I’ve long said that books are forever, and a book in a library collection is immortality. Some ten feet off the ground, caulking gun in one hand and a firm grip on the ladder with the other, I was mulling over the permanence of a house. A house is where a family will live, a child grow up, have kids of her own maybe, and what could be more immortal than the family chain? As I squeezed out that first shaky bead of caulk, someone below me said, “Remember! This is the front of the house, and it’s what everyone will see for years and years.”
No pressure there. It was as nerve-wracking as the first line of a new book. Though we have all complained about the pace of our events and all the extras we somehow thought we had time for, like a hike in the Rockies, for me the 2009 Bella Y Tour worked, start to finish.
Thursday night, thanks to Silke at Hip Chicks Out, we splashed into the Denver lesbian community at a site with my favorite sound: women laughing. The crowd was lively and engaged, even though for many lesbian books were a brand new thing.
Both Tracey Richardson and Rose Pry read from their books for the very first time, and I can personally attest that Ruth Perkinson and Kenna White did not snicker like adolescents when a prism of light created the “Booty Rainbow” while KG MacGregor read. Honest, they didn’t.
Our evening was capped when Tami surprised us with matching black polos appliqued with “Bella Y Tour” in gold. The shirts were courtesy of our new tour sponsor, Samuelson True Value Hardware. Thank you so much to Sara F, who wrote to us to offer support. Next year we hope she can join us for the Women Build. I’m not sure why KG decided to order a slice of carrot cake the size of her head, but she did, and it was a good thing. The aid I gave in consuming it was carb-loading for our hike the next day.
Ruth, KG, Tami, MJ and trail guide Anika left from Three Sisters staging area, around 7,800 feet, and went to the top of Evergreen Mountain, where a view of the newly snow-capped Mt. Evans (14000+) greeted us. We dined on cheese and almonds at 8,550 and watched KG try to charm a chipmunk. Not a care in the world, we descended and adjourned to pizza. Then reality hit: it was 4:30. The biggest event of the weekend began in 90 minutes. And we were all sweaty, stinky and foul.
The story goes that there were many bad words said as some scrambled to get to their designated showering spots. Mine was close by, but the drive down to Tracks Nightclub followed. Still, we converged all at once, in good time to set up our tables and watch the crowd at First Friday grow. And grow. And grow. From our vantage point we got to see some really good dancers polish the hardwood for the country-western set, including Kenna White and her partner. The music changed to pop and the crowd grew again. There was disco in the next room and who knew that was where Tracey Richardson would head off to? Our wonderful organizer, Tami and her best cheerleader, Sarah, lured KG and me over to the techno room, which had an even larger crowd. To stay together we had to hold hands like kindergarteners on a field trip. I loved it — it’s the kind of music I work out to. The cage was cool, but contrary to rumor, I did not enter it. Ruth Perkinson did.
Babes Around Denver started as a little idea and now nearly two thousand women show up on the first Friday of every month to dance. Numerous other groups partner with BAD for events, just as we did, thanks to the vision of Dede French. It was babe-a-licious, all right. Our wonderful Y Tour logo was flashed up on the big screens, but we still explained, over and over, to hundreds of women why we were there.
Yes, these are books about lesbians. Yes, in our books the lesbians win. Yes, we’re raising money for Habitat tonight. The energy and support was amazing. When “Respect Yourself” came on, we all danced behind our table, but “Dancing Queen” was irresistible and most of us hit the dance floor because at midnight, even after that long hike, we could still feel the beat of the tambourine.
It’s a fact that the creaking bones and sore muscles were pretty loud Saturday morning. Most of us had had about 5 hours sleep, if that, and we were all caffeine-deprived. When I am 72, I would like to be as energetic as Rose Pry, that’s all I can say. The amazing thing was, as soon as we all got to work on the Metro Denver Habitat for Humanity Women Build, there was nothing but laughter and determination. Our wonderful crew chief, Colleen, pointed out what needed to be done and there was Tami, Patty and KG up on the roof, Kenna, Ruth, Sarah, Kathy, Jacci and Karen building a shed in the back, and Tracey, Thora, Jan, MJ and me at the front, working on the porch and the front gable. With Colleen’s training, Tracey and MJ were quickly cutting trim for the gable, carrying it up ladders and hammering it in place.
I did manage to sink a nail that confounded Tracey, but honestly, we all just watched in awe when a couple simply wouldn’t go in after Tracey whacked 40 times and I whacked them another 40, then Colleen sank them in 5 blows. Late in the afternoon we worked inside for a while, and I walked around the cute little house thinking about Bella Rose, four years old, who would have her own bedroom, with her father’s just across the short hallway. She’d be able to play in a safe backyard with an awesome shed. We signed our names on a stud and took away bruises, aches and pains, and really cool Women Build hats, and the ineffable honor of having in a small way helped to change the life of a father and daughter. To add to the wonder, members of the Bella author/reader Forum donated online to add to Bella’s support of the build.
Weary beyond words, we made our way to the home of Tami and Sarah, where we were treated to brats and wine and desserts galore. I was having trouble finding the right nouns, but wow those brats were tasty. I don’t know how Tami had the energy! I honestly don’t remember driving back to my lodgings! I’m not the only person who reported sleeping nine hours or more without moving.
At least Sunday morning was leisurely. With the sky over Denver glowering, we made our way to the Belmar Library, where librarians MJ and Marjorie welcomed us. We no sooner got underway when it hailed, then bucketed rain. Lesbian energy obviously staved off the precipitation until we were all (except Rose) safely under cover. Tornadoes went elsewhere, too.
This library event I think was the perfect conclusion to our tour. There is something magic about talking to readers, and this group was no exception. We all read from our books, answered lots of interesting questions, then talked one-on-one with fans as we signed books. Pam, who had driven up all the way from Colorado Springs, brought my entire collection of books for me to sign and it was great fun to look at my classic covers.
After the crowd finally departed we had a few minutes to gather together and debrief a little, then wham! It was time to head in separate directions, some to the airport, some for home and hotel — but we had to git because it was closing time, and I firmly believe that librarians have access to our permanent records, and no way did I want a blot on mine for malingering. I’ve always believed that books were magic, and it is more true for me than ever.
Books are what brought us to Denver, and books will bring us back next year. We’ll find other cities where we can Y. Books are adventures of the mind and the Y Tour was and will be an adventure of the spirit. I found it fabulous, affirming and … okay, I’m a writer. I may have found a story to tell along the way. Stay tuned for that. And for news of our next.