Monday, April 1, 2013

Staycation in Holy Brooklyn: Between the Last Days of the Rawhide and Trips to Cyclista and Coney Island

                                                       Egg Lady in Pink Flamingos. Thank you to Jay B and Marle Becker for this reminder. 

Cyclista#3! Women and Trans Dance Bike Ride Mickey Z-vegan

One of the best parts of living in New York is taking a minute to stop, breathe, and enjoy some of the lovely nooks and crannies the city, the city has to offer us, in between work and sleep, finishing old manuscripts and writing new ones.  

Most every year, my spring breaks a different week than the gals.  This year, our vacations overlapped, so we could enjoy holy week together. Instead of me receiving facebook posts of the kids playing on a distant beach, while I ran to and from classes, or watched the Celluloid Closet one more time, we all stayed in Brooklyn together, reveling in the cycles and seasons of the year.

Hanging at stables and climbing boulders.
Photo by Caroline Shepard

During the day, the girls rode horses and romped about Brooklyn Boulders; by night, we visited friends and stayed home doing nothing, watching our new home come apart as it comes together.

Monday the gals and I romped up to the upper West Side for Passover dinner.  Who knows when this will be the last for this configuration of family and friends?  So we all come.  We revelled in the exodus story, the four questions, and the kids got whirled into a frenzy over the Afikomen.   Drinking too much wine, fighting, asking lots of questions about security and the ways any of us are really free as long as so many of the poor, the week, the outsiders remain in exile, in jail, unable to take part on their own collective liberation.  If one person is in jail, none of us is free.  That seems to be the point, but its hard to say any of us do as much as we could to fight this in our day to day lives.  Few of us have the courage of Emma G  or Eugene V Debbs, who famously declared he'd remain jailed as long as others remained in poverty, without freedom.  Every year, I find something in this experience, enjoying and feeling repelled by the long evening of stories, questions, inconsistancies in the age old ritual.  Sometimes family helps us feel connected. But sometimes the weight of it is more than I can bear. 

The story of collective liberation takes countless forms.  

The next morning, a few of us rode through Brooklyn looking for sites for the Times Up! community garden, from a list of lots listed on the 596 Acres Lott.  None of this is simple and no lot seems perfect.  Yet, there is a lot to the process of looking at who owns which parcel of land and when is it right to move in on a space, to transform.  None of this is simple in this town where land use is high stakes political economy.

Zipping down past Admiral's Row, the ride continued through Prospect Park.

There is always a romance in watching the green reclaim spaces, such as these. 

After Indian food a family view of Les Miserables, Ron and I joined Ron and Keegan for the Times Up Radio Show where we talked about the garden search and the queen ride the previous Sunday. Keegan gave a lowdown on why Times Up!'s number one dancing queen was not on the ride, although god knows he wanted to be there.   We talked with Keegan about the reverberations from his arrest, the ways his community missed him, rallied, converged at jail, and had to cope without him, even for a day when we had planned to ride, organize, and conspire.  Each arrest impacts not just one person but a whole community.  It makes us all feel unwhole, scaring us, jarring our senses, filling us with dread, anger, frustration, anticipation and inevitable let down when our friends are not let out fast enough.  Hopefully, there names will be on the next list of names and they can come out and we can see them again.
Keegan and Ron at the War Resisters League building for the Times Up Radio Hour. 
Love the posters for Queerocracy fundraisers.

Leaving the show, Keegan rode home.  Ron and I walked West over to the cubby hole for the Queerocracy fundraiser.  I love their fundraisers as spaces for the conversations, even if its hard to get face time with all the beautiful people.  But I was still got I went, glad to see some people are out enjoying the city, building communities, enjoying their dramas, and pushing us all to ask a few of the right questions about sex, HIV criminalization, and other ways we can look at things.  

After the raffle ended, Ron and I continued our walk through the West Village, talking about our kids, their risks, memories of Keith, who contributed to our book, and the ways the city is consumed with gentrification.  At the Rawhide, we would enjoy a few drinks one last time before it is consumed by high rent costs and gentrification. And we all become a little blander.  Arriving we ran into Times Uppers Barbara and JC, who was quick to show me pics from the show earlier in the evening, nude bodies and raunch.    We're losing that while the supremes debate marriage, he moaned.  Being queer is more than marriage I always thought, he continued.

Ron toasted to Keith and we took a few shots of his old bar stool in the back side of the bar, the home of the Black Congressional Congress, where black men and their friends, and fans talked safer sex, kink and politics.  "Is this place really closing?" I asked two men standing there.  Yes and we don't know what we are going to do, they moaned.

Those conversations ain't happening here tonight, JC pointed out, lamenting the changing city.

Femme Sharks

Thanks for hanging Ron, Barbara, Michael T, and JC.  We're losing a bit of imagination here. I hope we can fight it off.

Barbara and I gossiped as we rode home deep into the night.  She was still going out for more, while I meandered back home to Brooklyn.

It was a great week of activism.  Sadly, our fears of what could happen with the Tar Sands Pipeline were confirmed with a huge oil leak.

Oil spill in Mayflower AK. 

Yet, still, environmentalists pushed. My friend Wendy Brawer has put together a wonderful archive of green maps laying out the paths toward a sustainable city, which she brought to the NY public library. Today you can find it at the NY Public Library Map Division.  As she opened her archive, we hung that night in Brooklyn, taking it all down a notch on Smith Street, as we would the rest of the week.

Wendy Brawer. Photo by Barbara Ross. 

And Friday we romped through Coney Island, enjoyed the boardwalks, the only in Brooklyn feeling of the city  and its neighborhoods still coming back from Sandy.  Why do these disasters seem to hit the poorest neighborhoods hardest we wondered, looking at the piles of garbage and debris still left strewn about.

We rode cycles, enjoyed our favorite Russian restaurant, walked, took pictures of the ever changing city and our kids as they rode their bikes into the distance - growing up, moving fast.

Still activism echoed throughout the city. As a friend wrote on fb:

Last night, the New York Chapter of National Women's Liberation and feminist allies led a flash-mob at a busy pharmacy in NYC, where more than 20 women defied regulations and placed the Morning-After Pill on the shelf, right next to the condoms.
Take Action: 
Share our video via facebook and twitter. Forward to your friends!
For over 10 years, members of National Women's Liberation have been fighting to make the Morning-After Pill available over-the-counter in the United States. This birth control is most effective when taken within 24 hours after sex. Having it at our fingertips would be a huge leap forward for women and girls. 
Scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agree that the Morning-After Pill is safe to be over-the-counter for women of all ages. But for years the Bush White house blocked access. 
In 2006, due to feminist pressure, the prescription requirement finally was lifted. However, a medically unnecessary age restriction was put into place, making the pill physically inaccessible to everyone because it is kept behind-the-counter at pharmacies and an ID must be shown to buy it. 
Currently, Health & Human Services (HHS), with the full support of the Obama Administration, is blocking over-the-counter access (read more here).
National Women's Liberation members are part of a lawsuit against the FDA and HHS, Tummino v. Hamburg, which could remove all restrictions to the Morning-After Pill. The Judge in the case has indicated that he will make a decision by the end of the month. We are in the home stretch of a long battle - join us and send a message that women won't accept any more compromises! 
Share the video now

Monica and I talked about the action wondering if there was a way to bring some of that energy to the Cyclista Women and Trans Ride planned for Saturday.  As Monica wrote on the Facebook invite:

A Times-up! Dance Bike Ride for women, transgendered folks and friends!

Even though we passed the Violence Against Women Act, we still have a lot of work to do to fight for women and queer rights!
A great place to start is the streets! Let's ride bikes to support a clean sustainable environment, healthy bodies and empowering ourselves through bike power!

Join us on a ride and dance in a safe, fun environment where you can celebrate your bicycle and community!
Empower yourself!
Ride ends in party with Dykes on Bicycles at their spring meet up at Red Lantern Bicycles bar!

Group choreography Bicycle dance with NYBD (New York Bike Dance)!
Women, men, trans, queer, everyone welcome!

We converged at ABC to get the sound bike together before riding over to Union Square, where we danced greeted friends, and enjoyed some Joan Jett as more and more cyclists arrived.

Monica, Madison and Anna from NYBD lead us out of the Park, down to Astor Cube and Tompkins Square Park, where the whole neighborhood seemed to join us in the sunshine.  Lulling photographers into the fold, everyone danced and sang... enjoying what New York's public spaces can be when we take the time to honor them.

Bike ride over the Williamsberg Berg Bridge. Photo by Outi Pop

"What a great way to ring in spring!" Monica later chimed in on Facebook.  "Thank you everyone for coming out to the ride today and celebrating our liberation on our bicycles! Nothing makes me fall in love with NY more than bicycle dance parties in public space! Looking forward to the next dance ride!"

Stacy Lanyon photographs. 

Leaving the ride, I rode up to 34th to catch the train to journey out to Princeton. 

My critique of snooty Princeton extends back decades to the days when Dad was fired from there.  And the lovely New Tina Fey movie Admissions only confirms the unending self congratulatory quality of the place.  But its always great to see mom and hang, drink, eat, play with the girls in the trees, worship, make eggs, and bring in the sunshine, as the seasons of our lives pass in front of us.

Tina F in Admissions

The kids had been telling us about all the horses in Kensington, they've grown so fond of.   So we watched Secretariat, a film about the 1973 Triple Crown winner, that night.  Its beginning scene was of a funeral in December of 1969 before the legendary horse was born.  "December 1969, that was a good time for us Mom,"  I chimed in with mom.  I was a few weeks old but that was my time with mom... and its helped make me who I am today, finishing this Blog after a great staycation here in Brooklyn. 

Images of the weekend pass by through my mind. Seeing the kids run through the yard, climb the trees, I felt remarkably lucky to be there with them in that moment.  Some years I feel like Easter and Passover pass me by.  Others I am moved by all the stories and the hope that we could all be something bountiful.  "Holy America" Allen Ginsberg used to remind us, just like the pastor, reveling in the spaces which open up on the road.  They are all all just stories, which lead us to new ways of living and loving and being, not unlike poetry.

“Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an angel!”
Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems

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