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It’s VONA retreat day one. And I’m exhausted. A full day of the energy and fire of these people. I’ve gotten started on my comics project, which pleases me. But much more, the time here has already made me better. Last night’s laughing and dancing and singing and photo-taking, and general loud-and-crazy, adult-slumber-party fun was exactly what I needed. Today’s reading and writing and thinking and dreaming has also been exactly what I needed. Can’t wait until tomorrow! (And cutting myself short tonight, so I can post this while I still have a wifi connection … one of the problems with this country escape is the spotty service!)


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Make that, what my world needs now. Most definitely love, sweet love. Thank goodness I have plans for so much of that this weekend.

It’s time for the New York Area VONA retreat! This afternoon I got on a train headed north and I’m now at this lovely farmhouse in the country! This retreat — insert contented sigh — means a weekend full of love. And, of course I mean how much I love my VONA fam and how much they love me. But I also mean love for myself.

This weekend is all about slowing down and taking the time to focus on my writing, something work has made very difficult.

It’s clear to me that I was naive in my perception of what my new job would be like. It is far more high-powered than I’d anticipated. It’s a great job that I’m quite happy to have, but it doesn’t leave me much time. And my work, my writing, has suffered.

I’m not setting and hard targets for the weekend. I am, however, bringing with me my nice, thick notebook, pens and lots of ink, my computer, and the thumbnail sketches for a new comic that have been languishing in my desk for two months. Anything is possible.

And I want that to be true, want anything to be possible. All the time, not just this weekend.

When I talk about my leisurely unemployment this past summer (I want to write “luxuriant,” even though it’s not the right word because it really feels like the right word), I tell people that I recommitted to myself as a writer. I actually say those words. And it sounds weird when I say it, weird enough to jolt me out of my train of thought for a second. But it also feels absolutely correct. I spent a lot of time last summer focused on myself as a creative person, and all that focus made clear to me how much I hadn’t been giving myself and how much I needed to change that.

And then I started my new job. I’ve been running so fast since starting work last fall. The intensity of the pace and the nonstop-ness of it has been overwhelming. A month or so ago I read an article about a bunch of people who work where I work, and one of them made a comment about having a “24-hour job.” I read that and stopped. That’s the problem! I have a 24-hour job. There’s no casual, “Oh, it’s 5:30. I’m heading home,” when the thing I’m working on has to be released/announced/in the paper the next day. You stay till the thing is done. Punto.

And that’s all fine and well, but it also means far less time for all the ways I was enjoying my life over the summer.

And so this weekend. It’s about reminding myself how much I value myself — my time, my creativity, my need to be foolish and fun. Talk about what my world needs now!


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Today, I was not wearing a dress. Today I was walking down Eastern Parkway to a meeting at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. It was a semi-gorgeous afternoon and my coat was open. My lovely multi-pink scarf (thank you, Sonia!) was fluttering around me, my hair was big and fabulous. I was looking forward to my meeting because I love the library.

“Big-legged woman.”

And I thought, “Oh, come on.” I mean, after all, I just finished writing about this nonsense. I need new material if I’m going to make it through the rest of this Slice of Life Challenge.

The speaker was behind me. I just kept walking. And he kept on, too.

“I don’t know, but I been told. A big-legged woman ain’t got no soul.”

(In tune, in a really good, deep, raspy voice, too. Maybe he was even doing a little air-guitar accompaniment.) Still, I resisted turning around. I was so close to the Children’s Library entrance . A few more yards and I could duck inside and be done.

“You don’t need no soul, baby. I got enough to share.”

And into the library. Free.

He had enough soul to share. And he sang the exact LZ line I referenced in my last post. That almost made me laugh out loud. It really might be the best bit of street harassment of my whole life. (Or maybe a close second to another street singer from a couple of years ago.) The universe, she likes playing with my head.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Thank you. I know.

Some clarification after yesterday’s half-angry, half-tired post. I do appreciate the compliment that arrived in my comments and the spirit in which it was given. But let me speak plainly: I know I’m beautiful. Yes, it’s taken some years for me to see / acknowledge / accept that truth. But I have. The foolish man who needed to tell me how unacceptable I am probably can’t imagine that such comfort with myself is possible, but that’s about him, not me.

And maybe it sounds vain for me to take my friend’s compliment and just say, “I know.” That’s because it is vain. I don’t have any problem with some healthy, based-in-reality vanity. I am vain about my looks, my hair, my voice. I am extremely vain. Let’s not get me started on all the other ways I’m vain, all the other things I love about myself.

But for the most part, that man on the street and his comment had nothing to do with what I look like and whether I am attractive. People who say things to me on the street — whether they know it or not — are always talking about themselves and just using me as a convenient outlet for whatever pain or frustration they are feeling. In the case of men, there is also the fact that many men believe that every woman only exists in public for a) his viewing pleasure, b) his assessment and comment, c) his control.

That guy Monday couldn’t see me, didn’t even try. He saw a female body and decided he had power over it. He isn’t attracted to big-legged women (after all, everyone knows we ain’t got no souls). His lack of attraction didnt keep him from looking, mind you. It did, however, give him license to say whatever nonsense seemed “right” in the moment.

Maybe he was having a crap day, someone making him feel as if he was getting too big for his britches, taking up too much space. So telling me that I am too big, that no one wants to see me was how he felt about himself just then.

But see, all that mess? That’s him. That’s all about him. I may have been the one to be splashed with the garbage juice as his truck rolled by, but he’s the one full up with the stuff.

So I appreciate the reassurance that I am fabulous, but in this instance I don’t so much need it. There are plenty of other areas in which I am the poster child for low self esteem, and in those areas I welcome all the ego-boosting I can get. What I need right now is continued strength to not dole out dope slaps on the regular.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Miss me.

Yesterday I wore a dress. It’s not a big deal, or shouldn’t be. I was still beat to my socks after Saturday’s adventure, and I had to sit on a panel mid-day, and I wanted to perk myself up. So I wore a new dress, a dress that hits just about at my knees. For me, this is as out of character as wearing a micro-mini. Folks who know me: when have you ever seen my legs? Seriously. But I’ve been wearing “short” dresses for a few months now, so it’s weird but becoming not weird for me.

So I wore a dress. With tights and boots. I went to work, I went uptown to sit on the panel. I left the place where the event was held and walked to the subway.

“Nobody wants to see that.”

I heard this semi-surly voice say that as I headed down Park Avenue. I kept walking because it seemed to be one of the random snippets of someone else’s conversation that filter into your consciousness.

“Big-legged women in short dresses. You’re too big. Believe me, no one wants to see that.”

This time, the speaker — a small, maybe-40-year-old Black man in a leather stadium coat over a suit — got right up on me to say what he had to say.

People often tell me they’re surprised by the things folks have no problem saying to me. I’m not surprised. Certainly not about this. Being rude and insulting to fat people is the last truly safe bullying, discriminatory behavior people have. Yes, you can be a jerk about all kinds of things, but there will almost always be someone ready to speak up for the person you’re insulting, someone ready to call you out on your racism, homophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, ableism. With fat people, that’s pretty much never going to be the case. Fat people, because we have the audacity to be fat, are assumed to deserve whatever bile you choose to spit on us.

But you know what? Not really. And not me.

I stopped and looked at him. I made a dramatic “shocked” face, complete with one hand on my cheek and my mouth in a stunned “O.”

“Really?!” I asked.

He looked pleased, ready to tell me all about how disgusted he felt at the sight of me.

I dropped my hand and smiled. “Good thing what I wear has absolutely nothing to do with anyone but me.” I looked down, gave myself a once-over. “You’re only seeing my legs because you’re looking at them.” I started walking again. “You don’t like what you see? Look at something else.”

Yes, it hurts my feelings to have some jackass say no one wants to see a woman who looks like me. But you know? I’m not here for anyone’s fat-shaming. I’m not here for men thinking I can or should be ruled by their gaze. I’m not here for strangers on the street who think they have anything to say about what I choose to wear, how I wear it, or how I look wearing it. You can miss me with all of that.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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24 Hours Later

(Yes, I know, it’s really many more than 24 hours later, but I’m taking full poetic license.)

A second night’s sleep has retuned me to just-about-normal (thank goodness) and, though still pretty tired, I’m finally ready to talk a little more about my experience.

In a comment on yesterday’s post, my friend Sonia said it might be better to have the 24 hours run from noon the noon. That way, I could have gotten a full night’s sleep before starting out. As much as the idea of a full night’s sleep appeals, I think noon to noon would mean more people dropping out before the end of the 24 hours.

Because midnight to six is the hardest part of the day, it’s good to get it over with first. If I had gone out at noon and shot for 10, 11, 12 hours … and then been faced with the long day’s journey into night of midnight to six … well, it’s pretty unlikely that I’d have made it through. Starting with the roughest patch makes the remaining hours look easier.

I did work myself up into feeling more nervous than I’d have liked about the midnight run. Not enough to keep me from starting out, but definitely nervous. On the safety side, I didn’t see a lot I could do. I’d be fine, or I wouldn’t be. Yes, I would avoid particularly dark, empty, dangerous-seeming places, but what else is there? I don’t have weapons, don’t carry pepper spray. So really my being safe is more in the hands of other people on the street. I hate the truth of that, but isn’t that what’s always true?

As for making myself look safe to other people … similar quandary. People would either see my harmlessness or they wouldn’t. There were a few things I could do, though. I know that making eye contact and giving a tiny bit of a smile can help, so I figured it could do that. Wearing a dress could help, too. A dress can fool people into thinking you’re soft. We had a snow storm on Friday, and it was sleeting as I got ready to go out, but I decided to wear a dress all the same (with leggings and boots and under my down coat). So yes, in order to look less dangerous to some people, I made myself look more vulnerable to other, less savory people. Feh.

There were tricky moments, out on the street alone. Around 3am I was in the West Village, heading downtown, and a man approaching me changed his direction to walk with me and then to follow me when I wouldn’t talk to him. That was when I found the diner I was sitting in when I took the photo of the police officers. When I came up from the A train at Port Authority so that I could walk over to Times Square and meet my friend and his friends — it was maybe 4:45am — there was an angry, not-at-all-well man at the top of the stairs as I left the station, and I didn’t immediately notice how “off” he was and almost walked right into the middle of the scene he was making. Just as he took notice of me — the kind of notice that meant he turned and began to come at me — I realized my error and took a sharp left and crossed 42nd Street so that I could be away from him. He could have followed, but chose not to.

There were also excellent moments. I got on a bus at about 2:30 hoping to get some pics of the other riders … only to find that I was the only rider. The driver smiled and asked where I was going. “No one here,” he said. “I’ll take you wherever you’re going!” There was meeting the guys in the, “Peace, baby!” photo, who were very nice and just made me laugh.

Hmm … fading fast. There were many more moments, both tricky and lovely, but once again, I need to sleep. It’s time to put my tired self to bed so I can close the distance between myself and my rested, no longer sore self. I’m hoping tomorrow I feel entirely like myself. So I leave you with my slide show of the night. I would love to hear what you think of the pictures, of the stories, of how well or not they two fit together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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I did it! I got through all 24 hours of the 24 Hour Project!

Simpsons fans will know that my title means I’m standing and walking … but it’s a close thing. I am in a significant amount of pain today, and will probably need another day or two to fully recover, so completing the 24 hours was hardly a forgone conclusion. I wound up having to cheat a little — pictures from in front of my house during my first self-care pit stop, pictures from out my office window during the second pit stop … and one utterly shameless selfie.

Those pit stops saved my life, I think. Coming home to put my leg up and ice my knee got me through the whole afternoon. Stopping at my office to put my leg up and massage my knee got me through to midnight. I’ll need to think about how to build in more frequent self care next time.

My pictures are hardly award-winning. There are a few standouts, but mostly not. That said, I like all of them, and they all gave me stories to tell. Spending a full day thinking about how I take picutres, and having a few opportunities to watch my very talented friend take his pictures was great. He and I have very different styles, but I learned so much from him, even in the short time we were together.

Definitely a good day. I was able to write mini stories for most of the pictures I chose to post. I was able to meet up with five friends over the course of the day, which was great. I am trying to figure out how to share the slideshow I made of the pictures and stories, but my to0-sleepy brain isn’t quite getting there. Maybe tomorrow. You can see all of them on instagram (@girlgriot), where I’ll also be posting alternate images that didn’t make into the 24-hour stream. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites to give you an idea:

2pm_24Hr_2015

Jaime loves doing “my first cuts” best. He still remembers his own, the ritual, the respect for process and artistry. He likes passing that on to the young ones in the community.

2:05pm #NewYorkCity “Tradition” by @girlgriot as part of the #BLM247 #24hourproject #24hr15#24hr15_NewYorkCity

 


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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