Ithaca, New York

It’s been four whole months since I wrote on this blog. A lot has happened. We are no longer full-timing in our RV. In fact, Serenity is in Florida with Joey’s dad currently. So what happened? Well, after 9 months away, Joey was really missing our friend Erica who lives in Syracuse. I was also feeling lonely and drawn back to the east. I was feeling the desire to settle somewhere, and maybe part-time RV if we could make it financially feasible. We cut our Pacific Northwest exploration short, and hope to get back someday. We cut across the country, from Oregon to Washington to Montana. We pretty much just drove and slept. The Montana mountains and forests were pretty. Then it was on to North Dakota. The Badlands were also visually intriguing. I saw another buffalo when we stopped one night. It was all a blur, because we traveled cross country in about a week. Minnesota turned to Wisconsin to Indiana to Ohio without much excitement. Then we were suddenly back in New York State, and that was weird.

We ended up back on the west side of Syracuse, staying in Erica’s mom’s driveway. It was a stressful few weeks. Joey had to set up his tent and workshop in the front yard. I felt really lost. It was great seeing Erica and other people again, but everything felt really uncertain and I felt a little trapped. I knew very quickly that I didn’t want to be in Syracuse. Joey was starting to get really depressed, and he still is. The constant stress and work of travelling apparently held it off for him, but now it’s front and center. I was also struggling. We were looking for places to live, maybe for 6 months, in the general Syracuse region. I saw my therapist. I vented a lot about the difficulties of RV life and my fears for the future. I casually mentioned how I wished we could move to Ithaca, because that was probably our best option as queer, trans, and aspie people in Central New York, and I had some internet friends who lived there. My therapist asked me why I hadn’t told Joey this, and I realized I should. He was like, “That’s funny, I was thinking the same thing.” So we started searching for apartments.

We’re about an hour and a half south of Syracuse, but it’s a completely different world. It certainly isn’t perfect. It’s a very white, artsy, hippy, liberal college town. It’s still Central New York. But I feel way safer here, and there are resources. I have a new therapist who is queer and great, and an advocate for my disabilities, and it’s all free. I started a queer writer meetup group and I feel like I’m making some friends and slowly building community. Community seems really important to people here. And there are a lot of trans people. Actually, I feel happier here than I did anywhere else so far.

I realized I need people in my life that I see regularly and who I care about. More than just Joey and Drew and the cats. It’s not enough just to meet passing strangers and do readings in cities once a month. If I’m ever going to live my life to the fullest, I have to get close to people. I’m a lot better than I was when we left Syracuse. I feel like I’ve clarified my boundaries. I’m still super anxious around people, but it’s getting better. I think Ithaca is a good fit.

It’s funny, because my original plan was to go to Ithaca College. I was 17 or 18, and I thought it would be perfect for me. My dad communicated that it was too expensive. I was not a great high school student so I didn’t get aid, and this was before he left on disability (or whatever happened. Early retirement? I’m not sure.) Anyway, I got pretty much no financial aid. I was a traumatized kid too focused on trying to survive and transition to really care, so I let my dad handle most my college finances and decisions (for better and mostly worst). I went for SUNY Purchase, and eventually dropped out. And hey, I never would have written Refuse if I hadn’t gone there. And I got more familiar with New York City…a little. Beyond that, I’m not sure I got anything positive out the experience. I can’t help wondering what would have happened if I went to Ithaca from the start. The queers I’ve met here have seemed stable. Of course, I’m older now. But it’s interesting to wonder about.

We have a tiny apartment we can’t really afford on the Southside of Ithaca. It’s quite convenient to the Commons/Downtown area, which means I can bike places. We’re near a Wegmans. I can go to cafes, which is where I am today. I signed up and got a scholarship to take two classes a semester at the Community School of Art and Music. The queer writers group meets once a week. I am biking distance to water falls (which are mostly dried up from drought) and a swimming spot on Cayuga Lake. My needs are being better met. Joey’s business is doing better, even if he is really depressed. My book sales are pretty much the same.

Tomorrow I have an appointment my lawyer and advocate to talk about DSS and the stupid internal hearing for “intentional fraud” that I’m going to have to probably go to. They want $3,000. It’s total bullshit and bullying. I did nothing wrong. I will be glad when the meeting is over, and gladder when I just have SSI and don’t have to even deal with this. It’s been super stressful for me. I also have to see about getting foodstamps and temporary assistance while I’m here in Tompkins County. I have a meeting for that tomorrow too, which my advocate is also coming to.

Anyway, we have the apartment for a year. I really don’t know what’s happening. There’s been some talk of moving to Canada. I don’t know how serious that is, or if I really want it. But we are here at least until next summer. We may take a winter RV trip if we can.

I’ll post again when I’ve got something to say. There have been trips to the Adirondacks, New York City, and Buffalo that I have not covered. Oh well. Until next time. Thanks for reading my thoughts.

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Brookings, Oregon

Brief update. We have been in Brookings, Oregon a few days now. I’m loving it so far. I’ve seen elk, newts, crayfish, and black and white ducks. We are staying at Alfred Loeb State Park. The river is this light blue green color and very clear. I went swimming a few times despite that it’s quite cold.

Yosemite and NorCal

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The weather cleared up, I did more exploring, and Yosemite was amazing- probably my favorite place I’ve been. I actually really enjoyed hiking up a moderately difficult trail to Yosemite Falls. I got a lot of great photographs. The one above was taken by Joey. We had a campsite right on the Merced River.

We had to stop in San Francisco for Joey to pick up supplies. Now we are north of Fort Bragg, on the coast. Yesterday we saw seals and tide pools. I really like the darker sand and the lighter ocean, as compared to SoCal and most every other beach I’ve seen.

Anyway, I just thought I’d drop a quick note.

A rainy morning in Yosemite

I am realizing how much I missed pine trees, and shade, and rain. It’s such a relief to be here. This is my first time in Yosemite National Park. I’ve barely explored at all yet, but I already am in love. The smell of pine, and rain, and campfires… cool air… It’s wonderful. It’s supposed to rain most the time we are here, unfortunately. Joey and I are going to take a shuttle and go exploring very soon. We have an umbrella.

The AWP Conference in Los Angeles went really well. It was good for me. I sold books, and I’m hoping to reap the rewards long-term. I met people and networked and that kind of stuff that doesn’t come entirely with ease. I’m feeling good about it.

But I’m feeling even better about heading north! It feels like we are finally free. For the longest time, everything was structured around Joey getting surgery. Then I had my big reading in San Francisco, and then AWP. Now we can do as we please. Joey’s business is going well too.

We didn’t end up going through the Eastern Sierras via route 395. It was snowy. Instead we went via route 99 and 140. We stopped briefly at Red Rock Canyon.

Last night we were watching Joey’s Firefly DVDs and we realized that a lot of it is totally filmed in Acton, where we were staying. That was awesome, but I gotta say, I am ready for a long break from the dry south west. Especially Los Angeles County. Especially Antelope Valley.

It’s funny how I have trouble recalling specific anecdotes to share. I have this vague sense of them, but they are just beyond my reach. Memory is weird.

I’ve been stressed about the anti-trans laws and sentiment in the US lately. I’m privileged to currently be able to put some space between me and the realities of civilization.

So yeah, I’m gonna get back to doing that.

OH! OH OH OH. I almost forgot! We went to a wildcat sanctuary! With tigers, leopards, cheetahs, snow leopards (my favorite). It was awesome.

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Sick of SoCal

I am so ready to move on from Southern California! The AWP Conference and Bookfair is just a few days away, in Los Angeles. If hadn’t already purchased my booth, I don’t think I would have had the patience to wait these past few months. The event ends April 2nd, then we are moving on. We want to be in Oregon. I’m pretty sure we are going to take Route 395 through the Eastern Sierras to get there. It looks amazing. If we went via Santa Cruz and San Francisco, I could visit people again and maybe do some more open mics. But I think I’ll be more in the mood for nature after a 4 day conference of socializing and networking and reading. And I believe it’s what Joey wants, and probably Drew too.

Right now, we are pretty much in a parking lot. It’s an RV park in Antelope Valley, but it’s just pavement. It’s boring, but it’s just a few more days.

I’ve been practicing the guitar a lot and improving. I think I’ve improved more in the past few weeks than I have in like thirteen years of guitar playing. I have no formal training, but I found some lessons on YouTube that have been really fun and helpful. I want to start writing music again soon.

I’m missing New York. It looks like we may be returning in August. That would be really great, actually. I’d love to get up to the Adirondacks with our friend Erica and the dogs. Sometimes I’m very homesick. Sometimes I think I will need to live in upstate New York again eventually. Sometimes I think I never will. I really don’t know. Home is a strange concept.

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Dealing with scary people

I want to talk about some of the crap of RV life… and ultimately, what makes it still great.

Being trans (not so visibly) and queer (very visibly) my boyfriend and I face unique challenges. It’s often hard to know for sure when people are discriminating against you. Actually, you usually know. You can’t prove it, but you know. But such is the world we live in that we second guess ourselves. So some of the crap we’ve dealt with could be crap that anyone might deal with. But when it all lines up, and you know you stand out as different, it’s hard to dismiss it as irrelevant.

First, there are the bible people. The truck that says “Final Fight Bible Radio” is still here, patrolling. A bible group meets in the lodge. There are lots of Jesus fish on cars. This leads to a generally intimidating environment.

Then the other day I was at the pool, and some guy kept going on about “homos,” loudly. Another day at the pool, I decided to go use the public shower afterwards. I’m a trans guy, with no plans for bottom surgery. I have female genitalia on an otherwise male body, and that’s usually fine with me. Still, showers usually have locked doors, and I’ve had top surgery and I’m on T, so I’m not that worried about it. I do know that I am read as effeminate, which is fine by me, but I try to play it safe. Still, a shower in an empty locker room felt fine. There were no locks on the doors, just two curtains. One lead to the changing area, the other into the shower. So two barriers. As I said, I’m the only one in there. The shower water is running. And suddenly someone punches the shower curtain. Meaning someone has entered the first curtain. I’m startled as fuck, but I manage to yell, “Excuse me!” And I hear some scrambling and nothing more happens. No apology or anything. I’m standing there, dissociated, trying to figure out what happened. All I can say is that someone was likely trying to startle me, or possibly worse and thought better of it when I yelled.

When I snapped out of it, I quickly dried off and went outside. There was only one guy out there. A middle aged white dude, smoking, who quickly started walking away. I followed him, and watched where he went for as long as I could.

The next day, Joey and I were hanging around the pool, waiting for our laundry to finish. Joey was about to lay on a lounge chair but when he sat, he realized it was soaked with rain water. Another older white dude, with a military hat and a pony tail, walks by right at this time. “What, it’s just a little water and dirt,” he says, in a sort of would-be-friendly teasing way. Joey laughed and was like, “Well, I’m already soaked, might as well just jump in the pool right?” The guy kept at it. “It’s just water. Just sit, you wuss.” This time his tone was nasty.

Today we were driving, and another old white dude pulled us over to yell at us for speeding and saying he has our license plate number and will report us. We weren’t speeding. He wouldn’t step away from the car.

And after that, someone dumped Joey’s laundry out while it was still running.

Add to this, we get dirty looks when we go for walks. This RV park is getting really frustrating. Unfortunately, it’s really convenient because Joey needs to get work supplies in Hollywood, and I have my conference coming up in LA. It also is basically free for us, which is…necessary. But I’m really sick of this.

We got away boondocking near the Kern River. This was going well. We visited the hot springs again, and people around weren’t bad. Just hippy types. Then, one morning, someone bangs on our door and windows at like 7 am. “Knock knock anyone home?!” Obnoxious, not even giving us any time to get up before knocking more like crazy.

So it’s these two like 30 something year old white dudes,  clearly (and later, admittedly) on meth and who knows what else. The first thing they say: “You guys aren’t cops are you? You aren’t gonna give us trouble, are you?”

They had a flat tire, and their car is parked right next to where we are camping. They are just all around rude and demanding we fix their problem. Joey helps because he wants to get rid of them. There are two girls with them. One is passed out in the back seat, and they are trying to coax her out to go down to the hot springs. “Fine, we can find some pussy down there I’m sure,” one says. “I’m so horny I’ll hump a tree.”

Some other guys show up. Hippy guys. “Hey, you guys got any spare pussy?” the douche bags ask. Hippies are unimpressed. “No.” “What, you don’t wanna share?”

I sip coffee and make it blatantly clear that while Joey will be taking their tire into town, I will be here with the RV and all our belongings.

“Hey where’s my coffee?” douche bag one says.

“I don’t know.”

He laughed but looked pissed off. “Your buddy has no sense of humor,” he said to Joey. He proceeded to offer him drugs, which Joey declined.

While the douches were at the hot springs, Joey asked the girl in the backseat twice if she wanted a ride to town, in case she was in trouble. She declined.

Then we hightailed out of there, not wanting to be there when they came down.

You get very pretentious people in RV parks and camp spots, and also very desperate people. We don’t really fit either mold. Both can be unsafe and scary.

But ultimately, that is the great thing about RV life: we can always drive away.

 

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Catastrophes averted (Southern California)

This month can best be described as “catastrophes averted.”

First, my reading in San Francisco went great. After that, and a second reading in Oakland, we headed south to Wilderness Trails RV Park, in Menifee. We stayed there for two weeks. The first week we met up with a friend Joey made in Arizona. And then…Mittens went missing.

Mittens is our tortie/calico/polydactly kitty. She is usually more timid and serious than Snowflake. She always looks grumpy, but she is a healer. She is drawn to people in pain and soothes them. She’s also incredibly intelligent. She got off her leash at night and went missing for three nights. We put up flyers and handed the out all over the campground. People were very nice and helpful- we were actually surprised. We made friends with a woman, her 16 year old son, and their dog, who searched as hard, if not harder, than we did. When we finally found her, she was in the RV storage area, hiding under a rig that looked a lot like ours. Same year and model. I’m telling you: smart kitty.

I’m still thrilled to have her back. With all the strays and coyotes around, after all that time I really thought she was gone. It was horrible. She is a member of this family. I couldn’t imagine pulling out of the park without her.

After that, we planned to boondock in the Santa Barbara mountains. First we visited family in Santa Barbara. When we headed into the hills, the roads were not good. The forest ranger website said they were…but they were not. They were steep and covered in rocks, with no way to turn around for miles. Our engine gave out on a particularly steep incline. We managed to get it to start again and up to a safe area, where we left the car and many belongings, to reduce weight. It looked like it might storm, which would have been very hazardous, so we took the RV back down the hill and into Carpinteria. Drew has an aunt there, and we parked on the road by her apartment.

The next week was a mess of getting the RV repaired, retrieving the car, staying at motels, having the cops called on us (long story), dealing with insurance, and general hectic days.

But, we have our home back and it works fine. The step got busted, beyond repair. Everything else is fine. Now, we are at a park in Acton once more. That’s north of Los Angeles. We are still hanging around here until my conference at the end of March. Then we are getting to Oregon as soon as possible. We are all ready to be done with California for a while.

It’s been 6 months on the road, by the way, and nearly a year since I started this blog. Not bad.

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