Seeing Presidents

Posted: September 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

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In the fall of 1972, I saw my first American president.  It was four years after my mom and I had gone to the local Democratic campaign office to stuff envelopes for his opponent.  Alas, our hard work went for naught; Hubert Humphrey lost and Richard Nixon won.  And as a family, we were pissed.

Four years later, when Nixon was on the campaign trail again trying to secure a second term that none of us wanted him to have, I got to see him in the flesh.  I was 14 years old and part of a small group of teenagers, maybe 15 to 20 of us, who had been brought into the Nassau Coliseum by an even smaller group of 20-somethings who worked for the county, pretending to be Republicans.  Back then, you could NOT work for the county of Nassau in New York unless you were registered on the right.  My sister, a fierce liberal to this day, registered as a Republican so she could secure a job as a probation officer.  When she retired 10 years ago, one of the first things she did was switch that check mark to Democrat.

But as a young worker for the county she had access to tickets to Richard Nixon’s fundraiser speech at the local arena and she grabbed as many as she could.  So did her friend and fellow liberal in wolf’s clothing, a smart young man whose name escapes me.  Together they rounded us up, gave us each a yellow youth ticket and escorted us in.  Security just assumed we were members of the Young Republicans and placed us on the floor, as close to the stage as possible.

We tried not to giggle and give ourselves away as the opening speakers came and went.  We had our instructions and we definitely didn’t want to blow the whole plan.  My sister and her friend left the vicinity and waited outside so they wouldn’t be blamed and lose their jobs.  It’s important to have people on the inside of any movement so they told us where to meet them and stepped away, confident that as a group of concerned teenagers, we would play our part.  And of course, we did.

As soon as Tricky Dick approached the microphone to begin his speech, we all started shouting, in unison, “What about Watergate?  What about Watergate?”  And because of where security had placed us, up close to the stage, they had to wade through a sea of people to get to us and kick us out.  So for about 5 minutes we were able to continuously chant our chant and stop Nixon from speaking.  We were booted to the parking lot where we were handed chips and soda and driven home.  I’m not sure what happened to my sister’s friend but my sister had a very long and successful career, making it to supervisor in a short time.  Over the years, more liberals infiltrated the probation department ranks and became friends with my sister and each other.  Many of them are still good friends to this day.

The next president I saw was Jimmy Carter, about 20 years after he left the Oval Office.  I think he was a pretty decent president.  Incredibly smart but with a the heart of an humanitarian; not a bad mix for the supposed leader of the “free” world.  I voted for him twice, in 1976 and 1980.  The guy who beat him out of a chance for a second term is the guy I still blame for a lot of what’s wrong in this country now, from almost comical tax cuts for the rich to the severe weakening of unions and guilds.  He threw a party for his buddies all those years ago and we, the people, are still paying the tab today.  But fuck him, I never saw him and if I had I would have tried to puke on him.

No, we’re talking about Jimmy Carter here, and his lovely wife Rosslyn.  They were up in Harlem helping to restore a brownstone building, wearing work gloves and tool belts and hard hats and boots.  I was sent from CBS with Bob Villa of This Old House fame to cover the event for The Early Show.  And there they were, the president and his wife, in their 70s, working right alongside all the other volunteers to fix up a house and make it livable for some families who couldn’t afford to do so themselves.  It was a beautiful thing.  The work stopped only briefly for the interview and then everybody, everybody went right back at it, tools in hand.  I managed to introduce myself and get my picture taken with President and Mrs. Carter but that Polaroid eludes me currently.  It’s one of two pictures of me with celebrities that I am heartbroken to have lost, the other being of me with Maya Angelou.

In 2004 I was sent to Boston to stage manage the early morning coverage of the Democratic National Convention, again for CBS.  The host who was with us was Hannah Storm, who I happen to think was as good at news as she was/is at sports.  She could keep it light but she could also ask the tough questions and not let people off the hook.  Our producer was Kevin Coffey, a seasoned veteran with hundreds of remote shoots under his belt.  He was also very tall, which saved our asses that summer day 15 years ago.

If you know anything about the news business, you know that when every network is in the same spot to interview the same person, ratings often come into play.  And though CBS This Morning is doing fairly well right now, back then when it was called The Early Show it was at the bottom of the pile, earning ratings below even a scary right-wing show called Fox And Friends.  So on our last day there, the Thursday of the convention, the morning of the evening when the keynote speaker was to take the stage, everyone wanted an interview with the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.  And because we were so low on the totem pole of ratings, we were scheduled to get him last, after Today, Good Morning America, and that ridiculous show on Fox.  We were set up facing the stage, on the floor of what was then called the Fleet Center, as far towards stage right as was allowed.  Next to us was Today; next to them was GMA.  I knew the other stage managers and we’d been sharing morning coffees very early before air time each day.  We all knew the proper protocol; that if you had to get somewhere to the right or left of your position, you would walk near the seats, behind the cameras, because we were all on different schedules and you could never tell when the shows in New York would toss to their remote coverage in Boston.  We were professionals on competing networks, but professionals follow the unwritten rules.  Except in cases of extreme emergency….

Barack Obama was scheduled to be interviewed by our Hannah Storm straight up at 7:30, after he’d already visited the other networks.  Except that by 7:24 he was nowhere to be seen.  The director in New York was yelling for us to find him, because our interview was to lead the second half hour.  We all scanned the crowd, Hannah on her mark and the A2 ready with a microphone for the senator when finally, at about 7:27:30, tall Kevin yelled out, “There he is!”  He was pointing all the way across the floor to the extreme other side of the camera setup.  And because we were on remote I was on a hardwired headset, not a wireless like we used in the studio.  So I ripped it off my head, said “hold this” to Kevin and took off, on the quickest route available, which was in front of the other networks’ cameras.  To this day I don’t know if they were broadcasting from Boston at the time but if they were, well, there I was, running from camera left to right,  upstage of their spots, as fast as I could.  I’m sorry.  It was an emergency.

I ran, breathless, up to Barack Obama, who was having his mic removed from his lapel by a FOX tech I didn’t recognize, and holding out my hand for him to shake, said, “Senator Obama, I’m Kim from CBS and you’re due on our show in a little more than a minute.”  He reached for and shook my hand while asking, “Where?”  I turned and pointed to the exact other end of the arena and said, “All the way over there” and without letting go of my hand, in fact instead squeezing it more tightly, he said, “Let’s run, Kim!”  So we did, me leading the way, once again in front of the other network setups, his hand in mine, and we made it to where Hannah, the A2 and Kevin were waiting.  Our camera men were set.  The A2 threw the guest mic on in a flash, I put the senator on his mark and jammed my headset on in time to hear the AD in New York say 5, 4, 3, 2….  And boom, we were on, just like that.  Later that night, from home, we all watched his keynote speech, singing the praises of John Kerry and thinking to ourselves, now THAT guy seems presidential.

A few years later, while freelancing for NBC and working a televised shindig in the Rainbow Room, my only responsibilities were to tell the host when to start and, before that, go around the room with a list of celebrities and tell each of them what to expect.  There was a part of the production where, one by one, they would take a handheld microphone and say something short to the crowd.  The list in my hand had the order in which they were to do this, so I had to tell each one which star would be speaking directly before them and would then hand them the mic, and which star went after them so they would know where to send the mic once they were finished speaking.  There was a cocktail hour before the broadcast began so I quietly crept around the room in my fancy (for me) black clothes and politely told each celebrity what to expect.  “Good evening, Mayor Bloomberg.  Paul Newman will hand the microphone to you and then you will hand it to Susan Sarandon.  Hello Ms Sarandon, the mayor will hand the microphone to you and then you will hand it to Matt Lauer.”  Like that.  Easy peasy.  They were all very cooperative and thankful for the information.  Except for one guy, who I’d been circling the whole time, waiting for a break in his conversation so I could approach him with his instructions.  Finally, there was no one left on my list.  All I needed to tell him was to take the mic from Joanne Woodward and hand it to Dick Ebersol.  So I approached slowly and said, “Excuse me Mr. Trump…” and he looked down at me, saw a frumpy, middle-aged, short-haired, small-breasted dyke with no makeup and no cleavage to speak of and waived me away, saying, “Not now.”  But there was no later.  The show was about to start but he turned back to his conversation and ignored me.  And, as a New Yorker, I knew full well what an asshole he was so I thought, okay, and I walked away to tell the host he was on in 30 seconds.  The show started, the bit with the traveling microphone came and everyone did great.  Except for Donald Trump, who correctly took the mic from Joanne Woodward, because she had listened to me and knew to hand it to him, said his piece, but then stood there waving it like the dumb jerk that he is, saying, “And now I don’t know what to do.”  Ebersol saved him by asking for the mic.  Asshat.  All he had to do was listen to the of-no-use-to-him woman with the list and everything would’ve been fine, clean, smooth.  If you had told me back then that this clown would someday occupy the White House I would have choked on the appetizer olives I had been sneaking from the fancy buffet table.

Still, it’s pretty cool to see presidents.  I’ve worked with Hillary Clinton many times and thought she would have done an okay job.  And now I’ve seen Elizabeth Warren give a speech and I think she’d be amazing.  And hopefully, in the months to come, I’ll be able to brag and say that yes, I have laid eyes upon BOTH American presidents who were forced to resign.

Mmmm, love that blonde-gone-to-white mini mop on your head!  And you’re holding an actual book!  A very good sign.   Oh, but is that a wedding ring?  Next to a GIANT engagement ring?  From your husband, I assume, because I don’t care how much money you guys have, there’s not a lesbian alive who would get down on one knee and offer you a blood rock like that. Get over yourself, girlfriend.  You are gay.  G-A-Y gay.  Toss those rings back to your man and come over to my team.  Only don’t expect me to be your first.  Been there, done that.
Ooh, cute haircut for sure!  Nice muscles, too.  And a smile for me because I let you walk in front of my car to get to yours.  Friendly!  Oh, but that fussy Mercedes?  And you’re carrying an umbrella when there’s only the slightest threat of rain?  Nah, too high-maintenance.
Well, we’ll, well….  I saw you with that side shave, walking out of the gym in your yoga pants and tight-fitting tank top.  Nice calves!  Were you just on the treadmill?  The elliptical?  Oh, and nice shoulders and biceps!  But… wait, what?  How can your body look like that when you have triceps made of, I don’t know, oatmeal?  Have you heard of pushups?  Or triceps curls?  Who is your trainer?  We need to talk.  Yes, of course, all women are beautiful.  I truly believe that.  But I’m allowed to have a type, no?
Too young.
Too young.
Too young.
Whoa!  Grrrl, I love your purple streaks and your DUMP TRUMP tee, but did you just come out of that Chick-fil-A?  Oh, hell no!
Those short and brand new locks are my favorite!  I love how they burst out of your scalp, black mixed with wisps of silver, patiently waiting for the day when they’ll be long enough to sway back and forth against your sexy hips.  Oh, hello, is that your wife?  Ouch, you two win hot lesbian couple of the year in my book.  Not that I’m writing one.  Well, I guess I sort of am.  But enough about me.  Go be fierce together.
Hey there!  That looks like a very healthy vegetarian meal.  I’m sitting outside on this bench trying to not-too-obviously spy on you because, of course, your cute haircut caught my eye.  No, don’t look over here, silly!  Oh, look!  A squirrel!  Are you still looking out the window?  Now that would be funny; me watching you, you watching me.  Yes!  It looks like you’re getting ready to pay.  Do you eat meals out by yourself a lot?  I do.  I don’t care what people think.  C’mon, stand up already.  If I’m going to fantasize about the perfect woman for me, I might as well be particular about how tall or short she is.  Yikes!  A giant!  I’m sorry, honey.  I am good at climbing, but I’m not that good!
Oh, yes, I see you sitting at the bar with your rainbow-dyed Mohawk.  It’s pride month, Mama!  Go for it.  You look sun-kissed and athletic and that smile really lights up your whole entire face.  No, your whole entire body.  And you’re using ASL to communicate with your friend but plain old regular speech to chat with the bartender.  Now that’s pretty awesome.  I need to learn ASL for sure.  Maybe you could school me.  Ugh, did you just fish a cigarette out of your pocket before heading outside?  Okay, nevermind.  I guess no one has ever been brave enough to inform you that grrrls who don’t smoke taste like heaven and grrrls who do, taste like… ashtrays.  Remember ashtrays?  Ick.
And you over there, with your blonde bob.  Hanging out in this here dyke bar.  Hello?  Is that your boyfriend?  Because I see you holding his hand while checking out every fierce lesbian who walks through the door.  Maybe you’re looking for a third?  Yeah, been there, done that too, but with two women.  Women who love women.  Don’t even glance at me; I have samurai swords in my eyes.
Oh, yum!  A Grrrl with short, pink fingernails.  And ink.  Or is that paint?  On your hands and elbows.  I do love artists!  Yes, I see it now; the splashes on your sneakers, the splotches of wild color on your very old Georgia O’Keeffe t-shirt.  And that gray in your otherwise jet black, wavy short hair tells me you’re of a certain age.  Wanna have coffee?  No, wait!  Why are you disappearing into that Subaru?  With Vermont plates?  Come back!  Ugh.
Wow, that shaved head looks really powerful.  And that rainbow flag tattoo fluttering down your neck is kind of hot!  I could do without the stud in your nose but whatever.  We could get past that.  I like the ivy tat that grows up your arm.  And the peace sign on your thigh.  Oh, but wait!  Is that a Red Sox tattoo on your ankle?  No, no, no.  I’m sorry but that would never work.  Think about the number 27 and about how your boys will never, ever catch my Yankees.  No, just no.
My mom, also a rabid Yankee fan, told me a lot of things.  One was that I had a champagne taste on a beer budget.  Oh man did she ever get that one right!  We never had a lot of money but we always had enough and we knew quality when we saw it.  Another was that beggars can’t be choosers.  I never thought that second lesson was as accurate as the first.  Anyone who’s patient enough will eventually get to choose.  But I have zero patience for this shit.  I have decided to save all of Lesboville a lot of grief by taking myself out of the game.  Am I available?  Technically, yes, but really, no, I’m not.  I’m way too picky.  And you should be, too.

I Get It

Posted: May 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

I’m very happy being single right now, I truly am.  It’s great to be able to move about freely, without discussion, without processing, without negotation, and go wherever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want.  Once my responsibilities to my 16-year-old twins are met each day, I can pretty much do anything.  It’s refreshing.

I’ve taught my twins to be very independent,  so even if I need to be gone all day, they’ll get themselves home from school, do their homework, make themselves dinner and even get to bed at a reasonable time if they know I won’t be home until late.  I am totally embracing my new-found freedom and kind of looking forward to the twins heading off to college next year so I’ll really have the ability to do what I want, for the first time in a lot of years.  They’re not ready yet, I can tell.  But they will be.  And even though I’ll miss them like crazy, I’ll be ready, too, to let them fledge.

I think “single” is the appropriate situation for me, since I haven’t done very well in the relationship department.  I’ve tried.  I’ve worked hard at it.  I’ve been loyal to a fault.  I’ve even accepted a years-long sentence of celibacy with a partner who “needed me” but alas, eventually, “not in that way.”  THAT was difficult!

So, here I am, 60 and alone, a single mother since 2011 when I finally had to call it quits (after 20 years or so) with the impossible-to-please, crazier-every-day partner who, towards the end and for a pretty long damn time, was no longer interested in sex.  It was a rough process, getting out of that relationship, but it was what I needed and it was definitely what my three kids wanted and needed.  They were 12, 9 and 9 at the time and bugging me to get a “divorce” and take them with me.  We’ve all been happier since.

I’ve had two lovely girlfriends since then but those relationships didn’t work out either.  It must just be me.  So now I’m happily single and keeping the lesbian world safe from me by declaring to be done with coupledom.

The thing I didn’t count on was the loneliness.  I ache with it.  I mourned my last relationship for a time; just about the entire fall of last year and into the early winter of this one.  I had my eye on a few women, too, but nothing happened, in a way that made it feel as if nothing was supposed to happen.  I’m basically dreaming of a casual sex partner now, not a relationship, and lesbians are loathe to go there.  Because of the old joke, you know:

Q:  What does a lesbian bring to a second date?

A:  A U-Haul.

Because lesbians are women, obviously, and so many women like to feather a nest and settle down.  (No disrespect to any lesbians who do not identify as women.  We’re talking strict generalities here.)  If I were a gay man, I could cruise down Christopher Street or around the piers in Provincetown and find all the anonymous sex I could handle.  But lesbians don’t play that way.

I get it.

There are other obstacles.  The biggest one of all, I would assume, since I’d like to hook up with a city grrrl, is the fact that I am currently stuck in New Jersey, at least until my twins graduate from high school next year.  And I do live in a sweet NJ town with lots of lesbians  but they’re all married to one another, with families and mortgages and fire pits in the backyard and I’m more interested in the urban scene right now.  But no self-respecting New York City grrrl would ever bother with a dyke who lives in the burbs.

I get it.

Another problem is my age.  I have been smiled at and flirted with by lots of women over the last few months.  One was a really cute, artsy dyke in Red Hook, near where my softball team was getting ready to practice at the batting cages.  We smiled at each other as I walked by and even said “hi” to each other, but that was it.  Another was a woman out dancing with friends at a club I like to frequent.  She watched me move through the crowd, twice, smiling both times as she grooved to the music.  I smiled back, of course, but i kept going.  And going and going and going….  Both these lovely women were maybe half my age.  I’m betting once they discovered I had more in common with their mothers than with them they’d run in the opposite direction as fast as their young, athletic legs would carry them.

I get it.

A lot of women hear me mention that I still play softball and immediately think, “dumb jock.”  But that’s not true at all.  I like to talk about physics and philosophy and politics and science-fiction movies and literature and yes, it would be cool to find a fuck buddy, but it’s sometimes fun to talk about interesting shit between multiple orgasms, no?  Still, some women can’t get past my athletic tendencies and so are absolutely not interested.

I get it.

Sometimes I wonder if all my political activism is a turnoff for certain women.  And if it is?  Goodbye and good riddance.  In this climate of growing fascism, with a wannabe dictator in the White House, enabling racists, homophobes, misogynist and generic haters of all stripes worldwide, if you think it’s okay to sit back and do nothing, I want nothing to do with you and your apathetic ass.

That, I absolutely do NOT get.

Some women think I’m too butch.  Some women think I’m not butch enough.  I’d like to make something perfectly clear right now: I am not into labels.  I do not consider myself a butch.  I know a lot of truly butch women who would laugh in my face if I tried to pass myself off as one of them.  It takes a fuck of a lot of courage to be a true butch and you either have it or you don’t.  And when pressed to label myself by people who insist that I choose between butch and femme (as if those were the only choices) I will eventually cave and gently let them know that if they really need to categorize me and put me in a box, they can stick a label on a brand new one and mark it with the words, “Grown Up Tomboy.”  And then put that box somewhere on TOP.

Get it?

I don’t like being labeled.  I am different every day.  You shouldn’t hold your breath waiting to see me in a skirt, but don’t be surprised if you rip off my clothes and find some seriously sexy underwear next to my skin.

My twins keep telling me I am three things.  The first, amusingly enough, is butch.  I respond by letting them know that I can easily introduce them to some really butch lesbians and then maybe they’ll get what I have been trying to tell everyone else.  The second is that I’m a player.  Ha!  I am 60 years old so, yes, I’ve had my share if sex partners but no, I am most definitely not a player.  I don’t have a good enough bank account or memory for that.  The third is that I am a cougar.  That’s even funnier than me being a player.  I have had two GFs/lovers who were considerably younger than I am but that just sort of happened; i did not go out looking for it the way a “cougar” would.

What to do, what to do?  Nothing, it seems.  Because I’ve become obsessed with my non-existent sex life so I need to just leave it alone for a while.  I need to stop thinking about it.  I need to stop cruising cute chicks.  I definitely need to stop any weed consumption unless I am hone alone with some favorite toys  because all weed does to me is make me… crave organic oranges, act like a goofball and then, finally, need to fuck somebody’s brains out.  So, no more when I’m out because that shit is hard to contain.

Do nothing.  For now.  Maybe a magic woman will come to me.  Maybe she’ll knock my socks off.  Maybe she’ll bring me those amazing orgasms that go on for minutes and then, just when they feel like they’re ending, drag you up to an even higher plateau.  The kind that make you feel as if you’re floating in the center of the universe and if you could just stop shaking long enough to reach out a vibrating hand you would touch God’s face.  The kind that make you feel so sorry for women who don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.  Not everyone is so blessed, I guess.

I get it.

I also get the distinct possibility that I’ll be alone and lonely for the rest of my life.  And that would be okay.  There’s no law that says you have to partner up or that you need to constantly exist as a sexual being.  It’s lovely when it works out but its also lovely when life reveals other plans for you.  There are 8 million different ways to be a human being.

I get it.

 

 

 

Dyke Bar, Sunday Evening

Posted: April 16, 2019 in Tomboy Life
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Haircuts always catch my eye.  When friends ask, “What’s the first thing you notice about a woman?” and everyone answers typically with “her eyes” or “her smile” I try not to participate unless someone notices that I’ve given no answer and only then will I sheepishly,  honestly,  admit that I have a thing for haircuts.  I guess maybe it’s because your ancestors give you your eyes, your smile, your height, your ass (although you can work on that if you want to), your cheekbones, your lips; all that stuff….  But your haircut is yours to decide.  It’s the one thing, no matter what clothes you’re wearing or how else you adorn yourself, that tells the world what YOU think about YOU.  Instantly.  And so it’s always the first thing I see.

My friends had all left the bar because it was Sunday evening and everyone had work the next day.  Except for me, of course.  As a freelancer in television production it was rare, if not completely impossible for me to have a 9 to 5 gig.  Plus, my career was winding down and I was getting closer and closer to retirement so my “off” days were way more abundant than my “on.”

I decided to stay at the bar for one last beer because I had noticed an attractive woman checking me out every few minutes for the last hour or so.  She was standing near the pool table with three other women, drinking beer like a trucker, laughing as if she and her friends were the only ones there and telling quick, clipped stories in what seemed to be a sweet-sounding Caribbean accent.  Her hair was a short mess of tight waves cut into a sharp style that any 80s rocker boy would have been proud to sport while strutting down the King’s Road in London when punk was everything.

I chanced a few quick glances from my spot on a barstool and confirmed my initial assessment:  This woman was H-O-T hot, and for some strange reason she was clocking me.  Maybe she wasn’t as young as she looked.  Or maybe I didn’t look as old as I was.

Am.

When her friends left, she stayed.

And I gulped and thought, okay, she’s a bit on the girly side with those painted nails, that flowery blouse, and those dangling earrings and I’m the grown up tomboy here so I should walk over to her, but I’m way out of practice at this game so it took me a few seconds to reach deep for the courage to approach her.  By the time I did she was standing next to me, saying hello.

“I like your shirt,” she added.

I had to look down to remember what I had on underneath my ancient leather jacket.  It was my new WHITE SUPREMACY IS TERRORISM T-shirt from Rise And Resist.

“Oh, thank you,” I said, feeling my mouth go dry and my nerve endings begin to flail.  But then I remembered my sacred mantra – There Is Nothing To Prove – took a gulp of beer and relaxed into what I hoped would be an adventure worthy of going up against the boredom I had been experiencing lately.

The place had been emptying steadily so she was able to pull up the barstool next to me and settle in.  Her eyes were dark and glassy.  When I offered to buy her a liquid refreshment I made sure to say “something to drink” and not “another beer” even though I knew that was what she was into.  I thought a seltzer with lime might be a good idea; you know, clear your head a bit and fight scurvy all at the same time, but she opted for a Stella so I had another one, too.

I asked her where she was from and she said, “Ah, a very small island near Barbados.  I’m sure you’ve never heard of it,” and I thought oh, sure, this boring white grrrl from Brooklyn couldn’t possibly have Caribbean friends or know anything about World Geography (my best category on Jeopardy!) but I didn’t say anything.  There is nothing to prove, remember?

“So, what’s your name, Sweetcheeks?”

It’s amazing how many things can go through a human mind at one time.  Sweetcheeks?  As in, she likes my face?  She likes my butt?  I’d been sitting the whole time, so probably that’s a no.  Is she just doing that thing that so many of my Island friends would do, easily and breezily throwing about terms of endearment whether they knew your name or not?  Can it be this beautiful woman really likes me?  She’s on at least the 4th beer I’ve seen her devour since I noticed her watching me.  Maybe it’s just the foam.

“DJ.  What’s yours?”

“DJ?  Short for… Debbie Jo?  Donna Joy?  Dina Jessie?”

She was on a roll, smiling as she spun, being obviously playful and not trying to offend me but I felt like I needed to stop her before she came up with something really crazy like Didja Job or Dubya Jesus.  I thought about saying Doobie Jah just to see how she reacted but I stuck with the truth.  It’s always best.

“It’s not short for anything, really.  It’s just what a lot of people called me because of what I did before I decided what to be when I grew up.  And it kind of stuck.”

“Oh, I get it.  Well, I am called Tina and it’s nice to meet you.”

We actually shook hands.  Then we both took another sip of beer.

“So what is it that you do, now that you’re all grown up?”

Her eyelids were getting lower by the minute.  She was paying attention but I wondered how much of her was actually there at the bar with me and how much was sailing down a silky stream of suds.

“Nothing important.  I work in television production.”

“Ooh, that sounds exciting.  I bet you get to meet all kinds of famous people.   But if it’s not important work, tell me something that is.”

Well now.  Was she somehow sobering up?  Were we really about to get into a serious conversation about meaningful world issues?  Here in this West Village bar at 7:30 on a Sunday evening?  If we were, my interest in her would grow exponentially.

“Um, you know.  Writing stories.  Saving the world from fascism.  Stuff like that.”

Stuff like that?  Yeah, that sounded intelligent.

“So you’re an activist.  That explains your cool T-shirt.”

No, because being an activist is more than just walking around as a here’s-what-we-can-do-to-fix-the-world billboard.  Holy shit, for someone who was not a big fan of sarcasm I sure did think a lot of it in my head.

I was only on my third beer but I hadn’t eaten anything in hours so I began to feel a slight buzz.  My eyes wandered down to the pearl necklace at her throat and I thought about how nice it would be to bite or suck or lick every single perfect off-white orb.  I’m able to have a complete and satisfying fantasy scenario flash through my brain in 3 seconds flat so I don’t think she noticed as I momentarily drifted off topic.

“Yes, I’m an activist.  I have been for most of my life.”  I smiled as I thought about getting tossed out of a hockey arena at age 14 with a bunch of other determined teenagers for shouting What About Watergate over and over at Richard Nixon as he was trying to begin a campaign speech to a sea of wealthy and upper middle class Long Island republicans.

She noticed my smile.

“It makes you happy to try to change the world, eh?”

“Yes.”

I liked this Tina.  Because even though she was heavy-lidded and teetering a bit on her barstool she was able to see me for who I was and maintain a pretty decent conversation.  Plus, she was fucking hot.  Did I mention that she was hot?

We talked a little bit about how the world was so scary and messed up right now, how it’s mostly always been but now more than ever in our lifetimes and that got me wondering about how old she might be.  But you can’t just up and ask a woman her age.  There are things you can do, like ask her where she was on 9/11 and if the answer is In Gym Class or In Psych One then you know to pat the youngster on the head and look for someone your own size, but that’s such a depressing topic.  I searched her hair for grays and saw a few, so that was promising.  Then I remembered that I got my first 3 silver hairs when I was 16 and gave up trying to guess.  It was time to ask her what she did for a living.

She told me she was a physics teacher and further explained that she had received her master’s degree from UMass  in 1992.  Physics!  I love physics!  UMass!  Ugh, please don’t be a Red Sox fan.  And 1992.  Even give or take a year… or three or four… to earn money to continue studying or take care of a sick parent or whatever, a master’s degree in 1992 put her somewhere in the vicinity of my age bracket.  Cool.

But suddenly the topic changed from Physics to Philosophy (another one of my favorites) when she asked, “So, what are you out here looking for, DJ?  Happiness?  The meaning of life?  A girlfriend?”

I almost choked on my final swig of beer.

“Oh, no.  Definitely not a GF,” I said.  “I am done with that.”

“No, really?  Why would you say such a thing?”

And because it’s pretty complicated and involved and kind of a long story, I thought I’d stick with the simple answer.

“I’m just bad at relationships.  Can’t seem to get them right.  It usually starts as just sex and then somebody says I love you and I think, okay, I can give this a try but then I get comfortable or bored or restless and I become a real jerk.  You’ve heard of jerk chicken?  Yeah, I become jerk DJ.  And then it ends.  So I’ve decided  to never go there again.”

Stop.Talking.Now!  What the fuck?  She said she was a physicist, not a freakin’ therapist, you idiot!

“Hmmm,” was all she said.  Then she got the bartender’s attention, ordered yet another beer and asked me what I wanted.

“Just a coke for me, thanks.”

“Yeah, because the beer has your lips flapping.  I get it.  I don’t usually drink this much, you know, but I’m celebrating this evening.”

Bless you, Tina, for changing the subject.

“Oh, what’s the occasion?”

“I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary of being free from my crazy ex-girlfriend.”

Ah.  So we seem to have much more in common than physics and philosophy but as I now see, we have most definitely NOT changed the subject.

“Oh, you, too?” I asked.  “Cheers.  Only for me it’s about 7 years.”

“Yeah, we all have that crazy ex, I guess.  You get to a certain age, you spin around, and there she is.”

And I was thinking, only women of a certain age consider themselves women of a certain age.  Tina was still making a spinning gesture with her left hand while she took another sip with her right.  I noticed that her hands had that useful, lived-in quality that I liked, as if she did more more with them than just grade physics papers and scroll through electronic devices.  The hand with the beer was shaking a little as she brought the bottle to her mouth and I saw whole patches of nail polish missing.  Definitely not high-maintenance, I thought.  Another good sign.  But her speech was starting to slur and I believe she began to realize how drunk she was.  Perhaps that’s what emboldened her as she finally changed the subject from crazy ex-girlfriends.

“I really do like your shirt,” she reminded me.  And then she stood up carefully, inched closer and put a now-steady hand on the middle of my T-shirt, on my breastbone, vertically, so her thumb barely rested on the inner edge of my right breast and her pinky brushed the edge of the left.

“I like it so much, I think you should give it to me.”

Well.  I’m no youngster.  I have been around a lot of blocks, a lot of times.  Quite often, in more serious or tense situations, I think of the perfect comeback an hour, or a whole fucking day later.  But this wasn’t tense.  This was fun.

So I smiled and said, “Take me home and rip it off me.  Maybe then you can have it.”

Tina smiled back and grabbed me by the elbow, trying to head us both towards the door.  I thought, wow, that was easy, but i knew I couldn’t really go home with her.  First of all, I was without my bag of tricks.  And even if I did have it, my magic bag was incomplete since the last woman who invited me to share her bed had insisted on keeping my favorite toy as a souvenir.  Time to go shopping!

But more importantly, I was a woman, a lesbian, a feminist.  I couldn’t possibly live with myself and continue my quest for an ethical life if I took advantage of a seriously inebriated bar patron.  I’d be no better than a man on the prowl with a tiny jar of Rohypnol in his pocket.  Tina was in no condition to say yes and mean it.

So I helped her to the curb, signaled for a taxi and folded her into the back seat.  As she settled in and gave the driver an address that was only about 20 blocks away she reached into her jeans and pulled out a small, white, rectangular item that she shoved into my front pocket just before I closed the door.  And to make myself feel better, as I turned and headed to the nearest subway station, I thought about how she’d probably get home and pass out in bed before she could even take her shoes off.

Halfway down the block I remembered that there was something burning a hole against my thigh.  I pulled it out, unfolded it and peeked and there it was, Tina’s full name and cell number on a card that was obviously from the uptown high school where she worked.  I shoved it back in and gave it a little pat.

Time to go shopping, indeed.

 

 

 

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Don’t say, the end is near
Don’t fade to black, don’t draw that curtain
My colleagues, I’ll say it clear
Directors know, they can be certain
I’ve had a career that’s full
I cued from each and every doorway
And more, much more than this, I did it your way

Mistakes, I’ve made a few
But then again, too few to mention
And now what I really want is health insurance and to grow my pension
I planned each perfect shot, each rundown step with no room for play
And more, much more than this, I did it your way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
Producers bit off more than they could chew
But we did it all, when there was no time
My crew and I, to make you shine
Directors all know we stood tall and did it your way

I’ve lead so many stars
I’ve had my fill, my share of wrangling
I’ve always been polite to divas whom I’ve felt like strangling
To think I did all that
For 30 years, in such a sure way
Oh, yes, oh, yes, t’was me, I did it your way

For what is a stage manager, what has she got?
If not her crew, then she has naught
To find the shots the director “feels”
Remind a cameraman, that thing has wheels
Everyone knows, I worked your shows and did it your way!

Yes, it was your way

www.linkedin.com/pub/kim-miller/11/23a/b36/

 

I am available for any and all TV stage managing opportunities.  Please contact me at DJGRRR17@aol.com with any leads or inquiries.

 

With love and thanks to Frank, Paul and Claude.

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Bea handed me a small and intricately wrapped box on December 26th.  It was our Christmas celebration, since she was in LA for the 25th and didn’t fly east to be with us until the next day.  We had a big family meal with some cousins planned at our favorite Long Island restaurant for the 27th and a bacon-wrapped turkey dinner in the wings for the 29th.  Everyone wanted to to see her, to spend time with her, to take pictures with her and give her some presents.  But when she first arrived at my sister’s house, where the twins and I were spending the whole long Christmas break, it was just the five of us.  My sister.  The twins.  Bea.  Me. 

I gave her the presents I had managed to buy for her with my meager earnings.  The twins and my sister Gloria gave her their gifts.  There was a fire in the fireplace, laughter in the house, a happiness that had been absent from the family holiday celebrations Bea had missed.  She gave me a photo album, unwrapped with just a red shoelace holding it closed,  that made me cry.  It was filled with pictures of the two of us together on one side of each page and a brief description on the other side.  It was beautifully, painstakingly decorated with shells and stickers, beads and images that meant something to both of us.  The first picture was of me in a softball uniform with Bea, 2 years old, sitting on my lap.  We’re at a cafe after a game.  She’s smiling impishly and drawing with a broken blue crayon.  “My Favorite Picture of Us,” it says in magic marker on the facing page.  The words are surrounded by stick-on, 3-D butterflies.

There’s a photo of us in Aunt Gloria’s pool.  There’s one of us on a kiddie roller coaster and two of us together at the Early Show, from when she used to come with me to work.  There’s one of the two of us at Legends Field in Tampa.  She’s maybe seven weeks old.  Her first of many Yankee games.  The second to last page is a list of “A Few Reasons Why I Love You.”  A few.  There are 21.  I counted.  And the last page has a pretty, multi-layered heart, the kind you might use on a homemade valentine, with love always written in script.  It’s signed, simply, bea bea.  Because that’s what I call her.

And then, almost as an afterthought, she handed me the little box.  I wiped away the tears the photo album visited upon me and bravely soldiered on.  A little box, that rattled curiously when I shook it.  The wrapping peeled away easily and found its way to the fire.  “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor,” she had written on the lid.  And, “Be strong, mom.  I’m proud of you.”  The lid slid right off.  Inside was a crystal clear memory of happier times.  Or were they happier?  It was when her other mother and I were pretending to get along.  It was when we both had jobs.  It was when we had a house that felt permanent, like a warm wool sweater that would last a lifetime.  I smiled at all the smooth, cool pieces of sea glass.  Bea had been collecting them for me.  The edges were softened, like the memories of our turbulent past, when half our lives seemed to be filled with arguments, disagreement, disappointments, when walks along the shoreline were my refuge from the craziness that had become my life.

Bea would come with me sometimes, hold my hand, watch the sand for a dull glint of green or white or, miracle of miracles, blue.  We’d go to Cape Cod every August, to Provincetown to spend a week with other same-sex couples and their kids.  Herring Cove was where we would gather almost every afternoon.  Once the twins were a part of the family we’d set up a tent for the babies and little kids, a place to keep them safe from the crispiness of the baking sun.  Soon, they were old enough to walk along the shoreline, too.  Every single piece of sea glass was cause for celebration.  Every tide pool along the way was a rest stop on the journey to find a tiny bit of quiet, a few moments of peace.  It was on these leisurely but adventurous strolls that I first began writing my memoir in my head, Bea perched upon my tanned shoulders, wearing a sunhat and a long-sleeved white shirt to cover her peachy skin.  She’d hold on for dear life as I carefully bent to reach for what might or might not be the highly coveted glow of old glass.  If we found a piece that was still jagged and clear we’d throw it back in, declaring it not quite ready for the collection.

Once, Bea and I decided that the coolest piece of sea glass we could possibly find would be an old marble that had somehow found its way into the waves.  So we bought a bagful and tossed them in, thinking, one day, maybe we’d discover them again, perfectly round and muted and smelling of the ocean.  We figured, even if we never did find one again, someone might, and that would be truly awesome for them.  It was our small contribution to future sea glass collectors everywhere.

The box trembled in my hand.  The good memories it brought back far outweighed the bad.  I could smell Cape Cod Bay.  I could feel the summer sun warming my tired bones.  The waves were licking the shoreline like a still-blind kitten finding and tasting its mother.  The kites were dancing happily, crazily in the on-shore breeze.  The girls, all three of them, were small enough for me to scoop up together in one giant, delicious group hug, golden sand falling from their hair and tiny feet.  I thanked my kid for knowing me, for understanding the sweetness of sentimentality and bringing back to me those warm and happy thoughts.

I’m planning to go back to Provincetown some summer, soon.  With all of my girls.  For lobster and clam chowder and sunburned friends and quiet days at the beach.  For finding crabs in tide pools and fishing and swimming and shopping on Commercial Street.  For dunes and bicycles and drag queens in comedy shows.  And maybe, for one perfectly round, weathered piece of sea glass.  A muted orb.  A circle.  Like life.

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Bob and Kevin followed me everywhere.  They seemed to think that the twenty five or so words I had managed to learn in Japanese would keep us safe and help us to not get hopelessly lost.  I took the silly dictionary with me everywhere but it was more my keen ear for subtleties within accents and willingness to make a fool of myself until I got it right that made me the best choice Bob and Kevin had when it came to available tour guides and translators.  We were good friends before we got to Nagano anyway, so it made sense that we would tool around together.

Of all the Olympics I have been to, Nagano will forever remain my favorite.  It was my first, Bob’s and Kevin’s third.  We all worked for CBS.  They had been to Albertville in France and Lillehammer in Norway before I started working there.  It had been a dream of mine to work the Games so when the opportunity arose to be one of only three stage managers taken to Japan by the network, I was thrilled.  As a kid I had hoped to be an Olympian someday but I wasn’t a good enough athlete and the dedication needed just wasn’t there so going as part of the media was the next best thing.

I arrived in Tokyo on a brisk January evening.  It was dinner time and I had only this one night to experience the big city before being whisked away the following morning to the mountains where the games would be held.  Bob and Kevin were still in New York and wouldn’t arrive for another five days so Nick and Mary headed down to the subway with me to make sure I got to the neighborhood I had in mind before scurrying off on their own planned adventure.  We took the train that, according to the map, would get me closest to where I wanted to be, but I wasn’t sure I had made it to Shinjuku until I saw all the rainbow flags hanging from the low buildings.  Nick and Mary waved goodbye and told me to be careful.  They went in search of sushi and live music.  I checked out the gay bars.

Shinjuku is like the West Village of Tokyo.  I went into a lesbian bar that was the size of a big walk-in closet and paid the equivalent of almost $50.00 for the cover charge.  When I sat down at the bar, all eyes were upon me.  With a smile, I ordered an Asahi and it arrived with a steaming, complimentary bowl of delicious vegetable soup.  The bartender spoke some English.  She could tell I was from New York.  I told her I was there for the Games and she told the three other patrons this.  I heard a lot of indecipherable words but somewhere in the middle of what she said to them I distinctly heard “CBS” and “Olympics” and watched them all nod in recognition.  They proudly showed me photos from the gay pride march that had taken place in Tokyo the previous June.

The next bar was bigger but only slightly.  Again I paid the crazy cover charge and again my beer came with a delicious bowl of soup.  It’s the custom.  And this bar was noisier.  There were more customers.  There were more bartenders.  There was karaoke.  I later learned that there was karaoke almost everywhere you went in Japan, even on tour buses and in fast food restaurants.  The cute bartender spoke decent English and asked where I was from.  I happily told her Brooklyn and she happily handed over the karaoke song book and insisted that I pick something to sing.  And I do love to sing.  Before I became half deaf and I could actually hear what was spewing from my mouth I had a pretty decent voice.  But I like to sing torch songs, like Ella and Lena and even kd lang.  There was none of that in the song book.  All I could find was Over The Rainbow by Judy Garland, so that’s what I picked.  We all had a good laugh when I was finished.

In one corner, on the big front window bench, there was a young lesbian who was passed out from drinking.  Her concerned friends, rather than taking her home in a taxi, kept escorting her to the bathroom, presumably so she could puke her guts out.  Then they would gently deposit her into her corner seat where she would promptly fall over and pass out again.  It was after 1AM but no one showed signs of slowing down or getting ready to head home, even though it was the middle of the week.  The bartender admitted that her customers would not leave until after three, get perhaps 4 hours of sleep, work a full day at a boring office job and be right back at the bars the next evening.  I thought, if I tried that as a way of life, I’d be dead from exhaustion in no time.

Once Bob and Kevin arrived in Nagano we started going everywhere together.  Our hours were the best I have ever had for any of my Olympic tours.  We were on the noon to midnight shift but since all we were there to do was CBS This Morning, our director would sometimes tell us not to show up until 4 or 5PM.  We got to see a lot of hockey games once the flame had been lit and we were generally wrapped by 11, when the show ended on the east coast of the States at 9 in the morning.  Our industrious stagehands, who had been there for months building and lighting the studio, had found an amazing restaurant called Zen and the whole crew went there for late dinner almost every night.

In the mornings, Bob and Kevin and I got to see a lot of the unique and exotic places the region had to offer.  We took the train to Kobayashi to see the snow monkeys and sit in the extremely hot water of the local onsen or hot spring.  It took me 20 minutes to get in and then I only lasted a little more than three and had to get out.  My skin, beet red, felt invigorated and smooth.  I took them to the temple right in Nagano and helped them walk through the pitch dark, curving downstairs hallway to find the ornament in the wall which, if found and pulled, would lead to salvation.  We went to Mongolian barbeque and a small restaurant everyone called sushi choo-choo because of how the plates of fish came out of the kitchen and floated by the counter on a conveyor belt, available to be plucked up and devoured.  I don’t like sushi so I went for the novelty and ate mostly California rolls with lots of wasabi and ginger.  And Japanese beer, of course.  No saki for this lightweight!

Our best adventure, though, came high up in the mountains, reached by bus through curving and very scary narrow roads, at the bobsleigh and luge venue.  The three of us, known by this time as the Mod Squad, got off the bus and headed to the press entrance.  We had tickets but we thought we could beat the long lines by flashing our credentials.  Bob and I breezed through security and started walking, figuring Kevin was right behind us.  He wasn’t.  We turned back to see him being detained and pointed at by a security guard, while another held his arm to stop his progress.  The first thing Bob and I thought of was, oh wow, not here.  Not in this beautiful, ancient country.  Racism, really?  Because Kevin’s skin is brown?  We breezed through but they are holding him?  We looked at each other in disbelief and started to make our way back to the gates.  Another security guard, this one with more medals and stripes on his uniform than the others, rushed to our side and beckoned us, all three of us, to follow him.  His broken English was as urgent as he could make it, given the difficulty he had with the language.  “Come now to me,” he nearly shouted.  And he had a rifle slung over his shoulder, so we did.

He lead us to the side of a one-story storage building where security guards were coming and going and scurrying about.  There was a row of low hedges adjacent to it, running alongside the road we had traveled to enter the venue.  The guard, still speaking urgently, stopped the three of us, got down to a squatting position and told us as we towered over him, “You all do like this.  Now!”  We thought for a moment that we were a part of some sick joke.  I flashed back to my days of watching Candid Camera.  But there was that rifle, and that tone in his voice.  We stared at him, confused.  He immediately got that we didn’t understand and did his best to continue.  “Emperor son is coming.  If police see you, they will shoot you.”

Oh.  That we understood.  We definitely didn’t want to be shot so we joined the officer near the ground in our best imitation of tribal squats.  “Good,” he said.  “Now can’t see you.”  And, sure enough, a minute later a giant black limo drove through the gates where we had just been, attached Rising Sun flags flapping with the speed of the vehicle.  In an instant it was gone, up the hill and around the curve, presumably to some cushy luxury box where the occupants could watch the event in warmth and style.

“Okay,” the guard said finally.  We got up and slowly walked back to the path leading to the bobsleigh track.  He followed us, apologizing for all the confusion.  Apparently, we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And Kevin hadn’t been delayed at all because of the color of his skin.  He just, by being a few seconds behind Bob and me, had tried to get in a pinch later than the time the guards had set to close off the entrance in anticipation of the arrival of the prince and his wife.  We watched the two-man sledding competition in complete awe of the speed and the noise as the athletes flew by us, so close on the ice that we almost could have reached out and touched them.  But every now and then we glanced at each other and chuckled.  “Police will shoot you,” became our private little joke for the rest of our stay in Japan.  And sometimes, when I’m lucky enough to run into Kevin at the CBS broadcast center, we relive the story and laugh all over again.  And then we get sad.  Bob’s been gone at least three years now.  And it’s just no fun to be Julie and Linc without sweet Mike.  Our Mod Squad days are over.

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I love women. 

I also love men.  As a person who is trying her best to “Do unto others…” and lead an authentic, wholesome life, I tend to love everyone first and ask questions later.  There are, most definitely, people on the planet who turn my stomach and fill me with nothing but wholesome disgust, but I love them anyway and wish for them happiness, enlightenment and peace.  It amazes me, though, how many people there are who simply assume that, because I am a lesbian, I automatically hate men.

In the late 1980s and early 90s, I worked at a local TV station in Secaucus, New Jersey.  I would make the daily drive in from Brooklyn, against the usual flow of rush-hour traffic to my job as a stage manager, working on shows such as 9 Broadcast Plaza (with a young Matt Lauer), Steampipe Alley (with an even younger Mario Cantone) or, if I happened to be on the late shift, The Morton Downey, Jr. Show and the 10 o’clock news.  I loved my job and I worked with a lot of great people.  The place was so busy that parking spaces were difficult to find and the lunchroom was always full.

As a television stage manager I have to tell a whole crew of people what to do and when to do it.  I have to cue talent and guests out and give time cues and get the audience involved and keep the director informed about what is happening on the studio floor and backstage and do whatever he or she needs to make the show successful.  It’s an important but fun job, suited perfectly for a multitasking, think-on-your-feet, physically fit, motivational yet polite person.  You can never panic.  You can never bark at people.  You need to be able to get the audience members to applaud even when they’re not sure they want to.  And you have to stay one or two steps ahead of everyone and everything.  I have been a stage manager for more than 30 years and I can’t think of a regular job I’d rather do.  My job has taken me all around the country and the world, to presidential conventions, dog shows, basketball and football games, museums, debates and five different Olympics.  It’s been a blast.

At Channel 9 in Secaucus all those years ago, I made some lifelong friends.  A lot of them were men.  A lot of them went on to bigger and better things as the station started to shed productions and jobs.  We were there in the good old days and didn’t have a clue at the time.  It’s only now, all these years later, that we can reflect, through social media opportunities, on how good we had it back then, when we all worked together and thought of each other as family.  I had friends who were cameramen and audio engineers and technical directors and associate directors and show directors and janitors.  There were women in all those jobs, too.  Everyone said hello to everyone.  The hallways were abuzz with activity.  There were days, back then, when it even seemed like everyone was “sleeping” with everyone.  That sounds like an idea for a future blog post.

Recently I was hired to work on an independent TV production that airs daily on cable.  The broadcast company needed studio space so they shopped around and found some nice, clean, available studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Channel 9 is nearly empty now.  Almost everyone who ever worked there is gone.  The hallways are quiet, the whole upstairs floor is dark and old equipment litters the studios and control rooms.  Two of the three studios have not been converted to digital, so no one wants to rent them for anything.  Studio C, though, where up until recently WWOR created its own nightly news program, is fairly up-to-date.  The audio board is an ornery relic and the arm on the jib camera isn’t very long, but the whole place works so it was available to rent.  A friend called me and told me to get my butt over there and ask for a job.  I got one.  Not exactly the job I was hoping for, but after three years of almost complete unemployment, I’ll take it.

When I walked in for my interview, the first person I saw in the studio was Richie.  He was up on a scissor lift, working on some lighting in the grid.  “Yo, Bro,” I yelled up to him, to the surprise of the production manager who was leading my interview.

“Slim!” Richie yelled back, using his old nickname for me.  He brought that scissor lift down and gave me an awesome hug.  Soon, Billy was there and hugging me, too.  Then Tommy and Jim.  My old stagehands.  My men.  My brothers in production.  I had known them all for at least 25 years but hadn’t seen any of them in eons.  They were old.  I was old.  We’re in our 40s and 50s and 60’s now, but working together again has given us all a renewed youth and a chance to scoff at the kids working alongside us who seem to have very little respect for the accomplishments and experience of their elders.  Twenty and 30 years ago, we weren’t like that.  Richie and I discussed what it was like coming up in the industry in the early 1980s, when the old guys then were all part of the greatest generation.  They were WWII photographers who became cameramen, Navy radiomen who became audio engineers, men who, as mere kids, parachuted into France to free the world of Nazis.  By the mid-80s they were middle-aged, the way Richie and I are now.  And we treated them with the utmost respect and reverence.  We listened to their stories and learned from them.  We loved those men.

And I love my men.  I love Richie and Billy and Tommy and Jim.  We don’t see eye to eye on every little thing.  We come from different backgrounds.  We’ve taken different roads.  I have always been out to them, though, and could not even imagine any of them acting judgemental of me because of my sexual orientation.  I have told them all, many times, if a crazy war suddenly broke out in our backyards, I would want them on my side.  They have said the same about me.  We work well together and treat each other with respect.  No, I don’t want to sleep with them.  But I really do love working with them.  And back in the day, I really loved partying with them, too.  When we were kids who had the energy and the time.

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, as of yesterday, my position at the new show has been eliminated.  I still love my men, but they will have to carry on without me.  Anyone who knows of a production looking for a good, reliable, professional stage manager or A2, please let me know.

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Years ago, I was sent to New Orleans for six months to be the DJ in the nightclub at the top of the Hilton Hotel.  I was trained to spin by a company out of London that built clubs in hotels all around the world and then provided the DJ’s to play the vinyl and keep the visitors dancing.  My club was called The Rainforest.  It was on the 29th floor of the building, the same building where Pete Fountain and his band would play every night downstairs.  If you wanted live jazz and dixieland, you went to hang with Pete.  If you wanted disco and the very newest in the blossoming genre called new wave, you took the elevator up to my aerie in the sky.From my DJ booth, I had an almost 360-degree view, through the enormous windows, of the beautiful Crescent City and the Mississippi River as it curved around and hugged the town.  I lived in an amazing house in the Garden District and drove to my job down St.Charles Avenue, following the route of the city’s oldest surviving streetcar.  Once at work I’d unlock the turntables and thumb through the hundreds of vinyl albums and 12″ singles at my disposal.  I was new to beat mixing so sometimes I’d play the same records in order, night after night, until I felt like I had a true feel for a bunch of new songs, how long the intros were, where the breaks and good blending points were, what the energy was like and how long I could keep two songs going simultaneously before slamming into the next tune.  I figured no one would mind since I played primarily for tourists who came up to the place once and then moved on to something else the following night.  Once I felt comfortable with a song, though, I felt like I could throw it in anywhere, and I got better and better at mixing and keeping the crowd satisfied.

One crazy, busy night, a very drunk woman approached the booth and asked for a specific song.  I was in the middle of playing rather fast dance music, upbeat disco at about 130 beats per minute.  The song she asked for was slower, funkier, and I told her I’d get to it eventually.  The dance floor was packed at the time and if I simply segued into her request I would have lost more than half the dancers.  So I set up a mix into another fast disco tune and started to switch to it.  Once that song was playing by itself the drunk woman returned, looked down at the label and brazenly reached over to take the stylus off the spinning disc.  The whole place went silent.  All eyes looked at me.  I screamed at her and had her escorted out by security.  It took me a few minutes to get the crowd involved again but a couple of people actually came up to make sure I was okay and to reassure me that I did the right thing when I had her thrown out.

The coolest part of The Rainforest was the little toggle switch on my mixer.  All I had to do was flip it up and in about five minutes it would rain from the ceiling, into pools of water surrounding the dance floor.  People used to come up to the booth and ask me to “make it rain.”  I did, about ten times every night, feeling the awesome power of Mother Nature at my fingertips.

Michael Jackson was huge back then.  I played Walk Right Now by him and his brothers at least once a night.  To this day it is one of my very favorite dance tunes.  Evelyn “Champagne” King was hot and her song Shame made a nice mix with Super Freak.  I still do that mix sometimes, when I’m spinning a retro party and feeling nostalgic for the old days.  Donna Summer had not yet done her best to alienate her huge gay following so I played Hot Stuff and Bad Girls regularly.  Then I put those records away for a while, in protest.  I only took them back out a few years ago, when she apologized for every single homophobic, hateful thing she ever said.  I’m glad she made peace with her gay fans before she passed away.

New wave started to get big back then and I would play I Will Follow, Private Idaho and Whip It for anyone who asked.  Blondie was popular, the Pretenders were just starting to get noticed, Talking Heads was setting college radio on fire and Billy Idol was the new kid on the block.  I played them all, sneaking them in to expand the tastes of the disco- and funk-loving dancers.  I also played a lot of reggae and was saddened yesterday to read about the passing of Bunny Rugs, the lead singer of Third World.  Try Jah Love is one of my favorite songs of all-time.  And, little by little, a brave and completely fresh genre known as rap started to seriously make the scene.  I played Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang and Afrika Bambaataa whenever I could.  The crowd was cool to the newish stuff but I forced it on them anyway.  They needed to learn.  And those were the breaks.  They warmed up to early rap eventually and even started asking for it….

The craziest experience I had down there happened on an evening off from my nightly dance club grind.  I had made a friend named Bonnie at The Rainforest and she and I both found ourselves off from work on the same Sunday night.  We decided to pick up her boyfriend and his buddy and go for drinks and a movie.  She picked me up in the Garden District so I left my 1970 Plymouth Duster in my short driveway.  In college I had been the photography editor of the weekly student newspaper so my New York vanity plates read PHOTO-17, to commemorate my love of taking pictures and to honor my lifelong softball number.  Bonnie and I drove to her boyfriend’s apartment, about 15 blocks away, and had a cocktail while we waited for his buddy to show.  Once we were all ready to hit the road we came down the elevator and headed outside.  I led the way, opening the glass front door and strolling down the flowered walkway towards the street.  Just as I got to the sidewalk I turned to my left and saw an old, weathered, leathery and messily bearded man ambling in my direction.  He was shabby and drunk and I felt kind of sorry for him until I looked up from his worn out shoes and saw an orange and blue license plate hanging around his neck, tied on by a couple of shoelaces that were knotted together.  Oh, I thought for about half a second.  PHOTO-17, just like mine.  New York, just like mine.  “Hey,” I yelled when he got to where I was.  I grabbed his interesting attempt at a necklace and started trying to get the string over his head.  At that point, Bonnie and the guys ran up and asked me what the fuck was going on.  “This guy has my license plate.  From my car.  Which is parked at my house on Chestnut.”  It took a few seconds for this to register.  The timing was what made it all seem so unreal, that I should walk out of a random building at a random time to see a random person walking down the street with something he had so obviously stolen from my car, which was parked almost a mile away.  Bonnie’s boyfriend’s buddy caught on first and pretended to be a cop, intimidating the poor guy and threatening to arrest him unless he gave the plate to me.  He did, reluctantly, unwilling to give up his new, cool treasure.  And then he kept on walking, shaking his head, the incident as random for him, I’m sure, as it was for me.  He must have thought he’d entered the Twilight Zone!

My stay in New Orleans was short and amazing.  The food is America’s true cuisine.  I learned to make shrimp creole while I lived there and I’m so glad I did.  The flavors and spices of Cajun and Creole food are nothing short of genius, inspired.  The music is sizzling.  Jazz is a genuinely American phenomenon we have given to ourselves and the rest of the world as a gift.  The Saints were known as the “Aints” back then so tickets to their games were easy to come by.  I went to four gridiron battles at the Superdome and there’s not a more exciting place to watch a football game, even when the home team stinks.  The weather is steamy.  The flowers are huge.  The river is mighty.  The architecture is stunning and original.  I wonder, since Katrina, if New Orleans has managed to make its way back to its former days of glory.  I hope so.  Maybe it’s time to go back.

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68 Go-Go

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Tomboy Life
Tags: , , , , ,

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I’m betting I was ten when this happened.  My official tomboy uniform at the time consisted of dungarees or bell-bottom corduroys, T-shirts or paisley button-downs, white, ribbed A-shirts, gym socks and girls’ underpants.  For school I was forced to wear a dress or skirt, since it was 1968 or thereabouts and no one at the time could figure out that most girls had two legs just like most boys did and that pants would not only fit us but make us more comfortable.  But as soon as I got home, every single day, I changed into the clothes that felt right for me.  My sneakers were PF Flyers.  My baseball cap was always navy blue and always sported the interlocking white NY of the New York Yankees.  When I was dressed in my uniform, I felt ready for anything.

One fine summer day, some neighborhood friends and I wandered off to the woods behind our houses.  We couldn’t access them from our yards.  We had to walk around the block and enter through a perfectly placed hole some older kids had cut into the fence so they could hide behind all the trees to smoke cigarettes and drink beer.  Our parents knew there were bullies hanging out in those woods and told us, emphatically, that they were dangerous, forbidden, out of bounds.  We all knew we’d be in huge trouble if we were found out but it was 1968 and we had played all the baseball, tag and football games we could stand and now ached for a new adventure.  I don’t remember whose idea it was but at least seven of us made like spies, peeled off and boldly headed down the sidewalk towards the glorious woods.  The hole in the fence beckoned us all to explore what lay beyond.  It was quiet at first and there was no sign at all of any big kids or their smoking and drinking detritus.  We walked around as if we were Robin Hood’s Merry Men and decided to build a lean-to with some of the broken branches we found, just in case it rained.  Our small group worked that wood like experts and as soon as we had weaved the final branch into place, we heard a booming, mocking voice.  It was the bully we all feared, the boy who was old enough for high school but who was still in 9th grade at the junior high because he kept getting left back.  He appeared out of nowhere with 2 or 3 of his henchmen by his side.  The first thing he did was snatch my Yankee hat off my head.

Well, we were all scared shitless of this nasty kid but my sister and friends knew what that hat meant to me so there was no way we were leaving those woods without it.  We chased after it as it was tossed from one big kid to another, as they joked about our puny efforts to retrieve it until suddenly, the head bully noticed our lean-to.  He pointed to it and laughed.  Then he picked up a huge fallen branch with the intention of tossing it onto our creation to crush it into a pile of twigs.  He said if the shelter could withstand the weight of the branch I could have my hat back. Then he heaved the fallen timber over his head and let it fly.  It landed with a crack, right on the top of our structure and came to a dead stop.  Not a stick fell out of place.  Not a single twig moved.  There was barely a shudder.  Because we might have been little kids but we were smart, adventurous, creative little kids, and we had built that shelter to last.  We all slowly turned our smirking faces towards the shocked and shamed ogre and cracked up.  He called us fucking losers and told his sidekick to toss me my hat.  I caught it, looked at my gang of buddies with a twisted, desperate face and no words were necessary.  We took off so fast for the hole in the fence that our lungs were bursting when we made it back to the safety of the street.  I don’t know how the parents ever found out that we had explored that forbidden place but we were all grounded for a week when we got home.

Later that same summer my mom’s eccentric sister came for a visit after a day of shopping in New York City.  She had no kids of her own and spent a lot of her husband’s ill-gotten riches on herself and her sisters and nieces and nephews.  The first thing we noticed was that she was wearing two different shoes.  And we were pretty sure she had no idea, which, of course, turned out to be right.  My sister gently brought it to her attention and she had to squint down to see, clearly, that we were not pulling her leg.  Mortified that she had spent an entire day in the big city with shoes that didn’t match on her aching, swollen feet, she finally just had to laugh and take a seat.  The shoes were very similar, I’ll give her that much.  But one had a buckle and one had a ribbon.  This aunt was always good for a chuckle.

Her shopping that day had taken her into Greenwich Village.  Hippies were in season then.  Peace and love and flower power.  She reached into a big paper bag and pulled out a pair of boots each for my sisters and me.  Go-go boots.  White go-go boots.  Girly go-go boots.  Back then this was true and still to this day, if I go ice skating I ask for brown or black hockey skates.  I don’t wear white shoes, unless they are softball cleats or basketball sneakers or some kind of athletic footwear that looks just as good dirty as clean.

My sisters were thrilled with their gifts and pulled the boots on immediately, right there at the kitchen table, and they ran off to look at themselves in the full-length mirror in the bathroom.  I was not pleased.  Another well-meaning aunt had given me a purse the previous Christmas.  A cousin had contributed some hand-me-down blouses with Peter Pan collars.  These girly things were all stuffed into the very back of my closet so I not only wouldn’t have to wear them but I also wouldn’t have to look at them, be reminded constantly that no one seemed to understand how badly I didn’t feel like or care to dress like a typical girl of the mid-20th century.  I was having a boyhood, not a girlhood and it pissed me off that no one seemed to get this fundamental aspect of who I was inside.

Those go-go boots were cool, though.  I really wanted to like them.  I wanted to be seen wearing them.  I just didn’t want them to be white.  So I did what any smart, creative, adventurous tomboy would do.  I thanked my aunt, put them aside and waited a few days until I had the house, briefly, all to myself.  And then I used a mess of boot polish to transform my cool, white go-go boots, that I wouldn’t have been seen dead wearing, into my new, super-cool, black, mod boots.  Which, by the way, if she had found them in my closet, my mother would have killed me for ruining.  So I hid them in the leaf and lawn clipping pile out back.  And then, whenever I wanted to wear them, to be seen wearing them, I would leave the house with my PF Flyers on but hit the sidewalk with my cool black boots.  And unlike that ill-fated trip to the woods, no one ever told my mom about what I had done to the boots my aunt brought home from the city just a few days before school started again.  Those boots.  They weren’t made for walking.  They were made for cross-dressing.

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