Today is the anniversary of the day I quit booze. Six years ago I decided if I was going to survive I needed to stop drinking. The last six years have been a ridiculous adventure, a rollercoaster of emotion & pretty much totally fucking fantastic. Last year I threw myself a pool party to celebrate my sobriety. This year I wrote a zine. If you want a copy, just go order something from my etsy shop & I'll include it for free. If you just want this zine, it's available on a sliding scale, pay what you can via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chicago Zine Fest is by far, one of the best zine fests happening in the US. This was my forth year tabling & I was extra psyched because it was my boyfriend's first year tabling as a zine maker! Brian made a BMX zine called RIP ROAST SHRED GNAR! I was also more nervous than ever because I was invited to be a reader Friday night & I knew the crowd would be the largest I read in front of & that had me sorta freaking out ("sorta" as in TOTALLY). Anyway, we left early Thursday morning and headed straight to Chicago Diner for dinner with Brian's best friend Pawel when we arrived (it took us about twelve hours because I stop to pee, crush pennies & get espresso like every five minutes). Anyway, Chicago Diner is this incredible vegan restaurant that's been around since the 80s (with two locations) & makes the best milkshakes ever. EVER. (We literally went there 3 times & drank 9 milkshakes between the two of us). BEST MILKSHAKES EVER.
Friday morning we woke up at Pawel's house on two mattresses pushed together on the floor, refreshed & ready for brunch at Handlebar with my friends Eryca & Amy who I adore so much. I've known both for SO LONG (I can't even pinpoint how long, but for sure since the days of the Pander message board). It bums me out that I only get to see them once a year but at least CZF gives us that once a year to hang out! After brunch we walked to Quimby's, a bookstore that "specializes in zines, small press & other unusual publications"! It was so rad to walk into the store & see my book, Heavy Hangs the Head on display so predominantly. I bought a few zines (yes, the day before zine fest) & we took photo booth pictures before parting ways so I could make some last minute zine copies & go ride bikes at Wilson Skatepark down at Lake Michigan (where I also rode my bike down to the beach).
After riding we headed to the zine panel & discussion for CZF which was happening directly before the zine reading I was taking part in. It was awesome & smart & the crowd seemed super receptive. I'm always incredibly impressed by the activities planned around the actual tabling, where there is this feeling that zines are more than just something we make alone in our rooms & then attempt to sell while hiding behind a table. I think that's really important. The readings have always been probably my favorite part of the zine fest (especially the youth readings)! I was thrilled to be invited to take part this year but had no idea what I would actually read. Eventually I decided on something called "Getting Sober & Staying Sober" where I talked about what it was like kicking booze & living the best life I can live. It was heavy shit & maybe a bit much but I tried to get across that getting sober is actually pretty awesome. All the other readings were incredible. I was brought to tears by Marnie Galloway, the final reader of the evening and made sure to buy her book the next day. We ended the night with more milkshakes & a lovely dinner with my good friend Dalice & a table full of BMXERS.
Saturday was tabling! I had thought I got Brian & I each our own half table, I was very wrong. We split a half table next to Jonas & Penny who were splitting the other half of the table (with my fav, Dave Roche sitting on the other side of the corner) making for a very tight squeeze behind the table. But it was really awesome spending the day hanging out with my friends & I got to see lots of my Chicago zine friends. I got a bunch of rad zines & even some comics but really, I totally missed a lot of my friends who didn't make it out this year. But you can't be too bummed when you're surrounded by a room full of zine makers. The day came to an end. We packed up, said our goodbyes & were on our way.
Our final night in Chicago we spent out in the suburbs with Brian's Grandma Marilyn who is such a joy & whose house number is 666! The next morning we said our goodbyes & then made a quick stop at Let's Roast Cycles so Brian could see his friends & I could hang out with the shop dogs before ordering more milkshakes from Chicago Diner for the drive home. I did most of the driving because Brian did all of the city driving (bless his sweet, brave heart) which I am always really impressed by, how much driving I can actually do. All in all, a killer road trip alongside the best dude.
That final photo is what happens when I wash my hair with a tiny bottle of hotel shampoo, not brush it & then go to bed with it wet. I like to call it my "Natasha Lyonne before she got her shit together" look.
2015 was the year I quit smoking. New Year's Eve I excused myself from the room, went outside & smoked my last cigarette before coming back in to watch the ball drop. I also decided to go vegan for the new year. I had just started riding bikes & I was struggling to breathe on the simplest rides. As the year comes to a close, I'm still a non-smoker, still vegan & still riding bikes. 2015 is also the year I tattooed my grandparent's engagement photo on my arm, confusing them forever. Last year I celebrated New Year's Eve with my boyfriend, quietly, at home. The next morning we woke up & went for a hike at High Rocks in Ralph Stover Park. The day after that we walked around Lake Galena in Peace Valley Park with my dog. A new year started outside, clearing my lungs, hoping for a new start in so many ways.
Early March I went on my first bmx roadtrip with my boyfriend & a couple of other folks. We headed north during a snowstorm to ride bikes in Syracuse at Cranx, an indoor bike park. By this point I had only been riding bmx for a few months & just barely, since it was winter. I had big ideas & was stoked to ride. But when we got there I realized I was in over my head, deep. I basically just rode around the permiter of the entire park, not riding any cool lines or doing anything rad. It was a giant bummer & I was dissapointed. But as the months went on I rode my bike more & more. Suddenly, my entire life became bmx & all I wanted to do was ride. I spent my days off at Posh Woods, digging trails & riding the warm up line for hours, trying to get all the way through without stopping, eventually doing just that. I wanted to jump the double at the end of the line but as the year came to an end I realized that just wasn't going to happen (2016 tho, it will). We headed back to Cranx over Thanksgiving break & with my newfound confidence & skill I was able to ride almost everything there (not including the advance jump line, the green line or into the foam pit). When I couldn't ride Posh I rode the skatepark or in my driveway. I just RODE as much as possible. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to ride my bike every day. It doesn't have to be a full session or my bmx bike, but I have to get on my bike, any one of my bikes every single day.
At the end of March, I volunteered for a day at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary with my best friend, John Berry. Started in 2004 by Jenny Brown & Doug Abel & a handful of chickens rescued from a factory farm, Woodstock has been home to thousands of rescued animals who were saved from neglect or cruelty. The animals either spend their lives at Woodstock or are adopted into suitable forever homes based on strict criteria. John & I spent the day doing whatever was needed of us, mostly shoveling (frozen) cow poop out of barns to lay down fresh hay. When we were finished I got to brush a one ton steer! When I decided to go vegan this year I made a commitment to change my life, volunteering at Woodstock was part of that commitment. Being there that day, hanging out with all these animals who were given a second chance, reinforced my decision. Another resolution for 2016 is to visit the sanctuary more often.
In April, my boyfriend & I went on our first vacation together. I had found a killer deal on Groupon for the Hilton at Niagara Falls (Canada side) & so we packed the car & went away for the weekend. We did all the touristy stuff like Journey Behind the Falls & the Skylon Tower observation deck. We walked around Clifton Hill & rode the Skywheel. The next day we drove to Toronto & went record shopping & had a delicious vegan meal at Hogtown Vegan. Neither of us had ever been to Toronto, I had never been to Niagara Falls (Brian had, once as a child). So the entire trip was an adventure. I always worry when traveling that my anxiety will get the best of me, especially on that first trip with a new partner (I wrote about this in Lady Teeth #2). But we had a total blast & didn't argue or anything. It was a short trip but it was super fun & on our way back into the states we were hassled by border patrol for wearing matching Posh Woods hoodies.
Not too soon after we got back from Niagara Falls did we hit the road again, this time to Brian's hometown of Chicago for the zine fest! This was my third year attending CZF. It has become my favorite event to go to because so many people come from all over & it's so well organized. There is always a reading & panel the day before tabling, after parties all weekend & each year I've been lucky enough to be invited to do a reading at the Chicago Publishing Resource Center, a rad space for zinesters. We brought our bmx bikes with us, but I was still feeling less than confident about my riding so I chickened out riding the incredible spot Brian took me to (I'm psyched for this year to bring my bike & shred). We stayed with his best friend for a couple nights & one night at his grandma's house (her house number is 666, what!). We ate at the Chicago Diner (a rad vegan diner that's been in chicago for ages) multiple times. He was sweet enough to do cool touristy stuff with me (like visit the bean) even though it's his hometown.
We also drove up to Boston in October for Boston Zine Fest. I was so psyched to get Brian to Boston since he's never been there & I lived there for a couple years in my early 20's. I was also invited to be a part of a panel at Make Shift called "Zines as Radical Resistance". It was my first time being on a panel but it was rad. There's nothing I love talking about more than zines. This year is 20 years since I started making zines. This was also my forth zine fest in Boston (but first since 2005). We stayed with my dear friends, the Hook family without whom I never would have last a day living in Boston. We also went & visited the HOC, the first house I lived in when I got there, a very special place.
Another Groupon I scored this year was for a cheap stay at the Starlux in Wildwood, New Jersey. So, we spent the weekend down the shore too. That was awesome, except for the part where I totally ate shit on my brand new (to me) road bike & ripped open my knee pretty gnarly (only to crash through a bush & fall off the side of the trail riding bmx a couple weeks later at Posh, ripping the scab clean off). But we still had a blast playing in the ocean & riding the tramcar & making out under the boardwalk. It was Brian's very first trip down the shore so I wanted to make sure he got the true experience. Unfortunately, it was a little early in the season so the rides weren't open late & it was pretty quiet but the weather was perfect & I wore my two piece banana bikini.
On June 10th I celebrated 5 years sober. I write about my sobriety a lot, here & on social media. My life revolves around my sobriety because 5 years ago when my life revolved around drinking I was not someone I liked. So to achieve this milestone was incredible. I threw myself a party. I invited all my favorite people, friends, family & we had cake & we swam & we just marveled in the beauty of life. I am present & aware & alive, all because I am sober. A lot of times people will come to me & be like "I have to quit drinking, how do I do it?" & it's not easy & it's not fun. It's dangerous & it's scary. But it's also the absolute best thing you can do for yourself. I never imagined I would get to 5 years. To be honest, I never thought I would get to 5 months. Each day was a battle & it felt impossible. But as time goes on it gets easier but that's where it can also get tricky. You get comfortable in your sobriety & people can forget that there's a reason they quit in the first place. If you think you shouldn't drink, you probably shouldn't. If you want to quit but you don't know how please don't hesitate to reach out to me.
2015 was also the year I started fostering again. My first babies were a pair of kittens named Dexter & Bo. I had them for some time before the rescue I was working for asked me to take in a pregnant cat. An older couple had found her in their basement, they were not prepared for a mother & a litter of babies so I took her in. Weeks went by & she grew & grew until finally, late one night I heard her crying from the spare bathroom. When I went in to check on her she had 5 tiny little kittens with her. By the end of the night she had another. When I woke up the next morning she had delivered 8 kittens! Sadly, one did not make it but she did have 7 healthy kittens. Now, I had 7 healthy kittens & a mom to foster. It was a zoo... an adorable little zoo. I took thousands of photos of these babies & sent them to the rescue. They were already promised to families (in pairs even! with the momma being adopted with a baby) before they were two weeks old. That, is a foster success!
Then, on September 1st, Brian crashed his motorcycle & the year kinda just ended.
Suddenly life was about healing. Everything we did revolved around his comfort. For weeks he couldn't walk. I borrowed a wheelchair from friends. He got crutches from the hospital. I was an emotional mess & he was just trying to heal. Now, months later he can walk & he's starting to ride his bike again & we have big plans for the Spring. Life is all about ups & downs. We got through this accident & we can get through anything. I am just SO THANKFUL he is alive.
The weather turned cold. I celebrated my 37th birthday. Thanksgiving came & went & then Christmas. Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. This year saw the birth of Trillian Cloudkicker & we said goodbye to Hazel. Babies had birthdays & new friendships were made. I spent the majority of my time surrounded by some of the most incredible people who I love so much. I look forward to basking in their glow in 2016.
Sometimes you just want to get away, you want to leave this mundane existence & go some place else, some place more exciting. Sometimes you just want to join The Greatest Most Traveling Circus! The first book by author Jonas is a collection of stories that will take you to places of great joy & excitement but also to sad corners of his imagination that will leave you questioning everything. Each tale in this book is crafted in a way that I wish I could construct. The Greatest Most Traveling Circus has spent many nights sleeping next to me as I slowly work my way through it, through what it makes me feel, through the worlds where men steal feathers from angels, children write letters to superheros & marriages fall victim to magic or simply, to themselves. I've taken my time reading The Greatest Most Traveling Circus because I don't want it to end, I don't want to go back to that mundane existence without Amazing Man & the other folks who live inside the pages of this book. You won't either.
Order The Greatest Most Traveling Circus here.
Also, be sure to pick up Jonas' zine, Cheer the Eff Up over at Portland Button Works.
Last week I went on what I called "Solo Bravery Zinester Tour" to promote my book, Heavy Hangs the Head. The tour was supposed to be a week of bus adventures traveling up & down the east coast but due to some personal things happening up here, I couldn't be away from home for that long. So, most of the tour was postponed except for DC! I took an early morning bus from Philly & arrived around noon. My reading at the Dollhouse wasn't until 7pm so I spent the day visiting various Smithsonian museums including the Postal Museum, American History Museum, National History Museum, & the Air & Space Museum. All of which are free & amazing. I bought stamps & a book for my niece Lily at the Postal Museum. It teaches her how mail works! At the American History Museum I saw Dorothy's ruby red slippers! At the National History Museum I spent the most time looking at all the gems & minerals including the Hope Diamond & finally, at the National History Museum I held a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach!
DC Dollhouse is a feminist DIY space that I have read at before (on the Thank You For Being a Friend zine tour last March) & feel very comfortable at. Shira, Dirk, & JC read with me. It was an intense night of heavy stuff but it was awesome. I got to meet Ariana, an organizer of the DC Zine Fest! After the reading I went & got tattooed by Anna G. Knight. The following morning I headed home on the bus, with a full-fledged cold & a happy heart.