Of Egg Nog and Emesis

When writing about the past, the hardest thing to convey is context. People tend to apply today’s environment to what happened decades ago. Which can take a lot of the lead out of the storytelling pencil.

At the height of the counterculture in the early 1970s there was a real feeling of living subterranean. No one had a TV or read the newspapers. News came from a network of underground publications. Every major city or radical community had one. Bloomington’s was the Common Sense which I picked up religiously. I would go to the periodical reading room at the library to read the others.

There was a lack of urgency in getting news this way. Contributing reporters took advantage of seven day production schedules to write cogent articles. A couple of weeks later the out-of-town issues would eventually hit the IU library. Reading a well thought-out piece three weeks old seemed just as valuable as getting the news I needed to know NOW!

There was also a lot of absurdist humor in these papers. The Common Sense’s musical editor reviewed the movie Woodstock. Having attended, he thought the film didn’t begin to capture how boring the whole thing had been. He also observed that Alvin Lee’s facial expressions during his guitar solo were like those of an adolescent learning to masturbate.

The Common Sense ran a cartoon once mimicking the proliferation of ads for the new feminine hygiene products. Two girlfriends were chatting when one confided that her boyfriend said she did not smell fresh. Her bestie consoled her. “Oh honey, don’t worry about it. My boyfriend once told me my vagina smelled like the Holland Tunnel. Just try Summer’s Eve.”

The Los Angeles Free Press did a feature on their typical readers’ daily diaries. One was the zealous hour-by-hour, hectic recount of what a Women’s Libber might be doing. Another was how a spaced-out tie-dye freak organized his confused day. Then there was the junkie’s:

8:00 am – Wake Up
8:15 am – Shoot Up
9:00 am –
10:00 am –
11:00 am –
12:00 pm –
1:00 pm –
2:00 pm –
3:00 pm –
4:00 pm –
5:00 pm –

Growing up with three brothers I kept abreast of all sports and was an avid fan. In the late 60’s, however, I was completely divorced from that. Walking through the Union Building one autumn day the World Series was on in the community room. I stopped to watch for a minute and was shocked to see the Tigers were playing. Detroit hadn’t been to a Series in 30 years. I’d never thought of them as even being a contender.

In the days of the counterculture, the world seemed to be turned upside down. And I loved it.

Making fun of various institutions often betrays a longing to be a part of that institution. This was not the case with egg nog. It had all the caché of overstuffed club chairs and Christmases in Connecticut. No one I knew wanted that. There was fertile ground for a bunch of radical hippie fairies to take on a Republican Country Club mainstay.

The 1971 party was such a hit it became an annual event for the next seven years. Each one was unique and au courant which was reflected in the invitations. The event was never in the same venue twice. The first two parties were held in Bloomington, the next five in San Francisco. To add instant legendary status to the fete, the 1972 invitation included the tag line “Since 1971.”

An additional contradiction addressed with the first egg nog party was that, traditionally, it had such a disgusting taste. That was remedied by concocting a special blend of french vanilla ice cream, raw eggs, sugar, heavy cream and rum. For an extra kick, a few bottles of 151 Rum were thrown in.

Ingredients were measured in gallons, flats, and pounds then mixed in batches to be added to our punch bowl: a large Rubbermaid trash barrel set in a bath tub of ice water.  A dash of one can of nutmeg topped off this sure recipe for fun. And projectile vomiting.

The confection was so delicious guests downed them like milkshakes. Until the delayed double whammy of impaired speech and abandoned motor skills set in. Revelers became dizzy and passed out. They would be found the next morning in the lawn, on the back steps or at the curb. Pompeii-like victims collapsed in the hallway making desperate reaches for the front door knob. As if anyone would want to escape this inebriated nightmare.

Another day-after discovery was the vomit. It would be everywhere. The year the party was held at Jones Street the radiators were caked in it. It took months to clean up that blob.

Ahh, for the good times.

*******

Fifty years ago this month I participated in the first gay pride parade in Chicago. There I was with my buddies fighting for every inch of sand, trudging through the bloodied surf of Omaha Beach, explosions surrounding us—-whoops, reminiscences of the wrong brunch of hyper-sentimentalized old warrior dudes.

We were about a hundred that day who were essentially staking our territory, making our presence known. The other main objective was just to survive the march because we were only 10 miles from Cicero where white supremacists and Neo-Nazis loved to leave their mark on peaceful demonstrators. Plus, there were the memories of the police riot at the ’68 Democratic Convention…

By today’s standards it was a rather colorless display. If you overlook my long blonde mane and the micro-mini red hot pants I wore that barely contained my Johnson. But we did it and look what happened.

With that I’d like to wish every letter of the alphabet, as well as all of the plural pronouns (especially the “them thars”), a Happy Pride Month.

Open the Vault and click below to see:

Egg Nog Invitations

I Can See Clearly Now?

Yesterday began auspiciously enough with a visit to Davies Medical Center. A friend had been admitted with a little blood on the brain. He was dismissed later in the afternoon. He seems to be recovering nicely.

That was followed by a three hour nap then lovely libations at Aliment on Bush Street. We sat in one of those outside stalls built on the parking spaces. We were protected from rush hour traffic by 3/4 inch plywood.

In the well-lit late spring evening I walked home slightly drunk. The Tenderloin was still and perfect. On every corner was the corporatization of this once people-centric city.

There was hope in the street art however. So vibrant and sharp. It was all so good, too good in fact. One wonders if that was bought and paid for by Jamie Diamond as well.

I know he didn’t pay for that boy in his luscious short-shorts.

Right now, I can’t read too good, don’t send me no more letters no
Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row

Robbing Peter, Petering Paul

Coming out of the pandemic first annual year end malaise, today I happened on this song by Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl. It’s got a good beat, you can dance to it. I feel revived.

As I work on my valedictory for the preceding year, there are other signs of hope. I received my new passport and achieved a life long goal: I’ve always wanted to look like Mick or Iggy and now I do. We’re all old and haggard.

Get up off of that thing. Dance and you’ll feel better.

Sergeant Trumpnica

The Republican Party belatedly held their 2020 convention in January 2021. Here’s how it looked. And here’s to the party of Law & Order.

Click the play button for the full multi-media experience. Click on the picture to zoom in.

Feckless Chuck Schumer Puts It All in Perspective

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hailed the result in a speech today as “the largest and most bipartisan vote in any impeachment trial in history.”

A great day for those keeping score. Don’t ever forget this stat, it’s bound to come up in countless trivia contests.

For the rest of us seeking accountability and results, it will never happen with Democratic leadership [sic] like this.

Abolish Schumer!

Abolish Feinstein!

Abolish the Senate!

The Louis Vuitton Bowl: A Short Recap of Super Bowl LV

Raymond James Stadium as seen through the eyes of Oscar Mayer.

On this great day in human thought, where Iranian clerics are saying that Covid-19 is turning people gay and the Republican Party is arguing the Constitution is unconstitutional, I have no qualms about today’s post. Readers would think me remiss if I didn’t float at least one conspiracy theory about this hallowed tradition of billionaire greed.

The NFL is notorious for how it rapes local taxpayers then leaves them holding the bag. The Vuitton Bowl takes the cake.

One positive thing the NFL does do is boost local economies when a city hosts a super bowl. Revenues for hotels, restaurants, and anything else that is price gougeable all soar. It’s even known to be a boost to local massage parlors’ bottom lines. (How you doing Mr. Kraft? That doctor prescribed massage therapy still helping with the sciatica? What did that Orchids of Asia Happy Ending end up costing you, about $800,000 in legal fees to clear “your name?”)

So what do you do when a host city is left high and dry by a worldwide pandemic and all their investments in the event are for naught? You create a phony emotional rapture that is so all encompassing nobody mentions how much money the city lost.

How great that Tampa, who had never won a Super Bowl, is the first host city to appear in the big game. And then they win it!

UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our Nation’s Future

The frenzy to rename bases and tear down bronzes of Confederate Generals supposedly will rid us of our racist legacy. But it will never succeed unless the greatest monument of all, The United States Senate, is thrown on the trash heap too.

As we’ll see again in next week’s impeachment folly, there is no check or balance on the executive. This quaint 18th century notion that appealing to the integrity of a jury of Senators will somehow render a just decision has no basis in modern reality.  The jurors in the upcoming Senate trial are nothing more than partisan self-preservationists whose allegiances go to the highest bidder.

The Senate was devised to be the saucer that cooled the scorching tea in the House of Representative’s cup. Instead, it’s been the deep freeze storage that has cracked and shattered the entire porcelain tea service.

Lovers of the Constitution, i.e. beltway insiders, extoll its beauty. Like the drop dead gorgeous Electoral College. By granting electors based on Senate representation, it gives equal footing to all states and disenfranchises millions. A small state like Wyoming (population 500,000)  will receive two electors as will a large state like California (population 40,000,000). This gimmick was devised to empower Southern states so they’d join the fight against Mother Britain and stay in the union.

Then there’s the pulchritude of the 14th and 15th Amendments. With a wink, nod and all is forgiven to the Confederacy, as soon the amendments passed the Senate masterminded Jim Crow laws to neuter them. As further insurance they created the absurd filibuster rule that has enshrined the role of special interests over the will of the people ever since. All this to placate southerners. Why?

When we watch clips of the Civil Rights demonstrations in the 1950’s and 60’s there is always an expression of insane viciousness on the faces of the whites taunting blacks and protestors. This is not the contretemps of a neighbor’s tree shedding leaves in the yard. Or the tenants in 3B playing their music too loud. There’s a bloodthirstiness to these demonically possessed that is horrifying. And then the imagery just stops.

Was the Civil Rights Act so effective it wiped out racism in the South? Or did the media just stop covering the veiny neck visuals. What became of the children and grandchildren of these livid whites? Emotional traits running this deeply don’t just dissipate from a culture.

The descendants of those with the Mad Magazine contorted faces eschewed physical violence for the most part. It just wasn’t marketable. In its place they substituted the smiling faces that provided a more appealing cover for the economic and social oppression they levied on non-whites. And they joined the Republican Party. The fate of the Constitution now lies in their hands.

All the South has ever contributed to the national experience is racial hatred, gin blossoms and a rigged College Football Bowl system. There is Tennessee Williams, of course, but that is not nearly enough to offset the other three,

It’s time for states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, and the Pacific Regions to secede from the Union and merge with Canada. Leave the inbred wingnuts of Dixie and the Fruitless Plains to perfect their barbecue sauces, gun worship and schizoid conspiracy theories.

To foster unity amongst the peoples of this new republic I’m proposing a national sport called Hockbasey. It will combine the rules and, presumably, playing surfaces of Hockey and Baseball. Still thinking it through. The design and production of reinforced sticks that can double as bats has begun. Saskatoon Sluggers are scheduled to roll off production lines starting in early 2022.

250 years of pandering to beady-eyed ignorance is quite enough. It’s time to give our neighbors to the north and their resentment of the French a chance.

In my late teens my Granddad came up with a new nickname for me. He started to call me Senator. I’d like to think it was a tribute to my sense of fairness and the practical approach I used to accomplish things.

In retrospect, it was probably because he recognized a conniving opportunist whose fragile ego needed the constant reinforcement of hollow mass approval. The one thing missing in my life has been the lack of bidders to sell out to, high or low.

Alas, the highest rank I’ve ever risen to is the Royal Order of the DQELC (Drag Queen with an Extremely Limited Celebrity). But life isn’t over yet.

Feinstein is 87 and can’t hang on too much longer..

The Pride of the Bay Area

The best time for cheapest hotel rates and airfares is after an international catastrophe. Unless it’s a worldwide pandemic banning travel.

After 9/11 I booked a couple of trips. One was to Vienna in January knowing it would be snowy and cold. So is Dr. Zhivago. It was idyllic: warm soups, soft cheeses, no tourists.

There were serendipitous.things like a Francis Bacon/Velazquez show at the Kunsthistorisches. But other than daily walks, I didn’t want to leave the coziness of the hotel room and its personal butler in morning coat. I was staying at one of the world’s leading hotels, The Imperial, for next to nothing.

As a Californian the trip allowed me to use parts of my wardrobe that rarely saw daylight (which totaled five hours in Vienna that time of year). Like the Prada boots and Miyake overcoat. Underneath the garments, however, the bruises on my butt and legs told a different story. I can still hear my Mother’s trans-Atlantic scolding: “It doesn’t matter how good they look, you can’t wear leather soles in the snow.”

After leaving Vienna I visited Babara in London. I gifted her with a plush robe from the Imperial. Several years later she repaid me with my own personalized tour of Tampa where she’d moved.

In Pamplona with Barbara, chasing the bullshit.

Florida was a step down from London in terms of intellectual stimulation. But she had a beautiful condo and was close to her family so she made it work. Like Babe Paley mixing the good stuff with the dime store stuff, Barbara’s curiosity and spirit in experiencing  both the Fragonards and the parimutuel greyhounds were admirable

My individualized itinerary included the Egyptian restaurant in Clearwater run by Polish immigrants and a trip to Plant City home of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. The deep fried Snickers bars there were eaten with some difficulty.

Back in Tampa a trip to the original Hooters sadly had to be nixed. But at a traffic stop on Gandy Blvd. an unscheduled highlight was looking out the window to see a biker idling on his Harley. Behind him his chick’s hands clung loosely to his waist. The back of her t-shirt said simply:

DRINK
SMOKE
FUCK
RIDE

It looked like concrete poetry but read like a new form of haiku.

The trip to the dog racing park stood out above the rest. It was one of the most disgusting but fascinating sights ever. The sparse crowd was as depleted and scrawny as the canines that raced. Pregnant women blew cigarette smoke in the faces of the toddlers they were holding. A 45 year old grandma who looked 80 walked jaggedly with her severely hunched back. Probably the result of a drunken jet ski or trampoline mishap.

We were in and out of that track in 15 minutes. Like training a pup, to learn life’s lessons you sometimes need your snout rubbed in the soiled carpet.

On the trail of the Virgin, Mexico City.

My friends Kathy and Linda who I’ve traveled with often share this appetite for the odd ball. Like the sculpture park of Soviet-era monuments on the outskirts of Budapest. Or the human conveyor belt that whisked us past the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

But during our week in the Dominican Republic it looked like we’d be shut out of anything touristly unique. Our daily routine consisted of reading, going to the beach, scrabble over cocktails, having a nice dinner, then sleeping. We were quite happy with it.

In awe of the Vlad-man

As the week drew to a close we felt guilty for not doing one touristy thing. So we decided to act on the posters we’d laughed about all week. A chance to see the largest bull cajones in the Republic.

Our tour guide loaded us into the dirty flatbed of his old pickup. He spoke the international language of the carnival huckster using repeated “but firsts.” As we prepared to depart he psyched us up with a glowing description of the bull we were about to see. But first he wanted to stop at this farm with exotic snakes. Back in the truck we heard more about the marvelous bovine but first he wanted us to see this natural waterfall.

The falls was probably the best part of the tour. When he challenged us to jump off the cliff into the pool I couldn’t resist the dare. Bouncing along in a cloud of dust we continued to ascend the mountain but not before stopping at a roadside market for refreshments (so he could get his commission on the sales.) Finally our rickety climb in the ancient truck reached the summit and we saw the beast.

The poor animal looked like it hadn’t eaten since it wandered in from Calcutta. The emaciated gray body did accentuate the set he was swinging which, indeed, looked large. But then my degree is not in Bull Cajones so I may not be the person to ask about that.

Linda knee deep in Socialist Realism.

Fast forward to the present day where I will spare my readers the intimate details of an infection I’ve had. Suffice it to say it had me reminiscing about the wonder of Hispaniola. It was not painful just tender, swollen and annoying. The worst symptom was the flu-like malaise that kept me in bed most of the week with nothing to do but dream up blog entries like this one.

After a thorough (and stimulating!) ultrasound, my doctor found no trace of Lance Armstrong. He put me on an antibiotics regimen that seems to be doing the trick.

Keeping my distance as Kathy relives her Sunday school days. Handling snakes, wandering in and out of tongues, telling the story of Esther.

Speaking of stimulated packages, I do hope the Biden Pandemic Relief Bill passes. I’m anticipating a severe drop in revenues very soon and could use the cash.

The personal financial crash will coincide with my neighborhood’s collective sigh of relief. The unending stream of tourists jitneys and pickup trucks that has been circling and clogging traffic on Laguna Street will finally come to a halt.

Tortured Elegance Done Painlessly

Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.

Assembling my door of celebrity influence last Summer, people of the era who were important to our generation but not so much to me were not included. Like the Beatles or Martin Luther King. I preferred the Stones and Malcolm X. John & Yoko made it, however. And in place of King, Mahalia Jackson was substituted.

When I was young the adults watched their variety shows laden with jazzy night club acts I was not interested in. But when Mahalia was on the screen she commanded attention. Like Moira on Schitt’s Creek, she took words we all used but accented the wrong syllable or elongated them beyond recognition to invent her own new language.

Her dramatic style was mesmerizing. The grown-ups laughed when I mimicked her. Which taught me to use humor to buy time and deflect attention as I pursued my real agenda: I wanted to be her. She was so powerful.

Because of Mahalia’s artistry, her appeal only increased over time. She was not just another childhood icon quickly caught on to then discarded along the wayside.

She was near the podium at the Lincoln Memorial when King gave his speech. There was a story a few years ago how either new technology or a newly discovered tape gave a better sense of what was happening on stage as he spoke. It made it possible to decipher some of the ambient noise around him.

Mahalia knew his sermons well. When she felt he was starting to lag that day, in the background is her encouraging voice: “tell about the dream, Martin.” That’s all it took.

A portal to yesterday. And tomorrow. If it’s rockin’ don’t come knockin’.

I was a devotee of W, the monthly off-shoot of Women’s Wear Daily, since it first came out in 1972.  It wasn’t necessarily  about the things it covered, the fashion and home decorating items. It was more about the lives of the oversized personalities it exposed.

Having money helped in amassing objects, of course, but the intelligence the rarified few applied to what they did created ideas accessible to everyone. I still make the Coach House Bread Pudding and Fettucine Fredde Alla Pronto clipped from W’s pages fifty years ago.

The firmament included all of Truman Capote’s Swans as well as other wealthy women whose publicists worked overtime to get their names in print.  People like Mica Ertegun, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Vanderbilt, Betsy Bloomingdale, and Annette Reed.

This in turn begat subsequent sub-firmaments of dilittantes like Nancy Reagan and today’s Kardashians. These followers had the savvy to know which designers to collect and the money to buy their fashions. But their understanding of what they were purchasing went no deeper than the label.

In the early days of unimportant but important celebrities, however, a smattering stood head and shoulders above the rest.

I became aware of Mrs. William S. Paley when I read about Jackie’s Advisory Committee to restore the White House. In a group photo Jackie and Babe both stand out amongst the grey old men and dowdy Congressional wives in unfascinating hats. Jackie looked youthful and accessible. Babe’s matte finish perfection looked otherworldly.

She was asked to be on the Committee because she had connections and knew how to get things done. Babe also had money. She was counted on to make at least one major acquisition to donate to the White House.

I didn’t hear of her again until W came along. She was not a publicity hound although her quotes were always novel. My favorite was “you’ve got to be able to mix the good stuff with the dime store stuff.”

The Babe

Diana Vreeland said that elegance is denial. I interpreted it to mean have the courage of your convictions not to show all your cards at once. Hold something back especially if it was expected.

Whereas most society egos demanded the photographer make them look beautiful, Babe was happy to have her face obliterated if it helped the composition of the photo. She had an artist’s sense.

Vreeland was also at a Balenciaga show in Paris during the late 1950’s. Back then they were conducted in the intimate salons of the fashion houses. Not the corporate extravaganzas seen in today’s sports palaces.

The elegant simplicity of that collection stunned everyone. No one more so than Gloria Guinness. She was so overcome, Vreeland described her deep chair slouch slowly melting until her butt was just inches off the carpet.

G-L-O-R-I-A

Balenciaga not only mastered the simple line, he was also as haute as couture ever got.. The things that make the garment great were ones no one saw or cared about: hidden seams, weighted hems, boning and interfacing, cutting on the bias and impeccable lining.

Like the International Style of Architecture, a plain facade is the easiest thing in the world to knock off. But like those buildings, clothes that are not constructed with quality materials or a sound infrastructure will never present or endure like the original.

Gloria Guinness was the master of turning understated simplicity into drop dead gorgeousness. It was rumored she’d begun her climb up the ladder as a prostitute in her native Mexico. She never discussed it but neither did she go to great lengths to deny it. She just didn’t care.

When Aristotle Onassis was grieving the death of his only son in a plane crash, he and Jackie visited Gloria and Loel Guinness in their Acapulco home. Ari was in the anger stage of grief and tore into his wife over dinner one evening. “Why can’t you be more like Gloria? She’s pretty, she makes an effort. You just go around like a village peasant woman in your headscarfs and espadrilles.”

An understanding Jackie didn’t fight back: “You’re right, I should try to be more like Gloria.”

At the polar opposite of elegant simplicity was the flamboyant Jacqueline, Comtesse de Ribes. There was something mannishly odd about her look: tall and angular with a nose like a prehistoric bird. Rather than disguise these features she chose to incorporate them.

Her poses were filled with symmetry, discipline and artifice. She carried herself as if every second of her life was an Oscar-contending moment. She was too much. In a marvelous way.

When Brian had his dress shop at Fillmore and Bush he said the Comtesse had been in one afternoon with a Pacific Heights socialite. They weren’t introduced but he was adamant it was Jacqueline de Ribes. She picked out a few items then bought them under her friend’s name.

Brian wouldn’t line a garment if his life depended on it. So it’s hard to imagine her wearing one of his creations. She was chums, however, with many of the Paris designers. There might have been some appealing element she wanted to share with them so she might have bought items as samples.

Brian lied all of the time but never in a malicious way. He would invent stories to entertain me then deliver them in such a convincing manner. Most of them were not true but some were. So you never knew.

In an era where most gays were adopting the frou-frou Hollywood air kiss, Brian and I invented the JdR handshake. You slouched backwards as far as you could and then allowed the other person to clasp your extended hand. It worked best when one of the two greeters remained upright. If two slouched simultaneously you both had to have long arms.

Brian and I had long arms.