Thursday, July 31, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 17, Wed., 1978 10:00 PM

"Went swimming today with G. over at his sister, A.'s, apartment. I enjoyed being around the girls at the pool. My nose is sunburned."

MANHOOD REDO: At the time this was written, I think I used to jokingly refer to myself as the bronze Irish god. The sun in West Texas is pretty harsh, and I spent a lot of time in it, got sunburned more than once with blisters on my back. I didn't know about aloe at the time, but how I wish I had. It is a plant whose juice is the miracle cure for burns. Rub it on multiple times over a few hours and the pain and redness disappear. Instead, I spent hours on my stomach trying to sleep and hours during the day trying to keep my shirt from touching my back.

Everyone in their teens and twenties in Lubbock would spend time outside tanning. Every spring, probably sometime in April, the coeds attending Texas Tech University and living in the dorms would line their lawn chairs up outside the dorm building, put on their swimsuits, and spend time the they weren't in classes under the sun trying to turn brown. If you were pale everyone thought you looked sickly. My sister and I would sometimes spend time together tanning in our back yard. I don't remember there being sunblock lotions with SPF numbers, just oils and lotions like Coppertone that were supposed to help you turn brown not red. Since Sunscreen Protection Factor (SPF) was first introduced in 1962 and the height of my tanning period was in the mid- to late 1970s, I suppose it's possible sunblocks were available and I just ignored them. I'm certain that things like tanning beds and booths had yet to be introduced.

I remember looking at my parents pale legs and being fairly grossed out. Of course, now I am my parents. I worry about the sun, especially since my father has had skin cancer appear repeatedly and had to have it removed especially from his ears and nose. Aging can have a way tempering our sense of control and power as men. At 52 I'm feeling a little more vulnerable than I did in my 20s.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 14, Sun. 1978 8:35 PM

"I had a big arguement [sic] with W. T. at work last night. Two high school seniors flattened two tires on this guy's pickup. The guy is named R., and he works upstairs in the mailroom. W. said it was just 'hell raisin,' and I said it was damn stupid....W. didn't flatten the tires, but he didn't think it was wrong to flatten the tires either."

MANHOOD REDO: I haven't had my laptop for a while, which explains the break in this blog. Finally, it's returned home safe and sound and fully functioning, so I'm back to doing Manhood Redo.

I was always a fairly cautious "hell raiser," maybe because I was generally afraid of getting myself in risky situations - not that I would have characterized myself as a "chickenshit," a term used in Texas while I was growing up. I thought paying attention to my fear informed my actions in ways that benefited me. I know the typical masculine ideal of hell raisin' is more in line with W. T.'s up above because it's considered fun, but I never quite looked at it that way. And I actually think that it's only a small minority of guys who do things like flatten two tires on someone's pickup. Most of us don't care to carry things too far. It's just that those who do draw a lot of attention. My "boys will be boys" acts were less dramatic. I tended to empathize with the person being targeted too much to do some damage, which explains why I'd go along with friends who were toilet papering someone's house but wouldn't participate.

A perfect example: a friend, T. C., and I snuck over to D. S.'s house during the middle of the night with a can of car wax. D. S. was someone our age who owned a fairly sporty car, maybe a Camero or something like that. All I can remember is that it was red. We parked our car down the block and when we entered his driveway crouched and tried to stay in the shadows since there were still lights on in the house. Once we reached the car there was just enough light to see, so we pulled out a piece of cloth, open the car wax can, and wrote in large letters on the hood, "Just eat a big one" with the wax. If we wanted to really hell raise, we probably would've done it with paint. We knew that it would be readable once the wax dried but wanted to make sure it could be wiped away (even though it would probably still be faintly present). I don't know how he knew we did it, but he confronted us the next day, and I think we confessed. He laughed about it.

I imagine there are plenty of examples of guys hell raisin' in ways that lead to less lasting and extreme consequences. We just don't hear about them, but it would probably be good if we did so that we could construct a whole different understanding of raisin' hell.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 12, Fri. 1978

Played tennis with G., T. (G.'s younger brother) and R. L. about 9:00 PM. Didn't have to go into work tonight. Then we went out to the strip, bought a six-pack of beer each, and went over to R.'s parents' house. His parents were out of town. R. lives at home. Left about 2:00 AM and went to G.'s. Came home and went to bed about 3:00 AM."

MANHOOD REDO: If you're not going to a bar or club, the strip is where you buy liquor in Lubbock. You can't get a six-pack inside the city limits. There's a photo of the strip up above. At night it's like a dramatically downscaled Las Vegas with neon signs lighting up the West Texas dark. Up until 1972 when Lubbock legalized liquor by the drink within the city limits, it was the largest dry county in the country. I turned 18 in 1973, the legal drinking age then, so I was able to take advantage of all the clubs that quickly popped up inside the city. The most famous Lubbock club before liquor by the drink passed was the Cotton Club, about 15 miles east of the city limits. Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Willie Nelson, and a host of others played there; supposedly it was the only place a musician could play anywhere between Dallas and Los Angeles and make any money. At the Cotton Club it was bring your own bottle. Once liquor by the drink was legalized, places like the Cotton Club started to fade. You no longer had to drive halfway to Slaton to hear music and drink. You could drive 10 or 15 minutes and buy all the beer and booze you wanted, then dance to the latest songs played by a DJ.

Beer was a strong part of my masculine makeup. When I developed Type II Diabetes and kept trying to drink the way I had been, I felt like crap, so I stopped. Not until recently did I decide it's okay to have a beer with a meal, and I admit that I really enjoy it. I won't say that drinking now isn't at all connected to manhood, but I can't for the life of me imagine driving to a liquor store with two or three male friends, each of us buying a six-pack, and then going somewhere to drink them.