Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On This-Date-Plus-One-Week in History, With Annotations

From a very short and spotty diary I kept between December 1977 and December 1979. Only a few pages are filled, and there are months and months between entries. But it's a period of my life I haven't yet documented here, as I have from other, more continuous diaries I kept.

January 3, 1979
. . . I have applied to W_____, H_____, and S_____ [colleges]. I still have two essays to complete and the agony of financial aid.
There is one usher at work who is always aghast at the places I'm applying to. I'm sure he thinks I'm either a genius or crazy. I know the former isn't true, so I'm beginning to wonder if I am insane. What if I don't get accepted anyplace? What if I only get accepted at S_______, which I really don't think is possible, but if it happens I'll have to go there and I really don't want to. I'm sure I'd crack under the pressure. So why am I applying there? I DON'T KNOW!*

I want to go to H______. M says I will have no problem being accepted, but that, although encouraging, is no guarantee.**

. . . So, I'm working as an usher at the W______ movies. I'm planning on quitting in the near future, but I don't know when.***

There's Ms. Z_____, the manager, who walks around quickly with her arms at her side and her hands perpendicular to the arms with her fingers curled in. (Understand?) She used to wear very loud wooden clogs that you could hear coming from inside the theater. She wears normal, quiet shoes now.

Dave M_____, the assistant manager, has a thick brown mustache and is not well liked.**** He rarely talks except when absolutely necessary, and he always has his eyes peeled for an usher doing something wrong. I'll be cleaning a theater and he'll have snuck in on his little feather feet to see how it's going.***** He rubs his temple while talking.

Pat S______ is the other assistant manager, formerly chief (or head) concessioneer. She's only about 20 and fairly nice. At least I think she likes me. When she nods or shakes her head, it's very firm and almost exaggerated, but that's just her way.

All the ushers are nice and pretty friendly, but the only one I have anything in common with is Bob E________, the aforementioned usher. He's applying to good schools like William and Mary and Oberlin, and he's interested in English and creative writing. I've only talked to him a few times, only once at length, but he's the only interesting person there.******

I want to leave, but I need the money.

. . . I just realized that I'm writing in parts as if I'm writing to a person. I guess I'm just assuming that this will be read by someone someday, even if that someone is me. I'm sure I'd be embarrassed if someone read this, even if I did. I've got to get over that syndrome if I ever want to be a writer, as I say I do. Do I?

*I got into only one, H________, and that's where I went. No, it wasn't Harvard. I wasn't that insane. I was, however, just insane enough to apply to only three hard-to-get-into colleges. Alternate title to this post: What Was I Thinking?

**Though it surely didn't hurt my chances that my brother, M, went there. Thanks for that, bro.

***It's a bit of a mystery to me why I was so unhappy in this job. I'd been working there since September, and it's not like I was doing construction or something. I mean, working in a suburban mall multiplex? I did eventually quit, in May, since I had to work most Friday and Saturday nights and I was tired of not being able to go out with my high school pals in our final months before college. It was only in senior year that I had started to socialize anyway. The problem was that I had a false sense of security that I could get a summer job with more regular hours: It turned out I couldn't pay anyone to hire me (a theme that would repeat itself in several subsequent periods of my life), and I ended up going back to the movie theater for the last couple of months of the summer. I didn't tell the assistant manager Pat S_______, who hired me back, that I would be going to college out of town and didn't plan to stay on into the fall. She was pissed when I gave my final notice in August.

****But with that thick brown mustache, he was kind of hot in a '70s way.

*****Little feather feet? Thick brown mustache? Hmmm.

******I was in loooooooove with Bob E_______. Oh, my God. Can you tell?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In Memory

On her last visit home from Boston, one of my two sisters dug up from my parents' basement boxes and boxes of leftover styrofoam balls, pins, felt, beads, sequins, and ribbons with which our grandmother -- our mother's mother, the only grandparent my three siblings and I really knew -- taught us how to make Christmas ornaments when we were little. My sister also turned up a large boxful of the handmade ornaments themselves, which we'd never really used on our Christmas trees for some reason -- perhaps because they're fairly large and would be hard to hang on anything but the sturdiest branches.

Nanny -- who suffered from dementia in the final years of her life and died 18 years ago in her nineties -- was a seamstress who had an amazingly creative way with needle, thread, cloth, yarn, you name it. My sister thought it would be fun to have an ornament-making day this Christmas, using mostly the same materials we'd used with Nanny 35 to 40 years ago. Today we did it.

My 87-year-old mother's memory and other cognitive abilities are failing more and more. She used to be a seamstress, knitter, embroiderer, you name it, herself -- not to mention a gourmet cook, baker, Latin teacher, and polyglot. My sister had Mom's involvement and enjoyment foremost in mind, and she wasn't disappointed; my mother had a great time. But whenever Nanny's name comes up, as it did today, my mother gets a little teary and says, "I wish she were here."

Here's the ornament I made:

Sunday, December 24, 2006

From Somebody Else's House

I wanted to post something Christmas-related today, but time is short -- I have presents to wrap, baking mistakes to salvage! -- so I'm going to post something completely not holiday-themed: a quote that I wrote down a dozen or so years ago from a brilliant one-man show performed and written by David Cale, whom I've heard little about since. It turns out that it's still apt. I'll consider coming across it today a Christmas gift from my subconscious.

The show was called Somebody Else's House. These lines stuck with me, and I wrote them down as soon as I got home from the theater. I'm pretty sure they're the actual words, but they could be slightly paraphrased. Apologies to David Cale if there are any errors.

"I knew a man, and when he died he took a taxi ride through his life, and he said to himself: 'Is this what intimidated me? Is this what held me back? Is this what kept me in check?' "

Happy holidays to all.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I finally joined my friend J tonight for trivia night at JR's, where his brother is the host. Our team -- which took on five or six additional members, mostly friends and friends of friends of J's, as the four rounds went on -- came in third out of an initial field of about fourteen and won a $25 bar tab, which I'm unlikely to partake of anytime soon. (I'm pretty sure the last time I was in JR's was 1990.) It was a fun evening, but there's no way I will step in there again before the smoking ban takes effect in January. I can't remember the last time I was surrounded by so many smokers. What was this, 1955? It was truly revolting.

The good news, besides the third-place finish, is the team name I was instrumental in coming up with. After a short period of brainstorming, J and I married a famous
Dreamgirls moment with a favorite recent Ask Amy* column and dubbed ourselves And I'm Telling You the Crack of Your Ass Is Showing.
*I see that my memory changed "butt" to "ass," but the latter term worked far better in the gay-bar-trivia-night context anyway. Since it seems you have to register now to read Amy's column in most online papers, I'll reprint the inspirational Q&A here:

Dear Amy:

My husband and I recently ate at a local restaurant. Shortly after our food arrived, two attractive young women, probably in their mid-to-upper-twenties, were seated at a nearby table.

When the girl with her back to me sat down, her butt crack was clearly displayed, about two inches of it. Not what I expected to see in a restaurant!

I debated whether or not to say something to a waiter, but I thought that to do so might embarrass the woman, so as we left the restaurant I leaned over and whispered to her, "In case you don't know, your butt crack is showing." To which she loudly responded, "How very rude!"

I wanted to agree with her and say, "Yes, it is very rude," but I decided that obviously she didn't see it as a problem, so I left.

How would you have dealt with this situation?


I'm of a mind that the only time to point out a wardrobe issue or malfunction to strangers is if you suspect that they aren't already aware of it.

Your pointing out that this person's backside was exposed is somewhat like saying to Janet Jackson, "Excuse me Miss Jackson, but your top seems to have 'malfunctioned.' "

Perhaps you should have said, "I haven't enjoyed having to look at your backside" -- you seem to prefer other terminology -- "all during dinner." To which she would have replied, "How rude!" Then you could say, "I agree."

Then you could leave the restaurant feeling exactly as you do now.

The good news is that low-rise jeans are soooo last season. This unfortunate fashion trend won't last much longer.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

For Those Who Claim That I Don't Share Enough About Myself on This Blog . . .

On Sunday I bought Raul Malo's new CD, You're Only Lonely. He's the former lead singer of the great alt-country group the Mavericks. He's often likened to Roy Orbison, and its an apt comparison, though Malo goes far beyond either derivativeness or mere homage. He has a fantastic voice, full of his own brand of lush emotion. Click on his name above and you'll hear him singing the title track in its entirety.

But the song on the CD that caught me off guard and completely undid me the first time I listened to it on Sunday was his version of Randy Newman's "
Feels Like Home." This has never happened to me listening to a record that I can recall, but I completely lost it, sitting there in my living room on a sunny afternoon. I think it was a combination of three separate emotional hot points converging unexpectedly: memories of my former relationship, in the background of my life but still very much with me; my elderly parents' situation, which had been on my mind a lot last week; and my ongoing search for a home to buy -- the ever more intense longing for that permanence it represents, that place of my own.

After a day or so, I braved listening to the song again -- and have been doing so over and over since. I've desensitized myself to the initial raw emotion and now can listen, still moved but (knock on wood) dry-eyed. It's unabashedly romantic; in fact, the lyrics will probably seem sappy to some of my readers (if you've had a sense from the start of this post that this song may not be your cup of tea, you're probably right), but I happen to think it's a perfect recording.

The final thing I'll say is this: I wasn't sure I would ever again feel that hope, or desire, for the kind of love and attachment the song celebrates. But it seems, despite the countervailing pull toward a contented solitude and peace in myself, that it's there after all.

I know the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. How to reconcile them is the challenge.

Feels like home to me
Feels like home to me
Feels like I'm all the way back where I come from

Feels like home to me
Feels like home to me
Feels like I'm all the way back where I belong

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Yesterday at the gym, for the first time in my life, someone asked me to spot him on the bench press. "Sure," I said, as if I'm asked to do it every day. (As if I go to the gym every day.) (As if.)

I quietly panicked as I wondered what part of the Spotting Code I would screw up first, but I remained cool. All I really remember is the close-up view of his Poppin' Fresh muscles beneath the hundreds of pounds he was lifting.

At first I was flattered he'd asked. I had just finished my own barbell routine. Perhaps he'd been admiring my singular concentration and intensity with the mighty 50-pounder? Then I immediately concluded that I must have fooled him into thinking I was something I was not because, having come into the gym from an outdoor run, I was covered up in a long-sleeved T-shirt and track pants.

A little later, as I walked home, this line of thinking made me remember something I'd read the day before in a profile of the bearish first runner-up in Metro Weekly's Coverboy of the Year contest (I told you I was trying to read more):

"That is, essentially, his message for the gay community, particularly his fellow queer men: Stop it. 'Accept that you're enough,' he says. 'You're complete. Stop trying to fit all these images that are thrown at you all the time. That you're not tall enough, you're not smart enough, you're not pretty enough, you're not smooth enough, you're not hairy enough, you're not young enough, you're not whatever. Just leave it alone. Don't swallow that stuff. You're enough.' "

I guess, for one guy at the gym on Saturday afternoon, I was enough.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ladies' Night

From today's Washington Post:

". . . [Reese] Witherspoon sneaked into town for a couple of days of shooting 'Rendition,' a thriller about a CIA analyst who witnesses a violent interrogation by Egyptian secret police. Publicists were tight with details, but sources said filming took place at L'Enfant Plaza yesterday. Witherspoon was spotted in the lobby of the Hotel Palomar Wednesday night, while her co-star
Peter Sarsgaard was seen enjoying a cocktail at adjoining Urbana. Sorry, ladies -- co-star Jake Gyllenhaal is not expected for the D.C. shoots."

Peter Sarsgaard and Jake Gyllenhaal in one movie. Right . . . something for the ladies to look forward to.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wie Treu Sind Deine Blätter

Call me crazy, but I'm going to leave it just like this. I've been meaning to light and decorate it ever since I put it up on Sunday. Now I realize it's not meant to be lit and decorated this year. There's a simplicity to it that, this Christmas, demands nothing more.
Yes, I've received only two cards thus far; then again, I've sent none. But hey, as you can see, I've already gotten one present! The tree is as small as it looks. I have a diminutive home. And a dog who jumps. I wasn't even intending to get a tree this year, but the salesman was too good. Now I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Remember When We Were Kids?"

I baked two kinds of muffins tonight: cranberry and cheddar. The cranberry are a regular recipe of mine. The cheese, from a different cookbook, I've never made before. They're just a variation on a basic recipe; you simply to add a third of a cup of shredded cheese to a regular sweet muffin recipe. That seemed like too much sugar to me -- I had in mind something more savory. So I halved the sugar and added a quarter teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.

I'm bringing the muffins to a meeting tomorrow morning with my three siblings at one sister's house. We're going to talk about some legal and financial matters pertaining to our 86- and 87-year-old parents. This isn't the first time we've talked about such matters, and we've seen our parents through many changes in their lives over the last five years, but this particular meeting feels like the beginning of a new chapter, and I'm nervous about how it will go.

My sisters and brother are very important to me, and I've long maintained that sibling relationships are one of the most underexplored relationships in literature and art. Here's my favorite scene from my favorite sibling movie, You Can Count on Me. Sammy is played by Laura Linney; Terry is Mark Ruffalo. The screenplay is by Kenneth Lonergan, also the director. One of the things I love most about the movie is that the key line, referred to at the end of this scene, is never actually uttered on screen, though it's clear what it is. It would have ruined the movie to speak it for our benefit.

SAMMY: What is gonna happen to you?
TERRY: Nothing too bad . . . But I gotta tell you, I know things didn't work out too well this time . . .
SAMMY: Well, Terry --
TERRY: . . . but it's always really good to know that wherever I am, whatever stupid shit I'm doing, you're back at my home, rooting for me.
SAMMY: I do root for you.
She starts crying, and looks down.
TERRY: Come on, Sammy. Everything's gonna be all right . . . Comparatively . . . And I'll be back this way . . .
SAMMY: I feel like I'm never gonna see you again . . . !
TERRY: Of course you will, Sammy. You never have to worry about that.
SAMMY: Please don't go till you know where you're going. Please . . . !
TERRY: I do know where I'm going. I'm going to Worcester and I'm gonna try to see that girl. And then depending on what happens there, I thought I'd try to see if there's any work for me out West. And if there is, I'm gonna head out there for the summer and try to make some money. And if there isn't, I'll figure something else out. Maybe I'll stay around the East. I don't know . . . I really liked it in Alaska. It was really beautiful. You just -- It made me feel good. And before things got so messed up I was doin' pretty well out there. Seriously. But I couldn't stay here long, Sammy: I don't want to live here. But I'm gonna stay in touch. And I'll be back. 'Cause I want to see you and I want to see Rudy. I'll come home for Christmas. How about that? We'll have Christmas together. (Pause) Come on, Sammy. You can trust me . . .
Still looking down, Sammy shakes her head, tears leaking down her cheeks.
TERRY: Come on, Sammy . . . Look at me . . . Look at me . . .
She looks at him.
TERRY: Hey, Sammy . . . Remember when we were kids, remember what we always used to say to each other . . . ? (Pause) Remember when we were kids?
SAMMY: Of course I do . . . !

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

I'm searching in vain online for anyone noting -- let alone being dumbfounded at -- the irony of Eartha "Santa Baby" Kitt snuggling up with President Bush to sing Christmas carols at the recent lighting of the National Christmas Tree.

Although I was just a tyke when it happened, I have heard a number of times over the years about Kitt's confrontation with Lady Bird Johnson during a January 1968 women's luncheon at the White House. This is from a Time magazine report describing the incident:

"A South Carolina cotton picker as a child, Harlem slum dweller as a teenager, Singer Kitt listened with growing impatience to the women's persnickety reports about the causes of crime in the streets. Finally she spoke up -- with passion, if not with convincing logic.

" 'I think we may have missed the main point,' volunteered Singer Kitt, 39. 'The young people are angry, and their parents are angry, because they are being so highly taxed and there's a war on -- and Americans don't know why.' Staring at Mrs. Johnson, she snapped: 'You are a mother too, although you had daughters and not sons. I am a mother, and I know the feeling of having a baby come out of my gut. I have a baby and then you send him* off to war. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot -- and in case you don't understand the lingo, that's marijuana.' "

Okay, so it's not the world's most eloquent or reasoned antiwar statement (as Time couldn't resist noting), but it was quite bold and brave -- even shocking -- for its time and setting. It also ruined Kitt's career in the United States for years, and she went to live and work in Europe.

I don't presume to know her current political views and can only imagine the pain of having been professionally blacklisted as she was. My point is simply that I found it disappointing and more than a little icky to see her cozying up to W. as thousands of American and Iraqi men and women continue to be killed under Bush's watch for no good purpose.
*As the Time article points out in its own footnote, Kitt is the mother of a girl, not a boy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hall of Mirrors, Part IV (The End)*

(Continued from yesterday)

One day in religion class toward the end of the year, we were learning about the "procreative role of the conjugal act." Out of the blue, someone asked Father Philip, to a chorus of laughter, what masturbation was. A wiseass in his own right, Father Philip had graduated from our school twenty years before. Sometime earlier in the school year, we had delighted in coming across his senior yearbook in the library. Underneath his ’50s flattop portrait was the designation Class Cynic.

Now, standing before us in his black robe, he reddened almost imperceptibly -- whether out of anger or embarrassment I couldn’t tell.

"Is there anybody here," he answered dryly, "who doesn’t know?"

The room broke up again.

I knew enough to laugh -- I could follow a lead. But when I got home that night, all I found in the dictionary was "manual stimulation of the genitals." As far as I could tell, I was already stimulating them, and I didn’t even have to touch them. I closed the book, not confused exactly but not sure of much either.

The streakers soon retreated to footnote status. The spring play, The Importance of Being Earnest, had only upperclassmen in it, with no roles for the likes of me (but for one lucky junior, there was yet another drag role -- the imperious Lady Bracknell). Burt Reynolds remained disconcertingly captivating, but eventually, by sheer will, I put a stop to our meetings. The Beatles continued to hold interest, but by the end of the year I’d caught up on all of their history I could with the help of The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature -- right up the brief, anticlimactic Newsweek item that somewhat matter-of-factly reported their breakup, as if everyone knew they were headed in that direction all along.
*Insofar as a fragmentary, incomplete essay can have an end.

Hall of Mirrors, Part III

(Continued from yesterday)

My brother, four years ahead of me in school, had established himself as an actor of note in the drama productions there. Eager to see if I could follow in his footsteps, I got a small nonspeaking part in The Knight of the Burning Pestle, a seventeenth-century comedy. Tights, doublets, and frilly shirts were the order of the day. My monastery school had such arcane costumes on hand in bulk, much the way other schools might have been ready at the drop of a hat to outfit a production of Guys and Dolls or The Man Who Came to Dinner. My costume included a pair of puffy sharkskin shorts that looked like a lady’s shower cap adorning my loins.

Along with a handful of other seventh-graders, I played one of the villagers, who hung in the background of scenes murmuring, stiffly nodding assent or scowling disapproval. At late-afternoon rehearsals, as the main actors worked on their blocking or polished their dialogue, there were long stretches when we extras weren’t required. I sat in the audience watching the older boys -- sixteen and seventeen years old -- crossing the stage with shirttails loose and ties undone, a select few with a suggestion of actual five-o’clock shadows.

As the little brother of one of the stars, I was fondly teased and nicknamed and paid attention to in a way my classmates weren’t. Sometimes, when I felt a hand on my back or caught a grin tossed from the wings to my seat in the fifth row, I dreamed affection into devotion. I imagined myself being welcomed, before my time, into a masculine sub-world of deepening voices, unself-conscious strides, headlong laughter that would hold me in its net, catch me when I fell.

My brother had the one drag role in the play. Fake-breasted and falsetto-voiced, he was the nagging Grocer’s Wife, who brought the house down whenever he opened his mouth. I couldn’t believe how unabashedly he took on the part. The type of thing I barely dared in private -- tying my longish hair into a ponytail with a scarf, licking my lips in front of the bathroom mirror until I achieved a sparkling lip-gloss effect -- he was being allowed, and allowing himself, through weeks of rehearsals and three performances (in front of our parents.)

I was torn between envy of his sojourn in skirts and relief that the same thing freed me to simply be one of the guys -- a task seductive in itself when membership entailed standing in whispering clutches in the dark of the wings, waiting for the burning lights and the cue to go on.

(To be continued.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hall of Mirrors, Part II

(Continued from yesterday)

Although I’d been listening to Top 40 radio since I was ten, it was only in the winter of 1973-74 that I became acquainted with the Beatles. The red and blue albums, compilations of their greatest hits, had recently come out, and my two older sisters each got one for Christmas. They and my older brother and I listened to the four-record set so often you’d have thought we were taking a Berlitz course in a foreign language.

I was already a fan of Paul McCartney, ever since his song
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" had hit the charts a couple of years before, but the Beatles -- trim and fresh-faced on the cover of the red album, older and breathtakingly hairy on the blue -- were something else entirely. Discovering them a full decade after their American debut, I felt as if I’d come upon a long-lost archive, a dusty, cracked -- yet somehow brand-new -- testament to the founding of a culture.

Over the next few months, I began spending almost all of my free time during the day in the library of my Catholic boys’ school flipping through back issues of newsmagazines from the ’60s. A review of the
Magical Mystery Tour TV special, an item about he Beatles’ trip to India, an article on John and Yoko’s Bed-In -- I reveled in anything even peripherally related to the group. All the while, on some less than conscious level, I positively muddied myself in their maleness. Paul’s fluted lips, John’s half-mast eyes, Ringo’s thick handlebar mustache. (George never did a lot for me; he just came with the package.) I saw the pictures, from a decade earlier, of teenage girls at their early concerts. Would I have been up in the theater balconies with them -- screaming, weeping, and clutching my cheeks while "Please Please Me" strained to be heard?

My fascination with John, Paul, George, and Ringo had been foreshadowed some years earlier by the
Monkees’ TV series, which I’d watched when I was little. Never having heard of the Beatles at that time, I had no idea the Monkees were designed as a calculated response to the Brits’ popularity; I didn’t even have a conception of rock and roll yet. But Peter Tork’s long, stringy hair, in need of a good washing,* was the most erotic thing I’d seen, long before I knew what erotic meant.

In the intervening years, I filled in the blanks of my desire by visiting an odd little attic of titillating flesh: In those days, in the back of my mother’s House Beautiful and House and Garden magazines, one could reliably find, among the advertisements for antique appraisals by mail and shrubbery catalogs, small black-and-white ads for sexy undergarments and nighttime wear. A favorite display featured a well-proportioned man and woman wearing sheeny, metallic-look underwear -- bra and panties for her, skimpy, attribute-hugging briefs for him.

The winter of my private Beatlemania, my school-library research caused me to stumble upon another image:
Burt Reynolds in his famous Cosmopolitan centerfold from 1972. Not the original photo, but one reproduced slightly larger than postage-stamp size in Time magazine. I’d heard about that picture -- no doubt from an appearance by Burt on Merv Griffin’s talk show, one of my daily news sources back then -- but I never dreamed it would drop unannounced into my lap.

Other than what I saw from furtive glances in the locker room at the Y in the summer, Burt Reynold’s was the first fully nude adult male I ever laid eyes on. He lay, hairy-chested, on a bearskin rug, a cigarette dangling from his devilish smile, his head propped on one arm, the other casually draped between his legs -- one of my first tastes of the revelation of concealment.

Over the rest of the school year, I returned regularly to that magazine. Self-consciously casual, ever vigilant of a classmate’s or priest’s intrusion, I’d lean into the corner between a bookcase and a window, my hands shaking slightly as I pretended to browse through the magazine, always returning to that same page. As best I could, I resisted my arousal, tried to think it away even as my eyes stayed fixed on Burt.

* I wrote this description long before I had access to the Internet. This is how I remember Peter Tork, even though the pictures would seem to indicate he knew his way around a bottle of shampoo well enough.

(To be continued.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hall of Mirrors, Part I

Here's that unfinished essay I started about twelve years ago that I referred to in a previous post. I've long had a sense of what it needs to make it cohere: additional sections that I've never been able to write. I worked on the sections I'm reprinting here so much that I finally reached the point where I couldn't see the story as anything other than what it was. It became frozen in amber, in way, with all of its imperfections. That's one of the biggest hazards of writing: working on the fine points so obsessively that the overall structure becomes locked in your mind.

In any case, I long ago let go of this work-in-progress and moved on to other things -- with, it should be noted, no bitterness or hard feelings toward its fragmentary and incomplete nature (not anymore anyway!), a good amount of affection for the story (or stories) I'm telling, and compassion for the period in my life that it depicts.

I'm going to present it in several installments over the next few days. "Hall of Mirrors" is its working title from when I last worked on it.


Hall of Mirrors

One icy afternoon in 1974, as I dressed after seventh grade gym class -- two dozen prepubescent boys around me talking basketball and hooker jokes and the Fonz -- a picture I’d seen in Newsweek lurched into my head: a river of naked men running down Route 1 in College Park, Maryland, at night. The simple, daring fact of it -- milky buttocks, cold-tightened backs, the microscopically discernible suggestion of pubic hair above a lifted thigh -- made me falter in my movements. My foot caught on the waistband of my pants as I stepped into them, my fingers stiffened trying to button my shirt, my breath clumped in my throat, as if the musty locker-room air itself were jelling in the cold.

That winter and spring, streaking was the craze. Crowds of students would assemble, strip down, and dash nude across campus or through town. Every couple of days, it seemed, in the Washington Post or on the evening news, there was a story, of shorter and shorter length, describing undergraduates streaking in the subfreezing cold or a lone freelancer breaking through the checkout lines at Safeway. At that year’s Academy Awards, I heard after the fact, a naked man ran across the stage, his fingers flashing a peace sign.

My physical vocabulary at twelve years old, the language to which my body responded, was rooted solely in image. Photographs, faces observed from afar and in solitude, fluttered down my mind’s stairwell. I stood at the bottom, looking up the impossible, dizzying height. With barely the knowledge of what was happening, much less what to do about it, I watched the body -- the male body -- enter my field of vision from all sides.

(To be continued.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What Do You Get the Blogger Who Has Everything?

Today is the first anniversary of my blog.

Friday, December 01, 2006

On This Date in History, or a Spooky Coincidence

Saturday, December 1, 1973

M. and I went to rehearsal today.* It went pretty well. I'm looking forward to the play. Very soon I will have been writing in this book for a year. Imagine that!

Very soon I will have been writing this blog for a year. Imagine that!


*My brother and I were in a school play together, The Night of the Burning Pestle. I had the nonspeaking role of a townsperson; he played one of the lead roles, the grocer's wife. (Yes.)

I just remembered that I wrote an unfinished essay a dozen years ago that touched on this event. I would quote from my description of the rehearsals, but the almost-essay is housed in my other, ancient computer -- the steam-powered one -- and I can't put my hands on a hard copy and it's time for bed. So . . . some other time. Heck, maybe I'll publish the whole, unfinished thing here. It's the only chance this particular piece will ever reach an audience, so I might as well!