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On Bill Cosby

January 21, 2016

I think I believe, yeah, Bill Cosby messed with some women back in the 60’s and 70’s. He was a REALLY REALLY famous, REALLY smokin’ hot guy. But that’s because ALL men, not gay, with a functioning penis and any iota of power or influence messed with single, attractive women in the 60’s and 70’s for breakfast. It was Bond. It was Captain Kirk. It was Elvis. It was savvy. It was male, it was glorified. It was an expected part of socializing. Look at the ridiculous way Larry Tate acted across from anything less than 40 in a skirt in Bewitched – remember? It was so ubiquitous, that our mothers always warned us to make sure as unmarried ladies that we were never anywhere NEAR where men were known to congregate or frequent PERIOD. No visiting bars, clubs, restaurants, or even walking on the street in the evening unaccompanied. No parties unchaperoned. Many bars would not allow unaccompanied women, because they were automatically considered prostitutes. We could not wear flashy jewelry, or colors, suggestive hairstyles, too high heels, bright make up, tight or revealing clothing or bare legs. Even traveling alone was not respectable. The flip side of that was that it was nearly impossible that a young, single, unaccompanied respectable woman would be found anywhere near a hotel, a party, or a club back in the 60’s, and particularly if there were men, and any time after dark. Actresses and entertainers had it tough as they often needed to be there for professional reasons (so they could be felt up and sexually preyed upon with impunity by men with power), but they either knew or soon learned to their despair that success meant forgoing reputation, and that the casting couch, date rape, and objectification were all just part of the price of success in those fields for women back then (which our mamas told us to stay away from for this very reason). I am equally certain that with the overarching racism rampant in the period, when I-SPY was BLACKED OUT in southern markets because Cosby and Culp shared a hotel room, ate together in restaurants, or traveled in the same class or conveyance IN THE FRICKIN’ SHOW!!!, that IF Cosby is guilty of something, whatever Cosby may have done, he could ONLY have done it LESS, and to a LESSER DEGREE than those around him (the Black man could not have the “best” of anything back then) and if with white women ONLY with their TOTAL and FULL consent (a white woman yells “rape” while in the company of a Black man in the ’60s, the NATIONAL GUARD arrives), and at all times with MUCH greater discretion, AND THE FULL KNOWLEDGE OF ALL OF THE WHITE MEN AROUND HIM. Which means the full knowledge of the ladies. You cannot change history “victims” – you can just conveniently upgrade and update your sad story to get your 5 minutes of fame. Sorry, just would have been that way, back then.



An interesting exchange

April 4, 2015

I let it slip in class today during a discussion about the dangers out there for underage fashion models, that I had been sexually assaulted in my youth; that while tearfully sharing my experience (I was 16), I discovered that the friend I was sharing with (18 yrs old) had herself been raped; that when I went to college, one of my best friends (19) told me about her rape at the hands of her best friend’s husband while she was vacationing with them in Mexico (how exactly do you extricate yourself from that one, I have never fathomed); that when I rather offhandedly confessed my experience to my mother one day in my 40’s, she confessed that she too had been sexually assaulted by a family friend sleeping over at her cousin’s when she too, was 16 years old. There are too many other stories to count. Two of my students approached me later in the hallway, visibly distressed at the idea that such things could occur (they are fond of me), and be survivable. Their awe struck me, but comforted me as well, as I witnessed just how far these things seemed from them in their lives (though one told me she had seen a statistic – up to 50% of college women sexually assaulted on campus). I spoke to them of what a man named Bill Cosby was experiencing out of context; that it was so common back then for women who lived in the public in any way, and certainly those who were groupies, or visiting the Playboy Mansion, or hotel rooms, to be sexually assaulted by men that reporting it would have been absurd; half would not have been believed, and the other half would have been seen very much as having brought it on themselves in frequenting such men in such environments. I can relate to the plight of Cosby – not because (obviously) I would condone his alleged activities; no, it is simply that my knowledge of “back then” says that if HE, a lone black man in a white world could get away with such things in the Hollywood of the 60’s, it was simply because so many other white men around him were engaged in similar activities – or worse – (where do you think he got the idea, if he did?) that it absolutely banalized the activity. Big yawn, crois. We were there! If you were a singer, or an actress, or a model in the 60’s, you were “obviously” in some measure a “loose woman”, and “deserved” whatever you got… It was hard to find the tone I wanted with my students; at once wanting them to understand the realities of the world in which we live , but also not to pity me, as I had discarded the experience at some long ago point along with a lot of other unfortunate occurrences in my life; I had no intention of being defined or having my life restricted by that bumbling, over-hormonal, absurd high school boy I let in as a friend while my parents were away. A sad reminder that we need to have conversations with our young people about the realities of our lives, so that they can weigh, and measure, and be prepared for what someday may come.

Obamatown, Chicago

August 25, 2011

Visit and trunk show – more to follow…

Pouilly le Monial, Ouigt

August 19, 2010

Hey Melinda,
Just got in and found your messages – was away at Sylvie’s parent’s country home in the Beaujolais near Macon for a few days. We met over English coaching at her job at France Televisions Publicité and wound up quite liking one another. It’s been nearly three years now, so it is alright to begin being friends. She was kind enough to invite one of the stranded-in-town – no summer holidays for me this year – and I was pleased to be invited to meet her rather famous mother (a French TV staple of the 60’s and 70’s now in her 80’s) and interested in seeing a new region of France. Really enjoyed it, her behavior-challenged little boy and all. The “Pays Des Pierres d’Orées” (“Land of the Golden Stone” – no kidding!) of the Beaujolais was indeed an architectural construction of astonishing beauty, bucolic, and flush with verdant hillsides clothed in woodlands and summer vines. The quiet of the vineyards (when not overflown by fighter jets on maneuvers or helicopter-school practice runs) holds every town-based stress at bay.
Her parents, quintessentially the eternal mother, father, grandparents, couple, and hosts are simply charming. Breathed the good air and slept like a baby. Did all the local stuff – local sausage, local cheeses, local sightseeing – though no local wine-drinking because apparently the wine sucks in that part of the Beaujolais – even over to local friends for an evening apéro after meeting and being introduced in the local market in the morning. There was a newsstand, but the national papers have been banned from the premises for the summer. Local news around the apéro table over champagne and nibbles, however, is encouraged. A few choice morsels: Those local grape-growers will insist on growing bad grapes for worse wine that no one wants or will drink because this is the way things have always been and will always be in the Beaujolais and part of an ongoing ritual of deeply-ingrained Frenchness. Never mind that these same rustics are regularly induced to yank out their vines, leaving the golden stone and wildflower-covered ground as a sort of reverse testament to defiance if paid to do so, through agricultural subsidies from a European Union they will never bow to or do business with in ways which might eventually involve growing grapes or something else that someone wanted and turning a profit. These are truly working men and women who have absolutely nothing against making a living at agriculture mind you, as long as it can be done within reasonable principles. In the meantime, in order to use up the spare time on their hands gained through mechanization, sulfides, and artificially-reduced yields, they practice scowling, hunting accidents, and local harassment of their newcomer neighbors (only four generations in the area) by yanking out the hedgerows separating their properties to better spy and shoot through, thereby increasing the protection of their lands from pesky outsider upstart tax-base contributors who keep trying to save the place by bringing in much-needed buying power and unnecessary local improvements like drainage ditches and parking areas and toilets for the occasional bad wine-buying tourist. The upstarts appear to revel in all sorts of unseemly behavior, occasionally jogging through the fields in broad daylight, repeatedly walking their dogs, opening small businesses, and even new home building. Much better headlines than anything CNN or Le Monde can deliver.
You know me – this kind of entertainment is what works best for me in France. That, and lots of walks over the hills and through the vineyards playing cache-cache with all of the shotgun-totting locals and sulfide-spewing tractors, and then refreshing myself with mirabelles plucked from the trees at the end of the immaculately mown front lawn my hosts call their pré, and I or anyone else would call a fairway. Mowing, by the way, apparently involves at least two people, one power-assisted and one ride-mower, and about 8 hours of mindless criss-crossing back and forth, particularly around the tree trunks. Bucolic does not come easy. Some freshly mom-made mirabelle jam for breakfast, spread to the smell of morning coffee with beurre de motte from the local cheese maker onto merely semi-local bread (both of Pouilly le Monial’s boulangeries being closed for the month of August – we are, after all, in la France profonde) to round things off, and my experience is complete. I just eat it up – and did.
Anyway, have a great time in the States, and send a line by email if you get a chance about all of my dispirited countrymen on the other side of the pond. I do hope things get better there soon – if only because when America sneezes, Europe gets swine flu. Tell your twin sis hi for me, and bring me back some whole pecans so I can make my gingered pecans for all my Gallic friends for the holidays. I’ll email some photos of my stay… Take care – C.

The Latest

July 29, 2010

All I said, was that someone had said yes to an evening of bike riding, and we had gone riding, and that it was fun, and he seemed like a really nice man. Suddenly I discover just how heavily the tragedy of my single life has been weighing on psyches of my Buddhist cohorts for all these years. Who knew that the greater part of my spiritual entourage had been brooding over my being single to such an extent, hoping and praying like crazy that I would stop all this nonsense of fake happiness and compensating, and settling in place of living a real life, experiencing the only true happiness: sharing existence with another? The information came to me earlier in the day as a gift, gleefully rendered on the slight excuse of my having asked a related question about the relationship of another.
Afterward, I was able to just put it all aside as I had had to go out to Boulogne and sign a contract for some new work. And then I got fooled into thinking it was summer again today, though I should have known better; still, that sun-shiny-white-cloudy thing fakes me out every time. So I when I finish up in Boulogne, I call Randy, my home boy, and suggest another attempt at doing Paris Plage, which is this thing the rather tasteful gay mayor of Paris thought up to do every summer where you install a beach and boardwalk in the center of town so that a lot of waxed- chest other gay guys can sun under palms strategically placed along the George Pompidou expressway, which, as it happens, runs right under the windows of Paris city hall. That way, while he does his official mayor-type stuff, he can casually admire the enhanced view of man-flesh from the rather pompously large windows of the Hotel de Ville. But over time, the beach thing has sort of morphed into this other thing which is more like an endless sidewalk cafe, except along an expressway, which is actually a good thing, since the foolish Parisians have ridiculously chosen to locate a major expressway smack-dab along what could only be described as the most aesthetic and valuable property in the city. But thanks to Paris-Plage, for a few weeks each summer, you can stroll along this valuable real estate and admire the prospect of some of the greatest monuments on offer in Paris – and some really nice looking gay guys too – except with no cars, less noise, and more toilets; and some street musicians, and pretty bad food and beer; and, by the way, a few strategically placed palm trees.
So as we wanted to go there, the sun, of course went in, and kind of killed the summer atmosphere vibe, but we went anyway, for a couple of hours – Randy, and me, and this other pretty cool physical trainer-martial arts kinda guy named Earl. Earl told this hilarious story about throwing these two aggressive, drunk Arab hoodlums right off the subway and onto the platform, just as the doors were closing and this other guy that they had been aggressing (that’s franglais) was peeing his pants; and then this other story, where he stole the boom box out from under an entire orgy of drunken German tourists making way too much noise at a campsite where he and his family were staying somewhere in rural France so his wife wouldn’t think he was a chicken.
But I digress. Me and Randy and Earl ate some bad food, and drank some ok wine; fact is, it is very hard to be too miserable – even if it is a little on the cloudy side – when you are sitting across from the finest property in the city, looking out over the tourist boats churning the Seine, and the gorgeous facades of the Conciergerie, the Palais de Justice, and the Place Dauphine. With the Pont d’Arcole and the Pont Neuf framing the picture. And some street musicians, and break dancers, and mime guys, too.

So after we finished, and I left them to go off together to watch The Last Airbender (no fuckin’ way you’re getting me into another Night Shyamalan film after Lady in the Water, which I was not only smart enough to not see, but smart enough to realize that it was the sign that Night had come down with George Lucas syndrome, and begun believing in his own myth, not to mention succumbed to the head-bashingness of repetitive plot palsy where every film is like the other film kinda like the one before it too (no, it isn’t my dead wife/the aliens/the scary people in the bushes/an incredible and fortuitous stroke of luck that I survived the giant train crash – its… tun,tun,tuuuun… THE SIGNIFICANT AND SOULFUL UNEXPECTED INCONGRUITY… again!). I left them to it, and got on my train, and as I sat looking out over the evening glow of the Val de Marne and chuckling over the amusements of Paris Plage with the boys, the words of one of the cohorts I spoke about at the beginning of this story snuck back up and started me wondering. Am I not really enjoying any of this? Can I just go on fooling, deluding myself, enjoying the amusements and the happy friendship of evenings like this? Are all these just acts of compensation for the dark and desperate childless and spouse-less loneliness that lurks beneath?

All my French Buddhist friends seem to see this sad truth about lonely me, and are praying tirelessly for me to stop believing in all these crazy notions of having a great time, and get with the system. I’m supposed to get with the ticket, and realize that I am, in reality, a scorned and barren woman, in a country of PDA obsessed couples and relentlessly nuclear families from whose gravitational pull there is no escape ever; and that this persistent singleness is neither healthy nor natural for me. It is simply no way to live a proper and fulfilled life, and especially not at my age (54) when I’m supposed to be crying over empty nest syndrome and the loss of my husband to his mistress, and not this kind of thing.

The whole issue has struck a chord inside me, and churned up doubts so outside of the simple reaches of my wonderful experiences and the places where I have been living inside my head that I admit to being more than a little disturbed. When I look back over the years of enriching alternative education, or becoming a concert promoter at 20, and playing Bach and Vivaldi and Mozart on the violin in chamber groups and city symphonies in bygone days, and those adventures aboard ship in the Aleutian Islands, or moving abroad to Paris and becoming a chef, and sleeping in various chateaux, or hiking to the top of St. Victoire, and my cooking for two months in a beautiful villa in the golden countryside of Provence, and eating good bread and pastries and chocolate, and returning to the States and catering all the best parties for years and years, and learning to make the best butter cookies from a White House pastry chef in D.C., and going to the best apparel design school in the States in Seattle, and the finest couture school in the world in Paris, and distinguishing myself at both, becoming a chef then a business owner then a costume designer for musical comedies and then a teacher, then working in film, and training TV journalists, and my travels, and hobbies… and then take in the idea that the whole shebang can be chalked up to mere denial and compensation for never having found true love (well, I have found it several times, but it has never lasted long enough on the male side to come to much – and we can talk about that unflagging and systematic rejection some other time), well, gee. Wow. Who knew?

I am clearly missing out on some singularly outstanding experience, according to those in the know, if this – the compensating – has turned out, so far, to be so unendingly entertaining. Lord, in comparison, what unimaginable bliss being partnered must involve! It just boggles the mind; what is truly amazing is that all of the people who are privy to the “happy and normal” couples experience seem, on the whole, rather inclined to hide their glee; they are not exactly shouting their fulfillment from the rooftops. I mean, there has to be some serious and considerable dissimulating going on to be inside something that fantastic, yet chose to put on a public face at once so marvelously insipid, and so numbingly mundane.

Never mind my offering a defense of a perverse and persistent satisfaction with my life; it appears that this is merely proof of the degree and level of denial I am practicing. It seems I have done well in this regard, successfully masking the feelings of deep loneliness, isolation, and fear of death that constitute the “true” nature of my existence (at least according to some sources) and I am not able see my denial, though it be only all too apparent to those of the more learned eye. Indeed, to defend my contentedness is merely to more fully illustrate the depth of my denial and despair. I have become so inured to the fantasy,it would appear, that while out enjoying my life as a single, childless woman, I have actually come to believe that I am genuinely enjoying my life. The belief is so strong in me that I honestly feel happy and fulfilled a good deal of the time (with the usual quota of disappointments and setbacks one must tolerate, of course), enjoying my life a perhaps to even an unusual degree. I do practice Buddhism, after all. I mean, seriously – all this satisfaction with being single – is this sick, or what?