Jan 062015
 

After a long delay, due primarily to the changes in Scribd.com’s use policies, I’m happy to announce the release of the 2013 Ropenspace Notes, currently only available via dropbox:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gifbsqrzgqj598g/AADy5yuNqBR3a7HOn4VrhBcha?dl=0

Ropenspace2013.pdf is the complete set of notes.
Ropenspace2013-Cover.pdf is a 2-page spread of the cover, for printing on Tabloid paper
Ropenspace2013-Inside.pdf is the complete set of notes, without the cover page.

Please send any comments, correction notes, additional content, or suggestions for other distribution opportunities to Master So’N’So, via the links below.

Dec 252014
 

A guide for getting to and around my place, and of various sundry things visitors might wish to know.

Arriving, including Parking

Arriving By Foot

Main Entrance, Parking, and the closest restaurants and store

Main Entrance, Parking, and the closest restaurants and store

You can look for street parking, but if you have not performed the appropriate Rituals Of Appeasement to the Chicago Parking Gods, I do not recommend this.

The main entrance of my (large, black, triangular) skyscraper is the precise intersection of Balmoral and Sheridan. At the main lobby, tell the front door clerk that you are here to see me, using my legal name, and my unit number, which you should have and be sure to tell him that **YOU ARE ON THE LIST.** He will check the list, and then you will be allowed into the actual elevators leading up to my condo. Otherwise, he will have to call me to obtain permission to let you in.

Express elevator to the my floor. Right out of the elevator.

Parking In My Garage

There is parking underneath my building.

The main entrance of my (large, black, triangular) skyscraper is the precise intersection of Balmoral and Sheridan. In order to access the parking, go NORTH of my building, past the little plaza, turn right into the driveway between the two buildings. At the stop sign, turn right to the motion-activated garage door, wait for it to open after it detects your car, and head UNDER my building.

Pull up to the valet booth. Give them your keys, tell them when you will next need the car and that you have a resident voucher. GET YOUR TICKET.

If you’re arriving while I am unavailable, the next bit is a wee bit tricky, you should ask the garage attendants for help. The non-resident elevator leads you to a weird commercial space. RIGHT out of the elevator, follow signs leading to the main lobby. It will be confusing.

The Basics

Network: baklava
Password: honeynuts

The  living room H/A/C control is a fan control switch (Off, High, Med, Low). It is located by the computer desk, and by the nightstand in the bedroom, underneath a flip-open panel on the dark chocolate console.. If it is below 50 outside, it will generate heat. Above 60, and it will generate cool air. It has no sensors to detect the current temperature and is entirely manual. Frankly, it’s a bit of a pain.

The curtain control is on the opposite side of the window, near the two mirrors and the bass speaker. Use the string, not the beaded chain.

Note that the hammock is rated at roughly 250lbs. Two very tiny people could possibly snuggle in, but it’s generally a one-person seat.

The Bathroom

First aid supplies is located in the bottom right drawer.

There is no fan switch. There is a constant fan-like effect going on that takes advantage of air pressure differentials. It’s kind of neat.

There are a variety of scented candles, and a collection of lighters in a small cup on the sink. Please feel free to indulge in their use for ambiance or odor control.

There is also a cup of spare combs on the countertop. The left hand drawers under the sink contain a variety of supplies to make the home female-friendly, including: disposable razors, hair ties, tampons, pads and panty liners, toothbrushes, etc. There is also a rather complete set of mani/pedicure supplies including nail polish. About 80% of the time, my studio makeup supplies are stored at my home, and can be used if you have forgotten yours.

In the shower, the left knob operates the bottom two shower heads. The right knob operates the top shower head. The center dial controls the temperature. If you’re showering during non-peak hours, you effectively have a limitless supply of hot water. Please use the squeegee on the glass after you are done to reduce water stains, which you will be able to see I am clearly bad at dealing with.

The top of the stool is removable. You can find shaving cream, along with additional types of shampoo, conditioner, etc.

The Kitchen

I recommend drinking water from the fridge tap or the pitcher in the fridge.

Coffee and tea supplies are above the coffee maker and electric kettle.

Check the glass cabinets for dishes. Utensils are under the stand mixer, at the back of the top drawer. Steak knives are in the middle drawer below that.

I’ll add a few more captioned photos later for if you’re planning to cook. Until then, just ask me where stuff is.

Leaving

It will take approximately 10-15 minutes to account for the elevator and valet parking issues. Plan accordingly.

As you exit, the door is probably unlocked. Every knob on it unlocks/opens by twisting it in the clockwise direction.

If exiting to the street, you want to turn right toward the express elevators, and go to the Lobby.

If you parked under my building, then make sure you use the parking stickers which I will have left out for you somewhere visible, usually on the counter by the front door.

  • Use one(1) ticket for less than six(6) hours,
  • two(2) tickets for less than eighteen(18) hours and
  • three(3) tickets for overnight.

To get to the parking garage, the turn left out of my door, and then enter the first door on the right to get to the freight/service elevators. Take them to 1P. You’ll be at the beginning of a twisty hallway. Go forward until you find a handicap-accessible door button. Push it and then walk through the doors that open and you will be back at the valet.

Amenities & Attractions

You can see the nearest beach from my window. I leave it as a minor intellectual exercise to figure out how to get there. I have a go-bag with beach towels and frisbees in the closet by the front door.

My building has a pool, hot tub, gender-separated saunas, gym, and a fabulous sun deck complete with gas grills (must rent in advance). Glass containers are not allowed, and they are not open 24 hours, unfortunately.

There is a convenience store in the building and another one across the driveway that is open slightly later. Just beyond that is Tedinos, which is an excellent source of TRUE PIZZA (Chicago Style) and other noshables. I DO NOT RECOMMEND the Chinese place across the street. It is below average quality.

The nearest grocery store is Mariano’s, one block straight south of us, Sheridan & Foster.

The next closest retail area is Bryn Mawr, north to the next stop light, then west a few blocks. Zanzibar’s is a great sandwich shop, Nookies serves delicious American cusine, and there’s also Indian, Vietnamese, Greek, sushi, and Mexican (the taquiera on Bryn Mawr & Broadway is way tastier and less expensive than That Little Mexican Cafe).

Andersonville is straight west of my place, about 8 blocks / 1 mile. Walking distance if you’re up for it. Lots of great restaurants and nightlife. I recommend Hamburger Mary’s (straight west on Balmoral to Clark) and Kopi Cafe (you will love the mediterranean style seating!) at 5317 N Clark St. For drinking, my favorite is Simone’s.

Little India is roughly at California and Devon. About 10-15 minutes drive north by north west. A good GPS-plug in is the address 2610 W Devon Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60659, which will take you to the best Indian grocery store in town, and within sight of the Idols/Ritual Goods/Kitchenware shop. I particularly recommend Sukhadia’s for snacks and sweetmeats, and Mysore Woodlands for high-end dining.

The Studio Space

My photography studio is located at 1600 S Halsted. It’s about a 30 minute drive from my home, barring traffic, which gets quite bad during peak hours.

The other address you might be interested in can be easily found using the GPS coordinates for Rangoli (2421 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657), which also happens to be an Indian restaurant.

Sep 232014
 

I am lost in the woods. I am caught out in the tall grass. I stepped on a landmine, no, a bear trap. I stepped in a bear trap, pried my leg free and now I find myself, limping and alone in a deep valley hidden amongst the mountains of madness.

I am, for the less poetically inclined, heartbroken.

Heartbreak is a remarkably different thing when you’re pushing 40, a divorcee, when you’re poly and have spent a decade of your life as a commitment-phobe playing the nickel-ante version of Poly Pokemon. Heartbreak is a familiar chasm of despair. I know when the brief respites of sunlight will come. I can see scratches in the walls from my previous attempts to scrabble out. I do not hasten down the dark corridors of regret.

I may be lost, but I have been lost this way before.

Sometimes, I come to a crossroads in my grief, in my yearning to clutch at precious things pulled beyond my grasp. So far, they have been familiar crossroads, and it is not a choice of trying something different this time. It is a choice of which way to walk *again.*

Shall I take the low road and protest her flaws and faults, scream violent promises in the dark and empty coldness of my bed? No, I haven’t the strength just now, and the path leads to the same way as this other choice. Besides, so much of the language of angry rejection is steeped in misogyny, and I grew tired of spewing angry overly-inclusive epithets long ago.

Is it the high road for me, then?

I could split the difference and push my way into the thicket, try and forge a new path down the middle, but then I would have to constantly watch my footing, lest I slip and fall to the low road or even beyond.

Perhaps, some coldly analytical, mirthlessly cynical part of my mind suggests, I could just fall to my knees right here, paralyzed with indecision. Just here, in the twin indents mark where my knees have fallen so many times before.

Sometimes, I think about setting up camp, right here, in this country full of ghosts and shades of recrimination. Oh, I know that if I forge on ahead, I’ll find these very same shades, only less bitter, less angry, eager to show me the path ahead and remind me that I am worthy of love, that I have struggled in earnest and that although we parted ways, it was not because I was less than some mythical Other. I know that those reminders lay ahead. I’m just not there yet.

I’m not there yet, and I don’t know that I feel like getting there. I don’t know that, given a choice down all these familiar paths from heartbreak to wounded to healed to trying to find love again, that I want to particularly try any of them.

I could set up a little campsite, right here. Dig myself a lean-to, or a grave. I could just let myself dwell in bitterness and anger and incomprehension.

I think these things, as I almost always think these things when I walk down this stretch of it, and before I can decide, I see that I have already walked on. “Shelters,” I think. “That’s what I should really be making along these paths.”

Tiny, solidly built shelters. Sanctuaries from the rain and needless extra suffering. Stuff it full of medical supplies for my gorram bleeding heart. It would take time, though, and the belief that I was going to walk this way again.

Somehow, on this familiar journey, I can never quite bring myself to believe this. Oh, certainly, sometimes I think the road is endless and I despair of ever breaking through the canopy of unspoken regrets that keep the road dark and full of stumbling blocks. But never, while I walk the path back from heartbreak, do I manage to say convincingly, “Oh, I’ll get better and someday I’ll fall in love again, and when she breaks my heart, I’ll get back to this spot in just a day or two.”

It used to be that I would keep an eye out for others walking this same road. I’d convince them to spend a night or three with me, and share warmth, fluids and the desire to heal. But I just can’t bring myself to make that mistake again. I used to wonder why, in the movies, exiles from wartorn cities never lent each other a helping hand, but now I understand the weariness that they felt.

I pause at this thought, wondering if this entire gorram metaphorical forest is actually some bomb-blasted city of dreams that I’m trying to escape from, instead of a forest I’m working my way through.

Soon enough, I will get to a high point. Someplace where I get enough signal past my own gorram noise that I can reach out and connect with a friend. They will ask how I am doing, and I will tell them. My voice will be a tired monotone, and I will recite an empty list of facts.

I am eating at least one meal a day.
I am getting outside during daylight.
I am spending time with friends.
I am not drinking and driving.
Am I daily drinking to excess? Well, define “excess,” please.
Don’t worry, I’ll stop. Eventually.

Yes, I am getting my shit done. Bills payed. Commitments met.

It’s all bullshit, of course. I can say that I am eating, but the truth is that I am waiting by the phone. I can say that I have left my house, but the truth is that I am waiting for the phone to ring. I can put my body in the physical space that my friends occupy, but I’m not Here.

I can make metaphors about journeys and forests and walking through darkness, but the truth is that I, meaning the most real part of me, am still having that last conversation. Over and over again, the words that we said and variations I could have tried instead. As if I could fix it all in one last effort. As if finding the exact right way to phrase my feelings would have changed everything.

I can make all the metaphors about growth, healing and taking the good from the bad, and I can make them because I know that someday I’ll be better, and these things will be true.

But the truth is that right at this moment, I am sitting in the dark, clinging to my regrets like they have some kind of value. Like they’re worth more than the mistakes I made and never owned up to. Like they are some kind of true and accurate representation of the inexplicable validation that is Love. I am sitting in the dark and I am clinging to my regrets.

I know it is pointless. I know it won’t help me move on. I know that my friends think I am torturing myself pointlessly.

That’s just how I do this, okay?

Trust me.

I’ve done this before.

Jul 092014
 

Note: Posting this here because I typed out this giant essay on a Facebook comment, and there was some kind of network error.

I think that we (Bryan and I) are exploring the divide between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Bryan, you seem to be suggesting that what is important is what your beliefs about the True Nature of the Universe(tm) are, and that there is some sort of advantage to being on the right team when it comes to picking your religious group. (Since that view is foreign to me, it’s likely that my description of your viewpoint may come off as dismissive — it’s not meant to belittle your position, but rather to demonstrate how my perspective differs from yours).

As someone who believes in orthopraxy, the basic currency unit of my faith is that God cares about what we do and how we act, not WHY we do things. I believe that God understands that we struggle between our conflicting desires, that sometimes we don’t want to be The Good Guy, that sometimes its hard to respect other people’s civil rights, that I will have days when I do not argue with my beloved from a place of compassion and faith. I believe — or rather, I *have faith* that God doesn’t mind that internal struggle, and judges us on whether or not we muster up the courage to be good people regardless of those circumstances, and that our afterlife experience will be an opportunity to work on further improving ourselves in the areas we did poorly in this time ’round the Merry Go Round.

I think that it’s important to note that this is a personal belief, that orthopraxy is my CHOICE about FAITH and its impact on my life and the lives of those around me. Not all Hindus believe this way. My mother, for example, believes in doctrinal practices. She thinks that if she prays when she’s told to pray, and shows up for the festivals, and sings the hymns you’re supposed to sing, that makes her a Good Hindu(tm).

Since I believe that what I do is more important that why I do it, it doesn’t matter to me what groups I support or associate with, EXCEPT for how membership in that group encourages or discourages Right Action.

Membership in a particular faith-based organization inherently causes conflict (because, hey, conflict is the nature of the universe) between your social, spiritual and physical duties. They are social organizations, and they create political situations. As organizations, they choose doctrine which they believe will encourage spiritual growth among their membership. That is why it is important to have a multitude of conflicting faith-based organizations — to provide a variety of options for the spiritual growth of all the different people out there.

That last paragraph is pretty in-line with “general Hindu belief,” although it’s tricky to say some things like that because there are several other important distinctions between Hinduism and Christianity which seem to be part of what you’re struggling with, Bryan. Notably:

* Christian Churches are hierarchical structures, with a clear line of power and responsibility leading from a central authority down to successive stages, ultimately coming down to a priest or pastor, who holds power and responsibility over a particular congregation.

* Hindu temples and religious organizations are non-hierarchical, and independent of each other. In America, where Hinduism is a minority religion, this is harder to see, but in India, there is a clear division between temples maintained by brahmins (which provide the opportunity to perform artha, your spiritual obligations to treat God like he’s a cool guy you want to show up to your parties), and religious organizations (I forget the term for them) which study the writings of theologians (swamis) and encourage the practices which enlighten your soul. These organizations are typically fairly grassroots, and can be vaguely grouped into “schools of thought,” but we don’t have anything akin to the Catholic Pope.

* Christianity teaches that contact with the divine is primarily managed by an mediating third party (ie, the priest). Although there is theoretically room for an individual to experience connection with divinity unaided, in practice there are extremely few cases which are deemed authentic divine experience, and they are subject to organizational scrutiny and approval.

* Hinduism teaches that contact with the divine is actually going on all the time with everyone, and that there is a basic set of practices which anyone can practice on their own in order to gain a greater understanding of their ongoing connection with the divine. In other words, Hinduism believes that unaided, unsupervised divine experience is happening all the time, and there are a couple hundred schools that can help you achieve that if you’re interested — let the buyer beware.

* Christianity accepts only one book as an authentic religious text.

* Hinduism has, quite literally, thousands of religious texts, including the Bible (although, admittedly, we tend to think it’s poorly edited). You’re encouraged to find some of those texts to be ludicrous and off the mark.

So [deep breath], hopefully all of that will help to inform your understanding of what I say next:

> …if I first say that I sincerely believe that admission to heaven requires baptism, but then later say that another person’s belief that admission to heaven only requires God’s grace is equally valid, am I not impliedly undermining the first statement that I sincerely believe that admission to heaven requires baptism?

Yes. Absolutely true. Because you’re making generalized statements about what OTHER PEOPLE need to do in order to get to heaven. And mind you, there are Hindus out there (like my mother) who will argue over what OTHER PEOPLE need to do also.

But I don’t make those sorts of arguments, because I don’t believe I have any right to tell another person what they need to do in order to achieve spiritual salvation.

At best, I might talk about why *I* chose to undergo a baptism (or a hatha yoga practice, or a monastic retreat, or a flesh hook ritual, etc etc) and what that experience did FOR ME; how that baptismal experience felt for me, and why it turned out to be the experience it was on my journey towards a more compassionate life. If I saw someone who seemed to be stuck in a rut that I found familiar, I might encourage them to explore engaging in a milestone ritual akin to my baptism, and would view that conversation as an opportunity to explore my own spiritual needs in this moment, and examine why I felt inclined to encourage them to follow one particular path over another.

> This raises a pair of related questions: can one be Christian if one doesn’t believe in the divinity of Christ; and can one be Hindu if one doesn’t believe in iterative reincarnation? Or, can I be Hindu if I believe that I’m finding spiritual truth through Christ?

While I can’t tell you what the requirements for your religion are, as far as Hinduism goes, Swami Vivekananda is quite famously quoted as once having said, “There are only two requirements for being a Hindu: You have to believe in the existence of a Divine Being, and you have to like that He or She exists. Everything after that is just gravy.”

> …[begs the question of] whether strict adherence to the idea that “everyone’s spiritual journey has some validity” requires surrendering the Hindu label. Otherwise, isn’t he claiming that Hinduism has the uniquely correct view of spiritual truth?

Strict adherence to a lax set of parameters? I think you’re missing the whole “I don’t judge other people’s paths” point. Again, you’re confusing prescriptivist and descriptivist labeling habits.

Think of it this way: Where do I live?

The answer to that lies partially in who is asking the question, and where we are when you ask me that. If we’re in Germany, then I tell you I live in America. Closer in, and I might tell you “Illinois,” or “Northern Illinois” or “Chicago.” If you’re actually in Chicago with me, I might tell you what neighborhood I live in. If it mattered to the discussion, I might give you the nearest major intersection, or my exact street address.

Similarly, when talking to a Christian who needs me to “briefly overview the basic tenets of your religion,” I am a Hindu. But within that larger label are many smaller labels. I believe in a specific set of religious texts, and I worship a specific set of God/Avatars (loosely analogous to the practice of worshipping Saints). I engage in a specific set of practices that help me maintain a daily sense of spiritual growth, and there are other practices I hope to engage in someday once I feel I am spiritually ready for them. Each of those carry additional labels that I would use to describe myself to someone who understood their meaning.

I use those labels to describe what has and has not worked for me in my spiritual journey.

I don’t really care what labels other people use to describe those beliefs. So if it helps you to understand my beliefs as “similar to UUA,” then go for it. You’re losing a lot of nuance in that transcription error, but the data loss will only matter if you try to dig deeper into what I actually believe, and besides, YOUR labels are meant to help YOU understand things. They do not “describe” me.

And really, at the end of the day, I believe that the point of all of this is how it impacts the way you treat other people today and tomorrow. Any discussion of an afterlife is really just about what sort of carrot I dangle in front of my nose to get me to move forward in the direction I want to get this stubborn ass to move in.

Jul 112013
 

“You know. That guy? The one on your couch, who’s always being cool to women and then bragging about it?”
“You mean the couchsurfing feminist blogger?”
“Yeah. Him. I tried to hook him up with your roommate.”
“How’d that go?”
“Horrible. I don’t even know their names yet.”

 Posted by at 1:54 am
Jul 112013
 

People often ask me, “Okay, but then once I’ve got them tied up, what do I do?”

Okay, first, some basic things you can do:

  • Beat them, kick them, punch them, pinch them, slap them
  • Torture them with violet wand, tens unit, etc
  • use them as furniture: foot rest, table to hold your book/crafts, drink holder, etc
  • simulated non-consensual sexual activity
  • Force them to do chores/run errands and then laugh at them while they try
  • jerk off while watching them try to escape from the bondage. All that wiggling!

Conceptually, think about it this way:
Once you’ve put them in bondage, you’ve done the thing that they wanted. You are STILL doing the thing they want you to do. You are accumulating credit on the “for him/for me” scale. While they’re in bondage, you are MORE free to do whatever you feel like to them, because as long as those chains are on, you are actively doing something that gets them off.

Plus, they’re really helpless. Let yourself be inquisitive. How bendy IS the human ear? Does he really need to be able to flex his big toe in order to walk? Where do his lips attach? Do his teeth wiggle? Does he have cavities? Are they attached solidly to that tooth? Now’s your chance to really get to know your partner as a human being.

What the fuck is he going to do to stop you from finding out? He’s chained up.

 Posted by at 1:53 am