Friday, October 31, 2008

Old Friends in Seattle

I lived in Seattle for 13 dark rainy winters, from 1984 to 1997. I make fun of the weather a lot, and the "cold" culture of the residents, but I go back to Seattle every year or 2. Most of my oldest friends live in Seattle, and even friends from other cities have moved there. So, there's a draw. I don't want to move back there, but I like to visit (except during dark rainy winters).

After Vermont, I flew directly to Seattle. My dear, dear friend Rafael (Ralphie) Ruiz picked me up at the airport (which I always like) and put me up in the guest room. I like staying at Ralph's house because he has a hot tub and takes good care of me. And his 2 new housemates are uber-gay cooks, housecleaners, landscapers, and aesthetes. I bond a lot with Stan and Dan's sensibilities, especially with Stan's, the older one. I love my sister Ralph, so it's always a joy to spend time at his home.

Greenlake is an upper-middle class neighborhood situated around a lovely lake, very traditional Seattle: Craftsman Era homes with A-frames and wide eaves, porches, gardens with ornamental Japanese maples. But Ralph's house is more mid-Century modern, and the new landscaping done by Stan and Dan really brings that out.

We had a dinner party for 10 of my oldest friends, and I mean OLD friends, like 22 years ago. It's always good to have them together. After dinner and many cocktails, I performed Mona Rogers in Person for them, the same performance I did at Gay Camp. Check out the safety-orange shoes in the photo. Melissa, my oldest oldest friend, said "Wow, it's amazing how far you've developed." It's great to have those benchmarks in life, to have people who've seen you change and evolve.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gay Camp in Vermont

I'm currently at my creative residency site in Washington state, which I'll write about soon. But before I forget, I want to describe my earlier trip to Vermont.

After Connecticut, I caught another Amtrak train, the Vermonter, for Bellows Falls, a village near my destination, a remote campground in the woods. My entire journey up the East coast I've seen the landscape turn chillier and yellower. In early October, the entire state of Vermont was yellow. The village of Bellows Falls was adorable. The train let me off right in the midst of a weekly farmer's market, where I bought pumpkin bread for the first evening's potluck at the campground.

Camp Destiny, a Radical Faerie campground in the rolling hills of Vermont, hosted the annual Fall Foliage Gathering. About 45 people, mostly gay men but a couple women and 6 trans-men (that I was sure of). A couple of the trans-men were quite fetching, in that twink boy way that I like so much. For 4 days, our group sat around campfires, cooked and ate communally, hiked, flirted, and participated in daily Heart Circles, a form of personal transformation through group talk, somewhere between group therapy and a Quaker meeting.

On the final night, I performed in the No Talent Show, a regular feature at Faerie gatherings. I knocked out the Vermont Faeries with selections from Mona Rogers in Person, a show we did in New Orleans earlier this year that was directed by a rather well-known Faerie named Agnes. You should have seen me balancing on 7-inch (no kidding) safety-orange the woods! The next morning the ground was covered in divits where my heels had poked in. I offered to plant seedlings.

Gay Camp was a reflective, rejuvenating--even sexy--four days. 45 people was a good number for me, as I tend to feel anxious in large groups of gay men. I connected with several sweet, intelligent people from the Northeast, and left camp with invitations to visit Maine, Vermont, New York. I was also happy to see Faerie friends who I know from other locations, like Short Mountain in Tennessee and New Orleans.

Best of all, within minutes after my arrival, I fell into a passionate, 36-hour romance. Keep in mind, I've been on the road for a month by this time, with no real opportunities for sex. No, my hymen did not grow back! But if you know me, you can imagine the state I was in when I arrived in the woods. As I was setting up my tent, a handsome, older man kissed me in greeting. And that was that. When I finally came up for air, yellow leaves were falling all around my face.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Connecticut in Autumn

Fire on all sides of this Internet cafe. Deciduous trees turning russets, reds, and oranges. How long have I been in Connecticut? A week and a half, sleeping in the attic bedroom of Matt Levine's mother's house. He sleeps on the second floor, where he can help her in the night if she needs him. Laura has cancer, emphysema, and a broken hip. Matt has his hands full. Overall he's cheerful, but the strain does show.

Matt and I spent a lot of time together, talking, driving in the countryside, watching the debates, eating well. We're both good cooks who like to eat. I made a delicious cauliflower soup. He made Littleneck clams and pasta.

For me, the peak of this visit was yesterday, an afternoon at Storm King Art Center in the Hudson River Valley. I've visited before. Storm King is one of my favorite landscapes. Yesterday we packed a lunch, drove down, and I spent an hour sketching Autumn exploding behind a 2-story iron sculpture.

We also drove to Milford, Pennsylvania, a tiny hamlet where Matt used to own a gallery. We attended an Oktoberfest party at the house of the richest people Matt knows. And he KNOWS some rich people. I liked the pool house and the lake, but never saw either of the 2 greenhouses. The beer was strong, and combined with the rosy-cheeked Oompah band, I was worried for their rather abundant pre-Columbian art collection. I'm just the kind to knock over or drop sauerkraut onto a terracotta God older than the Gutenberg Bible.

While in Pennsylvania, we visited Luna Park, a fantastical, whimsical house in the woods. The artist/owner Ricky Boscarino was not home, but Matt is a friend, found the key, and gave us the tour. Madness inside and out. We climbed ladders, ducked under rafters, crawled thru narrow spaces. Molded concrete and mosaic tile everywhere, especially in the bedroom-sized bathroom.

We walked around Yale University and their student art gallery. I saw Westport, the last home of Paul Newman. We grooved to a great Jazz combo on Christopher street in NYC, then went next door to riot at the original Stonewall Inn. I've eaten good pizza, ok bagels, and pretty good Thai.

I read two new books while here, Cormac McCarthy's The Road (loved it) and David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames (liked it). I'm also still digesting Mark Doty's book of poems, Source. I wrote this poem below, Bird House, sitting in the garden of Matt's mother, Laura.

Tomorrow I catch a train for Vermont.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bird House

original impulse
new text

Walking with my mother I saw
a burned out house, soot-marked,
blackened, evacuated.
But what struck my eye
was a bird house, also burned out but attached
still to the center
of the porch. The bird house,
in miniature, depicting the drama of fire
more than the charred remains of the home.
Black soot streaks, the shadow of flame,
marking the memories of a family in crisis.

Perhaps a mother-bird chirped
for help here, singing out alarm
through the heart-shaped hole.
Who would come to aid her aid? Is there
heroism in the avian world
apart from the a mother's instinct to save her young?.
Did she push her chicks

through the heart-shaped hole
before the chicks could fly?
Did they tumble and crush, hobbled
for the rest of their avian lives?

With her tailfeathers brushing against a burning wall
and a heart-shaped site of sky in front,
making the best choices that she can,
which crisis does a mother bird choose?
Black soot streaks, the shadow of flame,
marking the memories of a family in crisis,
memories now abandoned and quiet.