Categories
Queer Whitstable

Georgina Jenkins

I haven’t written my blog for a very long time. Life sure has changed these past few years. The Little Dog, after a wonderful life, born on the streets of LA, travelling the world… a little dog who loved Paris and knew we were there whenever we arrived… caught his last breath in a veterinary surgery in Canterbury four weeks ago. He was done.

The day before he died he staggered into the garden and lay in the cold and dark under a garden chair. It was the sign I needed. The following day we said our goodbyes to our friends in Whitstable. Marilyn and Johnny held him one last time. He had been with me for longer than any human. Now he is a small tube of ashes, his coat, collar and passport.

There are days when I want to be where he is. But I know the Little Dog is waiting for me and whatever death God has planned for me it gives me solace to know this.

We have been living in Portugal these past years. Trapped by covid and inertia. We had our routine. We walked the little park every day. Occasionally, but not nearly enough, walked the beach. He loved the sand. That’s where I will scatter his ashes. Forever running on the sand.

My own brush with death in 2020 started on the morning of December 17th and ended four months later. Gripped by Covid. Hospitalised, plagued by demons, holding onto life. Covid 19 changed everything. My semi lifeless body washed from head to toe by gentle nurses. Learning to walk again. I agreed to take antidepressants. To be honest, from the hit of the first pill… I haven’t looked back. I wish I had taken them when they’d been offered years before. Everything changed. Everything. I take my pill and fear falls away. Finally I love everything I own, I enjoy the colours and the form but my self esteem is not tied up in my possessions or what I may have or have not achieved. Settled in my own body I finally have the peace of mind I thought would elude me til my deathbed.

Life is not without difficulties but my faith is simple: if I own my part, everything will be ok no matter what.

Fearlessness has its downsides. Recently I was queer baited in a supermarket in the small Algarve town where I live. Instead of ignoring the assailant I stood up to him. He was violent and I fought back. I thought ‘Duncan, you are 60 years old, it’s now or never’. By the time the brawl was over the supermarket was trashed, the police arrived. We were taken in separate ambulances to separate hospitals. My feet lacerated, glass shards are still making their way out of my toes. The gay paramedic in the ambulance advised me to contact a gay helpline who organised a lawyer gratis. They have been handling the situation ever since. It was time to fight back. It was time.

I let professionals deal with problems I cannot. Doctors, dentists, the gay lawyer. The Spanish lawyers: I am still suing Ana for the money she owes me. The property in Herefordshire is gently unfolding in the right direction. We won three major planning successes (one at appeal) and I love, more and more, being there. I realised I had never experienced my property in the summer so made my way there last July. It was such a treat. So quiet and beautiful.

Georgina Jenkins 2022

Georgina, now it’s your turn. I have to write about you.

As I flew home from London to Portugal late last night in the rowdy Ryanair airbus, trying to ignore the menacing, drunk racists laughing around us I looked out of the window over the villages below me. Lit up like galaxies. Some strong and bright and highly coloured. Some weak and small swallowed up in the black, moonless landscape. Constellations above me, constellations below.

I had spent just one day of the planned 10 in Whitstable. Whitstable. How happy you and Georgina have made me these past 7 months. My mother and I have reconnected and made our peace. Richard, my best friend during my twenties is now married, children grown, a grandchild on the way. We sat by the fire in the Oyster Company drinking tea and catching up. Strangely, or not so strangely, our life trajectories had unknowingly intersected those three decades. Holidays in Montauk when I would have been there. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway past my house. He has a great deal to be proud of. The business thrives after thirty years. His son is strong and handsome, intelligent and humble.

I met Georgina Jenkins shortly after she moved to Whitstable 22 years ago.

Georgina bought the Copeland House bed and breakfast on Island Wall from John and Jill. John and Jill were fat when nobody was fat. Their obesity was a shameless part of their character as much as their gold chains and fancy set gold sovereigns. Jill had huge, baggy arms and voluminous breasts that swallowed you up when she hugged you. They owned the green grocer on the corner of Terry’s Lane before the council knocked it down, replacing the tatty nissen hut, the public toilets and the assembly rooms with rows of ship lapped faux fishermans cottages with ugly dormers and triangular windows that point into the eaves, never properly blinded.

Jill and John wanted a bed and breakfast thinking it less taxing than lugging boxes of spuds and brussels from Covent Garden every day. They bought the abandoned coastguard cottage by Keam’s Yard, Copeland House. They cleared out Nobby and other assorted drunks squatting there. Johnny put up terrible partitioning and equally bad wallpaper and voila: Jill and Johnny had Whitstable’s first seaside bed and breakfast.

A decade later, time to retire… Jill and John bought a bungalow in Yorkletts. Moving from Essex, a leap of faith, Georgina bought the B&B and set about poncifying her gold mine the day after she bought it. Out came Jill’s ghastly nick knacks replaced with a life time collection of Clarice Cliff. Out went Johnny’s pale yellow winceyette, brushed nylon and fire hazzard bedding replaced with white linen and interlined curtains.

George, divorced from famed book maker John Jenkins, has two children: Sophie Kay and Patrick Jenkins. After 15 years making the best full English in Kent Georgina retired and her daughter Sophie and son in law Michael Kay bought the bed and breakfast. They closed it abruptly and applied to the local council for change of use.

Like so many Essex woman of a certain genre, Sophie is instagram ready the moment she leaves the house. Alternately gurning or pouting in every filtered picture taken. Fake tits, fake tan, no conversation her ex boyfriend sent to prison for fraud, stealing credit cards. When I met her she had recently stabbed her boyfriend Adam Wright in the chest, he was hospitalised. She boasts she has many friends, a multi million pound property portfolio, that her daughter Poppy is top of the class. Is any of it true?

Patrick, Georgina’s son who I detested for years, has learned from both British and American prisons there is more to life. I now have a great respect for Patrick after years of being frightened and intimidated by him. Patrick has owned his addiction and from what I have seen of his writing could be a great writer. We unexpectedly had cause to visit Brighton and he beguiled me with his unique and compelling stories.

I always have time for an addict who owns his shit. Understandably, the rest of his family are less willing to forgive his unmanageability. Patrick’s children Henry and girlfriend Brooke, his daughter Grace and her drug dealer boyfriend Billy no longer speak with him. This family run in a pack. His aunt Gay Briggs and her daughter Chloe Coates also ignore Patrick. Chloe has a dim, posh husband called Jack Coates. Patrick calls Jack, Pussyhole. However, dim Jack is bright enough to know how uncomfortable Sophie and Michael Kay’s casual racism/homophobia made him. The Spanton/Jenkins are heavy drinkers. Gay drinks red wine and nods off at the end of dinner. They all think far too much of their moderate success and limited achievements.

I knew Georgina’s chain smoking sister Gay Briggs years before I met Georgina, she never really interested me. Gay is a show off who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. A fog horn boasting into the wind.

Lately, the pack has shrunk. Gay’s charming husband Bruce recently died of a massive stroke ‘he farted three times and I knew he was dead‘ and their hugely popular sister Maxine died of a rare leukemia. The best of the family died with them.

Georgina is my friend. I love her very much. An unlikely partnership. 14 years older than me, those who saw us together were bemused. When I lived in Whitstable I would leave her to deal with visitors from London when I couldn’t. We would cook, garden and travel. We fantasised owning a hotel. We wanted the Dolphin Hotel in Herne Bay but when push came to shove, it was a scary prospect. Wherever we went we would pretend we were looking to buy property and make time-wasting appointments with realtors. It was our hobby. We spent three months in Australia. Gallery owner Oscar Humphries was astounded we shared a room. Not a bed. We jogged from Bronte to Bondi and every day worked out at the City Gym. We drove from Sydney to Melbourne. We drove with Oscar into the outback and photographed a Bachelor and Spinster’s ball for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Georgina Sydney 2005

I wanted her to see everything I loved. I took her to Fire Island, we stayed at the Mercer Hotel in New York City, we travelled to film festivals. When I made the Elizabeth Hurley movie she pretended to be my mum when I had to entertain the producers. When I brought Jake B to London it was George I wanted him to meet.

Even though she had an occasional romantic love for me (mocked by her daughter) she knew her romantic love could never be fulfilled. And even though I continued to have intimacy with men I didn’t flash my various affairs or one night stands in her face because I knew it would hurt her. Most gay men I know have a very close woman friend in lieu of a mother. As my mother and I became closer, leaving decades of resentment behind, my relationship with George changed too.

George and I were fractious on occasions but never bored. We had a few, huge dramatic fights. Fantastically frugal she knew to the last penny how much money was owed at a restaurant. How many sweets we shared on a road trip. Every penny profit was a ‘touch’. Her family never approved of me even though, when I lived in LA, I was forced to accommodate and entertain them. I invited Georgina many times to Los Angeles but she never came. She would have loved it. The garden. The space. Malibu.

So, it was with great sadness I learned she had Parkinson’s Disease. She deteriorated quickly.

I would occasionally pop in to see her whenever I was in Whitstable, avoiding Patrick. She was often on her own and would ask me to help out with little tasks as her mobility was impaired. She never forgot my birthday and I would keep up with her on social media. Last year she told me her family (all of the above minus Pat) plus Sophie’s red faced husband Mickey and Pat’s ex wife (also called Georgina) were travelling to Cyprus for two weeks. George told me proudly Mickey is treated ‘like a king’ in Cyprus.

Sophie and Michael Kay ‘Brand Ambassadors’

So, needing to be in Whitstable, Georgina invited me to stay. It was lovely to be with her but what I subsequently discovered was extremely disturbing. Stories of casual abuse from her unemployed daughter Sophie. The evidence of neglect was clear to see. The formerly beautiful beach house George moved into after she sold the B&B to Sophie was such a mess! My Mary Poppins gayness got the better of me: Piles of old papers sorted. A huge, unused treadmill sold. The 18th century Indian bed she used as a coffee table returned to its correct place, loose covers freshly laundered.

The previous year, left alone in the house she had fallen badly and broken her hip. When the ambulance arrived her family came to kiss her goodbye. Each one of them solemnly climbing into the ambulance. They didn’t expect George to survive a covid hospital and rehab. The youngest grandchildren were told they wouldn’t see their grandmother again.

The family extended their stay in Cyprus from two to five weeks. I stayed on in Whitstable to keep her company. We established a nice routine. Working with her carers and Emma the cleaning lady we restored order where there was none and a good routine for her safety. I took her to hospital appointments, food shopping and Tescos to buy loungewear. Tiny things to do but apparently a bridge too far for her daughter the gurning Sophie who had rarely taken her out. George admitted she didn’t like the way they pushed her around, in and out of the car. She felt unsafe. ‘They treated me like meat.’

When it was my time to leave she would shake uncontrollably. On her own she was useless. I knew it.

“Protect me from my family.” she asked. I came back. For six months.

During these past few months we have laughed so hard, we’ve eaten at restaurants which is no small feat considering her disability. I wash and blow dry her hair and she calls me Nicky. (Until Sophie ‘borrowed’ the hairdryer.) We unpack the past. I have a notoriously bad memory after my spinal leak. George remembers all the detail my brain erased. She says, ‘do you remember…?’ I often don’t remember, even when she tells the story.

We got into very bad habits, watching bad TV. Game shows in the afternoon. We cooked three meals a day and put on weight. We experimented with Parkinson’s approved diets. I fed her black chocolate and bananas as it was meant to help. We loved eating home made curry and slow cooked shoulder of lamb. We braised oxtail. Porridge every morning unless we fancied greek yogurt and granola.

Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect the body, it affects the brain. A quick google search and a chat with her doctor confirmed the worse: Georgina has stage 4/5 Parkinson’s. Paranoia and terrible anxiety are as much a part of the disease as the uncontrollable shakes. People with Parkinson’s shouldn’t be left on their own. Loneliness is corrosive. When she was certain I wasn’t leaving, even for a short while, she would settle and calm and the less the terrible shaking would grip her. Yet, I also saw her focused and determined when she really wanted something and I was there to facilitate.

At night we kept the door between us open so she could hear me breathing and she would settle into a deep sleep. Sometimes she would panic. Screaming out. A deep roar from a place I did not recognise. Left on her own the unreasonable fears and thoughts would overcome her and she would imagine people breaking into the house, stealing from her cupboards. Occasionally, even when I was with her she couldn’t get comfortable, getting in and out of bed dozens of times. Pulling on the only shoes she trusts. Removing them. Pulling them on again. Frightened she would fall. I would put her back to bed, cover her feet, hold the jug so she could pee, soothe her wet brow. Sometimes at 3 or 4am we would get her off to sleep. I wasn’t always patient at 3am. She would apologise telling me her daughter would accuse her of attention seeking, unable to understand the profuse sweating was her broken internal thermometer, another Parkinson’s horror symptom.

A month or so after I arrived she told me she was worried about money. Knowing how frugal she was I asked how that could possibly be. She said she was totally broke. I didn’t believe her. She owns her house on the beach, had sold the B&B for £600,000 which gave her at least £300,000 to live on after paying the mortgage.

Elders are incredibly vulnerable. Elders with a debilitating disease are more vulnerable. Elders with money and a debilitating disease and greedy children? After a quick look at her bank statements it turned out during the past 5 years of the worst of her Parkinson’s her daughter and son in law Michael Kay had persuaded with her to part with over £350,000 in cash and still owed her £85,000 from the purchase of the B&B. They had defaulted on the promissory notes they had signed. They had made her take out a £50,0000 government bounce back loan. Predicated on a fantasy Covid would get her, that she would die, they thought these interest free loans would vanish, the 1.2 million pound house she lives in would be theirs. Job done.

However, things went tits up for Sophie and Michael Kay.

Georgina didn’t die.

Nor did the gurning, pouting Sophie expect an old friend to turn up in a moment of need. They did not expect the friend to call a lawyer, Age Concern and the elder abuse unit at Maidstone Police Station. They did not expect to get caught.

It latterly turned out a shrewd property investment made by Georgina had also been intercepted and overwhelmed by Michael Kay.

I spent more and more time with George. I was frightened for her life. I wanted her to have a life. More than sitting in her reclining chair looking out of the window. When we weren’t together we would chat for hours on the phone. An hour’s chat before bedtime. Often those conversation were about her children. Sophie ‘had a turn’, Patrick was a terrible son.

For spurious reasons guilty Sophie would storm into George’s house, screaming. A 50 year old woman screaming relentlessly at her frail mother. Even when we locked the door she kicked the door so hard it splintered. Whilst I was there Sophie barricaded her mother into her own bedroom screaming. Always screaming. Blaming anyone/everyone other than herself for her problems.

A violent household on Christmas Day 2021 I saw Michael Kay hit their tiny dog, a big man punching a small dog. Michael Kay was officially warned by Canterbury Police for threatening me.

Mickey and Sophie have a small son, Dexter and Sophie has a 13 year old daughter called Poppy. The heavy set daughter was both bullied and a bully at school. Both Poppy and Sophie have eating disorders. Sophie wants weight loss surgery, she was impressed when meeting my sister Roya who recently had weight loss surgery. We would hide biscuits and other sweet things from Poppy. We stopped buying ice cream. She would eat everything she could lay her hands on.

Yet, whatever Sophie owes Georgina, however they treat her… she forgives them. I suppose that’s what mothers do? Georgina loves her daughter and her granddaughter. Stockholm syndrome.

Alone at the house, George placates herself in the early hours on-line shopping, cardboard boxes and packages arrive from Ebay and Amazon. She lives on a meagre state pension. Rather than returning an unsuitable item she always offers the item to Sophie, who never said no. Nibbling at the very little Georgina has. They never offer to help out with the important things. Only when Patrick demands they pay for a new wheelchair or the security cameras set against the loan repayment. Never did I hear Sophie say, hey… I know you don’t have much I’ll return this gift, you should have the money.

Living in constant fear of her overdraft. This is not how life should be. She worked her ass off. She always had a job. Expected nothing, gave everything. She made excellent business choices, George should be luxuriating in her dotage rather than worrying about every last penny.

Anxiety exacerbates Parkinson’s disease.

If she ever gets the money she is owed by Sophie and Mickey she is determined to send Poppy to a public school but I’m afraid you can’t polish a turd. This may seem harsh but read until the end, dear reader.

For seven months I saw Georgina decline. Paranoia, when anxious. would twist her mind, she was convinced the carers were stealing her makeup. Convinced they were poisoning her food. She would fret a specific bowl or jug had been thrown away. She thought she saw a person stealing a television. She was particularly anxious about my relationship with other women. She was convinced I was having an affair with Patrick’s girlfriend, Caroline. She said, ‘Caroline is my achilles heel.’ Convinced my female friends were not just friends. Most worrying of all she could hear people lingering in the garden. We had security cameras fitted to alleviate her worry. I found the bowl, the jug and the missing ribbons, we found her purse she was sure Sophie had stolen. We located her missing wedding ring.

Eventually I found her a more suitable walker for the home and a new wheelchair powered by a lithium battery for trips into town. Sadly, she only felt safe with me taking her out.

Occasionally she would ask me to marry her. “If anything happens to me, marry me .” I must admit, if it protected her from Sophie, I would have married her but I knew in my heart it was an impossible dream, a dream like the hotels and homes we saw together all those years ago. It would have been a marriage of convenience to suit her immediate needs. I couldn’t do it.

The pressure from her daughter was getting worse. Knowing my service was coming to an end I booked a ticket to Portugal. Promising to come back in a month. A week into my return Georgina called me, she was distraught. Her adored grandchild Poppy had slapped her so hard in the face she saw stars.

Poppy, is a heavy set teen, she has a foul mouth and often called me and her grandmother ‘cunts’.

I was furious. Georgina said the slap reminded her of when Mickey hit their tiny dog. I called Patrick but Georgina, trying to protect Poppy denied it had happened. Then she admitted it was true. Frankly, I didn’t know what to believe until Poppy relented and confirmed it had happened.

She begged me to come back. The following day from Stansted I called to see how she was doing. She told me she had seen compelling evidence from her daughter Sophie I was planning to murder her. Knowing the jig was up, Sophie had persuaded her poor mother her best friend and greatest support was out to kill her. It was enough. I knew I had to get out. I arrived in Whitstable, Patrick picked me up from the station. There is nothing anyone can say or do when dementia sets in. The person you knew is no longer there. I packed up my things and Richard organised a room in the hotel.

When I arrived at George’s house she was sitting in her new wheelchair. She looked terrible. Georgina’s ‘friend’ Pauline Hendy was there. Her friend who wouldn’t believe Sophie and Mickey had taken her money. An ex barrister who in 1993 had worked infamously on the consensual sado-masochistic acts case for the appellants. She is one of those woman who seems to disapprove of strong gay men. Her face looks like a disinterred, freshly unwrapped Egyptian mummy, one colour, no lips, holes where eyes should be. Pauline was determined to defend Sophie. Her smile, a crude slit in old leather. For what reason I have no idea.

I told her to fuck off. It was not Pauline Hendy helping her friend at night. Clearing up the pee. Feeding her. Holding George until the shakes stop. Toweling off her night sweats. Where is Pauline for her friend? Pauline is not a friend. She is a goule.

Georgina called at midnight. She was crying. She said, ‘I was praying. Asking God for one normal day, then I would die.’ She misses walking the dog. Ironing. She misses what life used to be like. Normal.

Yesterday, returning to Faro I felt for my friend, Georgina. It’s hard to reconcile the things people are saying and the disease they have. The disease is speaking. This is not the person I knew.

Thankfully her son Patrick and his girlfriend Caroline can take up the reigns where I left off. They are chasing the money taken by his sister Sophie and her frightful husband Michael Kay. Pat and Caroline are feeding her. Protecting her.

It is not my responsibility. I will remember the fun we had. I will miss the laughter.

Elder abuse is real. It is silent. It is happening to a person you know. It is happening right now.

Categories
Dogs Gay Health Queer

Fake Woke

2018

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I have found writing this blog almost impossible these past few months.  Impossible to write the first line.  I could say,  ‘Margate, I’m obsessed with you.’ Or, ‘The lilacs fill the air with a sweet and heavy scent.’  I could tell you some unrelated facts, like I reported some fool to the police for a vile hate crime.   Or, I have my own cup at the deli or… I’m so tired I can scarcely get through the day.  My body failing, spinning out of control, my voice slurring, my head aching, my memory shot to pieces.

I wrote my will.  I left everything to one person.  I’m glad it’s done.

The Little Dog shivers then ravenously eats.  He has a chewable heart pill at morning and dusk. He sleeps close to my leg.  I spend too much time looking at my phone.  Dude smells pungent… sweet and sour.  I bathed him today.  The water was cold.  It wasn’t Malibu grooming.  Even though we have hot, sunny days it hardly compares to California.  He looks forlornly up at me.  His perky ears all bent and fragile.

The Ross on Wye project is frustrating yet rewarding.  I should have ignored the neighbours and just gotten on with the project.  An exercise in Little England.  Foolishly thought I should reach out to them, reach out to the fearful white people who live on the hill.  The sort of people who believe everything they read on the internet.   The sort of people who believe Jeremy Corbyn can’t win an election.

I’m living in a country where the press has all but given up telling the truth.  Lies splashed over the broadsheets.  The BBC, once believed unquestionably, now feeds off the rotting carcass of what was its esteemed impartiality.  The stench is difficult to ignore.

Fake anti-Semitism and other cruel lies beset the leader of the Labour Party.  Right wing jews weaponizing anti-Semitism before the local elections now gone quiet.  And all the while I wonder why so many hate telling the truth about LGBT people in the concentration camps.  It’s a most cruel kind of holocaust denial.  They deny our truth.

Rudolf Brazda died in 2011.  We was the last man alive to have worn the pink triangle.  The pink triangle was the crude badge gay men were forced to wear in the concentration camps differentiating us from other inmates.  Visible from long distances the pink triangle was used as target practice by the Nazis.  LGBT inmates, considered sex criminals, were also murdered by their fellow jewish inmates.  LGBT people experienced terrible persecution from the jews in the camps.

Why?

Remember these two facts (seldom admitted by Zionists) about our LGBT history.

Firstly, when we arrived at the concentration camps, LGBT people were considered nonces, disgusting sex offenders and treated as pedophiles are treated today in jails all over the world… like useless scum.  Secondly, when the camps were liberated by the American and the British armed forces LGBT, inmates were not allowed to leave.  They were taken from the camps directly to jail.  

According to German LGBT scholar Rüdiger Lautmann gay prisoners in the camp were abused and tormented not only by guards but also by other prisoners. “There was a hierarchy, from strongest to weakest,” Pierre explains. “There was no doubt that the weakest in the camps were the homosexuals, all the way on the bottom.”

When I mentioned these facts last Holocaust Memorial Day my jewish friends were outraged.  They hate being reminded of these pertinent truths.  They are deeply offended when gay people remind the world of our history of persecution.

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Another month has passed since I last wrote.

Since then part of The Goods Shed in Canterbury burned down, my friend Susanna valiantly opening the doors and serving food the day after.  M and B have gone to France leaving me alone in their house.  I have filled the fridge with food.  My trips to the hospital are frequent but manageable.  The Margate project inches toward completion, the Ross house stalls then splutters into gear.

My routine is unshakable.  I sit with the others outside the Deli on Harbour Street but only when the bitter tradesman have gone to toil.  I walk the dogs on West Beech then feed them raw chicken and a little kibble.  I spend a lot of time with PG and her grown up children.  Last weekend we explored the magnificent gardens at Great Dixter then ate ice cream in Hastings.   Every so often I drive on my own to Ross and look at the land, the undergrowth is relentless and desperate to once again consume the old stone threshing barn even the neighbours didn’t know existed.

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Occasionally I dip into my old LA life and endure meetings in London with producers.  Rather surprisingly I’ve been asked to direct a movie in January.  We will see how that pans out.  My mind is open to failure and success… if they support me I might very well make a good job of it.   We sit on the roof of that club in Shoreditch and watch trim 30 something male executives dip in and out of the swimming pool.  Their bodies glistening, perfectly groomed.

After a few weeks of being home in Whitstable my relations with old friends, grown frail by distance and insecurity, have strengthened and renewed.  Yet, I was recently forced to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth.   Even though I lived and worked in the USA for well over a decade and made friends with those immediately in my orbit… I never cared for any of them. Most of them were simply there.  I didn’t care for their well-being.  Nobody really cares for their neighbour in the USA.  Not like we do for the folk I have known nearly 60 years.  I really care about Sue at The Tea Rooms and Ronnie saving me from a parking ticket.  I love walking to The Battery and drinking tea with Marilyn and John.  I am passionate about Marianne, Bob and their children.  We sat beside the cherry tree remembering their son Richard who vanished from the Dover/Calais ferry and is presumed dead.

Whoever it is, however fractious they are… whatever they may have said in the past, I feel a love for them that was absent from my life in the USA.   I am so grateful for all of them.  I am grateful for their love and their hate because that’s what LIFE is all about… a life lived fully and squarely on life’s terms.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Categories
architecture Queer Whitstable

Chamonix to Whitstable 2017

Bradford on Avon.  September.  I’m looking over her gently terraced garden, sitting at the desk of an old friend in her honey coloured Georgian house.  The sun peeking out from an angry, black cloud.  Gold finches at the bird table, brambles growing into the Kent Cobb Nut tree, blackberries ripe and ready to harvest.  Beyond this garden there are 18th century terraces built of crumbling bath stone.  There is a freshly planted parterre, the tiny box hedges won’t be ready for another two years.  Box grows so slowly.  All over the English countryside gardeners tend their neatly trimmed topiary, privet sculpted into elegant forms.  The muscles in my back and neck are still tender from the last few months of anxious reckoning.

From my home in the USA… things are grim.  That’s that.  AMERICA.  Every day the news gets worse.   Trump’s white supremacist vision for the USA.  Unpicking every half-hearted Obama achievement.  Making the point of his white presidency to undo a black man’s legacy.  Indisputable evidence…  I escaped at the right time.  I can’t understand people who stick around.  What more do they need to see or hear before they leave that god forsaken Trump hole?

The most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.”

Thankfully I’m home.  Home in England.  I left my friends in Chamonix after we enjoyed a few days vacation in Northern Italy and yet another adventure on the Tuscan coast.  I drove to Paris, left Dude with my friend Mary and the following day Little Dog and I caught the P&O ferry to Dover where I met my sister Roya.  A few miles later I was sitting on the sunny lawn of my friend’s lavish Queen Anne mansion reconfigured in 1911 by Edward Lutyens.

It was the first time I’d met my sister, we’d spent a few years skyping since she introduced herself online.  Now, here she was in all her lesbian glory with her delightful girlfriend drinking champagne on the velvet lawns of the English countryside.  I’m sure she felt anxious.  I’m sure she felt confused.  We have ten brothers and sisters.

I’ve avoided England.  Voting from afar, now I return.  I must admit…  I’m in love with you, the English, in love with you all.  I understand you, you are gentle, even the hardest amongst you.  You’ll never be as inflexible and humorless as the Americans.  On the ferry home I listened to two middle-aged couples describing their lives on the roads of Europe.  Motor homes.  I envied them.  On the road.  Free.  Unencumbered.

For the first time, however, the British have been divided.  Not along lines of class or political affiliation but whether one is a brexiteer or not.  Tentatively enquiring when one meets a friend if they voted for or against brexit.  They might be that kind of person.  Yet, as I waited at the traffic lights in Camden Town I saw a river of diversity.  So unique, colorful… so English.  Evidence just there on that grimy North London street: thousands of years of cultural amalgamation.

Our leaders seem so terribly out of step with the people they lead.

The English are very sweet.  A ready smile, a polite greeting, they have a charming disposition.  Drivers thank you for courteous driving, we stick to the correct lanes on the motorway.  The British are engaging and inquisitive.  After so many years walking streets in the USA, I gave up saying good morning or smiling at strangers.  Here is a nation of men and women who without hesitation are eager to trust, eager to forgive and desperately want to smile whenever they chance upon a stranger.

Perhaps it’s me?  Perhaps I am so happy to be back they recognise my unbridled happiness? I don’t think so. It’s them, the British, naturally optimistic, even though they are unaware of their optimism. They can’t see it.  They would disagree if I told them to their face.

I was excited to see my home town, but I was too tired to drive to Whitstable the night I arrived.  I planned to go after my sister and her girlfriend left but instead I crept into a huge bed with the Little Dog and slept soundly.  In the morning I found the wonderful Barham Community Store, read the newspaper then headed up the M2 to the north Kent coast.

I parked the car on Harbour Street and had coffee at Dave’s Deli, he was adorable.  His sister works there.  We talked about Richard Green.  He has been very sick.  Everyone I met seemed delighted to see me and hugged me or shook my hand vigorously.  People I’d known all my life.  Half a century or more.

Yet, for all the time passed since I first cycled up Harbour Street at 7 years old on my red tricycle… not much has changed.  There’s more money but there’s more money swamping the south-east, all the way to Margate.  I explored the town and lingered outside all three of my houses.  They were just as I left them.  The house on Island Wall has a very smart garden and the house next door has nice new Victorian sash windows.  Number 3 Seaway Cottages on Wavecrest (owned by Peter Cushing before me) is a little forlorn.  The owner hasn’t been there all summer and the garden has overgrown terribly.  Number 2 Seaway Cottages has been renovated several times since I left, they have built a 20 foot kitchen onto the back of the house.   Thankfully they kept the expensive door handles and light switches.

I didn’t miss the houses on Whitstable beach, not one little bit.  They were mine, I sold them for a huge profit and I moved on.  People ask if I miss the money they would be worth now and I remind them they are only worth money when you sell them. I miss them not at all, they gave me the oppertunity to move on in style.  I have never wished to be there again, no nostalgia… no regret.  Not like Malibu… I hanker after Malibu.

Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing.  Some uppity British people are very eager to remind you of your place in society, reminding me of my own ancient history… but I’m an American now so those archaic rules don’t apply to me.

More of that when I return to my desk tomorrow.

 

 

Categories
Queer Whitstable

Get Out of the USA

I’ll never recover from my love of LA.  However badly it treated me.  I will never forget our ill-fated house in Malibu.  The restaurant at the end of the pier.  The Jacaranda, the delicate pepper trees, those tall palms glistening like cellophane when the rains finally came.  Have you seen Pharrell’s video for his song Happy?  That’s how I’ll remember LA. The light, the streets, down town Los Angeles, the fat and the thin.  Looking heavenward, remembering why we moved there armed only with dreams. Pleading for security, good traffic, and a god who loves us even if the dream slips further from our grasp…

When I left LA I earned more money than I ever earned.  What foolishness made me give it up?  Fear.  The same fear I had in NY and no longer feel here in Europe.  Fear of the speeding bullet, the rogue cop, fear of mud slides, wild fires… and me.

Last week I purged almost all the white, American gay men from my Facebook friends list. When I announced I was doing so… Facebook banned me for a week.  Thank you Big Brother, no Facebook means no compulsive checking.  I didn’t recognize any of the gay white American men who claimed to know me, or I had friended because I am weak and colluded with the notion the gays gather as many other gays around them as we possibly can so we may perpetuate the myth of gay solidarity.

According to Facebook, this declaration to purge unknown faces from my FB page was hate speak.

I was an unwilling participant in an anonymous gay web.  I don’t know the 50 people we have in common.  I don’t want to know the 28 mutual friends.  The 42 people who don’t know each other more than passing their clone on Robertson, Old Compton St, Commercial Street or Ocean Walk.  Lives as the gays chose to document on FB, so utterly boring, so stultifyingly limited.  Haunting the same locations, using exactly the same language we used 50 years ago… and on… the perpetual hunt, the same miserable polemic.  One hundred thousand likes for a shirtless picture.  A million Instagram followers for the most perfectly honed of them.

Recently a young gay man, beset by righteous indignation, complained to his 5 thousand followers his profile pic had been stolen and used on a well-known dating app.  I wondered out loud (amongst the commiseration) why they had bothered stealing the image?  The picture they appropriated was so utterly boring, so drearily identical to any number of equally dull gay men.  There was nothing distinguished or vaguely fascinating about the stolen photograph.  My comment caused OUTRAGE.

Their outrage is misplaced.  The gays are so often angry but unwilling to take action. Emboldened by changing laws: each new generation of gays relive their very own glasnost, embracing ersatz activism.  Their muscle drag and occasional militancy leads nowhere.  Built like warriors, Spartans… fucking not fighting.  Marching in the gay parade, holding their radical (campy) signs high above their heads then… a few hours later it’s back to the soupy hot tub for more identically built/identically aged/undressed… perpetual strangers.  Cock first, talk later.

I seemed, during my time in the USA, to know two types of (repugnant) white gay men:

1. Semi aquatic gays who hang out in hot tubs and swimming pools.  Boasting on-line about their open relationships, their poly amorous lives, one assumes they are ok smelling the stench of other men’s cum over their husband’s perfectly sculpted bodies.

2. Then there are gays like John Derian, the fay New York based purveyor of knickknacks.  Publishing pictures of their grand houses, their grand friends, their holidays in equally magnificent surroundings.  They need me to know what they eat, how they dress their surrogate children, how they arrange flowers and prepare the canape.  These gays have open relationships built on mergers and acquisitions.  Choosing men as they choose tuba roses at the farmers market.  As far from love and monogamy as one can get.

The purge is complete.  The result of this time-consuming exercise?  My feed as dictated by Big Brother’s algorithms is now more representative of who I am. People I know in the world posting pictures of things I want to look at, asking questions I can answer, engaging meaningfully with me.

Good God!  I knew so many white, American gays, fledgling proto fascists.  Echoing fake news, convincing one after another what they want to us all to believe… amplifying easily digestible myths then greedily consuming them like protein bars.  Post by post confirming their collective denial of what the gay community has become and where the community is headed.

During the election the noise of the myth makers in the pink echo chamber became deafening.  Everyone, of course, claimed to know Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager.  Armed with their exclusive Robby Mook whispers they convinced themselves and others Hillary Clinton was unassailable.  They believed everyone was thinking just like them.  The violence I suffered at their hands when I told them bluntly they were wrong… was worse than any abuse I had ever suffered from any heterosexual homophobe.  As it turned out, my take on the gay community was right… they were indeed wrong.  Trump won.

I heard, via my own sources, Clinton beat Mook on the chest, crying and wailing…

Now the gays are right behind the liberal ‘reds in the bed’ narrative. Unquestioningly wedded to the dream of impeachment.  Telling each other it’s only a matter of time before Trump is gone for good.  They shyly, foolishly ask their friends on Facebook if another election will take place? After all, they bleat, we won the popular vote… even if the Russians lost Clinton the election.  Their muddled polemic evolved amongst their good-looking selves on social media. Like in needle point class they stitch the narrative of their dreams as if it were true.  Trump will be impeached they chant, Trump… is not my President!

My most violent confrontations on social media seems to erupt when I challenge American gay white men to explain how, as they claim, if they were hypothetically living in Nazi Germany would they take on Nazis? Contrary to their stringency most of the white gays I know would have willingly signed up to become Nazis… like most Germans did, to save their scrawny asses and of course wear the fabulous black and gold Gestapo uniforms.

My friend Bettina’s father, he lived in Germany during the war, told me he only heard about the concentration camps from annoying conspiracy theorists.  The sort of people one didn’t want to believe.  He was genuinely shocked, at the end of the war, to see the truth.

Few people are brave enough to challenge the regime under which they live. Most American white gays are incredibly comfortable.  What would motivate any them to up sticks… unless forced to?  Until the knock on the door.  The stench of unwashed policemen in the kitchen demanding ‘papers’.  Looking for evidence of homosexuality. The gays would hang on ’til the last-minute… until the authorities came looking for them.

The dumbest gays think in 1930 they would still enjoy the connectivity they enjoy today… their mobile phones and the internet. They think they would have access to a large group of similarly minded people, their mutual friends on Facebook. They do not understand the isolation of the activist.  Activists in 1930 constantly wondered if they were the only human alive who thought the system… the regime was wrong.  They were scared to articulate thoughts and ideas with others for fear of being arrested.  Even gay or lesbian friends could not be trusted… lgbt friends regularly turned acquaintances over to the party for punishment.

Activists are often annoying, their message difficult to hear.

The pink triangle worn by gay men in the German concentration camps was the worst of all the badges… because it so often lead to violent and unexpected death from both guards and other inmates, the Jews in the camps would kill a gay wearing a pink triangle as easily as the Nazi. The Pink Triangle became something to aim at by bored soldiers looking for something to kill.  Alan Davies the well-known and well-loved British comedian, lived in Whitstable whilst at Kent and Canterbury University.  We knew each other but we were not particularly friendly.  He wore a pink triangle badge into The Neptune pub in solidarity with the gays… yet continually indulged in casual and not so casual homophobia.  He enjoyed his white heterosexual entitlement and when I challenged him to take off the badge he angrily determined it was his right to wear the triangle regardless of a gay man telling him he had not earned the privilege.

In the Neptune Pub I was told with sneering contempt marriage equality would never happen in my life time.  Sadly, I believed them.  However hard I fight, I thought, I’ll never live in a fair and equitable world.

When I made a fuss others insisted it didn’t matter.  Making a fuss = activism.

Physically and verbally attacked for articulating (complaining) the iniquity and injustice gays endured every day.  Made my friends feel uncomfortable.

Complaining = Activism

I wore pale blue overalls in LA County to determine I am gay.  For all the world to see. There can be no mistaking what you are.  They like to know exactly what they are dealing with… the authorities.  Making me wear a pale blue uniform taught me a huge lesson.  It flagged to the others:  I am what you see me to be.  I no longer enjoy invisibility.  You will never let me forget my vulnerability.  I am at your mercy.  I learned what it was to be black in the USA wearing those overalls. My human rights lawyers assigned by the ACLU… Barry Litt and Lindsay Battles, perhaps the most ghastly people I ever met, never really understood how egregious the uniform was.  They didn’t understand much other than their own egos.  I hated them.  I hated being around them.

I left the USA because I could no longer excuse how many innocent black men were murdered by the police paid by my tax dollars… and I asked myself: what would it take for me to think enough is enough and the first plane away?  How could I justify living in a country that exploits vulnerability in all?  All Americans I know, republican, democrat or progressive, buy into this version of capitalism:  VULNERABILITY equals OPPORTUNITY.  It is their DNA, add this to their inability to own up to uncomfortable historical facts about race and the people they displaced to live in the USA… and you have Donald Trump’s America, no different from how it always was but now the mask has gone.

Trump is going to be here for a long time.  Get used to it.  Nobody cares about the Russians, nobody cares if Trump is a fucking idiot. Everybody is now fully committed to the drama, the intensity of his high-octane reality TV style presidency.  And get this, after his second term you’ll be voting for Ivanka who I assure you will be the first female american president.

Of course, not all gay white men believe we live in an unfair society.  Since the wobbly supreme court equal marriage determination (so easily overturned) some white gay men think they are equal… the fight has been won.  Even with Trump as president they convince themselves they are no longer vulnerable to exploitation.  They are wrong.  I am the annoying activist you don’t want to hear… to remind white American gays the battle is never won, the freedom you think you have is being eroded at this very moment in some back room at the Whitehouse in a deal between rabid Christians and some crazy Trumpista. We must always stay vigilant.  Our battles fought honestly, not forged in the Supreme Court but in Congress and the Senate for all the world to see.

 

Categories
Gay NYC Queer Tivoli NY

Slave Holders Rebellion

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1.

The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival held at the Dutchess County Fair Ground,  Rhinebeck NY is one of the last remaining countryside traditions in New York State.  Unlike the bawdy Duchess County Fair (started in 1842) the Sheep and Wool Festival (started in 1980) is very genteel.  Affluent white people, mostly women (with compliant bearded husbands) and gay 30 something men pet Vicuna and jostle for home spun, naturally dyed, two ply.

In England we regularly honor the land and our relationship with it.  Many of our country festivals have pagan origins.  The Harvest Moon, St Michael’s Mass, Lammas Day, country fairs and garden festivals.  When we celebrate May Day in my home town of Whitstable at the very edge of ‘The Garden of England’ on the North East Kent coast bordering the shallow, oyster clogged Swale, we revive a 16th century English tradition. Local people garland spring flowers and weave twigs of new leaves.  Pussy willow, catkins and briar. With these we entirely cover a grown man.  With his head dressed in topiary he often stands over nine feet tall.  This walking bush became known as Jack ‘o the Green.  The Jack is central to the Whitstable May Day celebration and leads a parade of Morris Dancers and mythical characters to the town square.

We celebrate our medieval past without too much shame.  The colonial atrocities we care to admit, were committed elsewhere.  We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land… and thank God for reminding us how lucky we are not to have seen the Boer War or Partition with our own eyes.  In the USA, however, the recent past is not so easily side-stepped.  The terrible ghosts white folk see:  the ghosts of slaughtered First Nation people whose land they stole and the million or more slaves who made this land what it is today.  In the North East embarrassed white people do not necessarily want to be reminded of their slave-owning ancestors or those who killed the thriving Algonquian people of the Hudson Valley.

7-14 million people lived in North America before the white man arrived.  Today, little evidence survives of the people who lived here.  Anyway, who visits North America (unlike Greece or Mexico) and thinks to see the First Nation pyramids of Louisiana or the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings in Colorado?  The Greek government loves to invest in the Parthenon and Greeks love to visit it.  But First Nation sites are more likely to remind Americans of the Trail of Tears and treaty violations than appeal to their nationalism. 

Dr. Adrienne Keene, a First Nation scholar and activist. “We are taught nothing was here, so Native people deserved to have their land taken away: that’s how white supremacy and colonialism work.”

What of the thousands of slaves brought to the Hudson Valley?  Walk into the country side, look at the derelict shack, the rickety chicken coop.  People once lived in those… shivering as the bitter wind and snow tore over the fields, daring not to faint as the scorching summer sun beat down on thousands of enslaved men, women and their children who cleared and farmed these lands.  Driving from Red Hook to Tivoli the bucolic landscape of The Hudson Valley looks less benign.

Josiah Henson wrote, “Wooden floors were an unknown luxury. In a single room we huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women, and children. We had neither bedsteads, nor furniture of any description. Our beds were collections of straw and old rags, thrown down in the corners and boxed in with boards; a single blanket the only covering.”

2.

On North Road, Tivoli NY opposite my Victorian home stands an elegant, marble obelisk erected in 1866 commemorating lives lost fighting the ‘Slave Holders Rebellion’.  When I first read the crumbling text I was taken aback.  What was the Slave Holders Rebellion? What did this inscription mean?  Was it some local event?  Nobody seemed to know.  White people didn’t know. Black people didn’t know.

The Slave Holders Rebellion is how the Civil War was contemporaneously described.   The meaning of the Civil War, the point of it…

Slavery is New York’s dirty little secret.  Many people are shocked to learn that slavery existed in the North East. Yet, as on the cotton fields of the southern states, people as property were considered essential to further settlements and do profitable business. By reducing labor costs to the care and maintenance of their human chattel, settlers turned a huge profit on a relatively small investment.

In New York State, owning 10 slaves at the turn of the 18th century was considered a large holding.  Michael Groth, in his article, “The African-American Struggle against Slavery in the Mid-Hudson Valley 1785-1827,” estimated that one in 10 households included slaves. All persons of consequence were expected to be in possession of slaves, but not every slave owner was wealthy.  People of modest means owned slaves. The purchase of a slave was a worthwhile investment for a farmer with moderate income.

“Those that could afford it kept slaves, and each owner put a mark upon his black servants, and registered the same with the town clerk, in order that runaways might be more easily traced. For instance the mark of Mathew Wygant was ‘a square notch of ha’penny on the upper sie of the left ear’.”

For 200 years, from 1624 to 1824, the first Dutch territories were sparsely settled with white people. Enslaved Africans were a major portion of those first wave of immigrants, estimated in some areas at between one-fifth and one-third.  In Ulster County, in 1746, slaves numbered 1,100 with the white population at about 4,100.  It is unknown how many First Nation people they lived along side.  The Dutch West Indies Company brought the first slaves to New York territories in 1626 to work on farms, roads and forts.  The Dutch were frustrated at their inability to profit from lumber, fur and agriculture.

In 1644 the Dutch West Indies Company brought in 6,900 men, women and children from the African coast.

It was company-owned slave labor that laid the foundations of modern New York, built its fortifications and made agriculture flourish in the colony so that later white immigrants had an incentive to turn from fur trapping to farming.

Between 1600 and 1860, the transatlantic slave trade brought 9 to 11 million enslaved Africans to the USA.  In 1820, about 10 percent of the population of the Town of Kingston NY consisted of black slaves.  By the end of the 18th century, New York held the dubious distinction of being the state with the largest slave population in the North.  Ironically, the streets of Kingston and Rhinebeck NY were more diverse than they are today.

Slaves were sold in Kingston and New Paltz at public auction.  Terms were made easy so people of modest means could afford them. A commodity bought and sold, used to settle debts and bequeathed to heirs.  Slave sale notices were common in daily newspapers, next to advertisements for land and farm equipment. They described these men, women and children as “healthy” and “stout”,  the same language used to sell livestock. It is clear from the advertisements that infants or children could be sold at the “purchaser’s option,” separating a mother and child with the stroke of a pen.

The cost of a slave today would be around $30,000.

Not everyone acquiesced.  Reported slave rebellions and insurrections took place all over North America. More than 250 uprisings or attempted uprisings involving ten or more slaves.  I’m sure many more went unreported.  Tiny acts of attrition.

18th century slave owners bragged how well treated and content their slaves were, but life for the enslaved African living in the North was cruel and un-rewarding.  New York State’s slave laws were harsh and even small transgressions punished by public flogging.  The hope of freedom inspired hundreds to risk absconding.  If caught, a fugitive slave could expect punishments including amputation of limbs or death.

Runaway slave notices published in newspapers recount in detail the outer wear worn by slaves. The clothing described in these notices reflect the deprived existences they led. Style, color and material, hairstyle and type of headwear are recounted in great detail by slave masters. Most fugitive slaves ran away with only one set of clothes.  “Young mulatto girl, wearing red calico, with blue petticoat.”  Scars, missing ears, skills, behavior – insolent, plausible, bright… were all listed.

Most slaves ran away to be with their families. Some just fled, others planned carefully.  A young man from Rochester NY took off with two sheep and a beehive.  Many fugitive slaves found refuge in the woods of upstate New York. The woods not only provided cover and protection but a chance to seek Native Americans inhabiting the region. Many found shelter and safety with Native Americans and were welcomed into their tribes. Large rewards and treaty offerings for the return of runaways did not dissuade Native nations from harboring slaves.

3.

In July 1799 the NY State Legislature enacted a partial emancipation. The law freed all children born to slave women after July 4, 1799, but only after at least two decades of forced indenture. Boys became free at age 28 and females at age 25. Until then, they were tied to the service of the mother’s master.  Children remained enslaved because slave owners were confident that parents would remain with their children. Unrestricted freedom did not come to New York’s slaves until a new emancipation law took effect 28 years later, on July 4, 1827.

The freeing, in 1827, of adult slaves led to economic havoc in the North East. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 compounded the issue and destroyed the economy of the Hudson Valley.  Meanwhile, freed slaves were left to fend for themselves.  Those with good skills were undercut by white, cheap immigrant labor beginning to flood the Hudson Valley from New York City.  The white immigrants were paid for their time and did not need to be fed, clothed and sheltered.   Some freed slaves remained as tenant farmers. Up and down the Hudson River you’ll still find names like Africa Street where freed slaves formed their own small communities.

New York City was a reluctant supporter of the Slave Holders Rebellion.  Its trading economy was heavily invested in the slave-based production of cotton.  After the Slave Holders Rebellion, New York and New Jersey were alone among northern states in not abolishing slavery.  Governor Morris and John Jay attempted to insert a clause into the founding state constitution suggesting the eventual elimination of slavery, but were rebuffed.  As New York moved to abolish slavery, amongst the counties most vociferous in their opposition and who voted, “nay” were Dutchess County.

There is white marble obelisk in Tivoli, Dutchess County at the edge of North Road. It commemorates the lives lost of local people fighting the Slave Holders Rebellion.  There is something heroic and magnificent about the title: Slave Holders Rebellion.  It perfectly articulates the ambition of that war.  And how it latterly became… the Civil War is testament to how black and brown people have had their history reframed by generations of white revisionists.  Like the First Nation people before them the domestic history of enslaved men, women, children and their brutal slave owners has been wiped away by white folk, cruel, embarrassed and afraid in equal measure.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Star Spangled Banner by Slave Owner Francis Scott Key

Slavery remains the dirty little secret of New York State.  Shared by almost every other northern state.  In the south, for good or ill, white people upholding their racism and white supremacy, proud of their slave-owning past have inadvertently kept black history alive.  The ancestors of northern slave owners do not celebrate the traditions of the land… for few white people ever worked it.  Whilst english people were ploughing and scattering black slaves were violently forced to do the same.  The history of this bucolic place, this upstate paradise, white folk keep silent… vanishing into the corn.

Categories
Queer

Hudson NY Upstate Paradise


 I took a picture of this boy last night.  He is fucking gorgeous.

1.

There is something all at once despicable and wonderful about small town living.  Small town people are small town people for a reason. They are exactly the same the whole world over… unless they’re living a double life (NYC and Upstate) after a few years… their brains begin to atrophy.  They are left behind, destined for a life of small minded, tight-lipped misery.

Hudson is just like Whitstable.  I’m used to the small town narrative.

Like Whitstable, every weekend Hudson fills with the fabulous and the not so fabulous.  They arrive on packed trains from the city and in expensive SUVs.  Yet, it is those stuck upstate season after season toiling year after year in Hudson or in outlying communities that are most damaged.  As hard as I try steering myself clear from these half baked personalities and the inevitable drama, one is drawn to both like a moth to a flame.

They, the hapless year-rounders, want to know you as much as they don’t want to know you.  When they meet you they quickly establish if you are a threat to their superiority.  They want to feel superior.  They gobble up half-truths on google.  They regurgitate everything they think they know to whom ever will listen.

As I’ve written previously it is with neurotic, heterosexual, single, childless women that I have most trouble.

This week I had a run in with a woman who was in the habit of dumping dog shit over her fence and onto my land, then there’s a female fag-hag realtor related to the Woolworth family and recently fired from her realty business… after meeting me she called her ex relatives in Hollywood to spread misinformation… and then… most tragically an ex editor who limps from crowd to crowd soliciting sympathy for her bad choices wherever and whenever she can.

The realtor, Pamela Murphy is the poor cousin of producer Cassian Elwes rich ex-wife.  She used to work for the very posh Hudson realtor Mary Mullane.  The first time I met Pamela she spent an hour degrading Mary (who fired her) in a way I knew she would eventually degrade me.  When it happened (as I knew it would) I called and reminded her that her shrill, unsophisticated demeanor had caused her to be a terminally single fag hag.  That and her obvious alcohol abuse problem.

Hudson heterosexual males aren’t so bad.  I’ve met a good-looking dog whisperer and an ex LA gay for pay property developer.

Mind you, the weekenders are not immune from pettiness. The ‘blond’ art dealer and her gay business partner have a couple of drinks and abuse her hapless husband.  The slim, gay interior decorator with floppy hair confides that his business partner’s husband is lazy, that he doesn’t have a job, that the art dealer supports him… that she should never have married him.

That’s the problem with gay men… they want their best women pals married to them.

Listen, I am in opposition to most things.  A legacy from fighting for my gay life since I was 13 years old.  You don’t like gays?  Fuck you.  You don’t want gay people to shove their lifestyle down your throat?  Let me shove this gay shit down your fucking throat.

2.

I meet everyone who passes through Hudson.  Bumping into legendary Micky Wolfson and iconic Joseph Holtzman the creator of Nest magazine, or the terrible Rob Roth (momentarily without Deborah Harry’s balls in his mouth) but escorting the totally insane Parker Posey.  Sticking out her hand.  “Hello, my name is Parker Posey.”

So, when I bumped into Bruce Cohen and Gabe his charming, much younger husband and their adorable daughter on Warren Street last weekend I was not entirely surprised.   Bruce is looking haggard.  He still has shoulder length, curly blond thinning hair, he looks like a straight stoner who can’t bring himself to get another look.  As if his long curly blond hair defines who he is.

He’s a great producer but seemingly no longer with producing partner Dan Jinks.  Remember it was they who asked me to direct Liberace starring Michael Keaton.  Anyway, I wondered what he was up to and he said he was developing a gay history series with Dustin ‘Lance’ Black and Cleve Jones.  I nearly threw up my breakfast.  I couldn’t think of anything worse than a Lance Black gay history series created to ‘educate’ straight people.  A Lance Black whitewashing of our history from the arbitrary starting point of Stonewall.  I went on… why are you working with that idiot?  Why not George Chauncey, Neil Bartlett, Stephen Fry… anyone but fucking Lance Black and Cleve Jones.  Thankfully Bruce’s husband agreed.

And what about gay people of color I asked?  Queer culture?  Oh, Bruce reassured me, “We have a black man,” adding weakly, “We’re telling his story.”  But let’s face it.  Bruce and Lance aren’t interested telling the black gay story… because this show is for white straight people.  What about lesbians I demanded?  He buckled.  Realizing that his white gay male documentary was going to be a big pile of exclusionary SHIT.

It galls me that people like Lance and Bruce get to tell our history… where were they when I was being visible at 13?  Where were they when others were taking direct action for Outrage or Act Up?  I’ll tell you what they were doing… they were hiding under the covers.  Cowed by religiosity and gay fear.

I register their distaste.  These gays.  These cowardly white gays.  Those white gays who rode on the coat tails of those of us who confronted the status quo.  Whilst I was reminding straight people in the 1980’s how lucky they were to enjoy our clubs and bars, whilst I let them know that I did not enjoy the same privileges they took for granted… and risked their violent ire.  Bruce and Lance were thinking only of themselves, propping up the white patriarchy.

Whilst i was making queer films and queer plays for queer people without deferring to straight people… men like Bruce and Lance and every gay male agent I met at all the big Hollywood talent agencies were telling me to stop telling queer stories because there was no future in it.  Future = Money.

Categories
Death Fantasy Fashion Gay Money NYC prison Queer

Trans Ambition

charles-james-gowns-by-cecil-beaton-vogue-june-1948

In the jail I was enveloped by the trans community.  They showed me the way.  Black trans women.  They were not entitled white girls, passing themselves off on the street like women born women. They were black trans women subject to everything a black women suffers (and more) on the streets of racist USA.  These women are considered worthless, trash, undignified.  I related to these people.  They taught me more than I had learned for decades.

This winter I will be wearing couture suits.  A jacket and skirt. Based on a Charles James classic.  I found a brilliant couturier to make them, one in dark green tweed and another in aubergine silk velvet.  They are interchangeable.  Deliberately,  I get four outfits for the cost of two.  A lady has to look after her pennies.

My hope?  To look like a lesbian geography teacher from an exclusive private girls school. I rather think I’m going to look like the chef from Two Fat Ladies, Clarissa Dickson-Wright.  I have no desire to look feminine.  Butch lesbians are far more attractive to me than pretty girls.  If I ever had a sex change I am sure to be a lesbian.

Without the power of the penis I am a free man.

I have, these past couple of years since I left the jail, submerged myself in trans culture.  My silly film about Jake became an audacious film about a trans woman and the men who chase her.  My desire to reprimand my ex became a beautiful treatise on my own trans curiosity.  One thing is certain.  If I am true to this path I will never leave the big city.  I will never live in Whitstable.

There is something about rotting pears on the pavement, wasps feeding on the smashed fruit that transports me to my hometown of Whitstable.  There is something about the occasional warm day in October when I hanker for my home.

Last week I had a serious meeting about a play.  I have not written a play or thought about the theatre for years.  This is an exciting  possibility once again.  I have no desire to direct.  NONE.  Write… yes.  Direct… no.

I met a young trans person yesterday.

There is a chasm between gay men and trans people.  My friend Our Lady J disputes this but my other less glamorous, non performing blue-collar trans buddies tell horrible stories of gay people and their rudeness and transphobia.  Bluntly, why should a gay man be interested in a trans woman?  Gay men sleep with men… not women.  However, out of their trans costumes some young working class non theatrical trans m to f are berated and insulted when they tell gay men what they are into.

If you are a young trans person where do you go to meet empathetic straight men?  Many young, transitioning straight men misguidedly think they can meet men through gay dating apps like Grindr.  They make their trans position clear.

He said, “I tell them I want to dress as a woman when I meet them, that it’s only going to work if I am dressed as a girl.  They tell me it’s not ok.  They let me wear panties but won’t tolerate anything else.”

I am taking him on a date this week.  He’s excited to wear a dress and paint his nails.  He says, “There are two of me, straight me wants to meet trans me and fall in love.”  That was very beautiful.

I met another white gay man in NYC, an undergrad at NYU, who condescendingly lectured me about trans culture.  He vehemently posited that any man who wears a skirt is transgender, that make up on a man is transgender, that drag is indisputably transgender.  That the word transvestite was like saying nigger or faggot.   He told me he wants to help his trans brothers and sisters at his university.  What help will he be?   I couldn’t be bothered to fight.  We had sex and I threw him out of my room.

Since I embraced this new path I have come to love my body.  No longer interested in what metropolitan gay men think I should look like to enjoy a full life.   I have been watching endless documentaries.   Paris is Burning versus Candy Darling.  The concerns of the former oblivious to the latter.

I am looking forward to wearing my new suit in the big city.  I’m excited.

Today transvestite (self described) artist, honored by Queen Elizabeth and the British Government, Grayson Perry writes brilliantly in the New Statesman about default man.  Read it here.

Categories
Fashion Gay NYC politics Queer Rehab Travel

How to Stay Sober

Fire Island Kitchen

 

Arrived on Fire Island.  I’m here for the next few weeks… until I decamp (via Martha’s Vineyard) to Provincetown for a month or so… then it’s LA for the rest of the summer.   Nobody wants to be on the East Coast for August.  Not when one has Malibu… everyone agrees that Southern California is gorgeous in August.

I finally found an affordable and rather beautiful house near Whitstable to buy.  Just far enough to be close to those I love… yet out of harms way.   There’s so much on the market.  Everything in my old home town seems for sale.  Everything.

I’m staying, as usual, in The Pines… a guest in the most gorgeous house.  I stayed here last year.  So many pretty things to look at, art to admire and crisp white linen to drown in at night.  A fancy cooks kitchen, every utensil one could possibly wish for.

As I was winding down last night I noticed that the house is loaded with alcohol, bottles and bottles… and I am all alone.  It’s odd isn’t it?  What keeps me, and those who want it badly enough, away from the booze.  Sober.  Nobody would ever know if I took a huge gulp of something before I went to bed.  Only me.

What’s stopping me from taking a drink from the well stocked bar?  Even if it’s just me?  I suppose… I would know and God would know.  The power of ones conscience.  I’d lose the only thing I’ve ever worked really hard to keep.

I realize that many people don’t get sobriety.  The disease, the god part, the endless AA meetings.  During the past 17 years it’s been a struggle to remain interested or focused.  There’s so much to put you off.  Sober people can be a big pain in the butt.  The endless revolving door of people you meet who commit to sobriety then drink again, the deaths, the drama, the fucking rules…  but I tell you, if this is a cult (and many say it is) I’m a happy member.

I’m cooking a very old-fashioned coq au vin.  A hearty treat for a chilly May evening on Fire island.

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Categories
art Auto Biography Brooklyn Christmas Dogs Fashion Film Gay NYC Photography politics Queer Whitstable

2013 Roundup

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I felt both overwhelmed and liberated in 2013.  Simultaneously.

I spent the past few hours un-subscribing from 100 mailing lists from whom I receive emails begging for money.  All perfectly decent causes, gun control, black theatre, saving the ocean, climate control, Unicef, the world wildlife fund, democratic causes, mercy for animals, slow money…

I un-subscribed from cook shops, travel companies, furniture stores and fashion lines.  I spent a few moments each day erasing my name from the lists I added myself in the hope of being better informed, no more Gawker or Huffington Post or the Daily Beast.

It was an odd year.  It was unusually diverse.  I continued writing my film tho I stopped talking about it.  I met thieving producers and film industry liars.  I spent time with weed smoking Susan Sarandon in the back of her ping-pong club.  

Away from the film I travelled to Martha’s Vineyard, to Des Moines and over the Rocky Mountains.   I travelled by car all over America.  Los Angeles to New York and back again… three times.  I was constantly surprised by American kindness whenever I found it.  

I fell in and out of love with AA.  In and out of love with the gays tho… mostly out of love.

We are presently finalizing our divorce.

During the past months I began a strange adventure with a young man who I tentatively call my boy friend.  I began to dream again… of better things… even though I am still cautious and burned.  Erring toward single at all times.

I wrote a great deal but never published a word of it.

I wrote indignant things like this…

I am queer.  They are gay.  They are white and affluent.  They want to get married and join the army.  They want to assimilate.  That’s what they say.

When you question them… when you ask them what assimilation looks like… they still want to keep gay pride, gay bars, gay apps, gay film festivals, gay morality.

They want the gay section in the bookshop, the ‘gay voice’ section in The Huffington Post.  They don’t really understand what assimilation looks like because most of them are too comfy not assimilating.

He said, “This is all about your internalized homophobia.” I smiled.  “It’s not internalized, it’s externalized.”

One can devote ones life to betrayal.  Betrayed by parents, family members, institutions, schools, by loved ones even the country of ones origin.  I have felt a smidgen from all of the above.  Yet, I forgave my family, my school, the class system, my beloved country.

Because I wanted to be free.

I huffed and puffed about the NSA, I applauded Glen Greenwald and Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowdon.  I stopped worrying about who could read whatever I was writing privately or which ever websites I was wacking to because there is nothing private.  Not any more.

I met literary heroes on Fire Island like Andy Tobias and had breakfast with John Walters, I spent sultry nights on Cape Cod.  I started Anger Management classes and enjoy them tremendously.

My counsellor asks things like, “Where in your body to you feel the anger first?”

I began to identify the genesis of my anger and feelings of uncomfortability.  It usually starts with a demand for money from a worthy cause.  A picture or video of a screaming rabbit as it is having it’s fur pulled off or a pile of euthanized dogs waiting to be incinerated.

It was the hopelessness that infuriated me, the cruelty, the stupidity, the hypocrisy.

I came to conclusions in 2013.  That I do not, have never had, am not interested in… A CAREER!   Careers, I realized, are… for other people.  For those who may be interested in a legacy.  I stopped calling myself a film maker and started telling people, if they asked, that I do… nothing.

I understood that wherever I found myself both good or bad I was meant to be.  It was all for a reason.  A reason that would one day be revealed to me.  That my life was a series of choreographed moments. The life of a narcissist.  That the cameras I learned to love whilst in the reality show had always been there and had never gone away.

In 2013 I never gave up.  I waited patiently.  I didn’t worry about the future nor was I enslaved to the past.  For this I was grateful.

Occasionally I hankered to go home but knew that after a few days in Whitstable I would find my life shrinking and darkening.  I did not go home.  Though, I spoke more to my Mother this year and was curious about my nieces and nephews.

Finally the JB entanglement came to an end one nondescript day in November.  I wanted to write to him and make amends for the mess I had caused.

But I wrote this instead… it was never sent.

An apology is owed.

I was wrong to lie to you.  I was wrong to lose my temper.  I was wrong to fight you.  I was wrong to have asked for money to be paid when you owed me nothing.  I was wrong to have blamed you for any part of our unhealthy association.  The blame must fall squarely at my feet for everything that went wrong.   The moment you came out I should have politely walked way… I did not.   I was advised by everyone I knew and cared about… to walk away from you but chose to ignore their good suggestion.   I should have thanked you and walked away.  I regret very much that I did not.  I am extremely remorseful.  Due to my weakness of character I initiated a drama that harmed you and caused distress to your family.  I should have walked away.  The moment you told me you were gay.   I know that you are happy now.   I know that your happiness will continue.

It took two years to own up.

2013.  Un-subscribing to websites, making amends, keeping my side of the street clean, owning up, anger management.

Let’s see what 2014 will bring.

As the years pass by, unrelenting, amazing, fulfilling, desperate, happy, sad.

Even though I have filled my homes with art and furniture and friends and the lingering smells of delicious feasts… even though I have made films and plays and paintings…. all I have ever wanted, really craved… was peace of mind.

I’m getting there.  Slowly.  A Happy and Prosperous New Year everyone.

Categories
Gay Queer Rant Whitstable

Winning The War Against Homophobia/Racism/Sexism

Garden 3

Ha.  Don’t hold your breath.

Will you tell your grandchildren that you remember a time when people hated on black people because they were black and your grandchildren raise their eyebrows in disbelief?

Will you tell your grandchildren that you remember a time when nearly all top jobs in industry and government were taken by white men and your grandchildren raise their eyebrows in disbelief?

Will you tell your grandchildren that you remember a time when a gay man was shot in the face in the middle of the most liberal city in the western world for being a faggot and your grandchildren raise their eyebrows in disbelief?

A thousand years from now?  Maybe that’s the kind of incremental change brown people, women and queer people expect?

When will you fight for more?  Why do you put up with the status quo?

Fight for marriage and all things are equal?  No.  Fight for white men to stop taking everything, determining the agenda and we might get somewhere.

A French octogenarian shoots himself in the face because he hates gay marriage.  If he were American he would have massacred first then killed himself.  I think that this scenario seems plausible.

I wouldn’t like to hang around in gay bars right now.  Not with all these emboldened haters amongst us.

Thank God I don’t drink.

I am wearing my pink shoes.  People understand what I am when they look at my feet.

I’m trying to jettison ‘straight acting‘, I’m trying to abandon my invisibility but I know what that means.  It means hostility from gay men and straight men.

I like it when they describe drag queens as fierce.  That’s what I have spent life being:  FIERCE.  Of course, this has been perceived as angry or anti social or…  can I explain something?

Anger is an emotion related to one’s psychological interpretation of having been offended, wronged, or denied and a tendency to react through retaliation.

Anger management?  The management of justified anger.

Listen to this.  I have been reasonably angry for a long time.

I was a kid and I knew I wanted to fall in love with and have sex with men (and women) but the man part of my desire was outlawed, derided.

I fell in love at school.  I fell in love and explored men’s bodies.

I remember when I was 14 I was walking along the beach in Whitstable.  I met a man.  I lay on the sea wall with him.  Furtive.  Illegal.  I never saw him again.  I wonder about him.

They hated us for something we could not change.  I ignored them.  I parried the blows.

I lived in a dream world because living in that reality was simply too painful.

Margaret Thatcher didn’t want me and men and women like me… she didn’t want us to exist.

I’ll tell you what makes me angry:  Brown people not getting a fair trial.  A third of all black men in the USA are in jail.  Women in the military being raped and sexually abused.   Drag queens damning trans people.  I am angry that some people are denied bail.  I am angry that my lover left me when I found my tumor.   I am angry with myself for falling in love with men who could never love me back.  I am angry that the breast cancer gene is privately owned, that innocent brown people are still being held in captivity in Guantanamo Bay.  I am angry that gay men think that marriage is the answer.  I am angry that I grew up with an angry step father.  I am angry that Monsanto kill bees.  I am angry that my neighbors park in front of my gate so I can’t get in and out of my house.  I am angry that two young girls are criminalized for falling in love.  I am angry that most agents (realtors and talent) are sociopath.  I am angry with gay men and straight men for over simplifying sexuality.

How do you live with that?

I set it aside.  The anger.  I find peace wherever I can.  I pull weeds.  I walk the dogs.  I feed the fish.

I forgive them for their sexism, their murder, their bullying, their insistence that they WIN.  At all costs.  Like the bees.  Winning the market means… killing the bees.

When I buy something at auction the others applaud.  They congratulate me.  They tell me that I have won.  I didn’t win.  I just paid the highest price.  It’s not hard to do.

So.  Today I am wearing my pink shoes.  There you go.  ‘Nice shoes,’ they scoff.

Oh, I’m wearing them because I’m queer and I really want you to know.  Because I exist somewhere between Liberace and Jason Collins but I’m still trying to work it out.  Working out what kind of man I am.

I don’t think I’m alone.

Men make their own history but they do not make it as they choose.

Karl Marx