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The richest girl in town.

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What's going on. [Thursday, Sep. 27th, 2007|12:04 pm]
The richest girl in town.
In the last week or so, I have

- been subjected to "secondary" security screening at SFO that caused me to miss my flight to LAX
- missed meeting a four-week old baby named Eoin and seeing his mama because of my air travel shenanigans
- woken up at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday to canvass in Pasadena for a marriage equality campaign
- been really busy at work planning for an event in Palm Springs in a week and a half
- seen claudelemonde
- carried a beating heart into a bar in Silverlake
- attended a volunteer award ceremony at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center
- discovered the wonder that is "The Newsroom"--which "The Office" TOTALLY ripped off
- sat through the first three-hour session of a six-month long study group on gentrification at Just Cause Oakland
- had a long and interesting conversation about the same-gender marriage debate with TDM, during which we largely disagreed but kept smiling the entire time
- fleshed out the outline for an annual report
- possibly booked a gig dancing on Halloween
- gone to a casual games mixer sponsored in part by two of my former employers, which is sort of like going to a party and finding a bunch of my exes there
- begun to process the fact that TDM is moving here on Monday
- watched Java the Mutt charm the pants off of people at work, the Noc Noc, and assorted other locations

And, from freewillastrology.com:
Cancer Horoscope for week of September 27, 2007

Move the furniture around. In fact, why not move some of it right through the front door and out of your life? If we're lucky, this will get you in the mood to launch a purge of everything that no longer belongs under your roof. Maybe you could throw a Simplification Party, complete with an exorcism. Or corral your friends for a haul-it-all-away caravan to the garbage dump. I don't care how you do it, Cancerian. Just get rid of all knick-knacks, wall hangings, funny mirrors, broken dreams, balls and chains, and formerly cute mementos that have lost their cuteness. It's time to liberate your home.

Anyone want a cat?
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: roughandtumble
2007-09-27 07:35 pm (UTC)
Anyone want a cat?

Can I have a yellow-hanky wearin' dog instead?

;)
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-27 11:50 pm (UTC)
I did tell you that she was wearing a yellow bandana when I picked her up from the kennel Monday afternoon, right?
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[User Picture]From: roughandtumble
2007-09-28 02:27 am (UTC)
Noooooooooooooooooo.
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[User Picture]From: mooflyfoof
2007-09-27 08:22 pm (UTC)
How was the study group on gentrification? I've been thinking about the subject a lot because I'm thinking about moving to E. Oakland (near Fruitvale BART) with the bf... If we do it'd be into a huge, gorgeous, luxurious loft space, converted from an old art deco furniture factory. It's advertised as being in a gated community, which on the one hand makes me feel a lot more comfortable and secure but on the other hand I feel... weird. Guilty. Like I'm some sort of privileged baron living in a castle with a moat to keep those undesirable unwashed masses out. I guess I feel a little odd being a part of gentrification, I'm not sure if I should, or if I should just enjoy the gorgeous living space I'd have. What's your take on it?
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-27 11:48 pm (UTC)
While this gives analyses that are not strictly Marxist (and JCO's framework is very much so), it does hit on the major points. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentrification

As far as how I feel about it? I'm not a fan. The term gentrification comes from the word gentry and was first coined in the 60s to describe the phenomenon in London of lower-income neighborhoods being taken over by middle-class people.

Gentrification is pretty much always a manifestation of racism as well as classism, particularly in the States--most of the neighborhoods that are being "reclaimed" or "revitalized" are full of people of color, who, through the white supremacist lens of city governments, developers, and young, mostly-white "urban pioneers," don't actually exist and are therefore not even seen as part of a community with any kind of investment or roots in their neighborhoods.

And of course it's usually racism and classism working together that get such neighborhoods into their blighted states--between white flight to the suburbs (subsidized by the FHA for decades), deindustrialization, environmental degradation, and other forms of neglect.
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[User Picture]From: mooflyfoof
2007-09-28 12:35 am (UTC)
Do you think gentrification in itself racist/classist, or is it the way it's described that's racist/classist? Because yeah, "reclaimed" and "revitalized" is certainly language that's couched in racism and classism... But I just wonder if the process of gentrification is something that's going to happen regardless, out of necessity. What happens when the lower middle-class people (esp. artists and students, often white) can't afford to live in the more expensive parts of town, but don't want to move to the burbs? Where can they go? They move to the lower-class neighborhoods (often with higher density of minorities)...which leads to the eventual takeover of the area by wealthier people (often white). I think maybe it's a symptom of the housing crunch as much as anything. We're running out of room.

City-sponsored gentrification is a whole 'nother ballgame... Not sure how I feel about it, either. Was talking about this with a friend the other day, how they've planted a bunch of palm trees next to the Colesium BART station. One was saying it seems like a futile, stupid gesture, and the other responded by saying that eventually that sort of thing will raise property values, which in theory will decrease crime & such... But I dunno. The people committing the crimes aren't going to stop; they're just going to move somewhere else.

I don't have any problem living in a neighborhood where I am a minority. However I do have concerns about living in neighborhoods with higher crime rates--hence the desire for a fortress if I am going to live there. (I don't mean to imply that minorities are automatically lower class -- just that the two often map to each other, unfortunately, due to the way racism and culture function in our society.) I don't know what the solution is for me. I fit neatly in the "affluent post-baby boomer professional" description. All I can really say is that I wish lower class neighborhoods were not automatically more crime-ridden. There's gotta be a better way to reverse that neglect you refer to than displacing the current residents. Then again it seems like neighborhoods with less money have always by nature had more crime, regardless of race...

"As property values increase in a given neighborhood, municipalities will typically reassess the values of properties within gentrifying communities resulting in higher property taxes for the neighborhood's long-term owners. If the owners cannot afford the tax increases, they are forced to sell" -- fuck, that's depressing.

Hello, and welcome to my white middle-class guilt. It's something I think about a lot.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-28 06:30 pm (UTC)
Here's a suggestion: how about you stay out of neighborhoods you don't feel safe in because of the poor POC living in them? Why don't you go live in a modestly-priced white neighborhood. There are plenty of them, but hipsters don't like them because they're not "edgy" enough. And so, suddenly the danger, the filth, all the "undesirable" things about poor neighborhoods like Fruitvale become some kind of cultural currency. And the end result is that real people are displaced because someone else feels like slumming it.

This is real. This is happening. This isn't a theory.

And none of that requires any involvement from the government. It just takes a few young white people with unexamined race privilege, a sense of entitlement, and a little bit of money to destroy a neighborhood.

So, is gentrification inevitable? As long as it's inevitable that there are young white people with unexamined race privilege, a sense of entitlement, and a little bit of money, then yes, gentrification is inevitable. As long as it is more important to 20- and 30-somethings to live somewhere trendy for a while (because most of them actually WON'T stay in those 'hoods--they'll move to suburbs like their parents when they decide to have families, leaving in their wake an urban playground for the next wave of 20- and 30-somethings who won't feel anymore invested in that neighborhood than they do), this kind of gentrification will continue. And the human cost to those who lived in those neighborhoods before will continue to be high.
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[User Picture]From: mooflyfoof
2007-09-28 07:10 pm (UTC)
So white people should stay out of neighborhoods that are primarily populated by people of color? How is that any different than saying that people of color should stay out of white neighborhoods? I am not a fan of that kind of segregation and frankly I have no desire to live in an all-white neighborhood. I just visited the suburbs in Denver and while I didn't feel endangered like I often do when visiting the poorer neighborhoods of the Bay Area, I did feel intense boredom and revulsion. I've lived in the suburbs before, and I was miserable. I thrive off of being exposed to cultures that aren't my own, and in an ideal world I would like to live in a neighborhood that is diverse ethnically, culturally, and economically, and is also safe for me to walk in at night.

For what it's worth, I don't feel unsafe in lower-class neighborhoods because of the "POC living there" (I'm not sure where you got that) -- I feel unsafe because I'm not ignorant of the crime statistics. I feel unsafe because of countless stories friends friends have told me of being mugged/raped/whatever. I feel unsafe because I know that by nature as a young, small, white, middle-class female I stick out like a sore thumb as a target for violence. As fucked up as that is, it *is* the reality and I need to be aware of it.

My reason for wanting to live in this loft has nothing to do with wanting some sort of "edgy" identity. I want to live there because I want to have a large amount of space to do art projects, to set up an aerial acrobatics rig, to have a place to put my bike, and to have a gourmet kitchen in which I can host dinner parties for friends. I want to be able to have all this in a location where I'm close to work, my friends, and my community. With rental prices being what they are, it is only possible for someone with my level of income to have this amount and type of space in the neighborhoods you are suggesting I stay out of.

Granted you're right that I probably won't stay there once I decide to start raising a family. Not because I'd be afraid of the neighbors (though maybe I'd be afraid of the gangs and the thugs) -- but because that type of loft living space is not conducive to raising small children (it's converted from an old art-deco furniture factory). I'd also move because the school districts in the area are notoriously bad. I wish I could do something to change that, but I don't know how I possibly could. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when that time comes, honestly. I don't want to move to the suburbs ever; I think they're a horrible place to live and a horrible place to raise a family. But there's no way I will ever make enough money to buy a house in the more urban parts of the Bay Area.

I hate the idea that hardworking, good people might eventually be displaced because of people like myself and I hate the fact that a neighborhood being white apparently automatically means higher property values--but I have to admit that I find it insulting that you think white people moving into a neighborhood "destroys" it, and that white people are somehow not also "real people" with financial and familial concerns of their own. I'm not sure what you mean by "unexamined race privilege" but for what it's worth, I think about my personal "race privilege" a lot. There's not a day that goes by that I don't recognize that I am where I am in life because I have grown up in a comfortably middle-class family, and a large part of why we're comfortably middle-class is because we're white. That said, I have had no more control over my being white than you've had over your being black, so I'm pretty unclear what you want me to do about it. Am I supposed to intentionally get a lower-paying job and force myself to live in undesirable living quarters, as a form of self-flagellation for something I can't control?
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-28 07:26 pm (UTC)
Go back, read what I said, and stop being so defensive. That young white people with unexamined white privilege, a sense of entitlement, and a little bit of money exist is a fact. Are you really prepared to argue that with me? Whether that applies to you--well, you know better than I do.

And as for that overly simplistic bit about segregation--do you know why so many of these already segregated neighborhoods exist in the first place? Because people of color weren't allowed to live anywhere else OR because when they moved into white neighborhoods, white people fled because they didn't want to live near brown and black people. And then the neighborhood infrastructure was neglected because no one cared about the majority brown and black people living there.

Here's an example of something that happens in cases of gentrification: As more white people move into a high-crime neighborhood, there are more cops on the street to keep them safe. Guess who they harass in the process: the people who lived there before--who weren't safe before--but no one cared.

This, too, is reality.

And yeah--you DO have privilege around race and class. And something else you have? Choices. A lot of people living in East Oakland and West Oakland? They don't have them.

So when you decide having somewhere to hang your aerial equipment for a couple of years before moving to the suburbs is worth displacing them, where do they go?
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[User Picture]From: mooflyfoof
2007-09-28 08:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, there are young white people with unexamined white privilege, and no, I won't argue that with you. However I don't think that the solution is to tell them they're not allowed to live in a particular area. I don't deny that it's a shitty thing that segregation occurred as a result of the way things used to be (and still are, to an extent0). But isn't white people moving back into those neighborhoods a step towards re-integration? Or is the goal to keep our cities as segregated as possible?

I'm still not sure what you want me to do. I have choices, yes, but am I supposed to curtail my desires to be an artist and an acrobat in deference to those less well-off than me? My alternative to living in a large loft space is to live somewhere I don't want to live or to not doing the things I want to do. But that's not going to happen. I want to do well for myself and I'm not going to shoot myself in the foot.

So why don't those people have a choice? They've faced centuries of discrimination--and yes, it's horrible--but at some point there is a level of personal responsibility that must be acknowledged. Those that are making neighborhoods unsafe might not have a choice about their immediate poverty and where they live, but they DO have a choice about how they treat other people. Why are they out there being thugs instead of studying and trying to get somewhere in life--to help themselves and their families and their communities? As long as that kind of positive behavior is viewed from within as an act of treason, the whole community suffers.

I can't defend the actions of cops. Some are good, but many aren't. Yesterday in Berkeley I saw a (fat, white, middle-aged) cop yell intimidatingly at a young black guy in a car. All the guy in the car did was play his music at a loud volume--and not even that loud. That's a crime now? I don't deny that there is racism and prejudice in the way the police system works. They should be out there working to keep everyone safe, especially in the more dangerous neighborhoods. They should not be harassing people who aren't causing trouble.

Back to gentrification -- the fact of the matter is, it is the nature of American society and economy to want to own property and to have that property increase in value. The majority of the population is not extraordinarily rich, so those who don't have the means to buy property in expensive areas do it in less expensive areas. Property is a limited commodity. When one area runs out of places to buy and develop, developers will move to a new area and do it there. It's the cause of suburban sprawl, and the cause of gentrification.

Remove race from the equation: Class segregation has taken place, creating lower-class neighborhoods. Upward economic pressure forces middle-class out of their homes & neighborhoods, so they go to lower-class neighborhoods. Where do lower-class citizens go? There is no good answer.

I'm going to turn it around and say that I would appreciate it if you read what I've written. I am not going to move to the suburbs in a couple of years. I know it's a minor point but by ignoring it, it seems to me that you seem to not have any respect for me, and assume that I am just like all the other evil rich white neighborhood destroyers. Don't wonder why I become defensive if your comments can be boiled down to "whitey go home".
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-28 09:10 pm (UTC)

Part 1.

But isn't white people moving back into those neighborhoods a step towards re-integration?

No. The people of color living in those neighborhoods get pushed out of them. There are plenty of examples of this all over the country, from New York City to Miami to San Francisco. And Oakland, too. Which is what Just Cause Oakland is working to fight.

I'm still not sure what you want me to do. I have choices, yes, but am I supposed to curtail my desires to be an artist and an acrobat in deference to those less well-off than me?

Well, you're saying on one hand that "there's nothing" you can do. This IS something you can do--one way to alleviate the privilege you have is to think more deeply about the consequences of your behavior. Knowing you have privilege and not doing anything to mediate it means you're far more culpable than if you were clueless.

So why don't those people have a choice? They've faced centuries of discrimination--and yes, it's horrible--but at some point there is a level of personal responsibility that must be acknowledged. Those that are making neighborhoods unsafe might not have a choice about their immediate poverty and where they live, but they DO have a choice about how they treat other people. Why are they out there being thugs instead of studying and trying to get somewhere in life--to help themselves and their families and their communities? As long as that kind of positive behavior is viewed from within as an act of treason, the whole community suffers.

Wow. The amount of information you DON'T have is awe-inspiring. I haven't got time to educate you on the history of four hundred years of racism and classism and their effects on contemporary urban communities of color. But if you'd like, I've got some books I can suggest, and a few essays online as well. (Google Tim Wise--he has a really great blog.)

I can't defend the actions of cops. Some are good, but many aren't. Yesterday in Berkeley I saw a (fat, white, middle-aged) cop yell intimidatingly at a young black guy in a car. All the guy in the car did was play his music at a loud volume--and not even that loud. That's a crime now? I don't deny that there is racism and prejudice in the way the police system works. They should be out there working to keep everyone safe, especially in the more dangerous neighborhoods. They should not be harassing people who aren't causing trouble.

You're a tax-paying citizen with privilege. You don't have to defend them, but you do have the ability (and maybe responsibility) to affect change here.

Back to gentrification -- the fact of the matter is, it is the nature of American society and economy to want to own property and to have that property increase in value. The majority of the population is not extraordinarily rich, so those who don't have the means to buy property in expensive areas do it in less expensive areas. Property is a limited commodity. When one area runs out of places to buy and develop, developers will move to a new area and do it there. It's the cause of suburban sprawl, and the cause of gentrification.

That is the way of capitalism and imperialism. There is nothing "natural" about them--human civilization has a long history, and they haven't always existed. Lots of our history and culture in this country is vile and cruel; I'm not defending them.

Remove race from the equation: Class segregation has taken place, creating lower-class neighborhoods. Upward economic pressure forces middle-class out of their homes & neighborhoods, so they go to lower-class neighborhoods. Where do lower-class citizens go? There is no good answer.

The same tenets hold. Trying to ignore the fact of race doesn't, in my mind, make displacement of the poor by the wealthy any easier to stomach. Classism isn't awesome in and of itself. The fact that racism is intertwined with it just makes it worse on a bunch of levels.
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[User Picture]From: mooflyfoof
2007-09-28 10:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Part 1.

No. The people of color living in those neighborhoods get pushed out of them.

What's the solution, then? How can we have re-integration without pushing out the current residents of color? That's not a rhetorical question--I'm honestly curious what the alternatives are.

Well, you're saying on one hand that "there's nothing" you can do. This IS something you can do--one way to alleviate the privilege you have is to think more deeply about the consequences of your behavior. Knowing you have privilege and not doing anything to mediate it means you're far more culpable than if you were clueless.

Well, I am clearly thinking deeply about the consequences of my behavior--that's the reason why I started this discussion. I'm curious, if I were married, with children, and purchasing an old single family dwelling in one of the lower-class neighborhoods in question because it's the only thing near my work & friends that I can afford -- would that make me somehow less culpable? Or am I still a part of the problem just by nature of the fact that I'm white and not at the poverty level?

Is the fact that this loft I'm considering moving to a converted factory and not one of these BS new luxury condos being built in low-income neighborhoods make any difference? Or is the fact that white people are there at all, doing nice things with their property and in effect upping property values in the neighborhood still part of the problem? It's not as though families were evicted so that I could live in a luxury condo. I fully support the idea that such developers should make some not-insignificant portion of their units available to low-income families. I just signed the petition on the JCO website (though, grr, the site published my home address when I checked the box telling it not to).

But if you'd like, I've got some books I can suggest, and a few essays online as well. (Google Tim Wise--he has a really great blog.)

Please do. This is obviously something that's on my mind a lot and that I want to learn more about.

You're a tax-paying citizen with privilege. You don't have to defend them, but you do have the ability (and maybe responsibility) to affect change here.

How? Again, honestly curious.

That is the way of capitalism and imperialism. There is nothing "natural" about them--human civilization has a long history, and they haven't always existed. Lots of our history and culture in this country is vile and cruel; I'm not defending them.

I agree. But many (perhaps most) of the good things in our lives are things we can thank capitalism and imperialism for. What are we, as individuals, supposed to do? Renounce our middle-class lives and instead live in hovels, so everyone can have equally gross hovels to call home? When I say we, I mean both you and me. I get the impression that as a young single professional, you live fairly comfortably. I'm not saying that our country hasn't done some despicable stuff, but it's important to recognize that the comfortableness of our lives is largely as a result of the way our society functions. I'm in support of modifying it so that more people have opportunities to be as comfortable as us (i.e. making it a bit more socialist, like, say, Norway). I just don't have a clue how to go about doing that.

The same tenets hold. Trying to ignore the fact of race doesn't, in my mind, make displacement of the poor by the wealthy any easier to stomach. Classism isn't awesome in and of itself.

Yes, it sucks a lot. All I was trying to say is, there isn't a simple solution. Telling young white middle-class people to not move to the only areas they can afford is pretty lousy, I think.
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[User Picture]From: rivetpepsquad
2007-09-28 11:27 pm (UTC)

Re: Part 1.

history of four hundred years of racism and classism and their effects on contemporary urban communities of color

I could toss in a few words from the welfare trenches re: the system's main goal of KEEPING THE POOR PEOPLE POOR, as witnessed hands-on every damned day.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-28 09:10 pm (UTC)

Part 2.

I'm going to turn it around and say that I would appreciate it if you read what I've written. I am not going to move to the suburbs in a couple of years. I know it's a minor point but by ignoring it, it seems to me that you seem to not have any respect for me, and assume that I am just like all the other evil rich white neighborhood destroyers. Don't wonder why I become defensive if your comments can be boiled down to "whitey go home".

Okay, you won't move to a suburb (mind you--it's only middle-class kids I meet who hate them so much), but you won't stay in the neighborhood you're considering gentrifying--which is part of my main point about why this sucks so much for the people who have to leave so you can live there.

If, within two or three years, the majority of the people in a low-income neighborhood (who aren't "thugs", who aren't "making it unsafe", but live there because it's their home and because they don't have the freedom to just uproot their families and go make a new home somewhere else) get pushed out by people with no real investment and who just want to live in that neighborhood for a little while before they move on to something better (when they could have lived somewhere "better" all along), yes--I call that destruction of a neighborhood. It's kinda of like when a big box store demolishes a small rural town to build a new WalMart, for instance. Yes--I call that destruction.

And let me remind you: you were the one to ask me about this. If I'm not saying what you want to hear, sorry--but you asked. You might want to check out the Just Cause website anyway just to see what kind of work the organization is doing. It's important.

http://justcauseoakland.org/
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[User Picture]From: mooflyfoof
2007-09-28 10:17 pm (UTC)

Re: Part 2.

I can get behind an organization like JCO -- thank you for pointing them out to me. I've been reading through their website and for the most part support their causes. I'm going to see if there's anything they're doing that I can participate in beyond just signing a petition.

Hardworking families getting displaced is indeed a shame. I am not at all comfortable with developers demolishing existing housing and building new units that none of the original tenants can afford. But I don't think that white middle-class people moving to such neighborhoods because it's the only place they can afford the space that they want or need are the enemies. Neighborhoods change as a result of housing and economic pressures. It's kind of just the way it is. Like I said, we're running out of room. Those who suffer are the ones with the least means, and they do deserve help--but this does not mean that they are any less "real" of people than those better off.

I just have to wonder if gentrification is not a bad thing in itself. Responsible gentrification could be a good thing. There has to be a way to improve the quality of life in lower-class neighborhoods that doesn't involve pushing current residents out. "Revitalizing" a neighborhood should refer to improving crime rates and beautifying the streets--not whitewashing the neighborhood.
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[User Picture]From: below_the_belt
2007-09-30 06:48 pm (UTC)
hi. my name is yonah, i'm a friend of fightingwords but not a close enough friend for her to have to take responsibility for anything i say... i'm white, i've been helping gentrify west philadelphia for years, and this is a conversation i love to have and think is really important so i got curious about this thread.

so.

i noticed that you're asking fightingwords for advice - "what do you think about gentrification? where should i live? how should i think about where to live?" - and then, in response to her answers, getting defensive and not honoring her opinion - "I don't think that the solution is to tell [white people] they're not allowed to live in a particular area."

if you want her opinion, listen to it; if you don't want to be told things like "if you move to this neighborhood, it will be bad for the people who live there", don't ask. live in ignorance. she's not telling you what you're allowed or not allowed to do; she's telling you what the implications are of your choices, which is what you're asking her for.

talking about gentrification with people of color, as a white person, does not relieve your responsibility for what you actually do with your money and your body. i used to think that too. having these conversations is a really good start. i'm not trying to be patronizing; i'm serious.
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[User Picture]From: witchmob
2007-09-27 08:42 pm (UTC)
re: your Cliff's Notes

great minds...
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-27 11:50 pm (UTC)
Indeed!
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[User Picture]From: whittles
2007-09-27 10:52 pm (UTC)

one of the many reasons why I love brezny

there's gotta be SOMEBODY that wants that damn thing.

When do you get back again?
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-27 11:49 pm (UTC)

Re: one of the many reasons why I love brezny

Get back from where?
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[User Picture]From: whittles
2007-09-28 12:27 am (UTC)

Re: one of the many reasons why I love brezny

from palm springs?
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-28 06:32 pm (UTC)

Re: one of the many reasons why I love brezny

We leave 10/4, drive back 10/7 to get Java, head up north, and should be back by 10/14.
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[User Picture]From: fightingwords
2007-09-27 11:51 pm (UTC)

Re: and that Rob is a tweaker...

So, have you spanked your evil twin yet?
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