A funny thing happened at BYU graduation

Let’s take our rays of hope where we can get ’em, people. Today, that means BYU. From this Washington Post article:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers same-sex marriage to be a “serious transgression” — and, until this spring, treated Mormons involved in these unions as apostates, subject to church disciplinary hearings that could result in their excommunication.

So a commencement ceremony on Friday at Brigham Young University, the flagship academic institution of the Mormon Church, was an unlikely occasion for this pronouncement: “I stand before my family, friends and graduating class today to say that I am proud to be a gay son of God.”

The affirmation came from Matthew Easton, 24, who was being celebrated as the valedictorian in the political science department — and the graduating senior chosen to deliver remarks at the ceremony for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

Take six minutes to watch young Mr. Easton speak his truth. It will make your day.

Yahrzeit

It must be sometime in the last year I gave in to facebook’s bid for just an extra little bit of narcissism and started reading the “On This Day” feature, the one that tells you what you thought your friends would find clever on this day stretching back only to that dark era before you were on social media, of course. I’m surprised how often I posted about very similar things a year or two apart. Everyone talks about anniversaries being meaningful in an inescapable and often half-conscious way, and being especially tough when it comes to traumatic events. They’re usually referring to the anniversary of someone’s death. (Yiddish has a word for just that: yahrzeit.)

I’ve noticed in the last year that everyone I know is doing a lot of maintaining. We’re going through our days and doing our jobs and seeing friends, of course, but I would venture to say that for everyone I know, not a day goes by without moments or hours of genuine dread. It’s worse than the W era, though I was also conscious then of the constant reality of living with your fate under the broad control of someone shameful and terrifying. I wasn’t as scared then, though. So for the last week, I dreaded waking up today and compulsively grabbing for the phone and seeing what I posted at 9:31 pm a year ago, though I remembered the sentence anyway. “I have no idea what to do or say.”

This is me, in the quiet space of a largely unused blog, doing what everyone did the year after 9/11/01: putting down where I was. If you still sometimes come here, you can do that, too.

I voted early. I made a confident, joking post that day about well, if she doesn’t win, see you in Mexico. (Tomorrow, I will see the “On This Day” where I spliced together a photo of my great grandfather who came here expecting more and my newly printed passport photo. Jews are never supposed to not have a passport but I’m not a traveler. When I put the two photos together, I had a loud, undignified cry.) Then a few days went by during which I did not seriously consider, beyond the lip service that I superstitiously give to any bad thing happening, that this bad thing would happen.

Dave had a fiddle lesson on election night. I have spent election nights alone and with others, and felt some horror of being alone, just in case. Swells and I exchanged texts during the day but she was naturally going to San Francisco, her Tiffany’s (the place where nothing very bad can ever happen) and it’s not my Tiffany’s, so I hesitated. I watched the very early states come in at a mostly empty gay bar a mile from our house in downtown Oakland. I had a gin and tonic, but not an urgent one. Kentucky always comes in first, and always brings me shame insofar as it’s anything to me. Swells and I finally made a plan. I took BART to the Mission, where she picked me up and took me to…actually I don’t know the name of the neighborhood.

We spent what seemed like an hour in a grocery store trying to find a bottle of wine whose name and label art suggested victory and femininity but not enough overconfidence to warrant jinxfear. And then we spent the next few hours at the home of her old friends, among kind people. It was temporarily fine to swear in front of children, I found, and call a motherfucker a motherfucker, as long as you were laughing. And then one person looked worried, and then several people. I saw Swells weeping before I had fully taken in what had happened.

I called a car. Dave was at home, alone, which was a horrible thought. BART was deadly quiet. I remembered 2008 when I had come out of the New York subway after riotous celebration in Midtown Manhattan and a stranger and I had looked at each other in the doorway to the 190th Street station and simultaneously, quietly said “yay!” I wondered if there would be consolation or reassurance among strangers.

Sometimes you have a strange and inappropriate thought and are unable not to act on it, so I stopped at Whole Foods and bought maraschino cherries, but the good kind–not the bright red kind, because I thought: the drinking we are about to do is drinking we will remember for a long while.

I walked up the stairs and Dave and I cried on each other’s shoulders. I was still figuring out how scared to be. I think I texted Swells “I’m not sure if this is 2000 bad or 1933 bad.” Dave had put on Bach as a reminder that some good things will be here forever, and we had Manhattans because small comforts and anaesthetics are important to remember when it looks like you may be well and truly fucked. At some point we went to bed and slept uneasily.

I am rawer insider, having written this, but I wanted to write it. It’s hard to find the right tone that acknowledges the genuine distress I’ve felt in the year since without feeling like a giant drama queen. There have been much harder times than this, but I nonetheless have often thought of Akhmatova, who in 1961, with some distance on things, wrote, in the prelude to her crushing “Requiem”:

Я была тогда с моим народом,
Там, где мой народ, к несчастью, был.

I was with my people then,
Where we, to our misfortune, were.

Quick storm


The Chisos Mountains seen from Terlingua.

Still rapturous after all these years

Marfa, my dear:

nwbw best of 2016: New International Version

Hello, friends.

It appears that at the end of its first decade this site transformed into a space for me and Nate to post our annual mix. Perhaps 2016 was just so staggeringly awful, one gob-smacked, shit-gibbon, trumped-up day after another, that no one had the stamina to transcend the parameters of their favorite social media platforms. Artisanal, non-corporate blogging hasn’t quite made a comeback yet. Maybe we’re the vanguard. We’ll be with you when the buildings turn to ash.

For me, 2016 was all processed vocals and old-school synths. I don’t know if anyone’s explained that phenomenon adequately, and I don’t really have big theories myself. It’s just something I noticed. As Nate and I passed favorite 2016 tracks back and forth to each other at the end of the year I also noticed that we’re much less wedded to American music than we’ve sometimes been. Some of those tracks — say, this one, from last year’s amazing album from Noura Mint Seymali — didn’t make the final cut, but many of the U.S. artists here seem themselves to have an expansive embrace of world forms. I don’t know what the “NIV” in the title of the Lambchop tune refers to, but we decided it should mean New International Version, as in a new translation of old revelations. So here we are, translating and revealing.

2017 promises to be worse than last year, so we can only hope the music stays at a decent level, because 2016 had a lot to offer. We both left out some favorites but thought this short, sweet set had its own coherence. Hope you enjoy.

Tracklist

Lambchop — NIV
Mary Lattimore — Jimmy V
The Comet Is Coming — Journey through the Asteroid Belt
Aries — Eclipse Total
Maxwell August Croy — Maternal Afghan
Ian William Craig — Contain (Astoria Version)
75 Dollar Bill — Cummins Falls
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith — Envelop
Horse Lords — Truthers
Chris Cohen — Yesterday’s on My Mind

Find it on Spotify.

Previously on TGW.