Love Letters to Friends, As Well As Very Important Musings on Earth Shattering Matters:
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler While You Still Can: A Late Celebration

....because they found love in a hopeless place.

I'll get political here in a sec, fair warning.  It's been that kind of week.

Back in the carefree, liberated days of March, 2016, these two fine gentlemen got married, because they are in love, and they wanted to celebrate that love with their loved ones....and because it was finally legal for them to do so.

This is grainy because my phone camera is crap, but also
possibly because I was trembling with joy when I took it.
Remember the bow ties. Those show up later.

I know JJ through his ex, an old college chum, and even though that is over now I am pleased to keep custody of both of them.  JJ is one of those organizers of people...because it was his job, for one thing, but it's also his nature to gather up the loose elements of disparate groups and throw them all together onto the porch and fuse them together with some wine and a string of christmas lights for an excellent dinner party.  It was JJ who up and moved from his wintery, urban-midwestern perch to New Orleans, convincing 4 of his besties to go as well, all owing to a dream he had that they had found happiness there.  He is a sterling host, an unfailingly generous friend, a devout lover of this cashew brittle I make every Christmas, and a mysterious jack of all trades that I'm pretty sure makes things happen with just the force of his mind.

And when I refer to him as a "jack of all trades," I mean the trades part quite literally, since he is a carpenter of some note but also a mason (the stone kind, not the Dan Brown kind, though...maybe! who the hell knows?), a gardener, an electrician, a restorer of all things vintage, and a tinkerer down to his very bones.  It was JJ who stepped up when I was fumbling my way through the last stages of a kitchen renovation, having to sell my condo - sweeping in, in a flurry of drills and circular saws and concrete mixing and levels to get me something presentable to sell in a matter of hours - the only reason my place sold when I needed it to, for which timely magnanimity I am forever grateful.  (Shout out also to the Bean's husband Senor "Sleepy" Fitzgerald, who hung my wall cabinets on brick with some fancy French cleats.)  So JJ was already due a Quilt of Gratitude anyway, but then, a wedding on top of it?  Get cracking, Astrid!

A hole in my kitchen brick wall, patched and still wet, by Mason JJ.
(It blended much more than this flash makes it appear).
The front of my island, fashioned out of leftover cabinet doors, by Carpenter JJ.

To my dismay, I haven't gotten to know Chris, JJ's betrothed, very well yet, apart from a brief pizza-n-beer outing and some good chats on FB. (And he has joined the select group of People With Whose Families I Routinely Argue on FB, because I have impulse control issues.) But I can tell he is wonderful: because he makes JJ happy, sure, but more vitally because of his measured equanimity in the face of puzzling callousness from people he loves and who love him; and his refusal to be anything other than who he is - a good man, in love, with a steady job and convictions he will defend to the end -  which should clearly be enough for anyone, and is definitely just the right cocktail for JJ.

ANYWAY: To the shock of no one who has read past posts, this gift was late.....7 months late. I had been plotting a quilt for them for some time before that, but I could never get it quite right - some hyper-rainbow-y attempts were set aside midway through the process as being too dissimilar to the proud, out, but nevertheless only moderately flamboyant couple it was for.  It's not every gay activist who wants a rainbow-brite bedspread in his spare-room, surely.  (And why SHOULD it have to be a statement of identity - why can't they just be married in peace and have an ugly damn quilt made by an old friend for the fricking spare-room, already?)  What could I make for them that was a little closer to their taste in, say, clothes, furniture, paint color, and general aesthetic, but still acknowledge the momentous (and, sadly, still brave) decision to unite as a matter of public record?

And so this is where I ended up.

Not quite large enough for the king-size bed.  Sorry, that picture is kind of dark.

The front is a old traditional pattern (I do favor the traditionals for wedding quilts) sometimes called Trip Around the World.  It's done in scrappy grays, some from men's shirt material, many of which were included in the first quilt I ever made - which quilt, coincidentally, I hand-bound at JJ's first N'awlins house, sitting in the sunshine on his back porch, listening to him putter around cleaning up old bikes to sell, after a night of raucous, farty, whiskey-fueled games of Trains some number of Thanksgivings ago.  (Thanksgivings were kind of JJ's thing, collecting many "orphans" who didn't want to, or couldn't, go home for the holidays.  Though I had a perfectly delightful family to go home to and no one second guessing my sexual orientation, I did enjoy their Orphan Thanksgivings, because they were fun as hell, and also because the food was second in fabulousness only to the company.)

If you haven't played Trains before, I recommend it.

Anyway, somehow that particular fabric reappearing in JJ's wedding quilt feels fitting, a circle completed - but also, these gradations shade from light to dark and back again, an apt summation of marriage if ever there was one (from what I can tell, being a single girl and all.)  And, perhaps as importantly, they will hide either the black or the white hairs of their Dalmatian, Lucky....though hairs have a way of finding their most opposite-colored fabrics to land on, which a regularity that suggests an actual Law of Physics, I dunno.

Not actually Lucky, but still a menace to white AND black AND gray fabrics.  And purple, forget about it.

The back is a stretch of startling, shiny purple cotton sateen from the Stash of the Unknown Benefactress, which shade I have mentally dubbed "Prince Goes To Mardi Gras."  The binding is mostly a nice N'awlins green, with a tiny 3-leaf botanical print, that will stand as my fleur-de-lis analog, and a little bit of gold binding thrown in on one side to complete the trifecta of carnival colors (but not much gold because light colors don't wear very well on the edge of quilts, as I discovered to my great regret.)

Purple Rain Down on Bourbon Street
Purple for Justice, Green for Faith, and Gold for Power.

But Astrid, you may be saying, what part of this quilt *does* shout "#lovewins!" so that all can hear it?  Especially now, the week we have found out our new president elect is not someone who will bear the rainbow standard going forward, but fosters a divisiveness that puts my gay friends and family at risk from people wearing homophobia openly and proudly, emboldened by an environment of xenophobia and mistrust?

It's not a grand statement, per se, but it's here, in the quilting, where I used a multi-colored variegated thread called "Over the Rainbow."

You can't see it much here, but Judy Garland would be proud.

You can see a bit more of the colors here, from the back.

My sewing machine and my skills were really not cooperating so some of the sewing is just...well, it's what I would term "bad," if I were to be judging this quilt for show.  Many of the quilting intersections ended up getting tucked, which fortuitously created a sort of intentional-looking ruching in spots; and the stitch length varies wildly from "teeny weeny" to "yeah, that's not going to stay in."  But though some of these stitches may not hold, I figure of the thousands of loops that comprise all the stitching, *most* of it will keep the rest of it together.  And I fell back, of course, on my very favorite wine-glass/orange-peel pattern, because wine-glass pattern!  I love it so.

A bit o festive green to hint at the party in the back.

And here, in the label, the bowties that my gents wore on their wedding day (bow ties are *also* kind of JJ's thing, a legacy from his own preppified youth and, let's be honest, the 80s):

From before I attached it to the quilt....attempted font based on
the wedding invitation...bow ties based on my boys' finery!

And in a week where they have discovered that their very marriage could be under fire from the new regime - don't believe me? "Cultural Warrior" and Governor-cum-VP-Pence wanted to defund AIDS clinics for promoting a dangerous lifestyle, ferchrissakes - I have finally finished their quilt: bits of light and dark, like clouds passing over a midwestern field of snow, underlaid by the shiny escapist promise of a midwinter Mardi Gras parade (and a good pattern for a time when many of my friends are contemplating their own four-year Trip Around the World, or creating their own wine glass patterns with greater frequency....); and all stitched together by the power of a single, fragile rainbow thread that nevertheless, woven over and under a hundred, a thousand times, ten thousand times, ties together the shifting layers into a cohesive warmth, as welcoming as dinner party christmas lights; or a new home town where you have found a dream of happiness; or a husband's embrace at the end of a day of anxiety and frustration.

Beautiful photo by Michele Encar, used with kind permission. 

And though New Orleans is only a tiny anomaly in reddest Louisiana, and not free of homophobic assaults, I trust that their adoptive city may provide some safe harbor.....or, failing that, one hell of a party in our darkest days to come, akin to Paris during the occupation by Germany, where the wine and the resistance flowed freely (unless you were Jewish, of course).  Sign me up for *that* float, boys!

So a belated toast to you, JJ and Chris - I wish I could cocoon you in the safety you felt among the celebrants of your beautiful wedding, that lovely March night in NOLA when we all really believed It Would Get Better.  But in lieu of that, a humble gift of love and ally-ship: good for a spare room, or for farting under while eating cashew brittle (or Toffi-Fay) or for wrapping yourself in to play Trains on the back porch; and hopefully you know that in wanting to reflect your identities I do not mean to tie you to a stereotype, but honor who you are.  And in honor of what you've both gone through, and what others who are denied a family or a place at the Thanksgiving table might experience, I also made a wee donation in your you guys, and keep the faith.  Numbers, history, and the inexorable tide of demographics and time is on our side.

Oh....and about those hyper-rainbow quilts that were started but rejected as wedding gifts for being too TOO colorful?....those will find a home in a Community Center like this one, too, if they will have it; or a hospice care, or wherever those colors can proclaim to someone, even if they don't see it happening every day, that #lovewins.  Because it must, and because I believe that it will; and because I can, in a small way, contribute something to make sure it does.

Dusting off some old rainbows.

Besos, always and always,


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