Friday, November 18, 2011

REASONS TO BE HUH WHAT?







REASONS TO BE QUEER
and other things that have nothing to do with anything ever.

So, first things first.
WHAT THE F is going on?
The DOCUMENTARY is being edited.  
I’ll be filming MORE between December 18th and January 14th.

Mark your calendars.
Let’s have a date.

SO, OKAY, LISTEN.

I HAVE THIS HORRIBLE PROBLEM WHERE I KEEP READING ARTICLES THAT MAKE ME UPSET.
I could avoid them.
It’s like when people get on “lesbians who look like Justin Bieber” (http://lesbianswholooklikejustinbieber.tumblr.com/) And say things like “being gay is a sin.” 
OKAY.
So.
Maybe…you should…
spend more time on your own blog,  “Nine Ways to Electroshock the Sex Out” or “Cadavers that look like Michele Bachmann.”

ANYWAY, in light of my own recent hyper-awareness of homophobia, and also to avoid writing a screenplay, and also to AMP PEOPLE UP ABOUT THE EXTREME UN-HETERO-CENTRIC NATURE of our little film, I have decided to make a list.
Of just…

TEN SUPER TERRIFIC THINGS ABOUT BEING QUEER.*

(*You might notice that this seems to focus on old-fashioned girl-on-girl action…but I mean queerness in its best and widest sense.  I mean people bein’ SWEET on people in ANY non-hetero-normative way.  Okay? I do.)

With no further ado:

1.  It’s cool. 
You might look like some over-privileged/overeducated hipster,
but no.  
This shit is marginalized.  You can go to marches.

2.   It’s comfortable.


You don’t want to wear a whole pair of pants?
Cut half of your pants off!
It’s okay.  You’re queer.  And you can do that.
You don’t like hair?  Cut that also.  
You can cut a lot of things.  (Jackets, tops of shoes, t-shirt sleeves…it won’t bleed?  Cut it.)


Flannel?  Men’s boots?  It’s comfy?  Wear it.


*Friend RN Healey RightNOW says:  “Listen.  I’m not wearing a bra and I haven’t shaved my armpits in months.  I feel great.” 
         
For some reason, it’s a culture of comfort.  So throw on that Carhartt jacket and SmartWool socks.  Sit by the fire.  Wear a boa and a thong.  Let your body hair grow.

3.  It comes with friends.

         
Look at you.  You’re in a new neighborhood or city.  You want to ride your bike to the farmer’s market or get toasty on PBR and dance? 

Go somewhere gay.  Automatic belonging.  (Unless you’re me…and you show up in your Asian-inspired print dress to a queer party and the door girl asks you:  “Do YOU know that this is…SAPPHO night?”  But let’s talk about that whole doo-wop bundle of shit another time.  I’m not very interesting.)

Other people, most people, show up in a city, and they can go anywhere.
How do you find friends at Starbucks?  That’s hard.  

Queer people have like…two places to go.  So just go to those two places every day.  Stay there.  Do not leave. 
(You could even…follow the baristas.  Everywhere.  Straight people don’t get to do that.  And if they did, it would be way creepy…or creepier). 

4.  It’s intense.

So…just because you moved in with that girl two weeks after you met her and now you’re breaking up so that she can get together with her ex who you thought had moved to Yemen for the Peace Corps but actually came back yesterday because her cat needed surgery and you need to get a second job to pay the rent and you really only pretended to like Kombucha…doesn’t mean you’re not having fun.

         No really.
        
There’s something about queerness that bends the confines of your average hetero union.  Which, I think, personally, is awesome.

Seems that we love more often, more quickly, more painfully, more confusingly, more anything.  The ideas that were put in your head from the first time you watched The Little Mermaid about relationships have to dissipate as you navigate your “role” in a co-operation that has VERY LITTLE TO DO with all the Boy Meets World, New Kids On the Block, YM Magazine, and The Sandlot images that were crammed in your head in the 80s and 90s. (Sorry.  Other generations do exist).  Most likely, you were not overwhelmed with “picture-perfect” ideas of homo relations.  There’s no pre-existing formula to follow.  We’re all figuring it out.  It’s a lot.  And it’s all the time.   


5.  It’s mysterious.
Are those two people sleeping together?  What exactly is lesbian sex? 
Who’s the top?  Are they really broken up?
         
What kinds of friends are we?  

It’s a mystery.  


So mysterious, in fact, that I usually don’t know myself.  No one knows.  A lot of things.  If I’ve looked at you for more than a couple of seconds, in my head, we have slept together.  Deal.  It’s queer.  


6.  It’s sexy.


Did I have to go here?  Yes.  Listen. 

Humans find pleasure in sex, perhaps this is an evolutionary thing designed so that we can propagate and exist.

So why would two people who CAN’T make a BABY together do it?
BECAUSE THEY FUCKING WANT TO.
Regardless of what Jesus, Nature, Laws, Social Norms, whatever else has told us/required, what WE do is like…for affection and pleasure.  That is all.  
NO ONE, even our hormones built to tell us to procreate, tells us to.  We can desire people just to DESIRE them, with no pretense of propagating the human race or biological impulse to “spread our seed.”

So some people call it unnatural.
I call it superhuman.
It is really incredible.



7.  It’s fun.

         Activities I’ve heard about/participated in over the last few weeks:
-       Fashion show.  (Which included a dead unicorn and some jungle-inspired dancing).
-       Graveyard croquet.
-       “The First Ladies of Metal” drag show. 
-        Pumpkin carving.
-       Halloween POPcabaret at the Warhol Museum, featuring people dressed as nylon chickens undulating to dub-step-ish music while someone read erotica. 
-       More than one dance party.


YES.  Straight people could have come.  But most did not.  So what were they all doing?  I don’t know.  I would guess it wasn’t as fun, though.

8.  It’s a challenge.

WHO DOESN'T like a CHALLENGE?


What I’m sayin’ is only…this shit isn’t “normal.”  It’s not advertised in most magazines, it’s not saturating network television, and it’s just not “average.”  Percentage-wise, it’s (right, obviously), a minority.
         
Sooooo what?
         
For some reason—and I can’t exactly put my finger on it, the subculture of QUEER tends to open the door to other “subculture-ish” behavior.

Like…okay…so…


Once you’re part of a queer community, it seems that what is “socially acceptable” is skewed/different/new.

(*I’m gon’be real here.  There are some instances where I don’t actually
think that this is good.  There can be homogeny among the homos that is UN-inviting and confusing and that occasionally PRESENTS more cultural norms than it disbands.  D’ya’know?  Example:  You are a cheerleader?  You’re not really invited all the way/all the time.  I’m not saying it’s tragic.  I’m saying it’s evident.)


BUT OHGODNO we are ACTUALLY talking about the POSITIVE nature of subculture “wacky-ness” so let’s gettttttttoooooo the point.  When you’re part of a “fringe” network, the things you do have more “room.”  You don’t live in the bubble of ordinary social interaction and expectation.  People who are queer tend to do the things that are associated with being on the outskirts.  We dance more, smoke more, get more tattoos, speak up more loudly (often) about social/environmental/political justice, listen to indie music, and fall on a spectrum of “outsiderness” that seems to be wayyyyyy wider (usually) than “insiderness.”

And that.  Is super.  Cool.


Once we open our perception of OURSELVES to include “fringe” or
non-normative or plain-ol-QUEERness, our perception of the world shifts to include this identity. 
Once this identity-maker is in place, I think that queer people often have liberated themselves in a way; they feel they can more clearly or openly voice any part of their individuality, beyond their queerness.  We have to challenge ourselves AND the world around us to include us.  The world
is as challenged by us as we are by the world…

For better or worse.  Yaknow? 

9.  It’s a story.

         So yes, okay, right, I’m a writer.
         ButSeriously.
         

If you identify as queer, you have a story.  Most people have some story    from something at sometime in their lives.  HOWEVER, people who have had to come out/face discrimination/leave home/find new friends…on and on and on…have a story that CONNECTS them to a group of people. 

Right of course, people all have their story about the first time they had their heart hurt or the first time they realized their mortality, but the THING IS, your QUEER stories are the rare ones, they are the moments that make you the YOU that you are now.  No one popped out of the womb with a rainbow flag.  For any number of reasons or genetic presets or magical lucky stars, they REALIZED at one time what they felt, and that it was different, and that it was queer. 
         

What was it like coming out to your parents?  When did you realize that you were attracted to women/felt like a boy/didn’t identify as a boy/etc?
         
All so good.
All the time.
Sad, funny, awkward, incredible, heartbreaking, joyous.

         
Personally, the first person I came out to was my boyfriend.  
So that’s like…you know…that’s kind of a good story. 

10.  It’s an invitation.

         To what?
         The biggest party on the planet.
         Let’s look back on some humans, I’ll go ahead and name a few:
         Socrates.
         Shakespeare.
         Lord Byron.
         Sylvia Plath.
         Emily Dickinson.
         Walt Whitman.
         Harvey Milk.
         Marie Antoinette.
         Frida Kahlo.
         Leonardo Da Vinci. 
        

Were these people all gay?  NO!  Did they have incredible happiness all the time?  NO!  Did they follow hetero-normative lifestyles?  NOOOOO!
Are they awesome?  YES.
Join the party.
It’s a party.



There are as many ways to be queer as there are ways to live.
There are as many amazing things about bending cultural norms as there are cultural norms.

YES, yes, yes…
In the things that I have listed above, I am (mostly) talking to the people of the world who are in a community/family/place where they can be what they are without daily threat. 

I went to a high school where NO ONE IN THE ENTIRE TIME THAT I WAS THERE WAS AN OUT QUEER PERSON.
This is, statistically, a near-impossibility. 

Sometimes I wonder if my late-bloomer-ness would be different if I had known certain people (specifically lesbians…) when I was younger than twenty. 


WANT A STORY?

OKAY?

Once upon a time, when I was twenty-two, I told my father (a genius) on the Fourth of July that I was gay (after we ate some bagels). 

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

He said:  I thought maybe you were just really liberal. 
(He was to’lly cool.  It was all like “I love you,” let’s hug, you know, that.  Also, he drives a Subaru wagon). 

I went back to my mother’s house and proceeded to drink American Honey in the backyard on a lawn chair.  I got a lot of mosquito bites.  Then it started raining.

Don’t cry; it gets better.

Three years later, it was the Fourth of July.  I had an amazing time with a lot of friends and their families.   

END OF THE STORY!

MESSAGE?

QUEER IS GREAT.  That's all I got.  

So.
I just wanted to make a PRETTY BIG GAY STATEMENT.
Because, while there’s been a lot of talk about a lot of things and a lot of queer things, something that I haven’t mentioned is that this documentary is like a giant comfy pillow that’s overstuffed with QUEER.  Sleep on it. 

So…the film?

I WANT TO MAKE IT CLEAR...well...if you've gotten here:
That I AM NOT implying that the AMAZING INPUT I'VE GOTTEN FROM HETEROSEXUAL PEOPLE IS NOT IMPORTANT TO THIS FILM.
ALL interviews have been both fun and important.
IN FACT.
This is not a movie about "being gay."
This is not a political film called "Glorious Homosexual Arch of Destiny: The Homos of the Mississippi."  
I don't know what it's called.  But it's not called that.  
        
OF NOTE:  You think you’re a movie star?
Think again:  You might be a theatre star too.

WHAT?  DID YOU SIGN UP FOR THAT?

Here’s something:
I have audio recordings of most interviews.

Here’s something you might (probably don’t) know:
(WARNING, this might bore you)
I worked on a piece at an art gallery in Brooklyn this past summer with a brilliant director, Katie (Katherine) Brook (Info: http://katherinebrook.com/).  We used voice recordings from the Dust Bowl to make theatre piece where actors in a totally different context used the exact speech from the recordings.

WE ARE NOW making a piece from your interviews.  Actors will deliver text EXACTLY as you spoke it, but all sound-edited-jumbled.  And the actors will not look or sound like you.  It will be amazing.  It will be called HOME.  And we will be developing it…sometime.  Soon.  Watch out.  It’s a deal.

If this is interesting to you, ask me about it.  I will talk about it.  A lot. 


And, to close, if you like these photos, they came from these places:


All thanks to:











Tuesday, August 30, 2011

STRAIGHT HUSTLIN’ (TELL ME STUFF?)



TELL ME STUFF.

Hey.  I’m not joking.  I need your help.

But first let’s talk about things that are NOT EASY.

Thing:

Okay so this is just me, personally, but I am no longer in St. Louis.  And some things are apparent to me as I am elsewhere:
            a)  It is an illusion that 80% of people are not straight.  It is an illusion that was really great that somehow infected me as I was surrounded by the amoeba-esque safety-net of South Grand and its inhabitants. 

            b) When I am not in my comfy corner of the planet, the HUMAN TOLL gets higher.

LET’S THINK ABOUT THIS JUST A SEC.

So I’ve been donating some thought (for better or worse) to Jared’s comment on our HUMAN TOLL. 

I’ve realized that I have LOTS of tolls.  You know?  I think our tolls change as we go from place to place?  And what does any environment COST us?

In a world of red fish, the yellow fish has to sort of pay her toll for being yellow.  But when she is in a world of yellow fish, she has to pay her toll for being…I don’t know…really ADD.

‘YKNOWWHATI’MSAYIN?  

When I am in my semi-new surroundings of grad school, my QUEER person toll is higher.  I pay an extra thought, an extra act of overcompensation, an extra effort to find where all those people with those haircuts and tattoos are going…

What’s your toll?

Maybe it’s queerness, or lack thereof.  Maybe it’s that you have terrible body odor or seem to be followed by an undeserved karmic curse. 
Maybe it’s that your parents weren’t kind to you, or that your feet are different sizes.
Maybe it’s an illness.
A big loss.
An aversion to human contact.
A fear of something irrational, like condiments or the word “moist.”

I think one of the biggest ones for all humans after the age of eighteen is that we’ve had our hearts hurt.  We carry that all the time.  (Except not me, that’s never happened.  I’m totally okay with everything always.  You can probably tell by how smooth/confident/effortlesslygraceful I am).   

I’m going to just…put it out there that I think I have a whole handful of problems.  I’m only going to give some (a teensy fraction of) examples of my personal...

TOLLS:

1.  Inability to conform to social expectation.


2.  Natural inclination to NOT do what people tell me I should/could do.

3.  Obsession/interest with all things/people that seem (or are) UNATTAINABLE to me.  (I am not special.  This is some sick fascination that many of us have.  It costs us a lot a whole lot of the time, so why we’re all not over it, I really couldn’t say.  Seriously, let’s get healthier about this.  It leads to being CREEPY).


4.  General state of discomfort.  (Symptoms: Spaz laugh, non-English or non-Human speech, choosing to WRITE as a career, being called awkward by 100% of people I interact with on a regular or non-regular or one-time basis).


We could REALLY go on, but that’s all I feel like I can share right here right now.

SO NOW.

WHAT IS YOUR TOLL?  What’s the biggest one?

Is your HUMAN TOLL less at MoKaBe’s?  Or different?
Do you have any TOLL to pay there?

THIS IS IMPORTANT. 
I think some of these things might bind us.  I think some of them may be funny.  I think our problems are pretty great to talk about.  (I think they might be what I want to explore in this documentary.)

WHICH BRINGS ME TO THIS:  (No, still…more help).  

Let’s talk about questions.


QUESTION 1.

WHAT IS THIS MOVIE ABOUT?

ANSWER:  People keep asking me this.  I don’t really know.  It has to do with MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse.  It has to do with why people spend time here, and why that time is different than time spent at other places.  It has to do with their HUMAN TOLL and what they bring or leave behind or shed or gain. 

It has to do with people who have found a HOME here.
Or people who have found COMFORT here.
Or people who have met their LOVE(S) here.
Or people who come here anyway.

Or people who have changed here?


"I reflect on what my twenty year old self thought I would be at twenty-seven…and it is not this.  But I’m extremely happy with my life."  (Liz T.)  

 

So that’s good.  I guess we’ll get to that later.  Like…later.
Forget that one.

PASS!



QUESTION 2.

WHAT IS THIS MOVIE CALLED?

ANSWER:  I AM HAVING A REALLY HARD TIME WITH THIS QUESTION SO PLEASE HELP ME PLEASE FOR REAL.

I have asked some people what the movie of their lives would be called.  I get a lot of “umm…I don’t know.”  I think I have this idea that the name of the movie about someone who has been changed/ruined/enlightened/bored by this place MIGHT nicely coincide with a title for a film about the place itself. 

EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE. 

Some titles I have gotten:

“I hope you didn’t pay for this.”
“Where did I leave my shoes?”
“(Laughs awkwardly).”

I have a couple of promising titles that relate to both the lives of individuals and their experiences at MoKaBe’s, but I would like MORE.

BARGAIN:

If you come up with the name of the film, you will WIN:
The honor of naming a movie that might be seen by someone sometime.

YES!  It could happen to you!

So…what is your TOLL?
And what should this movie be CALLED?

Or could the same thing work…for both?
(No pressure).

If you haven't seen this...I guess maybe watch it.  And then name it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

THERE ARE NO TALL PEOPLE AND NO SHORT PEOPLE


(We all just carry our human toll).

(That’s what Jared said to me two weeks ago at the counter). 


Let’s talk about where we live:


Question:  Who hangs out at MoKaBe’s?
Justin’s Answer:  Freaks.

What makes this place a comfortable environment?
Why do people feel that they have become more “themselves” since becoming regulars or working at MoKaBe’s?  

What makes it home?

Home might be where your heart is.  Or it might be where you leave your stuff.  Or it might be where your family lives or where you grew up or where your friends hang out or where you sit without moving for someone else’s entire shift. 

George (sitting at the MoKaBe’s counter):  Liza.  Move your shit.  You don’t live here.
Liza:  ?
George:  You don’t live somewhere unless you have two sets of clothing and a toothbrush there.

Results are in:  I live several places.  I live way too many places.  I have to say I think I like it.

But what place is home?


If my home is where my blood-and-bones relatives are, then I am a white-walled county brat, familiar with country clubs and private schools. 
If my home is where I go to school, then I am an eccentric attic hermit with four grad school roommates.  I avoid the kitchen and am scared to drive in the snow.  (Big hills).
If my home is where I sleep in St. Louis, then I am a vagabond, a highway explorer in a variety of cars and people’s clothes.

Several people have told me that MoKaBe’s is like a home to them—in different ways.

It is sort of...it is...my halfway house.


I live upstairs.  I manage this building.  My work is to fix broken things and broken hearts.

I was raised Southern Baptist and needed MoKaBe’s to help me quit lying to myself. 


It was a sense of…you know…coming home to a community.

It’s made me change my definition of what “having your life together” is.  Here, I’ve learned…that’s not fair.  Too much importance had been placed (in the past) on standard, white picket fence things.  I’ve realized here that you don’t need them.  As long as you’re making it work…that’s all that matters. 

If my mom could love it...anyone could feel comfortable here.



So…home. 

When I ask people to give me a few words to describe the MoKaBe’s environment, nearly all say home first.

But what makes it a “home?”

Firstlyletmejustsay that there are some things about MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse that make it distinctly unlike my mom’s house.  (Another place in St. Louis I might consider home). 

1.  No blood relations.
2.  I have to wear my shoes.
3.  I don’t say things like “fuck this shit” at my mom’s house.  (Wait, that was completely a lie—I lied).
4.  I don’t sleep with anyone who also lives at my mom’s house.  I’ve never wanted to do that.

Let’s talk about things that are not okay.

I just walked into a coffeeshop.  WHAT?  No.  I did.  It is in Brooklyn.  Where in Brooklyn I can’t say…it still all looks the same to me.  Dry Cleaners.  Garage.  Alley.  Church.  Nail Salon.  IPhones.  Dry Cleaners.  Garage.  Alley.  Church.  Nail Salon. 

Anyway, I’m in some place in Brooklyn that I really could never point out on a map.   The doors are open, there’s a tin ceiling, the light fixtures are hip, the walls are brick, and everything including the floor is fairtradeequalrightsorganicgoodforyou.

This coffee was exactly 200% of the cost that a MoKaBe’s iced coffee would be.  (A bargain in this cit-ay.)

I walked up to the counter…

CONVERSATION:

Guy:  (Silence…glare)
Me:  Hi!
Guy:  (Silence…glare)
Me:  How are you?  (Smile…the reallyImeanit smile).
Guy:  What having?
(Ps:  What?  Is this a text message conversation?  What?  I am too slow to talk like that!)
Me:  Uhh. Mm.  Iced coffee? 
Guy:  Size.
Me:  Small.
Guy: Three.
Me:  Thanks.

So then I sit down, and I cross my legs, and I sit at my computer, and I sort of look like the girl who is in front of me and I sort of look like the girl at the window, and I sort of look like the boy behind me except for the facial hair.  SO WHY IS THIS PLACE ABSOLUTELY NOT HOME?

BECAUSE I DO NOT FEEL AT HOME.
I DO NOT FEEL WELCOME AT ALL.
MY HEAD HURTS!  And why is it not socially acceptable in this place to smile at people who enter a room?  Why do people not do that?  Is that weird?  Am I like…really weird?

Here’s the thing.  In my hotpinkAmericanApparel (ohmygoddon’tsayhipster) crop top, I might sort of fit in here.  But I am not MYSELF here.  I don’t know WHAT I AM here.  I am a stranger to a bunch of strangers.

At MoKaBe’s, even when I was a stranger to strangers, I still felt at home.  Why? 

Home might be where your heart is, where the homos are, where you drink your coffee black or where you keep your toothbrush or where you are with that special someone you like so much, but it also might be WHERE YOU CAN JUST BE.

"With so many different personalities…it’s fun.  It’s different every day.  We were so freakin goofy.  Every night. " 


Yaknow?  Where you just ARE what you ARE and there are no apologies for it.

So you don’t have to wear a certain thing, be a certain way, hide away some pieces of yourself that aren’t okay in your mom’s house. 
You just.  Are.


“And that was the first moment where I was like…wow they must think I’m really annoying.  But they at least know who I am.”

There are no tall people here.  Or short people.  Or, maybe, Jared, there are tall and short people, but you’re right:
They are just carrying their own human toll. 

The VARIETY of the people at this place make it that way.

The experiences.

The clashes.

The differences.

The hopes.

The whatever.



D’y’knowhatI’msayin?

Something about this place makes it just OKAY TO BE. 

Justin:   It’s the coffee shop that people go to that feel like they don’t fit anywhere else.  I don’t want to say outcasts, but I feel like it’s this place where it’s safe for people who don’t always feel welcome.  The politics are part of that. 

I feel welcome at a lot of places, I might be an outcast, but I’m not really sure.  What I am sure about is that I don’t have to look like or talk like the people around me at MoKaBe’s to feel at home.  When I walk up to the counter and am immediately insulted by someone I trust, I have to say I like it.

Because it’s home.  It feels like coming home.

It’s no wonder that when I say at school that I’m “homesick,” I’m not envisioning Creve Coeur or my childhood bed.  I’m remembering a counter with a bunch of stools, sitting between people I know and don’t know, who look like me or don’t, who are regulars or tourists, who are just carrying their human toll.

I don’t know what my human toll is yet.  Or what yours is.
But let’s think about that for next time.