Friday, September 27, 2013

The tombstone twitch

If you become interested in genealogy, this chart will make all kinds of sense to you, too!

Cookie would like to confess something.  I am a genealogy hobbyist.  Yeah, I like to hang with the blue haired lady brigade.

I am not ashamed of this.  I am ashamed that I don't find a lot of British humor funny. And don't think I haven't tried.  I've watched hours of "Are You Being Served" and only found the bit about Mrs. Slocum calling her neighbor and asking him to peer through her front door keyhole and report on whether or not he saw her cat.  That was funny.  But the rest of the show? Meh.

I am not ashamed of my genealogy hobby, but sometimes I feel a bit ashamed that I don't understand what the fuss is over sushi.  Cookie does eat fish - raw, grilled, baked or broiled - because its a texture thing. And a "smell" thing. Fish to me smells like rotten stuff.  I've even gone to a hypnotist about this, but it cannot be overcome.  Now I do eat crab and shrimp without so much as a thought, and I love them.  But fish? Dear god, no.  And the same goes for lobsters; I don't eat them. Don't judge me.

My interest in genealogy got started during the whole "Roots" revolution, because thats when Americans cared, for a moment, about the human condition.  Kunte Kinte was a beacon for Black Americans because it brought the issue to slavery and sacrifice to the forefront.  But when white Americans discovered Kunta Kinte, which was also after a couple years of Bicentennial Minutes and the actual Bicentennial itself, they developed a rapacious desire sir to find their own roots.

Local genealogical societies, which had been the kingdom of little old ladies and men were overrun with middle class white people, all with a desire to discover their ancestors, which sounds a bit presumptuous if you ask me.  One's ancestors are ones ancestors.  They are not discovered like a cure for a disease.  You document your ancestry.  Anyway, I digress.

The people who came forward to find their own family's "Kunta Kinte" - except their ancestors were white, could have been indentured, be were not slaves -  divided themselves up into two groups.  There were the people who learned the hobby, did the work and knew for certain who they were dealing with, and the other people who just made shit up as they went along.

Or, put another way, when someone says "My grandfather was in oil," that is a fairly straightforward statement.   But when the say "I've traced my tree all the way back to Jesus," they are freaking bat-shit crazy.  And you need to run.

Talk at card parties was dominated by people talking about their favorite subjects, themselves, but with a new vigor unseen before.  Mother, who was very annoyed with these people, because they were talking about "her", started referring to them as people "with the Tombstone Twitch", as if it were a nervous tick or something.

"It's such a selfish hobby if you ask me," she said.   I wanted to know why she thought that.  "Because all they do is talk about their people.  I couldn't care less if they are a descendent of Jesus H. Christ.  They need to focus on playing their hands better."

After Root's, I started asking questions to my mother about her life and family.  And I found that there were gaping bits of her past that she just glossed over, while focusing on certain events, which she tried to use to lure me away.  She play dumb on what she did from 1942 to 1959, but she could tell you how she made her own giant firecracker and almost lost her hands.  And the more she evaded the truth, the more I wanted to get to the bottom of things.  My interest in getting answers where none had existed before coincided with the whole Root's phenomena, it just helped to give me an idea on what to look for.

When we moved from Shaker Heights to north central Ohio, that put me in the heart of "my mother's people" and that was the first time the floodgates opened.  Starting with my grandparents, I found their parents, and then their parents, and then their parents.  And when I couldn't go back any further, I started at the furthest point back and went forward.  And I keep finding things about these long gone people that were interesting.  Some things were mildly interesting, while other things were down right not spoken about in good company.

When I could drive, I started visiting different libraries in different communities.  I became a pest at courthouses, digging through files 150 years old, trying to find people who simply had gone missing.  This was a hobby that finally gave my OCD personality the outlet that it begged for.  I actually did find something interesting things, which my mother had never told me about before.  When I asked about them, her response was "That happened in the past," or "I don't know anything about that, and don't want to."

I actually showed my projects at the Ohio State Fair where I won blue ribbons for my research.

One judge looked over my mother's father's family and pointed out "it looks like you have an error in your great grandfather's birth date.  I think you meant December 1865 and not December 1864," said he trying to hold his skills over mine.

"No, that's right," I told him.

"But he couldn't have been born before they were married," said he.

"Well, they couldn't get married before he was born, or my great great grandfather would have been guilty of bigamy."

The man went slackjawed.

"Legally he was still married to her when he ran off to Chicago with my great great grandmother.  I couldn't lie about this.  It wouldn't have been right."

More crickets, and then he wrote something on a slip of paper and said "Give this to your mother."

Mom read the note and then called the judge a "fartless wonder" and told me that my project was too mature for display.

When I went to college and the whole thing just stopped.  I boxed up my files, and got on with life.

It wasn't until 9/11 happened that I dived right back in again.  Genealogy became my refuge.  And it was now available online, so I could obsess and work on the lines well into the night.  But now the "internets" came into being and it was a whole new world of online research.  And I found even more stuff.  Good stuff.

I actually have a book on the family from 1911, written by my great grandfather's first cousin - who established a nationally recognized business so well known, that its as synonymous in its industry as "Kleenex" is to facial tissues.  And what did I do with said book? I started proofing - verifying - his work.  Why?  It's what genealogy people do to test the validity of the source.

And I have found direct ancestors of these people and contacted them.  In every occasion, save one, they were as nice as could be. And they had pictures of all these people long since gone that I had never dreamed that I would see a face of.

Only on one occasion did I meet a pair of cousins - two little old harridans from California - were as nasty and vile as could be. And they weren't mean, but they sure were cruel.  I kept their emails because no one believed me when I told them what was in them.  Yes, they were harsh, but they were also dishonest and they stole most of my research on one great great great aunt and claimed it to be their own.  Karma is going to have a great time with them one day.

This past summer, the hobby took me places like Juniata and Perry Counties in Pennsylvania, and deep into the heart of Western Maryland where my tombstone twitch was finally scratched.  It's beautiful country, but very remote and in the heart of central Pennsylvania. To apply Gertrude Stein's quote, they are best described as "There is no there, there."

The countryside is gorgeous and lush, but it is remote.  Each county is banked by a mountain to its northwest and its southeast.  To get to either one you rely on two lane state roads, and pass through "Gaps", one of which is named for an ancestor, where the mountains could be breached.  But if I find it remote in my Prius, heaven only know knows what my ancestors were thinking in 1820 when they sold off everything and started for north central Ohio.

And maybe it also says something about me, you and everyone else.  It just seems like we've lost track at how amazing our progress has been in those 200 years before us.  We have roads, infrastructure, a fairly safe food supply and the only thing stopping us from hopping on a plane to go from point A to B is how much money we need.  The roads in life have been cleared for us by those people who came before us.

And it would such a shame if we never took the time to learn who came before us, or what was down the road that could tell us a bit more of ourselves.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Found, at the local secondhand bookstore

This is fabulous enough as is, but found inside the book was an old magazine article on which fabrics to wear to achieve your perfected disco look:

"For a night at the roller disco, avoid loose fitting blouses and gaucho pants made of sateenlike materials, which tend to "flutter" as you skate.  Save these for the disco dance floor; their "bounce" and drape will complement your moves to the music."

Totally wicked advice.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oh, what a tangled web we try to weave

A few days ago, I put this picture up and asked people to guess who it was:

Which was actually this picture, the image reversed and the color eliminated and then renamed...

...Fred Astaire Jr., Which Mean Dirty Pirate was honest enough to say "Eh, Cookie, did you know that..." To which I said, yes I do.

And I have to say that it wasn't Eb from Green Acres.  But I thought that Bob Fosse...

...was a very good guess!  But Bob never looked that awkward.

But it takes a person with a real desire to succeed to make it, even when he's a bit awkward on his feet, but as it turns out, he was very good at being on his knees...

And Jack Wrangler not only looked good enough to eat, he was also one heck of a heart throb for my generation of gay guys.

He was attractive, he knew how to build his body up to be an object of desire, and he was a very sweet man.

When Jack, which is how I knew him after meeting him once in Columbus in December 1983, showed up once the Kismet, a bar long gone, but fondly remembered, I was there.  People stopped dancing and started gawking at the door.  The guy I was there with was friends with the bar tender, and that got us up to the bar into the proximity with the golden haired man of porn.

Wrangler was visiting friends in town - Columbus has long been the gay mecca of the midwest - I was introduced and entranced.  While he didn't drink, he bought me and the guy who had brought me to the bar a beer, smiled, and I was his for a single moment, and nothing more.  But oh, what a moment.  I thanked him, he winked, and I was mush.

I found out that he had died when I was at work, and I sat stunned.  After a couple minutes I wiped away my tears and thought myself silly for a second.  But then again, how do you say goodbye to the first fantasy that you wanted to jump off the screen and pick you up and take you to his bed?   He was a good man in those few seconds with me, and he left me with fantasies for years later.  I still keep the first picture of him I ever saw - jeans in hands, dirty jock, shirtless and that look of desire that lit my heart right up.

So for being the FIRST person to guess correctly, a big congratulations goes to FELIX for guessing and guessing correctly.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

We haven't played this game in a while

Above is a picture of a skinny person who came from a show business background and ended up in film.  A singer and a dancer, he/she ended up working in movies that were stripped down affairs.  But what he/she really wanted to do was direct and produce.

Don't we all?

Please feel free to take a guess and leave a comment on who you think it is - just the name of the person, nothing more.  The winner will receive some sort of accolade on DHTiSH.

PLEASE READ: If you take one look at this picture and know exactly who it is just give the name.  Others may find you right or wrong, but the more you give away, the more you ruin their fun in guessing too.  Taking this picture and running it through Google is cheating.  And cheaters never prosper.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

That's right, bitches

I just arrived home after a whirlwind tour of my former kingdom, Columbus, Ohio.  Now to get out of these traveling clothes and into something less formal.  Hope you had as wonderful weekend as we did!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

That $20 THING on the wall

Thirty years ago, when I was readying myself for my first real apartment, I went to a household auction in the center of the world, Caledonia, Ohio.  The estate was selling a woman's possessions that family either didn't want or couldn't have, including furniture, tools, textiles and artwork.

I bought a bedroom suite, a full sized 1920's bed, vanity and dresser (we still have the dresser) and I bought my fish spatula.  I love that fish spatula.  Still use to this day because you can use it mix, fry, stir almost everything with it. But, since I don't eat fish - it's a texture thing - we don't use it as it was intended.  If you only can have one implement in the kitchen, always go for the fish spatula.  Trust me, when that poor thing wears out I will be in mourning.

Anyway, I also bought a couple items that could be framed or were already framed.  There was one colorful art print in a polychrome frame and it still had the paper backing on the frame that read CRANE CANDY COMPANY, 1918. I fell in love with the blue in the picture, which really grabbed my attention because I am not a blue loving person usually.

My eye was also wandered to a stack of about 30 or forty pictures, each about 14X18" and mounted on card stock.  Each picture was stamped PRANG ART COMPANY in the lower corner corner, and in pencil, written under each of the pictures, in beautiful cursive, were the names of the pictures.

The auction was going on, and it wasn't before long the auctioneer got to the prang art prints.  A woman behind me said "She must have used those when she taught art classes."

I was really surprised that the pictures, being sold one by one as to milk the most money out of the crowd.  Some were selling for as much as $20, which was a lot of money thirty years ago at one of these household auctions.  I couldn't justify that, but two prints - scenes of deserts with men and camels didn't sell.  Anti-"A-rab" feelings were pretty high even though it was the Religious zealots in Iran three years before that held American embassy workers prisoners.  Folks back home still harbored a grudge - as they are bound to do - when they simply didn't know enough to have an informed opinion, but no one wanted those "A-rabs" in the prints on their walls.

So I bought them both for five dollars, which my mother felt was throwing good money after bad. I loved the picture entitled "Ships of the Desert" with men riding the camel across a desert with mountains in the background, the other one, not so much.

Then it came to the picture in the polychrome frame.  Bidding started at a dollar, I bid two, and up and up it went and when it crossed over twenty dollars, it was hard to see where it was going, but I had to stop bidding. The crowd was even a bit shocked that it was that high. Twenty dollars, like I said, was a lot of money for a picture in a frame back then.

But no one said twenty-one and the picture was mine.  My mother looked it over and sniffed.

"I'm glad that thing its going on your wall and not mine, buddy," she snarled.

People who looked at had no idea what its was, and that included me.  We knew it was a print, but no one seemed to know anything about except that they found it uncommonly beautiful and VIVID.

The print was a combination of art, and verse, each sharing the plain white background of the sheet that things were printed on.  The art portion was about three inches high by about ten inches wide.  And man sat crossed legged on one side, a book in his lap and he was speaking.  The woman sat on the ground on the other side, her legs drawn up and her arms around them, while she watched, a Mona Lisa smile on her lips as she gazed back at the man.

Under this, on the white field were these words, lettered elegantly was the following:

A Book of Verses Underneath the Bough.
A Jug of Wine a Loaf of Bread - and Thou
Besides Me Singing in the Wilderness - 
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow -

My mother said "you do know that Omar Khayyam wrote that."  I stared at her blankly.  "It's from the Rubaiyat," said she.

I asked how she knew that - it seemed a little deep for her rural education and no college.

"Well I'm not stupid," she said in a huff.

"Your grandfather's sister," this was mother's code of familial relationships who died before she was born (ie her father's sister) "memorized the entire work over two winters."

"Why would she do that?" I asked, which I thought was a fair question. I mean I wouldn't commit it to memory, but I'm a philistine.

"What else are going to do when you live on a farm?  Howard Taft is president, the Kaiser is on his throne and you have no running water, no central heat and no indoor plumbing.  No radio."

She had me at that - I for one would need sedation if I found myself back in the "good old days".

"Wasn't she the one who tamed Racoons?"  Yes, I had an aunt who was the Racoon Whisperer.

"She did that, and she read everything she could get her hands on.  She would read labels on cans and when she found a word that she had never heard before, she'd look it up."

"Like tomato?" I asked.

Mother, clearly vexed said "You know one day you're going to mouth off to the wrong person and they're going to pop you but good.  No, not tomatoes.  But roma tomatoes, or creosote, or olive oil.  Tallow, and other things.  Pop said she like to pick words apart and discover their origins.  She'd make a list and when they went into town she'd find a dictionary and start looking up the words."

"Hazel was the first one in the family to go to college. She had the brains for it.  If she wouldn't have caught TB from taking care of Pop's father  - that would have been my mother's grandfather, but since he too died before she was born, he was really related to her either, in her mind) -she would have been a teacher or something else great."

So when I moved into the place that would be my apartment for the coming two years, up on the wall it went.  It made me happy.

Not the best image, reflections and all, but you get the idea.

About two months later a college PhD. candidate in English named Leanne, who was at a party that I was throwing jointly with my next door neighbor, said to me, "where did you get that Parrish print?"


"That print of the Rubiyat by Maxfield Parrish?  And it's in it's original frame!" she squealed with delight.

Mystery solved.  Evidently the Crane Candy Company commissioned a series of prints and frames that they could give away/sell.  And Maxfield Parrish was the illustrator of the day.

I was also able to get it appraised, which I happily sat down in front of my mother.  She looked at the appraisal.

"It's worth how much?"  she sat stunned.  "For that thing?"

"It's not a "thing"; it is a piece of art," I proudly stated. It's in the original frame, and you owe it some respect."

"Smartest twenty bucks you ever spent, buster," said the Oracle of Marion, Ohio.  "Are you sure it wouldn't look better in my house?"

Until she died, every trip at our house included a moment where she stopped, looked at the print and said "I still can't get over what this thing is worth."

We still have the print.  It hangs over the sofa and the wall opposite is the Prang Art Print of the "Ships of the Desert".

And over the years I have secured a couple more Parrish prints including a JUMBO copy of the Rubaiyat that hangs in our bedroom opposite of our copy of Parrish's Garden of Allah print, all from the Crane Candy Company issue of 1917-18.  Collect what you love they say, and we do.  Even if its "thing".

And it still makes me very happy.

Friday, September 6, 2013

When things go wrong, sometimes you no one but yourself to blame

I often say, that unlike previous generations that were going to Hell in a handbasket before us, that kids today (and that includes anyone up to 25 years old) will be the destruction of society.

NOW when I was a kid, you didn't have play dates, you just found kids to play with (after their parents were vetted by your parents) and you played after school.  Or you got on a bike without all manner of safety gear.  It was expected that at some point your mother would shoo you out the door and there you were.  You either made the best of it, or you spent the afternoon with your face pressed against the window staring at you mother, in her valium induced haze, smoking cigarettes and watching Phil Donohue.

For those of us who took to our bikes, you roamed with your friends.  You made up games.  You learned to abide by the rules.  You learned to get along with people.

And your reward?

Your parents let in the door at dinner time and you got a meal to eat, a TV to watch and a bed to sleep in along with the promise of another day to go out and do it all again.  

If you got injured, you learned from it, hopefully, and you didn't make the same mistake twice.

If you didn't make it home, you became the stuff of parental stories.  Yes, it was a tragedy to be sure.  But your example, running with scissors - or the even more deadly "running down the sidewalk with a Brach's Sour Ball in your mouth, and you tripped and it got lodged in your throat and thats why children should eat the candy in the bowl on Nana's coffee table -  was then drilled into the heads of other kids and they survived by learning from what you did, or didn't do.

Today, parents do everything for their children.  They set up playdates.  They teach them to be fair to everyone.  They ignore their kids.  They hold up in the master suite getaways while failing to watch their children and correct their childish behaviors.  Parents do not eat with their kids because none of them can say to their bosses "I really have to leave now because I have to make dinner."

Today, the first prize winner in a contest not only gets an award, BUT EVERYONE who shows up gets also gets an award.

So kids have no structure, and they don't learn what adults understand: If you are stupid you are bound to suffer.

We live in a world where everyone is special, and that makes the special people, not so special.

And this is how we come to the video in this post.  But don't watch it quite yet.  Look at the girl, and look at the coffee table.  She is upside down in front of a door - this can't end well.  And on the coffee table are more candles than most catholic churches have.  A bottle of Tequila, some limes and a shot glass. So we know that this young lady who probably isn't 21 is already drinking alone. Her next stop should be Betty Ford.

But no, she's feeling good, and she headed someplace else:

This is what happens when you make children wear bicycle helmets - they are protected from themselves.  In the good old days, you didn't have camera phones or yoga pants.  You didn't have "twerking" and children didn't feel the need to act like tramps or lazy assholes.  No one would have tried something this magnificently stupid because someone's dress uniform from Catholic School would have fallen and exposed her panties.

You see kids like the young lady on the video wouldn't have made it this far in life, and I blame bicycle helmets.  If it weren't for the safety belt of society that embraced her in the days up until this video was made, destiny would have taken her out before it got to this.

I do hope, whoever she is, that she was not hurt, and if you was, she was able to heal.  I also hope she learned a basic lesson that most children used to learn before they were old enough for school.  Do not play around doors.  One is bound to open and someone is bound to get hurt.  And here, in this video is proof of that.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Facebook asks if I have seen Mildred Pierce? Why? Is she missing?

Facebook continues to annoy me.  It wants to manage my friendships.  It wants to decide what should appear in my news feed.  And now, its asking intrusive questions about me because my profile isn't as complete as it feels it should be.

In addition to your name, your location, where you at, who you were with, what you do, where you went to school, Facebook insists on knowing what movies you like.

So the other day, I am scrolling through a group I moderate and up pops this question in the right gutter:  "Cookie, have you seen Mildred Pierce?"

Seriously? Now what kind of stupid ass question is that?

I am a fifty year old gay man.  Of course I have seen Mildred Pierce.  What fifty year old gay man hasn't seen Mildred Pierce? Did they mean the classic Crawford version, or the Showtime version starring Kate Winslet.  Of course I have seen them.  Its part of the LGBT Qualifying Tests.  And for extra credit, I've seen the Carol Burnett version entitled Mildred Fierce as well - the first time it aired on TV!

We can quote back the lines as well, Mr. Zuckerberg.  Have YOU seen Mildred Pierce you fuck wit?

Have I seen Mildred Pierce?  I see her every morning in the mirror when I get up!

And guess what Facebook, my husband has seen her and her shoes, too.

We've seen it in a theater and our house.  And we have Joan Crawford enslaved on in the DVD version so she will perform at hearts content.

Since Facebook only allows for a yes or no answer, I can't select the option that is "Are you serious?"

What self respecting gay man hasn't seen Mildred Pierce, or someone dressed as Mildred Pierce in a drag show?

Seriously.  (If you have really broad shoulders, and 30 inch waist, its a snap to pull off; and you don't have to worry about the shoulder pads, either.)

But with their tens of millions of dollars in developing targeting programming, this is the end result?  It isn't that I'm in the closet.  They know my birthday and my marital status and that I am guy who likes guys.  So why would their fantastic programming pop out such a silly question?

I mean I can't tell you the name of anything that any celebrity (someone who is famous for being famous) has sung, and I don't care.  But "Joan Crawford, 101" is a must know for gay men of a certain age, Mr. Zuckerberg.

Ask me something a bit tougher.  Ask me "Who played Judy Kochenlocker?" or who Maria Ospenskya was?  Ask me the father of Porn actor Matt Sizemore is.

But this?  Mildred Pierce?  Mildred Pierce is low hanging fruit here, Zuckerberg you brilliant son of a bitch midget cock punching mother fucking father sucking piss drinking asshole.

What are you going to ask me next?  Have you seen Judy Garland? Lanie Kazan? Barbra? Bring it on your turds.  Show me what you are made of.  But I will never tell you my secrets. Never.

Monday, September 2, 2013

And now we enter September

September has always been a mixed bag for me.

It isn't fall, but it feels like it.

It isn't the end, but it feel like it is.

It brings back that feeling of hopelessness, a loss of control to my memories and my soul.

When I was a child, I would retreat into myself.  I wouldn't want to leave the house.  I would cry for days on end.  My mother couldn't cope with me, and her advice was to pull "yourself together."  My father blamed my mother.  And the other kids at school sensing weakness pounced, making me a constant target for their need to be superior to others in the most cruel way possible.

It wasn't until I was twenty that I learned that that there was a name for this feeling - Seasonal Affective
Depression.  Or that the feelings I had as a child would get more powerful as I grew older.

Once I found that it had a name, I told my parents.  My mother said "I can't understand this."  My father said "There's nothing wrong with you."  Their inability to comprehend this imbalance in brain chemicals wasn't about not loving me, but in their ability to believe that they had created a child who had a mental deficiency. Unable to get their support, I retreated even further.

Eventually I tried to kill myself but had the forethought to tell a shrink this and he got me involved in some tough love therapy.  He told me what I had and told me that he could help me either make it stop, or that we could at least control it.  It was the first time I felt that someone understood me.  And his plan continues to work.

So what does it feel like, this annual ritual that my mind goes through?  Its tied to the sun and warmth and the sounds.

I'm usually OK up until the 21st of the month or so.  But once we cross over that seasonal line, my heart sinks and the feeling of loss, hopelessness and dread wash over me like a constant wave.   Once that happens, then "the gray" creeps upon me, until November rears its ugly head, and all feels totally lost upon me.

What is "the gray"?  I can't explain it other than to say that it is a veil of cloudiness that drapes itself over me, dulling my ability to feel joy, to think quickly or to wrest myself from it.  It lifts, on occasion, but its the opposite of what people who aren't afflicted with SAD feel.

The worst is November.  It is the month of my birth, and it is the cruelest month of all.  Instead of more good days than bad, "the gray" envelopes you in a state where you have more days that are bad, with the occasional day of good. I feel like I am descending into total madness.

The good news is, if I can hang onto until winter solstice, things start looking up.  Something deep in my being senses that the promise of better times is a couple weeks away.  And by Groundhog Day, every day holds 24 hours of promise.

Having SAD is a lot like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ.  You have to start a journey into the depths of who knows what, and you have no idea what lies ahead, but the hope that you will reach your destination is possible.    

So I have upped my meds well in advance, and we'll see what happens.  Intellectually, I can say that I will make it.  But emotionally it's confession that I make because I am too cowardly to bring about my end.  So I will just have to hold on and get to where I am going on.

A love that dare not be said aloud

I tried not to disturb them.