Ziggy played guitar.

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I woke up this morning like millions of other people to the news of the death of David Bowie. Like those millions of other people I was shocked to the point of disbelief, and surprisingly devastated by my sadness. I felt like I had lost someone I knew. I am sure this was exacerbated by the fact that it was, for those of us not in the know, a complete surprise. Not to mention the fact that there are some people you cannot imagine the world without, and David Bowie is definitely one of those eternal souls.

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I listened to his music all morning and was somehow consoled by the fact that my social media feeds were completely and totally dedicated to Bowie. That all my friends felt – maybe as unwittingly as I had, or maybe not – as equally distraught by this loss made me feel like it was okay to be feeling the way I was.

And that was what David Bowie always did.

He made it okay to be who we were.

There are hundreds, more likely thousands of tributes and testaments and honorifics that emerged instantly from his star dust. And I probably don’t need to add one more. Still, so much has been said about how Bowie was there for the “weird kids” or the oddballs, or the ones that didn’t fit in. But he was more than that.

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David Bowie was so damn cool that he gave the generic kids – the kids like me who weren’t edgy or cool or different enough – a”in” in the same way he gave the aforementioned people validity and acceptance. I cannot think of another person who had that much cool: enough for everyone.

By simultaneously giving a voice and validity to kids who didn’t fit in so easily and showing the kids who needed an extra push to step out of the pains of adolescent (or other) conformity, Bowie became a conduit to a kind of energy that changed my generation entirely.

He fed us pure inspiration, beautifully strange and always unpredictable, yet somehow everything made perfect sense. No other musician was more influential for our generation. David was a pioneer, and inventor, a space traveller, a superhero, a truly astonishing songwriter and a friend. – Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran

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In 1983, I was tall, skinny, awkward, and trying to figure out what mattered to me at a really weird time to be alive. I listened to this album non-stop for nearly two years and was completely taken with the tall graceful man who defied any sort of label my 7th grade self could come up with. 

Suddenly, I had someone who helped me be a little less awkward and something that I knew mattered.

The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.

That he mattered this much to so many other people who I never understood were just as desperate to find an entity-oddity-starman like Bowie makes me feel connected to humanity in a way that defies explanation but seems even more important with every passing day of my life.

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Ubiquitous, ever-present, fluid, transcendent.

He will be king.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we’re lovers, and that is that…

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[All images from public domain.]

Sei sup mmmmmmmmm: ripple in still water.

I wanted to write tonight. I took care of all the things I needed to take care of today and I was all ready to give myself time to sit and write. But I couldn’t. I mean, obviously I could have in a literal fingers-to-keys kind of way, but not in a metaphorical making-meaning(ful)-meaning kind of way.

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

I wanted to write about this video I took from JM’s car in Paris this summer.

I wanted to write about something satisfying. Like about taking a group of high school seniors to listen to a conversation with US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on a Friday night and having them come out of the talk and say, “He is all about the Social Contract, isn’t he?”

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But, no.

I suppose if I were a writer, I would say I had writer’s block. But I am not really a writer, am I? Only in so far as one with an Instagram is a photographer, or one who goes to church is a Christian (I wanted to write about the Pope too, because I cannot get enough of the Pontiff.) Instead, I sat. I considered meditating, but I didn’t want to make the cat move, and I sort of suck at meditation anyhow.

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken,
Perhaps they’re better left unsung.
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air.

I turned 45 this week. I sat with that for a while. 45. Forty five. Cuarenta y cinco. Sei sup mm. Fifty minus five.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

Maybe that is why I can’t think of anything good to write. Maybe by the time you get to be this age, you are supposed to have a whole bunch of real things to write about, and here I sit with my immaculate home and my two cats and some loud Eighties music in my unbearably hip neighborhood, and no typical accomplishments like husbands and divorces and kids and shit to write about.

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

I was born in 1970. Do you know how long it takes to scroll to that year when you are filling out your birthdate on-line? You have to pick your finger up off the touch pad at least twice. That shit is crazy. Nixon was the president and my Grandma M tried cocaine. That would have been something to see.

In 1970 things were pretty fucked up.

I came of age in the 1980s. Do you know how accidentally iconic the Eighties have become? What I know recall about the Eighties could feather your hair. I still love the music, hipsters still love the fashion. We are all still paying for the politics.

In the 1980s things were pretty fucked up.

I got some education in the 1990s: formal and otherwise. Do you think everyone assumes the time they opened their minds is the more relevant than that of others? I don’t know, but a lot of shit happened in the nineties. And then at the end of 1999 the world didn’t end and I think a lot of people thought that was pretty fucked up

I had my mid-life crisis in the mid-90s. Which makes sense because I never really thought I would live very long (which is kind of dumb of me because the women in my family tend to live a very long time.) For whatever reason my mid-life dramz kicked off at 34. It took me about four years to sort that shit out.

Mid-life crises are pretty fucked up.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

On the weekend leading up to my birthday I met someone who is in her mid-30s and appears to be on track to have a midlife crisis just like mine. (Apparently it’s not just movies and politicians from the decade that never go away.) I told her I had to sail away to China to deal with it. She did not get the musical reference, but I am fairly certain she is on board with the rest of it. I predict she breaks up with her boyfriend before the end of this year (not due to my counsel, mind you – I am not a meddler, just a sharer.)

Maybe the reason this birthday isn’t sitting so well with me is that I don’t have anything to be in crisis about because I already got all destructive and ridiculously reckless ten years ago and so it feels empty of purpose. I emerged from my midlife crisis down one Wal-Mart-shopping boyfriend and one suburban tract house, but as my kids would say: I am not about that life.

Life in with the suburbs was pretty fucked up.

You, who choose to lead, must follow
But if you fall you fall alone.
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home.

This week was my fifth repatriated birthday. The birthday itself was not particularly eventful, but at this point in one’s life, that seems like a win. A dear friend I have known since the 8th grade said to me, “I hope you feel how much you are loved.” Yes, L, I did. And here I am, in a great city, with great hair, a few new wrinkles, amazing friends, no involuntary responsibilities, and I am alive.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

So, happy birthday to me: good hair, good shoes, wrinkles, and a potty mouth, but crisis free. That’s livin’: L-I-V-I-N.

That seems like a lot to write about.

I’ll get back to writing in no time, I am sure.

That’s So Gay! And That’s So Awesome!

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The recent Pride celebrations in San Francisco – and across the nation – were especially festive as they coincided with the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision forbidding states from denying gay people the right to marry. This decision has unsurprisingly upset a lot of people. I have no idea why. I mean, I have an idea because they are always saying it is because it is against their beliefs and the Bible forbids it and therefore it should be forbidden to all people… and some folks throw in some nonsense about how the sanctity of marriage is some sort of cornerstone of our society… I guess I mean I do not understand the “marriage” of these realities, or how people who preach freedom feel that the freedom of others shits on their own. Rainbow sparkly unicorn shit, apparently.

I don’t even want to be bothered to explain how something being against one person’s beliefs cannot be made into law because in the same way they get to hold their beliefs, others get to hold theirs (oh hi First Amendment to the US Constitution), or how the Bible forbids all sorts of shit (like wearing mixed blend fibers and shaving) and encourages all sorts of shit (like infidelity and spousal abuse) and so selective enforcement of Biblical law might make a person a hypocrite (because I really do not care what you believe – only that you do not [and legally cannot] make me believe the same because: America.) I also am not interested in explaining how the “sanctity” of marriage is evolving if it is even still a thing. The divorce rate is actually dropping, only about a third of marriages now end in divorce, but the interesting reality behind this trend includes a whole bunch of inconvenient truths for fans of “traditional” marriage. It turns out that the reasons marriages are lasting longer has to do with increased reproductive rights and work equality for women. Also, as more educated people marry, and marry later, marriages seem to last longer. Another painfully obvious reason divorce rates are dropping is that marriage rates are also dropping. People who live together and then break up (often as traumatic and costly as a divorce) don’t figure into the stats. But there remains a positive correlation between some of the most rabid defendants of “traditional” marriage and divorce, which is a little awkward.

I don’t want to talk about all that because I really do not care about marriage. At all. I also do not care about, say, American football. You might even go so far as to say I do’t really believe in either of them and what they stand for. But why on earth should that preclude other people from being crazy about either institution? Their passion for football or marriage has no impact on my life.

I am far more interested in the freedoms and protections that our Constitution guarantees. And with expression being one of them – along with equality under the law – it seems that the whole gay rights thing should be redundant.

Of course it is not because, well, because people everywhere feel compelled to tell people that they “are doing it wrong” and bent on proving that rather than just living their own lives.

After the marriage equality ruling came down, the world exploded in rainbows (really literally in a lot of cases) and landmarks across the country got rainbowed.

So of course people got angry. Because, rainbows and ponies and glitter.

I think – aside from the obvious reality that I am in favor of any ruling that is going to prevent the government from getting involved in personal matters – like who is marrying who (remember when interracial marriage was illegal? #awkwardtruehistory) – the rainbows struck a personal chord with me because I am a child of the eighties. For real. As I watched the eruption of positivity and joy around Pride this year I realized it all feels like coming home. I was raised – culturally, with no specific familial influence – in a Pride parade. Consider my early cultural imprinting:

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It is all so fabulously gay! And all the men I loved? Well, you be the judge:

Even the straight guys seem pretty gay…

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I have a completely ineffective gaydar because of all this… Seriously – who could tell? And who cares (well, except for the inconvenient truth that those super cute waiters I was crazy for as a tween at the Crest Cafe in Hillcrest were never gonna be waiting for me – outside of some John Waters style of fiction.)

This was also a time when we were trying to work out WTF about HIV/AIDS and lots of our standard popular culture was littered with the pejorative, “Fag!” Strange bedfellows fear creates indeed. When I revisit those films now I always have a double take because it’s always coming from someone dressed like the above, and I am like, “Really.” It was around this time that I once referred to something as “So gay” in a disparaging way in front of my (gay) aunt who perfunctorily said, “Oh really? Gay? Do tell.” That was awkward. But important. And as I think about all the parts of my life that really are “so gay” I realize they are fundamental parts of me, my person, my taste, and my mind. In the most awesome ways.

I guess my point is this: I love the rainbows and the glitter and the gay. And for people who do not, and who are allowed to not, don’t. The difference is now you can’t legally discriminate based on your personal beliefs – which you were never supposed to do anyhow. #LOVEWINS

And if you don’t believe me, ask Jon Stewart.

Coach J.

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My Coach is retiring this year. I knew it would happen sometime, but really it had started to seem like maybe… Anyhow, the older we get the more clear it becomes that nothing lasts forever in a singular familiar way. Sometimes when I think about Coach – which is almost every day in some capacity – I laugh thinking to myself how old we thought he was when we were in school. And he was barely older than  I am now. In fact, if I am precise, when the time comes to mark the anniversary of the actual moment I first met him I think I will be exactly the same age he was on that fall day back in 1984.

I introduced my Coach to one of the teams I coached in the early 2000s. They were thrilled for the chance to meet the man upon whom pretty much my entire philosophy of excruciating hard work, consistency, practice, and the unwavering belief that (in the majority of circumstances in high school basketball) discipline and effort could get ‘er done. These girls were one of the first groups I had led, without assistance, as my own team. They changed me in a lot of ways and I like to think I made a difference for them; and meeting my coach was something I was able to do to show them a little bit of what was ‘behind the curtain’ in my life, one I tend to share very little of with my clientele.

So we drove down to Sacramento where the Petaluma Lady Trojans (a disappointing, yet enduring adjustment of my school’s mascot for the women’s sports programs… often “T-Girls” as well, yet I digress) were playing in the Northern California CIF Championship. For the uninitiated, this is a huge accomplishment in a state like California with more than 1,450 high school teams – our section, the NCS has 171 competing schools at different classifications. (The Southern Section boasts 567!) When we arrived at Arco Arena in Sacramento and found the Petaluma contingency, I felt like a prodigal daughter returning home – in my heart feeling so lacking relative to what I had once intended to accomplish by the ripe old age of 30, and shy about “just” being a high school teacher and varsity basketball coach in front of the man who had seen me through years of awkward adolescent declarations of what lay ahead for me. The moment passed in a millisecond as my coach embraced me, my girls, the moment in the way he always had.

I was one of his girls and he was going to let people know exactly what that meant; he suffered no fools, failures, or lackeys. If you were one of Coach’s girls you were something special, and he was going to make sure you, and those around you saw that. On my darkest days I often find myself turning to some small memory of something Coach said to me over the years.

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What an immeasurable, tremendously generous gift.

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I read the news today, oh boy…

The summer before my sophomore year in high school, or was it my junior year – I don’t remember anymore, I went to Chico State for basketball camp. I really only remember a few things about that camp: it was stupid hot – like 110 degrees by noon; my coach – who had been like Captain America of Chico in his day – took us to have the world’s tallest soft serve ice cream cones, and eating them was a futile endeavor in the aforementioned heat; we went to see a movie (About Last Night) with Coach, and that was pretty much the height of awkward; and I listened to a mixed tape that Willy had made for me over and over and over and over again, in particular the Beatles A Day in the Life.

And somebody spoke and I went into a dream

I never understood why he put that song on there. Though to be fair Willy dedicated every moment we spent together through high school educating me about the cultural deficits that we were suffering in the 80s and showing me that my parents’ tastes were where I should be looking to develop my own, and so he often showed me how to be less lame by giving me mixed tapes that included songs that confused me because I couldn’t tell if they were supposed to make me happy or sad. But I listened to this one over and over.

And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh

Willy was an old soul, people said. He did always seem to know things that I didn’t, but should’ve. He never got really wound up about stuff. He always had that little smile on his face that let you know he was in on the joke, even when you didn’t know there was a joke.

A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure if he was from the house of lords

Thirty-two years ago today John Lennon was shot and killed in front of his building on the Upper West Side. I remember the day that this happened. We were living in Seattle. Reagan had just been elected president. It got dark at 4:30 in the afternoon and that always struck me as really weird. I had just gotten all interested in the Beatles myself as a 10 year-old who would endure adolescence in the 80s and revisit the Beatles under the tutelage of a wise soul. In 1980, I was partial to Meet the Beatles and their early pop endeavors. I always liked George. My mom was completely dedicated to John. He seemed like an old soul. I am pretty sure we had just gotten Double Fantasy, or I want to think we had it before it happened. That album would play a lot in my house, like a way to punctuate an event where nothing seems apropos.

I read the news today oh, boy
About a lucky man who made the grade

I remember my mom trying to explain how sad it made her. I remember that my dad never opened the newspaper that day. It is still in the plastic sleeve. He said there was no reason to read the news. I understand days like that much more now.

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

I’ve been talking a lot with my students lately about how the news is so depressing. We wonder where the cycle started. Like, what came first bad news or bad behavior. What would happen if the news didn’t report the bad stuff? Would it make a difference? We never agree on an answer.

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Thank you John Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980)