As I entered the porch this morning, I was astounded to discover a small curly-haired super-villain, his hands behind his back, his nose haughtily in the air, pacing with laborious pomposity.

“Have a seat, Mrs. Radder,” he said imperiously.

(Super villains always use the patriarchal version of your name, see.)


10 Books That Stayed With Me (in adulthood)

the-golem-and-the-jinniNaomi Kritzer tagged me for the book game with the following instructions: In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be in “right” or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.

I’ve done this before, using books from childhood. These are from relatively recent adulthood, and I ruled out books written by friends:

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger. Just gorgeous. She danced the line between creepy and not really well, too. And such a beautiful hideous love story.

2. Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem. Everyone told me to read it because the protag has Tourette’s as do two of my favorite people. They should have told me to read it because it is a wrenchingly beautiful portrait of all of the best humanity has to offer, cheek by jowl with the worst.

3. Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni. We are Facebook friends but I only friended her because I loved the book. It spoke to me. It was deep and strong and REAL. It was about things that mattered. The people were real, the world was vivid, the voice was like a deep, clear well.

4. Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo, who recommended The Golem and the Jinni on NPR which is why I looked it up. It’s a children’s book but I read it as an adult. It is a story of vanquishing depression, in my mind. Of being disillusioned but remaining true to yourself anyway. Of realizing your unrealistic hopes for the future were not going to happen, and of being very happy with what DOES happen, anyway. I wept and wept at this beautiful, beautiful book.

5.  Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. It is a wonderful, kind, human, deeply useful book.

6. The Year in Ireland, Kevin Danaher. A wonderful bit of folkloric history that has changed the way I live my life and relate to my culture.

7.  Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano. I learned so much. I learned that I have so much to learn.

8. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Beautiful. Brilliant. The fae were scary-ass fuckers as they should be. The English were racist and class-bound (ditto). The characters were REAL PEOPLE. The plot was unexpected but felt perfectly natural. The feeling of it lingered for weeks. I was so so so sad as the book thinned and I knew the end was coming. “No,” I found myself whispering. “No. Don’t be over.”

9. Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head by Jen Larsen. This may seem like cheating on my rule of no friends, but she’s another one I befriended because of her book. Smart. Funny. A wild honest true true heartwrenching hopeful beautiful book that made me want to send her a long tear-stained email. So I did.

10. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon. Just fucking BEAUTIFUL. Unexpected. Hilarious. Moving.  Thoughtful and imaginative and irritating and beautiful beautiful beautiful.

Traditional Ways Gathering

When I posted on Facebook that I’d gotten back from the Traditional Ways Gathering, several friends demanded context in the idea that this loudmouthed queer weirdo in a distinctively non-traditional family might go to anything labeled ‘Traditional.’ Several other friends pointed out that I hate hippies.

(I don’t, as a matter of fact, hate hippies. I just like to make fun of them because my parents were hippies. This seems like a harmless hobby.)

Anyway, I went. My feet are covered in bug bites. I did not bathe for an entire week, although I did take an accidental dunking in Lake Superior when I was bent over, vigorously washing my felted wool pouch I’d just made, and a large wave overtook me.

This is what I made at Traditional Ways! Still under construction: peg weaving scarf. Finished: random strip of cloth I made via fingerweaving. Bracelet made doing tablet weaving. Cedar bark teeny basket/pouch I will use for eyeglasses. Felted wool pouch.

This is what I made at Traditional Ways! Still under construction: peg weaving scarf. Finished: random strip of cloth I made via fingerweaving. Bracelet made doing tablet weaving. Cedar bark teeny basket/pouch I will use for eyeglasses. Felted wool pouch.

The Traditional Ways Gathering is on private land in the Bad River Reservation on the south shore of Lake Superior near Ashland, WI. A bunch of folks get together to share skills and knowledge. You sign up, camp REALLY closely next to other people (since half of my neighborhood was up there, we weren’t next to strangers), and sign up for classes.

A sampling of classes:

  1. My friend Abby made a canoe paddle. MADE IT. It is stunning and beautiful and awesome.
  2. Other people make their own shoes. They were also gorgeous.
  3. Bow drill fire making.
  4. Hand drill fire making.
  5. Tanning deer hide. Making knife sheaths from rawhide. Making pouches from tanned deerskin.
  6. Spoon carving.
  7. All sorts of weaving classes: some making baskets, some cloth. One folded bark pouch class.
  8. Song circle. Dance classes. Drumming. Acro Yoga.
  9. Wild edibles.
  10. Astronomy (best astronomy lecture I have ever heard in my ENTIRE DAMN LIFE.)

Apparently this post will be all about making lists.

Favorite moments at Traditional Ways:

  • The aforementioned accidental dunking.
  • Felting a pouch. You pound soapy wool for a long time with your fingers, then you roll it up and knead it like hell for a long time. Then you HURL IT VICIOUSLY DOWN repeatedly on the table. Favorite crafting method by FAR.
  • Realizing I made a weaving mistake at least ten minutes ago. Luxuriously, gloriously undoing it to start again from that spot. Not being in any hurry. Just doing it.
  • Playing bodhrán while my little sister Noe fiddled and listening to all of the other wonderful musicians around the fire. Singing singing singing.
  • FINALLY learning how to sing Ho Ro Haradala.
  • The enthusiastic joy with which my children showed me the frogs and froglets they found in the frog pond.
  • Huge fires on the beach.
  • “Ice runs” and long talks with a friend I’m getting to know better.
  • Making new friends over looms, wool, and damp cedar bark. (Most of them live in my neighborhood or in adjoining ones. Kind of hilarious to meet so many neighbors so far from home.)
  • Seeing my kids bond with their cousins.
  • Not caring what I looked like or smelled like.
  • The potlock at which I had wild rice, bison, salmon, homemade Kim Chee, delicious salads.
  • Watching my friends turn chunks of wood into beautiful art.
  • The hypnotic rhythm of weaving, weaving, weaving. Listening to the waves roaring like the ocean. Peace. Sleep.

Urgent travel-related questions

rain-drivingFor the slow driver: What is it, exactly, about the left lane that you find so irresistible? Does it fit your image better than your speed? Will your dick fall off if you ride in the right lane as the rest of the slow drivers? Did you lose a bet? Are they giving out candy?

For the obsessive lane-changer: We’re doing a do-si-do! Aw. Wait. Now another. And another. No — I did not consent to folk dancing. Stop it. Wait. Why is this happening? Around and around and around.

For the tailgater: Did you notice I’m going 15 miles per hour over the speed limit and passing a truck? Yes? Why are you so close? Are we — oh god you’re mounting me, aren’t you? You’re trying to make Volvo/Chrysler babies? Sorry; I’m queer, and so is my car. Really; I’m not for you. No no no.

For the people at rest stops: Why do you stare at disabled people like we are covered in flashing lights and poo? Are we really the first ones you’ve ever seen? You’re at a rest stop, so presumably telling you to get out more and see the world is moot. Enjoy your spiritual/cultural quest, I guess!

For the stealth rider: I couldn’t help but not notice, for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles, that you were cruising along directly in my blind spot. I mean, until I nearly killed us all. Do you have a death wish? Are you just pathologically thoughtless? Are you a secret agent? You’re a secret agent, aren’t you?

Oh my god after I nearly killed you, you zoomed up to coast for miles in someone else’s blind spot. I think you are just evil.

For the perennially timid: What is it, exactly, that is so scary about passing a truck that makes it MORE terrifying that driving along exactly in its splashback, completely blinded, pacing them mile for mile?

For Duluth: Why is it always raining when I approach you or recede from you? I confess I blame you for this, you beautiful impervious city by the lake. Is it fair to do this?

Robin Williams

robin-williams7878You guys, I am so, so down about Robin Williams. Giving such joy. Living in such agony. It brings me down as an artist, as a fellow depressive and as someone with multiple mental health disorders myself. It brings me down as a human being.

Lots of people have posted about removing the stigma and how that might help, about understanding depression, not blaming him, etc. All of those are good things.

The thing is, he was GETTING help. He was REACHING out. He’d just been to Hazelden, FFS.

I have been in that horrible place. Sometimes, no matter how you try and how you fight and how much people care about you, the bastard gets you. It makes me so sad. It makes me so angry. It makes me feel so helpless.

I hope his family and friends don’t blame themselves. I hope he is finally peaceful and happy. Well, there. I’m ending with hope. How about that.

Publishing announcement: I’ll be in the Listen to Your Mother book out next year!

LTYMbookI am so excited and happy to announce that my essay “Shy” will be part of a book published by Putnam Adult with around 50 or so essays from the performance project Listen to Your Mother.

It’s available for preorder now if you wanna (in hardback only, so far — not sure about the ebook situation), and I feel so incredibly honored to represent for my Crippled Mamma Sisters.

If you want to see the video of a slightly different version of the essay, here’s what I performed at Listen to Your Mother Twin Cities a few years ago:

Powderhorn in August


On our cozy porch, sipping port given to me by a dear friend, listening to the crickets while the youngest hunts for tiny toads in the drizzly gloaming and the eldest hunches upstairs over his Magic cards: sorting, categorizing. It is past their bedtime, but summer’s end is too close at hand for us to insist on anything. Bicyclists ride slowly past in the darkening street, tires hissing in the shallow puddles.