Friday, September 27, 2013

Reminiscing About Portland


These past couple of weeks have been enveloped by so many different and often opposing emotions. Excited, terrified, happy, sad, shocked, adventurous, courageous, scared, and hopeful to name a few.

It's times like these that make me feel like I'm taking control of my life and doing what feels right. I'm letting go and floating down this river we call life. Sometimes excitedly looking ahead past the bend in the river to see what's coming next and sometimes just “going with the flow”. All the while doing what I can to remain present to the moments I find myself in.

Like right now. I feel the weight of the laptop on my legs, the futon under me, the headphones snug around my ears piping in beautiful ambient music as my fingers find the right buttons to push to create these words and watching the words flow from my thoughts onto the screen.

In the past couple of weeks I've spent time with friends and family here in Portland and during those moments I shared with them I was fully present. I didn't want to be anywhere else during those moments. I was savoring each and every one and reminding myself that I am surrounded by some incredibly amazing people in this life.

I thought a lot about my time here in Portland and how much growth I've experienced here. I've “come into my own” during these past 11 years. When I moved to this city I had very little self confidence and self worth. I also had very few friends. This magical place we call Portland helped me to change all that.

When I leave on Sunday I will leave with a sense of self. I have come to know me during the last 11 years. While I know I will continue to make mistakes in this life, I also know that I am learning more and more about life through those mistakes. Most importantly, I know that I can survive both physically and emotionally when life throws challenges at me.

I'm going to miss my friends and family here in Portland so very much. I'm going to miss the beautiful skyline of downtown. I'm going to miss the quirkiness, the weirdness, the beauty and the awesomeness that is Portland and the people that live in and around here. I'm going to miss the St. John's Bridge and Peet's Coffee. I'm going to miss Pastini and New Seasons. I'm going to miss the mighty Willamette and sitting by the Columbia River watching the planes land and take off. I'm going to miss my friends and family.

It's true that social networking makes me crazy, but I'm so grateful that it exists so I can keep up with everyone in between the personal contacts. I am grateful for each and every one of you in my life. Thank you for helping me get to know me. Thank you for supporting me in this journey. Thank you for being you. You are pretty fucking awesome.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Waking Up & Moving

If you've read my blog for any length of time you know how open and honest I am in my online blogging. While I don't talk about everything that's happening in my life, I do talk about a lot of things most people wouldn't talk about in a public setting. There seem to be so few of us out there in the blogosphere. I've always admired those who do blog with that honesty and openness and, for some time, I've prided myself on it. The many emails and comments from people expressing their appreciation for writing about the things I do because it makes them feel less alone in the world have affirmed for me that I'm on the right path in this space.

But, over the last year or so, I've felt a self imposed stifling in my blogging. I've come to realize that I've allowed the public-ness of the photo project to quiet me down not only here in this space but in other spaces such as the big social media sites. 

Why? Fear of people's judgements and reactions. Fear of unintentionally hurting someone. Fear. False Evidence Appearing Real. All of those fears came from my own head. Not from anything that happened in the real world.

I've been denying myself and I can't allow that to continue. This place, this public place where I write about my life in an unedited way, is my space to do so. I am reclaiming that for myself. I am reclaiming my authenticity.

On the 29th of this month I will be packing up my car and driving across country to Massachusetts for a rekindled love, a new adventure and a new start. I'm both excited and terrified at the same time. My entire life is moving across country to a coast I've only lived on during my military days. It's a huge jump into the arms of the Universe. It's a giant leap of faith and it's putting a lot of trust in not only myself, but also in that rekindled love and the Universe.

Over the next couple of weeks I expect to be moving through a full spectrum of emotions as I let go of my life on this coast and embrace my life on the opposite coast. During that transition, I promise to be me. My authentic, blogging self. The good parts and the bad parts. Flaws and all. Mistakes and triumphs. Just me in all of my humanness.


Monday, September 9, 2013

A Must See

Back in 2001 while I was attending Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon I took a women's studies class that focused on women in the media. Up until that point in my life I had always felt completely frustrated over the fact that I wasn't seen as an equal to the men around me. I felt looked down upon and never truly understood it.

Then I took that class. That class brought to light every frustration I had ever felt and helped me to see the source of that frustration. From that point on, I was able to point out every sexist and degrading image of women in any television show, music video, movie or advertisement. It was incredibly difficult for me to see. So much so that I stopped watching television and mostly stopped going to see movies. It affected me on such a deep level.

Right now on Netflix (which is the only place I watch programs at the moment) there is a documentary that completely sums up all of the things I learned in that class at SOU. I highly recommend watching it. Take the hour and a half out of your day or night and watch it completely. Read the facts they put up on the screen. Try not to multitask while you watch this film. Simply sit and watch it like it's the only thing you have to do during that hour and a half. You will learn so much and your eyes will open so wide.

The name of the film is Miss Representation. Please click on the link to watch the trailer or just go to your Netflix account, look it up then click on Play. Watch it through the end in it's entirety because at the end they tell you how you can help make a change. What you can do in your every day life to turn this around.

More women need to write their stories. If you've been putting it off, now is a good time to start. 

"May we all make empowering other women and girls a priority."


Sunday, September 8, 2013

California


Marina del Rey
I spent the last week in August in Southern California. I also drove out to Phoenix and Santa Fe. It was a trip filled with not only project shoots but family time and a wee bit of friend time.

The project shoots all went wonderfully and I had the opportunity to hang out with some really amazing and wonderfully kind butches and femmes. I spent the first weekend in San Diego and Los Angeles. I grew up in Northern San Diego County and spent some time as a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton so driving through that area brought back so many memories. I spent many summers on the beach in Carlsbad and Oceanside, my grandparents lived in a mobile home park in Oceanside for as long as I could remember, and my son was born at the Naval Hospital on Camp Pendleton. I learned how to windsurf in Alamitos Bay,  how to body surf in the ocean and how to play volleyball in the sand on the peninsula in Long Beach. I was a total California kid.
Original home of the Youth Center

Being in San Diego brought up other memories for me, as well. It was where I came out and where I became involved with the GLBTQI community. With my then girlfriend and partner I helped open the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Youth Center. My surf board used to hang on the fence on the back porch. While I was down there I learned that the Center moved from it's original building. I hope they found a good space to be in. The house where they started is now a halfway house, I believe. It still holds lots of good memories.

Being in Los Angeles brought up a few memories, as well. Not quite as many because I only spent my senior year of high school there but there were still memories. Working at Howard & Phil's Western Wear in the Del Amo Mall after high school, driving the very recognizable 1960's Jeep that belonged to my step-Father, and playing softball. I also went through my religious phase there when I first started college. Way before I ever realized I was gay. I was looking for a sense of community and the church groups were there and willing to take me into their fold. That lasted a bit until I started asking questions they really couldn't answer.

Santa Monica Pier
I spent a bit of time in Santa Monica and met some friends there for dinner on the pier. Unfortunately, our time was cut short by a call from my Mom. My Grandmother had been in hospice care and the hospice nurse told Mom that Grandma may only be around for another few hours and that we should get down there to say our goodbyes. My friends were incredibly understanding and had my dinner boxed up so I could take off. After rushing back to my parents house to pick up my Mom, we drove down to Oceanside to say goodbye. We were met by my Uncle, Aunt and two of my cousins. I hadn't seen any of them for years. I think the last time we saw each other it was in the late 1990's.
Mom holding Grandma's hand.

Mom and I stayed the night at the care facility not wanting to leave Grandma alone. The next morning, after sleeping very little, we decided it would be best if we headed home since both of us were exhausted. Grandma was still with us in the morning and I think as we left we both wondered how long she'd fight. Turns out, Grandma fought for another 7 days. Death and dying is fascinating. The human body is capable of many things, including that last "hurrah". I missed my Grandfather's death because of distance and finances. I'm glad I was there for my Grandmother's death. Not just for me but for my Mom. 

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I spent traveling to Phoenix, Arizona and Santa Fe, New Mexico. I didn't spend much time in Phoenix. Just enough time to get a shoot in at the Zoo, wonder around a bit then grab lunch. The couple I was photographing was very sweet and took me out to lunch. It was nice to be able to have more time to chat with them before moving on to New Mexico. I made it to Albuquerque that night by about 8pm.

New Mexico Museum of Art
The next day I drove to Santa Fe and had the opportunity to meet up with one of my biggest supporters of the photo project. We had a great afternoon chat and some delicious iced tea at an adorable cafe'. Also, I asked her if she would like to participate in the project and she said she would be honored! I'm very excited to include her!

Santa Fe is beautiful, by the way. I can see why all of the creative types flock to the area. There are tons of galleries there. I stumbled upon the Chuck Jones Gallery while in search of the cafe' where my shoot was happening and had the best time reliving childhood memories of Bugs Bunny and all of the Looney Toons characters. After my afternoon photo shoot and chat, I wondered around the city in search of more galleries. On my way to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum I found the Andrew Smith Gallery of Classic and Historic Masterpieces of Photography where I found original photographs from Annie Leibovitz, Edward Curtis, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Alfred Stieglitz (among others!). To say that I was in awe would be a gross understatement. So many amazing photographs by so many amazing photographers in one place! I really just wanted to move in and live there. Looking at their work was so inspiring. I'm not one to be star struck, but this was the one exception.

After spending the night in Albuquerque, I made the long drive back to California on Friday. I spent 12 hours doing this:



It's been mentioned to me a few times that I should be taking video documentation of this project while I'm doing it because it would be really interesting. Well, I can't afford to bring someone on my trips to video tape me so I tried taking a few videos on my own on this trip, even though I'm on my last few trips at this point. Honestly, though, I'm just not all that good at it.





See what I mean? Also, yes. I talk with my hands. A lot.

Anyway, after getting some time Friday night with my birthmother, sister, niece and nephews I headed back to Los Angeles Saturday morning for a few more shoots. Two in Los Angeles and one in Lancaster. Needless to say, it was a long day. Sundays shoots were all in the Los Angeles area and included a shoot with a butch elder of our community, Jeanne Cordova. It was truly an honor to be welcomed into her and her partner, Lynn's, home and to be able to include her in this project.

After resting a bit with my Mom Sunday evening I did my last project shoot Monday morning in the Hollywood area on a rooftop, which was awesome. It was beautiful. A great way to end my work there in California. I spent the rest of the day sleeping off a migraine and comforting my Mom after we received word that my Grandmother had finally passed that afternoon.

Early Tuesday morning I headed back to LAX to catch my flight home. By the time I turned in the rental car I had logged just over 2600 miles on the car.

Thank goodness for unlimited mileage.