Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tempest in a B-Cup

This on the cover of Austin's weekly paper this week. Pre-op tranny Kylie Jack was denied an intimate measuring at an Austin lingerie store because of her penis. I'm taking the sales-clerk's side on this one. Below is the online letter that I just wrote to the Chronicle:

What a tempest in a B-cup.

First, kudos to Petticoat Fair owner Kirk Andrews for going above and beyond good customer service in his extremely kind and sensitive response to Kylie Jack. (I was disgusted to read that his good intentions were dismissed by some because he used the term "transgendered" rather than "transgender." Can't stand this type of Orwellian language-police.)

Second, I question Kylie Jack's handling of the situation to begin with. In all of my years of clothing/lingerie shopping, I've come across a few sales-clerks that I considered rude. In almost every such case, I've simply asked to speak to the store manager on duty, voiced my complaint to him/her directly, and was uniformly immediately issued an apology and an assurance that the clerk would be talked to. Did Jack follow this common-sense route? Nah. Instead, rather than handling the situation one-on-one, she took the coward's way out and went on an Internet vendetta that led to the store and its owners "receiving threats of continued harassment and, in some cases, implied violence." (Who was the bully and who the bullied here?)

Third, as the article made absolutely clear, EVERY member of the female sales staff at Petticoat Fair had at one time or another been subjected to "men with nefarious intentions" (aka "creepers," aka men coming in to the store dressed as women and trying to get off on having the female clerks intimately measure them). Given this fact, why is a female clerk's being wary of someone with a penis asking to be intimately measured in a close space considered questionable? Her reaction seems perfectly logical to me.

Lastly, there's the ignorant comment of Lisa Scheps of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, who hosted a "Trans 101" "sensitivity training" course for the staff of Petticoat Fair. When owner Andrews tried to explain the store's reality of "creepers" to her, Scheps replied, "Yeah, how many times does that really happen? When an impostor tries to come in here?" When Andrews pointed out that his entire staff said that they dealt with the issue "all the time," Scheps' glib reply was: "Creepers gonna creep." Who's the one needing the "sensitivity training"?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My July of '85

By early July after a few weeks back in my home-town of Azle from college, I'd written nearly 50 poems in a deeply unhappy, yet somehow receptive, state.

My mother has always been incredibly blatant about how much she doesn't like me --- she didn't like me at 12, didn't like me at 19 (and still doesn't like me). I'd been living in the swamp of her hate, not knowing any differently, until I went off to college in the Fall of '83. After that, coming home for summers was difficult for me psychologically, since I'd been elsewhere and been interacting with people who actually LIKED me! :)  Being back in her presence meant re-conditioning myself to feeling like shit.

In the Summer of '85, after a few weeks of being again immersed in the Hatred, I finally couldn't stand the overt negativity any more and "ran away from home" (if you can call leaving home at 19 "running away"), back to my college-town Austin with my Ford Pinto loaded up and no place to stay.

I got in town, read the college newspaper ads for apartment rentals. An efficiency just a few blocks from campus was $315 a month --- still pretty high for 1985. The landlady was a canny elderly woman whose dead husband had been a real-estate mogul and had left her various properties. I had my Azle-summer-job K-mart money with me, and so I could pay the first month's rent and deposit right away, but... it would take a couple of days to get the electricity in the apartment on... She saw my panic, saw my fully-loaded Pinto, and gave me a place to stay for free in one of her other properties for a few days until the utilities situation kicked in. (A garage apartment, too expensive for me --- I still remember how pretty the leaves outside the windows looked.) Also, she called my mother! I obviously looked too-frazzled upon my arrival, and my apartment application did include my home phone number back in Azle... Once it was determined that I wasn't dangerous, just a desperate kid, I was allowed to move in.

The Summer of '85 in this furnished efficiency with avocado-green shag carpet and burnt orange couch and chair... Right after I arrived, I went to the Government Department on campus, where I'd been a work-study student the previous school year. I asked if they needed anyone full-time during the summer -- they did! Every weekday, 8 to 5, I went to their office, then came home and drank wine until I was drunk until precisely 10 o'clock. I was young and still-disciplined, and made myself stop at precisely 10pm so I'd be able to get up with the 6:30am alarm.

Between 5 and 10pm for the next 6 weeks until the Fall Semester at UT started, I didn't see another person aside from work people. All I did was come home and get drunk and listen to Simon and Garfunkel (on album), and write poems to Ginny, like this one:

Oh! to have you
on my doorstep
in the cloud
and through my hair

What fun
with you here!
the roaches for laughing
orange and green
the height of art d├ęcor

Come! and make me Picasso
these walls I tame
and will paint for no one else.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What I think is cool.

This picture reminds me of when I was 15 and a Sophomore in high school (1981) and proudly brought my just-bought John Lennon solo album "Walls and Bridges" (from 1974) to school to show off to the few friends who were even mildly interested. (Maybe one girlfriend, and several guys who were either Stoners or on the Math Team.) During lunch, when I was excitedly showing off how the album art had strips that flipped over to show different views of Lennon's face, a 2nd-tier "popular girl" walked by my table and said, "How immature. You need to get a REAL boyfriend." That was initially deflating. In her eyes, being excited about a work of art was trivial and suspicious. Instead of admiring a 15-year-old boy from our school, I was admiring an older, far-away person's representation of himself via his music and accompanying album art and finding that art and vibe far superior and far more meaningful to ME.
Over 30 years later, I'm apparently still as "immature." I am deeply moved by both Joan Crawford's image and her art. Moreso than by the thought that I need to "get a REAL girlfriend." When someone in real life comes along on the John Lennon or Joan Crawford level of meaningfulness to me, perhaps I will.

JC Bittersweet Symphony

'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life
Trying to make ends meet
You're a slave to money then you die
I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down
You know the one that takes you to the places
where all the veins meet yeah

No change, I can't change
I can't change, I can't change
But I'm here in my mind
I am here in my mind
But I'm a million different people
from one day to the next
I can't change my mind
No, no, no, no, no, no...

Well I never pray
But tonight I'm on my knees yeah
I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah
I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now
But the airways are clean and there's nobody singing to me now...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Young Man with a Horn: Rape and Pedophilia

Watched 1950's "Young Man with a Horn" on TCM Thursday night, for maybe the 3rd time. Movie-wise, I always like Lauren Bacall's character in this film.

Real-life-wise, whenever I see Kirk Douglas in a film, I always think of Douglas raping Natalie Wood. (Douglas and the teenaged Wood once went on a "Hollywood Date" -- he forcibly had sex with her, as she later told several friends.)

Glad to later read, in Kirk Douglas's own autobiography, that Joan Crawford jumped on HIM the second they entered her foyer. (She had bad breath, he wrote. But... you still got raped yourself, asshole. Karma.)

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, when, pre-show, describing "Young Man with a Horn," said that the movie was based on the life of early jazz great Bix Beiderbecke, who died at age 28 (in 1931) from alcoholic complications. Since I like the movie, despite Kirk Douglas, and hadn't known anything about Beiderbecke beforehand, I looked up more information about Beiderbecke today...

In the "Young Man with a Horn" movie, the main character was abandoned by his parents and had to live with his sister and was generally neglected, until he discovered jazz and the extremely noble (in the movie) black men who played it. In real life, Beiderbecke had extremely solid parents in Iowa who encouraged his musical ambitions. Until he molested a 5-year-old girl:
On April 22, 1921, a month after he turned 18, Beiderbecke was arrested by two Davenport police officers on a charge brought by the father of a young girl. According to biographer Jean Pierre Lion, "Bix was accused of having taken this man's five-year-old daughter into a garage and committing on her an act qualified by the police report as 'lewd and lascivious.'"[28] Although Beiderbecke was briefly taken into custody and held on a $1,500 bond, the charge was dropped after the girl was not made available to testify. According to an affidavit submitted by her father, this was because "of the child's age and the harm that would result to her in going over this case."
Beiderbecke died of extreme alcoholism at age 28 in a Queens apartment. Between ages 18 and 28, he'd alternated between his parents' home in Iowa and traveling with various jazz bands.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just dug this out from a 1985 writing workshop

I was 20 when I wrote this.


...and she felt a silence so complete and deadening that she would furtively pick the phone from its hook and hold it to her ear so she could hear the familiar annoying drone and thus prove herself still living. It was proof, which calmed her somewhat, but in her state of paranoia, she could imagine a voice suddenly emerging from the hum, first barely distinguishable from it but soon becoming clearer and louder yet without gaining any human characteristics and it would say her name with a quiet assurance and she would be forced to go with it, and, worse, to love it...

She told me this and I wanted suddenly just to hold her and tell her she was safe, that I would keep the ugly dead things from her -- I would kill them if need be, kill all the horrible things that couldn't comprehend such fragility, that strove to suck the life out of her and draw her into the void they inhabited. I wanted to grab Alan, and her mother and father, and scream into their worthless faces, scream until I had driven them crazy, driven them to see what they had mutilated in her with their carelessness and their useless remnants: her mother's stupid minks, her father's oil leases, her mother crawling naked on the floor, bits of glass still clinging to her bloody forearms, screaming for someone to please, please slit her throat; her father standing silently, poking the glass shards and her mother with the toe of his boot, saying calmly, "I would if I had the time." And the little brown-haired girl in her candy-striped pajamas, crouched in a ball by her door, ear pressed to the cold wood, drawn unwillingly, guiltily by the sound of glass shattering. The unadulterated waste of this 28-year-old whose own desk told her to die, who had to write "live" on her mirror with lipstick, like a reminder for something that shouldn't have to be remembered.

"What have they done to you?"


And December 19, 1987, I wrote my first REAL poem (at age 22):

Devil Drives
(for Joan Crawford)

The darkness drives me far from where I must be
my knuckles bare in bone-white urgency
clutching the stringent moonlit wheel
that turns without swerving toward mercy

the sweat-stained fools of late
sip their beer and bet on
who I might be

There are roads running earthwise
undestined for divergence
stopped stone-cold in tracks that
vanish at some point

Such things I cannot flee:
the vortex forcing me
toward life without lights,
my name on each marquee,
the search for an existence
that didn't need to be proven

This haunted sky, the moon
I will outlast

Just ask the garden that once bloomed upright
near my back door, cut by my cold hand
and carted away in night's deadness
by babies oblivious to the pain of thorns

Ask it what prevails, the bloom or bane
of shears and let the silence be your reply, something
to live with, or not.

Bloody, I await what newness may arise,
fulfilled by a fury purely mine.

That is enough.

There is no leaving me.


Many years later, post-grad school writing program, I sent the Joan Crawford poem, among others, to the Poet Laureate of England, Ted Hughes: In June 1997, he wrote back: "...I like your poems -- a real language, real inner momentum."

Whatever else happens to me in my life, whoever does or does not love me... I was/am a fucking good writer. Oh yeah, and Ted Hughes read, and liked, my poems. (Anybody else out there with a Poet-Laureate-of-England Stamp of Approval? OK then.)