Angela Bocage


Category Archive

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

You are an adult when…

You can take a joyful bath with another person and no one yells at you for splashing

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People skills

When Sherlock snarled, “I don’t have friends,” I could relate. But I always have a couple or few people who inspire me. I can get 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.


Identity

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, 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 or hitchhiking the same ones with anyone who picked me up. Still is.

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 labeled “sanity” undermined colorfully by 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.

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 caused conflagrations.

 


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.


Unpopular Opinions

Nutella is not that good.


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.


Unexpected answers dept.

“I had to ask, ‘why were you pretending to be ponies during the fire drill?'”

“Because we thought it was a real fire!”

At 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.


Diana Vreeland was an expert

She was a highly influential Vogue editor who stated that: “any set of features can support beauty”



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