I am thinking this morning about how when we know people in different
contexts, in effect, we know different people.
I went to a surprise birthday party for my friend Debbie Stoddard
last night. Debbie is a poet friend of many years. I know her
as shy, sweet, deeply moral and quiet. A Southern preacher's
kid who was married at one point and realized she was a lesbian.
Has worked in factories and eventually went to George Warr Brown
School of Social Work.
We created Peace Out together last year, a one night
only event in which we involved over 100 artists to participate
staging poems from Sam Hamill's Poets Against the War
site.We worked together for months, creating a mammoth
event that attracted almost a thousand people. We bought each
other coffee, tried to figure out how to pay for things
when there was no budget, no impetus except our growing distress
and resistance to US military involvement in Iraq.We
kept each other going.
I think she is a very fine person and happily, a fine poet was
well. It is always nicer and probably easier for me when I like
a friend's work. We bonded closely over those challenging and
exciting months.It is a time and a relationship that I
will always treasure although we haven't seen each other much
in the subsequent year.
So I was happy to be invited.
And it wasn't at all what I had expected.
Some aspects were very sweet. Her partner, Cindy had invited
17 people. One for each year they have been together. She
also flew in Debbie's sister who has been ill and
a friend from Florida as a surprise.
I was running late and made my way through a crowded, noisy bar
at Pueblo Solis, a Mexican restaurant in deep South St. Louis. Lots
of guys in suits, standing in very close proximity, drinking,
I didn't know most of Debbie's friends, although most of them
seemed to know me, of me, or some sense of me, from my work in
the theater. It is always so strange to have other people's
sense of who one is proceed them.
They were a wild group of women. Realtors, banking people. People
who had come from places like West Texas or South Florida
and somehow settled in St. Louis. Women who take yearly
cruises and vacation together in large group sin condos
in Puerta Vallarta. Knocking back pitchers of margaritas and
sneaking outside in between courses for a cigarette.
They gave her bottles of Grey Goose vodka and Green Apple
Martini mix for her birthday and I gave her a copy of a book
of short stories by a Cuban emigre named Achy Obejas and a box
Debbie was laughing and drinking and toasting. I turned
to the woman next to me and said, I don't know her like this.
And I was thinking, the Debbie I know goes on writing retreats
to rural New Mexico and works in peace and labor movements.
And the woman, Kathy, said, we don't know her any other way.
Some people are like chameleons. I've always liked this quote: "What
I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think....you
will always find those who think they
know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy
in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy
in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he
who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness
the independence of solitude." – Emerson)
Tuesday, Dec 13, 2005