Sunday, June 28, 2009

My First Dyke March

June 2001:

Pride was approaching and I thought I should participate. Shobi-wan and I had participated in the Pride Parade in Portland, and I had marched in the Portland and Seattle Pride Parades in the flag corps of the Rose City Gay Freedom Band (a story to be told later), but San Francisco is a lot bigger, a lot crazier, and a lot more formal than the Portland parade was when Shobi-wan and I went.

The Dyke March is traditionally anti-establishment, eschewing corporate sponsorship and march permit applications, but always follows the same route the evening before the Pride Parade. I thought it would be good to go a women's event, and who knows, maybe I would actually talk to someone. I had just recently started attending the Bi Women's Group and hadn't made real friends there yet, so I had to go alone. Which I told myself would be okay; there would be 50,000 people there and I could blend into some group.

I stood on a small rise in the center of the park, looking over thousands of women of all ages, colors, shapes, in costume or without clothing, on blankets drinking and snacking, making out, sunbathing, dancing, cheering, and greeting others with "Happy Pride!" I watched everything with some trepidation, wishing I knew some people so I could join the eating, drinking, dancing, cheering, and maybe even the making out.

A woman came up on the rise next to me, shading her hand while she was looking for her friends (this is so much easier now that texting is a common feature on cell phones!). She told me she was from Minnesota, and I said I was from here. She asked me, "How many times have you been to the Dyke March?" and I replied, "This is my first time."

"Your first time? What kind of a Dyke are you?" she teased.

"About half of one," I smiled.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

And Earth Is Ablaze / And Ocean Aglow

Someone I know in the wedding business told a story about a bride who had finally realized that she was getting too wound up about every uncontrollable detail of the wedding: The weather, a baby crying during the ceremony, what if the limo got a flat tire? As the wedding approached, someone else involved in the wedding plans received an email from this bride asking if the wedding site's event planner could please arrange for a pod of Orcas and dolphins to swim by at the end of the ceremony? It took a minute, but that this request was a joke did dawn on everyone.

Bink and Mr. Bink got married about six months before Zirpu and I did, in a beautiful back yard on an island in Washington State. It was a large wedding party, with seven attendants on each side - my impression was that Mr. Bink was attended by his former crew teammates, while Bink was attended by women who had been or would be part of her life for many years.

Bink had asked me to read something during the ceremony, but I didn't have a copy of the William Jay Smith poem until Zirpu and I arrived. We had taken a ferry to the island and booked a room in an inn "downtown"; during the afternoon before the wedding I sat on the balcony overlooking the Sound and quick-memorized the words. This is a technique I use that only holds the words in my head for a few hours, but it would allow me to look up and out at the gathered folks while reading.

"Now touch the air softly,
Step gently, One, two. . .
I'll love you till roses are robin's-egg blue;
I'll love you till gravel
Is eaten for bread,
And lemons are orange,
And lavender's red."

Though it was late September, the day was as warm as midsummer, a lot warmer than any of us off-islanders had expected. Bink had jokingly said that she hoped a rainbow would appear over the wedding, but it was a clear day with only a few white clouds in the sky. Immediately after the ceremony, the minister asked all of us guests to remain seated as the photographer wanted to get some photos of the wedding party standing on the deck behind us (so they would be facing the water as well). We all watched as the newlyweds and their friends walked up the aisle to the deck and while the photographer got everyone placed.

I heard a mutter and then another, and looked out toward the water. The timing couldn't have been better: Not only was it after the ceremony, but it was at the moment when the newlyweds were facing the water. Not a rainbow, as Bink had joked about, but a pod of Orcas was swimming through the nearby channel.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Anchor of My Collection

As graduation from college approached, my housemates and I started going through our stuff, throwing things out, packing clothes, rolling up posters, deciding whether this paper or that was worthy of storing in our parents' homes as we started to live our lives away from the cocoon of undergrad. Our House was a mess as we pulled things from cupboards and drawers and threw them into boxes between studying for finals and attending end-of-year events.

One of those events was the Senior Art Show. Phil had majored in Art and he had three pieces in the show: A silkscreen of three cattle skulls; a painting of a general store somewhere in Colorado; and a ceramic curving sculpture with a face at the top. I had watched Phil experiment with the curve, seeing how sharp he could make a curve in flat clay without its breaking while being fired. We had spent late nights in the Ceramics Building, talking, while he threw pots and built sculptures and I reveled in the scent of clean mud. As a result, I felt a friendly possession toward this piece, and at the show jokingly asked Phil if I could have it. He said I could have it for $1500, and showed me the sticker on the description tag.

The deadline for moving out of Our House got closer and closer and each of us had to decide what we were going to keep and what we weren't. I saved most of my papers - I'd majored in writing, so the largest output of my undergraduate education was on typewritten and dot-matrixed sheets. Phil, however, had focused on ceramics and had a large number of fragile pieces that he did not wish to ship. He belatedly realized that he should have been taking pieces home with him at the end of each academic year. His cousin agreed to allow him to pack her station wagon with his art and take it back with her to Colorado. Phil shipped all of his clothes and some of the drawings and paintings, and planned the packing of his car with geometric precision. After several tries, Phil couldn't figure out how to fit the large and oddly-shaped black and silver sculpture into the car.

I wasn't moving back to San Francisco, so I offered to hold this piece for him. He didn't know if he would be staying in Colorado or moving to Seattle after his post-graduation European trip, but we both knew that if he decided on the former we could still get this piece to Colorado when we weren't so pressed for time. I took the sculpture to the place I would be staying until Shobi-wan and I got an apartment, and Phil continued to pack his car.

I have since carefully wrapped this sculpture in a quilt and moved it nine times, across a couple of state lines. About a year after Phil died and while his brother was in graduate school in New York, I realized that I had indeed taken possession of the sculpture without paying Phil a cent. A few years after that I sent a photo of the sculpture to Marko with a letter saying that I consider this piece a long-term loan from him, and as soon as he wants it, it will go back to him. Marko called me when he got the letter, exclaiming that he had wondered what had happened to this piece.

I have it, and every time I look at it, I think of those nights watching Phil build it, the smell of clean mud, and the $1500 I never paid him for the anchor of my art collection.