His name is Billy Martin, but to the world he's better known as the incredibly talented author Poppy Z Brite. To me he's just my Billy. You can't live in New Orleans without hearing his name. He is as much an icon of this city as crawfish and Mardi Gras beads.
When we first met four years ago, he was just this guy. I did not fall in love with his work or his reputation. In fact for the first 5 weeks or so, I had no clue who he was other than this really awesome person that I had just met and fallen instantly in love with.
At that time my life was in a major transition. I was fiercely dissatisfied with my career as a photographer. I had never been in it for the camera. I could care less for the technical details of how a camera worked and learning about the technology of the field. I was in it for the art. I remember once that a young man wanted to talk to me because he loved my work and wanted to learn from me. I knew in the first five minutes that he thought I had a clue about the technical aspects of my work. I sadly let him down quickly by saying I hadn't a freaking clue about most of the things he was asking. He seemed at a loss and said with a bit of accusation "how can you make great photos then? Do you photoshop everything?". These were fighting words to me. I was NEVER a photoshopper. In fact, I'd never even used the program. I tried to explain to him that I approached the craft from an artists perspective and that great photos first came from how you saw the world and captured it with your lens. The conversation lasted another ten minutes or so and he left rather huffily and I never heard another word from him.
But the simple matter of it was, that instead of finding myself released by the art of my camera, instead I found it rather stifling to what I really wanted to accomplish as an artist.
Into this walked Billy Martin. Not long before, Mr Martin had made some drastic changes in his own life. First he retired from writing, also dissatisfied with his chosen work in ways that are better left to him to describe. Second, he was more than dissatisfied with his gender. He'd begun the world as a "she", and it absolutely never fit who he really was. Just prior to us meeting, he had made the most important decision of his life to begin the process of transition and let his body come into sync with the male his chemistry and mind always knew he was.
So here are these two middle aged, intensely creative people colliding and falling head over heals in love with each other. It was the best moment of my life.
With that love and with the encouragement he gave me, I suddenly set the camera aside and with a rush of creative adrenalin and absolutely no technical knowledge, I became a true artist. It was almost as if a dam burst in me and after a few cautious attempts at painting, I fell headlong into a creative maelstrom of which I hold Billy Martin responsible. He pushed me!
But what he forgot to do was let go when he pushed and he came tumbling into the creative abyss with me. The "once great author" suddenly remembered that writing is just one branch of a creative process that flows within us all. His came out with the written word but just as easily translated into this vastly amazing artist who (while he would tell it differently) could create works of art that set the imagination on fire.
I wont lie and say that the years since we met have all been joyful. They have not. They have had there share of hardship and learning and reeducating us both in things we thought we'd understood long ago. But not once in that time have we lost the joy of our finding each other, or the joy of creating. He's taught me more in the strength and resolve he has to become who he really wants to be and in turn made me a better person and a better artist for it.
As I said at the beginning of this little story, my two great passions in life "Art" and Billy Martin" are linked together so tightly that if I am going to acknowledge the importance of one, I must also acknowledge the importance of the other. They both make my spirit soar and my creativity explode.
I hope you have passions in your own lives because we all need them in order to step out of the mundane and into the magic of life.
|Billy Martin on the right, big bald Grey Cross on the left|