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It was in the deep afternoon. The Hollywood sunset lingered in rust colors on the horizon. I was sitting in my closet with a window, on a mattress. I had a palm tree to look at for inspiration; still an exotic sight for an ex-New Yorker. I had a small homemade wood table over my lap, with my electric typewriter on top. My friends, Joan and Janet (my two new best friends) and Marcy, my very first friend in California, sitting in my bachelor flat thinking … imagining, watching the changing sky.
I didn’t know how much I had missed my city until I stepped into it again. It happened as I got out of my brother's car in front of my hotel, the Csaszar Hotel, next to Lukacs Furdo, the thermal baths.
The Lukacs Furdo had just been renovated. I paused to look at the new crop of Hungarian youth: slim tight little bodies shivering before they jump into the warm mineral waters. These are real virgin waters, fresh up from over a thousand feet below, for the first time in the existence of the planet earth.
After I have opened my candle shop/bookstore the Feminist Wicca, in 1974 things started to change. We were located on Lincoln Blvd., which was the main road to the L.A. Airport. There was a lot of foot traffic as well as cars. The word “feminist” on our marquee proudly declaring our controversial political affiliation to the public.
The store was started on a shoestring, back then you could start a business by simply renting the space. I invested 300 dollars. Janet and Annu the same , so we had some money left over to buy a few supplies. In the beginning our shelves were empty.
The inspiration for creating a new world, was fueled by the deep disgust people felt for the wars which the USA conducted. We started seeing Nam Vets coming home injured, in mind and body. Some Vets were begging on the streets. Others committed suicide, or became murderers of their own families. Some, became dealers of the most potent pot: the Thai stick, or heroin.
Times were turbulent; there was a lot of energy in the air. It was time for introspection and change, which led us to the question,
“What do women want?” We needed everything as women. Equal pay for equal work, which is a clear and monthly reminder that humanity, which we have birthed, values us far less than they do our sons.
I was attending Carol Downer's class on self examination, with my speculum, to detect yeast infections. She told me you don’t need to get expensive drugs to cure it, just use yogurt in the vagina, and that will clear it up.
I thought about it a little and then watched how she prepared the dose of yogurt that she could spoon into my V.
I decided to be first. It was a story that I shared with millions of women, the overpopulation of one bacteria over another, in our lady parts. A common infection; you can get it from men who don’t wash up before sex.
A woman phoned to set up an appointment for a Tarot reading. I gave her an early, 10 am slot. Wrote it down.
Next day I am showing up at the door of the Feminist Wicca and a woman is already waiting for me. People were rarely early for appointments.
I greet her, friendly, open up our door, and as I stepped inside, I was assaulted by the unmistakable stench of cat shit. Cat shit!
“What is this?” I cried out, embarrassed. “I don’t even have a cat!” I started apologizing to the woman, who waited; I felt very weird. “I am sorry, I cannot read in this bad smell” I said. “Plus the fact that I don’t have a cat.” My mind was still searching for how in the world did the cat poop get in the store? “I don’t mind!” said the lady. “I help you clean it up.”
“No, no.” I was now looking for the poop. And then, there it was, underneath my reading chair. A nice little pile of cat shit. I felt the hands of the fates. This was a warning. But of what?? After a little bit more struggling to get out of the appointment, I finally decided that I would only get rid of this client if I just did what she wanted. And she wanted a reading, by me.
I cleaned up the poop. I used Van Van in my water, a strong citrus-smelling liquid, which took the paint off the floor if I dropped it.
I settled down, shaken, and full of strange -smell memories. What are my fates warning me about??
This was the most painful time since I had left New York. Everything I'd learned about the social reality of women, broke my heart, again and again. The faces of incoming casualties from the so-called gender wars, showed up at our humble Women’s Center daily: Ynezes, Marthas, Ceciles-- their faces all banged up, eyes blackened, and personalities broken. To survive without a man was painful, often lethal. Becoming a conscious feminist had its instant punishment from society. This identification with my own gender was overwhelming. Whatever happens to one of us, they said, does happen to us all. Unconsciously, we will soak up more defeat, more humiliation, and our imagination will be stunted by the lack of hope. There was a huge psychic price to be paid for not identifying with men anymore.
Gloria Steinem said:
“The truth will set you free, but first, It will piss you off.“
Every Monday I took the bus to Crenshaw Blvd., spending my time admiring the colorful Lantana in the front yards. They made rich-colored bushes: some crimson red, others white and pink. This plant won my heart.
Once I was at the Women’s Center, I called back the people who had contacted us. Then, staffers gave me chores to do... like filing. Not my forte. I always had to run my mind over the rote of abc, in Hungarian, which wasn’t always the same as the English abc. But I quickly thought about Joyce, our secret FBI informant, who was coming in at ten am. I would just ask her to file; she was good at it.
She loved working with our little group. We never mentioned to her that we knew who she was; we didn’t want to blow the opportunity to have a dedicated worker in our midst. We just didn’t invite her to staff meetings. She did get to type up the minutes, however. That was enough.
Why am I a witch?
By Zsuzsanna E. Budapest
I was born to a witch mother, who happened to be an artist of sacred art, creating simple home altars that the peasants used in their “clean” room; used only on special occasions. We made our living from selling these Madonna’s with child, Triple Goddess altars. Goddess loving, primitive city folk and country folks bought them to pray in front of.
Her art re-inspired an ancient pagan faith. Mother’s sacred art was legendary. Nobody ever bought an image of a male saint or even St. Joseph to pray in front of. When the hardships were upon Hungarians, they turned to the great Mother, our pre-Christian Boldogassznony (Glad Woman).
All this happened during the so called Communist occupation, which lasted many decades. I grew up in a city that was filled with statues of the Goddesses and Dianads. With all the churches we have in Hungary, not one of them is dedicated to Jesus Christ, but they are dedicated to his mother, Goddess Mary and her relatives; St. Ann, St. Kathryn, St. Elizabeth (a homegrown saint), along with St. Margaret.
When I was only 3 years old we were living in the cellar, the Great Below, where we usually kept our coal and wood for the winter. I lived deep underneath our apartment house during WW2.
During the bombings and fighting we had to survive underground with rats and mice. They have a very special smell I never forget. Anyway, here in the midst of chaotic adult life, the frenzy about the bombs made the grown-ups fearful and lost.
I escaped with my mind into the one and only children’s book I owned “The Harom Arva Kis Cica “ The Three Orphan Little Kittens. Of course I have seen this book every day. We grabbed it in the last minute before we all had to move in with coal and woodpile. I read it every day over and over again.
I was surprised that one day I started reading another story from the same book. This new story wasn’t in the book at all. I enjoyed this self-deception, continued making up different stories- the three little kittens grew wings and flew against the evil bombers. They wore special outfits. I realized in my mind I could create new stuff.
The first Women’s Center in Los Angeles was a small house with 3 rooms and a living-room, no kitchen. You could not see it well from the street because it was hidden behind a huge ice machine.
When I first came to staff there on Mondays (Moon Day), I thought I would just learn on the job, which is how everybody had started. Life was a regular teacher for me now.
I walked in, all fresh and filled with optimism. There, I found a woman sitting on the couch. She was looking sternly at the worn beige rug. I respected that, I thought the woman was lost in her thoughts. The phones were both ringing. I picked up one, and put the other on hold. “Hello this is the Women’s Center… may I help you?” The phone exploded with the noises of children on the other end. I had to plug up my other ear to hear the woman speak.