In The Bleak Midwinter

On an average year, I’ll semi-hibernate through the coldest, snowiest, iciest of months. This has not been an average year. It was fifty degrees on January 21st. I know this because I was out in my leather jacket, sign in hand, taking part in the Women’s March Chicago. The sun was bright and shining, not in that deceptive way it sometimes does in the winter. No, the sunshine was warming and the wind whipped through my hair without a trace of chill.

We gathered in Millennium Park. We marched. We chanted. We resisted. This is not the last. We march. We chant. We resist.

Upcoming demonstrations include the Tax Day March and the March for Science Chicago on Earth Day. Nevertheless, She Persisted,‎ this will not be the last action. Here are some great resources for the #Resistance: Indivisible Guide, Women’s March: 10 Actions in the first 100 Days, A Day Without a Woman: International Women’s Day March 8th, The United State of Women, and (brilliant passive aggressive gear from Dan Savage) aka which goes to support the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the International Refugee Assistance Project.

Resistance comes at the cost of physical and emotional energy. Now, it is energy I’m happy to expend, because the costs are much higher if we acquiesce. The solution is to strive for balance with self care. That comes in whatever form you make of it. I’ve been concentrating on my art, finding escapism in my friends, and catharsis in comedy and satire.

Getting me out of my house is usually accomplished with comfort foods and forming family from friendships. The circle I’ve found myself in most often has this in spades. I’m incredibly fortunate to relate to these souls. Plus, you know, cheese. Just look at this spread from a wine and cheese party.

I guess I’m a real sucker for a soap opera. Pay-Per-View WWE nights are a thing in my life, and one I really don’t want to miss out on. The last two were the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber. We go over to PJ+C’s house (they have the network), where the food and booze flow while we vie for the Chicago Prognosticators Championship belt. The “coveted cardboard” has been bedazzled with cheap rhinestones and emblazoned with a crystal ball. Rivalries have been forged, promos cut, and alliances made all in good fun over predicting the outcome of the matches. I may have been genuinely upset by Kevin Owens turning the Festival of Friendship into a malicious beat down of his former best friend, Jericho. *cue heartbreak*

A constant comfort in the winter is spending some time Valentine’s week touring the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place. As much as I love my (Zoom Zoom) Mazda 3, she’s getting on in years. I’m eyeing new beauties, but I finally like the updates they’re making to the same model, so when it is time to trade her in, I may not look too far. However, for the first time, I genuinely expressed interest in owning a Chevy. Mustang over Camaro any day of the week, but Ford just doesn’t have a compelling answer to the Chevy Volt. I’d very much like owning a hybrid electric to be more common place, but the $34k price tag on the 2018 is still just a touch more than I’m comfortable with. Admittedly, much more reasonable than its EV predecessors in cost v. value.

There were also dream fodder luxury machines littering about the place. Sexy.

Of course, maybe the most stunning piece of meticulous craftsmanship was the LEGO Batmobile. I went to see the movie the next week, and it did not disappoint! Great voice acting, lots of cheap laughs, and just all around a fun popcorn flick.

These jubilant moments are one end of the pendulum’s swing, and at the other we have quiet moments alone. Sometimes the voices in my head play along with being fed a narrative. Fortunately, I was gifted quite a few new bizarro titles at the holidays. I’ve finished J David Osborne’s By the Time We Leave Here, We’ll Be Friends and Kirsten Alene’s Rules of Appropriate Conduct so far this year. Both were the sustenance my brain so desperately craves. When fed their words, they drown out the constant whirring of the perpetual motion apparatus, named Anxiety, if only for a moment. I highly recommend both books wholeheartedly. They’re wildly different, but share (at times) the same stillness in hopeful resignation. These are incredibly talented authors, and I’m blessed to call them friends.

When I first attended Bizarro Con, I made a point of going without having read a single genre title outside of my boyfriend’s work (which was my gateway drug). I wanted to connect with the humans, without a even a fraction of my interactions being controlled by some fangirl reaction. Now I’m discovering voices in their writing through the lens of knowing them as three-dimensional people. Individuals with lives, work, loves, problems, fandoms, and all the things that make them more than flat characters presented in an author’s bio or a cover blurb. The perspective can be like a director’s cut, an extension of the whole I’ve come to know. Other times they surprise me by being who they are at stark contrast to the tone of their work. Either way it is a thrill, and one I’m happy to experience so regularly.

Another coping mechanism I’ve developed is making space with Michael to cut out the noise. I came in one week from a particularly bad day, and he’d made us a blanket fort oasis. We listened to records, drank tea, and relaxed with kratom. These “No Pants, No Responsibility Days” have done wonders for my migraines and mental monsters (Anxiety, Depression, Imposter Syndrome, ADHD tendencies). Physical touch is extremely therapeutic, and I’m making a point of melting into that mindset more often.

Brunch in Chicago: A Love Story

Honestly, I don’t know if there is a city as rich in brunch options as Chicago. In the past month or so I’ve been to all of the following: Toast (on Damen), Orange (on Roscoe), Bakin' & Eggs (on Lincoln), and Kanela Breakfast Club (in Old Town).

Toast is super cute and kitschy. The walls are lined with antique toasters in a clean and sleek look. (Not a gross, rummage sale threw up in TGI Friday’s circa ‘99 sort of way.) Jen and I were planning on brunch at Longman & Eagle, but ended up at Toast when we discovered L&E was closed for remodeling. Serendipitous, because this French Toast Orgy was a game changer. Far more indulgent than I needed, but exactly what I wanted. My visit to Orange with my gamer girls was delightful, as well. The orange coffee is great, but what really makes me come back again and again is the pancake flight. I instagram it every time, because hell yes I’ll enter to win with my brunch plate. That’s just good marketing. Plus it seems to make my Portland pals eager to visit. Speaking of flights, bacon. Yes, bacon flight. Bakin' & Eggs had me craving their oatmeal latte, so when boyfriend surprised me with sleeping in late spooning, I took him to brunch. It was a good day. I must say, I’m a little disappointed in Kanela Breakfast Club. I suggested to Team Chaos we go there specifically for Julius Meinl, only to find out they’ve replaced it with Bow Truss. Meh. At least the Cali Benedict is still on point, and those loukoumades… to die for.

I’m all about porn, and that includes food porn. There is something magical about sharing a meal with lovers and best friends. Food makes people happy in a way little else does. I’ve often said I saw Michael’s o-face long before we were romantically involved. The way he gets excited over a plate of berry pancakes is something special. I take not-so-secret thrill in eating and watching my companions experience unrestrained enthusiasm in the little pleasures that make life worth drawing breath.

Play with Wonder

Back to the gamers for a quick minute here. I want to just name drop a few games that I’m having a ton of fun with lately. I branched out from my usual group one night, and discovered CodeNames. It was so much fun we were looking it up on the ride home.

Regularly scheduled D&D nights have been taken over by Vampire the Masquerade. It is a nice diversion from the norm, and I’m enjoying playing essentially myself as a Vamp. The group dynamic shifts as our DM and the time period of our roleplay changes. That in itself is interesting, plus our rag-tag party is usually expert level in avoiding danger, so the survival mechanics adding stakes (ha) on top of battle encounters is a nice change of pace.

I’m absolutely addicted to Jackbox Games, specifically Trivia Murder Party (L), Guesspionage (C), and Fakin It (R). I’m such a nerd for trivia games, even when the topic isn’t my best area. Trivia Murder Party is my new favorite thing. It smashes up an abduction murder plot and parlor game humor with cute little knit avatars. Only one of you will make it out alive! It is most fun in a big group, but it is so well crafted I’ll gladly play one-on-one.

Upcoming opportunity for the game group: Beer Run of the Dead. The brainchild of Don Noble, it is a killer tabletop game. With some luck and possibly begging, I should have a copy to play soon. Don was such a sweetie last year at Printer’s Row Lit Fest, and I’m so happy after all his hard work on this game it is finally ready to see some action!

Culture Vultures

These last few weeks have been a time of transition. When I’m searching for something, I’ll usually find it by shaking up routine. World Class museums are practically on my doorstep, so there lies an obvious answer for breaking up monotony. My favorite of all is the Museum of Science and Industry. I watched the Tesla coil fire, I witnessed a baby chick hatching, and I appreciated the original artwork on display from Maurice Sendak. One of the special exhibits this visit was a LEGO installation called “Brick by Brick.” There were a lot of impressive structures and interactive elements.

On a blustery Wednesday morning, Michael and I went to the Field Museum to see Tattoo. We walked down Michigan Ave from Northwestern Medical Center; grabbed a coffee and donuts from Stan’s on the way there. We talked about the difficult things. I was in a very vulnerable place, extremely aware of my own existential dread. I’m not upset about being upset. Every now and again, I need my cry. I need to work through the feelings or the lack of feelings. It is not a worthless experience to sit with the melancholy, and let perspective zoom out and back in. Like the IBM film Powers of Ten, mixed with the humbling message of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

I marveled at the city, as I do every time I walk through it. When I was a child, I’d visit Chicago and wonder how anybody drove those streets. Now, I drive them. When I was a child, I concentrated on walking the city sidewalks with purpose, and used the same spacial awareness I have from downhill skiing to weave in the crowds. Now, I take the pulse for granted. When I was a child, I would study the architecture of the skyscrapers, wondering how many people it took to build them, how long they’ve stood against the wind the city is not known for - but exists in abundance all the same, how many floors are stacked to form each tower, how many people work and live and play on each floor. Now, I think about all of this, but I follow the thread further than facts and figures. Each of those people, on each of those floors, in each of these towers is the protagonist in their own story. They are gazing out the window at the street below, wondering how many people pass their view every hour, and which among them are thinking of the people in the offices, hotels, and condos above. All with our own rich and intricate experiences, all with our own connections or missed connections. An endless number of moments shifting us through the multiverse in this reality.

I have to say it was the best state of mind to bring me to Tattoo. The exhibit was well curated and carefully crafted. It is an honest history, treating challenging elements (like the holocaust and slavery branding) with the gravity the topic commands. It bridges time and place and culture and meaning in a way I’ve not seen in a single setting before. I left with a renewed reverence for the craft, and a craving for a new piece.

Left to Right: Artist Lynn Akura (b 1976) France Belgium 2013 Painting on linen canvas, Artist Mark Kopua (b 1962) Te Peha a Uetonga NZ 2013, Artist Robert Hernandez (b 1969) Spain 2013 Painting on linen canvas, and Fang-Od Odday (b 1920) Photographer Jake Verosa (b 1979) Philippines 2011

This week’s adventure was at the MCA. I’d never been, surprisingly enough. Given the option, I’ll always choose the Art Institute of Chicago. I could spend hours sitting in front of Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Renoir’s Two Sisters on the Terrace is another perennial favorite, influenced heavily by my father’s taste. Followed by an afternoon gazing at Dalí, Picasso, O'Keeffe, and Matisse. Fortunately, given the option, Michael will always pick the Museum of Contemporary Art, and I’ll find new favorites with new flavors. I took a delight in the work of Basim Magdy (pictured in front of An apology to a love story that crashed into a whale, 2016), elements of Chris Bradley's installation (particularly the floating potato and tiny doors on the back wall), and a few of the pieces in the Merce Cunningham exhibition - especially Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds room.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close. -Pablo Neruda

The Business of Intimacy

Armchair sexologist and advocate for sexual health, as I am, I recently took a bestie to sex shops with the intention of finding them an agreeable brand of lube and their very first vibrating dildo. Our first stop was Pleasure Chest. The second stop was to be Tulip in Andersonville, but the shop was late to open; so we walked down Clark into Early to Bed. We were greeted warmly, and given the opportunity to investigate display models, testers, and toys of all kinds.

I (re?)learned my favorite brand of lube is made in the UK, and not seeking FDA approval, so it is no longer available in local shops. It led me to pick up Sliquid Silk, and my bestie assembled a grab bag of new lubes to try. Their inquisitiveness is unashamedly raw, and I take such joy in guiding them along, showing them the ropes - at times quite literally. Ultimately, we were victorious in our quest of finding them a toy hitting all the right marks. Temptation got the better of me, and I stocked up on bondage tape, dental dams, toy cleaner by Lelo, and splurged on a shiny new Sharevibe.

My work is my play and my play is my work. For anyone wanting to trade in pleasures, I keep a pinboard of wishlist items for my toy chest. I’m happy to shoot custom photosets and/or built to order videos with my new treasures. Hit me up on AP or FetLife, if you’re interested.

New media is on the way to GodsGirls in the very near future, as well. The long anticipated duo set featuring myself with Ramona-Crash is in the queue, I believe. They’re such a beautifully unique spirit, I just couldn’t let that one slip away into the ether. I’ve also submitted my first GG video, Creamy, which should go live in quick succession. Two more sets are in my editing folder right now, and I’m really happy with how they’re shaping up.

As I confided earlier, I’ve been crying out to the universe. Every now and again, that energy resonates and the universe responds. I’m in talks with producers for a few burlesque show dates this spring, and Varekai got me the hookup with a bunch of new lighting gear. It feels really good to have the support of people like Varekai in my life, who enable me to tackle my most formidable work. I have a love affair with the concept of nyotaimori, but I’m allergic to seafood. Together we landed on a color palate, went shopping for all kinds of candies and flowers, then called in our pals to be helping hands in this photoshoot. Best of all, she’s instigated me to stop resting on laurels for fear of the unknown, to push myself in a new direction.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be revamping my modeling portfolio. Zivity has been my home base for quite a few years now, and it is time to make a radical change. I’m in talks with my photographers, making all kinds of fantastic new plans, and I’m excited to report that my sets are coming to Patreon! Many from my back catalogue will join everything ambitious I’m going to create with the support of people who love what I do. There are lots of rewards for becoming my Patron, which I can hardly wait to share with you! Keep an eye out for the official launch, and get in on the ground floor of this endeavor.

That's all for now, lovers.

xoxo, Sauda

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