“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.
Mr. Wow Marries
“Sadie, Sadie, married lady, see what’s on your hand. There’s nothing quite as touching as a simple wedding band/Oh, how that marriage license works, on chambermaids and hotel clerks/The honeymoon was such delight, that we got married that same night!”
What?—do I need to tell you those are lyrics from “Funny Girl”—the mighty amusing “Sadie” sequence, after Barbra marries Omar Sharif. (I don’t use the character names—please. It’s Barbra and Omar.)
Anyway, I, me, Mr. W. at age 61, am finally a Sadie!
Tomorrow I marry the boy I met when I was just a boy of 17. (We’ve been “together” since 1976, when I was a man of 24. Well, I was 24, anyway.)
Now, I think most of you know I’ve never been a sentimentalist or a romantic about marriage. My mantra has always been that since heterosexual Death Row prisoners can marry, gay folks should have the same rights as killers. Fair is fair.
But I never yearned for a wedding. After the first decade or so, I figured we were pretty much “married.” Later, when B. supported me unconditionally through my HIV diagnosis and a to-death’s-door-illness-and-recovery, there was no question. We were, as Shakespeare said of Kate and Petrucio, “madly mated.” However, the legalities never interested me. Or any kind of fuss. And we have cats. No adopting adorable abandoned Asian children for us. So, I was content.
B. however—as you know—is much smarter. He has saved his pennies, invested well. I have not. We both have wills (mine is hilariously threadbare) and I figured that was that. Neither of us has any immediate still-living family. Two weeks ago he said to me, “I want you to read something and consider it carefully.” He didn’t add, “There are pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor and naked guys, too.” Just “consider carefully.” Yes, like I always have!
It was a letter from his lawyer, detailing his finances and suggesting various ways I would be best protected in case he goes first. (I’m hoping the house explodes and we go together!) The lawyer’s conclusion? Marriage would be best. One of the other considerations was moving to Florida! Not until I change my name to Yetta.
“So?” said B, after I finished reading.
“Darling” I said, “This is so sudden!” We laughed. And then he declared, “Well, I suppose I should do this properly,” and he got down on one knee.
Okay, okay. Even for a non-romantic like me, I was kinda overwhelmed.
We went for the license in Hoboken, and that was a bit of an ordeal. My wonderful friend Scotty was our witness. Though we’d filled out the forms already, the guy at the office was, well—officious! (Even though he wore an earring.) He asked all the questions over again and we had to answer them all verbally.
It was fine until the question concerning my name. I’d asked B. if I should bring my birth certificate and he said no. One of his few errors. I had to field a barrage of questions about my last name…my mother’s maiden name…why there was no father’s name on my birth certificate (I volunteered this after a bit of parry and thrust) and what did it all mean? Well, it meant my mother had entered into a basically arranged marriage, so as not to bear a child as a single woman and so that I would have a surname. But it still was blank on my birth certificate where it said “Father’s Name.” (Oddly, my mother did list my real father’s real profession—bartender. Well, I got his drinking Irish genes, the bastard.)
I became flustered and embarrassed and finally exclaimed, “My God, do I have to defend my mother’s reputation even now?!” There was a woman behind the desk and she got it and whispered to the officious officer. The license was approved. We all had to give our ages. My friend Scotty, there with us, did not—though he had to give a lot of other info. When we left the Place of Licenses, he said: “Good thing he didn’t ask my age, or you’d have to be looking for a new witness.” Even though it would be easy enough to cut him in half and count the rings, I allow him his mystery.
Now, don’t get excited. There will be no veils or rice or partying. We have three witnesses. The aforementioned Scotty. My wonderful friend Mike. And my BFF, Liz R. (Not to be confused with any other Liz.) She is giving us a little wedding luncheon. At least I hope it’s little!
The Great Event happens 10:A.M. at the HobokenCity Hall. No vows. That I know of! I mean, if there were vows I guess I’d vow to be more sensitive, try cooking again (I gave up after twenty years), and drink less. B. would probably vow to pretend to believe my vows.
There will no wedding bands. I don’t like to wear jewelry on my hands or wrists. However, I did mention if he found something around nine carats, emerald-cut, I could wear it as a pendant. Barring that—a mink. (Apologies for all PETA people out there.) Oh, and I will forever refer to him as my “boyfriend.” Not doing the “husband” thing. It just creeps me out.
It is difficult for me to accept this. To accept love. I can barely accept “like.” I said to B—“I can’t believe anybody who really knows me could love me, no less marry me!” But he has. And nobody knows me better.
We have had hard times. He has certainly not been perfect. I felt on at least two occasions that leaving was the only way to go. But I didn’t. How do you leave someone who is, well—you? That’s how close I feel. When I finally fell in love with B. (after years of casual—on my part—encounters) I thought, “FUCK! I don’t want to feel this and he can’t possibly—I am a loser and a slut and everything bad.”
Also he was entangled with others at the time and being something of a shit to everybody, but he swore he loved me. (He was kind of a loser and slut himself at that point, but I always see the worst in myself.)
I gave in. I moved from city to city with him and we struggled in so many ways. But…he was my B. It seemed, for all the sturm und drang, that I could not see myself without him. Even when I thought I wanted to, I couldn’t.
Honestly, to this day, don’t know what he saw in me, or why he stuck it out. I was cute, but not extraordinary. I had nothing but myself to bring to the table. It wasn’t a lot. And in all the years since, I don’t feel I’ve ever filled that table properly.
“But….she recovered” as Judy Garland memorably uttered in the “Born in a Trunk” sequence from “A Star is Born.” And I guess, for all my self-misgivings, I’ve recovered.
Enough to say “I will” anyway.
All my love to all of you, from both of us.
Oh, yeah—the August 5th thing. Totally unplanned. When B told me I shrieked, “Marilyn’s death day!” (She died the night of the 4th, but the world didn’t know till the 5th.)
“Uh, is that a good thing?—death and all.”
“Of course it’s good. Marilyn’s death was the beginning of her acceptance. Clifford Odets said, right after she died that she would be ‘fresher, greener, in death, than she was in life.’ So we will be fresher and greener. It’s just the beginning!
“Okay. But we don’t have to die, right? We’re just getting married.”
B. is so literal.