Making Lemonade

            Despite historic obstacles, 2020 turned out to be a very successful and productive year for me, both artistically and personally. It started with a celebration for completing Aztec Icon #18 – XOCHIPILLI, the Prince of Flowers on the last day of 2019. I’d first drawn this sun god thirty years ago for my book of days. The black and white icon, infinitely more complicated than this old four-color image, breaks all sorts of Aztec iconographic norms and conventions. Go to the link above to see this iconoclastic addition to the coloring book YE GODS!

Xochipilli – The Prince of Flowers – (God of pleasure, feasting, and dancing)

            On New Year’s Day, 2020 I posted the Flower Prince but still had much to do before adding his icon to my “travelling” exhibition YE GODS! Icons of Aztec Deities. In mid-January I mounted this show of large-scale banners at its seventh venue in a conference center—with the help of a tall French fellow I’d met during its sixth appearance.

            We’d hung the show by January 18 (for my mother’s 101st birthday), and I turned to our trip for the New Orleans Opera premiere of my new translation of Tchaikovsky’s heroic opera JOAN OF ARC on February 2 & 9. My clan gathered for the occasion at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre, and I enjoyed their acclaims, as well as those of appreciative audiences. I believe my linguistic work has turned the composer’s simply inspired piece into a masterpiece.

            By Monday, February 11, I was gratefully back in Santa Fe for my comfortable retired life in my eyrie apartment, my Casa Arriba penthouse high above the world. With a gratified sigh of relief, I slipped back into my splendid routines of writing/drawing, gym, dinners out, and especially the ecstatic dancing on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Casa Arriba

            After a couple leisurely weeks, I started on my second memoir, picking up my sordid tale of after marriage when I came out for the second time. Covering the next two traumatic and extremely sexual years of my fourth persona (the HIPPIE POET, footloose and feckless), I pretentiously included my own poetry, a device stolen from “Dr. Zhivago.” My routines and retrospective writing trance held me nicely right up almost to the middle of March.

            In my Mesoamerican fascination, I consider Friday, March 13, 2020 or the Aztec day Four Rain to have been the emphatic end of the Fifth Sun, the Sixth Sun starting on Saturday.  Suffice it to say that Friday the Thirteenth brought enormous turmoil into my life when my gym closed down due to a virus they were already calling a pandemic.

            On March 14, 2020 everything locked down (my show as well), and since then I’ve fortunately been living safely and comfortably in Casa Arriba. The loss of gym, dinners out, and ecstatic dancing has left me with only the splendid routine of writing and drawing. Right away I replaced my gym workouts with walking/running around the nearby track, but I could do nothing about the sauna except miss it miserably. Cooking simply, I didn’t miss restaurant food—just my regular companions at meals. I was driven to solo dancing to radio reggae and salsa in my living room and to sorely missing all the young bacchantes at Paradiso.

            I joked about going into solitary confinement but didn’t really feel that way. I deeply appreciated being made to step away from the world’s sound and fury, to take care of my physical needs simply in solitary peace, and to do my work on my natural schedule without distractions. I found it fascinating to watch my hair grow, now longer than it’s ever been, and I rather like it. Perversely, I didn’t feel lonely, isolated, or confined at all, but instead felt blessedly secluded, a secular anchorite. Six decades later, this new Sixth Sun feels like a confirmation and redemption of my solitary youth in backwoods Arkansas.

            Staying snugly at home (except for walks at the track and to grocery stores), let me focus on the memoir, which I titled LORD WIND, alternating between writing it and drawing on Icon #19 – TEZCATLIPOCA, The Smoking Mirror. By mid-May I’d finished and posted the icon, which went much deeper into the god’s story than this old drawing for the book of days.

Tezcatlipoca – Smoking Mirror – (Lord of the Night Sky)

  And by early June I’d finished the memoir. Rejoicing, I posted LORD WIND on the web as individual chapters or entire text.

           On the urging of my French friend, in June I began conjuring up visions of Tlaloc, the God of Storms, and at the same time started the third volume of memoir, soon entitled GAY GEISHA, about my stylish gay life in Washington DC in the 1970s. Once again, for sanity’s sake, over the next months I switched back and forth between creative processes.

            Meanwhile, a few important things happened in the solitude of October. First, I rode my bike to the Convention Center and voted early against the scumbag, whereupon I put it and its filth out of mind. Next, I finally struck my icon show after nine months’ lockdown—with the kind assistance of my tall grandson. Then, accepting that my life was utterly changed for the foreseeable future, I gave him my little red car and happily became a true pedestrian.

            In mid-November I started posting chapters of GAY GEISHA serially and by mid-December had published eight covering about a quarter of the decade. The switch then back to the icon was for a final push, aiming to finish it by New Year’s. I didn’t quite make it though. Only the other day, almost two weeks into 2021, I finally wrapped Tlaloc up, though he doesn’t look much like my first fanciful drawing of him for that old book of days. Still, that goggle-eye and fangs are standard features.

Tlaloc – (God of Rain)

            Please allow me to count Aztec Icon #20 – TLALOC, God of Storms, as an accomplishment for wretched but productive 2020. (I’ll post it very soon.) I’m tremendously gratified by creating my three icons, memoirs of gay liberation, and the operatic masterpiece.

#

My Third Gay Memoir

What with increasing urgency in the Corona virus calamity, it has become clear to me that I’m going to have to change my mode of operation in writing my memoirs. Before, I always waited until a volume was complete before publishing (posting) it on my website—in order to have the luxury of skipping back to earlier sections to add, delete, or tweak the material.

Now that I really can’t predict how long I’ll hang around on this planet, I’m going to post chapters serially as they’re completed, adding them to the Table of Contents for individual access. Too bad for second-thought revisions, but that’s how this wretched Covid cookie is crumbling.

Recently writing on Chapter 6 of the current volume, I’ve only just now found the title for this memoir. It’s the registered name for a spectacular variety of iris I used to sell at the Farmers Market a long time back when I was the famous Iris Man:

GAY GEISHA

As I told a dear friend, these two words are the most cogent description I can imagine of who and what I was in the 1970s in Washington DC. My third real memoir (actually the sixth volume in the story of my unique life), GAY GEISHA covers 1972-80, a time of glorious gay liberation, when I lived and graciously entertained gentlemen in a grand Victorian mansion at historic Logan Circle.   

GAY GEISHA provides the dramatic and often lurid details behind that old summary of my fifth persona which I prophetically entitled “Courtesan.” As possible, I’ll keep adding chapters and hopefully live to finish this volume. (As of 9/9/21, I’ve now posted nineteen chapters covering up to December, 1978.) If I manage to keep on kicking, I’ve got one more volume eventually in mind, but we’ll just have to wait and see about that.

To start reading, just click on GAY GEISHA.

#

YE GODS! There Was a Ship…

It’s been a couple (few?) months since I raised a big whoop about my show of black and white Aztec icons (for a coloring book), and that’s what mostly has occupied me lo that many moons.

Richard Balthazar at opening of YE GODS!

Actually, June and July at my show were splendid! YE GODS! opened on June 1 with a wonderful crowd.  There was delicious food (catered by my old Backstreet Bistro and spa buddy David Jacoby and his wife Melanie as our lovely “soda server”) and a marvelous group of female dancers, Danza Azteca, who blessed the icons (and me) and danced ceremonies around a big Aztec drum (the huehuetl).  They even got some in the crowd to join in a friendship dance.

Throughout the run of the show I spent a couple hours each afternoon at El Museo Cultural (de Santa Fe), just to be there and talk to visitors—but also to give the inexhaustible Maria Martinez a bit of a break from staffing the gallery to attend to her many other duties around the nearly 2-acre cultural facility. She is the peaceful animus of the Museo, and I am deeply grateful for all her help and encouragement.

Entrance of Danza Azteca: David Jacoby and Maria Martinez on left, Concha Garcia y Allen center

By the way, the above photos are to be credited to my friend Seth Roffman, who is editor of “Greenfire Times.”

Visitation at the show was steady, even without publicity during July. I greatly enjoyed meeting folks of all walks—and bending their ears about the icons, their mythology, and elements of history.  In particular, I stressed that only one icon in the show was actually a genuine Aztec deity (Huitzilopochtli).  The rest were from long before the arrival of the Mexica (Aztecs), who simply adopted the culture, mythology, and cosmology of the peoples living there already.

What I enjoyed most of all was the series of 15 lectures I slapped together and delivered off the top of my head. Half were about the Aztec codices (picture books), showing pages and discussing their mythology, iconography, and social implications.  The other half were focused on cultural and historical subjects that went from Aztec-specific through general Mesoamerican to all the Americas and then into probable interactions between those societies. I was blessed to have a corps of several interested listeners who came to most of my talks.  After the finale on Codex Vindobonensis, six of them took me out to dinner, and we had a long, leisurely chat about our lives—and of course, some follow-up questions about the whole Aztec thing.

Now that it is over and the icons are stored in my garage, I’m intending to approach many places here in NM and around the country (and internationally?) about hanging YE GODS! It’s a fantastic educational (informational) show, after all, and I’d offer it to presenters free (charging only for the minimal shipping).  I’d also be available to do my scalable series of lectures (for expenses), and presenters could sell the separate prints for coloring.  WHAT A DEAL!

#

Meanwhile, several other things transpired. Most must wait for later posts, but I’ve totally got to let you know right now about another BIG DEAL!  My cousin visited, and when she decided to read my memoir THERE WAS A SHIP, we discovered that there was no link from the web-page to the text.  Two years ago (!) I’d posted a blog (Gay Memoir Redux) with a link to it, but neglected to link it to the page.  Mortified, I corrected the situation immediately.  Now you can go to the text of my memoir from its drop-down page, just like from here.

#

News about MORE BIG DEALS as soon as I can get around to announcing them!

#