Kathy Freeperson - poet, performance artist, radical feminist, activist, all around troublemaker - was my dear friend and writing partner for ten years. In 1992 we wrote and directed an evening of performance art, called BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT, that was so kick-ass wonderful women drove 200 miles to see it, and we filled the theater every night for a three-weekend run. We were then invited to perform it on the main stage at Florida State University in Tallahassee. At the end of the show, the audience rushed the stage. Poets don't often get to feel like rockstars - that was our night!
Shortly thereafter we were invited by the Women's Studies Department at FSU to give a Saturday afternoon poetry workshop, for which we would be paid $75 apiece. When it came to poetry, Kathy and I were easy lays - we would go almost anywhere for $75.
Kathy had many wonderful qualities, but when it came to money she was cheaper than Holloween candy on the Fourth of July. No one ever came out on top in a financial transaction with Freep (as she was called). So when I learned that our money would come in the form of a $150 check made out and mailed to Kathy, I could see that even on my economic scale, this was not going to be a profitable venture.
We worked out the finances of going up to Tallahasse. We would split the gas and motel bill evenly. Since I don't drive Kathy would have to do all the driving. In return I would pick up the restaurant tabs. Kathy ate often and she ate hearty, so this was going to be no small outlay.
We were accompanied by Kathy's 18-year-old toy poodle, Angelina Grimke, who was blind, arthritic, and farted incessantly. Kathy insisted that Angelina ride on my lap the whole trip there and back - to keep her safe and because, as she explained to Angelina who kept attempting to hobble into the back seat, "Your Aunt Arupa loves you SO MUCH."
It takes the state of Florida a long time to get around to paying people, so Kathy got our $150 check about three months later. She came over and gave me $20, explaining that "I had to pays some bills, and I'll get the rest to you later." Two months later she dropped by and gave another 20 dollars. I said that getting the money this way was taking some of the ya yas out of getting 'magic poetry money', as we called it. Kathy sniffed and said, "Unlike me, you are a married woman receiving the benefits of white male privilege so you should have no complaints." Okay.
A few months after that Kathy came by and gave me a Kodak envelope. She said it contained copies of all the pictures she had taken on the trip and should be more than equivalent to the 35 dollars she owed me. Whatever. I took the pictures. Later on I opened the envelope to find two pictures of me, two pictures of Kathy, and sixteen pictures of Angelina Grimke. I muttered, "**** you Freep!" and stuffed them into the back of a desk drawer.
In 2002 Kathy died of complications from diabetes. I was with her when she died. I knew from one of her poems what song her mother always sang to her when she was
falling asleep, so I held her hand and sang, "You are My Sunshine" as she drifted peacefully out of this world.
Several years later, when the whole episode of our trip to Tallahasse was long forgotten, I was cleaning out my old desk and found the 16 pictures of Angelina Grimke. The years fell away and I was remembering my beloved Freep and all the times we had - nothing could have brought it all back more than these pictures! I was so glad that she hadn't paid me with pieces of paper I would have taken to the store and traded for toilet paper and cat food. What is that worth? Sixteen pictures of Angelina Grimke turned out to be priceless.
Love you, Kathy.