Unnoticed in Clever Worlds

The clearest description I have managed so far about my blog is that it is not about cats. In general, I find predators pretty predictable while prey on the other-hand, because they live in universes of anxiety, develop more textured personalities. I also have as a writer a deft hand when it comes to making matters worse, so of course , the already panicky are ready made for me. I will try to grow this blog into an assortment of laughs, because that is what my life has mostly taught me to do. I will use the famous people I have known to get your attention and then tell you small but many times wonderful things about them. I will never name the ones I say ugly things about but I hope you will guess who they are.

Month: February, 2014

Did You See Me Dad ?

Glimpses of mortality always seem to interrupt otherwise perfectly fine days.

Freddie Tweed is traveling westward on a gurney towards a half-opened window that is letting in a good mouthful of late afternoon-sunset. Certain he is to go crashing through it and into the sinking sun, he releases his vise grip on the sides of the speeding bed and raises both his arms up and into the air.

That same day only earlier, the reliably regular rhythm of the roller coaster’s heavy, clacking chains begins to slow ominously, badly out of tune with the song of a standard roller coaster’s climb. Each thick steel chain link groans and strains to pull them all up and over the first of several, plywood supported mountaintops in this carnival ride. The machine itself appears almost baffled by its lack of strength.  He hears more than one rider in the front cars coaxing the machine to try harder. Their fear seems to pour backward over the cars reaching him with a syrupy alarm. He is in the very last car.

The first two wagons manage to reach the peak, then slowly the third and forth creep over the top. The twelve-car train will not make it over its midmost threshold, so it just hangs there, looking from below into the sun’s glare, like a speared caterpillar on the knuckle of a shadow hand.  Everyone is silent or screaming. The coaster begins to drift backward toward where Freddie’s dad is waiting for him at the ride’s end, where they had stood to skip turns to get him into the very last seat by himself.

The steel towline tries to stop the backwards plunge but it snaps and flaps wildly about like a guillotined garden hose, barely missing the faces of the people in the first seats. Each parent swings their arms around their children, looking like those water ballerinas from the black and white movies of the thirties, the ones where their feet never touch the bottom of the pool, and everyone has to wear rubber swim caps. The littlest children seem thrilled, absent as they are of any memories that could set off  alarms, but the adults  knew what is happening and turn around in their seats, to look back downward to where they just given up their tickets to board this fated train.

Freddie sits alone in his last car, at first supposing that all the rubbernecking is about him, that they think he is to blame. He is so afraid.

The swelling, cotton candy-scented breeze, from the summer’s hot air on the back of his neck, the very place a wind should not be coming from, links him back to the promise he made to himself before getting into the coaster. His father had said to him,” And if you want to be really brave, you will let go of the bar on your lap as you go over the top and wave your hands above your head.”

Now, as the train shot backwards down the hill, Freddie Tweed raises both his arms into the air and closes his eyes, fulfilling his promise.

The wheeled hospital stretcher stops short of the yawning window and it’s twilight sun and curves left into the operating room; Freddie’s arms are still stretched high and straight. His dad stands in the room, wearing his own white mask that does not hide his eyes. “Did you see me dad, did you see me?” he yells. His father looked at his boy, raises his own arms up above his head and starts to cry.

Tutoring Me on His Dreams

Small towns always have secreted places where teenagers go to touch each other; ours was the “China Wall.”

We had our own parking spots at the wall, which our boyfriends defended with fists if some clown did not know about us.

With the racket of cicada singing trees confusing the lyrics from our FM radios, we drank warm vodka and inhaled common household aerosols, we wrestled with our blouses open, our skirts shoved up and our legs locked shut, because until eleven o’clock when we had to be home, we were very bad. The boys would lie on top of us, in the small pitch bedroom of their dad’s front seat. We shadowed their hands with our own. If they stopped trying it would mean a fight. We could smell our wet white panties, the scent wafting out in puffs as unzipped jeans bounced on our stomachs. We were ashamed of the smell. It was the smell of honesty.

We were always half-listening for the crunch of police boots on the turnoff’s gravel, for the cops that would sneak up and shine their heavy flashlights at our exposed bodies then meanly threaten us by tapping loudly on the window.

All girls sit to the right of their boys in cars. Cars are made the way they are for this reason. Guys needed to have their hunting hands free to find places on us that they never stopped thinking about. We needed both hands sometimes to stop them.

Our cars formed a driving line when we triple dated, me first, next Jenny, then Joyce. I was the prettiest. Joyce was my best friend and was not really attractive at all, so she was last. Jenny and Joyce were leaving for college next year. I wasn’t allowed to go, my dad would not let me, I wanted to. We were resented in our reckless car suburbia because of how great we looked. My boy wore a boldly torn jacket, and mouthed dangerous toothpicks. I posed with him at traffic lights, with my neck hooked firmly inside the buckle of his muscled right arm, that rested on the seat back of his parent’s “better not get it scratched” Dodge.

He would tutor me on his dreams, assuming that my mind arrived for each date as a freshly cleaned, first period blackboard at high school.  I would listen; meekly in quiet, carefully concealing that I was ahead of him in dreaming.

He tries blowing pot smoke and André Gide into me tonight with his kisses. I feel his hand touching my dampness for the first time, and I know he thinks Gide is paying off, and I let him keep this small victory because I am tired of this fight that seems less and less important to me. I am reading Betty Friedan in library corners. I am anxious to share her with him, but when I try to blow her back into him, he seems a little scared and gets irritated, and oddly, he grows smaller to me.

I will decide later if I will let him keep my virginity to remember me, as a gift he will think he can never repay me. Virginity is a silly thing to hang onto. Every teenage boy believes they are the first anyway.

I loved this boy from so very long ago, but I had no intention of living underneath him. I think now of his arm, muscular and around my neck in his front seat, and it still becomes a little hard for me to breath. I return often when safely in my bed, to his rebelliously violent, but oh, so simple and handsomely tender heart, as I slide my hands quietly under the covers to knead him and that time back to me, for a little while.

Raped

When you are raped it knows you won’t tell

You’ll  wrap it instead in brown paper and take it home to hide

Never expecting it to be pleased

At night  every sleep becomes an invitation for it to climb on you again

flattening your body underneath it

It’s hands fiddling with your skin, and doing  things to you

Wetting you in viscous  drool that rivers over your face and breasts

Murmuring in that low humming pitch of warm August locust  next to your ear, “I see you even now the way you were that day”

When it has finished, it drapes its head over the pillow next to yours, adjusting its curls, and  whispers to you

“Are you dead yet? It won’t be much longer, dear”

I hear the rustle of its sperm hatching inside me

“I am ready to die,” you say to its pleasure

It will relax now, in the quiet old chair next to your bed to watch you cry until it is ready again

Then you  promise it, “No more  dreams for you tonight ,” and you get up for coffee and the bright kitchen light

By morning this is an empty oath

At breakfast, with it across the table from you, the question comes, “What shall we do today?

So casually that you are confused

You walk hand in hand with it, like the lovers you know it must believe you now are

And your deceit can hold no estate in its soul

Once you lose all hope of love, you  disappear into what has hurt you most

Life never allows you to feel nothing at all

Like Leaves To a Chasm

It is not enough to say all is lost

When my love is that which God will toss

Just out of my reach for all my days

Laying grief upon me in so many ways

It was wrong to invent a world where one must fathom

Hearts being dropped like leaves to a chasm

For when I arch my back and scream, “No take me”

My God just stands there as a tree

Your father will be home soon

Mom, why are we at home and sitting in the living room?

Your father will be home soon

Why haven’t you started making dinner?

It’s dinnertime, and we should be ready for father.

Why are the groceries still in the bags?

Because your father will be home soon

There is no point in making dinner until he comes.

Once your father is here, he’ll decide where we’ll eat.

Why did you take us out of school so early?

And why are you still wearing your coat in the house?

And why are you wearing your hat?

Because your father will be home soon

And we will be here to greet him

He will know if we should go out to eat

He will have ideas about where to go.

He will have presents for you, and we will be ready.

Why are grandma and grandpa at the door and why is grandpa wearing a suit?

Why is grandma wearing her fancy dress and her necklace?

And why do they have their suitcases?

Because your father will be home soon,

And he loves to see grandma and grandpa.

Maybe they will come to dinner with us,

And your father might want us to get dressed up

They might stay over for a while

And why is grandma wiping her eyes with her handkerchief?

Why do our neighbors keep coming to the door?

And why are they bringing us food if we are going out to eat?

It is getting toward evening, and your father will be home soon

The neighbors don’t know that father will be home

The man on the phone said father wouldn’t be coming home soon

Some of the neighbors are saying father will not be coming home

Mom, What’s going to happen to us without father?

Mom? Mom?

Your father will be home soon

Your father will be home soon

A Bisected Persistently Testy Country

I grew up with dour, scaly, old men relaying world events to me as though the news demanded unappealing but venerable newscasters to dampen our population’s suspected tendencies to giggle at the world’s misfortunes. We are drawn to the news because we don’t like to miss stuff and because we, each of us, are deluded enough to think we are vital in shaping our nation’s direction.

Cable networks revealed that all news is far more enjoyable if it is brazenly biased. Every American is appalled by the slant of television reporting, so we each pick news people we think are telling the truth and if our goal has been a bisected, persistently testy country it seems to be going well. I am the only person I know who watches the news with a genuine disregard for his own beliefs. I accomplish this by first screening the newswomen who are delivering it for their beauty alone. Then I put together the prettiest into a viewing time line and presto, the news!

When I was in high school me and my friends always made sure good-looking girls felt insecure about how smart they were. I know now this sabotage was horribly mean but we who were plain were jealous of how unearned physical attractiveness opened all doors for them. We believed that being smart would make us the successful ones, the ones who would be on TV.

I get my news, my weather, my traffic and broker’s advise, even my political commentary only from the most alluring women in the world. I refuse to a take a pill unless I have been warned of its side effects by a preternaturally exquisite woman ( and, I confess, sometimes a drop dead gorgeous man) I would love to date.

I have warned the media that I am fickle, that I am immune to truth, facts and intellect, and that I am as shallow as they. They have nervously responded by shoving ever increasingly more breathtaking women onto the air.

The Obama Uncommonness

I saw the President on TV last night with his family. His family is perfect in the way that only American Presidential families can be. His children seem happy, and the oldest girl was politely listening all evening to Vice President Biden without calling attention to the canaries fluttering around his head. His wife is free of noticeable cuts and bruises, and she is not frightened to be a spouse in public as so many important but defensive women find it difficult to do.This was the first time I felt I knew the man.

I doubt he feels any real allegiance to race or to party. He has that polished air of a man who finds slight everywhere but learned early that this belittling treatment can give a man the strength to do things alone. It takes a prodigious amount of hurt to forge indifference in full and I think this is the essence of this man. I don’t think we have had a President in our lifetime like him. He wants to do good unneuotically. Not because he is essentially good himself but because his life has betrayed him and he has grown enough protective scabbing to permit him to be ruthless back at life, an unusual dichotomy in anyone, let alone a President. His essential ambition is to right  wrongs and he doesn’t care who objects or how it is accomplished. This was very clear during the sale of health care through the House and Senate. He was completely missing during the entire process. He said to his two daffy lieutenants, Pelosi and Reid, “Do it” and they did. It did not matter what was in it as long as it was for the  worthy finish line. It is the same with taxes. Redistribution of wealth is right in his mind because people are not equal and he believes they should be. It is in the very nature of the man we have elected. Mr. Obama is not a Manchurian candidate, and he is not a socialist, those would be small descriptions of him. He is as strange an occurrence in the Oval office as could be imagined. This was expected by nobody, no matter your party affiliation. He is a living embodiment of the “Parable of the lost sheep,” capable of leaving the flock to save the forgotten one. This is a rare man in a very rare place.

Melanie, Tampax and my First Tour

 

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I grew up in a time when Tampax and its uses were a heavily guarded secret.  Procter and Gamble now owns the Tampax brand but originally it produced large quantities of wound dressings for the military during WWII. Because it was a war product it had almost an exclusive female workforce. At one time it ranked #4 on the Fortune 500 list for return on equity. The original product was designed to be flushable and biodegradable.

As I said, I knew nothing about all this except what I could glean from boxes left out by accident by my mother who would have preferred being raped by Cossacks than be forced to explain female plumbing to me. Methodists do not talk about such things. Maybe Catholics do but that was of no consequence for me because we did not talk to any Catholics.

I carried this ignorance into my immediate twenties with an unhidden relief.

My first job in the music business was with a folk singer named Melanie. I was hired to drive and to establish myself firmly as the lowest person on tour. I did not actually see her perform until the third show. Just before she went on the first night she asked me to stay in her basement dressing room with her two springer spaniels to keep them company.

The second show for me was in Cleveland. As Melanie was heading down the stairs to the stage she grabbed hold of me and with some urgency sent me out to buy her Tampax.

Downtown Cleveland at nine-thirty was darker and emptier than you would have thought and I despaired. They came in different sizes if you can believe it. I bought them all.81UCjjwxrUL._SL1500_

Genesis and Ian Knight

downloadIan Knight died not so long ago and I miss him. He was a British rock stage designer who I first met when he showed up to design for Genesis around the same time that Peter Gabriel began cutting the rectangular section out of the front of his hairline.

For almost six years we did every show the band did in the US and Europe and Canada. Through most of that time, Ian, who wasn’t a very big man, combed his hair upwards from the sides near his ears to the center of his head then redirected that forward to a point just above the bridge of his nose. He only wore black and covered himself with a body length, red velvet lined black cape. He was never without the cape. Peter Gabriel, to his credit, never got jealous.

No band at the time had more innovative stage designs than Genesis and Ian helped much in this.

After Genesis he went on to Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart. He adored Rod Stewart. Stewart is clearly a sweet man.

Between 1966 and 1971, he staged concerts at the Roundhouse for Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, the Rolling Stones and Elton John.

Ian was also involved with the first installation of theatre productions on cruise ships. In 1981 he worked on Ronald Reagan’s inaugural ball as US president, at which Ian surreptitiously introduced a troupe of transvestite trapeze artists.

A decade later I hired him to do my country shows and a few in Rhythm and Blues. Ian could be honest with artists. This doesn’t get you very far generally but he was more often than not successful in getting through to them. I remember an argument he got into with the manager of the Pointer Sisters over camera distances for the overhead audience screens. Ian wanted the girls shot mostly at wide angle with few close-ups. The manager demanded to know why? Ian, in a well-filled room turned to the guy and said, “Because the Pointers Sisters are very ugly”.

He and I traveled to Thailand together and had our lives altered somewhat by this amazing country and it’s gentle people, him more so than me. Ian wanted to go North towards the Cambodian border and I was afraid to come, people told me it was safer for the Brits than for Americans. He made many trips there afterward eventually marrying a Thai woman named Ngeon Khprjunklang and having a son Alistair. Actually he had married two Thai women but the first one did not work out. They had a mushroom farm together but mother proved to be too annoying.

People living or dead are the trees that you have carved your past into with the knives of growing and changing. Ian is tall in my forest.

Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton

I have worked with people who have spent parts of their lives in prison. Mostly these were low to medium level felons.  They were not greedier than most, simply harder to trick. The music business during my era was not much different from in it’s past with the glaring exception that the numbers were much bigger.

The important bands would tour from city to city while civil wars raged between rival promoters over who would control them in their market. These same people a hundred and fifty years ago would have been selling snake oil to women in bonnets. It was easy to take advantage of some of them if you worked for a powerful band. Other’s, like Bill Graham and Harvey Weinstein made you unsure about who bested the deals. Bill Graham could make you feel sorry for him even if you knew he was stealing.  Harvey Weinstein was the most genuine. He was later to have some success in the movie business as well.

Everyone was rushing into the pristine newness of rock like it was the Oklahoma land rush of 1889.

The most high profile criminal I got to know was Merle Haggard, the country and western singer and bank robber. Merle was famously quoted when asked what his biggest mistake in life was. He blurted out without a glance to conscience, “ pulling my jobs in small towns.”

I tried to get Merle to open a show for Dolly Parton, who was a much bigger star than he at the time. After much begging and throwing money at him he turned me down flat, claiming that,  “God never meant for a man to open a show for a woman.”

I flew down to see Dolly hoping she could help, telling her what Merle had said about the date. She called Merle and typically no one could find him so she left this message with his drummer, “ Tell Merle the Good Lord Dolly Parton wants to talk to him.” He opened the show.

 

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