only one scheduled, you are going to feel as if the world is ending, and possibly in a matter of minutes. Breathe. Just feel the panic wash over you and give yourself a minute to get yourself together. If you think that minute is taking away from your ticket time, you are sadly mistaken. It will save you from having to go back and forth from the line to the rail to see what you’re supposed to have going if you know ahead of time where you are. Take two minutes if you don’t have an expo that can call out which ticket is in which priority. I know that when I’ve been in that situation, my own name has wiped itself from my memory. Taking a second to go over the entrees and their cook times before you start will help you to lean on yourself when you’re all you’ve got.

AGAIN, breathe. There’s only three and a half more hours of complete chaos left.

Rule No. 2

Be other-aware. If you don’t know what I mean, it is possible that the rest of the cooks in the brigade hate you if you’ve left the line a lot… or been an asshole to the other cooks because you didn’t work as part of a team. You put  your needs above theirs and screwed them to the wall. In the end, it doesn’t matter. You won’t be there long.

Be relentless about calling “behind you,” “corner,” “coming down the line,” and always, always, always “behind you with a knife.” Break that rule and you’re most likely not going to hurt them. You’re going to draw back your knife quickly and miss them entirely unless the person is someone you wanted to shank, anyway. If your cut is bad enough, you’ll have to leave the line because you’re bleeding. That is several levels of deep shit all the way around.

You’re trying to clot your cut with super glue off the line, or you’re being rushed to the emergency room. Either way, the brigade is down a man. We’ll remember that absence forever if there’s twice the customers then usual on that particular night… because every time we tell that story about the night we got slammed, we’ll talk about your injury and how much pain we were in at not having you, as well as every gory detail about your wounds and the scale to which they were gross. We know it’s an accident, but we’ll still call you a dumbass for not being careful enough to avoid injury in the first place.

By the same token, realize when someone is ankle-deep in Ranch dressing and might need help with a cleanup at the same time there are five people waiting for their dinner and every order comes out of her station. Notice when pantry has nothing and saute has 15 orders that have to get out in the next 10 minutes and you need to bail them out. In fact, Rule No. 2 can be shortened to that one word- NOTICE.

Rule No. 3

There are no secrets from the chef. This is less about their interest in what you’re doing and more about being proactive about communication. This is particularly important when orders are dropped off in the morning. The chef may have ordered it last night, but things like making sure they know their veggies arrived are important. Don’t know what’s important and what’s not? Ask. Do not pass up a chance to say you don’t know something, because there’s only a short period of time in which the details are given. If you don’t know the layout of the kitchen, where everything is stored, how much we have in the house of every ingredient, and what arrives when, you are going to be hopelessly lost at your job.

The kitchen, as Anthony Bourdain has said “is the last meritocracy.” Don’t know the answers to too many questions after you’ve been there more than a month? You’d probably better study up before you get canned. When the chef asks you a question and you can’t answer it quickly, you will be sized up as a moron. The clock is ticking. Admit what you don’t know sooner rather than later, because not to do so would be a career limiting move.

It’s embarrassing, but tell the truth at all times. No one can help you if you don’t admit that something doesn’t look right and you don’t know how to fix it and the ticket time is already fifteen minutes. You’ve all been there. Don’t look at me like that. When you were coming up, you made bechamel and mayonnaise and broke both… in the same day. Your chef’s eyes went over the back of his forehead, and then everything you chopped was too big and now has to be re-sized to actually fit in someone’s mouth. Your chef may scream, but he/she does not have time to listen to you explain why something happened. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat (Thank you, Sweet Brown). What needs to be conveyed, even if you want to crawl into the floor, is that the bechamel, mayonnaise, and vegetables aren’t ready yet. It’s the chef’s ass on the line if you’re weeded and haven’t told him/her, and he’d rather bail you out than have the customers suffer. Be warned, though. He/she will do it, but they may take it out on you in a most unpleasant manner. No matter what happens, though, if you care about your food and your diners at all, you’ll be honest and let people help you.

Rule No. 5

Front of House and Back of House are always going to be at each other’s throats, and there’s no way around it. Do what you can to diffuse anything that crops up. Making it worse will in turn make your life miserable. It doesn’t matter whether the kitchen fucked up or the waitress left the food on the window until it got cold and asked for a re-fire. It just doesn’t. Shit happens and it’s so irritating that you might want to scream. Don’t. I repeat- don’t. The next time the wait staff sees you, you are so in for it… especially on days like Rule No. 1. Get mixed up in a fight between cooks and front of house and you are going to be in a world of gut-wrenching pain… and the horrible thing is that you knew it and you did it anyway because sometimes it feels good to take the low road.

Rule No. 6

If you are offended in any way by anything, you need to quit. Front of house, back of house, it doesn’t matter. The things you will overhear, and in time start saying, will be atrociously offensive. Your mother is never off limits. Neither are jokes about rape, pedophilia, sodomy, incest, racism… you get the picture. You think we’re idiots, and we know that we are just blowing off steam from a night that ran us over like a slow-moving 18-wheeler.

Your non-kitchen friends will be horrified, and eventually, you’ll stop hanging out with them, or you’ll quit and you won’t. They won’t understand the rhythm and patois you’ve developed, hate the fact that your newest body accessory is a five-inch scar across your arm, and are generally unfriendly to learning what you’ve been up to at work.

This is because the idea of a cook is so much different than the reality. Non-kitchen people do not care for stories about funny things that happened at work, because so much of the time it involves things you should never say in polite company, as well as a cacophony of microdetails that we’re still thinking about from the night before. You don’t care that my restaurant needs lettuce, and you for damn sure don’t want to know where the six pan of pizza sauce is in located my low boy. You judge us for jokes that to us, seem harmless because they are told to blow off unimaginable pressure.

However, we cannot help it. We’re like doctors, in a way, because even if we leave the job, the job doesn’t leave us. On our off hours, we’re still thinking about what we did and how many mistakes we’ve made. The pressure is so intense that when we try to disengage, the switch breaks.

Rule No. 7

Always fart in the walk-in. God have mercy on your soul if you don’t.


I’ve come up as several different variations in the Meyers-Briggs assessment, but the one I get the most often is “INtroverted Feeling Judging” or INFJ. For people who don’t know me that well, it is a misnomer. No one can believe that with as boisterous as I am in public, I’m not just like that all the time. Part of the reason that people are so shocked is that introversion doesn’t necessarily mean shy. It means I get tired of you people (that was a joke).

I need lots of time to recharge my batteries, which is why most of the time, I stay home. I don’t say anything to anyone for any reason. That is because out in the world, I never *stop* talking. It takes a lot of energy for an introvert to be “on,” and once I get home and I take off my bra, I AM DONE. If you catch me in the nanosecond between getting home and changing into my PJs, I might go out with you (but you’re paying). Otherwise, sitting at home and reading or watching TV gives me the strength to go out the next day and do it all over again.

Introversion is what makes me able to be loud on the Internet. (Look for my next documentary, “Being Loud on the Internet.” It’s a blockbuster.) Typing big ideas is not the same as saying them out loud. As my friend Diane told me when I was a teenager, “saying it out loud makes it real.” She was so right. Hearing words come out of my mouth in my own voice is terrifying, especially when I have to say things like, “we don’t have the money for that.” There’s no Escape key for hard conversations, and Control-Z does not do anything in the real world (CTRL + Z is “Undo” on most operating systems).

So I hide.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing. I find that when I write it out, I have a chance to better explain what I mean. There is a thought process to communication, and I don’t put words to paper lightly. The drawback is that often, I type so fast that what, to me, is a five-minute conversation takes someone else all day to read (really must work on my editing). The plus is that if you get a letter from me, it means that I really thought about what I was saying.

There are, of course, standard clauses and provisos:

I am so ADD that I will not likely remember what other people think of as important details. For instance, I don’t know the date I moved to Oregon the first time around. I don’t know the date I moved to Oregon the second time around, either. But I can go back to my journals and letters, teasing out what I thought was important to me at the time.

It was raining the day I drove in. I went directly to my friend Diane’s office, then at the opera on SW Morrison St. I didn’t know anyone else, so it was a quick trip just to say “hi” and “where’s the Target?”

That night, I went to my church and helped stuff envelopes for some kind of financial campaign. It was fun because that was the night I met Dana. She chased me down the street, her in her green Saturn and me in my purple one.

But I don’t remember the date.

Then, I went back to my new roommate’s house and sat through all the obligatory house rules, which were extensive. I am a carnivore. She is vegan. Portlandia ensued.

Those are my important details. I remember that Diane was in the middle of what looked like PE for grownups, that the rain on the windshield looked like mist and it didn’t stop for six months, that my then-wife wasn’t just leaving, she was gone, that Dana was wearing a grey sweatshirt with a George Mason University logo.

But I don’t remember the date.

It is true that saying something out loud makes it real in the short term, but in the long term, something happens. You have time to forget the circumstances that caused you to write what you wrote in the first place. You see it with new eyes, the eyes that well up when you see how far you’ve come.

It is how I deal with both the tendency to be introverted and the tendency to be ADD. I say on paper the things most people say out loud, just to be able to remember it later.

But I don’t remember the date.

Intake Interview

I’m reading a great book right now called Brain on Fire. It was written by Susannah Calahan, who interviewed with Teri Gross before Christmas and the book’s publication. I heard about the book as I was driving home, and in fact, I think I’ve mentioned it on Facebook before. I’m talking about it again because I’ve come across a lot in my reading that I want to share.

So relatively little is known about the brain that Calahan went through many, many neurological exams that just dismissed her as a crazy alcoholic (who didn’t actually drink, BTW) before they found the real problem, called anti-ND MA-receptor encephalitis. The book is heart-wrenching, especially in the beginning, because she has no idea what is going on with her body, and her behavior deteriorates swiftly, much to the discomfort and anxiety of everyone around her.

There’s also research in the book as to how anti-NDMA-receptor encephalitis fits into the grand picture of schizophrenic research, which only served to deepen my belief that the physical and the emotional are inextricably interrelated. This is an important point when talking about mental health issues, particularly because they are such a hot-button issue right now.

Calahan has a way of explaining mental illness so that it makes sense… in fact, explaining how physical disease affects behavior and vice versa. For instance, have you ever looked at someone and thought they were drunk or high, only to find out later that they had been given the wrong medication, or worse, in the middle of a seizure?

Medicine excites me, whether it involves physical or mental health. Books by doctors and patients alike hold my attention. To me, it is one of the last great mysteries of the modern world… medicine is not science or an art. It is a time-honored method that clings steadfastly to both.

In the middle of the book, there is a great poem, aptly named “Intake Interview.” It is a series of questions posed by Franz Wright, author of Wheeling Motel. Instead of just publishing the poem, I thought it would be fun to answer the questions themselves.

What is today’s date?

Sat Jan 12 19:05:09 PST 2013 (I love “insert date” in word processors.)

Who is the President?

Ba rack Bamako

How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten?

Internally, I’m not a danger at all. There are large groups of people all over this country that disagree with me… Something about a “gay agenda.” My “gay agenda” is so boring that these people would immediately realize the error of their ways if they ever looked at it. We got the oil changed on the Saturn. Does that count?

What does “people who live in glass houses” mean?

That if you judge someone else, you are clearly going to be sorry because they are going to throw rocks at your house.

Every symphony is a suicide postponed, true or false?

For the composer or for the listener?I

Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the avalanche?

Sure- you take 100% and divide it among every snowflake. That way, each snowflake is taking some personal responsibility without being devastated by an overwhelming amount of guilt.

Name five rivers.


What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes?

Since this is generally an oral quiz, I’m going to skip ahead to the part after I’be finished this post. It’s almost dinner. I’ll probably cook. It will be delicious, and you will be jealous you did’t come over to eat.

How about some lovely soft Thorazine music?

Does it come with Swedish massage?

If you could have half an hour with your father, what would you say to him?

I can’t think of anything to say to my father. When I think of him, my ability to speak is diminished to nothing. Those feelings are so deep that speaking seems entirely inadequate. I would just want to sit on his back deck, smoke a cigar, and hope that somehow companionable silence would suffice. I would’t be the person I am today without him, and not fifteen minutes goes by before I do something that makes me crack up and say, “I’m just like my dad.” Words are so gorgeous, so precious, that anything I could say would have the emotional punch of a World’s Greatest Dad coffee mug. It is my intention to write him something beautiful, something he can keep, but I’be been working on it for oh, ten years now, and it’s never been just right. I want it to be just right, because the work of being my dad is sometimes difficult. It would probably be easier for him if I was a little less shy, if I’d just come out of my shell a little more.

What should you do if I fell asleep?

Call HR! You’re sleeping at work!

Are you still following in [her] sic mastodon footsteps?

No. I stood too close and she stepped on me.

What is the moral of Mary Had a Little Lamb?

If you’re waiting for someone, you’re going to have to wait a long time.
If you love that person, you know they’re worth the wait.
If Mary hand’t loved the lamb as much as she did, the lamb would not have waited for her.
Unforeseen obstacles may separate you from the one you love, but if you both are in agreement, togetherness will come *someday.*

What about [her] sic Everest shadow?

Big with the metaphors, are we?

I will surely never climb Mt. Everest, and most of the time, I’m fine with it. But then I catch a memory in my mind, and I wish I could just get on a plane and go.

Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination of indigenous populations?

“Have you took yo’ nerve medication this week? …Cause everybody be wondrin.’ -Shirley Q. Liquor

Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?

Both are equally troubling. Life is conflict.

Should an odd number be sacrificed to the gods of the sky, and an even to those of the underworld, or vice versa?

An odd number of what? Potato chips? Chevrolets?

Would you visit a country where nobody talks?

I visit it all the time. It’s called “my apartment.” Of course, this is exclusively when Dana is at work.

What would you have done differently?

That’s a whole other book, dude.

Why are you here?

I am here to help people. I often marvel at the things that come out of my mouth and think, “that was really good advice. Why didn’t I take it?”

AAAAAAaaaaannnnnnnnddddd scene.

Missives from Israel, Part 4

Dear Leslie,

As you’ve probably heard or read, it’s calm again in Israel. Tuesday I was sure it was going to end, and then when it didn’t I was sure it was going to become awful. Wednesday, someone bombed a bus in Tel Aviv. I read about it while I was on the train to Tel Aviv myself, and I can’t tell you how much my heart sank. Once the news broke, too, the entire train car erupted in cellphone calls for a few minutes, although it took me a moment to notice, since I was lost in my own thoughts. At the same time, they were announcing a problem with the cease-fire talks, as well as that the Lebanese had found some rockets in the south aimed at northern Israel (i.e. me). Then, that evening, when I thought it was clear that it was going to get really, really, really, bad, a truce was announced. I haven’t read any of the reports of ‘behind the scenes’ in the conflict, but I imagine having Hillary Clinton and Ban Ki-Moon here helped, and may even have been decisive.

Things here have returned to normal, which, in Haifa, mainly means that people have stopped wondering what’s going to happen next in Gaza, and some of the reserve soldiers who were called up are slowly being sent home. Apparently, though, they plan to keep a significant presence gathered near Gaza for a while, which I imagine was the reason for an urgent call I saw for volunteers at an IDF food packaging plant for this upcoming week. At least, that’s all I hope it was for.

I’m incredibly glad it’s over. In Haifa, we only saw the rockets on TV, but living here was starting to feel like being trapped in a surreal sports bar where everyone keeps asking you which side you’re on and doesn’t understand you when you tell them that, actually, you don’t really like the game.