Of friendship

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Written some time back. I was surprised to see never made it into this weblog.

Some friendships keep you sane

Since I wrote about Victor I feel I should say a little about Gordon. Not much. I'm uncomfortable with trying to render someone that is still living and important to me.

Gordon and I met through comics. Not in person. He was putting out a fanzine, Coffinworm. We wrote to each other. Eventually he came for a visit from Union City, PA (outside of Erie).

He met my friend Ebba and they instantly fell in. Ebba was living in Atlanta with her hateful commie boyfriend. The three of us decided we'd live together there. Her boyfriend, Billy, was the kind of guy who delights in tormenting cats by locking them up in windows. Ebba's was and is on the mushy side. Ebba probably fell for Billy because he was smart and a contradiction of everything she hated at home. Billy had an interesting approach to work. He'd hold a job for six months and then manage to get fired in such a manner that let him collect six months unemployment. Have to admire that. Very practical communism.

I only lived with them for a few months. I don't remember why but I went back to Savannah. Probably strain from immaturity and having to grow up.

Case in point. We became friendly with a young drunk named Ben and his middle-aged lover and keeper, Barbara. Ben wanted to stay at our apartment. We had to send Ben away. He had some stomach condition and could get drunk on a single beer. I cried. The reality of exerting self-interest was harder on me than I'd ever guessed. I'm baffled a bit at that earlier edition of myself. I'm too habituated to the realities of life to understand why he cried.

The apartment was small enough that they were glad to have it to themselves once I was gone. Better for a couple for sure since I couldn't distinguish between Ebba's orgasms and her asthma attacks.

I'd move in and out of Atlanta. They were my home base. Always there, always interested in what foolish things I was up to. Until their relationship became unglued.

All three of us wound up in San Francisco. I don't remember what led Ebba out there. I went out there, winding up helping Richard of San Francisco peddle hunks and pretty boys.

Gordon moved out there later. I wasn't in San Francisco. But when I went back for the second time he had space for me in the flat he shared with a couple of other guys. I remember one of them did not like me. He was the first person to say that I had "negative energy." I.e., I was pretty much not interested in what he had to say.

I remember poor Gordon getting shafted by the space cadet roommate who somehow lost the rent money. That Gordon is so organized and responsible has saved me from all sorts of problems. Gordon is as detached from the general run of things as I am. One of the things that has made us friends for almost 30 years. But he's always kind, compassionate and long-suffering.

I'm not sure why I moved out of our Haight-Ashbury flat. I'm not sure if in the changing of roommates I became the only gay guy in the flat. It may have just been I wanted more privacy. Which is to say I wanted to find guys to fuck and do it out of anyone else's earshot.

I moved to a residential hotel in the Tenderloin, the part of SF where the junkies and hookers lived. I always loved that part of a city. Partly it may have been reading John Rechy's City of Night. Partly it may have been a desire to distance myself as much as possible from the quintessential averageness of my past. For a long stretch I was much happier in the company of a drug addict or hustler than a suite & tie type.

It was here that for the first and only time I was accused of being racist. A black man fondled me in the lobby. I complained to the manager. I didn't really want him to do anything. I was just steamed, I hate being touched by strangers. But a couple of people said it was because I was from Georgia.

I met Hal Anthony Jackson here. He had a permanent intestinal by-pass. He'd been amazingly fat. The by-pass got him slim. Keeping it let him eat like an entire hog farm and stay slim. But it gave him the most horrible farts. His room smelt like a top-secret biological warfare lab. Stink them into submission.

The fat-loss had left him with an ugly stomach. That didn't make him less popular with the young men who were drawn to his straight-acting, Texas redneck manner. They all seemed to like to say "Excellent" in the most empathic manner. But Hal hated his gut. So he told a MediCal counselor that it made him impotent. The state of California paid to have his belly prettified.

The Tenderloin was about four blocks from Far West Research, the market research company that I worked for. Deciding I wanted more security I moved around the corner to another residential hotel that required you to have a key to get it.

Siobhan came to work for me at Far West not long after I moved. As I've already recounted she would leave me for Hal when he visited us in Durham several years later.

I visited Gordon's some, probably not often enough. Siobhan and I moved to Manhattan. We lived in a residential hotel at 79th and Amsterdam. I wasn't a success and she supported me. After about a year and a half we went to Savannah, living most of the time with Victor's mother.

I met Staci's soon to be ex-husband Ricky. They'd gone credit crazy and filled their house with things they didn't really need and certainly wouldn't when she left him. I got to see that my mother was living a surprisingly satisfying life. And I saw the Space Giants on TV.

Home town pleasures pall easily so we went on to Atlanta and lived with my old friend Ariel. I really wish I knew how to get in touch with him. But calling every variant of David Wayne Cochran I could find online didn't work. Shortly before leaving a friend of Ariel's decided that much to his surprise I was worth knowing. I was amazingly enough, literate and intelligent. I'm not knocking him. When I originally knew him his life with Severin (name from the Velvet Underground song that references Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, the man who gave us the word masochism) ... um, his life with Severin must've been confusing as hell.

In the in-between years their been a funny incident. I placed a personal ad in a local paper. The keywords were "androgynous/masculine seeks androgynous/feminine." Rose, as he was known back then, answered. Since he didn't think of me worth knowing back then we just laughed when I realized it was him on the other end of the phone. Had he felt different back then I wonder what've would've happened. Transvestites had not entered my imagination back then but Rose who did what was called genderfuck back then - wearing a dress without trying to look like a woman, was one of the two people I've know who could pull it off (hello to F. in NJ).

We had a parting meal together and Marc, as he was calling himself then, seemed to want to communicate as much about himself as he could. He confided that years before, either at Pratt or in Boston, he'd been known as Rose C' La Vie and was Marcel Duchamp's last lover.

Then we went up to Bethesda, Maryland and stayed with her parents. Her parents couldn't have been less like mine. Educated Yankees. Dad had been in the foreign service and was now a bigwig at something to do with Chinese-American trade. Mom bought food at a yuppified health food co-op and probably did good works. Don't think they were impressed with me at all and I don't much blame them. My strongest memory of the visit is discovering John Aubrey's Brief Lives, one of the most pleasing books I've ever read.

Nobody wants to live with Mom & Dad. Even if they are more liberal and smarter than Ward & June. So we called Gordon, he had space for us, and went back to San Francisco. The airplane was one of Freddy Laker's cheapies. En route there were noises that made me worry the plane was having trouble. I dismissed that knowing that I tend to be paranoid about heights. When we made the emergency landing at LAX I knew I'd been right. Never been on a plane since.

Gordon had warned me that he had the most awful roommate imaginable. I dismissed that but as I've written earlier The Woman Who Should Not Exist was impressively depressing.

I got my old job back at Far West. Siobhan worked with Gordon at another market research company doing coding, i.e., preparing the interviews for keypunch operators.

San Francisco had lost its charm. We were paying $600 a month in 1982 to live in the Mission District in a flat that would rock with the wind. What would it do if THE QUAKE hit? We wanted to leave.

We thought about Charleston, Savannah's 'Sister City.' Very pretty but the jobs there were probably limited. Gordon and I might've had to work in warehouses and Siobhan waiting tables.

I'd visited my friends Victor and Nancy in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Chapel Hill was wholly a student town. Very liberal, literate, comfortable. Among all the towns of the Research Triangle Park area we were bound to find most urban amenities. We called Victor and asked him to rent a place for us so we could move out.

I walked off my job, we left Carol alone and went. Not far out of town the car stalled. Thankfully it started again. Going over the mountains at five miles an hour with Gordon's little Toyota pulling a trailer was a bit worrisome. After that I kept myself stupefied on convenience mart microwaveable sandwiches until we hit the Tar Heel state. We were all impressed by the quality of the highways. But North Carolina and its then governor had a reputation as a progressive state. We didn't know about Jesse Helms.

Tar Heel Manor in the People's Republic of Carrboro where Victor had rented an apartment for us was knew but badly built. The doors weren't level, the central air vents pointed at the windows. The only distinction we could see between Carrboro and Chapel Hill was the sign that announced you were entering one or the other.

It was here that we'd hear hundreds of people simultaneously cheer at the toss of a basketball and then go out and tear up grocery stores. We knew we were in a different place.

Gordon would get a job at UNC-Chapel Hill's hospital. Siobhan worked for a Fast Fare, a convenience store. She became the manager. A thankless and demanding job that was probably worse than being an employee who was just passing through. Basketball is regarded as the acme of human achievement here and customers were disturbed when she couldn't feign an interest.

In my shamefully dilatory fashion I remained unemployed until Linda who owned a used paperback shop offered me a job. Bookends it was called. Chapel Hill's best used bookshop, then called Keith & Martin's (but run by Bill) offered to fill up the rest of my time. Bill and Linda have since merged housekeeping and businesses. It is now called with serene confidence The Bookshop and is a world-class used bookshop.

After working for them for a short time I said to myself "I can do this." Siobhan and I agreed it was a great idea. Gordon said he was interested if it didn't interfere with his comfort (or something like that). I took much of my pay in books instead of money. Siobhan did yard sales. I've written about the opening of the shop already.

After Siobhan left Gordon and I moved to Durham. We got an apartment from E.C. Harris, the shop's landlord. I was in a black funk from losing Siobhan. I don't remember much and don't want to. Some poor redneck had painted "Tow-O-Zone" on the complex's dumpster. I guess he meant tow-away-zone. One tenant would visit me and tell me an incoherent story that seemed to involve him having sex with gay men for money. I never could decide if he'd mistakenly assumed that since Gordon and I were two guys that I might be interested. Or if the various drugs he'd consumed made he just babble on. In the middle of the night I went to the sink to get a drink of water. I saw two guys in a nearby apartment hugging. Made me feel pretty bad.

Mr. Harris eventually supplied us with a house. On one side son and daughter lived with father and mother. They'd cuss and fight. They'd haul home junk and beat it up. I never was sure if it they were in the junk metal business or just took their frustrations out on it. The grandson would rock in his tire swing talking to himself, saying "Fuck. Motherfuck. Goddamn" and the like. Not sounding angry, perhaps just repeating the words most often used at home.

Life went on pretty calmly on Oakland Avenue for a few years. Then Gordon's mother died. She was an elementary school teacher but remarkably frugal. Gordon inherited enough money to (among other things) buy a house. He paid for it outright. My 'rent' was half his property tax.

We lived their together for many years. Until I moved away to be with Charles. I haven't said much about Gordon. If he were gone I could probably eulogize him. He has long been the most clear thinking, sane human being I've known.

Comments

Your life seems so fluid, I envy that. I feel balled and chained. It’s my own doing, really. I wish I had the guts to just pick up and go. I like reading about your life. There’s so much I haven’t even begun to delve into yet. What’s this bookstore that u work at? Do u own it? Is there an entry about that?

Picking up and leaving was the best thing I ever did. I did have to go back home a couple of times before I managed to keep on my own two feet. But when I left Savannah I had a couple of genuinely good friends in Atlanta.

Unless you are amazingly lucky there’s always going to be frustration and struggle at times.

I co-own my used book, CD, comics shop with my best friend. It has it’s own weblog.

Your feelings?

Please share your feelings about Of friendship.
Thanks,
Richard

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