Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cheryl B - This Death Stuff Sucks



This is a video of a woman I'd known for years, from the periphery. Our circle of friends intersected occasionally - usually at Drunken! Careening! Writers! a humor series at KGB Bar curated by the friend we had in common, Kathleen.

The video was shown yesterday at Cheryl's memorial service.  She was 38 years old when she died last month from Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  I didn't know Cheryl well.  We must have met years ago, before she was one of the first readers at Drunken! Careening! back in 2004 - but I really can't remember.  Kathleen and I were both gone from our respective jobs at the West Side YMCA by 2000.  For a time, Kathleen ran the Writers' Voice, which was a wonderful program for a while.  I don't know if it even still exists because the Y handed our programs over to a bottom line driven douchebag - a gay man who lived with his partner in a committed relationship but (rumor has it) kept a room in the residence there at the Y for afternoon trysts with handsome, hunky Latinos.  We hated that motherfucker more and more as he turned years of work into piss.

But that's another story.  The main thing is that The Village People weren't kidding when they sang about our very own Y in the song sung in baseball parks around the land about The YMCA.  Andrew Cunanan stayed there on his way to Florida to kill Versace.  Daryl Strawberry came to AA there, briefly.  It was a lively place, and somehow, during that time I met Cheryl B.  All my bohemian buddies from those years were working tirelessly on their Art.  I was focused on the Mom thing with Velvet.  I couldn't hang out 'til the middle of the night at Poetry Slams and stuff.  But I followed their emerging careers from a distance, and most recently, I followed Cheryl's blog, WTF Cancer Diaries.

But I made it out sometimes. One night we were out in a restaurant somewhere after a reading or a play or something and Cheryl B observed that all women were lesbians after three drinks.  I wished I could have three drinks with Cheryl that night, but I went home to Buzz Kill.

The first poem in the video is called New York Girl, and Thaddeus Rutkowski read it yesterday at the memorial service.

New York Girl
She's got the click of fierce high heels hitting blacktop
She's got sarcasm dripping from the tip of her tongue

She's got a bra made out of steel and panties made out of licorice
She's got a vibrator in her pocket and she's very elusive to see you

She's got that tri-state area glow and a laugh that comes out of nowhere
She's got a voice like a cannon and lips that unravel like spools of silk
She's got a body that curves like the beauty of the open road
She's got Polaroids of herself floating about this city, wearing
nothing but her pet snake

She's got no problem with that
She's got that edge, you know that edge, she's got that leather cuffs in the
top drawer of her dresser, hot wax dripping on warm flesh kind of edge

She's a New York girl with a flask full of courage and determination cocktail
strapped to her left hip bone

She's got important aspects of your psyche drowning in the milky
ocean of her complexion

She's got various parts of your anatomy tied up and quivering
in her fist and you're going to have to play a little game to get them
back.

When I heard that poem, twice in one day, I really wished I were edgy like that. For a moment, I may have even imagined that I was. Sitting there at Dixon Place, surrounded by literary and theater people and LGBT activists in the sense that everyone there was living out loud, their entire lives a manifestation of their authentic selves. A community that loved and supported Cheryl, and her partner - a wonderful woman who does stand up - throughout Cheryl's illness and hospitalization. I was proud to be among them.

And even though it stung a little, I was proud when a man rejected me on Match dot com last night. He'd shown up in my Daily 6, and was kind of cute, so I wrote him a note, warning him that my profile is now a Feminist Manifesto. He wrote a nice note back, saying I was "too edgy" for him and that he meant it as a compliment.

I'm hoping that it means a little bit of Cheryl B's edginess rubbed off on me over the years, and that I'll be able to absorb some of that fierce brilliance and fearless honesty that permeated her writing and her life.

15 comments:

Makropoulos said...

Wow. Great entry. My sympathy on this tough loss -- I'd never heard of her before, but she was a great diva!

PENolan said...

Thanks
Just goes to show you that the Voice lives on, whatever happens to the body. In many ways, it's inspiring.

Jennifer said...

Wow2. Yeah, that death stuff sucks. Glad her voice lives on. Should be a lesson to us all.

Mr. Charleston said...

Only the good die young it seems. Don't know about the edgy stuff. You don't look like the edgy type Trish. Quirky maybe? I like quirky.

PENolan said...

Well, if Edgy means leather handcuffs in your top drawer, then I'm not Edgy.

I'm pretty sure that guy meant it more like Bohemian. He was some kind of professor turned travel guide who arranged tours to Paris and Italy. A cute bookworm, I thought, but apparently very tame.

I hope he didn't mean it like Maude. I'd rather be Mary Tyler Moore or (an aging) That Girl than Maude.

PENolan said...

Indeed, Jennifer. Indeed.

Gail said...

Hey girl -
tragic loss, tragic indeed. and ya, death sucks. Cheryl is lovely, quite the hottie :-) I like how you remember and honor her a lot.
Love Gail
pece.....

Susan Tiner said...

It is so sad to lose someone so young and talented. Thank you for sharing the video and the text of the poem. She was brilliant!

It occurred to me that Match might work better for introverts. I picture you with a fellow bohemian artist or activist -- somehow I don't think those folks are on Match. I could be wrong of course.

Anonymous said...

Fucking love this.

kw

PENolan said...

kw, feel free to pass it on to anyone you think would be glad to see it.
xo

PENolan said...

Susan - an attractive PhD from Connecticut has initiated a correspondence with me as a result of the Feminist Manifesto. You never know . . .

Thanks, Gail. Hope you're enjoying your new environment and that the humidity isn't knocking you flat

Makropoulos said...

Don't know if you noticed, but I did create a link to this from my blog; she was my "diva for the day" yesterday. Thanks again for a great story.

PENolan said...

Ah! That explains some of the data in the statcounter today. Thanks for sharing, Mak.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

I always aspired to be edgy, but discovered I was too white bread for it. So I stand in awe of those who are. I liked the video. I also like the term - authentic.

PENolan said...

V.V.
I doubt I'll ever be edgy either - but I think we're all doing a pretty good job of being Authentic.

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