Flip Through

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#SB5 and beyond

You'd think I would be used to being disappointed by American democracy by now. I'm just the right age for the 2000 and 2004 elections to stand in stark contrast to what I was learning in my AP Government class.

But the Texas Senate, man, they really know how to party. Were you one of the 150,000+ people who watched a live stream of Senator Wendy Davis's filibuster...and its fall-out of shouting, debating, and flagrant disregard for legislative process? It was good times on Twitter, let me tell you--and trust, social media had their eyes on the prize while CNN, CBS, AP, and MSNBC screwed around with penguins and low-cal muffins.

And we are still watching you, Texas Senate. We're very interested in how keen you are to disenfranchise voters of color, poor voters, and female voters, between watching Davis jump through every hoop for thirteen hours and then cheating in front of the eyes of thousands (who have a petition ready, thank you) and the nasty bits of business you rolled out immediately after the Supreme Court dismantled portions of the Voting Rights Act. Since we're in a post-racial, post-feminist America and all.

My thanks to the four women who spoke truth to power yesterday: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wendy Davis, Leticia Van De Putte, and Judith Zaffirini. Your tales will not diminish in the telling. Let them add fuel to a righteous fire. Your efforts were not entirely in vain.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The best time I discovered erotica in my grandmother's basement

My step-step-grandmother’s basement, to be exact. My stepfather’s dad and stepmom lived in Virginia, in a giant house on a reasonably sized hill, just tall enough to get a good amount of speed pelting down it to fling yourself off the dock and into the lake. Picturesque! And I a Florida girl who had never been in a basement before, let alone one transformed into a veritable third floor of rooms, complete with a bathroom, storage space, and two bedrooms. I had thought all basements were cobwebby and contained killer clowns or giant spiders. This one was just where I was staying, sleeping in a double fold-out couch bed with my sister, two new step-step-cousins across the room in twin beds, and my parents down the hall in the other bedroom. There were bookshelves, lots of them, and crates of books piled haphazardly in the closets. The joy of swimming and the big hill to run down paled in comparison to ferreting through the books. I was That Kid in the corner, giant owl glasses peering over the cover of The Blue Sword or whatever it was that day. There had to be something in these boxes or on the shelves that would tide me over! I hadn’t brought enough reading for the road, of course. 

So there, between Maeve Binchy novels and a travelogue of Denmark, sat The Flame and the Flower, a hoary work of romance with that delightfully outdated ‘70s romance-novel cover. At the time I had no idea that romance novels even existed, let alone that this one had been downright revolutionary upon publication for its frank portrayals of premarital sex and “erotic subjugation,” AKA rape. At twelve years old in 1999, a Millennial child, I should have been bored when the pages fell open to the good parts (it’s not like I was trying; romance novels kind of only have good parts), but I happened to be a Mormon Millennial child who wasn’t even supposed to be watching Gilmore Girls because there were too many makeouts and children born outside wedlock. And lo, I was shocked! horrified! titillated! confused! by page after page of breasts in too-small bodices and swarthy, grumpy gentlemen in ships and murder and jealous mistresses. I shoved the book back into its box and went to watch Anastasia with my step-step-cousins, feeling shaky and guilty and weird. 

The book teased, though. I wandered past its box at intervals, snatching glances at the pages here and there, pretending to be looking at canals in Copenhagen whenever anyone else walked by. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but adolescent curiosity and hormones would not be denied. To my credit, I suppose, the book stayed in the closet when we left for Shenandoah National Park. Sneakily reading pornography was bad, but stealing pornography--from your grandmother--was probably worse. The discovery of The Flame and the Flower tipped off a career in clandestine erotica consumption, from easing a Nora Roberts compilation of fiery Irish beauties and their horse-obsessed manly men off my eighth grade English teacher’s shelf to rereading the novelization of The Wicker Man five times in high school, culminating, naturally, in the fanfic boom of recent years. Standing in a walk-in closet reading vintage Kathleen Woodiwiss isn’t so different from surfing AO3 on your lunch break.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sometimes you gotta make your own genre

What is Floridian Gothic? If it exists, how does it differ from Southern Gothic? I suspect that a Floridian Gothic subgenre would take those core themes of racism, poverty, decay, grotesquerie, and alienation and focus them more narrowly as stemming from immigration issues, a specific climate, the veneers of Disney World and other tourist operations, and attempted whitewashing of state history (for a variety of reasons). The values of Florida are wildly variable; sympathies, pastimes, and idiosyncrasies are striated according to region. Surfers and white supremacists exist in the same state, sometimes even in the same person, and the experience of a Cuban-American whose family helped shape Tampa's history differs greatly from that of a first-generation Cuban immigrant in Miami. Plenty of Floridians will tell you that “we’re not part of the South,” and plenty more will proudly wear head-to-toe Stars and Bars. Florida cannot be painted with the broad brush of "the South," and for a state with an image to maintain, it’s always been a chimera. 

(abandoned Splendid China, Orlando)

Florida is a liminal space. As a state with an immigrant and emigrant-heavy population, its continuing history is one of fusing beliefs, values, religions, cultures, and ethnicities. As a place unimaginable to inhabit without modern convenience yet vastly suitable for vacationing, its environment and physicality--the things we capitalize on--are a doomed honeymoon. As a mixed bag of northerners, southerners, and foreigners, environmentalists, real estate agents, and corporate bigwigs, its politics are a jungle. Ancestral magic lies cheek-by-jowl with Disney’s charms and goes out for shots with imported Afro-Caribbean beliefs. The hard history of Florida race relations and its ongoing racism are whitewashed for the benefit of tourists and boosters, yet memorialized in courthouse names; orange groves stationed on burial grounds are overtaken by McMansions whose inhabitants don’t stop to wonder what they’ll do when the citrus is gone and are baffled when bones show up in their backyard.

(strip mall botanica, Tampa)

Floridian gothic is “Everything That Rises Must Converge” on a Magic Kingdom tour bus, or Suddenly, Last Summer with a cast of holy rollers. The natural magic and destiny-making of Janie Crawford's journey is Floridian gothic. The mysteries of the Coral Castle; the gated community of Candor under mind control and its real-life analogue, endlessly creepy Celebration; the reclamation of the Bigtrees' gator park by the swamps: that's Floridian gothic.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


In times of rain and chill and general un-June-like weather, I admire frivolous clothing and read frivolous books.


In defiance of overcast skies, today I'm wearing bright lips and reading Carl Hiaasen paperbacks on my lunch break...and maybe sacrificing a small mammal for some sunshine.

Monday, June 03, 2013

The boys of summer

I should probably wait two years to write this post, when Lords of Dogtown is ten years old and the legacy of the Z-Boys celebrates its 40th anniversary. It would appeal to my sense of symmetry. But it's summer now and the heat doesn't stick around in these parts. Not like Florida. In the Cleve you have to do the summer stuff while it's summer, if you have that compartmentalized mindset like me where eating a snow cone in a blizzard is unthinkable. June's one of the rare seasons I can tolerate nostalgia, particularly nostalgia for things I never actually experienced. 

In 2005 I was seventeen, deeply uncool, lonely and dreaming of the West Coast (look I am of a Certain Age I am allowed to quote terrible Everclear lyrics in my reminiscences, go read someone else's blog if you're looking for quality). Growing up in an area known for surfing, in a family of longboarders and Birdhouse devotees and people who have Kelly Slater's number in their phones, with no coordination and a pair of Weezer glasses, I was doomed to fall in love with a particular brand of dude over and over. My immediate vicinity had a good few specimens of this type: the girl-jeans trend hadn't hit yet but they wore their trousers tight; there were Mohawks and possibly-infected piercings. As your average hide-in-the-library dork I wouldn't have had a chance, but as a totally-devoid-of-swagger-substance-free-Mormon-virgin things were truly dire. But they were everywhere! Kickflipping off railings, recording crap videos of themselves faceplanting into concrete, smoking behind the band hall...you know. A lot of them were in bands too, various flavors of punk of course, which was A Problem for a girl obsessed just then with Michael Azerrad, who knew that such music was of the Devil, a girl who wanted to own a wallet with a chain attached, to wear Vans not just for show, to go to tiny rock gigs and not be desperately misplaced. There were stoner-surfer happy punks who played at German Club events and there were psycho-punks who lived in a shabby commune across the river and there were nerd-punks who wrote songs about WarCraft; there were crust-punks who smelled sort of bad but were weirdly friendly and a punk with the same birthday as me who submitted poetry to the literary magazine and had a t-shirt for every Dead Kennedys record. There were even a couple of charmingly anachronistic straightedge types. Every now and then I considered claiming to be straightedge to avoid talking about the real reason I couldn't partake of that rum and Coke (or, LBR, even the Coke itself), but never ground up the nerve. And there was something even beyond the allure of beach hair, snotty attitudes, and torn jeans; the girl punks seemed to be having a better time of things than other girls at school. My most admired lady punk peers wore riot grrrl t-shirts and argued with a history teacher who persisted in referring to the Civil War as "the War of Northern Aggression." One of them even had an egalitarianism logo tattooed on her person. All these intriguing, unquestionably cool people had one thing in common, though: a skateboard.

In 2005 I was of exactly the right age and inclinations to benefit from the release of a feature film about 1970s Venice Beach skate culture. I'd already seen the documentary Stacy Peralta directed on the same topic, the rightfully lauded Dogtown and Z-Boys, and though Lords of Dogtown isn't on the same level, at the time it was perfect, full of shriekingly gorgeous guys, cool skate segments, in-jokes, and adorably chaste sex scenes that were for little ol' me all too titillating. There was also the Heath Ledger Factor, which should never be downplayed because, lest you forget, I belong to the generation that came of age on 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight's Tale, and true love lasts a lifetime even when it's in the form of a drunkass stoned overalls-clad Californian hippie. What a method actor was Heath! Anyway. The 2003 Ataris cover of "Boys of Summer" blowing up my KaZaa account was not, incidentally, included on the Dogtown soundtrack or even used in the trailers (that honor went to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"), but it blended with my mental image of southern California as the cooler version of my own familiar digs. The Black Flag line, cringeworthy now, really resonated then, man, for a mousy yet godawful pretentious teenager fixated on all things angry. There are NYC people and there are LA people--I've never been to either city but I'm an LA person, chiefly from consuming too many Pacific Sunwear ads and Gidget movies in my formative years. If people up north thought Cocoa Beach was the palm-trees-and-bikinis paradise of the continental US, that was well and good, but metro LA--Long Beach, Redondo Beach, Huntington Beach, Venice Beach--that was where shit was real. The girls were tanner, the guys were more dangerous, the sun was brighter, the waves were bigger. Everything was sharper, harder, more vivid. Blood on skateboards, sex that looked how sunscreen smelled.

In hindsight, of course, I was not fit to be a punk of any sort--skate, surf, crust, or otherwise, because if I had been then I would have been. Recursive rebellion! It didn't occur to me, for whatever reason, to ask my cousins or uncles to show me how to skate and surf. But the aftertaste of secondhand culture remains, neon sunsets and sneakers with the rubber worn down, long hair and pot smoke. I watch Lords of Dogtown at least three times between May and September. I went alone to see We Jam Econo--at Tampa's skatepark, of course--and felt it an appropriate gateway to my adult life. I marathon every Endless Summer film on the hottest day of the summer. I listen to my uncle's stories of the year's Easter surf competition with rapt attention. I finally have that chain wallet.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...