Friday, September 18, 2009

Peter and Picasso

From our cousin Michael:

"When I went to Paris in August, I made a pilgrimage to the Picasso Museum. I've recently watched several documentaries about Picasso's life and have become more interested in his art. I watched one such documentary a couple days ago. That night, I had a dream in which I was visiting Picasso's studio.

"In the dream, Picasso was in his 90s, but absolutely electric with creativity. At one point, he fashioned a gay carnival sculpture and dressed it in in long, flowing purple robes. When he had finished it, he handed it to me. The wooden sculpture seemed vibrant with joy. 'It's for Peter," Picasso told me. "He's an artist. He will understand what it means.'

"When I awoke from that dream, I really felt Peter to be alive."

Plane ride with snake

There are a number of good Peter stories: "the time Peter tried to make elderberry wine and it blew up and tie-dyed everything," "time he fell asleep under a sun lamp," "time he couldn't figure out how to turn the lights & sirens on the police car off again," "time he & Mark tried to start the pot plantation in the third-floor bathroom."

An excellent new (to me) Peter anecdote from my mom: 'the time Peter told me, in the middle of a commercial air flight, "Mom, there's an emergency: I've lost my snake!"'

The details from The Momzo:

Dearest Gretl,
It was your first plane ride--you were four months old [1967]--and everyone was behaving nicely during the flight from WNY back to Swarthmore, where we
would live once more. Than came the urgent, whispered (thank heavens!) message. He wanted the attendant to help and I wanted her to live in absolute
ignorance! I'm pleased to report that he found the snake and it exited the plane with us, stowed safely out of sight in Peter's pocket.

Peter and baby Bella; photo by Liza Walsh.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Loud Women

Friday is the first anniversary of Peter's death, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I learned from him, which I know he'd think was important too. He'd probably say he taught me about good music, which he did; Liza recently told me that Peter took "a kind of big brother pride in the fact that he turned you on to David Bowie" - and X, and the Blasters, and on and on.
But actually the most important thing he taught me about, accidentally maybe, was women.
When I was a kid I knew that it was crucially important for a woman to be "pretty," and was very concerned about how I'd ever end up attaining that state myself. Now I realize it was always a losing battle for me, as pretty is about smallness, fragility, quietness, and blending in - all fine qualities for lace doilies and baby bunnies, but not so good for adults.
My brother didn't hang out with women like that, and because of him, while I was still a teenager I met or saw performances by Exene, Lydia, Heather and Pat Oleszko - who were, to a woman, loud, weird, abrasive, fascinating, kind, and feared no one. They were completely mind-altering, especially in the bland hell that was Buffalo in the Reagan 80s.
I remember being 17 and hearing Lydia, then all of 25 herself, remark that if a man tried to rape her she'd just laugh in his face. Had I been more self-aware at the time, I would have proposed to her on the spot.
They were - and are - so powerful. But they also tended to be amazingly nice to me, maybe just because I was Peter's little sister, but I hoped that they also saw that I was a little bit like them.
So thank you, Peter: I am loud, often irritating, and somewhat strange, and extremely proud of it.
I love you.

Pat Oleszko, Roamin' Holiday: A View from A Broad (