I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

be your own gay


If you regard one group as more sexually potent and more musical than you, and another as smarter and destined for greater success than you, and another as more innately fabulous than you, you have eviscerated yourself, and decked others with your amputated organs.

Stereotyping limits the stereotypist, much as idolatry limits the idolater.

Remember our Lord. Didn't Jesus warn against looking to others to be our guides, priests, and experts? Call no man father, he said, and The kingdom of heaven lies within you (a statement I still find one of the more radical and intriguing he made).

Some of you have told me that when you need to make something pretty, or fun, or lively, you pay my people homage by saying you need to "gay it up." I appreciate this, but you shouldn't undercut your own potential by paying unmerited homage to me. I couldn't gay up my own house--my partner's mom is gaying it for us.

(She's an interior designer).

Stereotyping the gays as authorities on making things pretty and throwing parties and being fabulous robs you, straight person, of the ability to make things pretty and throw parties and be fabulous. You have the power to make your life a rainbow carnation Pride float with disco-syncing drag queens and vogueing speedo boys.

That's why I want you to print these words and carry them in your wallet between your Hooters MasterCard and Dane Cook concert ticket stub. Straight person, this post is your fabulousity permission slip.

Be your own gay. The ruby slippers are on your feet. The kingdom of fabulousity lies within you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

hearing owls, seeing a cottonmouth, another New Orleans milestone

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My dad suggested we should look for barred owls on the bayou; I love owls and wetlands, so I went; my brother drove. My brother has lived in New Orleans long enough to drive like a local, which is to say, like an absinthe-fueled Verlaine might drive while alternately screaming at and reconciling with Rimbaud.

Bare trees at the gates of the park sported round mistletoe `fros and black vultures--I'm accustomed to turkey vultures so these guys look wonderfully exotic and wrong to me. We heard barred owls hooting their Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all? call and a single long high note that my dad, after decades of concerts, could not hear. (I use earplugs at concerts, or stuff chewing gum in my ears--which will probably cause other, weirder problems later in life).

We didn't see the owls, but I was satisfied to hear them in the wild. We saw a great egret in flight, a red shouldered hawk, two white ibis, three immature bald eagles, a bat, a night heron (though I'm not sure I caught it)... and... are you ready? a cottonmouth! (Agkistrodon piscivorus) which I spotted! My dad is so brilliant at spotting wildlife I often wonder what cool things I'm missing when he's not with me on a hike. I was honored when he said You have a good eye son.

That was the second significant milestone of the New Orleans trip. (The first was liking a band at the same time as my brother, who usually sheds bands before I've heard of them).

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The cottonmouth was at most twenty inches, with an arrow-shaped head and black scales. It rustled through dead leaves before launching itself into the water. To swim, it threw the curves of its body from side to side with the purposeful abandon of a hootchie coochie dancer, while holding its head and neck above water as primly as any reformed libertine.

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Above, a young cypress growing straight out of the swamp. The soft, feathery foliage of the cypress is a wonder. My brother said local idiots cut off the cypress knees to make art, killing the trees.

Dark fell just as we reached the end of the trail and had to turn around. The black water reflected an upside down crescent moon, spilling all its luck into the swamp. The owls hooted, and toads rattled like maracas. I could barely see my brother ahead and my father behind me. We were halfway to the car when fireflies came out--higher, brighter, yellower, and flashing faster than the ones I'm used to in the north. A spectacular finale.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

mardi gras 2011: some costumes; a Daft Punk milestone; my anima, Christina Rossetti

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Where was I last week? and why didn't I update my blog? I went to New Orleans to meet up with my dad, to see my brother and sister-in-law, her son, and my niece--and to savor Ash Wednesday.

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Evidently there's some kind of perfunctory pre-repentance revelry that occurs in the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, called Mardi Gras. The locals pronounce it mmmmoddi grah, lingering on the m, omitting that first r altogether, and barely uttering the last syllable, giving the word a doppler effect, so that it buzzes by your head like a bee. I like it.

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On Monday I saw the Orpheus parade and the grotesque commerce of beads and body parts on Bourbon Street; on Tuesday I saw the Zulu parade in the morning and walked around looking at costumes all evening. These photos are from Tuesday, "Mardi Gras Day."

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My brother has lived in New Orleans a decade and has seen it all, so he was a good sport to walk me around. We walked miles around the city: I have never seen a party this huge. Unlike Philadelphia's Mummer's parade, in which one parade has many crews, in New Orleans each crew has its own parade, making it a massive, multi-day event no one person can witness in its entirety.

I've read books and seen movies about New Orleans but came away from this trip (my second) disappointed in all of them. None do the city justice.

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These ladies were the Supremes; my brother knew one of them. As I followed my brother through the city, an older man in a sheer leotard, partied-out and stiff, hobbled two blocks ahead of us. I assumed he was heading home. We never outdistanced him and never saw his front, and so can't even verify that he had a front. We saw much more of his back than we would have wished to see, as he became, our unwitting Virgil.

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My brother and I parted after we saw the Daft Punk guy above. He went home and I went to meet a friend. Before we parted I asked him if he liked Daft Punk and he said yes. This was one of three significant milestones of this trip for me. My brother has always been more politically aware, more committed to animal rights, and cooler than I am. I discover a band as he's discarding it. I suspect he thinks I'm a bit of a square, which I am. If you could see my anima, she looks like Max Beerbohm's caricature of Christina Rossetti:

my anima

That my brother and I might like the same band at the same time made me feel very cool.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

our sixth hike 2011: Tinicum, thorns, muskrats, I-95, and hattifatteners


So I said we'd be scouting for paw-paws and Brandywine blue gneiss this week, but instead of heading west into Wyeth country, we went south into Tinicum Marsh. We had planned to see the friends who gave us THE BOOK (of fifty Philly-area hikes we are sworn to complete before 2012), and when their plans changed, so did ours. They opted for a day of home improvement over Longwood Gardens, so we met them in West Philly, and stayed closer to home ourselves.

Tinicum has a giant circular trail that would be very hard to get lost on, so I brought my compass to practice using it. It's also home to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, which despite being a close neighbor to I-95--


--is a good place to see wildlife. Wild turkeys browsed behind the education center, a great blue heron stepped through the marsh, I think I saw an eagle, and we were excited to see muskrat lodges:


which the initiated may use to foretell the length and severity of a winter. Muskrats, otters, minks, bats, bobcats--the now-rarer mammals of this area seem as exotic and marvelous as unicorns to me--a sentiment my ancestors and some living people would probably find ludicrous. But how many changes can something--say, a geographic region--undergo before it's no longer the thing it was?

(Like the old joke about the man who has Sir Walter Raleigh's ax, though it's had six new handles and five new blades since the original owner.)

We watched the great blue heron for a while as it stepped so deliberately through the grasses, holding its beak precisely level. And though deer ought to be banal, the sunlight on the ones who bounded over the path before us made them golden--electric--strange. Red-winged blackbirds chattered in a tree; we watched for the flash of red on the males when they moved, and our patience was rewarded by a pair of downy woodpeckers. The female woodpecker left the tree and began tap-tap-tapping on reeds. I think I saw a red bellied woodpecker too.

We also saw some creatures I don't think are native to this area, hattifatteners:


Right, so those are native tree plantings, but--seeing these ghostly shapes lurching toward the water took me back to my childhood reading of Tove Jannson's Tales from Moominvalley, in which the mute, staring hattifatteners migrate to a secret island to worship a barometer and commune with lightning. The force and originality of Jannson's imagery is embossed so deeply on my imagination that decades after reading her book, in another life, in a freshwater tidal marsh with a boyfriend a compass and a camera, I can be pulled into a state of wonder at the profound weirdness of hattifatteners.

(I've been reading the post-Tolkein existential fantasist Micheal Moorcock, to understand his mystique and the draw he has for many readers, and writers like Neil Gaimen and Michael Chabon--but as I photographed the blue sheaths of the native tree plantings at Tinicum I realized:

Tove Jannson is my Michael Moorcock!)

Inscrutable, herdbound, driven, and dull, hattifatteners are the Scientologists of the Moominvalley.

Tinicum is a well-used park. All sorts of people were walking with all sorts of dogs--from pit bulls to small things who look uncomfortable outside of a purse. (We heard two kids playing on a heap of dirt, and laughed when one said I'm destroying more of your territory than you're destroying of mine). The Cusano Environmental Education Center has a museum that's just the right size, with information on native species, invasives, how Indians used the marsh, and the history of the refuge. The Education Center is also a showcase of sustainable and recycled materials; I've visited over several years and it's useful to see how they've held up and what the staff thinks of them.

At the end of our hike we noticed a sign for honey locusts, a native tree we tried to find at Ridley Creek, but were baffled by our guidebook. The photo at the top of this post is new red thorns of a Tinicum honey locust.

We are excited to have learned another tree.

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