Summer of t-shirts #9

One year ago today, take or leave a day or two, I was at an incredible record store in Concord, NH.  I was still recuperating from top surgery, but the worst of it was over, so my spouse and I went on vacation for a week.  (OK, for her it was only a partial vacation – she was scheduled to attend a conference for work in Concord for 2 days.

We first went to Greenfield, Northampton, and Worcester, MA to visit friends.  We went hiking, swimming (well, for me, it was only up to my torso cuz of surgery), blueberry picking, and shopping.  We visited a botanical garden at Smith College, and when we got rained out, we ended up on the semi-precious gemstone wing of the science building.  We also tried a Gose-style beer for the first time, and we watched Straight Outta Compton one night after the baby / toddler went to bed.

After all that fun stuff, we headed up to New Hampshire, and pretty much parted ways for the next two days because my spouse had work to do.  It was awesome!  We first went to the local co-op together to load up on snacks and drinks.  After that, we just crashed at this hotel that was getting paid for by her employer.  I hadn’t stayed at a hotel in roughly 10 years at that point, so the novelty factor was HUGE!  I just kept getting ice from the ice machine, checking out other places my key card gave me access to (like the gym and pool, even though I could barely utilize these perks).

On the one day, I basically walked up and down the main street and did whatever I could do, for a full morning and afternoon.  This involved spending many many hours in this old-time-y record store.  I even bought a t-shirt from them, to commemorate the experience:

I liked it because it is an iconic image that literally has a pitchfork in it.  And often, “pitchfork” and music are synonymous in this way:

But I strongly feel that this record store preceded the website by many many years.  OK, so I just had to follow through and look it up:  The store launched in 1973, while launched in 1995.

It appears as if not much has changed in this store since 1973, which is why I was so happy to just go treasure hunting in there for hours- I got a bunch of cassette tapes that had never been opened, for like a dollar each.  And I got soooooo many records for under $3.  I had a blast.  I wanted to get this shirt in a gold color, but they were out of that color in my size.  So I settled for yellow.  Not my favorite color, but not a bad one either!

Some of my favorite things to do, ever, are:  try new beverages, hunt for records in new towns and cities, and go swimming!  And I’m so glad that I can swim again now – so far this summer, I’ve gone 3 times!

Oh, also big news on the traveling / swimming front:  I finally solidified plans to visit my brother in Turkey, next month!  We are going to explore ancient ruins and go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.  Can’t wait!!!

Camping trip during Christmas in July

This post has nothing to do with being queer and trans; it’s not about janitors or mental health.  I think I need a short break from that stuff…

My partner and I went camping this past weekend, and it was exactly the sort of thing I needed.  Things had been feeling heavily monotonous and mundane, even on weekends.  I hadn’t been getting much enjoyment out of things that are usually fun.

Leading up to going away, I had an anxiety meltdown about it – about all the planning and packing.  Mostly, it was about the prospect of being away all weekend and not having enough time to regroup for the work week.  It didn’t occur to me that being away could be rejuvenating in a way that doing things at home, worrying about work and mentally preparing for work, never could.  Huh!

We left Friday right after work and drove for about 2 hours to our destination.  We stopped at a farm stand along the way to buy firewood, and we got some golden plums too.  We had wanted to camp at a state park, but all the ones near where we were headed were booked up already, so we had to resort ahead of time to a privately owned “campground.”  It was actually an RV park with over 150 trailer sites and only 9 tent sites.  Everyone was right on top of each other.  Quite a few were blasting country music or classic rock music, and people were rowdy with the fires and the drinking till late into the night.  We got the sense that some of these people had been there a while, and a lot of them seemed to know each other.  (Other than the noise and the overcrowding), we had a great time!  We didn’t spend all that much time at the site anyway – basically just making a fire both nights, making food over the fire, drinking some beers, and sleeping.

During the day, we did a bunch of stuff at the nearby town.  We went to the very impressive (and very busy) local farmers’ market, then went to a craft supply store and a book store and a clothing store.  For lunch we went to a (also very busy) brewery, where they had beet greens on their pizza and salads made of baby kale, tat soi, beets, candied peanuts, and grilled blackened tofu.  Yum.  We then went for a hike on a gorge trail and waded in the cold creek.

Back at the campsite, it was Christmas in July (7/25).  Some trailers had gone all out with the decorations – it was pretty entertaining to see.  Events included a hayride with Santa at 6, cookies with Santa at 7, and a Christmas movie in the field at 8:30.  We’re not sure but we think at least the movie got rained out.  Yep, it started raining, but we were prepared.  We’d already made a fire and eaten quickly, as the sky darkened, and we spent some time reading books in the tent that night.

Before the rain started, we got a chance to make use of the campground’s pool.  This monstrous pit was nothing like I’d ever seen before.  It was huge, and it was 7 feet deep at its deepest, but there was no drop-off edge of the pool.  So there was no way to jump into the pool – it just gradually got deeper from the edges, like a lake would.  There was a rickety slide with one of the railings duck-taped at the top.  My partner and I slid down it about 5 times each – that was the best part!  It seemed to be not heavily chlorinated; algae was growing at the bottom of the “deep end.”  Another great factor was that it was “swim at your own risk.”  No lifeguard!  And there was a bin for returnables (full of beer cans and bottles) near the gate where you sign in and enter.

So many people had golf carts!  We saw people taking golf carts to the bathrooms, to the playground, to the camp store.  People just driving around on them.  Dogs looking regal in the passenger seats.  Do people pack golf carts into campers and bring them?  I’d never seen this.  Do they rent them from the campground?  I have no idea.

Sometimes when things have been rough, and options don’t seem possible because of mental energy or anxiety or difficulty initiating, mixing it up and going out of comfort zones is the best thing for the mind.  We have a couple more trips planned for this summer.  Trips I’ve been anxious about.  I hope I can just remember how much fun going camping was, and harness that feeling as I get ready to go on vacations!

Gearing up for the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference

In four days, my partner and I will be on vacation!  We’re going to stay with friends in South Philly, hang out, and attend the PTHC, for the 3rd year in a row.  It’ll actually be my 4th time attending – my first time was in 2006.  It took place in early March, instead of June, back then.  It was much smaller scale.  Maybe a dozen or two dozen workshops, and a couple hundred people.  Now there are over 250 workshops and over 3000 attendees, over the course of 3 days!

My memories of that year are super vague and fuzzy.  I’m sure I was paralyzed by social anxiety for the majority of my time there.  I was traveling with a (sort of more than) friend, and it was a strange time.  I remember taking the trolley and getting lost.  I remember eating carrots, crouched down low like a bunny, outside of the conference center.  I remember our hosts – friends of mine – offering us some amazing dumpstered food, and feeling jealous it was so easy for them to get so much free food (not that I had put in too much effort into acquiring dumpster scores at the time, where I live.  Some effort, but not much, haha.)

I’m most looking forward to attending some workshops on the following topics:  health care (one in particular is called How to Develop a Transgender Healthcare Alliance in Your Community), trans* youth voices, and anything non-binary-related, as long as it’s a little more advanced than defining terms and finding our identities.  In the past, I’ve mainly honed in on workshops about mental health, non-binary identities, and sex.  It feels significant that the information I’m seeking, the topics I’m finding interesting, has started to shift.

In the past, it’s been a delicate balance between wanting to get the most out of it, and pushing myself far far beyond what I can actually do (in terms of crowds and being around people).  I end up being a walking zombie for a lot of it.  I’ve tried a bunch of things to help me last longer.  I bring snacks and water, and don’t worry about eating right in the middle of a workshop, if I have to.  I have brought my journal and attempted to find a quiet corner to just write down some thoughts, hoping to come back into the present moment.  I have even wandered around the rest of the conference center, walking up to other floors, where it is dead quiet and (probably) where no one is supposed to be.

Last year I found what really really works for me.  I left the conference center all together, for about a half hour, and took a walk around a couple of blocks.  I’m not familiar with the area at all, and was delighted to find myself in Chinatown!  I stopped into a food store and bought a soda and then just kept walking and walking.  It felt incredibly rejuvenating.  When I got back, I was ready to absorb more golden information and people-watch at the best people-watching event I know of!  Haha.

Will anyone be at the conference?  I’d love to say “Hey,” in person!  Do you have any other conferences or trans*-related events, coming up, that you’re excited about?