Angela Bocage

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the history category.

A beautiful blog to which I subscribe

I miss Mary Daly sometimes, but I know she’s always with me. I love to read her books aloud. I will be more accurate, more truthful, more observant, more aware, for the rest of my life because of her. Today I saw a blog by a woman of far greater expressive and analytical powers than i possess, and am subscribing to it. She writes so brilliantly on how the world has changed. I sometimes talk with a friend in Boston about this, about how the world has changed, but the author of Radical Feminism in Otherland fleshes out and fully paints that vision I grope to even put into the simplest words. Here is an example of her good sense and the beauty of her writing:
“Ideals of self-empowerment mystify the reality that patriarchy and capitalism in their neo-liberal formations remain structural and systemic, despite appearances (spectacles) everywhere of gender-neutrality and the neutrality of the ever ‘free’ market.”
My Boston friend and i are imagining theater about what this blogger calls the “One-Dimensional Feminism” of these Orwellian days. May Radical Feminism in Otherland inspire us and help us to be as honest and measured and aware and passionate as we can be!


Scary stuff…people.

I have been on Facebook for several days. It reminds me of a wonderful gossip like Perez Hilton or the Go Fug Yourself girls, except it’s about people I know and like. So I’ve been fairly fascinated. Okay, obsessive. But it is also terrifying in a way. People I knew in San Francisco, and before that, Santa Cruz–undergraduate, for fuck’s sake–I can actually communicate with. Like time travel. Even though I have ALWAYS been absolute CRAP with people–awful at returning letters/calls/emails, awful at all those little ways of keeping in touch that my partner is so brilliant about. Not to mention saying things other people think is odd. I later thought it was probably because most of the people I knew day-to-day at UCSC were Southern California people and I was a Northern California person. But really I was just very weird. And even now I am capable of getting extremely shy and clumsy around people. I think I’ve gotten better in recent years…but still don’t always remain centered in groups of more than three max. My partner has been a great help; I just realized it today when a coworker took a picture of me and kind of channeling my sweetheart, I laughed and said, “Wait! You shoulda taken one where I’m picking my nose!” I told her about it later and she said, “Or you could’ve said, ‘Wait! You shoulda given me time to write ‘fuck you!’ on my forehead'”! See? THAT’S what I call real ‘people skills.’

Identity, illusion, death

I was very honored recently to be invited by a brilliant and cool new friend to write something for a project of hers on the subject, “Identity.” What a big old steaming hot mess that one is for me, right?! The cartoon caption, were it atop a visual panel of my most enthusiastically gross-&-disgusting pen and ink work, would be something like, “Angela’s brain crawls through the wreckage…” I have been changing my so-called identity since I was five years old, choosing and discarding names and traits like old boots, and have never been sorry. When the T. Heads sang, “I’ve changed my hairstyle—so many times now—I don’t know WHUT I LOOK LIKE,” the line applied to me, only add hair color and clothing style as well. I’m not exaggerating when I say age five; it may have been even earlier. I remember deciding to adopt as my own a phobia of having my picture taken at five, changing my name at five or six, and chopping off the long hair my mother had never ever cut at eight. By eleven hair color changed all the time and by fourteen I had had maybe five different sequential names. (A number rather larger now.)

Identity and I have, clearly, waged an old war. When I read Carlos Castaneda’s dubious and delightful Yaqui stories in junior high and high school, devouring them all repeatedly and dropping whole previous sets of friends to be besties with the publications geeks into Carlos—yep, sorry, I do that too, but at least nowadays I’m trying not to be quite so much of an asshole—his stuff about erasing identity again and again, like the dirt and sweat of each day, made so much sense to me. I feared my ego, wanted to lance it like a boil as often as possible, to which end I never save my published clips and don’t have most of my comics, whether originals or published versions. What’s the point—another thing in Castaneda’s mini-library of chaos magic that made sense to me even then was the imminence of death. It was true when I was thirteen and driving on Southern California freeways with my Alzheimer’s-addled grandfather and true earlier today when a migraine made me nauseated and I wondered whether this time it would be the genetically and environmentally vulnerable much-abused ticker.

Death is always imminent even if Death is extremely quiet and unobtrusive about it, too, of course; turns out that many apparent crazies show up in ERs all agitated and hallucinating  when actually they’re mentally normal individuals having their self-concept, cognitive abilities, and the whole bundle of qualities labeled “sanity” undermined colorfully by nothing more than one or more previously undetected tumors. And people get hit by cars or otherwise felled without warning all the time, as my grandfather (while I was living with him, age six) and my mother (while I was living with her, age eleven) exemplified. My, was I the auspicious child with whom to reside, or what?! With ego that poisonous, and death that near, it seemed like a splendid idea to stock up on identities: an old Jewish custom was to change one’s name to Chaim or Chaya when critically ill so Death might skip your checkmark on Its list.

Then, behind the personal, there’s the political. Or under, or encompassing, or whatever your concept may be of that contested relation. Anyway, politics and identity are of course a whole nother can o’ worms. I know the lefties, red diaper babies, and other kind and hopeful souls may be thinking that identity is a politically necessary concept.  I don’t, because it isn’t any particular identity—or even a human identity—which entitles beings to justice and peace! As long as injustice and suffering exist, it doesn’t matter upon whom they splat!  If identity is a useful tool, in some places, times and situations, to alleviate injustice and suffering, by all means use it. If identity is a fantasy, so are the little imaginary lines on maps, which have been known to cause difficulties from time to time…

I use the word “fantasy” or “artifact” because a shift in context, or in time, can change everything: in a painting or fabric or mosaic, the same color looks one way next to green, another next to gray, then changes a lot next to orange! If identity is no more or less real than that color painting or that fabric—it’s an artifact of situation, time, place, and as cynical law students are wont to say about legal rulings, “what the judge ate for breakfast.”

Tsk. I was meaning to write about how funny the book I was reading is, it’s Tanya Huff’s Smoke and Ashes and it’s super fun, but maybe tomorrow…

Roe v. Wade anniversary

When I was at the end of seventh grade, I spent an amazing summer in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. A little over a year after my mother died in spring of sixth grade in Cammack Village, Arkansas, I’d spent seventh grade at George B. Dealey elementary after moving to Dallas to live with my father. There, where the seventh graders were royalty, the year passed in a whirlwind of getting a new turquoise stingray bike to ride to school and family errands and such, singing in the chorus, finally having some pretty clothes, racking up record-setting points in the reading competition, getting my period, being asked to do art for various teachers and getting to get out of all sorts of tedious activities to do so, getting crushes on both genders, having great friendships and adventures, including an awesome wilderness education week in Athens, Texas, I’ll never forget, and culminating in triumphs of both acting in the leading comedienne role and doing lots and lots of scenic and promotional and program art for the year’s play. It was such a blessing after all the excitement that that first summer after my world turned upside down I got to live in the peace and beauty of my grandmother’s shadow, her lovely old home (with the first air conditioning system ever built in Arkadelphia, a hundred years old, its mysteries housed in its own tiny cottage by the rear of the house, but working so wonderfully well!), the quiet genteel streets of a little town that believed passionately in learning and rang with church bells…but in which I’d not yet experienced the hateful side of religion. There was only kindness in the little Episcopal church we attended, a pioneer in integration, only the sunshine, its warmth bringing out the smells of candles, flowers, and old, old books. In the beautiful old fashioned public library, a hushed and cool retreat with polished wooden floors, high ceilings, and secret passages (my grandmother volunteered there as a part-time librarian so I was delighted to explore with impunity), I discovered the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one huge dusty-black volume with thrillingly arcane sigils like a silvery-red eye and was flat out gone all summer into that road novel of all road novels; the landscape covered by the hobbits wasn’t, after all, all that unlike the gentle verdant hills and forests and rivers and towns of southern Arkansas. What made me think of all this today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I used a clunky old blue and white bicycle in Arkadelphia, not the sleek speedy one I had at home. If, riding around with my friends Anne and Sharon, or exploring some promising haunted house with my friend John for some vampire play we were writing, or just walking in the twilight to think about what I wanted to do with the life ahead of me, with art, learning, writing, exploring relationships, I’d happened on the wrong person, and been raped–it wasn’t quite 1972 yet. Would my two wonderful children have ever come into the world, would I have gotten an education, would I have been sent away, or would an unsterile back-alley procedure have ended my life? My nascent depression wasn’t treated then, and the treatments that existed were frequently as bad as the illness–would I have committed suicide, or spent my life in an institution? For some reason, even after all the years of thinking I’ve done about why women’s reproductive lives aren’t free, I never thought quite this way, never thought, this could have happened to me. Our mothers, our grandmothers, I always said. But it wasn’t quite 1972 yet the summer I discovered sexual feelings, the summer Anne and Sharon would tell me men and boys were always looking at my rather fine new breasts. This anniversary, I did the math, and I’m so thankful for my children and my life. We cannot deny the future to the girls in seventh grade, or second grade, or entering adulthood today. To think otherwise is female sexual slavery as surely as it has ever existed in the world.

More on Nikki Craft…

I just read a splendid article about the mechanisms of discrediting feminist writing (Over Her Dead Body: How Ariel Levy Smears the Ashes of Andrea Dworkin, by Julian Real at )   because thinking about how much I like my praying mantises and miss my times with Nikki Craft prompted me to look up some websites by and about her. Although it was a painful and difficult time, memories of Nikki are mostly so joyful and full of energy and hope. I remember sitting with her and some other young women in her beautiful artful rented room in a house in Santa Cruz, where there was a little stepladder up to her bed, I assume thoughtfully placed there so her little dog Casper wouldn’t have to jump up and down. How funny she was in her observations of the some of the ludicrous goings-on in Santa Cruz at the time. But how ardently she spoke against cruelty to animals, how she lived her compassion with Casper, and how cogently she linked her witness of  mass murdered dogs in a field to the murders of women we seemed to hear about every other week back then. She was the kindest, most passionate, most friendly individual I’d ever met at my work on the school newspaper, City on a Hill Press.

Most of the people working there when I first started in 1977 or 1978 were really scary to me, a very sheltered Southern girl who’d never been out after ten p.m. except to church events before coming to the University. They were also, compared to me, extremely affluent, well-traveled, with experience of the world and a lot more choices. I was just an illustrator and paste-up person, working there to afford rent, cheap film series, the occasional record, used (yup, they were vinyl then) at Logos. I had to drop out of school repeatedly to pay for school; cleaning houses,  cleaning the machines at the Wrigley plant or graveshifting packing tea boxes at Lipton, eventually getting what I thought was the greatest gig ever, selling tickets at the Del Mar theater, which meant that by local convention I could attend any film in the area free–yes, even at the arthouses, hallelujah! Other students had internships at museums or national magazines; my first summer in college I’d made change from a booth at the boardwalk arcade because I was too clumsy on the machines that sold tickets to the rides. Boy, was I an idiot–depressed, isolated, and of the world outside my devout theoretical universe (I coulda told you reams about the history of the Christian Church and the labyrinthine eddies of its doctrinal samba-dancin’ over the centuries!) I knew so so little. The guys (mostly guys) who did writing & editing were every bit as sure they came from a different and superior universe from me as I was.

Knowing and working with Nikki changed my life. Even after the young woman had a firebrand reputation, even after she’d become a lightning rod in the debate between people who cared about women’s lives and the men who loved their porn, she was able to walk into the offices of City on a Hill Press–testosterone central–and charm all the guys immediately with her genuine friendliness, humor, precious little white dog, and killer shoulder massages. I was gobsmacked at her elan! Oh, but like the thing with the vinyl, I guess I gotta explain that everybody gave everybody shoulder massages in those days. Just not always on first meeting! And before desktop publishing, y’all, layout and pasteup people were extremely grateful for Nikki’s. And she was drop dead gorgeous with those huge clear eyes and glossy dark hair, whether she was wearing claystained sweat pants and a bandana on her head or a funky crazy sparkly Myth California gown. She inspired me to read, read, read, read, Susan Griffin and Mary Daly and the Take Back the Night anthology and take a class in lesbian literature…I’ll continue this sometime, but I have to wake up early for work now, so that’s just a few random memories of a shrewd and sneaky saint of my early life! Definitely, definitely check out the Julian Real article. Apparently Ms. Nikki Craft was also an inspiration to that author.

My garden, such as it is

I had roommates in San Francisco who were among the biggest assholes I ever met who gardened. I have an ex-husband who gardened–he practically farmed when he had enough land. I’ve thought for years that most gardeners were so smug, so bourgeois…I never should have met Diane. Actually, I really never should have met Diane. First, my beloved and I got completely lost going to a party at her house in a charming little NJ town. But then, after a last ditch effort to find the right street got us tangled in a one-way street situation, we saw our dear friend the Bass Cat Lady, who’s actually a man but has, shall we say, a great many musical instruments in his abode, walking down a tree-shaded sidewalk with a lovely young lady.  We hailed him, and were introduced to Diane, who didn’t even live on that particular tree-shaded street. Such a lady she is, however, that she never told us her party had in fact been cancelled, due to her and her husband’s worries about their toddler being ill. Instead she gave us directions to her place–we’d been about a block away–entertained us graciously, and showed me her modest, sensible, lovely, no-trace-of-smug-or-bourgeois, plantings. She had yarrow, marigold, sage, sunflower, lavender, cilantro, rosemary…am I remembering everything correctly? Probably not. But I was powerfully reminded of the classes I used to take with Starhawk, Macha NightMare, and Sophia Moondragon, making charms, doing magic of all kinds for very good causes, because a lot of the herbs were the same. So I could pun most excruciatingly that this weirdly destined visit with Diane and her strangely powerfully lovely garden planted the seed (Ouch! Ouch!) so that when I left urban life for the rolling hills of eastern PA I started wanting to plant stuff. Was there ever a lot of land here–compared to the tiny jewels of urban gardens my adopted brother Steven created in the Bay Area and community gardeners created in the Lower East Side and Harlem (sometime I’ll tell you about working on the legal case that didn’t exactly save the gardens but bought them a much-needed year to get their activist act together) the front and back yard of my home with my wife seem like acreage (I think it’s about 3/4 of one). So the first things I planted were a tiny patch of watermelons and a tiny patch of pumpkins. Then I wanted to grow cilantro and parsley. The latter’s an important ingredient in my homemade dog food, after all. Then lavender, for the way it smells and its helpfulness on insect bites. Alyssum for a border. Oh, here’s a cayenne plant, let’s buy it. Those bare shady spots in the front would look a lot better if I could pop these shade-tolerant impatiens in. There was a rack in the grocery store with two kinds of marigolds and this gorgeous ombre-flaming yellow-to-red perennial. And bam, I’ve got six little beds going! And I am havin’ more fun, as they say in my Southern family but with extra syllables. I get to ask my girl if she’s seen how big my pumpkins are getting, and then to her shocked expression announce that I have four! Smash pretty colored tiles to make borders to make weeding easier. And darned if we’re not composting. I’m just happy as a pig in nice clean water. Because there were good memories of gardens, too, long ago. My grandmother’s daffodils, ivy, dogwood, and hydrangeas, the big kitchen garden my grandfather supervised before the university took the land behind our yard, thrilling me no end because he actually hired a guy with a plow pulled by a real live horse. My mother’s garden outside Jefferson City, Missouri, the idyllic years we had nine dogs, four cats, a parakeet and goldfish, because for once we had all the space for them all. She loved just going out and picking fresh corn, fresh spring onions, snap beans, lettuce, yellow squash and especially tomatoes, always trying to convert four-year-old me to the belief that food should look beautiful, that there should be lively natural color on one’s plate. She’d later tell everyone how I thought the spring onions were so pretty I’d often keep one under my pillow.

These are among the things I really want to figuratively keep under a pillow of memory, remember for my children, especially the stubborn magic of my battered, depressed, seemingly-downtrodden mother, all the joy she actually took in so many facets of life. So now, I have two tomato plants, and because of the garden-stuff-amassing ex alluded to in my last post, yesterday I even put these wire frames around ’em to help ’em grow. Well, if it’s not making you ill–I’m not smug, swear to goddess, and if I’m bourgeois where’s my money at?–I’ll tell more about the garden in the future. If all the fun I’m having mosaic-ing little smashy-tile borders doesn’t totally lead-poison us to death or something. Gotta end these posts on a cheerful note.

“An elephant [pooped] on my Corvette” and other true statements

What can you say that few others can? The headline above is my beloved’s (slightly cleaned up) true statement–she’d absentmindedly parked said vehicle on the route of Allentown’s circus parade. Our dear friend Betsy Blandford recently told us one I found so enthralling it’s become my email signature: “I had to ask, ‘why were you pretending to be ponies during the fire drill?'”  Thanks to Marty Stevens, former City on a Hill Press colleague, for cluing me that the answer needed clarifying. Not Zen or mystical, the little girls said, “Because we thought it was a real fire.” Can’t you just see them making the “duhh!” face?

One of mine: last summer a nice salesgirl at the amazing vintage clothing store in Burlington, VT, asked why I was looking for tall white cowboy boots and a tight, spangled turquoise minidress with a fluttery skirt.  “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ve heard it all.”  “They’re for a baton-twirling routine I’m performing for a funeral tomorrow,”  I answered truthfully. She was very helpful, I found both items, and rocked the funeral to the strains of “Let the Sunshine In” –but she admitted that she had not, in fact, heard that particular true statement before.

What are yours?

Perception and theory

Diana Vreeland’s pronouncements that “any set of features can support beauty” and that the only real elegance is of the mind (“the rest comes from it”) made simple sense to me as an artist. The self-portraits of my fellow art students, always seeming to focus on the lineaments of struggle and wear in their young faces; the absolute charisma of the women around me in the punk and lesbian communities of the late ’70s where of all moments conventional notions of beauty were demolished; and my childhood among Southern women who blazed with beauty even free of makeup, with brutally chopped hair, beaten and scarred, confirmed it with such naturalness. Of course my studies in various media of the faces of those who fascinated me was further evidence–what to debutante DV may have been calculated defense against her mother’s excoriation of young Diana’s “extreme ugliness” was an inherent truth.  

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