“THE HARDEST thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are actually unworthy to win.”
So said Adlai Stevenson.
AND SO here we are. Tomorrow the nation votes for our 45th president.
I have never been so depressed and fraught. Nothing in my personal life—deaths of family members and friends, professional set-backs, illness, romantic disappointment—has afflicted me so darkly. (And the romantic issues were fairly apocalyptic, let me tell you!)
Nope, it’s all small potatoes as we stare down the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two of the most disliked and distrusted public figures on the planet.
If Mrs. Clinton wins, Donald Trump, a majority of Republicans and members of the FBI, are assuring America that she will never have a moment’s peace in the White House—as if being president is ever “peaceful.” (The FBI is back to saying, “nothing there!” But who can believe them now?)
She will be tormented, threatened with impeachment, indictment, prison. Worse, her opponents gleefully promise she’ll never get anything done for the people of the United States.
We will suffer because after eight years of an African American as president, a woman Commander in Chief is just too much too bear. She has stood up to decades and decades of battering, “scandals,” conspiracy theories and lack of respect. There’s been so much of it, that she puts a guard up and over-protects herself. (The simplest, truest explanation of her calamitous email errors. If you become president, Hillary Clinton, please, in the words of Ronald Reagan—“Tear down that wall!”)
But battering hasn’t been enough. Hillary Clinton’s steely resiliency has driven Republicans nearly insane. Just as Barack Obama’s two terms and smooth, calm demeanor deranged them. (Perhaps in retrospect, Obama was too calm, too dedicated to the concept of civilized negotiation–to civility in general. In the end, did his foes deserve such respect?)
As for Clinton, they want to humble this woman, to drag her—perhaps literally—into the town square, and stone her. If she is not perfect, she is also no “criminal.” And let any politician, on either side of the aisle, who has achieved success, cast the first ethical stone at Hillary Clinton.
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
IF DONALD Trump wins, the United States will be in hands of a man whose sole aim in life has been to see his name in newspapers, on the covers of magazines, on the sides of buildings. He doesn’t give to charity. He doesn’t respect other human beings because they don’t deserve respect. His very words! Women are objects. Other men are weak. (Unless they are dictators.)
Trump prides himself on speaking his mind, as if we should cheer when sewers overflow. He has a hair trigger temper and gossamer-thin skin. He doesn’t pay taxes. He is joyfully supported by racists, misogynists, anti-Semites, homophobes. He is infantile emotionally. He speaks as if he barely passed the fifth grade. Most who know him well, don’t believe he has read a book in thirty years.
But we are a young country, one which has never functioned under a dictator—maybe that would be “interesting” some wonder? We are restless, agitated, disappointed in D.C. gridlock. Some of us want to go way back in time—a time when people of color knew their place, where homosexuals hid in the shadows, and no woman dared to dream of being president. Donald Trump has struck these notes and played his terrible, discordant siren song.
Many of Trump’s “reasonable” supporters will say: “But I’m not like that! I just want a better job, more pay.” We say:
“You’re not like that yet. And good luck on jobs and fair pay from a man hasn’t known a hard day’s work, or a moment of want, in his entire life.”
The Supreme Court? Who needs it to be balanced? Who needs it at all, some Republicans hint. Laws, rights? Nah, we’ve had enough of all that.
And do not forget Trump’s choice as Veep, Mike Pence. The man who said in summing himself up: “I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican.” Oddly, the word “American” wasn’t included. Imagine if Barack Obama had omitted his fealty to America in any public statement.
Being a “Christian first” implies theocracy. Trump’s fans who worry about their jobs, should think twice about a guy who is a heartbeat away from the presidency, whispering in Trump’s ear, “Let’s get them to pray for a job.”
“Ya think they’ll like me if I say that?”
“Sure they will, Mr. President. We can get you on the covers of all the religious magazines. It’ll be huge. But, sir, the gays, and those women who want to have control of their bodies, and helping all the lazy poor people. Sign these papers.”
“The covers, Mr. President, the covers.”
TODAY I will cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. I hope she wins. And not simply because she is a woman. We are way past symbolism and breaking glass ceilings. We are fighting for the soul of the United States. I have faith in her abilities, and in this country I love. Is she a figure for stained glass? No. Has she been less than rousing and more than infuriating in her efforts to protect herself? You bet. I still prefer her to the alternative.
Let Mr. Trump, if he loses, live and thrive in his bottomless well of self-worship. He will fume and foment and never go away. Good luck and good health to him and his family. He has become an historical figure whether all of us like it or not.
If Trump wins? He will be our president and we will have to accept it, and accept our own part in allowing him to flower so luxuriously. We who don’t approve will work hard to beat him in 2020. We will fight for our rights as human beings. We will survive.
So, I will vote, and then I will read. Perhaps try to lose myself in David McCullough’s great book on John Adams, or Doris Kearns Goodwin’s marvelous work on Lincoln, “Team of Rivals.” ( Those masterpieces will also remind me that the ugliness of this recent campaign is as American as apple pie! I mean none of the candidates fought a duel, with pistols, or beat one another about the head and shoulders with sticks. Then again, that might have been preferable to what both of 2016’s nominees offered us.)
Good luck, America. Let’s try not to be fearful or too angry or act out, no matter the result.
Remember, we don’t need to make America great again. We need to make America better; living up to ideals of democracy, fairness, inclusion and compassion that even our founders couldn’t fathom. Although politicians like to divide us, we are actually all in this together.
We need to look forward, always. And tomorrow, to those on either side, it won’t be a bad thing to be a bit British; keep calm and carry on.
P.S. Hopefully, once we are past this–more or less–I shall return with more amusing fare! (It’s been a hell of a year.)
“I don’t really want to take pictures this year.”
“Oh, come on.
“No, really, I can’t.”
“You didn’t want to put up the decorations and the tree, but you did.”
“Sure. What was that you said? ‘Decorate or die?’”
“That’s an exaggeration. I just said, ‘You don’t do anything else for me.”
“I offered to start cooking again.”
“I would like to live out the new year, thank you. Be good, Wow, the tree looks great.”
“It’s the smallest we’ve ever had.”
“It’s looks adorable.”
“I don’t want ‘adorable.’ I want impressive, massive. Overpowering.”
“Fine, after I take your picture, we’ll sign you up on Grinder. Now, stand by the tree.”
“I am bigger than that the tree!”
“It doesn’t seem right.”
“Neither does Donald Trump, but people still take his picture.”
“Is there a filter on that lens?”
“The linoleum store was closed.”
“I haven’t shaved. I have a bit of a scruff.”
“They’ll love it on Grinder. You can call yourself Daddy Wow.”
“Thank. You. Very. Much.”
“Now, just go over by the tree. That’s right. You look great.”
“I look like shit.”
“Whatever you say. Just shut up.”
“I might look better by the window.”
“What—having a face lift between the tree and window? Come back, come back. We’ll do you by the window.”
“Stop, B.! Are you insane? Not that angle. Have we not discussed my neck?”
“Every fucking day, Wow.”
“Well, raise the camera. More. More.”
“I can’t raise it anymore. I won’t be able to see through the lens.”
“Pretend you’re a paparazzi. That’s how they do it. They raise the camera and hope for the best.”
“I’m not a paparazzi and film is expensive.”
“Okay—shoot. No, No! My head was raised. You got my neck.”
“It’s attached to your body. Shall we cut it off? The idea is now very tempting.”
“Look, this is very simple. Think of me as Elizabeth Taylor during the John Warner years. The higher the camera the better she looked.”
“So, let me get this straight. You want me to imagine you as a forty-ish, overweight, female movie star?”
“B., the operative words are ‘forty-ish and ‘movie-star.’ Now, get the ladder.”
And that, dear friends, was how it went before B. managed to get me to pose for our annual posting here. It’s been for reasons not major, but persistent, a depressing year. I wasn’t feeling the spirit—at all. I deliberately waited till the very last minute and did choose a tree not taller than five-seven. I wasn’t up to struggling with a big, recalcitrant fir.
But, in the larger scheme of things—sometimes I get my head out of my ass and remember that—my issues are not terribly incapacitating. My health is good. My job persists. B. remains fond of me. And a lot of my mood has been affected by something I really can’t change—the inevitable election of Ted Cruz or Donald Trump as president.
BUT—I won’t get into it now. What I want to say is that I think of all you quite often. Sometimes when I’m most depressed. I want to post, but I think—please, I KNOW some of my Mr. Wow friends are going through shit that really matters. Don’t dump your clinical blues on them right now. Maybe I should, but I feel guilty doing it.
So, my darlings—I hope your holidays were healthy (most of all) Happy (as much as individual circumstances permit) And I wish everything good for you.
With true affection, I remain a great big pain in the ass,
My New Year’s resolution is to write to you more!
P.S. Of course, B. couldn’t avoid my neck, and despite all the photoshop applications on my computer, I decided to present it un-retouched. After all, I am 63 years-old next week. I have to stop expecting to summon up my ancient boyishness. It is what it is. (Although I took some selfies last week, avoided the neck and looked surprisingly fresh. Ah, but I also made sure I was facing the full, mid-afternoon sunlight–”fill light” it’s called. Nature’s erasure.)
However, since he offered it. I’m checking out Grinder. Daddy Wow. Why not?
P.S.S. (Or is it P.P.S?) The photo of the photo of me and B. is from back when we both—had dark hair. You do the math. It’s waiting for a frame.
And they said it wouldn’t last! Mr. Wow on Marriage, and Other Matters.
On August 5th last year, B. made an honest woman of me, at Hoboken’s City Hall. After 38 years of covering my head in shame, being pelted by rocks, and wearing that damn scarlet letter, I am free to be me. Just like Bruce Jenner–aka a rich, entitled, not terribly bright drag queen. (Sorry, can’t get on board the Caitlyn bandwagon. )
People have asked “Is it different, now that you’re married?” Maybe B. would answer differently, but I’d say, No. After we passed the 15-year mark I pretty much considered us married. By the time we got to 30 years, I’d put B. through so much I felt he was entitled to divorce me, although we weren’t legal. I’d never been the marrying type. As I got older, and actually thought about things, I felt overturning the discrimination laws that still exist was a far more important issue. But I realize that the idea and the ideal of marriage is hard-wired into people in love. And aside from love, soft as an easy chair (as Babs would sing) marriage does protect long-term partners. So, even though I didn’t wear orange blossoms or cry—and I am resistant to referring to B. as “my husband”– I’m glad we did the deed. I honestly couldn’t love B. any more than I have for 39 years. (I generally feel B. thinks: “What happened?! I wake up now, right?!)
Also, I’m wary. Marriage is legal now, the law of the land. But if we have an eight year stretch of Republicans after next year’s election, which I believe we will, who is to say how long that law of the land will stand?
But I shouldn’t worry over things like that. What—me worry?
My life is as good as I allow it to be. As I allow it to be. The general angst and anxiety I insist on wearing, seems permanent, a tiresome load on me, B. and the few friends I have. The anxiety issues lead to panicking over the simplest plans, inability to shop (having to deal with my body or my face—getting new glasses—leads to bad choices. Ill-fitting clothes or a fortune spent on glasses that I’m still not sure I like.) Yeah, I know. But none of those medications ever worked. Really.
As I write this, I’m preparing to go to dinner with B. and my friends Mike, Scott and Liz R. They were at the wedding and I just wanted to take them out to celebrate and thank them. A rare moment of planned thoughtfulness–but naturally I’m now sweating, even tho this is nothing but a casual dinner with old non-judgmental friends.
Although I’m polite and always say please and thank-you, and I am extremely sentimental in matters of getting weepy over books or movies, as a friend (and a partner) I am not always thoughtful. I don’t intend to be otherwise, but I often am. I don’t think, I don’t pay attention, I’m too much in my own head. I can be impulsively generous, sporadically thoughtful, but it’s not truly a part of my nature. The particulars of my childhood made me focus on how to adjust to each new situation, separation, unexplained departure. I learned how to be a good boy, charming and agreeable, but being a good boy didn’t help much. (Charm did, later.) But the focus on myself–on preservation and attempting to understand what was happening around me–left my focus on myself. I want to be loved and appreciated, but I don’t give back as much as I get. Not out of meanness. And I don’t expect people to go out of their way for me. But in the end I always feel alone, outside of “real” life. And placing myself outside, it’s often a struggle to connect. I’m better with strangers or very casual acquaintances. I feel safe, and I never disappoint them. I can be that charming boy again. Friends, even if they love you, notice the disconnect. When I notice they notice, it hurts. All around. This big diss on myself leads to B. I can’t explain B.–why he’s hung in! Not being a great one to talk about “feelings” all I have to go on is an explanation he gave me many years ago, when I was trying to figure out what he saw in me. “I love you, that’s all.” As far as I’m concerned, that served as his wedding vow to me, long before we stood before the judge in scenic Hoboken.
It’s harder, now that I’m older. Even when I was young, the lure of a cozy room filled with books and magazines, music, TV, my fantasies, was super-appealing. Slipping into a solitary life never frightened me, although it should. And while it’s not a solitary life now, I’ve made it much smaller over the past ten years or so. One of the reasons I’ve hung on to my job, despite challenges, is that it gives me a structure and a reason to leave my cozy room. Also, after thirtysomething years with milady I don’t see myself forging a grand new career. I might as well stick with what I know.
So you see, marriage hasn’t changed me. I didn’t expect it to, but I toyed with the possibility that a less worried, anxious person might emerge as Mrs. B. Not so much for myself, as I am resigned to me. But for others, especially those who knew me prior to depression, it would be welcome, pleasant, a revelation. Divorce, however, is not in cards. We are “madly mated” in the words of Shakespeare.
Other Matters: Who could have possibly imagined that we would be so grimly amused by the run for president? That the carnival would really come to town?
For over a year I’ve saying that Mrs. Clinton didn’t appear to want to be president for any reason other than “making history” which simply isn’t good enough for me. Her campaign, even aside from the pesky e-mail issue, has been lumbering, boring, without energy or feeling. She will not be president. Nor will Bernie Sanders, although his rise has at least given Clinton something to think about, other than trotting out tired references to her grandmother-hood.
Joe Biden? He’s a an okay guy, and would at least try to carry on the best of what Obama leaves behind, but the NYTimes “leak” of his late son, Beau Biden, urging Joe to run, just before Beau’s death—with intimate dialogue included—could have come from nobody except Biden himself. I think less of him for using his tragedy in such a typical manner. If I want my heartstrings plucked I’ll watch “The Yearling.” He will not be president.
Enter Donald Trump, a very smart, but not particularly intelligent bullfrog of a man, who literally expands unappealingly when talking about his favorite subject—himself. (His big fan, Bill O’Reilly is of a similar nature. When they gab on FOX News, the combined expansions fill the screen.) From the moment he announced, I knew he’d be hanging around for a long time. Maybe a very long time. He is perfect for these times, this era. Broad strokes, comic simplicity, fantastically coarse, utterly ego-driven. He is not just the anti-Obama politically (or he says he is for his purposes) but optics-wise, the polar opposite. I long ago wearied of Obama’s measured, pause-filled, lawyerly responses. Of course I’m glad he’s not a maniac or theatrical for no purpose, but given the ego needed to even think one can be the most powerful man in the world, one should also know how to command the podium and have an eye on the less sincere, but vitally important matter of presentation. Sometimes he has it, but often, in my opinion, not. (This—presentation– is why Jeb Bush can’t win. Utterly ineffectual speaker, with lousy posture, to boot.)
Trump is all presentation, what you see is what you get. What you see is trash, what you get is trash. And what has American culture fed off obsessively? He’s real reality TV. Alec Baldwin, who is on the right side but often an asshole, put it best recently, if Trump becomes president, he’ll be what America deserves.
Oh, yes, now you’re saying it could never happen. Didn’t you say he’d never run, wouldn’t last, that his comments about Mexicans and John McCain would end him? Like the old actress in “Follies” raucously belted out, he’s still here.
There’s enough fatalism in me (in case you haven’t noticed!) that I almost feel I could appreciate Trump as president. The End of Times would come swiftly, after that. Or he’d resign, when he realized being president is not the same as being The Red Queen in “Alice In Wonderland”—“off with their heads, or “you’re fired” won’t do. Of course, we’d have to contend, then, with whomever he’d chosen as VP. Can you imagine? Sarah Palin wants back in. Or Ted Cruz, with his frying bacon-on-a gun ads. Hmmm…I don’t know if I’m quite that fatalistic after all.
Who will I vote for 13 months from now? Mrs. Clinton, of course. Or Bernie Sanders if that’s the way it turns out. I’m prepared for a Republican because politics is cyclical and we’ve had two terms with a Democrat. I’m even prepared for Trump, if for no other reason to see if he’ll put his name on the front of The White House.
Still, as long as Justin Bieber continues to post nude photos of himself… Lenny Kravitz wear pants that split up the front…my iPod works…I can read at my leisure… B. continues to love me…and Turner Classic Movies is always available!—what, me worry?
Love to all you, from me and B., that new/old married couple.
MR. WOW PONDERS A TEXAS TRIAL AND THE MEN WE PUT IN HARM’S WAY.
“TWO THINGS are infinite. The universe and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein.
TRIAL BY hit movie? That’s what it’s come down to in Texas, where former Marine Eddie Ray Routh is on trial for killing the fabled sniper Chris Kyle, and another man, Chad Littlefield. (They had taken Routh—reportedly suffering from PTSD– out to a shooting range. In retrospect, maybe not the best therapy.)
How is it playing out? Well, everybody in Texas seems to want Routh jailed for life, at the very least. (Lynching and torture has been mentioned.) And why is it playing out this way? Because of the phenomenal success of Clint Eastwood’s movie “American Sniper” based on Chris Kyle’s delightful memoirs.
You’d think Routh was some lowlife scum, wandering around, just out to murder soldiers. If Chris Kyle was a “hero,” well–so was Routh! He volunteered for his country, he did his duty and apparently suffered for it. (OR—he was already fucked the hell up and that’s why he joined .Something to think about before we validate and arm soldiers and policemen. )
Had Kyle—who was, despite his sniper accomplishments, something of a fabricator and exaggerator—not been elevated to near-sainthood, would this trial even be happening? I say no. Wouldn’t Routh have been institutionalized and treated? I say yes.
I don’t think this guy should get a free pass—two men are dead, leaving families in torment. But so far, everything I’ve heard indicated Routh was a steaming hot mess, and not in a fun way.
If Kyle was the man his devotees insist he was, I can’t believe he’d approve of a fellow soldier, one who apparently had plenty of demons, put on trial in this manner. One of the last things Kyle said, was in a cell phone call: “This guy is straight up nuts!” he remarked of Routh.
I’d say the insanity verdict, sought by the defense, is right there, in the words of one of the victims. (Routh, in confessing to the killings, said he was upset because the other men wouldn’t speak to him. There was also stuff about pigs eating his soul. And we’re all sane here.)
But pigs with wings fly In the Lone Star state. I have a feeling Texas is going to do it Texas style– big and unforgiving.
Oh, and in case you wonder. I appreciated “American Sniper,” the movie. Fully deserving of its Oscar nominations. Love Bradley Cooper. Brilliant performance, though I prefer him sweaty and stupid in “The Hangover,” truth be told.
However, take from “Sniper” what you want, it’s only a movie. ”It is the semi-truth, tarted up for the hypnotized masses, increasingly hot to go to war again. Well, not go. Just allow a lot of young men and women to do the dirty work. Other people’s children. The ones that commit suicide—or become “irrationally” violent—upon their return to civilian life.
And you just know that the now-fabled Las Vegas “road rage mom” saw “American Sniper.” Perhaps with her fully loaded 22-year-son. (Can’t wait for the “Law & Order: SUV” episode on this one—ripped from the white trash headlines.)
I know, I know—Rudy Giuliani would say I don’t love America. Poor Dictator Rudy. 9/11 happened only to him. The rest of us were out of the room when those planes brought down the Twin Towers and Rudy saved New York.
Mr. Wow Contemplates The End of the World By Snow—And CNN’s Valiant Ice Pop, Don Lemmon.
“HE IS the type that makes mountains out of molehills, and then sells climbing equipment.” Ivern Ball.
THERE is nothing funny about a major natural disaster. According to all news reports on Monday we here in the New York area were on the brink of one, with a snow-storm that was “once in a generation.” It was “Snowpocalypse!” Store shelves were emptied and people spoke in hushed, nervous tones about “the blizzard.” (So unusual—snow in January.)
Luckily, most of the caution was pretty much standard “let’s-terrify-people-for-the-fun-of-it” talk. Lots of snow fell, there were some power outages, transit was cancelled overnight. (I didn’t have to appear at my office. Or downstairs at El Rio Grande, for a hot margarita toddy.)
But, all in all, the Medieval Black Plague language used, fell on impressive but not monumental snow banks. It is better to err on the side of caution, and Manhattan’s embattled Mayor DeBlasio was certainly obliged to come out swinging against a potential disaster. (I suppose one could opine that the blizzard turned its back on DeBlasio, too.)
The cable stations did their usual best/worst, putting the lives and health of their reporters at risk, at the point when it looked liked the snowfall would be far more daunting and dangerous. Not that I would mind most of these jerks being swallowed up in a snowdrift or swept out to sea or tornado-ed to Oz.
But the hoot of the night goes to CNN. They crammed the always dramatic Don Lemmon into something called “The Blizzardmobile” and sent him out, bundled up, wearing an unflattering ski-cap, to travel and report disaster as it happened. Oops! No disaster occurred. Aside from that ski-cap. When I checked in on Don late in the evening, as the snowfall had stopped, he was still looking for something epic, desperately attempting to engage un-panicked people about the last of the flakes. It couldn’t have happened to a more inept and annoying anchor. (I honestly kept waiting for him to personalize the storm because he is gay or because he is black.)
I can’t imagine that CNN’s coming “game show” hosted by the network’s giggling gift to New Year’s Eve, Anderson Cooper, will be nearly as much fun as Don Lemmon on the snowy tundra. (The only thing better would have been placing the twoof them in the Blizzardmobile. Girls on ice. But you know Anderson would have insisted they stop by Andy Cohen’s place for drinks and trash talk with some of the “Housewives.” And he never would have worn that ski-cap!)
Stay warm, everybody!
I’ve been putting off shoveling in front of the house. Where is an able-bodied neighborhood boy when you need one? Shovel optional. (No boys appeared. Mr. Wow was obliged to butch it up. This is never a pleasant sight. But there’s more snow on the way. Hope springs eternal.)
Love, Mr. W.
Yes—this is a crappy selfie I took tonight. After a good look at my holiday pic, I decided I’d made my point about aging without tweaks. Tweaks are okay, and maybe I’ll have some, soon. The neck, at least. NOT retouching your photos only hurts the one you love. Well, it hurts me, honestly. Actually, B. is the one who gets hurt. He has to listen to my screaming as I insist I certainly do not look “like that.” He is always too kind to respond: ”You are over sixty! What do you expect from a photograph now?” I loved having my picture taken when I was young. And B.– big surprise!–was an excellent photographer. (There’s really nothing he can’t do.) I’m like the classic old story that has been attributed to everybody from Pickford to Dietrich to Hedy to Crawford. After sitting for a session, one of the ladies supposedly said: “These are not as good as what you did the last time.” The photographer replies: “Well, Mary/Hedy/Marlene/Joan–I’m ten years older now.”
Yeah. I know. Whatever my issues, I’m not Dietrich. You just had to say it, right?
So this is how I prefer to think of myself. Kinda blurry, over-lit. In my cluttered room. 62.
I don’t know, maybe it’s the current state of the world—not that it isn’t always shitty—but getting into the holiday decorating spirit was more difficult than usual. And in recent years it’s been pretty difficult. To be honest, I put B. through so much during the year, I feel that tarting the place up a bit is the least I can do in this season of joy.
Now, I don’t know if you all can tell, but the tree is MUCH smaller, the window not as crowded. I feel it is still in Christmas bordello area, but maybe a more selective bordello—for hookers just starting out, or finishing up!
Anyway, I hope you are amused. I also hope your Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever has been healthy and peaceful, full of love. Love isn’t all we need, The Beatles notwithstanding. It sure it is important. Good health and enough money– after a certain point– give love a significant nudge. So, my wish for all of you is that you are thriving in every area.
Eat and drink and hug and kiss. Watch good (or so bad it’s good) TV, read something daunting. About month ago I finally dove into “Vanity Fair” after taking the book on and off our bookshelf for years. Challenging, but I felt I’d really accomplished something—and had a good time, too!
I love you all.
B. loves you all.
Eh, maybe The Beatles weren’t that far off.
Love and kishes (as MM was wont to pronounce it),
(Turning 62 any second and so freaked!)
Oh, Just Remember–Christmas Bordello Comes But Once a Year. Deck The Whores!
Mr. Wow’s Most Memorable Thanksgiving. And other things. (Fasten Your SeatBelts!)
First off, and as usual—apologies for the long silence. I am in good health, still married and doing my best to avoid over-indulging in my favorite over-indulgence.
The latter is not easy despite a scrupulously dry house, and no desire to drink unless I am on the East Side of Manhattan, performing certain duties that I laughingly refer to as “work.” By the time the day is over, I am like Susan Hayward in “I’ll Cry Tomorrow.” (But without the fabulous red hair and the snarl.)
If any of you keep up with a certain column, you have a pretty good idea what I am reading, watching and obsessing over. I always hope you are keeping up with that, so as to know that I am alive and thinking. More or less.
Recent events in the news have been maddening in every way. Soul-numbing, terribly depressing and wildly agitating. I try to avoid newspapers and (especially!) cable TV news, but like tequila, it just keeps pulling me back in.
All I know is this—Hillary will never be president. I’ll vote for her if she runs, because the Democrats have been too stupid to cultivate anybody else. Her self-sense of inevitability is hubris in the extreme. All politicians are egomaniacs, but Mrs. Clinton has taken it to a Mt. Everest level. Frankly, all politicians revolt me. And scare me.
I know this, too—policemen should be taught not only to “shoot to kill” but “shoot to wound and THEN kill–if you absolutely must.” Anybody out there with a knee issue? Know how painful that is? Think of a bullet in your knee. I think that would stop most people. But many policemen are as damaged as the criminals and so-called criminals they apprehend. I don’t think most start out that way, but when your job requires dealing with the worst in people, all people become one threatening person.
My last encounter with men with badges occurred a couple of years ago. I was on my way home from an event. I’d had a couple of glasses of white wine. Definitely not drunk. Or even slightly stoned. But I couldn’t hold my pee. I darted into a dark Hoboken alley and relieved myself. Just as I was zipping up, a cop car appeared. I was embarrassed, of course. Then I was more than embarrassed. These two big guys get out of the car, tugging at their guns. I am five foot seven, 150 pounds. They question me, and then call for backup. It was slow night, I guess.
I did everything right, called them “sir” and kept my eyes lowered reverently. They were super-intimidating. Thank God I wasn’t drunk. One sloppy gesture might have gotten me killed, or at least roughed up. Guns at the ready, and backup. And I’m white. (I had to go to court and pay a fine. Hoboken has a lot of this–drunken college kids pissing and causing trouble. So, even though I was clearly a few years past college age, I got it. One shouldn’t piss in an alley. Or, tragically, steal cigars. )
Anyway—aside from all that Mrs. Lincoln (and Ebola and ISIS and a totally irresponsible press corps, who were hot for U.S. epidemics, terror attacks and Ferguson riots) the play that is my life is reasonably enjoyable.
B. will prepare a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner.
Now, I still scramble or fry eggs, make gigantic sloppy sandwiches (I use English muffins) open cans of soup, often throwing in leftovers to bulk it up, scoop ice cream into my own mouth. But my cooking days are in the past. I was never especially skillful, except for a good pasta sauce and some crazy rice medley—the rice thing I still do the day or day after Thanksgiving.
But B. is so much better; inventive and patient. In cooking and in all other ways.
Thanksgiving is just me and B. We both prefer it that way. B. was never terribly outgoing—except in his young dating years. (After hooking up with me he clearly had to make a choice: “Have fun or deal with this nutcase.”) I was once much more given to going out but after a couple of decades of on and off depression, not to mention being…over 35, I am more comfortable not being so social. Truth be told, even at the height of my sociability, I was always tense and concerned underneath, always worried about how I looked, if I was smart enough for my friends, what did people really think of me? The answers were—I looked fine, I was more than smart enough, people really liked me. Mostly. And strangers or people I meet or know casually, adore me. (B. was ever amazed at how smoothly I engaged total strangers.) The more one gets to know me, the less charming my insecurities and quirks are.
As a child and young adolescent (till about 14) Thanksgiving was a big deal. So were all holidays.
The family was big—my mother had six siblings, just for starters. And most everybody was Italian. My Aunt Jeannie married a strapping Nordic guy named Eric, they had two gorgeous sons, both of whom I lusted after even as a six and seven year old. But Aunt Jeannie was crazy. They were all crazy. My Aunt Margot (genteel, pretentious crazy), Aunt Bertie (sloppy, crude Roseanne Barr crazy), Aunt Gloria (certifiably crazy), Uncle Bobby (he was just gay, but moody), Uncle Richard (basically an outcast and eventually a suicide.) My mother struggled mightily to handle her neurosis and be what her family thought she should be—as if any of them were role models. (She was always being “accused” of being a lesbian, which was a riot because all her sisters had had female lovers at one point or another, and my poor mother suppressed herself tragically.)
The genetic issue of my aunts–my cousins–were all fucked up one way or another. It was only a matter of time before this one or that one would end up dead or in jail or a junkie slut (my cousin Margo—lots of fun until she wasn’t.) Only my cousin Stephen, though he had his issues, was close to sane and eventually escaped the lunacy and criminality (yes!) of his aunts, uncles and cousins. He died young and I still think of him often.
All this dysfunction had to spring from somewhere, right? You bet. My grandmother and grandfather, off the boat from the old country. He was a miserable bastard who gave my grandmother as many children as possible—not counting the miscarriages—and was never faithful.
My grandmother was a very great beauty, and not dumb by any means, but to say she was constricted by her times would be a tragically un-funny understatement.
In time, my grandmother lost her mind. And she abandoned all her children. Her husband could not, would not, care for them. They were shipped off to a Catholic orphanage. Brutal doesn’t begin to describe it. Although all the aunts could tell tales full of horror but with a gallows humor only those who are survivors can manage. (When my mother was compelled to leave me at a Catholic orphanage, as her mental issues overtook her, the worst for her was believing she was doing to me what her own parents had done to her. My experience was not pleasant—and surely set in place many future problems–but it was not brutal.)
My grandmother became something of a phantom, popping up at this or that daughter’s home in wretched condition. She would promise to behave, but havoc was her real name. In time, only my mother would take her in. Always to disastrous results. Of all the siblings, my mother seemed most desperate for love and approbation from both her parents. (She was the second oldest and had tremendous responsibility caring for and protecting the younger ones.)
My grandmother rarely appeared at family gatherings—who knew where she was most of the time anyway? But these get-togethers were always rife with vicious gossip (not even the children were exempt from being dissected by the so-called adults.) Arguments erupted out of festering ancient wounds. Inevitably somebody would end up weeping or storming out. As Ava Gardner said: “It’s not a party until there’s a drunken bitch crying on the floor.”
For us kids—even if we knew our affectionate aunts were secretly referring to us as latent homosexuals or retards—it was all good dirty fun. Sometimes the old photo albums would come out and it was great to see our aunts before their nose jobs or before they got so fat or too skinny. And it was cool (for some of us) to see our sexy Uncle Bobby in swim trunks in endless beach shots. (Last time I saw Bobby, many years ago, he was still smokin’!)
Sometimes we’d have to read between the lines of the veiled insults or salacious jokes. Not me so much—I read a lot of Harold Robbins. I knew from sleaze. So, despite the incredible tension—or perhaps because of it—family gatherings were something to look forward to.
And then came THE Thanksgiving. The one that went down in family legend. I’m sure if any of my aunts are still alive that evening is sometimes referred to. My cousins—even the ones in jail—I’m sure they remember.
Right away we knew we were in for something extra special. My grandfather was there—not too unusual. The icing on the crazy arrived with the appearance of my grandmother. She looked reasonably crisp and well-groomed. Wherever she’d been, her illness was in temporary pall.
Dinner was big, natch. It was a huge crowd. My grandparents stayed away from each other prior to sitting down. This was okay, obviously. Dinner was served. My grandmother was rather amusing—for her. My mother told many tales of her days working at the Paramount Theater and the Biltmore and Plaza hotels; all the stars she met, all the glamorous adventures. She had a marvelous gift for storytelling and writing (and painting and sketching.)
So far, so good. Then my grandfather, with more than a few glasses of red wine in him, began to wax affectionate about his children. “Your children? You fucking hypocrite” my granny muttered soto voce. It was soto enough that my well-liquored grandpa didn’t notice. They were at the opposite ends of the table—each at the head. Fantastic, considering the history.
Another glass of red, and then my grandfather made his almost fatal mistake. “Oh, my daughters. All my beautiful daughters. If only Gloria was here.”
Wrong. My grandmother’s face became very Linda Blair-ish in the worst of “The Exorist.” “Your daughters? Your daughter?! Gloria?! Gloria isn’t here because of you, you filthy bastard! You rapist. You raped her just the way you raped me all those years. You raped your own daughter!!!!!!” And then she grabbed the carving knife from what was left of the turkey and lunged for the old man. And when I say lunged, she didn’t rush around the table to get at him. She propelled herself onto the table, amongst the dishes and serving plates and glasses of wine and cups of coffee. She bashed her knees into the stuffing and cranberry sauce. Aunt Margot’s delicate plates were strewn and broken. Her lovely lace tablecloth was rent. And it was only the strength of two of my grandmother’s son-in-laws that prevented her from plunging that knife into her ex-husband’s heart. Or other, more offensive parts of his anatomy.
The day was over. One of my uncles drove my grandmother back to…wherever. My grandfather screamed that she was always a crazy bitch and if only he’d had enough courage he would have killed her years ago.
We kids were agog. Thrilled. It was so much better than a drive-in movie.
Later that night, my mother said, “Let me explain…”
“Mom, I know what rape is!”
“Well…, you see…”
“So it’s true?”
“But how can you have anything to do with him?”
“He’s my father. I can’t explain. But, that’s why I always take your grandmother in. You have no idea what her life was like. I can’t abandon her, either. He drove her crazy.”
“He’s my father. Don’t ask to me to make sense. I love them both. I need my parents!”
“What about Gloria?”
We never spoke of it again. But it was one more nod to what my mother’s life had been. One more reason not to hate her; and not to find her issues beyond my understanding. Understanding didn’t make life with her better for me. But, I had been formed by my own trauma, and I was my own no-longer-innocent person by the time my mom and I finally lived together. She was forever agonized by what she saw as her abandonment of me. I was forever wondering why I was abandoned—and so often! (There were many temporary situations.) Yet as each aspect of her experience was revealed to me, what could I say or think? I was too smart to blame her. Not smart enough to overcome it, however. Life has been an endless effort to be loved and accepted—without giving much back. Because I don’t really know how.
You might think this is a terrible Thanksgiving memory. And it is. But it served me well in many ways. Mostly in putting together another vital piece of the puzzle of my mother’s life. She felt compelled to love a father who’d raped her sister. Because she needed love so much.
Later, I thought on it in regard to child abuse and rape how often women (and men) can’t face it, or report it, or confuse it with some perverted aspect of love and affection. Or endure it, as, clearly, my grandmother did, until she couldn’t. (I also wondered why the daughters seemed so much more hostile to their mother, rather than their father? I suppose they felt if only she hadn’t disappeared…)
It was turkey with all the trimmings.
NOW—here is my Thanksgiving today. I am so thankful for my ongoing strange but interesting life…my good health…my beautiful, wonderful boyfriend (never gonna do the “husband” thing)…my few good friends who love me and are so patient with me…and all of you!
And the cats.