Green Frog Cafe

"Living in nature, listening to the rain, Green Frog Cafe, that's where I want to be. The hemlocks are green, the creek is tricklin, there's geese on the pond, the forest sighs. Green Frog Cafe that's where I want to be, home of my soul, spirit of the mountains." Ruminations of Rhona McMahan

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Green Frog Cafe symbol.
Rhona McMahan

Karen Daystar

Karen Daystar's friendship with me is my longest existing friendship. We first met at Paddy Mountain in the summer of 1975. The first time I saw her she was unloading or loading an old pickup truck with something for Karl Purnell, the owner of the main Paddy Mountain Farm. She and I were learning to play the guitar right then. She was really attractive in her back-to-nature semi-flower-child guise. I succeeded in establishing friendly relations with her over the coming weeks, which have endured as a friendship different from all others which I have had.

The last time I saw her I was on my way back from St. Louis in late April, 2004, driving my newly purchased 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer home. I arrived at her place in Penn's Valley around 7 or 8 PM, in a rainstorm, frazzled by driving for hours through a sometimes violent spring mountain rainstorm. I got lost in Altoona of all places, and wasted an hour wandering around looking for a road which few if any had ever heard of. Most people evidently do not even remember the old road from Pittsburgh on route 22 past Holidaysburg, then up over the mountain at Water Street Junction into the beautiful valley which holds State College and Penn State University.

Wonder of wonders she was alone, and had no one else coming over or there that evening. She had just baked a huge batch of oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, and peanutbutter cookies. Now is that luck or what? It was the first time that the two of us had been alone in a tranquil setting for many years.

About ten years ago I wrote in one of my books (Side By Side) that Karen was my role model. She is able to live a totally genderless life in terms of skills and tasks performed in day to day life. She saws and splits wood, does stone masonry, is an excellent country cook, tans hides, cultivates herbs, lays tiles, makes tiles, has the most beautiful vegetable and flower gardens, is intensely spiritual, has passionate love relationships, works in glass, makes jewelry with her glass, creates bone sculptures, and her dogs love her. She does a lot more too, and I have probably left out the most important things. For anyone who has read Jean Auel (Clan of the Cave Bear) Karen is a good approximation of Ayla the wonderwoman.

So here we were, alone for an evening eating cookies, and reclining on cushions in front of a large soapstone stove, with the two dogs lying with us. Soft music was playing with strong sensual and spiritual overtones.

We talked about our lives and loves, and how the body wears out as we go through life. She has had serious operations on her wrists in recent years, and has a lot of pain. She is a wonderful guitar player, and it must hurt her when she tries to play. It was wonderful to be with her.

Being with Karen is like being in an alternate universe in terms of the knowledge and perceptions which hold sway. Karen is a person who has tried to understand appropriate technology and its role in the spirit of the Earth and its humans and other living organisms. I am a person who has often talked the talk but not walked the walk.

The next morning was bright as I drove away from Day Star with a song in my heart, across the gap at Hairy John State Park into the West End of Union County, and arrived home at Paddy Mountain. I thought "so far, so good" with respect to the Grand Wagoneer with 142,000 miles on the odometer. I reread the owners manual as I prepared to go off-road along the logging trail up to the Green Frog. I clicked the transfer case into low range, switched on 4 wheel drive, and drove easily through the Spring forest up the ridge to my staging area. I checked out the junkyard of used up vehicles which I have accumulated, and walked the last 100 yards to the cafe. Everything was in good shape, showing no signs oif intrusion in the 6 months since I had been there. I looked around swiftly and tore myself away. No sense in becoming involved, there was no time.

I got back in the Jeep and got out of there, right through the mud which had sucked up every other vehicle I had before (except the '72 International pickup). As I drove back to New York I was elated to know that now I would be able to drive right up to the house with people and things, compensating somewhat for my flagging physical strength. As usual, the rush of the stream next to the Green Frog, and the delicate greeness of the leaves out in the forest, renewed my spirit and I drove the last leg back to the Apple with joy.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

My Housemates at the End of June, 2004

Just to make a sort of marker in my memory I want to list who my housemates are today.

First of all there is the famous Chelsea, my partner, jazz pianist, off working this afternoon with the people of the Medical Marijuana connection. She is wearing a Sam Spade outfit: fedora, white shirt, blue pinstriped suit. She wants me to go to yet another Felix Hernandez Rhythm Review this evening, but I have a semi-sprained ankle, and there is no place to sit comfortably at Roseland.

In alphabetical order:

Celia, 26, from the PR, who has been here for more than three years, and who has lately be working in a craft shop making wedding and party favors and things for baby showers. She is the main spiritualist of the house.

Maureen, 27, graduate of Parsons, the Artist in Residence, working today on the T-shirt project. Tomorrow at Gay Pride she will sell them to people who want to support gay marriage. She is getting ready to go back to graduate school in art in Weimar, Germany, and is saving money from her English teaching jobs.

Musa, 37, from Japan, who just came back here after the stress of our house made her want to commit suicide. She is a very good singer, and an afrophile. I hope we can all stay on an even keel.

Sadaisha, our 20 year old from Portland Oregon via Sylvia's Place shelter for Queer Youth at the MCCNY. She is African American, Polynesian, and Irish in a bumptious mixture focused on becoming a famous star. She is a handful, very intelligent and creative, and pushy. A large personality which can make people angry because she is a larger than life character. I am working with her on a fund raising benefit show for next fall to raise money for Sylvia's Place.

Tasha, 35, from Tennessee. Just back from 9 months "upstate." She likes to clean and decorate and cook. Her living space is always the cleanest and neatest and well decorated in the house. She also goes shopping with me, and likes country music.

Also passing through today have been Jamie, Julia, and Marisela.

It makes me feel good to have people dropping in and working on their various projects.

I lent Marisela my quica today for her to use in the drumming circle marhing in the Gay Pride Parade in Manhattan tomorrow. She seemed a bit unappreciative of what a wonderful instrument is a quica.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Parent's Day 2004

My oldest daughter, Jonica, took me out to dinner for Parents Day last evening. She went home, changed, and took the subway to my place. We walked up to 7th Avenue and then turned toward Flatbush and walked down looking for a restaurant. I wanted French Suzette's but it was closed. We then went to German Steinhof's at 13th and 7th. Then it turned out that they only serve trout or goulash on Monday nights. We were both beer oriented at that moment so we stayed. Jonica had trout and a hard cider and I had Brooklyn Brown draft and a goulash which was peppery, with nice potatoes and a tangy sauce. We had bread and real creamery butter too. The waitress was trans. It made me feel good to see her working a regular job. It looked like very hard work in the busy place.

Jonica said that her life is a series of ups and downs. She said that she still likes New York but realizes how a little extra effort is required in NY to get along. When I asked her about living in Kansas City she really gagged, which I took as a sign that she really still loves NY. She said "it took me long enough to get here."

I asked her, do you ever feel as if your life might be basically the same over the next 30 years? I have the feeling that she was OK with this, but I'm not totally sure.

We talked about Amanda and Red Boots and about Colin.

Jonica described herself as "middle aged," which is perhaps stretching it, but only just. I thought maybe she is getting used to the idea. She is 34.

After dessert (a shared, scrumptious, cakelike yet moist, apple bread pudding, with sourcream and sliced fresh strawberries on the side, we walked down to 7th and 10th to get a vegetarian burrito (black beans) for Chelsea. I got lots of little cups of sauce and jalapenos, and got her a Jarrito Limonada to drink.

All in all we had a real nice evening, and I felt honored by Jonica's graciousness in showing me a nice time. Jonica had the waiter snap a picture of us, which came out well composed but only so slightly blurred.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Pai Maluca

Despedidas sem fim! Que alegria.

Today was Father's Day Sunday at church. Rev. Pat asked all the fathers to stand up. Chelsea and I stood up. Then she launched into a prayer for grace for all the men standing who were fathers. So Chelsea sat down, but I hung on, resolviong to be a genderqueer to the hilt in the land of genderqueers. Then I looked around at the standing men and thought "this is absurd" and sat down. After the prayer Reverend Pat made a big apology for her "insensitivity to Chelsea and Rusty", and admitted that even she makes mistakes sometimes. I thought it was a great teaching moment for the gays and lesbians. A "parent's day" would do just well, and be more realistic in contemporary society. Chelsea and I were not even paying any attention to the whole thing, but it was sensitive of Pat to see that old patterns do not always fit.

Then Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Transgender Law Center at the Urban Justice Center came on to give her sermon. Dean first became visible to me when he was arrested in the men's room of Grand Central Station during the demonstrations against the World Economic Forum in 2002. Even trans lawyers get arrested. Dean later produced a film entitled "Bathroom Follies" in which Chelsea had some role. Now Dean is the key trans person in New York, taking a legal approach to trans rights, as opposed to the political action path. Dean takes a "radical" perspective on the contemporary social scene, and also on the contemporary Gay/lesbian politics scene. He said that the assimilationist leaders of the major gay organizations ignore the plight of the poorest and most abused people in the queer community. Obviously he is one of the few visible trans leaders who follows the radical social line that our group has espoused since the early 1990's. Chelsea thinks he is great.

At a certain point Spade lauded Transy House as the inspiration and exemplification of the appropriate social attitudes people would ideally be taking. He said something like "we know that after all else fails, and all doors are closed to a transperson asking for help we can get them a place to sleep at Transy House." The audience said a collective amen, and Chelsea and I looked into each others eyes and groaned. Now we will get even more calls which will tear us apart and to which we cannot respond.

People were really nice to us after church.

Jonica called as soon as I got home to wish me a happy fathers day, and to invite me to dinner. She is going to 7th Heaven, the street fair on 7th Avenue in Park Slope today with her friend Kathleen (if I remember her name).

The Funeral of Ray Charles

Never in my life did I dream that I would be so aware of the passing of Ray Charles. When I was a young prig I liked some of his songs, but disliked the sight of him, smiling sightlessly and too widely. No I realize how handsome he was as a young man. The strength of his spirit was too much for me to receive in my youthful wasp state of mind. His interview with Marian McPartland in 1990 bears witness to what a ladies man he was. Chelsea and Nathan and I sat in the office last Friday listening to BGO's broadcast of his funeral with DD Bridgewater and Jo Adams. McPartland's eulogy of him was as if the voice of death were drawing you right into the abyss. She is almost 10 years older than Charles was.

The new word I took away from all this is "polymath." Ray Charles was a polymath. Willie Nelson is a sort of polymath. Quincy Jones is a polymath.

Somewhere in the funeral I heard the phrase "loving the lord is loving the all encompassing life-giving spirit." Was it Willie Nelson, Marian McPartland, David Fathead Newman, Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond or another of the many artistic luminaries who participated in the funeral who said this line? Whoops, I just remembered that it was me that made up the phrase, reacting to the music and spirit of the funeral. Charles was dubbed "the soulman".

There has been so much Ray Charles music on the radio in the last few days, and last night there was a special tribute to him during the "70 Years of the Apollo" special on TV. Tasha has downloaded 4 CD's of Ray Charles music for Chelsea.

Willy Nelson was evidently close to Charles. He tells the story of playing chess with Charles, and losing constantly. Charles made research into deafness one of his major charities. That says a lot about his view on life.

Quincy Jones talks about meeting Ray Charles in his autobiography. Jones was around 14-15, and Charles came through Portland, Oregon, already supporting himself in good stule as a musician and with the ladies at the age of 17. Charles was an inspiration to Jones (who received a lifetime achievement award last night at the Apollo). Jones is one of my heroes.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Father's Day Tomorrow

I told Sadaisha today that tomorrow is Father's Day, and that one or all of my children would probably send me greetings. This she found to be incomprehensible. Ah well, I hope I am less delusional in some matters than in others.

I am just back at my computer after diving into my home's catch basin which just a few days ago was filled with raw sewage. In opening the cleanout pipe at that time I lost the cap to the cleanout in the muck around the pipe. Thus raw sewage has been flowing in clear view of anyone who cared to look into the catch basis, now alive with flying insects bearing who knows what pestilence. I was letting it "cure" for a while, relying on evaporation, before diving in with a digger to clean things up and find the clean-out cap. Today there was a mild scent of sewer in the kitchen, so it seemed to me that the time had come. I got a big serving spoon as supplied by IKEA (they think of everything) and dug around in the muck, which had now turned to something like moist sand. I found the cap (plug) contemplated the sewage rushing through the pipe as it should for a while (with a sense of satisfaction) and slapped that old cap right back on there. I dug out a few things, examined the catch basin carefully to reach a better understanding of it all, and put the trap door back over it. As I worked (wearing long black heavy rubber gloves) I thought of beautiful Yemanja close by. I feel badly that she has such a smelly body of water to reign over, but as Ed Norton always says, "life is like a only get out of it what you put in." (there's another Alzheimers repeat)

I made reservations for Stockholm today, finally, after great drama. I am going by myself, since Chelsea resisted for so long that I began to think about what it would cost for the two of us, and that she really does not like to travel overseas, or in the US. It was a relief to finally get my reservation, but immediately I began to feel sad about going to Sweden without her, and I went back for another round of emotional discussion about it all. I ended up still going by myself at the end. She is mad at me for being so passive, waiting for others to tell me what they want. I am what I am.

I am really tense about money right now, especially after hearing from Scott Cowan and the price of attending one of the 375 greatest universities in the US. The good news is that by the 11th of July I will have paid off the first loan I took out related to Amanda at Smith. That will be a real step forward!

First thing this morning I went to Lowe's with Sadaisha to get another cart full of things she need to paint her room: floor paint, extra trim paint, different paint for the fireplace mantel, pricing for carpeting, etc. I ended up in a tense state, waiting for her to make up her mind about things. The room looks like the inside of a pepto dismal bottle at this point, almost any color will hardly be noticed.

Colin called me from Brazil last night for the third or fourth time in a week. It was a nice conversatgion at first, but then I asked him a few things about comments on his blog, which violated my resolve to never do this, but I was stoned. He clammed up, and I still do not understand what is up with him. Maybe it is simply anticipation of re-entry, and the unknowns that will bring. I felt so badly after saying goodbye, sensing that he was put off by something, but not able to find the key.

Chelsea and I are going to a concert in the Prospect Park Bandshell this evening, which will be a good chance to get out of the house. I can't remember what we will see, but it is some big name group.

I feel like playing the guitar lately. Maybe I can get a few moments to go an hide and play by myself. If I take a song book I will be able to remember some of the words.

Friday, June 18, 2004

On Becoming A Grandparent

My thoughts have been turning to little Red Boots in recent days as I wonder what it will be like to be a grandparent. I find myself devising little childrens stories, and thinking of other ways to befriend him. I wonder what it is like to be a grandparent. They always say that grandparenting is fun without the responsibility. I remember Jonica's grandmother whipping out foldout baby picture albums to show off her five grandchildren, and I see her smiling blissfully through oversized square frame glasses with rhinestones on the hinges. I do not think this will be me. I have been thinking that I had better work on taking the rut off my alzheimer addled remembrance of all the songs I used to sing while Jonica, Amanda, and Colin played in the bathtub.

I was clueless about parenting before Jonica was born, wondering what it would be like. It turned out that having children was the favorite thing in my life (lucky that Jonica was such a sweety to atart off with). I'm hoping that grandchildren will be as much fun. I suspect that a child inspires me to dream up stories more than teenagers and adults.

Last night at couples counseling Chelsea went on and on about her concerns about the eventual arrival of Red Boots into conscious reality. She seems to think that it will be a bigger event for us than I do. Actually I think Chelsea is looking forward to grandparenting with me. She is hard on the outside and mushy inside.

I read an article about how the doctors at the Houston Children's Hospital have a team to deal with the treatment of the 10 intersex babies born there every year. The article commented on how the gender of these babies is determined by some non-understood mix of genetics, hormonal balances, and unexplained developments in-utero. It made me think of little Red Boots dancing around in there, hopefully with everything going according to schedule in the correctly metered dosages.

Colin will arrive back in New York this coming Thursday. He seems so anxious to get out of Sao Paulo. I never felt this way about leaving Brazil. As I remember, I am always sadly resentful of coming back to the US. But his situation is different from mine, and he is definitely different from me. I do feel sad that he is no longer in Brazil because it was such a joy to visit with him and to be able to share Brazil with him as a person who has experienced a lot of what I have experienced as a sometime expatriate living there. It will be nice to have him back though, and I hope he will let me drive his Mini Cooper sometime. Knowing his attitude toward my driving (after driving for 48 years in 7 different countries, motorcycles to concrete mixers, on and off road, well over 500,000 miles) he will probably limit me to driving around an empty parking lot in first gear. I don't really care though. Driving for me has lost a lot of its joy, and at this point I am happy to sit in the soft leather seat in the back of a Lincoln Town Car or similar listening to music while someone else deals with it all.

I wish I could figure out how to put pictures on my blog. I have a great green frog to use as a kind of logo. I have loved frogs ever since I caught a lot of them to use as bait for bass in Lake Gananauqua, Ontario, in 1954. They are so sleek and green. And now we find that the death of the world's frogs is a measure of the death of organic life on the planet. It makes me feel validated.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Finally Understanding an Old Dream

When I was a child I had a bad dream now and then. One of them was to be up on the roof of my family's house, looking two stories down into the back yard, and then falling off the roof. I would be very anxious as I fell, but somewhere in the middle I would always tell myself (this is only a dream" and I would relax.

Another bad dream had me running with great effort, but no matter how hard I ran I could never get away from some force which held me back, as if I was running in sludge. I hated this dream. The feeling of running without getting anyplace had no analogue in my waking world back then, but now it does. Day after day I am busy trying to accomplish things I need to do for most of my waking hours. People say I never sit still or that I never rest. A few days ago I realized that I felt exactly as I had in my childhood dream, but now there seems to be no awakening. Then it occurred to me that the force pulling on me is the grim reaper. What a relief.

I have not shared day-to-day life with any of my three children, since there has always been a divorce involved sooner or later. While I remained more-or-less involved in the lives of my children there was always separation, and our relationships were not the same as if I had been there morning and night, day after day. I always thought that this meant that I had already experienced the separation anxieties that parents have when their children go off to college, or leave the nest and move away. To my surprise, I am now coming to see that in fact I am increasingly peripheral in the lives of my children, and that I had better get some friends instead of relying on them for conversation. I am surrounded by people all the time, but the reality is that I do not relate to them in an intimately friendly way. I always have the feeling that they could not possibly understand the reality of my life in terms of what motivates me and what I value. I have been facing the need to find a friend or two.

A researcher studying my home as a part of her Ph.D. dissertation research asked me the other evening "are you the mother of the house." I did not answer right off, and when I did I said something like "well I make all the important decisions." I do not think that the people living with me even like me, and do not connect with me emotionally. This is on my side, not their's. Everyone, except me, called Sylvia "Ma," but no one ever calls me anything except my name. Not that I ever campaign to be called anything else. It is simply symptomatic of my fundamental coldness, distance, and self-protectiveness. Of course compared to my sister I was always considered the one who could get along with everyone. But viewing her as an adult, she seems much nicer than me, although distant too. In fact, both Chelsea and Jamie thought that my sister and I were from some alien planet after the visited with both of us in Davis last January.

Justin, my second cousin, is in New York for a course in dental surgery. He is coming over to pick up a futon his mother Dorothy sent to my address so that someone would be here during the day to receive it. Dotothy is my first cousin on my mother's side.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Monologues at the Green Frog Cafe

As a confirmed member of the early majority my intuition tells me that it is time for me to create a blog. I have been an inveterate writer of journals for the past 44 years, so this is really just a change of medium. Some of my children have blogs, which are hilarious to me, but which open my eyes to the fact that they are skating somewhere on the edge of sanity. I could never rise to the levels of the humorous writing which appears in all the blogs I have seen, but my purpose here is simply to achieve the peace which sometimes comes by writing things down.

What is going on today? I have achieved a visit to the podiatrist, who at the end of the treatment blew air kisses at my feet, saying that they are beautiful. He is a wonderful podiatrist, I recommend him to everyone. He is paying the parking ticket I got while in his office. Next I walked all three dogs with Chelsea, came back to the house, and moved the drawers from a chest of drawers back upstairs from the middle of the living room floor. We are renovating a second room, adding to the clutter we already had due to the bathroom renovation on which I have been working for several months. Then Jamie called from Gallae Central House with word on Musa. Musa may or may not return, but Chelsea is not anxious to have her back, which is a bad sign for a fragile person such as Musa. Now the morning mail has arrived, with a form letter from Scott Cohen, President of Tulane University, telling me that Tulane will cost $39,125 for Colin's last year. And the day is just warming up. Now it is time to pay household bills.

Aaarrrgh. It has been so hot lately that the flowers are wilting. Celia says there is something in the air which is killing all the plants. Our fig tree, and the one next door, seem to have died. Que azar. Even the garaniums and the pachasandra is going.

I am becoming accustomed to Red Boots Soria as a name concept. I think of him dancing in his mother's belly.

I know that I am under deep psychological pressure right now because I have a lot of self-destructive urges. It is a major battle to force myself to keep on schedule with all the things going on. On top of everything, I have a book prospectus due in two weeks, and I have to organize the panel I will chair in Stockholm on July 10 (the day my father died, and the year (and day??) Sylvia was born). And Chelsea is still dancing around the go/no go decision on going to Stockholm with me. It's as if I am torturing her by offering an all expenses paid trip to Sweden.

The psychic called yesterday and said that her research showed that someone related to me is overseas, and is an evil influence in the lives of Chelsea and me. She said that our house needed to be cleansed. She asked me to tell her how many doors and windows we have because she had to prepare the proper cleansing agent. She said that we could do it ouselves under her instructions for only $350, but for her to do it properly would be $500. I offered her $50 maximum, and we parted company. So now I may have offended the spirit world (yet again?). She is convinced that our house is full of conflicting spirits. Well DA!! The place is a 100 years old, even without considering the large number of recent residents passing through with assorted spells, saints, spirits, and hexes. Em compensacao, Yemanja is her long blue gown stands serene on her alter, which is unfortunately right next to the open flowing sewer on the lower level of our house.

Today I must muck out the catch basis and replu the sewer line. I also should go to Ghetto Nails for a nail revamping and eyebrow waxing.