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The entire world is facing the Covid19 pandemic. When I last wrote about activism, I urged us all to contact our members of Congress to somehow take the power from The First Toddler and have Congress make some rational decisions about the pandemic. Now, it appears that the Governors of the states are coming together to do this.
We in the United States are also facing another huge crisis: The destruction of what remains of our democracy. Actually, TWO huge crises. The first one is political, the second economic: The total handover of the economy to corporations and destruction of our hard-won and carefully built Commons, like such institutions as the U.S. Post Office.
This is such a bummer to write about. I DON'T WANNA DO IT! I want to write about fun walks and silly poodles.
Last night, I talked to my niece Rose and her boyfriend Lawrence in Boulder. It was our first Face Time conversation, and I loved looking at their beautiful young faces, but I wasn't so crazy about the wrinkled old woman stuck in the upper right corner. I mean, ok, I'm OLD! I accept that. I'm grateful to have lived this long! Really! It's a blessing! But do I have to look at my face all the time on Face Time?
ANYHOW, I apologized to both of them for the mess we're in, the political mess that our generation somehow allowed to happen and is handing to future generations. And, although neither said "I accept your apology," they acted as if I was doing something appropriate. It felt good to apologize.
The point is, democracy is a hell of a lot of work. It is not just about voting, as we have been led to believe. Voting is the LEAST of it, the teeny tiny tip of the pyramid of work. I have done a fair amount of that lower-in-the-pyramid work in the past, volunteering for campaigns and running for office twice. But clearly, not ENOUGH work.
I was talking to Carolyn about this last night, and she said, "Remember after the 2016 election, we said maybe we should just forget about theater and work on political issues?"
I have felt for a long time that my generation got stuck in protest. Rather than doing the (very) hard work of acquiring actual power by electing progressive people, most of us chose to stay on the outside, protesting the evil being done.
Protest has its place, yes. Protest is important. People like to say "All those protests against the U.S. in Vietnam ended the war." The protests were important, but the war ENDED when the House of Representatives cut off funding for it. Very simple. No more money. Everyone's gotta get out of there.
In the buildup to our country's invasion of Iraq, we saw what happens when there's enormous popular protest WITHOUT having enough elected representatives in Congress willing to stop a war-mad President. Nothing. NOTHING.
It's not that we good women and men have done nothing. But the evil men (yes, mostly men) have been VERY busy for a very long time. Now we good people must associate, as Edmund Burke describes, and work like hell.
But doing what? And what CAN we do without leaving the house?
1.WORKING NOW TO DEFEAT TRUMP IN NOVEMBER:
YOU CAN DO THIS NOW!
This idea comes from Daily Kos via Gail Lynch, VOTE FORWARD:
PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO ANYONE WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED.
I'm very proud and excited to announce that Exit Press has published an anthology of my plays, One Dyke's Theater, Selected Plays 1975-2014. It's the perfect thing to read during the pandemic! For one thing, every play is funny, at least part of the time. And talk about timely! There are not one, but TWO plays about the decision to take someone off a ventilator!
Amazing, no? One of the ventilator plays, Immediate Family, is a realistic, deeply moving drama. That one might make you cry. But, you know, we NEED a good cry these days. The other play, Waiting for the Podiatrist, is a wacky farce with puppets and songs. It will definitely make you laugh. Can you guess which ventilator play is based on my actual experience? You're right. The wacky farce!
Carolyn Myers, my crony and editor, and I worked for two years on this anthology of ten plays. Besides the actual scripts, there's a lot by both of us about the writing of the plays, the production histories and the lesbian and feminist culture of the times. We wanted to record the zeitgeist, the conflicts, the ideas of women that we experienced from 1975 to 2014.
What kind of zeitgeist, you may well ask. How about a confrontation between bare-breasted dykes and macho bikers? Or the Pope trying to stop World Pride in Rome? You want zeitgeist? We got zeitgeist! There's a lot of alternative history in One Dyke's Theater. Even if you don't like to read plays, I think you'd like to buy this bookjust for the stories that Carolyn and I tell.
The ten selected plays in the collection range from absurdist farce like the aforementioned Podiatrist and Bride of Lesbostein (photo right)
to the gripping historical drama of HICK: A Love Story – The Romance of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok (photo below).
Dos Lesbos - A Play For And About Perverts (1981) inspired the first anthology of lesbian plays in the history of the universe—Places, Please!, published in1985. Dos Lesbos has been translated into Flemish, Swedish, and Italian and produced around the world. A film of Immediate Family has been shown at gay film festivals in Berlin, Milan and San Francisco. Waiting for the Podiatrist won "Best of Fringe" at the 2016 San Francisco Fringe Festival. HICK: A Love Story has earned rave reviews across the country and was "Fringe Fave" at the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival and won "Best of Fringe" at 2019 San Francisco Fringe. For more on the anthology: https://www.liliththeater.com/anthology
In other words, you're not getting your standard blah blah in this anthology. This is exciting stuff! And none of it is avant-garde! You can understand every word! Won't it be fun to read the plays for two aloud with your companion in isolation? Or, if you're solo isolating like me, how about readings on Zoom with friends who have also bought the book (hint hint)? And you can perform the one-woman shows to your cat or poodle! Any way you look at it, there's nothing like an anthology of plays by a Slightly World-Renowned Lesbian Playwright to get you and your loved ones through this unimaginable crisis.
Oh! And I forgot the wonderful collages of posters and production photos that begin each play. The one for Dos Lesbos is at right. It's got everything from the original poster with a duck and a Great Dane to Lea Delaria (lower left), who made a living touring Dos Lesbos before she got famous, to the Italian production with two soldier girls on motorbikes! (What that had to do with the show, I don't know. But it was a great poster.)
I’m going to be interviewed about One Dyke's Theater on The Author’s Show this Thursday, April 16. The interview, which was pre-recorded, will be available for 24 hours. We'll send you a link on that day.
Well, my dear Bloggelinis, please consider buying ONE DYKE'S THEATER if you haven't already done so. And if you HAVE already done so, how about giving a little treat to some downtrodden lesbian of your acquaintance? Of even an UPTRODDEN lesbian! Or a down-or-uptrodden heterosexual?! And let me not leave out gay men, trodden and otherwise. There is simply NO ONE who will not benefit from owning a copy of ONE DYKE'S THEATER!
Phyllis Lyon, pioneer lesbian activist, was my friend. I know that she is resting in peace because she lived in peace.
I'm not saying she was always happy and cheerful. But she knew who she was and why she was doing what she did for all gay people, and she had Del Martin for a partner in all of it. Phyl embraced her life. And she saw the fruits of her labors in her lifetime! How many pioneers get to have that?
For those unfamiliar with Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, here is a paragraph from Phyl's obituary in the Bay Area Reporter:
"Lyon and Martin moved to San Francisco and embarked on a lifelong career of activism. In 1955, along with three other lesbian couples, they co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis. Known as DOB, it was the first political and social organization for lesbians in the United States. Shortly after founding DOB, the couple began publishing The Ladder, the first monthly lesbian publication focused on politics, fiction, poetry and connecting lesbians across the country. The founding of DOB and the publication of The Ladder, continuously from 1956-1972, were acts of immense political courage at a time of unchecked harassment and violence directed at 'homosexuals,' largely at the hands of law enforcement and political officials."
Phyl and Del were the real deal, and they never stopped working to change the world. My ex, Margo, is a San Francisco native. She told me as a teenager, she used to look up their number in the phone book, and contemplate calling them. She never got up the nerve to do it, but just looking at the listing gave her courage. Two out lesbian activists listed in the phone book!
If Margo had ever phoned, they would certainly have invited her to chat. Phyl and Del were the two most down-to-earth, practical, unfussy people I ever met. They had their own vision of what they needed to do and, at the same time, were open to everyone else's project.
I met them through my friend, Pat Bond, who was part of the lesbian scene in San Francisco in the 50's, along with Phyl and Del. Not that Pat was a member of DOB! Oh no! She was all about the bar scene. But it was a small world then, and all the dykes knew each other. Pat was a great, raucous storyteller and went on to tour the country, telling stories about being a lesbian in the 50's, first in the Army and then in San Francisco. For her early audiences, Pat was the first out lesbian performer they'd ever seen.
When Pat died in 1990, I wanted to start an award for lesbians over 60 in her memory, and I asked Phyl and Del if they would help. They said yes! Enthusiastically! I was in awe of them, just like Margo at 16, and couldn't believe these famous activists would BE HAPPY to give their time to a frivolous project like The Pat Bond Memorial Old Dyke Award. I expected them to say, "We're busy and we have to think about it. We'll get back to you." But that wasn't Phyl and Del's way. They said yes to a LOT of things. They were open to what the world asked of them. That's what I mean about living in peace.
So we had the first meeting of the Pat Bond Memorial Old Dyke Award organizing committee. Ten women, all over 60 except for 45-year-old me. One of the women said, "Don't you think 'Old Dyke' is a bit off-putting? What if someone refused the award because of the name? How about 'senior lesbian'?" Several of the other women chimed in to agree with her.
Didn't they see the humor, the in-your-faceness of "Old Dyke" in the title? I was so upset I was speechless. I don't know if anyone noticed the steam coming out of my ears. It was "Old Dyke" or I was walking out.
Then Phyl and Del spoke up. "Well, Pat always called herself an old dyke. So if someone is uncomfortable with that, they probably shouldn't get the award." Phyl and Del were not excited. They were not battling anyone, they were not arguing for their position. They were simply stating what was common sense to them.
Well, "Old Dyke Award" it remained! These two had so much credibility after everything they'd accomplished. Probably everyone on the committee was in awe of them, as I was. I will be eternally grateful to Phyl and Del for their matter-of-fact declaration. The Pat Bond Memorial Old Dyke Award went on to honor many old dykes and hold many wondrous award ceremonies.
Then, on February 12, 2004, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were married by Mayor Newsom in the Mayor's Office in City Hall. It wasn't publicized in advance, and it wasn't legal. But it was the shot across the bow for that battle, when gay marriage still seemed like a far-fetched dream.
And four years later, when gay marriage was finally legal in California, Phyl and Del were the first couple to be wed in the state, wearing their same outfits and in the same location. I'm proud to say that I was a guest at their wedding. Here's my invitation, which hangs on my wall, framed:
We arrived at City Hall to be greeted by well-wishers and not so well-wishers.
Can you believe people would go out of their way to ruin someone else's WEDDING??
The wedding itself was an intimate affair, with friends and family and the press from the entire world crammed into the Mayor's Office.
Del was already very ill. She stayed in her wheelchair.
This photo I got from the internet. All others are mine. I love the little smile on Del's face.
After the ceremony, we went to the Rotunda where they cut the cake.
Those of us who were guests at the wedding had to stand in the balcony,
because an adoring public had flooded in and taken every available seat.
Outside City Hall, we were greeted by a glorious mob, mixed with a few naysayers.
And then it was on to the party at a nearby restaurant.
And then it was over, and Phyl and Del went home.
This was quite a cake. The golden balls were gilded puff pastry filled with cream. The baker is being applauded by all. And here's me in my going-to-first-legal-gay-wedding-in-California finery.
Less than two months later, Del died. They had a beautiful memorial to her in the same rotunda where she and her wife had so recently cut their wedding cake.
You know, if you're a lesbian of my generation, you experience a lot of firsts in your life that are meaningful, even if they were something that you didn't even know you were missing.
For example, when I saw Ellen Degeneres come out in her sitcom in 1997, I felt something inside me heal a little.
As a person who never watches TV, a lesbian sitcom lead was not on my list of important breakthroughs for gay people. But when I watched that episode, I realized that, yes, this is part of being an American -- having a sitcom hero who reflects who YOU are -- and I never thought it would happen.
Similarly, Del's memorial began with an honor guard marching in to the Rotunda. Six men and women, stepping in time, playing drums and carrying flags representing the Sheriff's Department, the Police Department and the Fire Department. I had never thought, "Gee, I wish a famous gay person could have an honor guard at their funeral." But when they marched in, honoring Del, I got chills. I cried. I felt a little more healed. I had never imagined a lesbian activist would receive an honor guard from her city.
These ways of belonging -- people who are straight and white just take them for granted. And those of us who are outsiders take for granted being excluded. I will never forget that honor guard for Del.
I continued to see Phyl, as she continued to include me in her life. Phyl always made me feel that she was genuinely happy to see me. I think she and Del really appreciated that I had taken care of Pat Bond when she was sick. Also, because of Pat, I was connected to the Old Days.
When I was invited to Phyl's 80th birthday party, I decided to make a collage out of photos of her and Del and various parts of The Ladder, the magazine of the Daughters of Bilitis. I had acquired six copies of The Ladder at a silent auction benefitting a lesbian organization. I treasured those Ladders. They were a gateway to an earlier time in lesbian culture.
I remember one letter to the editor in particular, from a woman dealing with a co-worker who made homophobic comments. Of COURSE, she responded by saying something even MORE homophobic, in order to deflect the possibility that her co-workers might consider HER "one of them." I mean, she described this as something that every dyke knew she had to do to keep her job.
Gay people have lived with so much pain.
I color xeroxed many pages of The Ladder, downloaded photos of Phyl and Del from the internet, included my "Just Married -- Finally!" photo from their wedding. At Phyl's birthday party, two other people brought framed pictures. One was a proclamation in a beautiful gilt frame. The other was an elegantly mounted news article about the wedding. I felt embarrassed by my funky, home-made offering.
Really, how can you give someone a present to hang on their wall anyway? It's absolutely the most iffy kind of gift. Let alone something homemade. I was sure it would end up in a closet.
The next time I came to visit Phyl, I saw the framed proclamation and the news article hanging on the wall above the living room couch.
And there was MY collage, on the wall next to the bathroom door, where she must have looked at it several times a day. I told Phyl how embarrassed I had been by my gift at her party. She laughed and said, "You're so silly. I love it!" I took this photo of her holding it. We were both happy.
Goodby, Phyl. Thank you for being my friend. It was a great honor to be part of your life.
BAUMBLOG APRIL 7, 2020: Beautiful Garden, Rainy Walk, No Politics
I was going to talk about the necessity of activism and the possibility of... anyhow... I'm a bit gobsmacked by Bernie's withdrawal from the campaign, and I've already bummed out my friend and booker Lesley this morning, so let's just do the garden and a walk today!
Please notice the clematis has THREE flowers! The beautiful woman is Marisol. She comes from Puebla, Mexico. When I first saw her, she was in an antique store, all separate tiles laid out on a counter so you could see the image. I fell in love. Puebla is very famous for its tiles.
So I bought the tiles, schlepped them around Mexico, packed them carefully (each tile in its own bubblewrap), carried them on the plane, and THEN had to find someone to put the whole thing together!
Eventually Rin, handywoman extraordinaire, entered my life. She was excited by the challenge and said she would charge me a flat fee rather than an hourly rate, since she'd never done anything like it before. Many many hours and several youtube instructional videos later, she had it all together and found the wood material for the frame. I so wanted that frame to be same blue as in the tiles. And she found the right color and painted it and it was AWFUL. I am a person with very strong aesthetic feelings but not much ability
to imagine how things will actually LOOK when they're finished. The tiles were just OVERWHELMED by all that solid blue around them. But Rin knew exactly how to paint and stain it so that just a little blue peeked through. Of course I couldn't hold Rin to her original modest fee after all that work. Without Rin, Marisol would still be in bubble-wrapped squares in a cardboard box -- instead of sitting in my garden next to the clematis. THANK YOU RIN!
A WALK IN THE MISSION
I decided to take a walk to visit my friends Mary and Cathy, who live in Bernal Heights. That meant walking through the Mission, which I have been loathe to do because it's so much more crowded than my 'hood, and therefore more difficult to social distance. But on Monday, it was RAINING (but not THAT hard) so I figured very few people would be out walking. And my pups are Poodles, which comes from the German word for "puddle," and they just LOVE getting wet! Here are two shiny wet dogs.
TWO DAYS LATER
Sorry. I've been having internet problems. When I was up for blogging, the internet was down. When the internet was up, I was down in the dumps. Very difficult for me to get my head around Bernie's exit from the Presidential campaign.
On DEMOCRACY NOW this morning, Naomi Klein, who was a big supporter of his, talked about how his campaign connected so many people to each other and introduced so many ideas into the mainstream political discourse -- socialized medicine, free college -- that were deemed ridiculous before.
Look on the bright side, look on the bright side. Keep going....
BACK TO THE WALK -- ON THE WAY TO MARY'S:
So I decided to walk to Mary and Cathy's, so I could ring their doorbell, stand back six feet when they answered, and just say, "Hi! I happened to be in the neighborhood, so I decided to drop by!" Which was a totally ridiculous thing to do and say, since it took me an hour to get there in the rain. Anyhow, the idea tickled me.
The first thing I saw of note was this:I venture to say that that this is perhaps the first photo you have seen of a half-eaten apple resting in the naked branches of a tree. Admit it! And probably the last. Why did I snap this photo? Is this a metaphor for something? Can someone help me with this?
Left: The building blocks of our wonderful frivolous Victorian architectural adornment. I don't think I've ever seen this before in raw wood, for the simple reason that no one does this kind of work anymore. It looks so righteous and sturdy to me. Like: Of COURSE houses must be decorated like this!
I'm not sure I LIKE this paint job, but I RESPECT this paint job. I love it when you look at a house and you know for sure that the owners have chosen the colors for THEIR gratification rather than to look nice to their neighbors.
Except when I did it. It was long ago, 1997. When I was living in New York City. I had sublet my flat, and I would come back to SF every summer and stay at the house of my friend Kay, who went back east for several weeks every summer.
I desperately needed to paint my little working-class Edwardian (not nearly as elaborate as a Victorian). At this time, I was enamored of a scarf I had with many bright, beautiful colors. It really was a lovely scarf. In my opinion. I wanted to have my house painted in those colors. My friend Dory was visiting me at the time, and she thought that was a great idea. She DID warn me, "I have terrible judgment for these kinds of things and when I paint my own house, I never choose the colors myself. My mother does it for me." Oh, dear Dory, so modest about her abilities. Over the protests of the housepainter, I chose the colors of the scarf.
Now, the housepainter is supposed to do a little sample area with all the colors, and then you look at it and decide if it's really what you want. Well, I wasn't living in the house then, and rather than phone me and wait for me to come over -- they DID have telephones back then, even if you couldn't carry them around with you -- he just went ahead and painted the whole thing, front and back.
So I came to look and it was AWFUL!! ATOMIC ORANGE, ATOMIC GREEN AND ATOMIC TURQUOISE.
Well. As they say, you don't know what you don't know. Although Dory clearly DID know what she didn't know, but I ignored her caveat. The thing is, a color on a little scarf is an entirely different color when it's on the outside wall of a building where a gigantic amount of light illuminates it.
(Sorry, I have no photos of the Paint Job That Devoured Cleveland. I was too embarrassed to record it. Plus, not only did we not carry around phones then, we also didn't take pictures of everything.)
I stood there in shock. Alone. Dory didn't stay long enough to witness the fruit of our catastrophic color choices. MY catastrophic.... I absolutely hated it. People walked by, looked up, shook their heads and hurried on, as if they'd seen something they wanted to forget as soon as possible. I went through the house to look at the back -- a solid blob of atomic orange. My next door neighbors had just finished restoring their house to the level where we all referred to it as the Crystal Palace. It was beautiful. They had just painted the outside in tasteful shades of cream and dark green. And NOW, when they sat in their elegant breakfast nook, they gazed out on a vibrant appetite-destroying wall of ATOMIC ORANGE. (This color doesn't come close but still, would you want a wall even THAT color next door?)
The phone in the house rang. I picked it up.
"Terry?" It was Gay of the Crystal Palace.
"Gay, I'm so sorry, I..."
"Have you seen it, Terry?"
'Yes, Gay, and it's so awful. I apologize..."
"I mean, have you really LOOKED AT IT, Terry?" (Actually, Gay was very genteel. She never spoke in capitals. But I could sense the horror underneath.)
Then my neighbor on the other side called me, and congratulated me for lowering his property value by at least ten thousand dollars. And that was in 1997 when $10,000 was real money!
Anyhow, I realized that probably everyone on the block wanted to tar and feather me. It would have been different if I had liked the colors. But I agreed with them! I felt a deep sense of shame. Shame! I had hardly every FELT shame before! Maybe never. It is a terrible feeling. And I understood a great principle that I had never understood before:
It is more important to have good relations with one's neighbors
than to express one's personality through the paint job of one's home.
I had the whole house repainted and asked Gay choose the colors. My house ended up complementing HER house very nicely.
And yet I still love it when other people take the risk and do it.
ONWARD! My gosh, so far only a half-eaten apple and one quirky house!!
How many hundreds (thousands?) of times have I walked by this house and never seen this man? Maybe he was only out in public because it was raining and he thought no one would come along. He mumbled, "I know I look like a wild man, but I know how to build things." He assured me many times that he knew exactly what people thought about his appearance and that he knew how to build things.
"This is my workshop! This is my workshop!" And, there, in the crowded workshop were three beautiful pristine vintage motorcycles that he had restored.
"I also restored a grand piano!" I believe him.
Down Cesar Chavez Boulevard, past Chicken John's campaign ad, struggling to be seen through the red paint. Chicken John ran for mayor a while back. He had this painted to advertise his campaign, and also the "self-hurt book" he authored. I've never met Chicken John. Why did they cover up half his sign? That's not right! I LOVED his sign! I still love what's left. How many people advertise themselves as failing? Ya gotta respect that!
And finally arriving at Mary's. Mary and Cathy came to the door, after I phoned both of them and banged on the door. They were taking a nap. So then I was finally able to say, "I happened to be in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd drop by." And Mary assured me she would remember this for the rest of her life. That's Mer on the right, Cathy, her delightful new girlfriend on the right -- except I don't think they call themselves girlfriends. But it seems to be working.
Mary has decorated her fence rather awesomely:
And now, back home through the Mission
Precita Eyes has done gorgeous murals throughout the city. This is their home.
The Mission is famous for its murals. This is a tiny tiny taste
These people below really made an effort to cheer me up!
You heard it here first, Bloggelinis:
A rabbit's favorite dance style is HIP HOP!!
Now, be honest. Was I just nattering away about trivia or was this interesting? I mean, a paint job and a tile picture... Let's end with a photo of a VERY BAD POODLE: