Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Birds of a Feather ** Short Story

Birds of a Feather

Amber flicked her cheap cigarette onto the ground and smashed the ember out with the toe of her designer label boot. She looked both ways as she crossed the street to the Section 8 apartment building on the east side of the city. The day was hollow gray and anonymously cold. Her steps sent a gang of pigeons scattering as a playground swing squeaked a desolate moan. She wrapped her arms tight about her knitted sweater against the bitter wind, which carried the detritus of poverty: plastic bags, plastic vodka bottles, Styrofoam to-go boxes, an infinity of cigarette butts. She pushed lock on her key fob again, just in case. The cooing birds briefly lifted with the double honk, before settling back to their endless pecking at the frozen ground. This apartment complex was the keystone of her own endless need: crank. Just fourteen floors up to her salvation: Loretta. Loretta could get a girl anything she wanted, but Amber had only one love: meth-amphetamines. She would go from dead inside to giant-sized and unstoppable with just one more line.
            Amber stopped on the sidewalk because a pigeon sprawled, dead, on the concrete. There was a torn open cigarette package which read in the clear scratchings of a child: “hes a good burd. sorry. RIP.” Someone had staged a memorial service for this casualty of the city, complete with dead flowers and uprooted weeds. Amber was momentarily touched, remembering her own mother’s death the previous summer. She remembered the tombstone, the cut flowers, the tears. That was the beginning of all the wasting away. She kicked the sign over and kept walking.
            “Hi, Amber!” Little Xtina came running and propped the sign to rest once more against the dead bird. Amber rolled her eyes at the wayward and obnoxious child. She was Loretta’s hatchling though, so there was no escaping her endless stream of trivial stories about all the tenants of the project.
            “I’m six. My birthday was yesterday. Loretta couldn’t get me a present until she made some more money. That good-for-nothing Randy took her money again. He doesn’t know that he hurts my mom when he takes things. They brought me back a Choco-Taco from the Fast Stop and I got to watch what I wanted on TV all night. My friend Cinnamon gave me a necklace, too. She got it from work because when one of the girls got fired she left all her clothes and stuff in the back and everybody got to take whatever they wanted, so Cinnamon got me this.”
            Xtina showed Amber a cheap locket on a blackened, knotted up silver chain. There was a picture of a baby inside. “Cinnamon said that he was the girl’s son, and that he died from Sid’s Disease, where babies just die in the crib when no one is looking. Do you think that’s what happened to the pigeon?”
            Amber ignored Xtina and continued into the lobby where the doorman scowled at her. He was in a ratty suit and faded tie, bitter behind a cube of bullet proof glass. Amber could feel him looking down on her and flipped him the bird. She angled for the elevators and pressed the button. No light. She pushed again and again, cursing.
            “It don’t work. Jim says they’ll fix it when mom pays rent. Jim has cartracks in his eyes. That’s where clouds grow in them and make it hard to see. Loretta says he’s better off not seeing anything here, since he’s so sad about his wife dying, and since he don’t like to have no fun anyway. His wife died a long time ago. But not from Sid’s Disease, from the cancer. Now, he just takes care of the pigeons, I help him feed them seeds when he lets me.”
The child grabbed Amber’s hand and led her to the staircase. The stairs were littered as the outside lawn: soaked through diapers, a filthy bra, brown-tarred glass pipes, the inevitable cigarette butts. The tainted air smelled of crack smoke and ancient body odors, which made Amber dry-heave.
Two more floors up an old, barrel-chested black man with a deep cough sat on the stairs. His yellow eyes seeped pus, strained from endless coughing. Amber could hear the phlegm rattling in his body and watched it congeal at the corners of his lips. He turned as the girls walked past and took a long drink off the brown paper bag clutched in his hand. Amber wondered how this old bird was still alive, he was pickled through.
            “That’s Clarence. He has Emfeezeemee disease. That’s when you cough until you die, he got it from smoking too many damn Lucky Strikes. He said everything would be okay if only his Corsica had never broken down. He said he’s an honest man and he would work an honest day if he could. Now he just hangs out with Cinnamon.”
            “What the ever-loving fuck, man!” Amber recoiled as they rounded the next landing where on the threadbare carpet was another dead pigeon. Xtina patted Amber’s hand in an act of solace.
            “Loretta says everyone dies. My dad died of oberdozing. Loretta says he never could handle his shit. Some cops took him away and then we never saw him again. Loretta says he wasn’t never good for nothing, and she says she don’t need nobody anyway. She says she happiest all on her own.” Xtina looked away and pulled her too-big jeans up and pushed her stringy blonde hair behind her ears. She gripped Amber’s hand harder. Amber rolled her eyes at the kid, thinking everyone was better off on their own. Love was a drug with no high, only pain.
            Amber pushed the heavy door open to the fourteenth floor and her fix, her head was fuzzy and she thought back to when her mom flew the coop, how things didn’t go the way they should’ve. How she didn’t even leave a note. Amber shook her head and forbade the tears.
Xtina led Amber excitedly over to a neighbor’s open door. The TV was blaring a daytime talk show and women were screeching about paternity tests. Amber peered in to see a gaunt woman with a pot belly putting on a pair of torn hose. A man was sitting next to the window smoking a cigarette, his hand escaping between the bars over the window. It occurred to Amber that the bars were not to keep people out – not at this height – but to keep disillusioned people and abandoned children from trying to fly. The man flicked his smoke to the ground and pushed the ember into the carpet with his boot. He threw a crumpled wad of bills onto the bed and pushed past the two uninvited guests.
            “Hi Cinnamon! This is Amber, she’s my friend. We play outside together and she has her own car. Her parents gave it to her for her sweet-sixteen party. I told her you gave me this necklace for my birthday. I love it!” Xtina threw her arms around the weary woman and kissed her cheek. Cinnamon’s dark ringed eyes grew bright for a millisecond and she hugged the child back.
            “That’s right, baby-girl! Now you gonna sing for me?”
            “I am BEE-YOU-TIF-FUL! No matter what they say! I am BEE-YOU-TIF-FUL every every way! Birds can’t bring me down … ohhhhhhhh, ohhhh, oh!”
            Cinnamon and Xtina laughed together while Amber was overcome with pity, she and her own mother sang that song together, once.
            “Now go tell your momma to give Miss Cinnamon some candy from her toy box!”
            Xtina’s face took a dark turn. She jumped off the bed and shuffled her toes.
            “Momma’s having a bad day, Miss Cinnamon.”
            “I don’t care about that, go tell her I need my candy or there’s gonna be hell to pay and I’m gonna tell Jim. Now go on, get, child.”
            Xtina kicked her left foot with the right and looked up at Cinnamon with a contained sniffle, then turned and gripped Amber’s hand tighter.
            “OK, Cinnamon, I’ll see you in a little while!” The two girls headed down the hallway, Amber’s anxiety subsided as she felt closer to her fix. Her tongue ring ran the back of her teeth in a crazy drumbeat and her palms wrung wet with need. She bit her lips where the little sores were springing up; she fingernailed the dime-sized scab on her otherwise lovely, suburban face.
            “My Mom, I mean Loretta, named me after the best singer in the world, Christina Aggielarry. She says it’s good to be named after someone famous and that one day I’ll get to be on TV, too. Cinnamon has been on TV two times before, she made two movies before and she said she was the star, but I can’t watch them because they’re a special kind of movie for grown-ups. But then she met Clarence and now he helps her meet boyfriends and they live together. Cinnamon is so pretty, she has the most boyfriends.”
            Xtina opened the door to Loretta’s apartment and inside was a violent tornado of chaos. Loretta was the size of a bobby pin and had eyes sunk as the Titanic, her aged-by-hard-luck face was deformed by frantic rage. She ripped apart the couch cushions with a knife and flung the white cloud fluff across the room. The end table was overturned, drawers thrown aside with take-out menus, packets of matches and junk mail flung everywhere. The kitchen cabinets were all open, conspicuously empty; a bag of rice was disassembled and scattered everywhere.
            “Where’s Momma’s candy, baby? Where the fuck is it! Who was here, baby, was somebody here, baby? You better tell Momma! Don’t you care if we eat, don’t you care that I do everything for you?! Help Momma find her candy, NOW!”
            “No one was here, Momma, I promise! I would never let anyone in!” Xtina openly cried and collapsed herself into a clinging fetal ball with sneakered feet tap-tapping out her terror.
            “I have money.”
Amber didn’t care about the mess and the lost drugs. She just knew Loretta could get more, and sure as death, Loretta’s fit came to a swift stop. Amber held out the money and said she needed a teener.
            “Watch the kid, I’ll be back.”
            “I ain’t no babysitter, take the kid with you.”
            “You are a babysitter if you wanna get fucking high.” Loretta stormed out, stuffing the cash into her pocket. Amber sat on the disemboweled couch and Xtina moved close to her side. A flush of nerves came over Amber, she’d just given all her cash to a freaked-out fuck of an addict; agitated, she chewed her lip. She could hear her dead mother’s nagging voice in her mind’s ear: Dead birds everywhere, dead people everywhere? Why don’t they leave if everyone is dying? Amber thought about leaving, too. A migraine started up in her head as she began to fear another night without a high. She fingered her phone for who else might be holding.
            “Momma is always losing things. She would lose her head if it wasn’t born on, she says. Also, people steal you know, no-good god-damn thieves everywhere these days.” Xtina sucked her thumb and petted Amber’s shoulder in a wasted effort to get a hug. Amber’s heart burst into a quick laugh realizing that the old addled whore had probably just lost her drugs and that this little cuckoo child would probably know everywhere they could look.
            “Where is your mom’s toy box? We could help her find her candy.”
            “OK! Yeah, then she’ll be happy again! That would be a great present for my birthday, even though it was yesterday, you know. I’m six years old now!”
            The two went from room to room, shook out sheets, felt in the toes of shoes and looked under the bathroom vanity, but Loretta had left no stone unturned. Amber began thinking that maybe that good for nothing whore and her pimp had stolen the stash. Or maybe it was that uppity blind man downstairs judging everyone as they came in just to get a score, just to be good to go again. What the fuck did that guy know anyway, she thought, his wife probably killed herself because he had a small-ass dick.
            “Where do Cinnamon and the stairwell dude hide shit around here, Xtina?”
            “Well, maybe in the shed where the Corsica is broke down.”
            “OK, and what about Jim? Where does he keep his shit?” Amber figured that old man wanted to clean up the dealers out of the apartment building, so he could make more room for his pigeon friends.
            “Jim keeps all his stuff in the mop closet. That’s where his cleaning stuff is, he likes to keep clean because he says cleanly is same as being god.”
Indeed, Amber thought.
            The two girls went downstairs past the broken crack pipes and bird corpse and jimmied Jim’s lock on the utility closet. The toxic smell hit them first as they opened the door: a bin full of dead pigeons, rotting away.
            “God fuck. Seriously, what the fuck? Why are all these birds dead and why is he saving them? Sicko.” Amber gagged over pursed lips and dumped the bin looking for drugs. The birds were broken and stiff, the stench of death overwhelmed both girls. Xtina whimpered and murmured no-no-no-no while she held her shaking head between her two baby hands.
            “Come on, let’s go.” Amber left the feathered mess.
            “Cinnamon says everyone is sick and then everyone dies.”
Amber grabbed Xtina’s hand and headed for the garage where Clarence’s Chevy Corsica was broke-down-dead. They passed the memorialized pigeon and the swings and opened the creaking wooden door to the shed. Amber rifled through the car, the glovebox, popped the trunk.
            “Nothing, man. How does your mom lose a bunch of fucking dr… candy?”
            Amber searched the drawers along the old workbench, flipped a birdcage and tool boxes over, and found nothing. She saw the bag of pigeon feed that Jim, the loony cataracted door man, kept for his beloved birds. Scattered about the ground were a bunch of tiny bags she recognized. Her heart flew. She tore open the twenty-gallon manila seed bag and gasped. Inside, nested throughout the seed, was dumped all the crystal meth.
            “Well, at least now we know how all the fucking pigeons are dying.”
            “What? Why?” Xtina seemed sheepish, she was looking down and kicking her foot again.
            “All your Momma’s candy is in the fucking pigeon seed. It’s poison to the birds.”
            Shit, Amber thought, everything died in the projects. Nobody left, no wife, no father, no tenant, no pigeon flew away; wings were lies, only hearses or garbage bags took anyone away. Birds of a feather, right? Amber sighed and squinted her eyes at Xtina, who was suddenly crying.
            “I just wanted everyone to be happy again. I didn’t know it would kill the pigeons.”

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Riot GRRRL Show: Running with Scissors


True Warrior.

Money where her mouth is.

DIY: Do It Yourself

This is a description of a RIOT GRRRL, it's also a description of local radical feminist, Michelle Wyssmann.

Michelle ran the punk-bar-home-community-center called Vandals for the last couple years, and the reason so many of us Midtown Misfits felt like we were meant to be there is because Michelle creates an environment where individuality and creativity is encouraged and ENFORCED. The Riot GRRRL movement is a large part of what shaped Michelle's ethic and business sense, so it was no surprise that she has been endeavoring to bring the Riot GRRRL scene kicking and screaming to KC.

Her first show was a great time and a full house, but Michelle felt that the message behind the movement was not represented well to the community who may not know the history of 3rd wave feminism and Riot GRRRL culture. Chatting over coffee, I begged her to let me MC the next show and bring that narrative to the stage.

{{{{{An Alien's Brief History of RIOT GRRRL Ethics:

It was the 90's and we were wearing flannel and nobody knew we were new wave. Alternative wasn't a word to describe music yet. The punk movement was alive and well, and grunge was a thing that only existed in garages on the west coast. A bunch of smart and talented women were in the wake of 2nd wave feminism which loosely translated to "middle class white ladies fighting for placement in upper corporate management." Which is needed, but left out so much of the female identifying person's needs, especially for poor women and women of color.

The original Riot GRRRLs studied 3rd wave feminism which addressed exactly those needs, and came to realize that they, as artists, were putting themselves second, making themselves accessories to their punk-band-boyfriends by not creating and making for themselves. So the ladies began community activist programs for women's education and opportunity creation, the ladies began writing essays and self-publishing them in the growing Zine scene, most notably, the ladies started putting together their own bands and playing tons of shows.

The name Riot GRRRL grew organically through the diverse happenings, and the ethic was DIY. These women didn't feel the need to be offered an opportunity, they went out and created them. In this way, I want to encourage you to DIY educate yourself on this rich recent history of women's issues, agendas and actions.

Pro-tip: Start by watching Lydia Lunch videos "How do you make a living?" I DON'T! --LL
Listen to Bikini Kill, and find Kathleen Hannah. "Popularity is totally overrated." -KH
Read "Words Will Break Cement" by Masha Gessen.

Now back to KC today.}}}}}

Michelle is the picture of feminist activism in action and this Riot GRRRL show on October 15, 2015 shows just how much. She booked, produced, stage managed and promoted four bands, one MC, a host of vendors and also created a zine, ROAR, for the show.

Stellar New York indie wild child, Nan Turner and her band, Schwervon, opened the show. Nan is as for-real a radical performance artist as I've come across in a long time; every time I've seen her perform it is a unique and visceral performance. On this night she and partner, Matt Roth, interjected between songs a poem accompanied by Nan's interpretive dance:

Babehammer played next, an all lady grunge trio, and their first outing as a band. The staple of KC genderqueer everything interesting, Wick Thomas, threw down with Wick & the Tricks. (They want to make out with you!) Blondie Brunetti, Rita Brinkerhoff's eclectic act, rounded out the show with their aloof edginess and thumb in the eye to top 40 conformity.

For myself, I create performance art pieces when I MC. I like the interstitials to have integrity and create a cohesive and pointed show. To do this for a Riot GRRRL show, I was beyond excited. This is a space I can get as gritty and angry as I dream. Michelle and I met a couple times to talk about the message she wanted to get across and I developed my piece. I know I'm going to do a version of Write Up, a type of performance piece I often do which centers on dressing like a slut and asking people to write answers to vulnerable questions on my bare skin. These pieces are rarely recorded in any way.

Sharp Scissors

I already know this is going to be a whole day process to get into performance mode. I put on a hoodie that proclaims my biggest fear. I took a relic, okok, a selfie. I'm tryin a elevate my shit. I knew this would be the last day of my river blond hair.

I check my email to see if my zine is printed at the big mega corporate box paper store. No email. The order is for a single double sided page with the text of two of my poems, one on each side, in a tri-fold pamphlet design. The zine features two feminist poems; Girl, Girl, GRRRL and Breaking Plates. It looks like this:

I call the store. Hi, blah blah blah, is my order ready?

Um, no. We can't print that order. What? Why not?

Because ... it's ... um ... vulgar. What? Ohhhhhhh. because it says GET FUCKED repeatedly in huge letters all over it?

Yes. It's against corporate policy to print vulgar orders. Well, did you read the poem?

Oh yes! We all read the poem! What the everloving patricarchy!

Here's what's vulgar to me.

Corporations institute policies their low wage workers are expected to enforce. Policies which, in this situation, are operating against the worker's own self interest. Corporations regularly insist we hurt ourselves to better their bottom line, that we act as agents in our own self-destruction.

Let's meet down at the docks after midnight for the secret meeting ...

As you can see, it was printed anyway. Ask me in person for what's off the record.

I get home, kiss and fold each zine and get dressed for the show. I get barely dressed. Lingerie and shorts so short my pink lace panties are falling out the bottom. My best stomping heels. I start at the bar and saunter in with tears painted on my face and my tits hanging out of my underwear. Blue x's are visible under the lace, just in case a nipple should wiggle too obviously.

I barely dress because I'm going to ask people to interact with me all night, and tell me some thoughtful truths about themselves. We're going to share more than the weather. I am the image of vulnerability dressed like this. I am the essence of asking for it, but I find people don't take advantage of me, instead they are curious, helpful and instantly protective.

I barely dress when I want to feel strong. I imagine lingerie not as an invitation but as a threat. I imagine it as my warrior clothes, minimal and fierce.

I take one of the permanent markers I have in my pocket out and ask the bartender to write on me. The performance begins.

She writes across my left shoulder A feminist is a ... I take the sewing scissors out of my other pocket, and ask her to cut the first lock of my hair. She knows what I want and takes a huge lock right out from the middle center of my forehead. There is no going back now.

Throughout the rest of the night, I ask people to complete the sentence, and then to cut some more of my hair away. 


 People write: Mother, bitch, logical choice, power, boss, lover of self.  My cousin writes WARRIOR across my neck and cutts a big chunk out of my hair.

Some people refuse to cut my hair. I'm NOT going to fuck you up!

Do you have to have good hair? Really? Am I defined completely and confined to being fucked up if my hairs aren't arranged in a Dr. Magazine Adman prescribed fashion?

I recite my poems between bands, talk about Hannah and Feminism and Activism and how to get involved; but I also get to hear so many stories of people's gender, sexual, non-consentual, deviant, fluid, diverse experiences. I offer my body into people's hands, they offer their hearts into mine. Together, we create stories. 

And an infinity of thanks to that biggest of hearts, Michelle Wyssmann, for making space for all of us to fucking rock out!

and to Jess Morman for many of these photos!


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The River: part 3

This is the Kaw River.

The current has microcurrents which go willy nilly every way, sometimes when the paddle pushes forward it's resisting instead of adding. You can sense the bottom based on how the surface yields and swirls. I've never seen so many whirlpools. Porter teaches me how to find the current. This is the part of the river that is deepest, and so fastest. It's running near the steeper bank, always. Between the current and the bank, the deepest whirlpools turn, carving out the top of the water. One day my kayak will get sucked into one, but today I steer clear into the safer, deeper waters.

I'm learning to read the surface of the water, I'm teaching my paddle to work with the force of the river. The birds dip and swoon: eagles, hawks, finches, more than I know names for. The rest of the Kaw is quiet. We are far enough away from civilization that there is no evidence of man's footprint on the world, only push of current and push of paddle.

There is no hurry here, there are no phones, no traffic, no transactions, no interruptions. My mind is effortless in a way I've never known before. I know I belong here, it's like you can't choose who you fall in love with, and I can't help that this is my unexpected home. There are no invasive thoughts, no keeping up with mental to do lists. There is no worry of where is he and what is she and how are they and when will I. There is no worry.

There is a sandbar. The river is low.

Porter and I get out to explore and eat. He has hunks of beef rib, I have bananas and apples. We bank our boats and step onto the temporary island, still against the water's ceaseless drive. We walk out together, sand in toes. The quiet is extraordinary. Porter and I fit as river companions, both appreciating the river for itself. We have no need to impose narratives on the moment.

Suddenly, behind us, is a tremendous burst of noise. Both of us pivot simultaneously and become the centerpiece of a rush of Barn Swallows in a ballet of flight. They swoop down and around us, circle the sandbar, dozens of wings in furious and gentle synchronized, chaotic motion. No birds crash or fall, they have that sense of surroundings and fearless movement that is the heart of why I love the river. This is what I am here to learn.

There are shallow rivulets running through the sandbar, the water is cold cold and powerful even in the crosscurrent shallows. Porter says

Lay at the foot of the rivulet. Feel the river run over you.

This is the heart of the day. As I lay in the shallow delta, the river pushes, the wind caresses, the mind succumbs to peacefulness. I evaporate, my body feels the pull of gravity. I have this feeling I call ocean size. It is when my mind stops the monkey business and I feel fully part of the world, fully connected, as all oceans are really one ocean, as sky seeps the ocean from its surface and drops it as rain, as the water connects every part of the world: necessary, dangerous, impenetrable, penetrating. In this micro-delta, I am beyond ocean size, I am planetary: dissolved and complete. Porter takes my photo, sensing the importance of this moment for me.

We continue. There is sun and bird. There is current and push. I see some strange creature swimming across the river. Porter says

I don't know what that is. Never seen anything like it. Don't think I can catch it, though.

I say: I can!

I paddle upriver, I'm pushing with all my might. I'm swinging left and right of this strange little animal who is bobbing its head up and down, but never coming up for air. I can't make heads or tails of it. It looks like a stick, maybe its a snake. It's heading for the opposite bank relentlessly but it doesn't seem to be making any progress. Porter is hollering for me to give up and come on down the river.

Some things are meant to be left to the imagination. He says.

(On the drive home I realize this event is the equivalent of snipe hunting in the suburbs. It really was a stick the whole time. Sticks get stuck in the river and create the craziest illusions of life. Porter let me fall for it hook, line and sinker, the stinker! I hope he had a good laugh and that someone had done the same to him long ago!)

We continue along, the sun continues along, the five mile stretch is closing.

We stop at another sandbar. Eat more. Mostly just biding time, not wanting to be done with the day. We treasure hunt, I find a bird leg bone, a turtle shell. We walk the edge of the islet and talk about how the water cuts the sand in different ways. We watch the tracks of the birds. As we walk back to the boats, there are coyote tracks running perpendicular to the way we'd walked down the sandbar.

There's no way we missed these tracks on the way down. I say.

Let's follow back to our first tracks. He says.

Sure enough, the coyote has passed silently behind us at some point in our leisure. We find his tracks over ours.

We follow the coyote tracks along their length. Its clear where he sees a bird and begins chasing it down, the tracks weave in and out of the water in it's fowl chase until there's a chaotic whirlwind of wing edges and close paw prints where the bird met its demise. The coyote tracks head back into the water completely then. Porter and I continue back to the boats, about to meet our own end of the day.

I have a feeling I'm about to find something cool.

He says. We both snicker a little, knowing these are generally famous last words. And at that moment, Porter looks down and finds the jaw bone of a deer. This is an old deer, long in the tooth is not a metaphor. You can see years of wear and exposed gums. This is an animal that ruled and lived. Lived hard and learned to survive. This is what I want to learn from the wild.

Our jump off spot approaches. We swing into the eddy of the crush of the creek into the Kaw and begin the struggle up current. There have been tremendous storms in the past few weeks, and while we didn't see evidence of that on the river, the creek is totally blocked up by fallen trees. I take the lead into the creek and begin navigating the detritus. The creek is faster than it would otherwise be, rapids created around the fallen trunks and leaves-laden branches.

There comes a point where I choose to climb on the bank and walk over land, dragging my kayak for about 10 feet to avoid a rapid spot. I climb out of the kayak onto a rock and grab the paddle and step confident as you please



what I now know is


I sink to my knees instantly. Two things also instantly cross my mind:

The mythbusters said to fall and distribute your weight evenly.

So I fall.

My shoes are gonna get sucked off by the mud.

So I clench up my toes to hang onto my shoes. There is no way I'd make it the rest of the way without shoes. You may not know that when you pull out of quickmud, it doesn't give up on you. I now have an inch of mud clinging to my legs, and to the left half of my body where I fell. I also have the ability to visually tell the difference between quickmud and regular mud. Which means I see I have 10 more feet of quickmud to get through. So I commando crawl my way across, dragging paddle and kayak and tits and loose shoes and elbows and knees through more more more quickmud. I am covered in mud goober, I'm taking part of this river home with me.

At the end of the crawl, I jump back in the boat and push to the loading dock where we exit the river. Standing in the calm of the dock, it takes a long time to wipe all the mud off. Look at those shoes!

The sun is setting. Porter and I share a nip of spiced rum in celebration and for warmth. Parting ways and returning to the fast, worrisome world is what must be done. We will pay bills, raise children, run errands, chase dreams.

We will keep the river within.


 (happy me!)


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The River: part 2

It began with a joy and breakfast at YJ's with the Goddess of the Furrowed Brow.

It's a bright morning of my 39th birthday. I'm bikini clad with tight yoga pants over and my denim Bill Hicks jacket. It's just a ride. There's an energy in the air I can feel already. This day is bustling. There's a foot race for some cause blocking half the city with little busy running runners and clapping cheerers and police officers and road blocks. Just the kind of thing I want nothing to do with. I want less. I want the minimum, just what's necessary.

I eat my breakfast sandwich with habanero sauce and drink my drip coffee. I talk to two traveling retirees who are in love with KC and keep coming back. This is my city. I gather my life jacket, my bananas and granola bars, real food for the trip I'm about to take which is so much dream food.

Porter is calling me on the drive out to the Kansas River, roads are closed to construction and to motorcycle tours. Getting where I'm going won't be trivial. It seldom is. I navigate the concrete connections, sneak in to slow spots between masses of bikers and make it to the drop off point where we'll leave my car.

I pull up to see Porter, one can hear two roars: the immensity of motorcycles, I mean thousands of them riding for a cause; and the slower, deeper roar of the river. I can't see it yet, we're too far up the embankment. This is the moment, I'm close to this moving, snaking powerhouse that I've been longing for. I walk over to the long concrete boat drop that meets the creek which feeds the river. It's bursting with energy, too. It's like the entire world has decided this is a day for frenetic and intense dedication to something: endurance, bravery, a cause.

I don't touch the river yet. It's noon.

Porter has gifts for me on this my first trip down the river. First, a knife.

He drawls: the man who taught me how to live on the river made me promise that I would always have a knife whenever I was on the river. Now you have to promise me, too.
It's so if you get trapped in some fallen brush in a heavy current, you can cut yourself free. I know this, and many other potential dangers, without Porter having to tell me because many people I've told of this journey have painted so many negative pictures. I've been told not to do it, that it's not safe, that I'm crazy, that it's unreasonable and even stupid. I've been told of countless stories of near death and traumatic almosts, and told how I should learn from this and not do that: how I should not go on the river.
I'm amazed how much everyone lives in fear. Porter's first question to me when he offered to take me out was: Are you afraid?
I paused on the moment. Maybe he wants to hear me say yes, to show that I'm respectful and aware of the potential dangers. Maybe I should say no, but I understand the potential dangers. I decided just to actually trust him and tell him the truth.
I'm not afraid.
Porter just says good. And we start talking about plans. Porter doesn't live in fear. He's raised a family, loved and been scared, he's built homes and fixed homes. He's traveled across half the country on his bicycle with nothing but his wits. He's known loneliness and alienation, like me, like all of us.
Both of us know the secret: you can never be fully prepared for anything, your best hope is developing a sense of pause during crisis. So when the adrenaline dumps from the imminent danger, you can have a space to choose your course of action, rather than flail in fear blindness. The only thing that has actual value in a critical situation are facts and training together with calm awareness.
So anyways, he gives me this knife. He gives me this dry bag for my phone and keys. We drag my kayak and his 12 foot aluminum long boat with oars down to the bank of the Kaw river at the Gardner Road drop in point. Porter tells me to be sure everything you bring is tied down, at least, he says, everything you want to keep. He puts the weight in the back of his boat, he carries all my things for me.
This is my moment, I'm about to drop in. Then I stare into the sun to take my Strong as fuck. selfie for social media.
Funny thing, I think. Some eyes now roll, it's trendy to hate selfies. But suddenly I'm totally aware that I have no hat to shade my face, which is essential. By taking pause, I gave myself room to remember what all I need. Making a record of what you have accomplished is a good thing. I'm always saying to keep have-done lists along with your to-do lists.
Porter has a hat for me in the truck, so I run up, retrieve and off we go.
This is the part of the story I don't know how to write. There was surface of water, there was push/pull of current and wind, there was sunlight. Boundary, action, a way you could be moved without self-direction, a way you could move yourself. A point of no return.
Porter is speaking to me about how to boat the river, about needs and goals. I'm listening. Always bring enough water. There is nothing worse than being trapped without water. Eat before you realize you are hungry. Flip the boat into the still of the eddy like this. When you are exhausted, or when you need to wait for other travelers to catch up, you will need this space to rest. The boat rests in the head of the eddy. The river keeps rushing, but you pause.
I'm listening, but I'm also utterly absent. I'm the paddle in the river, I'm the moving edge which exerts pressure and changes course. I'm the current of the river, pressing on with every bit of available energy in use. All potential is kinetic. I am the ears of the heron and the passive lilt of the leaves in the wind. The wind is reaction of the temperature changes of the water/soil/air boundaries of the world. It all culminated here. I alone block this sunlight's photon and cease it's traveling. I am the coriolis, I am the void, I am the sun.
onto The River: part 3


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The River: part 1

It began that I had a sadness and decided to swim more.

First, I went to public pools. You paid, there were always a bunch of rules and creepers and sneering eyes at a tattooed fat girl in a bikini. The children set themselves up as the guardians of the rules. I rarely had a guard whistle at me for infractions because some pussy-fruit-micro-pool-crossing-guard was already saying: you can't swim there, then; you can't throw him in the air; you can't carry her on your back in the water, you can't bring your ball and pool noodles in.
public pools = distorted reality. subtle?

This is what I'm paying for?

So, I started sneaking into hotel pools. Well, there wasn't much difference except I didn't have to pay.

It occurred to me that there were lots of lakes I could just go jump into for free! This is a fundamentally better experience. Imagine having actual nature surrounding your swimming experience rather than concrete and major thoroughfares and snot-nosed-unpaid-security-guards. (Is it good for the children?) I drove to any ole spot along a lake I could walk up on, I walked right in. Easiest thing in the world. I swam with bald eagles, hawks, owls, herons, a shit-ton of shit-making Canadian Geese, feet hitting fish, muskrats, snakes and frogs and turtles and wind, natural wind shaking the trees, sunlight visible on the lake water. The peacefulness I was chasing was finally settling in.

At the nudie lake (please be at a nudist lake or beach at some point in your life, it is amazing to be unshorn under the sun), they had a canoe you could use for free.
The minute I got in that canoe, something changed. Looking back, it's like I'd never known happiness before. Which is completely ridiculous, but the experience of floating and rowing, the impetus of nothing, the rush of water, the control of the boat, the chaos of the boat, balance, purpose, awareness, rocking, being, it was a next level feeling. It was like instant meditation, total immersion in the present.
I kept going back to that canoe as much as I could, including the night of the Perseid meteor shower in August. It just so happens the nudie lake is in the middle of one of the nearest "no-light-zones" to Kansas City. So Mateo and I go out there with sandwiches and wine and climb into the canoe. Above us is straight-up the Milky Way. Our galaxy above us stretches from horizon to horizon, wrapping us completely around, it's no wonder the ancients thought we were the center of everything, because I have never felt so held as in that moment with the stars and my love. Billions of stars, the planets wandering at their speeds, the satellites faster, and the airplanes fastest. But closest, and wonky and seemingly drunk flying, the bats! An entire environment of air beings I never get to see. What was most unexpected though, was the reflection of the stars on the mirror of the lake. With the exception of a small band of trees on the circle of the horizon, it seemed as if I were floating in the center of an egg of stars, and being so small but so part, I felt a very rare but unbelievably honest feeling: I belong. 
Oh yeah, and the meteorites were cool, too.
Now, I've always been fascinated with the ocean, and so I started thinking about how all rivers lead to the ocean. I started thinking about our river: The Missouri goes all the way to the delta of the Gulf Coast. Delta, the ultimate boundary condition: fresh to salt, feeder of the original womb, turbulent, great and terrible. I already spend a good amount of time down on the river walk, but this time when I go, the feeling is different.
Suddenly, there was longing. How much have I really longed for ? I've wanted and loved and worked for, but this sense of longing was new, it felt as if a part of me bundled its energy and reached out a cord which grabbed a fistful of water and took me away: took me to the delta. I can feel it this minute as I type, it's a calling. It's like I'm the weird alien water tentacle from The Abyss.
So, I got my own boat, an 8 foot Pelican feet-in kayak. I kept going to my lakes and learning the relationship between the paddle and the water, the boat and my balance, my arms and their push/pull, the stability of feet and rapid movement of waist. What is most surprising is the agility of the boat in the water, you can turn more quickly than I thought.
I started trying to get myself in the river, this was complete madness and some real shark behavior. Shark Behavior in my lexicon of private metaphors is when you are moving to stay moving and not really thinking out how to do a thing, or more importantly, if you really want it. It's a coping mechanism I've developed to avoid the hard work of outwitting one's own depression, anxiety, and for me, especially, panic. After the second failed attempt to get in the river, I said I need help.
Within the next couple of days, I pull up in my truck to the bookstore (duh, Prospero's = the bookstore, always and forever) with the kayak on top and my buddy Porter, in his happy drawl goes:
you floatin?
yeah! I been in some lakes, but what I want is to get in the river.
I've been on the river my whole life, I'll take you.
are you fucking kidding? hell, yes. what are you doing on Sunday?
nothing, let's go!
done, son!
Then, Rando-Sully goes: do you guys have life-jackets?
Porter and I look at each other with this, um, do I want to admit right now that I don't practice safe boating practices? We both go: no.
Rando-Sully shakes his head and says: I have a couple in my car you two can have.
Are you fucking kidding me right now? This is fucking real. And Sunday is my birthday.
It's enough to make a man cry, but I don't cry, do you?
(photo credit: ROBERT GANO!)
on to part 2: THE RIVER.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

LLAMA CUFF: a message of love from the Get Fucked Girl


that's right, I said it.

llama like the animal
and cuff like hand-cuffs

is fuck 'em all

hey yo, everybody: FUCK 'EM ALL.


It's about social change and activist anger, it's about not having to keep up with the Jones', it's about realizing that for maybe everything you think you need, you were sold that need by someone with an agenda, by someone with power. It's realizing that you have no idea what you need or where you stand on anything because all you've ever actually done is what you are told. I asked myself, what do I really long for, what is really going to make me happy, how do I find it, and who am I?

I started giving up on things after Albuquerque. I decided to find out what I really need, and I made RADICAL CHANGE. I stopped drinking, I broke up with my boyfriend, I began eating only food that I bought from the person who farmed it, I cut my hair, started working out and getting more tattoos. I went far into what meager wilds we have left within an hour of KC. I started exploring my land, both within and without.

What happened there is worth it's own blog, so I'm saving it.

But, I tell you all to LLAMA CUFF today, because forgetting to need so many basic things has opened my eyes to the deeper level of unnecessary rules and conditions in life we pretty much self-enforce.

Listen to how many times in the next 24 hours you say, "I can't do that because ..."
Listen to how many times you say to some dreamy plan, "You shouldn't do that because ..."

FUCK painting negative pictures.

Feel how many anxiety attacks you have every day. Some of those are because the world doesn't accept the you you are and you feel it, but some of them are because you are afraid to grow into the great stunning world, which is waiting for you with open arms. 

FUCK the self-abusing voices in your head.

We are doomed with fears and self-imposed limitations by trying to force our naturally creative and industrious beings into pre-conceived power-structure boxes and agendas. We are told what to buy, where to go to school, what is style, what is important, we are told even how to spend our free time: TVTVTVTVTVTV.

FUCK being told what to do.

I am daunted, but fortunate in that I'm also not conditioned to be afraid of radical change. Being raised feral by wild horses, race-cars and rottweilers is not something that surprises you about me.

This blog is to announce my next stage of LLAMA CUFF is to move to Pink Pony Farms. I'm abandoning taking up LAND that has no creative purpose. I'm getting closer to my food, and to the chickens and ducks and maybe we can get a goat?

I am creating my space instead of renting or mortgaging my space. I'm building instead of biding time. I'm making authentic commitments to the things I really need.

I don't care if you do this or not, only you know your needs.

I hope you get fucked.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Albuquerque 4

In August 2014 I hauled myself out to Oakland on a whim and a spare dime to see National Poetry Slam. It was astonishing. I hadn't been so inspired in years. I felt for the first time that I found a place I belonged. People talking to themselves and gesticulating, faces contorted into the practice performance's total emotional content, friendly faces who had all worked their asses off to get where they were at that moment. Shows and competitions and so many poems. I cried a thundercloud's worth of tears, I laughed and met so many stellar people. I had the best time and came back to KC completely determined to make our city's team.

I wrote wrote wrote, memorized, practiced practiced practiced and made the team. Then I was sent on behalf of our team to Albuquerque to compete in Women of the World Poetry Slam, my first national stage. I was beyond excited and prepared. But, I immediately saw that my poetry was ... different ... from most of the rest of what was being performed. The event's feel was very much a beautiful, healing, safe space for the expression of life's unfairness and pain. The poets felt like healers, I imagined them as nurse and wounded cleaning and sewing each other up from the battles of life.

That is not my poetry. I am a covered in blood, battle axe wielding warrior poet. My poems are sarcastic, bombastic, accusatory, snide and unapologetic. My performances are over the top, my voice is big and my movements are bigger. I am a walking trigger warning. I am not preaching to the choir, I'm setting the church on fire.

My first WoWps poem is a boxing metaphor with a message of toughen up called "The Idea Is." I had to get up and recite this poem after a woman did a poem about surviving domestic violence. I was horrified with the idea of following her. I have survived a husband's violence. That's not what I meant by my boxing metaphor, I'm thinking Rocky and I'm mortified that my poem might be taken as marginalizing abuse. I still did the poem.

Round two is for 4 minute poem. I do my rape poem, Breadbox. I've been sexually abused. I've struggled with this my whole life. Thank you Melanie, for being the first person I told. Thank you Andy, for telling me to confront my abuser, an act which changed my life. Thank you Dr. Kennedy for telling my mother and having social services force him out of our house. What lingers most, these many years later is that that man was never held responsible. So my rape poem is not about the incident, it's about the stifling rage that he was let go free. It's knowing that he married another woman with a pre-teen in the house. It's knowing he probably did it to that child, too.

It's a horrifying poem. I'm horrified. I'm crying as I type this. I don't want to live in a world that needs this poem. It's true no cousin/sibling babies died in my family of sexual abuse, it's true that I feel an intimate kinship with every person who has suffered sexual abuse. I hate reciting this poem. I won't stop reciting this poem until it's true that rapists don't go free anymore.
I watched people walk out on my poem. Important people. My gut twisted. There was little applause. There shouldn't be.

I don't write poems that make you want to clap or holler. They don't end on an I survived note, they end on a pointed finger. 

The next day was the second bout. I began with my White Guilt poem. It's sort of a joke among my friends that when I get too drunk I start in with the crying about how the blood of my ancestors is the blood of imperialists and rapists. How the legacy of white culture is so much FUCKING OVER of everything else, people, earth, everything. I finally wrote that poem. It's directed to the white community and it's mean, it's also true. I'm totally filled with rage, vile, sickened, overwhelmed, I want to lash out at my own. I want them to open their eyes and take responsibility.

I want change.

At the very start of the poem, I saw the MC of the bout turn and stare daggers at me. Her glare was exactly how I felt my lineage should be seen. I hoped she would listen to the whole poem, listen to how I'm holding the white community responsible, or how I'm trying to provoke them. I know she did not. I could tell many people did not. It was a chilly room walking off that stage.

I knew I was going to have to get up and do my feminist poem next, the chorus of which is GET FUCKED. I'm literally sick to my stomach. None of this WoWps experience has mirrored how I felt at Nationals.

There is this thing in the poetry world where the MC has everyone clap all the way to the stage. They keep the audience clapping for the poet. When I was called to do my final poem, the MC didn't encourage this, the audience barely clapped. I walked the long walk in silence to do what is easily my most bombastic poem. My heart faltered. I knew my impact was already not what my intention had been. And now I have to yell get fucked a bunch on stage.

So I did. It was definitely the worst performance I'd ever done of that poem, but I got through it. The scores were fine but the feel was fucked. I left the stage and took my guts with me. I was fallen apart. I knew that how I had presented my ideas had failed. That my intent was fundamentally not understood.

I am absolutely deliberately trying to trigger people, I believe in exposure therapy. I believe we should be uncomfortable in the world and face what makes us feel that way. I use inflammatory language to do that. I definitely pantomime sex acts in some of my poems as part of the performance. I've faced disdain over many of my performances, and had many interesting and enlightening conversations about the ideas and approach. I'm still friends with those people and we still work together.

I believe this is how real change happens in the world. I am fucking pissed. I want to rage and I want to be violently destructive. 

Instead I write poetry.