Yes

John met Yoko in 1966 at her Indica Gallery Show in London. The conceptual piece he was intrigued by required him to climb a step ladder then use a magnifying glass to read a tiny word on the ceiling painting.

Those were different times. The corporate blandness of today’s culture with its numerous liability laws prevents one from participating in the type of dangerous behavior Ms. Ono encouraged.

With that lofty introduction one can almost feel the great art coming on. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just coming to the end of a two-and-a-half year decorating phase and tying up loose ends.

When The Joy of Man’s Desiring was hung last year (emphasis on the hung), I knew I had to finish it off with a proper setting. I finally got around to it last month. Joy now floats on his blanket above a sea of Vault from the Evans & Brown Treasure Collection. Accent lighting is provided from behind a shield of polyurathene.

This love affair with ceiling medallions has yet to gain acceptance with the Academy of Home Decoration Arts and Sciences. The deco appeal of the geometric shapes just hasn’t translated well when they’re on the wall.  When David from Boston was here he looked at the hexagon-split-in-half fixtures and said, “they look like rat traps.”

It’s the type of wicked aside that is so prized in my alternative lifestyle. This was no gratuitous queeniness, however, his message came through loud and clear. I was trying too hard and it wasn’t working.

I decided to make the hexagon whole by gluing it together and then tarted it up a bit. What I really wanted to cover it with was a black chainmail from New York that is $60 a yard. A little pricey for a novice who can’t sew. I settled instead for an electric lime sequinned piece from the discount bin at the fabric outlet. It was $4.83.

Rats are color blind I believe so this would be lost on them.

Sequins sewn on top of material are too two-dimensional and not really what I wanted. These baby ones are imbedded in netting that form one layer which lies flat. The color and texture are reminiscent of Monet’s moss floating at Giverny. The fabric feels right at home. My apartment often carries the stench of a polluted pond.

There’s a homemade quality to these things I do that makes me squirm. Mom’s got herself a zig-zag and she’s sewed some new rick-rack on her apron, ain’t it purdy? But, as with all my projects, there’s nothing to be gained by a close examination of the workmanship. I’m better at ideas than I am at execution.

To quell this self-doubt I settle myself by asking if the piece has the right impact. If it does, we move on. In this case, at least I’ve solved the problem of confused rodents scurrying around wondering, “hey, what’s this?”

To finish my light fixture I wanted a simple word like Yoko’s that packed some punch. I chose a four letter one that Bill Bryson, in his book The Mother Tongue, has called one of the most elastic in the english language. It can be used as an adverb, adjective, noun, verb or simply as an expletive. When used accurately, it can also describe a situation that is a lot of fun.

I shan’t say more as I’d hate to diminish the sense of discovery you’ll feel when you visit.

Jesus is not straight. Hung by fishing line he’s out of kilter and I’ve been unable to correct it. Facing a publishing deadline, I had to post as is. Will report back after he goes through his conversion therapy.

 

Down to the Crossroads

Every afternoon Grandmother would take a break to “pile down.” That was her term for a short nap, her favorite part of the day. When we were young we were expected to join her.

Sometimes she would sing “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” while my brother and I stifled our giggles. Her voice was a little warbly and a song about a dead goose seemed odd.

Naps were also a time for Prime Minister’s questions, we could ask anything. Once I wanted to know why, if “darn” was such a bad word to use, did so many people do it? Without hesitating she replied, “because they can’t think of the correct word to use.” For the record, I never heard her say darn.

She didn’t take many liberties with language. When a lighthearted mood struck writing a letter or diary entry, she sometimes succumbed to giddy contractions. Phrases like ’twill be good to see you, or ’tis another beautiful day. Other than those reckless moments of abandon, there were only two slang words she used regularly.

One was dope. It must have been an elastic, catch-all expression like “stuff” that was popular when she was in her teens and twenties. Among other things it’s what she called her homemade chocolate sauce. I enjoyed my friends’  astonished looks when Grandmother served ice cream and asked if they’d “like some dope with it.”

Her other word was chum which was reserved for a select group: her college girlfriends. When she talked about them I sensed they were special people from a wonderful time in her life. The expectation set, I entered Indiana University in September 1968.

It was fun the first two and a half years on campus although I felt lonely and isolated. I was getting by in my friends’ straight world and resigned myself to accepting it as the way life was going to be. Back then here were few context clues in rural Indiana of the subculture that awaited..

In March 1971 I was stalked by a tall, lanky and creepy journalism student, Harry. Unbeknownst to me, he’d trailed me a couple of months and knew my name, address, hometown and class schedule. To quote Pete Rose on Ty Cobb, he knew everything except my cock size. He found that out too.

Attracted more to the situation than him, I closed my eyes and thought of Fire Island. Nothing much came of that relationship except that he started introducing me around the community. Friendships grew rapidly, many forming on the spot with like-minded gay-boys. I was awakened.

Jim Jordan knew Harry and witnessed the whole pursuit and aftermath. He said mine was not so much a coming out as an explosion. Probably from the relief I felt upon realizing I was the only context clue I needed.  I could just be myself.

The joy I felt was accompanied by underlying sadness. College was a temporary state. In my childhood I’d been through enough school changes, neighborhood moves, and summer camps to know tight bonds can dissipate quickly.

I was a senior after five semesters, on track to graduate in three years if I went to summer school. Then I came out and it took five more terms to finish. Separation anxiety caused me to prolong the last year as long as I could.

The fear of losing friends was unfounded. Besides the fun most college kids experience, we were bound by something that changed American culture. While Harvey Milk remained in the closet protecting his job, our generation drew a line in the sand: this is who we are, take it or leave it.

*****

Along with his partner David, my college chum Dale visited San Francisco last week. He’s Grand Marshal of this year’s Boston Gay (plus 5–it’s dizzying how many initials it’s become) Pride Parade. They came to attend the memorial for Charley Brown, the husband of another chum, Mark.

They also were here to celebrate Dale’s 70th birthday, which we did Saturday night at Che Fico.  On Sunday, dinner was at our chum Eric’s house.

Our after-dinner entertainment that evening was to be Joan Crawford’s Humoresque which we’d all seen before. Over David’s spanakopita we shared hazy memories of the film: Issac Stern’s hand double role, the incredible cocktail shaker, the breaking glass. When Joan’s signature face-slapping came up, someone mentioned turning the other cheek.

Seizing a malapropism opportunity, I offered what was really said on the Mount: don’t retaliate just spread your cheeks. The table erupted in childish laughter. Coming up for air, Dale said moments like that were why he’s tolerated me for 50 years.

My whole life I’ve searched for the correct, or incorrect, word to use.

With Grandmother, 1954.