strange fire

books. poetry. paganism. feminism. queerness. blog.

what happens when a queer ex-Mormon and a queer ex-Catholic go to San Francisco for Pride? June 23, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 9:10 am

I have no idea, but I’m going to find out!

So here’s a little Alix Olsen, before I leave tomorrow for San Francisco!!!

gender game
You wanna give me a shiner
Cause I look like this
And I got a vagina?
See, I’m familiar with this Gender Game,
I’ve played this war many times before
On this playground called my identity
When puberty hit like dodge balls
And freeze-tagged as sissy-fagged
My best friend dissed me- common interests,
Different anatomy.

See, vagina meant quieter, caretaker, peacemaker.
Vagina meant keeping lips closed, keeping bodies posed.
Vagina was silent dolls and no action toys,
Vagina was punches when I played with the boys.
So I learned to take it in the stomach, I learned to
Fight to make friends.

And as I learned to make that bullshit end,
Vagina became a slippery slide for my little finger
Vagina became a quiver that lingered,
Vagina became what I looked for, worked for, stood for,
I “Viva La Vagina’d all over the place!”
I revitalized Vagina’s grace, I discovered vagina’s taste.
I became a fine diner. Put my face in vagina after vagina.

And then I was faced with some other lipservice
Putting me in my place
That Vagina should not be liberator.
But dictator.
Of the shoes we wear. The hair we crop.
The palms we clasp. The way we walk.
The space we use. The threads we choose.
Well, I refuse to follow suit. Cause I gotta confess, my straight jacket is a dress.
You know it used to be a crime
To wear clothes that didn’t scream “Vagin-A!”
I wear these shoes so I can move with my own easy spirit.
I don’t shave my legs cause
It gets cold. Besides, my legs rebel
Against the bloody hell of
Shaved and sliced
And since when is my body hair something to judge? Is furry a male privilege-
Or a patriarchal plot by gillette?
I don’t cut my nails cause I’ve got hammering to do.
I’m pounding out my path as I cruise this gender landscape,
As I peruse the choice between silence and
Matthew Shepard was bent, so you hang him to a fence,
Brandon Teena was murdered as a liar for hiding his
Vagina. And I can’t even sit
In a restaurant without causing a stir:
“Whaddya have sir? Whaddya have sir? Whaddya have sir?”
I have a Vagina!

Yes, I’ve got a vagina and you can still call me sir,
Cause I can’t cure
This visual disease of yours.
But I don’t give a damn about “Sir” or “Ma’am”.
So, in the “F” or “M” boxes they give,
I forgive myself for not fitting in
And blame the world for lack of clarity.
I deliberate.
Penis? I got one y’know. I write down “d” for dildo,
I write down “D” for “Don’t know,”
I fill in “F” for
fi-fie-foe male!
Yes, I’m a giant Vagina!
And I am too big for these boxes they give,
Too real for this Gender Toyland
Built over soiled contradictions
With Barbie bricks and Ken cornerstones
Built over the skulls and bones of our Transgendered Ancestors.
She-men working above. And beyond. You.

Yes, we are Deconstruction Workers.
We are exposing unfounded bedrocks
That bed us to one sex, that wed us to one gender.
We are overturning those stones,
We are throwing them back.
We are making revolution
A gender evolution.
We are invoking strategy, we are revoking shame.
And we are calling it. We are calling it
Refusal to be Named.
co-written by amy neevel©2001 Alix Olson.

I’ll be back in a week. Have a kickass weekend.


[clever title] June 22, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 9:06 am

Reason # 872,374 that I love librarians: the Library Ladies, as I call them, still remember me by name and ask about my life and plans. I haven’t worked at my local public library in 5 years, but every time I go there (which is often, to be frank) they’re smiling, “Hi Andy! What are you up to these days?” And they’re genuinely interested. They’re all middle-aged suburban soccer mom types, and I know for a fact that Mary Ann is a fundie evangelical who takes Revelations literally and reads Left Behind, but even she never bats an eye as she checks out my copies of The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love or Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life. I love these women. In a place that’s otherwise very isolating and unfriendly, they rock.

And now for something completely different: Blog Naming.
I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to La Guerrillere. “The Guerrilla Fighter (feminine)”. A reference to Montique Wittig’s Les Guerrilleres, which, unfortunately, I’ve never read, but now I have an incentive! Except the library doesn’t have it so I guess I’ll have to save up for it…if I can find a bookstore that stocks it…Anyway, I always loved that oft-quoted passage from the book:

There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that you walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You may have lost all recollection of it, remember… You say there are not words to describe it, you say it does not exist. but remember, make an effort to remember, or, failing that, invent.

I also like how the name La Guerrillere hints at The Guerrilla Girls, one of my favorite feminist organizations. It encompases my love for French and the influence French feminism has had on me. And I think it kind of outlines my political position–guerrilla warfare fights on its own terms, it doesn’t play by their enemies rules, and I think feminism needs to do so much more than put up with the Democrats or try get a woman elected president. You’re not going to get very far if we keep playing their game instead of criticising the system itself, finding ways to subvert it or work around it.

But I’m a pacifist and La Guerrillere is a bit militant. And I wonder if my whole “fight the power!” attitude isn’t a bit of youthful enthusiasm and naivete. I still really, really like it as a blog name though. I don’t know, it’s just an idea: what do you all think?


not all who wander are lost June 21, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 9:08 am

This is the first card in the Major Arcana of The Gaian Tarot. Traditionally it’s called The Fool. The Major Arcana represent major life passages and spiritual lessons. Big karmic stuff. Laid out in sequence, they tell a story. The Fool is the beginning, the first step on a long journey. This is where I’ve been in my life for the last year or so. I’m very much a Seeker, I haven’t got much more than a good walking stick, a sturdy pair of shoes, and a healthy curiosity.

I haven’t really actively celebrated a sabbat since Brigit in February (which most people know of as Groundhog Day. You should have seen my kids’ faces when I tried to explain that particular American tradition!) Spending May Day in Glastonbury was a wonderfully…affirmative experience. I bought a candle from the Goddess Temple and hauled it all the way back here.

This is only the second time I’ve celebrated summer solstice, and it’s going to be low-key affair I think. Last year I had these big plans, Midsummer happened to coincide with a Full Moon, I had a great ritual all planned out, but it went awry pretty quickly. It’s very difficult for me to keep up a personal spiritual practice in my parents’ house. Partly because they don’t know about my spiritual beliefs. I wear a pentacle openly, I don’t hide my books, they know I’m not a Catholic or an Athiest, but we’ve got this great Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy set up, like always. And it’s just tricky, grounding yourself and celebrating the moon when there are crucifixes on the wall and you’re worrying about the incense smell so you’ve got the windows open and the fan going full speed…

And honestly, it’s a struggle, wearing this pentacle. Not just around my family, but in general. Nearly every day I consider taking it off, just for a little while, just for a break, just in case. But I don’t. This whole spiritual journey has been a huge struggle, just to get to this point, the beginning. I’ve tried to run away from paganism several times, but every time Goddess grabs me by my hair and drags me back, kicking and screaming sometimes. But I spent the Winter Solstice sitting on Philappapos Hill, the Hill of the Muses, in Athens, with the wind flying around me as the sun set over the ocean, and I thought Look, this makes you happy. It makes sense to you. It keeps you sane. You’re a much better, peaceful person when you’re not fighting it. Of course people will think you’re crazy and wierd. It is crazy, in a world like this, to believe in the divinity of nature, inuition, magic, life. It’s contrary to everything you were raised to believe. So embrace your wierdness and be happy, for crying out loud.

Choosing this spiritual path has paralleled my coming-out experience to an eerie extent. A lot of the same questions and conflicts. And the thing is, I wouldn’t even have been there in Greece if I hadn’t kept trying. I sat there in France in November, praying/meditating/whatever, just asking: now what? What should I do? Where should I go? And the word Greece popped into my head and would not go away, no matter how much I argued and rationalized–um, I don’t speak Greek! I’ve never traveled alone before! It’s really far away! It’s too hard! It’s too scary!!–so I gave up, trusted my gut, and it all worked out in the end.

So far my practice is very informal and spontaneous. My altars have generally consisted of a candle discreetly placed on a windowsill. And when I was in France, I finally had the time and space and privacy to really explore my spiritual practice–but no money or resources. It’s been incredibly frustrating, to be all alone, to do this all on my own, but it’s good too. It strengthens my commitment–I’ve been through a lot of challenges and I know, deep down, that this path is right for me, even if I haven’t got the details figured out yet. It teaches me a lot. I learn to improvise, to be creative. I learn that it’s not about the props–the candles, incense, blah blah–they’re just tools, useful tools, but not the important thing. I do a lot of reading, a lot of studying, a lot of questioning. I work with tarot cards a lot, because you don’t need a lot of crap to practice divination. The temple at Delphi said Know Thyself, and that’s what I try to do.

I wanted to get up this morning and watch the sun rise, but, uh, I kind of slept through it. Discipline has never been my strong point. Besides, the house was busy with everyone running around getting ready for work. I went to the state park near my home and hiked in the forest before it got too hot. I’ll do some more reading, maybe a few excercises in The Spiral Dance. I’ll say goodbye to the sun at dusk and maybe bring my Goddess Temple candle outside after everyone’s in bed and come up with a little something. Just to say hey, thanks for the sunny weather. My life is pretty great, all in all. I’m glad I’m alive.

And now I’m getting off this damn computer and going outside. Have a nice Midsummer everyone.


happy fucking fathers day June 20, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 1:02 pm

I really need to get out of this house.

I just got back from dropping my dad off at the body shop. He’s picking up the van from its umpteenth repair job this week. The power steering keeps blowing out. The van’s 20 years old and has a fervent death wish, but we’re trying to nurse it along another year, till my sister graduates. On the way there dad starts talking about my trip to California, warning me to “be careful” of “those people out there.” My dad is a highly cynical and suspicious kind of guy, and has always been very protective his baby girl. I can’t blame my parents for being a little skeptical; they don’t know RC at all, so their daughter running off to California, a strange and wicked place to most midwesterners, with a total stranger who’s paying her way, sounds a little sketchy.
I tried to reassure him; I’ve known RC since college, we’re very good friends, she’s a very kind and generous person, you’d like her. If anything, I’m worried about taking advantage of her.
That seemed to satisfy him a bit. Then he starts telling me about his time in California, in the late 60s, when he was stationed in L.A., going through Marine Corps training before being shipped out to Vietnam.
“You can’t trust these Californians, I mean they were crazy back in the 60s! I had a gay guy try to pick me up once. I told him no, no way. He tried to give me a ride back to San Diego–‘It’s 90 miles back, I got a great sound system’. I told him ‘Listen buddy, they told us in bootcamp not to hurt people like you but if you don’t back off I’m going to forget about that rule’. Ha ha!”

And I’m just sitting there wondering what the moral of this story is supposed to be. Stay away from scary predatory homos? Don’t trust bigoted Marines? Your daddy is a supporting and tolerant guy because he thought about bashing a creepy faggot but decided against it? Did he somehow forget that his daughter is a lesbian even though I told him I’m excited to be going to Pride?

Do you see why I have to get the fuck out of here? I don’t know what’s going on here. I have a close, loving relationship with my parents, but shit like this keeps happening. Is this his lame ass attempt to bond with me on some common ground–my daughter’s gay, my only experience of gay people is that time I threatened that fairy? Sometimes I think my parents have gone into denial. They keep saying how they love me and they just want my happiness, but there’s this 200 pound gorilla in the room. They never expected to have a gay child, they have no experience with queer people, they refuse to go to PFLAG or talk to someone or educate themselves. They’re perfectly fine with me being gay as long as they don’t have see any evidence of it. This is how we handle problems in my family, by pretending they don’t exist. If we don’t talk about them long enough, they’ll go away.

I need to have a talk with my parents, but I can’t do it while I’m living in their house. We both need the safety of distance.

I’m going to be soooo dykey in San Francisco. Maybe I’ll get a buzzcut and a tattoo. My family thinks I’m a freak anyway, might as well go whole hog.


random ten

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 8:15 am

I don’t normally do these things but this one was so odd I had to post it.

Well, okay, yes, I am procrastinating as well.

I put my media player on shuffle and wound up with a “Getting Shit-Faced in Ireland” playlist.

  1. Casadh an Tsugain (The Twisting of the Rope) — The Chieftains — Water from the Well
  2. The Donegal Set –The Chieftains — Water from the Well
  3. Blacksmith — Loreena McKennitt — Elemental
  4. A Jig and Five Reels — The Bothy Band — Green Linnet Twentieth Anniversary Collection
  5. Hung Up — Madonna — Confessions on a Dance Floor
  6. Value-of-Systems Blues — The Dearly Beloved — Strap-on Halo
  7. No Longer Mourn for Me — Ensemble Galilee — Come Gentle Night: Music of Shakespeare
  8. White Horse — Wonderland Avenue — Tous les tubes 2005
  9. Winnie Hayes’ Jig/The Lonesome Jig — John Williams — Green Linnet Twentieth Anniversary Collection
  10. Who the Fuck — PJ Harvey — Uh Huh Her

be sure to wear some flowers in your hair June 19, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 2:00 pm

My fairy godfather seems to think that getting shitfaced with semi-anonymous girls in Paris and London was not enough.

He’s sending me to San Francisco for Pride.

I just hope I don’t turn into a pumpkin at midnight or anything.

Right, sorry, I just finished up Witches Abroad and it’s a fairy tale parody, so there you go.

But seriously, I am going to San Francisco for Pride. RC, in all her astounding fabulousness, is gonna be my sugar mama and is paying my way. Hotel, plane tickets, everything. I tried to argue with her–I’m still flat broke, still unemployed, and I’ve inherited the ornery family pride–but she said “Look, it’s not worth it to me to go by myself. So don’t worry about it.”

So I’m not gonna! Because weeping Jesus on the cross folks–SAN FRANCISCO. DURING GAY PRIDE.

The Castro. Chinatown. City Lights Bookstore!

My only worry is that I might hyperventilate to death from the excitement before I ever get there.

So you see, I definitely can’t stop blogging now. I have to brag take pictures and tell you all about it. Gotta do some quick and dirty googling for dyke bars, because of course I dumped my Damron guide in London, thinking I wasn’t going to need it anymore. We’ll see how San Francisco compares to gay Paris and swinging London.

And I’m not going to feel guilty about this sudden windfall of good fortune, I’m not! Die, Catholic Guilt, die you bastard!

Crap, should I wear my Pride shirt? Cut my hair? Dye it purple again? I don’t want to look like a dorky hayseed around all those hip post-modern queer punks….


What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? June 16, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 3:03 pm

I think it’s time to admit that my book binge has turned into self-medication. I just came back from the library with The Sandman Presents: The Furies and two Love and Rockets collections: The Death of Speedy and Blood of Palomar. I also bought Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex and Jill Nelson’s Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience for a dollar and a quarter.

The job hunt continues, unsuccessfully. My parents are having financial woes, as per usual, but they’ve spent their whole lives having to rob Peter to pay Paul. This, combined with several other things, means I’m not unhappy (I know unhappiness and this, thank god, ain’t it), but frazzled, overwhelmed. Slightly freaked out.

Basically, I feel more or less like I did when I arrived in France. So I guess I do have reverse culture shock after all.

And one of the things I’m dealing with is this blog. I think I’m having some sort of blogger identity crisis. Figures. I just finished several years of actual identity crises. Now I get to have a virtual one.

Basically, I’ve been writing Busy Nothings for nearly three years now, which is a heck of a long time on the internet, and I think I’ve outgrown it. I started this blog my junior year of college. It actually started out ostensibly as an online version of my now-defunct book journal. But what I really needed was just a space to talk, to make sense of things. Because my life was really fucked up. I had just come out to myself, I was completely closeted to everyone and all alone in this small conservative town in fucking nowhere, I had crappy social skills, I was trying to pull myself out of a serious depression that I never told anyone about, I was just totally a mess. So eventually this blog became a means to, pardon the cliche, Find Myself. Cheaper than therapy, at any rate. So this blog is an archive of a really transformative time in my life. Even though it’s mostly made up of “busy nothings” (that’s an obscure Jane Austen reference, for the record).

But things are different now. I know who I am now. I like who I am. I know what kind of life I want to lead, even if I’m not too sure how to go about it. And I’m constantly suffering my new, updated version of Catholic Guilt: Liberal Guilt. How narcissistic of me to just sit here and ramble on about my life and musings, like it’s some grand revelation. I should be on the streets! Making revolution! Taking down the Patriarchy, not just blaming it! How selfish to waste my time blathering on the internet when so many have no access to water, nevermind blogspot! If I’m going to blog, I should be a serious political blogger and talk about Important Things, like elections! Blah blah blah ad nauseum.

The thing is, though, that blogging changed my life. It was blogging that introduced me to feminism, not academia. Not that I didn’t have exposure to feminist ideas in my education, but I never would have taken a Women’s Studies course if I hadn’t stumbled across feminist bloggers. I think feminist bloggers are the modern equivalent of the conciousness-raising groups of the 70s. Suddenly there were ordinary people in the world who were saying things that I had intuited but could never articulate before. They made sense. I told one blogger, it was like I had spent my whole life living in a house with dirty windows, and you all came over with vinegar and newspapers and let in the sunshine.

So yeah, maybe it is priviledged to have a personal blog, but the personal is political, right? I like to think that maybe someone who’s going through the crap I went through will stumble across this silly thing and find something useful or comforting. And I love the people I find online. I love the access to communities that I can’t get in my “real” life. It’s necessary to me, honestly. Especially at this time in my life, when everything’s in flux and I don’t have the ability to create concrete support communities just yet. This past year, actually, has been the first time in during my blogging career that I’ve had regular commenters, online friends, and I value that so much. I want to keep that (and get better at reciprocating with comments, because I do read you all too).

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not going to quit blogging. But I am going to be experimenting, searching. My interests are too varied for me to keep this a single-topic blog, so it will continue to be a mish-mash of politics, poetry, silliness, geekiness, feminism, queerness, thinking out loud, and memes. I’ve also thought about talking more openly about my spirituality here. I’ve taken a few baby-steps. I really, really need the community of pagans online, because again, I’m not only isolated, I’m in the broom closet, as they say. But frankly, and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, I’m a little afraid to. For one thing, spirituality has always been a very private thing for me, even when I was a devout Catholic. I’m afraid of alienating some of my online friends and being seen as flaky and wierd and escapist and just a plain kook. Whatever the spiritual equivalent of internalized homophobia is, I suppose I have it. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being a pagan, I just don’t want anybody to know! I color a little too far outside the lines, and I’m worried about, well, being too different. There isn’t alot of crossover between Janeites and dyke porn and tarot cards, you know?

But, I’m going to try anyway, come hell or high water, because I can’t separate my politics and my sexuality and my spirituality. They all led into and reinforced each other. And it’s just stupid of me to let my insecurities control me, when I know better than that.

One thing’s for sure, this template’s gonna change. Bo-ring. And probably the name too. I want something less self-effacing. Don’t know what just yet. So please bear with me folks.