I met Tobin Low and Kathy Tu, co-hosts of the podcast Nancy, at SXSW in 2018. Tobin is a friend of my daughter-in-law Emily through their music backgrounds (Tobin was a cellist, Emily is a violinist). Over lunch and between films, Tobin, Kathy, Emily and I discussed gender pronouns and staying current with language around LGBTQ issues. Tobin, Emily and I continued the conversation while cooling off at Barton Springs. When we departed, I wanted to know more about how Tobin and Kathy were sharing queer stories about journeys towards self definition and became a regular listener of their Nancy podcast via WNYC Studios. Their earnestness, vulnerability and light are so enticing.
I recently caught the last of the 100+ episodes and I found myself tearing up. Is it Covid or the long overdue protests or being home so much or not seeing my children? Even before Tobin's voice broke at the end of the episode, the emotions, which ride so high in me of late. took over. Another goodbye to a connection, however virtual.
If you haven't tuned in, there are some starter kits on their website - groups of episodes geared to having a good laugh, a good cry, starting a gaggle, queer money matters ... I do think you will be pulled into their warm, inviting and informative conversations.
This was one of those nights that, when described later, seemed unreal.
My friend Jo Hamilton lived in the West Village near Restaurant Florent in the Meatpacking District (think: drag shows, Bastille Day performances with Florent Morellet (the owner) as the gorgeous Marie Antoinette, Florent’s T-cell counts posted with provocative political statements on letter boards and the great French bistro food – oh, those moule-frites!).
Jo and Florent had worked together to get the area designated as the Gansevoort Market Historic District. They also helped establish the High Line. Each of my NYC visits included Florent’s and/or a visit with him at Jo’s home. When he decided to celebrate twenty years of the restaurant with a Ball at the Roxy (which hosted one of the city’s largest gay dance nights each week) with proceeds to benefit Friends of the High Line and the Meatpacking District Initiative, Jo invited me out to join her, her husband Bill and other friends at Florent’s table.
The entertainment was jaw-droppingly wild, campy and, as advertised, decadent (one ventriloquist projected her voice to her . . . ahem . . . nether lips). And then, Florent” secretly” told us that Madonna was going to show up later, after everyone left the Ball and the venue opened to the public. I recall that she had lost favor with some of her gay followers for some reason and this was to be the launch of a new album and an effort to charm this gay-centric crowd. Of course, that rumor spread like wildfire and there were soon thousands of folks lined up outside and most of those inside didn’t want to leave. Jo and I stayed, staking out a place along the railing. Folks were packed from the entrance, across the dance floor to the alcoves in the back, pressing up behind us. Guys chivalrously ventured to the bar and brought us drinks. After a lengthy teasing of her recorded songs and being diverted by quick evolutions of gay love and breakup and revenge flirtations around to us, Madonna showed up around 2 a.m., blasting out her new “Hung Up,” and bringing forth ecstatic screaming, dancing and removal of extraneous clothing. Her performance was brief and exhilarating and then Jo and I staggered back to Jane Street. I am not sure what my expectations had been for that evening, but they were far exceeded on all sensual fronts.
#memoriesat60 #PRIDE #TheRoxy #RestaurantFlorent #FlorentBiDecade(nt)Ball
#EarthDay #memoriesat60 #gratitude
Today, thinking about the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I remembered that I had copies of "Earthwards" somewhere and... I found them.
Steve and I embraced the environmentally conscious culture in Portland when we moved there, with our one year old son, in 1990 ... the curbside recycling of practically everything, the numerous environmental nonprofits and opportunities to celebrate the diverse regional ecosystems, the gorgeous mountains and waterways and ocean. When Earth Mercantile, which carried the broadest selected of cruelty-free, minimally-packaged, enviro-friendly products and resources in the area, opened within biking distance of our home, I proposed a barter with the owner. In exchange for store products, which I would not have been able to otherwise afford, I would start, edit and illustrate a newspaper that would create a platform for the mission and message of Portland's environmental organizations and events, action alerts, ballot measure details, and best use practices for things such as vermiculture, alternative energy, low V.O.C paints, water conservation and various products in the store. Interviewing folks and reading the submissions of local leaders was endlessly fascinating and a source for much hope.
Almost thirty years later (it is hard to believe it has been this long!), I have to admit that much of the information shared in the issues of "Earthwards" has yet to be implemented on a large enough scale to make the level of difference we imagined at that time, but ... those efforts continue to grow and build and, today particularly, is a time to celebrate the increasing elevation mindfulness and consciousness of all those who are grateful for and cherish our beautiful and bountiful Earth.
#memoriesat60 #missingcommunity #gratitude
One of my first friends, when my family moved to Hudson, Ohio in 1972, was Terry McNally. We pulled together our coins and purchased Record books in which we planned to record our twelve year old wisdom. It was my first journal and lasted through high school. Looking through it now, I see little in the way of original life hacks, but I do see I was heavily influenced by Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I included parenting advice for my future mothering (probably after a disagreement with my own mother), some of my melancholic teenage poetry, a list of boyfriends (real and desired), bullet-pointed memories (many of them encrypted in case my mother read my journal), and, the source of sweet flashbacks this cold, snowy Covid day - favorite songs and concerts I attended.
Northeast Ohio was blessed with Blossom Music Center (affordable tickets for enjoying performances under the stars), nearby Kent State, many other venues and was a destination for top bands. I could only get to a handful and remember almost losing my breath in the crush at the Coliseum during my unsuccessful effort to get tickets for, was it?, Led Zeppelin.
Most of my babysitting and other odd job money went to those concert tickets. Or... we created our own concert experiences by driving out across a hilly field to The Tree, hidden from the nearest road and passing cops, where we would share whatever alcohol we scavenged and turn up the radios on each of our cars. This was the location of many of the encrypted memories in my journal mentioned above. I remember a particularly loud playing of and singing to "Magic Man"...
I was at a loss to explain to my father the build up of mud and grass under the bumper of our low-slung Pacer after one of these nights, but I had heard of many of his own small-town high school exploits, so perhaps he figured he owed me a pass.
[Yes, even though I am right-handed, I went through a few years of experimental penmanship, depending on my mood... vertical, leftward leaning...!]
#memoriesat60 #missingcommunity #gratitude
With spring snow falling, I am drawn to the color and silliness in this collection of photos... We had this open, rambling house. We enjoyed cooking for others. Our daughter had an extensive dress up trunk. I had a collection of rhythm instruments... With my father's legendary hospitality as an example, we invited performance groups who had an extended stay in Billings over for a meal and some relaxing, fun time away from hotels. Thank you to Corby Skinner and the Alberta Bair Theater for these memories!
1998 WOFA from Guinea... My French was minimal, theirs was colloquial. Even body language was uncommon, but my research into Guinean foods paid off. At least the peanut soup and anything oval, such as almonds and the last minute hard boiled eggs, were a huge hit?!. The guys drummed. The women took turns dancing, lifting up their t-shirts and lapas. My young children were big-eyed and had interesting questions for us for days. One of the wonderful side-benefits of hosting such gatherings.
1998 Le Ballet Jazz de Montreal... Christene Meyers played piano for a karaoke of musicals.
2000 Diavolo from Los Angeles... I loved that the women placed Emma on our ottoman and danced around her.
2000 UMO Ensemble from Vashon Island... extra points for creative costuming
2000 Montreal Danse and the Drum Brothers - think hot tub and uninhibited Quebecois!
2001 DynamO Theater from Montreal. Their performance was called Mur-Mur (The Wall) and their athleticism was remarkable on the stage, in our pool and on our son's climbing wall.
2002 Toronto Dance Theater - kilt dancing?
2003 The Puentes Brothers from Cuba- such beautiful, seductive voices
And I know we had a flamenco troupe over, which were, surprisingly, less wild. There are so many more photos, but I wanted to protect the not-so-innocent
#memoriesat60 #missingcommunity #missingmountains #gratitude
Three years after leaving Portland and my women's circle, which met very two weeks to study, explore, celebrate and support each other, four of us gave ourselves four glorious days of reconnection along 40 miles of the wild and scenic Rogue River in Southern Oregon - an area only accessible by foot or boat and winding towards the Pacific.
The trail took us through sun drenched hillsides, curved into valleys trickling with springs and feathered with huge ferns, opened up to hot rocky faces, wove to and from the river banks and surprised us at just the right moments with cool pools or refreshing cascades where we could strip down and refresh our feet and sweaty bodies. The abundance of flora and fauna delighted us... the sublime Pacific mandrones exfoliating their outer skins in layers of shimmering smoked salmon and fresh pistachio, osprey, sugar pine, Douglas fir, king snakes, western fence lizards, salamanders, a black bear, deer, star thistle, buckwheat, scotch broom, manzanita, blackberry, bead lily, and poison oak, which we successfully avoided.
We met few other hikers and and reveled in the beauty and isolation that gifted us with time to delve more deeply into each others lives, as mothers of young children and adventurous women. I was so very grateful for my good boots, my comfortable pack, my strong legs and this time to nurture my soul in nature and the beautiful community of these friends.
The summer of 1983, after busting my brain at the University of Houston to graduate with one last semester, 21 credits and two senior theses, I was so thankful for the opportunity to go up to Longswamp, PA (one of those crossroad towns in the hills outside of Allentown) to help the family of Steve’s high school friend Tony renovate a 1700s house into a B&B. The rhythm of sanding, nailing, and painting allowed by brain to decompress. Elsa would cook us amazing meals with ingredients previously unfamiliar to me – fiddlehead ferns, feta cheese, chervil, lemon balm... After dinner, we would often find ourselves sprawled on couches, wending our way through their extensive vinyl collection. Sarah Vaughan’s soul penetrating voice and her songs stayed with me as I worked and I began to yearn to hear her recordings each evening.
Back in Houston, that next winter, I was employed, had found a CD of Sarah’s “How Long Has This Been Going On?”, was listening to it in my car almost daily, had heard that she was going to play at the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston and had discovered the Eastern Airlines middle-of-the-night freight flights that let folks fly very reasonably. Since this was near Steve’s 25th birthday, I connived with Tony to fly him down for the weekend as a surprise to celebrate him and hear Sarah live. I was transfixed by her performance, her range, how she modulated her voice.
This magic has never dulled, though at some point I gave the CD a break. Her songs are in several of my playlists. When I hear “I’ve Got the World on a String” or “How Long Has This Been Going On?”, my mood is instantly lifted. They are certainly among the songs I sing loudly in my car with lots of head dancing (you may have seen me?) and this recording is helping me get through the home stay version of a desert island.
#memoriesat60 #missingcommunity #gratitude
When I moved to Billings in 1993, I was 8 months pregnant, missing my women's circle in Portland and desperate to make some connections here before I became more home bound with an infant. I was so very lucky, in two ways.
We had found a last minute child care/preschool spot for our 4-year old son at the Montessori School. When I reached out to its directress Nancy Jo (what an amazing human), she suggested I call one of the other mothers, Carolyn Ostby, to whom I am forever grateful for the ensuing outpouring of woman spirit. Carolyn reached out to one of her friends, Robin Taylor, who immediately responded that their circle wanted to come to our home, with their daughters, to provide comfort, encouragement and to do a belly casting. As soon as they arrived, I was enfolded into their warmth and friendliness. My heart is still warmed as I remember the looks of awe on the faces of the daughters as they placed plaster wrappings around my belly. They created an altar with that cast - a permanent recording of my glorious roundness - with things they brought with them, with their well wishes and with the necklace that my Portland women's circle had started for me - a kind of rosary made of beads given to me by them and sent to me by far flung family and friends. I wore this during labor, fingering each bead and remembering their love and support and that of these new women and girls in my life.
In our tiny cul-de-sac, lived two good-hearted women, Mary McCarvel Helgeson and Shelley McBride. Mary put together a baby shower with some of the wives of my husband's coworkers - again, women I didn't know well, but who responded with a beautiful generosity of spirit. Mary and Shelley, not only had boys with which our son could play, but were the best kind of neighbors and with them, we created a sweet, if rambunctious, life together... welcoming our new daughter - the only girl among the, now seven, neighbor kids - sharing holidays, making up celebrations, watching out for each other and our families.
I treasure those unexpected and touching gifts of community, these lovely beginnings of my life here in Montana. And ... I look forward to the end of the Covid-19 crisis, when such gatherings can start up again.
Though these 11-pages are mostly filled with with the likes of: " I was born at Akron City Hospital .. A month and a half later, we moved to Anniston, AL so Daddy could be in the Army... my favorite activity was reading..." A few more detailed memories stood out to me at that point in my life:
After 1st grade, we drove from Houston to Florida. My brother and I were very excited to catch horseshoe crabs. They were so weird. We threw them into the trunk before we left for home so we could show our friends. Half-way there, Daddy asked "what is that smell?" He had to stop the car so my mom could throw up.
I was both excited and disappointed when my youngest brother was born, because I wanted a sister. My grandmother told me that if I had a sister I wouldn't get as many handmade clothes from her. I decided that was important and talked about my little brother every day at school.
In 3rd grade, I had a boyfriend named Lee Carter. I knew he was my boyfriend because we would talk at recess.
In 4th grade, I sold enough boxes of Russell Stover candy for Camp Fire Girls that I was rewarded with two weeks of resident camp in northern Georgia. I loved the horses, hated Spam, short-sheeted our counselor's bed, and didn't miss my parents one bit.
I also learned to play the ukulele at camp. We used our bed sheets to dress up in togas, played the hukilau song and hula danced to it, which earned us beads because Camp Fire traditions were based on Indian lore. (?!)
One of my 5th grade teachers was new at teaching. She invited all of the girls in our class over for a sleepover at her apartment. We were all good until she went into her room to sleep. We began a seance, which made several of the girls scream really loud and wake up the neighbors. Our teacher wasn't as happy in the morning.
That teacher was the one who made us write autobiographies. She gave me a "very good!" and complimented me on dotting the 'i" in my signature with a flower.
Excited Zygote Theory: Suburban Atlanta late 1960s
My comfort, peace, and happiness, while being surrounded by the folks at the #forfreedomscon in LA a few weeks ago, brought back these connected snippets ...
Sly and the Family Stone performance of "Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf" on the new, to Atlanta, Soul Train. Was it the song's message, Sly’s moves, smile or his red jumpsuit that found my 11 year old self blurting out "I think I want to marry that man!"? It wasn't the first time that my southern-raised mother muttered, "where DID you come from?"
A group of young adults sitting on the ground, singing songs, playing guitars, wearing long strands of beads, smiling in Lennox Square. I paused, intrigued by their energy and spirit and was handed a newspaper with a psychedelic butterfly on its cover, causing my soul to respond with an 11 year old version of "these are my people!" My mother grabbed my hand, returned the newspaper to the the group and repeated her question about my origin.
The seeds of my transition to long hair, beads, Indian print tops, bell bottoms, taking up the ukulele and guitar and learning freedom songs had been planted.
My sociology professor later shared, jokingly, a theory: When the stork is flying around with its load of zygotes, some of the fertilized ovum are so excited that they jump out prematurely, landing in the wrong womb and, thus, wrong family.
Though my mother, as many mothers then, struggled to understand me or my pre-adult passions, I am grateful for the places, including large cities, my father’s job took us, my ancestresses, the tough yet open-hearted survivors, and, that this milieu engendered in me a happiness when in the midst of a rich mosaic of voices, stories, generosity, kindness, and soulful conversations.
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]