wonder • wander
a collection of thoughts, musings, and milestones
This is part 2 of an excerpt from a taped conversation Sparkle and I had in 1995.
She calls me “Jill”—my “Bunny name”.
Click here to read part one.
Linda: For me, it's telling the truth., finding or knowing the truth. For me, truth is so
powerful, freeing, enlightening, and so entertaining. All of those things that I really like.
I think, when the truth is spoken, it hits the air in a whole different way than a lie. It
sounds different, feels different. It smells so much better than bullshit.
I used to tell my kids that the bad thing about lying wasn’t that if you get caught lying
you’ll get in trouble. The bad thing about lying is that it pollutes. You know? A lie goes
out into the room or the air...and it pollutes everything.
Linda: ...it has a kind of sick energy, and it flits around, and pollutes the environment.
And, I'm an environmentalist! A communication environmentalist. I mean, I want to clean
stuff up. Get rid of the lies. In my earliest days, I bordered on being a pathological liar. I felt totally insecure about who I really was and I wanted desperately to be something other than that. So, I invented a more interesting family and a more impressive educational background. I’m almost sure I stopped doing that a long time ago. Maybe not. I’m still trying to prove
something, or do something, or be something more or better than I am—even just in the
eyes of strangers. I’m coming to understand what that's about---that what you start out
wanting to do or prove is always different than—and not necessarily as good as---what
you end up doing or figuring out…That’s my story.
Sparkle: I found out that a lot of my problems, a lot of the reasons that I ended up doing
drugs and alcohol, had a lot to do with the fact that so many people expected so much
from me. Like you said, "Oh, Sparkle, you were always, you know, up there!"
Linda: It's true. You know, you were the beautiful, sparkling, super woman.
No one sparkled like Sparkle.
Sparkle: Right. And it's like, God, I just wanted to take a break from that. I wanted a
breather. I didn't want to have to prove myself to anybody. I didn’t think I had anything
worth proving. Not really. Nothing real. It was so much easier to be down there with
street people drinking wine under the bridge and not having, you know, not having to
prove myself or impress the other homeless people because, hey, I was just there under
the bridge drinking wine just like them. I didn't ask them if they had once been a
congressional candidate or did they ever do real estate... And they never asked me
anything like that. So, they didn't expect anything. They didn't expect anything from me.
And I could cruise I could just take it easy. I could do nothing. I didn't have to do anything.
Or be anything. Or show up all Sparkle-like.
Linda: (imitating a pretentious voice) "Oh, Sparkle, your outfit is adorable! We must have
Sparkle: Right. and nobody would say, “Gee, what are you doing with yourself these days?”
Sparkle: And no one saw me or looked at me like, (imitating a haughty voice) “Gee, isn't
it a shame? Remember what she used to be?” And especially I didn’t want to see you, Jill.
I didn’t want to see you. Because when I saw you—you, of all people, knew what I could do.
So, I couldn't see you. Because then, geez, you know, I'd be really depressed for days after that, Jill. You know? And, now I don't feel that way, you know. Now I don't feel that way at all.
"I didn't want to have to prove myself to anybody. I didn’t think I had anything worth proving. Not really. Nothing real. It was so much easier to be down there with street people drinking wine under the bridge and not having, you know, not having to prove myself or impress the other homeless people because, hey, I was just there under the bridge drinking wine just like them.
Linda: Getting past the shame…it's important. So, like your life, your today life, is
extremely important. And being able to see that, know that, and talk about it…well,
that’s…important…that’s a breakthrough.
Sparkle: Now, I don't feel ashamed of telling anyone what I went through, right? When I
was going through it, I was ashamed. You know, because I knew that people would
think less of me, and a lot of them did.
Linda: Well, yeah.
Sparkle: I think a lot of it, too, was fear that that's all that would happen, fear that they'd
seen other people who had gone in that direction and never pulled out. And they saw
that maybe that was going to happen to me.
Linda: Yeah, where is people’s optimism about others! Also, there's this whole personal
insecurity thing that everybody has, and sometimes, bless our silly hearts, when
something bad happens to someone else, you feel a little more secure about yourself.
Sparkle Yeah. That's right. (imitating a self-righteous person) At least that didn’t happen
Linda: You know (imitating another “superior-acting” person)“…I may not have been as
beautiful as Sparkle…
Sparkle: (finishing the sentence)...but boy I'm sure not under a bridge.
Right. You know, I found that attitude even in rehab centers, Jill. OK? Like, hey, I might
be an alcoholic, but I never …blah, blah. Or I might be an alcoholic, but I never did drugs.
And I would just look them right in the face. Now I can look them right in the face
and say, “Oh, your addiction is better than mine? You know, this is ridiculous. We're all here together and we've all got something to offer to everybody else that's here.”
We both fall silent…
Sparkle: Jill, you know, I went from being a Bunny to being a bag lady--and back.
Linda: Yeah! You know, the bag lady thing has a weird sort of appeal to me…
Sparkle: Ha! It may not be something you would want to experience in your life.
Linda: Well, I did want to! I do want to---like I said, in a weird way. I wanted to experience it
---but as a spy.
Sparkle: Oh, yeah. Not really living it.
Linda: I wanted to dress like a bag lady.
Sparkle: Yeah, yeah, and pretend you were one, and see what it was like. But see, then
you could go home at the end of the day and take a bath and call up and have pizza
ordered in, or whatever.
Linda: Exactly. And I could tell people about the streets...
Sparkle: And you would never know, Jill. You would never really know what it was like--
unless you were out there and you could not take a bath.
Sparkle: Because you wouldn’t have people say, well, “why don't you just go and get a
job and better yourself?” Because, how can you get a job if you fucking can't take a
bath? And you can't iron your clothes? And then, if you do get it together and you go to
a shelter, and you iron your clothes, and you get a meal in you so you're not shaking so
badly, and you get a shower and you're clean and your clothes are pressed and you're
presentable to go for a job and you go out for a job interview and they say, "Yes, we
might have something. Where can we call you tomorrow?"
"... Because you wouldn’t have people say, well, “why don't you just go and get a job and better yourself?” Because, how can you get a job if you fucking can't take a bath? And you can't iron your clothes?"
Linda: And you can't ...?
Sparkle: No, you they can’t call you. You don't have a phone! No, they can't call the
shelter. That' not allowed. Shelters aren';t allowed to take calls like that. You're not
allowed to give the shelter as a phone number. And if you do, then you're immediately
rejected for the next person that';s going to come in who has a home and has to pay
bills. Why are they going to hire some slob from off the street who obviously just wants the money to go and get a bottle of wine? And will probably just quit on them or come in
Sparkle: And that's their immediate impression. They're not going to give somebody a
job if they think that. So, how is that person ever going to better themselves when they
need that job so they can stop drinking? So, they don’t stop drinking because of the position they're in, and they can't get out of the position they're in, because people think they're drinking? And they won't give them a chance to stop. Drinking is all they have.
Linda: A horrible Catch-22.
Sparkle: It is. You know, it really is. And people are very, very, you know, they're living in
these gilded ivory towers, looking down, thinking that they're safe. When it can happen
to anybody, Jill. I know. Because it happened to me.
Sparkle: And I've lived in mansions and had limousines and had drivers and had my
own Mercedes and all that stuff too. And I ended up under a bridge, with not even a
sleeping bag. You know, it can happen to anybody.
"I've lived in mansions and had limousines and had drivers and had my own Mercedes and all that stuff too. And I ended up under a bridge, with not even a sleeping bag. You know, it can happen to anybody."
Wonder & Wander
A collection of thoughts, musings, and milestones from author, wonderer, and wanderer, Linda Durham.
Copyright © Linda Durham | Site Design by Angulo Marketing & Design
Linda Durham is a human rights advocate, adventurer, author of Still Moving, The Trans-Siberian Railway Journey, An Art and Friendship Project, and a Sixties Manhattan Playboy Bunny. She is the founder and director of Santa Fe's Wonder Institute, which sponsors art exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and salons focused on discovering and implementing creative solutions to contemporary social and cultural issues. For more than three decades, Durham promoted New Mexico-based artists as the hands-on owner of contemporary art galleries in Santa Fe and New York.