Tag Archives: childhood

Daffofils and Ducks

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Daffodils and ducks

All the colors are pastel

And the sun is smiling sweetly

But I never get sunburn

With my shirt tucked in

And my pants freshly pressed

I am blessed

My pants are never unzipped

All my thoughts are of bunnies and bikes

I have no genitals

I stick to the sidewalk, avoiding the cracks

Don’t want to break my poor mama’s back

And nobody is black

Today I got to paste my favorite Bible verses

Here in my Jesus scrapbook

‘Cept Jesus ain’t a scrap

His life was pure

No pee-pee, no fear

He never wet his bed

I will not think of, I will not think of, I will not think of

Love

Thank you Jesus

My catcher in the rye

I smell so good because of you

Because of you my life is a bright and shining lie

How much happiness can one boy stand?

Suddenly I start to run

Scissors in my hand

I stumble and die

Why Jesus why?

Sweet Jesus. I smell so good because of you.


My Father and I

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A little time travel was required. That's me on the right, Dad on the left.

What would he have thought

I wonder.

At my face and his face

And the inevitable passage of time?

Would he warn me

Console me

Or just be happy to see me?

Happy to see that it all worked out

I’m just fine.

It all happens too quickly my father said

Not long after this meal we shared

You take a breath, thirty years have passed

And everything moves full circle

As the child becomes the father to the man

As my Father and I

Have breakfast together again

Coming to Terms With Racism

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Why don't I have any African-American characters in my stories?

I was touched by the beauty of this photograph and put it in my collection of interesting or captivating photos in iPhoto. But mainly I put it in there because I realized I had no photos of attractive black women. Not celebrities. I had photos of Vanessa Williams, Beyonce, Rihanna, and many other beautiful black celebrities, but no non-celebrities. I have noticed a couple of African-American women who follow my blogs, and I think about how I could make my work more relevant to them. Of course they don’t expect some old white guy to speak to the black experience. But it got me to thinking. Why don’t I have any African-American characters in my stories? I have Hispanics and Asians, but no Blacks. That is because I was raised a racist. In my childhood I was taught a lot of garbage which lies in my subconscious. I am afraid that some of that prejudice might show up in my writing unwittingly. Or I might convey a stereotype, instead of creating a real human being. I was afraid I might have done that with my Asian characters, but one was based on an actual friend. Still, I suspect there was more than a bit of stereotypical behavior in my stories. Therefore I have shied away from portrayal of blacks, especially men. I have to immerse myself in black culture and understand it before creating a believable black male character. I used to despise hip-hop and rap, I mean I would actually get angry over it. Now I have about twenty hip-hop or rap albums or more on iTunes. I love it now. Some of it is funny, some of it is angry, some of it is sad. But I have learned how to relate to it, Given that I have always been very poor, I understand the perspective and because I tend to be brutally honest and down to earth, I can relate to the humor and the ‘word’. I can think of at least two black women in my past, who were attracted to me. I know this because unlike white women, these women were not very subtle in expressing their attraction. A black woman isn’t afraid to look you in the eye, or touch you. As a result of those experiences I am attracted to black women. So why haven’t I written about them? Good damn question. I feel considerable guilt over things I did when I was six years old. My parents were totally racist, and I’m sure I got my ideas from them. When I was on the bus one morning, I asked the little black girl next to me why she smelled bad. I noticed an odor that was different from anything I’d smelt before, but then I must have recalled something my father said about blacks smelling bad. Even though that probably happened in 1959 or 1960, and I was only six, I still remember the way that girl looked at me. It was awful. She hated me, and I’m sure she felt horrible. Here she was on the bus dressed in her nice pink dress, and some kid asks why she smells bad. That stayed with me. Even though I was a kid, I knew I had done something terrible. I remember I apologized, and she wouldn’t look at me, but said “that’s ok” or something. I’m not sure she responded, and my memory may have added the apology to make myself feel better, but I think I did apologize because I remember how awful I felt. That early experience has shaped my feelings towards black people ever since. I feel ashamed of myself, and think that there is no way to make amends. I have no difficulty understanding why black people hate white people. I don’t like to think about race, but it is a fact of life. It enters into every relationship between races. I think my Vietnamese friend has a charming accent, but she is very self-conscious about it and thinks I am being racist when I imitate it. I worked with a Filipino and once I got upset with him. He thought I was angry with him because he was Filipino. I clarified by saying “I don’t dislike Filipinos, I dislike you!”. Later we became friends, but there was always an undercurrent of suspected prejudice that I had to stay aware of. I have often felt that I was treated differently because I was white. Conversely, I have had many friends that I think of as individuals first and their race second. Their ethnicity isn’t a huge part of our relationship. But it bothers me that I haven’t welcomed blacks into my imaginary universe, so I will think about what sort of black character or characters I want to introduce. It is my feeling that all of us are not that far apart. We can appreciate each others’ perspective. I love to immerse myself in cultures other than my own. As a matter of fact, to be honest, white culture is my least favorite, because I grew up in it, and saw it’s ugliest side.

Love

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It is Valentine’s Day. Have you gotten a valentine? I have always felt like Charlie Brown when it comes to Valentines.

I often sat in the classroom, when in grade school, daydreaming about Susan McNeel. She was an adorable girl in the same grade as me. I gave her a ring for Christmas in the first grade. She was my first unrequited love, at least I think it was unrequited, I never asked her how she felt about me. I was a very solemn brown eyed, round headed boy, very much like Charlie Brown. I was so caught up in my fantasies I could easily have done what Charlie does in the cartoon below.

Not receiving a valentine can be very bruising for a little boy. I think this accounts for my cynicism regarding the holiday today. I can remember giving a beautiful red hat to a woman I was madly in love with as an adult. It didn’t fit her, and I couldn’t return it. I don’t remember what happened to it. Yet another Valentine’s Day gift tossed into the dustbin of history. I read in the paper today about a museum devoted to the artifacts of broken up relationships. That hat could have gone there. An artifact of a stillborn relationship. But I also recall a friend of mine sending a valentine to a woman he was infatuated with. I had been trying to get him to approach her and ask her out for many months. He started to send the valentine without his phone number, but I persuaded him to add that so she could call if she wanted. He was close to crapping his pants, but he did it. She called, and they even went out. I will leave the memory there, while it is still wonderful. I seem to recall valentines I received which were kept for years, until it reached a point where I could not refresh the thrill I felt when I received it. However, as I recall, in grade school little girls could be very cruel to little round headed boys. My self-esteem was pretty tattered after getting through first grade. Although I never opened myself up to ridicule to quite the same extent as Charlie Brown in this final example of childhood angst.

So there you have it. Love. How is it possible in this modern world of irony? Young people often think of Charles Schulz as conservative and out of touch, but he was ahead of his time in expressing the reality of childhood. When you have the courage to put your heart out there and express your feelings you can’t expect tenderness in return. Everyone is on their guard against such tenderness. They have been hurt far too many times in their lives. Yet Love still beckons, even for the hardest hearts and those who appear to have given up on life. We secretly yearn for that thrill of discovery. The discovery that you are truly loved, not for anything you have done, or you have, or because you look a certain way. Because you are. Nothing more. Our likes come and go throughout the day, depending upon our mood, or how our body feels at the time. Sometimes we can be pretty cruel, especially to strangers on the internet. But Love is something else. Like is a caprice. Love is forever. Love is commitment. Love is why we even bother. We like vanilla. or we like chocolate, but we Love the whole astounding magnificence of it all.

The Rebels Curse

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I was just thinking about Natalie Wood. She was my earliest childhood crush. She had a dark, mysterious allure. For me, at the tender age of ten, she represented all that I wanted a woman to be. Then I thought about James Dean, Sal Mineo, and Dennis Hopper. All of these people appeared in Rebel Without a Cause. Each of them have had a tragic history, three of them died young. It gives that film a macabre overtone. James Dean had been long dead by the time I even realized who he was. One of my earliest memories is of the horror of seeing a picture of the wreck of his Porsche Spyder. I could imagine his mangled body inside. I thought about how good he must have felt racing down the nearly deserted highway, his career was taking off, and he had his whole life ahead of him, then Wham! James Dean seemed dislocated, like he belonged in a better world, and was condemned to this one. I related more to Sal Mineo, when I finally saw Rebel. I responded to his vulnerability. I, too was bullied every day at school, except I didn’t have a James Dean to look out for me. The adults in that film were so out of touch. They reminded me of all the adults I knew. And they killed Plato. Sal Mineo had such a difficult time in the entertainment industry. He was always pegged for some stupid ethnic part, He was rebelliously bisexual long before it was the hip thing to do. After many lean years, he was just beginning to succeed in theatre. Then he was killed. Dennis Hopper only had a small role in the film, as one of the high school ‘hoods. But he developed into one of my favorite actors. I remember him doing a superb job on an episode of twilight zone, as a neo-Nazi. Of course, I loved his crazy role in Easy Rider, but his ultimate achievement had to be as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. The role was meant for him, as he said, he was Frank Booth. It is a shame that Dennis never got the full recognition he deserved. He died sick. It was sad.

Which brings me to the person I originally intended to post about. Natalie Wood. She was so beautiful. As a kid, I adored her. I loved her early sixties movies, when she had that really cute hair style, and the puppy dog eyes. She was so cute in Sex and the Single Girl. Later, as an adult, I was very impressed with her in Love with the Proper Stranger, with Steve McQueen. She was adorable in Gypsy. I remember feeling embarrassed when she did her strip tease at the end of that movie. Even though it didn’t show anything, I felt that ‘my’ Natalie would never do such a thing! I was such a prude when I was a kid! I would daydream about kissing her, all this long before I reached puberty. I lost track of her in later years, until I saw her in her last film, Brainstorm. She haunts that film, and not just because she died before it was completed. She seems disconnected from the film. She is there, but also not there. It is hard to describe. She had a deep fear of drowning in dark water, and that was how she died. I will always think there is more to tell about that night, but we will never hear it told. And so, there you have it, the Rebels Curse. How strange that these people had a dark cloud over their heads. Their spirits serve as an inspiration to me, as to millions of others.

 

The America I Knew

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I remember when America was cool. We were the good guys. We beat the Nazis. We beat the Japs. And if the Commies weren’t careful, we’d beat them too. I was eight years old. 1961. We had a super cool President. Kennedy. Not everyone thought he was cool. My parents didn’t like his pro-civil rights position. My parents weren’t cool, at least when it came to that. And Kennedy was Catholic. I didn’t understand much about that, except that apparently, Catholics worshiped the Pope instead of God. But Kennedy won and nothing awful happened except the Bay of Pigs and his own assassination. I never heard the end of it regarding both. Of course none of this was directed towards me, I overheard it, amidst cigarette smoke, model cars, and Playboys I could never sneak a look at. Things changed with the assassination. America didn’t seem cool anymore, just dangerous.

But I can recall the thrill of the space program. I bought the models of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft. It was fun to imagine being an astronaut. And we had to beat the Russians!! I remember vividly the ominous charts in Time magazine showing how many nukes the Russians had and how many we had. The Missile Gap. It made me nervous, because I knew even at that young age that if the missiles flew, we’d all die. It didn’t really matter about fall out shelters and all that. And even if you did manage to survive, what would there be to survive in? A contaminated landscape, all in black & white, like the twilight zone. But still there was something kinda cool about atomic weapons. It was fun to draw the mushroom clouds. Even my most innocent drawings managed to show a mushroom cloud in the distance.

I lived in my imagination a lot when I was a kid. I would go to the little grocery store way way way out on the edge of Warrensburg. Mo. They had the best comics there, often times the big annuals of Batman, Superman, Justice League. When they ran out of those, I’d settle for a Flash, Wonder Woman, or Green Lantern. I think it was the TGA grocery. I’m not sure. I would buy a whole dollar’s worth of candy, which in 1961 bought a huge amount of candy. Snickers, Almond Joy, Mounds, Hersheys almond, etc. and two or three comics. I was kind of aware of Marvel Comics too, but that meant a whole other set of characters to get familiar with, and that felt like a lot of work. So I stuck with DC Comics. Also, DC was like America, Marvel was the other guy. It all got mixed together in my head. I’d imagine Superman flying through space and intercepting Russian missiles. I liked Batman the best because he had the coolest costume, and he cast really cool shadows over everything. It did puzzle me why he never got killed. I mean, all anybody needed to do was shoot him. But it didn’t happen. I realized very early that there was no way that his utility belt could hold all that crap. But he was human, and that was cool,

I felt secure, knowing we had missile silos all over, even close to where I lived, at Whiteman AFB. That was cool. I knew my country was tough because I had read about WWII. We beat the Nazis, and the Nazis were awesome. I thought Hitler was the perfect bad guy when I was a kid. He was ugly with that little mustache, but also kind of mysterious. The swastika was a super cool evil symbol, and the Nazi soldiers had skulls on their uniforms, and lightning bolts. They were Satan’s legions. So cool. But we beat them. At that time, I had no consciousness of the Russians or the English playing a role in that victory. To a little kid, WWII seemed like a load of fun. Flying a Superfortress over Germany dropping bombs at night as the searchlights tried to catch you. Thrilling! No thought given to the deaths of innocent civilians. I never thought about civilians. When they sold plastic soldiers they should have included civilians so kids would realize…..nah! it would never have worked.

In my imagination, in those days, it got all mixed together. I loved dinosaurs too, and had some really cool multi-colored¬† plastic ones, which got to fight the Nazis along with the American tanks, and Batman in his batmobile. The Nazis didn’t stand a chance. Hitler jumped up and down in a rage. ‘How dare they use dinosaurs against me!’. I never questioned for a moment that America was right, always won, and was totally cool. After the death of Kennedy, it felt like something was dreadfully wrong with America. Then as I became aware of how we treated blacks, how wrong my parents were, and when things started going badly in Vietnam, I remember the shock of realizing ‘ We are going to lose this war!’. I will save my observations about what went wrong, in greater detail, in later posts.

American Cowboys Fight Martian Nazis! What could be cooler?

Am I Beautiful or What?

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This quick little post is inspired by what I just read on Margaret Cho’s blog. (margaretcho.com check it out) regarding the twitter war between her and the couple of jackasses who said she had a fat ass. Being the insensitive asses that we are, we often make stupid remarks without realizing the incredible pain that can cause for someone who has had a lifetime of insults, and assaults on her self-esteem. I am guilty of saying things to my friend David that are crass, thinking it is harmless. But now I intend to stop that nonsense. It just isn’t funny anymore. Even if he says it doesn’t bother him, I just don’t like it now. Margaret Cho opened my eyes to my own unthinking crassness. Of course, unlike the assholes that attacked her, I have never deliberately (wait! hold it! let’s be honest now) perhaps I have been deliberately hurtful, it hurts to realize that. But no more!!!

I can see why I like Margaret Cho so much. I was also teased and bullied, and made to feel ugly at every opportunity. Even now, as I write this, I think, “the difference between us is that I really was ugly,” I developed a rage that came out in various ways. I was always confrontational, and used my mind as a weapon. Sort of a “I may be ugly, but you are stupid”¬† kind of approach. My thinking I was ugly scarred me for life. I still look in the mirror and cringe. It totally ruined my relationship with women. I could not hear that I was sexy, or attractive. I could not bear to be complimented. To me, I appear damaged, full of pain, a walking corpse. I decided that if people were going to regard me as ugly, I would be the ugliest son of a bitch you ever saw! In that way, it is easier for men, especially straight men, to deal with ‘ugliness’. In a way, for us, it is cool to be ugly. Women dig ugly men, etc. But there is a difference between rugged ugly, and scary ugly. I am scary ugly. I can imagine Margaret Cho screaming at me to stop saying I am ugly! I am sorry, Margaret, but every time I begin to say that I am handsome, or beautiful, I laugh. I just can’t take it seriously. That’s sad.

Which brings me to an observation about our fucked-up culture. We are trained to consider one thing beautiful and another ugly. And it is totally arbitrary, and nonsensical. When you can manage to get past your mind, you can see that everything is what it is, without qualification. I suppose you could say it is beautiful, but beautiful implies it’s opposite, ugly. Maybe we could think of it as BEAUTIFUL in all caps, that exists outside all categories. When you truly love, that is how it is. When you are in the arms of someone you love, or better yet, lying with your body literally inside hers, how can she not be beautiful? But you know what? We treat each other like shit generally, don’t we? There are some horrible things going on, folks, and we are sitting around watching some crap on tv. If we allow ourselves to treat one another with the love and respect we deserve, there would be no homeless, no insane, no more mindless bullshit. But I am human like you, I doubt that this little speech is going to transform my life. Never has before. But I thank Margaret Cho for waking me up once again. She isn’t just a comedian, she is a revolutionary of the spirit, fiery in her rage! I recommend her blog to anyone who wants to have their bullshit values challenged, for those who want to be real, and true to their true selves.