The Amazon Trail
Scaling the Heights
By Lee Lynch
Photo: E. Mulligan
Have you ever spent the weekend with your favorite lesbian writers? Not only had I not done so myself, but I never dreamed I'd be one of the writers with whom readers would want to spend time.
It was Valentine's Day weekend, the framework for a lesbian literary celebration like no other. The headliners of Bold Strokes Books gathered in Palm Springs, California. Given the town's reputation for luxury, celebrities and just plain money, I had never expected to visit it. After a few days at Casitas Laquita Resort, though, I'd go back any time. The Northwest, where I have been living, doesn't lend itself to relaxation. Northwesterners are a busy, industrious people. Palm Springs exudes ease and comfort.
This was a working trip, with authors Kim Baldwin, Erin Dutton, Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall, JLee Meyer, Julie Cannon, Radclyffe, Jennifer Fulton, Rose Beecham, Lisa Girolami and Larkin Rose performing readings -- and meeting with Senior Consulting Editor Jennifer Knight -- but still gave me a welcome respite from the incessant moisture at home. After weeks of rain, hail, snow and black ice, I was able to lie on a chaise lounge by a pretty pool for an hour. I even have pictures for friends who won't believe I sat down that long!
I had no warning, when I wrote my first stories, that a writer is no longer just a writer. We're entertainers now. Some of the Bold Strokes authors read inside a half-caged stage at Mixie's Bar downtown, like go-go wordsmiths. They read through loud talking and big TVs, with computer games flashing around them. After the readings, a singer took the stage and we writers danced with one another, our partners and our beloved readers. It was great fun, but a long way from my job description. I'd envisioned a starving poet in her garret. The modern world has its perks.
As always, my fear of public speaking was soothed by the warmth and appreciation of readers. They came from the west coast, the east coast, the Midwest. As for the writers: Justine Saracen traveled from Belgium, and Xenia Alexiou, from Greece.
We read indoors at Casitas Aquinas, poolside at The Queen of Hearts Resort around the corner and we read at the public library, as well as at the bar. That was my first reading in a public library - unthinkable two decades ago. The readers didn't seem to mind how unorthodox the settings were. Among those readers with whom I got to speak, there was a parole officer, a farmer, a nanny, a professional dog walker, an Air Force employee, retirees galore, women introduced to lesbian literature through the Xena: Warrior Princess T.V. series and women whose first lesbian books were my very own in the early 1980s.
Cradling us all were the mountains. It snowed one day, front page news for the local newspaper. My sweetheart and I, accompanied by author Catherine Friend and her partner Melissa Peleter, took the famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness, 8,500 feet above sea level. This involved dangling in a box suspended on cables while standing on a revolving platform, almost brushing the mountain's craggy sides. Even the World Trade Center was only 1,368 feet at its tallest. High up, we hiked to benches which were seat-deep in snow. Children bellowed in delight as they coasted on their plastic sleds. Backpackers with snowshoes and trekking sticks moved along the trails. I made a snowball, but it was lethally icy so I spared my friends.
From our vantage point we could see wind farms with their 3,500 turbines turning to produce 1.5% of California's electricity. Odd-looking, spare white stilts sporting spiky pinwheels, the desert winds spun them like miniature toys below us.
Back in the desert, we discovered Q Trading Company, a gay business with lesbian books dating as far back, at least, as my 1989 feline mystery spoof, Sue Slate, Private Eye, a true find for an out of print title. We also walked the celebrated Palm Canyon Drive with the other tourists and met up with author Gabrielle Goldsby, Bold Strokes attorney Paula Tighe and her partner. They shot a picture of my sweetheart and me dancing on the sidewalk star immortalizing Ginger Rogers.
The sight of palm and fruit-bearing trees always thrills me. Palm Springs residents can pick oranges in their yards. At a poolside reading a desert bird accompanied British author Jane Fletcher with song and a Costa's hummingbird lighted on an overhead branch, as still for once as me, as if alert to Fletcher's words.
We're going to do this Palm Springs thing every year. I just hope I get to dance with more readers in 2009!
Copyright Lee Lynch 2008
Lee Lynch, Author of Sweet Creek from Bold Strokes Books
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