The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chris O'Brien

Local boy done good.

I was glad to see a picture of a gay couple on the front page of The Boston Globe yesterday.



I was glad because they appeared in a real estate article where their partnership was barely mentioned, as opposed to the journalistic ghettos of gay marriage or AIDS that queers are usually confined to. I'm also pleased that they appear absolutely normal, like they could've been straight roommates, instead of as the impossibly sissified, male-fems that gay guys are so often portrayed as on TV and in movies. Sadly, many queer guys adapt those oppressive and false images in hopes of gaining acceptance by conforming to the stereotype of being feminine and funny so that straights can be comfortable in their prejudices. As I said in my essay last year I'm Queer but I'm Not a Fag it's a gay version of playing blackface.

Queers can do anything straights can do and do them as well, including such things that straights have long claimed to themselves like raising children. One good local example is renowned folk singer Chris O'Brien, who was raised by a group of Northampton lesbians. Here's a moving account of his Valley upbringing by one of his Moms.

I met him (Chris) when he was 5, my best peep Denise was 17, and I was 19. Denise had just started seeing Chris' Mom, who was in her early 20's. They ended up being together for 8 years give or take, and Denise was more often than not the one home taking care of Chris during those years. I spent countless days over at their house, watching football, smoking cigarettes, playing street hockey, devising ridiculous money making schemes (a favorite: combination day care and worm farm), and generally just being young, silly and stupid. It was like kids raising a kid, really. Chris was always along for the ride, or just there playing with toys, laughing at TV shows with us, playing catch in the yard, being hyper and getting into trouble. We went to his hockey and little league games, made him macaroni and cheese, procured rescued kittens for him (a favorite: a tiny orange tabby that grew into a giant lovable lug, dubbed "Tex" by Chris), and did our best to figure out how to help parent a kid when we were barely adults ourselves.

I remember sitting in the stands one time watching him pitch a little league game, and the coaches' wife circulated through the stands handing out flyers for some upcoming team barbecue. When she got to us, four or five dykes lounging in the upper bleachers with tank tops and flip flops, she paused ever so briefly, and then flashed a sunny smile and said "Are you all Chris' Moms?", then she proceeded to give us each a flyer. We took them, smiled and shrugged. We sort of were all his Moms, in a way.

Chris was not always the easiest kid, and we were not always fabulous role models. But we all did the best we could, and in the end when I look back, the most important piece was that we all loved each other and had fun, in between the angst and confusion of course. Yes, little Chris was raised by lesbians, and so what else was there for him to do but become - a folk singer....

Chris is 26 years old now (pause for shake of head in disbelief). He lives in Boston and is part of a thriving music and folk scene there. He is a regular at Club Passim, one of the oldest and most renowned folk clubs in the country. He recently came out with his first CD and swung out this way to promote it. The Iron Horse was packed with enthusiastic family and friends, and boy, could you feel the love. The room was full of that sort of impossibly proud energy that adults feel when kids grow up to do something great. And it's not like he's famous or anything, it's just that he's a contender in a very competitive art form, and he's good. He's really good. And we all have this enormous, proud, fragile hope for him that was just palpable in that room. The fact that Chris has matured into a good-hearted, warm and funny man only makes us all prouder. All in all, it was a very emotional evening and the music was great. There's something about sweet, sincere young men singing folk music that gives me hope for the world, really it does.

My musical experiences this past week remind me of a saying that was painted for many years in large script along the wall in the Iron Horse, among many old instruments hanging on the wall. I'm sure someone will be able to tell me where it originated.

The quote said simply:

MUSIC ALONE SHALL LIVE




By the way, Chris will be playing another hometown show at the Iron Horse in Northampton on August 7th, so don't miss it!

Also appearing September 4th at the Iron Horse is this essential concert.



Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady have been playing and performing together for over forty-five years, from their high school days through Jefferson Airplane to the many incarnations of Hot Tuna, which they founded together. This acoustic show features Jorma and Jack at their finest with Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin.

Even if the heavens fall, I shall not miss this show!

Looks like the Democrats haven't fully united after their bitter primary battles, at least that's how it looks from this sign still stubbornly hanging in the window of a house in Amherst.



Then again, I notice that they haven't taken their Christmas lights down yet either. Maybe they aren't so much Hillary-holdouts as procrastinators who won't get around to removing the sign until after McCain wins in November.

1 comment:

LTG said...

Hey Tom!

First, thanks for giving my dormant blog a boost by quoting my Chris O’Brien post. I got more hits from that than I did the whole previous year practically! It has inspired me to start it up again after a year of rest so thanks for that. I have learned firsthand now about the power of Tom Devine’s blog!