Outside of the original conception and birth, being Bastardette has been at 2-step process (or maybe more). The first step came an age ago with TLS. It wasn’t that I was unaware, only unschooled., unmentored. This where is where TLS came in.
TLS was substantial. That is, he talked about substantial things in an unsubstantial time. He talked about things that seldom reached public ears in Canton, Ohio. The Viet Nam War before it became a big deal and our high school classmates were sent home in body bags. Racism. He grew up in a mainly black neighborhood. He wasn’t one of those colorblind liberals who like to bray that racism doesn’t exist. He was well aware of it and he talked about it and acted on it in his personal and public life. He didn’t cut any slack. He spoke fluent German. In the summer of 1966 we stood in an incredibly long line to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a film we both enjoyed immensely, but not for the reasons our locals did (naughty words spilled across the screen). To kill time in line he recited long passages of Faust in German. It did not sound pretentious. He read Swedenberg, Plato, Beckett, Lao Tzu, Nietzsche, Salinger, TS Elliot (Prufrock was a favorite), Hemingway, Goethe (in German), Ayn Rand (really!). Mark Twain was a favorite. He enjoyed Greek mythology. English ballads. He wrote poetry. Later he became a Faulkner scholar.
TLS wore Wellingtons and was the first guy I knew who grew his hair long–both products of his first semester at Colgate. Much to my mother’s horror he went sockless with tennis shoes. You have to understand how long ago that was! .For some reason TLS was often mistaken for John Sebastian, lead singer of the Lovin’ Spoonful and finally ended up telling people he was.. He had a dog named Craigsmore and later a dog named Owen Glendower. See, TLS was part Welsh, Ukrainian, and, 1/8 Cherokee (I think).
TLS introduced me to or at least encouraged my fondness for The Evergreen Review, Fellini and Bergman, The Fugs, Lenny Bruce, and sexual symbolism in Bob Dylan songs. Honestly I was shocked when he told me what Dylan was really talking about. Nobody said those kind of things in polite company—if indeed Dylan was actually saying them, and it wasn’t TLS’s interpretation.
Then there was football. Always football. TLS played high school ball, won a nationally prestitious award, then and went on to play at Colgate on a free ride. He qualified for an academic scholarship, but football paid more. He belonged to a non-jock fraternity. Off season weekends he’d hitchhike to Syracuse to be part of civil rights demonstrations.
We didn’t always agree. I didn’t appreciate Beckett until I worked in theatre many years later. Faulkner is not my favorite author. Football never took. I don’t think he much appreciated my interest in politics, feminism, or Restoration Theatre.
TLS joined the Marines an act of pure defiance and autonomy, to avoid the draft. Since all Marines were expected to declare a religion, he declared himself a Taoist (which at the time he considered himself). The jarheads rejected his “faith:” so he picked Church of God to satisfy the requirement. As luck would have it he ended up sitting out the war in Material Company at a Marline base in Georgia shuffling paperwork for EastPac and playing football. One of his sergeants was a big fan of then Georgia governor Lester Maddox. He kept a framed ax handle on his wall–a souvenir given him personally by the good gov who was mainly known for swinging an ax handle at blacks who targeted his chicken restaurant for desegregation. This was not a good match, though no workplace violence occurred. Semper FI!
TLS de-bourgeoised me.Through those years the most important thing I learned from TLS was critical thinking. I doubt he realized this at the time, and I didn’t either, but he was the beginning of me really thinking about things. Things that mattered. He was way ahead of other people our age. He questioned and challenged and encouraged. Nobody had ever bothered to do that to/for me before. By example he showed me that it’s not only a right but a duty discover and to be who you are deep inside; not to be molded by other people’s opinions or desires or fantasies. I think he struggled with that himself and came through on the other side. That one is a really hard especially when you’re adopted, and I’m still working on it.
TLS passed away suddenly on March 10. We had not spoken for decades, yet I thought of him virtually every day I never thought that he would not be; that he would not be someplace I couldn’t reach him; that there would be one more time to tell him how really important he was to me. Now, I’ve only got this blog.
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying….
A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to