Going through my head: Knights in White Satin. I look it up, get a provenance. The Moody Blues. More goddam Englishmen mucking with phenomena they have only a distant connection to, more recrudescences of chichi Pre-Raphaelite bullshit.
I look it up. E minor. I can dig that. I go to the keyboard, pick out something like it, right away. Uh oh, it uses a Neapolitan chord. Hmm: I’m still trying to get my head around the Tristan chord. But mainly I’m thinking about chichi Pre-Raphaelite bullshit: the ’60s, Donovan, all these references to Arthur, to Guinevere. Knights in white satin, yuck.
I recently read a bunch of Arthur novels: Bernard Cornwell. I can see Cornwell’s Lancelot in satin, and lace; but not Arthur, not Merlin. I can’t even see half his heroic women in satin. Cornwell’s Lancelot though is chichi to the hilt, a pansy, a look-in-the-mirror fruit, it doesn’t matter how many redheaded scullions, or Guineveres, are in his bed.
There are knights who have worn statin: and lace: barons, and dukes too. King Louis XIV built Versailles so he could gather all his dangerous nobles into one big room, and keep his eye on them: and vitiate their ambitions, bankrupt their budgets, getting them to compete as to who could wear the most lace, be the silliest, the most vain.
To little pk Christianity was a rough and tumble religion. There was nothing chichi about my Jesus. No, no. The evil Catholic Church brought all of that in. Still, I was in college before I got a hint of homosexual overtones in fancy liturgy. “See my lace?” simpers the chichi priest, and his grownup altar boy.
When I was eighteen, nineteen, I was awful fag bait. I didn’t mean to be: had I known how to I would have tried not to be. There was this particular fag, Jack, Columbia grad student, followed me around. I’d run into him, try to run away from him, in the West End, downtown in the Whitehorse. He came into my room one night and put his hand under the sheet. I took to carrying weapons. Funny thing is, he backed off, and we became kind of friends: me wary, at a distance. Ironic friends. Ironically, it came about over a girl:
I was with my friends in the Olympia Restaurant, Broadway, 114ish. A frail, petite Bohemian chick came in, very Existential, whispered with the owner at the cash register. No make up, darkened eyes, tiny feet and ankles, and a red! riding! hood! except the “red” was, of course, black.
I went Glupp! my adams apple stuck in my throat.
(And man did I love Juliette Greco in those days, had a half-a-dozen albums, could sing half the songs along with her. Start me, I bet I could still do a couple.)
Then I’m in the West End, drinking my beer. Jack is several stools over, surrounded by faggots. In comes Little Red Riding Hood! She steps straight up to Jack. Jack looms over her, he bends close, she says something into his ear, she leaves. I march straight up to Jack, first time, ever. “Jack,” I say. “You know her!? Who is she?!” “Paul,” Jack says, “don’t tell me you’re in love with Robin!? She’s a dyke!” “You damn evil pervert. You pervert everything.” “Paul,” says Jack. “Robin is the biggest bulldyke in New York! And Paul,” he adds: “she’s not the femme; she’s the butch.”
(PS Thereafter, I’d be at parties, maybe down on Bleeker Street. There’d be a dozen beautiful girls. I’d be practicing the only seduction method I knew at the time, 1957, stand immobile, look “sensitive,” and wait for some chick to bite. Oh gosh, here comes Robin! In minutes she’d have every single female corralled against the wall. How does she do it? I didn’t stand a chance.
Anyway, thereafter I would talk to Jack on occasion. And he never again stalked me. I’m like a sophomore, he’s as I said, in grad school. So, he’s older, maybe I’ve aged past his would-be Lolita. And Jack is from different corridors of experience. Jack explains this and that to me.
|“Guy wants to suck your dick, guy is willing to pay you! Why don’t you do it? Next day you buy a Brooks Brothers suit, forget about it.”
“I could take you to parties. You’d hate it. Each guy has only one subject of conversation: his own dick.”
“Except for the chichi faggots: ‘See my lace?’ They live for the chasuble, or for altar boy garb.”
That was the first time I ever heard the word “chichi.” Jack explained to me, pleased to take the teacher’s role, that a chichi faggot wasn’t necessarily homosexual; what they had to be was chichi sensual, into the candelabra, the altar lace. Liberace and George.
I can’t hear these Sixties potheads talking about satin and lace and Guinevere of the royal court of Arthur without remembering Jack and his chichi faggots.
(I made no allegations about individuals in illustrative pix.)
PS again: It was Jack who would lecture everybody on correcting our diction to “gay.”
Uh uh. Not on your life. What? and lose much of the power of some of our greatest poetry? Read Yeats’ Lapis Lazli and see what I mean.
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay.
Gayety transfiguring all that dread.
Their ancient glittering eyes are gay.
I’ll come back and cite more. But see: Yeats is using the old meaning only. I hate to see it diluted, but am helpless to stop it.
Last word on Robin: I never spoke to her, never crossed eyes with her. But I’ll bet she knew about me, paid attention the way women do: without looking! You see I became friends of a sort, ironic friends, with Jan: Robin’s regular femme! She gave me back rubs, we’d watch the sun rise.
Jan did look like a dyke. Only these years later do I realize: so did Robin.
Correcting to Gay
1957, maybe 1958, the TV in the West End is showing the Academy Awards. Guggenheim is trying to play his incessant shuffle bowling, ball like a steel hockey puck. A lot of guys, maybe a majority of them queer, are screaming at Tab Hunter, “Get down from there, you faggot!” “Get outta there, you faggot.”
“Faggot” was uttered with toxic contempt. Like hearing a Jew tell the worst anti-Semite joke.
Funny, back on Long Island my friends said “fag” with hatred and contempt. I nearly never heard “fag” in NY: it was routinely “faggot”: hatred and contempt. and irony: since the one cursing was routinely guilty of his own characterization. Like me, grousing about white people.
I searched for “pre-Raphaelite” with a Rossetti in mind, but grabbed the one above, I’ll check who painted it later. Reminds me: last night I watched K*19: The Widowmaker. Some actress wearing woolen gloves crushes herself against the iron gate at the train station to blow kisses to her guy, going onto the nuke sub. How many in a regular theater audience would fall in love with that Kataya then and there? Me, for one. Blond! Uh, so what, zillions of blonds. No, this girl had juice: like the watery-eyed sad sack Raphaelite above.
I went out of my way to recall a couple of examples of chichi-Raphaelite lyrics. Now I’ve got ear worms full of them: and some of the songs. “The rustle of her gown on the marble staircase.” Oi ga’vultz. And I’m back with Cornwell’s Arthur.
Of course people don’t know shit about Arthur. The Celtls had living in the British Isles for a while. They had this and that tribe, all at each others throats one day, hunting, or ploughing around each other’s territories another. Fine. Suddenly Danes are raiding. Suddenly Saxons are underfoot. Then Normans show up!
So who was Arthur? I entirely buy Cornwell’s pic: let’s call the aborigines “Celts.” Some are Welch, some are Irish; not that there was any such thing as Irish or Welch at the time; just this and that tribe, these Hatfields, those McCoys. And over the hill were Scots, Picts … Peace one day, war the next. No, I’m no more an anthropologist than I am a historian: but I’m more right than wrong: and the general picture is important.
Meantime the Celts are spread all over the place: including on the “European” side the the Channel: Lancelot wasn’t from Wales (like Arthur); he was from Armorica: south, east: on the “French” side of things. But they were all from all of those places. And don’t forget, or rather, first learn: the Celts were all over the place until Rome decided to steal their salt mines: the Celts were squeezed into the corners after Rome stomped them: the way the US knocked me down and stole my internet: so you could have this egregious state-supervised fraud instead. I’m squeezed into corners, like a paste.
Check the map just linked: Armorica is spread more north and south than east and west. They wouldn’t have crossed seas ever day, but did regularly: “island” hoppers.
(Does anybody really know these things? Cornwell has studied it a lot, I’ve studied it a little, I absorb from him: and Kurlansky, and a bunch.) So: the Celts are doing whatever they do, once squashed by Rome: like what do blacks do in Africa if they’ve escaped the slavers? They can’t go home? Their home is destroyed. What do escaped blacks do in Mississippi? Go to Ohio? Take the train? What do they do there? What did the Swiss do after Caesar stomped them? Here come the Saxons. Uh … As Bryson puts it, one day you look out of your hovel and a bunch of Saxons are ploughing your back forty: what do you do about it? There’s three of them and two of you. Maybe you live and let live: you plough your front forty.
Whatever: there’s no damn rustling gown, no damn marble staircase. If the girl is wearing anything, it’s burlap, not satin.
Unless we take our Arthur from Mallory, and the Fifteenth Century: they would have had some marble, as they had horses, and armor, and tournaments.
Mark Twain has a funny story about a guy getting and getting rid of an ear worm: he “communicated” it to someone else: like plaming your toothache onto the gypsy. Stephen King uses the same old wives device is some novel: with gypsies.
Oi ga’vultz, I exclaimed above: how should I be spelling that? Surely anyone with a little Yiddish knows what I’m failing to parrot: “pain” something.
If Robin wasn’t aware of me bumping against her periphery, others were. One day I visit a friend on 112th in an elevator building. Big elevator. I get in, press the button. Suddenly a female in black holds the door. Dyke after dyke sidles in, all dressed in black: black leather, silver studs, black chinos. Finally the last of them is in, they let the door close, communicating to me: They are in charge. The door shuts. Simultaneously several switchblades click open.
But I had already decided: a decision I’ve made many times in other, related, circumstances: no matter what they did, I would do nothing.
Was I scared? I don’t think so: I was concentrating on doing nothing, betraying nothing. One of the dykes, a little one, a very young one, looked scared shitless though. I get off at my floor, they get off at my floor. I walk to my friend’s apartment, the dykes get back aboard the elevator, never saw them again.
I bet they went and got drunk and stoned and told each stories about how heroic they were.
To this day I don’t know? Did Robin send them? Did Jan send them? Or did they just snoop for themselves?
I’ll try soon to tell other stories of getting through mischief by doing nothing: skiing, blizzards, snakes, alligators, muggers … FBI …
2013 08 27 There, I like that, well enough, for a start. But how I started the other day was quite different:
|I’ve long loved music. I’m a natural dancer. I’ve been punished for both, still am.
Some of us get it in the neck just for being this or that. The girl reaches puberty: suddenly she’s a slut, a tramp. She lets her breasts show — actually, her breasts begin to show themselves, she has little to do with it — and she gets grounded, sent to the principal’s office, or the head nun, she’s locked in a cell till she’s far past being the prettiest thing around. Meantime, some other girl comes in her wake, shows her tits, gets on the magazine cover, gets in the middle of the magazine, gets to Hollywood, the whole world sees her tits … and she marries this playwright, that athlete, whores in the White House …
From the sixth grade I was so sexy on the dance floor, the music so expressed itself in my every joint, that the adults just stood there, embarrassed. That’s not how the society prepares its lawyers, its doctors, its engineers, its accountants … We don’t need enticements to breed, we already breed, way over-breed. Who needs little Knatz to breed? We’re not breeders, we’re Anglo-Puritans, Christian saints. We don’t breed, we get rich! We rule! We don’t tolerate that n-word (Bowdlerizing K. 2016 07 31) music; until we do: so long as it comes to us settled, in the 1960s, not raw: in the 1920s, 1950s … No, no: nothing’s been raw for a long time. Same old.
I tried to share my jazz in the 1950s, I got smacked: again and again. Then, at college, I met others who’d also been smacked. Some of them still did it anyway. But then they took those drugs: again and again.
How did I get here? This isn’t what I meant to write. Thee nights a week I got to the dance. I dance with my girlfriend, I dance with my other favorite partner, I dance with every widow who can stand up or be held up. I dance with a girl in a wheelchair who can’t stand up and can barely be held up. I hear old popular music over and over again, most of it music I once hated. Now my long-established avoidance of radio and TV don’t help, I still hear that music all the time.
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