the contents of a purple spiral notebook started this:
not all revolutions are organized, some are more organic, & as they develop momentum they attract more & more participants (often without even knowing they are part of this revolution.) such is my case. oh, i knew something had changed (& changed dramatically,) but if you had asked me at the time, say shortly after september 1973, how i felt about being a part of this major shift in the social fabric of our country, i would have had to say, “what shift?”
i only knew what had happened to me. none of my friends were political, although we knew we wielded a certain power (& still do) & maybe we were cognizant of a force, an energy that propelled our lives as a group; we were more vocal, less afraid, ready to stand & fight if needed (we did, respect followed.) we were suddenly everywhere.
one of the reasons, i believe, that the movie “the wizard of oz” is a favorite of so many of my fellows (& fellowettes, if i may) is that dramatic shift in tone from the black & white kansas scenes & *bam!* like that, the technicolor of oz. that well describes what was happening in cities around the country after the new york summer of 1969 & the stonewall uprising. lives lived in black & white were suddenly awash in color. you may not be able to grasp the difference or even care, but i’ll tell you this, it was grand. it was liberating, it was freedom, it was ownership, it was time.
this change may not have seeped into the hinterland & consequently there was a great migration (a watershed, a deforestation, a culling); new arrivals everyday, trains, buses, beat-up old cars (& new ones too); the ellis island were bars & restaurants & maybe a friend who had made the move the year before.
it seemed at once completely open & yet still hidden (the sex part.) it was the attraction of one to another that dragged behind the social movement; there was still so much condemnation of the physical act hanging around inside our minds that moving our love to the front still seemed too difficult a task.
we could not reconcile our desire with our upbringing. (substitute the plural for the singular.) at first i fell in love (a lot,) but not everyone fell in love with me, which i could not understand in light of the revolutionary zeal swirling around us. wasn’t it supposed to be different? why would we want what they had? but there were these barriers, social, political, cultural that many of us still carted around & threw down around us when the need arose (and oftentimes when it did not.)
although i had a rich circle of friends (not money-rich, well some, but mostly we were all working, scraping by, there were still road blocks to hiring in fields outside of what was expected: waiter, hairdresser, florist, designer, clothing salesman,) i often found myself alone. i walked along the lake shore, i rode my bike along the lake shore, i took the bus along the lake shore, i sat in my studio apartment on the 11th floor & watched the sun set in the west.
& i wrote about it. i wrote so i wouldn’t forget, regardless of its literary merit (i’m only publishing it now for illustration,) & granted i did not write about it enough. the lingering fear of loss (my first journal stolen in an armed robbery months before) a brick wall.
friends & lovers (but never classified as lovers, but what else to call them? we made love once, twice, weekly, on occasion, whenever we were lonely or would find ourselves at last call & why not? it beat being alone,) came & went.
i’ve been thinking about the loving part a lot this week, due in part to the discovery of this old purple spiral notebook (originally marked for french 361, explication de texte, my sophomore year at moorhead, oof, stendahl’s “le rouge et le noir” & camus & balzac & “fleurs du mal” a spectrum of french literature, en francais,) but instead of finding graded papers inside, i discovered bits & pieces of time. standing still. the weather captured in a single line, my feelings, & my life in my early twenties, a window display for passersby to peer at & wonder if that outfit would look good on them.
but i cannot find the words to talk about that loving or perhaps i do not want to find the words or even this could be the wrong place to discuss the loving. so many times it was desperate, clinging, hopeful (this one!), so many times it was wrong, it was forced, it was forgotten. all of our expectations were based on what we had seen growing up, we had no role model for love (or for sex, i make the distinction, because as men, there is a distinction, please don’t try to deny it.)
i envied those in committed relationships, but felt stifled when i thought i might be in one (this before i did finally, completely fall in love,) i desired the continuity & yet fought against it as if it were the reason we rioted for our freedom (which may yet be true.)
perhaps you can understand this apparent storm cloud of conflict that still rages within me & perhaps you can’t. it does not matter to me, but what does matter is that time did stop this week. i looked at these jottings & notes & lovers that came & went (some i remember, some even still alive & friends, & others i have no memory of,) & while storm clouds roiled & tumbled (ink scratches & squiggles like the lines above) in real life, i was able to look to my past & see my future.