Two weeks…Three New Ancestors…

It’s a gloomy, rainy day here in Chicago, and it seems rather fitting that today. So many Ancestors in so short of time. I’ve already done my rituals: lit candles and incense. But today I feel the need to write about them and what they meant to me.

A little less than two weeks ago, my mentor and friend, Lizann Bassham passed after a long struggle with cancer. She had decided that she wanted to stop treatment and die on her own terms. Her partners kept vigil with her, both in person and online, updating those of us who couldn’t be there on her Facebook page.

She was an amazing woman and an amazing spirit. She was also the first mentor I’ve had that was a both/and priest: both pagan and Christian. When we first met when I was in seminary, it was the first time I could see that the idea of both/and could be done in a professional capacity. We had many deep and poignant talks while I was at PSR and learned so much from her. Not just about being a multi-faith priest, but how to navigate this world from the spaces in between. We were both priests who lived in the in-between spaces, and as beings who intimately know those spaces, it can sometimes be very difficult to live in this world with that knowledge. But Lizann did it with such gentleness and grace and love, that I hope that I, too can emulate that.

After seminary we didn’t talk as much as when I was still at school, but I would occasionally say hello to her online and read her blog posts. I will miss her greatly.

Yesterday, we found out that Valerie Walker (aka Vee or VeeDub) also left this world after deciding to stop her own cancer treatments. It had been the second round of cancer for her and she basically was done with it. She wasn’t  a mentor as such to me as she was to my wife, but she was an awesome friend to both of us. I had heard about her a lot from friends of mine who were studying Feri witchcraft under her (including my wife), and I remember I was a little nervous meeting her for the first time. If I’m remembering right, Sarah asked me to come with her to a circle at Vee’s house. And while I wasn’t interested in learning Feri tradition from Vee as an initiate, I did learn a lot from her. She also always treated me as a colleague, as fellow witch also navigating being a leader of a tradition. Unlike some other leaders in the Bay Area, she never treated me as “inferior” because I didn’t happen to be initiated in her tradition. After that, we were friends and Sarah and I went to several holy days at her house. Sometimes we just came over to say hello and catch up. In the last several years, it had been harder for Sarah to get some time with her, or for both of us to go visit, since we had moved first to San Jose, then to Chicago. We did keep in touch online off and on.

Vee, to me, was like that BadAss Grandmother you never knew you needed in your life until you met her. She was fierce, and blunt, but always accepted you for who you are and was kind in that no-nonsense kind of way. She died how she lived her life: on her own terms, and I will miss her presence on earth, too.

Then, this morning I heard of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. My Mom texted me about it, and at first I was like “No way!” but then I saw the BBC article. I didn’t know him personally, nor did I ever get to see him in person, but he’s been a virtual mentor in the sense that he showed me places I had never seen before and made me see that the food of a people, and eating with people, will tell you more about a country than anything else you can do. I started watching “No Reservations” many years ago, and ended up binge watching the whole series. From then on, I couldn’t get enough of his work. I watched everything he ever did on TV, shows he helped produce, or where he collaborated with other chefs. I’ve read almost all of his books on his life and thoughts about being a chef (although, I’ll admit I haven’t read any of his fiction yet). His Parts Unknown series, to me, was some of his best work, bringing together food, people, politics, and culture in a very unique way. It’s inspired me to do my own filming of my own travel when I move to Europe, and while my own work will be more of a vlog type thing, I do want to incorporate some of the same sensibilities that he brought to his show into mine: seeing past the tourist view and into the hearts and souls of people who live there.

What I found really interesting in watching all his shows is that you can saw him grow as a person. The very beginnings of “No Reservations” he comes off as an asshole, bad boy chef playing up his asshole-ness to the camera. But as the seasons went on, you can tell that the travelling made him think and grow. One of the episodes that showed that is the episode where he was in New Orleans a few years after Katrina, where he went and apologized to Emeril after dissing him years earlier. He did it in his Anthony Bourdain way, but he was sincere. But that wasn’t the only episode that you could see that, but it’s one that stands out to me.

Then again, he was pretty open about when he messed up, especially in his writings. From his drug addiction, to when he didn’t communicate right with locals, and so on. This, and in so many other ways, his work always spoke to me as a food nerd, a priest, a traveller, and a person. Even in the end, he went out his own way, by his own rules. I hope that wherever he is now, there’s a full pig roast going on, with sausage, BBQ, and Pho.

All three of these people have had a big impact in my life, and mostly because they lived life to the fullest by their own rules and in their own time. I honor them as my newest Ancestors, and I hope I can honor them by doing the same: living my life, living it well, giving where I can, and teaching when I can.

What is remembered lives.

Recent Reflections (with expletives)

  1. I like makeup, and I’m having fun with it, even though the butch side of myself is going “huh? wut?”
  2. I am an activist for some things, and I’ll do the work when I need to, but I’m not so keen on the community around activism sometimes. There are times when the very far left sounds quite similar to the very far right, especially in the “I will shout at you until you believe like I do” school of activism.
  3. Speaking of politics, I am not an anarchist, even though I’m pagan. I love all you Anarcho-pagans out there. Keep doing what you do. I just am not. I’m very much a New England Yankee Democrat.
  4. I’m not Hillary’s #1 Fan or anything, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world that Bernie didn’t get the nomination. I don’t think there was any actual conspiracy on the part of the DNC to see him not win, either. Having grown up in New England with history nerds for parents, I’ve lived and breathed politics from the cradle. What the DNC has been doing is what usually happens during elections. Unless you get a surprise winner like Barack Obama in 2008, most of the time they have a general idea of who’s going to end up with the nod.
  5. That said, the Republicans have gone batshit crazy, and what they have is certainly not normal. Trump is nasty and should not get in office.
  6. Personally, I think a third party vote is throwing votes to Trump. But you know what? You don’t have to give a fuck what I think, and I don’t really give a shit who you vote for as long as you actually vote. There are plenty of down-ticket things that still need your attention, even if you leave the presidential vote blank.
  7. I keep wavering about running for office. Sometimes I think I should and sometimes I think that way lies madness…of the bad kind.
  8. Working with Ereshkigal keeps the “give a fuck” tank low and the bullshit meter set on high sensitivity. The extra helping of hormones does not help this.
  9. It’s rather fun watching my wife watch the DNC. She’s getting a real education about American politics this year.
  10. Pink is my favorite color. Most of you know this already. I am just reasserting my pink-loving identity. 🙂

I’m tired of politics, but I’ll still vote. #decision2016

There’s seven months left in this election cycle. Seven very long months of conventions, debates, and political ads. There’s never ending political reports and news outlets trying to get the biggest ratings, with very few sources of news that doesn’t have an agenda.

I know I’m kind of done with all of this and I still haven’t had my primary (which is in June here in California). It’s hard to listen to the bluster of the presidential candidates and not think that we’re just all screwed. That no matter what happens in November, things are still going to suck.

Heck, I’m even having a hard time writing this post because I’m tired of politics.

But here’s the thing: no matter how tired I get with politics, I’m still going to vote. Every election. Every time. Even in the off years. I even set it up so I’m permanent vote-by-mail so that I don’t forget (thank you California!). Sure, sometimes I won’t know who the local candidates are (and that’s usually when I vote by party), but I’ll still vote.

I’m mostly speaking to those of my generation and younger here (Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials). I know you’re tired and you think there’s nothing you can do, but trust me, if you all vote, the demographics will start to shift. The US has an abysmal voter turnout all the time, especially among younger people. Only 65% of folks who are eligible to vote actually register to vote, and of that only just over 50% of people who are registered actually vote. Think about this. According to the US Census, there are about 322 Million people in the US, about 80% of which are over 18 and eligible to vote. So, that’s about 258 million people that could register and cast a vote (theoretically). Only about 167 million actually register to vote, and only about 88 million who actually vote. That’s less than 30% of our population making decisions for 322 million people.

There’s a lot more to an election than just the president, house, senate, and governors. There’s local elections (mayor, state reps, etc), propositions, school boards, judges, sheriffs, city councils, and so on. These are the positions that impact your day to day life much more than the national elections. The unconstitutional and stupid bathroom panic bill in North Carolina is a bill that has immediate effect on the lives of transgender people particularly. That wasn’t a national body that passed that bill, it was a state legislature.

Thing is, by voting, you have the power to help fix it. You may not think that your vote counts, but it does. A lot of the more local politics are determined by smaller voter margins. There are many examples to Google about local races decided by 10 or less votes. And, if you have the will and drive to do so, run for office. If you don’t like what’s going on, and you feel you can do it, be part of the solution to help fix it.

I’m a pastor, so I’ll never tell you who to vote for, but I will tell you to get out there and vote. Get registered. If you need help figuring things out, send me an email and I’ll help you. Look it up online, since most states have online voter registration. If you’re in a state that has those stupid voter id laws, get your id and make sure it’s all squared away. Help your friends get theirs. Help folks get to the polls. Carpool. Bring snacks to those waiting in line. Bring snacks for the poll workers. If you can’t get there because of work, try and go during your lunch hour. In most states, employers are required to give you time off to vote. If you don’t think you can make it to the polls on election day or if you’re not going to be in your home state, find out how to do vote by mail or absentee voting.

I know you’re tired of it all and freaked out by the choices, but we still need your voice. Please register to vote and then vote, any way you can. Believe me, it’s really important.