So I went camping this past weekend. Turns out, I don't think I've been camping before quite like this. I mean, yeah sure, I went camping at Salmon Falls in Buxton, Maine back in the day when I was straight and hanging out with the other counselors I worked with at the Jewish Day Camp, drinking Zima around the fire and wearing overalls. Or the time I went camping in Provincetown at a populated gay camp site and a skunk decided to sit underneath the lawn chair I was sitting in. Or when I stayed in a cabin in the Maine woods with a former girlfriend. All valid camping experiences. None like this. Turns out I forgot that with nature comes critters and with camping outside comes darkness. Turns out I'm a bit freaked out by both. V. took me to this really gorgeous campsite about two and a half hours away from Portland. While there were people occupying the sites, it was by no means crowded. We had a neighbor near us the first night, which I appreciated. We took a walk to the edge of the lake, which was more like a large clear swamp, and as I was walking these creatures were jumping out of the dirt right near the shore. Turns out they are baby frogs. Baby frogs. Tiny. I mean, so SMALL. And blending in with the dirt. I was shocked. And then my shock turned into fear - what if they touch my toes, what if they jump up my shorts' legs, what if they touch my skin? I tried to play it cool, but as V. was wading in the water and trying to entice me, I was like BUT I have to get through the frogs?! And I just couldn't find a way to do that. So we drank white wine out of coffee mugs later in lawn chairs near that same spot and watched the sun set over a steep mountain of trees that were left over from a forest fire. Geese were swimming on the lake and blue dragon flies were flickering their wings around us. It was genuinely beautiful and I was excited about the opportunity to be out there, out of civilization as we knew it. Out of the corner of my left eye I see a brown body moving. Turns out it's a buck. We have dinner back at our site and it's dark and I'm starting to feel a little nervous. I'm not good in the dark, I like light and seeing what's before me but I'm trying to remain open and just be present. I'm trying to bring my breath down. While we are eating, I see another deer off in the trees just in front of us. I feel my heart beat quicken and V. and I watch it as it moves and watches us. It's dark now and I catch her eyes and we are staring at each other. Next thing I know she is closer, at a tree near our picnic table. We are saying hi and greeting her and also not trying to be too friendly as we are not going to feed her like many probably do. At some point, I decide I'm going to bed. This is probably right after S'mores and I can't take the anticipation of watching this deer circle our campsite. I get into the tent and V. finishes cleaning up the site and comes in to join me. We are lying down trying to sleep when we hear something brush against the side of the tent. There is stomping and heavy breathing and I can almost feel her snout inverting the nylon wall near me. I am freaking out. V. is trying to sleep. I'm trying to practice savasana and am still freaking out. Every time I heard something I would sit upright in the tent and say Did you hear that! waking up V. just as he was dozing off. It was not pretty. Turns out I don't like that kind of wildlife interaction. And it turns out V. has never had that kind of experience with deer. We came up with a variety of different theories about why she did what she did - the main one being our tent was in her path and because she has a baby, she saw us as an aggressor and therefore a problem. V. did tell me she had already experienced the deer last year when he was here before. Somehow that information was lost on me. The next night we moved our tent to the site over and while she did return, and yes, sniff our tent, her energy was a lot less aggressive. She returned a third night and did the same thing. She was curious and it appears we may have been afraid of each other. The experience actually taught me a lot - one, I think I have been operating out a fear place when it comes to new and uncomfortable things. This also maybe the influence of yoga on my life as of late, but instead of greeting the deer with curiosity and excitement, I was just scared and freaked out. Instead of thinking those froggies were cute, I just saw them as an obstacle to getting in the water. I think that says something about how I perceive and engage with life. While I did receive validation from a couple of different people that that encounter was pretty intense and uncommon, and that I probably handled it well given my own experience is limited, I did receive that message. The trip was beautiful, though. We sat by water holes and sunned, drank beer, talked, ate good food. The simplest acts like washing my hands felt luxurious and it was nice to be able to experience day turn into night living outdoors, even if I was scared of the darkness. On the third night we were there it was a SuperMoon in Aquarius. The next morning I wrote this in my journal: "4th day camping or third night. Stayed up a little later last night and had two smores. The deer came early showing us her presence in the field. She later made her way closer and even later when I was in the tent, the deer sniffed V's sneakers which were drying on the rock in our site. On the way to the bathroom (there was an outhouse in the area) we saw a big frog or toad that hopped out and then when we were done it hopped with us a little on our way back. I also saw a wood rat (a few). An inchworm was also on our picnic table at one point. V. says everything was out because of the moon. Maybe it was. The moon was the 3rd SuperMoon of 3. It was gigantic and so bright and had moved in the sky since we got here. It really is beautiful here. I just wish I weren't frightened of every little thing. Yesterday when we found that swimming spot and I was lying on the rocks/shore waiting for V. to park the car a flock of geese swam up pretty close. I didn't realize it at first but I grabbed my backpack and walked up the stone stairs to wait for them to pass. Once I saw they saw the space occupied by humans they began swimming off. I was relieved." I'm back at home. We got back yesterday and I was in desperate need of a shower and some salve for my numerous mosquito bites. I got pretty tan. But I'm grateful for the experience. For the slow pace, for the pure enjoyment of doing basic tasks, for being in my body in a whole new way that made me feel sexy and alive despite wearing no makeup and having no shower, for hearing the sound of my old boots on the dirt road, for the sun at different times of the day and for quality time getting to know someone I love in a new way. It was all good.
Technically. I am not ranking the questions people are asking me here after they learn I hail from Brooklyn, but I will admit, it's a question that strikes me in the moment and leaves me sort of dumbfounded. I can honestly say I don't know Portland well enough to answer that question to my liking. But if it matters, here are some things that I like about this city so far (in no particular order): * The weather here right now is pretty fantastic. It's nice and sunny everyday. I especially like right before dusk when it seems to get brightest and fuller in color. * I like the food trucks. There are a lot. * I like shopping in boutiques that are housed in vehicles. * Sauvie Island on the Columbia River is pretty cool and beautiful and queer and naked. And there is an ice cream boat. We have not gone yet this year, though! It's on our list. * Pok Pok wings. They are am-a-zing. * Bikram Yoga. Yes, I know I can do this in any large metropolitan city and probably some small ones, too, but I got into it here. It's a friendly studio and they know me by name and I just completed my 21st class. * Beer is cheap. I mean $3.50 for a pint of local IPA. In general, everything is cheaper here. * Grocery Outlet, aka Gross Out. We can get good food here for cheap. Like decent $4 bottles of wine and a package of 6 Klondike ice cream sandwiches for $1.99. * The air is clean. So are the sidewalks for the most part. * The sky. I like looking up at it and seeing the expansiveness, the blue, the clouds (sometimes). The star and moon look different here. * I drive. * I regularly water a garden. (Again, both this and the last few are things that are not special to Portland, but I am doing them here so they are special to me.) * Venae is here! I am saving the best for last. It's so nice to be with him without the pressure or frenzy of a five day visit after weeks and weeks apart. We crack up a lot and have fun, low-key dates. This is by no means an exhaustive list. It's a list in progress I'll say. But it's always an interesting question because it makes me freeze for some reason. What are the reasons I like Portland? I don't know, it's a new city? My boyfriend's here? It's not New York? All of those things yes and more. I'm happy being here.
Mondays are typically what I call my "mental health day" ... as I go to my social therapy group and then acupuncture. Yes, social therapy. It's basically a group that gets together every week with two therapists to talk about shit. It's super challenging and hard for me because I am actually pretty shy when it comes to a group setting. I get really nervous talking in front of people, and even more so if it's just conversational and I want to just contribute and build off something somebody said. It's slightly easier when I'm sharing something about me, but I have a hard time with attention on me, I realize (even though I have secret fantasies of performing). And I have a hard time with thinking I have anything meaningful or of value to contribute. It's really hard to admit that and I know intellectually it's not true, but it's old and dusty and something I'm working hard to transform. I always feel raw afterwards, though if I contribute and find myself talking a lot during a particular session, I notice I feel buzzed. It's a group of about 15 I think, so not that big, but it's growing. Three new people started this month alone. It's a mix of gay, straight, young old - and it's diverse in terms of where people are from. I started last spring, I think, though I'm not sure exactly. We basically talk about whatever - people's shit that comes up, what's going on politically and culturally, or certain themes about the emotionality of life. It's deep and the pace of the group can be fast. I'm always conscious of who is speaking and how much space they take up. I think I am conscious of this because I struggle with taking up space speaking, even though I know I do, just with my presence. I've had some pretty deep realizations by osmosis and participation since joining the group, some of which feel a little personal to share here, but I made an interesting parallel today while on the phone with V. There's no introduction in group therapy (other than a few initial sessions with the lead therapist), nobody shows you or tells you how it's done, or what to say or when to say it. They don't tell you how to introduce yourself or what to share or how to give feedback. You just do it. It's the same sort of thing in sparring. Sparring is awesome. I love being in there with the more advanced students and my teachers (who are taking it easy on me, somewhat) but there is very little direction until I am in the thick of it. The minutes are ticking on the clock and I'm in a round, on offense and defense, going slow, but still wondering about what strikes to put out, and how to block properly. I had a coach (aka another student) the other day who showed me a round kick and then front kick sequence technique, which helped. And I am learning some blocks slowly, but for the most part, I'm thrown in and am picking it up as I go. This is happening for me in group. I feel myself flailing in there, contributing and retracting, and then just harboring. Of course it's different because I am physically moving while sparring, but with both things, I am forced to put myself out there and participate and I feel vulnerable. Vulnerable in sparring because I want to have a better idea of what I am doing and vulnerable in my group because I want to have a better idea of what I am doing. And I don't. And I'm really uncomfortable with that and trying to lean into the uncomfort and anxiety and just be OK with it. I'm moving and growing and I want to know what I am doing! And, then today, I was reminded that whenever things get hard, I tend to want to bail. I don't have that feeling in sparring, but in the group, yes, I do. I really do. I want to hide under my covers and watch Downton Abbey all day and The New Girl and just shut down. And cry. And yeah, I do some of that, but I also am working on visibility and my old coping mechanisms just keep me hidden. Aka they really don't work anymore. I have not yet found the balance of participating and showing vulnerability and doing it in a way where I don't feel overexposed or emotionally exhausted. It's a process and I guess, on days like these, when I leave group feeling defeated because I didn't participate on the level I want to, it's time to just be gentle and tender with myself and know that I am working hard and trying. PS. This post doesn't even address the concepts of conflict and playing well with others - both of which I am exploring in karate and social therapy. I have a history of conflict and have traditionally not done it well - it frightens me - and learning how to be in conflict constructively and sharing my perspective without my righteous edge is a new challenge of mine.
For those who don't know, I work a part-time job on the weekends in a restaurant. I find the extra money useful. To living. I've been working there since March. I hosted Saturday nights and Sunday brunch for a long time. Recently I was asked to start serving Sunday brunch. Hosting Sunday brunch is actually harder. You have to deal with reservations and tables and bussing and the servers and are running around supporting others, while also greeting everyone at the door with a smile. I like serving a lot better, even though I was reluctant to take it on. The cash money is better, and for some reason the time goes by way faster. You're sort of frantic and then bored as a host. As a server, you're just steady busy. Unless you're dead. Um, I mean, unless the restaurant is dead. The thing about working at a restaurant, is that you have to deal with entitled customers. It's unbelievable the attitude of some people. Most people are very nice and kind and are no problem. Then you get a few that just make you wonder what the hell is up with human kind. Today, I waited on a family of three. Good looking middle-aged couple, upper middle class, daughter in her 20s. I laid on the Liz Gold charm. The father was calling me "dear." I was answering all their questions and tried to explain to the mother that the hot water for her tea was indeed very hot. (She didn't believe the steam coming from the metal tea pot). They got seated right away and got their drinks right away. Twenty minutes into waiting for their food the mother says to me, "we're catching a flight." I'm thinking to myself 'AND' ... but I'm like OK, let me check on where your order is. I go back and say, Oh, it shouldn't be that much longer. The chefs say five minutes. I go about my business, coffeeing and watering tables. La de da. I hear some protesting and conversation going on at the table, daughter is talking, saying to just wait a minute. The father ignores her, stops me enroute and says [I'm paraphrasing], "We've been waiting 40 minutes. That is a very long time to wait. We need the food now." The chefs are watching this go down and are bustling ass. There are two of them for the whole restaurant. I said, OK it's coming. They are working on it now. The father says, "We need it right now or we will have to leave." At this point, the food is up. I bring it out to them. The mother says, "Oh we probably should have told you we have a flight to catch." I was like, Yeah, it would have been good for me to know. We are a small kitchen and tend to get very busy for brunch. [I should have added 40 minutes is a NORMAL time to wait for food for brunch]. Thanks Dear, said the father. Did I mention they ordered a hamburger MEDIUM? How long did they think that was going to take? (Says my manager friend). "Enjoy your food," I say. ENTITLEMENT is gross, people. Don't do it. Is it my fault they didn't give themselves enough time to eat properly at a restaurant? NO, of course not. Do I just brush it off and bitch to my coworkers? Yes. This is what we do. Restaurant workers get shit on so much. I see it every shift I work. It takes SKILL, I tell you, SKILL to work in a restaurant and not get in a wrangle with entitled people. It takes SKILL, I tell you, SKILL, to know how to serve people properly. More people should appreciate it. THE END.
At the beginning of every karate class after warm ups, the teacher that day will often have us get in a circle (or in two lines, in order of more advanced student to beginner) and have us introduce ourselves. During that introduction we say any number of things, but we're usually asked a question. This can range from "what's your favorite thing about winter" to "what was the best thing you did over the holidays" to something with more depth, related to our training or where we are in life in general. Today my teacher asked, and I'm paraphrasing here, "what is one way you get unstuck?" I liked the question because it points to acknowledge how we all get stuck at times - especially when we are in the process of trying something new, whether that be art, a new fitness activity, spiritual practice, whatever. There were a lot of good answers that went around, but my favorite was given by another teacher, who that day was a student. She quoted Plato, who has said: "Be Kind; For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It sort of made me tear up (as a lot of moments do in karate, admittedly) and the idea that no matter how much we think we screw up or could be doing better, or are stuck, or are watching ourselves do stupid shit, it's OK. We are all facing a hard battle. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others because though the battles may be different, they are really just the same. Saturday classes are two hours long, and the last half hour is a more advanced class which I was just invited to attend. I learn a lot and will probably write more about this training in the future, but among the many things karate brings me is self-awareness and focus and a better understanding of the space I take up (and don't take up). It teaches me to play well with others and communicate and that it's totally OK to go at my own pace. I have the utmost respect for my teachers and those who train with me. It's an inspiring community and I feel grateful to be a part of it. And there are days where I am completely off and can't coordinate or forget something I've been working on for what seems like forever and then there are days when I come in and finally get a technique that I haven't been able to do at all. Those are the days when I realize that movement and change sometimes are granted in small adjustments over time.
BY LIZ GOLD I get the saying you can never go home again, but in my case, I don't think that's exactly true. Every once in a while I miss where I come from, I need to revisit my past - the geographical markers, the people, the emotions that make up my personal history. And, especially as I am in a state of transition, or as I like to call it, a state of transformation (two break ups within a period of one week translates to the Tower tarot card, if you know what I mean) ... revising what has made up my many parts, helps the process of deciphering what stays and goes as I usher in the future. And also, I hadn't seen my parents since February and I missed them. My four-day trip to Maine wasn't that serious, but it's times like these - when I am about to take a leap into the next future me, that I want to turn around, bury myself under blankets and watch hours of reality television (in this recent case it was Honey Boo Boo, yes, true). Oh escapism, how I love you. This is exactly the opposite of what I really need to be doing and yet I know all in due time. My little jaunt away made me realize how stressed I have been, how overstimulated my senses are and that I need the calm and clean of my home Maine air. I love the comfort of the familiarity and I enjoy seeing the change of Portland's growing city. And I love that I am able to drive there. I feel grateful to have family of origin who support me to the best of their abilities and welcome me home always. Sometimes I think I take that for granted and it's worth acknowledging how important it is. I have not been the easiest over the years and my family has had it's share of hardship that has of course impacted me. But it's where I come from and I learn so much every time I am with my family. I feel as if I needed more time there. There were people I wanted to see that I didn't have the opportunity to (Randy Seaver, Connie Pacillo, Neil Skillin, the Laurie's, Heather & Deane), all I want is to lay low and be slow. Tempting though it is to run around and try to schedule shit. Next time will be longer. Someone who is not represented in the photos yet someone I spent some time with is Cat Castro - the columnist who has been asking and answering some really deep personal questions on 14Karat Living for the world to see - she's a remarkable person with intelligence that makes me want to go back to school. Cat, thank you for the courage to cut through the bullshit and write about subjects many wouldn't touch. You inspire me. Why didn't we take any photos?! I also participated in some shopping with my mom (I always find the best shoes at Marden's and always drop by Find, both in Scarborough) which was needed and fun and is prompting me to get rid of every item I own that I don't absolutely love or feel amazing in. I have a lot of stuff that I pick up on my daily travels and some of it works and some of it doesn't. I have an Ikea bag collection of clothes out, to get ready for the Femme clothing swap on the 21st. Time to streamline and refine. Style upgrade! I held some babies which was a novelty and I'm sure amused my mother. My brother's best friends have married and are having kids, and since I grew up with them too, I wanted to see the Lerman babies. All are cute. The oldest (with an impressive full head of red hair) noticed my birthmark and pointing at me said, "why is your face red ..." Usually that question quiets a room and time stops for a moment, but it was an honest question from a curious and smart kid. "It's my face," I answered him. He was skeptical. I like babies. Cute. Life changing. Lots of responsibility. That 45 minutes was well spent. I'll just work on getting a dog, thanks. What I love most about going home is not only a time out from my New York life - which doesn't completely happen as I was still plugged in and communicating with people - but being able to see things differently and gain a new perspective on where I am and where I have come from. I am able to see my growth and development in a way that being immersed in an old framework only allows. I love that. I see the pieces that still stick and I also see where that stickiness may have originated. I also get to see the change that has happened around me, and just notice what is possible. So yeah. I'm grateful.
I first heard this phrase drop from the mouth of one of the servers at Beast over our dinner shift one night. Portwine glaze, it was describing chicken or perhaps lamb or something. All I remember is seeing imagery of deep purple birthmarks dancing along faces, around necks, and in my case, dripping down legs. It’s summer, y’all and it’s f’ing hot. Even though I’m an all-season-boot-wearing femme there are even those days where it’s just too damn hot to want to pull them up. I wish I were one of those girls who had easy legs. You know, a free flowing dress, a sandal, a satchel and I’m on my way. But I’m not and for a multitude of reasons, some of which I will not go into here. Most people know when they see me that I have a pretty prevalent birthmark. A rash, as I used to call it. I’m used to it, those who love me are used to it, even glory in it, loving up the purpley rose color that decorates a lot of my body. G-d bless the lovers who actually see it and not say, Oh, I don’t even notice it’s there anymore, it just blends in. Yes, it’s not who I am. But also yes, it’s there, always there and not invisible. And while sometimes I forget about it and move on with my day, my life, there are times, like on the subway, when I am reminded that my legs are a bit different. Going out somewhere in public that necessitates a subway ride usually I will wear boots or leggings to cover up my vulnerability. But you know, sometimes, I defy the need to cover up, the desire to stay safe and decide it’s just too hot or I’m too lazy or too something and go on the train, legs bare, with just a skirt hanging by the knee. I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I can handle most birthmark related comments regarding my face because well, my face is out there and can’t really be hidden. “Oh, is that a burn?!” “Did somebody hit you?” “What happened to your face?” People are stupid and insensitive and ignorant. This we know. Those comments are few and farther between now, but when I was growing up, they seemed to hit me whenever I was out in public. And while I still get a wave of vulnerability tumble through my belly and it makes my neck arch a bit, I can easily relax and lean into it within seconds. But it’s an intimate and different experience with the legs. I sat on the subway the other day, probably listening to some music on my phone when I noticed this middle age lady looking at me intently. She stared at my bare legs, then up at my face, then at my legs for a bit longer, then up at my face. Her face was neutral, she was just studying me. I felt my body burning up but I caught my anger and understood her confusion. She’s trying to figure out what it is, what I have, and why it’s covering my legs. I just stare back at her, not aggressively, not shyly, just stare back, feeling my core rise in the seat and my legs shine in their color. I get back to my music. I was crossing the street after a run (therefore in running shorts) the other day in front of the library at Grand Army Plaza when this young guy, probably 17 or so, was with his sister. He was staring at the backs of my legs. I look away, not really wanting to deal on this particular morning, but as that crossing light in that location is kind of long, I look back and he is still staring, this time, leaning into his sister and asking, in a voice I can hear, what it is. What is that? It’s some sort of rash, she answers. He nods and they cross the street. What I’ve determined is that these looks, these stares, are to me the portwine glaze. I am guilty of it myself, when I see someone who has a similar marking. I stare, I can’t help it, I look at its shape, its coloring, its placement. Is it more intense or invasive than mine? I am not aware of the lapse of time as I do my detective work. I think it’s OK to look. If the lookers are well-intentioned and can hold that space with respect and inquisitiveness. Unlikely, maybe. But possible, yes. Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to be a part of Meg Wachter’s photo project called, Atypical Cool. Wachter, a Brooklyn-based photographer, took a portrait series of individuals “with visible facial flaws, abnormalities, and other imperfections deemed atypical by societal standards of beauty.” The project “aims to highlight their individual and unique types of beauty.” You can check it out here.