From July 2014:
I've always worked, since I could, since I had my driver's license, even after I wrecked my first hand-me-down car first week, 87 Corsica, my dad let me drive the 77 Pontiac Bonneville aka The Battleship to work, not like I had to be working so much I just did as much as they scheduled me, I had nothing else going on but a mild social life and video games, I probably wouldn't have felt the need to work so much, slash my parents probably would have suffered to give me more money if I gave two shits at school but I didn't, had horrible grades, slid by on my freaky intellectual ability to sit down in front of a test on subjects I knew nothing about and still get an A, to write a paper about something I knew nothing about the night before it was due and get an A, but I've always thought the kids who actually worked hard were the real smart ones, but where are they now, and where am I? Still working. I had two jobs in high school, and then three, and I don't remember how I managed three schedules, and it's not like I was starving but I wanted gas to drive my friends around and I wanted to buy cigarettes for my dudes who were kissing me when they weren't with their girlfriends, well that was one dude in particular, but I always liked being the one with spending money, always liked rolling up to 7-11 knowing I could at least get whatever I wanted in there within reason and not have to sweat it, my attitude towards delis and money now, at least I can go ham in the organic deli wherever and not sweat it, even if I got mad debt and no savings and my extra money is going to music videos and my new tattoo obsessions, I always worked and it's always been fine.
I waited tables in truck stops and alternative cafes and then got to New York and fell ass backward into fine dining and blinked and I was a manager at a nice place in the city making sure Padma Lakshmi got her latte and pastry and the nice big table where her team could sit and do whatever people like that do, place where Amanda Bynes holed up in the bathroom doing her makeup for an hour and when I tweeted about it E! DMed me asking for details and I tweeted at them all high and mighty, or maybe I just thought about doing it but just didn't answer, and for awhile that was my identity, especially after my soul mate died almost a year ago, at least I was a manager, I manage people, in effect, I am really good at controlling people, at bringing all of our egos in line with the hierarchal status quo that says brown-skinned people work the shitty jobs and we call them Support Staff and lighter skinned people, or the articulate educated brown ones, work the less shitty jobs and make more money, yes I worked really hard to bring us all in line under that system, I managed the Support Staff specifically, wrought some fucked up filial affection out of those kids, really loved those kids, busted my ass keeping up with the Dominican slang and started to really feel myself in a masculine way so they would respect me, but then it was yanked out from under my feet, kind of in the same way but no way near as traumatic as when Grant was yanked out of my life, but it devastated me in a different way, that whole month before I was turning cards that were Pentacles, I had paid off my credit cards, was paying out people for this show way in advance, and still working full time, good money considering after the scheduling, the money stuff, putting out the numerous fires, I still had a lot of time at that job to just chill and text and fiddle with the lights and the playlist and drift around and just chat to the people.
I went through my 200 hour yoga teacher training last fall same time, grieving and barely holding on to my humanity, but when I came out of it I had this idea, that maybe I loved my job, it had paid me there (though I turned some tricks in August to get me over the hump, got gonorrheah from the same John that gave it to me the year before in the same month, at a different room in the same hotel, and he didn't even remember meeting me the first time, or asking me to shit in his mouth, nice guy though. Nurse who gave me the shot, old Jamaican lady at my neighborhood clinic where the girl who works the front desk is Cher and always calls me by my name, even when I'm on the phone, she's all, "This Penney?", where I cried one time because one of the doctors actually took the time to ask me how I was, when I told her I did sex work, she just wanted to know that I was ok, I'm crying now thinking about it, the nurse gave me the shot for gonorheah the second time in a year she says, with no other mention of it, "Now I ain't gonna see you back in here for this again." Stuck me in my arm with that awful shot, but not as bad as the first one, that one ruined me.) (Also the day I was to pay for my training, I was going to set up a payment plan but this wingnut who moved into the apartment upstairs of the restaurant begged and pleaded to let his movers move his couch through the restaurant and up the fire escape, I gave a flat NO WAY knowing how intense our D.O. could be about disruptions to service, but then I asked her she said to be a good neighbor and let him do it, and he gave me $300, which he had been offering from the beginning, and said to never mention it again, and I pocketed that cash and walked to my first night at teacher training and paid that tuition in cash in full, free and clear, and we never mentioned it again, that fucking nut case and his nut girlfriend who moved in and made him move the couch out, I let them take it out the same way no bribe, I never took a bribe before in my life and almost felt awful about it but I actually don't care, I used it for something good, something that changed my life).
Starting school I went into that room grieving, assuming not a soul could understand what I was going through, losing a friend like I lost, even though my first and best TT buddy and I had met at Grant's memorial, though I didn't recognize him then, didn't see anything then except the lanterns all you amazing old friends of his lit up and let fly while his band played, that was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, I've never cried so hard in my life. But pretty soon I realized everyone in that room had felt pain like that, or something in some way analogous, that's why we were all there, or at the very least we had all felt alienated, felt different, like we didn't belong, and this is something I used to attribute to the human condition but now I know in my heart it's not us it's the way we are forced to live, it's the atomization and fragmentation of families and communities and selves by the forces of rape and domination that keep capitalism and Western culture and white male hegemony moving, but even after TT, even after that job was yanked out from under me, Pentacles not warning me of impending wealth but impending whole planetary shifts of my self-perception and how I sustained myself, I carried my grief around like a curse, like a weapon, bludgeoned people that I was just meeting, particularly men off the hook-up sites with it.
If you don't know, which you probably don't, I took Grant's room after he passed, because who the hell else was I going to let take it? And after his step-dad took all the stuff he could carry back I was left with the rest, and I folded my clothes amongst his, put all my things in his old dresser - I mean hell, "my" dresser in my old room he gave me, anyway - I went through everything, socks, underwear, wife beaters, decided what I would reasonably wear, and put the rest in bags in the hall closet, probably will eventually donate it. That was my penance for losing him, the chore I had to do to be able to benefit materially from my best friend's death, take over his big nice bed and big nice room and inherit this household that I paid a deposit on over two years ago sight unseen just based on a tweet from him after hanging out for one night, I won the lottery in all this, he paved my way to New York, covered my rent before I got my promotion and wasn't making ends meet yet, not by a long-shot, and this is how I dealt with his loss.
But I bore his death like a cross for most of this year, I really did.
I have called myself a lot of things - a Christ, a Goddess, a nobody, a monster - but this year I got really creative, a death priestess, an archangel, a void witch. More importantly, I divided everyone else into categories and phylums of who had seen or felt or experienced enough pain, enough sorrow, classified myself with those that had felt the deep piercing anguish of being forcibly separated from the one you love by dimensions or planes of existence or non-existence, living and not living. I have always felt different. I have always been different. It's true, most people would agree, I'm not average and if you read my last (first) book you know I'm not normal, but even in interviews I said, this is my effort to show that we all are basically the same inside, whatever blah blah blah about that cycle of work, it's true, but I had no idea what different was then, I look at pictures of myself with Grant or even before I met him and I see a child, and I get angry, because I had no idea what was in store for me then, and I had known PAIN then, I had known ANGUISH, I had known HEARTACHE, I had laid in bed and questioned myself for motivations for being alive, and motivations for being dead, and found no convincing argument for either side, and somehow still managed to drag my ass to work to wait tables, drag my ass into drag onto stage to lip synch for my life, and still I knew nothing of what was in store for me after I got that phone call that morning, but suddenly now ... As much as I feel the events of my life have cleaved me apart of that person I was, I also look to the events and phenomena of my life that give me metaphors or wide enough idealogical breadth to not have to cleave anything apart, that make everything seem part of a cohesive whole, I have many of both and maybe it's not that, or the other, but somewhere in between, or none and all at once that's really the whole idea here, that we can look at anything and find reasons to see irreconcilable difference, or beautiful harmony.
The reason I wrote this is because in chair pose today with one of the teachers who has really been instrumental in guiding me through so much of this awful messy crazy life of mine, though she probably doesn't really know it, though I've told her, she's just been there for me in the yoga room, on the mat, in heated rooms and rooms simply hot because we are all moving and breathing and sweating so much, but she really inspires me, as so many of my teachers, mentors, who are now my co-workers do, she said in chair pose, like everyone's least favorite post, though honestly I always loved it early on in practice because at least I knew where I was supposed to be roughly, she said, Make a choice to love this, because the alternative isn't so good. Make a choice to love this. It reminded me of when I was walking past the Freedom Tower randomly after a train snaffu, good thing I got that unlimited card, and though, I love that stupid tower, I mean I hate it, and I fully understand the reasons why fundamentalist Islam decided to fly planes into the old ones, because we are an instrumental part for why extremism exists in this world, our Cold Wars and World Wars and Green Revolutions and missionary work and tourism and all of it, we waste food and the world starves, we force our truth regime of science and Capitalism down everyone else's throat, and you wonder why some nutcases are able to inspire so fully this violent extremism in a bunch of young kids who ain't been nothing but oppressed their whole lives, culturally, materially, so they turn around and oppress the next lower person on the food chain, their women, sound familiar? So they knocked our buildings down and we put up one called Freedom, which is beautiful, but who the hell is free in this fucking country that we stole by committing genocide on a culture that was ravaged by disease we brought over, yes we, white people we are the ones who need to be held accountable for this, be strong, accept it, WE did this, and we continue to live and work and play and party and rage and turn up on this land we pretend to own, these fragmented states united under what? We don't even afford the indigenous tribes native to this land the dignity of ambassadors, the Department of the Interior deals with them, yes, the people who deal with the wildlife and our "natural" "resources," are native peoples living on forced reservations after centuries of cultural genocide a natural resource? And we privatize our prisons and the systems that supposedly keep people out of jail, like diversion, probation, etc, and use extortion to fund our bloated inefficient beauracricies, and shame and punish inner city teachers for low test scores while hacking and slashing every single social service and subsidy, and pretend that it's not racial, pretend that there aren't whole generations of black men bred to fill prisons, and people ask me why I don't go out in drag anymore for fun, because my feet hurt and I'm fucking angry when I get in drag, because Alexis is a force of nature bread of virile hatred for the conditions that created her, that I slowly have rehabilitated into a sort of angry healer or psychic first alert system, I feel pain, this hurts, it hurts to live here and look at this and not know what to do about it, help, we need help over here!
Make a choice to love it. I make a choice to love the Freedom Tower. Fuck Obama, but I make a choice to love that a whole generation of black kids now knows that they could be president some day. Fuck Israel, but what are we gonna do about it, really? Make a choice to love. I don't know how this works beyond chair pose, which I do love, even as it stresses out my 6 month persistent thigh injury, from doing too much vinyasa, for too long, and not varying my movements enough, which has been a blessing in that it guided me to the hot room, to kundalini, to all of these alternative ways of moving equally beneficial that compliment vinyasa in so many ways, I really do smile in chair pose, and I do smile at the Freedom Tower, I think it is beautiful, and maybe that's just because I'm gay and I love dicks and long straight things and things with lights that glimmer in the haze of the city like skylines from anime I used to watch on Saturday mornings as a kid on Sci-Fi, and I do love men, I look at every little boy, these little ass hole kids of all ethnicities that make fun of me in my neighborhood, these twenty-something douche bags that I serve at the bar I work at now who never worked a real day in their lives and want to talk about my tattoo and my ponytail with their crew cuts and cuff-links and whatever bullshit, we are all just trying to embody the things that society has made of us, maybe even I am just filling a role, Goddess knows there have been people like me, like us, in every generation, we are the ones that move things around, not necessarily forward, but around, and I guess something that I realize is that, I can make a choice more immediately, more importantly, to love the things about myself. I worked my whole life. I can love that. Maybe teaching yoga full time isn't for me right now, or ever, maybe I will never support myself with my music, maybe I will and be miserable, maybe if I could just make a choice to love...
I tried to work a different style restaurant for these 6 months to supplement my government aid, where the hierarchies weren't as clear, where the food was vegan and gluten free and the people were conscious and the boss used to be a Bikram manager and abrasively shrieked at us that we were "Change makers!!!" and I left every day smelling like gross unhealthy vegan food and all the gluten free pastries had highly refined and toxic agave in them and the people still sucked sometimes, everyone I worked there I loved, really, but I wasn't making change there, so I am back at a nice place, with brown bar backs, where white people run the show, but I try to at least bring something of what we say in kundalini is our radiant body to it, I try to make it clear to them that my ego isn't wrapped up in subverting theirs, I just want to make my money and make everyone feel good, and yeah I told myself I was done with food service for good, done with the idea of service, but maybe I can make a choice to love that about myself, because of all the strange places restaurant work has allowed me to see, in workplaces and out, like I love Nickelback, because my supervisor when I was 16 at Perkins in Olathe, KS, Carol, who I would drive home to the trailer park in Gardner after work, where she lived with her husband who was sometimes on meth, sometimes methadone, who she had chosen to stay with even though they took away her kids because of it, that part really gets me, one time that song, "You Remind Me" was playing in the kitchen, and of course like every 16 year old alt-punk I was rolling my eyes at it, but she said, with not a shred of irony, "This song is about my life." I can choose to love these things about myself. And I can choose to love the death I have seen and experienced, because it has made me so much stronger, and more able to love, and accept love. We can choose to let our pasts define us, to freeze those traumas in place and cripple us slowly and eat away at us gradually, or we can choose to see them not as banes but boons. The same with history, I think, globally, planetarily, we can choose to see the patriarchy, all this pain, the bombs in Gaza, in Pakistan, in the Ukraine, the NYPD, the Holocaust, whatever, as this deep, defining defect in human nature, or we can choose to love it for all the lessons we can take, and forcefully, angrily, powerfully love this fucking bullshit into something that sustains life and doesn't burden each and every one of us with the looming apocalyptic despair of powerlesslness and pain living under patriarchy. I am attempting to choose love.
Also Ani Difranco kind of sounds like Shakira.