Sunday, November 26, 2023

Journey of Old Journals: 1985


Thus began my life as a streetworker in Boston, working for a longstanding social service agency. The job was second shift, walking through the neighborhoods that came alive at night. The Combat Zone, adjacent to the theatre district and Chinatown, Park Square near the T Station on the edge of the Boston Common, and the "Block" from Arlington to Boylston, adjacent to the grayhound station when it was there. My primary beat was Harvard Square, the locus of disaffected suburban punk rockers. 

Themes in the journal, where I wrote on the long train ride home on the Orange Line back to Jamaica Plain most nights, were centered around what I saw and what I tried to process before arriving home. Infected wounds, psychosis, my own stress, the never ending violence, and the rabbit fur coats of the prostitutes. The neighborhood where I lived was puncuated by cockroaches, sounds of alteractions from the cats, the neighbors, and random people in the street.

We'd decided, after that year together, to split up the apartment.Two friends were moving in with each other, my former lover was planning a move to an internship in the midwest, and I reviewed classifed ads and flyers seeking seeking a place to live. After four interviews with the women living there, I was happy to move into a two story house in Cambridge, just a short walk from Fresh Pond and a bike ride to Harvard Square.  There, I was able to breathe amid a backyard, and an attic bedroom wiht views of the treetops. 

That helped, as I downloaded each night at work. On March 8, I wrote a list. "Prosititues, drug addicts, bums lying int eh streets, theives discussing napalm, small tiem pretzel vendors, condused kids, violent roommates who throw TVs, isloation within an all night pizza store, young boys with skin problems who couldn't hold down a job, gay hustlers, the life that, at times, fathom." 

Part of the job was driving around a rebuilt Winnebago that was intended to deliver medical services through a couple of exam rooms. Getting into the garage at night from North Station was an adventure, something I still have nightmares about. 

"Today I met a 15-year old drag queen, the potential in the large hulking body with dancing steps. Another pudgy teen, both from Peabody. The queen dragging the boy to BAGLY.  Karina got cut again above her left breast. The stitches opened up again, she says she's leaving Joey on Monday for California. Last night, Mark I picked me up in a big hug and swirled me around and around. I think you are the greatest, I love you I love you I love you. This beats getting spit in the face. Mark's friend had just gotten kicked out of the house- he was a small young man with half a t-shirt; taking hormones.  

Ronnie had gotten stabbed a few weeks ago. Keeps getting drunk in the park everyday, as he lifts up his same old t-shirt and says, 'Look I fot the stitches out.' I  see a huge scar across his stomach, terrible and dramatic. 

Mucci had a seizure from booting coke. A terrible addiction- to money, drugs, security, that keep these youth imprisoned in destruction. How do you convey that prostitition can destroy everything you have, because it feeds on your self esteem. The women pretend, but they still say, 'I feel guilty when I see you.' I feel so much of the endless cycle of abuse. Janet "Ma" holding her daughter's child, when only a baby herself. Homeless at 13. You feel as thoough your prescence, your commitment, your way of walking down the street makes one kid thing- then the pain that you see and the you know you can't cure, will somehow be lessened through the levels of streetwork.  How to get more in-depth about issues is not making a concious effort to change the way you are, but letting things happen.

Timmy Flynn, very short, always drunk. Knows he can get away with so much, because of his stature. He says to a passerby, 'Mistah, can you help me out, out the door, out the window,  whatever! I'm going to drop my pants, see? I'm doing it, I know you want to see. Ha ha I'm wearing shorts. Giggling. My parents, they planned me. I wasn't no mistake, no sah. If they really wanted me, they wouldn't let me live like this.' "

Through the year, I find myself being tired of listening all the time. In hindsight, re-reading, I realize how hard this job must have been for me as an introvert. I was writing of my own addiction to sugar, trying to keep myself balanced. By the end of the year, I was making a commitment to therapy. There were conflicts around this, articulating my goals:

"Feeling more like a centered, confident woman. Many things will arise from this: self esteem, ability to make friends more easily, and become intimate. Open myself up- honestly- to others. I do this already,, but feel a sense of secrecy about my true emotions. 

Reduce the emotional obstacles that prevent me from meeting new people, achiveing sucess, and becoming a more creative person.  

Feel a sense of peace aobut my role in the world. My work the potential for social change, the balance with nature, and my sexuality. 

DISCIPLINE- eating, writing, finding freedom. 

In three words:  Search (dig), confront (hit a rock), resolve (strain until the rock is released and I can clear the land for farming.)"

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Journey of Old Journals: 1984- 1985


I started this journal by mentioning the "countdown to Seneca", the Women's Encampment for Peace and Justice, a righteous collection of women forging a new path to peace at the Seneca Army Depot. "It was a good feeling to come alone, to set up my tent. I feel like I've entered something important a year after it was first founded."  I wrote of the feminist process, discussions that I felt went nowhere but reached a far more satisfactory goal.  I noted that the women weren't interested in engaging (visitor fatigue in hindsight) and knew I should have stayed longer than a couple of days. But I commented to myself that I was brave to go alone. 

And alone, I ventured to Boston, getting there in advance while G and J drove the van down. I wrote, being perturbed that they "broke down" on the way, a happenstance in the location where G's new lover lived.  I got the keys to the new apartment and tried to make the best of it. My high school friend helped me rent a carpet cleaner from the local supermarket.  But when G and J arrived, my housemates collectively freaked out.  It was a blur, but I'd seen another ad in the local newspaper for a place in Jamaica Plain. Old, clean, hardwood floors, and cheap. So we were able to move there. 

Tension living with G, she wanted to return to our past amid all this change. I was looking forward: to new friends, a job. Copying and delivering the resumes around town. Community organizing jobs, something meaningful. I had two interviews with Bridge Over Troubled Waters, which I was fairly sure I'd get the job, and then "failed at my own great expectations" when I didn't.  I took the offer as an intake worker for ABCD. That job, at the desk, involved a new slew of characters in my world. The stories were mindblowing for my suburban mind. A deaf Chinese woman who did not speak English and sought services. An elderly man spitting on me as he was seeking a flu shot, with hairs growing from his nose and ears that reminded me of a sea urchin.  It was an urban adventure, back in the day when Jamaica Plain was gritty and real. 

Through this, I still took notes on the books I read, May Sarton, Kinds of Love. "Was growing old a matter of learning to close doors on the unbearable?" 

Sketched out more embroidery pieces (now long gone), dreamed of dresses for my new sewing machine. Dealt with the realities of sharing a space with former intimates, cockroaches on the toothbrush in the middle of the night, and sounds of violence in the city.  Found a new lover, who was too clingy and gushy for my taste and eventually left for a trip to India. Bridge offered me the job  and I started working second shifts. I began my search for a new place to live.  

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Journey of Old Journals: 1984


As we open, I’m back in Fredonia, sorting things out with G. The journal proceeds with thruminations and doubts about why I couldn’t pick up and

start my own life without her.

Questioning myself, the unknowing why of who I was, and the bond that transcended

fights, passion, and disagreement. There were nights she was late, arriving with excuses. I wrote, “Continually, I am disgruntled that my diabetes prevents me from achieving

everything I’d like to do, like the Peace Corps or going to an impoverished country and

helping the poor.” And a resolution to start “dating my journal,” which only meant

I added the dates to mark the passage of time.

I remember being very disappointed that G made no effort to meet my parents, noting how

unattractive and sullen she appeared at my graduation ceremony.

We made plans with a group to move to Boston after my application for an internship

in Japan was denied. I worked on my submission for the Peace Ribbon project.

I worked as a crew chief for the Chautauqua Private Industry Council that summer,

which I only remembered when I found the business card.

Throughout the summer, I read: Patience and Sarah. Alma Routsong Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. May Sarton The Writer on Her Work, ed. Janet Stanberg Women Hating, Andrea Dworkin Silences, Tille Olson Doris Lessing Despairwork, Joanna Macy The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee Blue Highways, William Leastheat Moon Medicine Woman. Lynn Andrews The Color Purple, Alice Walker Seven Arrows, Hyemeyohsts Storm The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, Charlene Spretnak Adrienne Rich Witchcraft as Goddess Religion, Starhawk Les Guerilleres. Monique Wittig Ariadne's Thread: A Collection of Contemporary Women's Journals, Ed. Lynn Lifshin The Spiral Dance, Starhawk. Ultimately, I told G that I was infatuated with a graphic designer who helped me design a canvas for an embroidered pentacle project, which ended it. She had no interest in continuing intimacy, and while nothing ever came of the crush with the recipient, it was the feeling I needed to change the dynamic. I found solace in a local reservoir where the water rippled in the shade of pines. I got a tattoo, a yin/yang symbol that I copied from the Tassajara Bread Book. Through all the travails, I began to get very excited about moving to Boston, having a support system in place but free to pursue my path.

Journey of Old Journals- 1983

This journal begins on the last day of my summer internship at the New York State Archives, where my main project was to rebox files from SingSing prison from the old to the new acid-free archival boxes. As I would review the contents, I would heft the larger files from the box to see how they began. Inevitably, juvenile petty shenanigans (at 8-13 years) escalated into larger and more serious crimes.  I looked at Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's telegrams received before they were executed and marveled over a handmade weapon resembling a circular saw.  In the end, I let without anyone saying goodbye; I was not supervised well. 

However,  I did a great job on a paper I had to write for the college credit, which explored the nuances of how the dehumanizing elements of the prison system perpetuated the trauma instead of being rehabilitative. I explored the Friends Alternatives to Violence Project and read prison notes from people who were published. I remember leaving my notes in a folder on the grass, losing the details yet being able to reconstruct enough to create an acceptable final product. 

I spent time at the women’s peace encampment in Romulus, New York, and was fascinated by the culture, bravery, and long, drawn-out discussions about nonviolent action. I also learned you could put a wooden platform beneath a tent and have a bed and dresser inside. I think I went back to Joslin clinic for more education. I remember traveling from Boston to Buffalo on a plane, writing about low blood sugar tears from a missed flight and the saffron-robed Hare Krishnas.

In the end, as I returned to school, my love interest at the time had found a new apartment and a new lover. My writing is fueled by betrayal, anger, hanging on, and the complicated approach of staying within a relationship because “monogamy is misogyny.” 

I ended with an observation, “I feel like I’m losing my leaves becoming bare, shedding a part of my life which has changed colors, dried out, and shall pass into a different stage.” 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Journey of Old Journals- 1983


This was a journal filled with observations and active reading. In the midst of transitions and preparations for my internship in Albany and discussions/arguments with G, I made a list of books in the beginning and set to read my way through them. 

The new roommates, surrounded by a lingering aroma of immature masculinity, made for a very lonely time in the early days of my internship at the New York State Archives. In this new landing spot,  I was afraid to disclose any personal information. 

I still have a vivid memory of one night, where they were up late, drinking too much and giggling, where I hid out in my room. In the morning, I woke up early, and, as I suspected, there was a sharpie-marker bush of public hair under the skirt of the female mannequin they had in the living room. Thus, I retreated into books, and here are a few salient quotes that  I share again. 

Anarchism, and Other Essays, Emma Goldman
“All that can be done is to plant the seeds of thought whether something vital will develop depends largely on the physicality of the human soil, though the quality of the intellectual seed must not be overlooked.”

“In our present pygmy state love is indeed a stranger to most people. Misunderstood and shunned, it rarely takes root; or if it does, it soon withers and dies. Its delicate fiber cannot endure the stress and strain of the daily grind. Its soul is too complex to adjust itself to the slimy wealth of our social fabric. It weeps and moans and suffers with those who have no need of it,  yet lack the capacity to rise to love’s summit.  Someday women and men will rise, they will reach the mountain peak, they will meet big and strong and free,  ready to receive, to partake, and to bask in the golden rays of love. What fancy, what imagination, what poetic genius can foresee... The potentialities of such a force in the life of men and women.  If the world is ever to give birth to true companionship and oneness, not marriage, but love will be the parent.”

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing 
“... you choose to be alone rather than get married for the sake of not being lonely.  You're afraid of writing what you think about life, because you might find yourself in an exposed position, you might expose yourself, you might be alone. “

Wash Us and Comb Us, Barbara Deming, 
“All right,” she said, “a little sand gets into a shell. The pearl is this dirt, this irritation.” She said. “Don't smile. It's out of that which soils us, which irritates us, which rubs – it’s out of evil suffered and understood, that an artist creates.”

The Wanderground Sally Miller Gearhart
 “What is the task? To work as if the Earth, the mother, can be saved. To work as if our healings and care we're not too late. Work to say the slayer's hand, helping him to change or helping him to die. Work as if the Earth, the mother, can be saved.”