past and present lives…

it’s been a really interesting weekend, y’all.

a few weeks ago i was asked if i was interested in being interviewed by a filmmaker, drew denny, and jd samson (of le tigre/men fame) who were working on a documentary about the loss of lesbian bars and the evolution of lesbian/queer spaces around the country. i was asked because of my past work as an activist and event producer in the lesbian/queer community of new orleans. so i said yes, nervously, not exactly sure what they were looking for or what i had to offer, and quickly decided i would need to bring a few of my family of friends – who worked side by side with me on many activist groups and events over the years – along as well.

so we planned to meet up with them friday night at the neighborhood bar mag’s 940, which used to be charlene’s bar, the longest running lesbian bar in new orleans. it’s a spot that holds a lot of memories for all of us and where a lot of our collective herstory took place. unbeknownst to me/us, several of the gals from the last call: new orleans dyke bar history project and the organizers of grrlspot new orleans had also been invited. and i had told some other friends to join us as well, due to the novelty of us being out downtown in a bar on a friday evening. all of a sudden it was a lesbian/queer girl happening!

it was really fun and interesting to talk to everyone assembled and share stories about our time there at charlene’s and other lesbian bars and spaces. i pulled up some pics on my phone that i had recently found, from the night of charlene’s “last call” party in 1999, when it closed. and we learned that the staff at mags 940 is certain that charlene’s ghost “haunts” the place still, often knocking loudly on the wall in the stockroom five times. (endearingly, they keep an 8″x10″ framed photo of charlene by the front door that the owner ritualistically kisses every night.)

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charlene schneider

my homegirls and i made plans to then meet up saturday with the film crew to be interviewed formally. we agreed to meet in the french quarter in jackson square, which was the gathering/step-off point for the new orleans dyke march all of the years it existed, from 1998 – 2006. (we were all organizers of the dyke march.) but after looking around trying to find a suitable spot in the square to stage the interview, and then being accosted by a groundskeeper because we didn’t have a permit to film in jackson square, we had to move the interview inside. and thanks to my pal dix (who works for dickie brennan), we ended up at dickie brennan’s steakhouse, which was not yet open and was therefore entirely suitable for a sit-down roundtable interview.

jd moderated the interview, casually asking us all about our experiences and why we thought charlene’s and all the other lesbian bars had closed, leaving a major queer city like new orleans without a dedicated lesbian space. and we all gave our varied and nuanced opinions and told many stories of our past lives in pino’s, charlene’s, rubyfruit jungle, san mone’ and at the dyke march and its after parties. (somehow we never got around to mentioning girl gang productions, the queer girl event production co-op that dix and her then-partner and my dear friend val and i ran for 3 years between 2002-2005. bummer!)

it felt good to talk about our past and honor it and the work we did while celebrating the lesbian spaces that used to exist. and it felt important for the four of us to collectively acknowledge this hard place we feel ourselves to be in right in this moment as we both mourn the loss of michfest, a moslty-lesbian space that’s been a huge part of our lives for over 20 years and which will end with its 40th festival this august, while at the same time facing the 10th anniversary of the federal flood that came after hurricane katrina, which altered all our lives forever.

on a personal note, it also felt really lovely to connect with jd, who is someone i have interviewed a few times via phone for various publications (in my former life as a music journalist), once even for a cover story in curve magazine… and who i had met a few different times in different contexts, once in brooklyn the year i was hired to dj the new york dyke march (i met up with her to get a super advanced mix of a le tigre song i really wanted to play that night at the the dyke march after party) and a few times at michfest for different reasons. jd is very down to earth, focused, and was a natural at guiding the conversation during the interview; she should have her own talk show!

and so, after this last day and a half, there’s a lot swimming around in my brain. a lot of stories and memories coming back to light. a lot of acknowledging of what we all accomplished together and what we, admittedly, failed to accomplish. and a lot of gratitude for the bonds we share, forged over nearly 25 years of activism, community-building, friendship and love.

it’s been a long time since i’ve written in this blog or anywhere other than facebook. it’s been a long time since i’ve felt like i had the ability to string words and sentenced together to make any sense. (though i’m still not sure i am doing that, but bear with me.) it’s been a very long time since i’ve felt like i have something, anything, to say. but slowly, i feel like i’m coming back to life, back to myself, back to my voice. so stick around. i hope i have more coming out of me very soon.

thanks for reading.

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