Isn't it cool that the gay rights movement has gained so much steam that we can now say "pride" and the "gay" is pretty much implied? That the movement has come to own this word so profoundly that no explanation is needed? That it has taken on a new meaning which is both much more specific, much more whole? That pride is not only for those who are proud to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, but also for those of us who are proud to advocate for equal rights? 

In New York on Sunday, pride was for everyone. Everyone who knows and says out loud that all human beings deserve the same right to happiness, whether that's to marry or just to be. I stepped up to the crowd of onlookers just as Governor Cuomo went by, hoards of supporters in his wake, holding up signs that read "PROMISE KEPT". Dan Savage, who started the It Gets Better Project, was the Grand Marshall, and he and his partner Terry rode by atop a white convertible, smiling and waving and deserving every bit of our respect. 

We saw senators and their families, human rights organizations and their supporters. We saw children who will hopefully grow old in a world where the kind of victory that happened in New York last week will not seem like history in the making, but like a given. We saw drag queens and partial nudes. We saw people being people and people letting them. We saw incontrovertible and unflinching joy. We saw a couple of old men who were probably there when this whole movement started, walking hand in hand and waving flags that told everyone - those who support them and those who fear them - that they have been together in love for 31 years. We saw all this with tears in our eyes and love in the humid New York City air.  

I know it will continue to take time, but things are changing, and I can't wait to see what that's going to look like.


Hey, I'm 25.

Source: None via Shannon on Pinterest

Well, twenty-five and one week, to be precise. Last Friday was my birthday, and I feel like I’m still recovering from the weekend of celebrating. Twenty-five is a nice number, isn’t it? I like how it feels in my mouth when I say it out loud, clean and round like a ripe piece of fruit. I like how it sounds. The five much lighter than its cumbersome predecessor, it practically skips through the air. I’m happy to be rid of the awkward four, so dull and slow, the kid in PE who drags his feet and always gets picked last for the team. Twenty-four is a limbo, an in-between, a not-quite-there-yet. It’s the invisible rock you trip on right before the finish line.
Or maybe that’s just what it was to me. I remember not wanting to turn twenty-four. It was the first time I felt decidedly averse to the idea of stepping into the next year of my being. I wasn’t ready; I hadn’t done enough. My life was at a stand still, a turning point but I couldn’t see what was around the next corner, a blank wall I couldn’t figure out how to decorate, a puzzle I couldn’t solve.
It was, in a word, lacking. 
(Read my take on the 20-something life here.) 
But twenty-five? This feels different. I most certainly don’t have it all figured out, don't really have a plan, but I like where I am right now. On Sunday night I stood outside a trendy restaurant with my parents, drunk and happy for the second day in a row, and said, I love my life. The words floated down the street and I was acutely aware of the fact that I had never uttered them before. Not that I haven’t been happy before now, not that I haven’t done and seen some amazing things, but I am only just learning what it means to be content.
And on my birthday last Friday I was exactly that. I had the day off work and allowed myself, guilt-free, to stay in bed until noon. The afternoon was a field trip to the Sutro Baths at the end of Golden Gate Park and the trail that runs along the coast. It was sunny and windy, which is as good as you can hope for on a summer day in San Francisco, and the ocean was moving. Dolphins swam idly past, maybe fifty feet or so from the rocky shore, and we watched them from up on a lookout, while I, once again, could not believe that this is where I live.

On our way home, we stopped at Whole Foods and this guy:
Blog, meet Ian.
picked up some things for a birthday dinner he’d been loosely planning. As has become the norm, I followed him around the store quietly, watching his mind work, watching him blink and stare intently at nothing while thinking thoughts about food that I’m sure were beyond me. You guys, he can cook. Like, really cook. 
Saturday night was a party. My housemates and I bought some food and liquor, cleaned the apartment and dressed it up in fresh flowers and mason jars filled with tea lights, and then lo’ and behold, a whole bunch of people came over to get sloppy. They came in and I hopped up and down in my 6-inch wedges, feeling good to be surrounded by so much love. So much fancy and so much free. And if that's what it feels like to be twenty-five, I'll take it.
Oh, and now I'm on vacation in New York. So far? It's a good year.


Color + Light

My window.
Do you ever have those days when you feel things more acutely? When everything is moving, everything is brighter? My skin has been warm since this afternoon when I sat on a bench in the sun for an hour. I am taking some prescription medicine and I forget that it makes me more sensitive to sunlight. Well, there's that, and the fact that my skin never sees the sun in this city. I don't really care, though, because I love it here.

You know that feeling? Loving where you live? Like, really loving it? Turning corners and gasping at some beautiful surprise on a regular basis. Everything is colored, everything is rosy. The late afternoon breeze comes in through your bedroom window, and it's so simple but it makes you feel something that can only be described as light.

You see the city moving around you, and everything looks like shapes, patterns. Like it's alive but like it's art. You're looking at life going by as usual, but your eyes are kaleidoscopes, and everything looks like this:


Food Truck Me

I wouldn't call myself a foodie, but it's hard not to come close when you live in San Francisco. You can find unique, high quality noms made with local organic ingredients pretty much anywhere, even on wheels. Off the Grid is a roaming food court in which all the best gourmet food trucks in the city gather so you can try a little bit of everything. They come to my hood in the Upper Haight every Thursday, but you'll find more trucks and more people at Fort Mason on Friday nights. Here, of course, you get both beautiful bay views and gale force wind. But when you're huddled in a crowd of people eating their way into a food coma, you hardly notice the chill.

I popped over for my first visit and tried the expertly done Asian Asada from Kung Fu Tacos, and Brass Knuckle ("stylish street food" including menu items such as Lamb Halen, Notorious P.I.G. and Fryin' Maiden). What I had to share with you, though, was the cupcake. (Well, I couldn't share the actual cupcake with you, unfortunately. And I probably wouldn't have, anyway.) Cupkates Bakery runs the Bay Area's first cupcake truck, and oh my god can we talk about genius? The Salted Caramel is pictured above, and look how red that Red Velvet is peaking into the frame. It was, in a word, divine.

And speaking of the ethereal the spiritual the up above this world, tonight I'm going to see Florence + the Machine at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, and from what I've heard about her live show, I am not emotionally prepared. I mean, listen: 

Happy Sunday, cupcakes.


Severed heads, etc.

You know how there are some things you just can't tell your parents? Like when a fatal shooting happens just two blocks from your house? That is, two blocks from my house. On Tuesday.

I didn't hear the shots, but I saw the crime scene. Medical examiner van, a fleet of cop cars, investigators in suits standing around everywhere. The whole block wrapped in caution tape. Just when we thought we were safe. Mom? Dad? Are you reading this? (Here's where we find out if my parents actually follow my blog.)

Despite how this sounds, I really do live in a good area. I frequently have to slip through crowds of bums on the corner to get to my front door (protected by an immense wrought iron gate), and some nights I can hear the tormented cries of lifelong junkies through my bedroom window (also protected by wrought iron). Really, though, the Upper Haight is a pretty nice neighborhood. But a shooting? By Buena Vista Park with its expensive homes and their expensive views? This just didn't sound right.

Turns out, it was some criminal from Orange County who had somehow made his way up here in a stolen vehicle and managed to get himself shot by the police by running at them when they tried to arrest him. Pure coincidence that he ended up in my lovely corner of San Francisco, from what I can tell (see more here). So, Mom and Dad, not to worry. Let's just hope those folks down south can contain their suspected bank robbers from now on.

Speaking of foul play, the next night I was having dinner at a friend's place and saw this on their refrigerator:

He had told his mother that he was planning a vacation in Mexico, and she sent him that newspaper clipping in the mail. The best part is that she wasn't joking, at least not entirely. I like his initials there on the top of the index card. I imagine her collecting these absurd and grotesque bits of articles with a pile of index cards neatly stacked on the table next to her, initialing each one so she remembers which of her children to send them to. I have no idea if she actually does this, but you can picture it, right?

I'm lucky that my parents don't worry too much; or if they do, I don't hear about it. And they're lucky that I keep my wits about me and don't do anything stupid. Speaking of stupid, I also found this on my friends' refrigerator:
And on that note, here's wishing you all a weekend with lots of beer and very few severed heads. Try not to get shot, either.


Muni My Heart

If there's anything people in San Francisco complain about more than the weather, it's Muni. I was lucky enough to snag a ride to work today and skip my usual journey on our city's fine public transit, and it made my morning. I watched the bus pull away from my front door without me on it and looked in at all those poor saps hanging like moss on the railings and plastic seats. Ha! Suckers, I thought.

Really though? If I'm being honest? I kind of like Muni. Don't tell anyone that lives here, but a part of me enjoys moving through the streets in that tangled knot of civilization, just a tiny red blood cell in the arteries of the city. Sure, it gets crowded and people are rude. People are loud, take up too much space and are often creepy. People smell. But when it comes down to it these are the people that make up this place that I live in. These people, strange as they may be, are the reason I am here. I wouldn't live in a metropolis if I didn't want to be stirred in with the rest of humanity. The rest of the weird, the inexplicable, the mysterious. The rest of the working, the thinking, the living.

There was a woman on the bus recently who, standing near the door, danced for at least 10 or 15 blocks. I watched her, moving so exuberantly and wondered what must be going on in her head for her to dance in silence like this, everyone around her morose, staring at their hands. Then suddenly the music in my own head stopped. Headphones on, carefully blocking out the rest of the world like a good Muni rider, I hadn't realized that this woman wasn't actually dancing in silence, that some hip hop was coming out of someone's speakers and she saw no reason not enjoy it fully. She was probably a drug addict. But still, I thought, we ought to never assume we know what someone is hearing, what's making them move. We should never assume that just because we can't hear it, there isn't music to dance to.

And speaking of Muni! The Bold Italic (of which I am a huge fan) just published a hilarious guide to good bus-riding in San Francisco (or more accurately, what kind of freaks to look out for). Check out The Bus Stops Here to get an idea of the kind of weirdness you will only see on dear ol' Muni.

Image found at The Bold Italic, one and only.


Buena Vista

Source: etsy.com via Shannon on Pinterest

Folks, we are now almost a week into a new month, and I am somehow still grappling with it. I have never been so surprised to see June on the calendar. And you know why? It's not because I don't keep track of days and weeks (I might not if it weren't for work), and it's not because I've been so busy I failed to notice the passing of time (I am busy, but that's not it).

It's because the weather has hardly changed since January. 

People in most other parts of the world (hell, of the Bay Area) recognize the start of summer with sandals, corn on the cob and sticky sun screen skin, but here in San Francisco, we have to double check our iPhones to make sure we're reading the calendar straight. The sun sets later, sure, but the average temperature in June is 66 degrees. Never in my life has a temperature so low been cause for celebration, impetus to run and skip in the street because you only have to wear a light jacket. I keep hearing, "Oh, this is your first summer in San Francisco?" followed by an evil knowing grin as the fog settles in for a long stay.

I suppose I shouldn't complain, (not considering the weather my friend Stacy in Seattle has been having), but I've learned that complaining about the weather is just something people do here, like eating organic produce or wearing pants. Maybe I'm just trying to fit in. Maybe I'll turn out to be one of the folks 7X7 is talking about who like the weather more than they're willing to admit. (See Jay O'Lear's bit on Why San Francisco Weather Isn't That Bad.)

Because really, if dreary weather means having a weekend like I've just had, it can't be all bad. I'm sure it will wear me down come August, but this weekend it meant staying in bed till noon, drifting in and out of sleep with the soft tap of rain on the window, a cool gray light suffusing through the curtains. It meant sitting in a cafe all day with good company and a good book. It meant taking advantage of a break in the rain with a stroll through Buena Vista Park, a block from my house on Haight Street, and in an instant feeling totally removed from the city. The park is like a little forest, and the weather left it wet and humid. We found edible plants, little onions growing in the ground, wild flowers. The air smelled like nature, like clean wet dirt and photosynthesis.

We went up to the top and stood over the city, over the pastel Victorians, the trees and the churches, the tall buildings downtown, over the hills and the Bay and the bridges; and whatever the sky was doing, we felt, fully and unequivocally, happy to call it home.


Pulp Fashion! Get it?

Since the last few posts have been pretty text heavy, I thought I'd keep things brief today with some images from the exhibit at the Legion of Honor I'll be checking out with my mom this weekend. Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave constructed these elaborate dresses inspired by early European icons. The crazy part? They're made entirely out of paper. I know. They just extended the exhibit through June 12th, in case you're in San Francisco and are as amazed by this as I am.

We're expecting rain here this weekend, and I can't think of a better way to spend the time than strolling through a beautiful museum with my mama, breathing in some art. I hope you all find yourselves some color too, and maybe something that blows your mind just a little bit.

Happy Friday!


The Story of a Birth. 5, and final.

Once it begins, the pushing lasts for about an hour. Jon stands on Erin's right, the grandmothers-to-be on her left. I am down at her legs, front and center with camera around my neck. Erin pushes as instructed by a nurse with a blond bob and a positive attitude. She coaches Erin through, counts out each push -- each mountain she climbs -- and tells her when to relax. In between, Erin cracks jokes and the mood in the room is remarkably light. Excitement is building; the is air electric and fuzzy. It's late morning and the world is awake and it's time. There are a total of 13 people in the room. Midwife, doctor, nurses, nursing students who are there to observe their first delivery. I know there is music, but I am not conscious of it.

I watch only the opening, mesmerized as something takes shape. The nurse's hands work to help the baby out. Push. That's it. You're doing great. Push. There is a sliver of something solid and dark. Push. They're holding Erin's legs up and she throws every ounce of strength she has against the pressure, strength and power she has been cultivating and storing up her entire life for this exact moment. Push. The head appears and I see her smashed red face and I float up out of my body and hover there above it all, suspended in disbelief.

Time stands still and yet moves faster than seems possible. In an instant this baby emerges and is there among us, a living human being with breath and a voice. A voice we all hear and recognize as a sound we weren't sure would ever exist. A voice that will one day become defined and intentional. That will be loud and carry love and hate and every kind of emotion through the air and into the world.

The baby is outside of her, and Erin lets out a wail, a great crying release. She sobs freely and throws herself back onto the bed. Jon cuts the umbilical cord but I don't see it. I see only the blood that splatters on his glasses, face and neck. The baby is carried to the warmer and fiddled with. Jon goes to Erin then goes to the baby then goes to Erin. He is shaking and has no control over his face. Erin laughs when she sees the blood all over him, and asks that he not get any on her pillow. He doesn't even seem to hear her and just burrows into her neck with some desperation. I have never seen him such a wreck. Standing there next to his wife, he removes his glasses and wipes them clean on his shirt, and it is an image I don't think I will ever forget.

Oh, and the name. Erin asks if we want to hear it. "Alice Aurelia," we hear her say. Two perfect little words we've been waiting an eternity for.

Alice Aurelia.

Alice Aurelia.

Alice Aurelia.

She is here. And now, like magic, we all know a new kind of love.


Photos by Erin Senge at Alice's 1st birthday party. See more here.


The Story of a Birth. 4.

1:30am. It becomes apparent that Erin's body will need some rest if it's going to handle what lies ahead. It's been 7 or 8 hours and they predict that time will double before the baby is actually here. She makes the decision on her own to have an epidural, and though she hadn't wanted it in the beginning, it's become the right thing to do. The midwife discovers meconium, a dark green substance indicating fetal distress, and Erin is hooked up to oxygen.

We all leave the room. Jon and I, talking quietly in the hall outside, are acutely aware that the man is inserting a giant needle into Erin's spine at that moment. Jon is scared and tired, and it shows in his face. He's afraid Erin will regret this decision after the birth is all over, he doesn't want her to think he's disappointed in her, and he's crying. I say what matters is that a baby is born and everyone is healthy. I say births never go as planned, and this is how it's meant to happen (I read this in a book, though really I know nothing). I say this is what she needs, and she's sure.

When they let us back into the room, Erin is lying there in peace, blissfully isolated from the pain in her abdomen. We all breathe a collective sigh of relief and settle in to keep watch over her and get a little rest ourselves.

4:45am. After shifting from chair to couch to chair again, my legs propped up on the exercise ball, I sit in the dark room looking on as Erin sleeps. She's so angelic and lovely, and a love for her as my older sister swells in me like I swear I've never quite felt before. She looks both wise and strong, innocent and childlike. And I am so happy to be here.

Jon and I head downstairs in search of food. We sit there in the dark cafeteria booth eating vending machine burritos, trying to act as normal as possible. I think we talk about life and love, change and growth. The places you find yourself that you never could have imagined. The places we have yet to find ourselves.

After an hour more of stiff sleep on the chairs in the waiting room, I get up and convince myself I slept a night, though we've all been up for nearly 36 hours. My hair is oily, my armpits smell, and I'm queasy from too little sleep and too much vending machine burrito, but all I want is to see this baby. That is what we're here for, right? She is still coming?

10:15am. Erin is dilated 9 centimeters and we're waiting for the baby to drop down, shift positions. Erin is sitting up in bed, patiently sucking on ice chips. I brush her hair and put it in a ponytail, Jon sets up two Flip cameras on little tripods. She seems to have grown in size since we arrived, or maybe it's just the size of the moment. Her legs are fully spread with belly balancing precariously between them. You can almost see it quivering as the baby gears up to make her debut. Erin says, "It feels like I'm going to shit a turtle."

And this is where my notes end.


Dear all who are reading: Thank you for bearing with me. I know the length is long, but the wait was longer. Next post, a baby will be born.