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28 September 2012 @ 12:02 am
 
I realise I never really posted about the General Assembly. Here we go, off on another Kiwi adventure! I hope you’re prepared. This has…well, no real mystery, no real intrigue, and no fulfilled romance (on my part)—the plot’s a bit shaky, too, and I’m not always sure on the characterisation. Goodness, why do you read my journal? Oh, well, there is nudity, it’s just not sexual…er, on my part. Really, though, if read like a story this might be a little fun. Rated light R for mentions of others’ sexuality, of substances, and of conversations/themes.

Eh. Long entries help me remember. I like remembering. If I wrote my journal to be like someone else's journal...then it would be someone else's journal, and then what's the point!

I arrived and was picked up by my old senior youth advisor that I hadn’t seen since 2008 (the year I graduated high school), so catching up with her was lovely. Didn’t have time to get to the hotel before going to the young adult orientation so I was late and had to lug my bags in—not fun. Couldn’t get that into it since I was travel-exhausted and really wanted to find a settled place.

Eventually got settled back in the hotel room and realised there were the regular two beds and that I knew there were three people staying in the room. Since my arrangement to join in was last-minute and we hadn’t reached an arrangement about who would have beds, I avoided them and sat in a chair reading for a while despite my exhaustion. Eventually it got so late that I wrote up an “I’m sorry, hope you don’t mind!” note and fell asleep in the bed. After midnight the two other young adults arrived and they just thought the note was adorable and didn’t mind one bit. They already knew each other anyway (and it turned out the other girl wasn’t paying anything at all, just the guy, although they weren’t romantically or otherwise together) so they slept together every night.

The next day I still felt a bit wayward. I went around, learned a lot, met a few people but nothing that sticks in my mind. I think I went through almost all that day just being a loner, although again I didn’t particularly mind as I enjoy time to myself. I did join up with a ‘reflection’ group of people from my district, though, and I liked getting to know them a bit—especially an older woman who seemed to take to me (and I her) and started calling me “sweetie”, which put me at ease. (I don’t often accept terms of endearment like that, but from the people I do, I love them.)

In the evening—I think of that day—it was the “Bridging Ceremony” during which the high school seniors got to “bridge” across the big stage during plenary and be welcomed in by the young adults. One of the young adult speakers said something like, “You give up some things when you leave the senior youth, but you gain things anew when you join the young adults” and it hit me WHAM BAM that I never felt I had <i>finished</i> bridging and touched down on the other side with the young adults; I had lost the ‘senior youth stuff’ and was just hanging around on the bridge, waiting for my time to come down.

I started crying—just tears, I mean, not sobbing or anything; it was a very quiet and introspective thing. It had been overwhelming enough being in a room of 3,000 Unitarian Universalists all singing the same beloved hymns after my whole life being UU but never being around more than a few hundred tops; and that had only been the day before.

The first day, during the first young adult gathering, these three queer-looking (as in, look queer in whatever way, not “odd-looking”) young women came in. My eyes glued to one of them—pale skin, black bob of curly hair, pretty features, unique flowey style—and I had that jolt of, “Oh my, she’s gorgeous” followed by “ye gads they’re all too cool for me.”

Anyway, Cute Girl saw me crying and approached. She asked me if I was alright and if I wanted to talk about it (everyone knew GA was a pretty emotional time; it was a time of opening arms to others, too) and I gurgled out that I would, but I physically couldn’t, and thank you for the offer. Made it back to the next young adult meeting. I took out a notepad and pen and scribbled in big letters something like, “FEELING SHY, BUT TOTALLY APPROACHABLE!” (or something like that) and tacked it onto my con badge around my neck. After that I dove into the con and young adult experience more, and thanked Cute Girl and her Queer Friends even more. We chatted at the end of the evening and they were all lovely; I found, as I often do, that I was absolutely “cool enough”—as was everyone at the con, because that’s pretty much the point. I learned that Cute Girl was Anna, her Cute Friend was Emily, and her Totally Shane-Esque (and thus Not My Type but still Obviously Attractive) friend was called “ABC” as a nickname. They were all from one of the richest congregations around who paid for their GA experience outright; I was a bit jealous!

That evening my male roommate, E, hosted some young adults up on the fourth-floor-‘roof’-patio, beside the pool, which was locked. We all drank beer and joked about swimming but nothing came of it. I got to know more people and had a pretty great time of it. Went to sleep a content, connected Kiwi.

The next day was lovely in the end too, although a bit more hectic and more of a roller-coaster. During lunch I went to the “queer girl lunch” someone had hosted only to discover it was the lovely Queer Trio, so I got to spend more time chatting with them. It was great. It also started a pretty firm bond between me and Emily, who was all sorts of awesome and quite similar to me. I spent much of the day with her. In the evening I took some time for myself in the hotel room while the others were out, just for showering and some solitary time. Then I headed out for the evening events on one of the public squares of Phoenix, with music and comedy and the like with the “Partners” of GA, those we were working with against immigration laws and imprisonment standards. I spent some time with Minister Ann and two prior Student Ministers of the congregation, then more time with young adult friends. After that, we went back to the convention centre for the Youth and Young Adult-Led Worship Service at 10.15pm, which was mostly a disappointment and mostly youth-led. It was just all-round ‘meh’ and didn’t really pull anyone in. I don’t think we did anything else in the evening, although there was likely more regular hanging out.

Saturday was big. I think there were some big votes in plenary session and then in the evening there was the “Witness Event” with our Partners at Tent City Jail in Phoenix. General Assembly locations are booked four-five years in advance, and back in 2010 when Arizona immigration laws went through, some UUs started protesting against hosting GA there. It was put to a vote and, instead of ditching Phoenix, it was decided that we <i>would</i> go and that we would bear witness (also known as “casting a light” and all sorts of other protest terms) on the conditions.

So Saturday night all these antsy, outspoken, do-good UUs wanted to go to the Candlelight Vigil Witness Event. There were 18 buses, I think (9 buses, two trips) and more people interested than those buses could hold. It was not organised well. It had been decided that all senior youth (high schoolers) were to go, and that they all had to go with their advisers/whatever. But did they pull those youth and advisers aside and have them get on the first set of buses before anyone else could get on? No. They didn’t.

Instead there was a hoard of UUs cramming toward these buses (which arrived, filled, departed; each departure felt like doom) with lines of youth linking hands and snaking through the crowd, knocking heads and people by whipping past them. I was with Emily and we were standing close, trying to protect each other from what had suddenly gone from serenity to scary. Emily and I got up to the front of the crowd, up at the bus currently loading. The volunteer said, “We need two more!” Before I could answer that we were a pair, I heard from farther back in the crowd “senior youth coming through!” I went to step aside but instead he came barrelling into me, and then his advisor, and I was trampled over to the side after already being pushed and shoved all about. That was all my little PTSD brain could take and before I was thinking, I was crying and trying to hold myself up even though my hip had been pushed in every direction. Emily got protective and growly which was, actually, quite adorable. The bus left. I didn’t manage to pull myself together in the moment before the next bus arrived and people started piling on again, jostling me (there wasn’t a “queue” so much of a “stampede”, and the closer I got to the door the more likely I was to get pushed, so even though I was at the front it meant little). Emily was still growling. The volunteer saw me. I had a little voice in the back of my head telling me I was going a bit Slytherin, but I spun the story toward heartstrings because by that time I was damn well getting on one of those sodding buses after all that shoving. I told the volunteer that we had been all set to get on the last bus, with two more requested to board, and that I heard a senior youth call from behind; I was perfectly willing to step aside—and was in the act of it—when he came up behind me and barrelled me to the side, followed by his adviser, which was really no good for my hip replacement at all. My (genuine) tears and (genuine) shakiness alongside Emily’s (still adorable) growliness were incredibly convincing—and, really, true—so the volunteer grabbed another volunteer and they blocked the way for me to get on the bus with Emily.

I was well and truly shaken by that point—and in pain—so I started singing “Gathered here in the mystery of the hour; gathered here in one strong body; gathered here in the struggle and the power: Spirit draw near.” And for once, I was on a bus full of UUs, so when Emily joined me in singing, the others did too. Our bus was singing as it drove away and I felt the serenity seep back in. We sang “When I breathe in, I breathe in peace; when I breathe out, I breathe out love” and a few others.

The actual protest was less eventful than getting there was. We got there, sang our way off the bus, got popsicles from the man selling them, and walked as far as we wanted into the crowd. After not too long I was no longer able to stand without immense pain (since I’m comfortable either standing and being able to <i>move</i> or reclined in some way but not standing with only the ability to swap weight-bearing legs) and I asked if I could sit. The volunteers let me go behind the line (where others weren’t to stand) and sit on the sidewalk. I still sang along and listened.

After the first set of buses started leaving, I was able to get up and have more space. I went up front to listen to the musical acts (a cover of “If I Had a Hammer”—perfect!) and had room to dance. It’s always funny that I find myself in less pain while dancing than while forced to stand still. I suppose I’m in pain either way, but at least when I’m dancing I’m having <i>fun</i> and the pain is varied—plus when I have pain later on, it’s “oh, I did something!” pain that I appreciate because it came from something good and comes with the memories, too. There were people drumming and a dance circle, so I joined where I could there, too. I had a good time and was hoarse by the end of the night, which tends to indicate a successful protest (if it isn’t the silent kind) and the inmates at Tent City definitely heard us.

On the way back I was on the bus with the Three Queers and Emily was falling asleep beside me. But by the time we ended up back at the Convention Centre, we were talking about hanging out since it was the last night everyone was sure to be here (Sunday being the last day of the con). Somehow a bunch of us (Emily and ABC included, but not Anna) ended back at my hotel—back on the roof with beer. We all hung out and bonded some more. At one point Emily and I went off to the side for a private conversation. She came out with some sexuality stuff that was hard for her, including her on-and-off asexuality, and I came out with my virginity but avid interest in sex-positive sex education and activity. It struck me that we were both showing signs of being attracted to each other, and that if I <i>wanted</i> to do something about it, I could…but I didn’t have the desire since I was enjoying the platonic relations so much and didn’t want to complicate GA.

We re-joined the group and the joking conversation about Skinny Dipping turned less jesting and more serious. I thought of my mother and the mischievous women before me, and decided I was in—with just the one beer under my belt, so absolutely sober enough to take responsibility for my own decisions. I was less pleased when one of the young women pulled out a bowl and there was smoking—since that put a More Illegal spin to our otherwise Against The Rules But All In Good Fun rule-breaking (as we were all drinking age)—but people will have their fun as they do, and it did turn the whole episode into what felt like Skins, which made me laugh (and the others when I told them).

In the end we had seven of us in the pool, I think. I didn’t realise until the next morning, but apparently one of the young women liked ABC-the-Shane-Lesbian while ABC was into Dread-Head Lesbian. They were all high while we were in the pool (which was obnoxious, because it meant they no longer understood—or, really, remembered—whenever we shushed them). ABC and Dread-Head started making out and getting up to Things while the jealous young women went off and had a conversation with one of the young men. Emily, K (another young woman), and I swam around together and quietly giggled about bobbing breasts, Skins, and the glorious Phoenix sky—so we had a grand, innocent time ourselves.

Well, the inevitable happened in that the security guard showed up. He didn’t seem too put out, just grumbly in that “it’s my job to be grumpy and chuck you lot out”. I climbed out of the pool to get my clothes (wait, intelligent put them right next to the pool? Why didn’t I learn that in college?) and damned skinny jeans to all hells, because trying to have a conversation with a security guard and put on skinny jeans while nude and soaked it damn near impossible. But I managed it without giving away my roommate’s room number (“I’m sorry, he just invited us over to hang out after a conference and he must have gone down to his room a short while ago, I hardly saw him leave!”) or the floor number (“I’m sorry, sir, he never took us to his room—he just took us up here! I’d help if I could!”) despite the fact that I knew what floor he was on and room he was in because, oh hey, that’s my room! But my name wasn’t down on the room and, when asked for a name, I honestly answered “Kiwi!” with a big ol’ pleasant smile. Then I managed to get my top on and grab my boots.

Argus Filch there just rolled his eyes as we all buggered off. But then Dread-Head realised she had forgotten her bandana up there, so a few of us went back up and she went to get it. She explained to the security guard that she had left her bandana there and that it had “significant emotional value” to her; he rolled his eyes again but understood and let her in, so we knew we weren’t in any real trouble at that point. I got the others downstairs and outside, then quickly snuck back to my room.

At that point I started getting paranoid. Did they have corridor cameras? Would they see what room I hurried into? Would I get approached the next day as I was quickly leaving (thankfully without having to check out)? Would I get E, my roommate, in trouble? I texted E and K. K, lovely dear that she is, didn’t just text back, but called to make sure my ridiculous guilt gut (stupid conscience) and I were okay. When I was, I went off to bed. The next morning as we were all packing up I turned to E and said, “Have you ever done something stupid and got caught, but it was totally worth it and wonderful?” He told me that of course he had, plenty of times, and they were his best memories. He had a little twinkle in his eye as he asked what had happened and I told him the story. He laughed himself silly, was sad he had missed it (he really HAD headed down earlier), was glad that he had helped to be a catalyst for that sort of event, and assured me that the hotel wouldn’t do anything since there was no harm done anywhere. He gave me a fancy lawyer-like phrase as to why I wouldn’t get in trouble and it put me at ease, so when I successfully snuck out of the hotel (and he checked out with no problem) I breathed a huge sigh of relief and considered the night an Absolute Success because it had been oodles of fun and was a story to remember in later decades—I cherish those.

Also, it made me laugh to think that days earlier I had been sad about how I had never finished bridging. I felt I had certainly finished bridging now! When I mentioned that at my ‘reflection’ group, “sweetie” woman (let’s say “Moon”), laughed and said, “You didn’t go to the other side of the bridge, you jumped right off and started swimming!” I laughed with her and replied, “Gee, that sounds just like me!” I felt profoundly grateful, once again, to be in the sort of environment in which I can tell the tale of such an evening to great laughter and joy—without it having to be a ‘hindsight’ story. The whole group loved it, and we had age range from high school to 70s.

So the Sunday was more about completion, goodbyes, and whatnot. We learned that the Congregational Study/Action Issue (which we had voted on previously and which are issues congregations learn about and act on together) to win was the Reproductive Justice one. That was great since so many of the young adults had gone for that one, stating that what we really needed in this time of the Religious Right was a religious voice on the <i>other</i> side, standing firm in its unified agreement that women should have these rights and absolutely have a strong voice in any sort of legislation on the topic. I also spoke with one of the people on the “Right Relations” team (there to help people through times of not feeling respected for their identities, disabilities, etc.) about the night before and how frightening it was to see a peace-loving people turn into a hoard that trampled me a bit too much; my friends pushed me to do it. They’ll record that for any other Big General Assembly Justice In Action events, since this is the first one that’s really happened.

Sunday night I was no longer in the hotel, obviously, but earlier in the weekend I had mentioned my room situation to Cute Girl Anna—possibly even that first day I really met her—and she had assured me that, between the Queer Trio, they could find a place to put me up for that last night. It turned out that Anna was able to host me in her room. First, though, there was a hotel party elsewhere—so Anna and I set off to get some drinks. (I got Arizona Iced Tea, since I wasn’t set on drinking anyway). We headed back to Anna’s congregation’s en-suite (…they had a hotel suite reserved mostly just for socialising, oh my goodness, jealousy) and she played angelic ukulele music. I melted into a great big puddle o’ goo.

We headed off to the nearby university dorm-rooms since that’s where Anna was staying and also where the party was starting. We played Apples to Apples and, shock of all shock, I tied for the win (‘shock’ because I don’t play things competitively; I just fool around). There were more substances which I mostly didn’t take part in (a splash of some alcohol in my Arizona but hey, I’m legal) and some hanging out. Come curfew time we headed out and walked to a nearby hotel room for some more partying. I had one incredibly mild beer and chatted with people. On the walk there I had asked Anna, “On the scale of serial monogamist to ethical slut, where are you?” (which is one of my common questions for liberal, more-sexually-open peers) and she started talking about her new monogamous boyfriend and how she actually didn’t feel very monogamous at all herself. I got to know a new friend, too: a young man named Will who loved the question and who joined in the conversation with gusto. He questioned harder than I wanted to, really getting into Anna’s brain and freaking her out a bit in how settled she felt in her relationship and attachment to her boyfriend, which was totally <i>not</i> my intention with my innocent (supposed-to-be-quick) question and not the best thing for a not-sober young woman to be thinking about.

We got to the party and, as is my habit, I went around telling everyone how pretty they were, explaining that in a world with so much competition and so many impossible beauty standards, I like to firmly remind people how attractive they are with <i>no intentions whatsoever</i>. Will decided this was the greatest thing ever and decided the world should be more like that, so he started up. Eventually conversations turned a bit sexual with mentions of threesomes (which led me to remind Will that it wouldn’t work so well, since I was Really Gay and also Currently Celibate) but Anna got adorably red-faced and in that gleeful, fake-shame way admitted that she couldn’t stop thinking about it. I tried to get her mind off it by sharing the last Cheeto with Will. We did that “both bite it” game in which one person has it by the centre and each person bites down to get half. Anna looked away just as it happened and there was the slightest brush of lips, so when I was done chewing I crowed, “That’s the first time I’ve had lip-contact with a guy!” Anna was playfully upset to have missed it and asked for a repeat performance, but I refused because, pretty as Will was for a guy, I had no particular interest to be near his lips again.

One of the guys at the party then started zonking out (alcohol) so we got him set up in bed with a basket in case of emergency and pushed the party off and away. Anna, Will and I decided to hang out. On the way back to the dorms (where they both were, right across the hall from one another) I noticed that Anna was toying with her phone and looking pre-occupied. I asked her what was up and tried to get her thoughts away from texting her boyfriend—and broaching the idea of polyamory—but it appeared she had succeeded in doing so already, when I wasn’t paying attention for a moment (darn fast texters!). So I failed my duty of “Don’t Let Friends Drink and ‘Dial’” rule and instead worked on getting her to feel better/less tense about the situation. We got up to Will’s and all started talking, but Anna soon ducked out to go get something in her room. After a while Will and I realised how long it had been and started to get worried. We assumed she was on the phone with her boyfriend, but she <i>had</i> said she would be back, and it had been a long while…so we started worrying about the state she was in, given the drinks, and went to check on her. We heard music but couldn’t get any response by banging on the door or by texting/calling her, so by that point we really started worrying because it’d take a lot to get all that and not respond at least with an “I’m fine!” We headed down to security and explained that we were sure we were over-reacting, but our friend had (legally) had a bit much to drink and we were worried because we could hear music in her room but she wasn’t responding in any way. The security man got us into the room.

The lights were out and Anna was in bed with headphones. She was surprised and a bit out of it, but she understood when we explained our worries to her, as well, and was thankful that we had been concerned enough to check on her given she really had intended to come back. Will and I wished her sweet dreams, I gave her a kiss on the head and told her she’d make it right in the morning, and we left. We weren’t quite ready for sleep—it being the last night of an amazing weekend—so we tried to watch True Blood together after a long conversation about it. The streaming and re-loading got too annoying so we didn’t manage it. I stuck around as he was packing up his stuff and, when we both finally started yawning, went to bed in the spare room of Anna’s student dorm.

The next morning I woke up to Anna’s voice on the phone, right before my alarm. I quickly got ready and then waited as she had a conversation with her boyfriend, which did indeed turn out well by the end of the conversation. On the way back to her congregation’s suite she told me more about her life story and then about this recent boyfriend, who had been a friend of hers for a while and whom she’d been with in an informal way (“I’m making you no promises”) until not too long ago, which was why rocking the boat had been dumb. I apologised for bringing it up—stating that totally wasn’t my intention—and that I was further sorry I hadn’t caught her out texting her boyfriend something serious while inebriated. She told me it was fine, that Will had put things in her head and that she knew my question was just an innocent get-to-know-you question…and that it was her fault she had texted, since I couldn’t watch her all the time.

We got to the suite and the family who would be taking me to the airport with them was still getting ready. Anna and I said slow goodbyes in the foyer as the other family bickered. Eventually we said real goodbyes and I got in the car with this family I hardly knew, who kept tiffing over odd things including sunglasses, which we eventually had to go back to check for (no luck). Then getting petrol. Then returning the rental car. I almost missed my separate airport shuttle (to a different terminal) running my stuff to them, but a kind soul noticed me running back and kept the shuttle. I got to the airport fine, got on my plane fine, got back home fine…and it all made for a great time.

I’m a real young adult now! Bad-but-good decisions and all!

Too Long; Didn’t Read: I flew to Phoenix for General Assembly of my “covenant but not creed” religion. Had awkward timez for a while. Saw graduated seniors accepted by young adults, realised I’d never felt that, pushed myself to connect with my peers. Fun beer time on the roof. Full days of voting on stuff and learning. Getting jostled around before a huge (thousands of people) protest, but enjoying the protest all the same. More beer on the roof with good conversation. Late-night skinny-dipping in the hotel pool. Getting caught and buggering off like ants. Guilt and reprieve, relishing a good new story for my life. A day of goodbyes, another party, a bit of young adult drama, and off I went back to the East Coast!

Some links about the Tent City Protest:

From the UUA
A short video in the news
We, uh, got Fox News’ attention
Another short article with some new quotes
Some videos of the event, including the Singing Bus, but not me
Joe Arpaio’s response
Another short article
From a more UU point of view

So glad I get to use this icon in earnest now. Thank goodness I have a youthful, innocent face and am able to do the talking. Certainly glad I picked that up from me Mumster! :P
 
 
 
minervas_eule: Maggie and Judiminervas_eule on September 28th, 2012 12:21 pm (UTC)
Goodness, what memorable nights at the roof-top pool :-) I had a look at the videos, too - Arizona summer nights are really something I want to "feel" one day as well....
I loved the "growling" Emily ♥ - are you still in touch somehow (Facebook or whatever?)...
Kiwi Crocus: AoGG || Do attract trouble.cranky__crocus on October 8th, 2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
Yes, definitely memorable nights. :D I very much enjoy the memories! The Arizona summer nights were lovely! The days...not so much. :P I think if I lived in Phoenix, I'd have to do what my current housemate did when she lived there and continue my sleeping through much of the day and being active at night!

*Grins.* Yup, "growling" Emily and I are still in touch! We're FB friends and occasionally text back and forth.