18 January 2019

Jazz It! Or a Night on the Town with Sarah

Bill Saxton, King of Harlem
My love for the 1920s is very well documented on this blog, and those who know me in real life know it all too well. I wore my hair in a bob for years because of a life-long flapper fascination, and my outfits for both my High School Prom and my 10-year High School Reunion were 20s-inspired looks, both complete with strings of knotted pearls. I am constantly looking for ways to infuse my daily life with a bit of that irreverent 'Anything Goes!' 1920s flair.

Luckily for me, I live in New York City, where it's not as difficult as it would be if I lived in, say, Cleveland or something. (No offense to those of you in Cleveland; I have family there which is why I picked it.) Yes, I've been to the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island. Yes, I've been to a few speakeasy-style bars, and I even have a favourite. (The Red Room, if you're wondering. The Back Room also has a cool aesthetic - it was used in the episode of "Broad City" where Abbi's alter ego "Val" performs - but it tends to be too overcrowded, at least the times I've been.)

And a couple weeks ago, Sarah and I went to one of the most authentic jazz experiences in the whole city, up in Harlem. I have a couple other upcoming posts that touch on this a little more (one in my LGBT history series, one in more conventional listicle form) but in 20s New York City, Harlem was one of the places to be. (Greenwich Village was another place to be.) Clubs in this area from this time are iconic, legendary performers like Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker were entertaining the masses, and 133rd Street in particular had so many speakeasies that private homes on the street actually had to put signs on their doors stating that they weren't speakeasies.

Of course, it wasn't some perfect ideal. Even in Harlem, which had a primarily black population, society was deeply segregated. The Cotton Club was themed after a slave plantation (isn't that just awful) and while black people - who had invented jazz music and many of the popular 20s dances, mind you - could perform there, they could not go as club patrons. (Those of you who've seen "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" are inevitably gonna draw comparisons to the Ink and Paint Club where Jessica Rabbit performed - that allegory was intentional in that movie.) That's not an aspect of the 1920s I'm looking to bring back, I just like the fashion and the music and the overall irreverent attitude of the time.

So Sarah and I wanted to theme our night out as follows:

  • Dress in jazz age inspired looks. (I would have loved to go out in full flapper dress but it was raining so I had to wear rain boots. Thus my look actually skewed more 1930s.)
  • Eat at a black-owned establishment with retro inspired vibes
  • Finish out our night at a real Harlem jazz establishment

17 January 2019

These Gay WWII Soldiers Will Break Your Heart

I apologise for the clickbait-y title but as soon as I read about these two earlier this week I knew I wanted to cover them on the blog. I've been on a bit of a kick lately about proving that LGBT history didn't start with Stonewall (there are three other half-finished posts in my drafts involving LGBT figures during the American Revolution, the Regency period in England, and the 1920s) because I'm so tired of the straightwashing of history, you guys.

But I saw a post about these two men on facebook (one of those 'Did You Kno?' graphics with very little information and no sources - my sources are from BBC news and the Oswestry Town Museum) and was immediately curious enough to google everything I could in an attempt to learn more.

What I learned was that, in the notoriously homophobic 1940s, British soldiers Gilbert Bradley and Gordon Bowsher (THEY EVEN HAD THE SAME INITIALS YOU GUYS!) fell in love. I present to you all the tale (and excerpts from the letters) of Gordon and Gilbert.

13 January 2019

Single Again

Out of respect for the other human involved, I have decided not to post any of our couple pictures. Instead have this stock photo of an emoji

The thing about a whirlwind romance is that it's nice in theory. In reality it moves way too fast and leaves pain and heartbreak in its wake.

Look, I'm almost thirty. One issue with being a lesbian in a heteronormative world is that it's very common for us to start way too late. Things that straight people get in their teens, we don't experience until our twenties, because our teen years are spent dealing with figuring out we're different and then struggling to learn not to hate ourselves when all our classmates use "that's gay" derogatorily so that we feel like we must be as awful and trashy as whatever they deem "gay".

At least, that's how my teen years were spent.

But I digress. The point of this post is to announce... I am single again. My relationship with the incredible person I met in August did not work out. And, hard as it may be to believe, I am the one that ended it, even though I didn't want to.

Happy (Belated) Birthday Alexander Hamilton

Two days ago I braved the bitter cold and a government shutdown cancelling half the events to attend the AHA Society's Hamilton Birthday celebration with my friends Nicole (who is a member of the society) and Lindsey (who I've written about before on this blog many a time because I absolutely adore her).

In honour of the man's birthday, our group of me, my friends, AHA Society members, and onlookers curious enough to join, walked a (electronic) candlelight procession up Broadway from the Alexander Hamilton Customs House (named after the man), through Bowling Green park (a park that dates back to the 1730s), to Trinity Church Cemetery to gather around his grave.

We facetimed (ah, the wonders of modern technology) a group in Nevis (the Caribbean island where Hamilton was born) and we all sang "Happy Birthday" to the grave. Then we sang "Silent Night" - because, believe it or not, that carol's debut in the English language was at Trinity Church.

Of course, the irony of me, a heathen Jew, singing a carol about baby Jesus in a church cemetery, was not lost on me. (And honestly it was a little cheesy, but in a sweet way.) Then again, Hamilton had a Jewish education in early childhood even if he himself was not Jewish, so, like... I like to think he'd appreciate the irony?

Afterwards, we headed over to Fraunces Tavern, a restaurant that existed during the Revolution, one where Hamilton ate multiple times (including a week before his death), and also one of my most favourite places in New York City. I can think of no better place to end the day's festivities, with hot cider and pub food and good friends and friendly people I had just met that day and a lot of history-based jokes and puns.

I have been pulling back from my Hamiltonian studies lately because I have actually been focusing more on other historical periods in preparation for what I hope is the next big chapter of my life. But part of me still feels some affection for the man, considering how - even though he died centuries ago - my life really did change a lot due to things he did when alive. I'm not some "marry me Alex!" fangirl, and I'm not saying he did no wrong (to some extent all of the founding fathers, Hamilton included, were petty assholes and hypocrites), but I'm still endeared by the man. Kinda like a beloved uncle who's a little backwards in some of his views but he's so charismatic and endearing that you can't help but love him? Idk, I don't have to explain myself to y'all on my own blog.

And as such, it was meaningful for me to be able to celebrate the man in this way, with other people who feel that same weird affection for him.

(Oh, and as it was cold, yes, someone did make the "Brrr"/"Burr" joke. In case you were wondering.)

So happy birthday, Hammy. See you at next year's celebration.

14 December 2018

Staten Island is Actually... Cool?

New York, I have a secret for all of you. And you have to promise not to laugh at me (too much), alright?

My secret?

I... I love Staten Island.

Yes, yes, I know, NYC's "forgotten borough" is often ignored or ridiculed. Most New Yorkers' experience with it, I've found, is that they rode the ferry over once, then turned around and got right back on it and rode back to Manhattan, spending only a few minutes on Staten Island itself. I was one of those New Yorkers for awhile, myself. I get it, I do. Staten Island is a pain to get to, and you need to be comfortable with buses if you go there.

But it's so so worth it, you guys. Staten Island, I am publicly apologising for all the shit I once gave you, for you have shown me so many delightful hidden treasures. If you ever have a day to kill (and don't mind buses or can access a car for a day) I highly recommend all my New York friends check out at least one of these incredible little-visited gems...

12 December 2018

A Gift Guide in the Loose Sense of the Term

Iiiiiiit's the season of holidays! Hanukkah! (Which technically ended already but shhh goyim don't know that.) Kwanzaa! Christmas! Winter Solstice! Yule! Saturnalia! Festivus! Probably like ten others! And you know what that means?

Is the answer 'Stock photos'?
It means that in today's capitalist hellscape of a world that we are all forced to live in, there's a lot of pressure to get the perfect gift!

This gift guide is... probably not going to help find the perfect gift for anyone. (But if it does, hey, you're welcome!) What I do hope is that this will at least help you think outside the generic gift box that most other 'gift guides' I've seen fall into...

11 December 2018

A Very Heathen Hanukkah

You GUYS. I gotta say I am touched.

I recently found out (just last night at a Lore Chat with the New York City Heathens group) that this blog has been getting outside attention due to an older (in retrospect rather word-vomity) blog post on this very blog. Throw. Back. In fact, some of my irl friends within the Troth mentioned having read it without realising I was the one who wrote it, which is... certainly interesting. (Whoever shared me with the Troth, thank you and hello from a fellow Lokean and Troth member.)

Anyway, did you know that I also consider myself Jewish? And that Hanukkah ended recently?

By night 8 the menorah was significantly messier with wax drippings, so have a photo from night 1

"But wait," say those of you who know little to nothing about Judaism and the fact that Jewish Atheism is actually a very common thing, "that makes no sense. How can you be Lokean and also celebrate a Jewish holiday?"

Fair warning, those of you who are very attached to the idea of the One True God who created everything? You're gonna wanna skip this post. If you choose to click through and comment in a way that is offensive to either Jews or Heathens, I will delete your comment and refuse to engage with you. You were warned.