Sunday, 1 February 2009

The night I met my cousin's girlfriend

Okay, I'm a little terrified. I joined NaBloPoMo for the month of February, just to see if I can do it. Jaywalker tried it for November and damn near made it except she managed to get herself hospitalized at the very end. She managed 30 posts for the month, so I think she should get credit. I chose February because a) it's the shortest month; b)it's not a leap year so I only need do 28 posts; and c) it's usually a kind of limbo month, so I'm counting on time for reflective blogging, as opposed to frantically blogging on late-breaking news. (And no hospitalization.)

Yesterday, elder daughter and I decided to take in Milk. Resident Fan Boy didn't particularly want to go. He has a knee-jerk reaction to Sean Penn -- also an irrational dislike of Leonardo Dicaprio who wasn't in the movie but is also another fine actor that my husband dislikes for vague reasons of his own. Elder daughter did, so this worked out well. The long walk in and out of town (bus strike is "over", but no buses until the 9th) provided us with chatting time we haven't really had since she started walking to school unaccompanied.

I'd seen the original documentary The Times of Harvey Milk several times, as it was shown repeatedly on PBS in the eighties and nineties. The documentary won an Academy Award and is one of those films that has stayed with me over the years. I particularly remember the candid, lively, articulate and expressive interviews of those from Harvey Milk's circle. The film Milk openly acknowledges its debt to the documentary, and it seems to capture the feel of the era, although someone living in San Francisco at the time would probably be a better judge of this.

I had family living in the Bay Area in the seventies. Although at the time I didn't know it, my late father was living in Alameda with his last wife. He was a very conservative fellow, so I can't imagine his being thrilled about the idea of gay rights, but he would not have condoned the shooting of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone. I remember his sitting bolt upright in his bed with a cry of horror when the news about Robert Kennedy's assassination came over the radio. We had been treated to a number of anti-Kennedy diatribes in the lead-up to the 1968 US election, which must have been a particular irritation to my very liberal mother. I was very young and asked him why he was so upset, if he didn't like the Kennedys. "Yes, but I don't want him shot!" he replied vehemently. It was an important distinction for a young girl to hear, and one of his better fathering moments.

Also living in San Mateo was my equally conservative maternal aunt. Some years after Milk and Muscone's murders, I went to San Francisco to attend a drama workshop. My aunt picked me up at the airport and immediately launched into a litany of her latest worries over one of my cousins who had, according to my aunt, embraced lesbianism. Now, I always took things my aunt said with several grains of salt. One of her more memorable revelations was that the students who threw themselves off the tower at Stanford University were invariably Jewish, driven over the edge by their pushy parents. So I listened to this latest outburst with some skepticism. My cousin had recently introduced a woman to her parents, her eyes glowing with excitement and pride, "just as if she were introducing a boyfriend!" My aunt was clearly overwrought.

The demands and logistics of getting into the University of San Francisco by bus from San Mateo on a daily basis to attend an intense workshop put this from my mind until my cousin contacted me and offered to take me to a coffee house south of Market. Something niggled at the edge of my mind about the direction in which we were headed, but I dismissed it. She picked me up with a couple of friends, including a Danish girl who looked at the passing scenery in the fading light, and remarked, "This looks like a happening place." I could see my cousin and her friend smothering giggles in the front seat.

It was dark when we arrived and we took our places with several other friends of my cousin at one of the round tables dotting the coffee house. My cousin passed around photos of her recent trip to the Galapagos, and I looked around, struggling with the strange feeling that we were in some sort of sanctuary. The people around the tables seemed to lean in toward the centre, as if this were a pool of safe light with the dark pressing in from the outside.

The songwriter we had come to hear was managed by my cousin's controversial new friend. I don't remember much about the singer; she was one of those cabaret-type of performers, probably more Dory Previn than Tori Amos. It was pleasant enough; we applauded and as we were gathering our things, one of our table-mates hugged my cousin and grinned at me: "You should have been here at Christmas; everyone wore mistletoe around their hips!" As I was taking in the implications of this remark, smiling politely if somewhat dazedly, she continued: "I love to make her blush..."

Then the singer's manager walked up, and my cousin introduced her, turning to me with her eyes aglow and face flushed with excitement and pride --- just as if she were introducing a boyfriend...


Jane Henry said...

Good luck with a post a month. The very thought makes me feel tired! Loved this story... We have proper snow here for the first time in years, though I appreciate it will probably seem like nothing to you stalwarts of the north!

Persephone said...

I think you may need to brush up on your geography, Jane/Jules my jo! Ottawa is at the 45th parallel; London is at the 51st. If that's unhelpful, Bordeaux, France is at the 44th, so Ottawa is north of Bordeaux. We're stalwarts of the south in relation to you! That said, 15 cm of snow (according to the BBC web site) is a normal snowfall here. Mind you, most people have snow boots and snow tires here as well...

Jane Henry said...

Joggers was never my strong point (-: The reason everyone gets so aerated here when we have 15cm (actually here it was 30cm) of snow is that we only get it once every twenty years, so it isn't worth anyone's while investing in the necessary equipment to dig you out of a snow drift, which is why everything stops when the snow sets in. This time for once I can really see it was necessary. I was really cross last year when we had a bit of a blizzard one morning which had all melted by lunchtime and school was still cancelled. I made the kids get up and walk in anyway to show them that sometimes you have to make the effort!