In my Margaret Mead mode I remained obsessed with the queenie old school claque. I even moved in with them for about a month. Then, one day I realized “it’s not a game, they really believe this shit.” As funny as they were, they were really quite offensive. There was a heavy strain of misogyny in their humor, like the buffoonery of breasts, that I didn’t like. So I backed off but remained friendly with them. I needed good turn-outs for my parties, after all.
What intrigued me more than their acts were the superficial accoutrements they thought made you a woman: hair, makeup, fabric selection. It made no sense that genitalia dictated whether you could wear eyeliner or not. It either looked good or it didn’t. Being young and androgynous, I made a spectacle of myself. Everyone loved it. And once I had an audience there was no stopping me.
Jim and I hooked up daily, usually in the evening in Dunn Meadow with a bottle of Boones Farm. He tried to nurture my appreciation for poetry but it was like jazz, I just didn’t get it. So he brought me along slowly with things like Bird on a Wire. I got that.
In turn I offered up the Stone’s latest single Wild Horses. He agreed that it was a beautiful song and reluctantly conceded it had “a certain” poetry to it. The Stones were more commercial than Leonard Cohen so we would hear Wild Horses on jukeboxes, on the radio, wafting from stereos out of open windows. It became the backdrop for the summer.
There was a sexual tension in our relationship that both of us were too naive and too shy to act upon. It was strange having such a strong infatuation that was never consummated. He later had an affair with a kid he fell for on the first night. What sealed the deal was when they woke up in the morning and he saw my name tattooed on the guy’s arm. Our relationship was kind of sick. And not in the fun way the kids use that word today.
He was working on a novella about me called “Image of Veta.” He insisted that I was going to become a star. I asked, “doing what?” I couldn’t sing, couldn’t act, I didn’t think I had any talent.
He replied, “your talent is being yourself. Become famous and the rest will follow.” It was a formula used successfully by Madonna 10 years later.
Jim left Bloomington for Fort Wayne. I moved to San Francisco. We hadn’t known each other growing up but Fort Wayne was my home too. We would see each other whenever I was there.
When he needed money Jim would tap into his local funeral home connection. The director loved his poems so Jim would dumb it down and churn out pap like “autumn’s road to winter’s stillness.” Even I knew it was bad. We would take his earnings and the latest edition of Funeral Memories down to our favorite bar, Henrys. Sitting in the mahogany booth we drank and laughed as we read the poems to each other.
Jim was feeling the limitations of poetry. We both wanted more.
The Story of Jim
- The Happiest Days
- Childhood Living
- Life on Pretty Lake
- Sensitivity Training
- Graceless Lady
- Life in Print
- Life on an Associate Professor’s Salary
- What’s the Date? 1968
- Alone with Art
- Life at Sterling Cooper
- Sliding Through My Hands
- Life as a Godfather
- I Know I’ve Dreamed You
- Image of Veta
2 thoughts on “Sensitivity Training”