^ This song ^
which I discovered on Instagram by following a like to a like and then discovering the feed of one of the younger dudes that hangs out and bodyboards at the beach I go to–this one in fact, where I took Eddie and Megan to eat burritos on their way out of town, about to road trip up the coast last week:
If you’re on there, follow him @will_ross__
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been out mermaiding around and him and his buddies are off to the side howling and assin up having good times. At least now I’m guessing it was them. Super fun, and sorta like discovering a little private or secret treasure, to see these guys on a different level. It made me pause a minute, envious of that generation, how incredibly…potent it is or could be. Capable. How powerful self-expression and the opportunity to do so is, if catalyzed… Here is a youtube he just uploaded this week:
It was also timely to find him because it helped me put into perspective something I’ve been grappling with.
For homework this week I posted a filmed rant of me. It was a web assignment. We had to do a creative or spoken word reaction to material we read for a class on psychological assessments. It was nice to cathart my feelings that way–the material of that class infuriates me.
Which is how I’ve been my whole life: agitated by systems, institutions, cliques, interactions etc that operate by separating, oppressing, ignoring (which includes misunderstanding or being blind unintentionally, because of too much overt focus on one thing–which I am frequently guilty of and is how I learned about it,) silencing, excluding etc.
Lately I have found myself re-engaged by feminist dialogue for this very reason–as feminism in at least one primary context has come to be associated with a certain set of ideas normalized by the dominant culture, or white, upper-middle class. In other words, the value system of this upper-middle class sect of society indicates what’s “acceptable”, and concepts of equality become based on this. Which is outrageous because that reality, while real for that sect, isn’t reality for tons and tons of other people. The concept of intersectionality is a main one currently addressing some of this.
So here I am, all hot and on a run of rants lately–like the rebel teenager I used to be,
re-owning the parts of her that I feel still wholly and truly reflect who I am. And at once, contextualizing the other parts that have bloomed in her wake.
I made my way, learned my way in to who I am and how to become and operate as an adult, the same way a lot of post-70’s kids did: Legless as mutherfuckin hell, without a clue as to what to do with myself because the old roles were changing, because I was recovering from heavy alcohol and drug abuse, because I was from a disrupted and broken home, because it was so easy to be totally disillusioned and apathetic by the suddenly accessible big world around me, because because there’s a million becauses. What matters is my twenties were a rite of passing, when I had to get out there, be accountable, and figure it out for myself.
I didn’t want to but I kept getting offers to teach. Again and again. The first class I did teach was English as a Second language for adults. My first night, wayyyy out in the country surrounded by turned fields of corn and soy, I could see my breath on the air. I heard my students speaking spanish, coming up the hall. We would meet at the corner. I spoke little espanol. I was terrified, had no training, what was I gonna do? I closed my eyes, thought: direct my thoughts and actions, help me, open my heart.
The rest….has been my path. I had five students that night and at least as many little kids. Each was undocumented. That class would grow to over 20, with lots more little kids. I had no training. (The local politics (economics, -isms, (nepotism!,) micro-reflections of the macro) of that little eastern shore “southern town” was an enormously challenging lesson in understanding that I would soon have to engage.) My first night, three of my students were related, lived together. Later in the month I was invited to their home for dinner after class. I had to hide my embarrassment, my guilt and shame, when we got to their home–put up in an old farmhouse by the farmer whose land they tended. The first floor of the house was dirt. The tia that cooked for us (a chicken killed by hand) was younger than me but looked way beyond youth. The deep wrinkles between her brows. The accepting way of her eyes, as she watched me swallow my distress when I saw where they lived.
So what does any of this have to do with a rad group of grommie bodyboarders in one of the richest, elitist, and absolutely whitest beach towns in the United States (where I, a white woman on food stamps, with two decades of private education in suburbia, live?) It’s like this.
As I looked at this dude’s feed, and clicked on friends of his to look at, too, I saw language that would be called misogynist by the echelon of educated academic feminist circles. (Not necessarily would women of all cultures, race, heritage, speak about this–because norms of cultures are different and speaking out is different in the context of those norms, HERE, MY POINT AGAIN—FEMINISM is a construct specific to dom culture) (Believe me, I myself have left my fair share of anti-sexist rants on Surfer‘s forum)
I also saw vidclips of behavior that normalizes or arises out of a normalized perception of women as objects. (Plenty of feeds did the opposite, too.) I follow several feeds that feature only bikinis (actually–the models wearing the bikinis). As a woman who pays attention to her body specifically because I hit the beach so often, where does the line get blurred?
My point: The most important thing I learned teaching is that without active understanding there is no capacity to truly communicate. And conversely, communication, or how we do so, is fundamental to understanding. If ever we–this is a collective we, humanity, are going to shift and evolve into a species that is life-affirming and life-valuing, in my opinion it will come down to this key concept. Understanding the differences in how we each relate. What impacts–culture, heritage, race, upbringing, neighborhood, family etc–how we relate. To me, I can not separate my politics from my dialectics or philosophies because it is so much less about what I have to rant about, it is way more about how I walk day to day. How I interact with life. With people. With you, outside of me. As a relational extension of me.
Do I do so–in this moment, with an other in front of me, with an open, understanding heart? Or am I separating us, me against them, with a concretized way of how I already understand.
This is a daily practice. A challenge. It never ends.
We repress ourselves, our need to work it out day by day, when we say we have the end-all answer. And when we repress ourselves we battle our selves. And when we battle ourselves, we battle everything, especially every one, we come in contact with.
All this said…I will still raise my voice. I will do so as an example for others, because as we each get to learn, so too do we each teach. I think it’s important to share what I see, what I am learning. What we understand or don’t, where we struggle. To encourage others that they’re worthy of the same. It is important to me to truly see you, not my idea of you. I blow it sometimes. Maybe more than that. But you deserve it. I do, too.
There is no homesick lost as the want for a good steak and cheese. It is January, California-mild, the way the smell of grease sits in the back of the throat hits me for no reason as a body sense, makes me think, damn, back there they must be cold. There are no delis here, no sub joints, no liquor stores with a line at the grill. It’s dad’s birthday. In DC there is six inches of snow but he didn’t close the school, is just letting them come in at 10. His voice, thirty years older than mine, is clean and round on the phone, in that way that I know he’s handled his exhaustion. I give quiet thanks that Monday was a holiday because it means he took the time to rest, be still. You’re a hard ass, dad, I say to him and he laughs that laugh that says back to me I’m on top of my game.
Like he would know what to do with himself if he did cancel classes today. He’s at uncle Tim’s, where he lives through the week, two hours away from the house he calls home which is at the beach. I know dad, he’d drive through all the snow on Kent Island just to get down there for an extra day, even if the golf courses are closed from snow.
On Friday as soon as I hit the freeway a thought came again that’s been cozying around in my head. I drive the 5 for freedom, PCH for peace. It tells me I am home. In Oregon when I lived there on the coast I learned that you need at least a full year, one whole turn of all the seasons, before a place will let you know it, will really let you in. Well, my year in Laguna came in August and I had decided to cut and run, was packing and selling to move back to Maryland. That didn’t happen though, the Muses had other plans, here I sit instead, writing desk in front of the window looking out at trees growing from the side of the canyon. Makes me want my backpack, long nights under the stars, the cool feeling of nights in a tent.
And so I am my father’s child, a wild run frenzy that dictates, like he says, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. But that’s not it, entirely. The need to run, the holy can’t stay still. There’s assimilation in it for me, the step-on-it fastness of sun-roof open windows down loud music that stirs it all up, because that’s just who I am, what I need sometimes. A quick shake up that helps me see better who I am when I land. I drove to Venice Friday the smog to the north of me dense as a brick. El Segundo was Saturday in the back seat of Deanna’s Volt, Monrovia on Sunday to watch the game with Paul. Because this place, this here, this is my home. If not forever, at least right now. Which means the 5 is possibility and PCH my back roads, where I go for a slow meander, shades of light, the sweet taking in of what is slow.
Home is a funny thing. I think of dad who would rather brave all that snow than have to sit around in a place not his own. He didn’t tell me that, but I think I get it. It takes a while sometimes for a place to open up and let you in. Or maybe, it takes a person a while, sometimes, to do the same.
When I lived in Seattle on Larry’s floor I used to wait for him to get home from work so we could take a walk about. We would gear up a backpack with a camera and our notebooks and head off on foot to stalk the city. We didn’t spend money anywhere, what a different time in life that was, just nine years ago. Maybe depending on how much we’d cooked at home that week we’d go to the Turkish place or a side alley for cheap Thai. Or Chinatown, which is what Larry loved. We set out with no agenda and let the city move us all around.
That’s how I feel about the trolley in Laguna. It runs for free from mid June until Sept 1. I can go out to the end of my street and pick it up, no windows, bench seats, drivers in blue and white tropical shirts that ring a bell at one another when they pass. You ride it anywhere, to any one of the secluded, summer-crowded beaches here, to any one of the fine little light-dusted flower-draped corners of this town that I am coming to know.
“It’s the cheapest form of entertainment in Laguna, that’s why all the locals do it,” is what a short, muscled man with gray hair and reflective sunglasses said to a group of girls and their one loud, gay friend. I smiled wide, like sunglasses was reading my mind, nodded, said, “It’s true.” My chin on on my folded hand, my elbow propped up on the windowless pane, I was staring out at the green and blue lines of the canyon thinking the very same thing. He’s right, we people watch and keep our opinions to ourselves, thought me the girl nodding at the him the middle-aged man talking about all he knows for the good-looking girls in tow. One on every ride. He told them what there is to do in Laguna, where to pick up the different trolleys to the Sawdust Art Fest, north to the coves or south all the way to Dana Point.
And I rode. Rode with no plan, thinking I’d get off at Legion and go to Sleepy Hollow where I always go, only to lend to the whim instead and let it take me up to Oak, to the coffee shop that roasts their own beans, where I read the local newspaper in the sun. There was a cover story about three of the artists at the Sawdust doing ecologically sound work, two of them I knew. A woman came into the cafe and startled me by saying she stopped outside and took a picture of me through the glass, smiling with my eyes closed, my head tilted up towards the sky, she hoped I didn’t mind. It made me bashful to have a moment witnessed like that, but grateful, too. It’s sweet when you follow that whim and someone else sees it, feels it, too. I left a bit later to cross the street, go to the ocean, swim.
Sometimes the trolley can take a long time so I only take it if that’s what I have to give. I even brought a change to go to church in, in case the wait at the stops was too long and I didn’t have enough time first to go home. But I did.
The whim was in control, the flow. Mass was as good as it was last week, I got so much done after it was over in preparation for school, there is one week left of the trolleys in Laguna. Larry got married over the weekend. I couldn’t make it up there but was with he and Kristina in the heart, the soul. Life moves and sometimes it’s so nice to let it take you where it wants you to go. To feel its larger breathing, to just be a part of that breath. I will miss the trolleys when they go.