Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Hannah tweeted that she had never told anyone other than a few close friends this, but three years earlier, during her freshman year of college, she’d had an abortion during her tenth week of pregnancy, her first pregnancy, and that she considered choosing to undergo that health-care procedure the best decision of her life, because that decision prevented her from having an unwanted child and more likely than not making that child’s life miserable because the child would have symbolized Hannah’s thwarted ambitions, resulting in, despite Hannah’s best intentions, sheer loathing of said child, not to mention sheer self-loathing; now Hannah could finish college and pursue a career and care for any wanted children she might someday bring into the world.
After that tweet, however, her brother Logan somehow found out which clinic she had used. He then sued the clinic under Texas law—she lived in Austin, he in Abilene—for performing an abortion after six weeks. He won his case, receiving a ten-thousand dollar reward, as the law allowed, and helping drive the clinic, one of the few that still performed abortions in that state, out of business, though by the time the clinic closed permanently, she had stopped speaking to him, had even blocked him on social media, though after their father’s funeral in Abilene, standing alone by the grave, the first time they’d seen each other in eight years, she did mutter “Hey” to him. Without exchanging a greeting, Logan told her nothing personal about that abortion stuff, he had never really cared one way or the other that she’d terminated her pregnancy, and he still didn’t care, but he’d needed to pay off the rest of his pickup truck loan, totaling ten grand coincidentally enough, a pretty good pickup, no mechanical issues unlike his previous trucks, plus the finance company had kept harassing him, even threatening to sue him. Sorry.
She found him more reprehensible than ever but, Goddess help her, for the first time since the lawsuit, also sort of sympathetic. He never could budget his money. And as she knew from personal experience, sticking to a budget in this capitalist economy posed myriad difficulties.
The musical combo Sparks once released a song called “Tryouts for the Human Race” and an album called Balls, though neither product has inspired the following fiction-related content from Matthews Creative Industries, a subsidiary of Stinky Sam’s Used Llama Emporium.
“Y’wanna know why the Democrats are gonna lose big this election day?”
“Nope. They’re too freaking nice. Republicans, on the other hand, are mean as hell. Even when they look nice, they always act like they wanna stomp your balls into the ground, no matter who you are. But voters don’t mind. If you’re mean, you usually have power, and voters love power. They respect power. No PC crap, just punch down and punch hard.”
“Sounds a little like S&M.”
“It’s a lot like S&M.”
“Right. So how about you? Do you like having your balls stomped into the ground?”
“No. I wanna keep them healthy. I might have children someday.”
My mother the Baptist fanatic, who hadn’t spoken to me since I’d come out as a gay man eighteen years earlier, left me a voicemail telling me that with “the passage of time,” she now accepted my “lifestyle” and hoped we could “patch things up as soon as possible.”
“All right, Mom, what do you want?” I asked when I called her a week later (as soon as possible by my standards).
“Nothing,” she replied. “I’ve changed.”
I agreed to meet her for lunch sometime.
“She must have eaten her first pussy,” my husband speculated later.
If so, hooray for new experiences, though rebooting a relationship can make you pine for the previous script and its well-rehearsed predictability.
Stopping at Target and seeing the empty shelves due to the COVID-related supply chain disruptions, I joked to my girlfriend that we lived in the Eastern Bloc now, causing her to respond in a non-joking manner that good thing we had, in her words, “turned into Blocheads,” because, first, the American desire for cheap, bountiful consumer products had driven down wages and destroyed the environment; and, second, those Communist countries at least had generous social programs and no, again in her words, “religious crap,” though of course other crap had existed. Every ideology has its crap, she added matter-of-factly. (She’d taken Cold War History in college, taught by a professor so radical, he wore ragged jeans to class.)
Regarding the romantic relationship between a fifteen-year-old boy and a twenty-five-year-old woman, the routine sexual harassment, and the Caucasian gentleman speaking in a fake Japanese accent to his string of Japanese wives: yes, these scenes don’t jibe with today’s sensibilities, but writer/director/pale male Paul Thomas Anderson, born in 1970, could have offered an accurate—as in a more unjibeful—representation of mores from 1973, the period the movie depicts. Avoiding cinematic even-worseness: a low bar, true, but mainstream flicker shows distributed by international entertainment media corporations tend to eschew anything too realistic (including, of course, content that supports worker rights or questions the capitalist system) to avoid bumming out and/or angering audience members. Born five years before PTA, I remember (probably a little better than he does) that era’s pervasive traditional thinking, shall we say.* Perhaps the white and (from the looks of it) well-off Encino-ites in this movie had learned to hide their Nixon-era beliefs, unlike a large portion of my more honest economic stratum. (Note: as Harvey Weinstein, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and Tricky Dick himself show, having money and belonging to a particular race do not automatically make one more considerate of other humans.) (The Dickster appears in that movie in news footage.)
*Example: Mike the Barber, the guy who cut my hair, would inveigh against the criminal “[N-words]” who had moved into the neighborhood and caused its condition to deteriorate. His waiting area featured copies of the white-supremacist rag The Spotlight, one of whose articles called The Diary of Anne Frank a fraud written in ballpoint pen by Jewish hoaxsters years after World War Two; that mention of the specific writing implement may have helped me remember that piece. Eventually, my father quit taking me to him, partly because my father had at long last taken offense to the views expounded in that shop, and partly because Mike kept hacking up my head.
I rather insufferably considered myself a thrift-store record aficionado back in 2011, at age sixteen, having reached the high point of adolescent insufferability, I guess, when you need to create what you consider a sophisticated persona to differentiate yourself from what you consider the cultural lamestream engulfing you. In my case, as with many other people of whatever age, I collected, sold, and pontificated upon obscure, decades-old consumer items that the lamestream had once considered beneath notice but now slavered over as the epitome of, to use the cool spelling, kewl.
So one afternoon back then, while rooting through the vinyl at Pearl’s Thrift Shoppe, searching for my specialized genre, Eighties hard rock (the cheesier the better) I could sell on the Internet, I found a sleeveless seven-incher: fair to good condition, plain white label, “Masturbating Rhythm,” presumably the song title, printed all in caps in a smeary black font, no other information, no label or song on the B-side, probably from sometime before the Eighties or even before the Seventies. Or maybe even before the Sixties. Though a prodigious amount of the rock I enjoyed dealt with sexual topics in a somewhat overt manner (to say the least), I’d never seen any record with “Masturbating” in its title. Ordinarily, I would have purchased such as unusual release, only forty-nine cents, but—I don’t know, maybe I’d considered that single too unusual, too antediluvian, too un-kewl by Internet standards. By the next day, when I’d changed my mind and returned to Pearl’s, the record had disappeared, though I did find the self-titled debut album by Mascara, VG+ condition more or less, ninety-nine cents, an album I eventually sold on eBay to some guy in Santa Fe for twenty-six bucks.
As for “Masturbating Rhythm,” I’d forgotten about it until the 1/6 Trumpnoid rampage at the Capitol a decade later (Capitol Records, yeah), when I guess I needed to distract myself from the live streaming coverage. So I Googled that release but turned up nothing. I even went on Bing, with the same results. No one anywhere had written about the single, offered it for sale, or uploaded it. However, I did discover that it most likely spoofs “Fascinating Rhythm,” an exceedingly old-timey song (from early last century!) by these guys named George and Ira Gershwin. And thus the search ended, due to my sudden craving for alcoholic beverages.
Perhaps on this, the one-year anniversary, I’ll resume my “Masturbating Rhythm” search or listen to “Fascinating Rhythm” or both; or I could turn my Pearl’s encounter into a bittersweet memory, the record that got away, giving myself substance, I guess making myself more impressive to my fellow aging collector geeks and to young hipster chicks with daddy issues.