About Today -- A Walk on the Moon

Today, I skimmed back and forth between working and catching what I could of the inauguration coverage.

I managed to be there for the live coverage of the swearing in, and President Obama's Inaugural Address.

I was awed by the sheer mass of humanity on the Mall.

I was moved by the music, and even more by the cut-aways to people in the audience -- their faces streaked with tears of joy, their eyes searching hungrily for external signs that the hope they hold inside is justified, and their faces relaxing, brows smoothing out, as they seemed to have found those signs.

I watched what I could of the parade, in between clients (cuz I'm a sucker for a marching band -- plus, I wanted to see the queers tooting their horns -- no pun intended).

As I watched, I had the same sense that I had on Election Day 2008 -- a strange mixture of solemnity and giddiness as I witnessed something historic -- something being logged into a history that I would want to claim.

This feeling is not entirely unfamiliar, although it seems like a long time since I last experienced it.

I felt something like it as I stared into my television set to see the first moon walk, and President Nixon announcing the end of the Vietnam War, and Nelson Mandela walking out of prison, and the Berlin Wall being knocked down.

Still, today felt different, somehow.

I should note that my giddy/solemn sensation of today has a nasty cousin, too -- a feeling of similar solemnity, but devoid of all giddiness -- a response that's all sinking stomach and aching heart.

I felt that the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and again, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and yet again, when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, and after the massacres at Kent State and Tienanmen Square, and when the first Bush authorized "Operation Desert Storm", and on 9/11/01, and when the second Bush authorized "Operation Iraqi Freedom", and as I watched thousands of people abandoned in the aftermath of Katrina.

On those days, too, staring into my television, I knew that I was watching something that was"historic" -- but as part of a history that I emphatically did not want.

Yet today seemed something more than a simple antithesis of that "nasty cousin"-ish feeling.

I kept reaching, all day, for a clear understanding of what I was feeling -- I searched for it in the confused sensations that flirted around the edges of my heart and mind as I watched the inaugural festivities.

I searched for it in the expressions that lingered on the faces of joyous, tearful, boisterous crowds, and in my own confused and tender caution as I watched Michelle and Barack Obama step out of the presidential limousine during the parade. ("No! Be careful!" my inner mother-hen whispered, and then, a moment later, my inner activist cried: "Yes! Be Unafraid!")

I kept crawling around in my own brain and heart and body all day, trying to put my finger on the exact "difference" that I felt, until I saw this clip in the online coverage I was watching (forgive any commercials, please -- I'm not in control of that, but I wanted you to see the vid):

That's when I knew what was so different for me today.

Barack Obama's presidency does not erase the agony of Myrlie Evers-Williams' loss of her husband Medgar, or the tragedy of our collective loss of her husband as a powerful, committed voice against racism and discrimination of all types.

Barack Obama's presidency does not remove the grueling pain of daily discrimination that Medgar, Myrlie, their children, grandchildren, and countless other people of color have faced in the 45 years since Medgar's murder -- much less mitigate the suffering that centuries of abuse, oppression, and discrimination have perpetrated upon people of color during the history of this nation.

Barack Obama's presidency does not end the ongoing reality of racism and the toxicity of its impact on our nation.

But it does erase, remove, and end this:

The notion that the agony, pain, and toxicity that is racism is inevitable in our country.

Racism does not have to exist. It is not "natural" to human beings, nor is it necessary to society. When people of all colors share power and responsibility, nations not only do not crumble -- they rise, and celebrate, and grow stronger.

Myrlie and Medgar Evers knew this. I knew this. Mostly likely, if you're reading this blog, you knew this.

But today, in the United States of America, Barack Obama demonstrated this.

Today is not the end of racism in the United States, but I honestly believe that it is the beginning of a new era in the process of eradicating racism in the United States, because today, a template is set and a precedent created -- it is now possible, beyond any argument, for a person whose skin is not "white" to hold the most powerful office in our land.

That is what was different for me today.

When I think back on the other times I had that "giddy-solemn-historic" feeling, only the moon-walk begins to parallel it -- wars have been ended before, and walls knocked down -- but to walk on the Moon?

A single footprint on the Moon means that anything is possible.

(Full Disclosure: Yes, I have complaints with Barack Obama and his campaign/transition teams. Yes, I'm not satisfied with Obama's dealings with queers and their issues. And finally -- Yes, I am an incredibly complicated being who is capable of simultaneously experiencing deep disappointment about discrimination that is peculiar to my situation while experiencing profound joy as I watch my brothers and sisters who are discriminated against for a different, equally fucked-up, reason rejoice in a breakthrough in the particular area of oppression that has kept them down, and capable of understanding that "their" victory is "my" victory, because -- you know -- they are my sisters, and my brothers -- they are ME.)

Posted byPortlyDyke at 8:47 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

We All Have Our Dirty Little Secrets

I have a confession to make. I was a kiddie-viddie starlette -- no, not porn -- real kiddie video -- as in Wee Sing -- as in Big . . . Yellow . . . . Rodent.

Here -- check out marker 00:24. I'm the yellow one.

To see some actual footage (a little scary, really) with decent video quality, not the trailer, try this link: Big Rock Candy Mountain 2 (not embeddable, otherwise, I'd be torturing you here).

Yes. I was a Meecy-Mouse. It's true. I wore that enormo, hot costume, and the prosthetic make-up, and the mittens, and the ears (in the middle of August), and I acted really, really goofy. For money.

There are a couple of weird things about this -- if I reveal that I was in Big Rock Candy Mountain, many, many people that I know who were raising kids after 1991 (and most of the young adults that I know now who were kids in the 90s) will say something like: OMG! My kids loved that video! or

"I used to watch this tape 24/7 as a kid, and listen to the cassette of the songs in the car."
(Now, if you didn't watch the unembeddable linked footage above of the actual video, the next vid might not make much sense to you -- it's a tribute video made by the young adult youtuber I just quoted. This is obviously not the real soundtrack.)

I also had my niece email me recently to tell me that she had spotted this little meecy mouse in a very weird youtube that a friend had turned her on to. She said: "quite honestly, the song sucks...but that's beside the point. you can imagine my surprise when around 2:30-3:00 into the video, my dear aunt appeared!"

I mean, how strange is it that something that I did which I thought of as a kind of a bizarre but enjoyable side gig is now indelibly branded into the minds of people that I might be working next to?

It's like I'm folk-art or something.

But it doesn't stop there. In fact, my meecy-mouse run was my second endeavor with the WeeSing crowd. A year earlier, I had appeared in another kiddie-viddie -- "The Best Christmas Ever" -- then, as an elf (I "hang face" briefly at 00:34 and 00:52 below -- and Oy! with the prosthetic makeup and squeaky voice already!)

When I took the elf job (my first with WeeSing), it was on a lark, really. Somebody told me that they were looking for diminutive actors, and I showed up at the cattle call (with my equally short girlfriend).

I landed the part of the elf "Snooter" (hence the prosthetically-enhanced schnoz, and the many jokes from the crew about my character's secret cocaine habit).

And yes, you heard right -- the hero elf was, in fact, named "Poofer". Hmmm.

And as a completely fun fun-fact, the "secret handshake" they do was the one my Dad taught me when I was a kid. The Director wanted a secret elf handshake, and liked my Dad's when I showed it to him. I love that it's immortalized there.

Mind you, I actually have formal training in theater -- with a degree and everything -- and in my film acting classes, I had always been told that when acting for the camera, you were to scale everything back by at least a third -- gestures, inflections, characterizations, everything.

It was incredibly disorienting to be introduced to a film-set where I was actually directed to amp it up by at least 2/3rds. You see the results above.

I am a passable actress -- really, truly, I am -- but it seems that small children like big hams, so what's a girl to do?

Apparently, I was a quick study at hamology, because they wanted me back for the mouse thing, and later, as a puppeteer in two other productions (see below).

Now, when I say puppeteer, I don't mean sticking your hand up the bum of Kermit the Frog.

I mean full-body puppeteering -- the kind of costume where you are encased head to foot, with wired calipers in the hand-sets of your costume that allow you to blink the eyes and move the mouth of the character. I was not voice talent for either of the two characters below (apparently they didn't need Piercingly-Shrill for these particular roles) -- I operated the character body - - so all I had to do was lip-sync. In a penguin suit.

Think Disneyland. Think hot. Think ice-packs held against your body in a special mesh vest so you don't pass out, and bisquit fans in your "helmet" (head piece) so you can get enough oxygen. In Summer. In a studio blazing with lights.

Oh, and in the case of the penguin "Weeber" below? On my knees. Often, 12 hours a day.

Let's face it -- I'm bat-shit crazy.

My favorite song in that production (WeeSing Under the Sea) was the one at 07:21 in this clip -- "Clam Dance":

You would have thought that experience would put me off the full-body puppeteering thing, but no -- I took on one more job, this time with the same production company, but not for Wee Sing.

I'm proud to say that I ended my stint as a full-body puppeteer in style -- as a Kitteh -- that's me -- the big yellow Wooleycat (and isn't that so cosmic and totally cycle-of-life of me? Big Yellow Mouse to Big Yellow Kitteh?)

Just so you know -- I think what brought me back and back to these productions was that the people I worked with were absolutely, positively great and fun, and honestly, the messages that the vids put out were pretty cool and kid/life-affirming (ex: Under the Sea had an environmental message).

Next time you wander into a room where a gang of toddlers are engaged in the Bunny-Foo-Foo singalong, you'll be sure to impress if you point casually to the TV screen and say: "I know that Mouse."

'Cuz I know you've been worried about your cred with da toddlers. ;)

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:45 PM 6 comments Links to this post  

Another Portly True Story -- But First, A Movie!

That video put me in the mind of this story:

Portly and the Car Salesman -- Circa 1988, Portland, Oregon

So, on April Fool's Day, 1988, I managed to get in the way of someone who was making an illegal turn across traffic. I walked away from the head-on collision unscathed, but the family's beloved Datsun B-210 station wagon did not fare so well.

So, my then-partner and I began the arduous process of buying a replacement vehicle. We had a limited income, and knew exactly how much money we could spend and what kind of car we wanted (Toyota Tercel wagon -- you know, the one that looked like it had an ATM on the back?).

It was the late 80s. The auto-sales industry had gotten wise to the fact that more and more women were buying cars -- and doing so without the "aid" of a man. I had just read two or three articles in major newsmags about how the industry was re-gearing its sale-pitches and changing its showrooms to re-niche-ify toward the car-buying women's market.

I hate haggling. I've bought only three of the many cars I've owned at car dealerships -- my 1978 Datsun pickup, the Tercel, and my current van (all used). I take some hippy pride in the fact that I have never in my life purchased a new car.

My partner and I went out car-shopping the first time with the kids. (Note to parents: This is a very bad idea. If you want to gain the dealership's sympathy vote because you're raising a family -- ha! -- stuff your wallet with pictures instead -- put a "My kid was an honor student at blah-blah-blah" sticker on your car -- anything. Just do not take them along.)

The dude at the first dealership showed us the Tercel (awful color, nasty-ass plaid upholstery -- glad it didn't work out, really). We told him how much money we had to spend (which was, of course, far below the sticker price), and he herded us into his office, assuring us that he thought he could work something out.

Which began the two-hour agony that followed, where he exercised all the old ploys -- took our car-keys so we couldn't leave, went back and forth and forth and back to the manager's office, etc., etc., etc. -- if you don't know the drill, that's a good thing -- my advice to you is that you keep it that way.

When he got it through his thick skull that when we said "this is how much money we have to spend" what we really meant was,"this is how much money we have to spend" -- that we weren't driving a hard bargain, that we weren't being cagey and conniving -- as this simple message finally penetrated his consciousness, he looked at us, absolutely dumbfounded (two HOURS later), and said: "Well, I can't sell this car to you for that!"

To which I said something like: "Yeah, dipshit -- I thought that was probably the case, and every time I tried to tell you that, you told me you could work something out, and then left us sitting here for another 15 to 20 minutes!"

We regained possession of our hostaged car-keys, and the children never forgave us for the two hours of lost Saturday which they endured. (It did have the fortunate upside of them never wanting to go car shopping with us again.)

The next weekend, just the two of us ventured out once more, this time to a different dealership.

We guarded our car-keys carefully, and, exhausted from the craptasticness of the previous foray, we came up with a signal -- if either of us made the sign-language gesture for "Fuck" (my partner was an ASL interpreter), we agreed that we would both get up, without discussion, and leave. No explanation needed, and either of us could make the call at any time -- we had concluded that life was too fucking short (hence the choice of sign).

The Tercel that we looked at was closer to our price range (on the sticker), so we allowed ourselves to be seated with coffee and really bad pastry in the salesman's office.

At first, it went fairly well. We politely explained that we only had ____ amount of money to spend, and that no, we weren't kidding, and no, this wasn't a counter-offer thing -- it really was the entire amount we could spend (which really confused the salesman, I could tell), and then it began -- the smarminess, the cajoling, the manipulation. It was mostly vocal tones and lack of meetings of gazes, but it wasn't long before I saw my partner give me the sign.

I said: "Thanks very much for your time, we're not interested", and we stood up and headed for the door.

What happened next, I never, ever imagined might occur.

The guy followed us. I mean, really close behind us, and shouted at us that we had to come back. Literally -- those word -- we had to.

When that didn't work (now keep in mind -- we are walking through a very large showroom, and then through a very large parking lot, with this guy right behind us, yelling at us the entire time), he tried things like: "Get back here! You can't walk out of here! You women have no idea what you're doing! I demand that you come back here right now!"

We were kind of glancing at each other now and again, but we basically just kept walking resolutely toward our car, when we heard him scream, at the top of his lungs:

"You're nothing if you don't buy a car from me!!!!!!"


We were still just marching stalwartly to our car, when a manager came sprinting out from the showroom, got between the salesman and us, and started rapid-fire spewing things like: "Please. Don't go. I'm sorry. I know we can work something out." We kept walking. "PLEASE -- Ladies! . . . . "

That stopped us.

It was not planned -- it was not calculated -- but my partner and I wheeled around as one and said, in perfect unison (both in terms of words and level of dripping venom):

"We're not Ladies!!!!!"

The manager then said: "Girls! . . . . . . ."

When he caught the look on our faces, he went silent, his jaw going up and down for a few seconds, and then finally spluttered out -- pathetically -- desperately -- as if he'd only just remembered that the word existed:

". . . . Women!"

But it was too late. We were already gone.

When we got home, I called the owner of the dealership at the corporate office (he was the mega-owner of Blankety-Blank Ford, Blankety-Blank Toyota, Blankety-Blank Honda, etc., etc., etc., now known as the Blankety-Blank AutoGroup).

I was passed from one secretary and middle manager to another secretary and middle manager, and kept insisting on speaking to the owner. I believe that it is possible that I may have uttered words like discrimination, harassment, and lawsuit.

I was finally passed up the foodchain and spoke to the owner directly.

I told him about the articles I had just been reading about the "New Consumer -- Woman!" (yeah, right, we've been here all along), and I inquired of him just how he thought he was going to cash in on that market when he employed these kind of salespeople.

To his credit, he listened (and in the following weeks, he had his dealers calling us every single time a Tercel station wagon that was within our price range rolled onto one of his many lots).

We ended up buying from an private owner after all, and we drove, drove, drove that blue Tercel over the next years. My ex- got it in the "divorce".

I just had to tell that story, after I saw that 60's reel up top.

Although that salesman was an unmitigated ass, I really must thank him for all the laughs he's given me over the years -- whenever I replay his outraged shriek in my mind:

"You're nothing if you don't buy a car from me!!!!"

Posted byPortlyDyke at 9:39 PM 4 comments Links to this post  

Sarah Haskins Helps Us Remember 2008

Posted byPortlyDyke at 4:33 PM 3 comments Links to this post  

Being a Friend Indeed

Last night, Sarah in Chicago's dad passed away very suddenly. (Most of you will probably know SiC from Shakesville)

A friend has loaned her the money for a plane ticket back to New Zealand, but she's going to need to pay that back. If you've got a few quid to spare, please visit her blog and chip in.

This is Portly Dyke, sending out a a big hug for Sarah and her family.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 1:13 PM 0 comments Links to this post  

Enter Laughing

Well, I can't think of a better way to kick off 2009 than with a bit of laughter -- and for that matter, laughter of the intertubes-meme sort. If you've already seen the video below, watch it again, and don't miss the second one. (Warning: You may need a diaper. Jus' sayin'.)

May your New Year be full of laughter of the really good kind.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:42 PM 4 comments Links to this post