In the Netherlands and Europe on May 4th the victims of World War II are commemorated with a Day of Remembrance. At the Amsterdam Homomonument a special ceremony is held to pay tribute to gay and lesbian victims of Nazi persecution, as well as those who have suffered discrimination in any form, worldwide, since the war.
In April 2000 I took a train to Sachsenhausen, a Holocaust memorial site just north of Berlin, to view an exhibition by the Schwules Museum about the persecution of homosexuals during the Nazi regime. The program I made for the Radio Netherlands series Aural Tapestry was honored with the 2001 Seigenthaler Excellence in Audio Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in Washington DC.
Time to begin again.
It’s been ten days since I arrived at my brother’s place in the wooded foothills of western Maine.
Two weeks since I left Amsterdam for my now annual summer retreat.
Four months since I posted a piece on this blog recapping last year.
Twenty-nine years since I fled New York City for Europe.
Twenty-nine years ago to the day, in fact.
I couldn’t help but smile at year’s end when the Arts section of the New York Times published an essay by James Franco called The Meanings of the Selfie. It followed a November announcement by Oxford Dictionaries that selfie was their international Word of the Year 2013. Old news now, with the lightning speed of the information highway. But together the stories had a full-circle resonance for me. I began the year with a determination to pave new paths in social media. And almost everywhere I turned, James Franco popped up waving a checkered flag.
First thing I learned at Bouchercon? I was pronouncing it wrong. I assumed the name was from the French boucher, or butcher. A bit gruesome, if not inappropriate for a convention devoted to crime fiction. But, no. It rhymes with voucher. Bouchercon. Still doesn’t sound quite right. (Many years ago when I was a newsreader for Radio Netherlands, I received a letter from a listener in Seattle: “Mr. Swatling, why do you always adopt a French intonation whenever uncertain of the correct pronunciation? It is increasingly annoying. If you don’t know, you should ask someone who does!”)
Bouchercon is the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention. All you need to know about sci-fi editor and mystery writer Anthony Boucher is in a tribute essay by William F. Nolan. But a couple things caught my attention. He was active in college theatre, wrote book reviews for newspapers, and worked in radio for several years. Mr. Boucher and I have a fair amount in common. At Bouchercon I discovered many crime fiction authors had backgrounds in theatre and/or journalism. Me, too.
Amsterdam turned gay overnight. That’s what happened in 1998 when 250,000 gay and lesbian athletes and fans descended on a city with a population of only 720,000 in one fell swoop. Not only was it the first time the Gay Games were held outside North America, Amsterdam was the smallest city thus far to host the Games. So for eight days packed with countless events the European capital was clearly, and never more visibly, the Gay Capital of the World. It was unprecedented in every way.