The following is an excerpt from Nina MacLaughlin’s memoir Hammer Head—the story of MacLaughlin’s journey out of a drag-and-click job at a newspaper and into a carpentry apprenticeship. In this section MacLaughlin strikes out on her own to craft bookshelves for her father and meditates on the relationship between writing and carpentry, and learning to build with wood instead of words.
The maple leaves dropped, the temperature fell, and we slipped into winter. After the skylight, in the slowing of the year, Mary planned to pause the progress on her third-floor office space in favor of redoing a bathroom downstairs, the one with the paintbrushes in the tub and the crumbling walls.
I swung by her place to pick up the last check she owed me before we took our annual break. She walked me through her bathroom plan.
“Give me a call if you want some help,” I said.
“We’ll see if I can afford you. I’m scared shitless about how much the plumbing is going to cost.”
After his wife died in a car accident in 1973, bisexual writer and activist Steve Abbott moved with his two-year-old daughter Alysia to San Francisco, a city bustling with gay men in search of liberation. Fairyland, a Memoir of My Father is that daughter’s story—a paean to the poet father who raised her as a single, openly gay man, and a vivid memoir of a singular and at times otherworldly girlhood. As noted in The New Yorker, the memoir, which vividly recalls San Francisco in the nineteen-seventies and eighties, “doubles as a portrait of a city and a community at a crucial point in history.” Our thanks to Abbott for allowing us to reprint this excerpt here.
I called him Eddie Body. At four years old, language was my playground. “Eddie Body’s not anybody! Eddie Body’s not anybody!” I’d repeat, relishing the near symmetry of the sounds. Eddie Body was Dad’s new boyfriend, his first serious relationship after our move to San Francisco in 1974. There’d been different men—good-looking men, funny-looking men, almost always tall and skinny and young—that I found in Dad’s bed in the mornings. But it was different with Ed. He was the only one with whom I became close. He is the only one I can remember. We spent six months living with Eddie Body. I loved him.
A twenty-two-year-old kid from upstate New York, Eddie Body had moved to San Francisco to get away from his pregnant wife, Mary Ann. He’d made a pass at my dad one afternoon over a game of chess in the Panhandle Park. Soon after, Ed moved into our apartment, a four-bedroom Victorian located a few blocks from Haight Street.
Haight-Ashbury’s “Summer of Love” had ended in 1968 with the arrival of heroin and petty crime. For years the neighborhood was dominated by bars, liquor stores, and boarded-up storefronts. But rent was cheap and soon my father, along with scores of other like-minded searchers, moved in, setting up haphazard households in the dilapidated Victorian flats that lined Oak and Page streets. Many of these new residents, if not hippies themselves, shared an ethos of experimentation and free expression. Many also happened to be gay. Read more…
Recently, Roy Wenzl profiled a woman named Kerri Rawson for The Wichita Eagle. Rawson’s life was upended a decade ago, when an FBI agent knocked on her door and informed her that the man she’d always known as a loving father was in fact the BTK serial killer. Wenzl’s piece is a compelling and meticulous portrait of a woman slowly coming to terms with the impossible. Below is an excerpt:
When friends questioned whether it was wise for them to have children, Kerri ignored them. She never worried about her kids inheriting a serial killer gene.
When Emilie, at 5, understood what “grandfather” meant, she asked where her grandfather was.
“In a long time-out,” Kerri replied.
Couldn’t Kerri go see him? Emilie asked.
“It’s a really long time-out,” Kerri replied.
Kerri asked friends: “Don’t tag our children” on Facebook. When friends asked why, she didn’t know how to answer them. She told some of them that “my dad did something terrible.”