12 February 2013
R.I.P Pauly Schermerhorn
It was 1995, maybe 1996, and my roommate at the time came home one day and said "I met this really cool old raver guy at the square today. He's like sixty years old. Can he come stay with us?"
"Are you insane?!" I asked "You want to let some creepy old guy, who you just met on the street, come live with us?"
"Just wait until you meet him. You'll see."
Pauly Schermerhorn moved in with us the next day, and would live with me whenever he landed in Portland over the following 8 or 9 years. Pauly was LOVE personified...in the shape of a FABULOUS filipino drag-queen from Memphis.
He'd show up on my doorstep twice a year with about 10 small bags/suitcases: 2 of them might contain regular clothes, but the rest contained a wondrous assortment of costumes, decorative odds and ends, multiple pairs of platform shoes, and the elaborate head-dresses that he often wore to parties.
Oh, and there was always the one bag full of kitchen gadgets.
My mom always used to tell me that when Pauly was staying with me, she didn’t worry about me. Pauly was like a second mom--- he taught me how to walk in heels, talked with me about boys, always made sure I was well-fed, and that I felt loved and cared-for.
I have many fond memories of coming home from a night out, and Pauly wandering out
“Do you want something to eat?”. He’d whip up some salad rolls with home-made peanut sauce, and sit with me.
“It’s bad for the soul, to eat alone” he’d say. And he’d tell me stories as I ate.
He’d tell me stories about Memphis, about his family and “his kids”. He was a nomad with a network of friends spanning the entire country, and he would spend his year travelling-- city to city, party to party. High on life and LOVE, he’d dance circles around kids half his age and younger. Come to think of it, I never really knew how old Pauly was. He told me he was 58 when I met him and 10-12 years later when asked his age, he would give the same response.
While Pauly was never able to sell me on the whole “rave scene” thing, the love and acceptance he lived and emanated, managed to transcended the obnoxious music, the horrible pants, and my own innate cynicism. I was affectionately granted the title of “Honorary Raver”. Over the years I housed a lot of DJ’s and club kids--- he almost always travelled with some cute boy or another-- all were welcomed into my home. And all of us, “his kids”, navigated the rocky emotional terrain of our late teens and twenties (even into our thirties), guided by his unassuming embodiment of love, joy, wisdom, and generosity.
*Though there is a part of me that is absolutely heart-broken right now, there's another part of me that thinks: of course on Fat Tuesday--- some fabulous party was callin' your name. And I can picture you in all your fabulous glittery glory, dancing with a smile on your face.