How My Dog’s Penis Forced Me to Get Married

“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”

~Matt Groening, Life in Hell


Photo credit: Bodhi Smith Photography

To be fair, the title of this post really should be “How My Dog’s Penis Forced Me to Elope.”  (But that probably wouldn’t be quite clickbaity enough.)  As a matter of precision, nobody forced me to get married.  My partner J and I decided some months ago, after nearly 5 years together, that it was time to do the thing.  J doesn’t really care about weddings…one of his many fine qualities; a quality that I am sorry to admit I don’t share.  I absolutely was pumped about the pageantry, the dancing, and especially the only opportunity I would ever get to parade down an aisle to the “Grand Finale” from Edward Scissorhands wearing a veil, a fancy Mucha-style headdress, and a mint green (never white; horrors!) filmy gown with a long train covered in crawling, iridescent, ombré beetles and butterflies.  Finally, I had an excuse.  And I would get to invite the people I love to all be in a room at once – bonus!  (Since moving to Pittsburgh 4 years ago, my opportunities to visit friends have been few and far between.)

 

We decided to get married on our 6th anniversary, 9/20/2020 (I am sentimental about keeping our anniversary the same, and also thought “20/2020″ would be cool and easy to remember), and to keep it under $5,000.  I joined a yearlong weight loss study at the University of Pittsburgh and drastically improved my diet and exercise habits, just knowing I would look killer in those wedding pics.  I completed a 9-month course of Accutane, suffering stubbornly through major side effects like a 7-month constant menstrual period that only ended once the course was finished, as well as severe muscle and joint pain (dramatically impacting my ability to stand, walk, or sleep – yet I still resolved to walk 5 miles per day despite the pain, and did it every day without fail.)  My skin, at least, looks pretty awesome.

 

We were leaning towards a Caribbean-themed Victorian lodge-turned-B&B on the North Side of Pittsburgh as our venue, a nod to J’s half-Cuban heritage and also to my love of old Victorian houses.  We would rent all of the rooms in the inn for 2 nights to put up our out-of-town guests, and help lessen the expense of traveling to our wedding for them.  The inn was even dog-friendly…visions of our two puppers in bow ties or floral wreaths swam in my head.  Our recessional could be to “Mighty Science Theater (MST3K End Theme)”!  Our first dance could be Dance Dance Revolution style to “Taking the Hobbits to Isengard”!  Instead of wedding favors, we could gift guests with copies of some of our favorite books or films!  We would wed under a book arch (true story; we bought it from a local couple and it currently frames our TV)!  It wouldn’t be the ritziest wedding ever, but it would be fun, and awesome, and people might retain some cool memories of it.

 

He’s very proud. You will never believe how heavy this was to lift. However heavy you’re thinking, quadruple it.

Then, a few weeks ago, J went to the doctor about persistent symptoms he couldn’t shake  The doctor diagnosed him with severe pneumonia and bad fluid buildup in his lungs.  He was sent to the ER for treatment.  Dreading a huge ER bill, J took only a couple days off work to recuperate.  And ten days ago, J came home from work to find the house, and our St. Bernard Jupe, covered in blood.

 

Initially, J couldn’t figure out where the blood was coming from.  Jupe showed no signs of pain or lethargy; he joyfully rolled in his blood as if it were grass.  It was matted in his fur and all over his face.  He galumphed and gamboled happily through the living room, spraying the walls, floor, and furniture red as J tried to tackle him.  J managed to drag him up the stairs to the bathroom and rinse off as much of the blood as possible.  Could Jupe have gotten into a fight with our Newfoundland, Silas?  But Silas was spotless.  J couldn’t find a wound anywhere.  Eventually, he was able to deduce that the blood was flowing out of the sheath of Jupe’s penis.  He called me at work and I left early, so we could take him to the vet.  Our frantic Googling didn’t tell us much…it could be three or four things of varying degrees of severity: it could be a bladder infection, it could be prostatitis, it could be cancer.  But it was probably one of those things.

 

As it turned out, it was none of those things.  After a couple hours of waiting, we were finally called in.  The vet put on a glove, (ahem) “stimulated” Jupe to come out of his sheath, and I watched her gasp and recoil as a fresh spray of blood showered all over her arm and my shoes.  To the vet tech:  “Stacey!  Bring in a camera!  I’ve never seen anything like this!  It’s crazy!”  And that’s when she told us:

 

Our beautiful, sweet, derpy dog…had chewed the tip of his own penis off.

 

It’s OK. You can laugh. Everybody we tell reacts with the same mixture of horror and poorly-repressed hilarity. Before you ask, I’ll answer all of the same questions we answered for the vet:  We’ve had him two years, he has ZERO history of health problems, separation anxiety, self-mutilation, or even humping (they were trying to ascertain whether he was masturbating and accidentally injured himself, then just sort of made it worse and worse by compulsively licking/chewing the area that was in pain).  Still, nobody is sure exactly what prompted it.  We would end up seeing multiple vets and surgeons over the next couple days, and all seemed flummoxed.  Over and over, we kept hearing “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”  We were stumped, the professionals were stumped, and Jupe’s penis was stumped.

 

In the waiting room, J (the stoic, the unsentimental) sobbed.  He would probably say our dogs are like his children and he loves both them equally, but indefatigably cheerful, goofy Jupe is definitely his favorite.  Our local vet ended up referring us to a pet ER several miles away – she wouldn’t even begin to know how to treat this, she said.  She wasn’t sure if he could just be sutured, or if a surgeon would essentially have to do a sex-change operation on him, removing his entire penis and building him a vaginal-style opening for the remains of his urethra.

 

We would end up spending 26 hours in two separate pet hospitals.  For the first time since joining the Pitt weight loss study in May, I failed to walk my daily 5 miles.  We just sat and waited hours for updates.  The initial examining doctor at the pet ER was incredibly rude and kept asking questions, but then cutting me off as I was answering (or when I had exploratory questions, concerns about finances, etc.) and telling me to shut up and let him finish.  J was seeing red, but neither of us wanted to say anything to jeopardize getting Jupe treated.  Eventually, Jupe saw a surgeon (a lovely woman who was the exact opposite of the initial examining ER doctor, kind and compassionate and very straightforward in addressing all of our questions and fears).  We were presented with an estimate of several thousand dollars.  Jupe’s entire penis would not have to be amputated, but he would need a partial amputation of about an inch, and to have his urethra enlarged so that when it healed, it wouldn’t scar over, rendering him unable to urinate.  Payment was required up front – no payment plans.  If we couldn’t pay all at once, they wouldn’t operate, and he’d be left to his own devices, whether that meant bleeding out, infection, or worse.  We were pushed to take out a line of “Care Credit”, which must be paid back within 6 months or we’d be facing insane 23% interest rates.

 

Now facing both J’s ER bill and Jupe’s emergency surgery bill, we decided to cancel our wedding and use our venue money to save our dog.  J’s parents kindly lent us $585 to help with the portion of the payment we couldn’t cover ourselves.

 

Jupe’s operation seems to have gone well.  He has been wearing a cone of shame that cannot be removed for at least 2 weeks.  We were instructed to keep him crated and supervised at all times for at least a week.  J and I alternated days off to watch him, so that neither of us got too behind at work.  We had to tranquilize him every few hours to keep him calm, because every time he got “excited”, blood rushed to the area, and he would bleed.  He continued to bleed heavily for 4-5 days after the surgery.  That has thankfully stopped.  He is not allowed to use stairs yet, so J has been sleeping on the sofa next to his crate.  We are worried about whether this could ever possibly happen again, once his cone is removed.  Nobody seems to know.  We just have to wait and see.

 

 

Yesterday, on our 5-year anniversary, 9/20/2019, J and I married ourselves at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with a self-uniting license (one of the quirky little idiosyncrasies peculiar only to Pennsylvania).  Prior to the cancellation of our wedding, J’s cousin was going to officiate.  I regret that we won’t have the opportunity to hear whatever lovely things he was going to say, but hopefully he is a little relieved that he doesn’t have to write a speech.  I indulged in an antique 1920s browband headpiece, and a vintage teal flared coat with gold buttons down the back.  Otherwise, the bride wore her black work pants, beat-up black ballet flats with the odd hole in them, and her hair down.  As luck would have it, and in keeping with this post’s general theme of nonstop bleeding, it was the second day of my period (the WORST of all period days), so I was feeling pretty queasy/bloated and sapped of energy all morning, and I threw up a few times from a combination of nervousness and nausea.  Just general grodiness.  And J is still recovering from pneumonia, so lots of coughing and nose-blowing on his part.  Suffice to say, it wasn’t exactly the dashing romantic movie with swelling music and perfect lighting.  I took a few photos of myself in our makeshift library while J was getting ready.  They’re all pretty much the same photo, really.  Me trying to look pretty and distract myself enough to keep from vomiting some more:

 

 

The Carnegie Museum is probably my favorite place in Pittsburgh, and it turns out that yesterday it was practically deserted so we had it almost entirely to ourselves…apparently everyone was out marching in the Global Climate Change Strike that we’d somehow missed the news about, amidst rushing to plan a quickie elopement (oops).  J and I took photos and selfies until we came to the T-Rexes.  After arguing over they were two T-Rexes in love (me) or two T-Rexes fighting over an animal carcass (him), we stood before the and said the magic “I take you as my husband/wife” words and signed the marriage license.  To be honest, I had feared that eloping might end up feeling a little anticlimactic, like a bank transaction, but when the moment came, although it happened quickly, I felt my heart surge and had to blink back a couple tears.  Then we continued taking photos in the museum.  We had a fun day, and if you can have fun with somebody even while you both feel like you’re dying, then that just might be your person.

 

We did the thing!!! Two T-Rexes in love. (And a sad man in the background, depressed that he is not also getting married at the museum today.)

 

I will not float regally down an aisle like a Mucha nature goddess in a beautiful gown in front of 40-60 people I love.  I will not have my updo and makeup professionally done to look amazing in glossy, professional photos.  I will not dance the night away, culminating in the Commitments’ cover of “Try a Little Tenderness”.  I will not speed away from my venue in a limo, receive complimentary newlywed upgrading to first class seating at the airport, and fly with J to Paris or Prague or Indonesia to honeymoon at a French flea market, an ossuary, or an orangutan sanctuary.  “You have lost 30 lbs.!” my FitBit chirped happily at me yesterday morning, and I thought about how that was nice, but how if I only had another year, maybe I’d have been 90 lbs. skinnier in my wedding photos instead.

 

In the end though, I am no less married, our beloved puppy was worth it, and, well…J is probably secretly thrilled we won’t have to move that heavy-ass book arch any time soon.  Perhaps next year, we will try to do a road trip across the U.S. and UK, meeting up with the people we wish could have been here with us, and celebrating in private.  If you’re one of those people reading this…I’m sorry.  I love you and wanted you there.  But who knows, maybe you also are secretly thrilled you won’t have to plan a trip to Pittsburgh.  It was something I maybe feared a little: most of my friends were married years ago, in their 20s, and are busy with babies and careers.  When you’re the last of your friends to get married, and you’re also far away from everyone you know, you realize that your wedding will likely never be as important to anyone else as theirs was to you, and that’s OK.  It’s not exactly what I’d imagined, but at least there’s something to be said for starting off our married lives together without being saddled with a chunk of party debt.

 

Our convenience store clerk asked us this morning how it felt being married.

 

It was just after this happened…happy 80th birthday, Batman.

 

I told her the truth, which is:  “About the same”.  We left the house yesterday morning unmarried, we came home yesterday afternoon exhausted and married.

 

(Approximation via earlier photo with less beard…he just looks too cute asleep.)

 

I immediately changed into comfy pajama pants and we cuddled while watching TV and eating burritos.  The dogs had to be walked and the trash had to be taken out and J wanted to make it to the gym before bed.  Maybe this weekend we’ll hit up Fiori’s Pizza (mmm, Fiori’s, my other favorite place in Pittsburgh).  On Monday we’ll go back to work.  We’ve lived together for 4 years of our 5 year relationship.  We’ve been registered as domestic partners and shared health insurance and other work benefits for those 4 years.  I’m very excited and happy, but despite everyone who says “You’ll see – it’s always different after you get married, you just can’t stop it from happening!”  there has not been any seismic shift…life and the routine go on.  J was already my best friend and the person I love the most.  We knew we were going to spend the rest of our lives together; now it’s just been slightly more formalized in the eyes of the rest of the world.  You can’t always have a wedding, but we have a marriage.  The foundation we built was in the works a long time ago.  Hearing the word “wife” is just a fresh and exciting little extra zing…except when he goes “mah waaaif” like Borat, which I regret to report has already begun.

 

Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.  Sometimes they eat out your eyeballs.  Or sometimes, just maybe, you wrench yourself free of the wreckage, bludgeon them to death with a twisted steel blade, and promenade across the ice together, wearing their blood-spattered ice weasel corpses around your shoulders like a trophy, hand in hand, searching for your next unlikely vehicle to crash as long as it’s with one another…your hot air balloon, your water jet ski, your hang glider, your next adventure together.

 

~Brianna Karp Sokol

 

The Bravery of E. Jean Carroll

E. Jean Carroll is a hero and a fucking hurricane of a human being (in the best possible sense).  If you haven’t yet read the excerpt of her upcoming book, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal, published in New York magazine this week, you should.  It captures her perfectly.  I could hear her in my head as I read.  Speaking as someone four decades E. Jean’s junior who had to run just to barely keep up with her on the streets of NYC:  the woman has boundless, irrepressible energy.  She lives life to the fullest.  She writes beautifully.  She is a hilarious and fascinating person.  She is endlessly generous, even to strangers.  She is blunt and honest almost to a fault (if I were willing to admit that such a goddess had any faults, which I adamantly am not).  She does not lie; she calls it as she sees it.

Also, it’s worth mentioning, if you haven’t heard already, that Donald Trump is a rapey rapist who raped her.

* * * * *

Let’s note up front:  People will say I’m biased.  That is certainly true.  There would be no The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness book if not for E. Jean Carroll.  It would be arrogant of me to call E. Jean a friend, but certainly I consider her a mentor and the woman who singlehandedly provided me with my greatest opportunities.  E. Jean didn’t just respond to my letter in her column.  She offered me an internship.  She called me on the phone.  She arranged for me to come to NYC and spent days handholding and schlepping me, a very shy and dazed newbie, to TV and radio interviews.  She introduced me to a metric fuckton of literary agents (including the inimitable Chris Schelling, a longtime friend of hers who ultimately repped me) and advised me in detail about the pros and cons of each option and each next step I could possibly take.  She allowed me to list her on my résumé as a reference.  I watched her hand out bills to homeless people we passed on the streets.  Let’s be crystal clear; E. Jean personally got nothing out of this.  Zero.  She didn’t make a dime from helping me.  I was nobody – a literal nobody – my blog was anonymous at the time, very few people were reading it.  If she had ignored my letter, or just churned out a more generic rah-rah response and taken no further action, it would still have been kind of her, but nobody would have known or cared.  However, as self-described in her New York magazine excerpt, E. Jean Carroll is the consummate cheerleader, through-and-through.  I’m not sure she even thinks about it; she supports other women because that’s just who she is, to the core.

* * * * *

I have written, much less eloquently than E. Jean Carroll has, about some of my own Hideous Men™ (see both my book and the very blog post preceding this one).  There are a fair number of them.  Just about every woman has a running mental list of shitty men stories.  There are some I haven’t even written about yet – the coworker who was fired for camping outside of our workplace and following my car home at midnight.  There are some whose names I don’t even know – men who groped me on the bus, strangers following me down the sidewalk yelling crudities.  The wedding guest who grabbed my ass in front of eight witnesses when I was a 16-year-old restaurant hostess, who refused to leave when confronted by the manager and had to be carried out by police, with his wife close behind screaming that I was a liar.

With one notable exception who had already publicized himself, I have left my Hideous Men™ nameless or used pseudonyms.  This includes my rapist.  To my knowledge, none of them are rich, famous, or particularly powerful at this time, yet I do not name them.  Not because I worry about ruining their lives or how it would make their families and friends feel.  Because to identify them publicly would risk bringing them back into my life, and I never want to see their faces or hear their voices again.  I don’t want to spend even more of my life being confronted and re-confronted with the shittier specimens of humanity I’ve known.  The very idea of interacting with these men again fills me with terror.  Makes it hard to breathe.

So of course, I can’t even imagine the courage required to knowingly invite Donald Trump (with his distinction as both the sentient pond scum of the Earth and also unfortunately the current most powerful man in the country) back into your life…along with all of his lawyers, his deplorables, his monstrous glutinous army of internet trolls and Russian bots and hate-filled Nazis and racists and misogynists.

There was no reason for E. Jean Carroll to help a nobody like me, except that it was a good and kind thing to do.  Helping others via unfathomable generosity of spirit and resources is what she does.

There is no reason for E. Jean Carroll, longtime and thriving journalist, SNL writer, author, beloved columnist, TV personality, beauty pageant winner, internet mogul, etc. etc. to light a match to her career and reputation.  There is no reason for heretofore scandal-free E. Jean Carroll to turn her storied career into an asterisk just for the opportunity to have a mass of thuggish slugs tear her to shreds.  There is no reason for E. Jean Carroll, noted success at literally everything she’s ever put her hand to, to swap decades of accolades for the honor of being known as “Trump sexual assault victim no. 22”.  Except, of course, for the reason:  It’s the truth, and it’s the right thing to do.

* * * * *

E. Jean has said in interviews that she is not pursuing charges against Donald Trump, and the disingenuous hordes have characterized this as backpedaling, when it is anything but.  In her first interview, she (admittedly somewhat inelegantly) referenced the Trump administration’s victims at the border, locked in cages, several of them tortured/raped by his minions, as the reason it would feel “disrespectful” to her to conflate her experience with rape.  In another interview, she said that she has a hard time using the actual word “rape” for an experience that lasted three minutes at most, and feels she has moved past it.  Perhaps she feels more indignant at his rudeness, his sheer entitlement to seize what he wants from women, than hurt or ashamed.

Make no mistake:  The experience that E. Jean Carroll described was rape.  Donald Trump is a rapist.

Although I don’t find her logic on this particular point flawless, I can still understand where it’s coming from.  I honestly believe E. Jean when she says she’s a happy person.  I don’t think she’s spent every day of the past 23 years in a depression, reliving what was done to her.  (Neither do I.  A lot of victims don’t.)  As to whether she’s fully 100% moved past it or whether that’s wishful thinking…I guess people will forever debate that, especially given the last line of her New York magazine article, which more than hints at a moderate degree of lingering trauma.  But I believe that she doesn’t want to see herself as a victim.  On Friday, after I read the article, I texted my partner J and went home and felt sad and upset and enraged on her behalf.  Donald Trump does not deserve to exist on the same planet as E. Jean, much less put his hands on her.  J read (and loved) the article.  When he got home from work, we talked about it for a long time – which is to say, I mostly ranted and he listened.  At one point I said “I feel so presumptuous, feeling bad for her.  She would hate that.  She wouldn’t want me to feel bad for her.  She definitely would never pity herself.”

Whether or not she’s what she’d consider traumatized by her Hideous Men™ experiences, E. Jean Carroll would simply never frame herself that way – perhaps that developed at least partially as a coping mechanism, but at this stage in the game, it’s also who she is.  Purely speculating, to me the “women on the border” comment reflects some unconscious level of survivor’s guilt.  I speculate as such because I, too, felt and still feel something similar:  “Why were people interested in my story?  There are so many who have had it worse than me.  I had a trailer, some people only have park benches.  What if I’d been black instead of a white woman, when a police officer found me sleeping in my car?  Would I have been perceived as more of a threat, would it have escalated into something unthinkable?  Someone ended up listening to my voice; I got a book deal and a path out of homelessness – most homeless people never get that.  Overall, I’ve been so lucky compared to some!  Even my bad experiences aren’t comparatively that bad!”

Whenever I’m asked to speak about homelessness, I make an effort to call attention to those who have it worse, those who were never given a platform, and how lucky I ultimately was.  I don’t agree with E. Jean that she wasn’t raped, even as she views it as one of a few unpleasant blips in an otherwise rich and fulfilling life.  Donald Trump is a monster who deserves to be in prison.  But in her way, I think E. Jean was trying to express the same thing.

* * * * *

I don’t necessarily think that’s the only reason that E. Jean doesn’t want to pursue charges, or even the main reason, but one of several.  For one, the statute of limitations in New York at the time would not allow for him to retroactively be charged, even though the statue of limitations has since been eliminated.  I’ve seen several journalists questioning whether there could be DNA evidence on E. Jean’s coat; it is seriously doubtful that such evidence would not degrade over 23 years.  Bergdorf Goodman of course would retain no security camera footage from 23 years ago; security camera footage generally cycles every week or month.  E. Jean’s story is corroborated by two extremely credible friends – journalists – she spoke to about the incident at the time, which should be more than enough to sway those who somehow still doubt her searing testimony.  She certainly had no idea when she told her friends at the time that in two decades he would become President of the United States.

To my knowledge, E. Jean Carroll lives in a remote, peaceful, beautiful location surrounded by approximately one million dogs and the work she loves.  (To me, this sure sounds like living the dream – if my partner isn’t still around, I hope that’s my life at 75.)  Does she want to spend what they call “your golden years” in and out of courts and hearings, reliving those three minutes of her life over and over?  Did she want those three minutes to be the defining minutes of her life?  I doubt it.  Donald Trump deserves to see justice, but the media and the courts have largely ignored or downplayed the accusations.  Why must E. Jean Carroll or any of the other accusers press charges in statutorily exempt cases before they can simply be believed?

E. Jean chose to come forward and tell her story because it was the right thing to do, and it was the right time for her to finally do it.  Her account is so specific and rings absolutely true.  She wasn’t obligated to speak out, and she will lose far more from speaking out against this powerful man than she will gain.  She did it for her readers and for the women everywhere she has spent decades cheerleading and supporting, expecting nothing in return.  She doesn’t want women to feel alone, or afraid to tell our stories.  E. Jean Carroll deserves to be believed, to be safe and protected from the internet mob now sending her death threats (and from the evil man emboldening and inviting them to).  E. Jean Carroll deserves to spend the rest of her life snuggling with her adored dogs and writing her big, generous heart out.

* * * * *

I have E. Jean’s phone number.  I haven’t called her, imagining that she must currently be inundated with calls from family, loved ones, journalists, and busybodies.  Tweeting my support feels so banal, so inadequate, yet on the other hand I fear adding to what must be, even for a pro like her, an exhausting and overwhelming flood of commentary.  But I hope more than anything that the support drowns out the repugnant vitriol.  I hope it drowns out noted rapist and Hideous Man™ Donald Trump.  I’ve seen a remarkable number of morons question the “timing” of E. Jean speaking out, because she (a writer!!!) dared to write the truth down in (gasp!) a book, which is irrelevant.  Not to mention, actual authors are aware you don’t make millions off a book unless you’re Stephen King or George R.R. Martin.  But you know what?  I hope she does.  I hope her book does fucking sell millions of copies and makes her a bazillionaire.  I’ve done my little bit – I ordered my copy.  Go get ‘em, E. Jean, just like you always have.  Thank you for everything.

3rd Annual World Homeless Day

3rd Annual World Homeless Day

Welp, today is the 3rd Annual World Homeless Day/World Homeless Action Day, and the internet is blowing up:

https://twitter.com/i/#!/search/realtime/%23worldhomelessday

I’ll try to compile a list of media coverage and post it here in the next day or so.  It’s still so surreal to see your brainchild expand like this out of such tiny grassroot beginnings!  There’s a lot of talk about making it “World Homeless Action Month”, which I would love to see happen – October is also “World Mental Health Day”, and as you might imagine, there’s obviously a lot of tie-in potential there.

In any event, no rest for the wicked – now that 10/10/12 has come, tomorrow our steering group will turn around and start gearing up for 10/10/13.  Looking forward to another awesome year with you guys – all the gratitude in the world to our amazing steering group and the advocates and organizations around the world who participate and help make this come together by putting their time and energy into organizing events, in addition to their round-the-clock work on behalf of the homeless population.  And a special shout out to my WHD/WHAD co-founder and head organizer extraordinaire Jon Glackin (aka “Beat on the Streets”) who works ceaselessly and tirelessly all year long and practically never sleeps because he’s too busy thinking of new ways to promote and spread World Homeless Day – all on a voluntary, unpaid basis, as has been the case since its inception.  I love ya, doll.  *hug*

* * *

As for me, I’ve been pretty quiet, because I’ve been moving.  I’d lived at my last apartment for a year and was about to renew my lease, then the owner ended up dropping the bombshell that he was selling the property.  Like, right away.  (Turns out, it wasn’t what you’d call “up to code”.  Sigh.)  The closing date on the property meant that I had a week and a half to find a new place, but it ended up working out, as I requested and was given rental abatement and relocation assistance to make up for the last-second rush (*phew*).  I actually love the new apartment; it’s got a lot more room for Fez and I and is significantly more affordable for the amenities that it includes, though my commute to work is further.  To make up for it, I’m selling Kermit and getting a more reliable car.  So, you know, constantly trying to work my way towards the stability that I crave, but all signs are looking good at the moment  :-P

So that’s where I’ve been if you were wondering.  I’ve got a couple of events coming up in November, also, so as soon as I have exact dates and addresses nailed down, I’ll let you know which cities I’ll be dropping into  ;)

Oh, and I was on HuffPost Live on Monday!  The conversation was about homeless voting and how many of the new voter ID laws popping up across the nation are disenfranchising the homeless/poor/ethnic/veteran population.  It was an awesome group and a lovely, civil discussion.  I feel privileged to have been a part of a panel of such wonderful and hardworking advocates!

Along those lines…the U.S. Presidential Election is less than a month away.  If you’re qualified, get out there and VOTE.  This will be my first year voting (I registered last month and I’m super proud and excited to finally take part and have a say in the outcome of this election).

Upcoming SoCal Meet-n-Greets!

Upcoming SoCal Meet-n-Greets!

Born and raised in SoCal, but never saw Grauman’s Chinese Theatre before last week, with my awesome friend Jeanine.
Here I am holding Atticus Finch’s hand <3

Hey guys!  It’s last second, I know, but if you’re in SoCal, I’ll be giving a speechy-thingy tomorrow at Casa Youth Shelter’s 10th Annual Teen Summit!  It’s open to the public, although Casa prefers that if you choose to attend, you RSVP (more info on the Facebook page for the event here).  The summit begins at 9:15 a.m. and I’ll be speaking from around 11:30 a.m. – noon.

Casa is really great – They do a lot of homeless outreach and I’ve volunteered with them a few times handing out clothes/food/water to the homeless population here in Santa Ana that hangs around the Orange County Courthouse.  They totally deserve so much support and recognition.

Also, if you come to Los Al tomorrow, I can guarantee you that the Pasty Kitchen on Katella, a mile away from the event, serves the absolute best food (pasties!) you will ever taste – I grew up going there.  It’s this tiny little hole-in-the-wall family-owned place that’s a Los Al institution and is effing DELICIOUS.  It’s actually my favorite food of all time, even better than pizza.  I recommend the chicken pasty, but they also have beef and vegetarian, plus some dessert-y type stuff.  Honestly, the main reason I decided to do this event was to have an excuse to go stock up on a few pastys for the next few days (just kidding!  Sort of.  But in all seriousness, it’s super-tasty.  Try it, you’ll like it.)

Otherwise, SoCal-ites will also get a chance to swing by and say hi at the La Habra Public Library on August 19th at 2:30 p.m., where I’ll be doing a reading/Q&A!  Bring your copy and I’d be happy to sign it  :)

Lastly, I apologize profusely for the bunch of gobbledygook code or whatever at the top of my site’s pages right now…I’m as baffled as you likely are, but I’m working on figuring out what the problem is and getting it resolved quickly.  In the meantime – so sorry!  :(

Update:  Said gobbledygook code was actually caused via changes by my host server, which have now been rectified.  Whew!  So glad…that was driving me bonkers.

AOL “You’ve Got…” Video

AOL "You've Got..." Video

This has nothing to do with AOL, but J. took me to RenFaire, which is one of the awesomest things ever if you're a geek like me, and I needed an excuse to use this pic because I don't hate it ;)

Agh!  So the AOL “You’ve Got…” interview just went up.  I didn’t know it was going up today, and have not seen it yet.

I promised I’d post here when it went up, so here you go, but unfortunately I’m at work right now and cannot turn up the volume, so you get to see it before I do.  Plus, I really hate hearing my voice/seeing my face on camera, so there’s always this sort of “I can’t bear to look” feeling, so I’ll try to work myself up to it tonight when I get home.

But here you go…(my apologies for the link, I tried using the embed code but it doesn’t seem to work on WordPress):

AOL.com Video – You’ve Got Brianna Karp

Quick mistake I noticed in the description…it says I own my own home.  I don’t.  I have never owned a home yet  ;)  I rent my apartment.  You should get to see quick shots of it in the vid.  It’s a 300 square-foot studio with a small yard for Fez.  I love it and, as I mentioned briefly before, I’ve been doing my best to thrift/Craigslist/FreeCycle furnishings for it over the past 10 months.  I’m very proud that all of my furniture in my apartment, all put together, cost under $1,000 total.  The canopy bed I’m proudest of.  It was in some guy’s garage in the middle of the Mojave Desert (Apple Valley) for $100.  I later found the exact same model of bed online (Laurel Crown Furniture) for over $4K. So I’m extra-proud of that find. My awesome friends Thao and her hubby Steve put together the base for me, and my sweet and patient boyfriend spent about 8 hours helping me put up the canopy.  The bed curtains were Craigslisted Ikea curtains for $5.

 

So, yeah.  Just gotta brag a teensy-weensy bit.  I’m super proud of my thrifting skills.

 

Okiez, back to work before they fire me  ;)

“Member of the Board”

"Member of the Board"

One of the CCY kids speaking at the rally outside of the California Capitol Building in Sacramento.

Happy 4th of July, all!

Well, the speaking trips to Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Sacramento were awesome!  I met some of the warmest people…some of them even drove from really far away.  I’m so touched and honored.  In Wisconsin I spoke at several libraries, so I got to meet fellow “book people”, which feels like coming home no matter where I’m at!  In Pennsylvania I got to speak to social services and homeless services workers, particularly those who work in conjunction with the local school districts to assist homeless kids and families.

The most touching experience for me, however, was in Sacramento, speaking at the California Coalition for Youth’s Annual Conference and Rally. I spoke to, and met, some of the awesomest kids there on the planet.  Most of these kids had some really painful backstories – they had been homeless, or foster youth who had aged out of the system, or had abusive parents, or were LGBT and were kicked out…you name it, they had been there.  Some of them had already been in juvenile hall or prison.  They’d had rough starts, but here they were, getting their lives back on track and using their experiences to support others.

The morning after the conference, we rallied outside of the Capitol Building, and some of the kids told their stories and talked about how they wanted to make a difference in their communities.  Then we broke up into groups and went into the Capitol and spoke to legislators about passing several laws currently on the table that will help foster youth and the homeless.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  Period.  These kids brought tears to my eyes and every one of them made me want to be a better person.  So young, yet they want to get involved in social issues.  These kids are the future, dude.  They’re going on to huge things, you can tell.  And getting to talk one-on-one with actual legislators and policymakers was awesomeness personified.  Other than speaking with Anthony Love (the Obama cabinet member who is the Deputy Director for National Programs at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)…basically the guy who oversees HUD) a few months ago at a homelessness conference in Florida, I had never participated in democracy at nearly such a hands-on level, and now I want to do more.

Looks like I’ll get the chance…The California Coalition for Youth has generously invited me to become a member of their Board of Directors and this week, the nomination process was completed – I’m confirmed! This means that I will get to go to Sacramento several times a year for Board meetings and conferences and try to come up with new and innovative ways to legislate for foster and homeless youth, and talk to legislators some more and ask them to pass those bills into law…as well as lobby against laws that are detrimental to the disadvantaged.

This is probably not very official-board-member-like, but…SQUEE!!!!!  I can’t express how grateful I am for this honor.  I’ll do my absolute best to represent well.

Otherwise, you know, just truckin’ along with the 9-5 job and everything.  I’ve been booked for a few more speaking/signing tours later this year; I’ll post once I have exact dates/times/details for you.  There’s also a video coming out soon for AOL’s “You’ve Got…” series where you’ll get to see my apartment.  They sent a film crew and everything.  Poor people had to cram all this light/sound equipment in my 300-square-foot studio for three hours to film.  They were very kind and patient with me.  One of them was afraid of big dogs so I had to keep Fez far, far away.  It was an experience!

I’ve been at the apartment for nearly 11 months now.  I’m still living pretty paycheck-to-paycheck, but have done my best to furnish it over the past almost-year on a shoestring budget.  I am nothing if not the master thrifter/Craigslister  :-P  Hope you guys think it’s cute.  It’s kind of got a vintage-y cluttered bookshop air to it, I think.  I’ll post when the vid goes up.

Have a safe holiday and enjoy the fireworks!

I’m Coming North! (And Happy Fuzzy News, Yay!)

I'm Coming North!  (And Happy Fuzzy News; Yay!)

THIS is Spring in Wisconsin?!?!?! Hellz yeah, I'll take it!!!!! Image credit: Phillip Billings, fineartamerica.com

Squee; I’m so excited!  Over the next week and a half, I will be travelling to three Northern areas of the U.S. I’ve never visited before.  So if you’re in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or Sacramento…this is your chance to come see me do a reading/speechy-thingy and/or get your copy of The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness signed (personally addressed, even!  I love writing little special notes/doodles in copies of the book.  I like to shake things up).

Dates and times are now up on the Upcoming Events page.  I’m gonna be all over the place…several Fox Cities Book Festival venues in WI (a university, a couple of libraries), speaking to an awesome-youth-changing-the-world group (California Coalition for Youth) in Sacramento and marching with them to a rally at the State Capitol, and in Pennsylvania I’ll be at the Meeting the Challenge: Educating Homeless Children conference in Harrisburg.

It’s gonna be awesome.  I am SO stoked.  Come hang out with me  :)

* * * * *

OK, a little bit of juicy news in exchange/apology for being in absentia for so long.

I get a lot of people writing very kind letters to me expressing solidarity and asking how stuff is going for me, romantically speaking.  Seeing as how, if you read the book, it could be considered to have ended on something of a bum note (depending how you look at it). I also get a lot of readers telling me their own stories of failed/dramatic/abusive relationships and betrayal.  Which actually makes me feel less alone, and less stupid overall.  Because you know what?  That’s something that’s quite common among individuals who come from abusive/fundamentalist backgrounds.  You aren’t experienced at real life, relationships, and boundaries.  You don’t know what’s considered healthy or normal.  You’re likely to fall in love with the first person (or several people) who show you the slightest modicum of interest.  You’re vulnerable to unhealthy romantic relationships, more so than most.  So all you can do is sort of learn how to do better, bit by bit.

Relationships

Image Credit: QuickSprout.com

A blogger called “NimbyGirl” recently wrote a great, detailed analysis of feminism and chauvinism in The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness.  I was elated that someone GOT IT.  That she picked up on all those more subtle topics, and that the book wasn’t just about being homeless, but about trying to figure out and conquer all of these really socially advanced concepts, having come from a socially stunted background.

I really appreciated her last sentence:  ”She can do a lot better…and she will”.  THAT is exactly what I want to tell every person who has ever written me with his/her own story of love gone terribly wrong.

So this brings me to the juicy news.  I guess you could say that I’ve “done better”.

See, after the fiasco that was my last relationship, I decided not to date for a really long time.  And I stuck to my guns.  For two years, I focused on holding down my job, getting an apartment, spending time with good friends, reading a lot of books, and getting to know myself better.  Getting to the point where I felt comfortable and happy just being alone.  It was great to realize that I didn’t need to be with someone to feel complete.  Maybe I would meet someone, maybe I wouldn’t.  Either way, it was OK.  I now firmly believe that to be essential, no matter who you are.

Four months ago, I met somebody.  We’ll call him J.  I’m not going to give out his full name, so as to retain his privacy, and I probably won’t talk much or at all about our relationship on this blog again, so as to keep from jinxing our personal business, but here are the things that I can tell you:

I wasn’t looking to date.  Neither was he.  Neither of us had dated anybody in quite a while and were comfortable with that.  A mutual friend invited us and five or six other people to dinner.  It wasn’t a set up a blind date, but we sort of shyly noticed one another and ended up hitting it off.  The main thing we had in common, right off the bat, was that we were both raised Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we had both left around the same time.  He was actually a former Bethelite (volunteer at the Watchtower Society’s headquarters…tangential note here:  oh, the irony.  If my sister could see me now.  She always thought SHE would be the one to date a Bethelite, haha.  It’s a stupid prestige thing for the JWs…often titles mean a lot more to them than personalities.  You can be a terrible person, but if you’re an “elder”, “pioneer”, or “Bethelite”, the women will be racing to marry you; guaranteed).

A week later, he emailed and asked me out for coffee.  We took things slow, and are still taking them slow.  We seem to understand one another well due to our similar upbringings and share quite a few personality traits.  My experience with him has been that he is kind, patient, funny, talented, stable, and gregarious.  He is also a feminist (yay!)  Thus far, things seem to remain on an even keel…no unequal power balance, neither person is doing all of the heavy lifting, etc.  I’m increasingly feeling that this is the way things should be.

J. found out early on that I wrote a book, but at my request, he held off reading it until we got to know one another better.  I wanted him to get to know me as I am now, before having to take on all of my past baggage all at once.  When he did finally read it, and the book did not change his opinion of me, I knew that he cares about me for who I am, the good and the bad.  Sometimes I’m still nervous or insecure, due to my former experiences in personal relationships (both family and romantic).  He has been unfailingly understanding and reassuring, so the insecurity lessens day by day.  Learning to trust again, and all that.

We’ve had enough of the bigger conversations to know that we share very similar life goals as well as some of the same interests/and hobbies…though not all of them.  Which is awesome, actually.  We retain our individuality, our own circles of friends and our time to pursue our separate interests.  We hold a lot of the same positions on politics and social issues…but now all of them.  Every now and then we disagree, and I love that we can.  It’s never a big deal; we can discuss and debate this stuff amiably.

Who knows what will happen down the road.  Maybe things will work out and we’ll end up together.  Maybe not (always a possibility.  Always.  I don’t care who you are or who you’re with or how great things seem on their face).  But the best I can hope for is that if they don’t work, at least they not-work in a way that is, for lack of a better word, standard.  Healthier and less destructive.  It’s early days, but there has not been the slightest sign of any bizarrely gothic skeletons in J.’s closet, no secret girlfriends, and definitely no secret babies (we’re both child-free by choice), no bodies in the attic, etc.  Early days, but my experience with him has been, thus far that he’s unilaterally a wonderful person, and very bookish/low-key like me.  So we seem to suit one another.  And I feel that I can be reasonably secure in stating that no matter what happens with us as a couple, it will not end up with police pulling me out of a snowdrift this time  ;)

So there you have it.  If you’ve had bad romantic experiences like I have, I hope some of this helps somewhat.  Look for someone who respects you, who doesn’t manipulate you (even in small ways…what can seem like small and subtle manipulations are often the sign of much deeper problems looming on the horizon).  Look for someone who wants enough of the same things you do to base the foundation of a relationship on, but not so many similarities that you fall victim to the dreaded two-headed-person syndrome and lose all sense of individuality.

Better yet, don’t look for anyone, for a while.  Know yourself inside and out.  Realize that couplehood is nice and all, but you don’t need a man/woman to save you or make you complete.  Only you can do that.  Just have a good time for a while.  The world is an awesome and fascinating place.  Be a good person, do good things, make a difference, make new friends, get to know the friends that you already have even better.  Go to therapy and figure your shit out if that’s something you feel would be helpful.  Stop placing your expectations for happiness and a good life on romance (it’s twee and cliché to do that, anyway.  This isn’t Jerry Maguire.  Nobody’s gonna “complete you”).

Don’t expect happiness to equate to constant euphoria.  You’re still gonna have the same mundane everyday crap to deal with that we all do, and probably sometimes even more than that – more than your fair share.  But you’ll realize that you’re more practiced and better equipped at dealing with them.  You’ll know that, despite the problems we all have, you like and respect yourself.  Then you’ll be ready for a functional, healthy adult relationship if/when it does come.  And it will only add to the happiness that you already discovered was within you all along, right there for the taking.

J. and I are having a lovely time together.  He makes me so happy.  But it’s all the more meaningful because I spent a lot of time re-evaluating my definition of happiness, and then inching closer to obtaining it as an individual, before we ever met.

Serial Killer Murdering Homeless in Orange County, CA

Not at all a pleasant post today, but a necessary one:

Police believe there is a dangerous serial killer on the loose in Orange County, CA targeting homeless people. Three homeless men have already been murdered between Dec. 20 and Dec. 30.

Attacks on the homeless have been on the rise for the past few years and it’s one of the major reasons I was so keen on keeping my identity and location secret while I was initially blogging. (FYI, all three murders took place extremely close to the area I was staying. Like, within a mile or two close. One in a public shopping center.  This is my home turf, people.)

If you’re homeless anywhere, but particularly in Orange County right now, WATCH YOUR BACK.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Try not to be anywhere isolated, especially at night.  Look over this list of safety/survival tips that I posted a couple of years back. Be prepared.  This sick, twisted monster fuck is out there and has not yet been caught and will probably be looking to strike again.  Even if they do catch him, there’s always more out there like him, and homeless people are easy prey – they’re vulnerable and often it’s erroneously assumed that nobody will miss them.  Take care of yourself.

* * * * *

Ugh.  Palate cleanser:

The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness just came out in Australia and New Zealand, and I’ve already received some encouraging emails from very awesome locals.  Australia Associated Press put out a super-lovely article yesterday, also. Gonna be doing several upcoming interviews there, so I’ll post when I know the dates/times (for radio and TV) or when print interviews are released.  Thank you to everybody Down Under for your support and kind words  :)

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Image Credit: edmontonatheists.ca

I wish all of you guys and gals Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Festive Kwanzaa, Pleasant Winter Solstice, or whatever else you do/do not celebrate (dude, I’m just happy to have a few days off work to relax and unwind).  Mostly I just hope that your holiday is filled with happiness and joy and that you forget your troubles for a while  :)

I saw this excellent 60 Minutes story that I would like to share with you.  I loved how brave and articulate the homeless children profiled in this story are.  I hope they have a lovely holiday as well.  I read in an update that following the story, they were offered a full four-year scholarship and that Arielle Metzger wants to be a child-advocacy attorney when she grows up, so I have a feeling their luck is changing.  *Fingers crossed*  In summation, though, these kids kick ARSE.

Read the story and watch the segment here:  Hard Times Generation:  Families Living in Cars

Also, two tiny shameless plugs:

1)  The tGGtH book is coming out in Australia in January!!!  If you’re an Australian reader, look for me on Sunrise with Mel and Kochie on Monday, January 9th (via satellite).  I’m really excited because I’ve seen them on The Chaser’s War on Everything.  I will also be doing some print and radio.  I hope they send me to Oz one day.  I’ve never been, but I can already tell it would be one of my favorite places on Earth.  I want to swim with whale sharks and poke wombats with sticks and such things  ;)

2) Library Journal selected The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness as one of it’s Best Books of 2011, in the Memoir category.  I can’t tell you how honored and humbled I am to be listed among such a slew of brilliant and talented authors, especially Margaux Fragoso (whom I pretty much idolize and met at ALA when we shared time on a literary panel…she was kind enough to sign my copy of her book and put up with my wide-eyed author worship) and Andre Dubus III (whom I’ve never met, but come on, he wrote House of Sand and Fog! That’s pretty much all you gotta say, right?)  Read their books.  Seriously.  Doooooo it.

Have a wonderful holiday and the happiest of New Years, foks  :)

Girls Think Tank Community Picnic!

Girls Think Tank Community Picnic!

Girls Think Tank Founders. Image Credit: GirlsThinkTank.org

 

I am in San Diego right now because I will be speaking at the Girls Think Tank Community Picnic tomorrow (Oct. 15), which will be taking place in Balboa Park from noon to 4:00 p.m.  I’d love to meet you, talk with you, and/or sign a copy of your book (there will be a few copies available for purchase, as well, I believe…like 20 or something).  There will be several homeless services orgs from the San Diego community in attendance, and I’m told that Occupy San Diego may be in the park as well, so this should be very interesting.  One of Girls Think Tank’s major focuses is accessible water and sanitation for all homeless people (the United Nations has declared these basic human rights).  I’m pretty sure that’s something everybody can get behind.

Did a quick segment today on San Diego Living Channel 6 with the very kind and sweet Renee Koch about the picnic tomorrow and also had the privilege to have a phone chat with an über-lovely ladies’ book club in the Los Alamitos/Seal Beach area, which are some of my old stomping grounds because that’s where my mom grew up and we spent a lot of time there while I was a kid.

And then on Sunday (Oct. 16) I’ll be doing a reading/signing/Q&A at the Katie Wheeler Public Library in Irvine at 2:30 p.m., 13109 Old Myford Rd., Irvine, CA  92602.  If you’re in Orange County and you’ve never been to this library, you seriously need to go.  It is fucking adorable.  In this warm, sweet little historic building.  The first time I ever went in there was to drop off some postcards for a South Coast Repertory show, and I did not want to leave (OK, I never want to leave libraries, but this one had an extra-charming je ne sais quois).

I had the absolute best time at the Tustin Public Library reading last week – both the staff and the attendees were just some of the warmest, kindest people I’ve ever encountered.  I’m discovering just how much I love “book people” and want to get to know more of them because they’re among the easiest people for me to relate to and we have endless topics of conversation available once we get on the subject of reading, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to encounter so many lately.  Looking forward to repeating the experience at Katie Wheeler Library.

Quick PSA:  Support your local library, people!  I mean, I know there’s Kindles or Nooks or whatever (still can’t bring myself to buy one) but libraries serve such an important purpose and function in communities far beyond what a Kindle could ever offer me, that I don’t want to live in a world where libraries and used/indie bookstores have become obsolete – and my agent will probably strangle me for saying this (very politely though, as he’s a total sweetheart), because I think I might actually get a higher royalty percentage off of e-books than hard copies…but fuck it, I don’t care.  (*obligatory backpedal* Love you, Chris Schelling.  Please don’t ever leave me).

Next time you’re in a library, tell the librarian that he/she rocks and is appreciated.  Because these are seriously awesome people doing seriously awesome work.

* * * * *

That’s about it for now.  Here is a photo of a mastiff being used as a footrest:

 

Sleep, my minion.