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Back in the SF Bay Area for a few weeks

April 21, 2017 1 comment

I walked to the bus station through the pre dawn light, pack on my back, with enough time to stop off for newly baked morning rolls in my local 24 hour corner shop. The freshness of the early Glasgow air adding to the euphoria I felt just for being on the road again. Its been a hectic and demanding month. I’ve had to organise and run 2 events (anniversary for Rachel Corrie and I hosted a passover seder for 10 people) which I’m finding really stressful lately. And had lots of housing issues to do with building work and incompatibilities in how my flatmate and I deal with things and prefer our household to work. Some of that was resolved the night before I set off, and all the events are over for another year.

There’s a peace I feel when I’m travelling. Contentment. Relief. Awareness of surroundings and mindfulness. The physical movement and momentum is happy food for my brain. Tensions lift.

And the early morning air, the songs of the birds, scent of slightly damp ground, all full of freshness and openings and new energy. A whole new day beginning. Happiness also at my life that enables me to do this, to head off on a new journey. That I purposefully live somewhere enabling me to bracket trips with 20-30 mins of walking between home and the mainline bus or train stations. I can breathe in and feel Glasgow during the transitions between home and away.

Both the planes from Edinburgh to Heathrow, and then the transatlantic to SFO were very empty, explaining why I got such cheap tickets. When the people in front tried to strike up conversation with me after I helped them with food and then displaying skymap for them, I tried to be polite but I couldn’t totally hide my irritation at them interrupting my precious alone traveling zone out. They were intrigued by my life – a home/work system that allows regular traveling and polyamory – which reminded me of how much of a bubble I normally stay in where neither are so unusual!

Last trip to Berkeley, in February, I enjoyed being somewhere that felt so progressive and safe for that. Last Saturday racists, alt-right and Trump supporters exploited their growing numbers and confidence to descend on Berkeley precisely because it is “enemy territory” for them and violently claimed both the university and the downtown. Obviously I never thought Berkeley was some utopian, anarchist stronghold, but this successful invasion by the rightwing underscored how powerful they now are. I guess it felt more intense for me because of being here so recently and feeling like there was some glimmer of light in the darkness that is rapidly overrunning the world.

I am primarily in Berkeley to visit a honey, and to get some R&R, rather than focusing on making political connections or participating in activism. However my sweetie and I will be on tomorrow’s march for science, and I will be visiting local spaces and collectives, and hopefully doing a bit of volunteering in the background. I’ll probably blog more, both about being here, and to catch up on last year’s trips and events.

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Categories: diary, politics, travel

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.

February 18, 2017 Leave a comment

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[0] 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”[1] 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.

img_20170217_194454517.jpgAnd 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.

 

 

[0] 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!

[1] 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)

February 15, 2017 2 comments

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.

newc-book-cover-largeIt 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!

Categories: diary, politics, travel

restarting a diary on this blog

January 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Today I bumped into an old friend in that awesome way of Glasgow – meeting pals in saramago, purveyor of Glasgow’s finest chocolate cake, evolved into an extended hangout including free gin and tonic, lots of cake, soup and seeing several different friends over the afternoon/evening. And then unplanned stop off at project cafe on way home for some surprisingly good open mic music and poetry. Anyway one of the old friends has left facebook for all the good reasons we all should and nudged me about this blog and that reminded me that I keep meaning to use it more.

Apparently its not super annoying that mostly what I write here is livejournal-esque navel gazing, and anyway, its not like me writing here is forcing anyone to read it or otherwise attention/time stealing, so I’ll try not to feel guilty that it feels a bit narcissistic to be writing so much from my first person.

I think I might actually write about some aspects of my life that maybe are of more general interest but aren’t overtly political – I tend to write political stuff anyway but often on more overtly political mediums. So I’ll try and write more about :

  • how i do “relationships” – terms might include solo polyamory, relationship anarchy, off escalator, but i often prefer plain old “ethical non-monogamy”.
  • travel-logging. partly this is because as a female bodied person who travels alone and in unconventional modes, i find it heartening, inspiring and most importantly emboldening to read of similar others so i want to add to that. but mostly its because i have really cool adventures and experiences but a terrible memory so i want to be able to read back and go, “oh yeah, that was amazing!”
  • finding/creating ways to be and do judaism that accord with my world views (i tend to write this already, and i want to keep this up)
  • being a nurse and ideas about healthcare
  • living in glasgow, and figuring out what i want from home – both in terms of my personal nest and the city within which that is currently set.
  • whatever i’ve been up to in a given week – i’ll try and write at least once a week (self discipline and all that) but if i don’t have anything more general to blether about, i’ll just start from what i’ve been up to.

again – whether anyone reads this or not is not important – writing helps me figure stuff out and gives me something to refer back to when my memory fails me again. though i’d be lying if i said my ego doesn’t like it when folks tell me they enjoy reading this shit.

i guess this post is a kind of warning – if you read this blog what you are getting is a stream of consciousness that aims to be unapologetically first person – you ain’t gonna get any passive voice pseudo objectivity/universality here, unless i want to try out some ideas that seem to suit that format.

here goes!

Categories: diary, personal

love/hate rships with airports. goodbye dear lover until next time.

July 22, 2016 1 comment

I live a “solo poly” existence. I choose not to have a “primary partner”. I choose not to live with a partner, or orbit my life around their’s. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t suit me at all. I love like I live – independent and freewheeling and with a few very deep very dear connections. Those deepest connections are primarily not people I happen to have a sexual/romantic connection with at the moment, though I tend to remain close to those I have had that kind of interaction with, because affection and care and love and connection are more permanent than whether or not sexy things feel right between folks at any particular time.

Anyway, today one of my closest folks and lovers, left after a wonderful 3 week visit. As the cab took me away from the airport, I acutely felt the separation. I felt hate for the plane that was shortly to take him even further from me. After such an concentrated togetherness, sharing intensely spacetime, deep companionship and nsfw activities, suddenly my partner in crime is no longer next to me.

We’ve talked about whether we should reorganise our lives to be geographically closer, but that wouldn’t work for us.

We meet and part at airports. I like that we both travel alone enough, and watch other folks being met, that being met ourselves feels like such a treat. Going to the airport is part of the ritual of our relationship. Hugs and passionate kisses at arrivals, later mirrored at the departure security check. In 4 different countries so far, on 3 continents. Sweet coming together. Never will we take time together for granted. The preciousness of waking up together for those weeks.

I’ve been planning for postdeparture and have nice things lined up for a few days. Tonight I’m going to have fun with a friend, tomorrow is a social gathering, Monday star trek in 3D. Self care ftw. I’m ok with the way our relationship is. I miss him because we have such a good connection and I’d rather have that and miss it than not. We miss each other because we are the people that we are, each with full lives and interests and desires and therefore don’t want to just give up all of that to live together, even if either of us were fixed enough in one place for the other to move there.

But damned if I didn’t hate that plane that was physically moving us away from each other.

Categories: diary, personal, poly Tags: , ,

The other side of the coin

April 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Feeling sooo rough. And its a gorgeous day outside, but can’t face it. Managed outside a small amount yesterday, but was tough.

What happened? I way overdid it at the weekend. Best laid plans and all that – I had planned on taking it easy on Friday night as was away for a 4 day festival, where the 3rd night, Saturday, is always the biggy… however spontaneously took up a friend’s offer lateish on Friday evening, and that, on top of Thursday night’s session pretty much wrecked me as I still went for the party on Saturday night, crashed early (well, from about 3am) but was determined to keep dancing (the music was amazing!) so went for the caffeine and ended up a jittery and unable to sleep mess. Which wrecked my Sunday and still feeling terrible.

So, why did it happen? Because I tend to say yes, spontaneously, to almost anything! I’m up for random adventures, new things, fun, new experiences etc. And that spontaneity does have its negative effects, as those around me Sunday can attest, and I was in full-on regret mode (because I also lost out on dancing Sunday, and had a less good weekend than I wanted/needed) when I remembered how I also lost a lot of money, and that this was similar.

So, in the late 1990s I was working for a company that floated on the nasdaq and I ended up with share options in it, which I exercised, but then was lax about doing anything to reclaim the tax which I’d been erroneously charged by USA IRS. Why? Because at that point I had enough money to live on, and I’m not very financially focused. I managed to eek out this money plus the savings I’d made when working for couple years of budget living / travel, only running out end of 2003.

I just don’t really value the material very much. I do get uncomfortable when in debt, so avoid that as I find it stressful, but otherwise I just don’t make decisions around it. And the time in my life when I was earning the most (4 years of working as a programmer) reinforced how unrelated money (as long as I have my basic needs covered) is to how happy and meaningful my life is. I’ve been super broke. I’ve been homeless multiple times. I’ve had to sleep in squats, in homeless accommodation, or sofa surfed (the worst of the lot imo) and eaten out of rubbish bins. It wasn’t always fun, to put it mildly. It could be very cold. I’ve been hungry and desperate. But I’m not there now. I have sorted my life out so that I do have a roof and electricity and money for food. I haven’t been that poor since 2004 and I’m very happy about that.

But beyond that, I really don’t take money highly into account when deciding whether or not to do a thing. I know I can survive on very little – I’d prefer not to, but its a much smaller preference than, for example, going somewhere I’ve not been before, or helping someone out, or having a meaningful life, or having fun.

That was all context for what happened a few years ago when I was saving up to travel and I remembered that the USA IRS owed me a couple thousand dollars. They’d (incorrectly) taxed me on the nasdaq shares, despite me not being USA tax payer. So, I went along to the IRS department at the USA embassy in London to reclaim it. The woman there was super nice and helpful, but when we checked the dates (from emails when I’d cashed in the shares) she told me (she was gutted!) that it was too late and past their time limit for refunding me the tax. She tried super hard to figure a way round it, but there was nothing – I’d basically handed a bunch of money to the USA government to spend on bombs and had left it too late to get it back.

I managed to hold myself together to walk a block from Grosvener Square and then collapsed into a doorway and wept, raging at myself. How could I have been so stupid and incompetent? I kicked myself over and over. Why had I done this? And the answer came – because I don’t care enough about money and so had allowed this particular TODO to be squeezed out by all the rest I’d been doing over the years. And actually I’d never prioritised money when making life decisions and that has led to an incredibly awesome, full, meaningful life. Sure, at times like this it sucked really fucking hard, but that was the unavoidable other side of the exact same coin which had made my life so rich and wholesome.

I was still upset, but somehow felt better and more that it wasn’t completely inexplicable and stupid that I’d lost all this money. I know my biases a bit better so am better able to account for them in future, and be aware that I might need to put extra checks into place if I’m in a similar situation when I need to do x in order to sort something financial out.

And so with this. Yes I had less fun over the weekend than I wanted, and yes I feel horrible now because I spontaneously said yes to a friend on Friday night, but oh wow has my life been full of adventures and experiences exactly because that is my tendency!

Now I’m gonna go force myself to go out on my bike and enjoy the sun. Because last year I thought that riding from Land’s End to John o’Groats sounded like a fun adventure, and so I did it even though it made no sense financially, nor was I adequately prepared for it, and now I am a cycleholic with another great journey in my life.

Next time though, I need to be careful that I don’t overdo it when I’m partying and be aware that I will tend to say “yes” and that I need some kind of check to make sure that really is what I want to do :)

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End of Saturday night, and just about still smiling!