T.I.C. transitions

Jew on the Waves of Fate

Archive for the tag “New York”

Put that gay slur in my ‘Totes Gay’ tote bag

Pride BraceletsAfter spending a fun, hot, sweaty, exhausting day checking out the Pride Parade and street fair, I emerged above ground from the subway station wearing the rainbow beads I had been tossed by TD Bank during the parade, the rainbow Macy’s “pride + joy” bracelet, the stickers affirming the importance of being true to myself and my voice provided by GLAAD and AJWS, and of course carrying my “Totes Gay” tote bag I received for donating to HRC.

GLAADAs I began my walk home, slightly longer than usual since the local train was too slow and the breeze outside was preferable to the sauna of the subway station, I, for a moment, considered removing all this pride gear, excepting the rainbow yarmulke that had elicited numerous compliments throughout the day. Considering removing everything and stuffing it in one of the less obviously LGBT themed bags was a throwback to past fears and internalized homophobia, something I could get into but isn’t the focus here. Instead I’ll just say that I considered suppressing my outward expression of pride since I was no longer surrounded by the LGBT community, allies, or my friends. I quickly suppressed the urge. I was headed home and why should I feel the need to hide what I had only moments ago been so eager to display.

As I turned down a side street, I was lost in the world of a Robert Jordan audiobook and barely acknowledged the small group of guys that I passed. After we walked by each other I heard some shouting and looked around confused. I took out an ear bud and saw the guys I had just passed looking back at me, one of them waving and shouting “Fucking faggot, FUCKING Faggot!” You know, when they put the emphasis on the “ing” in “fucking.”

I actually thought for a second, are they just messing with each other. Is this a “macho” friendly bullying moment between friends that absolutely has nothing to do with me? Nope. They were staring right at me; one was punching the air with his first in my direction. I turned away with a calm that was mostly inspired by bewilderment as the rainbow beads felt slightly heavier, the stickers seemed to pull at my shirt, the bag felt like a purse and the young bullied kid inside thought about how much I must look like a girl (as if this would be a bad thing).

hrc bagI didn’t remove any of my pride accessories; I didn’t turn the “Totes Gay” against my body so no one would see. I put the ear bud back in and continued on my way. I was hyperaware of everyone around me at that point, but kept my calm, New Yorker “I don’t give a shit” face and wondered if I even really did give a shit.

I didn’t have a knot in my stomach, didn’t feel especially nervous, but I did feel something uncomfortable. I texted the two friends I had been with earlier (straight females, if it matters) and they quickly responded with, “Where do they think they are” and “Hey, the fifties called, they want their homophobia back.”

I have no particular insight to share from this event. I didn’t return home invigorated to fight homophobia, I didn’t curl up in a ball and cry (both valid responses, just not mine). I just considered how long it had been since someone called me a faggot to my face. I considered the stark contrast of seeing elected leaders, celebrities, and major corporations show their support for inclusivity and tolerance (a misleading term, people shouldn’t settle for being tolerated) only to be followed by a few young men taking a minute to try to dispel any sense of pride I may have in my identity.

It’s worth noting that I barely batted an eye at the two protestors at the parade that calmly explained how we were all going to hell (I’ve always felt my Judaism provided a great shield against such nonsense).

As mentioned before, I have no real moral of the story here. No pretty conclusion. Homophobia is still rampant, our country isn’t perfect, a lot has changed in the 45 years since the Stonewall Riots but I didn’t even know what those were a few years ago.

I’m still me and I’ll continue to be me. An LGBT (because one letter isn’t enough for me) Jew with a tattoo, a loving family, good friends, and a neurotic need to constantly question myself. Calling me a faggot, a kike, or claiming that you know more about my gender, sexual, or religious identity than I do has yet to change any of that.

Alissa, Me, and Melissa holding up a Jewish LGBT pride flag!

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Removing the Bars Conference Registration OPEN

This is an event I am a part of organizing.  It is going to be great.  Please check it out!

Registration is Now Open!!!

Click HERE to Register Online!

Space is Limited

March 23 and 24

An interdisciplinary community event presented by the Columbia University School of Social Work Criminal Justice Caucus in collaboration with students from the following Columbia University Schools: Law School, Mailman School of Public Health, Teachers College, School of the Arts, School of Social Work including the Feminist Caucus, Men’s Caucus, Queer Caucus, API Caucus, AGE Caucus, Latino Caucus, and the Social Work Arts Group; the Students Against Mass Incarceration; The Criminal Justice Initiative: Supporting Children, Families and Communities; and the CU School of Social Work Office of Student Services.

All events are FREE and OPEN TO ALL.

Questions? Contact criminaljusticecaucus@gmail.com

Click here for conference schedule.

Click here for event descriptions and locations.

Click here to visit the Conference page of the CJC Blog

3…2…1 ATONE!

The Day of Atonement is at hand!  Yikes, ominous phrase.  I prefer my father’s version, the Day of At-ONE-Ment.

The Honey Cake I made for Rosh Hashanah baking

Over time I have begun to feel that Yom Kippur is a day I must get ready for, a day that requires preparation beforehand.  It is always something I was aware of in Judaism but I have felt that need to prepare intensify over time.  This year however (and by year I mean 5772) the preparations have been difficult…as in non-existent.  Unfortunately my school and the High Holy Days do not mesh well (even though I now live in New York City AKA the other Jewish homeland).  I find that as Yom Kippur approaches my mind floods with the actions, inactions, thoughts and conversations that I have come to regret over the year.  Yet before I can open the valve to release them I remember the paper I have not started, the meeting that needs an agenda, the article that I have yet to finish reading or the inboxes (yes multiple) that continue to grow.  On certain Jewish holidays and on Shabbat (Sabbath) it is ideal to eschew all such stressful issues and allow yourself to breathe…but breathing is just too far down on my Google Tasks list.

Perhaps that is the purpose of Yom Kippur; the Day of AtOneMent is the day to release the valve.  As we daven (pray) in our starved and occasionally smelly stupor (I am sorry HaShem [God] but this is how it feels sometimes) perhaps our body and soul’s reaction to this state of being, which includes an excessive amount of standing for those with low to no blood sugar, is that release.  As we allow our bodies to do what they do (otherwise known as bodily functions) we release the regrets we have been holding in.  As our brains lose some of their cognitive force (as a result of starvation, have you picked up on that yet?) so go the grudges that we have been overanalyzing.  As our bodies sway struggling to determine whether they are following the rhythm of the prayers or simply losing their balance perhaps the aches and pains of the year settle.  Yom Kippur is a time to reboot.

Yamim Noraim | Days of Awe

This year I have found myself feeling especially spiritually vulnerable as I truck through the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe, which fill the time between eating apples and honey and salivating when you see dust).  Finding balance is always difficult but for the past couple of weeks it has been an especially elusive goal.  I choose to view these difficulties as a call to embrace the reason HaShem (or whomever you believe did so) granted us this day.

I suppose it may not be appropriate to make ALL of my apologies in this public setting.  However I would like to say that there is a great deal that I know I need to improve on in myself and as I have been on that journey some people are left neglected or hurt.  In the midst of this mildly ‘quippy’ post I would like to offer a sincere sentiment.  I have hurt others, some I know of and some I do not.  I have held on to grudges, which are in fact nasty things that produce nothing positive.  I have hidden and allowed myself to lose sight of what is important.  It is time to strive to keep my eyes open and my awareness sharp.

I hope that this year is what it needs to be for everyone and that we find our footing, achieve our dreams and add some new ones.

My American Marriage Roadmap

On June 23, 2011 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed what many are calling “historic” legislation that made New York the sixth state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriages (it is legal in Washington D.C. as well).  The news has touted the various reasons why New York’s decision is so important including the size of the state, the largest to legalize same-sex marriage to date.

This important step that has been taken in the state that I not only live in but is the state of my birth led me to wonder the status of same-sex unions in the other places that I have lived.

NY Map by Kevin Middleton from Toon Maps

Doing this mildly thorough research I have realized how representative these four states are of the diverse opinions Americans have on this topic.

I was born in New York and we already know that come July 24 (or thereabouts) same-sex couples will be able to marry and receive the same rights and privileges associated with that union that heterosexual couples receive.

NEW YORK = MARRIAGE FOR ALL COUPLES

After New York I moved to Illinois.  Known for Lincoln, political corruption (the two are unrelated to my knowledge), an recently abolishing the death penalty, Illinois recently (June 2011) instituted and legalized same-sex civil unions.  These unions have the same privileges and benefits, to my knowledge, of a marriage however they are not officially titled as such.

ILLINOIS = CIVIL UNIONS FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES

From Illinois I made my way to Florida where I lived 11 hot and humid years along the Treasure Coast.  As of 2008 Article 1, Section 27 of the Florida Constitution states: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

FLORIDA = CONSTITUTIONAL BAN ON ALL SAME-SEX UNIONS

My next 11 years were spent in the Centennial State AKA Colorado.  More specifically I lived in Boulder…an interesting city.  In 1975 City of Boulder clerk and recorder Clela Rorex issued the first same-sex marriage licenses in the country. Unfortunately with the issue all of a sudden raised Rorex and Boulder were quick to take fire.  The marriages were later invalidated.

As of 2008 the Colorado Constitution has stated in Article II Section 31: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”  Allowing for the future possibility of civil unions for same-sex couples though recent legislation that attempted to institute these unions never passed.

COLORADO = CONSTITIONAL BAN ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

This is only a snapshot of some of the country, a country that is very disjointed in how it chooses to deal with what seems like a simple issue to many.  I recognize that the issue may not be so simple for all people. However I am a big fan of civil marriage, which I believe should be separate from religious and spiritual recognitions of personal unions and available to all consenting adults of any gender, race, ethnicity, religion and so on.  The religious and/or spiritual side of it, in my opinion, should be left to each couple’s personal preferences and practices.

Something to consider.

Removing the Bars

On January 29, 2011 I had the pleasure to help facilitate Columbia University School of Social Work’s (CUSSW) first ever skills-based conference on criminal justice titled “Removing the Bars.”  The Criminal Justice Caucus at CUSSW, of which I am a member put together and sponsored this conference that despite some resistance and numerous logistical considerations proved to be a great success.  The conference was a full day of workshops, a panel of formerly incarcerated individuals and their family discussing their experiences, and a plenary session on the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” where The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund-NY presented.  Among my responsibilities I was able to recruit my professor, Markus Redding JD MSW to speak on the problem solving courts of New York City and how social workers are, can be, and should be involved the court system.

The conference brought in students from various schools, professionals in the fields of law, social work, and criminal justice as well as community members.  The diversity of attendance spoke to the need for these issues to be explored and part of the beauty of the conference was that new or uncovered issues were raised that can be addressed at future events.  At the end of the day I let out a giant sigh of relief and satisfaction.  It was a lot of work that proudly exemplified collaboration across caucuses at CUSSW and I believe the work was all worth it.  I look forward to helping bring the conference back in future years.  Check out the Criminal Justice Caucus blog to read more about it.

We also had really cool t-shirts!

Displaced Detention Worker

As I have mentioned I have begun studying for my master’s degree in social work.  I will nonchalantly remind everyone that I am pursuing this degree at Columbia University.  Do pride and arrogance really have to look that much alike?  Since October 2007 I had been working at the Boulder County Juvenile Assessment Center.  Nice name yet somewhat inadequate description for the multi-faceted juvenile detention facility where I worked up until the end of July 2010.

Now I must state that the facility where I worked was very progressive and not nearly as punitive as most detention facilities.  That said it was still detention, a locked facility staffed ‘round the clock.  Juveniles wore detention scrubs and were transported in shackles and handcuffs (do not be shocked, when you are arrested you are put in handcuffs).

Now I am entering into a very therapeutic atmosphere.  Social work school talks a lot about collaboration, self-awareness, and openness.  All of this is very important however I have not seen a lot of discussion regarding assertiveness yet.  It has been all of three weeks so who am I to complain.  I have heard mention about difficult field placements toughening a student and growing a thicker skin but it tends to be discussed as more of a negative; a “this is what has to happen” sort of dynamic rather than elaborating on the benefit that can be gained by ensuring you maintain a balance between being smooth and being firm.  I am a very strong believer and supporter of the search for balance.

We are taught about boundaries though the topic usually comes up when prompted by nervous questions regarding how much personal information a social worker should reveal to a client or whether it is okay to hug a student and similar queries.

I think one reason that I have begun to contemplate this is because I am noticing the influence of my detention work.  While I have and continue to view myself as a non-confrontational individual who leans toward collaboration rather than authoritarian methods I do believe the latter has its place.

My first year field placement is at a middle school in the south Bronx.  I believe it is safe to say that the majority of schools in New York City retain a harsher atmosphere than Oslo Middle School in Vero Beach, FL.  I was ready to be shocked and taken aback and wildly nervous.  I believe I am all of those things but not nearly to the level that I thought.  I have been in the field all of two days so my views and understandings could and will change.

I do however notice that I do not gravitate toward the softer attitude or approach in the school.  When discussing what to do with a student who is disruptive during a group session my first thought is of the various consequences: send back to class, send to dean, inform parent, and deprive of certain privileges.  My supervisor’s response was to simply send them back to class and inform her if it continues and we would take it from there.  My fellow interns, the different past experiences of whom I greatly admire, seemed unsure of a course of action though this could have just been my perception.

When a student came to the office and sat down with no explanation I remembered our supervisor telling us that students could not just spend time in the office as a way of avoiding something else.  They needed an appointment, to be scheduled in a group or have a pass to set up an appointment.  I engaged the girl, asked what class she had, what she needed and why she was not on her way to class.  After her various vague answers I politely yet firmly told her she needed to go to class, that she could not hang out but to return if she needed to when she was not in class.  This impressed a fellow intern yet seemed simply appropriate to me.

There were numerous other smaller examples (supporting a dean for having a student leave the assembly for speaking after being warned that if he spoke he would have to leave).  I believe, especially with adolescents, that being open and available is just as important as being firm and steadfast.  Follow through is very important and if a consequence is associated with a particular behavior not applying that consequence sends the wrong message.

I do not believe that “punitive” is the way to go.  I believe in collaboration especially the collaboration between being firm and being open, between being conservative and liberal if you will allow me to make such a comparison.  If I am willing to follow through on a reward I better be willing to follow through on a consequence and the other way around.

P.S. I must also note for my former co-workers that for someone who does not like and seeks to avoid confrontation I had to hold myself back from stepping in when students were being rowdy, this is no longer a part of my job…unless their rowdiness happens during something I am running.  I also picked up a bent paperclip and threw it out…I cannot let contraband sit…even if I am in a place where it is not contraband.

Zen Subway Riding

When I was younger I used to visit New York City every year with my family. It was part of our autumn tradition ever since we moved from New York State. On the way to Rhode Island for a thanksgiving/Davis family reunion we would stop and see my mother’s father and stepmother in Queens. Part of the tradition involved my father taking us into Manhattan to see the sites, his old haunts, and, I think, for the overall NYC experience.

A key part of that experience was riding the subways. This was insisted upon and my clearest memory of this was my father’s lessons in “Zen Subway Riding.” He would have me stand in a strong stance, often called a fighting stance. One leg in front of the other, knees slightly bent, the kind of stance I learned in Karate and Aikido classes. It was about balance. He would challenge me to stand for as much of the trip as I could without holding onto any of the poles or handles.

I am sure everyone’s parents had their own eccentricities that annoyed their children immensely and yet those children, as they grew up often look back on them fondly. This was not the case for this particular eccentricity. I feel as if I enjoyed the challenge even back then. I do not remember complaining much about it though my father may remember differently. I remember that as I tried to maintain my balance on the train car with my hand poised to grab the pole my father would tell me stories of his life in the city.

One story in particular that pertains to the skill he was teaching was how he taught himself “Zen Subway Riding”. But he added another component, he would ride between subway cars (DISCLAIMER-WARNING: Please do not attempt this. Adhere to all MTA guidelines when riding on the NY subway system). Needless to say I thought my father was…to put it in the most elegant terms I can, badass. Perhaps a little crazy but I would not want him any other way.

Why, among all the lessons my father has attempted to impart to me, does “Zen Subway Riding” stand out? I have found myself practicing it on the buses in Boulder and the airport tram at Denver International. I would still put my hand up occasionally, ready to grasp the bar if needed and sometimes cheat a bit, as I definitely did as a child, by saying I was not actually touching the pole when in fact I was leaning against it a bit with the palm of my hand.

I live in New York City now, riding on newer cars and some that look like the ones I rode in the 90s. I do not practice “Zen Subway Riding” each time I am on the subway but I think about it each time the train lurches to a start. While I try to fit in and read or check my phone while sitting, leaning against a door (you’re not supposed to do that either) or trying to look as nonchalant as possible as I awkwardly grasp a bar above my head I still maintain the stance my father always told me was the best way to keep my balance. Any time I stumble a bit I evaluate why it happened so I can work to avoid it.

It is not overtly noticeable but it is a connection across time that links my father’s life in the late 70s and early 80s to my childhood in the 90s to my adult life in the new millennium. Transitions. This one has reaffirmed or even created a shared experience and has not weakened the connection.

a new chapter

Picture turning that page, it ended a quarter of the way down and the back is blank.  Why?  This is because you are starting a whole new chapter, perhaps a whole new “part” (you know those books that are split into multiple parts and then chapters).  I am thinking about how to creatively graft this metaphor onto my situation.  Let me take a different approach: how would I have begun this “chapter” of my life had I been writing it as a part of a book.  Perhaps the last chapter would have ended with the hectic and stressful last minute packing and preparation before passing out on my parents’ couch for my last night in Colorado.

Thus Far Untitled Autobiographical Literary Attempt
By Ronin
Part 4 Chapter 1
(or whatever number it would be)

We began driving.  Well my sister began driving and as she found various ways to express her excitement, relief, anxiety, and all the other emotions that were bursting from her I strained to decipher my feelings.  This was it right?  This was when I was supposed to express my thoughts on this major transition.  Up to this point I could say I was focused almost entirely on the preparations and therefore did not have time to think about superficial sentiments.  Aw sweet rational, blank faced solace.  But now that I was supposed to be flooded with all of those feelings that I had pushed aside yet I was still struggling to sort the internal disorder.

I have not been one to cry for quite some time and I felt damn near guilty for that as I hugged my parents.  I must admit that one pang I felt in my gut came from watching my mother wave to me and knowing that I would not see her for quite some time…odd, thank you Freud.  I know of course that I will miss all three of the parents [Note: three parents?  Refer to the end of Part 2 of this book] for varying reasons but leaving ‘mommy’ turned out to twist something inside and I would be lying if I said I was not surprised by this.

We were on the highway anticipating what we knew would be the dullest and therefore the most straining part of the drive…Kansas.  Kansas and its endless fields of corn and sunflowers where looking in the rearview mirror is no different than looking ahead, that is if there was any space to see out of the rearview mirror.  Farewell Colorful Colorado, you emblem of an independent century.  I will miss your stunning sights, your schizophrenic weather, and your purple pretentious politics.

As I make my transition to the Big Apple, a feat I will attempt to do without damaging these damned braces, I hope I will not go down in flames in a city that greatly overshadows the entire state that encompasses it.  There are a few stops along the way and perhaps I will be able to sort out the chaos in my head by the time I get to Manhattan.   Nah, probably not.

Financial WHOA!

I will admit that this is a headline driven post. I have been financially woeful lately since having to confront a host of very foreboding financial transitions however I might not have blogged about them yet, much, or ever had I not thought of such a witty, perhaps punny title to this post (I say as I humbly bow my head).

With higher education comes higher debt. Prior to my graduate school acceptance I was paying off two credit cards and one hospital bill. This was my debt and while I had let those credit cards get a little out of hand at times (damn ebay) everything was still manageable. All I had to do was stick with my secure, relatively well paying full time job and eventually that debt would be lessened and I wouldn’t have too many bald patches from pulling at my hair.

But why follow that route when I can quit the stable job, move to the most expensive city in the US, attend a private university, and have no steady income in sight come August? Call me a dreamer, call me hopeful, call me crazy…just don’t call my cell phone. Minutes are expensive.

Isn’t there some person or computer out there that can weigh my current situation against my future plans and give me some formula for how smart or idiotic I am? Actually it is probably better that I don’t know.

I know that there are many people out there surviving mainly off of loans and once they can support themselves they are barely surviving by working to pay off their loans. Isn’t this the American way…or at least one of the options you can pick in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book of American lifestyles? By the way I am working on this post in my cardiologist’s office where I am waiting to be told everything is fine, “your heart looks great” and then pay $400.
I would like to find a job in NYC but as of now I have no idea what my coursework and fieldwork hours will be like. But if there are any employers in Manhattan with flexible scheduling I have experience teaching, editing, filling cream puffs, stocking movies, selling clothes, sitting in a courtroom, restraining agitated youth, low-profile counseling, going to happy hour with ADAs and probation officers and I make a delicious yet sloppy pumpkin pie. Not to mention I can read Hebrew, know a smattering of Japanese and have extensive knowledge of old time radio shows. COME AND GET IT!

I currently work a shift that ends at 11:45pm. I am lucky if I am out of bed before noon and I am moving to “the city that never sleeps” to probably take 8am classes. And I’m worried about money? I’ll be lucky to make it down the stairs in one piece each morning.

Seriously though, I am excited for this big change or at least that is what I’m told. When I express my financial fears I am told that it will all work out. Now if I could just get a signed and notarized copy of that statement to provide to the banks that would be awesome.

Toothless

Have you ever seen the movie “Toothless?”  It was a Disney Channel Original Movie, the fancy description for Disney Channel’s TV movies.  This is before “High School Musical,” Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus and so on.  It starred Kristie Alley as a dentist who is lacking in the social and love life.  She almost dies and becomes a/the tooth fairy.  Where is my point, you ask?  The movie says that once a kid loses the last of their baby teeth they lose their innocence, so when she returns to her life and removes the last baby tooth of the young boy who helped heal her heart he all of a sudden has no memory of his interactions with her as the tooth-fairy.

Again you are asking where my point may be?

I turn 25 on June 2 and on June 15 my last two baby teeth will be removed.  Yes, I still have two baby teeth and finally, thanks to the help of a full time job’s dental benefits I have begun fixing the issue.  What does this major dental transition coincide with?  I will begin graduate school at Columbia in New York this fall.  I have worked for Boulder County for nearly three years and lived here for nearly eleven.  Time to move on, try something new, take a bigger risk than I ever have and all this will take place as I lose the last of my baby teeth.  People are proud of me, excited for me, a little sad.  Me?  I am scared and uncomfortable and anxious and all I can think about are the two holes that will be left in my mouth after June 15.  Is there more to this tooth issue then I have explained?  Yes.  Will the holes be there forever?  No.

.transitions.  There are so many things I love about change but it is a powerful force that still evokes anxiety in me.  I want to make sure that as I move forward in my life I continue writing and blogging has been suggested by a few people now.  Many people do it, I can barely bring myself to read any of them, so why not give it a shot myself.  For the few technological strengths I have, posting on the internet (with the possible exception of Facebook) is not one of them.  Readers, if I have or will have readers, please bare with me as I attempt this.

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