This Thing Called Courage

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Scream, Hester, Scream!

MY FRIEND CHRIS IN CALIFORNIA (as he was known for many years to my other friends, and still is, but who now actually lives in Roanoke, Virginia) has always had this thing with Nathaniel Hawthorne-- in fact one time when he was between things many years ago, he worked for me for a little while in my landscaping business. We didn't get off to the best start in that venture, as when I picked him up for the first day of work (it was late February, an early spring that year) he was dressed like Nathaniel Hawthorne. I said, 'where the F--- do you think you're going, a masquerade ball?' I was rather unpolished in those days-- not that I'm exactly Little Lord Fauntleroy now). We were working in a town called Easton then. When we got there I had to go get the chain sharpened for the chain saw, and left him a litany of chores to do in my absence. With each new command he got more and more bent out of shape, until he finally blurted, "And what are YOU going to do?' I said, 'Stand here with my thumb up my ass and watch you, if I choose to.' But somehow we made it work.

One night at the Ramrod, a rather dark and atmospheric watering hole that he liked and I couldn't stand, we discussed what Hawthorne and Melville would have made of that dreary place, with the heavy, grim cruising, the leathermen, the stink of B.O. and cigars, the Come-Drug-Me- F---Me music, etc. We concluded they would have thought it was hell. We had lots of time to kill on the long rides down to Easton and back, and in one of our more amusing conversations we concocted this scenario where a modern-day Hawthorne produces The Scarlett Letter, but a stupid publisher decides to market it as a salacious graphic novel. A week later the above illustration appeared in my mail, the proposed cover of said theoretical book (and I am reminded of the first cover Haworth sent me for A Map of the Harbor Islands, equally humorous if it had been a parody-- unfortunately, they were serious.) The artist was obviously Chris. My new computer has a scanner thing with it, and this was the first thing I scanned, as it was handy, and I think it's hysterical.
Today me and the other Chris took a beautiful hike in Happy Land and saw lots of Lady Slippers. It was some steamy, but much cooler in the forest, and the birds were trilling away like it was always spring and always would be. Tonight after me and Fionn's Big walk, I sat on the back steps and watched the fireflies come out. There are more of them out back this year than I can ever remember-- a good thing. Some of them seem to be a little orangey, while others are blue-ish. Different species, I suppose. It amazes me that thirty yards from roaring Main Street, there are these four acres of woods replete with birds, bats, fireflies, a fisher cat, a (possible) Holy Well, and (last year) a flock of a dozen wild turkeys. No one roaring by on four-lane Main Street, bass thumping in their SUV's, would ever believe it. I hardly believe it myself. Main Street is especially ugly in this section, with no street trees, lots of garish orange-brown sulphur lights, utility wires, ceaseless traffic, and, a little down the street, pizza parlors, nail salons, gas stations, and the other excresence of suburban sprawl. I decided it would be better not to hate Main Street so much, and to be part of the solution rather than the problem, so last year I dug up a three foot wide swath along the fifty feet length of the front wall, and began a perennial garden, so there would be something beautiful out there. In it are Stargazer Lilies, Milkweed (with the seed harvested from Happy Land), Hyperion Daylilies, White Swan Echinacea, Centaurea, Butterfly Bush, Bee Balm, and, for annuals, green zinnias ('Envy'), purple petunias, a gray ground cover whose name escapes and is at any rate unpronounceable by me, and a few pansies. Also a few things that I use to make my summer teas (a lovely ritual) such as lavender and mint. Over the winter I lost the half-dozen Lupines I had planted out there, which I got on Ebay. Perennials through the mail tend to be, like second marriages, the triumph of hope over experience. But I don't do Ebay anymore since I found out the lady who is the founder and CEO is a huge Mitt Romney donor. Sorry honey, you won't be getting another dime from me for that plastic-smile creep. The last thing this country needs is another egotistical rich boy on the make who's never had to work a day in his life and feels the poor ought to 'pull themselves up by their bootstraps.' In fact, I would much prefer (and I think it would be much better for all of us) if someone homeless became our next president. Certainly they could do no worse than the current bloodthirsty incompetent. George Bernard Shaw said he felt the world would be a much better place if women and children ran it, and I so agree with him on that one. And I don't mean a man in woman's clothing like Maggie Thatcher, or a political panther like Hillary (and is it one l's or two?) Yet I am not a hater of men-- on the contrary, I am a lover of men. Some years ago in P-Town I picked up this mag lying on a table while my friends were inside a store pursuing chotchkies (I'm sure I spelled that wrong) and in this very glossy and alleged high-brow mag there was this massive kiss-ass kow-tow puff piece on a sacred cow of a lesbian poet, with reams and reams of her dreadful verse quoted inside. Her puss was on the cover and she looked like she was sniffing dogshit-- why is it some people think it disempowers them when they smile? Or is it affection, the I'm-such-a-serious-artist-I-can't-smile thing? Anyway one of the lines in one of her poems was 'two fat faggots stuffing themselves at a restaurant while woman the world over work their asses off.' Or close enough. Not exactly Milton you'll agree but I was outraged by the free pass this kind of misanthropic, homophobic crap gets. It put, I suppose you could say, a bee in my bonnett (and is that one t or two?-- let's ask Hil/lary) and so I fired off a similar 'poem', had lots of copies of it made, and stuck it up on half the telephone poles in P-Town. In part it read: 'Two MASSIVE Bull Dykes eating everything in sight at a restaurant while men the world over get stiffed and have to pay alimony for lazy women.' (Of course I don't believe it, but with parody one must go for the jugular.) Surprisingly, I was never featured in that magazine. In fact someone or a number of someones ripped all my poems down. Not long after that, just for laughs, I sabotaged the bulletin board at the Bread and Circus in Cambridge (now Whole Foods), which the few times I was in there seemed the epicenter of self-entitled rudeness. My friend Scotty (from Hyde Park) and I used to go there after the gym. Apparently there are some things they teach in Southie that they don't in Cambridge, such as saying excuse me when you bump into someone with your shopping cart, asking someone to hand you something instead of rudely reaching in front of them, and NOT calling out your misbehaving children's pretentious names so loudly that half the store can hear you (Eliza! Chloe! Maximilian! Come to mother and help her find the Artisan Small-Batch Balsamic Vinegar!") Anyway they had this bulletin board where shoppers could leave postcard queries, and the manager or staff would get back to them and post an answer/response. There were scores of cards with questions tacked to the board there and one was more risible than the next. Most of them were absurd requests to accommodate the owner's paranoia, pretension, or prejudice. Anyway, I wrote one like this: I am on a very strict feminist diet, so can you please PLEASE set up a section of groceries that have not been besmirched EVER by man-hands? Thank you. Sandra Kleeman-Karp, Huron Avenue, Cambridge. On the other side of the bulletin board I posted another card that said, We are the Brotherhood of the Merry Membrum Virilis, and may not ingest food handled by women. Will you be carrying such items soon? Thank you, Phineas Pheelit, Central Square.
Can you guess which query was responded to, and which was ripped down?
Anyway, enough of the nonsense, as my grandmother would say. In the meantime we have fireflies, summer tea, people who love us, and, hopefully, our sense of humor.


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