Penny Arcade Says

A cultural icon of Downtown New York, Penny Arcade is a writer, actress, comedienne, social commentator, political activist, and one of the inventors of Performance Art (for which she apologizes!)

Monday, January 12, 2009

In Sinai Three

Naseer has brought me my Nescafe and tahina and lebne (the soft flat pita type bread of the region.) Yesterday in Ein Hudra, the lovely palm filled oasis where we spent the night , I watched Zainub make this same bread by hand and two days before Ayesha, the sister in law of Achmed, who was our mountain and desert guide, let me try my hand at it. This is bread without yeast, just flour , salt and water. For many years the Beduins lived on this and milk which they call leben, the same word in Bedu, as the word for life. I learned this word as a child at our next door neighbor Vickie George’s house.Vickie was a vivacious, gentle, laughing presence in my childhood. Lebonese, she made Lebi each day, a lovely yoghurt that I discovered before Dannon became a hosehold word, in her house. “Lebi “ , Vickie would tell me each time I visited her hoping for this treat, “In our language means life.” That is how important Lebi is to Lebonese people and here it is the same. I was just thinking a moment ago about how the word ‘multicultural” has been so corrupted. As a immigrant Italian child, I grew up truly multicultural and not only because I was child born in America to Southern Italians. My childhood was filled and surrounded by Lithuaians, Armeinians, Polish, Black, Ukrainians, Greeks, Irish, French Canadians etc. We ran in and out of each others houses. We ate each others food. We heard each others original languages spoken in the homes, because nearly everyone I grew up with spokeEnglishoutside and their own language at home.
Now the word multicultural has nothing to do with people but with politics and it is used in a divisive way. In my show Bitch!Dyke!faghag!Whore! I say , “Oh, the new multiculturalism! The one that excludes white people !”

As the bread comes out the fire, ashy grey, Jamal takes it away and on a rock he beats the ashes, dirt and sand off it. I have never tasted such a bread. It is like the bread of my childhood, but without yeast and it is a wonder to the mouth.
After 5 days in the desert we return to Green Beach. I am sad to leave my camel but ready for the life by the sea. The wind is up but the sun is very warm and the bright blue sea, which is after all not red, is lovelier than the Med 30 years ago. Naseer tells me that while we were being beaten by the wind in Noamis, the wind created havoc at the beach. Huge sandstorms, which helmut told me he experienced there last March had wrecked the camp and it took two days to clean the huts and pavilions. Helmut told me that last March, the sand flew so hard that even sunglasses didn’t help and that he had to take refuge in a hotel up the beach. It was impossible to remain in the Hosha’s which are made of reeds and bamboo, and while covered with rugs , the wind blows the sand right through them. There are white caplets on each wave and they do a rolling march towards the shore in time.The wind is picks up reminding me again of two nights ago as we rode towards Naomis in the desert. After lunch in Waddi Azalea, it started to get cool and then a light wind started and it grew and grew. Helmut was walking and I on the camel, as the wind whipped us and I started to freeze. The way was rocky and high, with black slab slate everywhere, with the freezing wind it felt like a true hell..a dark, stony, cold place, not the hell of mythology which is hot and fiery.
We stopped to eat lunch which Jamal started to prepare as soon as we arrived at our destination in the Waddi Azealea. He began as he did every lunch by first unpacking the camels, hobbling their front legs with a length of rope, so they couldn’t wander off, then gathering wood for the fire, making the bread and tending it as it baked in the embers. He then made a big salad of tomotoes and cucumbers fresh from his father Oude’s garden, and a hot dish of stewed okra and vegetables that he prepared in the fire.. Oude has quite a green thumb and the other morning in Waddi Disco, he had proudly shown me his garden and the young fig trees he had planted. As we waited for the food to cook we had chai (tea) Even now a few days later, tea made the ordinary way, where you pour boiling water on tea leaves, fails to satisfy the way tea made in the black kettle, with sugar boilng in it does, the black kettle nestled in the embers and boiled with sugar insures a piping hot tea that feels and tastes like a nectar.. As we sat eating in Waddi Azalea, the wind started to rise and the sun hid behind a cloud and Helmut and I both felt cold. We slept for a while after lunch and when we started off again, Jamal having washed everything, packed the camels again etc the wind had really started to rise. We were excited as we were heading for Noamis, a preBeduin, pre- Pharoh, settlement that baffles historians. Noamis is thought to be more than 4000 years old. Round , flat stone huts
perched on a rocky desert plateau. As we started off the wind gained steadily. We were crossing a high sierra plane that was all black slate, crumbling , jagged mountains of the stuff and the desert floor covered in shards of the same. Without the sun it was a bleak and somewhat eerie landscape. Sitting on a camel takes some core work as it is like riding a dolphin, the camel rocks back and forth , it is no wonder that camels are called the ships of the desert. The wind grew and grew. I wrapped myself in my wool shawl and felt like Mary in the desert with Joseph looking for an inn . The fact that it was two days before Xmas was not lost on me. The wind became huge as we trudged on for a couple of hours. Finally we saw in the distance a Beduin settlement of 4 tents and low houses. “See Ahmed?” Jamal called from behind me. “No “ I said barely able to speak from cold. “See! There’s Ahmed’s jeep!” There in the far distance I saw a smudge of red thru my watering eyes.It was a vast barren plane between some rocky outcroppings and low black mountains. As we got closer I saw that the figure crouching in front of an unfinished concrete ,block house was Ahmed. Still closer I saw that under his huge Beduin winter cape stood little Sabah. I immediately forgot the cold and shrieked “Sahbah” with joy! The first morning in Waddi Disco, a valley of great beauty that has something of the vibe of a minuture version of Arizona’s Monument Valley. A place of giant free standing rocks, where Ahmed lives with his family. Oude and Etireh, his mother and father and his sister Aida, her husband Eiteg and their two sons, Hallad 4 years three months old and Sabah age 3 years 2 months old. Also living there are Aesha who is married to Mohamed another son, and Jamal. Waddi Disco got it’s name from a party Ahmed held there that has become a bit of a legend among Beduines, because the music rang from the mountain walls, echoing and creating a giant sound. Our first morning there, having started our trip from the asphalt road into the mountains where we picked up our camels, we road the 20 kilometers to sleep our first night at Ahmed’s camp, stopping half way in another Waddi to have tea with a Beduin woman who was tending her goats and shared her fire and tea with us. The Beduine’s, once a fully nomadic people, still spend 90% of their time outdoors. A rug, a fire, chai and any place becomes home. Beduine hospitality, forged in the harsh desert life demands that any stranger be housed and fed for three days.While one cannot expect this ‘free’ care in todays world of have and have nots, we were given this kind of welcome everywhere we went in the desert. Our Beduine guides were paid for our trip but no Beduin we encountered on our journey into the desert ever charged us to share there fire and tea. Lonely Planet’s Sinai Guide states that while “Tea was always offered to strangers, one now had to pay for this tea” and I refute this statement. As we pushed on to Waddi Disco that first day, I was feeling strangely natural in the camel saddle. I have a fear of heights and yet for some reason being up high on the camel felt safe to me as was directing him right and left. Camels plod and I was nervous that she might bolt and kept the green plastic rope in my hand much to Jamal’s consternation. I suppose that the camels are trained to subtle messages, as Jamal kept telling me to let the rope lay low to the camels side.The camel was packed wide and my short legs were stretched over her saddle bags, stretching my inner thighs. The solution is to sit with one leg bent in front of you but the first day on a camel this feels precarious, so I rode as one would a horse.We arrived and marveled at the beauty as Jamal and Ahmed got busy making lunch. Ayesha , Ahmed’s sister in law came to bring chai and then food, a salad, a kind of very soft feta cheese, lebne bread and chai and more chai. As evening came Ahmed said “You haven’t even gone to see my parents , to see how they live. “ I’m going now “I exclaimed, rose and walked the long expanse between his camp and their compound. Sheep and camels stood around goats and several tented out buildings stood, one with it’s gate ajar. I will never forget what I saw as I entered the gate. Around a blazing fire laying to the right, on a rug was a large man, leaning on a huge bundled blanket, his head wrapped nonchalantly in a blue Turban.This was the patriarch Oude. “Hello!” he said in English
and extended his hand to me with a broad smile. Think Anthony Quinn. Across from him in colorful clothes, her face wrapped in a black veil from which she puffed a cigarette discreetly, was Ahmed’s mother, Ethfay. To her side was Aida, round faced, covered in her veil and scurrying around cooking, was Ayesha.They made room for me on the carpet and I looked at them in awe. It was like going behind the curtain of time.We drank endless cups of chai , I asked everyone their names 4 times. We laughed a lot.Slowly after several more cups of chai I returned to Ahmed’s camp.
Ahmed had a woolen tent, that the women used to weave from goat wool but Helmut and I chose to sleep under the overhang of the canyon, there around the fire, stars twinkling above us. The next morning I went across again and encountered Ahmed’s brother in law Eiteg, husband of Aida, who was preparing to go on a jeep trip with some tourists later in the day. He greeted me kindly and offered me tea. This was when I met Sabah, his son. Sabah is a sturdy little boy with sparkling eyes, good natured and a constant smile. Although he is only just past three, he has tremendous focus and loves to commuicate.I fell in love. Hallad his older brother, is shyer, scowling a lot and coarser in everyway. Ahmed tells me Hallad is slower and doesn’t talk as well as Sabah who is a year younger.Hallad spent the whole time scowling at me, sticking out his tongue and avoiding my touch as Sabah sprawled in my arms and played little verbal games with me speaking the English he had been obviously taught by his father and uncles. Sitting by Eiteg’s fire early that morning as he prepared to go to Ein Hudra and pick up tourists for a jeep trek into the desert, Sabah finds a nail and a rock and proceeds to bang the nail into the wood that holds up the tent. After a few minutes he finds another rock and stows it in the sleeve of his little shirt. Sabah pounds the nail in and then knocks it out. He is delighted. I tire of the game and take the rock from his little dirty hand. He smiles up at me and takes the second rock out of his sleeve and starts to pound the nail again, laughing at my surprise. I marvel at his awareness. His presence is crystalline joy and openness. I think “My god what charisma..what could this boy accomplish?”
In Naomis, Ahmed has arranged for us to sleep in an unfinished concrete block house. The fllors are sand and it is damp and cold. The wind has been blowing for hours across this desolate plane. Across and behind there is an excampment of 5 Beduine tents. I see people moveing slowly there, women, braceing against the wind. Hallad comes around the corner with 4 other children. His face is dirty and snot pours from his nose , from all their noses. Sabah stays close to Ahmed but is happy to see me, flirting from a distance but I am so coold even his 2 ½ year old charms can’t change that. The children disappear and Jamal starts to make the fire but he and ahmed realize it will be too smoky in this room where Helmut and I must also sleep so they move everything to the other room.
Helmut and I sit on rugs , bundled in our coats and wrapped in blankets.Outside the wind roars like a devouring monster.There is no moon. The window is shuttered anyway.The children creep in and out to stare at us. It is clear that they rarely see westerners.
This is a close to the family trek. Ahmed’s business seems to be an extention of what he himself lives and Helmut and I like this. Ahmed calls us to eat . The room is smoky and Ahmed cracks the glassless window.I am too cold and tired to eat much. I drink the hot sweet tea. It is a comfort to the mouth and hands. Quickly I go to my rug to sleep, wearing all my clothes and my down coat and two blankets. I awke in the night to pee. I step outside the wind is fierce.The stars look cold too and distant. I am not afraid in this dark which amazes me. Each day I sink deeper into the absolute safety of this desert and this way of life.
The next morning I wake up. I go outside and see movement far across the way where the Beduine tents are. The wind is gone. The sun shines. Soon I see the children start to mill around between the tents and I walk over looking for Sabah. An older women, her forehead tattooed in the old way comes out of one of the compound and smilingly beckons me to come with her.She was the one who Jamal had greeted with great tenderness the night before. I follow her. She has a spacious tent. Her fire is burning and she asks “Chai?” and I nod yes. She is smiling. Clearly chuffed that I am there. She pours me tea and hands me a pile of Libne, the flat bread and motions me to eat as she does. She takes out a metal vial and offers it to me. I see that it is Kohl and without a mirror I apply it to my eyes. She nods approvingly. Slowly the place fills up with younger women including Aida. Now I understand, this is the mother of Aida’s husband Eiteg. The women cover their faces up to the eyes. But never take their eyes off me. Several are beautiful. Several have babies at their breasts and they feed them modestly.The children run in and out and are scolded by Leyla, my host. A few older children come including a boy who speaks some English. I greet everyone with the little Bedu I know. “Inti shedeen?”
Do you feel good? And they answer laughing .Pleased and surprised I am speaking their language. “Shedeeda! Shedeeda!” (Good! Good!) Jamal comes to find me. “eat now “ he says. But I make a face and lift my tea glass and say “Shay! (Chai) and everyone laughs. Clearly confused he leaves the tent. Leyla takes out a bundle and I realize I have now entered her ‘bazaar” She opens it and the familiar pile of plastic trinkets appears , nothing I am interested in. But then I see the black wool ring that Beduin men use to hold their weils in place. Helmut had gotten one that was too big for him and this one seems smaller so I announce to Leyla I will by it . the price is 13 EP 3 more than it costs in town of 50 cents. Then I see an Beduine veil, the old style but not an old one, with two slits for the eyes and a t at the nose /forehead with fake gold tin coins. Not so long ago the veils were decorated with real coins , silver and the women wore their wealth on their faces. I say I will buy it too. Leyla is delighted and I motion that I will return.
I go the fire that Ahmed has built outside the grey concrete house. Ahmed looks up at me laughing
5 days in desert not enough for Susana! You need 2 months!” I laugh and agree with him. “Why you not eat?” he asks me worriedly. “I am not hungary” I tell him, “it is a good thing.” But he is confused. I return to Leyla’s tent with my wallet. I sit on the rug across from her and quickly the tent fills up with the children hanging abck so the grownups can sit on the carpet. Leyla pours me more tea and says something to an 11 year old girl who scurries away. Minutes later she comes back with a rolled carpet. Leyla unfurls it and it is over 20 feet long.Red , Blue with White and black stripes. Proudly Leyla points to her chest and I realize she is telling me she wove it. She tells me she wants 400 pounds for it . The rug is nice but what would I do with a 20 X 3 Beduin rug? The she motions to cut it. Half for 150 Eygption pounds. $30. I want to buy something from her so this works for me.leyla continues to pull things out for me to inspect and to all the Beduine women I meet she has endless plastic
trinkets many I suspect are made in China because everyone has them and they all look the same. I repeatedly tell the women.."I want something you made." Days later I will meet Greta at Ghannah Lodge who has been coming to Nuweiba for 17 years. In teh past three years she has created an eco lodge, stunningly beautiful and a school for teh children and now embarks on a womens craft collective. Afte asking for days about Ghannah Lodge and getting no resonse I finally mention it to Ahmed who also has no idea what I am talking about till I say..The people who run it are Belguin. He brightens up and says "Greta." "Yes, I say "Greta is the womans name." I had also found her on Couchsurfers and she had resopnded but since i had intermittent internet and everything in Nuweiba is ditances..everything so spread out, I hadn't gone to find her.Immediately Ahmed takesme to Ghannah Lodge. "So we can return before dark, to your fish dinner."Ahmed says. This was the night before I flew to germany so Helmut and the
harold and his wife and daughter Nina and Tom were having a fish dinner althogh I hadn't expected Tom but was delighted when he showed up at the tent. Whether he was coming to say goodbye to me or if it was just the lure of teh fish dinner I don't know.
I jumped in Ahmed's jeep and we headed towards Muzeina Village, a concrete jumble of houses with rutted dirt roads where many of the Muzeina live. As we rounded a bend the loveliest seascape came to view with Palm trees, a paradise , an oasis..."My God ! It is so beautiful!" I exclaimed.The sign was diifferent but we walk down the slope and dogs start barking, three of them. There at the promenade of the sea, in a lovely pavilion stood Greta, wiry with long blonde hair and very pretty.Gracious and welcoming she asked me to sit and offered me tea or coffee and within mintes no seconds , i felt as if I had always known her. As we waited she told me about Ghannah
which means paradise in Bedu. I had learned the word for paradise the day before and suddenly realized I had been pronouncing Ghannah the country Ghana
no wonder no one knew what I was talking about! It is pronounced Jennah.Hedy, another Belguin, she of the smiling face and intelligent eyes took me for a tour. she had been there 9 years. "Do you go to Belguim ?" I asked as she showed me the small stone Hoshas, each very clean and beautiful and the big Beduin tent and the Yoga Room. "rarely" she replied and of course I understood. Who in their right mind would leave paradise? Then the lights went out. We retruned to Greta who called for candles. We sat and she told me of her plan for the Women's Craft Collecive. I told her my response to the plastic trinkets and she exclaimed "You see, she says the same as I!"
We agreed that the plastic trinkets were ugly and frankly unbuyable. yet the two fold problem was quickly explained to me. First, the Beduins are losing their crafting skills. "None of teh younger girls know how to weave or embroider." Greta tells me. "It is so much work, far easier to sell the plastic jewelry. then there are teh toursits who want to spend just 10 pounds ($1.25) for a souvenier." yes, I agree . It is a terrible conundrum. But How to address and rectify we wonder together.

Leyla profers a tin container of Khol for me to buy. I say "No, I will take these things here." I have my small pile infront of me.As I take oout my money , everyone leans in towards me. I pull oout the bills laying out two 50 Pound notes.."No,No" everyone yells . It turns out they are not pounds but pisastras..cents. looking over my pile of 25 and 50 pisatra notes "Abdul laughs and says "You are a poor girl" and i and everyone laughs. Over an dover I count out my money, making a big show of it and everyone is enjoying it. This is a story telling culture. show and tell is the age old entertainment here in teh desert and I make the most of it and I am very entertaining in the self deprecating way that is a hallmark of my performance style.Finally i hand ove rteh money but I am 3 pounds short. leyal motions that it is fine but I triumphantly find another 5 pound note and place it across teh pile of bills I have already given her. leyla looks momentarily confused. "Tell her " I say to Abdul, "That I am paying more than I am supposed to." He laughs and translates and everyone laughs and Leyla pulls me to her and kisses my face.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sinai Two

The full moon that was as big a a flying saucer has passed.It is my fourth full day here at Green Beach. The sea is calm now the wind has died away. Yesterday with Kadri, an Estonian filmmaker and novelist, 28 years old, scouting locations for her next film and Sabah, a young handsome Beduin who was scouting Kadri, I went snorkeling for the first time in the Red Sea. The reef is only a few meters away. It is quite shallow for a ways out and then you can swim to the reef. Kadri is terrified of sharks and although she is told repeatedly that there have been no shark attacks she is near hysterical at the thought, so she wants to be accompanied. As I am watching the gentle, underwater life around me, various corals, grey, brown lavender and the multi colored fish that swim among them, I hear a shriek. It is Kadri. Apparently she has seen a grey fish that looks as if it may be a shark.” Perhaps it is a small dolphin” says Sabah although he doesn’t know the English word for it. I enjoy myself immensely, the water is warm and there is no current. I see yellow fish, blue and black striped and some larger interesting fish. All very peaceful and there are small canyons between the reefs and you are always able to rest on some reef rocks, so it is easy to navigate. Later that night Naseer cooks a big fish dinner. It is the last night for Omari and Erik and Kadri who return early morning to Sharm El Sheikh and then to snowy Estonia. Tom, who I have yet to write about, who I met on Couch Surfer’s and was my entre to Sinai and Nueweiba, an Estonian who has been coming here for 8 years between frequent jaunts to Martha’s Vineyard and Alaska’s Brooks Mountain Range, incrediabally well traveled, 46 year old adventurer, contrarien and rcconteur, announces it is a perfect condition for night snorkeling and he and the adventurous Omari go out. One hour later they are back, Omari freezing but ecstatic, Tom, totally at ease, not even mildly cold with nary a shiver , as Omari’s teeth chatter away as he tries to tell his buddy Erik all that he has seen under the water.”Ha!”exclaims Tom,” Great beginners luck for Omari! He saw everything “ and proceeds to list the under water , noctural life they witnessed. I am a bit jealous, I don’t have that adventurers heart. Not at night with no moon at least.Earlier in the morning Helmut, a nurse from Nurmberg arrived at Green beach. This is his 4th visit and he always returns to Naseer and Green beach, to cabin # 6. “This “ , he told me “is my paradise.
Today is quiet. I feel a but tired after the excitement of Kadri and the Estonion lads coming back from their safari with Thomas.Kadri as I mentioned was here to scout movie locations. She knew Thomas frm Esonia as well as having been in Sinai before4 years ago. Thomas arranged the trek , putting out a message on Estonian elist, inviting other travelers to come on this trip to defray expences I guess. They went on an extensive jeep safari to some very rare and remote places with two guides and two jeeps.
It sounded pretty amazing but then I started to learn about the safaris with camels, beduin style , into the mountains and waddis (valleys ) that they know ancestorly.
I mentioned to Helmut , who has gone on four trips into the mountains, that I would like to go to the mountains too.I can see that this trip I need to stay local. While I would love to go to see Jerusalem, meet Kandi and Yoram in Tel Aviv, this is not the trip for this.
I am still experiencing joint pain and while I had wanted to go to Kerala to an arvudecic Clinic I don’t have the proper amount of time. I need 7 weeks for that 4 -5 weeks for the clinic.Earlier, Helmut told me about the M Valley, the deepest valley in the earth in Northern India where India and Nepal meet and you can see Tibet . It sounded absolutely unearthly or super earthly or heaven on earthly!Helmut bears speaking about. He is a nurse in Nuremberg. Born in 1961.He lloks like an Eygptian, his shaved head and striking profile lend him with his dark brown eyes this appearance.He is very traveled. Very calm and very generous and friendly. He arrived yesterday morning from a longer trip thru Eygpt, thru some oasises from Luxor where he has friends whose hotel, recommended by friends here in Nuweiba that he visits when he comes to Eygpt.
He is here for nearly two months. Tonight the stars, with the moon being gone, now being the dark of the moon, the stars look amazing! Elctric, really the firment hung with stars, the soft lavender fog on the sea, and a few clouds streaking the sky and lovely Saturn and Jupiter visable and some constellations, orion belt and something Archie our latest guest, called the M.

Posting comments

I just posted some comments i found on the blog
I can't wait to read them
Don't you love when people accuse you of things then won't sign their name like in
The more you talk, teh guiltier you sound....Wonder who wrote that? Hee Hee Hee

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Prodigal Blogger Returns

Well despite my intention to Blog regularly as we can all see I haven't done it. It has been a crazy year which in my life is really saying something! But I am reinspired to write on my site so I will post my recent journal from my trip to the Sinai Desert.
By teh way it looks like things are moving along with Semiotexts publication of teh first book of my work next fall although a psychic Tarot reader in Sinai told me the book would be delayed..lets has already been delayed once..maybe that was what she was picking up on!

I had one of those revisiting bad feelings last night when out of the blue an old friend Claudia Steinberg emailed me to interview me for a German Arts magazine about the sale of the Jack Smith Archive to Barbara Gladstone.I was giving her some of the back story and decided to look some stuff up and send it to her and I re-encountered some of the malicious slander that I had mostly avoided reading on Hi-Beam and Frameworks posted by the deluded and vicious Mary Jordan (The great thing about the sale was getting rid of Jordan and her partner Peralta out of our lives. They had been frivoulously taking us to court for the past 5 years , trust fund creeps tend to sue I have found, it is their only true creative outlet and the last basis for their sueing was the failure of their film..yes Veronica, there is a Santa Claus and people can sue you for whatever they wish is part of our capitalist system..this is how it works..they have the money too sue and then they try to bankrupt people who don't have trust funds and the system thrives on this waste of money and time.

Well, I read alot of posts I had never seen including one where I supposedly claim that it is supposedly claimed that I say I was in Jack Smith films, something I addressed in a former blog when Jordan accused me of it. however this time on Hi Beam or Frameworks where Peralta and Jordan did most of their internet slandering of Plaster Foundation, Hoberman and I ...I followed Jordan's link and lo and behold this gallery in London , who never contacted me, list me as being in Jack's films. many of you have read my bio in different programms for my shows or perhaps even here on my website and if you go to which stores every post ever made to my or one can easily see that in over ten years of having a website biography there has NEVER been any mention of my being in any Jack smith film..for one, as I have mentioned I was still in junior highschool when Jack was making films and secondly although he continued to wield cameras into the late 60's they never had any film in them...stories made famous by Tally Brown and others besides me.

Mywish of course is that Barbara Gladstone , now in full possession of the Jack Smith Archive will do what we were stopped from doing since 2002 when these hateful creatures came into our lives and hamstrung us from doing the work we had done for years to bring Jack to the prominence he now holds.I plan to write the story of in detail of what transpired from teh time of Jack's death when we lost jack and gained the full obsessive madness of a coterie of pathetic self serving cretins but for now I will move along to happier thoughts and post some of my journal from my recent trip to
Eygpt. This past summer in Vienna I said to myself as I walked around the old center of Vienna.."I am always trying to walk backwards into history." In Eygpt I found myself walking back into pre-history and it was an amzing journey. Read On to next post.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

From Penny at OUTFEST in LA..check out

I just spent another amazing two weeks at OUTFEST in LA..Los Angeles's Gay,Lesbian ,Bi , Trans Film Festival and the largest in the world apparently.
I participated in MobiOpera, a soap opera shot entirely on cell phone video !!! One of my favorite partners in art and crime, Anna Margerhita Albelo , the filmmaker partnered up with me to create our almost daily film. I had decided on an hommage to Cocteau's Le Voix Humane, which he originally wrote for Edith Piaf (What about that Piaf movie???????? If you haven't seen it GO!!!!) Then it was filmed as a vehicle for Anna Magnani who was tremendous in it. It is the story of a phone call or series of calls to from a lover who had left her.
I decied to change that from a lover relationship to a fag-faghag relationship.
Check it out at

you move the timeline to see the story progress.
Meanwhile if you check under will see I ambringing back Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore! for one show only
September 11th at the Speigeltent in South Street Seaport.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

look What I found!

We all know what happens when we don't check our email or our blog mail. Today I finally decided to check my MYSPACE and look at what I email from Mary Jordan the film distorter.....I have posted it in it's entirety...but I will copy it here as well. I think I will respond to it line by line or should I say defamation by defamation.This was posted on my website

Mary Jordan said...

Jack Smith NEVER appointed you at the end of his life. He never even mentioned your name. the only reason you got to his bedside is because you had a car.

From Penny:

Mary Jordan..How would you know?

Even Mark Russell of Performance Space 122 wrote in the catalog of The New Museum's EAST VILLAGE USA show how my lighting designer Lori E Seid and I made a bed ON MY STAGE for Jack in my August 1989 show so that Jack could see the show and be there as he didnt want to be alone in his apartment when I was caring for him. Jack died in September of 1989 when you were in high school or most likely boarding school far from the East Village. You came out of the ether in 2002 sent by Jack's deathbed enemy Irving Rosenthal. You lied to me about your credentials as a film maker saying you had made several films on human rights and since I am a feminist as well as someone who wanted the best for Jack Smith I recommended you to Jim Hoberman, strongly suggesting that you would be a good person to make a film about Jack (non one else had EVER asked, and while I intended to someday make a documentary on Jack , I was happy to help you make one before me) Jim Hoberman, the prestigious film critic of the Village Voice, who is my partner in the Plaster Foundation, who has worked without pay and tirelessly for just shy of twenty years to promote Jack Smith and his legacy, as I have and on my word and recommendation allowed you access to the archive.When faced with this support and access , you instead used the contract for the minimal amount of money the archive charged you for film rights (that only went to pay storage for Jack's artifacts) and turned the contract over to Irving Rosenthal who used it as bait for Jack's greedy estranged sister who only ever came oout of the woodwork when their was money to be had. You reinvented her relationship with jack and then set out to slander and defame us who had worked on Jack's legacy for years with no money. You used your relationship with the sister to take much of the materials the archive loaned you and make inferior copies which you sold to fund your film laying to waste years of our careful guardianship of Jack's legacy.

To say that I was not close to Jack Smith is pathetic. Even if I had not known Jack for over 20 years at the time of his death, my committement to keep his name alive and spread the word of his genuis should be enough to garner your respect if not to stop you from slandering me. many ,many people all over the world will tell you that I have shared my celebrity and my stage with jack long long before the recent interest in him and that many people both abbroad and in NY first heard of Jack through me. If that was nt enough, Jack's work would have never been saved at all if not for me. Then there would have been nthing for you to make a film about.

To try and erase my relationship and history with Jack borders on the unspeakable...most people who knew Jack ,knew that I was caring for him on a daily basis , at his request and because most of teh people who did know him were deathly afraid of his temper. You Mary Jordan interviewed everyone you could and yet no one would say anything about me on film and you had to abandon your original screen play that cast me as a villain who stole Jack's work and you cast The Plaster Foundation in the same sordid light. How sad and pathetic is that?

Your sentences reek with amateur defamement...
Jack never uttered my name???

I only got to Jack's bedside because I had a car???

This is just stupidity.

Mary Jordan says:

You tried to get Jack to sign a will where you had your name on it.


Jack dictated a will to me AFTER I talked him out of wanting me to go tohis apartment, take all of his work and BURN it.
Hiis will stipulated that his works would remain together in an archive called the Penguin Foundation. He named me as the director of the foundation and II asked him to add Ira Cohen's name. It was always not for profit and was meant to interact with institutions so his works would be seen.

Mary Jordan:

He angrily refused to sign to you. which means....I DONT WANT TO GIVE YOU MY THINGS. But you still took them. tell everyone how you stole the key to jacks apartment. He would never give you a key let alone give it to anyone.

Penny says:

He wasn't angry about anything except my suggestion that he might want to notify family members.
When I told you that he had put off signing the will , the reality was : It was HIS will and he could do as he liked.
Later after the All Things Considered story on NPR about the court case I was contacted by his former neighbor Kurt Lavene, who heard the story on NPR (and who went to the hospityal with me in my car with jack) and emailed me to tell me that Jack became distrustful of Ira Cohen because of Ira's friendship with Irving Rosenthal who was calling Jack non stop about wanting to take Jack's works to his 'vault' in San Francisco, and that this was the reason that Jack delayed signing.

When Jack realized that he was getting weaker he decided to sign . This will layed around Jack's room for 4 days. It was Jack's will after all. Jack was completely concious up to the moment he went into his final coma. For you, Mary Jordan, or any one else for that matter to act as if Jack had dementia or any other state that would put him at risk for being manipulated is absurd. Frankly , the so called friends of Jack who prefer this theory didn't bother to come and see Jack till he fell into a coma and that was after he was in the hospital for over two weeks..real friends those!

Mary Jordan says:

You have constantly said untrue things about the family. When did you ever or anyone ever interview the sister to get a synopsis of Jacks childhood?

I have never said anything publically about the sad state of Jack's relationship with his sister until you tried to depict their relationship in an unreal light and depict me as someone who tried to take advantage of her when in fact Jack's sister suffered from a very strong case of homophobia and had I not given her the $50,000 in bearer bonds that Jack gave me, she would have had all of Jack's works destroyed. It was only the money that kept her from destroying his work.
Unlike you , I do not have a major inheritence and am not finacially independent. I could have done alot with that money but I chose to give it to Jack's sister to save his works for posterity. I assume this is too much of a personal sacrifice for you to envision.

I interviewed Jack's sister about their childhood , when against the feelings of nearly all of Jack's so called friends I chose to call her and tell her that her brother had died. I took alot of flack for that action but I believed that his sister needed to be apprised of her brother's death. It was not my place to go over Jack's head and notify her that he was sick, he refused to let me and it was his deceison which I had to respect but once he died, I called her from his rolodex.
They had not spoken since 1978 when they had gotten into a serious fight over their mother's will. Before that they had not spoken since 1953 when her and her husbands attacks on Jack's homosexuality from their born again Christian philosophy estanged them. For you Mary Jordan to depict Jack and his sister as close is a lie.
There were serious breaches in that relationship cased by Jack's mother favoring jack in her will. Jack was rather selfish, no one will say he was not. I tried to help his sister feel better but the thing that made her feel good was money.

Mary Jordan says:

Do you know there are letters that the sister posesses that prove you wrong?

Penny say:

The letters which Jack's sister has were given to her by me. They were letters from Jack's mother to Jack written mostly in the 160's to early 1970's. They are mostly about Jack's mother's concern for Jack and about her day to day activities caring for elderly people who often left her money. I have copies of them.

Mary Jordan says:

Do you realize that Jack collected his mother's funds by an attorney who after endless questions Jack found out if you die intestate as his mother did, your things go to next of kin. Jack was not stupid. If he wanted to give you anything Mrs. ART CRUST he would of signed that will. He didnt.

Penny says:

jack believed he was protecting his work by signing the will which is why he signed it.
When I told yo that Jack finally decied to sign the will when he was physically weak and could only make his mark...
it was my wording that said 'he stabbed his pen to the paper" and it was you who interpreted that as an angry action, you and you alone Mary Jordan.
Jack didn't want to leave his sister even one dollar, which was suggested to him as a way of making his point clearly. he refused to even utter her name much less have it writen into the will. Jack believed that she would never even be toldof his death. I felt it was compassionate to let her know about her brother's death not that she had any interest in how he had died. All she wanted to know was how much money he had left of his mother's inheritence to him.

Mary Jordan say:

But you took it anyhow and feel you have some claim to it.
you published that you were Jack's muse. Not one person who worked with Jack, even Mario Montez who was in Jack's life for a signifant time- did not even know your name! Mario lived with Jack!

Penny says:

I could have taken everything for myself. That was the deal when I gave the sister the $50,000 in bearer bonds. For those of you who do not know, bearer bonds are like cash. You do not need anything to cash them except the bonds themselves.
If my goal was to personally own Jack's work why would I have formed an archive? your thinking is irrational and illogical.
I put many of my own pices of Jack's work into this archive as well as the negatives he gave me in order to keep them out of Irving Rosemnthal's hands.

I would find it odd that Mario Montez would not remember me from the 1960's however that said what would Mario know about this? He left NY in the 1970's and has been largely incommunicado for close to three decades.

I have never promoted myself as Jack's muse. There is not one shred of evidence to support this allegation of yours. jack had only one muse :Maria Montez.

Mary Jordan says:

Wake up. your constant self fullfilling change of history is boring. You were not in one film. Not one photo.
Penny says:

I think Mary Jordan that you need to wake up to reality.
Jack never made another film after 1966.
I came to NY in 1967 and i have NEVER claimed to be in a film of Jack's

Mary Jordan says:

Not one of his close friends remembers you in his life as some dear friend.

Penny says:

And who are these close friends? Does Ira Cohen say that? No. Does Phoebe Legere say that? No.
Michael Oppedisano who was my gravest enemy after Jack died himself changed his mind after he saw the 1998 exhibition at PS 1 and you told me yourself that you had seen footage of him retracting the horrible things he said about me after Jack's death. I let Michael slide because I knew that Jack cutting him out of Jack's life two months before Jack died was a terrible tragedy for Michael and that Michael trasfered his rage at Jack to me.
The truth is that jack ,like many people compartmentalized his friends and that Jack had almost no friends at the time of his death...only a tiny handful of people even called him. In the month before Jack went back to the hospital I can remember only Ira Cohen and Ivan Galietti visiting him at home.
Who are you talking about Mary Jordan? and why wouldn't these so called expert friends of Jack say this for you on camera?
even after you badgered everyone who even vaguely knew Jack to denounce me in some way on camera.

Mary Jordan says:

Prove me wrong. I told you...SHOW US THE WILL. Why wont you show us the WILL that you wrote.

Penny says:

After Jack went into his final coma, people who had not had the strength to visit Jack while he was conciosu flocked to the hospital. For some of them , their only interpretation of Jack's will focused on my being named. They immediately decided that the will was my doing somehow forgetting the type of person Jack had always been. As if ANYONE could MANIPULATE Jack and that Mary Jordan is where you show your ignormance of Jack's personality and nature.

Once these people saw that Kurt Lavene was one of the two witnesses (the other was Mitch markowitz who I was married to at the time) They badgered Levene with their fears. While the probate office was willing to accept the will as it was, MR Levene made the following statement to me;

"I know that this is what Jack wanted but as a born again Christian I cannot say for sure that at the moment he signed the will he knew what he was doing"

Jack never didn't know what he was doing but I decided not to pursue the will when it was obvious that the people who presented themselves as jack's friends would rather see the stuff destroyed than to not have control over it.
After Jack died people came out of the wood work and wanted to rule by committee.
Ira Cohen witnessed me trying to get Jack to name someone other than myself to be in charge and Jack refused. He said some quite ulgy things about nearly every one he knew which was Jack's lifelong pattern. The ones who he did not say uly things about he considered to weak or too susceptable to Irving Rosenthal.

Mary Jordan says:

Tell everyone how there was a commitee of jacks close freinds who wanted by vote to decide what to do with Jacks things and instead you took everything and refused to join that commitee.

Penny says:

these people came around AFTER Jack was in a coma.they had no idea of what Jack wanted. They wanted to rule by committee when Jack had left me in charge with very specific instructions. 9 out of ten of them had not thought to bring Jack a bowl of soup while he was rotting on his kitchen floor but suddenly they were forming committees to discredit me, even though I included everyone. Tell me how they reponded to my attempt to save his apartment as a museum?

"What's the point ? jack's dead" said one of your 'special" friends of Jack.

When I said that I had contacted Jim Hoberman because NO ONE, Not One institution in the art world had any interest in preserveing Jack's work except for MOMA who only wanted Jack's films. Jack had refused to have his films seperated from his other art stuff. When it cam eto the sugestion of MOMA Jack said "They don't even know what to do with Andy Warhol's films!
I do not want my films buried under Warhol's. The response to teh fact that I had contacted Hoberman who Jack considered "my personal critic" for keeping jack's name in print and alive thru the 1980's when jack was patently ignored, was that a couple of these 'special' friends wanted to meet Hoberman. they happened to be film makers and I knew the last thing Hoberman wanted was people promoting THEIR work to him. There is alot of sordid self serving in the libel and slnder that has been hurled at me from this quater.
eventually I will tell the whole story..but as you can see I am still too kind to name names.

Anonymous said...
Dear Penny,

i just got to read about you and mary jordan and jack smith's estate and i am shocked. i always felt something was fishy about the filmmaker and documentary that was being made on his work, yet I was remotely involved with its partial presentation during a performance program, despite the many warnings we received from some of our peers. i regret for not having contacted you. i really do. best,

10:57 A


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Q&A re Jack Smith

I will be happy to answer all your questions on Jack smith. I am usually known for my cooperation. I only have issues when people get me stoned before an interview and then spring questions on me from events that occured 15 years before and then make my confusion about dates and who , what where into
a kind of proof that I am lying, which was what occured in my distressful interview with Mary Jordan when I had been told in advance that I would be asked questions about Jack Smith's work and philosophy and instead I was asked why I didn't call Jack's sister and tell her Jack had Aids and was in the hospital as if that was my decision to make when Jack was 57 years old, completely sane and self directed and was emphatic about making his own decisions Anyway up until I brought up if he wanted anyone notified like family for instance, he never spoke abut his sister and only then said he hated her, didn't want to be in touch with her and that they had been estranged for years.

I am sorry to be this blunt. I spent years NOT talking about what Jack said about his sister whike he was in the hospital and testories he told about her and her husbands cruelty towards him. The unfortunate thing in a case like this is that there will always be real investigtions and press reports that will have to reveal
the real story of Jack, his death and what has happened since.

That aside, I know everything about what was in Jack's apartment sine I had been taking care of him hands on before he went into the hospital and he was very specific about what he did with his work...and what he considerd important. I CHOSE to save everything I could and I held on to Jack's apartment for almost two years while trying to save it as a museum. I have the history of that struggle and the letters of support and suggestions by two prominent architects Robert Moon of The Rockerfeller Plaza Restoration Project and Frederich Fisher , the renown museum architect. I also allowed anyone and everyone to document the apartment in photo and video.So there is plenty of documentation not to mention what Irving Rosenthal shot.

The idea that Jack still had any cameras by 1989 is sadly absurd. Jack used borrowed cameras .
Somehow this has been glossed over by Jordan, Podell and Rosenthal but Jack lived in abject poverty. He almost never ate.He had no way of earnng money and had never held what is populary called in ethe art world a 'day 'job

Jack was living on the interest from the $50.000 in bearer bonds from the nuclear power plant in Washington State (which I gave to his sister in order to get her to agree not to trash his work and apartment, which she had wanted to do ) The bonds gave him about $750. a year in least I think the dividends were paid once a year..if they were paid twice a year that would have given him the grand sum of $1,500 a year..( no wonder he lied to SSI and welfare saying had no assets ...the man was starving to death ( I wonder where his sister was while Jack (who had depended on his mother for handouts all his life) was literally eating gruel for ten years)

Jack had this income from the bonds from 1978 or 1983 until 1989 . I think you will agree that this was not very much money (no wonder he was toothless!.)..He proablaly pawned what ever he could have years before.Howevr I also have the list of jewlry that was divided by Mrs Slater's own lawyer in 1977 between Jack , an Aubt Julia and Mrs Slater. I it's entirty it was work under $2,000. i have the paperwork. It is not the fortune his sister is srying out about.

Jack's rent was $260.00 a month not counting utilities and phone..he had next to no other income...what do you think he was living on? what was he eating? he had virturally stopped photographing in 1965-66
as he began to focus on performance art and he became the photgraphic subject of his work and was photographed by others..the only self portrait that I know he did was of his penis!

Irving Rosenthal hadn't seen Jack Smith in person since the late 60's has kept up a furious and hysterical belief that whatever he remembered from Jack's loft or apartments in the mid 60's was still extant. Jack was evicted and moved 3 times before he settled at 21 1st Avenue.
Irvings insistance that there would be prints of Jack's black and whites in 1989 the way there may have been in the early 60's when Jack was a photographer is like someone remembering their friend in high school's record collection and expecting it to still exist when their pal was 57. I wish I had the record collection I had when i was would be worth a small forturne.

Unfortunately , the people who are coming up with the list of what Jack possessed are largely uneducated about Jack's work. Jack was not a painter. He painted and decorated his apartment.
Mary Jordan convinced Mrs Slater , Jack's sister that the place was hung with paintings like the Louvre. There were NO PAINTINGS in Jack's space. except for what jack painted directly onto the walls. Jack loathed 2 dimentional art as he called paintings.

You can always inquire from Bill Neiderkorn, Charles Alcroft, Ela Troyano and Uzi Parnes, and Agosto Machado what Jack had in the way of paintings. He was not friends with any painters and to my knowlege NO ONE had ever given Jack any paintings. Jack was only interested in photographs of himself. My ex husband Mitch Markowitz painted a portrait of Jack and Mitch gave it to me. He is the only painter I know of who painted Jack.

Many people contributed mementoes to the PS122 show believing as I did that Jack's work was going to stay together, according to Jack's wishes and instructions, and end up in a public arts institution (which is what Hoberman and I had been working diligently towards for 14 years)

I direct you to my website blog for more could also read my account of the last days and last moments of Jack's life under Friends on my site. It is the original from Film Culture in 1992...Ed Leffingwell, frighteded of alienating Rosenthal or Allen Ginsberg, edited out the parts that refered to them in the catalogues version of my essay.

On of the most annying issues is the red herring of 'missing work' It is just that , a red herrring Everything that Tony Vasconsellas , the PS1 program director thought should be archived was brought to PS 1 in 1992 along with items donated from far and wide (The boxes rescued from Jack's house had been in the center of my studio for over a year,(from 1991 to 1992) until they went to PS1 because I had no money for storage , and no one in the art world was willing to help save Jack Smith's work and that is a fact. Which is why the elephant tusk is here.

Jack's record collection , which was also made up of many borrowed records has been stored for years by the Plaster Foundation at Anthology Archives.I believe since 1990 or perhpas 1989.

The mural which was painstkingly removed with great difficulty, in July 1990 when there was threat of the landlord gutting the apartment, and which I was able to show at Lincoln Center's Serious FUN , in the art show dedicated to Jack that year by curator Frank Moore, is also here as there was little place to store it and it was never considered important by the curator Leffingwell and frankly was treated as an afterthought in the exhibit in 1998 because as i said it was a set decoration , not a paintng as such..because as everyoen knows..Jack did not paint.

I admit to being resentful, when allegations and rumors are tossed around publiclly without anyone (Ie Mr Podell or Mary Jordan ) ASKING where things that they are interested or curious about are, however you can feel confident that I enjoy talking about Jack's work and have been doing so publically for years before Jack died.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gay Pride.The Kevin Aviance Story

On friday I spoke to Kevin Aviance and we booked his flight to LA to appear at Outfest 06 with me. Tonight I just visited him in Beth Israel Hospital two blocks from where he was jumped and beaten by several boys hours after I had spoken to him friday night. Kevin and I were excited that he would be dancing in the 15 year show anniversery of Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore!

Earlier that day I had been on the phone with Freeze , my dance captain for the revival of B!D!F!W! for OUTFEST 06's Platinum Series. Freeze had recommended Kevin when it turned out that James 'Tigger" ferguson , couldn't get the time off from his rehersal for a Shakespeare show he was doing later this summer.

"Kevin Aviance?" I said."Kevin Aviance?? "Do you think he would want to do it?" I asked doubtfully. Frankly , after how the downtown art scene has changed over the past 15 years, I am used to much less accomplished performers with far less experience than the 15 years Kevin has been at it, being insulted and arrogant if you suggested having them appear in a show they are not the star of.
Of course in a Penny Arcade show..If you are a shine! because as people ought to know..that what makes a real star!

I myself have always continued to work with anyone whose work interested me, but more and more the rampant careerism of downtown had led to performers who because they don't realize that there is actually NOWHERE to get to with their careerism, out and out steal other performers material, leave the names of people who influenced their work out of their resumes and other actions that frankly make my skin crawl.

I had become a bit jaded , thinking that someone with Kevin Aviances career wouldn't want to be in 'someone elses show".Later the day before he was attacked when I spoke to him, I was amazed by his modesty, his kindness and openness and that he was in fact not just willing to come to LA to be in B!D!F!W! but EAGER to be in my show as a dancer. After all he is a huge star,(not just tall)He has had Billboard hits and is a powerful performance presence all over the world.
On the phone Kevin was sweet and kind and so open about appearing in B!D!F!W!
"I know I would learn alot from working with you "he said. I was so touched.

After I got off the phone with him I kept thinking about the most emotional moment in B!D!F!W! The Red Dress number in the middle of the show , what B!D!F!W! alumnnas call the Faghag-Aids-Love part of the show.

The Red Dress scene had started spontaneously one night in 1992 at PS122 during the early days of B!D!F!W! I had taken off the dress while making a strong statement about AIDS and my dead friends and I had walked off the stage..behind me Kenny "Angel" Davis had stopped and picked it up and had put it on...the effect was startling! There was Kenny representing everyone and everything I had been talking about.After Kenny, James 'Tigger "Ferguson had done the red dress as well as Aaron
and Lindel. It was a scene with a history,

In it, the red dress that I have been wearing, through the central part of the show , which I say I wear in honor of all the gay men who raised me, as I speak of being taken in by gay men as a young girl and mentored by them , and then about all the adventures that I had with them and what it meant to be a faghag and after I speak about the devastation of AIDS and homophobia and a million other things that mean alot to me and that I know represent the lives of many ,many people around the world like me, which are almost always left out of our story, While the bitchy, cynical, sarcastic, face continues to always be shown..mostly bereft of the great humanity,tolerence and understanding of the human condition that the gay world that I grew up in and live in still, carries.

I take the red dress off while speaking of these things ..and for me it is one of the saddest things I have ever done on stage..because after I have revealed all of these emotions that the dress symbolises for me , I take off the dress..and I walk away..leaving the dress on the stage For me this i a symbol of leaving this history, these ideas, with the audience. Leaving them to feel my sadness and my bitterness...leaving them to feel all the people whose spirits cling to me long after they have left this sphere (I always say I am surrounded by dead people and all of them want just one thing- publicity!) I leave the audience to just FEEL these vibrations that I live with everyday, ...the dancers follow me off the stage...but one dancer hangs back, and picks up the dress, as there is always one throw back fag out there, that reminds me that what I lived and fought for is still there to live and fight for , and that dancer, lifts up the dress with great tenderness and honor for all the gay men and queens who are represented in my history, because when you see Penny Arcade you never see just me..I am always conciously carrying the history and the personalities of the people who came before me, of my history and the history that formed me. I would no sooner hide my lineage than I would deny my just wouldn't happen..THAT is my pride.

When the male dancer in B!D!F!W! puts that red dress on and just stands there with the the honesty and strength that it takes to be a queen, to be in drag in this society..not the Halloween drag, but self expressing drag, everyday drag, working drag, who has to be strong..who will be strong and is always tougher than any butch muscle queen. This dancer represents for every queen that has ever been ridiculed, fag bashed, treated like less than human for being gay, queer, effeminate or different. It is the most powerful moment in the show nd it is one of the most powerful moments in all my work. it is non verbal, and anyone from any culture can understand it.

On friday night I kept seeing Kevin do the red dress..I called Steve Zehentner, my collaborator and partner in theatre and video of 14 years and I told him.."I keep seeing Kevin in the red dress."

Meanwhile I was expecting a call or email from Kevin. Late friday night while Kevin was getting the shit kicked out of him by 5 cowards, while Kevin was getting the shit kicked out of him while a crowd of friday night East Village revelling cowards stood and watched and didn't lift a finger to help him, while Kevin was kicked repeatedly in the head, a few doors from a gay bar, while Kevin was kicked 12 times in the head the week of Gay Pride , while Kevin was kicked without interuption in the middle of the street at East 14th and 1st Avenue, I was writing Kevin an email....and imagineing him in the red dress.

Today I went to see Kevin in the hospital, at Beth Israel Hospital ,a hospital like all the hospitals in NY where I have been too many times in my life, where I have too many memories and too much history. It was 7:45 pm and the guard didn't want to let me in, Kevin had already had way too many visitors, way too many visitors that stand out, you know, the kind who laugh too loud, or get too upset, or have a belligerence about them or who just dress too loud, or have a belligerence about their clothes or their hair or just something that is ..well too , too.

Since I have spent an inordinate amount of my life trying to get into hospitals that don't want to give me entrance because of the time, or because I am not a 'relative' or because there are too many visitors or for one reason or another, I have had a lot of practice and I got in.

As I got rode the elevator to the 10th floor I had no choice but to watch the internal movie of all the other times I have been to Beth is always the first time and it is always the last time and the times blend togther till the elevator spits me out .

Kevin had just returned from surgery.His friends and loved ones who had kept vigil were hanging back, Kevin weak and probably woozy, returning from the recovery room he was helped out of the wheelchair and into bed.The room was filled with flowers and gifts and sad friends. Most of the friends were young and I could feel what a shattering experience this was for them. Most of them hadn't sat in endless hospital rooms with endless friends who were dying or beaten up.There was a hush in the room...I made for the chair by Kevin's bed. "Is there somone older them me who should be sitting in this chair ?" I asked. Close to Kevin I could feel his sorrow... the after shock of the attack. After an attack, here is the realization that this has been done to you, that arbitrarily, for no reason personally connected to you, you have been the focus of the blank hatred and empty rage of people with eyes and ears and physical sensations that allow them to see and hear and feel what they are doing to you.

Kevin tried to speak to me through his wired shut mouth. "Shh", I said don't talk
"Did you have surgery?" I asked. Kevin nodded still processing that this awful ordeal was happening to him.

I asked if I could photograph him..the flowers were so beautiful. He nodded yes.
"You made all the papaers "I said, "and all the radio and tv news" "Kevin " I continued, "It is a terrible thing that this happened to you, but it is an important and meaningful thing that this has happened to you and that you could bring attention to this," Kevin nodded again. Looking at his bruised and swollen face. "May I kiss you? somewhere it doesn't hurt" I continued, He nodded and I looked till I found a place far away enough from the bruises.

I felt enormous rage.I thought about Gay Pride this week, I thought about the gigs Kevin couldn't do. Would his beating make any impact on Gay Pride? Would the story of what happened to Kevin Aviance be told at every Pride event as it should? Would money be raised for kevin to pay his bills, to pay for his loss of wages this week? or will it be just another market place week, another time to focus on what is for sale without mention of the long way we have to go as a community and as a community that focuses on what makes us the same as any other human on this planet, in this city, that focuses and sends the message of equality and the message of what it takes to create equality. Kevin Aviance is not only an artist and performer and celebrity, he represents a long line of heroic entities who have carried all our Karma on their backs, larger than life people, like Marsha P Johnson, who started the Stonewall Riot. I say take it to the voting booths or take it to the street.We are not going to evolve as a race in a vacumn.
It is like Mayanamna Buddhism..either everyobody evolves or no one evolves.
The fight for equality is still ahead, the long fight ahead for equality which means we have to focus on the result of equality and not just the message of what to buy and wear and see and do as gay consumers but faces that we have still not reached the even the bottom rung of understanding that we are still all in danger,that equality and freedom whether it is to marry or adopt children or any thing else is all still caught up in the dollar value of it in the market place
and that the blind hatred that jumped Kevin Aviance from behind on East 14th St and 1st ave still has to be confronted head on and dealt with and it is we who have the responsibility to do this and that the people who graze off the so called gay community need to put some of that cold cash to hot use to educate the public, both the public that attacks and the public that stands around and watches.