Month: April 2017

Bum Part 1

Aries 21°

Boardwalk and 5th Ave. Pavilion, Belmar, N.J, NJ

There was a Cadillac for father’s escape every morning before I awoke, weekdays, and to bring him back home again after I was asleep at night. There was a Buick for mother to go to Stop & Shop and Sealfons, a dress shop in neighboring Ridgewood, and to have a boozy lunch at the Steve Wartendyke Inn where she would meet her decorator, Fred, the spitting image of Joel Grey, who carpeted, draped, fabric paneled, Italian tiled, door knobbed, linoleumed, painted, papered, corniced, sconced and labricaned and furnished all the rooms except for the would-be woodsy suburbanite rich kid. The interior of the house was frankly so beautiful, when one stepped into the otherwise ordinary looking cedar-shingled and suttered split level one had the sense of being truly transported.

Sister didn’t like eating with her brother—he must have put her off her food—so mother would feed them separatey, in shifts, and just drink her drinks and maybe eat late with father if he hadn’t already dined gluttonously on Steak Diane or some such post work with clients or his team of worshipful underthings, the only kind of underlings he could have; most likely he was fucking some new hire as rubbers could be found in his attaché case. But we were going to touch only briefly on the rich kid and get back to the beach bum so let us do that.

In the summer he only saw father, who stayed up north, on the weekends and not always then. So you can imagine how beachy and ultimately bummy things could get. With no watchful eye, mother drank increasingly, her own gaze not only naturally turning inward, now, but also veering off in different directions. Mother and sister separately seeked to get away with their own brand of murder and in time the beach bum followed suit, first in the 1910 six bedroom they rented two blocks from the beach and ultimately one they bought, which had seven bedrooms, one block from it. The first house belonged to a Pennsylvania family called the Traces. They weren’t Amish but they seemed like they were, all the boys having haircuts that looked like their father placed a bowl on their heac and cut around. They were in fact Catholic because the house was left to them by a late Monsignor friend of the family. The furniture looked like it belonged in a church. Everything was heavy and dark and overly carved and ornate. The wood surfaces, due to the salt air, could be scraped with your fingernail and cabinet doors and draws all had old fashioned keys in them; and when opened they gave off a heady whiff of age and repression and fear. There were crucifixes everywhere which will factor into a story that will happen a bit later, when the beach bum is eleven and he’s made to swear on these gory wall-hangings that he’ll never tell another living soul what is “about to happen.”

But for now, in the years leading up to that pivotal event he would awake, summers, and fix himself some cereal and grab his raft and head to the beach to meet Steven. On rainy days they would play Monopoly or hit the arcade. Steven found two abandon pidgeon babies and raised them. His plan was to teach Hawkeye and Chopper to be homing and carrier pidgeons. One of them pooped on the beach bum’s bare thigh. There was always a time, during the course of the summer, when he would need a break from Steven who was given to bullying in one way or another. The summer would often start out great, the pair sharing tales from the previous school year. Both were in school musicals, typically, and if they knew some songs in common they’d walk out to the end of one of the beach’s long jettys, sing on it and sing loudly to the sea. They would be taken by the mother and her gaggle of friends, all of them, too, from Jersey City, to Seaside Heights to ride the rides, eat frozen custard and suqirt water into clown heads in hopes of winning an ugly stuffed animal they’d never end up taking home. And those endless days of rafting and body surfing and the recovery time from chafed nipples or chestcolds from the constant water logging. They might build some fish nets out of old window screens and rub them with wet bread to capture some of the introduced fish in the man-made lake Como near their houses, which were only two blocks away. But soon they would tire of each other or one or the other would have visiting friends or cousins and be happy for the excuse to take some time apart.

Steven’s cousin T.J. would visit and that was always a natural break because Steven was strangely covetous of his time alone with his cousin, never sharing the experience, when the boys reached teen age this would be especially obvious. Many years later, decades after Steven’s death at the age of twenty-six, he would learn from Steven’s brother Barry some tidbits of information that cast some sensical light on the situation. Steven, who you might say was “all boy” had two older brothers, Barry and Michael. It would have been obvious to anyone who wasn’t eight years old, probably, that Barry and Michael were gay. Barry was the same age as sad Lisa and they had similar caustic personalities it seemed to the beach bum. He saw Barry treat Steven the same way Lisa treated him. Like an annoying non entity. Both Michael and Barry were seriously skinny, Michael in particular; and both wore binkini swimsuits and were rather hairy. You wouldn’t say they wore Speedos because that would suggest an athleticism. Michael looked like you could touch your middle finger to your thumb if you wrapped it around his bicep. He was tiny and lisped. Barry was quite tall and lithe and had the kind of terrible posture that would make a great female model. His sunk his chest, hunched his shoulders forward and jutted out his hips always collapsing into one side or other.

The first time the beach bum saw an avocado was at Steven’s house. He thought Steven’s father was foreign, from Israel he figured, not realizing that he could have a think Yiddish accent and be American. Steven’s mother ran the office of the biggest synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where Steven’s funeral would be prematurely held. Later in life he might describe Steven’s home and family environment as kibbutz-y. The household smacked of communal living. There were always huge bowls of fruits and vegetables, some looking exotic like the avocado—mangos, papayas and such that you might sometime see at the supermarket but never buy. During the week it was Steven and his brothers and his mother and her sister who might have been unmarried or maybe had a husband one never saw. There was Steven’s grandmother and her sister Bessie. Aunt Bessie. The bum called her Aunt Bessie and Steven’s grandmother grandma. Every day he climbed the steps to their front portch where they all sat in chairs or rockers, Grandma or Aunt Bessie would ask him, “how’s your sister?” Sometimes other great aunts would visit

Steven tormented his grandmother and Aunt Bessie but they didn’t know it. He would say obscene things to them to which they’d reply, “What honey?” Then he would make something up.

“I need a blowjob Aunt Bessie.”

“What Stevie, Honey?”

“My bike needs work. It needs a blow job.”

“That’s nice.”

Copyright 2017 Wheel Atelier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Split Level

Aries 20°

I’m sort of at a point where I can go anywhere so I’ll try to stick close the the storylines I began. Meanwhile, Libra is the seventh sign of the Zodiac and there are seven colors in a rainbow—Light through a prism. This is reflected in the renaissance character of the sign who on the shadow side might be dismissed as a dabbler or dilettante.

As I’ve said at the start of this suite of posts: I have been many people, at least seven, yet others have little to no idea of that. But hell is them. And so is heaven. At this point in the saga, there are two basic personas being performed, to remind you—the beach bum and the woodsy suburbanite which might also be called the rich kid; it isn’t truly accurate that the actor playing the character was a rich kid but he thought so at the time so it might still be fitting. We will focus on the beach bum for the most part in the next several posts; but just a few words, first, on the rich kid:

In 1972, at the age of eight, he moved into a four bedroom split level with a “rec room” and a sun room in a new development of an old Dutch town in New Jersey about fifty miles from the George Washington Bridge. He had already began piano lessons and was being clasically trained, perfomring recitals and competiting for ribbons and certificates of efficacy. That character was something of an offshoot. One might imagine, in the movie version, that his mother might be played by Sally Kellerman. Because it was in this regard, and in this regard only, that his real mother was pushy and unrelenting in her desire for him to practice and make her proud.

Anyway, he experienced a great deal of culture shock at first because he showed up in this town of Wyckoff with city wardrobe—kids back in Jersey City wore dress clothes to school; it wouldn’t be suprising to see them in vertical striped trousers and sometimes even sports coats. But for a good visual reference you might think of the way the kids dressed the first season on The Brady Bunch. In Wyckoff, kids wore Levi red tag 501s paried with Puma or Addidas trainers and either logo printed teeshirts or striped rugby shirts with pure wool sweaters, with accents of macrame bracelets, sometimes puca beads, all of which constituted a negligent rich-kid style. These new people played soccer, not stickball. They had basketball hoops on regulation poles instead of chain link garbage cans to sink the ball into. They played ice hockey not bottlecaps, the owned several tennis rackets with cat-gut strings and road skateboards. They wore ski-jackets and left their lift tickets on their zippers. The soundrack to life at this point was Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell and Jim Croce and Seals and Crofts, James Taylor, George Harrison not the tail end of Motown. These people didn’t know a Temptation from a Pip. They didn’t watch Soul Train. These more urban strains were fading fast into memory which, at eight years of age, can be distant in an instant.

I should back up a bit. Mother had a sister from whom she was estranged. When pregant with Light, mother got a call from her. Aunt said: You’re going to have a boy and he’ll be born on my birthday. She was right. Aunt was the Shadow light cast so Mother retreated and the burgeoning rich kid didn’t meet Aunt until he was aged thirteen, though he did receive gifts on their birthday. A good five years before that, while still in 1972, mother ran her shopping cart into her sister’s as Aunt had recently moved to the neighboring town of Franklin Lakes where sister was already a freshman at the regional highschool he too would one day attend.

In September 1972 I had my own room for the first time. It was tiny and featured a lot of plaid, which it always would, in various color schemes, over the next nine years. Still the room had to fit two twin beds because grandmother, Nanny, ” would have to share it about fifty percent of the time. Sister, on the other hand, had a large room with a double bed and all new furniture, yellow, with matching headboard, drapes, bedpreads and shag carpeting. She had a stero and Uncandles. Partly because whe was older, but mainly because she was a nasty, spoiled, sulky depressive, the parents were always overcompensating in hopes she’d lighten up but she only got darker and they not only stopped trying they changed tack completely and she became an outright target of a different kind than her brother. At this point he viewed her as a closed door at the end of the hallway sealed with a two-word spell—go away. The muffled sound of Cat Steven’s song Sad Lisa would play over and over on a near endless loop.

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Two From One

Aries 19°

Not Debbie, Diane nor Donna

Not Debbie, Diane nor Donna

I had been to the beach once, to Seaside, New Jersey, in the summer of 1967. I can still smell my first wiff of salt and the tarry smell of the piers and boardwalk. I was three and yet this might have been the first emergence of the performer, if not specifically, the vaudevillian.

We were visiting the Latillas, one of my favorite family friends of my parents. They had three daughters—Debbie, Diane and Donna—all with bright red hair. Donna, the youngest and funniest, was a good four years older than me. Diane, who was cool and athletic with freckles was my sister’s age, and Debbie, who looked a good deal like Deborah Walley, a young starlet, one of the Gidgets, who later played the daughter Susie on The Mothers In Law, was a few years older and seemed to personify the sixties with her portable 45s record player, hairbands and flower print bikinis.

These kinds of visits were tricky because you had three girls showering me with attention which the meanspirited sibling thought should have gone to her. No chance. I was a three-year-old who held adult conversations and was up on the latest crazes in television and music. The Monkees of course topped my list of favorite “artists.” I was a big Mickey Dolenz fan because he was the funniest and seemed to sing the best. But my favorite song in the summer of 1967, hands down, was A Little Bit of Soul by The Music Explosion. The lead singer looked like a redhaired Dolenz or, more accurately, the older brother of Johnny Whitaker, who played the little boy Jody on my favorite pathos-packed television show: Family Affair.

Not only did I know every word of A Little Bit of Soul but I had invented this dance to go with it. The dance had no real moves except locking my knees and kicking my lower body into the fastest shake, as if a blender were turned on in my nether regions, and then I would do different patterns with my arms not unlike one would dance the Macarena.

The first summer of the seventies was to be our last at the Skyline Club. Things were changing. 1971 began what would be decades of summers spent in Belmar, New Jersey. In 1972 we left Jersey City for the suburbs, moving to Wyckoff, New Jersey which had one black family that were “whiter” than we were. Suddenly the vaudevillian was killed by mitosis, splitting into two completely separate entities, the barefoot beach bum and the woodsy suburbanite. At various points over the next few years they might blend together only to polarize that much more completely.

The performer had had a circle of good male friends in Jersey City, many of those who attended school with him also spending summers at Skyline. His best friend was called Mark and the performer sought to spend as much time as possible with Mark who disappeared for what seemed like an endless spell due to a bout of rheumatic fever. There were a few boys who lived in the same complex of apartments but they tended to be a bit tougher. The performer’s closest companion there had been a tomboy called Jenny with whom he formed the PDPC (the pull down pants club) meetings of which entailed hiding in the bushes and showing you mine if you show me yours.

One tough kid, a year older, who lived in the apartments was called Steven. He was wild and hyperactive and could flip over the chain link fences that enclosed the patches of grace around the buildings like a cat. The thing about Steven was that his family spent summers in Belmar. So Steven became the only Jersey City kid with whom the beach bum kept in touch and meeting up each Memorial Day became a ritual that was repeated for two decades.

Belmar had been the beach the bum’s parents had frequented in their teens, since the train ran there from Hoboken. Belmar had a fairly wide boardwark that ran the length of the town and into Spring Lake in the southerly direction ending at Sea Girt and all the way through to the end of Asbury Park at Interlaken. Spring Lake was filled with mansions, many of them empty, a seventies ghost town of former turn-of-the-century glory. There were two giant hotels, mostly empty or abadoned, one maybe called The Monmouth, the other Essex & Sussex. In the guilded age, Spring Lake was like Newport Rhode Island. The Kennedys used to stay at the E & S—the town had a big rich Irish population. And even around teenage, girls used to come from Ireland in summers to work in the hotels. And the E & S had a ball each summer. When I attended in the 80s I wore something John Cryer would have in Pretty in Pink—a tuxedo with formal white jacket paired with red converse hightops and of course i had floppy hair and one drop earring.

But back to the early seventies and the mitosis. The beach bum never wore shoes. The soles of his feet were perpetually black. He wore hooded sweatshirts and overalls with pocket tees. He went rafting—that is riding waves on those yellow and blue sided canvas rafts—for twelve hours a day till his lungs ached with water log, preventing him from breathing in, and his nipples were rubbed raw, bleeding and scabbed by the constant friction of the unforgiving fabric. He was sent to shops on Ocean Avenue for cigarettes for his mother, Carleton, Salme, True Blue 100s. He swiped them and smoked them and took quarters from her purse and played skeeball and pinball in the town’s two arcades. One was tiny and around the corner on 8th and Ocean and relatively safe; the other on 14th and Ocean was a bit dangerous, rough kids mingling with troubled teenagers, a blend of surf and drug and petty crime culture. It would ba few years until the beach bum would go there, but eventually it would happen.

In the present, now,  the beach bum is in Belize. He’s done a bit of snorkeling and saw great schools of big silver fish which practically disappeared when they faced you the were so thin. They swam up to us like dogs wanting to play and be pet. Then we closely examined the tiny underwater worlds of plant life, each its own microcosm, wherein we spied real versions of Dory and Nemo playing with their friends.

 

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Aerodynamic

Aries 18°

A kid (not me) at the actual Skyline Club in the 1960s

A kid (not me) at the actual Skyline Club in the 1960s

Though the Van Pelts were lovely and kind to each other, the cartoon Lucy and Linus did remind the young vaudevillian of his own relationship with his mean-spirited sister, six years his senior. And given the fact that he was the object of affection by girls chasing him, Sally Brown’s pursuit of Linus seemed to sum that up as well. Linus had great expectations like Pip in, well, Great Expectations. He believed the Great Pumpkin would appear. An idealist. He gave great speeches like that on the true meaning of Christmas. So he seemed like he might be a Libra, too, ticking so many boxes about that sign—a little cartoon oracular god. One day the notion of researching the name Linus occured and, sure enough, he is a famous Greek orator and son of the god Apollo who energetically rules Libra. So that all made sense. But Lucy truly loved Linus and would do anything for him. The performer’s mean sister needed a psychologist—stat—though one would never trust her to be one.

The vaudevillian, as mentioned, was encouraged to act and impersonate—better to sing the Baloo songs from Jungle Book than, say, the Fairy Godmother song from Cinderella. And when it came to impersonations he was urged to stick to Cagney and Bogie and even Nixon and to cut Carol Channing and Mae West from the repetoir. When the family went to Disney world around when it first opened, and the performer went on the road, taking his first flight, Newark Airport was swarming with stewardesses in signature colors and styles of their respective airlines. Later, when he saw a Courrege fashion show he flashed back to this. But now, our, say, six-year-old vaudevillian started doing comic bits, suddenly turning to follow flocks of uniformed stewardesses like one of the— thank the gods never chasing them, whistling— Marx Brothers he was more subtly emulating, much to his patriarch’s delight. And by now he had added dancing to his act of heretofore comedy, impersonations and song, stopping short at magic or hypnotism.

At the Skyline Cabana Club in Jersey City, where the all Jews, Italians, Irish, Poles, Germans and other last hold outs before the great white exodus to the suburbs would ensue, the young vaudevillian had made quite a name for himself since he joined that summer club (think Coca Cola Kid) at the age of two. His mother made sure he was completely potty trained so he could be kept in some kiddy pool somewhere, baby-sat by some pimply teen. By five, he was in Day Camp but, so deep into his characters, he couldn’t stand being with people his own age. Kids. (He would sing that song from Bye Bye Birdie, as part of his Paul Lynde impersonation.) And he would escape Day Camp any chance he got to join the ladies day-drinking and playing cards by “the big pool” trying to keep it together enough for their husbands’ arrivals post work. He was constantly being bribed back to Camp with bubble gum. It was never Bazooka which he liked but Double Bubble which tasted like chalk, so these bargains never really took.

Each camp day ended with all the groups, a few per ages five through twelve, gathering in the “Teen Shack” to eat black and white ice cream with those wooden spoons that gave your tongue splinters and to sing Skyline’s anthem and then “Day is Done” which was to the tune of Taps, which was depressing. Meanwhile on the “patio” the band, all dressed in matching maroon or navy jackets with white shirts and little black bowties would be setting up their instruments. At 5’oclock, after Taps, the vaudevillian would run to the patio, sticky with a thousand spilled Cokes, as the band began to play The Alley Cat, oh so slowly, deliberately. He would drop his little AlItalia Bag his parents got on their trip to Rome in which he kept his damp towel, bathing suit and the noseplugs he never wore and began to dance—Ba dada da da da da dada da. Ba dada da da dada—aiming literally, to beat the band. It became a thing; and the arriving Dads and slightly or not so slightly loopy Moms would circle the patio to watch Little Billy, the name he was now using professionally, cause those musicians to sweat through their shirts and into their maroon or navy jackets before they even got through the first number, because the performer was blessed with speed and agility. His true Light self would get to surface without anyone really being the wiser and it would course, unseen, through his limbs and lift him an imperceptible millimeter off the ground so that he could step and spin and clap and turn and beat that band, ultimately, at the speed of him.

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Wardrobe!

Not Quite But Almost

Not Quite But Almost

 

Aries 17°

Visibly and vividly ashamed that Light seemed a little too much himself in his loafers, having tried to outfit him in sports-themed costumes like a footballer player, squeezing Light into jerseys, putting coal under his eyes, and slapping on a helmet so heavy Light’s wee neck could barely support it, he who had spawned what he considered the real monster could not see this Light through the trees of his own would-be shame and embarrassment. But the emergence of the new vaudevillian characeter gave the brute an idea.

We can’t teach him to throw or hit anything but we can dress him up neat and manage his new act, tailoring it in a direction that won’t further embarrass or disappoint; still it would take some doing. In the meantime, one might hang one of his drawings in the office, one of Fred or Barney or Dino; so long as it wasn’t Wilma or Betty or Pebbles. Even Bamm Bamm would be a no. And let’s never talk about the homemade paper dolls of America’s favorite prehistoric family. A yabba dabba doo too far. On the whole, though, the vaudevillian is giving us something to work with. A statement like that, delivered to Mother, would be met not with a blank but rather an inward focused stare, like someone in a trance, which, to be honest, she was for the majority of her life. Besides, she was resigned to the fact that nothing was ever up to her. She had all but lost the Light, now, but for perhaps in summer, sometimes, when she had more moments alone, needing to be stolen, always, from sister when she’d be preoccupied with friends, her relationships with which already exhibiting signs of psychological complexity and paranoia.

So gone were the Patrick Dennis rompers with matching caps which, now, at age five, are replaced with microadult garb: suits or slacks and jackets, both single and double breasted, and with solid or striped ties and shoes, both brogues and loafers, an hints of irony there being lost on the one dimensional mind of the executioner of this sudden makeover. Hair was straightened, side-parted, brushed and sprayed—”the dry look” courtesy of English Leather. This would all have been considered sophisticated and butch. The juvenile Vaudevillian did not argue but what he was told.

Somehow looking like a tiny town mayor had a funny effect—it drove the little girls at the vaudevillian’s school crazy.

The Jersey City school of the performer’s early apartment-dwelling life was about four blocks away, the last uphill. In sadistic fashion, he had be directed by his sister that he had to waituntil she reached on full bluck ahead of him before he could start walking to school himself. The girlfriends who accompanied her would steal concerned looks back at him and, given his new dry look, they were probably relieved as he seemed far less vulnerable outfitted like Nixon than he did as the boy in the tailored onsie whom one might readily call Pee Wee if, as a stranger, you saw him waiting, sad, for that one-city-block cushion against him to be established. His name was William and, when it came to cartoon characters he most loved, subconsciously identifying most with, Chilly Willy, the lost penquin who cried ice cubes when Bugs Bunny would agandon him in his quest to get back home to….”Hoboken?” (said with Mel Blanc alarm).

But the sadness soon wore off because every girl in kindergarten was in love with the little boy in the suit with the hair that never moved that smelled like they didn’t know what. Especially Simone. Simone was a tiny, gorgeous creature, an African American girl who, if she were to be cast in the act, or join the one-man-child cult, of mini adults might find herself being styled like Leslie Uggams or Barbara McNair. She was beautiful but it would have broken the spell for him to express have epressed that sentiment because Simone thought the performer was hard to get—if she only knew what was to become of him—and so she would chase him from the school, yard, down the hill all the way past Lolly’s Candy Store to the crossing guard at West Side and Audubon avenues in hopes of getting a good hug grip and landing a kiss which she actually managed to do about half the time. The performer’s costume shoes were inexpensive and used to kill his arches and by the time the bell rang at three o’clock he was nearly half crippled and couldn’t always get away fast enough.

From where he sits now he remembers for the first time ever the day Simone stopped chasing him. I think someone had a talk with her mother who had a talk with Simone because she seemed to switch from undying love to hate in a moment. But not before the day his mother got to slip in some costuming of her own in which she sent him to school without her husband’s knowledge: it was a full brown wet-look suit with a sort of snake or alligator pattern you could probably peel off, if you tried, like the finish of a bad faux snakeskin handbag. The trousers were shiny high-waisted bell bottoms, the jacket a short bomber style, fittingly paired with a white “silk” shirt that had a built-in aviator scarf at the color you could wrap around. Oh, and with a Jackson-Five style ghetto-newsie cap. Simone must have been a combination of excited and confused by the albino mini Michael Jackson (six years that child’s junior) who was born in 1958, same as Madonna and the vaudevillian’s evil sibling.

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Form The Act

Quick Fred Sketch from Today’s Blague Scratchpad

Aries 16°

As people are drawn to the Light and want to see and play with him, this makes the sister darkness so, so angry; especially, when the adoring pilgrims are her peers, other six-, seven-, eight-, nine-, ten, eleven-year old girls. I can speak now but what to say that won’t land me in more terrible trouble? I need a new role to play. I must drive my true, eternal character of Light ever inward pretending to bid it fast farewell and learn to play another more temporal role.

Enter the Performer, the first main gig of which was playing the character of juvenile vaudevillian. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh. In the late sixties and early seventies, genuine vaudevillians were in their own sixties seventies and eighties. Ed Sullivan was still on television, both presenting and preserving these acts intact. Variety shows were all the rage , as were holiday specials in that form. Laugh-In. The Smothers Brothers. Andy Williams. Bing Crosby. Bob Hope. They all played host to exciting new artists and stage-and-screen veterans alike. There were three major television networks. And the same pantheon of fading entertainment gods being suffled around by night in living color appeared by day, on the weekends, in old, younger black-and-white versions of themselves in edited movies from the thirties, forties and fifties; and the jevenile Vaudevillian would match the fresh newsprint faces with the leather, bloated colored ones in pastel polyesther suits and tuxes, and fuscia, lime and lemon gowns positioned against sparkling midnight blue and azure and gold and burgundy curtains or cutaway geometric cardboard set pieces, most typically in some sanitized take on a flower-power theme. One’s eyes were glued, no other options.

And as if that wasn’t enough: there were the impersonators, particularly those who performed on a syndicated show called The Copy Cats where the real aging stars were made into even more caricature than they already made of themselves. This was my in. I could imitate the imitators. And if my performance of the material wasn’t funny enough in its own right I could get laughs and attention, anyway, for the mere fact that I was a four-year-old attempting it. James Cagney. Jack Benny. Carol Channing. Richard Nixon. Liberace. Humphrey Bogart. Mae West. Groucho Marx. I would doo them all which secured smiling moments from an otherwise absent or maniacally raging sire. It was, like most things, lost on my mother who was still having an unspoken relationship with my previous Light incarnation, dressing him up—in navy or forest green or maroon one-piece jumpsuits, overall rompers that buttoned at the shoulder, over button-down shirts with Peter Pan collars in respectively pale shades of baby blue, mint green and let’s not call it pink; oh, with matching hat of navy, forest or maroon on some equestrian theme, with an under chinstrap that snaped closed at the ear like a jockey’s—to take him, after soft boiled eggs or a Carnation Instant Breakfast, to the post office, supermarket, bank, dress shop, shoe store, drug store, with its soda fountain (for a vanilla egg cream) and endless hours in the beauty parlor with fat, elderly ladies under giant dryers to be coiffed with giant headresses made of their own teased, sprayed hair. I would be oohed and ahhed over; but, for the most part, overt displays of affection were not shared between mother and Light. it was a cool casual affair of telepathic communication and easeful ritual agenda that ended, in any case, when, still at age four, he entered kindergarten where he played a now dual role. More on that a little later.

On weekends now, the only time he saw father who left for work, weekdays, before he awoke and returned well after his bedtime, he was the performer full stop, doing his impressions, patter between songs or carrols, depnding on the scenes, often tunes from his Disney movie compilation albums. Hi-Ho. Supercalifragilisticexpialadotious (which he could say backwards). Zip A Dee Do Dah. The Bare Necessities. Bibbity Boppity Boo. And he’d begun to free-style with his impressions adding Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn and all the Warner Bros. cartoon characters to his repetoire. He learned they were all voiced by the same man, Mel Blanc, whom he also noticed was listed as the voice of Barney Rubble in the credits of The Flintstones which he watched along with Lost in Space and I Love Lucy religiously after school before dinner. He not only added Barney Rubble, which could mistaken for Yogi Bear, to the act, but he began drawing all The Flintstones characters then cutting them out, coloring them on both sides, making his own version of paper dolls, allowing him a desired form of play without raising eyebrows or real wrath the way attempting to play with Barbies or other such figures might do; because waking the two beasts in his household was the absolute opposite of the plan which was: to evade, avoid and otherwise distract them.

It almost worked but there were unforseen downsides. For instance, he couldn’t have realized that Apollo was also the god of yet another abstract—talent—a word of worth and measure—a talent is a weight placed on one end of the scale to balance and measure what was on the other , so really very Libra Scales indeed. He wanted to lull the beats with a little razzle dazzle; he didn’t wish to anger the wicked sister by winning any praise from her preferred paternal parent who was finally finding a reason to brab about the vaudevillian cartoonist who had otherwise brought him nothing but shame and sadness.

“Typos Happen”
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I, Light

unnamedI, Light

Aries 15 °

So, okay, who am I…what are the selves I’ve kept cached…who have I been…where do I come from… Well, I shall tell you. Let me first say that it might be a Ligra male thing to seem “abstract” or “conceptual” to others—the Scales representing those forms in life, being the only inanimate symbol in the Zodiac—that is to say “unsubstantial”; but, all things being paradoxical, the opposite is also true: I for one have been so many selves, some by chance, some by accident, all as a necessary means of survival. I’ve inhabited so many characters in life it’s little wonder that, as an actor, I ended up playing relatively few roles.

It will take me days, weeks, months maybe to illustrate them all; but I think the doing of this might be the crux of this Cosmic Blague Mach III, as I am now in the third year of this venture (the second ending rather abruptly somewhere last June or November, can’t remember.)

The first character I played was indeed an abstract one, as if my earliest life were an allegorial play in which my character would surely have been called, quite simply, Light. This, too, befits the sign of Libra, the cardinal-air sign (translates to light) with its abstract archetypal god being Apollo, god of light and all symbolic abstractions thereof—goodness, reason, order, art, truth and prophesy, to name just several.

As Light my role was to personify goodness. And being strawberry blond with pale brown-yellow or golden eyes, I looked the part. I remember pre-language, knowing I was puregoodness—my favorite color was white like the apparel of angels, cherubs or classic infant immortals. I could have lived on all white food and often did: vanilla ice cream, shakes, malts, Maypo, white chocolate Easter bunnies, Jiffy Pop…Vichyssoise, Fettucine Alfredo…I was sent not to combat but to counteract and -balance the dark bitter chocolate forces of vice embodied most readily by my father (and his whole Italian family with their low thinking and their plastic slip covers, swarthy olive complexions, petty thievery, heavy thighs, excess body hair, bookie joints, poker chips, pungent antipasti, tripe and drama, deceit and constant deaths) and my wicked sister who blammed me for ruining our wall-to-wall carpet by letting the cap off a black magic marker, which seaped into a circular spread in all directions like her jealousy and her deception and her cruelty and her lies, knowing full well that I, pre language, didn’t yet have the words with which to defend or advocate for myself, and sickly relishing the fact that I, Light, would be abusefully punished, hit, an earth-struck angel in a pit of corporal punishment.

Light thus escaped out of his body, casting himself elsewhere, slipping out of this cruel worled ruled by sister darkness, through duvet covers and pillow cases and, yes, through wardrobes and sometimes walls, into timeless prismatic worlds of color for whole eternities, long enough, surely, to find respite and reappear with a plan to out-reason and out-fox and out-shine with whole inherent gleam, glamour, goodness, as a force thereof, biding terrestrial time until Light obtained the oracular power that was his birthright. Light’s terrible weaakness was his want to be loved by his tormentors, one of whom inhabited the twin bed on the other side of the room from his crib, the other pushed together with mother’s own twin bed in the next room. She, golden haired with alternately blue and green eyes, and fair, near blue with translucence, might have been Light’s only hope but she isn’t strong. She isn’t Light but Water, dissolution. She’ll stay, an almost willing captive, her phosphoresence but dim in the prevailing darkness so very like a jellyfish, and sometime medusa.

I had to wait, keep myself under a bushel, play dead, not shine yet…

Copyright 2017 Wheel Atelier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What’s My Line

Aries 14°

In astrology the first sign of Aries’ motto is “I am”. If I had any motivation to add to a sentence beginning “I am” the predicate would be “a poet.” Now that might sound hifalutin but I think you can be any kind of artist, creative, not only a writer, and be a poet. I happen to be a writer, for better or for worse, but even in that: my motivation to be poetic would be save space; that is to pack in as much information (if not meaning) in the use of as few words as possible. Poetry would be a shear expression of laziness for me.

I am trying to keep poetic economy in mind as I am currently writing a show. It’s a sort of warts-and-all affair. It’s the opposite of a Palimpsest the definition of which is: a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain; something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form. The main them of what I’m writing is hinges, instead, on the knowledge that what I’m putting down is actually wrong and left intact despite the fact.

Picking up from what I was saying in the previous blague I’ve come to a point in my life where I realize that most of the people who populate my experience have no idea who “I am” or whom I’ve been for that matter. And, for the record, I’ve done next to nothing to alter that fact.

I’m not terribly comfortable one-on-one with people—it makes me awfully self-conscious. I’m much better in a group (or on a stage or addressing an audience, like here, in writing). I’d venture to say that I’m ironically much more at ease being intimate in a forum of some kind. On stage, especially, is where I can reveal myself most intimately and thus provide a bunch of people truest insight into who “I am” all in one fell swoop. And have them pay me for it, which is a perk only in that I always donate all monies made by any theatrical venture back into my non-profit endeavors, which (as this sentence runs on) are designed primarily to help other artists find a stage, a live platform, from whence to create, perform, express themselves. So it pains me, I’d be a liar to say anything to the contrary, when people forget or don’t appreciate this fact.

But this is part and parcel of my current illumination on the subject of personal value: I have to up my worth game. But I digress.

I was talking about people not really knowing me or not stopping to wonder how I got here here. Who am I, anyway? Where did I come from? What were my past lives in this life, which have put me in this place where I help others so seemingly unassumingly?*

*In recent years when I’ve “acted out” or “up” it was typically because I felt overlooked, not recognized, such that causing scenes, playing scenarios, became the shadow side of taking stage, which I wasn’t doing enough.

But that’s my own fault. When we don’t take license we tend to “lose it.” But no regrets. Especially when it comes to people: I’ve never lost a true friend, though I have had a hand in pushing away people were placeholders thereof.

Copyright 2017 Wheel Atelier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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It Figures

I had a waffle today. And yet I feel less you-are-what-you-eat than I ever have. It is a total cosmic blague that I always seem to be at my chubbiest when I have to be wearing the least amout of clothing in front of the most amount of people. My weight has constantly fluctuated these last twenty-five years of my life but it really is true that, as you get older, you really have to limit your calorie intake. Especially when you’re five foot some-lie-of-inches. It’s easy to be confident when you’re in some kind of fit shape. That’s a cinch. What’s really a show of confidence is being on display when you’re more a blob. Now that takes strength of being and character.

Sean Bean was once nearly as fit as his name—that was my little bit of Gertrude Stein for you— and Thelma Ritter—she looks exactly like her name.

It seems that no matter how many days, weeks, I eat just soup for dinner I no longer lose the ten pounds standing between me and my ideal weight. Actually my ideal weight is ten pounds less than that but I’ve already jettisoned that lunacy capsule of hope to return to the poundage of my early twenties and am now settling for that of my early thirties.

So right now I’m on a boat off the coast of Belize and it is really hot and so I’m in my air conditioned cabin catching up on these poor belabored blagues, attempting to get through this particular one because I have two more already hand written waiting on deck. Not to belittle this one but it is something of filler I won’t lie. But I did figure I would just keep typing until something of seeming thematic importance were to arise from the black characters on white page.

Last night we had a Full Moon party on board and it was certainly was the most fun and weird and vivid of the nights. I didn’t wake up once and dreamed of ancient houses with cracked tile and giant wardrobes and vine covered walls. There were visitors all in red robes as if part of a commencement and we were having a bit of fun with them pretending the wardrobe was a secret elevator. None of this will make any sense to you.

Went to the Hemingway house in Key West on Sunday which it didn’t feel like. Failed to see much of the town but what I didn’t see I didn’t love. And forget it weather wise: I could never stand this level of humidity. I’m a dry heat queen for sure. Anyway, I can at least say I’ve been there. We are going to see some Mayan ruins and go swim with whale sharks. Yes sharks. But apparently they eat plankton (sp?) not people. I have to get my snorkel on. I dread trying to squeeze my pudge into a wet suit. Oh well.

Copyright 2017 Wheel Atelier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Get Up Stand Up

Aries 12°

It’s so important to get away with friends who remind you who you are. I don’t really have the benefit of being around folks who “knew me when”; most of the people who know me in my current life only do so superficially. Even (or especially) those I see most often these days. In the mirror of many people’s eyes we can’t help but become colored by what we feel is their perception aka misperception aka underestimation. We realize how we’ve allowed ourselves to be slowly whittled away. And then we reconnect with loved ones who see us as our best selves, not just our old selves, but also as people who are still realizing their full potential.

I once had a past-life regression session. It totally blew my mind. I flashed back to lives where I felt a sense of great status and authority. In my present life I was young and waiting tables. Having felt/remembered what it was like to feel a great sense of personal value, I quit my job waiting tables and started to expect more from my life, experience, and relationships.

I can’t say I outright envy people who are, and always have been, surrounded by large families or those who live in societies where they’ve had the same friends for long periods of time, but I do feel these characters are constantly reminded of their best selves, buoyed by loving expectation. In this sense, others support a strong sense of self when a rotating cast of characters can erode it.

I often feel like some deposed royal who had this formal life of grandeur, a fact that is lost on the characters peopling my new life where I don’t speak much to them of my past. And then, metaphorically speaking, there comes a time to pull the trunk out of the attic or haul it up from the basement, to start rummaging through the contents of ones previous existence, trying on garments of old glory, polishing the finery, outfitting oneself in ones true, original adornment.

It’s not healthy to feel unrecognized or undervalued; and its up to we, as individuals, to make sure said elements don’t ooze in. We must remember ourselves. And pinpoint where our giving has morphed into being taken advantage of and where allowed ourselves to depreciate. That is our fault. And we are reminded to outfit ourselves in our own true glittering glamour and to rise to our full height and not stand for others thoughts or behavior that don’t truly reflect our own true power and worth.

 

Copyright 2017 Wheel Atelier Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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