The Amazon Trail: Cheeseburgers In Paradise: Cate Culpepper 1957 – 2014
Author Cate Culpepper was friends with just about everyone in her life. Our friendship began in 2006, when we met in Olympia, Washington for a signing. In 2007 my sweetheart-to-be and I visited Cate’s hotel room at the Golden Crown Literary Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Cate was wearing over-sized, faux-furred brown bear slippers, a vision I will never forget — and never allowed her to forget.
I have a plethora of words to describe this loving, lovable, talented, empathetic, funny, irreverent, raunchy, generous lesbian storyteller and counselor. Those who read her Facebook page or her books will see evidence of all of this.
She earned a living working with street kids, got a masters’ degree so she could earn bottom dollar wages doing it. The good karma she accrued in this life will surely propel her to a long, happy and fruitful next-time-around.
Cate’s friend Cheryl Craig said this: ”She was one of the most courageous people I have met. Onward she goes to bring her wisdom heart and joy to many.”
Friend and author Gill McKnight said, of the day Cate died, “It was a long, hard Saturday and I had to do some little thing to mark her bravery and honesty. I went down to the little church by the harbour, the one the fishermen use, and lit a candle for her. It’s Greek Orthodox and Cate would have loved the cool, dark interior with its gilt iconography and the smell of stale incense. I always thought one day I could lure her over here for a look-see at my island. To my mind she’s just arrived. I’m talking to her all the time.”
Rather than repeat the many tributes to Cate, like Victoria Brownworth’s at Lambda Literary, let me share a bit of Cate and her extraordinary imagination to demonstrate what the world has lost.
Cate the film critic days before she died:
“I ate a pizza with green peppers and black olives and then a big dish of Ben & Jerrys and I watched Hunger Games. It was good! Jennifer Laurence makes a lot of faces in it.”
Cate the political pundit/landscape designer on the water feature that came with our new home:
“Top o’ the evening. Please ask Elaine to take a picture of the now-clean ugly cement carp vomiting water. This feature alone should endear your home in your heart — how many of us get ugly vomiting cement carps? Name it Sarah Palin.”
Cate the literary critic upon news that I plan to memorialize her and her dog in my next book:
“Don’t forget that Cullie Culpepper and Kirby move in with you at the beginning of Rainbow Gap. I want that very top room so I can pelt you with water balloons.”
Cate the gourmet, a day after we dropped off cheeseburgers and fries on our way out of Seattle:
“I’m still sitting here with my no more fries, and I’ve been holding the empty styrofoam container for 23 hours now. Where are you!?”
Cate on her beloved mother who was a Rolfing practitioner:
“I wish my mom could have worked on you. I never had the full ten sessions, but Mom happily dug her ELBOW or her FIST into any sore muscles I had to hone her skills. I always assumed she was good, but I was amazed at the small crowd at her memorial service — folks I’d never met, Mom’s clients. They said wonderful things.”
Cate the generous, knowing she didn’t have long to live, emptied her life savings, took her sister and their childhood friend on a cruise to Alaska to cushion the blow of her bad news.
Always deflecting her troubles, this was Cate-the-hard-up regarding a reading at which we were expected to bring our books to sell:
“Honey, I’m saving up now for the gas and hotel — can’t afford to pre-purchase my books, but I’ll bring whatever spares I have. Can I pretend I wrote your books? I do all the time anyway.”
Cate the Amazon Dyke:
“Tell me when, just one time, I have been thought about with clean thoughts? You know I inspire ravening sexual fantasies. Well, in butches I inspire terrible feelings of inadequacy, by comparison.”
Cate the animal lover when I asked how she’d like people to honor her in lieu of flowers:
“Ooh, yeah, I like the ‘in loo of flowers option!’ I’d love it if folks wanted to donate to any agency or program dedicated to protecting and healing abused animals. Like DAWGS! But okay, cats too.”
Cate, on our surgeries:
“I’m afraid I heard from my ex-uterus. She has not been able to locate your left knee. She’s mumbling something about some renegade kneecap down in hell that keeps smashing into the testicles of Republicans. You’re going to have to hop around on one leg up there, but your first ex-knee is living the life we all have dreamed of.”
In response to a photo we sent of the Cate Memorial on our coffee table:
“This is so cool!! I need to put you two in charge of the many theme parks and cathedrals sure to arise in my honor in coming years. You make me look good! SMOOCH.”
On the nomination of her eighth and final book, Windigo Thrall, for a Lambda Literary Award.
“I think if Windigo wins a Lammy it will be a sign of end-times, globally, or the miraculous beginning of a new age.”
She then instructed Bold Strokes Books author and editor Shelley Thrasher, Bold Strokes Books Consulting Publicist Connie Ward, my sweetheart and myself to accept another award, from The Golden Crown Literary Society, if her book should win a Goldie. Cate provided us with the following script.
Evening, ladies and also Lee –
I love that I’m planning an acceptance speech for a book that hasn’t even been shortlisted yet. But Nurse Connie asked if I could expand last year’s speech, the one I foisted on poor Lainie, to include all four of you. Should my epic masterpiece win, and if you’re in a hammy mood that night in New Orleans, this might be fun.
Lainie, Lee, Shelley, and Connie walk to podium.
Lee and Shelley, as authors, are obviously very unhappy about doing this. They slouch along like sulking children, and Lainie and Connie have to urge them along with subtle pushes.
Once assembled on stage, Lainie pulls a folded piece of paper from her pocket (or cleavage) and begins to read.
LAINIE: Cate Culpepper is, hands-down, the greatest lesbian writer who ever lived.
Lainie hands paper to Lee, who just glares at her.
LAINIE: Well, it’s not my fault! (Shakes paper at Lee.) I didn’t write this dreck!
LEE takes the paper and reads, begrudgingly: I am a writer today only because of Cate Culpepper’s genius. Cate Culpepper taught me everything I know about storytelling. Were it not for Cate Culpepper . . . oh for fuck’s sake.
Lee slaps the paper against Shelley’s chest in disgust. At Connie’s insistence, Shelley sighs deeply and reads.
SHELLEY: What’s more, Cate Culpepper is easily the sexiest woman who ever lived. I’ve never known such a sexually desirable woman as Cate Culpepper. (Connie folds her arms, jealous.) Those hypnotic eyes, those ruby lips, those two taut, perky little breasts –
CONNIE snatches paper away from Shelley and reads, (sincerely): Cate thanks Cindy Cresap and Bold Strokes Books, and she sends her love to her GCLS family.
Shelley responded: “Absolutely nuts, and I love it all. I’ll do my hammy best to pay homage to the most revered writer in the history of lesbian literature.”
My sweetheart responded: I will rock my cleavage in homage to Cate and in rhythm to the amazon drums that Cate will endeavor to thrum over the auditorium to the bewilderment of those thousands attending.
Connie and I maintained a butch stoicism.
Cate, in response to our willingness to do this: “Woo-hoo!!! Thank you so much for everything, Lainie, especially the image of you whipping that piece of paper out of your cleavage! You know I’ll be watching you guys and giggling, were I not too butch to giggle. I love you. Hee hee hee hee! My work here is done.” C.
Copyright Lee Lynch 2014
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