A Grade-A Gray Day in Chicago

So, we’re in Chicago and it’s very rainy. I’m a little surprised at how chilly the city can apparently be even in the depths of May. When we made the plan for this trip we’d talked about maybe doing two of the nearby sights/sites — the Field Museum and something like the Shedd Aquarium or the Art Institute. After the physical and emotional demands of the last week’s unexpected trip, I think we’re just going to do a single outing, probably tomorrow. I don’t think I have it in me to walk around a museum today.

That’s okay, though. Apparently basically anything you do in a reasonably fancy hotel with a partner is romantic by default, so what looks like a lazy day is actually, in fact, a romantic one. We’ve been lounging around the room, and in a bit we’re going to go lounge around by the pool, and then we’ll probably be lounging around the lounge at some point.

Later in the evening we have loose plans to hang out and drink with Linda Tirado (@KillerMartinis dans la belle Twitter). We’re both largely crowdfunded, so that could potentially go on for basically for as long as it amuses the internet to buy us drinks (hint, hint).

The day after tomorrow, we depart for Madison and WisCon.

As a personal side note, yesterday I wrote about 6,000 words of (niche fetish dark erotica) fiction on my little Blackberry, which is a pretty good word count and the best I’ve managed to write on a handheld in a loooong time. I feel like this trip/these trips have been useful for me in getting over some of my hangups in a way that’s going to be really helpful for my writing.

Chicago – Travel Update and Request For Help

Well, a big thank you to everyone who helped us get to California and then home again. We’re getting ready now to head back to the airport after spending all of about seven hours at home. It’s about a two hour trip back to BWI to fly out. If we could have planned this, I think we would have just stayed at an airport hotel, with everything we need for the next journeys already packed… but then, if we could have planned this, it wouldn’t have happened.

I’ve talked about this on Twitter, in relation to my post about the funeral trip, but we made the decision much earlier in the year that we’d “pre-game” for WisCon by spending a few days in Chicago, seeing some of the city we pass through so often and connecting with friends who won’t be at the con.  At the time we made the decision, it seemed obvious that we could afford it. I had the money for the airfare and the hotel, and by paying for both of those big ticket items up front we’d save money.

And we could count on my normal work on Twitter for May would pay for food, transit, and everything else.

We’re still going. We can’t afford not to. Not only is the airfare and hotel already paid, but we’d have to buy new tickets to Madison if we changed our plans. But if we can’t afford to not go… we can also barely afford to go. This trip was going to be a “bucket list” type thing, taking the time to do things we’d always talked about doing. Now it’s apt to be a lot more low-key than that. Part of that is the mental and physical exhaustion… it’s going to be nice to spend some time just relaxing in a hotel after the emotional toll of the funeral and all this back and forth… but part of it is we’re stretching a much-more-meager-than-expected budget between WisCon and Chicago. And we have more obligations at WisCon.

I am astonished and gratified at the generosity of the people who helped us make the unexpected trip to California, where we said goodbye to Jack’s mother. I can’t expect more than that, but I have learned not to close any doors. People will do what they want, whatever I expect or don’t. So if anyone wants to help us do it up right, I’m not going to say no. You can also use http://www.paypal.me/alexandraerin.

If no one does — that’s fine, and more than fine. We made it to California and back on the generosity of friends and strangers, and that was about what we needed. This is just about wants, and if we don’t get everything we want out of this trip, we’ll definitely live. There are worse things than staying in a nice hotel and eating sandwiches or instant noodles, and I have plans for at least one adventure that won’t require leaving the hotel. (More on that later.)

And after the travels are over and I’ve rested and recovered, I’ll be back out there actually earning money.

But like I said: years of crowdfunding my existence have taught me to never close the door, so I’m leaving it open.

Thank you.

So It Goes

There is a last time for everything. I read a thing on the internet once, and it said something like: There was a day your parents set you down, and then never picked you up again.

If you’re reading these words, chances are excellent that you’ve reached that part of your life. You’ve also probably gone past the last time you ever jumped off a swing or slid down a slide on a playground, barring some of those golden moments where parents are able to borrow a fleeting moment of youth from their child who needs “help”.

If that is the case: there will come a day when you set your child down, and never pick them up again. All things end. Memento mori, valar morghulis, et cetera.

Death is a hard thing to contend with, because it is so far outside our frame of reference. Indeed, its existence marks one of the outer boundaries of that frame.

Thinking of a person as dead means nothing. Thinking that they are gone is a bit easier to conceive of, though it does not convey the finality of the matter. To me, the easiest way to wrap my head around death is to think of it in terms of milestones in the progression through life: there was a point in my life before which I had not met this person, and there is or will come a point in my life past which I will not meet them again.

I found myself thinking this when we touched down in Baltimore, the day after the funeral for Jack’s mother. This after several days of being around the grieving family, and a rosary and a funeral mass and all the final farewells, none of which made the sheer, simple fact of death itself feel any less weird or fake to me.

(But as Christians, are we not called to believe that death is weird and fake?)

I found myself thinking this, and I found myself thinking: this. This is that part. The part of my life where I won’t see her again, talk to her again, meet her again. We’ve reached that part.

That was when I grieved, and that was when I understood. I grieved because I understood and I understood because I grieved.

When Sesame Street dealt with the death of Mr. Hooper, this is how the adults on the show explained it to a confused Big Bird, who had never encountered death before: he was never coming back. Never ever. No one could explain to him what death was, or why it was. (“Because,” was the best answer they had. “Just because.”) We can’t contend with death, but we can just about handle never.

Time, like death, is weird and fake. As I understand it, it is in very loose terms a side effect of living in a universe with a finite amount of light that can’t quite manage to exist everywhere at once, for whatever meaning “everywhere” and “at once” can hold in a universe where time is fake. Everything that can happen, has happened and is happening. Our perception of this weird, fake phenomenon is subjective even by the poor standards of our senses (which are also weird and fake), and our ability to remember its passage is even worse.

And yet.

And yet, we can take comfort in knowing that the times that existed between the point where someone entered our life and when they departed it are as real and vital and current as the times we perceive as happening now.

As my father once told me:

“I’m with Vonnegut’s Tralfamadorians from Slaughterhouse Five, who see in four dimensions. Time stretches out like a mountain range, with the past present and future all visible all the time. The future is always there, always out there, always coming. When we are surprised, it is not because anything changed: it is because something unexpected that was always there became visible to us. And the past is equally always there.

It will always be that joyous moment, 10 o’clock on the night of the 4th of July, 1971 at the McDonalds
on 40th Street when I reunited with your mother for the last time. I was 15 and she almost was. And it will always be a sunny afternoon at the beach at Okoboji, playing with our babies. And it will always be sunset at Honeymoon Island, always. And we will always be walking down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, with various combinations of our children.”

Thinking about this makes me feel better. I don’t mean to say that it makes me feel happier or more peaceful or more content (at least not yet), but better. It allows me to grieve more deeply, more acutely, and with greater precision.

Doctor Who — a show that is about mortality about as often as it’s about anything else — had a running theme for a few years: every Christmas is last Christmas. For any family or group of friends who gather together, there will come a time when all of them are together for the last time, and no one will know it when it happens. Another thing my father told me is, “Life is made up of meetings and partings, that is the way of it.” He was quoting Muppet Christmas Carol, of course, but that did not rob the moment of any of its pathos.

Part of growing up, part of growing older, I think is realizing that. Realizing that every time you go to your favorite restaurant might be the last time. Your favorite show will go off the air. Your treasured concert t-shirt will fade and tear and eventually become unwearable.

And every person who comes into your life will pass out of it.

I can make no sense of death. I can at least understand the concept of an ending, even if I don’t approve of it.

So it goes.

A Death in the Family and a Request for Help (Updated)

Internet, I’m sorry to have to do this, but could you help my family out?

A few weeks ago, I tweeted

"A weird side effect of aging while polyamorous is that your family can have extra elders, aging ahead of you. There can be a lot of good things about this arrangement, but the rough spots can be really rough."

There are three of us, so three sets of parents. The math there is pretty simple.

This bittersweet sentiment hit home yesterday. My own parents came to see us this week here in Maryland, for the first and very possibly the last time. It was a lovely visit. They got to see a bit of my life and some of my favorite sights, take in some of the culture and history, and spend quality time with the family I’ve found here. They also got to meet Sarah’s parents, a meeting that we were afraid might not happen due to different health issues on both sides.

The day they left to return home, Jack got a phone call from his sister.

His own mother had died.

We visited her in California for what was the first (for me) and ultimately the last time back in September of 2017, otherwise I would never have met her. We knew her health was not good, but it was still a shock that it happened so quickly.

We don’t have a date for the viewing and funeral yet, but we know they’re going to be in California and probably sometime next week. Getting the three of us across the country and back is going to cost around $2,000, maybe a little more and maybe a little less, and that’s assuming we can get a date and book quickly. The immediate local family has a lot going on, so it will be best if we can get a hotel room and rent a car rather than imposing if possible, and that’s going to add to the cost.

And unfortunately, this is happening at a busy and expensive time of year for us. May is the beginning of our convention and travel season. If it was as easy as skipping a con for something this important, we’d do it, but the biggest expenses (airfare and in one case, a pre-paid hotel room for a discount) are non-refundable. Conventions are also work for me, and we have commitments at WisCon in particular that are going to drop a cost and hardship on someone else if we were to abandon them.

I feel awkward doing this when I already crowdfund my living and I’ve been rattling the cup extra to try to get convention travel funds for August, but I don’t really see a choice but to ask for your help specifically in getting the three of us to California so Jack can be with his family and we can be with him, and we can say goodbye to his mother. We’ve got some aid from our families, and an anonymous benefactor is generously offering to match the first $500 in contributions, and some of my patrons who already knew have kicked in, so we’re not quite starting from zero, but we’re not there yet.

We don’t even know what “there” is yet, because we don’t know what days we need plane tickets for, we can’t buy them to lock in the price, we don’t know if it’s going to require changing our existing travel plans, etc. We’ll have a better idea how much money we’ll need as we get closer and learn more, but we’re kind of a bind in that if we waited to start raising money it’d probably be too late.

So whatever you want to and are able to give, please do so.

We thought about a fundraiser page, but PayPal is the best choice as most payments clear immediately, and we might have to move very quickly here. You can use this link or my PayPal Me (http://www.paypal.me/alexandraerin), or if you prefer to do it manually (as it seems some people do), send a PayPal payment to blueauthor (at) the domain of this website. If PayPal doesn’t work for you, I do have a cash.me page.

Again, the first $500 will be matched.

I can’t offer any fun incentives or perks here. We’re scrambling to get everything ready for our existing travels in May. We will take anything that anyone can gives and cares to give as a treasured gift, and honor it accordingly. In the event that we get more money than we end up using, I think the responsible thing to do is keep it in our travel funds so we’re better prepared for another unexpected eventuality.

Because the math is, there are certainly going to be more of those in our future.

Thank you.

UPDATE (5/11/2018)

So, today the dates for the rosary and funeral were set. Thanks to the generosity of so many people (seriously, thank you!), we were able to book flights now while there were still some good ones available at prices that were, if not exactly dirt cheap, then at least reasonable. I’ve been pretty hyperfocused on this particular problem, which is bad because there wasn’t actually anything to do. Lot of the cheapest hotel options weren’t available, either. The last big thing left is a rental car, and then just whatever we spend on food while we’re there.

Each part of this has been a bit more expensive than I’d hoped/expected, so I’m leaving the links above and will continue to circulate it on Twitter periodically, but I think we’re at a point where if the support dried up we’d be able to pull this off. We’re definitely going to be there now, at least.

So, thank you again.

REVIEW: Super Late Bloomer by Julia Kaye (@upandoutcomic)

So, a while back I was sent a review copy of SUPER LATE BLOOMER (<— Amazon affiliate link), a collection of the diary webcomic Up and Out by Julia Kaye. My intent had been to get a review up before its launch (yesterday), but, well… I guess “better late than never” is one of the life lessons of the comic. So…

Super Late Bloomer is a collection of strips that Kaye made to document her transition and help process her feelings about it. If you’re trans and you read it, certain parts of it can be a real heart-wrenching punch in the gut. Which parts exactly will probably vary wildly from person to person, because none of us walk the same journey. There were parts (mostly relating to reflections in mirrors) that I found intensely relatable, and others I could merely empathize with.

If you’re a cis person, I recommend you approach this book from the point of view of “this is an autobiographical comic about a person”. That she is a trans woman is not incidental, it’s the major theme and focus of the comics. And getting insight into the life of a trans woman, any trans woman, is likely to help you relate to and understand other trans women. But you’ll be doing yourself and any other trans women in your life now or in the future a bit of a disservice if you look at the comic as a guidebook or instruction manual on The Trans.

As they say dans la belle Lifetime Channel: this is one woman’s journey.

And it is a herky-jerky, old-fashioned wooden roller coaster ride of a journey: even the ups and downs aren’t nice and smooth. It’s not a sob story, and there’s no cheap pathos. Just genuine human emotions in a genuine human life. Don’t read this comic expecting everything laid out in a nice, progressive story arc; it’s a journal comic, written one day at a time, each strip capturing not the entirety of a day or even its summary but something that resonated emotionally within it. Don’t read it expecting a laugh a minute or gag a day. It’s not that kind of comic strip.

But, by all means, do read it. It is well worth your time for the privilege of seeing inside another human being’s head, reading her reflections at her most confident and most vulnerable moments, and going along on the roller coaster ride.