Archive for September, 2005

it was the squirrel that broke me

So, you know how Moomin is obsessed with Green Lantern though he has never read the comic books? Except for that one horribly lame one of the superfriends where it’s like the 80s trying-to-be-PC but failing identity politics issue, where they go to a place and like, Owl Woman is the spirit guide superhero for the superfriends… well, don’t get me started! But Moomin is obsessed with the 3600 or more identities of Green Lantern. Somehow Chula and I got on this topic last night and she was going, “And then, there’s the amoeba Green Lantern, and the Elf Maiden one, and the Squirrel Green Lantern…” and as she is famous for improvising amazing nonsense I thought she was making it all up. BUT NO. This morning I saw the proof. There really was an issue, in fact I’m afraid more than one, with a squirrel green lantern – with a bow tie and suspenders. I was rolling around with laughter… And she hauled out this issue where the elf maiden and the amoeba and all these other avatars of Green Lantern were having a strategic meeting!!! Unbelieveable! I love thinking of the people sitting around and giggling as they came up with those lame plots… “Hey, I know! let’s make G.L. be an amoeba!” “Hahaha, yeah, I fucking dare you…” “Can we get away with making him an elf maiden?” “Hell yeah, why not?” “Cool!”

So I’m in awe of this… Rook and I were talking about long story arcs. And if you think about comics, some have been going for an incredibly long time. & Rook has his theories about new art forms, gaming, etc. and the history of film & how film criticism was at first respecting only films that were the most like “great literature” or at least like books that were vaguely respected. Actually I think this might have been from ideas by Robin Laws… from that book… i’m too lazy to look it up. Charging forward, what I want to say is that while I enjoy some graphic novels, they are not the pinnacle of the comics art form. right? And probably someone else is writing about this or already has, but I realized how amazing it is to have storylines that are continuous for decades. It means you have to push the narrative… and sometimes it might get pushed right into a squirrel and an amoeba, i.e. possibly too far, but that’s so cool! What else happens? I feel a sudden urge to read giant stacks of comic books and find out. For one thing — what other stories, what other continuous narratives, are there? myths and legends, right? Characters with superpowers, gods, tricksters… and different people take those characters and tell the stories… Er, I’m embarrassed to say all this because I know it’s not a new thought — and yet to me it was a giant brainwave about the meaning of comic books and superheroes. Rook knows about the golden age and the silver age, etc. just as Chula does… I’d like to take a superhero and read everything written about them… for one thing, you get this base of people, of fans/readers, who believe they know who that character is. And the authors of the comic books then have to expand and push the character & narrative without violating that belief – it is a way of pushing a sort of social contract (and then… it gets violated, like with the Squirrel Green Lantern, which Chula informs me G. Jones who wrote the excellent book “Killing Monsters” finally brought into an episode so that he could make him get run over by a truck, and everyone cheered.)

So, that dynamic too makes it seem like a shame that “the comics industry”, stores, etc. in the U.S. have this aging somewhat stagnant and all male fan base. so obviously you have manga & anime coming in now on top of that… I wonder what will happen. & fanfic as well . Hmm, again these are not quite new thoughts to me or anyone else and I’m babbling… I could possibly have something to say about this if I kept reading & thinking about it.

In the comic book store today I was like… “Hmm. that guy is way nicer. I feel all cosy in here.” And remarked on it to Chula that he must be in a good mood lately, or maybe warmed up to me after I bought something, or got used to me? Because he used to be such an asshole I didn’t want to be in the store! And… joke’s on me, it’s actually a DIFFERENT GUY. Like I can tell big hairy bearded guys apart when they are behind the comic book counter? Sheesh.

But it’s the other possibilities I love more — the long story arcs and the belief in character, the belief you KNOW the character – and then something amazingly touching and meaningful happens, something that works on different levels of metaphor & meaning – the character faces a decision or is entangled in complexity that would take a year to explain – and that DID take a year to explain. That’s the beauty of the form!

done today…

– Thought about life
– wrote email to tekka dude to propose reviews, articles
– read almost all of The Icarus Girl in the very early morning… woke up and couldn’t sleep
– talked w/Marta… but did not do any relief work… at all…
– breakfast
– writing with advocate … they want photo to go with interview…
– got sf chron. but my interview is not htere. maybe it’s only in the peninsula edition? if you are on peninsula then check the “living” section.
– obtained lab coat for Rook’s costume
– bought super lame hairy potter costume for Moomin
– bought pack of capacitors to weave into my hair for mad scientist party !!!!!


The DRC closed at 11am, just now. That’s the Disaster Recovery Center in Houston, where thousands and thousands of people are going to try to get help. They claimed they can help 5000 people per day. (But, it is not at all possible to do all things there in 1 day. People have to come back.) But they keep closing in mid-morning because they are overwhelmed. Folks, that is not right. Perhaps they are trying to be humane in that they don’t want people to stand in line all day with no hope of talking to anyone at any of the stations inside, but it means they don’t have enough people inside. They aren’t staffed, they aren’t prepared, they had a week and a half to get ready.

Maybe they are all on the ground in the hurricane-damaged areas? But in the meantime what are people supposed to do? “Get on with your life?” How? When you don’t have a birth certificate or any ID or money, and … latest info is that it’s taking 3 weeks to get a birth certificate from Louisiana.

cosy cafes, meetings, alien worlds

I worked on some short book reviews in the cafe on Waller & ran into someone from my department… which makes me realize how out of touch I have been. I need my thesis study group!

Then walked to the train & we went to oakland to a cafe near where I used to live, for this reading – which I didn’t know was a poetry thing too – so i ended up reading a couple of things & C. read from her novel. We were 2 blocks from Debbie’s house and so I called her and she showed up, which was very cozy… she knew everyone there and then i realized they were all not just poetry but also poly sf geeks. That was kind of cool, I’m used to the poly/sf thing, but adding poetry on top ! What next! I love the bay area.

I was digging heavily on the things Serene read – anyone who reads wanda coleman and Alta and all that other stuff… good taste! I tried to explain how i love the poets from the 70s who loved the beats. I don’t know what to call them, but I’m one of them, just another generation down the line or 10 years too late. “Wanna-Beats?” said S.’s wife. S. is perfect to come and feature at my Polo Alto poet thing. woot! Alas – I organized a really nice one for J. Simon but then could not be there since I was in Houston. Back to the cafe. The goodness of the poetry S. was reading and the way she kept saying “someone else come up here!” of course I had to read something off my computer, though unprepared… I met vito_excalibur, and booboolina, and other people whose names I can’t remember… It was a few minutes into C.’s novel-reading when the cafe started to pay attention and sort of gel as an audience, and react as an audience… they loved it! Anyway – the cafe reading started out feeling a little disjointed and i couldn’t tell who was there to listen and who was randomly there, i went and snarled at some dude talking on his cell, but then slowly it became more cohesisve and more people were clearly listening. you don’t want to be interrupting someone’s dinner or their own trip at a cafe thing but they can go outside… it’s their tough luck… The cafe owner got up and read some of his own stuff and then some hilarious ranting by Larry Bierman, dumpster diving beatnik poet of Norman Oklahoma. When he was taking photos of C. as she read, at first I wrote him off as some kind of stalker but then I realized he was the cafe owner and was just excited he had a famous writer in his cafe and wanted to prove it later that he brings Culture to the masses… you know?

Lookit! Vito_excalibur sketched me!

I finished “Uglies” and “Pretties” the other day and am now reading “The Icarus Girl” which is good but disturbingly makes me think of Moomin’s dreaminess, the way he doesn’t answer and the way he likes to hide in small spaces.

Meanwhile in Houston my happy middle (not a happy ending, to be in a baptist camp, but at least a peaceful middle) was horribly interrupted and Marta missed her flight since suddenly Dorothy and her husband and the no-good niece were there at the bus station at midnight with nowhere to go. Oh, my god. No one knows what to do. the No-good niece … oh, i can’t even describe it. I never met her but have heard she’s a jerk. She got kicked out of the shelter, and D. and husband came with her, their only family they have found in person…they are old and influenceable… I am overcome by this news. now they are at (after really, really not knowing where to go) the salvation army shelter, no more nice room to themselves, no dining hall, no haven of security to start building on… they must go and stand in line at the DRC outside in the sun, and wait there all day, with thousands of people… I have no new ideas and though apparently so easily influenced to expect dorothy and her husband to listen to Mark and them instead of their own family even when the family is obviously a complete asshole, it’s so unlikely. I imagine it as my own grandparents and my own flakiest aunt, if she were a few rungs lower on the scale of humanity and sort of a crackhead instead of just a lush, well, it would be similar, my grandparents are old, frail, often confused… Well. it is heartbreaking.


I know lots of you are getting sick of hearing me talk and write about it… I’m sorry… I’m having good cheerful loving relaxed moments and trying to write about them too. I’m looking forward hugely to this weekend’s Mad Scientist party!

But I’m haunted.

So, go read this if you can: Operation Eden. Best descriptions and photographs… Very much fitting my mood at all this.

I wish I could go back, and this time, go to Slidell or Mississippi. With my asthma that isn’t a good idea. I need to finish my thesis, finish my book…

Everyone’s saying, “Oh, you did so much more than most, you make me feel bad. You need to relax and stop thinking about it. Take care of yourself and your family” and I’m trying really hard, but just.. know that it’s hard for me every day. So, that’s why I’m still working, writing, talking, phone calling, searching, compiling information. I need to know that I’m still helping a little bit.

Maybe because I feel like this is it, this is the time in my lifetime when I am seeing everything around us changing. The only way I know how to deal with that is to run into it headon, like I do with everything else. When I came to SF in 1990 it was… it felt like it was at the tail end of a lot of people dying, of one of those catastrophic changes, a disaster in a community. I wonder what the numbers looked like but it seemed like deaths spiked in the mid to late 80s. And that whole generation of queers were just fucking shell shocked. Our whole country is going to be like that. The gulf coast is like that right now, more than I am able to grasp. The ripples will spread our way – beyond the 3 bucks a gallon for gas and how we aren’t going to be able to afford heat this winter. I’m just hitting the wall a little earlier.

The wall is a line in a parking lot, the wall is portable metal barriers, it’s the Red Cross saying that volunteers who don’t go through them make a small town a “hostile area” and they pack up and leave, it’s anyone who says they aren’t allowed and it’s not in their job description.

I have to try to stop slamming myself up against it… Someone has to do it, someone has to look, someone has to be aware of suffering. People can’t stand to look, mostly…

I think of all the good things in life and all the people I love…

I’m sorry to sound so melodramatic and “it’s all about me”… it’s not… I’m just trying to be honest… I’m feeling really naked like a hermit crab pulled out of its shell… my mood swings up and down almost every day and it’s tough on me, tough on everyone around me.


So, I went to pick up some stuff, which somehow I thought was stuff going from someone here to someone who relocated and who’s here. But it wasn’t – it was several truckloads full of boxes of Nike sneakers new and some donated sneakers, used. So, I drove them to this warehouse in Mountainview. The warehouse guy was super nice, he told me all about the earthquake in El Salvador and how donations would come from the US and all over and be “guarded” by the army and we sort of laughed and I told him about the warehouses full of stuff in Texas cities. He showed me the warehouse full of donations. There is a basement, and a hole in the floor that’s a sort of chute, and he chucks the boxes full of clothes and shoes into that hole… Then they have “sorting parties” and trucks come and ship the things out to all the shelters along the way that the Relocation Project dropped people off at, and the rest of it goes to a warehouse in San Antonio, I think, but I’m unclear and that probably changes all the time.

The Reloc people have about 5 or 6 people who stayed on the bus all the way to here. In the parking lot I talked to Dawn, who was in the astrodome as an evacuee and now is here – the Relocation people are helping her and just moved her to a bigger motel with a kitchenette. Her son is coming from Houston and has been on a bus for 2 days and is arriving today! She says she is amazingly sick of standing in lines. The Reloc. people have been good to her. She’s still waiting on her FEMA check which was mailed to a friend of hers in Houston and she’s feeling really worried that he might not turn out to be a friend after all, because he’s had her check for weeks and hasn’t mailed it and she can’t contact him. He was trying to evacuate for Rita but got turned around, and now isn’t showing up for work and his work is worrying about him. Well, what a story! As I was talking with Dawn I thought of all the clothes, old and new, in the warehouse right next to us, and I wished that people would sell those clothes and shoes and stuff, and buy her a used car. And pay her deposit on an apartment for her and her son. She was so excited about a slightly bigger motel with kitchenette so she could cook! That’s kinda how I’m feeling about donations at this point.

If you want to donate, maybe just talk to all your personal friends, and pool your donations, and take that money, call someone from Grace Davis’s Direct Relief blog, or email me and I’ll find you a genuine evacuee in need, and buy them a used car or wire them the money directly. But, better yet, you could in your very own town, find someone just as desperate for help. For example the Redwood Family Shelter right across from Target, you could go there and say, Yo, I’m here to pay the deposit on an apartment for one of your families, or buy them a used car, or pay their car registration and insurance, or maybe this month’s bus/Caltrain pass. You know?

Those boxes of shoes, someone could have used those right here, in East Palo Alto, and it would be more sensible to give them to a church there. You think someone from El Salvador who just came here, they are also exiles and evacuees who lost everything. They also need help. Poverty is always an emergency. I know this is always true and I haven’t done anything about it my whole life, but I feel differently now about it. Especially as I think about all those warehouses full of donated stuff, all over the big cities of texas right now. All that stuff that was in the Reliant Center? Where is it now? You think anyone has access to it? I bet it’s locked up and no one has had time to sort through it or pass it out. Sad as that is, it’s probably true. Someone’s probably “guarding” it.

*** just got voicemail from Cherlyn, she talked to her cousin, and her sister, and her whole family is okay which is like, about 20 people i was trying to find but they are freakin’ impossible to find. But I had some leads which I passed to cherlyn last week and i left all kinds of voicemail all over the country. Her family is the one with the extra-extra creative spellings no one knows how to spell, or else they are named things like “Will Jones” (not real, but the equivalent, impossible to find). Her sister’s trying to come to colorado to her, and she just spent like 10 minutes blessing me and my family every which way. it is embarrassing but sweet and makes me cry, and i wish she would not call me “miss badger” ***

relocation project

As an experiment I offered to do a donation pickup with my truck, for the Katrina Relocation Project. It sounds like they have a warehouse in Mountainview. I’m really curious to see what they’re doing and how many people they’re supporting – how they’re doing it – if they have a warehouse full of stuff, do they dole it out or what? Is the stuff going to people who are here now? Or getting sent to some Red Cross warehouse that is locked and guarded? I want to know… all these well meaning donations… most of them not getting anywhere very fast.

Also, this morning I have a bunch of toys and crayons and hair ties and small practical things, new packages of underwear, that Tomas’s mom brought in a suitcase and that I DIDN’T bring to the Astrodome. It was way too heavy. So I’m just going to bring it to the local family shelter where it will find good use.

Me, wok

At the playground today, Jo looked completely stunned, as if several of her time-traveling future selves had come too close to her in physical space.

“I have to stand guard from 1-3 am in our “miwok village” on Tomales Bay…” She grimaced – a face I don’t think I’ve seen many people really make – but it was a true grimace instantly recognizable. “And I have to wear a sort of indian outfit. a sort of tunic. with fringe. there are Ceremonies. and Taboos.”

“What!!!!” I shrieked…. “You mean they… they will have like, feathers on their heads and stuff? No. No way.”

“Way. Feathers. On their heads.”

“WTF!!!! hahaha. fringe. ridiculous!”
“Hahaha YOU of all people to say that we wil be dressed ridiculous…”

My neighbor, Pita, Julian’s aunt from down the street, looked completely puzzled.

“Ella está .. um… van a “camping” con su escuela, con su hija…. “


“Durmiendo afuera, que es la palabra? El ‘camping’.”

“Ah!!! si, no hay palabra. dicen “camping.”

“Pues…. ella… hahaha… las madres en el camping trip tienen que… hahahaha… Mi amiga tiene que llevar un vestido como india, todos haz de cuento que son indios, y… hahahaha.. y creo que ella va a ser muy ridiculo… y ella me dice que yo, con este pelo mio, no puede decir nada porque soy ridiculo…” I spanglished.

My neighbor cracked up totally and looked at us like, “What?! White people tease each other?! Will wonders never cease.”

Later she totally overestimated my comprehension skills and went on awfully fast and slangily about how much Palm Springs sucks and is ugly and nasty, and east Polo alto kind of sucked, and Sane Carlos was something else (I assume “boring” but didn’t get it) but Deadwood is okay. And she hates cleaning houses but doesn’t know what else to do. And something about her brother. And her sister in law’s new baby is cute and really tiny…. I had nothing to say.. my conversational skills falter… yes I like Deadwood too and I’ve been here 5 years… er… babies are cute…

Jo went off still a bit terrified looking of the camping experience… hauling Sophie, who was hot and tired and upset about all the camping fuss…

photos of the DRC

These photos of the “closed” DRC are up:

disaster recovery center, the day it was opened and closed

This is well said:

I’ve experienced firsthand the Red Cross treating the evacuees “like cattle.” Very, very much so. The few who stand out are so different from the rest that they seem to belong on another planet.

“K2” from the Red Cross was one of those exceptions – she was fiery, compassionate, and helpful, never helpless!

mad inventor!

Wow! Moomin just invented the Supersonic Widgekidirfrizer 2000. It’s a cardboard paper towel roll with part of a plastic periscope stuck into it.

“When I look through it, everything looks small and far away. So, I can take the Supersonic Widgekiderfrizer 2000, no, 5000, onto an airplane, and look at the Earth. Then the Earth will look really, really, really far away! And I’ll be on another planet! So, when we go on an airplane, maybe I can take it on the airplane.” Said with wild stammering excitement. I’m not sure if he believes it or not. He’s so proud!

Aw yeah.

You know what we need.. is “Make” magazine for clever 7-10 year olds. The 5 year olds like Moomin can use their imaginations but once they get slightly older, wouldn’t it be cool if they built real stuff?