Meta Post: This will be the year I teach you to survive

I’m back.

During my month off, I considered restricting or shutting this site down. Movement at my day job made me wonder how long I could maintain somewhat of a personality schism — would my online reputation threaten my professionalism? I opened this website using my real name with the intention of not letting anonymity make me a lazy writer. Ultimately, I stand by my instincts that if being myself publicly closes doors, then I want those doors closed. My privilege of a safety network and specific upbringing entreats me to be myself, and I refuse to only make safe choices.

I have also chosen to put my real name on my writing. I have to hope this choice will make sense when I reflect back on my life… — Feb. 20, 2014

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New interest on an old post, Why is San Diego so Boring, gives me a mission statement for 2016; this is the year I pass on my survival lessons. I vaguely understood my calling to entertain bored friends, locals, and visitors of San Diego. Now, I’d like to put my “thoughtful” hat on again and push this blog’s tone in that direction. That is to say, I’ve recovered from some rough life changes and have the emotional energy to do more than vaguely insult my friends on the internet for laughs!

In 2016, I resolve to:

  • Examine my core tenets and how they are related to “surviving” in “San Diego”
  • Communicate these strategies in entertaining, or at least interesting, blog posts
  • Entwine this year’s posts into a larger, cohesive narrative
  • Find and listen to my audience

Here are some of my plans I might use to do this:

  • Answer questions from the community a la an advice column — which has the added benefit of making SD Survival Guide sustainable long term
  • Involve myself more in local projects
  • Be more conscious in my explorations of the city and subculture so that I can share them here
  • Probe the meaning of “story”
  • Create event series until I find something that sticks
  • Develop a themed posting structure, such as Week 1: “How to survive _____” Week 2: “A question from San Diego” Week 3: “From my list of party ideas…” Week 4: “So, this happened to me (in SD)” — or at least create recurring categories!

FOT28FB

I’m excited to renew this project (and stop being a lazy panda). I don’t know if that means I’ll be posting every week again, or if it still makes sense to do every other. I may even choose a different day (stats suggest Saturday @ 7pm). Regardless, I welcome your input via my “ask” box, email, facebook, text, inconvenient phone call, handwritten note anonymously stuffed in my couch during one of my parties…etc…

Thank you, my dear reader, for your priceless attention.

–sami

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Why Bernie is my political “first”

It’s not that I hate politics. I don’t care enough about them to hate them. Am I really lazy and self-centered? Finances: handled. Family: close. Friends: cherished. Art (and writing): nourished. Health: decent. Love life: abundant. Party life: probably too abundant. I’ve got a lot going on, and while I certainly could shift my priorities to make time for becoming worldly and political, I always have just hoped things like global news and government would become naturally more appealing as I aged.

register-to-vote-bernie-sanders-san-diego-pre-election-kick-off

Photo: Noa Azoulay http://www.featherlove.com

Enter Bernie. My friends seem nuts about him. I watch some videos. This guy is consistent. I read some articles. Really consistent. I get invited to a rally. I say yes and then hundreds of people say yes.

Everything about this candidate and the movement surrounding him makes me feel like now is the time to enter this conversation I’d been so long avoiding — been plugging my ears saying lalala (or really, just turning down the volume). Admittedly, I don’t know a lot. I know he uses the phrase, “enough is enough,” he speaks candidly about 1% of the population owning 90% of the wealth, he’s been pro marriage equality for decades, and he’s pretty serious about global climate change.

I’m not worried about not knowing so much, this time. In previous years, I procrastinated filing out my write-in ballot because the task of deciphering so much duplicitous political information daunted me into missing my deadline. I’d have to fill it out on voting day and drive to the ballot box to drop it off anyway. This campaign, I am finding it easy to start early. I’m finding it easy to learn a little bit about Bernie between nights of revelry and nights of Burning Man preparations.

Photo: Noa Azoulay http://www.featherlove.com

Photo: Noa Azoulay http://www.featherlove.com

I’m finding it easy to say yes to political events. The rally was enormous. I have been to the North Park Observatory before and never seen it so full. Luckily, my date beat me there and saved me a seat. My friends were everywhere. Aaron Truax started what he thought would be a bustling shindig for his friends, registered it on the official campaign website, and watched it overtake the original venue. His roommate stood behind a table, selling T-shirts. Our friend Maia Tagami introduced the livecast.

Photo: Noa Azoulay http://www.featherlove.com

Photo: Noa Azoulay http://www.featherlove.com

I am so used to overly-coached, well trained (& well paid) politicians that I wasn’t sure if Sanders speaks simply on purpose. His speech reminded me of an assignment I might have been tasked to write in my advanced Poli-Sci class in high school, senior year — an organized, straightforward, no-frills essay. It’s clear he has savvy, that he knows which talking points need to be made. He’s a smart man. But he’s a smart man who cares most about his ideals, cares more about them, I think, than winning.

I care about this too. I care about how his presence in the election will start change. I care about about other politicians adjusting their platforms due to his positive influence. I care about the possibility of his winning, which I really do think is real. Above all, I care about how participating in his campaign will make me a better person.

So yes, I played along with being a part of history by voting for Obama two seasons ago. Yes, I have always half-ass encouraged my friends to register and vote. This time, however, will be the first time I really get involved. Maybe it could be your first time too.

I’ll be at West Coast Tavern to watch the GOP debate with friends, join us!

http://www.redbubble.com/people/berniesanders16

How to Eat Just Tuna

It is 4th of July weekend and 22 of your closest friends have gathered in the mountains for a camping retreat. On this property last year, you worked together to build a sloped-roofed structure, which is called “the cabin” when you are feeling proud, and “the shack” when you are self-deprecating. In the nearby shade, you erect tents, on the picnic table you arrange food and necessities to share, and directly beside it, you raise up metal scaffolding to attach shade and a network of many green and blue and white and purple tulle strips — this is the “kelp forest.”

For dinner on Friday night you will have a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) of beef enchiladas. You make a hat out of long foxtails by gathering them together at the base with a red rubber band and splaying them over your cranium in front of your face and around your shoulders. This protects you from the mosquitos, but you also use the tiny amount of reception you have to send out messages to friends who have not yet arrived, begging for bug spray and incense. Soon it is dark, and you are hungry. You add water to the instant hot pack in your MRE and heat up your hermetically sealed dinner.

MRE-meal-ready-to-eat-TUNATomorrow you will have “TUNA.” You know your future self will enjoy the suspense of wondering what is in this brown bag, ominously labeled just “TUNA.” If it is tuna casserole, then why not label it so? If it is tuna salad, then why is it in an MRE package, which, of every one you have had, always have a heating element? Your friend says her vote is tuna poke and you smile with excitement even though you are scared it’s just a tuna filet. You begin to doubt this challenge when altitude sickness makes you lose your enchiladas (and they taste the same coming out as they did going in).

The cure for altitude sickness (besides quitting drinking for the weekend, hydration, and rest) is apparently zip line rides. The exhilaration of falling forward under a whizzing cable raises your blood pressure and erases your nausea. The headache’s gone, too. So are the flashing lights. This morning you could only lie on the fake grass turf under the kelp forest, but now you are ready to tromp in leaves, dance to live music, and shoot fruit from an air cannon. Then, sundown comes, and you tuck the brown package under your arm.

You can’t bring yourself to open it. “What does it mean, just TUNA?” Your friends tease you for your obsession. One gives you a snack of tuna on crackers to build your courage for the main course. You lie down in the kelp forest with the brown package, and tuck it under your head. With any luck, you’ll break the heating element inside and be absolved of eating it. You sit up and help your friend type an exposition on the subject. A deranged exposition.

What is tuna? t u na is

TUNA (omi nous) it’s what’s for dinner.

tuna is a saltwater f ish

that t atstes not unlike ch icken .

t u TUNAis frequently seen isn

quiet is the night

Whilst you’re in reverie of tuna swimming through seas, a friend tries to tell you another is going to use your tuna bag as a pillow. But you falsely hear that she is off with your tuna and about to open it. You sit straight, suddenly, and shout, “Don’t open it!!” and are afraid like you have just woken up from a nightmare. You apologize to your startled friends when you return to your senses. This tuna is becoming a complex.

Your friends will draw helpful instructions on the TUNA package to make the task of eating it less daunting.

Your friends will draw helpful instructions on the TUNA package to make the task of eating it less daunting.

It’s time to open it. You peel apart the top seal. You dump the contents in your lap. Out of the big brown package falls many smaller brown packages — pretzels, tortillas (tuna tacos?), candy, a cookie — and one blue one. It is a bag of Starkist tuna, packed in water. It is, really, Just Tuna.

You eat it with a spoon.

How to Judge a Facebook Event Invite by the Numbers

I’ve been using a very basic set of formulas to figure out how big a Facebook party is going to be, based on these numbers:

facebook-invite-party-numbers-attendance-example

# Going, # Maybe, and # Invited, that’s all I care about.

Here’s the math. It’s simple because I may have a pre-party whiskey in my hand when I need to use it:

Going × 80% + Maybe × 50 % = estimated attendance

and

Invited ÷ Going = desperation index

1 = they only invited their good friends….or their only friends. 3 = approaching desperate, or they might just be popular. 5 = this is the only big party they have ever thrown, plz come!!! 10 = goddamnit promoters.

Some of you smarty pants types may have already crunched the numbers from my initial example, and found very promising figures. Indeed, I would say those numbers just about represent ideal. While it was a great party, there are a few factors I’ve left out.

RSVP Inflation

RSVP Inflation occurs when people feel some sort of obligation to go…or at least say yes. I haven’t figured out an exact number to subtract in these cases, but I do know people are lying liars and will say yes and hope the host doesn’t notice they didn’t make it. (Ummmm…so sometimes I say yes because I want show my support, since maybe just seems disappointing.)  Here are common causes:

  • Housewarming party  <– this is our example
  • Going away party
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversary party (an event that happens every year)
  • Inconvenient but exciting party
  • Ridiculously well-themed party

Ultimately, I don’t think this factored heavily in the attendance of my example. I do think attendance was near or exactly 57.5 people. (Half person = child?? or..) Yet the practical attendance (a.k.a how the party feels to me during the actually-relevant-to-my-life hours of 10pm-3am) was about 15 people lower. Which brings me to my next point…

Time Dilution

Time dilution occurs when the event spans additional, unconventional party hours, such as starting in the afternoon. This happens with:

  • Ambitious housewarming parties (<–)
  • Parties that start as a BBQ
  • Parties thrown by lonely people
  • Parties thrown by people with kids, or who have a lot of friends who have kids
  • Summer parties (I know it is summer year-round here in San Diego, but June-August months are just treated differently, you know?)
  • People who are really into day drinking

You’re just not going to see the people who leave early. It’s ok. They’re not your type of people, anyway.

Making An Appearance

The making an appearance factor has the same basic effect as time dilution, and of course occurs when the event or the attendance-base lends itself to briefer party visits. Either people are making their obligatory stopover before leaving to sleep/take care of kids/return to their lairs of introversion, or they are popular kids doing what popular kids do: party hop.

For example, take a look at this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 10.22.32 AM

What is this? More maybes than going?? What is the meaning of this anomaly?

The desperation index seems high, but actually what is going on here is that a popular person has invited his very popular friends and, oh, wow, they’ll make it if they can, they really hope so. Looks delightful, I so want to be there, xoxo.

Umm, eff yes I’m going. No, not to brush against popularity and hope it rubs off on me, but because attending an event where dynamic, gregarious people are coming and going as they make their Saturday-night rounds is a revolving door of delight for me.

Many of those 97 weren’t sure they could commit to even a maybe, or swiped yet another Facebook invite out of their mobile notifications, but still found the event when they were buzzing around town on party night looking for the next bit of excitement. And many of those 30 did, in fact, make their appearances.

My Weird Friends

This is why I’m writing this. I am all mixed up. When I throw parties with my best friends, at my house, the math just doesn’t work. Here’s what I see:

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 10.25.07 AM

Desperation index makes sense. I’ve invited only my best friends. But actual attendance was somewhere around 30.

It seems like all goings go, and most maybes make it, and the rest of my weirdo friends who totally ignore their Facebooks somehow get the memo that there’s something happening tonight, come over.

Love you kids <3

Cases I haven’t Examined

Here are party-types I haven’t examined because I don’t friggin go to them:

  • Baby showers
  • Weddings
  • Fundraisers that are really fundraiser-y
  • Most board game nights
  • Movie nights
  • Video game nights
  • Gender-themed parties (such as “battle of the sexes” or pearl/tie parties) that aren’t awesomely queer and/or subversive

Inclusion: Practical Strategies

This is a followup to Responsible Friendshipping: Inclusion v. Exclusion.

What does inclusion look like, practically applied?

Strategy: Opacity in Invitation

For the past three kickbacks I’ve hosted, I’ve skipped creating a Facebook event and instead invited friends individually via text, private message, or in person. Alternatively, I could have created a Facebook event and unchecked “show guest list.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.23.05 PM

 

There was something organic about sending the invite via text. If I created the Facebook event, the set guest list does still exist, even if invisibly — and there is the issue of visible comments in the event page. If I use text, it is unclear about how people ended up at the party, and I found that it was easier to communicate to friends or even allow them to assume that they could bring others.

Either way, obscuring the list seemed to have an added side effect of reducing my stress. If my friends did communicate with one another about whether or not they would go, I did not see it (well, one friend asked who was coming and I told him “people I like” stop asking). I enjoyed spending less time organizing an event (Facebook makes me feel like I have to write a description, set a start time, add a cover photo….) and more communicating with friends directly to answer their questions.

What time are people coming?

IDK after 8, staying late. I’m here now.

I invited people first who I had recently chatted with, and then did my best to remember anyone else I may have missed. I enthusiastically responded yes to anyone who wanted to bring a friend, and I did my best to be welcoming to friends who heard of the gathering by word of mouth but who I had forgotten to invite. One thing I might do differently next time is reach out to close friends to help me spread the word, so I am not just relying on my own memory.

Strategy: Time Pressure

In all cases, I sent the invites the afternoon or night of the event. This reduced one of the major disadvantages of inclusion, and that is that events and hosting locations have limited capacities. Many people already had plans or otherwise couldn’t come, and so I avoided accidentally causing a rager.

If I had a particular friend who I knew had higher-than-average difficulty making last-minute plans, I might give them the curtesy of advance notice at least for a couple of parties, in order to be more inclusive to them. I’d have to, of course, let them know that’s exactly what I’m doing and others will not have heard of this “party” yet.

Alternate Strategy: Revolving Lists

Another strategy I’m considering experimenting with is masterminding a small groups rotation pattern. I will make it clear to friends that, to limit the size of the party, I will invite smaller portions of my larger friend base. If they are not invited to the current party, rest assured they will be invited to the next. This strategy will only be helpful if I have frequent parties, and if no event gets so much acclaim that missing it would be upsetting. I could see using this strategy for weekday hangouts. It will probably require spreadsheets.

Conclusions

These are by no means the best models of inclusion. I have seen better ones with semi-public Reddit events or smaller communities that utilize public Facebook pages to advertise their events. These strategies are instead a middle ground I am reaching after a habit of overly-curating events, as I have done and witnessed in 2014.

Making Breakfast: Should I say something?

I have less than an hour to meet my Tuesday night deadline. I had another idea for a post, but I need much more time to craft it.  Instead, I think I’ll share a small, personal victory, of sorts.

It’s called “making breakfast,” and it’s a metaphor.

Some time ago, I viewed this drawing/article.

Trigger Warning: Breakfast

trigger warning: breakfast

It has pictures. Please read it. The work the creator has done by making and sharing this is so, so important.

I have been beating myself up recently for leaving things unsaid. Friends have said or done things that I was not okay with, and I pretended everything was okay and did not say anything. Days have passed. Weeks have passed. Months. A year.

Now, I want to say something, but I freeze. Is it too late? What does it mean, to say it now? Is it even worth it? Am I crazy? If it wasn’t bad enough to say anything then, why say it now?

Enter, “Making Breakfast.”

Forgive me for twisting Anon’s original use of “breakfast” but I have conceptualized a way to forgive myself for taking so long to speak up about troubling interactions. Like the narrator, I needed time to compartmentalize. I needed to set the table and serve my friends the same smile and kindness to which they are daily accustomed. It may feel like I was being fake, but I needed time to let my feelings cook. In a perfect world, I would always be open and honest, but I have fears of my own, reasons I am afraid to fight.

“I’m not ready to talk to him because I’m still making breakfast.”

“I don’t think we should push her to confront her assailant because she is still making breakfast.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything sooner, but I was making breakfast.”

“I have a feeling there’s something you want to talk to me about, maybe even something I did wrong, but that maybe you’re still making breakfast.”

The power of this idea, for me, is that it allows me to be gentle with myself. Yes, I should have spoken up sooner. Yes, it would be better for my friends if I am always open and honest. But sometimes, and with the best of intentions, I end up taking extra time — to heal, to process, to preserve the status quo, to believe in the possibilities of a happier story. It doesn’t mean it’s too late to speak up now

Writing about your friends on the internet

I bite into this apple of creative energy and there’s a worm in it; another project eats away at the time and thought I normally put into my Thursday update. I’m working on a thing that my collaborator and I avoid putting the b-word on like that’s some sort of curse, but yeah, it wants to be a Book.

(We’re basically writing about our sexy times and our sad times, framed as a series of letters between lovers.)

I’ve been somewhat hush about this writing project because I know sharing too much too soon can crush my enthusiasm. Once someone’s read it, it’s lived its purpose and I lose interest. However... The thing is upwards of 50k words by now (raw, disorganized words at times but still words) so I feel a little braver. I can almost see the finish line, and this time instead of tripping over a false sense of confidence, I’m eagerly putting one foot in front of the other to draw the conclusion closer to me.

I’m not just sharing this information as an excuse of a blog post, and I’m really not sharing this to create hype out of my writing project & 50 friends bugging me to finish it already && when can they read it? — though that may be a fun side effect. Truthfully, I just want to say it occurs to me that I’m struggling with the same thing in my writing project as this blog project, and that is, writing about my friends.

I navigate thornier ground with the b-word thing, because I’m writing about friends I’ve seen naked. Wait, who am I kidding? At some of the parties I go to I see y’all naked too. Anyway, at what point am I crossing the line between enumerating the details of my personal experience to exposing too much about people I care about, even if the law of memoirs means truth is fair game?

I think we can all agree that killing a rattlesnake, cleaning, baking, and eating it at dawn* is an occasion worth commemorating. By contrast (though proudly displaying the burn marks to all) the guy who opted to get branded with a potato masher may not want me to publish any of his identifying details. Yeah, you didn’t go to that party, you don’t get to know.

Remember, though, the “list 10 friends” fad back in Myspace days? It probably started with guidelines like:

  1. Say something to the person you wish you could talk to but can’t
  2. Say something to your BFF
  3. Say something to your crush
  4. etc….

I think by the end of the meme’s lifespan, the rules disintegrated/purified to their true motivations: let’s write 10 anonymous things about each other so we can splash around in puddles of narcissism.

It was glorious to recognize myself. Perhaps I’m really fucking arrogant to believe this, but I think it’d be pretty fun to find yourself in this blog, too. Unless, of course, you said something sexist to me. And while sexists are assholes that deserve to be defamed, anyone reading this should realize my perception of reality has its limits.

FOR FUCKING EXAMPLE: I described a guy in a cookie monster onesie in a less-than-flattering context, only to realize later that I know this guy and he was chummy with me for good reasons. My bad. Guys with brown hair all look the same to me. We all have a lot of people to keep track of in this day and age — and for some reason I prioritize learning the faces of lady people…

Anyway, my dear readers, my baby birds I want to feed and feed, what’s going on here? Do you prefer reading about other people? Are you yearning for your own cameo? Are you just glad I manage to update every Thursday, like a goddamn consistent person? Like, you read me the same as you’d watch a dying TV show past its prime but you might as well since it’s still going every week, did you hear they’re making a season 6 why don’t you kill me already…

The truth is, for me, I’m just obsessed with all of you sometimes. I want to know if it’s okay to write about you. Picasso’s girlfriend probably didn’t tell him to hide away the portraits he made of her saying, ‘baby, what? I look so ugly, do you really think my nose is that big? My eyes are that..awkwardly placed in relationship to the rest of my face parts, seriously they aren’t even pointing in the same direction…??’ But I’m not Picasso and these sentences are search-indexable. I owe you your privacy, perhaps.

P.S. If you’ve been waiting for your cameo, here it is: Yes I did write this because at your party you said, “Careful around her, you might end up on the internet.”


*This occurred the night I contracted strep, but I didn’t write about it because I missed most of the rattler feast when I conked out early on a bottle of Jameson. Didn’t feel like my story to tell, which is the rubric I’ve used thus far in choosing what to put to words.