Circling the Wagons

Last weekend in Salt Lake City there occurred a three-day event: Circling the Wagons – a conference for LGBTQ Mormons and their friends, families and allies. The title, “Circling the Wagons,” comes from my friend Carol Lynn Pearson’s book No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones.

Written from Mormon territory to a general audience, No More Goodbyes is a call to lovingly include in our families and our congregations our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. It dramatically shows the unfortunate goodbyes we continue to say because of homosexuality: to suicide, to ill-fated marriages and to family alienation. It also tells numerous inspiring stories of families and friends refusing to let anything come between them and their gay loved ones.

Carol Lynn (whom I’ve written about before) was the conference’s keynote speaker, but my purpose here is to share another address: that of Kevin Kloosterman, a Mormon bishop from Illinois who felt impelled to participate in the conference and traveled to Salt Lake at his own expense to do so. In an interview he gave to Joanna Brooks at Religion Dispatches, Bishop Kloosterman had this to say:

Trying to convey the pain I’ve felt realizing what gay and lesbian people have gone through, I quoted a scripture in Zechariah [Zechariah 13:6] where someone—who Mormons interpret as Christ—comes and shows wounds, and he says, “I was wounded in the house of my friends.” I used that imagery to characterize the scars of gay and lesbian people. I know it’s strong imagery. I just feel really mournful about what they have been through. All of these realizations are very new to me, and it’s still quite raw. I was trying to convey that I’ve felt a small sliver of what gay and lesbian people have gone through, and I’ve found strength and peace in the Savior.

A transcript of Bishop Kloosterman’s remarks can be found here, but I recommend watching the video (below) if possible.

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A Monstrous Tale

I suppose every family has its stories of ghosts or other odd phenomena. This one belongs to the latter category.

Utah Lake, a 150 square mile body of water in north-central Utah, has a rich tradition of monsters and other unnatural creatures living in its depths. The Ute Indians told legends about evil dwarfs living in the waters of the lake. The Indians called these “water babies” [pawapicts] because they made sounds like crying babies that lured mortals into the water where they drowned. The Ute also told of a “Water Indian” who would drag unlucky braves to their deaths. They also told of a creature so large it was able to swallow a man whole.

Local natives said the great serpents had disappeared in the 1820s, but by the 1860s white settlers were reporting incidents involving huge, terrifying, scaly creatures.

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Charles Price, surveyed

Until lately I didn’t know much about Charles Price, my grandmother’s great-grandfather, but he is turning out to be one of the more easily documented of the “grandcestors,” for reasons that will likely become clear below. First, though, a biographical introduction; then, on to my recent discoveries about him.

Charles Price

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Nearly a hundred years ago the practitioners of a trade that had traditionally been regarded as barely a step above prostitution formed a union.

The growing resentment of the men and women of the legitimate stage towards the conditions under which they were employed eventually found institutional expression in the founding of the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) in 1913. But it was not until 1919—by which time it had become abundantly clear that the producing managers had no intention of yielding any of their control over the terms under which actors were employed—that its members voted to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

~ “All Work or No Play: Key Themes in the History of the American Stage Actor as Worker”

I have never been a member of Actors’ Equity, but I was for a time a non-union actor with paying gigs. And in the early 1980s I went on strike. Twice.

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Two bicentennials

In the United States a man builds a house to spend his latter years in it, and he sells it before the roof is on; he plants a garden, and lets it just as the trees are coming into bearing; he brings a field into tillage, and leaves other men to gather the crops; he embraces a profession, and gives it up; he settles in a place, which he soon afterward leaves, to carry his changeable longings elsewhere.

~ Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)

2011 marks the bicentennial of the start of construction on the Cumberland Road (also known as the National Road, the National Turnpike, and later U.S. Route 40), the first federally-funded highway in the United States. This year is also the 200th anniversary of an episode in my family’s history with a slight connection to that project. I’ll get to the family stuff a little later; but first, about the Road.

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A poet dies

A poet is born
A poet dies
And all that lies between
is us
and the world

~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti

That’s how Mr. Ferlinghetti began “An Elegy on the Death of Kenneth Patchen.” Today’s New York Times brings the sad news of another poet’s passing: Fran Landesman, whose lyrics are revered by theatre dorks and jazz lovers alike.

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[From 2009.]

Pioneer Day was originally, in Mormon culture, a commemoration of the first pioneers’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, and was celebrated from the very beginning, starting in 1848. Over the years, the day gradually became an annual festival honoring all pioneers and early inhabitants in Utah, where it is an official state holiday. It’s also celebrated by LDS folks across a wide swath of the western United States, Canada, and northern Mexico, and in other parts of the world.

In the spirit of wider inclusiveness that has come to mark this holiday, I wish today to honor the memory of two other pioneers — separated by a century and a continent — who selflessly championed the right of others to live as they saw fit.

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