You've made your home a haven from your city, a friend told me.
It's true. The city feeling less and less familiar, street life and home now inhabit original glass art and cats found on the street and a collage of re-appropriated furniture from friends, neighbors, garbage day and Craig's List, all reminding me of her and him and them and that time we and once upon our days.
I now look down to see what I miss. Yeah, yeah, their faces were very interesting. But the picture I took of their faces was more like the story others might tell when they went "back home" to other neighborhoods in other states and shared over holiday dinners or at a wedding rehearsal dinner what's it like to live here.
The picture I took of their shoes, however rushed and surreptitiously snapped, tells me a story of how I never left where I came from and and yet all the worlds I traveled through.
And to the woman, still alive, living alone in a small town in another state, who loved Florence all her life but whose family - all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren - has never known the multi-colors of her heart, a happy pride to you.
You couldn't live in a world made of your love, but everyone is marching so this little boy can live in a world where no one ever has to hide again.
I don't think I was the only one to take Florence to a dyke bar. But, I know I was the only one to take her on her 60th birthday.
We huddled at the bar and I know we drank because I never knew Florence to not drink when there was something nearby to be drunk. I pulled out a pile of wrapped presents - all books - and said "Happy Birthday".
Each and every one of those books was about getting older in Lesbianland - coming out, getting freed, living your life on your own terms.
We looked through them and drank and then I think she went off to meet friends. (I was not invited. That's because she didn't tell anyone she had kids. A bit of a surprise for some of them at her memorial.)
The world outside the bar wasn't safe. Florence fought with and chased after more than a couple of muggers. She lived in a neighborhood that watched everything she did. What she was and what she wanted was still considered a mental illness, even if the AMA had taken it off the "sicko" list.
But that bar? That bar was safe. That bar and all the bars like it gave us shelter from the storm.
My mom took her books back home and in between teaching piano students in her living room, she'd pull them out from under the couch and look at the life she was finally calling her own.
I don't know if she ever hung out at that 18th Street bar again. I just know it was there if she wanted to. Whatever she did or didn't do, that night, we both felt safe from the world. It was, however briefly, a rare moment for both of us where we could be family to one another in a place that didn't remind us of the awful past. It was, however briefly, our new home to celebrate her birthday.
And that's what a good dyke / gay bar is. Shelter. From the storm or your life or your past or your fears or a broken heart or your family or your ex (unless they drink there too) or a world that refuses to say the words that admit you are a part of it. In that bar, you are safe and you are home and you are family.
I barely drink, I hate going out and I'm married to a man (he went to Sarah Lawrence so he's as close to a writer/dyke I'm going to get in a man). But after Orlando, all I wanted was to go to every dyke and gay bar in the world and stand for safe and home and family.
The news of the shooting at UCLA was also filled with news of students barricading themselves, because now knowing how to do that was up there with knowing how to twitter.
Which they also did.
And then I read Amy's post in the current version of our town hall - Facebook.
oh my god, really? someone actually posted that a murder-suicide is
better than a mass shooting; that's it a relief that only 2 people died.
how did we get to a
place where gunmetal is a shade more accepting than black?
how did we get here? how did we get
to a place where a women can be beaten & violated & raped
repeatedly in public but her voice is constantly silenced?
how did we
get to a place where tattoos of hate have replaced scars of courage? how
did we get here?
how did we get to this place where one left dead is a relief?
It's fucking easy to punch the shit out of someone until they are nothing - with words, with a bomb, with a gun.
It's fucking easy. And it feels so, so good. Like no one, NO ONE can fuck with me now.
Yeah, I remember it being that easy. But it got me nothing and got me nowhere.
For a long time nothing and nowhere was enough. It was all I knew.
But I somehow couldn't stop talking about how I felt. And then somehow, someone heard what I was saying and nothing and nowhere STOPPED being enough.
It was fucking terrifying to walk away from suicide and murder. It was fucking hard. It meant remembering every moment of bone crushing fear and despair which had put me in nothing and nowhere in the first place and somehow still managing to stay alive.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.