Big Men Have a Big Faith

When I was in junior high I was still a believer. I thought celebrities were a super-human breed with god-like abilities. It didn’t matter if they were two-time Oscar winners or a panelist on a game show, being on television made them stars.

That was my first impression of Elaine when I saw her on the local station’s version of GE College Bowl. It was a Sunday afternoon show that pitted teams from Fort Wayne schools against each other. They were quizzed on areas of general knowledge. Elaine represented Elmhurst, the high school I would enroll in the following year.

She had a hip look that set her apart from the other contestants and an expression of intense concentration listening to the questions. She seemed much more composed than the others, even during the frantic moments of the incredibly fierce lightening round.

At my first day of band practice that Fall, I was surprised to see Elaine in the second chair of the clarinet section. The mechanics of how our friendship formed that year escape me but by Spring we were signing each other’s Anlibrum yearbook. Part of her inscription to me included: “At the beginning of the year I wondered who the cute new French Horn player was. And now I know.” My powers to underwhelm have always been immense.

On my trip to Fort Wayne recently I stopped in Chicago to see Elaine and her husband Ted. We reminisced about the typing class we took because we thought it would help us with college papers. It did. We even remembered some of the drills (see title above).

And we continued the ongoing discussion of whether the Band Director, Mr. Myers, was gay. Elaine contends he wasn’t because he had a wife and two children.  I told her most international courts threw that one out years ago.

My iron-clad reasoning centered on his persistence in having us perform overtures and medleys from Broadway musicals. And how he would make annual trips to New York then come back peeing his pants over the latest smash hit he’d seen. An admission like that will still get a man the Chair in Alabama.

One of the soothing places I like to get to in my head is the autumnal feel of the outdoor scenes in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Elaine and Ted live in Evanston where that feeling abounds in spades.

So much so that Halloween seems to be the most important holiday of the year. Houses are decked in orange lights and over-the-top lawn displays of skeletons and ghouls. In front of one particularly involved tableau defunct I said it had to be the home of two gay men. Elaine’s son replied, “nah, it’s just an old married couple.”

On Sunday we went to the Block Museum to see its show Pop America, 1965-1975. When my hosts first suggested we go, I’d never thought of there being a Pop movement in other Western Hemisphere countries. To me Pop Art was a send-up of US Commercialism laden with urban wit, camp and irony. How could that translate in less affluent cultures?

Seeing the show made me realize that Pop is really about the mundane imagery of everyday life. In the US it just happens that everything is over-commercialized. In other countries the subject matter comes from religious and political propoganda, fashion trends, sports teams and bottle caps.

Whereas the American Pop Artists used a spontaneous slap-dash style, the images in this show had a restrained and elegant feel to them.

Afterwards we regrouped at the Smiley Brewery to discuss the show over Belgian Mussels and a flight of Texas/Kentucky BBQ. The Pop era had us comparing notes on our counterculture days and common experiences we shared. Like the whole earth bread baking phase we went through.

Elaine got tongue-tied saying she had also participated in that “bed breaking” trend. We laughed as we awaited the judges’ ruling that it was, indeed, an acceptable answer.

Is it any wonder we’ve been friends since high school?

Beanie Babies

Patriots Update

I realize that not every blog post is a keeper but in the interest of establishing a continuum of life I don’t delete. In the rich tapestry that is blogging you sometimes have to accept the barnyard burlap warp with the Venetian silk weft.

Such was the case with my Super Bowl entry from last winter. I must have been drunk, high or both when I wrote that. Still I am proud that I captured the essence of the sleaze-bag owner Robert Kraft three weeks before his Orchids of Asia arrest, The new shade on my kitchen island is not called Nostradamus for nothing.

The genius of the New England organization is that it eats, drinks, sleeps and thinks football 24/7. And it starts at the top. A Patriot insider recently leaked a new trick play to me devised by the distinguished owner himself.

Distinguished is a relative term in the NFL. When you consider that at the NFL’s inception George Halas and Wellington Mara won their teams at the poker table, Kraft might qualify for sainthood. Then there’s former Rams owner Georgia Frontiere who assumed ownership of her franchise after taking her first husband for a “swim.” He never returned.  China Doll frolics pale in comparison.

Little Bob isn’t sure if he devised the play while being massaged or if it came later when he was thrown into solitary after being bitched out to a Jamaican drug lord for a couple of hours. My guess is that it was on the table because the name of the top secret play is “Full Release.”

The play is designed for two tight ends to use snake-hip movements that momentarily beguile the tackles before boring down the field as hard as is humanly possible. This is a parallel thrust to the two wide-outs who are a few yards ahead because they have done the same thing without the greasy reptilian moves.

With all the receivers down field (ergo the code name FR) the quarterback is like a condom-less dick–completely unprotected. The success or failure of the play is centered on his head. For an instant he feels like nothing else in the universe matters.

It is essential for the quarterback to slide out of the pocket and quickly pull the trigger. He sometimes feels like he has no other choice. Giselle says this not an issue for Tom, it’s almost second nature for him.

The other key element is that, after crossing the threshold of inevitability, the quarterback must almost intuitively spot his opening and unload. Again, Mrs. B says Tommy never misses the sweet spot.

This play will not be seen until the playoffs. But the Patriots are so confident of its success they are already choreographing excessive demonstration moves. Nick Kyrgios is consulting on the celebratory, fan appreciation dance.

Go Pats! Pound it home!! And look for Tom Brady on the January cover of Oops! The Magazine for Premature Ejaculators.

Another Happy Ending for the Patriots


Westminster’s Best in Cement. Billy’s latest collectible obsession

“Oh god, it’s him again,” the snotty voice says in an aside to someone else, “I can get rid of him quickly.”   A second later there’s a feeble, “hello?”

That’s the way my 87-year-old friend Billy answers the phone when I’m in Fort Wayne. He’s using state-of-the-art caller id technology to let his friends know exactly how he feels about them.

A replica of Billy’s torso (allegedly) with concrete canines in situ.

I’m on the banks of the Wabash this week visiting friends and family in Indiana. Highlights of the week include sleepovers with the kids (being taught chess by a five-year-old is a trip), and anytime I spend with Billy. Which I do daily.

Despite his snobby phone demeanor, Billy has always been open to anything. It makes him fun to hang out with. His ken for the offbeat led to the discovery of the Quiet Corner near Churubusco.

What did he do now?

Busco, to the locals, is a bedroom community of 1000 located approximately 15 miles northwest of Fort Wayne.  It is surrounded by cornfields and Amish pastures that provide a pervasive waft of aromatic manure that is breathtaking.

Amongst the corn and the poop, Billy found a tea house surrounded by emptiness. It is octagonal shaped with a central dinning room for light, homemade lunches. For the dessert (or, more accurately, pie) course, one takes their coffee onto the screened-in porch and is served in a rocking chair.  You gaze directly into a wooded stand of forest 15 feet away. Rock me baby, rock me all night long.

Back in the day

Billy is one of the few friends who’s ever said they’ve found me to be a calming influence. So we feel right at home in Busco.  If it weren’t for the oppressive Christianity that is everywhere.

There are bible verses inscribed in the molding, atop the furniture, framed on the walls, included in the menu, posted on the lawn–you can’t fucking get away from them. The gift shop is nothing but.

Which brings us to the strange dance of denial that goes on between Christians and gays in the heartland. In the abstract we’re reviled. In the now, we’re loved–as long as we don’t bring the subject up.

For gays, the price of admission to the wonderful strangeness of places like Quiet Corner is to keep your mouth shut. It’s not the ideal solution but it works. For now. It obviously should not continue but we’ll have to pass that torch on to a new generation.

This trip we squared the country mile for about 45 minutes searching for our little piece of nothingness. There are no posted signs. When we finally happened on it we found, to our dismay, it was closed. Hopefully just for the season.

Billy refused to get out of the car to sit for a portrait. We settled instead for a selfie from the front seat of our Buick 6.

I’ve been charming older women since my days at Cantara Street Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley. I had my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Leventhal, wrapped around my little finger. I’m beginning to worry, however, this skill will atrophy. There aren’t too many left who fall into that demographic.

The talent was in full force on our first visit to the Quiet Corner seven years ago. As Billy and I entered the tea house that day, we were met by four elderly women on their way out. Brimming with excitement after their big adventure, one asked if I would mind taking their picture. Of course I wouldn’t.

When I handed the camera back to her, she thanked me repeatedly then added, “there will be jewels in your crown.”

How she knew about my pageant work I’ll never know.

Drive-by photo shooting.