Dusty And The Pantelones
On the unusually slender and elevated stage at the intimate Hyperion Tavern, Tate "Renegade" Thorson strapped on his Gretsch hollow-body guitar and tested the levels. A quick line check was all time allowed to adjust a mix before he struck the first chord. With Martha on bass and Alex on drums, Tate took to the microphone.
"Hi, I'm Dusty Drawers."
Martha then stepped up, and pointing at Alex (who was set up on the ground, four feet below) announced, "And we're the Pantalones.”
The lights dimmed, the crowd hushed, and Tate started.
Have you seen my man around?
He still looks seventeen
Goes by Roy
but in his head he knows he Geraldine
Could be an illusion
but I don't think it's a dream
cuz’ in his eyes I see divisive lights
of what he's been
Oh, sweet Geraldine
Geraldine was never what she seemed
Geraldine is Tate's doppelgänger. Sure, Tate was born a little girl, and surely the name Rachel had served Tate well for many years, but now Tate was a man: one who liked hot and intelligent chicks.
There were many eccentrics both on stage and feeding the tavern floor. For this observer, the noticing of such beauty so focused on the stage made sense.
The sexy club booker tending bar was no exception. As she poured wine cocktail creations and opened caps of twenty-four ounce Carte Blanca cerveza, her pirouettes centered her eyes toward the stage.
When Geraldine was just a girl
he was as gentle as a lamb
but in her heart she felt the boy
who moved those girly hands
What to do, thinks Geraldine
this isn't in my plan
picket fences round some house
two babies and a man
There's no time to think or so it seems
Escape to free Roy is what she sees
The music was swinging, and the stage banter between the band gave way to a ripe audience ready to join in. Someone shouted, "Why are your drawers dusty?"
Without a second passing, a grinning Dusty quipped, "I like them that way. Dusty, crusty, and all points in between."
It was a perfect metaphor spoken from a stage on the fly, but its truth ran deeper.
So Geraldine leaves her home alone
two dollars in her hand
Dusty roads give way to pavement
city life is grand
She cuts her hair short for a job
and her boss thinks she's a man
Geraldine's friend Jack says honey,
now we understand
So long sweet Geraldine
Geraldine will never more be seen
The post-gig calm down is essential for a musician because the rush of performing kicks one into high gear. Tonight’s cure lead us to Martha's house, where yummy spirits and strong pot brownies helped curate our conversations. Dualities between high and low made for a collective belly-churning descent towards the scatological. Hunched over in laughter, we tied these dualities to the profoundness of what our asses mutually shared. This was good stuff.
It was late and Tate was tired, but you would not know from his energy. We knew his cancer.
Embracing what she knows to make
Roy will give to what she feels
Geraldine builds Roy from her
Tate’s “official” transgendering may have coincided with his name change, but the at risk students he counseled at John Marshall High School knew better – I would wager on their keen understanding of gender and dualities before any piece of paper.
When Rachel changed to Tate, the same person endured, and that endurance would be a watershed on how Tate would battle eight years of cancer.
The first bouts involved breast cancer. Tate won, and continued into momentary remission, but the cancer came back. This time it was on his tailbone. This battle would lead to full time management, because the new bout was vicious. It was a painful journey, but Tate fought, with an essence of humor and remarkable braveness, within the outlined possible perspectives. This essence floored all of us.
The last time I saw Tate, he was held hostage to a bed at Kaiser hospital. Being a strong-willed renegade, Tate was holding court from bedside, raising hell to make sure he received proper medical care, and that proper protocol was followed.
I came with Martha, bearing gifts, and from my satchel I fished out a Journal of Ass Production and a brown yo, Fuck that shit t-shirt. Tate's infectious grin lit the room. Because Tate's body sensitivity was now on an acute level, the normal fitting t-shirt was too painful, so an alteration was needed. This was no problem.
When Tate started talking about gaining strength to pick up the guitar as Dusty Drawers, Martha and I looked at him in awe. Tate was craving gluten-free pot cookies, but that would have to wait until he transferred home.
Tate was slated for parole a few days later. His destination was Riverside, his home. And going home included seeing his parents, kin and friends. And hospice care. Tate's final rest came shortly after.
When Geraldine sees her family now
they missed what she could bring
Moma smiles and calls her Roy
while daddy smokes and drinks
And in this city she's found love
cuz I call her what I need
She's the man I dreamt about
a man called Geraldine
At the wake, a beautifully matted series of chronological photographs trailed on all four walls, and Tate was breathing life. The last photo showed a smiling Tate at home in bed holding up a slice of gluten-free chocolate cheesecake. When I looked closer, I saw that Tate's garment held the image of a happy, white puff character humping a happy brown poo. The altered garment brought tears to my eyes. As I smiled, a sense of wonderful absurdity crept into my thoughts: While a beautiful life was cut too short in the physical, Tate's essence is alive and well.
Oh, sweet Geraldine
oh, the man of my dreams
Dusty Drawers, rest in peace sweet. Prince.