Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rewind Two Weeks Back (Sharing Memories)

OK, so finally I am getting around to writing about the reunion with Robin Tyler at UNC on the first of April.

Robin was performing as part of the Unity conference, which was organized by a student group with an agenda of sexual identity issues (L/G/B/T/QQ). Their T-shirts were black with Sex Police or some such messaging on the front.

Robin had called and emailed me to invite me to reconnect with her and although it had been years (more than ten, I am guessing) since we have communicated, I was really interested in seeing her again.

I got to the auditorium space on campus about 45 minutes before she was to be on. Her partner Diane was there (I think I may have met Diane in the past, but really did not know her). Robin and I chatted a bit before she went on. Her "performance" although it was partially comedy, was also a great historical look back at her life, her motivations and her political work. The audience (a show of hands was taken) was mostly post 1978. I felt, well, ancient, in that way I do when I am around college undergraduates. They all seemed so earnest and intense. The young woman, Catherine, that was Robin's point person looked about 15 to me, a little butch dyke with very short, very boyish hair, cute as a bug. But young!!!!!

Robin kind of introduced me to the audience as someone who had been with her at the festivals and during the fire year in Yosemite. That was in 1987 or 1988, during the years I refer to as "87-89". The crazy years. I remember the departure from the festival land that year, with the caravans and the fires burning on the sides of the road. Scary but an adventure. And lots of partying with the festival "refugees" in San Francisco that year, it was a fun time. I was living in Bernal Heights then, with a roomate and her son. She was, as I remember, not happy with the festival worker invasion outside the house, in RV's and camper vans.

Robin and I had a stormy history those last years, in 1989 I think. So what is that, nearly 18 years ago? Where on earth does time go? I was still working on the crew in 1994, the year I met Jamie.

I remember I went to one West Coast festival "after the fallout" not as a worker, but with Jamie as a festie, I guess. We hung with friends for a day or two. It wasn't the same of course. That was in 1995, the fifteenth anniversary of the West Coast Festival. Jamie and I slept in her truck (that was a long time ago!!!). And Robin and I were not talking then, I don't think.

The reasons for the fallout seem silly now. Not worth writing about. The important thing is that we have a shared history. At least 12-15 years worth. I went to her LA home for Thanksgiving many times and worked at festivals from 1980 until at least 1994. I know a lot of her past girlfriends. I watched her have at least one breakdown. I watched her grow the festivals from the first West Coast (I cannot recall ever working harder than I did that year) through the ones in Georgia, which were my favorites, because the southern women were so grateful we were there and had little attitude like the West Coast gals. I have lots of memories of the festivals and there are times even today, when I find myself doing something (usually having to do with triage) and realize I learned and honed that skill at festivals. Go figure.

It is always important to me to remember that people have the capacity to change and grow. And from that underlying philosophy, I feel strongly that bridges should not be destroyed, but allowed to remain, so that, even many years later, the possibility of reconcilliation is there, the openess to reconnecting, and remembering not the things that pulled you apart, but the shared memories that you have in common.

I am glad to have reconnected with Robin and I really enjoyed the time with Diane. I hope to see them again, sooner, rather than after another decade!

Anyway, Robin's comedy was all the old stuff I had heard, but clearly the young audience had not. And put into the context of the story of her coming out and becoming an activist, I was fascinated. I "knew" all this stuff, but it was great to see it put together this way. I am not sure if the audience was expecting more comedy or more politics, but it was a great history lesson to be sure. I sometimes am appalled that the "younger generation" doesn't have a sense of who blazed the trails. Stonewall, yes, but others? They seemed to be drawing blanks.

After the performance, we walked back to the Carolina Inn where they were staying and the catching up began. Over a snack or late lunch of pulled pork sandwiches (truly a southern delicacy).

Robin seemed so centered, calm and more content with herself and her life. Not so competitive or whatever that energy she used to have was. We talked about a lot of things, both festival and not. I noted that during her show, she had photos of many of the girlfriends I recalled, but had "edited out" one, Linda, I think her name was. I guess we all get to do that to at least one of the girlfriends in our history. I know I certainly have!!

Robin seems to be in touch with a lot of folks and their stories weren't all good ones, but such is life. My situation is just one of many challenges we are all facing. Aging for one, Robin turned 65 on the 8th of April. Ten years older than me, not all that much. But when we first met, it was 1980, so Robin was about 38 and I was 28. Was I ever really 28? That seems so young! But still older than the students in the audience!! I hope that the past years have also mellowed me and given me perspective.

Robin and I worked together on her festivals for so many years. I remember wandering into her office on Valencia Street (above what was then the Artemis Cafe) and volunteering to work on the festival. I came in and did all sorts of paperwork (pre-computer days) and registered folks and who knows what. And then I went to the festival and I think I was the T-shirt seller person. Over the years, I became a part of this group of festival crew workers, who saw each other annually and worked our asses off for not much money (if any) and still came back, year after year. When Robin brought the festival to Georgia (White County, who can forget that?) in 1985, I remember arranging my vacations to make sure I could be there as well as the West Coast festival. I don't recall having a "real" vacation for a whole bunch of years but I was young then. I didn't really have money for a real vacation anyway.

Robin grew up on the festivals and so did I. I had my first (but not my last) affair at one of them. Festivals were a great place for sexual acting out. It all seems so long ago and far away........

So next, I will post the "Disney Blogs" to catch you all up on how we spent our Spring Break.

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