August 05, 2003

Zac 1 & 2 and The Creation of Sanctuary

It was cloudy this morning with a few sprinkles - still is - and a bit depressing. However, it's good weather for daydreaming and reminiscing. I was sitting once again on the old couch in my apartment at Pine Needle Retirement Home. I looked around the living room, and I thought out loud. “Wouldn’t it be nice if this were a gay retirement home." I’ve received e-mail from two companies selling gay retirement community apartments and I’d like to go see them. One is in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the other is in Taos, New Mexico. “Perhaps you should go on line, Zak; book flights, rent cars, and go visit them. There would be no heterosexists, and NO Millie Denkle.” I went on silently to myself, thinking that I would have friends in such a home with whom I could vent against this president who wants to legalize prejudice toward an entire class of people through creation of a constitutional amendment. And, I thought out loud once again, “Wouldn’t it surprise Ruth and the boys if you suddenly moved to the desert or the subtropics!”

I talk out loud to myself. In fact, as I grow older I know that I do this more and more often. I carry out complete conversations with myself, as though I were two persons. I’m Zac # 1, and he’s Zac # 2. Zac # 2 can be my best friend, but he can also be my harshest critic. He constantly tells me that I am totally out of my mind. The trick is to keep him from saying that, or anything out loud in public.

But enough of my mundane diurnal existence at PNRH. The other day I began writing about the creation of Sanctuary in 1952. Let me continue.

I attacked the attic floor boards several days after daydreaming about the future existence of Sanctuary. It was an arctic like day in January, with howling wind and sheeted veils of drifting snow. I wore a scarf, ear muffs, coat, and gloves, but my fingers were numb with the cold and my nose dripped clear liquid that froze immediately on contact with the algid floor boards. I worked for several hours every day for three weeks to complete the insulated floor. Shifts about an hour long were my limit, and between these I returned to the lower floors of the house to warm my semi frozen carcass. On at least one occasion, I remember that Rebecca was so pleased she was practically dancing around the house. “This will make the upstairs so much more comfortable,” and ever practical, she continued, “it will reduce our heating bills, you’ll see, Isaac.”

After completing the insulated floor, I spent another three weeks tacking insulation to the underbelly of the attic roof. I framed out the space for my studio, tacked up sheet rock, taped, plastered, and sanded in March. I vented and installed an old kerosene stove against the North wall of the large room. On the day my new space was finally completed, floors varnished, and walls painted, I remember looking out one of the attic dormers at the yellow-green April grass. Beyond the apple and peach orchards that surrounded our old stone and stucco farm house the contoured fresh plowed fields of our neighbor’s farm wrapped themselves around the gently rolling Lancaster hillsides. Farther away lay more farms, barns and silos barely visible in the hoary moisture laden air. Heavy rain clouds scudded against the flat tops of the distant low Appalachian mountains that defined the East boarder of Lancaster County. I was overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment, and I realized that I needed the space desperately. I pictured myself working there. I knew that I would draw, make pastels and process photographs of my favorite places in Cape Henlopen, Delaware, as well as the beautiful hills and farms of Lancaster County. However, I would not create my silver man performances for several years, nor would I voyage to Varnastrama from Sanctuary until 1954.

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