(1950's postcard of Cliff House)
Nobody went to the camera obscura
People were everywhere else, swarming
stagnant ruins of the old Sutro
Talking about Harold and Maude or
when Silverman shut down the bathhouses
Pouring dimes and nickels into
the Musee Mechanique
Watching seals, standing in line
to eat reheated chowder and watered cocoa
A few bothered to climb Sutro Heights, read
about how he brought eucalyptus to the parks
But none noticed the Statue of Diana where
in 1978, dyke witches held full moon rituals
Sneaking in after dark to strip and, well, you
can just imagine
The camera obscura is expensive for
something without electrical parts
Even in 1978, it cost a dollar
which was a meal or a matinee
The sign outside is old-fashioned
The few who go in tend to complain
loudly in the dark, decide to head instead
to Ocean Beach where parking is free
The beach where I first had sex
after moving to San Fran
with a woman who wanted me
much, much more than I wanted her
I had on a red and white striped
men's shirt from Goodwill
Baggy overalls with room for her hands
I didn't come
Once you pay admission to the
camera obscura, you can stay
as long as you like. There is no sound
The image is upside down
Colors distilled, concentrated
So few of them left anywhere
The invention that led to photography
but this is a living stream, the world
right outside, unaware of being watched
Believing they comprehend time
© Maggie Jochild, 3 November 2007, 7:14 a.m.
(Inside the Camera Obscura, photo © 2006 Betsy Malloy)
Saturday, November 3, 2007
(1950's postcard of Cliff House)
Friday, November 2, 2007
(Two Jungalas at Warlukurla by Clifford Possum Japaltjarri)
Octavio Paz once said that with regard to death, a Mejicano "...chases after it, mocks it, courts it, hugs it, sleeps with it; it is her/his favorite plaything and her/his most lasting love."
In a Kenyon Review interview in 2000, MacArthur Fellowship recipient and poet Edward Hirsch says:
"...Praise and lamentation are two of the deepest impulses in lyric poetry. The earliest poems we have—the Egyptian pyramid texts, the ancient Hebrew poems, or the earliest Greek poems—all include poems of lamentation and poems of praise. To me, the two elements go hand in hand. I wouldn't want a poetry of praise that doesn't take up the countertruth of lamentation, and I wouldn't want a poetry of lamentation that doesn't remember the gifts, to praise. Rilke says something like this in The Duino Elegies—praise walks in the land of lamentation. (...) I find the impulse to praise in the earliest poems, in the great archaic poems of people everywhere, in Christopher Smart and Walt Whitman and Gerard Manley Hopkins. It's one of the deepest and strongest impulses in poetry. I'd love to be a poet of praise. So, too, the poetry of grief and lamentation is one of the deepest and most long-standing elements in poetry. The elegy is one of our necessary forms as we try to come to terms with the fact that people around us die, that we, too, will die. We need the ritual occasion, ritual making of the elegy. That dimension of poetry is fundamental. I would very much like to see myself as part of both traditions. To me, the two greatest impulses in poetry are elegy and praise. I would love to write a poetry that brings those two impulses together."
And in my novel Ginny Bates, during the first serious conversation Ginny and Myra have together, Myra gets Ginny's complete attention and lays some of the groundwork for Ginny coming to see her as a potential life partner when she explains, as a writer:
"I read somewhere that American poetry tends to be elegaic in tone. We tend not to write the kind of political or funny or celebratory poems that other cultures do, we write about something that's been lost. I think it's because we're a nation of exiles. We separated from our homelands and had to act as if it was this great choice, moving here for freedom and new opportunity. Except I think the opposite is mostly true -- we moved here because we had no choices left. For whatever reason, we could not survive in the homeland. I think it's possible that a majority of immigrants were people who were dysfunctional in a particular way. And certainly a big chunk of our population either fled outright slaughter -- like your people -- or were kidnapped and brought here against their will. (...) And then, even with those of us here now for a generation or two, we can't find a place of safety in our families of origin. We flee to the cities on the coasts and live as exiles there, longing for our families but not able to ever go back home. We make new families together, bands of exiles. Some of them, like the lesbian community, are very satisfying. Some of us love each other as well as people have ever loved each other. But it all began from a place of exile. I think if you don't acknowledge that, and grieve it, you'll never be happy."
Grief and praise in equal amounts, a banquet table. Described by Edna St. Vincent Millay in Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies thus:
To be grown up is to sit at the table with people who have died, who neither listen nor speak;
Who do not drink their tea, though they always said
Tea was such a comfort.
Run down into the cellar and bring up the last jar of raspberries; they are not tempted.
Flatter them, ask them what was it they said exactly
That time, to the bishop, or to the overseer, or to Mrs. Mason;
They are not taken in.
Shout at them, get red in the face, rise,
Drag them up out of their chairs by their stiff shoulders and shake them and yell at them;
They are not startled, they are not even embarrassed; they slide back into their chairs.
Your tea is cold now.
You drink it standing up,
And leave the house.
There are so many at my table now, I don't know where to squeeze in. I'll come at it indirectly.
When I was ten or eleven, when I knew that I was a writer and a Lesbian but not sure how I'd ever get to live as either one, ABC aired a special production of Brigadoon starring Robert Goulet as Tommy the American who finds true love in the past wilds of Scotland. The premise of Brigadoon is that of a small town which, centuries ago, allowed itself to be suspended in time so that it only came to life once every hundred years. For the inhabitants, there was no gap; one day followed another. But the rest of the world went on without them. The question it posed -- if you fell in love with someone from Brigadoon and had to either go with them, losing everything else you had known to the mists of eternity, or stay in this world and lose your love forever, which would you choose? -- hit my preteen heart like a sledgehammer.
I literally lay awake nights thinking about it. Even though I had not yet been in love.
It's what come up when I am reminded of Robert Goulet, what I remembered when I heard he died this week waiting, sedated, for a lung transplant. His big deep voice, from an era when men were not afraid that singing passionately would make them seem "faggy", belting out:
Can't we two go walking together
Out beyond the valley of trees
Out where there's a hillside of heather
Curtsying gently in the breeze
That's what I'd like to do
See the heather -- but with you
What a day this has been
What a rare mood I'm in
Why, it's almost like being in love
There's a smile on my face for the whole human race
Why, it's almost like being in love
All the music of life seems to be like a bell that is ringing for me
And from the way that I feel when that bell starts to peal,
I could swear I was falling, I would swear I was falling,
It's almost like being in love.
I sing these two more often than you might guess, and it always brings my cat Dinah running, though usually she either ignores my singing or retreats from it as offensive. I suspect it's the vibrato in my voice on these particular songs that draws her curiosity -- my version of channeling Robert Goulet.
Years later, I saw the 1940's Gene Kelly/Cyd Charisse film of Brigadoon at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, and while I loved Gene Kelly, the music was lackluster in comparison. I have the vinyl soundtrack from the TV show, though I read online there is no known video of the broadcast. So, either you know what I'm talking about, or you don't.
(Washoe in 1995, Central Washington University, with Deborah and Roger Fouts)
Today we also lost Washoe, the chimpanzee who learned to speak American Sign Language -- bringing to three the total of remarkable animals who've died this season. The New York Times and other articles about her stated:
"Washoe, a female chimpanzee said to be the first non-human to acquire human language, has died of natural causes at the research institute where she was kept.
Washoe, who first learned a bit of American Sign Language in a research project in Nevada, had been living on Central Washington University's Ellensburg campus since 1980. Her keepers said she had a vocabulary of about 250 words, although critics contended Washoe and some other primates learned to imitate sign language, but did not develop true language skills.
"She died Tuesday night, according to Roger and Deborah Fouts, co-founders of The Chimpanzee and Human Communications Institute on the campus. She was born in Africa about 1965.
"The chimp died in bed at age 42, surrounded by staff members and other primates who had been close to her."
(Fup, store cat at Powell's, The City of Books -- photo courtesy of Shopcat)
I subscribe to the Powell's Bookstore newsletter, primarily because of the weekly "column" written by/about Fup, the Store Cat. I've been to Powell's (in my dreams, I win the lottery and spend a week buying it out) and saw Fup briefly. The store website has a tribute to her by Ron Silberstein that states, in part:
"Fup, the resident cat at Powell's Technical Books, passed away on October 25. She was 19 years old. She continued to greet her admiring public to the end, when her health failed and there was no choice but to put her to sleep. Her lifelong veterinarian made the trip out to the store to perform the task and Fup died peacefully at home with several of her longtime co-workers present.
"Fup was born on or about June 30, 1988. She was adopted as a kitten by the Technical Store's first manager, so her exact birthdate is unknown and she was always quite coy about that. As for the origin of her name, legend has it that the manager's sister had a cat named Puff, so he sort of spelled that backwards. There was also a book titled Fup by Jim Dodge, published in 1983, which may have played into it as well.
"When Powell's Technical Books moved to its present address in November 1990, Fup made the move as well. After clearing the building of any remaining mice, she claimed the store as her own. She showed little interest in the outside world, except to watch birds and falling leaves outside the window. She didn't care for toys, either — Fup took her position quite seriously.
"In her youth, Fup would sometimes climb ladders and hide at the top of book fixtures to look down upon the humans in her domain. Over the years, Fup acquired a well-earned reputation for biting employees who intruded on her time for more than about 30 seconds. However, she would always be sitting in front of the office to greet whoever came to open the store in the morning, demanding her serving of canned food for breakfast. She was more patient with visitors; Fup played the celebrity game well. She received many gifts and cards and emails from fans, which she appreciated.
"In her later years, she mellowed out quite a bit and even became friendlier towards her co-workers, especially if they shared their lunches. Her favorite foods were canned tuna, chicken (especially Tandoori), and pulled pork. Cold cuts were also welcome.
A website devoted to her, Shopcat, states "Her main duties are to walk around and keep an eye on things, and to act as a paperweight. Her favorite places are in boxes of any size. She usually naps in the fax paper box, but we caught her jumping in the 'Outgoing Store Transfers' box."
(Alex the African Grey Parrot)
And in September we lost Alex the African Grey Parrot. The website sparked by study of him at Alex Foundation states:
"Known as one of the most famous African Grey parrots in history, Alex pioneered new avenues in avian intelligence. He possessed more than 100 vocal labels for different objects, actions, colors and could identify certain objects by their particular material. He could count object sets up to the total number six and was working on seven and eight. Alex exhibited math skills that were considered advanced in animal intelligence, developing his own 'zero-like' concept in addition to being able to infer the connection between written numerals, objects sets, and the vocalization of the number. Alex was learning to read the sounds of various letters and had a concept of phonemes, the sounds that make up words."
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As a Halloween treat, I'm going to share (after the fold) an excerpt from Ginny Bates covering their Halloween party of 2002, when Margie is almost 14 and Gillam is 11. If you are already a familiar reader, skip down to Read More. If not, here's links to background information in the sidebar to the right, third item from top.
At the end of September, Myra said "I don't think Gillam wants to go trick-or-treating this year, and Margie's way past it. How's about if we move into a different phase of celebrating Halloween?"
"Like what, a party?" said Ginny.
"Yeah. Maybe a real grown-up party, but one that's teenager friendly" said Myra.
"Gillam is not a teenager yet, don't rush it" said Ginny. "We can outfit the upstairs hallway with games and activities, and let the kids pick the music for that level's party."
They brainstormed ideas, and finally came up with wording:
"The ancient Celts believed their New Year began right after midnight on All Hallow's Eve. But for ten strokes after midnight, there was a gap between the new year and the old -- and in that gap, a world of possibility existed. The dead could return to walk among us for that night. Irreconcible differences could be mended, and unlikely futures could be commenced. Come celebrate with us at our 'Possibilities Party', Saturday night from 7 p.m. until the New Year. Costumes encouraged, prizes awarded. Jill-o-lantern carving from 7 to 8. Children of all ages welcome -- there will be bobbing for apples, quidditch-stick designing, and a 'sleepy-time' room for kids whose parents who want to stay late. No drugs or alcohol. "
Ginny said she would create the invitations. Myra went to discuss a guest list with the children and set them loose on their half of the planning. Then she began a cassoulet for dinner. After a couple of hours of silence from the studio, she walked back to see how Ginny was doing. She had finished only one invitation.
"Can I look at this?" said Myra.
"Yeah, but pick it up by the edges, the fixative isn't completely dry."
It was a 5x7 block print on heavy ivory matte stock of a forest choked with trees which had lost most of their leaves. The sepia of the bark and branches melted down into roots and vines on the ground. A trail through the woods showed two figures meeting. One was a blue woman in ancient garb, with long wild hair that twisted up into nearby branches. She was holding a gourd lantern at eye level and peering at the figure in front of her, an indeterminate dark green being whose edges melted into the black background. But the background, the shadows and night sky, glinted with something iridescent. Myra turned the card this way and that, trying to determine what glittered. Finally she said "Sand? Did you sprinkle sand in the black ink?"
Ginny grinned jubilantly. "No, I crushed a piece of obsidian in the mortar and used that."
"Holy fuck, that's ground glass, isn't it?"
"Hence the thick coating of lacquer, so it's not going to cut flesh."
"Is this batik?"
"Yes, three colors plus the background. It'll go faster now that I've got the template ready."
"Ginny, this is a work of art. I mean, I would expect nothing else, but, my god -- can I have this one to frame?"
Ginny glowed with pride and nodded.
"Hang on, though -- where's the party information?" Myra turned the card over -- it was blank.
"I thought you could play with your fonts, print out the text on a big label and we'll stick those on the reverse. We'll have to mail these in envelopes anyhow."
"Primo, Ginny. Just primo." Myra kissed her and began to walk off with the invitation.
"Honey, let me keep that one a little while longer as a model. And, in fact -- how about if I cut the mat for this and frame it for you? I don't want the glass to press against the texture."
Myra gave the invitation back. "Cassoulet for dinner. With steamed spinach, maybe?"
"And the last of the brocciolini" said Ginny. "Are you going to dress up for this? Not dinner, the party, I mean."
"I want to. Are you?"
"Yes, I have an idea for a costume. But let's surprise each other that night, okay?"
Myra grinned hugely. "Lovely."
Gillam thundered downstairs with a list of snacks and supplies he and Margie had compiled for the kids' party. He was excited to hear that his mothers were going to wear costumes. He asked if Carly could stay overnight the weekend of the party. "Sure" said Myra. "Let's ask Truitt, too, and anybody else Margie wants. Listen, if you'll set the table completely -- we need bread and butter, too -- then I'll leave the dishes for Margie."
"Cool" said Gillam, heading for the sideboard.
The next week, invitations in the mail, Ginny dropped in on Allie one morning.
"I want to tell you a secret, because I need your help with something" she told Allie.
"A secret from who? Myra?" Allie looked instantly wary.
"Yes, but only temporarily. It's my Halloween costume." said Ginny.
"I'd be honored" said Allie.
"I want to go as Ripley" said Ginny, her eyes dancing.
Allie whistled. "You're going to fry all of Myra's circuits. But, oh baby, what a brilliant idea."
"I have some photos here, let's take a look, then. I'm going to buzz my hair like Ripley on Fiorino 161 -- "
"Myra is going to JUMP you, girl -- "
"Yeah, I'll have to do it right before the party starts" laughed Ginny. "And the shirt she's wearing, grey, I guess I can dye one myself. But look at these pants, this button-up crotch like a codpiece, almost. And that truncated jacket -- where am I going to find those? And the high boots with those buckles?"
"Army surplus. They may even have the muscle shirt in grey. I know just the place. We can go right now, if you're free" said Allie.
"Wait a minute. Look at the flame-thrower -- this is the one from Aliens, with the shotgun taped on. Where am I going to find that?" said Ginny.
"Ahhh...that's a different question. They don't make realistic kids' guns like they used to" said Allie.
"And that's a good thing" said Ginny.
"You know, I've got a friend, Davonn, who might be able to help us" said Allie.
"I've met him, right? Young, queeny, mocha-colored?" asked Ginny.
"That's him. He's one of the best designers on the West Coast, that boy is making money hand over fist. He's in touch with Hollywood. Let me call him." Allie reached for her phone. She began leaving a message, but when Davonn heard it was her, he picked up. She explained what they were searching for. After a few minutes, she said "He can get it from a military smalls guy he knows in L.A. -- well, it'll be two different weapons, we'll have to tape 'em together. It's gonna cost you, though -- replicas are pricey."
"Doesn't matter" said Ginny. "And invite him to the party."
Allie gave him the go-ahead. After she hung up, she said "Should be here next week. I gave him my address for the shipping -- not just to throw Myra off scent, but also because I get to play with it first. Listen, I'm looking at this photo of Ripley in her underwear, from the original -- the undershirt is the same, but these briefs -- I think maybe they aren't really women's briefs, I think these are men's, like a Speedo version of undies."
"Yeah, I wondered about that."
"Okay, well, after the surplus store, we can cruise by the fanciest gay menswear place in Seattle, see if they can match it for us."
They headed out. The second army-navy store they tried had everything they needed in the way of shirts, pants, boots and jacket. "These pants are unbelievably comfortable" said Ginny. "I'm getting a second pair in green, just for myself."
The menswear store had only a small brass plate out front, it was so exclusive. Their entrance caused the only two customers to stare, and the clerk behind the counter reached their side almost instantly. Allie did the talking, showing him their photo and setting him at ease. He began to have fun as he pulled samples of underwear from tissue-lined drawers behind another counter. Ginny wound up buying six different pairs, and Allie two.
"I thought you didn't wear undergarments" said Allie.
"I didn't know about these" said Ginny. The clerk turned away to hide his laugh.
As they went back to the register, Allie's gaze fell on a mannikin in the corner. She stopped in her tracks.
"That's a zoot suit!" she exclaimed. The model was wearing a cream-colored three-piece silk wonder of a suit, with outrageous shoulders and ballooning pants. The clerk smiled at her and nodded.
"Do you have it in my size?" she asked him fervently. He looked her up and down, and nodded again. Then he said, not sure of his words, "It's -- quite expensive, madam."
"I'm buying" said Ginny. "You have to have that suit, Allie."
Allie tried it on. The clerk found a white-on-white Egyptian cotton shirt with French cuffs to go with it, and buttery socks with little fleuri-de-lis worked into the pattern. Allie said she already had the shoes she needed.
"I'm not surprised" said Ginny. The clerk cleared his throat and said "Does madame have the requisite pocket watch?"
"Gold, with an elongated chain and some kind of deco fob?" said Allie. "No, madame does not."
He let them over to a case full of cufflinks -- "I'll need some of those, too, I forgot" said Allie -- tiepins, and watches.
When they finally left, arms bulging with packages, Allie was glowing. "All my life -- all my life I've wanted a suit like my Uncle Boyd wore one Easter, coming in from New Orleans to visit Nana. This is actually better than his was. Did you see the pattern in the silk on the back of the vest?"
"I'll go shopping with you any day" said Ginny happily. "We're good luck for each other."
"You need to hide your credit card bill until after Halloween" said Allie. "And even so, Myra is going to do everything she can to find out what you're wearing. She's terrible about secrets."
"I know. After her first birthday, I stopped trying to hide presents at the house. She just can't stop herself. But I've got a plan. I'm going to deliberately leave her a false trail."
When they got back to Allie's house, they had a little fashion show, Ripley and Cab Calloway parading around Allie's living room.
"We so hot, it's a wonder we don't bust into flames!" said Allie.
"Okay, I gotta run, I have an appointment with Nancy in half an hour. I need to leave all this here for now, I'll pick it up the morning of the party, if that's all right with you."
"Can do." Ginny changed back into regular clothes quickly and left. Allie opted to stay in her suit for a while, walking casually back and forth in front of her hall mirror.
While Ginny was out of the house, Myra had gone through Ginny's Rolodex and finally found the number of the woman who every few years tailored new garments for Ginny based on her unorthodox specifications. When she called Belva, the tailor, she was told to come on over with her request and get her measurements taken. Belva assured her it would be ready by Halloween.
A few days later, Myra came into the kitchen from her study and heard Ginny on her cell in the living room, saying in a low voice "But it's not just a buckskin coat, it has to have that fringe on it -- haven't you seen the movie?" When Ginny turned around and saw Myra, she tried to cover her startle and said chirpily "Okay then, Allie, I'll see you for a work session tomorrow" and hung up. Myra didn't ask Ginny about the fringe comment; her brain was feverishly trying to come up with a context.
Three days later, while Myra was working at her desk, she became aware of Ginny around the corner in her studio humming a familiar song over and over. Myra finally recognized it as "Whip Crack Away" from the Doris Day movie Calamity Jane. When Ginny stopped abruptly mid bar and did not resume that tune, switching instead to something by Woody Simmons after a minute, Myra suddenly had an aha moment. She got up quietly and went into the living room, making sure Ginny wasn't watching. She searched through the movies but couldn'f find Calamity Jane among the Doris Day section. Finally she located it on the miscellaneous shelf. When she pulled it out, the movie had been put into the case backwards. She gazed down at the cover, showing Doris Day in a fringed buckskin jacket, and grinned to herself.
The next week, one morning when Myra got up and went to her computer, she discovered it was still online. She searched the cache and found several Western wear websites had been the last URLs accessed. The clincher came on Wednesday afternoon, when Ginny went to her Al Anon meeting and Myra searched Ginny's workspace. In a stack of folders and papers, she found a printout of a publicity still of Doris Day in full Calamity regalia, with notes by Ginny in one of her watercolor pencils pointing to various details of the costume. She replaced the photo exactly where she had found it and rubbed her hands together in anticipation. That evening, Ginny noticed the fine hair she'd left across one corner of the photo was now gone. She managed not to laugh out loud. If Myra thought she'd deciphered the secret, she'd not look further.
The house was bulging with plans for the party. Gillam was in frequent whispered collaboration with Carly about their costumes. Myra made all the snacks that could be frozen ahead of time and stored them in the big freezer. She and Ginny drew a schematic of how they'd move the dining table to the outside deck, so the dining room could be a dance floor, and cover the table with an oilcloth for use as the lantern carving station; put a tub of water for apple-bobbing on the upstairs deck; and make a hideout for Dinah in the storage room for the night of the party.
Ginny came back from the store one day with a bulk bag of organic fruit-juice-sweetened jellybeans from Rainbow Grocery. Myra said "What on earth are those for?"
"To give to trick-or-treaters" said Ginny. "This year we'll be home to hand out treats."
Myra stared at her. "Do you want our house to get trashed?" she finally asked. She reached into the cupboard and pulled out bags of Hershey's miniatures and small packages of M&M's, setting them on the counter in front of Ginny.
"I refuse to hand out that crap" said Ginny.
"How about if we give everybody one of each and let their parents make the decisions for them?" said Myra. Ginny glared at her but said okay.
Allie adroitly dodged Myra's attempts to find out what she was planning to wear, even when Myra offered to reveal her own plans. "Sposed to be a surprise, Myra" said Allie.
"How about if I tell you what Ginny's coming as?" said Myra.
"How did you find that out? Never mind, don't tell me, I don't want to be disappointed in you" said Allie. Later she called Ginny and they giggled together about how amazed Myra was going to be when Ripley showed up instead of Doris Day.
The only person who refused to dress up was Margie.
"Why not?" demanded Ginny. "Can't you think of anything? I could help you -- "
"No, Mom, it's just dumb, okay?" said Margie in exasperation.
Ginny looked at Myra, who said "Too cool for school." Margie got up and stomped upstairs. Margie did, however, ask Amy to the party and to overnight with her. Ginny was also elated to find out that her friend Edwina was going to be visiting from Portland for the weekend and planned to attend their party.
"Edwina -- college professor, right?" said Myra. "Black, from Chicago, curvy and super-smart?"
"Yeah. I can't believe you two haven't had a chance to be around each other more. I met her that summer I did more training at Evergreen, the summer after you and I first talked at the potluck and I was starting to have trouble thinking about anything but you. She was teaching there then, and I wound up spending all my time with her. She's one of my favorite people on earth."
Myra looked at Ginny's lit-up face. "Is this a crush?"
"Oh, Myra, no, not at all. At least, not a romantic crush. She's like the sister I never had. She studies linguistics and culture, but she's really drawn to art of all kinds and we can just finish each other's sentences, you know? She doesn't like to travel, is the only reason I haven't had her up here with us every month. I want you to make time to talk with her, party or no party."
"Okay, I will. I'm looking forward to it, actually. Sorry about the crush question -- but I wasn't jealous, I hope you know that."
Ginny looked at Myra keenly for a minute. "Good. That's a change, isn't it?"
"A welcome one."
The morning of the party, Myra got up and made a last run to Pike Place for food and pumpkins. As soon as she was gone, Ginny hopped in her car and went to Allie's. The props from LA had come in, and Allie had already lashed them together with black tape.
"Oh my god, these feel completely real" said Ginny, sliding the strap over her shoulder and hefting the flamethrower in her arms.
"You look damned good with that thing" said Allie. "Where you going to hide all this stuff when you get home?"
"I'm leaving it in the trunk of my car until it's time to dress. I'll haul it in then, forbid Myra to come into our bedroom, buzz my hair in the bathroom, and make an entrance."
"I want to be there to see it, but I can't get there until after 7:00, I have a wedding to attend."
"Married on Halloween?" laughed Ginny.
"Should be interesting. Anyhow, I'm wearing the suit to the wedding, so it'll be like second skin by the time I get there. Take pictures -- have somebody take a photo of Myra's face when she first lay eyes on you."
When Ginny got home, Gillam and Margie were hauling pumpkins from Myra's trunk to the back deck. Myra was in the kitchen, putting away food. She glanced at Ginny and said "Listen, can I declare the guest bedroom off limits to you until the party? My costume is in there, and I'll dress in there."
"Sure. I want our bedroom and bathroom for my dressing area."
Gillam, walking by with three pumpkins in his arms, said "Carly's coming at 6:00, him and Truitt, their folks are dropping them off early so me and Carly can help each get ready."
"Edwina's coming at 5:00, Myra, so if we have an early dinner we can all eat and visit together."
Before dinner was over, Myra had retrieved her Skene dictionary and genealogies from her study and pushed away the cannelloni platter so she and Edwina could pore over the big charts. Myra found herself completely taken with Edwina -- her cornrows, her huge laugh, her razor-sharp mind, and especially how familiar she felt. Finally Ginny said "Uh -- Myra? Can I get into this conversation?"
Myra sat back, looking apologetic. "Oh, Gin, I just got carried away. You're right, she is like someone who'd be your sister."
Edwina blushed slightly. Ginny grinned and said "I'm thrilled, Myra. But maybe you could finish eating and I could chat with Edwina more. The other kids will be here in fifteen minutes."
"Go for it, I'll just listen. Margie, you're doing kitchen clean-up tonight, what's left to do, since you're the only one not dressing up. When is Amy coming?"
"At 7:00, I think" said Margie, a little sullen.
"Would you like to help me with my costume?" said Myra. "You'll be the first to see it."
Margie liked this idea. Edwina said "I'm dressing up, too. Can I have a room for preparation?"
"You are? How wonderful!" said Ginny. "You can come in our bedroom with me, we'll help each other."
When Carly arrived, he handed Gillam a large, long bundle wrapped in a sheet. Ginny was suspicious about its contents and wanted to say something about no guns in the house, then caught herself. Carly and Truitt each carried in duffles and disappeared upstairs with Gillam. Ginny gave Patty a hug and said she'd see her and Pat later. Then she and Edwina locked themselves into the bedroom.
Myra helped Margie with clean-up, after all, and together they set out all the non-perishable treats on the breakfast bar. Myra had gotten dry ice for the punch bowl, and she set this up as well. She heard a whirring sound coming from their bathroom, along with much giggling, and finally decided it was a blow-dryer that Edwina must have brought. She and Margie then went to the spare bedroom, where Myra pulled a long flat garment box and a hatbox from the closet.
When Myra emerged from the bedroom half an hour later, Edwina was already in the living room, wearing a claret-colored silk dress that barely contained her. The cigarette skirt crept relentlessly upward with each movement Edwina made. She had on glittery silver high heels that wound around her ankles and a silver chain around her bare neck. Ruby beads in her cornrows matched her lipstick.
"Wow!" said Myra. "You look like someone out of a Sharon Bridgforth novel."
"Now that is a compliment, sugar" said Edwina in a contralto voice. "But you sure gotta prove it on me."
"Oh, I get it!" cried Myra. "You're Ma Rainey, aren't you?"
"It worked!" cried Edwina, dropping the contralto. "And girl, look at you. Where have I seen you before?"
Myra walked over to the large painting called Hettie hanging in the entryway of the living room and stood beside it. Edwina gasped. The chocolate tweed trousers and jacket, the waistcoat of white satin with gold pinstripes, the shiny bowler that Myra was wearing were a dead ringer for Hettie's attire in the painting. Myra pulled a big cigar out of her pocket to complete her ensemble.
"You look exactly like her!" said Edwina. "I mean, not just the clothes, but the eyes and cheeks and hips!"
"She's my grandmother" explained Myra proudly. Margie was starting to feel a little envious at all the finery.
"Ginny said to let her know when you were ready for her grand entrance" said Edwina.
"Let me pose here, and tell her to come on out" said Myra, turning her body so it matched Hettie's posture in the painting, staring off into a corner of the room. She silently reminded herself to be completely surprised by Calamity Jane. Edwina knocked on the bedroom door and said "Ready for your close-up, Miss Desmond?"
Myra heard the door open and Ginny's footsteps come toward her, then stop. When she heard Ginny's intake of breath, she couldn't help but sneak a glance. In the next moment, she dropped her cigar. The two of them stared at each other across the room. Margie, who had been called directly by Allie that afternoon, was snapping shots with the digital camera, but Myra and Ginny didn't even notice the flash.
Myra suddenly strode across the room to Ginny, saying "I knew you'd come for me one day". She began pushing Ginny back toward the bedroom door. Ginny resisted, laughing, and finally at the threshold said loudly "Myra, NO." Myra stopped. Ginny couldn't peel her hands away from Myra, either, but she said "Sweetheart, we have company."
Myra turned to Edwina and said "We'll just be ten minutes, you can answer the door if somebody comes" and turned back to Ginny, but Ginny shook her head. Myra groaned and leaned against Ginny, then pulled herself away again, looking down at the flamethrower between them and asking "Is the safety on?"
Ginny cackled. "It's a fake. Allie got it from her friend who got it from movie people in Hollywood."
"I knew Allie was in on it -- hey, what happened to Doris Day?"
"Big smokescreen, you treacherous destroyer of surprises, you." Ginny was triumphant.
"Oh, Ginny, I don't think I can go all evening just looking at you without..."
"You remember June 11th? The day you wore the yellow slicker and we went to the Arboretum and the museum?"
Myra nodded, her face flushed.
"Tonight will be like that day. Remember how that day ended?"
"Well, technically, Ginny, it didn't end, it went on for another 48 hours, the way I remember it. But yeah, I get your drift." Myra leaned in to kiss Ginny, knocking her bowler askew and then onto the floor. They kissed urgently for a bit, Myra's hands on Ginny's deliciously naked head. Then Ginny whispered something in Myra's ear.
"You mean in the escape pod, when she sang 'You are my lucky star'?" asked Myra. She reached for Ginny's waistband. "Lemme see 'em."
"Nope, you'll have to wait" said Ginny, pushing Myra's hand back around her waist. They kissed again, then Ginny said "We have to stop now."
Myra sighed tragically and picked up her bowler. She walked back across the room and bent over to retrieve her cigar. At the site of Myra's ass underneath stretched-tight tweed, Ginny came toward her saying "Hey, what kind of underwear do you have on?" Myra faced her and grinned "Nuh-uh. I only show you mine if you show me yours."
At that point, the doorbell rang. Margie rushed to answer it and let in Amy, who stared at Ripley's flamethrower for a moment, then said "I came early so I could dress over here." Margie led her upstairs.
Other guests began arriving at 7:00, mostly friends who had small children. Myra tore herself away from Ripley so she could get folks started with the pumpkin carving; the children were all nervous around Ripley. Ginny put out the rest of the food and Edwina did door duty, becoming more blowsy by the minute.
When Myra came in for a glass of punch, she was there to see Gillam and Carly hurtle downstairs. Gillam had on long black shorts that had a "Save the Humans" bumper sticker and a smiley face stuck on one leg. Underneath the shorts were gray sweatpants pushed up to the knees. He wore a white T-shirt showing Van Halen in straitjackets; a black cotton vest; black Converse tennies; a leather friendship bracelet on one wrist and a large black leather watch on the other wrist. A red denim jacket was tied around his waist. His hair was combed in a different kind of mop, and over his back was slung a V-shaped electric guitar.
Carly had on a grey sweatshirt cropped short so it showed his midriff and an inch of blue checked boxers. The sweatshirt sleeves were cut off above the elbow, had a rip in the front and a badly-drawn stallion on the back in magic marker. His jeans had enormous rips in the knees and a giant upside-down question mark doodled on one thigh in ink and marker. His short blond hair had somehow been persuaded into tight curls, and he too had on Converse shoes, white with red laces. He had a dark purple shirt tied around his waist, wore a matching friendship bracelet, and also carried an electric guitar.
Gillam threw out his arms and declared in an obnoxious accent "Greetings, dudes and dudettes! I am Ted 'Theodore' Logan and this is Bill S. Preston, Esquire. We are the band known as the 'Wyld Stallyns'!" The two of them then began strumming madly on their unplugged guitars.
Everyone applauded loudly. Myra yelled out "Excellent! Not the least bogus!" Gillam replied "Party on!" They strolled out to serenade the pumpkin carvers, grabbing snacks along the way.
Myra was having a hard time being away from Ripley. She suggested they stand by the front door together and let people in or hand out treats for a while. Ripley snuggled up to her and put one hand up underneath the back of Myra's vest, tracing her backbone with strong fingers. After letting in another couple -- Wilma Rudolph and Barbara Jordan -- Myra noticed that Margie was back downstairs. Ginny looked in the same direction, her attention caught by a blonde sorority type walking tipsily over to Margie. She finally said in recognition "Is that Amy?"
"Wig and all" said Myra. Margie had told her Amy's plan while she was helping Myra dress.
Amy threw one arm around Margie's neck, staggering slightly and sloshing what appeared to be beer out of her plastic cup onto the floor. She said loudly "Some of my best friends are kikes!"
Myra grabbed the strap of the flamethrower and pulled Ginny back from her rush at Amy. "Honey, wait -- she's being Jenna Bush. And that's near beer, it's not alcoholic. She's got a whole spiel."
Ginny stopped, still stony-faced, and listened another minute. Amy went on in a perfect SMU accent "Gamma says being forced to think about all those lazy poor people is what caused her thyroid to act up. We're going to get Daddy to pass a law allowing Kennebunkport to secede from the immigrant-infested Northeast."
Myra cracked up. Margie shot a warning glance at Ginny, and Ginny forced a smile. Amy showed everybody her fake ID and then explained how many blow jobs she had to give the Secret Service guy to sneak out to clubs. She asked the muscular black women in a track outfit standing nearby if she had any crank to sell. Without missing a beat, Wilma Rudolph replied no, but she thought Hitler was a better orator than Amy's father. Amy squealed "I think we're related to the Hitlers, on Poppy's side!" Everybody around them laughed, especially Margie.
Before Ginny could run out of slack, Truitt grabbed their attention by coming slowly downstairs in an elegant glide. He had on dark green suede leggings tucked into high, soft black boots. On top he wore a green linen jerkin over a pale silk shirt, with black vambraces to his elbows. A quiver full of arrows was over one shoulder, a large wooden bow over the other. His long blond hair was combed straight and tied back by two braided strands. His ears had points that blended remarkably well into his real ears.
A hush fell over the crowd. Margie and Amy were enraptured. Margie said reverently "Legolas!" He gave them a deep bow and said "Legolas Greenleaf, son of King Thranduil of Mirkwood." Then he added "Elen sila lumenn omentilmo."
Myra asked "Uh...Prithee, good warrior, what tongue speak thee?"
But Edwina answered for him. "It's Elven, isn't it?"
He nodded gravely. Edwina asked "Forsooth, what be thy translation into the low speech of humans?"
Legolas replied "A star shall shine on the hour of our meeting."
Myra said quietly to Edwina "Forsooth?" She shrugged and said "Best I could do on the spur of the moment."
Jenna Bush stepped forward and grabbed Legolas by the arm. "C'mon, Leggy, let's go find you some mead and show each other our tattoos". She dragged him toward the deck. After a second, Margie caught up with them and took Legolas by the other arm. Ginny watched them with an unreadable expression on her face.
When the doorbell rang again, Myra opened it to Allie in her magnificent suit. Myra found she had trouble breathing, and felt for the inhaler in her pocket. After taking a puff, she said "Welcome, you beautiful being you. I've never seen a better suit."
Allie replied in a very low voice with a slight stammer "I ap-appreciate your kindness. You, too, are a s-sight for sore eyes." She ducked her head shyly, her hands in her pockets.
Myra had it then. "Oh my god, it's BULL-JEAN! Bull-Jean is right here in my living room!"
Allie polished each shoe on the back of her pants and mumbled yes. Ginny, who had been standing a few feet away talking to Edwina, came over then and gave Allie a huge kiss, then turned to Myra and said "I was there when we found this suit".
Myra looked to her side and saw Edwina standing there, a thunderstuck expression on her face. She reached out and took Edwina's hand, pulling her over, saying "Gertrude, this is Bull-Jean. Bull-Jean, this is Ma Rainey."
Allie dropped her persona when she shook Edwina's hand. Her voice got uncharacteristically high, and she made direct eye contact. Ginny chatted on for a minute about how she and Edwina knew each other, while Allie stroked her watch chain and stared at Edwina. The doorbell rang again, and Allie stepped out of the foyer. Myra said, as she went to the door, "You should see Gillam and Carly. And Truitt. And, god help us, Amy is the life of the party. I think they're all out on the deck."
"I'll take you to them" offered Edwina. Allie held out an arm, and Edwina linked hers through it as they moved toward the back of the house.
The new arrivals were Alveisa as Sor Juana Ines de le Cruz in a long white habit and her partner Petra in crisp fatigues. Petra had a plastic machine gun slung over her back, and Myra screamed "Don't tell me it's Vasquez!" Petra gave her a sharp salute and barked "Private, Interplanetary Marines!" Then Petra saw Ginny standing behind Myra and did a classic double-take. They fell on each other, laughing and crowing. Sor Juana moved serenely on into the room, greeting people with a sign of the cross. After Vasquez left, Myra said "We need to do this every year."
"We'll never be able to top this party" said Ginny, running her hand over Myra's ass and tracing the line of her mysterious underpants.
Bill and Ted took the children upstairs to bob for apples and make quidditch sticks. The teenagers remained on the deck, with Ginny giving frequent sharp glances at them out the glass wall of the dining room. Allie started some music going, and couples drifted onto the dance floor.
The next arrivals were Patty in a white shirtwaist and long skirt, a pencil behind her ear, and Pat in a baggy, old-fashioned track suit with three gold medals around her neck. Myra couldn't guess either one of them, so they finally introduced themselves as Jo March and Babe Didrikson.
"Oho, you're both Kate Hepburn roles, aren't you?" said Myra. Pat looked blank. Myra qualified with "Okay, technically it was Pat in Pat and Mike, but everybody knew it was based on Babe, and she had that cameo on it." Pat looked even more confused.
"Pat who?" she said. Patty began explaining. Ginny pinched Myra unobtrusively and moved in to say "A tomboy named Jo who writes, you really know how to warm my heart, don't you, Patty?" Patty grinned.
Myra tried again. "I know Babe won Olympic medals, but I don't know when or for what events" she said to Pat. Pat's face lit up and she settled into easy conversation with Myra, who nodded and listened.
When the doorbell rang again, Myra leaped for it. Ginny led Pat and Patty into the dining room, saying "Truitt is an absolute hit, you should check him out on the deck dazzling them all with his Elven".
Myra let in Sima, dressed in a 1940's women's style blouse and skirt, her hair somehow tamed into a marcel wave. On one lapel was a gold RAF pin, and on the other was a star of David. She wore no makeup except bright red lipstick, and her face was transcendant. Myra said "Sima, my god, you're always good-looking but damn, honey, you are positively edible tonight." Ginny appeared beside Myra, and Myra said to her "Lookit how beautiful our friend is. Who are you supposed to be, Grace Kelly?"
Sima was blushing. She pulled a box of wooden matches out of her pocket and struck one, letting it burn for a few seconds, then blowing it out. Ginny exclaimed "Hannah Senesh!" She threw her arms around Sima and Myra joined them in a hug. Myra said "Where's Chris?"
"Trying to find parking. Your street is maxed out" said Sima. "Listen, I need to use the jane, I'll be back." After Sima left the room, Myra said to Ginny "Isn't Hannah Senesh a national hero in Israel?"
"Yeah. Sima isn't a Zionist but she isn't exactly anti-Zionist either. She was part of the subset in the Jewish Women's Potlucks who like to sing Hatikvah."
Myra said "I love Hatikvah." After a thoughtful pause, she added "Actually, Gin, if the existence of Israel is necessary to keep another Holocaust from ever happening -- "
"Myra, honey -- we'll continue this discussion, as we always do, but not at the party, okay?"
"Okay. " Myra stood with the door open, waiting for Chris. When she finally trudged up the walk, Myra wasn't sure what to think. Chris had on old jeans that were stained and torn. Her tennis shoes were shot, and her t-shirt was faded and a little too tight. Her usually glossy black hair was not combed well, and on top of her head Chris wore a baseball cap that said "Jesus Is The Answer". Her face was depressed.
When Myra said "Hey, girl", Chris shoved her hands in her pockets with hunched up shoulders and began "My people used to roam free, following only their hearts and the sacred buffalo. We welcomed our brothers who came on iron horses from the rising sun, but our welcome turned to gall in our mouths. Now we must walk concrete canyons where never eagle calls, tortured by firewater and loss of our lands. If you could spare a little change to help me find a piece of frybread for my aching belly, it would please the great spirit."
Ginny gaped at Chris in disbelief, and when Myra burst out into hysterical laughter, Ginny gaped at Myra as well.
"You nailed it" chortled Myra. Chris began giggling and said "I've been working on it for days."
Ginny finally got the joke but still looked a little troubled. Sima had walked back over and took Ginny's arm. "I'm not sure about this one" she said to Ginny.
"Don't listen to them" said Myra, pulling Chris into the alcove for the carport side door. "Go do your thing to whoever looks likely. I want to see how many idiots actually give you money. But I want to be there when you do it for Allie -- she won't be taken in, but it will still be fun to see her face."
"You really okay with me begging at your party?" asked Chris with a grin.
"Hell, yes. Guerilla action is always appropriate. Listen, you know Ginny's friend Pat? Well, do her for sure. But not in front of Patty, she runs interference for Pat and will step in. Don't expect to get much out of her, though -- she's gullible but she's cheap."
"Does she know about Chief Joseph?" asked Chris.
"How about ghost dancers, or the Navajo Beauty Way?"
"No, I'm sure not, but those aren't your -- oh, I get it. All Indians are the same, huh?"
"I'll get at least ten bucks out of her" said Chris.
"I'll bet you $5 you don't get over $5" countered Myra.
"It's a bet" said Chris. "Don't tell Sima."
"Don't tell Ginny" said Myra. Chris kissed her on the cheek and wandered off into the crowd.
There were no more guests arriving after that, and few trick-or-treaters. Parents of small children began gathering them up and carrying them, weeping, downstairs to go home. Allie kept playing DJ, and every time Myra looked her way, she was talking with Edwina, both of them animated and laughing. After half an hour, Chris sidled up to Myra and pulled a twenty dollar bill out of her pocket with a smirk.
"You never!" said Myra.
"Pay up" said Chris. Myra said she didn't have any money in this suit, she'd have to owe it to her. Ginny walked up at that moment and said "Owe what?"
"A... dance" said Myra, not thinking clearly.
"If you dance with anybody, you're dancing with me, Ginger" said Ginny.
The music had changed to a slow, dreamy tune.
Myra looked worried. "I'm not such a good slow dancer, Gin. I mean, you've gotten me waltzing, and..."
"Karin taught you folk-dancing, yes, I know" said Ginny. She took Myra's hand and pulled her into the dining room. She fitted herself flush against Myra, pushing the flamethrower onto her back and out of the way. She slid one thigh slightly between Myra's and took Myra's right hand in her own, wrapping her other hand around Myra's low back. Her face looking directly into Myra's, she began swaying very gently. She felt Myra relax -- this was doable. They danced the entire song without speeding up. After a while, Ginny laid her head on Myra's shoulder and Myra leaned her cheek against Ginny's hair, her eyes closed.
When the song was over, Ginny steered Myra to the corner beside the sideboard and pushed her back against the wall, still flush against her. She whispered "This must have been what it felt like for the women who danced with your mama's mama." She pushed the brim of Myra's bowler up slightly so she could kiss her thoroughly. After a while, Myra said "I don't think Hettie could have imagined being wooed by Ripley, though."
Ginny looked at her for a while, then said "I am your Ripley, you know. I'll fight to the death for you. I'll come back for you, I'll travel through time for you, I'll love you even with alien poison in our bloodstreams."
Myra whispered "A love made possible and impossible by the forces 'within us and against us, against us and within us'." Her eyes were full of tears.
Ginny answered "Two women of a certain age. Diving into the wreck together." She kissed Myra again.
They were interrupted by Margie rapping on the glass wall right next to them, standing on the deck and sticking her tongue out at them.
"Of all the nerve" said Ginny "With her out there on the deck all night acting like -- "
Myra pulled her back into a kiss that lasted through most of the next song.
Finally returning to the party, they separated to talk with friends and check on refreshments. Myra asked Bill and Ted to blow out all the lit lanterns dotting the front and back yards. She sent Margie upstairs to empty the apple bobbing tub, then come back to take over DJ for a while so Allie could dance if she wished. Amy was only too happy to help in the DJ chore, which brought a smile to Ginny's face as Legolas joined his mothers.
At this point, most of the party had gathered in the living room/dining area. At one break between songs, Myra and Chris approached Carly and Gillam who were standing on the edge of the room playing air guitar. Ginny and Sima were nearby, talking to Allie and Edwina. Myra and Chris stood side by side and Myra said to the boys "Bill and Ted, we need to borrow your time machine."
Chris added "We need to go back and deal with some folks before they reach adulthood."
They then began speaking in turn, clearly rehearsed:
"James Fenimoore Cooper" (Chris)
"James Watt" (Myra)
"Meriwether Lewis" (Chris)
"Paul of Tarsus" (Myra)
"Christopher Columbus" (Chris)
"Adolph Eichmann" (Myra)
They then said in unison "William Tecumseh Sherman" and turning their heads to the side, facing away from each other, they spat on the floor contemptuously.
Allie gave a roaring cheer and stepped to Myra, throwing her arm around her shoulder and laughing. Edwina was also giggling, and the boys were doubled over. Many of the other guests, however, had expressions of appalled confusion. Ginny leveled her gaze on Myra and said "Go get a rag and clean that spit off the floor." As Myra bustled away, Ginny said to Sima "Can you imagine them all when they were still drinking?"
Allie said to Chris "You could expand that, you know, and do it at rallies. I mean, you left out Clarence Thomas."
"And Judge Roger Taney" added Edwina. When Allie's face showed recognition, Edwina flushed.
At 11:55, Myra called for attention and announced "The first ten strokes after midnight is the gap between the old year and the new. Let's stand here together and use that magical doorway to envision the world we want to live in, to send good energy out into our community and our planet." They counted down to midnight, then, as the cuckoo clock called, the room went completely silent. Myra took Ginny's hand and suddenly everyone else took the hand of the person nearest them, closing their eyes as if in prayer. When the cuckoo stopped, everyone breathed out and then began laughing. Gillam yelled "Be excellent to one another!" He let go of Carly's hand to lay some riffs down.
The party only lasted another hour. Edwina turned down Allie's offer of a ride, saying she had a rental car. Their goodbye was awkward. Myra watched it with a pang to her heart. Allie walked over to Margie and sat beside her, suddenly a little bleak.
As Chris was leaving, she showed Myra a wad of cash in her jeans. Sima jumped on her. "Where did that come from?"
"White guilt" said Chris. "This plus the five bucks that -- someone else -- owes me is enough for me to get cable installed."
"And who's going to pay the cable bill when it comes the month after that?" demanded Sima.
"Like the wind that whistles through the prairie grass -- ow, dammit, Sima, that one really hurt."
"I've got matches in my pocket, Chris Kash-Kash" said Sima. "Don't push me too far."
"See you two next Friday, if not before" said Myra, laughing.
Allie left when Alveisa and Petra did. She gave Myra a long hug. Myra whispered "Do you need to talk tonight?"
"Nah. I'll call you tomorrow, though. We should go out together sometime in these suits. Give the butches fits."
"You're on, girlfriend."
Once the last adult guest was gone, the house was suddenly quiet. Ginny and Myra carried in the dining table and locked the back door, then let a furious Dinah out of her confinement in the storage room. Myra went into their bedroom, Ginny close on her heels. Margie and Gillam, along with their three guests, were gathered in the living room, passing around a bowl of leftover candy. Ginny came out of their bedroom after a minute, stopped in the doorway and said back into the room "Don't you take off a single thing until I get back in here." They heard Myra reply, though they could not make out the words. Ginny said "Go ahead and pee, but zip yourself up again."
Ginny then strode toward the front door, one hand on the stock of her flamethrower. This outfit felt good. She began punching in the security code and barking out orders: "This is a new code, Margie, you don't know it so don't bother. Boys and girls are to sleep in separate rooms. You can watch anything you want as late as you want. Go ahead and finish the damned candy. Don't bother us unless it's an emergency." By the last few words, she was back at the bedroom door. "Have a good time" she said as she shut the door. They heard the lock click. Inside the bedroom, 1919 encountered 2179.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.
TO FOLLOW UP ON HERSTORICAL REFERENCES:
(Sor Juana, painted circa 1750) Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
(Hannah Senesh) Hannah/Chana Senesh/Szenes
(Babe Didrickson) Babe Didrickson
(Vasquez, from Aliens) Private First Class Jenette Vasquez
(June Allyson as Jo March in 1949 version of Little Women, with Peter Lawford) Jo March
(Wilma Rudolph) Wilma Rudolph
(Sharon Bridgforth, photo by Jen Simmons) Bull-Jean
(Ma Rainey) Ma Rainey
(Calamity Jane at age 33, photo by H.R. Locke) Calamity Jane
(Doris Day as Calamity Jane) Doris Day as Calamity Jane
(Barbara Jordan) Barbara Jordan
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I'm not a girl
>I'm a hatchet
I'm not a hole
I'm a whole mountain
I'm not a fool
I'm a survivor
I'm not a pearl
I'm the Atlantic Ocean
I'm not a good lay
I'm a straight razor
Look at me as if you had never seen a woman before
I have red, red hands and much bitterness
Untitled by Judy Grahn, The Work of a Common Woman
Monday, October 29, 2007
(People by Mollicles4)
Since my days of fever with the flu last week, I've had a series of dreams in which all of the principal "characters", including me, have the following:
*A main identity by which they are generally known
*A secret identity by which they know themselves, which may or may not coincide with the above
*A public identity known by one or more other people, which may or may not coincide with the above AND which may be perceived differently by the individuals who know them
*A "twin" identity they same with someone else who is "identical" to them based on one of the above identities but which may not be obvious to anyone else
The first time I woke up from one of these saga, I thought WTF?!! Makes my head swirl. Talk about costumes.
First, some updates via little gator. We had wondered about the conflicting information concerning Captain Laurences Oates' departure from the tent of the Scott Antarctic Expedition's trek home, i.e., if he left willingly and "under cover" in order to allow his companions to go on without him, why did he take his sleeping bag with him? One account indicated his bag was found some distance away from the tent by the rescue party which arrived too late to save any of the expedition.
(Photo from Christies Images Unlimited 2007)
However, little gator found a news piece about how a sleeping bag case belonging to Captain Lawrence Oates during his ill-fated South Pole expedition went on sale this week at Christie's auction house. This article stated:
"The sleeping bags were earlier presented by schools to each member of the team, led by Captain Robert Scott, and all the bags were named. Oates' was named Trafalgar and presented by Trafalgar House School, Winchester.
"His bags were dumped eventually by the surviving members two or three days day after he had walked out of the tent. They were later found by a search party.
"The bag case is being sold by a private collector. Oates' sleeping bag is now at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge. "
A follow-up news brief stated "The case did not meet the reserve and was withdrawn from sale at Christie's. It had been expected to fetch up to £40,000 at the sale. "
To complete the answer of this question, little gator forwarded an online Project Gutenberg excerpt from the book South with Scott by Baron Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans Mountevans.
Now, on to Broad Cast. There was recently a long, at times maudlin thread on another blog I read concerning the public announcement by a formerly gay-bashing Republican elected official in California who decided to acknowledge that gays and Lesbians were human beings, after all, because his daughter was a Lesbian. This man wept on camera, which was apparently regarded by most folks as profound evidence of his change of heart.
My take on it was somewhat different than the general reaction. In the first place, I tend to associate with people who allow themselves to cry and it's not a media-worthy event. I like seeing people cry, but it doesn't tend to bring up own unshed tears because, frankly, I try to shed my tears as I go along. Secondly, while I absolutely acknowledge that knowing someone personally in a group targeted for oppression can (and often is) a catalyst for change of heart, I don't find that especially commendable as a mechanism for change. I am much more impressed with folks who can comprehend the humanity of others without requiring personal, family-based examples. It's a developmental stage of maturity, being able to grasp the value and rights of others on a symbolic and general level -- admittedly, a stage of maturity not generally demonstrated out there in the public eye. Still, I can dream.
And, thirdly, I don't have unresolved Daddy issues. My buttons cluster around Mama.
More importantly, however, a lot of the to-do was rooted in the conditioning which sees male tears as somehow more exceptional and "moving". One commenter, Liza Cowan, tried to point out the sexism implicit in this, but few seemed to comprehend it.
Part of the claptrap assigned to masculinity in our white patriarchal middle-class-aspiring culture is that they be "unemotional", which in specific means that "real" males are allowed to exhibit only anger or anger-tinged vehemence as emotions. Femininity is accorded the remaining human range of motion -- sadness, tenderness, fear, etc. -- but NOT anger, and this emotionality is labeled "weak". It's a brutal, completely non-biologically-based slicing of human expression into two ridiculous spheres that begins at birth (or before birth, if the gender of the baby is known in advance) with nonstop, heavy-handed conditioning -- a conditioning which eventually remaps the brains and likely other physical structures of the individuals so manipulated.
To briefly address all you biological determinists out there who are going to want to jump in with some tiny study which claims to prove a chemical basis for gender roles: (1) No study to date has been conducted on individuals who were raised without gender roles, so there is no control group, kids; (2) If there is ONE culture in the world or in time who have demonstrated a conflicting definition of gender roles (and there is, if you can step outside your own ethnocentrism far enough to look), then either those "other" people are not "quite human" or your argument falls apart; and (3) the influence of culture and enforced behavior on structure of the human brain is where the real discoveries are being made, not in the Watson-esque, Right-wing funded labs looking for validation of the blue/pink divide.
The story of humanity is the story of culture creating alternatives to DNA and instinct.
Back to crying: On top of the gender crap, it's also generally true in white, Northern-European-descended cultures that crying per se is frowned on. This appears to predate the assignation of weeping as a "girl thang" -- I mean, yes, we females got dealt all the lesser-status behavior, but it was already "uncool" to our whitebread ancestors to cry. Our mainstream culture is annoyingly stupid about how to behave if someone starts crying. We tend to immediately insert our own ego and act as if we are supposed to "do" something, and with that inevitably comes judgment.
So, turns out, it's complicated. (I'd apologize to those of you who want to view the world in butch/femme terms for once again pointing out that reality is complicated, but I know you haven't read this far, anyhow.) A recent article,The crying game: males vs. female tears, following up on the crap Ellen Degeneres is getting for public weeping, states "Some who study this most basic expression of feeling will tell you that in this day and age, it can be easier for a crying man to be taken seriously than a crying woman."
"In a recently published study at Penn State, researchers sought to explore differing perceptions of crying in men and women, presenting their 284 subjects with a series of hypothetical vignettes.
"What they found is that reactions depended on the type of crying, and who was doing it. A moist eye was viewed much more positively than open crying, and males got the most positive responses.
"Women are not making it up when they say they're damned if they do, damned if they don't," said Stephanie Shields, the psychology professor who conducted the study. "If you don't express any emotion, you're seen as not human, like Mr. Spock on 'Star Trek,'" she said. "But too much crying, or the wrong kind, and you're labeled as overemotional, out of control, and possibly irrational."
So, to that recently published Popular Mechanics woman-hating list of "25 Things Every MAN Should Know", in addition to dumping the sexist language, I'd add a 26th: How to be around someone who's crying. It's easy. Look kind. Listen. Don't interrupt, trying to silence them, try to "fix" it unless they ask you to help, or dive inside your own feelings. Hand them a tissue when they're done, thank them for sharing, and notice how much better they feel afterwards.
And, since I've raised the issue of the damage done by sexist language, and in partial follow-up to my earlier post about Evolution's Secret Weapon: Grandmas, I want to recommend the recent post of Reclusive Leftist Researchers discover that early Homo sapiens were all male. (It's sarcasm, campers.)
After dissecting yet another male-centered anthropological study, she states "The great reassessment happening in anthropology is the realization that the complex of behaviors that seem to mark the emergence of highly intelligent Homo are those activities that have always been associated with women: plant gathering and processing, communal resource acquisition and provisioning — including shellfishing.
"More and more, when anthropologists think about intelligent hominids making the transition to modern humans, they’re thinking about women — women figuring out how to dig up tubers and prepare them so they’re edible, how to smash hard seeds and grind them into a mush the baby can eat, how to roast shellfish and turtles so the meat is easy to get to. How to get along with each other, talking things over, sharing tasks. How to work out the provisioning so new Mom can nurse the baby while Grandmother and Aunts pitch in with the tuber-digging and babysitting. How to exploit the environment and harness the power of group effort in a way our simian cousins never do.
"Women’s work, people. Women’s work."
In its biggest definition, something we're going to need more than anything else to solve the planetary crises we're currently facing.
(Archie beats off three guys)
A post by Josiah over at Maoist Orange Cake raised questions of when is male protectiveness sexist and when is it not. A great thing to ponder, and one that I asked myself yesterday when writing a comment about Halloween costuming -- I believe that if anybody adopts masculinity without parody or overt contradiction of its lies (including women, especially including Lesbians), we're just reinforcing the conditioning. What people take away from public encounters is overwhelmingly anything they can to validate the values they were raised with and which they have not successfully sorted through/cleaned up. Subtle doesn't work.
(Women at work -- Nu gong ping)
Drag is a one-trick pony that's done nothing, in 2000+ years, to change the ferocity of enforced gender divisions in attire. The loosening up of clothing for women in the 1970s, begun by "unisex" fashions and kicked into high gear by feminists and Lesbians, occurred not from women who tried to dress "like men" but by women who pointedly said "I'm dressing like a woman, this is how women dress" as they rejected the boxes. The fact that those boxes are now being reconstructed of brick and have infiltrated the so-called queer movement is just an indicator of how successful we were. All backlashes come to an end; this one's about to sputter out.
Likewise, with behavior, it does no good to embrace/sexualize/deconstruct masculinity if any part of your behavior acts like it's not the toxic joke that it is. But sister-alive, there is some good work going on out there. And some of it is being done by straight white men, g*d bless 'em. Here's Robert Jensen again, writing with great personal honesty about The Quagmire of Masculinity.
And, concerning another box for women (we must be skinny), Queen Latifah this week "says the definition of beauty is changing. 'Beauty is not just a white girl. It's so many different flavors and shades,' the 37-year-old rapper-actress tells People magazine in its latest issue. 'It's good for regular girls because the meter (for beauty) has been a slim white girl.'"
(Page from Why Mommy Is A Democrat)
Proceeding on thematically, there's a new children's book out called Why Mommy Is A Democrat. You could order it through your local women's bookstore as holiday gifts. Sample pages follow.
(Page from Why Mommy Is A Democrat)
(Page from Why Mommy Is A Democrat)
Lastly, I KNOW you've seen this elsewhere, but still, I have to link to this Science Daily article which offers another duh moment: "Contrary to popular opinion, feminism and romance are not incompatible and feminism may actually improve the quality of heterosexual relationships, according to Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan, from Rutgers University in the US. Their study also shows that unflattering feminist stereotypes, that tend to stigmatize feminists as unattractive and sexually unappealing, are unsupported."
(Hat tip to Feministing for a lot of the news clips making me think this week.)
Sunday, October 28, 2007
(The Witch Head Nebula, ancient supernova remnant or gas cloud illuminated by nearby supergiant Rigel in Orion, Eridanus constellation, IC 1128) (Flyer announcing East Bay performance of BWMC, circa 1976, image from Queer Music Heritage)
I always loved Halloween. For one thing, it upset my fundamentalist grandparents in ways they could never seem to sensibly articulate. And although I was under their spell for a while, they were also distressed by Christmas trees, and that was just plain crazy.
For another, there was that free candy.
I seldom got to go trick-or-treating. I was always sick through autumn and winter, with recurrent bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia. But Mama loved giving out candy, and made sure there was enough left over for me -- the good kind, little Hershey bars or Bit'O'Honeys or Nik-L-Nips, those miniature wax bottles filled with colored syrup.
The first (and last) time I got to go out trick-or-treating with my friends was when I was 11. In that small town, teenagers rampaged Halloween night, having saved barrels of eggs from a nearby chicken farm for six weeks without refrigeration so they became deadly stink bombs when thrown. They mostly targeted buildings, but we knew to run and hide when we heard the squeal of times and the roar of a pickup coming down the road in our direction.
Which we did, a few blocks from my house, galloping headlong across a lawn toward a grove of orange trees at the back. But in the middle of the lawn was a metal faucet protruding 18 inches from the ground, completely obscured by the dark. I hit it at full speed and fell in agony, not able to even comprehend what had tripped me up. The pickup screeched to a halt nearby and the bombardment began. I could hear the maniacal laughter of my older brother as he urged everyone on once he recognized me. I finally was able to crawl away into some bushes. Half an hour later, my friends came back for me and helped me limp home. I still have the scar on my leg from the deep cut of the faucet handle, and I was covered in bruises from the eggs.
Perhaps because of this, I didn't participate in the local Halloween shenanigans once I became a teenager myself. Candy went on sale half-price the day afterward, and that was good enough for me. Still, I loved the night itself, the current in the air. And at 17, I became a co-mother, and that made it all come alive again.
Then, in college, feminism and especially Lesbians taught the origins of the holiday, and I felt suddenly connected to my Celtic ancestors. It's the one pre-Christian people's holiday that successfully resisted their cooptation and destruction. (Which is why the Christian Right hates it so much.) I went to women's circles and covens sometimes, although as an atheist I wasn't about to trade in my new freedom for yet another tightly-structured form of worship.
(Prehistoric Amazon of the Steppes carving)
When I moved to San Francisco, the gay boys went bonkers on Halloween, which was also fun, though not completely my scene. I still preferred solitude and meditation in the dark hours of that night.
On Halloween of 1980, my Jewish roommate took me to a women's circle on the beach below Point Bonita in the Marin Headlands. We were there illegally and had to sneak in. There were a number of rather famous dyke writers, thinkers and performers there that night. (No, I'll give you no names.) Eventually we built a fire, which helped a great deal with the cold wafting from the foggy ocean. We sat around the fire and were led through rituals, all of which completely resonated within me. At one point, we were in a circle facing outward, looking into the swirly dark, while a woman dressed as Death walked around behind us, next to the fire. She would randomly lean against one of us from behind, sudden human warmth blocking the fire's warmth, and whisper in our ear "What must you do to be ready for death?" We were to turn around and answer her face to face. I don't remember what I said, I just remember the chill inside me as I faced my own mortality.
(The beach at Point Bonita where we gathered for our ritual)
That year I had four lovers, including the roommate mentioned above. I was desperately in love with her and unable to handle it. I behaved as badly to her as I ever have with anyone, and I lost her permanently. At the same time, my mother went in for emergency bypass surgery. It was a turning point that I couldn't manage. I don't seem to have quite forgiven myself yet. In my mind, it's connected to that ritual on the beach.
Whatever group of dykes I was with at Halloween, we'd always sing Bonnie Lockhart's anthem:
Who were the witches?
Where did they come from?
Maybe your great, great grandmother was one.
Witches were wise, wise women they say.
And there’s a little witch in every woman today!
Witches knew all about flowers and weeds.
How to use all their roots and their leaves and
When people grew weary from hard-workin’ days,
They made ’em feel better in so many ways.
When women had babies the witches were there
To hold them and help them and give them care.
Witches knew stories of how life began.
Don’t you wish you could be one?
Well, maybe you can!
Bonnie Lockhart began as a member of the Red Star Singers. Their recordings from The Force of Life (1974, Paredon Records) are part of the Smithsonian Folkways now, and you can listen to MP3s of them. The liner notes from their album also make for interesting reading (PDF file).
("The Force of Life" by Red Star Singers -- Bonnie Lockhart, Gary Lepow, Ron Rosenbaum and Mike Margulis -- Paredon Records 1974)
Another of Bonnie's songs that we sang at potlucks, political meetings, and rallies was "Still Ain't Satisfied", which feels still completely true for me today. If you do nothing else at this post, listen to Bonnie's passionate lead vocal on this at the MP3 here.
Oh they've got women on TV
But I still ain't satisfied
Cause cooptation's all I see
And I still ain't satisfied
They call me Ms
They sell me blue jeans
Call it "Women's Lib"
Make it sound obscene
And I still ain't -- woa, they lied
Cause I still ain't -- woa, they lied
Still ain't satisified.
I keep thinkin' there's some mistake
I still ain't satisfied
Cause every minute a woman gets raped
I still ain't satisfied
They say okay, put in a street light
But they lock us down, down, down
When we learn to street fight
And I still ain't -- woa, they lied
Cause I still ain't -- woa, they lied
Still ain't satisified.
If you're a feminist who hasn't been coopted by endless academic theories designed more to create thesis subjects rather than address effective activism needs, you understand there's one right gender in this world -- males who adopt all the garbage of masculinity -- and everything else is target for woman-hating. Everything else.
(Original Berkeley Women's Music Collective: Susann Shanbaum, Debbie Lempke, Nancy Henderson and Nancy Vogl, circa 1974, image from Queer Music Heritage)
Bonnie Lockhart went on to become a member of the Berkeley Women's Music Collective in its second incarnation. The original BWMC recorded their eponymous album with Olivia in 1976, with members Nancy Vogl, Debbie Lempke, Susann Shanbaum, and Nancy Henderson (Janet/Jake Lampert sat in on drums). Their first album included:
Gay And Proud (by Debbie Lempke): "We women been waiting all our lives for our sisters to be our lovers / Sing it with me now, ain't you glad we finally found each other?" (This song was included on the anthology album Lesbian Concentrate by Olivia.)
Take the Time (by Nancy Vogl): "This song was written for the first woman with whom I really felt a sense of sisterhood. We shared years of changes, pain, and learning, and a special love I will always remember....I'll love you till I die."
San Francisco Bank Song (by Susann Shanbaum): "Nobody even guessed she was gay, I've got a friend ... sisters trying to make their way alone"
Janet's Song (by Susann Shanbaum): "My momma said you better get out of here cause I think you and your friend are queer, and you know I don't want to start no great big fight but I know she stayed all night....This song is a journal of our coming out together. - We didn't know any lesbians and couldn't say the word for a year and a half. We just knew that we loved each other so much that it had to be the right thing to do."
and, my favorite, The Bloods (by Debbie Lempke): "You might think it's ludicrous / But when the moon is full I feel my uterus / And I know the time's a-comin', comin' soon / Men keep saying got to sleep with 'em but Lesbians got natural rhythm / There's a new day comin' when you got the bloods again/ Because you know your body is a-workin' all right / If you had self-help, you could watch all night / Get yer speculum at yer neighborhood clinic / Learn about your cervix and what's in it / There's a new day comin' when you got the bloods again."
When I was part of the collective editing poetry for Common Lives/Lesbian Lives, at least a fourth of the poems we received each submission round had menstruation as a dominant or partial theme. It seems to be an essential step, "learning about your cervix and what's in it", as part of claiming and renaming your identity as a woman. Menstruation was the first calendar for human beings.
At Metaformia, the site currently linked to Judy Grahn (author of Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World) there are the following tidbits available:
"Although on page 150 of Blood, Bread, and Roses it says that the word blessings comes from “blood songs” neither Debbi Grenn nor author Judy Grahn can come up with a source for this. Perhaps in a vernacular or old German dialect? Meanwhile Barbara Walker, who remains a fascinating source as long as we double check her voluminous entries, has what seems a solid source for the word blessings on page 110 of The Encyclopedia of Women’s Myths and Secrets. 'From Old English bletsain, earlier bleodswean, "to sanctify with shedding of blood.”' Her source is Michael Harrison, The Roots of Witchcraft, Secaucus, NJ, Citadel Press, 1974. page 129. Walker continues, 'It was the custom to consecrate altars by sprinkling them with blood, and to ‘bless’ individuals by marking them with blood, as is still the custom of foxhunters who ‘blood’ new members of the club after a kill.'
Nevertheless we love the sound of 'blood songs', especially as special songs were and are sung in honor of first menstruation and women’s bleeding times."
"Ragtime music —why is it called ragtime? Itinerant pianists, most of whom were black, spread a new, fast, vibrant musical form up and down the Mississippi Valley beginning about the 1890’s, or at least that is when it began to get some attention from the white world as a unique form. According to an African-American woman whose name I do not know, ragtime began in southern brothels and road houses. Whenever the sex worker women were 'on the rag' they tended to bleed together during the same few days, due to the phenomenon of menstrual synchrony, and so none of the women could work for several days out of each month. To compensate the economy of the house, during 'rag time,' the madam would urge the musicians to play more vigorously in order to induce customers to stay around dancing, eating, drinking and spending money. So the enthusiastic music the house musicians produced during those periods was called 'Ragtime Music'. When the new musical form spread out into the country at large over the next few decades, the menstrual meaning was left off, and now 'nobody knows' why it is called 'ragtime'. -- Tidbit was submitted by Keri Wayne, a graduate of NCOC Women’s Spirituality Program. She was told this story by a woman she met in Nebraska."
"On Synchrony: the body is a sensitive instrument; the onset of menstruation, the timing and even the amount of bleeding, is capable of 'entraining' with other rhythms, and to be sensitive to such factors as pheromones and sitting in moonlight (see Proctor’s article), dancing (see pp in Blood Relations, Knight), and even certain words (forthcoming in a future issue). Now we have a metaformic anecdote about singing a particular note in the scale, and onset of menses.
"Master singing teacher Dwayne Calizo (at New College of California), working with Sarah Starpoli, one of his woman students, discovered that giving her a particular exercise of eight bars with a tempo of 80 bpm to sing high G over high C would bring about her bleeding, if she was within 'any day now' in starting her period. He used the same technique with two other students, and the effect was the same. The bleeding begins about half an hour after the singing exercise, which he does with the students. And he is sure the same effect would occur if they did the exercise without his voice. -- Tidbit submitted by Dwayne Calizo."
Women need to be able to talk about our bodies and what's going on with us free of male intervention or discomfort. I'm not an essentialist, but biology does arise for us in self-definition at least once a month.
(Berkeley Women's Music Collective albums from 1976 and 1978 respectively, produced by Olivia Records)
By 1978's album, "Tryin' to Survive" (Olivia), the BWMC had Bonnie Lockhart singing and writing with them and she added Still Ain't Satisfied to their roster. The cover of this LP stated "We want to dedicate this album to all the women throughout time who have organized and fought for change and especially now to our Lesbian movement and the strength and spirit of revolution that is reshaping our world today." The songs on this disc included:
Nicole (by Debbie Lempke): Dreaming about and longing for 'Nicky'.
Seawomon (by Debbie Lempke): Lesbian fighting spirit.
Thorazine (by Susann Shanbaum): About attempts to 'cure' lesbians with medicines, as if they were insane.
Takes More Than Time (by Bonnie Lockhart): "We got to organize ourselves to stand a fighting chance",
Class Mobility (by Bonnie Lockhart): About rooted social norms.
and my favorite Darling Companion (by Nancy Vogl): "Oh my darling companion / How you can satisfy / Oh can't you hear me cry / When I think of how they lied / I can feel the fire raging / And there's no disguise / Oh my darling companion / How many girls have died / Without a woman's tender heart / And love along beside?"
(Berkeley Women's Music Collective circa 1978: Nancy Vogl, Debbie Lempke, Bonnie Lockhart, Susann Shanbaum, and unknown, from Queer Music Heritage)
By 1980, BWMC had split up and the musicians in it spread out to other projects. Nancy Vogl began playing with Robin Flower, and from 1978 to 1983, I don't think I missed a single one of their performances in the Bay Area. She was also partners with Holly Near for a while. Likewise, when Bonnie Lockhart helped form Swingshift, a women's jazz ensemble, I became a devoted groupie who sat in the front row night after night through the first half of the 1980s.
One write-up of Swingshift from the Vancouver Folk Music Festival states "Theirs is that rare and exciting combination of really good music with strong progressive content. The sounds of Swingshift cover a wide range, from solid, danceable rhythm and blues, to haunting and delicate five-part acappella harmonies, but always returning to the group's musical centre in jazz. And the jazz is solid and tasteful, whether it's a standard like Mongo Santa-maria's Afro Blue or Miles Davis' Nardis or one of the originals by the group's talented composers. Their combined musicianship enables them to communicate their politics with ease and power, whether singing about the struggles of black women in South Africa or celebrating gay pride."
In Swingshift originally was Bonnie Lockhart on piano and vocals; Susan Colson on bass; Naomi Schapiro playing flute and alto sax; and Joan Lefkowitz on drums. Later, Frieda Fine joined for vocals. Then Joan and Frieda left, and they added Danielle Dowers on drums, Inge Hoogerhuis on lead vocals. Bonnie is now recording children's songs and performs with Nancy Schimmel (Malvina Reynold's daughter) as part of the Plum City Players -- indoctrinating future generations into consciousness about female identity, class, race, and Halloween.
(Bonnie Lockhart currently, image from Bonnie Lockhart)
It was from Swingshift that I first heard a poem by Anibal Nazoa set to music by Juan Carlos Nuñez, a song which has become one of my favorites of all time:
EL PUNTO Y LA RAYA
Entre tu pueblo y mi pueblo
hay un punto y una raya.
La raya dice no hay paso
el punto vía cerrada.
Y así entre todos los pueblos
raya y punto, punto y raya.
Con tantas rayas y puntos
el mapa es un telegrama.
Caminando por el mundo
se ven ríos y montañas
se ven selvas y desiertos
pero ni puntos ni rayas.
Porque estas cosas no existen
sino que fueron trazadas.
Para que mi hambre y la tuya
estén siempre separadas.
(My translation) Between your people and my people
There is a dot and a line
The line says "you cannot go there"
The dot "the way is closed"
And so it is between all peoples
line and dot, dot and line
With so many lines and dots
the map is a telegram.
When we walk through life
we see rivers and mountains
we see jungles and deserts
but never lines and dots
Because these things do not exist
Unless they are drawn in
To keep my hunger and yours
Now I live in a town that celebrates Dia de Los Muertos as fervently as it celebrates Halloween, which is great with me. It's another culture that managed to hang onto an older meaning despite white male Christian assault.
(Flyer announcing East Bay performance of BWMC, circa 1976, image from Queer Music Heritage)