Wednesday, October 10, 2012

There's something about October

I've been serving up daily doses of gay Iowa history here and, yes, that's going to go on until the 31st since this is, after all, National LGBT History Month, first observed in 1994.

Also, finally, getting around to reading R. Tripp Evans' new biography, Grant Wood: A Life. I wrote about that one when it first was published and had the best of intentions --- to order and read it. What with one thing and another, it's taken a while.

It's a great book and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to understand where our homegrown icon of America, apple pie and Iowa bucolia really was coming from. But there are downsides, too, since Evans delves deeply into the symbolism, both conscious and subconscious, he contends is built into Wood's work. Much of the symbolism (and parody) is obvious. But some of the subconscious elements are a little obscure.

Take "Fall Plowing," for example --- one of my favorites. Now I can't look at the blamed thing without seeing the upturned buttocks and erect penises that Evans suggests are there --- and in most of his other acclaimed regionalist landscapes. Golly. Sometimes there are things you'd just as leave not know.


October was picked as history month for a couple of reasons --- National Coming Out Day already had been set for Oct. 11 --- that's tomorrow; and October also was the month of the first National March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights (in 1979), That event drew a crowd estimated, depending upon whose count one believes, at between 300,000 and a million and was a watershed moment.

Years later, in Wyoming, Matthew Shepard was assaulted, tied to a fence and left to die --- because he was gay --- outside Laramie overnight on Oct. 6-7, 1998, and died after life support was removed on Oct. 12.

So October is a loaded month for all sorts of reasons.


I'm headed for a funeral this morning --- for a first-cousin of my mother who was among the few still standing from that great generation. I believe two out of what once was a huge family are left, both doing well.

That means, of course, that those of us who are among the children of those cousins now are rapidly becoming the oldest generation --- kind of a disconcerting thought if you focus on it. Of my own first-cousins, and if I'm counting correctly this morning on my fingers and toes there were 15 of us, all save one still are alive and well.

The exception, another Wyoming boy, shot and killed himself during 1992 --- 20 years ago now --- in typical decisive fashion to avoid the final agonies AIDS then imposed.

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