Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Amazon Trail: On The Road Again

By Lee Lynch

Twenty-four years ago I made the trek from Connecticut to Oregon. Last month I unexpectedly changed directions to join my sweetheart in Florida. The Librarian sent us off with a packet of munchies for the road. Our cupboards were otherwise bare, but the Handydyke and the Pianist treated us to a farewell dinner out that last night.

As romantic as crossing the country seemed when I read On the Road in my teens, Jack Kerouac didn't do it with four cats and a dog in winter. The weather was mostly kind to us. My poor sweetheart caught high altitude snow while I conveniently slept past the shrouded presence of Mt. Shasta. My sweetheart had flown out the week before and we'd packed non-stop 12 hours a day. We'd gotten on the road at 6:00 a.m. that morning, after drugging the kitties, and stopped five hours later to see friends. We met them at the Rogue River, that gorgeous, cool lifeline through tempestuous, conservative, anti-gay Jackson County where these women survive – I don't know how. They sent us off with a generous sprinkling of gifts and blessings.

We stayed with friends in Sacramento that first night. Their home was alive with rich colors and bold artwork, all evidence that gay women and their kids can thrive even in a neighborhood of manicured lawns in a state capitol. We left with hugs and even more blessings.

We'd registered as domestic partners before leaving Oregon, but this was not any honeymoon we'd ever dreamed of. We managed to skip L.A. because California dykes warned us to take "the 210" through "the grapevine," whatever that was – I think I slept through it. Any time we hit a city, we veered into the carpool lane and sped through. After a while, it seemed like we were skirting the same city over and over. If the rural landscapes hadn't changed so dramatically, I would have thought we were still in Las Cruces, New Mexico when we whizzed by Mobile, Alabama.

Rest areas are now designed to reflect their various heritages. The best rest area – and believe me, we visited most of them – was in Mississippi. It looked like an old plantation house right down to the furniture. You could spend the day wandering the grassy grounds, but most people spent their time in the big echoing restrooms – like the ones in old train stations -- and browsing a major collection of brochures.

I wish I could remember more of the trip. The oddest things have become highlights, like the Courtesy Coffee Shop in Blythe, California. It looked to be a greasy spoon, but after we'd unpacked the van for the night, it fed us like an old style, generous diner. All across the southern United States we played weary travelers to weary waitresses.

One disappointment: in six days on the road, we only saw six gay people – the ones we visited. Oh, and there was that dyke in the San Antonio Starbucks. She pretended not to see me; I pretended not to see her. It was the old butch stand off. Then my gorgeous bride joined me. I was butch proud.

We got a warm Texas welcome from friends in a tidy, treed development whose streets have old English names. You wouldn't know you were in the same Texas all those shoot-em-up Westerns supposedly portrayed in movies. Shelley and Connie seem to be forever going to bar-b-ques and birthday parties at the homes of local lesbians. It amazes me to find dykes in such out of the way places. We truly are everywhere.

There may be lesbians in Texas, but Texas is no place for an Oregon license plate. I'm just glad we weren't driving my car with its rainbow stickers. We got stopped for going four miles an hour over the speed limit in westTexas. Officer Friendly, as my sweetheart called him, took one look at the cats in their carriers and the dog in her bed, our rental van registration, our wild and exhausted eyes, and let us go with a warning.

Officer Friendly-East saw the same sight a day later when we were more road-worn. I think we were in Houston. One minute he was on the side of the road with some other vehicles, the next, he was whooping and flashing his lights at us. He accused us of following a mega-tractor trailer too closely. We explained that the guy had just cut us off when he swerved away from the cops on the side of the road. We'd been, frankly, pretty shaken by the near accident. Officer Friendly-East said, in an offhand drawl, "Oh, they do that," and waved us on. I wanted to say, "Let me get this right. A truck the size of a strip mall nearly kills us and you stop us -- the mini van with two women, a menagerie and out-of-state plates? Excuse me?"

It's a darn good thing we didn't have "Just Married" painted on our back window.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2008

Lee Lynch is the writer of more than a dozen dyke books, among them "Sweet Creek", as well as book reviews, articles, feature stories and a syndicated column. You can read more about Lee here . You can check out her Lee's Myspace page . And visit Lee's Tripod homepage .

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

And Another Thing: Keeping Money in the Family

By Carole Taylor

In 1982 I wrote a screenplay. Which, after a little shopping around to HBO and some other Hollywood types, I turned into a novel. I was told by some pretty powerful people in Hollywood that a general release theatrical film about lesbians could not and would not be made because there was no audience for it. That even HBO wouldn't do it for the same reason. HBO and Showtime have since decided otherwise, but only late at night and if someone else takes the monetary risk first. That's still pretty much the case, though it has gotten a microscopic bit better after nearly three decades.

"There are no lesbians in Hollywood," a rather famous director told me in 1983. He didn't personally know but one real live lesbian, and knew that she was one only by accident. This rich and worldly and famous director was certain that there were so few lesbians and gay men in the rest of the country that no studio would spend the kind of money necessary to produce a film of so little consequence in terms of likely profit. He liked the script, he said I had talent, but basically I'd better just fahgedaboudit, there's no money in it for me or anyone else.

"Write the novel," he said, "And if that reaches the sales figures of Danielle Steele, then come back and see me."

Hardly anyone can write as poorly as Danielle Steele, even when they try, but millions read her and millions don't care how badly she writes because they aren't aware of it. But even her mega sellers only get TV deals, so I wasn't encouraged because I didn't intend to write that badly. I was a true novice about the publishing business back then, and have subsequently learned more than anyone should be condemned to commit to memory, but even then I knew of an appropriate analogy.

In the 70's, the wine industry was somehow encouraged that Boone's Farm Apple Wine had become a popular libation at drive-in movies across the country, and in untold numbers of marijuana water pipes. They reasoned that if people drank that swill, they were at least drinking something called "wine" and might be educated into drinking something more "mature" (read more expensive, i.e. stuff from their vineyards). Danielle Steele is the literary equivalent of Boone's Farm, though I don't think anyone has ever graduated from her to Jane Austen.

Nevertheless, I was told that my only chance was to write the novel, and I was young and stupid and dreamed of interviews on Oprah. Now I just dream of getting a column out with as few typos as humanly possible. But there the novel sits, as testimony to both dream and nightmare, in the italics at the bottom of this page, with its own link to its very own shopping cart. Have patience. I will connect all these seemingly random dots in due course. Press on, dear reader.

The novel is about the power of names, and the power of naming, and who gets to do the naming, and telling the truth, and blackmail and the closet. And love and integrity. But it will make you laugh anyway. Small issues Hollywood rarely deals with unless you can blow them up or otherwise create buckets of blood. The plot and point of the novel, ironically, was the very reason that my director friend thought there were so few of us out here, because the novel is about the closet. It was a pretty well-entrenched 1983 closet that made him think there were no people out here to watch a film about our lives, since we hadn't yet marched on Washington in great numbers, and we didn't have sixty zillion web sites, and we hadn't yet seen that the closet *is* the problem. Yet nearly 30 years later, I'm sad to say, the plot of the novel is still relevant. Sad because the closet is still with us. Not as bad as it was, but it's still a very significant issue.

Which brings me to my commentary about that link down there to my novel. The book is out of print but is, nonetheless, still available. It's available because of the people who are behind that link. There is irony in the fact that it's available literally to a world audience, because the last publisher made little effort to market it and let it go the way of all flesh. ("Out of print" doesn't mean that there aren't still boxes and boxes of them in my attic, just that the publisher isn't doing any more new printings.)

My novel is available at that link below, and you can read the whole story there. Or you can find it at or Barnes & Noble ( and a few other big-name book sites. It used to be available, brand-spanking new, at a wonderful little independent bookstore along with scads of other gay and lesbian titles. Unfortunately, that little independent bookstore's online presence became yet another porn site. And no, they don't sell books. At least not mine.

Independent bookstores care about diversity. They introduce new titles and authors that wouldn't get shelf space at the big box bookstores. They care about working with authors who write for audiences untouched, thank Godde, by Danielle Steele. They care about authors who have something to say beyond the literary and moral equivalent of Boone's Farm Apple Wine.

Independent bookstores care about making money, too, but not in the same sense that the big corporations count beans. Without independents, and without small independent presses, you would have no gay and lesbian books to read. None.

Now that so many of us have knocked down the closet doors in such documented numbers, Amazon and B&N and other big bookstore corporations have found that we constitute a market share. Companies like these don't do anything to actually support us, and in many instances, do things that could damage individuals (like selling customer names according to their purchases to various marketing companies, something some people might find invades their privacy). I think the only reason gay and lesbian books are even available at the big online bookstores is that corporate databases are drawn from BOOKS IN PRINT, and so they can't help it. If the books are in print, they're available by default, not through any active decision to carry books about our lives. And what the hell, somebody might buy them. No skin off the corporate nose.

The point of all this is that we should support those who support us. We should spend our money with family. Not that you should buy my book necessarily, although that would be nice, but that whatever books you do buy, it's just a matter of enlightened self interest to buy them from an organization who cares if you exist. There are other family owned bookstores online, and they're certainly worth your time to investigate.

Just think of each dollar you spend with a LGBT family-owned company as another little peephole drilled in the very last closet door. Then I can write about something else. Maybe then it won't matter so much if my novel not only goes out of print, but out of existence.

Carole Taylor holds a masters degree and most of a doctorate, which she used as a university administrator for much too long by all accounts. She has been a commercial artist, a journalist, a grants writer, a house cleaner and a Renaissance woman. She also wrote a fantastic must-read novel, called
"A Third Story".
You can email her here.

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