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
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.
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