Josh Bowman Learned a Lot About His Family in California
Note: I recently flew from Toronto to California with my parents for a week to visit my sister and attend my cousin’s wedding.
- The main way I often deal with aggression or conflict is by shutting down and, often, not speaking. It is a sub-conscious defence mechanism. I want to defuse conflicts. So if I’m sitting in the backseat of the car, and I’m not talking for three hours while an argument over how long it takes to get to Big Trees is going on, that is the reason why.
- When you think “drag show”, you probably think of something like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Or this. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In San Francisco, however, drag is at a whole other level. It is performance art, complete with props, plots, and multi-media. I saw a show that blew my mind. It was funny, tongue-in-cheek, dark, strange, and brilliant. This is an example of the kind of ironic and strange choices that were made. The crowd was a mix of every single type of person I could think of…thugs, hipsters, old, young, black, white, straight, gay, male, female, trans. At one point, one of the performers poured a drink on a guy’s head, and smashed the glass on stage. Oh, and I saw the show with my sister.
- San Francisco is a city of micro-climates. Every neighbourhood is different. It might be misty in Inner Sunset, and bright and sunny in the Mission. It is a weird experience, cause you never know how to dress. Judging by the locals, I think you are supposed to wear a fleece jacket, environmentally-conscious pastel coloured pants, and sandals. Judging by my parents, you are supposed to wear cameras, large hats, backpacks, and carry maps everywhere. Judging by me, you are supposed to wear dirty jeans, a purple t-shirt, and a perpetual scowl.
- I find my family embarrassing in all social occasions. At the movies. At a wedding. When they meet my friends. At a restaurant. I know I am too old to feel this way, but I do.
- The place where my grandmother is buried is a few miles down a dirt road from Rail Road Flat. She has a small, flat headstone, on a plot right beside her last husband Bud in a nearly abandoned graveyard in Calaveras County (one of the poorest, most rural counties in the state). When we got there, somebody had put tacky plastic flowers on the headstone. It hardly reflects the tumultuous, vibrant, and long life she lived.
- I have cousins who live in Davis who are educated, artistic, politically-savvy, and as politically liberal as they come. I love these cousins, and their furious rants about the political system, coupled with corny jokes, sarcastic comments, and knowledge of every good place to eat in and around Sacramento and Davis. I also have relatives who are kind-hearted, business-savvy, philosophical, and sharp. They are politically conservative, and I love them too. They have always reached out and taken in our family when we have come to stay. I avoid talking politics, and it works out alright. I also have relatives who are mean-spirited, uneducated racists and misogynists. They hate Mexicans and treat women terribly. In some cases, I have relatives who are abusive to their families. Sometimes, they come to large family events, and we all uncomfortably socialize and gossip (I don’t do much gossiping in this case, mostly because I don’t know enough). I don’t love these relatives…I just have to work around them.
- Family is not easy. We know each other so well. We set each other off. I don’t care if you are the Dalai Lama…when your dad asks you the same question ten times, it makes you want to punch a hole through a goat (I assume the Dalai Lama is always around a few goats…). I can’t say I have a great relationship with my family, but it’s on my list of things to do.
- I have at least two cousins who have married men twice their ages. I blame Shabba Ranks.
- No matter where you go in North America, you should be able to find a pick-up basketball game with a bunch of sweaty older white guys. One of those guys is guaranteed to not be wearing a shirt. At least one other of those guys is going to be way too intense for a pick-up basketball game.
- One thing you can always talk about with your family is food that you are currently eating, and how it reminds you of food that you ate before. We ate a lot of food together, mostly to get talking points.