Purple Cabbage Kimchi

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I’m on this serious fermented foods kick. Here’s my recipe for quality kimchi that also effectively clears the room when you open a jar at work, in the movie theater, and at weddings. Use it to lose friends and help your overall digestion/probiotic situation.

Here’s what you do:

A single head of purple cabbage gets you six mason jars of kimchi, and purple cabbage will keep for a while, so use half for your first try and the second half will be great the next week or two when you wanna do another. Kimchi is so easy and if you do it once, you will understand it better each time.

You need:

  •           Head of purple cabbage
  •           Morton’s Sea Salt
  •           Fish sauce
  •           Water
  •           Sugar
  •           Red pepper flakes
  •           Gochujang sauce (a gooey, red, peppery substance. Check the Asian market)
  •           Ginger
  •           Garlic

(I’ve made this recipe with added shredded carrots, daikon radish, and chopped green onions too. Those are optional, and require no change to the process, just add it in. Don’t use red or white onions–it tastes weird.)

Slice up about half your head of cabbage, chopping into manageable, bite-sized pieces. Save the other half for next week—or chop all if you have 6 mason jars and complete trust in my recipe.

Place cabbage in large bowl and cover the top surface with sea salt (like a quarter to a half cup of salt?). Add water until it rises above the cabbage. Weight it with a plate and a heavy object for one hour in the fridge, keeping the cabbage pieces down under the brine. This is to draw the water out of the cabbage so it becomes soft and tender. If, after an hour it is not tender, add more salt and let sit another hour.

Meanwhile, grate ginger and garlic—I use one clove per jar and an equal amount of ginger—into a bowl. Add some forceful shakes of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sugar, and a few squeezes of gochujang—you want a saucy, pasty consistency. Balance the fish and pepper sauces until you have uniformity. Toss in a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

Drain and rinse the cabbage. Squeeze remaining water out of cabbage with your hands, and place handfuls into bowl of saucy mix. Thoroughly combine cabbage into mixture. Weiners use gloves for this but I like to smell like I got my hands dirty. Nobody will stand near me.

Mason jar prep:  Scrub your mason jars clean. Place each mason jar under a very hot or boiling stream of water and let run until overflow. (Although there has never been a case of botulism from kimchi, this will sterilize your jar if you had another product in there before.)

Divide your cabbage mixture into the jars. Press it down until the cabbage is compact, so about two inches remain between cabbage and mouth of jar. Divide remaining liquid between the jars. Cap your jars loosely and place under a food-safe cupboard (no cleaning products or roach poison in the area.) You want the brine to rise up as close to the top of your cabbage as possible. If you need more brine, top off with a small amount of salt water with a little fish sauce, but it will brine as it ferments.

Place a towel or paper plate underneath jars to catch any run-off. Store away from sunlight.

For the first 5-7 days, press the mixture further into the brine with a spoon. Bubbles will come up as a sign of fermenting. If it isn’t salty enough, whip up a small salt water combo and put a little in each jar. The flavor changes everyday, so don’t get too eager. Recap and put back in the cupboard. It’s so fucking easy you should have no trouble making this recipe again and again. And it’s good on anything that needs a spicy salty vinegary kick (everything) and it’s good by itself.

Kimchi will start to taste good around day 5. You can let it ferment for a few more days, or move it to the fridge. Whatever you choose, it will keep getting better, no thanks to you.

Community Supported, Globally Driven

Fantastic news–ArtsKC approved my Inspiration Grant for the amount of $1,200 to help pay my way to Green Olive Arts. This amount will cover my studio fees, traveler insurance, and part of my housing budget. ArtsKC sent me their synopsis of the project based on the information I provided. I think it nicely sums up a challenging and ambitious project into a few sentences:

Annie Raab ($1,200)
Author and critic Annie Raab will use this Inspiration Grant to participate in a month long residency at Green Olive Arts in Tétouan, Morocco, in May 2016. During the time, she will concentrate on her short fiction, which focuses on the lives of Arab women through a lens of feminism and equality, dismantling the notion that Arab and Muslim women are homogenous, flightless birds with little to contribute. Upon returning to Kansas City, Annie will read the prose written at the residency at a public event and hold a connective discussion on how fiction plays an important role in the global feminist discourse.

When I talk about the project among friends, in front of an audience, or privately, you might hear a similar excerpted version of this description. I have a lot of busy ideas swarming around my head all the time, it’s helpful to have a launch pad like this to begin describing my plan. I want to add that short fiction is a unique vehicle for building empathy, as reading is a deeply personal experience. The right prose can penetrate much deeper than extensive non-fiction.

With the grant in mind, the $311 raised at the fundraiser, and all the generous donations from my friends and family, I’m over halfway to my final goal!

ArtsKCSupported

Fundraising is a mixed bag

My Go Fund Me campaign is live! You’ll notice it shows how many days the project has been active, but I had not been sharing it that entire time. Here’s why:

I’ve always had trouble asking for money. Even when it was expected of me, like when I had to name my babysitting rates at age thirteen. I’ve always felt weird about raises, bonuses, free rides, and simple generosity. I lowball myself because I like working, I like a job well done, and I like having the satisfaction of completing a task by myself.

Breaking this lifelong habit, even for a project I believe in, is difficult. Anyone who has worked since they were thirteen for five bucks an hour can relate to the pride that comes with being self-sufficient. Suddenly, with an opportunity to incorporate the lives of women into my fiction at Green Olive Arts, I realize I need to make some adjustments to my stubborn nature. Fundraising takes self awareness.

Fundraising for an organization is very different than fundraising for yourself. If you do it for a company, you know how much confidence you need to have in order to attract donors. You know it takes a lot of trying and failing, but things work out in the end. You have experience relating the glowing, positive, absolutely outstanding traits of the organization to potential donors, and you get good at this with practice. Then, when it comes time to raise your own money for your own projects which you have committed yourself to–emotionally and spiritually–you freeze.

Fundraising means sharing your enthusiasm. I recently got to talk about the residency and project with Maria Vasquez Boyd of 90.1 KKFI. Here’s the interview on ArtSpeak radio. Fundraising means taking the reigns in your own hands and organizing public events. Fundraising means asking your community to believe in the work you are doing before they see results.

When I ask for your support to help me get the most out of my month at Green Olive Arts, I am asking you to share your confidence with me. Knowing that I have such a vast network of support around me makes me certain I am not asking for a hand-out, but a critical chance to launch myself into a project that will change my life. I believe the work I do is important, and your donation makes this belief a reality. I believe I can contribute to the world and change it. I believe in the power of fiction.

Things are Happening!

rifmtns-tetouan

Tetouan (from an internet search) below the Rif Mountains

On November 9th, I was officially accepted into the Green Olive Arts residency program in Tetouan, Morocco, for a one month residency where I will focus exclusively on writing short fiction. For all my readers and friends, here are some of the developments that led to this wonderful opportunity and what it means for myself and my supportive community:

I was having a difficult time deciding whether or not to attend a graduate program in the coming year–as they are expensive, unless fully funded–and very competitive. An MFA in creative writing also does not guarantee anything, except usually regret at having spent so much time paying for something that many writers have taught themselves. My other option was to continue on the track that I began last year, which is working a paying job enough to grow my writing career and filling up the rest of my time with everything and anything related to writing and supporting a writing community. Many of you know I volunteer as the senior prose editor at Kanas City Voices and on the board of their parent non-profit publisher, Whispering Prairie Press, both of which have extended my understanding of the mechanisms behind non-profits as well as the unending creativity of the larger community. This year marked a turning point for me when I published the article, The Empress’s New Clothes in July. The wide and surprising circulation of this piece gained the attention of individuals and organizations I would not have previously become connected with. When I was approached by the editor of The Pitch to write art criticism for the weekly paper, I thought, “this is among the top five things I never expected to come out of this”. You can now find my published reviews here.

There are many ways to become a writer and give yourself time to pursue a self-directed education, many of which are hidden unless you look deep enough inside your own goals and dreams and commit to the oft difficult task of constant writing. I’ve decided to postpone any MFA applications for now and let my new opportunities in Kansas City lead me places I could not arrive at simply by holding a new degree. That said, I have taken my education into my own hands, writing and reading and practicing everyday until my lifestyle is inseparable from my goals. One way to continue to do this with uninterrupted time is to attend a residency. I applied to five residency programs this year and Green Olive Arts was the one that came through. Gaining admittance to this residency is a huge step for my career as a writer, as I have never been allowed a complete month away from daily responsibilities to focus exclusively on my work. With the support of grant organizations, friends, family, writers, readers, and believers, I’m hoping to raise the money I need to pay my travel expenses from May 8th-June 5th while I attend Green Olive Arts in Tetouan, Morocco.

I am not attending this residency as a tourist. Global conversations require a new approach–one that is not dictated by the outrageous political figures or religious fanatics. While these men are fighting to be heard louder than their opponents, Muslim women are being overlooked entirely. This conversation effects their lives, but they are not permitted to have a voice in the male-dominated debate.

Morocco has been a famous haven for expatriate writers–all men, who have enjoyed a certain amount of male privilege in the US and abroad. As a woman traveling alone, I will see a side of Morocco that has not been romanticized or glossed over.

During the month in Morocco, I will write and refine my growing collection of short stories, which will act as a kind of self-directed thesis, in lieu of grad school.

Here is a break down of my budget for the one month time period:

Lodging: $800 ($200/week)

Studio Fees: $960 ($240/week)

Traveling expenses: $900 round trip plane ticket (or cheapest possible)

World Nomad Insurance: $125

Food: $300 ($10/day)

Home expenses–I will be holding my apartment, paying student loans and bills, health insurance, etc: $800 (not my monthly budget, this is just for bills)

TOTAL:___$3885___

This total represents the minimum funds I must raise to have a productive and successful residency, covering my basic needs and peace of mind.

TOTAL GOAL:___$4,000___

This amount factors in Murphy’s Law, allowing flexible room for any unexpected expense that may occur during my time in Morocco. I have lots of traveling experience and I know that no matter how well you plan and how fixed your agenda, something is always thrown into the mix. Maybe I get stung by a jellyfish, maybe I lose my shoes, maybe I take the wrong train, maybe I make the wrong currency exchange. Who knows? It happens.

Since my paid work is directly connected to being present in Kansas City, I will have no flowing income during my time in Morocco. I average about $1,200/month in income (which is a pretty substantial pay cut for a girl in student loan debt). Even if I saved the $200 a month I use as flexibility money just for the residency, I would still come up short. I have not created a campaign yet to help relieve some of the pressure of these expenses, because with the right amount of grant money, the amount I would need to crowd fund would drop. If and when I decide to make funding public, I will let you know right away.

Writing is my life. It’s all I do. It’s all I want to do. It’s the only thing I don’t mind doing for complete days at a time with no payment. My future and my joy is directly connected to the task of writing and satisfaction of a story completed and shared with the world’s readers. This exciting opportunity for me to focus inward and practice my voice, my nuances and empathy, is one of a kind. Thank you to everyone who has supported and believed in me for this long, and thank you to those I have never met but somehow turn up at my website and read my fiction. Thank you for everything.

Here is some work I am proud of. Your support during this time is greatly appreciated, and not all support is financial! Read and enjoy, talk about and respond, and never discount the importance of creative exchange through fiction.

Whales

(Whales at See Spot Run, Whales at Axolotl, Whales at Pear Drop)

The Artist

Brother and Spider

The Frayed Edge

Rosy

Time Machine

The Tongue

What Holds Us Together

The Story There

And a brand new story, before any hard edits: Survivors

Annie’s No Regrets Tortilla Soup

This is my favorite fall and winter soup and if you can pull it off, you’ll impress your friends, parents, potluck, etc. Big batches of it will freeze well, and everyday the flavors get cozier. Usually there isn’t a need to freeze because it’s gone within a few days. It’s a process-based soup you can’t mess up, so it’s really fun to cook. I’ve been toying with this version for a few years and it’s never the same twice. I also like it because it requires you drink a beer while you cook.

What you need:

4-6 tomatoes on the vine, depending on size. The redder the better!

Coconut oil

Olive oil

1 poblano pepper

2 serrano peppers

Small can tomato paste

Medium sized can diced or stewed tomatoes, no added flavors

Vegetable or chicken stock—the cubed kind

One white onion

Bulb of garlic

Four limes—One for soup and the rest for topping

Topping bar: Cilantro, sour cream, tortillas and cheese.

(Optional chicken breast)

Salt and pepper

Cumin?

Nutmeg?

Honestly, I don’t even know what spices I use. Just pick out what smells good and play around.

But…this is important….Cinnamon sticks

Bay leaves

Dark chocolate

Dark beer. I’ve used oatmeal stouts, amber ales (Fat Tire works really well) and other malty, chocolatey beers.

Large bowl

Potato masher

Two pots on the stove top. I use a cast iron Dutch oven and a medium sized soup pot.

Oven with a broil option, or equivalent source of heat

Tortillas:

Chop a few tortillas and fry them in a shallow pool of canola oil. Sprinkle some salt on those healthy babies. Fry until crispy and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside for topping bar.

If you aren’t trying to please any vegetarians, you can use chicken stock and add shredded chicken to the soup itself, or use it in your topping bar.

Chicken:

Place 1-2 whole breasts in skillet on stove top and cook on medium-high heat until cooked through.

Move chicken to bowl. Use two forks to shred with the grain of the meat. Once shredded, add to soup a little at a time.

Soup:

Open a beer and start sippin’. You’re a real chef!

Fill your smaller soup pot with 3 or 4 cups of water. Boil and add a few cubes of your stock. You decide how strong you want that flavor, and you can add more later if desired.

Add the can of stewed or diced tomatoes. No need to drain.

Lower the heat and let it simmer.

Start your broiler and let it warm up.

Cut your vine tomatoes in half and remove the hard top where the stem was attached. Do this by cutting from the flat center at an angle, like a bevel. Your discards should only be pointy little pieces where the stem used to attach.

Once in halves, place tomatoes face down and rub skins with coconut oil. This is a high-heat oil and it will add to the flavor of the tomatoes. Still face down, place the tomatoes in the broiler and let broil until the skins start to blister. Check them around the 5 minute mark and then every 3 minutes after. The skin needs to be blistered and dark enough to easily remove, but not too burnt.

While this happens, half your serrano peppers and poblano pepper. De-vein and de-seed. Rub with coconut oil and broil until blistered. Careful your peppers don’t burn.

Remove tomatoes and peppers from broiler when the skin is crisp and puckered. Begin the painstaking task of peeling as much skin off as you can. Use a fork and a butter knife if still hot. Set the tomato skins aside. Discard the pepper skins.

(Removing the skin does not exactly make the soup better, but you want tender peppers and not waxy/burnt skin in your soup. As long as you get most of the blisters off, it’s fine. It’s not an exact science)

Dump the naked tomato halves in a large clean bowl and use your masher to mash them. Add salt, pepper, and other powdered spices here. Just dump a ton of shit in there until it smells good.

Chop the peppers and add them to the tomato mush. Add bay leaves. Combine and set aside.

Chop the white onion. Cry for all the mistakes you’ve made in your life. Drink your beer.

Pull yourself together and in your larger pot, the one without the stock, turn on low heat and add olive oil. Add the white onion and stir with a wooden spoon until they are translucent and sweaty. Keep on very low heat.

Chop garlic. Peel and cut each clove in half. I like big ol’ pieces of garlic in mine so don’t chop too fine.

Add garlic to onions and continue to cook for another minute or so. Then dump in your tomato mush and follow by dumping in your stock pot. Look at how much soup you have! Drop in 2 cinnamon sticks and 3 lime segments.

Now that everything is in one large pot, you can start experimenting.

Thicken by adding some tomato paste. However much you want, but I rarely use the whole can.

Add chocolate!

Add beer!

Add more spices!

Add more chocolate and beer.

The tomato skins you set aside should be dipped lightly in salt and eaten by you as your scurvy friends look on with envy.

If you want thicker soup, parcel out a few ladles into a bowl and use a fork to whisk in small amounts of flour at a time. Repeat until the small amount of soup is thick, then dump it in the pot. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. Don’t go crazy here or you’ll end up with lumpy flour in your soup.

Ta da! Now you have a warm delicious soup to keep you snug in your cold, disgusting apartment. Add sour cream, shredded cheese, crispy fried tortilla, lime wedges, and cilantro from the topping bar for individual bowls. Your friends and parents are so proud and impressed with your cooking skills! What’s that I taste? A hint of chocolate? A whisper of cinnamon? Nobody knows. You’re a genius!

Vaguely New and Still Familiar: PLUG Projects in the Summer

A Review of Personal Space and Vague Perimeters at PLUG Projects

July 17-August 22, 2015

A spider sets up in the cracks of a satin porch. I lean, nose first, into the rosy light of sunset settled in the crevasse of a mounted object. I feel the crowd disappear, their conversations blur and muddle, and I listen to the spider move one leg at a time up the web, scraping the silk along the way. This is Amy Garofano’s “Satin Porch” on the wall at PLUG Projects on a stiflingly hot July evening. I’m escaping the oppression of a non-air-conditioned vehicle and tiresome conversation for this show, then a cold beer. The spider has added an appropriate element to Personal Space in the front room of PLUG Projects: the lived-in familiarity of a shared space. For me, that translates into old roommates in old houses and the diverse components of each: mixed textured objects and eras around the shared rooms, a personal yet chaotic vibe in a private room, an object before it was withered by a cat scraping her claws. Amy Garofano taps into this collective memory with her wrapped shapes and materials. Some appear more machined than others, like the pre-laid objects in mid-century modern homes that lack character only to the outside viewer, but are heavy with associations to those in the living space. Through her color choices, vague familiarity of shapes and patterns, and their inviting presence on the wall, Garofano’s study of the shifting contexts between perception and objects is more effective in person than it sounds on paper. What is gained from her work is a sense that certain moments of personal clarity occur around the most daily objects and locations that surround us. The collective memory is accessible with careful use of cultural banalities—like suede and empty brick walls. I found her work as she found inspiration: during a lull in the day where I was sensitive to the details of a space, if only as a brief escape from heat, conversation, and activity. Quite satisfying, even if I’m wrong, to think a complete circle had been reached. (The spider, I hope, was left unbothered.)

Occupying the same room, Cybele Lyles’s colorful prints are windows to changing landscapes that first appear to be still. A number of these prints echo their own form, as if the frame holds the image and the image holds more frames. This empty space appears behind thin layers of ink that add atmosphere to the empty frames and rooms. Moments of contemplation or reflection can often appear stagnant or wasted to an outsider, and this feeling is enhanced by mirroring landscapes that appear still but are in constant movement, like sand or a river. I was pleased by both Lyle’s bold use of color and restrained use of line and form—a rare combination among a certain breed of abstract minimalists. New worlds are made inside our world with calculated choices of color and shape, stemming from Lyle’s clear understanding of interior space and the natural environment. It is a high-quality blend of serene environments and the changing complexities of inner life, with each component reflecting the other. My only grievance is that most of this work is The Dreaded Untitled—my biggest pet peeve in the contemporary art world. Abstraction like Lyle’s has the unique power to affect without dramatizing a medium or subjective scenario, and therefore retains its potential to drive the audience into a near-subliminal state with the punctuation of a single word. Her deft skill in envisioning alternate environments and rooms that the audience can access is not rewarded with the final detail which would propel us into a new reality. An artist who can convince us of her own world with few materials and a short statement owes it to her creative career to provide a title of equal measure. This truly is a missed opportunity.

A room away, beyond a dark corner at the end of the front gallery, Annie Woodfill sets up her spatial interpretation of the room and the relationship her practice has within it. Vague Perimeters is a variety of things because it is A Space In Progress. While Woodfill’s ideas are well-formed and articulated in the statement, the construction of the space felt like a temporary incarnation of the massive themes she is working with. Everything in the space is in the process of opening or shutting, being measured and cut, coated or stripped. Stages of living “in between” moments are sources of inspiration, like strewn mail on a desk or an object intended for later use resting angled against a wall. Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable, and therefore an intimacy is developed as you traverse the room. I think of the first interactions with a space—the very, very first ones—as being the most intimate and loving to the architecture itself. No one is more in sync with a space as the one who erects the walls, applies straight lines where there once was organic chaos. Even in the stages before a new piece is added to a space—such as the materials found laying against the wall, found ephemera waiting for an accessed potential—the objects in this installation are being thought about very carefully, very concisely. I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere along Woodfill’s career, she began to build her own rooms, just to portray these ideas that form her obviously highly interconnected relationship to object and space. The invitation for an audience to enter this developing area can be difficult. Either the audience will pass through as they tend to do in spaces that appear under construction, or they will find themselves trapped in the scary grey area of being asked to consider the transitional environment in question, and not really understanding what is being asked of them. It’s a hard theme to work with—having a practice that is so enmeshed in these kinds of spaces and choosing elements of it to bring to a gallery—but Woodfill is on the right track with her deliberate and subtle assembly. Most notably, for me, the indication came upon looking up at the ceiling, where a single line of painter’s tape had been extended right up the corner of the wall and leapt across a material void to be reconnected with some existing structural part of the building. It is a buried, yet loaded choice that reflects the depth of her conceptual faculties and adherence to the artist statement. If choices like this evolve to their full potential—which I see as becoming a bit more loose and humorous—Woodfill can be sure the audience will feel welcomed and engaged in a space where vague is beautiful.

The Empress’s New Clothes

As the opening date of All is Fair approaches, the new business started by Peregrine Honig in the Bauer building on West 18th Street in Kansas City, the usual media and Honig’s own following have little to criticize. Initial reviews, soft announcements of the shop opening, served to entice Kansas City with the promise of new territory being explored in an effort to relieve some of the oppression the trans community faces. The first article, written by Huffington Post writer Kayti Doolittle, spouted some of the usual uplifting predictions for the shop (and at one point even compared her own desire for non-lacey underwear to the trans experience—no I’m not kidding). The lack of critical voices on the matter make it more important than ever to deconstruct the implications of a prominent artist opening up a transgender lingerie shop—separate from her existing lingerie shop—and using the store as a reason to call herself an activist.

Let’s start with the obvious: a privileged white woman of a dominant social class is using her business skills and local connections to profit off a product that is marketed to an oppressed minority. Not only that, she is controlling the image on the product itself, injecting her own voice and her work on each garment. What seems like harmless business smarts at first can still be peeled back to reveal a cycle of gender oppression, misinformation, and misrepresentation of a vibrant community by someone who doesn’t belong to it. In my now seven-month long journey to understand this issue from as many sides as possible, I’ve discovered a lot of different ways to approach this issue—ranging from our culture’s problem of appointing Hollywood cis-genders to play trans roles, why high-profile organizations like SAGA believe straight allies accomplish things LGBTQ individuals simply cannot, and perhaps most important of all, how the wide umbrella of Transgender is in a constant state of flux. Everyone I’ve informally interviewed about this endeavor had something to say, most with a mixture of mild curiosity or indifference, some with enthusiasm for the product, others altogether enraged by the venture. One of the strangest things I’ve come across was that most of the straight, cis-gender individuals I chatted with seemed to have no problem at all with the store. What strikes many as support strikes me as an ignorance to the extreme inequality the transgender community faces all the time. It was much easier for the cis-gender straight population to show support and excitement because none of the issues affect them directly. Vehement non-supporters were quick to point out the ways in which this store directly insults or mistreats them/the LGBTQ community they belong to. Same goes for mild supporters, who displayed brief curiosity and a tentative plan to someday visit the store and see what it’s about. The only excited supporters in the LGBTQ community I talked to fell into the drag queen/performance artist category, an interesting point I feel needs to be made.

These were all one-on-one conversations. Hardly any of these opinions have made it into any of the major media articles thus far. Every other article I come across is an exclusive interview with Peregrine herself—obviously tooting her own horn for the sake of the business, as business owners do—and so far it seems none of these reporters are actually reaching out to the LGBTQ community for their opinions. Maybe they’re afraid of finding what I found in my journey: groups of people who either don’t care or are only mildly interested. Heading into a community that is always fighting against some injustice in one way or another, it is perilous to discuss something as material as what kind of underwear they would prefer to wear. Perhaps these reporters are content with one person’s opinion—the person who has the most to gain from a positive public appearance.

Maybe they just don’t want to put in the legwork.

Most likely, I imagine, each individual who has reported on All Is Fair and has put some major positive spin on the piece is of this cis-gender privileged class—the ones who talk about the shop most favorably. My biggest question to Honig, to Kansas City, and to anyone who is watching this story develop: Where are the voices that matter most? Why do the loudest, most supportive voices come from the privileged class? If the trans community is the last to speak up about this, will we still be listening, or will our attentions have drifted again to the next artist using social buzz words to fill their pockets?

Without the essential voices that are missing from this conversation, all I can hear is Honig using her media influence to open a new bank account. I can’t prevent that from happening, but I can offer you another side of the issue that is deeper and more sinister than you will hear from other media outlets.

I want to break this down so we can examine the ways injustice is hidden beneath an assertion of understanding. Keep in mind, neither I nor my correspondents are authoritative voices in the media, LGBTQ culture, or Kansas City’s art scene. Together, we have simply contributed our voices to navigate this complex and mutable issue in a way that allows for a deeper and more productive conversation to occur.

It seems Honig believes a new store front will be more inclusive than it is excluded from Birdies, the existing shop. This simplified model leaves the critical thinkers with more questions than answers. In her unique social position—in society and in Kansas City’s who’s who club—it might not occur to her that what she wants from a store may not be what the trans community seeks in their efforts to become more visible and incorporated into daily life. As Cy Lauz expressed in a written piece about the shop on KCUR: “If you are a trans woman who is not particularly ‘passable’ and are shopping at a store or public venue, you face the possibility of being harassed, judged and even physically hurt.” Although the quote was inserted as a promotion for All Is Fair within the context of that particular write-up, the concerns expressed are dangerously real. Ignoring what Lauz is saying, or worse, spinning it around to support Honig’s crusade, is just one more example of how local media is working with limited opinions while the profiteers get their exposure. The dangers of opening a separated store—in an alley, remember—that is targeted to gain the business (and trust) of the trans community are real and present. Even in the liberal 18th Street district of the Crossroads, nobody is prevented from bringing their narrow-minded hatred for non-binary individuals to a violent head. It sickens us to think it could ever happen, but it happens all the time. It appears the move reflects Honig’s real intentions with the store and does not prioritize the safety of her customers. I wonder if Birdies couldn’t work on rebuilding their brand for inclusiveness and encouragement, rather than detaching other aspects of human sexuality and the spectrum areas between gender expressions in order to remain relevant. All Is Fair is a new segregation, a definitive line between “our” lingerie and “their” lingerie, literally separated by a one-way street that could represent our passing interest in social politics. The trans community might prefer to walk into Birdies and be treated like any other customer, but that might involve changing the overwhelming feminine aspects of the store itself. Simply re-branding Birdies would eliminate a crucial aspect of this project for Honig: the hype-generating click-bait the media will clamber over to report on—an element that Honig has always depended on for each new venture to succeed.

The notion that human sexuality and the gender spectrum should be divided into different lanes for purchasing different wares is a dangerous one, one I don’t think Honig has considered from the perspective of the LGBTQ community. Sure, the shape and size of the lingerie will be different, but an eclectic mix of undergarments in an existing store might be more warm and inclusive. In talking with Sandra Meade and Una Nowling, each expressed a similar concern for the concept of stores that might be seen as supporting the notion that transgender people are fundamentally different, and should shop in their own spaces. Both prefer to shop at places for women, like Dillards and Nordstrom, or anywhere else that carries women’s underwear. When we talked about unique proportions to consider, Una made a scientific observation:

“It’s inarguable that a transgender woman with XY chromosomes will likely have a different body shape and proportions than an XX woman. If this clothing line takes that into account, along the lines of how good shoes made for transgender women will be built upon a ‘male shoe’ last, then that would be useful.”

The prefix to woman or man shouldn’t matter, but as the trend of talking about transgender and transsexual issues continues, more people are choosing to create stores especially for “them.” Thus, the harmful idea of “the other” continues to exist and to profit. Both women, who I want to remind you are not the authorities of trans culture (although their activism is admirable—and they were kind enough to meet with me and have a discussion) said they believe there is a niche market for this brick-and-mortar shop, including among cross-dressers and others who are not yet comfortable in mainstream stores, especially among those with a steady and reliable income, since such specialty shops may be expensive. We talked about the depressing transgender economic status, and that many individuals under the transgender umbrella would simply be unable to afford such material goods.

When you think of custom made underwear—made by a prominent artist whose work is collected nationwide—and you think of the details that must be paid regarding each individual’s unique curves and surfaces, the dollar signs start to add up. Factor in high-quality material and manual labor and we’re looking at some pricy undies. (Anyone who has shopped at Birdies can relate, as Honig’s choice of garments hardly ever falls below the $30 mark.) Marketing an expensive product to a community that faces a high rate of job displacement and income disparity based on their identity seems uninformed at best. Paying straight, privileged designers of the upper social class to create these products, only to sell them to a traditionally lower income class, seems stranger still. My correspondent, Vian May–who has helped me understand the issue from an individual perspective– had some things to say:

“At the same time, inclusiveness helps create an environment of acceptance almost as much as out living does. But this is an environment that we are still in the process of creating. And the backlash can be disheartening. I’m not sure if I can express the thoughts of other trans guys, much less those of trans women, but I have a legitimate concern over violence in my life due to being a trans man. That violence is a threat to trans women in an exponentially larger set of circumstances and exponentially more violent altercations, up to and including murder.

I think it’s easy to say ‘what should be’ when ‘what should be’ doesn’t affect you. Of course my underclothes should be easily available, there shouldn’t be a question of what changing room or bathroom I use, there should be no concern about me losing my job or my clients over my trans status. How things should be is rarely how they are.”

As a trans male, Vian’s approach to safety issues and concerns is not unique. An inclusive environment is completely necessary if trans people want to shop for their clothes and materials freely, but that inclusiveness is still in the process of being obtained. The idea that inclusiveness can be reached most effectively by separating “ours” from “their” material goods, rather than educating the public that might nay-say all-gender stores, is not inclusive. It is the exact opposite.

Fads are a problem in the art world. The more artists latch on to the hip new socio-political trends, the more they reduce them to their own voice and interpretation. Trans issues are all over the news these days, and although most of this exposure comes from a place of positive empowerment, a lot of it reinforces our existing ideas about the community. The rise of trans roles, often played by cis-male actors like Eddie Redmayne and Jeffrey Tambor, fill our curiosities of “what it means to be trans,” except for when they don’t. More producers, artists, writers, and subcultures are lifting the trans identity and applying it to their own pursuits. I didn’t think about this until just after I saw “Unicorn”—Honig’s first solo exhibition in years. When I got wind of what the new shop was about, something was off in the way “Unicorn” was off. In the middle of the gallery, surrounded by very privileged and familiar individuals, I tried to put my finger on the growing discomfort I felt while watching the audience experience the work. Honig’s main representation of the trans community was a large image of the fabled “Unicorn”: a young woman with a penis between her legs/a young man with small breasts and engorged nipples. A young trans person, essentially. This “slashie” of the sexes disturbed me—not because of the hermaphroditic genitalia—but that now, in the middle of a large gallery filled with the privileged majority, this was the take-away image of “transgender” for this audience. The rest of the subject matter was overwhelmingly female oriented: foxes, bunnies, women’s legs, little lambs—and I was left confused as to how that was representative of the other half of a culture that walk the delicate lines around societal restrictions: Am I masculine, or feminine? Where were the traditionally male-oriented images? Or better yet, where were the genderless creatures—the easily transformed and unhindered symbols that more accurately represent a culture and lifestyle of non-binary gender organisms, like slugs and worms? Why was the female role so heavily portrayed while the male role was completely absent? Did this representation have something to do with Birdies and their feminine image, subliminally encouraging the audience to make the connection between the art, the artist, and the profiting business? It appeared Honig was oblivious to how one-sided her portrayal of the trans culture was, not only because the images seemed heavily influenced by her own feminine experiences, but the crowd itself seemed to lack representation.

We often make the mistake of equating popularity with influence, positivity with justice, and agreeability with righteousness. In fact, “activism” in the art world is often nothing more than a minority voice being refracted through a majority person’s prism. This happens over and over again in the Kansas City art scene: we assign the faces we see most frequently to the progression of social change. Those in the media control narratives, and mislabeling artists who appropriate culture as activists is one of their most damaging and pervasive qualities. In reality, it appears these are just the same people showing up to the same parties, riding on the coattails of a buzzword or movement, using their privilege to move between their world and another under an “activist” agenda. Artists somehow get away with this all the time. Start seeing it. Start thinking critically about this trend.

This is not to say there are not real activists in the art world. The late Steven Metzler was one of them. There are others like him who have the heart and the means to do real good in this world, but they are often the silent do-gooders, not normally in the spotlight.

It must be difficult for a celebrity to distance themselves from the face of their own brand, but that is what Peregrine must do if we are expected to take her “activism” seriously. I have criticized actions like this in the past, and it’s no surprise Peregrine brought her youngest sister, Esther, on board for a photo shoot that appropriates the trans identity. You can see it on Facebook, the image of Peregrine and Esther side by side dressed in casual “boy” clothes with their hair pulled back and feminine features downplayed. Attached to the hashtag #brothers, this image is evocative of modern-day blackface—a theatrical performance that does nothing to drive political or social activism towards a more equal world, but serves to feed the privileged majority an image of a culture they will accept. Like blackface, this image implies that we no longer live in a gendered world. With this gendered title, the Honig sisters have assigned a pronoun to a people who are, in part, trying to dismantle this aspect of language and identity. The very idea belittles anyone struggling against gender inequality, dwindling reproductive rights, lack of fair pay and housing, and sexual discrimination. Esther’s inclusion in the shoot may be the most perfect analogy of a privileged class kowtowing to the famous for seconds of internet share-ability without understanding the greater implications of their support and actions. Sister or not, her agreeability to engage in such a display is a telling sign of the veil of advantage she lives under. Esther is now probably best known for playing this kind of dress up before—a project that succeeded in feeding the beast that creates and perpetuates gender and beauty norms—so I was not surprised to see her continue to treat identity like a costume. The powers that decide what is manly and what is feminine have so much control, it seems the Honig sisters are just as normative as they are. This unaware state of privilege is so glaring, it hurts to look at. The image shadows the idea that maybe Peregrine and Esther are struggling within their heteronormative, privileged lifestyles and that this action is an expression of their truer personhoods. Sadly, like blackface, I think the two are so far removed from what the experience is actually like, they succeeded only in embarrassing themselves to those who face the struggles they pretend to understand. It is simply disrespectful.

Appropriation typically involves an exploitation or assimilation into a minority/oppressed culture by a majority/dominant culture. In this case, the dominant—two privileged women who enjoy their class and celebrity status—are laying claim to the identity of a marginalized community they do not belong to. Julia Serano breaks this kind of appropriation of the LGBTQ lifestyle into three motivations:

Erasure: Marginalized/minority groups have little power or voice in society. Therefore, when the dominant/majority group takes up their identities, ideas, and other cultural creations, it tends to undermine or erase the context in which they were created, and the original meanings and symbolism that underlie them. In other words, the dominant/majority typically takes up the marginalized/minority group’s creations while disregarding their perspective.

Exploitation: Sometimes members of the dominant/majority group will materially profit from aspects or acts that they have appropriated from a marginalized/minority group without ever giving anything back to that community. This tends to further exacerbate economic disparities that may already exist between the two groups.

Denigration: This can refer to a couple different things. Denigration can mean “to treat or represent as lacking in value or importance; belittle,” which applies to instances where important or sacred aspects of the marginalized/minority group’s identity or culture are appropriated by the dominant/majority group in an irreverent or disrespectful manner. Denigration can also mean “to speak damagingly of; criticize in a derogatory manner; sully; defame: to denigrate someone’s character,” which applies to instances where the dominant/majority group appropriates some aspect of the marginalized/minority group’s identity or culture in order to purposefully ridicule, parody, or insult members of that group.

These three motivations are not obvious to Peregrine if she is enjoying her dominance without respecting or relating to the culture she is borrowing. It is social colonialism, identity gentrification, and it is responsible for some deep-seated misinformation that manifests into small or large injustices.

I’m not forgetting the point of this store: to provide unique, custom made underclothes to individuals who struggle with the annoyances of connecting their body to their mind. I can’t really imagine what that’s like, as my underwear is about as low-maintenance as it gets and my sexual and gender identity fall under a different umbrella, but I can imagine there is something people will want, will benefit from, and will pay for that All Is Fair can provide. But Honig is creating a brand that neglects to imagine a body that does not embrace the cute, frilly aspects of underwear. Handmade garments with her own paintings on them reflects a one-sided understanding of how lingerie works. Has she considered the fact that many trans individuals would rather not draw attention to the parts of them they must alter in order to feel normal? As I was researching and asking about the differences in what trans people want from their underwear, my correspondent provided this:

“Why would celebrating the fact that I have to bind, which in our culture, makes me supposedly less of a man, be any different? If they actually manage to make a reasonably priced binder that doesn’t ride up or break your ribs and don’t paint it like it’s goddamned lingerie they may get my business yet, via mail order. It just seems like they still regard trans men as women who want pretty things to celebrate their body, and that offends me. While the wearing of bras and other female undergarments may be a celebration of femininity for trans women, I do not find the daily recognition that my body is not a reflection of myself any type of celebration at all.”

This was something I hadn’t considered before. The very act of covering your body in an ongoing attempt to bring it closer to your true identity is something I don’t experience on such an extreme level. Of course, we all attempt to dress in a way that reflects who we are, but we can control and change our clothes whenever and however we want. We’re mostly stuck with our bodies, and trans individuals who do not seek or cannot afford operation must find ways to live with the body they were assigned without the constant reminder that they are not living in the correct body. Some people buy lingerie to celebrate their figures because they want, or want other people, to pay attention to it. It seems there is a great disconnect between the business model of hand-painted, delicate, meticulously created garments and some individuals’ need to just throw something on and not think about it as much as possible. I’m also not the target audience for this store, so I need to recognize there are many different preferences and lifestyles that would find some products in All Is Fair beneficial. Given my experiences at Birdies, with Honig’s “Unicorn” show, and as a viewer of her art on a more general level, I am curious to see if she is able to create a product that is not saturated in femininity.

I want to make one thing clear about myself: I do not speak for the transgender community in any way. I do not speak for a population that has a voice of their own. I do not claim to understand more than anyone else, or in a better way. I have not been asked to stand in for another voice, nor have I been assigned the role of reviewer by anyone. I am doing this because I want to say something nobody else has said yet. I am doing this because I have the ability to contribute to the conversation using my own tools. I am doing this because I am afraid we will repeat the past with a new vocabulary, steeped in altruism and communal interest but really guiding the movement in the wrong direction. I am doing this because I am not afraid of Peregrine Honig, her followers, or other people who may not like what I have to say. I am doing this because when a community is being appropriated by the privileged majority—when their lives and identities are being borrowed and used by the profiteering dominant—I want to stand on the side that is fighting for a better and more equal world.

The Tongue

A tongue came through town with a traveling parade of spectacles. Gypsies, my mother scoffed and waved at the word like it were a bird come in through the flue. The heat stuck on her skin and lingered in the air of the house, where the smells of our combined sweat and the well-fed houseflies held still in the windless summer. Please son, she began. She wiped her temple with the butt of her palm. Go if you really want to.

The gypsies brought wagons and tents fabricated from rich cloth, designed in busy cosmic patterns and repeating images of naked women. Although the show had only just arrived in town, the ground was worn with dusty paths and trails leading up to the tents. Men and dogs reclined on each other in the midmorning heat, each giving off the distinct odors of oranges and tobacco. The grass flattened around each ware-scattered rug, lit by lanterns shaped like stars. We heard the main attraction was not the great black tusks of the fabled white elephant, nor the woman who could play a violin with so much heartbreak, the instrument itself wept. Women in loose skirts lifted up handfuls of brass figures bearing the image of a god I did not recognize. None came to see these as much as they came for a six inch long tongue, floating in a glass mouth.

I followed the worn trail to the tent of the tongue and fell into the long line of hopeful observers. The jar was designed by the glassblowing widows in a town near the harbor. Their paradise grew from the fall of an oppressive patriarch, leaving them free to pursue a new, more impassioned economic system. The widows treated the project with all their attention so that the mouth-shaped jar, as it emerged from the hot flames, blew a kiss in gratitude. The widows, their town independent of crushing male rule, melted like the heated glass when it expressed to them this love.

The story of the tongue itself was what captivated the audience. It belonged to a sailor of the seas, a lover of women and treasure alike. On a meeting with a Persian lord, the sailor let slip some snide observation and had this most vital muscle torn out with his own blade. I looked into the shredded edge of the tongue, ripped apart as if with a dull blade. In fact, the blade had gone dull. The sailor’s own weapon had been used against him in the struggle. Gone were the days of the swarthy sailor’s charm, his tricks, and his humor. His favorite way to please women was through that vital instrument, whether by serenading tales of treasure and adventure or as he dove to part the hair between their legs and lick as if extracting honey from a freshly baked roll. Gone were his feasts of fish—bones and all—the ink-stained potato and squid in tough bows of pasta. No more would his tongue spit in the eyes of his crew.

No longer would it curl around crystals of salt on the posts once the ocean spray had dried. No more would it mutter in the dark the early childhood songs from school, oh which weather would you rather skip along to my dear? We could bury the day or we could run away together through rain or through sun, as the boat rocked and daybreak was a skid in the heavy ocean clouds.

I stared at the muscle, looking tip to base as close as I could to try and see beyond the tongue, into the language of the sailor—foreign to my own, into the warm wet crevasses of a woman’s sex—also unknown to me. I wanted to walk barefoot up and down the tongue until I understood exactly the taste of something sweet after tasting the salt of the ocean for so long. I wanted to feel the surprise of my wit in a room full of men, who laugh and slap me on the back and spit out their drinks on the table. I wanted to feel the dense flattening of those muscles beyond my teeth when someone told me I could not have what I arrived for, and taste the irony specks of blood that came from inside my mouth when I took a bite to the cheek. Indeed, the man lost everything. I paid to see the spectacle over and over. Every time I got back in line I fidgeted and inched until I was in front again, facing the tongue, fascinated, until I was nudged aside by the people behind me, waiting their turn to understand what kind of dishonor would cause a person to lose this important tool.
I ran out of money.

When I returned home Mother was flopped into a chair and fanning under her arms. Lord, she said, bring us some damn rain. I looked out the window toward the gypsy tents and longed for the tongue. I longed to feel the sailor’s drink on my own tongue, his laugh to burst from my chest. I turned to my mother, who was slackened in her chair, her thin arms like clotheslines that let her soft white dress dance in the mild breeze of her fan. One of the big flies rested on her arm and cleaned its back legs.

I want to sail a ship, I declared. She looked at me and I thought she would cut out my own tongue right there for saying it.

Like hell, she replied. No son of mine…she trailed off and that was the end of it for her. I studied the windless air outside and felt the cool kitchen tile on my bare feet. Before I had a ship, I better have a drink. A drink like the sailor drank, then a curse like the sailor cursed. I left my mother in the kitchen and went to the stash of coins she thought I didn’t know about. Under my father’s urn was a loose wooden board where she kept our smallest valuables. I dipped my hand into the musty dark and skimmed a few coins off the top. This is not an everyday thing for me to do. Only in emergencies, and becoming a sailor was an emergency. I scooted the urn back into place and gave a silent thanks to my father for giving me this money for something to drink.

I followed the worn trails again to the gypsy market, passing by exotic birds in golden cages and toothless old men stringing up purple flowers. I turned left down a shady narrow path crammed with vendors advertising goods under their breath. Their eyes darted around, looking for any unseen danger that could put them out of business. They looked ready to scoop up their goods at any moment and dash off into the shadows. A small raspy voice called out rum, rum, rum and I followed it, holding the coins tight in my pocket. The path darkened. Words from the vendors grew more obscure. Some names I recognized and others I didn’t. Opium, hash, hemlock, cyanide. The low rasp of rum was close. Men and women in dingy cloaks swept past me, kicking up grey dirt tornadoes. Their breath heavy beneath dark clothes like another storm blew inside them. Rum, rum, rum pulled me down, down, down the alley of vendors. I kept the tongue at the front of my mind. I knew what I wanted for the first time in my life.

A drink.

A ship.

A life as free as his.

Finally, a decrepit old man with long hair in his ears and on his chin appeared. His hands planted on the small table, only tall enough to cross his legs beneath, and the dusty green bottles laid out front called my name. I approached the old man. Even seated, I could tell he was small, smaller than myself perhaps.

What can I do for you, young fella? he asked and discontinued his chant.

I want to sail a ship. I replied. I’m here for a drink.

He bulged out one eye which he used to look me up and down. How old are ya?

Sixteen, I lied.

Bit small, he concluded and drew his wet eye back under the lid. He reached for a mid sized bottle on his left and yanked out the cork. This’ll here’s a personal favorite with the young boys. A rum from Spain. He handed me the dusty bottle. The liquid glowed amber behind the green glass as it caught a glimpse of sunlight through the awnings of the market. I tilted the spout up to my lips and let the sugary fire fill my mouth. My tongue swam in the sweet bath for a moment, all buds on the surface blossomed to take in the details of every flavor. When I swallowed, my tongue longed to chase the liquid down my throat as if to elope in some intestinal love affair. I coughed from the strength of the drink and wiped the spit from my mouth. The old man cackled like a small, fierce fire. First taste, eh? That’s the mark of a good rum there. The next sip goes down a little better, you bet.

I tilted the bottle again for another sip but his thin hand snatched it away.

First one’s free. Not the second.

My tongue lusted after the sweet sensation of the golden liquor. It all but leapt from my mouth and dove into the bottle, where it would have been happy to stay forever, alive in it’s own glass display. I dug out the coins from my pocket and made the exchange with the man. When I dropped the change in his hand he smiled a black and silver grin.

A pleasure, son.

I walked the streets of town with the cool dusty bottle pressed against my hot stomach. I had some money left from the purchase and thought about going back to the tent to gaze at the tongue some more. The long days of summer with mother and the fat house flies would be there when I returned home. There was a bay nearby, not quite walking distance, but at least I knew the way.

***

For twenty-six years I conquered the seas.

From the first bottle of rum–which fell into the sea with only a single drop remaining on the night of my first storm–to the rum I drank this evening, I remember it all. The merchants found me stowed away my first week, pickled from the salt and the sun. They tossed me out and I hit the Indian ocean like a sack of shriveled dates. I floated on my back for several briny hours, thinking about the layer of sweat my mother left on our wooden chair the day I left home. A shadow passed over me in the sky and I thought my time had finally come, until a voice shouted out and several gruff men hauled me on board. The men promised me fresh water and food, more rum, and gold medallions if I would provide a hand in their raid. I coughed up strands of salt water onto their deck and some of the men eyed me with disdain. There is no place for a boy on this ship, I heard them mutter. He will not be allowed to stay. They put me to work for the months we sailed on our way to the merchants. The men tossed me scraps of meat like they would to a dog, kicked me in the ribs if the ship wasn’t spotless, and denied my insatiable thirst for rum. At night I lay on the stuffed burlap sacks in storage, turning around with the weevils and roaches as the ship rocked and swayed. My lust for revenge on the captain that tossed me out grew with my desire to sail a ship of my own. Not one single night went by that I did not dream of the tongue floating in the glass mouth, reminding me in its perpetual silence what I had set out to do.

When they didn’t push me around, the men taught me to maintain agility and balance on a moving vessel. They gave me a heavy stick and made me practice sword play while they chucked apples at my head. They used my size to my advantage and shoved me into gaps within the ship to retrieve lost or hidden items. Since I was not strong enough to overpower a grown man, I practiced furtiveness. When a man would go insane from the lack of relations with women, I learned the art of stealth and the patience of waiting for danger to pass.

We caught up with the merchant ship almost a year after they tossed me out on their run to Haiti. I was delirious with the fermented choler that seeped out of the cracks the dry sun made in my skin, but I was stronger and smarter than before. I envisioned the merchant who found me stashed away. I replayed again and again the expression of pure hate on his face and the sweep of his hand out to the blue field of the sea as he gave the command to dispatch me. My life and my future now balanced on the tip of the nail that connected to the finger that gave the motion: “toss him overboard”. When we boarded their ship and the men shoved me back onto the deck I was exiled from, I sliced off that finger and then I plunged the knife into the merchant’s chest until his heart leapt out and smacked me in the ribs with its final beat. I stole his boots, which I wore stuffed with hay until I grew into them.

The thieves saw this and changed their plans. Instead of sinking me with the merchant boat like they discussed, they gave me control of the ship for as long as we sailed toward our next destination. My first ship, the ship I was ejected from and then took control of in a delicious revenge, sank first in the back and then was pulled down into the unforgiving waters. All I could see of the ship were the tops of masts sinking below the surface, like the fingertips of a man as he finally drowned. The thrill induced by pools of blood on the sand and the brutal father of sea in the distance carried me to a part of the sky I never knew. The men taught me to protect myself instead of my preferred method of sneaking away, only swooping in to save me from a brawl if they saw I was not going to come out alive. I lost many fights, being smaller than the boys who grew up in this rough life, but when I started to win, I was unstoppable. The fierce men of the ship listened to my story of the tongue and the ones who knew the fabled silent sailor filled in the gaps of my knowledge. They said he, like I, wandered onto a boat one day and never left the sea after that. They said he had a mother, who mourned his father after his death in a cliff-side struggle and was never a complete woman again. They said he also waved his sword, at first, like a girl. They cracked up and smacked me on the back and drank from their rum until daylight ruptured the sky. I looked toward the great expanse of water and thought I could hear the fat black flies buzzing around the kitchen, and a voice that wove through the air and whispered No son of mine…

 

Beefcake Heaven

There are some women who kill wolves with their bare hands. Yes, still today. And there are women who, after an evening of not feeling like they belong in their skin, snarl like wolves to the people they love. There are women who don the skin of a wolf, one they have just killed with their bare hands to gain access to some globally conspiring wolf-club.

I would settle for either as long as somebody else thought of me that way.

Arlo said in the kitchen, “I saw a cooking show with Donald Trump as the guest chef. The camera did a close up when he cracked an egg in the bowl. The crowd erupted in applause and cheer. It was the worst fucking thing I’ve ever seen.”

Arlo said before he fell asleep, “Thanks for having me tonight, Dave.”

In some academic circles, it is believed that space and time extend beyond the 4th dimension, into a realm of unnumbered dimensions, ones where everything in the imaginable universe has already occurred. My diagnosis occurred on this plane, but I think, it’s possible, that on some other plane it hasn’t.

We watched a light movie. The handsome, brave man died, but could still conduct his affairs from heaven (as all white males can when they die). The last breath from his handsome, young mouth was succeeded by profits, inducted into hot-male, last-breaths of history. And the pretty male angels with white wings and tanned shoulders took him up to beefcake heaven, where God was the Beefiest of all Cakes.