Leo 29° (August 18)
Today was a horror show. Visitation from the Farmer turned ugly as he had a break with reality and screamed at us and accused us of things that were so far from truth. Not sure how much longer we will be able to sustain this and I’m already working out some kind of exit strategy so that we might live more in peace. In some ways it is a blessing since I no longer have to await the other shoe dropping—it happened. And now I no longer have to even make small talk. And should there be any refusal of renewal I will have the pleasure of seeing that process through. This is the end of all bullying in my life full stop. I am no longer available to it. I wondered why it was I pulled the Devil card for the first time after not pulling cards at all and this was my answer. Of course the farmer is a Capricorn to boot, the picture of the horned goat. Dead to me.
The following blocks of text are exceprts from my first year of Blagues, nos. 721-725. I am reading through all of my Blagues, five per day, and posting some samples here. Now, in my sixth year of writing this Blague, by the time I get to my seventh, I will have journeyed through all the daily Blagues of my first five years. If that’s confusing I apologize. Year seven, I’ll only have to read through year six, once a day.
From April 2017, afloat, as I recall:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To view the original Sabian Symbol themed 2015 Cosmic Blague corresponding to this day: Flashback! The degree point of the Sabian Symbol may at times be one degree higher than the one listed here. The Blague portrays the starting degree of for this day ( 0°, for instance), as I typically post in the morning, while the Sabian number corresponds to the end point (1°) of that same 0°-1° period. There are 360 degrees spread over 365/6 days per year—so they nearly, but not exactly, correlate.
Typos happen. I don’t have a proofreader. And I like to just write, post and go!
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