Last night I saw Jason Webley play with his full band at the Kennedy School. Jason Webley is my favorite musician at this time; his live act, solo or with band, is not to be missed. Last night's performance was no exception.
The show started with each musician in the band playing a couple of solo pieces in support of their individual work. While each were good individually, it all came together nicely in an evening of experimental classical folk punk rock played on percussion, stand up bass, viola, guitar and accordion. What's not to love? The performance was incredibly enthusiastic, and I had a great time dancing and singing along, both with the friends who came with me and the other folks in the audience that I might not know so well yet. Such is the spirit of a Jason Webley show, as he mixes brilliantly executed music into an amazing antidote for alienation. Each time I have seen him, there is a great unifying energy that develops amongst those present. The man works audience participation into fine performance art like no other.
Leaving the club with my beloved, Theresa, we board the bus to get on home. I was happy and giggly in a way that a frantic stomp dancing sing-along can leave a person—we were having a good time. That's when this guy walks towards us on the bus and says to Theresa, "You call yourself a strange- ling, don't you? That's what you call yourself, a strange-ling." Theresa asks him what he is talking about, as the guy sits across from her and starts to get into his pack. Theresa gets very, very tense, and asks if he is getting a weapon. The guy sneers at her, I can't hear his words, and I am wondering how the fuck my evening just took this dive.
I am used to my evenings, afternoons and occasional mornings taking sudden twists—I realize that Theresa and I are (as one friend put it) "walking dharma" to some. We tend to have that "bright lights, big city" kind of effect on the uninitiated. It's unintentional, I assure you. It comes with the territory of living our lives openly, not being ashamed or apologetic of who we are. So, who are we? I am a bearded woman. Theresa is a transwoman. We got hitched a dozen years ago, and live fairly happy lives, raising a kid, and all. We work, we eat, we see live music and enjoy poetry. I really have a hard time understanding the attention that we attract, but, well, there you have it, that's my life.
Now, back to my life on the # 72 bus: I decide I am going to break the tension by being really flip to everyone involved. In Theresa's defense, she's been attacked for being trans before, based on her lived experience, it is not unreasonable to start getting edgy with this guy who is close by and getting into his pack after being quite hostile and mentioning god a few times. Still, in all, this is not the way I want the evening to go down. I want to get back to having fun, damn it! I tell the guy to fuck off, I loudly remind Theresa that I am her date for the night, and since I was a damn sight sexier than the dude that just came in, I suggest she start paying more attention to me and less to him. I look back at the dude, who seems confused at this point. He pulls his book from his pack and reads. I put my arm around Theresa and again, with volume, tell her that she is safe, that this guy isn't going to hurt her, and that we were having a good evening. I asked her to remember the fact that only a few minutes before we were in a room of folks where we were a part of things, welcomed and not reviled. Dude left a few stops later.
As things were getting back to a happy place, I couldn't help but over hear "Freaks!!!" spat out lowly, behind us. It was not the encouraging sort of tone that I tend to associate with the word, as in "God bless the Freaks, keep Portland weird". Nope, this was more the intonation wherein the opening "Motherfucking" was implied, along with the "you should crawl off and die now" unspoken closure. I turned around and the guy behind us (across from the back door which separated us) was in full glower. I wiggled my eyebrows, it was damn near involuntary. I am a freak, goddammit! What could I say? I didn't want to get too heavy, I didn't think he was a threat—but I really don't want to let some fuck pass this kind of judgment on me without my notice.
He said it again, as he was getting off the bus. Before he had a chance to be out of the door, I told him that I had to put up with his sorry straight ass, so he was going to have to put up with me. Off he went, into the night.
Eventually, our stop came up and we walked home. Theresa feeling saddened by the confrontations—I felt more defiant, a bit comedic. I know that in large part, that was because of my mood going into the confrontations (with good music, I am strong). Still, in all, it leaves me feeling raw, exposed. What is the problem out there in the straight world? Why do these people feel so free to express their disapproval, judgment, hatred and contempt for my family and me without even knowing us? I mean, if it were personal, I could better understand it. Just wondering, any ideas are welcome.
All that said, I have listened to the new Webley CD a few times today. I am also very happy with the "Led to Sea" CD, which is the project of Alex Guy, Webley’s violist, Jherek Bischoff his bassist and Saba Angel. Webley, et al, are returning to Portland quite soon, playing at Lewis & Clark on November 1st. I suggest making a good night of it, and bring money for the CDs (at $10 & 11 each, it's the least you can do to support the arts)—the songs get stuck in your head, and you'll need them later.
Oh, and uh, if you go-- can you hook me up with a ride? I think I like my freak bubble, and I want to reinforce it as much as possible, right about now.