Tuesday, December 31, 2013

i woke up like this

"pain is not pathological.  it is the absence of adequate attunement and responsiveness to painful emotional reactions that renders them unendurable and thus a source of traumatic states and psychopathology." - robert stolorow

fifty shades of womens-cut jeans from the gap

 always skinny


 real straight

 sexy boot

perfect boot

"you learn something true everyday"

there are lessons to be learned while transporting one's beta fish from bedstuy to crown heights in its bowl in a cab, if one can only shake the dust from one's eyes:

of the responsivness of liquid to motion;

of the insensitivity of cab drivers;

of the uneveness of nostrand avenue compared to it's more gentrified sisters, bedford or franklin;

of the particular pain that comes with extending oneself, in love, for something that cannot love in return;

of the infallibility of that love.  


some nights, i lay in my bed and try to feel the depths of how alone i am.  it is an impossible exercise.

Monday, December 30, 2013

what i learned at home in florida

"i'm a grown woman. i can do whatever I want." - nelson mandela

don't trust anyone.

 nobody trusts you.

the oceans are being over-fished.

"nostalgia, pt 1"

I don’t remember where I was when the news broke that John F. Kennedy was shot.  I don’t feel too much shame about this, mostly because my parents were both eleven-years-old when it happened—years before they would meet and decades before my father would say that he would rather buy a sailboat than have a child.  He and my mother would have five (children, not sailboats).

I don’t remember where I was when Harvey Milk was shot.  This feels more to do with the fact that my Floridian public school education made no mention of Mr. Milk than it does with the fact that he was assassinated twelve years before I was born and thirty years before the movie was released (and I would hear his name for the first time).

I have a faint recollection of September 11th, but when that tragedy occurred, it was my turn to be eleven.  I was more struck by the reality that I still had to go to soccer practice that day than I was struck by the “reality” that two airplanes had struck two buildings in a city that I wouldn’t visit for another seven years—when I would move there to try to make a living making art.

I do remember where I as when I heard that Michael Jackson died.

I grew up in a family of seven: two parents (one male, one female) who have been married as long as anyone can remember, four sisters, and 1.5 dogs.  It was a stable childhood.  My mother stayed home to raise the kids and my father made a career as a professional altruist—traveling the world to places like Thailand, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Romania, and Palestine to advocate for children’s rights.  (His survival job is working as a pediatrician at one of the country's top research hospitals). 

So when I returned home from college for winter break freshman year, it was neither a shock nor a logistical dilemma when I said that I wanted to spend the summer “working abroad”. The Goldhagens are very progressive (my older sister is dating a republican car salesman to rebel), so there was no shortage of ex-pat old friends or familiar NGO’s to host me.  Moreover, “working abroad” in my family means roughly the same thing as “majoring in psychology” does to many undergraduates or “raising the debt ceiling” does to congress.  It is a place-holder phrase that means almost nothing, but gets your parents off your back.

A few months and a few thousand dollars later, I walked off an airplane in Entebbe International Airport, Uganda. 

Uganda has meant different things to different people.  For the British in 1894, it meant a new and another pin on the map of places to be considered the “British Empire”.  For many queer individuals today, it means a home that denies recognition, safety, and other basic human rights.  For me (an upper-middle-class, able-bodied, height/weight proportionate, educated, gender conforming, Caucasian male) it meant the setting of my cliché and quintessential, once-in-a-college-career African adventure.  This coming-of-age tale came complete with a remote village (sans electricity or running water), more Facebook photos than could fit in a single album, and an eventual lifestyle shift to vegeteranism. 

I lived for three months in Ramogi, Uganda—an Eden untouched even by Google.  I taught English, built houses, and played out the “pray” and “love” sections of my major motion picture summer.  (Ramogi epitomizes abject poverty—the “eat” section was played out upon my arrival home).

I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of East Africa.  My main point-of-reference for the African continent before I left was the animated film of The Lion King. I spent the few months before I got on the plane training on a treadmill, “just in case” I would have to outrun a big cat in my new summer home. (This logic is flawed on more than one level, but I only had thirteen years of public school education and a year of private university under my belt).

There are no lions in Uganda, but there are vast savannahs fecund with diverse greenery, lush geometricly cultivated fields, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and jackfruit.  Jackfruit are spiky brown gourds with sweet, pillowey pink centers.  You can buy them in most Chinatowns, and they grow in Uganda.  It was on a quest for jackfruit with my Ugandan friend, Opio, that we happened upon a stream which lead us to a path which guided us into a forrest which took us up a hill which landed us at the front door of a hut that belonged to a friend of Opio’s.  The friend was not expecting us—but as I learned that summer, to have white skin in Ramogi meant to have a kind of constant access that is not unlike the access white skin affords individuals in most other parts of the world.  We went inside.

The hut was small with painstakingly even mud brick walls and a roof made out of metal siding—similar to most of the structures I visited in Ramogi.  The air inside was thick and smelled like burnt poplar and sweat.  Three Ugandan men, a decade or so older than me, were huddeled around a small television screen.  It was the first electronic device I had seen turned “on” in about a month.  Outside, the sun was setting and it was beginning to get cold.  Faint rain began to pepper the metal roof.  None of the men in the hut turned their heads to see who had entered.  Instead, their gazes were fixed on the television screen.  It was playing what appeared to be the equivalent of a “local news program” in Ramogi.  A man in a boxey suit and a women with quaffed hair wearing a patterened dress spoke in a language I could not understand.  Images of an empty bedroom washed across the screen in slow motion.  Opio leaned over and whispered into my ear, “Michael Jackson died.”

This, I would learn, all happened on a day two weeks after Michael Jackson had died.

Five years later, I am sitting on the floor of my apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  It is the frontline of gentrification in the northern-most tip of the southern part of the borough.  The walls of the apartment are exposed brick and sprinkled with holes from the nails of tenants past.  Three of the five lightbulbs in the generic living room ceiling fixture have gone out. Old movie posters, semi-ironically ironic photographs, and worldly patterned tapestries litter the walls uncohesively.  The perimeter of the room is cluttered with mismatched furniture found on the street during the firsts of the months or left by old roommates.  It holds all of the charms, the smells, and the potential of a flea market (as stated by my mother, on her first and only trip to Brooklyn). I live in this apartment with four female roommates.

It is Thanksgiving.  I am not surrounded by my family like I had been for Thanksgivings growing up.  I am not with a boyfriend like I had blissfully been the year before.  I am with two of my roommates (who also live to far from home to make the treck), an acquaintance from college, and a fourth person who is a stranger to me but apparently an old co-worker of someone’s.  The sun has just set.  We have just finished a Thanksgiving dinner of spinach artichoke dip, sautéed kale, hummus, vegetable stir-fry, and “Rebecca’s Avocado Thing” (a recipe my roommate acquired on a trip to France, where an avocado is halved, spread with some Dijon mustard, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar).  We got an early start that day (at noon), and nine mimosas, two bottles of red wine, three rounds of hot cider, half a pot of mulled rum, and three joints later, we are playing “Apples to Apples”. (We cannot afford cable). 

Someone interrupts the game to ask if everyone remembers where they were when Michael Jackson died. 

I did not remember until that moment during “Apples to Apples” that I had that memory. I remember when that moment in Uganda happened, I floated outside of the experience for an instant and thought to myself “This is an incredible moment.  You’ll want to remember this later.” I dropped the pin and had revisited that moment for the first time while in my apartment in Crown Heights on the last Thursday of November, 2013.  And thinking about that memory for the first time made me realize how far away that part of my life felt.  And what I felt in the present was nostalgia.


congratulations, everyone. female sking jupming is now an olympic sport!