RFD 167 Fall 2016

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Number 167 Fall 2016 $9.95


Issue 168 / Winter 2016

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Rx for Dialogue Vol 43 No 1 #167 Fall 2016

Between the Lines In this issue, RFD as a collective opted to ask some hard questions about substances in our lives and thankfully our readers have responded with some well thought out essays and stories about their experiences. Some cast light on their drug use becoming drug abuse while others share how substance use can be used as a shamanic and healing tool with thoughtful planning, ritual and intention. Many people shared how substances influenced their choices in expressing their sexuality, in choosing partners and how the allure of sex distanced them at times from “reality”. Others chose to focus on how they or the community responds to substance use/abuse in their lives or within the community they live in. Some are openly challenging how we come to terms with consent around substance use within community and how we dialog about drug use while not wanting to parrot the larger culture’s just-say-no approach. But it does then lead to the challenge of how we create empowered spaces which are safe, reducing harm to ourselves and others and yet maintaining our radical traditions of openness, exploration and finding new paths. Our readers also responded to how someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol falls out of our lives, our beds, our world. How do we maintain connections where so much is being fragmented or distorted by being “altered?” So much of this falls along the lines of seeing how being open can lead to falling apart. Who is there to help? Who is responsible? Some writers asked about this in terms of the choices they made in their own lives around being in sobriety or taking on a different relationship to substances and how much of a role they wanted them to play in their lives. In this issue we’re thankful to include several interviews with authors about their work, and for Franklin Abbott’s efforts to bring their work to our attention. We also had several people send in poetry in response to the tragic mass shooting in Orlando this past June. May we always remember that to dance is to live and those lives cut short were only sharing in one of life’s most wonderful act of togetherness—dancing. We’ve sadly heard of the passing of two prominent forces within our GLBT community: Charlie Murphy and Mark Thompson. We’re including a remembrance for Charlie in these pages and we’ll be running a tribute issue to Mark Thompson in our Spring 2017 issue. With warm kisses from sunny Vermont The RFD Collective

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Submission Deadlines Winter–October 21, 2016 Spring–January 21, 2017 See inside covers for themes and specifics.

On the Covers Front: RFD Back: Photo by Egg

For advertising, subscriptions, back issues and other information visit www.rfdmag.org RFD is a reader-written journal for gay people which focuses on country living and encourages alternative lifestyles. We foster community building and networking, explore the diverse expressions of our sexuality, care for the environment, Radical Faerie consciousness, and nature-centered spirituality, and share experiences of our lives. RFD is produced by volunteers. We welcome your participation. The business and general production are coordinated by a collective. Features and entire issues are prepared by different groups in various places. RFD (ISSN# 0149-709X) is published quarterly for $25 a year by RFD Press, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA 01035-0302. Postmaster: Send address changes to RFD, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA


RFD 167 Fall 2016

01035-0302. Non-profit tax exempt #62-1723644, a function of RFD Press with office of registration at 231 Ten Penny Rd., Woodbury, TN 37190. RFD Cover Price: $9.95. A regular subscription is the least expensive way to receive it four times a year. First class mailed issues will be forwarded. Others will not. Send address changes to submissions@rfdmag.org or to our Hadley, MA address. Copyright © RFD Press. The records required by Title 18 U.S.D. Section 2257 and associated with respect to this magazine (and all graphic material associated therewith on which this label appears) are kept by the custodian of records at the following location: RFD Press, 85 N Main St, Ste 200, White River Junction, VT 05001.


Managing Editor: Bambi Gauthier Assistant Editor: Rosie Delicious Art Director: Matt Bucy

Artists in this Issue Colton Baumgartner. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2, 9 Ian Ayres . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Jackie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Blue. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Sophia Callisto. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Karl Volk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Stuart Morrison Kramer. . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 D.R. Bubba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Andrew Bertke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

Photograph by Colton Baumgartner

CONTENTS Meth Sex—A Crystal Vision. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jackie Bigelow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 A Fatal Shadow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mountaine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Shadowland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Foudatz. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 .beCUMing - CUMnected. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cupcake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Ben. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jasper Lawson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Gay Tara . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Leo Racicot. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Substance Use and Consent Culture at Short Mountain Sanctuary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Femmaeve MacQueen-Rose. . . . . . . 20 A Presence of Support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Link. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 The Politics of Drugs and Alcohol in Faerie Space: A Sober View . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mockingbird (Pistol Pete). . . . . . . . . 26 Impulse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M. J. Arcangelini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Pleasure, Anesthesia, and the Burden of Consciousness: Notes on Substances. . . . . . . . . . . Don Shewey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Acid Church: Using Tarot as a Container for Therapeutic Psychedelic Exploration. . . . . . . . andi grace + Kori Doty. . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Interview with Poet and Writer Louie Crew Clay. . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Excerpts from “Riding with the Spongs in New York City’s Pride Parade” [1993]. . . . . . . . Louie Crew Clay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Raymond Luczak. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Untitled Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Raymond Luczak. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Collin Kelley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Sex Machines. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Collin Kelley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Rattled. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . E. C. Patrick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 O . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Finger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 In Orlando. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M. J. Arcangelini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Love’s Garden. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Qweaver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Untitled Poem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David Cummer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Charlie Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . BB-Ha!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

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ANNOUNCEMENTS Anatolian Land of the Goddesses Gathering On the Turkish coast near Butterfly Beach, near Dalaman/Fetiyeh Turkey, April 20 to 30, 2017. Return to the land of the Goddesses Artemis, Ishtar, Isis and Estarte. Faeries will gather near the beach on the Dalaman coast of Southwestern Turkey in a remote hidden cove of a magical alternative community. A melding of cultures and energies from North and South, East and West honoring the ancient gods, goddesses, nature and spirits of the beautiful Anatolian coast. Come cavort with kindred spirits in the ‘playground of the Gods and GoddessesĂ­, wander coastal trails and swim coves where the spirits of the ancient Ephesians, Ionians, Greeks and Romans still beckon. Connect with faeries in the breathtaking starlight of the new moon in Taurus (April 26). Share yourself with men from across a region bursting with life, passion and history. We are expecting lovely faeries from across the region and beyond: Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Greece, Egypt, Jordan Kurdistan, Europe, Asia and the New World. For more information contact Habibi, jf_in_bkk@yahoo.com.


RFD 167 Fall 2016

Photograph by Ian Ayres

Meth Sex—A Crystal Vision By Jackie Bigelow

This is an excerpt from a memoir Jackie was writing Up the steps to Salmon Row, at least there’s only while living on Greenwell Lane, near Short Mountain a short line tonight. This could be a sign it’s not very Sanctuary about his struggle with meth. The work full, which would mean a limited selection of guys, began in NYC and was an ongoing project up until but I’m still glad because I really have to pee, and his untimely death in August 2015. It was Jackie’s in- they make you register and pay before you can go tent to publish inside to the this writing bathrooms. I and share his was permaexperience (to nently blackhelp others listed a couple suffering from of years ago similar issues) because I while trying to flipped out kick his own at the cashier meth habit. when he The coroner’s wouldn’t let report noted me in because that Jackie’s I owed them a cause of death huge amount was “acute of money in methamphetovertime fees, amine toxiceven though ity.” I thought I promised it important to pay it the to use Jackie’s next day, but own writing some time Crystal meth didn’t lead me to have unprotected to describe has passed, her experience and now they sex. It led me to have an unprotected life.” with crystal, have a new —from Jackie’s Diary and how it gatekeeper played into who does not her life and sexual history. This document is printed recognize me, and I have a fake ID so it doesn’t matwith the expressed consent of Jackie’s family. ter that my name is still on the blacklist (which, by —Rosie Delicious the way, is as thick as a bound book). All the rooms with beds are taken, so I rent a closet. Gatekeeper Salmon Row buzzes me through the gate (like the door to view(01.11.03; revised 02.28.03) ing tables in jewelry stores), where I’m greeted by “The number you are trying to reach is not in sera towel boy who hands me my key, a towel, some vice at this time.” Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Another dealer condoms and a few packets of lube (which more whose number has changed, and I want to get high resembles glue, which is why one brings one’s own), NOW. I prefer beginning my binges with a bump and leads me through the halls of Salmon Row. As or two at home, before going to the sex club. Yeah, we travel to my closet, my clothes clearly mark me I know I’ll eventually be able to find it there, but it’s as a new arrival, and I’m stared at hungrily by some such a hassle. I’m going anyway. I toss an $80 bottle of the wide-eyed patrons, while others avert their of lube (I know that’s expensive, but the good stuff is eyes from this clothed reminder of Out There. We worth it), go take out $200 from the corner ATM, buy reach what will be my home-away-from-home: a two bottles of Fierce Grape Gatorade, and hail a cab. 15-square foot closet with a bench in it. I tip my Self-portrait by Jackie

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escort, and immediately run to the bathroom. Once relieved, I return to my closet, remove my clothes, wrap the requisite white towel around my waist, and step out into the hallway. The Great Search begins. God, it’s so hard being here when you’re not high. I twirl through the halls, searching for a familiar face who will know who’s selling, but soon resort to asking anyone and everyone. “Hey, do you know anyone who has any Tina?” “Mmmm, I’d love to fool around with you, but I need to find some Tina first.” “Hey man, I just got here. I’m looking for some Tina.” I know most of these guys are high—I can see it in their eyes—but I also know how hard it is to share a stash with just anyone, and how unwilling most people are to out a dealer to a stranger. After a while I go back to my room to rest my drunken head on the bench while I sit crouched naked on the floor, and after a little nap, am up and at it again. Finally I bump into Ashton—we barely know each other, but that’s enough—and he tells me to wait, he’s just arrived, but that he’s sure he’ll be able to find some. I give him $60 bucks, he leaves, he returns with a bag, leaves, I crush it, and cut up four big lines with my ATM card. FUCK! That wicked sting in my nostrils feels so good, my body quickly feels warm and rubbery, and I wander out to look for Ashton, to offer him a thank-you bump. He’s in the dealer’s room with the door ajar, and the dealer is hot, sitting on his bed with his towel draped over his thigh, strong, thick arms and a hard, rippled stomach. They invite me in, and I sit down asking if I can get some Viagra, too. Ashton says, “Hey, I was just taking off—why don’t you two get to know each other?” He leaves, we shut the door, I take the pill, and down I go. Suck, suck. But the crystal is really kicking in, and there are so many choices tonight; I get up and decide to start making the rounds. Round and round and round he goes… Posing here. “Hey.” Posing there. “What’s up?” I find two sexy guys in a room who invite me in, we play, a third one arrives, we play more, the two without tattoos leave, and I spend the next sixteen hours having continuous sex with Hot Tattoo Man, whose face I forgot, whose name I forget, if I even learned it in the first place. But I do remember that we had a lot of nasty, piggy sex. Sixteen hours of it. Yeah, sixteen. And I remember that he was really sweet. But now we’re out of crystal, and out of money. A problem. He decides to go around the corner to the ATM and the sex shop to buy more lube. Why they haven’t installed an ATM in here is beyond me. I guess to prevent lawsuits from people who end up emptying out their account. I mean, I’m sure people 6

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do that all the time, but at least as it is now that have to leave the premises first. I decide to go home. I smell like sex, and am covered in lube and lots of other things. This smell is heaven. I won’t shower until I get home. I like to savor the feeling just a little longer. Mr. Dirty Boy, that’s me. I step outside, and could walk home—the fresh air feels good—but I’m still tweaking like crazy, and don’t want to risk running into anyone I know. I’ve made that mistake before. Even if I didn’t let them close enough to smell me, my pupils are the size of silver dollars. And who knows what words would come pouring out of my mouth? No, best to take a cab. I arrive home, listen to my messages (being careful not to delete them since I probably won’t remember any of this when I wake up), force down a few spoonfuls of yoghurt and half a Fresh Samantha, and hop in the shower. My cock is raw, so I shield it from the water stream, gently washing it with a washcloth. I’ve found that dishwater detergent works best to cut through the lube, and eventually I’m clean, and feel better. I take almost every vitamin in the cupboard, two Advil for the fever, an Ativan for the anxiety, an Ambien to fall asleep, a Klonopin to stay asleep, and fall into bed. Fast asleep, tender shepherd. Thirteen/fifteen/eighteen hours later I awake. I feel like shit, of course, but this morning seems worse than usual. I usually don’t feel stressed like this until Recovery Day #2, but here I am, feeling the Void. A dark, heavy, angry blackness. I get up to pee, and Wait—what’s this? As I stand in front of the toilet, I see that, before bed, I had the foresight to give myself an option. A way out, for the morning after. There, atop the upper tank, sits a coffee mug full of pee. And not just any old pee—a mug of pee full of crystal, saved from wastefully thrown into the sewers of New York after its initial passage through my body. No, of course I can’t buy more crystal— that would be irresponsible. But I can certainly pour some of this crystal-laden piss up my ass. Just to take the edge off, take away this heaviness. I get out my enema bag from under the sink, throw my ass up in the air, and voila! A little (OK—a big) crystal piss booty bump for breakfast. Feeling instantly better, I dress, and go about responsibly doing some errands, glad to be feeling on top of things. Glad not to be lying miserably on the couch, wallowing in the truth. Since I slept in, the sun has already gone down, and I’m feeling a little raunchy again. But I don’t want to go back to Salmon Row—two nights in a row would certainly

be a blatant sign of a problem. And I don’t want to spend the money. It’s decided, then—the phone sex lines it is, and after ten minutes, I’m on my way across town to someone named David’s house, who has been partying by himself all day and is arranging a gathering. David is a gorgeous Armenian god, has lots of drugs, and turns out to be a great host. Guys fly in and out of the apartment, and the next thing I know it’s the following afternoon, and we’re out of drugs, and I have to go home, I have to go to bed. Enough is enough. I shower, and soak, and clean my wounds (by now I have a bunch—you know, scrapes and bruises and stuff ), and take my vitamins, and take my sleeping pills, and go to sleep, again, my tender shepherd. All in a day’s binge. But “day” has stopped meaning “24 hours.” And then, to face the recovery, or to do everything possible to avoid facing it. Because to start dealing with the truth is not like eating a nice healthy fruit salad and apologizing to your lover after a night of drinking. It’s facing the truth about what you’ve been doing, after years of lying. It’s entering reality, after having been someplace else for so long. It’s not easy. It’s a miracle I’m not HIV+. After a few days of rough sex, it’s pretty hard not to end up open and sore. Crystal meth is an epidemic. It is destroying us. It destroyed me. Some of my best friends have let it ruin their lives. We all seem to know someone who has. I am struggling to come back. But it’s hard. Everyday. EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY. And it’s been a year and a half. And I don’t know if the desire is ever going to disappear. If I’ll find relief. But my life is better. I weigh more. I look good. I have friendships that are continuous, and genuine. I have memories that are continuous, and genuine. I don’t disappoint others as much as I Photograph by Blue

used to. I don’t disappoint myself as much as I used to. And I DO have hope. If not for relief, than for a life that is more enjoyable than my crystal life. And longer. So, anyway, here is my story, for what it’s worth. It’s the story of how I got to that point, how I got past that point, the times I’ve gone past that point,

and how I work toward staying past that point. There’s lots of sex in it, because I love sex, and love it in my life. I love chat lines, and sex clubs, and parties, and orgies. Soon after dosing, your brain shifts into a complete misperception of reality. It may seem like a RFD 167 Fall 2016 7

subtle shift at first, since your surroundings stay the same. The bed you’re on is still a bed, the shitty little room you’re in is still a shitty little room, the guy you’re next to is still the guy you’re next to. It’s not like acid, where the bed might transform into a magic carpet and carry you through the ceiling for a quick tour of the cosmos and then lunch at Spago with a giant parrot named Mr. Dave. Or, I should say, at least it doesn’t get hallucinatory like this until you’ve been up for five days. And then I think it’s more because you’ve been up for five days than because of the drug itself. No, the shift comes from within, from a deeper place, a place that I think is closer to the soul. I remember someone said to me the soul hovers around the body, like a shield, an aura, and that if you look at someone sideways, out of the corners of your eyes, you can see their soul. And crystal chips away at this soul, outside, and eventually it is torn, and weak, and frayed and you can tell. You can sense it. You can see that the damage has been done, on the outside. In the air. Yes, you become ravenously horny, as we’ve established. And yes, your body physically goes into emergency mode, heating up, speeding up, preparing to focus on the task at hand. Which, for meth sexers, becomes sucking cock. Or getting yours sucked. Or tasting the armpit of the guy across the hall. Or his piss. There’s a whole multitude of carnal emergencies. But it’s the shift of the soul area that really concerns me now. Yeah, you could die of a heart attack. Or have a seizure. But it’s how crystal affects this soul area that is the slow killer, the slow destroyer. The one that got me. Suddenly, you are still standing next to that guy on the bed, but the rest of the world—the rest of your awareness of the world and your sense of awareness or responsibility or what have you, disappears. You have entered a world where all that matters is pleasure. Really. All the other cares of the world melt away. And a lot that gave you pleasure here pales so deeply in comparison to the pleasures you feel in here, that you let those pleasures go. Like eating, for instance, or your friends, or your family, or your dog, or music, or concerts, or dating, or water-skiing, or your career. You have entered a mind-space where nothing matters except sucking a cock in front of you, or getting fucked, or just having lots and lots of sex with lots and lots of hot guys that are in your apartment or in the sex club or in the city just a phone call away that are also tweaking and feeling just the same way as you do. And many of them are really fucking gorgeous and hot. You’ve just left reality, and entered a porno movie. And I had usually arranged it to be a really good porno movie. But eventually you must crash and eat a little of that food, 8

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or get some sleep, or go to work. But you have to do these things so that you’ll be able to fatten up and rest up and pay up to really go full swing at another session as soon as possible. Spend the evening at home reading the new John Irving, or go have hot nasty sex with a room full of hot nasty guys? Hmmmm. And so the addiction begins. The hardest part for me about staying off crystal NOW, a couple of years after the big meltdown, isn’t the escape from the responsibilities of the world so much, or my sadness, or my failures, or my loneliness. It’s the sex. It’s the meth sex. I still crave it. Not the drug so much anymore. I don’t lie awake, craving a snort, a sting, a bump, a puff. But the sex I still crave, deeply. For a long while I tried having the same kind of sex while sober, but, while glimpses of it can be found, and I did, it still wasn’t the same without the head trip that goes along with it. It’s just different. It’s trying to do in this world what I did in that world, and it doesn’t really work. Which is why I feel some major parts of my life are still so fucked up. I know that it’s not really just plain-old crystal that I’m addicted to, per se. I don’t think I would be a speed freak if I had some unfortunate accident that left me without a cock and an ass and a mouth. And hands and feet. And a nose. And nipples. Never mind crystal has always been completely about sex for me, from the very first time I did my very first snort, and then got fucked on a stump in the Meat Rack. And it’s too bad, because my sexual appetite was big before crystal, and I went to sex parties and orgies and roleplayed doctor with strangers, and it was all healthy and hot and fulfilling. But now nothing compares to meth sex, still. And it’s not the sex, or the guy or guys I’m having sex with. It’s what I can’t get excited about anymore. I mean, of course sex, still excited me, and I still have a good amount but it just doesn’t compare, and I haven’t found a way to get over that. So, now, a year and a half later, with the slips becoming more frequent, I know that I have to accept that this meth sex craving just might always be there to some degree, and to find a friend to have sober sex with on a regular basis, and really give that kind of sex the ole’ college try. And I only actually slip after I’ve gotten really drunk, so maybe there’s some annoying truth to those 12-Steppers no-drinking, totally sober, off-everything policy. Because I really was going to completely quit, after all. And this book was supposed to be about that, after all. And the comedowns do destroy me, after all. And the lying. And the confusion. And the losing-a-few-days thing. Ugh. How mundane. How common. How bourgeois. �

A Fatal Shadow by Mountaine


his is my personal reflection on a shadow that led to a very untimely death. There are other points of view on this story, but I want to share mine. Some readers may cheer. Others may not. Okay. A deep breath, and here we go. I was glad to see the memorial for Birdy (Joe Birdsong) in a recent issue of RFD. Glad to see memories of his beauty, his kindness, his generosity. Glad to see great photos of him in which his unique spirit came shining out of the page. I was reminded of how he exuded natural sexuality, how his eroticism was always present in a pose or a leer. (He once told a visiting friend making tea that the sound of the tea kettle made him horny—it inspired the feeling of his cock about to burst!) In the printed tributes there was no mention of how he died. Yes, it’s a valid choice for a eulogy to focus on the positive. But maybe Birdy would want others to learn from his life and death. When I saw the RFD call for articles on Substance, I felt it was time to share my story. Birdy and I were good friends. When he asked to live in my shared home in Tennessee, I was glad to welcome him. Several people warned me of his history of serious alcoholism, but I had traveled with him and not seen any evidence of this, so I blew it off. We were housemates for nine months during

Photograph by Sophia Callisto

his final year, and now that I look back on that time, there were lots of signs that I missed, due to my naiveté. My stash of wine bottles in the kitchen cabinet (I usually had a glass with dinner) got inexplicably smaller. The few bottles of stronger drink that I kept around for special occasions were drained, usually with about an ounce left in the bottom. An unopened bottle of good port disappeared. When I asked, no one seemed to know who was imbibing. I wondered if any of the neighbors were involved. I stopped buying “the good stuff ”. A pattern emerged. Night after night, Birdy would come home from work around five, and disappear into his room. He was a heavy smoker, and I was often surprised that he didn’t come out for a cigarette all evening. He was working long hours, and I assumed he was just tired. Now I wonder if he was drinking heavily, but not wanting anyone to know. One time we were at a potluck where there was a lot of box wine. I noticed Birdy drinking tall glasses of it, returning often for refills, but I didn’t think anything of it. How could I have ignored that? Answer: My own ignorance. My own denial. And he was able to function, to communicate, to be as charming as always! I was inexperienced with the ways alcoholics learn to cover up their habits, and I just didn’t get it. Plus it was really important to me to avoid judging the actions of my housemates when they were different from mine. So I looked the other way. RFD 167 Fall 2016 9

One night when I was out, Birdy felt compelled Bigelow’s death, about a month short of their 40th to drive to town to replace his empty bottle of birthday (also substance related, though it was moonshine. A reliable eyewitness told me that he rarely talked about that way). I hoped this tragedy was already plastered, that he denied it vigorously, would provide a wake-up call, a reminder that even insisting he was okay to drive, refusing an offer fabulous faeries could destroy themselves. But of a ride. Birdy hadn’t registered his car although although the grief over the loss of Jackie remained he’d used it daily for months - he hadn’t made that (and still remains), I didn’t sense a shift in the cula priority in spending his limited money - so as ture of the community. Jackie’s life was celebrated usual he avoided the main roads, assuming that with events featuring his favorite substances, he’d be less likely to be pulled over that way. Then a consumed in honor of his/her memory. The events few friends received a one-word text from him— I attended were sweet, sad, fun, deeply bonding. “Help!” But it was easy to think of it as a tragedy, and much Several caring faeries drove around the back harder to consider the habits that led toward that roads for hours, late in the night, searching for tragedy. Birdy. They were close to giving up when one of Weeks later, I was traveling when I got news of them noticed a place along a steep road where the Birdy’s second car accident. The police report said trees looked like they had he’d been driving on the inbeen disturbed. With amazterstate on the wrong side of ing life-saving intuition they the road, without a seatbelt, pulled over, and discovered for about five miles, before that a car had gone off the he’d had a head-on collision Whenever I saw him, road and down a steep cliff with a box truck, and that no through the thick forest. alcohol or drugs were found. he always greeted me Scrambling through the dark Again the car was totalled, warmly, with that woods, they found Birdy still so it’s hard to imagine what charming grin on his in the totalled car, unable to would be found and what face. In my heart, I get himself out, shaken but wouldn’t. He was taken to the barely scratched. They helped hospital in critical condition, truly wished the best him out and brought him and blood tests were certainly for him. But after his home. done, but those would have denials of anything In the ensuing days, many only been shared with his being wrong, I didn’t of his friends (including me) (sadly estranged) family. We felt compelled to discuss the will probably never know know what I could do incident with him. When I what caused him to be so to help. asked him what had hapout of control. Doctors tried pened, Birdy admitted to havsurgery that was unlikely to ing blacked out, but insisted succeed. It didn’t. The shadow he hadn’t had much to drink. was fatal. “Just one or two beers,” I Oh the choices we make! remember him saying, “nothing stronger”. I told Some may be free choices, while others are heavily him that an eyewitness had spoken of his intensely influenced or controlled by physiological addicdrunken state, and he just repeated his denials. tion, or by mental illness. Everyone is different, Life went on. But the shadow got darker. with different patterns and different demons. One Communication in the house wasn’t going well, factor to consider with Birdy was his Cherokee and soon Birdy decided to move out. In the few ancestry, and the horrific alcoholism that is so months remaining in his life, I heard many reports prevalent among Native Americans after centuries of his self-destructive excesses. Whenever I saw of cultural abuse and annihilation. It’s so sad. It’s him, he always greeted me warmly, with that charm- so painful to take in the horror. It’s so difficult to ing grin on his face. In my heart, I truly wished the know where to put it and what to do with it. But best for him. But after his denials of anything being ignoring it can’t be the right way to move toward wrong, I didn’t know what I could do to help. creating a better world. So I can’t ignore this story. During that period, the community came It doesn’t go away. � together to deal with the huge shock of Jackie 10 RFD 167 Fall 2016

Shadowland By Foudatz


ith his left hand he held the torch under the bowl. The crystal bowl rocked in the fingers of his right. Slowly white vapor began to swirl sensuously against the sides of the bowl, moving like a dancer, until the cloud filled the bowl. He began to inhale, filling his chest with the lovely white vapor. Then he turned to his friend sitting beside him. They placed their lips together as if in a kiss, and he exhaled the vapor into his friend’s chest, pulling away as his friend released the disappearing vapor into the room. Handing the pipe around, the four men repeated the ritual until the torch could no longer conjure the white cloud. In the bottom of the crystal bowl a black shadow had replaced the sparkling shards of meth. I stood aside watching in amazement, arousal as if witnessing the sharing of lovers. When they handed the pipe to me the first time, I waved it away and shook my head. The friend who brought me to the party said, “he doesn’t partake.” The others laughed and started joking. One of them started talking about his fears of partying and how he had overcome them. His speech seemed to trail on and on as his self-satisfaction increased, interrupted by the passing of the pipe. Then the sex began, playful at first as they slipped out of their shirts and pants. It moved quickly from touching, stroking to more definite forms of playing. Caught with them I pulled off my clothes as well, joining the friend with whom I had come to the party and a dark man with a beard. We had previously smoked some pot and I was very relaxed and tolerant. My friend sat on the bearded man’s cock, riding it, I knelt on my knees kissing my friend long on the lips, while the other man stroked my erect cock. The playing seemed to continue for a long time. I shared my body with almost everyone in the room until I was spent, the first to come. The others seemed to want to carry on into the night. I fell asleep on the sofa in my t-shirt. When I woke the next morning everyone except my friend was gone. I grabbed my phone and glanced at the time 10:36. “Oh my God”, I said, I need to go home, get ready for work, where did everybody go?” My friend said, “They left a while ago. Different things to do. We were up all night. I think I need to

lie down. You were pretty much out of it. Down for the count. You missed everything. We smoked a few more. The fucking was pretty lively.” I wondered how they had kept it up for so long, but I didn’t ask. I had been very lonely over the year before I met Carl. When I first came out, I was excited and hopeful. It was difficult to tell my family, but I felt more open and honest than I ever had before in my life. I felt that I could choose whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, I was the same person in the same environment, a closed box I didn’t know how to break out of. The routine of family and work was the same. The old relationship patterns were strongly in place. My feelings about myself, although they were changing, were still based on the guilt and the fear of rejection that I had learned as a child. You can tell people you are gay, but that doesn’t change how you feel about yourself. Your shadows remain. My next encounter with T, the slang term for methamphetamine used by everyone I met, came on a trip to Atlanta with my sometime boyfriend. He had moved away from there, but was unhappy and decided to take care of some business prior to moving back. I drove my car and chose a hotel in Midtown because I wanted to experience what he missed about Atlanta. As soon as we got there, though, he borrowed my car to see some friends out in Decatur, a suburb. I waited for a couple of hours, even taking a walk. Just as I was beginning to feel abandoned, he texted me that he was on his way back and that we could go to some bars and places he used to haunt. When he got back we went to get something to eat and then went to a sex shop with a large, yet unimpressive array of toys and devices. Then we went to the bar, which was a nice bar, but didn’t really seem any different from any other bar. Gay bars are not the same as I remembered from the 1980’s. I had a rather stiff martini, and according to my friend acted drunk, annoying him as he said, although later I learned that the drink was a ploy to loosen me up. When we got back to our room, Carl pulled out his pipe and a tiny bag of T he had purchased from one of his friends in Decatur. He started smoking and handing me the pipe, said, RFD 167 Fall 2016 11

“Why don’t you try it? It’s really not anything like they say.” This time I took it. I rolled it in my fingers while he held the cigarette lighter under the bowl and got the white vapor swirling again. I inhaled it, not really noticing anything. He said to exhale not to hold it in like pot. I exhaled. I felt no effects. I passed it back, he took a puff then handed it back to me. After a third round, I gave the pipe back and he put it away. I felt no effects, except for the slightest feeling of pleasure in my chest. It also seemed to clear my head of the remnants of the martini. I said. “What is the big deal about this? You always read that it’s highly addictive. Really, I can take it or leave it.” Carl and I talked for a while. We stayed up late. We watched some porn on my laptop and had sex. Carl even came, which was unusual for him. When we got back, I dropped Carl off at his house and went home to mine. Before I left, he said, “come on over this weekend. We can smoke some T and find some cute guys who might like to come over. There are always young guys who will come over for a ‘parTy’.” I soon learned the truth in that. Carl could always find someone who was willing to do a three way or more if you could offer them meth. The dating and hookup apps were full of them. They used clever ways to make their interests known, usually mentioning the word “cloud” somewhere or “pnp”. Some even used the word in their nicknames, like “Cloud2btm” or Guy4cloud”. At that time, Carl would invite them over, and I went from being afraid of the stuff to enjoying it. I liked the pleasant feeling it gave me, the self-confidence, and the sexual desire. All of this worked well for a while. Every few weeks Carl would go back to Atlanta and manage to get some more T. Then we would have one of our weekends. Euphoria, pleasure, sex with several guys, self-confidence, and lots of talking, a lot of talking. I was particularly prone to talking. I could figure out everything, how to solve every problem. On one occasion, I was planning a move to an apartment, straighten out my finances, and someone said, “let’s write this all down. Here we’ll make a timeline.” We spent several hours planning. The following day the plan ended up in the garbage. The problems were still there, but the self-confidence and euphoria had drained away. Gradually other problems began to show up. Carl became moody and abusive. I became more sensitive. During one of his trips to Atlanta, at a parTy, he met a young guy with whom he fell in 12 RFD 167 Fall 2016

love at first sight. He started seeing him as often as he could. His sympathy and feelings grew as they disappeared for me. I became a source of money to finance his trips, and when I ceased helping him with his trips, he became taunting and abusive. It reached a point where he started calling me names like “bitch”, “asshole”, “piece of shit”. I tried to set some limits yet that made him even more angry. He threatened to come to my workplace and embarrass me. He made threats to hurt me, and a few times, I left worried that he might do something to me. The biggest problem with T for me, which turned out to be my salvation, was a side effect called “crystal dick”. I began to experience erectile dysfunction. Although I was sexually aroused and felt good, could stay up all night, I only experienced the briefest of erections. Most of the other guys had the same problem to some extent. They all had cock rings and sometimes furiously manipulated themselves or sucked each other, but there were usually no hard-ons, and no climaxes. By the next morning, when the T was gone, they were gone. Carl and I would be exhausted from lack of sleep and the high we felt on T. We would spend the next day sleeping. I would be exhausted and depressed at work for a few days, and though Carl always said it was in my mind, I knew where the problems came from. I finally decided that life, work, and sex were more important for me than the feelings I got from T. I haven’t smoked it since then. For Carl, T was more important than either sex or me. Maybe some people can handle it, or have a physical make-up that helps them avoid the side effects. Maybe it is a mind thing as Carl always insisted. But I look at it in terms of the shadow, that part of our personality that we hide away, the unlinked dark side, the parts of our unconscious-good or bad--that we have buried so deep that we are not aware of them, unless something, someone brings them forth. In its odd way methamphetamine can bring our shadows out in the the open. You can feel a clarity, euphoria, hypersexuality, a superconsciousness. We are heroes, wild animals, superhuman. But in the end it all dissolves like the white vapor rising from the pipe. The shadows go back into the unconscious, and we go back to life, either denying or facing our reality. �

.beCUMing - CUMnected by Cupcake

Thoughts I feel subservient walking to please an older top. I breathe in, it’s shallow, my blood quickens, my pulse thickens.

Experience He’s more handsome than his pictures, rugged and older, the skill of his hands are displayed in the workmanship of the hand-hewn chandeliers and sconces that adorn the room. We strip slowly, chatting, talking idly about how to rewire a lamp, stealing glances at one another. He climbs into his bed next to me, naked, takes out a bowl from the side drawer and says; “You’re more handsome and put together than most tweakers.”

Thoughts For those who like labels, I identify as a versatile chaotic faggot witch. I do a lot of yoga, I really love kale. My sun is in dom top, but my moon is in power bottoming for the goddess. I don’t do meth because it kills you and poisons your mind. (Personally I use other, more natural drugs as my fabulous tools for escaping reality.)

Experience I got ready to leave his apartment not wanting to stay around for a drug fueled fuck-fest. Somehow we had miscommunicated what this encounter was meant to be about. But the look in his eye was so pleading, I decided to stay a moment longer. In fact I stayed a rather long time, aggressively fucked his throat, made him drink my cum, and walked away into the night. I think we ended up spending about three hours together that evening. I don’t expect to see him again.

Thoughts He said “I don’t do it regularly, you know, I control it, it does not control me, I’m strong, I do it like once a week, not every day,… I guess I do it almost every day… I’ve done it once today.” In truth I had nowhere to be. It was 11 pm on a Sunday. I got partially dressed and sat on his bed. I’m

not a therapist but we all sometimes need to talk. Ritual begins with conversation and when you enter into a heart-centered dialogue with someone the potential for magic is alive. I offered to massage him as we spoke. People lie but their bodies tell truths that their words fail to articulate. His body spoke freely of it’s pain. Bruised legs, discolored skin, that hollow look in his cheeks, it’s the legend of a body being colonized by a drug. A body that slowly losing its fight against meth, as the siren calls of its high pulls him further away from mastery of his own flesh. The signs, at least for now, are subtle. He probably mistakes them for aging, but beneath his flesh, is where the true transformations are taking place. His body is slowly being diverted from dreams and desires into desiring drugs and little else. When he began to speak about why he uses meth, it became apparent to me that meth is a magical tool that he uses to soothe his sorrow. The drug appears to be colonizing those areas of himself he despises, and in seeding their rule to meth, he does not have to address those areas of his psyche. As the drug takes command he sheds his emotional fragility, his sexual fears, he becomes the person he wants to be. Which is I take it, the seduction of meth. But the new ‘you’ is an illusion, the one calling the shots is the drug not the self. And when the drug wears off you’re right back in a world full of ghosts.

Experience The summation of the conversation that ensued goes this way. He’s a survivor of the AIDS epidemic. After he buried most of his friends he fled NYC to rescue his ailing father’s antique business. When his dad died he remained in that rural mid-western town until last year, when he finally returned to Brooklyn. Once back however he found a city that looked nothing like what he’d left in the 90’s. He may have escaped the plague but AIDS is killing him still. Just more slowly than the ghosts he left behind. His life story is a dialogue with death: his friends, the antiques, the meth, the feeling of lacking a community. His lifelong fear of cum may have RFD 167 Fall 2016 13

kept him from sero-converting back then but the drugs today are their own form of submission. The meth body both defies and courts its own death. It is a body progressing towards a state of ghostly living.

Thoughts As this man and I talked, I felt increasingly called to cum inside him. To give him a different kind of injection. A drug with different properties, the very essence of the potential for life even. During this interaction cum became something I could conceptualize as an active antidote for this shame, it took on new conceptual meanings for me. Cum exchange between partners in particular because it’s the sexual act without barriers. It’s desire unbridled. To me, the image of cum seeping into the walls of my ass and stomach, pouring through my pores as it dries on my flesh is a mystical image at the center of my faggot psycho-sexual spirituality. I am absorbing other men’s life. I am fed off their desire for me, for life. I am their vessel. Each orgasm a further validation of my desire, a further magical act reminding me that my love and my wants are worth exploring. As I see it, my cum in his mouth is a live culture medicine, a spell of healing only faggots and other magical fools embody and will ever fully comprehend. We need to wake up to the fact that death through drug usage is a violent extension of the AIDS crisis. meth seduces the gay mind because it as a drug is almost the antidote to the toxic shame around gay sex post AIDS. But it’s not the right answer. I need us all to stop doing meth because its killing us, and its toxic production is killing the world. To me those gay men who die at the hands of meth are being stuck down by the legacy of an epidemic decades after it was curtailed. In part I see this because the very physical object that used to be symbolically exchanged between men, our cum, has also been a victim of the AIDS epidemic. Cum (especially in the age of PrEP, PEP and AZT) can and must be reclaimed from post 80’s dialogues. While we should never forget AIDS, or not be mindful of future diseases, (Zika), let’s direct some 14 RFD 167 Fall 2016

social attention on the mystical magical powers of cum and then utilize them. So we talked, and talked and talked, and with eyes our bodies touch. till we seduced each other once more with words and I stuck my cock down his throat and pulled on his ears, and whispered to him of how he needed this. I waited for him to relax, and to beg, and to desire it. To want my cum with hunger. When it spoke in his eyes and his hands and his breath, for once more bodies don’t lie, I let myself go.

:::Magick::: When we are on the cusp of an orgasm when everything else is annihilated we get to be in our bodies. Bodies without clearly defined edges, bodies that bleed into those around us. We slide into something that is not quantifiable, or measurable, it is the essence the true root of what it is to be human, it’s potential. And cum is the vessel. I will pour cum into the mouths of waiting men; I will gladly drink from their cocks, feed me potential, feed me life. Placebo or spell does it matter if with intention we cum with our brother to bring them joy and strength? Let our cum bind us all together, in a communal sharing of sexual experience and appetite. And let’s do this without these hard harmful drugs because the truth is we can’t loose any more people, and when your fucked up on meth that commingling of energies feels tainted to me.

Thoughts Did that act change anything? Was my cum some magical savior? Perhaps, but probably not. It was just an experience, an exchange, rooted very much in my own personal desire. Drugs like meth make me nervous, and I often don’t know what to do around them but this experience felt like the beginning of some sort of personal understanding. There should always be more cum and less needles. More love and less hard drugs. meth is the enemy and we need all the tricks and tools we can think of to fight it. So lets harness our own bodies, our own desires, and let them teach us how to be together. Let’s have compassion for those who use it, but let us not shy away from hard conversations. I love you, but I don’t want to do drugs with you. I don’t even want you to do drugs. �


By Jasper Lawson


ove can be about surprises. I got home at my usual time. After putting down my backpack I walked into the kitchen. I was really shocked to see that Ben had set the table with white candlesticks, white napkins, white plates and two small white vases of red impatiens. This is the first time he’s done something like this since we started dating three months ago. He‘s been working as a waiter since he dropped out of college fifteen years ago. He had brought the take out Chinese food and the fifth of vodka that he always traveled with was right at the center of the table. How did this happen again? Dinner was a kind of guilt gift to atone for his last binge. He was supposed to come over last Sunday night, but instead ended up going out with his work buddies for a few drinks which turned into passing out at Tim’s apartment until Monday afternoon when he had to go to work. I remember the night in the bar when I met him. A few hours before coming to the bar, David and I had our final talk about why our relationship was done. I thought a nice, cold, dry martini would be a great reward for getting out of that rat-trap relationship. The bar was the usual, dark, smoky den with loud music and a few early birds capping off Sunday afternoon. I check out what’s available and notice that this thin, short blond guy is checking me out. We smile at each other as I move to the other side of the bar to sit next to him. He says, “I’m Ben”. He’s drinking vodka on the rocks. I don’t remember much of the “Do you come here often part” We both came to the same decision pretty fast. We want to do it with each other. His apartment was closer. (The sex scene— I have some condoms, how and why, first drunken lay). We had our first real date a few weeks later. As Ben and I entered the restaurant he stumbled on the first step. I sensed that I was following someone who was headed toward a cliff and not concerned about whether he fell over or not. The moment was suddenly all about falling, about falling for a man who had fallen for alcohol. Sometimes we come across a live hand grenade and instead of getting the hell away, we pick it up and hold onto it while closely examining the surface and know that pretty soon it will blow us away. Would it have been any better

if I woke up one morning and said, “Today’s the day I’m going to find a lunatic to fall in love with”. It was me falling back into a ritual, trying to reach and connect with a man who was falling, my father. We made it to the table without incident. The waiter came and encouraged us to visit the salad bar while he was getting our drinks. As Ben and I rose, he staggered slightly under the influence of the three vodka martinis that he had previously drunk at the bar. He weaved from side to side as he made it back to the table without falling. I sat there looking at him as confused attempts at communication fell from his mouth. I visualized the slurred words falling and sliding down a sliding board on the playground. I thought of how he was falling deeper into alcoholism and how my vision of a happy relationship was falling apart. My life had fallen back to the time of “Daddy, why do you drink so much?” Ben did not seem to feel the falling part. This was the way he wanted his life to be. He had decided a long time ago that he was not going to fall off the wagon. He was not getting on anything with wheels. We were not stuck, but falling. Our lives were in free fall; no one would hit bottom for a while. One of the bonds between Ben and me was the loss of lovers. His lover, Jeffrey died of a sudden heart attack at age fifty-one when they had been together for ten years. Ben was desolated as he drank heavily during a series of restaurant jobs up and down the east coast. From what I learned from Ben, he was sometimes the target of a few solid whacks. He was small, thin, blond, blue-eyed—jail house prey. Jeffrey was described as a large muscular, dark, raging alcoholic and control freak. As for me, Rodney, my partner of six years, had died of AIDS after a two-year struggle that brought out the best and the worst in both of us. Once in a fit of irritation and madness, he kicked me out of our shared bed. I then spent the night sleeping in the guest bedroom, listening to him sob. I was also carrying on a sporadic affair with Victor who dabbled in a species of homosexuality which involved hot sessions fueled by alcohol, Marlboros and hallucinogenic mushrooms. When Ben and I met we were both ready to connect. However, his other lover, the fifth of vodka was RFD 167 Fall 2016 15

an intractable barrier. My most treasured memory of Ben is the time that he was sober for almost two weeks. Because of a staff infection in his foot, he was on antibiotics and could not drink for a week. Surprisingly, he suppressed his self-destructive impulses and drank a lot of iced tea. One night we were sitting in the living room. Both of us were reading. I was sitting on the floor with my back against the sofa. He was sitting next to me and wearing a pair of blue plaid flannel shorts and a white t-shirt. I looked up at his hairy legs and my eyes and my hands were summoned by the dick print of his crotch. I began to gently stroke his balls and felt his dick start to get hard. He continued to read and smoke a cigarette while this was going on. After a few minutes he put out the cigarette. I was all over his small, but trim manly body. We exchanges wet kisses for what seemed like days. I slowly took off his t-shirt, his pants and started to lick his nipples as he closed his eyes and hummed. I had whipped off my clothes He was stroking the crack of my ass with his fingers. The plastic tube of lube was on the side table. I put on a condom and slowly rubbed the lube around and into his asshole. He was whimpering like a puppy as my dick hard as granite slid slowly into his ass. We both exploded at the same time. I blurted out, “That was the best sex I ever had with you” and laughed with joy. He said, “Yeah…that was way cool and deeply kissed me. It was never this good again. I couldn’t convince him to leave the bottle out of the bedroom. There was the day that I felt trapped in a Charles Bukowski story. I had come back from visiting my friend Michael who lives in New York City. Michael is another repository of my relationship histories and horror stories. He and I spent time commiserating about the difficulty of finding the right one. 16 RFD 167 Fall 2016

His last blunder involved an attractive, but clearly self-destructive coke head. Here I was at the tender age of forty-four babysitting a fully grown alcoholic in return for brief episodes of sporadic but heated sex. I had a long train ride back from New York to think about my latest slide into psychological head banging. When I got home Ben was not there. There was the faint smell of tobacco in the bedroom where I asked him not to smoke. Later as I get ready to get into the shower I grab my white terry cloth robe and notice the brown smudge on the inside. I blurt out, “Damn shit stains. Cigarettes, shit stains and alcohol. This is it”. In French, there is a beautiful, delicate word to describe something seen for the first time with profound clarity, apercu. Getting out was so easy. The theme of my parting speech was my support of his inalienable right to destroy himself. However, mutual destruction was not going to be part of my life plan. I asked for the keys to my apartment which he graciously returned. Just show me an attractive guy with a sordid family history and I’m immediately clamoring for a place at the table. History can be destiny. If he stopped drinking would it really change my life? He wouldn’t be anymore educated, literate or thoughtful. No new social skills would suddenly emerge. He would stop hanging around with the other slaves because they wouldn’t have much else in common. Did I want him sober? Did I want him? There was not a lot of depression and longing afterward. I guess it wasn’t until the end that I came to see and realize what pain he was in and how committed I was to self-preservation. A friend asked, “Do you love him enough to accept him for who he is?” The answer was no. A year later I received a drunken phone message from him. He didn’t leave a call back number. � Photograph courtesy Colton Baumgartner

Gay Tara by Leo Racicot

No one was as shocked as I was when I fell into cocaine addiction at a late age in life. Brought up strict Catholic by parochial priests and nuns, I was trained to be so strongly against drug-taking of any kind, even grass, that I assigned all drugs a status of “mortal sins”. For twenty years I exorted my students to be ever-vigilant where drug use was concerned. “Drugs are evil.” My zero tolerance for sparking up so much as a joint lost me lots of potential friends and made me something of a laughingstock among my hippie peers. A devastating affair with a famous, brilliant musician who was on every drug known to man cemented my belief that drugs did, indeed, take you, as Joni Mitchell sang, “Down, down, down the dark ladder…” Drugs were Beelzebub’s currency. Your sure ticket to Hell. Then one night out cruising, I picked up Robert, a cute German Jew, a darling blond Dennis Leary look-a-like with lake blue eyes. He took my hand, led me down to the riverbank where our instant kisses and unstoppable frotting lit us up under a midsummer moon. It was lust. It was romance. When I spied that trout flopping around in his loose-fitting chinos, I knew I’d met my match. Sex with Rob was epic. He became my man. The physical chemistry between us was so blinding, I couldn’t see that something wasn’t quite right. His sudden, repeated need to get going when clearly he wanted to stay nestled in my arms didn’t jibe. Six weeks or so into our affair, he asked one night if I had ten bucks he could borrow. I saw no reason to say no; my library job at the university was lucrative. He tongued me with gratitude and took off. Two weeks later or so, he wanted $20—then $35—$50. When his request hit the $100 mark, I asked him what was going on. Rather than explain, he took me to my bedroom, closed the door, sealed my lips with his finger, lifted a vial out of his back pocket. Cocaine. I could hardly protest before he cleverly set up some quick, skilled lines on my desk, produced a glass pipe. He countered my objections with deep, sweet, tender tongue-thrusts, showed me how to snort a line by snorting one himself. The tie-in between coke and sex, the drug and its effect on our libido was instantaneous. Before the afternoon was through, I was utterly sexed up on this exciting

white candy. It had me so horny, I could easily have fucked a tree. Rob and I were welded together over the next year-and-a-half by an overpowering physical attraction, by the love we developed for one another but most of all by the cocaine we ate almost constantly like a delicious meal. We at first controlled the coke. Then, little by little, the coke controlled us, our daily lives, our health, our family and friends. Because—we could not stop. And when the force of the “blow” took over my every waking moment, there came a day when I did not want to share it with anyone, not even Rob. Especially not Rob. I locked him out of the home we had so lovingly made for each other and though, of course, he tried several times to talk his way back in, I hungrily, greedily refused. I was not to see him again for many, many years. What began as a mindless, spontaneous jump into an afternoon’s naughty fun had turned me ironically into a raging, lonely, crazed and depraved drug addict. I was positive cocaine was going to kill me. What killed me even more was the irony that it was love for another man that had so enslaved me to a drug I could not rid myself of. The joy of cocaine (and believe me, joy is a very real aspect of it) is that it created the strong bond between Rob and me. It was something we did together. But now he was gone. The cocaine had torn us apart. I hated the drug and I hated being gay and I both hated and longed for Rob. I have never felt so empty in my life, not before, not since. I had been a strapping, happy, sexy (I think!) 238 lb. bear. Now I was a jaundiced, crickety, wheezing, spitting, drooling 128. Yes, 5’8” and 128 lbs. A cadaver. The craziness of coke is that the man who loves you is working his ass off night and day to supply you with the next hit and is, at the same time, helping you turn into something he now finds repulsive. I scared myself in the mirror. I had lost all that weight, lost my looks, my job, my home. I lost dignity, class, grace. My addiction led me, homeless, to Cape Cod, to Cambridge, to Las Vegas where it got so bad, I was eating food and beverages left by people on the street, sleeping in and behind dumpsters, nodding off in Circus Circus and the MGM RFD 167 Fall 2016 17

Grand until bouncers threw me out. Wandering and walking and walking and walking those blazing hot desert neon streets. It wasn’t until my sister, Diane, flew out for a visit and saw the wretched state I was in that she forced me to fly back East with her to seek hospitalization and treatment. I was ready. I cannot speak enough good about the good people at Gosnold Hospital in Falmouth on Cape Cod. Or of the wonderful counselors and nurses at E.I.C., a Hyannis holding facility where clients awaited a room in an area halfway house to open up. And I have nothing much good to say about certain places like Spencer House and Stephen Miller House where, as an out gay man, I felt such discomfort among men so straight, they felt threatened if a guy wore a Polo shirt. Those places scared me and so I repeatedly ran away from them and relapsed. And relapsed. And relapsed. Possible rescue came when E.I.C. nurse, Joann Schapley and counselor, Jackie Fossiano, an ex-Navy gal, both women “as sweet as pie and as tough as leather”, put me wise to North Cottage in Norton, Massachusetts. Founded at the height of the Gay

18 RFD 167 Fall 2016

Liberation Movement by Larry Schneider, a gay man, and Jane and Larry Gester, a married couple, North Cottage opened what was (and might still be) one of the country’s only programs of its kind—a major thrust of its treatment and care designed exclusively for and tailored to the needs of gay and bisexual men. It sounded like a place I could feel, at least, comfortable in. I applied and was accepted and after an eight week wait for a bed, the day came when I was taken there by my sister and brother-in-law. I will always remember my first view of the main building. I gasped as the car rolled up the steep, pine tree-lined driveway. Looming before me was one of the most stunning and at the same time most rundown mansions—birthday cake yellow with white trim. Another newbie, as we pulled up to the front door, screamed, “Mah God! It’s Gone with the Wind and Ah am Scah-lett O’Hara and this is mah Gay Tara!!” It sure looked the part—only picture Tara after Sherman had marched his troops through—a shabby, dilapidated plantation next door to tony Wheaton College that nevertheless held magic and

Rob (right). Photograph courtesy author.

dazzle for us queens—our own tiaras has been left hanging halfway off our heads thanks to booze and drugs. This was gay summer camp and camp it up we did. We took immediately to pretending we were Norma Desmond awaiting her “close-up” in North Cottage’s velour-walled halls, sashaying down the main ballroom staircase like Loretta Young did on Loretta Young Theater, or marimba-ing to and fro a la Carmen Miranda. Costume and drag parties were a regular event, and the straight contingent, most anyway, enjoyed watching us doll ourselves up, do Bette Midler’s Sophie Tucker joke routines, lip-sync to Streisand’s Sleepin’ Bee, line our gams up like The Rockettes to kick in syncopation to It’s Raining Men. And of course, who could resist the occasional field trip to nearby Provincetown or the temptation to cruise the woods behind Wheaton College for a little Humpy-Bumpy or to rim one of the many hot, horny college jocks to be found waiting behind a birch tree there. “Good eatin’ at Wheaton!” we used to say…! I never laughed so much or so hard as I did that year. My friend, John Dion, swears we camped it up so relentlessly, so defiantly, we lost all memory or need for mind-altering substances. Don’t let me mislead you—North Cottage was not Fire Island. Schneider, the Gesters and harddriving counselors like former cop, Joe Carey and his co-captain, Susan Martin, took no bullshit—all had such a keen eye for recognizing it that we scarcely dared breathe during sessions and the hard-nosed tasks assigned to whip our minds, bodies, spirits back into shape. Counselor Larry Dutra was kind but no slouch when it came to beating it into our drug-addled skulls that if we didn’t quit our shenanigans, we would all end up in one of three places: a hospital, a jail cell or an early grave. “Tough Love”. In my own case, it helped me so much to be surrounded by my “sisters”, all of us in the same boat. There is a shamanic, an almost animistic strength in gay men helping one another. I was not closeted but Rob, my lover, was. He had, by the age of 26, married his grade school sweetheart, Tammy, and fathered three kids. Being with him so long, I began to share in his shame for we had to hide everything we did, so terrified was he of being exposed. Cocaine fuels lust, erases the deep insecurity so many gay men feel about their attractiveness, their worth. But perpetually pulsating boners soon give way to perpetual wet noodles; within six months of starting to use, neither Rob nor I could pop a hard-on if someone had held a gun to our heads and told us we

had to. I came to the Cottage hating my own gayness and left there feeling more whole, wholly open to my fellow queers. The gay-based, gay-centric love, friendship, camaraderie of Cottage housemates, our side-by-side sufferings and struggles, laughter, losses and sorrows combined to create an alchemy of trust and real solidarity. North Cottage offered safety for gays and healing rewards. Thanks to the Cottage and those who shepherded us there, some of us were able to find ourselves, maybe not the material treasures our addictions had taken away from us, no, but our core selves, our self-embrace, or enough esteem that we were able to soldier on after our release. North Cottage made me love myself, or at least like myself more. I made there some of the kindest, most amazing friends—quiet, sardonic Frank Suits who I adored form the second I met him; I don’t know why, I just did. Mike Mac and Walter Dunn who, when my sister fell ill and into a coma sixty miles away, dropped everything they were doing to drive me quickly home. Funny, hot-pants-loving Billy Gaughan. Stoic, staid, witty Henry Wickes, an old gentleman who carried around with him a portfolio of 8 x 10 glossies of every one of his beautiful, young lovers, his “valentine” to the past. We and our gay and bi brethren self-medicated on each other. Our drug of choice became gayness. Those men and that hilarious gay Tara gave me their hand when I was down… I will end the story of my addiction with this— I have a very big Middle Eastern nose, courtesy of my mother’s side of the family. I ran into Rob downtown nearly twenty years after I’d last seen him. I told him I’d gotten clean, that I didn’t miss the cocaine but that I did still sometimes miss him and the friends I had made when I was using. Rob replied, “Shit, Leo! I love ya but—ain’t nobody sorry to see that honker of yours gone from the coke table!” Then he made the sound of a gigantic Hoover sucking the whole world in. We laughed and hugged a long time. A year later, I heard Rob, after a long night of binge-ing, had disappeared down a lone stretch of Cape Cod beach. After a couple of days, they found him dead inside an abandoned refrigerator. He had crawled inside to get out of the cold. �

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Substance Use and Consent Culture at Short Mountain Sanctuary by Femmaeve MacQueen-Rose


y name is Femmy Rose. I’ve lived at Short Mountain Sanctuary since 2007. I became sober in 2004 and practice a 12-Step program to stay sober one day at a time. I’m a white, queer, transgender femme who’s currently working on a doctoral degree in the humanities. There’s more to me than all that. Still, some disclosure about myself is appropriate as what I’m about to share on substance use and consent culture in sanctuary space comes from a standpoint of both privilege and oppression. During dinner circle at Short Mountain gatherings I typically find myself making announcements around two topics: substance use and consent culture. Ideally, a community would consider these topics to be central to any conversation related to gatherings because they concern the potential for actualizing and liberating life on the one hand, and, unfortunately, premature death or aggravated trauma on the other. In fact, deep discussions about substance abuse and consent culture occur at Short Mountain on a consistent basis. For one, consent culture organizes our process of self-governance. Secondly, a permissive culture around substance use is the status quo. Still, conversations can become very heated when individuals find their needs in direct conflict with the needs of other individuals or with the community as a whole. As someone who desires deeper communication and reconciliation in the community when it comes to substance abuse and consent culture, I’m committed to taking a closer look at this issue of needs in competition. Controversial nonetheless, this essay will elucidate what I believe to be a perspective that may offer our community ways to knit without scissors, so to speak. Diminishing the traumatic potential of substance use in our community is contingent on practicing consent culture. Active communication, rather than presumed consent, is necessary to ensure fair negotiations related to substance use in shared spaces. Substances, e.g. alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, have a direct effect on the people in the vicinity of a person or persons using substances. The most visible of these effects is smoke. Accordingly, we have com20 RFD 167 Fall 2016

munity agreements about where smoking cigarettes is appropriate and boundaries around non-smoking spaces. We tend to view second-hand tobacco smoke as a real threat to the healthfulness of a space because we can see it, we can feel its toxicity when we inhale it, and the medical industry has provided overwhelming evidence concerning tobacco’s negative effects on the body. More so, smoke is tangible just as our bodies and physical ailments to our bodies can be tangible. Other effects, despite their lesser visibility, are still very much direct and consequential to people who find themselves sharing space with people using substances. We tend to view conditions of neuro-diversity such as chronic depression, anxiety, cultural and/or personal trauma, and alcoholism, for example, as less physical and thus less real because, unlike a broken arm, we cannot see these psychophysical conditions. Unfortunately, this view results in the commonplace practice of slating these conditions as inferior to more tangible conditions when it comes to prioritizing community needs regarding wellness. Furthermore, the intangibility of these conditions renders the effects of substance abuse on people living with these conditions invisible, and thus, not real. This is why a person smoking cigarettes may politely ask someone sharing space with them, “Do you mind if I smoke?” because the effects are easier to see and, therefore, easier to believe. The opposite is usually true as well in that someone about to take a bottle of whiskey out of their bag does not politely ask someone sharing space with them, “Do you mind if I drink openly?” Failing to get consent from the people who are sharing space with them, the person with the bottle of whiskey is disregarding the potential for creating a dangerous space for a person living with alcoholism, a physiological condition. Similarly, a person choosing to take narcotics prior to a dance party does not ask, “Hey everyone, do you mind if I take this substance that has the potential to put me a state in which I may not be able to be held accountable, in which I may put myself or someone else in danger, in which I may end up unconscious and need to be rushed to

the hospital, etc?” Again, the future consequences of our choices around substances are so varied that they become somewhat unreal, or at the very least, imaginary in the sense that we can picture how the dance party will go, a picture that is a projection of our own beliefs and assumptions, a picture not fully assured. Checking in, asking questions, opening up communications, practicing self-accountability, and respecting boundaries are vital to consent culture. The person who asks if it’s okay to smoke a cigarette in a shared space is asking for consent. Using substances in shared spaces without checking in is a nonconsensual act. As a community that works to undue patriarchy, heteronormativity, ableism, classism, and white supremacy, among other forms of oppression, why do we choose to affect other people without consent in such a way? Most likely, it is a result of the cycle of socialization1 enacted by these forms of oppression that conditions us to behave in ways that, when fully combined, result in the objectification, normalization, and marginalization of other people based on the socially constructed categories of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, age, and ability. One aspect of oppression that is central to our conditioning is cultural imperialism2, i.e. making the perspectives of a dominant group seem to be both absolutely true, neutral, and normal, while simultaneously invisibilizing, criminalizing, and/ or ridiculing the perspectives of a oppressed group. A way to maintain the primacy of a dominant perspective is to frame it as either foundational, i.e. it’s always been this way, or dogmatic, i.e. it’s unquestionable, it’s human nature, etc. Similarly, the perspectives of an oppressed group are devalued by framing them certain ways as well, such as irrational, i.e. it’s emotional and therefore not a valid thought, or at fault in some egregious way, e.g. politically correct, short-sighted, non-traditional, deviant, etc. To be clear, the dominant perspective of American society does not support consent culture. Rather, we are socialized to take without asking, Please check out Bobbie Harro’s work on the cycles of socialization and liberation in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, Third Edition. New York, Routledge, 2012. pp 45-52, 618-625. 2 For a deeper discussion about cultural imperialism, check out Iris Marion Young’s essay, “The Five Faces of Oppression,” in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, Third Edition. New York: Routledge, 2012. pp 35-45. 1

treat silence as assent, blame others, and disregard boundaries. We enact cultural imperialism in our communities in order to rationalize our behavior even when it affects people sharing space with us. Even community agreements made through the consensus process at Short Mountain are consistently invalidated by individuals who cannot fathom the validity of another person’s needs to be equally important to their own, or of the community’s needs being more important to the needs of any individual. This inability to accept the limitations of our sanctuary to satisfy every need for every individual may be caused by our conditioned sense of entitlement, i.e. attachment to privilege. This is where things get really tricky. Needs are not quantifiable. They resist reduction. They can be vague and fickle and nonetheless they are valid. Sometimes needs overlap. At other times, the needs of one individual may align with the needs of the community but conflict with the needs of another individual. This landscape of needs is constantly in flux at Short Mountain. To this point, I believe the most sustainable and peaceful way to navigate this endlessly complicated aspect of community life is by practicing consent culture whenever we share space with other people. Getting consent means receiving an enthusiastic “yes” from the person or people you plan on affecting, directly or indirectly, with your behavior. Therefore, anticipating our consequences is important to maintaining a vibrant and effective culture of consensuality. Also, consent is not permanent. It must be renewed and renegotiated. Therefore, saying that substance use is a founding tradition of a community space goes against consent culture because it avoids the responsibility of renegotiating consent. Finally, determining consent means paying particular attention to the power dynamics between the negotiating parties. Is the person consenting doing so under duress? If so, even an enthusiastic yes is questionable. Similarly, affecting authority by denying a person’s need to ask questions before consenting, denying them the ability to consent in the first place, or punishing them for reserving the right to consent, goes against consent culture as well. Acting against consent culture means supporting the oppressive culture typical to normative mainstream society. Acting against consent culture is a form of assimilation into heteronormativity, patriarchy, classism, ableism, and white supremacy. Therefore, using substances without getting consent from people that you will directly affect in a shared space goes against consent culture. It is opRFD 167 Fall 2016 21

pressive. This oppression includes the invalidation of a person’s right to consent regarding their body, the denial of neuro-diversity as a physical condition, and the disenfranchisement of the consensus process used to steward our community. To this end, it is not a question of whether the community agrees on a zero-visibility policy for substances at gathering, it is a question of whether the community agrees to allow substance use at gatherings in the first place and, if so, what are the boundaries. Let me be clear in that the intentions of this essay are to create a consensual starting point for negotiations regarding substance use in general, yet with a particular emphasis on my current community, Short Mountain Sanctuary, because I do not have an intimate knowledge of the conversations around consent to public substance use in other communities. This may feel a bit heavy-handed, yet I believe well articulated boundaries can be very constructive to mutual relationships in that they provide clarity and a sense of safety, especially when determined by the tenets of consent culture. Therefore, I am enacting what I believe to be the current boundaries, according to consent culture, pertaining to substance use at Short Mountain Sanctuary: 1. Since no attempts at crafting consent for public substance use have been made within our consensus process recently, there currently is no consent for public substance use at Short Mountain Sanctuary because any historically consented upon boundaries have not been renewed in at least eight years. 2. Secondly, no one has crafted or renewed consent to bring substances to Short Mountain Sanctuary, whether to use, share or sell. 3. Therefore, no one has consent to use, share, or sell substances in shared spaces, at any time, at Short Mountain Sanctuary. Again, it is not up to people who need a space to be substance free to craft consent for such a boundary as they are not participating in behavior that will directly impact the physical well-being of other people sharing such a space. Yes, there is a question of accessibility to medicine, and discussions around this issue do occur, however one form of accessibility does not automatically trump another form of accessibility. There is also the argument that denying a person’s right to use substances however they wish is a form of policing, or an extension of a normative culture that criminalizes substance use. To this point, I would respond by noting that another form 22 RFD 167 Fall 2016

of cultural imperialism is to create a narrative that reverses the roles of power in a situation. For example, people who claim to be oppressed by political correctness are creating a narrative that frames them as victims being policed by people who wish to correct the uneven networks of power that produce privilege and oppression. Political correctness aims to interrupt and/or hold accountable the problematic language and behavior that maintains the cycle of socialization via cultural imperialism. To label as police the people who attempt to interrupt this cycle of socialization through conversations that determine consent is a strategy used to conceal the actual and very real structures of oppression and privilege that defend and maintain the status quo. I am not proposing that our community become embroiled in politics. Simply put, the issue of substance use in shared space is part of a vast and deep web of narratives that can only be navigated by the collective practice of consent culture. I am fully aware that this essay is controversial and, to a degree, polemic. My intent is not to shame people for using substances. Shame and punishment do not work and are not a healthy way to steward community; neither, though, is denying consent or disempowering consent culture. Short Mountain Sanctuary’s family meetings occur on a weekly basis and are open to anyone in the community. Although one may aspire towards a perfect practice of selfgovernance through consensus, it is impossible to avoid mistakes. The conditions we receive when socialized into oppression are not completely filtered out of us when we enter sanctuary space. Racism, classism, sexism, cis-sexism, and ableism, to a large degree the most common forms of oppression at Short Mountain Sanctuary, commonly marginalize voices in our consensus process, especially when they intersect. This is unacceptable for the process we rely on to make community decisions which is why many of us are currently working to make the process more accessible and continue to work on overcoming oppressive behavior within and outside our consensus process. I suggest that people seeking consent to use substances at Short Mountain Sanctuary begin by attending one or more of these meetings. Personally, I am open to creative, queer, and radical ideas that can suit the needs of everyone, as long as consent is the touchstone during our negotiations. Finally, I am grateful for those people in our community that practice consent culture around substance abuse. Thank you. �

A Presence of Support by Link

A story about creating a stronger structure of care in faerie space for the community and all that participate. As I am called very much to engage in this conversation all year in preparation for Beltane 2017.


n the garden. Where the faeries live. There are more then just flowers who talk. There are more then cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. There are more characters who live in the garden along with the faeries. There are spiders, there are worms, there are ants, and even sometimes when the fence isn’t strong enough an animal large can claw its way in, dig underneath the fence, and kill the chickens who also walk inside the garden. Or simply just walk through the front gate wearing sheep’s clothing. The faeries who live in the garden hold court. They are the law but unlike other communities, the community of the wolf, who belongs to a pack, the wolf pack has an alpha wolf as their leader. The faeries are a compassionate tribe, a smart tribe, a connected tribe within their community within the garden. They have no leader who dictates to them what is right and what is wrong as each faerie is included in consensus, and is free, to make mistakes and blur lines, and make choices that try to not to hurt the greater community. But, what faeries don’t always realize is that every choice they make within faerie space effects the community. Being magical creatures themselves they feel engaged to ingest magical substances. Sometimes with the intention to learn, sometimes with the intention to party, and sometimes with no intention at all which they have figured in their magical minds to be the best intention to suit their needs. Faeries have access to the most unusual plants and even some like to make up their own potions that mix and experiment when they think they are in control of the experiment, especially if everyone is on the same potion together. They like to call this riding the magic school bus. Has this radical nature to experiment with ones self on all natures encouraged a behavior to be radical? The faerie way. As faeries think this is safe as long as they don’t hurt themselves or others. But do they hurt others? When they cry out to their mother to be held and a flood of faeries feel compelled to aid or scared of the screams that come deep down within the faerie who

has made the choice to lose control, to find control, as they trust the community will be forced to pick up the pieces should they fall off a building and break their neck like Humpty Dumpty. Are faeries the Kings horses and kings men who are forced to put Humpty Dumpty back together again? Do faeries not realize the power of death? The power of suicide? The effect that their lives have on the community and even people they don’t know. Or do they know the power of their choices and all they demand is that they will be remembered. Cried over. That their names will be pronounced in heart space. That they will cause more trauma as they so desperately want to make an impact on an earth and a life they never felt they could fulfill. And do we support that behavior? When the golden thread through it all is that in fact every name in our community is powerful and is remembered and is celebrated and that all life is sacred. That’s names carry a courage, power, wisdom and are records of our journeys. Can we agree on that! That all life is sacred? When it has become so confusing what is sacred to the faeries. The faeries who deal with trauma in faerie space sometimes need to be taken to a quiet place within the garden. Or sometimes out of the garden. Is it the faeries who are responsible for the well being of other faeries within the garden? Is it the stewards cross to bear to make those choices in their home when it is all of our homes. What structure do these faeries have to take care of the faeries that lose control over themselves? What’s working? What’s not? A faerie who once lost control, revealed them self to be a wolf and not a faerie as others assumed. The wolf began to say violent things to the tribe. She disrupted an entire gathering. She called them vicious names. She provoked them. She talked to voices in her head. She seemed to have a demon inside that needed to be smoked out. She had written a letter to the garden asking if she could come back into sacred space. That she had changed. That she was no longer a wolf. That she had reasons to be there. Her chaos upset the harmony. There were faeries who came to her aid. Brought her food. Brought her water. Checked in with her. Brought her to another hospital. Gave up. Found something else that worked as they could not support this wolf in the way she needed because there was no structure RFD 167 Fall 2016 23

set in place in faerie space to take proper care. Being mentally ill was too much of a burden for too small of a group within a larger group who felt called to assist. Where then was the whole community? Why was it just a few that stood up to the task. How could there be a better system in place to take care of metal illness at gathering and outside gatherings so faeries don’t kill themselves? Why are we not as equipped as a hospital? When we know this country’s medical system is not as compassionate as we are. How can we deal with trauma as a community and individually? Can we have this conversation so that we are prepared a year from now. What conversation and responsibility do faeries have to the ones who come through their door seeking sanctuary. What qualifications do we have? What network of healers do we have access to. A book of names? Who does what? What resources are available to faeries who can access a situation and then bring them to the right people. Seems to be something that is in place already. But yet it’s not. What is sacred to the faerie who brought chaos to the gathering? Is chaos sacred? Sacred yes to her and sacred also to others as sacred is a word that not all faeries can agree on. Some faeries believe that the garden is all sacred. They believe the plants and the creatures, the rocks, the spiders are all sacred. Then there are the faeries who come to the garden to get in touch with the rocks and the creatures of the garden. To connect with the other faeries as they work and live outside the garden in other city’s and villages still having ties to the faeries who stewards the garden when they are away. They trust in the Stewart’s even though they don’t know them all by name. Some do. Others do not. They come to connect to the other faeries who also live in other places outside the garden. When the garden, which is always open pulls together to host a large festival where all faeries are given a chance to connect together with the land 24 RFD 167 Fall 2016

and eat from the garden which is good and plentiful and full of life and wisdom and love. There are those faeries who come to learn the community’s intention, be a part of its building process, have a relationship with woo, know what woo is, know what process is, ceremony, ritual, are strong voices in the community. They are tied into the narrative of the gathering and the gathering is tied into the narrative of their lives. They feel a responsibility to do a greater work, spread the lessons they have learned and the community’s intention. Then there are the faeries who don’t. Who see the ritual, who eat the good food but do not understand what any of it means, how it happened, how to connect to it or deeper too it, have no orientation into the space. Are shy. Are greedy. Are there to watch. Are there to fuck. Are there to try all the fruit good and bad and then outside try to make sense of it all or no sense or just to take pictures so they can tell their friends on social networking that they went to Neverland and oh boy what a ride! As everyone on Facebook has seen this place and maybe that’s important. Or maybe that’s the end of us all. In this faeries opinion based on Beltane the garden is still protected. Those who are called to be in the garden still rise to the challenge to get themselves there, which is no easy task. The call is the sound that brings all faeries to the garden, known as The Evening Bell (a sound we hear far away but do not know where its coming from. A sound within us.) We share that inside all of us, this sound. That this sanctuary, the garden, is still sacred and beautiful and has a great courage, power, and wisdom in the year to come. Which I believe very much it does. There are those who do not have their wings yet. Do not know the faerie way. Do not know how to walk on sacred ground but they are learning and the faeries who live there carry a responsibility that is too heavy for them without the faeries who come to connect with the garden each year to teach the new Image courtesy author.

children how to live in harmony within the garden. As new faeries come every year hearing the call. What is to be done? With all these stories faeries carry? Where can they stand in front of the community and share their stories? About love, about drug abuse, about sexual abuse, about fear, and pain... When a heart circle is just too long. Where do the stories go? Especially when they experience these feelings of wanting to run away during a gathering and have no one to talk too. Who will listen? This faerie has an idea. They go to the goddess. Faeries new and old come together to teach one another how to connect to the earth instead of just dancing around it. In an effort to learn, the good faeries teach that the earth can hold all their pain so they get barefoot and dance in the mud and from that mud they build a goddess shrine to love. They build it in the hall of their ancestors at the faerie graveyard, at dead faerie circle, at every dead faerie circle in every sanctuary and they learn that every rock has a spirit has a name and how to connect with those names. Their own history and their community’s history. All that have died and all that are yearning to live on and even those yet to be born. As we understand more about the circle of life. Together as a community. This space is called The Sacred Realm. A term from the video game many of you know I exist in, where Link goes for seven years during his transition into adulthood to live with the goddess. This is a space a few healers who camp nearby the graveyard at Short Mountain have created called Journey’s End. We invite all who are interested in this healing process to shift energy, build upon a temple in the woods that not many faeries know how to get to, navigate, or know is charged and full of stories crying to be heard. During the gathering faeries get confused. They have so many feelings and no where to put them. They send out metaphors to the dinner circle and ask others to engage more in the morning circle about consent because they themselves feel compelled to because they themselves have been violated in faerie space and have no structure to send their fear into. The only force to send your fear into is love. To build a shrine of love. To love what you fear so it does not control you. Does not make you hurt others. Inflict trauma on others and yourself. To think your only option is kill yourself. To run away to leave the gathering. When you have a stronger relationship with the earth and a stronger relationship with your tribe, which is a compassionate one,

and your tribe has a stronger structure to support you as well. The Sacred Realm brings about great wisdom. It teaches us our mythology as faeries as humans as a family. That we have a name. This year we use the courage we have gained from last year (you know the winter’s courage) to build power in ourselves to do this great work. To build a new structure of magic, communication, healing and to know in our hearts, so you can see it in our eyes, what is sacred and to know what is sacred by its name. Mother Earth. To be able to come to consensus as a community what is scared. But a word of caution to this tale, there are other creatures who make their way into the garden that the faeries are aware of. There is the wolf. When the gate is open. Is it appropriate for the faeries who wish to heal the forest at large to deny the wolf access to the garden? To deny the faeries who violate the space. The spiders. The worms. All those that are important to the life of the garden but have a bad reputation. The darkness that follows when all the light beings are called to gather. When so much spiritual work happens in the dark. The only way to let the wolfs run free is to be able to identify the wolf and to speak directly to the wolf about what is important to our community, what is sacred, what is lawful, and to watch the wolf very very closely. As one member of the community can disrupt and entire community. The wolf puts the faeries at risk as each faerie new and old chooses to be at risk at all times believing that the faeries can be there to help them when bad things happen to them in faerie space. Faeries are indeed there for each other. They are called to be there for each other. Through a web and network that could be more organized and therefore stronger as long as the conversation continues among the faeries about what structure of care we need to put in place and how we can protect ourselves the most from the wolf that lives among us. That we can protect ourselves from each other. That we can stop hurting ourselves and stop hurting our community. As each faerie has to ask themselves when they are in the garden, what responsibility do I have to myself and my community when I make choices to expand my own consciousness, heal from my deep seeded trauma, get in touch with the earth, my own story, the story of my community, the circle of life, and learn time and time again how to love myself so that I can love my community that much stronger and keep us all safe in harmony within the garden. � RFD 167 Fall 2016 25

The Politics of Drugs and Alcohol in Faerie Space: A Sober View by Mockingbird (aka Pistol Pete)


everal beloved faeries died over the past year in circumstances related to alcohol and drugs. It’s always heartbreaking when this happens, when a life is cut short. In each case, there were deeply felt tributes and expressions of grief on social media, but no one seemed to want to speak publicly about the cause of death, as though it were a taboo subject. Can anything be done to prevent such tragedies? It’s not an easy question to answer. Is it time to reassess the role that substances play in our community? Moreover, is substance use harmful to others, beyond the people who are partaking? I would argue that, left unchecked, it is deeply harmful to the culture we say we are trying to create. I’ve been going to gatherings for over twenty-five years and I’ve watched the pendulum swing all over the place regarding substance use. I’ve had my own pendulum, having been a hardcore partier for many years, on one hand pissing off a lot of people with my antics and, on the other hand, eliciting deep concern for my well-being from some really loving people. Now I’m over ten years clean and sober, a development that was both necessary and profoundly beneficial to me and, I believe, the people in my life. When I first got sober, I avoided faerie space for about two years, fearing its potentially toxic influence. At other times I’ve been at the center of the debauchery, but completely drug-free. Either way, I can’t entirely separate my personal needs from the change I’d like to see in the world. I’m not the only sober individual at the gatherings, and I freely acknowledge that there are other sober faeries who think that everything’s fine as it is. I also know many faeries who partake here and there but are, at the same time, distressed by the overall direction we’re going as a community in gathering space. People want to see the faeries as a big happy family where you can just be whoever and whatever you want to be. But this is a fantasy; disagreements will always arise. If I’m unhappy with the way you express your individuality, what can I do? Some would say I should practice tolerance or just go elsewhere, that no one needs to put checks on their behavior. This is fundamentally a political viewpoint 26 RFD 167 Fall 2016

that, taken to its logical extreme, places the primacy of individual needs/desires over those of the group. At the core of the faerie ethos lies a tension between free individual expression (“live and let live”) and the needs of the group. Each faerie pursues a path of their own choosing, and conflicts are managed through consensus, “a decision-making process that works creatively to include all persons making the decision. Instead of simply voting for an item, and having the majority of the group getting their way, the group is committed to finding solutions that everyone can live with.”1 The group seeks unanimous decisions, and any individual can block consensus. There are no leaders and no police force. Consensus is the only countervailing force we have to protect the group from unfettered individualism. Without it, we tend to fall back on the defensive crouch of libertarianism, which I believe is deeply at odds with the loving, communitarian urges that are at the “root” of our supposed radicalism.

Setting Limits Substances are only one manifestation of this basic tension, and the clearest example I know of is how we’ve handled tobacco use. The trend over the last twenty years or so has been to restrict tobacco smoking to certain areas, reflecting a widespread belief, shared largely by smokers themselves, that secondhand tobacco smoke is not only unpleasant but harmful. Let’s call this directive a “guideline,” a strong suggestion backed not by force but by social pressure. The segregation of smokers was decided, as far as I know, through consensus, and has been implemented largely through voluntary cooperation and, as needed, reminding transgressors (sometimes gently, sometimes maybe not) to take their cigarettes elsewhere. I don’t know where and when this guideline was established for each sanctuary. My memory is that its development tracked trends in the larger society, where smoking was becoming increasingly marginalized. But was it actually decided at a gathering, by people who were attending that gathering? Or did some kind of council or family meeting or, more likely, a series of councils or meetings, take place?

It’s an important question, because if we’re seeking problematic. Drinkers were (and continue to be) consensus, we have to ask who was at the meeting(s) segregated in an area called A-Camp, “traditionand whether all stakeholders had the ability to atally…the one place in the gathering where drinking tend. is tolerated.”2 Under analysis, the issues get thorny. One could In faerie space, marijuana appears to have an argue that there simply isn’t time to have a series unquestioned and unquestionable, revered status, of consensus-based circles at a ten-day gathering. despite the fact that it also produces secondhand Beyond that, I suspect that most people have other smoke. Crystal meth, on the other hand, has been priorities during the precious time they get in faerie the topic of many conversations over the years. The space. My experience is that these circles/meetings suggestion has been that while many drugs might be are not happening during gathering time, though beneficial or at least not harmful, meth is a pernithat was not always the case. Under the current arcious influence in our culture. It was inevitable that rangement, decisions happen between gatherings, meth would find its way into gathering space, and with very limited participation. This strikes me as, many (but certainly not all) agreed it should not be at best, problematic and not in keeping with our a part of our gatherings. But after much discussion purported communitarian process. At worst, it’s an and hand-wringing, no agreement was ever reached, opportunity for small factions to impose their will and no mechanism seemed available for limiting or over the larger group. forbidding its use. Achieving consensus requires a huge expenditure One faerie sanctuary conducted a (to my eyes) of time and effort, not to mention an inclusiveness novel and daring experiment by holding an intenthat is logistically daunting. As a result, decisiontionally substance-free Walt Whitman Gathering making often falls to in 2010. Folks were stewards and to those encouraged not to bring that have the time and or partake of substances When I first got sober, I money to travel to at all (including pot and avoided faerie space for special circles between alcohol), or to take them about two years, fearing its gatherings. The project completely outside all potentially toxic influence. At can become so cumbercommon areas. There some that no decisions was some grumbling, other times I’ve been at the are made at all. In these but by the end of the center of the debauchery, but scenarios, more aggresgathering there was completely drug-free. Either sive community memalso a lot of talk about way, I can’t entirely separate bers often end up getwhat a nice vibe it had ting their way, becoming created for everyone. my personal needs from the de facto leaders while, at For me, personally, it change I’d like to see in the the same time, denying was a great experience. I world. that any leadership exhad been sober for four ists. This phenomenon years at that time, and is known as the tyranny it was wonderful not to of structurelessness, and it can be seen playing itself feel like the odd man out. The conversations were out over and over in consensus-based communities. of a very high quality, and many attendees noticed But hope springs eternal in the human breast, a much higher level of presence and attentiveness and people keep trying to find solutions to seeming- than they’d gotten used to seeing at a faerie gatherly insoluble problems. Cigarettes might be thought ing. of as a special case, but what of other substances In 1999, I visited another faerie space that holds where there is far less agreement regarding the annual gatherings on private land. At the time, the benefits and drawbacks? One example can be seen hosts had young children and didn’t want them exat Rainbow Gatherings, an early and important posed to open consumption. There was an explicit, influence on the formation of faerie space, where top-down (i.e. not consensus-based) policy of keepI observed (back in the ‘90s) an explicit, prevailing drinking and smoking pot outside of common ing belief that not all intoxicants were considered areas. While some folks thought the policy was not equally beneficial. While the use of pot, mushrooms very faerie-like, they went along with it. and LSD was encouraged, alcohol was considered And I know of at least two sanctuaries that have,

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in recent years, adopted a “no visibility” guideline for alcohol, asking gatherers to keep their drinks in unmarked cups. Beyond minimizing the risk of broken glass, the theory is a little elusive to me. The thinking seems to be that this will protect recovering alcoholics from having to see the labels, but this is a slim protection at best. If all it takes is a Heineken label to trigger irresistible cravings, what chance does a poor drunk really have for long-term sobriety? As a person in recovery, I’m sympathetic to the intentions behind this move, but I have to question its efficacy. However, the one thing I like about the suggestion is that it asks folks who want to partake to be aware of how their actions affect others. I generally hear people talking about substance use in our community as a personal decision that no one else has a right to interfere with. This is largely a reaction to living in a nation where drugs are illegal and punishments are draconian. Personal drug use, if it’s a crime, is surely victimless. I’m extraordinarily sympathetic to this argument and, though pot was a major problem for me, I support its legalization in all fifty states. I also believe that the legalization of other drugs should be seriously considered. However, it’s one thing to say that using drugs shouldn’t be considered a crime and another thing entirely to say they should always be seen as always and unquestionably beneficial to everyone. Is it possible to take a critical eye regarding the role they play in gathering space? To listen to many, the answer would be no. Critics are seen as part of the problem and taking the side of the egregious War on Drugs. Despite my compassion for victims of the drug war, I do not think we can continue to show blind allegiance to an increasingly libertarian approach to gathering space.

Don’t Tread on Me Libertarianism is a school of thought in which “Your body, like all your property, should be yours to do with as you please so long as you do not harm the body or property of others without their permission.”3 I’m not a political scientist, but I see its roots going all the way back to the American Revolution. But “Don’t Tread on Me” sits only very uncomfortably, if at all, next to the idea that, as Don Kilhefner puts it, the Radical Faeries value community-building. In its traditional sense, the word “community” implies caring about and assuming responsibility for each other. Radical Faerie gatherings represent the kind of larger and healthier gay community Faeries want 28 RFD 167 Fall 2016

to create and live in: being visibly and openly “gay” in the widest sense of that word; valuing the gifts of each person and weaving those gifts into the fabric of community life; feeding each other literally and spiritually; recognizing that a healthy community honors ancestors, requires elders, depends on adults, and invites youth; acknowledging and assuming our responsibilities not only to the gay community but to the larger community of beings…4 Over and over I’ve heard it argued that no one has any standing to question people’s personal decisions about what goes on in gathering space. A collective shrug goes around whenever we have discussions about things we’re dissatisfied with in gathering space. All we can do, people say, is the slow and painstaking work of approaching folks individually and appealing to their better natures. Under this regime, we have no choice but to let individuals do whatever they want, whenever they want, twenty-four hours a day. If you don’t like the noise, wear earplugs, or camp farther out in the woods. If you don’t like the vibe at the spring gathering, come to the fall gathering. If that’s too rowdy for you, then don’t come to gatherings at all.

What’s to Be Done? We know that drugs and alcohol kill people – can we help them? My experience is that we can do little more than express love and concern. If the addict isn’t ready, there’s almost no chance of effecting lasting change. In terms of protecting the community from addicts’ extreme behavior, we don’t have many options, except to escort the offender off the land. I’ve seen this more than once, and it’s always preceded by prolonged, heated debate. We’re reluctant to do this sort of thing, and rightly so. In one such instance, the individual (who’d been exhibiting seemingly psychotic behavior due to a high dosage of meth) was ejected only after he started to get violent. Beyond situations where physical safety or health is threatened, is drug and alcohol use at gatherings is a net positive or net negative? Obviously we can’t reach a final verdict on this. Many faeries see drug use as a sacred act, an essential part of their gathering experience. But some Buddhist faeries, for example, hold the opposite view, that intoxicant use impedes spirituality. And many others might just be looking for a different kind of experience, possibly one closer to that Walt Whitman Gathering in 2010. I think most of us would agree that we want a “big tent,” granting sanctuary for each of us to have the kind of gathering we want. But what happens when

your gathering path infringes on mine? Do I have any recourse? As gatherings in some locations become increasingly oriented toward substance-fueled partying, many have observed that other forums for connection are being lost. What once made the gatherings special is seen as slipping away. I’ll never forget my first gay bar experiences in 1989, at the age of twenty-one. I was so excited to be out of the closet and finally meeting other queers. I was bitterly disappointed to discover that people

inherent in the use of certain substances. Not all drugs are created equal: one could argue that pot, mushrooms, ecstasy and LSD lend themselves to peaceful and loving interactions, but can we really say the same for alcohol, cocaine and meth? MDMA (Molly) is extremely popular, inspiring its users to have ecstatic all-night dance parties, often with huge solar-powered speakers. Would this proliferation of dance parties be happening without Molly? Perhaps not. As one faerie friend of mine says, “If there’s a

weren’t very friendly, and I felt ostracized at first because I had a long hippie mane. I was lucky, soon after that, to find the faeries, where I was wholeheartedly welcomed. This was the queer community I’d been looking for. But I’ve come to see how delicate our connectedness can be; it requires constant maintenance through sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings and a lot of really clear communication. Self-governance, the voluntary cooperation that is needed to hold a consensus-based community together, often falls victim to the inevitable chaos

dance party, I’m going to take Molly and dance. It all goes together.” Dancing is perhaps the ultimate expression of faerie spirit, but does that mean that it always gets priority over other needs and concerns? There isn’t a community-wide discussion happening about how many dance parties are suitable, or where they should take place, how loud the music should be and what time the party should end. Left to their own devices, Molly users tend to keep the party going at full blast, often past sunrise. Individuals with

Painting by Karl Volk

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objections feel intimidated, or their objections are met with resistance or even scorn. In scenarios like this, festive party energy morphs into compulsive behavior; judgment and nuanced communication are impaired. Caring for others and vibe-checking are forgotten. Those who object feel increasingly disempowered, a creeping libertarianism takes root and spreads, and even time-honored traditions around such things as smoking (once accepted as non-controversial) start to slip away. I had someone become livid with me at a Beltane gathering last year for (very nicely, citing a long-standing guideline) asking him to take his cigarette out of the inner fire circle. I realized, as the exchange unfolded, that he was quite drunk. Later, at the same gathering, I was brazenly mocked for being sober. As these trends continue unchecked, people vote with their feet and refrain from attending. More and more new people come in, looking for a party, and fewer and fewer people represent an alternative view. And really, how can we compete? The party is louder, more aggressive, more glamorous, more ostentatiously sexy. But if our purposes diverge, can I get the space to seek mine? What if my purpose involves quiet conversation, meditation, acoustic music, hearing the birds and crickets singing and being able to sleep relatively undisturbed at night? With the tyranny of structurelessness, those of us who would like to swing the pendulum the other way feel helpless, lacking any mechanism for political participation. Morning circles, which once handled a lot of gathering business, have grown smaller and smaller in some sanctuaries and often don’t happen at all, or if they do they are competing with boomboxes in common areas. (There was once a specific guideline that recorded music was not to be played in such areas, but this too has slipped away.) There is also a widespread notion that decisions about the gathering program are the purview of the residents or stewards of the land. Perhaps this is true on privately-owned land, but in all other cases we need to challenge and resist this idea at every turn. Let stewards retain the final word regarding infrastructure and such, but it’s the prerogative of every gatherer to be involved with decisions that affect the gathering. While folks from different sanctuaries may not all fully relate to the phenomenon I’ve described, it’s past time for us to engage. We need to make political participation in the gathering more available during the gathering. We need to give increased attention to alternative voices, 30 RFD 167 Fall 2016

to turn the sound down so we can listen more to each other. We need to take some of that Bernie vs. Hillary passion and turn it toward the politics of our own community. This process need not be characterized by drudgery and acrimony. It’s as vital to our community as cooking, doing the dishes and digging out the shitter. Sometimes it’s difficult to recruit people for such tasks, but those who do get involved always report that it makes them feel much more connected. If you’re into circles, have circles. Be creative—faerie activism can be fun! It can take the form of art, music, drama, mock demonstrations and various forms of direct action, whether silly or serious. Specific policy recommendations will vary with location, but a few ideas are: (a) holding “family meetings” during gatherings (and online ones at other times), where all voices have equal weight, (b) establishing clearly defined areas for specific activities (while negotiating fair compromises for central common areas), and (c) creating the concept of an “adult education” crew who are charged with passing on faerie traditions to new arrivals. Finally, I would advocate for maintaining a strong, vibrant and visible sober contingent as the single best thing we can do for our community members who need help with drugs or alcohol. These faeries set an example to others, showing that it can be done, that a rollicking good time can be had without substances. They are an indispensable resource for active addicts who might be ready for a change. And there are many benefits to having folks around who are able to think clearly in all kinds of dicey situations. I believe that we can all work together to see that everyone’s needs are met, from straight-edge faeries to occasional users to hardcore partiers to addicts in need of help, and my intention is to inspire a larger conversation. Please feel free to email me at alzor3@ gmail.com – civil responses are eagerly welcomed! Blessed be. � https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/seeds-for-changeconsensus-decision-making 2 “An Encyclopedia of Rainbow Camps & Kitchens,” http:// www.bliss-fire.com/Kitchens.htm 3 Todd Seavey, Libertarianism for Beginners (http://townhall.com/columnists/johnstossel/2016/07/06/libertarianismfor-beginners-n2188334) 4 Don Kilhefner, “The Radical Faeries at Thirty (+ one),” September 2010 (http://www.glreview.org/article/the-radicalfaeries-at-thirty-one) 1

Impulse Standing in line at the market idly checking out the impulse items carefully placed on display thereone last chance for corporate hands to slip into my wallet before I pay for my goods and leave. There, among the marshmallow critters on a stick, tabloid papers, butane lighters and breath mints are racks of little liquor bottles: neatly arranged in rows, dust free, attractively packaged and so convenient. The old familiars are still there, as though mentoring the upstart brands. I note that there are now enough flavors of schnapps and vodka to make Howard Johnson himself turn green with envy. Not even a wooden case of 24 Nehi sodas sitting beneath the grape arbor to keep cool on a hot summer’s day could offer so many colors and varieties of sticky sweet liquid to catch the light and thereby the eye. But those are easy to resist, I’d stopped playing with such confections fairly early relegating them to Christmas stockings and other people’s birthday parties.

It is the half-pint, pocket size bottles of bourbon that cause my arm to impulsively twitch as though about to shake the hand of an old friend, long gone but now unexpectedly returned. On this day, if I could push a button and atomize all of humanity, I would push it. Without hesitation. Thrust the entire useless mass of us into the air, to scatter into loose formations of drifting lazy cloud and then rain back down as something which might yet have use in some way. Which might nourish instead poison. Still, even in such a mood my hand hangs at my side, then slips away to safe constraint in a pocket, fingering coins, folded knife and a small brass disc with a roman numeral in the center of one side. Not today. It won’t happen today.

—M. J. Arcangelini

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32 RFD 167 Fall 2016

RFD 167 Fall 2016 33 Painting by Stuart Morrison Kramer

Pleasure, Anesthesia, and the Burden of Consciousness: Notes on Substances By Don Shewey


somehow managed to get through high school and college without becoming a drug fiend. Growing up in an alcoholic household, I saw the consequences of over-indulgence, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. Pot made me feel stupid and selfconscious. I dropped acid twice and enjoyed it; ditto ecstasy. But for the most part, drugs scared me. My first two long-time boyfriends were both a dozen years older and had already experimented with altered states to their hearts’ content. I joined both of them in concentrating on working hard, building a career, and getting ahead, all of which mattered more to me than getting high. Only in the last seven years have I found myself in a relationship with someone who’s partial to cannabis, who took me to Burning Man, and who has turned me on to some previously undiscovered pleasures. I am at heart an epicurean. I believe that pleasure is the greatest good in life, and in my sacred intimate practice I’m a champion of healing through pleasure. I’m quite attached to the pleasures in my life: the four cups of strong black tea that fuel my day, the couple of glasses of wine or beer that are my treat at the end of the day, my robust sex life, my enjoyment of music, and the occasional toke that my stoner boyfriend has taught me to enjoy. At the same time, I’m aware that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish pleasure from anesthesia, and sometimes I wonder what pain or fear I might be medicating or numbing with the substances I routinely enjoy. I’m sure I’m a bit hypervigilant about this because my father’s alcoholism left a strong imprint on my life. But I like to believe that I remain in choice rather than compulsive about my pleasures, and I’ve noticed that when I diet to prepare for sacred medicine ceremonies, I get quite cranky about giving up tea and wine and still spend considerable energy thinking about and craving them. There are writing projects that are important to me that I’m trying to summon the energy and stamina and concentration to complete, and it’s unclear to me whether my use of substances helps or hinders that. The constant existential battle between Living a Good Life and Getting Things Done. Much of my day-to-day explorations merge substances (420, poppers, Viagra, alcohol) with sex, 34 RFD 167 Fall 2016

which is different from the extended-play excursions (soma, ayahuasca, mushrooms, MDMA). One night I discovered that when you take a couple of tokes and stroke your penis, it feels really, really, really sensationally good. You should try it sometime! I made a similar discovery about music, layer upon layer of dimension and nuance revealing itself to me, whether I’m listening to dreamy drifty ambient playlists, orchestral music, or classic rock and roll. How did I ever think I understood anything about rock and roll listening to it straight? Working with medicine has unexpectedly become a major doorway into deepening intimacy in my relationship. Doing mushrooms together at Burning Man dazzled me—the trippy visuals everywhere suddenly made sense!—and terrified my boyfriend. That night we spent curled up in a ball in the dark in our RV remains a landmark of vulnerability and connection. Cannabis is easier and almost always fun. Smoking makes me cough, I’ve never gotten the hang of bongs or vaping, so edibles are my delivery method of choice. Once the brownies kick in, we’ll collapse into bed, making out, letting words go, discovering new levels of creativity and sensual pleasure. Getting stoned with my boyfriend took me one step toward plant medicine. Doing ayahuasca rocketed me to a whole other level. I knew several people who had been participating in ayahuasca ceremonies for years. I’d been intrigued by hearing and reading about “teacher plants” and I was curious about ayahuasca. Yet I sensed that it was serious medicine, to be approached with respect and some intention beyond curiosity. As my friend Bruce says, “LSD is movie-theater popcorn compared to ayahuasca.” It was only as I was turning sixty and contemplating how to step into my role as an elder that I felt like I had a question to bring to teacher plants. After a couple of journeys with a trusted friend in California, I traveled to South America to work with an indigenous shaman way back in the rainforest jungle for two ten-day group retreats a year apart—truly life-changing experiences. I’m not going to deliver encyclopedic information about ayahuasca (what it is, how it’s made, where it’s from, and how it’s used)—ask Google

for that. I’m just going to share some perceptions that derive from direct experience of the medicine. I can confirm that the brew tastes nastier than virtually anything else I’ve ever put in my mouth and that in the jungle setting drinking ayahuasca almost always involves purging. During my first ceremony I ended up puking two or three times, quite suddenly and very unpleasantly. I understood the medicine’s method as home invasion, sweeping through my being in search of debris and flushing it out, burning on the way in AND out—harsh psychic surgery. Some people experience light shows of sacred geometry or visitations by jungle creations or female spirits. I didn’t get any of that. The strongest non-verbal imagery that I experienced was a deep red energetic circuitry, pulsing in meridians and axes all over the room, in the dark. It felt like the lid had lifted off of the material world, so that even as we were sitting on the floor of the wooden maloka with its thatched roof, it was as if we were inhabiting the roots and branches of a large tree, not unlike one of Angelo Musco’s photocollages. I’ve gotten this to some degree on every ayahuasca journey: in the dark, I was able to jack into the energy system of a giant plant—the Tree of Life? The Vine of Death?—a massive, infinitely tall structure with veins/meridians of running light, pulsing, dotted, multicolored, like an anthill perhaps but coursing, circulating like blood. By jacking into it, it entered me, or I became part of this stream—the plants I swallowed being recognized by the master plant, the tree, the earth, whatever. I had the sense of checking in and being scanned, which I later could liken to logging onto the internet or an encrypted website. I was curious to observe this process but then I realized that if it were going to scan my explaining mind, I would have to sur Image courtesy author.

render control of it, get out of the way, withdraw my consciousness—which I was able to do, like lifting your feet so someone can sweep to vacuum under them. As my bowels started to rumble, I caught a glimpse of something I’ve never particularly been aware of: my own shame and squeamishness about shit. Purging in the other direction is less noxious physically but more awkward socially and logistically. I had the sense of my bowels lit up and technicians at work. Then I connected to my family history: my father’s colon cancer, my own rectal polyps at age twelve, and I got the sense that the medicine was performing an energetic colonoscopy and perhaps cancer treatment. Then I somehow sensed that the medicine was assessing and addressing my family history of heart disease, which my mother died of. It was as if I’d gone for a routine physical and got marched in for emergency triple-bypass. I chose to relinquish my body to them (not unlike letting technicians in Bangalore take over my computer and operate it distantly). I channeled the image from the movie Avatar of putting my body to sleep in a pod and letting them drain my blood, clean it, and put it back, with only the dimmest mental activity on my part. While it was happening and when it was done, I went through chills, the sweats, in my sleeping bag. And of course there were other things going on in the room—the shaman blessing individuals, the musician playing churanga—and I could focus on them for brief periods of time but mostly retreated to my recovery cocoon. At times it was possible to choose comfort, choose joy. After a lot of music, there would be silence and the sense of floating in the dark with these murky outlines of blue-green and purple light and people (or disembodied pods) sighing with pleasure. Definitely two layers of RFD 167 Fall 2016 35

consciousness. I found myself connecting the dots between the group sitting in the maloka, the hive in my vision, and every other “center camp” I’ve ever encountered—at Burning Man, for instance, or the meadow at Short Mountain, places for regrouping and then relaunching into orbit. I feel like I glimpsed the primordial origin of healing—the way the earth has healed itself from the beginning of time. The substances contained in certain plants contain powerful cleansing agents that purify living organisms and clear out harmful elements, flushing out of the system back into the earth, which absorbs them as compost. The system is self-contained and highly sophisticated. And this system includes everything—there’s a place for poison, beauty, bee stings, even shit. What teachings did I get about elderhood? Into the middle of the darkness our California-based host, a mensch in his 80s, read a poem by David Whyte called The House of Belonging that mentions “the temple of my adult aloneness” as the place that he recognizes as home. That resonated with me. I think it is the capacity to cultivate silence and fulfilment in solitude that constitutes spiritual maturity and elderhood. There’s a joyful recognition that my time on earth is coming to a close and my home is in that place between the worlds. I myself am not ready to completely give up the world but I appreciate the road map provided by those who’ve gone before me. And I see that the way one becomes an elder is simply to take that place in the community, to sit with the old dudes. I came back from the jungle with many keywords and messages from the mystery. One of them involved devising a regular practice for myself that I call Solo Stoner Sundays, setting aside time on a Sabbath evening to create ceremonies of self-pleasuring as a way of revisiting and extending my medicine journeys in South America. This was a stretch for me. Ordinarily I’d much rather get stoned and have sex with my boyfriend than by myself. But I felt like I’d been given instruction and that it would be dumb to ignore it. It took me weeks, maybe months to get around to the practice. I marveled at the creativity of my resistance. But I finally cleared the calendar on a particular Sunday and ate a small quantity of mushrooms I’d been holding for quite a long time. After 45 minutes, nothing was happening so I ate some more. Another forty-five minutes, vaguely starting to feel something, I got naked, went to bed, took two hits of pot, plugged myself into headphones, and I was OFF for the next three hours. As is so 36 RFD 167 Fall 2016

often the case, I landed on the perfect music. The Ishq album Sama took me through the first hour and change, and I went so many places. I struggled as usual with the naming part of my brain and kept trying to conjure “no naming” and “no choosing,” to get beyond my conscious mind—always difficult. But when Sama came to an end, exquisitely, the next Ishq set came on a little too strongly for me. I went to Mixcloud in search of the ideal Low Light Mixes playlist and found the perfect one: “Deep Sky Time - music for stargazing 2013.” Unbelievably deep slow quiet space music, ideal for the place where I was, post-peaking. Somehow I still managed to inhabit my body in this part of the trip. My heart was aching from all the gratitude I was feeling, especially to my teachers and my lovers. I was aching to feel open everywhere, including my asshole, so I brought out my vibrating thruster and very slowly worked it all the way in, amazed to be functional when also super-high. And I managed to have a very very erotic self-pleasuring experience, largely inspired by thinking about Joseph Kramer and how much I learned from the Body Electric School about merging erotic energy and spiritual energy and how much I use that every day, and just exactly how beautiful erotic energy is as a doorway to transcendence. At times my dick wasn’t hard at all. I was just going with the embodiment experience. I found myself entertaining lots of crazy otherworldly fantasies of merging shamanically with everyone who ever fucked or got fucked. Ultimately I got off dwelling deep inside the fantasy of getting fucked and bred and “not knowing where it came from.” It was an interesting introduction to that piece of shadow material, which felt like part of the blessing of this journey (along with awareness of the grief that travels below gratitude—how gratitude can in a certain way be an easy mask and a way to avoid other deep emotions). Fantastic orgasm. Then I just hung out in the dark (at a certain point nothing would do but total darkness), hovering on the verge of sleepiness but not wanting to waste the trip by dropping off. I got hungry and went to the kitchen for some watermelon salad, so grateful that I’d spent time in the afternoon making it, and it was so juicy and delicious. Later I ate a yoghurt. I was a little fixated on making sure my hands were clean, and my ass—I did actually take a shower, which was another ecstatic experience. Blessings all round. My ayahuasca adventures led to an invitation to join another community performing ceremony centered on a substance these teachers call soma, a medicine known as 5meo that’s close to DMT, the Photo courtesy author.

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active ingredient in ayahuasca, but that is smoked in a pipe and produces a journey that comes on within seconds, lasts much shorter (perhaps twenty minutes as opposed to five hours), and has an extremely powerful and unpredictable impact. The onset is so fast and the ascent is so steep that it can be quite frightening. Almost immediately upon taking my first pipe, I felt the edges of my awareness— my conception of “me” as a separate self—start to shimmer and dissolve. Summoning everything I’ve ever learned about breathing and staying present in the face of fear, I found myself almost instantly glimpsing the opportunity to merge with universal consciousness. I had the sense that this is what it’s all about, this is the essence of merging with the divine that all spiritual practice prepares one for, that all deep sexual exploration is a metaphor for. This is what I’ve been waiting for ALL MY LIFE— the teacher I’ve always wanted. And it feels like a payback for all that I’ve given—I GET TO HAVE THIS. My return from the peak was characterized by long bouts of uncontrollable joyous laughter. Among other things, it felt like what there is underneath when all the layers of grief have been pulled away. And I related to orgasm as the beginning of my life—thank you, Dad, for your orgasm that launched me—and also orgasm as fantastic preparation for dying, releasing with joy into the realm of consciousness beyond this life. After the first round’s invitation to “meet the medicine,” the next day’s ceremony delivered an initiation dose. Having gotten a sense of the territory, I was able to release fully into the experience of MERGING WITH THE INFINITE. The medicine zoomed me right up to a threshold of transcendence, and then it became my choice to merge with the sound, the consciousness, the everything, the nothing, the void. The return to that space beyond body/mind/self allowed me to understand what it is that makes crossing that threshold so scary, so challenging: you have to surrender your individual identity. No name, no I, no body, no thought. Soma allows you to do that experientially, not theoretically. You can get there with sex or meditation but not as precisely and completely. And once I surrendered, I had to laugh at the idea of that being anything other than the most perfect thing to do of all time. Having found a pathway to ecstatic consciousness (ecstasy literally means “standing outside oneself ”) through medicine work, I began to glimpse similar tiny moments of self-transcendence in my meditation practice, during sexual encounters, and in my sacred intimate work, shepherding clients to 38 RFD 167 Fall 2016

that threshold of intensity and encouraging them to hang out there long enough for transformation to occur. I want to go deeper into exploring the shamanic possibilities of plant medicine, seeing what kind of ride I can take through my body and soul into that threshold space, where pleasure turns into surrender, where something beyond this temporal/ material existence gets glimpsed and some opportunity for transcendence appears. My intention is to cultivate that nourishment.


n an excellent anthology called Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics, I read a compelling interview with Ram Dass in which he talks about the relationship between the use of psychedelics and spiritual practice. “As I gained experience in the use of psychedelics, I realized that I was accessing spiritual planes of consciousness. These chemicals can get you in the door, but you don’t stay on these planes like you do when you become adept at meditation. However, the psychedelics give you faith in these new, spiritual perspectives—faith which is necessary for later spiritual growth,” he says. “Psychedelics can’t give you a permanent spiritual immersion. But they can give faith about the existence of these other planes, and you need faith as a foundation for spiritual practices… Psychedelics can open doors, and if later you want to revisit these spiritual planes, having had such experiences will make it easier. But on the other hand, if the psychedelic experience is too mind-blowing, it can detract from your ability to recognize the spirit in the moment. Because this moment doesn’t necessarily have the pizzazz of the psychedelic moment.”


t the same time, there is a struggle in me between the pleasure principle and the spiritual quester. I believe there’s a link, but I keep giving in to the smaller quicker pleasures. I like giving blowjobs but I long for soul communion through mind body heart and soul. I enjoy drinking wine, I enjoy getting high and listening to music, there’s a big joy and glimpse of transcendence when combining wine with pot with poppers with good sex (making out, cocksucking, getting fucked). But I know there’s more and I’m not sure what it is or how to get it. I find myself chasing that elusive chemical merger. I sometimes feel out of integrity in terms of drinking wine, getting drunk, a little high, going on Scruff, and having sexual encounters that do not live up to my values of intimacy, quality, transcendence. When I find myself after midnight in an East Side apart-

ment with half a dozen naked guys who are having sex, smoking drugs from vials, and exhaling the smoke into each other’s mouths, I know I’ve crossed a line. I delete Scruff from my phone the next day. That lasts several months. And then the cycle begins again. I observe the adolescent nature of my relationship with substances—equating freedom with getting high, drinking wine, listening to music, and having sex. Wishing I didn’t spend so much of my time planning and anticipating such pleasures. Suffering the nagging feeling that there are important things in my life that I am neglecting when I devote so much time and energy to those things. I’m less likely to over-indulge in psychedelics or plant medicine; I’m more susceptible to the family curse of loving to drink too much. One of my key challenges is saying no when I’m perfectly sated and happy. My curiosity, greed, compulsiveness, cock-whore cum hunger takes over. But as with the fourth glass of wine—after the first one, do you really taste it? do you really take in all the spiritual substance and erotic nourishment? I talk to my friends Glenn and Michael about using substances and sex and wonder what I might be numbing. Mostly I notice that when I let myself Image courtesy author.

imagine NOT drinking or using pot or sex, a lot of sadness comes up—the sadness of deprivation, sadness of lack of pleasure, the sadness of the world seeping into my consciousness that I try to keep at bay. It does help me relate to the experience of people who are sad all the time. Is white privilege another form of numbing? Can I use this inquiry as a way to strengthen my resolve to do good things in the world? My friend Collin refers to medicine work as a profound exploration of consciousness beyond rational understanding. He suggests that I use these substances as a path to deeper understanding. Doing mushrooms in the dark with music is like taking a class with a teacher with no distractions. Ask a question. Journal afterwards. I’m on a journey to more competent navigation. Acknowledge that I’m an apprentice. Treating my life experience as a sacred journey. And the best advice I’ve come across is an oft-cited quote from the Zen scholar and philosopher Alan Watts, who said, “When you’ve gotten the message, hang up the phone.” �

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Acid Church: Using Tarot as a Container for Therapeutic Psychedelic Exploration by andi grace + Kori Doty


ori and I pile into our beat-up Toyota pick up, affectionately nick-named ‘the butch truck’, and drive up a bumpy logging road until the trees reach too densely over the gravel path for us to continue. We pass a small, fierce mountain river by driving over a moss covered wood bridge . I wander into the forest to string up a green tarp above the truck box, which is equipped with a futon mattress. This structure is our shelter from the literal storm - it passes as we spend the night in pitch darkness, briefly interrupted by brilliant bolts of lightning. This is where we host acid church—our regular co-captained journeys to the depths of murkiest corners of our spirits. This is where we hold hands and walk together through the swamp. I don’t know about you, but my news feed is regularly peppered with articles about the growing realm of psychedelic research. This media even comes from places like the New Yorker and CBC. The stories talk about how entheogenic (heart opening) and psychedelic drugs like mushrooms, ayahuasca, acid and MDMA are being used in clinical trials where researchers are finding tremendous results. The drugs are proving to be helpful in treatment of PTSD, smoking cessation, drug addiction and severe anxiety. Often the experiences provide deep healing for a wide variety of traumas. But here’s the thing that gets me every time I read about these studies. I don’t want to take drugs and talk about my feelings with a doctor or a psychologist. Those settings just don’t feel right for me. I totally understand why research happening in this way is important. It’s smart for many reasons, including but not limited to legitimacy building and pushing back against violent and archaic laws, but the rub for me is this: I don’t want to take part in these kinds of studies and I don’t actually know how to, even if I wanted to. So where does that leave me, and many, many other people, who want to access this kind of healing, but don’t want the highly regulated container of a study in a clinical setting? And this my friends, brings me to the concept of acid church. 40 RFD 167 Fall 2016

It used to happen every Sunday, lately it’s been a bit more haphazard, but the point is that on a regular basis Kori and I will share a dose of LSD (or some other substance we feel like exploring) with the specific intended purpose of holding space for each other to step into the swamp. I was first introduced to the concept of the swamp by a theatre-of-the-oppressed-inspired group called SWAMP in Vancouver (unceded coast Salish territories). The swamp is that dark place we all carry in the pit of our guts. The swamp is built of insecurities, grief, broken hearts, fear about the state of the world, swallowed oppressive narratives. Really anything we’d rather turn away from, but ultimately need to explore in order to heal. All of these feelings are challenging to step into. They feel swampy. Like they could swallow you whole if you let them. And as much as we’d rather not wander through the swamp, this is the place where the most profound healing can and does happen. We must step into the swamp and touch all the noxious beings that live there with gentleness and compassion, in order to heal our broken spirits.


here are many containers that hold space for this type of vulnerable exploration. Some succeed better than others. What I am here to offer is how tarot can be an exceptionally valuable container for psychedelic exploration. Often we liken using psychedelics to getting “shot out of a cannon.” Having a map is useful because it means that that propulsion, the swift and often erratic energy that can come from feeding your brain a neuron stimulating substance, can actually be directed towards the areas of your heart and mind you seek to explore. The way we make a map is this: we write down all the things we might want to talk about, in a circle around a piece of paper, and then we pull a card for each of us, for each thing we want to touch on. Some of the things we’ve written on the maps include: daddy issues, privilege guilt, intention setting, letting go of toxic exes, blocks in our creative practice and grief. We talk a lot about grief. The tarot map becomes a touchstone—literally

and emotionally. We can wander through the forest with one topic in mind and then come back to the map when we want to ground or explore a new idea. The cards help us utilize archetypes as doorways to explore particularly challenging topics. Let’s take daddy issues as an example. It’s easy, when someone has hurt you repeatedly—especially when that person is deeply wrapped up in your DNA—to demonize that person. To see them in a shallow or one sided way. And part of what psychedelics can help us do is look at things from someone else’s perspective. Even someone we normally would never be able to do this for. We can start to see things from another person’s perspective and soften our hearts to the pain they are also carrying. Tarot is useful for exploring the swamp because the provocative images remind us of universal concepts of spiritual wellness or challenges. they work similarly to the way psychedelics function: as an antidote to isolation. For example, if I pull a five of swords when thinking about my dad, this card will encourage me to think about the pain that I carry, but also the pain my dad carries. It allows me to contextualize the pain that he has passed on to me as belonging to generations of ancestors. In this way I can see that we share the same pain and I am able to gain greater empathy for both of us. And this helps me heal. The cards act as a doorway into a way of thinking about the issues we’re dealing with, in relevant and evocative ways. They also allow us to see how our struggles connect us to other people, rather than pull us apart. And, in my opinion, the cards energetically provide a container. They are an answer to a prayer for safe keeping. They provide holding that makes it safe for me, or Kori—or anyone else who is open to this type of exploration—to fall apart fully. Because we can trust the container to hold all the pieces, it enables us to melt away into star dust. if only for a moment. As a tarot card reader, I find this process endlessly valuable. Not only in terms of the way the container holds me, but also because using psychedelics in combination with the cards gives me a unique and creative perspective on what the cards offer me. Psychedelics allow me to step out of my narrow perspective of the card, which can often be stale or overly personalized, and into a broader perspective about what the archetype of each card has to offer.

Pairing psychedelics with tarot allows me to explore the swamp more bravely and it has helped me be a better tarot card reader. Psychedelics help open to me up to the medicine each card has to offer. And let me tell you—the medicine is tremendous. That’s a quick and dirty overview of how and why I like to pair tarot and psychedelics. Now I’m going to turn things over to my co-captain Kori, who’s going to explore with you some of the cultural history of psychedelic exploration and some broader context of the impacts of prohibition.


grew up in a church family, where getting dressed, loading into the car and hitting up at least one church service a week was a given. The church offered frameworks and pre-made rituals for holidays, grieving, celebration and more. As I grew out of that scene, finding my gender and sexuality being at odds with the values sets lined up by the organizations I had been stewed in, I pulled back from most means of spiritual engagement. That part of me was starved for some type of holding. I found parts of what I needed in parties, on dance floors, in queer community, amongst witches. I explored and tried many types of energetic exploration, healing modalities and therapeutic approaches. Finding a balance of tools, frameworks and teachers has been a process. A part of what organized religion offers is a ready-made kit; when we are on personal quests of spiritual well being outside of that structure we are tasked with finding all of the parts individually, trying them on, and engaging in a continual assessment process as to what works as we grow and change. One of the frameworks that has been a huge influence to me is that of psychedelic medicine. I’ve worked in harm reduction for years and that’s led me to organizations like MAPS, Trip Project, TripSit and Erowid. This supplemented reading counter-culture windows I had found in my late teens like Aldous Huxley’s Island, Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-aid Acid Test, John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. I started to see that there were medicines that people had been using as long as we have been people. I found theorists like Terrance McKenna and Alan Watts, talking about substances like psilocybin mushrooms having profound abilities to help facilitate mystical experiences, spiritual empowerment and human evolution. I learned about the Marsh Chapel Experiment and watched Hair. The pieces were coming together for me to believe that there was a well researched and documented RFD 167 Fall 2016 41

base of evidence that showed that psychedelics were of value to humans. Psychedelics started to be criminalized and stigmatized in the late 1960s. By 1971 the war on drugs had been declared. Backlash to acid tests conducted by Timothy Leary and associates found governments around the world cracking down and creating large scale propaganda campaigns to demonize the drugs. Clinical research was done that ignored best practice recommendations, including the ever important Set, Setting and Dose details. Researchers that ignored the ways that setting is crucial to creating a beneficial experience strapped subjects to exam tables in brightly lit rooms and let their “bad trips” in those conditions become the data that was considered. Researchers, including doctors at a leading edge facility in Weyburn, SK, had previously seen more promising data in the treatment of addiction and mental health issues. Much of that data was buried, disappeared and discredited in the efforts of granting a Schedule 1 classification to LSD in the USA. To qualify as a Schedule 1 substance: • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse. • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and related psychedelics are not shown to be addictive, are shown to have medical uses and have well explored safety protocols for medical use. Personally I think there are important historical ties to anti-war activism and the classification of psychedelics. During the 1960s there was much crossover between acid test explorations and the growing anti-war movement critiquing the Vietnam War. I have found in my own personal explorations, the mind opening properties of psychedelics make conforming as a good subject in consumer capitalism more challenging. The nature of profound spiritual experiences is that connection between the self, others, the world, the universe become more clear. When we see the ways that our well being is tied into each other, especially with the assistance of substances that allow us to see past the limitations 42 RFD 167 Fall 2016

of our regular consciousness, our complicency in oppressive structures becomes challenged. Prohibition doesn’t keep people from using drugs. It has been well established that the war on drugs has primarily been a war on people who use drugs. Prohibition keeps people from accessing safe and consistent sources, as well as harm reduction information. It puts people behind bars for non-violent “crimes” that generate profits for the prison industrial complex. The ways that this is distributed, more heavily impacting communities and people of colour, demonstrates the ways that this “war” is racist. People have continued to use drugs like LSD since they went underground, but mostly recreationally, and in ways that we have very little record of due to fear and stigma. Trip reports through online portals like Erowid, BlueLight, and Reddit hold invaluable data for curious explorers. Many people will venture into recreational experimentation without hunting through the vaults and reports. Projects like Zendo at Burning Man and the Sanctuary at Shambhala, utilize harm reduction practice and festival aesthetic to create physical containers where psychedelic harm reduction can be practiced. These spaces see the necessity of putting attention into the setting aspect of Set, Setting + Dose. These containers are crucial, especially for folks who have dove down the rabbit hole without preparing their own container, or folks who’ve come across some unexpected challenges along the way. Their work has actually been influential in developing clinical protocols for new waves of research. This includes medical facilities undergoing transformations with soft lighting, draped fabric, comfortable seating, soothing rhythms and natural features like fresh cut flowers. We can engage in using psychedelics with the utmost care and intention. There are many skills and tools that can help us do this including utilizing reagent tests, measured dosing, optimized setting conditions, and tools like tarot (to help us direct our mind set, intention and give us a reference point map to travel through our mind-space). We must end prohibition and trust people with the tools and information to use whatever substances they choose in the safest ways possible.


he potential for spiritual growth, personal healing and collective problem solving that these tools offer us is immense. We must not let fear keep us from accessing our fullest selves. �

More Resources to Explore: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/ the-trip-planners https://www.erowid.org/ http://www.bluelight.org http://www.zendoproject.org/ http://www.shambhalamusicfestival.com/about/ services/#sanctuary http://www.evolverlearninglab.com/products/ psychedelic-science-how-to-apply-what-we-relearning-to-your-life https://dancesafe.org/shop/ http://www.drugpolicy.org/new-solutions-drugpolicy/brief-history-drug-war https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_%28Huxley_ novel%29 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Electric_KoolAid_Acid_Test

Image by D.R. Bubba

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chrysalids https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terence_McKenna https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Leary http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/high-culturepart-1-1.3280226 http://thewalrus.ca/peaking-on-the-prairies/ http://www.maps.org/ https://tripsit.me/ http://andigracewrites.com/tarot/ http://www.businessinsider.com/magic-mushrooms-change-brain-connections-2014-10 http://www.alternet.org/drugs/gabor-mate-ayahuasca-maps-conference-2013 http://www.maps.org/research/psilo-lsd http://www.maps.org/research/mdma http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/ the-trip-planners

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Interview with Poet and Writer Louie Crew Clay by Franklin Abbott

Louie Crew Clay has a number of names that he has used in different circumstances during different times of his life. He is a long time gay activist and a co-founder with his husband Ernest Clay of the gay Episcopal group Integrity. He has taught college in the Deep South, the Far East and is retired from Rutgers. A new book of his poetry and essays Letters From Samaria was published this year by Morehouse Publishing. His story “Ben’s Eyes” is included in the new anthology of Southern coming out stories Crooked Letter published by New South Books. During the eighties Clay was a frequent poetry contributor to RFD. Talk about your four names and where they came from. 1) Louie Crew Clay. My birth certificate names me as Erman Louie Crew, Jr. Since my parents did not want me to be called “Little Erman,” they referred to me as “Louie.” My grandfather, “W. L. Crew” also went by “Louie.” He died when I was eight, but I remember him as a kind and proud man. Photographs and family memories and confirmed my memories and enlarged them. He was a bit of a dandy, and he owned the town bank in Goodwater, Alabama. He liked the Jewish Yankee who lent him the start-up money so much that he named my Dad by his benefactor’s first name, Erman. Louie stood up to his brother-in-law and other hooded visitors when they arrived late one night, torches in hand, and shouted, “Okay, Louie,” it’s time for you to do your duty and join us! That was in 1911, when my dad was six. He stood trembling peeking at the scene from behind a curtain as his father spoke to everyone saying, “You can be up to no good if you have to cover your face to do it, John, 44 RFD 167 Fall 2016

Herbert, Willie.” Erman was amazed. It seemed to him a miracle that his father knew the name of every masked man. As he grew up, he realized that his father had loaned the money for them to purchase almost every wagon or horse that stood before there house that night. The Klan let Louie be. Later Louie wired each and every U.S. Senator urging him not to confirm Hugo Black to the Supreme Court because Black had been a member of the KKK in the next county over before moving to become a city official in Birmingham. The Senate confirmed Franklin Roosevelt’s appointee anyway, on August 19, 1937. Black did not try to conceal that membership throughout the Senate’s review. He explain that his was a social, not an ideological decision, because no one in rural Alabama at that time would have been elected dogcatcher without Klan membership. To his credit, in his forty-three years as a Justice, Black racked up one of the most progressive records of any Justice to this date. In August 2013 a Justice of the Peace in Rockland County, New York, made legal what Ernest and I, with God’s help, had made holy when we married on February 2, 1974. I then legally became Erman Louie Clay. Thank you, dads, both Clifton and Ernest. And thank you to the Yankee who assisted Louie in starting the bank. 2) Li Min Hua In 1983-84 I was on leave from the University of Wisconsin to work as a “visiting foreign expert” at Beijing International University. The authorities gave me an ID card and a badge to wear that identified me with a “Chinese name,” one that used various Chinese characters that suggested Photo courtesy author.

how to pronounce “Louie Crew” (rather more like “Loooeeee KuRoo”), but a name likely never given to a single Chinese person. I moved to Chinese University in Hong Kong for the following three years and wanted a “real” Chinese name. I chose “Li” as my surname for two reasons: first, Li (Lee) is one of the most common names for Chinese people worldwide (behind Chan, Wong) and second, because it is the surname of a young colleague assigned to be my interpreter. For my “personal name,” I chose “Min Hua” because one of my finest students, a gay young man, was the most excited of anyone I ever asked to explain the meaning of his name. “‘Ming,’” he said, “is the same name used for one of our most important dynasties, and together with ëHua’ suggests a relationship that is like the push and pull of the sun and the moon.” I took that to mean something like “Louie Process Theology” and have always been quite comfortable with it. Three hundred twelve of my 2,594 publications have appeared as the work of “Li Min Hua,” some of them in places that had earlier rejected the same work when submitted by “Louie Crew”! An editor of Fag Rag, one of my favorite early gay newspapers, found out that I was the founder of Integrity and returned my submission with snide: “This is Sunday School verse!” Several years later when I submitted the same work as “Li Min Hua,” he published it. What fun! Marion Evans and Eric Arthur Blair eat your heart out. [or George Eliot and George Orwell if you prefer.] I had to register “Li Min Hua” while teaching in Hong Kong so that I could deposit to “Louie Crew’s” bank account any royalty checks made out to “Li Min Hua.” 3) Quean Lutibelle While teaching at Claflin College in Orangeburg, SC (first in 1971-73; second in 1988-89) I acted the role of Charlie Cotchipee, a white bad guy, in Ossie Davis’s musical Purlie performed by the actors troop of South Carolina State University, whose campus adjoins Claflin’s, both leading Black institutions. In Purlie, Davis gives the female ingénue the hickest name he can celebrate, “Lutebelle.” [Davis’ spelling of her name] My mother was named “Lula” and our household servant, closer to me than Mother in my early childhood, was named “Eula.” When strangers heard both names, some asked, “Is Eula your sister?” Mother replied, “Yes; one of us is white and the other black.” I was okay being just “Louie” as a young gay princess, but when I became of age and needed a

appellation worthy of a regal calling, I chose to be “H.R.H. Quean Lutibelle [sic] and thereby I memorialize both of my mothers. I also relish the low camp of having as tacky a quean’s name as I can imagine. I have never restricted my use of Lutibelle to the privacy of LBGTQ networks, but have sported it on my website, on my Anglican pages, and in correspondence with bishops and other colleagues in the legislature of the Episcopal Church and when I served on the Church’s international Board of Directors (Executive Council). As a member of one of the three professions that still wear medieval clothing (professors, clergy, and lawyers) I find that I have to be vigilant not to forget that. I have never sought respectability. I am able to give my best gifts as a professor and as a Christian by being who I am, not who others want me to be. God loves me, and I love myself, just as I am, thank you very much. 4) Dr. Dungo Integrity, the international organization of LGBTQ Anglicans (which I founded out of tiny Fort Valley, GA in 1974) has a strong chapter in Uganda. “Dr. Dungo” (translated as “Dr. Thunder”) is the name a member of our group in Kampala gave me when I visited in February 2001. I was in town as a member of the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns. We met with many NGOs providing AIDS relief, economic resources, education for the poor. The Anglican Archbishop of Uganda invited our group for dinner at his palace together with all the bishops of The Sudan and all the bishops of Uganda. On the porch to address us all following the feast, he attacked me personally for about five minutes and became so exercised that he dropped his notes. Of my U.S. colleagues, not a one spoke on my behalf. I spoke not a single word, which seemed to annoy him more. Another guest on that occasion who I did not know and did not notice was a U.S. conservatives. He saw me later that summer and came up to apologize. “For what?” I asked. “Have we ever met?” “No,” he responded, “but I was present in Kampala when the Archbishop excoriated you, and I slunk away afterwards knowing that no matter how we might disagree, that response to you is not a Christian way to treat anyone. Like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan,’ I saw you in great need and I slunk away cowardly. Will you please forgive me? And incidentally, for RFD 167 Fall 2016 45

many days before your group arrived all the staff worried about how they would respond to you. They knew that you were not just a member of the Commission but a founder of an organization that had now arrived in their church and in their city.” The Holy Spirit often Thunders, even more so if the Dr. Dungos of the world just let Her get a word in edgewise. Talk a little about your story in Crooked Letter. What inspired the story? During the summer of 1974, our first summer after marrying, my husband Ernest and I shared many of our early experiences growing up. We were in Berkeley while I was a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow. Fourteen years later, I spent the winter of 1988 as a writing fellow at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. I asked Ernest’s permission to let me serve as his amanuensis by retelling his story. He’s a very private person, and I was somewhat surprised when he said ‘yes.’ It must not be easy to be the spouse of a writer who is always picking your brain, but has prompted my “creations.” But in Ben’s Eyes I really am just his scribe; it is his story, and I was enormously pleased that he liked the accuracy I worked hard to maintain. “Ben” is the pseudonym that I assigned to his very real older cousin. I love the tenderness, the affection, the Suthunness which is thicker than sorghum in our blood stream. I married into a fabulous family. What has it been like for you to be in an interracial relationship while living in the Deep South? It’s a great filter. No one is accurately defined by her or his worst qualities, but racists are a big waste of time, especially those who think they are not racists but remain segregated from most that is “other” for them. Being an out gay and racially integrated 46 RFD 167 Fall 2016

couple has utility: most racists quietly step aside. We rarely have to encounter them. And we have never had a shortage of good friends in any of the many places we have been blessed to live around the world. For the most part, It helps to be well grounded if you are going to be around a lightning rod. I suspect that’s why most of our friends seem to be well grounded, comfortable enough in their own identities not to be threatened or diminished by ours. Well, that’s a flip answer, I suppose, one that has utility as I seek to avoid being a grievance collector. Nevertheless, I have written dozens and dozens of manuscripts about the nonsense that Ernest and I faced. In some ways those essays and poems work like an altar in my parish. I take my anxiety, my fear, all that is troublesome and try to leave as much of it as possible at the altar. I’ll limit my chances of renaissance, of rebirth, if I insist on staying stuck with adversity. The same is so for my publications. I love writing them. I rejoice when others find parts that connect for them. But I am not sitting in the corner nursing my wounds. I write best, even chillingly when I want to, long after the emotions which informed my understanding have ceased coursing through my psyche. I don’t use writing as therapy, though I respect its therapeutic powers. I write from the freedom of having been ‘healed.’ Most important is the sacramental part of our union. It is indeed an outward and visible sign of an inward grace which neither of is prepared to accept as solely our own creation. I witness that grace most convincingly not when we are nice to each other, as we are most of the time, but on those few but immensely disturbing occasions when one of us is his worst self. Again, again! The receiver of the worst self loves the beloved even more, not as approval of the worst self, not as manipulation, but as patient and mostly quiet trust that the goodness will return and that, even if it doesn’t, this is the time the be-

loved most needs love. I’ve never experienced that grace with anyone else. I have it on good authority that heaven is not segregated. I have it on good authority that the days of a white majority are numbered in our country. The 2010 U.S. census documented that whites were only 63% of the population (see http://www.census. gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-05.pdf ) NPR recently reported that more recent census data gives us less than four years before there is no white majority in this country (see http://www.npr.org/ sections/thetwo-way/2015/03/04/390672196/foru-s-children-minorities-will-be-the-majority-by2020-census-says). I rejoice. An anthropologist colleague said to me, “Louie, there’s no such thing as race, just breeding communities with unstable boundaries, and you and Ernest blast even that notion to smithereens.” I grieve for those who have not abandoned white supremacy. It’s an horrendous limitation to a full life. Talk about your work in founding Integrity and opening up the Episcopal church to full inclusion of LGBTQ people. The best answer to this one is the 7-1/2-minute video retrospective about Ernest and me aired at the last General Convention of The Episcopal Church (Summer of 2015). https://youtu.be/ ZiQNxdAn8sQ?t=251. When we founded Integrity, Ernest and I never in our wildest imaginings thought that we would live to see the changes that have followed planting that tiny seed. What a blessing to live to see them. I am often embarrassed to receive so much adulation as the founder. Actually the organization is still affounding, and from the beginning much of the hard work and the envisioning was shared with a multitude of people. I merely stood in the Holy Spirit’s path and got Photos courtesy author.

taken for a Jonah-like whale ride. How do you experience being older? What are the challenges and what are the rewards? Last September while I was walking in the park, my stomach started to inflate like a volley ball being pumped up with slow equipment designed for a bicycle tire. I called my doctor to move up my appointment set for the following week. No, you are going to the hospital this very minute. I’ll see you there. Surgeons removed 1-1/2 feet of my intestine, to remove all the gangrene. A week later I moved from the hospital to a nursing home where I spent a month. Quietly I thanked God for 78 years of an incredible life and said that I was ready. I was. Few on the planet have as many blessings as I routinely experience. I rejoiced in my new spiritual comfort when I told Ernest. He, the bedrock of strength in our union, was not comforted at all. “But I need you,” he said. “You’ll always have the best part. My love is eternal and will not fade,” I replied. “No. That’s not enough. I want you.” After he had gone back to our home, I could not sleep, though I was weak and exhausted. Around three o’clock I would have smacked my forehead if I had had the strength: “How very selfish of me,” I told God. “I am not ready, God. I am not only loved, but needed.” “Please forgive me,” I asked when I told Ernest. “Of course, you were forgiven before you asked. I’m the one who’s selfish, and I love you very much.” Browning’s Rabbi Ben Ezra said it better than either Ernest or I can: “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.” �

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Excerpts from “Riding with the Spongs in New York City’s Pride Parade” [1993] by Louie Crew Clay

At 42nd Street a man dressed as a fairy, complete with wings that shimmered when he stood tall in his ballet shoes, flitted over to Jack, glitter all over his face, completely in character, tears pouring out of his eyes and said, “We made big posters quoting your book in the Rochester parade and you moved thousands. Thank you, Bishop, thank you, thank you.” Jack usually seems quite at ease with media, and I have sat with him and Christine in scores of other LGBTQ venues, and they have never lost their cool, have always been gracious and welcoming. “Louie, I have never been in a parade before. I don’t know how to act.” “Louie can teach you,” Kim responded, with his VCR aloft. “He milks the crowd all the way.” Jack remained clumsy, but the crowd did not hold back. They loved the two of them…. “If anyone had told me twenty years ago that today I would be riding in a gay pride parade, I would have told him ‘You’re madder than hell,’” Jack muttered, still in utter amazement at the crowd. “Bishop, I’m [a prominent theologian] and I want to thank you for being with us today!” the barechested brother said out of breath, as he jogged to catch up with us in this pilgrimage.

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“Bishop Spong! I’m rector at …” Through the afternoon at least fifty others priests came over from the sidewalk to speak to him and thank him for being there, giving them his name. Just before we reached Marble Collegiate, a barebreasted lesbian appeared from out of nowhere and asked for a blessing. “Bless you,” he said, and she moved away. He said quietly to Christine, “I’m more conservative than I thought I was.” We all blushed as a new round of cheers and claps went up from the crowd. “Thank you, Bishop! Thank you!” An embarrassed sissy rushed to the side of the car and said, “Oh Bishop Spong, you have to understand that we gay people have such a great need for approval.” “I have not the least problem of all with that,” Bishop Spong assured him. “Every human being needs approval. Even we bishops need approval, and we know how hard it is to get it sometimes”…. At the Stonewall Inn, a black male, much like some of the original drag-queens, was wildly drunk and read out loudly from the side of the car, “Bishop John S. Spong and Christine Spong.” Someone else shouted out, “I’m glad you’re here, Bishop,” and the drunk shouted, not in mockery but in celebration, “I’m a bishop too!” “I’m glad you’re here too,” Jack said.

Raymond Luczak Interviewed by Franklin Abbott

Raymond Luczak responds to Franklin Abbott’s questions … Untitled excerpts from The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips (Squares & Rebels) follow after the interview. When did you begin to write poetry and why is it important to you? The year was 1977, and I was about to turn twelve. My speech therapist gave me homework in which I had to write two limericks, a five-line poem that revolves around two end-rhymes; she apparently believed that if I paid close attention to rhyme, it’d help my pronunciation. The very next day my grandmother suddenly died of a stroke. All that week my hearing family—there were nine of us kids, and I was number seven and the only one deaf—were in a daze. No one explained to me what happened to Grandma: what was death, really? What exactly was a stroke? What caused it? Why did she look so strange in that open casket? It was as if they’d assumed I could overhear everything and understand what was going on. Then on Sunday I Photograph by Andrew Bertke

realized I hadn’t done my speech homework, which was due the next day. What to write about? Because it was close to Halloween, I decided to try writing about a witch in a ditch. Something inside me snapped. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but I intuitively understood that writing was going to be my way of communicating in a world where I’d long felt orphaned within my own hearing family. What is your creative process like? Do you have set rituals? Do you write everyday? How is it different when you write poetry than prose? I don’t have a set of rituals when it comes to writing. When I am working on a long-form project like a novel or a full-length play, I tend to write every day until the first draft is done, and then I’ll go through it fairly quickly for its second rewrite as long as it’s still fresh in my mind. After that, my rewrites tend to take longer to finish. As for short-term stuff like poetry, I tend to write in intense spurts, usually centering around a specific theme or subject, until it becomes a full-length collection. I carve out poems RFD 167 Fall 2016 49

and submit them until I get enough published to entice the interest of prospective publishers. Usually a few years pass before I rework the book as a whole, usually cutting weaker poems, adding new ones, and submitting the new poems. A book of poetry is always a malleable thing until I feel done with it. Prose and poetry are very different in the kinds of concentration they require. I can’t live without either.

tain hearing gardener. I didn’t know whether I should write about him, and if I did, how I should write. But when I reconnected with Whitman and researched his life prior to writing the poem “America’s First Coming Out,” I immediately saw that he, too, was a man of earth. What changed everything was coming across a spectacular quote in a letter Oscar Wilde had written to a gay friend after having met the poet: “I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips.” The prospect of such a startling title was almost like being Why is Walt Whitman so important to you? given permission to write about my unrequited affecWhat was it like to be in relationship with his tions for the gardener, and for Whitman himself. work as you wrote The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still Researching the intimate aspects of his life and on My Lips? writing stanzas as responses to the things I learned was like a homecoming. I saw so plainly how he’d Because Whitman had never been taught in my have maintained multiple identities as a gay man high school or college, I had no particular precontoday: a faerie, a bear, a daddy, and so on. How he ceived notions about Whitman; only that he was a came out as a gay man, however discreetly as he’d poet whose boyfriend was done in the first few editions a streetcar conductor. (This of Leaves of Grass, lent voice fact I learned in college from to a new vein of American a friend of mine.) I don’t poetry that hasn’t stopped We are much more remember which edition of spouting since. Falling in than wheelchairs, Leaves of Grass I’d read for the love with a certain stranger hearing aids, canes, first time, but after plodding in New Orleans—history through his lugubrious introdoesn’t give us his name— oxygen tanks, and duction, I was like, “Okay. I had inspired Whitman to service animals. We get it.” Then I read his opening break free of the American are you, and you are us. shot “Song of Myself.” I went, awe of the traditional British There is no separation “Whoa!” The poet had conpoets of the day and truly jured a palpable vision of what sing not only of physical and between you and me. America could be, and after emotional pleasures but also having read Allen Ginsberg’s of what America should be. Howl prior to Whitman, I Through his work and life, saw plainly how a poet could be directly influenced he demonstrated that by sharing words and emoand yet remain distinct from his predecessors. I’d tions from deep within, we all can connect and find never spotted that kind of transparent influence in a a home of our own. That’s a powerful lesson, and writer’s work before, so that was a revelation. that’s why he still resonates today. As long as we By the time I graduated from college, though, continue to feel orphaned among those who are I had become enamored with the New Formalist supposed to give us unconditional love and accepmovement. I was besotted with the challenges of tance, we’ll always need people like Walt Whitman. writing poems via traditional forms in the colloquial tongue. More than a decade later, when I began to Tell us a little about being a queer disability research various developments in Western poetry for activist. What was it like to create QDA: A Queer my book How to Kill Poetry, Walt Whitman returned Disability Anthology? to my consciousness. In hindsight, he’d always been there; just waiting for the right moment to reveal First off, I’ve never seen myself as a traditional himself in ways I hadn’t anticipated when I first read activist, as in marching in the streets, shouting Leaves of Grass. But once he arrived, there was no slogans, carrying protest signs, and all that even turning him away. His shadow had finally crossed though I’ve done those things during the 1980s. I mine. don’t deny the value of these public demonstrations; When I began writing How to Kill Poetry, I was in fact, they have great value in spotlighting the still in the throes of feeling an intense ache for a cerinjustices in our lives. I don’t think of myself as an 50 RFD 167 Fall 2016

activist at all, but if I am known as such, it’s because I believe that in order to enable hearing (and usually heterosexual) people to see me (and anyone different from them) as a human being, I have to try living in the most honest way possible as well as help make the world a better place. That’s why I believe in promoting awareness of what it means to be a Deaf LGBT person through my work as well as publishing the works of others who are also queer and/or disabled. If I can make a positive difference in the lives of a few so they in turn can similarly affect others, then my efforts will have been worth such a ripple effect. For a long time, I had thought about editing an anthology about the queer disability community but what stopped me was the fact that I am Deaf. “Wait,” you might think, “deafness is a disability.” It is, and it isn’t. If you notice how the word “Deaf” has been capitalized, it is to denote the fact that sign language is primarily used to communicate; the lowercase “deaf” indicates that sign language is not used as a communication mode but speech is. Being Deaf means being part of a cultural community with an incredibly rich sign language all its own; being deaf means a medical focus on what’s wrong with our ears. (The history of doctors trying to fix our broken ears is eerily similar to how our medical forbears had tried to fix our sexual orientations, usually with truly barbaric methods.) Back to why I had been initially hesitant to edit an anthology featuring queer disabled folks: I’ve never subscribed to the pathological view of deafness (or disability, for that matter), but I was worried that if I did edit such a book featuring disabled writers, I might be saying that I saw myself as disabled and not part of the Deaf community. I certainly don’t see myself as disabled, but as long as audism (discrimination against deaf people due to the so-called superiority of fully functioning ears) exists, I will be seen as disabled in the hearing world. Moreover, if you came to a Deaf party and didn’t know Sign, who’s more disabled—you or me? You, of course! I never feel disabled in a Deaf party. Because I have complete language access, I feel equal to everyone there, but you would feel lost. That’s how I feel sometimes at hearing bars where there’s loud music or dim lighting, all of which make it difficult for me to lipread. (Hint: if you do happen to meet me in a bar, ask if I’d like to move to a quieter spot with better lighting before we start conversing. Such a small question like that will do wonders for us.) I’ve long noticed that in spite of their admirable attempts to be more inclusive and accessible at

Pride festivals, the able-bodied LGBT community was still ableist in many ways. So when I noticed that the most recent anthology on the topic was published in 2003, I realized that the time was very ripe for a look from the inside. I was keen on “hearing” what it is like to be queer and disabled in the year of 2015, and the quality of submissions was so good that the book came together very quickly. I’m very proud that QDA has helped foster a sense of community among those who are queer and disabled. That’s vitally important. What are some of the primary challenges that queer disabled people face in queer communities? What can queer communities do to become more accepting of and helpful to queer people with disabilities? As it’s unfair to make generalizations about disability when there are so many kinds of disabilities, I don’t feel comfortable in making proclamations about their specific needs. What I would suggest, however, is a change of attitude. Instead of deciding for us what our accessibility needs should be, ask us first what we need. Do not trivialize our requests; you may not realize how many of us have constantly tried to accommodate your able-bodied (and hearing) world. Perhaps the best way to help us is to change fundamentally how you, the able-bodied, view us. We are much more than wheelchairs, hearing aids, canes, oxygen tanks, and service animals. We are you, and you are us. There is no separation between you and me. Uh-huh. Stop pretending that you’re not one of us, because let’s face it, you can be disabled in a second due to an accident. If you’d like the world to be kinder to you should you become suddenly disabled at some point, start now—it’s good karma. Do not pity us or try to overhelp. Show compassion with acknowledgment of our access needs and a willingness to help when asked. Don’t keep us at arm’s length. Ask us out on dates! And a lot of us are horny, you know. It’s also the same reason why so many of us ablebodied folks have come out as LGBT (or faeries, come to think of it) to others today so that future generations won’t have to endure as much crap like we did. I am optimistic that in spite of the Republican Party’s relentless attempts to kill off our right to live openly as queer folks, we will eventually live in a world where it won’t be a big deal for an able-bodied person to be openly in love with, say, a woman who uses canes to walk, or a transman who needs a power chair to get around, or a blind woman RFD 167 Fall 2016 51

who is married and yet in a polyamorous relationship with others, or a bearded man with cerebral palsy who loves to wear skirts, and so on. Many disabled people are tired of being seen as nonsexual. In QDA, Ashley Volion says in her poem “F.U.C.K.”: The strong woman in me says back the fuck up See the touch I yearn for does not see the “brave disabled girl” Not even woman because in those moments, I am not a woman to you The touch I yearn for is fiery red … We—particularly those who are able-bodied—need to stop limiting ourselves when we seek to love and connect with others. I have always loved radical faeries because they are resiliently and nakedly human in the best sense; always thinking outside the box is what makes each person infinitely more interesting than the so-called mainstream LGBT folks. Societal changes in attitude required for the able-bodied to accept the disabled as true equals that they are won’t happen overnight; ableism is still too entrenched in our mainstream culture. (If you want to examine the effects of ableism, researching “inspiration porn” is a good start.) How does the interplay of being both queer and Deaf inform your writing and your vision? While being gay and Deaf have certainly informed how I see the world, I don’t consciously think about these identities when I write about other things. It’s hard to dissect my own writing within that framework, but I could say that being Deaf has enabled me to be more sensitive not only to how people interact with each other in terms of body language and emotion but to imagine how hearing people talk, and that being gay has made me more compassionate toward others who aren’t of the hearing, white, heterosexual, Republican, and Christian persuasion, as in my own family and the people I once knew growing up in a small town. My life has been made richer as a result. For a long time not feeling accepted and loved as I was within my own hearing family caused me a great deal of pain, but in hindsight, I realize that even though I wasn’t truly included as a Deaf gay man, the very things that had made me different from them have proven to be blessings in disguise. Being different is the best way to appreciate others unlike ourselves; if we want to be heard, we need to listen. �

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Walt, I dreamed of you and I together sleeping, beards commingling and bodies clinging, hands entwined and legs enmeshed, twin plants woven together from the same pod sown deep by a gardener who understood the need for pearly drops of morning rain sheathing our man-roots in the night so that by day we could walk bright as rosebuds, ready to unleash again the comradeship of musk. * With each edition of Leaves of Grass till you died, you practiced the art of censorship. First self-published in 1855, your book, in disguise, shouted the need for manly love and all that entailed. Women were almost an afterthought. After 1860, accusations of obscenity forced your right hand to stop its unseemly shorthand of onanism. You turned down the brass in “Song of Myself,” castrating your tenor voice with your pen’s scissors. * Never mind the fact that men everywhere wrote you letters of veiled want and worship. One woman was even mistaken enough to move from England to America in hopes of marriage! Love in art became a compromising position, caught with its pants down, mooning sweet ass. Its bottom must submit to the top dollar, straining in its ever-increasing impotency to stay erect all the way to your deathbed. * If only I could rescue you from your family crypt and blow a magic kiss there into your dormant lungs: awakening, you’d look bewildered up into my eyes, dark as elderberries and the oceans yet to be, and find your creaky body rolling back to the age of 36, once a frustrated newspaper editor now filled with vigor when you typeset some of the twelve poems, not yet titled, for Leaves of Grass, a tiny handbook showing how to celebrate America through your body … —Raymod Luczak

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Collin Kelley Interviewed by Franklin Abbott

Your trilogy is a love story about a gay man and Paris. Can you talk about what inspired you to begin it? In the spring of 1995, I had given up on my dream of becoming a novelist. My file cabinet was filled with half-written manuscripts that never panned out. I was having some early success with playwriting and poetry, so I thought that’s where my writing “career” would lead me. Then I got a phone call from one of my best friends, who happened to be a teacher. She was chaperoning a group of seniors on their high school graduation trip to London and Paris and needed someone else to go along. I had wanted to visit London since I was a kid after watching Prince Charles and Princess Diana get married. Paris was the bonus. I would have never guessed that it would be Paris that would keep me preoccupied for the next twenty years. We stayed in an out of the way hotel in the 11th arrondissement on Rue Rampon, a narrow little street lined with small shops and apartment buildings. Across from my room was an apartment with a long wrought iron balcony full of flowers. The French doors were always open and the interior was lined with bookcases. There was a big desk with an old typewriter and what appeared to be manuscript pages. But I never saw the owner. For a solid week, the doors were always open, but no one was ever working at the desk. So I invented a Parisian widow named Irène Laureux, who is disabled by agoraphobia, never leaves her apartment and works as a book editor. At night, she spies on the guests of the hotel with her binoculars. That’s where she first sees Martin Paige, a young American writer who happens to be chaperoning a group of high school students. I also fell madly in love with one of the students, who was eighteen and questioning his sexuality and putting on this macho front. The combination of that doomed affair and the mysterious woman across the way all dovetailed into what would become the first novel, Conquering Venus. Can you share with the readers a little of your process in writing a trilogy. How did one story lead to 54 RFD 167 Fall 2016

the next? Conquering Venus began as a screenplay. I got an agent, then another, then another. The script was shown around Hollywood and both Jon Avnet, who directed Fried Green Tomatoes, producer Sherry Lansing and Jodie Foster all read it. Jodie sent a nice note saying she loved the writing, but it was a big budget art film that would never get funding. After a few years of peddling it around to various producers, my agent said I should try turning the screenplay into a novel. Maybe if I could get the book published and it was a success, someone would make a movie. I had envisioned two movies, but not three. When my literary agent started shopping the novel around in 2001, she encouraged me to start on a sequel, which eventually became Remain In Light. As I was writing it, I realized that the narrative arc was much bigger and would require a third book to tell Irène and Martin’s full story. Of course, the literary agent was never able to sell Conquering Venus and it would be eight more years before a small press picked it up. How is it for the story to end? Do you find it difficult to leave your characters behind? It was both a relief and very, very sad. These characters have been in my head for two decades—they feel incredibly alive to me. I feel like they wrote Leaving Paris, not me. I tried to force the story down one path and Martin and Irène were not having it. At the end of Leaving Paris, Martin and Irène disappear— almost literally. They have gone to Australia and it’s suggested that they become part of what the aboriginal people call “the dreaming.” That means they will always be alive on some plane of existence, never age and could return in any shape or form. There are a number of other characters from the trilogy—especially Martin’s teacher friend, Diane Jacobs—who will probably get their own novels. Maybe Martin and Irène will make an appearance in one of those. How is your creativity connected to your being a gay man? Did you come out before you were first published or after? I came out as a teenager in high school, which is

when my interest in writing really kicked in. I felt free to write and explore any subject, any genre. I had incredibly supportive parents and surrounded myself with a few close friends. Sometimes, I think I grew up in a queer bubble because I was spared the bullying and discrimination. I had to take off my rose-colored glasses when HIV/AIDS began infecting and killing my friends and loved ones. That’s when I became attuned to the bigotry, the fear and the hatred toward LGBT people. I remember distinctly thinking, “My God, people want to kill us—they want us dead. They want me dead,” because of who I have chosen to love. I had to get political and that meant finding a new voice. My poetry became very political (especially the After the Poison collection, which are poems about Reagan’s handling of the AIDS crisis, bigotry, racism, George W. Bush, the illegal war in Iraq and the disaster of Hurricane Katrina). French politics and terrorism worked their way into The Venus Trilogy as well. The refugee crisis in France, the treatment of immigrants and terrorism are front and center in Leaving Paris. You are well known as a poet. How is writing poetry different from writing prose for you? Poems come in short, quick bursts. I can knock out a first draft in five minutes. Compare that with the nearly three years it took to write Leaving Paris. The character of Martin is a poet and since much of the story is told from his perspective, there is a poetic quality to the prose in all three novels. We also get to read some of Martin’s poems. I think he might be better than me. Do you have a discipline as a writer? If so how do you organize yourself to be productive? I’m a night writer. These writers who get up at four or five in the morning are space aliens to me. My sweet spot is from around 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and that’s when the bulk of Remain In Light and Leaving Paris were written, rewritten, edited, etc. I also would pick a Saturday or Sunday during the writing process and spend up to seven or eight hours in one stretch. I like to listen to music when I write, so I would stream BBC Radio 1 or 2 into the wee hours or put on a Miles Davis record. I learned with Remain In Light that an outline could be your friend. I deviated off the outline for Leaving Paris and it took me two or three months to realize that I needed to trust the outline and where Martin and Irène were telling me they wanted to go.

Could you talk a little about your publisher Sibling Rivalry Press. What is it like to work with a small press? I tell everyone this, but Sibling Rivalry Press and its owners—the brilliant and beautiful Bryan Borland and Seth Pennington—are my heroes and lifesavers. Conquering Venus and Remain In Light were originally published by another small press, but there were some shenanigans with copyright and royalties, which allowed me to get out of the contract. SRP had already published my poetry collection Render and they immediately offered to get the first two books back into publication and bought Leaving Paris. Despite the fact that they were snowed under with other projects, they got Conquering Venus and Remain in Light back into circulation (and with beautiful new covers, a tighter edit and gorgeous interior layout) in about four months. I am forever and eternally grateful. Working with Bryan and Seth has spoiled me for any other publisher. They have an incredible eye for editing, for design and for making you feel special. Bryan has been an incredible cheerleader for my poetry and prose and Seth was so attuned to the changes and edits Render needed. It’s truly a dream. And SRP has come so far, so fast. They are one of the most prestigious small presses out there and have racked up awards and accolades in just a few years. The roster of authors they have published—Saeed Jones, Ocean Vuong, Michael Klein, Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton, to name a few—is mind-boggling. I can’t believe I’m an SRP author. It’s truly an honor. What’s next for you creatively? Another novel? More poetry? I’m starting to turn my attention to a new poetry collection. I think most of the poems are already there, so it’s really about redrafting, sequencing and finding the common thread that ties the work together. The manuscript already feels like a sequel to my first collection from 2003 called Better To Travel. There’s lots of foreign affairs, sex and coming to terms with death. I hope it will be ready in a year or so. After that, I want to complete a collection of short stories that are all set in the fictional town of Cottonwood, GA. The first four were published a few years ago as an eBook called Kiss Shot. It’s a very different tone and locale after so many years writing about Paris—a palate cleanser. And then I’ll probably have to turn my attention back to Paris. Maybe I’ll write another trilogy. � RFD 167 Fall 2016 55

Sex Machines I’m in love, I’m in love with a strict machine —Goldfrapp Heavy equipment outside my house peeking in every window, oversized voyeurs with names like roadheader pile driver, pipe layer, knuckleboom bottom dump, bulldozer, backhoe I’ve got my back against the cool wood of the dresser playing hide and seek while a cherry picker threatens to take off the tissue paper roof my skin teenage virgin electric The idea of exposure and crush my legs wrapped around unbending metal sends a ramrod shiver up my spine all those edges to navigate and climb or to be lowered into the dirt and mangled Oh, psycho sexual infantilism, oh, paraphilia you had me at birth, when I was another object, my homosexuality a deviation on par with rapists, molesters and humiliation seekers I take this one for the team, machinery lust your wrecking ball doesn’t scare me ­ —Collin Kelley

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Rattled by E. C. Patrick


was a passenger today for the first time in a long while, watching out the window as my partner drove us home from our lunch adventure with one of his school friends and his wife at a local outdoor eatery specializing in garden fare in a garden atmosphere. Eating among the trees, we had enjoyed a casual day with the ease of a summer weekend nowhere near its end. With a slightly dreary eye from the mixture of half fresh lemonade, half beer we had all allowed ourselves the pleasure of that afternoon (perhaps more for the novelty of its given name, the Rattler, than its description), I spotted the slight wave of what had to be the largest American flag I had ever seen in person. Its presence was massive, so immediately there, waving above the sea of cars at one of our local car dealerships. So bold and proud it would have been, our national symbol, except that is most certainly was not in that moment. It was something else entirely. Straight out and nearly perfectly rectangularly it flew, at half mast, remembering, signaling something was awry. It has been nearly a month to the day since the events of June 12th forever branded Orlando like so much cattle with the word tragedy, stained its bright sun with the blood of our lost brothers and sisters. In a time when momentum seemed to be shifting so quickly towards the better, we suddenly took a giant step backwards. Hours of news programming, endless debate over religion, gun control, hate, acceptance, politi-

cal response, and even whether or not this was in fact a hate crime all became chatter over the grim reality that forty-nine of us died that day and that it could have been any of us. I had friends at Gay Days Orlando just a week earlier. I have been in bars all over the country celebrating birthdays, days off, vacations. The layout of our most frequented watering hole passes through my mind, and I know, had it happened here in Kentucky, we could not have escaped without massive losses. The question then becomes, what do we do about it on the ground? Orlando is so far for many of us, and yet so real and dangerously close to home. We can send money, we can read the stories, we can paint our Facebook pages with rainbows, but most importantly we must not forget. So easily Orlando could become a fear that takes over, pushes us back, slows us to a crawl. This is nothing new for us, though. Every day we face hatred and animosity. It has just never been in such a public and immediately devastating way. As much progress as we have made, the reality is that the world is not all there with us. Not yet. There is still work to be done. I sat there today, in that car, rattled, awed, and saddened by the frivolity of beer and lemonade on an easy Saturday afternoon but thankful to be here to have enjoyed it. One step, one day at a time, we have to keep moving, keep walking, keep living who we are, as individuals, as a community, as a force that will not be shot down.

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after Omar Mateen 1986-2016 by Finger

{In English}

{In American Sign Language gloss; all signs use the “O” motion}

In Orlando strangers always watched me from the dawn of my time. I always looked different no matter where I went. I learned to pretend tough.

Orlando all-over Me-alone-circle People-watch-me Skin-color Awkward-feel Repress-feelings-inside Move-about-cool Me-observe Two-men: shoulder pecs ass heads French-kiss Out-there Children observe Me-disgust Sickness spin-around-head Me-disgust Thoughts storm-head Do-do? Single-thought storm head Rub-all-over-body Snake fangs fork-heart-stuck Drive-around search-search: there! Guns spread-across-counter There! Look-guns, chin-hesitate Pulls money out pocket Picks up, play-with-gun Check-weight refocus-lens Money-pull-out-of-pocket

One day I caught two men kissing on the street, and ... children were right there! My feelings, like a virus, queased inside me, a snake slithering. What should I do? That snake, just like that bitch Eve, had pierced the armor of my heart. I drove around and found an array of guns for sale … so many possibilities for a price! I turned cold-sober to avenge.

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Driving around, I targeted my thoughts … Yes! In that Eden of Sodom, tongues swirled and hands groped. These homos were laughing! My face shielded the bullets lurking in my heart. No one can’t ever mock me again. My semi-automatics spewed forth, punctuating the screams. God will absolve me. My final bullet spun my soul downward into a pit of flames. How could I be still alive? The unclean forty-nine souls had risen up into a sea of clouds, their heads bowed with prayers of love and mercy for me. Why would they ever want to forgive me? I can’t let them near me like this. I stay forever alone, billeted in the ashes of Orlando.

Thoughts sharpen focus clear Drive-around Wondering body-stop Observe Mingle French-kiss Hands-grope-asses Body-laughing Me-disgust Face-hide Slow-single-thought Breathe-breathe Fire-fire-fire People scream-scream-scream People-die-die-die Pray nod-head Shoot-myself Fall-down-spiral Burn-burn-fire Why why why Look-up Ten-ten-ten-ten-nine-spiral-up Mingle clouds mingle Faces pray-cherish-pray-cherish Pray pray pray Heart pour pour pour Beckon-beckon closer Why why why shake-head-no Fire me-alone Orlando endless-cycle Orlando endless-cycle Orlando

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In Orlando 49 of our brothers and sisters dead And 53 more injured Sadness and grief will come But right now I am angry And I want to feel that anger The father says his son saw Two men kissing in Miami And maybe that set him off It’s too short a step from Acceptable to hate us To Acceptable to kill us In a month full of celebrations Of how far we have come, Of how much we have gained, This gut churning reminder Of how much is yet to be done How much further we have to go Attack one of us, you attack us all Kill one of us or kill 50 of us And the rest of us will never forget We will keep on coming out Keep on fighting Keep on showing our love Until it is no longer acceptable to kill us In Uganda or in New Delhi In Saudi Arabia or in Orlando

—M. J. Arcangelini

Love’s Garden The garden troubles my eyes its shaggy lawn recounts the reasons I haven’t had chance to get the mower out lately That’s not why I’m here I’m tearing an old flag friend of many marches into vertical strips slowly, separating each ribbon so none are hurt Their mound spreads untidily like hopes do and excuses and fears. When 49 is reached the whole garden loosens as if weeping. It takes all the days the sky can hold before I perceive the earth’s bone-dry except where my tears have self-seeded. One by one tree branches swell with rainbow leaves. They flutter like newborn butterflies with unsteady wings.


I don’t care if the President cries. And I don’t care if a candle is lit. And I don’t care if your feelings are hurt when we refuse to shake your hand While you try to take away our rights. Because what happened last weekend Is what we do in America We kill each other. Convinced that THIS time we’ll get it right. —David Cummer

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Charlie Murphy by BB-Ha!

Charlie used to leave guitar picks around my house. When Eric and Peggy asked us to write notes to Charlie for his burial shroud, I couldn’t come up with any words. Finally, these phrases came on the night he died, And Gordon quickly made them into a guitar pick. Honoring the Ancestors O Charlie, O Charlie, How could you be gone? Thank Goddess in heaven you left us some songs. Light is returning Even though this is the darkest hour … You wrote those incredible chants that sounded like ancient canticles. When I asked, “did you really write that?” you said, yes, they just came to you. How many of your songs are people singing today, not even realizing you wrote them? The Goddess chant…Calling on the Spirits … Photo courtesy BB-Ha!

Oh Charlie, you honored the past with your timeless songs. You honored the past by being a loving and mischievous son to your parents, Charlie and Angie. Starting in high school, you never forgot the struggles of people whose shoulders your political and cultural work stood upon – fights for a healthier environment, for personal and sexual liberation, for social justice, for an end to AIDS, for an end to political corruption, for freedom and equality in Africa and beyond…. Yes, you were a fighter. But your style embraced the magic of collaboration. You found amazing partners with whom to work, and play. You’ve got to love life enough to struggle I am honored to be your partner in some of those struggles. And I want to acknowledge three creative partners without whom your life would not have been what it was, what it is. Your musical partnership with the astounding cellist Jami Sieber gives us tons of music with heart, soul, integrity and danceable liberation.

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It’s Four minutes to midnight / and we’ve only just begun … Your organizational partnership with the incredible journalist and creative community builder Peggy Taylor gives us a legacy of ways to unlock positivity and joy in our young people, and in ourselves. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for … Your spiritual loving partnership with your husband Eric Mulholland gives us a model for how to love, how to cherish boldly, how to share that love, how to hold on, and how to let go. It’s the clock of the world, keeping perfect holy time … Catching the Fire I remember buying a copy of your album Catch the Fire, at Left Bank Books in the Pike Place Market. I took it home, and played it over and over. I met you through your music. Gay Spirit. O Mother Ocean Love. Burning Times. No More Three Mile Islands. Healing Song. I was a groupie when you and Jami would play at Bumbershoot, at Folk Festival, and any number of social change gatherings around the Puget Sound. Then, when I was writing an article for The Christian Science Monitor about men’s music, we met at Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 1982. You were too busy to talk in depth, so we made an appointment to chat the next week at the Cause Celebre on Capitol Hill. Our half-hour interview turned into a three-hour soul-bond. Our friendship endures to this moment. (Most of you probably have a moment you remember with Charlie, and I want to invite you to breathe into that now.) That same day, Charlie, you conscripted me to help with publicity on one of your projects, and probably fundraising, too. We were always raising money for something or other… public service videos, travel to Nicaragua or South Africa, getting the band to the March on Washington … It was hard not to catch the fire of whatever you were into. You were an early proponent of the 62 RFD 167 Fall 2016

Men’s Movement, suggesting that men have a lot of work to do to undo patriarchal patterns. You and your collective, Good Fairy Productions, produced “Songs of Changing Men,” a series of concerts which often included dancing and poetry. And some years later you and Amy Larkin helped to create “Across the Lines,” a major concert and TV special using music to undo racism. It featured your band Rumors of the Big Wave – at that time a household name in Seattle - and Pat Wright with the Total Experience Gospel Choir, celebrating the diversity of the Puget Sound region. Last week I asked Nancy White, who worked for KIRO-TV at the time, to recall the complexity of that project and how challenging it was to pull it off. She told me, “Throughout, there was this pool of calmness called Charlie. With a smile, some humor, a lot of direct, present listening, he helped pull us from the brink during a few - um - moments - that could have brought the whole thing crashing down around us. He was the human form of people glue glue that never hardened into brittleness, but which flowed and reformed as needed. Across the Lines was really an effort to work across lines - socio economic, racial, religious, artistic, personality everything. And no one personifies working across the lines more than Charlie.” Healing the Earth O Charlie, O Charlie, Your gifts carry me… How can I contain Your immense energy? I loved taking walks with you, Charlie. Your curiosity was contagious. You would point me to new paths in my own neighborhood I hadn’t yet explored. We would walk in silent wonder by the ocean, by a river where you once lived in North Carolina, even in the concrete-glass canyons of New York City. Once, at the Museum of Modern Art, we were looking at a Miro painting with large round red and black splotches. Then in walked two guys, a redhead and a guy with jet-black hair. You saw the interconnections, and we couldn’t stop laughing. Yes, you could be a total goofball. And dorky? Yeah. And subtle? No. You would never sacrifice communication for tact or anything like that.

You saw how fragile the environment is, and how humans are changing it. And you wrote songs and created exercises like blind walks for the YMCA Earth Service Corps, and later Power of Hope, inviting us to pay more attention to how we walk, swim, run, drive and move on this earth. We could be dancing, in the only green world… But you also paid attention to your personal environment ~ you not-so-secretly wanted to be an interior designer. We would shop for furniture, and for eyeglasses, together. You were the one who warned me, when we reached our 40s, that we needed to take care of our skin ~ so we often compared notes on beauty products. Despite your attention to outer appearance, you were also a practitioner and inspirer of doing the inner work as key to wholeness, happiness and healing. I don’t know how you did it, but you had a way of facing the hard stuff in life, and moving on. You would get angry, blow off some steam, and then be ready for the next demonstration, project, or partay. In fact, you were always moving on. Your curiosity and passion had you always moving on to the next thing. You were one of the original Radical Faeries, and by the time I got up the guts to go to a Faerie Gathering, you were too busy with your band. When I was on the board of the Power of Hope, we had defined our region of focus as the Salish Sea ~ but you and Peggy were ready to move on to other continents. And you did. PYE Global has already reached over a million youth and youth workers. A million! Inspiring the future O Charlie, O Charlie, Your time was too brief. The people you mentored will help with our grief. It’s impossible to think of a world without you, Charlie. We were going to grow old together and dance and play music into the night. But your body

wasn’t having it that way. You taught us how to fall. But, to do that, you found your beloved! What a gift is Eric to you, to your community, and to the work of cultural transformation! After you met Eric, you had not as many difficult nights, and you brought even more magnanimity into the world… And you two truly inhabited Planet Love, your beautiful Whidbey Island home. You and Eric produced a last earthly concert for you in your bedroom, with your favorite singer/songwriter Krista Detor singing her songs and yours, assuring you that you don’t have to worry about a Trump presidency, that we’ve got that covered. What a gift! You helped us all deal with your transition, and you and Eric even planned aspects of today’s memorial service. You died, not surprisingly, on Hiroshima Day. A number of young Power of Hope facilitators came to your vigil and sang around your body many of the songs you had taught them. We cried, and you gave us hints on how to grieve. I was amazed to learn about the work these young people are doing – carrying on and improving upon the work you have done – taking Creative Community practices into corporations, communities, and organizations around the world. GUESS WHAT? Tonight is a new moon ~ meaning “possibility of development” And, it’s a solar eclipse ~ releasing the wounds of the wounded healer. It’s helping us let go. And it’s helping us hold on … to new beginnings. We remain faithful / To the work that must be done … As you put it, Charlie, There is no end to how far one life could shine… You showed us how to do that, and you challenge us to do the same. We stand here at the edge With our hearts wide open…

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Issue 169 / Spring 2017


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Photo: Bo Young

“To stay in the clouds is to run with the spirits of imagination, wonder, and wit. Who would want such companionship to end” --- Mark Thompson, Gay Body: A Journey Through Shadow to Self Mark Thompson was a seminal figure in your life – something which you may know from personal knowledge of him, reading his books or articles, participating in his quest to create a spiritual life for gay men and his documentation of our culture through the pages of the Advocate or his camera lens. Since Mark’s passing in August, many people have been taking in the news. Whether you knew Mark as a friend, you were acquainted with him, or you knew of him through his writing – Mark had a way of never letting you go but always a gentle push to delve deeper. He touched RFD when he urged the Monette-Horwitz Prize to be given to us in 2010, he pushed for us to be

visible to a larger audience, a honor and a challenge, that was how Mark worked. So it’s our privilege to request our readers, friends and colleagues of Mark’s to submit stories of remembrance for a man who has been pushing for a broader spirit for queer people since his early college days through his time working on the Advocate, his work documenting gay male spirit, and his unending interest in fairness and equality. Of course he also had close ties to the beginnings of Radical Faerie consciousness, was both a pioneer and an assembler of knowledge about our spiritual and communal experience of coming together first as gay men, queer men then as all things evolve to include the whole spectrum of gender and sexuality. We look forward to seeing your memories of Mark, be they stories, photos or poetry. As always please feel free to share this call for submissions far and wide.

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