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 companies tend to eschew anything too realistic besides content that supports worker rights or questions the capitalist system. 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-word]s” 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.
12/31/2021: Tyler, having heard Betty White, the last surviving Golden Girl, had died that day, posted on his Reddit account those nude photos she’d posed for sometime in her twenties, photos where she shows her non-geriatric boobs and butt. His girlfriend Skyler, a Golden Girls fan, saw him post the photos.
“You think she’s hot?” she asked.
“Sure,” he replied. “I’d bang her.”
“I’d rather bang the young Bea Arthur.”
Whereupon Ty and Sky ushered in the new year by staying home and banging each other. Afterwards, screw COVID, they spent $105 on-line for two VIP tickets for the Golden Girls puppet show in January at that fancy theater. You can do anything when you’re in love.
Sure, my brother’s a Vicodin addict, but at least his migraines have disappeared. And hey, he feels absolutely great; some Vikings get all depressed, even more depressed than the kids at my high school. (Vike-kings, get it?) Every time I drop by his apartment, his upbeat mood almost convinces me he’ll be okay. Almost.
Speaking of his apartment, how does he even pay rent? He won’t tell me; he lost his job months ago, and I sure as hell don’t give him anything. Maybe Mom does. She won’t tell me, either.
My last visit, he said “You should quit teaching and become a barista. Coffee keeps people sane. Homework doesn’t.” (I do puns; he does epigrams.)
“You know what Mommy said?” my six-year-old son asked me during dinner at Dave & Buster’s. “She said the firefighters serve the people, the ambulances serve the people, and the cops serve the government.”
Later, after I’d returned him to my ex-wife, and he’d gone off to watch Trolls World Tour for the millionth time:
“Stop feeding him your anti-police bullshit,” I told her.
“Yeah, telling him the truth is bullshit,” she said.
“Keep it up, and I’ll sue for full custody.”
“Good luck with that. You’re lucky you get to see him at all.”
“A little too early for PMS, isn’t it?”
And then she really went ballistic. Even the single life stresses me.
“Wanna know why we lost in Afghanistan? We didn’t bang enough hookers. If we banged any. I don’t think they even have hookers there. When you invade a country, you gotta keep the troops motivated.”
“What about Vietnam? I saw Full Metal Jacket; we banged plenty of their hookers, yet we still lost.”
“Not really. According to Noam Chomsky—”
“Who’s he? A pimp?”
“No, a political writer. He said we actually won in Vietnam, ’cause we made it an example. Fuck around and find out. That philosophy kept us in charge around the world, long as we had hookers. But now—I doubt Afghanistan’ll ever get a Starbucks or even a Taco Bell.”