Catherine Jensen and Wain McFarlane, Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, Minneapolis, May 2010
It seems impossible, ridiculous really, that we are bidding goodbye to our dear friend Catherine today. Just five days ago we had no idea she was even ill.
We got the news late on Sunday night, that she’d taken a turn for the worse, that she’d been on life support, that she was going to die.
The word “shocking” isn’t nearly accurate. What word is? There is no word for this feeling. There is no poetry for this. One moment, not a thought about her. The next, she is nearly gone. Continue reading ‘Goodbye, Minnesota’s Rose’
The official start of Thanksgiving every year was not picking up the turkey and Libby’s pumpkin pie filling and canned cranberry sauce from Farmer Jack’s (as we called it back home). It was not the raucous bus ride home from school on Wednesday, the freedom of a four-day weekend spread out before us like a feast. It wasn’t even the America’s Thanksgiving Parade broadcast from downtown Detroit.
The official start of Thanksgiving was always the aroma of celery and onions sautéing in butter as my dad started cooking the stuffing for the turkey. It was better than an alarm clock or a nudge to the shoulder to draw me, groggy and pajamaed and rubbing my eyes, from my bedroom.
A lot of recipes start out that way, sautéing onions, celery, some herbs. But no matter what we’re making, no matter the time of year it is, that scent — heavy, sweet and ambrosial — always means Thanksgiving.
Dad always waited until Christmas Eve or, maybe if he was especially good, the day before, to wrap presents. He’d box everything up in the bedroom and drag it out to the kitchen table to wrap it up. Every box had a label in his own shorthand: the name of one of us and some code to help him remember what it was.
He had a fondness for putting boxes inside of other boxes to disguise the gifts, so we never knew what he had. And if it was the sort of box that could not be disguised, we’d hear from down the hall as he bounded toward the kitchen, “You kids’d better keep your eyes closed, dammit, or this it going right back to the store!”
Sometimes I’d be permitted to help him. He was very particular, so sometimes he didn’t want help. Usually I had something of my own to wrap, and as he had all the paper and supplies, it made sense to join him.
My dad always claimed he could match the pattern at the edge of the paper to the pattern on the side he was taping it to. That way the pattern wasn’t interrupted st the joint. It was a nice thought, but I never quite believed him. It just wasn’t possible unless the packages were the perfect circumference. Right? But he insisted. And I didn’t want to go through the trouble of proving anything. I know he took immense pride in his wrapping.
What he was really saying was that it mattered to him—a lot—that we all appreciate what he was doing. He wanted us to understand the work and care and effort, but also to marvel at the ease with which carried it all off. And I had no reason to discredit him. Continue reading ‘The 12 Ways of Christmas: wrapping’
Half the fun of going to the gym is the chance to observe its particular biosphere. It’s treasure trove of wildlife. I say you ought to get something out of it. Lord knows I hate going to the gym.
It’s a symptom of my inexorable laziness. But I see results when I work out, and male vanity is even more compulsive than laziness. So I go. But always in the morning before work—because I hate going after work even more.
So I’ve become familiar with the characters of my morning routine. I think you see a more consistent recurrence of the same people in the morning. Everyone’s routines are a little more regimented early in the day. We still have discipline in the morning, and hope—as opposed to later in the day when we are apathetic and undone and much more inclined to get a cocktail than lift anything heavier than a gym bag.
Of the salient differences between my new job and my old job, I must say one of the most intriguing is the number of gay people. At a gay cable network, I was naturally surrounded by gays. At a public radio station, the demographics of the audience, and the people who serve that audience, widen considerably.
Delightfully, the reason this is intriguing is that it doesn’t seem to matter. Of course I never expected it to. It’s just a notable change for me. After four years of being surrounded by rainbows and unicorns — and a lot of straight women — every blessed day, one gets used to certain ways of comportment. There are certain facts about one’s life that don’t need explaining, a common way of looking at the world. It’s not so much that I now need to change my behavior. I wouldn’t. It’s more that I need to open myself up to new things, new people, different life experiences.
Gays and straights and countless people from the spectrum between are coming out of the woodwork to contribute their voices to the It Gets Better Project. As well-adjusted GLBT folk, we have the power to influence the world around us and the duty to speak up for young people who don’t feel like they have a voice.
It does get better. But anyone can say that. “It gets better” is almost a cliché by now, and a little too simple to say. We have to demonstrate that it gets better or we’re wasting our time. A suicidal kid isn’t going to listen to platitudes. He’s going to want evidence.
With that in mind, a bunch of my colleagues joined up to put this together. These are successful, creative, happy, intelligent people at a gay cable network — in other words, they are all of these things because of homosexuality.
It was inspirational to see so many people wanting to participate, and it was affirming to be surrounded by so much gay (and straight) good will.
(You can see me at about 05:14.)
Bullying doesn’t stop when you grow up. We still have bully neighbors, bully religious leaders, bullies in government, bully coworkers, bullies on TV and radio and online. It doesn’t end. Not yet. But it does get better — because you find the strength and the support and the righteousness and the confidence to push on, live your life.
It’s already a well-worn internet cliché to receive a deluge of “Happy birthday!!!” wishes once a year on Facebook. I don’t care. I’m absolutely delighted by it.
I used to think it was too simple. It seemed almost insulting or phony to simply post “happy birthday” to someone’s wall. If you really cared, you’d send a card and pay for a damn stamp! And maybe, individually, it is a little cheap and easy, especially when Facebook is probably the only reason you knew it was the person’s birthday in the first place. But seen in broader strokes, taken as a whole, getting a “happy birthday!” from hundreds of people at a time, whether or not they really remembered, is actually pretty awesome. A little bit of love from each of those friends and acquaintances adds up pretty quickly to a big lump of good will.
Just do your friends a favor and pay attention. It can be easy to dismiss those greetings. There can be so many that individuals get lost in the shuffle. So this year on my birthday I made it a point to respond to every single one of them.
My “Thanks!” or “Thank you!” may be even less thoughtful than many of the multiple-exclamation-point birthday greetings, but I think there’s some value in it. It guarantees that I have read everyone’s post, acknowledged everyone individually, taken a moment to remember something about each person and to think about how I’m connected to them — assuming I actually know who they are!
I’ve been paying much closer attention to people’s birthdays in the last year. I don’t remember phone numbers because my phone does it for me. And I don’t bother to remember birthdays anymore because Facebook tells me every day who I forgot to send a card to. But I do what I can to build up my birthday karma. Tell your friends, and even some strangers, happy birthday. It’ll come back to you when it’s your turn. And it’s so easy these days to show you care enough to do the very least, so there’s no excuse.