Monday, July 27, 2009

home is where?

I've never really been somebody who gets homesick. As a child, I would go to camps or on weekends away and expect to feel those pangs that made others cry and mope, but past the age of five I have little to no memory of this actually happening in any sort of major way. The closest I've come in the last ten or fifteen years was probably my first trip to Poland, and that was inspired mostly by jetlag and my terror and frustration at being unable to understand not only spoken communication but written language.

But when I arrived home in Flagstaff this past week, I felt an inexplicable pang. Flagstaff has functioned in recent years as something of a refuge, somewhere to go to see loved ones and mountains and generally clear my head, but for whatever reason on this trip I spent the first two days of my stay thrashing inside of it like an itchy wool blanket. A number of people I'd been hoping to see were out of town or working more than anticipated and I found myself at loose ends, unsure what exactly I should be doing other than eating at Macy's (best veggie biscuits and gravy ever, I swear to god) and shopping with my mom, which honestly can only take you so far. By the afternoon of the first day I was cranky, and by that night I'd pinned down part of the problem: I missed Chicago.

It's probably a little weird, but that sent me into a bit of a tailspin. For years I've been treating Chicago as home but also as a waystation to somewhere else; I tell people that I came here for grad school and just haven't gotten around to moving yet. But to be in my actual hometown--albeit one I visit infrequently and haven't lived in for any length of time since about 2002--and missing my adopted city so deeply made me pause. Where was home, and what did that mean?

In truth, my tiny little crisis was less about the fact that I was feeling uncomfortable in Flagstaff and more about the way my connection to Chicago has changed in the past year. For most of my time here it truly has felt like a waystation, with friends and lovers who came and went, careers that have waxed and waned, and more apartments than you could easily shake a stick at. I was, in fact, planning a move to Denver for sometime next year, a change of scenery that I hoped would give me new direction and perhaps a push towards whatever it is I want to do next. But somehow, after almost five years and just when I'd given up on this city, I seem to have grown roots. There are all these buzzwords--happiness! community! decent job!--that suddenly mean more to me than they have in a long time. It's a good thing, certainly, but it somehow took me slightly by surprise.

My trip ended up going well, thankfully. On the first night when I, a generally fast walker, was out-walked by somebody on the hill up to my parents' house I cursed my City Girl lungs up and down; by the third day I was cheerfully accepting my status as a visitor instead of a some sort of removed native as I puffed my way up a mountain, and I was much happier for the change. Being from Chicago doesn't mean I can't love Flagstaff, just as being originally from Arizona doesn't mean I can't love my life here in the big city. I miss mountains, but for now I think I'm too centered here to leave.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

heading back to the land of the pines

I'm leaving for Arizona this morning, which means that a) I'll be hanging out in the mountains and eating my favorite veggie biscuits and gravy while I beam at all the hippie biker folk very very soon, and b) I won't be writing on here for a few days. I've already decided to be less goal oriented (giving up on the "200 posts this year" goal because it started seeming a tad ridiculous; I'd rather just write as much as I can without pushing it), and that's cool. I'll see you when I get back.

But I'll leave you with my current favorite summer recipe. Rose-Anne called these really fancy pizza rolls, and that's as good a description as any. But I prefer calling them soy chorizo-potato-feta pastries. They're great for summer because the oven only has to be on for ten minutes, and they're yummy as all get out. I've served them about six times in the last two weeks. I am, indeed, a pie crust ninja.

Soy Chorizo-Potato-Feta Pastries

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup butter
1/4 or less cup water

Mix the dry stuff, cut the butter in with knives or a pastry cutter, add cold water and knead until solid. Add more flour if too sticky, more water if too dry, but give it a minute for the butter to melt in before you give up on it.

1-2 medium to large potatoes, peeled, chopped, and cooked until soft
1/2 pack soy chorizo (I like Upton's Naturals, a seitan chorizo, but Soyrizo or Trader Joe's brand work as well, although you might want to drain some of the oil out of looser chorizos)
feta to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
olive oil (I just glug some in)
oregano to taste
salt and pepper to taste
dash cayenne (optional)

Mix the filling together, adjusting flavors as you desire. I often make a double batch and have these consecutive nights. Pat out circles of pie dough, spoon filling into the centers, and seal them shut. Place on a greased/parchment papered/silpatted cookie sheet. Pre-heat oven to 425 and cook for about ten minutes.

With that, bon voyage to myself!

Monday, July 20, 2009

the letter we thought we sent

This makes me think of what it feels like to write. Sigh.

Hand Games, by Marge Piercy

Intent gets blocked by noise.
How often what we spoke
in the bathtub, weeping
water to water, what we framed
lying flat in bed to the spiked
night is not the letter that arrives,
the letter we thought we sent. We drive
toward each other on expressways
without exit. The telephone
turns our voices into codes,
then decodes the words falsely,
terms of an equation
that never balances, a scale
forever awry with its foot
stuck up lamely like a scream.

Drinking red wine from a sieve,
trying to catch love in words,
its strong brown river in flood
pours through our weak bones.
A kitten will chase the beam of a flash
light over the floor. We learn
some precious and powerful forces
can not be touched, and what
we touch plump and sweet
as a peach from the tree, a tomato
from the vine, sheds the name
as if we tried to write in pencil
on its warm and fragrant skin.

Mostly the television is on
and the washer is running and the kettle
shrieks it's boiling while the telephone
rings. Mostly we are worrying about
the fuel bill and how to pay the taxes
and whether the diet is working
when the moment of vulnerability
lights on the nose like a blue moth
and flitters away through clouds of mosquitoes
and the humid night. In the leaking
sieve of our bodies we carry
the blood of love.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

the lay of the land

One of the unexpected but kind of amusing things about my friendship with P and my subsequent involvement with genderqueer chicago has been that I managed to meet and befriend most of the staff of the local sex toy store that he works at. It's close to my job and I frequently walk by as I go to the grocery store on my way home from work, and I sometimes stop to chat with whoever's peddling lube and dildos to the citizens of Andersonville that evening. On other somewhat rarer occasions, I end up staying to talk for much longer. I'm particularly good friends with P's girlfriend N, and we've spent many hours now chatting and telling each other stories as customers wander in and out of the store. I've been going on and on about how many stories have been making themselves visible to me lately and I'm a sucker for a good starting line, so I have to admit that this is one of my favorites: "So I was hanging out at the sex toy store the other day talking to my ex's girlfriend and then..." In reality, I think of her as a friend and not as P's girlfriend, just as I think of him as a friend and not my ex; it's a subtle but important distinction, but as a story opener it's still entertaining to me to make clear just how interconnected everything in my life has become. It makes me terribly happy actually, that she and I can be friends, because in the "real" world I think this is a fairly unusual scenario, but it's true and I have benefited greatly from this bond that might seem on the surface to be so unlikely.
I also just like watching the customers. I appreciate being around sex-positive people, and I enjoy watching people buy things and knowing that they are going to have a really great afternoon or evening ahead of them. Some people are visibly uncomfortable and I wonder what they think of me, sitting on a stool by the register and trying not to make them feel watched as they peruse the shelves of toys and books and porn. Other people are chatty, and ask lots of questions or tell us about their experiences with toys or just life in general. Sometimes people ask me questions, and I either explain that I don't actually work there or, more rarely, I answer; my sales job has made me much more comfortable talking to strangers, and it can be hard to turn off the salesman persona that I adopt at work. (I recently talked a total stranger at Whole Foods into buying a seitan italian sausage that I hadn't even tasted. Granted, I was familiar with the same company's seitan chorizo, but still.) I certainly don't know as much as the people who actually work there, but even I know that you can't use a silicon-based lube with a silicon toy and occasionally I talk up some of the books that I've read. It makes me feel like an impostor, but it also kind of amuses me; it seems so indicative of the changes in my life, that I might spend a Saturday afternoon telling a stranger about how much I like The Ethical Slut.
A week or two ago, I was hanging out with N as she took pictures of a buttplug when a middle-aged Argentinian woman wandered into the store and started asking about dildos and harnesses. I watched as N helped her try on one of the harnesses over her pants, and then the woman began looking around and asking about other things. She ended up near where I was sitting; on the shelf behind me was a black criss-cross piece of lingerie that she seemed very intrigued by. She asked N if she could try that on too, and for a few minutes she and I both struggled to figure out all the pieces of fabric and snaps and cords that went into this particular outfit. We finally got it fastened and the woman stood back, admiring herself in the mirror, but still she looked dissatisfied. After a minute she pulled the shoulder straps down and asked if she could take her sweatshirt off to see more clearly how it fit. N nodded, and suddenly the woman was standing before us completely topless: no undershirt, no bra, just bare breasts.
"I'll just lock the door now..." N said, and went to do so. I was helping the woman pull the straps back up as N and I exchanged looks behind her back, and then suddenly a man was standing at the door. N began to shield the woman, and she exclaimed "No, he's my husband, let him in!" And so we did. He and his wife admired the lingerie, and then she told him about the harness and he nodded approvingly, and she put her shirt back on so that they could make their purchases and be on their merry way. Just another day, I suppose. I went to work after that and made up a bunch of flowers for somebody's wedding, and contemplated how very different her job was from mine, and how very glad I was that I'd been there.

Friday, July 17, 2009

brimstone and hellfire

I really have nothing to say about this, except "whoa."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

city girl

Moving to a new place is always a little intimidating. I grew up in Flagstaff, a small town in Arizona, and when I moved to Tucson I remember being terrified of the "big city" for a little while until I got used to a pace and atmosphere of my new environment. The same thing happened when I moved from Tucson to Chicago; I was so overwhelmed by the sheer size and diversity of my new home, and it took some adjusting before I felt comfortable again. Luckily it's hard for me to feel uncomfortable for very long, because familiarity breeds not only contempt but a sort of forced acceptance of new situations.

I've lived in my apartment in Chicago's Uptown for a year now. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, where the difference between one street and the next can be palpable and sometimes alarming; one space can seem safe and comfortable, but a short block later it might feel highly uncomfortable and rather threatening. I moved into my current space after spending more than a year living in extremely gentrified neighborhoods, the kind where when I went outside I sometimes felt engulfed by hordes of soccer moms with strollers and golden retrievers in tow, and it was admittedly a bit of a shock. My neighborhood is actually somewhere I told myself I would never live; my first experience here (albeit a bit south, and in an area where I still don't feel entirely comfortable walking alone--I went to a concert there recently and passed a police barricade because somebody had just been shot and killed blocks from the venue) involved sitting in a Baskin Robbins waiting out the hour before an appointment and watching a homeless man compulsively scrape gum off the seats and ask the staff for free ice cream cones. On one of my first nights here, as I walked a friend to the closest train stop, a young guy smacked me on the arm as we passed him on the street and I didn't go to that station again for months, instead opting for one five minutes farther away but on a less intimidating street.

I go to that station all the time now, partially because nobody wants to spend five extra minutes outside during a Chicago winter, and partially because I've made peace with my surroundings. Not only that, but frankly, I love where I live. I remember the exact moment when it happened, or at least when I realized it was happening; I was walking to a friend's nearby house, and suddenly I noticed that there were so many different people all around me and that the way they were interacting formed a greater whole than those soccer moms ever could.

Uptown, at least where I live, is a heavily asian and black area, boasting some of the best Vietnamese food in the city and more tiny little markets filled with produce I've never heard of than you could shake a stick at. As I walked down Argyl that night, I saw small Vietnamese children with their parents waving at young black men hanging out at street corners, Indian families walking together, people coming through the door of the seafood restaurant that seems to host late night dance parties accompanied by wafts of loud music, homeless people (mostly white, interestingly) smoking together. It was dirty and smelled like grilling meat (many restaurants have windows filled with roasted ducks, their necks twisted around the metal poles that suspend them above their drip pans), gritty in that big-city way that had always put me slightly on edge, but everybody seemed to be co-existing peaceably enough. Nothing had changed, but the way I saw it was entirely different: community instead of threat.

Shortly after this small revelation I was walking to work when I passed by a house where a middle-aged black man was ringing the bell, a wooden bench resting on the porch beside him. An elderly white woman opened the door with a cry of familiarity and happiness, and I heard the man say that he had seen the bench sitting in an alley and knew that she would put it to use. She thanked him profusely, and together they moved the bench into place next to the door. I pass that bench nearly every day as I walk to work, and the memory nearly always makes me smile.

Today, I paid back a little of that community. A man living down the street from me who always smiles and wishes me a good day when I pass by was standing outside smoking when I came by on my way home from work, backpack bristling with lilies that I had taken with me from our trash flower bucket. He told me they were beautiful, and I walked over so that he could smell them. He seemed so happy that I spontaneously asked if he wanted them. He looked at me and I could see how happy the thought made him, and I pulled them from my pack and handed them to him. He stubbed out his cigarette, exclaiming "I'm going to go give these to somebody right now!" and I continued on my way home, happy and lighter in more ways than one.

Friday, July 10, 2009

stories from the city, stories from the lake

Erica and I have spent a good bit of time over the years debating the worthiness of actions that lead to stories, whether a good story is a reason for doing something and what is more important, the happening or the telling. I don't know the answer but I do know that life lately has seemed somewhat ridiculously overfull of metaphors, where I see the world through stranger's glasses on a day where I desperately need larger vision or where I hear somebody's joy in personal independence only days before the holiday when the country celebrates its own freedom. I'm in this more-or-less perpetual state of wonder, watching stories unfold around me rather perfectly and seeing how they lead me to new insights about myself, and figuring out how those insights translate into words and more stories that I can tell to others and perhaps show them a little bit of who I am. I've always been a fairly interior person, and lately all I can seem to do is talk about myself and all of the amazingly beautiful things that my life is filled with.

When did this happen? Not all at once. It's been just over a year since I moved into my own apartment, began a life that was truly my own, and that has had a great deal to do with it. But I think that there's something much more indefinable, some massive interior shift that has brought me to this place where nearly everything seems to be a story and also some sort of radical truth. I don't know what that change could be, except that I finally have a clearer vision of who I am and who I want to be, and the stories seem to flow from that. But it might also be that I'm starting to think more like a writer, and that these stories and perfect moments and metaphors have been here all along and I was too tied up in other things to notice. All I know is that I'm grateful for them now.

The writer thing, I have to admit, is a little terrifying. I don't consider myself a writer, really, but I have to recognize that words and the writing and telling of them has gained considerable prominence in the last few months. Not a week goes by where somebody doesn't tell me that I should write more, be a writer, do this somehow in a way that goes beyond this simple blog and the group of friends and acquaintances that read it. I don't know how to do that. I don't know if doing this in a more high-pressure way would ruin it for me, as "work" and its related anxieties ruined music for me for a while. I don't know what I could write that more people than you all, my regular readers, would want to listen to. I don't know so many things, but if I sit tight I think the stories will keep happening and whatever change I'm going through will reach some sort of logical-but-unforeseen conclusion that I would never have imagined. It will make a great story later, no matter how it turns out.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

the low road

I'm not feeling terribly well today. It shouldn't be a huge surprise; I've been playing hard lately, going out and running around and generally not sitting still for long enough to even let the tiredness hit me. I've been enjoying myself greatly but I've finally hit the point where, when I do let myself relax for more than a few minutes, I feel the exhaustion wash over me like a wave and I think to myself: Maybe I should try and sleep more than five hours a night. Maybe I should stay home, not make plans at 10 PM, opt out of the party, stop obsessively baking cookies and pies and tarts (but not cooking any "real" food, god no) and traversing the city at every opportunity, and just let myself sit still and quiet.
It's hard for me. Mania seems to be my fallback mode right now, as it has been for much of the past year. But if nothing else, I absolutely hate being sick while living by myself. Being sick is never fun, and while I lived with other people I always tried to take as much care of myself as I could when I was ailing. But in all honesty, now that's when I most wish there was somebody around to be there for me. Somebody to go to the store and buy me orange juice and saltines. Somebody to hand me a cool wet washcloth, rub my shoulders, pop in a movie, turn the lights low, kiss my cheek and tell me I'll be better soon. I feel needy and alone, more tired and ill than I would probably be if there were actually somebody here. It erodes my resolve to be who I am by myself, and I resent my illness for that.
I'm not sick yet. But because of the threat of that loneliness, I'm staying home tonight and treating myself well. Putting in that movie or cracking that book myself before I wish there was somebody else here to help me do it. In a day or two there will be time for cookies and bike rides and friend nights and all of those other good things that I'm so lucky to have filled my life with, but tonight it's just me. And a lot of Emergen-C.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


I'm not much of a patriot in the traditional sense of the word, but I'm a strong believer in independence. I believe in strength and freedom and self-love and beauty, in self-actualization and figuring out how to be whole instead of fragmented. In an ideal world, I'd be able to apply all of these hopes and dreams to the country as a whole, but for now I take my independence in the forms I can get it and those are generally personal.

I was at work a few days ago, very near to closing time after a long tiring seven hours, and a regular customer walked in. I went to greet her; she's a very sweet person, always has a smile for me, but she also usually takes forever to pick something out so I was both happy and full of dread when I saw her. Sad but true: no matter how nice you are, sometimes I wish you'd just pick a flower out already and call it a day. She was getting three flowers for her girlfriend; I believe it was their anniversary. (Another rant: my gay male co-worker gets hit on constantly and I almost never do. The queer men flirt, the queer ladies buy flowers for their girlfriends. Frustrating.) My co-worker and I helped her pick out her blooms, wrapped them in paper, and walked back towards the door with her as we chatted.

Suddenly she turned around and, with a preface I can't recall, told us that she had just come out to her mother. I realized suddenly that she was practically glowing, so happy and excited and relieved that she was finally no longer living with the threat of this moment of self-actualization that the vast majority of queer people go through eventually. She had told her mother, and her mother had been gracious and happy for her, and so we rejoiced with her. My co-worker told his story (his mother broke out in hives) and I did not because I wasn't asked. (I don't code as gay, it seems; I've been asked such an unimaginable number of times if I am queer, which is a source of irritation. Perhaps I need to shave my head and get a tattoo? No? Ah well.) But we celebrated with her for a minute or two, this stranger who had just revealed a deeply personal moment to us standing in the door of the shop.

My own coming out was both less and more dramatic than I had anticipated. I was twenty-three, and it was the day before I moved to Chicago for grad school. My girlfriend and I had been dating for about eight months at that point, but I had been chickening out of telling my parents; my mom grew up Mormon and is also prone to random bouts of freak-out-edness when I least expect it, so I wasn't sure what kind of reaction she would have. But on this day, the day before I left, we were standing in the kitchen crying and yelling at each other for some reason that I can't remember in the slightest now when she suddenly turned to me and said "Your friend A is really nice." It was such a complete non-sequitor that it stopped me in my tracks and left me with no idea how to respond. I stopped crying, and after a moment said that she was not my friend, she was my girlfriend, and my mother looked at me scornfully to let me know that of course she knew that. We hugged, and the fight wound down into a rare moment of intimacy between us.

The next day, I moved to Chicago. I told my father immediately before getting out of the car at the airport (because how awkward would a two-hour car ride be after a revelation like that?) and he told me he just wanted me to be happy. I flew away on wings, relieved that things had gone as relatively well as they had, and we rarely spoke of it until a much more traumatic fight a few years later. But that plane ride, heading towards a new place and a new life where I could start over and be who I really was, felt like freedom.

Friday, July 03, 2009

seasonal berry disorder

So it's strawberry season, which means that the farmers markets and grocery stores are flooded with fresh ripe berries; I can smell them as soon as I walk into my local Jewel, which is not much of a bastion of fresh affordable garden-y goodness most of the time. It also means that, in a veritable orgy of berry excess, I've been through nearly seven quarts in the last week and a half. There have been drinks, pies, more drinks, and even dumplings, although I still haven't made the vegan strawberry shortcake I dreamed of earlier this summer (there have been issues with my attempts at vegan whipped cream). Every time I think I'm done, I walk past the produce section and somehow end up with another quart in my bag.

It started last week when I ended up with four quarts all at the same time. (Because I'm awesome like that.) My fridge was overflowing, and so I invited some friends over and started chopping. First up was a less sweet and less drink-like version of the red wine recipe at the end of this post, and these dumplings from Smitten Kitchen. A "baked" summertime good without the baking? Hell yes. It helps that they were delicious. The next night I tried my hand a little more earnestly (results shortly) with a red wine drink that was like strawberry sangria and strawberry gin and tonics, which I brought to a girls' night party and which we demolished. And finally, there was what was to be my crowning glory: a strawberry rhubarb pie, also from Smitten Kitchen.

I don't make pies all that often, but there's just something about them. A pile of cookies might taste just as good or better, but to me a pie just looks so much more impressive. I think, wow, that person made pie crust! Assembled things! Perhaps beat some meringue! I usually avoid them because they're harder to transport, but this week I was overloaded with strawberries and rhubarb from the farmer's market and I just had to give it a shot. I also had received a surprise package in the mail a few weeks ago from my friend Shawn: two large nested cardboard boxes that ended up holding a very nice maple rolling pin. Until now, I've dealt with pie crust by either rolling it out with a glass or simply smushing it around the pie plate until it covered everything it was supposed to cover. But this time, I whipped out my rolling pin and had that plate covered in next to no time. I added the gooey filling and then made a lattice top over it (My first lattice top! I took a cell phone picture, because I'm a dork) and baked it until it was brown and bubbly. Then it was nearly 2 AM (summer heat means using my insomnia for late-night cooking), and so I went to bed.

The results, when I tried it the next day, were much more disappointing than my clumsy-but-still-exciting lattice. My rhubarb was crunchy, not to the point of inedibility, but certainly not the warm gooey texture I'd been dreaming of. So I made myself another gin and tonic and vowed to try again next year.

Strawberry Sangria

1 bottle (at least) red wine
1 quart strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped

Er, basically just mix everything together and chill. My boss (who gave me this recipe; I love my job sometimes) recommended 1/2 cup of sugar per quart of berries but that was waaaaaay too sweet for my taste. I'd actually recommend, if you're with a few people, mixing a few spoonfuls of the wine-and-berry mixture with a glass of non-strawberried wine; we did that at the party I was at last week and it was just enough sweetness to add a new dimension without being overwhelming. You can smash the strawberries with a potato masher or other blunt object to make the drink a little smoother.

Strawberry Gin and Tonic

1 quart strawberries, sliced
3 tbs sugar
juice of one lime
splash of gin

Once again, just mix it all together and smash the berries if desired. Let the above ingredients chill together for at least fifteen minutes to let the strawberries macerate, and then mix a few spoonfuls into your gin and tonic.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

clothes minded

When I was a little girl, I was all about the dress-up. I would run around my apartment complex in a pink ballerina costume asking people if they thought I was pretty, and I frequently put on a frilly dress, white gloves, large hat, and lace-trimmed socks and demand to go to the grocery store with my mother. (She loved that, as you can imagine.) But as I got older and more self-conscious, as girls tend to do, dress-up became a far smaller part of my life.

It wasn't until I started reading and thinking about gender that dress-up made a reappearance in my life. Ru-Paul's words, that we're all born naked and the rest is drag, resonated with me and freed me up to experiment just a little bit with my presentation. I've written this summer about feeling fairly androgynous but there have also been other phases, most notably a resurgence of my femmey self a few summers ago. I haven't been feeling particularly girly lately, but when I heard that Genderqueer Chicago was going to be having a drag 1920's party I knew I was going to have to femme myself up in some sort of outrageous fashion. For one thing, I look like a total dweeb in boy drag--think bible salesman--and for another I have a very flapper-esque body type. When else was my lack of boobage going to count in my favor for girl drag? But also, I just kind of wanted to, and for me being an excessively feminine girl is pretty damn subversive feeling.

And so I showed up in perhaps the shortest black dress I've ever owned, my hair curled and pinned on top of my head and sporting heels, two pearl necklaces, and a peacock feather. My friends were all looking incredibly dapper in their suits, fedoras, knickers, and mustaches, and much to my relief and surprise the vast majority of people walking into the rather swanky pretentious under-lit gay bar we were at were decked out in similar fashion. Dress parties are only fun if people really go for it, and I've been to more than my fair share where I did and other people did not; it's gotten to the point where, if I'm invited to a theme event, I often show up in normal clothes with my costume in tow just in case. I will never forget showing up to my first Ugly Christmas Sweater party (in another town, which pretty much obliterated my chances of a change of clothing) wearing a christmas tree turtleneck, red pants, and a vest embroidered with huge Santa faces only to find out that no one else had dressed up. And then there was the early nineties party where I showed up in neon Blossom shorts and a midriff-baring orange plaid halter top tied in front, only to discover that the host had forgotten to inform most of the other guests that it was a theme party at all. I believe both events ended with excessive drunkenness on my part, largely due to embarrassment and the massive discomfort of looking like a total weirdo.

But last night? It was classy. Fedoras abounded, as did vests and ties. I felt like a million dollars, and even though I was nearly the only person there in girl drag I was completely comfortable with that. It felt good to see so many happy costumed queer folk chatting and making new connections and generally taking over the bar we'd booked; all these queers in this blowdried gay male space! It made me so happy. And even though we didn't talk formally about Genderqueer Chicago, it still felt like one of the major underlying layers to the evening. I talked with people about queer barbecues, pronoun choice--I was asked multiple times which pronouns I preferred, and there was a group lean towards y'all as a neutral option--and yes, sometimes even what the group was about and what we hoped to do in the future. We have time and space later for more words and deeper discussions, but as a coming out party this was the bee's knees.