My close friend Suzanne was in town for just a weekend to attend the funeral of our friend John. John had been a surrogate parent for Suzanne for the decade (mid '80s to '90s) she spent based in New York, with side journeys to get married (in St. Paul, 2 years) and live with a crazy dancer-choreographer (Mexico, 1 year). John and his partner Bill were the anchors of a group house in Park Slope in Brooklyn that felt more like a community oasis that you might find in Berkeley. There was a big old grand parlor with fine furniture and china, a formal and informal living room, a study, five bedrooms, a lovely backyard with flowers and chairs and a water sculpture, and what Suzanne used to call the most restful bathroom in the world. It wasn't a fancy bathroom; just spare with a claw-foot tub, a couple of plants, and a simple chair for clothes and towels. With the window onto the back and its view of the Manhattan skyline, it presaged spreads from something like Living Simply a decade later. But the house also gave off a sense of some long-lost Brooklyn townhouse lifestyle, which John and Bill played up with fancy dinner parties, lavish Christmas feasts with evergreen boughs and roaring fires and sherry and a big tree in the front bay window like some vision of genteel urban holiday of yore. For awhile they ran a salon in the parlor where their wide circle of friends performed Sunday afternoons and we all had wine and snacks. Suzanne was the only of their ever-rotating group of young artist roommates who lived on the top floor with them, in two tiny rooms facing one another across a hallway. I loved the severe spartan-ness of Suzanne's rooms; the front one with just a round table for writing and a chair, the back with a mattress and soft colorful fabrics. The house was a sanctuary for me. We spent hours drinking red wine and drawing tarot cards, talking about the dance world and our big plans. We rented foreign films and watched them in Bill's study as he flitted in and out. I'd come over and sit in the garden, even if Suzanne wasn't around and John or Bill might bring out iced tea. We made dinners in the big kitchen or joined other housemates and all ate together. When I made a large site-specific piece for Prospect Park with like 15 dancers, all in white, and it drizzled and everyone was cold and muddy, we all went to the house and had cheese and wine and laughter while our clothes washed and dried right there. I recently ran into a friend who had been in that piece and she commented specifically on how wonderful and cosy that after-party had been.
It seemed like everyone eventually came through the house; I myself had been there for an after-performance party before I even met Suzanne, one of Sara's pieces (Coney Island, maybe?). Later, Suzanne and I and Nathan would rehearse (i.e. lie around on the floor and stretch and talk) in an empty front bedroom, by candlelight,. John and Bill, after fifteen or so years, and tired of maintaining a large, rundown house and the instability of rotating housemates, lucked into a condo right on Prospect Park. I'd been there just last year when Suzanne came from Switzerland with her partner and two daughters and stayed with them. We had another lovely dinner party and John, who was often tired and rundown, was sparkling and funny and kind, as always. The funeral was a big Catholic Mass. John was not very old, really, just 15 or so years older than I. In fact, he must have been my age when we met. How quickly life passes, and how important the quotidian sharing of small experiences, often what is remembered as just the background of larger ambitions and personal dramas. I really have not felt so at home, so known and welcomed, as I did when Suzanne and I were the closest of friends and John and Bill her fond American family.