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 ...

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