Thursday, August 19, 2010

It is not me

I have just received a call from a friend that my e-mail has been broken into and a message is going around that I need money to be sent immediately to Nigeria. Please ignore all messages. I cannot get into my e-mail to change things yet but I am trying. If you read this and know any of my friends, please help spread the word of this. thank, Joan

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Old Friends on Bondi Beach, July 2010, But First, Uluru

First let me explain the first image in my last post as one of my readers has requested. That is Uluru at sunset. Uluru is the world's largest free standing monolith and a sacred site of the Anangu people of the central Australian desert. Here in la mia nuovia lingua is a welcome by Nellie Paterson, a leader of the Anangu. "Questa 'e terra degli Aborigini e voi siete i benvenuti. Guardatevi intorno ed imparate, in modo da capire gli Aborigeni e che la cultura aborigena 'e forte e viva." This is the land of the Aborigines and you are welcome. Look around and learn so that you will understand the Aborigines and that Aboriginal culture is strong and alive."

Uluru rises from the flatness of the vast desert, 400 K from Alice Springs. Our friends, Dawn and Linda and La Professoressa walked around its base, the respectful way to take in this monumental being, a procession of 8 miles. I could only do four but I was grateful to be at its base looking up at its caves and the dream-time stories imprinted on its rock face.
I have been trying to work on the long piece about Elliot, my brother. I am spending more time at home, and I have the feeling that I must do some things. As I worked over the first draft, two insights came to me about what I had learned from my life, two failings that at least I can now claim as wrested knowledge. First, is that I have been careless in my life, careless of others and the second closely connected insight is that I indulged my over whelming need to protect myself as soon as I was old enough to be able to do that. I thought I could escape the rawness of my childhood by putting my emotional safety before all other things. You know, I do not know who is reading this, a strange way to break open one's 70 year old heart, but the pressure of life's changes compels me to make this offering.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New York Buddies Below the Equator, July 2010

Dawn and Linda, whom I have known for over 35 years, carrying our New York history, walking down the main street of Alice Springs, in the red center, il centro rosso, of this land. From Columbus Avenue in Manhattan to the Todd River bed, usually the dry avenue of aboriginal families making their way of out their desert communities into the bustle of Alice, but now running with renewed waters--a rare sight. but even rarer for me was the wonder of my two old friends, comrades for so long, within arm's reach. I have accepted, I think, that I may never see old friends again, that the distance is too great, the travel too demanding, too expensive, that even in this modern world, the change of continents, of generations, of physical health, makes a difference. To stand with Dawn and Linda along the flanks of Uluru, the sacred monolith of ancient and present peoples, on a rainy evening, just the four of us alone with the curves, the valleys, the hidden routes of this breathing being of red stone, was wonder entire. For many years, we had walked under the glowing skyscrapers, the neon monoliths of Times Square, together, and now, in my 70th year, our women's friendship encircled the world.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

La Professoressa With Her Rooster

First may I send my love to Stephanie and Lepa for their constant friendship that knows no barriers, except at times my own laziness. And to the seven other followers, thank you.
Now while I moan about my aching bones, La Professoressa goes about touching up our home, here seen putting up three wild duck sculptures that I bought for her almost ten years ago. And she is wearing her carpenter's belt, known fondly here as "The Rooster." I get a special thrill when I see her wearing leather, as some of you might know, and so once a year, she girds her loins. La Professoressa is 12 years younger then me and is often the day to my nights. Amidst all the sad certainties of so many national policies, amidst my anger and sorrow and restless knowing that the power to inflict and control and decide for others must be interrupted, moments of desire seize me, moments of life that lie in the bend of a neck or the curve of an arm, in the wonder of La Professoressa saying, I love you, darling and then turning back to her 80 students' essay waiting to be read.
In two days time, our friends from New York will walk into our arms. Dawn and Linda, my upper West Side buddies. This will keep me going.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

La Mia Amica, Patrizia con Eleanor Roosevelt

Every week for almost a year, my dear friend Patrizia and I have been attending Italian classes at the Center for Italian Studies here in Carlton. She now far surpasses me in her mastery of the language but I am so grateful for this opportunity to parlare, leggere e ascoltare to this lingua bella. At this time in my life, when my body is so uncomfortable, I stand on new strade, ascolto nouve canziones--the songs of Gino Pauli, full of the sea and the salt of you as he sang so many years ago. And always the voice of that soon to be human wooden thing, "un semplice pezzo di legno" that would turn into the voice of possibility--"Non farmi male!" if only loved. Do not hurt me, the voice of the people of so many nations, the voice of so many whose bodies long for the cessation of pain, for the fullness of the belly, for the bounty of water. Le ossa mi fanno male, my bones hurt, my friends. Non farmi male for us all. No more hurt.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Their Deaths, Our Lives

Furkan Dogan, 19, in his senior year at Kayseri High School; he hoped to become a doctor.
Cengiz Akyuz, 41, married, three children aged 14, 12 and 9.

Cengiz Songur, 47, six daughters, one son

Fahri Yaldiz, 43, firefighter, married with four sons

Cetin Topcuoglu, 54, former amateur soccer player and Taekwondo champion, married, one son. His wife, Cigden Topcuoglu, was also on board. She survived.

Cevdet Kiliclar, 38, reporter, webmaster for Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). Married, one daughter, one son

Ali Haydar Bengi, 39, ran a telephone repair shop, degree Arabic Literature, married, four children, ages 15, 10, twins, 5.

Ibrahim Bilgen, 61, electrical engineer, member of the Chamber of Electrical Engineers of Turkey, political candidate. Married, 6 children.

Necedet Yildirim, 32, an IHH aid, married, one daughter, aged 3, photo to follow.

On June 3, 2010, I received these images and information about the men killed on the Mavi Marmara. Occupations depend on creating a faceless opposition. In that night, these are the ones who lost all, in an attempt to change a brutal national policy. 30 children had their worlds shattered in international waters by the children of a people who know what it means to come home to empty homes, to have only photographs to look at of those murdered because a Sate decreed they were no longer worthy of living. Was this what it took for Israel to relent on its blockade of Gaza, to finally understand that not all the public relations campaigns, all the scripted responses, the memorized falsities, the declarations that this is what good Jews should say when confronted with bad press, will make these faces and all the rest of the Palestinian disappeared, go away. Their stories will be told, in the novels pouring out of the Palestinian imagination, by exiled poets and on the stages of the world. Like the tellings of another time--in the saddest of historical ironies, in the saddest loss, or refusal, of historical knowledge. How many more times will our human hearts fail each other.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Words from Daniel for my 70th birthday

It is three weeks ago now that we celebrated my 70th birthday. I want to share with you what my friend Daniel wrote for the occasion--my 31 year old friend. Many years ago now, I co-edited a book with John Preston called "Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Talk about Their Lives Together." John died from AIDS before he saw the finished book which was not a success then back in 1995. Neither many lesbians or gay men bought the book, each I imagine thinking the other was other. I dedicate these words, Daniel's words about our life together, to the memory of John.


This is your birthday, so this is my love letter for you.

I first met Joan when I was writing my PhD at the University of Melbourne.
She had come from New York, a stranger to the city.
I too had come from far away and our connection was instant: two strange shapes that felt out of place but drawn together through our queer sense of the world.

Of course, I had first met Joan through her writing. Eve Sedgwick introduced me to Joan through the pages of "Epistemology of the Closet."
In this book, Sedgwick calls out Joan's name and the other courageous pro-sex survivors of the sex wars as pioneers. These writers, say Sedgwick, challenged feminist orthodoxies of the time which pitted lesbians and gay men against one another. For Sedgwick writing in 1990, these challenges themselves "led to a refreshed sense that lesbians and gay men share important though contested aspects of one another's histories, cultures, identities, politics and destinies." (37)

Although it may sound too grand to say in this public place, in the privacy of our relationship I know that I have been privileged to experience that sharing, that intersection and that mutual implication with Joan in a profound and personal way.

That sharing, that intersection, that mutual implication. When Joan would read my dissertation drafts she would always say, "why do you always write in threes?" From the start Joan could always read my rhythm. I want to say that it's kind of like that old Bette Midler song from "Beaches," I know you by heart, because our friendship is just about as camp and as dorky as that.

Ever since our first meeting at the restaurant when I went fumbling through your clothes looking for you lost ear-ring while the English Department sat around us lunching to our endless obsession with pyjama parties--we have fun. She makes me feel young again.

In our current writing project, we have been reflecting on intergenerational perspective on queer archiving. And perhaps it wasn't until I had been to New York to visit the ephemera files, the books, banners, posters, badges and spunky dyke volunteers who worked at the Herstory Archives that I really understood Joan's Australia. For Joan, those archives were her compass--here Joan has had a chance to look at life from different eyes, out of space, out of time. And at times this reorientation has been scary but it has let Joan see life from a wholly different side. Joan is often wont to say that I introduced her to the language of post-structuralism, to queer theory and Foucalt--but it has been an honour of my life to constantly bring Joan back to the fact that her work, as Sedgwick makes clear, has helped lay the foundations of queer studies today. As her friends we have all helped her reorient herself to her histories, to herself, in this new land. And I have seen how Joan's relationship with Di here in this beautiful home they have created has inspired Joan to paint life across a new canvas and to find new languages for her life in this vivid, different world.

And we are all here today because Joan has captured our hearts. The way her eyes glisten when she smiles, so full of such a celebration of life and its pleasures. The way her jaw changes position beneath her soft cheeks as she rails against war, oppression and violence. Joan is like a power source. Knowing her, we know how she organized all those lesbians across New York City to get the Archives happening. She can hustle and she can schmooze and she can carouse. And she can certainly make me swoon.

During my PhD years, Joan and Di did the bureaucratic dance of visas and immigration and when the bureaucrats weren't smiling on Joan's application to remain here I remember doing the gentlemanly thing and offering my hand. As it turns out, she turned me down, but she did it so tenderly.

In a world of managerial universities, Joan has been a true academic mentor. She has nurtured me and kept believing in me and it is only now that I have an academic job that I can look back on all those years of uncertainty with a real and deep appreciation for her love and encouragement. People all over the world can tell stories about how you have inspired and driven them and on behalf of all those people who can't be here today, I want to say thank you.

Joan is a friend in both the summer and the winter, embracing the pleasure and facing life's hardness. Through our more recent times in hospitals you have been a rock. Who knew that sudoku and the letters of Rosa Luxemburg could get you through the eye of the storm? Thank you Joan--you have a gift for making a path out of the debris.

When Joan prepares for a public speaking engagement, she will spend weeks collecting clippings and fragments from here and there to rustle through and read from. A narrative emerges from the constituent parts, so, to close, I have two:

from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
"What it it then between us?
What is the count of scores or hundreds of years between us?
Whatever it is, it avails not--distance avails not, and place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine
I too walked the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me..."

Second, this is from a 1995 song by Chris Knox:

Seems like you and me are stuck together
Feels like we've never been apart
Seems like you are my skin of supple leather
Feels like your blood pumps through my heart

Seems like you and me are one another
Feels like we couldn't be un-joined
Seems like I am your sister, you're my brother
Feels like a phrase yet to be coined

Seems like I am to you a vital organ
Feels like you are to me the air
Seems like without your night I'd have no morning
Feels like you'll always want me there

It we should ever be untethered
If somehow we should end
If we could not go on together
Apart you'd be my good and trusting friend.

Happy Birthday, Joanie