All posts by Bo Young

Rhubarb and Glass Flowers

The heat, at least on the East Coast, has finally broken and it was like getting hit on the head with a hammer…it felt so good when it stopped! Saturday, all we wanted to do was get outside. We threw open all the windows, turned off the air conditioners and headed for the greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza where it looked like most everyone else had the same idea. Along with some peaches the size of baby heads, I was surprised to find beautiful rhubarb! I know now I should have bought more, but I took two pounds of it, imagining my Great Aunt Stella’s rhubarb compote that she would pour over ice cream.

That’s what I made with it, along with a nice strawberry-rhubarb-orange pie. Just chopped up a pound of the red stalks (that my local grocer asked whether it was "red celery"…which should tell you something about my local grocery options) and added some candied ginger, the chopped up rinds of one orange and a little orange juice and some lemon juice and simmered it until the rhubarb just gave up and collapsed into this rosy red puree. Cool it off and find some vanilla ice cream and it’s summer in a bowl.

Speaking of bowls, we picked up our friend, Dr. Ron, his two toddler children, and headed up to the New York Botanical Garden to check out the Dale Chihuly show installed there. What a delight!

I live two blocks from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (note: which is called "Botanic" and the other is called "Botanical"…not sure if there is a difference or someone is just splitting hairs on us there) so I am sort of spoiled when it comes to gardens and botanic(al) ones, in particular. I couldn’t believe, first of all, how much bigger the NY Botanic Garden is. It must be twice the size of the Brooklyn one. Of course, the Brooklyn Botanic has the Brooklyn Museum sitting right in the middle of it, and directly across Flatbush which transects it on the north side, is Olmstead’s own favorite jewel, Prospect Park. So it’s all a matter of perspective, really. But the NY Botanical garden is a treat to behold. Blue_4

A tad more expensive, too, but I suppose if I was a member, like we are in Brooklyn, I wouldn’t have noticed. Entry fee was $6 for adults, but $20 a head to see the Chihuly, which, in retrospect, I don’t really understand since you could probably have just paid the $6 and still seen all the Chihuly’s as they are placed all through the park in the most public of places, as well as in the divine Enid Haupt Conservatory. Pink_chihuly_2

Nonetheless, the glass show is, after a while, an "Alice in Glass Wonderland" experience. We walked to the Rockefeller Rose Garden with a forest of blue glass balls and spires, and on to the immense greenhouses, with exquisite, floral bowls.

Then, five-year-old and three-year-old in tow, we went back through the old forest woods where we stopped to demonstrate the helicopter-esque aerodynamic properties of maple tree seeds by tossing them off the eyebrow bridge in the middle of the woods, and on back to the Conservatory. Mapleseed1_1

We ended up having to run through the Conservatory as it was close to closing time. But that was probably the most spectacular display, with huge blown globes of colored glass floating amidst the reeds and towering in the Conservatory among the palms. We were told that on Thursday nights, from six to nine, all the pieces are illuminated. Stunning. Sun1

Eric Rofes

Attended the memorial service for Eric Rofes at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan last night. I met earlier with Chris Bartlett, Eric’s partner in the Gay Men’s Leadership Academies to discuss the planning of the second Academy in September (if you haven’t registered go here) and then we made our way over to the Center for the service.

We had a little time to sit. Crispin Hollings, Eric’s handsome husband, was there and we visited a while. Then Perry Brass arrived so we all talked about his early organizing work.

The memorial service was inspiring and touching. The speakers included a childhood friend of Eric’s from Commack, David Klafter, who spoke lovingly of his friend, and Eric’s special gift for friendship. Suzanne Pharr,   the first director of the historic Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee. Richard Burns, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center, and an old friend of Eric’s from his Boston days spoke movingly of Eric’s early role in lifting the then very localized gay movement to national standing and the organizing of the first March on Washington.

Equally importantly…shockingly…infuriatingly, Burns related the story of how the coroner’s office in Provincetown initially refused to acknowledge Crispin and Crispin’s wishes for Eric to receive an autopsy and be cremated. If there was any doubt of how tenuous our rights are as gay people…here is a man who had been one of the primary organizers of the GLBT Rights movement, who had the mayor, the executive directors of NGLTF, Lambda Legal and every imaginable power of attorney, piece of paper, domestic partner registration in hand…in a state where gay residents even HAVE the right to marry, and these authorities needed to be reminded of their own laws, and Crispin’s rights as Eric’s life partner.

We were serenaded not once, but twice by the inimitable New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, singing "Love Lives On" and "Sing Me To Heaven."

The speakers were a dazzling panel of bold names from our community: Urvashi Vaid, Jeff Montgomery from the Triangle Fund, Chris Bartlett, of course, and the brilliant humorist and monologist, Kate Clinton (who wryly, sadly noted, "Eric had one heart attack and dies. Dick Cheney has four and doesn’t even seem to be phased by it. Maybe there is no justice?") Clinton spoke of having had coffee with Eric his last morning in Provincetown…any town…and remembered how he insisted, always, on speaking of his erotic life; Insisting that we could not work to achieve sexual liberation and NOT talk about sex!

Crispin, still obviously mourning deeply, related his walk through Eric’s place in Provincetown that morning he arrived, seeking he said, some presence of Eric.  His grief was palpable, but the strength of the love these two men shared was right there, too.

Finally, Amber Hollibaugh read from Eric’s landmark Reviving the Tribe:

"We cannot bring the dead back to life…Finding ways to regain mental health and perspective will be challenging, but gay men are not alone in these tasks. We are part of a large and increasing population of Americans who somehow manage to face the bizarre psychic deformations and powerful existential questions which arise in the wake of extreme events. We stand alongside political refugees from Eastern Europe, immigrants who have survived the Cultural Revolution in China or terrorism in Central America, combat veterans… Our plight is shared by abused children and battered women, as well as people who live their entire lives victimized by poverty, gang violence and drugs. We are not alone in our suffering.

I hope to live my middle-age years with the ability to be present and engaged in a way I haven’t been able to be for most of the past decade…When I enter old age, I hope to be able to speak to people abou the worlds in which I’ve lived, and look back with a perspective that integrates anger and grief with appreciation and even humor.

To see men embrace and love each other in response to neither loss nor terror revives my dreams from a life long ago. To watch masses of men dance together, celebrating raw life-giving powers of music and desire, forces me to acknowledge that the human spirit is not easily subdued. When once again two men can kiss hard on the mouth, as neither victims nor survivors nor captives, then peace and order will settle over the tribe and life will again move forward."

We are so much poorer a people without this man and so much richer for his having been with us.