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Franklin in his handmade house

Franklin in his handmade house

Franklin's photo of Jean Michel

Franklin's photo of Jean Michel

After the houses were built, Franklin never went long without making Art – changing and playing with his surroundings. He did a large number of strange and wonderful multiple exposure Polaroid photos during this time. Below is one, a portrait of Jean Michel – in his various surroundings. I hope to get photo’s to post of an incredible New Mexico series Franklin carved in a traditional style, hand carved wooden Cristos on the Cross. Except there was a subtle -oh so subtle – shape change in the robes -X rated Cristos .

Jean Michel meanwhile was cooking for us all the wonderful memories of his childhood of French cooking. French pastry! even .

The whole Coc au Vin thing was a larger event. At a certain time in everyone’s story who has ever raised chickens with roosters -the aging roosters go crazy -later I extrapolated from farm life experiences that all male animals go crazy eventually! So the aging roosters start trying to kill you at some point with their terrible spurs.

Hence the wonderful French recipe: Get an old Rooster – easy ,almost anyone around has an old rooster that they’d give up for your stew pot for nothing more than the sheer pleasure of revenge.Next pour in a gallon of burgundy little by little -on the stove for a week until the rooster is truly tender. Add a few things . Next cover and bake in a wonderful French pie crust and serve. Viola!

Jean Michel decided he wanted to make Camembert , so he got on the phone to the place in Wisconsin which was known to make it. We were there and heard how it went. The one he got says ” Ahloo!” Hello in French! the rest of the conversation was in French – and Jean Michel ended up with the bacterial starter to make Camembert. Then of course he bought some Guernsey cows and built a barns and a cheese shed and made cheese. What I loved was the amazing sight of Jean Michel going off to sell cheese to chic places in Santa Fe wearing carelessly cut off leather trousers, cut outrageously,scandalously short.

Franklin"s pig down hill from his house

Franklin"s pig down hill from his house

Whenever the Camembert didn’t sell out Jean Michel would take it back and add fresh cream and call it Camembert spread. When ever that didn’t sell it got herbs mixed in , each time it increased in price. When it was too far gone even for Jean Michel he gave to us because Ray Stevens would still enjoy it!

One Spring Day in March 2009 , THIRTY YEARS LATER, Ray and I got a chance to pay a visit to our friend who was also a friend of Franklin’s. She decided to tell her secrets with Franklin MacFie. I told her I was trying to tell his life with the women who loved him, and hopefully men will write as well

So She told us that they really loved each other . She tells how they finally worked up to the female/male sex act. They drank and went dancing at a bar in Espanola . They danced some more and drank some more and ended up in the tent near the house. Later, weeping, he says, joyful and proud to Jean Michel -I am a Man.
( All this, back to around 1979 ?) -the next day Franklin suddenly goes off to the doctor.. comes back feeling horrible- he had a case of syphilis, he hadn’t really known he had, but after the fact, suspected. So, he has to tell his/our friend to go get shots.

So that night, feeling so bad about what he had had to tell this person that he loved, he went to the bar in Espanola alone and got seriously drunk and caused the local Pachuco’s to really hate him. ( At this period of his life he made an art form of driving people to extreme anger- I ( BStevens) responded with my own little drama once around that time and chased him all over the Medenales place with a cast iron frying pan.) So, this new bad behavior angered local Chicanos – so they took advantage of the fact that he had totally incapacitated himself with drink, so they tied his boot to the gas pedal of his truck- and pushed the truck over a bit of a cliff- a ravine… putting him out of commission for a while.

Here is some excerpts from the memoir tapes with Franklin – referring to the time after the house building and cheese /dairy operation in Medenales , New Mexico-approximately – 1974- through the late 70’s .
“So, I went to San Francisco, I said to Jean Michel Cheese,Cheese, Cheese I am sick to death of Cheese and I am going to San Francisco and stay a week. And he said being so smart, don’t be so silly you can go to San Francisco and stay a while if you want to.”

“So I did. And the next thing was- he sent me some cheese in the mail in the summer. It got stuck in Albuquerque for a week and I got home and on my mailbox was a big red notice. It said Urgent! Pick up package at the post office – I went to get it, didn’t need to ask – it was cheese that had been sitting in the heat for a week. It was a big bag.. maybe 10 lb. I went through to see if any of it was not rotten but I tied it back up and threw it. And I took a shower . I was working at a bar on 8th street. I went to work and my boss said your not working tonight. You stink!”

Ray Stevens has a story about helping Jean Michel drive out a huge truck with 2 big freezers full of Cheese. They would plug them when ever they stopped, drove out in one day. and put them in a storage unit in California and plugged the freezers in to a light socket . So ,much later, we heard the rest of the story with the Cheese in the storage unit. The electricity went out and the cops came- thought surely it was a storage unit full of chopped up dead bodies! this was very aged Camembert, rather rotten any way!

Back to the tapes with Franklin: “Eventually he (Jean Michel) came out . He moved to nice part of town, -close to where I lived in Haight -Ashbury Eventually he moved to another part of town. He had a very little money at the time – all the money had been put into the cheese business and the house. So he put it up for sale. So, I sold my house. Jean Michel came and went to the bars (and bath houses) . He got a car and took a trip around and found the beautiful piece of land north of San Francisco. A wonderful farmhouse and instead of making cheese (from our own cows milk) he began to get involved buying milk from our neighbors who had Herefords and made the cheese from that. Fred McMurray was a neighbor. It was Beautiful, cows kept the grass down – so it looked manicured under the trees – swirling landscape, extremely beautiful.”

“But the cheese business didn’t do much better than in Santa Fe. Maybe it didn’t look professional enough . Someone’s comment : People want them (things they eat) to look neat. Being organic is one thing but isn’t this a little bit too much? Don’t you think? I looked and there were maggots crawling around in the cheese. I said you’re probably right this isn’t too good for people who don’t eat meat!”

“Any way we did that a long time, or maybe not so long. Enjoyed it . His brother and his wife came to visit” ( near Healdsburg, California.) I (B Stevens)remember the wonderful visit Jean Michel’s mother made with them to our Chimayo house , like having Madame Currie come -or Margaret Mead – she had a great stick and had been a noted French woman scientist . Jean Michel had we think had a 60th birthday during the 70’s so she may have been 80 something or so when she came to our kitchen in Chimayo.

Back to the Franklin tapes:
” I got a job designing a major San Mateo County Fair exhibit., was also working a lot at Gay Bars and I really loved it – a lot of fun ,before they discovered what AIDS was. I cant remember having so much fun at a job even in the theater.”

“I was working at one of the gay bar below of Market. I lived south of Market in the late 70’s and I did a show which was of all white things, which were white canvases, and muslin folded, all strange shaped- some squared off, anyhow when I finished putting it up someone said I’d hung my laundry up.” (I BStevens have slides from that show- and I have one piece so I will add these to this post).

“So one night late after I had left – people started throwing things at (the pieces) and the owner , a very nice guy comes up and says ,you know when you first put up the show, I really didn’t understand it – I really didn’t like it at all, but when people started throwing things at it I knew it had to be good.! It had to be worthwhile if it could make people get upset. It was a good show and I sold a few pieces but when I took it down some of the pieces has turned a nicotine yellow from every body smoking.”

“I guess when my mother died I came back east in 1982.Very difficult, she was in a coma for 6 mo. I stayed for 3 months. finally after sitting by her side f or 3 months everyday, I decided I had to go back to Calif. and do what I was doing -don’t know how important that could be. But anyhow I went back and then she died, and I had to go back again for the funeral.”

Now he talks about after the funeral going back to the house in California, where Jean Michel is (still) making Cheese …” I think I said one more time cheese , Cheese , Cheese I am tired of cheese I think I am going to India. Jean Michel says oh, I think you will like India very much…so I started to go to India but I went to Morocco .. he came to Morocco from California ( just as he had from New York) he was always following me, and I got very drunk , which was hard to do there, in all these back rooms and stuff. I would go to these wonderful bars, where only low lives would go to. Moroccans really look down on drinking ( and on smoking !) and the only people who do it -do it in these back rooms ( for tourists) I used to get drunk and then smoke hash in cemeteries and that what was fun.”

So I ask about JM coming — and selling the Calif. house….etc. He says “I guess he did because he came over and we wanted to buy a place in Morocco, but they wouldn’t let us because we were not Muslim. Other wise we would have lived on the crest of a hill -most beautiful spot overlooking the ocean. And the guy was ready to sell it to us at a reasonable price. But the city elders didn’t want two unwed men. So we never got that.”

“Anyhow then we went to Portugal and found a wonderful farm house on a hill. The house that we bought I built on to it a little house ( with a circular living room.) It was best thing I ‘ve done. Marble was very cheap there, all over the place. Inside cement -like adobe , adobe outside – then cement . We ended up having 13 room house. We had the old part which is where he lived and connected to it was my house. I had lots of English friends and European friends.”

He talks about his good friend Lena ( who is actually Swedish and her husband was English.) “I ended up working for her. Her husband looked out for houses for people, he built a few houses for people and I worked for him, a doer of all things. It was a lot of fun.”

“One day my (long time )friend Nancy came from Santa Fe. Jean Michel was going back and forth to Paris during this period of time.” ( Next Franklin tells about a problem suddenly developing with Jean Michel )And Franklin said. “oh, something is wrong here.This was the beginning. When he (JM)had gotten off the train from Paris (just before this) he did look weak not sick -just weak- I hadn’t seen him for a couple of months. So I wasn’t prepared. The next day I called up his mother and said I am bringing Jean Michel to Paris – he needs to see a doctor. We got on the plane by the time he got off he could no longer walk . Finally got a wheel chair, every thing was locked and blocked – these long halls of glass every time I reach the end it would be locked .and I was getting crazier and crazier…I began to bang on the glass and people in the station were gathering around and his brothers attention was caught by what I was doing, and his brother was very embarrassed by all that and I just said he’s very sick and we don’t have time to take him home or anything like that. We took him directly to the hospital and he lasted only a month. Feb. 1985. .. we knew what it was by then by 1982 everybody knew about AIDS. My friend Terry (Stephenson) had died by then…….everybody was dropping like flies. I had no clothes with me , when we got on the plane I just had what I had on dungarees and leather jacket.and I just stayed in the hospital and didn’t go out to shop. So at the funeral thats what I had on. The French were very tight lipped at the funeral -very austere. I was weeping hysterically like a Greek chorus! I was just weeping ..and one good friend there Virginie said you should go and sit with the mother -thats were you should be.”

“There was this cement hole in the ground and thats where he is.” Then he talks about” Virginie-she was his (JM’s) closest friend (she did come to Medenales he says ) and was marvelous. She met them often in Morocco, and she came to New York.she is marvelous. She was blond and very attractive, very French. She’s divine.”

I ask where he was staying… “a cheap Algierian hotel – could get drunk at 4 am and fall on the stairs..and no body would mind. That was the best thing about Paris.” I ask about Maman and the brother and the trouble. He says “Maman was wonderful.His brothers wife …was very worried that the mother would die and leave half the stuff to Jean Michel and he would die and the American, me, might end up with the country house or maybe the apartment in Paris.. that would have happend but it didn’t happen and I wouldn’t have wanted any of that, couldn’t have lived there.” He had to end the tape.. with out telling about the enormous trouble he had getting the Portugal house. Ultimatly he was able to sell it and get the proceeds to the US. to live on.

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