It was a Cold and Boring Night

“To me, as a gay boy, hugging another boy was perfectly natural. It always has been, it always will be. I always felt instinctively somehow that people would disapprove and say I was naughty. And I always felt instinctively that I knew what I wanted and I was going to have it and all those disapproving people could just go suck eggs and pound sand. Even at the height of the worst spiritual and sexual repression that Oklahoma and its churches could dole out, my inner belief has always been the same. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’ve known who I am and what I wanted since I was at least five. And everyone else who is not onboard with that can go over Niagra Falls without a barrel.”

21-Apr-64

Interviewer: So, tell me your story.

Steve: I was born in Roswell, New Mexico, one cold Saturday morning in December 1963. I lived in Roswell and Clovis, spent my teens and twenties in Duncan, OK <involuntary shudder>, and then lived in Dallas, TX; Pleasant Hill, CA; Highlands Ranch, CO; San Francisco, CA; Ann Arbor, MI; Brentwood, CA; and Nashville, TN. I was blessed with decades with the love of my life. I was a mensware salesman, a reporter and PR director, a run-of-the-mill temp, an internal communications manager, a substitute teacher, an author, a regular elementary teacher, a jack of all trades, a master of none. Then I died.
What’s to know?


Int: It sounds like an entry in one of those old city telephone guides, you know, the ones like “City of Roswell, NM, 1966: 1616 W. Juniper 88201. Pollock, Marion E., service station mgr.; Janis W, bus driver, custodian; children Kathy, 10, Vicky, 8, Steven, 3. 505-623-1354.

S: Perhaps.

Int: There’s always more to the biographical entry. Even as biography, it’s rather skimpy.

S: Fine. How’s this: My mother went into labor at 2 a.m. on a Satuday morning, Dec. 14, 1963. Everything was closed on a cold winter night. They hustled my sisters over to my near-by aunt’s house, then headed for the hospital, Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, where a future actress who would be named Demi Moore had just been born the month before.

They didn’t really want the Catholic Poor Clare Nuns at St. Mary’s on the south edge of town to deliver a bouncing baby white Protestant boy and have him lie in a nursery sprinkled with Papist holy water surrounded by what my grandparents always called, “Mescans”—a deliberate slur, both literal and figurative, an all around great word for them and their purpose. Catholics were Mescans, Mescans were Catholics. If you went to St. Peter and Paul’s, you were Mescan. You went to the First Church of the Nazarene, you were good Christian white people destined to conquer heaven and have its fruits and riches yours forever and ever amen. The attitude when they moved from Oklahoma where negroes were to be found to New Mexico where there were few and far between negroes, but Mexicans abounded simply shifted their racism from black to brown. “We can’t say ‘nigger’ no more? Fine, we don’t need ‘nigger’ around here anyway, they ain’t that much of them here. But we got lots of Mescans. Wetbacks. Illegals. Mescans steal. Mescans lie. Mescans are pestilential. Somebody gets shot in Roswell, a Mescan done it. We keep loaded pistols under our pillows in case a wetback comes bustin’ through the front door. Thank god for Jesus and the NRA and Sig Sauer 9mms!”

[Can you see a theme, perhaps a thread, that will run through some of my family encounters? Let’s clear this up first. I quote racists. I don’t share their views. Even if they are among the people who created my existence. It doesn’t fly with me. Never has. How my grandparents and parents approached issues of race and sexuality will pop up here unexpectedly like this throughout.]

So about my debut. 2 a.m. I’m screaming (stupid idiot that I was) that it was time to get the hell out of this vag and never, ever, never acquaint myself with one in a personal way ever again. Dad fumbles for some matches. Probably ice on the road, he’s driving with a finger while trying to light his 900th Lucky Strike of the day. He doesn’t have any matches left. She sighs and orders him to turn around and go to the house and get some. Nothing open at 2 a.m. in Roswell, NM, USA, during the deep dark nights of December 1963. So he turns around, grabs some matches, starts the drive back to the hospital.

ENMMC is up in the swankier northern end of town. The fashionable side, not like the ugly, poor Catholic side with all the Mescans. ENMMC is located on West Country Club Road, just off North Main Street. I was BORN on Country Club, motherfuckers and don’t forget it.

So, let’s see … 2 a.m. labor, time of arrival, 06:12 a.m.

Basically the story is that thanks to America’s tobacco companies, their addictive drugs within deadly products, two things were fated for me: One, to almost have been born in the back of the family 1958 Rambler station wagon. Two, to make sure that Dad dies of COPD and heart failure, his body destroyed just as he crosses the 80-year mark.

So, see what I mean? Boring. As. Fucking. Hell.

I: Let us and our readers be the judge of that.

S: Great. Editors and the “people” … fine, I’m sure everything will be just peachy. Go on?

I: For now, if you’re not too tired.

S: Fine. There were years of attending exhausting get-togethers at the Roswell First Church of the Nazarene, W. Eighth Street. I can still taste the sloppy joes from the kitchen in the “family center” (gym). Mom was invited to a service there in 1952 by one of the extended family cousins. She prayed the prayer and joined. And believed, at least, that is until about 1976, when her everlasting war with her oldest daughter shifted into high and serious and everlasting gear.

We moved to the ancestral home of Duncan, OK, in 1974. After a couple of years, the oldest sister rebelled against the “not-with-it-ness” of the Church of the Nazarene. There also weren’t enough husbands on the hoof at the small church in Duncan we attended. She and the more malleable middle sister decamped for the holy rollers. Mom muttered something about slowly changing herself, and promptly dragged me off to the a place that called itself “Gospel Beams” church. A perfectly cromulent word, but in that context … odd and weird. It wasn’t “First Church of the Whatever,” or “Fir Street Baptist,” it was …. Gospel. Frickin’. Beams.

I suffered so many indignities there. For starters, I didn’t buy the bullshit. Here was my 12-year-old self’s perspective: On one Sunday, I’m going to Oak Avenue Church of the Nazarene, the exact church my dad’s grandmother and her twin sister had propped up for decades, and in which my parents had been married. Wherein there was a disapproving Chuch Lady, predating Dana Carvey’s performance on Saturday Night Live by years, named Mary Mahan (isn’t that a perfect name for smarmy self-righteous Sunday School teachers who conduct warfare on teenage girls who have the temerity to wear not just pants, but horrors! Blue. Jeans. when they are to be seen in the public square. The Church Lady had, of course, her Church Man complement but who wasn’t her husband, the preacher. Charles Stroud meant well, I’m sure, but he agreed with Church Lady and was just as conservative and NOT WITH IT to my sisters, one of whom at that point was about to be a senior in high school, and the other was out of school and doing nursing and office work. And this in 1975-76, a supposedly freer and happier time.

Come one Sunday morning Oldest Sister sits in parking lot of Hypocritical, Self-Righteous and Husband-Material-poor Church, where had sat our ancesters in the pews, still sprinkled with the rice from our parents wedding. They talk it over. Sister 1 says she just can’t bring herself to go in that place ever again. (She didn’t … it burned down in 2009, surely a sign of the removal of God’s blessing if there ever was one.) Sister 2 agrees, but she has other more nefarious plans afoot. They pull out of the parking lot and head to the east side of town, the locale, ‘mongst the poor Rednecks living near the original Chisholm Trail, of Gospel. Frickin’ Beams. They’ll get married there. Husbands on the hoof are far, far more plentiful.

Meanwhile back at the Church of the Nazarene, we get a spiffy little sermon. Follow me here. This is quite crucial to my future. The sermon runs like this: “Speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession!!!” <Amens, claps, whistles, “Kill the Devil!” Great-grandma shouts from the grave>.

Fast forward a week later. Mother’s heart has been burdened (poor Mother) with the information given her by the Holy Spirit, who at certain propitious moments in my life has acted more like Mercury, the winged god of speed and messenger boys everywhere, than a sober, deliberative, slow-moving force. So this time, the message is, “Oldest Daughter shouldn’t be defying your religious authority woman! Do something!”

Mother does. She immediately yanks me out of the Church of the Nazarene, where, remember, I’ve just been told on the authority of the church into which I was born and raised and had memorized the 1960 Church Manual so I could know how to perform weddings and funerals because … get this … I thought I would become a Church of the Nazarene preacher, [HA!] and had informed Mother of this when I was about 11.

Given a choice about which church to attend would have been lovely. Alas, it was not to be. I was the young, stupid child who couldn’t possibly be trusted to know what was good for him. So, after one hour of being exposed to “Gospel Beams”’ … shall we say, bizarreness and cultish overtones … I’m confident I would have scurried back underneath the skirts of the mother church (of the Nazarene), even if those skirts did belong to a pants-hating biddy who had a hand in every Oak Avenue C of the N pie.

But I wasn’t given a choice. Remember the previous sermon, supposedly delivered by a stern god to church leaders possessed of “utter sanctification” and who are therefore qualified to speak on subjects most weighty: “Speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession!”

I was 11. Puberty was dawning. Teenage outrage, hatred of hypocrisy, self-righteousness, inflated sense of injustice, and general all-around questioning and boundary-pushing are imminent.

The next Sunday, we don’t hightail it over to the other side of town with the sanctified who hate devilish tongue-speaking. Instead, we head straight for “Gospel Beams.” “We’re going here from now on,” says Mummie Dearest.

What happened? Well, last week the church of my birth told me speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession. This week at “Gospel Beams”? FRICKIN’ HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH POPE PAUL VI AND ALL THE SAINTS AND DEAR GOD WHY ARE THESE WOMEN DRESSED IN EXPENSIVE ULTRASUEDE DRESSES RUNNING UP AND DOWN THE AISLES SCREAMING THEIR FOOL HEADS OFF???!!!!!

Then: The kicker. If I am to understand through the gibberish, the complete lack of any catechism, any order of service, regular communion or a multitude of things, there is one clear message: If you do NOT speak in tongues, God is withholding His greatest blessing from you and therefore there was something wrong with you if you didn’t immediately babble in “the presence of the Lord.”

In other words, NOT speaking in tongues was evidence of God withholding his favorite gift from you and therefore you opening yourself up to … you guessed it, demonic possession.

It was perfect. This nonsense lasted for next six (!) years until I got a car and a paper route with lots of Sunday morning deliveries to make, and therefore could make my mumbled excuses of “having to work on Sunday mornings” and thus avoid “Gospel Beams” like the plague.

Admittedly, this was convenient. How many times can you watch emotionally and physically repressed women have the greatest outbursts and then run up and down the aisles screaming, with tragic stains of tears spotting their impeccably tailored UltraSuede outfits?

It was the only time in their lives where they could say anything in their gobbledy language and get away with it. They could have been calling their husbands “black holes of emotional needs with cocks the size of pencil erasers”; they could have been yelling about how the very church around them was suffocating all of us, burying us in a cloying smell of death and fear and weird ritual “call and response” exercises, all done up in a format that claimed that the Holy Spirit was in charge of the church bulletin’s list of the order of the service; He and He alone decided which songs to sing, which verses to recite, whether to let the congregation leave before 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon because the pot roast would burn or whether to just meld it with the 6 p.m. service, which had it’s own weird rituals.

Namely: In that evening Sunday service, one went into the church at 6 p.m., sang some choruses the music for which hadn’t been written down; instead, the music dwelled in the brain of the church organist and music director. This system relied on obscure verses to provide lyrics to songs. If you were a newcomer, well, tough shit. You should just KNOW the tune to Psalm 63:3-4: “Thy lovingkindness is better than life. Thy lovingkindness is better than life. Thus will I bless thee, while I live; I will lift up my hands unto they name.”

The choruses, and many other things, will come upon you stealthily. Some day, you’ll stand and belt out, “They lovingkindness is better than life.” with the best of them. And you won’t have to look up the text to Psalm 63:3-4 in the King James.

After the choruses were sung from memory, there would be the show stopper. It was time for the crowd to “testify.” They would get up (as the Spirit moved them to jump) and they would testify: “I thought about that lady in the cubicle next to mine at Halliburton and how she wore that black dress to work on Tuesday and I also thought of about 18 different things I would do to her if I weren’t shackled to the ol’ ball-and-chain and if the sexy lady didn’t think I was a toad with three heads. But the Lord spoke to me and said, “Hey dumbass! You’re married under solemn holy vows and cannot think with your cock anymore, so put it away!” and He saved me right then and there from committing the grave sin of dissing my wife who hasn’t put out since 1957!” And so on.

But “Testify Time” often came with a built-in hazard that almost every Sunday hoisted the Beams of the Gospel by its own petard. The idea was that anyone could speak as the Spirit moved them. But the fatal flaw was that “Testify Time” could be easily hijacked by someone claiming to be moved. And the beauty of that was that no one else could stop him ’cause then they’d be speaking against the mysterious ways and movings of the Lord!

This always led to a brilliant, albeit stultifying, interlude every Sunday night. And some Sunday mornings. See, this dude named Joe Who-Wanted-Desperately-to-be-a-Preacher would get up and start to speak spontaneously and randomly and boringly about … God alone can remember what. Joe Who-Wanted-Desperately-to-be-a-Preacher tried all the words and phrases and everything, but … dear lord, he just wasn’t good. He did NOT have the showmanship, the theatricality, the ability to get Ultra Suede-ed women screaming in tongues, of the father-son team that pastored that church.

So Joe Who-Wanted-Desperately-to-be-a-Preacher always brought the place to a standstill. People would get bored. Some would drift away thinking, “I gotta get up at 6 a.m. to go to work, I can’t sit here all night! Don’t judge me!” The organist would sigh and eventually close her hymn book and leave the stage. I would engage in an hour-long seesaw between fighting off sleep and wondering if I did those goddamn Algebra problems in my homework. The relatives would later tut-tut and cluck-cluck about Joe Who-Wanted-Desperately-to-be-a-Preacher and his Showstopping Show. And I would always wonder, “What are you bitching for? He’s perfect for that place and it’s crazy rituals! They’re both bizarre, rambling, byzantine, stultifying, yawn-inducing, and completely ridiculous!” And I would always keep those opinions to myself.

Invariably, by 7:30 or so, even Mom would give up and give the signal and THANK YOU JESUS we could leave. The evening was over, I was a little over an hour from bedtime with school the next day during half the year, and only a little light left out during the rest of the year, so the evening was always ruined completely. Until I was 16, got some wheels and started working a little, and therefore had built in excuses, Sunday nights were the most miserable time of my entire existence. Thank god for K-Mart; when I started working there at 17, I had to often work Sunday afternoons from 12-6. Church started at 6, leaving me to drive myself straight home. Oh, the glorious freedom!!! Money, wheels and a Get-Out-of-Church-Free card!!!

Rapture. [Get it? Rapture? See what I did there?]


S: Fun religion-related fact: Sister #2’s extensive geneology research uncovered the origins of the Pollock clan in Scotland at the House of Pollok near Glasgow. In the house is a lovely, very faggy portrait of the Duke of Buckingham, in the full froppery of the age. The story is that King James was a complete fag: a fanny pounder, an ass bandit, an artist, funny, confirmed bachelor who managed to fuck enough to produce some offspring … in otherwords, a light-in-the-loafers Mary, Friend of Dorothy, honest-to-god poofter Mariçon fanny bandit bugger poofter pansy fruitcake Uranian Nancy Boy who is also a pillow biter and shirt lifter, Molly/Maryann, cocksucking, ass fucking, limp-wristed Son or Daughter of Bilitis, who just happened to be the King (and queen) of England when the most famous post-Reformation English translation of the Bible was put together … and then dedicated to … His Pansyness.

I can even remember the start of the dedication to the King James Version of the Bible. It is a translation which inexplicably remains sacred and inviolate to millions of Americans who believe that all other translations are the Devil’s Work—especially that 1960s New International Version, which was authored, obviously, by Satan in a futile attempt to tempt you away from the KJV, the One True Bible. Never mind that the KJV is the one translation commissioned by the biggest fruit and nut to hold the British Throne since King Edward II, a poofter whose poof hole was made poofier with red hot pokers and thus he expired. That is, the biggest fruit and nut until at least, oh, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Boris Johnson. Yes, I’m well aware they are prime ministers. It’s just that the British throne is no longer occupied by monarchs. The actual Queen (and whatever king succeeds her) has no power and prefers to remain well above sordid political affrays. At the moment, in fact, she is having nothing at all to do with the nasty, muddly mess of Brexit, and wishes to keep herself and the Royal Corgis (who possess more brains than all the prime ministers of the last 75 years put together) clean and well above the fray of sordid power wielding.

Ahem.

Sorry.


Fair warning: There will now be an incredibly long, massive digression. Feel free to skip ahead over the following King James Bible bit. I always did growing up; you should have the same privilege.


I said I clearly remember the KJV dedicatory. If you’ve never had the privilege of growing up in a true, Bible (KJV)-believing household, here’s your chance to get a feel for what it’s like.

The dedicatory is the way the holy priests of the church decided to flatter their fluttery sovereign: They gave him his new Bible and wrote him the most fawning letter in recorded history. This flattery of the fluttery King James is peerless. It took them longer to think of this short paragraph than it did to translate the whole book. And if you’ve ever read the book of Numbers, you KNOW how long it must have taken.

This introductory bit of the monks were so far up His Nibs ass that they could see out his nose. It is officially known as “The Epistle Dedicatory.” It was included in almost every KJV Bible until the latter part of the Twentieth Century.


An aside: Of COURSE!!!!! the Dedicatory was eliminated out of Satanic, Popish ignorance and dishonesty and thus “distorts the intent of the preparers … hides the flavor and meaning of the time in which it was prepared, and presumes that we know better than the preparers. It also changes history by withholding vital historical information,” says the New Albany-Louisville Bible Students Ecclesia. Which appears, interestingly enough, to be an … organization, shall we say … dedicated to pure things such as Gay King James’ Very Own Bible.

The comment quoted above is followed by a longish screed against erasing history and goes on rather tiringly about the scourge of political correctness (quelle horreur!). They end their rant with “We are not critical [underlined not critical] of Catholics! We are critical of Catholic doctrine. The distinction is ENORMOUS!

Insert “blacks” and “black culture” for Catholics and what do you have? “We are not critical of Black people! We are critical of Black culture. The distinction is ENORMOUS!” “I don’t have anything against blacks, but I just hate Rap, welfare and breeding like bunnies!”

And you can play this white, cis, heteronormative, privileged, etc., game with any group from history: “We are not critical of Jews! We are critical of Jewish culture. The distinction is ENORMOUS!” “We are not critical of Gays! We are critical of Gay culture. The distinction is ENORMOUS!” “We are not critical of Mescans! We are critical of Mescan culture. The distinction is ENORMOUS!”

<AHEM> Sorry for the digression from the digression. Back to the main digression:


“The Epistle Dedicatory’ [Gird your loins, girls, it’s gonna be a long read. My pithy, snarky, sarcastic comments attempting to spice up this lickspittle fawning are in brackets.]

“TO THE MOST HIGH AND MIGHTY PRINCE [Get HER!], JAMES, by the Grace of God [and Elizabeth’s shriveled up ovaries], KING OF GREAT BRITAIN [until the Twenty-teens Brexit fiasco], FRANCE [“I fart in your general direction”], AND IRELAND [As if! He wishes!], DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, etc. [Yadda yadda yabba doo] The Translators of the Bible [groveling in the mud] wish Grace [Definition: “Unmerited divine assistance …” “unmerited” certainly fits the description], Mercy [“compassion or forbearance.” Question: Was a man who could have someone beheaded at a gesture capable of being particularly compassionate?], and Peace [oh good lord, the man waged wars right and left and north and west] through JESUS CHRIST [whoa, all caps, don’t shout, my dear monks] our Lord [finally, the end of the sentence].

“(1) Great and manifold were the blessings [We kicked in the teeth of the Welsh and a chicken showed up in our pot, miraculously!], most dread Sovereign [the man called his male lover his “wife” and indulged in very quite un-Dread-Sovereign-like activities], which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, [who could mercifully strike us down and end this nasty, brutish and short existence—now THAT would be true mercy!] bestowed upon us the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty’s Royal Person to rule and reign over us [Sorry, that was due to the Scots … and to Henry VII the usurper of Bosworth, and to Elizabeth I’s shriveled up womb, and to other strange oddities of history, but whatevs, good monks].

For whereas it was the expectation of many [oh, the foolish Many with their expectations!], who wished not well unto our Sion [“He’s a faggy Scot! Of course we don’t wish him well!” said the Many], that upon the settling of that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory [she of the most happy, arsenic-laced, white-ass makup], some thick and palpable clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this Land [you mean Boris Johnson was floatin’ around the Strand back then too?!], that men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk [to the altar? to the nearest other man? what to do?!]; and it should hardly be known, who was to direct the unsettled State [wherein there had just been Much Slaughter: Catholic by Protestant, Cavalier by Roundhead, sluts by wrothful fathers, and WITCHES by everyone]; the appearance of Your Majesty, as of the Sun in his strength, instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists, and gave unto all that were well affected exceeding cause of comfort [“NOW is the Winter of Our Discontent made Glorious Summer by this Son of York!
And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house,
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds,
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber,
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.”
C’mon, boys, you totally stole all this from frickin’ Shakespeare!]; especially when we beheld the Government established in Your Highness [No Papists or Demoncrats in Your Ministries, no sirree odds bodkins!], and Your hopeful Seed, [Well, now about that seed … something quite wild shall happen with that unhappy seed, but we won’t tell these monks; let ’em be surprised] by an undoubted Title, and this also accompanied with peace and tranquility at home and abroad. [“Undoubted Title” traced all the way back to Edward the Black Prince, we swear! Also, yay, peace and tranquility at home and abroad! Now let’s go burn witches and slay some Spaniards! Also the Dutch! Kill the Dutch!]

“(2) But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God’s sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of the earth; [Quick, can you esteemed bros name the 33rd chapter of the Book Ezekiel, verses 15-20? No? Anyone?] because the fruit [heh—they said, “Fruit” when writing about James the Light Loafered!] thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven. [Nothing but misery here on earth is possible; you must die in agony and obedience to an perhaps invisible spaghetti monster in order to have mansions and True Happiness(tm) in the next world, which we totally swear exists and where there shall be no Papist witches of any kind. Also, no gophers. We hate gophers ]

“(3) Then not to suffer this to fall to the ground, but rather to take it up, and to continue it in that state, wherein the famous Predecessor of Your Highness [The Virgin Ice Queen Elizabeth I, if you’re keeping score] did leave it: nay, to go forward with the confidence and resolution of a Man [And oh, what a Man Jamesy was!] in maintaining the truth of Christ, and propagating it far and near, [and boy do we know how proper non-Papist Christians can propagate themselves far and near] is that which hath so bound and firmly knit the hearts of all Your Majesty’s loyal [Loyal? Ding-dong! It’s Guy Fawkes at the door and he wishes a word with you!] and religious people unto You, that Your very name is precious among them [as it still is among King-James-Version-of-the-Bible-ONLY folks in His Majesty’s former colonies]: their eye doth behold You with comfort, and they bless You in their hearts, as that sanctified Person who, under God, is the immediate Author of their true happiness [He spread his gay-ity far and near and made EVERYone happy!].

And this their contentment doth not diminish or decay, but every day increaseth and taketh strength, when they observe, that the zeal of Your Majesty toward the house of God doth not slack or go backward, but is more and more kindled [okay, now this is all sounding just plain naughty-naughty, you cloistered bro-bros!], manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom, by writing in defence of the Truth, (which hath given such a blow unto that man of sin, as will not be healed,) [James is writing Truth-defending tracts! Take that, Satan!] and every day at home, by religious and learned discourse, by frequenting the house of God, by hearing the Word preached, by cherishing the Teachers thereof, by caring for the Church, as a most tender and loving nursing Father [that loving Father who goes to church every time the doors are open when he’d rather be back at the castle playing ring-around-the-bedstead with his wife, the Duke of Bedford, and who pays for those church doors out of his dwindling purse, (God smack Elizabeth in her pancake-madeup face for spending all that money on ships) and who suffers through many sermons about the perils of the bare female ankle <yawn> and the heartbreaking, sinful evil of teaching peasants to read].

“(4) There are infinite [seems a bit hyperbolic] arguments of this right Christian and religious affection in Your Majesty; but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. [We worked DAMN hard to do this for your Royal Gayness, so you DAMN well better appreciate it … er, if it please Your Grace!] For when Your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the Original Sacred Tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our own, and other foreign Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue; [Good, plain, white, Anglo-Saxon English, as it should be, not in those dirty Jew, brown-skinned Aramaic and oily Greek languages, no sir!] Your Majesty did never desist to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, [“So, Abbot, can you have your bros draw like, 100, capital letters a day so we can get this done in my lifetime, huh? 100 a day, don’t leave out the naughty bits in Song of Solomon and chop-chop, there’s a good lad, or We’ll chop-chop your head!”] and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require. [Tote that barge! Life that bale! Or get Thine scribbling ass in jail!]

“(5) And, now at last, by the mercy of God, and the continuance of our labours, [but mostly our labours, ’cause we didn’t see no finger of God coming out of the clouds above Canterbury inking no thee’s, thine’s, thy’s and begat’s … oh, dear God, all the begats that we had to write!] it being brought unto such a conclusion, as that we have great hopes that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby [good fruit coming from a book dedicated to a good fruit! These just write themselves]; we hold it our duty to offer it to Your Majesty, not only as to our King and Sovereign, but as to the principal Mover and Author of the work [thanks for all the lashings and breads-and-waterings!]: humbly craving of Your most Sacred Majesty, that since things of this quality have ever been subject to the censures of ill meaning and discontented persons [unless you send us some troops to protect us after this, these ignorant Papist hayseeds around here are gonna try to burn us at the stake], it may receive approbation and patronage from so learned and judicious a Prince as Your Highness is [again, we’ll need some troops and firefighters, which you just have to send because this was all your idea and now the Papists are all pissed at us], whose allowance and acceptance of our labours shall more honour and encourage us, than all the calumniations and hard interpretations of other men shall dismay us. [The same calumnarious men, in fact, who are going to cut off your son’s head so cleanly in 1648.] So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons [Catholics! Shudder! The horror! Also, don’t you just LOVE them actually writing “Popish Persons” unironically and all that?] at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God’s holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness [Popish plots to keep the masses ignorant! They’re different than our plots to keep the masses ignorant because the Pope is the Beast (see Revelation, re: the Beast) and only we are true Christians!]; or if, on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto noting, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil [Oh, that conceited bishop over there in Lincoln or somewhere, we know his kind! He thinks he knows everything, the mary!]; we may rest secure supported within by the truth and innocency of a good conscience, having walked the ways of simplicity and integrity, as before the Lord [the Bishop of Lincoln wears pink bloomers under his red stole and reeks of Chanel No. 5! We only wear hair shirts and the manly, simple scents of our own unwashed bodies!]; and sustained without by the powerful protection of Your Majesty’s grace and favour [Again we ask: Having made us do this book thing, which took like 20 million man-hours and enough ink to stain the North Sea purple for centuries, you WILL protect us from egotistical bishops and Popist Poopheads, won’t you? Please?], which will ever give countenance to honest and Christian endeavours against bitter censures and uncharitable imputations [and burnings at the stake for buggery and witchery and encouraging the plebes to learn to read].

“(6) The Lord of heaven and earth bless Your Majesty with many and happy days [21,466 days, to be exact, if you’re curious], that, as his heavenly hand hath enriched Your Highness with many singular and extraordinary graces [yeah, his “graces” included dressing in silk frocks and playing “hide the tarse in the furse”], so You may be the wonder of the world in this latter age for happiness and true felicity, to the honour of that great God, and the good of his Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord and only Saviour.” [Dear great God, his church, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the prophets and saints, you monkly bros were long winded! It was like that long-winded inauguration address by William Henry Harrison, who ranted on for two hours in a cold rain and caught his death of pneumonia or typhus or both and died after 31 cough-filled days as President. Dedication?! It takes dedication to even read one convoluted phrase! Ahem. Amen!]

—Epistol Dedicatory, King James Version, Holy Bible, 1611

That’s some fawning, long-ass shit, huh? Geezus H. Bro monk noses were so far up His Nibs’ ass, he looked around and said, “Is that you, Buckingham?” But yes, I just adore the fact that all this time the fundies have insisted on the King James version being the One, Only and True Bible, they’ve been worshipping with something created for a big, ol’, fuh-laming faggot. Delicious irony does indeed exist in the world.


I: That was quite a digression. Long-winded much? Um. Sorry. Any chance we might get back on track? Say, perhaps, to the 1960s when you were but a wee lad in Roswell?

S: Sure. Why not. In fact, let’s go back farther and note some genealogy, shall we? Welllll, speaking of dead relatives, I recently found out a juicy little tidbit that scrambled my bacon. It’s not a DNA test that revealed I was … somebody else’s child or something … but. I got an email from familysearch.org. You know them, that’s the exhaustive genealogy repository presided over by the Mormons so they can posthumously baptize you and all your forebears and Anne Frank and Popes John Paul I and II as Totally We Swear Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Now, I normally ignore them but looked at this e-mail because they had a bunch of marriage records of the line of me great-grandparents. One was for James Holmes, who my sister has documented as being part of our family, and who was married to … Sarah Sally Donelson. Oh lordy. Yup, as in her daddy was John Donelson, as in Donelson, TN, as in the co-founder of Nashville, as in the owner of the Clover Bottom Plantation and its buncha slaves and as in the dude who was also that asshole Andrew Jackson’s father-in-law and was undoubtedly an asshole himself with the whole killing Injuns and buying and selling shackled negroes. Yep, that guy. Me great-whatever-grandpappy. Sigh. It’s like a stab in my liberal, bleedin’ heart.

I: And they undoubtedly had many descendants, so I would anticipate the guilt is spread around quite a bit. So how do you figure in the mass of all those descendants?

S: You WOULD ask. So here’s the lineage: John Donelson, who founded Fort Nashborough with James Robertson, now known as Nashville, married Rachel Stockley.

John and Rachel had two kids: John Patrick and Rachel, Jr.. Rachel Jr. married Andrew Jackson. John Patrick married Mary Purnell and John Patrick and Mary had Sarah Sally Donelson. So my great-great-great-great-great grandmother was Andrew Jackson’s niece. And now I want my piece of the action from Donelson’s Clover Bottom mansion being hired out for all those expensive weddings, and from the city of Nashville. Given how many other relations there are, my share should be at least $1.98.

To continue: Sarah Sally Donelson married William Holmes, birthed James Holmes (who had, and I am totally not making this up, a brother named Welcome. Welcome Holmes! Isn’t that a gas?! You just can’t write gags that good!). James-the-brother-of-Welcome-Holmes married Mary Denton. They had a daughter named Sarah Holmes. Nothing jokey and hilarious for their kid, just “Sarah” period.

Then Sarah Holmes married John Yates and they had a daughter named Malvina Yates and Malvina married a dude named Joseph Starr. Joseph and Malvina had twin daughters named Mittie and Minnie Starr (not much imagination for a great-niece of Welcome Holmes). Mittie and Minnie were my relatives who built and propped up the Oak Avenue Church of the Nazarene aforementioned. Minnie then married Lee Robert Teague.

Minnie and Lee then had a daughter named Lorene Teague, who married Curtis Pollock, who had a son named Marion, who married Janis, who had, on that cold December night that was outlined in such detail at the beginning of this narrative, me, myself, I … moi.

Like I said, where’s my share of the revenue and land value of Clover Bottom? Since my house is on what was originally the land stolen from the Injuns to create Clover Bottom, my mortgage should be wiped out at least, and $1.98 ain’t gonna cover it. We queens gotta look out for our interests, you know?

I: Lord. <sigh> Let’s back up. Way back up. You skipped from barely escaping being born in a car to being yanked between fundamentalist churches when you were 12 to lengthy digressions on King James, Bibles, foppery, popery, and genealogy. Wasn’t there anything that happened in between, say, your birth and the whole church thing?

S: You mean all the screaming and crying? The Battle Royale that was the parentals’ attempts to get me to go to Kindergarten? The abject terror of everything from fireworks and sirens to teachers and heights, elevators and roller coasters? The seduction of my best friend from across the street when we were five years old, and I would get him to raise his shirt so we could hug barechested for as long as I could get him to do it, and how sometimes I bullied him into doing it and that one time, sheltered at the side of the garage surrounded by the back yard fence, I got him to raise his shirt and laid on top of him barechested and it was the most sublime feeling I ever had, one that I’ve tried to replicate my entire life? You mean all that stuff?

I: Well, er, uh, well, yes, that “stuff” would be good to hear about, yes.

S: Okay, you asked for it. So, the first time I went to the movies in my entire life, my sisters took me to a horrific horror film at the Plains Theater on Main Street in Roswell, New Mexico. Unfortunately, the Plains is no more; the building is infested with the world’s tackiest displays of silliness and its marquee now touts it as the “UFO Alien Research Center and Museum” and the pics I’ve seen of it are incredibly horrible. The place where such sublime cinema as American in Paris and Beach Blanket Bingo and Bonzo Goes to College now defines tacky. Look up the definition of “so tacky it doesn’t even qualify for camp,” and you’ll find pictures of this UFO Alien tourist trap.

Anyway, before all that, sometime in early 1968, when I would have been a little over four years old, my sisters took me to see this unspeakable horror film, which had been released on 8-February that year. It was just awful, terrifyingly scary, and horribly and tackily done to boot.

It was entitled, Blackbeard’s Ghost and it was made by the <shudder> Walt Disney Company and starred Dean Jones (ohdeargodthehorror) and three actors who I would later actually appreciate greatly: Suzanne Pleshette, Elsa Lanchester and Peter Ustinov (the poor, poor things, having to prostitute themselves to the Walt Disney Corporation in 1968! See what I mean about all the horror?)

I: Pardon the interruption, but Blackbeard’s Ghost isn’t usually thought of, if it is thought of at all, as a “horror flick,” nor is Disney typically a purveyor of terror.

S: A lot you know! Speak for yourself! Disney is perhaps the quintessential shit show/horror show exemplifying Corporate Fascism of all time. And its products are indeed horrific, whether that Frozen abomination of last year or that whole Davy Crockett mass insanity of the 1950s.

Where was I before your naive interruption? Oh yes. I was four. And scared of everything. So I basically cried all the way through the movie. See, in the movie, Blackbeard (Ustinov) was a ghost. He had died and been condemned to haunt a … restaurant or hotel or something or other to atone for his great sin of Piracy on the High Seas. Dean and Suzanne had to help him out to not be a ghost anymore.

There’s this scene where Blackbeard gets on a policeman’s motorcycle and drives it and it looks like no one was driving it because he’s an invisible ghost (and there was NO explanation about how a pirate from the 1600s could possibly know how to drive a police motorcycle which is no lead-pipe cinch, boy. And that pirate also somehow knew how to turn on the motorcycle’s screaming SIREN (!!!!!) which terrified the bloody hell out of me whenever I heard them in real life.

Well, I screamed louder than the movie siren and cried so much that the poor oldest sibling of mine had to remove me to the lobby. I may have calmed down and gone back in for a bit, but I know she was steaming that she was missing her movie while her bratty brother (she still refers to me as a spoiled brat, as recently as 2016, when I was 52 years old; she seems to be sort of stuck on that idea) had to be mollified in the lobby to keep the other patrons from shoving a stopper in my gob.

Now, to be fair to myself, I actually wasn’t being bratty. It really was terrifying. Loud noises and auditoriums with their huge, high ceilings and vertiginous balconies, as well as stadiums, always freaked me the hell out. So not only was there a scary ghost, a wailing siren, the Disney company, Dean Jones’ acting and some angry, shushing patrons, but there was that vast space of the Plains Theater and it’s steep balcony reserved for kissers, smokers and negroes. It was not an Amusing Experience, that I can tell you.

I: It doesn’t sound like it. While movie reminiscing is interesting, I’m more interested in the seduction, as you put it, of your friend from across the street.

S: Well, there’s some more stuff before that. Don’t you want to know my earliest memories?

I: Um, yes, actually. Let’s get some order in this thing. Start with what you remember after your almost-born-in-the-car-because-of-nonexistent-matches-for-cigarettes-tobacco-companies-should-rot-in-hell birth.

S: Sure. I remember the very warm and fuzzy memory of waking up in the late evening, when it was dark outside, and I was in my crib under my blankie, and there was a table lamp on, but the rest of the room was dark, and the parents and siblings were watching TV in the living room, and I felt all warm and snuggly and sleepy and happy. Then I went to sleep.

More? Well, we have the hospital visits. So many hospital visits. Hospitals terrified me too, especially ambulances, getting sick in ambulances and emergency rooms. I have been in them so frequently in my adulthood, however, that they hold no further terror. Except now during the global pandemic. Jesus, we’re all going to die.

But wen I was two, I had to have my tonsils out. And Dr. Richardson yanked ’em at the place where I was born, Eastern New Mexico Medical Center. It was actually a cool place to visit. It smelled pretty good and unusal and antiseptic, and it had two stories. One of probably only two escalators in the whole town of Roswell. It had an elevator, but that was scary and I avoided it.

The hospital had these colored lines embedded in the floor and you just followed the colored line that took you where you needed to go. If you needed to go to the ER, you followed the red line and it took you right there. Patient rooms? Follow the green line. Blue was for maternity. And so on. I’ve always loved rainbow colors and that floor was so cool.

Visiting someone, you would follow the green line, which led you right to the escalators. You rode upstairs and there were three wards (I think), but children under 14 or so were not allowed inside them unless they were a patient.

Now, my Uncle Leon had a lung disease which developed after he got polio when he wsa a kid. He was hospitalized numerous times until he died in August of 1967, when I was three-and-a-half. We would go up to the Medical Center to visit him, and I always stayed in the upstairs lobby with the sisters (who couldn’t go in the ward either) or Dad or whoever, listening to the constant shooooshing of the escalators and the occasional ringing of a chime, praying to god that no ambulances would come.

I loved that escalator. I still remember the fun of riding it. Why was I not scared of it like I was everything else? I haven’t the foggiest.

But the elevator? Hoo boy, that was an evil monster. This one time, we went to visit someone; maybe Leon, maybe not. Oh, the horror! The descending side of the escalator was out of business! You could only go up. It was evening, so they weren’t even working on it. It was blocked off so you couldn’t even use it like a stairway to get back down!

Once we got upstairs, there was a problem then. The stairs were a bit too much for my little legs, but I was a bit too big for Dad to carry me, and besides they were way at the end of the hall. So when the visit was over, we had to get back down somehow and that somehow was the elevator monster, which was also right by the escalator and front lobby, while those damn stairs were further away.

Oh the terror.

Dad had to pick me up and hold me and I cried. We got in and the doors closed and whoosh! My stomach fell out and we plunged that entire whole one story! 12 whole feet!! It took forever and five minutes! Then the doors opened and we stepped out into the lobby. I stared through my tears vengefully at the broken downalator side of the escalator. I seem to remember vowing that if we ever came back to that hospital I was NOT going upstairs unless the downalator was working. It never betrayed me again, fortunately.

But what I was tellin’ was that sometime around this period, probably 1966, I needed my tonsils out. I remember being put in a room which had a crib with tall side bars and rails around it so I couldn’t jump or fall out. I was roughly two or two-and-a-half.

I have three memories connected with this. First, a group of nurses, perhaps some in a nursing class, gathered around my crib, smiling and talking and cooing to me. All in white with white caps. Freaked me out. Although I was cute, ’tis true, so they had a reason to gather round and smile and talk to me. But they were women barking up the wrong tree, boy, and I had no use for them.

Then I remember lying in the crib in the night. The room was dark, but the door was open and so light from the hall came in. There was a “10, 2, and 4” Dr. Pepper clock with a blue neon border on the wall opposite the hospital room. “10, 2, and 4” referred to the old Dr. Pepper slogan that urged people to take a break every day at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to drink a Dr. Pepper. That Dr. Pepper shit would help wreck my health after decades of drinking it, so I guess that memory is rather prophetic.

Then I remember the start of the surgery. I was in the OR and there were people with white hats and gloves and masks and Dr. Richardson was coming towards me with an instrument. Then they must have hit me with anaesthetic. I don’t remember anything else, fortunately. How they kept me from screaming and crying in terror during all that, I don’t know. I suspect they drugged my little ass up. In 1966 with an Air Force base down the street, they could probably get all the trippy drug shit they could load up on, so who knows what they used.

And the final memory was going home from the hospital. For some reason, they parked the 1959 Rambler station wagon at the curb, instead of up in the driveway. Maybe there was another car there. It was very cold and I think it may have been snowing, or had just snowed. I was taken out of the car and covered in a blanket and then carried inside.

Those are the earliest memories I can summon. Happy now?

I: I’m happy if that takes us up to when you were five.

S: Almost. First there’s the memory from when Leon died in 1967. I remember our aunt Joyce taking me and my cousin Jeff, who is just three months younger than me, by the hand and leading us up to Leon’s casket in the funeral home. We were both dressed in suits and ties. In what I now think is pretty weird, but whatever, Joyce lifted me up to see Leon lying there, saying something about how he looks like he’s just asleep, but he’s gone, and having me reach out and touch his cold, dead cheek. I am not making this shit up. And she didn’t seem to be crying or upset. Trying, I guess, to reassure us and not scare us, especially me, the scaredy cat. I don’t think Jeff was ever scared of anything in his life. But that’s another story. I don’t remember anyone being in the room but us and the body, so it was probably before the funeral or something.

Cousin Jeff has a memory of the exact same thing except it’s he and I sitting during the funeral. He also remembers Joyce holding us by the hand. Where our parents where, we have no idea. I have no memory of the funeral, but a little of the grave side moments.

So I guess you can say I first touched a dead man when I was three-and-a-half.

I: Did that not scar you for life?

S: Weirdly enough, no. I didn’t scream or cry or try to run away. In fact, I was a little fascinated that he could be alive and in the hospital and then be lying there in his good suit with a cold cheek and be just gone. That was a mind-blowing concept. I didn’t question it, but I thought it was weird. Perhaps it was a very smart thing that Joyce did; I’ve had no problem the rest of my life with dead people, just with the fact that every living thing dies, and I have no desire to stop living.

I: Okay, well, let’s move on from dead bodies, shall we? Now, not to get too nosy and drool over the juicy bit that might be coming, tell me more about the “boy next door” or across the street, as the case may be. What was the barechested hugging thing when you were five all about?

S: Oh, lord. Okay, we agreed I’d lay everything out there to the bright light of openness and transparency and truth. Fine. Here it is. And I stress, there’s nothing “sexual” about this. It’s about two curious five year olds exploring the sensations of the body and what can make you feel good. We were BOTH five and peepees were not involved. In fact, I personally didn’t know what sex was until I was 14. So I don’t want any of the outrage brigade reporting this to the cops as a child porn fantasy. It is most definitely NOT that! It’s something kids have done and do and will do naturally for centuries. But anyway, here goes.

His name was … and I am not making this up … Fayette. Yes, he was a blond-haired, blue-eyed cute boy whose mother named him Fayette. No amount of Googling has turned him up. Either he died years ago or, more likely, changed his name to something less likely to get him beaten up. I mean, he couldn’t even shorten it to Fay, could he? He’d still have to fend off hordes of toxic masculinity. Maybe he called himself George. Or Rock. Whatever he did, I hope he survived his name.

This woman would often, like mothers of the era would do, go out on their porch and yell for him as loud as she could all over the neighborhood: “FAYYYYYYY-EEEETTTTTTTTEEEE!!!” Over and over until he answered her. At this time, before schooling began, he didn’t seem to be bothered by his name, just that it was time to go inside.

I could write reams about the free range kids that we were in the era, even at five. We could cross the street to each others’ houses, which were within about four houses apart, so it was a smallish range we were free to roam in, but it included our back yards and riding our bikes three blocks away to first grade.

I don’t know how or why it started. But I did sorta fancy Fayette. He was my type. Blond/blue/hairy chested/over 40 still IS my type. We even looked a bit alike. I certainly liked him more than the girl down the street who I think wanted to be my girlfriend except we had arguments and I once yanked the bow out of the sash around her dress because we were mad at each other. There’s another (and gory) story about her parents for when we’re done with this one. It involves my greatest childhood phobias, blood, stitches, and emergency rooms.

Now that I have had lots of experience teaching kindergarten, I have realized that five year olds love to hug. They’ll hug anything. Teachers, visitors, stuffed animals, the roof support pole in the classroom, the trees on the playground. And they will especially hug each other. The boys don’t hug the girls (that could be a problem), but they do hug other boys. These are happy, innocent, good-feeling clinches. Our rules these days are “don’t touch anyone else,” so we often have to be stern and pry them apart and say “don’t do that!” but we can’t explain why in any detail. Not just me, but most kindergarten teachers, really don’t want to talk about danger and touching and sex and good hugs and bad hugs and why they’re bad. Let the first grade teachers do it. I tend to look a little the other way. If one boy looks uncomfortable I immediately put a stop to it. But otherwise, I don’t break it up with a pole or an angry comment (some teachers do the angry face thing), but I do put a stop to it. I just don’t go into anything with them.

My point in mentioning it is that we were, it looks like, normal five year old boys who liked to hug each other. The same thing happened in kindergarten and sort of first grade, but after that, you stop hugging other guys or it becomes problematic at best and provokes ass kicking at worst. So you grow out of natural expression and into closeted repression, all well before you turn 10. I did … to a point.

Anyway, I don’t remember how it started, we just liked hugging each other. But I liked it better than he did and I wanted to do it for a loooonnnnngggg time. And at some point, I discovered that it felt even better if our skin was touching without those pesky shirts to get in the way. So for awhile, our play time became a bit of a negotiation with me trying to persuade him to raise our shirts and hug, for at least a little while. I think I became a bit of a bully about it; I remember we had a fight because he wanted to stop and I didn’t one day. And I don’t think I ever asked him to again. I sensed that I was right up against an unspoken and not understood line. Being a kid that was afraid to get in trouble (even though I hadn’t really ever been trouble and the consequences had never been more than my mother’s quick swat on my butt), so I just stopped trying to get poor Fayette to give me some of that sweet, sweet hugging.

Sorry, Fayette, if you run across this. Sorry if I was a bully about this and sorry if we fought. It was my fault. But I was five and clueless. And you were adorable. But still so very, very sorry. I hope you’ve had a wonderful life.

Really, sincerely, I hope he has. I used to hope he turned out gay like me and that he had actually enjoyed our hugging and that he has had a great life and is married to a great guy who gets millions of hugs from Fayette.

But at the time, roughly 1968, the best feeling I had ever had was discovering the thrill of pressing my bare chest against another boy’s bare chest. No kissing or anything else occurred. We just hugged. And for me, that great feeling was in the chest and in my heart. Not … down lower. I was five, c’mon. It’s not a dirty story. In fact, it’s a sweet story, of how kids, in spite of how it may freak out us adults, will explore and discover and do what comes natural.

To me, as a gay boy, hugging another boy was perfectly natural. It always has been, it always will be. I always felt instinctively somehow that people would disapprove and say I was naughty. And I also felt instinctively that I knew what I wanted and I was going to have it and all those disapproving people could just go suck eggs and pound sand. Even at the height of the worst spiritual and sexual repression that Oklahoma and its churches could dole out, my inner belief has always been the same: There’s nothing wrong with me. I’ve known who I am and what I wanted since I was at least five. And everyone else who is not onboard with that can go over Niagra Falls without a barrel.

So there.


I have another clear early memory, somewhat related. My mother was shopping in Gibson’s, an early version of Wal-Mart that was in towns like Roswell and Duncan and places in between. Gibson’s always smelled of fresh popped popcorn; all the dime stores did. I can smell it even now. I was in the seat of the shopping cart and we were moving along. Suddenly, I saw this other boy in the seat of his mother’s shopping cart going the opposite way. Our eyes locked and we just stared at each other. We didn’t make faces or holler at each other or turn to mothers for reassurance. We stared during those few minutes that we were stopped across from each other.

He had dark black hair. We must have been three or something. Same age. I have no idea what was going on in his head, but in mine, I thought he was gorgeous. And then our mothers continued shopping. We watched each other until we were out of sight.

I wanted to hug him too. If you want to know when a gay guy knows he’s gay, well, there you go. For me, three to five years old. But what is gay? At first, at that age, it’s just attraction. Fascination you can’t figure out. Knowing you can’t hug the girls in your class, but you sure can hug the boys and it’s seen as boys being boys, and that’s what you want anyway. Being gay is your heart beating faster at random moments like seeing a cute boy your age in a store. And that happens whenever we’re six or 56.

This is all separate and apart from the sex in being gay. The attraction is there. And once the realization that the attraction is not acceptable to the people around you, well, after the attraction comes the closet.

And after the closet comes the sex part of being gay. At first, you’re closeted just because you like other boys and you know by first or second grade that that is just not going to fly if you want to avoid a wide variety of severe consequences. So you’re in the closet about your attraction. Then, at a certain age, you’re told what sex is. And the closet door gets more tightly closed.

For me, I found out, sort of, what sex was in three ways: From a novel in the library, from a clinical article in our Encylopedia Americanas, and in the form of the question, “Is there anything you want to know? If so, ask me or your dad. Oh, and homosexuality is a grave sin that God will punish you for with everlasting burning. Let us know if you need anything!” from my mother. (Dad believed the home front was women’s responsibility, especially educating us about religion and sex. And she was, to her credit, committed to education and having us be educated and informed. After all, she scrimped and saved to get those 1962 Encyclopedia Americanas in the first place.)

Here’s how I learned what (straight) sex was at age 14, after gathering some hints from things whispered in junior high.

  1. I heard that “intercourse” was sex, probably at junior high. I went home and looked it up. It referred to the word “coitus.” So I looked that one up. And wham bam, thank you ma’am, there it all was. With drawings of male (flaccid) and female reproductive systems. With full descriptions of foreplay and how the penis becomes erect. And how it is inserted. And how there is sexual activity, the man, er, what was the word they used? Moved his penis in and out of the woman’s vagina. Yeah, that was roughly it. And then he had an orgasm and ejaculated sperm into the vagina. And then the sperm swam into the uterus, found an egg, penetrated it and voila! the beginnings of a zygote/fetus/child. Such a warm and interesting way to describe it all. And to this gay boy, let me tell you. The whole male reproductive diagrams were fascinating, as were the whole getting an erection and ejaculating thing. But what about us gay boys? The female diagrams, which didn’t really give you a clue about how a woman actually looked in her nether regions, still repulsed me even without a beaver shot, as male friends would later so charmingly put it. I didn’t care about beavers or pussies or vulvas or why such bizarre names were applied to them. My mother and my sisters had those. Fine for them and any man who wanted that. But I sure as hell didn’t. It was the penis I was interested in. And HUGGING.
  2. Around this time (1977ish), I discovered a seemingly innocuous fictional book in our public library about a tornado hitting a small town in Ohio. It was Twister by Jack Bickham (if you want to look it up), based on the super outbreak of 1974 that levelled, among other cities, Xenia, OH. The plot: Two of the main characters, man and woman, are having an affair. As the storm gathers, they’re somewhere having sex. And Bickham gives it the full, dirty description that our Encyclopedia Americanas lacked. A paraphrase from what I remember: “Reaching down, she grasped his engorged penis. Just before she tucked him inside her, she felt a tiny qualm … ‘Oh, Jack, you’re so big! You fill me UP!” And so on. I had to go look up what engorged meant. But it was the first connection, however badly written, between the clinical encyclopedia entry and reality. So this is sex. Well, count me out. I’m getting a thrill from sleeping naked and getting a hard on, but I’m not using it THAT way, that’s for damn sure! So, still in the closet, some clarification occurred for me, but the closet was now useful to both hide me from the scrutiny of others and to protect me from the horrors of heterosexuality. It was both comfort and prison.
  3. The third way was the aforementioned question from my mother. It was not informational, except for the part that slammed my closet door closed and nailed the son of a bitch shut for the next 16 years. This was merely confirmation of what I had sensed since I was five.
  4. And finally, how did I find out what gay sex was? Wellllllll, here’s where things get sticky (both complicated and sticky like as in sex sticky). Putting it simply, I was groomed and then sexually abused by a male relative. For what I figured out, the abuse was off and on for 12 years. The grooming began when I was 14 and he married into the family, and finally ended when I was 27 and figured out a simple way to stop it that was so simple that I hadn’t grasped it before. I simply removed access to myself. I just made sure we were never alone together ever again. It worked. He moved on to other targets. Including his own daughter’s boyfriend. But that’s a story for much later in our tale.
  5. Although I was rather experienced in everything but anal sex by the time I was in college, a wonderful book called The New Joy of Gay Sex was mighty helpful. When I would go to the local mall for lunch between morning and evening classes, I invariably stopped in Waldenbooks and usually bought something, but much of the time I just browsed. I discovered their “Marriage and Sexuality” section fairly quickly. And lo and behold! There on a shelf, often in different spots on different shelves when I would visit, was a copy of The New Joy of Gay Sex. Hallelujah!! The only problem: I couldn’t buy it. That would involve checking out up front where another human would discover I was a fag. Plus it was on the expensive side. And for a commuting college student still living at home, where would I stash it? Probably in the car, but that carried risk. The best plan? Do what all the other fags were doing. Wait until there was no other people around, grab it off the shelf, move over to the History section, maybe even put it between the pages of a bigger book, and take in the glorious images that made your heart beat in your ears and your pulse race, because these pictures were showing you what you had been wanting since you were five. Hell, they were even showing you what you were missing by having your only sexual contact be the abusive stuff you were getting from the in-law. The drawings were great. I learned it could be loving and open and free and exciting and painful and there were things called condoms and sounding rods and how you could clean out your ass and use it to fuck, and nipple clamps and golden showers and daddies and proper fellatio and good, explosive cum blasts and hand jobs and cruising and tea rooms and having sex with black men and Prince Alberts and piercing and tattoos and drag queens and tops and bottoms and the role of the prostate in a bottom’s amazingly good, explosive orgasm and AIDS/HIV and protection and love and kissing and … and … and … It was a magical book. Our Harry Potter. The story is the same: Harry is “different” and living with uptight, intolerant, straight people (muggles) in a closet below some stairs. And then the day comes when an owl arrives and Harry discovers others like himself. In fact, a whole entire world for him and his kind. You can interpret that many ways. But for us queers, it was immediately recognizable. The New Joy of Gay Sex in the Waldenbooks was our Harry Potter. It was the invitation delivered by the owl for us to come and ride the express train to Hogwarts/Gayville and never look back, to be free of Muggles/Breeders forever. I looked for it and caged long reads of it as much as possible, until finally, my erection would get obvious and I would have to hide behind the magazines I was buying (usually GQ or something else with shirtless men in it) and then also hide it behind the front counter until they gave me the bag back and I could use that bag to hide my hard cock that was already dripping pre-cum through the top of my jeans and threatening to poke his insistent head through the top of my belt. I would walk immediately to the car, find a place in a parking lot where the pants could come down, find the most appealing shirtless pic I could find in GQ and then take care of business. It was a glorious time, being 18-22 years old. Glorious.

So, that pretty much covers the sex education of this particular average American boy of the 1970s/80s. We’ll be revisiting all this later. But there’s so much more childhood to cover first! Apologies for being a bit out of order.

I: <Whew> Wow, that’s … interesting. You had quite a time in that closet!

S: Yes. Don’t we all?


I: Well. <ahem> Let me adjust my hot collar and get back on track. Kindergarten is where I believe we are.

S: Ah. That. Kindergarten. What a … fucked up, memorable year.

[This is nonfiction work in progress. Come back soon for more.]

Bryan, Who I Totally Made Up

“I thanked him and then trailed off as I watched him reach inside his open shirt collar and took out a necklace with rainbow triangles on it.”

He’s an amazing guy. We’re married now. It was tough to get there.


Act 1

In January, my husband and I were sitting at a red light on our way to get groceries. A completely drunken asshole in a dump truck came along at high speed and smashed into us, hitting the driver’s side. Adam was driving. He was killed instantly, crushed. I was pinned in and unconscious, barely alive. A fire station was across the street and they came over immediately, used their equipment to get me out and carted me off to an ER in the suburb, from where I was flown into the city’s level 1 trauma center.

The dump truck driver was mildly hurt; he was given first aid on the scene then carted off to jail.

I remember getting hit and struggling to breathe and fading in and out as the fire crew worked to get me out of the mangled Jeep. I remember pain as I was taken into the first ER, then noise and cold as I was put into the helicopter. There was more noise and cold when we landed on the roof of the trauma center, then bits and pieces of light and conversation and pain that always made me pass out.

A neurosurgeon was called in for my back and rib cage injuries. There were worries about my heart, so a cardiologist was there. Given my medical profile of years of problems, I was a challenge. They decided to bring in a thoracic surgeon first, to alleviate internal bleeding and bloodflow problems and to evaluate the heart. I needed resuscitation three times on the table. They kept me in an induced coma for the second surgery, the neuro procedures which shored up my rib cage and spine. There was hope I could walk again, but no guarantees. A third surgery happened for head and facial injuries.

Two weeks later, I woke up in the ICU. It was dark, there were tubes, the usual medical devices doing various noisy things and some panic. A doctor was nearby taking notes. Finally he noticed that my head was moving and he saw that I was awake.

Some evaluations followed. They told me they were going to remove the ventilator to see how I was breathing. If that was successful, then they could remove the entubation apparatus.

I’ve used chapstick since I was a small kid, always outside playing in the New Mexico sunshine. My lips now felt like they were on fire. Staff gathered around, but all I wanted was some lip balm relief. Instructions followed and I did what they wanted as much as I could. Breathe in, breathe out. Follow my penlight with your eyes.

The entubation was removed and my throat was as sore as my lips. I asked for chapstick and ice in a raspy, husky voice that didn’t sound like my own. And then I asked for Adam.

Friends were brought in along with the balm and ice. I got settled a bit more and a bit more awake. How is Adam?

Finally, a doctor broke the news. I already knew from my friend’s faces. He was gone, I was flattened, and I was also screwed. With him gone, so was our money, main income, the car and his health insurance that covered me. I could not afford our mortgage or food and listening to the doctor tell me what had happened to me and then what they had had to do to save me was pretty terrifying, but what was worse was knowing that I was just royally screwed. I would lose the house, be kicked out of the hospital, have nowhere to go and no way to get there and no ability to earn any money, which could not come fast enough to save the situation.

“Why didn’t you let me die?” was my next question. There was a mumbled answer. My friends stood and cried and both said not to worry, they would take care of me and get me back on my feet. At that particular moment, the neurosurgeons weren’t even sure if I could stand or walk, let alone “get back on my feet” and get a job.

If I could have reached the cart with the pills, I would have ended it right then and there. Suicide watch had already started, so they were all pretty careful with me.

Three more followup surgeries followed. Four weeks in ICU, two weeks in post-surgical recovery regular rooms. Then kicked out. Adam’s insurance and our car insurance agreed to cover all this up to a cutoff point of $1 million. Sounds generous, but it was because they were already in negotiations with the dump truck company’s insurer. It would ultimately not cost our insurer’s a dime; in fact, they made money.

I was left to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer and managed to find one that had sued the dump truck company several times. A wealth of information was in their files, including that the drunk driver had multiple accidents, two with injuries, and other claims of property and vehicle damage over the previous five years. He was best buds with the company owners. They were quite wealthy and covered the losses and mayhem he caused.

My suit was filed as soon as I was awake in ICU. The state and Feds had already launched investigations. The city was filing vehicular manslaughter and other charges. My husband’s murder was big local news for awhile. Then the Feds raided the truck company offices. Tons of violations: everything from improperly licensed drivers and improperly certified trucks to filing false income taxes and false business taxes and false OSHA and Labor department forms and so on and so on.

Their insurer was immediately ready to talk settlement with me and my insurers. Given the mounting evidence of criminal operations that they had been insuring, their exposure was huge. My insurers got undisclosed settlement amounts in the millions. I signed on the dotted line and took a little over $30 million, which was compensatory, so not taxable. My attorney took home a $10 million check, which the truck company’s insurer had to pay; it didn’t come out of my $30m. And I still had three operations and four more weeks of hospitalization to go.

Around 20 days later, the money was in a bank account and I was starting the painful and slow process of rehab. I moved into a small apartment across the street from the hospital for the first month.

Our four dogs were taken care of at first by our friends, then the wonderful people of the rescue group we had adopted the dogs from came together and took them in temporarily.

After over 10 weeks, I finally went home. I could stand unsteadily and walk with the equipment at the rehab place, but I couldn’t drive or anything else. I planned Adam’s memorial service, which was held after his cremation and when I was just barely able to stand the surreal and terrible ceremonial. I was in pain, physically and emotionally, and the service was a blur of images and crying and confusion. I went back to the apartment and slept for two straight days.

As the money sat in the account, I could pay bills. The house was paid off. I began to try to decided which car I should eventually buy. Other financial decisions had to be made. We put a chunk in an account to pay for medical expenses. The truck company’s insurer too on the cost of paying any health expenses, including surgeries and hospitalizations, related to the murder wreck. The claims were paid, thank god, but I never knew if they would hold up their end of the bargain.

I also had to testify at preliminary hearings and trials of the driver/murderer, the company owners and others. The drunken maniac got 25 years and had to serve 10 years of that before parole consideration could be given. The husband/wife owners got 10 years each. They were an incredible piece of work, both of them; complete idiots and assholes, chaotic hot messes who had lurched from drama to drama throughout their lives, inexplicably managing to amass millions along the way. The state and Feds cleaned them out and slammed their asses to the wall. On top of their 10 years for the murder and related charges, they were given additional sentences stemming from the IRS, OSHA and other agency charges. They were barred from ever owning a truck or trucking company ever again. They would not be able to drive again for years. The murderer himself could not drive for five years if he were to be released on parole. I made it my mission to pressure parole board and state officials to keep the assholes in prison for as long as I could.


Act II

Out of the hospital, rehab three times a week, I’m a millionaire who has lost the love of his life. There are four hounds to be fed and attended. Getting groceries was almost a major operation. There were doctor’s appointments and three post-hospitalization surgeries. And there was anxiety and depression and screaming and crying constantly. I ultimately lost over 50 pounds, which I needed to do, but it was a very brutal diet. Rehab got me in shape. I worked out some more just to not have to think. It was the lowest point of my life, my pit of bottomless despair.

With the coming of spring, I began to live a little more and think a little more and drive a little more and talk a little more in therapy and be basically functional. I still thought it would perhaps be better to check out and be done with it all. But as each day passed, the consensus with friends was that I had been given the gift of surviving, of continuing to live, and that I should live the life I had been given. Many people had worked hard to bring me back from the brink. Suicide would have been an insult to their work. To the support of my friends. To survive and also live and have a future was made my mission, even if I wasn’t very into the idea. I lived, I breathed. I functioned. The elephant sitting on my chest which was the oppressiveness and anxiety and panic and stress from losing Adam and have to survive began to fade slowly.

By the summer, I was not sure what I wanted. I now had the money to go wherever I wanted. For months, I had been extremely reluctant to leave the house, the first house he and I had bought together, the first place where the deed was in both our names: “Adam Foster and Sean Jacobs, a married couple,” the deed read. I couldn’t stand the thought of selling it, but the thought of always being there was beginning to get a bit oppressive too. There were reminders of him everywhere. His unmade bed. His urn containing his ashes. His clothes. His shoes. His journals from a lifetime of obsessively writing down everything that had ever happened to him; journals that would sometimes anger me in the future when I would sit and read them, particularly the ones on his laptop where he wrote out some of his frustrations with me, with us. Nothing too horrible, just a bit unfair. Nothing that revealed anything like an affair or something, that wasn’t Adam. Just mostly little stuff. But sometimes those little things that bothered him would sting me and make me defensive in my own mind. I sometimes argued with him out loud or in my head. When I would argue with his journal out loud, the dogs would get kind of pissed that I was interrupting their naps, or keeping them up in the middle of the night. Still, it wasn’t enough to lift the Queen Victoria-level mourning of my husband’s sudden loss. It helped to get pissed at him, but not enough.

So slowly, in spite of what I wanted, I functioned more and more. I planned. I made decisions without him. I bought clothes and a replacement Jeep when I could drive again. I got dental work done to repair some damage and decay and got some facial and skin work on my torso to repair some damage there.

My new slim self, still not really wanting to eat much, my new clothes, my slightly better face, neck and torso added up to a new me. If people didn’t know what was going on, they would have thought I had hit a middle age crisis and had gone a new expensive car and facelift bender. It was necessary. I needed a car, ours was smooshed together. The facial and skin surgeries were necessary to keep reducing the size of scars and keep them supple. And the weight loss, unexpected as it was, was also necessary because I now had a future to live, however reluctantly.

I was a new man, basically, even if I was even more a bitter, jaded and hostile queen than before. By summer, with folks behind bars and most of the medical stuff behind me, I started to finally look at what that future might look like. I couldn’t see staying where I was; I refused to sell our house, but I wanted to move away from the City of Incredibly Bad, Dangerous Drivers.

I was born and raised in New Mexico. We moved away when I was 10, and I had spent the next 46 years trying to scheme my way back home. With the settlement money, I knew I could build a very nice house near Santa Fe or Albuquerque. I couldn’t work, so it could be anywhere, as long as it was a reasonable drive to doctor’s offices or hospitals. I began to plan the return.

Friends took care of the hounds for me in August for a few days and I flew to Albuquerque. I spent the time exploring and looking at land that would be good to have my house on. I tried to narrow down my house plan choices. I looked at houses to buy so I would have a place to live while my new one was being built.

I also looked at architectural firms in the are which could handle construction management and maybe even a plan from scratch. I narrowed it down to three. And at the first firm, two of the principals were great and agreed to take my preferred plan off the shelf from an online company and adapt it to my needs and help with my land choice and also provide landscape and interior architectural work. The last two, they said, could be amply handled by their partner, whose name was Bryan Spenser.


Act 3

I was neither expecting nor trying to meet anyone and make anything happen. I was just trying to get a house built and settle down and heal in my home state, my spiritual home for all of my life. New Mexico was already working well for me. I closed on a temprorary house, and it sat ready for some renovations before I would move in. I had a move date and a way to get the four hounds to New Mexico; I rented an RV that accepted doggy passengers for a ridiculous amount of money and got ready to leave in September. My best friend and I would drive the RV and dogs along I-40 west to the new home in about three or four days.

But first, there was Bryan.

After talking for about an hour with the principal architect of the exterior and the construction manager, they brought in the interior architect, who would lead the team responsible for anything inside the house, all 5,585 square feet of it.

The door opened and the two partners introduced us. As soon as he walked in the door, I was stopped in my tracks. Our eyes met and locked and a strange sensation hit me. I could barely think. He. Was. Beautiful. Not beautiful like a male model or celebrity or movie star, not like a gay porn star. Just a beautiful, sweet, smiling man, who was beautiful because he was, to put it simply, my type: blond and hairy, slightly shorter than me. I immediately wondered how old he was (he turned out to be 13 years younger than me, 43) and if he might be into derelict daddies. (More about my body dysmorphia issues later.)

I stood up to shake his hand, our eyes still locked. I realized we both had sort of lopsided, silly grins on our faces and I had no idea why. Then, I swear to God, our hands met and with some static probably from the carpet, we shocked each other. Our first touch was literally an electric shock. What happened over the next year was even more shocking.

We were both startled and hesitated to let go, but we managed to be smooth enough to get out, “Nice to meet you!” and sit down. My mind whirled. His was similarly unsettled and confused.

It was about 3 p.m. on a Friday by this point. The others left the room and Bryan and I discovered that we both like to talk. A lot. We talked for two-and-a-half hours until we realized the staff was leaving and we were sitting in the conference room alone, making notes and sketches.

I blurted out that I really enjoyed talking to him. (“Smooth mood, idiot, he’s gonna think you’re trying to hit on him,” I thought.) And then came salvation: he said he really enjoyed it too and if I didn’t have any plans, we could just continue over dinner; he knew of a few places since I was new in town (“What the hell? Did that just come out of my mouth? Oh God! He’s going to think I’m hitting on him! I could just die!” he thought.)

We were watching each others’ eyes to see if there was a hint of rejection; no, just slight embarrassment. I said that I would actually love that (“Don’t say ‘love,’ idiot!” I thought.) He asked if I liked New Mexican and also said there was a very nice quiet bar we could also hit after dinner. (“Oh, shit, just take out your dick and wave it at him!!!” he thought.)

I said that since I was born and raised, I had been fed New Mexican pretty much all my life and it sounded great. And so did the bar. (“Oh yeah, turn him off with your sarcasm. And what bar? Is it a gay bar?” I thought.) He said oh d’uh, of course you know New Mexican food, sorry, you must think I’m an idiot. And we don’t have to go to the bar if you don’t want to. It’s just got soft music so we can talk more. (“Wait, that’s a queer-friendly space. He’ll probably beat my ass up!” he thought.)

(“Is he even gay?!” we both thought at the same time.

He had been given the bare details about what I was doing, but we first started talking about why I was coming back to New Mexico. Loss of husband nine months ago, settlement money, need to get away from a place of tragedy, desire to be back in my spiritual home, etc., etc., etc.

I saw how his eyebrows lifted and a little smile played at the corner of one side of his lips. He then licked them a little and got serious and said condolences and all that. (“So he IS gay! And is in need of comfort in his mourning period! Oh, Daddy! Let me be your comforter!” he thought.)

I thanked him and then trailed off as I watched him reach inside his open shirt collar and took out a necklace with rainbow triangles on it.

[This is a fictional work in progress. Y’all know this is probably gonna become kinda porno. More to come soon!]

Movie Night: Red Dust

“The attraction here isn’t really the cultural relic/curiousity value, it’s the variation of the old man meets woman, they hate each other, they clash with sparkling dialogue and then end up together ’til death they do part. This bit has been done to death in Hollywood’s 100+ year run, but it can be freshened and redeemed if the scriptwriter is up to the job.”


FourStars
FourStars

From 1932, it’s the second of six films Jean Harlow made with Clark Gable: Red Dust. (21 years later, it would be remade as Mogambo, the setting moved to Africa, with Ava Gardner in the Jean Harlow role and Grace Kelly in the Mary Astor Role. It stank. Red Dust is superior, like most Hollywood remakes, to its later imitator. The six films Gable and Harlow did together were: The Secret Six (1931); Red Dust (1932); Hold your Man (1933); China Seas (1935); Wife vs. Secretary (1936); and Saratoga (1937). Harlow died during filming of Saratoga.)


The « synopsis » according to The Movie Database (TMDb) runs thusly:

“Dennis, owner of a rubber plantation in Cochinchina, is involved with Vantine, who left Saigon to evade the police; but when his new surveyor, Gary, arrives along with his refined but sensual wife, Barbara, Dennis gets infatuated by her.”

TMDb

IMDb has a « a shorter and poorer way of putting it »:

“The owner of a rubber plantation becomes involved with the new wife of one of his employees.”

IMDb

Way to drain flavor completely out of a synopsis, Amazonians!

Red Dust is pretty much everything that cancel culture despises today. There’s racism, sexism, slavery, the patriarchy time 100, misogyny, misanthropy, animal abuse, cuckolding, adultery, (and behind the scenes, homophobia and violence) and probably a few other things I can’t even identify off the top of my head right now. But even if cancel culture would like to burn this film, it’s rather juvenile to think adults can’t look, read or watch something from earlier periods of our history and gain some understanding of a time in the nation’s life and adopt what we’ve just seen as our own outlook. In other words, watching Red Dust won’t make you go out and slap blond women on the butt or enslave coolies in Vietnam or any of the other multitudinous sins.

We have been wondering if a boycott TCM movement will start; pretty much everything they show is a reminder of the really evil or tawdry foundations of this country. And pretty much everything they show is also a pointer to a better future, even if that future is on hold right now while Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson, Orban, Netanyahu, Erdogan and various ayatollahs hold power.

But all that is a digression. The film itself should be considered in context. It has it’s funny moments in the banter of Gable and Harlow, but it is a drama with a twist ending. It’s the tale of what happens when a rubber plantation owner hires a surveyor, Gene Raymond, who brings along his pretty wife, Mary Astor. While Raymond writhes on the bed with malaria, Gable and Astor spark up some flames. And in the middle of all this lands, Harlow, a brassy blond hiding out in the jungle after some unspecified misunderstandings with the gendarmerie in Saigon (pronounced, inexplicably, as “Say-gone”). There’s some business with a local tiger, some difficulties with not being able to trust the local coolies, a caricature of a cook, Willie Fung who does the grinning, giggly “so solly” bit, and inadequate bathing facilities.

The attraction here isn’t really the cultural relic/curiousity value, it’s the variation of the old man meets woman, they hate each other, they clash with sparkling dialogue and then end up together ’til death they do part. This bit has been done to death in Hollywood’s 100+ year run, but it can be freshened and redeemed if the scriptwriter is up to the job. In this case, the writer wasn’t really up to the job with the majority of the script, but for some reason, excelled with the dialogue as long as it was between Harlow and Gable. And that’s where it shines.

Of course, anything Harlow did shined, especially Dinner at Eight. Gable gets first billing here, and the movie is supposedly about him, but it’s Harlow who does the best job. The proof is in the difference between the Harlow/Gable exchanges and those of Astor/Gable. Harlow wins hands down every time she’s onscreen. Gable may have dominated the 1930s cinema with his star power, culminating in 1939’s bullshit “Lost Cause” revisionist rebel/traitor masterpiece, Gone With the Wind, but Harlow was superior in every way, at least when she was given half a chance.

Sadly, Harlow was suffering from nephritis and died of uremic poisoning during the filming of her last Gable vehicle, 1937’s Saratoga. Remarkably, she was just 26 when she died, having such an amazing career in such a short time that it’s mind-boggling to think of what she might have done with a longer life. This would be repeated in the case of Judy Holliday in the 1950s, who was an awesome actress whose life ended too soon. It would have been incredible for Harlow and Holliday to have done a film together at least once. Ah, what might have been (at least if they had been given a great script and director).

We at least have Harlow and Holliday on film fairly easy to access. Red Dust is on TCM as well as DVD.

What did reviewers have to say about Red Dust?

And that behind the scenes homophobia violence? Well, that’s the Gene Raymond story, who married Jeanette McDonald (of “Nelson Eddy and” fame), but had a rather interesting life. Producer/Director George Sidney once called Raymond “the most gorgeous thing the world has ever seen.” Seems a bit far fetched for me, but he was pretty. And therein lay the problem. We’ll let Wikipedia take over:

“Biographer Sharon Rich reported in her Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald biography, Sweethearts, that Raymond and MacDonald had a rocky marriage, with Raymond physically and emotionally abusing MacDonald, and having affairs with men. This began on their honeymoon [in 1937] when MacDonald discovered Raymond in bed with Buddy Rogers.”

Wikipedia

I’m sure that would have been pretty frickin’ hot, the most gorgeous thing in the world in bed with the equally hot Buddy Rogers. But go on:

“Rich reported that Raymond had been arrested three times, the first in January 1938, as verified by a court document, and also in England during his army service, for his behavior. Raymond’s wedding to MacDonald, orchestrated by Louis B. Mayer forced MacDonald to become Raymond’s beard and the 1938 arrest resulted in Mayer blacklisting him in Hollywood for almost two years.”

Ibid

It gets better:

“Biographer E. J. Fleming also alleged that Eddy had confronted Raymond for abusing MacDonald, who was visibly pregnant with Eddy’s child while filming Sweethearts which ended with Eddy attacking him and leaving him for dead, disguised in the press as Raymond recovering from falling down the stairs.”

Ibid

Both Rogers and Raymond, like most queers of their day, went on to other marriages with women and spent their remaining years deeply in the closet. It needs to be pointed out that:

“Raymond publicly refuted the allegations of abuse, neglect and details of his marriage to MacDonald, which were published during his lifetime.”

Ibid

That quote construction seems to leave out things like affairs with men and romping in bed with Buddy Rogers, but who knows.

Critics at the time were fairly kind and the movie made a $400,000 profit (around $6.8 million in today’s dollars). The New York Times left a review up to a writer only identified by his initials, M.H., who basically recounted the plot and, while they liked Harlow, were a little snide about Harlow’s admirers in the audience at the screening at the Capitol:

“Life on a rubber plantation in French Indo-China receives attention in “Red Dust,” a pictorial adaptation of a play by Wilson Collison which is now at the Capitol. It is a far from pleasant spot, with its heat and sudden deluges of rain, its blinding sand storms and jungle beasts. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of this tale is more interesting than its story, especially the glimpses of the men at work.
“Dennis Carson, played by Clark Gable, who is in charge of the plantation, avers that so long as people in other countries want balloon tires and hot-water bottles such toil must go on. The natives are indolent, which causes Carson to use the lash on them, but no sooner have they settled down to labor than they are forced often to seek shelter from a sand storm.
To this uninviting area comes the immodest Vantine, a woman from Saigon. She at least makes existence more lively for Carson, who who is not precisely hospitable to her. There is trouble on all sides for Carson.

[There is a recounting of the Gable/Astor entanglement and Harlow’s involvement.]

“… Barbara and her husband eventually leave the plantation and Vantine takes up her abode in Carson’s comfortless shack.
“The dialogue is not especially bright or strong, but some of the lines spoken by Vantine, who is impersonated by Jean Harlow, aroused laughter from the audience. Miss Harlow’s presence in the picture apparently attracted a host of other platinum blondes, for on all sides there were in the seats girls with straw-colored hair. Miss Harlow’s performance suits the part. Mr. Gable is efficient in his rôle. Miss Astor offers a striking contrast to Miss Harlow. Tully Marshall makes the most of a minor rôle, as does Gene Raymond, who appears as Willis.”

M.H., The New York Times

I’d agree about most of the dialogue (see choice quotes below for yourself). But it’s a pretty spot-on review from the original screening.

Anyway, regardless of its content and the soap operas behind it, Red Dust is a worthwhile, entertaining history lesson and should be taken as a positive sign of just how we’ve come in almost 90 years. Or, you know, you could ignore such Pollyanna-ish constructs and, I don’t know, burn it.


Red Dust Lobby Card
Red Dust: Clark Gable and Mary Astor

Red Dust: Willie Fung, Gene Raymond, Jean Harlow

Best quotes:

Dennis Carson: Why’d you get off the boat at all? You know it doesn’t stop here again for four week, don’t you?
Vantine: Sure I do. Think I’m overjoyed about it? But, its just got to be, that’s all.
Dennis Carson: Well, then?
Vantine: I left the boat here for the same reason I took it at Saigon.
Dennis Carson: What reason?
Vantine: I got mixed up in a little trouble and I thought I’d stay out of town ’til the Gendarmes forgot about it.
Dennis Carson: And what a cast iron nerve you’ve got.
Vantine: You have to have in my line. But, don’t worry, big boy, I’ll stay out from under foot. I’ll even pay for my board if you insist on it nicely.

Red Dust

Dennis Carson: Come on, lets have it. Who are you? Where’d you come from?
Vantine: Don’t rush me, brother. I’m Pollyanna, the Glad Girl.

Ibid

Dennis Carson: Here you are kid.
[stuffs some bills in Vantine’s cleavage]
Dennis Carson: It isn’t half enough, but, when I get down to Saigon, there’ll be more. Keep your chin up.
[pats Vantine twice on her behind]

Ibid
[The bath scene]
Dennis Carson: [naked, Vantine jumps in a rain barrel] Get out of there! Say what’s the idea?
Vantine: What?
Dennis Carson: Getting in that barrel?
Vantine: Oh, I don’t know? Maybe I’m goin’ over Niagara Falls. Whoop!

Vantine: What’s the matter? Afraid I’ll – shock the duchess? Don’t you suppose she’s ever seen a French postcard?
Dennis Carson: You’ll let those curtains down if its the last bath you’ll ever take!

Vantine: Hey, where’s the reception committee? It’s been a nice little walk. Did you hear that hungry pussy cat back there?
Dennis Carson: Now, listen. This woman’s decent. You watch your language and stop running around here half naked.
Vantine: I’ll stay as comfortable as I like.

Red Dust

Vantine: [sarcastically] What a pleasant little house party this is gonna be.

Ibid

Vantine: [sarcastically] I thought we might run up a few curtains and make a batch of fudge while we were planning on what to wear to the country club dance Saturday night.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: That’s a… a very polished little speech for a… barbarian.

Ibid

Vantine: Don’t mind me boys, I’m just restless.

Ibid

Gary Willis: [eating dinner] Those coolies are tough to handle, aren’t they?
Dennis Carson: Didn’t I tell you they were a lazy bunch?
Gary Willis: Well, I mean, I didn’t know they were so sneaky about it. The minute you turn your back on ’em, they’re up to something or other they shouldn’t be doing.
[Dennis and Barbara look at each other]
Gary Willis: Are they always like that?
Dennis Carson: I’m afraid so.
McQuarg: I was telling him about that time that Malay tried to knife you in the back.
Vantine: Its a great country for that sort of thing.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: I won’t stand for this! Do you think you can treat Gary like – like one of your coolies?

Ibid

Barbara Willis: We shouldn’t have done that.
Dennis Carson: We did.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: Do you mind if I stay here with you?
Vantine: Think you can stand the company?

Ibid

Barbara Willis: It’s stupid of me to be so frightened.
Vantine: This storm isn’t the only thing that has you worried around here, is it? I saw him kick the door shut. He came out with rouge all over his mouth. I suppose he asked to use your lipstick?
[lights a cigarette]

Ibid

Barbara Willis: Oh, it’s too silly. What do I mean I’m scared? It was just one of those exciting little moment things.
Vantine: Well, watch out for the next moment, honey. It’s longer than the first.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: I don’t know how it happened. I didn’t do anything. He didn’t have any reason to believe that I’d…
Vantine: I didn’t hear any cries for help.
Barbara Willis: Oh, I don’t know what came over me. I should have stopped him. I tried, but…
Vantine: But you couldn’t. Even when you tried, could you?
Barbara Willis: No. That’s why I’m scared.

Ibid

Dennis Carson: All those lame cracks won’t help you any if I come back and find you’ve been annoying her.
Vantine: Oh, I wouldn’t touch her with your best pair of rubber gloves!

Ibid

Dennis Carson: What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy?
Vantine: Just a little nauseated. This rain seems to have uncovered a pile of garbage around here.
Dennis Carson: Stop looking through key holes. It’s bad for the eyes.

Ibid

FourStars
Four Stars!

Red Dust. 1932. TCM. English. Victor Fleming (d). John Lee Mahin, Wilson Collison, Donald Ogden Stewart (w). Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Mary Astor, Gene Raymond, Donald Crisp, Tully Marshall, Forrester Harvey, Willie Fung. (p). Harold Rosson, Arthur Edeson (c).


Movie Night: Born Yesterday

“Born Yesterday is pretty fabulous. At least until it sinks in that it’s just as applicable today (especially today!) as it was in 1950. In that year, it could have been warning against the House Un-American Activities Committee, which ultimately wrecked lives, but failed. But today, the movie is depressing when you realize that Broderick Crawford’s Harry Brock is in charge of the country, the Senate and the judiciary and is sitting in the White House tweeting.”


Four.5.Stars
Four 1/2 Stars!

From 1950, it’s the wonderful Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden gem, Born Yesterday. (No, not that 1993 crapfest of the same name … how dare they try to “improve” on Judy and Broderick with —gasp— Melanie Griffith, John Goodman, and Don Johnson!)

The « synopsis » of the original, best Born Yesterday, is, per The Movie Database (TMDb):

“Uncouth, loud-mouth junkyard tycoon Harry Brock descends upon Washington D.C. to buy himself a congressman or two, bringing with him his mistress, ex-showgirl Billie Dawn.”

TMDb

IMDb has a « a shorter and poorer way of putting it »:

“A tycoon hires a tutor to teach his lover proper etiquette, with unexpected results.”

IMDb

Born Yesterday is pretty fabulous and much, much more that those paltry synopses reveal. Or it is at least until it sinks in to today’s audience that it’s just as fresh and applicable today (especially today!) as it was in 1950. In that year, the movie warned against the unAmerican activiteis of the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, which ultimately wrecked many lives, but failed, while today it pointedly shows that Broderick Crawford’s Harry Brock is in charge of the country, the Senate, and the judiciary and is sitting in the White House rage-tweeting.

In fact, the current ugly age of our country is the alternate ending to Born Yesterday with Judy Holliday silenced, threatened with death and manblamed and William Holden dead or emasculated while Harry Brock gleefully and dementedly flies around destroying the country.

Just as an aside: How much influence did the flying circus that was HUAC have over the 50s? Here’s some tidbits from the era, because what was going on with HUAC deserves some attention:

“TEACHER FIRED
“San Mateo, Nov. 17—Thomas D. Hardwick, Burlingame high school journalism teacher, has been fired from his job for refusing to sign the state’s new loyalty oath.”

San Mateo Times, Nov. 17, 1950

And still this stuff was going on 7 years later. This time, the human toll of stamping out ghostly “un-American activities” is more fully highlighted, especially the ordeal of teacher Hardwick, who had to become a factory worker to survive:

“SAN FRANCISCO UPI – Cameras continued to focus today on the House un-American activities committee hearing despite House Speaker Sam Rayburn’s flat announcement in Washington there would be no more television broadcasts. Chairman Francis Walter (D.-Penn.) of the subcommittee shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands when asked about Rayburn’s announcement. And the TV cameras continued to grind away.

San Mateo Times

“SAN FRANCISCO UPI – Congressmen turned from teachers to other professions today in an un-American activities inquiry already marked by the suicide of a subpoenaed Stanford Scientist and suspension of a radio broadcaster from his job for refusing to testify. A Richmond factory worker who taught in Burlingame High school seven years ago was a reluctant witness yesterday before the House sub-committee on Un-American activities.
“But he had a quick reply when asked about the testimony of another witness that he had been a Communist. Thomas Hardwick, 49, declined to answer when asked if he was aware from 1946 up to the present day of a secret Communist group in San Francisco and elsewhere known as the “Professional Cell.” Hardwick said he believed the question was “in an area where Congress is forbidden to legislate” under the First (free press and speech) and the Fifth (self-incrimination) amendments.
“Hardwick was dismissed m 1950 from the Burlingame High school faculty for refusing to sign a loyalty oath.
“Yesterday’s reluctant witnesses included a San Francisco radio broadcaster, Louis Hartman, 42, also known as Jim Grady, and a television and radio engineer. Hartman, a free lance man on radio station KCBS, refused to answer when asked whether there was a Communist Party professional cell active at Berkeley.

San Mateo Times | Thursday, June 20, 1957

But I digress (but only a little bit): New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther « loved Judy Holliday and the movie, and used Broderick Crawford’s performance to sound a warning that is incredibly prescient about our current political predicament »:

“Just in time to make itself evident as one of the best pictures of this fading year is Columbia’s trenchant screen version of the stage play, “Born Yesterday.” More firm in its social implications than ever it was on the stage and blessed with a priceless performance by rocketing Judy Holliday, this beautifully integrated compound of character study and farce made a resounding entry at the Victoria yesterday.

“On the strength of this one appearance, there is no doubt that Miss Holliday will leap into popularity as a leading American movie star—a spot to which she was predestined by her previous minor triumph in “Adam’s Rib” as the tender young lady from Brooklyn who shot her husband (and stole the show). For there isn’t the slightest question that Miss Holiday brings to the screen a talent for characterization that is as sweetly refreshing as it is rare.

“Playing the wondrous ignoramus that she created on the stage—the lady to whom her crude companion rather lightly refers as a “dumb broad” this marvelously clever young actress so richly conveys the attitudes and the vocal intonations of a native of the sidewalks of New York that it is art. More than that, she illuminates so brightly the elemental wit and honesty of her blankly unlettered young lady that she puts pathos and respect into the role.

“But it must be said in the next breath that Miss Holliday doesn’t steal this show—at least, not without a major tussle—for there is a lot of show here to steal. Not only has the original stage play of Garson Kanin been preserved by Screenwriter Albert Mannheimer in all of its flavorsome detail—and that, we might add, is a triumph of candor and real adapting skill—but George Cukor has directed with regard for both the humor and the moral. And Broderick Crawford has contributed a performance as the merchant of junk who would build himself up as a tycoon that fairly makes the hair stand on end.

“Where this role was given some humor and even sympathy on the stage, in the memorable performance of Paul Douglas, Mr. Crawford endows it with such sting—such evident evil, corruption, cruelty and arrogance—that there is nothing amusing or appealing about this willful, brutish man. He is, indeed, a formidable symbol of the menace of acquisitive power and greed against which democratic peoples must always be alert. And that’s why his thorough comeuppance, contrived by his newly enlightened “broad” amid the monuments of serene and beautiful Washington, is so winning and wonderful. In short, a more serious connotation has been given the role on the screen and Mr. Crawford plays it in a brilliantly cold and forceful style.”

The New York Times

“He is, indeed, a formidable symbol of the menace of acquisitive power and greed against which democratic peoples must always be alert.” A perfect description of Born Yesterday‘s villain … and Donald Trump both.

At any rate, I highly recommend this one. I took off half a star for the flag-waving, O Beautiful, misty-eyed crap here and there; but it actually doesn’t detract much, it just points out how much we’ve lost.

The Associated Press review « isn’t much of a review, but notes the movie’s success »::

“Born Yesterday,” another Academy entry, was previewed before the usual starstudded audience this week. It is a faithful adaptation of the Garson Kanin play about the junk dealer’s babe who gets educated by a newspaperman. The story should be familiar to a large segment of the public by now and it is enhanced by some scenes of Washington landmarks. The show comes off as one of the best comedies in recent seasons. This is largely due to a sparkling portrayal of Judy Holliday as the dumb blonde. She is wonderfully funny. Only drawback is that her lines are sometimes inaudible. Broderick Crawford plays the junk man with full voice all the way and William Holden is a quietly competent view of the newspaperman.”

Bob Thomas, the Associated Press

Born Yesterday Lobby Card
Another Lobby Card

Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford and William Holden … stickin’ it to the Man.

Best quotes:

Paul: A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in.

Born Yesterday

Billie Dawn: He always used to say, “Never do nothing you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of The New York Times.”

Ibid

Harry Brock: What’s a peninsula?
Billie Dawn: Shhhh.
Harry Brock: Don’t gimme that “shush.” You think you’re so smart, huh – what’s a peninsula?
Paul Verrall: It’s a…
Harry Brock: Not you, her.
Billie Dawn: It’s that new medicine…

Ibid

Billie: Because when ya steal from the government, you’re stealing from yourself, ya dumb ox.

Ibid

Congressman Norval Hedges: I said to Sam only last week this country will soon to have to decide if the people are going to run the government, or the government is going to run the people.

Ibid

Harry Brock: WHAT’S GOIN’ ON AROUND HERE?
Jim Devery: A revolution.

Ibid

Harry Brock: How d’ya like that! He could’ve had a hundred grand. She could’ve had me. Both wind up with nothin’… Dumb chump!… Crazy broad!
Jim Devery: [raises a glass as a toast] To all the dumb chumps and all the crazy broads, past, present, and future, who thirst for knowledge and search for truth… who fight for justice and civilize each other… and make it so tough for crooks like you…
[Harry stares at him angrily]
Jim Devery: …and me.

Ibid

Harry Brock: Shut up! You ain’t gonna be tellin’ nobody nothin’ pretty soon!
Billie Dawn: DOUBLE NEGATIVE! Right?
Paul Verrall: Right.

Ibid

Billie: Would you do me a favor, Harry?
Harry Brock: What?
Billie: Drop dead!

Ibid

Four.5.Stars
Four 1/2 Stars!

Born Yesterday. 1950. TCM. English. George Cukor (d). Garson Kanin, Albert Mannheimer (w). Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden, Howard St. John, Frank Otto, Larry Oliver, Barbara Brown, Grandon Rhodes, Claire Carleton. (p). Friedrich Hollaender (m). Joseph Walker (c).


Donelson Renovates

Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it.

I don’t write much about Donelson, our little slice of Music City. But here’s a couple of recent exceptions, one sort of optimistic and nice, the other more caustic and negative.


For a bedroom community which has never really had much of an identity, Donelson is currently attempting to remake itself with at least a bit of one.

The Donelson station developments aim to create the 21st century version of the old downtown, which didn’t ever exist here. This new downtown will still be basically a strip mall of businesses, just with a spiffy, fresh new design.

Donelson is like most of the houses in its borders: Buildings from the 1950s whose owners are dying out, so the children and grandchildren are taking over and either selling them or freshening them up. Hopefully, it will result in a more pleasant place to live and breathe in, although there will always be two negatives: Lebanon Pike and its sprawling ugliness and the overhead landing pattern which puts planes low and loud over us as they swing into runways 20 Left and Right.

No one will probably ever be talking or protesting or doing anything about the overhead noise, but at least some folks are doing something about ugliness. We hope there are more positives to come, especially along Lebanon. Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it. Beefing up the Music City Star would help immensely, but that’s also problematic at best.Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it.No one will probably ever be talking or protesting or doing anything about the overhead noise, but at least some folks are doing something about ugliness. We hope there are more positives to come, especially along Lebanon. Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it. Beefing up the Music City Star would help immensely, but that’s also problematic at best.

For the foreseeable future, then, we’ll take some cosmetic change and hope the community’s groups and businesses continue to try to improve the community’s image, at least. Whatever happens will surely be an improvement.


On the other hand, a different hot take: Development around the Donelson Music City Star train station is proceeding apace; two projects are underway to transform the seen-better-days corner of Lebanon and Donelson pikes. The first is Donelson Plaza, to the north of the station; the 1961 building is getting a complete face lift, with the eastern half is being completely rebuilt from scratch to serve as the new Donelson Branch of the Nashville Public Library.

The Plaza will feature the library as well as shops, restaurants and apartments, with the idea being that you can live at the Plaza and walk/bike to the buses/trains at the station and never need a car. No word on whether WeGo will be able to boost bus and train service to the center, or if we’ll see the more probable nightmare scenario of being constantly in ever greater amounts of traffic.

(Side note: Frequently, drivers exiting the station in the evenings are desperate to avoid Lebanon Pike and its intersection with Donelson Pike. So, they use a short, rather asininely-designed (is that a word?) road that heads east out of the parking lot behind Fifty Forward, ending on Donelson and completely avoiding two stoplights and lengthy waits. Only problem: That connector is supposed to be one-way, westbound only. Never mind it’s wide enough for two cars and that someone is just being, well, asinine over it, a police car was sitting there are on the evening commute on a Friday night, just determined to up the asshole quotient and send commuters to add to the chaos and traffic on Lebanon which is stacked up all the way back to downtown. Brilliant, no?

Many cities would just make it a one-way west into the parking lot in the morning, and one-way east out of the parking lot in the evening, but that would be too simple and oh-fend someone. No word on how much a ticket for such common sensical motor vehicle “violations” will set you back, but it’s probably attractive for the city.)

But back to the main event: The 1961 Donelson Plaza was purchased by Holladay Partners, which is developing the 12 acres as a new urban town center—the downtown Donelson never had, and which has been completely abandoned by towns and cities around the country, but we digress. They hope the redo will result in green space, restaurants, retail shops and apartments. Also not mentioned: How much per month will a one-bedroom unit set you back and what will happen to the center’s funky and clunky thrift stores, the bartending school, the bowling alley, etc.? Well, a partner in the developer’s office is on record thusly: “We do have existing tenants leasing and, of course, we will honor these. As people move out and it gets turned over, this will determine our next phase.”

In other words, we’ll let ‘em stay, but we’ll kick ‘em out and jack up the rents and put something high dollar in there as soon as possible so the “wrong” kind of Hippy Donelsonite won’t be shopping there. We must wonder if the plaza will feature the “architectural asshole” designs popping up everywhere: “public” seating that is intentionally so uncomfortable or designed in such a way as to prevent what the British call “rough sleepers,” and we call “homeless,” among other things. Ah well, time will tell.

The developer itself will anchor 14,000 square feet of office space on two levels. What is being displaced for that is another aspect which goes unmentioned.

Meanwhile, diagonally across the intersection and across the tracks menacing the bowling alley is a hulking mass of apartment buildings going up to four stories and packed into a tiny space along the tracks. One wonders how much a one-bedroom in that complex will cost and whether there is any additional sound proofing and plaster and ceiling protection for all the Music City Star trains which rumble through blasting their horns for the Donelson Pike crossing from as early as 7:15 a.m.

No matter, there will be some green space and a pool and you can walk to the train station (if you can summon the courage to cross both Donelson Pike and the railroad tracks. We’ve watched on more than one occasion as some idiot’s sense of self-importance prompted him to weave between the crossing arms with the train’s arrival imminent, speeding on his merry way. If walkers and bikers are now to be added to the mix, well, could get interesting.

The one exit onto Donelson is sure to be a joy as things are brought to a halt by southbound apartment dwellers trying to turn left into the driveway cause backups at 5 p.m. across the tracks and back up to Lebanon. Personally, I wouldn’t risk life and limb to live there, stacked four high in boxes with balconies that feature the fantastic combined noise of KBNA 20L airliner arrivals overhead, Music City Star trains blowing whistles below, and the screaming tires and honking of motorists trapped on the tracks while my neighbors try to make it into their new boxes. It’s not an attractive prospect for me, but what do I know? I’m sure it will all be just fine and dandy when these projects get built out just in time for the next big recessional flop in 2020.

Progress is great and all. But progress via developer is often thoughtless and crude. As far as we can tell, developers won’t be paying for better traffic control near either project and nothing will change in anticipation of the much greater numbers of cars along an already over-stretched section of Lebanon and Donelson pikes. Perhaps all will be well. We’re not going to hold our breath here.

The Indictment

“Senate Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the republic itself. I’m not naive enough to think they would hold Democratic presidents to the low standard they’ve applied to Trump, but all future presidents will be able to point to Trump to justify …”

Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) is an attorney and the former director (9-Jan-13 to 19-Jul-17) of the U.S. Office Government Ethics, which exists to “Provid[e] leadership in the executive branch to prevent conflicts of interest.” That’s a mission which, since January 2017, is going completely unfulfilled and, in fact, is being subverted beyond all belief.

After leaving the USOGE in the summer of 2017, Shaub “joined the Washington D.C.-based election law organization the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) as Senior Director, Ethics. At CLC he has focused on protecting what he calls the erosion of democratic norms that the country has witnessed in his time,” according to Wikipedia. The last six months of his tenure at USOGE were also the first six months of the Godfather’s tenure and therefore was when he witnessed the complete takeover of the democracy and its renovation into a kleptocracy headed by a old, narcissistic, lunatic, mob boss. So he’s seen some things and knows whereof he speaks.

Shaub wrote today a concise listing of the multiple points of illegality, theft, unConstitutionality, incompetence, petulance, and general assholery committed by this mobster and his cronies, supported fully and without reservation by the God and Guns evangelical crowd, of which I’m proud to say I’m an EX member, who was in that cultish atmosphere from birth, not by choice and left as soon as I gracefully could. But I digress.

Here’s « Shaub’s full indictment » and it includes the Republican party, especially those in the Senate:

“Senate Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the republic itself. I’m not naive enough to think they would hold Democratic presidents to the low standard they’ve applied to Trump, but all future presidents will be able to point to Trump to justify:

“a. Soliciting foreign attacks on our elections;
b. Using federal appropriations or other resources to pressure foreign governments to help them win reelection;
c. Implementing an across-the-board refusal to comply with any congressional oversight at all;
d. Firing the heads of the government’s top law enforcement agencies for allowing investigations of the president;
e. Retaliating against whistleblowers and witnesses who testify before Congress;
f. Investigating investigators who investigate the president;
g. Attempting to retaliate against American companies perceived as insufficiently supportive of the president;
h. Attempting to award the president’s own company federal contracts;
i. Using personal devices, servers or applications for official communications;
j. Communicating secretly with foreign leaders, with foreign governments knowing things about White House communications that our own government doesn’t know;
k. Abandoning steadfast allies abruptly without prior warning to Congress to cede territory to Russian influence;
l. Destroying or concealing records containing politically damaging information;
m. Employing white nationalists and expressing empathy for white nationalists after an armed rally in which one of them murdered a counter protester and another shot a gun into a crowd;
n. Disseminating Russian disinformation;
o. Covering for the murder of a journalist working for an American news outlet by a foreign government that is a major customer of the president’s private business;
p. Violating human rights and international law at our border;
q. Operating a supposed charity that was forced to shut down over its unlawful activities;
r. Lying incessantly to the American people;
s. Relentlessly attacking the free press;
t. Spending 1/4 of days in office visiting his own golf courses and 1/3 of them visiting his private businesses;
u. Violating the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution;
w. Misusing the security clearance process to benefit his children and target perceived enemies;
x. Drawing down on government efforts to combat domestic terrorism in order to appease a segment of his base;
y. Refusing to aggressively investigate and build defenses against interference in our election by Russia, after the country helped him win an election;
z. Engaging in a documented campaign of obstruction of a Special Counsel’s investigation.
aa. Lying about a hush money payoff and omitting his debt to his attorney for that payoff from his financial disclosure report (which is a crime if done knowingly and willfully);
bb. Coordinating with his attorney in connection with activities that got the attorney convicted of criminal campaign finance violations;
cc. Interfering in career personnel actions, which are required by law to be conducted free of political influence;
dd. Refusing to fire a repeat Hatch Act offender after receiving a recommendation of termination from the president’s own Senate-confirmed appointee based on dozens of violations;
ee. Calling members of Congress names and accusing them of treason for conducting oversight;
ff. Attacking states and private citizens frequently and in terms that demean the presidency (see Johnson impeachment);
gg. Using the presidency to tout his private businesses and effectively encouraging a party, candidates, businesses and others to patronize his business;
hh. Causing the federal government to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at his businesses and costing the American taxpayers well over $100 million on boondoggle trips to visit his properties;
ii. Hosting foreign leaders at his private businesses;
jj. Calling on the Justice Department to investigate political rivals;
kk. Using the presidency to endorse private businesses and the books of various authors as a reward for supporting the president;
ll. Engaging in nepotism based on a flawed OLC opinion;
mm. Possible misuse of appropriated funds by reallocating them in ways that may be illegal;
nn. Repeatedly criticizing American allies, supporting authoritarian leaders around the world, and undermining NATO; and
oo. etc.
“None of the Republican Senators defending Trump could say with a straight face that they would tolerate a Democratic president doing the same thing. But, given this dangerous precedent, they may have no choice if they ever lose control of the Senate. Is that what they want?
“And this is only what Trump did while the remote threat of Congressional oversight existed. If the Senate acquits him, he will know for certain there is nothing that could ever lead to Congress removing him from office. And what he does next will similarly set precedents.
At this point, I would remind these unpatriotic Senators of the line “you have a republic if you can keep it,” but a variation on this line may soon be more apt when Trump redoubles his attack on our election: You have a republic, if you can call this a republic.”

Walter Shaub via Twitter

We cannot indeed call this a republic; it is a shambolic kleptocratic theocracy. And our last one, remote chance of restoration will come next November. If we’re not out there with the numbers just posted today in Hong Kong’s election (72% or so), then our democratic republic will fall and, given what is likely to be a similarly shambolic kleptocracy in Great Britain, democracy, decency and the rule of law will be largely at an end on the planet, ending the final, very slim chance we have of mitigating accelerating climate catastrophe.

A “cancer on the presidency” has metastasized “hugely.”

« Read the rest of his tweets ». Fascinating.

Movie Night: The Big Clock

“Regardless of whether you saw it then as scandalous that such perversions were being exhibited in public theaters or whether you see it now as being stereotypical, offensive and overly focused on white, male, straight actors and queer panics and Italian stereotypes, to wit … offensive!! … there is much to actually be loved here.”


Five Stars
Five Stars!

From 1948: That fabulous film noir, The Big Clock with Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester and Harry Morgan.

The « synopsis »:

“Stroud, a crime magazine’s crusading editor, has to postpone a vacation with his wife (again) when a glamorous blonde is murdered and he is assigned by his publishing boss Janoth to find the killer. As the investigation proceeds to its conclusion, Stroud must try to disrupt his ordinarily brilliant investigative team as they increasingly build evidence (albeit wrong) that he is the killer.”

TMDb

IMDb, (which is, as I always say, one of the many tentacles of the suffocating Amazonia totalitarian state in which we live), has «a slightly different way of putting it»:

“When powerful publishing tycoon Earl Janoth commits an act of murder at the height of passion, he cleverly begins to cover his tracks and frame an innocent man whose identity he doesn’t know but who just happens to have contact with the murder victim. That man is a close associate on his magazine whom he enlists to trap this ‘killer’ — George Stroud. It’s up to George to continue to ‘help’ Janoth, to elude the police and to find proof of his innocence and Janoth’s guilt.”

IMDb

The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther was « impressed and urged people to see it and pay close attention »:

“… For this is a dandy clue-chaser of the modern chromium-plated type, but it is also an entertainment which requires close attention from the start.

“Actually, in the manner of the best detective fiction these days, it isn’t a stiff and stark whodunit activated around some stalking cop. Nary a wise-guy policeman clutters up the death-room or the clues. As a matter of fact, the policemen are not called in until the end. And the fellow who does the murder is known by the audience all along.

“He’s a dynamic publishing magnate, ruler of a realm of magazines and a double-dyed rogue who runs his business on the split-tick of a huge electric clock. In a mad, jealous moment, he kills his sweetie, a not very temperate young thing, and then calls upon the cagey editor of his crime magazine to find the man. Two circumstances make this ticklish. The clues have been rigged to make it look as though the murderer were another fellow. And the other fellow is—the editor.

“Out of this cozy situation of a guy trying to square himself, even though he is thoroughly innocent and knows perfectly who the murderer is, Scriptwriter Jonathan Latimer and Director John Farrow have fetched a film which is fast-moving, humorous, atmospheric and cumulative of suspense. No doubt there are holes in the fabric—even a rip or two, perhaps—and the really precision-minded are likely to spot them the first time around. But the plot moves so rapidly over them and provides such absorbing by-play that this not-too-gullible observer can’t precisely put his finger upon one. (That’s why we urge your close attention—just to see if there is anything to catch.)

“As the self-protection clue-collector, Ray Milland does a beautiful job of being a well-tailored smoothie and a desperate hunted man at the same time. Charles Laughton is characteristically odious as the sadistic publisher and George Macready is sleek as his henchman, while Maureen O’Sullivan is sweet as Ray’s nice wife. Exceptional, however, are several people who play small but electric character roles: Elsa Lanchester as a crack-pot painter and Douglas Spencer as a barman, best of all. Miss Lanchester is truly delicious with her mad pace and her wild, eccentric laugh.”

The New York Times

It is, indeed, a wonderful picture and Charles Laughton and his wife Elsa Lanchester are fabulous.


The Big Clock (1948) Lobby Card
The Big Clock (1948) Lobby Card

The Big Clock (1948) Stolen from Burt's Place
The Big Clock (1948) Stolen from Burt’s Place

Best quotes:

Earl Janoth: [talking on intercom to Steve Hagen] “On the fourth floor – in the broom closet – a bulb has been burning for several days. Find the man responsible, dock his pay.”

The Big Clock

Louise Patterson: [after George Stroud outbids her for a picture] “Isn’t it a pity… the wrong people always have money.”

Don Klausmeyer: “I’m Don Klausmeyer, from Artways magazine.”
Louise Patterson: “Yes. [giggles] Oh, yes. Didn’t you review my show in ’41?”
Don Klausmeyer: “I think I did.”
Louise Patterson: “Oh, come in, Mr. Klausmann.”
Don Klausmeyer: “KlausMEYER.”
Louise Patterson: [laughs gleefully] “I’ve been planning to kill you for years.”
Don Klausmeyer: “Our organization, the Janoth Publications, is trying to find someone, possibly a collector of your pictures.”
Louise Patterson: “So have I for fifteen years.”

IBID

Pauline York: “You know, Earl has a passion for obscurity. He won’t even have his biography in ‘Who’s Who’.”
George Stroud: “Sure. He doesn’t want to let his left hand know whose pocket the right one is picking.”

IBID

George Stroud: “You’re the only blonde in my life.”
Georgette Stroud: “I’m a brunette.”
George Stroud: “And you’re the only brunette too.”

IBID

Five.Stars
Five Stars!

The Big Clock. 1948. TCM. English. John Farrow (d). Kenneth Fearing, Jonathan Latimer, Harold Goldman (w). Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson, Elsa Lanchester, Harold Vermilyea, Dan Tobin, Harry Morgan, Richard Webb, Elaine Riley, Frank Orth, Lloyd Corrigan, Theresa Harris. (p). Victor Young (m). Daniel L. Fapp, John F. Seitz (c).


Movie Night: The Yellow Rolls Royce

“… this is probably the granddaddy of all product placement movies, far more egregious than even Joan Crawford’s conspicuous scattering of Pepsi bottles in Strait Jacket …”


FourStars
Four Stars!

From 1964: A somewhat strange concoction, The Yellow Rolls Royce is a star-studded anthology, a look at the life of, well, a yellow Rolls Royce Phantom during the 1930s and 40s.

The synopsis:

“One Rolls-Royce belongs to three vastly different owners, starting with Lord Charles, who buys the car for his wife as an anniversary present. Another owner is Paolo Maltese, a mafioso who purchases the car during a trip to Italy and leaves it with his girlfriend while he returns to Chicago. Later, the car is owned by American widow Gerda, who joins the Yugoslavian resistance against the invading Nazis.”

TMDb

The New York Times reviewer A.H. Weiler wasn’t terribly kind to this “assembly line job.” He wrote on 14-May-65:

“… ‘The Yellow Rolls-Royce,’ which arrived yesterday at the Music Hall fresh from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s European works, performs, despite its color, opulence and surface polish, largely like an assembly-line job. It is, it should be stressed, a pretty slick vehicle, that is pleasing to the eye and occasionally amusing, but it hardly seems worthy of all the effort and the noted personalities involved in the three glossy but superficial stories that make up this shiny package. One is reminded of the now classic Rolls-Royce advertising slogan, “The loudest noise comes from the clock.”

“‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’ may be a rich, handsome, colorful vehicle. But, aside from its varied passengers, it simply indicates that the Rolls can be pretty rough on romance.”

The New York Times

The most enjoyable part of this vehicle (see what I did there?) is probably the Shirley MacLaine/Alain Delon/George C. Scott/Art Carney story. Scott is a Capone-style 20s gangster, MacLaine is his gun moll, and Delon is her seducer, while Carney gets to drive his boss and the moll around and keep tabs on what Delon is up to while sightseeing in the Rolls. I said enjoyable, but probably meant amused.

TCM accompanied this showing with a short shown in theaters at the time extolling the virtues of the Rolls Royce and its appearance in the forthcoming film. This makes it seem that Rolls Royce had paid millions for a movie-length advertisement, and that’s not far off the mark. There is an attempt to focus on the stories in the anthology, but that yellow car is always in at least the background, ubiquitous.

In other words, this is probably the granddaddy of all product placement movies, far more egregious than even Joan Crawford’s conspicuous scattering of Pepsi bottles in Strait Jacket (see below). The Yellow Rolls Royce is worth watching for the performances of the greats of the Golden Age’s transition into … whatever we call what came once the Golden Age was dead … but the value probably ends there. I gave it four stars simply for those performances by those greats; there’s not much more to it than those, sadly.


The Yellow Rolls Royce Theater Card

Shirley MacLaine and Alain Delon have a problem: George C. Scott.

Best quotes:

Mae Jenkins: [Looking indifferently at the leaning tower of Pisa] “So it leans. So a lot of things lean.”
Paolo Maltese: [Turning to Mae] “You ever heard of Galileo, maybe?”
Mae Jenkins: “Sure I have heard of Galileo.”
Paolo Maltese: [Turning to Joey] “She ever heard of Galileo?”
Joey Friedlander: “Nah …”
Paolo Maltese: “Five-six hundred years ago, this Galileo dropped two stones off that tower, one big one, and one little one.”
Mae Jenkins: “So?”
Paolo Maltese: “So he proved the law of gravity or somethin’. I don’t know.”
Mae Jenkins: “And brained a couple of citizens, maybe. Big deal.”

The Yellow Rolls Royce

Paolo Maltese: “And this is the girl, my fidanzata, that I am bringing home to meet my folks. Of all the women in the whole world that I can choose from to be my wife, who do I choose? An ignorant slob of a hatcheck girl who thinks Pisa – Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, Joey – is a stopping-off place between hamburger joints.”

Ibid

FourStars
Four Stars!

The Yellow Rolls Royce. 1964. TCM. English. Anthony Asquith (d). Terence Rattigan (w). Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, Shirley MacLaine, Jeanne Moreau, George C. Scott, Omar Sharif, Alain Delon, Art Carney, Joyce Grenfell, Edmund Purdom, Wally Cox. (p). Riz Ortolani (m). Jack Hildyard (c).


Movie Night: Sweet Charity

“The songs and dances, Shirley MacLaine and Cita Rivera, et al, were great; it’s just the stuff in between that is less than satisfying.”


Three Stars?

From 1968: It’s quite possibly the most depressing musical ever made, Sweet Charity. I’m not sure what this was supposed to be, but it also seems to be the most depressing play Neil Simon ever wrote. And it’s all a piece with the extremely depressing year in which it was made.

The «synopsis»:

“Taxi dancer Charity continues to have Faith in the human race despite apparently endless disappointments at its hands, and Hope that she will finally meet the nice young man to romance her away from her sleazy life. Maybe, just maybe, handsome Oscar will be the one to do it.”

TMDb

Back in the day, the UK’s «Spectator critic Penelope Houston» touched on all the problems of Sweet Charity, but apparently wasn’t as negative as I am about it:

“It seems a little hard to criticise a musical because of the financial circumstances of its heroine. Sweet Charity, though, is the sort of film which sways in its second half, like Funny Girl, towards the unrequited, grin-and-bear-it ending. What Charity Hope Valentine is grinning and bearing is life as a dance-hall hostess (in the Fellini original, on which the stage musical was based, life as a not very successful prostitute); and since the film is set fairly, squarely and lovingly in New York of the rich ‘sixties, there seems no particular reason why its heroine can’t find a line of work that appeals to her more. This is partly a hazard of the sort of musical which takes over the almost serious subject, and in the end tries to come to terms with it in the almost serious way. Plotlines which did for Italy in the 1950s fray badly when dropped down in the middle of all this expensive decoration, so set on making too much of too little.

“And, of course, the dancehall, that useful old Hollywood haunt for mistily reprehensible goings-on, actually comes across as a rather well-conducted establishment, with heroine’s friends Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly (both excellent) bounding about like a couple of genially astringent school prefects. But if Charity, played by Shirley MacLaine in her sharpest innocent-at-large style, really wants to escape, it’s hard to see what is holding her back.

“One is supposed to find Charity’s plight rather true and touching; and on the whole doesn’t. And it is perhaps tough on Shirley MacLaine that her particular line in rueful, shrewd, precariously hopeful fatalism, though executed as winningly as ever, already suggests a speculation which the film doesn’t care to take up: the heroine of The Apartment almost ten years on, the valiant last of the kooky girls. All the same, the performance bounces, as does the film when it’s looking down the line of morose dance-hall girls (‘Hey, Big Spender’), ambling into Fellini parody in an absurd mock-Roman nightclub, or flinging its dancing girls about a grubby rooftop in a number so nostalgic for older musicals that one is only surprised they don’t burst into ‘New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town.'”

Penelope Houston, The Spectator

“Precariously hopeful fatalism.” That’s a pretty fair, if paradoxical, take on Charity’s life outlook.

The film starts with Charity being dumped (quite literally) by her would-be fiancee and nearly drowning. It proceeds through an obviously doomed night with a celebrity film director, then follows an ultimately, but not so obviously doomed, engagement and ends with a “Keep on the Sunny Side” denouement … “keep your chin up even if it’s been ground into the dirt,” is I guess how I would describe it.

As I said, it’s all surprisingly depressing for a musical, but the late 60s was a depressing decade. The same year as Sweet Charity was released saw the assassinations of MLK and RFK and the end to any dream of a Camelot restoration, plus mass riots and worsening casualties in the pointless failure of the war in Vietnam. That would seem to indicate that a big movie musical would need to provide a necessary uplift to viewers: toe-tapping, heartening, he-gets-the-girl-they-live-happily-ever-after type of stuff. Instead, audiences were treated to a sweet girl being dumped brutally three straight times and musical numbers that seemed to celebrate girls begging for money (“Hey Big Spender …”), jealousy (“If my friends could see me now …”), girls trapped in bad situations (“There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This …”) and a sense of hopeless wandering (“Where Am I Going? …”). An American in Paris it ain’t (“Our Love is Here to Stay,” “Tra-la-la (This Time It’s Really Love),”I Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” etc., etc.), but I suppose that was the difference between 1951 and 1968.

Audiences seemed to agree with the “depressing” assessment; while it cost $20 million to make, it only brought in $8 million at the box office and just about destroyed Universal, which then, so the story goes, forced it to make the successful Airport (1970), a film whose star Burt Lancaster described as “a piece of junk,” but which, according to «Box Office Mojo», made $100,489,151. That one had a happy ending, with the bad guy dead and everyone/everything else saved (Helen Hayes and a Boeing 707), with the notable exception of Dean Martin/Barbara Hale’s marriage.

Shirley MacLaine is wonderful in Sweet Charity, as she has been in pretty much everything she’s ever done. It’s worth noting that a “corny” happy ending was filmed because Bob Fosse feared the studio would want it, but the studio surprised him and decided to keep the original stage musical ending. I think it was the right decision, but regardless of which ending you use, this thing was probably not rescue-able. The songs and dances, Shirley MacLaine and Cita Rivera, et al, were great; it’s just the stuff in between that is less than satisfying.


Sweet Charity Lobby Card
Sweet Charity Lobby Card

Best quotes:

Charity Hope Valentine: “Wow, this place is sure full of celebrities. I’m the only one in here I’ve never heard of.”

Sweet Charity

Charity Hope Valentine: “Fickle Finger of Fate!”

Ibid

Helene: “There ain’t no use flappin’ your wings, ’cause we are stuck in the flypaper of life!”

Ibid

Vittorio: “Without love, life would have no purpose.”

Ibid

Oscar Lindquist: “The odds against us are at least a hundred to one.”
Charity Hope Valentine: “Those are the best odds I ever had.”

Ibid

Three Stars?
Three Stars?

Sweet Charity. 1969. TCM. English. Bob Fosse (d). Neil Simon, Peter Stone, Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano (w). Shirley MacLaine, John McMartin, Ricardo Montalban, Sammy Davis Jr., Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly, Stubby Kaye, Barbara Bouchet, Alan Hewitt, Ben Cy Coleman (m). Robert Surtees (c).