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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Twist Pop Media Goes to Vegas

So. We went to Vegas. We took Francine the Mannequin to the U2 concert, we worked with one of our Twist Pop Media clients, and we goofed off.

(photo by Dave Russell)

We're now working on the second "Twist Pop Media Goes to Vegas" video (here's the link to the "before" video) and we'll post it to You Tube soon.

(Dave took a lot of good pictures!)
It should be a hoot.

Francine had a great trip, she even had to go through the TSA airport scanner (we bought her a plane ticket.)
The security people loved her, and captain of the airplane was thrilled to meet her and be in the video. On the flight home, the flight attendants announced "we have 130 souls and one mannequin on board, sir," at take off.

The funniest thing about the concert for me was wheeling Francine around and watching everyone else's reactions to her.
(another photo by Dave)

We got everything from "huh?" to laughter, to "can you take a picture of us with her?" to, believe it or not, men groping her as she wheeled by. That was a surprise, but actually very hilarious. Turns out she can move pretty quickly if needed, and at 6 feet tall and 70 pounds, she was sturdy enough to hold her own.

Francine brought joy to everyone she encountered, from the baristas at Starbucks to the pool attendants and tourists at the Luxor hotel. It was enlightening for me to see how much people enjoyed our efforts, and how they all wanted to talk to her.

I feel a story brewing inside her, waiting to be written, about how she's happy to listen to the world and share their stories.

I think Francine is a bright light in a weary world. What do you think?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Francine Twist Goes to Vegas

I know, I know, this whole mannequin thing is weird.

Who is Francine? Why is she going to Vegas? What does U2 have to do with it? Will there be video?

So many questions from so many people. I'm working on the answers, and I'll write you the whole story soon, and fire up the Francine Twist blog, too. I promise. In the mean time, tell me what you think Francine means. I bet you have some ideas.

Right now. I'm scurrying around like a crazy person who has to retro-fit a vintage mannequin and figure out how to get her to Vegas for a major rock concert, along with a client of mine who's helping us with the video, and my best friend, Marcia, who just seems to be available for these kinds of adventures, whenever I happen to call, for the past 32 years.
Thanks for joining us. It means the world to me. And to Francine.

Oh, and here's a little video about what I'm going to wear, because I know you care.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Gay Story: Dear Craig...

Today is National Coming Out Day, an internationally-observed civil awareness day for coming out and discussion about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. I think it's a good day to talk about civil rights, religion, prejudice, truth and stupidity.

I'll never forget the first person who came out to me publicly in the mid-1980's. I was a young student at a Lutheran University, and most of my peers came from conservative families and congregations.

I handled it badly. Very badly.

I started being Lutheran when I was 13 and a friend of mine asked me to come with her to a youth group meeting. I found a group of nice people who welcomed me into their community and nurtured my interest in music, drama, and philosophical discussion.

By the time I was in high school, our youth leaders (who were only a few years older than us) traveled with us to perform plays and music we'd written at regional and national youth conferences. We had fun and I learned that there are many kinds of Lutherans. Some are quite conservative, some are liberal. I thought I was in the middle.

One of my favorite youth leaders was Craig who joined our church as the Director of Christian Education my senior year of high school. He was married to a wonderful woman and they both came from loving familes of Lutheran pastors and teachers. He was smart and funny, a great counselor when I needed one, and he introduced me to real coffee (shots of espresso with milk, as opposed to the horrible church coffee I tried to drink on Sunday mornings after church.)

When I went off to college in Craig's home town, I became friends with his younger brother and spent time hanging out at their parent's house. I was quite surprised when I heard that Craig and his wife were getting a divorce, but I couldn't get many details when I asked why.

Soon after, Craig called and asked me to join him for coffee, he wanted to talk to me. He told me he was gay and both he and his wife knew it when they got married, but due to their religious views, and because they really did love each other as best friends, they wanted to get married anyway and make it work. It didn't. After several years and no children, they made the painful decision to end the marriage.

Craig knew his family loved him, but this was a completely new world to them. His father was a well-respected conservative Lutheran Pastor in the region, and they were all figuring out how talk about this, at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It had been tough year for everyone and I saw the pain etched deep behind his eyes.

Craig finished talking and waited for me to respond.

I was 18 and very naive. I'd just had my first kiss (and nothing more) a few months before. I was not comfortable talking about sex, or anything related to it, including pre-marital sex or adultery. Being gay was about sex, right? All I could think of was that the Bible lumped the homosexuals in with the bad guys. I had been taught it was a sin. I had never thought about it from a personal perspective.

I was speechless. Craig had been a dear friend to me, and I looked up to him. I wasn't sure how to answer him.

When I finally spoke my response was lame and included phrases like "I respected him and valued him as a person, I'd always be his friend, but I didn't agree with his choices." Because the dogma I'd internalized up to that point taught that he had a choice.

I saw my words hit him like a brick thrown in his face from across the little bistro table. He had expected more from me. He saw more in me than I was willing to let out at the time. He thought I was bigger than the dogma of my church. He thought I knew him well enough to know this wasn't a moral issue, it didn't have anything to do with sex. He thought I'd understand he had no choice. He thought I was a grown up.

He didn't say any of these thoughts out loud. I read them all instantly in the flash of sadness that clouded his eyes. I had to look away then. I was ashamed of myself for not having the insight or vocabulary to figure out how to talk to someone I cared for about being gay. I didn't even know how to try.

I realized I didn't have the guts to let him help me figure out what it all meant, even though he'd helped me deal with all kinds of other tough issues in high school. It was a huge disappointment for both of us. He regained his composure, asked if I could be a good friend to his little brother during this difficult time, gave me a hug and left.

I only saw Craig a couple of times after that. Once at his parents house for a family dinner, once on the bus where he introduced me to his partner. Each time very awkward. We were polite, to each other, but the friendship was clearly broken.

When his brother confided in me about trying to come to grips with Craig's new lifestyle, I sternly told him he should love Craig unconditionally, nothing had really changed in him, he was still the same as he'd always been, he was his brother, and none of the rest mattered. I heard the irony in my words, but saying what I should have said to Craig out loud made me feel better, even though I still couldn't tell him myself.

A few years later, I graduated, and Craig's brother moved away. I lost touch with the family. My mom called me and told me that Craig had AIDS and he was dying.

My mom was a home health nurse who had worked with a few AIDS patients and their families and was often on hospice calls when they were dying at home. She knew the struggles the families faced, often telling everyone their sons had cancer, to avoid the stigma and fear that came with the AIDS ordeal.

She drove up to see Craig and his partner a few times, and sent them letters and photos to cheer them up and let them know she was thinking of him. He asked about me. She told him where I was, what I was up to, weaving all my wild little adventures into funny Julie stories that they could laugh about.

I was in California by then, and had joined a liberal Lutheran church, complete with an openly gay choir director. I hung out with a tightly-knit group of friends, including Christians, Jews, Atheists, Muslims and yes, even a few openly gay people.

The veil of the immaturity I had hid behind at 18 had been lifted swiftly and thrown away by the time I was 22, and living and working in the real world. I had finally grown up a little, as Craig must have known I would.

My mom called again. Craig was really sick now. She had his address, I should send him a card, maybe make a trip up to visit him if I could work it in. I said maybe I would, and I wrote down the address. I composed a few letters in my head, but I knew I wasn't brave enough to send them. I knew he'd forgiven me by then, but I hadn't forgiven myself.

I cried hard the day my mom called and told me Craig died. I cried for myself, for being so stupid.

I guess this is the letter I would have written to Craig, if I'd been able to, 22 years ago.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

First and Last Lies

The first time I lied to my mother (at least the first time I can remember) I was about 8 years old. I made a mess in the kitchen right after she cleaned it. She marched all four of us kids in there and asked who did it. I'm the youngest.

I pointed to my brother and said "Mitch did it." His mouth dropped open at the blatant lie. He's five years older than me, and we all usually told the truth at our house. It's an unwritten rule that we still abide by.

"I didn't do it mom, Julie did." He was appalled.

"No, I didn't," I said calmly, "he's lying. He did it."

My mom looked at both of us, slightly confused. I knew she was trying to figure out what to do. I held her eyes in my firm, determined gaze.

"Clean it up, Mitch," she said and walked out of the room, defeated, knowing one of her children was lying but too tired and disappointed to fight with us.

After he cleaned up the mess, I went looking for my mom.

"I really did it mom," I said matter of factly.

"Why did you lie?" she said.

"I just wanted to see if you'd still believe whatever I said. And now that I know you do, I don't need to lie any more."

The last time I lied to my mother was a few months ago.

She asked me if I'd prayed to Jesus to help my husband find a job. I said yes. Of course.

She knew I was lying, but she pretended she didn't.