One day, many years ago, I walked into a little bookshop in Glebe. It’s a beautiful place; full of culture, cafes, bookshops and all sorts of people. I bought a keyring with the words:
Glebe: somewhere on the East coast of Australia
You can tell a place has a sense of humour and confidence in itself, with vague and ridiculous words like these. The keyring’s broken now. But being the emotional hoarder that I am, I’ve still got it tucked away somewhere.
I fell in love with Glebe. The place and it’s people. It is, as Lonely Planet puts it, ‘quietly Bohemian’. A couple of years later, true love moved me to NSW, and I ended up working in Glebe. Just a roll of the dice, but a good one.
The place had its own unique charm. And it was built up by the people that chose to live there. Glebe, at that time, had a vibrant gay & lesbian culture. It wasn’t my culture or my community, but they were welcoming and amazing. The openness and kindness that was at the core – that’s what made it so wonderful. I doubt I’ll ever have the right words to describe it. Not for that place, at that time.
In another bookshop in Newtown, I found a beautiful book. Not in any special fiction area, just on a shelf. The guy’s name was Armistead Maupin. And his little family of Tales in the City won my heart. Won it, broke it, stormed it. These stories aren’t mine, but Armistead’s storytelling made me feel welcome in the Tales. Just as Mrs Madrigal would have made me feel welcome at 28 Barbary Lane. Armistead’s Tales have a fascinating history, but this isn’t about that. And others have written about it better before, and by people who can call this story their own.
These words are about what’s at the heart of a place, or a story. About how understanding each other doesn’t stop when we point out the differences, but allow them to be seen and shared. And, that’s painful. Sometimes it’s hard to hear or read, sure. But the heart it takes to share who you are, how much you’ve suffered only to be you, that’s something incredible. I had a chance to hear a moment like this again more recently, thanks to a beautiful podcast episode about Remembering Stonewall, from the gentle folk at 99PI. This episode left me speechless. People like this – and their stories – are everywhere. They change you. They open your heart, and your mind.
I suppose what this is, is my way of saying thank you. Thank you to the brave, to the beautiful. Thank you to the open, the honest, the kind. This is for you, the storyteller. The one with the story to tell.
My words won’t ever be enough. Instead, I’ll give last words to the grand lady herself:
“You don’t have to keep up dear. You just have to keep open.”
– Mrs Madrigal