The Little Red Lighthouse


“Fat and red and jolly” is how Hildegard Swift described Jeffrey’s Hook Light in her beloved tale The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Although the red lighthouse has not shone its light in years, it is, like in the book, still proud to have a job to do: pleasing children and tourists.

The book, which was published in 1942, tells the story of the lighthouse’s fear that it no longer is of any use when a great grey bridge is built next to it, with its own flashing light, making it feel small and unimportant. One night during a storm, however, the bridge calls to the lighthouse reassuring it that it still has work to do: “each to his own place,” it says, and so the lighthouse proudly gets back to work.

It was this story that saved the lighthouse in 1951 when it was threatened with being torn down. Fans of Swift’s book campaigned for it to stay, and so it sits there today, under George Washington Bridge in northwestern Manhattan. As the book says, you should “see for yourself.”



2012: A Year in Nonviolent Dissent

“It gets into your system … the force and power of nonviolence.”

The above quotation is taken from a Guernica essay by Eamon Kircher Allen that was published in April this year. In April I had just returned from Egypt and was about to embark on a summer course through the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. The power of nonviolence was in my system.

Through taking the course and talking to young Egyptian activists,  long-held understandings shifted. I started to realise things that should have been obvious. Authority, global order: these things are not rigid. Oppression draws power through our consent; we can withdraw that consent. Nonviolence does not mean inaction: it is often strategic.

In the ICNC course I learned a lot about strategy; about movements from West Papua to Burma and Chile; about different terms used for nonviolence (Satyagraha, People Power..) I learned about creative resistance (the Estonian Singing Revolution, Burmese clowns, Chilean cueca sola…)

As I moved through the year and from this place to the next I saw signs of dissent; civil resistance, and what Kircher Allen called the “common font of yearning for an alternative global order.” From Egypt to Mexico and the USA I saw people struggle for rights, recognition and to strategise a commitment to nonviolence.

Cairo, Egypt. February 2012.
Cairo, Egypt. February 2012.
Mexico City. September 2012.
Mexico City. September 2012.



There is some nuances I still debate. Such as the photograph below.

It is a stencil of Mubarak and (what I am told is) writing that says “when will he die?” I saw others (that I didn’t photograph) of his image in a noose. I believe that words can be violence so do those images have a place in a nonviolent movement?

Luxor, Egypt. March 2012.
Luxor, Egypt. March 2012.

What about the destruction of property? Below is a photograph of the burned-out NDP building in Cairo. My first glance at it inspired an initial feeling of horror, which lifted when a woman smiling and taking photos of it expressed to me how happy the sight made her.

Cairo, Egypt. February 2012
Cairo, Egypt. February 2012

A question posed in the ICNC course: If property destruction is violence then how should we think of the Danish Resistance blowing up Nazi railroad tracks?

I am learning and I am asking myself questions and I don’t understand much but I am trying. I still struggle with hopelessness and anger but I am trying to be an optimist. There is both optimism and despair in dissent but signs of nonviolent dissent give me hope. I think that is a good way to move into the new year.

Cairo International Airport. March 2012.
Cairo International Airport. March 2012.

Condom Couture

Condom Couture is a Project Runway-style annual event where local students create dresses entirely out of condoms, modeled by people from the community. The show was inspired by a 2008 study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that one in four teenage girls in the United States has a sexually transmitted infection. Condom Couture was born of Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio board member, Lonni Thompson’s idea for a creative way raise awareness. The idea is now being imitated by other events in several other cities across the country.

Condom Couture 2012. Photo by author.

Since 2008 Condom Couture has raised more than half a million dollars for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio (PPCO became PPGO this year) and has awarded scholarships (gifted by an anonymous donor) to the top three student designers every year.

This year’s winner was Julie Ward, who produced a gold-painted, rolled condom dress, which she says was inspired by Alexander McQueen.

“The silhouette and the design were inspired by designer Alexander McQueen,” said Ward. “I chose him because he really represents strength and femininity. I wanted to be a part of (the show) this year, because of the election: because women need to stand up for their rights.”

Condom Couture’s winning design. Photo by author.

The second place prize went to Bridgette Steven’s pink gown, inspired by her mother’s battle with breast cancer.

Condom Couture’s second-place winner. Photo by author.

Marquis Lucky-Engle, who received his HIV+ status at a Planned Parenthood clinic, got third place. His model wore a silver shell made of unwrapped condoms, which she removed to reveal a paint-splattered mini dress underneath.

“To see condoms on a dress is one thing, but to see them used is another.” He said. “I wanted to concentrate on what happens when the condoms are not used … a beautiful disaster.”

Third place; Condom Couture. Photo by author.

Sex Work and Storytelling at “Sex and Justice”

Sex and Justice Conference Oct 4-6 2012. Photo by author.

“I have been thinking a lot about the question of sex and innocence because sex is usually framed in the context of innocence and its loss—an enormously dangerous idea. We need to address this because as long as innocence is the definition of the right to be a sexual person, we will always lose. Because if we tell the truth about desire; tell the truth about our lives; tell the truth about who we are; what we do or want to do or try not to do, we will never be able to be innocent.”

–Amber Hollibaugh; Sex and Justice, October 5. 2012

I have a wrap-up of last week’s Sex and Justice Conference over at Tits and Sass.

The conference was motivating and, I think, essential. I think the event laid a groundwork for something new — exactly what, I’m not sure yet; a movement maybe.  As I mention in the article at Tits and Sass, I felt attuned to the act of storytelling as a political action, in that it is a different structure of conversation from which a new way of seeing things can emerge.

The three main conference topics were HIV criminalisation, sex work, and sex offender registries. It was unlike anything I had been to before: the speakers (which included several idols including Carol Queen, Gayle Rubin, Deon Haywood and Judith Levine) took on these issues, things usually only spoken about in near-silence, honestly and without apology.

“This conference is necessary and fundamentally frightening,” said Hollibaugh.

More from Amber Hollibaugh:

(If you talk about) the complicated lives of people who survive economically with bad choices, you can start to build a movement that can deal with these complicated lives. You can’t build movements that actually bring people together to begin to articulate the reality of the complexity of the intersections of their lives if you make people lie.”

Good Food in Columbus: Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese

My memories of Japan travel across all the senses, sometimes pausing on just one. Taste. Cool soba on a hot summer day; oden in the winter; fresh sushi from a tiny shop in Tokyo’s Hiroo district; sweet mochi from the nameless store on the backstreets of Nishi Azabu, and yakitori at the Azabu Juban festival.

Vendor at Azabu Juban Festival, Tokyo. Photo by author.
Breakfast at a ryokan in Kyoto. Photo by author.

Last year a little takoyaki stand sprung up on Columbus’ North High Street. The married couple (she is from Japan and he is Korean-American) had run a successful Japanese crepe truck the year before, and revived the name, Fresh Street, at their new venture. Popping the piping octopus-filled hot dough balls into my mouth for the first time late afternoon last summer transported my senses back to the street vendor on the neon-lit street of Osaka where I tried takoyaki for the first time. It was that good.

Sadly, Fresh Street were just borrowing the street stand on afternoons from the Mickey’s Late Night Slice pizza vendor, who decided they wanted to expand their business into the daytime, and now the takoyaki stand is no more.

But, joyfully, Fresh Street is open for business at the Double Happiness bar in the Brewery District, serving yakitori, kushiyaki and small-plate Japanese bar snacks. And, as of this week, they will be serving a special lunch-only menu too. As for takoyaki, I have been getting my fix at Tensuke Express next door to the Japanese grocery on Henderson and Kenny.

Fresh Street at Double Happiness. Photo by author.
Double Happiness decor. Photo by author.

I had been looking forward to visiting Columbus’ Asian Festival the other month and widening my appreciation for Columbus’ surprisingly healthy Asian food scene. But I had the flu for three days and missed it. I have done my own investigation around the city and these are the best places I have found so far:

Arirang, 1526 Bethel Road

There is whole bunch of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai businesses on and around Bethel Road. It seems to be some kind of hub.  I absolutely love the Korean market, Arirang. Here, you can pick up Korean groceries at the grocery store then sit down for a meal at the tiny attached restaurant. My favourite dish so far is the Dolsot Bibimbap (a mixed rice, vegetable and meat dish served in a hot stone bowl). All dishes come with traditional banchan, a selection of small dishes that change every day, and hot barley tea is complimentary.

Bangkok, 3277 Refugee Road

Bangkok Restaurant. Photo by author.

Like Arirang, Bangkok Restaurant is attached to a grocery store. This Thai restaurant lies in unappealing surroundings but is filled with charming images of Thailand and delightful service staff. While Bangkok offers a handful of Chinese-American dishes as well as Thai, I feel that to order them here would be a shame. I liked the pad prick pao ground pork dish.

Lan Viet, North Market, 59 Spruce Street

Lan and her husband Thanh Lee run the Lan Viet stall at the North Market. Their pho is the best, I think, in the city — though the banh mi and coffee is better at Mi Li in Northland.

New York City in Pictures

Subway. Photo by author.

The first time I ever went to New York, I travelled with my friend Jane and a torn out map of Sex in the City locations. In my early twenties, finishing up college in the early years of the millennium, I thought that a designer shopping, martini sipping lifestyle was what I was supposed to be moving towards because that was the message I was reading via the fashion magazines I used to buy.

The first time I went to New York City alone, a train conductor spied me puzzling over a map and slyly asked if I was running away from home.

I usually try to return to NYC every year, but vapid thoughts of SATC stay where they belong: the early 2000s. I don’t visit to run away anymore, although I often visit alone. Strangely I find a closeness in the big city; that there’s a space for me among the differences I see between everyone. Now that I live in a city where I have to drive everywhere, riding the subway gives me a feeling of connection that is missing in my current (temporary) hometown.

My relationship with the city has changed in the ten years since my first visit. NYC isn’t something to be feared or conquered; I don’t approach it as if attending a job interview anymore.

The Jane Hotel. Photo by author.

I stayed at the Jane Hotel in the West Village. The red-brick building used to house sailors and was occupied by Titanic survivors in 1912. Staff are dressed in red old-timey bellhop uniforms — the lady that checked me in owned hers; complementing it with huge red-framed oval glasses. The rooms are tiny, befitting the nautical theme that runs throughout, and country accents, such as a stuffed peacock and antlers in the lobby, lend a bohemian air.

The Jane Hotel. Photo by author.

During the day I took the subway to and from Brooklyn.

Skyline from Subway. Photo by author.

Walked through Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park.

Brooklyn Cherry Blossom. Photo by author.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by author.
Crabapple. Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by author.

I walked along the High Line.

High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.
High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.
Bird feeders along High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.

…And through the streets of Manhattan.

Manhattan sky. Photo by author.
NYC. Photo by author.

I saw Pulp at Radio City Music Hall.

Pulp at Radio City Music Hall. Photo by author.

I went to the Weegee exhibit at the International Center of Photography, and the Diego Rivera and Cindy Sherman exhibitions at the MOMA.

Cindy Sherman at the MOMA. Photo by author.

I ate pho at Saigon Shack, cupcakes at Molly’s, breakfast at the Breslin, drank coffee at Stumptown and a Dark and Stormy at Commonwealth.

Dark n’ Stormy. Photo by author.

I drank a cocktail called Paris is Burning with Strippertweets, Maura and Melissa at the NoMad Hotel,’s Library Bar, a spicy hot chocolate at the Chocolate Bar and ate two Crack Pies from Momofuku Milk Bar.

Crack Pie. Photo by author.