Back in 2003, I volunteered, at the suggestion of Deliah R. (can I use your last name?), to edit a chapbook on Northampton’s LGBTQ history as part of a series being planned for the 2004 celebration of the town’s 350th birthday. I had lived there off and on for thirteen years, been politically active for a decade or so, and had become a packrat for historical facts and artifacts. I thought that in a year I could track down participants in the previous thirty years of the LGBTQ movements centered in ‘Hamp and get these folks to write short descriptive pieces about what had happened, why, how, and what was important about it. After that, I could write an essay to fill in the story and tie the pieces together, with lots of pictures. Smile.
OK, I was very naive. I need to apologize to the fine folks of the 350th publication committee who offered our community an opportunity to be included. Though I was able to locate many people who had been involved in past activities, I badly underestimated the time, interest, ability to think historically and to write needed for the task. I wish to thank those few who did write pieces. With the contributors’ permission, you will see them posted in this blog in the months to come.
Pushed by the 2004 publication deadline I did a considerable amount of work, not just with contributors, but researching and drafting pieces for which there were no contacts. The deadline came and went; I still had to work to pay the rent. In the midst of the emotionally difficult process of researching and drafting the history of the “Bi controversy,” I got more pleasantly distracted by Colonial history: a mysterious hanging in the 1600s, a rich bachelor who collected watches in lieu of children, a bohemian tearoom, an astounding number of outspoken old maids in the 1930s and other meanderings through the town and Valley’s past.
Oh, and did I mention that all that time I was living off-the-grid, with electricity sporadically provided by a little Honda generator in the outhouse and only dial-up for internet access?
Over the past decade, my enthusiasm for the project has waned (though I’ve kept delving into various pieces). Recently, though, I moved down into civilization with running water, electricity and Wi-Fi! In the move, I brought along about seventy-five pages of the history manuscript, a ream or so of handwritten drafts, and boxes of subject files full of delicious documents. Romancing the internet anew, I find not just cat videos and facebook, but new electronic form to the LGBT communities of the Valley and as well to the communication grapevines that can be tapped into.
So, rather than just giving all this junk to an archive, turning to learning pastels and starting to paint again, I am putting what I have out into the world electronically where it may be of some use, if only as entertainment. I want to blog in a way that invites collaboration. This will very much be a work-in-progress, actively inviting those of you with some particular knowledge to correct, add to, or amplify what’s posted, with links to pertinent history sources and news.
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Now it’s time to say goodbye to thirty years of forest bathing and Luddite living: (click on cartoon to see more readable full screen)