Susie Bright and her longtime partner, Jon Bailiff, have a few hours before they fly home to California, and I've agreed to help them kill some time.
I don't mind at all. Bright's name is unfamiliar to some, but former women's studies students like myself know her writings intimately. The sex writer and activist is both an enemy and a hero to feminists, depending on whom you talk to. She speaks at colleges across the country and was even asked to choreograph the love scenes between Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon in the racy 1996 movie "Bound."
These days, Bright rants about everything from foreign pornography to the pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spears in her online journal and hosts a show on Audible.com called "In Bed With Susie Bright." She came to Boston to speak at the Old South Meeting House to mark the 30th anniversary of GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders), and now she wants to hear a real Boston accent. I drive her and Bailiff to Mul's Diner in South Boston, hoping they'll hear some natives.
Bright orders an Irish breakfast, what she calls "meat with meat followed by a flourish of meat." During breaks from her blood sausage, she argues, to my surprise, that some people think of Boston as Puritan City, but she has found it to be a place of progressive liberal thinking. People here consider their choices and take time to educate themselves, she says, pointing out that the city allowed an editor of erotic fiction to speak at the Old South Meeting House about gay rights.
During the meal, the quiet Bailiff draws a portrait of Bright and me on his paper placemat. It looks just like us.
When we leave, Bailiff says he's disappointed we didn't hear any Boston talk. "I'm still waiting to fight over a parking space with Casey Affleck," he says.
Next stop: the New Art Center in Newton, and on the way there Bright talks about her cameo in a 2005 episode of HBO's "Six Feet Under." It turns out that one of the writers on the show - Jill Soloway - is a fan of her writing and even contributed a short story to one of her anthologies. Soloway had tried to make a reference to Bright in an early episode but was told by a higher up never to mention her name on the show. As revenge, when the series was about to end and Soloway had more leverage, she had Bright play herself in an episode, instructing the actresses in the scene, including Frances Conroy and Kathy Bates, to mention Bright's name as many times as they could.
"You could hear 'Susie Bright, Susie Bright,' " Bright says, enunciating her own name. "She got her revenge."
When we arrive at the New Art Center, we're greeted by Ceci Mendez, the gallery's director of exhibitions. It turns out that Mendez became a fan of Bright's writings when she lived in San Francisco and is stoked to have her in the building. She takes Bright on a personal tour of the exhibition "Office Space," a collection of subversive works inspired by corporate life. Bright gets up close with Molly Blieden's blanket of woven rubber bands ("I really thought it was a fisherman's net," Bright says) and Tamiko Kawata's interactive installation, which has people write confessions on a piece of paper and then run them through an office shredder.
This reminds Bright of when she let her daughter use her bedroom walls as a canvas, painting pictures and words that documented her personal growth. It was a good idea until there were too many outdated thoughts and bad moods immortalized on the walls. Eventually, the family painted over it to start fresh.
"If you write 'Mommy's a pig' inside the closet, you never go back and write 'Mommy isn't that bad,' " she jokes.
Later, at the airport, Bright and Bailiff say that even though they didn't hear a Boston accent they feel closer to the city, which, it turns out, might not be so Puritan after all.
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.