The ‘coolest f-word ever’

“I mean why can’t all decent men and women call themselves feminists? Out of respect for those who fought for this. I mean, look around. We have this.”
—Ani DiFranco, “Grand Canyon”

The carcass of the rabbit is fresh. I can make out what used to be ears. It’s 7:30 a.m. as I dart around the road kill and drive down the street. On Vista, I end up sandwiched between vehicles, inching to a stoplight.

I sniff, search futilely for tissue and blow my nose in a Subway napkin. My cell phone rings. It’s my daughter, locked out of her car. Her spare key isn’t on my key ring but at home in a drawer. And I can’t turn around now—the two teenagers in my car would be late for Rainshadow High in downtown Reno.

So we crawl along Vista, creep along I-80, arrive downtown on time. It’s 11 miles back to East Sparks for me, around Flat Rabbit, home. I find the key, blow gluey goo into toilet paper, drive past Flat Rabbit to Wooster High, open my daughter’s car, drive downtown again and park near a drug store. Inside, I grab a box of tissues and stand in the wrong check-out line, one where someone’s arguing: “This nail polish was supposed to be $1.89 but it rang up $1.99!”

Price check ensues.

At UNR, I run into a co-worker, female. “How’s it going?” I ask.

“I feel fractured,” she replies.

I nod.

It’s 6:40 p.m. and we’re walking to Bartley Ranch for the Ani DiFranco concert, carrying low-back chairs for our lawn seats. A woman in an SUV pulls over and, with random kindness, gives us tickets for Row D, center seats.

A lovely venue but cold, windy. We wear hooded sweatshirts and cover our legs with blankets. Slam poet champ Buddy Wakefield opens for DiFranco. He talks about welcoming darkness along with light. He performs a moving piece: “Convenience Store.”

“I ask, ‘Is this it for you? Is this all you’ll ever do? Her smile collapsed.'”

Then the crowd erupts with “I love yous” for DiFranco, the singer-songwriter who started her own record label when she was 18 years old. She’s in her mid-30s now and pregnant. Guitars—a freshly tuned one for each song—hide the curve of her abdomen.

Pregnancy doesn’t seem real to her, she says. More like a condition that happens to cause swelling of the midriff.

“I have pregnantitis,” she says, laughing. When a Reno fan gives the singer a tiny outfit for her little one, reality sinks in. She holds up her hands to show the size of the clothing. “Shit.”

She plays and sings a mix of songs, newer and older, accompanied by a percussionist and bass violinist. Then the stage clears and she stands at the mic alone for her spoken-word piece, “Grand Canyon.”

“People, we are standing at ground zero of the feminist revolution … I think the time is nothing if not nigh to let the truth out. Coolest f-word ever deserves a fucking shout!”

I have this on a CD, listened to it driving through Arizona this summer. Now “color me stunned and dazzled” to be sitting in the fourth row when the artist gets to the lines about “bearing witness like a woman bears a child.” Her hands go to her bulge. “With all … her … might … Born of the greatest pain into a grand canyon of light.”

In this moment, the night feels less cold. My head clears.

It’s 11 p.m. when I drive past Flat Rabbit, unrecognizable now, and go home.