We are moving to Philadelphia

We are moving to Philadelphia.

After a draining, exhilarating go on the academic job market, my partner landed a new gig in the City of Brotherly Love. We’ll move sometime this summer.

For me it will be another return. Three years ago I came back to Ohio, not too far from where I grew up. This summer I will return to Philadelphia, a city I explored often—and at times commuted to—from my college’s suburban enclave. Philly was my first city.

The desire to move has been growing in recent months, but it’s not without its uncertainties and tradeoffs.

Even now, as I begin to imagine all sorts of new possibilities, I am thinking about the gargantuan, sublime tulip tree that towers over our house. My garden and my dirty fingernails. The quiet and cultivating and creating and caregiving that have marked my time in Ohio. Moving here gave us the chance to drop out of a more bustling, distracted world. We had time and space to host many, many friends and family. Living here gave me the chance to face myself in a way I think I only could have as a stay-at-home parent.

Our decision to trade life here for a new one in Philly is largely about race and some about gay. I wanted so badly to believe I could live wherever I want (which would not be a city). But I’m not just me any more, apart from any other. I’m fused with my kid and his possibilities. Continue reading

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Snapshots of home this winter

There is lots to write and think about here, including some pretty big changes in our lives. I’ll share more soon. Starting this week I’m trying to be less distracted and get back into the habit of writing. For now, some snapshots of our life at home this winter.

Miles learned to bake his own bread at school. I managed to get a photo this time before he gnawed it to crumbs.

I baked some loaves of my own on a few of the coldest days. I hate to say it because she’s so exacting, but after some experimenting with other bread books, I think Rose rules.

We brought the ocean into the kitchen, with demon stingers, squid, and sharks.

For the first time I tried transplanting herbs to extend their lives, bringing them inside in late October. Some of them are still thriving. In fact, this mint never looked better. The basil never flourished; the parsley recently passed after a good go.

Don’t be mistaken. Trains rule here, but cars make regular comebacks. After all, they can be made to look like trains.

The kid loves shoveling. Maybe because we’ve had real snow only once or twice.

I found the sparkles in Thomas the Tank Engine

I sorta hate the world of Thomas the Tank Engine. It all seems so dour. And it’s weird that the moral of every story is that the trains should strive to be “really useful.” What is this crap? Indoctrination for unthinking worker bees?

There’s a bin filled with Thomas books at the library. Besides the messed-up messages, they’re long and clunky. I usually try to get my kid to avoid that section so he won’t see them. But yesterday he spied them from afar and latched onto two immediately. On the plus side, it’s pretty cool to see Miles interested in more complicated books lately.

One of his picks was the story of the mysterious engine, Lady. We’ve had Lady in our train collection for some time, and she’s a consistent favorite with Miles. I’d always wondered where Lady comes from since she has yet to appear in the show or the books we’d read so far. This book is her story.

Thomas and the Magic Railroad, with Lady too

It’s totally different from the other stories we’ve read. There is magic and “shavings all the colors of the rainbow” and a very special cousin of Mr. Conductor who “appeared in a wonderful cascade of sparkles.”

Take a look. It’s no ordinary Thomas story.

Mr. Conductor's cousin Junior makes his debut

No Thomas character has ever had better hair

Adventures in reading gay, #6 – deja vu at the bank

The latest in a series about what it’s like to be out and about in this small town in a rural county in the Midwest.

Since I last posted about our extinct home study agency, we got the final word: we need to get a brand new home study. The director of the former agency failed to transfer our complete file to the new agency. (And I intend to publish her name and the name of the former agency after I pursue her for a refund in small claims court.)

After 18 months of trying to adopt a second child, our files with the two out-of-state adoption agencies are on hold until the new home study is complete. It feels like we’re losing precious time.

It’s frustrating to start all over again with the checklist of documents, doctor’s visits, and background checks necessary to complete the home study. What makes it hard isn’t just the lost time and the waste of time, but when I do these things I have to go out in the world and encounter various local bureaucracies that are either ignorant or hostile to gay people, let alone to gay dudes trying to adopt a baby.

Yesterday I went back to our bank to get the cashiers’ checks necessary to pay the county sheriff for fingerprinting and national background checks.

As I walked into the bank and everyone glanced up at me, I had a serious case of déjà vu. The last time I went to this bank for this very purpose, it was briefly assumed, despite our joint account with both of our obviously male names on it, that “my wife” and I wanted to purchase concealed gun permits. You know, because men have wives and everyone has a gun in these parts.

This time things were different.

After explaining that I needed two checks, in each of our names, payable to the sheriff’s office, the young female teller glanced at her screen.

“Is Travis your son?”

“No, Travis is my partner.”

“Oh, are these business checks?” She looked up at me, completely sincere in her assumption that we were business partners with a joint personal checking account.

“He’s my domestic partner.” I almost added, “As in, we’re gay,” because I sincerely assumed she still might not get it. But her face had turned red and she looked very flustered.

“Oh, okay.” She went about processing the checks. Then she said, “Do you have a note from Travis indicating we can make a check in his name?”

“No, I don’t. We have a joint checking account, and we’re always able to make decisions about it with or without each other. And last time I had these checks processed, I didn’t need a note from him.”

“Well, it’s usually something we’d need to have. I’ll let you do it today, but next time you’ll need to have a note, okay?”

No, it wasn’t okay. But I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Increasingly, there are days I don’t feel so conspicuous here, if only because so many people now know us by sight. There are days when I feel proud of myself for being so out in a place where hardly anyone else is. And there are days when I can find humor in the ignorance. But yesterday, I was just totally sick of it.

Some favorite movies, seen in 2011

These were favorites either because they were highly entertaining, transported me far away, exposed me to something new, or otherwise left a lasting impression. I don’t see that many movies, especially not on the big screen.

In a Better World. I watched it last night, and it inspired me to make this list. Especially in light of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, this movie offers lots of layers and questions about the ethics of responding to violence.

Bridesmaids. It’d been a loooong time since any movie or show had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt the next morning.

Mother and Child. Three adoption narratives–an adult adoptee, a birth mother, and an adoptive parent–intertwine. I saw this alone in a theater with several people also watching it alone…and not-so-quietly sobbing.

Mother. This South Korean movie is difficult to describe. Its a subtle suspense mystery about a woman whose mentally disabled son is accused of murder. The film’s originality and eccentricity are part of what made me love it. The opening sequence gives you a taste of that:

Crossing the Line. I’ve been obsessed with North Korea for months and have watched several documentaries to learn more about what’s going on there. This one, made with permission from the North Korean government, is about an American soldier who defected to the North. The film’s subtext and portrayal of the defector’s psychology fascinate.

Bill Cunningham New York. Said it before.

Winter’s Bone. That girl. Once it started, I was completely absorbed.

Why does The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo strike a chord?

I wonder if The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is popular not because it uses gratuitous violence but because it’s honest about the rampant and brutal nature of violence against women. We live every day with this violence. It’s all around us.

One of my responsibilities in a past job was to edit an annual report on domestic violence homicides and review, case-by-case, the lives of murdered, brutalized women and the circumstances of their deaths. It was harrowing and eye opening. In that job, I also worked with survivors interested in testifying on behalf of anti-domestic violence bills in the state legislature.

I shouldn’t have been, but I was continually shocked by the incommensurate nature of, on the one hand, the scope of gender violence, and on the other, the complete lack of attention to its reality as a pervasive social ill. It’s a crisis that is treated as a crisis only by the people on its front lines.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is powerful because it takes up the work of reimagining female bodies not as weak but as strong and physically capable of revenge. It’s not ideal to meet violence with violence, but peaceful action alone will not save everyone in every situation. Lisbeth Salander hardly stands alone in becoming enmeshed in a system that gives permission to abusers to keep abusing and provides no peaceful path of recourse. Ever heard the one about the District Attorney responsible for prosecuting sexual abuse crimes who sexually harassed the survivors he was supposed to protect? And got away with it? Hardly an isolated abuse of power.

I’m not advocating violence, but it sure feels good to see Lisbeth Salander take justice into her own hands.