Monday, June 27, 2011

Nonnie in Albuquerque

That’s me, spring of ’77, on the day I moved out of my shot-gun apartment in Lesbian Nation. I moved many times during the six years I spent in Albuquerque, but that was one of my more dramatic moves. I came home from a performance tour and a teaching gig with the National Endowment for the Arts late one night to find all the little buildings around my apartment had been torn down.  My back porch was gone, too.  I’d been away for six weeks and sometime during the first week my landlord sold his tiny corner of the city.  Everyone else got a fairly timely eviction notice, but I didn’t see mine until the deal
was long done. I had two days to move out.  Bummer.
My boyfriend Ted helped me move down to my brother Ric and his wife’s place in the part of town we all called the South Valley.  My dog, Rousseau, all my stuff, and I only stayed one night because the very next day I found my best apartment ever, and we moved everything all over again.  Taking the apartment was a financial leap-from $80 a month to $150, but I was counting on our dance company getting a big grant from the state of New Mexico.  Actually the money, which came through, was federal, but distributed through state governments.  Things like that used to happen, you know? Money for the arts and all.

My new apartment was only two blocks from our dance studio-which was excellent, given my penchant for working at odd hours and the strange behavior of my car, a giant, bluey blue 1953 Cadillac.  The new apartment was marvelous.  It had four bay windows, wood floors, a big kitchen, a shady balcony, an extra bedroom, some funky mahogany furniture (and dreadful stuff I had to disguise) and it sat on top of an empty storefront which meant the place was quiet and private and good for parties

So, the move to 7th St. turned out well, despite the shock of finding Lesbian Nation (my name for the neighborhood) torn down.  It looked like a war zone.  I’d had a good year there, though. Except for a seldom seen married couple on my left, all my neighbors on that sunny corner were lesbians. This was just past the bra-burning days of the women’s movement, and my friends were proudly, brilliantly, “out.”  Mistakes were made, however.  My neighbors on the right, two University of New Mexico students, decided that one of the freedoms they would fight for was the freedom to go topless.  Men could, of course, and the idea was for things to be equal in every way.  Maryanne and Connie took their toplessness to their screened-in porch facing Mariposa Street.  The experiment only lasted a few nights.  My friends sat on their porch, with the ceiling light burning, and tried to ignore the fleets of rude men and boys who drove around our block, loudly commenting on Maryanne and Connie’s choices and honking their horns. That was a raucous, raunchy week; I was glad when they gave it up and put their shirts back on.

I keep coming up with corny things to write about being young during the 1970s in Albuquerque.  It really was something, though.  An era.  There were fearsome rough spots, but, man, I’m glad all that is with me, hanging out in the mystery of my brain.  I danced through that decade.  Pretty damn cool. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bob and Ditty

I cut Dad’s hair today
He coached me.
This is still new for him-
needing so much help.

He was Special Ops during the War.
Solved the rape and murder 
of a French woman. The guilty 
U.S. soldiers shamed their uniforms.
Dad damn near killed a drunk in his own squad
whose stupidity nearly doomed them all,
but cooler heads prevailed, stopped the fight.

The war over, his fluent German
meant a year in an enemy town.
Billeted in a castle, he helped them 
rebuild and rid themselves of Nazis.

Mom didn’t know him when he rang 
the doorbell two years after he shipped out.
She held her toddler, Bobby, 
and said “Yes, can I help you?” 
when she opened the door.   
Dad was heavier, older, 
weary-not the smooth-cheeked,
scrawny tennis player she’d married.
That young man died in Europe.

They had three more babies. Two jobs for Dad.
Weekends he wore a gun again.  Patrolled
NYC docks for Jimmy Sullivan who moved
him from dock to lonely dock after Dad
caught thieves. Dangerous nights in the oily salt air 
lasted through the decade shocked with death.

A gentle Dad let me trim his wispy hair today.
Released from my ministrations, leaning on two metal
canes, he headed for my Mom, who was in bed, 
where she always is now.  Dad grinned 
like a boy- all spruced-up. 
Sparkling blue eyes said “look at me.”
Weak brown eyes saw her handsome husband,
and with a smile as fresh as twenty  
she said, “You look fine.”   
And I sat down to write a poem.

Nonnie Augustine
October 23, 2005

Mom died on May 5, 2006
Dad died on March 3, 2010

Sunday, June 12, 2011

One of the Ways We Were

Jealousy schooled her
with unrelenting lessons
which compelled my friend
to perceive false meaning
in spoken, written, imagined
words, gestures, departures,
growls, grunts, and smiles.

She and I would try
to outdrink her obsessions.
Enough Scotch would turn
us blowsy, irate, defiant,
heavy with bleak certainty
that all men should go to hell
and that we’d be dead by thirty.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Nonnie and Drago’s Summer Bus Tour

Drago, my brother, and I have decided to take on this celebrity thing. We didn’t have big plans for the summer and I thought becoming famous might provide material for some blogs or poems or something. Maybe even a short story.  Not a novel.  I wrote one already and lost my temper over the whole “can’t get a publisher without an agent-and agents don’t want new clients unless they are celebrities or, or, well, celebrities.” I rarely lose my temper these days and I quite don’t like it. Besides, novels do go on, don’t they? I have this wonky heart, and I don’t want to spend writing time getting people from here to there. You don’t have to do that in a poem. Well, Longfellow did, but I think he and his ilk covered that sort of poem brilliantly. No need to do it again.

Which brings me back to this celebrity idea. Drago and I could get hold of a bus, somehow-we’ll have to look into that-spray paint the sides of it with our names and “POETRY!” “YOGA!” “HISTORY LESSONS!” in a giant, fun font, think up some dramatic, eye-catching pictures to stencil, (I’m fond of waterfalls myself, but maybe body parts would get more attention) let Blossom choose twenty or so of her favorite dog toys to take, (that will take forever) get a good bus-worthy kitty litter situation for Sam, and we’d be good to go. Or maybe we’d better...Drago is much better with details than I am; I’ll leave the fine-tuning to him.

There are lots of things we could do for people at our spontaneous, whimsical stops at tourist attractions.  I used to teach, and I’d be glad to give geography lessons as well as history, or a course in writing English for people in or out of school.  Drago can explain stuff to people. He’s patient and never makes you feel stupid; I know.  Then there would be his yoga sessions and I could give poetry readings. Oh, and listening activities. THAT would look good on the bus. LISTENING FOR AMERICANS!

After a few weeks of going around offering our talents, we could become famous, and then anything might happen. Maybe an appearance on Piers Morgan. There is one problem I can see in the attention attraction angle.  I get so bored driving on Interstates that we’d have to take back roads some of the time,  which might delay our famousness a bit and (another problem I just thought of) Drago would have to do all the driving-can’t see me driving a bus, can you?-so we’d have to stop enough, probably even where there weren’t crowds. What am I thinking? Of course we’d have to make frequent stops. Blossom has an overactive bladder. Not me.

So, that’s what we’re thinking about doing this summer-a carefree, casual, celebrity bus tour, on which Drago and I would do interesting things  for people, at least until we become famous enough to not have to do anything. We’d be content with national fame. Global name recognition seems a bit much to shoot for-being on a bus and all.