Monday, 27 February 2012

About Me, Part 39: In Between The Heartaches

The winter of 2000-01 was an unusually bright and sunny, although cold and crisp, one. That and having been on anti-depressants since the summer, made my mood bright and optimistic. It showed in my style of dress, which was very colourful: a striped sweater with an Afghan vest with tiny mirrors on it and tight black jeans, and my hair bleached blond. All of this was male clothing, but as flamboyant and androgynous as I could make it. Not doing any therapy or personal growth at that point, I was in kind of a decadent phase, not feeling thirty at all. I had hopes for forming a drag performing troupe, a mixed one called the Royal Flush Theatre Society. I even had a friend from the Mastery who was a graphic designer come up with a logo. I was all set up, but trying to come up with joiners was nearly impossible.

I had not been politically active in almost a decade and, at the time, was satisfied not to. The bisexual community, for me, was a chance to socialize and meet others with something in common. But, at this point, the community was going through some turmoil and tension. The social nights had stopped, Denman Station had closed as had the cafe where we used to meet. There was an upcoming conference that August and many were getting burned out in the lead up to it. The last party that I had gone to in the community had been at someone's house in Marpole in December. I began to feel an emptiness growing in the social ends of my life and it upset me deeply as I regarded my friends as chosen family.

Ever since I had landed in Vancouver, years earlier, I had always assumed life would get better indefinitely. In the aftermath of my mother's death, I felt things could only go upwards. The world would likewise become healthier, more sustainable. Also, I had moved to Vancouver, BC in the hopes of building a healthy, holistic life: that was what it was supposed to all be about out west, from an easterner's perspective. Vancouver had been my convolescent home where I recovered from grief and self-hate, my campus where I go my graduate degree and became a professional, my school of hard knocks where I learned to carry myself responsibly and my sweat lodge where I confronted my inner demons and also became myself, empowered and confident. But, in 2001, the optimistic climate that I had lived in for over five years began to change, and not for the better. Much of it was because of the darkening political climate. I, like many others, was disgusted at the fraudulent 2000 presidential election in the US. Come inauguration in January 2001, not many could bear to turn on the television to watch. Little did we know that the presidential convoy was being pelted with eggs on its way to the ceremony. And the investigations into the election continued. Back north of the 49th, we had our own problems. We still had a center left government, but the right was gathering momentum. And we had lost a major figure of our liberal tradition the previous fall when former prime minister Trudeau passed away. During his televised state funeral, many of us wept, whether we had agreed with him or not; he had been a piece of many of our childhoods in a world that seemed so much different from the one we were entering now. There are some who believed that the new year, and century and millennium, began on January 1, 2000; I am in the camp that believes that 2001 brought in the new era. This was a decade from which I would learn a lot, but also one from which I am still recovering to this day.


*


About two months into the year, I joined a cast for another local theatre production; a couple of Mastery friends were co-directing a production of the monologue-based Vital Signs. In the wake of the success of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues, monologue type productions were everywhere. In this one, I was to play a variety of parts including two male characters and a female one. I was ecstatic. Over the winter, I had become very theatre crazy and was taking in plays often. With one of the directors, I went to see a Studio 58 production of Hair at Langara College. Rehearsals started in late February and were split between one directors apartment near Commercial Drive and the other's performance class in the West End. The latter had co-directed She Stoops To Conquer the previous fall and had been teaching clown and mask classes for decades. Some of us in the cast took his classes as a way of opening up and getting into character. I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Like with the fall's production, Vital Signs was a blast; the cast and crew bonded and the back stage meta-play that developed was as fun as the actually production. And during production, I became smitten with one of the members of the crew. Vital Signs ran the last weekend (Thursday to Saturday) of April at a venue on the Drive called The Cavern. The dress rehearsal was on Wednesday night. I, once again, invited friends and co-workers most of whom enjoyed the production very much. The late actor Denis Simpson was in the audience one night, next to an old friend from my Dawson College days back east, later said that he wanted to learn my monologue himself. I was honored. With all the accolades I got, I felt that I had a future in acting.

At the wrap party, immediately after the last show, I invited the member of the crew that I was interested in, out for coffee; this was the same woman who had been working on my theatre troupe logo. We went on two dates, however, things did not click. I was disappointed, but felt ready to move on.


*


That spring, the Lower Mainland bus drivers went on strike. Only the SkyTrain and a few other services continued. The new line out in the direction of where I worked was still being built. Suddenly, much of the region was paralyzed. Getting to some of the last rehearsals for the play had been difficult, but now getting to work was a trial. Eventually, I became part of a carpooling arrangement with another staff member who lived several blocks east of where I lived, but this was just during the week. Weekends were another matter.

During the strike, BC had a provincial election which brought in a centre right government. The general mood in my adopted began to sour. This is much clearer in retrospect than it was at the time. I began to miss the early days when I had just arrived and the world seemed to be opening up.

On the other hand, the summer of 2001 was a very warm, lazy one. I had very little to do outside of work, and getting there and back. No more plays or productions. Curiously, I was still feminizing myself as much as I could: shaving my body, shaving my face very closely, painting my nails. I felt great doing so. It occurred to me that I could not look at myself in the mirror until I had done these things. Despite shaving my face closely (so much so that it was often irritated), I still had a shadow, the discolouration from having switched from an electric razor to a regular one. It felt not just ugly with it, but somehow alien. I wished my facial hair gone. Likewise my voice which I could not stand: I wished it was softer, lighter, even a little higher. Thoughts about these were becoming more and more constant. When I could not deal with them anymore, I blocked them out with music.


I felt sufficiently healthy and happy by mid-summer to begin to taper off, and then discontinue, my anti-depressants. I took my last pill in July. I felt that I had come a long way since I had started taking them and that I had enough energy to carry on without them. My creative imagination was brimming with new ideas and began keeping a notebook. I joined an Artist's Way group towards the end of the month; it was facilitated by a Mastery friend who lived over near Commercial Drive. I walked for an hour one afternoon, on a day off, to get there. Getting there from work most Mondays, though, I could walk from the nearby SkyTrain station. The twelve week course involves doing art projects, keeping a daily journal of automatic writing (morning pages) and going on creatively stimulating field trips (artist dates). I had attempted this on my own a few years earlier. I found doing this in a group much more rewarding. I began to plot out my future in collages; a lot of colour, acting icons and many, many female faces and bodies.



*


I planned to fly to Montreal in mid-August. The week leading up to that was tumultous. After a very long, hot summer labour-wise, the transit strike ended. My workplace became very stressful with a rapid changeover in management. That weekend, I attended the North American Conference on Bisexuality and , Gender, and Sexual Diversity. An all-around great conference, had at UBC, with folks from all over the world in attendance. Tumultous because I met someone.

I met her in one of the sessions on art; she was an androgynous, boyish looking woman with a soft, shy voice and puckish eyes. I was smitten immediately. When a few of us went to a nearby food court for dinner, something clicked in our conversation. She was from Philadelphia ... and married. Both her and her husband were polyamourous. But was I? I had never thought about it. Maybe I was. I did like her a lot, though.

Later at the dance at the Student Union Building Ballroom, we danced and made out. Soon afterwards, we went to her dorm room and spent the night. She had to leave early to catch her flight back home. I helped her gather her stuff together and saw her out to the taxi. We exchanged numbers, kissed and then, the cab pulled out of the Gage Towers driveway and drove off. I caught the bus home, floating the whole way.

The CITR radio show Queer FM called me that afternoon to ask about my memories of the conference. Live on the air, I was tongue-tied, but I knew I would remember it fondly. Over the next day before leaving for Montreal, I got my hair cut and bleached and then spent the day packing. When I flew out, I knew I had great news to tell when I landed.


My father and stepmother cottoned on that I was in love when I spent sometime on the phone the evening after I landed. My girlfriend told me that I could call collect. The fact that I was seeing somebody, albeit long-distance, lightened the mood of my trip. We also took both of my grandmothers out for dinner; I did not have the chance to do this with my grandfather, but I figured that it was best to host both of my grandmothers while they were still alive. We took pictures. We also went to visit one of my father's cousins north of Montreal in Deux Montagnes. I had not been to their house since I was a child. My father's cousin seemed very warm and welcoming; I kept wanting to catch up with her, but never got the chance. Soon we were leaving.

I enjoyed being in the old neighbourhood in St. Leonard and also walking around downtown, old Montreal and the Plateau neighbourhood. When I left, I was literally on top of the world.

The last two weeks of August were light, free and colourful. The Artist's Way continued. I went to a Mastery weekend party on the Sunday night. That same weekend, the local Public Dreams community performance society put on its Circus of Dreams in McLean Park in Strathcona. I had a flower painted on my face, but not satisfied, I went home and dressed up as a clown before taking a taxi back to the park. Then, I headed to the Mastery party dressed accordingly. Free, whimsical fun.

I turned thirty-one on September 6th, a Thursday. My girlfriend called me to wish me a happy birthday. She had bought me a gift on Amazon and it was on its way. It was already shaping up to be one of the best years yet. The following Monday, after I went to my Artist's Way group I went home to write in my journal and go over my goals for the coming week. I was also nursing a bad canker sore (they ran on my mother's side of the family). My morning pages kept me up a few hours as I kept complaining about my sore. My biggest concern in the wee hours of September 11. I soon fell asleep.


To be continued ...























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Saturday, 25 February 2012

About Me, Part 38: You'll Never Walk Alone

Towards the end of the summer 2000, I got involved in another acting gig. This time, it was a play. The director of the whodunnit film that I had been in May needed to recoup some money and decided to run a production of Oliver Goldsmith's 1700s play She Stoops To Conquer. Auditions started in August and I got to play a few minor roles as house servants. The play was a satirical comedy about class structure in Georgian-era England. Rehearsals began soon afterwards. The cast was a great mix of personalities and participating was a lot of fun. My mood was turning around. Then, came my thirtieth birthday and my family's second visit to Vancouver.


*


I took two weeks vacation the first two weeks of September. I considered my thirtieth to be a major, if anxiety provoking, milestone, so I was pulling out all of the stops by having my party at a comedy club in East Vancouver. I had been going to a weekly Saturday night stand up comedy series there over the summer and had seen some great comedians. I knew the organizer from the Mastery community so we planned the event, a roast; I felt confident enough to get roasted and set about inviting friends, co-workers, my White Rock area relatives and, of course, my father and stepmother. They flew out to Vancouver on September 5 and took a taxi up to my apartment where they would be staying for the week that they were in town. I had just had my hair cut and bleached, something that I had been doing off and on for about two years, but that they had not seen yet. Their reaction to it was muted, but not hostile. What I planned to tell them was about my orientation and my drag performing, particularly as the latter was well-known among my friends and likely to be fodder for the comedians. I wanted to do two things: prepare them for the roasting material and, more importantly, come out to them and include them in the life that I had built over the last five years on the West Coast.

On the Wednesday before the party, my actual birthday, we went to a dutch pancake place in the neighbourhood and then went on a walking tour of the mansions up the street in Shaughnessy. I told them about the party and they seemed happy about it. The next day, we went to Victoria; it was pouring rain. I kept coming up with places to visit, the Empress Hotel, the Miniature Museum, the Royal BC Museum and my father kept rejecting them because they were two expensive. We wound up going to the butterfly garden in the Crystal Gardens as it was free. We had dinner at Pagliacci's (still one of my favourite restaurants) before catching the coachline back to the mainland. The next evening, I made dinner and told them that I performed in drag and that the comedians at my party might bring it up during their routines the following night. Their reaction was ... non-existent. Nothing. I recall a vague nod in acknowledgment that I had said something. I held back on mentioning my bisexuality, waiting to bring it up after the party.

We got to the restaurant/comedy club in the organizer's van packed with helium balloons. The venue was decked out in paper flowers and colourful tablecloths. I attached the balloons to the chairs and booths around the perimeter of the restaurant. Friends started to arrive about forty minutes after we got there. We ate not long after everyone had shown up. The organizer then got up on stage and welcomed everyone and introduced the first comedian. The first routine was not a roast but just a routine, but good. The second was the same. A couple more went by. The last comedian was hilarious and worked me into his routine by inviting me up on stage. With only one comedian roasting things were a little awkward. Towards the end of his spot, he mentioned that I was a drag queen, but seemed at a loss as to what to say mentioning something about being careful not to perform at bingo halls and hick bars, then he wrapped up his bit. I had stumped a comedian. The applause was somewhat substantial, but not enthusiastic. The rest of the party was anti-climactic with the cake being brought out (my father had gone in on the cake with the organizer and the restaurant) and some late guests showing up. Then people began trickling away. There was a lot of joy that night, but an underlying tension also.

The following day we had breakfast in Kitsilano before being taken to Steveston to visit my stepmother's cousin for dinner. The whole day and evening there was no mention of the party or what had been said. The next day, Monday and their last day in town, my father got me alone in the kitchen asking if I planned to ... he motioned down there on himself, in other words, surgery ... I said no, that I was just performing. He breathed a sigh of relief and looking up towards the ceiling made that Italian gesture of "thank God". At that point, my stepmother came into the room. My father told her what I said. She paused, exhaling tensely. "No, no, no," she said, seeming to want to correct us. "You realize that everybody is laughing at you, not with you," she said, sternly. "My friends are fine with it," I defended. She kept shaking her head. "No one's ever going to accept you." They both went on about what if someone in the audience decided to attack me; they quoted the headlining comedian from my party, mentioning that the bit about bingo halls was serious. They did not think that it was a viable career, something that I had not said it was going to be. In the end, my stepmother said that there were things her niece and nephews did that she did not agree with, this was the same. I came away from the conversation feeling the walls go up once again. I had tried to bring them into my new life, to involve them; I had failed.

Coming back from a walk later that afternoon, my father tried to open a window in the apartment building hallway and cut his finger. In an inkling of what was to come in life, I felt a wave of nurturing energy and responded by cleaning it and putting witch hazel and a band on it. Then, the taxi came and picked them up. I saw it drive down the street, then turn a corner to head down to the airport. It was a dusk, the sun had begun to set and melancholy set in.


*


That evening, I went to a rehearsal for the play at an apartment of one of the director's in the West End. We rehearsed long into the night. I tried to forget the conversation from earlier that day. My second week off was relaxing. I went for a check-up regarding my anti-depressants and went up another dosage. It took a few days for my body to get used to it. By the following Monday, when I started back at work, I was back on top of the world. A friend from the Mastery who was also in the play had his birthday at the end of the month. There was a talent show and Miss Penny made another appearance "singing" "Zipadee Doo-Dah" by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, comically adding the bass part in when needed. As usual, it was a hit with the audience. It was a bittersweet performance and my last for a year and a half.

The play rehearsals continued through September and October. The third weekend of October we ran the play in five performances at the Gastown Actor's Studio on Cordova Street. It was a blast. We had learned our lines so well that we were referencing in normal conversation and over dinner afterwards. One night at Naam restaurant late at night, we could not stop laughing we were so high on the experience. I really wanted to act after this experience and I sought training wherever I could after that.


*


In November, I took part in a sweat lodge in Langley with some friends from the Mastery. It was a very cleansing experience. I remember the overwhelming darkness and heat and the feeling of impending death that had been very vivid ever since my mother had died. That came out and beneath that, hurt from being bullied as a teenager and not being accepted: deep emotions that came out, even while I was on anti-depressants. At some point, I panicked and tried to leave and I was given an eagle feather by the sweat lodge leader. I suddenly calmed down. Cold berries were passed around they tasted vividly delicious; I am still hooked on frozen berries to this day.

The next day, I and a few friends went to the annual holiday craft sale at the Hycroft mansion in Shaughnessy, one of my favourite events when I lived in south Granville. I was still reflective. The rest of that strange year went by quickly. I went to a twentieth anniversary John Lennon memorial in December at a nearby United Church. I also went the Mastery Choir Christmas concert. I spent Christmas itself at my relatives in White Rock and New Year's at friends in Kitsilano. We shared what we wanted from 2001. I said "More, higher, better."

To be continued ...



























Tuesday, 21 February 2012

About Me, Part 37: Castles In The Sand

Back during the summer of 1998, a friend (the one I had met at the Sogyal Rinpoche talk a couple of years before that) suggested the name of a photographer to me; I had become interested in modelling and wanted to put together a portfolio. I met with him over the 1998-99 holiday season to talk over some ideas for photo shoots. I did the first of those shoots in January of 1999, then another, outdoor, shoot that June. In September, he came over to my new apartment to show me the proofs; I made my choices and he went away to create portfolio size prints. In February of 2000, I got the courage up to apply to a couple of modelling agencies, portfolio in hand. Not long after, I received rejection letters from all of them. I began to feel that this had just been some kind of brief infatuation with the idea of modelling rather than an authentic desire to enter the field. My interest and portfolio fell by the wayside. By the spring, I had forgotten about it entirely.

There had been no lack of things going in my life, despite my emotional dip. I dj'ed the 1999 Christmas party at the Mastery house, probably the best of all of my gigs there, amazing considering that I did it while battling a flu and fever. I got to bed at five am. In January, I signed up for another spot in a Mastery variety show. This time, I was going to do a 1930s act, lip-synching a Josephine Baker number called "You're Driving Me Crazy". In the wake of the dissolution of my modelling goal, I became very interested in performing, both in drag and in drab. Besides the show, I signed up to be an extra in a film being directed by another member of the Mastery community. I was also to be a principal in a whodunnit film made by another friend from the Mastery, using much of the same crew as the first film.

The cabaret act went over well; I had been coached through my rehearsals by the director of the second film. I spent alot of time at a local vintage clothing store try to find the right outfit. The right one had had gold coloured sequins and was a straight, no hips 1920s dress. I did my nails in gold and had period make-up done as well. The prep that went into it paid off and I was juiced to do another show as soon as there was one.

The following week, in April, I was in the first film as an extra, playing a member of a support group. To this day, I am thrilled that they used one of my reaction shots, me nodding at the main character's realization. I remember a few of the crew remarking on how "deep and thoughtful" I looked in it. The film went on to be featured at the Vancouver International Film Festival that fall. The film was just under a half hour and had taken a full week to shoot in many different locations. The second film that I was in, filmed over the Victoria Day long weekend, I played a female make-up artist, and a possible suspect in the main character's murder. That film was shot in a house just a few blocks west of Main street; the laneway house was used as the make-up room. Craft services served food out of the kitchen. The murder scene was shot in the bathroom where the main character was killed in the bathtub by having an electric toaster thrown into the bathwater. One of the few scenes I was in was a sex scene where one of the other suspects and I are having a very torrid episode. Hot? Yes. The whole film was shot over a weekend. The week after the filming ended, we had a wrap party for the cast and crew. I was so impressed with the make-up job done on me that I hired one of the make-up artists to work on me at my next Miss Penny show.

It was at St. James Community Hall in Kitsilano and enlisted a few of my friends to perform with me; we were Penny and the Nickelettes, a classic girl group and our number would be Darlene Love's "A Fine, Fine Boy". Best of all, the friend playing the "fine, fine boy" would be dressed in male drag. The act was a hit and, although the audience was smaller than it had been at previous shows, this was my favourite of the Miss Penny Fairview shows to date. At the time, I started to have big ideas for where I could take this act and began to look around for interested parties who wanted to become part of performing troupe.

Through all of this, I was also in the Mastery Choir in both seasons in 1999-2000. By the time of the spring concert, I was ready to take a break from it. Not long after the concert, in June, I went to party hosted by the men's group in the community at a very large old house in Shaughnessy, just up the street from where I lived. The theme was "come as a mythological character". The house was packed with guests as was the huge lawn and garden surrounding it. By nightfall, the dancing in the living room, first to 60s frat rock and then, to African funk was great ... and given the pot cookies making their rounds, very trippy. I walked home feeling quite light and I remember putting on headphones and listening to Josephine Baker do "Dinah"; it sounded like she was at the bottom of a mine shaft. I was still a bit dazed when I woke up, in bed, in time to see the digital numbers on my alarm clock/radio morph out of golden eggs. I was truly spooked by that and have not gone near a substance since then.


*


By the middle of 2000, much of the 70s revival had faded; folks were now moving on to the 80s. I had no truck with the decade in which I had suffered so much and decided to sit this out. I also left the 70s behind, but began to listen to more 60s pop and soul. Something was changing about the newer generation of music listeners. Gone was the open-mindedness and eclectic tastes of the 1990s replaced with the jaded, prejudiced and narrow niche tastes of the 2000s. I went my own way, but I found myself at odds with my peers, particularly in matters related to dj'ing parties. When I brought some CDs to a house party in Port Moody in February, I found the following morning that they had been tossed into the bushes. In July, after a screening of one of the films I was in at Pacific Cinematheque downtown, I was set to dj the director's fortieth birthday party. I brought the same kinds of music that had always worked at parties at the Mastery house. The mood that night was much more hostile. Half the guests loved what I was doing and the other half hated it and let me know. I had just been asked to play "good music" with no specifics. Also, there were people crashing the party and beginning to harass some of the others who had been invited. A guest who was drunk and crying had locked herself in an upstairs bedroom was inviting "friends" over by phone. There was only so much I could take of the hostility however, and decided to pack it in. As if one cue, another guest leaped in to replace me. The whole situation left me feeling quite bitter after that. I shied away from dj'ing for six years after that night. When I went back to help clean up the house the next day, I said nothing and just helped sweep the patio in the scorching July sun.


In the weeks after the party fiasco, my mood, in the middle of a bright, hot summer, tanked. The crying, the paranoia and the isolation intensified. This time, I knew it was not seasonal affective disorder. I sought help from my doctor and she prescribed a low dose of Effexor which I began taking promptly. I needed to talk with someone, but felt very alienated from most including many in the Mastery; I felt that I could no longer trust them. Long held feelings of inadequacy and freakishness overwhelmed me. I called my high-school friend in Ontario (she was now living in Guelph) and spoke to her for a while. I was touched and relieved when she said that I could call her anytime. I felt that I was taking care of business by seeking help. My medication was raised a few times that summer and I began to feel progressively better. By the time I assisted a Mastery workshop in August, I felt that I was on the mend emotionally. I also set about looking for a new therapist. I neared my thirtieth birthday with some hope that I could find some stable emotional ground from it continue to come out in many ways to those around me.

To be continued ...




























Monday, 20 February 2012

About Me, Part 36: This Masquerade

The family reunion (on my mother's side) was happening in San Jose, California, during the first week of August. I had booked my hotel room and secured my spot several months earlier. I would take the bus down and get a chance to see the changing landscape. With excursions into San Francisco, I would finally get to see the city that had wanted to see since my days as a second-wave hippy. And this would be the first reunion I had been to since it had been held in Montreal; my father's side had held a reunion dinner during the holidays when I was in my second year at UBC. So as continued to furnish my new second floor apartment, I packed a couple of bags for the trip; the reunion itself was only for five days, but I would be staying an extra couple of nights. I knew that I would be missing a couple of things while I was away: another Mastery weekend and the 1999 Pride Parade and Festival.

So, on the day that I left I got down to Pacific Central Station early in the morning and caught the Greyhound down to Seattle. Then, all of the passengers disembarked to change buses. There was an hour, or so, of waiting in between. On the next bus, there was a brief confrontation between security and two unruly men who had been harassing two women from whom they had stolen seats. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the two men were escorted back out on to the platform. The bus spent hours in traffic on the I-5 between Seattle and Tacoma. Finally, we got to the outskirts and into the country. By the time we arrived in Portland, it was past supper time and the sun was starting to set. We passed through Salem at nearly dusk and arrived in Eugene after dark. We stopped and got out of the bus for refueling, late at night in Medford. I fell asleep on the new bus, but someone in the front seat kept chatting away to people around him clearly did not want to return the favour; he kept waking me up. I remember opening my eyes as we passed through the southern Oregon/northern California mountains under the bright moonlight. We got to Redding, in northern California after sun up and got off for a bus cleaning; I remember the sight of ten gallon hats and shotguns and desert around the bus station. Back on the bus again, we were in Sacramento within a couple of hours where those of us heading to the Bay Area changed buses. Then, it was through the Sacramento Valley, Vallejo, Berkeley, Oakland, over the East Bay bridge to San Francisco itself where I changed buses yet again. My final bus took us southward through the city through the Silicone Valley for another hour and a half until we reached San Jose. The hotel that I was staying at we only two blocks away. When I got there, it soon became clear that the trip I had planned and the one that would result would be quite different.


*


Before I had a chance to check in at the desk, I was informed by an uncle that my arrangements had been changed so that I would now be sharing a room with my grandmother; none of them had wanted to do this. For the next week, I would be without a private room; it felt like a trip back to childhood with that manipulative choice made for me hanging over my head. The actual reunion events were fun, a barbeque day in the park when I first arrived, a banquet the following day, a trip to San Francisco the day after that and a trip to Gilroy, Santa Cruz and the Monterey peninsula the day after that. We went to the shopping outlets in Gilroy (which smelled like garlic as it is the garlic capital of the US), the look out on the peninsula and the boardwalk/amusement park in Santa Cruz taking pictures the whole way. On the last day, when some of the others went to Berkeley, I went back to San Francisco on the CalTrain and spent a few hours downtown. I walked through Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, the Fillmore district, the Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, the Lower Haight and the Castro. It was a great trip by foot; I was a huge fan of self-directed walking tours. I ate at a great Italian restaurant in North Beach and, later, had a bite to eat in the Lower Haight. Haight Street had a lot of vintage clothing stores. Divisidero still had the storefront Church of John Coltrane. I bought a few things while in town and headed back to San Jose on the CalTrain after dinner getting back after dark. My grandmother had been in a panic for most of the day. Other relatives had been trying to calm her down. Many felt that she had overreacted; I knew that I had been enlisted to stay with my grandmother so that my uncles would not have to deal with this, so that I could protect them from her over protectiveness. Knowing this cast strange mood over the week as I felt that I had been used. I felt that the adult me was somehow not acceptable to some of my folks, my closest ones that is. I made a vow that week, that I would never travel with any of them again.

Most of my extended family, including those from Montreal, flew out on the Friday of that week. I stayed over until Sunday at a relative's house in a suburban neighbourhood in San Jose. There was a birthday party for their three year-old daughter on Saturday afternoon complete with a pony and balloons. On Sunday morning, before my relatives went to church, they took me to the bus station, we said a warm goodbye and off I went. On the buses back, I tried to sleep, but found myself next to a mentally disturbed passenger who was listening to electronic static and noise through his headphone and dancing around; he got off in Portland. By then, it was morning. Being overtired, I stayed awake until I got back to Vancouver and took the taxi home. I collapsed onto my bed and fell into a deep sleep.


*


I had missed Pride in Vancouver, but I got a chance to go to the annual Bisexual Conference in August at the Roundhouse in Yaletown. The sessions were great as was the dance on Saturday night despite the ickiness I felt when my ex hinted at getting back together. I posed for a group photo on the last day hoping that it would not get printed or broadcast anywhere where my folks would see it. I had not come out to them.

My birthday that year was at the old Afghan Horsemen Restaurant on West Broadway (it later moved to Granville Island); I invited some of my bi friends and some of my co-workers. I had booked the shoeless, low-tabled and cushioned Afghan Room and we spent a few hours talking and joking around before and after the food was brought in. A couple of weeks later, I assisted in a Mastery; my monologue that weekend did not go well and I took it to heart, feeling very upset. I had no idea that I had been triggered and that the upset would be with me for a lot longer.

In the weeks after my twenty-ninth birthday, I began to fall into a low emotional state. This time, I could not say that it was grief over any deaths or break-ups. I was just ... melancholy. Lonely, yes, but it was more. As fall began and the weather darkened (most that summer had been miserable weatherwise as well), I began to feel tired, apathetic and cried very easily. A Thanksgiving trip back to Montreal had been fairly low-key, but the red-eye flight there had left me severely jet-lagged for the whole stay. I had not been back in nearly three years and felt that me folks no longer knew how to take me. After another drag performance and two costume parties around Halloween, I withdrew from much in the way of socializing. I also stopped doing physical exercise, t'ai chi in particular and pulled back from any activities at the Shambhala Centre; I had been working on the Centre library, but now found working on it overwhelming and had another Centre member drive by my apartment to pick up the boxes of books that I had been holding onto. By late November, I had sunk into a depression. Being out of the house made me very anxious. I felt that others were against me. I tried to avoid going out as much as possible.

I decided that I would host Christmas that year and invited people from the bi community and some of my Mastery friends. I ended up with about a dozen guests. I cooked a fifteen pound organic turkey with all of the trimmings. I really enjoyed having people over for dinner and realized that I did not do it nearly enough. It hurt to realize that I had deprived myself of the company of others in my own home. In the foggy week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, I spent some time at home taking luxurious baths with suds and bath bombs from Lush and painting my nails and shaving my body. I found this very comforting even if I still wore guy clothes. Some hippy friends in Kitsilano had me over for dinner that week and I got all dolled up for it; they were extremely supportive.

I went to New Year's Eve party at a Mastery friend's house over near Cambie Street. It was the end of the 90s, a decade in which I had seen so much change. At the beginning, I was a frustrated teenager living in a dark basement at home Laval and also living entirely in my head. At the end, I was a much more grounded person, seeing out the decade (and the century and millennium) with friends. In between, I had lost much and had gained more awareness about myself and I had proven that I could survive on my own. There was a lot to feel grateful about, but being depressed, it was hard to see that. In the turn around decade, I had begun turn myself around, but there were more tribulations ahead and more about myself to uncover which would ultimately shake my life to its core.

To be continued ...