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99 Tears for Aretha Franklin

As I sent light to Aretha Franklin in this morning’s meditation practice, my phone randomly began playing her cover of “My Way”; a second later her death hit the wires. I chalk that synchronicity up to Aretha’s magic, not mine, because she was the most powerful musical conveyer belt of our time and always always sang everything, and I do mean everything, the best. She wrote and performed amazing songs, and she improved on everyone else’s by giving them the most soulful, the most heartfelt, and the most empowering interpretations. Hell, even Otis admitted her take on “Respect” eclipsed his, though he recorded it first. Whether she was producing, performing, or stepping up with sisters like Angela Davis, Aretha always did do everything “her way”– probably even decided when it was her time to go. But I will sit shivah this week anyway. Formal mourning is required when someone in your family passes over, and though I never met her in person, readers of this blog are well aware that Aretha Franklin raised me through her shining example and songs. I’m crying as I type this, and “99 Tears” doesn’t begin to cover how many more I will shed in her honor.

Augusts (Not August) Past

Once I had a girlfriend from Venezuela, and whenever she kissed me, she’d run her hands through my hair and laugh. “You have a baby’s hair,” she’d say in Spanish, and I wasn’t fluent enough to tell if if she was mocking me or complimenting me.

Really, what she was doing was comparing me to someone else, which is never a compliment to anyone.

This woman had thick, dark hair that framed her face in tight ringlets, and the effect always took my breath away. She was neither feminine nor masculine, nor was she especially gender-neutral. She was just extremely beautiful in a self-made way. She wore enormous green glasses and lots of layers in different shades of the same color, and she had very long lashes and very soft skin and very hard muscles. I liked touching her and I liked her touching me, and we were always better off when we didn’t talk much.

For one thing, she had a wife whom I knew, and whenever my girlfriend and I talked at any length she always assured me they had an open relationship. When she did this, I hated us both, for the lie was so grossly apparent that it cheapened us both.

Still she smelled and felt wonderful and I liked our small adventures–we’d meet somewhere off our beaten tracks for an afternoon drink and then fall into a sex warp in a hotel room until she had to go to some couple’s thing. My girlfriend seemed more aroused by betrayal than any physical act, but I’d thrill every time we’d fall into bed. Continue Reading →

Love and Darkness, Green Days and Rain

I was so sad in my last post. More than sad, I was hopeless.

And I guess people aren’t accustomed to such despair from me. I’m glad they’re not, actually. And I’m even gladder for the subsequent outreach.

Subconsciously it’s probably why I put my great despair out there. Sometimes you don’t see the light unless you acknowledge the darkness from which it emerges. And a big source of light in my life are the people who do see me, and are loving and gracious in their perceptions. Are gentle with my heart.

Last week’s rain came right from my own body. I’d wept enough tears that they manifested as a nasty summer cold–sinuses streaming, fevers and body aches, all that natural-unnatural drama. Supernatural, too.

K and his kid dropped by impromptu Saturday evening with supplies and sardonic sweetness, their specialty for as long as I’ve known them as a dynamic duo. We sat on my dirty rug while I rasped like an inadvertent torch singer and Grace wove in between our legs. Everything under the sun got discussed except for the things that would have just hurt more. Then we even talked about those things because by then nothing hurt. My sweet sardonic friends kept me company until I was ready for bed, and then traveled back into the good night because they go to sleep just as I wake. Still sniffling, I floated in that darkness, grateful that K and I could fuse a real friendship from the embers of our failed expectations of each other. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy