Monday, January 30, 2012

Thoughts on My Former Life

Washington DC Temple - Mormons get married here.

When I was a child, like all children, I believed everything my parents and most other adults told me. But, unlike most of my friends, I was being raised by Mormon converts. My father converted to Mormonism in the late 1960s after his commanding officer in Viet-Nam noticed that he wasn’t attending church services on Sundays and invited my father to join him – he was baptized there. My mother converted in 1972 after her brother and sister-in-law joined and encouraged her to do the same. My parents met at a church dance when my dad was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, they got married seven months later.
I remember getting into arguments with my non-Mormon friends about religion. I was convinced that I was right and they were wrong, and this spilled over into most aspects of my life. I wasn’t taught to believe the church was true, I was taught that it was true – to know the truth. Therein lies the difference. I believe that I’m going to live to see tomorrow, but I know it. As with anything I’ve since learned that I can’t really know anything. Everything changes, and what was true yesterday may not be true tomorrow. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I’m rarely disappointed.
With all the hubbub surrounding Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman’s presidential bids, it’s shed an interesting light on the Mormon experience. I personally don’t concern myself with the religious affiliation of those running for any office, because it doesn’t matter to me. However, I do see this as an opportunity for the Mormon church to do more than the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. Being Mormon means more than believing that a prophet is currently alive and can literally speak for God, more than the beliefs is the culture.
Mormons go to church each Sunday and refer to one another as “brother” and “sister.” They are taught that the second coming of Christ cannot happen until all the spirits waiting in heaven have received bodies here on Earth, hence their large families and the church’s former policies against contraception (they now leave family planning to couples to decide over prayer as large families began to drain the church welfare system). They believe that men and women have equal, but different roles, and those “different” roles are what lead outsiders (and insiders) to think that the role of the woman is to remain supplicant to the man. If you have questions, it’s best not to ask them because only those who aren’t devoted to the Church, and to God could question it, and you don’t want other members to talk about your wavering faith. Though, if you do ask a question that doesn’t have an answer you’ll probably be told that the answer has yet to be revealed to a modern day prophet and that God will reveal that knowledge when the time is right.
In yesterday’s Washington Post Carrie Sheffield wrote about her experience within the church and out of it. And I can agree with everything she has to say. Though, unlike her I started questioning the church in middle school. When boys and girls turn 12, they graduate from Primary – essentially a time each Sunday for children to sing fun songs about god – to the Young Men or young Women’s organizations. There we’re taught about our roles within the church and society and how we can be good members of the church within those roles. This is to say, I was told that women should go to college, to get an education “just in case” anything should happen to my future husband that would require me to work outside the home. And that my first responsibility was to my husband and then my children, and that I should only grow up to work outside the home if absolutely necessary.
That wasn’t the life I had envisioned for my future. My parents allowed me to develop a slight obsession with Frank Lloyd Wright, and I wanted to be an Architect. If my mom could do it all, why couldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I? I’ve never been very receptive to being told what to do if I can’t see it directly benefiting me. I like making my own decision and not having ridiculous rules set in place for me to follow. In the summertime I liked wearing shorts, but once I hit puberty suddenly everything was too short. “Modesty” is defined as wearing clothing that isn’t “revealing” – shirts must completely cover your back and stomach no matter how you move, skirts and pants must cover the knee, and shirts must cover the shoulder – all of this is to prepare you for temple marriage and the “special underwear” you will one day wear. That’s fine, but it’s presented as a choice, but nothing in Mormonism is really a choice.
Your choice is to do what you’re “supposed to do” or not be a member in good standing, which goes on your church record and will affect what callings (job) you may have at church and ultimately if you’ll get into Heaven. It is often said that you should “be in the world, but not of the world.” Though many have taken that to an extreme as to ostracize those who do not believe, and do not act the same way you do. Members of the church are more than happy to welcome you into the fold, but as soon as you question something, or express a difference in opinion, those friends you’ve made can be gone. Because if you’re choice to live life in such a way that makes you happy, is not the prescribed method for happiness as proclaimed by the church – it is wrong.
If you leave, or “fall away,” you have to be prepared to not have those friends anymore. The beliefs of the church aren’t so different from other Christian faiths, but the culture is among the most uniform and extreme. It’s not enough to share the same basic beliefs if you don’t practice them in the same way. And if you come to the realization that it’s all bull pucky, well, they will mourn your loss and discuss it in the hallway as though you took up heroin and need to go to rehab. Because how could anyone not be happy living the way that they do?
It does seem appealing, and I understand that living that way works for a lot of people. But it didn’t make me happy. Leaving the Church was like having a boulder lifted off my back. The anxiety, the depression, the consistency of never being good enough – that was gone. I still feel these things from time to time, but not because I feel inadequate trying to reach some ideal that’s been decided for me, I feel that way because I know who I want to be and I haven’t reached become her yet.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

For The Love of Music

There is a moment that any fan can recall when they fell in love with a band.  While parts of my record collection I have been given for free – and I mean in a physical way (my iTunes account is made up completely of music that I’ve personally downloaded from CDs and vinyl). But each record that I’ve bought, and some that I’ve been given have a very specific purpose. They remind me of someone, or some particular life event, or resonate with a part of me that I can’t quite explain, but somehow that album can make whatever I’m feeling make sense.
I am not the only person who feels this way, and I think most of my friends would agree – I can say that because most of my friends and I are friends because of a common love for a certain band. It’s kind of a litmus test when I meet people, not because I’m trying to be a dick, but because an interest in music and a love for it is often a quality people that are curious and observant and well, interesting, have.
They get it.

I don’t remember the first time I heard Pulp, but I do remember when I realized that those songs that I had been dancing to were by them. Spinning to the chorus of  “Do You Remember The First Time” – there aren’t words for that.  That probably seems silly to a lot of you, and that’s okay.
Today tickets to see Pulp at The Warfield here in San Francisco went on sale at 10 am. I set three alarms, just in case I slept through the first two (I didn’t) so that I would be up and have my information plugged in as their website allows. This was followed by an invitation to the “waiting room” – a virtual line of some kind before tickets went on sale. I did this on two computers – not because I had an interest in buying 293487 tickets, but because I wanted to make sure I had a decent chance of getting tickets at all, and I called their ticket provider AXS, and stayed on hold for a solid 20 minutes before I was told that they had sold out in five minutes.
Five. Minutes.
I looked around the internet yesterday to see if any tickets were for sale elsewhere, maybe leftover from a presale and there were. They were. I posted on The Warfield’s Facebook page asking when the presale had occurred. They said there wasn’t one, unless there had been one on Pulp’s page without their knowledge. I couldn’t find anything that would lead me to believe there was one of any kind.
I digress. The scalping. The website allowed for you to buy eight tickets at a time.  I know it’s up to the venue, but to allow the sale of such a high quantity plays right into the scalpers grubby little hands. I have been to a lot of concerts, with and without other people, and I’ve never known of anyone to need that many, let alone be able to afford it off that bat, and let their friends pay them back later. Maybe I just have poor friends.
One would think that if you own a venue, you do it because you love music, because you’re a fan. And The Warfield isn’t an arena, it is a dedicated music venue, with a capacity of about 2000. If you’re really a fan of music, and enjoy sharing that experience with others than why would you allow policies that fuck over the fans? With big names, you won’t lose money by restricting the quantity – people will still buy their tickets, though probably not quite as fast.
Which brings me to scalpers. Whether you’re charging ten or a hundred dollars more, you’re still making it that much more difficult for fans, presumably poor bastards like me who spend all our money on rent and going to shows, from seeing a band we love. You can’t love music, or really anything and willfully fuck over other people. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Over It

I'm sitting in the common room in my hostel. This is the same hostel I stayed in when I visited San Francisco last November, but there's a big difference in staying for a few days on vacation, and staying for two weeks looking for and then waiting to move into an apartment. 

I thought spending two months living with my parents was bad, and then I came here. I've been sharing a room with five other people here, five. FIVE. And at least two of them change every other day. I think I've shared my room with at least thirteen different people in the past twelve days. 

People are terrible. They are the worst. They are loud, and they don't flush toilets, or wash their hands, and they take up so much space and don't seem to understand that by, "excuse me," I mean, "get the fuck out of the way." Isn't "excuse me" one of the first phrases everyone learns whenever they learn a new language? Perhaps I should try "excusez-moi" or "entschuldigung" instead. 

Then there are the people that live and work here. I know one of them as she and I shared a room when I was here before. And I don't mind them, it's just that I like having my shared room to myself when everyone else is out being a tourist, so I stay in it in the mornings only to be interrupted by the person who cleans the mirrors, and then the person who vacuums, and the person who cleans the sinks and then the person who comes round to check that those things have been done. 

This is no way to live. 

I'm amazed at my tolerance so far. 

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy being around people, when I have my own place to go home to. I'll talk to anyone, and I like most people when given the opportunity to talk to them individually. I hate having to introduce myself to someone new all the time. The other day someone called me "Judith" and I knew they were talking to me, but I didn't bother correcting them because why does is matter? I figured I'd never see them again. 

Wait, I take that back. I don't mind introducing myself to new people that are potential new friends - people who actually live here, too. That is something that I do like about San Francisco overall, the people are friendly and most aren't from here either. In that way it reminds me a lot of DC - but I won't go on about how much I miss DC. 

A friend reminded me this week that you suffer for the things you want. That's true, this is what I've wanted for the past two years, and I have it now. I may be living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and oranges, but it'll be worth it, right? Right?

Monday, January 9, 2012

"There" is now "Here"

I haven't stopped moving since my last post two months ago. My brother and his family flew in from Basque for a couple weeks. I got my official acceptance letter to advertising school, and had to scurry to find loans to get me to San Francisco. I called my friend with whom I had thrown around the idea of a cross-country road trip together with, he was available, and bought a trailer. Christmas happened. I left, and now I'm writing this from a hostel in the "Tendernob" - the area on the border between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill districts of San Francisco.


I live here now. 

In San Francisco. On the other side of the country, and basically the other side of the world. 

The first day here I had orientation, followed by moving my life out of a trailer and into a storage unit, followed by an interview, followed by class. I slept better that night than I had in weeks. Since then I've sent out numerous emails of desperation in response to Craigslist ads looking for roommates. 

I've done this before, I've lived with strangers, and it's turned out alright. But that was in a city that I was familiar with. Though, I did start getting responses, probably one for every four I wrote, and finally saw several places this weekend.

Before I arrived here, I had done some research as to where I figured I would end up living, based on cost and proximity to my school. One area, Ingleside, proved to be much farther, and depressing than I thought it would be. There really isn't anything there, save for the occasional corner store and BART station. I saw two rooms there. The first was in a house that was shared with three gay men - all of my dreams about living with gay men were crushed upon seeing this house. It was messy, and dirty, and there was a craft project taking over the kitchen table, and while the room I would have been living in was okay, I wouldn't have been able to deal with the rest. The second house was shared with two chicks of ambiguous sexual orientation. This house, like the first was also messy and cluttered, and the girls were far too laid back.

I am not laid back. I like things to be done, and in an orderly fashion. Thing have places, and they should be in their places. 

Another room was in an apartment in The Mission, a neighborhood I like, a lot, and have stayed in on a previous trip. I saw this room with two other people, one of which left at the same time I did. As we were walking down the stairs he turned to me and said, "that place was a shithole. I can't live somewhere like that!" Indeed.

There are a few other students in my very situation. All of us are new in town and many are new to this country. One had mentioned that he and a friend of his were looking and invited me to potentially live with them. The apartment they had chosen was in The Haight, right on Haight Street across from a park. It was a corner unit, and all the windows had decorative stained glass along the top. It was small, but sunny, and so beautiful, and so expensive. Part of me wishes I hadn't looked at it at all, just because now I know exactly what I'm missing. But I'm sure they'll find someone to rent it with them.

The room I've settled for isn't in a beautiful art-deco building, but it is quaint, and clean, and tidy. AND it's not full of clutter. I may collect books and records, but do you know how easy it is to dust around those things compared to nicknacks? And do you know how much I hate dust? I hate it, a lot. This apartment will be easy clean! Above all else though is the location, it's in the Inner-Richmond (of course I'll be living in Richmond, I just can't escape it) and close to the Presidio and Golden Gate parks, and just a short bus ride from downtown. 

I'm so excited. I'll have a real place to live in a week!