Monday, September 20, 2010

My Dad, The Swordsman


I have spoken here repeatedly of the tension my dad’s implacable amorousness caused in my parents’ home when I was just starting school. He would rarely come home from his office without lipstick stains of various hues on his shirt and even necktie, and sometimes he didn’t come home at all for days at a time. My mother would try to distract herself with the latest edition of Photoplay magazine, wallop me for reminding her of my dad, go into paroxysms of self-loathing because she’d let him hurt her so badly as to wallop me, and then drink herself stupid with gin, though it’s well known that the Jewish don’t drink, not unless they’re rich and famous and prisoners of their own wealth and fame. Finally, a few weeks before my seventh birthday, she left him for the widower Harry S—, a widowed instructor at a technical college.

My dad’s being what other fellows called a swordsman in those days of Frankie Laine’s “I Believe” in the hit parade created a lot of problems for me and my brothers, of course. Stability and I knew each other well enough to nod hello in that nearly imperceptible way the very masculine or autistic have; I had no fewer than five stepmothers between the ages of seven and 16, and attended more schools than I could keep track of. I wouldn’t wish such a childhood on anyone.

Well, actually, that isn’t entirely true; there are a great many on whom I’d wish it, retroactively — Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, that whole crowd of loathsome scumwagons. And it occurred to me this afternoon when I was at the gym — finding it difficult to concentrate on my book because this big red-faced steroidal monstrosity a couple of bikes over from mine kept shrieking along with whatever he was listening to on his iPod — that it’s foolish to imagine that God is subject to the same temporal constraints we humans are. I mean, who’s to say for sure that the Bubonic Plague wasn’t Her (God’s) way of chastising Europe for Sarah Palin’s daring, several centuries “after” the fact, to claim to speak for Her. I submit that, as far as God is concerned, past, present, and future are all nonsensical terms, and there is only an all-encompassing Now.

So I didn’t have a stable upbringing, and I thought a couple of Dad’s later wives — the cocktail waitress he brought home from Reno, Nevada, for instance, and Jeanne, the manicurist — were an idiot and a bitch, respectively. It was always fun to watch the cocktail waitress, whose name I honestly don’t recall, when it rained. My brothers and I would make bets about whether she would gape uncomprehendingly so long up at the sky as to be drowned.

The good news was that I learned all about women at a very early age, was always perfectly comfortable with them, and, like my dad, always assumed I could have my pick of them. Where my classmates in high school were losing theirs in the backs of ugly American sedans to whose vinyl back seats they and their girlfriends stuck if they got each other's tops off, I lost my own virginity to a lady bartender at the Playboy Club, at which my dad was on a first-name basis with everyone from the parking valet to Ner himself. (It’s only tourists and bridge-and-tunnel types who know Hugh Hefner as Hef; those in his real inner circle call him what Dad used to call him.) She had large breasts at a time when you had to have large breasts to have large breasts, rather than just enough to pay some plastic surgeon who’s a disgrace to his profession. But who am I, who have not walked a mile in their handmade loafers, to think ill of prospective healers  of African orphans who devote themselves instead to implanting silicone into women’s chests? 

Even at my advanced present age, I am seldom glimpsed without a starlet on my arm — or a pair of them, on both arms. Sometimes, in fact, I have no less than a trio, one attached to a leg. For this, I have both my Dad’s swordsmanship, and the smoldering Semitic good looks I inherited from him to thank.  

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