Saturday, June 20, 2009


Whoa! I am reading already tonight! I'm reading a true story, which is something I never ever write anymore--I infinitely prefer to invent and distort. But this is the piece I started to write for Portland Queer and never finished in time--as in, it was due around this time last year and I am finishing it today.

Every bone in my body leans toward fiction but there is no better time, place, or audience to pull out the Portland Queer story. It's about when I lived here in the summer of 1995, the brokest and toughest and most coming-of-age period of my life. (Also a lot of fun.)

The reading itself is a benefit for my marvelous and talented neighbor and friend Nicole Georges, self-descibed in a recent advice column as "someone with a 'cool' job who hasn't eaten a tortilla chip in over a year based on my lack of dental coverage." Here's the whole story:

And here's the flyer for the event, which also features the incomparable Michelle Tea, the hilarious Dexter Flowers, the witty and raunchy Hope Hitchcock, a queer puppet show by Nicole and sts, and live advice-giving from Michelle and Nicole.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


This is Vi. She's probably around eighty--"a spry eighty," guesses my dad. Vi lives in Texas in the winter and up here in Minnesota in the summer. She has a bountiful organic garden and sells vegetables and other relics and products out of her garage, hours: whenever.

Everything you see here is for sale, from glass bricks to flowering cactus. Swollen plastic jugs of honey: $7.50. Jars of beets she grew and pickled herself: $4.50. Old well-seasoned cast iron skillets: $5-10. Assorted glassware: 10 cents to a buck. Poplar logs: ask. Huge bottles of pure vanilla extract brought back from Mexico: $11. Radishes: she charged us 50 cents for a generous handful.

This is her garage refrigerator.

When I was growing up here, Dolores Nepsund (wildly creative cake baker, multi-grandma) had a perpetual garage sale out of her garage in town. In warm enough weather, she just left the garage door open, and you'd go in and sort through the heaps of donated clothes on the tables and racks and if she wandered in, you'd pay her, and if she didn't, you left the money in an honor system contraption. I wore a green wool duffel coat from that garage for seven years, from Ohio to Norway to New York, until it was threadbare at the hems and all the toggle-loops had broken.

Across the road from the lake, there is still an honor-system vintage shop set up in a little refurbished camping trailer parked in Iva Thielges' front yard. Inside, you find old picnic sets and paint-by-number horse portraits and dolls and embroidered dish towels etc., and a little hinged box where you write down what you bought and leave the money.

I prefer this kind of economy, run by old women and based on trust.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I am very happy to be in northern Minnesota right now, watching minnows startled by my foosteps shoot out from under the dock, biking in the cool evening air by the birch trees whose delicate round leaves jingle like green coins in the breeze, past a dairy farm with shockingly clean black-and-white cows snacking on towering fluffy haystacks, toward a burrito at CompaƱeros that is hiding midwest-style under a thick blanket of melted cheese and sauce, looking up to see a waxing moon emerging bright in the still-blue sky, chopping up tart fresh rhubarb stalks for a homemade pie with my dad, and eating the pie with ice cream, and etc.

But if there were any other place I could be tonight it would be Portland, for the preview opening of my friends Mary and Asza's collaborative art show at Fontanelle Gallery. It is called, succinctly enough, "Lesbian Art Show," and it opens for real tomorrow and if you live in Portland you should go see it. If not you should click on "Lesbian Art Show" and flip through the pictures. Some of it is tongue-in-cheek, some of it is really vulnerable and sharp, some is Dada, some of it has a Chris Johanson-esque vibe I like (maybe it's the hand-lettering and the townscapes), some is all these things at once. I can't wait to see it in real life. (Next week!) 

Here are a few of my favorites, at least as translated via the world wide web.

"Teenage Deviations in an Ideal World"

"A Map Mostly About Opinions"

"Styles of Lesbos" (just because Aubree and Torrence look so cute)

"Lesbian Art Show" itself

On a side note, I struggle with the strange fate of the word "lesbian"--it's been so misappropriated by straight porn and shock jocks. Decontextualized, it risks sounding lecherous and fake. (To clarify, I am not talking about "Lesbian Art Show" and other such specific projects and contexts, but the more generalized use of the word.) In case we can't ever fully reclaim it, at least in The Larger Culture, I wonder what will take its place? I would love to find a word that a) encompasses a broader sense of genders and b) doesn't conjure images of long-nailed girls gone wild frenching each other lasciviously with one eye on the camera.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I left Oberlin at 3:45 pm Sunday and arrived in northern Minnesota at 5:15 pm Monday. Turbo trip! My speedometer works approximately twice a month, and on neither day of this drive. The needle just hangs out at 20mph, going or stopping. So I had no idea how fast I was going, I would get myself into a comfortable car sandwich and go with the flow, figuring that if we were speeding outrageously the highway patrol would target the leader or the end of the line. Worked!

Emmett was an agreeable companion but no help driving.

On day one I blazed through Indiana and Illinois without pause. On day two I did the final 400 miles in a single shot, not even stopping for gas or restroom or Twizzlers. I just wanted it to be over. The right side of my body was numb by the time I arrived. Fortunately my dear and loquacious friend Melissa called around the time I was passing through Staples and we talked through the last hour-plus, 'til the phone grew hot and I had switched arms several times. This, I fear, is the point at which one's brain is being microwaved, but it made the time fly by.

Things I saw and heard on my drive, in order of appearance:
• a trio of glossy chocolate-colored mules, grazing
• a sign for FANGBONER ROAD
• an abandoned farmhouse collapsing backwards, overgrown with ivy
• speed metal on the radio while driving through rural Wisconsin at night, including a song called "Corey Feldman Holocaust"
• heat lightning over the field in Madison where my friends and I were running around with Emmett at midnight
• at least a dozen dead deer (which bear a disturbing coloring resemblance to Emmett), one of which had a neon-orange X spraypainted across its bloated and stiff torso in the dark
• two small crosses perched on a hillside next to 94, each decked with flower garlands and topped with a blaze-orange hunting cap
• a billboard for a place called Crystal Cave whose website is
• an Adopt-A-Highway section sponsored by Minnesota Atheists
• girls walking through Menahga in shorts and flip-flops, it felt like true summer

Home at last, I went to Amy and Aaron's for dinner out in the woods. Amy had made homemade butter with local cream, which she sprinkled with pink Hawaiian sea salt. Delicious!

The leftover buttermilk she turned into a delicious cool cucumber gazpacho, which also featured pureed almonds and some kind of oil (walnut? olive?) and, best of all, juicy halved green grapes swimming near the bottom like little sweet treasures. This, along with tender mellow radishes from the garden and ciabatta and cheese and wine, is just the pre-dinner snack. Then we had a Spanish vegetarian feast, replete with shitaake mushrooms and sweet scallions grilled over the fire and homemade mayo and garden greens and chickpea stew and things whose names I cannot remember! And ice cream with cloudberries for dessert.

Then after dinner Amy pulled out the birch water. When the sap was running in May, she and Aaron tapped some birch trees and collected gallons of the gushing water. They boiled down some of it to make birch syrup (it takes 70 gallons of birch water to make a gallon of syrup, compared with 40 of maple), but they kept a lot of the birch water just to drink .

The taste is so delicate and subtle I can hardly even describe it; all I can say is that birch water is the purest, cleanest, most delicious water I have ever drunk in my life. It tastes clear and alive. Amy declared that she wanted to drink it until she replaced every ounce of water in her body with it. Sign me up!

P.S. You should see the crazy car cake she and Aaron made for their son's second birthday. And also, the cooking classes she is going to offer out in their deep-woods paradise.