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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Diary #372

I’ve been buying and selling real estate since 1991, and the thing I’ve learned best about it is that I really hate buying and selling real estate.  Sunset is the third place I’ve bought to live in, and I also owned a rental property in Oklahoma that I sometimes used as an incall.  Well, I sold that one a few weeks ago, or rather I should say I agreed to sell it; two days after it was listed, the agent showed it to a man who immediately made an offer which I accepted…and then the bureaucracy and paperwork began.  We finally closed yesterday, giving me enough money to pay off the taxman and some bills and provide a cushion for Grace’s second trip, starting this Thursday.  She estimates it will take four altogether, of which the first was the heaviest and most difficult; this next one will include some of our other vehicles, and I’m really rather looking forward to being able to drive my convertible again.  But mostly, I’m just looking forward to being done with the move and settled in at Sunset, and only having to drive for a couple of hours to relax in the country instead of having to travel across half a continent. 

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At the beginning of July, Lynne reached out to me via Paul Maginn to ask if I’d host an essay she wanted to write about her late daughter Pippa (October 18th, 1987 – October 12th, 2015), better known to the world at large as Grace Bellavue.  I was deeply touched that Lynne chose me to help her honor the memory of her daughter, one of the first sex workers in the world to use social media in the way so many of us do now, and one of the first to show us that we could show our faces without fear; Grace touched the lives of many thousands of people she never met, and her untimely death (just a few days short of her 28th birthday) robbed the world of a powerful, amazing woman.  I originally wrote “unique” in the previous sentence, but that’s not entirely true; as you will understand after reading this essay, her mother Lynne is in her own way just as amazing, and her desire to continue her daughter’s work is one of the most beautiful examples of maternal love it has ever been my privilege to witness. 

Can death really stymie a spirit that continues to be heard?

I wonder if you have ever set an intention?  Did you ever wonder how you were going to start, especially when you have an emotional investment in what you believe in?  For myself, it started with fear, then I realised that if you have fear, then there is no love.  I was going to be confronted with things I didn’t want to know or feel.  I was going to grieve all over again for my beautiful daughter Pippa O’Sullivan, AKA Grace Bellavue:  Sex worker, Escort Extraordinaire, real life Advocate, Writer, Social Justice Warrior and observer of all things nefarious locally and internationally.  As a wordsmith, her reach was incredible and life-changing to many who loved her.  Most life-stories begin with a beginning, but this one starts with an end:  A life lost tragically to suicide, which I felt could have been prevented.  A tragic loss of SELF!  I’ve often felt being a mother is about learning strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.  A numbness of thought told her it couldn’t get any worse, but unfortunately it did for me.  My beautiful, amazing daughter gone.  A person so full of life, yet extinguished so quickly that I hardly had time to grasp her essence as she grew to adulthood.

I do believe in a life where there are no mistakes or coincidences.  All events are blessings given to us to learn from.  My daughter was a blessing from the start: half of me, yet unique.  She stood out amongst her contemporaries as gifted and talented; her wisdom and her deep understanding of the human psyche knew no boundaries. I’ve often thought, “How can someone that had enough inner fire to light a city die so tragically?”  There is no sense or reason to it for us, but Grace had personal reason enough to kill herself, alone with her thoughts and just her cat for company.

While I have no wish to openly talk on her early life just yet, it would be remiss of me not to mention that an escort was what she had always wanted to be.  I realised when she turned 18 that if I didn’t support her I would lose the daughter I loved, so I set about accepting what she did and gained a little insight into the industry.  It wasn’t something I talked about openly with family and friends at the start, but I gained respect for her written word and the real love she had for the working girls.  Grace was a chameleon who lived two lives, one as a sex worker and the other as a daughter who was loved and accepted by her family.  She never crossed that line when she was with us.

Grace was one of the first in the world to use social media as a means to be heard; she lived her life as she saw fit, and said just what she wanted to say without barriers.  Many who lived vicariously through her soaked up her words as water into the sponge of their mundane lives.  Grace had an amazing understanding of the human psyche which she shared with the whole world; her fans often wrote to her when they were depressed, at loggerheads with life and in need of reassurance and comforting words.  I saw many she saved with her written word when she was burnt out and had no energy for anyone, let alone herself.  My daughter was the kindest, most thoughtful, most selfless and empathetic person you could come across; she crossed barriers to help the disabled in her sex work, worked in the assimilation process with new immigrants, and won real love with her honesty and openness.

As a campaigner I’ve found that advocating for the empowerment of women is a passion of mine, and I stand right behind Grace and all the work she did toward decriminalization. I am a firm believer that to be an expert in anything you need to time to understand your subject, but also to passionately understand the heart that goes with it.  My continuation of Pippa’s work began when I spoke in a parliamentary hearing last December with a cohort of other sex workers; she had been dead for over 12 months and I wanted to act on her behalf.  I worked within the social justice framework as a clinical nurse for 40 years, advocating for others that couldn’t have a voice, and I drew on that experience to speak about the fact that the rights and safety of sex workers should be seen as an essential component of community expectations about the status and treatment of women.  South Australia has long denied sex workers their human rights and the protection that should be offered to paid workers anywhere, but our politicians have begun to realize that decriminalisation strengthens the ability of sex workers to report intimidation, extortion and any exploitation that is taking place.  In June of this year, our decriminalisation law for South Australia was passed in the Upper House; we hope that this month the Lower House accepts the bill unopposed and we can see some results that accept accountability and safety for all Sex Workers in this state.

While my daughters life is still fresh in our minds and our hearts, we need to honor her advocacy for the labelled and stigmatised, the people she saved on the streets, her fight for decriminalisation of the sex industry in South Australia, and her reach within the social/interactive media and the sex worker network.  I am looking at it as a capacity building measure, where we build on what is working in the world and embrace a “new voice” here in South Australia and further afield.  I will be collating her life works into a book in the near future, and have a WordPress account called ouramazinggrace.com in which I would like anyone to put their thoughts/words and perhaps the contact they had with Grace/Pippa and how she influenced their lives.

It is with Grace…… that I accept her life and all she contributed, to continue her final work.

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Diary #371

If you’ve been following my diaries recently, you know what a huge pain the move to Washington has been so far.  But the radiator replacement was finally done last Wednesday morning (costing about twice what I anticipated), and Grace and our friend finally got back on the road a little after noon.  That same day I realized that the coming heat wave would make it uncomfortably warm to work at my incall, so after buying and installing (with my own soft little hands!) a new air conditioner, I hit the road for Sunset and met the weary travelers with hot pizza.  I had at first planned to stay overnight, but on the way down I realized how stupid that was; it made much more sense to unload in the cool of the night, then drive back through Tacoma in the wee small hours when there’s no appreciable traffic.  So that was what I did; I only unloaded the back of the truck because my crew insisted that everything in the trailer was too heavy for my delicate princessness.  By the time I was done they were asleep, and I returned to Seattle; I went back on Saturday to find everything unloaded and the place beginning to look a little like a home, including the two cats.  And after dinner, I actually asked for the window to be closed because I was getting chilly.  In August.  While a heat wave was going on in Seattle.  Internet service is due to be installed on Monday, and on Thursday the 17th they’ll be heading back to Oklahoma for the next load; let’s hope this trip goes without any problems!  And by the by, I’ll be in San Francisco for the last three days of this month; if you’d like an appointment during that time, please let me know ASAP!

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My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
 –  Edna St. Vincent Millay

I think I’ve said before, somewhere in this massive edifice of words, that I really hate it when other women respond to the realization that I have the figure I have without special dieting or exercising every day with “I wish I had your metabolism”.  I used to simply reply with “thank you” or a Southern belle “I guess I’m just blessed that way”, but I’ve grown so weary of the hidden bile in such statements that I now reply with a cutting glance and a darkly-intoned, “You wouldn’t want what goes with it.”

Engineers, scientists and medical professionals understand what most people don’t: that every dynamic system (such as a human body) exists in a state of homeostasis, and that a gain in one part of the system can only be achieved by shorting another part of the system.  Squeeze the balloon in the middle and the ends will enlarge at the expense of that middle, not to mention putting considerable pressure on the structural cohesion of the plastic if one squeezes hard enough.  Burn the candle at both ends?  Twice the light, but half the life.  Yes, I have a great metabolism…and it’s so finely-balanced that I become completely non-functional if anything knocks it out of that balance.  You know how most people can push themselves to go without sleep if necessary?  If I try that, when I get to about the 20-hour mark I get dizzy, start shivering and vomiting (sometimes accompanied by diarrhea and/or hives) and then literally pass out.  Some of my friends can walk around in public while high; I have to crawl to make it to the bathroom.  And on the rare occasions when I succumb to some illness, it generally manifests as 24 to 48 hours of dizziness, vomiting, chills, weakness so profound I can barely move, and fever so high that those attending me (if they can handle all the screaming at them to shut up, go away and turn off every light in the house) get frightened.  And that uncannily-high pain threshold some people envy?  It’s because sensations below the “imminent threat of maiming” level just don’t register on my hyperactive nervous system.  Consider what that does to my ability to sense pleasure, then tell me you still wish you had my physiology.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about that hyperactive nervous system.  On the good side: extremely high intelligence, quick wit, lightning-fast reflexes, and hyper-awareness.  On the bad side: debilitating vertigo, OCD, ADD, insomnia and anxiety (the latter three all aggravated by long summer days).  That prolificity and vocabulary envied by other writers?  Paid for by a nigh-complete inability to shut up (ask my long-suffering friends how literal this is) unless I’m deeply drugged or unconscious.  And that superhuman memory of mine, the one everybody thinks is so bloody wonderful because I can pull up facts faster than Google and order them in a way no machine yet built can manage?  While the joy of good things fades with the neurochemical changes generated by those experiences, the emotional damage done by the bad ones remains and never completely heals, if it heals at all.  It has been said that no woman would ever have more than one baby if she could actually remember how it felt to have the first one; if that’s true it’s probably best I couldn’t have children, because I remember pain – whether physical or emotional – every bit as vividly as I remember facts.  Every laceration and every rejection; every broken bone, and every broken heart.

I’m not saying I would have it any other way; I am who I am and what I am, and it’s all I know.  What I’m saying is, when you look at someone else’s life and human condition, please apply at least as much thought as you apply when shopping for a new piece of technology, and consider the actual cost of what’s in front of you.

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Feeling Small

I am, as Paul Simon wrote, weary and feeling small.  When I look at this vast edifice of a website I’ve created, stone by stone, day by day, over the past seven years, it sometimes overwhelms me; I almost ask myself, “How the Hell did I do all that?”  And then I remember: it was through countless hours spent at the keyboard, typing literally millions of words (almost 2600 posts x an average of 1000 words each = 2,600,000 words).  And that doesn’t even count all the tweets, articles, and other content.  For the past five years, and especially the last two, I’ve been slowly decreasing the amount of work I have to do to maintain it; I’ve relaxed my length requirements, instituted features (like diaries, links columns and back issues) which take less work, brought in more guests, eliminated some time-and-labor intensive regular features, split the weekly news column into two parts and otherwise stretched my labor while lessening the amount of it required to give myself more free time.  And now I need to do that again.  When I first started The Honest Courtesan, I was releasing a decade of pent-up self-expression and trying to distract myself from a disintegrating marriage by burying myself in work (which is pretty much what I always did back before I realized what a tremendously stupid idea absolute sobriety was); now I’m older, wiser, sadder and wearier, and I just can’t maintain the pace I could then (which, to be honest, wasn’t really healthy back then either).  I’m worn thin and threadbare, and I need to devote more time and energy to paying work and to self-care (which includes spending quality time with people who love me).  So I’m making another small adjustment to my procedures:  since Friday is the day sacred to Aphrodite, I’m going to start taking some Fridays off.  That doesn’t mean you won’t get content on Fridays; I’m absolutely committed to providing my readers with new material every day as long as it’s physically possible for me to do so.  What it means is that a lot of Friday columns are going to be light and very low-effort, like the collection of pictures from Ireland I gave you two weeks ago.  That will reduce my stress levels, decrease my energy output by almost one-seventh (fitting, since I’ve been doing this now for almost a seventh of my life), and make more time for travel (both for business and pleasure). And since a lot of you have been urging me to do something like this for years, I’m sure most of you are glad to hear it.

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Diary #370

Sometimes it seems as though I can never have a really lovely week without paying for it by an awful one soon thereafter.  Grace and the dear friend who’s helping us move planned to get on the road with their first load a week ago today, but the preparations took so much longer than planned they didn’t get to town to install the last of the safety equipment until late afternoon, which meant it wouldn’t be done until first thing the next morning.  So I got them a hotel in town, and was awakened early the next morning to the news that the work (and other equipment & modifications made over the previous three weeks) had maxed out Grace’s credit card, and she no longer had enough credit to purchase the amount of fuel needed for a cross-country trip with a multi-ton load.  After my initial reaction to being awakened to a crisis (which, unless you have a taste for severe verbal and emotional abuse, you never ever ever want to see), I took all the cash I had on hand ($500) and sent it via MoneyGram to her card.  I’ve sent friends and loved ones money this way for years; it sometimes takes a little bit of argument with the credit card company to get the money applied immediately (if I’m unlucky enough to get a drone who absolutely insists it can’t be done, necessitating the infliction of second-degree ear burns over the phone until he turns me over to a supervisor who then does exactly what the first guy swore couldn’t be done), but in general the money is on the card within 60 minutes.  Well, not this time.  I was informed by not one but both companies that, despite the fact that we all agreed the money was there, it “couldn’t” be applied to her card until Thursday morning because the computers wouldn’t allow it. (Needless to say, that’s the last time I’ll attempt this formerly-effective maneuver).  She had enough credit for Tuesday, and on Wednesday our friend kindly donated the fuel, and on Thursday morning I woke up spontaneously at 5:30 for long enough to recognize that it was 8:30 on the East Coast, make the call, demand a supervisor, direct said supervisor to read the notes on the account, be assured the money was there, text Grace to that effect and go right back to sleep.

And so I stupidly thought everything would be just fine until Friday afternoon, when the radiator blew in the mountains of eastern Oregon.  AAA+ has saved my lovely butt many times and this was no exception, but the radiator was not available locally and we were told the soonest it would arrive would be Tuesday.  So they’re cooling their heels in a small eastern Oregon town, and with any luck the repair will be made tomorrow and they’ll be on their way again, arriving probably Wednesday (with this heavy a load, their top speed is 58 mph).  As you can imagine, I was in a foul mood all last week, and was only saved from it by loyal readers and clients (may Aphrodite shower blessings upon them!) who donated sufficient funds for me to put them up in a hotel, buy a new radiator & pay for repairs and add enough fuel money for the remaining trip.  Needless to say, I’ve mandated a long rest for them once they arrive, during which the truck will receive a thorough checkup before returning for load two…which I sincerely hope I’ll have nothing worth saying about.

Oh, and if you want a really good deal on a prepaid session?  Now is the time to email me about that.

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I can’t breathe.  –  Louis Tramunti

Another of my favorite voice artists is gone; this video features many of her better-known roles, but she had so many they’re literally uncountable (included the original “Chatty Cathy” doll and her sinister Twilight Zone twin, Talky Tina).  The links above the video were provided by Jesse Walker (“Skynet”, “planets” & “map”), Franklin Harris (“RIP”), Scott Greenfield (“never”), Tim Cushing (“alley”), and Tejas (“accused”).

From the Archives

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