In Chapter 6, the latest installment of Ashes to Asheville, Tammy is taken by Charlie (her gay half-brother) to “Paris in the Twenties,” the party thrown this past New Year’s Eve at Top of the Monk, one of Asheville’s (and, I imagine, the world’s) great bars. You can get a sense of the place on its website.
The bar itself looks like this:
The patio (where Tammy has her final moment in Chapter 6–the place where they put the faux-Eiffel Tower) looks, in daylight, like this:
Below is Kala Brooks, the Top of the Monk’s curator. We first hear of Ms. Brooks at the end of Ashes’ Chapter 3 (“And you know who’ll be behind the bar, doing the ambidextrous shaker shake?” ‘ASHEVILLE’S COCKTAIL QUEEN!’ they both said at once.”)
When I realized that I wanted Tammy to have gone to Top of the Monk this past New Year’s Eve, I met with Kala at the bar, so she could tell me what went on there that night. In the course of our conversation, Kala turned me on to graphic designer Keith Krebbs, who was later kind enough to send me the graphic at the top of this post, which he’d done for Top of the Monk’s big night. I love that graphic, and appreciate Keith letting me use it to illustrate Chapter 6.
In Chapter 6, we read this:
He [Charlie] held up the dress before her. “I bought it at an estate sale years ago in San Francisco. It belonged to Jackie Gordon, the famous drag queen who headlined at The Beige Club on Broadway and Powell during the 50’s.”
Jackie Gordon was a real headliner at the San Francisco’s real Beige Room, which really was huge, and really did close in 1958. To learn a bit more about Ms. Gordon and The Beige Room, see this page on the website Queer Music Heritage.
In referencing the estate sale of Ms. Gordon, I thought back to a time, circa 1980, when my wife Catherine and I were living in San Francisco, and one time, walking around out in the Avenues, came across the estate/yard sale of a former San Francisco nightclub entertainer ala’ Jackie Gordon. We purchased a striking art deco dresser and a wonderful old rocking chair, each of which we had for at least 20 years, before holding one or the other estate sales of our own that life makes happen sometimes. I’ve always remembered buying that dresser and rocker, and imagining their pasts. So it meant a lot to me to be able to revisit that moment, however cursorily, in this chapter of Ashes.
The next chapter of Ashes to Asheville (which I’ll be writing this week; it is, don’t forget, “a serial novel written in real time”), will be published at its usual time and place—that is, this Thursday morning, on the website of The Asheville-Citizen Times. With this week’s installment, the story moves into the present time; it will be about Tammy’s experience at the Our Voice Walk-a-Mile fundraiser, which happened this past weekend.
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Thanks for reading, and see ya’ Thursday!