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Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:42 AM PST

Your mechanism

by CayceP

(with apologies to William Gibson and John Green)

Sometimes you still appear. You are there in the holidays we spent estranged, Thanksgiving in particular which you could never stand, and Christmas which was unexpected but I should have prepared better for. You’re a kind of marker against my own timeline now “Before they passed away, my ex used to pit petitioners on the light rail against each other,” and I’ll realize what I’ve said. These feel like marbles or other small objects falling from my mouth. I don’t think I understood that turn of phrase before, pass away. The thing forever dividing that from this.

The story about you on the light rail is funny. I’ve curated your funny stories as I remember them, which isn’t often against the addiction and gas lighting and increasing disorientation which accompanies progressive liver cirrhosis.

I was still working nights, negotiating the divide between daylight and darkness the way all third shift people do. Toward the end you would chat with me while I was at work and became more abusive. You didn’t understand why I was leaving, you said. You explained that our lack of compatibility was normal, that sparks didn’t matter when you got old anyway, and this is how we fought: I would work and you would chat at me, alternately trying to convince me of how smart and beautiful I was before explaining those things were irrelevant.

I combed over these texts after your death. Some of this is to assure myself there wasn’t anything I could have done, and some is to attempt to separate you from the drinking. This is also difficult. I’ve kept them, your mechanism.

I came home and fell asleep on the couch watching PBS because all the other channels were snow. You stole some internet for us and kicked a bunch of zombies off our neighbor’s network after you guessed a few passwords. I left you my bus pass and whatever tip money I earned and you went off to explore Portland just as it was getting strange-famous and the tech startup wedge in downtown still had to clear out the homeless people sleeping in doorways. I guess you were taking the light rail as far as it would go on the west side when a Truther and another conspiracist-petitioner started hassling people. You got them to talk to each other and smiled as you left the train. Other people smiled at you and waved from their cars. It became a hobby of yours, between looking for jobs in what we now know was the worst part of the recession. You had a favorite food cart, I think it was the Bosnian place that closed. After I moved out you were surprised at the number of people who offered you drugs outside the Greyhound station. I shrugged. You always called me your Country Mouse.

Your friends from various places find me. I am not sure what to do about this. One helpfully told me you were taking cyproterone acetate and provera for your self-administered hormone replacement therapy. The cyproterone, if taken at high enough dosage, would have wrecked your already struggling liver. You were avoidant of doctors because their tests would have run counter to your mythology, your false memories, and the elaborate construction of your past to justify your transition. We just wanted you to be you, regardless of the form.  

We remember you in the places you would have liked. In a gay bar in Short North one of the men explains “That’s always hard, the femininity.” They can always tell when the straight people show up and we try not to be rude.

“Not always,” says his partner. “Last time Angel was in town she went home with a police officer!”

Everyone at the table looks appropriately scandalized. The tables next to us playfully harass my boyfriend, who takes it well enough that they decide they like him. I am sure this is you, teasing me from whatever Great Perhaps exists.

“Nah, she was gonna be pretty. Like Felicia Day.”

I think today I’d called to say goodbye. You were in a coma by then. Your sister sat by you as long as she could. Your mother who missed you every day was nearly arrested before your physicians let her in. We had not spoken in over a year. I didn't know what to say. I told you I was going to be a librarian. I think you would have liked that.

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Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 05:01 PM PDT

The Grieving Room: Fragile

by CayceP

The Grieving Room

Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey
and a special welcome to anyone
who is new to The Grieving Room.
We meet every Monday evening.
Whether your loss is recent, or many years ago;
whether you've lost a person, or a pet;
or even if the person you're "mourning" is still alive,
("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time),
you can come to this diary and say whatever you need to say.
We can't solve each other's problems,
but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
Unlike a private journal
here, you know: your words are read by people who
have been through their own hell.
There's no need to pretty it up or tone it down..
It just is.
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Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 12:00 PM PDT

The Great Okay

by CayceP

Other diaries in this series are: Fade to white | Somewhere warm | Day to day | Haunted | Strings and Stakes | The way out is through

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Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 07:56 AM PDT

The way out is through

by CayceP

I was eighteen. The year 2000. I sat in front of the computer at midnight to see if anything would happen. My mother explained everyone logging in at once to see if anything happened might be the very thing to cause a crash. At the time there was already a sense of system overload. Sometimes I would try and make a phone call and the voice on the other end, as though the end were a physical, identifiable point in space would repeat: We’re sorry, the system is temporarily unavailable.

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One of many displays of the disappeared.
In any diary I compose that falls under history, you will find this particular phrase: history is a conversation between the present and the past about the future. A neat and tidy sentence which is nonetheless the best definition I have.  Rather than use 'collage' or 'framework', or 'narrative', or other metaphors, I've kept this one around because it is one of the few definitions that directly invoke the personal in its explanation. The living voice speaks, as do the dead or disappeared €”with similar frequency. History, memory, and myth are all interconnected; infuse our cultural production and sense of self with the past.
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Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 02:06 PM PDT

Strings and stakes

by CayceP

Other diaries in this series are: Fade to white, Somewhere warm, Day to day, and Haunted. They discuss my former partner of six years, her transition to living as a woman in 2009, and her death in January of 2013.


The one email account only goes back to 2006, although this is a new kind of eternity in digital time. I sift through hundreds of chat logs the way archaeologists uncover cities and deal with many of the same problems: is this room an archive or a trash pile? Methodical, colonial analysis. Mark with string and stakes, brush away dust and catalog items. This period of my life seems to exist only in faded photographs. There is no audio until sometime in 2007 when I started going out on my own—which I never did—to listen to a friend play guitar and that was probably when I tried to end things. Of course, she didn't hear me even when I jumped up and down in huge snow drifts screaming I can’t marry you. She was quite committed to being a boy at the time and insisted I stay and continue my role of Good Likely Wife. Every day she was making this possible by alienating me from people who might have guessed there was a problem. I was allowed to have friends, but those friends were always treated with uncomfortable suspicion, if she acknowledged them at all.

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Fri Apr 19, 2013 at 11:50 AM PDT

Almost Latina

by CayceP

There are two stories of my name. Growing up I was given the Gaelic version. The European heritage matched the narrative of my face: eyes that faded to gray-blue in spite of my mother’s campaign for brown from the window into the NICU, lighter hair, and skin that burns instead of tanning. This was reinforced each Saint Patrick’s Day when elementary school teachers would create some variant of a shamrock or pot of gold with our names. “Your name is very Irish,” they would explain, rendering my name with an O. I liked being very something. A Very Something helped combat the endless comments made by acquaintances and strangers that my mother was somehow not my ‘real’ mother. Her dark brown hair and eyes combined with her ability to tan in the Pacific Northwest must mean I was not her child. There was no father to provide any visual cue to reassure strangers that everything was fine. Eventually we learned to smile at people and the doubters would laugh with recognition, read the sameness in our faces with relief: how silly of me, of course you are related.

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Over the next few days there is sure to be more attention on DailyKOS about Argentina and its history. Certainly, this attention is needed if any of the comments I’ve read following the election of Pope Francis are an indication: Argentina is not a mystical, backwards, superstitious nation. Applying a personal prejudice toward Catholicism on an entire country is ignorant and frankly not the kind of discourse that we should engage if we live in a reality based community. Hopefully you’ll begrudge me a handful of paragraphs while I dust off my tweed jacket.

For all its marriage equality, worker’s collectives, and universal health care, Argentina has problems. Argentina is more than tango and Evita. Argentina, while influenced by foreign governments and bodies such as the IMF, was the master of its own fate. Implying a kind of diplomatic ventriloquism reduces and diminishes the reality of Argentina’s agency within its historical narrative. There’s plenty of scholarship on all those things available written by people more invested in such conversations than I.

Argentina’s history is complex, intensely influenced in modern history by failed neo-liberal policies, and its own internal conflict. There are many works focused in that narrative and historiography, although for a good general text I might recommend David Rock’s Argentina, 1516-1987. You can find a partial preview available on Google Books or cheaply from a bookstore, if not at a university library. Patients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina, by Javier Auyero is a good look at issues surrounding its modern welfare state. Another interesting text is Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina, which includes the interviews of many members of various collectives throughout Argentina—this movement/concept is sometimes called horizontalidad, and it represents a reorienting of power relationships to favor the whole. This is distinguished from ‘vertical’ relationships of power, which are elected/representative and is sometimes hard for people in the United States to understand because of our own internalized relationships with the government and our notions about citizenship.

Understanding the politics of Latin America and Argentina is quite a task—the cycle between radical left and radical right movements is powerful, with some historians implying an unnerving symmetry, suggesting violent acts from either side of the spectrum are equivalent, that the viciousness of the radical right in the Dirty War was somehow a response to a real threat from the radical left. I disagree—unflinching analysis of leftist heroes does not come close to the violence inflicted by the radical right in Latin America, especially Argentina. The radical left in Argentina does not simply engage a reactionary right out of nowhere.

My first encounter with Argentine night (which is what I study, the culture of night) was about the Dirty War. There are any number of people writing about the causes of the Dirty War, but in very simplistic terms, the rise of the radical right during this period in Argentina’s history was caused by a number of things, not the least of which was the death of Juan Peron, the coup d'état that followed in 1976, and the failure of international intervention at various levels. The military junta that established itself after the coup against Peron executed the Dirty War under a program called the National Reorganization Process.

The Dirty War is part of a larger campaign of state sponsored terror throughout the governments of the Southern Cone of Latin America—some of you know this as Operation Condor. Genuine state sponsored terror is not the President coming to take your guns or any other weird ideas people in the United States have about the power of the state. State sponsored terror in Argentina meant the ‘disappearing’ of 30,000 people in the night that the junta found threatening over the course of several years. These people were simply never heard from again, their bodies never found. Many were taken to detention centers where they were tortured and murdered. State sponsored terror means hiding who you are, silencing those things most precious to you just to survive. Destroying books to protect your children because simply owning certain materials made you a threat. Members of the disappeared included people as young as high school students—see Night of the Pencils for more on this—all beaten, tortured, raped, starved, and murdered for protesting the junta.  Argentina is still recovering, still sending people to trial to ease the agonizing scars of the Dirty War.

Yet, the Dirty War is not Argentina’s defining moment, just as the election of an Argentine pope is not what defines the nation either. However, the selection of Francis—considering his involvement in the Dirty War is not without its complications, its shadows, and its memory.

Thanks all for reading, the tweed goes back in the closet now.

UPDATE: If you are interested in writing or editing an essay on the history of modern Argentina, please leave me a message in the comments or via kosmail. This was something I dashed off quickly but people are interested, so let's do it. Thanks!


Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST

The Grieving Room: Haunted

by CayceP

Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey, and a special welcome to anyone who is new to The Grieving Room.  We meet every Monday evening. Whether your loss is recent or many years ago, whether you have lost a person or a pet, or even if the person you are "mourning" is still alive ("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time) you can come to this diary and process your grief in whatever way works for you. You don't have to respond directly to anything written in the diary: share whatever you need to share. We can't solve each other's problems, but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
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Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM PST

Day to day

by CayceP

Fade to white and Somewhere warm are the two previous diaries in this series.

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Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 11:37 AM PST

Somewhere warm

by CayceP

Fade to white is the first entry in this series.

My current partner is very insistent on this: “Don’t play anything like Amazing Grace or How Great Thou Art or I will zombie-burst from the coffin and attack all of you. Also, don’t play any of that kind of music just to see if I’ll do it.”

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Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 09:32 AM PST

Fade to white

by CayceP

I remember you before all this. Before those awful shades reached up and pulled you back down. Nobody who knows would blame you, and none of us are thinking about who might be responsible. Not anymore.

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