Farewell to Cloverhurst Drive


For several years, my four siblings and I had been trying to convince my 89-year-old mom that it was no longer safe for her to continue living in the house she’s lived in for the past 59 years – and, once we had grown up and gotten our own houses and after she and my dad divorced, where my mom has been living alone.

Marge’s children’s collective concern about her unwillingness to move into a more manageable, safer place intensified last year in the aftermath of mom’s suffering a third mild stroke.

Mom was understandably resistant to moving. When she and her husband bought their then-new house in the Atlanta suburb of East Point in the late 1950s, their move was a huge accomplishment for a young married couple with (then) four kids. Both Marge and Roy had come of age in Arkansas during the Great Depression, and had previously lived in rented houses. Mom continued to live in the house after she and Roy raised their kids (eventually five of them) and they had each eventually moved into their own houses. After paying off the twenty-five-year mortgage on the house and eventually divorcing her husband, it was from the house on Cloverhurst Drive that my stay-at-home mom bravely entered the workforce (she worked for years at the phone company) so she maintain her financial independence.

Decades laer, after heroically managing, alone, the upkeep of a large house with a big yard located in an increasingly crime-plagued neighborhood, mom finally agreed, earlier this summer, that it was time for a change.

Last month, mom moved in with my youngest sister Lori, who lives in north Georgia, and we put mom’s house on Cloverhurst Drive up for sale. Because of the heartbreakingly low market value of houses in mom’s neighborhood, the realtor – the stepdaughter of one of mom’s many church friends – received three offers on mom’s house with 48 hours. We took the third offer and closed on the house a month later.

We began cleaning out mom’s house before my recent two-week trip to Ireland. We being my three sisters – Gayle, Jan, and Lori – my nieces (Lori’s grown children) Shauna and Jessie, Jan’s partner Wyatt, and Shauna’s and Jessie’s respective boyfriends Jason and Michael, and me.

After I returned from my trip and after Lori had brought mom back to the house for a final sweep for things she would need at Lori’s house, we switched into house-emptying high gear. Fortunately, the guy who bought the house – and had been amazed at how well mom had maintained her house all these decades since the house was built – allowed us ten days after he’d become to new owner to finish cleaning out mom’s things.

Which, this past weekend, we finally finished doing!

Aside from emptying six rooms full of furniture – much of it, as well as the nearly-new washer and dryer, mercifully hauled away by my mom’s pastor or by the operator of the furniture bank where my mom worked as a volunteer for several years – we unearthed all manner of stuff while clearing out mom’s house:

  • Multiple closets stuffed with no-longer-fitting clothes, no-longer-worn shoes (including a pair of bowling shoes that mom probably hadn’t used for over thirty years), shelves full of frayed towels and no-longer-needed bed linens, an antique (and still working!) vacuum cleaner with a crumbling box full of clunky plastic attachments, and of course tons of empty wire and plastic clothes-hangers and umpteen zillion plastic bags (each bag carefully folded into a tiny little square!).
  • Dresser drawers full of no-longer-used scarves and multiple containers full of costume jewelry.
  • Miscellaneous detritus like a collection of scratched-up LPs from multiple music eras (everything from mom’s collections of Mario Lanza to Lori’s The Best of Bread).
  • Bins and boxes of hundreds of loose photos spanning three generations of Goughs and Gaddys.
  • Bookcases crammed with everything from old books (in mom’s case, an impressive array of tomes by Billy Graham and others of his religious persuasion), to back issues of Graphology Magazine (that my mom had for some reason decided to keep for the past thirty years after helping clear the house in Arkansas that her mom had lived in for many decades), to boxes of old checks, at least a half-dozen decks of playing cards, a dozen eyeglass cases, a bag of embroidery thread and cross-stitch patterns.
  • Dozens of framed original oil paintings (my maternal grandmother, my paternal grandmother, and one of my great-aunts were self-taught painters), multiple macramé wall hangings, and vase after vase of plastic flower arrangements.
  • A kitchen full of Corell dishware, untold numbers of dented aluminum pots and pans, and a refrigerator and cabinet full of food that had to be disposed of.
  • An attic chock-full of decaying strings of ancient Christmas tree lights, tree ornaments, and a half-dozen manger scenes; dozens of empty cardboard boxes and gift-wrapping supplies; two huge bags of plastic hair curlers; disintegrating boxes full of all manner of paraphernalia that had at some point figured in our family’s history: birth certificates, five kids’ worth of report cards from grade school, high school trophies and yearbooks, kiddie art projects long since removed from the refrigerator door, sixty years’ worth of saved-up letters and Mother’s Day cards.
  • A basement harboring (among other things) an old cast-iron bedstead that one of her children (moi) had stored there since the late 1970s, a lifetime’s worth of of no-longer-needed gardening tools, my grandmother’s gigantic oak office desk we’d moved from Arkansas (and that I’d painted purple during the years I’d used it in my own houses), etc.
  • Six rooms and sixty years worth of knickknacks.

(You get the picture.)

(Not that my own, much smaller house isn’t crammed full of even more Stuff than was in my mom’s house – and I can’t justify my own Accumulations with scarcity-based habits spawned by being raised during the Great Depression. One of the upshots of this recent house-emptying experience is that one of my New Year’s Resolutions is going to be removing at least one item from my own attic every week for the rest of my life. I’ve done the math: If I live to be the age my mom is now, my attic will be empty!)

At any rate, in addition to the challenge of coordinating multiple siblings’ schedules to assemble enough manpower to accomplish our task, we had to summon the resolve and energy to wade through, sort, and dispose of All Mom’s Stuff.

There were five major sorts:

  • Things mom might need or, for sentimental reasons, might want to keep with her at Lori’s house.
  • Things mom either no longer wanted, no longer needed, or that there is no room to store at Lori’s, but that one of her adult kids could use: household tools, a never-used roasting pan, the car mother can no longer safely drive, etc.
  • Things we could donate – either to specific individuals or to a thrift store.
  • Things that could be, should be, or must be taken to a dumpster.

For most people, including my mom, the process of moving from the place she’s lived for almost six decades – despite whatever benefits might result from such a move – is inevitably experienced as a diminishment. (I don’t do so well with change myself, and certainly wouldn’t want to move, especially if I were 89 years old, out of my own house – which I’ve lived in it for less than half of how long my mom has lived in hers.) Much to her children’s surprise, mom seems to be coping pretty well with this major and much-dreaded upheaval in her living circumstances.

For those doing the house-emptying – especially when those people are the offspring of the house’s owner – the process was not only time- and labor-intensive but strewn with nostalgic flashbacks and wince-inducing discoveries. Certain objects suddenly morphed into psychological land-mines, and some of our excavations rekindled long-forgotten memories. To pick only one among dozens of examples, until I ran across of a clutch of letters my dad wrote to my mom from Chicago, I’d forgotten he had, long before their divorce, temporarily moved there to work for a while.

If, like me,  you are a former librarian and an archive-minded sentimentalist, emptying the house where one’s mother has lived for almost six decades included several satisfying rescues of ancient artefacts, like rediscovering in an old shoebox the letters I wrote home during my college years, and the letters my mom had written to her mother when my grandmother was still alive.

The emptying of the house on Cloverhurst Drive was particularly fraught for my youngest sister, Lori, as it was the only house she’d ever lived in as a child and as a teenager; the rest of us have memories of living in other houses before we moved to the one in East Point.

For me, the most difficult thing to leave behind was not anything inside mother’s house but saying goodbye to her yard. The house sits on a corner lot with a big side yard – the site of countless softball, dodge-ball, badminton, and volleyall games. The side yard also contains several trees climbed by each of Marge Gough’s children and grandchildren. As for the front and back yards: some of the two-dozen pine trees surrounding mom’s house were once small enough for us kids to jump over the tops of; they are now towering over the house on Cloverhurst Drive. Underneath those pine trees (whose roots had eventually wrecked my mom’s asphalt driveway), my mother had planted scores of azaleas (including a half-dozen native varieties) that she had nurtured over the decades into huge plants.

When we had finally packed up the last box – every one of our vehicles stuffed to the gills with bags and boxes destined for “the Goodwill” or for the dumpster – we stood on mom’s carport and drank a toast to all the pleasant (and all the not-so-pleasant) memories of Cloverhurst Drive. I had no problem then ritually removing the American flag that mom had long displayed in honor of her relatives (including two brothers and several uncles) who had served in the military, but I couldn’t bring myself to dismantle the bird-feeder in mom’s yard. I just wanted to leave behind something that visibly marked my mom’s long residence on that street.

Our periodic gatherings during the past fifty years at the house on Cloverhurst Drive for birthdays and holidays – including gatherings that at various points included the respective spouses or former spouses or partners of mom’s grown kids – became less frequent after Mike and his wife Inice and their recently married daughter Erin moved to Oregon over twenty years ago, and after Gayle and Lori eventually moved out of the Atlanta area into different towns in north Georgia. Since then, we’ve been celebrating fewer birthdays together on Cloverhurst Drive and for several years now the holiday family gatherings (with or without Mike and Inice and Erin) have been happening at Gayle’s (for Thanksgiving) and at Lori’s (for Christmas).

Of the group photos of all five of Marge’s kids that I have on hand, most of them were taken at the house – or, more often, in the yard – on Cloverhurst Drive.




During an early phase of the house-emptying process, Lori took a few photos of Mom’s final visit to her house on Cloverhurst:



And here’s mom at her new abode, making friends with Lexie, Lori’s dog and Marge’s companion during the day while Lori is working:


We’re all hoping Marge is feeling less stressed out in her new living quarters, that she will come to enjoy some of the benefits of no longer being responsible for the upkeep of a large and maintenance-intensive property, will eventually meet some new friends at a church close to where she now lives in north Georgia, and will get to see her grown children and growing grandchildren more often than when Marge lived in East Point. Meanwhile, Marge’s kids are definitely feeling relieved that their elderly mother is now situated in a safer, if less familiar, environment.



Chihuly. At night. In a garden.


Earlier this year I finally forked over the hefty membership fee for becoming a member of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. When the ABG decided to allow its members free entry into its “Chihuly Nights” exhibit (rather than charging us members extra, like the Garden charges extra for parking), I decided to check out the exhibit, which I’d previously seen during the daylight hours. I particularly wanted to see how the Chihuly sculptures at night compared to the Garden’s “Holiday Lights” show, which I enjoyed three years ago.

The sculptures of Dale Chihuly are worth a visit any time, but they’re especially impressive lit up at night. The photo above is from the Garden’s website; I took the following photos with my iPhone camera:












Lots better than these photos is the video of these sculptures at Chihuly’s website.

If you live in or near Atlanta and plan to see these amazing glass sculptures yourself, better hurry: “Chihuly Nights” closes at the end of October.

A Second Trip to Ireland


A gaggle of long-time friends who two years ago rented a canal boat and a villa in southern France decided we wanted to do something similar this year in Ireland.

So, mid-September, off we went. For some of us , this was a first trip to Ireland; for others, including me, it was our second trip together there (although my first trip to Ireland, four years ago, was mostly to the southwestern coast). This time Kris, who was on both trips, went over a week earlier than the rest of us so she could attend an annual Matchmaker’s Festival and to do some genealogy research. Kris also skipped the boat rental phase of the trip (week #1) and joined us for the house-renting/day-tripping  part (week #2). Joyce and Walter also opted out of the boat rental week, but they stayed in a town near where the rest of us rented the house.

The Boat Trip

Because Ireland’s canal system hasn’t been spruced up with amenities for tourists to the extent that the canals in England and France have been, we opted for cruising down the Shannon River instead of navigating one of Ireland’s canals.

We decided to pilot the boat ourselves, as we had on our previous boat-renting adventures. The boat we rented for the Shannon was huge – it sleeps eight people, even though there were only six of us aboard. We used the same excellent company we’d rented our boat from in France LeBoat.


The experience of maneuvering this large vessel down a river was very different from merely mooring it anywhere we might want to stop, as we did in the canals of England and France. Also, like all canals, the Shannon has several locks that must be navigated into and out of in addition threading our way under the river’s bridges and parking our gigantic vessel each night into a narrow slot in a crowded marina!



We started our week-long cruise down the Shannon at Carrick-on-Shannon, heading downstream toward Portumna. Although we stopped at several towns along the way, we spent the most time in in Athelone, the largest town in the area and located about mid-way between where we started and our intended destination.


On the bridge in Athelone, with our boat moored with numerous others in the background.


Out boat in Athlone, where we moored it for several days.

For me, the scenic highlight of the river cruise was our post-Athlone stop at the ruins of Clonmacnoise, the site of a large and famous medieval monastery, located directly on the river and far from any visible towns. We spent a leisurely afternoon there wandering around the site, having lunch in the tea shoppe there, and taking photos.






Resuming our course down the Shannon, our self-piloted river cruise was abruptly cut short on our next-to-last day when one of our pilots (it doesn’t matter who – it could’ve been any of us amateurs!), while trying to dock the boat in a town where we wanted to spend the night, broke the boat’s propeller! (Note to self: piloting a huge boat through the unmarked shallows of a flowing river is much trickier than piloting a smaller boat down a uniformly narrow and uniformly deep canal!) The boat company sent a rescue team (aka “Connor”) to tow us to the next town by commandeering another boat piloted by another (and not very happy) group of tourists..


Our propeller-less boat being towed toward the next marina.

We never got to Portumna: instead, we spent the night on our disabled boat in Banagher where our boat had been towed. The following very rainy morning, our rescuers hauled our boat out of the river to replace the propeller, and we bundled ourselves and our considerable collection of (somewhat soggy) luggage into a taxi to be driven back to Athlone. There we picked up our rental cars and headed for the west coast of Ireland for the second week of our trip.

The House Rental and the Road Trips

The house we rented as our road-trip base for week #2 is located at the end of a winding quarter-mile-long driveway off the highway that runs through Ballintubber, a tiny rural village in the countryside of County Mayo, about halfway between Galway and Sligo.



Although the surrounding countryside was suitably pastoral, the house itself is a large, modern, comfortable structure that – especially compared to the place we had rented in Gordes, France two years ago – is decidedly non-quaint. But we certainly enjoyed settling into our spacious accommodations and the convenience of preparing breakfasts and dinners there (vs. doing that on a boat).



Our numerous day trips from Ballintubber were often to destinations along the coast – via the glorious countryside and tiny villages in Connemara.

We also ventured several hours south of Galway, to make our obligatory visit to Ireland’s most visited outdoor spot, the Cliffs of Moher.



Ireland’s Tourist-Promoting Powers That Be have signposted the country’s most scenic network of coastal roads the “Wild Atlantic Way,“and some of us spent a good deal of jaw-dropping time driving through and stopping along those extremely narrow, extremely windy, and extremely scenic roads. Among, them, the “Sky Road” beyond Clifden:



…and the coastal roads of Achill Island:




All of us also spent time – at different times, and some of us more time than others – exploring Westport, the largest town near the rental house.





Most of us made an excursions to the justly-popular tourist spot of Kylemore Abbey.



The trip to Kylemore was particularly gratifying for me because Kylemore’s beautiful grounds include the only formal garden I visited in Ireland


I am also glad to have gotten to Kylemore Abbey because I later skipped an opportunity to tour with my fellow travellers Ballintubber Abbey, located within a few miles of our rental cottage.

Incidentally, the afternoon at Kylemore was the only time I got caught in a rainstorm. Kris took a photo of me pinned behind the door of a completely-mobbed bus stop at the edge of the gardens, where we all fled when the heavens opened:


The Final Days: Dublin

Though some of us were there at slightly different times than the others, all of us spent the final days of our Ireland vacation in Dublin, which now ranks as one of my favorite cities in Europe.

Four of us, including me, stayed at the conveniently-located and excellently-managed (if somewhat overpriced) Kilronan House.


Dublin’s medieval Christ Church Cathedral, where I listened to the choir singing during Sunday mass.

Some Particularly Memorable Ireland Moments

  • The afternoon we explored the town of Cong, including the ruins of its abbey…






  • Driving through the countryside along the lakes on either side of Cong:


  • The hour or so that Randall and I spent gazing out over one of the beaches on Achill Island:


  • Walking around Westport, shopping with Kris – and taking a quick peek inside what’s got to be one of the most congenially-sited public libraries I’ve ever seen:


  • My impromptu visit with a local calligrapher, who happens to live near the house we rented (and who happens to be the sister-in-law of the rental house’s owner).
  • The final day of the house-renting/day-tripping portion of the trip. I spent that morning exploring the mostly-Victorian architecture of the town of Sligo.



After my morning in the town, I spent the afternoon gaping at the gorgeous countryside surrounding Sligo, which the tourist authorities have dubbed “Yeats Country.”



I knew very little about Yeats before my trip, and still don’t know much about him, other than realizing in the middle of my trip that he had written one of my favorite poems.)

Highlights of my day in Yeats’s Country:

  • Stumbling upon an exhibit in Sligo’s town hall about Yeats’s life.

The church at the cemetary in Drumcliff where Yeats’s grave is located


Doors to the church in the cemetery where Yeats is buried.


View from Yeats’ gravesite.


View from the edge of the graveyard where Yeats is buried.


  • Driving many, many, many miles down a one-lane, incredibly curvy – and blissfully scenic – country road to a spot on Lough [Lake] Gill where I could get a good look at the tiny island of Innisfree that Yeats once owned and wrote a famous poem about.



The view from the parking lot at the Glencar Waterfall is as bucolic as anyone could wish for:



  • Locating the building in Merrion Square where Oscar Wilde spent his childhood. and finding the statue of Oscar in the park across the street.


  • My long-looked-forward-to visit to the Old Library at Trinity College, where I (after waiting in line for at least an hour) I finally laid eyes on the Book of Kells (which, by the way, was created by monks in Scotland: long story). My encounter with the Book of Kells was for some reason a bit disappointing; more exciting for me was reading the inspiring words of the library’s rare copy of the 1916 Easter Uprising Proclamation. However, spending a half-hour inside the Long Room of the Old Library was the opposite of disappointing. (Although I was shocked to learn that the library’s famous and gorgeous barreled wooden ceiling was part of a 19th-century renovation – the original ceiling was flat and made of plaster!)


  • A final Especially Memorable Trip Moment had nothing to do with any scenery or architectural or cultural or culinary wonder. Instead, it was the moment when I retrieved my much-used down jacket (a Christmas present last year from my friend Harvey) from where I’d inadvertently left it at the Dublin airport’s security checkpoint!

(Confession: Losing valuable objects while traveling abroad is not unusual for me. On a six-month backpacking trip with Harvey to Europe in 1983, I left my passport in the dresser drawer of a hostel in Lisbon – something I didn’t discover until the next day, when we were hundreds of miles away. On a trip to Italy with Larry a decade ago, I left behind in our rental car my camera – and therefore all our photos from our trip. I can’t remember what I left behind on my trip to Mexico three  years ago, but surely I came back to Atlanta minus something. In Italy two years ago, I left behind on a bus my iPhone. And on my way back home last year from a trip to Costa Rica, I left a another jacket Harvey had given me ten years ago and that I had worn almost every day since buying my motor scooter. Although I was lucky in retrieving at the last minute in Dublin the jacket I’d left behind while checking through airport security, what I ended up leaving behind in Ireland – although, fortunately, not until I was able to use it every day on the sometimes-chilly boat trip – was a really nice wool neck-warmer that my thoughtful sister Gayle had given me specifically for this trip.)

Chief Disappointment

Aside from the sad fact that I will apparently never convince the people I otherwise enjoy spending time with to leave behind their electronic devices when travelling in exotic climes, the only major regret I have about my second trip to Ireland is that – apart from a few street musicians and some recordings playing in a few tourist shops (and, rather irritatingly, in the breakfast room of our Dublin hotel) – I heard not a single note of Irish music!

This disappointment is completely my own fault: I was unwilling to schlep out to any of the plentiful Irish pubs at 10pm, when the music in all Irish pubs apparently begins. The one time that I visited a pub at night – visiting, in fact, the world’s oldest pub, Sean’s Bar, in Athlone – I left after a boisterous conversation with a bunch of friendly Germans we’d previously met along the river, but before the musicians began playing and/or singing.I did, however, have the pleasure of hearing plenty of Gaelic spoken in the pubs where we ate lunch along the Western coast.

Some General Reflections

  • The people of Ireland are the country’s most memorable feature. No matter where we were in Ireland, we encountered unusually friendly, cheerful, helpful, sweet people, every single one of them somehow able – no matter how brief or superficial the encounter – to display his/her sardonic sense of humor. (And the men of Ireland – quite a few of them red-headed and blue-eyed – are very handsome; their accents making them even more swoon-worthy. Speaking of Irish men, guess what Randall and I missed by coming to Ireland a week too early:


  • The scenery of Ireland lives up to its reputation. As does its reputation for narrow, curvy (but, hey, very scenic!) roads. Actually, I found Ireland’s though very narrow and very curvey, to be in extraordiarily good repair. We encountered narry a single pothole in hundreds of miles of driving! On the other hand, I don’t think I ever saw, in that week of driving, a completely dry roadway! Although the rain never seems to fall for very long, it rains often: the roads – and most of the grass – seem eternally wet. But then, that’ presumably why so much of Ireland is so dog-gone green!


  • Although the scenery along the Shannon River is beautiful – and eerily deserted, in general I found the scenery along the canals in England and France to be more enchanting and varied.
  • The oddest thing for me about traveling around Ireland, at least via rented boat and via rented car – and regardless of whether one is wandering around rural Ireland or in the coastal areas or floating down the river flowing through Ireland’s interior –   is how seldom you see any Irish people! During our boat trip and during our many drives, I rarely saw anyone out walking along the road, working in their yards, or hanging out on the streets of the smaller towns. Many of the roads we traveled were completely deserted (with the exception of an occasional tour bus roaring into view from around some hidden curve). Yes, there are plenty of pedestrians to be seen in the larger towns (a fourth of the island’s populaton live in Ireland live in Dublin, something very obvious while you’re there), but the rural landscapes are extraordinarily empty spaces, as well as beautiful ones.
  • If you like looking at sheep, Ireland is the place to go!


  • Ditto rainbows. Saw more of those in Ireland in two weeks than I’ve seen in a whole lifetime of living in the United States!


  • If, like I do, you like looking at water – lakes, rivers, ponds, coastlines – Ireland’s got lots of it. Some of my favorite drives were the ones around Ireland’s plentiful lakes. They are all so amazingly unspoiled by development of any kind.
  • The food. Oh my goodness, so delicious! (Only two disappointing meals in our entire two weeks!) The seafood chowders alone are almost worth a trip to Ireland. And then there are the “full Irish breakfasts” we’ll remember.


  • I need to learn more about the history of Ireland. What little I know of it is so very, very sad. Centennial-celebrating reminders of the 1916 Easter Rebellion were ubiquitous during our trip. As with Irish history in general, I know precious little of details about this event – although I’ve long been aware of the prolonged and relentless, indefensibly brutal treatment of Ireland and the Irish by the British.

Ireland is a country I could imagine re-visiting indefinitely. It is small enough to make getting around relatively convenient (either by car or, as Kris found, even by public transport), yet varied enough scenery-wise to make you want to explore every part of this amazing island. I still haven’t set foot in the far northern or far southern areas of Ireland, but look forward to seeing their natural and cultural wonders some day. And Dublin alone deserves multiple visits.

As I’ve done in a few other places abroad where I’ve traveled (Italy, England, Greece, and France), I spent part of this trip fantasizing moving to Ireland. The Irish Tourist Board has thoughtfully provided me with twenty-one reasons for doing that.  Except for the excessive rainfall, these reasons are mighty compelling!

Notes on the photos: They aren’t all mine. Some of them were taken by my fellow travelers: Randall Cumbaa, Royce Hodge, Martha Hodge, Kris Kane, Joyce Purcell, Walter Purcell, Nancy Ward, and Robert Ward. I’ll be eventually be inserting additional photos they took. The hyperlinks to the place names mentioned in this blogpost, as well as the hyperlinks to Sean’s Bar and the Kilronan House, will lead you to images of those places that are posted on the Internet, which is also where I found one of the photos of our boat, the Oscar Wilde statue, Innisfree Island, the Long Room in Trinity College’s Old Library, and (below) the NASA photo and the map of Ireland. The internet is also the source of the images you’ll see if you click on the hyperlinks to the Book of Kells, the 1916 Easter Rebellion, and the Easter Rebellion Proclamation. If you decide to click on only one of the hyperlinks to look at the images, click on the images for “Yeats Country” if you want to get a sense of why I loved visiting this country so much.



A Belated Thank You to Erich


The annual ritual of flying a Rainbow Flag at my house throughout the week in October when Atlanta’s annual Gay Pride celebrations take place is especially poignant for me this year.

Every year when I’ve unrolled that flag, either to carry it with me in a Gay Pride Parade here in Atlanta or in some other city – or, in Parade-skipping years (like 2016), to fly the flag from the roof of my porch – I remember where and when I got that that flag.

It was thirty years ago, way back in the summer of 1986, that my librarian pal Erich Kesse gave this flag to me, at the end of what turned out to be one of the most intense weeks of my adult life: the week I attended my first conference of the American Library Association.

The conference that year was held in New York City. As if traveling (at my employer’s considerable expense!) to my first professional conference, in Manhattan, and at at time that coincided with the city’s Gay Pride festivities commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Riots wasn’t exciting enough, I also – and totally unexpectedly – met at ALA a gaggle of other gay and lesbian librarians who were to instantly and collectively become one of the primary inspirations for my career as a librarian. Their enthusiasm, intelligence, and commitment fueled my own modest efforts back in Atlanta as a sometime activist for social change. In a few instances, individuals I met that week became personal friends – albeit, friends in that way-too-large realm of long-distance friends.

At any rate, the flag Erich gave me in 1986 was a surprise going-away present from Erich, and I regarded it then and regard it still as a token of the powerful bond that had been mysteriously forged among a half a dozen or so of us gay men who showed up for that 1986 conference. Our little band of new-found brothers marched with our colleagues in New York City’s Pride Parade that year, a tradition taken up by the Task Force (now an ALA Round Table) every summer after that.

Here’s a photo of us Task Force folks marching in one of Chicago’s Gay Pride parades, carrying the banner that we created in New York in 1986 – at a banner-making party where many of us met for the first time.  (That’s me on the far left, helping carry our banner instead of brandishing Erich’s flag):


(Incidentally, I’m posting these recollections in October instead of in June because, several years ago, the organizers of Atlanta’s Pride festivities decided that most locals would prefer celebrating Pride in the relatively balmy weather prevailing in Atlanta in October – the location on the calendar of National Coming Out Day – instead of congregating every year in the sweltering heat of Atlanta’s typical end-of-June weather.)

Here’s me and my then-partner Larry marching in one of Atlanta’s Pride Parades, back during the 1990s when Atlanta was still celebrating Pride in June:


I  have seen Erich again only a few more times since that magical week in 1986, but  I remember with great fondness my memories of the ensuing ten-year era of twice-a-year ALA conference-going – and, specifically, the twice-a-year encounters at those conferences with my gay and lesbian library colleagues. Those encounters are still vivid and precious to me, despite the fact that I retired from Libraryland over three years ago.

Although there are obvious limitations of maintaining contact with significant others via email or Facebook, staying in periodic Internet contact over the past thirty years with several of these amazing guys all these decades since 1986 has been a great consolation for the annual trauma of having to part with them every year after each ALA conference the ten years (1986-1996) that I was so intensely involved with the Task Force.

For, alas, not one of those gay librarians who I met in New York City in 1986 lived in or even near Atlanta when we met, and none of them ever moved there – or me elsewhere:

  • Thomas Hill still lives in Greenwood, South Carolina, where he lived when I met him.
  • Howard Jaffe lived in the DC area in 1986 and still does.
  • Erich Kesse was living and working in Florida when we met in 1986 and now lives in Cambridge, England – an entire ocean away!
  • Lew Maurer lived and worked in Ohio when I met him; he recently retired and living in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
  • Dee Michel was living in Princeton, NJ when I met him, and moved to Los Angeles a month later; he eventually moved to Madison, WI and then settled down in Northampton, MA.
  • Paul Weiss was living and working in DC when I met him; he later moved to Albuquerque, then to San Deigo, then to Eugene, OR for a few years, and now lives in Seattle.

There were a few others (I have photos!) who I’ve completely and regrettably lost touch with – and, even more mortifyingly, whose names escape my often-faulty memory.

Additional long-lasting and affectionate friendships with other remarkable gay librarians began at ALA conferences in subsequent years. Among those also far-flung friends:

  • Jim Carmichael, who teaches library science in Greensboro, SC.
  • John DeSantis, who lives in Vermont.
  • Stephen Klein, who moved to the Los Angeles area shortly after we met and who still lives there.
  • Adam Schiff, for a long time now living and working in Seattle.
  • Ankha Shamin, who lived and worked in Minneapolis when I met him.
  • Tom Turner, who I met in at an ALA Midwinter Conference in 1989 when Tom was living in Savannah; he later moved to Tempe, Arizona, and eventually to DC.
  • Jim Van Buskirk, who’se lived in San Francisco as long as I’ve known him.
  • Hugh Wilburn, still living in Boston as he was when I met him.

To my great delight, a few of us veterans of the 1986 conference (or subsequent conferences) have arranged periodic visits over the years. I get additional peeks at these people’s current lives via Facebook, the source (along with ye non-electronic grapevine reports)  about various other remarkable gay librarians who I met through later ALA conferences and about whom I also have a cherished trove of fond memories. I’m thinking of, for example, the late Ed SantaVicca who I met when he was teaching in Arizona, Bruce Fulton who worked at a library in upstate New York, Leon Bey of Dayton, Stephen Fowlkes in New Orleans, Roland Hansen in Chicago, and Steve Murden in Richmond.

One of those fond memories is briefly seeing most of them again when I hosted a gathering at my house for members of the Task Force/Round Table that long-ago year of 2001 when ALA’s annual convention took place in Atlanta.

Two shocks this morning after having Googled the whereabouts of some of the folks I’ve lost touch with: Ankha died four years ago and Leon died two years ago.

Some of the guys mentioned here, along with a score of of other GLBTQ professional colleagues (male and female), became fellow contributors to several GLBTQ librarianship-related bibliographic projects I undertook as part of the Task Force’s information clearinghouse; some of those book lists are still being faithfully updated at the Round Table’s website. Other gay and lesbian colleagues I met via the Task Force/Round Table contributed chapters to books that, in my opinion, grew out of relationships that were forged at that 1986 ALA conference, or subsequent conferences:

:g-and-l-library-services-book-cover                              liberating-minds-book-cover

daring-to-find-our-names-book-cover                         serving-lgbtqi-book-cover

  • Gay and Lesbian Library Service edited by Cal Gough and Ellen Greenblatt (1990)
  • Liberating Minds: The Stories and Professional Lives of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Librarians and Their Advocates edited by Norman Kester (1997)
  • Daring to Find Our Names: The Search for Lesbigay Library History edited by Jim Carmichael (1998)
  • Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives Users: Essays on Outreach, Service, Collections and Access edited by Ellen Greenblatt (2011)

Memories of these important and/or fondly-remembered friendships and professional acquaintances, only some of whose names I’ve mentioned here, are what Erich’s gift of that Rainbow Flag spark for me, all these years later. Who knew that the flag would come to symbolize so much for me personally on top of all the other things the Rainbow Flag was designed to represent? Thank you, Erich (photo below, from 1986) for such a thoughtful gift that just keeps on giving, year after year!