Mr. Wow Blog
Mr. Wow Contemplates Obama Exhaustion
8:10 pm | April 23, 2012

Author: Mr. Wow | Category: Point of View | Comments: 65



As I trolled various news shows over the weekend, a serious malaise—in the words of Jimmy Carter–fell upon Mr. Wow.


The closer we inch to the presidential election, the less I want to be there—here!–watching and groaning as both sides debase the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, the Civil Rights Act and virtually everything this country is supposed  to represent. (But never did, really.)  I malaised myself into a big headache.


After I took some Advil, Aleve and B. placed a moist cloth on my fevered brow—Thank you, Mr. Darcy!– I was drawn back to recalling the night Barack Obama was elected.

    I had voted early in the day with B.  I was not a happy voter.  I wasn’t an Obama man.  I didn’t think he was bad, just not my cup of Chief Executive.  His speeches didn’t wow me, his measured manner of speaking drove me crazy.  Those who looked at him, or toward his potential presidency, as some kind of transforming moment, were foolish, I believed.  Politicians rarely transform, though they promise the world. (That’s why they’re called campaign speeches.)


Still, with Hillary out and Sarah Palin looming, what was a reasonable liberal to do?  I voted for O.  As we left the voting booths in Hoboken, I said to B—“This was pointless.  I don’t care how many teen-themed Disney programs feature interracial dating. I don’t care what ‘data’ claims the improving stats are on bigotry.  This is America. We will never elect a man of color as president. The Civil War never ended. My God, anti-Semitism is still rampant in this country!” I was distrait on the street.  B. took me home and placed a moist cloth on my brow.  Thank you, Rhett Butler!


I took my turbulent feelings with me to a celeb-studded “election party” that evening.  I was instantly regretful having accepted the invite. It was an unusually sultry November. I was sweating and uncomfortable.  Everybody was networking and drinking and making jolly.  I was not so jolly.  I peeled off my jacket only to realize I’d sweated through my shirt. Pit-stains on election night ain’t pretty.  I put the jacket back on, but felt I was kinda ripe. 


I was focused on the big TV screens, running the results, as each state closed. I seemed to be the only one interested!  Eh, show biz goes on, no matter who is president, right?   I didn’t drink much. In fact I barely touched my screwdriver.  I was anxious.  So anxious I left the party at the very moment it looked not so hot for Obama.  I couldn’t bear a room full of movie stars, producers and directors, performing the fabled five stages of grief.  It would happen within an hour and Acceptance would be particularly grisly.


I walked to the Port Authority.  It struck me how empty the streets were, though midnight was still hours away.  I assumed everybody was at home, watching the results or still voting.  I wasn’t sure when the polls closed.  It was slightly creepy, end-of-the-world-ish.  Also lovely. New York is never more beautiful and welcoming as when it is deserted. (August, despite the heat, is a paradise for those who want to wander Manhattan.  Everybody’s on vacation. Visit the Metropolitan Museum!)


When I got home, B. was up, of course.  “Obama won!  He’s the president of the United States!”  I was, and I frankly admit it, shocked.  I had been wrong, perhaps.  Maybe we had come along and I just hadn’t noticed?    We sat and watched his speech and I was momentarily lifted.  I had lived to see a new century.  I had lived to see a man of color in the White House.  Wow–I’d lived a lot!  Obama was stirring to me for the first time.  Well, it was the fact of his ascendancy that stirred me.   I didn’t remain uplifted for long.  As me and B. continued a rigorous night of channel-surfing, including Fox News, a feeling of hopelessness overwhelmed me.  “They’re already campaigning for 2012,” I said.  “He really won’t have a chance.  And I don’t think he’s equipped to handle the resistance he’ll face.”

     I also felt Obama was too idealistic for the office he’d won.   It might have been better to have waited ten cynical years.


But he didn’t wait and he did win. It was his moment in time, I guess.   Here we are three and half years later, the joyful balloon deflated.

    Despite Obama’s big butch bulls-eye as the killer of Osama bin Laden, his good intentions with health care, and his struggle with an economy shattered when he took office, it seems to me we are likely looking at a one-term president, who will leave office both more relieved and embittered than most. 


What I’m feeling now is not so much disappointment—Obama is a politician, I didn’t expect waters to part.  No, I’m tired. It’s the climate. It’s what we’ve allowed ourselves to become—fixated on the second- to- second sensational sound bite. Unable to ignore the negative. The Internet has caused everything to telescope so drastically; each event is all-important for…48 hours. When George W. Bush left office I felt I’d never known another president, those eight years seemed like eighty.  The Obama three-and-a-half seems more like three hundred years! 


The drip, drip, drip of hatred has worn me out.  God knows what it has done to him and to Michelle Obama.  He has made some mistakes.  He has been tentative on certain matters.  He lacks obvious (phony) passion.  He is careful and lawyerly.  Except  when he isn’t.  And then he pays for it, bigtime.  But I’ve never seen ugliness on such a scale as has been directed at this president and first lady.  And that includes the Clintons, who were Lord and Lady MacBeth to the Right for eight years. (Let’s never forget Mrs. Clinton, now Secretary of State, was alleged to be a murderer in the most salacious rumors.)

    Yes, it’s been racial.  And if you don’t agree, fine. That’s how I feel.  That’s what I read in the comment section of stories about Obama on conservative sites. It’s lurks there. Right underneath. Not everybody.  But a lot.


I’d like Obama to have a second term.  I want him to prove something to me, to a person who didn’t expect much to begin with, but someone who feels strongly his life will be harder under a new regime. Looking at 60, and unemployed right now, I see myself in a Republican world.  I don’t like the way that looks.  (Though it’s no gay fling now—the president has yet to acknowledge my personal travail and send a check!)


And, since I abhor political correctness, let me say right now I don’t want a Mormon president.  It’s a cult.  Now, all “religions” are culty and crazy.  But at least, let’s say, Catholicism is based on thousands of years of belief—much of it lifted from pagan mythology—and it inspired great art and great thinkers.


I am not comfortable with a president who believes in a religion less than two hundred years old—an angel visited Joe Smith in Palmyra, New York, seer stones, golden plates, etc.  Palmyra, really?  (Although perhaps they said the same thing back in day—“Bethlehem, really?”)


Anyway, the tenants of Mormanism, not to mention the church’s wealth, power and secrecy, creep me out.  Although, individually, I have met many lovely Mormans.  I just don’t want the insanely wealthy Morman “leader” Mitt Romney ruling the world.  Otherwise, I’m sure he’s lovely, too.  (Yes, I know all about the Vatican.  But our one and only Catholic president, JFK, was an unrepentant whoremaster.  He wasn’t exactly towing the line.)  If we’re gonna go this way, let’s just elect Tom Cruise as president.


Sooooo…it’s gotta be Obama for me, no matter my palpitations or how many moist cloths B. places on my brow. Thank you, Heathcliff.  Oh, wait, Heathcliff would probably strangle me with it. Back to somebody from a Jane Austen novel.   Or B. himself.  Always a gent.


I worry too much. I watch too much cable news.  Anything can happen. November is still eight months away. I want somebody to shake me by the shoulders like Bette Davis did to Miriam Hopkins in “Old Acquaintance.” Just to clear my head. 


And if that doesn’t work, a good Cher-like slap, a la “Moonstruck”—“snap out of it!”    Maybe then I’d stick to the History Channel and Turner Classic Movies.  And…never read a newspaper? 


Hmmm…that’s gonna have to be a pretty hefty slap.


Thank you—Stanley Kowalski?





Mr. Wow Stands His Ground
10:37 pm | April 11, 2012

Author: Mr. Wow | Category: Point of View | Comments: 83

Okay, okay.  I’ve been trying to be all hands off on Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old African-American who was shot to death by George Zimmerman inFlorida.  So inflammatory. And what could I add?  Nothing.  But I felt I had to say something.  I wanted to say something.

Mr. Martin had been to a grocery store, picking up a can of iced tea and candy for his younger brother. He was visiting his father.   Mr. Zimmerman is a neighborhood “watchman.”  With a gun.  Not that he was supposed to have a gun while “watching.”

Eh, who’s counting bullets in Florida?


The case has been brutally and cynically analyzed from every perspective.

The outrageous righteousness of the Right and the Left, the politicizing of the event, has dimmed its humanity. I loathe MSNBC’s Al Sharpton. I loathe Fox News.  I loathe “The Today Show” for its “mistake” in editing the vital 911 call from Zimmerman to the cops.  Basically I loathe everybody who weighs in on this.  Yeah, so I’m hating myself, too.  I’ll recover.  I always do.


So here’s the vibe I get:  Mr. Zimmerman, now—finally!– arrested and charged with second degree murder, will be exonerated.  It is his word, and the “stand your ground” law of Florida, against a dead person.  So far we know of no eyewitnesses to the actual encounter to say who started what.  And even though we have the 911 tapes, and the police telling Mr. Zimmerman to cool it, and not follow the “suspicious” Mr. Martin, we’ll never know exactly what went down in that ultimate confrontation.

If we are to take “stand your ground” for what it intends to be, then young Mr. Martin was also standing his ground—followed by a strange man, in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  He might have felt—as Mr. Zimmerman says he  felt—threatened to the point of fearing for his life.  And using all the weapons at his disposal.  In Mr. Martin’s case, that was can of ice tea and a bag of candy.


Here’s what we do know.  We can hear George Zimmerman’s voice as he made his distress call. Something he often did. Almost always he was wary of  “suspicious” black men.


What do we hear on that fatal tape?  I’ll tell you what I  hear. He’s not terribly bright.  His voice sounds dull and even slightly slurred. (His brother, Robert, who came out to defend him at one point, must have inherited another gene pool.)  He is inexplicably nervous and angry and frightened.  But why?  He’s all safe in his car.  He wasn’t even “on watch.”   He just happened to notice Mr. Martin.   And just noticing him, set something off.


I have listened to this tape, in its entirety, over and over again.   It is terrifying.  This was a man on a mission.  This was a man who had a point of view. It is not a point of view one desires to be on the other side of.


We will never know—and let me stress this—we’ll never know—what happened in that minute nobody saw. Who struck first, what was said, etc.  But I know this.  If Mr. Zimmerman had gone home, after placing his concerned phone call, Mr. Martin would be alive today.


He was only 70 feet from his father’s fiancée’s house when he died, face down in the grass, with a bullet in his chest.


Mr. Zimmerman’s latest lawyer, Mark O Mara—the first two fled– stresses the difficulties his client has faced—“It must be frightening not to be able to go to a 7-Eleven.”  Indeed.  Think about never being able to go to a 7-Eleven again.  Ever.


Oh, and here is P.S. response to CNN’s excellent Don Lemmon, who has kept his cool in various contentious interviews regarding the Trayvon Martin case.  He has asked a certain question, to no avail, because hysteria reigns around Trayvon.  That question is–“Should President Obama have weighed in on this matter?”


Dear Don—Prez O.  should have kept it to “what a tragedy, etc.”   To have personalized it—“If I had a son he would look like Trayvon”—was a big mistake.


So there, Don, at least somebody has finally answered you.

Mr. WoW, B. and the Tale of the Easter Swan
2:37 pm | April 7, 2012

Author: Mr. Wow | Category: Point of View | Comments: 30

 Dear Friends…Happy Easter or Passover or nothing. That is, just be happy you might have an extra day off from work.  Many of you have followed me from wOw, and probably recall this story.  But, for those who are new–and I see there are more than I expected–perhaps you’ll enjoy this post.  It says a little about me and a lot about B. 

Mr. wOw’s Easter swan

Every relationship has its rituals — but as Mr. wOw learns, it’s the small ones that end up mattering the most

Many years ago—back in the fabulous early 1980’s (well, if you didn’t factor in AIDS), B. went off to Denmark. He was a medical researcher and was … researching in Denmark. B. was away a while. He loved Denmark. He loved the work he was doing and the people he was working with. Especially one fellow. Cute and  smart. Doctor smart. Just like B.   Mr. wOw was jealous.

When B. went off for a second stay in Denmark, he said, “wOw, why don’t come along? Everyone would love to meet you.” This was odd. B. was and is a shy guy, who needs some prodding in the social area. One of the reasons he liked me is that I wasn’t shy, once I relaxed, and would always strike up animated conversations with strangers, and had friends, and brought people over. This eventually ended—it was too much work for me: I cooked I cleaned, they were my friends, I entertained. I got tired. I was working nine to five.

But B. gregarious himself, in another country?! This I had to see. So I braved my very first plane ride to Denmark. I was terrified, but made a hell of a lot of acquaintances during the seven or eight hours in the air. I also drank a lot. Not that it helped. (It was the beginning of many years of air travel, and imbibing way up there.) Denmark was wonderful, and in many ways B. was a different person. Not totally, but that’s another more serious tale   I met B.’s friend and was really jealous. But, I kind of got over it. I loved Denmark too. And we often went to a park in the middle of Copenhagen and admired the swans. We loved swans, despite their famously irritable nature. They were always polite to us.

I left Denmark. B. followed a few weeks later. He returned — depressed, it seemed to me. Was he longing for Denmark and his doctor pal? Was he regretting me? I was so childish. So poor. Not his equal, I was sure. Finally, I asked him, “Do you want to go back? Do you want to separate? We’ve only been together six years, we’re young. You have time to make another life.” His answer was a curt, final, “no!” (Big girly conversations are not his forte, though he allows me an annual monologue.) He seemed to improve somewhat, but I thought he still missed Denmark. It troubled me. Then one day at the supermarket I found a large plastic swan. I brought it home, filled the bathtub and put him in to float.

When B. came from work I said we’d received a visitor, who was splashing around in our tub. B. hurried upstairs, and I wondered what kind of visitor he was hoping to find in our tub? (That cute kid down the block?)   It was the plastic swan, serene. B. was amused, perhaps even touched. I was (am) so rarely sensitive when I should be. He seemed better after that.

We tucked the swan away, and I never thought of it again until Easter rolled around. I woke up Easter Sunday to find our swan jam-packed with sweet goodies of all kinds. I love candy. B. said: “I heard the flapping of wings last night, and he suddenly appeared with all this stuff. It was quite a journey. He can stay awhile, yes?” Of course! Who turns away a swan bearing chocolate?

We must have been hospitable enough. Every year since—more than 25, now—our Easter swan has arrived, loaded down with sweet gifts. He always comes when I am asleep. Sometimes B. expresses concern about the weather, and the swans great age, but he always comes through, not much altered by time, though no great conversationalist. He stays until we’ve pretty much finished off his gifts. He always leaves quietly in the night. Sometimes B. is awake and bears a message—the swan has had a relaxing time, loves us, and will be back next year.

All relationships have rituals. Funny little nicknames and habits. Sometimes they start out annoying but oddly you grow to depend on and even love them. The swan started out as a nervous joke by an insecure Mr. wOw, hoping to charm his B. Today, if anything happened to that damn plastic swan I think I’d have to be strapped down and medicated.

I’d like to go back to Denmark someday with B. Look at the swans again. And maybe bring a present back  to our swan (he’s definitely a Dane.) After all, he’s given us so much. And I don’t just mean chocolate rabbits.

Happy Easter to you all—whether it is a time of spiritual contemplation or bunny rabbits and colored eggs. Or just a few days off.

I must go. Jelly beans are beckoning.


Mr. Wow Leaves Home
7:52 pm | April 3, 2012

Author: Mr. Wow | Category: Point of View | Comments: 72



I was wondering what to do today, what to write.  The fact of being laid off—and the uncertainty of applying for unemployment—has weighed me down.  I don’t have the heart or energy to tackle the Trayvon Martin tragedy or Rick Santorum saying “bullshit” or the relentless robotic aura of Mitt Romney.  Or the fading presidency of Barack Obama.  Or even the illness and surgery of our oldest, purriest cat, Doll.

  Frustration, fear and self-loathing have taken me to dark places.

    And so I offer an essay that has been on my computer for a while.  Something, not exactly “light,” but a piece that might explain me a little bit. How I came to be me. Certain aspects of me. The more…sordid me.

   I hope I won’t shock any of you too much.  




How Young Mr. Wow Came to Confront NYC’s Mean Streets in 1968.



“I took money, Steve….I made a way of life out of it.  The deep shame didn’t hit me until much later.”



“When the time comes that I am no longer desired for myself, I’d rather not be desired at all.”



All true movie fans (and/or gay men) know the origin of the two quotes above.  Miss Elizabeth Taylor as the overripe call girl Gloria, in “Butterfield 8.”  And Miss Vivien Leigh as the fragile Karen Stone in “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone.”  Both characters traded in sex.  One sold, one paid.


Mr. Wow saw these films as a youngster.  Well, let’s say as a tween–in today’s parlance.  They had an effect.  By the time I watching Miz Liz strut around in her silky slip, and Miss Leigh pine after insensitive hustlers, I was sexually active, and aware that youth was my big calling card. I had no illusions.  Feature by feature I was just a normal, cute-looking kid.  But I was smart and already too worldly for my little world.

As I became more sophisticated (that is, I read a lot of Harold Robbins) I sometimes fantasized about being so desirable that I would be paid for my time, a la La Liz.  I also saw myself in Vivien Leigh’s character!  Even at 13 I knew someday I’d be in that position—not famous, not beautiful, not rich. (Not a woman, either.)   But I would want younger partners.  This struck me profoundly–that I would look so mournfully into the future. Anticipating faded petals while I was still barely a bud myself.

And even then I didn’t like myself.    But I accepted myself.


My disordered childhood left me unmotivated to succeed, or to “be” anything. I certainly didn’t become self-reliant.  Rather, I was obsessed with physical—not financial–security and on my ability to charm somebody into providing me a stable environment. All I wanted was a home. I never fantasized about money or fame.

During my time up at the Peekskill, NY orphanage, St. Joseph’s, I begged a beautiful social worker to adopt me. She was African American and had taken me into her home on Thanksgiving.  Of course she could not adopt me—I was not an orphan. My mother was alive. Hospitalized,  suicidal, volatile–but alive. And she wanted me. She had spent her own grim childhood in the care of good nuns at an orphanage. That her little boy had ended up in the same situation was for her an agony of guilt.

This social worker had already broken rules taking me home with her. (I met her family and they were great!)  But I never forgot her, or that she cried when I saw her for the last time. She was much nicer than the nuns, and the only tenderness I found up there at St. Joseph’s.



By the time I was fourteen, running away from home—fleeing life with an insecure, tormented mother I hardly knew, or cared to know– had become a rather boring habit.

At first I came back within hours.  Then more hours.  Then a day.  Then two.  Always I would wander, walking on and on and on. I had this strong feeling that if I walked far enough, I would somehow, magically, fall into a new life.  Like Alice down the rabbit hole, or through the looking-glass.  I made myself believe that turning the next unknown corner might change my life, in some fantastic fashion. That never happened.  Not as I anticipated, anyway. I was no Jack Kerouac, taking to the road and having terrific, mind and soul defining adventures. I waited for things to happen to me; passive and fatalistic. I did not believe in myself as a person, only as a commodity with an expiration date.


Midway through my fourteenth year, my epic rows with my mother reached a boiling point. I was relentlessly truant from school and despite an amazing ability to forge teacher’s names on notes and intercept the mail and phone calls, I was doomed to be caught.  There were terrible scenes.

Nothing mattered more to my mother than my education.  She was compelled to leave school at 16, to work. She  suffered what she thought were her intellectual deficiencies, though she wrote poetry, painted and was well-read. There was no possibility of having money to send me to college—we were on welfare by the time I was 11—but my mother hoped I might advance enough to earn some sort of scholarship.  No way. School bored me.  I read voraciously and was certain I knew more than my teachers. I didn’t feel the need to learn French or advanced mathematics. (Today I still count on my fingers!)  My teachers tended to love me at first, then become puzzled, then ignore me—after all, there were students on hand who wanted  to learn.

One of my teachers was so outraged by my indifference to him and to schoolwork in general, he ordered my mother to come see him, so he could have the pleasure of telling her, “Mrs. Wow, I think your son absolutely does not belong in an advanced classroom.  In fact, I am going to make sure he is placed where he belongs, in the ‘average’ classrooms. Though he is barely even that.”  (I don’t know how the system is now—but back then kids were divided into ‘average’ and ‘above average’ levels.  It caused a lot of grief and insecurity.)


After that, I was openly contemptuous, which caused this learned man to throw a book at me.  He missed. He hit the smart kid seated behind me..


In any case, I was always inevitably caught in my intricate but-sure-to-fail truancy lies.  My mother and I slugged it out.  Well, she tried to, and I ducked.  She had a hair-trigger temper and the unfortunate habit of slapping me hard, often in front of others.  She would then wonder why so many took my side, despite her very real concerns and grievances. “Don’t be fooled by his innocent look!” she would scream after sending me reeling with a roundhouse backhand. (I wasn’t trying to look innocent, but all who witnessed these scenes certainly thought I was.)


By fourteen I’d shot up to 5’ 7”  to my mom’s 5’2”.  (For a minute it looked like I might be tall.  But I never grew another inch.)  So it became comic as she tried to hit and corner me in our tiny two room Hollis, Queens apartment.  The struggle was now ridiculous, and I often fell into giggles, leaping from sofa to chair and back again as she flailed, hoping to make a strike.  My mother was not amused.  We battled bitterly shortly after my fourteenth birthday. I didn’t feel like being slapped. I opted out of the house yet again.


I walked down Jamaica Avenue, then up to the more affluent Hillside Avenue and continued into Jamaica itself.  I was so familiar with the area—the crumbling but still-deluxe Loews Valencia Theater…Gertz department store (with its tawdry and active men’s room)  and the very nice public library where I spent many truant hours, reading good books in exquisite isolation. (The men’s room there also had a lot of traffic.)


This adventure would be different.  For one thing, I was away five days.  My longest sojourn from Hollis, ever.  But something else was in the air.  Me! At every turn, on every bench, in every theater seat (I knew how to sneak into the Valencia for free), and on each and every street, I was  accosted, approached, seriously eyed.  I was by no means naïve, or sexually inexperienced, but this was ridiculous.  Had every gay man in the world decided to take a vacation in scenic Jamaica, Queens?  And were they all somehow attracted to little ole cute-but-not-extraordinary Mr. Wow?


Apparently so.  Several of these men were young and good-looking.  (One took me to his tiny room the local YMCA.  He cried with shame when we were done, which horrified me.  Whatever problems I had, confusion about my sexual identity was not among them.)   Others were not so young.

The night before I trudged sheepishly back home—to my hollow-eyed mother who was simply relieved I was alive—I encountered a drunk in the bus station.  He was stout and bald and reeked of liquor.  I was holding up a wall, clutching a paperback copy of “The Queen’s Necklace”—all about Marie Antoinette’s fatal bauble.  I’d stolen it from a drugstore, and was reading it while wandering.

He approached.  Ugh!  I moved away.  He followed.  I went outside.  He followed.  “Hey, kid—you wanna make ten bucks?”  This stopped me.

In 1967, with a mother on welfare, and reduced to stealing 95 cent paperback books, ten bucks might as well have been a hundred.  “Come on, come on over here,” he slurred, indicating a deserted area of the bus parking area.  I followed him warily.  When we were secluded he turned, grabbed his crotch, and said, “So?”  I said, “Money first.”  Who knows where that  bit of business sense came from?   He handed over the ten.  I looked at it.  I looked at him.  He looked mean. He smelled bad.  I ran my ass off.  He was too drunk to do anything but curse me as a faggot.

The next morning I was back in Hollis, promising my mother I’d straighten up and fly right.  Of course I wanted to finish high school and grow up to be a responsible person.  I thought I meant it.  Kind of.

I was thrilled with my ten dollar bill.


And then I was fifteen.  My last year at home was a total joke.  I was out of school so often that my teachers and supposed classmates didn’t even know who I was, on those rare occasions I deigned to appear.  I spent a good deal of time with the guidance counselor.  She was bright and funny, and had a connection to show biz. I amused her. I made her laugh.  She’d always say, “Oh, you’re okay.  You’re just too smart for your own good.”  Once she said, “Have you ever considered acting?”

I answered, “What do you think I’m doing right now?” She looked somewhat stricken. That I might be less jaunty than I appeared hadn’t occurred to her.

When not being “counseled” I spent most of my stolen hours up at the local library, but I did scoot into Manhattan.  I wandered around the Times Square and 42nd Street area. That’s when it truly was “bawdy, tawdry 42nd Street!” I didn’t know it—or maybe I did—but I was getting the lay of the land.

On a warmish November afternoon in ‘68 my mother and I had our final confrontation.  Suspecting I was not going to school, she waited at my bus stop.  Of course, I wasn’t on the bus; I was jauntily making my way down the street from the opposite direction.  Curses, foiled again!

My mother was speechless with rage. Odd, for her.  I was en garde, waiting for the slaps or savage pinches or just the yelling—like the roar of the Concorde taking off. (To this day, a raised voice will cause me to shut down, flee or hyperventilate.)  She said nothing until we reached Rudy’s the corner convenience store, just across the street from our modest apartment complex.  It was a little bit of everything at Rudy’s—a fountain, burgers, drugstore items, newspapers, magazines.  And there was Rudy, too—a crusty character who never warmed to winsome Mr. Wow. (Perhaps he suspected that I often stole magazines and books.)  My mother ordered a cup of coffee, and the mere act of speaking—“no milk”– unhinged her.

She began screaming to Rudy and several neighborhood ladies, about what an excruciatingly horrible, terrible boy I was.  I never went to school, and for sure I was going to hell because of all the trouble I caused her.  (She had a point, but–Young Wow did not smoke, drink, take drugs, use foul language or hang out with a bad crowd—or any crowd. I was a big nerd.  And, tempting though it was, I didn’t sass my mom.)

Rudy and the gathered neighbors knit their brows and shook their heads.  Wasn’t I ashamed of myself?  What kind of a boy was I?  Did I want to go to hell?   And then, as per her habit, my mother hauled off and slapped me so hard I fell back against a pyramid of canned goods, knocking everything over.  Rudy exclaimed, triumphantly, “See what you did?”  One of the ladies piped up, “Look what you’ve done to your mother, she is always so sick, how can you be so cruel and irresponsible?”

“Go home!” shrieked my mother.  “I’ll deal with you later.”


No thank you, Mom.  Later never came.  I dashed out of the store, flung my pristine, uncracked schoolbooks into a garbage can and headed up toward Hillside Avenue, and the subway to NYC.  I had exactly 15 cents in my pocket.  That was the fare. I was wearing grey slacks, a white shirt and short lightweight jacket.  I probably had time to go home and change, or throw a few extra clothes in a bag, or root through my mother’s bureau draws for some money.  I knew she’d be some time at Rudy’s, telling everybody I wasn’t as innocent as I looked.

But falling into the canned peas was my final straw.  I felt desperately sad for my mother.  I knew her own brutal history and I knew that she tried her best. I didn’t love her. I didn’t hate her, either.  But we were not meant to live together.  In later years I realized she wasn’t meant to live with anyone—she trusted so few– herself least of all.  Alone was better. Although it was so terribly alone.

Alice said, once she found herself in Wonderland: “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”


So, call it strange or sad, but that November day that I sauntered out onto 42nd Street and 8th Ave, determined never to return home…something made sense. To me.  I knew my looking-glass was sordid, grimy, and held little hope.  But I never expected Wonderland anyway.


TO BE CONTINUED…eventually.