Monday, November 11, 2013

The Amazon Trail - Butch Stag Party

The Amazon Trail
Butch Stag Party

          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. <>

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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Amazon Trail - Carol Seajay, Lesbian Literary Legend

The Amazon Trail

Carol Seajay, Lesbian Literary Legend

Dear Carol: It’s been so long! Of all my old friends, you are one I think of most.

I am reminded of you: you will appear at the Lesbian Oral Herstory Project symposium this year, Celebrating Our Lesbian Legacies October 10-13, 2013, in Houston Texas ( I’ll be on the East Coast those days, officiating, to my amazement, at a gay marriage, visiting family openly with my spouse, doing Provincetown Women’s Week book! events, so I can’t be there, but I’d like to be.

A quiet, thoughtful groundbreaker, you were a Pied Piper we hardly realized was leading us beyond what we could imagine achieving. The unbridled excitement of those early years hid the hard, hard work we all did. I feel it now, the vast exhaustion that threatens to silence me.  I am slow to think, to move, to write. I remind myself of your cat Chia, who always impressed me with her deliberateness of motion.

I have wondered if the burden of your work in pioneering and sustaining the women’s print community has led you to retreat to the shadows in which we all once lived. Or if you are stirring new concepts in your cauldron of women’s words, concepts that will build upon the structures we old dykes can claim with pride.

Many women have raised their voices, their pens, their placards to contribute to these loud and lasting movements of our making: the women’s movement, gay liberation, lesbian literature. Few have had your impact. You are best known as a founder of Old Wives Tales in San Francisco, one of the first women’s bookstores; of “Feminist Bookstore News” (FBN), the house publication for women’s bookstores around the world; and “Books to Watch Out For” (BTWOF) a later publication that  continued to spread the word of books by, for and about women.

What most women are not aware of is how incredibly hard you worked and the way you lived to accomplish your life’s work. I remember when you took a job as a FedEx driver with that fledgling company and stuck with it for years in order to support yourself and FBN. I remember your small apartment in San Francisco which served as both publishing empire and your home for many years; papers and books, computers, periodicals, flyers and a view of a storefront church across the street. Your apartment and neighboring buildings became the setting for my book, Sue Slate, Private Eye, and I have many photographs of your neighborhood that I took in preparation.

I remember how influenced you were by The First Women In Print Conference in 1977. I believe that’s where you met Barbara Grier and so many other women who created our lesbian publishing industry. I knew nothing of all this, voiceless since “The Ladder” folded. Yet there you were, in the midst of our print revolution, organizing so women like me could be published. Thank you for making that long journey to the conference in one of your small used cars –  was it the Subaru named Jane?

          You had a story published in “Common Lives/Lesbian Lives” some years later, when I also was publishing there. I loved your story and wrote you a fan letter. You answered! Where did we first meet? San Francisco? Provincetown? New Haven? You stayed with my then partner and me at our condo. You and I were both so shy. I think I blushed every time we exchanged words. You were so accomplished and so fervent and knew everyone in the lesbian writing world and you liked my work too. I was so glad and proud to have you as a friend always.

          I can’t imagine how you made it financially. You had to buy food and housing and fund the bookstore and your publications. At the height of the popularity of women’s bookstores you were actually able to hire a part-time helper – or was she an unpaid intern? But you were the reporter, researcher, reviewer, distributor and writer for FBN all those years. It’s a wonder you didn’t get sick or burnt out.

But I think you came from hardy Midwest stock, though they no longer wanted you, their lesbian daughter. I remember listening to your story of leaving home on a little motorcycle and setting out for San Francisco. On the way you broke down or had an accident. Ever the exceedingly competent femme, you got yourself to the city of your dreams anyway and helped put on our revolution. Your work was so important. I hope you know that.

You drove all over the country in the early 1980s, women’s bookstore to women’s bookstore, sleeping on couches or in your little car. You amazed me and I want to thank you for inspiring me, gently patting me on the back, housing me, accepting my lovers, introducing me to yours, selling my books, promoting our literature and our culture and just plain being instrumental in the flowering of lesbian literature.

And, Carol, I don’t know if it will reach you, but I am sending this photograph* of us, decades old, because, you know the movie line: We’ll always have Provincetown.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Amazon Trail - “We Always Found Ourselves”

The Amazon Trail 
“We Always Found Ourselves”
I read the novel Spring Fire as a 15 year old, and the title came to represent, for me, the whole concept of lesbian love. The words of the title itself could have been from a poem by Sappho or H.D. And they certainly summed up Spring Fires tale.
Before I even started reading, the author’s androgynous name, Vin Packer, told me what I needed to hear, and the protagonist of Spring Fire, a woman named Mitch, told the rest.
I would have been crushed if I'd found out Vin Packer was a guy, but we young lesbian readers knew, somehow, she wasn't. The author understood us too well: our fears, our vulnerabilities and, most of all, our passions. Vin Packer was one of us. And she was a writer. In my book, it didn't get any better. When I grew up, I wanted to be Vin Packer. I wanted to write Spring Fire
The cover was not very different in style from others of its time, except for the absence of a robust male. I just about memorized it, eager for clues about gay people and our lives, but these women didn’t look like any dykes I’d ever seen. As Vin Packer wrote in her prologue to the 2004 reissue of Spring Fire, "Lesbian readers were able to look past the cover: to find themselves between the pages. We always found ourselves."
That was exactly what I experienced as a gay kid, that I'd found myself between the pages of Spring Fire.
I wasn’t alone. No lesbian of my generation forgets her first lesbian books. Last month I asked my first girlfriend, Sue, if she remembered finding Vin Packer’s books, including Spring Fire. Sue e-mailed back, “Those were the first books I laid my hands on from the little bookstore near the 5th Av. Library, when I was riding the subway to and from work in NY.  I couldn't believe there were books about ‘US!’ I had to hide them from my parents but I / had / those / books!!!!” She added, “Thank Vin Packer for being so daring in those days.”
Not insignificant to a baby dyke, the mildly erotic scenes she wrote were, to say the least, inspiring. How I wished there were more books like this! I sought them out when I was in college and found Valerie Taylor, Ann Bannon and more Vin Packer books, under the name Ann Aldrich, at a newspaper store downtown. It’s not an exaggeration to say these brave and talented women may have saved my life. Reading their books was stepping into an alternate reality where right there, in black and white, women felt as I did.  Just her existence gave the hope and resolve I needed to become a lesbian writer myself.
Under her real name of Marijane Meaker, she writes a little history in the foreword to Cleis Press’s 2004 re-issue of Spring Fire. The original publisher, Gold Medal Books, pre-censored the book. It was 1952 and the editor directed Meaker to give the book an unhappy ending.  He told her the postal service would refuse to handle the book if a lesbian relationship was portrayed positively.
Nevertheless, Vin Packer stamped the malleable me with Spring Fire, just as she stamped and gave voice to thousands and thousands of lesbians fortunate enough to read her work in the years between the World War that connected and emboldened gay people with the years when we rioted and marched and challenged the courts - and changed the world.
Spring Fire was a powerfully written story that has survived despite the obstacles imposed on it by the time in which Vin Packer so courageously wrote it.  The impact of Spring Fire on the baby dykes who would become fomenters, with their brothers, of gay and women's liberation, cannot be denied, or applauded enough. For her talent, her courage, and her stories, the Golden Crown Literary Society presented its Trailblazer Award to Marijane Meaker and its Classic Award for her first novel, Spring Fire. Ms. Meaker accepted the honors by video, out and proud at age 84, still giving as, 60 years later, she told stories to a ballroom full of lesbian readers and writers.
Mary Jane Meaker’s books were there for me when I needed to see something about my newfound gay life in print. The experience of reading a Vin Packer or Ann Aldrich title was intensely exciting and left me shaken. I hid her books from my mother and from roommates in college, but nothing could stop me from reading them. Their very existence, the author’s defiant act of writing those stories, promised a literature of our own.
Copyright Lee Lynch 2013
August 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Amazon Trail - Old Folks Hill Lee Lynch

The Amazon Trail
Old Folks Hill
Lee Lynch

          Yep, it’s that time of life. We’re living on Old Folks Hill. And loving it.

          We were just checking out the neighborhood when we came upon this house. It’s gorgeous by our standards. It’s sunny even in the rain, relatively low-maintenance, close to town, in a safe place for walking, and almost large enough for our books.

My sweetheart is a little young for this age-restricted community so we had to fess up that she’s my caretaker. Of course, I’m hers too, but not in the way the federal government housing rules require, though recent rulings by the Supremes at least allow us to take care of each other legally.  

I used to come up here to garage sales. I’d park for a while and walk my late dog Ginger. The homes are all manufactured, but tidy and trim with a variety of designs and a plethora of landscaping styles, from clearly professional to downright tacky. There was imagination in the neighborhood, and leisure to work in the gardens. The breezy air was clean, scented with a combination of the forest behind and ocean below.

My mother used to say that the Kancamagus Trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in autumn was her idea of what heaven looked like. Mine is here on the Pacific Coast, right where I live. I am fortunate beyond imagination.

The building where I grew up in Queens had 96 apartments. At least two thirds housed oldsters.  I was taught to be respectful and helpful. They liked me; I wasn’t a roughneck like some of the other kids. For my part, I was more comfortable with them than I was with most of the children in the building. Some old people were grouchy around youngsters, but some were kind, generous and inclusive. One couple brought me exotic dolls from their travels. Others simply spoke to this serious, unsmiling little kid without being patronizing.

Now I’m perched on this hill with people in the same age range as my early pals,
but I’m one of them. The neighbors west of us, Alaskans, are even younger than me. We look over their pretty garden at the ocean from our living room. They’ve helped with our yard which ceaselessly sprouts weeds through the plastic sheeting and lava rock our Texan sellers left.   The neighbor to the east is a gruff wheeler/dealer who lives elsewhere and calls this house his albatross. It’s hard to get a loan these days on a manufactured home, as we found out, and for sale signs abound.

          Many residents walk dogs. I always carry treats in my pocket. It’s pretty easy to meet folks that way. Gretchen, Bijou, Rowdy, Mason, and Max – I remember the dogs’ names, but their people? Forget it. Which is okay up here on Old Folks Hill, because my neighbors are even less likely to remember mine. We all joke about it in a comradely self-deprecating way. We’re growing old together, witnessing the pleasures and, well, less pleasant aspects of aging.

          At the the Fourth of July indoor picnic we stood on the food line behind a caravan of walkers. A retired longshoreman and his guide dog shared our table. Another gentleman repeatedly tells us how his sweet miniature dachshund has been taking care of him since his wife died. One evening we heard all sorts of sirens come up the hill. It turned out that the hermit a couple of streets east had been dead for five days. The responders went in wearing haz mat suits. There have been a number of estate sales since we moved in - the resident turnover here is kind of high.

           On the brighter side, today we met an 88 year old woman whose grandfather, a pioneer politician, had a main thoroughfare in town named for him. A couple of weeks ago we met a woman just turning 90, pretty deaf, and full of all sorts of stories. I often see a lively resident, nicknamed Walker, with her customary plastic rain bonnet and pull-along shopping basket, hiking around town and taking our hill at a good pace – she’s in her nineties.

Then there are the young people: a couple in their sixties who started a woo-woo spiritual group at the neighborhood clubhouse; a new resident involved in creating a nearby spiritual retreat; another who was raised by hippies in an early commune. Wow. These are my peers. This is the sixties generation. They were the Rolling Stones fans and the Vietnam soldiers and the housewives turned feminists. So this is what we look like all grown up, this is who we’ve become.

One group plays Mahjong weekly, another does needlework. There’s a computer club, a pool and a pool table. We have our own landfill and recycling bins. Bumper stickers include “Coexist” and “Army.” Those of us who are able, can walk to the beach.

We seem to be the only gay people here so far, but Old Folks Hill is our heaven on earth. And, as far as we can tell, our relatively recent gay wedding hasn’t destroyed any of the venerable marriages around us.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013
July 2013

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Amazon Trail - High School Reunion

The Amazon Trail 

High School Reunion 

          It’s here: my 50th high school reunion. Fifty years was an unimaginable amount of time when I was 17 and now, like a thunderbolt, that long stretch of life is behind me. My best friend from high school is going to the reunion with her halo of wild dark hair gone white – like mine. What will she see? Trim athletes now bald, pot-bellied and lame? Willowy young girls now wrinkled and thickened? Comfortable retirees who worked, reproduced, and are replacing a generation of old people who once sat on New York City park benches in the sun? 

In truth, I’m quite proud of my class of 1963. Three that I know of got caught in the second wave of feminism and became chairs of women’s studies departments. Five of us, at least, have published books. Many taught at the college level. I’m looking forward to hearing the accomplishments of others when my BFF reports in. She urged me to go with her, but she’s a few hours up I-95 from the school and I’m across the continent we studied in school. Also, I felt like the odd girl out back then and I feel just the same now. As she e-mailed, “Wish you were here but you would probably explode.”

          Oh, and did I mention a federal judge? Who would have thought one of us, especially a woman, would accomplish as much as she has. If she’d been born ten years earlier she might have gotten as far as president of a PTA.

          High school was so long ago, yet so fresh in my mind. I went into it determined to leave my bashfulness behind. I managed to make friends, and also to grow a persona that would mature with me. My poetry was published in our literary magazine; I was gay and proud of it; my ambition, beyond writing, was to be a gym teacher. One foot was in the circle of high school intelligentsia, the other in a sneaker on the tennis and volleyball courts.

          An altruistic alumna, who became a librarian, created an internet page for those early sixties classes. By way of introduction, she wrote, “We came of age in the mid-sixties. It is hard to believe the changes we went through and our world went through in the years between 1963 and 1967. Did we make the times or did the times make us?” What a great question for us, for any generation.

          Did we help change the world for the better? Well, we sure tried. How many of us died in Vietnam? How many were arrested for protesting that war? How many were active in the civil rights movement? The women’s movement? Gay liberation? Were environmentalists? Pro- or anti-choice activists?  Did any grow their hair, drop acid and become hippies? My BFF was at Altamont when the Rolling Stones were there. Were others at Kent State? I know some were hit with cancer. At least two committed suicide.

          Why do I have no desire to be at the reunion? Would it really be too disturbing to see the metamorphoses of these people from dreaming kids to world-weary adults? Only one was a lover and I ran into her out here about 20 years ago. She wanted to stay in touch, but too much water over the bridge for me. I have a very full life, for which I’m grateful, and my seventeenth summer, lovely as it, and she, was, has been over for a long, long time.

          Long enough that I’m looking at retirement from my job too. When I checked out the high school page it was clear I’m one of the last to stop working for a living. I feel like a sixties dropout compared to them. I’ve had jobs ever since graduation, but just to scrape by while I gave most of my energy to writing. Looking at the bios on our class pages I see teachers, ad execs, attorneys, designers and engineers, along with those who identify themselves as housewives and mothers. As far as I can see, I’m the only one who boasts of writing queer books or even of being queer.

No, I have no desire to see those folks. We sat in classrooms and passed one another in hallways. We survived high school, adult careers, marriages, marches, the tech revolution, empty nests, losses and successes. Some of us proved to be a waste of space, others made a bit of history or culture or money or offspring. I may be odd girl out again, but I have no time to review milestones. In my head, I’m still 17, anxious to get on with writing future stories, to, finally, making a lasting marriage, to changing the world. 

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013
June 2013

Kyle's Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Anyone looking for yard work done or a handy man please read (Warning)

Anyone looking for yard work done or a handy man please read (Warning)

Please beware of who you ask to do yard work at your home. There are a lot of dishonest people out there ready to take your money and run. I ran across 2 guys you do not want to do business with. Contact me and I will give you the entire scoop on them, including their names and numbers if need be.

The work they do is not the best and is never done the way they told you they were going to do it.

Beware when they offer a lot of things they will do for a low yearly price. Example. . .. 26 grass cuts, pulling weeds every two weeks, spring clean up and fall clean up of your yard, clean out your gutters, snow removal in the winter months.

This is an example. The total price for the year will be $600.00. You pay half now and the other half in October.

1. Do not hire them until you have seen their references.
2. Never give the person the money until the job is done and has been inspected to see if it was done right.
3. When you pay them, make sure you get a receipt.
4. Never pay them half down for a seasonal job.

Most lawn service people like to get paid up front each time they come to do your lawn. Larger services will send you a monthly bill.

I just do not want any honest people in Omaha to get burned.

I did get some of my money back, but it was like pulling teeth to get what I got back.

For more information please contact me.

Do not let this happen to your hard earned money.

If you have gotten taken already, please contact the police and make a report against them. Also contact 7 can help. We need to put a stop to these dishonest people.

Thank you.