Just get out 2016; leave

Even George R.R. Martin agrees 2016 has been a horrendous year, as written in his Live Journal blog on December 28, 2016. The author of the Game of Thrones series, notorious for picking off characters we love and subjecting them to the most gruesome death (without regard), thinks, “this year just keeps getting worse and worse.” I find it hilarious that 2016 could have literally been written by him, and he kinda knows it.

Perhaps the other urban legend taking root on Twitter is true:

 photo IMG_0754.jpg

The latest bout of celebrity deaths – George Michael, Carrie Fisher, then Debbie Reynolds in just the last week, has just left me in awe. Everyone we know and love is dying off, breaking our hearts, killing our hope, and leaving us shocked at how far 2016 can truly go. As if losing Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Anton Yelchin, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Arnold Palmer, Leonard Cohen, Nancy Reagan, Alan Rickman, Alexis Arquette, and others wasn’t enough… I also lost my cousin this year. But it’s not that I love everything the celebrities did; that’s not why I mourn.  These people helped me discover who I am, in a small way. My cousin did, too.

Syrians died. French people died. Germans. Black lives. Blue lives. So many. 

I feel like there are still 2 whole days left in this godforsaken year and just about anything can fucking happen. Further, the realist in me knows this doesn’t stop just by the calendar year ticking over to 2017. It’s going to keep happening. It’s not just suddenly going to end.

One of Carrie Fisher’s quotes seems apropo right about now:

 photo IMG_0748.jpg

We have to keep going forward despite the fear. Against the hate. One foot. Then another foot. In front of the other one. 

Personally, 2016 was not my worst year. My worst year was actually 2013, the year I went through a break up, lost my father, and hit the pinnacle of shittiness in my career.

 photo IMG_0755.jpg

So I figure if I can survive the worst for me in 2013, and 2016 was not the worst, then I’m actually ok. But I totally agree, 2016, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. I personally plan on staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve for once just to watch 2016 leave, ya filthy animal.

Perhaps I seem to be ok despite everything crumbling around me because I seem to have a lower amount of hope. With the barriers to Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20 (the actual electoral college vote and a looming impeachment) cleared, I have no hope that America will be great again under Trump. Shit’s going to get worse. Fill those liquor cabinets and buy that legal marijuana where you can. Hold on to your butts.

 photo Lesbihonest.gif

I have friends vacationing in London and Paris right now, who get the general sense from foreigners that they’re actually afraid of what Donald Trump might do. You know what? I am, too. He could undo everything, and not in a good way. Those traveling friends are embarrassed to admit they’re from America right now. And I am, too. Game of Thrones Cersei bell-ringing “SHAME!” walk to you, America. I sound my bell at you and cry, “SHAME!” You voted this man in, not me. Shame.

 photo shame.jpg

All we can do is activate the phone tree and form a protection circle around Betty White and another one around Ruth Bader Ginsburg a la Practical Magic with our Swiffers and Dysons. If you want to pray, pray for social Darwinism, that the powers that be take Donald Trump and Mike Pence and put them on an island somewhere, with no political power/affiliations and no Twitter access. I don’t want Trump to die. But I certainly am sick of seeing his chook neck and ridiculous claims all over the media.

All joking aside, at this point, 2017 can’t be anything but better, since 2016 was so shitty. So I’ll raise my glass to what can only be better than this mess of a year was. Whilst it was certainly not my worst year, it was not the best.

To the right, to the right

Even though I brought gym clothes with me to work out after work yesterday, I ended up taking a detour to Pike Place Market along the waterfront of Seattle last night. I felt a little like I was being extra brave, given the terrorist attack that happened just the night before at the Christmas markets in Berlin. I thought to myself as I walked, “Take that, terrorists.”

Of course, after the events in Berlin this week (so similar to those in Nice in July, it’s scary), I thought back to the same line of thinking I had when I wrote another recent post, Marked safe. Why should I get to go to Pike Place Market and be safe, when 12 other people went to the markets across the world and they weren’t? Sometimes, it’s just not fucking fair.

I thought of the fire in Oakland’s Ghost Ship, which happened the night I arrived in Berkeley, Oakland’s neighbor, earlier this month. How those 36 people went about a perfectly mundane night listening to music, making art, supporting other artists, and how that night ended. It felt realer and closer because I was in town over that weekend, and maybe partially because my mother knew I’d be there and was so worried I was in the fire, she made me call her to prove I was safe.

Monday night at the gym, watching the results of the electoral college (which, by the way, proved itself completely worthless and useless) voting that day, I started hate stationary-biking. I’m so fucking sick of seeing the name Trump, of seeing his chubby turkey neck and stupid schmuck look on his face all over the news/media. I’d hoped we’d have a Hillary win, and he could fade into obscurity via shame spiral, but that was not to be. Thanks, ‘Murica. Since my hate biking, I’ve tried to limit my exposure to news/media because the state of world, if it wasn’t getting to me before, is surely getting to me now.

 photo deep thoughts.gif

I know I shouldn’t hate. It brings me down to the level of everyone else rooted in hate – the KKK, anti-LGBTQ initiatives and  supporters, and so much more. But I fucking hate Trump and all that he stands for. I hate the team of people he’s selected for his cabinet. They might as well call his team the Bad News Bears. Cruella DeVil for animal protection. Bill Cosby for women’s rights. For real. I’m sickened to live in a country that voted for him. To be clear, I did not.

But in limiting my exposure to news, I still managed to read something which resonated with me. I usually try to cite my sources when I can, but unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read about this idea.

There is a global trend toward right wing ideologies inspired by the waves of terrorism increasing in frequency and amplitude everywhere. That’s how ISIS was supposedly inserting itself in nearly every country. By performing acts of terrorism in not only war-torn middle eastern countries, but also the US, Europe, etc., ISIS was effectively attacking democracy and the very foundational ideals on which the western world exists. Brexit was a British right-wing response; Trump winning the election was the US’s right-wing response to terrorism; as was the socialist president of France deciding not to seek re-election due to an unfavorable climate, stepping aside to make way for more conservative republicans who have broader favor with the French people. France had its fair share of horrible terrorist attacks recently, with the most recent attack in Nice on Bastille Day, November 2015 with shootings at multiple crowded locations before that, and shootings at Charlie Hebdo before that. And the French people are leaning more conservatively now, as a result.

Russia hacking and influencing the US’s election of Trump was the pinnacle of attack on democracy, and I did read an article that John McCain, of all people, is making a case for a special investigation into the cyberwarfare. McCain advocates that, “A committee is necessary to look at ‘the whole issue of cyber warfare, where we have no strategy or no policy’ because it is ‘perhaps the only area where our adversaries have an advantage over us.’” Cybersecurity is where America is weakest and potentially not #1, thus that is where we must build our defenses.

The global political climate leaning more and more to the right actually induces way more fear in me than I thought possible. I always felt safe in San Francisco, slightly less so in Sydney but to be fair, I was also outside the country and thus outside my comfort zone there. I feel pretty darn safe in Seattle. Having a president-elect who believes climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese also terrifies me, because this is a crucial point to continue and even ramp up environmental protections to save this planet from mass self-destruction. But, I digress.

 photo lifes not fair.gif

But it’s like countries who have been fucked with by conservative terrorists want a conservative no-more-chances response from government. So in a way, the terrorists ARE winning and everywhere is falling into the plans they had all along. They wanted us to react with hate, and fear, and conservative views on all kinds of topics from immigration to jobs to welfare. So good job everyone. *slow clap*

Being more conservative aligns more closely with terrorist views and how they want things. In my best Beyoncé voice, “to the right, to the right.” I’m not saying by any means that electing Trump was the right thing to do. Rather, in the game of chess, we’ve been played. Check-mate. We lost. Unless the sane part of the world comes up with a genius response to unwind all of this soon, where we’re heading is not good.

Despite raging against the dying of the light by going to the Seattle markets last night, most of the stalls were closing up as I got there. I didn’t get what I went there for – gifts for family and friends. I felt better for going, though. I felt I had to, despite the cold, despite my limping on a sore knee and foot that won’t go away from a gym injury a few weeks ago. Because some people who went Monday night in Berlin couldn’t finish their time there. So, that one was for you, you 12 souls lost, who have yet to be named. Trying to patronize stalls of local artisans instead of ordering everything through Amazon Prime was for you, lost souls of Ghost Ship in Oakland. I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do. I am not perfect, and even I am susceptible to hate. But my gift is my actions, and that one was for you.

Snow and lights

For the first time ever in my life, I watched a real live snowstorm last week.

When I moved to Seattle, I surely expected rain. I’d be an idiot not to. When I was looking for homes to buy in the Seattle area, I researched transportation routes for each option, and as a result, intimately got to know the King County transportation websites. This includes the snow schedule/routes. I knew that Snow Days happened, but from discussions with people from the area, or who’d lived there, snow was not the norm. In fact, Seattle when it snows equated to LA when it rains. Shit shuts down. People lose their shit, and suddenly can’t drive anymore. Luckily for LA and Seattle, rain and snow, respectively, don’t happen that frequently.

Yet, it snowed twice last week, on December 5 and 8, 2016, after I’d already commuted into work. Thank goodness, or I may not have made it in. Having 5+ knee surgeries under my belt, and a propensity for klutziness, I try to avoid snow at all costs. It’s not even winter yet, so snow within my first autumn in Seattle was wholly unexpected.

After obsessively checking weather apps, which kept altering their predictions for snow at 6pm, 7pm, then 8pm… I made it to and subsequently left my physical therapy appointment to head home via bus, praying to a God I may or may not believe in that the buses hadn’t already shut down. After the 12-year-old chiropractor rubbed out my knees, neck, back and tender feet, I shuffled to a CVS for some last minute decorations once the bus dropped me off closer to home.

Suddenly, around 9pm, the snow came. As a Californian, it was never a way of life. It was a commercial. It was on TV. It was the east coast, middle America, Mount Everest, Austria, everywhere and everyone but who I am. And yet, when the uniquely individual snowflakes congregated on the balcony handrail, on the patio furniture covers, as the snow flurried in the light from the street lamps, clung to windshields of parked cars, I felt oddly, and amazingly, at home. I missed my dad, who is no longer of this earth. I hugged my cat tight for at least 30 seconds, every one of those seconds he vacillated between despondent defeat and fervently trying to escape my cuddles. As he tried to break free, like any prisoner in the show Orange is the New Black who fled for a swim in the lake when the officers were nowhere to be found, I felt more… more. That’s all I can explain it as: more. I teared up. I cried for seemingly no reason and all the reasons, at once. I watched the trash pandas (raccoons) that I didn’t even know existed in my neighborhood frolic with a pit bull, ruining the blanket of fresh, white snow.

 photo sad.gif

I felt myself heavy, perhaps from all the lives I’m not living, yet content with the one I was. Scared about the future of my home and life under the regime of a man who has time for SNL and Twitter but not the President’s Daily Briefing. Most strongly of all, I missed my Dad, and just knowing he was a phone call away, should I pick up the phone. My heart broke and rebuilt, all in the same moment. It wasn’t my first Christmas spent away from California, but it was my first being back in the USA, but not as a California resident. I felt like a stranger to this city, and at the same time, someone who now knew it during the rare occasion of a snowstorm.

Music always makes me feel better, so I airplay mirrored my holiday playlist on my Apple TV (feeling very technologically proficient since my friends showed me how to do so at Thanksgiving,) and began decorating my tree I’d acquired earlier in the week. I bought it at a lot in Capitol Hill, the gayborhood of Seattle. The lot was run by Seattle Area Support Groups, who donates to various charities after they cover costs, including providing direct support to Washington gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and minority communities, as well as toward fighting HIV/AIDS and other STDs. I basically picked the first tree I saw, because every tree is lovely if you have enough alcohol and low standards (and a time limit to your Zipcar reservation.)

My dad and I always used to go cut down our Christmas tree together from a tree farm when I was growing up. I didn’t cut this one myself, but I think the missing him hit me like a tsunami because I was attempting a modified form of getting a live tree without him for the first time since he passed. I had a fake tree my first Christmas back in San Francisco after repatriating from Australia. I hadn’t crossed that bridge until last week.

I also had electricians by today to finally complete a much-anticipated project of mine on the condo: a halogen-to-LED fixture conversion project for a majority of the in-unit lighting. The bathrooms already have somewhat more modern fixtures, and they have smaller, more manageable halogen lights. However, all non-bathroom lights were halogen. They threw off a lot of heat, not appreciated at all in the summer months. Not only am I more energy efficient as a result of this project, but I’ll begin to (hopefully) see real savings in my electricity bills. It was a relatively inexpensive way to add value to my home, and a way to see instant savings in my own use and enjoyment of the lights.

As a side note to any of my friends considering a similar project at their home – let me know if you’ve any questions. I asked a lot of stupid questions of my electricity company, and they helped educate me quite a lot. In the end, I went with 3000K fixtures (that speaks to color temperature along a daylight/bright light/soft light/candle spectrum – here, if you’re curious, is more info on the spectrum. Some folks are leery of LED lighting because it can come off as too bright, even bluish in hue. LED lights have come a long way, and don’t have to look like bug lights anymore. So if you’re thinking about it, do it!

Now that I’ve decorated for the holiday, and added more fairy lights than I previously had year-round, home is quite homey, and ready for my mother and aunt to visit. It’ll be the closest to Christmases I used to have growing up I’ll have since my father passed away. My aunt would usually fly in and it would be just the four of us nearly every year.

It’s a new city for me this year, a new condo, the same cat with new asthma, and the nearly the same but never quite the same again family. It’s been a big year for me, in many positive ways. But I lost my cousin to aggressive brain cancer, and that loss reverberates this time of year. That’s partially why I invited family to visit me here. If I’m being honest, to go back east and face my broader family without him might just be too hard for me right now. But baby steps. We all have projects that need tackling, in our homes, and in our hearts/minds. All in good time.

Tree line

A tree line is the edge of a habitat, usually at high elevations, at which trees are capable of growing. It’s an unseen boundary; no one drew a real line on the ground. A tree line appears well-defined from a distance, but upon closer inspection, it’s a gradual transition. 

Beyond it, the conditions are too harsh to sustain life. Some trees were meant to cling tight to the rocks of a mountainside, while others were meant to overlook a river, comfortable in rich, clay soil. 

It becomes very obvious, when we step back and look at a mountainside, where the tree line is. After a certain point, there are no more trees; perhaps only grasses and rocks and dirt remain. From a distance, sometimes it’s easier to draw definitive lines.

 photo tree line.jpg

I was watching Wild Australia last night, missing my home of three years, and the show broached the subject of tree lines in the Australian environments. But tree lines can be anywhere with a mountain range, not just Australia. 

Some trees at the tree line are small; they might be young, or full grown but not able to get much larger due to the availability of nutrients. Some are quite tall. The conditions are on the verge of being harsh, or are harsh for intermittent periods at that boundary, so there are certainly fewer trees there overall.

It’s easy for trees to thrive in a valley – the sediment is rich with nutrients. It’s where water collects and settles. Water flows downhill, and the valleys provide great conditions for trees to mature. More trees thrive there, and trees have a “safety in numbers”, if you will. More trees mean more shade from harsh sunlight, and more mature, established trees provide protection for more young trees to grow.

But, to be a big, thriving tree at the tree line, well, that’s remarkable. To thrive in harsh conditions is worthy of respect and admiration.

These deep thoughts on trees and tree lines swirl in my brain as I’m still emerging from the election hangover nightmare, and the conditions of a Donald Trump America. He’ll create harsher conditions for people like me; the tree line will move. Some aren’t cut out for when the tree line moves, and those who can’t sustain the harsher conditions will suffer. 

How does one survive the harshest of landscapes, perhaps not meant for anyone? *gestures broadly*

 photo this.gif