For a Reason, For a Season, Forever

This is a little side trip in the midst of the series of posts about my past year’s experience in Mexico. It ponders friendship. I took both these portraits when these two were here to visit.

There is a cliché about friendships. It goes like this: There are three kinds of friendships. Some are for a reason, some are for a season, and some are forever. When you think about it, this cliché is pretty true. There are people who come into your life for a reason…maybe you are working on a project together. Maybe they are  a teacher or a student for you. There are people who come into your life for a “season,” a period of time. This is the usual pattern for friendships. At my stage of life, I have had many of these. Sometimes it is hard to accept that a relationship was only meant for a season, especially if this is a relationship that has been important to you. But, people go separate ways, people change, and people do just evolve and move forward (hopefully). It doesn’t lessen the value of the friendship if it doesn’t last forever. Over the years I have had some very dear friends who I loved and enjoyed, but who are just no longer part of my life. One or both of us changed, and we drifted into different directions. Doesn’t mean anything unpleasant happened. Of course, sometimes things end because something unpleasant did happen. Sometimes a relationship ends because one or both people finally realize that the relationship was in some way unhealthy. Whatever happens, the “for a reason” and “for a season” relationships become memories. You might cross paths with those people and either have fond memories, or hope you can get out of the room before they see you.
Then, there are the forever friendships. In our fast paced world, most of the forever friendships will have to endure the tests of not only time, but also of distance, unless both people continue to live in the same town for their entire lives. During the course of this year I have been so fortunate to spend some time with two of my long term forevers. It was by no design of mine that both these old friends were around to give me support at the scary beginning of a major health crisis, just like they had both given me support so many times before.
I have been friends with Trudy (on the left) since sometime around 1969. She came to Nashville from San Francisco, and I thought she was the coolest person I had ever seen. She was working in a “head shop” (anybody remember those?) in Nashville and I walked in one day to find her behind the counter, eating her lunch with chopsticks. It was Nashville. No one was eating with chopsticks. That pretty much did it. We became fast (in more than one sense of the word) friends, and we loved to get done up and prance around. I think hanging out with Trudy influenced my sense of what style really means more than any other person I have known. And, I am happy to report, she still has it…that effortless elegance that can be projected so easily. Trudy was not the kind of girl to stay in Nashville, so off she went to San Francisco, where I visited her in 1973. She then moved to New York, had a sojourn in Soho (when it was really interesting), where I also visited and ate whole grains with her at Food, a long since gone landmark. After New York, She ended up in Montreal (where Fred and I visited in 1980), with a great husband and eventually, two children who are now adults. Over the years we have continued to find ways to get together several times. The four of us went on a backpacking trip to the Smoky Mountains in 1982, where we were confronted with a bear stealing our food. They spent time with us in Zipolite three winters ago, and Trudy planned a two stay with us last winter here in San Miguel, with her husband joining her for one of the weeks. She had no idea what she was in for, and neither did I. She was here at the very beginning my health taking a weird turn…right between me knowing something was off to the part where I found out I had to have a hysterectomy. It went from heavy to heavier. What a genuine blessing it was to have this wonderful old friend here during that time.
But, I was doubly blessed in that another forever friend was also around during this year for some nice chunks of time. I met Gail (on the right) in (I think) 1976. At that time we were both living single and looking for adventure. So we did what any liberated, high achieving 30 somethings would do, we started whitewater canoeing together. We started for fun, but…we got really good at it. I think that chapter was one of the most self-defining of my life. I had never felt my own physical power, and it was a wonderful thing. Gail also introduced me to Unity Church, which was the beginning of quite a spiritual journey. I met Fred in 1978, and about that time the canoeing started to play out. I had hit a figurative wall with the paddling, and decided I probably needed to quit while I was still having fun. Gail became quite an entrepreneur and started doing the Tennessee Women’s Career Convention, got very successful in the world of public speaking, and moved to Phoenix. In a “season” or a “reason” relationship, that would have surely been the end of it. But, it wasn’t. We managed to continue to get together. Gail lived in some interesting places, and ended up settling in Santa Fe. But, in the last couple of years, she has been drawn to San Miguel, much to my surprise and delight. It was wonderful to have her around this year. She has the most remarkable sense of humor…the proof of this is that she always gets (and laughs at) my jokes.
It was also kind of marvelous to be around Gail and Trudy at the same time. One night, when I had a brief false hope that my problem was just a benign cyst, Fred took the three of us out for a celebration. It was a bit premature, but fabulous, nevertheless. It was also the last time I had a glass of champagne.
It is a joy to think about old friends, especially the ones who are still around. It takes a long time to recognize the forever ones. But, it’s interesting to see who they turn out to be.

Finding Sunny

This is a true story. And, a fairly long one.

One afternoon in the summer of 1983 I was invited to a little gathering of friends to meet Philip, a Nashville boy who had moved to the big city, and his “new friend,” Sunny. As I walked up the sidewalk to the house, I was very aware of a young and very beautiful Japanese person sitting on the steps. My first thought was that Sunny was a female with a very short haircut. He was wearing beautifully cut white linen Bermuda shorts and a crisp, white tee. I believe that a thin leather belt was around his waist. He was immaculate. It was pretty clear that he was more than a friend to Philip. They were quite a glamourous pair. I may have told them I was thinking of coming to New York to see if I could actually find a market for my jewelry. I just remember that after that meeting I was on the phone with Philip a lot for advise. Sunny had just started designing clothes and Philip was involved in the business as well. Philip had a few years of experience in that world, having been a major display director, both in California and New York. He had also done a bit of modeling, as he was quite the striking guy.

My memories of the early days when I frequently went to New York to sell my jewelry revolve around Philip and Sunny. I always spent a lot of time with them, hanging out at their apartment on the Upper West Side or in their studio, which I think was on 36th Street. I always loved their approval, especially Sunny’s. I thought that Sunny was the most stylish person I had ever known. I remember one winter day he came into the studio wearing a black overcoat and gloves. The way he took off his gloves was nothing but art. So many little detail memories about Sunny. He was so light-hearted, yet knife-edge serious. He had the most incredible taste. He selected the most splendid fabrics. He was designing luxury clothes for a luxury market. The clothes were, in a word, fabulous. Every season Sunny seemed to design for a special woman who lived in his mind. He always had a little story about “Her.” “She wears this out to lunch. She is quite a lady. She never leaves the house before noon.” They achieved a nice amount of success. They had a map in their office with red pins sticking in all the places they were selling. It was exciting to see the red dots.

I could never wait to get to the showroom and start trying things on. At that time, samples were a size 8, and so was I. Every season I placed an order (which I got to buy at wholesale.) My wardrobe was becoming pretty amazing. But, my favorite piece of all was a gift from Sunny and Philip. The first time I went to New York I didn’t take a proper coat. It was the end of October and had just started to be a bit chilly in Nashville. The weather was different in New York. It was quit chilly. Sunny and Philip gave me a coat. Not just a coat. The most fantastic coat I had ever seen. I still have it. I brought it to Mexico to wear on winter nights. It is taupe cut velvet. Just a long, straight coat. It looks very current today, even though it was made in 1983.

Time rolled along and so did our friendship. Fred started going to New York with me in 1987, and the threesome became a foursome. We were tight friends. So many times we’d go by the studio and Philip would say, “Let’s get some lunch.” And we would.

Things always have a way of changing. It became harder and harder to make it in the New York world of fashion without a big money backer. It finally got too hard for Philip and Sunny to stay in the game. The world was changing, too. The black specter of HIV had entered the scene, and many friends were dying. Philip and Sunny went to California. New York was never the same for me without them.

After some more time had passed I learned that Philip was HIV positive and ill. It was very hard to take that one. I had hoped that somehow Philip and Sunny had dodged that bullet. Even though by the time Philip passed I had almost grown numb to the shock of seeing young, vital friends go, it was very hard for me with Philip. I was so far away from him. It all seemed so far away, and so unreal.

More time passed. Sunny was back in New York. Fred and I got together with him. But, somehow things seemed to have drifted and we eventually lost touch altogether. I think he also went back to California around that time.

So some years passed. I thought of Sunny often. I didn’t know where he was, and I wondered. This was before the internet. No emails, no Google.

But, then we entered the computer age and one night I was fooling around and decided to Google Sunny. I found a lot of press from the old days of fashion, but then I found a strange mention in a website featuring the music of Antony and the Johnsons. It was a bit vague but I thought the person mentioned was “my” Sunny. What became clear to me later was that in the video of the song, “You are My Sister,” there were several trans women that were called The Great Beauties. Sunny was one of those women. There was a place for contact on the website and I sent a message asking them to please have this person email me. Three weeks later, he did. The email said, “I am enclosing a picture that will explain about me right now.” (Or something to that effect.) The picture was of a beautiful, 40’ish  Japanese woman in an evening gown. It was, without a doubt, Sunny. It seems I was right in my first impression. What I saw was the woman who lived inside Sunny, who he was now fully expressing.  I was doubly happy to have found her, and to have found that she was still alive.

We got together the next time Fred and I were in New York. She was living on West 4th Street. We had walked past her apartment dozens of times, because we always stayed in the West Village. Sunny and I continued to get together. Whenever I was in New York we would have a girl’s day. I found it quite an interesting experience to be with Sunny as a woman. She seemed like a different person, but also the same. I felt closer to her as a female than I did to Sunny as a male. It is beautiful for me to remember Sunny at both these times.

The last time I got together with Sunny was the day I took this photo. Since we had retired we hadn’t taken any trips to New York. In April, 2014, Fred and I took a little New York vacation with Andrew and Kyle. On the last day I was in town, Sunny and I got together for lunch. I was wearing a scarf that Sunny had designed in the 1980’s. Her reaction was, “That’s beautiful fabric. I wish I had kept one of those.” Last summer when I was cleaning things out I realized that I had somehow ended up with two of those scarves. I sent one of them to Sunny, my beautiful friend.

 

Windows

The best thing about windows is the light they let into a room. I was so happy for the window in this room because I really wanted to take this photo and I had to work with natural light. I had been spending this particular afternoon in the West Village with my dear friend, Sunny. We had been out of touch for a few years, but were enjoying re-uniting. Sunny and I have known each other since 1983, when I first started making business trips to New York. I wanted to remember this moment with an old friend while the light came through a window inside a small room with a large mirror .

A Summer Memory

fredonfloatxxsAbout this time last summer, we took Pinky and drove to upstate New York to spend some time with our friend Keith and his two wonderful pups. It was a three day drive, but worth it. I understand why Keith makes this his own private paradise. He has a camp there where his family went for summers when he was a child. He gets away and goes there as often as he can. Over the years of our friendship, Keith has frequently invited us to visit there. I am so glad we did—not just for our wonderful summer experience but also because it gave me a chance to get to know another side of our lovely friend.

Usually being on the water means being on a beach in Mexico for Fred and I, but this beautiful lake was about as good as it gets. This is a shot of Fred in the water with Keith and his pups on the dock. They didn’t know I took this photo. Not sure what Pinky was doing, but pretty sure she was right by my side.

Makeup. A Tribute to a Friend

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Makeup.
A Tribute to a Friend.

I have always loved makeup. Unless my face is painted, I’d rather not see you. My fascination with makeup started with a box of Maybellene mascara when I was twelve. But I never really knew how to appreciate the true artistry of makeup until Andrew Pentecost crossed my path.

Andrew and I met when he came to my house to turn Arnold Myint into Suzy Wong for one of my jewelry ads. What fun to use a guy in drag for one of my ads! He and I clicked, and shortly thereafter he started doing the makeup for all my ads and became one of my closest friends. I loved watching him paint the faces of my models. Some of the transformations were as amazing as Arnold to Suzy. And of course, I had him paint my own face time and time again. He always took a while, but the time spent was well worth it. I reached a point where every time I knew I was going to see Andrew I would try very hard to duplicate the things I had seen him do. I would wait for him to notice my makeup and compliment my work. And because he is such a sweetie, he usually did. He and I spent a lot of time together and started to feel a kind of mom/son bond. There wasn’t a week that we didn’t get together for lunch or dinner. I loved for him to stop by on his way to work for some home cooking, too. When Fred and I went out of town he moved in and took care of our house and Pinky. He and I could always let our hair down and share how we were feeling about whatever was going on in our lives.

He had told me he occasionally liked to do drag himself, just for fun. I suppose when you are that fabulous it is hard to limit your self-expression to just one gender. I finally saw him on stage at Play and I literally did not recognize him in his alter-ego character, Angel Electra. Blew me away. Since then I have taken several pictures of Andrew as Angel. The one I have included here is my personal favorite.

He is a master at his craft, whether he is literally changing gender before my eyes or just making a pretty woman into a drop-dead gorgeous one. Because he is so extremely talented it is exciting to see where his career will take him. I guess I knew he would not always be hanging around helping me find the perfect shade of lipstick, or making me look totally fabulous for a big event. Recently Andrew got a very good job with Bare Minerals and has moved to Indianapolis. I’m sure this is a step for him towards reaching the top of his profession. I’m going to miss him very much. I am also sure that we will stay in touch. I know that he is one of those friends that no matter how long since you’ve seen them when you get together it is like no time has passed. And each day when I sit down to paint my face, I will think about Andrew. Every lipstick color reminds me of him. Especially MAC Hot Tahiti. He was right all long, it is the perfect red.