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Strategery, Y’all.

Toby stares up at me, his blobby tail thudding on the linoleum. I plunge the French press and glance at the stove clock. I’m a few minutes late for the meeting.

Thankfully, I don’t have to brave the 405 this time – I just have to take a few steps into the living room. Andy sits cross-legged on the floor in front of the open laptop. I slide a cup of coffee over to him, and set the stove timer.

“The clothes will be done in twenty-five minutes. So let’s get started.”

Andy flexes his fingers and then launches into his spiel. Our first strategy deployment session as a couple has officially begun.

***

When we first realized that Seattle was actually happening, we began to strategize – figure out what this next step will mean, and what kinds of things we’d like to have accomplished by the time it inevitably ends.

Which is why we’re sitting on the floor, filling a Saturday morning rapping out pages’ worth of personal and professional benchmarks, then cutting it down to a page of essentials.

With the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles constantly making us sweat, we’re craving the ability to loosen the reigns, breathe deeper (and fresher air), and re-center. Now, it’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s going to take a lot of energy. And it’s not like Seattle is going to be some magical cure for our wanderlust, or a fairyland where all our dreams come true.

In reality, it’s going to be damper, hillier, and hipsterery. And I’m down with that. After all, I much prefer jeans over shorts, and if I ever have to pick between a wannabe Ken doll and a wannabe Emo rocker, I’ll always pick the latter.

Still, what’s becoming more and more important to me is rekindling my passion for art…

Forward Facing

Absolution

for community engagement…

The Center!

and for the outdoors and gardening.

Ah, green.

Sure, I spent more years than I can remember traipsing through the woods, but it’ll be nice to revisit them – and not have to wade through droves of tourists to do so. And it’ll be insanely cathartic to get back to photography and painting – two passions that’ve withered faster than a grocery store-bought basil plant in the California sun.

But more than our personal passions, we’re starting to plan, plan, plan – beyond our usual Excel spreadsheets. We’re entering that phase of life where life goals are more here-and-now than down-the-line. We have want to act, and start doing rather than dreaming.

We’re going to fine-tune our lives and keep ourselves honest. We’re going to enjoy the little things, but remember the bigger picture – and push to bring it to fruition. So I hope that during our time in Seattle we have fun and learn a lot.

But more than that, I hope that we become the people we want to be for a long time.

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The Social Construct Wars

Between the news from Baltimore and the Supreme Court, social media consumers are undoubtedly gorged with tragedy, violence, and anxiety. All in all, it’s a horribly normal state of being.

We want answers. We want resolution. We want peace and security.

But above all, we want a quick sound bite that we can use to wave away all of these issues – freeing their cobweb-like hold on our minds and congratulating ourselves that we’ve donated $10 to Nepal relief – so we can go about our day as if nothing has happened. Again, it’s all sadly status quo.

And I’m just as guilty of it as anyone. But today something just snapped. I’m tired of reading all of the erroneously overwrought statements about how “certain people” should act. You know, black people.

Sorry, I should’ve whispered “black” or, at the very least, put it in smaller font. Because that’s how we talk about others, in hushed tones, looking over our shoulder for added emphasis. Just like with “gay” people, or “brown” people or, you know, “the handicapped.” Like the people “over there.”

It’s all about distance, even if what’s happening – who it’s happening to – is writing itself into history right outside your door. Because as long as there’s a mental gulf in place, you don’t really have to think about it.

***

A few weeks ago, on a longer than usual trek up the 405, my stop-and-go journey came to an abrupt stop on La Cienega, just before the Beverly Center.

Goddamn traffic. It’s Friday. I just want to go home.

I leered at the base of the hills, the apartment complexes taunting me like desert mirages. But horrible traffic is par for the course. So I prepared to wait.

And as I turned up a random song from Brand New, I noticed a crowd gathering on one of the intersection’s corners.

Something’s happen…

I didn’t even finish my thought before a tall woman with a long, curly wig cut across the crosswalk and fell prostrate in the middle of the intersection. Then the chants started, and protesters began moving into the street waving handmade posters. I cringed.

Of course this has to fucking happen right now. 

And then I heard it.

“TRANS LIVES MATTER! TRANS LIVES MATTER!”

It was like someone threw a bucket of cold water over my brain. I was immediately incensed by my former thoughts. Of course this matters.

But pretty much everyone around me, save a few taking photos, leaned on their horns and yelled unintelligible gibberish out of their partially cracked windows. I inched up as car after car made a U-turn, adding to the vehicular welter around us. Just a few car lengths from the intersection, I kept my gaze fixed on the woman in the street – she’d draped herself across the intersection like a speed bump; she wasn’t moving anytime soon.

Just then, my phone rang. Andy’s voice came through the car speakers before I realized I’d hit “Answer.”

“Hey, what the fuck is going on? I’m stuck on La Cienega.”

“I must be just ahead of you. It’s a protest – a Trans Lives Matter crowd. We’re not getting through.”

“Goddammit! Why do they have to do this today?”

He quieted, and then, like me, realized what he’d said. “I mean, it’s just inconvenient. They have to know that being this close to WeHo, they’ve got plenty of support.”

We decided to turn around about the time the helicopters started circling, and the fire engines pulled up. But even over the sirens, I could faintly make out the chanting.

***

Weeks later, Andy was trying to counteract a case of insomnia at 3:00 AM, but nothing settled him.

“I’m going on a walk.”

I grumbled something unintelligible about not doing it because it was so early. But I heard the lock click over before I finished, and dozed back off. Twenty minutes later, the phone rang.

“I JUST GOT DETAINED BY THE POLICE!”

I bolted upright. Toby snorted awake beside me.

“Wait, WHAT? Where are you?!”

“I’m on my way home. They thought I was a robber or something and put be in the back of their patrol car and asked me all of these questions.”

Now I was completely awake.

“WHY IN THE HELL WOULD THEY THINK THAT?”

“I’ll tell you when I get back. Apparently, there was a break-in somewhere around here.”

“Did you at least have your license?”

He paused.

“No.”

I facepalmed in the dark. This is something that Andy and I always sparred about – always taking some form of ID with us, even when we’re going out front with Toby.

“Just get home safely.”

A few minutes later, Andy came in and relayed the whole story – clearly shaken, and more awake than ever. Long story short, there was a robbery and apparently someone saw Andy walking around the block in his hoodie, and misidentified him as the suspect.

“Are you fucking KIDDING ME?”

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, “Thank the gods you’re the epitome of a WASP.”

It was horribly true. In that moment, all I could replay was the scenario going wrong, not being able to be in touch with Andy, not knowing where or how he was. And all I kept thinking about was how things would’ve been different if Andy were a racial minority. Had he been black, would the police have suspected him more? Would he have even been able to call me? Would he have been hurt?

This isn’t an illogical jump. West Hollywood is about as racially diverse as Orange County. Had Andy been black or Latino or Indian, he most likely would’ve been detained much longer than he was, and possibly arrested. As much as we’d like to think our police officers are above racial profiling, they’re biased people just like you and me.

But through that uniform, those biases can morph into disturbing behavioral practices if left unchecked.

Now, I’m not saying every law enforcement official is a racist, classist, homophobe, or any of the other horrible things people can be. What I’m saying is that officers are people, and everyone needs to be educated and re-educated on a routine basis. I’m just saying that everyone in a position of power may would benefit from an Anthropology 101 primer. Because by page 10, the differences we use on a daily basis to pigeon-hole and judge people are brought into sharp relief for what they really are: social constructs perpetuated by us, oftentimes through state-sanctioned violence.

Gender? Race? Labels for constructs we’ve developed to try and isolate and explain difference and constrain people.

And while we keep perpetuating these constructed differences, we neglect to see or address the root cause of social upheaval – social fissions and fractures that signal that something in this crazy-ass social structure we’ve developed just isn’t working. Instead, we throw a hashtag on it and dust off our hands.

#blacklivesmatter

#translivesmatter

#alllivesmatter

#lovemustwin

We reduce the work that needs to be done to a few characters on our smartphones. And then we disengage completely.

But you know who can’t disengage? People fighting for their lives – black, white, brown, trans, gay, straight, queer, differently-abled. People who take to the streets because their brains can’t handle another damn hashtag; they crave resolution and demand immediate answers from those in power. And their emotions bubble over. I can’t fault people who’ve had enough – who march and demonstrate and do what they must to be heard. Many of us have been there.

Ides of Love

What I can’t stand is the person who piggybacks on tragedy to satisfy their own endgame, to line their pockets, to cast someone’s livelihood asunder, to divert attention away from the real problem.

We’re fallible beings. We make mistakes. But sometimes those mistakes coalesce into a flashpoint for change. Had the Stonewall Riots and so many protests and marches and non-peaceful demonstrations not happened, would the SCOTUS be hearing Obergefell v. Hodges today? Probably not. So who can say that the protests and volatile confrontations in Baltimore aren’t going to translate into something positive?

It’s certainly (unfortunately) true that violence often begets violence. Or at least that’s what we’ve conditioned ourselves into thinking. But what we often let our minds gloss over is that the same unbridled anger that’s been channeled through violence has also helped propel us forward – through the breaking glass, bloodied fists, and smoking wreckage to today.

And tomorrow.

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Movin’ On Up. Literally.

We take the turn at 1.5 mph, and hear a bone-chilling clunk-crash-shatter that makes my heart skip a beat. But before we even turn around, Andy and I know what we’ll see.

The project piece we toted across the country, and which has stayed frozen in its “project” state, finally gave up the ghost – shattering to pieces in the back of the car.

I make a feeble attempt to piece it back together, but fail – the broken, newly glued shards slide off a half hour later onto piles of bagged clothes at the thrift store. Instead of slapping them back onto the drawer front, I just turn and run – as if I just lit a firecracker at a gasoline station.

“Go, go, go!”

From the driver’s seat, Andy raises an eyebrow. I jump in.

DRIVE! The drawer fell apart.”

“Chill out. It’s not like they’re going to run after us screaming, ‘How dare you donate something!'”

True. I dust off my hands, but find them sticking together with residual glue.

“Oh well. The albatross is gone. At least we tried to do the right thing.”

We get back to the apartment and find Toby wiggling around, exceedingly thrilled that his car crate is hogging the space the desk had occupied an hour earlier. It’s something ridiculously minor – the absence of a piece of furniture.

But Andy and I know that this is something more – the start of yet another chapter.

I never thought I’d be the type of person who moved around every few years. Mostly because I loathed it, having been forced to do so as a shovel bum for most of my early twenties. But here we are, nearing our two year mark in California – and commemorating it with a move to Seattle.

And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

***

Right before we moved out here, one of our friends told us that her time in California was like a five-year dream. And it’s sort of been true.

I mean, California is beautiful, and LA isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Like any new place, we sometimes let the not-so-great things outweigh the good. It’s a big city – and living in a big, sprawling city can wear on you with its grit, noise, and general impartiality for your feelings. But being homebodies makes doing all the things a little difficult. I mean, I’m all about seeing the sights and visiting everything, but I’m not all about sitting in gridlock for hours to get 10 miles outside the city. And I can only tolerate so many TMZ bus oglers clogging the streets and sidewalks. I know, I know.

Wah, wah, wah! First World Problems!

So instead of pledging that Seattle is going to be our “place panacea,” I’m going to view this upcoming move as what it is: a new experience – an adventure. It could last a year or two and end with us returning to LA, or last five or ten or forever. Who knows? The unknown: it’s the part of the puzzle that drives me nuts in all the right ways, even as I’m literally driving toward it.

Like our move to California, our move to Seattle is a decision we made – not one that was made for us. And one of the greatest things that we learned from realizing our man-infested destiny out here was that we can make big changes and be alright. We don’t have to be comfortably settled to be happy. When that moving itch hits, sometimes you just have to scratch and relish the relief that comes with it.

Leaving a place is never easy.

We’ve done a lot in our short amount of time here: Andy switched jobs, I switched careers, we moved to WeHo, got married, cut up our credit cards, adopted Toby and Pearl, and decided that, one day, we’ll have a kid. Did we make a ton of friends and get ripped and have perfect tans 100% of the time? No. Is that okay? Sure.

What friends we’ve made and what we’ve made of our time here are what count.

Not doing those expected Cali things has taught us a lot about ourselves. We’re homebodies. We like movies, food, antiquing, and playing with our pup. We like being snarky and cynical while also trying to do our best to be good people and give back.

I’m done apologizing for not doing the things I’m expected to do, and I’m too tired to care what other people think about what I actually like to do. I’m ready for a change. And all of the life lessons I’ll learn in the process.

Way, way up there.