An Irregular Column
for MRR for 296
by Mykel Board
Piss on your ancestors. --Patti Smith
Damn! I'm still dripping. I thought I got it all. I shook hard. Even reached underneath and ran my fingers back and forth. Like trying to get the last inch of toothpaste out of the tube. Every drop, I thought. And now, in some stranger's bed... on a blow-up mattress actually. I am leaking even more drops. Fuck.
I'm in Beloit Wisconsin. Here for my 35th reunion. That and a booktour of Chicago and Indiana. The reunion is mine. The booktour was set up by my pal Sid Yiddish, the matzo ball shaped, shofar-blowing, throat-singing, oddball-genius poet I've often written about. An amazing guy. We'll be touring together. He's a great performer. Me, I just read from my books.
As for the reunions, I go every five years. It's fun to see how much lost hair and gained weight afflict my fellow students. Usually, I stay in the local Holiday Inn or Econolodge. My classmates are there. We can continue our drunken times from the 70s. More beer. More beer bellies.
At our 20-year reunion, the cops came. Busted the class for grass. Making a stink. As it turned out, Bob, one of the dorkier alumnis, worked for the D.A.'s office. He talked with the busting cops. Got us off with a warning.
“I understand,” said the cop. “But you guys should've outgrown that by now.”
What did he know? We hadn't outgrown shit.
Now, I'm tired of motels. I don't travel for motels. I travel for adventure. Instead of Holiday Dudd, I go to couchsurfing.com and find Jesse, a current Beloit student. That's where I am now. In her apartment. Slightly dripping onto her blow-up bed.
I called Jesse from New York to make sure she'd be home.
“I'm away sometimes on school stuff,” she told me. “I'm head of the Latina Students League. Sometimes we go to Madison or Chicago for events.”
Jesse didn't have italics in her voice when she said events, but I had it in my thoughts. What kind of events? A bunch of Hispanic girls getting together and doing stuff? Yowsah! I'm there!
I gave her the dates of my stay. She said it was fine and she'd blow up the air mattress for me.
“Also,” she said, “I work at The Coffee House, the on-campus bar. I'll buy you a beer.”
Meeting her is fraught with irony. She's a perfect Latina. Brown complected, curving in the right locations. Her body's a capital-S. I feel my tumescence tumenting.
“You're English is perfect,” I tell her. “But if I saw you on the street, I'd have you pegged for a Brazilian in a second.”
“I come from Maine,” she says. “My family's originally from Germany. I studied Spanish, went to South America, loved it. That's why I do all the Latina stuff.”
A Latina by choice-- not by birth. Yeah!
At the reunion, my class is as thrilling as a shopping mall. A convention of whatever happened to..., my kids are graduating from..., and I'm over the chemo, now. But lemme tell ya...
The girls in my class are now women. Chubbed out, with bulging bellies. Breasts sag onto those bellies as if too worn-out to stand by themselves. More O-shaped than S.
“I don't know about these kids,” says Meredeth, an old friend who now works for PBS. “We knew how to protest the war. We had demonstrations. These kids should learn. They're just trying things for themselves... reinventing the wheel.”
I ditch 'em fast. Go to the library where Fred Burwell, the college archivist, is recording old farts in an Oral History Project. He wants to get us on cassette(!) before we kick off. He thinks there's value in what we remember. In our points of view.
Okay, Fred is an Archivist, a kind of historian. A 96-year old talking about his struggles to pay $300 a year tuition is exciting to him. He'll enjoy me talking about my adventures spelling USA in partially dissected fetal pigs on the football field during halftime in 1969. It's his job.
What's amazing, is that Fred has a host of students working for him, for free. This stuff fascinates them. And it's NOT their job.
When I was a student, if a bunch of guys older than my dad showed up on campus, I'd be off the other way. No thank you. Get outta here. We got a revolution to make, and you guys are gonna get bowled over. Squished like sand under tank wheels. I've got nothing to say to you, and even less to learn from you.
And now, here's this eager student, a pretty blonde with mid-west cheeks and perky co-ed breasts. Here she sits, trying to figure out how to operate the cassette recorder. She writes for the college paper, The Roundtable, just like I did when I was at Beloit. Now she's recording my oral history. I wouldn't mind giving her some oral future.
“I can't believe I'm taking to Mykel Board,” she says. “I just read what you wrote in The Roundtable in 1969. I thought it was so cool. Just what I think.”
There's Jesse the voluntary Hispanic, and this Roundtable girl... both showing more humanity than I ever showed at that age. Both girls sexier, more playful, more full of life and future than any dozen parents trying “to get their kids into a good school.”
These girls are arousing, not one is a snob. I say, never send a woman out to do a girl's job.
From Beloit, I'm off to Chicago to meet Sid. I'm staying at his place for awhile. We've got 3 shows in town. Then to Indiana.
I promise Sid I won't write about his apartment, so that stays a secret. What isn't a secret is the work he's done setting up all the show dates. This guy know how to send email, and use the phone. A great skill in things I hate to do.
Though I spent my first 3 undergraduate years at Beloit, I actually graduated from Columbia College in Chicago. Their Writing Workshop taught me more about writing than Ron Jeremy taught me about sex.
Sid also graduated from Columbia, so he calls them to see if we can do an alumni reading. No luck, but the 20-something head of the alumni office takes us both out to lunch. He NEVER hits us up for money. Wow!
The college TV station and the newspaper interview us. We sit for the newspaper interview in a vacant office near the alumni bureau. Chris, the student reporter, is an attractive young man, with a hairless face and a suggestive earring. He's even more interesting because he crosses his legs at the knee and occasionally looks at his nails from the back of his hand.
Seems like he's read my book because he asks the right questions.
“What's your view of sexuality?” he asks. “How do you look at people's gender attraction?”
“There are no homosexuals,” I pontificate. “No heteros either. There are only people as sexual beings. We're free to do what we want. To label yourself “gay,” or “straight” is to put yourself in a box. Make rules for yourself. Lock yourself in a cage.”
“Wow!” says Chris, “That's exactly what I think. I'm a bisexual...”
“That's a trap too,” I say. “You should just be open to explore. Don't consider gender, race, age...”
“Well,” says Sid, “I think people should be able to do what they want. But I don't go that way myself.”
“Shut up!” I don't say. “Can't you see I'm hitting on this guy?”
“What'd he ask about sex for?” asks Sid, much after the interview. “You know, you kinda robbed me of that interview. You did all the talking. What could I say? I just don't go for men.”
“Robbed you?” I say. “And who said anything about men? Tell me I'm stealing. Tell me I rob. But never send a man out to do a boy's job.”
When you're on the road with someone, you really learn about your differences. Sid likes The Beats, jazz, punkrock and The Beatles. I like The Beats, punkrock and detest the rest. Every chance he gets, Sid makes some jazz reference. Once he gets me to sing the only line I know from a John Lennon song. Something about being crippled inside.
Some stupid pollster said that most divorces in America are caused by differences over money. I doubt it. I bet most are over musical tastes. You damn well better know what s/he likes to listen to before you move in. Otherwise, it'll be hell!
Actually, our trip is not hell. I know Sid's tastes. He agrees: NO JAZZ. NO BEATLES in the car. That works.
After three successful shows in Chicago, Bloomington Indiana is a disaster. Two people show up. Cool girls. One guy comes late, just as we're leaving. He's a beautiful boy, about 20 with thick lips, a smooth square face and a slightly punk haircut. He's a friend of Damian, the promoter.
He complains about how he's having a bad day because his girlfriend wants to break up. I invite him back to where we're staying and suggest he get drunk and forget the girl. To my surprise he agrees to come.
We sit and talk. I do, in fact get this guy drunk. As the night drags on, I suggest he stay.
“You shouldn't go home drunk,” I tell him. “You can sleep on the other side of my bed. The couch opens up.”
“I thought you were going to sleep with me!” Sid whines.
“I'm really disappointed you're not going to sleep with me.”
“What the fuck?” I don't say. “Can't you see I'm hitting on this guy?”
“Ah, I don't think so,” I tell Sid, hoping that'll keep him quiet. He persists.
“Mykel,” he says. “I really wanted you to sleep with me. I was looking forward to it.”
By this time the guy is gone. Riding home drunk on his bicycle. Shit!
Next stop: Lafayette Indiana. We're reading in small cafe. Lafayette's the home of Purdue University, the most conservative big school in the country, in the state where the KKK was born. I'm ready with my Boys In Da Hoods jokes.
Jean, the owner of the coffee house, works with her husband. They're both behind the counter. Their son, Isaac, is also here when we arrive.
About 11 years old, Isaac's dark hair is cut Beatles-style. He has cherubic red cheeks and a skinny little body that cries out molest me! I'm sure Sid likes the haircut. As for me...
I invite the kid to help us move stuff from the car. Gamely, he picks up a suitcase full of books and struggles with it. Around the corner. Through a parking lot. Up the wooden steps to the cafe.
“You like living here?” I ask Isaac.
“It's okay,” he says.
“What can you tell me about the town?” I ask.
He tells me some things I don't remember now. But he's full of enthusiasm for the tales. Finally, we get everything up the stairs to the cafe. Isaac drops the heavy bag he was lugging.
“Great job,” I tell him.
Sid starts unpacking, pulling his shofarim from his suitcase.
“Isaac plays the trumpet,” says his mom.
“You wanna try playing one of this?” I offer, gabbing one of the ram's horns.
I hand it to the kid. He blows into it. Nothing happens.
“Go like this,” says Sid, making a brrrrrrrr noise with his lips. “Try it like it's really cold outside.”
The kid puts the horn to his mouth. As I watch those prepubescent lips curl around the tip of the shofar, I melt. Then, he blows into it. Just the sound of wind. Then again. A little burpish sound. Then another, longer. He's getting it.
“Great!” says Sid. “You're getting it.”
I can see the kid beaming from his accomplishment. So much joy in something so simple. It makes me lust after more than just the pre-adolescent body. It makes me lust after the ability to celebrate EVERYTHING. Even something as simple as making noise on a ram's horn.
Reluctantly, the kid puts the horn away.
“My mom says I have to go downstairs while you're reading,” he tells us. “You might say some... things.”
“Don't worry,” I tell him. “When I say them, I'll think of you.”
After the reading, mom tells us that Isaac was so proud of himself. Proud how we treated him like a real person. Proud how we asked him stuff about the city, and how he carried our bags. Proud how Sid let him blow the shofar.
Again, I'm seeing how kids nowadays LIKE adults. They treat us as humans. Something I would have never done when I was his age. I would've told me to fuck off.
Just before the reading starts, our hostess for the night arrives. Another girl I met on couchsurfing.com. Her name is Nona. Sid and I agree that she's pure visual Viagra in a woman's body. Dark hair. A fullness of butt that goes beautifully backwards instead of flabbing down the sides of the hips. Breasts with cleavage she isn't afraid to show.
A young woman, maybe early thirties. She introduces herself, explaining that she's a visiting scholar at the local universality. Her specialty is zoonoticology.
“What's that?” I ask.
“It's animal diseases that jump to humans,” she says. “You know like Mad Cow or Bird Flu. I'm working on this new virus. It comes from cats. It infects human red blood cells. I've got a picture of it on my computer.”
Later that night, at her place, Nona opens her computer and turns it on. The screen wallpaper is a picture of some huge red blobs. On the red blobs are gray masses, looking like scabs or pieces of bread crust.
Her chest swells like a new mother.
“Those are my babies,” she says. “I found 'em. Someday they're gonna be named after me. My own disease!”
Sid and I are both after her. He under ages me and I underweight him. Guess who wins.
“Oh,” says Nona, “I'm a lesbian. My girlfriend's back in Brazil. I really miss her.”
That night Sid and I share a futon in a separate bedroom.
“Finally, I get to sleep with you,” he says.
I keep my underpants on and sleep facing the wall... or try to sleep. Sid, unused to the amount of wine he's drunk, snores louder than a Motorhead concert.
I can't take it. Moving my pillow and blankets, I leave the room to sleep in the hall. I figure Nona will come out and ask what happened.
“I can't sleep,” I'll whine. “Sid snores!”
“That's too bad,” she'll say. “Why don't you come into my bed?”
It doesn't happen.
I drift uncomfortably into some nightmare or other. I hear a shuffling. It's Sid.
“What's the matter?” he asks.
“You were snoring.” I tell him. “I couldn't sleep.”
“Sorry,” he says. “I'm up now. You can go back to bed.”
So I go back to the futon and Noona comes out, sees Sid in the hall. Asks him what's wrong and invites him into her bed. Boy am I pissed.
It doesn't happen.
What happens is the girl stays asleep all night and the next day she runs off with this geeky guy dancing by himself in front of the stage at a heavy metal show. So much for the lesbian. What can you expect from a young woman? She's certainly not a girl. Too bad.
She may be a scientist, investigating a blob. But never send a woman out to do a girl's job.
And now, I read these cheap-ink pages you hold in your hands. I look at the internet. I see a bunch of old farts telling the kids what punk “really is.” I hear guys as old as your father arguing about the finer points of anarchism, or whether one should be offended by flying donuts. And these are the guys who worry about the younger generation?
Oh yeah, the latest issue of The Utne Reader has a feature on How Baby Boomers Can Still Save The World.
In the 60s we used to say, Don't trust anyone over thirty.
Now, it's time to say Don't trust anyone older than you. Don't trust old farts who tell you anything. They're wrong. Look at the world! Who made it this way? Not you!
Go out. Reinvent the wheel. Start from scratch. Decide for yourself if it works or doesn't. If it feels good or doesn't. If it's important or isn't.
Me? I'm goin' out drinking with my 22 year old nephew. I'm gonna see who's playing at ABC NO RIO... the all ages show. I'm gonna go trolling for teens on Facebook. Let the old guys moan and let 'em sob. I say: never send...
ENDNOTES: [email subscribers (email@example.com) or website viewers (www.mykelboard.com) will get live links and a chance to email comment on the column]
-->Fred Burwell's Oral History Project will be transcribed and posted at: http://www.beloit.edu/~libhome/Archives/papers/index.html. For questions about individual transcripts, you'll find an email link to Fred on that page.
-->Just realized dept: Ever notice that the guys who dispute global warming because it's “unscientific” are the same ones who dispute Evolution, because "it's obvious that God created the universe?"
-->Name that disease dept: A former Navy supply officer pleaded guilty to illegally possessing 60 unregister machine guns. David Carmel, of Madison Wisconsin told the judge he is being treated for a mental illness, but is "in control of his faculties."
-->We need his face on the cover dept: NY Metro reports that GQ Magazine killed a story about in-fighting in the Hillary Clinton camp. The reason? They wanted to use Bill as the coverboy and Hillary said no unless the story was killed. Makes you wonder about anything with Bill on the cover, huh?
-->George's Balls dept: I'm beginning to like G.W Bush more and more. That guy has balls. Can you imagine vetoing insurance for kids? Amazing? Against helping kids?? That's like jerking off in mom's apple pie. What could be more unAmerican? What could be more nasty in the eyes of average Joe! Anti-kids! The president! Wow! I love the guy.
-->Why I may vote for Ron Paul dept: NY State Democrats are sponsoring a measure that would make the “drawing, etching or display of a noose” illegal. Can you imagine? A picture... not even pornographic... illegal. Once that happens, ANYTHING can be illegal. You find something offensive, PUFF, it's illegal. As soon as they pass the law, I'm making t-shirts with a noose around FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Getting arrested will at least prove a point.
-->And Obama supports corn-gas dept: Jean Ziegler, a United Nations expert has condemned the growing use of crops to produce biofuels as a replacement for gasoline. He calls it “a crime against humanity.” He says that biofuels will bring more hunger into the world. Why? The growth in this energy source has pushed the price of some crops to record levels. It's harder than ever for the poor to pay for food.
Ziegler calls for a five-year ban on crop fuel. Within that time, he says, technological advances will enable the use of agricultural waste, such as corn cobs and banana leaves, rather than crops themselves, to produce fuel.
-->Quote of the month dept: God knows I'm not a vegetarian, but sometimes the logic of carnivores embarrasses even me. Tom Philpott, writes in the food magazine Gastronomica:
If we must do the dirty deed of raising an animal to kill it, then we owe it to the animal to wring as much gustatory joy as possible out of the process.
We owe it to the animal???? Yowsah!
If you want to read more about my adventures in the Midwest. Check out my lazily updated tour diary at: Mykel's Diary.