Skip to main content

Weaponized, Real Beauty

you are beautiful

"I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it." - Harriet Tubman said that 163 years ago. For a lot of us it might as well have been said yesterday. 

You ask most folks how they describe liberty today? They respond with learned vague platitudes - a home, a good job, a healthy family. I grew up watching the generations before me come home at night completely ruined chasing that liberty down. Chasing that definition of freedom. 

What good does do us if there is nothing left of us to enjoy any moment of it. Running ourselves ragged? People tie themselves down t'all these preconceptions. A home - you could be free there, if home didn't mean church cuz momma tells you to, if home hadn't mean neighborhoods with bullet holes in the sidin', if home meant my opinion had any value because I'm a girl. A good job? I can clean hotel rooms or fight in a kitchen for minimum wage. Go out and beg for the professional scraps left at someone else's table just so we can say we have a good job? and don't even start me on a healthy family -  we all know that doesn't even exist anymore? Nope - the scars on all of us show us that truth.

I went from high school graduation - right down to the school of beauty. I learned how to craft someone from caterpillar, through chrysalis, and onto a full on butterfly in just an hour's time. 

When I was a girl, I took all of Harriet's words, all those painful lessons she left for us to learn? I took it all for granted until I got the first month's books done at the salon. That's when I realized that I hadn't had any experience of the liberty - and I was ignorant of it as generations before me. My next choices would define me.  Not what I was expected to do by anyone else, but what my heart told me was right. 

Tubman said proudly once, "I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger." Now before we get all too up at it, its not like a chair in a salon is part of some grand underground railroad. 

However, when you see a sad woman's eyes light up with surprise when I turn her towards the mirror, you know this is their first step on the way to something else. None of my business where they pivot to, as long as when they are with me they achieve that moment where they 'see' beauty. You have never seen transformation like a black woman who looks in the mirror and for the first time in however long, sees how beautiful she is. She sees how she won't ever let herself be seen otherwise again. The power of having that as a truth always inside you? 

Weaponized, realized beauty. 

So, you ask me how I define liberty? I see it as an untetheredness. None of those other expectations weighin' me down like an anchor. I don't have a whole lot, but what I have I am putting to work. That's me putting MY freedom to work. 

I may have grown up one of the neglected weeds, but baby - Baby, watch me now. I'm just starting to bloom. And you'd do best by just makin' way.


Spiritual Awakening


It's that situation we've all found ourselves in where someone serves you a food you absolutely fucking hate. You are assured that obviously someone hadn't "made it the right way" for you yet. That kind of bullshit is never true, because now there you are, sitting in front of a giant pile of something you hate, except 'this time' it's served pureed with a sprinkling of pine nuts.

I'd come to the beach to attend to a 'Spiritual Rebelfest' on the recommendation of my friend Fran.

Fran is now firmly on the coal list come christmas time. Real dark, sooty, gross, earth-destroying coal.

I'd accepted Fran's challenge to come with a deliberately cleared mind. So much good that did. The introductory meet and greet was followed by nearly two hours non-genderspecific-splaining of the fucking rules.

I'm all for like minded folks to do stuff - but if it all that comes tightly wrapped in a bunch of rules meant to keep you from taking any kind of real risk, it's like planning an orgy and asking people to not fuck. Exactly - where is the fun in that? Purposefully zero fun environments make me a grumpy son-of-a-bitch.

I should have known better when the featured speaker was described in the Rebelfest guide as "a Jedi-infused, interspiritual smorgasbord of universally attuned awareness with stories that which will awaken and encourage the depth and breadth of ourselves to flourish, even in the chaos of our times." They left out - "hasn't been laid in a decade and blames everyone else. It couldn't possibly be him."

I used to think that compulsory conformity was part of just how gay people interact. The awfulness that can come from 'organized gay.' Pissy gangs of queens permanently choosing to trade snark and sarcasm for compassion and sensible wit. Some of uglier parts of humanity I've had the displeasure to view. Normal mean behavior but on fire. Mean behavior you'd never tolerate anywhere else in your life - but on fire, and usually involving the penis.

Rebelfest had truly opened my eyes, the truth was that organized ANYTHING was a giant steaming pile of fuck-you-I'm-out. They could be straight, gender binary, vegan, --- I've even encountered this dehumanizing shitshow behavior at silent retreats. It takes a PhD in complete human dysfunction to even fuck up silence.

As I left the "Welcome Plenary", one of the moderators greeted me in a stepford-wife voice.

"Remember that after 9p.m.," she said pointing at my device. (Because actually saying the term 'iPhone' is supporting income disparity and slave labor on circuit boards overseas), "Those are forbidden, they block the energy of the mind chakra. Ppeace will be with you."

Without answering, I took out my fucking iPhone - and before reaching my dormitory I had booked myself into an AirBnb down the coast. I spent the weekend bouncing on the mattress, occasionally taking breaks to drink giant big-gulp sized glasses of Pinot Noir, not giving a fuck if it broke any rules. That's some spiritual awakening for you.


know love


The note begins, 'to anyone who needs hope', a simple message scratched into the wall. I ran my fingers over the immortalized text. "Always love. There is so much hurt and anger in this world you don't want to leave without love in your heart."

I liked the concept of you leaving the world, but knew that the author was in some small part - supporting the bursts of optimistic green grass that has determinedly find themselves growing in the floor of the sanctuary.

I take that back my translation is wrong. шӀэн -- щӀэн - - KNOW love. Almost a lost language it seems, even in the silence of the ruins.

шӀэн -- щӀэн "KNOW love. there is so much....."

It's amazing to think that someone would write a tome to love in a place where bombs fell indiscriminately for so long the face of the city was no longer visible. Rooms lay open to the dry air like unfinished sentences. Tables set for a meal, wedding beds now sitting in wall-less vistas. The river has torn a new course through the ruins when you look down over the valley. Without influence, the river now free to return to where it's needed.

Studying sites like these always reinforced the rule of impermanence. Our condition of being bound to aging, sickness, and death, of possessing a body that is subject to being worn and rubbed away, to dissolution and integration back into the very soil we were born from.

I wonder what this person's unfinished dreams were? Did their family make it out when they did not?

I imagine this person's son or daughter, going on to lead a quiet life in a new country somewhere. Perhaps they now hold a child's hand on their way to the first day of school. The fall colours falling leaf by leaf around them like a snow globe.

Looking down into the child's eyes, do they see a reflection? They see a person very different than they'd ever imagined themselves becoming. Despite the hardships of their life, they remember an almost forgotten voice. One that was teaching them from very early to know love.




It's an interesting thing to have not known a time without her. Her armor-penetrating laugh has been the same since my family moved in across the street in the fall of 1973.

She sat across from me at our breakfast table with that impossible smile. Her first question for me was "what is your favorite color?" - I told her with great confidence green was amazing, but she preferred purple because it was the mix of two colors she didn't like that formed the perfect color,

"Blue and red on their own are boring, buh' combeened day make PURPLE. look at it - PURPLE!"

She said it with that couple-of-teeth missing perfection. Its still the way I'll say the word sometimes.

I can remember watching her blossom into a young woman and shying away as pubescent awkwardness overwhelmed me like a tsunami. Without cheerleader squads for chess club or the physics honor roll, she never noticed me. She married the quarterback, I'd watched from across the dance floor romancing her.

My braces eventually came off. I embraced my nerdy talents, letting go of all the confusion of being a boy and grew into my own man, I let the winds of college and then grad school carry me far away. I never really forgot her, but had accepted that our lives had taken different paths.

I came home one summer, the small town of my youth still pulling out all the stops for 4th of July. As I drove up to my childhood home, I noticed the "for sale" sign across the street.

"Falkner's place up for sale?"

"Oh honey, that's just a sad, sad story....", Mom began.

Her blonde prince charming had started spending more time down at the local pub than at home. He had driven home one evening swerving and striking another car, killing the family inside. There had been a very public trial, and he eventually found himself locked away for a great long sentence.

The overwhelming costs of the trial and the ensuing legal bills forced them to sell the house. Their divorce proceedings played out in the small town like a Hollywood romance gone bad. His anger over their inability to have children had driven him to drink and find lots other female company - - it became fodder for the kinds of vicious rumors and painful assumptions small towns specialize in. She was working in the local bookstore to make a living, It seemed that all the luster and promise of her life had been wiped away.

When I first saw here again after so many years, she was seated in the city park. She was feeding bread crumbs to ducks at her feet. She wore her hair in ponytails with simple purple bows.

We both remember seeing other suddenly. We both recall working hard not to cry at seeing each other after so much time and so many circumstances and decisions making their impact on us.

She did indeed sell the house, moving into a lovely downtown apartment above the five and dime we'd both rushed to with our allowances so many years earlier. We started trading long letters to each other. I invited her into the city on the train a few months late. We went out on what we both called 'that first date'.

Tomorrow morning, she and I will get married. Both our mothers are, of course, claiming that they knew it would happen eventually. The table centers at the reception include technicolor piles of crayolas and white paper tablecloths.

Beautiful girls are seldom happy, intelligent boys are seldom beautiful, but I'm sure it's what we've always wanted for each other.

I am sure that every word, every touch that she and I share - they color me in.


Ward 7

Ward 7

I woke from a rest to see him sitting patiently in the chair next to my bed. He let me wake up, pulling myself up in the pajamas and tangle of sheets. He reached out and took my hand, gently tracing the IV taped to the top of my hand.

They'd found me passed out in the shower. The doctor told me I was lucky I hadn't drowned. I had a nasty dark bruise on my face from the fall. The next door neighbor called 911, and I'd ended up here on the 7th floor. The fucking 7th floor.

I’d caused an ugly scene. Anywhere but here. These. These are the rooms where others had come and never escaped.

"Don’t put me in a room to die! Please!," I'd screamed.

Two doors down was the piano player from the sweater bar. Next door, the kind man who loved wearing Liberace-style fur coats and loved sunflowers. Wasn’t there room somewhere else in the hospital, goddammit? I was sure I wasn’t the first angry, scared person to occupy room #703.

He'd heard from Marcia that I'd only taken one bite of birthday cake the night before. If I wasn't eating cake, the situation obviously required further intervention.

"Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm still here, Morticia.", I said with a raspy dry voice.

"There he is," he began, his face exploding into a warm smile.