Ande’s Phone

I legally changed my name almost two years ago. Yesterday, I finally took on the task of updating my name with my cell phone provider. It was a huge challenge. I understand why I put if off for so long.

My old phone hardly worked anymore, so yesterday I headed to the T-mobile store four blocks from my house to update my name and shop for a new phone. I couldn’t remember where I put my court order for name change, so I took my old driver’s license and my current one with me, hoping they’d be enough.

I got to the store and waited about ten minutes to get a salesperson. I told him I needed to update my name and he said, “OK, we need to get that updated before I can even access your account for you here. Hang on a sec.” He consulted with a colleague about what to do, and came back. “You’ll need to bring in your birth certificate, social security card, and driver’s license.”

I told him my birth certificate still has my old name, but that I had an official court document from my name change. He said he thought I should bring that then. Another coworker interjected and said I needed to call customer care. Apparently the procedure for updating customer names had changed. So I went outside and stood next to a “No Loitering” sign to hang around and talk on the phone.

I called customer care and told the representative that I legally changed my name and needed to update it on my account. She asked why it changed, “Did you get married or divorced?” I said no. She asked what my name changed to, and I started to answer, “My first name is now Ande, A-N-D-E,” and she answered, “Oohhhhhh, I see what’s going on here.” My old name was more feminine so I think she figured out it was a gender thing.

She put me on hold for a bit and then told me since it wasn’t a marriage or divorce, I might have to go to a store to update my account. I told her I was standing outside the store that had just told me I needed to call her. She put me on hold for a while again. She came back and said I needed to mail “any applicable legal proof” along with a photocopy of my driver’s license to a P.O. box in Albuquerque. She said if I mailed them right away, they should be able to update my account within a month. I worried about the timeline since my driver’s license expires in a week and a half, but I kept that concern to myself for the moment.

I told the customer care person that my phone was in really rough shape and might not last a month. “Is there a way I can access my account at a store sooner than that?” She told me to bring in a legal document with my old and new names. I asked if my old and new driver’s licenses would be enough and she said probably not. I went home and searched frantically until I found my court document. I brought it with me back to the store.

I waited 5-10 minutes for my turn to talk to a salesperson. As I told him my phone number, I pulled a folder out of my bag. He asked for my ID. I opened the folder and said, “Here is my original court order for name change from the name on my account to my current name which is printed here on my current state-issued ID.” I set down my driver’s license. He looked at my documents for a moment and asked if I happened to have my old ID with me. I took it out and set it next to my current ID, which has the same photo of me that still looks like me.

He poked at his tablet for a minute or two and then said, “OK, I’ve got your name updated on your account. What else can I do for you?” I asked him in a few different ways if he had really just straightened that out for me. He had. While he helped me with my phone upgrade, I said I was glad I was able to dig up that court order that day. He said, “Oh, you could have just come in with your old and new IDs and we could have taken care of that for you.”

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Being a Quercus

My name is Ande Quercus. Last April, I got a book called The Magic of Trees as a gift from my friend Erin. I learned that oak trees (genus Quercus) are associated with various thunder gods because of their reputation for getting struck by lightning more than other trees. Elysa and I had a good laugh and called me “Ande the thunder tree” because of my impressive gassiness. But the association of Quercus with lightning soon came to have deeper spiritual meaning for me.

Last year was my first year at Midway Green Spirit Garden, the big awesome community garden in my neighborhood. Signing up was a big deal for me. I love plants. I love gardening. But a big part of community gardening is interfacing with other humans. A lot of them. Fifty-one plots’ worth, if I remember correctly. I’m afraid of humans, so this was really overwhelming for me. But I’m getting to know the people there. The most intimidating part has been the humans I encounter while traveling the mile between my house and the garden.

Last May, I had just picked my plot and gotten my volunteer assignment in tool maintenance, and I was really excited to jump in. One day, when I was biking home from the garden on a marked bikeway, some asshole in a pickup truck towing a large utility trailer cut me off to pull an aggressive but slow u-turn. I honked my air horn while skidding to an abrupt halt. He blocked me from traveling down that street for a minute or two. When he finally parked and let me pass, he shouted a rape threat at me.

This incident was really upsetting for me. I imagine it would be for most people. Less than a week after it happened, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist. I told him I was still upset about the rape threat that had recently been directed at me. He laughed and told me I was inviting that kind of treatment by choosing to look the way I do (i.e. conspicuously gender non-conforming). To be clear, my doctor, who was supposed to be helping me manage my PTSD symptoms, told me I was inviting violent threats by not shaving my face when others wanted me to.

He went on to tell me that I’m basically a lightning rod. What is a lightning rod? It’s a thing humans build to attract dangerous lightning strikes away from important things. Its purpose is to get struck by lightning so other things don’t. I dislike being called a lightning rod.

After my upsetting appointment, I was a mess. Elysa let me cry on her and shout in anger at being blamed for the violence I endure. “I’m not a lightning rod,” I wept, not quite believing it as I said it. “You’re not a lightning rod,” she assured me. “You’re an oak tree, Ande Quercus.”

Turtle Crossing

In late spring of 2001, while I was driving my usual route home, I saw a turtle trying to cross the highway. I thought about stopping to help, but I didn’t really feel like making that effort. A few hours later, when I drove back in the other direction, I saw the remains of the turtle who had not made it across. It broke my heart, and I felt terrible for ignoring my impulse to help the poor thing.

A week or two after that, I saw another turtle crossing the highway on my way to the community college. This time, I pulled over and carried the turtle the rest of the way across. Feeling extremely satisfied, I decided to start leaving extra time for my morning drive to school, in case any other turtles needed saving. There was a lot of turtle traffic on that highway, so small rescue operations became a regular thing for me.

There wasn’t a ton of automobile traffic on that road, so I never had to wait long to cross safely. I liked it when people drove by while I was working. I know I was a sight to see. Back then, I wore black clothes and black makeup and assorted chains and spiked things. If camera phones and social media had existed, I could have become internet famous: “Goth teen consoles turtle while directing traffic.”

Most of my clients were painted turtles or red eared sliders. I would walk up to one, they’d impersonate a rock, and I’d move the one-pound “rock” to a safe location. One day, though, I saw a turtle in trouble that was at least ten times bigger than any of the others I’d helped, and this one had more threatening features. When I got closer, the turtle stretched out their neck toward me, opened their mouth, and let out a frantic but exhausted sounding hiss. I knew this wouldn’t be a simple “move the rock” rescue, so I launched into a motivational speech. I didn’t know what else to do with a snapping turtle.

I remember standing in the middle of the road, gesturing emphatically while attempting to verbally persuade my shelled friend to finish crossing while it was safe. Whenever a vehicle drove by, the turtle would hiss at it threatenly. Unlike the other turtles, the snapper stopped crossing and took on a defensive response. Most of the turtles crossed slowly but surely. I wondered how long this one had been standing in the middle of the road, trying to intimidate the vehicles rather than walk away from them.

I went to my car and frantically dug for something that could help. My combination snow brush and ice scraper was the longest thing I had, so I decided to go with that. I figured I could nudge the frightened critter toward the ditch without risking the loss of any of my digits. So I went behind the turtle and gave them an encouraging little poke. Instead of moving forward though, the turtle turned around and hissed at me.

I figured I might have more luck getting the turtle to come after me than trying to push them in front of me. I waved my ice scraper in their face. Instead of walking toward me, the turtle shot their neck out and bit down on the plastic end of my tool. This impressively aggressive gesture made me extra glad I had kept my hands at a safe distance. I pulled my ice scraper and dragged the turtle about a yard before they let go. After a few more pokes, the turtle was chasing me through the ditch. The internet would have loved that video too.

Rural Poop

I get tired of the poop in my everyday city life. Our most used bathroom (with litter box) is a half bath just off the kitchen. If the door was closed, you might think it was a pantry. Cleaning the litter boxes is never an exciting chore. And Matilda has been smearing extra rude turds about the house while adjusting to a dietary change. Then there are the mouse droppings in the kitchen which have been particularly infuriating, though cayenne pepper has really helped with that problem. There’s not that much poop to deal with here, but it’s too much.

Yesterday, I went to Wintervale Ranch, which is about a 50-minute drive from home. That’s Elysa’s parents’ place. At Wintervale, there are four horses, three chickens, a cat, a dog, some wildlife passing through, and a healthy community of several types of trees. I guess there are some nice native grasses there too, but I haven’t gotten very excited about them yet. While walking the trails and checking in on the various critters, I came across a pile of turds that I apparently found interesting enough to snap a photo.

pile of animal droppings in the grass

Someone suggested they might be rabbit poop, but it seemed a little too large for that. My best guess is that it was deer poop. But I think the most important thing for me to take away from that situation was that I found the poop interesting enough to warrant kneeling on the ground, inspecting it, and photographing it. And now I’m writing about it. Examining turds is a good way to learn about who has been dropping by.

Ande scooping horse poop in the paddocks while a white horse (Legacy) supervises

Horse poop is the best though. It doesn’t usually smell bad, and it helps us grow impressive crops. We took home a good load of composted horse manure. As a gesture of appreciation for the compost, I gladly scooped up the small amount of poop that was lying around in the paddock. John gave me a great compost management tutorial while he helped me empty the crap cart. Horses produce an impressive amount of poop, so manure management is a big job, even with a small number of animals.

Learning about how much time is spent working with poop on a farm has brought me back to an experience I had in middle school that finally makes sense to me. I attended an extremely conservative Christian school. During the winter, we got to go ice skating sometimes, in the flooded field on the other side of the parking lot. One time, Mrs. B slipped and fell on her butt, and shouted, “Shit!” We all looked at her with shock and disbelief. She defended herself, saying, “What? I grew up on a farm.” I always thought that was a ridiculous excuse, but it finally makes sense. Rural poop is different from city poop, and when you spend so much time moving poop around, you need more than one word for it.

Tomato Teardown

Gardening season is drawing to a close. I finished tearing down my tomato plants yesterday. Well, all of them except the volunteers: I still have five or six potted plants, plus the sideways one or two growing in the ground by the raised bed, and the one growing by the compost pile. But none of those count since I didn’t plant them; they volunteered to grow where some of last year’s tomatoes had fallen. They’re all in my back yard, so they are a low priority for cleanup.

I finished cleaning up the tomato plants at my MGS (Midway Green Spirit Community Garden) plot last Thursday. I think I had eight plants there: two heirlooms and six hybrids. A lot of them ended up growing across the ground because I didn’t have the equipment to support my giant plants. That plot is maybe half cleaned up now. I still have some pepper plants to cut down before it snows. And the seed pods on my broccoli are probably ready to come inside to dry. My other brassicas have mostly fizzled out due to damage from slugs.

My Edmund Ave. plot is almost empty now. Just two kale plants are left there. I cut down the basil and pulled up the green beans a couple weeks ago. I froze more than a pint of pesto. Yesterday, Elysa and I tore down what remained of our six giant heirloom tomato plants. The Blondkopfchen was a particularly impressive plant. Planted in the center of a ten-foot row, its branches had reached both ends of the row and started to loop back in. We got at least a few thousand sweet yellow cherry tomatoes from that plant. I think I want to give next year’s Blondkopfchen plant the full 10′ x 10′ plot and see what kind of magic we can work together.

I stopped weighing this year’s tomato harvests after I hit about 65 pounds. I’m nearly certain we got more than 100 pounds total. We froze some. We canned some. We shared some. We ate some fresh. We made tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato salsa, tomato jelly, tomato ketchup. Now it’s time to start thinking about how I can use my time this winter to prepare for next year’s bounty.