My Moral Corruption

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“How you said what you said was simply enchanting,” were the first words he ever said to me.

“I was awake, I was always awake,” were the last words.

And between these two bookends were almost thirty years of an on-again/off-again relationship which redefined the term love affair, and which did very little to boost my self-confidence.  Instead this. . .entanglement. . .often followed a beachpalsdreadfully antagonistic and well-rehearsed sequence of deplorable behavior: Vanish, spot, affirm, invite, tempt, yield, pity, agony, masquerade, endure, discredit, and pluck.   And each incarnation ripped yet another piece of moral character from me until sometime in the early nineties I concluded that we were no more to each other than a dealer and an addict, and he was always, always willing to deal, not out of compassion for me, but to satisfy some dark hunger, a craving, maybe a need.

Like anonymous chunks of an ice shelf, we broke apart and drifted away from each boy-in-bushother.  I finding love and partnership and success in Chicago.  He and his art landed in New York.  It wasn’t his drawings they placed atop acrylic pedestals.  For dollar bills he ignored their probing fingers; for five’s he forgot their foraging.  We never discussed the activities associated with higher denominations but he emphasized they were few and far between (“even for someone that looks like me!”), a thinly veiled plea for adoration of which I ignored and which subsequently produced a stifling silence as though the bridge between us had been washed away by indifference.

He enjoyed a modicum of success with a small band of go-go-boys that played the voyeuristic circuit of Greenwich bars, and infrequently out-of-town gigs took them to South Beach, Atlanta and, of course, Chicago.  But by that time his mother had passed, his baby brother didn’t want to farm, and his father sold all three hundred acres, outbuildings, and the triple-generation farmhouse and moved into town,  So when he was in Chicago it was all business; most of it public, but private parties were viceprisonerhands down the most lucrative (and dangerous).  His last trip to Chicago was a bona fide performance, secretly cast by the Chicago Vice Squad who raided the place and arrested the lot and charged them with indecency (the cheek dividing string of his g-string was 0.25″ too narrow to entirely cover his anus).  I was called and took clothes and cash and bailed him out of jail.  As the sun started to peek above Lake Michigan we were driving north on Lake Shore Drive when he said, “You know, I think it’s time to hang up the g-string.”

“Really?” I asked in disbelief, knowing (from years of personal experience) that posing whether still or sparkling was his only talent.

Staring out the window he replied, “Yup!  Problem is. . .”  Here it comes, I thought.  “Problem is, the cops kept it as evidence!”

We Think Alike, Our Pets and Us

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I have reason to believe that dogs aren’t aware of their size relative to the rest of the world. From the smallest breed to the largest there’s an obvious contradiction: the smaller breeds are the yappyist as though their bark implies, “C’monr! I’ll take y’all on! Me against 5 of you’s . . .” and their turf protection reminds me of the bully on the block. The larger breeds behave like Conscientious Objectors: demonstrating their reaction to conflict by staging a lay-in or sit-in. But I’ve determined that if you take a dog, remove its fur or hair, its legs, and its torso, a dog, fundamentally, is simply, a nose.

During one of our early autumnal walks, way past midafternoon’s march of the mothers to the elementary school followed by the pupil parade, two waning hours before dusk clocks in, we hit the abandoned sidewalk for Jenni’s thirty minutes of pure dogdom; when she’s not a pet, not part of the family, and not dependent on us. It’s her time to be a dog.

Often during our late afternoon, early autumnal walks we’re victims of late summer breeze’s giving way to staggering gusts which shake the trees like a determined child rattles his piggy bank. Green canopies disperse the shock while weaker, lower limbs lose grip. Cracking like brittle bones, the weakest branches drop like boat anchors, littering the ground with a menagerie of dissimilar limbs. Those few afternoons are beyond compare to play a rousing game of Stick!

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Stick! is a close cousin to fetch with one caveat: When I say Stick! Jenni’s got to find a stick to bring back to me! It’s a marvelous game, especially since I never taught her about sticks. Either Jenni understands English or I’ve picked up a bit of canine vocabulary.

On a particularly gloomy, chilly, and misty afternoon Jenni wished to play Stick! But the pickings were sparse until I located the perfect size stick for Jenni. However, it had threaded itself around three wrought iron spindles of a formidable fence. I bent down to pull the stick free from the fence and it didn’t budge. The harder I pulled the tighter it lodged itself into the fence. I paused for a moment to check on Jenni’s whereabouts, only to see that she had bitten down on the other end of the stick, and matching my determination, pulled even stronger when I successfully gained an inch on my end.

Age Calls It “Creative” Writing For a Reason

Upon graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting, my mentor, Mr. Arthur Giron cozied up to me and asked the question heard around the world: “Well, what are you going to do for the next twenty years?”  Cocksure and filled to the brim with inflamed enthusiasm and a bulwark of self-confidence, I smugly replied, “Why, be famous of course!”  I had a produceable play under one arm, a New York literary agent under the other; copies of my scripts being eyed by regional theaters all over the country, and a handful of positive reviews of my recent MainStage production; not-to-mention the sheepskin from a meritorious and first-string school like Carnegie Mellon!  I mean really, really, what else did he think I would do?  Mr. Giron shook his head slowly while he stroked and fiddled with his moustache: “You’re like a new-make-scotch-whisky.  You’ve been recently poured into your used cask where you’ll age or mature (meaning you’ll absorb the character of the ageing oak casks heretofore used to ferment sherry); and just like new-whisky’s alcohol content diminishing year by year, so will the strangulating auspices of your of fame and fortune.  The end result is a smooth, complex, and enigmatic author with the depth of character fossilized by year after year of life’s experience bearing down on talent; similar to pressure applied to coal produces diamonds.  In other words, my dear boy, now you’ve got to live life to its fullest, absorb as much as you can.  It’s from there, your experience of life from which you’ll withdraw the dark, dense, and curiously smooth depth.”

They couldn’t have told me that before I signed the promissory note for fifty thousand dollars to pay for two years of post-graduate education?

Mr. Giron’s soothsaying was brutally honest and absolutely true!  For the next twenty years I was given the cold-shoulder by most of the legitimate theatres in America; my New York agent dropped me because I was a one-trick pony (I had only one produceable scripts so when directors asked: “What else have you got?” she had nothing to offer.)  And soon thereafter I rendered my writing as the needless folly of starry-eyed twenty-somethings  young men and turned my attention to the corporate world, leaving my writing to rot in a trunk in the attic.