OK, so the internet isn’t working and I officially now have no excuse not to write.
(And now for a moment, a message from my ego: Let me take this moment to apologize for all the spelling errors on the last post – didn’t really proof it, which I should have done. However, it also points to the probably obvious fact that this is very rough writing, done with a certain urgency and desire to manifest what is actually happening, including the rocky bits.)
Some good news is that the comments function seems to be working again finally, so please do feel free to comment. Also, I’ve begun a blog and website link list so if you are working on anything that seems to relate in any way, please tell me and if I think it does, I’ll add it.
The other good news is today I continued the writing of the ‘autobiography’ of my grandmothers and made some good progress there. What I mean by progress is: words made it onto a page. I have No idea if the words are any good or not and mostly am afraid they are not, hence the crappy notebook and crappy pen mentioned in an earlier post. Along with a post-it note in front of me that says ‘No one will ever read this’ so I can keep writing.
It’s hard enough to write what I know, never mind try to write from the point of view of two women who were born in 1916 and happen to be my grandmothers. It’s insane. So I’m doing it. There is a pattern here that I don’t like to dwell on too much….so I of course will…
For instance, as you may recall, I bitched in the last post about having to take home ec classes instead of shop because I was a girl in 1975. Well, my response to not knowing how to sew was to pick out one of the harder patterns and attempt it. I think I may have even been attempting to make a stuffed animal rather than a simple dress, like every other girl with half an ounce of sense was doing. Probably needless to say [and the second I write needless to say, I see my 8th grade English teacher’s red pen next to that phrase with the oh so witty riposte: then why say it?], I did not finish the sewing project because it was too hard. Or there was the time I tried to write a paper about Anthony Burgess when I was 15 and taking some seminar for 17 year olds (because I was so clever…hmmm…) and decided the thing to do would be to somehow write it in the form of a symphony by Mozart. No, that didn’t work either. I fear the grandmother book is in the same category…the difference being, the horrifying difference being: I’m inflicting it on myself For No Apparent Reason.
OK, so there’s that…and this goes along with the weirdly recurrent theme that keeps cropping up in these posts of being a pre/early teenager, and the not so subtle irony of the fact that that is exactly how I feel now in this ‘time of transition.’ I might as well be having a hormonal meltdown. Oh wait, I forgot, I’m perimenopausal – I Am having a hormonal meltdown. That’s my excuse.
But as to transition itself, the subject of which I somehow seem to diverge from over and over…the feeling right now is still of having lots of empty space inside me where the theatre company was. And when I was asked what my surname was just now by the Waltham Forest council guy in charge of noise complaints (I was kept awake for hours last night by some tizz-wazz’s car alarm) and I said ‘Barclay…b a r c l a y’ part of me thought: really? Shouldn’t I say Bukoski…b u k o s k i. Of course legally that would be a disaster, but some part of me is feeling more and more like I should reclaim the name that was taken from my grandfather, grandmother, father and me by the paranoia about Communism during WWII. I have also gotten emails about this, by the way, including one from a Canadian friend whose husband’s parents changed their name during WWII, because it sounded ‘too German’ and her mother’s family having changed her name when they moved to Canada in 1800s. There’s a lot of name-changin a goin on is all I’m sayin here. And I now will bring back the ‘g’…sorry about that.
So there is an empty space where a theatre company used to be and an over-crowded space where my surname is. And if I changed my name, that would feel like a huge identity shift. I don’t know whether this is idle musing or will grow into the roots of a real idea. Only time will tell. And there it is: the very interesting part of being in transition, consciously – which is allowing for ‘time to tell’. I have in the past rushed in to fill these empty spaces, the faster the better. Even when my first marriage ended, I somehow started officially grieving. It became a kind of activity. I mean I was actually grieving, but there was something a little Too official about it. Or maybe I’m being too hard on myself, not sure.
And this is another thing about transition – unsureness. I mean real unsureness, as in ‘I don’t know.’ And that’s scary. But what’s weird right now is there is also a kind of sureness underneath the don’t know that is more foundational and has less to do with so-called identity, and I think that part has grown ever since I walked into the hospital in Sacramento and watched my father die. I was fucking terrified walking into that hospital and then the event itself was not scary. Death, I discovered is not scary, instead it’s kind of awe-inspiring. It’s our fear of death that scares us, not the fact itself. It’s the ultimate letting go, the final I don’t know to beat all I don’t knows.
Oh and here is the interesting bit especially now – it was a Catholic hospital with nuns or at least religious devotees as nurses. They were the most amazing people, and I felt that day I was being held by forces far larger than me. I have felt that many times before but never in a Catholic context. I was impressed. I was more than impressed, I was amazed and the prejudice of many years just fell away. There is such a difference between people who spout religious nonsense and those who live it. I have notice that those who live it tend not to spout whereas those who spout tend not to live it. Go figure. But it kinda makes sense.
Could I even be getting religion? After all the bad experiences with that? Dear God (?!). And let me clear by what I mean and don’t mean by religion. I do not mean believing in a power or powers greater than oneself. I do and have done for many years, mostly because I had to find something at one point in order to replace a very destructive series of habits that would have killed me otherwise. What I mean by religion is a specific, codified series of beliefs with dogma and teachings and shit written down that other people believe. That kind of thing.
I became an Evangelical Baptist because all other avenues were closed. I was 10 years old and basically alone in the world aside from my best friend, Kristin, who had pamphlets from her mother who was at the time Born Again, about how to baptize yourself and be Saved. So, we did this ritual in March 1974, about the time Nixon was imploding all over the place and about to resign from the presidency in a few months.
I have written about it a number of times but will again here as it relates and the story changes depending on the context (just like the Joseph Albers color charts, which show when you put different colors next to the same color it actually appears to change color...)…and as I was about to write about it now a child in the house that abuts ours started plonking a mallet on a child’s xylophone, which distracted me in a good way….
Which brings me to another distraction, which by now you should be used to happening…that my grandmother, Nana/Dick, used to say when I was living on their sofa in South Yarmouth, and her soap operas were being interrupted rudely by the Watergate hearings “So what if he’s a liar? They’re All liars, he just got caught!” And, as we lived near Hyannisport, where the Kennedy compound was she blamed any bad driving on “those Kennedy kids! Who do they think they are?” As you can probably already imagine, we were That car, the Buick driven by the old folks, which is driving the minimum speed limit and yelling at all the rude other drivers who are honking or trying to get around.
And the amazing thing about their Buick, which was a kind of rusty-brown color, is that it Smelled Like New All The Time – you know, that just out of the plastic vinyl smell. How is that possible? The house was like a show room, their bicycles looked like they came out of a shop (store – Americans) and the car smelled new. It was like they lived in one of those snow bubbles without the snow.
But back to being baptized with Kristin, in the woods behind her house in Waterford, Connecticut. She told me that if I accepted Jesus into my life I would be saved and that Jesus loved me forever. I asked her if I would be forgiven for murder and she said yes. Why I thought I had murdered anyone at this stage is another Very long story (no I had not murdered anyone but had just lived with a psychopathic babysitter who thought I was trying to murder her – like I said Long story), but I was relieved that this was covered and so accepted Jesus and signed a pamphlet that was designed like a comic book with the sad tale of a normal ‘modern man’ who goes about a normal selfish life and then dies and finds himself answering to Jesus who is angry he hasn’t accepted him so casts him into hell. So clearly, Kristin was doing me a favor.
One of my favorite diary entries ever follows this event: “p.s. I have excepted [sic] Jeesus into my life and my mother got fired (details later).” That line made it into my first play Word To Your Mama. I think it might have been my first inspired writing, and as you can see I’m keeping up the side all these years later…
After the ‘baptism’ it snowed a little, which we took as a good sign and I felt better. When I moved to South Yarmouth – well didn’t think I was moving, but ended up there to be precise – I was hastily enrolled into Mattacheese Middle School (for any British/Europeans…in the 1970s especially Americans loved to take on Native American names, like ‘Mattacheese’, and it was a point of pride to have Native American blood. We watched movies like Billy Jack and felt very badly about how we had treated the ‘Indians’ – sorry but that’s what we did say (keeping up the Columbus tradition of not acknowledging anything but we want to see) – and there was an ad for a college fund for Native Americans or was it for not littering…I don’t remember, but there was a close-up face of what we would have called an ‘Indian Chief’ with a tear running down his face…etc.) – and because I was not supposed to be at this school, I had not been assigned a homeroom or a locker (and we won’t even talk about the fact my grandmother talked me into wearing a dirndl dress from Austria…), I ended up standing looking pretty helpless and dressed So Wrong (because my grandmother said: In my day on our first day of school we dressed as well as we could…), when the teacher, Mrs. Small or Miss Read, can’t remember which one…asked, “So who would like to share a locker with – um – Julie” (truth I don’t remember what her precise words were, just doing my best here…), there was an embarrassed silence after which Pam Beale smiled and raised her hand and said “I will!” Relieved I sat with very tall, stringy haired Pam and her friend Amy Calhoun, pale and with braces and a wrap around retainer for huge buckteeth and a look of permanent sarcasm on her face. Pam, surprise, was an Evangelical Baptist, too. This is the thing you learn about Baptists when you are a shit out of luck pre-teenager…when no one else wants you, the Baptists do. And the title of their version of the Bible, with Jesus's words in red, is The Good News.
And in the immortal words of my 10-year old self…”(details later)”.