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Well, I was in Seattle for about a minute this week on a successful secret mission. I really like Seattle. I’ve often said that that’s where I would live if I didn’t live here. It’s the city outside the Bay Area that I know the best. It just feels comfortable but that’s probably mostly due to the fact that some of my best friends in the world live there.

I rented a car and it occurred to me, as I was being told that they didn’t have an economy car and that would have to give me an SUV or a min-van and no they couldn’t give me a bigger car at the same price, they would have to charge me more but the SUV would be no extra charge and those were the rules and no the cars aren’t actually at the terminal as advertised, they are at a lot and the shuttle would probably be there soon… What was I saying? Oh yeah, as I was listening to this not-even-subtle scam it occurred to me that rental car companies really are one of the biggest matter-of-fact, industry-wide liars going these days. I just kept saying “no” and laughing and eventually I wore the guy down. I did have to take the shuttle though. The lot was so far away from the SeaTac airport that I thought about saying, “It’s cool, I can walk to Seattle from here.” But I was too happy in the Seattle raininess and gloom to want to pick a fight with anyone.

It was really good to see old friends, a new baby, and that most of Seattle is just how I left it. I’ve never gone on a shorter-than-24 hour trip on a plane before. I felt rushed. I felt like a jet-setter. I felt self-important.

This photo really sums up Seattle for me:
sacred space
It was an awesome little reflecting pool, and I’m glad it was there, but it’s just so Seattle to try to guilt dog-owners about disrespecting something spiritual. Since when do prohibition signs try to justify themselves? Besides, personally, if I was a spiritual person I would have found all the coins in the pool more disrespectful than a beautiful living creature just doing what comes natural in its individual doggy-ness.

Anyways Seattle, sorry I didn’t tell you I was coming. I promise to spend more time next time.


In totally unrelated news, since I post about 1/5 of the time I actually intend to these days, I want to mention that 4/18 was the 5th anniversary of my friend Rachael’s death. This is the first time I forgot the anniversary was coming. That’s ok, I think.

Here are some post about her but if you’re new to my journal, you probably want to start at the beginning. R.I.P.
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I probably wouldn’t reminisce about my dead high school friend Rachael so much if her grave wasn’t in a cemetery on the road to the Russian River. I realized that with [livejournal.com profile] dairryiere moving in, [livejournal.com profile] obliviot and [livejournal.com profile] psoup in Pennsylvania, and Niki and Scott somewhere further north, there’s more death than life in Sonoma County for me. At least with my oldest friends. It seems like every time I drive through Sonoma, and as you can see I have less and less reason to, I pass Rachael’s grave or the stupid golf course where Ron’s memorial was held.

I know the body is empty of life and decomposing peacefully into the earth. And I know that I didn’t see her alive for the last years of her life. But it still seems rude to pass by her grave without stopping. I mean, it’s not like she can visit me.

I had forgotten that I would be passing the cemetery until I turned onto it following the weird but good directions I got from yahoo maps. I looked down at the map and sighed. Oh yeah, Graton Road. I tried to think about what I could leave as an offering. I had a cheese button and a Gang of Four button on but I knew Rachael pre-cheese and she never liked the English bands. I had some food but she sailed off to Valhalla years ago. I only had CDs, no tapes that we would have shared. None of the rubber iguanas that I buy in her memory to leave when I pass by.

Luckily I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the reflection of an X promo poster that I had gotten at a garage sale the last weekend along with a book on Chinchilla care. I bought it for someone else, but it seemed like fate. Or at least good enough for the spur of the moment. Rachael and I had shared some quality X moments together, back in the day.

The river was wonderful, by the way. Sun enough to burn me, water cold enough to cool me down, Lagunitas Pils, gin and tonics, Boggle , [livejournal.com profile] jactitation, and [livejournal.com profile] confabulator. A perfect day away from the city.

(backstory for those interested can be found on my memories page under "obituaries")
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Weird. That’s how it always is when I return to Marin. In the 18 years since I’ve lived there full time, I’ve lost my ability to blend and sometimes even communicate with my people.

Of course, it’s even weirder when I’m only there to pick up a friend from high school to go to another high school friend’s grave. We stopped to pick up flowers because it, well, just seemed like the thing one does when visiting a cemetery. The florist shop we saw from the car in downtown Fairfax was closed so we walked across the street to the independent natural food store to see if they sold flowers.

It was a store not unlike the one I work at, although about half the size. I saw someone sweeping up in the bulk section. He was a hippieish white guy in his early 20s. "Do you sell flowers?" I asked

He gave me a why-do-I-have-to-deal-with-morons look and walked me over a couple of feet. "Yeah, we’ve got all kinds of flours," pointing out the white flour, wheat flour, oat flour, etc.

"No, no , no, I mean like flowers that grow in the ground, with petals and stuff." I’ll admit my communication wasn’t at its best either. He mumbled something that I took to be "I’ll go check" but obviously wasn’t since he never returned. I saw another worker cutting cheese in the aisle on a small table.* Even more my people I figured: a Marin, health-food working cheese cutter. A request for a florist was greeting with a frighteningly blank look. Not for lack of knowledge, she told us to go across the street, but in that everything-is-a-complicated-existential-question-that-I’m-working-on-bettering-myself-spiritually-so-I-can-comprehend way.** Then she just started looking over my shoulder at nothing I could see.

ComicBookGirl and I left. I felt displaced and odd. I couldn’t tell if I was somehow alienating these people or if I had just forgotten how to talk to them. Was it our non-hippieness? Did we talk too fast? Are we too urban now? We had to pass a café on the way to the car. Many people spilled out of it as well as a number of golden retrievers with neckerchiefs. I was searching for adjectives to describe them later and [livejournal.com profile] anarqueso suggested smug. That’s part of it. Self-satisfied is another. How can I describe growing up in Marin other than when I (and my dead friend Rachael) were getting into No Business As Usual in order to "prevent World War 3 no matter what it takes!", people my parents age, though not my parents, were joining a group called "Beyond War".

There’s some truth in advertising to that, actually. Not much affects you in Marin. I honestly could not hold back. As we passed the crowd at the café, I said very loudly "I’m so glad I don’t live in Marin anymore". CBG agreed.

But I don’t think anyone even noticed.

* Which I do not approve of, for the record.
**You may have had to grow up in Marin for that to make sense. Let me know.
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Both Comic Book Girl and I wanted to flee but we also had too many unanswered questions to skip the potluck at Mother’s house.* After some ranting and crying we drove back to downtown Graton. When we got there, I sought out Rachael’s Dad and told him that I didn’t know what to say when I first saw him, but that I had loved his daughter very much and that I was sorry. We hugged. He could barely talk, and I realized he hadn’t said a word during either ceremony. CBG said he was often like that.

Unfortunately Rachael’s co-workers didn’t come to the potluck. I’m mourning, otherwise I would never put words into the mouths of people of color, but I’m sure they said, "Let’s get away from these crazy white people."

I found Rachael’s last boyfriend who it turned out went to our high school also, class of 1986. I tried not to hate him for no reason. Unfortunately he wasn’t really deep or tactful, and I thought CBG was going to hit him when he said, "I was dealing in those days and it caused tension between us. But she didn’t complain when I brought home wads of cash." He didn’t seem to be someone to trust with the questions that could crush me if I heard a painful answer.

I found a stack of photos Rachael had shot in high school. Concerts I had attended with her: The Clash, Dead Kennedys, MDC, Dicks, Siouxsie, Gun Club, and that we reviewed for the school paper: The Police, Madness, Oingo Boingo, Elvis Costello. I thought back to seeing X with her at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma in 1984. She couldn’t bring her camera so we hung out together for a change, standing dead center in front of an extremely drunk Exene and screaming all the lyrics as much bigger people bashed against us.

I wondered what happened to all the letters I had sent Rachael and whether they would surface. Would mom read them and what would they say about her? During the service Mom had said, "She loved you all. She saved everything. You all meant a lot to her even if she never told you." I decided to send her an e-mail and ask to get them if they turn up. But we’d had enough.

CBG and I turned and headed to the car. Back to the City. Time to get drunk.

*[livejournal.com profile] obliviot and [livejournal.com profile] psoup, her mom’s house is very close to, if not the place you lived in when you were in Graton.
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Longtime readers of my journal might recall my lost friend Rachael. Visiting NYC last summer, an old high school friend and I spent a morose hour or so wondering what had become of her. She had broken off contact with the two of us years earlier and we both missed her.

Well, she’s dead. She died of liver and kidney failure last week after drinking and starving herself to death over the last (5? 10? 15? 20?) years.

I’m feeling the veritable rainbow of fucked up emotions: guilt, anger, sadness, frustration, pain. This person inspired me more than probably anyone else in high school. She had so much more talent and passion than I did. She pushed me in ways that have helped me for years after she was no longer in my life.

When I got the call, I realized that I was still holding onto the idea that she was living some quiet, but nice, life somewhere, and that her old friends reminded her too much of the pain of childhood and that’s why she couldn’t talk to us. That she might be happy and trying not to dwell in the past. That she was still creating art behind some set of suburban doors and one day I’d see a byline or photo credit in a newspaper and we’d have a chance to meet again, me telling her how much she meant to me and her sheepishly apologizing for losing contact.

Of course part of those fantasies were because I didn’t want to think about her being stuck in a nasty relationship with a jealous man who wouldn’t let her talk to her old friends or finding her crazy on the street asking for change without recognizing me

After I got off the phone with my NYC friend, I put on "London Calling", Rachael’s favorite album in the early ‘80s. Rachael in fact, once wrote a poem while listening to it, dialoging with Joe Strummer all the way through.* I had been having dinner with my housemates and one of my closest friends when I got the call, as we cleaned up, I turned it on. Loud.

I guess it is only fitting that "Clampdown" made me cry. Lyrics to inspire people to not let their lives be stolen by drudgery, exploitation and routine can be heard as incredibly depressing to someone who had hit her 30s and hadn’t. I pictured her listening to it and feeling the full weight of the things she could have done. I listened to it and felt my desperation to feel like I could have helped her if I knew where she was. For the first time, lyrics that had been nothing but positive showed their double edge:

"The voices in your head are calling
stop wasting your time, there’s nothing coming
only a fool could think someone could save you"

I cried for her pain. I cried for her lost talent. I fucking cried for me.

Please read the links. I feel like I already wrote her obituary 6 months ago without knowing it.

*It’s not a great poem. But I’ll always remember the last lines. It was called "Innocent Trout".
(the trout) "started wearing blue and brown
‘Anger can be power!’ they cried
And then they spawned,
what a stench."
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There are certain mid -80s styles that people don’t remember. For example, almost all punk rockers wrote on the white space of their Chuck Taylor’s. I can still remember that R had, among other lyrics and slogans, "I hate children" (from the Adolescents) on one shoe and "Mommy’s little monster" (from Social Distortion on the other). I write that and think, "Awwwww, how cute", but, without trying to claim some kind of title to oppression, the Reagan ‘80s were a time when even in the Bay Area just having short hair earned you bottles thrown from car windows and shouts of "Faggot!". R’s dyed-black, fucked up, unevenly chopped, hair and her anti-social shoe slogans didn’t exactly help her blend.

Starting high school the year Reagan was elected president definitely plunged us into a cultural war that we couldn’t fully understand. I remember vividly going to the friend’s apartment with R and our friend’s mother breaking into German to ask her how dare she bring such a girl into her home, with "schwartz hair" and obviously loose morals.* We could feel ourselves being pushed from the "Moral Majority" Christians, school administrators, and the wanna-be yuppies (a new term at the time) but, like the dot-com boom of recent years there was no clear end in sight, no way we could see how bad it would get.

Unlike the relatively recent WTO protests in Seattle**, the politics of ‘Rock Against Reagan" were more counter-cultural and less well developed. But I can say, without inflating the memory, that it was a turning point in my life. Being younger makes it easier to look at things as US vs. THEM, but at a time of a cultural mandate for neo-conservatism, being leftist/anarchist, punk and in the streets seemed to be the obvious choice. R and I were arrested together at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in SF where, after a huge outdoor concert by Dead Kennedys, MDC, The Dicks and many others. We took the streets to protest arrests earlier in the day at a "War Chest Tour", the ‘80s version of anti-corporate demonstrations where a bunch of punks would rush into some multi-national’s office and start screaming about their capitalist evils and their financial ties to both the Republicans and Democrats.

At the time, our protest became the biggest mass arrest in the Bay Area since the late ‘60s. As we rallied outside the Hall of Justice, the police moved in without warning from all sides. My weasely brother, six years older than I, made it through the police line at the last minute but I got stopped by a cop pushing me back with a riot baton in my chest. My best friend at the time and R were right behind me. I spent all night in jail before being sent to juvenile hall the next morning, being 16 at the time. R spent the night outside in a makeshift holding facility before she got shipped to juvey. My best friend lucked out with a typo on his arrest form listing him as 18 so he was released later that evening.

Going through R’s letters, I found her account of her arrest which we ran in the student paper*** I’m struck by how much better her writing was than mine. I wrote the straight-forward, newsy account and she basically did an arrest diary which she wrote while on the horrible family vacation mentioned in my last entry. Below are excerpts:

"Ahhhh, the swinefest of the Democratic convention of 1984. Let’s see, I was arrested about an hour after Gordon was. I just kept scooting back and scooting back in the dwindling crowd that was seated on Bryant Street in front of the Hall of Justice. People were getting nervous all around me. I watched the piles of various paraphernalia, switchblades, and fire crackers get larger and larger around the edge of the crowd. Last cigarettes were being passed around by everyone who had them. The cops stood lined up in front of us, glaring down, not speaking and occasionally stooping to pick up a switchblade and pocket it."

What I find interesting about this paragraph is that it shows that the forms of symbolic arrest hadn’t been codified yet. By the late ‘80s, people knew how to be arrested like sheep and not to bring weapons to demonstrations.

"After sitting and freezing for hours (R’s group was being held outside at Potrero Hill Middle School) we became bored and invented songs with lyrics like "We all live in a Fascist USA, a Fascist USA, A Fascist USA" (sung to the tune of "Yellow Submarine"). . .I talked to a girl from LA with a purple mohawk and she said she had just come up to SF that morning. She said that a lot of punks were coming up to SF because the cops were really sweeping the streets in LA for the Olympics.**** They had all heard how cool the SF cops were. I think she had changed her mind."

The rest of R’s account includes numerous and humorous anecdotes about the cops not being able to tell the boys from the girls, spotting punk "stars" in the police vans and being processed in the school cafeteria that was identical to our public school cafeteria. R’s account ends with:

"It was 3:30 (AM) when they put me in a 5 by 10 ft. cell with nothing in it but a rock hard cot and a window covered in wire with glass about three inches thick. The doors were heavy, they really clanked when you shut them. I lay down on the cot and wondered what it would be like to be claustrophobic. Suddenly, I heard the clanking of the door being unlocked and a woman led me down the hall, saying they had my father on the phone. . ."

(later, when being released) "The man told me I was being charged with unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and intent to riot. He said he hoped I had learned my lesson. Foul beast. I liked my father’s version better. He said to me on the way back, ‘I hope you learned your lesson. Don’t get caught.’"

After this was printed in the school newspaper, the howls of outrage at these words of fatherly advice were arguably the loudest.

*I’ll ask my two high school friends who read this journal to share the irony of this for a moment.

**Some of the same people were main organizers for both events actually.

***When I look back, I can see how great our student paper was. The faculty advisors saw one of their roles as defending and supporting students being critical of the school administration. They also took a lot of heat for not only the articles mentioned above, but others including one by R reviewing "pregnancy counselors", including Christian, fake, women’s-counseling services that were anti-abortion. Armed with the pregnant urine of a neighbor, R wrote a great description of the local "Birthright" clinic people telling her she’d burn in hell if she got an abortion.

****Evidently she didn’t know the SF cops had done the same thing before the Democratic Convention got underway. Even the Chronicle detailed the police dropping homeless people off at bus stations and the Nevada border

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Well, that’s overstating it really. But after touring DC Comics with one of my oldest friends we drank a large amount of margaritas and, predictably, got onto the subject of our lost friend from high school, R. Neither of us have any idea what she’s up to now and we both miss her

R was my comic friend’s best friend and a good friend of mine even before I kinda fell in love with her. Surviving high school would have been much harder without her. R was a photographer with a keen sense of observation and the mean sense of apocalyptic humor of the kind that was necessary to survive the Reagan ‘’80s. She had a love of Hunter S. Thompson, iguanas and punk shows. She was also, like all of us, a fucked up kid.

But as I write that, I realize it’s not quite accurate either. She was a little more fucked up than most. But her stories aren’t mine to tell, even if almost no one out there knows who I’m talking about. I dug out some old letters from 1984 that she sent me from a forced family vacation in Texas. They’re full of pain and desperation, both personal and related to the times we were living in. But they also showed her ability to be incisive and funny in the face of adversity and her hope for a future that I had no idea I would know nothing about.

I realized later that she almost single-handedly formed my view of Texas with passages like:

"I think there’s some ultra-BAD business brewing for me in Lubbock, My absolute ding bat, dumb-shit aunt was talking to my Granny on the phone and mentioned in passing that I had been arrested and my camera had been beaten up. This is not good. You do not tell Granny these kinds of things. I’m sure she is praying for my soul right now. I can hardly wait for the late-night sessions I surely have in store when she comes creeping into my bedroom, bible under arm and cold-cream on face. YICK!!!!!!!!! Have mercy on my sinful soul."

Other passages detail family dynamics, mid-summer Texas heat, political arguments with strangers in the street, depressing visions of the coming Fascism, and responses to my previous letters. There’s nothing like old letters to humble your illusions that you were as smart as you remember yourself. But beyond the tortured teen angst and the truly embarrassing,* are the glimpses of talent and the sadness of the times.

The biggest feeling I came away from reading these however, was a reminder of how powerless being a teenager is. Not just with R, but with all my friends. Most of us were unprepared to understand people’s hints about serious trouble like anorexia and abuse. And if told outright, not having any real idea how to deal with the responsibility of knowing, say, a friend’s mother beat up on her but she was too scared for her younger sister to leave the house. Or know how to give real support to the person being occasionally molested by a family friend when their family members were too fucked up to notice..

And it’s a long time ago. I know what I would (probably) do now in similar situations. But the letters brought back the memories of being presenting with intense problems and being completely ill-prepared to know who to trust and how to help without fucking things up worse.

And while I still miss R, the letters reminded me of why some people have to get distance from their pasts.

Tomorrow: Rock Against Reagan/Racism – 1984. R and I get arrested.

* And the amusing, "Two bad Clash albums in a row! Is it time to give up on them?" written about the release of "Combat Rock". If only we’d know the unfathomably worse "Cut The Crap" was still to come.


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