Read, Read, and Read Some More

Oh my goodness, I’m so behind updating this. I may be fully vaxxed, but it’s still an extra good time for reading since all the ding-dongs refusing to get vaccinated are making it very difficult to get back to normal. Anywho, here’s run-down of the books I read in February, March, and April. (These are my opinions. If I didn’t like a book, but it sounds interesting to you, read it anyway. I am not the authority on good books).

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This book is crazy and was my first real dive into the Horror genre. It’s a bit of a slow build, but when everything starts to unravel, it is nothing that you expect it to be. The lead character is witty and smart and the exact kind of female lead we all want to root for. It’s very driven by visual descriptors and explores race and eugenics. It’s very nightmare-ish but in the best way possible.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

I read The Warmth of Other Suns last year and was blown away. Truly one of the most important books I’ve read. This book absolutely met that mark, as well. We don’t typically associate the word “caste” with the United States, but Wilkerson eloquently and brilliantly argues that Black Americans continue to be the lowest tier of the American caste system using the history of the Indian caste system and Nazi Germany as the backdrop of her argument. It’s a must-read.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

If you’re a person who asks yourself a lot of “what if” questions, this is a lovely read. What if I had chosen that path instead of this one? How would life be different and would it be better? What would be missing from that life that I have in my current life. Be aware that there are themes of depression, suicide, and substance abuse.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

I wanted to continue to explore the Horror genre with this one, and I wanted to like this book so much. It didn’t click for me. I was excited to read something with Native American representation because I value learning about different cultures through more than just non-fiction works, but I found the story a little hard to follow and a little slow in parts. A lot of people love this book, so totally give it a try if it sounds compelling.

Nick by Michael Farris-Smith

Another swing and a miss for me, but I did it to myself. I love The Great Gatsby. Love, love, love it. When I saw that someone wrote a prequel about Nick, my gut reaction was, “Why would someone do that?” I read this mostly out of curiosity, and my instincts were correct. Turns out the most interesting part about Nick was always people he knows. This book is about Nick was before Gatsby, yet the most captivating characters are the people he bumps into along the way and not him. It’s well-written, occasionally even beautifully written, but I ultimately hate that it exists.

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

Ali Wong is one of the funniest women in comedy, in my opinion. This book is a series of letters to her daughters. She tells stories about her childhood, the Asian-American experience, dating, marriage, career, and motherhood in the most Ali Wong way possible. It’s funny and honest and gross in all the best ways.

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

While I fully and completely reject the premise of this book (spoiler alert) because there is no god damn way in 2021 America that any woman with any social awareness would invite a possibly mentally disturbed man – or any man for that matter – that she has just met into her car, and then her home FOR MULTIPLE DAYS. No way. That sounds like an excellent way for your friends and family to be interviewed about your mysterious disappearance and murder on a future episode of Dateline. But, that’s kind of the point of the book, I guess. Sometimes we have to trust and let our guard down to help and be helped. I liked this book. It was sweet and lovely despite the fact that it is fully unrealistic and would never, ever happen.

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

It took me a bit to get into this one, but I really liked it. The characters are what drive this book. They’re fun and have interesting quirks and are developed well by the author. The plot was hard for me to grab on to at first, but by the end, it was easy to appreciate the ways that the characters’ lives intersected and the connections that were created.

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

I am the target audience for this book. It’s for millennial women who have been or currently are a little too into social media. A lackluster writer gig, lying on the internet, and a desire to escape your life – it’s all there. I wouldn’t call it a page turner, but it’s quirky and funny, and not like anything I’ve read.

Just Like You by Nick Horny

I have read all of Nick Hornby’s novels, and most I have really loved. Unsurprisingly, About a Boy, High Fidelity, and Juliet, Naked are my top 3 (those were also the ones that became widely released movies). I also loved A Long Way Down and State of the Union. However, this book really wanted to have a point, but it didn’t. A white woman around 40 and a 22-year-old black man fall in love and turns out that despite all the reasons they shouldn’t work, they do… blah, blah, blah. Any explorations of race were lazy and lacked substance and oh my god-what if the young man wants kids someday, what then? The lady will be shriveled up and barren soon! It was vaguely enjoyable, but I don’t think Nick Hornby (very white guy) was the person to tell this particular story.

Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway

This is not a genre I typically read, but Harrison and I saw this guy on Bill Mahar (I know, gag) and he was a spitfire, as they say. I love when someone can explain shit I don’t get (the stock market) to me in a way that is understandable. Lots of interesting stuff in this book about where we are because of COVID and where we could go from here. There’s also a sound argument against free college, which I have historically been in favor of. It’s interesting and accessible to the average idiot. Definitely recommend.

Outlawed by Anna North

A Wild West gang of barren and outcasted lady-robbers led by a non-binary cowperson. This book is fun as hell, while also exploring gender, sexuality, and mental health in an unexpected context. It leaves you feeling hopeful, and also wondering, ‘Why are men?’ Okay, not all men, but like, a lot of them. Loved this.

Currently reading: You’ll Never Guess What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

Be my friend on Goodreads and you won’t have to wait three months to see what I’m reading. And also, please for the love of god get vaccinated. She didn’t give us scientists for no reason, ya dopes.

Are You NOt Exhausted?

I have left my house so infrequently in the last year. When I did, it was usually to go for a neighborhood walk or to the grocery store. I used to love grocery shopping until the pandemic made it stressful. But even in the last year, it’s been the one place we needed to go regularly and one of the only trips out of the house that gave us a small sense of normalcy. Yesterday, we were reminded again that no mundane, everyday activity is safe.

Maybe it’s the weight of the entire last year, but fuck, I’m tired. I’m god damn exhausted. Our glimmer of hope in the pandemic is immediately quelled by the reality of what normal is in this country. “Back to normal” sucks. I don’t want to go back to normal.

I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life. Columbine. Aurora. Now Boulder. Not to mention a whole bunch of other preventable tragedies in between like STEM School and Arapahoe High School.

We have a problem. We have had a problem. And the most frustrating part is that it’s a fixable problem. STOP LETTING ANY IDIOT WITH A PULSE HAVE A GUN. This isn’t complicated.

Why do we continue to do this? I will never understand. When are we going to decide to stop? Seriously, what’s it going to take?

I’m Fat, You’re Fat. Let’s Get Vaccinated.

Hello. This is me. My whole body that I dragged up to 10,000 ft back in August. I worked hard for that view.

May be an image of Whitney Bradford, standing, outerwear, tree, lake and mountain

And here is my BMI as of a year ago.

(It’s definitely higher now because I’ve gained 5-10 pounds during this long, dark winter.)

According to the state of Colorado, having a BMI over 30 constitutes a high-risk health condition called obesity, and this means that I will be vaccine eligible starting on March 19th.

BMI is an extremely flawed metric that is in no way indicative of a person’s overall health. It’s literally a math problem involving height and weight. Do you know any meatheads who are, I don’t know, really into Crossfit and wear their shirts a size too small to make their muscles look bigger? Guess what? Their BMI probably also says they’re obese. Because BMI is very much bullshit.

As fully stupid as this measurement is, I will absolutely use it to get the vaccine, and you should, too. If your state says you are eligible, you are not skipping the line, and you are not taking someone else’s spot. We’re trying to vaccinate 330,000,000 million people here (give or take).

And please don’t get in your head about it. While I have definitely never been a small person, I am healthy and pretty active (although starting a new, more demanding job at the onset of winter, when it’s dark before 5pm has not been helpful for my overall activity level), and I am fortunate that I have a doctor I trust who always looks at the big picture and not just my weight. But she is not every doctor. It is unfortunately not out of the realm of possibilities that weight could impact someone’s quality of care should they get sick.

Trust me, I get it. My gut reaction was to say “Fuck you, state of Colorado. I’m not high risk. I’m young and healthy damnit!” It’s taken me a long time to develop an appreciation for my body and to (mostly) ignore what metrics like BMI tell me about myself.

And that was also the reaction of people I told about this. Multiple people said something along the lines of, “I don’t want to fuck someone else over, so I’ll wait.”

Okay a couple of things. First of all, what are you actually going to do then? Because if your plan is to just sit around and think you’re helping by keeping one appointment open, you’re giving yourself a whole lot of undeserved credit. Waiting if you are eligible could actually hurt people, and your solitary open appointment will not create some seismic shift that allows all the most vulnerable people to suddenly get the shot. So respectfully, get the hell over yourself. Harrison and I spent the last week helping someone he works with who is over 60 and has asthma find a vaccine appointment. I get that this process has not been ideal or easy.

If you’re concerned about equity gaps or more vulnerable people not getting vaccinated, then good grief, help them or pressure your local officials to initiate more community outreach and vaccine sites where it matters. But make yourself an appointment, too. It might take a while to find one, anyway.

Second, there has been plenty of guilt and shame in the last year. Am I supporting local businesses enough? Am I donating to the right causes? Should I be wearing 2 masks instead of one now? And is it okay to still like Justin Timberlake’s music? So stop shaming people you don’t think are “deserving” or feeling guilty yourself about finding an appointment for yourself. Getting the vaccine means you are actively becoming part of the solution.

It’s a shot in an arm, and ultimately that is a good thing.

No Thanks, Dierks

Here’s a summary of nights I’ve spent in the LoDo area of Denver that I either have mostly forgotten or would like to:

  • When I was working for an entertainment website in college, I was assigned to PHOTOGRAPH and then WRITE ABOUT a bikini contest at Jackson’s. Presumably, it was a little easier for the bosses to stomach the idea of sending a nerdy girl with glasses to such an event rather than literally any of the male freelancers. While I was most definitely a nerdy girl with glasses, and tried extremely hard to make that clear to any patron I encountered, I was also still *checks notes* a woman who was perceivably more accessible to the drooling men in attendance than those participating in the competition.
  • My 21st birthday, when I consumed a drink from bucket and later yelled, “I’m drunk and I’m running” while probably not actually running back to my sober friend’s car.
  • Several shows at the Marquis Theater from ages 18-23 – okay, with the exception of maybe my taste in music at various points of my young life, those were actually mostly fine.
  • My sister’s pedal-hopper bachelorette party, which would have been terrible enough (because the combination of bike-riding, drinking, and blocking traffic was a really cool plan) without several other bridesmaids giving the only underage bridesmaid vodka-soaked gummie bears to put in her virgin cocktail at dinner in plain view of our server who definitely knew what was happening, walking in on my sister puking in a public bathroom at 9 pm, and her diabetic bridesmaid giving herself an injection of some kind to make sure she would be able to get good and drunk that night without dying. I don’t know if this is actually responsible diabetic person behavior because I am not diabetic, but she was kind of the meanest of my sister’s mean girl brigade of bridesmaids even though I had never met her, so I’m just going to assume she sucks and makes bad choices. I also had to wear a tank top that said something like “It’s a bachelorette party, bitches!” I don’t remember what it said, just that the word “bitch” was on it somewhere, and I have since trashed it. I left early, and I don’t remember any of the bars we stopped at because THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.
  • A radio station event where some band I liked at the time was playing on a roof-top patio. Although, I can’t recall the band. Maybe The Fray? Shut up – they’re from Colorado okay! Clearly, this was at best, a mediocre event.
  • A night out with a friend and her very drunk husband who decided he wanted to discuss feminism and specifically, Lena Dunham, with me. This is also one of the less than five times in my life that I’ve accepted a shot of the peppermint variety, and my digestive system did not enjoy it.

LoDo is full of mediocre to actually terrible places that are all kind of indistinguishable from each other where the youths from the suburbs flock to drink fruit punch flavored cocktails and bad beer and gyrate to some inexplicable combination of country music and mumble rap, before driving drunk up and down the I-25 corridor, waking up hungover and relishing their super awesome night in what they believe is Downtown Denver.

Geographically speaking, it is Downtown Denver. But this block of shiny shirts and gold chains being someone’s idea of Denver is tragic. LoDo is quickly losing any ounce of charm and uniqueness it once had, and this is only amplified by the gut punch of the permanent loss of El Chapultepec just a few months ago.

Then, Denver got the news that some guy named Dierks is going to pour salt in our fresh jazz-loving wounds and open a restaurant, bar, and “music venue” called Whiskey Row in the space where LoDo’s Bar & Grill once was. And fine, okay, I guess we’re replacing one shitty bar with bad food, people, and music with another. But it’s not exactly a wash is it?

It’s obviously not rule that every new place in LoDo has to be soulless and generally suck. Take Ophelia’s for example. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox inhabits a building that was once a brothel, and somehow they’ve managed to preserve that history (calling themselves a gastro-brothel), create a unique environment, and host shows that are actually interesting. And their food is great. The Dairy Block is a collective of bars, restaurants, and hotels and has nothing to do with dairy in the year 2021, but they kept the name AND even share the area’s history on their website.

I don’t know anything about Dierks Bentley. I know that he sings country music, both of my sister-in-laws like him, and he once got busted for fishing in Colorado without a license. He says he loves Denver and opening his bar here will give him more opportunities to go to the mountains.

Is he aware that the mountains and Denver are very different places? Can someone do me a favor and ask Dierks literally anything about Denver? Does he know about the history of Five Points just up the road from where his surely fine establishment will be? Hell, someone put him in a car and tell him to drive to Casa Bonita without GPS. (It may be a shithole, but it’s our shithole). Here’s an easier one: using Whiskey Row as a starting point, find Colfax.

Dierks, my dude, you don’t know Denver, and we don’t want your shitty bar. I know our Mayor said it was cool, but we don’t really like him either.

Maybe try Westminster or the town where you got busted fishing.

I know that some of you may accuse me of being snobby or pretentious, so let me just say that I am. And I JUST WANT LIVE JAZZ, DECENT FOOD, AND A LITTLE RESPECT. 

January is for reading

The silver-lining of the last 10 months is that I’ve had way more time to read. As such, I’ve become one of those obnoxious humans who wants to tell you about all the books I’ve read and encourage you to read…something… anything.

Here’s what I read in January:

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

As if it’s any surprise, this book is excellent. And fortunately, it doesn’t feel like a 700-page book. It’s a political memoir that is also a page-turner. It’s not often we get a window into modern history like this. Obama provides so much context for his decisions, and anecdotes from working with members of Congress and his cabinet. It will frustrate you and maybe make you cry. Truly a great read.

Memorial by Bryan Washington

I wasn’t sure how much I would like this book initially, but as I got into it more, I really appreciated the honestly of it. From the representation of Queer men, and particularly Queer men of color, to the complicated family situations, to culture, it was just a very honest book. You can love people who have done horrible things to you. You can also have a lot of love in a relationship, but that love may not be enough to sustain it.

How to be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t by Lane Moore

Given my reading history and some of my other favorite writers, I should have loved this book. Alas, I did not. While I hesitate to in any way discount Lane’s lived experiences or personal truths, I found this book to be so incredibly whiney and self-indulgent. If I had to sum it up: “I had the worst childhood ever. My parents were the worst parents to have ever existed. Every man I’ve dated has been shit and it’s all their fault that our relationships failed. I have no one and nothing. But look at how good I am at singing and comedy and writing and babysitting and stuff. I’m just the best… no thanks to my awful parents.” Okay. Like a lot of people, I also did not have the most ideal childhood (that’s a whole other blog post), and in a lot of ways, I’ve overcome a lot of shit to have the (mostly) drama-free life I currently do. I’m all about stories of personal triumph. But good grief, the wallowing and the patting herself on the back…. I started skimming toward the end. She says at one point (after talking about a high school trip to Germany, which is confusing because you don’t go on school trips like that without a liiiittttle bit of privilege and means and semi-present parents – it was a struggle for me to make it to Florida to sing with my choir in high school), “I truly don’t know anyone with a family who doesn’t use them like a fucking credit card with every dollar matched by cash back rewards.” Ex-squeeze me, really? I have a family. It’s broken and whole at the same time (again, that’s a whole other blog post). I have supported myself at least partially since I started working at 16, and since I moved out of the house, I have not once asked my family for money even in times that I was very much financially fucked. Also, unless the progressive revolution is achieved and student loans are cancelled, I’ll be in debt until I die. And I think there are more people like me than those that live off their families well into adulthood. But sure, all of us with families- we got it made baby! Life. Is. A. Breeze. I’m sure Lane is a lovely person, and I’m happy for all she’s overcome and the success she’s found.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

I really liked this book. I am generally sort of impartial to the mystery/thriller genre because they tend be soooooo similar. Someone disappears (spoiler: they’re dead), someone is responsible for said disappearance, but it’s probably not the person you think it is. Insert substance abuse problem (Girl on the Train: drinking) or mental illness (Sharp Objects: cutting; The Woman in the Window: agoraphobia) to make it interesting and someone has a secret (or secrets) and boy will they blow your mind. And there you have it – recipe for a mystery/thriller type novel. And hey, they’re usually fun and quick reads, since for some reason, we as a society are really into murdery things. When No One is Watching is a gentrification-themed thriller, so expect all of the elements you enjoy about that genre plus an exploration of a common social issue primarily impacting communities of color. The only critique I have is that the pace was a little jarring. There was a whole lot of build and then the end happens kind of all at once. But overall, it was really good. Recommend.

One of Us is Next (One of Us is Lying, #2) by Karen McManus

This book was…fine. I read the first one a while ago, and just hadn’t gotten around to the sequel until now. I think this book is categorized as Young Adult, which disturbs me slightly. Sinister games and teen murder… Yes children, read this book! Is it a book? Yes. Did I read it? Yes. Did I vaguely enjoy it? Sure. Would I watch the shit out of a trash TV series based on this book series (think 13 Reasons Why)? Yes. Yes I would.

Currently Reading: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

And here we are

I’m having a hard time subduing my emotions today, as I’m sure many are. I just had a nice, long vacation from work, and already, I feel like I am filled to the brim with toxic shit and on the brink of a breakdown.

The thing is… I don’t even know that I could fully articulate why I am an emotional train wreck at the moment. It’s probably a combination of things. But that’s kind of the point, right? Have we not all reached our emotional bandwidth? I know my emotional stability has been out the window for months as it is. Between having to maintain day to day responsibilities with work and home, trying to avoid getting sick, fearing for my friends and family and their health, social isolation, seasonal depression, and on top of all of that, having to digest and process whatever new national crisis is happening, I am spent.

I did not have the energy for Republicans and the Trump cult coup attempt, but here we are. And I wasn’t even surprised by it.

There are a lot of things about yesterday that slowly broke me – seeing the contrast in police action from the protests following George Floyd’s murder, all of these people doing atrocious things because they’ve been duped by those who are supposed to help make their lives better. Five people died. For what?

I’ve been politically aware and active from a very young age, and until the last four years (give or take), I carried the optimism that at least people sought public office for the right reasons and/or they truly believed that the things they were fighting for would make their constituents’ lives better. Even if I believed they are always on the wrong side of history, at least their intentions were good. Maybe that was naive.

I do still believe that to be true for many, but seeing people storm the Capitol because of lies their leaders have been persistently telling them breaks my spirit and my faith in government in so many ways. Those in power perpetuating lies do so for no other reason than for the pursuit of power for power’s sake. They know what they’re saying isn’t true; they aren’t helping anyone. In fact, they are actively harming people, whether it’s by lying about an election they didn’t win or sitting on COVID relief for months while people suffer only to do the absolute least. I hope that history remembers them for what they are and what they have enabled for the last four years.

And for those feeling the way I am – exhausted, sad, confused, or emotionally all over the place. Take a deep breath, cry if you need to, and keep going. You can do it. Remind yourself every day that things will get better. Take it one day at a time.

Welcome to 2021, everyone. We’re off to a rockin’ start.