Friday, September 20, 2013

Dinosaurs Don't 'Tweet'

Psychedelic Geezerdom Dispatch #4 RE: The Spoiled Under 30 Crowd. A Procrutean Response from an Acerbic Dinosaur. While I may agree that you can't help when you were born, you can help your insipid slackerism. So to my dear coy Yuppie,Gen-X or ‘or i-twittering Millennials attempting to mark your territory- vagitus and ignorance is no excuse. I was born in 1954. (Yeah. Go ahead and snort. A BOOMER.) Let’s get this missive of generational remonstration started, shall we? Our Cable was that steel wound stuff we used to hold the chariot together.(just kidding.) We used other Cable to hang a transistor radio from our belts, or on the handle bar of our bikes. I actually remember 8-track tape being a wonder of scientific ingenuity. I bought 45 records. Lots of them...and rode my bike with Angel wing handle bars and a Banana seat to the record store to buy them. The L.P. (that stands for Long Player phonograph record-a round black thing made out of black vinyl. Google it for a picture) was an extravagance few could afford on 35 cents allowance per week. We could afford, however to go to the Saturday Matinee and get a BIG ASS Milky Way candy bar and fountain drink for under a buck. Easy. We got change back. In my case I grew up in the deep south – Miami, Florida –Red State then, Red State now. There they shot and beat the shit out of people for having long hair.Tattoos were found in the circus or the jailhouse. Earrings were usually of the clunky clip-on variety. They were worn by women or movie Pirates.(Sandals –because it was Florida –were A.O.K.)The hoop-type were worn by Carmen Miranda or dancing Latinas in Desi Arnaz movies.(Google him too.) Gay meant happy at Christmas or the church dance (preferably White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.) After Lent. (Yeah non-Catholics celebrated this religious trope too.) We rarely fasted and self-flagellated. We were taught sex was dirty, but we strongly doubted it. Bikinis sold soap.Sister was hot for Moon-Doggie.( read: Life guard surfer dude with a Woody. Both kinds.) Listening to Rock N' Roll was a subversive act. It took actual guts to be different. It took guts to have Black(a.k.a. African-American) Friends. It took guts to refuse to say the pledge of allegiance in school because you had questions for an AUTHORITY who forced you to do so in what was supposed to be a free country. They tried to tell us to "Duck and Cover" under our desks at school because that would protect us from Nuclear Attack. We saw riots in the streets daily. They assassinated anyone who tried to tell the truth. They expelled you from school for being a non-conformist. They beat you with belts, and paddles for not wearing socks, talking back, not tucking your shirt tail in, citing the poetry of Bob Dylan, or falling asleep in Civics class. The Space Race kept us awake. Space travel was miraculous. God help you if you questioned the Vietnam War. They told us "Potted Meat Food Product" was healthy for lunch. If we wanted to know what was happening, we turned on Ed Sullivan, or Dick Clark, for new music. We had 3 channels. Maybe. AM Radio was the shit.(meaning cool as). Disc Jockeys were sought-after personalities with mystique. They gave you cool free stuff if you used your rotary-dial telephone to call in requests. Gidget was the epitome of beach babe. Pat Boone was used as a cultural shill to clean up "race music". We kids knew better. He sucked then and he sucks now. We knew that if we wanted change we would have to take the initiative --we got off our asses into the street and protested to stop Racism, War, the Draft, and the use of wax paper to wrap potted meat food product festering in our un-refrigerated lunchboxes. Which, by the way, were truly cool because we had cool bands on them and of course- Mr. Ed the Horse, My Favorite Martian, Gidget and The Beatles. These things are worth a CRAPLOAD of money today. Radio pushed vinyl which pushed us onto the dance floor to pantomime sex-acts we didn’t really understand. It was good practice. Sweat mixed with lust and the din of a garage band IS the elixir of life. Being caught with POT would get you a life sentence in a Federal penal colony in the Aleutian Islands. So would nudity in public.Or sewing the American flag on the ass of those fruity-ass bell-bottom pants. We did our best to change this. You pesky little twerps can thank us later for tits and balls on T.V. Go ahead and smoke a little weed. Just NEVER wear idiot egregious Nehru jackets OR bell-bottoms(with or without Old Glory on the ass) –those things looked ridiculous. We lived for the next new song to make us dance and be happy. None of you under 45 year olds would have survived the 60's OR 70's, because we would have beat your ass and took your lunch money then bought Rolling Stones records with it. Kiss the glove. Now go Twitter. P.S. That bit about ending War and Racism? We got off to a good start, but admittedly, we need your help on that --so get crackin’ newbies and show us what you can do. While you’re at it get rid of that= Corporations are People thing, willya?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Psychedelic Geezerdom-Dispatch # 3-Meeting ALICE COOPER

ALICE I Hardly Knew Ye- So What It seemed as if we had been walking for days in the stifling summer canyons of New York City. My brother, my sister-in-law –their six-month –old child (a Boy) in her arms, another friend John and my best buddy Roger had decided to visit the City and look up a pair of friends(a trendy gay pair) who had left Athens, Ga to live in the west village. It was 1971. We had all just moved up to the western Maryland mountains from south Georgia and my Mom –(a professor of remedial English)—agreed to allow us to borrow her Volkswagen van and visit our hip buddies in the hippest city in the world –or so the ‘Bruised Apple’ seemed to be to us. It was to be a long footsore weekend of no sleep , little spending money and culture shock. We all welcomed the adventure–like desert dwellers stumbling for the first time – into a great lake with a paper drinking straw. Ready to founder, drunk by entelechy -- drinking deeply from an ocean of gritty northeastern backwash. The possibilities were endless. We were in search of Andy Warhol and Lou Reeds’ New York, not Frank Sinatra’s Broadway fantasy – we were seduced by the outre’--the NYC of seedy Ratso Rizzo, transvestites with fake paste pearls, perched slutty rockers, dopers with fairy stories, mind-expanders, pre-vampire scenesters, sexy leather doused in cheap libation and Jewish delis with miles of pastrami we could weave tall tales around. Attitude and accents we could marvel and mimic with our customary young humor—we were southern kids after all. The razor-sharp finality of clipped Yankee consonants and magnified vowels both fascinated and repelled us all –especially Roger, who had never been much out of Oglethorpe County Georgia—and this trip was a signified cherry buster for him. He was quiet most of the time, prepared with a carton of Winston cigarettes to smoke and share, the perfect prop to remain an enigma in a fast talking city full of premier hustlers and urchin street gimees, always prowling for subway change ,or skin-tomb robbery from a gaggle of wide-eyed southern fish—near fresh kids really, as the eldest amongst us was 19. Eyes wide, ready to be entertained by the real reality-series played out on the streets of Greenwich Village. We dove in, sure we could swim well enough to survive a night. NYC in the year 1971 was a different place. The words frowsy decline seem appropriate; the sharp-dressed lady Manhattan was emaciated, unwashed and scandalized after two centuries of parties - her black eye-shadow was running like a off-Broadway raccoon, and the make-up was blistering off the hot paved surface…but it was still New York City, a cultural clitoris, and her loins vibrated like no other place on earth. Yesterday is never Now until you re-live it. Nostalgia is a Christmas tree decorated with reechy thrift-shop bijou. Memory plays tricks on us like drunken pedophilic mime-uncles. After enough time you forget the smell of vomit. We were over-tired kids sharing the baby-carrying chore, in need of a pack of immediate naps; and like all petulant children the world over – we were having none of that shut-eye talk. We were young –capable of tertiary circadian marathons –and we lived by the mantra ‘we’ll sleep when we’re dead’. And this city was more alive at midnight than mid-day at a Georgia 4th of July parade. This concrete island levitated. Parallel continuity for the culture-vultures, and the innocent who hunger—this was fucking paradise, man. My obsession with Alice Cooper in 1971 was multi-facetted—something more than just hard music, it was an elective fusing of shock into my character that at the age of 59 I have not entirely abandoned –though these days I would have to be far more sensitive to my 12 year old daughter’s sense of propriety and epic mortification if , at my ripe state of Psychedelic Geezerdom, I went to the grocery store in horror-show drag. At 17 I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. None of us would have–it was a new frontier of multiple Freak-storms on polite society. It was so easy to shock, frighten, and disgust the down-homey folks –it was our hobby, you might say. Boredom was death, and normal was the enemy. Anything goes. (Nearly) None of us had lived long enough to watch our jocular mocking turn to stone-cold cynicism –that happened in the 80’s. Many among us still had some Aleister Crowley/Velvet Underground induced romantic notion that heroin and mystical awareness was a common-law marriage worthy of exploration. (This nuptial killed my brother eventually, and many more whom I have loved since then…but that is another set of horror tales). It had crept into our music like tattooed carnival parolees at a psychedelic free-love concert, or like bikers at Altamont, or a crime novelist at a Bible study…and it all came from arty, seductive concrete canyons on the isle of Manhattan. Ol’ Blue –Eyes sang it –If I can make it here I can make it anywhere…" He left out a line: "...from cradle to grave, it’s the knowledge of poets turned into ghosts that we crave…"( a little improvised Anne Rice lyric there..) To adequately describe the flavor of the counter-culture in the ‘70’s I invite you to Imagine a sepia-toned snap-shot of Oscar Wilde holding hands with Aleister Crowley in the front row of an Easter re-enactment at St. Paul’s cathedral. Drinking the blood of a microchiroptera bat. Piquant. #Worth a thousand words. { ‘The pious pretense that evil does not exist only makes it vague, enormous and menacing.’ ~ Aleister Crowley. } { ‘I’m frightened of the devil but I’m drawn to those who ain’t afraid’… Joni Mitchell/A Case Of You } Alice Cooper was my vampire story escape from the effects of Protestant Sunday school. Vincent Fernier and his band of ex-high school track stars from Arizona were as frightening to most parents in 1971 as Marilyn Manson(who stole the act) would be if he magically appeared at the Rev. Billy Graham’s dinner table French-kissing Anton La Vey. Wrong=Right. It was easier to shock society then. In fact it was our sworn duty as a generation of affected degenerates to keep up the good work. How great is that? Alice Cooper gave us the sharp kitchen utensils with which to cook, carve and eat Ozzie and Harriet. Yummy. Father Knows Best My Ass. But it was still play-acting to us. We were still clinging a bit to the Peace n’ Love Alice Cooper swears he hated and claims he was trying to rub out. Hell, honestly? I just loved the absurdity and theatrical nature of the societal goof. Other than gasps, wide-eyed gaffs, and neck-craning I really didn’t want to hurt anyone. I wasn’t joining the Satanic Army. I was just a disaffected ex-altar boy Episcopalian with authority issues…who liked my rock-stars cutting the heads off thrift-store baby dolls. At high volume. With a resonant high camp sensibility. Dystopian Oscar Wilde –on- acid charisma. Charmingly harmless.(There was and is nothing charismatic or enchanting about Charlie Manson’s dystopian vision.) From genocide to horror to comedy -- Timing is everything. Nothing says fun like crazed hippie boys with drag and scary eye-shadow sauntering down the streets of Athens, Georgia(or any southern town) knowing full well you were welcoming (at best) a thorough southern style deep fried gang of ass beating at any given moment by followers of Jesus and worshippers of FOOTBALL. It all seemed worth it then. I would far from welcome it now. I have the scars to prove it. Evolution (or de-evolution) is not painless. But it can be amusing. We all stumbled into Max’ Kansas City at 1 a.m.—tired, funky but totally electrified. There in the corner, talking to Mitch Miller (of ‘Sing Along With Mitch’) was Dennis Dunaway the bass player of Alice Cooper’s band. I’d have recognized him anywhere. I bought the album ‘Love It To Death’ when I was stuck on a de-consecrated hog farm in the middle of a peanut field while living in Ty-Ty Ga. And there beyond him was The Alice himself. Drinking beer. It took me twenty minutes to work up the nerve to speak to him. When I did it went like this. “ Um…uh…hi I just wanted to tell you that I’m really a big fan of your music.” Alice’s answer? “ SO WHAT.” He did smirk while saying it. I smiled back—embarrassed. After all, how could Alice know the death-defying gauntlet I –and uncounted many small town kids-- had gone through just to order and pick up an album with a bunch of men in drag displayed on the cover? Especially in my case. Had Alice ever even set sparkle-boot in by-gawd-killya-hippie Tifton JO-JAH? SO WHAT. Didn’t he and his band know a few thousand southern small hamlet kids considered Alice Cooper a harbinger of shock and freedom? So What. Sing Along With Mitch shrugged and repeated, “ Hey kid…SO WHAT.” I skulked away –deflated. The story doesn’t end here. It wasn’t until I read Mile Davis autobiography that I realized that SO WHAT was a NYC celebrity’s way of saying –who cares? Drink a beer. Go start a band. SO WHAT. Because that’s exactly what Miles Davis said to people who tried to worship him on the street. SO WHAT. You can do it too. But not without the motivation. SO WHAT. It’s even the title track on the great ‘Kind Of Blue’ recording I am listening to right now as I type this…from the subtle intro of Bill Evans piano, to Paul Chambers bass laying down the first conversation—and Miles and Adderley’s horns answering So What. So-ooo Whhhhat. And onward through the remarkable fluidity of call and response—the ultimate being SO WHAT in bursts of sharp modulating SO WHAHHHHT. SO WHAT. It never hit me until years later what Vincent Furnier was actually saying to me. Vincent Damon Furnier. I didn’t even know that was his true name. SO WHAT. I didn’t know he started his band in Arizona, by way of L.A. and BACK to freezing-ass Detroit. Detroit? Not Detroit. Really? You went back there? SO WHAT. He didn’t kill that chicken in Canada…people in wheelchairs killed that chicken. Alice wasn’t no farm feller SO WHAT. Alice Vincent Cooper Fernier was not particularly menacing…he was simply addressing yet another wide-eyed kid that bumped into his personal space when he was trying to (keep) drinking a beer. With Mitch Miller. So they could ‘Sing Along’ those drunken obscene Pirate shanty songs and musical limericks that begin and end in uck. Vince never gave it a second thought—but I was so mesmerized I’m writing about it 42 years later. I can still smell the Budweiser on his breath…not a hint of mascara on his squinting lids. The years went by like a blink of a Rock God’s eye. I carry Alice’s ‘SO WHAT’ with me ever mindful that it was never really Alice’s SO WHAT to begin with…it was Mile Davis’ SO WHAT…and it’s my guess that it was someone else’s SO WHAT before that. Like from the mythical beginning of time, when Miles Davis might have been impressionable enough to dig his toe in the ground in the presence of some historically under-mentioned originator of Jazz and utter something akin to : “Gawlee yer good”. So What- aren’t you that little horn playing wannabe son of a middle-class dentist trying to play Jazz music? Really? Stop being a wannabe TWERP…Piss off Miles. So What. Don’t stand there with your finger on that horn and a thumb upyerass…start playing, man! And furthermore, So What --Go learn to be yourself. So What. You are wasting time kissing my ass. So What…whatter you doing standing on the floor staring at the ceiling? Go outside and taste the Dog Star and sail into the future accordingly. Twinkie Bitch. Whelp. Asshat. Groupie. Yer crowding my air. So What. Fuck Off, kid and go and BE great. Or Not. What-the-fuck-ever. So What. Goodbye. You’re interrupting my beer.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Psychedelic Geezerdom Dispatch # 2

ZOSO Played Wheaton ! ( Not).
by MYSTR Treefrog- geezer skeptic.
Date night –The A.F.I. Silver Spring—5 bucks, hell…why not?

Jeff Krulik’s new independent film “Led Zeppelin Played Here” is undeniably funny, exhaustively researched, and at times hilarious. But I remain unconvinced.

The premise: Led Zeppelin, at the behest of local D.J. and promoter legend Barry Richards, was booked into the Wheaton Community Center for an impromptu fill-in gig on a cold January 20th, the same night the spanking new Nixon presidency was being inaugurated, and no one came. No one except those who swear they came. By some accounts there were 12 people, which –by the magic of confabulatory mathematical hallucination –becomes 20 people, and by collective hysteria multiplies rapidly to… oh, a brazen 32 people who , by all reports, stood out in the cold as the band played and never saw them…(exactly).

Not even the tour manager remembers the gig. Neither did the surviving members of the band. (The latter is to be expected. They were under the influence of The Hobbit and Aleister Crowley at the time.)

It appears nowhere (exactly) on a tour schedule. There were multiple sightings in the area surrounding Wheaton –The Laurel Pop Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Bawlmer someweers—but no one remembers Jimmie Page blowing the left side of their brains out (exactly) with the opening to “ Good Times, Bad Times”. Not one groupie stepped up to admit that they offered to blow Robert Plant. Hell, I’m completely hetero –but I’d have offered to blow Robert at this stage of nascent rock greatness. I saw him in ’69 in Macon , Georgia. It was –in fact—transcendent rock buggery of the tallest order. NO ONE who ever saw this band live would EVER forget it. Impossible.

It was as if Genghis Khan and his buds had slipped into the receiving line at Nixon’s Inaugural Dance and French kissed Pat Nixon and squeezed her pert butt cheeks without anyone noticing (exactly). Not the Secret Service. Not Checkers, the dog. Not even Henry Kissinger.

Wheaton still holds many mysteries, some culinary, others cosmological, Some mysteries involve artificially intelligent thieving parking meters, and there’s the mystery involving the plethora of unrequited local musical genius ducking in and out of Chuck Levins’ Washington Music Center. There is the mystery involving inscrutable hair styles which multiply like culturally inseminated amoeba and converge at the intersection of University Blvd. and Georgia Avenue. A Wheaton bus stop is, without a doubt, a true illustration of the American dream.

I can’t see John Bonham and Peter Grant stopping at the Dunkin Donuts to ask directions to the Wheaton Community Center in 1969. And I love cartoons. A lot. Zep would not have escaped un-noticed. Peter Grant was an ex-wrestler and played a munitions expert in "The Guns Of Navarrone." He kicked a lot of ass back then. He was not the 'forgettable' sort.

Let me speak frankly. A lot of people spent 24 hours a day high outta their freakin minds in 1969 –especially (subjective and anecdotally) the motley and lovable characters who packed the house to watch “Led Zeppelin Played Here” at the A.F.I. in Silver Spring on Friday night.

I’m not sure, but I think I’ve met most of them…but I might have been stoned outta my freakin’ mind at the time. But that was then (exactly). The most endearing thing about our boomer generation is: They all still believe The Hobbit exists. The most annoying thing: They still think The Hobbit exists. Guys. Led Zeppelin NEVER played the Wheaton Community Center.(and Clapton IS NOT God.) But the movie by Jeff Krulik was great stuff. As for the 'eye-witnesses-especially Barry Richards--If it were left up to me I'd have water-boarded the lot of them...then we'd get to the truth in a big hurry. There is simply no time for dithering on important matters such as these. And, I might add, water-boarding is not without precedent in the new America. It's a matter of national security.

Further addendum: The Psychedelic Geezerdom on display in the audience would further underscore the need to resolve this mystery quickly. I have a deep bemused love for my brother and sister boomers…but kids, some of you aren’t aging that gracefully. Myself included. A replay of our present selves re-living the soft-focus nude bathing scene at Woodstock makes me start to claw my own eyes out. (And I only have one eye left, and one knee I was actually born with.)

They sell fresh Cadillac to Led Zeppelin songs. “Been A Long Time Since I Rock N’Rool-eyed ”… yeah, dude…right on! In a shiny new Cadillac.Far Fuc’n out. Livin' the dream...

It may be a longer time in my case…such as when WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER.

Please, again, underscore the fact that Jeff Krulik’s film was entertaining, great, funny and highly recommended, (see what I did there?);

Stoned or Fresh outta Re-Hab: I remain unconvinced.

Even if I were marginally convinced by the movie, the rambling dithering of a formerly influential disc-jockey at the end of the question and answer period after the picture --held by the affable, witty director Jeff Krulik -- served to illustrate that the same people who claim to have been present when Led Zeppelin played the Wheaton Community Center are the same people who were present at Christ’s little church picnic when he gave the Sermon On The Mount. In the latter’s case it was less objectionable to have sucked all the air out of the room with mystical nostalgia.

Fascinating. All history is written by the victor…and the subjective collusion of hippie pranksterism. What’s not to love?

( I think I’m having a ‘Linkletter flashback’ as I write this…) Only my fellow Psychedelic Geezers will understand that reference. It’s a generational thang…
Personally? I disbelieve. Led Zeppelin never actually played the Wheaton Community Center –but I guarantee Jesus worked at El Pollo Rico in Wheaton (before it burned down). He was a cool guy. He always gave me an extra serving of plantain with my brazed chicken quarter. He told me to stay away from the picante sauce.

            In his words,” It is unbelievably hot, muchacho.”

Once and For all: Until I see EMPIRICAL evidence, (i.e, pictures with,locks of hair, Jimmie Page's multi-colored autographed Jock Strap,) I will NEVER believe that Led Zeppelin actually played a gig at the Wheaton Maryland Community Center.
Nope. Robert Plant’s rutting feral horny dog howl would STILL be reverberating down Georgia Avenue if this gig truly ever happened. And he would not have escaped the National Capitol area un-blown.

I think, if they actually came to fair Wheaton, the band took one look, shook their head and drove away. I think this is one of those collective cultural hallucinations..(i.e Joan Of Arc, Virgin Birth, Tax refunds,Justifiable Homicide) we boomers are famous for.

                   This is Psychedelic Geezerdom at it’s finest.
On the other hand I'm pretty sure Elvis works at The Booeymonger on Wisconsin Ave.
He told me to help myself to extra mayo. I think he's learned to speak pretty decent Spanish.

On second thought maybe I should’ve titled this review:
Go see the film and make up your own mind. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
                                          (or Not).
P.S. UPDATE: Now Wal-Mart wants me to LIKE them selling Bob Marley. Because their business model is directly in line with Bob's message and philosophy.

The nice old guy in the red jacket- The Greeter? His name tag reads: Jesus Iscariot.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Psychedlic Geezerdom

Psychedelic Geezerdom- the greying of the Stoner Boomer

Stoner(echo) Stoner(echo) Boomer(echo) Stoner(echo)

(did I just say that?)..

Part 1- The Semi-Colon

At the Doctor’s office the Nurse informed me –while handing me a ‘Scientific American’ magazine to read (I had complained that Car and Driver was not what all men like) –that the Earth is only (actually) six thousand years old.

Coming from a nurse this was a little disturbing.

I’m pretty sure a Creationist Colonoscopy is not a procedure I shall schedule in my immediate future. (Timing is everything.)

In the initial interview the Doctor asked if I had ever smoked marijuana. I told him maybe but I forgot. Then I asked him if he kept any individually wrapped saltine travel packs in the examination room because talking about weed makes me hungry.

He said no –but please open up and say AH-HHH.

I did. I said, “AH-HHHH”

He said, “Do it again, please –say AH-HHHH.”

I did, I said ,”AH-HHHHH.”

He began hitting my knee with a tiny rubber hammer, “Have you ever had a colonoscopy before?”

I said,” No…but I’m pretty sure that’s not my asshole you’re hitting with that hammer.”

“ Well..”, he said,” passed the Intelligence test. I think we can move on to the Eye chart.”

“ I see what you did there. Should I keep one eye closed?”

“ No, no..keep both eyes closed and tell me what you see.”

“ Amazing..the inside of my eyelids are covered with cracks and neon sparkle-berries.”

“ Does insanity run in your family?” he asked, clearing his throat.

“Does phlegm run in yours?”

He cleared his throat again. I took that as his answer.

“ Have you ever taken L.S.D.” he asked.

“ Are you a doctor, Doctor…or a C.I.A. operative?” I answered.

“ Why would you ask a question like that?”

“ Because if you were with the C.I.A. I’m looking to score.”

I don’t think he got it.

“Do you know your blood type?”he asked, trying to change the subject.

“ Red and drippy.” I answered,”..unless someone gets my Irish up.”

“ What happens then?”

“ That’s when I give ‘em my own version of a hernia exam.”

“ I see…and thanks for reminding me,” he smiled, tossing his clipboard on the desk and jamming two very cold fingers into the cavity below my testicles,” Cough,” he said.


Part 2- The (actual) Finger

“Please drop your pants and underwear and lean over the examination table.” The Doctor pointed at my mid-section and reached for a pair of latex gloves.

The Doctor had a secret button on his desk he pressed he used to summon the Creationist nurse. Like she was the Secret Service or a bank guard. He pushed the call-button and started putting on both gloves, snapping them on –it sounded like each individual finger was smacking its lips in anticipation.

I turned around, dropped my pants and underwear secretly thanking Jehovah that I had remembered to change them that morning.(It’s a guy thing.)

I felt a slight sickness in the pit of my stomach as my mind turned over the thought;

If he’s only going to use one finger on one hand, why is he putting on two gloves?

“ Now I’m going to use lubricant, but this may still be a little cold.” He announced cheerfully.

“ It must be my birthday”, I announced almost as cheerfully.

“ Do you ever suffer from rectal itch?” he queried. I could hear the squeak from the lubricant dispenser behind me. “ …if so we have something for that.”

“ Thanks. So do I --but I rarely use someone else’s finger to deal with it.”
     He inserted a digit and began a rollicking search for who knows what. Like a desperate husband searching for the wedding band he accidently dropped into a garbage disposal. I kept trying to smile and keep up brave thoughts. The door opened behind me. It was the Creationist nurse and three female interns. I felt eight sets of chatoyant cat eyes -- all staring at a guy in a white lab coat with a finger up my ass in a wash of bright jitterbugging fluorescent light --like maybe we were all at a church cotillion sugaring tea.

“ Well, Mr. Brayton,” she began, as if trying to strike up a conversation on the Titanic;” ..did you enjoy the Scientific American?”

“ I sure am enjoying him right now.”
“ Oh..I see.” She didn’t really understand my idea of irony
     I turned my head and looked over my shoulders at the four women observing the finger attached to the Doctor attached deep within the crevice attached to my prone bare white rump.
They were wearing hair-nets and safety-glasses.

“ But I can guarantee that this exam has already lasted longer than six-thousand years.”

                                          The End.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

If I appear cynical that’s because I am- but at least in this paragraph I’m not being cynical for my generation- the Baby Boomers- that’s another chapter I certainly won’t ignore.

No, in this case my cynicism is peppered with an outrage of what I would define as sort of personal endearment for the generation of the Depression and World War Two.

The truth is that they did the work. We are losing them at an alarming rate-our parents, our grandparents. Our aunties and favorite uncles who, before their health became an issue, marched in the parades and remembrances of VE day, VJ day, and always had their hand over their hearts when saying the Pledge Of Allegiance. The vets who rarely spoke of the war in graphic terms, but made no secret of the fact that they thanked God for the outcome. Then, if some of us listened very carefully, there were the quiet vets. The wounded ones. The scarred ones. The quiet old guy at the V.F.W. flipping burgers and dogs with one hand because that’s all he had to work with. Or the guys like my Dad, a ‘Coastie’ who, after piloting the landing craft in every invasion from North Africa to Normandy, could scarcely look at the ocean surf rolling in and not see red foam in his mind’s eye. These dads and uncles were the ones who drank.


These are the uncles and brothers who never developed healthy sleep patterns after returning. These are the guys who started out jolly at the family picnic and after a few beers began to brood silently or not so silently. They, if they told war stories at all, would have to be drunk to the point of reliving it all. These are the men, and yes, women that were utterly inscrutable to me as a small boy; but as a man I find their sacrifices have become an object of sharp focus.

-A little vignette from my callow youth I have told many times because it so affected me..

     In 1972,two days after my eighteenth birthday, I went north from Florida to Rhode Island to visit my grandparents in East Providence- Riverside- Rhode Island. It was in mid-June and still hot. I had returned from Europe a few months earlier with what would, over the course of the next few years, become a drinking problem all my own. Being young I still believed in the myth of the bawdy, jolly, lusty sailor who drank and romanced women and life away with an endearing abandon. My father drank. My father’s father drank, and though I knew he was in ill-heath because of a fifty-year tobacco habit, I looked forward to tipping a few with him at the Riverside Social Club, a small private drinking establishment the old guy would disappear to whenever the stress of family life became overwhelming. At the time I was not aware of how often that was. My father was dead by that time so my grandfather would surely be willing to be a stand-in for this mythical male rite of passage. We were sitting at the kitchen table, and I was finishing off a slice of one of Aunt Dot’s blueberry pies when I announced my intentions to him in full voiced bravado so that my grandmother and aunt would hear.

“ Grampa, I’m eighteen now- and I’m old enough.

Lets you and I go get a brew together, eh?”

    My grandfather, who was hooked up to an oxygen tank, and thus unable to smoke his beloved pipe seemed to consider the idea fondly by arching his eyebrows and chuckling a bit. I think he not only liked my audacity, but welcomed it. Like a swooping sea gull my grandmother appeared, her eyes flashing, her finger wagging using her no-nonsense New England school marm tone.

“ George- don’t you dare bring that boy out to go drinking. I absolutely forbid it!”

My Grandpa paused to inhale a burst of oxygen before giving her a reply. I noticed he scarcely looked up at her before doing so.

“ He ain’t a boy no longer, Emily. He’s legal age.”

My grandmother moved directly into my grandfather’s field of vision.

“ If you go to the Sportsman Club and start drinking, don’t either one of you come home expecting supper! I won’t do a thing for you George- don’t you corrupt this child!”

    Grandmother Emily Donovan Brayton slapped the table top and moved eye to eye with my grandfather, who by this time had what might best be described as a half-amused half- steely glint in his eye. He had that well worn facial expression of a man long married and made miraculously and selectively deaf by the experience.

“ George!;” she rejoined,” I forbid it!”

I saw them lock eyes for what seemed like an eternity, but in actuality only must have been a pair of seconds.

“ Jon-boy, go ‘n fetch my hat.”

“ I’ll lock the door, George!”

“’s the blue one with the anchor.”

     I remember half carrying my grandpa down the hill through narrow streets, his lungs wheezing from the emphysema in the early afternoon heat.We didn’t talk much. I knew it would be a strain on him to answer. By the time we finished the walk to the bar, all of three blocks I noticed with some alarm that all the color had drained from his face.His pallor was gray and his lips had become tinged in the blue shade of exertion. We arrived at a shabby little one story white wood frame building on the waterfront.

The sign read :
Riverside Sportsman Club- Private- Members Only.

I remember thinking at the time that Rhode Island working class architecture was not much to get excited about. Everything seemed small and cramped compared to the southern architecture I’d grown up with. The interior was not much either. No windows. Fluorescent lights. A few neon bar lights were placed above the Formica tables in a vain attempt at decoration. There were blue plastic chairs for seating and cheap vinyl squares on the floor. For ambience, bathed the interior in a pink glow of a Budweiser sign, were some girly calendars from the 1940’s. Big meaty busty women in bathing suits slyly holding wrenches, jackhammers and fishing nets. The jukebox played a warped mix of warped Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman singles. It was the quintessential blue-collar old guy bar where regular guys went to escape their wives and get quietly soused after work,to fend off the dreariness of harsh winter and retirement. The six or seven old fellas that were in there in the middle of the afternoon looked up none to fondly as I, a baby-faced hippie kid with hair halfway down to my ass, walked in with my grandpa. One of them let go the zinger;
“ She’s a little young ferya ain’t she George ?”
My Grandpa laughed with them and looked at me in masked amusement. I gamely smiled back.

“ Naw, he’s Sonny’s boy just up fer his first beer with the grown men.” He coughed as I helped him to the barstool and leaned his cane against the wall.
“ It’s not exactly my first, it’s just my most legal.”
“ You sayin’ he’s a full eighteen then, George?” asked the barkeep looking me over with suspicion, “ and he’s gotta card, then eh?” “ Gwan’n show Kenny yer card boy, before he gets his ass in a sling.”
“ Right here, I said pulling out my wallet and my driver’s licence. “ "Flarida, eh? You all the way up from Flarida ?”, remarked Kenny the barkeep as he handed me back my card. “ I didn’t know Sonny lived down south George, I thought he was in Asia or somewheres. Whatta yah have theyuh, young fella?” “ Bud is good. Bud good Grampa?”

My grandfather didn’t answer, he just waved his hand, nodded and coughed. The barkeep either forgot or never knew that Sonny, my Dad, was killed two years before in a small plane accident in the mountains on the big island of Luzon . Grandpa George Edgar wasn’t the talkative type. He wasn’t known to talk much about his family. Grandpa was quiet as he sipped his beer. Finally he said;

“ Y’oughta be signed up.” “What,Grampa?’

“ Fer the service..if yer eighteen y’oughta be signed up fer the service.”

Kenny the barkeep seemed to agree. His eyes turned on me as he filled a glass of draft beer for another old-timer who sat eavesdropping in the shadows. I noticed a tattoo on Kenny the barkeeps arm. He was Navy. I thought it prudent to shrug and gulp my beer and control my urge to say something inappropriately hippy-smart-ass.

“ You kids today don’t know nuthin. Y’oughta be in service..we all wuz. Yer fahthuh wuz Coast Guard in World Wah Two, did ye know that?”
“ Yeah, I know Grampa.”

Grandpa George Edgar amazed me by downing his entire glass of beer. He looked at me silently and motioned for two more beers. He pulled his pipe out of his coat pocket and lit it.

“ Theyud have tuh cut her hair ta get in the service, hah,George!” offered the old feller to the left. My Grandfather chuckled and coughed in spasms. I was more concerned with my grandfather’s coughing fit than I was irritated with a couple old Yankees rednecking me about my long hair. There wasn’t anything aggressive about it, just a bunch of old lifers giving me my medicine.

By the time we had downed two more brews apiece I was beginning to get dizzed and I could tell Grandpa was feeling a good deal less pain. He began a somewhat emotional narrative of his two years as a Seabee in The Solomon Islands during the Pacific campaign. How they lost men to mines and sniper fire. How the Japs had committed suicide rather than surrender. How much he loathed the climate. All this punctuated by long gargling bouts of coughing as he tried to inhale the pipe smoke that had so ruined his lungs.

“ Goddamned Japs..nevuh will buy a goddamned Jap cah, Jap radio..none of that round heah! No kraut cahs neithuh.”

I had never heard my Grandfather curse like that before. He rarely if ever spoke emotionally about anything. The beer was loosening his tongue.

“ None’a you young smart asses know what goin’ta war wuz like, we wuz fightin’ fer this country heah, see? Now none’uh yah kids give a shit! You don’t wanna serve yer country.”

The effects of the beer and the harangue were beginning to make me a little bold.

“ So I gotta go to Viet Nam to serve my country?”

“ Hell, yes boy- Y’go where yer country sends ya. Y’do yer duty!” intoned Kenny from behind the bar. My Grandfathers coughing kept him from being able to speak.

“ So all you guys are World War Two vets?’

“ Goddamned right..I was Navy first mate on a class-B destroyer in the battle of Midway. Jess wuz on Wake Island, wudden’t it Jess?”

“ Supply ship, whole goddamned way through;.”answered the old fella on the stool. “ None’na you kids know a goddamned thing about goin’ta war an serving yer country. Yuh juss wanna smoke marijuana and chase them hippy girls. You don’t know nuthin.”

I remember having a moment of clarity through the beer haze. I remember just blurting it out-

“Isn’t that what all you guys fought for? I mean, so I wouldn’t know what war was like? I mean, right Grampa? Didn’t you guys suffer like that so dumb-ass kids like me would never know? Wasn’t that the idea?”

Grandpa George Edgar looked up at me from his bar stool. The others in the bar grew silent. Only Sinatra sang. The old fella who sat at the barstool rose slowly to leave. It wasn’t until he stepped into the full light and faced me that I noticed his left sleeve was pinned at the shoulder.

“He’s gotta point they-uh, George.”

There was a moment of silence as the old salts looked one to another and nodded slightly.

“ Yey-uh.. he’s Sonny’s boy alright. He’s got Sonny’s head on’im. “
   The beer was on the house the rest of the afternoon and I got plastered as the old guys told stories and ribbed me and my Grandpa with good natured slights and observations.
    My grandfather carried me the three blocks home. There we were the two of us, drunk as skunks weaving our way back to Middle Street laughing and cursing like midnight lunatics. When we returned home,there was no supper waiting. My Aunt Dot helped me up to the second story room and took my shoes off before I passed out in what had been my father’s childhood bed.
“ Shame on the both of you,” she said in a mock tone, her eyes gleaming in amusement.
“ Your Grandma doesn’t approve of drinkin’.”
    The last time I saw Grandpa George Edgar was in 1978. He had taken up permanent residence at the Veterans Hospital in Providence. This was as much out of choice as it was for treatment of his lung disease. George and Emily had, as I came to find out, lived more years apart as they did together. Divorce was less of an option to old folks like that. This was undoubtedly was due to my Grandmother’s latent Catholicism, which though unpracticed, held firm in several aspects.
     Grandpa George Edgar looked gaunt and sick when last I saw him alive. He shared a room with a Marine Vet of WW1 who was attached to an IV and was intubated with a plastic hose down his throat. He had been in a coma like that for months. Grandpa George Edgar didn’t seem to mind his roommate. He liked it quiet, he told me. The Veterans Hospital was a sad shabby institution full of forgotten old guys living their last days out in rusty beds or in shadowy game rooms playing Parcheesi or Monopoly with dog-eared cards and watching game shows on old black and white T.V.
     These were our heroes; creaky old men who smelled of medicine, existing like ghosts in dingy halls that smelled of Pine-Sol and Vapo-Rub. In the post Viet Nam era damn little was spent to upgrade these places. Paint peeled on the ceilings and walls. The asbestos composition tile floors were chipped and stained by years of industrial cleaners and waxed over body fluids. Military life was not rewarded by public opinion; but Rhode Island being one of the more patriotic states, always made sure that above each door was a paper Old Glory and decent holiday dinners for the fellas.

God Bless America. It’s the least we can do.