This time of year has been hard for me. Not 2016 in particular but beginning with Christmas through New Year’s Eve. I usually breathe a sigh of relief when all this is over.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a family–children, I mean–and am not in the majority, i.e., in a heterosexual couple, “normal,” if you will. I’ve been an Other most of my life. In the ’70s and ’80s I reveled in it, demonstrating and proclaiming words like liberation and patriarchy. In the ’90s I bought my first house with another woman. We were a couple for seven years and remain friends to this day. No kids, though, just a dog and two cats. I felt welcome in my neighborhood Northside, the up and coming urban and gritty gayborhood.
Now I’m retired and live on a road that used to be country (there’s a horse and a cow half a mile away!) but is turning suburban. I love my acre and creek and privacy among the trees. I live alone if you don’t count two dogs and two cats.
Yet I make it a point to invite women writer friends to my backyard deck. We toast our imagination and friendship and this is good. They are consciously chosen family, many of them. We share deep reflections and cry and laugh together. Some of us are crafting poems, others hope to write a Great American Novel. I love facilitating these classes and getting to know them so well.
It is morning on New Year’s Eve. What is it about it that so often has filled me with dread? I think it was those early years of drinking and drug experimenting. Being at parties with strangers. For much of my life I have known I felt separate. In recent decades I have worked on this: through Landmark Education, through zen meditation, through Siddha Yoga. Connection had become my mantra.
And this is good. I have chosen to focus on what unites us as people rather than separates. Certainly 2017 will not be easy with a President I abhor. I am disheartened to say the least. But a few relatives I love voted for DT and I still love them. Who said politics is ever easy? Who said life and loving comes easy?
This evening I will spend quietly in front of my fireplace with a new love who came to me in the spring. We have had a tough beginning, parting and coming back together. I do not take a moment for granted! I feel loved and this is the best wish I could wish for on New Year’s Eve.
Ms. Erkenbrecher has been my inspiration for decades. I used to walk or drive through Spring Grove Cemetery on and off for decades when I lived in Northside, a neighborhood to the west of it. This sculpture, at the grave site of one of Cincinnati’s prominent families, is a monumental (pun intended) inspiration. The woman is writing, one breast exposed, relaxed and imposing. Perhaps she is waiting for her lover to bring her a mug of coffee. Ah, such is my fantasy! Whatever the story behind her creation, this goddess-writer-woman inspires me to get down to business and w-r-i-t-e!
I took myself for a writing appointment at one of my favorite coffeehouses. Sidewinder’s is located on Hamilton Avenue in Northside. You can sit in the back and make a latte last as long as you need. Since I needed to finish my agenda for the class I teach the next morning, I decided I would put my mind to it and do it away from home.
It worked and was, in fact, pleasurable. Most of the conversation came from the front, from the staff and newcomers. The handful of us in the back room were serious about our writing, studying, or online searching. I found the atmosphere conducive to serious ‘agenda-ing.’
This is what I miss most about not living in Northside — living close to a coffeehouse, running into people I know, the whole urban scene. I owned a home here for fifteen years. When I retired, I moved ten miles up the road to be surrounded by nature but in so doing, am more isolated. Now, to go anywhere, I count on driving a half hour. I’ve gotten used to this and use my time to listen to music, more often than not chants — Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, or Siddha Yoga.
My parking meter is almost up so it’s time to return to my animals and other distractions of home. This afternoon appointment reminds me that I need to do this more often!
Posted in chanting, my writing life, Northside (Cincinnati)
Tagged chants, coffeehouses, Jai Uttal, Krishna Das, Northside (Cincinnati), Siddha Yoga, Sidewinder Cafe, Sidewinder coffeehouse, Sidewinders, writing
I went out of curiosity more than to ‘make the scene’ as I told a few friends who may or may not have believed me in the first place. Today Maureen Wood was hosting what would have been the 30th Anniversary of The Crazy Ladies Bookstore. It was held at Off the Avenue in Northside, an old factory converted into a living space and artist studios.
I saw Colleen Ernst and her partner; famous singer-musician Betsy Lippitt; Kathy Prezbindowski; Marie Dennis; and many others (I’m naming only a handful of ones who go way back). My buddy Sue Hull and I had lunch then went over. Expecting to stay an hour, I ended up relaxing and having a good time and stayed more like three hours.
What became fun was watching the video of The Move from January 1989. The Move was a Sunday morning when women (and a handful of men) stood in line along two blocks of Hamilton Avenue and passed the boxes from (rented) bookstore location number two to owned bookstore location number three (and final destination). Maureen and I were the most talkative ones (I couldn’t help but notice); we would comment on our old friends and acquaintances in the movie before us. It felt odd, like a time machine; we were, after all twenty years younger!
Finally I did see me but not Janice, the only woman — person — I ever bought a house with. I was a younger, thinner version of myself. Strange. It wasn’t so much like looking through a mirror unless it was one from a fun house where things are not quite right. Yes, there were the oversized round lenses that were so popular in that earlier era. I was on the gaunt side (I was running back then). Looked caught between a cute little butch and a pensive intellectual.
Anyway, I enjoyed seeing some cute girls I hadn’t seen in awhile. It was likely the full moon because at one point I felt like howling. Maureen threatens to have this celebration again — and convince Carolyn (Dellenbach) Virginia, the founder of Crazy Ladies, to come from out of state to join us for the festivities.
my younger self
looks so serious
but then smiles
Posted in 108 poems, aging, feminism, Northside (Cincinnati)
Tagged Betsy Lippitt, Carolyn (Dellenbach) Virginia, Colleen Ernst, Crazy Ladies Bookstore, Kathy Prezbindowski, Marie Dennis, Maureen Wood, Northside (Cincinnati), Off the Avenue
Today we celebrated Sandra’s birthday. I met Sandra through a pet sitting service and we hit it off right away. When I was in India, she and her daughter, Angelina, took care of my dogs and cats. My little one Mia really took to Sandra’s little one and, from time to time, Angelina comes over to visit.
We recently celebrated the little white dog’s birthday (we counted it as shepherd Bodhi’s as well since I got him at a shelter and don’t know his age). It was an excuse to wear party hats and brightly colored plastic leis (not sharing those pictures). Some Saturdays we’ll meet halfway and go to Chinese buffet. But today I was treating Sandra and Angelina to one of my favorites restaurants, Melt.
We were lucky enough to get the last good table out in the back. What fun! Sandra commented on how hip the waitpeople were, “like New York,” she said. “They all have tattoos,” I replied. “We’re in the city, not the ‘burbs.” At times like this, I miss my old neighborhood Northside. I am hooked on the Avocado Bliss, the one time this mostly vegan allows cheese (smoked mozzarella) on a sandwich. Our salads were gourmet and had lime cilantro dressing. Yum. And did I say? This was a shockingly sunny day, absolutely beautiful, more like summer than early spring.
Angelina was quiet waiting for the meal. She was engrossed in her own private music. When Lady Gaga came on, she told us and started nodding her head. Sandra said “That was so funny when you sent the email saying you couldn’t get a Lady Gaga tune out of your head!” Yes, I owed this bit of pop culture to a ten year old. For if it were not for Angelina, I wouldn’t have a clue who Lady Gaga is. If I still went dancin’ at the Dock or Adonis gay clubs, I’d be in the know. It’s not turning 59 as much as living monk-like except for those times I choose to go out into the world.
So now I have “Poker Face” in my head — a song that really has little redeeming value except for its dance beat. In the car on the way home, we heard Angelina’s voice from the back seat, “Let me show you what I’ve got!” I turned to her mother and raised my eyebrows. Sandra said “She doesn’t know what the words mean yet.” We passed a Dunkin’ Donuts and the two buddies shared a little game they play when passing this sugar castle. “They had them every corner in Massachusetts,” Sandra informed me. I asked, “What she can ‘show’ what she’s got is a bag of dunkin’ donuts.” It’s a new phase in my life to admit it takes a ten year old to keep me hip.
Sometimes I go to lunch with 83 year old Rose. I deliver meals to her and one time she said “I like your company!” How refreshing — to say something so direct.
We went to one of her favorite neighborhood places and, since it didn’t take very long and the sun was shining, I asked her if she’d like to ride to the library with me. I had two books on hold and one of them was a funny novel that I was ready for. The library visit was a simple transaction. I asked her, “anywhere you’d like to go?” Wistfully, Rose answered, “Northside.”
Well, there was no question about it. Northside is one of my favorite places. I lived there 15 years, after all, in that beautiful grandiose Victorian on Haight Avenue. I took the lovely woods shortcut through Mt. Airy and in no time we were in the neighborhood where we both once lived.
We both have memories here
but your sighs are deeper.
Your husband died and I only retired.
It may be rainy, gray, & cold outside but I choose not to let it spoil my day. For today is a good day already, I know this. I have chosen two activities which will fill me with warmth and who knows how much more?
I am picking up my dear friend Eileen. She has been mostly housebound after foot surgery. We will have lunch at one of our favorite places, Melt, a mostly vegetarian restaurant in my former neighborhood of Northside. It reminds me of Mullanes, a great & funky restaurant downtown whose closing saddened many people. So, for me, Melt is my new Mullanes. I love to support Northside and I love all the choices I get at Melt.
Then, tonight is yoga class with Melissa. I claim she has near magical powers since she helped me like yoga after dismissing it for literally decades. Now I love it, probably mostly because it quiets the ego and allows me to surrender to the asana. Although I often begin with stiffness, I almost always find flexibility by the end of class. This is a good thing!
All of these lead me to poem #5:
We stretch ourselves with our noontime questions.
Lodged in my body, the unanswerable ones
gently release themselves during evening yoga.