Day 3 of this Amtrak Residency. Greetings from Bloomington, Indiana, where I am, again, at mile 1190 of this 7298 mile voyage. You can read previous entries about the journey thus far on this same site, or at the Amtrak blog here.
Yesterday and today I am “at a siding,” by which I mean I have stepped off the train to attend to business, in this case a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute. Last night I attended a showing of the Kinsey’s collection of prints by Robert Mapplethorpe. A photograph of me considering the proper crack to make is posted herewith. I’m also posting a copy of the poster for something called “The Love Wanga,” a film (I think) about the “Strange Loves of Queer People.” The poster, part of Kinsey’s vast collection of artifacts, is definitely what you might call a period piece.
The Mapplethorpe prints are beautiful and extraordinary and precious. But I also thought that they seem to capture a moment in time that is now past– New York City gay life circa 1980. I wrote yesterday about my open conversation with a woman in the dining car, about her daughter and her three transgender boyfriends, and my experience as a woman married to another woman.
The culture has come so far so fast– from a time when Mapplethorpe’s images were shocking, to a time when two middle-aged strangers can talk about lesbian relationships and trans identities over grits on the Lake Shore Limited. Mapplethorpe’s work was intended to shock. I can tell you I found the work beautiful and poignant and wry. But it wasn’t shocking, at least not to me. It depicted a world, to me, that seemed almost remote as the one in “The Love Wanga.” Could it be that “the loves of queer people” are no longer so strange? Or at least, no stranger than the loves of anyone else?
The alarm is set for 3:30 AM to wake me up in time for the 4 AM car to Indianapolis, where I’ll board the Hoosier State express at 6 AM. Hope to be in Chicago by 10 AM, in time to board the California Zephyr at 2. It will be Election Day on a train heading west, across the plains, toward the mountains and in the far distance, the Pacific. If all goes according to plan, San Francisco Bay will come into view on Thursday evening.