Habits, priorities and trying to work out why I don’t ensure I get out onto my bike camping more often.
An interesting read on habits and priorities has coincided with the end of winter and me feeling the call of the road.
As the air is warmer and there is more daylight the wind feels to pull me even more incessantly. “Come fly with me” it sings. Oh how I want so much that freedom. I feel it whichever way I travel. Just being on the move gives me calm and contentment. Hiking through mountain passes. Flying. Train journeys. Hitchhiking. And since lejog bicycle is now my favourite method.
On my bike, with my camping gear strapped to the pannier rack, is as close to independence as I can currently get. I always have enjoyed minimising the amount of money I need to use – I can and have fed myself for nothing. When I had a (98cc) motorbike that wasn’t so bad as I could travel tens of miles on very little petrol, and always wheel it around. Cars for me feel clumsy and, though offer some liberation, require a lot more upkeep and input. I have to plan more for a car. On my bike there’s not many places I can’t take it. I can lift it up steps or over gates. I can wheel it over foot bridges or onto tiny foot passenger boats. I don’t need to spend money on special fuel for it or to take it on ferries or trains. And I feel this connection to the geography of a place – the contours and bends and flows.
I love feeling my legs gain seven league boots, that my noble steed is carrying my camping gear without difficulty. Its so frigging exuberant to pump to the top of a hill and then fly down the other side. To find a few square metres out of plain sight to camp for the night. To know that the next day I’ll pack up my things and set off somewhere new. To explore new places.
The connection to the “habits and priorities” link above? Just that I was hungrily looking at my calendar for the months ahead, desperate to at least find a few days I could go for a trip on. Living in Glasgow makes it pretty easy to get into the mountains with minimal money/planning. And yet I can only see a few days possibility until the end of May.
I don’t prioritise this. And yet it is the time I am happiest, fulfilled, at peace, joyous. I can almost breathe the fresh air just thinking about it. The sun on my skin. The wind in my face. The endless beauty of the unknown world ahead. The challenges and satisfactions of life on the road.
Partly I allow myself to be booked up because other things do require more advance planning than taking myself off into the countryside. Visiting other countries requires flights and visas. There’s large-scale camps, festivals, conferences, gatherings which all have dates set in advance. And so my calendar is filled with all these things that I definitely want to do, and am excited about. But none of them are quite as great as being on my own, or with 1 or 2 special companions, out in the natural world on an adventure.
I have a really great life. I can’t believe how lucky I am. 14 year old me is delighted! I work one day a week and have a home in the sky. I have wonderful connections, friends, lovers, family. I go dancing and to gigs and to fascinating public science talks and museums. I have secure work and housing. I am relatively healthy and able bodied.
I’m not really moaning. I guess I’m just documenting that I need to prioritise keeping my calendar less full, reduce my commitments, increase my free time. And then I can take advantage of the blessings I have and get out on my bike, tent strapped to the back, spontaneously and frequently. I do only need to work a Sunday to cover my rent and bills.
The nagging doubts, the guilt I have are all about how yes this is nice for me. But I am in such a minority to be able to live such a charmed life. That whilst I am having my jollies war and borders and racism are destroying lives. Austerity rips life sustaining benefits from those that need them. Carbon dioxide levels increase in the atmosphere. Capitalism immiserates.
But then what am I doing about any of those things really now? I struggle to even write an email or organise a meeting about politics or activism. I have this big block and I’m not very functional around politics at the moment. Haven’t really been since I was in Bhopal. I’m at a very low efficiency. Things that would have taken me an hour now take me a whole day and a lot of mental energy. Going to meetings fills me with dread. Maybe I should just accept that I’m not really making much of a difference in the world and give up and be selfish?
Oh I don’t know. I’m sure its all just balance and all. This has gotten way deeper and introspective than I planned. I guess this is my journal so its ok. Sorry if anyone else is reading this expecting something less navel gazing!
Have some pics of my bike to finish. How could that not cheer anyone up? ;)
Compersion is a bit of polyamorous jargon that refers to how we can often feel a delicious happiness about the lovers of our lovers (“metamors”, for yet more non-monogamous vernacular). When I care about someone, that normal human empathy is ramped up, and my emotional state is even more linked to theirs. So if I can be happy that someone I love has done well in other aspects of their life, how much more so when its about something as delicious and rewarding as a sexual connection?
As a solo poly person, I sometimes feel bad that I can’t, or won’t, provide my sweethearts with a “partner” where that means someone they can build a life together with. A very new sweetie already comes with a very solid, beautiful relationship of this type. They live together, move cities to stay together when careers require that.
Do I feel threatened by this? Jealous of a connection I will never share with this new sweetie who I am experiencing all the delicious NRE*/honeymoon excitement with? No. I feel absolutely delighted that they have this nesting relationship. I feel a bit of relief, its true, that they won’t look to me for those wants/needs. But also I feel a real happiness that they have this connection. I feel genuine joy just thinking about how they both must feel to have this longlasting, loving foundation. Those empathy neuropathways are having a party, even though its not for anything I’d ever want for myself.
I don’t think that compersion is too alien even for monogamous people. Just think about how happy you feel when your lover has something good in their lives. That is how I feel when I think about my metamors.
I do get jealousy sometimes, but it is always, for me, connected to my mental health, insecurity and fears that I’m going to lose my sweetie. It always is a symptom of something else going on for me. Do I need to work on my self esteem? Is my life feeling too overwhelming? Are my needs/wants within my relationship being met? Does my sweetie help me feel valued, cared for, loved, desired? Do they even know what I need in order to feel those things? Am I slipping into a overbusy burnout pattern that means my emotional state is fried? Does my relationship feel unstable?
I try to look at jealousy as a miner’s canary – an indicator of how safe/nourishing the surrounding context is. And as a measure of how well I am doing at fixing underlying issues. As I work on whatever is actually meaning I feel jealous, I feel those horrible feelings fade away and the compersion that was always present, just eclipsed, gains ascendency and brightness.
With this new sweetie, I had fears that my new metamor, their longterm partner, would be unhappy about our new thing. They’re very new to opening up their relationship and I like and respect them both. We’ve all been friends for years. However my fears were assuaged when I saw the metamor in person and they were friendly and welcoming to me. Later my new sweetie checked in with me how I’d felt that the two of them had been affectionate in my presence and I could honestly say that it had made me both happy and relieved. The last thing I want is for my new relationship to destroy someone else’s. But seeing their connection reassured me that it was all good. And my increased closeness to them because of this new romantic/sexual aspect meant that what would have been lovely to observe anyway, I felt even more keenly. It was just pure yummy.
When I connect with someone, I become more aware of their vulnerabilities, and so seeing them held gives me comfort. I can’t give them this longterm committed home making. I travel through life mostly alone. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel happy when those who do want a nesting partner have one. I don’t want kids either, but I can appreciate and feel glad when those who do want this become parents.
The poly aspect compliments my soloness. It means I do not require any lover to also need the space and distance that I need. They are free to nest, to deeply entangle themselves in another partner’s life, to “settle down”, to become parents. And in return I gain the enjoyment of seeing my loved ones in beautiful partnerships. And nobody needs to squeeze anyone out in order to have their needs and wants met.
* New Relationship Energy – google is your friend this time I’m afraid.
There were 2 funerals this week that I’d have liked to have attended. Well, ideally I’d have liked that neither of them happened…
One was an old family friend. The other an old friend. But both were in Southern England and I couldn’t travel down so close to stuff I had already committed to without becoming even more rundown.
Wish I had though. I think being with others that knew those who died would have been good. And I wish I’d been able to do right by the friends who died.
The funeral today was of Simon Chapman, who I’ve known since 2001. It hasn’t sunk in at all that he’s dead. He was young (?42) and someone I was always happy to see, though that only happened when we were at same events (london anarchist bookfair and after parties mostly). He was always good for a hug, and usually had a smart, funny commentary on whatever was going on. He had a warm, gentle kindness – happy when good things happened to others, whilst simultaneously sarcastic with a dry wit.
I can feel the grief starting to well up. The sadness of someone I liked and who I’d shared some intense experiences with no longer being alive. And that connecting to other, equally unprocessed grief for those other friends who have died. And I can’t deal with that. Or at least I don’t. I push it down, numb myself, disassociate rather than let those scary sad feelings have their power and fill me. I know its counter productive. I know I need to let them out. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people that didn’t have a choice but to feel and express emotions.
I’ve only been to a couple of funerals – maybe 3? I didn’t feel anything at any of them – being around other people makes me numb up even more. So maybe its good I didn’t go to Simon’s funeral.
I’d hate for anyone to think I didn’t care about the deceased, and yet I won’t be showing any emotion, because I won’t be feeling any. Just this weird fog and unrealness. The best I can describe it is its like being sleep deprived when everything is dreamlike and doesn’t feel real. That’s how it is for me almost all the time.
I’m trying to get my feelings back, but part of that will mean facing the scary, hard, bad, sad ones which I’ve buried for so long. Allowing myself to actually feel grief rather than push it down away. And there is so much grief hiding down there. As part of operation feel again (during a peer / co-counselling session where I focus on trying to feel whatever I need to at the time) I had a big cry couple months ago about the 5000 people who died last year crossing the mediterranean trying to find refuge in Europe. This world is so fucked up no wonder my brain decides its safer not to feel anything at all (including good things) than let myself feel this pain.
Anyway, Simon is dead and that fucking sucks because he was nice and I liked him. And even just saying those words hurts and I probably should full-on grieve and accept the pain and then get to the healing stage. As it is I’m still mostly at the pissed off with him stage tbh.
This doesn’t feel developed enough for such a grand title. If anyone finds their way here via looking for advice/insights on solo poly or RA (relationship anarchy) what you will get here is merely some reflections from somebody who’s been practicing it a while. Nothing more, but I guess also nothing less.
Labels can be useful – they are a part of language and allow us to communicate ideas in a package so we don’t have to start from a basic explanation from building block concepts in every sentence. They allow us to find others who share interests/ways of doing things which can be useful, build community, share tips and mistakes etc. It is for these reasons that I use the labels solo poly and relationship anarchy as close-enough descriptors to how I relate to those I am close to. In this when I talk about solo poly and RA I am very much talking about the ways and why of how I do them. There are others who do them in different ways, for instance whilst I choose not to live with a sweetie, others may do, I don’t know.
Solo poly describes a way of being non-monogamous which does not seek out partner/s with whom you live with (nesting partner/s) and probably also share finances, parenting etc etc with. There are many forms of polyamory (having more than one romantic/sexual loves) which are not solo. For instance I have many many friends who are poly and have nesting partner/s and co-parent. Their polyamory might be relatively close to portrayals of a conventional marriage, but with more than two people involved. Sometimes they have primary/secondary setups where there is a primary (usually couple) relationship who might have a mortgage, perhaps kids and maybe even be legally married, and then other secondary lovers who are more peripheral, though often very long-term and also committed. I know of other poly setups where children are involved but not always are all the parents living in a single household. There are nesting triads and quads, V’s and W’s. Poly families with multiple interweaving parents, all living together. These are some ways of being polyamorous that are different to how I do them.
I love to travel on my own. I love being able to stick to a plan for exactly until I see something shiney off the planned out route, and then not having to discuss whether to investigate this with anyone else. I’m tardy, unreliable, distractable, easily excitable, need alone time, flakey and … oooo shiney! I’m a terrible travelling companion for anyone else, but a perfect one for me. Sometimes I want to go faster or slower than scheduled. Sometimes I’ll push myself hard and fast to get to somewhere else, and for the sheer joy of the challenge and feeling the ground fly beneath me. Other times a place will catch me and I’ll want to just tarry a while. And this can all change. As I said, I’m a nightmare of a travelling companion! And I love being on my own, including the opportunities for connections that that brings. Sometimes I do get lonely, and other times I wish I had someone I was sharing experiences with, who could also see the similarities/contrasts between x and y because we’d both been there. But these are the cons I have accepted for the pros.
And so with travelling my life journey alone. Being with someone 24/7 suffocates me. Even the bestest, closest people I am blessed with I could not live with. Nor would I wish myself onto them! Because I’m … tardy, unreliable, distractable, easily excitable, need alone time, flakey and … oooo shiney! The idea of someone hooking their wagon up to mine and connecting our fates so intimately is horrifying! I can take risks and flake out on stuff, or choose to throw myself entirely into a new thing, because its only me that has to deal with the consequences, and I know I can. I know I can survive on the streets, or with no money, or eating from bins, or get myself from A to B on sore sore feet carrying my belongings because I have done all these things multiple times. And I know I can laugh all these off afterwards. But risk anyone else having to deal with these? No way! I’d be much much more cautious on what path I took if anyone else might have to deal with it suddenly turning rocky. And then I’d have missed out on all the amazing things I’ve experienced, where I’ve ended up now. I wouldn’t have felt so able to twice quit well paid, secure employment because I wanted more freedom and adventure. And both times I’m really glad I did, though both times I ended up struggling as well as adventuring. Had I been sharing finances with someone? No, I don’t think I’d have been able to do that. And yet both, in hindsight, were totally the correct things for me to have done. And my life is as rich and lucky as it is now because I made those choices.
Yes sometimes I get lonely. Sometimes I wish I had someone with whom I had shared the same paths over the years. Sometimes I worry that if I get sick or otherwise need a support network that not having a conventional partner/kids will make a crisis even worse. Again, analogous to how a fall in the mountains would be worse if there is nobody around.
But mostly it just suits me really well. I have lived with partners on several different occasions. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that the default was to be with someone. That time together was because we didn’t make other arrangements. That we had to talk about washing up and bills. The constant negotiation eg when and what to have for dinner rather than just leaving that to whenever/whatever I like and not having to plan it out in advance and get shopping in. I can be in Glasgow when I like, and go away when it suits, or choose to not go away when I’d planned to. Default time is by myself, and I really love and need alone time. I don’t have to feel I’m holding anyone back financially because I’d rather have less money and more time when I’m not working. Equally if I want to save for something, I don’t have to hope they want the same thing. I can live how I choose – minimal outgoings and have a flatmate and spontaneously decide I’m going to splash out or not on food on a whim. Nobody else is affected by my decisions because I am not tightly coupled to anyone else.
I have time-constrained periods when I am effectively living with a sweetie. I am often in LDRs (long distance relationships) and so normally time with them means we are sharing a place or trip for days, weeks, or sometimes even months. It can be fun, like a holiday home is fun. Exploring new experiences. Eating different food. And its one of the few times I get as many snuggles as I actually want! But after a while of 24/7 with another person, I do get cabin fever. Took me a while to pattern match the way I was feeling (tetchy, snappy, fatigued, grouchy) with that I’d been constantly around people. But now I know that I need to take myself off alone regularly as well as recognise early symptoms and communicate my alone time needs with whoever I’m with. And as much as I get withdrawals after being with a sweetie for a while and then having to go back to sleeping on my own and missing their company, I also, simultaneously, feel a rush of relief and pleasure to be alone again.
That’ll do for now. Another thing, I’m not sure what I just rambled and whether I ever got to where I intended to, but that’s ok, because any incompleteness or errors purely have a consequence on me. I’m not talking for anyone else. I’m not responsible for anyone else. And nobody is talking for me. :)
Homecoming – Last day in SF bay area (JVP netanyahu demo, and /official/ new friend). Bus ticket drama. Glasgow returning – spontaneous outing to The Lost Boys at amusement park.
JVP Netanyahu demo and Official New Friend
Wednesday. Chilled day with Y. He was working from home. I was lazing about and got snuggles during his breaks. Then I headed into SF for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) demo protesting Trump’s meeting that day with Netanyahu and their shared values of racism, wall-building and hate-mongering. Was cool to be with other Jewish progressives, though a little disappointed there was only about 40-50 there. It was a 2 hour demo and I was only there for last bit so there might have been more attending in total as folks were coming and going. I liked the connection between zionism and to USA rhetoric and policies on migration and borders, which was expressed in chants and handmade placards.
After the demo a couple of Bay Area friends I had originally connected with from Gaza (from my trip in 2003) met me and I really enjoyed how easy and grounded in affection these relationships are. Partly I think it might be that usa (partic west coast?) culture is more emotionally demonstrative anyway, so i might just be experiencing that and feeling it as “ooo these people like me, its safe for me to open up to them too”. But regardless I’m starting to really value these other reasons for being in bay area besides Y, and this works well as both Y and I like spending time with other people too when we’re together.
I had this waffle/diner food craving, and as this was my last opportunity for it for a while, we headed to Mel’s. Mel’s is both fun, and cliched/OTT, but I’m a tourist and I kinda enjoy the OTT so I love sitting in a Happy Days set! We even used the booth side jukebox! Excitingly someone joined us who I’ve only before met with when I’ve been also meeting her partner who is an old friend of mine. We both agreed that meeting without him made us now Official Friends. She was also excited to be in SF itself, as she does the common Easy Bay resident thing of hardly ever coming over into the city.
Y joined us, and then a bit later New Official Friend, Y and I decided to go for Mexican food in the Mission – hey its my last night! I’m totes allowed 2 suppers! Then we went for a wander and ended up at the top of Dolores Park enjoying the view over the city before grabbing Indian deserts on our way to the last BART back to the East Bay. For I still needed to pack and then get up at 6am for my flight home!
Bus ticket drama
At SFO I was probably over excited by the TSA dog – so cute, though it looked pretty skinny. Luckily the excitement was not reciprocated so I got through security uneventfully, though the same was not true about getting from Edinburgh airport back to Glasgow…
So I’d managed to lose my purse containing my return bus ticket and debit card at Reykjavik airport on the way out. Pop quiz: a) I did the responsible thing and phoned lost property about it as soon as i realised, or b) I procrastinated making the scary phone call and then decided I’d just see them when I transited on my way back home only to find out that the lost property office was only open at 8:30am, was after my 4am-7am transit time? Ooops! Of course I had a chain of backup plans in case my purse wasn’t even in the airport:
1) pick up return bus ticket with bank card in iceland.
2) use debit card stored in chrome to buy bus ticket online and choose sms ticket option
3) use Y’s credit card to buy bus ticket online
4) convert $20 at edin airport (and take on chin the double commission whammy of both converting a small amount and an airport booth – I just need £11:60 for the bus ticket…)
5) once am in uk and time is more respectable (i landed 9am) start calling round friends to either buy me a bus ticket online / rescue me from airport
6) hitchhike – lots of Glasgow folks use Edinburgh airport and I was due to land at peak time (9am)
Ok, fine, so I couldn’t get my bus ticket or debit card… i just drop to option 2. After all I’ve used my card online so often I never even have to look at the CVC anymore. It turns out that my memory of that 3 digits is perfect unless its 5am and I’m on dodgy airport wifi with no way to just look at the back of the goddamned card! Fine, I’ll use Y’s credit card – he’d given me one that was about to expire anyway in case options 1 or 2 fell through. Except it turns out the citylink website doesn’t accept non uk billing addresses. Argh! More time passes and I’m like, bugger this, I need coffee and then realised i could get citylink tickets on megabus website too. So off I go but now I’m struggling with the verified by visa password and Y is busy.
However the coffee was def working – some more googling and it turns out you can buy bus tickets at edinburgh airport’s tourist information booth! They’re bound to accept card payments, and Y’s given me his pin so i’m sorted! There are buses at 9:30 and 10:00 and I’m desperate to just get to my own bed by this time.
[09:00] Luckily our flight lands a bit early and I race through immigration and to the booth (in post coffee alertness at Reykjavik I’d pre-memorised the route from the online airport map)
[09:15] Possibly over sharing I tell the v friendly “welcome to scotland” person that i’ve just arrived back from travel abroad and so don’t have cash yet and so want to buy the bus ticket using my credit card and am hoping to make the 09:30 bus. She says she’s going to make sure she can give me the ticket before taking my money and then has to boot the computer an go through the complex online system. “I don’t think we have to waste time filling in your phone number and email address. I’ll just tick that you refused to give them to me”
[09:18] The printer is jammed and after several minutes she gives up trying to fix the feed and goes to another machine which thank the universe spits out the ticket.
[09:23] I put Y’s credit card into their card reader, but instead of asking for the pin, it says “payment accepted. signature required” and directs me to remove the card. So she prints the receipt and asks me to sign it. I squiggle “Praveen Kumar” and hand it back.
[09:24] She flicks over the card (d’oh! of course she was going to do that! i’d forgotten that was even a thing. when was last time you signed for a card payment???) and the signature panel is blank… “Do you have any other ID with you?” Me, feigning calmness but running lateness “Oh no, I don’t have an other ID with me!”
Lets recap : 1) I’ve told her I’ve just landed off an international flight. 2) As far as she’s concerned she’s addressing a white female with an English accent. 3) The card is for an American bank with an Indian male name.
“Well I think you’ve been kept waiting long enough trying to get it printed. Turn right and then right again to get to the bus stop”
I LOVE BEING BACK IN SCOTLAND!!!! And I am very appreciative that I have bucketloads of white privilege which I am benefitting from – doubt this would have been so easy had Praveen Kumar been trying to use a card with a white chick’s name on :(
Friday – Spontaneous outing to The Lost Boys at amusement park
I arrived home at about 11am. Obviously first thing I did was put the kettle on. Ah tea, now things seem more reasonable. Ok, so I’ve had maybe 6 hours sleep since Wednesday, and I should probably change my clothes, but all I need to do today is stay awake til 8ish, go to the bank to get cash out across the counter, and get a few groceries in for the weekend. Then I’ll sleep like a baby and wake up some time tomorrow, go to the LGBTQ boxing club, and my timezone should be all fixed ready for 12 hour shift on Sunday. By 4:30pm I’ve done bank and shop chores and have cash and am planning a quiet evening and then sleeeeeeeep.
And then, this being Glasgow, a friend invites me to a Glasgow Film Festival screening of The Lost Boys in a secret location, buses leaving from the GFT in 90 mins. So much for the early night plan! Accompanied by motorbikes revelling as they rev their engines to full blast we are transported to M&Ds amusement park. We bump into another friend and play on the rides opened up specially for the occasion, the park packed with excited adults in vampire/hunter dress-up squirting holy-water-pistols at each other on the big wheel and maximal audience participation through a favourite teenage movie. Much glee!
Walking home from the bus, much sleep deprived but very content with how lucky I am to come back to Glasgow, where being “cool” means showing your exuberance, participating to the max. Not sneering, but rather thrilling at and cheering on others’ dorkiness and throwing themselves into the spirit of whatever hijinks is going on.
 food and drink seems to feature a lot in today’s blog… To add more, as wow air doesn’t give any food on the flight I’d packed another really good picnic; hard boiled eggs, oranges, humus and veg wrap (didn’t taste good on the flight though – i know taste buds are supposed to be different on flights), smoked tofu and jerky. This time didn’t have the conveniently under 100mls water-tight containers i had last time, and the liquor store seemed confused about why i’d want a *small* bottle of alcohol (merkans and their super-sizing!) so decided to buy booze in duty-free as obvs you can carry that onto the plane. Except then I realised once aboard that i wasn’t sure if i’d be allowed to carry it onto my second flight if i took it out of the heat sealed duty free bag and opened it. so i relied on snoozing and copious pre downloaded star trek to get me through instead. I’d turned down a pal’s offer of a “medicated” jelly bean which given the TSA doggie (such cute eyes!) was lucky!
 Name changed to another Indian male name for privacy reasons.
That awkward moment you realise you’re in a Maoist cult meeting but don’t want to appear rude (Berkeley day 14)
Once talking politics might have been considered not for polite company, but these days its foregrounded in almost every encounter, be it in a shared taxi, on public transit (an unknown fellow passenger commented, in a conversation about where to get beer, that he’d just bought a pack of Budweiser in support of “the ad”), the grocery store… 95% of interactions that last longer than 10 secs have at least some kind of explicit nod to the political context.
Keen always to meet Anarchists as I travel, I was especially eager to see what they were up to given the attacks and protests going on. Last year I’d done a bit more research and seen there were 2 anarchist bookshops in the Bay Area, but only visited the one in SF, having seen there was also one in the East Bay. So yesterday I looked up “anarchist bookstore” on google maps and not only did a result show up just over a mile away but they had a meeting on fascism a couple hours later! Score!
Arriving shortly before the meeting I saw bookcases filled with radical titles and was especially excited by sections for graphic novels and children/young adults books. Another blue haired person came up (its normal for us blue hairs to want to greet each other) and was happy to hear I was from Glasgow as she’s seen that we had Trump inauguration protests, though she seemed strangely unexcited when I said I had come because I’m an Anarchist and wanted to learn more of what people were doing here. I went back to browsing the kids books.
Another person approached me asking how I knew about the meeting. He seemed friendly, and we casually chatted about Scotland and politics. At some point though he got intense and started recommending a book that was on the main display just inside the front door promising “The New Communism”. Now its not unusual for me to encounter those defining as communists who have libertarian politics, so this wasn’t a red flag to me, unlike his explanation that “since Mao died we haven’t had socialism in the world”…. Woah, wait up a second! I politely, whilst also trying to back away slowly, said that I had some issues with Mao, but luckily just then we were called to sit down for the meeting and I assumed he was just some random lefty who was also interested in fascism.
It was only once we were sat (in *rows* with the speakers at the front! yes i really am this dense!) that I looked above the bookshelves and noticed that the walls of the bookshop were *covered* in large posters featuring this one dude “Bob Avakian” with the distinctly un-libertarian sounding title of “Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party”!
But by this time the talk had started and it felt like it would be rude to just get up and leave. So I sat through half an hour of unsophisticated pontificating, slowly sinking in how I’d proudly informed these authoritarian leftists that I was an Anarchist expecting them to connect with me on that! Finally I pretended i’d just got a message on my phone and suddenly had to leave smiling as I legged it out the door. Later I looked up Bob Avakian and found out they’re a legit personality cult. Absolutely no idea why google maps thought they were an anarchist bookstore, unless its a conspiracy to redirect potential radicals into something so bizarro that they retreat to capitalism sharpish! Next time I’ll do my research before merrily waltzing into a Maoist den!
i) WOW air flight
Yesterday I flew WOW air from Edinburgh to San Francisco airport (SFO) via Reykjavik. The seats were pretty spacious, unlike the baggage allowance. Measly even compared to ryanair, the free carry-on was only 42x32x25cm! I decided to refuse to pay for a “large carry-on” in addition, so packed into my day pack:
Top row: laptop, power adapter, menstrual pads and cup, glasses case, torch/battery pack. water bottle was in side pocket and i refilled it in Rekyavik airport (water fountain is downstairs next to the toilets, below the duty free shop).
Middle row: toy bag, spare hoodie, mirror for applying eye drops, kindle (was in other side pocket), micro USB cable, headphones (were around my neck prior to eating picnic, then fitted in bag), toiletries/meds in poly bag
Bottom row: 3 * luggage cubes. 1) a gift, pair of shorts, a dress 2) underwear for 8 days plus swimsuit. 3) 6 * tshirts.
I brought a plane picnic with me, but by time i took photo (when i unpacked today) i’d already eaten it all. It was inside the bag as well so i optimised for filling/protein/fruit per volume : 2 scoops of huel in a sandwich bag (i used the water bottle to mix it in after drinking half the water), 6 cooked fishfingers, 2 hard boiled eggs, raisins and 2 apples. meant to bring nuts as well but forgot. i bought a sandwich at reykjavik airport. Only just managed to finish it all by time i landed at SFO! Will definitely do similar flying again as even on a normal flight the provided food is insufficient whereas this actually had me content. I also had 2 small containers of whisky
The seats were pretty spacious. On the trans atlantic flight they had european plug sockets to charge from. There was no tv screen at all, and it was surprising how much i missed knowing our position as we fly, and those stats such as speed/altitude/eta. if i’d had a window seat i would have been able to turn gps on and at least know something of where we were.
ii) Arriving at #SFO to arrivals protest
I was actually more nervous about USA immigration this trip than ever before, although I thought (accurately) that my white skin and “western”/high income country passport would see me through, and they did. I looked around for the doors that those deemed unworthy because they were born in the wrong country, of the wrong skin colour were bustled off through but this was hidden for those of us who were allowed in. Fingerprints and photo was taken by the biometric systems at the immigration desk.
Walking out of the doors into arrivals was fucking awesome because from the bleak banal horror of the immigration system I walked into cheers and colourful handmade signs reading “Muslims welcome here”, “This Native American wants you in her country”, “We are a nation of immigrants” and “No ban, no wall”. Was such an upbeat, vocal, cheerful protest, although this was Monday, the day after the big callouts and airport presences of the weekend. And a dozen lawyers had a makeshift legal space set up nearby. Was so beautiful to see a diverse, courageous, visible demonstration of opposition to the white supremacy being enacted by the state.
iii) politics on the streets
Walking around Berkeley there are signs of resistance everywhere. Antifascist posters, stickers, even conversations in the grocery store. People talking about the airport protests with pride and some kind of determination to stand collectively together. Communities of resistance and solidarity to me are like the mother spider plant, nurturing and allowing baby plants to be sent off in all directions to spread this defiance and better way of living afield. I’ll write more about this as days go by.