RL229 - Elves with Clipboards

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: She’s never seen a star war, referring to John’s daughter who has never seen a single Star Wars movie, but knows a lot about the characters anyway.

The show title refers to elves with clipboards being around Santa in the mall, probably making lists for something.

Season Joys to you!

They start the show singing Christmas songs to their own lyrics.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Singing Christmas carols (RL229)

John does sing with his family during Christmas time. Merlin’s daughter sings some things, but she is not a Christmas carol person. John’s daughter is into them but he can’t really explain it. In the 1970s, Christmas had really been stuffed up their noses, even at a secular school. There wasn’t a winter concert, but a Christmas show and you liked it. There was a picture of the one star shining down on the manger with the little baby. It was a time with only 3 television stations and the newspaper. Media was really constraint and you couldn’t opt out.

Santa in the mall (RL229)

In early December John and his daughter were at the mall. She was walking along doing her thing, like ”Look at this!”, turning rocks over and ”Oh, there is a crab!” She finds them even at the mall. John realized that Santa was there already with some elves all around. When you see elves with clipboards in the mall you know that bodes ill, because if there would not be a Santa there, then they would be taking names for something. Santa has his list, but when elves are making lists: Not good! Here is the elf who runs the elf ghetto! Here is the go-between! The day the elf cried!

John grabbed his daughter by the shoulders and said ”Sweetheart, hold it! Let the crab go!”, and the crab skittered off. ”Listen! Santa is here!” It was already the evening and the mall is kind of empty. ”Are you ready for this?”, because in the past they had gotten mixed feelings from mall Santas from her, not exactly 100% about sitting on the knee. She said she was ready at 5,5 years old and she wanted to see Santa. John went ahead, looking like an everyday mall stroller looking for a Radio Shack.

John circled the Santa compound and adjudged that Santa was fairly Santa-looking and not like he was on parole. It was actually his beard, it wasn’t an embarrassing Santa, and the elves all looked like 24-year-olds on college break, not professional elves. You got the sense that they were all living together in a trailer having a lot of sex and their primary thing wasn’t this. There were no other kids and no other parents, but just Santa sittings there. There was a clear cultural divide between the elf-kids and the lonely old Santa sitting in the chair with no elf hanging out with him.

They went around the corner and as soon as John’s daughter saw Santa she stopped cold. ”Are we good here?” One curd nod and straight in! She went in and Santa started talking to her with a pretty heavy German accent. She had a little tete-a-tete with him, she got up on the lap and took a couple of halfway decent pictures which is not her usual MO because she likes to ruin pictures. Then they were in and out.

The whole rest of December she never once asked to go Downtown to the Nordstrom Santa where the line to see Santa is 4 hours long around the block. Anchorage has legendarily good striptease artists, because there is so much cash money in Alaska that if you are a legendary striptease performer, you want to go to Alaska because the chances of somebody just coming off of a fishing boat or a gold mine and tipping you $4200 in one night are a lot better than in Boise.

Maybe Seattle Nordstrom is that for Santas? There is also a Macy’s Santa and although they don't have a bargain basement Santa either, there is no line and no waiting. Everybody John talked to wrinkled their nose at Macy’s Santa because you have to go to the Nordstrom Santa. When John was a kid, they went to the Frederick & Nelson Santa.

From that early Santa experience to the night before Christmas, John’s daughter did not have that completely immersive Christmas thing that John had as a kid. By the time Christmas got around he was so hyped up! When he told his daughter that Christmas was tomorrow, she was like ”Oh, tomorrow is Christmas?” It is the only thing Merlin’s daughter talked about since September. John doesn’t have a TV and he didn’t take her to see the nutcracker and all the stuff he wanted to do to be a good dad. He just kind of forgot. Christmas sneaks right up on you!

When John was a kid, he was sitting in the living room watching the tree twinkle on Christmas eve, feeling like a wise man riding a camel was actually going to come through the front door. It felt very real!

For Merlin’s daughter, this year 2016 was the year of discovery. At first it was no big deal, but out of nowhere there was a 5-year-old breakdown that they hadn’t seen since she was really young. Merlin still felt something even when he knew, especially when staying at their aunt’s and uncle’s house. He was sleeping in the room with his cousins and he could not sleep. There is the magic, the tree, the traditions and all this stuff! Even when you know the things, there is still this part of you that goes ”OMG! It is Christmas eve! This is it!” God is alive and magic is afoot!

John’s daughter has between 3 and 5 houses. She has Mar a Lago, a building in New York, and an apartment at Lake Como. John’s mom has an artificial Christmas tree and she generally decorates it exclusively with peach Christmas decorations, because she is an 82 year old woman, plus all the historical decorations that John made as a kid and that are in the family, making it a little bit of a hodgepodge. The balls and stuff are all peach, but then there is this other jumble of meaningful decorations. Then she puts little electric candles in the windows already in early December.

The tree has been there all month with some dummy presents under it, but she made no Pine Bows or anything. The tree just showed up and it was the new normal. John’s daughter’s mother got a real Christmas tree because she is fairly sentimental. She moved her furniture, put it in the corner and decorated it. At John’s house, he found some amazing vintage outdoor Christmas lights that he intended to put into the giant blue spruce in the front yard right up to the day before Christmas.

It was another experience of ”It’s here already?” What if John put them up now or leaves them up all year? He was so glad to get these and he was so thrilled, but he thought he had another month to go. The only element of Christmas was that daddy’s house looked like you are living inside of a Christmas tree, because there are ornaments all around, some of which John has made as a kid.

John’s daughter wanting Elsa and Anna dolls from Frozen (RL229)

When John and his daughter visited Santa at the mall in 2016, there wasn’t a way for John to eavesdrop on their discussion, because it would have been rude to interrupt this deep transaction. She seemed pretty happy about it, John got some good photographs of her, he adjudged it a success and in their debriefing afterwards he asked her what they were talking about. She told John pretty unselfconsciously that she had told Santa she wanted an Elsa and an Anna doll for Christmas.

The whole giant soufflé just went Baaahhhh, because John had done so much laborious work to keep Else and Anna out! They are like a mustard gas or the dust in the movie Interstellar: Nobody asked for it, but you are going to get dust into the house no matter waht. Frozen is a juggernaut! The movie came out 16 years ago (actually not even 4 years ago) and there is still Elsa and Anna dust everywhere. Merlin has gone through similar struggles and he has seen lots of liberals do the same.

Siracusa has shown his son only movies with female protagonists for most of his childhood, which is a super-interesting idea. Merlin doesn’t go out of his way to expose her to sports. Bad on him! She should probably be into the Giants and she should like Hunter Pence, whoever that is. Merlin has a Hunter Pence doll he got as a giveaway at the ball park that dances with a solar light and it is horrifying! It sits there and twitches all day.

John gets a lot of pushback from moms. He spends a lot of time with moms, because everyone in his social circle is a woman. Merlin also knows all the moms because he is at the school at least 5 times a week. They say that Elsa and Anna are role models and it is a positive movie, but there is some controversy among people about that. There is a lot of conventional understanding that certain things are both inevitable and also good, but since they are inevitable it is a mental choice to be upset about them and you may as well think they are good.

Elsa and Anna are two female starring roles in a Disney movie and apparently they have good songs. The interesting angle is that John’s daughter has been singing the title songs for three years now although she had never heard the actual recording of the song. It had just come to her through the culture! She had not seen this movie until this year, but she has been immersed in these characters without knowing anything about them because every other little girl has them.

The New York Times had an article about Star Wars: There is a whole generation of kids who maybe knows about Star Wars from ancillary media and TV shows and who is super into Star Wars although they have never seen any of the movies. John’s daughter is like that. She recognizes Princess Leia and BB-8 and she has things to say about them, but she has has never seen a star war, not a one single one of those wars.

John cave to it initially earlier this year when he agreed to watch the movie. He hadn’t even seen it himself, but it is just a movie and it is not going to pollute her mind. His primary objection to it is that Elsa and Anna clearly are the Greys (which is a reference from earlier episodes) and one of the things they do is to gradually inoculate us by making their children’s dolls more and more look like Greys every day. They have bigger and bigger eyes, spindly limbs with giant heads and Elsa and Anna dolls are almost exactly the dimensions of a Barbie doll, but if Barbie dolls had weird physical dimensions, try putting an Anna doll next to them!

Her head is 50% larger than a Barbie head and her body is even more weirdly shaped (John talks about this in RW13 as well). John objected to the movie on principle because the initial exposure he had to this kind of Children’s toy was a long time ago when the Bratz dolls first arrived on the scene. They were touted as the new Barbie and they almost had a graffiti art quality, meant to appeal to little girls. They were plastered with makeup, they were wearing mini skirts, giant heads and tiny bodies, like repulsive sex fetish items.

John saw this trend a long time ago. They are culturally arguing about Barbie’s dimensions of being unrealistic while in the meantime the door is cracked open and these freaking sex gnomes are pouring in like Moguai. We are not even thinking about them, but we are still arguing about Barbie who is the least of our worries.

They all sat down and watched Frozen, and John was doing his thing, like ”This is irrelevant to the plot and this next scene is incompatible with the plot” The whole business of Elsa being traumatized by her ability to create ice is a little bit like the X-Man character who causes blood disorder (Rogue). She can’t even touch her boyfriend and has to wear gloves. John is not doing that to form an argument for her, but because he can’t help himself. John is not buying it that at the very end the actual plot and the whole message is one sister saving the other sister. There is always still a prince in this stupid-ass story!

John's daughter's opinion about the movie was ”C minus”. She doesn’t even get grades and John has no idea where she got that reference frame, but it wasn’t what he expected and his inner self rejoiced because she sees through the shite! For about a week they didn’t hear a word about Elsa and Anna (thank God!), but then she was talking about them again. The movie was C minus, but she liked Elsa and Anna and had separated them from the actual film in which they star. It might be the same as John watching something really dumb, but it had airplanes in it.

John’s daughter had narratives about those characters preexisting in her imagination so much so that the movie was irrelevant because it wasn’t as good as the stories she came up with about Elsa and Anna. They were characters in her life, people she knew. What she essentially was saying was that she was not going to give up until she got those Elsa and Anna dolls and she will play with them happily and she has now told Santa about it and cut out her father from this deal. For the rest of Christmas when John wanted to go over her list again, she said over and over that she already told Santa she wanted Elsa and Anna dolls, so that ship had sailed.

John went shopping because he felt he couldn’t fight this and he bought nice Elsa and Anna dolls, not the crappy ones of which there are 1 billion. John had been to little girls’ homes on other errants, generally interacting with moms, and he could see 700 Elsa and Annas in those girls' rooms in various forms: Dolls of every kind, stuffy dolls, Barbie styles, and even one that was 3 feet tall. The ones that John bought will be the only Frozen-oriented stuff they are going to have and they are going to be nice little dolls. He wrote ”From Santa” on the package.

When she opened her presents, she had some nice other gifts: The Hodgmans sent her an American Girl doll, the hippie one that looks like Hillary Clinton in 1970. It was a doll that their daughter had loved and cherished, but John remembers that their daughter had 9-14 American Girl dolls and over time she had disseminated them to younger girls because she is a teen now, and this was the last one that lived at their house in Massachusetts. It is a truly beautiful doll with a 1970s pants suit.

This doll has very soft hair that you are supposed to brush. Target sells a line of accessories and a tableau and clothes that just so happen to exactly fit American Girl dolls, but they are a lot less expensive. At the American Girl store you can have tea with your doll and the restrooms have a place to put your doll while you are using the bathroom. There is a whole thing and there are books that Merlin’s daughter was reading. Her mom takes her to those stores for her birthday and it is a big event every year. You don’t need to get into their brand as long as Target is getting away with murder with these things.

John’s daughter opened all her presents and she was getting wonderful things, she expressed true gratitude, she opened one package at the time and took 15 minutes to play with that toy before opening the next present, which is a very good feeling. Then she got to the Elsa and Anna dolls and she was so thrilled, because this was the culmination of 3,5 years of her 5,5 years of hounding John for these dolls. He had gone to everyone else in the family and said ”X-Nah” to those dolls, but here they arrived.

She beamed at them for a second, then she slowly turned her head to look at John and gave him the ultimate ”Fuck you!” look. He just got p0wned by the man with the beard! P0wned by Santa! "How do you like them apples?" She asked Santa for it and Santa brought it and you are outside the game, dad! John was sitting on the couch getting hit with this plasma pulse of ”Booom!” Up your nose, dad! How do you like me now? Wow, Santa really did a number on daddy!

She was so gratified and trozed around. She took a necklace that she was wearing around her neck and made it into an Anna sling so she could walk around with Anna around her neck like it is a Mr. T chain, kind of like Twiki in Buck Rogers with the Dr. Theopolis. She did believe in Santa and she believed in him as a daddy-thwarter. They are more or less the dimensions of Barbies and you could get Barbie stuff and apply it to them, but she also doesn’t have any Barbies.

John has avoided the whole Barbie franchise, except he is generating pure consternation from 99% of the other liberal progressive educated moms like himself. They tell him ”You can’t fight city hall, dingeling!” When watching her interact with Elsa and Anna John realized she is ready to progress from baby dolls where the primary narrative is ”Okay, baby, here is your bottle!” to dolls she can interact complicated narratives with. They are sentient dolls and they represent characters that she can inhabit with adventure. These are characters with things to do. They have agency and she can talk to them. John also got really tired of the Baby dolls.

John is going to let Santa win this one, but he will continue to sulk a little bit in order to play up the fact that his daughter made it happen at daddy’s expense. She feels empowered and John has to take this as a lesson in losing gracefully, but he can sulk a little bit because he lost fair and square. Initially John wanted to raise his daughter in a gender-neutral environment and he went to great length to create a positive gender-neutrality in their home. It was not an experiment, but a way of setting up a kind of freedom to let her pick. From the very earliest moment, if you would show her a pink car and a blue car, she would pick up the pink car, turn it over on its back, cradle it and say ”Who is a good baby?” - ”Honey, that is a 1971 Camaro that I went to great lengths to find you”, but she would just be like ”Kiss the baby!” John stopped fighting that a long time ago and now he is just in it to win it.

Model trains (RL229)

John still has a giant H0 train set in boxes upstairs that he is thinking he is going to set up in the barn, but the problem with H0 trains is that the trains themselves are 25% of what is really an old man’s play set with paper mâché. They continue to talk about different scales of model trains.

Blues Brothers (RL229)

Merlin would listen to the Blues Brothers album in the basement at his friend's house. He also had a train set down there, so now Merlin associates the Blues Brothers with train sets. John had every Blues Brothers on vinyl, but he is not proud of it now. His Blues Brothers fandom ended in the early 1980s and therefore he did not have the John Goodman one. The Blues Brothers mushroom cloud continued to bloom even after Belushi’s death, but 1983/1984 was the last time you could legitimately buy a Blues Brothers branded product.

Their records were meant to be taken seriously as blues and soul albums,. but they are embarrassing because neither Aykroyd nor Belushi can actually sing. They grunt and groan and caterwaul over these blue tracks, but they are serious about it. If you listen to it on an album, you don’t get all the action, but they were playing over Booker T. & the M.G.’s with every other great player including Paul Shaffer in America. The band sounds incredible. Matt ”Guitar” Murphy, ”Four fried chickens and a Coke”.

The Godfather, Ryan Gosling (RL229)

John has been watching The Godfather in increments over the last two days, because his Godfather watching partner (his Millennial Girlfriend) keeps falling asleep. When he gives her an elbow and asks ”Are you serious right now?” she says that she loves it and it is incredible, but it is just something else, like she is too hot, she ate too much popcorn, or something. Not making it through in one sitting and being riveted at every single point is hard for Merlin to understand. John's girlfriend is fairly riveted, but all of a sudden she falls asleep. John bought this movie for $4 and they are enjoying it very much. He has really been struggling not to just talk to Merlin strictly in Godfather quotes. He is not doing it to her either, because he does not want to spook her. What can a person do? It is better than when he showed her E.T. and she just checked out and didn’t find it any fun to watch.

She showed him Crazy Stupid Love with Ryan Gosling, a character John only knew from the cover of magazines at the grocery store. Merlin recommends the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling. In Crazy Stupid Love he plays a men’s rights activist, a rake who negs girls. It is pre-Gamergate and we are meant to find this character charming and envy his suavery with the ladies. Merlin was surprised that he found Ryan Gosling very charming and he understood why girls like him. He has shapely male hips, he is not Brad Pitt. She said that Ryan Gosling is what she imagines River Phoenix would have looked like if he had grown up. River Phoenix is like James Dean was for Merlin and John, only the 90s kids will get this.

John also saw LaLaLand with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. They have a rapport that they had established in an earlier film, kind of like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire of their day, even though they can neither sing nor dance. LaLaLand was a fairly sly attempt by the filmmakers to take advantage of the pre-existing understanding that these two are a very good on-screen couple, a bit like Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

One of the great signs that John’s Godfather-watching friend gets it is that she asked who that lady was, and when he told her that this was the very early Diane Keaton, she said that she doesn’t like her, which rang John’s tugboat bell. She is playing a fairly unlikeable character in The Godfather, but John finds her to be a harpy. They continue to talk about the relationship of the different characters in The Godfather. John approved of his lady’s assessment of Diane Keaton, because during the last 10 years she was playing roles of quirky moms of 20-year-olds, but after you made million-dollar movies, you should instead be in retirement.

Robert DeNiro should have stopped making movies in 1989. Worlds tiniest violin! They talk about Helen Mirren, which John likes and he recommends to google ”Helen Mirren nudes” They had previously talked about this in regards to Judy Dench and Merlin had looked up a lot of English ladies in the nude. John finds it pretty impressive.

They continue to talk about movies, like The Goodbye Girl which feels like a broadway play from the 1970s. John talks about the Meet Kristy McNichol issue of Dynamite Magazine. Merlin remembers the issue about The Beatles vs Bee Gees, who is better?.

John’s first movie (RL229)

John’s mom gave him a subscription to Time Magazine because she felt like that is what he needed. Adam Lisagor posted a thing on Instagram taking his kid to the first movie and you always remember you first movie. John’s first movie was Doctor Zhivago that his mom took him to see at a $0.99 movie theater back when the biggest theater in town, holding 1200 people, showed old movies for $0.99. It was completely decrepit and dusty, the stuffing was coming out of the seats and you could buy your ticket and a popcorn and walk into this cavernous theater that had 11 people in it to see a matinee of Doctor Zhivago, a 3-hour romantic rendition of the Russian revolution.

John's mom said he was going to love it because it is one of the great films. The entire experience was overwhelming! As people were walking down the aisle you could hear their leather-soled shoes like you were in the CIA headquarters. The theater was as much a character of the film and John was watching this completely unintelligible movie that stuck in his head. It wasn’t Star Wars. It wasn’t Jaws. Then his mom took him to see Mommie Dearest, which scared him for life (first John said Auntie Mame, which he has talked about in other places).

Does mainstream culture include everyone? (RL229)

We have made it our cultural imperative to presume that everybody wants to be part of the mainstream and that the mainstream needs to be broad enough to encompass everyone. Up until very recently, smaller cultural groups who were not included at all in the mainstream had the advantage of knowing they were outside of the mainstream, which is a thing of its own appeal. Being a 7 year old jewish boy in school where everybody else is talking about Jesus could have been very uncomfortable and you might ask yourself why you are excluded from Christmas, but within the adult Jewish community there was absolutely no interest in being included in Christian mainstream. Nobody among adult Jews cared whether or not they mentioned Hanukah on the evening news, because there was a complete understanding that they were a separate community with their own traditions and they were more than happy to be excluded from the mainstream culture as long as you didn't try to burn their synagogue.

There were always gay people who just wanted to settle down, be a happy couple and live in their home. There was no big push to domesticate and suburbanize gay culture and make it the new normal. What’s been lost is this completely enveloping, separate and other gay culture with its own touch stones, all its own secret language, and to whatever degree there was persecution involved within the bubble, there was no desire to be mainstreamed. It was a wonderful thing! We all know what it is like to have a secret culture: In a lot of our lives it is the thing we prize the most!

Equality under law and freedom from being openly oppressed is something that we all absolutely desire, but that is what we call justice and that is what we are all working toward. The idea that mainstream culture should be a thing that is completely inclusive of everybody misses the point of mainstream, which is a thing to exclude yourself from or be excluded from.

In John’s and Merlin’s culture, mainstream was synonymous with dull and useless. Now the opposite is true and we are trying to mainstream every permutation of difference. A lot of the gay people at John's age are glad of having been taken out of the enforced closet, but they also lament all that was lost culturally.

The vast majority of people in the world are living on a dollar a day and that amount of crushing poverty is a tragedy that we need to address from our wealthy tower on behalf of other people. We need to lift them out of their dollar a day existence, but often it takes the form of a kind of ”Do they know its Christmas?” level of condescension. The people in Africa who don’t know its Christmas don’t need to know! That is not the point.

Everywhere you go, no matter how much money people have, they are super-glad to be in love, they love music and dance, they are glad for the food they get, and you wish you could do something for the people who are literally starving, but most people who are living on a dollar a day are having a quality of life that may surpasses the quality of life you may have while making $200.000 a year, living alone in a cold condo Downtown with no friends, spending all day on the Internet yelling at people behind an egg avatar. If you live in a village where your hut has a dirt floor, but you are surrounded by people you love, your quality of life is higher from a strictly human standpoint. Our rich condescension to these people is pathetic. We don’t realize how much our wealth has destroyed our quality of life.

John’s first exposure to a gay bar (RL229)

John’s first exposure to a gay bar was in Anchorage in about 1985. He went out at night with his friend Kell, driving around looking for trouble. Gay bars in Anchorage in the 1980s were all very subdued on the outside. There was one that everybody knew as the main gay bar that you would drive by and look at in awe, but other gay bars played if pretty subtly. They weren’t called ”cuffs” or anything, but they were smaller pubs and taverns.

At around 2am they were driving around, looking for something, anything, that wasn’t nailed down and they saw this bar emptying out. The probably 50 people coming out of this bar were a very colorful cast. They pulled over, parked in the shadows and it dawned on them that everybody coming out of this bar was gay, a lot of them behaving very flamboyantly. They could see it all unfold! John had a gay friend in High School who was a lovely guy, but he had never experienced a whole room of gay people.

During their continued conversation in the parking lot it became obvious that they were making plans to go to a party. They were all getting in their cars and were heading off together in a convoy. It was a lower-middle-class bar, so there were Pintos and K-cars and it was not a glamorous scene. Kall and John were instinctively following the parade and off they went, following along 1/4 mile (400m) behind. They went off all the way to Eagle River outside of Anchorage and John and his friend were following the whole time. They came to a little house in a neighborhood, everybody parked on the street outside and they went into this little house.

Kell and John parked across the street and watched the whole party. It was very fun and everybody was having a good time. They all knew each other, poured into this house, and John and Kell wondered what they should do. They both wanted go to the party, they looked at each other, they were High School kids and this was a risky moment in a time and a culture where the biggest putdown you could say to a guy was ”You are a fag!” Now they were sitting there across the street of this party. Let’s go!

They marched across the lawn and knocked on the door. Everybody who was invited to the party was already in the party, so they could hear that the party went quiet, because ”Who is at the door?” The door opened and here were those two High School boys who said ”Can we come to your party?” They said ”Sure!” and invited them in, the party picked back up, but everybody wondered who they were, where they were coming from and how they found their party.

They just copped to it and said that they had parked across the street from the bar, they saw everybody come out, they followed them and now they were here. John and Kell were completely embraced and they had so many questions about being a straight High School boy, while Kell and John had so many questions, like she is obviously a boy, but she is dressed like a girl, what is that? Big laugh and everybody explained. It was Anchorage gay culture in the 1980s, it wasn’t a drag bar, it wasn’t a dyke bar, but it was a complete rainbow of what represented gay and alternative culture, even straight friends of gay people.

It was an incredible night, but it was also fraught with sexual tension. What was going to happen? They had been taught that part of gay culture was promiscuity. Was this a promiscuous party? John was 16, he was a virgin and he was desperate to have sex with somebody. Was it going to happen tonight? What would the context be? Who here was he most attracted to? Were they attracted to him? There was a lot of flirtation.

There was this shattering moment for John when he realized that there were subcultures that weren’t just Punk. He was a reluctant scowling adjacent of Punk culture because his sister was punk and he was her escort, so he had been to every punk show that was ever in Anchorage, but he was always leaning against the back wall, going ”This is bullshit!”

Here John was and he loved it! Here was a subculture that wasn’t punk, but that also felt permanent. There was a tremendous sense of belonging and inclusiveness within it, and both Kell and John felt some envy at the amount of love and acceptance that permeated this small party of very different people. There wasn’t a single type of gay, but every kind of person was at this party.

That was a lightning bolt for John! Before that night he had the prejudice of ignorance, but from then on he had no prejudice anymore and was saying ”If you say anything about gays it is just because you don’t know anything about them!” John’s first job when he came to Seattle was in a gay bar. It wasn’t just happening in The Castro, but every little town had this going on! In the Midwest and in the red states that is still true today. In Missouri or Kansas there is still this bar and there is still this party.

From The Castro or from Seattle we look at the violence directed at these populations and we imagine that their whole existence is characterized by fear and violence, but it isn’t. The violence, the hatred and the exclusion don’t actually impact what it is like to be in that space. In a way all that hostility creates the love and solidarity in that space.

If everybody in that room was completely mainstreamed, so much would be lost. John would never say from outside say what was preferable because he can’t know that! Obviously you want to walk down the street being yourself and not be assaulted! Punk-rock used to be like that, too! If you were out in public wearing a mohawk you were at risk that some rednecks were going to beat your ass and that was part of what made punk rock so amazing from within. John is not at risk of getting his ass beat and never was, but partly he felt envy for the small community that he never would have access to unless he was faking it.

Merlin's early exposure to gay culture (RL229)

When Merlin lived in Florida he didn’t know about gay bars because he didn’t know what to look for. It wasn’t called ”Third knuckles” or something, but it was just called ”Jim’s” and sometimes he would find out after two years that it was a gay bar. It wasn’t what you thought of from chick publications and from Quincy. His imagination had previously been that it was a place where men were having sex in the bathroom. Everybody wants a place that you didn’t even know existed. We have all gotten that, even if you are just a little bit of a geek and have geek friends. For some kids it could be Scouts. Everybody wants to find some welcoming place that is not asking you to capitulate on your personality.

Merlin didn’t have a lot of gay and bi friends in high school and college. Some of them were in the closet and didn’t talk about it, but it was not a big part of his own culture in general. Instead it was music that got him into it. For several years when Merlin very much into music, the gay bars often had the New Wave night and the really good dance music.

It was not an averted gesture against frat culture, but it was just a better bar to go to and they were pretty tolerant of these dorks coming in and messing up their place on Tuesday night. For Merlin, that was an early exposure to a pretty large number of gay people, and he realized that they were pretty harmless. John wouldn’t say that, because they got inside him and changed him forever.

Differences in culture from West to East (RL229)

see The Big Walk

Children’s books (RL229)

One of John’s daughter's early children’s books was about a young girl from a 19th century village in Poland who’s rabbi had a certain amount of opportunity to send one person from the village to America and in his rabbinical wisdom he picked an orphan girl who lived with her grandmother. Her grandmother had taught her out of solace. She was very scared, obviously, but she made the trip to America where a friend of a friend put her to work sowing in some sort of wedding dress capacity.

She got recognized as a really good seamstress and everyone treated her kindly in that culture. She saved up enough money and she had met a nice boy on the ship across the passage. Eventually she had enough money to bring her grandmother over to America which seemed like a wasted effort because her grandmother was an old lady and would just come to America and be a burden. She should have been left in Poland, but it is a wonderful end to the book because it shows you how lovely the girl was.

John is a judeophile and he saw this book at Powell’s Books in Portland. It seemed like a fun way to introduce Marlo to Eastern European history. He read this book for her and he was sobbing by the end like everyone who has ever read the book. He has read it 40 times, but he continues to choke up at the end. He doesn’t know what to do about it, because he shouldn’t still be crying about this book. John’s daughter loves it and wants it read to her, but John doesn’t know where to find other children’s book that of this quality. She will be able to read it and enjoy it when she is 10, but John was also able to read it to her when she was 4 and she will love the story over the course of her live.

Getting the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach is another book and maybe she will love it when she is 19. John has read it to her a couple of times until she was of the age when she started asking what that word was that he kept skipping over. John has never read her any Grimm’s fairytales, but Merlin suggests that he should read her Rumpelstiltskin, because it is so bad when he stamps his foot and tears himself in two, just like John.

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