Monday, June 30, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 11 Thurs. 1978

"J. B. brought those three books [referred to in the May 5 Journal Excerpt] to work. They were Making U-Hoo, Unwary Heart, and Me Natalie. All I can say is her intentions were good.

"Saw an accident (already crashed, police there, etc.) on way home from work. Someone ran into a pole."

MANHOOD REDO: I have to admit that the three book titles make me curious. After doing some digging around on the web, I found out that Making U-Hoo, which sounds like a corny romance novel trying to imitate a 1930s or 1940s movie is actually a mystery by Irving A. Greenfield. He might not have been a well respected author since he doesn't have his own website and he's not listed in Wikipedia, but he wrote a lot of books, and a used hardback of Making U-Hoo is being sold on for over 78 pounds and the U. S. Amazon for over $100. You can buy the paperback for $2.90, though. So I'm not sure what to make of him.

I would guess that Me Natalie was a novelization of the movie by the same name, which there is a Wikipedia entry on. It's a 1969 dramedy directed by Fred Coe, in which Natalie, played by Patty Duke, feels she is an ugly duckling. Her father hatches a plan to marry her; she finds out that it's a set up and leaves home for Greenwich Village, where she becomes a cocktail waitress, lives the bohemian lifestyle, and gets involved with a married man. When she finds out he's married, she considers suicide, but he convinces her she's beautiful and worthwhile. I'm tempted to see if it's available on Netflix.

The last book, Unwary Heart, was a Harlequin Romance, I believe, by Anne Hampson. It looks like Ms. Hampson wrote a lot of books. That's really all I can say about her.

Even today it would be embarrassing to have a romance novel in my possession. I'd rather read a feminist book interpreting romance novels. That more clearly fits into my picture of myself. And I would be willing to see Me Natalie but not read it. Lastly, I wouldn't be inclined to read Greenfield's mystery unless it did some interesting genre-bending.

And yet there was a time when I read all these sorts of books. When I first started reading something other than comic books, I poured over everything I could get my hands on. There was no distinction between literary fiction and popular fiction. I even read a few romance novels because I was curious about them, so if I'm honest, it's really not so easy or straight forward to think of myself as a man who has never identified with these kinds of books. I remember enjoying Frank G. Slaughter novels, staying up all night reading them.

If developing a healthy masculinity is in part about reclaiming parts of ourselves as men that we've supressed or had supressed, maybe it would be worth considering finding a way to claim these novels J. B. gave me - or at least what they represent.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 9, Tues. 1978 9:45 PM

"G. came back today. I helped him unpack all his furniture etc."

Manhood Redo:
I'm surprised that such a big event merited such little text. I don't even sound the least little excited. Given the kind of loneliness I was experiencing and have written about in earlier blog entries, you'd think I would have been thrilled, overjoyed, ebullient. But G.'s move back sounds routine, almost something to take for granted.

Sometimes I resent the hell out of masculinity - for instance, when it tamps down joy I might be feeling, and I mean a silly, happy, almost giddy joy about people and events. I've kept the full extent of my emotions - both exhilaration and sorrow - under wraps for so long that it still can be hard to not only express them but also to find a way into them. Someone at work told me I'm hard to excite; maybe that's true based on what I'm seeing today in this journal excerpt. Although it might be more the case that I have excitement bubbling up in me and am cautious about expressing it. I'm trying to think about both what forms of excitement are sanctioned by traditional masculinity and what aren't. Obviously, it's okay to get excited about sports if you're a guy. You can yell and scream and jump up and down and cry if your team loses. But had I jumped up and down and screamed in excitement about G. moving back to Lubbock, I can't help but think that people would've looked at me either like I was crazy or thought I was gay. So even in the journal I was keeping at the time, even in a personal and private space where I might have felt free to express what I didn't feel free to express elsewhere, I'm restrained.

Let me try to be a little unrestrained now. The last time I saw G. was maybe 20 or so years ago in Lubbock. I had tried to track him down a couple times over the web but never had any success - until about a month ago. He had been on my mind, perhaps because of this blog, so I just on the spur of the moment decided to try one more time since it had been quite a few years since the last time I checked the web. I had little in the way of expectations, so I was shocked when a photo of him turned up. He looked just about the same, except his hair had turned completely gray. He's in a covers band now. When we were friends years ago, he dabbled with the piano, and the two of us would sing Beatles tunes along with his car cassette player as we drove back and forth from Lubbock and San Antonio, but I never would've predicted he'd be playing keyboard and sharing lead vocals, singing anything from the Texas Tornadoes to the Temptations. I don't know if he sings lead on "YMCA" but that I would like to hear, maybe even dance to.

He's in the Southwest but no longer in Lubbock; he hasn't been there for a long while. I'm not sure what will come of our getting back in touch since we're far apart, there is a lot that's happened since we last saw each other, and we're both busy, but it's exciting to have him in my life again, even if only in a minimal way. He's someone who's had a significant impact on my life. I was best man at his wedding. We worked on a comic strip together and tried to syndicate it. We went camping for almost three weeks, driving from Texas to Oregon and back. We shared and critiqued our creative writing. We read our favorite poems to each other.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 7, Sun. 1978 11:10 PM

"No insert tonight, so I don't have to go in [to work on the newspaper dock] till 12:00 AM. Just finished recording Emerson, Lake, and Palmer on the King Biscuit Flower Hour. Recorded them on one of the Scotch tapes. Sounds fantastic.

"Slowly reading Moby Dick. On page 150.

"Didn't get off work last night till 8:30 AM. Presses couldn't start until the results from the governor, senatorial, etc. elections were in, so they didn't start running till 3:30 AM. I'll be glad when I quit."

"I received notice yesterday that I had been readmitted to Texas Tech, so it's official now. Back to school again. I'm going to major in English lit."

MANHOOD REDO: By this point I was very ready to leave the Avalanche Journal newspaper dock behind. Material and monetary success are very much a part of traditional masculinity, and while I have never been one to place high value on either, I knew that I could only work the dock for a limited time before I would be seen as one of those guys who never had any drive, who failed to live up to his potential. Plus, I had been connected to the AJ for quite a while.

I had started working their when I was a senior in high school - first as a city newspaper driver, which meant I delivered papers to some of the carriers in Lubbock in a particular area of the city. There were probably 10 to 12 of us, and since the AJ had a morning and afternoon edition, we had to make deliveries twice. Usually, about a half hour before the city bundles would be ready to start coming down the chute - sometime between 2 to 3 am - we would receive a call telling us to come in. I roomed with T. my first semester of college, and I don't know how he managed to sleep through the phone ringing in the middle of the night. In the afternoon, we had to arrive at the dock about 2:30 or 3 pm. This lasted for about a year before I started working the dock, eventually becoming dock foreman. I was responsible for overseeing the other dock workers, for making sure that the bundles of papers ended up in the right country and city trucks, and for stacking the bundles for the car carriers on the dock.

I dropped out of college after my second year and went to work for a small print press, which I generally hated, especially when I had to stack inserts on wooden pallets. They came off the press in batches of 25 for the local Piggly Wiggly grocery stores, and I would purposely take my time stacking so that the inserts backed up, jamming the track, and someone would have to come over to help me keep up. After about nine months, I'd had all I could take and decided to quit, making plans to return to college. They hired a Vietnamese immigrant in my place who was more than happy to stack Piggly Wiggly inserts on a pallet, which made me feel sort of like a snotty nosed, entitled college kid, even though I wasn't exactly yet.

The timing was such that I wouldn't be able to start until the fall semester, which was some months away, so I had to find work in the meantime. I really didn't have a sense of where to start looking, and even though it felt kind of humiliating, I thought the easiest thing to do would be to go back to the Avalanche Journal, although I didn't know whether there would be a job available. But the AJ dock always had a lot of turnover, so I started almost right away. Many of the same people were there, and they were happier to see me that I was them. I knew that my time would be limited, since I planned on quitting when I returned to school.

I had some sense that a degree in English literature might give me a little more merit and status in the world than the position of dock foreman at the Avalanche Journal, but I couldn't have told anyone how since I only chose that major because I had discovered I liked to read and I wanted to write creatively - not exactly a well planned career path.