I know this is last month’s news, but it’s funny to me how moved I was to hear of the death of Mary Travers. I gotta be honest and tell you I hadn’t hauled out any Peter, Paul & Mary records for, oh, about a jillion years. Probably the last time they were on my radar was when my kids were little and we sang Puff the Magic Dragon.
But there I was in the days after the news, cruising the old clips on Youtube, and finding myself terribly moved. Probably just that old passage of time thing, I guess. But look: there I am in 1965, at my aunt’s house in Potter county, Pennsylvania, and there’s my cousin Dave, about to get drafted, arguing with his dad about serving in Vietnam (he eventually got C.O. status); there’s my cousin Peg playing the guitar and singing, with her long hair hanging down. A few years later I was given that guitar, a Stella. And she also gave me a bunch of P,P, & M 45 singles: Blowin in the Wind; Puff; The Lily of the West, and so on. Years later, that first P, P & M record was the first record I ever bought. I remember it had Lemon Tree on it, and This Train is Bound for Glory. There was something on the liner notes of the record (remember “liner notes?”) about how “maybe innocence is coming back!”
What can I tell you– among the many things I knew back then was that I wanted to be someone like this Mary some day, as idiotic a dream as that seemed. I know 1000s of women, of course, many of them trans, but I am the only person I know who, from the earliest age, dreamed of being a beatnik. When I went through transition, I really did have to pass through the “60s hippie” stage of my fashion and deportment, followed by the “70s hippie” stage, followed by..etc. I think scientists call this process “Ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny.”
In 1987, I drove from Baltimore to Nova Scotia with a heavy heart, trying, as I used to put it, to “solve the ‘being alive’ problem.” I had a crappy old version of the Warlocks singing “In the Early Morning Rain” on the tape deck, which I listened to, all haunted. “I’m a long way from home, and I miss my loved one so. In the early morning rain, with no place to go…”
Anyhow: here we are, 2009. I’m the one who plays coal mining songs, and protest tunes, on my Oscar Schmidt autoharp now, and I’ve got that long straight hair, right out of 1965. You see this video of young Mary Travers? I look like that now, except, you know, deformed and old. But you could do worse, than to want to spend your life singing songs, and fighting injustice.
Remind me again: What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?