Village-voice

According to scholars, one in four cowboys in Texas during the golden age of westward expansion was black; many others were Mexican, mestizo, or Native American—a far more diverse group than Hollywood stereotypes would suggest.

The photos in an exciting new exhibit, “Black Cowboy,” at the Studio Museum in Harlem, suggest that that many common conceptions of what an iconic American looks like are wrong. Read more about the exhibit, and see more photos here. 

People often misunderstand what the old saying about a cat having nine lives means. The cats prefer to keep it a secret, as most humans can’t be trusted with information so fragile and precious, but there are exceptions.

The merchant who shares his leftover fish. The young girl that hides littler after litter of newborn ones in her room until they find new homes. The old man with scars who still has enough kindness to open his shed to let them slip in from the rain. Boys, teenagers, mothers, warriors, brothers - some are trusted.

Exceptions, yes, few nowadays and rare, but honoured all the more.

So nine lives there are indeed. Each cat is born with them and no matter the time or place, they are lost easily.

This is where the story ends for most people.

But for those who are trusted, those who wake up one morning and find a weird taste in their mouth, the scent of a forest never touched by human hands in their nose, and a strange lingering touch of whiskers on their forehead - they know the truth.

Nine lives for this world, is what all our legends used to say.

You, friend of cats, know the ancient, almost forgotten sayings.

You know of cat eyes shining in the deepest night when they shouldn’t be able to. You know of cats staring past your ear, at that forbidden spot right by the frayed corner of your vision, and you fear that if you look, your cat won’t be able to stare it into submission anymore. You don’t look. The cat purrs. You’re safe.

The kittens have all their lives still. They do not look at the edgewalking beasts that whisper through their humans’ house. It will take time until they fall, hurt, learn.

The oldest cats know so much that a touch of their paw will make an entire village shudder. Their quiet voices cast spells. Let them roam. You cannot imagine the things that flee from them as they walk in silence.

Cat friend, you know it in your heart.

You know of the paths they walk that human feet can’t find.

You know of the nights they vanish and return with the scent of blood, earth and salt in their fur, and when your fingers touch their coat, a cold shiver awakes your skin.

Sometimes, they hear things. You don’t know what, but you know enough to let them sit in front of your house or room, paws tucked under, dark stare never leaving an invisible spot in the air.

And when you float between sleep and life, when you’re unlucky enough to claw at the edge of death before you’re ready to go…

Then maybe, friend of cats, you’ll feel a brush of fur along your legs. Maybe, just before you startle with awe in your heart and wake once more, the same pair of eyes that should sleep by your side winks at you from another world.

Obie Awards host and Orange is the New Black star Lea DeLaria will be answering your questions TOMORROW Thursday, May 19th at 6:30PM ET / 3:30PM PT. The 61st annual Obie Awards presented by the Village Voice and the American Theatre Wing celebrates the best of what downtown theatre has to offer in the party of the year at Webster Hall. Want to know more about the Big-Boo-playing, David-Bowie-loving, off-Broadway-performing, stand-up-extraordinaire LEA DELARIA? Drop us a line at http://theamericantheatrewing.tumblr.com/ask or check out Lea’s answers at http://theamericantheatrewing.tumblr.com/tagged/answertime

My asexuality/”why awareness is important” story

When I was a teen, growing up in a small town in 1980s Mississippi, there were only 2 options as far as I knew:  Either you were gay or your were straight.  Because I was exceedingly liberal for the time and place (though probably less liberal than I am now) and because I wanted desperately to leave Mississippi, I spent a lot of time learning as much as I could about the outside world.  I spent hours at the library my high school shared with the local university reading the Village Voice and dreaming of going in New York City.    Because of this, and because I was a huge fan of Erasure, I figured out that there was nothing wrong with being gay.  Which was good, because I knew I wasn’t straight.  I couldn’t be:  I liked looking at pretty guys too much, and I got crushes on my male friends.

On the other hand, I also knew that I liked looking at pretty girls too, and I regularly developed crushes on my female friends.  So I lay awake at night, my thoughts spinning in my head  “I like boys, so I can’t be straight.  But I like girls, so I can’t be gay.  But I like boys…”  Repeat ad nauseum.

Fast forward to the early 90s.  I was going to college in New Orleans.  This exposed me to much more of the world than I would have seen had I remained in Mississippi.  But it didn’t bring me any closer to figuring things out until my second semester, when there was a rash of people in the dorm coming out as bisexual.  Aha!  A lightbulb went on in my head.  THIS must be what I was.  I could like both boys and girls!  But something still didn’t feel right.  Though I made out with people and liked it, I passed up chances to have sex with people of both genders.  Finally one of my female friends basically harassed me into sleeping with her (at the time I didn’t recognize date rape for what it was - the early 90s were a much less aware time, at least for me).  And when I met the woman who later became my wife, she was the one who made the first move sexually, as well as the second and third moves and most of the others.  

Fast forward again, last 2015.  My wife and I are still together and have had 2 kids.  But no one looking at our sex life would ever mistake it for a “normal” sex life (to the extent that there is such a thing).  But I still feel that something’s not right.  I’m not unhappy, but at the same time, my main feeling about sex is a resounding “meh.”  I research various fetishes and relationship styles on the internet, but nothing really feels right - some seem like they might be a lot of fun, but the whole idea just collapses for me once genitals get involved.  When I watch a TV show about pickup artists, and besides being repulsed at all the dishonesty involved, my thought is “That seems like an awful lot of work for sex.”  

Then one day I stumbled on a page about the difference between romantic orientation and sexual orientation.  And then I learn about asexuality.  And finally, after all this time, I figured it out.  I’m panromantic and asexual.  All of a sudden so many things from my past made sense.  SO MANY THINGS!  And while I’m very glad that I understand it now, I’m also rather frustrated at the time lost because I didn’t have this knowledge years and years before.  I could have been spared so much mental anguish and so many sleepless nights if I had known.

Which brings us to why I think awareness is important:  Because kids aren’t going to be straight just because they don’t know about the alternatives.  They’ll still be whatever they are; they’ll just feel confused and agitated and WRONG because they don’t fit in to the alternatives that they’ve been told about.

Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell in Nightmare Alley  (Edmund Goulding, 1947), Power’s extraordinary - and only - film noir.

“The movie suggested far more than it showed but what it showed, including the climactic degradation of 20th Century Fox’s then-major star Tyrone Power, was remarkably sordid for so high-profile a release.“  J. Holberman, The Village Voice