Archive for December, 2013

The Amazon Trail

BY LEE LYNCH

The Brightest Month

 

          It may be December, the darkest month of the year in North America, but this is the June of our gay lives. June, as in the most popular month for weddings. June, as in the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. June, as in our Supreme Court victories.

          During the wonders of the holiday season, starting at Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for and to celebrate. Somehow the holiday lights and candles seem to glow brighter and spread more light with the knowledge that a majority of Americans are expressing increased tolerance toward our people. The dreadful Defense of Marriage Act and California’s equally ridiculous Proposition 8 have been laid to rest at last.  I’d love to send holiday good wishes to the courageous Edie Windsor and more to the righteously defiant California couples Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrill, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier.

The frosting on the wedding cake was the legalization of marriage in Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii and Illinois. Betrothed couples in Illinois have to wait until, when else, June, for the law to take effect.

Of course, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has a way to go, but there are fewer Scrooges among the Republicans than there used to be. And there always has to be a Grinch:  Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesperson, quoted the head buffoon, who “believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

The undeclared states and politicians are a noodle pudding of marriage confusion: they will here, they won’t there; it’s already legal, they won’t take pictures at gay marriages, they won’t make gay wedding cakes, they will make gay birthday cakes…  Federally, President Obama appoints gay ambassadors and judges, and the Republicans protect the nation from gay ambassadors and judges. Gay cadets marry at West Point when just last year they could be dismissed for wanting to. The trend is worldwide; at least 15 countries no longer prohibit LGBT marriages.

We were discussing the legitimization of gay marriage and my sweetheart came up this little questionnaire for our non-gay, married neighbors to make sure all these changes aren’t hitting them too hard.

“Hey, how you doing there?”

Neighbor is fine.

“Well,” my sweetheart asks, “We just wondered – is our happiness bothering you?”

Neighbor looks puzzled. I am trying not to laugh.

My sweetheart says, “We were concerned you were maybe thinking of checking out the other team?”

Neighbor looks horrified.

“We thought our playfulness on walks around the neighborhood might be making you reevaluate whether watching T.V. on your couch is really enough for you –?

Neighbor gets huffy.

“Or if seeing Lee take out the trash or pick up the dog poop might inspire you to help your wife with chores?”

Neighbor’s wife peers out around hubby.

 

“We meet your wife at the neighborhood ladies’ luncheon. It’s so much fun,” my sweetheart would say, “that we both can go! Because, you know, we’re the only couple there. Ever.” I can see her swallow a little snicker.

“Does it bother you to hear us laugh in uproarious delight for extended periods of time?”

They are mute.

“Don’t you sometimes wish your bedroom shades were pulled down at all sorts of odd and unexpected times too?”

They sigh.

“It’s really hard,” my sweetheart tells them, “to keep our happiness under wraps. So, just let us know any time our gay marriage threatens to derail your 50 years together.”

Meanwhile, in the rush for holiday gifts, dinners, travel and parties, we can buy from a lot more vendors. The Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index saw the largest growth in the survey’s history, adding 54 new businesses. The Victory Fund reported big wins for LGBT candidates. Even the Salvation Army timidly went with the flow – it removed links to two notorious “ex-gay” ministries as part of its new campaign against LGBT discrimination. Sports and acting celebrities seem to have popped out of their closets with greater frequency this past year. And personally, my sweetheart and I were able to leave an uber conservative area and move to a community where we were, literally, welcomed with open arms.

As we take the plunge into 2014, I’m reveling in this new, unexpected season of freedoms and confidently expecting the breakthroughs to continue. I remember when it was unthinkable to take a lover home for the holidays. Now, far more often, it’s unthinkable not to.  

We’re not all home, or out, yet, but this year Brazil, next year, who knows. Uganda? Russia? India? Texas? I hope so. During our festivals of light, I don’t want to see one more light go out, one more lonely queer’s life go dark when it takes all of us, and all our ways of loving, to brighten the darkest month.

 

 

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013     Inspired by Kathi Isserman

December 2013

 

The Amazon Trail

Butch Stag Party

BY LEE LYNCH

 The Pianist and the Handydyke got married a couple of weeks ago in Seattle. I couldn’t go because I had the honor of officiating at the wedding of the Lady and the Kid in New York at the same time. Therefore, it was very important to me to have a stag party for the Handydyke.

But what would such an event consist of? Sitting around talking about femmes who would probably be in the next room? Throwing a blowout party at the local brewery when neither I nor the Handydyke drink? There would be too many designated drivers. A lesbian strip club? Do those even still exist? To tell the truth, I never understood the attraction and we certainly don’t have one in our little town.

How about pizza with the softball team? Thank goodness we’re beyond softball field age. Did I mention that the Pianist and the Handydyke have been together 42 years? The Handydyke is 82.

We do, amazingly, have a Starbucks. Maybe we could stage a butch invasion and have a java jamboree, except we don’t drink coffee either. A whale watching wingding – but we did that for her 70th birthday. I was beginning to think we’d have to do a boring old restaurant dinner.

The Handydyke was so excited about getting married; she deserved all the fringe benefits. She went all out on her wedding garb. She found a vendor in the United Kingdom that makes rainbow cummerbunds and bow ties. Then she found a supplier of rainbow cufflinks. She bought a pair for her best butch and another for me to wear at my New York ceremony. Her best butch gave her a ruffled white shirt located at a kitchen supply store. The Handydyke was all spiffed up! With her black tux and gray hair she was one handsome groom? Bride/Groom? Broome?

I did get to see the couple in their finery. They hosted a marriage equality fundraiser once back home and wore their wedding clothes, the Pianist in a gorgeous flowing blue patterned dress The best butch wore her wedding gear too, matching the Handydyke’s, and I wore the clothes from the day I married my sweetheart. The only change was the shirt: I had to find one with French cuffs for my new rainbow cufflinks. As it happened, I stumbled across a Brooks Brother’s shirt in an upscale consignment shop that filled the bill. The Handydyke is an inspiration.

But what to do for a stag party? I should have asked the Kid if she had one. There are lots of ways to gay-party in New York. The Kid wedded in a silver tux with silver sneakers while the Lady wore an elegant yet simple cream gown. I’d guess hunting down those silver sneakers would make a hilarious stag party in itself.

I had no stag party. Unless you call spending every second with my sweetheart partying, but that’s a pretty chronic state. Being married, these days, is a party in itself. Gay folks are celebrating their love at the same time we’re celebrating an unexpected freedom. What gets me most is the family stuff. Writer Lori Lake sent me a beautiful video of a proposal in a Home Depot. It was all bouncy fun and then the family joined the dancing gay friends. Watching it turned me into a blubbering mess. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4HpWQmEXrM>

As it turned out, the Handydyke came up with her own stag party idea. She invited the Quiet Butch and me to attend the Disaster Preparation event at our local Armory. The disaster was not, of course, getting married. It was about living on the edge of the earthquake and tsunami-prone Pacific Ocean.

The Handydyke and I have been gathering emergency paraphernalia for years. Our spouses may be glad, but I suspect it’s really a way we can amass butch toys. Things like combination searchlights with built-in sirens, red warning lights and weather radios which require eight D batteries that must be replaced frequently as the lights are stashed in our sea-air soggy cars. We have backpacks full of heavy sox, compasses, bug spray, jackknives, foil blankets, hats, flares, sterno stoves, propane for camp stoves, survival water, ropes, multi-tools, toilet paper, canned foods. We have backpacks and duffle bags and army blankets and crumbling chocolate bars and first aid kits.

What a stag party! We learned about (and bought) Water Bobs for bathtub storage and purifying sipping straws and museum wax for protecting our treasures. They gave out escape route maps. We had a free lunch with a Red Cross guy just primed to educate us. It was great! Better than drinking or any of those traditional pre-wedding celebrations. I’d recommend it to any butch who ever longed to rescue her girl or, as we can now, at last, say, bride.

 

 

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013

 

PUBLISHED WRITERS & PROCESS WRITERS

by Guillermo Luna, author of The Odd Fellows

luna Postcard.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

“The Future is not ominous but a promise; surrounding the present as a halo” ― John Dewey from Art as Experience.

This past fall (2013) I took a graduate seminar in contemporary art. In the seminar we focused on “Process Art.” Process Art was first documented in the late 1960s in two separate shows. One was called “When Attitudes Become Form” (Bern, 1969) and the other was titled “Procedures/Materials” (New York, 1969). These shows put forth the idea that the act of making art was more important than the final artwork. For example, some Process Artists use transitory materials like water, ice or wax in their artwork and part of the art, may be, watching the water evaporate or watching the ice or wax melt. One of the concepts behind Process Art is that it’s a reflection on the impermanence of life so the experience of creating art is what’s really important – not the end result. One of the other components of Process Art is to create “non-precious” art; something that can’t be sold for a large sum of money.

I contend that many writers are process artists and they don’t even know it.

I see process writers (that’s what I’m going to call them) as individuals who have a clear vision of what they want to write and are unwilling to compromise. That’s not bad, per se, but the process writer conjures up, in me, a particular scene in the film Sunset Boulevard (1950). In the scene, Joe Gilles, the screenwriter has just been handed part of a screenplay that silent film star Norma Desmond has written for her comeback for her return to the screen. Gilles warily looks at the piles of pages that comprise the script and with a sneer in his voice says “there was enough for ten scripts.” [Screenplays are normally 120 pages and one page equals one minute on the screen.] Over the next couple of hours, while he sits and reads it, Gilles devises a plan. He’ll offer to help Norma get her script in order in exchange for some money ― $500 a week. It’s at this point that Joe Gilles turns to Norma Desmond and says, “It’s a little long. We might have to cut some.” Norma’s response is, “I will not have it butchered!” See, if there’s such a thing as a process writer, Norma Desmond would have been a process writer because she wasn’t interested in commercial viability. Who would want to see a 1200 minute silent film about Salome? (I’d rather watch the Nazimova version and that’s only an hour.) Norma Desmond used the act of writing as a release; a way to put down on paper the creativity that was inside her along with how she felt “in her heart.” She was writing for herself. That’s what I imagine process writers doing. Their enjoyment comes from the process and the satisfaction they get from sticking to their vision. The writing is the reward.

What about process writers and the impermanence of life? If we go under the assumption that process writers don’t get published because they’re more interested in remaining true to their artistry (or dream or concept) as opposed to publishing a book ― then the impermanence of life can be linked to their writing being lost due to the fact that there is no published record of their work.

The concepts of transitory materials and non-precious art should be obvious. All writers use transitory materials when they use hand written words on paper or, worse, 1s and 0s in a computer. The idea of non-precious art comes into play when a novel is not validated by failing to be put into the commercial marketplace.

Am I process writer? No, because I definitely had my eyes set on what could be commercial. I kept telling myself the story needed to move fast and it had to be funny ― for the readers’ sake. I wanted the story in my book, The Odd Fellows, to be inhibited by characters that were likeable, attractive and sexy but not too sexy. It’s not that kind of a book. I didn’t want to write a talky book. I wanted to write a book where the images remained in the readers mind not necessarily what the characters’ said. My goal was to write a visual book. Also, I wasn’t interested in creating new ways of writing. Gertrude Stein and James Joyce may be great writers but they’re not the writers most readers select from their bookshelves first.

I try to remind myself of the quote at the beginning of this blog post whenever negative thoughts pass through my brain concerning the future. Recently, I was reading another Bold Strokes Books writer’s blog and she expressed all my fears and apprehensions when she stated she was “stressing” (out) about her “good news” (finally getting published). I too need to accept the happiness that comes with publication and my good fortune. The future will unfold over time and I want to believe “the promise” I have for it will come true. Yet all writers should remember that while getting published is important ― the process of writing is equally as important. As writers we simply have to determine whether we want to be published writers or process writers. It’s a conscious decision writers make every time they are offered constructive advice concerning their writing and either accept it or reject it.

The Odd Fellows 300 DPI

A Warm Embrace

BY HEATHER BLACKMORE

 

Hugs are underrated, beautiful, healing things. They can act like a life preserver when you’re caught adrift in life’s turmoil. They can ground you, reset you, free you just enough from whatever’s bothering you to make you want to lift your head and keep going. They can say, silently, but quite powerfully: You mean something, you’re important.

 

Great hugs are intimate things—and by that I don’t mean romantic things.

 

My novel, Like Jazz,Like Jazz 300 DPI is a romance, so of course there are some hugs between the main characters that portend of something beyond friendship. But the most important ones are those that say: “I care. I’m here. I’ve got you.”

 

One of the most memorable hugs of my life came from someone outside my normal circle of friends, yet with whom I’ve always shared an easy rapport: my sister-in-law. My father, brother and I were in a hospital waiting room, and she was with us. Two doctors had just informed us that my mother’s brain had gone too long without oxygen—the damage she suffered was extensive. Moreover, two of her other major organs (heart and kidneys) were permanently damaged as well. When we asked the doctors for guidance, they said they would not continue to keep her on life support. My dad, brother and I made the heart-wrenching decision to turn off the machines keeping my mom alive.

 

It was the most devastating experience of my life. Losing Mom so quickly, so unexpectedly, easily surpasses all other painful things I’ve known.

 

As soon as the doctors left us alone, I nearly buckled. I sobbed uncontrollably. My brother and father seemed shell-shocked. My analytical dad has never been big on expressing emotion or comfortable consoling others, so I couldn’t turn to him for solace. It was my sister-in-law who gave me exactly what I needed at that moment. She crossed the room, pulled me into a hug, and held on. Held me and let me cry. Held me through my pain. It’s been nearly ten years, yet tears threaten as a write this. As I remember. Mom.

 

Yet memorable hugs aren’t just about helping you get through the tough times. One of my best friends in high school was a very physically affectionate person. I wasn’t. I’ve become more so over the years, but back then I’d shrink from embarrassment when she’d hug me. And she’d do it in front of other people! So mortifying. Of course, my obvious discomfort with it only fueled her desire to keep doing it.

 

The thing was: I needed it. I needed a friend to say all those things that only a really great hug can: “You matter. I care.” I’d been taught not to tell family secrets to anyone, but keeping in family problems—especially when you’re in high school and everything seems like a bigger deal than it does in any other time of your life—took its toll. In a way that no one before her seemed to be able to, this friend would usually end up coaxing out of me whatever was bothering me. She’d give me her shoulder to cry on, and I’d allow myself to be held. It always helped.

 

One of the most pivotal scenes in Like Jazz revolves around a hug. Such a simple thing. Pure. Precious. Receiving an embrace when you need it, even if you don’t think you do, can be a soul-healing experience. For one of my characters, it was transformational to know someone cared. For the other, giving it wasn’t optional. It was such a fundamental aspect of her nature to comfort a friend in pain or distress.

 

But we don’t have to wait until someone’s upset in order to embrace them. We can do it anytime. When I was growing up, I remember a public service ad that asked, “Have you hugged your kid today?” It’s worth remembering and expanding upon. Have you hugged—really hugged—your child, spouse, parent, partner, or friend (including the 4-legged furry variety) lately? Maybe it’s cheesy, but guess what? Hugs are free and unlimited. They’re important and worthwhile.

 

They make a difference.

 

We always think we’ll have many tomorrows in which to tell someone we love them, we care. Losing my mom taught me that sometimes we run out of tomorrows. If you remember one thing from the many hundreds of messages/ad impressions you’ll see this day, I hope you’ll take advantage of today to make a difference to someone you love. Give ‘em a hug.

 

 

Heather’s debut novel, Like Jazz, is now available from Bold Strokes Books.

www.heatherblackmore.com


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