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smoke and mirrors

autumn has landedMel has decided to round off every week with Facial Hair Fridayit is one of my life quests to sample all the Thai food carts in downtown PortlandThis week has been Productive with a capital P. I shan’t regale you with the details, just know it involved a lot of reading and discussion. I have two midterm exams next week, one in Astronomy and one in Spanish. To prepare for the Spanish examen, we played a team game in class today – Mantequilla de Cacahuete (Peanut Butter) versus Piratas (Pirates). The game involved darting across the room to slap words written on the whiteboard, and toward the end it got pretty violent. I’m not sure I actually have a better handle on vocabulario or direct object pronouns than I did before the game, but it was undeniably fun to actually move around, since usually we’re pretty sedentary in Spanish class.

“awwww!”AIDS Walk in Pioneer Square before things got underwayYesterday morning I received an exciting email from SPASM. That’s the Subcommittee for Petitions, Appeals, and Student-designed Majors, and is also possibly my favourite acronym at Lewis & Clark. SPASM approved my self-designed major application! That means that I am officially a Gender Studies major. As one of my advisors said to me in a congratulatory email: Huzzah!

Mel and her incredible mohawk at the AIDS Walk, which started at Pioneer Squarea child standing near me at the AIDS Walk was wearing thisThe Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence show up at a lot of Portland functions looking mysterious and awesomeShohei and Alison performing “Blowin’ in the Wind” as we AIDS walkedLast Sunday was the annual Portland AIDS Walk, a three-mile trek across the Morrison and Hawthorne bridges and along the waterfront. This is the third or fourth year I’ve done the AIDS Walk, and we had the biggest Lewis & Clark team we’ve ever had – about 20 kids, which is pretty decent considering the AIDS Walk almost always lands smack in the middle of our Fall Break. The AIDS Walk is sort of like the laid-back lovechild of a gay pride parade and Race for the Cure, except, you know, HIV/AIDS-oriented rather than breast cancer-oriented. Shohei and Alison, two of our incredibly talented first-year students, serenaded us as we walked, with Shohei on guitar and Alison covering vocals. Shohei is such a great guitarist that he’s already released an album (called Waterways) which you can buy on iTunes; Alison is one of the newest members of Momo and the Coop, one of our a cappella groups, which just released its sophomore album, Joh Eh Ba Dop, this week. Click here to download it for free. I’ve listened to it practically nonstop for the last three consecutive days.

All in the Drag Family flierToday after my Spanish class, I attended the October Gender Studies Department brownbag, All in the Drag Family. Three of Portland’s most beloved Drag Queens strutted into the classroom in full drag splendor, folded themselves into our tiny desk-chairs, and spent an hour telling all in attendance about their glamourous lives as Queens. I had no idea that there is such a community basis to being a Drag Queen – each Queen has a “Drag mother” who first “adopted” her and taught her how to paint her face, fix her hair, and design her clothing, and then in turn the new Queen adopts her own daughters. The part of the conversation that I found most interesting was when one of the Queens was explaining how for Queens, their drag persona is an exaggeration of femininity, it’s all smoke-and-mirrors, whereas for most women in our culture, it is a norm and an expectation to “put on face” and “do hair” every day – women do not get to take off their femininity at the end of the day the way Queens do. All in all, it was a fascinating discussion, incorporating about seven hundred repetitions of the word “fabulous,” of course.

This weekend I’m off to Lincoln City for the Platt-Howard-Hartzfeld RA Staff Retreat. We depart right after dinner and return Sunday evening. I still need to pack!

As always, my email address is You know what to do with it.

16 October 2009