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The following message is brought to you by Nizza, are you one of those people who thinks it's OK to drive stoned? What's the worst that can happen? You end up driving below the speed limit. It's no big deal, right? Wrong. The truth is your reaction times slow way down when you're high. You not only put yourself in danger, but everyone around you talk about a buzz kill.
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If you feel different, you drive different, drive high, get a DUI. From the cut and Gimlet Media, this is the cut on Tuesdays, I'm your host, Molly Fisher. It's hard to tell when your life's about to change, you stumble into a moment of epiphany and something tells you this is it all in. Looking back, it can be sort of alarming to think how haphazard that beginning was, how something is weightless as a chance encounter became an organizing principle for everything afterward.
I have some personal experience with this, and my beloved producer, Sarah, is always trying to get me to talk about it. I'm always resisting because I don't want to be unforgivably corny. But finally, she made someone else come into the studio and tell her the full story.
It starts about 10 years ago, 2010. So Tuesday night I wanted to go to Trader Joe's and get some salty chocolate covered almonds. This is Sam and I got off the train at Third Avenue and thought, Oh, I'm right by St. Mark's books. I'll go see what they're up to. This was in August. It was warm and I've been out having drinks and I was lazily making my way toward the train.
When I also decided to stop by St. Mark's books, a guy with a tote bag walked in around the same time.
We were both browsing in fiction, just kind of browsing and spending a long time browsing, kind of browsing around each other for a long time, longer than was necessary.
Sure, it must have been like at least an hour.
It was clearly not a normal amount of time to be walking around a bookstore after nine p.m. This is where most people would probably introduce themselves. I, however, did not do that. Neither did Sam. I don't know.
I don't want to go bothering somebody in the bookstore. Also somebody who works in a bookstore.
You see a lot of people attempting to flirt in bookstores and it's just it's hard to watch. And I didn't want to be that person.
We'd allowed the moment to dilate because neither of us wanted to ruin it.
But the longer it lasted, the more fragile and improbable it seemed, the harder it was to imagine casually beginning to chat.
Eventually, though, someone had to do something, it was a bookstore, he bought a book, I did carefully select the Anne Carson in order to be like, oh yeah, this is this is a cool guy with good taste.
When I saw him heading to the register, I walked out the front door and stood in front of the store smoking a cigarette, feeling like a spy. I was now lying in wait, which obviously only made me weirder. And when he walked out, I still didn't talk to him. Instead, I watched him ahead of me half a block away as we both walked toward the train, we got on the subway, same car right across from each other and continued not to talk.
But when I got off the train, I looked back.
She makes eye contact through the door. She's leaving and then again through the window of the train.
And I think, oh, that was something serious eye contact. I don't think there is too much doubt about the significance of that eye contact, its intention and its reception.
If you live in a city, you've probably had moments like this, but usually they float away into nothing. This one did it the next day.
I remember thinking, you know, I should probably check Craigslist misconnections. That's the board where people used to post messages for strangers in the city when they shared some kind of moment, then lost track of each other at a bar on the subway or in the street. And that's where I found a post that said yesterday at almost 10, we were in the bookstore, each carrying a bag from a literary magazine. Then we rode the El Train together. Who are you?
I tried to keep it very short and simple, so it did not appear as a weirdo. Somehow I did not feel surprised. I remember basically thinking, Oh, of course. And I wrote back, Hi, I'm Molly. Who are you? We went on our first date a week later and we've been together ever since then. And it's still crazy to think how easily we could have never met. He could have just gone to Trader Joe's for the Almond's.
I could have taken a different train. Both of us could have skipped Craigslist misconnections, which, to be honest, would probably have been the more reasonable choice. Instead, we're married. Here's the thing about life changing moments.
You have the moment when you glimpse your new life and then you have all the moments afterward. Actually reshaping your life is a commitment. Unlike any commitment, you make it without knowing what comes next.
For example, it was only after I was in love on the hook that my husband revealed himself as a Deadhead. Sarah pressed him on the timeline you had her committed and then you became a dad, and that's the order. Yeah, roped her in first and then sprung it on her.
He presented this at first as a whim, like maybe I'll start getting into the Grateful Dead. This was misdirection. Sam had, in fact, been a latent Deadhead all along the jam band, impulsively deep within him, dormant, present and buried since his pre-teen years.
I remember driving around in my brother's red Jeep Cherokee, one of the sort of like boxy Jeep Cherokees dead stickers on the outside.
Listening to tapes, my brother had Maxell mix tapes with handwritten settlers that were like copies of copies of copies of copies of copies and inevitably like it sounds like fuzzy garbage tapes like this generally sound like fuzzy garbage for several reasons.
It's not just that they're copies of copies. It's also that a lot of them were recorded by random fans at live shows holding up Dinkie recorders.
This is one thing you learn about the Grateful Dead. If you or someone you love loves the Grateful Dead because they were touring constantly and people were recording them constantly. There's an almost limitless supply of material to hear, which means you can listen to the Grateful Dead all the time and never, ever run out the debtor like my default music, making dinner or washing the dishes, cleaning the house, whatever.
Molly will often say, like maybe we can listen to something besides the death.
Have you tried to bring her in other than doing. How do you do that?
Just try try to like, make my enthusiasm catchy.
He really does try. He likes to ask in a hopeful voice what my favorite dead song is. I cannot tell him because to me they all sound the same. I do like hearing him explain what exactly he likes about them, mostly because I enjoy marveling that our brains, which I think of as similar, can be so different in this particular way that I'm married to someone who is capable of hearing 45 minutes of guitar noodling as a non narrative jam.
Very occasionally, though, I'll get a hint of what it might feel like to be Sam, to be capable of profound interest in the Grateful Dead, like a few months ago when he showed me a clip from a dead documentary, there was old footage of a concert in the 70s. A bunch of roadies were hammering together speakers to assemble the bands Wall of Sound. And in the middle of it all was a woman talking about audio engineering while casually nursing a baby.
I've been the last couple of hours going to the press conference overseeing the actual record to make sure the final product is. Her name is Betty Kantor Jackson. She's a famous figure in the dead universe. She was a Grateful Dead sound engineer for more than a decade from the 70s up to the 80s. And the reason she's become beloved by Deadheads is that she's the one who lets them hear what a live show really sounds like. While everyone else was recording fuzzy garbage, Betty was capturing the show straight from the soundboard.
I wanted to know how a breastfeeding mom had wound up at the center of this very male centric scene. What had that been like and what became of her there?
Attract Betty down. And what we found when we started talking to her was another story about a long term commitment that got its start with a moment of serendipity. Hi. Hi, Molly.
How are you? I'm doing good. In the beginning, Betty was just a kid who wanted to hear some music. There was a radio on the ledge in the kitchen and I would sit next to my ear, up to the speaker, just click it on Selda the volume. You couldn't hear it except with your ear next speaker, because I wasn't supposed to listen to rock and roll, really. And I liked rock and roll, but he was growing up in the 60s in the Bay Area, which was a good place to be if you liked rock and roll.
Well, as I started listening to the radio, more I discovered more things like Hate the Jefferson Airplane.
They came out, they had hits. I also I had gone to see the Beatles every time they came.
And when I went to see the Beatles the first time, I was so mad at the audience because they were all screaming and I couldn't hear them and it made me crazy.
Why are you in here screaming? Oh, don't you want to hear the music? Aren't you here for the music? I am here to hear the music. What's wrong with you people?
You know, and it just I couldn't believe I our cheese once you shot.
Oh my God. The Bay Area was becoming a center of the counterculture and it couldn't happen fast enough for Betty for as long as she could remember, she'd been looking for some source of meaning beyond her quiet suburban world.
I always felt slightly alien from my surroundings. It seemed like other people's values in mind were not in accordance.
I did things like when I was very young, go to every church I could get to, every various kinds of religions, trying to figure out who had who is right. And, you know, I tried the synagogues, I tried Catholic churches, I tried Mormon, I tried Baptists, I tried evangelists, everything I could get to.
And I decided at that point I was seven, eight, something like that. I just at that point, they were all the same bottom line.
That was my first investigation.
When Betty decided to investigate something, she dug in. She was always good at doing her homework.
And by the time she was a teenager, she had exhausted most of the science classes at her school. So she was allowed to go check out lectures at Berkeley, which was where she started to get the sense that there were some more things going on that she needed to investigate.
I had psychology, I guess, in my junior year, and I decided I wanted to do a term paper on psychedelics and stuff because I had observed some stuff and I thought there's something here that's meaningful.
So I read everything I could find in print.
Back to the Forty with Hoffman and the discovery of LSD.
And, uh, and after I did my term paper, I decided that LSD was something that I thought I'm going to be one of the ones that smells, gets stronger, colours get brighter. I am not going to go nuts. I am not going to lose it. I think it's it's a key to something because this reality has never been right for me. I've never felt comfortable in this space. So I went looking.
You had written this whole research paper before you first try. Oh yes. Psychedelics. Yeah. It's good to be informed. And what was it like the first time?
When did you try it? For the first time?
I took it out of the capsule in Golden Gate Park and it was amazing.
The flowers are exploding. Everything I could watch my hands breathe. You know, I was I took enough that you got to that point.
And I ended up that day at 710 Ashbury Street, which was the Grateful Dead house.
That's amazing. Your first ever you met the Grateful Dead. I know you. That's pretty cool.
You know, my first acid trip ended up in their house.
Did that feel meaningful? Well. Well, yeah, it was high. I mean, everything was meaningful at that moment that he was becoming a fixture of the San Francisco rock scene.
She was still a teenager when she started working at the Avalon Ballroom, one of the city's big venues. At first she was putting up posters and selling concessions. But you worked her way up through the ranks.
She started learning how to make the instruments and mix the sound. You got to know all the bands that came through, especially the Grateful Dead. And by 1970, when she was twenty six, she found herself in charge of mastering the album Man's Dead.
The band had given her the recordings to finish up and left on tour. But would you listen to it in? Sounded bad and Betty was not going to send a bad sounding mix out into the world and I went, you know what I mean? It's on me, everybody's gone. I'm the only one here. I have to make the decision. I don't like this. I have to make it. So I like it because that's the only thing I can justify.
The only thing I can defend, the only thing I can represent is something that I like.
So I changed everything completely and I said, OK, well, here it is. And I took it back.
The band came home. I go, OK, got my fingers crossed, whatever.
Let's see what it sounds like. Put on the record and everybody's mouth dropped open. We all went, holy crap, that sounds good.
I was like, whoa, damn. You know, we all look so damn that worked. And they said, OK, you're doing it from now on. That's it, your gig.
And I went, OK, it's my gig. OK, I think I guess with working man said it totally clicked in place.
This is what I do. This is what I'm doing. I have to express myself. I can't express myself this way. That's it.
That was it. Betty was in my nickname's Betar. That was a nickname that Ousley gave me because I would go around and detail things. I'd make everything just a little bit better.
So he called me Badshah. So that's a Jerry.
Call me field. Call me Bobby. Come on. All the band. Call me Bataar. That's my name to them.
She was with them in the studio and more importantly, she was with them on the road. Generally speaking, people who love the dead don't love the dead for their studio albums. They love them for the way they improvise, live for all the different versions of their songs that come out of those live shows, a dead head might say, Oh, morning, do.
That's my favorite song. But more likely you're going to hear something like, Oh, the Morning Dew from Cornell. Seventy seven. That's my favorite morning do here. Let Sam explain. What's your favorite song?
Uh, like my favorite song in general or my favorite specific performance of a specific song. That's a hard question.
My favorite Grateful Dead song is maybe in fact three three Grateful Dead songs or one Grateful Dead song sandwich, which is it's a dark star that turns into a wharf rat, which turns into a dark star.
And in the middle of it, there's a sort of three, four minute transitional jam that includes Jerry guitar work.
That is, I think, some of the most moving music of any genre, dead or otherwise, that I have ever heard. It's the sort of mournful. Passage that captures a profound sadness that is also simultaneously beautiful and in its beauty, I think offers a real deep hope.
And I can listen to it forever, and I don't because I don't want to wear off the magic, as I said, I can't hear it, but I absolutely believe he can.
For a long time, people only knew those different versions from the crummy tapes they'd recorded themselves or the ones their friends had recorded or friends of friends. Trading tapes was a big part of the fandom.
So hearing the versions that Betty had captured plugged right into the soundboard with her mixing, that was a revelation.
Cornell, 77, the show that is quote unquote, the best show. It's a fine show. The setlist is fine. Some of the songs are great, whatever, but it is among the best recorded shows. And I think what people are hearing is not necessarily the dead, but Betty's work making it sound great, like that's why it's the best show for a lot of people.
I've gotten that feedback where it became something. If they got Abedi, it was it became a category or a quality standard or something. It didn't necessarily have to be mine.
But if it met a certain standard of quality, then they called it Abedi, which I thought was pretty interesting.
Yeah. Oh, good. I'm a one word thing.
And what was the sound that you how would you describe the the bête sound.
Lots of er hopefully big and wide and hopefully you're either standing right on the stage or you're playing in the band.
Everybody wants to play in the band. Right. So you're playing in the band or you're in the front row or I want everybody right there present.
They can hear everything just like it is. Being in the front row and being as close as possible to Jerry Garcia, he was the heart of the whole Grateful Dead phenomenon. Even if you don't know anything about the dead besides Cherry Garcia ice cream, you probably know that Betty had loved rock and roll since she was a kid.
And when you listen to Jerry improvised, she heard something unlike any other music. She knew she was magical.
He played the music of my soul. Could I say the blade when I could? I'd hear it here. Hear. I know where you go next. That's where he's going to go and go there, you know, and it it would complete me on some level, you know, I was like, OK, you could point that phrase, ah, I need that.
You know, it's just he's just. Yes, yeah.
My most magical musician for sure, she wanted to hear it all be there for every moment of discovery as it happened and those moments became a life granted.
The backstage world of rock and roll wasn't always the friendliest place to be female. Traveling around meeting venue staff who weren't going to take orders from a woman, Betty sometimes found herself playing dumb to get the sound. She wanted to ask questions like, Oh, what does that knob do while gently nudging it in the right direction. She didn't like it, but she put up with it for the music.
How long were you touring with them? How long were you on the road with them for?
Well it's a constantly seventy six.
Seventy seven. Seventy eight. OK, and I at various times during seventy various times during seventy one of course during 72 and then sometimes during seventy three and there's a little bit in 74.
But then we stopped and then we didn't do anything and then we did, did some studio work which I was working with someone Waygood Flug and then we were back seventy six back playing again.
Then I was on the road, just took my gear and went. I remember I was watching, I think, with my husband like a documentary where there's your being interviewed briefly and you're breastfeeding while you're doing the interview.
What was it like having a kid in these situations? My son was three days old, his first show.
Well, you know, I was hold them in one hand nursing home.
And I had my headphones on. I was mixing with the other hand, you know. You know, I didn't want to miss any gigs. The debt had become a traveling family for Betty. Her husband was the band's road manager. And later after his death, she dated Brent Midland, a keyboardist who joined the band in 1979.
He was an alcoholic, though, and their relationship didn't last.
We split up and that became I became an ex, which I did think of space I could ever occupy because I'd been there so much longer than him.
And, you know, I was so involved in the music and I was their engineer, their producer, whatever.
And all of a sudden I was an ex. And so everybody got paranoid that Brent and I couldn't be in the same space. So all of a sudden I wasn't it wasn't OK for me to be in my own studio.
So I left. That sounds horrible.
It was pretty horrible. I lost my house. I lost everything. After all the years she'd spent building a life around this band committed totally to capturing the sound she heard. Betty was out.
She had boxes and boxes of tapes, her recordings of a year's worth of shows.
But when she lost her gig with the dead and her house went into foreclosure, the tapes wound up in a storage locker. And when she couldn't make payments on the locker anymore, everything inside was auctioned off. That's where all those tapes went.
My famous Bettie boards out there in the world. I wish I'd had the money to pay them back. I didn't watch the money to keep my house in the first place for a long time.
The Bettie boards were kind of legendary lost treasure, but the Internet changed things. Some of the band's most dedicated fans have been doing investigations of their own, tracking down the tapes that were auctioned off from that storage locker and now they could share them online. So the betting boards have kept finding their way to new fans. Better yourself, meanwhile, has gotten back on the road working with the musician Chris Robinson. He calls the recordings fêtes. Blends or work had always been invisible, but now our names on the cover.
And in 2012, when the Library of Congress added the Grateful Dead to their registry, they chose Betty's recording of Cornell, 77.
What was it like to be able to sort of help other people hear it the way you wanted it heard? Oh, it's it's it's wonderful, it's wonderful, I want people to hear get the joy out of it that I get out of it.
I mean, it is is extremely joyful space. I mean, not a lot now on the road. They've got to look over.
You see me dancing around with a big smile, I don't know, sort of dance around with a big smile when they're playing because I just feel it, you know, I've just feel this wonderful energy from it.
It's it's so fulfilling.
Same has not managed to make me a Deadhead, but he has managed to make me feel a certain fondness for the particular way people love the Grateful Dead from the outside.
Sure, it all sounds like the same thing over and over and over. But being inside means developing a new kind of attention, a feel for moments of surprise and unexpected beauty in songs you've known for years.
It's not so different from what happens. Best case scenario, in any long term relationship in a marriage, for example.
Coming up, we've got another story about hitting the road in pursuit of the life you want. And of course, as Betty saw, life on the road with men can be tough. So how about life on the road without men?
That's after the break. The following message is brought to you by Nizza. Everyone knows about the risks of driving drunk, you could get in a crash, people could get hurt or killed, but that doesn't stop everyone.
You could get arrested or incur huge legal expenses. You could maybe even lose your job. We all know the consequences of driving drunk. But one thing's for sure, you're wrong. If you think it's no big deal, drive sober or get pulled over. Welcome back on today's show, we're talking about seeing what you want and committing your life to getting it, even when that means venturing into the unknown.
If it was a perfect world, how would it be if you could make your world any way you wanted it? How how would you make it big?
That's Lamar. And in the 1960s and 70s, like a lot of young people, Lamar was wondering how to build a better world. He was horrified by the war in Vietnam. And you'd gotten involved in the anti-war movement. In fact, you'd gotten married to one of the Buffalo Nine, a group of draft resisters who'd been arrested after occupying a church. And what you noticed at the center of all that revolutionary fervor was that the counterculture could be just as old fashioned as the mainstream, at least when it came to women.
So we're all involved in the anti-war movement and the men are making all the decisions and, you know, racing around like it has everything to do with them and has nothing to do with us.
Even as she threw herself into anti-war activism. She was treated like she mattered less because she was a woman. There was a sense of male entitlement that seemed inescapable, and it carried over at home to Malama and her draft resister.
Husband were in Sweden hiding out from the FBI. He didn't think it would be too big a deal if he slept with another woman. Lamar knew how these things went fine, whatever she said. And then, because she seemed to take that in stride, her husband decided to make another suggestion.
He sits at the kitchen table and says, well, now that Anna and I have slept together and now that you and Anna, you know, our friends, maybe we should all sleep together, you know, every man's fantasy.
And this was the moment when things changed for Lamar because she'd realized that she had a fantasy to one that did not include her husband.
And I looked at him and I said, no, actually, she's sleeping with me and kicked him out of our bedroom.
This became the general principle that would guide the next 50 years of Lamar's life, kick the men out and sleep with the women.
I felt like my light bulb had finally come on. So I decided that I was a lesbian and told him that I was going to go back to Canada because I was a Canadian citizen. I was going back to Canada. If he wanted to come to Canada, I would facilitate that. But once we got there, he was on his own because I was going to go find the lesbians and tell me about going and finding the lesbians in Canada.
Well, it was perfect. We were staying with some people, some draft resistor people in Canada and on the kitchen table, there's a flyer that somebody's starting a women's center. So the next day I managed to figure out how to get there and I went there. Yeah, it was a tiny little room in the basement of a YWCA with one woman sitting behind a desk Sandy sticker. And I came in. And, you know, she chatted me up a little bit and said, can I help you?
And I said, Yeah, where are the lesbians? She said, Oh, these are the lesbians. They put out this newspaper. This is their names. Well, it was great. These are their names. This is their phone number. They live together, you know, Lady Daddy Dot. And so I called the lesbians, the two the two lesbians. I called them and went over and we all ended up, you know, living in a house together and everything.
Feminised that was happening in the city was coming out of our house. I mean, it was perfect.
The women's movement was just taking shape. And in Toronto, Leymah and her friends were at the center of the action. They were doing everything they could to spread the word.
They started a women's center, a women's newspaper, a women's bookmobile that could travel to women in the countryside.
We were going to liberate women. We were going to change everything for women everywhere. We were like the women, women, women, women, women, women was pouring out of this house all over the place.
There were women who are just beginning to understand their experiences in a new way.
Women started talking about things and giving a vocabulary to something like the patriarchy, got a name.
The patriarchy didn't have a name before that.
Suddenly it had a name. So we're all victims of the patriarchy. Well, great. Let's just tear that fucker down.
And her friends have taken it upon themselves to become the champions of all women feminist vigilantes.
It took a little while for them to realize that not everyone wanted their help.
I remember getting involved in an altercation on the street where there was a man treating a woman that he was with badly, like pushing her around and screaming at her. And, you know, so of course, two of us, it was across the street from my house. So two of us came up, came out and went across the street to help this woman. And of course, we were ready to just deck him, but we didn't do that.
We just we were using our mouths. As soon as we started doing that, the woman started defending him. Oh, he didn't mean it. Oh, he didn't. Oh, no, it's OK. We're OK. You know, we went after him and she defended him. And in that moment, I could see it. I thought, well, why am I doing this? All of this? Why am I doing this?
What if she'd been going about this all wrong? Leymah wondered, what if instead of trying to rebuild the whole world, she should build a new world of her own?
You know, at some point we got tired of. Trying to change everything for everybody else and decided that we would actually change things for ourselves, which is when we became separatists.
They weren't the only ones. By the late 1970s, all over North America, women were buying up land and establishing rural outposts of the matriarchy, trying to build self-sustaining communities without men. Sometimes they didn't even allow male children lesbian separatism with a political stance. You didn't necessarily have to sleep with women to join up. You just had to believe that life would be better without men today. This sounds like pretty rigid gender essentialism, but at the time, Lahmar says it just felt liberating.
For a while, she was one of the women living off the land. Her friends pooled their money and bought a farm, but they lived together and gardened. But then another woman she knew returned from a road trip with a better idea.
Instead of living with some women on one patch of land, why not hit the road and visit all the women on all the women's land? They hit the road with seven women in five vans. Each van had a travel fund divvying up the money that one woman had gotten when she divorced her husband and sold her house. They traveled light, but in style.
My van was this big green step van that had no windows on the sides. It had a couple of windows in the back. It had a skylight that you couldn't tell. It had a skylight. So it was very bright inside. I built furniture for it. I did tongue and groove cedar siding on the walls, and I had a beautiful thick Persian carpet from an aunt who had died that was on the floor. So from the outside, it looked kind of like an army vehicle, though inside it was a whole beautiful place.
It was a beautiful place.
They drove from British Columbia to Texas, from Florida to Arizona, a varying pack of van dwelling women crisscrossing the continent. They'd all shaved their heads. You could tell they were a group, but they still needed some way to announce themselves. They needed a name there.
We were in this van being Dykes, traveling around from women's land to women's land.
And I started laughing one day and I thought, Oh, we're Vandyke's, hello, we're the Vandyke's. And I thought it was funny.
They all adopted Van Dyke Road names Sky, Van Dyke, Thawne Van Dyke, Brooke Van Dyke.
And we rode a Van Dyke Manifesto and we wrote the Van Dyke recruiting song. And would you sing it? All right. I will sing you the song. But but you have to know that these are the things that we did because we were traveling in a van that did not have a radio. OK, duly noted.
Would be Vandyke's. Bring us your dreams. Make them the clearest that they've ever been. Give us some signs like nickels in dollars and tell us that it's just a matter of hours till we have land in the sun with killer dykes. They're all having real fun plant and grains and hoe and beans. Please turn on and cook up some schemes.
They were devising a new kind of social unit, a traveling matriarchy, and that meant coming up with their own social norms, their own code of conduct.
We didn't speak to men unless they were waiters or car mechanics, but if men just tried to talk to us, you know, and be friendly with us or anything, we just pretended like they weren't there. We didn't see them. We ignored them.
Once you made exceptions for waiters and car mechanics, this turned out to be a surprisingly easy rule to follow. Lamar, I remember seeing its power in action once while she was staying with some other separatists in Florida.
I was sitting in their apartment, if you can call it that. I was in their apartment and there was a knock on the door and Martha opened the door. And this guy, this big lump was standing there and she stood there looking at him. And her partner yelled from the other room, Who is it? Who's at the door? And Martha stood there looking at him and said, No one. There's no one here. What did he do?
He didn't know what to do.
I mean, he just he he's like, well, you know, I thought, wow, look at that.
And while you were traveling, like at that point, did you think that you would manage never to speak to men again?
Well, it was a hope. It wasn't very no, it wasn't very realistic. I knew that we were going to have to speak to men, but I was going to do it for as long as I could get away with it because it was relief.
As they travel, they mapped out the world they wanted to live in at night. They'd sit around a campfire and talk about what it would look like.
We just thought everybody should be able to do whatever they wanted to do. And we thought that monogamy was something that had been devised by men to control women because men. We're certainly not monogamous, there were all kinds of obligations they wanted to do away with, we didn't think that women should have should be in charge of taking care of children. And we didn't think women should be in charge of taking care of pets. The whole thing of women taking care of other creatures.
We wanted to do away with that. We wanted women to take care of themselves and each other.
The plan was to go to Mexico, sit on top of a pyramid and consider their next moves from there. And in Mexico, the Vandyke's found what seemed like a promised land.
We would spend the day sitting in the water because there was a little a little cove there and we would get in the water and we would just be these little heads bobbing in the water. And every now and then we'd have a discussion about who was going to get out of the water to go and get us some food. It was good. It was really good. They thought they'd stick around for a while, but then the police showed up and just took us away.
So we were in jail and I said, why are we here? And one guy said in Spanish, he said, too many kisses on the street. I thought, oh, we're here because we're lesbians, OK?
They hadn't managed to escape the patriarchy entirely. The police gave them 10 days to leave Mexico. And after that, they started to lose their collective sense of direction.
I was ready for it to fall apart when it fell apart.
Small grievances about money and spending became big ones. Lamar had at this point slept with most of the rest of the women and even a non monogamous lesbian utopia. The power dynamics weren't easy. The group split up and Lamar headed north. She was sick of her friends, but not sick of the road. And then my van broke down in Seattle and it would not be fixed. It would not be fixed. I took it to a dealership. I, I had all the dyke mechanics work on it.
I did everything I could. But circumstances deemed that I was, in fact to stay here and to live here for the next, you know, one hundred and fifty years approximately give or take. Yeah. Yeah. Over the next hundred and fifty years, give or take.
Separatism lost purchase as a cultural force.
A new generation of queer activists was coming of age activists who weren't interested in shoring up binaries, who wanted to tear all that down to. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Lamar opened a tattoo shop where she did her best to avoid interacting with men. Eventually, though, she found herself in need of a new tattoo artist. She looked and looked, and finally a friend came in with a name with just one catch.
It was a man is a really good tattoo artist and I think you'd really like him.
I'm like, Yeah, yeah, yeah. Lamar had no intention of hiring a man, but her friend insisted he was gay in that count for something. Reluctantly, Lahmar agreed to a meeting this was going to be our first real conversation with a man in years.
So he came in and it turned out, of course, that he he was perfect. It was perfect. He was like a male version of me. He was a drag queen at night and he made clothes and he did a lot of things besides tattooing.
That was a breakthrough. He was he was my breakthrough because he was interesting. He is he is still interesting.
Back when Mama first bought her van in the 70s, it was a moment for radical plans and crazy dreams. All kinds of people had all kinds of big ideas for reinventing the world.
I didn't realize those sorts of changes were going to take as long as it takes. I thought I was going to change things, change things change, things boom done. Everybody's going to live happily ever after. I didn't realize what I know now, which is it takes an enormous amount of energy from an incredibly huge group of people to facilitate the smallest change. Do you think you still would have thrown everything, committed everything in the same way if you knew how long it was going to take?
Yeah, I would not. All the changes that Lamarr and her friends hoped for became a reality, but some of them did more than 40 years later, a women's shelter in Toronto that they helped start is still going strong. And Lamar was changed to she became a different person. In fact, after she'd left her van behind, she made her name change illegal. She's now officially Lamar Van Dyke. How do you look back on your time as a Van Dyke?
That's palpable. Ugly. I mean, it was freedom. It was freedom, freedom, freedom. It was freedom for men, freedom from society, freedom from everything. I was just out there roaming around with my button turned on to spontaneous.
And I love that. Before we sign off, I've got some news, which is that we've decided to end the show at the end of this year. This wasn't an easy choice. Making this podcast has been amazing. But as you may have intuited from episodes about stuff like anxiety and quitting and new jobs, I've been thinking a lot about the future lately.
And I've realized that as much as I've loved making this show, what I want to do in the long run is right. And if that's what I want to do, eventually I have to commit and actually do it. So at the beginning of next year, I'll be heading back to the Cut and New York magazine to be a writer.
Getting dropped into the world of podcasts last year felt like a real moment of totally unexpected, totally serendipitous discovery, getting a chance to work with the insanely talented women of Gimblett on a project unlike anything I'd done before. And one of the things that's been craziest to me has been hearing from our listeners. I didn't realize going into this the kind of relationship that develops when you're talking and people are tuning in every week. I'm always amazed. And we'll check our voicemail and hear the intimate, funny, heartbreaking, bizarre messages you guys have left for us.
I always felt flattered, not just that you were listening, but that you were trusting us with your stories. So thank you all. Next week will be coming to you with our final episode of The Cut on Tuesdays. But this isn't the last you'll be hearing from the cut or gimlet. We're both cooking up new audio projects next year and we'll tell you about them here. So stay subscribed to hear what we do next.
And for now, that's it for this week's show. We'll see you next Tuesday. The cut on Tuesdays is produced by Sarah McVee and Kate Parkinson Morgan, our senior producer, is Kimie Regular or edited by Lynn Levy and Stella Bagby. Special thanks to Eilis O'Neill, Nick at Light Rail Studios and the team at Glide Memorial Church who helped us get in touch with Betty. And if you want to learn more about the Vandyke's, check out the 2009 New Yorker article Lesbian Nation by Ariel Levy.
It's fantastic. Mixing is by Emma Mongar. Our music is by Hayley Shaw, Emma Mongar and Peter Leonard. Our theme song is played right by Sylvan Esso. The Cat on Tuesdays is a production of Gimblett Media and the.