Texas girl in the middle of Kiwiana

Amy Boatman

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Pachelbel, We’re Not in Texas Anymore

I discovered a glaring deficiency in my wardrobe shortly after I moved to Seattle. My coat is a Texas coat. It was adequate for the occasional cold snap back home but I just don’t think it’s gonna cut it up here. So, I headed over to the local Goodwill to find me a coat.

Their coat selection was enormous. I probably spent an hour going through first the women’s coats and then the men’s coats searching for just the right one. Unfortunately, the perfect garment alluded me. Oh well. I wandered around the store for a bit seeing if anything jumped out at me. While strolling through the shoe aisle, a man brushed past me. I didn’t give him a second. Once he was past me a bit, though, I noticed something odd about the way he was dressed. He was probably in his late 50′s, about six feet tall, with a monk’s bald patch and hoop earrings in each ear. He had a weather wrinkled face, a big, bulbous nose, and bright red lipstick on his lips. Over his flanneled shoulder he carried a black purse, and at the end of his blue jeaned legs, he wore black high heel shoes.

I’ve been told that I can be a bit closed minded. I try not to be but sometimes I just can’t help it. While in theory I find nothing wrong with people dressing however they want, actually coming face to face with a middle aged man (who was obviously a man) dressed in women’s accessories took me by surprise. I might, and let me emphasize MIGHT, have seen a man dressed thusly in Austin, I would never have seen a man dressed like that in Marble Falls. I mean, you can get your ass kicked for looking like that. I went through a period where I didn’t want to shave my legs and you should’ve seen the looks I got. It’s just not done. The men look like men, the women look like women, and the queers live in Austin. And of course being queer, I hightailed it to Austin as soon as I could.

I have certainly seen my share of drag queens. I lived in San Angelo in the late 80s. In fact, that’s where I came out. I had a number of gay male friends who were drag queens. Some of them were quite good. I even got makeup and clothes tips from them. Well, they tried to give me makeup and clothes tips. By the time they got to me, that boat had sailed. I was doing my best to perfect the baby dyke look. The look consisted of a mullet with the hair on top of my head spiky. Button down Polo style shirts with the collars starched up tucked into Wranglers with a snuff can impression on the back pocket. I didn’t dip snuff but I spent hours rubbing the pocket with the can in it so it would look like I did. Why this was fashionable, I have no idea. Mine was not to question why. Mine was simply to look the part. On my feet were slightly scuffed (just slightly, mind you) Ropers boots. That was the dyke uniform of 1988. My drag queen friends didn’t stand a chance.

So anyway, I understand the difference between drag queens and transvestites. Drag queens are usually gay men while transvestites are usually straight men. My first reaction to this man was Wow, that is just weird. And in all honesty, my second, third, and fourth reactions were the same thing. Why in the world would he want to dress that way? I mean, if he was trying to look like a woman, he failed miserably. It would have been like my father-in-law dressed in drag. He could never have passed as a woman. And then I thought why in the world would he want to wear the most uncomfortable parts of women’s clothing?

All this got me to thinking of my own prejudices. I typically dress in what would once have been considered man’s clothes. I never, repeat never, wear dresses. I don’t wear makeup. I only wear boots or sneakers. When I can get away with it, I don’t wear a bra. In years past, I would have been ridiculed for dressing like that. So why shouldn’t this man be able to wear anything he damn well pleases without having to deal with people laughing at him or worse. Why was my first inclination upon seeing him to look around and see if anyone else had noticed? Had I met the eye of anyone thinking the same as me, we would have smiled and shaken our heads in that “Boy is that dude weird” kinda way. Had I been in Texas, I have no doubt that’s what would have happened. Living in Seattle, though, no one seemed to give him a second glance.

So why was my reaction to him negative? What do I care what he wears? What finally dawned on me is that I was jealous of his blatant disregard of anybody else’s opinion. To leave your house wearing clothes you know might get you laughed at or beaten up is the ultimate “fuck you” to society. To boldly be yourself no matter what anyone else thinks is a most courageous act. I was jealous that I don’t have enough strength to be totally who I am without caring what other people think. I have a really hard time breathing through my nose. I wear those nasal strips at night when I sleep and boy has it made a big difference. I will even keep it on after I wake up until it falls off or until I leave the house. Once I leave the house, though, it comes off. I’ve commented several times that I wish I could wear them all the time because it really does help my breathing but I won’t because I’m afraid of people’s reactions. I care what total strangers think of me. It matters to me that Mary Sue at the Albertson’s doesn’t think I’m a nut job. I’ve never seen her before and odds are I never will again so why should I care what she thinks? Why are we taught practically from birth that other people’s opinions matter? That total stranger’s opinions count for so much?

I have stopped caring what others think about me in several areas of my life. I am an out and proud lesbian. I dress comfortably even if it’s not anywhere near close to being stylish. I talk loud and laugh louder. I’m a huge Xena nut and I’m a sucker for good sci fi. I like video games and I don’t even try to hide my inner 14 year old boy. But I will not leave my house wearing a nasal strip. I also won’t wear high waters or anything with lace.

One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that nothing is really about anybody else. It’s all about me. My reaction to that man in the Goodwill had nothing to do with him. More power to him if that’s how he wants to dress. My reaction had everything to do with me and my own feelings of envy. Maybe someday I’ll have the strength to leave my house wearing a nasal strip on my nose, my skanky holy old t-shirt with no bra, my shorts with big bleach stains on them that are so comfortable and my ratty flip flops. But then again, there’s a big difference between strength and just plain stupid. I think I’ll just stick to wishing I could leave the house like that because, really, who wants to see something like that?

What to Do When the Starbucks Closes

While I was sitting at the Starbucks last night waiting for Rhonda to finish her meditation class, the shop closed. I had arrived at about 7:20 and the shop closed at 8pm. I had just assumed it closed at 9pm since that’s when they close in Texas. So, here I was with at least 30 minutes before Rhonda was done. She had the keys to the car and there wasn’t another coffee shop in sight. What to do, what to do? Most of the other businesses had closed up already and the street was semi-deserted. There were still cars whizzing by but not much foot traffic.

I decided to go lurk near the building where Rhonda’s class was being held. It’s one of those tiny little doors that leads upstairs to other rooms so the only place to sit was on the front stoop. One of the few places still open was the fitness center next door. I used to have a gym membership and I really enjoyed going. It was just too hot in Texas most of the time to do much of any exercise outside. So, it was nice to have somewhere air conditioned to get all sweaty. Now that I live in Seattle, though, I can’t imagine being cooped up in a small room, running on a small strip of rubber, constantly moving but going nowhere. It’s just so beautiful here and the weather! Oh, it’s heaven!

Anyway, while I sat in the little doorway, people would occasionally come out of the gym and head to their cars. There weren’t many but enough so I felt safe sitting there. I figured if anyone messed with me, surely someone in there had lifted a few weights and could help me out. After about ten minutes, I saw this man heading towards me. He was looking right at me which is unusual when someone is walking on the sidewalk. Usually, people don’t make eye contact. It seems too threatening. Well, this guy was looking at me and making a bee line for my stoop. The night air was cool but not enough for a coat. There was no breeze on the street and the temperature was around 60 degrees. This guy was wearing a quilted coat and a cap and he had a backpack slung over one shoulder. So, not only was he headed toward me, he looked suspicious doing it. I was going through the rudimentary karate moves I’ve learned when he stopped a respectful distance away and asked if I could spare any change. His dark hair was greasy and came to a point on the top of his head. The coat he wore had probably once been blue but now was covered with mysterious dark brown spots. His jeans were nice enough and he had on really nice shoes. They were black, possibly leather, and polished to a high sheen. I couldn’t have done better when I was still polishing my boots for my EMS dress uniform. His voice was very soft and I could barely hear him when he spoke. My immediate response to him was, “No, I don’t have anything.” I didn’t think I had any money on me although it turned out I had $2 in my wallet. After I told him no, he put down his backpack and rummaged through it. I felt my heart quicken as I was about to enter the flight or fight state. But then he pulled out two cans of Chunky soup and asked me if I wanted some.

I worked with and around homeless people and street people for a long time. One of my EMS stations was in downtown Austin a block from the homeless shelter and two blocks from the Salvation Army. I have seen them at their worst and at their best. But I have never been offered food by any of them. Now, I’m assuming he was a homeless guy. He may not have been but he had the look and his mannerisms while asking for money spoke volumes about the way he had probably been treated in the past. To say I was touched would be an understatement. He took my saying I didn’t have anything to heart and offered to share what I’m guessing was his breakfast, lunch, and dinner with me.

I have had some interesting street experiences. I lived in Baltimore for one excruciatingly long year back at the beginning of the 90s. I didn’t have a car so I took the bus most places. One of my haunts was the gay and lesbian center in downtown Baltimore. This part of town was actually considered to be a “good” part of town. Not much crime, clean streets, plenty of police cruising by. Well, one night as I was leaving some gather or other, I was waiting on the street corner for the bus. This guy comes up behind me, grabs my arm, and swings me around to face him. He gathered up the collar of my shirt in his meaty fist and asked for my money. I didn’t even think. I was carrying a backpack full of books. I swung the bag at his head and knocked him over. I then ran like a bat out of hell towards the bus across the street that wasn’t going anywhere near where I wanted to be. I couldn’t have cared less where that bus was headed. It was going away from him and that’s all that mattered.

I have had some interesting street experiences. I lived in Baltimore for one excruciatingly long year back at the beginning of the 90s. I didn’t have a car so I took the bus most places. One of my haunts was the gay and lesbian center in downtown Baltimore. This part of town was actually considered to be a “good” part of town. Not much crime, clean streets, plenty of police cruising by. Well, one night as I was leaving some gather or other, I was waiting on the street corner for the bus. This guy comes up behind me, grabs my arm, and swings me around to face him. He gathered up the collar of my shirt in his meaty fist and asked for my money. I didn’t even think. I was carrying a backpack full of books. I swung the bag at his head and knocked him over. I then ran like a bat out of hell towards the bus across the street that wasn’t going anywhere near where I wanted to be. I couldn’t have cared less where that bus was headed. It was going away from him and that’s all that mattered.

As I stood there trying to decided what to do, I saw a figure turn the corner and head down my street. I reached into my bag in search of something sharp. The only thing I could come up with was a Star Trek lapel pin someone had recently given me. That wouldn’t cause anymore damage than a paper cut. My feet were glued to the pavement as he made his way ever closer. At about ten feet, he stopped and stared at me. He was in his early 20s with short black hair and cocoa skin. He was nicely dressed and had a kind face. He looked at me like one would look at a lost dog. He put his hands up to show they were empty and spoke softly as if not to scare me away. He was treating me like the skittish animal I seemed to be. He asked if I was okay and if he could help. Something told me I could trust him so I told him what had happened. Halfway through my tale, I burst into tears and had to pause several times to regain enough composure to continue speaking. He listened patiently as I blubbered my way through my story and then asked if he could help. He asked where I was going then proceeded to walk me to the proper bus stop so I could catch the right bus. He stayed with me, telling me about his life in Baltimore, until my bus arrived. He made sure I got on the bus and then watched me pull away. I made it back to my house about 30 minutes later. I have never forgotten that kind man. His name was Calvin. Where ever you are Calvin, thank you so much for helping a terrified girl find her way home.

I seem to always find danger in the “good” part of town, literally and figuratively, and then find help in the “bad” areas. The most generous people I’ve ever met didn’t have much at all to share but they gladly shared it. By contrast, I have known some extremely wealthy people who wouldn’t give a dime to a blind old nun begging on the street. Some man stops to help me more than fifteen years ago and I remember everything about him to this day. A homeless man begging for change on the street offers to share his food with me because he thinks I don’t have any. There’s a bible verse that I’ve always liked but never can fully remember. It’s something to the effect of a miserly man having as much success getting to heaven as pulling a camel through the eye of a needle. I’m sure I’m mangling it but that’s the gist. We’re all in this thing called life together. None of us can make it alone. I don’t remember hardly any of the strangers I’ve come across in my life but I will forever remember Calvin. And I suspect I’ll always remember the homeless man who offered to share his food. Who will remember you today?

Sitting in a Seattle Starbucks

It seems really cliche these days to hang out in a coffee shop in Seattle. I mean, everyone does it right? After all, Seattle was the birthplace of a $4 cup of coffee. Seattle is famous for its coffee. Well, coffee and rain. The interesting thing, though, is that while there really is a coffee shop on every corner, it doesn’t rain that much here. I read somewhere, or heard from the proverbial “they,” that it rains more per year in Arizona than in Seattle. Now I’ve not lived here for a whole four seasons yet. I’ve been here for three seasons though and it doesn’t rain nearly as much as everyone thinks. Take today for example. It was sunny and 65 degrees. It’s supposed to be sunny and 60ish for the next seven days. In fact, it’s not supposed to rain until the first part of November. The best thing I can say is that it’s NOT HOT!! I can’t even tell you how happy I am about that.

Yesterday was my first full day here. I slept until I woke up and then didn’t have to load up the critters. Rhonda and I went to Lincoln Park so she could show me the ferry. Luckily, we had gone to Target the night before to get me a hoodie because the wind coming off the sound was chilly. The park was beautiful. All the trees are aflame with reds, golds, and yellows. In Texas, the leaves don’t change colors. They just fall off the tree and then you have trees with no leaves. Here the colors are just amazing. We walked down this little footpath lined with leaves and slick from the light drizzle that had been falling. Looking out over the sound with the smell of fall blowing in my face, I had this sudden sense of belonging. For years now, I knew that Texas wasn’t where I was supposed to be but I didn’t know where I should be. The feeling that I had at long last found it, THE place, was indescribable. I’m not sure why I’m here but I’m supposed to be here.

After walking around the park a while, we decided to go to this little fish place on Alki Beach. It’s called Spuds and it’s the oldest fast food place in Seattle. Its been there since 1935. They don’t serve any tofu there so I had french fries and cole slaw. Mmm, nutritious, lol. But Rhonda had been wanting to go there for a while so I was happy to oblige.

I wanted to go to Pike Place Market to buy some new t-shirts. There is a woman named Sara with a booth down there. She makes these beautiful mandala designs. I’ve been buying shirts from her for at least six years. Now that I live somewhere that will actually get cold, I bought a couple of long sleeve shirts. I just love the market. The energy of the crowds, the smell of flowers and fruit, the guys at the fish stand throwing seafood at each other. It’s exhilarating. There are lots more shops in the lower levels that sometimes people miss. One of my favorites is this dark little shop that just reeks of nag champa. It sells lots of “new age” type stuff. There’s also lots of stuff from India. What really intrigues me, however, are the jars along one wall full of mysterious herbs and who knows what else. Names like Chrysalis and Hempjaw adorn the jars. Some of the substances are obviously powders but some look like dried cartilage or bone fragments. I’m sure it’s all perfectly harmless but to me it just feels forbidden, like the voodoo shops in New Orleans. It seems as if there’s a whole other world of potions and mixtures of which I have no knowledge. Such mysteries to unravel!

Another favorite store is not actually in Pike Market but on Western Avenue right across the street. It’s called World Spice Merchants. As I round the corner, the smell draws me in. There are so many types of spice in here, it’s impossible to tell which one your smelling at any given time. Right inside the front door are shelves containing little one ounce samples of everything they offer. If it’s a spice, they probably have it. What we were in search of this day, however, was something specific. Rhonda had discovered this little gem and was eager to share it with me. It’s called Mayan Cocoa. It’s a mix of cocoa, chile, allspice, cinnamon, and who knows what else. Rhonda has been putting some in with her coffee and said it was divine. I was looking forward to having some but it wasn’t to be this day. They were out! I sniffed at the little sample bottle though and it does smell heavenly. They told us they would have some more made it in a day or two. So, bummer of bummers, we have to go back down to the market area so we can get some. What a hardship for me to have to go there twice. :P

Oh, one other thing I noticed down there. They have installed one of those self-contained tubular shaped public toilets. I’m not exactly sure how it works but apparently, you enter and the door slides shut behind you. There’s a shower and a toilet in there which you can then use. The door automatically opens after ten minutes and spits you out whether you’re ready to leave or not. It then goes through this cleaning cycle and, voila, is ready for the next person. I’m not sure how it cleans itself. And what happens to the toilet paper during this process. Seems to me, it would get wet. But, hey, I guess you’d have to go look for yourself and I wasn’t willing to wait in the long line to find out.

I just love living in the city. There’s so much to see and I am easily amused.

Day Six – Home At Last

Alright, I know this is a day late but I was just too tired to blog last night.

Day six started off pretty well. I’d had some sleep. R.J. digging in the litter box woke me up and I had to go move him out. But other than that, I slept. Pachelbel woke me up earlier than I planned but hey, it was my last day on the road so getting an earlier start couldn’t hurt.

The first thing I had to do before I could leave town was get gas. Luckily someone in California had told me that you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas in Oregon. I find this really odd in our self-serve society but hey, what ever keeps me warm and dry in my car is a good thing. Turns out, there’s a $500 fine for everyone involved if someone is caught pumping their own gas. In Texas, it’s just a given that people do everything themselves. We’d get a might pissy if told we couldn’t do something ourselves, lol. So, anyway, this really nice young man pumped my gas. I feel so old calling him a nice young man but he couldn’t have been more than 16 or 17. What the hell, maybe I am getting old, lol.

I took her outside so she could pee and it was still cold and rainy. Now, I was in a weird state when I packed for this part of my journey. I had already packed all my clothes except for some t-shirts and shorts when it dawned on me it wasn’t going to be 80 degrees the whole time. So, I opened up a box and pulled out some pants and a pair of sweats. Why grabbing a sweater or a jacket didn’t occur to me, I have no idea but it didn’t. So, yesterday morning when I went out to walk Pachelbel I was in a short sleeve t-shirt and sweat pants. I was quickly damp from the drizzle and very cold by the time Pachelbel had done her business. Getting everybody out to the car was easier than before because I had finally had the bright idea of putting them in the same carrier instead of carrying around two big carriers. Why this didn’t occur to me before the last day of my trip is probably the same reason I was freezing my ass off. My brain was pretty much mush.

It rained pretty much the entire day. Sometimes, it was coming down in sheets so thick, I could barely see the road in front of me. Once or twice, I COULDN’T see the road. I found myself sitting up close to the windshield hoping that would help me see the road better. Yeah, that extra foot made everything just so much clearer, lol. Most of the time, though, it was just a drizzle. The truly astounding part was the rainbows. I saw more rainbows in one day than I think I’ve seen in 10 years. There were rainbows on the mountains and rainbows between my car and the one in front. I felt like I could just reach out and touch them, they were so close. It was amazing. I took it as a sign that I was headed down the right path.

When I hit the Washington state line, I still had 150 or so miles to go. That was probably the longest 150 miles of my life. It just seemed to go on and on and on. Finally, the real countdown began. 40 miles, 30, 20, 10. I was so close, I could taste it. It was at this point that I missed my exit off I5. I totally flaked. Yep, I watched it go by on my right with no hope of making it. Luckily, I was able to make a u-turn at the next exit but still it added 10 minutes to my journey which honestly at that moment felt like an hour, lol. After getting turned around, I was 10 minutes from my house. As I pulled onto the street, I started whooping and Pachelbel whooped with me. I pulled into the driveway and Rhonda ran out to meet us. It was wonderful! I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. I bet I hugged her five times in as many minutes. I knew I had missed her but damn, I hadn’t realized how much until I saw her again. We both agreed that doing that again was a bad idea.

The book continues but a page has turned and this chapter of my journey has ended. What began six weeks ago, for me, has come to an end. I never realized how long and how short six weeks could be. It seemed to take forever before I saw Rhonda again and then again, it seems like only last week I still had two weeks left at work. I learned a lot about myself during that time. I really can get everything done that needs doing. I may wait to the last minute, but I get it done. I can drive 2600 miles with three cats and a dog and not go crazy. Podcasts are the most wonderful things on Earth! I am stubborn as the day is long and I will not be defeated by anything. Rhonda is the most amazing woman I have ever known and I don’t ever want to be apart from her for that long again. And most importantly: It’s not hot in Seattle!!!!!

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