Originally uploaded by freerangelibrarian
The summer 2007 issue of White Crane arrived Friday afternoon, two days before my 50th birthday, and there could have been no better birthday present. In this issue is my first “literary” publishing effort, “David, Just as he was,” a portrait of my friend David Hummel, who died of AIDS in 1987, about a decade after we met in San Francisco while working on BACABI, the Bay Area Campaign against the Briggs Initiative.
White Crane is a lovely publication, and everything I read in this issue was powerful and true, but a magazine devoted to “gay wisdom and culture” is necessarily a modest publishing effort, not anywhere like announcing a megabucks book deal. Still, this is huge to me, not the least because I set a goal a few years back to be writing again “by 50,” and I’ve made that goal. I still have fat thighs, a tendency toward withering sarcasm, and an allergy to housework, but then again, I didn’t commit myself to fixing any of those problems (only the sarcasm needs to be tamed; the thighs can be hidden with flowing skirts, and the housework–well, I’d rather be writing, and Sandy, bless her, doesn’t care either).
Under the magazine is my little friend RPOD: the Red Pen of Death, a fine-point Paper Mate felt-tip pen. I have an army of RPOD clones in various pockets and writing jars, because real writing begins with the first revision. RPOD also stands in for a lot of people who helped me write this essay, from my writing buddies at the University of San Francisco, to writing instructors Lowell Cohn and Lisa Harper, and finally, Lisa, my local writing buddy (together we are the Greater Leon County Literary Writing Circle, or whatever name we pick this month), whose one bit of advice was “put THIS paragraph THERE,” and that was absolutely the right thing to do.
Once I followed Lisa’s advice, the essay was finished–except for the submission process. Usually, I send an essay out (duly noting where and when in a spreadsheet) and a deafening silence follows, with a few publications being kind enough to reject me quickly, some kind enough to reject me slowly, and others not responding at all. “The Outlaw Bride,” which I consider better than most of my writing, has had eleven submissions and eight rejections, with two MIA’s (one submission is only a couple of weeks old). My rule is to send two submissions out for every rejection, and I’m currently four submissions behind.
For this essay, it was just a weird confluence: I submitted to one publication, it was accepted less than 24 hours later. It just happened to be a perfect match for an issue about friendship. I honestly believe this essay belongs here, in this journal, in this issue. Trust me, that’s not the usual process, and I don’t anticipate repeating it.
Again, making this much fuss over my debut in a well-regarded but admittedly small publication may seem like overkill–like the year Sandy was asked to “keynote” at the preschool Bible study graduation (she threatened to begin her speech by saying, “Barney is DEAD, get over it!”). But like the difference between major and minor surgery, this event is important because it’s happening to me. Having two more essays in the pipeline helps, but even if I didn’t–this is something, and it’s something good.
It does not hurt at all that this essay is my way of making partial amends to David for those years after I left San Francisco when I did not try to reach out to him and find out how he was.
So it’s on to one more hour of writing this afternoon, the last few hours of the first half-century of my life, to celebrate!