My Mama Pimped Me Out Well Before Misty’s Meth-Addicted Baby Daddy Dropped Her on the Corner of Hollywood & Vine

In my youth, a popular comic strip drawn by Stan Lynde called Rick O’Shay ran in the Billings Gazette. Oh, didn’t we chuckle at the exploits of that sheriff and the ragbag crew that staggered across the panels of his life. Lawsy, but we chortled at the antics of O’Shay’s preciously-monikered friends and colleagues in the Western town of Conniption: “Hipshot Percussion,” “Basil Metabolism,” “Quyat Burp,” and, of course, the Native-American “Crazy Quilt. ”

We could hardly wait for the 4:00 a.m. thump on the front porch that signaled the paper boy had delivered our daily dose of cowboy cartooning. Up we shot from our waterbeds, hurtling the Etch-A-Sketch, leaping the Clue gameboard, somersaulting the Lincoln Logs in our quest to be the first to scan that day’s strip. Would Crazy Quilt win the affections Chief Crazy Neck’s daughter Moonglow? Would Stan Lynde have managed to showcase the word “howsomever” in an entirely new way?

This was big stuff for us small fry.

Thus, you can imagine our excitement when a local Rick O’Shay contest was announced. Children from across our arid burg were invited to dress up as their favorite characters from the strip and submit to judging. The winner would win a plaque-ish thing and an interview on the local news. Because Sheriff Rick O’Shay admired nothing more than plaques and news, we knew our participation would please him.

Of course, when one is four years old, as I was at the time, one’s “favorite character” often amounts to “what Mom wants to dress her kid in.” Turns out, Mom had a feather and swimsuit that were itching for an outing, and in this fashion, my character was chosen.

Clearly, my heroic brother, who once held up both hands to stop oncoming traffic on a busy street so that I might cross safely, would be

Rick O’Shay

My five-year-old sister, with her love of shimmying to the tunes of Donny Osmond and organizing girls into teams for popsicle-eating contests, was a natural for the owner of the town’s dancehall:

Gaye Abandon, or, more precisely,
“Madame” Gaye Abandon

For me? Well, Mom had the swimsuit. She had the feather. She understood there was a strip involved. Somehow sensing my future love of pouring shots and sitting on laps, she decked me out as

Sally Forth, prostitute

Baby’s First Mug Shot

Despite my innate sense of modesty, I’ll have you know, friends, that the town of Billings had a Conniption over me. They melted at the sight of a four-year-old streetwalker, so full of promise, with her whole career in front of her. Particularly when my convincing whoreishness was contextualized during the judging, I was a standout: so fresh compared to those hardened 12-year-olds…so Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby…so able to rock the look of garter and heels and locket, the look of a girl who means to communicate “You can have me for ten minutes for twenty dollars; the back seat’s fine. And do you have any Barbies or an Easy-Bake oven?”

Sweet Heidi Fleiss, but you better believe I ended up on the news that night.

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Above the Horison: Postscript

Stop running away at the sight of this title, ya scaredy-blogger.

Really. I’m done exhausting and exhuming the story of my grandma and dad. But at this point, before I move back to the usual programming of posts that detail how Jessica Alba is somehow like a Shamrock Shake–and other random pop culturized profundities that are, in truth, what actually occupy my brain–I thought I’d squeeze one more drop out of this family tale.

By now, it’s not much more than a vanity project. Interestingly, the vanity has come about because–and hold your mullet here, Wayne!–I’ve actually learned how to use our scanner, and therefore I am veddy, veddy proud of my small, delicate, “copy-button”-pushing finger, the one what has bravely helped a host of old family photos to become computer friendly. Honest to Edison, before these past weeks, when I’d use pre-2004 photos on my blog, I’d just prop them up on the counter out on the back porch and take pictures of them that way. Good, old-fashioned digitization and all.

So as long as I’m feeling flush with pride over my techno-smarts, and so long as I’m struggling to grade the work of 90 online summer students and therefore have smallish writing time, and so long as we’re pondering family and how its members resonate through the generations, I thought I’d provide this mini-album of photos.

My dad? Was talented and pragmatic and gentle and awesome. My eight-year-old girl, who is talented in her own fashion but not necessarily musically, is doing her best to occasionally hit the right note and sporadically find the dominant beat. But she LOVES her music, as did my dad. And she’s definitely pragmatic and gentle and awesome.

Look at these two Beethovens, in photos taken decades apart. Legacy, indeed.

Dad at the wheel

Girl in her first recital, last weekend

Dad, as I remember him best

Girl, feelin’ groovy

Dad, in tails, directing his college choir

Girl, taking direction and managing to use her hands and voice simultaneously

And then.

There’s Wee Niblet Paco Dinko, the five-year-old here in the house. As resident goofa$$, he is clearly mine. But how, exactly, can he be traced back to my dad and that serious branch of the family?

This might be our only evidence of a relationship.

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Above the Horizon: Part the Last


My great-aunt Ethel and Grandma Dorothy as girls in Montan

The Saturday after his mother’s memorial service, my Finnish father, who would regularly answer the direct question of “What are you thinking right now?” with “I don’t know,” talked to me about his life. As it turns out, he was more than just my parent, the guy who mowed the lawn and directed choirs and churned out homemade pear walnut ice cream (using Thomas Jefferson’s recipe); he was a fully-historied human being with a holster of experiences I’d not known about.

Francis and Dorothy as a young couple, holding new baby Larry; my dad is the three-year-old in the front.

On that Saturday night, as Dad and I sat at the dining room table alone, I learned that my grandfather–reputed as gentle and taciturn in family lore–had, through wordless reproach, made my father feel stupid, even worthless, for my dad had the ill luck to be born with a beautiful tenor voice into a world where handwork was valued. On the ranch, that this boy, my young father, would someday sing Die Fledermaus was secondary to his inability to fix a broken combine.

My dad (looking a bit uncomfortable), my grandma Dorothy, my grandpa Francis, and my uncle Larry

Because of family expectations, my elegant, artistic dad spent his teen years on the back of a tractor, circling in the fields; it was then and there that he began to shout songs to the clouds, angling for any activity that would make the time pass and draw his attention from the worry of a mechanical breakdown–which would require he seek help from big men in dirt-covered overalls, men who would squint with quiet scorn at his “useless,” tapered pianist’s fingers.

That night, as words poured forth from my father, he admitted to me, “My father and I never had conflict. We always got along. But we were never close. In fact, Dad would never assign me chores or tell me what to do on the farm–I could have stayed in the house all day, as far as he was concerned. It was Mom who, to keep peace, would notice what needed doing and then send me out to work. I’ve noticed that Finnish families, maybe all Scandinavian families, are matriarchies in which the women take the initiative. And the men like it that way. They’re comfortable with letting someone else take the lead and make sure things get done; that’s one of the things I like best about your mother and what my dad liked best about my mom.”

Awash in my dad’s reflections, I also learned that after high school, Dad was going to attend the University of Montana-Missoula but first won a scholarship for the summer to Billings Business School for being the 3rd-fastest typist in the state. So he took shorthand there and a vocabulary-building class in the mornings. He lived that summer just outside of Billings on his Aunt Louise’s farm (she who sang “How Great Thou Art” at the memorial), where he slept in the bunkhouse with his cousin Stanley. Everyday, Louise made my dad a lunch to take to school: a baloney sandwich. Part of the agreement about his living in Billings that summer and being released from ranch chores was that he would have to work, so he got a job with Service Candy and spent his afternoons filling vending machines with candy and cigarettes.

Then, one day, Phillip Turner, the conductor of the choir at the private liberal arts college in Billings, Rocky Mountain College, came into Service Candy and said he’d heard about my dad’s voice (from whom, no one knows) and asked that he consider attending Rocky that fall. When Dad said that he already had a scholarship to attend the university in Missoula, and he needed that money, Mr. Turner pointed out that Rocky had a “valedictorian scholarship” for $300, and my dad would qualify for that. Thus, in the July before he started college, my dad changed his plans. Grandma liked the idea of Rocky, as it was a church-affiliated college. With her approval, his course was reoriented.

A year later, having completed his freshman year at Rocky, Dad was ready to get away from Billings–more accurately, to get away from the ranch that was a mere 40 miles from Billings, a place he was still dutybound to each weekend, a place with an endless expectation of willing work. Plotting his escape, my dad applied to three Minnesota schools (liking the fact that his dad had grown up there): Hamline, Macalester, and Carleton. Ultimately, he decided on Hamline…but his folks told him he couldn’t go–they’d not help him.

He said he was going anyway. And he did.

For the next three years, every semester, just when Dad didn’t know how he would pay the tuition, a check for $500, the exact amount of tuition, would come in the mail from his mother, my grandma Dorothy. Even thirty-five years later, both of Dorothy’s sons remembered fondly, “If it weren’t for Mom’s egg money, we never would have gone to college.”



years and then in a professional picture a few years later

My dad during the Hamline

If it weren’t for my father’s talking that night in the wake of his mother’s death, I never would have known that my grandma, the woman who, at the end of her life, needed an elevating chair to help her stand up, had loved to dance. My grandfather would not dance, being too shy, but while he leaned against the wall, she would circle ’round the floor at the dances held in the local schoolhouse, turning, swirling with other fellows in the community, a fact that made her two sons elbow each other and snigger that another man was touching their mother, and she was having fun at it, too.

Because of the words her death inspired in my father that night, I don’t picture Grandma Dorothy in heaven as I remember her on earth–sitting in a purple recliner with an oxygen tank next to her, complaining of dizziness, elevated blood sugar, shortness of breath.

Instead, I see her younger,

more vital,

kicking up her heels

against the backdrop of a broad Montana horizon

as she waits for her cows to come Home.

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Above the Horizon III

In the hour before the church service that would publicly memorialize my grandmother, we immediate family members left the windy cemetery and headed back to her bungalow, where she had lived since moving off the ranch more than thirty years earlier. As we all rattled around in her house, eating bars and leaning against her kitchen counters just as we had in adolescence, I had a few minutes to consider my cousins and who they’d become.

Strangely, although I grew up close to these cousins, geographically, they always felt distant, perhaps because their father’s life had diverged so dramatically from my own father’s. These two sons of Dorothy always got along, always remained companions to each other, yet one, my uncle Larry, followed the life of ranching and eventually long-haul trucking. On the other hand, my dad became a choral conductor and opera singer. At best, their common ground was yodeling.

As well, my dad had one wife in his lifetime, while Larry had several, eventually ending up with three children of varying parentage and, for awhile, a fourth–a step-daughter who remained in his life as long as his marriage to her mother did. Ultimately, I was left with three cousins: Shelley, Mary, and Luke. They weren’t given every opportunity, and none of them had a constant mother. In fact, Shelley and Mary’s mother left them when they were toddlers to return to her “career” tending bar in a casino. At that point, it was my grandma Dorothy who stepped in and essentially raised those girls.

Thus, it made sense, on a day of memorial for Dorothy, that I would look to Shelley and Mary’s lives as evidence of Grandma’s impact. Mary, who lived with Grandma even through the rebellious years of high school, had attended cosmetology school before marrying. Her husband’s job took them to Nevada for some years, to a place Mary hated so much that she finally looked up one day and said, “God, if you get me out of Nevada, I’m yours forever.” Damned if God and his minions didn’t get her husband transferred to Washington, causing Mary and the Lord to strike up a little thing on the side. Luckily, Mary found a way to merge her two passions in life: she shaves “PTL” (as in “Praise the Lord”) into the hair on the back of her sons’ heads–or, in more spartan months, just a cross. You have no idea how much it pained me to type that previous sentence, incidentally.

Less shackled to her faith and her razor, Shelley, too, married well and is raising successful children. Luke, like the girls, was largely brought up by my grandma; he entered the service and likes nothing more than restoring old cars and, speculation has it, growing marijuana. While I have hardly any relationship with these cousins today, due to our lack of anything in common (blank looks greeted me the one time I ventured a “So, read any good books lately?”), I took a minute, leaning against the counter, to marvel at these cousins, and I credit my grandma with giving them the wherewithal to resist taking up knives in their adulthood and randomly stabbing people who might be loitering outside the Rockvale Cafe, waiting for a booth for five. Indeed, I had a little moment, there by the frying pan in Grandma’s kitchen, watching a box elder bug crawl along the linoleum, one in which my bar-fueled brain had a flash: with family in the midst of grief, it doesn’t necessarily matter if people have a lot in common–just one commonality can carry the day.

After an hour of kitchen chat and gnosh, we wiped the crumbs off our chins and went to the memorial service at the Lutheran church. At the front of the church, an 8″ x 10″ photo of my grandma presided up front, which struck the worst part of me as a little hokey, but it ended up being quite affecting–it felt very personal to be confronted with Grandma’s steady gaze as the pastor spoke of her life on the plains, about her always knowing if even one of the cows was missing at the end of the day–not because she knew how many cows there were but because she recognized each of their faces–and about her being a helpmate to my grandpa.

Even more, the pastor talked of my grandma’s last days, as her health faded. When she entered the hospital, she just wanted to “go home.” Later, when she was moved to an assisted-care facility, she was sure it was just a matter of time before she would go home. But my dad knew her stay there would be until the end, which turned out to be only two days. He felt guilty about that. Thus, when the pastor finally said, “Now Dorothy has gone Home,” fluttering shudders of sobbing passed through my dad. Sitting next to him, pressed against him, with no gusts of wind to distract me, I eyed the hymnals and hoped my left thigh felt warm.

Most moving was when the soloist sang “How Great Thou Art.” My grandma’s older sister, Louise, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for seven years and was living in a memory-care home. By the time of Dorothy’s death, Louise did not recognize any family members, except sometimes my mom (not a blood relation…but occasionally she would pull my mom to her and ask, “Who are all these people?” when her sisters were visiting). We had not thought Louise would be at the service that day and, in fact, were unaware that one of her daughters had brought her–until that song. The soloist’s notes rang through the church, but after the first measure, he had a partner in Louise. Her voice, little used, croaked out the song along with him from her pew; she warbled a final duet. Strikingly, she’d forgotten everything else, from her own children to how to tie her shoes, but she remembered her hymns. For everyone in the room, it was humbling. After the service, greeting us over coffee in the basement of the church, Louise’s daughter announced proudly, “Mom never did need a songbook.”

As we made the rounds during the post-service reception, I grasped how important it was that I had made the trip to Montana, despite my initial reservations. With my sister in the Peace Corps in Moldova at that time, and my Air Forcean brother stationed overseas, too, I was Dad’s only kid that day. My father was not terribly touchy, but he kept me firmly by his side throughout the coffee hour, introducing me to every passing soul. At one point, my dad’s 8th grade teacher, Miss Huddleston, came up with her twin, Velma. I asked Miss Huddleston if my dad had been a good student for her. “Oh, yes, he played the piano for our class so nicely!” I pressed her further: “You mean he never misbehaved?” She assured me, “Oh, not Donnie! He was always very well behaved. But that Larry was another story…”

After the memorial service, we went back to Grandma’s house, where Mary and Shelley’s families were staying. We ate deli meats. We watched the kids play Nintendo. We sneaked glances at interesting bits of inheritance. We marveled at how much Stuff a person can fit into closets (Grandma never threw away a letter or card; she kept every aluminum top off of every yogurt she ate; she didn’t throw away milk containers; she had underwear in her dresser that was nothing more than shreds of fabric woven together with safety pins). We leafed through photographs, wondering who some of those faces belonged to, wondering why our mothers had let us wear such hideous orange-striped pants in the ’70s,

and we wondered if the presence of these pictures in her house had kept Grandma firm on the earth,

even when she’d left them in drawers for years,

even when her eyesight had failed.

Grandpa, Grandma, Larry, and my dad (looking rather fey)

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Above the Horizon II

(my grandma, Dorothy, third from the left, surrounded by her sisters in 1951; she was 36 in this photo, 5 years younger than I am now. Sweet Carol Channing, but I’m actually holding up pretty well. This is also the photo that one of my favorite large galpals once spotted hanging on the wall, a photo that caused her to holler out, “All I see is a line of breasts and hips; you didn’t stand a chance did you, hon?”)

“Above the Horizon: Part Two”

We both interred and memorialized Grandma Dorothy on January 13th of 1999.


By day’s end, any self-possession I’d started out with had been adroitly flayed by the Ginsu knife that was my dad’s grief. His face had such a beautiful composition of lies and planes and dignity and character, and at the gravesite that day, during the interring of his mother’s ashes, all those lines crumpled upon themselves into the most terrible mask of agony.

He affected me so much that I couldn’t bear to look at him, for fear I’d have to drop to the frozen ground and pound my fists with the pain of seeing my uncomplaining, silent father attempting to keep his composure. Instead, I gloried at the backdrop of the Beartooth Mountains–a view that would prove sustaining when I stood in the same spot four years later, in February of 2003, interring my dad’s ashes next to those of his father, mother, and brother–and then distractedly browsed the surrounding tombstones, musing at how many Finns were buried on this Western plains hill. The sole thing that commanded my attention entirely was the unrelenting torrent of wind, a wind that caused the lanky pastor to yell out his words, lest they be blown away before reaching our ears.

His vestments flapping in the wind like Grandma’s laundry had, the pastor stood, raised, on the cement outline of the family plot and asked if anyone wanted to add some words of rememberance. For a few minutes, it was silent.

Then, of the eighteen immediates huddled in a bunch against the blasting gusts, those least disposed to words spoke up. First, my grandma’s niece (my dad’s cousin), Sandy, contributed, “Dorothy was a kind lady.” From there, Dorothy’s sister, my great-aunt Ethel, observed, “She was a hard worker.” It was Ethel who, alongside Dorothy, had milked the ranch’s 80 dairy cows, morning and night, throughout their childhood. In such a case, being yoked to a “hard worker” was good fortune, indeed.

Furthering the tribute, my grandma’s youngest sister, Ruthie, agreed: “She worked hard. And she was unselfish. She cared.”

After that, no one else spoke. At the time, I fretted about the lack of commemorative words, thinking that at my gravesite–at anyone’s gravesite–there should be inspired, seemingly-spontaneous, even lengthy words of regret and ongoing devotion; for myself, I fancy a mass outpouring of bereavement, a stampede of verbal processing, so heartfelt that the sky will hear and know that I had been below it for even a short while.

However, my hard-working, unselfish grandma would not have countenanced or even understood such a luxury of words and public emotion. A few carefully-measured sentences, stoically acknowledged, were more than full tribute for this deceased.

After the graveside interment, we had about an hour before the memorial service proper.

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Above the Horizon I


I never felt particularly close to my paternal grandmother. She was pessimistic; she groused that I sat on the couch and read too much (“Don’t you ever go outside?”); and the candy jar in her living room only ever housed lemon drops and restaurant-style peppermint circles, which are the Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt of the candy world: ubiquitous and completely without redemption.

However, she knew how to cook a goose, and I respected the fact that she was–and remains–the only person I’ve ever known who could actually cook my goose (and trust me, it’s needed a good basting on occasion). Also, she was, fundamentally, a good person, and especially in junior high, a big part of me understood that finding a fundamentally good person was a rarity. I didn’t “get” Grandma–we’d never hitch up into a shoulder-to-shoulder percolation of “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang–we’d never hip hop the hippie the hippie to the hip hip hop, a you don’t stop the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.

But Grandma was all right.

In the 7th grade, when I was assigned a biology project to collect and identify a slew of wildflowers, it was my grandma (having never sat on the couch and read all day thanks to the 80 cows on her Montana ranch with bulbous udders that had them lowing for relief twice a day) who walked the acres with me, plucking flowers out of the ground and handing them over for cataloguing with a terse, “Think this one’s called Shepherd’s Purse.”

So when she died in January of 1999, at the age of 83, her passing meant something. On a deeply personal level, I wasn’t affected, to tell you true. But she was emblematic of something bygone, and that fact moves me still.

She died in Montana, a handful of miles from her birthplace: a sod dugout on the family ranch, that passle of acres where she spent the majority of her life milking cows, feeding cows, cooking beans to feed the pigs, baking pies to sell to local restaurants. At 18, she married a Finn, and they raised two sons on their ranch of nearly a thousand acres (small stakes in Montana terms). In sum, she was a classic 20th Century Western woman, placing value on work and work again over words and emotions and how big and open the sky loomed above.

Despite my recognition that Grandma had represented something classic, her death came just as I was facing the first week of a new semester, just as personal debt was at an all-time high, just as I was willing to acknowledge that I had never felt intensely linked to this grandmother. I wasn’t sure I’d be flying to Montana to attend her funeral.

Then a sage, in the form of a friend, planted herself firmly in front of my head-down horizon and made my flight to Billings possible, telling me, “Funerals and the like, these kind of things are more important than you know. I think you need to go do this.”

I made my way to Billings to find that my friend had been smack-on right. On that trip, I found that, even though I hadn’t felt a one-on-one connection with Grandma Dorothy, I could, after her death, appreciate anew all those she had left behind, the crazy-quilt of individuals who were patched together due to her life, stitched more tightly in her absence.

Wednesday, January 13th, 1999, was my grandma’s day of memorial.

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Token Diet

Loathing my general wideness, I decided to try out “The Subway Diet.” It worked for that Jared dude, after all, and he looked pretty trim and tidy wearing his khakis and specs in all those commercials. So I committed to the Subway.

But damn if I couldn’t choke down all those metal parts. The sliding doors gagged me, and those resistant passenger seats just wouldn’t break down, no matter how long I chewed.

After I broke a toof and gained approximately one subterranean ton of weight, I abandoned it as hopeless. I don’t know which the hell transit system that Jared was munching on, but it sure wasn’t the high-fat retired-Chicago-El cars that I was parceling out onto my dinner plate, bolt by bolt.

Why is dieting always so complicated? All I’d really wanted was a diet where I could eat a sandwich–turkey on wheat, piled high with veggies, perhaps.

Now I’ve got a spare tire hanging around my middle and a pile of shocks and plexiglass windows hanging out in my crisper drawer.

The good news is that I’ve just caught wind of something called the “South Beach” diet. Feeling optimistic, I’m thinking that sucking down a gruel of sand has got to be more gratifying than choking on a salad of screws ever was.

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California’s Recent Legalization of Gay Marriage

“In Which Jim, Who Has Previously Guest Blogged in This Space, Suggests His Lack of a Boyfriend Might Affect His Views on Social Issues, Specifically the State of California’s Recent Legalization of Gay Marriage”
So, yea, my pal Jim (aka iJim) used to live in Duluth; he was my boss. Tired of the town and the faculty he oversaw, for we are a wearying lot, Jim packed up his crisp white shirts last year and moved to Palm Springs, California, where he’d taken a job as a dean at a more-arid institution. In his estimation, this was a move up. After all, he was fleeing Duluth’s Northwoodsy fellas who wear red plaid flannel to weddings and heading towards a desert that was raining men sporting tight tank tops.
Nearly a year after his move Westward, Jim takes stock of his new state. He writes:
Jocelyn’s fans want to know: what does iJim think of the gay marriage ruling in California?

What’s that? You didn’t ask. Well, that’s fine, ‘cause I don’t care very much either way.

Well, that’s how I felt at first. Sure, this is historic. And so I changed my Facebook status to: iJim is “excited about gay marriage in California, although he’s received no offers.” Many of my friends are really excited about it. Many of my coupled friends.

It’s exciting for those who have a non-US-born partner (Tim and Alistair, Claire and Barbara). Or those without health insurance who might now be able to add them to their policies (Bob and James). Now that I think of it, there are more of these couples than I realized.

But for me–eh.

Maybe it’s because I’m new to California. Had this happened in my former home of Minnesota, I’d be more interested. I’d certainly be more surprised.

Plus I live in Palm Springs, where it’s 104 degrees. It’s hard to get worked up about anything in this heat. And I feel a bit remote, at least two hours from a real city. If I were in Los Angeles, where there was a rally at the corner of San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevard, I’d probably go. But just to look at the boys.

Or maybe it’s because I’m single and bitter. Maybe I can’t see anything except through the lens of how this affects me today. But I’m not bitter. And not that self-centered. But if I had a boyfriend…

In graduate school, I thought I was Radical Queerrr. Didn’t believe in monogamy. (A shy guy, I practiced it by default.) Didn’t believe in “mimicking heterosexual social structures.” I wrote one or more screeds on the topic. I think I was just cynical then. I was certainly on the early path to Curmudgeonville, where I now blissfully reside next to Joce. (Call me Gloomeo.)

I didn’t believe that the state (or the State) had any business sanctioning one type of relationship over another. I still believe this. A majority (4 to 3) of the California Supreme Court sort of agreed, saying the state had no “compelling interest” in recognizing straight marriage and not gay marriage.

The decision also decrees that California must recognize gay marriages performed in other states. Maybe that will apply to Canadian marriages, too. David and Daniel will be glad. (Daniel will say he’s “fuckin’ ecstatic.” He may even use his jazz hands.) They got married in Vancouver and live in California.

And, you don’t have to be a resident of California to get gay-married in California. Will Palm Springs be the gay-marriage Las Vegas? Drive-in gay-wedding chapels with Cher impersonators officiating. I shudder.

Yet. The decision goes even further. According to the Los Angeles Times: “The majority opinion, by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, declared that any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation will from this point on be constitutionally suspect in California in the same way as laws that discriminate by race or gender, making the state’s high court the first in the nation to adopt such a stringent standard.” (,0,6182317.story)

So before I go too far into raining on the “marriage equality” parade, I should think about the ramifications. Court rulings are about establishing precedent and, as Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, about protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

Already, there is a movement in California to get an anti-gay-marriage clause into the constitution. Given that the state has a long history of silly propositions being approved by the public, they just might win.

That would be wrong.

That would be, as Christopher Isherwood put it, living under “the heterosexual dictatorship.”

So maybe I care after all.

Now, about that boyfriend…

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What Color Are My Parachute Pants?

It all started with the brown rice.

There was a muttered conversation with Groom, a little talk that went something like, “Yea, okay, we eat a cow a week, so maybe sometimes we need to compensate by ingesting something uber healthy, like, you know, whole-wheat pasta.”

Then we ate some whole-wheat pasta, and pretty quickly I decided I’d rather suck shag carpet through a twirly straw than ever eat another bowl of that whole-wheat schmutz.

So we held to The Principle but moved to brown rice. As Groomeo cooked it up that first night, I twitched around the kitchen, stomach growling, wondering what in the world of ultimate nachos I’d be having for dinner after my obligatory taste of the brown rice, which would, doubtlessly, be followed by dramatic retching into the garbage disposal.


It seems.

When you cook up brown rice and then top it with–and Nostradamus never predicted this in all his crystal ballifying–stir-fried bok choy and soy sauce, it’s

how you say

somewhat less than


to the point that it’s

hella good.

Nowadays, when the menu is announced, and the words “brown rice and bok choy” are uttered, I do one of my specialized and intricately-choreographed versions of the Happy Dance: the one that goes jazz hands, chasse, chasse, chasse, high kick, standing-half-moon, all capped off with a quick cherry-picker.

As I stand there, curtsying, accepting bouquets, panting, I sometimes think, “Me head is a leetle woozy here. There is some serious identity shifting going on. What’s happened to the old ‘If it ain’t fried in powdered sugar and topped with bacon whipped cream, I ain’t eatin’ it’ Jocelyn of yore?” Truth is, I hardly know myself.

Complicating things is the ongoing Polenta Polemic.

Groom lived for a short while in one of those Carolinas y’all keep down there. While hallucinating in the humidity, he learned to love some funky mush dish called “grits.” No, not pronounced “oatmeal Jell-o.” Try this: “g-r-e-e-e-e-t-z.” Yes, that’s it.

So throughout our marriage, he has sometimes pointed to the sky and shouted, “Look, Joce, a flying hamburger” and then, while I’m distracted out there with my butterfly net, leaping around trying to snag the thing, he has quietly hied off to the stovetop and made busy there, only to be discovered some time later (when I whomp in, dragging my net behind me, looking very disappointed), his head dipped into a saucepan, a wooden spoon hovering in his big paw, his mouth coated in hominal flakes. He tries to look guilty, but mostly he looks supremely blissed out and as though he’s just realized he married the wrong semi-solid.

In the interests of us developing a few common interests that might sustain the marriage once the kids grow up and head off to cosmetology school, I agreed last month to try–NO, not grits, that bitch–but polenta, the Bergdorf version of grits.

Swat me to next Wednesday, but polenta is ambrosial.

It might have something to do with all that butter and the fact that His Groomitude cracks some eggs on top and bakes the whole thing into a “hold me, Mommy, for I need comfort food” lather.

At any rate, I find myself in off moments, of which I have a satchelful, dreaming of the polenta. I want to fill the bathtub with it and exfoliate with great vigor. Then I want to eat everything in the bathtub with a small spoon and finish off by licking the porcelain dry.

Yea, it’s ugly-bad like that.

This whole business of changing and adapting and tolerating new pleasures, well, it’s broadcasting into me a freaked-out noise. I mean, who am I, if I’m not a Double-Stuf-chugging, flank-steak-snarfing, Cheeto-deodorant-wearing whore?

It actually gets worse.

Just tonight, as I was typing up this little note to you, Aunt Hepzibah, I was streaming a little tv on the old laptop, as diversion from my own words (lest I find my self tiresome). Before I knew it, I was grunting at the selected program, “Why do you call it cha-cha-cha, Announcer Man? Isn’t it just the cha-cha?”

And then.

I realized.

It was 10 p.m. on a Saturday night.

And I wasn’t anywhere near the mosh pit at First Avenue (or, better yet, its smarter younger sister, the Seventh Street Entry), nor was I wearing a pair of Docs and a New York Dolls t-shirt, trying to bum a smoke off the guy at the sound board.

Rather, on this Saturday night, I was alone, tucked under the covers, clad in yoga pants,


Worse yet, I was weighing in with opinions–and how could I not, what with the appalling state of Crisitan de la Fuente’s posture? Stand up, Senor, if you hope to earn the 10’s!

Ultimately, I guess my point here, dear Hepzibah, is that brown rice is a gateway lifestyle slider. You let the brown rice in, and you’re just a sneeze away from polenta, just a whiffle away from texting in your vote for Kristi Yamaguchi’s jive.

Resist the brown, hipsters. Resist the brown.

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 In an age when Kevin Federline sets the standard as a guy to admire, I’m feelin’ the need to go all revolutionary like Mr. Muscle Oven Cleaner did back in the ’70s and take a moment to set the bar just a tidge higher.

I can up your K-Fed, culturepeople, and his name is My Cousin Kurt.

The adventures of my road-kill-hound cousin have hit this space before, but, with his latest, I’m afraid he may have garnered Reccuring Supporting Character status on this blog.

Sure, he scrapes moose off the highway; he’s a dragonfly expert (yea, he’s written a book proving his odonatic knowledge); he builds rustic furniture; he has his teen-aged daughter amusing herself with throwing an atlatl out back of the log house he built…

( This is not My Cousin Kurt, nor is it his teen-aged daughter. But it is an atlatl. If you needed this explanation, is it possible you’re kind of dim?)

…but that stuff is so My Cousin Kurt that it hardly bears mentioning in a tribute about why I rank him above Britney’s ex.

Here’s the source of my abiding admiration:

Last year, one of his daughters was given an audio card–you know, one of those really annoying cards that blares a song every time you open it.

First opening of the card, and the song blares out? How cute! Ain’t that just.

Second opening of the card, same song? A little drumbeat on the table.

Third opening–what, again? A sense that it’s time to move on and open the next present.

Fourth opening, fer chrissakes? An actual request to stop. opening. the. card.

Fifth freaking opening in two minutes? An exasperated exhale and mounting blood pressure.

Sixth #$%^&&(* opening? A sense of slipping sanity and dialing up one’s inner sociopath.

Oh, did I forget to mention that the song being played with every opening of the card, in the case of My Cousin Kurt’s kid, was “The Chickendance”?

To give him credit, he made it longer than Dick Cheney would have.

But then, My Cousin, my pal, my boy

finally took “The Chickendance” card out front of the house

and shot it.

My hero.

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