Saturday, June 21, 2008


It's really rare for me to have open estimation for a sports figure. They have to do a lot more than physical feats to get my admiration as a human being. Olympians are most likely get my attention, and few more than Natalie Coughlin, who is remarkably mature, intelligent, and generous to others, as well as winning medals like she's jotting down notes on a pad.

I am IN AWE of this woman's shoulders, too. I have to admit it.

So I was very happy to read today at Associated Content that she is once again favored for gold at Beijing:

"Three years after her sterling performance at the Olympics in Athens, Natalie Coughlin's competitive fire is still burning. The golden girl of American swimming has been rounding into shape rather nicely with both wins and world records at the 2007 FINA World Cup. Natalie, who was named US Today's "Olympic Athlete of the Week" after a three gold medal performance at the first leg of the World Cup in Durban South Africa, collected a world record in the 100 meters backstroke (short course) in the second leg of the Cup. Coughlin who took home 2 gold medals and a total of 5 medals, from the Athens Games, won the 100 Fly, 100 Back, and 100 IM at Durban.

"A competitive swimmer since the age of six, Coughlin was winning state and national races as a young teenager. By the time she turned 20, Sports Illustrated had dubbed the prodigious swimmer "The Future of U.S. Swimming." Holding true to the titled bestowed upon her, Natalie started breaking both US and world records on her way to Athens.

"This year, Natalie, who says she is not doing any special preparation for Beijing other than "train hard," kicked off her racing season by clocking 56.60 for the 100 Fly at Durbin. The gold medal performance came despite Natalie's contention that after months off from competitive racing, that she "felt a little rusty." Though she also took home the gold in the 100 IM, Coughlin does not currently have plans for adding the Medley to her already exhaustive schedule of races she competes in which included, the 50/100/200 Free, 100 Back, 100 Fly, and relays.

"Yet with the 2008 USA's National Team now comprised of the top six American times in Olympic events (taken during finals or semifinals of competition), Natalie's great opening to the swim season makes her once again a favorite for gold at Beijing. Aside from the tremendous natural talent she possess, Natalie by her own account, is at her best in international competition. Fond of international travel and new experiences, Coughlin prides herself on being able to say commonly used phrases in eight different language, including Mandarin, which should make her experience in Beijing a bit more pleasant. Despite her recent success, Natalie has pointed to both the Chinese and the Australia as two of the teams to watch out for at the Olympics. Though regardless of competition, look for Natalie Coughlin to do well at the next Olympics, especially in the backstroke and the shorter free style events, and pencil in America's golden girl of the pool for a few more medals."

(Natalie Coughlin doing the backstroke, 25 June 2006, Santa Clara, CA, photo by Donald Miralle)

All the press adulation will center on fifth-grader-mentality Michael Phelps, I'm sure. The men get all the attention, regardless of actual wins. Remember how American speed skater Bonnie Blair won FIVE gold medals at Lillehammer in 1994, becoming the first woman to do so and setting all kinds of world records which still stand. But -- all the press coverage focused on Dan Jansen, who failed repeatedly, whined about it endlessly on camera, and eventually won a single gold medal, for which HE was honored with the right to carry the U.S. flag in the closing ceremony.

Olympic trials are now underway and some are being televised. Don't miss seeing Natalie if you can help it. She's the real deal.


Friday, June 20, 2008




(Self-Portrait by Ginny in 1990, when she was pregnant with Gillam*)

On this date two years ago, I sat down to begin writing what soon became a novel, then a trilogy of novels with an offshoot science fiction book to boot. The novel/trilogy/epic is Ginny Bates. The sci-fi byproduct is Skene. The first draft of both (with only Skene being a complete draft) is posted at this website.

The characters in Ginny Bates are as real to me as anyone I've ever known. They are unruly, demanding, heroic, and the loves of my life. They keep changing and growing. I think of them as immortal.

I was not a novelist before Ginny Bates kicked down my door. I was a poet, essayist, ardent letter-writer, occasional producer of short stories or humor -- but never someone who could produce 20 pages a day for over a year. My outline for these books, with one line per segment to be written (which could cover a paragraph or several pages) is 42 pages long, single-spaced.

I have not written it in strict chronological order, although I do know everything that is "going to happen", in a general sense, because I often have to grow and change myself in order to adequately address what will occur in the lives in the characters. And, as other writers have said, the characters frequently balk at my plans for them and hare off in another direction, yelling at me "I would NEVER say that, you moron, shut up and I'll tell you what to put down as my words." I've learned not to argue.

Even when a major character kept appearing my dreams and saying "I'm going to die, you cannot stop me, you better get ready and get everybody else ready, too." I wept my way through that weekend of writing.

I have told the "magical" origins of how I came to write this book in other posts on this blog, particularly here. It is, as Liza called, the Great American Lesbian Novel, a modern love story between two revolutionary feminists, about recovery, art, family, recipes, communicating and loving across boundaries of oppression, and how friends keep us alive. There is nothing else like it out there.

Which I hope is a good thing.

Below is the video whose soundtrack haunted me the week I began writing (literally), playing nonstop in my head when I was awake and asleep. I still hear the music start up when I'm writing some portions. After the fold is the very first page I wrote of Ginny Bates. At the end of that page, I thought "Oh, this is not a dream, it's a story." At the end of ten pages, I sat back and said "Holy fuck. It's not a story, it's a book."

All of you who have supported me and encouraged me as I bring this to life: You'll never know how essential you've been. You (and this book) have saved me.

See you at the dinner table.

(The final scene in this video, of the Fremont Troll as it turns out, is not why I set the novel in Seattle. However, intriguingly, after I was a year into the book, I realized the two children in this final scene are the right appearance and age difference to have been Margie and Gillam. Except for the pink clothes on the girl -- Myra and Ginna would never have allowed that.)

*Okay, the painting at the top of this post is actually "Margaret Evans" by the incredible Alice Neel. I've only recently discovered the work of Alice Neel, but her style and some part of her life story are very much like Ginny's -- this is how Ginny would do a portrait. I'll do a piece on Alice Neel before too long, to share more with you. In the meantime, if you want to imagine what Ginny's paintings look like, Neel's are the best stand-in available.


After she got back from Portland, she went to a fundraiser one Friday for the local women's shelter. It was right after work, and Ginny showed up. Myra was shocked to see her, and waited for the grief of that night, the last time she had seen her, to rush in and knock her down. But it did not come. Ginny looked around, saw her, set down her drink and walked straight over. Myra wanted Ginny to hug her, to feel her arms around her again, but Ginny did not presume.

"I hear from Allie that you are really moving through this. Is that accurate?" she said. Right to the chase.

"Yes. It's fish or cut bait." Ginny laughed, loud. It was good to hear; so many of her friends felt like they couldn't laugh around her right now.

Ginny had on copper-colored velvet pants and a striped long-sleeved silk blouse in rich earth tones. Her wide ass looked even wider in the pants. Her thighs were very thick. Her thin arms and narrow shoulders looked skinnier because of the colors and cling of the shirt. "Nice threads" Myra said, and meant it. Ginny looked like 3-D coming right at her.

"Thanks. Work drag, but the hues are what I care about."

They talked, and it was okay between them again. Not just okay, but different. Myra kept feeling the fear hit her, could name it, say okay to it, and let it ride until it passed. It did not distract her much.

Ginny left after an hour, said she was hungry and was going to walk to a little Vietnamese place two blocks away for dinner. She did not ask Myra to go with her, and Myra just stood there, silent. Ginny gave her a good hug before walking out.

Myra waited a minute. She flipped through a mental rolodex and came up with nothing; no clue about what to do. But her feet started moving toward the door, and she followed.

Ginny was half a block away, her voluptuous bottom sheathed in coppery velvet. Myra yelled, "Hey" and Ginny turned around. Myra reached her fast. "I'm hungry, too. Can I come with?"

Ginny paused long enough to make Myra sweat, but there was no game in her eyes as she stared into Myra's. Then she said "Okay" and they went on walking together.

They crossed the street and were on the block where the restaurant was at the end. Myra started slowing down, and Ginny did too, though they kept walking. Myra didn't know what she was going to say until she said it:

"I was a jerk. In the coop? I was a jerk."

"I know. I'm glad you know it."

"I know a lot more now than I did. I know things I'd rather not know. But then again, I'm glad I do. I hope I'm making sense."

"I think so."

They were strolling side by side, not looking at each other. Myra found herself talking again.

"I have not been able to forget about you -- this entire year. I am not sure what that means. I am not dating, not anybody. I'm working on cleaning things up."


"I might be ready."


"Okay, I am ready. I mean, I got a lot more to do. But whatever it is, I'll do it. For myself. I can't stand living without who I was born to be."

She thought then of Gil. She realized she was stronger than Gil. She didn't want that to be true, but it was.

Ginny reached out her left hand and took Myra's right hand gently in her own. Still walking. They were halfway down the block.

Myra knew, then. Knew whatever this was, it went both ways. This was as much as she was ever going to have. When god knocks at your door, she does it very softly; if you've got the TV on, you won't hear it.

Okay, that was enough. In fact, it was glorious. It was easy to walk hand in hand with Ginny. They both had wide asses, but their rhythm was in sync.


Thursday, June 19, 2008


Happy Juneteenth, ya'all.

For those of you who are white and/or live in states which do not celebrate it, this is an originally African-American celebration of the date in 1865 when the slaves in Galveston, Texas found out that as of January 1, 1963, they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. The holiday, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, was for a hundred years celebrated first in Galveston, then in Texas. It is now observed in 26 of the United States.

According to Wikipedia, "Legend has it while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Union General Gordon Granger (backed by 2000 federal troops) read the contents of “General Order No. 3”:

(Juneteenth, painting by G. Rose)

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

(Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas on 19 June 1900)
"Former slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations. Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year. Across many parts of Texas, freed people pooled their funds to purchase land specifically for their communities’ increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings—including Houston’s Emancipation Park, Mexia’s Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin."

According to the Handbook of Texas:

'The day has been celebrated through formal thanksgiving ceremonies at which the hymn "Lift Every Voice" furnished the opening. In addition, public entertainment, picnics, and family reunions have often featured dramatic readings, pageants, parades, barbecues, and ball games. Blues festivals have also shaped the Juneteenth remembrance. In Limestone County, celebrants gather for a three-day reunion organized by the Nineteenth of June Organization. Some of the early emancipation festivities were relegated by city authorities to a town's outskirts; in time, however, black groups collected funds to purchase tracts of land for their celebrations, including Juneteenth.

'In the state capital, Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1867 under the direction of the Freedmen's Bureau and became part of the calendar of public events by 1872. Juneteenth in Limestone County has gathered "thousands" to be with families and friends. At one time 30,000 blacks gathered at Booker T. Washington Park, known more popularly as Comanche Crossing, for the event. One of the most important parts of the Limestone celebration is the recollection of family history, both under slavery and since. Another of the state's memorable celebrations of Juneteenth occurred in Brenham, where large, racially mixed crowds witness the annual promenade through town. In Beeville, black, white, and brown residents have also joined together to commemorate the day with barbecue, picnics, and other festivities.

'Juneteenth declined in popularity in the early 1960s, when the civil-rights movement, with its push for integration, diminished interest in the event. In the 1970s African Americans' renewed interest in celebrating their cultural heritage led to the revitalization of the holiday throughout the state. At the end of the decade Representative Al Edwards, an African-American Democrat from Houston, introduced a bill calling for Juneteenth to become a state holiday. The legislature passed the act in 1979, and Governor William P. Clements, Jr., signed it into law. The first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place in 1980.'

I can only imagine the feelings of those hearing this news in 1865. states:

"Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All or none of them could be true. For whatever the reason, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory."

My personal guess, as the descendant of Texas slaveowners, that the second and perhaps the third of these explanations is the most likely.

"The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America.

"Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

"A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.

"Certain foods became popular and subsequently synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations such as strawberry soda-pop. More traditional and just as popular was the barbecuing, through which Juneteenth participants could share in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors - the newly emancipated African Americans, would have experienced during their ceremonies. Hence, the barbecue pit is often established as the center of attention at Juneteenth celebrations.

"Food was abundant because everyone prepared a special dish. Meats such as lamb, pork and beef which not available everyday were brought on this special occasion. A true Juneteenth celebrations left visitors well satisfied and with enough conversation to last until the next.

"Dress was also an important element in early Juneteenth customs and is often still taken seriously, particularly by the direct descendants who can make the connection to this tradition's roots. During slavery there were laws on the books in many areas that prohibited or limited the dressing of the enslaved. During the initial days of the emancipation celebrations, there are accounts of former slaves tossing their ragged garments into the creeks and rivers to adorn clothing taken from the plantations belonging to their former 'masters'."

(Juneteenth, Manhattan, Kansas, 1997, photo © Kerry Stuart Coppin)

Since I prefer to read first-hand accounts rather than the often self-serving synopses of academics and outsiders reporting on a culture or event, I went to the Library of Congress's online source for Slave Narratives gathered by the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938. These are organized by the names of former slaves, or by state for the photographs alone. This a wealth of accumulated life stories which tell both the grim reality of life under slavery and, often, a "dey wuz good to us" version that is clearly meant as appeasement to the white interviewer. Both are equally revealing.

I selected one story with an accompanying photo, the interview with Issabella Boyd, who was brought from Richmond, Virginia to Beaumont, Texas as a little girl with her enslaved parents. She was interviewed between 1936 and 1938, making her at least 80 years old. It's after the fold.

Go have some barbecue and strawberry soda, ya'll. Dance, listen to the stories of those older than you, and celebrate the freedoms we do have, however late they got here. Tomorrow we'll go back to the work of demanding more.

(Issabella Boyd, Beaumont, Texas, circa 1936-1938)

Click on images to enlarge. These are the best resolution available.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008


There's been an interesting thread over at Dykes To Watch Out For regarding assimilation (especially in response to the lesbian/gay marriage shift this week), wimmin's bookstores, and continued consideration of the "Magical Negro" cultural expression as evidenced in white response to the current Presidential campaign.

One reader (Josiah, a Maoist Orange Cake diva), referenced the David Ehrenstein column in the Los Angeles Times in March of 2007, Obama the Magic Negro. Alison Bechdel also drew our attention to Mark Morford's column in SFGate on June 6, Is Obama an enlightened being? (he decides Obama is a "Lightworker" and his essay is a textbook example of Magical Negro thinking).

I wrote a long comment on this thread and have decided to reproduce it here:

'I think Obama and his campaign strategists are very aware of how much white America depends on tokenizing minorities and imbuing them with “special powers” in order to internally overcome their own racist conditioning. It’s a shortcut through the real work of undoing conditioning, in the same way that women are put on pedestals or constantly portrayed as “sexually liberated” in order to sidestep the need to alter male conditioning which forces boys to see females primarily as sex/nurture objects.

'I don’t believe the majority of Obama’s supporters are riding the Magical Negro train. And while he’s aware of it playing a role, he’s not discouraging it, either, because a significant aspect of his success as the “first black candidate” depends on him being non-typical black. He is charismatic but, if you didn’t see his face, you would not recognize his voice or speaking style as American black. He is beautiful but clearly mixed race and more African than American black. These help him make end-runs around the racism that actually dominates our culture.

'Those who view him as redemption for America’s racism, who are subconsciously assigning him the Magical Negro role, are fairly easy to spot. They fawn on him — adulation is our culture’s way of finding/reinforcing our level in the power hierarchy, and has no relationship to reality, especially to the person being fawned over. (Right, Alison?) They are swept away by his speaking and presence, instead of simply being impressed or, god forbid, noticing his mistakes. They believe he has mystical leadership attributes — mystical because when you ask them for specifics, they fall back on “But just LISTEN to him!” (He’s a junior senator who has big gaps in his experience, folks.) The adulation slops over to his wife and children, again not grounded in firm reality. They take any criticism of him as a personal attack, assume it comes from racism (a little projection going on there), and simply cannot hear it without vicious reprisal. And — they hate Hillary, because she dared to present an alternative. Because they are not dealing with their own buried racism (the REAL deal, not the groovy I-can-vote-for-a-black-guy version), they have also not dealt with their sexism (big surprise) and their method/rhetoric used to assault Hillary reveals this in glaring fashion.

'These, in other words, are the Obamabots. They will not get him elected and, in fact, have hurt his cause. The rest of us who intend to vote for him are sick of their adolescent antics and ready for increasing substance in this campaign.

'I don’t expect Obama to make serious inroads in our national racism. I don’t think that is his intent, for one thing. He will have a huge impact on the self-perception of blacks, of course, especially children, and that’s extremely important. I’m counting on him to do what he HAS stated as his intent: To extricate us from a megalomaniacal war; to restore Constitutional balance to our government; to address health care reform (though his plan will not solve it); and to slow, if not stop, our slide into becoming a masculinity-worshiping police state.

'I also have my fingers crossed that when it comes time to appoint the next Supreme Court justice, his advisers will once again keep him from making the error he almost made in supporting John Roberts. The make-up of SCOTUS will affect our liberty for decades to come.

'He will be attacked constantly by the Right, and if the November election does not also bring into office a significant number of Congressional Democrats with eggs of steel, he will be hobbled from making substantial legislative change. Once he falls from the pedestal (which is the fate of all charismatic politicians), the Obamabots will be the first to turn on him.

'I say all this because I watched progressives in 1992 (not radicals, but those left of center) cream in their drawers about Bill Clinton, his gift for speech-making, his good looks, his admirable family, his constant invocation of hope. I was at a neighborhood party the night he received the nomination and people were sobbing because he was going to lead us to the Promised Land. I looked around me in disbelief then, too. He was at best a moderate — and, by all concrete standards, he was more liberal than Obama (despite the right-wing smears, Obama is less liberal than most of Congress). He was an enormously popular President and did a great deal of national good. But all we hear now is the right-wing stereotype of Bill Clinton.

'His fall from grace resulted in impeachment. Obama’s fall will be more severe, because racism will come to the surface and punish him for not just failure, but failing while black.

'The road to undoing racism will follow other paths. It’s simply more complicated than that to undo millenia of lies reinforced by every single institution we have.'




Tuesday, June 17, 2008


All, at last I'm done with 88-A, the section between Myra's birthday and their visit to Portland to house sit for Margie and Frances. If you're new to my novel Ginny Bates, you can catch up by finding the box in the right column of this blog and reading background, then starting on the chapter in the labels under Ginny Bates which is followed by a [1].

Late August 2012

At breakfast not long after Myra's birthday, Gillam said he wouldn't be home for dinner. "Kyle's coming into town and we're going out. I'll be back late."

"You can invite her here, if you want" said Ginny.

"She's already made arrangements" said Gillam. "Her dad Jesse is coming with her, and he's going to talk with me about finding a men's group to join."

"A men's group?" said Myra. "You mean where you all paint your balls blue and sit around whining about how women ruin everything?"

Gillam looked at her coldly. "Yeah, Mom, that's precisely what I'm looking for." He drained his glass of milk and left the table. Carly was already in the shower.

Myra said to Ginny, "Well, fuck. I'm not entirely awake yet. Are there any support groups for men out there which haven't been infiltrated by MRA freaks?"

"I wouldn't know. But it does seem to me like reaction against conservatism in general and the Hillary hate-fest in particular has diluted the acceptability of misogyny as national pastime." Ginny picked up the nearly-empty jar of applesauce. "I'm going to finish this, unless you want it."

"What's on your agenda for today?" Myra took the last slice of watermelon.

"Corn. I've got five bushels being dropped off in an hour. I'll be shucking but not jiving for who knows how long."

"I'll help" offered Myra. "Until it's time to strip the cobs. After lunch I'm interviewing a black dyke named China Bear. She worked at one of the first West Coast Music Festivals, and in an altercation with Robin Tyler, Robin supposedly called her a nigger and she told Robin it was too bad the Holocaust didn't finish the job. Or something like that."

"Holy shit" said Ginny, genuinely shocked. "Who said what first?"

"Dunno. It caused a huge community upset in the Bay Area. They both apologized, of course, and I think there was some good dialogue and growth that came out of it. Anyhow, I hope to get her perspective on it. Robin's too, if she'll talk with me."

When Gillam got home that night, Myra had left him a note on the breakfast bar which read "My mouth she can be very big. I want to hear more. Fresh corn fritters in the fridge. If you do paint your balls, please use organic pigments. Love, Your favorite Mom."

The next morning when Myra got up, Gillam was frying sausages at the stove. More corn fritters were already on the table, along with a fruit salad and yogurt. Myra poured herself a glass of tea and said groggily in Gillam's direction, "How was last night?"

"Really good" he answered, bringing a plate of sausages to the table and setting it within her reach. Carly leaned over him to spear two at once. As Gillam sat down, he said "I've got a couple of questions for you and mom."

"Fire away" said Ginny.

"I'd like to have an end of training get-together here for all the folks in my Read Right course" Gillam said. "There's about 15 of us, and if they bring a guest, it could be as many as 30. Maybe do a buffet or barbecue."

"Hey, I was thinking about some kind of party for the folks in my class as well" said Carly. "Could we combine forces?"

"Sounds great" said Gillam. Myra added "Fine by me. Are you two going to handle the menu?"

"Yeah" said Carly.

"Settle on a date and let us know" said Ginny. "It'll be nice to meet some of the folks you've mentioned. What's the second thing?"

Gillam stood up and dropped his pants. His testicles were encrusted with indigo. "I'm worried this is more purple than blue, what do you think?"

Carly went into hysterics. Myra couldn't find her voice. Ginny, however, came immediately toward Gillam and bent over as if to examine him from inches away. Chuckling, he swiftly pulled back up his boxers and said "I should've known it wouldn't throw you."

Myra was able to laugh, now. Ginny said "I hope that's not tempera."

"Whatever was left in our old dress-up box" he said.

"Ah, Snazaroo" said Ginny, going back to her chair. "Shouldn't hurt you."

"Then I'm leaving it for the day. Maybe I can have some fun with it at school" he grinned.

"Just pray you don't have a car accident" said Myra, which sent Carly off again.

It took Gillam and Carly most of a week to plan the menu for their party and do advance shopping. The RSVP list was around two dozen. Ginny had not done a lot of painting this summer, but went on a jag and did two canvases in a row. Myra kept up with the garden, freezing zucchini bread and making her version of marinara when enough tomatoes were collected to preserve a quart or two. The compost pile needed turning every other day, with all the veggie trimmings going into it, but even so, it still seemed to be mostly corn husks.

Ginny's first painting was larger than anything she had ever done, six feet by three. Myra had for years admired the way Ginny would stop to stretch during her long sojourns in Painterland, with audible pops and clicks of her joints and spine as she loosened herself for another round of labor. During Ginny's last painting, Myra pulled out her digital and took two dozen shots of Ginny stretching in various poses, shiny from sweat, naked and besmirched by color, her concentration almost visible as an aura around her. Ginny did not really register Myra's activity.

Later, however, when Myra showed her the photos on her computer, Ginny had been fascinated. "That's what I look like now?" she asked in wonder. She demonstrated no upset about her sags and wrinkles, her increasingly snowy hair, or even the rippled texture of her ass. One pose showed her with her right arm, holding a brush, extended straight into the air and her left arm bent over her head to clasp her right elbow. Her right leg was holding all her weight, while the left was bent at the knee. She was 3/4 facing the camera, her expression intently focused on the canvas hidden by her easel. She printed this one out and said to Myra "Don't share these with anyone unless I say so. It's painter porn, in a way."

Myra had no intention of sharing them. This was her private world with Ginny.

But the life-size canvas she did next turned out to be based on that photo, with all fleshy failings shown and sometimes emphasized. She used green and blue for her body, a pinky-gold flame for her hair, and behind her, through the glass wall, were post-radiation giant tomato plants with ghostly globes of fruit and guardian geckos. It was magnificent, compelling, and profoundly disturbing. When the viewing was over, Ginny carried it into the living room and hung it where Hettie had been on the wall, saying "I'll frame it after it's dried and varnished."

Allie's reaction had been "Holy moly", then a long series of questions about technique and choices. Edwina had remarked to Sima "You can see more of Munchkin Land than you want to, don't you think?" Gillam had shook his head and muttered "Raised by wolves." Carly, however, got close to look at Ginny's thighs, then turned to her and said "If this is accurate, I bet you're having a lot of hamstring tightness and calf pain."

"I am" admitted Ginny, startled.

"I can recommend some exercises that would help" said Carly. Ginny adopted his routine. Myra also begin trying to convince Ginny to try painting while sitting in a rolling chair, with the easel lowered. "You're getting a bunion" she pointed out, "There's no reason you have to hurt to create art." Ginny said she'd think about it.

Since kittenhood, Beebo had a habit of putting his paw on someone's wrist or hand when spoken to in a certain kind of baby talk, which had always been endearing. By judicious use of crab meat as rewards, Myra managed to turn this into a trick Beebo could perform on command -- well, not exactly command, she said, more like an exchange. She showed her family at dinner by placing him in the chair next to her and saying in an dramatic way, "Oh, my, I'm feeling rawther faint! I wonder if my heart is racing?" She turned to Beebo and used the baby talk to say "How's about you take my pulse, gorgeous?" He obliged, with Myra's forearm conveniently in position. He looked startled at the explosion of applause this drew, but accepted his morsel and jumped under the table to eat it.

The day after finishing her second canvas -- which showed Edwina dressed as an old style aviator climbing into a biplane, Ginny saying she had no idea what it meant, it just came to her -- Ginny went out to Pike for a few items and came home with two enormous flats of clams.

"Whoa" said Myra. "Those aren't on the boys' menu, are they?"

"No, but they were incredibly cheap. Look, this flat is purple varnish clams, I never get enough of those. And the other is littlenecks. I want to freeze them. I'm not sure how fresh they are, though, so I think they have to get shucked first" said Ginny, running her hands over the shells like they were gold nuggets.

Myra sighed. "Get the galvanized tubs and let's put these in water. I'll help you shuck, otherwise you'll be all day at it."

Ginny kissed her cheek and said "Think about the fritters and chowder you'll produce with these."

Once again, Beebo became their shadow. Myra didn't like prying open mollusks, and despite taking less than half of the bounty, she still was not done by the time Ginny finished. Ginny rinsed her brimming bowls and began measuring them into freezer containers.

"I'm not going to identify all of these with a grease pencil" she decided. "I'll print out some of those labels you have."

"Go for it" said Myra. Ginny disappeared into the study. After a minute, she called back "Should I close this document you've got open? Looks like an outline."

"Save it as 'CR Groups' first" answered Myra.

A minute later, Ginny said "You've got an e-mail from Margie, headed 'Dates for trip to Mexico', can I read it?"

"Sure" said Myra, starting to loathe the smell of clam juice.

Five minutes later, Ginny returned with a sheet of labels and began sticking them to the lids of the containers.

"How's Margie?"

"Narnia had a run-in with a skunk somehow in the heart of Portland. Margie washed her first in tomato juice, then beer, but she said it just added wet dog to the reek. So she wrapped her in a blanket and hauled her to a groomers. She said Narnia was miserable, wondering why she was being tortured by endless baths" reported Ginny.

"Oh, poor puppy" said Myra, finally finishing. "Did the groomer get it out of her fur?"

"Margie said it was now tolerable. I wrote the dates she sent on your calendar, either will work for me. By the way, who's E.C.?"

Ginny was carrying an armload of plastic containers to the freezer in the storage room, so she didn't see Myra's face. Myra ran water in the sink to give herself a minute to think. As Ginny returned, Myra said "You know the head chef there who thinks he can maybe whip out a bestseller in between alfredo sauces, how hard can it be to write?"

"Yep. Oh, let me guess -- the C stands for Chef, that's obvious. Is E for Eager or Egomaniac?" Ginny laughed.

So did Myra. "I hadn't thought of Egomaniac, but that fits just as well. What did Margie say?" She hoped her voice sounded normal. She had not yet technically lied, but of course her innards disagreed with that parsing.

"Something about how EC's obsequiousness was making her wonder if she could last to their vacation. Is he giving Frances a hard time, you think?"

"Not that I've heard" said Myra. "Listen, will you finish cleaning and storing this bowl? I'm clammed out."

"You've been a jewel" said Ginny. "Here's a couple of lemon slices, they'll cut the odor on your hands. Then go write."

The Sunday of Carly and Gillam's party, Ginny vacuumed and mopped floors while Myra set out plates, bowls and silverware. Gillam filled both galvanized tubs with ice and an assortment of bottled water, juices, beer, and soft drinks. Myra filched a Coke with slush in its neck and drank it furtively at her desk. For lunch they had a salad, staying out of the kitchen otherwise. Myra did persuade Ginny to put "Self Portrait Stretching" in their bedroom for the party, reminding her if someone brushed against it, they might damage it at this stage.

Gillam was roasting pork loin, had three huge trays of enchiladas, and dishes of chicken breasts, jumbo shrimp, and various sliced veggies sat in marinades to go on the grill later. Carly baked brownies, individual fruit pies, and was turning out quarts of sorbet and ice cream as fast as the automatic maker could produce them. Salad, crudites, platters of bread, crackers, guacamole, chips, and cheeses were on the table by the time people began arriving around 3:00.

A few of the people from Gillam's Read Right program were, like him, special ed majors from Evergreen who had come to Seattle for the summer's training. About half of them were established teachers expanding their expertise, and a couple were as old as Myra and Ginny. None of them looked queer, although it was often hard to know with female teachers -- like librarians, you couldn't tell the difference between a Sapphic bent and an academic disdain for fripperies.

With Carly's guests, it was easier to spot at least the gay men. They were hunky but soft-voiced. The women had enviable muscles and crisp short hair, and pretty soon Myra decided anybody wearing a polo shirt was a PT/OT, anyone in a button-up shirt or blouse was a teacher.

As people arrived, got drinks, and began grazing, Ginny and Myra split up to schmooze, introducing themselves and relishing the grins they got from these people. Clearly, Carly and Gillam talked about them with affection. Carly sliced the cool pork and set out enchiladas while Gillam carried in platters from the grill. A buffet line immediately formed, and Myra reunited with Ginny to join it.

Ginny turned to Myra and murmured in her ear "I don't think they've ever had such a grown-up party here, doing it all themselves, have they? Either one?"

"Not that I recall" said Myra. She was enjoying the feel of Ginny pressed against her. She liked it when Ginny wore gauze shirts and there was a thin barrier between her flesh and Myra's hands.

A young blond woman at the head of the line said to Gillam "I'm driving back in the morning, do you need a ride?" Gillam, serving grill items, said "Uh, no, we're not coming back until Tuesday." Myra felt a jolt. She thought they were staying until Friday; they didn't have classes this week. But they did need to move into their new place and...She couldn't come up with enough to justify leaving three days early, not in her opinion.

The woman took a bite of her shrimp and exclaimed "My god, the flavor in this is incredible!" She looked around at Ginny, but Ginny nodded at Gillam and said "It's their recipe. They're quite the cooks."

Carly pointed his service spoon at Gillam and invoked "Culinarius!" Gillam used his tongs as a wand to respond "Nix flatulentum!" Everyone laughed, although in Myra's case it was perfunctory.

Once she had food, she dutifully sat in one cluster of guests, then another as they ate appreciatively and made conversation with her. At one point, Gillam appeared at her elbow with another cold Coke. He slung his arm around her shoulder and told the group "This is my cooking instructor, as well as the woman who made me fall in love with reading."

One of the older teachers in their cluster said "Hey, I've got that list you asked about, every school district in the country who might be hiring a Read Right instructor. Interestingly, there's a high concentration of them in Texas."

Gillam's eyes flashed interest. "Will you e-mail me a copy? Never hurts to make inquiries early." He smacked Myra on the cheek and left.

"Was he a charmer as a little boy, or a pain in the ass who's cleaned up his act?" asked the same blond woman who had offered him a ride.

"He was the most amazing child you could ever hope to know" said Myra passionately. She told about the first time they'd watched Dumbo, when Gillam was a toddler. During the scene where Dumbo's mother was locked in the cage wagon and Dumbo visited her at night, her only able to cradle him in her trunk through the bars as she sang "Baby of Mine", Gillam had collapsed into sobbing hysterics, shrieking "They took away his mama!" He could not be comforted until Myra fast-forwarded the video to show him how things got better.

This anecdote seemed to embarrass most of her group. And you're who will be caring for children? she thought bitterly. Conversation shifted to educational theory. After listening for a few minutes, Myra excused herself to crumble a brownie into a bowl, top it with Carly's hazelnut ice cream, and retreat to her study.

She and Ginny had placed her Skene screen across the doorway for privacy. She slipped past it and sat at her desk. A few minutes later, Ginny arrived with raspberry sorbet and yet another bottle of Coke. Myra took the Coke without mentioning it was her third. Ginny sat on the daybed, legs crossed, and dug into her sorbet. A few minutes later, music started up in the living room, something neither of them recognized or understood.

Ginny said "They're a decent set of friends, aren't they?"

"Not all of them" Myra said grimly. "One of those future molders of young minds went off into that bullshit about how public schools are too feminized and they're shriveling the manhood of boys by making them learn instead of pick on each other."

"Oh, no" said Ginny. "Was it that guy with the funny insignia on his shirt pocket? I wondered what that stood for."

"No, it was the fucking Valkyrie" said Myra. "The blond who was so surprised that men can cook."

"Jane, d'ya mean?" asked Ginny. "That surprises me. I had a chance to talk with her, and she seemed kinda radical, in a down-to-earth way. I mean, she does come from a Mennonite family -- "

"There you go, then" said Myra, her anger growing. "Her secret ambition is probably to be a Lebensborn breeder. I swear to god, Ginny, what chance do we have when the Right infiltrates our public schools? I'm not even sure we're treading water. And, honestly, we've raised kids who've chosen to be the middle class version of service providers, not leaders or pioneers. What happened to all the work we did?"

Ginny looked at the screen, wondering if Gillam or Carly were in earshot. She lowered her voice to a whisper and said "Is writing this history filling you with despair? Because no revolution turns out the way its initiators intended."

"I'm not despairing, I'm pissed off!" said Myra, thunking her empty bowl down on her desk. Beebo, who had been hiding out in his cubby, slid down from the shelf and ambled toward the bowl. After a long sniff, he decided it was edible and began licking daintily.

Ginny whispered "Lower your voice, honey." Myra did, though not enough, as she continued "Right at the moment, I'd rather be Tanya Harding than that whiny Katarina Witt. At least nobody's forgotten Tanya, and I bet people around her think twice before taking her for granted."

Ginny blinked at her. Myra drained her Coke, then lay her wrist next to Beebo and said "How about you, sweetie, you wanna take my pulse for me?"

Beebo flicked an ear but did not leave his bowl-cleaning. Myra pushed herself back in her chair, her face a mask of frustration. "At least he lives in the moment only. He'll never know that this summer here with us is his last, he'll never get to be here more than a day or two again before he dies."

Sudden comprehension flooded Ginny's face. She set her bowl on Myra's desk and whispered "Come over here, My. Sit next to me for a minute."

Myra looked mulish but complied. Ginny slid her hand into Myra's and said "I absolutely believe we're going to come up with a new kind of life for ourselves, angel. Hack through the undergrowth long enough, you always reach a clearing. Our kids will be happy, and so will we without them up those stairs. I'm sure of it. So...grow old along with me, the best is yet to be."

Myra began crying, pushing her face into Ginny's shoulder to muffle the sound. She choked out "I like them. I want to see their faces every day, it's not just maternal goo, I like who they are."

Ginny's eyes welled, too. "They're getting more interesting by the week, aren't they?" After an abbreviated cry, they went to the bathroom to watch their faces. Myra took a pee and said "Tomorrow let's get up early and go somewhere, the four of us. Somewhere on or near the water."

"Anacortes, perhaps?" ventured Ginny a little nervously.

"Perfect!" said Myra. "We can have a late dinner here for the aunties when we get back. You'll love the main street there, Gin."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.



From the Huffington Post article about the ad:

"A major labor union and the liberal organization are joining forces to air a provocative new ad portraying John McCain's Iraq policy as a prolonged presence that would involve a new generation of Americans.

"Paid for by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and by, the commercial represents an expansion by Democratic-leaning groups of a campaign against McCain. It also targets one of McCain's major assets _ his public credibility on national security issues.

"The ad will begin airing nationally Wednesday on CNN and MSNBC, and in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin markets. It will run for a week at a cost of $543,000."

Truth. It feels SOOOO good.



Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, photo by Jill Posener

More than 50 years ago, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin fell in love with each other. At that time in history, to be a lesbian meant you could be arrested (not for any particular behavior, just for being who you were), fired from your job, evicted, and forced into electroshock treatment. It's astonishing enough they found each other at all. But when you read about their life together ---

Del had been married for four years and had a daughter. After she was divorced, she and Phyllis met in Seattle in 1950 when they began working for the same magazine. According to Wikipedia, "They became lovers in 1952 and entered into a formal partnership in 1953 when they moved to San Francisco together although unable to legally marry. Many years later, Lyon and Martin recalled how they learned to live together in 1953. 'We really only had problems our first year together. Del would leave her shoes in the middle of the room, and I'd throw them out the window,' said Lyon, to which Martin responded, 'You'd have an argument with me and try to storm out the door. I had to teach you to fight back.'"

(Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin after being married in San Francisco on 12 February 2004)

"On February 12, 2004, Martin and Lyon were issued a marriage license by the City and County of San Francisco after mayor Gavin Newsom ordered that marriage licenses be given to same-sex couples who requested them. The license, along with those of several thousand other same-sex couples were voided by the California Supreme Court on August 12 2004."

At that time, Phyllis wrote: "Del is 83 years old and I am 79. After being together for more than 50 years, it is a terrible blow to have the rights and protections of marriage taken away from us. At our age, we do not have the luxury of time."

"In 1955, Martin and Lyon and six other lesbian women formed the Daughters of Bilitis, the first major lesbian organization in the United States. Lyon was the first editor of DOB's newsletter, The Ladder, beginning in 1956. Martin took over editorship of the newsletter from 1960 to 1962, and was then replaced by other editors until the newsletter ended its connection with the Daughters of Bilitis in 1970.

"Within five years of its origin, the Daughters of Bilitis had chapters around the country, including Chicago, New York, New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit, Denver, Cleveland and Philadelphia. There were 500 subscribers to The Ladder, but far more readers, as copies were circulated among women who were reluctant to put their names to a subscription list.

"Lyon and Martin remained leaders of the DOB until the late 1960s, when they were replaced by women who were perceived as more radical and who had different goals for the organization. The Daughters of Bilitis disbanded not long after Martin and Lyon's leadership ended."

In 1967, Lyon and Martin became active in NOW. "Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman elected to NOW. Lyon and Martin worked to combat the homophobia they perceived in NOW, and encouraged the National Board of Directors of NOW's 1971 resolution that lesbian issues were feminist issues."

In 1972, the two women joined the just-formed Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, whose purpose is "to support candidates, who are supportive of gay and lesbian rights, get elected to public office...In 1975 the club endorsed George Moscone for mayor over Dianne Feinstein."

Also in 1972, Lyon and Martin published Lesbian/Woman, a book about lesbian life in modern America, which became the definitive work on the subject for years. In 1973, they released Lesbian Love and Liberation, about lesbians and sexual liberty.

In 1979, Martin wrote Battered Wives, which blamed American domestic violence on institutionalized misogyny. Also in 1979, "Lyon-Martin Health Services was founded by a group of medical providers and health activists as a clinic for lesbians who lacked access to nonjudgmental, affordable health care. Named after Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the clinic soon became a model for culturally sensitive community-based health care. Since 1993, Lyon-Martin also has provided case management and primary healthcare in programs specifically designed for very low-income and uninsured women with HIV . In 2007, the organization added sliding-scale mental health services."

In 1989, Martin and Lyon joined Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. In 1995 Martin and Lyon were named delegates to the White House Conference on Aging by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi respectively.

In 2003 filmmaker Joan E. Biren (JEB) released a documentary film on the couple, No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, available from Frameline.

Now 87 (Martin) and 84 (Lyon), they were everyone's choice as the first couple to be married in San Francisco yesterday after the historic court ruling on May 15 made California the second state to allow same-sex marriages. Mayor Gavin Newsom, who married the couple in 2004, personally presided over this second (hopefully forever legal) marriage.

How many couples can you name who have been happily together for 56 years, devoting their lives to every cause they could find which increased freedom for others?

(Pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner puts the final touches on the wedding cake of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin at City Hall, 16 June 2008. The cake was topped by a vintage photo of Lyon and Martin as a young couple. AP Photo by Eric Risberg.)

(People crowd the balcony outside San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's office to catch a glimpse of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin after they became the first same-sex couple to be legally married at City Hall in San Francisco, Monday, June 16, 2008. AP Photo by Eric Risberg)

(Robin Tyler and Diane Olson are married at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, Monday, June 16, 2008, in Beverly Hills, Calif. AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Others who were first in line to get married in California today include Robin Tyler and Diane Olsen. Robin Tyler has been a pioneer organizer for decades, founding the West Coast Women's Music Festival and countless other events, as well as always giving dynamic speeches about lesbian and gay liberation whenever possible. I remember her as a tough butch in leather. When I found these photos of their wedding today, I wept.

Also married today were Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac, first same-sex marriage in Yolo County, California.

(Shelly Bailes, right, and Ellen Pontac, left, hold each other's hands as Yolo County Clerk/Recorder Freddie Oakley performs their wedding ceremony at her office in Woodland, Calif., Monday, June 16, 2008. AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli)

(In this March 4, 2008 file photo, Diane Sabin and her girlfriend Jewelle Gomez holds hands as they watch the California gay marriage court hearing on closed circuit television at the San Francisco Library in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 4, 2008. AP Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(Afi Wikins, left, and her partner Quesha Landers smile after making their appointment for a marriage license at city hall in San Francisco, California, May 16, 2008. REUTERS/Kimberly White)

The waiting crowd outside City Hall, San Francisco, on 16 June, 2008.