Family Dinners: Here’s the thing (or; Here are the many things)

Some things matter. Some things last. Some things are remembered. Some things are history. Some things require that attention be paid.

I made a family dinner last night. Well, I served a family dinner last night on which I’d been working for two days. There are five of we six brothers and sisters left alive, we were all in Frederick, Maryland yesterday, and so, we all ate together with my Mom, because, well, since my sister died two years ago, it seems, while we five and my Mom are still living, on those occasions we can be together, we are compelled to be so. Some things, right?

I was going to cant and rage about a few things like the fact that they spent fifteen minutes talking about books and didn’t bother, at first, to ask what I was reading, and then, did bother to ask IF I HAD BEEN READING ANYTHING – uhm, this blog, this Here We Are Going, in which I write regularly, it’s sort of a FUCKING BOOK BLOG.

But, here’s the thing . . .

It’s a week away from Helene Hanff’s, George Platt Lyne’s, Leonardo da Vinci’s, Bessie Smith’s birthdates, as well as the death date of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet, and Greta Garbo, which is not to forget it also as the date on which Abraham Lincoln had a bad seat at the theatre, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball, and the Titanic sunk. But, the very most important thing that ever happened on April 15 was the publication of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. So, that’s more important than being an atheist and getting a card that has a quote about god on it.

And, here’s the thing . . .

Kramer, Larry 2Larry Kramer’s latest work – a thing that matters, a thing that ought to last, about things that ought to be remembered, things that are history, things to which attention needs to be paid – The American People: Volume 1; Search for My Heart (A Novel) [CLICK HERE] was released yesterday. It matters. He matters. To me. When I was younger and had run away from home (again) to New Haven, to try to find a life of my own, in the long journey to find a way to matter to myself, it was the early 1980’s and there, in the slums of Connecticut near the wealth of Yale, I waited on tables in a restaurant run by violently homophobic Sicilian mafioso, one of whom raped me, and read Larry Kramer shouting in the New York Native about some new disease that had been released on my people, a virus(?) maybe developed by a military research lab; Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland?! What the actual fuck? MY HOMETOWN? THE TOWN FROM WHICH I’D RUN? That’s a thing that matters . . . and that I would take one of my children to New York thirty years later to see The Normal Heart, about those times, on Broadway; that’s a thing that matters. Larry Kramer matters more than being told, implicitly, by crazy people, that you don’t matter. Not much.

And here’s the thing . . .

You can get upset about not being included in the in jokes, about the revision of history in an effort to marginalize and demonize you and make you and your story invisible, or, you can re-write it to tell your truth. Like Larry Kramer has. Does. And while you’re doing that, and while people you’re eating with are telling you that Dave Barry may be misogynistic and homophobic but he’s still “really funny” and also telling you that the fraternity at UVA is right to be spending its time suing Rolling Stone when, in fact, they’ve a long history of unpunished assaults on women, gays, minorities, and, well, come on people, fraternities and sororities are built on excluding others, marginalizing others, celebrating that somehow its members have escaped being “not our kind”, and still, the people with whom you are eating, for whom you’ve spent two days cooking, are telling you “oh, I think you’re over-stating that” – you can get upset about all that but —

Here’s the thing: another policeman shot another un-armed person of color and then handcuffed the corpse.

Here’s the thing: people donated almost a million dollars to a pizza parlor that refused to serve Gays.

Here’s the thing: bigots and haters in Springfield, Missouri voted to repeal an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance.

Here’s the thing: a MAJOR political party has as declared candidates all bigots and no one seems to think that odd?

Here’s the thing: a dear one asked me, “Why do you do all this?” It was in reference to the effort spent on family meals, but, elided into my life, in general, being, as it is, outside the boundaries of acceptable history to most people I know — my life, in general, looking like it does to most people I know as if I need to find peace — my life, in general, looking like it does to most people I know who are far more invested in pretending to be happy than I have any interest in pretending, those people I know who hold on so HARD to their delusions, to a set of beliefs that have not worked out AT ALL, but which they insist HAVE INDEED – “I am happy dammit” – sort of thing — so, WHY DO I DO ALL OF THIS?

Here’s the thing: Some things matter. Last. Are remembered. History. Require attention. My dear aunt, Sissie, she made a lot of family dinners and I remember them with great fondness. So, it’s part of being close to her, it’s part of living up to her legacy. Too, Sissie was always kind. And,  I can honestly say that — other than one unfortunate incident as a young actor when I broke up with a co-star on opening night because he had more talent than I did and I knew dumping him would destroy his performance — I have NEVER been deliberately cruel to another person; that I have tried, always, to do the right thing, to operate from Love and Light —

— and, so, I might not know exactly why I do what I do, all of this, but I do know that everything I’ve ever done — the reading, the writing, the cooking, the loving, and even (especially) the leaving —

— it comes from the voice inside saying, “Walk toward the Light, Charlie.”

Happy Wednesday. One week from dictionary day.

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