Tuesday, June 30, 2015


It was fascinating to be an openly gay priest in Santa Fe:  I became a sort of instant celebrity. Various churches wanted me to be on panels and make presentations.  Only the very protestant Disciples of Christ and some cognate had begun ordaining 'practicing, self-professing homosexuals' then, and none of their ministers were out. I found particular favor with St. Bede's Episcopal Church, which was very gay-friendly with a very gay-frightened bishop. St. Bede's asked me to do quiet days, teach EFM, and do classes. It was in one of those classes that I met one of the most important people in my life.

What the topic of the class was I forget now, but I had some magazine article by a woman who had lived in Santa Fe. After the class a little gnomish woman with a carefully preserved Bavarian accent came up and asked whether she might borrow the article. The woman who wrote it had stayed with her when she was in Santa Fe. The little gnomish woman was Lore Guldbeck, something of a Santa Fe legend in her own right. There was no one she did not know, it seemed. She became a constant member of any class that I gave, and soon she invited me to dinner. Her favorite meal was spaetzle, about which she took serious umbrage when I compared them to my grandmother's dumplings.

Lore really deserves a blog for herself, so my posts will only be a glance of what was a remarkable life of a remarkable woman. She was born in a small town in Swabia that I remember as Budenhosen but which I cannot find by that name, into a family that was the caricature of Hitler's hated Jews. Lore never knew she was Jewish until she could no longer attend her school and the Lutheran nanny who had taken her to church could no longer work for her family. Her older brother and sister were able to migrate to the United States early in the 1930's. Lore was too young to go with them, and her family did not want to leave their wealth behind and leave when they could. So she was sent to England as part of the Kinderhostel program which accepted German children. Her parents told them she would see them again soon, and she went off to Leicester where she cooked for the air base. She was an friendly enemy, called an Austrian on the base roster. It was probably there that her career as a serious spaetzle cook began.

The organist at St. Martin's Cathedral continued her piano lessons, and she also found some other youngsters to play tennis. But her parents she never saw again. They were able to bribe their possessions onto a ship which was sunk off the coast of Italy, but it was too late for themselves. They took cyanide rather than go to the camps.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Remember, o man, that thou art dust, or, how to clean your oven naturally

Jerry Falwell offered in the early 1990's a free video casette of 'the gay agenda'. Since the Bad Boys were gay and unaware that we had an agenda, we ordered a copy. Sweet. Just in time for a big dance team contest to raise money for some Good Cause or another, we were informed that we really loved something called mud-dogging. Mud-dogging, according to Mr. Falwell, who claimed to know, is rolling in one's sexmate's excrement. We decided our team must be called the MudDogs.

Being squeemish, we also decided to substitute clay for shit. Fortunately, there's plenty of clay along the banks of the Santa Fe River, so we gathered a few buckets of our theological equivalence, and got ready to dance. Some of us wore almost nothing but mud, some of us wore mud-soaked tuxedos. There were some mud-tutus, some mud-pajamas, some mud-heads, copying the Hopi kachina. It seemed to us were the certain winners, but the Poodle Skirts beat us by less than $5.00.

This particular rund raiser was in late April, and it was still cold is Santa Fe, so we of course mudded up in the kitchen of the Bacanale. We warmed the clay in the oven, which had been crusted over with years of nastiness. We  coated each other carefully, then left our pictographic signature on the ceiling, each of us putting his hand print to make a big circle.

The next morning we were having a brunch. My initial thought was, 'what can we possibly do to clean to oven so it would be ready for cooking souffles. No worries. Mud makes the perfect all-natural oven cleaner. I wonder how Mr. Falwell cleaned his oven.

Years later, I went back to see how the Bacanale had fared since we left it. There was new paint, and central heat, and new fences. But the mud hands were still on the kitchen ceiling.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Baby Jesus Weighed nearly 300 Pounds

Christmas in Santa Fe is big kind of thing. I mean, tourists. And Tradition. And the tradition means farolitos and luminarias, biscochitos and hot drinks all over the rich east side on Christmas Eve. Canyon Road not surprisingly has tried to become the epicenter of all things that might make money from tourists. It also gives a wonderful show to the locals, too. Farolitos were at first little bonfires to light the way for the Holy Family. After the Anglos came to trade along the Santa Fe Trail, little paper bags weighed with sand and lighted with small candles got added to the mix, making beautifully lighted paths all over the waiting Royal City.

One Christmas the Bad Boys were part of the mix. One of the foo-fooiest of all galleries invited us to do something for Christmas Eve on Canyon Road. Faerie lights, as it were. We enacted a live nativity play in the garden of Nedra Matteucci's. It wasn't a fund raiser for anything, it was just a lark. Of course we made costumes. We merged Luke and Matthew's librettos, so we had angels and shepherds and wise men. Four wise men, one for each of the directions, one for each of the creatures in Ezekiel. I was the wise man of the north. The sheep had the hardest job: they had actual lambskin suits that required them to keep their legs folded in the rear limbs. There were only two of them. Mary was Mary. Bruce was Joseph. There was a great flock of angels, with huge wings golden eyes. I don't remember if we found anyone to play the ass. I might have been a natural, but I was already wearing one of the beautiful paper mache masks of a wise man. Michael ___________ was baby Jesus. He weighted nearly 300 pounds. It was casting against type, except for Michael's essential innocence.

It was a great night. We put the show on three times, with goodies in Nedra's house between presentations. Her garden made a great set: there was an arbor that stood in for the stable, a flat roof behind it for the angels to fly on and sing, and a wall right against the sidewalk where we wise men could stand out of sight of the tourists while we were waiting for our visit to King Herod and trip to the Holy Family. For me the high light of the night that shines with the illumination of the one true light came as we wise men were waiting while the angels sang. A boy about five, holding the hand of his father where they stood on the sidewalk above us, asked with awe, 'are those real angels, daddy?' His father was also a wise man. 'Yes,' he replied.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Bama Bong

The slight Hindu cast of our little group of Bad Boys at the Bacanale was hinted at in the last post. Besides our core queer pagan persuasians, and my attempt at orthodox celtic christianity, there was a cult of ganga as some a hindoo sacrament. I mentioned a Paschal celebration, which started with liturgy, and proceeded through Pascha and Kulich, and then an egg hunt and veggie dinner through fire ceremonies and piercings and people staying the night. There was a particular cultic artifact that was central to many of the ceremonies that gave this blog its name.

My great grandmother Nora Anne Davidson Caldwell made the best apple butter the world has ever known. She started with about three metric tons of apples which seem to have been grown only for her. They were deposited by a mysterious farmer--probably a faerie-- on the back porch whenever they were ready, with those that didn't fit on the groaning porch being left in the garage. My Aunt Nell's Impala had to make room for the apples. It was an Avalonian thing, probably. For days Big Momma peeled and cored and cooked those apples, and the resulting three pints had three tons of flavor. That apple butter was a sacrament. (It was probably, also, more an apple ghee.)

Such apple butter cannot be bought, but, for a while, Bama apple butter seemed as good as one could buy, and just good enough to remind me of the real stuff. I was a steady customer of Bama apple butter, so there were always Bama jars around the Bacanale. One of those jars we turned into a bong, with a chemist paraphernalia. It became, naturally, the Bama bong. Things from the Bacanale often went away, on little excursions of some sort or another, but the Bama bong managed to stay put for several months, being used religiously by the Bad Boy Shaivas. And then it was gone. And also gone was Bama apple butter from the shelves of Kaune's. I hope Bhairava brings revenge to the one who took the Bama bong from the temple.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Bacanale

My friend and true love Lin did not find my love true enough. One night, he said it was over. We flipped a coin for the apartment. I lost. I found a wondeful little hidden away studio which I called the Neo-Cappadocian Residence. I painted it. I built a beautiful Japanese garden. The telephone at work rang for me: my daughter had accused her mother of child abuse; could she live with me? Yes, of couse, I'm on my way to pick her up. The same day Lin said could we get back together. Life is so seldom simple.

There was not enough room for three in either the Neo-Cappadocian hideaway nor the coin-toss one-bedroom on Don Diego. We rented a place on Baca. The fence in the picture above has been added since we lived there. It was an old rambly hand-built adobe, put together as children were added to the family. Lin had his piano studio in what had been the girl's wing. We slept in the parent's room. Rachel had the two rooms that had been the boys'. Alas, it was too wonderful a place, and it soon became where the Bad Boys preferred to hang out. I loved it. Lin hated it. He moved out. Two other Bad Boys moved in. Rachel had a complex parenting while she was at Santa Fe High School. We quickly came to call it the Bacanale.

Life at the Bacanale was rather wonderful. It became a rather famous place. Some days I would come home to find dinner being cooked by total strangers who had dropped in to share the mystic faeriness. Usually beautiful strangers, usually good cooks. The night of Bill Clinton's inauguration, one of the Bad Boys took off all his clothes, put all our wood in the stove, and danced in (premature) victory celebfation. We made a donation to Open Hands, a local charity, and they gave us several tons of clothes which had been donated to their thrift shop but for which they had no room. We could dress-up with no repetitions. We were given a flat-bed trailor-full of largely titanium waste from Sandia Labs for a post-industrial-wasteland-themed halloween party we put on at the Design Center to raise money for something or another. We had a give away of the clothes when we moved out. There were a lot of children's clothes, which were very appreciated. The titanium we gave to a young woman who was a sculptor. (Your tax dollars at work.)

Life at the Bacanale could also be trying. Because the Bad Boys considered it their club house, it was hard to claim it as our home.  We tried to have closed nights, but that just made people mad. There were some Bad Boys who thought they should be exempt. The land lords were horrifying examples of Northern New Mexican Hispanic Catholic Family Values at their worse. The property was in a trust for three children, a daughter with whom we had dealt, and her two brothers who thought a woman should have no say. The brothers also expected us to maintain the whole property--there's a bit of open land on the side not shown in the photo--but not use it. One Easter we were celebrating the Resurrection in the side garden when one of the brothers drove by. He began harassing us. He had already told us we shouldn't have put the clothes in the barn. The lease said nothing about restrictions. I was embarassed to call the sister on Easter morning to say if her bro ceased not and desisted, we would be out of there. He ceased.

Life at the Bacanale was entirely the sort of surprising episode which makes me glad life turns out in ways I hadn't planned. I could never have planned it. Certainly it was an episode which was difficult for Lin, although P. and I did arrange for him to get back to the coin-toss apartment, eventually. It was the only place I've lived which was photographed for the newspapers: Pasatiempo did a big spread about us; I was on the cover, wearing one of the frocks from the barn.

I left the Bacanale for a meander, having bought a Suburban with the money from some artsy-fartsy stuff I made, and took a vacation to the Ozarks. Rachel finished high school at a boarding school in Connecticut. David, one of the room mates, moved to Hawaii to practice Hinduism. (He had had us reading big chunks of the Mahabharata on Sunday afternoons.) P. moved into a much smaller place, where I would join him after my meander.  The Bad Boys were never again so Bad as we had been on Baca Street.

Monday, June 22, 2015


Cafes, or at least Berry's Truck Stop, had been an important part of my life in during high school in Jonesboro. In Memphis, bakeries were important: without the Normal Tearoom and Burkle's Bakery, I would have starved. But cafes only became my normal environment in Santa Fe. When Lin and I first moved there, cell phones hardly existed; certainly they were too expensive for us. So we went each morning for a few days to Downtown Subscription when it was in the Inn on Alameda to look at the classifieds in the New Mexican (no Craigslist then) and use the pay phone. Carmen Blue worked there. She would later open a wonderful book/video store, and become a dear friend.

The most important sitz im leben, however, would be the Aztec Street Cafe, which opened the second week we were in Santa Fe, and it became my favourite breakfast haunt for years, my living room in the evenings, and just general hangout. If I were looking for someone, I would just go to the Aztec, buy a coffee, and wait for him or her to show up. The summer I lived in a 1968 Chevrolet Suburban, I often parked at the Aztec and had pot parties behind the back room. Alas, the Aztec is no more. For a while, it was an upscale silly foo foo restaurant. But no bananas. I asked one of the first owners--it changed hands three times while I was a regular--if she would sell bananas. If so, I said I would buy one everyday. The next morning there was a rack of bananas with a sign: 'Dale, you promised.'

Perhaps the coolest cafe in Santa Fe was Cloud Cliff, on Second Street. It apparently has closed as well. Ugh. Willem, the owner, was a german buddhist artsy fartsy sort who made the best breads and scones around. I rented a space behind the cafe from him for Holy Wisdom Church to celebrate, and trapeza was then at Cloud Cliff. Scrumptious. Interesting art. Interesting Music. Now the good old days.

Still alive and well and the last time I was there, still considering me a local and selling me croissants at a special price, is the Santa Fe Baking Company. It was opened as a bakery with coffee-to-go on Early Street by one of the Bad Boys, who moved it to Cordova Road. Michael sold it to Eric Struck, who not only has excellent coffee--$1.00 all day with your own mug--and the afore-mentioned croissants, but excellent stuff all around. It also has the fastest internet in town, so it's a good place to work and hangout. I have met as many fascinating people per square foot at the Baking Company as anywhere. It does tend to be rather Democratic--as in the ruling party of northern New Mexico. Gene Hackman and Democratic party hacks and people who just want their huevos fix all come again and again.

At the Tea House on Canyon Road, however, I have more often overheard Republican cabinet level folks talking politics from a different place. And Johnnies talking Plato's Republic, or quantum mechanics. When it first opened, I was a way big fan: it was very mystical oriental, with floor seating on custions,close to little fire places, and very Japanese-style service. Over the years it has gotten chairs and clotted cream and scones. But one can still sit by the fire in winter, or in the garden in sunny weather, and feel cool. Totally.

I realize this little posting has been sort of tourism brochure for Santa Fe, for which I apologize. Yesterday morning I was lamenting how few places there are in Fayetteville where one can go early in the morning to have coffee with the sunrise. Alas, it seems even Santa Fe has fewer than it once did. I need to take a trip back to discover.

Friday, June 19, 2015

LAX/HIV 2: Pasadena comfort Food

If memory fails me not too badly, the first restaurant to which Frank and I went together was Service Pharmacy, a drug store with a soda fountain in Jonesboro. We thought we were very sophisticated, ordering salads with that orange 'French' dressing. The salads came with fancy crackers, and cherry phosphates to wash them down cost only two cents. Also in Jonesboro we liked to order hot roast beef sandwiches at the art nouveau Greyhound station. By the time we could drive, Berry's Truck Stop had become our favourite. It had a slight b-movie tinge if one squinted just right. During the years that would follow, we both explored a much wider range of restaurants than had been available in Jonesboro, and Frank's range was much wider than mine. Prague and Paris trump Chicago and New York--at least on  my budget. Frank's budget also was much larger than mine, at least for a while. He worked for I think Estee Lauder before starting his own business, buying and importing 'essenses' for cosmetics and such.

By my second trip to visit Frank, he was living with aids in a Woodland Hills apartment because he had been forced to sell his West Hollywood house for medical expense. The apartment complex did seem like something from 'Under the Yum-Yum Tree', one of the movies we saw at  The Strand, a movie memorable to me because of Dean Jones' shower scene. On that visit we went on an adventure. I drove his Peugeot 504 to take him and his mother for what would be his last 'hike', in Topanga Canyon. We reminiscied about our earliest hikes, in the canyon of Christian Creek in Jonesboro. It was a short hike, Frank tiring quickly. But before we went back to the apartment, he wanted to take us to his favourite restaurant.

It was Beadle's Cafeteria in Pasadena, on old Route 66. The interior reminded me somewhat of Service Pharmacy in its salad days. Frank explained that after returning from buying trips to essentially exotic locales, he liked the comfort food of Beadle's. I am easily able to convince myself that he chose a hot roast beef sandwich. I'm pretty sure  that Rena, his mother, and I chose fruit salads. He ate very little, and said he needed to go to the restroom. I offered to go with him, but he assured me he wasn't that tired yet. He was wearing a jaunty yellow sweater that might have been Dean Jones' in 1963, a classic that matched the decor of the cafeteria. The restroom was upstairs. Rena and I watched him slowly climb the staircase, involuntarily touching hands as we offered them to help him in his feebleness. But soon he returned, more jaunty than ever, with the sweater around his waist. He did not sit down, but asked whether I would mind paying the bill. He had soiled his pants. Back home in Woodland Hills, I helped him clean up and get into bed. He had been spending as much of the day as he could on the couch. That would be our last trip out together.

On subsequent visits, when I usually tried to cook something especially wonderful and edible at the apartment, he would insist that I take the Peugeot out and have a little time in the city. So I would pretend to be a Californian, driving out Sunset past UCLA, going faster in the curves by the university than really felt comfortable in the 504, to the beach in Santa Monica, then up to Malibu and across the Santa Monica Hills on the 23 back to Thousand Oaks. I would always remember a time when Frank and I were about eleven, and were riding our bikes around the corner of Matthews and Vine in Jonesboro, talking about how soon it would be and how wonderful it would be when we could drive.

In about 2005, I went back to Los Angeles and Pasadena, this time in a style-less Honda. Beadle's had closed. I was not tempted to drive the Honda fast past UCLA.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Even on Friday nights, the Albuquerque airport was usually quiet in the late 1980's. To fly west at dusk was a magical event. With the speed of the Boeing matching the speed of the earth, one was suspended in the sunset. If one's flight came in from the south, the San Bernardino hills seemed almost like the Manzanos south of Albuquerque. But one exists the Boeing in LAX to a very different world, a hallway with Hawaiian restaurants and bars leading to a door onto more traffic than there is in sleepy Albuquerque. During 1989, I made this trip often, Southwest Airlines taking me to LAX and the Flyaway taking me to the San Fernando Valley.

My father's parents had divorced before it became the thing to do, and they had both remarried. My grandfather's new bride was a young woman who worked in the railroad station in Jonesboro during the war, operating the telegraph, a job that before the war was reserved for men. Their first child, my half-uncle Frank, was born three months later than I. We were not only close in age, we were close in interests. We never received exactly the same Christmas presents, except from our aunts Nell and Blanche, because his family bought from the Montgomery Ward catalogue, mine from Sears. One year we each received chemistry sets; another year, microscopes. In many ways we were as close as brothers, fishing and exploring and building bombs and rockets together. Every weekend for years we saw whatever film was playing at The Strand. Once, in the seventh grade, I think, we started calling things 'cute'. My father suggested gently that real men don't often use the word cute.

Frank was a bit of a country mouse: he grew up in Needham, a cotton gin corner where his father had a weird gentleman's farm and general store. I grew up in Jonesboro, which was only much of a town in comparison to Needham. It was perhaps a bit odd then that when we were grown, Frank became the man of the world and I remained parochial. I visited Vancouver, Chicago, Denver; he visited Paris, Prague, Tokyo.

We were both queer, although we never really talked about it until 1988. We danced around the subject at our uncle Cecil's funeral. He was already divorced by then, and living in West Hollywood. When I finally got the courage to begin to come out, I called Frank. He shared some very good avuncular advice with me. He also shared that he had AIDS. Indeed his had been one of the first cases diagnosed. He was suffering from hives on a business trip to San Francisco the same weekend there was a special conference about what was then being called 'gay cancer'. (His obituary in the Jonesboro Evening Sun would claim the cause of his death, on Holy Innocents' Day, 1989, was cancer.) When I moved to Santa Fe, I would visit him as often as possible.

In many ways the world I entered when I moved to Santa Fe was as different from the world of Memphis as LAX was from ABQ. The ubiquity of AIDS was one of the differences. In Memphis, I knew no one who admitted to having AIDS. In Santa Fe not only did many of my friends, including several of the Bad Boys, as well as two lovers, live with AIDS, but several of them, including the two lovers, would die with AIDS. It was a political issue as well as a health issue. Although I, who am always sceptical of politics, was never sure just how politicians would solve the problem, I was certain that it did not need to be denied, nor the sufferers demonized. (I also feel that it is probably my hesitancy to enter the big world, to go to the New School, to avoid marriage to a woman, that saved me from being another early case.) We celebrated, if that's the right word, World AIDS Day big time in Santa Fe. One year I tolled the bell at St. Anne's Church, one toll for each person who had died from the disease (I know--this is not precise language.) the past year. It was a long toll. Another year I sat in the window of an art gallery on St. Francis at Don Gaspar, reading from diary entries and poems. One poem was about Frank. It was entitled, 'Your White Pants', and remembered a double date (with women, of course) we had shared our senior year in high school.

Now, thankfully, in rich America, it is less difficult to speak of or treat AIDS/HIV, but still there are many people living in the kind of chosen blind and deaf world I tried to leave in Memphis. Fourteen percent of people infected with the HIV virus don't know it, most often young men from cultural groups among which men having sex with men 'don't exist'. A virus doesn't need a Boeing 737 to travel across the country, and it can be transmitted most easily among those who deny it can exist. Life is too damned short. In no time one finds oneself in its sunset. Only for a few months, for a few weekends, did Frank and I really talk about our lives and interests and values with openness. Privacy is a hot topic these days, but I wonder how much we lose from privacy, from trying to be 'real men'. Frank was the kind of real man who, were his kind more common, would make the world a much kinder place.

A friend posted on the internet today that LAX is 'a prototype of an airport. So jumbled and messed up! Chaos!' Such is life. Certainly so has been my life. Is it merely a prototype of a life? I don't know, but I know it has seldom helped me to pretend it is other than it is.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gimme that old-time Religion

Tomasita's is a 'mexican restaurant' in Santa Fe, owned by a greek family who own several mexican restaurants, but no greek ones. Each year it wins several best of awards from Pasatiempo, especially for its red chili. I often saw that award-winning chili  being prepared. I went to Tomasita's often in my early days as a priest of the Church of Antioch, Malabar Rite, to deliver my homework to my bishop. He was the ex-husband of the woman who owned Tomasita's, and each morning he oversaw the thawing and warming of the Bueno frozen chili, the same one can buy at Safeway, that would become the award-winner by lunch.

After falling in with the radical faeries, I went to lunch one day at Tomasita's. Over vegetarian fajitas, I grilled P., who was one of the baddest boys and who would become one of my best friends and roommate, about the history of this ancient paganism that had flowered in the Bad Boys of Santa Fe. P. worked for Bear & Co., a new age woowoo publisher co-founded by Matthew Fox, who had tried to establish an alternative ancient Christianity based on original goodness, blessing, rather than on original sin. The history P. told me was familiar: it was the same history I had heard about the baptists among whom I was raised. The [one] true religion had always existed. How could it not? Sometimes it was hidden from the doors of perception.

On personality tests that measure one's respect for authority, I always score very respectful. Always I am  looking for the one true authority. It was a sort of slavery. In retrospect, it seems I have just been looking to trump the god of the Caldwells and Johnsons who were my immediate forebears, and who did not approve of me. Imagine therefore my joy to find the Church of Antioch, Malabar Rite, which pretended to trace its origins to the documented episcopacy of Peter at Antioch, which used the oldest documented ritual, that of Malabar, given to the Christians in south India by Thomas himself. (The difficulty which I managed to overlook was that all the parishes of the Church of Antioch used either a reformed version of the Tridentine Missal or some version of the flavor-of-the-minute, the Anaphora of Hippolytus.) In my little Church of Holy Wisdom, at least, on Sunday mornings we celebrated with the Anaphora of Addi and Mari, the oldest documented authority. On Friday nights I would dance in woad around the fire that Prometheus himself had stolen from Olympus, that had burned on Slane and Glastonbury. In a city full of the oldest--the oldest house, the oldest church, the oldest shrine to Guadalupe, my play with the old found a receptive home.

Was it also a sort of slavery? The oldest church, San Miguel, was built by enslaved Tlaxcalan Indians to whom the Fanciscans were giving  the true religion after they had been  brought to New Mexico by Don Juan Onate. They had come at a time when no alternative to slavery seemed to exist. For me, there seemed no alternative to the sort of intellectual construct that found authority in priority, in some reconstruction of what I could convince myself was 'original'. The present San Miguel Church has no more similarity to the 'original' than Tomasita's red chili is singular. Are either of them, however, 'authentic'? I like to think that my period in Santa Fe began me on a road from slavery to authority to authenticity. I would be lying to claim there would be no detours.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

In which I receive a Secret Name

I have gone on so much with the Santa Fe back story partly because I think it's interesting, but also because Santa Fe had more back story than any other place I had ever lived. Because of the complexities of the culture of Santa Fe, because things were never quite like they seemed on the surface, it encouraged me to explore my own back story. There really was water underground: it oozed out on Cienaga, by the public library. There will be several posts about Santa Fe, but not in any necessarily chronological order. I don't even know how long I lived there. I would go, and return. New Mexico is the land of entrapment, and it's a kind of faerie entrapment.

Not long after I moved to Santa Fe, I fell in with faeries. Radical faeries. Lin and I had passed through our Dharma Bum period, and were now living on the fringes of the more or less historic district, on Don Diego. I had taken a job at Kinko's as a lark to supplement landscaping for the rich and famous during the winter months. It turned out to be a wonderful job: the computer graphics revolution was just cranking up, and we had all the newest equipment. Soon I was the queen of the color-corrected, microscopically  adjusted, color copies that we sold for $2.00 and the artist sold as numbered prints for $200. Kinko's was in a little office mall on Montezuma and Guadalupe, and the plants were maintained by a guy who was pixie-cute, and who introduced himself as a radical faerie. I was invited to one of their shindigs, out on a mesa near Cerrillos. Fire and drums and feathers and sarongs and talking sticks--it was woo-woo Santa Fe--and magick and enchantment and everyone was drop-dead gorgeous. Oh. My. And I was hardly more than a little girl from Little Rock. Indeed, as a little boy from Jonesboro, I felt less.

There are a lot of tales about the Bad Boys, as we radical faeries called ourselves. We were the B List. Mostly what we did was dress up and put on benefits. Eventually, my house would become the center of Bad Activity, and the Bama Bong would actually reside there. But this story is about a field trip we made, soon after that first night on the mesa, to what is euphemistically called Tent Rocks on maps and tourist brochures but which everyone actually calls the Penis Rocks. For this trip, we did not dress up; we dressed down. We went on a long, hot, naked hike to the top of the highest penis, and were given names, names based, sometimes, on back stories. When the little white talking stone--shades of biblicalism, but there were no sticks on top of the gypsum penis--came to me, I explained the influence of and awe I had had for my grandmother, Susan Dillie Jane Wood Johnson, and that I had always thought I would name a child Wood, but hadn't, so I wanted my faerie name to be Wood.  No such thing. Impish looks all around. I became Dillie. To this day, when I go to Santa Fe, some of my dearest friends call me Dillie.  I suppose being named Dillie helps me embrace my feminine side. Shortly afterwards, when the New Mexican wrote up the Bad Boys, I appeared on the cover of Pasatiempo wearing a red dress and pumps. But they kept my secret name out of the papers. After all, a proper lady's name is not published.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

los tres gentes y los touristas

I was a tourist in Santa Fe in 1978.  We arrived in a big red Jeep Wagoneer, and stayed at The Inn at Loretto, and ate lunch at The Pink Adobe, dinner at Bishop's Lodge. Early in the morning of the second day, I went running on the East Side and fell in love with the place. Back in the parking lot of the motel, I found a Bentley Continental parked next to the Jeep, and the Sangre de Christos just into the light of the sun as it crested the ridge. Everything was in sharp relief, and beautiful and clear. That evening we were dinner guests of a tutor at St. John's. At that time there were still faculty apartments on campus.  The third day, we went walking up Canyon Road, buying a water colour at a Russian woman's gallery, and eating lunch at, I think, Celebrations, which has long since moved.  All in all, the trip was the kind of experience that keeps Santa Fe near the top of lists of best vacation destinations, the kind of experience that makes many tourists think they want to move to Santa Fe.

Canyon Road is named for the canyon of the Santa Fe river, not much of a canyon and not much of a river, by many standards, but significant in the high desert. No one know when people first settled in that little almost-green valley. Often downtown construction sites become archaeological sites. Los pueblos--the people--who inhabited the area spoke Tewa when Don Francisco Vasquez de Coronado declared the Kingdom of New Mexico in 1540, 67 years before the Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi was founded. They had lived there since at least the eleventh century. The first capital of the 'kingdom' was at San Juan, about twenty-five miles north of the site of Santa Fe. Santa Fe became the capital in 1610, when Don Pedro de Peralta was Governor-General. De Peralta remains a somewhat controversial figure, having come to represent all that is no longer considered correct in our present enlightened times. During his lifetime the revolting pueblos kept him from establishing a stable 'kingdom'. It would not be until 1692, under Don Diego de Vargas, that Santa Fe would be 'peacefully' reconquered. Two hundred and ninety eight years later, I would move into a small 'pueblo style' house on Don Diego Avenue.

The third people would come officially to Santa Fe in 1846 under the leadership of Stephen Watts Kearny. By then Mexico had become independent of Spain,  farmers from Chimayo had unsuccessfully rebelled against New Mexico, and Santa Fe had enjoyed three years of peacefulness. In 1848, Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago and New Mexico, which included the current states of Arizona, California, and part of Colorado, came under the official control of the anglos.

Ten years after my run on the Santa Fe East Side, when I actually moved to The City Different, I was still under the glowing allure of 'los tres gentes', who according to the tourist brochures all peacefully live together in the canyon and flood plain of the Santa Fe River, cooperating to fleece tourists and preserve their unique culture. Oddly enough, on our first night in Santa Fe, after our beer at La Fonda, Lin and I went on a little walk about town that included a visit to the Sanctuario de Guadalupe, about which I had just read in a anglo newspaper as exemplifying the wondrous harmony of the city. Odd, because there is probably no better example of the sorts of conflicts that continue.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Excursus: a look back at Memphis

I don't think I was really fair to Memphis to say it's just Jonesboro big. For years it served as Babylon for me and many of my friends. The closest thing we had to Rome, on the banks of the Mississippi rather than the Tiber. The Shelby County Courthouse had the first classical statuary I ever saw.

Memphis had the only cool radio stations we could pick up during the day, with black, rock and roll, and WREC from which to choose. (WDIA was broadcast from Beale Street when it was still a black neighborhood, there were a couple of rock and roll stations, but WREC played show tunes and jazz and made me feel more sophisticated than I was.) It was where one could buy books, and eat bagels, and go to an airport with more than DC-3's to carry one away to the ends of the earth. Our first television came from Memphis. I had a friend at Memphis State from a small Mississippi town who had to go to Memphis to buy underwear. The Metropolitan Opera came to Memphis.

And Memphis was my city of refuge on three different occasions. It was there I went following High School, when my father was worried that if I went to Harvard or any school in California (I liked Stanford) I would become a Communist, when I rejected Rice because it was where my father's friends wanted me to go, so Memphis State seemed neutral. At Memphis State I met my first true love, made some very good friends, came to understand the paranoid nature of political Amurika, and was reminded how safe a refuge marriage can be, how dangerous it is to be egregious in any way.

 Memphis would be my alternative to Vietnam, where teaching in an absolutely horrible school would substitute for being drafted, where it seemed that it would have been much more honest just to drop napalm on children than to subject them to Memphis public schools, at least the ones for black kids. Memphis on that trip was where I tried to be straight by being a father.

Finally, it was where I went when my business career in Jonesboro collapsed and a reboot was needed.
Memphis on my last return would be the site of many momentous decisions. (And I would recognize that the Memphis Public Schools were tortuous for white kids, too.) I would return to the church, professionally,and leave it, sort of. (The Episcopal Church remained a social activity, especially since it is so gay in the South) I would come out. Again, I would meet some wonderful friends in Memphis, and I would meet my second true love.  I would use Memphis as the launching pad from which to enter the bigger world, the world beyond the river up which jazz had traveled. Thinking about that last eight-year period in Memphis makes me realize how selective, how unrealistic, story telling is. This blog is a sort of autobiography, but as much is left out as is included.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sandy Fay: the City Different

Memphis had been Jonesboro big. It had all the inconveniences of a big city and all the inconveniences of a small town. And the climate sucked. The differences of Santa Fe began to be obvious on 5 July as Lin and I began to tour the city by bicycle. We could peddle sweatlessly. Paved streets were an occasional thing. English was the second language. (Historically, of course, it was further down the list, but there were few signs in Tewa.) There would be many more, some much more subtle.

People said we would not find jobs, nor an affordable place to live. We found a place to live in a pueblo style four-plex on Siri Dharma the first day we were in town. We began to call ourselves the dharma bums. I found a job in about three days, working for the man who wrote the book about permaculture. Soon I was doing fancy rockwork for the rich and famous, building water features in the high desert. Lin began to build a clientele of piano students. Life was good. It seems odd now, considering the wall of indifference I have encountered at churches in Fayetteville, but we began to meet people through churches, Lin at the Unitarians, I at St. Bede's Episcopal. We had parties and we were invited to parties.

The first several months of my time in Santa Fe were interrupted by visits to Los Angeles to visit my half-uncle, who was dying of aids. (I realize that's not-pc. Please don't bother to correct me. I've done time in the trenches.} Those episodes need an entry of their own, or two.

By fall, the company I had worked for had sold, but I started working for the New Mexico Repertory Theater, and another of the differences of the city different became obvious. The Director of the Rep, a rich and brash white jewish kid from up east, was disappointed that none of the old Spanish families ever bought tickets. Weren't they interested in culture in their city? Of course, there were layers of centuries-old Spanish culture and customs of which upstart anglos would remain ignorant. Nor were the founding families interested in pop culture. I would later meet some of the old Spanish family folk through the queer community, but seldom in the arts. I would also get to know some of the Indians from the area, but that was a slow process, and also often involved the gay community.

I loved Santa Fe. Writing about it makes me want to return.  My assumption was that I would stay. I remember sitting in the Garth and Holy Faith Church on Palace Avenue and thinking that this would be where my ashes would find their resting place. But, as Zorba had asked, 'Am I not a man? And is not a man stupid?' So there would be complications, and discoveries, and difficulties in adjusting to my new freedom.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

'This is not my beautiful wife'

My life is dated by the automobile I was driving when events occurred. The year was 1988, and I was driving my second Plymouth Valiant, the first one having been killed in a dramatic accident involving failing bridges and large trees but no injury to me. On U. S. Highway 64, in Jackson County, Tennessee, David Byrne spoke to me. It was not a large automobile, but neither was it my beautiful house nor my beautiful wife. It was time for a change. There was water underground. I had become a Methodist minister in a bizarre attempt to reconcile my guilt from a baptist boyhood and some livable religiosity. There had been a Episcopal period, but I was too offended by their pretenses; as a pretender myself, the cuts were too close to the bone.

I had just voted in the conference (Methodists will know what I mean, others can guess well enough) to condemn neither Oral Roberts for soliciting Methodists for funds, nor the Bishop of Colorado for ordaining 'practicing, self-professing, homosexuals'.  It seemed to me that the church has other business to do than condemning. The conference disagreed somewhat, blessing Mr. Roberts and condemning the Bishop. Neither self-profession nor practicing, I knew condemnation when it was all around me. And there were young folks in my parish whom I knew would feel the condemnation as well.

It was a messy few months. I took a leave of absence, and there was a special meeting of grand poopahs to say that there had been no charges of any kind against me,  that I had never made unseemly advances towards the [female] secretary. My wife said it couldn't be true, but if it were the only option was divorce. Silly me. I had thought our marriage of convenience might continue. After coming out to my family, I went back to one of the grand poopahs to tell him about the real reason for my absence. His response: 'We don't care about that, Dale, so long as you don't tell anyone. What you do in your private life is your own business."

So. Fat, forty-two, single again: what was I to do? My mother's pressure that I mate was still strong, apparently, because in very little time I was living with a man who were I one who mates for life would have been just about perfect. He was finishing up a master's degree, and after that, we headed to Santa Fe, a city I had loved from a few visits and to which he had never been. He thought Albuquerque was cool, so Santa Fe was a safe choice.  Oddly enough, Bellingham was our second choice.

It was 4 July, 1989, and Lin and I rolled into Santa Fe in a large Ford cargo van we called St. Antony of the Desert. We went to the roof of La Fonda for beers and sunset. Independence Day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

In which I Become the Mechanical Husband

It is odd how some memories are very sharp. One of mine is a noon-day crossing of State Street in Chicago with Kathy when we were nearly hit by a Cadillac Eldorado. It was  one of the mid-60's models with knife-edge fenders. I said I would never own a car, that they were an abomination. Had I been telling the truth, I could have joined the little club membered by folks such as Tolkien and Lewis--admittedly a more convenient club in a country with trains--but I did not. Rather I did the car thing as a valiant effort to be a guy.

Truth be told, I was devoted to cars, starting with my first dark green Volvo 144. I lavished it with gauges and special tires, hand-stitching leather binding to heavy wool carpets. Too, my bodily marital devotion was as mechanical as changing the spark plugs or adjusting the valves on the Volvo. The Volvo actually gave me more sensual pleasure. Collecting tools, reading Road & Track, I felt like a real hetero guy.

But, another sharp memory: Kathy had invited one of the members of her anthropology class to come to our apartment to study. I opened the door and fell into the deepest blue eyes I had ever seen. Brian the skier. Brian the gorgeously beautiful. Brian the piercer of illusions. And fortunately, Brian the owner of an English Ford, so we could do guy things together.

The last months of 1969 were busy. I got my pre-induction physical notice, and went to Seattle to see if I might be unfit for service. The idea of being in a room full of hundreds of others guys in underwear was enough to worry me.  I hoped some vague sinusitis symptoms and stomach instabilities might make me unfit. Of course the truth, that I was a homosexual, would have had some effect, but I was doing my best straight act. The draft doctors decided I was A1, and Kathy and I decided we would make one last trip to the states to see the family before staying in Canada for the duration. We drove the Volvo through San Francisco  to visit a good friend from Chicago days, and back to Jonesboro for our last American Christmas. On Christmas Eve, there was a knock on my mother's door, with a telegraphed draft notice. My faithful mother-in-law had tipped the draft board, which would otherwise have sent for me in January, of my presence with a story in the Social Whirligig. In a hasty meeting with the draft board, they explained they would give me an exemption if I returned to the states and finished my degree here, and then teach in a special needs school.

I took their offer because I was too conflicted about Brian to go back to Vancouver. I spent much of that holiday literally in the closet upstairs at a grandmother's house. Ironically, when I flew back to Vancouver to pack up our furniture and such, Brian met me at the airport, and we spent the next few days together. They were the best days I would have for years, even though 'nothing happened'.

For the next twenty years, 'nothing happened'. I led a mechanical life, doing the things one is expected to do. There were certainly some enjoyable parts: gardening, building a pottery studio, running and swimming. But the idea that I could be in control of my life had never really seemed an option. Baptists are Calvinists, and I had left the Baptist Church but it still hadn't left me. There were years of new houses and dogs and children and new cars and new degrees and new jobs, but they all happened to someone who, at the deepest level, was not me. They all happened to the mechanical husband.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

the sixties: american folds her wings

The moderately exuberant 1961 Chevrolet was rather a forecast of my life in the 60's. All the parts of the fifties and the beginning of the new decade were there, but folded in on themselves.

1966-1968 would be the time of the big fold for me, as well as for the nation. I would get married and buy a car, and the nation would have rioting against the democrats who had started the decade so hopefully. The seventies would begin with a republican president and national guard troops shooting students.

Marriage just seemed what one did when one was a naive kid from a small southern baptist (you may read Southern Baptist if you wish) town. My mother and my bridg's mother sort of arranged it. Kathy was smart, beautiful, came from a good family: what could go wrong? I had considered going to New York and The New School, but the unacknowledged fear within me told me that in New York I would become too much of what I really was to suppress my cognitive dissonance. While at Louisville, compliments of the CIA, I met a lovely Creole/Cajun/Mulatto boy whom I visited in Chicago, and I decided the second city might be a safe harbor for me. Future bride started college in Ohio, but after a year we were married and living on the south side of Chicago.

It was crazy. I remember the moment I saw our luggage lying together on our honeymoon bed and thinking 'what have I done?'. I had serious crushes on at least two boys in Chicago, but was convinced that the love of a good woman would cure me. Pretension was very popular. My mother-in-law had told the Jonesboro Evening Sun that we had honeymooned on the 'Trans-Canada Express'. We had driven my mother's Mustang to Little Rock for one night at the SamPick. The Johnson administration kept telling us we were winning freedom in Vietnam.

At Roosevelt University I tried to apply Marshall McLuhan's ideas to understanding history, studied art, and could have learned much more than I did if I had not been spending so much time being a family man. By the end of the 1968 semester, I still had not finished my big writings assignments for my BA--the Roosevelt history department was rather demanding--and my major professor suggested I might finish at Simon Fraser in Vancouver, which was then so new there was no moss on its brutal concrete. For the trip to Vancouver, my mother bought us a Volvo 144 as a wedding present, and off I (we) went to Canada. From the quiet seclusion of my prof's Arthur Erikson house on Burrard Inlet, we watched as America elected Richard Nixon.

I was sure the quiet seclusion of Vancouver, with tall firs disappearing in the mist, with 'Hey, Jude' playing magically every time I crossed the Lionsgate Bridge, with a new bride and a new car and a new apartment, would give me some sort of respite from my confusion. But one afternoon I opened the door to look into the bluest eyes I had every seen, and the turmoil returned. If my inner Vietnam war had subsided, now I found myself in Cambodia.

Monday, June 1, 2015

the sixties: then came the war

Mr. Kennedy's administration was a mixed metaphor. Glamour met terror. In February, 1962, I was glued to the television as  uberchic Mrs. Kennedy took Americans on a guided tour of the redecorated White House. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbFt4h3Dkkw ). In October, 1962, I was kept in the football stadium at Annie Camp Junior High because it was declared a safe space if there was a nuclear attack as we listened to a broadcast of events of the Cuban missile crisis over the school intercom. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Missile_Crisis ) I was shocked when Mr. Kennedy was shot and many of my fellow students cheered. It was a confusing time.

Back in Jonesboro, little me was given a National Merit Scholarship, and offers came in from schools all over the country. Only now do I realize how naive I was in those days, (and wonder how naive I am in these days).  I could have gone to school anywhere, from Harvard to Stanford, but I chose Memphis State, largely to spite my father, who wanted me to go to Rice. Memphis was the largest city in which I had spent any time, and it seemed a wonderland compared to Jonesboro. Unfortunately, I was much too insecure in who I was to learn much about how anything else was. I was more or less gifted with a beautiful girlfriend, chosen by our parents, who would become my wife, the existence of whom kept self- and general knowledge of my homosexuality at bay. To quote Zorba the Greek, 'the full catastrophe".

Even at Memphis State, however, I was able to draw the attention of the FBI and the CIA, notice which i think began when I had in high school subscribed to Ramparts magazine, and which grew when i radically suggested Memphis citizens might notice what was happening in Viet Nam and let their congressional representatives know their feelings about it. (See how naive.) I had my own little surveillance team in cheap suits and an cheap brown Chevrolet, and of course my phone was tapped. (I simply crawled out the window on the other side of the apartment, climbed down the drain pipe, and made telephone calls at a nearby friend's place.) Although I had never been late at all on a rent payment, and my grade average was about 3.8, and I was the only National Merit Scholar at MSU, my lease was cancelled and my school records were lost, unless I considered transferring.  But, I had been given, at CIA expense, pretending to be funding from the Field Foundation, a summer with the National Student Association agent provocateurs in Louisville and Madison to see how radical I might become. I wrote a learned treatise on the effect of cybernetics on minority jobs in the United States, suggesting that there would be more jobs, but at low pay.

I had my first Serious Crush. My father died. I thought I might transfer to The New School, so I took the GRE. In fact I would not fly so far. It was a confusing time.