Friday, January 27, 2017

PLUM BRANDY


Still on the theme of first love... This one's my own. It's quite innocent. No sex please, we're British!



PLUM BRANDY
by Peter Clothier 

I was in France. I took the train to Paris, leaving my home country alone for the first time, and arrived in Maisons-Lafitte, a suburb to the north of the capital that is famous for its chateau and its horse-racing track. I was thirteen years old. My sister, Flora, had come here the year before to stay with the family of Philippe, our French exchange student. Now it was my turn. It was Philippe, by the way, who taught me how to masturbate… He was a year or so older than I was at the time.

But that’s another story. This is a story about plum brandy.

But first it’s a story about bombs. Because Philippe had a best friend, Jean-Claude, who lived a few houses away from Philippe’s, down a dusty lane that led to a garbage dump, And the two of them, Jean-Claude and Philippe, were adventurers. They loved danger. They smoked—they taught me how to smoke black Gauloise cigarettes. They boasted of their success with girls. And they made bombs.

This is how: first they stole shotgun shells from Jean-Claude’s father’s basement. Then they opened up the shells and poured out the gunpowder from inside. Then they filled a length of pipe or a small soda can with gunpowder and tamped it down with a length of rag. Then we took the “bombs” down to the garbage dump and laid them on the ground, leaving a trail of gunpowder a few yards long. Then we’d light the end of the gunpowder trail and turn and run away as far as we could before stopping to watch the sparkling trail reach the bomb… and the explosion that followed.

But this is a story about plum brandy. Or really it’s a story about Nicole.

Nicole was Jean-Claude’s sister, twelve years old, two years younger than Jean-Claude, a year younger than myself, something of a tomboy in her colored jeans and white blouses that hid secrets about which I longed to know. I fell in love with her the instant that I saw her. A thirteen-year old who’d never known anything but boys at my English boarding schools, I found this creature wildly exotic, beautiful beyond anyone I had ever seen in my life before, desirable in ways I could not yet fully understand.

I was in love. It was the first time. I was shy. I was innocent, ashamed of my innocence, too, beside those worldly French boys who seemed young men already and who knew secrets about girls that I did not yet know myself. I blushed easily. I hardly dared utter a word in the presence of the one I loved. And, yes, I was working hard at being a bad, bomb-making boy.

But this is a story about plum brandy.

It was summer time, and it happened that the plums in Jean-Claude’s back yard were ripening. Jean-Claude’s father, a thick-set, heavily-mustached, pipe-smoking Frenchman of the laboring classes, was not slow in recognizing cheap labor when he saw it, and soon put us all to work. We filled baskets with masses of the ripe plums from the ground where they had fallen around the tree, and from the tree itself...


 We lugged the overflowing baskets from the orchard to Jean-Claude’s father’s garage, and we stuffed them into the small opening of the wooden barrel in which Jean-Claude’s father would make his annual supply of plum brandy…



And it was in stuffing the plums into that dark hole at the top of the barrel that my little boy’s fingers could merge, in a secret, forbidden ecstasy, unknown to anyone but myself, with the object of my lust, Nicole’s. Unless, perhaps, somewhere deep in my dark soul, I hoped, I yearned… that she might know it too. I know that she looked at me as our fingers touched. And a sudden flash led me to hope that she might feel the very same thing that I did…

A couple of weeks later it was back across the Channel, back to boy's boarding school, with nothing but the memory of the first girl I ever loved. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

PEACH AND MUSHROOM

I have been asking for men's stories about their first remembered encounter with their male anatomy and their early sexual experiences. Here's a delightful one by my long-time friend, the artist Masami Teraoka. We have encountered Masami before on the Boyhood Memories blog, with his magical story of The Swallows. It's a special pleasure to welcome him again, because this memory asks us to give thought to fascinating cultural differences in the way we think about the human body. Those familiar with Masami's work will not be surprised in the story that follows by the frank observation of the vagina...


Masami Teraoka, Masturbation #5, 1974, watercolor on paper, 23 x 17-12 inches
private collection
... an observation which recurs with great frequency in his magnificent, sometimes delicate, often satirical, always culturally confrontational paintings. I have taken care, in posting this story, to allow Masami the privilege of his "accent."


PEACH AND MUSROOM
By Masami Teraoka

My story is Peach and Mushroom story.

I grew up with my three sisters. We used to take a bath together from the childhood. The shape of the bath is like a big bowl where my three sisters sit in frnt of me, or rather surrounding my face with three peaches. My face that close. Because they were sitting in the bath tub in the water with widely open legs, I used to have vagina observaton time, the anatomically correct way to learn about the vagina.

So I used to see my sister’s vaginas right in front of me. However I looked at them they looked like soft pink peaches. So fascinating. Sometime the vaginas opened their peach-like mouths. I was a bit astonished, I recall. There was some pink space in there. Oh, wow, I said to my sisters. You have the peaches! My sisters said, Masami, you have a mushroom. Hahaha! Giggle giggle! 

Eventually we started growing. One day I discovered my sisters started to grow pubic hairs. Oh, wow! You have pubic hairs! Hahaha! My sisters said, You are teasing us but before you know you will grow them too. My family used to take a bath together with my parents, my grandpa and my aunt, until my sisters became highschool girls. I was still having bath with my aunt when I was perhaps 13 years old. 

Anyway my dad and mom never had taught us about sexuality, but we had enough chance to learn about our anatomy. Unlike Martel’s Ken Doll! Ken doll has anatomically incorrect shape penis. No wonder we are all screwed up about sexuality 101. No kidding. American girls and boys were not taught sexuality in correct perspective.

Aloha, Masami

Thursday, January 19, 2017

HAND JOB

A few days ago I posted an early sexual memory of my own and wrote out to previous contributors requesting more of the same kind. If I'm to do this book I have in mind, there would be a glaring gap if I were not to include memories about boys' discovery of their bodies and their early sexual memories. It seems that this is not something men are eager to talk about--and more's the pity. It's a big part of growing up. Also... I note that it's really hard to write about something so intimate as sex and hit the right note. Our language for the parts involved is quite inadequate in English--the words are either clinical, or coy, or simply pornographic. I stumbled into a solution in my novel, The Pilgrim's Staff, by resorting to 18th century English. It did sound a bit quaint, but then the narrator was an 18th century English gentleman, so it was okay if he sounded quaint.

What follows is one response to my appeal. This brave attempt at a truly difficult task comes from Walter Seavy (a pseudonym, per his request), remembering his experience at age 16-17. I have another charming story for my next post, but I'm still asking/hoping for others.

HAND JOB
by Walter Seavy

Memories of childhood on my Uncle's farm remain some of the best times where friends gathered to  play in the hay, milk the cows, and remember how raw milk tastes.  Today shoppers don't know what the taste of real milk is any longer. In today's super-pasteurized world, our processed milk lacks the layer of thick cream at the top and lasts in our refrigerator for a month or two. Milk is no longer real.  Like women's breasts. Time passes and whipped cream now comes in a pressurized can.

All of my life I have watched the young girls pass me by. They have come and gone with the rich cream of their lives that disappear from my sight, but not my memory.

Some inexplicable happenings are connected in another dimension by meaning. Coincidences are not by chance. The days of my folks driving to my Uncle OJ's farm to get milk and eggs for the house are fond memories...



While everyone was chatting inside, I would run out to the barn hoping to play with two blonde girls, Sally and her younger sister Elizabeth, who often came to play in the barn. We would build hay bale tunnels that led to a private place where I would sneak a kiss from Sally who would join me hiding from her sister in the game of hide and seek.  Those times didn't happen often; it was by chance, that Sally would be there. But when they were there it was a wonderful surprise. Sally and I made the most of our chance encounters. She reminded me of the bakery's hot cross buns with sweet white crosses of frosting across glazed raised buns. Besides sneaking a kiss and copping a feel in the hay, we would run inside and put our hands in the cookie jar for molasses cookies.

Then one day in the spring I rode my bicycle to the farm. Sally was there.  It was the beginning of the end. The days of feeding worm eaten apples to the cows and having apple slinger fights were soon to be over. 

A notice by the state Maine declaring eminent domain bought a portion of Uncle OJ's farm that split the farmhouse from the inner vale where the cows and sheep were in pasture.  Right behind the farm house, maybe twenty yards away, bulldozers and earth movers piled high rocks and dirt to put a turnpike spur across Uncle's land. Now he would have to take the cows down the road and under a bridge to the other side of the turnpike to reach the grassland and the historic grave yard near some crab apple trees.  Progress. There was nothing anyone could do.

Sally and I watched bulldozers come and destroy the well by raising the earth level behind the barn to 20 feet or more, rising above the farms' two-story roof.  A culvert was placed under the turnpike for drainage. One day, I asked Sally to take a chance with me and be like Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer. We would escape to disappear underground, searching to find if this mysterious hole went to a new happy land.

Sally took my hand. She was daring, and together we crawled into the dark recesses of this labyrinthine tunnel.  We  could not see the other side at first, but half way through the culvert a light began to appear. At the same time there was a deep hole where water dripped down to who knows where. We were lucky to have just enough light to avoid falling to our death. We did reach the other side. The apple trees were in bloom, and all was well. Together we had faced a challenge head on and were happy to be safe. We hugged and kissed as we stood outside the culvert. We were hot, sweaty and dirty.  Sally suggested we go down to the trestle. I had never been there. She led the way to where the creek made a bend to create a sandy beach and the water was deeper. I kissed her under the railroad bridge.

We stripped down to our undies. She lay back on the sand in the warm afternoon sun. I knelt down next to her. I touched her toes. They curled in the sand. I blew and brushed off the sand.  My mouth wrapped around her big toe, my tongue slipped between the toe cleavage. Down and up, in and out, then slowly stroking with my hands I licked my way to her ankles, her knees, then up to her thighs, to her soft blue cotton undies. The so-soft down protruded slightly from the edges of the fruit pie between her legs. I worked my way up to her stomach and then her breasts.

She reached into my pants. I was aroused. I fumbled to remove her bra. Her hot cross-your-heart bra finally exposed to the elements those pure snow white mountains with a cherry on top.  I was in heaven. Forget playing in dark and dusty hay tunnels. We kissed more. Her mouth opened wide and sucked in my curled tongue that slipped between her wet crevice, slightly salty with sweat, but which soon began to taste like vanilla pudding in my mouth. 

My hands started to tug at her dark cotton panties. She and I were panting, but she said, "No. I'm on my period." I was devastated. I was so very hard. I wanted her so much. She stroked me several times. It didn't take long. The cream rose to then shush down her delicious white mountain sundae like a skier's snow trail. It was my first time not doing it by myself, with fantasies of love making. This time it was real. My toes curled in the sand by the water's edge. She stroked my member, squeezing out every last drop. The last thing I did was grab her tiny fairy princess derrière and pull her essence toward me. There was nothing more I could do but seek further shrinkage in the cold water.

This was our last time together. After years of playing 'house' in the hay, dreaming of her under the covers at night in my bed alone, she left me with a memory that has lasted years. The next day she left for Washington state.  Her father got a new job.

        




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

RACISM, REVISITED

Okay, here's a truth that's hard for me to admit: no matter how much this good liberal would wish it to be otherwise, I remain a part of the deeply-rooted, systemic racism that continues to do discredit to this country--and, I believe, to our entire human species.

I first discovered this disturbing truth a good number of years ago, when I received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship for a study of the work of the artist Charles White and soon discovered that none of the conventional tools of academic study I'd learned in graduate school applied to the research even on a distinguished African American artist. White's considerable body of work had been largely ignored by critics publishing in the national art journals. There was virtually nothing in the way of serious literature about him in the art libraries. I discovered that if I wanted to know much about the man and his work, I would need to travel throughout the country to meet with those who knew him, and with the handful of almost exclusively African American enthusiasts who collected his work. Virtually all the history was oral.

I am rediscovering the same truth many years later as I put together this collection of "boyhood memories." The fact that I have managed to attract only a handful of African American men to the project is surely a rather sad reflection of who I am and my circle of acquaintances. As I publish today's entry, I ask for the help of my readers in attracting more.

This story will still, I am sure, be all too familiar to African American men who possess the education, the experience, and the qualifications for a job, but who are passed over for reasons that are never allowed to be explicitly stated. The fact the Byron Barker's story happened many years ago does not, sadly, make it irrelevant today.


THE INTERVIEW
by Byron Barker


Some fifty plus years ago, I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. Having had some problems with a couple of classes, I was proud to have graduated with above acceptable grades.  And I was ready to be challenged by the work place, having worked in numerous jobs, e.g. house cleaning, assistant to a very special caterer, working in women’s garment industry, as well as head of the Cal Berkeley cafeteria dish-washing department. 

I responded to an ad in the local paper for a job that looked promising for the future. I submitted my application for the job, and was contacted for an interview. Appropriate dress would be important to make a positive impression at this initial interview. I was already confident that the resumé and application would be well received.

I wore a suit and tie to the anticipated interview for the open position. I arrived at the office of the company and seated myself so as to be readily available to the interviewer. There were about nine or ten applicants, and the interviews proceeded accordingly. Finally, only one other candidate and I were left in the waiting room.

When the time came, the interview room door opened. The interviewer immediately passed me by and went across the room to the other candidate and said, “Mr. Barker, it is a pleasure to meet you.”  With an expression of surprise, the other candidate said, “I’m sorry, but I am not Mr. Barker.” 

Since I was the only other candidate in the room, the interviewer approached me and asked me to follow him for the interview.  Needless to say, he was somewhat perplexed and not sure how to proceed.  Nevertheless, at the end, he thanked me for the interview and said he would call.

It was clear to me that being black meant that I was not going to be the candidate who would be hired.  And incidentally, no call ever occurred.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

LIGHTHOUSE

We all think we know what distinguishes little boys from little girls--at least when it comes to the anatomical difference. For boys, it's that fascinating thing that protrudes provocatively from between our legs and seems to invite endless, and endlessly enjoyable exploration. (We are discovering, too, nowadays, that there are exceptions to this general rule, and hopefully to expand our understanding of how gender definition defies this easy and perhaps too obvious distinction. But that's another issue.) What follows is the story of how I discovered--or perhaps, how I became more fully conscious of--my own. If you happen to have a similar story to share, I'd be more than happy to receive it. I'm still actively at work on plans for a "Boyhood Memories" book, and it would be incomplete, to say the least, without this important aspect of our experience as boys. (Anonymity is guaranteed, of course, for anyone who requests it...)





LIGHTHOUSE
by Peter Clothier

We are in the bath, my cousin Donald and I. This would be during the war, with his family visiting from their home in nearby Cambridge. It is a big family. My sister and I both dread their visits because the children seem to us so wild, so unruly. Brothers and sisters, half a dozen of them, all over the place. Their father, an army chaplain, is away at the war.

So it’s bath time. Nearly bed time. We are in the bath together, Donald and I, because there are so many children to be packed off to bed. We must share everything, even bath time. So there we are, playing with our toy boats in the foamy water, in the big old upstairs bathtub at the Rectory. Donald at his end of the bath, I at mine.

I think I have not given much thought to my penis before now. Not consciously, anyway. I suspect that I must have discovered it to play with, as all little boys do; and played with it, certainly, in secret, under the covers, away from my mother’s eyes. I suspect there is already a sense of shame attached to this part of my body. 

Not so Donald. No shame. His fun is shameless, unaffected, delighted. He raises his buttocks from the bottom of the bath and sticks his penis proudly up out of the water. It’s his lighthouse, he says. His testicles are the rocks. He roils up a storm in the water with his hand, and crashes his boat against the lighthouse. The boat sinks. All souls are lost…

Your turn, he tells me. But I am too shy. Astonished, a little abashed by my cousin’s boldness, I stay down under the water where my penis can’t be seen. But I know now that I have one. I know how it sticks out. And if only I dared, I’d play lighthouse too. Like Donald.




Monday, January 9, 2017

MAGNOLIA

Here's a lovely short poem by my friend Paul Gerhards. Paul, who lives up in Oregon, is the author of a little book that I found very useful when it first came out: Mapping the Dharma--now unfortunately out of print. Paul also writes a blog, When This Is, That Is: Exploring the World of Conditionality--from which you will know that he shares my deep regard for Buddhist thought. For a while he managed a small publishing operation that he called Parami Press, and published two of my collections of essays, Persist: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad with Commerce; and MindWork. I'm grateful for the interest he took in my work, and remain more than a little sad that Parami Press did not survive the many challenges facing the small publisher.

Paul's poem presents us with at least two big ethical conundrums in its few short words, and asks us to reflect on how we learn that "right" and "wrong" are wonderfully slippery concepts, even--perhaps especially!-- for a little boy. Nicely done!

MAGNOLIA
By Paul Gerhards
MagnoliaWhen a little boy—maybe
Three, maybe four—
I plucked a magnolia
Blossom from a neighbor’s
Tree and gave it
To my mother.
She told me it was wrong
To take what did not
Belong to me, yet she
Acknowledged my gift
By placing it afloat
In a crystal dish.

Friday, January 6, 2017

BM on FB

Dear friends of Boyhood Memories,

Please note that I have created a new 'Author' page on Facebook. If you would like to stay up-to-date on my latest work, please join me there.

See you on Facebook!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A TALL TALE

Once in a while I'm delighted by a story that is as irresistibly American as apple pie. Carm Goode's has a touch of Norman Rockwell, a whiff of Mark Twain. I think it's one of the hallmarks of boyhood to tell tall tales. Or fibs. Whatever you want to call them. We do it to excuse ourselves, to feign innocence, to indulge in a little self-aggrandizement... for any number of reasons, then. Some of ue end up feeling guilty about it. Carm Goode is an independent design professional based in the Los Angeles area. He took over as Department Chair in the Art Department at Loyola Marymount University shortly after I abandoned my former life as Dean of Fine and Communication Arts there; his distinguished teaching career also included stints at Art Center College of Design, Otis College of Art and Design, and California State University, Fullerton. In this story he ends up feeling... well, pretty darn proud.

It’s My Story and I’m Stickin’ To It.
By Carm Goode

I don't care if you believe this or not but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It happened way back when, in Arling, a whistle stop in the middle of a little farming community in the mountains of Idaho. I lived there, along with my mother, my father, and my brother Billy...


Myself, Duke and Billy. Photo: courtesy Carm Goode
... in the back room of the F. B. Goode General Merchandise Store.

The Arling Post Office occupied a cubicle along one wall inside the Store. There was a gas pump out front and a hitching post to one side. In back, there was an icehouse, a few other sheds, and a barn. The schoolhouse, District 7, was a few yards away to the North. Over by the railroad tracks, there were a couple other houses, some corrals, and The Mountain Valley Seed Company warehouse. There was no question though, the Store and the Post Office were the heart and soul of the community. Since the beginning of time, Arling had been the crossroads of the world. Now it’s all at the bottom of a hatched- up lake.

In its glory days, The F. B. Goode emporium was a single large room rimmed with shelves filled with Wheaties and candy bars and chewing tobacco and boxes of shells and fishhooks. A stalk of bright yellow bananas always hung by the scales. There was a sack of coffee beans here, a quite smelly barrel of vinegar there, and three or four kegs of nails over in the corner. A horse collar or two hung from the rafters.

The mandatory cast iron, pot bellied wood stove occupied the center of the store. All winter long and on into the muddy Long Valley spring, on just about any given day, four or five hearty fellows in well-worn overalls and mud-splattered boots would be sitting around the stove. The spittoon rang like a chime every couple of minutes. Each of those fellows, my Dad included, knew just a little bit more than the fellow beside him about the politics of the day.

The social life of the ladies, revolved for the most part, around the activities of The Arling Club. To take their minds off the problems of those grim depression years, the ladies staged events like fashion shows or minstrel shows (black face and all.) No one is likely to forget the mock wedding the ladies staged one spring, just for the heck of it... 


Mock Wedding. Photo: courtesy Carm Goode
The gents in this compelling photograph are really Arling ladies dressed up as gents. My mother with her outsized bow, to the far left, was the flower girl. I came along for the cake.

I was a few years older one day, when Dad was supposed to be watching me while Mom went off to her club meeting. In all fairness, he had a lot on his mind. My Dad was Franklyn Delano Roosevelt’s right hand man and just then, they were both working as hard as they could, against all odds, to save our poor country.

And so, right there in the middle of one of those heated discussions about the fate of our country, I came running into the store, blubbering away, my head a bloody mess. I managed somehow to tell them what had just happened to me: a horse had kicked me in the head! Everybody jumped up and ran outside. They looked all over the place. They searched for quite a while, but oddly enough, even to this day, no one has ever been able to find that damn horse. How they could they have missed a great big black horse is a mystery to me.

Finally, everybody came back inside. Those goddam, dirty, tabacca chewin’ bastards, Republicans and Democrats alike, every damned one of ‘em, were laughing. I’d gotten all bandaged up but I was still bleeding. And they thought it was funny! I got so mad I forgot how to cry. Sonsabitches! After a while, some dumb grownup had the nerve to say that maybe there never had been a horse in the first place! Then somebody else, I think it was Max Rietze, our Republican, said something that really made me mad. Maybe, he said, I’d been climbing around somewhere where I wasn't supposed to be climbing, and I’d fallen on my noggin. How could they talk like that? I told ‘em and I told ‘em and I told ‘em! It was just that simple; a big, big black horse kicked me in the head! But every time I told ‘em, damn em,’ they laughed a little harder.

When Mom got home, she believed me! And oh boy! Did she give Dad the dickens! Well it turns out I wasn’t really hurt all that much. Like Mom said, I was a pretty tough cookie. And I was... except for my feelings. Too bad you can’t put a splint on feelings. I might have healed up by now. You know though, I think that right from the start, I realized that it was kind of a grand thing for me to have a whole room full of grownups listen to me tell my story. Even today, whenever I get the chance, I tell that same story. I don’t really know though, if I’ve ever convinced a single person that one day, a long, long time ago, way back there in long lost Arling, a big, big, big black horse kicked me right in the head.
Frankly I don’t care. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it. As far as I’m concerned, the world would be a better place if everybody got a good kick in the head once in a while. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR...

... to all of us who once were boys and still have boyhood in our hearts. Please let me have your "most intense of boyhood memories." If you have already sent me one, please let me have another. If you have already sent two, send me a third... There is no limit!