Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pushing the Envelope

Last week was one of those weeks when everything went wrong.  Don’t we all know the feeling? Plus, it was the third anniversary of Lee’s death. So it was with some trepidation that I contemplated Sunday.  I’d had plans for some time to have lunch in the city and then attend one of the GLBT film festival films with old friends.  We picked out the Popp Twins anthology, which turned out to be marvelous. It was totally upbeat, which was exactly what I needed.

Should I take the truck or the new car?  Parking in the Castro is always challenging, but I decided to drive the new Miss Pearlie, and allow thirty minutes for parking, which is exactly what it took.  Yeah! My friends and I had a great lunch at the Bagdad cafĂ©, and began ambling up Market to the Castro theatre, where the line already stretched a block.  I began to relax. The sunshine was mood lifting, and the whole atmosphere was entrancing, as we passed various shops, exuding exotic fragrances, and toting unusual goods, like crystals.  Gay Pride Week was starting the next day, and everywhere strollers seemed to be breathing deeper and calmer.  Just before passing Gold’s Gym, I looked up in wonderment to see three young gay men, strolling arm and arm.  Their skins were lightly tanned, and their smiles stretched from ear to ear.  They looked sweet. They were not being flamboyant or obnoxious in any way, so I did a double take as I glanced downward and observed that all three wore not a stitch, except sandals and penis rings. I stared, even as I tried not to, as they turned into the gym, still arm and arm.  My impulse was to follow them, but I squelched that.  No one seemed to be paying any attention.  I nudged my companions. “Only in San Francisco”, I quipped, and “only in the Castro.” Gay Pride Week doesn’t start till tomorrow, I observed. Isn’t this pushing the envelope? Something about the encounter felt wonderful, normal, and healing. A smiling memory for the end of my incredibly difficult week.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

By Any Other Name...

Last night my old friend Bonnie (Lou) was visiting and we kidded each other, as we usually do, about having the same first name.  Growing up in different parts of the country, neither of us knew any other girls named Bonnie, although it seems more popular now.  We were often accused of going by a nickname, not a REAL name, and I was often taunted that I was named after the song “My Bonnie lies over the….”

All of these name stories are true, oddly enough.  My good friend Brenda, in her thirties, inspired to make herself over, declared her name evermore as Phoenix, Thirty years later I have not yet made the transition to that one.  Once, as a reading teacher, a new boy in the second grade was referred to me: “Dr. Crosse,” the teacher complained,  “Sean can’t even read or write his own name.”  Checking his records, I was horrified to learn his mother called him Sean but spelled it PSHAUGHN.  Now how could any child in a phonetic reading program learn to spell that? 

Another primary grade teacher in Denver shared what was the oddest name she had ever heard: a girl enrolled in her room named Aquanet, after her Mother’s favorite hair spray.  When it comes to names, some parents don’t think rationally.  Perhaps you are a victim in that group?

At birth my mother was named Blanche Beatrice, two names she shunned.  She insisted therefore that everyone call her Bunny, including her two children, though her motivation for the latter may have had ulterior motives, since she generally shunned motherhood, as well.  My sister was christened Lena Lorraine, but chose to go by Lorraine, as she abhorred Lena, to which she added an accent mark, and pronounced it Layna.

I’ve always enjoyed my name and the stories that accompany it, though there is little data to support the accurate truth, I’m afraid.  My father, who died when I was 15, was supposed to have named me.  Yes, I was named after a song, according to the story, but a folk song about the Mohawk Valley.  The chorus goes “My blue-eyed Bonnie, Bonnie Eloise, the belle of the Mohawk Vale. Now I have never been to the Mohawk Valley, nor had my father, and I only heard him croon cowboy songs, always off key. Moreover I never had blue eyes, and I doubt that I was ever anyone’s belle.

However it is the spelling of my last name, Crosse, which holds the most intrigue.  Part of the tale I can document.  My father’s older sister, Celia Marie Cross, just out of nursing school in Boston, in 1917, age 18, volunteered as a Red Cross nurse to support the war.  In a twinkling she was on a ship to France, whereupon half way across the ocean the captain ordered the Red Cross nurses to appear on the heaving deck, as a submarine had been  spotted.  They were instructed to raise their right hands and take an oath to become Army nurses.  She complied, having no choice, and stood on her 4’11” tippy toes to pass the physical.  Three years in the trenches followed, conditions grim, during which time she fell in love, but the soldier died.
On mustering out in Paris, she spent her clothing allowance on a French chapeau instead of a new uniform for the parade, an act considered scandalous. Ever afterwards her unusual ways were explained by family members as “having taken on French aires”.  At this time she wrote from Paris to my father and his brother to change the spelling of our family name from Cross to Crosse, as it was more French, therefore more elegant.
My father, being the baby brother, complied, whereas other family members just laughed.  Thus my birth certificate adds the “e”.  So that is one version anyway of why I am the only Crosse at the occasional Cross family reunions.  They put up with me, though I know they think me a little odd as well. 
Aunt Celia. by the way, never got around to changing her own name, though her love of all things formal and Parisian remained with her until her death at 94.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Good Fortune Comes Knocking

What a week for me!  On Tuesday I went to Alta Bates for a routine cholonoscopy/endoscopy because of my low iron, which is routine for me.  Of course I was exhausted from the prep, but that is normal.  As they were ready to start the procedure they discovered I was in atrial fibrillation, so it was an exciting day, spent in the ER as it turned out, as they had no beds in Cardiology.  They tried to stabilize me with drugs, but that failed.  Finally about 3, which is just when a bed became available, I self-regulated.  So I got to come home at 4, and count my little blessings!  Many heart tests to follow, but they suspect I may have been going in and out of rhythm for a while, and it was just coincidence they caught it.  I feel fine, except weary. A happy ending.  So here’s another story happening right now with a good ending:

How fortunate I am to have a friend of almost fifty years (coincidently also named Bonnie).  Since my friend is a few years older, we always refer to one another as Bonnie Sr. and Bonnie Jr. Unlike me Bonnie Sr. has the voice of a nightingale. In her youth she sang professionally with the Hormel Girls, an all girls chorus and orchestra that traveled around the country following  the 2nd World War, promoting Spam and patriotism.  It was originally a drum and bugle corps, made up with ex service women. Bonnie sang with them between '51 and '53.

Currently she sings for a hobby at her church and other volunteer events, and from time to time she does a special rendition for me.  When she sings at the Montclair Women’s Club, which she will next week, she stays with me and we rehash old times, as friends of such long standing will do. Once hearing her sing, one always remembers the passion and tenderness of her heart.

Last week Bonnie Sr. called from her lovely home in Sunnyvale, on the verge of tears.  I could hear a desperation in her voice. It seems four baby raccoons had been abandoned in her large, fenced back yard.  Very little babies, about nine inches long.  Their mother must have carried them in somehow, over the fence, and then been killed, for they were clearly abandoned and starving.  Bonnie had spent hours calling the police and various services but could find no one to help.  Their pitiful cries were breaking Bonnie’s tender heart, and they were putting their little paws up against her sliding glass bedroom door, and chittering piteously.  For a long while Bonnie could not find a single organization that would come and help her. 

Finally a volunteer from a group called Wildlife Control came to the rescue, and eventually the babies were saved.  They have been given shots by a vet, and will be cared for until they are ready to be released to the wilderness.  I’m going to be sure and send them a donation later in the year.  Another happy ending! 




Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Directions


Today the UPS driver (to whom I am particularly grateful, as he was the sole witness to my auto accident a few weeks ago) left at my garden gate an arousing hard cover copy of Splashy 11 – New Directions. If you are a watercolorist you drool, gasp, or turn purple with envy at viewing each new edition in the Splash series.  This new hard cover begins with a quote from Proust: The real voyage of discovery comes not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.  What a good challenge for me!  These days my allergies keep me pretty much confined inside the house walls, while my heart and soul are yearning to be out in the garden, or traveling to far off places..   Enough excuses, Bonnie.  Get painting!

 On the creative writing front, however, I composed my first ever play this week.  Perhaps the word “play” is an exaggeration. It is really a skit, meant to illustrate the first three months of sorority life at the University of Washington for Shirley, Dolores and Bonnie in the fall of 1948.  As luck would have it we were randomly assigned to be roommates. We three have been good friends for 62 years now.  The skit is a farce about how the sorority attempted (and failed) to make proper ladies of us. It will be performed at a luncheon we are hosting on August 14 in La Conner, Washington to jointly celebrate our 80th birthdays.  My friend Andrea from Hayward is going to be the narrator, and yesterday, after tacos at Chipolte, she helped me fine tune some of the lines and stage directions. 

 One of the closing quotes in Splash 11 is from Picasso. He says that painting is just another way of keeping a diary. Good thought.  So is blogging.

Today I had lunch with my friend and neighbor Emily who is a fabric artist.  She had just finished a course on dyeing silk, a brand new activity for her.  Her dining room table was covered with silk pieces dyed in so many different ways and colors.  Beautiful.  Ok, friends, I challenge you to write me this week about what direction you are about to try.  I want to know what you are seeing with your own new eyes!