Home queer home

The 25th annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival wrapped last night with a party at a West End dance club called Celebrities. Sweetie and I came in late as volunteers, but I did one shift and she was able to do three. We also went to several of the films: five for me, I think eight or nine for her. Volunteering, working with great people, chatting with really nice film goers, seeing friends and acquaintances, and watching some really good films—it was all a wonderful experience. À la prochaine!

For anyone taken aback by the word "queer," it's quite common in these parts. I know it's still derrogatory in many places, but we reclaimed the word a long time ago. We have a queer film festival, queer arts festival, other queer events, and even Qmunity, which bills itself as a "queer resource centre." I think it's a fantastic word. I will sometimes use the usual string of letters in writing, but the bloody thing keeps getting longer, and I would rather say "queer." There are definitely reasons to assert our separate identities as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, questioning, etc. etc. etc., but somehow to me queer feels inclusive without erasing anything. The Ls, Gs, Bs, and Ts don't always have much in common except for the fact that we are neither straight nor narrow. We're here, we're queer, and everyone is getting used to it.

VQFF really is a wonderfully diverse and inclusive event. Its programming reflects that. The staff and board of Out on Screen, the organization the produces the festival as well as the Out in Schools initiative, reflect that as well. Festival volunteers, including me this year (and hopefully in years to come), also reflect the diversity.

For me as a femme bisexual woman married to a femme bisexual woman, diverity and inclusiveness are important. Even more important is feeling at home. Not all queer events feel that way. Many of the Pride festivities seem to be mostly about gay boys and drag queens doing the same things they have done for decades, which to me feels boringly conservative. It's not surprising that there is a separate Dyke March and Festival as well as a Trans March during Pride week. If a space doesn't include you, you make your own space. I felt that last night at Celebrities, where the live entertainment consisted of, yep, drag queens. It was the first time at the festival that I felt like I was in someone else's world.

Moreover, it's often difficult for bisexual people to feel at home anywhere. We're gay, we're straight, we're both and neither. The film Pariah, a beautiful, emotional coming-of-age story about a black lesbian teenager, included the Trope of the Evil Bisexual. That hurt a bit, but of course such people exist, people who have a gay fling and then run back to their straight lives. As with any group, there are all kinds of bisexuals. It's like being a lawyer. You have to keep telling people that you're one of the good kind while they continue to doubt that such a kind exists.

That's why I love "queer," and that's why I love the VQFF. I belong. I am included. I am home.


Hotter: Sneak preview

The second EP by Lisa's Hotcakes, which we are calling Hotter, is recorded and mastered. But it doesn't have any artwork yet. CDs have not been manufactured. But we have these songs! So it was time to let one slip part way out the door.

"Hotcakes Army" is available on SoundCloud. You can't download it. We're not selling anything until the CDs are ready. But you can listen! You can listen right here:

The song began life on an airplane. I had been detained in secondary security at Vancouver International Airport. You don't want to be detained in secondary security. It is a Kafkaesque nightmare. They take you aside and make you go into a room. There are people at wickets who move very slowly and seem to do little other than move papers hither and yon. No one speaks to you after the receptionist tells you to sit and wait. And you wait. You have no idea what is going on, but you do know that you are in danger of missing your flight. Finally, they let you go, often as mysteriously as they pulled you aside. With luck, you can still make it to your gate.

I've been in secondary security twice. Once was a random baggage check, prompted by who knows what. This time it was because I was travelling on business to the US (where my office is) but using my Canadian passport. All patriotic and stuff, but a bad idea. I know better now. I always use my US passport now when I travel to the US for any reason.

Once on my flight, I started to scribble in my notebook. I wrote the first verse about being stuck in secondary security, the raised fist chorus, the second verse that continued the theme, and then I got stuck. I put it away. It wasn't until another flight much later that I looked at the notebook again and got inspired to write a third verse (with a feminist angle) and a bridge and thus finish the song. The music grew out of the repeating riff that leads off the song.

It's kind of serious and kind of tongue-in-cheek at the same time. I felt like making a serious or at least semi-serious point with a bit of humour. The bridge is definitely a parody of a military recruitment ad. I was thinking of the Clash when I wrote it. An Us against the System kind of thing.

We recorded the bed tracks in the middle of the session. I didn't keep a diary, but I think we probably did two takes. This was not a difficult song for any of us. T gave it a good strong beat, which fit very well for a surf-ish song. C pulsed along and matched the recurring guitar riff.

I can't remember if I replaced that rhythm track or not. I do remember that I played it on my Mustang through my Marshall DC15S. The second guitar, however, is my Stratocaster, with whammy bar. This song is why I bought that guitar! But I'm also in love with the guitar, so I'm very glad I bought it (and got a good deal). I put the non-vintage (1992, but American-made) Strat through my vintage Fender Deluxe Reverb amplifier. I pretty much never use that amp because it's very powerful and doesn't distort until it gets too loud for most situations. But in the studio I could play as loud as I wanted. I didn't put that Hawaii-5-0 quote in the solo on purpose. It just happened.

G nailed the vocal pretty quickly. I love how she buys into the words even when they're very tongue in cheek. I think that makes the song more effective. I had not realized until I heard her sing in the studio that she elongates the end of the word "enemies" in the chorus. I love it! I kept my harmony vocals simple. They are most important in the second half of the bridge, and that's where they are strongest.

There's a little slap-back echo on the vocal to give it that 1960s feel. The lead guitar reverb is the spring reverb built into the Fender amp. I record using reverb from the amp and an occasional effects pedal (mine are antique analogue Boss pedals, still going strong), though none on this song. Just the whammy bar at the end of the repeating guitar riff.

 Hotter has six songs on it designed to work as a whole. Two of the songs have not yet been performed on stage! Some songs might surprise you. At least we hope so. Can't wait until you can hear the rest of it!



I am amazingly disoriented.

It's not like I've never taken a week of vacation before. It's not like I haven't spent a week in Hawaii before. It's not like I haven't dealt with crossing three time zones before. But for some reason or combination of reasons, I'm feeling completely discombobulated. And I took the day off!

Earlier today, I walked up to the Safeway because there is almost no food in the house. We don't usually get more than emergency this or that at Safeway anyway, but it all seemed quite strange. I bought the yogurt I knew we needed and left. I couldn't deal with any more. On the way home through the park, I almost cried.

Nineteen years ago, Sweetie and I left Boston. I had grown up in small town New England, but as soon as I moved to Boston to go to university, I knew that was where I wanted to stay. Boston was where Sweetie and I met, fell in love, played in various bands together, and made a life. It was home. And yet there came a time when it was no longer home, when we got restless, when we needed a change. A big change, as it turned out. The other side of the country and across an international boundary!

Now Vancouver is home. We love the area, the ocean, the mountains, the river. We have a house here, surrounded by gardens. And maybe most importantly, we have friends, good friends, friends we care about and who care about us, friends we can share with. This actually wasn't true until a few years ago. I think it's quite true that Vancouver is a difficult place in which to form real friendships. But we both put ourselves out there, figured out a few things, and found ways to connect with people. And that just made this beautiful place that much more of a home.

And yet...the disorientation. This was our third time on Kaua'i since 2006. And not just to Kaua'i, but to Hanalei, a small town on the north shore of the island. I'm not sure why we were drawn there in the first place, but even though we have been there for a total of only three weeks in seven years, it feels like a second home. We love the town. We love Hanalei Bay. The green is probably especially attractive to these rain forest dwellers. Kauai is beautiful, but most of the lowland part of the island is very dry, the southwest especially so. Hanalei is lush. And rain? Well, we're used to rain, although the downpour we experienced that came from the tail end of tropical depression Flossie tested that.

Even when we're not in Hanalei, we think about whether we should move there, or retire there, or at least spend more time there. We are both generally healthy, but the little things that bother us here seem to go away in the tropical heat. We're more active, since we go swimming every day, sometimes more than once, and walk around a lot. We eat (sustainable) fish and fruit and salad. OK, and ice cream too. We love dressing for the weather, and in my case putting on as little as possible. Showing it off (on the beach, anyway) until it deteriorates entirely!

I realize that if we moved there (before retirement), we would have to work. And we both wonder if living there would take the shine off it. As well, even though Hawaii doesn't really seem like the United States, it is, and we would rather not live in the US for any number of reasons. And finally, we would be very far away from friends and family.

Still, there's a definite feeling of home there for us. We're thinking we might try a two-week test next time.

Meanwhile, a fresh pot helped with my reorientation. I think I'll make another.