Saturday, September 5, 2015

I Made Susan P— Laugh

At least two of the most beautiful young women on earth attended OWJHS with me in the early 1960s. One was Marilyn Monroe Jr. The day she enrolled at OWJHS, a strange, eerie stillness came over the customarily raucous campus. I discovered later that it was because all my male classmates, and not a few of the male teachers, were dumbstruck by the sight of her. But my own strong preference — to whatever extent the wallfloweriest dweeb on campus was entitled to one — was for OWJHS’s own version of Elizabeth Taylor, Susan P—.

I never summoned the nerve to actually speak to her (neither she nor MMJr. was in any of my classes), but that didn’t stop from lusting after her from afar with the ferocity only a shy 14-year-old boy can muster.  I hadn’t much to offer other than my genius (joking, you see — paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, you see). She lived around 200 yards from me in Playa del Rey. I drew her cartoons in the style of Rick Griffin, later a noted creator of psychedelic dance posters, and mailed them anonymously, hoping, I guess, that she’d love them enough to track me down and invite me to elope with her, or at least have wild, passionate sex. No dice. She was already riding around in the cherry 1956 Chevies of sophisticated older men — Westchester High School boys with drivers licenses.

We went on to WHS, I for only one semester before I transferred to Santa Monica High School, where, in my first year, there was no one who could hold a candle to Susan P—. (The next year, Brigitte Bardot Jr. turned up, but not even she could make me forget Susan.)

I went on to actually speak to girls, and to have relationships with a fair number of women, five of them long-term. In candor, during my fairly extended Warren Beatty period, when women seemed to find me very presentable, it never even occurred to me to try to track down Susan P—, whom I now know to have gotten married, and not to have wandered far from the neck of the woods in which we both spent our childhoods. 

In the 21st century, she became very ill. At first, her doctor at UCLA thought she had ALS (which, incidentally, my highly esteemed former de facto brother-in-law was wrongly thought to have too).  But then the Mayo Clinic told her that all she had was spinal muscular atrophy. Which, according to a mutual former classmate, has been killing her slowly for months.

I so wanted to meet her. I thought it might amuse her to know how hopelessly smitten I’d been all those years ago. I wanted to ask her what it had been like to be the universal object of desire she used to be. I wanted to hear about her adulthood, and about her gorgeous daughter. I wanted to read to her and try to take her mind off the pain. But she wasn’t seeing anyone. Maybe she was too self-conscious about having become skeletal and weak. Maybe the pain was too great. I got no closer to her than exchanging a couple of Facebook messages. She told me one time that I’d made her laugh. I, the little dweeb no one even knew was there, had made Susan P— laugh. 

And now she’s gone, she who inspired the most fervent fantasizing of my mid-teens. I feel very old.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Are You Ready for Some Football?

The days are getting shorter, and the leaves, albeit not in Los Angeles, where there are only palm fronds, are dropping hints that they may soon began changing colors. There can be no mistaking that football season is nearly upon us. I believe that, as a result of international expansion, this may prove to be the most interesting National Football League season since the very long-eyelashed Vince Ferragamo played quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, not very notably.

The most sweeping change follows the league’s decision that team names should relate specifically to the represented locale. Thus, the Detroit Lions rebranded themselves the Detroit White Flight, and the Seattle Seahawks the Drizzle. Many traditionalists are irate about decades-old names being jettisoned, others about the fact that many teams opted for singular names in the mode of the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat and Utah Jazz. “If this is progress,” says Arizona Cardinals fan Hank Lumley, “fuck progress.”  

The NFL’s first Mexican team, the Tijuana Infection, shocked everyone when they were able to trade an aircraft carrier full of cocaine for Carolina’s second-round draft pick. Observers believe that Dentifrice Hawkins, out of Eastern California University, might prove one of the most exciting rookie running backs since William (Hannukah) Hairston in 2003. Hawkins figures to plunge, dash, and scamper into a lot of “holes” created by the Infection’s first three picks in this year’s draft, offensive tackle Clandustin Thompson, from the University of Phoenix, nose guard Langoustine Washington, from Ole Miss, and cheek guard Copurnickus  Clydesdale, from Budweiser.

Whose advertising agency, by the way, is putting the finishing touches even as we speak on a raft of television advertisements designed to perpetrate the meme that beer-flavored soda pop is the preferred beverage of Regular Guys who have no interest whatever in dressing up in ladies’ clothing, or in pretentious restaurants.

In Miami, and probably in yours too, new head coach Shlomo Horowitz has promised to make the Retirees a much more physical team. “Given our talent,” he told reporters last week, referring to himself plurally, “it just didn’t make sense to remain a primarily intellectual or spiritual team. We think our fans are going to respond to our new smashmouth, gouge-eye, twist-testicles style of play.”

The first franchise in the Caribbean, the Turks and Caicos Loopholes, are understandably excited about their mid-June acquisition of two of the league’s pre-eminent point guards, Madagasker  Johnson and Lubricious Atkins (formerly Ahmad Rashid), who, with three, now leads the league in conversions to and back from Islam. Up in Alaska, heretofore unrepresented in American professional sports, defensive coordinator Chuck Moorman, in response to questions about his new team having to begin their first season playing last year’s Super Bowl champs Bible Belt Hypocrisy and the always tough Heartland Boredom, shrugs, “We’re going to play them one at a time.

“I mean, we’ve been spending a lot of time discussing how it might be possible to play both games simultaneously, but the best idea anybody's come up with is making the field twice its customary width, and hoping that our defensive unit is needed against the Hypocrisy, for instance, while the offense is on the field against the Boredom. But the head of operations at Formerly Jerry Sandusky Field says it isn’t possible.”

In New York, the newly rebranded Concussions (formerly the Giants) continue to hope they’ll be able to come to terms with All-Pro middle linebacker and team chaplain Deuteronomy Jackson. “We admire his trying to be his own agent,” a team insider has told this column, “but his short-term memory at this point is that of a 104-year-old lifelong pothead recently dropped out of a third-story window onto his head.” Another team insider foresees disaster if the deal can’t be completed soon. “We owe our making the playoffs three years running to the orgies of sanctimony Deut leads in the locker room before every game. In his six seasons with us, I’ve lost count of the number of rookies he’s taught to drop ostentatiously to their knees and bow their heads in prayer after scoring a touchdown, say, or making an interception.”

My Life in the Glow of Universal Approbation

It occurred to me as I lay in bed last night waiting for Morpheus to whisk me away in his gleaming black Escalade that I really have no idea what it might be like not to be avidly admired. Ever since I was a small child, well before I developed any of the broad range of skills by which most people I meet are so impressed — awed, even! — people have been drawn to me. When I was a kindergartener, for instance, all of the prettiest girls wanted to sit beside me during fingerpainting.  One of them, Susan something-or-other, memorably remarked that she found my work unusually sensual, though I can’t imagine either of us knowing the meaning of the word at five and a half.

As I progressed through elementary school, I was always the cynosure of groups of boys who I realize in retrospect perceived me as the boy they wanted to be — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent, though as the years went by and it became clear that many of the teachers, clergymen, and government officials to whom I was supposed to kowtow reflexively were irredeemable nincompoops, obedient and reverent fell by the wayside. Ironically, it was my very repudiation of obedience and reverence — my palpable indomitability, my wonderful maleness —  that made me even more attractive to other boys, and by the time I entered middle school, I was at all times surrounded by a coterie of sycophants. My winning the school’s creative writing contest two years in succession made it only larger. Someone proposed a bond issue to widen the corridor in the History building to accommodate what had come to be called the johnnyboys who followed me wherever I went.

In high school, I was captain of the football, basketball, swimming, wrestling, chess, and debate teams, and, as a sophomore, lost my virginity to Ms. Freida M—, my beautiful young Chinese-American Social Studies teacher, who, afterward, murmured, “If that was really your first time, I can’t even begin to imagine how happy you’re going to make women after you’ve learned a thing or two.” Her words proved prophetic. I am unable to recall a single lover over the years — and this includes no fewer than three Miss Universe Runners-up — who hasn’t described me as the best she’d ever had. It’s just something you’re born with, I suppose.

I’ve always been inclined to be a one-gal fellow, though, and at age 23, with my master’s in civil engineering in hand, I made an honest “woman” (she was only 19 at the time!) of the first of my several (four, unless you count the marriage to Tawni that was annulled within 48 hours) wives. Beautiful children, not a single one of whom doesn’t phone or at least “text” me a couple of times a week even today, followed, and a number of magazine-cover-level successes in civil engineering, which may not be the most glamorous profession, but just try to get along without it!

Hobbies? That I’ve a slew will surprise no one aware of my voracious natural curiosity, my avidity for life. I and my present wife, Elise, who used to spell it Elisa, but came in around 1991 to regard the French spelling as somehow more glamorous, especially enjoy foreign travel. We have in the past half-decade visited countries as diverse as the present Africa and the former Yugoslavia, and are looking forward to seeing Japan one day very soon, or, actually, several days, as it would make little sense to spend 14 hours flying there and then go home after a single day.

When not traveling, I enjoy fly-fishing, handball and football, erratically subtitled foreign films (it’s fun to figure out what’s going on!), gourmet cooking, fellatio (receiving, not giving!), and staying abreast of current events. I write a blog enjoyed by thousands each day, except for those when I’ve written nothing new. There is, after all, only so much one can say.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Mario Andretti of Mass Transit

When I worked processing the words of fools at a big fascist law firm in San Francisco in the mid- and late 1980s, I actually resided in Santa Rosa, around 52 miles to the north, and commuted to work on Golden Gate Transit buses, on which I spent around three hours daily because the traffic on Highway 101 slowed to a crawl in southern Novato, and stayed that way all the way into The City  Boarding the southbound bus on Mendocino Avenue at 6:20 each morning, I made it a habit to say to the driver, “San Francisco, please,” as though it were a taxicab he was driving. This, of course, was hilarious, at first because how could anyone mistake a bus for a taxicab, and then, later, because I said it every morning without fail, whereupon the humor of the situation became — stand back! — conceptual. Sometimes, you see, there is nothing funnier than repeating something not-funny so relentlessly that the repetition itself become a laff riot.

But that was only half the fun! Do you imagine I didn’t do something equally hilarious on the homeward commute, after a day of processing the words mostly of smug little twerps who’d just emerged from law school and imagined themselves to be F. Lee fucking Bailey? On the corner of Sansome and Sacramento, if memory serves (hors d’oeuvres)  I would board a  bus driven by a small man with a moustache whom I  teasingly called The Dawdler. “Oh, no,” I would say, winking, as I boarded, “not The Dawdler again!” in view of his seeming to imagine himself the Mario Andretti of mass transit, this too was hilarious!

Or maybe I should say Niki Lauda, in recognition of his appearance in the AIDS verse of my song The Beat Years of Our Lives. And now we find it’s suicide to love as fast as Nike Lauda drives/ For love, they tell me, it stops for no pit stops in the best years of our lives. Bobby Unser was obviously as good a metrical fit, but I went with the more exotic driver in my customary ill-fated attempt to appear with-it, arty, and cultured.

Later, after my first marriage collapsed and I moved down San Francisco’s Nob Hill to spare myself all those hours on Golden Gate Transit buses, I either walked to work, or rode the cable car, and conspired  briefly to become a standup comedian in my own right. I  devised a persona for myself — the Rev. Billy Pulpit (a play on Theodore Roosevelt’s description of the presidency as a bully pulpit ), and performed at enough open-mic nites (three, I think) to get the impression the Rev. Billy Pulpit wasn’t going to be a huge audience favorite. After the second performance, my girlfriend the zookeeper marvelled, “You’re so…angry!” Well, yes. But my most memorable experience was at a Sunday afternoon show to which my four-year-old daughter Brigitte accompanied me. Once having seen Daddy bring the house down (or, perhaps more accurately, evoke a smattering of applause) Brigitte decided that she too wanted to perform, which ambition I communicated to the afternoon’s MC, whom I knew from comedy traffic school. He was amused by the idea, and the next thing anyone knew, Brigitte was on stage musing, “Hey, what’s up with Asian drivers never remembering to put the toilet seat back down?” No, I’m kidding. She said nothing about Asian drivers or toilet seats, but instead wondered aloud why the turtle had crossed the road.

“Why?” the audience dutifully moaned.

“To get to the Shell station.”

Her material might have been a little stale, but her remarkably self-assured delivery delighted the audience, and I knew at that moment she could, if she wanted, become one of the English-speaking world’s  most gifted comediennes.