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

Friday, October 20, 2006

This is Central House in Palenville, New York, in June 2006. The house was built in the mid-1800's, and was one of the first "artists's houses" in the Catskills. It is currently owned by the Maetreum of Cybele, Magnamater, Inc., a religious organization dedicated to the following of the Great Mother, Cybele.
Rhona McMahan

(Left to Right) Rusty (64), Chelsea (46), and Katrina (32) watching "Deadwood" at Central House, July 2006. This was a Sunday night tradition until the show ended.
Rhona McMahan

Turning 65: Installment One

Yesterday I received birthday greetings from my Sister Sue, who is on the way to visit her daughter Carolyn and family in Beaune, France. Sue reminded me that I have not updated my blog for wuite a while. It is not that I have nothing to write about, it is just that so many things are going on in my life that I have found it difficult to write about it in a coherent manner.

The dominant process in my day-to-day life right now, as it has been for the past four months, is to pack up everything in my house in Brooklyn in order to move out temporarily. My son Colin, 23, is buying a 28 percent share in the Brooklyn townhouse, with the funds to be used for a total "gut" renovation of the 100 year old building. Colin and his partner David will live on the top two floors after renovation, and I will have a 1 bedroom "garden" apartment on the bottom floor (which is partially below grade level although not exactly a basement). This deal is attractive to me because it gives me a nice place to live as a semi-retired person in the congenial urban environment of Park Slope. The burden of managing the building, including the role of chief maintenance person, now passes to Colin, and I am freer to be elsewhere when I wish. The value of the property will also be enhanced considerably, as the neighborhood has gone through gentrification in the 12 years I have lived here, and my house has been in need of renovation for some time in terms of basic mechanicals as well as cosmetic aspects.

This real estate deal has ruffled the feathers of many people with whom I have been associated. First of all, daughters Jonica and Amanda had the initial reaction that I was favoring Colin over them. They now seem to be resigned to the deal because it seems to be what I want. Chelsea, my partner for the past 15 years (homophobic/transphobic/queerphobic America continues to discriminate against basic rights for all its tax paying citizens, so we are not legally married) has been very disgruntled by the disruption of our lives which our "downsizing" is causing. Chelsea and Colin have never gotten along with each other. The three queer people who have been living in the house with us are expected to find their own places. Two of the three have never paid me any rent in the several years they have been my "guests" (and it is time that they get on with their lives). They have been sending bad vibrations my way because of my betrayal (what have you done for me lately?), even though I promised them that I would lend them the money to pay first and last and security in order to get into their own apartments. They have had 4 months advance warning on all this, but have just started to get serious about moving out since I posted the November 2 date for the moving truck arrival 10 days ago.

Beyond the people currently living here who will have to move, I have also felt a wave of disapproval from all the people who have lived here or who have been associated with Transy House over the years. This place has been a kind of cultural, political, and social center over the years. To some there has been a sense that Transy House was a bit like the home of their queer family, the one they intentionally if informally joined after their birth family was less than accepting of the way they are. The closing of the house has seemed something like the end of an era with the closing of the family home.

It continues to be a slow slog to be doing end-of-life triage in the midst of people who do not want it to happen. On top of the humans, there have been three and sometimes four dogs and two cats to deal with underfoot.

I am reminded of the times when Susan, Cousin Ruth Ann, wife Sara and I disassembled the possessions in Grandmother Olive Moore's house in the late 1970's, and the later time when Susan and I and the Carr family disassembled the household of my mother and Dr. Carr in the late 1980's. It makes me wistful to see old pictures of family and friends, old projects of my children from an earlier time, and to see unfinished remnants of various things I have started to do over the years. I am glad, however, that I am the one doing the triage and diassembly rather than leaving the whole mess for my children. When I told Colin where my lifetime collection of personal journals are located he commented "no one is interested in them anyway." I do not write journals for him. I write them for children in future generations who might be interested in the personal thoughts and experiences and images from the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. I have felt frustrated that my own ancestors were so inarticulate, at least from the standpoint of leaving no written expression of how they felt about things. Everyone (in a family or not) does not have a feel for history. Some in every generation down through the generations do have this interest, and I am leaving something for them, which may or may ot ever get to them.

In the midst of all the moving out turmoil there is one last videographer making a documentary on Transy House. He is a film student at SUNY Purchase. As I step over and around him as he tapes and interviews I keep remembering the tone of Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard."

Chelsea and I have been integrating into a pagan religious collective located near Catskill, New York, during the past six months. This group was founded by people we have known for many years. The group is based at a 150 year old hotel named Central House, located in the Village of Palenville, just below the Katerskill Falls and the ruins of the famed Catskill Mountain House. I have enjoyed getting to know the Catskill Mountain area, which is replete with a sense of American history, and is a beautiful natural habitat. Palenville is about 40 miles from Albany, 20 miles from Woodstock, 15 miles from Kingston, and 10 miles from Saugerties, which may give a rough position for any reader with a knowledge of the Hudson Valley in New York State. It is about 2 hours from Brooklyn by car, and there is a bus connection to the very front door of Central House leaving from Port Authority.

Chelsea was elevated as a Priestess in this cult last April, and has committed herself to spending more time there since then. I have been commuting back and forth from Palenville and Brooklyn fairly regularly since then, with Chelsea spending two or three times as much time there. In June Chelsea announced that she had taken up with a young woman living there, and that henceforth she would be in a polyamorous relationship with me. This was a total surprise to me, and put me through months of the sorts of feelings one has when they have been betrayed and abandoned. My children were also rather negative about the idea of polyamory for me at 64, even though they are aware that polyamory is a minor trend among queers and, evidently, the Mormons.

I have tried to be as flexible as possible about this relational development, and the three of us have been sharing a small two room space in Central House. Naturally we all have free access to the common rooms and facilities in the house. Chelsea, Katrina, and I have maintained a cordial relationship, and life goes on.

One positive thing is that Katrina is very interested in living at Paddy Mountain eventually, which pleases me. The idea is that we would have a small energy efficient house built using the latest in energy saving technology. This project is seductive to me, although I have also continued to work on my 30 year Green Frog Cafe project, and have almost completed the project of putting heavy wooden shutters on all the windows to discourage vandals.

I have been on sabbatical since May, and will not have to teach again until February. The stuff remaining from the Brooklyn townhouse will be trucked to a self-storage facility near Paddy Mountain, from which things will be eventually move back to Brooklyn (very few), to the Green Frog Cafe, or to further disposal in some form. I hope to be able to move into my new apartment in the Brooklyn house by next September, after the period of long-distance commuting from Palenville during the Spring semester.

Longer term, I am still weighing whether I should continue to teach fulltime, part time, or no time. Right now I know that I will at least be teaching until January 2008. My social security will not start until May 2007 anyway.

So that is a quick update for now. I will add pictures and more interesting things later.