Overview: Victoria Stracke is the curator and publisher of “The Last Hundred Miles: The Diary of Larry Waite.” And she has remained anonymous in that role. Until now. Larry was a gay man who grew up in the Midwest during the 1950s and 60s. He prolifically documented his life for more than 30 years, with intimate and sometimes brutal, raw honesty. Those diaries ended up in Victoria’s hands.
In this conversation, we find out how she came to be the keeper of Larry’s story, how she ultimately decided to move forward with publishing the diaries on his behalf, and the special relationship she has with him now, posthumously, through his writing and photographs. Victoria describes Larry’s life as one of tragic beauty.
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EP 117 SHOW NOTES, LINKS & TRANSCRIPT
Connect with Victoria Stracke/The Last Hundred Miles:
The Last Hundred Miles on Instagram: @thelasthundredmiles
The Last Hundred Miles on Tumblr: @thelasthundredmiles
Connect with Adam Williams / Humanitou:
Humanitou on Instagram: @humanitou
Photo credits: Kaley Kocinski
Episode cover illustration: Adam Williams
“Upfronts” by Ketsa | freemusicarchive.org
TRANSCRIPT (automated transcription, formatted and lightly cleaned)
[INTRO MUSIC: UPBEAT, ELECTRONIC, INSTRUMENTAL]
Adam: Hey! I’m Adam Williams and this is the Humanitou Podcast.
Today, I’m talking with Victoria Stracke, the curator and publisher of The Last Hundred Miles: The Diary of Larry Waite.
Larry was a gay man who grew up in the Midwest during the 1950s and 60s. He prolifically documented his life for more than 30 years, with intimate and sometimes brutal, raw honesty.
As you’ll hear Victoria talk about in this conversation, what Larry ended up documenting was a life of tremendous beauty, if also one of heartache, struggle and tragedy.
Victoria is a younger relative of Larry’s. She came into possession of his writings and other artifacts after Larry’s death more than a decade ago.
For four years now, she has spent a part of every weekend with Larry, reading and transcribing entries from his diaries for publishing on the project’s blog at thelasthundredmiles.com, and on the project’s Instagram page of the same name.
Victoria also has remained anonymous as the publisher of Larry’s life writings. Until now. She had not made her name, voice or face known throughout this project, preferring to keep the focus on Larry.
So I am extra grateful that she decided to step out from the shadows and share so thoughtfully and openly with me in this conversation.
Along the way, we talk about how she came to be the keeper of Larry’s story, how she ultimately decided to move forward with publishing the diaries on his behalf, and the special relationship she has with him now, posthumously, through his writing and photographs.
At some point in this conversation, it really hits me how well acquainted Victoria is with Larry, how intimately connected she is to him and his story, his experience of not really fitting in, though she barely met him before he died in 2009.
And as you’ll hear her say, “There aren’t many people I find relatable, but I find him very relatable. I see a lot of myself in his work. I feel very close to him now for that reason. I feel seen.”
In publishing The Last Hundred Miles, Victoria is betting on many, many others feeling seen by Larry, too. And in having this conversation today, so am I. That’s why I was drawn to this project, and why I am so glad to be able to talk about it with Victoria today.
Larry was full of humanity. So were his diaries. So is this conversation.
So here we go, me talking with Victoria Stracke.
[TRANSITION MUSIC: UPBEAT, ELECTRONIC, INSTRUMENTAL]
Adam: 00:02:22 Victoria, welcome to Humanitou.
Victoria: So nice to meet you and thank you for having me.
Adam: 00:02:27 Absolutely. You are essentially the curator and publisher behind the last hundred miles. The diary of Larry Waite, this project that is online and you’ve stayed pretty much anonymous to this point. So for one I’m, I’m really grateful that you’re willing to step out from behind the curtain a little bit, and talk with me today. I feel privileged for that. I’m really interested in learning a lot about this project.
I want to start with asking though how you feel about moving from this place of anonymity, at least long enough to have this conversation with me?
Victoria: 00:03:06 Well, I’m certainly uncomfortable. Uh, this is outside of my comfort zone in quite a few ways, not only on a personal level, but also from the standpoint of this project and the role that I’ve played in this project thus far.
Adam: 00:03:28 Okay. Are there any specifics to that discomfort? And by the way, I mean, I commend you for being willing to step out of that comfort zone. I think it’s always hard to be in your seat answering these things that I ask, which do step into the deep and the vulnerable sometimes.
So thank you for that, but are there any specifics that you’d like to go ahead and share with me about, about this discomfort or, or where you’re sitting right now?
Victoria: 00:03:59 I’m a relatively private person. Um, I do have close relationships and friendships and do really value deep conversations with folks. I’ve just never had one of those conversations in a more, or what will be a more public space. So this is new to me in a lot of ways. Um, but that’s generally, that’s where the discomfort comes from. Um, and also just stepping as you put it from behind the curtain. I’ve never shared my name or my face as far as the project is concerned. So this is a departure in those regards as well.
Adam: 00:04:46 Okay. And I, I probably will ask a little bit about that. Um, the thoughts behind those decisions in a little bit, but I want us to start now with some context about the project with laying a foundation here briefly, and I’ll do that. Um, in short, based on what I know from the website, just as well, first of all, the website is the last hundred miles.com. So people can find this and also on Instagram.
So Larry, Larry Waite, who was a relative of yours, was a gay man. He grew up in Springfield, Missouri in the fifties and sixties. He was a diarist, a man who wrote and documented his life and his loves and his pains prolifically in these diaries. Are you okay talking about what that relationship was? You say relative, I take that to be a careful word choice, but I’m now asking what was that relationship if you don’t mind sharing?
Victoria: 00:05:48 Yeah, I don’t mind. Um, and I, it might be a bit disappointing. Um, it’s disappointing to me. I don’t know if others will find it the same way, but, um, Larry is a cousin of mine. I didn’t have a relationship with him while he was alive. So our relationship is something that I’ve created for us after his death, which is, um, maybe very unique to us, um, in that regard. And I am disappointed that I didn’t get to have a relationship with him while he was alive. He was a strange from our family in a lot of ways. And he, in addition to being a strange, so this, you know, mental or emotional distance, there was physical distance between us as well. I also grew up in Springfield, Missouri, Larry and I attended the same high school. Um, but as I was getting older, he was living in a different state.
00:06:55 And I actually wasn’t aware of his existence. He wasn’t someone that my family talked about often. He was no one that I recall meeting during my childhood. And it wasn’t until he needed additional assistance because of his mental and physical health that he returned to Springfield. So he could be cared for by my grandmother, that I had the opportunity to meet him. However, his life was very brief at that point. And he passed away not even a year later. So there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for us to forge a relationship with one another, um, during his life. And that I am certainly disappointed by however, I do feel very close to him even still, which is something that I’m very grateful for.
Adam: 00:07:54 Wow. Yeah, those diaries are very intimate and he kept them for a lot of years. And as I understand it, please correct me if I’m wrong, but what you largely have here are his writings between 1971 and 2003, for the most part with a little bit leading into that. But around 71, I think was around the time he was 20. So is 2003 the year that he died,
Victoria: 00:08:24 Actually, no, he passed away in 2009. I don’t know because I didn’t get to ask why the diaries stopped in 2003. I don’t know if the remaining diary, if he chose to stop writing, um, if the remaining diaries were lost, for some reason, he was a victim of hurricane Katrina. He was living in Mississippi at the time. And I know if some of his possessions were lost and that’s the reason why the entries end in 2003.
But as far as what I have in my possession, they do begin in 1971 with some exceptions, there are a few things that I have from the late 1960s that he would have wrote in high school and nothing past 2003, that I’m aware of. It’s possible that there is something that I haven’t found yet. All of his things were in a trunk and I’ve done my best to organize them, but there’s lots of loose papers. So there’s always the possibility that it will extend past 2003, but that’s to my current knowledge where things, and as far as the diaries go,
Adam: 00:09:51 Okay, you’ve already shared a number of points here that, that really are addressing some of my curiosities. And I’m wondering if we’ll, let’s step back a second. You didn’t have a personal close relationship with him prior to what you’re doing with these IRYS. And so you didn’t know about them presumably, right? So I’m wondering now how you came to even know about them, let alone then be the one in the family who would have them in this trunk to even to see, let alone anything more. And, and when, when you got them, because if he died in 2009 and you started this, what three years ago, two years ago,
Victoria: 00:10:42 It started the project in 2017. I was sort of inspired to start posting his diaries online after listening to the podcast S Town. I don’t know if you’re familiar with S Town or not, but, or if listeners are, I would definitely recommend it, but the primary figure in S Town reminded me quite a bit of what I knew of Larry, and what I knew of Larry at that point in time was based on reading his journals shortly after his death in 2009 and 2010 as I was entering college.
As far as acquiring them, they remained at my grandmother’s house until 2017. When I got her permission to begin posting them online, she and I have a great deal in common, and we were both fascinated by him and enjoyed reading his writing and looking at his photos and some of the other things that my grandmother had. And she was kind enough to let me take those things from her and put them out into the world, which was something she was not going to have the time or energy to do herself.
Adam: 00:12:13 Okay. And your grandmother, her relationship then to Larry, I guess if he was your cousin or we, well, I’m not even going to try to guess or connect the dots if you’ll tell me.
Victoria: 00:12:26 Yeah. They’re cousins as well. So he’s probably my, I would have to look at a family tree, but my third cousin, I suppose, um, my mother’s second cousin, my grandmother’s first cousin,
Adam: 00:12:39 You ever talk about, uh, you know, you mentioned that you both enjoyed his writings, but have you ever had conversations with your grandmother about Larry, about whatever she might know of the writings or just in general though, because presumably then since she ended up with this trunk, she did have more of an, a relationship with him at some point over the years.
Victoria: 00:13:02 Yes, that’s correct. And I do often call her and ask her questions when I come across something in the journals that I don’t have any context for, or when I need to understand a relationship between two people, our family, as all families are, maybe ours is a bit different, um, is a little messy. And so there are characters in these diaries that I don’t necessarily remember or folks that I cannot identify or love triangles that I don’t have context for.
And so, because the diaries are only ever a snapshot and there’s not necessarily context around these things or further descriptions of things, I sometimes need her to fill in the gaps for me. And she’s very kind and does do that. And, um, appreciates during that I think and enjoys it. She is a family historian herself in a lot of ways, and this family means quite a deal to her. So it’s certainly something that we, that we do talk about, um, regularly
Adam: 00:14:25 Not to presume anything about your relationship with your grandmother prior to this, but it certainly sounds like that now around this project, around these family histories and obviously specifically Larry’s writings and has this somehow maybe brought the two of you closer together, or how has it maybe influenced the relationship between you and your grandmother?
Victoria: 00:14:48 We’ve always been very close. Um, I was raised by a single mother and my grandmother and my grandfather stepped in a great deal to help take care of me. So I’ve always been very close to her. I find her to be one of the most relatable people in my family to myself. She and I have a lot in common. We look very similar. We act very similar, have very similar personalities, I think. So I can’t say that this has brought us closer because I, I would say that we were already very close, but it is certainly something for us to, um, connect over. I no longer live in Springfield. And so I don’t get to see her near as often as I would like. So some of those daily interactions don’t happen any longer, but we, we certainly do continue to speak. And often it is about, about Larry.
Adam: 00:15:44 Okay. So you now are the keeper of someone else’s story, essentially. And I wonder about, uh, the considerations that you went through, you got your grandmother’s permission, she handed you these things, but I wonder if you wrestled at all with whether to publish them, given the fact they were someone else’s intimate writings and personal belongings and, and just what that was like, the, the questions doubts, motivations that might’ve been involved.
Victoria: 00:16:14 Yeah. It certainly had lots of doubts about whether or not it was appropriate. I’m a social worker by education and by trade. It’s what I do all day, every day outside of this project and other personal things. But that being said, I care a great deal about honoring choice and confidentiality and the appropriateness of sharing someone else’s story.
However, I believed just based on cues of Larry’s within his writings and the way that things had been organized and maintained that there was some interest from him to have done this himself. One day, everything is Berry, everything is labeled, everything was organized. There are lots of references to whoever might be reading as his audience. Um, so he himself is referring to the reader often, um, talks about it being his memoir. At some point there’s lots of different, um, lots of different things that I picked up on that I felt more comfort and putting this out into the world and that he would have been okay with it.
00:17:49 I never would have done it. Had I thought that this isn’t what he might want. Um, and I still could have been wrong. I still could’ve been wrong. He doesn’t have any, he didn’t, he was never married. He didn’t have any children. Um, I am careful to not use people’s last names because I know that there are characters in these stories who may feel very differently. Um, they may not want their stories shared, and there are very intimate details about their lives, their relationship with Larry, their relationship with their friends or family members that he talks about, you know, this cast of characters that he is observing. And so I am mindful of that.
And at this point in time, no one has gotten upset with me yet. So I do worry about it from time to time that someone who did not want these types of details of their life in, um, the 1970s, 1980s, counterculture in Washington, DC, and your city out in the open, um, and in such a public space. But I do try to be mindful of that. And, and that’s why I leave people’s last names out in hopes that it will make it less likely that someone will pick up on exactly who, who the story is about or who the character is.
Adam: 00:19:21 Okay, well, he would have been around 70 at this point if he still was living. So let’s guess that many of the people, the relationships, friendships, those things, probably people of comparable age at this point, right. I think that you are doing all of this very conscientiously. I think that comes through that. There’s a lot of care and in our interactions, in the process. Again, I appreciate your willingness to share these things and have, um, complete faith in, in how you’re doing it. I think it’s wonderful. I love the project.
The archives are so full of so many things that it’s a long reading project as well. And you mentioned before that you didn’t really know him, but through this, through his diaries, his writings, you have come to have this unusual and special relationship with him. And I, I wonder, I just, I, I’m curious to know more about that. What does that feel like when this is, it’s a posthumous collaboration, posthumous cousin relationship and the intimate conversations you can have with someone because of his writings. It’s, it’s wow.
Victoria: 00:20:46 It’s very, and like I said earlier, I, I feel very grateful. I have, most of my life considered myself a bit of a pariah. And I, I think that Larry would have found that very relatable as well. Um, he and I might have that in common. There aren’t many people that I can relate to in this plane of existence. Um, but I find Tim very relatable and I see a lot of myself in his work. We’re very different, but I do, I do see a lot of myself in his work and I feel very close to him now, um, for that reason, he’s helped me understand more about myself, more about our family, some of the things that he experienced make a lot of sense.
Now, in hindsight, some of the things that I’ve experienced in our family make a lot of sense. Um, this idea of generational trauma that I already knew existed in my family, but is certainly all the more evident because of the opportunity that I’ve had to read intimate details of his experience. Um, but yeah, I just, I feel, I feel very fortunate to have such an intimate look into someone’s life. I love stories and yeah, I just feel very lucky to have, to be able to have this story at my disposal all of the time. It’s, it’s very special.
Adam: 00:22:34 Why do you consider yourself to have been a pariah at points?
Victoria: 00:22:39 That’s a great question. Um, I don’t know where that comes from. I, you know, there’s lots of ways that I’ve tried to make sense of those things. Um, and other people have ways of trying to make sense of them, whether it’s, you know, you’re eating a Graham, I’m a number four, just kind of known for being the outsider. You know, Myers-Briggs, I’m an inf J and it’s very unusual to find other people who, um, fit that as well. And sometimes I think it’s, it’s something of my own making, maybe I’m, I like the idea of being different. And so I forced myself to be different. And that’s, um, that’s maybe something that I have to explore with my therapist a little bit further.
00:23:29 Okay. You know, part of the reason I ask is because I feel like this is a recurring thread in conversations that I’m having on the podcast where I’m talking with people about belonging, uh, and things like this, and feeling like I’m not sure where I fit in. Maybe that’s geographically, maybe it’s socially, it’s often both. So I find that interesting.
And at moments when we maybe feel that more than others, maybe we feel a little more isolated or alone, and we try to find some sort of comfort or, well not, there’s not another word coming to mind. So let’s go with that. I’m wondering if you find comfort, sometimes let’s say you’ve had a day in particular where maybe it’s not clicking with some other people and you feel like I’m feeling alone today. Do you ever go into those journals, those diaries of Larry’s and just say, well, I know this guy will get me and that’s your way of connecting. I don’t want to put that on you, but I’m curious if that’s an action you take.
Victoria: 00:24:31 Yeah. Typically the ways in which I approach the diaries is actually don’t. I don’t look at them throughout the week very often, but my process is rather to spend my weekends with Larry. So I sit down on a Saturday morning. I go through the journals that I intend to type up for the week, and that is sort of our moment together. Um, and it is very therapeutic for me in a lot of ways, because I see so much of myself in him at, um, at different times and the ways in which he didn’t feel connected to the family often are parallel to my own.
And so that in doing this for the last several years, I’ve just learned a lot about myself over time. And it is, there’s a moment to, to find connection, to find belonging, to feel seen even by someone who cannot physically see you any longer, which is, is really something special to find out that, that you have a relative in your family, that you actually do find relatable when you otherwise didn’t.
Adam: 00:25:51 Well, I am not a huge science fiction movie fan. A couple of things that come to mind for me are, I mean, there have been a couple of movies. I think maybe the Matthew McConaughey movie, Contact, if I’m remembering correctly, was one of them, or maybe for people who have a spiritual faith-based sense, or maybe a mystical and supernatural sense of things.
I started in preparing and reading things for this conversation. I started to picture around the time of these questions coming to mind, Larry, on one side of the veil and you and there being this special connection. And I started to picture him appreciating what you’re doing, smiling, enjoying that, valuing it. Uh, I don’t know if there’s a question there because you’ve already spoken to an amount of this. If you have thoughts on that, I’ll just leave it that way.
Victoria: 00:26:47 Yeah. I’m not, I’m not a religious person, but Larry was. And, but I would say that I’m a spiritual person. And I do like to believe that there is some connection between the two of us even still. And I do hope that, that this is what he wanted and that he does maybe enjoy our time together as much as I do. He wanted to leave a profound impact on the world. And during his lifetime, I don’t believe that he received the kind of credit and attention that he deserved through any of his creative outlets.
He did theater and he wrote, I believe that he attempted to submit some of his short stories to various magazines and to my knowledge, none of those forever accepted. And I do hope that being able to share his diaries brings in some of the connection and meaning that he did not have while he was alive. Even if it is people connecting with him, I just hope that yeah. It, if he is able to sense anything that I’m doing, that it’s just so special to him as it is to me, and that he is able to provide connection with others. I don’t know that I’m, I’m speaking on that eloquently at all, but yeah, I would, I hope that I have his, I hope I have his best wishes.
Adam: 00:28:30 Like I said, I imagine you do. So I would like to give at this point a sense for listeners who have not seen any of these entries before, we’re so far kind of talking around a lot of significance around the type of writing from Larry, which I have found to be profound and poetic. And later I’m going to get to a point, I think, uh, where he describes it as banal, but that’s where he found the interest. So I’d like to read a short entry here, an excerpt, if, if that’s okay with you it’s public. So I assume we’re good with that. Okay.
So from December, 1973, Larry wrote, “Spent the day so far sitting at the kitchen table, dragging out journals, organizing them somewhat reconstructing the past 10 years in terms of major events, a mild panic possesses me when I realized that 10 years has passed and what really has been accomplished. I am the same, a lonely queen stoned at the kitchen table, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.”
00:29:32 Uh, there’s to me, a lot of self-honesty, hurt, self-reflection, questions, just in that one entry. And I think that that’s, I don’t want to say that represents the whole of so many years by any stretch, but I don’t think that that’s an extraordinary sample that I just pulled either in terms of being so different, distinct from others. So he obviously was a man who felt and thought deeply for some of us. That’s what gets us into the troubled waters. We have a hard time dealing with how we feel so deeply and intensely and spending our time thinking there.
And it seems to me in what I have read so far from those archives, that he often was unhappy with himself, unsure about what he was doing with his life, if, if he was doing what he should be in, in, in living up to something. And I wonder if you see him in that way or because you have access to all of this picture, do you see more there? You know, were there happy times in, in your mind? How, how do you see Larry based on this, I guess is what I’m getting at?
Victoria: 00:30:43 Yeah. I haven’t revealed much past where I’m at and I actually haven’t read much past where I’m at. I try to stay on par with everyone else so as to not divulge too much, but I will say that Larry’s story is not a happy one. Um, and it will not end in a way that is, it will end in tragedy and his life was very tragic. I do think that there is so much beauty and tragedy though. Um, and I do think that he lived a very beautiful life because he felt deeply because he was so introspective because he was able to connect with people deeply, not superficially. I believe that he lived a beautiful life, but beauty is not synonymous with happiness. And I would say that his life largely was not a happy one, but it wasn’t beautiful. One.
Adam: 00:31:46 I love how you put that. So I’m also thinking about historical and cultural context. You know, history has depended a lot on letters and diaries, just like this, the recordings of people in their daily lives. You didn’t know him beforehand. So I guess you didn’t know he was gay, but I wonder if his parents did, if other family members did, if that at all contributed to the turbulent, I don’t even know if that speaks enough to his relationship with his parents. His being gay is a central piece of this, I think is, is my point because of where and when he grew up in the pain that he felt and expressed.
Victoria: 00:32:34 Yeah. I think that a big reason that Larry chose to leave Springfield Missouri was because he didn’t find the acceptance and community that he was looking for. As far as the family knowing, I would say that there were people during his childhood and adolescents who had assumed, but didn’t know for certain, because he hadn’t formally come out to them. He was likely perceived as being straight or bisexual in high school.
He did date and sleep with women for a period of time in his teens and early twenties until he accepted that he was in fact gay and that he did prefer having relationships with other men. I certainly believe that him being gay impacted the way that he was viewed by our family or his perception of how our family viewed him. So I would say that if you ask my grandmother, she would say that the family would have accepted him regardless.
00:33:53 However, I don’t know if that was Larry’s perception or not. His father was abusive. Um, and I don’t know that he, he would have quite accepted Larry for who, who he was as far as Larry’s mother, the mother that he refers to in the diaries is actually his stepmother. His birth mother died a few days after giving birth to him. So the woman that he refers to as his mother is his stepmother.
They had a very close relationship, even though they were not blood related. And I believe that she was a very strong figure in his life and accepted him a great deal, even in a time when that was not widely accepted or deemed appropriate, even from a legal standpoint. So sodomy laws existed well into the seventies. And so there was a, a lot of this had to remain hidden not only just for your emotional or psychological safety, but your physical safety as well.
Adam: 00:35:11 There’s another entry. This one’s from 1972 when he must have been around 21 and he uses we in this. And I wonder if you know the context of who the we is, either way. I think it stands as a strong and interesting expression of how he was feeling at the time, and in relation to his having recognized his homosexuality at this point, it seems so.
What he wrote, “We never discuss homosexuality. We take it for granted. It’s like having 20 cavities that can’t be filled, the pain comes and goes while we college types try to assuage our grief by talking about Michelangelo.”
Victoria: 00:35:50 Yeah. I would say that he is speaking to either the counterculture youth of the early 1970s or about the LGBT community as a whole there, he often did that. Um, he, he gets more comfortable with that referring to himself as being a part of that community throughout the early to mid seventies until the late seventies where you can tell that he’s, he is much more immersed in gay culture, specifically in Washington, DC, where he was living at the time.
Adam: 00:36:38 I’m wondering if his family members, okay, your, your grandmother was a cousin. Clearly we’ve already touched on the importance of her role in this. And how has she, um, on some level had a relationship with him and saw that and believes that she would have accepted him. Had she had the chance to, to know he was, you know, openly gay and, and, and the family would have been, you know, loving, but I’m wondering if there are other family members besides her that know that you’re publishing these and have any other thoughts if you’ve had to have any conversations around that.
And maybe if they’re reading these as, you know, as you go and I’m imagining if so the potential, anyway, again, I can’t put this story on you or on any of those family members, but my curiosity takes me places. And so I’m picturing the potential for them to read these and have things be revealed that decades later. Um, you know, I’d like to think that they would, would learn these things about Larry and say, oh my gosh, I didn’t, I didn’t know. And I love him anyway, and I wish I could have been there for him. Maybe there’s regret, maybe there’s understanding compassion. Does any of that exist or is that in my head?
Victoria: 00:38:03 There are, uh, a couple of relatives that do read the blog and follow along on Instagram. Um, I would say that during his lifetime, he was openly out and that the family did know. It just was maybe in question when he was a teen, but I believe that most, most of the family knew at some point in time that, that he did identify as gay because he was relatively estranged from the family. I believe that that was his choice.
I don’t think that he found people very relatable. Um, most of the relatives that I know and interact with don’t necessarily know Larry intimately, um, not now or not while he was alive, the people who may have been more impacted by this project have since passed. His parents, his grandparents. He didn’t have any siblings. So there’s, there’s really no one around who necessarily, you know, possibly ostracized him. And now, um, has the opportunity to experience regret.
Adam: 00:39:31 And I don’t mean for that just to be related to his being gay, but rather I’m thinking of in the broader sense, the struggles he felt as a human being, the pain, the, the whole ride of, of Larry being the human that he was. Um, and, and you don’t necessarily have to speak to that if there’s not something, but
Victoria: 00:39:54 Yeah, no, I, I mean, there is, there is a little bit of something there. I think my grandmother wishes that she would have known the kind of pain that he was experiencing, especially in the 1970s, because she would have liked to have support him. I don’t know that he would have accepted it because he was so removed from our family emotionally that I don’t know that he would have, he would have been in a place to accept support.
Um, I will say though, after the death of his father in the mid 1970s, he does after returning to Springfield for his father’s funeral. And now that his father is removed from the picture, he does feel closer to the family. At that point in time, he does think that his father prevented him, the anger that he felt for his father prevented him from being able to connect with other members of the family. And once his father is removed from the picture, he is able to maybe be more openly himself in a lot of different ways and connect to people in a way that he wasn’t, he wasn’t able to.
Adam: 00:41:21 Prior to that, we talked about there being well, the essence, perhaps of being human, being about fear and love. And when it comes to Larry and his father, there seemed to be that he wanted the love of his father. He did not get it, is my understanding from what I have read. And there was that sense that his dad was violent, strong, tough, and didn’t love him. And so there was cause to fear him.
And it’s interesting too, that he writes in such a raw, honest way, especially thinking that people were going to read this, like you said, he put it in the context of there’s a reader for this. He wasn’t just writing to himself. And there are entries where he writes about the psychosexual nature of dreams that he would have related to his father. And there was just so much, again, pain there and, and trauma that it’s interesting, then that, that really rippled for him and extended in how he perceived everything related to the family, perhaps in, in terms of those relationships in his welcomeness, maybe his sense of belonging and not,
Victoria: 00:42:36 Yeah. His relationship with his father certainly had an impact on how he felt in regards to the family, his relationship with the family. Um, I think a lot of his fears were projected from the relationship that he had with his father, because it was so strained. Again, I think that if you asked my grandmother this question, she would say that his father did love him. Um, and maybe that his father had trouble accepting that Larry was so different in so many ways, and maybe he wasn’t fitting the mold that his father would have preferred, but I believe they had an opportunity before his father passed to connect with one another in a way that at the very least was freeing in some way for his father. I don’t know that Larry felt that I don’t think that he truly felt peace until after his father’s passing. But my grandmother has shared with me before that his father did feel more at peace with the way that Larry was before he passed away.
Adam: 00:44:00 It’s interesting to me how you’re able to talk with such connection to Larry, because there’s a moment here where I realized I had to remember, we’re not talking about somebody that you actually knew while he was alive. So it goes back to that connection through his writings. It’s just, it’s amazing to me to realize that I’m just kind of thinking out loud with that, that it’s yeah. I said earlier, wow.
Victoria: 00:44:28 He was a wonderful documentarian his life, and I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him so well because of the depth with which he wrote and the depth that he understood himself in the world around him. And so a lot of that is, is because he was so introspective. I’ve had the opportunity to, to have a very intimate peek inside of him that I don’t know that I would have had, or that he provided to anyone while he was alive. Um, so one of the points that you made earlier, some of the things that he divulges are, um, are very intimate things that I don’t know that he was sharing out loud with other people. I do know that he had very close friends that he felt very connected to. And so it is possible that he did share some of this, but I don’t know that he shared quite all of it.
00:45:26 And maybe there was, and who knows. I might be projecting to me. I would see, I would feel that there would be some shame associated with a lot of this, but maybe it’s my own shame. Um, and that’s something that I’ve had to keep in check when working on this project, because I don’t want to project my own insecurities, shame onto his writings, which is why I make sure not to censor things. And in large part, why I’ve kept myself out of it. I want it to be a reflection of him the best way that I can, not a reflection of him through me, if that makes sense.
Adam: 00:46:08 Absolutely. It does. It sounds like you’re trying to make sure that you don’t protect him from his own embarrassing things when he might not have felt that way about it and was willing to share his story in the fullness of who he was.
But I also do remember seeing an entry of his, that you published, where he did at some point speak to having reflected back. He went back and read through some of what he had written, and he says something about how embarrassing, you know, those were now that said I did not. And I still do not take that to mean, he’s embarrassed about all of this. He was looking back on himself in the way that we do. And again, a thoughtful, deep feeling person. It’s amazing to me that actually he wrote all of this and with the rawness and honesty that he did when I’m guessing that he actually had that filter on himself at times. And he managed to go through it and document in a very honest human way, despite that filter, I think.
Victoria: 00:47:11 Yeah, certainly. Yeah. I don’t, I would have loved to have been able to interact with him in the 1970s, which at this point is the period of time that I’ve, I’ve covered the biggest portion of what I covered has been throughout the 1970s, but I would like to, and I haven’t had the opportunity to track down some of the people that he was closest to during that period of time to learn more about the ways in which they interacted, if he really was this brash open person without maybe without a filter.
Um, and if you was having these types of conversations with people, I kind of guessed that he was, I do think that there was a, I don’t mean any harm by this at all, but I do believe there was some mental illness going on and that may have changed the ways in which he interacted with others. What he felt comfortable talking about might’ve been a bit different than what most people might perceive as appropriate. I can’t say for sure.
I would love to go back and talk to people who knew him then for that very reason to see exactly what he was like, because I do have this one view of him based on his own writings, but I, what I am missing is the perception that others had of him that I am very curious about.
Adam: 00:48:50 A fascinating documentary is filling my mind here, picturing these people, adding context to the photos and writings of his, that would be amazing. I, that’s a great idea.
Victoria: 00:49:02 Yeah. There’s quite a few photos that I would like some context for there’s one in particular, where he appears to be in a stone basement. His face is painted completely white and he’s holding two saws. Um, and I’ve always wanted what that was about, but there’s lots of, there are lots of those instances where I would like a little bit more context and another person’s perspective who knew him during his lifetime. So I have a more full picture of what he, what he was like,
Adam: 00:49:44 Why did you ever take interest in this? You got a hold of this trunk, these writings, photographs, what was it that spoke to you about wanting to dig in and taking an interest, let alone publishing them as you do? I’m saying even for yourself.
Victoria: 00:49:59 Yeah. So it’s, it’s a bit selfish because I don’t often relate to people. And I did find him very relatable for selfish reasons. I wanted to read them. I wanted to consume them. I wanted that, that sense of connection with someone who I saw so much of myself in that I wasn’t receiving otherwise. And I thought maybe might find him relatable as well. Maybe they would see parts of themselves. Maybe they could connect in a world where they didn’t feel connection. And it’s, for that reason that I chose to share it a bit self-serving in that way,
Adam: 00:50:46 I’m interested in how personal stories really do have that. Relate-ability and, and that, through that personal sharing, we can connect with the universal, understand something about each other a little more, a little better. And so you’re leading us in here to something that is of great interest to me and understanding, not necessarily just with Larry’s diaries, but if you have thoughts maybe because of this project or, or that have developed because of it as to why or how we decide, what is share-worthy, what is relatable? What has that value for listeners or readers? Have you considered those, those kinds of things?
Victoria: 00:51:31 Yeah, I’ve always had a hard time articulating the way that I’m feeling. Sometimes I have a tough time communicating all of that to the depth that I would like to. And I have found that I can explain myself better through the words or images of others, better than I’m able to create those myself.
And Larry is an example of that, of someone who was able better than I can to explain something deep inside of me and probably many others that I don’t have the language for. And that’s what’s drawn me to him. It’s what draws me to so many other things. Um, whether it’s music or documentaries, I love reading lyrics, um, because it’s my way of, of understanding myself and the world around me and in a way that I’m not able to do on my own to make sense of things.
Adam: 00:52:40 And you find that in Larry’s writings, Dan, at least at times, maybe not Dan it’s the relatable aspects, right? It’s not in the specifics of a person’s story, the exact things that he did necessarily. That’s, that’s interesting that observation, I think it’s something the reason I ask I think is because it’s something that I keep exploring here, even with this podcast, with the things that I write as, as a writer of essays and poems as a visual artist, the one thread for me has to do with connection. It has to do with sharing something that is universal trying to tap into that, but it all comes back to me trying to understand myself and how I connect all that. And I feel like what you just expressed is that in a sense this, this project, but your getting to read with Larry, is that for you?
Victoria: 00:53:31 Yeah, absolutely. I’m always seeking things that I can relate to oftentimes through creative mediums because there isn’t as much in my immediate world that I do find relatable. So I’m often seeking all sorts of, of mediums books, documentaries, movies, um, that I see parts of myself in, because it, it is so rare that I find that in my day to day life and with Larry, I was able to find so much of myself there and there was, there was comfort and connection and there still is. And it makes it all the more special. I didn’t know if other people would feel the same way about it that I do each Saturday morning while I’m I’m reading and transcribing, but it does seem that there are folks out there who from time to time do, do relate to what he has to say, um, which makes it all worthwhile.
Adam: 00:54:36 Do you hear from some of those people, do you hear from anyone about how it’s touching them?
Victoria: 00:54:40 Yeah, absolutely. Um, mostly through Instagram, uh, that’s the platform by which most people are introduced to the blog. There is a following on Tumblr as well, but Instagram seems to be the place where folks reach out most often to tell me that they do see a part of Larry’s story in themselves or in their own experience.
Other folks who grew up in the 1960s and seventies as gay, who may have not had the acceptance of their families or of society in general, who have found his story to be, to be very relatable, others who just find his writing, um, and the way that he perceived the world or the way that he explained the world, the way that he felt. Um, he was a very deep, he felt things very deeply and there was a high cost for that, but I believe that he, other people find that relatable and he’s able to describe and communicate that in a way that they might not be able to, to do themselves.
Adam: 00:55:58 I would think that people, especially of his generation who would have had some of those similar experiences and like you were just talking about with yourself where you don’t always feel like it’s necessarily easy for you to express yourself. In words, not everybody feels like they’re a writer or that they speak so eloquently on everything. And so deeply, I would think his writings would really, really touch and help a bunch of readers in, in that group with the more specific kinds of descriptions. But of course we all understand pain, trauma, isolation, the things that he speaks to.
Victoria: 00:56:38 Yeah, that’s my hope. And I do think, um, you know, he and I lived a very, we had very different upbringings and we had very different experiences. I, at this point in time, and I’m 30 years old, which is about the same age, Larry is in the, the point that I’m currently writing from, which is 1980 and our lives look very different. Um, I’m married. He was not, I am a straight white woman, which he is not, but yet I still find so much of what he is going through. Um, so much of what he’s trying to understand about himself and the world around him to be very relatable. And I hope others feel that way too, even if their day-to-day experience is quite a bit different from his,
Adam: 00:57:34 I like to think, like, for example, through this podcast and the conversations that the topics that we get into the experiences people share, I like to think that we have a couple of, of, um, I don’t know, parallel lines or, or, or something here that there are listeners who very much identify because they have similar experiences, it touches something that really resonates with what they have known in their lives.
And then that there might be another group of people, not that there’s distinct division of the groups, but that there are people who also then feel like they might be connecting with something because they’re learning because they’re gaining a doorway to compassion, to understanding because it’s so different from their experience. Right. You know, we, we learn about each other when we actually just listen, listen, compassionately, openly allow that other person’s story.
Victoria: 00:58:34 Yeah, I do. I do think that there is, there’s certainly something to that. And I hope so. I don’t know that everyone gravitates to his story, I realized that some of the things that he talks about might be very off-putting for some very uncomfortable, um, because often it is intimate. There are certainly people that I do not share this project with because I’m concerned of the judgment that it may receive from them. It’s not for everyone. Um, I’m very aware of that.
There might be a great deal of discomfort in reading some of what he wrote. And I do protect him to some degree from that and in part protect myself. But I do hope that folks who had had a different upbringing are of a different mindset. Do you take the opportunity to read what he wrote and certainly develop greater empathy for people who are different from them, whether it has to do with their sexual orientation or their psychological state, um, that this is sort of a window into a different, a different life, um, a different worldview, a different way of looking at things, a different experience.
Adam: 01:00:10 Yeah. It definitely has that power and possibility, and I’m sure it’s already doing it. I hope so, but that’s part of why I wanted to talk with you too, is I want for whatever good this can do by our talking about it here on this podcast. I want more people to know about it. Um, I think there’s a tremendous amount of human connection value in this, which is what humanity is about. Um, you’ve been publishing this now for a few years already.
This is the fourth year. So there are many years. We already said he, you have journals from which he wrote for more than 30 years. So you have gotten to 1980, you’re around maybe not quite a third of the way through, in terms of at least the years. I don’t know content wise, of course. And so I’m wondering if you have a sense of the timeline or where you see this experience going, maybe that’s for you, it’s for the project as a whole light. I don’t know there’s, this is a years, years long thing that you’ve, you’re engaging in.
Victoria: 01:01:15 Yeah. I mean, I don’t, I don’t necessarily have a timeline. I do have every intention of continuing to transcribe all of the journals until I reach the end. There are also things outside of the journals that I have. I don’t know that they post the same level of interest, but, um, I have quite a bit of, of things from Larry, including his boy scout uniform things from his first communion, his rosary, all sorts of things. So there is a great deal.
I have chose to focus solely on the diaries because they’re the piece of Larry that I find the most fascinating, but there is quite a bit more and the diaries do get a bit lengthier towards the end. So it may take, you know, it’s taken me the last four years to get through a decades worth of entries, but it’s hard to say, or not the next, the next decade throughout the 1980s, we’ll take the same amount of time or not.
01:02:26 In addition to the diaries, I have most cards and postcards that he received during his lifetime, numerous photos that he took or others took of him as well as letters that he received or wrote and never sent. I do try to make sure to sort of litter those throughout the blogs specifically, but there is a great deal of content that I haven’t even touched. Things that I’ve never even had the opportunity to go through.
So it’s sort of endless the possibilities. Um, my brother really enjoys this project as well. He doesn’t necessarily help out with it, but he and I, we do talk about it and he does follow and T has all sorts of ideas, things that he likes to tell me that I need to do. Um, whether or not it’s a podcast to interview folks from, from Larry’s life to get a glimpse into their perspectives of him, whether it’s a documentary, whether it’s any number of things.
01:03:33 Um, I’ve had someone recently compare it to the documentary about Vivian Meier, the street photographer, and kind of happening upon all of her photography at a garage sale. And the documentary that came from that. And I don’t know, um, like I’ve shared this, isn’t what I do during the day. I am a social worker, which is what primarily takes up most of my time. And this is a great creative outlet for me. It allows me to do some things that I don’t have the opportunity to do during my nine to five, but I don’t know where I want it to go.
I know that it has a lot of potential and I did see the potential in it from the very beginning because I found it so relatable. And because maybe I am a bit picky about the media that I consume. I thought others may like it as well. And I do, I do think there’s a lot of opportunity. I don’t know that I have necessarily the skillset for it, but am hopeful that, um, what is supposed to happen with this will happen and that it will be seen and consumed by the right people and shared even possibly by someone who isn’t me.
Adam: 01:04:59 It’s funny, your brother has ideas. I also had a couple besides the documentary idea you mentioned, but I do try to be careful in at least probably, maybe this is me projecting now that if people start talking about, well, and you could do this, or you should do this or whatever it is that that can be to me anyway, that can feel like pressure.
So I’m going to go ahead and do that anyway and tell you that I thought about a book or books where I just think this is such a fascinating thing. And then I thought, well, let’s see Brad Pitt’s from Springfield. He could blame in the movie. And I wondered what would, what would Larry think of that? And, and I, well, you seem to know him very well. Do you know, what, how would he feel if all of this turned into amazing, you know, blooming projects even farther than where you already are with it?
Victoria: 01:05:50 Yeah. I mean, he always wanted to be a star, so here, so he says, um, I do think that he, he liked attention. And so I think that he would, I think that he would approve of those types of things. At least I hope so if it does get to that point, um, I have considered publishing the journals. I don’t even know where to start with with something like that. Um, and I know that I would be very picky about the ways in which they were put out into the world. And I know that in putting them out in that way, I might not have as much control.
And part of that scares me a little bit, but maybe not enough to prevent me from doing it someday, but I would, I would like to, I have had people ask for them because it is, there are lots of people that would prefer just read them from, from start to end and the way that they are put together. Most of them have a title of some kinds and they could be read front to back without much. You wouldn’t necessarily need a lot of context. Um, I think that a lot of them could stand alone even on their own. So yeah, it’s possible maybe one day, at least I hope to do that one day.
Adam: 01:07:18 The great things about the internet. I don’t know how many times I’ve ever said that sentence. I’m not sure how many times anybody does, right? Because sometimes you start wondering about what’s on the internet, but this is one of those great things that you are able to do this and retain that sense of control curation, and that you’re still sharing it with the world. So it’s fantastic where you are with it. And maybe these other things can have that possibility. The potential certainly is there.
And if Brad Pitt wants to sign on after he hears this conversation, then he can reach out to you. And I’d love to hear about it. Uh, it occurs to me that Larry, despite sadness, challenges, trauma, all these things that he experienced, potentially mental health, you know, things that he was going through. He had friends, he had relationships. He wasn’t based on what we can read here, just and withdrawn from everything about life. He writes about friends and going out and all kinds of things.
Victoria: 01:08:26 Yeah. He had a great deal of friends. He was fortunate to have found people in his lifetime that he was able to connect with. Um, in one of the most recent entries that I put on Instagram, he is speaking about his friends, Wendy. And he says that the two of them have a particular brand of insanity that he doesn’t believe will end with them being bad people, but rather we’ll give them a very crazy life, the two of them together.
Um, and that he thought that the two of them would die in the same manner with which they were living in, in that moment. Um, a bit crazy. So he is fortunate to have found other people, sort of twin flames, people that he found relatable that he could have these deep and philosophical conversations with. And he was able to do that kind of, in spite of all of the other challenges that he faced in his life, um, he was able to find others that he connected with and who he saw and people who saw him in return.
Adam: 01:09:40 We have touched on the personal being relatable, but when it comes to diaries and journals, I don’t know if that’s always true, right. If we are just writing out and maybe it’s because, I mean, I journal, I write every morning, I have a routine in practice of that, but maybe it’s when we’re talking about diaries, that at least for me, I tend to think of kids, young teens, people trying to process young people, trying to process those feelings.
And it can end up with a lot of drama and exaggerations and all these things, right. That if we go back in and we’d read later as adults, we’re like, wow, that that was a bit much. And you know, or these things that we questioned the value of later in life, but I’m going to read one more quote here from Larry, which kind of speaks to some of this, I think, and it was from November of 79.
01:10:36 And he wrote when a journal ceases to be interesting is when a journal ceases to be banal, the banality is the true stuff. The way you do it. Most honest banalities are Polaroids. We hide our more personal ones. And so I’m reading all of this stuff and I love the way he writes. I think there’s poetry in it. I feel the humanity in it. It did not occur to me to consider it banal or boring. And so I wonder your take on it, reading so much of it in him referring to it in that way.
Victoria: 01:11:09 Yeah. I think that’s interesting as well because his are certainly anything but boring. Um, now there are times where I have left out a shopping list or something of that nature that might find its way into, to one of the journals or, um, somebody’s phone numbers sort of etched in the back. But for the most part, I don’t find them boring at all. And it is a bit strange to imagine that he does find them boring, which maybe just goes to show how hard he was on himself, because I certainly don’t, I don’t perceive them that way. Not at all
Adam: 01:11:49 Me either. And I’m so glad that you’re sharing them, Victoria. And thank you for stepping out from behind that curtain to talk with me, to let us know who is behind this. I know that that’s a departure from what you’ve been doing. So I am very grateful that you’re doing the project and that you joined me for the podcast.
Victoria: 01:12:09 Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, for asking me to do this and for pushing me to do a little bit, you know, um, because it is outside of my comfort zone, but I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity.
[TRANSITION MUSIC: UPBEAT, ELECTRONIC, INSTRUMENTAL]
That was my conversation with Victoria Stracke, the curator and publisher of The Last Hundred Miles: The Diary of Larry Waite.
You can learn more about the project in the show notes published on the website, at humanitou.com, where I’ve also published a show transcript.
You can follow and read The Last Hundred Miles at thelasthundredmiles.com, and on Instagram, @thelasthundredmiles.
If something you heard in this conversation especially speaks to you, it would be helpful to the podcast and stories like this one, if you take a moment to rate and review the Humanitou Podcast on your podcast player, if it’s one that has that functionality.
As always, I also appreciate when listeners spread the word on their social media, and by word of mouth with their family, friends and everyone else.
Together, we can shape a more caring, thoughtful and creative world.
I’m Adam Williams, creator and host of the Humanitou Podcast.
Thanks for being here.