Category Archives: Life Is Good

Video Treat of the Week: “Song of Myself,” Stanza 5

From the far out West, up against the curling, capricious lip of the Pacific, comes a dispatch from our Coastal Ocean & Fire Correspondent, Mitchell Santine Gould.

With it is a stunning animated setting of Stanza 5 from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, a keystone of the poet’s classic Leaves of Grass.

Mitch is a longtime student and celebrant of Whitman, and as we’ll see, does not lack deep artistic talent himself. His work deserves more attention, and will get a small measure of that here.

Mitch animated this stanza, and one can only begin to imagine how fabulous future installments might be.

The animation is only three minutes plus.

Yet in those brief moments it evokes much of Whitman’s continuing appeal and mystery: his modest origins, comfort with nature in all its aspects,

unabashed sensuality, human warmth, and easy, encompassing untheological mysticism.

From Stanza 5:

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valvèd voice.
If I may be pardoned a sectarian aside, Whitman overlaps at many points with Quakerism, though he did not join. As a youth he heard and was fascinated by the then-radical preaching of Elias Hicks; later, although not subject to the military draft in the Civil War, he spent many months doing an unofficial noncombat service in military hospitals, especially with gravely wounded and dying soldiers; he wrote essays in tribute to Hicks and George Fox; and more — which Mitch has been exploring and documenting for many years. (One small key chapter of it, from Quaker Theology, is here.)
And I can’t close without slipping in an unanimated addition, the next, sixth stanza of Song of Myself, which sticks in my memory perhaps more than any other:

Song of Myself 6

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

[The full text of Song of Myself is here.]

Thanks, Mitch — send more!

“Say Gay” Is Still On at Disney World

From the New York Times:

ORLANDO, Fla. — Last Friday evening, about 6,000 people — almost all of them gay men — poured into a Walt Disney World water park near Orlando, Fla. Each had spent $100 or more on tickets for a private, adults-only Pride bacchanal called Riptide. “For one night, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park becomes entirely yours for the party of the year,” online ads had promised. “Be part of the magic!”

An actual rainbow arched over the park’s thunder-shower-soaked parking lot as the sun set, prompting several attendees to joke that Disney had outdone itself with Pride theming this year. But the party was not a Disney-orchestrated event, not by a long shot. A few ticket holders turned up in wrestling singlets, while others had outfitted themselves in bondage-scene chest harnesses. Later, a squadron of go-go boys ceded the stage to the drag queen Trinity the Tuck.

I stood among the revelers wearing a black Polo shirt and khaki shorts, which led to an impromptu intervention from a stranger, Jose Rodriguez, 27. “What’s with your outfit?” he asked. “You look like an uptight soccer dad, and it’s not a good vibe. Go take off some of those clothes!”

Gulp.

Mr. Rodriguez was right in sizing me up as an interloper: I had not come to Typhoon Lagoon to dance (thump, thump, thump) or flaunt my muscles (hah!) or flirt with tipsy abandon in the colossal wave pool. I was there on a fact-finding mission. . . .

Disney has never endorsed Gay Days, a version of which takes place in the fall at Disneyland in California. Nor has it tried to rein it in. There isn’t much the company could do anyway: For red shirt days, attendees buy tickets like anyone else. The planning is handled by private companies like One Magical Weekend, Gay Days Inc., and the lesbian-focused Girls in Wonderland.

I had long heard stories about Gay Days, but I was confused about what it was. The goings-on are not sanctioned by Disney but take place, in part, on Disney property? Adult attendees spend much of their time spinning in teacups and waving at Winnie the Pooh like everyone else … and then go carousing at private events that make Grindr look tame? I’m admittedly the uptight-soccer-dad variety of gay man, but the components did not seem to fit together.

This year, another question arose: Would the anti-L.G.B.T.Q. vitriol that has surrounded Disney in recent months spill over to Gay Days?

. . . But the longer I hung out at the Magic Kingdom among the revelers, the more I was struck by the routine nature of the day. There were no protesters. There were no cautionary signs. The only tension I saw came from a gay man who was cranky that a Disney manager had told him that his shirt could be viewed as inappropriate. It featured Pluto in leather gear and the phrase “I like it wruff.”

There were loads of people in red shirts who were not at Disney World for Gay Days — and none seemed to care when they learned of the color’s significance on this day. “Maybe my daughter will think I’m cool now,” one guy said with a grin, declining to give his name and heading toward the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride.

For Mr. Mathison and his husband, Frank McKeown, 47, the blasé attitude represents a significant change from how things used to be.

“About 10 years ago at Gay Days, we were all in line in our red shirts at Big Thunder Mountain,” Mr. Mathison said, referring to Disney’s Frontierland roller coaster. “It was a sea of red. And this little girl came running up to her dad in a panic. ‘Dad! Dad! Take off your shirt. If you’re wearing red, it means you’re gay!’”

Mr. McKeown picked up the story. “This guy was very, very good looking,” he said. “And so we all started chanting, ‘Take it off! Take it off!’”

They broke into laughter. “Ahh, those were the days,” Mr. McKeown said. . . .

NC Drag Queen Story Hour Goes On; Arrests stop Anti-Pride Riot in Idaho

Blow a kiss and strike a pose: Drag Queen Story Hour goes on as planned at Apex Pride

Raleigh NC News & Observer
BY KORIE DEAN UPDATED JUNE 11, 2022

The drag queen story hour is back on for this Saturday’s Pride Festival in Apex North Crolin, now that Equality NC has taken over after citing “disappointment” with town officials.

Reported by our media partner, ABC11 News. BY ABC11 Stormie Daie arrived at Saturday’s Apex Pride a few minutes late — event organizers said she had difficulty finding parking for her royal carriage — but like any good drag queen, she was fashionable in doing so.

Stormie Daie, a Durham-based drag queen, entered the Drag Queen Story Hour under the cover of her iridescent parasol, wearing a sparkly, light blue dress with puff sleeves. She walked through the crowd, waving to and greeting the dozens of children and adults gathered to see her, then sat down in her purple chair, ready to read.

Out of her rainbow-striped reusable tote bag full of books — one of many perks of the job, she said — Stormie Daie first selected “If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It,” a sing-along picture book that riffs on the popular kids’ song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

As she read the story aloud, the crowd of listeners joined in, blowing kisses and striking poses, as the book’s words instructed them to do.

Earlier this week, it seemed that Drag Queen Story Hour would not be included in this year’s Apex Pride, as the original sponsors of the event, the Apex Festival Commission, pulled the activity from the day’s line-up due to threats of violence. The activity was restored after another group, Equality NC, stepped in to sponsor Apex Pride in place of the Festival Commission, The News & Observer previously reported.

“It felt really important for us to hold down this space for the community, to work with folks who are supportive of the LGBTQ community, and make sure that the focus was not on the people who hate us, but the focus was on us and having these safe spaces,” Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, told The N&O at Saturday’s event.

Drag Queen Story Hour is a global organization that brings drag queens to libraries, schools, bookstores and other spaces to capture “the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood” and give children “glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” The organization’s mission is to celebrate reading “through the glamorous art of drag.”

The Triangle-area chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour organized the activity for Apex Pride, bringing four drag queens, including Stormie Daie, to the event to read stories to children throughout the day.

Elise Chenoweth, director of the Triangle-area Drag Queen Story Hour, said the threats against the activity were “frustrating,” but she was glad the event went on as planned.

“We want kids to be able to take pride in themselves and their neighborhood,” Chenoweth said. “And no matter how different they feel, they can see themselves in someone, if only a book character or one of our readers.”

Stormie Daie read two other books to the crowd during the Story Hour: “’Twas the Night Before Pride,” about the anticipation and joy associated with yearly Pride Month events, and “My Rainbow,” about a mom who creates a rainbow wig for her transgender daughter.

As Stormie Daie read the books, kids and adults alike, many dressed in rainbow clothing, waved rainbow flags and cheered along. Amanda and Zach Prichard, who live in Apex, said they were already planning to attend Apex Pride with their children, Eleanor and Watson, before the controversy over the Story Hour activity. Eleanor Prichard, 7, who wore rainbow ribbons in her hair and had rainbow eye shadow on, was eager to get a photo with Stormie Daie after she finished her reading.

“We wanted to show our support for everybody in the community,” Zach Prichard said. “More importantly, we also wanted to show our kids what it means to support everybody of all kinds. We want to raise them to be very inclusive.”

When they heard about the threats of violence against the Story Hour and its organizers, the Prichards said they doubled-down on their decision to attend the event. “We didn’t want the negativity to win,” Zach Prichard said.


Washington Post: 31 tied to hate group charged with planning riot near LGBTQ event in Idaho

Police in Idaho arrested 31 people who had face coverings, white-supremacist insignia, shields and an “operations plan” to riot near an LGBTQ Pride event on Saturday afternoon. Police said they were affiliated with Patriot Front, a white-supremacist group whose founder was among those arrested.

Authorities received a tip about a “little army” loading into a U-Haul truck at a hotel Saturday afternoon, said Lee White, the police chief in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a city of about 50,000 near the border with Washington. Local and state law enforcement pulled over the truck about 10 minutes later, White said at a news conference.

Many of those arrested were wearing logos representing Patriot Front, which rebranded after one of its members plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

The group’s founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, was among those arrested, according to jail records. Like the others, Rousseau was arrested on a charge of criminal conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor. The arrestees were held on $300 bail. Some of the other men arrested also have been linked to the group.

A man is detained with a group of 31 people who were charged with criminal conspiracy to riot, in Coeur d’Alene. (North Country Off Grid/YouTube/Reuters)

In photos and videos posted on social media, a group of men dressed in hats, sunglasses, white balaclavas and Patriot Front’s signature khaki pants were seen kneeling on the ground with their hands zip-tied behind their backs as police officers kept watch. An onlooker taunted the group, yelling, “Losers!”

White said the people were headed to City Park, which was hosting Pride in the Park, an event advertised as a “family-friendly, community event celebrating diversity and building a stronger and more unified community for ALL.” Organizers did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment from The Washington Post on Saturday evening, but they wrote in a post to the group’s Facebook page that it was a “successful” event.

The group, North Idaho Pride Alliance, urged people to “stay aware of your surroundings this afternoon and evening” in the city.

Authorities had been aware of online threats leading up to the weekend, White said, so police had increased their presence in the city’s downtown. Two SWAT teams and officers from the city, county and state assisted in the arrests.

The Panhandle Patriots, a local motorcycle club, had planned a “Gun d’Alene” event on the same day as Pride in the Park to “go head to head with these people,” an organizer said in April during an appearance with state Rep. Heather Scott (R).

The organizer was not identified by name in a video but wore a vest bearing the alias “Maddog” and the insignia of the Panhandle Patriots group. He lamented that the Pride gathering would be “allowed to parade through all of Coeur d’Alene,” saying that “a line must be drawn in the sand” against such LGBTQ displays. Scott did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post late Saturday.

In a news release posted on the group’s website, the Panhandle Patriots encouraged the community to “take a stand” against the LGBTQ “agenda.” It also suggested without evidence that “extremist groups” were trying to hijack the event to provoke violence and said the group would change its event name to “North Idaho Day of Prayer” in response.

Reached by phone late Saturday, a representative for the Panhandle Patriots declined to comment on the day’s events, telling The Post, “We are not answering questions right now.”

White did not mention a connection between the Panhandle Patriots event and the arrests. He said those arrested had come from several states “to riot downtown,” with riot gear, at least one smoke grenade and documents “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.”

He did not see firearms at the scene of the arrest, he said, but emphasized the situation was “very fresh.”

However, firearms were present in the vicinity of the park, White said. Police had been in contact with the FBI “all day,” he said.

White noted that the authorities’ understanding of the situation was still developing and said at the news conference that law enforcement had not yet interviewed those arrested. Representatives for Patriot Front were unable to be reached for comment.

More charges are possible, White said. The first court appearances for those arrested will probably be on Monday, Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris said.

Doctor FeelGood: The Unexpected Foster Mother

[NOTE: We’ll get back to troubles & woe presently. Meantime, something upbeat.]

I’m a pediatrician. I unexpectedly became a foster mom to a patient.

I asked my husband if we should put off retirement to become foster parents. He was on board right away.

Washington Post — By Carolyn Roy-Bornstein
 —June 11, 2022

At a recent family wedding, I was asked to give the happy couple some marital advice. I had jotted down a speech on a piece of paper that was now folded up in my pocket. As I listened to the other guests’ toasts, my 2-year-old granddaughter pulled at my legs, begging to be picked up.
“Nana, Nana,” Joli called.

Her mother, Janine, my foster daughter, tried to peel the child’s limbs from mine, her two legs tighter than a stink bug on a stick.
Finally, it was my turn.

Joli nestled her head into my neck, thumb in mouth. I pulled Janine closer with my other hand, kissing her mop of curls.

In that moment, I traded in my carefully written tribute for the succinct maxim that had just popped into my head — and had brought endless joy and meaning into my life.
“Make room for the unexpected,” I said. Continue reading Doctor FeelGood: The Unexpected Foster Mother