I mentioned that an old friend of mine was in town over the weekend. It was a great visit. I hadn’t seen her, we figured, in 18 or 19 years, and haven’t had a lot of contact for the last 15 years or so. She’d had a lot of changes in her relationship, some personal challenges, and it might be two years between the occasional email, phone call or Christmas card, but there was never any real distance of issue.
We didn’t talk a lot, but we also weren’t Not Talking.
Lynn and another friend, Marie, were our best friends, Beth and mine, back in the old days, in the early 1980’s, when I was a radical Lesbian separatist. I know that might come as a surprise to some of you, but it is, indeed, true, and it’s nothing I’m reluctant to mention.
Clearly, I like alternative lifestyles, and I’m not so much a dabbler.
We were all living in upstate New York, where it was so cold in the winter you often wore down vests inside the house. I was going to college and Beth was working in a law office. Lynn worked for a hospital in admissions, and Marie was a social worker.
Marie and Beth and I all lived in the same building for a couple of years, in a big old house that had been subdivided into four apartments. We lived in the back apartment for about three years, and Marie lived in it for one or so, then moved to a house.
Both of them often had new girlfriends and there was always the occasional rather histrionic girlfriend on both their parts. Most of my best memories of that time in my life are the four of us, me and Beth and Lynnie and Marie.
We hung out a lot. We were all poor, living in cheap apartments and hanging out. We would drive north in the fall to look at the glorious fall colors. We would go to concerns by the Lesbian singers of the day, Chris Williamson and Meg Christian and Holly Sinclair.
We’d go to a concert in Syracuse, about an hour and a half a way, a caravan of us, three or four cars. We’d go to the concert and sing along with politically correct singers expressing acceptable social opinions.
We were very very crunchy, as drew calls it.
Then we would go to a woman’s bar in Syracuse, the Laurel Tree. It would be packed to the rafters, probably far more than the Fire Marshall would have allowed, with cute dykes, all of us butch – real femme-y dykes were an uncommon thing in that time and place, though there were some. I remember lots of tweed blazers and corduroy jeans, clunky boots or snow-white sneakers.
The Member’s Only was king, with the collar turned up. Hats were a common feature. I had a grey fedora I ore often, and a newsboy style cap as well.
We would squeeze through the bar, get a drink, try and talk above the music, dance and laugh and smoke dope surreptitiously. Then we’d head back home until the next concert.
There were munch like gatherings, the TGIF’s, that were held at rotating homes. Marie hosted a lot – our apartment was smaller than hers – and in the summer it was often Kay and Nita, who had a great old farm just a little north, with acres of land and privacy.
One of the few things I miss about those days, and while I love slave drew dearly, this is not his strong suit, is the post-party conversations. Beth and I would go, but we didn’t always hang out with each other at parties, we’d both talk to a lot of women over the course of the evening.
That evening, after the party, and for the rest of the weekend, there would be a lot of interesting information to talk about. It was gossip, yes, but that makes it sound more malicious than it was.
You may absolutely adore your family, but often it is the same after a visit, you say, Will said that the youngest daughter is doing really well in college but can’t find a job for when she graduates, and I say, Oh, and Linda said her brother was getting married next spring.
We played endless games of cards, mostly Pinochle, but also Spades, too. I learned to play Pinochle at about 9, and I have, in the many, many years since, more times than I can remember written down the scoring, the points for Aces around and Kings around and Queens around and Jacks around, responded that yes, I was sure that there was nothing for Tens around, and if they had Nines around they were worth one point, for the Nine of Trump.
I did it again as we played Pinochle a couple of times. Beth and I were partners and Lynn and Erica, my ex’s girlfriend, were partners. Beth and I lost both games, I think, though I’m a good card player.
Cards fell poorly and Beth isn’t a very assertive bidder – you might guess that I am – and Erica is VERY competitive and it’s honestly not worth it to work really hard to win because neither of us care that much. We talked about old friends, old places, old times.
We laughed a lot, though I feel as though I’ve taken up smoking. All three of them smoke cigarettes, Erica smokes pretty heavily and people always smoke more when they’re playing cards. I had to ask at one point if they could open the screen door and return just the slightest bit of fresh air to the room.
It was a great visit, but it was interesting, too, to be confronted with that much younger self. The photos we looked at, noticing even the clothes we wore or the furniture. Oh, I loved that peacoat, or wow, I had forgotten all about that sofa…
It’s hard to believe that it was so very long ago and very far away. We did so many things that they all blur together, drives and parties and concerts and picnics.
Alas, this had another ending, a more eloquent one, but in one of those vagaries of the digital age, I lost the last bit of it and am too tired now to reproduce, so I am just going to say goodnight, and go to bed.