Excerpt 25

“All art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end.”

—Rainer Maria Rilke

My mother’s wedding night was a threesome:  My mother, father, and Joe,  an Episcopal priest, who was my father’s favorite lover. They were in Fairhope, Alabama, an artsy town on the Gulf.

No family members attended.

It was 1949.

My mother told me this when I was twelve years old. We were having dinner at Britling’s, the local cafeteria, in Memphis. I really liked their shredded carrots with raisins.

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Excerpt 24

 

Florence King said in her article, “The Niceness Factor,” (Harper’s Magazine, 9/81):

“The paradox of women’s rights in any era is that egalitarianism, which admits the issue is also the chief barrier to its fulfillment. Just as despots are the most enthusiastic patrons of the arts, only an aristocracy is secure and eccentric enough to produce the one kind of woman who can bridge the psychological chasm between the sexes: the socially impeccable bawd.” (without the disintegration of Émile Zola’s Nana)

Excerpt 23

My parents never even had medical insurance, which they considered an extravagance, until they were eligible for Medicare. They gambled…and won the health lottery, despite their decades of heavy smoking and drinking.

And when my father died, my mother gave his body to a medical school so that she wouldn’t have to pay for cremation. Afterward, she refused to accept his ashes; she told the hospital to dump them in a public veterans’ grave.

Children’s Book: Fantasy Friends on Furlough

NAKED CRAYONS

[envision crayon sticks dressed in adorable outfits]

The naked crayons went out to play.

“Yippee, whippee,” they cried as they rolled in the hay.

Cathy, the cow, ambled into the barn.

“What are y’all doing?” she drawled with a note of alarm.

“We’re searching for jackets and hats with ear latches,

‘Cause winter is coming…And we naked crayons will become so hard and so brittle,

If we don’t have some sweaters for the inclement weather.

So, Cathy, the cow, took them to

Gertrude, the goose, who knitted them

Jackets that were fit to be tied and as warm as a moose…So that

Everyone—tall and short or thin and fat— looked forward

To their winter sleigh rides behind the caboose of the train on the lane that you could

watch through your own windowpane!

 

SAOLA
Saola, shmayala…hard to pronounce.

When he jumped on the scale, he was more than an ounce.

Nevertheless, he remained quite rare,

Almost as much as cities with clean air.

He lived in hot Vietnam

With his long, pointy horns,

He avoided all thorns.
Some called him a saola.

But his dream was to be an adorable koala.
So furry and cute,

Wrapped around a tree branch,

Almost a glove.
Ready for a bear hug

And oodles of love.

 

MR. FLUKE FISH

It wasn’t a fluke or kind of rebuke

When Mr. Fluke Fish

Fell in the blackstrap molasses

‘Cause of the stress in

Shopping for his 3D glasses.

You see his eyes are up here

And across over there….

 

YOGA FROG
The yoga frog stuck out his tongue

In order to eat tasty morsels of young…Quail eggs!

No legs, he begs!

Just meat juicy and sweet

To make my parts so flexible and neat.
And please remove this spaghetti!

He cried to the dragonfly, who

Was hoping for calm

But instead got confetti

When he flew through the shredder

On the desk with the teddy.

Oh my! What a mess! Bear hair!

What a pair: The frog and the dragonfly

Searching the sky

Looking for, hoping for yum-yum pumpkin pie.

But instead in their eyes

Fell rays of moonlight.

They said it felt good.

Then bid all a good night.

 

 
PEGASUS
It was raining cats and dogs (but no icky, sticky frogs)

[literal drawing/puppies and kittens]…(Ostrich and worm are covering their heads)

As Ollie and Winton cuddle together

And say with relief, Oh, what a bother!

Could have been falling on us those fat hogs

With a whine and a holler !

And a snoutful of fodder…
Pegasus was showing off his shiny shoes to Norse, the horse, and

PlumPie, the horsefly, and

MaggieMead, the centipede (who really needed lots of shoes!).

Oyvay!

To polish all those shoes took three hours and a half!

Enough time for a cow to give birth to a calf!

 

 

 

TEA TIME

The Germanic gerbil [wearing little Valkyrie  hat w/upturned horns]

And the Balkan bat

Met together for tea

In their nondescript flat.

Too sweet, said the gerbil

With a throaty, loud gurgle!

Too hot, said the bat

With a big, bad splat!

So they went out together

In worrisome weather

To search for a drink,

The color of ink….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt 20

I’ve always had an affinity for foreigners. When it comes to men, I’m the poster girl for cultural diversity. (After all, John Wayne had three Latino wives!)

Probably, because I know everything there is to know about Southern WASP culture, and much of it is not very pretty.

London

[music: Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise]

We met on Bayswater Road.

“Hello, are you English?” the handsome Greek young man asked with a seductive accent.

“I like your hairs.”  (Yes, he cutely said hairs.)

He looked exactly like Omar Sharif in Dr. Zhivago, and I instantly wanted to be his Lara.

(The people I grew up with in Memphis, Tennessee, would choke on their Corky’s barbecue if they knew how many men I dated who had picked me up on the street, at an airport, on a bus, or beside a swimming pool. But never ever in a bar; standards must be maintained!)

“No, American,” I answered.

 

Excerpt 19

When I was a counselor-in-training, it was my job to clean all the toilets in camp. It took hours. Lye, water, and mops were my weapons against an onslaught of urine, feces, and menstrual blood. Additionally, I was responsible for scrubbing the floors of the infirmary and the apartment where the Wagners lived. Mrs. Wagner, with wrinkled, sun-splotched hands on hips, supervised and critiqued my cleaning.

Also, it was my responsibility to shovel coal into the outdoor furnace several times a day to provide intermittent hot water for the group showers.

Today, I love luxury more than anything. I am a sybarite whose religion is hedonism.

“Rather than a tale of greed,” writes Alain de Botton, “the history of luxury goods may more accurately be read as a record of emotional trauma. The legacy of those who have felt pressured by the disdain of others is the perceived need to add an extraordinary amount to one’s bare self in order to signal that one also may lay a claim to love.”

Excerpt 18

The psychiatric male nurse rifled through my small canvas bag. With a black magic marker, he wrote “Smith” on the crotch of every pair of my white lace panties. Trembling, I stood silently beside him. Would I spend the rest of my life in this god-forsaken hellhole in the wilderness of New Jersey? Would a bored psychiatrist give me a shot, so that I would become just another inmate doing the Thorazine shuffle? Another Frances Farmer?

I have never been so scared in my whole life.

I got married six months ago.

Would my husband divorce me? Would I become a homeless woman sitting beside overflowing garbage bags on the streets of New York?

I felt like an astronaut floating in space whose umbilical cord to the spaceship that would return him to Earth had just been severed.

Excerpt 17

Once, I wrote to you, Father, informing you that I had signed up with an escort service.

I didn’t; it was a falsehood, but I really considered it.

Probably, I would have ended up like the seventeen-year-old Russian girl in the exceptional and tragic film, Lilya 4-Ever.

I wanted you to respond, to react.

I was  just trying to get your attention.

But I received the usual from you:

Nothing.

Thanksgiving 1966

My father and I went to the local Holiday Inn for our Thanksgiving dinner.

My mother was indisposed, once again, because of her drinking.

We ran into Anastasia at the restaurant; she was one of my father’s loyal,  female friends. If I had looked closely, I might have seen the Trojan condoms in her Lucite handbag; Anastasia was a wealthy divorcée who got her kicks by pimping for the secret society of artistic, homosexual men in the East Memphis neighborhood.

She threw raucous, extravagant parties where handsome young boys and older patrician men were introduced. Women were invited also, but they tended to be in their 50s and 60s and were oblivious to Anastasia’s lascivious machinations.