Here Comes the Sun

I have not written in almost a month.

I haven't known what to say.
I wake up on Monday and I'm ok.
I wake up on Tuesday and all is lost.
I wake up on Wednesday and I don't know what to do anymore and I'm scared and freaking out.
I wake up on Thursday and I've found a solution and I wake up on Friday and everything has disintegrated.

17 days into 2016 and it's already been a less than awesome year and I think it's because I am trying to fight against what is so clearly the best decision for me.  It comes back to this neighborhood and this bar - my beloved Blue.



In 2009, we rented the building that Blue is in with the intention of opening a gay bar. Members of the LGBTQ community told us that they didn't want another gay bar - they just wanted a place that was inclusive. So we decided to make a place that was inclusive. One year in and things were not going as well as we had hoped, so we reached out to our customers and asked them what they thought.

They thought Blue was awesome, but that opening a business in a neighborhood without becoming a part of that neighborhood was kind of stupid. So we became a part of our neighborhood.

We started doing community clean-ups. With a church. And then we started a community garden. And then we started a community association. And over the past 6 years I have grown to love this neighborhood fiercely and am so very proud of the work that so many of us have done.


no art.



Art!




More art!





gross.




not gross.



This was gross.



There was too much brush here and some dirty needles and broken glass. But Jerry fixed it.




And then we grew all the things.




I stood up for what we had built with the garden and the clean-ups and I stood up for respecting the diversity of this community and what everyone, regardless of race or economic status, had to contribute and I absolute had very serious disagreements with people because I believe with ALL of my heart that you either stand for something all of the way or you don't stand for anything at all and I believed that this community - the ENTIRE community - was worth fighting for.

But...

Some people don't like it when you stand up to them. And some people don't have the courage to wade into a disagreement with you. And in my case, the people I disagreed with - rather than doing the hard work of resolving our differences - tried to destroy my life and everything I have built here...and they very nearly succeeded. Because they couldn't use my actual actions against me, they just lied. And they lied. And they lied some more. And people believed them. And told other people.

It has been an ugly, ugly thing to experience. And to still experience, since it has not stopped since it began over a year ago. Which is a very long time. In case you were wondering.

And as a result of all of this, I just don't love this neighborhood anymore. It is painful for me to be here. And my "enemies" are one part, but even more than that are the people that I thought were in this fight for a better community with me...but when things got ugly...they just...

...they didn't want to get involved. They didn't know what to do. It was better not to pick sides. It's too much drama. It was better to stay out of it. It was no big deal if they provided an audience for the rumors and gossip and lies, as long as they weren't spreading them....right?

Oh my God, you guys. That part broke my heart more than anything. The silence of so-called friends.



This community is not mine anymore. And I have been trying to force it for the last 6 months and every time I do, the universe and God very clearly tells me, "Nope. This is not for you. Your time here is over."

The final straw with deciding to let go of Blue once and for all was getting a biopsy for a spot that may or may not be skin cancer. Some scary things were learned at the dermatologist and I decided that I just can't be this stressed out all of the time. And for the record, being a small business owner is super stressful, so I'm not going to do it at this level anymore.

This much stress just isn't healthy, you guys.


I thought that even without Blue, I would stay around in this neighborhood and continue to be a part of the garden and the community association...  And then I found out that one of those same neighbors that had engaged in behavior designed to put us out of business had sent someone in under the guise of being a potential buyer. To find out information, so that when we left they could contact our landlord and take over this space that my husband and I worked so very hard to create.

I am so done with this neighborhood, you guys. I'd love to say something eloquent and powerful and poetic here but I'm just kind of...what the hell? Or actually...are you fucking serious?

I am so done struggling to understand why some of the people here do what they do, why they partake in such terrible, hurtful behavior and why people just go along with it because it's better to not make waves then it is to stand up to anyone or for anything or for anyone. I'm done always trying to recover from what they do, or dispel the latest rumor or struggle to re-build what has been lost over the last 12 months.

I'm just done.

The people that engage in this sort of behavior are cowards. They are weak. And I know that they're unhappy and I know that they're scared, but that's not an excuse for what they do to other people. And I don't have to have anything to do with it anymore. I don't want to. I'm exhausted.

In the end, they got what they wanted. They're rid of me. And life will go on and maybe this community will thrive without me and maybe it won't.

But the thing is...I'm so very proud of what I did here. And I can walk away and know that even though it has been so painful and I cried SO much and my husband really wanted me to fight dirty...I never fought dirty. After being accused of so much that I hadn't done, I absolutely wanted to turn around and do every. single. thing. that I had been accused of. If I was going to be punished for it, I might as well do it, right? Because fuck those people. But...it's not me. As angry...as livid...as just...destroyed as I was, I never sunk to that level. Not once.

And I still believe that I am a better person for these experiences. And because of these experiences, I think I have finally found the people I belong with...it is NOT these fine, upstanding citizens. These politicians and powerful business owners and all of the "right" people.

It's the strippers. And the homeless. And the heroin addicts. And the Christians. And the atheists. And the people who kept supporting Blue, no matter what they had heard. The people who heard the very worst things about me and made the decision to ignore what they heard, and actually get to know me.

This has been a soul crushing time...but I'm so very blessed. Because while I loved this community, it never truly loved me back. And when everything fell apart...I found a new community, that loved me when I couldn't love, and who have been patient and kind and vulnerable and honest and supportive and who stand behind what they say and stand for what they believe even when their voices are shaking and all of those things that are so beautiful...well....here they are. I've found them. And I love the crap out of them.




OH! And I have to tell you something about Eugene! So, at the same time I am just completely "what the fuck" all over the place over some people's actions, here comes Eugene...(That's my theme song for him - "Here comes Eugene". It sounds like "Here Comes the Sun.")

Saturday night he came by the bar and let me know that a friend's business was unlocked but that there was no one there. And then, in the freezing cold, he stood guard at the door until someone could come and lock it back up.

So - the guy that people label as crazy, scary, homeless, sketchy, etc. is out here in freezing cold weather protecting the interests of people he barely knows...while the finest, most upstanding citizens on the block are trying to destroy lives, behind closed doors, where no one can see.

All of this darkness...so I can see the light of someone like Eugene.

Life is funny, you guys. And strange. And beautiful.


2 comments:

Joe said...

Hello,

I just wanted to let you know that I greatly apprciate everything you've done to make the neighborhood a better place. My name is Joe and I've been coming to Blue regularly for awhile now and am typically at the Bike Peoria meetings. We haven't really talked much in person but I'm a big fan of your work. I'm so sorry you've had to go through such troubles with fellow members of the community. I'm a bit out of the loop on those kinds of things but I can assure you if there was ever a time I could help I would have been right there with you. I am a bit curious who has been your opposition as I would like to not be supporting their businesses but I understand why you wouldn't name them and respect that you take the high road. From Blue, to the community garden, to your beautiful art, you have done much greater things than any business owner I know of. There are a mass of people hoping that when Blue does change owners it stays the same, though I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out. I am happy for you that your following the path that feels right to you but it saddens me that it may have been guided by outside negative forces. Blue is the coolest/best/most interesting place to hang out in Peoria and we will continue to enjoy it while we can until it's beautiful era ends. The warehouse district is neat and all but when I have friends in town Blue is at the forefront of what I want them to see, it gave me hope for Peoria. Knowing places like it can exist in our city that can seem so "plain Jane" is inspiring. You have done a lot of good for this city and don't let anyone tell you any different. Thank you so much for being you and doing what you do. If there was a Peorian of the year award I would give it to you.

With Love,
Joe Zich

Jessica McGhee said...

Thanks, Joe! That is just...thank you. I appreciate those words so very much. With the exception of a handful of friends, I've been pretty careful not to discuss which businesses have been involved. I hope that, regardless of all of this, all of our customers will continue to support all of the businesses in the neighborhood. Even the ones who are big jerks ;)