Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I wish I had a river I could skate away on...


The last four days have been a kind of hell for me. I'm not eating very well, I'm not sleeping very well. The specifics don't matter, really, to anyone else but me; but what was said cannot be unsaid. It can't be taken back. 

I've been trying, in a completely unsuccessful measure, to gain some clarity - some specifics that might inform me of the what/where/when/why of the things that were said. None have come forth. As a result, I'm stuck in a revolving door of hurt-pain-anger-sadness-resignation-indignation [rinse and repeat]. I'm leaving tomorrow morning for Canada - I've been longing for this trip since May. Instead of the unrestrained joy and excitement I normally feel, there's this ugly, tar-black hole in my chest that I can't seem to shake, an unknown raptor on the edges of my consciousness. It's waiting to strike, and I have no way to avoid it. And I'm so angry that it's there, so incredibly hurt that I'm in this position - with no means to fix it. 

I've done nothing wrong. But the grotesque shame and confusion I'm experiencing are doing their best to make me think I have. I've been scouring my brain in search of something - because if I can only pinpoint this mysterious *it*, I might have a solution or a way to fix it. But I don't know if that's actually true. And that scares me. I wish I didn't worry and I wish I didn't always expect the worst. I wish I could sleep, I wish my stomach didn't ache quite so much, or my heart feel quite so painful. I wish I could just let this go. I wish that walking away were an option for me. It's not. 

I've had so many thoughts zooming endlessly in circles - combustible balls of fire that collide and miss and dodge and collide again. I want out of my head. And I wonder if you care at all? I wonder if the collective 'you' doing this to me gives a damn? Am I so expendable? Am I so unworthy your time? Am I so ignorant and inconsequential that I am undeserving of an explanation? Where did I go wrong; would you explain if all  those words of praise were, in fact, just words? To what end?? I wasn't out to get anyone, I wasn't out for ambition or pride or false glory. I wanted to learn, and I wanted to get better, and I wanted to grow. That's  what I was striving for.  

I'm hoping that in writing this, I'll be able to start letting these thoughts and feelings break off and float away. If I get them out, and away from me, maybe this will dissipate and somehow be less painful. 

Please - please be less painful.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lilith Fair Part I - THE MUSIC


I submit to you, my readers, one irrefutable fact in life:

There is nothing more lesbian than going to Lilith Fair with your exgirlfriend.

And I did. Which makes me super gay. SUPER. DUPER. GAY. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, one of the first rules (and by rules, I mean stereotypes) of being a lesbian is remaining friends with your exes. Although stereotypes, while based in some form of truth, never sit well with Aries children. Stereotypes?? Who needs stereotypes?? We are original! We are unique! We are pioneers of our own destiny! WATCH US AND BE INSPIRED, YE LESSER MORTALS!!!!

Trust me - this is the Aries subtext. It runs in the background of our programming. All. The. Time.

Anyway, I had never been friends with my exes previously, and was always a little proud of this fact, though it may seem callous. One thing I'm really good at: not going with the crowd - on purpose. It's not a natural trait - I'm not automatically rebellious like James Dean. I am calculatedly contradictory. 12 years ago, when everyone was jumping on the Harry Potter bandwagon, I just refused - on principle. And I still do that - if there's something everyone is raving about, I will purposefully avoid it; my initial reaction is to reject it. But slowly, painfully, over time I'll investigate to really see if it's as great as everyone else says. And then 8 years after the fad, I'll indulge, and usually declare it the best thing ever. Like Harry Potter. (All star Ravenclaw, right here ... I named my dog HAGRID)

It's either that, or I have to be one of the FIRST to like it. This happens a lot with me and bands. I love being the first among my friends to recommend a band and watch them all eat it up like delicious musical candy. GOD! I am such an Aries.

[And while I'm at it...]

GOD! I am such a lesbian!

I went to Lilith Fair - the most lesbian concert of all time - YES - even MORE than Melissa Etheridge or the Indigo Girls (and I've seen both of them live too). How lesbian is Lilith Fair, you ask? It's THIS lesbian:

See?? You can't get more lesbian than that ...

Well, yes you can. Multiply this by a few thousand. An entire crowd of this. In fact, after Brandi Carlile (the neo lesbian song siren of my generation) sang a particularly awesome song, I let forth my version of a Xena battle cry (I'm on season 6!!), and a group of them turned around, laughing and smiling, and gave me some thumbs up.

Are you getting how truly lesbian this is?? I know I'm harping on and on about this ... I just want to make sure we're clear.

And all of this is not to say that I didn't have a great time - I did! And I have a great ex. She's one of my dearest friends, in fact (Hi Lala!). But since I haven't been to Pride in at least 4 years, I figure Lilith Fair counts toward my annual quota. (right?) This was also my first time going to Lilith Fair ... ever. I missed them the first time around ... I wasn't cool enough. The first concert I ever went to was when I was a senior in high school ... I didn't get out much; I was too busy trying to get into college. So really, I think I should get double points.

It was definitely an experience. Highlights include: seeing the Weepies, seeing Brandi Carlile, buying a (small) glass of wine for $8.50 (thanks again, Lala!), having the concert be interrupted by vendors in yellow shirts trying to sell an assortment of different things on the lawn where we were sitting, having dirt kicked on us by a small child, watching men wearing Lilipad shirts and giving out free samples of feminine hygiene products, and seeing two friends of mine who I used to work with at Disneyland! All of this for $10.00. It was probably the most fun night I've had in well over a month.

The best thing about music festivals, hands down, is the people watching. Lara saw some serious DD (dyke drama), in the form of one woman throwing her glass of beer at another woman, and drenching 5 additional women ... in beer. Awesome! We were also privileged in observing one very drunk woman offering and successfully selling a pole's worth of cotton candy on the lawn, as the hapless, laughing vendor toddled behind. There were hippies hoolahooping, lesbians cuddling (in mass amounts), and young punks in faux-hawks standing front and center every time we wanted to take a picture on Lara's super camera.

The sad thing about Lilith Fair this year, is that it's underwhelming. From the publicity to the lineup order to the  crowd attendance - it was just flat. The lineup spots, in particular, were horrendous. This is what it looked like:

2:30 someone we didn't know playing on a small stage
3:20 someone we didn't know playing on a small stage
4:30 The Weepies! playing on an even SMALLER stage
5:00 someone we didn't know singing opera-rock (??) on a small stage
5:50 Brandi Carlile on the Main Stage
6:40 Emmylou Harris on the Main Stage
7:30 Jenni Rivera on the Main Stage
8:40 Miranda Lambert on the Main Stage
10:00 Sarah McLaughlin on the Main Stage
11:00 end of show

"But Alyssa, what's wrong with this lineup?" Oh ... I'll TELL you what's wrong with the lineup.

I know the smaller stages are for unknown bands. I get it. And I realize not a lot of people know who the Weepies are. But trust me when I say, they deserve the main stage. They have the sound, energy, and personality for the Main Stage. The stage they were actually playing on was in such an out-of-the-way, tiny spot where there wasn't more than about 15 yards of actual lawn - and the area was so packed by the time they got done playing, it was standing room only, covering more than about 50 yards.

Now - while Emmylou Harris is a big name, and maybe deserves a main stage, she can't handle it. It was so abundantly clear that she's used to playing small, intimate venues; and she was on this huge, amphitheater stage - she was positively overwhelmed by it all. Lara and I agreed that she was only talking to about half of the orchestra - we couldn't hear her as she was talking about whatever she was talking about - and she had a microphone with mega-watts worth of audio power. Sad. So while it might seem like it's a dis to Emmylou to put her on one of the smaller stages, I think it would better serve her, her fans, and her music to be on one of the smaller stages. I think part of my disappointment lies in the fact that I was SOOOOO excited to see her. Any time I get the chance to see a music legend, of any genre, I'm there. To be able to say, "I saw Emmylou Harris play!" Ideally I'd like to follow that up with, "She was rockin'!" But I can't. I can only say, "Meh."

Next - Brandi Carlile. In case you don't know, Brandi Carlile is phenomenal. She has a great voice, she writes her own stuff, and she has an AWESOME on-stage personality. And they put her in the first main stage slot - which, considering Emmylou's underwhelming follow up, was awful.

Do you know who Miranda Lambert is?? Neither did I. I have since learned that she's an upcoming country star. But you know what, Lilith Fair? You're playing Orange County. We are NOT a country market. She had a decent show, and it was high-energy, but no one knows who the hell she is! There weren't tons of people there to begin with, and then add in the unknown factor of this singer ... and it made for a terrible setup for Queen Sarah.

Solution: Move Emmylou to the Weepies slot. Put the Weepies in Brandi Carlile's slot, move Brandi to Miranda Lambert's spot, and move Miranda Lambert to Emmylou's spot. Bam. Why don't people pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to make these decisions?!?!

Now - Jenni Rivera is the one thing Lilith got right - timing, market, show - everything. Jenni Rivera is a classic Mariachi singer ... who had an accompanying 10 piece Mariachi band behind her. It was cultural without being obnoxious, it was environmentally appropriate without being showy, it was LA without being LA. She sang classic Mexican/Mariachi songs like "Cielito Lindo" (Ay, yi, yi yi), and then paired them with classic Motown doo-wop, like "Angel Baby." It was fucking rad. She cracked jokes about the Arizona immigration law, talked about her "Laker-pride" dress, and was just oozing charm, humor, and excitement in being asked to play Lilith Fair. It was SO. Rad. Oh ... and her dress looked a little something like this:

Awesome, right?? and part of her Mariachi Band:

Here is a shot of Emmylou. What you don't see are her weird silver space boots [sad fact: the only Emmylou Harris song I know is "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" which she thankfully played]:

The Weepies [they were sooooo adorable and charming! Tracy, Lara said that Deb Talan reminds her of you...]

Queen Sarah, playing the Guitar [I don't know if you know this, but she also plays the piano]:

And last, but NEVER least, my new crush, Brandi Carlile [it's okay ... my girlfriend knows]:


It should be noted that none of the above are photos taken by me or Lara, sadly. We were about 5 miles up and away on the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater lawn. But, these photos are courtesy of Meg Strouse and the OC Weekly. So please don't sue me - I think you're pretty swell. 

If you every get the chance to see Brandi Carlile live, GO. GO, GO, GO. It's beyond worth it. She did two Johnny Cash covers ("Jackson" and "Folsom Prison"), and Miranda Lambert called Brandi out during her set to do a duet to Patsy Cline's "Crazy." It was awesome. She's great on stage, her band is awesome, she has an accompanying cello player (what's not to love about rock n' roll cello???), AND she has one hell of an incredible voice. Oh ... and she's ridiculously hot. Notice that tattoo on her shoulder? Well, it's on both of her shoulders ... and it's of this: 

Look familiar? It's the auryn - Atreyu's symbol from "The Neverending Story." HOT.

Brandi Carlile playing live in Boston ... oh ... and two out of her 4 band mates are twins, which is really cool, in a weird way. And I want to steal her wardrobe.

Also - I urge you to get into the Weepies if you haven't already. Here's a little ditty I wooed my girlfriend with:

The claymation is an added bonus. Note: They have a new album coming out in August, which from the songs they played, sounds like a huge bottle of summertime awesomeness. 

Other musical highlights of the night: 

-Queen Sarah sang "Ice Cream" live ... which, while I guess she sings it for an encore a lot, was awesome for me hear, since I had never seen her perform before (I'm not the world's biggest Sarah McLaughlin fan, though I find her general Canadian politeness to be adorable). 

- Emmylou Harris sang backup on Sarah's "Angel." 

- After "Ice Cream" was over, she brought ALL of the ladies out and they sang a great version of "Because the Night," as made popular by Patti Smith (written by one B. Springsteen...)

Sorry, I mean all of the ladies except Deb Talan ... she was, undoubtedly, putting her son, Theo, to bed on the bus. Which was a bummer, but I'll take it anyway, because her bass player (the one on the platform with the bad ass bass) was there being bad ass. (BAD ASS!)

Stay tuned for the next installment of Lilith Fair: The Lesbians!

[Don't get too excited, there's only one other installment, and it's to do with my casual, and in no way scientific anthropological findings on the various sub-groups of the Lesbian species]

Sunday, July 11, 2010



Uhm ... I just returned from the Lilith Fair concert to find the following letter in my facebook message inbox ... I don't think I've ever been more touched in my entire life.
Hi! I don't know if you remember me, but about 5 years ago, I was a camper at Camp James and if I have the right person, you were the drama specialist. I just wanted to send this message to thank you for really making Camp James my home, because in my returning years, I ended up doing quite a bit. 2 years after you left camp, there was a lot of talk about closing it down, so I petitioned to keep Camp open and the publicity it generated got the mayor to take a decisive roll in keeping the camp open. After "saving" Camp James, I stayed there for several years until I was too old for the camp. From there, I became a staff member and I am now working as Counselor in Leadership Training (or CILT). So once again, thank you for working at Camp James, because if you hadn't, than I wouldn't have returned, and I would have never gotten to meet so many amazing people and experience so many amazing things. Your presence has changed my life!

Nate O.
P.S. I still have the award/elephant you gave me hanging on my wall (next to my "2007 Overall Camper of the Year" award)
This kid is one of my all-time favorite campers ... he must be about 15 by now. And for him to write so eloquently and freely and warmly - it brought me to tears.

I wrote him back and told him that of course I remembered him, and how proud I am of him and all he's accomplished - his passion and conviction to fight for what he believes in. And how truly humbled and grateful I am for his letter.

I am so incredibly fortunate.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Welcome to the Dog Park...or...Once again, I'm not a cool human.


So apparently, there's a completely foreign and unique culture at Dog Parks. When Lady was alive, we didn't bother going to the dog park very often. She was so incredibly submissive; she'd walk in, sniff a butt or two, and look back at me with bored eyes as if to say, "Uhm. Okay. I'm ready to go home now." It was the same at the Dog Beach. She just didn't care.

My other favorite childhood dog, Shadow, was way too smart to be lured anywhere than wherever it was that she wanted to be. That's a convoluted sentence, but suffice it to say, she was her own dog. We let her roam free most of them time - she *desperately* hated getting into cars, so we were never afraid of her getting abducted, and she was too loyal to run away. Any time we tried to lock her up, she'd find a way out of wherever it was. Shadow at a Dog Park would have been like putting James Bond in an undersea box with 25 locks. She'd just be out in 30 seconds.

Skipper - the mad scientist dog - would have gotten us kicked out of the dog park. Skipper was too smart for his own good - the crazy genius - he probably would have taken out some other dog's eye, just to see how it worked. He was, unfortunately, the Ted Kaczynski of dogs.

Taking an unwilling dog to a dog park park is like a parent taking a nerdy kid to football practice - only the parent gets any satisfaction. And the kid just grows up hating sports, and resenting aforementioned parent for "making" them participate. Ah childhood! Keeping therapists in business since 1875.

Anyway. I've had a lot of dogs, but I haven't had a lot of "dog park" exposure. I tried taking the pups on July 4th, but there were no other dogs. So I attempted to play fetch with them, while they succeeded in ignoring me and smelling every single square inch of the lawn - three times.

So we tried again today. Success! We hit the puppy jackpot! Eight other dogs to play with, as well as 4 smaller dogs in the lawn across the way to look and bark at! Bliss!  

There were only three dogs there at first - a purebred Husky named Yuki, a hound-mutt dog named Milo, and a dog that could have been Hermione's twin named Layla. Yuki, Milo, and Layla's owners were there, sitting on a bench together - one human per dog. I asked if it was okay if we could join them, and they said sure. I let Hagrid and Hermione off the leash - mass amounts of sniffing ensued. I asked the humans about their dogs, and received very basic answers. It was pretty clear from the get go that all three humans knew each other. Okay, fair enough. Three friends bring their dog to the dog park every Thursday at 5:00 p.m. Seems normal and fun and charming. I'm the outsider, I should shut up and let them enjoy their afternoon. The only question I get asked is:

"Is he a purebred?" This is in reference to Hagrid.
"Uhm, you know, we got him from the Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern California - they say that he's a purebred. I wonder if he has some shepherd or something, somewhere down the line. He has some atypical Golden markings, and his hair is a bit shorter than most Goldens."

The talking amongst themselves ensues.


And so I play with the dogs, throwing the tennis balls I brought with me. The Husky, Yuki, was a sweetheart - she was a tawny brown and white with crystal blue eyes. She liked me a lot. She did not like Hagrid. She made it clear that she was the Alpha, and no ass-sniffing from anyone was allowed, least of all him. Hagrid carefully slunk away to smell the other dogs. Milo, the hound-mutt, was a humper. In fact, I think that was the first thing he did upon meeting Hagrid, before I even clicked Hagrid's leash off. And Hagrid looked up at me, trapped, eyes pleading, "Uhm, Mom? Who is this freak?! HELP ME!!!"

Milo's owner was trying to be helpful, but proved mostly ineffectual. Her soft cries of, "Milo, stop," clearly inspired nothing but more humping on Milo's part. It continued for at least the next 35 minutes, off and on. Milo made Hagrid his bitch on multiple occasions. Hagrid was trying really hard to be patient, but he'd reach a breaking point and challenge Milo by jumping in the air, and trying to out-maneuver him, but this only excited Milo more. Poor Hagrid.

Milo only tried to hump Hermione two or three times, and each time, Hermione bitch-slapped Milo like Shiva.

Layla, the other yellow lab, seemed nice enough. She liked to chase the balls I was throwing, but much like my dogs, often had sudden, furious bouts of ADD, and wouldn't return the second half of the "fetch" deal. Which resulted in me throwing and walking, walking and throwing. Ah well. It gave me a task, and a reason not to be the awkward "new human" at the Park, trying to wheedle my way into a conversation I'm not remotely interested in.

Dogs are not the only ones with social hierarchy at the Dog Park.

Not long after I arrived, two brown boxers arrived with their humans in tow. Their humans, I think, were married. They clearly showed up every Thursday at around 5:00 p.m. too, because they greeted the bench club warmly and familiarly. The wife smiled warmly at me. Her mate said nothing. Upon seeing Milo humping Hagrid, the husband said, "Yeah, Milo! Get to it!" Then, upon realizing that Hagrid was a boy said, "Oh. Never mind, Milo. At least pick a dog of the opposite sex!" This resulted in lots of chortling from him. I secretly wanted Milo to go hump his leg.

Not less than 5 minutes later, an English Bulldog with a poorly cropped tail named Roxy showed up, with her human - a tall dude who looked like he just got off of work. Roxy was pretty cute, but apparently had some entitlement issues when it came to tennis balls. Her human kept saying, "Roxy, share." She wasn't supposed to be sharing with the other dogs, she was supposed to be sharing with me ... since I was only entertaining myself by throwing and walking, walking and throwing. I train easily, no?

Now, here's where the Dog Park gets interesting. Once Roxy and her Dude show up, her Dude goes and talks to the Dad of the Boxers, and they form their own pack in the middle of the yard, arms folded, head shaking and muttering. About what? I couldn't say. I was too busy fetching my own tennis balls. The women, on the other hand, congregated around the bench, talking familiarly about things I wasn't privy to.

Next to arrive at the Dog Park were two tiny white dogs - a Boxer puppy, and white something that should have "teacup" in the title. The huge pack of behemoth dogs flocked to these two like crazy. Again, I tried my tennis ball diversion tactic - but again, only I found it interesting. Then, to make the insanity worse, along comes an American Bulldog.

This wouldn't seem like something of note, except that American Bulldogs are apparently not the most purchased of puppies. Or, at least, not where this group of humans was concerned, because as soon as the dog was let to go play, the human males flocked around the Am.Bulldog's owner, another male, like he was the star quarterback on the HS football team. "Is that an American Bulldog?" "Wow, she's got great color." "You know, Boxers were bred from bulldogs and mastiffs," that was the Boxer Dad, obviously. Hump, Milo, hump!

And then it hit me - I'm not cool, because apparently my dogs aren't cool? There's nothing remarkable about a Golden Retriever and a Yellow Lab - kind, bumbling, sweet dogs that everyone sees everywhere. So lame. So humanly lame.

And just as I thought, "Okay, let's blow this popsicle stand...." another dog/human combo shows up. This dog - I can't even tell you what kind of dog this. It looks like a cross between a small wolf and a greyhound. A long, sleek, thin body - built for speed - with shaggy, jet black hair and pointy ears. Her human was another male, but he was young - probably in his late teens, early twenties. He stood on the opposite side of the park, earbuds in, ipod on. His black dog, running circles all over the Park with ridiculous speed ... and every. single. dog. running. behind. I kid you not. Most of the other dogs gave up after about 10 minutes ... but not Hagrid. Hagrid found a new girlfriend. They played tag for the next 20 minutes, until Hermione came and laid down next to me, panting furiously. We packed up my tennis balls and went home.

Cut to now. Hagrid is passed out, dead as a doornail on the floor. I returned from walking them about an hour ago, and instead of the frothing-at-the-mouth excitement they normally have when it's walk time, they were right by my side, sniffing occasionally, stopping every so often. I was dragging them by then end - and we only went around the corner.

So - it was a successful day, I think, despite the human cliques. They behaved like the good dogs they are - and besides some crazy bounding through mud puddles that resulted in two very sloshy baths (provided by yours truly), I was a proud mama.

I may have to go back next Thursday at 5:00 p.m., to see if the Dog Park Gang is there, and do some more anthropological research....

Let my "dog days of summer" begin!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

An Open Letter to my Uterus


Dear Uterus,

You and I, we've been together a long time. Forever, really. Sure, I didn't know you existed for the first 11 years, but what can I say? You grew on me. We've been through some crazy things together, though, that's for sure. Remember the first full physical we ever had? With the Japanese Doctor who said I'd be really good at birthing babies? And it was all because of you, dear Uterus (and my good "birthing hips," of course)! Boy, do you sure know how to make a 16 year old feel proud!

We've also had our share of uncomfortable moments. Once a month, in fact. Some certainly more uncomfortable than others - but you know what? You're almost always on time. And for that - I'm forever grateful. I've never had to go on birth control to regulate you, or calm you do down - and that is a boon I can never repay. You've been saving my body from potentially cancer-causing substances for 16 years. Uterus, you're the best!

All of this makes what I want to say all the more difficult. I absolutely realize that when it comes to my womanly anatomy, I have it pretty damn good. And I know that.

But here's the thing. I ain't gonna birth no babies, Uterus. You and I - we're never gonna walk down that 9-10 month road. Planned or accidental - your job is never going to come to fruition. So why do we still have to go through the "fake labor pains" once a month? Why must you cause my back muscles to stiffen up, as though I'm actually pregnant? Why must you contort my body into a fetus position at the most inappropriate times?

Look, blood I can deal with. Do I love it? No. But I can handle it. It's 4 days of an inconvenience - and I'm okay with that. But the pain - the pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain! I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THE PAIN! Shoveling down four, 200 mg caplets of Advil a day just isn't my idea of a good time. And if we're not careful, Stomach may start complaining.

I'll be honest - I've looked in to trading you. Don't look at me like that!! What other choice have you given me? Because you're such a (relatively) wonderful uterus, I was hoping to trade you back to whatever divine creator there may be for something wickedly awesome - like teleportation, or the ability to fly. You are so totally worth a super power! And there are so many women in the world who didn't get the upscale Uterus that you are, and actually want to have children - it doesn't seem fair that I probably can, but don't want to; and they want to, but can't! Plus, you'd get used properly - like you should - instead of being stuck with a bum host who has no intention of reproducing. Do you see my reasoning?

But apparently, a trade is simply not possible. Seems like we're a good 50 years away from that biological breakthrough. So it looks like we're stuck together. And I'm okay with that - because again - you are a damn fine uterus. But can we please try to compromise? Maybe back off on the pain a little, and I won't pursue any kind of removal. Deal?

I really do know how good I have it. But your help in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Warmest Regards,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pictures of Puppies!!! (and who doesn't like puppies??)


My dogs aren't retarded (at least I don't think they are), but I do feel like this sometimes when we're training. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

And "best woman in human history" goes to....


Today is July 4th - which, if you're American, means a national holiday involving alcohol and the lighting of explosives. Hooray! If you're not an American - well, it's just a normal Sunday for you, sorry; you have to have your alcohol without explosives, poor souls that you are. Don't feel too bad - at least you'll have all of your limbs intact at the end of the day. Good for you!

Anyway, for the past 2 years, Shakespeare Orange County has had a free and public reading of the Declaration of Independence, and so we did again this year. My favorite section of this little gathering entails the reading of passages written by our fore-fathers and mothers, incorporating Shakespeare. Example? Abigail Adams and John Adams quote a lot from Julius Caesar back and forth to each other during their letters throughout the days leading up to the Revolutionary War. Jefferson uses Shakespeare, Washington uses Shakespeare, I'm sure even Benjamin Franklin quotes some kind of irreverent piece of text at some point. Shakespeare's use of rhetoric - the art of persuasion - is the cornerstone of our country's important documents; straight up. 

This year, my dad couldn't find the Abigail Adams passages, and I became very sad. And I told this to my monkey, and said, "Abigail Adams is in my top 5 women of all time..." And then I started to think about my top 5 women of all time ... who are they? what did they do? how did they change our world? do I always ask myself rhetorical questions? 

In a word, yes. 

Then, I asked my sister last night as we were walking the dogs, who her top 5 women of all history would be. She came up with three, initially. She had trouble thinking of more. "I don't know a lot of great women in history." Excuse me, WHAT?!?! How can you say that and call yourself my sister??? Then, because she was grasping at straws, she picked some weird choices out of thin air ....

"Oh! I know who I'm missing ... Marie Antoinette!"
"Marie Antoinette?!?! Really?? Why??"
"Because I think she was really good."
"Uhm ... really good at what?"
"That's not what I mean - like, everyone thought she was this heartless bitch, and I don't think she really was."
"Oh. You think she was a scapegoat."
"Okay ... but what did she do?!"
"What do you meant?"
"Well ... I guess when I think about great women of history, they tried - against all male odds - to make the world a better place, when usually they wouldn't have been able to - because they were women, and therefore second rate citizens - if citizens at all. You know? Women who have had an impact to change the course of our lives and the way we live." 
"Oh. Well, I can't think of very many."

Then she asked me about my choices for great men in history, and I let her off the hook. 

So, on this July 4th, in the spirit of my own feminist pride, I give you:

PB's Top 10 Women of World History
1. Boadicea - led an uprising against the occupying Roman Army in Brittain in AD 60, after her husband was captured, and her daughters (and herself) nearly raped. Sure, she was later caught and executed, but I have three words for you: ORIGINAL. BAD. ASS.

2. Abigail Adams - She's the original feminist. People credit Emmeline Pankhurst or other suffragettes ... no no no. She wasn't a wife-as-commodity, she was a partner and an equal to her husband, on her own insistence - though I'm sure she wouldn't have married John Adams if he had been a horse's ass. Here are some of her little gems:

  • "Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could."
  • "If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation."
  • "If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women."
  • "Well, knowledge is a fine thing, and mother Eve thought so; but she smarted so severely for hers, that most of her daughters have been afraid of it since."

Abigail did a LOT of background work before, during, and after the revolution, and doesn't get NEARLY as much credit as she should. And considering her ideas on women's rights within a "Free" society were nearly 200 years before her time, I think she's bee's knees.

3. Elizabeth I - One of England's longest reigning monarchs (second only to Victoria), one of the most  enlightened, educated, and powerful women to have lived. Ever. While an obvious choice, certainly a good one, I think.

4. Eleanor Roosevelt - Best first lady since Abigail Adams. HUGE civil and social rights activist. Another great woman who did countless behind-the-scenes work on everything from public policy to international politics. I also think it's a relatively enlightened woman who can allow her husband to have affairs, and then allow herself to have some too.

5. Pope Joan - While the Catholic church firmly, passionately, and contemptuously denies the existence of Pope Joan, there is ancient documented evidence that she existed in the 12th century. The fact that the Catholic church denies it so vehemently ... well. I'll say no more. But according to what was written about her, she studied in Athens and Rome, disguised as a boy, simply because she wanted to learn. And since a good education at the time was only got by the church, she rose through the ranks on the skill of her intelligence and kindness alone. She was later, reportedly, found out as a woman because she gave birth. Firebrand? Yes ma'am!

6. Harriet Tubman - She escaped her own slavery, went back into the South 13 times to save over 70 slaves on the Underground Railroad. When the Civil War started she worked in the Union Army as a cook, a nurse, an armored scout, and a spy. After the war, she was a huge help during the very early stages of the women's suffrage movement. And I'm sure, given half the chance, would have fought for Native rights too.

7. Sacagawea - The interpreter and guide for Lewis & Clark - traveled from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean with a baby on her back. There should be a quote along the lines of, "Sacagawea did everything Lewis & Clark did, only with a baby on her back, while speaking multiple languages!" Without her, Lewis & Clark would have been a small footnote in the annals of history, about the first two men to try and reach the Pacific Ocean. Because of Sacagawea, they actually did. She's a big deal in the Pacific Northwest, as well she should be.

8. Hatshepsut - Forget Cleopatra. Hatshepsut ruled before Cleopatra, and had the longest and most successful pharoahship of any other woman ruler of Egypt (and they were not strangers to women rulers). She was highly skilled as a tactician, but had a rule of long-standing peace, re-opened trade routes that helped regain Egypt's wealth, and issued in a period of architecture that was unparalleled for thousands of years. Oh. And this was all around 1479 B.C. BAM.

9. Empress Wu Zetian - The first, and ONLY Chinese Empress in History (690), and is also the first to start her own Dynasty (Zhou, which interrupted the Tang Dynasty). She started out as a concubine, like you do, became the Empress Dowager, deposed two of her sons, supposedly killed her daughter to frame another woman of royalty, Empress Wang, as well as her eldest son - but then, that's the price for being an original. She was said to be ruthless and shrewd, but at the same time an attentive ruler and a great judge of character. She was later deposed by one of the sons that SHE deposed, and called herself 'emperor' until the say she died. Her rule lasted almost 30 years. Contemporary scholars are still trying to decide who she really was - yet another case of, "Was she really a bitch? Or is that just how the conquerors made her out to be?"

10. Babe Didrikson Zaharias - Not all great women of history are leaders of nations. Babe Zaharias is, I believe, to this day, the most talented multi-sport female athlete the world's ever seen. Golf, basketball, and a swath of track & field events left Babe with 3 Olympic medals, 10 LPGA major championships wins (including the US Open), 17 amateur women's golf wins (not even Tiger Woods has won as much!), she was also accomplished at pool, and won an Amateur Athlete Team Championship - all by herself. Babe paved the way so that girls like me could play sports too. Without Babe, there would be no Billie Jean King, no Jackie Joyner Kersey (perhaps the only other woman I could name as the most talented multi-sport athlete).

Top 10 Women I wish had been real
1. Xena - Uhm, duh.
2. Penthesilea - Queen of the Amazons, fought at Troy, honored by Achilles for her courage and skill.
3. Hua Mulan - Chinese Female warrior, disguised herself as a man.
4. Lao Ma - Fictional character from Xena - in the Xenaverse, Lao Ma is responsible for Lao Tzu's Taoist book of Wisdom.
5. Rogue - Marvel comics. The ORIGINAL Rogue. Not the Anna Paquin Rogue. Ugh.
6. Morgaine - as written by Marion Zimmer Bradley in the Mists of Avalon.
7. Cassandra - as written by Marion Zimmer Bradley in The Firebrand.
8. The nameless Amazon on the isle of St. Kilda, Scotland - Or, Taigh na Banaghaisgeich. This is a piece of folklore I learned of relatively recently, but I've become fascinated. (the link is Wikipedia, look under "Pre-historic buildings)
9. Atalanta - Greek mythology, abandoned in the wild by her father (who wanted a boy), suckled by a mama-bear to survive, was said to have been one of the best hunters alive, was always happy, had "bear like" ferocity and skill, was one of Jason's argonauts, swore and oath to Artemis, killed rapists.
10. Elphaba Thropp - as written by Gregory Maquire in Wicked, not that silly musical.

The woman to be most excited about right now: 
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - President of Liberia.


The Great and Mysterious Lesbian Code ... PROVED.


In case you need a refresher...

Chapter 2 (strangely disabled embedding):

Chapter 5 (again with the disabled embedding...)

BAM. Did I tell you? Or did I TELL YOU??!!

I fully concede the 4th and 5th chapters are ... crazy gay, and not in a cool, campy way. Sometimes, the lesbian code is painful. This is what happens when we are forced to lick the discarded sub-text scraps Hollywood condescends to throw our way. We fantasize about it obsessively and then put it on YouTube, to share with each other like a lesbian ocular orgy.

Welcome to my life as a sexual minority seeking entertainment.

Now, at least this little video ... which comes with the charming "Lesbian Code" song, written and sung by Alix Dobkin ... makes fun of itself - in fact, it's actually pretty hilarious.