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The RenegadesRenegades Head Swirl  Heart Crush
               

 

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fiction

by Mike Zetteler           From M'waukee Stories
                       Life in the 1960s

                                     

 

    Who's that dancing on the jailhouse roof
    Stamping on the ramping with a cloven hoof
    Who's that dancing on the jailhouse roof
    Up jumped the Devil and said "Here is your man
    and I got proof"

                                                         --
Robert JohnsonZonyx YouTube Logo: Play Selection (1911-1938)

                      
Good is better than evil because it's nicer.
                                          --Mammy Yokum

     [Background Sound Except in IEx Plays HereZonyx Sounds Speaker Icon: Play Background Soors' Tune]

     Those days Hooligan's on North Avenue was the place to go after night classes (my favorite kind; I always avoided getting up early if possible, even Corner of Farwell & North Avenues, Milwaukeeweekends in high school before I started working second and third shift at the can company), or at least one possible hangout -- there was always The Tuxedo, closer to school on Downer Avenue -- Hooligan's with peanut shells on the floor and the thick glass schooners of beer, cheap enough for even a student who could round up only a few bucks to go out.
     But the Tux was more popular with the jocks, frat boys and vets, though convenient for faculty, with good pizzaburgers -- Ella the motherly waitress could drowse off standing in the doorway to the kitchen waiting for orders, while we would crowd into booths in the afternoon or wait at the bar for beers served by Art, the world's slowest bartender.
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     On a night when I had managed a cheap outing with Anne-Marie Walders to the Art Center for Renoir's Golden Coach a bunch of us ended up in the semi-circle of a large booth behind a littered table facing the east end of Hooligan's bar -- where she chided me about some perceived gloominess -- in truth it was over this cute German immigrant herself who had recently arrived with her family to the West Side of Milwaukee to commute, as most students did, to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  She had let it be known -- was actually adamant -- that she was a virgin and intended to remain so, and furthermore wasn't especially romantically interested in anyone, which, of course, included myself.
     In the '60s, even the early '60s, by which time Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl was giving women permission to have sex, this struck an unusual chord and made even more poignant my hopeless fascination with her enchanting European peasant face:  all soft planes and pouty lips, and a swirled mop of brownish hair, tendrils escaping erratically -- set off by exceptionally even and white front teeth in frequent smiles -- as I sat rather glumly.
     "Just stop and look . . . " she attempted to jolly me along.
     ". . . All the shapes and colors."  Sweeping a hand at the massed bottles on shelves behind the bar.
     They sold package goods, after all, being known as what is called a Super Bar, so of course they extended rank upon rank of all sorts -- though the aesthetics that apparently fascinated her did nothing for me.  "It's all beauty, in it's own way."
     "Yeah, right."  Noticing that much of the glass needed dusting, wondering how anyone could imagine any display of inanimate objects could compete with the need for a naked body -- her naked body -- to revel in.  I knew it didn't help that she was still a practicing Catholic.
     Meanwhile, the juke box rocked on, inane -- at least to college students out of high school and preferring Miles Davis and Brubeck -- early Beatles stuff, and the TVs above both ends of the long bar silently delivered an old movie -- though those of the engaged group at the table who had glanced up at the right time got a laugh when it began with a car pulling up on a country road in front of a mansion and a title announced:
Trouble began . . .
     I felt she had to be for me -- even though I knew it was hopeless -- when she even made a multi-lingual pun that played off my khaki army jacket, worn often with shades as a quick indication of my usual somewhat beatnik persona.  And of course, bought at Goldfish army surplus Downtown, it didn't cost much.  Shifting with her fingers some of the few coins that remained with the couple dollars I had in front of me on the shiny black table, avoiding the beer puddle and empty peanut bags:
     "Well, Donald -- Don -- I guess you're just an army boy."  Alluding at the same time to my joylessness and relative poverty, because arme of course was German for poor.
     "Ah, a triple-level pun," I acknowledged, getting back one of those quick smiles.

     Nice red lips, echoing even the red-trimmed seams of the filmy white blouse, transparent enough to show shifting outlines of a white bra underneath.  Even the modest size of the tits made me feel I would be somehow protective of them -- cupping them like plump little birds -- if I had the chance, sappy as it was.  But as I later found when I finally had someone to live with and fuck at will, that someone -- eventually to become my wife, Jenny -- worked at the same time with Anne-Marie at the lunch counter in Riegelman's drugstore on Downer Avenue and reported, with some smugness, that the woman I had idealized to myself as the displaced waif of the Black Forest had found me boorish.  Of course, I had thought I just had a romantic beatnik layer over a proletarian outlook.
     Even though I didn't hang around much at the coffee houses like the Avant Garde and hungry i that were sprouting up all over -- I had been too fond of beer drinking and bars for too long already.
     Still, as a bone fide English major I assumed people would see in my identification with the working class -- no matter that I grew up in the working-class North Side of modest homes and rented flats and tidy alleys with garages and ashboxes, near the factories that supported so many, including American Can Co. where I worked summers for years -- that I had transcended my origins for a more literary appreciation of the lower classes.
     Apparently not, though that didn't really explain why I had to keep returning to the old neighborhood for the connections it held -- my buddies and the quaintly named Lorri LaRue, equally virginal, though she would be accommodating with the occasional handjob if it suited her.  And its familiar taverns.
     "That isn't considered a masterpiece or anything, is it?"  Anne-Marie was asking, about the Renoir.
     "Well, yeah," I said, somewhat offended that she thought I would waste her time -- and a chance to impress her with my sophistication -- at an early stage, so I hoped, of our relationship, with less than a classic.  Of course, being shown at the Art Center was a validation I had relied on.  Especially with sub-titles.
     Still, I gathered she had considered it pretty much the way I did -- romanticized fluff, a jumble of bright color and spectacle, dominated by Anna Magnani's blowsy overacting.  Though the improbable tale of an 18th Century Italian acting troupe in colonial Peru had its charm, and Magnani in her pursuit by three suitors at least exuded an appreciation of an adult's need for an erotic life -- an earthiness that probably contributed to Anne-Marie's distaste -- I wasn't drawn in by the stated philosophical -- metaphysical -- concern with role-playing on the stage that was the world, as Shakespeare would have it.  It was the proletariat's lot that concerned me, and there was certainly a wave of contrasting naturalism in art -- novels and their subsequent films, especially -- that absorbed me.  From the early '60s with Sillitoe's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, in books and movies, to Adrian Mitchell's jazzy If You See Me comin' brought back for me from London as a gift from the Garsons.
     I suppose it started in 1959 -- the year I entered college -- with Laurence Harvey in
Room At the TopI could only vaguely picture myself then with either a rich industrialist's classy daughter or a smoldering Simone Signoret, sure that I would be paralyzed and inept, but I could hope that UWM would lead me in that direction.
     And Harvey was for the most part -- except when getting beat up or embarrassing himself with his betters as part of his social climbing -- so cool that I worked at brushing my brownish hair to look like his.  Without much success, just as I couldn't seem to find
Milwaukee's slatternly shop girls just out for a good time, the type who populated the Brits' kitchen-sink dramas, even up to the time of Ken Loach's Poor Cow as late as 1967.  (But by then, with our home-grown hippie chicks -- and I had passed through the beatnik phase myself -- and the sexual revolution, it wasn't important.  After getting divorced from Jenny, I entered a wide-open decade or so.)
     That these were the kind of novels and stories that Bibiana and Gregory Garson -- as teachers and friends -- loaded my willing arms with while leading me to discover socialism just accelerated my education in that direction outside the classroom.  I have to assume that, skeptical of religion and authority as long as I could remember, I would have gravitated to progressive causes anyway, but their example certainly speeded up the process.
     So it was that Mitchell's novel ended up on my growing shelf next to Malamud's The Assistant -- for alphabetical purposes -- and I added more obscure works by Zonyx IEx Logo: View Goodman Daily Bleed Anarchist Bios [Rt. Click for Menu]Paul Goodman, like Nature Heals and Making Do after he was brought here for a semester by Gregory, mostly on the strength of Growing UpGoodman in Milwaukee.  Zonyx Renegades .JPG Absurd, I figured.  At least it was one the education majors knew, unlike his early impenetrable novel, The Empire City.
     Though he called himself an anarchist, while the Garsons allied themselves with Detroit's Marxist-Humanists, his politics of community organizing, like Saul Alinsky's, were compatible with theirs, and because they admired him I was glad to have the chance to drive him around in my old Volkswagen, one of several beaters I bought cheaply during my college years.  Even if he ignored me when the blatant bisexuals in our group were around.

     Of course, I had thrilled to the discovery of Studs Lonigan and then James T. Farrell's Danny O'Neill tetralogy at the Downtown library even in high school, but they and even more of Chicago in the works of Nelson Algren and See Wikipedia Willard Motley EntryWillard Motley, though published later, had a dated, 1930s quality.  Milwaukee after the war, in spite of -- or because of -- the pervasive factory culture had a more affluent everyday life, though even such films as The Moon Is Blue had been Brigitte Bardot 1960s Photocensored by the Motion Picture Commission and I had to explore foreign cinema like Brigitte Bardot's latest for glimpses of nippled nudity at the Times Cinema on the West Side.
     Socialism -- despite us having  the country's last important socialist mayor, Frank Zeidler -- was equally exotic.  He was popular -- though increasingly irrelevant as a leader of a waning movement, even among the laboring classes -- but when relatives and neighbors discussed politics at all, it was with a Democratic, unionized bent.  Even though Milwaukee elected Socialist mayors beginning in 1910 with Emil Seidel.
     The rumors that the scholarly Zeidler, possessed of more Germanic Lutheran integrity than any official I ever knew of -- strictly a user of public transportation who never learned to drive, owner of a modest home in the inner city -- had scattered the southern states with billboards luring Negroes to move north for jobs in the city didn't help his grip on power or ability to pass it on, and he retired after 12 years, to be replaced by the contentious Democrat, Henry Maier.  Tales that his daughter married a black man didn't help either.
     At least he had a Municipal Building and a Downtown public square named after him, while the even more influential View Wikipedia: Victor BergerVictor Berger, the first Socialist elected to Congress, in 1910, was treated shabbily when the only landmark named after him -- an elementary school --  was renamed for Martin Luther King Jr.
  
  As if they couldn't recognize King by choosing a school that didn't already honor a public figure.
     So it wasn't a surprise, given our collective historical amnesia, that Lorri scarcely knew what a socialist was, and had equally little enthusiasm for anything but the most banal pop culture.
     Something I was finally learning to question myself, what with starting college and getting friendly with the Garsons.
     Lorri and I went to movies, but I had to drag her to foreign films.  "What's wrong with Hollywood movies?" she asked.  I told her they were made for twelve-year-olds, such as the vehicles for Rock Hudson and Doris Day . . . not the grimness I equated with progressive art.
     So I appreciated that Anne-Marie not only preferred art films, she believed she was knowledgeable enough to appraise them.  And discuss them, the same as with her literary views.  Lorri wouldn't have ever read Helen Gurley Brown on her own -- I gave her a copy -- and certainly never picked up anything as demanding as the Betty Freidan or Simone de Beauvoir tomes I had dutifully plowed through.
     The booths and bar stools at Hooligan's that night were full, and juke box music and voices contended.  As often happened, Aileen Kern was the only colored chick -- black wasn't considered polite then -- and getting a lot of attention.  Straight black hair in a chin-length bob slashing across her face under a silken yellow headband, the gap-toothed smile and liquid laugh.  I thought of a stream burbling over pebbles.  I hadn't gotten over my crush on her, but she had avoided getting serious while letting me drive her around -- she became the manager of an East Side apartment building converted from an old mansion where I was thinking of moving for the cheap rent and great parties -- and occasionally going out for drinks together.
     All the more frustrating because she had been fucking white boys, even my friends, for a long time.  First the preppy Allan Jensen from Brookfield -- and she was generally bourgeois herself, the daughter of a lawyer and small-time politician -- and then Matt Wilensky, a psych major who worked full time at the Milwaukee Psychiatric Hospital where she did, in Wauwatosa.
     I picked her up there once following her afternoon shift, in my battered Olds Rocket 88 convertible that I had bought from an Eastsider and drinking buddy from the can company where I worked many summers,Read Zonyx Zone II Fiction: "Love & Marriage" w/ Ray Malina Ray Malina.  He wasRay's '57 Chevy proud himself of the classic pink '57 Chevy he was working on.
     But I guess my drinking from the supply of canned beer stashed underneath the front seat helped make up her mind that I was too crude for her -- another one, just like Anne-Marie.  And I supposed that following ex-Milwaukeean jazz singer Zonyx Al Jarreau You Tube Performance IconAl Jarreau -- one of her first boyfriends, she said -- set the standard rather high, especially for her father's ideals.  At least for comportment.  And he had been an outstanding basketball player, too, while I was a skinny smoker, and no athlete.
     My only other real encounter with a sexy Negro girl was back at North Division High, at some sort of after-school dance where Brenda Hedrick -- intense and energetic with straightened black hair -- asked me to dance.  I was well aware of her before that -- any attractive girl, white or not, would at least get my sidelong scrutiny, and she had a habit of reaching behind her at her desk next to mine and tugging down on her bra strap, jiggling bounteous breasts under her tight sweater, though she was otherwise sort of thin.  A lot more palatable than the Jewish girl at Washington High School, from where I had transferred, who had liked to scratch her scalp and collect the scales of dandruff  -- what didn't rain down on my desk behind hers -- under her nails, to flick away.
     But though Brenda was, if not especially light-skinned, pretty and focused enough on me the way she often was in homeroom -- even when all we said was Hi -- to make me freeze in panic as I felt whorls of energy radiating from her groin that I couldn't deal with, and fantasized her wiry arms clutching me.  My imagination, I suppose, and I was drawn to rather full, vivid red lips and a wisp of a scent of bergamot -- but I swiftly turned her down.  It was a slow dance, and I couldn't imagine holding her in my arms, her brown face burning hot on my cheek.
     And not just her alone -- I could sense just out of my vision masses of imagined white and black folks staring, weighing me down with their scrutiny.

     And what would we talk about?  Her family was big in the funeral parlor business and populated a few pulpits as preachers, but I hated funerals and preferred to sleep late on Sundays, and didn't believe in religion anyway.  As I later told Bibiana -- recently moved here from Detroit where she had been active in school integration, a role she and her husband Gregory were getting into again -- we hoods and greasers didn't mingle with the colored students, though the school was about 50-50 at the time, while the lower grades were almost all colored as the neighborhood continued to change.
     Only the student-government types, too nerdy for us to care much about their doings, seemed to have interracial friendships -- and the jocks, too, though we didn't pay much attention to them, either.  Standing around outside, smoking, was the extent of our extra-curricular activity.
     (Only one, bowler Wayne Zahn, son of a well-known pro who turned pro himself, ate with us at our table or outside on the steps in nice weather where we could scrutinize girls' bodies.  He went far enough that I saw him introduced from the TV audience on the Ed Sullivan show.)
     But if any of them had their integrated romances, we didn't know about it, and certainly no couples were flaunting anything in the halls.  Maybe it was odd -- Bibiana, for one, thought it was strange that there wasn't more interaction and turmoil -- but it was a way of keeping the peace that everyone seemed to absorb when they walked in the door, and was never even a topic of conversation.
     Still, there were always a few white girls, it seemed, who fawned over the colored athletes.  It was an attraction my friend Marvin, who lived close to the school, and I puzzled over.  One time after we had a sparring match in his basement with some puffy boxing gloves he had, his sister Ethel -- old enough to go to bars and the inspiration for our jokes about getting a job at a filling station pumping ethyl -- heard us wondering about the charm some of the colored guys seemed to have.
     "Oh, I know why," she said with a smug smile, on her way out the door all made up.  But she refused to elaborate.
     So I didn't put my awkward box step -- taught to me by my mother when I started junior high school and going to the Friday night dances at the Auer Avenue School rec center -- to use guiding her around in our socks on the gym floor, home court of North Division's mighty Blue Devils, or Black Devils, as the state powerhouse of 1957 and 1958, showcasing Howard Fuller, was known.  At least to the loose, exuberant colored kids at school rallies, though the whites kept such terminology to themselves.  Notably for the unpretentious school -- though Golda Meier had been a 1915 graduate -- Zonyx News Icon .BMP: View Fuller ArticleFuller went on to fight with Frelimo in Mozambique and become superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, among other accomplishments.
     But by then he had gone from being called a Marxist activist when he founded a black freedom university in North Carolina to being labeled a tool of conservatives who lobbied for private schooling vouchers.
     As a typical semi-delinquent myself, I doubt if we ever spoke unless when passing in the halls.
     But by the time I tried to date Aileen, who had mostly white friends anyway, I was ready for what we called a spade chick, but she treated me as a pal while stoking my eagerness even more with indiscrete talk about her sex life, as you would with a good friend.
     The hard-working and pale blond Matt, wispy hairline already retreating -- hipped about jazz, picking up early on trombonist and arranger YouTube Logo .JPG
Don Sebesky, who was Polish like himself -- and my first contact with weed, wouldn't have been happy that she let it slip that she had to put up with his small dick and impotence too, until, as she said, I finally got him straightened out.  And suburban kid Allan, though he talked himself about having a small dick and worrying about getting it up and then -- I'm all of a sudden thinking I'm in and doing it, I'm fucking again, and Bam!, it's all over -- the premature ejaculation, didn't know that Aileen was irritated by all that too, as she confided to me, if nobody else.
     But I was too tough for her, and not the way we described musicians as being tough.  But my fascination -- heightened by the thought of my buddies scoring with her with ease, problems or not, while I still hadn't gotten laid at all, by anyone
-- accounted for my sensitivity to her laughing at the next table and telling stories about work at the psychiatric hospital.  Even with Anne-Marie right in front of me, glowing and chattering.  Neurotic rich people and their phobias and compulsions, fortunately nothing as gross as Matt talking about the uncommunicative recluse with impacted bowels and having to assist in digging shit out of his ass with a spoon.
     But I had come far from my high school days when I weighed 125 pounds, skinny and coughing from chronic bronchitis -- spiking to 136 only when the doctor told me to stop smoking -- by lifting weights and gaining 50 pounds.  I was enjoying my new muscle too much, actually able to work summers in a can factory and heave pallets around, to try to be smooth.  Being rough and stomping around in my army jacket, especially in the old neighborhood, with nobody trying to beat me up any more, was more satisfying.  Especially in warm weather when I could drag myself out of bed to slather myself in baby oil, sometimes mixed with iodine, and lie sleepily in the sun in the back yard before going to work, wearing short-sleeved shirts with rolled-up sleeves to the bars after second shift.  What with not smoking, I was tanned and fit as hell, with other college guys to drink with for the summer and shoot bumper pool and still get enough sleep.
     Then after I had moved from my parents' house -- mother and stepfather -- to Aileen's building in 1964, it was time for the Fourth of July and a reason to toss some contraband firecrackers down the still-ornate, carpeted stairwell, celebrating my move.
     The pungent smell of gunpowder, oddly pleasing, hung in the air, and I was ready for my last few semesters at UWM.
     I lusted after her even more then, and was well aware of her a booth away, squeezed in with Gregory Garson after one of his night classes and a couple of guys I knew -- in fact, most of us were in both a philosophy and a Literary Criticism class.
     Ann-Marie was lovely, but Aileen fucked, and I couldn't help looking at her now and then.  One time I had been waiting for her in her manager's apartment on the first floor, while she did some ironing in her slip before putting on her makeup in a hurry so she could get a ride to work.
     "I don't have any natural beauty," she remarked, as her heavily-darkened eyes and thick, black lashes emerged, though her lips were left just about untouched.  I always figured that was a ploy to look less Negroid, and the large, slightly gapped front teeth drew enough attention, but it was true, though I hadn't really noticed.  Her nose was more bulbous than flat -- maybe a legacy of some Arabic slave trader? -- but the clinging peach slip and smooth brown skin made an unsettling package, and she was as sensuous as ever.
     I had only seen naked photos of her, taken by an Aileen Kern with Bob Watt in his Studio [Click to Enlarge]older proto-hipster, Bob Watt, who was recognized as a painter and sculptor, but who had to pay $20 an hour to get models to pose nude for his own collection of pictures, probably used to beat off with.  He showed them in a slick album he carried around, apparently thinking he impressed us as a rakish artist with a bevy of willing posers to call on, but we knew the truth.
     Of course, now she had on a white bra, and I could just see the outline of her panties under the slip, and only barely discern dark brown nipples like Hershey's Kisses and imagine a stubbly black patch I had only found in photography magazine spreads of exotic dark models at Sherman's Drugstore on Hopkins Street.
     Playboy was years away from even showing pubic hair, but I used to spend chunks of time leafing through the magazines on the rack, which Matt Sherman tolerated; in turn I bought an occasional Coke or malt.  I had started college, but was too young to go to bars, so it was an urgent pastime I was inevitably drawn to after a few hours at home studying and needing a break and some walking for exercise.
     I might be having dates on the weekends then with girls I had hung around with on Center Street -- along with the other guys -- since high school, but they were a conformist clique, mostly Catholic.  They drove away any competition that might put
out -- the few that came around our old corner in the '50s and early '60s -- while dispensing at most handjobs and some bare tit action if their boyfriends were exclusive and discrete about it.  Otherwise it was only necking, at parties and the drive-in theaters.  Sadly, that was my role even after high school.
     But I had another goal:  I always walked past my Jenny's house, though young as she was her parents had stopped us from dating and she wasn't likely to be outside very much at night in the quiet neighborhood.
     But she was a known sleepwalker, sometimes making it to the sidewalk in her nightgown and bare feet before being led back, and I thought it would be intriguing to encounter her, awake or not.  But I never did.
     So Aileen's ass looked especially nice, rounded with its hint of a dark furrow where the clingy slip rippled in the sunlight from the rear windows looking out towards the old coach house in back.  Cerise-colored curtains bowed in slightly in the warm breeze.
     I offered that some people couldn't look attractive no matter what they did.
     "Hmmm, I guess so," she decided with a shrug.  "But could you honestly love this?  I mean forever, not just for now?"  Turning her head in profile, her brown face in repose, not the usual half-smile, and I had to admit to myself that though the pear-sized tits were distracting she was quite plain underneath after all.
     "Well . . ."  But, barely into my twenties, I knew I had hardly started, that there should be women all over the place and I wouldn't much resist any impulses for years.  And though I never caused pain to any blacks, I hadn't spoken up when older guys on the playground would use typical nigger terms in insulting each other or the time when one of them ragged on a stray little
View Zonyx Fiction: "The Plum Tree," Playground Sceneblack kid as an insect and ape until his tears ran down as he just froze there, transfixed.  So what could I say?
     "See! -- I know you guys."  Disappearing then into the bedroom to slip on her white uniform.  I wanted to protest that she wasn't being fair.  Who declared undying love before even beginning a relationship?  Not Matt or Allan, I was sure.
     In Hooligan's she accepted the attention as naturally as always, the usual drunken, fragmented student discussions that I could sometimes make out in the general din continuing, covering everything from The Portable Heidegger to aesthetics.  Jack Vogel from Professor Bernard Fleischman's recondite Comparative Literature class complained that he could never remember the word synaesthesia, though the condition sounded cool.  Then Garson brought up Milwaukee's de facto segregated school system, subject of a lawsuit soon to be brought by the NAACP, which the school board even perpetuated through a policy called intact busing, in which black pupils transported to white districts were still kept together, even in the cafeteria.  For necessary administrative purposes, of course.
     Even in my case, when I tried to transfer from almost all-white Washington to North Division, an indifferent female office worker behind the desk told my mother that it was against some policy or other, even though North was a lot closer and I lived a block from the 20th Street border.  I had to step up myself and complain that it was too expensive to follow the dress code, since they didn't allow blue jeans.  True enough, though I really just preferred my Levi's, but Milwaukee certainly didn't seem to care about keeping the inner city school integrated.
     I eventually got a guy in an inner office to sympathize, or at least agree just to get rid of me.
     I shouldn't have been surprised at the bureaucratic lethargy:  No one ever suggested I plan on going to college, either, though my grades turned out to be good enough to get me in without taking any SATs.  By that time several years had gone by and a career in a factory -- I was etching metallic adhesive labels with acid at the W.H. Brady Co. in Glendale -- was becoming intolerable.
     With Louis Armstrong rasping out Hello, Dolly one more time -- the Beatles may have owned the charts but he was certainly holding on -- Aileen remarked several times rather blandly about her friends the pink people, until Matt, still her boyfriend, objected:  "Do you have to call us that?  You've been reading too much Baldwin.  And we're not all pink."
     I expected that Matt -- who usually couldn't make it to our gatherings because of work -- would be up on black literature, as he seemed to make a point of being.  But apparently not The Fire Next Time, which had just come out, actually with a somewhat conciliatory message for whites, though excoriating Christianity's unmitigated arrogance and cruelty.
    
"Why, don't you like Baldwin?"
     "I don't like what he's doing to you."
    "Okay, Sweetie . . . Pinkie."  If her family once had any southern accent, it was absent in her.  She was as Midwestern as any of us.
     I could hear Jack Vogel's deep chuckle at that.  It was hard to miss:  He had a low rumbling voice that carried, like rolling logs.
     I first really noticed him shortly after the start of the school year when he followed on my heels with the two Meissner brothers -- a philosophy and a business major -- into Barney's tavern Downtown for the usual free Friday night raw beef spread, mixed with raw eggs and chopped onions, served on crusty Italian bread instead of the more customary rye.  After midnight, an accommodation to the Catholics, of course.
      ". . . My dream is to march down Division Street with the bums in Chicago in my combat boots," I heard him saying, surprising because only the round glasses and short, curly hair had registered and I took him for another North Shore wimp.  Even though I simultaneously knew that many of them played a lot of sports and were quite sturdy.
     But I realized, looking again -- especially after a barking laugh -- that he was a lot more like me than I had thought.  And a lot tougher than the Meissners.
     I never did find out what he had in mind, but I gathered that he felt formidable enough to swagger amongst the local gangs and intimidate aggressive panhandlers.  But I had no reason to think he was a racist -- obviously he fit in with the Hooligan's bunch, including Aileen -- and I doubt if anybody else gave her race much thought.  I didn't know how much, if any, discrimination she had ever encountered:  The only twinge I observed was when the four of us -- she and Matt and Allan and myself -- went out for breakfast on a Sunday after bar closing at 3:30 in the morning.
     As we filed out of the old Belmont Hotel coffee shop on Wells Street into dawn coming up as orange and purple streaks piled higher like crenellated edifices over Lake Michigan, a middle-aged couple glanced up from their coffee cups and then at each other.
     "Now that's something I hate to see," said the woman.  Not even sotto voce.
     Who knows what kind of licentiousness she thought was going on, but there wasn't much that could be said, and we plowed on out through the door.  I suppose Allan and I were taking a chance being there, since about a year earlier Stan Beckman had calmly strolled in front of me out the door, ignoring our bill, leaving me to assure the cashier, "I'll go get him," and dashing out behind him.
     My green Olds had been in the lot across the street and took that opportunity -- as it often did -- not to start until I just about ripped off the loose air cleaner and blocked the intake with my hand to act as a choke while Stan twisted the key.
     Gasoline odor reeking, it fired and caught, as befitting a car, though junkable, that was still capable of burying the needle at 120 mph on an occasional jaunt with classmates to a back road, terrifying everybody with its shuddering, hurtling body.
     What the restaurant staff did during our getaway I'll never know, but we made it.  Laughing even as we halfway still expected to hear a siren behind us, but didn't.
     We left Hooligan's, since Ann-Marie wasn't the type to stay out until the end, especially with Mass at St. Leo's Church in the morning, and I had only Sid McCoy's all-night jazz show on Chicago's WCFL to look forward to on the way home.
     I knew she wasn't going to let me kiss her goodnight, and she put both hands on my right arm and thigh in a pre-emptive move and pecked my cheek.  Of course, I could feel her tits against my arm, and I knew she did it on purpose -- women always knew what they were doing in contact like that.  But I was starting to see Jenny again -- her parents had relented since she was soon turning eighteen -- and I asked myself, why bother any more? as she disappeared in the dimness at the top of her porch steps.  I watched until I was sure she was inside.  Bars were still open and I headed back east, still on the North Side, to The Renegades for a nightcap.
    
By my reckoning there were at least four sexes at
The Renegade, as the sign on the outside said, or The Renegades, as another one said inside.
     Renegades
was preferred by Tony S. (he said few persons bothered with with his almost-unpronounceable Polish last name).  He seemed to run the place, although actually he couldn't get a license and his friend fronted for him.  Mostly a dyke bar, though there were guys who liked sissies and guys who liked them butch -- the same with the dykes -- and some who just liked to watch the goings-on.  It was all new to me, springing up there in my old neighborhood, the name alone enough to get me to stop in out of curiosity.
     Being polite I always said gay instead of queer, and didn't try to pick up the girls.  That was appreciated; I even ignored one who rubbed her front against me at the jukebox and played tunes on my coins:
     "What do you like?"
     "Jazz, none of your goddamn hillbilly stuff," I answered.  And there was some Cannonball Adderley, but I also found and punched some rare -- at least in white Milwaukee bars, though Top 40 Radio was pretty eclectic -- Slim Harpo and Jimmy Reed.
     There was some jazz and rock, but mostly hillbilly, and the dykes would sit at a table for hours and sing
YouTube Performance IconBlackboard Of My Heart and other country standards, for some reason.  Left alone, they had a hell of a good time, happy-gay, and could drink every night of the week, it seemed.  There was much ribald laughter and joking, especially at certain lyrics that could take on a double meaning, anything with the word queer or gay, of course.  The boys had their own favorite,
Frankie and Johnny.
     So finally after I first noticed the place, sharing an intersection with a gas station on the slashing diagonal of Hopkins Street, with its traditional corner taps bracketing the grocery stores, dry cleaners, barber shops, jeweler, the Zenith Theater, radio repair specialists, beauticians, Koepsell's and Rexall drugstores -- mostly with apartments on the upper floors of the brick buildings abutting the sidewalks -- and one sharply triangular corner credit union, I stopped in after driving Jen to work at Kohl's supermarket bakery on Hampton Avenue after school.
     She was about to graduate, and since her parents decided she didn't have to wait until she was eighteen to see me, I could at least pick her up after school -- they knew my family, after all, from St. John's Methodist Church, and she had been my little sister's babysitter for years.
     She had started that when she was 14, as I often got too busy with night classes or working to help out myself by watching Annie.  That led to me running into her -- really first noticing her growing tits and cuteness -- when I would get home before my mother.
     Word about the fairies and lesbians had gotten around the neighborhood, and I picked her up at Washington High across the street from the cascade of broad concrete steps in the afternoon under a canopy of leafy elm trees doomed by the newly-encroaching Dutch Elm Disease.  We cruised with the top down until I dropped her off, then checked out the bar before trying to get some sleepMilwaukee Washington HS.  Half dying, I felt, with a cold in the middle of a fall hot spell, face red and pale at the same time, overshaven for Jen to the point of pain if I smiled and riding in sun with the top down, squinting even in shades.  Feel of oil and sweat and slight burn on face -- but with this young chick beside me and the radio playing.
     Zonyx Speaker Sounds IconTelstar by the Tornados was one of my favorites to blast in the open convertible when I could, and the Chantays' Zonyx Speaker Sounds IconPipeline.
     But I was coughing intermittently, even though I carried Kools as well as Luckies and alternated between them, back to smoking again -- something I could share with Jenny -- but feeling an awkwardness between us after almost four years, until I left her at the bakery department, wondering if I could get back to where we were when she would sneak away the first summer she could manage it to see Jenni Age 14me and I would feed her sloe gin and sweet on ice.  It tasted like cherry soda to her, and she always asked for more, leading to some rolling around on floors, where I could glimpse pink nipples under a suspiciously loose bra.  I knew I could get my hand in it, and so did she.  But though she was proud of her new equipment up to a point, she was skittish since I always tried to get her drunk -- usually at Ray Malina's house when his parents were out -- and she was wary also of her parents.  Then there came a girlish goodbye letter from church camp, signed

Jenny Letter Love Signature

telling me her parents had drawn the line at us dating.  Giving her a few years to grow up, they thought, but also maybe get involved with someone else her own age. Which, I found out later, she did: getting fucked on the carpet for her first time at sixteen by a high school boyfriend named Ron who surprised her with the gift of a sweater for her birthday.
     They were alone at his house and she was so pleased, she said, she went at it without giving it a thought after she let him slip off her panties for her usual fingering.  No rubber, of course, and I thought jealously that at least I would have been more responsible.  If only her parents could have figured that out.
     I could see her white uniform and the paper cap perched on her helmet of coal black hair -- dark jetties escaping around her ears -- through the plate glass window as I drove away, needing a drink.  Her dark complexion may have been due to some Indian blood, it was said, from her father who was from New England.
      I wanted time to contemplate our new possibilities, though I couldn't stop coughing with my cold and discomfort and usually didn't drink in the old neighborhood except nights after class when I would make a last stop at the bar closest to my parents' home.
     It should be interesting; I knew the citizens were outraged by the queer bar, one of the few in the city my friends even knew about -- one other being the Mint Bar on State Street, but that was Downtown and mostly male.  But neighborhood bar-goers would still get drunk and show up sometimes late at night, even old guys with beer bellies, to gape at the pool-shooting girls with their masculine haircuts and vests, cursing as they lined up their bank shots.  My step-father, who sometimes tended bar at the Hop Inn down the street asked me if I knew that one was a cop's wife, or so he had been told.
     Stopping not for the first time, then, but the first time for me to be noticed, I had peppermint schnapps and water back, peppermint schnapps and water, and so forth -- schnapps being simply the German word for shot, but reserved locally for flavors like Rumplemintz -- for the coughing, and then some beers, to get to sleep before third shift that night.  Even if I would miss the supper my mother had cooked.
     "Hey, there -- Up jumped the Devil."
     A greeting coming at me from this side of the bar.  At least I thought it was a greeting.
     So I met that day not only Conrad the partner and early day bartender -- known as Connie the Bitch to Tony -- but Tony himself, the money behind the place.  Surprisingly tall, and goggle-eyed behind thick glasses, not only a limp wrist but a limp and jerkily-moving body, always pursing and twitching red, moist lips.  I found out he was usually there from four in the afternoon, drinking plebeian rum and Cokes and checking IDs, watching for trouble -- cops and vice squad harassed him, coming in often to look around.  Neighbors were complaining to the alderman, and the new police chief, Harold A. Breier, was famous for his stubbornness and intolerance of any sort of deviant.
     Tony took bottles of his whiskey when he went to see the same alderman, but Breier -- who was loved on the South Side because he didn't assign Negro cops there to keep them from arresting whites and was myopic about organized crime as represented by View Wikipedia Balistriri Bio Frank Balistrieri -- was also considered incorruptible.
     Breier was eventually even reported to have been keeping a file of pink index cards of names of gay bar patrons based on license plate numbers collected by cops on the neighborhood beats.
     Over time, they learned I was straight but not a troublemaker and I started getting the regular prices instead of those for tourists -- the numbers on the cash register didn't show when rung up, covered as they were by a small placard -- paying a dime for a tap beer instead of a quarter, or 50¢ instead of a buck for a bottle of Blatz, and so forth.
     That afternoon I drank with the scratchiness in my throat being soothed by the schnapps like liquid warm candy cane on my throat and brisk clean tap beers, switching between them.
     Coughs eventually subsiding while I listened to the arguments about further improvements, Tony being a con man according to the Pabst salesman he mocked, who pulled out taps every week to put in a different brand when he couldn't get the right free signs and decorations he wanted.  Ended up furnishing the place strikingly for a neighborhood bar, lots of mirrors, and for almost nothing, though it became obvious he didn't mind throwing money around on just about anything.
     Connie gave me a few drinks on the house while continually filling Tony's glass where he sat, next to me.  Tony apparently likes my silky, loose short-sleeved shirt that I tell him is from Johnny Walker's on Wells Street when he checks out the label.  Connie may be getting jealous of one of us; at least Tony says with an annoyed glance, "Whatsamatter Connie, I'm having a drink with a customer, all right?"
     Eventually Nancy Wilson is singing while I morosely accept another drink and think about Jenny, wondering just how much sex she's had since she pulled back, figuring I had to see if she could stay out late enough so that I could take her out on a Friday night after second shift, maybe to Beyond the Sea, an Italian restaurant on the East Side.  I know it serves late.  I hope there would be time enough to park and drink at the lake front.  In my grogginess the thought of her young cunt floats like a vision, dark but not too bushy.  Silky dark.  Maybe Indians were like Orientals I had seen in magazines.  Someday soon, I hope.
     A young guy comes down from the upstairs apartment, thick arms in a T-shirt, blond hair, spooning a cantaloupe into a pinched face.  I take him for a late-sleeping trick Tony had paid, but decide he's a friend or lover.  There's a conversation about him taking Tony's new Lincoln to the stock car races at Cedarburg; Tony says he wants to pick up some rough trade -- a term I had learned from reading, maybe John Rechy's City of Night -- on the Avenue with Connie later.  The novel was passed on to me by A.J. -- for Austin John Brennan -- another staff UWM Cheshire Magmember on our UWM  literary magazine Zonyx Planet Logo Tiny .GIF: View Selection [Rt. Clock for New Window]Cheshire, who shared a flat with an openly bisexual student in the theater department.  They never copped to a sexual relationship, but I think he speculated that I might have a personal interest or that it might rub off on me, but I only knew that I was just generally fascinated by bohemians and hipsters, from Jack London to Jack Kerouac.
     But A.J. acted straight enough, and everyone -- I don't know how he did it, since I never heard him brag -- passed it around that he was a good amateur boxer in high school and fast enough with his hands to catch flies in mid-air, like Willie Stark in All the King's Men.  ButView Wikipedia ArticleMike Grumley, his actor roommate -- also a fiction writer -- wasn't as restrained.
     Though strapping enough for leading man roles, with glossy, slicked-back, if thinning, black hair, a somewhat small mouth and delicate movements told a different story.  And he was proud of hobnobbing with wealthy, older homosexuals.  Especially one he called the most sophisticated man in Milwaukee, adhesives heir Charles Brady.  From the Brady family that gave me my introduction to adult work, washing sheets of metal in pans of hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid, inhaling fumes in a small, unventilated hutch in one corner of the shop floor.
     Unfortunately, at least to his sycophants, Brady died in a fire that swept his hi-rise apartment on Prospect Avenue, though Grumley did have a semester to console himself with Paul Goodman after the two met in my Volkswagen early in his lecturing semester here.

     On top of his other seemingly effortless achievements, Grumley was an artist's model and painter, and Goodman gave a lecture on Michelangelo and his painterly qualities, so I imagine A Younger Paul Goodman they had art to bond over too, though as Goodman always made clear in the anecdotes he related of anonymous sex, lust was enough.  A great democratizing force between men, as he wrote in
Go to Review of Goodman's "Five Years"Five Years, that covered the period immediately before his stint at UWM.
     And he liked to say, as I found out in listening to him talk about his sex life and his writing, it pays to advertise.
     Reading some of his stuff supplied by the Garsons, in anticipation of his sojourn here, I realized that from my perspective he was getting old, and I asked Bibi if he might now be over the hill when it came to having sex, but she asserted that Jewish men never stop fucking.
     Goodman had yet to find his greatest fame as a social critic through his Playboy articles, but his books and poems were substantial and left no doubt about his bisexuality, though from the way he ignored actual women I figured his wife and children were mostly for show.  Critical reviews of his work gave him a lot of credit for having a true marriage, but it was my opinion, which hadn't changed, that bisexuals really lean heavily one way or the other and otherwise dabbled for the perceived status.
     He plunged into our campus battles over censorship during his brief stay, and defended a banned poem of mine in the college paper, titled after one of his books:

                COMMUNITY OF SCHOLARS

        we often discussed sex
        and particular girls
        the professor (my friend) and I
        Freud or not, is it strange
        that I should have dreamed
        we stood before a urinal
        oddly constructed that drained
        by running on the floor
        between my feet
        -- and he flicked drops of piss
        upon my face
        suddenly, so that with a jab
        of my left I smashed
        his humpbacked imperious nose
        without thinking
        and as I choked with remorse
        he complicated matters intolerably
        with his bitter forgiveness

     Of course, it drew on my erotic thoughts of Bibi and the august Gregory, arising in an actual dream.  I suppose I thought I could pique Garson a little bit without giving him any real impetus to jealousy.  Goodman later combined it with some other censorship cases in an article for Liberation magazine.
     But the closest Grumley came to hitting on me -- at least I thought he was -- was in Barney's one crowded night when he peered up from the booth bench at my face, saying, "You have the smoothest forehead of anybody I know."
     A little flustered, I could only say thanks -- though I didn't know if there was any truth to it at all, and certainly never cared -- and from then on my forehead became a minor theme whenever we ran into each other.
     But A.J., closet case though I'm sure he was -- and the little group of his friends on the magazine thatUWM Mitchell Hall [Main Bldg.] all had their origin in their childhood neighborhood in St. Francis on the far South Side seemed to want to ignore it -- succeeded in staying an enigma.  It was only the very first time I met him, when the Cheshire office was still in the basement of Mitchell Hall and he was there at the very start of the semester, just to greet anybody who might wander in, that he seemed a little askew.
     After introductions we chatted a little about my chances of writing for them -- rather good, it seemed -- when he leaned back in his wooden chair and dropped his hand to his crotch.
     "It's boring down here."  Meaning, ostensibly, the basement marble corridor which seen through the open door was indeed deserted.  "I think I'll masturbate."
     He pretended he was opening his zipper, then stopped.  It was, of course, a perfect come-on that could also be taken as just a guy joke if it got the blank response I was showing.  Instead of I might as well join you?  Or so I figured out years later; at the time I was just puzzled, and silent.
     But I became part of the intense but friendly bunch at the magazine, English majors mostly, united by our obvious superiority to the crass journalists on the UWM Post down the hall when we moved across Downer Avenue to the converted apartments above Riegelman's and Green's Bookstore.
     Of course, there were a few of us who fell in both camps, like the charmed aspiring poet Allan Jensen, who -- hapless as he was at something ordinary like spelling -- was elevated to Post editorship, and the sleek sorority queen Leslie Strobel, Allan's more competent predecessor there who nevertheless also dabbled in poetry while exuding a fashionably-turned-out quality that brought back my memories of a sensuous, perfumed Mrs. Kalterjahn, Sunday school teacher and youth group leader of my boyhood -- who once, to my shame, caught me smoking on an outing -- and her nyloned legs.  Certainly a grown woman I hardly had the nerve to speakMemory of Mrs. K in Sun. Hat & Veil to, with a family, but mysterious yet friendly in a black Sunday hat and sleight veil with her sexy lipsticked mouth.  Leslie seemed unapproachable in the same way, perhaps explaining why she seemed never to be dating and even virginal -- I wanted to ask her about that but it would have been awkward, since I barely knew her.  Occasionally I would give her a ride at night to her home on Marlborough Drive in the northern suburb of Whitefish Bay, once even as we swished cozily enclosed through a misty rain while the radio sounded a muted romantic suggestion of a darkened Italian streetscape from a recent Antonioni movie at the Downer.  But I was diffident, and she had always seemed elite, remote -- the moment passed for me, and she was delivered untouched and no doubt oblivious.
     Years later, after they moved to New York -- together, though A.J. eventually got engaged to a woman -- I was as saddened as anybody, though not really shocked, when word got back that Grumley had died at 46 of AIDS.  Grumley Novel about Interracial Gay Couple. CLICK to enlarge.One of the first victims in the '80s that we knew back here.  By then he had stopped acting but became a successful non-fiction writer who had even promoted one book about Book by Grumley & Ferrofinding artifacts from Atlantis in the Caribbean on local TV.  He had dated some cute Theater Department actresses during his stay here with A.J. and had published more -- including the novel, Life Drawing -- than I had, so it took that kind of ending for me to stop envying him and his friendship with Manhattan writers like Go to Wikipedia ArticleEdmund White, Jean Genet's biographer, who wrote the foreword to his novel, and the A Dying Grumley & Partner Ferro [Click to Enlarge]other six members of the important gay writers group,Go to Wikipedia ArticleThe Violet Quill.  Even if it was only a little bit of jealousy, and I tried not to . . .
     My reverie ends when the blond guy asks, "What time you goin'?"  I hear Tony call him Norman.
     "Well Baby, what time are them damn races over?" Tony wants to know.
     "About 11," Norman says with an unperturbed, level look.  He's got power over Tony.
     "Well, that's all right."
     "And take it easy, huh?  They're watching that car, you know, they're watching us."
     "Who?"
     "They're watching all of us, you don't want to get picked up with no underage tricks in the car."
     Tony just smiles and bends and stretches his body in the black knit shirt, elbows to the back, "Oh Baby, I'm so horny today."
     Turning back to me where I had been arranging my nickels and dimes in precise patterns in front of me on the smeared bar, fantasizing about Jenny and wondering what really attracts me to this place.
     Physically I found the idea of sex with a male repulsive, though I suppose I could admire naked Greek statuary as much as anyone.  Even an oiled-up body builder in a magazine had an aesthetic appeal, and they were an incentive for getting pumped up myself -- that's why they posed there, after all, and the gays had their own magazines -- but the closer I looked at a man with all the stubble and pores and flab the queasier I felt at the alien flesh.  Hairy nostrils especially repelled me.  Hard to comprehend that women could feel as warm and searching to such slabs of grotesquery as men felt for their softness and orifices.
     I figured that's why I paid so much attention to my own grooming:  I liked to display muscle, but hated being unkempt and coarse like a lot of guys were, thinking it should turn women off -- though my concern was also considered feminine itself by some guys, as I found out.
     I didn't even much like a friendly arm around my shoulders, a habit drunks too often had.  But still the whole operation and the patrons had a raffish charm.
     "Well, Donnie, what are they saying about us on Hopkins Street?"
     "Hell, you know."  I shrug.
     "Whoa -- Up jumped the Devil.  It's a queer bar, right?"
     I didn't want to use precisely that description, but:  "Well sure, that's obvious, man.  I don't think they like you."
     Noting he had used the phrase again that seemed to be an all-purpose interjection.  Eventually I learned it was from a Robert Johnson tune, though I don't know whether he even knew it:

              Who's that milling on the courthouse steps
              Nailing my face to the hitching fence
              Who's that milling on the courthouse steps
              Up jumped the Devil and off he crept


     Suddenly, though, I feel my head drooping, the warning that I was liable to wake up -- as I sometimes did when I wasn't careful enough -- after falling asleep for a few hours behind the wheel in the car parked right in front of my house.  It would happen and I sometimes couldn't make it inside, but I always knew just when I had to get out fast.  I never really thought of it as passing out, since it was bedtime anyway.
     So I made it to bed then with the shades drawn against the sunlight, thrashing -- at least so I thought -- in the old dream where it seemed I was having a seizure and was falling to the floor, though I would wake up in a sweat in the same supine position.
     After that, The Renegades was a place I could go when it was convenient to get closer to home with a little time left for a jolt after driving across town and something was usually still going on.  Another late night -- at least for her -- with Anne-Marie seemed right for that, since I was far from the East Side and pissed off enough to slam a few quick shots.  Fuck her.
     It was off to the bar for some shots and then to bed; fortunately I had no classes the next day, though I would have to make it to my unimpressive but necessary school-year job as a bus boy at the Cudworth Post American Legion Hall.  But hangovers never bothered me much as long as I slept through the worst of it.  And I always tried to.
     There was no late -- early? -- breakfast for me at the Belmont, though Tony as usual offered to buy.  As a frugal student, I usually saw no reason not to let him try to impress me with all his cash.  That may have been the time I idly asked him just what he did during sex.  He thought for a moment, at least about his phrasing, then said simply, "I suck."
     My turn to ponder.  "What does that do for you?"
     Another pause, then, "It lets my eternal soul flow and flow . . ."  Rolling his eyes up and looking up at the ceiling in pretend ecstasy.
     But that was a rare real conversation, though sometimes a few of them would just drink in the back room after hours and bullshit and I would join in, especially after Tony said I was afraid he would rape me, though I doubted that with his gawky body and spastic movements, tall though he was, that he thought he could.
     But I could also put him off just by taking his drinks and staying aloof.  Once, even as I couldn't help thinking of the girls that baffled me when they were as unresponsive as I was being now, I just said, "Shit, Tony, what are you talkin' about, you want to blow every cute guy you meet.  You don't even know me."
    
"Whoa -- Up jumped the Devil . . . what do you expect from a queer?"
    
How could I argue with that?


                            *                          *                                *
      
     
At the Cudworth Post the next night I cleared the tables arranged in a large horseshoe, watching when I could the girl in green at one end.  Small and perfect features, smiling placidly at the guy next to her who, to my eyes, looked like a crew-cut lecher.  I thought of a woodland bird -- I had hunted bobwhite quail as a kid up north near my aunt and uncle's cheese factory in the country -- when she chuckled, nibbling at her prime rib.  The high-necked dress had a rich, brocaded front, covering her breasts but sleeveless, leaving her arms exposed.  White and fine -- firm, of course, and I muttered to the other bus boy, not an original thought but it leaped to mind:  "Man, I'll have her on rye."
     It was an office party, and as I handled food scraps presents were passed out by a nondescript but jolly man in a gray suit.  Funny presents, they thought, like a bottle of Nair, toilet paper with cute sayings, a shorty nightgown and hot-water bottles.
     They were in on it -- apparently it was a wedding event -- and they watched with anticipation as the girl in green extracted her gift from from the square box with shiny red paper and ribbon: a long coarse and greasy salami.  She held it up to show around, smiling shyly to the shrieks of the older women and some guffaws from the men as I cleared butter and relish dishes and pictured her white haunches and tight little groove like a clamshell on edge as I hiked her dress and bent her over the table.
     When they all left -- some heading to the bar and more brandy old-fashioneds -- I loved her even for her slightly awkward, tipsy balance on small, black shoes walking away.
     "Hey," I called to the high school kid, Andy, the other busboy who was dumping ashtrays by her empty place, "Is there a note there for me?"
     He imitated a search and held up some wrapping paper and said, "Is your name Handsome?  If it is . . ."
     Later he wanted to leave early so he could pick up his girlfriend.  I felt like saying no, irritated that he had a girlfriend while the girl in green never knew I existed.
     "Yeah, I guess so."  I knew he was in Young Americans for Freedom, and YAF was a big supporter of Goldwater in the coming election -- something we clashed over -- but he was likeable enough and I didn't want to be a prick.
     But as I turned away he stopped me.  "Let me ask you something -- those college girls, when you take 'em out and like that, do they expect you to put it to them?"
     Anne-Marie came instantly to mind, and my rejection.  She was seeing some guy who often picked her up at the drugstore whom she seemed to love to serve until she could leave on his arm, clutching and smiling.
     You should be so lucky, I thought, before I admitted it to myself:  I hardly know.  I couldn't really afford actual first dates, the kind where you asked a relative stranger out to a genuine event, like a concert, and if I didn't necessarily think they all looked down on me because they were from North Shore schools like Nicolet and Shorewood High, that didn't help, either.  Besides, few even attracted me, though we could talk about everything from Brakhage to Zelda Fitzgerald at McClellan's restaurant on Downer Avenue.
     So I only saw Lorri -- who, with her lower-class proclivities, commanded less and less of my attention despite the lure of handjobs -- and then Jenny, both from the old neighborhood, and just hung around with the Cheshire group and aspiring reporters and philosophers and such who liked to drink cheaply during the school year.
     Jenny at least let me get my fingers in her pussy in the car -- startling me the first time I landed on her bare thigh slippery wet under her skirt down to her knee -- and I could hope to guide her towards college where we could be together.
     In the summer season I had more cash, though I had to save for tuition and paid room and board until I finally moved out, but I worked nights anyway and had the same old buddies and chick friends from the corner going back to the days of Pompey's Sweet Shoppe and the Savoy Theater on Center Street, next to the library.
     Since we went to different schools and generally lived blocks apart, I don't know how we all found each other, but that's the way it was -- a popular playground or a busy intersection with restaurants and drugstores and perhaps a theater could draw a nucleus that perpetuated itself as a group for years.
     "Well," I told Andy, "Sometimes.  But not really.  Not at first, anyway."  Hoping I didn't blow the facade of sophisticated college man, but figuring I was right.
     Still, knowing I could have those dates if I really had a plan filled me with diffidence, while the girl in green had me seething at her unattainability.  An inversion of ambition I lived with, but I was afraid it marked me for failure.
     Still, there was a year or so to graduation and I might yet do something worthwhile.  A few undergraduate stories and poems hardly made a ripple, and it was more rewarding -- or inevitable -- to sit and drink at Hooligan's anyway.
     Stopping there that same night I was glad to see Bibiana.  Gregory was probably home with the kids, as we knew he hardly drank; he was more likely to appreciate an ice cream sundae or a big slice of cake.  As a minister's son, he had never touched a cigaret, and no one could get him to try grass.  But Bibi liked to drink beer and smoke and listen to music and often went out alone.
     Definitely on Friday nights at Barney's where we all went as part of our communal ritual.  Though Gregory -- a published poet -- wouldn't deign to write for our lowly student magazine, Bibi had started to work on her own style, a very simple, conversational approach, and had submitted work that we were glad to have.
     Her eyes did seem to sparkle more when she talked to me, though she appeared to have the look of someone nearsighted who had forgotten the glasses she was used to wearing, indicated by reddish marks on her nose.  But I was intrigued when she asked about going together to listen to some jazz groups sometime.  Gregory could never get away.
     I had begun spending more time at their ramshackle house on Maryland Avenue, drinking beer on the couch at parties or with visitors who always seemed to drop in, talking or listening to albums I had never heard, like Kenneth Rexroth reading
Thou Shall Not Kill (A Memorial for Dylan Thomas) from his and YouTube Icon: Ferlinghetti Performance, St. Francis Poem [1957] Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 1957 poetry album:

. . . .You,
The hyena with polished face and bow tie,
In the office of a billion dollar
Corporation devoted to service;
The vulture dripping with carrion,
Carefully and carelessly robed in imported tweeds,
Lecturing on the Age of Abundance;
The jackal in double-breasted gabardine,
Barking by remote control,
In the United Nations;
The vampire bat seated at the couch head,
Notebook in hand, toying with his decerebrator;
The autonomous, ambulatory cancer,
The Superego in a thousand uniforms;
You, the finger man of behemoth,
The murderer of the young men. . . .
. . . .He is Dead.
Like Ignacio the bullfighter,
At four o’clock in the afternoon.
At precisely four o’clock.
I too do not want to hear it.
I too do not want to know it.
I want to run into the street,
Shouting, “Remember Vanzetti!”
I want to pour gasoline down your chimneys.
I want to blow up your galleries.
I want to bum down your editorial offices.
I want to slit the bellies of your frigid women.
I want to sink your sailboats and launches.
I want to strangle your children at their finger paintings.
I want to poison your Afghans and poodles.
He is dead, the little drunken cherub.
He is dead,
The effulgent tub thumper.
He is Dead. . . .

[Click for Complete Poem in .DOC Format]

     Thomas had died not too long before of alcohol poisoning from downing what he claimed was a record of 18 straight shots, in New York on an American tour which included a reading here at Marquette University.  So he had a solid following in Milwaukee.
     It was backed by a muted jazz band, beatnik style.  And there were records by Tom Lehrer, Nichols & May and guitarist Kenny Burrell, whom they had known when Gregory tClick For Complete Rexroth Poem in .DOC format aught at Wayne State University in DetroitMichael McClure, Rexroth himself, Gary Snyder, even Allen Ginsberg:  Bibi made him scrambled eggs with a ham steak from which an adoring student retrieved the bone to wear on a neck chain.  Over time there was no telling who would show up.
     It was there Allan and I hatched our plan to drive my white Triumph to New York so he could attend a film festival to scout for local Art Center film circle director Franny Lee -- who had no budget to send a representative but who could get him in -- while I dropped in on Milwaukee boho expatriate painters Peter Sinclair and Mike Grumley in the East Village.
     On another night shortly afterward I found myself elaborating to an inquiring McClure about the non-stop 17 hour -- more or less -- trip each way, when we took turns peering with binoculars out the windows of the Spitfire for tracking law-enforcement vehicles while the small sports car topped out in its speed.  Not that fast, to be sure -- barely 100 mph -- though certainly enough to get us a big fine, but we made it without incident so I could wander enthralled from Wall Street to the Village living on deli food to go and visiting the renegade friends while Allan took in the screenings.
     I was immediately captivated by the 24-hour liveliness and unceasing sounds reaching up to the indoors and brazen pedestrians crossing streaming thoroughfares that only let me drive the Triumph with any ease after midnight down Broadway and even through Central Park, while I could find arty events to explore in the Village Voice for even my paltry finances.  I could only hope to make it back someday, even if it meant furnishing a space by dragging up an eight-story walkup the cast-off furniture -- even mattresses -- that magically appeared along the gutters every morning.  The shotgun apartments that dwindled like a vanishing perspective in a painting as each room got smaller with distance from the kitchen where the bathtub was covered with a board for a makeshift table and the door was guarded with a police lock like a crowbar based in the floor weren't discouraging, just exotic.  Maybe I could relocate -- though I wanted to spend a year each in Madison and Chicago just for the experience -- even if the sight of crowded blocks of parked cars in the canyons each with their antennas snapped off and hoods dented from gangs of kids holding runs from corner to corner on their tops was a bit unsettling.
     At the Garsons' soireés the long pleated skirts with the wide plastic belts Bibi often wore were not very flattering when she moved around the room in her big-hipped way, and I thought she could have used more lipstick on the small, pinkish mouth.
     But while Gregory was my English professor and more reserved, it was wonderful to sit together in the living room and talk about my classes and gossip about her encounters with students as a new instructor.  After a few times I had enough nerve at Hooligan's to say I should take her to a couple of  jazz bars I knew.
     When things broke up that night some of us lingered outside in the parking lot facing east on the five corners of Farwell, Murray and North Avenues, one block from busy Prospect Avenue  and cut off from the view of Rieder's more upscale tavern with its stained glass windows and German hunting lodge theme.  The Oriental DrugstoreFrenchy's well-known white tablecloth restaurant a little farther (noted for its wild game, but the regulars knew not to order the elephant:  The story was that the French-maidified waitress would make you wait half an hour then return to inform you that Chef says he's sorry, but he can't start a whole elephant for just one person), across from the New York Diner hot dog place and a handful of other bars.  Wimpy's Hunt Club.  Vitucci's and Monreal's on Murray, with its tiny stage for weekend jazz.
     Bibiana suggested tea at her place for the bunch, but I had already developed the habit of never stopping once I started drinking and drew the olive-brown army jacket a little tighter around me as a brisker wind kicked up, though I was glowing somewhere way within and planning to keep it going.  Halloween was in the air and things were cooling down.
     "Never touch the stuff," I said to the offer.  "But I've got beer and wine in the car if you want to go,"  I said to Anne-Marie.  I usually picked up something like Black Cat malt liquor and Mission port wine to get high fast when I got off from the factory to pick up Jenny, and kept the wine in the car trunk for cross-town trips.
     Anne-Marie still rode west with me sometimes, as we had planned earlier, though by that time she was dating someone else and I seldom saw her except at Riegelman's in her brown and white checked uniform.  The quaint carhop look was cute on her, and I couldn't help tracking her with my eyes as she worked the grill.  Wanting to undress her, of course, visualizing short, brownish curls captured by possibly skimpy panties, under the starchy dress.
     She said no, she had to get home, but before we got moving Bibi suddenly said, "You know, your sneakers are too white," and I was dodging her foot soles, intent on smudging, on the cold gravel.
     Another girl from our table joined in the game as I yelled, "Come on, cut it out, dammit," as I hopped around and they chased me until I cleverly -- I thought -- jumped to the top of a low whitewashed concrete wall.  The girl followed, but Bibi could reach my feet from where she stood below and inflicted a scrubbing of feet with a few handfuls of gravel and dirt.
     I liked having clean, white shoes, but it was no use.
     I was pissed off to see how the dirt on my shoes made a tracing of my toes like crayon on paper over a coin -- or a gravestone rubbing -- until the dance was abruptly over when I stepped on her hand, crushing it on the sharp gravel on the wall.  I was walking in the moonlight on black bones and she was wincing in pain, and I felt terrible, but it was an end to the evening.
     As usual, Sid McCoy in the car helped float me along in the bittersweet night, after Anne-Marie got out, to get a shot and chaser, this time back at Go to Fiction: "Rat," at Peanuts' Herlitz's Bar Peanuts Herlitz's, but I could think about drinking alone with Bibi.
     When she called my house the next week and said hi she went on quickly:  "There's nothing oriental about the Oriental Drugstore -- except maybe the old gentleman at the counter."  If she was nervous -- and she hid it pretty well -- I was too, but I said something about the ornate Oriental Theater next East Side Milwaukee Posterdoor, a landmark that gave the building its name, and then we were setting a time and choosing a place to go.
     "I can't very well pick you up in my car," she said at first, but I couldn't picture us in the green Olds with its noisy pipes and conspicuously flapping tattered white ragtop -- too much attention for an unlikely couple, one of them a married teacher, parked on a side street or maybe down at the lake.
     Better her stodgy family sedan.
     So I asked her why not.  A pause, then:
     "Well -- all right.  Do you want to meet me?"
     "Oh, just stop in front at eight o'clock and blow the horn."
     I knew I couldn't see the street from inside without going into my parents' bedroom, and of course my mother was sitting right there on the couch.
     Hell, this would sure beat staying home with the collected Shakespeare or a psychology textbook and one eye on new host Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, intensifying my reading during commercials.
     I could put off working on a paper about the atheism of Measure for Measure, a point I wanted to prove to the English department's Professor Tom Burnham, an Episcopalian from Virginia.  That was my usual method -- do library research and find some obscure viewpoint to get fired up about to the point where it was fun to write an argument that the teacher probably wouldn't agree with.  Not just counting words on the page but having something to say was half of the effort right away.  I had done the same with The Merchant of Venice, using the writing of Jewish author and publisher Harry Golden of the South Carolina Israelite to argue that Shakespeare wasn't anti-Semitic, though Burnham taught the conventional view that on balance he was.
     The horn blew when Bibi got there and there was no problem and she slid over to the passenger side and said through the open window, "You drive."
     We made our first night together a visit to Les Czimber and his group at the Embers on Capitol Drive.  It was cozy, with pianist Czimber -- a Hungarian who had escaped the Russians in the 1956 uprising -- playing straight-ahead jazz, and I told her about his early championing of then-local Al Jarreau.
     I drank whiskey and sour, appropriate for that kind of evening, I thought, and it went by quickly -- Gregory was used to her excursions but she didn't want to push things too much -- until I was parking the sedan at the lake front.
     It was the usual place for couples to go, with a reasonable amount of privacy if the cops could see clothed torsos through the windows, though it was a good idea to watch for them cruising back and forth on the road.  With others positioned up and down the drive we were watching the submarine races, as the local saying went.  Or at least waves rolling in.
     It was a good strategy to park right under a streetlight so there wasn't as much shining in and the canopy of leafy trees spaced along the curb could spread their shadows, blocking more illumination.
     When I could get Lorri LaRue down there with my clean handkerchief ready there was easily enough time for some necking, a hand under her blouse, to get jerked off without any problem.  Why she didn't ever feel the urge to put it in her mouth, I didn't know, just as she resisted letting me touch her pussy.  I only occasionally even saw it when we stayed naked under the sheets drinking beer most of the night in my married buddy Go to Zone II Fiction: "A Game of Pool"Chuck's bedroom, when they went out for the night.
     I was at a loss for conversation for the moment, but the radio was playing -- the usual Top 40 of WOKY -- then the news carried a report of an armed robbery and getaway at a West Side mall.  I commented, knowing she was active in civil rights and school de-segregation, that the three suspects were described as white, though I had thought race was usually not mentioned at all unless it involved the feared black males.
     "Well, I have heard it before, in Detroit at least," she said as I was thinking I ought to kiss her or something in spite of everything seeming suspended.
     But here were thin lips and . . . what?  Something missing.  Ever since Barbara Firley in grade school I was drawn to a soft baby face, cushiony lips, welling up with a kind of tenderness that came to me from somewhere at the mere sight of the rounded features.
     But in the skein of branch shadows on her face through the window she arched her back and made the maneuver I had seldom seen -- and never for me -- that had her hand behind her unfastening her bra then snaking it through one sleeve of her sweater.  A little shake of relief and she stuffed it in her purse and stubbed out her cigaret.
     For some reason I thought washerwomen's tits as I found one nipple then the other, larger than I was used to and rubbery in my mouth before I nuzzled the side of her neck a little bit under her ear.  I liked the tiny pearl earring.  "I didn't think they were this big."
     "You just never noticed."
     I had avoided kissing her, but while I was cupping a large breast and sucking on her nipple I knew what the hand on my groin meant -- or at least it was time to find out how available she intended to be -- and I did the unzipping myself.
     Of course, the white Jockey's made it a little awkward until I pulled the waist band down far enough and she manipulated me into the warm and wet mouth that had me slowly growing hard.  I wasn't imagining it when she bit me gently, teasing with just her teeth.  I was thinking it would be great if Herman's Hermits could come on with I'm Into Something Good -- after all, she was a teacher and it was a classic schoolboy moment to remember -- but I had to settle for Speaker Icon: Play SelectionMaria Elena, a cool instrumental for romantic driving and parking at night.
     Still, after a while with her head down while I watched the drive I didn't feel any impending spurt coming, just a friendly comfort, and she stopped after a few desultory pumps with her hand and sat up.
     I stared past her profile out the windshield at stars affixed to the unmoving nightsky over the lake as I wilted.
     "You have a nice one," giving it a little waggle for emphasis.  I didn't want to argue with that, though I didn't see how I could take any credit, either.
     Actually, I would come to identify more with Charles Bukowski, who wrote that his dick was in the normal range but his balls were huge.  Too bad you didn't get much credit for that, though I had been amused by the limerick that started, "There was a young man of Assizes . . . ."
     She looked straight ahead out of the windshield, where we could see the beach curving north, and ceaseless waves.  "Something to look forward to . . ."  To me or herself, I didn't know.
     Then after a moment she took my hand.  "Rub my stomach."
     I knew perfectly well what she meant, and half-heartedly put it on her lower belly on the skirt.  By then I was unnaturally calm, I thought, indifferent though I had even fingered several of the more willing girls as far back as junior high in the Savoy and the Zenith.  We called it sitting together when on Friday or Saturday night a friend, usually a girl, would ask a girl on behalf of a boy who liked her and we would find two seats in an uncrowded row in the theater.
     Sometimes the girls would ask; either way the guys might proudly end up with a face full of lipstick, though a hand quickly fondling a covered breast was about as far as it went.  But it was possible to get someone with the right reputation, if she liked you enough, in a remote enough spot -- maybe the closed balcony -- and get a hand between her legs, under the panties, and explore.  Inevitably, I would get to the point where I felt there was nothing left to discover and I would get up, even though it felt cruel, to go the bathroom or buy candy and just not come back.
     If the girls talked about it between themselves I never knew, but the rituals continued and the messages went back and forth until we all started going more and more to social center and parish dances like St. Elizabeth's.  Full body contact had its own charm, even with clothes on, and real dating could take over.
     Of course, I knew nothing about the clitoris until I discovered a marriage manual in my Aunt Marjorie's bedroom, and even then for years I thought it was pronounced cliTORis.
     So none of the balcony girls came, though I'm sure some of them could have guided me to the right little bump even then.  But they were as unhelpful as Sandy Agnello had been when I had her leaning against her garage with my middle finger misplaced in what was actually the crease where her thigh met her body -- and she just laughed and pulled away when I caught on after several minutes of triumph.
     But it was gratifying in my adolescent mind to slide a finger or two around in the moist, virginal slits that contrasted with what I imagined tonight to be Bibi's tangled, damp mass inches away.
     She was about 15 years older, with two kids, and I pictured her husband, my English teacher, who had been plowing there in a gaping void.  Not inviting.
     It seemed, with my hand still inert, that it was time to leave the shore -- we had to make the trip back to my parents' house on the other side of the city -- and the time together was companionable enough after she finished another annoying cigaret and blew the last of the smoke out the window.
     But I was spooked after that, not wanting to disappoint her but feeling no passion.  The Garson's [Click to Enlarge] Small Gathering at the Garson'shouse continued to be the place to go -- even more so as it became a center for civil rights activities, and I would drink cans of beer there a lot with the other students they felt were interesting or malleable enough to invite, and I would sit there on the couch, often next to her when the others had left.
     Flattered, as always, by her attention and showing her stuff I had written -- though I planned on being a novelist, I thought I wasn't refined enough to write poetry until I began reading hers: everyday observations that she shaped sometimes without formal meter or rhyme schemes.  Some of mine were about her, of course, and I even thought I might be going too far in touching on our attraction  -- because I certainly felt something -- insinuating a lust that Gregory Garson, when he saw them as part of my creative writing class, wouldn't know we never acted upon.  Even though I never used her name:

                                                         May First

               . . . Summer will bring your protests,
                       picketers to gather

        Around your flaring skirts and high,
                             excited voice
        Your insights into the structure of
                                power, the
         Academic phrasings you can't wholly be
                              rid of. . . .

       Mother of his lovely daughters (as they're
                                 always called)
       Lover of the workers, working at being a
                                        lover
       We breathe heavy new winds
       When rain slews sideways on the covered
                                       porch
 
      You accuse me of trying to plan for
                             accidents
      While you take advantage  
      Of marital accidents to plan. . . .



     Several times she mailed me on the West Side, once sending me this:

              I like your poem fine. 
 
       
After talking to you on the phone 
        I looked up a couple of prosy non-
        poems to send you
           no images    no obscurity

           I'm sorry you hate my body
               please may we talk
                    sometime?    

      

      And some others I saved, including one about our date at the Embers:


                           
really, really
             did you look at    me
             through the crowd
             like I thought you did?
             when someone said --
             when
you mentioned, you dear
             a place we knew last year?
                   (that long ago?)
                            if so
                            many thanks


      
And another:

                                      
New Year's Eve

                        
I took it like a blessing
         the pope grants the faithful
         when you lifted my dress an inch
         and kissed just above my knee

      
       
I remembered we had been sitting on the floor of her living room, her rounded bare knees schoolgirlish and delectable, as we all listened to Eric Burdon & the Animals perform a powerful View YouTube SelectionThe House of the Rising Sun, and then an older Aretha Franklin album.  Bibi quickly rated Burdon above Mick Jagger, and I couldn't argue with that.
     But still, I had already written a poem that gave me a twinge of guilt to publish in our off-campus mag riverrun.  Cruel if taken as a literal description, but of course it was a poem with presumably fictional actors: 

                 Sex, Why Not?   

                         consider the drooping buttocks.
                         one can wedge a quarter in the folds of
                         the flesh
                         or turn on the breasts, flicking the
                         nipples
                         with the tongue like a finger
                         on a rubber light-switch

                         one after the other, and wait for a spark
                         a flame again, a brighter red
                         than the dark port wine swishing
                         in the jug half-empty & warm
                         was tangy for the tasting as her young thighs
                         splitting to a sliding finger were
                         wet to her knees
                         and full of feeling and promise, once

     But Bibi on the carpet seemed smaller and younger for the moment, and I thought past what I imagined were slack labia and a drooping butt; after all, I had seen her driver's license with her birth date at some point and couldn't escape some images of the effects of all those years of marriage and having two kids.
     I had given my aversions some thought and wondered if it wasn't a consequence of an incest avoidance, that guys were programmed to make sure we looked for sex experiments in younger girls outside of maternal possibilities.  I know that at a pre-pubescent age -- and I had started jacking off at 11 --  I had squirmed away when either my mother or my aunt had held me to kiss me good night, as usual, and I put a stop to it all from then on.
     I later observed families where it seemed as if an adult with nothing to do would grab one of the kids to kiss and hug, and I came to think that if my own relatives had ignored my protests that I was too old I would have accepted it and been better able to express affection outside of sex later on.
     But we were never that demonstrative.
     Of course, I was seeing Jenny by then, though we only had the same parked-car possibilities for limited sex.  My friend Chuck, who had let Lorri and me use his house when he and his wife Donna were away, freaked out when he realized that some of us were visiting her when he was gone.
     Only Ray Malina was fucking her, though I had worked on my own plan, even driving her once in my car as I casually rubbed her upper thigh and then her cunt through her slacks.
     "Doesn't your hand get tired?" she asked after a while, but she seemed interested, and I hoped she'd soon be leaving Chuck.  But I couldn't actually imply too much while they were still together, since I didn't want to be responsible for a breakup.
     Or for her baby boy.
     When I was confronted by Chuck, some of that came out, and though we had been buddies since high school we went our separate ways and never spoke again.
     But at least Jen had grown up without any inhibitions, it seemed, and though she didn't have any experience with blowjobs my cock was getting more attention than it ever had with Lorri, who really only wanted to neck.  So I had the excuse of being faithful to my girlfriend.  As I told Bibi one night, the two of us alone except for her kids -- one head a foot or so higher up than the other -- peering out from their bedroom doorway just off the kitchen, "It would be like you being a whore."
     "Is that what you want -- for me to be your whore?"
     "No, no."  What could I add?  And I don't want to flunk English, either?  Meaning Gregory was a friend and teacher that I wouldn't risk alienating except for the kind of all-consuming affair I could only imagine, a Tea and Sympathy tryst.
     "Is your sperm so precious?"
     And of course I wanted a girlfriend I could count on to be with and have real sex like everybody else.
     But not with her; I wanted a cute young thing, sexy but vulnerable at the same time.  Even though I once had a crush on a Mrs. Kalterjahn, a powdered and perfumed, impossibly perfect Go to Zonyx Fiction: "A Game of Pool"Sunday school teacher with the sleekest nyloned legs, though I didn't have the nerve to even visualize a body under the finery.
     It was bad enough that I would question Gregory's aesthetics and ideas more than hers because I felt he should be able to take it; after all, he was more accomplished, more like a father figure that I had to learn from by opposing.  Even if he rightly expected more deference.  But that was also the price of being my friend rather than just a teacher.
     And Jenny was my girlfriend; we didn't see anybody else, though she still had rules about getting home at a certain time.  A.J. and Grumley's flat was on Newhall Avenue across from the brushy slope that led down to the Milwaukee River a few blocks west of the campus.  They occasionally had beer parties there, though I guessed they were hustling queers to get invited to more elaborate soirees on Lake Drive.
     It was typical student decor, with some large paintings of a nude Grumley and some of his own work -- more figure studies -- and there was a barbell leaning against the wall in their living room, giving at least the impression that one or both of them worked out.
     I was early enough -- though later than the appointed time -- to find Grumley still strutting around in a white terrycloth bathrobe, seemingly out of the shower moments ago, with an open bedroom door and the brassy blonde actress we knew as Luanne just getting up from the bed in her own blue robe, exposing the side of a breast.  As if she were on display.
     But any woman with Michael Grumley seemed like a decoration, or just a good friend, and he didn't seem to know many he could invite.  A couple of other guys, including a new Read  Zonyx Fiction: Gas for LessCheshire short story writer named Zetteler, had come alone.  It was certainly good I could bring Jenny, though I thought because we were a couple I shouldn't encourage her when she swayed and danced to David Rose's Play SelectionThe Stripper.
     "I'm not gonna take this off, so forget it," she said, tugging out on the waistband where it stopped below the bared, tremulous breasts.
     But she smiled and did her best to swivel and bump and grind with the striptease.
     Near the end of the record she pretended to roll down the elastic top, then stopped, smiling as she pulled it up.  She imitated the stagy ooh look of a professional stripper.  Half-naked, she was as cute as ever, with inky dark eyes -- a little smudged, looking weary for a young girl -- and pouty red lipsticked mouth.  Another one with a gap in her front teeth, like the Wife of Bath.
     "I bet you'd let Don take them off for you if you were alone," said Kent McKenna, a swishy anthropology major who was one of the original A.J. Brennan gang from high school days in St. Francis.  We had published his parody of Ginsberg's Howl in Cheshire, and Goodman had singled out for approval a line in another poem he read at the Garson's:  He diddled her middle with a Christian cross. . . .
    
Such praise irked me a little, I admit, since though he had liked some of my poetry, I had read one aloud that he had judged as displaying my sophomoric illusions.
     Titled
GETTING TO SLEEP, it was set in the protagonist's bedroom

            
at five o'clock on a frigid morning
               of a below-zero year
 
                                                   when frost
              has covered the window except for one
              patch perhaps the size of his hand
              and approximately the shape of a knight's head

and continues through a session of drinking from a wine jug and a pensive, naked dance seen in the mirror and the morning radio stock report evoking memories of watching slaughterhouse sheep shot in the skull with a .22 rifle, until with the dawn

              he rolls the bottle under the bed
                 and easily sleeps till supper time


    
All right, somewhat bathetic and jejune, I suppose, but as a college student I didn't think I should sound like a middle-aged Jewish man, either, but I let it go.
     Jenny, still charged up and slipping on her clingy yellow top with black trim, responded lightly to McKenna:
     "I don't know -- he never tried.  But we don't really have any place to go."
     I was chagrined that she had made it sound as if I weren't really interested in sex, but Allan Jensen later said that hell, we ought to go in together on a cheap rented room.  He was seeing a tall Latvian chick named Ieva that lived at home and they didn't want to go into the bushes at the lakefront either.  We ought to be able to find something in the converted mansions on Prospect Avenue near the Cudworth Post where we were both busboys.
     Later, when we were driving alone, I had to tell her how pissed I was:  "Listen, I'm still the man, even if we haven't been to bed.  You don't have to go telling everyone about our sex life . . ."
     I looked straight ahead with my best stone face, knowing coldness was about the only weapon I had at my disposal, while women always had the power of the sexual gatekeeper if they wanted it.  Hell, any reasonably attractive woman could unbutton far enough to show a little cleavage -- or really push them up and out if she were desperate -- and get all the attention she wanted, any night she wanted.  But what could a guy do?  They already knew we were all horny, and any posturing like unbuttoning a shirt just looked silly.
     But as I expected, she was contrite:  Though I had been doing some reading and was all for economic and legal equality for women, I hadn't noticed that any of them were looking for somebody they could push around.  Far from it.  Dump one guy, sure, but then it was to find someone else to take the lead or cater to.  And I was older, besides, and had the car.  Women who really liked sex didn't use it as a weapon, since they would be depriving themselves, I thought, though it was mostly theoretical until now.
     "Okay, okay."  She leaned over and kissed me high on my cheek and darted a tongue into my ear.
     But oddly enough, I thought, her performance didn't make much of a stir in the long run -- I didn't mention it otherwise on the ride home or after that -- though as the party was winding down after I came back and we were slumping back into the furniture, the light through the wooded river banks starting to stream in, the occasional car drifting down the shaded side street at the start of the new day, things did become more bizarre.
     Several of them talked about a French film at the Downer in which a Gestapo colonel tortured a captive with lit cigarets for information.  Besides Allan Jensen from Cheshire and Matt, my other good friend was Stan Beckman, from Anne-Marie's neighborhood near Washington Park and an aspiring writer like myself.
     He wasn't preppy like Allan -- his father was a mailman -- and covered his severe psoriasis with long-sleeved shirts.  But he had dates occasionally, and the one he brought -- the only chick left -- had us listening as she claimed to know that cigaret burns weren't all that painful.
     Surprisingly, this one-time farm girl -- Sylvia -- told about a game the guys and girls back home had of holding out their bare arms or legs together and putting a lit cigaret in the channel between them to let it burn out.  If you flinched you lost, but for couples it made identical scars as a sign of their connection.
     It wasn't long before we had to experiment, of course, and I was overly vicious for some reason in grinding out a butt on my friend Stan's forehead after Sylvia and I held our lower legs together and let a cigaret burn out between our calves.  True enough, after the first searing pain the nerves went numb and we lasted through it.  Left alone, the cigarets always went out after some excruciating moments from the red-hot glowing tips searing skin and nerves.
     Sylvia wouldn't go any farther than taking off her blouse, keeping the satiny white bra -- and Stan did report once at the Tux that she had inverted nipples -- while we put our torsos together and burned a lasting mark for both of us just above the waist, like old fashioned raised white vaccination scars.  It was one more for her and the last for me, though I later learned that Stan had come off the worst, with some ash getting into his wound and prominently marking his forehead for years, if not forever.
     But the beer had lasted us and we were all pretty numb.  Once again without Jenny after the first few hours -- and we had no really good place to go, anyway -- I had hoped to smoke some dope, but Matt Wilensky was the only one who consistently had a supply (Justin Beste, the white-aproned student who watched the alley door for Barney, it turned out, a stop on the pipeline from Chicago by way of Kenosha) and he was working, as usual.
     It was the school term for me, but I knew Go to Zonyx Fiction: "Rat," Ray MalinaRay Malina was home from third shift at the can company and I called him to see if I could score.  No luck, but though school and my life in the old neighborhood seldom mixed, I invited him over.  Bars opened at 6 a.m., but without me to go drinking with, the fall months could be boring.  So he came.
     I don't know if he was impressed with the flat or my artistic friends -- a shiny metallic African mask, a fabric wall hanging --  as I had intended, but Sylvia with her boobs making little humps over the top of her bra was startling enough.
     The blue ceramic chip bowl held just crumbs, and the remaining dip was crusted over, but the refrigerator still had some brown paper bags with partial six-packs in them.
     "So where's yours?"
     Meaning my date;  I had to point out Jenny was still underage and had to leave when her parents wanted her home.  He was soon shaking his head over the tale of the cigaret burnings, though as a Chicano it wasn't unusual that he had his own home-made pinprick and ink tattoo on his hand.  No formal gang affiliation for him as a pupil at nearby Riverside High, but he had long ago punctured himself with her initials for the love of his long-time girlfriend, Zonyx Fiction Link, RAT scene with Linda & RayLinda.
     Even though he cheated on her all the time.
     But it was Bibiana who really let us know how stupid and crazy she thought we were.  Certainly with so much shit going on with blacks and cops and the school board and especially marches down south and here we were, spoiled and indifferent to doing anything meaningful in our lives.
     She may have been right about that, though I didn't see any real room in my life for anything beyond joining an occasional demonstration with the NAACP.  The Vietnam war was very remote for most of us, with students getting an automatic deferment from the draft.  Only Matt Wilensky made much of a point of criticizing it.  I had studying to do, and worked too, after all.
     But it led to her high irritation when Goodman -- never as solicitous of her or any female as he was towards the guys who were invited to her gatherings -- contradicted her stance and maintained one night when she told the story that it was sometimes healthy to do something extreme, even painful, to get roused out of apathy.  Like pinching or punching yourself or taking a risk for the rush it brought.  He was a Gestalt lay analyst, so spoke with some authority, though I rather felt she was right once I looked at my scars soberly.
     Goodman confused things further with his assertion -- despite being a community organizer in his New York neighborhood and certainly a sympathizer with the plight of mis-educated young people, especially young Puerto Rican males, that a perfectly valid way of approaching life and its difficulties was as the beast in the jungle.  In other words, a rejection of the humanitarianism and sense of justice most of us at least aspired to in favor of raw self-interest.  Not something the idealistic Garsons would likely embrace.  Or even myself, especially with their example.
     Once at Barney's when a little drunk as usual and I suppose with immature insensitivity I even asked Bibi what the Garsons ultimately were doing with their lives.  She felt I was demanding she justify her existence, but she thought about it.  Finally she said she thought they were having an effect and that she would ideally die a martyr to, you know, some great cause.
     Without dope or even enough women to go around, Grumley's party abruptly burned out with the rising sun and I left, taking at least the sight of the half-dressed Jenny home with me to bed.  That and the beer dulled any residual burn pain a lot and I could ignore it, though Stan bitched about his branding every once in a while until we graduated and he moved to St. Louis to teach at a troubled boys' academy.
     Especially, as he pointed out, since the torture proved nothing about our actual will:  "I bet if I put this out in your eyeball you'd fuckin' talk."  How could I argue with that?
     Grumley, who had his own slight forehead burn rather gingerly administered by Stan, was the first one to be twitted by Bibiana at her own party:  "I thought you were different."  But though she told me later she thought he looked a little gay she couldn't believe it at first when I told her he and A.J. were hustlers.
     "But hustling, I'll never understand it, even though I read City of Night.  I get the point they keep their masculinity, and at the same time indulge their need for money and sex.  Well, at least they give of themselves . . . no wonder he was almost kissing that guy."
     She indicated an older man in a well-cut business suit in close conversation with a red-cheeked, animated Grumley.  The sophisticated Charles Brady, of course, no doubt slumming with Grumley and even holding his hand.  He did remind me of the Noel Coward I had seen in old footage on TV, a frequent visitor in an earlier era to Lunt and Fontaine at their estate in nearby Genesee Depot, one county away.
     With Jenny about to graduate in the spring I could keep her there for a few hours, but I watched Bibi dance with strangers, faculty and activists, grinding close with her hips in some cases, and I had a few twinges.  For one thing, it had become clear that Jenny had picked up a lot of experience in a few years with high school guys she was allowed to date and I didn't want her to know how inexperienced I was, if I could help it.  I knew Bibi could have changed that, but I always had that self-conscious hesitation, the feeling she was too matronly for us to be simply playful equals and I wouldn't -- couldn't -- respond to her blatant expectations if I tried.  A limp dick would devastate me and probably shatter my allure.
     Even if, as she said during one long night of drinking beer, "He knows what a whore I am.  And I know he's fucking some blonde piano player, a music student."
     Things continued at that impasse into the summer after Jenny's graduation, though I let Bibi -- and everybody -- think we were screwing.  What with the Garsons' vacations in Michigan and her postcards and then a trip to Europe with their kids, I was seeing less of them and moving on into other classes and dating more.  Especially late nights with Jenny after second shift at the factory.  By the next year after I had moved to the East Side she had started UWM because of my influence, and of course we finally had a place to go.
     A few months before she had helped me move some packed boxes for my parents to their new upper flat in West Milwaukee.  We rested on the bare carpet with our greasy cheeseburger wrappings and cans of beer from the bar on the corner and I soon had her dress up and my hand on a sopping cunt that I slid into amazingly easy for my first time, coming quickly.
     So I was proud of myself and glad to have the  cheap one-room apartment in Aileen's building.  I had a small TV, mainly for news since I was usually working nights or out drinking, but I had started out as a journalism major -- switching to English when I decided teaching meant more time for writing and less work than being a full-time reporter -- and always devoured the daily Milwaukee Journal, if not the Hearst Sentinel as well.
     Like everyone else, following the murder in Mississippi of CLICK for Wikipedia ArticleSchwerner, Chaney and Goodman,  I was further horrified at the assassination of CLICK for Wikipedia ArticleViola Liuzzo -- apparently with the acquiescence of the FBI.  Learning she was from the Detroit area, where Bibiana and Gregory had come from, further personalized her for us, and I Viola Liuzzo of Detroit, Murdered in Alabama by the KKKcould see Bibi's face -- she was about the same age -- taking the place of Liuzzo's head with its mass of dark hair in the news photo, a victim of some racist machination.  I imagined Bibi as being that heroic, given the chance.
     I might not want to graze on the thinnish lips, but she was the standard for the strong woman I wanted to meet, someone I could argue with and who could teach me something, with a major I knew nothing about, a painter like Ieva, or musician.  Or at least an English major I could talk with.  Even Aileen, not a student, had picked up some insights into psychiatry.
     But the same paper with the account of Liuzzo's murder carried a local story about an armed robbery of a jewelry store at the posh Mayfair Mall that brought with it a slow realization:

                 
Armed Assault on Police Officers

      Wauwatosa Police detectives are investigating an armed assault on three Wauwatosa Police officers that occurred last night.  At approximately 11:53 pm, officers responded to Mayfair Mall on Mayfair Road in reference to a reported robbery of a person in progress at LeBoldt & Co. jewelers.  When officers arrived on the scene they were confronted by three armed suspects.  At least one of the suspects fired at the officers.  One officer returned fire, but the suspects fled without being hit by the gunfire.
       The suspects fled the scene in a black Lincoln, and a vehicle pursuit began south on 60th St.  The suspect exited the vehicle and fled on foot near Fiebrantz Avenue. Officers continued to search for the suspects and two suspects were located on W. Leon Terrace near Fond du Lac Ave.,  where they were arrested after another exchange of gunfire.
       The suspects have been identified as:  Anton Stojsarljevic, 38, Deidre Marshall, 30, and Conrad Kuntz, 36,  all of Milwaukee.  A fourth suspect is believed to be still at large. The suspects in custody have been charged with kidnapping, armed robbery, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer, possession of a firearm by a felon, and numerous traffic charges.
       In addition there were outstanding warrants on Stojsarljevic for communicating threats, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious bodily injury, and possession of a firearm by a felon.
       It is believed that the suspects were holding a female in the closed store against her will when officers arrived on the scene.  The officers were not injured.  The investigation is continuing,  and Milwaukee police are looking into possible connections with other recent armed robberies on the northwest side,  including several holdups of savings and loan associations in the area.  Persons with information are asked to contact the Wauwatosa Police Department's Detective Bureau. . . .
      
     Up jumped the Devil, hey Tony?  As it dawned on me that it was about Tony S. and three of the tavern crew, I knew I had to check things out.
    
So I swung over to the West Side after second shift, though I usually stopped every night at Barney's, to see for myself that the bar was dark.  It was nice knowing you, I thought.  But I was a student, after all, and this was just a small part of my life.
     I had messed around with petty crimes myself, just out of high school -- shoplifting, stealing from the back of trucks, breaking into lake cottages -- even going to the edge of armed robbery, though normal caution and an innate sympathy for any victims held me back, until finally the cops confiscated my Go to Zonyx Fiction: "Gas for Less".25 automatic from my trunk in a routine traffic stop.
     I had even gone to the library to read up on police procedure, like Arrest, Search and Seizure, hoping to be a better criminal, and briefly imagined I could take the training to be a cop for its macho rigor.  But I learned you needed unrestricted vision to join the force, and I wore glasses. When the recruiters came to UWM the same thing kept me from enlisting in the paratroopers.
     But I outgrew the romanticism of wanting to be an outlaw as college life beckoned and I stopped hanging out on the corner and drifted away from the old gang. The new challenges engaged my mind, though my mother couldn't understand how I could sleep late every day and hang out at the Tux and Hooligan's and still do well in class.  Disgusted, she eventually stopped making my noonish breakfasts and I usually headed instead for McClellan's on Downer Avenue.
     Downtown, weeknights at Barney's brought out only a few patrons -- some art students from the Layton School of Art, a solitary reporter or two, like Ed Blackwell and Mike Kirkhorn, or columnist Zonyx FictionNews IconJay Scriba who lived nearby with his wife Mona.  Maybe a lesser politician or staff member -- but Barney, an old-fashioned saloon keeper and a fan of Edgar Lee Masters' A Spoon River Anthology, was pleasant company, if somewhat puritanical:  You would be well. advised not to say fuck in his presence, or, as I learned, quote the lines, "Whose balls were
two different sizes. . . .
"
     It was fitting that the decor included a few oil paintings in ornate gilt frames that illustrated some passages from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  Near the alley door:

  
 Painting at Barney's from Rubaiyat
     And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
     And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
     Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
     As, buried once, Men want dug up again.


     Close to the front where one table in the window looked out on Water Street:

     
Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
      The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
      The Bird of Time has but a little way
      To fly -- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

     [Photo of Original Barney's Painting
        from FB Icon: View Carol Ann Fryer PageCarol Ann Fryer]

      
A few hard-boiled eggs from the back bar for me -- they shucked easily, since Barney knew the secret of starting with older, unboiled eggs -- and I lasted until closing, musing about Tony and his gang and wanting to tell somebody.
     But even though I thought it should be a solemn occasion, my mind strayed to the hard-boiled eggs as I wondered if anyone else knew my secret of also piercing both ends of the egg with a cake tester to let in the water as it boiled -- I had noticed that eggs that cracked while in the pot seemed to peel easier.
     I even played a few tunes on the ancient Wurlitzer Barney kept against one wall, creating a bottleneck about halfway down the narrow bar.  He favored Glen Miller and some old operatic singles and moldy figs like those by generally forgotten cornetist Bix Beiderbecke
and other jazzmen like Wisconsin's
renowned YouTube Jukebox:  Clink Link to PlayBunny Berigan Records were generally ignored on the weekends when conversation -- artists, students, politicos, reporters --  took over, but it amused me to explore something like the now-obscure Frank Crumit, once known for his novelties like
Play YouTube Jukebox:  Click to Play Curmit
Abdul the Bul-Bul Emir:

            The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
            and quite unaccustomed to fear,
            But the bravest by far in the ranks of the shah,
            Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.


             
If you wanted a man to encourage the van,
           Or harass the foe from the rear,
           Storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout
           for Abdul Abulbul Amir. . . .


                               
                                                   [continued here ]

     I had become a library researcher at The Journal, after all, and eventually turned up some alternate bawdy lyricsRisque Lyrics Tune for Abdul Bulbul Emir that fit the tune.
    
Eventually I was heading home to my mattress on the floor, forcing my head to stay upright and keep looking ahead, only bumping the curb a few times on corners.

                                      A Blossom Fell





  . . .
the road was gravel, dusty white chunks that sparkled in direct sunlight . . . reflected shafts of light penetrated through the eyes into the brain of the child who played by the road, painful, though he was usually indifferent to discomfort until it might suddenly expand to fill the universe as in the case of his pneumonia or the torn scalp that came off when he fell off a playground swing, when the hurt expanded the way they said the water from the Kickapoo River came down the hills in the spring, covering everything . . . the farm, the cheese factory, the cars, the road . . .  he watched the flood wiping out everything the people tried to build, covering the clean concrete floor of the factory with mud, only the painted white lattice work of the porch enduring . .  . he pulled on the boards but he had to quickly fit the thin nails back into their holes before his mother saw what he had done . . . he didn't try it again, but he had to hide under his mother's fur coat while they waited at the bus stop . . . watching the squirrels of spring scurry and rustle in the trees above
       i walked down barefoot from the hills, walking since the beginning of time i estimated as i stepped into the pasture parallel to the slough where the waste of the cheese factory ran viscous with blackgreen slime and yellow whey and milk drawing flies while a tan cow grazed until i slapped her flank and herded her to where i could milk her, reminding me of the woman i had been rolling naked on top of back on the hill who seemed not to notice she had been showing me her bare breasts as i told her i would come back when it was safe, though she looked sad as if she didn't believe me
       redwing blackbirds glided and swooped to perch on the dead tree branches, and a bob white called, but i trudged on in brown work boots to protect me from saw-edged grass to the boulder i spotted half-buried working its way to the surface that i crouched along side to heave and strain from the soil, roughness scratching my canvas bib overalls as i rolled it to the bank and pushed it into the water where my cousin Allen had drowned swimming with the catfish
       the binding pressure of the overalls between my legs had me rubbing against them with my hand though i couldn't get any closer to an orgasm and i hoped the girl from Hansen's farm not far from the Kickapoo would come by and we could sneak back tonight while small unblinking animals watched with their eyes shining in the dark and she would strip shyly to show me what she had covered that morning with a thin dress in the light of a rising sun on a worn wood floor
       her hand was between my legs rubbing and rubbing and i was always on the verge of coming but she kept twisting away when i tried to force open her thighs so i could lick her but she said we had to get married again 
       i lurched to my feet to follow the road through grasshoppers springing up as i came to a corrugated metal culvert with a trickle of the slough running under the road . . . a coiled snake basked in the sun on the warm metal . . . another one like it lay smashed drying pulp-like in the white gravel road, caught by the wheels of a milk truck that morning
       reaching Readstown where the kids and old people watched old black and white movies flickering on a screen in the bandshell in the town park, kids eating dry salty popcorn, while the Redmen's lodge served beer in the dancehall down the street and farm boys with Harley's drifted outside to drink from whiskey bottles and fight over farm girls in old-fashioned dresses
        but first i had to get down the road to the farm buildings . . . the house sagged at the open porch, white paint graying, while inside the kitchen the girl who had been swimming in the Kickapoo where my cousin Allen drowned -- though my uncle Barney with his biceps like baseballs from heaving around milk cans pulled him out -- moved around in her mother's old, unraveling sweater, breasts jiggling underneath . . . her long brown hair was matted from the water and her face had dried with no makeup on and a touch of secret lipstick and her silly younger brother teased and excited her though they didn't know why
       i stopped next to the weathered, aging barn where chickens pecked swiftly among scattered and withered corncobs and i leaned against the sun-warmed boards until i suddenly saw the Negro, standing in front of me
       heavy and threatening in his farmer's overalls but with a placid waiting face
      i flinched and tried to run but couldn't
move . . . i realized he hadn't noticed me or was ignoring me and there was no sound . . . the Negro was tall, not a spindly basketball player but solid, copper studs holding the pockets firmly at the corners frayed but everything clean, newly put on with only fresh dirt rubbed into the cloth worn thin at the knees . . . i stared at his face as he waited and i waited . . . his face was a light tan and sad, he looked like bop musician Charles Mingus with his curly black beard, growing scrubby around his mouth and under his chin but nowhere else, the flesh showing through in small patches . . . he wore a stingy-brimmed hat at a jaunty angle
       from inside i heard a cheerful woman's voice: "oh God?  where are you God?"  i decided of course, she is calling a pet, maybe a dog . . . she had a lonely old lady's voice
       i watched the Negro when he heard her . . . he swelled and the distance between us shrank until he covered my entire field of vision . . . the brown face distorted with a terrible rage as he listened to the woman calling . .  . he grimaced, a snarl showing white and pointed small, vicious teeth . . . he waited, huge and patient and trembling . . .
       "are you out here God?" she asked from inside the barn . . . "I've been looking all over for you"  . . . exasperated but a little timorous, as if talking to a wonderful but feared lover
       the Negro expanded in his rage so that i couldn't see the sky over his head and the yard vibrated with his hardly to be contained violence and he extended a large paw overhead, gripping an old-fashioned black-painted cast-iron dumbbell with 12 lbs. lettered on it in yellow, and waited silently
       the small hinged door at the bottom of the side of the barn for chickens to scuttle through was pushed out by her head as she crawled out on hands and knees
       "oh here you are," she said, out of breath . . . she scrambled out of the barn and looked up smiling, still on all fours . . . she craned her neck and looked up with adoration, a pleasant looking lady with gray hair welded in a bun, and spectacles, her high-necked cotton print dress dusty from her crawl
       the Negro brought down his hand with a swooping smash, thudding the weight onto her head again and again . . . the screams that trembled the air were soundless and i could not look was unable to look as i shook with the unheard blows . . . all i could see was the rising and descending arc of the arm and i sensed how it pounded her face, smashed her skull, scalp and false teeth mingling into the ground, wire spectacles ripped from ears and pressed into the dirt, eyes and blood forced into a jelly-like amalgam with the loosened particles of the hard-packed ground, stuck to with straw-like bits of manure that lay in the barnyard . . . the arm and the hand and the weight smashed down over and over, until i knew she could only be a body with no head
       then he stopped . . . satisfied and smiling benignly, he turned and walked away, around the corner of the barn, onto a plot of garden to hoe weeds using  a burnished, brassy saxophone that had been hanging from a thong on his free wrist
       he disappeared and i suddenly realized i could move, it was as if i could always move, and i found myself at the entrance to the barn . . . i looked in at the cavern formed by the huge old wooden beams, slats layered with dirt and dust . . . there was straw at my feet and i kicked some aside with a polished shoe as i strode into the barn
       the atmosphere flew at my skin to rest hot and steamy . . . it was like a night club, dim red lights and patches of darkness and smoke hazy above my head and smell of whiskey and beer hanging in the air . . . i was in the center of the cavernous room peering through the dimness
       i thought we were waiting for Allen to read his poetry, but heard:
       "oh God?  where are you God?"
       it was the woman again . . . she was walking around the edge of the hall, prim and unruffled in her cotton dress, looking contented, her hair firmly in place in the round bun which was pierced by long pointed needle
       "God?"
       there were pictures of a bearded Christ high up on all four walls . . . he wore a crown of thorns and a grave but beatific expression . . . as her gaze swept around the room they slid silently aside exposing peepholes behind them through which the Negro named God watched into the room . . . she could not see him . . . just before she glanced at a wall the pictures would slide back over the holes in the grimy wood and she would see only the pictures of Christ with their unending, blank scrutiny, while on another wall God would be watching her, crouching in his overalls on a high secret platform
       she gave up and turned to me, shrugging . . . i caught a glimpse of God grinning with white teeth and full lips through the opening in the wall behind her back       
       "look," she said, directing my attention to where she was standing at the bottom of a wide pit at the end of the the concrete ramp that sloped down from me . . . it was the floor of a night club or bar laid out so that the patrons sitting motionless and quiet around me could watch the entertainment . . . the music of the band was momentarily stilled, seeming to hang in the air, as she began her talk
       a long line of identical black girls, naked and glistening in the red light extended across the floor in front of her . . . turned almost sideways to me, they were beautiful, their faces turned away so that only a black shiny cloud of hair and a ridged, soft neck were visible, but their bodies were almost oily in the light . . . heavy, pointing breasts swaying; their thighs had a soft, grainy look with the startling void of the black patches between . . . i thought of Charlie Mingus' beard
       the woman passed her hand over the incurved back of the black girl in front of her, the one closest to me, over her pert buttocks and down a curved hip and flank towards the back of her knee
       "here they are," she said, grinning, her speech rapid and evenly toned like the chant of a carnival barker . . . "the girls of the future . . . we will have a new race, nothing but colored girls and white men" . . . she went on, reasonable and scientific, yet at the same time low-pitched and insinuating, like a black pimp i had met while with a group of buddies outside a jazz bar in New Orleans . . . he had asked, "you fellas lookin' for some girls tonight?"  softly but strangely menacing from a shadow as we passed by on the sidewalk near the glossy photos of black strippers in tassels and G-strings that adorned the doorway        
         "a new race," she repeated . . . "it is the perfect way, colored girls and white men" . . .  the girl under her hand did not move, but seemed to agree by standing there proudly naked . . . i nodded when the woman stopped talking;  it seemed very logical . . . almost convinced, i tried to move toward the girl, toward the long line of waiting girls as i inhaled a wonderful perfume i decided was civet and gardenia
       the woman was speaking again, now to the farmers that had gathered in the barn . . . they stood there listening, slouching in their work clothes, faces blank and weathered tan with creases . . . a long line of identical rednecks, wearing battered, floppy hats . . . they nodded acceptance at her recital, restrained but eager customers in a whorehouse
       my ears burned hotly and i even tried to buck forward on the spot with my hips for an elusive pleasure as i thought how reasonable she was and wanted to be convinced . . .  tried to walk but my shoes seemed nailed to the floor and i was glued to a flat surface behind me . . . puzzled, i begged to be let free, a small corner of my mind thinking something about the woman's patter was odd, but i wanted the girl to stroke my erection as i held back until i couldn't any more and the thick air was suffocating me but fluid was trying to break though my legs wouldn't move but as i tried to figure out why i couldn't feel more i stayed paralyzed and struggled toward the girl that wanted me to come.  what's wrong, i yelled, why can't i, but my mouth and tongue didn't move, only twitched until i thought i forced out a gasp before i started falling, flailing in the dark toward the floor but heard or felt only the slightest burble from my lips as i became aware of the pillow drool and realized i hadn't even moved at all 


                                                      From Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam

     
Man, that's pathetic, I thought.  What could be more pointless than dreaming about masturbation when it could be about fucking any woman in the world?  I shifted position and went back to sleep.
     A few nights later on a Friday I didn't have to work and started out at the Tuxedo, first sitting at the bar alone, though I knew Larry Welleck one stool over, talking to a friend, another vet.  Welleck had been a philosophy major and got a master's degree and ended up teaching social studies at Bryant & Stratton business college.  We talked sometimes at the bar where he liked to drink in the late afternoon before going home to his wife, Jill.  She had once worked in the Journal Library with me.
     Somewhat heavy and bearlike, he drank mostly bourbon and seltzer because it was more slimming than the beer he wanted.  He had gone into the army at 19 and ended up at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where he was considered a renegade for his intractability, missing roll calls and such.  Tall and strong, though inclined to put on weight, he thought he could take what they gave him, which usually turned out to be the old standby, KP and peeling potatoes.  He had gone in with a thing about shaving -- already he had a heavy beard, but with very tender skin -- and he had never shaved two days in a row if he could help it.
     What with the Georgia sun and heat and drill-induced sweat he developed a miserable prickling rash on chin and throat which made it impossible to shave.  Or so he thought.  After the sergeant made him dry shave three days in a row, no water and no lather, his rash went away -- at least it didn't seem so important, not worth bothering the sergeant about.
     He started then being what he called philosophical about life, especially the army, though he hated it even before combat in Vietnam and smoking dope after watching interrogators question uncooperative villagers by threatening their families with hand grenades.  As he learned in class later, he could be a stoic -- they were not at all averse to pleasure -- and still drink a lot of bourbon and listen to a lot of jazz like John Coltrane and Stan Getz.  As he told me, he occasionally went to veterans demonstrations against the war and I saw him sometimes on civil rights picket lines, like the NAACP Youth Council picketers in front of Marc's Big Boy on North Avenue protesting lack of meaningful jobs for young blacks.  But we took for granted the Subversive Squad detectives and the obvious cameraman in the camel's hair coat who was filming for the John Birch Society, no doubt for some coming superpatriotic apocalypse, and could joke about it later.
     But it seemed it was hard for him to be detached about his new wife.  I didn't especially want to listen in, but I gathered that she just wasn't that responsive, even though ". . . I made sure my hair was always shampooed, and my nails were super-clean, so she couldn't complain about any of that. . . ."
     But he got nothing back, he told his buddy, until ". . . I got my head down to it and -- bam!  She just about exploded in my face. . . ."
     Whether they were happier now I didn't hear, but I remembered a scene when I was 13 or so.  I had my own little room in the cellar with an elaborate train set -- mostly neglected as I got older -- and shelves of paperback books the family had accumulated and an army cot where I would read for hours.  I liked Mickey Spillane for masturbation, though I had lots of paperbacks with corners turned over, like Harold Robbins, and had just read something racy passed to me by the girl in front of me in study hall.  Only a few of the mimeographed lines stuck with me after I passed it along, apparently forever:
 
          While hugging and kissing in
          the blackberry patch,
    Ted offered me a quarter to
               feel my snatch.
    I said, "Your quarter I don't
                 want to steal,
    But as for my snatch you're
              welcome to feel . . .

    His balls were as large as the
                  eggs of a duck
    -- They sure did the work when
       we started to fuck. . . .


     So I thought, why not create my own porn along the lines of Spillane's sex scenes only more explicit?
     After all, I wanted to be a writer.  I gave it a try, printing in a notebook to type later if it were any good.  Unfortunately, somehow my mother found my efforts, even hidden in the former fruit cellar in the basement, and she confronted me one night upstairs in the kitchen, waving it around.
     "What's this for?  How do you know about all this?"
     She crammed my efforts back into her front apron pocket over her stomach.
     I protested that I had just copied it on a visit to my cousin Darlene's house.  I guess I thought of her because we used to play doctor when I lived upstairs there with my grandmother, and when we got older she used to tell me silly dirty jokes.  The girls were going to bring the buns to the picnic and the boys bring the wieners, that sort of thing.  She came into grandma's bathroom to look at me naked in the claw-footed old bathtub sometimes, and my sex education got started when I did the same to her and noticed what looked like flaps of skin sticking out of the crack between her legs.
     "Yeah, sure.  And is this what you're going to be when you grow up, a cunt licker?"
     Well, I had tried to be inventive, and I guess I was planning on trying everything I could some day, but of course I said no.  After she shrugged, disgusted, and let me off the hook I was still embarrassed, but wondered if that was such a big deal with everybody.  Maybe it was perverse, though I had read about it in other places.
     Hearing Welleck years later reminded me that I had only come close to cunnilingus once, with Jenny in the drab rented room, where I planned on us having our first full-on sex.
     On the narrow day bed where she was naked and I was the same, sitting near her hips, I did twist around and tentatively moved my face to her stomach past her belly button and down to the bushy dark triangle where it brushed my lips and I was appalled to instantly perceive that I had to pretend it was just a playful gesture.  Though I had learned from my days playing with pussy in the theater that sometimes a distinct, even powerful, odor could linger -- like a ripened catfish -- on my fingers, this was an ammoniacal smell of urine that could etch glass.
     It did kill the moment.  Though she was always willing to do anything I Jenny in Rented Roomwanted, she never took any initiative.  In the last few years she had done it with her boyfriend and a few others, even ending up in a van with two well-known (to me) tough guys from the 21st Street Playground and riding around while they fucked her, though she didn't know their names.  But still, she was used to just lying there.
     One of the guys was Arnie Friend, which explained why when she asked his name he kept saying Just A. Friend.  He was known to take a table leg in the van to carry as a club outside This Old House beer bar in Ozaukee County where he and his buddy Ray Wetzel looked for fights, but you couldn't say he didn't have a sense of humor. 
     I went to Port Washington to drink myself, of course, where the guys strolled on the dance floor with their beer bottles held dangling down like cudgels and Ozaukee county posted deputies inside.  I heard some national acts occasionally, like View YouTube SelectionKathy Young & The Innocents singing A Thousand Stars, something Jenny, a singer in our church choir, attempted sometimes.  I had to admit to myself she was generally flat and shouldn't even try.
     While that was the beginning of my close examining of the double standard in her case -- I had to decide that if I wanted someone who liked sex it wouldn't have been with just me -- I couldn't understand the thinking of the neighborhood guys who would brag about getting blowjobs from chicks then call them whores and kick them out of the car.  Why not feel affection for someone who could cheerfully suck you off?
     I decided it was mostly Catholic guys with a cultural history of Mediterranean or Irish villages and parochial schools like St. Leo's that were preoccupied with girls as tempting sluts, a group thing, while the Protestants -- as I nominally had been -- were raised to think of sex as an internal struggle to be dealt with alone and quietly.
     Of course, not only did I fail at that, I stopped believing any religious message early on.
     Still, the first time I tried for a blowjob in the car she said she didn't know how, and seemed ready to cry about it, so I didn't bring it up again.  I thought she was probably taking the blow part a little too literally, but I could wait.  I didn't feel like climbing on top of her now in that stark room, hoping to get hard again, and settled for sitting back and drinking, looking down on the pussy she didn't try to hide -- labia distinctly outlined under the dark whorls -- and the indented girdle mark around her middle, until finally I had her jerk me off like always.  But I didn't risk losing my hard-on by trying to get it in.  And it felt too good to stop.
     The story was that she was staying with a girlfriend, and eventually we fell asleep on the cramped day bed, a brocade surface very rough on our skin -- I didn't bring any sheets, and I guess if Allan brought any for his times with Ieva he took them home.  But using someone else's sheets was distasteful to me anyway.  Even for $32 a month split with Allan, I really couldn't afford the rent and we never made it back before I had to leave the keys on the battered dresser top.
     When she put on her skirt before we left for scrambled eggs and coffee at a diner on Brady St. and Farwell Ave. in the morning, she complained about the panty girdle she pulled on, and I told her not to wear one on my account.  She told me how glad she was to leave it off, and she never wore it again.  Soon, she generally left off any panties, and I found out how wet she could get; sometimes as I drove with one hand on the wheel she would be slippery all the way down to her knees . . .
     Eventually, Allan came into the Tux and sat with me at the bar.  Looking preppy, as usual, in a new tan loden coat, in spite of the glasses sliding forward on his thin nose.  The interior had returned to the usual late afternoon somnolence, following the previous week's eruption when a disgruntled, cigar-smoking vet named Bing had tossed a bar stool at the back bar over being cut off.
     Allan had just come from the new Senior Art Exhibit in the main building, he said, that he was going to write up for the Post, though he had to cut his time there short for his weekly editorial conference with the paper's advisor as the feature editor.
     She liked what he was doing, getting friends and persons he knew who ordinarily wouldn't think of writing for the paper to write reviews, like Sam Geline the music major who played jazz piano standards -- a Lennie Tristano type -- at a downtown hotel bar who was a natural to cover the Fine Arts Quartet.
     Too bad he had to get home to read 80 pages of Chaucer and some Boccaccio for the 12-weeks exam tomorrow, but he would stay and drink for a while.  Even though, he said with a sigh, it was still a doggie dog world out there.
     Another Cheshire writer, Mike Zetteler, who didn't have anything to do with the paper, had him waiting for an article about Go to Zonyx Goodman Article Paul Goodman (later, as he mentioned, also picked up by the North Carolina Anvil).
     And he had to call and line up a civil rights interview with Linda Quint from MUSIC, the school integration group.
     At the same time he was working on a manifesto he jammed in his back pocket calling for more spontaneous mingling between artists and students on campus:  paintings and sculpture scattered around in all the dull spots, musicians strolling in small groups, playing string quartets or jazz or something.  Maybe hand-lettered poetry on the walls of the bathrooms.
     No wonder he always seemed frazzled and was talking about quitting the paper -- possibly even flunking journalism -- which on one level didn't surprise me since I knew he couldn't even spell well, and was given to other coinages such as I've got an ace up my hole and items selling like wildcakes, though he could bullshit about visual endeavors like cinematography -- whether The Bicycle Thief or Maya Deren -- or art from de Chirico to de Zurbarán -- and impress almost anyone.  It helped that he could rush out of the house after a few minutes in the shower and comb with his fingers his reddish-brown hair that fell like a Kennedy's over his forehead and look charming for just about everyone, tall and slim with a warm grin.
     But his friends knew that a little while back when he had done most of the mimeographing and stapling for the off-campus magazine we put out after the censorship flap at the time he was worried about having gotten Ieva pregnant and their scheme for abortion and deciding whether to get married instead that he had walked out of Fleischman's late Lit Crit class to turn himself over to the shrinks at St. Michael Hospital after driving as fast as he could out the freeway to smash deliberately into one of the signs coming at him from all directions except that he couldn't even decide which one, they came at him so fast at freeway speeds that he couldn't read them -- he'd needed new glasses then, though he didn't know it.
     So it was zap! zap! zap! until he was all right again, able to make decisions.  Shock therapy was in and discursive was out, the Freud he had read and wanted to talk about ignored by the busy doctor.  But, barbaric though it seemed to us, it apparently worked -- for all intensive purposes, as Allan said -- and he made it back in time to try to catch up on his term papers.  Still -- after moving on from the bus boy job -- he had lost his job driving cab, and he still often looked harried and frazzled.
     As he was heard to say, A leper can't change his spots.
     Some of the others had drifted in, and we settled in the booth.  We talked about the faculty, as we often did -- Allan's former English teacher, Miss Perlowitz, was about to leave for Israel to do guidance work in a kibbutz, and he fondly recounted how she used to sit on her desk displaying chubby knees but rather nice legs that went along with her big breasts, talking about what D.H. Lawrence had meant to her, opening her up to possibilities when she needed it.  That reminded several of us of the Tropic of Cancer trial soon after the Garson's settled in, when both Garsons testified in favor of the book's local sale, though customs and the Post Office had ruled it could be sent through the mail. 
     The case was lost, and the assistant district attorney, Frank Spurges, had gotten Bibi to admit that she wouldn't characterize any serious novel as obscene.  Outside the courthouse Spurges prattled to the press about teenagers who were corrupted by pornography before learning the joys of a beautiful, wholesome marriage; he had asked Gregory Garson whether he used the same four-letter words to his wife in the ah, . . . bedroom.  The answer was yes, as it had to be -- something about salacious words aiding communication between intimate adults -- but it took several years for the US Supreme Court to reverse all the state court convictions.
     Of course, I couldn't contain myself in the booth, though I tried to be as offhand about it as possible:
     "You know we've been going out to listen to music . . . she gave me a blowjob in her car last week.  I mean, that's all we did, but it was great."
     Strictly speaking, that wasn't true, of course, since I didn't actually come, but I didn't want to go into that kind of detail.  Aileen was there, and if anybody shouldn't be offended it was she, with her active sex life -- by now she was actually living with Jack Vogel, or at least he was always at her apartment -- but I didn't want to act like it was a big deal.  And she sucked my cock, while literal truth, seemed a little crude, though I'm sure she was doing the same to Vogel, something that bothered me and certainly left me puzzled.  I'm too crude for you, huh?
     So there were a few knowing nods all around, though Aileen just looked into space, and talk turned to last Friday's party -- Allan and I remembered it all too well -- where Jim Lerntov, a crazy, skinny art student who ran a bohemian bookstore on Farwell Avenue, had been doing his usual act of pulling one pocket out of his pants and asking if anyone wanted to see a one-eared elephant, while fumbling with his zipper.
     No one ever saw him actually go through with it, but this time he was upstaged when Allan and I looked at each other as Allan's tall, attractive wife came into into the room in a low-cut peasant blouse, wide hips swaying, and I remembered the few weeks early on in their courtship when he resented that I also had a crush on her -- flirted with her -- with her slight accent and demure smile, still European looking with her long hair usually in a French twist, and suddenly we leaped -- and he was my friend -- at each other, crashing down on the coffee table and rolling around for a while.
     Then it was over, indecisively.  He was taller, but I was really strong from the weightlifting, and the table was unfortunately almost demolished.
     "Yeah, I got there too late," said Vogel.  "Just in time to see the nigger pile.  What happened?"
     The sudden pause was the very essence of dead silence while everybody at least glanced at Aileen.  I broke in, thinking I could smooth things over with more-or-less feigned curiosity about black idioms: 
     "Y'know, I often wondered, what do -- "
     "Sorry," Vogel said to her.
     "Forget it," was all she said.  She drank pensively from her beer glass.
     "At least he wasn't mealy-moused about it," said Allan.
     I chuckled without saying anything else, and Allan looked at his wrist where his watch would have been had he remembered to wear it.  "Gotta get going . . . lots to do yet."
     The rest began drifting away, typical for a weekday afternoon; as Allan said, It's back to the old salt grind.
     I had a pizzaburger before leaving myself.  And a few more mugs of beer, while I pondered Aileen and Vogel.  Maybe she was taking what she aw as her personal battle into the camp of the enemy, or proving him a fool.  But there was always the possibility that she just gravitated to the power that whites had, and especially the taciturn Vogel.
     Guys could nail a conservative chick and it would be considered an achievement, but for a radical woman to end up screwing a conservative would be seen as selling out.  At least by me.  But crudeness be damned, I was still essentially a wimpy liberal.  I couldn't argue with that.


                       *                          *                                *

      
It was a few Saturdays later when some of us ended up at Hooligan's after I had worked out with the weights as I usually did three times a week when I didn't have to work or go to night classes.  It was warm enough that I could wear a short-sleeved shirt under the army jacket, which I usually did when I felt pumped up.  Rolled-up sleeves and unbuttoned in the front as far as I thought I could without being too obvious about it.  It was a few of us, mostly from Fleischmann's current Literary Criticism class.  All guys, and now that I thought about it I realized I hardly ever saw Vogel in public with Aileen.
     He was driving around with the Meissner brothers that night, and I had Julian Feindorfer, a hulking longhaired hipster who was already writing music criticism for any small publication that would take it, as well as deliberately coarse poetry, in my car.  We decided to try our luck on the West Side, but we didn't turn up any women at any bars except the last one.  And the best-looking one, a frowsy blonde, probably a factory worker, asked in a rather snide way why I was wearing shades at night.
     Truth was, sunlight hurt my eyes with their new hard contact lenses, and the sunglasses soon became customary.
     Hoping to come across as a hip intellectual, I said, "It's an affectation.  Meaning . . ."
     "I know what it means.  It looks stupid."
     It didn't take too much chatter to realize we might as well leave, and we had already talked about pizza.  We stopped with both cars at the Clark Station, where I left my army jacket in the car and went in with Jules -- who needed cigarets -- to pay.
     "With arms like that you should be a boxer.  Uh-huh," he rumbled in his ponderous way.  "You'd make a good middleweight.  Mmm-hmm."  His mumbled phrasings generally followed a similar pattern.
     "Never thought about it . . ."
     "You been working out?" asked Vogel.  "I never exercised a day in my life."
     "This afternoon.  Usually three times a week."
     "I still think I could take you in arm wrestling."
     He inclined his head toward the top of a barrel.  "Wanna try?"
      "You know, I'm really still sore from this afternoon.  It takes it out of you for a while -- but what the hell."
     Standing slightly crouched over the blue barrel we put out our right arms.  We gripped hands and though I had a strong enough grasp his hand was more of a paw, with stubbier fingers seeming to go along with his whole stocky body -- his teeth when he bared them as we bent to it were likewise the squarish Teddy Roosevelt type, going along with the wire spectacles he sported.  It was a standoff -- going on too long, I thought -- until with a last effort I put him down.
     He shrugged.  "I give up --You're stronger than I am.  Wanna try the left?"
     We went at it again and to my chagrin he won, exhaling at the same time.
     "I guess it's a draw," I said, mostly to be charitable, since I didn't think the left arms really counted.  We headed to the doorway and out to the concrete drive and past the pumps.
     Our next stop was at Lisa's Pizza on Locust Street, where the five of us met up again over a shiny black Formica-topped table to shovel in  pizza.  We'd had plenty to drink, and Lisa's only served soda, so we made do with that.
     Jack started getting belligerent again.  "You know I'm left-handed?"  Implying, of course, that he had beaten me after all since his right arm was naturally weaker.
       "So?  I said I was still worn out from working out today.  That makes us about even."
     In the meantime the waitress had collected our money and I was mulling out loud over how much to leave behind for her.
     "So here's the tip."  He picked up the chromed napkin holder and snapped it harmlessly off my chest from across the table, and as I reflexively grabbed the Pepsi bottle from the table he heaved up his edge to force it toward me but I brought the bottle down on his head at the same time and expected it to break like in the movies.  It just bounced off.  He seemed not to notice it but the four of us collectively realized it was time to get out and headed for the door, fast, a bell tinkling behind us as it closed.

     With Julian next to me while I shifted through the gears on the underpowered Beetle I yelled something about knowing where to find them.  Of course, it was just a guess, but we were on the East Side where we all went to the same few bars.
     "First I gotta stop and get something."  I came out of my apartment with a souvenir my step-father brought home from the war, an ornate Japanese officer's sword about two feet long, half of it a handle bound with maroon cord, in a lacquered black wooden scabbard scattered with flakes of glitter.  By then Allan Jensen -- always able to con his way higher after screwing up -- was working as stage manager for the Skylight Theatre and he had borrowed it when I lived with my folks for the production of Bizet's Pearl Fishers in the suicide scene -- it was the only thing he could find that showed up big enough in silhouette behind a screen -- and I had kept it at my place since then.  "This'll take care of him."
     With the sword between the front seats I drove us around, Julian trying to calm me down while maintaining his cool image.  We didn't find their group anyplace; in the meantime between shots at the bars I was chugging my stash of warm port wine in the car until I felt a relaxation creeping over me and then even drowsiness.  Bars were near to closing time anyway, and I gave up -- not knowing what I really would have done anyway -- and dropped off Jules and then found myself at home.  Then in bed with my clothes no doubt scattered around though I didn't really remember much after I stumbled through the door.
     Face down in the dim light flopping to one side, then the other.
     Eyes closed and spinning going on behind them I kept seeing Vogel's face and hearing his sardonic barking laugh and pictured an impassive Aileen watching him while he dominated whatever group we had been in last -- the Tuxedo -- and the face of an unreachable, impossibly cute Anne-Marie swimming to the forefront, prim but with glossy lips, as nausea surfaced from a deep pit.
     I had apparently put the wastebasket next to the bed as I often did in the old days when I was learning how to drink was heaving then the pizza and wine in a bubbling mix of bold rosettes that made me think of bread and wine, a kind of anti-communion for the lost Anne-Marie and her crippling religion, at least where I was concerned.
     Fucking Catholic cunt had taken up with a North Shore guy who was graduated from Dominican High School and going into city planning or something like that, even though he and his rich buddy liked to drop speed and drink Jack Daniels while riding around on BMW bikes.  I guess you weren't boorish if you had enough money, just wild.  I wondered if she were at least holding out for marriage.  With a sweat pouring out of me as I took deep breaths to hold off another alcohol boot, mouth copiously filling with saliva, swallowing fast, then I was gone into sleep.

                     *                   *                   *     

     After she moved out, Jenny's parents thought she shared Aileen's apartment on the ground floor,  though we lived together one floor up with the two cats from the Humane Society she had begged me for, and an illegal hot plate.  I ended up in grad school in English, figuring with a masters degree I might teach someplace, like Larry Welleck.  I was too insecure about appearing in front of a class to apply for a teaching assistant job -- and I didn't have any tweed jackets or corduroy ones with leather patches, and in fact took out two small National Defense loans for a total of $1000 -- so I kept on with the cab driving while Jenny was in school.  Though I had gotten good grades even with sleeping at home during morning lecture classes, instead reading textbooks and some supplemental stuff at the school library, she was struggling while aiming at nursing school.
     Prospect Avenue, once a street of mansions, was now more one of high rises or older, seedier homes converted into smaller flats, often with apartments or furnished rooms to rent.  Some were nursing homes or combined small offices with living quarters.  We started with the traditional mattresses on the floor -- I found it hard to get used to sleeping next to another body and kept my own for a while, hurting her feelings -- but she also snored a lot unless I jabbed her hard, and I often stayed awake anyway, drinking and writing or reading poetry.  We got comfortable enough with each other so that if she had her period she would just scrooch down where she was standing and deftly slide in a tampon
     Since I had even dropped out of school for a semester and worked in the factory so she could catch up and we would have at least a year as students together -- and I didn't mind the extra time for just hanging around the bars after second shift, either -- I guess it was just a romanticized life I was trying to live as intellectual bohemians, that would catch on with her as she really began to study and learn the college material.
     But she always had a hard time; even her taste in art didn't progress much beyond Northern Tissue babies or wide-eyed Keane waifs.  Of course, I was a cliché myself, with bullfight posters Lyonel Feininger Cat Printand Feininger prints from the bookstore on the wall, evoking one of
our cats, but at least I was picking up on some
things -- reading Sartre and even working through Finnegan's Wake -- as I came to realize girls were purported always to the smarter pupils in high school just because they weren't troublemakers like the guys.  In reality, they could be stupid.
     So it was really a kind of play-acting as two arty bohemian students that got me to set up the rarely-used chess board on one of the mattresses to start a game, though facing her with a short skirt riding up her thighs exposed a filigree of dark growth that I soon had to reach for, and the game was forgotten.
     As the certain loser, she was happier anyway.
     About that time the UWM Post printed a letter from Bibiana, which resonated with me, since I knew that realistically I would have to keep going for a PhD at some other university -- continuing at the same institution was discouraged -- where it would be harder to pay tuition and fees and make a living.
     Other than that, the future was bleak for English majors; the most I could hope for was at some company with a managerial training program, but I hated the idea of a conventional job in business.
     Bibi wrote:
              
         

              Maturing Absurd

                  To the editor:
                  Student complacency at UWM
             might be more understandable if
             they had something to be com-
             placent about: like an exciting per-
             sonal life, a satisfying work ex-
             perience, esthetic or religious
             thrills, or a future that promised
             any of these. But, as far as I can
             judge, their lives are dreary.
             If our students were struggling
             out of abject poverty, we intellec-
             uals could "forgive" them their
             mediocre materialism.  But they
             come from skilled workers' fam-
             ilies, and better. If after leaving
             UWM they were going to enter
             the elite ruling classes of high
            finance, high society or high poli-
            tics, we might even envy them, or
            get righteously indignant. But
            looking at the POST's list of Cam-
            pus  Interviews, I see that this is
            not the case.
                Our graduates can look forward
             to becoming part of the beehive at
             Northwestern Mutual Life In-
             surance Company, (rearranging
             papers on a desk?), the sterile lab
             oratories of  The Upjohn Company
             (testing Milk of Magnesia?), or
             the respectable black board jungle
             of the Jack Benny Jr. High School
             of Waukegan, Illinois. (Are they
             kidding? How debased our edu-
             cational establishment is!)
                 No wonder our students are
              apathetic, complacent. They are
              "growing up absurd" in an absurd
              culture defined and dominated by
              the vulgarities of business, tech-
              nology and kitsch. Most of their
              elders lie to them daily. Three
              cheers for those who dropped out
               -- into SNCC, the Peace Corps, or
              Bohemia.
                          Bibiana Garson
                          English Department

 
 

                    
      
How could I argue with that?  Clearly she had missed her calling as a hip guidance counselor, though I thought of life as rather exciting, not dreary, at the moment -- the Post had run an article on student sexuality, and Jenny and I read that we were cohabitating when it was almost unheard of among students, which seemed to give us at least a start on the bohemianism Bibi advocated -- but how to live without much effort, or at least on my own schedule?
     Artists and craftsmen -- maybe leather workers or jewelry makers -- might be able to swing it, but I was a long way from earning anything by staying home to write novels, which is what I dreamed of doing.  I knew a glass-blower named Terry Yelves that hung out at Barney's and went to a studio -- an old barn -- in Door County in the summer where he sold to tourists, and guys who could paint houses, but I was stuck.
     Life magazine came out with a photo spread on Beats who were doing what they called going underground, and I told Bibiana that's what I wanted to do, maybe in Chicago, since I couldn't stand the thought of more reading and writing about some obscure writer -- I tentatively chose Edna St. Vincent Millay from the choices -- to construct an acceptable thesis.  I had been in school for what seemed like a decade and wanted to work on my own stuff.
     She and Gregory Garson thought I would like the Hyde Park area, but the few poems I published locally or regionally meant nothing as far as a career.
     Only Robert Bly at The Sixties was moved enough to respond with any personal insight -- and that was to call me a watered-down Bukowski and chide me for not sending him anything that showed I was paying attention to his droll observations.  The short stories -- though they went over well-enough on the Cheshire level -- were rejected by the literary magazines where I methodically sent them.
     Still, I lucked out when by virtue of still being in grad school I qualified for a work-study program working on the index to a literary encyclopedia Bernard Fleischmann, head of the Comparative Literature Department, was writing.  When he went to Europe for the summer they kept sending my checks even though I didn't have to turn in any work and I knew I would drop out in the fall before anyone could call me on it, though it had been up to him to assign the manuscript pages I was to scour for author references.
     So I could give up the cab driving and drag home a case of beer every other day or so and type and re-type my stuff and send it out and watch the sun rise over Prospect Avenue and the lake -- the sliver I could catch out of the side window, since we were in the rear of the building -- every day until I crashed.
     Old people in their wheelchairs and tied to their beds in the nursing homes on either side of our brick building would moan and curse the attendants, voices carrying through our screen windows, and our older tomcat would leap in through the small panel I left open on the door to the flat roof outside our second-floor apartment most mornings.
     Jenny came home in the afternoon to cook and we would sometimes have sex, maybe go to a movie at the Downer Theatre or Downtown to sneak her into the crowded Barney's on Friday nights -- after midnight -- for raw beef sandwiches.
     Sometimes she just ended up dozing off there in the car while I drank and socialized inside, even if we couldn't get the few brandy and Cokes that would have been enough for her.
       I had been with her one way or another since she was 14, and though I had been getting drunk and jerked off for years on the weekends, I had my uncertainties about dealing with more sex until I experimented by fucking every day for a week or so -- which was fine with her -- until I slacked off, realizing how thoroughly bored I had become.  In any event, the real excitement had been gone for a long time.
     But I always marveled at her capacity to come almost at will, and in the general sexual ignorance of  the time, I speculated that she maintained a natural pathway to vaginal orgasms because she never masturbated.  After all, she claimed she never did.
     Still, after crawling in beside her more and more often with the sunrise, I began sleeping with her all the time, keeping a worn bedspread on my pallet and using it just for study.  I craved some variety, though, speculating about almost every female we socialized with.  I could occasionally get her to humor me with a blowjob, but if -- as I often did -- I would half-joke I think I'll come as she leaned over my legs with her bare ass and its dark, swampy cleft in the air and sucked she would pause and say Don't you dare.
     One time we were almost done, still early in the evening and with the lights uncharacteristically out, when someone knocked at my door and in the crack underneath it in the lighted hallway were what had to be a pair of men's shoes, creaking with a substantial weight.  I figured her parents never really believed she was living with Aileen -- her father had tracked us down once when we were dating to a showing of Elia Kazan's America, America at the Oriental, where she said we would be, expecting to catch her lying.
     Of course, like most of us on the left I considered Kazan a snitch for his testimony to HUAC, and On the Waterfront as a self-serving brief for informers, but it was an American film serious enough to see.
     Watching the door we stayed as quiet as possible, only her head moving enough for her to finish me off through several more rounds of subdued but determined rapping, and the shoes finally moved away without a word being said.
     We never knew who it was for sure, though we figured it was her father, checking on whether she really lived downstairs with
Aileen, but of course she was never there.
     Unusual events like that could heighten our desire for sex, especially if I hadn't touched her for a while because I couldn't turn it on right away after she had made me mad.  Even though she would do what few chores she felt like doing while stripped to the waist.
     "Quite looking at my tits," she would say to goad me as she moved around the room, half-heartedly dusting.
     And mad I would get, over her housekeeping Jenny at Homehabits, primarily -- she had sworn up and down that she would faithfully clean out the cat box, but so many times I would find myself unable to tolerate the clumps she blithely overlooked -- smelling the acrid ammonia fumes -- and do it myself.
     And she would trail in her wake what seemed like a rain of scarves and jewelry and makeup items and papers and God knows what else, while I would reflexively restore them to where I thought they should go.  Not that I couldn't tolerate the growth of dust bunnies or the filmy windows or her dirty ashtrays, but those did take extra work, where she just created disorder when it could as easily have been avoided in the first place.
     "Jesus Christ!  Would your mother leave the sink like that?"  I would say, or bring up whatever the day's irritant was.
    "Nevah," was her usual chirping response -- she though it was cute, like a lot of mannerisms that had lost their charm.  And of course, we knew her mother, like mine, was a cleaning fanatic.
     "You just want me to be Jenny Robot, pick this up, pick that up . . ."  She would go into her machine imitation, moving stiffly.  Truth be told, she was good about doing laundry -- maybe because she just wanted to get out of the apartment -- always offering to take mine, and making the bed.  But it would go right past her whenever I would point out that it was just as easy to keep things neat as she went along.  After all, I always did.
     Of course, she couldn't be bothered to put anything on the grocery list when she used it up, and it became exclusively my job when we went to the Sentry supermarket on Oakland to make sure we were supplied. Kraft Dinner, the makings of tuna noodle casserole for sure, an occasional steak.
     And one time she asked flatly, "Would it make any difference?"
     Meaning, since she sensed my growing indifference -- though my sex urges were about as frequent as ever, only with fewer preliminaries as time went by, more of just bending her over the cast-off furniture, Then would you love me more?
    
Well, though I could be evasive when I had to be, or very legalistic, I always had a hard time lying, and after a long mental review of all the women I had been lusting after, I had to admit that no, it wouldn't.
     Hell, if I walked the hall at UWM and saw a woman with a blouse gaping where the buttons were kind of far apart I would change course to follow her for a while for a while if I thought I glimpsed a part of a rounded breast without a bra.  And I felt I couldn't blame myself too much for my lack of overall affection, since she  never had any trouble coming no matter how perfunctory I was.
     Which, though rare, was really how it should be for women as well as men.  After all, we didn't demand much and didn't expect to be complemented ourselves on the mere ability to enjoy sex.
     It was during that time that she would infrequently wake up while I was still alert myself to start a disjointed conversation.  She looked foggy, and I would generally tell her to go back to sleep.  Once she peered at me in bemusement:  "You have circles in your eyes."
     I realized she meant my contact lenses, and since this childishness seemed more than a little odd I probed a little further on a hunch, asking what her name was.  It turned out she was Renée.
  That was actually her middle name, and after that since I knew she was, in effect, sleepwalking, I saw no point in doing anything but gently getting her to lie down again.
     And I had recognized her state as closely aligned with an activity I had abandoned a long time ago:  hypnosis.  Even as a boy I had read about it in one of my Uncle Homer's men's magazines when I visited my cousin, Darlene.  He always kept copies of True and Argosy on the coffee table, and though I believed the article mostly fantasy, I was curious enough to check out library books that detailed a history from Mesmer and Charcot through military psychologists who used it to treat what was called shell shock to fairly modern university research.
     Having established its legitimacy -- hypnosis was once used in everything from drug-free childbirth to painless dentistry, including the antics induced by stage hypnotists:  Cluck like a chicken; Sing a song instead of saying your name if asked your identity -- I kn
ew I had to give it a try.
     I became familiar with findings that came from experiments designed to convince skeptics who held that subjects wouldn't act against their own best interests.  Never mind that stage hypnotists had been humiliating stolid citizens -- admittedly pre-selected and tested -- in ways no sane person would voluntarily put up with.  These professors risked a lot by having their volunteers commit petty crimes, like stealing from purses.
     Of course, they were discrediting the notion that subjects were somehow aware there was no real danger in trying to grasp rattlesnakes, since they could see the supposedly invisible glass, or somehow saw through the experimenters who could apparently  trick them into attempting dangerous acts, or were merely trying to please by putting on displays of shivering from extreme cold or, the popular classic -- in some circles -- of beating the heat by removing clothing.  Probably to take a convenient shower.
     The element of trickery was important, since it was recognized that a direct order to do something outrageous could make the victim balk and wake up -- common terminology, though it had been established that the connection with actual sleep was superficial.  A person acting under a post-hypnotic suggestion -- a very real event -- gave no evidence of sleeping, and someone handled by a competent practitioner would engage in aware conversation and acts without any sign of a trance except, of course, extreme suggestibility.
     So I made my first move -- really not expecting it to work -- with my younger cousin, Georgie, in a dim bedroom at my house.  Conclusions about who made a good subject were controversial, but young boys and adolescent girls were generally considered good candidates.  And sleepwalkers.
     But certainly not, despite common beliefs, unintelligent or weak-minded persons, whatever that might mean.  It took a certain amount of intelligence, after all, to follow directions and keep one's mind clear of distracting thoughts.
     But I was certainly astonished to have a 10-year-old in my dim bedroom start responding rather vacantly to my conversational questions, and following the few commands I could improvise to test him, being unprepared for success.  Inducing him to give silly answers to my queries about his name and age, for example.  But I didn't want to risk jolting him into self-consciousness with something too vigorous, since I had used the common sleep-inducing technique -- though without the clichéd dangling pocket watch found only in bad movies -- and wasn't sure if I could convert him to a more wakeful state.  Even if experts did it all the time.
     But from that time -- after some serious follow-up reading -- I had an activity, if not quite a full-fledged act, to beguile friends at gatherings when no parents were around.  In addition to our clandestine beer-drinking.
     Of course, with friends -- and especially boyfriends -- watching, I couldn't go too far in the way of having the girls take off even their tops by making them think it was getting hot or they were alone and getting ready for bed, though I figured I could.  But I could make people seem to disappear and at least stretch the guys between two chairs, supported only by heads and heels.  With these kinds of results I knew I could, in effect, create future unwitting participants with post-hypnotic suggestions that could be activated by phone or even letters.
     Such commands had to be reinforced over time, of course, if not actually activated, but they could persist for quite a while, as in the little-shown but
horrifically accurate 1962 film Read WikiPedia Article: "Manchurian Candidate"The Manchurian Candidate, with Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra and an incestuous mother, Angela Lansbury.  There, an innocuous Queen of Hearts was the trigger.
     I also knew that major law-enforcement agencies were well aware of illicit uses of hypnosis, but I believed I could at least be smart enough to exert some powers without attracting attention.  For one thing, subjects in a post-hypnotic trance were very clever at manufacturing rationalizations for the most outlandish behavior, so stealing for me or sexual acts might well be possible.
     I could easily leave such an instruction in place, and no one observing would even notice.  After all, I used post-hypnotic suggestions at my sessions already just to make it easy to put my participants back under with the snap of a finger -- and it was true that my favorite and most susceptible reactors were some of the chicks that always hung around with the group.
     An  enjoyment in dominating otherwise frustratingly sexually aloof females, I imagine, that made me especially patient in demonstrating my prowess, though the guys were always there to look ridiculous if I wanted to use them.
     Still, I was scrupulous about removing all such future possible influences from everyone's minds before the party was over, though of course the care I gave to having them remember the experience as enjoyable and deeply restful ensured a repeating supply of subjects.
 
     The sleep-inducing technique came about -- and was successful -- because, though young myself, I had a rather deep and, when I wanted it to be, soothing, some might say boring, monotonous voice.  Not like the stage hypnotists who worked with a loud, overpowering tone under bright lights and noisy conditions.
     But even I later employed a method myself closer to theirs of tricking persons to go under, not against their will -- which was considered impossible, in the absence of an already-implanted suggestion -- but surely without their consent, in the guise of what was purported to be only a test of their ability to comply with a practitioner's directions.  This involved some forceful, rapid talking and instructions to willingly close eyes and blank out and just listen to commands that had you imagining falling backwards and trusting the circle of onlookers to catch you, and eventually being unable to articulate your correct name.  My buddies thought it was fun to supply newcomers whom I could put under this way.
     So did I, at first.  But I became increasingly uneasy at whatever power I could wield, and soon eliminated most of the potentially humiliating aspects, and never called upon any of the girls for any nudity or anything sexual, even covertly.  Tempting though it might have been to have a sex slave, the idea of someone following my wishes not of their free will repelled me, and seemed to make for a barren, cold relationship that could ultimately leave me alienated even from the world itself.  Strong, perhaps, but the idea was chilling.
     And so were certain consequences of a trance:
     Subjects were unpredictable, and could be unnerving.  They were usually very literal in their interpretations, but with variable results.  You could tell someone that when she woke up so-and-so would not be there.  Sometimes I would say you won't see him.  Sure enough, she would usually ignore anything the other party said and did, even making excuses for his non-appearance, but sometimes she would hear the disembodied voice, which could freak anyone out.
     Just because I said you won't see him.
     And it always nagged at me that no one ever came up with the definitive explanation of what hypnosis actually is, though theories abound.  From Freudian childish regression to simply succumbing to a barrage on the senses to the apparent disassociation that accompanies sleep and its dreams.  And indeed, one could talk to a sleepwalker and lead her to a demonstrably hypnotic performance.
     But the mystery -- and ultimate neglect -- no doubt stemmed from our ignorance of even the normal functioning of the brain while we had a growing ability to predictably control it through drugs and simple duress, even as we more surely dealt with disease.
     You could add to this the simple ineptness of many a would-be hypnotherapist, said to have been the reason Freud himself gave up on it.
     So by the time of Jenny's displays I had lost interest in undue influence over anybody, feeling it an alienating experience.  Even though I had in our early days found Jenny to be an easily and deeply manipulated target.  And the idea of a woman subject to my sexual whims on demand had become more creepy than anything else.  Especially since I could get anything I wanted, sexual or otherwise, through conventional means.  At least from Jen.  If I had a failing in her eyes, it was that I didn't want enough from her, that she was no longer that significant to me.
     After several sleep-talking episodes that I told her about -- she had no memory of them -- she pondered about it for a while and decided the fugues surfaced because of a deep conflict:  "You know I told you I never masturbated -- I think I wanted a way to tell you I lied . . . it was really a lot . . ."
     Of course, it didn't really matter, and this general indifference of mine meant it was inevitable that she should move out to Allan and Ieva's on Cass Street.  They had gotten married with a baby on the way and they had a room for Jenny in exchange for some babysitting.  I had ignored her more and more, not wanting to make her feel dumb, but she was very defensive.
     I pointed out that I knew very little compared to the Garsons, but I didn't resent them -- just the opposite -- for what I could learn from them.  I remembered an evening when Gregory had been discussing Wisconsin poets Go to Web Page: Lorine NiedeckerLorine Niedecker and Read Harland Ristau Entry, K'scope HistoryHarland Ristau, whom I as an undergraduate had never heard of.  I was a little discouraged about my pace of learning, and Bibi was slightly amused, making me cringe by calling out to the other room:
     "Hey Greg, Don wants to know when he'll be as smart as you."
     But her defensiveness was a long-time theme with her; when she was 14 and I was in college already and 20 years old she wrote in one early letter:

    
         . . . .I'm sorry that you were
     sick last week. I thought
     about you alot and I hope you
     will make it all worthwhile
     this coming week. Even though
     I'm "illiterate" I can still
     put down on paper what I want
     to say.
          I'd give anything to be
     able to go out at nite with
     you and have my mother not
     care but I guess "Love in the
     Afternoon" is the best I can
     do a present. . . .


    
But I don't know what made her react as if I called her "illiterate."  I guess I was more overbearing than I thought.  I wanted to get laid, after all, and I wasn't dumb enough to insult a girlfriend in a relationship as tentative as this unless it was just banter -- but she called things off anyway, on her own, saying I really was too old for her.  It was two years after that we started going out again, but this time her mother intervened, saying she had to wait until she was 18, changing her mind only when Jen turned 17 and was about to graduate.  So we could see each other,  if only on weekends, and her letters started again:

 
         . . . .I thought alot about you
     today.  I'm sure going to miss you
     this week just like last week &
     the week before. . . .
     Did you ever notice how I skip from
     subject to subject.  I feel very
     self-concious
(sp.) writing to you
     because I know that you notice my
     terrible sentence structures, lack
     of transitions, and my limited
     vocabulary. . . .

    
I'm getting quite a few hints on
     the art of "making love" from this
     book I'm reading.  with a little
     practice I should become quite
     adept.  Of course I'll restrict my
     practice time to the time spent
     with you which never seems to be
     enough.  You always said you needed
     me but that I didn't need you.
     Well, I think you're pretty well
     straightened out now & I am
     starting to need you more and more.
     I love you Don, I'm sure of that &
     I know that I want you & now I
     really do need you.  You're so
     quite sometimes that its' hard for
     me to say these things in person.

     I can't wait until Sept. when I
     can quit Allen-Bradley & go to
     school which means I'll also see
     more of you.
        
 I hope you didn't mind me
     dragging you to that picnic Sun.
     At least you made me happy by

    
COMING  ---------- to the
     picnic. . . .
That concludes this
     irratic effort . . .


     I was a little taken aback by the mention of being all straightened out, since I had mostly forgotten the performance anxiety that cropped up when I worried about following through on our first spontaneous session.  Even though I got a stifled laugh once when I couldn't help calling myself the incredible shrinking man after a movie we had just seen.
    
I knew I was rather withdrawn around her -- though I hoped not overly critical -- mostly because everything I was learning was beyond her and I didn't enjoy just lecturing when what I wanted was a good discussion, but at the time I figured that would come later.  At least I had her pointed toward college.  And I had my own place, moving out from my parents' in time to get drunk on the Fourth of July and toss those firecrackers down the stairwell.  Celebrating independence, of course, and the freedom to fuck like goats.  But a sign of her struggles to come might be in the next letter where she writes of her entrance tests:

     
I don't have to go back tomorrow, it's for those eleigible to take the English test to be exempt from English 101.  I'm not elegible because I only got a 60 on the ACT in English . . .
    
And she wasn't self-conscious about writing that summer that she wanted to lose some weight, that she had about as much resistance to food, sex & sleep as a wet noodle.  And with her last letter before moving in I realized that I was probably dealing with a girl of rather unusual sexual intensity:

    
I went to the doctor to-nite fir my physical for U.W.M.  I never had a real physical before.  I wonder if any other women get "hot pants" from a physical.  Christ, the way he moved his hands around I thought I'd croak. . . . he weighed me so I have definitely decided to go on a diet . . . . I miss you so much during the week, honey . . .I resent every bit of fun or enjoyment you have away from me
. . . .I think I'll go to bed soon.  Then I can dream about you.  I may not be perfect but I'm trying to learn to be the girl you want me to be.  I sure hope you're  happy with me as I am with you.

 
         All my Love Always,
                           Jenny
    
Oddly enough, it was the same Possley family doctor who played a role in her moving in.  Her parents thought it was outrageous for her to even locate in the same building, and relented only to the point of suggesting they ask the doctor -- who had a daughter about Jenny's age -- what he thought.
     They stipulated to following his opinion, not worrying much about it.  As it turned out his daughter was away at college in Madison, and he thought it was perfectly all right for her to move across town, no matter if I was so close by or not.  I did have to wonder if her moist, cozy session with him had influenced his friendly attitude, while I was looking forward to a lover who could get off rubbing it against the corner of the sink.

     So she moved in, and though she was still cuter than almost any chick I had met, her desire to please me didn't always extend -- and she had very black hair -- to shaving her legs and depilitating the dark growth on her arms often enough.  Still, I didn't really want to control her, just wanted to be left alone at times.  It was pointless to try to interest her in something I was reading -- though I tried with some poetry by Dylan Thomas, which I even had on a record, along with Karl Shapiro's In Defense of Ignorance -- when she had to go to every class and take notes while I slept late and skipped lecture sections we managed to take together except the first and last days of the semester.
     And I still aced Econ 101 while she scraped by, and couldn't understand how I -- with some knowledge of Marx and Engels from a philosophy course, honed by the Garsons -- could question a few tenets of capitalism in class.
     Similarly, in a more playful manner, I would use some notions I learned about in Epistemology to try to get her to question the very truth of reality.  But she  quite sensibly maintained nature was concrete and predictable, and any philosophers who claimed otherwise were crazy, or trying to fool you.  And none of that Veil of Maya crap, either.  Ironically, it was when we dropped acid years later that she granted that those thinkers may have had a point.
     But what this materialism of hers -- and mine too, I had to admit -- meant for the notion of free will, she didn't know, though she accepted that too.  Even if,  as I pointed out, a universe of cause and effect didn't alter its mechanics just when it was convenient for us to think so.
     As Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim concurred with Gen. Rumfoord about the necessity of firebombing Dresden:  "I know, everybody has to do exactly what he does."
     Which explained, I noted, why some of those reductionists could believe that free will was an illusion, that thought was something that just occurred a millisecond after an action.  An epiphenomenon, as it was termed, that accompanied our already determined impulses.  Thanks, Dr. Ross.
     Ultimately, though, such speculation was only rewarding in the beer-soaked sessions of cosmic import I had with other students holding scholarly pretensions, usually in a bar.  So I learned early on not to look to Jenny for intellectual badinage, though she understood when I explained my resolution of the free will versus determinism debate:  It didn't matter.
     We acted the way we acted, and couldn't do any differently even if we were aware of forces pressing on us.  Such awareness merely became another influence, in an infinite regress, yet we still had to act.
     An enlightened society made exceptions for inescapable compulsion -- the proverbial gun to the head -- but otherwise we had to live with the everyday results.  Coerced or not.
     As Bibiana said, "So what if you knew everything was predetermined -- what would you do different?"
     I knew I couldn't argue with that.
     But if I was too remote for too long Jenny would let the cat box fill up while the smaller kitten would make it worse by scratching out his crap onto the linoleum, or drop her own clothes and accessories wherever she felt like until I would explode -- a few times, anyway -- and swing out wildly with a clenched fist at whatever part of her was closest until I was spent after some clubs to the body.
     As she frankly admitted years later, "Sometimes I deserved it and sometimes I didn't."  But it was certainly a frustrating way -- for both of us -- to get attention, and more and more I thought something was wrong and I shouldn't be with her.  And she was the only woman I would ever hit.
     The cats turned out to be a further bother when we discovered way in the back of a deep, dim closet where we tossed rags or at least unwanted clothes that they had been using the pile to piss on.  Close up it reeked, of course, but we didn't notice until Jenny went way back with a flashlight to look for something.  More surprising -- though it wasn't unusual that she had been walking around naked -- she said that on some sort of impulse she had sat down on the old plush floor cushions to turn the flashlight on her own vulva.
     "I could see what it really looked like inside -- I'll never ask you to do anything . . . to do that to me any more.  I can understand why you wouldn't want to . . ."
     It was true that I could find the occasional cunt in pictures or real life to be cute, a defined groove at most with chubby outer lips but the rest tucked away, hair neatly trimmed and not a wild thicket -- but some were more like a gravy boat filled with night crawlers.  Such a critique, I felt, was matched by the description I had read -- seconded by a girlfriend -- of the male genitals as resembling a pile of turkey giblets.
     But with her I had mostly noticed how a true brunette with white skin shaded into red and dark red edging the black pubic hair, a private view that was a little flick of knowledge.
     So I was surprised, mostly because I had generally ignored anyway what hints she had been making that I eat her pussy, and didn't know it was an issue.  It was hard to get to, not like her nipples, and it always did what it was supposed to and left my face and moustache dripping to the point where I didn't really feel right about kissing but didn't know whether to wipe it off.
     And with what?  I thought that might be the equivalent of her spitting my come, which she had never done.  Especially since she came as fast as she wanted without it, anyway -- I would just stroke until she went a little loose and I would ask, "Did you come?"  She would nod while letting out a softly exhaled "uh-huh," and I let myself come too.
     So I guess I ignored her hints while plunging ahead.
     But I could still feel a little guilty since I had even gotten her to douche.  I had read enough women's magazines in their homes, since I was a compulsive reader, like Cosmopolitan -- I would read Ladies Home Journal if that's all I could get my hands on -- to know it wasn't medically necessary, but given the direction of the plumbing and the role of gravity, I felt uneasy about being a backup cleaning system.
     And it seemed they all got yeast infections eventually, or trichomoniasis -- which at least one insisted on pronouncing trichomonas -- or chlamydia.  And TV advertising emphasized the need to feel fresh.
     Anyway, I didn't invent the concept of douching.  So it was only in the abstract that I eyed delectable young ladies and thought I want to see what you taste like.  In reality I didn't want to bother.
     And my fastidious nature wasn't challenged then by anything more outré:  It would take until the '80s to realize times had changed when I read in Cosmo that ladies should prepare for their bouts of anal sex by inserting a soapy finger.  But then I could feel superior, having picked up on the merits of such personal everyday hygiene years before when reading Kerouac's Big Sur, where he mocked the general populace for not cleansing with soap and water and going around with "dirty azzholes."
     As time went on she took more and more solace in her favorite albums, played on our beat up, green leatherette-covered record player:  Barbra Streisand and West Side StoryNothing to be ashamed of, but I soon tired of them and had my own to get drunk to when I had written enough -- or tried to -- for a session and wanted to get to where I could sleep -- shutting her out with the Play YouTube Selection: Dylan Thomas, "Lament"Dylan Thomas and View YouTube Selection: Edith PiafEdith Piaf and View YouTube Selection: Joan Baez, "O' CangaceiroJoan Baez and the first of several copies of Carmina Burana.  After first hearing Thomas read I would often think of some coincidentally appropriate lines of his when I left some semen in her hand or on her face, calling forth my Quivering Prince, or prints -- though I doubt any woman picked up the reference.
     In the same way I realized I could stump just about everybody by asking what city in Wisconsin was mentioned in a Dylan Thomas poem.  If I were feeling helpful I would tell them to think villanelle, but that's all.
     There wasn't much besides music and sex to do, anyway.  Since we weren't married I couldn't take her to the tavern with me -- otherwise legal in Wisconsin for underage spouses and children -- and though in earlier days I made it to Barney's or O'Reilly's or Hooligan's every night after second shift it was mostly to line up someone for the weekend.  I was actually very domestic and wanted someone to live with so we would only go out to eat or drink on an impulse.  I didn't want to plan my free time just so I could be sure of getting laid.
     Of course, with anybody new I had to structure time for dates until things worked out; at least whoever it was would know that we were going to screw on a regular basis.  Generally Friday nights, and if it was on Saturday and we spent the night together we had Sunday before getting up to get in enough sex to last the week.
     Drinking at home could get out of hand for me, especially when I was alone; once she came home and I was contentedly balancing a tumbler of bourbon and seltzer on my stomach sitting up on the worn mattress and blasting Play YouTube SelectionO Fortuna because, as I told her, I had realized a pattern in my series of short stories and figured out how I could interlock them through one narrator into a novel, yet peddle them separately.
     Thin stuff, but I was happy for the moment, though all I got was an uncomprehending "Terrific."
     I gave her a copy of my latest story, set in our old neighborhood, and when by way of opening a dialogue a few days later I -- somewhat slyly, I thought -- pointed out, "There's a certain amount of hostility toward women there," all she said was, "No shit."
     Rather sullen, I noticed.  Of course, I had been wrapped up in my writing for weeks.
     But then, considering her struggles in English class, I should have known not to expect much in the way of literary criticism.  All her papers were getting low grades, and she was having problems with her English professor, a Dr. Kathryn Whitford.
     An unforgiving harpy, to hear Jenny tell it.
     Still, I knew she cared about me a lot.  I was dutifully working out three or four times a week, rolling down an old quilt over the apartment floor for padding, and when I had progressed to the point where I needed some short pieces of something for more height from the floor for heavier deadlifts she struggled home twice from a nearby construction site and up the staircase cradling some rough concrete blocks.
     And far from resenting my drinking, she knew it mellowed me out and encouraged it by asking whether I wanted a beer whenever she got herself Cokes from the chained and locked fridge in the hall we shared with the lesbian couple next door.  Another guy up on the third floor also used it.
     Generally I didn't accept, since I kept to my own work routine, but she would often make me boloney and cheese sandwiches if she thought I might want one.
     But I at least had hoped I could find someone who could entertain herself, since while I hated conforming to timetables or punching a time clock I had to compensate by setting my own patterns and rituals to concentrate on the important work of the moment, even though it looked like all I had was freedom.
     Other people put in their hours at work -- or in class -- and seemed pretty carefree the rest of the time and didn't understand why I had to be so businesslike except when it was clearly time to let go.
     But she would even intrude on this remoteness, sitting or moving around half-naked until she knew I was watching with a growing interest then half-heartedly covering herself, pretending modesty, suggesting, "Oh no, the mystery -- "
     But with her the sex could be over really fast, lights on and TV babbling away, and she would be left on her own again.  Maybe falling asleep, but several times when we were still side by side, sticky and relaxed, I would see the tears collecting and falling down her cheeks.
     "What's the matter?"
     "I always think it means you still love me."
     But I had no way to manufacture a fascination with her where there wasn't any, and I didn't try to talk her into anything when she hinted at moving out.
     Before she did finally leave she said flatly, though she was somewhat tearful, "I'm never going to be an intellectual.  I'm . . .  never going to to go down to the library to check out the latest poetry books. . . ."
     I couldn't argue with that.  Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of women around now that I was taken, and I had scarcely admitted to myself that she could leave -- though I feared that at least l might get really horny again and begin to imagine what I would do to her if she would turn up at the door.
     But I could let her go because I had the built-in protection guys had against blatant sexual manipulation:  It took a while for real horniness to take over, and until then it was hard to anticipate feeling deprived.  And you could always imagine a new lover in the picture, even if there were no actual candidates.
     But underneath everything I had to admit that if women really controlled life and could demand the most abject worship in return for pussy, I would do it.  If that were the only way.  Fortunately, the world wasn't made so that men were that powerless, and if someone showed a tendency to test me with unreasonable demands I would immediately balk.
     Even as she was leaving, bitter at my indifference and convinced it was my nature, there was a part of me that wanted to say, But you don't understand, I've got this big bloody heart that I want to give to someone and be deeply in love with, it's just not you. . . .  I did advance the bucket theory -- that my affection, apart from sex, was like a fluid that slowly dripped into a pail.  Keep tipping the pail and there was never very much to enjoy, but let it alone and don't test it for a while and it would eventually fill up to come splashing out to surprise us both.  Never seemed to happen, though she claimed to have tried it.
     But there was still another complication:  That fall I'd had a skin infection on my groin, for no apparent reason except that the dry skin that I grew up with that spared me from much adolescent acne sometimes caused a lot of scratching -- and maybe her over-vigorous fingernails carried something too -- and it started to flare up.
     Anxious as I was to get rid of any blemishes on my balls I would compulsively peel the skin  -- as with a sunburn -- layers that came back worse than ever and I would drink until I could fall asleep despite the pain I eventually caused, and usually in the morning it would feel OK.  Scabbing over again.
     Finally, one night that didn't work -- the pain was still excruciating -- and Jenny drove us to the emergency hospital on 25th and Wells Streets, where the examination brought back to me the line, "One was so small it was nothing at all. . . ."  There I got some pills, antibiotics I assumed, though I never was told exactly what I had.  I mentioned the sleep problem and the doctor gave a me a small bottle of Nembutal right then.
     I washed down two with wine that night, and soon drifted away.  The flakes cleared up quickly, and I restrained myself.  I was apologetic about the scabs that had even encroached on my dick, and reticent about sex, but she hesitantly revealed it actually felt good to her.
     But after that when I had to get up early for an exam or something and knowing how hard it would be, I would take some pills and drink wine and go under while playing my most stirring music.
     View YouTube SelectionCapriccio Italien, for one, and the heavily emotional Play You Tube Selection IconWarsaw Concerto.  Smart-ass that I was, I found I could irritate even musicians when I stumped them by asking who the composer of that one was.  Bonus points for naming the British movie that contained it; double bonus for the American title.
     When drunk I would forego the more cerebral Dvorak and Schoenberg records I brought back from the Garsons, sometimes just wallowing for no real reason except youthful weltschmerz.
     Sadly, the older cat, the orange-striped Max Orion, didn't come back one morning, and we pictured him squashed by a bus, but the little gray one -- eventually left behind by Jenny, though it was supposed to be her responsibility -- was still there, planting both front feet in his food dish and scattering it when he ate.  That was why we called him Pig, and he was especially annoying, since he hadn't been properly socialized and squirmed and struggled whenever I picked him up.  Though he would creep into my lap when I was sitting up in bed and knead the thin blanket covering my legs with his front paws and suck contentedly on a nub of fabric, purring away, that's all he would permit.  No petting.

      
half in a fog and then mostly blanked after washing down some sleeping pills with port wine and plumbing the depths of sound, realizing how the kids could take downers at a concert and still stumble around awake as the blasting music was more exquisite for having penetrated layers of drugs, saying I only want to be affectionate, come here you little bastard after it jumped out of my arms and away and I tried again but it would have none of me and I started lighting firecrackers and tossing them as he ran around the room and eventually hid under our one old easy chair as they got closer and I lit one and pitched it underhand under the chair where it exploded as he cowered ungrateful little fucker until I settled down for a while in a stupor and he eventually crawled out blood and drool trickling from the mouth and stealthily onto my lap . . . 
     I felt terrible when I woke up the next day, of course, not only because of the hangover, since I thought I couldn't abide cruelty to children or animals.  Bullying may never be right, but adults could look out for themselves or at least were on notice that they should do something or suffer for it, and that was the way it was.  I had been pushed around myself until I bulked up.
     "Well, goodbye . . ." were Jen's final words as she lingered in the doorway -- probably expecting my last-minute protest -- before taking her remaining few possessions for the short trip to Allan and Ieva's.
     Even if I hurt a bit, I could never directly say so; I would just come on a little romantically until we were screwing, and it happened that way soon enough at the new place.  But for the time being, I had decided to finish another story -- rounding off the lot -- and polish them again on the portable typewriter.  I generally ended the sessions by drinking, and if I was too much awake beyond that, listening to music -- immerse myself in the emotions, actually, of Tchaikovsky warhorses like his violin concerto, or even Ravel's Bolero, but I felt everyone did that once in a while.
     I envisioned Anne-Marie or Aileen or even Barbara Firley from St. Leo's Grade School, all pussies I thought I wanted to eat at one time or another.  Somebody, but I wished Jenny would appear at the door.
     Allen and Ieva were my friends, of course, and were were still part of a group that published an off-campus magazine, first rather effetely called Milieu, then -- maybe even more pretentiously -- riverrun, as Milwaukee at least had three main rivers.  By this time, Julian Feindorfer had taken over exclusively as editor, writing around the country to get submissions from established poets.  One that he actually got was Charles Bukowski's View YouTube SelectionFire Station poem, while he allowed each of us to print a few of our own.  So we gathered for discussions, or just to party with other graduates.
     Allan allowed as how he was dumpfounded at the job Jules had done.  And he was happy that if any errors made it into print he wasn't the escape goat any more.
     Jenny was generally there, of course, and though I knew she was always loyal when we were a couple, she didn't have any compunction about getting laid when she was unattached -- either because she just liked sex or because she wanted to validate herself with anyone who paid her attention.  The difference to me was important, though I never came to any conclusion.  But it wasn't hard for her to get responses -- while I had to follow all the traditional routes, with lots of empty stretches.
     So it wasn't unusual that we should end up together for the night, after the first time when I came over early and she was doing some ironing in a filmy white gown that swirled openly around her, naked otherwise.
     "I guess I shouldn't be doing this," she said, pulling the robe shut over the prominent pink areolas.
     She was still putting the hot iron up when I came around behind her, twisting her head back and toward me, adding a nuzzling the way women did while prolonging the pure groping of her tits and grinding her ass into me as we approached something more mutual.  Lightly I pinched and rolled her nipples around, while she smiled a little.
     "Is that a banana in your pocket or do you have an erection?"
     Since her humor hadn't changed much since she was 16 and sent me a Hanukkah card, though neither of us was Jewish -- unlike a lot of the students at Washington High, where we both had gone, and the surrounding neighborhood in the Sherman Park area -- I assume she heard that somewhere recently.  She tended to like chanting the Beans, beans, the musical fruit rhyme, and drove me further up the wall when I would come out of the bathroom -- no matter if it was late in the evening on a date -- by observing I bet you feel 10 pounds lighter, though of course in that context it was not relevant at all, and you'd think she would figure it out from my blank-faced shrug.  Not the femininity I pictured when I thought of the tantalizing Anne-Marie, or even Aileen.
     She always had her own kind of wit, though usually of the loudmouth, putdown type:  Not too swift, are you? would be typical, except -- as she pointed out -- around me.  Then she was the opposite of her usual bowling-queen, factory worker type.  But I was careful those days only to come on physically; if she responded, I wouldn't be caught asking for anything more permanent.
     Even though she was fucking Matt Wilensky and dating some others I barely knew about, I didn't care at the moment, though when Wilensky was over there at night I had qualms.  One of those times she asked why I was hanging around when obviously Wilensky was waiting for me to leave, and I had to tell her truthfully that earlier he had asked for a ride home.  A blow to her ego I didn't mind delivering.
     I had to add haltingly that I hoped she was taking care of things so that Matt hadn't been staying with her right before I did.  And leaving his own distasteful quivering prints, I thought, jealousy and hygiene mingling in my thoughts.
     So I guess I projected some ambivalence as we drifted back together, letting her look for a new place for both of us.
     The old building on Prospect Avenue, famous as a party house known simply by its number, 1833, was being converted into yet another nursing home, and I had to move anyway.  So we ended up in the lower front of a four-unit building on E. Kane Place, on the Milwaukee River bluff and behind a similar building on the street in the front.
     Eventually it would be remembered by some as the home of Jeffrey Dahmer's last victim; before that, Kane Place and the Avant Garde would be featured by local writer Tony Hozeny in the stark short novels Driving Wheel and My House is Dark And quirky local reporter and columnist -- for the Sentinel and alternative press -- Michael Horne lived for a while in the same building, down the street from the original hippie food co-op that became the thriving Outpost Natural Foods on Capitol Drive.
     After we relocated, I was driving cab again, my work-study job over, and I  threw my earnings, meager as they were, into a coffee can after every 11-hour shift -- or, generally, around dawn -- to add to Jenny's wages from Allen-Bradley to pay the rent.  It was a lot more than we were used to spending as students for the two-bedroom, furnished flat with appliances.
     But her return to factory work made it possible to afford, even as I chafed under images I had of the view the farmer saw plowing behind two horses in a cartoon I had seen, complaining about the same old scenery, walking behind the horse's ass with the same view as I had of the same old butt in the air on our ratty bed. Plow that Earth

     Even if I occasionally had her go down on her knees and crawl to it in front of the tall, circulating fan on a stand on the kitchen linoleum for whatever variety I could think of, it was more to humor me than anything else, with a face almost as endearing as ever looking up, occasionally flicking to my eyes with her own doe eyes to gauge my pleasure as she remembered to employ her tongue on my sac.
     It could bring to mind the satisfying refrain, "The other was large and won prizes."  But I had also been noticing her nose was more pointed than I liked, nostrils a little too prominent.
     Still, I was off in my mind somewhere thinking of how it would be to have someone to really talk to.  Aside from bill-paying and our jobs, we didn't have much diversion.  Just a cheap dual-speaker radio I bought at Arlans discount store, the old TV that sat on a crude bookshelf with my paperbacks, and the battered phonograph.
     The radio, I made a point of specifying, would go with me if we split again, since I paid for it.
 She received that remark in silence, shrugging.
     She cooked some meals and I did the dishes, then read the paper, while she watched TV until her bedtime, shows like Ed Sullivan and The Fugitive.  Mostly I would type and re-type my rejected poems and stories.
     The factory didn't do much for her intellectualism. She would come home sweating and strip and flop naked on the floral-print soft chair, the screens on the rear wall facing her letting in a little cool air from the Milwaukee River, while I sat on the couch opposite her, revising my material with the portable typewriter on my lap.
     From near the brush-lined water, bugs -- the smallest living bits of green I've seen -- somehow made it in through even the window screens.
     Slumping down to spread her legs a little, talking maybe about her foreman or whatever.  Once she quoted a fellow line-worker, a married black woman who said her motto was, "When the weather's hot and sticky, that's the time to dunk your wicky."
     I took the hint -- it didn't take much -- but reading and some desultory attempts to write during the mugginess occupied my limited time when I wasn't cab driving.  And there was usually that case of Weber beer to be worked on.
     So it was no surprise that I didn't object when she moved out again -- she always had her parents' home to go to -- though it meant a lot more cab driving for me, usually two 11-hour shifts a week, and less writing.  But the manuscripts were coming back as fast as I sent them anyway.  Almost as irritating, though I had gotten rid of the sloppy gray cat when I moved, she had stuck me with another we called Killer.  Also gray.  We kept him inside, where his annoying qualities included leaving dark, wet footprints in the bathroom sink where the faucet dripped -- to his fascination -- and on the patterned oilcloth on the kitchen table when I was working.  Butter couldn't be left out, of course, covered or not, or it would be stuck to with gray hair.
     He did learn to retrieve crumpled pages and cigaret packs when I tossed them across a room, at least for a few rounds of fetch before he grew bored.
     But because it seemed most of the Humane Society cats came with fleas and ear mites, it had  became my task to wash him in the sink with a special liquid and swab inside his ears with a lotion, once a week, tolerating me and the Q-Tips, even though he lost his cat élan, pitifully soaked to half of his dry size until I toweled him off before he could scoot off, still damp, to crawl in the dust under the bed.  Something he immediately did anyway when released.
     Occasionally he would get out, and I wouldn't have a clue where to look, but little kids from one of the two adjacent buildings would bring him back to my door.  I had no idea how they knew where he lived.
     Sometimes I came home at dawn and sat in the doorway to the hall in the middle of the building and drowsily drank beer while the sun rose high enough in the east to be warming and some of the same kids -- I scarcely knew whether they were boys or girls or what unit they were from -- would huddle up against me in their thin jackets, everyone very cheerful and cozy for the moment.
     Soon the beer would take over and I could go in to sleep while leaves drifted down like weightless brown and golden wedges.
     But I couldn't keep up with rent, and I didn't need the extra room, shabby though it all was, and I started looking for another place.  At the same time I applied for -- or least was on the lookout for -- different jobs, hoping for one a little more in keeping with my degree.  But I was surviving, and I knew that although it might take a few weeks, I would encounter somebody to go out with and that I would get laid again.
     So every so often I had to explain to myself how I ended up about to marry Jenny.
     It started with the flu, as I said later to those who would ask.
     By then, I had a line on a job at The Milwaukee Journal and had given notice to move when I succumbed to that year's flu, a virulent type that flattened me and then left me unduly weak as I tried to gather my stuff and look for a new apartment.  A cubbyhole was all I wanted, but suddenly all effort was beyond me.
     As time ran out, I called Jenny.  In all sincerity, I asked if I could just park my belongings and myself at her new place a few blocks south on Brady Street.  By most appearances she was happy, with a female roommate, though she told me later that she had moved home and waited for me to get in touch.
     "When you didn't call at my mother's I figured I had to do something -- I wasn't going to live way over there and have her waiting for me to come home every night, and I figured it was over for sure."
     Of course it never occurred to me that she was expecting anything, but I certainly wouldn't have made any domestic overtures.
     So she found Sherry Lerner, a slightly younger UWM student who had an older brother, a disk jockey on WOKY who had changed his name to Peter Wolff.  Rather plain, her main distinction was that she was taking the Pill regularly, though she was a virgin -- without a boyfriend -- just because something could happen real soon and she wanted to be ready.
     So of course, she appreciated Jenny's expertise, and the apartment above Mary's Diner on Brady was just right for both of them -- and on the bus line to the Journal Co. on State Street.
     Jen herself had moved on from Emko foam -- first suggested by Aileen as better than her haphazard approach -- to the newly popular Pill.  This time the chatty gynecologist seemed very concerned that her boyfriend might find her too tight, which could have been flattering to one of us.  But she had to volunteer that, if anything, the opposite was true, which at least he attributed to her extreme lubrication.
     But with two bedrooms it left only the couch in the front room overlooking the busy street -- George Webb's hamburger parlor and the A&P supermarket on the other side -- for me, though at least I could pile my stuff in a heap in the dining room.  The malaise dragged on, though I was soon at least well enough to think about getting out -- the Journal job came through and I started as a library clerk, doing research in the files for reporters and sometimes the general public, whose calls we took because the paper wanted the citizens to think of us as the purveyors of fact -- while Jenny had her own life.
     It turned out the library -- sometimes known as the morgue in movies -- was staffed mostly with young women, hired because college students taking some time off when they weren't sure anymore what they wanted to do in life were somewhat more educated and capable than kids just out of high school, but still willing to work cheap.  At least for a while, until they went back to school or drifted further into bohemia or got married.
     Men like me, with or without a degree, were rarer, though not unheard of -- some didn't fit anywhere else and stayed for decades -- and I passed the 35 words-per-minute typing test with some finagling by management just so they could qualify me.
     Jenny and Sherry, who had some contacts through her brother, were by then taking trips to Chicago and various clubs, though neither could drink legally.  It was there Jenny met a stocky, light-skinned black guy, whose name immediately went past me when I met him at her flat, though all the freckles and reddish hair made him distinctive enough.  She said he was YouTube Icon: Play Adam Wade SelectionAdam Wade's cousin, and part of his entourage -- they had met at one of Wade's shows -- and she had been going down there to see him for a while until he came back with her.
     Well, all right -- the Journal Library after all was full of women, some of  whom told me they liked my Milwaukee Journal Bldg. .JPGnewly-adopted sport coat and colorful striped-shirt look, a change from beatnik utilitarianism -- until I went to bed the first night on the couch just off her bedroom in the front.
     First I drank my usual six-pack or so after coming back from Ehlert's tavern just down the block.  There was no door between us, just a curtain and it wasn't long until I heard -- or imagined I heard -- the thrashing and rumpling and murmurs that seared themselves into my brain as what could only be his mounting her and her lifting her legs and responding with her hips as she always did.  Probably reaching a hand down and cupping his balls.  Or maybe not.  Maybe they were just talking quietly and simply shifting to get comfortable, but I couldn't stand a second more of it and went for the phone.  The mental picture was unbearable.
     She said later that she thought I had just called an old girlfriend, but the only place I could think of on such short notice was my mother's in West Milwaukee, where she had an extra room, mostly used as a showcase for some antiques and collectible dolls.  By then it was early morning and I had to work that day, but she didn't question me much and just sleepily said sure when I asked if I could come over to stay until tomorrow.  So I slept amongst the polished showcases after taking the carefully-costumed dolls off the high, solid bed, itself an antique.
     The room with its air of old, well-preserved sterility and the frozen dolls was a sharp contrast to Jenny's vivacity, writhing far away.
     But what to do the next day?  After work, still weak from the illness and distraught, I called Jenny and said bluntly, "I think we ought to get married."
     Simply, I had thought that if I were that horribly, sickeningly jealous I had to be in love -- Journal cuties forgotten -- and might just well give in to it.  I did wonder how yet another singer, first Al Jarreau, now Adam Wade -- a Johnny Mathis sound-alike with a few modest hits -- had intruded on my life, even if not as directly, though he probably added to the freckled, rutting intruder's appeal.
     She didn't give me an answer then, naturally enough, but we made a date to meet at Kalt's on Oakland Avenue the next night.
     I had my clay stein of dark German beer while we ate corned beef sandwiches -- caricatures of famous performers, mostly at the Fred Miller Theatre next door looking down on us -- as I was mostly silent, since I had no real reason to try to convince her of anything.  I knew what she felt.
     "Well, Don, you know marriage means forever.  And I have to tell you I was, you know, pretty promiscuous when we weren't together."
     I knew that, of course.  Fucked half the East Side was more like it, though I figured I would have done the same thing if I could.
     "Well, at least there won't be any surprises," I said.  But I was having misgivings already, opportunities at the Journal Library rising in the distance.  And there were those unbidden pictures in my mind of her fucking those guys I used used to see her with on campus.  There had been a rally of feminists one bright noon hour when some actually burned bras or anything symbolic they thought appropriate, tossing them one after the other into a flaring trash basket.  It drew a crowd to the edges, myself among them, where I saw her rummage in her purse and shrug and sacrifice a blue box of Tampax.  The event brought us face to face and in talking I mentioned the twinge I felt when I saw her around with one guy or another.
     As she had told me one time, not taunting but almost dreamily, "There's something about young men and their bodies . . ."
     "They may be friends, but I know sooner or later it's gotta be one you're screwing.  Maybe it shouldn't hurt, but it does."
     "Donald, you take sex too seriously," she had claimed.  Now that was a thought.  Of course, I wanted to be hip and like others in our supposedly liberated generation, but while it might have been an option if I could always find a cooperative partner at will, the fact was it took time and planning.  My best scenario was a week after a breakup to hit the bar again and find some chick to talk to.  Then a date on the next weekend to establish rapport.  Even in those fluid times, another week or more -- if all went well -- to get to the bed.  So it was a serious business, though she seemed blithely unaware.
     The corollary was that she thought of me as more desirable than I really was.
     So she was quickly speculating on dates, planning how soon she could tell her parents, and before I knew it I was engaged to get married in June.
     "What about Maurice?" I asked, remembering that was his name.
     "I know how to get rid of him.  I know what he hates."  She looked a little sly -- smug -- and I decided not to ask, though she had insisted on telling me how he preferred to get inside a woman and then never ejaculate, just wait until she came -- if she could, considering his inactivity, and by her own hand -- and then pull out.
     So I surmised it had to do with his manhood, or lack of it, though I didn't want to dwell on the details.  I assumed he would be as chastened as I was when she once demonstrated how cooperative good sex should be when she went all passive and limp, to prove her point, and I quickly wilted in the middle of the act.
     The ring could come when we got around to it, and though I found a small apartment in a red brick building festooned with vines on the Oakland bus line where we could live together for a while, she eventually moved back home for the symbolism of coming fresh to the marriage.
     How could I argue with that?
     But first we cohabited in that already-hot spring month in the stifling small room with no cross ventilation, where I left the cold shower running continuously and the bathroom door open to cool the air.  We were shocked by the ceiling collapsing, saturated, dispersing plaster dust even covering the oven from where we salvaged her tuna casserole.
     So she inadvertently left me to revert to my bachelor ways at the Downtown Journal offices on State Street, where I tried to block the looming future marriage from my mind.
     There was a Sentinel night copy girl -- the Sentinel and the AP shared the block-sized building -- named Matty.  Her skirts were a shade too tight on an ample rear, often exposing tops of dark stockings rolled down to just above the knees on plumpish white thighs when she sat down backwards on an office chair to chat.
     She was still getting over her black boyfriend, who had been a student killed in some sort of mysterious police action at a university dormitory in Stevens Point -- all that she would volunteer -- though she would ride around with me in the sports car on days when I was off, even taking me to the boyfriend's family barbecue in Racine.  I was the only other white person.  So she used me, holding out the possibility of grabbing those big tits someday, but I was plunging much too quickly toward a marriage.  And I wasn't black, while, as she said candidly, the deceased and his buddies treated me like a queen.
     And a rather ditzy blonde -- just out of St. Joan Antida's Catholic school for girls but already pregnant, it turned out -- started shortly after I did, and I supervised her in one of the staff's simple chores, using a ruler with a handle to clip out articles for marking and filing.  With her long, straight, yellow hair -- no dark roots for her -- I found
Eleanor really appealing.  I thought of her as the Dutch girl counterpart of the little Dutch boy I saw in myself once when I stared at my reflection in the grade school window.
     The idea probably came from an image in a book, since my family mainly emphasized their German and Bohemian heritage.  But though she was actually Polish, it turned out that I was also Dutch and French, one distant ancestor having moved to Holland from Bremen and married into some newly-arrived French Huguenots, founding our line as an aristocratic-sounding de Bourghelles.
     But Ellie's coming baby had a father in the picture:  Mac Ristic was a surly painter recently graduated from Layton
School of Art, who was moving with her to the East Side, and she soon quit.
     Still, our paths crossed every once in a while, leading eventually to an aborted affair.  But clipping newspapers was not her forte, though whether out of simple ineptness or the quick boredom of the gifted, I couldn't tell.
     Our brief fling came after an abusive time with Ristic when I ran into her walking to Glorioso's deli on Brady Street.  She was enthusiastic about astrology, as I soon found out when she eagerly offered to research my chart.  O
nly to immediately turn cool when she learned I was a Scorpio.
     Apparently the stars said we weren't compatible, though I liked her fine, and at my diplomatic quibble one night with the scientific basis for that finding, and who decided this stuff in the first place? immediately concluded I had proved her point and leaped from the couch.  I was too skeptical and scientific, a real journalist, always needing answers when there were many things that couldn't be explained, like who wrote the Bible.
     Not really true, I wanted to point out.  Starting at least with the Nicaean Council in 325 AD, where books of the Bible were said to have been voted in or out, lots was known or at least speculated on about individual authors of scripture.  Even if it was just conjecture.  And far from being a dedicated scientist, though it was my job as a reporter to ask questions, I was perfectly content to live without the answers, while it was the astrologers who needed even a pseudo-science to deal with uncertainties.

     Already I was wistful over her winsome doll face and impressive ass packed into tight jeans decorated with cursive gold embroidery, slipping away as I
realized it was futile to try to grapple with her viewpoint, and so it was all over with us.
     Immediately after her hall door closed I was glad I had returned the copy of Linda Goodman's Sun Signs that warned women about
Go to Web Page: Linda Goodman's ScorpiosScorpios:  "Just behind his frosty reserve is a huge pot of boiling steam that bubbles and seethes continually" and
"If you're in love with a Scorpio male and the word passion frightens you, put on your track shoes and run as if King Kong were pursuing you.  He is."
     But on the other hand, I would read, not necessarily, as the whole book was a masterpiece of equivocation.
     But I still had to get back my copy of Paul Goodman's Nature Heals, though at my almost immediate knock she brusquely demanded to know, "Who is it?"  Even while damn well aware who it was.

    And that was before I had the right opportunity to confront her other quirk.  Like only one other woman I knew -- one I had met at Barney's -- she had avoided ever being naked to the waist, even wearing a nightgown that she kept buttoned down the front.
     She always stopped me from fondling whatever breasts she was concealing there, the few times we actually made it to bed before her blowup.  Since it was clear she was self-conscious about their small size, I quickly decided to ignore them and bare her thighs and whatever else I could expose there, happy to find her modesty didn't extend to her genitals.
     She had left her young son with her mother, so with Joan Armatrading singing Play YouTube SelectionDown to Zero on her small record player on the bare floor of her bedroom, Mac's coveralls still on the back of the door -- though she claimed he was out of her life -- we had barely satisfactory sex.  But then, I subscribed to the theory that even when it's bad it's good.
     Though she had the sensitivity after a while to turn off the deeply lugubrious Armatrading, whom I actually liked, I had found her shrinking-violet act off-putting enough to take the spontaneous excitement out of everything, and hardly managed to get it in.
     But I had learned a long time ago that squeezing the base of my dick would force it to be hard enough to at least slip past the outside lips, where the right motions could allow the pleasure to take over and I would stiffen more and let go and soon be pumping away.
     Still, after my tentative thrusting she surprised me when we were sitting up side by side, backs against the headboard, when it was over by remarking, "I don't know whether you know it or not, but I climaxed then."  This was startling enough, since she was quite passive, but also because I don't think I ever heard a woman call her orgasm a climax in that kind of intimate conversation.
     But of course the relationship was already doomed, though I had studiously avoided any mention of her tits until she would specifically acknowledge what her problem was and give me an opening to reassure her, whatever it took.
     With only one other coupling in my own bedroom, it didn't happen, though I would always retain the fleeting impression of a small but perfectly adequate -- in my opinion -- breast under my hand in her delicate black bra before she immediately flinched and moved my palm away.  So I never got to explain that tits could be tiny and yet be cute just because they suited their possessor.
     But the Library also employed the tall, rather sturdy Betty Chesak, though she put me off when I joked around and called her my Tawny Goddess.
     Still, she was clearly flattered.  And we could at least talk about the Chicago Symphony and its latest director, Jean Martinon, since she loved the classics.  But she had a boyfriend, a violinist, and was happy just to pass on some of her poetry once in a while when she learned I had published some myself, and theoretically helped edit Feindorfer's magazine.
     Like most of us who were at home there, she enjoyed learning new and obscure facts, and I did find out that she was another who couldn't recall Richard Addinsell, much less the movie Dangerous Moonlight.  Or Suicide Squadron.
     The only other poet to have been in those environs for a while I actually knew: Jerry Berndt from Madison.  Also a filmmaker who showed his first film at the UWM Student Union.
     Word got around all too soon that I was engaged, since Jenny sometimes came to pick me up in the new white Triumph we had bought even before the wedding, with her credit at Allen-Bradley's credit union.  I was never going to get my hand up Mattie's skirt to the smooth white skin that somehow looked damp when she flashed a bit, and I never had much time to get to know anyone else, though candidates drifted in and out over just those few short months.
     Some, I knew, wouldn't care about my marital plans.  I realized the rare attractive female reporters who came into the file and reference area for help didn't even look at me much, maybe out of a sense that they were superior, though I was as old as some who had started reporting right out of college.
     I thought about calling the engagement off, with common sense coming back, at least partly from a conscience that said it was the right thing to do before things got more complicated.
     Though the sex was exciting again for a while, I knew it was only because we had been separated and I hadn't been getting laid.  I came the closest to bailing when Jen came to visit on the East Side and we sat in the car before I took her home after quick afternoon sex when she just pulled up her skirt and I had some of the old time urgency and where she cried again.
     Her hair was in a dark shag cut, and her small, darting tongue and bright lips -- she was always olive-skinned in the summer, especially -- made her adorable, as usual, and I traced a light pattern on her dappled cheek in the sun-baked car with my finger.  The kind of touch she always liked, and she looked pleased.
     I decided maybe events would provide an excuse to split someday, when I wouldn't feel I was to blame, but how could I bring myself to back out now?
     So I found myself being married in the small Methodist church near her house, with Allan Jensen the closest we had to an official photographer, and Bibiana and Gregory Garson in the audience, then in Jenny & Donnie's Reception, with Ieva [Click to Expand]the basement of the church for cake and refreshments but no alcohol -- the church didn't approve -- where we unwrapped their View YouTube Selection: The Fugs, "Nothing"Fugs album.  Then to her parents' house.  Plenty of drinking there, before our getaway to the Hilton Downtown for the weekend and more drinking for me, even a rare bottle of wine for the both of us in the restaurant, where I played at sniffing the cork before eating the prime rib and baked potato.  Extra for the sour cream.
     At the Possley's we circulated in the front rooms, doors and windows open to June sunlight and breezes, for a while standing with my Uncle Al, who had married my Aunt Marjorie after the death of her first husband, the detective.  I had liked my Uncle Stephen Whitty, though having been a cop who had even been in the paper for a shootout in a house on the West Side, he could be intimidating -- especially when he warned me about the pitfalls a juvenile delinquent would face.  So maybe it was fitting that I stole his gun from my aunt after he died.
     But he had his whimsical side.  He liked to tell people, "I may be witty, but the guy who wrote Snowbound was Whittier."  That usually led to his other witticism:  "I'm a poet and I don't know it, but my feet show it -- they're Longfellows."
     Uncle Al, a gruff factory foreman well-liked by the family, stood with us near the staircase -- Jenny still in white with white teeth heightened by her tanned olive skin, I in my dark blue suit and striped blue and white tie -- while he proffered advice, much as he had when he went with me when I was 18 to buy a used car.  Not knowing how similar the circumstances were:
     "You know, marriage is forever."  Shit, I thought, that seems to be the common sentiment.
     "That's a long time."  My stiff bourbon and seltzer in a large tumbler rimmed with gold tinkled as I gulped it.  The Possleys had brought out the good monogrammed glassware.  Combined with the drinking at the hotel it wiped me out at the end of a long day, and there was no sex on our wedding night, though I surprised myself with a never-to-be-topped -- not even close -- five rounds of sex the next day after a morning swim in the rooftop pool before checking out.
     If she was disappointed that splaying her naked legs out on the bed with her dress pulled up and the black patch between them like spilled ink so obviously available, it was soon forgotten.
     But our married time wasn't to be that long, after all.  Jenny had found us a place on Bartlett Avenue on the East Side, and we were back to work on Monday.  By that time I had gone from working days a few in a row, then nights until 11 p.m., to volunteering to take all night shifts.  I could drink when I got off and sleep late and still get up a lot more easily, the only thing that made it possible to last some 13 months.  That was about as long as I could hold any job.
     There were diversions to keep us going.  A variety of drugs was becoming more common, and people at Hooligan's and O'Reilly's and Barney's were sharing.  Though I had gone from being a beatnik to the young gentleman, I thought -- befitting my white sports car, complete with driving gloves -- even sending for a book of Esquire tips on dressing correctly where I learned how to tie my shoes with laces pointing down like little trees and tucking in my shirts by making a fold in the back before pulling up and zipping my pants, unlike TV and movie actors who were always stuffing their shirttails down past their belts -- hippies were moving in.  I could read about them in my own paper, as returnees from the coast talked about starting up their own local underground press, and the first be-in was held at the lakefront in Juneau Park.
     And I had sold my weights to Jenny's brother, knowing full-time work was all I could handle, and smoking again as well.  I could stay at the bars afterwards.  Now that we were married she could even join me, using the car herself if she needed to, though she was liable to fall profoundly asleep and neglect to pick me up for hours.
    
Pot was all over, and speed was popular, and people would drop over occasionally and we would drink beer and listen to everything from the Jefferson Airplane to Chico Hamilton, a house-warming gift from Matt Wilensky.  Or we would visit other couples.  She had made a friend, Gail, at UWM, who dated and then married a part-time bartender named Cecil.  He took classes at UWM and worked nights at Stauffer's, Downtown at the top of the Marine Bank high rise on Water St. and Wisconsin Ave. overlooking the city and far onto the lake.  He could afford a really nice apartment, since his method of tending bar included ringing up premium drinks one step below their listed price and dropping the extra quarter into his white shirt pocket.  All night long.
    
Once on a Saturday afternoon Cecil stopped in while I was drinking a pint of wine and gave me a Black Cadillac and we went off to the Play YouTube Shag Selection IconShag house, where they lived, mostly, O'Brad's Featuring The Shagsand rehearsed for their gig at O'Brad's on Locust Street.  There was a hookah burning some grass in the middle of a floor scattered with cushions, and Cecil said they were also stoking it with opium.
     Already heart pounding from the speed and a little dizzy from the wine on top of it I crouched down and inhaled a few times.  When I stood up all I could think of was that I had become a rising human thermometer while my pulse raced and all the pressure was ascending my spine to my head in a column of pleasure I had never experienced before and I felt my face must be glowing bright red.  Evidently I looked normal, because I could relax a little and slide down with my back against the wall to sit in silence while conversation went on around me until I could lurch to my feet and leave for supper.
     It was Cecil who, before he married Gail, told Jenny about her idea of sex, which was to put down a towel and lie flat on her stomach while he entered her from behind as best he could until he was finished.  It didn't keep him from getting married, though Gail herself even asked Jenny if she came every time she did it.
     "Of course, she was expecting I would say no, or something like that, and when I said yes she shut up real fast."
     I had to point out that Cecil's scenario shouldn't be that surprising -- we knew couples where the guy was always insinuating that he wasn't getting enough and the woman would be coyly letting it be known that he wouldn't stop trying to corner her.  But the truth was, her attitude gave him the pretext to proclaim his studliness.  Just let her keep him milked for a week or so and see what becomes of all that ardor, I said.  And it wasn't likely that the guys hadn't found out about their partner's tepid nature early on.
     At Cecil's, Jenny and I finally dropped our first LSD.  The first half of the experience was delightful, like good pot, until Cecil -- who had plenty of supposed Sandoz lab stuff -- decided we weren't high enough and gave us another dose -- pushing us into complete paranoia to the sounds of View YouTube SelectionDesi, Dino, & Billy.
     I remembered leaving his apartment building on Downer Avenue, his telling us don't wake the neighbors and I saw -- sensed -- the ground as being full of jumbled white bones, all his dead Indian neighbors now sleeping in the earth, as the
View YouTube Selection: Blues Magoos Blues Magoos and Play YouTube Selection IconWestern Union by The Five Americans kept reverberating in my head.  Psychedelia was big in 1966, and it all ran together in our brains like a spaghetti of twisted colored cables.
     Jenny had to drive us, and we locked the doors at home and swore not to let anybody get in to get us, while we rode it out.  Pictures of the artists on album covers like Nancy Wilson, looked alive, like real people, while I couldn't bear to look at human flesh -- hers or mine -- since I had X-ray vision and could see tube-veins and cells.
     Eventually, I could look at real skin again, though touch was still exquisitely heightened.
     As the crest subsided I could finally fuck her -- I couldn't pass that experience up -- in extraordinary sex with a dick that seemed twice normal size feeling every molecule as I was sliding into a grasping cylinder of warm, slippery canned peaches, while the elasticity of every muscle in our bodies seemed to knit together and I came, seeming to pump from way down inside my spine for what seemed to take an eternity.
     Later I tried to write some poetry, which was completely worthless except as notes from the navigation.  Unusually relaxed and very peaceful the next day, I called Bibiana to report my insight from one of my poems:  The point is that there is no point.  So much for the universe.  That was as profound as it got, though as I believe to this day, it may very well be true, though not a practical adage to live by.
     The final impact of that night hit me later on a quiet weekend when I settled down with some beers and then a joint only to become terribly depressed, to the point of thinking humankind should protest the very universe with a massive suicide, a die-in.  A few more tries convinced me it was the grass, and I recognized that I had to give it up.
     Back at work I began to think more about how little I was paid, while reporters came in and out and went off to write things I could do with a little training.  And some of the women there paid more attention to them than to me.  The Journal published a few small human-interest pieces I wrote in a column intended for occasional contributors -- using vanity thumbnail photos to make up for lack of payment -- and I began plotting my future in journalism.  Plotting because I didn't see how I could be happy without dropping Jenny.
     How could I be a dashing newsman in a trench coat like the UPI reporter who stopped at Barney's occasionally, and ignore all the women I would meet for 40 years or so because I had a wife at home?  Just going back to UWM brought the anticipation.
     The very air in the library seemed somehow confining and frigid, as I clipped my newspapers and answered phone calls from the public -- I never forgot who Notre Dame's Four Horsemen were or what the o in Gran Turismo Omologato, or GTO, meant once I looked them up, though we were told to ask whether it was for a bar bet and decline to help if it were.
     Was there an organization who could advise the caller on breast feeding?  I had the La Leche League's phone number at hand . . .  Of course I once hated any job that didn't have hours I could plan on, just as I avoided overtime -- figuring I made enough to live on -- especially when it cut into bar-closing hours after second shift.  But I began to appreciate how reporters could come and go and wander around, no doubt fudging their time sheets or whatever.  How hard could it be?  Or copy editing -- ideal for an English major -- might offer the best of several worlds.
     Though only one library clerk was said to have ever gotten out as a reporter, I made arrangements to meet one night with Sentinel City Editor Bob Wills.  He told me that even if I took courses it wouldn't do me much good there, since both papers almost always required master's degrees.
     But by then I was committed, and looked around for a way to finance my future, eventually taking my bachelor's degree to work for the county as a social worker.  That meant I was getting up early again, and to make the transition I drank quietly every night to get to sleep, and going in while holding on rigidly at the edge of normalcy.
     Meantime, as the Vietnam War, well under way, continued I could read about the casualties in the morning paper.  Eventually, a familiar name, a guy who had hung out in the old neighborhood, Pete Feierabend, popped out at me.  Raw as my nerves already were, I cried a little at my desk as I drank from my mug of morning tea.  He hadn't even been born here, but came from Germany.

    
As for myself, I applied for conscientious objector status, under the new Dan Seeger decision that said I didn't have to have a religious objection to all war -- philosophical would qualify -- but was turned down by my local draft board after I wrote a lot of bullshit quoting everybody from Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr.
     Of course, I didn't want to kill anybody, certainly not Vietnamese fighting a nationalistic war for independence, but I wanted to keep my own ass from being blown away, though I had no idea how I might feel about a different war.
     According to the law, I had to be opposed to all wars, and I had already had several clashes with the draft apparatus before the Seeger decision, even took the physical, but they maintained that even though I was over 26 I was liable for the draft until 35 because of my previous student deferment.  It wasn't enough that all students got one and that when I enrolled and signed some papers one specifically said that submission of this form shall not constitute a request for a 2S deferment.  On the government's own document.  Ironically, I could have been exempted if I had taken the government's offer a few months earlier and gotten married then, but when Jenny pointed it out I turned her down.
    
How could this be?  I pursued that question for quite a while but officials were evasive until one woman on the phone told me that, well, if I didn't want a deferment I should have specifically requested in writing that I not be given one.
     The next step was a local appeals agent, a lawyer and a holdover -- he personally and his function, which I don't think many people even knew about -- from World War II.  He seemed surprised to hear from me -- from anybody -- and put me on hold, or thought he did, while he told his secretary to hold his calls because I've got a windy one here.  Basically, he told me that he felt justified in intervening only if I were blind or deaf or missing a limb and the draft board still didn't care.
     So the board, after lecturing me on why it was my duty to go, in the tradition of a great-Uncle Howard, a Milwaukeean who had been a captain in WW II, turned me down.  The president of the board also told me that they thought I couldn't have written my statement without professional help.  I thought it was pretty good myself, though I certainly wrote every word.
     Their attitude at least gave me an opening, though, as I pointed out in my letter to the state appeal board that under the draft statutes the board's one and only function was to determine the sincerity of my beliefs, not whether I had gotten any help, and not to shame me by bringing up patriotic relatives.
     I didn't panic, since I didn't know of one person who really didn't want to go who ended up drafted, in addition to those who deliberately chose jail or Canada.  The wait seemed interminable, though.
     When I came home from the Welfare Department late one afternoon Jenny in a red blouse was leaning out of the upstairs window holding a white cardboard sign lettered 
Good News as I parked just off the alley.  The appeals board had ruled for me 5-0, which meant I was liable for alternative service -- a hospital or mental ward or something similar -- until age 35.  I had already decided not to apply as a medic; they were certainly heroic, but each one freed up a soldier for combat -- and probably had a shorter lifespan.
     I wrote a letter trying to have my current employment as a social worker counted as fulfilling the requirement as a community service itself, though I knew I had stalled the machinery long enough to be in a category -- over 27 -- that was unlikely to be even called short of a homeland invasion.  They wanted the young and flexible, not troublemakers like me.
     But despite Jenny's endearing concern, we weren't getting along, although technically I never committed adultery.  If she didn't ignore the cat box or fill the path to the bedroom with the detritus she shed -- scarves, jewelry, bras -- she was always putting a purse, that could have been filthy from resting any place, on the kitchen table.
     So I went to O'Brad's -- named for an Obradovich -- by myself, and met the first prospect: Sarah from Green Bay -- which of course made me think of a Dylan Thomas poem and how bright . . . frail deeds might have danced as indeed we were dancing.
     I was also seeing a woman the recently-divorced  Cecil was dating too, a former romantic possibility from UWM and Cheshire, named Go to Zonyx Zone II Fiction: A Game of PoolCynthia.  She'd apparently gotten healthy enough to stay in school and date, and finally found herself a lover -- only to have him flop down and die of a cerebral hemorrhage walking down the sidewalk next to her on Brady Street.
     Ultimately, though, Cynthia decided that since I was technically married -- even if  restless -- it wasn't right to be seeing me.  Unfortunately, she implemented her decision by standing me up on a cold night when I waited in Joe Ermi's bar on State Street across from the Journal building until closing time.  And my bus had stopped running.
     But I had realized that not only did marriage usually make me more adept at handling women, they were going to be all around -- especially if I went into journalism.  How could I spend time in the co-ed classroom to become a new reporter while looking at what my old friend Ray Malina had called the same old hair pie?  Jenny was certainly nice if I paid attention to her, but otherwise would provoke me with all kinds of domestic obstruction instead of taking up intellectual pastimes on her own, or even reading anything besides Time magazine.
     And she balked when I wanted to alphabetize the spice rack.
     Of course, I couldn't expect her to be a poet, but even her work as a draft counselor at the Milwaukee Organizing Committee with the current crop of radicals wasn't very impressive to me, since she was only learning things about the movement I had already gone through, and parroted friends who couldn't teach her from works I didn't already know about, like Fanon's Salt of the Earth or Regis Debray's Revolution in the Revolution.
    
With nothing she could impart to me -- my ideal would have been an exotic black painter also into literature and maybe philosophy -- I knew also that with all that pussy out there I would have been stultified by sticking with just a wife, no matter how cute.  No poet herself, as she said, and the most she attempted -- as far as I know -- was the scrap of paper I found:

          Why doesn't he like my friends?
    Why does he think I'm dirty?
    He fucks my fanny
    He fucks my mouth
    I want to fuck his body inside and out

     Poignant enough, I suppose, surprising me, though I would argue that I had nothing against her friends, it was just that I already had my own, and her messiness was under her control.  The supposed uncleanliness of her cunt was up to her, since she had a supply of douche powder and I put up a hook in the bathroom next to the mirror alongside the toilet for the bag, at her direction.  And turnabout -- or in this case, lack of it on my part -- was only fair, since she rarely wanted me to come in her mouth.  With good reason, I suppose, thinking it might deprive her of a climax.
     Otherwise she could be spontaneous if we were in some unconventional spot -- in the alley behind Barney's where I bent her over the trash bin, or a bedroom at someone's party.
     So it was kind of an impasse, though in my experience oral sex wouldn't have been an issue with a lot of women who were uncomfortable at anything beyond straightforward sex in the dark.  They were often the gorgeous ones I lusted after only to be rejected, silently whimpering to myself But I want to know what you taste like, even if I really wouldn't have, not for long, considering my laziness . . .
     So with Sarah to pursue I moved out, taking journalism courses at UWM a few nights a week and working at the Welfare Department.  I drank bourbon and seltzer every night starting when I got home -- even in the bright sun while sitting on the porch watching the curbside trees rustle -- so I could get to sleep early, waking in the night to drink again, until I reached the point where I was waking up with a craving just an hour or so before I had to get up.  But I was convinced I had to do it, shaky with screaming gritty nerve-endings and hung over all at once, even if slightly drunk, every morning, until the founding of Kaleidoscope changed everything while I was barely hanging on.
    
By that time in my freedom -- though Jenny came to visit me, causing us to end up telling the court commissioner two different versions of the date on which we last had intercourse, apparently information she thought was crucial to the divorce -- I had completed my training at the Welfare Department.
      But though I thought I was ready to move on from Jen I felt a stab when she went into the bathroom with the door open before climbing onto the unmade sofa-bed, bending over for something.  From behind her I had a good view that shouldn't have been anything unusual by now, but in the short skirt she caused a spontaneous reaction:
     "Jennifer Groeling, where are your panties?"  Her bare ass and hairy snatch from the rear had been a jolt.
     "Oh . . . I forgot about that.  They had holes in them, so I just threw 'em in the wastebasket.  No, actually I was going to go over to O'Reilly's and bend over at the bar and freak everybody out . . . Oh, don't worry, I didn't leave the house like that."
     I had no reason not to believe her -- and I didn't check the wastebasket, at least not then, since I thought it would have revealed too much of my momentary feeling of connection.  Still, I was secretly pleased when she mentioned she was keeping her last name and not going back to Possley.  Too much trouble to change everything.
   
 Unhappily, by that time I learned Sarah had juvenile diabetes, and though she wanted to keep up with me when we were drinking, it had proved to be a bad strategy when controlling dosage.  I woke up with her sitting naked in bed, lots of freckles on her back and shoulders, drooling and incoherent, her face flushed, tits now forlorn and unerotic.  It was an insulin reaction -- she had explained the difference between that and the cold, clammy unconsciousness that meant a diabetic coma -- and though I tried to get her to drink some orange juice, it just dribbled from her mouth.
     I had already become disenchanted when I learned her disease prevented her from taking the Pill because it would mess further with her hormones and any spontaneity would have to pause while she went into the bathroom to prep herself -- assuming we were near a bathroom and she had her foam at hand.
     I found it's very hard to stuff a totally limp woman into a bra and panties and her skirt -- let alone her girdle -- and I had to then go downstairs and get the young manager to help maneuver her to my car so I could drive her to Columbia Hospital's emergency room.  I plopped her into a wheel chair, where I left her girdle and the rest of clothes on her lap, and they took her inside.
     I had already met a cute girl or two and had been planning a breakup anyway -- now knowing it would be hard to convince anyone, especially her, that it had nothing to do with her illness.
     So I never did find out what happened to her, though Bibiana herself said she heard a guy in her class claim to another that he had stolen her -- he mentioned her by name, Sarah Stein, though she wasn't Jewish -- from a writer that could have been me, since I had recently edited Cheshire at UWM.
     What was more odd, besides the Jewish Cecil Stein being my friend and marrying a Gail Stein, Sarah's roommate -- they rented a house on Bartlett Avenue -- was Stephanie Sue Stein.  Though she was indeed Jewish, her mother was a local pianist and singer known as Irish O'Leary.  Yet another roommate, Ingrid, had been married to well-known cartoonist Dennis Kitchen, one of the founders of the Bugle-American.
     A tangle worthy of a playful writer like Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut.  Maybe a karass out of Cat's Cradle.  Of course, the East Side was very incestuous anyway.

     But in the long run I was desperate to mingle with other young adults and at least act the part of a hip social worker, after my service in the chaos of the Intake Department, calling compassionately on troubled families and straightening them out, in a sport coat and maybe a tie slightly undone and askew.  Instead they activated the unit for which I had been specifically hired -- unknown to me -- in the almost empty former Emergency Hospital between Wells Street and Wisconsin Avenue.  Though, as I had experienced myself, the hospital had been ideal for a large urban population nearby, mostly black and poor, the county had shut it down, leaving the General Hospital miles away on the County Grounds as the far more inaccessible alternative.
     So I was now part of the new crew that did the paperwork for profoundly retarded children in the Southern Colony at Union Grove, after one perfunctory visit where we could observe the hydrocephalics and pinheads and such who -- if they lived -- would be transferred farther and farther north as the parents died.  In the meantime, the new Medical Assistance program of the Federal Government required letters to the responsible adults -- if any -- and the processing of replies that got the state out of paying for their upkeep.  Parents of minors now became liable for payments according to their budgets, though the requirements were quite lenient.
     So I wanted diversion and socializing -- the company of females that swarmed the old building if I were at all lucky -- to distract me from the jumpiness and queasiness of hangovers and fill the void I was feeling -- as always -- after Jenny no longer played her role in my life after I relied on her for so many years.
     Instead it was an almost empty, bare building where a handful of us in one room dictated letters by telephone to be transcribed by the the unit secretary in the former Gimbel's store on Vliet Street.  Rattling around the echoing halls I realized I missed her -- even though I had especially wanted a divorce since starting journalism classes -- knowing how easy it would be to get laid, rather than struggle for dates and trying my hand at seduction.
     The same unit secretary -- whose job it was to call each of us at our desks in the morning to sign us in -- took to calling at the instant work was to start, to report me if I was a minute late, though she hadn't been as diligent until I began sending my typed letters back to her for corrections to her transcriptions.
     "No one else finds mistakes in my work."  But of course they were there, and I couldn't bear to send them out once I spotted them.
     At least there was one other unit in the building, doing conventional casework with single mothers, and one young secretary to deal with several workers -- a 22-year-old recent graduate of secretarial school who lived with her mother on the far North Side.
      I soon got to know Mary, stopping in her office once in a while on breaks and walking the narrow, winding sidewalks lined with shrubs on the sunny grounds together during lunch hour.  I could glance to the side and watch some shapely breasts, though they didn't move around much under her neat blouses that I wanted to unbutton, planning my next move.
     A little kissing and groping in a dusty storeroom, lined with shelves -- somehow I was reticent to go further in the deserted room, just off the empty hallway -- and she even seemed disappointed that we didn't do more.  But I would feel a firm tit and maybe kiss her throat a little bit as low as I felt I could open her blouse, and stop because I thought our absence would be getting noticed.
     Eventually I was regularly driving her home -- I still had the Triumph.
     I could check her out in the daylight, looking for flaws, like a trace of a mustache, but she didn't have a single imperfection, and was probably the prettiest girl I had ever dated.  She told me it wouldn't matter if someone wasn't a Catholic if she really liked him, though the most daring thing she had ever done was to go out drinking with a girlfriend while under 21, and getting caught.
     Her mother thought I could have been a professor, since I wore my standard office sport coats and striped dress shirts, sometimes with a long topcoat when I picked her up on weekends, and a well-groomed mustache.
     Though it was a nice trim house, north of Capitol Drive, they were essentially a middle-income family with few cultural pursuits, and I would find Mary gazing at me when I talked about something going on on the East Side or anti-war activities with a soft, fawning expression, slightly vacant.
     Though I stayed home weeknights drinking so I could sleep -- O'Reilly's in view across Franklin Place on the other side of the intersection with Ogden Avenue, but telling myself I wasn't doing it for fun and wanting to be where I could drop off in my bed as soon as I felt drowsy -- we started dating on weekends.  I would pick out movies like The Family Way with Hayley Mills or Roger Corman's early acid adventure The Trip -- future cult item or cornball journey I wasn't sure, but I thought it was time to subvert her Catholicism with sex and drugs, and I enjoyed the flashes of nudity myself.
     It didn't take long until I got her into my efficiency apartment on the couch, next to the foldout bed where she placidly acquiesced -- even though a virgin -- as I got her out of her sweater and bra for the first time.
     "Can you tell one is bigger than the other?"
     I could, of course -- I even told her it was quite common -- but I hardly cared as I started in on them both and had her nipples stiffened and glistening with saliva as she looked up with her eyes closed.  My plastic desk radio was playing softly: View YouTube Selection: Linda Ronstadt HitLinda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys.
     When both of us were sitting up in the bed, propped up with the pillows and naked as I quietly marveled at her perfect form and knowing she wasn't going to stop me I got my hand between her thighs and guided her to fondle my cock for the first time -- actually to see it for the first time.  Or any adult male's, though she did have a younger brother.
     "The girls in school said the guys want you to touch it, but I didn't think I could."
     "Well, they were right . . ."  I didn't want to rush things, and we didn't have any birth control anyway -- that was something I would have to figure out in the future -- so I just used my fingers on her pussy and guided her hand up and down.  I explained the little bit of pre-come was natural and then it spurted to run down her fist as she kept it moving awkwardly until I stopped her with my own hand.
     "I didn't know it would do that . . ."
     So much for sex education in a modern Catholic school, I thought.  I pointed out in a mock-lecturing voice, "You see, that's how babies are made -- "  My best professorial manner, thinking of her mother.
     "I know, but --"
     "But what?"
     "I guess I thought you had to be inside me."
     I left things at that.  I hadn't lost interest in sex, obviously, but taking on all the alcohol every day meant I also looked forward to getting quickly to the part where I could just relax with a strong drink and look with satisfaction on any pussy or bare ass next to me, not worrying about proving anything.
     View YouTube Selection:  "Whiter Shade of Pale," Procul HarumProcol Harum was popular then too, and rendered a lyric I could relate to, despite its mysterious vision:

               . . . and would not let her be
             one of sixteen vestal virgins
             who were leaving for the coast
             and although my eyes were open
             they might have just as well've been closed


     But as far as explaining it to Mary, who asked me, I could only invoke surrealism, though as an English major I recognized a reference to the Tarot and Chaucer:

                . . . And so it was that later
               as the miller told his tale
               that her face, at first just ghostly,
              turned a whiter shade of pale

     It was a few sessions after that when I got her comfortable with sucking me off, and turning end-for-end so I could see twin cowbells swinging as she went down and I burrowed in with my tongue to get our own teeter-totter going.  But with some of her previous shyness remaining, I still had to buy the Emko foam for our first time and insert it in her, laying the tube on a tissue on the side table.  That ended my patience -- and the bourbon and seltzers beckoned me to really plunge into my alcohol, the hell with finesse -- and drive into her cunt and turn her over for good measure and do it from behind as she instinctively raised her rear with her head down.
     It was bloodless and fine for me, though I lost track of what she was feeling -- something I could make up for eventually, I hoped.
     The day after, early Saturday night, she said in a booth at O'Reilly's, "You know, it hurts a little bit when I sit down," but she was quite clingy and happy otherwise, and our sex life -- and dating life -- was established.
     And quite predictable, especially after I left social work, as I generally ignored her then except when I felt an urge would be coming on and I would call her, still at the Welfare Department, and arrange to pick her up after work, or at her home to go out for drinks and get to bed as soon as possible.
     Gregory Garson, in touch with the growing underground scene, had thought of me to deliver the paper K'scope First Issue [Click for All Covers, Vol. I]for a modest amount of money while going to school, and even loaned me their VW Microbus to load up in Port Washington and make the rounds every two weeks.  Fortunately, it was a very mild December in 1967 when I started, lots of rain, and I found a cubbyhole -- once servant's quarters in a mansion on Cramer and Locust -- at $50 a month, and quit my job and made contacts to sell my unpaid-for new white Triumph, since Jenny didn't want it.
     When the roads were dry the warm weather made Volkswagen 1966 Microbusdriving to the printer's loading dock in Port Washington and trudging around with the bundles for a few cents a copy easy, though I ended up having to earn my money twice -- if I wanted to get paid I had to peddle several bundles and keep the full quarter apiece, at the bars I was used to drinking at, like Hooligan's and the Tuxedo and O'Reilly's, for $35 or so for two weeks.
     Of course I was hassled some by the vets at the Tux -- though O'Reilly's and Hooligan's were cool -- with more than one wanting to know why my paper and I were defending draft resisters and dirty writers.  I kept my responses simple, just looking forward to my mugs of beer, recalling Martin Niemöller and replied, Some day it may be my turn.
     But I slept as late as I wanted, getting up to hurry to editor John Kois's house a few blocks north on Oakland Avenue in the afternoon and try my hand at writing.  I was starting to use what I learned in journalism classes.
     Several of us would knock off sometime after 10 p.m. -- to Kois's dismay, since he hardly ever drank, just kept on working -- and go down to Barney's and relax with the rest of the regulars.
     Sometimes I would take Mary to visit the Garsons.  Once Bibi said, "She seems quite, you know, fond of you . . . but it looks like you're just exploiting her."
     "Well, exploit means to use someone without giving anything in
return -- "
     "Oh, and you have so much to offer --"  If there was any jealousy, I couldn't really tell, but it was certainly a little sarcastic.
     "Well, she got to come over to meet you and Gregory . . ."
     And she had said once, "You know, your friends are so interesting.  I never really met anybody like that."  But after one session of visiting when we listened to records -- the latest YouTube Play Selection IconBeatles album -- You say goodbye and I say hello hello -- from November of 1967, she said, "You know, it seems like I'm saying hello and you're saying goodbye."
     Even though I had taken her to see the Rep's Othello at the Fred Miller Theatre, and Ravi Fred MillerTheatreShankar at Marquette University, I knew she had a point.  And when I gave her a copy of Anne Sexton's The Sorrow Dance for her birthday she was mostly buffaloed by the whole idea of poetry exchanged by adults.  Or anybody.
     But I had to say, "No, no . . ."  And, I thought, hadn't I even made a point of playing Jimi Hendrix' View YouTube Selection IconThe Wind Cries Mary at the Garsons' for her?  That proved to me I could be caring.
     Because I knew she sensed this odd feeling of emptiness I had without Jenny much of the time and she even asked if I wanted to "get a place" together, though I know how close she was to her mother, who would have been left alone.
     Forays into entertainment had become rare, unless I was invited to a party.  Underground press reporters and hippies didn't have much money.
     But it was hard not to think about sex when hippie chicks came to the office where I sat at one of the old manual typewriters nursing a quart of beer.  Especially K'scope Coversince we still ran luscious nude spreads by Peter Tibbs and Jim Middleton, and what would come to be called sexist ads that implied the dropout babes mainly loved to smoke dope and fuck.
     I could still depend on just taking her home as long as I had the Triumph.  Once while desultorily necking with her in front of the house, I pulled back from feeling her tits and reached  across her to open her door, thinking it was overdoing things to do much right in front of her home, while her hand was moving slightly on my crotch.  "That's all right," I said, for some reason feeling indifferent, drunker than usual.
     "No, I want to. . ."
    And she had learned a lot, and I slowly came to her blowjob even though I thought I wouldn't.  On the other hand, if it was some sort of holy day for Catholics, she would demur entirely.
     So it went on, and I planted the idea of her going to school again, first getting an apartment nearby, and she eventually found a roommate on the bulletin board in the Student Union and moved away from her mother.  Occasionally, especially after I gave up the Triumph, she would come over after class to Kois's to set headlines in pressable type or other simple tasks -- Kois playing albums continuously from his huge DJ collection supplemented by review copies arriving almost daily by that time -- and if her roommate was gone we would go to her place.
     I was annoyed that she was still using foam and wouldn't take the Pill, something to do with being Catholic, and our sessions were rather quick and mechanical and I knew I just wasn't paying enough attention to her.
     It could always happen that when we went to an East Side party that Jenny would be there, and though I thought I was doing well at ignoring her, Mary said pointedly, "I know you look for her."
     It was true, of course, even as a flushed Jenny came over to me once in the crowded bunch of dancers, though her own ankle was in a cast, everyone passing joints around, and asked if Mary was the new girlfriend.  She had only seen Sarah, one night at Barney's.
     "I bet she really looks nice with her clothes off. . ."
     I had to honestly say yes, though I also had a resentment that though the East Side was full of hippie chicks -- most younger than I, of course -- I had to recruit my dates from the outside and pursue them in the old-fashioned way.  Not much in the way of free love, as it used to be called, for me.
     So it came to a head when one night a bunch of the crew was being driven back from Barney's by Kois on a rare outing, that Mary insisted on being dropped off at her apartment rather than my little room, horny though I was.  I said flat out that we didn't have to have sex -- I knew she had been to mass for something that day -- but that she should stay.  There was always the morning.
     It was more or less an ultimatum, and by that time she had made up her mind -- correctly -- that things weren't going anyplace with us and refused, and that was it.  I did take her roommate Carlotta out a few times, though I soon learned it was apparently breaking some chick code, and one of them abruptly ended it for us.
     It was back to trolling the bars for me, now without a car and living on meager amounts from Kaleidoscope.
    
Fortunately everyone knew it was the liberated '60s, and that women were expected to get into bed without much convincing, if any, and I did well enough.  Still, I had always been domestic, and really looked for something stable.
     Financially, I struggled on until Big Fred Krause, who had taken over as the Kaleidoscope distributor while I wrote more and more -- drinking six-packs at night and looking out on Brady Street by that time -- said there were jobs on the docks where he worked days and into some nights as a fork-lift driver.  Other hippies that didn't want to be tied permanently to a job had the same idea, and in the autumn of 1971, with a dock strike on the East Coast and then the West Coast creating a cascade of shipping for Milwaukee's port, a lot of us found our way there.
     With some restrictions that loosened over time as business inevitably declined, once the labor unrest was over, we could check out of work on any given day or show up to hustle for work -- first as an extra man, then as a replacement as gangs were beefed up or someone missed for an assignment -- at the ILA hiring hall on Jones Island.  I hung on at Kaleidoscope until it folded in December of 1971.
     Another Kaleidoscope writer, Mike Zetteler, followed the same path and finally wrote his Go to Longhoring History by Zettelermemoir as a retired longshoreman in 1994 for the Shepherd Express, an alternative paper that I always felt Kaleidoscope made possible through its court battles -- final vindication coming after the paper folded, in a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court reversing Kois's conviction written by Potter Stewart and joined in a separate concurring opinion by William O. Douglas that found it was a real newspaper and not obscene -- driven by our debt and hard times of selling it on the streets, unable to get a real distributor.  But the Shepherd, following a one-time competitor, the tamer Bugle-American, which lasted to 1976, first in Madison, then Milwaukee, set up a dependable distribution and -- most importantly, it turned out -- giving it away and thus selling a lot of advertising.
     Even as Barney's itself was collapsing with Barney Frederick's long-deserved retirement to Florida, morphing into John Hawks Pub -- finally moving north to Water St. and Wisconsin Ave. -- some of us regrouped at Hooligan's and O'Reilly's, coming full circle, meeting again as happened with Valerie Vetter from Wauwatosa and me.  The daughter of an insurance executive at Northwestern Mutual, and a lapsed Catholic, she seemed pleased with flouting her conservative parents -- at least her father, since her diminutive mother always wanted to hear the lurid details of her life and helped her conceal them so that she could live at home and even borrow the family Cadillac.
     She drank Schlitz malt liquor with a slice of lemon, which appealed to me since I wanted someone who enjoyed alcohol as much as I did but not more, and that seemed rather ladylike, not enough to be a bad influence.  I was a little taken aback, though, when I noticed she usually smoked several joints a night.  But it made her eyes bright and seemed to make her both cheerful and sensual, and only a little more spacy.
     Early on when I observed that I found it a little strange that she was getting high alone before I even picked her up she just shrugged.
     "Different strokes for different folks."  I learned eventually she liked to drop in some ghetto phrases from her old boyfriend Alonzo.
     "I think a hippie lives here," she said the first time -- our first date -- she came to my tiny apartment, where I used to bang Mary, picking up a beaded necklace with carved white fangs I had hanging on a doorknob and kissing it.  We brought along another couple, one of them a black friend she worked with in her short-term factory job at Globe-Union.  She had fixed Denise up with a slight and energetic black East Sider everybody knew -- I seldom saw him with anybody but whites, male or female -- named Johnny Vermier, but I guessed he was humoring us.
     As a tax return preparer -- formerly an IRS agent -- he had enough money to spread around, always buying drinks and even taking us out for meals to the point where it was embarrassing, since I couldn't return the favor.  And it was disconcerting the way he chewed with his mouth open and displayed crooked and dark teeth in need of bleaching, even though his father was a dentist.  Still, he was good company and the evening was pleasant and we all wound up on my single mattress on the floor.
     Valerie was drunk enough -- and I sensed an underlying nervousness that I attributed to her feeling she was flouting family and Wauwatosa conventions by dating an underground newspaper writer and peddler -- to have Johnny pull the car over once so she could throw up in the gutter.
     But she recovered and somewhere along the line refreshed her breath so that we could make out on the mattress until I got her short dress up and my jeans down to my knees, both of us just about oblivious to the other couple and then I was inside her.
     I was dimly aware of Johnny, partly on top of Denise and kissing her next to us, glancing over intently for a while -- understandably -- his tongue lolling out in a brown face as he grinned.
     I heard from Valerie later that she had been planning on suggesting to me that we move into the tiny bathroom if things got really heavy between us, but I seemed oblivious.
     Though the alcohol had numbed me to the point that when I later admitted I was surprised I had done it at all, much less that I came, she said, "Well, I figured that if that was what you hippies did I could go along with it.  Though it wasn't as good as it could have been. . ."
     I figured she was referring to my hard-on, though I didn't press it.  And I soon realized she liked to watch herself getting fucked, looking down at her sparse blondish pubic patch -- not over my shoulder or at the ceiling or closing her eyes.
     Feels so good to me feels so good to me Donald feels so good to me . . . becoming her usual low chant.
     As a former ballet student at the Adele Artinian dance school, as were many Wauwatosa high school girls, she was very flexible in bed, and everything led quickly to the point where she moved in after I traded apartments with a single UWM student who rented one of the two full-sized upstairs units.
     We went to her parents' house to tie her mattress and bed to the top of my old car in the middle of the day when her father -- Cactus Jack Vetter himself, the John Birch Society sympathizer -- came home unexpectedly.  Only her mother, who came up the front stairs while her father -- who it seems had sensed something was up and didn't want her to move out, much less with a guy, came up the back staircase, to get us out of there fast.
     So we waited out his visit before moving the furniture, padded with a blanket, and she was committed to the East Side and, inevitably, to Kaleidoscope.  Over time a women's collective and gay collective evolved, giving each contingent a double voice, though there was no men's collective.  I guess the idea was that men had too much power already.
     The women and some supporters took to trashing "sexist" billboards -- just about anything with an attractive woman in it, especially showing some skin -- that they contended was using sex to sell, with paint-filled balloons.  There was a strike going on at Allen-Bradley that we, of course, supported.  When Allen-Bradley South Side "Polish Moon"the women doing layout used a large illustration of the factory with its famous four-side clock -- the "Polish moon" of the  South Side -- with shots of the picketers, I remarked how the tower looked rather phallic, perhaps diminishing the role of the marchers.
     Led by a panicked Valerie, the women then obliterated much of the tower and redid the page at the last minute, unfortunately leaving an unfocused muddle.  Such actions continued, with staff disputes over accepting tobacco and beer advertising, but especially ads for magazines such as Ralph Ginzburg's eros or anything with attractive models, and especiallyEros Mag Cover [Click to Enlarge] classified ads of a personal, sexual nature that demeaned women, which meant ads for escorts or strippers and such.  The culmination of this resulted in Zetteler writing a favorable review of a female folk-singer at the Y-Not II tavern in which he commented on how attractive she was.  A female typist refused to set it in type on the Varitype machine as being Zonyx Celestial Tiny Logo .GIFsexist.
     The irony was that it was Zetteler himself who thought that the paper could provoke a discussion on how far to go in discussing personal appearance, especially in the case of an entertainer who relied on her appeal and obviously sought attention.  So he questioned in print whether such observations had a place in the new, underground -- and anti-sexist -- press.  Without his remarks, Janis Wasiliewski, the typsetter, would never have noticed such comments, as they were a staple of cultural reviewing since criticism of pop culture began.
     So she effectively short-circuited any serious discussion by the readers of his concerns.
     Nevertheless, when Zetteler threatened to quit unless Bugle-American Jumbo Issue Cover Picthe review was printed as it was, the women voted him down while all the men except myself abstained from voting.  A gutless tactic, I thought, and Zetteler himself walked and ended up writing for the emerging Bugle-American.
     So it was no surprise that when Valerie came across old photos of my recent girlfriend Cheryl, taken by Allan Jensen, a photographer along with his many other talents, I found them torn to shreds in the bottom of one of my dresser drawers.  It was one more case of her growing, unstable temper.  I figured she would say she found them exploitative, though she never said a word, but I suspected un-sisterly rivalry and I just got another set from Allan.
     Though I had been somewhat bitter that no hippie chicks came my way, Cheryl had been a welcome fluke -- I had known her at UWM, where she worked on the yearbook on the same floor of open offices above McClellan's restaurant as Cheshire and the Post.  She turned up at a party at 1833 N. Prospect where I lived and Jenny later moved in, but when I was still alone there I had invited Cheryl over to drink and talk but I didn't get any farther -- she was in love with a Latvian painter named Eriks, pronounced without the final s, in the Latvian manner.
     Once she had decided on that, as her chat made clear, she knew what her course would be and he would be hers.
     So she married him, usually drunk though he was -- passing out regularly at Barney's and sleeping it off in a side booth instead of mingling with patrons -- so it was a surprise when she turned up one day on my doorstep with a copy of the want ads.  She said she had split with Eriks, mainly because he was sleeping around -- and was in the neighborhood looking for apartments.
     She had become an art teacher in Detroit, near Cranbrook Academy where Eriks studied, but on moving back took office work in Milwaukee.
     I didn't know of any places off-hand, of course, but after she left it dawned on me that it had all been just a ruse to see me again.  So she kept their old flat after all -- not a surprise -- and I could stay there while an apparently ambivalent Eriks parked all night in front of the house, even telling her I was like a vulture waiting to move in.
     Which may have been true, although I wasn't expecting a lifetime deal when I finally quit the Freeman and left Waukesha, trading weekend visits for a place to stay permanently -- but she was demurring about me living with her, hemming and hawing until I got the hint and dropped the idea, recognizing her ultimately inscrutable independence.
     Still, when Eriks got a job teaching sculpture in Tennessee she moved there to reconcile.  But it didn't work out and she hooked up with a hippie commune in Knoxville where she took to using heroin -- snorting, but recoiling at needles then abruptly cleaning up and moving back to Milwaukee -- leaving behind the image of Eriks leaning over a sink and gagging while forcing himself to eat cheese, a lifelong aversion.  She resumed her staple, weed, which she brought out in bed in the mornings to share before we scrounged leftovers -- her casseroles and such -- from the refrigerator to marvel at the texture and deliciousness.  Then dreamlike sex that crept up on us with prolonged soft intensity I hadn't felt when straight, or drunk, and I once relayed that with some wonder, to be told simply:
     "That's the way it's supposed to feel."  As always, speaking softly, a quiet tone yet one that almost commanded you to lean in and pay attention.
     I figured as a long-time stoner she should know what she was talking about, and she was endearing sexually in any case because she had kept a bottle of baby oil handy since the early days when she was new to me and I had trouble getting an erection and she gently lubed my cock with long, slender fingers drawing up lightly to the head to help me ease it into her.
     A practice that soon became unnecessary.
     Contented under the soft, clean quilt I could twist and follow her with my gaze padding around the kitchen seeing in the daylight the faint thin trail down her belly from navel to the dark growth at the joining of her thighs, and the cones of her breasts that her husband had so often photographed and sketched.
     It was during this period when I really began noticing that despite her artistic talents -- and becoming a teacher -- she was still traditional in using feminine wiles to get a man, or anything.  And when we were watching local TV news about Zonyx Tiny Celestial Logo .GIF: View Bugle History SelectionLouise Tesmer, once our classmate in English courses at UWM who had become one of the first female justices of the peace around, in St. Francis, now moving on to run for circuit court, she murmured that "I don't think women should be judges."
     Although of course I supported feminism when it became an issue, I wouldn't have been deterred by her lack of progressivism -- she worked, after all -- but she quietly kept me at a certain distance from her core even if I had wanted a deep commitment.  She rather recognized her role when a mention of Valerie came up, and I pointed out how I became disenchanted after living with her for a while, concluding, "I could never marry her."
     "I think I'm a bridge over troubled water," was Cheryl's measured response.  And so she remained, at least between trips to see Eriks or other disappearances -- some to stay with her mother in Menomonee Falls -- though we could explore again the sex that she had first instigated following an abortive try on my part -- taking charge after an evening at Barney's and an even later night session of pot at her place that had me forgetting about anything but continuing the high but instead rousing when she tossed a bottle of baby oil onto her pillow -- then after it was over alluding to Eriks to observe that "I didn't think I would come again."
     So we rested naked, the patchy shadows cast by her dim art nouveau lamp drawing the eyes into tracing their lines and gaps on the wall, music faintly audible.
     But I also knew that though I was useful she couldn't ever love me, which left me feeling a little slighted, though not really injured.
     For compensation I even filched a black-and-white snapshot Eriks had taken with her face, pale and lightly freckled, framed in long, straight brown hair trailing over her shoulder mostly turned away but nipples prominently displayed, to slip into my wallet.  It was around that time -- not long into our affair -- that I noticed she never made a move to go down on me, though I had otherwise come to expect it in any relationship that wasn't ephemeral.  Even though I seldom reciprocated, and so far not with her.
     I obliquely brought the idea up, saying, "If you ever feel like being oral, just, ah, feel free . . ."
     Only to have her go onto an explanation:  "I told you, I'm not going to stick around for somebody who doesn't want me, so if he wants to learn to eat cheese and do without me, whatever he thinks he needs, I'm not going to hang around there . . . but you heard all that already."
     I couldn't bring myself to correct her, so I let it slide until I could take another approach.
     But then, during one of our periods of separation, I dated a waitress at the Knickerbocker Hotel coffee shop Val had once worked with and was friends with even though she kept suggesting things such as the two of them taking a bath together, Valerie said.  Andrea had an uncanny resemblance to my ex-wife, especially the gap in her front teeth and ultra-black hair, though her voice wasn't husky at all, unlike Jenny's.
     When Valerie found out she wailed about Andrea and her funny teeth and muddy skin and general lack of charm and probable lesbianism.  I never noticed anything about her complexion, but I pointed out that by her feminist standards I should be commended for rising above such things.  It carried no weight with Valerie, and indeed she continued to use makeup herself.  Things started coming to a head when as far back as our time in my little room she picked up a kitchen knife and threatened me with it when I was naked, for buying the Beatles' White Album when we couldn't afford fresh fruit in the house.  While here she was, she complained, unable to defecate for several days now.
     Still, I found it laughable and just blocked her with a pillow while I grabbed her weapon.
     Things were more serious when on Brady Street above the Kaleidoscope office she took offense at something and -- my usual response when she was irrational -- I tried to walk away, this time into our bedroom where, since it had no lock, I blocked the door with the heavy mahogany dresser left by a previous tenant.  As I watched with concern and in some awe, she proceeded to work on the door with a hammer I had in a toolkit in the kitchen, battering the thin panel into splinters.
     She couldn't get any further, and a few days later patched the hole with some fabric before the landlord could discover it, but I was even more concerned by such a little girl with such a bad temper.  Eventually she started complaining of vertigo, to the point where she couldn't even stand on street corners to sell the paper, and at $50 a week -- for which I had to let advertising manager Bert Stitt use my beat-up Volkswagen in his rounds -- I couldn't meet the rent by myself in the spacious apartment overlooking Brady Street.
     So she moved back with her parents where someone could take care of her and I moved in with an old friend from the Tuxedo.  Margaret had a rear cottage to herself west of Humboldt Avenue in Riverwest, and since she had been raped by some blacks after being pulled into a car outside a Holton Street jazz lounge she didn't want to live alone.  It was still warm out so I rigged up a pallet, just blankets, and a clock and a radio under the beams of her mostly bare attic.  A few dusty cardboard boxes were lined up where the rafters met the floor.
     I could sleep late after writing at the office until dawn and come down after she went to work as a receptionist in a doctor's office, and have the shower as much as I wanted and didn't bother her partying friends.  I did use empty beer cans to piss in when I got home, gaining respect for the capacity of the human bladder when I could fill three half-quart cans after one session to empty the next day.
     It was a time when progressive FM radio was paramount, popping up with free-form programs like Bob Reitman and John Kois's starting on WUWM and Reitman moving around the dial, few playlists, something always within my earshot if I could control it and everyone tuning in their favorite extended cuts, it seemed, wherever I went.  Downstairs in Margaret's kitchen, or in her living room, it felt like I was instantly in an aural hip community as I found a promising selection.
     It spread to WTOS in Wauwatosa then was picked up further west in Menomonee Falls at WZMF, or wonderful wizzimff as the DJs said -- at least while the trend lasted.  But it also made record companies less dependent on spending for their advertising of album artists in the overly controversial underground press.
     Valerie did visit me sometimes, and we had the use of the couch that I occasionally slept on when cold days started creeping in during October.  I could claim it for myself once I threw out one of Margaret's party buddies from the Tux who liked to crash there.  He was an ex-merchant marine named Carl Tollsrud who hung out with the veterans and liked to drink a lot, apolitical if not jingoistic like most of the vets who scorned the hippies.  But when I woke him up and told him he'd have to kick my ass if he wanted to stay on the couch he surprised me by meekly giving way, and we were friendly at the bar after that.
     Val liked to lead me downstairs naked in the warm days, her cool hand holding my penis, but eventually it got too cold to stay in the attic at all, and though Margaret even offered to let me sleep in her bed, I had to decline since I had a girlfriend, after all, and though my importuning housemate had a round, pretty face she was awfully fat and I had no real desire for her.  I kissed her once, sitting on her bed, when she asked if I was sure.  Her thighs bulged against the thin nightgown.  She had small tits for a chubby woman, I noticed.
     "You want to do it again?"  I guessed the rape hadn't left any effects, but in any case I declined.
     With the colder weather arriving and no place to go I made a sudden decision to contact Bill Schanen III, who had taken over the printing business in Port Washington of his father, who had died of a heart attack, caused -- his family believed -- by the stress of losing most of his contracts in the boycott of the company over Kaleidoscope, led by conservative businessman Eugene Grobschmidt.  After letting go the backbone of the reporting and editing staff and putting out the paper mostly by himself, Schanen had decided to hire one reporter, if he could find one to work cheap, while continuing with sports writing and the commercial aspects himself.
     I had left Kaleidoscope once before, for my first professional job as a reporter in Waukesha when I felt I had enough classes as a special student in journalism to make my move.  Just like in the movies, I snatched an index card advertising for a beginning reporter from an unlocked display case in Mitchell Hall, preventing anyone else from beating me to it, and rushed to apply at the Waukesha Freeman.
     On the strength of a few clippings from the UWM Post and an inoffensive interview with Goodman from Kaleidoscope I was hired to fill in for vacationing staffers, though the only real position open was given to an experienced applicant.  Nevertheless, I worked up quickly from supplying a few obits to covering many governmental agencies after the city editor sandbagged me by having me go with the regular beat reporter to a City Council meeting as an observer to practice my note-taking.
     Unexpectedly, he had me write up the second half of the meeting on my own, centering on a local chiropractor offended by Kaleidoscope appearing on Waukesha streets, waving an issue he said contained nude girls and obscene language, demanding an ordinance to prevent such outrages.  Of course, the city attorney dryly pointed out the problem with press freedom, and I thought I captured the tone of the whole exchange with some faint ridicule for the offended party.  Within the constraints of objectivity, naturally.
     In 13 months I figured I had learned everything there was to know about small-town journalism, and though I had rented a furnished room there on American Avenue, I lost no time in escaping to Milwaukee after work on Fridays, to stay the weekend with whatever girlfriend I was seeing and hanging out at Barney's where my friends were.  I felt the underground press was where the action was, and the counterculture was a significant development I had to chronicle and be part of.  Much as the Depression and world wars shaped earlier generations and defined their lives.
     So I left as soon as I was out of debt, most of it hanging over me from the time of my marriage, and went back to drinking beer while working late into the night and watching the scene on Brady Street.
     Schanen could hardly refuse to give me a chance -- and how likely was he to find a competent local reporter at the salary he was paying, I thought -- especially since he had experimented once by hiring an amateur who had organized support for his father after the boycott started, with her Committee for a Free Press getting publicity around the country, in national papers and magazines, including Life.  As a result, subscriptions to his remaining paper, the Ozaukee Press, came in from everywhere to replace the local readers he had lost.
     Oddly enough, the organizer of the counter-boycott was once a regular at Barney's, and I had dated Christy and even gotten her into bed a few times, but she was generally elusive -- maddeningly so, since she was black-haired and curvaceously attractive, a lot like my ex-wife without the gap in her teeth.  And of course, I thought her concern over the boycott meant we were intellectually fated to be together.  But she moved on from her office job to Waukesha, from where she commuted to Port Washington as a reporter, something I didn't know until I scanned the police reports one morning and saw her name in a minor traffic accident report.  By that time she had been let go by a regretful Schanen, as fearless but incompetent.  So I looked her up and was charmed all over again when we talked about her committee and her contact with Village Voice writer Joe Flaherty.
     Still, she was so full of contradictory behavior that I was glad I still had Valerie to visit me and then Cheryl to give me a place to stay on weekends in the city, though Christy was the one I felt I had really been looking for.
     She could be distant or unavailable in the charming house overlooking the park in downtown Waukesha, with her little daughter Melies, but if I had a date lined up in Milwaukee she might call me at the last minute to see if I wanted to come over.  Once it was to join them for cannibal sandwiches for supper, which I had to decline since Cheryl was expecting me, and I was pissed at missing out on the old Barney's delicacy.  But why would she think I could just be ready with no notice on a Friday afternoon?
     Yet it would later make me feel guilty when we agreed that Cheryl would call me if she got back from her mother's and I had finished my shift at the Freeman on a Friday -- but was on my way to what I hoped would be an encounter with Christy at Barney's when the phone rang.  As I cleaned up I let it ring for what seemed a thousand times, somehow sounding forlorn as I headed for the door, pangs notwithstanding.
     It could be a jolt seeing her, since she was certainly uninhibited.  Getting ready while I waited for her in her living room -- after a break of months -- she once told me I could take a shower with her if I wanted something to do.  I didn't, since my own routine at home had been very thorough and I didn't think I could recreate the effect with her personal products.  And I did hope that I might get a little credit for not slavering at the chance.
     It was equally disarming when on one of the few times we actually slept together, in the literal and carnal sense, that I idly asked in the dark -- thinking probably of Jenny's appeal -- if she had pink nipples.  She simply snapped on the bedside lamp and thrust them out like prizes.  And she was still awfully young, and firm and . . . pink, of course.
     But I could never pin her down to a serious relationship, or an explanation of why not, and it was no surprise that she took yet another job and moved away.  Still, she ended up with a divorced guy from Barney's that I always considered likeable enough but a nebbish that spent his adult life being pussy-whipped -- which may have been the key.
     So I followed Christy at Port Washington -- at least for the four days a week Schanen and I agreed on, at $25 a day -- commuting from West Milwaukee and my mother's house.
     The trip was a grind, and with the inevitable evening meetings to be covered -- made worse by me being the only reporter in the almost empty office with a few clerical staff, including Schanen's sister -- I would have a day lasting until 11 p.m. or so, and the drive back.  With no place to go when normal business hours were over until the night-time events got under way, unlike Waukesha where I could go home to rest or shower and shave to get a start on the next morning, I was stuck with Smith Bros. Fish Shanty or a pizza joint or Harry's restaurant to fill the time.  Using the hours to write back at the office would mean a day stretching for 14 hours if I started at a normal time, so I quickly settled on coming in at 11 a.m. or so, or even later.
     After all there was very little going on in town that needed me; mostly there were news releases to re-write, as well as the reports of the myriad meetings.  And Schanen covered sports -- which I disdained anyway -- with one antiquated lady left to handle all the society doings, while at least I could stop for beers at the Tuxedo every night.
     Naturally, as with any weekly paper, with only the one deadline Friday morning before the presses ran, work piled up until then.  We didn't have what was actually the luxury at a daily paper, a daily deadline that you met or else, but that at least meant a fresh start every morning.
     My solution was to clear up my backlog starting Thursday until I went to sleep in the early morning on a layout table and waking up to finish Friday morning before going home for the weekend.  Schanen was unhappy about my whole approach to scheduling, apparently wanting me to be there days and evenings too, though he never thought to advance me the small amount needed to get a room that would make it possible.  And I did drop hints.
     Though I was apparently competent enough to edit the entire paper during Schanen's winter vacation to Florida -- my high point being bold headlines and a front page spread for my interview with a nude dancer at a local club trying some novel entertainment with her shaved pussy -- Schanen eventually fired me.
     Showing little gratitude, I thought, for a night like that when I stayed even later after a City Council meeting on a tip to trudge in my galoshes through the snow.  A few mixed drinks at the bar -- that I would pay for in the morning -- interviewing the still-naked circuit dancer who explained that her boyfriend took care of shaving her bush wasn't worth it.  But I had that week's cover story for usually staid Port Washington.

Ozaukee Press CoverGirls Go-Go
 All the Way
At Black Hat
     Owner of Lounge Keeps Show
     Despite New Ban on Nudity

     He seemed nice enough about it, complimenting my writing and suggesting I was more cut out for a national magazine like Time or something.  But then, I figured he thought my independence just added to the burden of publishing with a crippled business that made him a pariah to much of the community, a burden he was forced to assume after his father had received so much recognition for his courage.  Even if he would rather be pursuing his career as the genteel publisher of a Great Lakes sailing magazine and hanging out with the country club set.
     So I went back to Kaleidoscope and the building where I helped out by showing apartments.  But after a wrangle with the Schanens, who felt I didn't deserve Unemployment Compensation, and a long struggle with the bureaucracy, I got a fistful of checks that I combined with my pittance from Kaleidoscope to survive for the next couple of months while paying rent on an East Side efficiency.
     But once again needing more income, I left Kaleidoscope for the last time to work on the docks, though I contributed some reportage until the autumn it folded after Dennis Gall bought it and assumed its debts for a dollar.
     With money -- and I started collecting Unemployment Compensation that winter when the docks were all but shut down -- I could keep my own apartment, and drink again around the East SideBarney's itself had been transformed from our own corner bar by a succession of owners into a typical Downtown spot with bands in the back room and carpeting on the floor in front and higher prices and a more expansive menu.
     Though Valerie had moved back home so that her folks could watch over her, she visited me, one time appearing at my new apartment and going out for a pint of bourbon so I could drink in bed and wake up properly while putting off a hangover.  Though we hear a lot about mean drunks and abusers, the fact was that none of the women I had known to this point objected to my drinking -- in fact, they encouraged it, believing it made me more relaxed and affectionate.
     I'm sure it did, because I worked mostly on my own and had to maintain a stone-faced and focused attitude toward getting anything done.
     She puttered around in the kitchenette, commenting as she filled a glass with cubes, her back turned:  "I wish you loved me as much as I love you," making my drinks, and ended up in the Murphy bed where I found myself straddling her as she leaned back against the pillows and I lazily kept going until I heard her say, "Ohhh . . . you came in my mouth."
     She was not happy about it, and though I said something about making it up to her some other time so she could come, I didn't hear from her for a while after she left.  Not that I worried about it.  Then she found me at the bar and invited me to a party given by her old teacher friend Cathy Gruver from Wauwatosa, who now had a nice apartment on the East Side -- the reason for the gathering.
     It was a small group, the first time we had been together for a while, and we all played a little Trivial Pursuit.  She told me she had arranged for Cathy to leave us alone when the party broke up, and when we were she leaned close in her loose blue sweater.
     "What's the matter, you're alone with a beautiful women to make love  to . . ."
     I hadn't been laid for a while so Cathy's soft, clean bed was ideal for an interlude.  It was a few weeks later that Val told me she was pregnant -- something that wasn't supposed to happen.  She had been on the Pill, off and on, since I met her, and I appreciated it for simplifying things.  One benefit:  It made her tits a lot bigger, verging on impressive, and even seemed to give her a more substantial ass.  So I tried to encourage it without being dominating.
     I had noticed how voluptuous she looked with her back to me and in a tight skirt when she bent over at the low fridge to get cubes and mix drinks at my place, but apparently at Cathy's I was distracted by the company or something, so her loss of padding went unnoticed.  Making her pregnancy quite a a surprise.
     "Hmmm."  I knew she had been going out for a while, but I startled her by asking, "What about Alonzo?"  He was an elusive figure whose family ran some funeral homes, and I heard she had taken up with him again for a while.  We were at the Tuxedo, and she hesitated and drank some beer.
     Of course, I was miffed because I felt I had been tricked.

     "Well  . . . there was only one time with him . . . and I'd expect you to marry me.  But otherwise -- "
     "So, if it happened to be black, we'd know.  Only it would be kinda late."
     After a while she left in her father's Cadillac, and I remained at the bar to contemplate why I hadn't noticed her bra was a little loose at Cathy's, though the  bedroom had been dimly lit by only an opened doorway and she hadn't paraded around in the stark daylight the way we had been doing at Maggie's and even my room.
     I guess to her credit she didn't bug me about it, and I heard her brother had sent her to New York where it was legal to get an abortion.  Of course, I didn't have any money to help her out.
     Though I had only planned to stay at the docks to finish the season, I decided it was interesting enough, and good exercise for me, to stay a full year's cycle, and waited it out to the following spring, collecting Unemployment.
     By that time, with Valerie avoiding me after her abortion -- either to teach me a lesson or guard against getting involved again in our dead-end relationship -- I had moved in with Marlene.
     Eventually I learned Val had become more erratic and violent, even breaking her sister's finger in a tussle, until she was conclusively diagnosed with brain cancer -- inoperable, resulting in her early death.  Certainly a first for me, and I would think of her upturned, affectionate face and find myself staring blankly at a wall and considering the finality of it all.  And the impermanence.
     After talking with Marlene for a while at Hooligan's I realized I had met her once at John Hawks, but she had been somewhat heavier, so now we made a new beginning after lamenting the dispersal of the old crowd.
     Since it was the off season on the docks we would enjoy the use of her couch in the front room -- farther away from her roommate Carrie's bedroom and keeping the sounds of sex down -- late at night until she went on to bed and I kept on drinking bourbon until falling asleep.  Because I generally got up at noon or later, I had a lot of alertness to work off, and it was usually with dawn poking in through the front bay window and the morning DJ on WTOS joking around with the farm report that I finally crashed.
     We found an apartment together in the building where I had already been living on Pleasant Street -- making $5 for each vacant apartment shown to eventual occupants as a night manager and collecting rents from tenants evading the owner during the day.
     She had auburn hair and luminous gray-green eyes and perfectly straight white teeth, and though she never Zonyx Marlene Pic .JPG in Living Room [Click to Enlarge]got fat again -- she said she had gone on a pizza and popcorn binge after a disappointing relationship -- she was lush enough.  One of her brothers at a gathering at his house commented with an implied wink that I probably found that she had nice jugs, and indeed she did, though I said I should probably not comment.  Our first times in bed I would dip a finger in her wine glass and rub it around on her nipples and suck it off, though as a hint it wasn't that effective and she didn't go down on me until several months later.  But it turned out she just wasn't very experienced.  Still, when on an impulse I stuck a finger up her ass -- something I wasn't given to, even though Valerie with her tiny, cool tongue had licked me all over -- on the couch, she didn't object, and I figured she would be fun in many ways, as well as bright.
     The hair was important to her -- though it was long and swirled around it wasn't the bright red I disliked nor the henna-based shade of my mother's -- and when it wasn't done up in a damp towel was very striking.
     That spring brought the beginning of my first full year as a longshoreman, though work never again reached the intensity it had the previous fall, except in the closing weeks of the season in December.  The rush, as it was called, only lasted until the last ship out could beat the closing of the St. Lawrence Seaway and we were all laid off, except for a few year-around warehousemen, or old-timers on an occasional small laker.  That was fine with me.
     Unfortunately, shipping on the Great Lakes was already suffering from the switch to huge containerized Loading Bags, Milwaukee Port Photoships too big for the Soo Locks and we increasingly relied on a cargo we had declined, bags of grain and such -- wheat, corn-soya, powdered milk. flour -- destined as US agricultural aid to starving countries in Africa.  This meant 8 and 12 hour shifts loading 50 lb. bags from pallets to stuff ships to the deck overhead, baking and sweating in summer heat and on into the freezing temperatures of fall and early winter.  Raw hides, scraped, fatty sides out, or greasy and furry if they were higher quality were sometimes netted in, but usually had to be loaded singly while we wore the supplied, often-laundered but decrepit aprons and rubber gloves.
     Some steel gangs were still needed, as well as those for heavy machinery and the occasional smaller container ships or ones with added pads welded to the top decks for containers stacked there, others to be maneuvered into the wings below with forklifts.  But everything was assigned by seniority, the best jobs -- hooking up loads on the shore, signalmen, winchmen -- going to the old-timers.  Sometimes pallets of general cargo were put in place by forklifts or broken down to be restacked individually, as were boxes of soy oil -- more foreign aid.
     But deprivation in the wider world seemed remote as I coped with near collapse after shifts of lifting and stacking and a new domestic scene with a woman with a luscious mouth, linked to an unevenly receding, variegated past.


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