Category Archives: dreams

The Preoccupied Sex.

 

In matters of gender, Billy Joel had already drawn his conclusions; Catholic girls started much too late.

The fact that she had never been Catholic and hadn’t qualified as a girl for at least forty eight years gave rise to her current contemplations.

All the junior orchestra students were already actively in high school when she’d joined their company and Ron, percussionist from the west side, had produced the first erection ever to have its effect upon her; the fact that he did so from a standing position, feet apart, bound by denim, to the right of the mounted snare was significant. She wouldn’t see a live one for another nine and a half years.

Christian Fundamentalism was all over itself about f~~king. In fact, the most venerated among their entrenched patriarchs were known to equivocate on matters of condemnation by spelling sin: “s-e-x.” In spite of rampant gossiping, slander, and generalized gluttony among its ranks its young were, from infancy, indoctrinated to revile the flesh and anything which felt of it. Subliminally led by Barbie and Ken who, though molded in malleable plastic and shaped to accommodate exterior attire bore neither nipple nor shaft, she would gradually reach her own realization – peaking at the image of a naked Christ on the cross. The Romans weren’t just bulky barbarians; they’d specialized in humiliation. Crucifixion was their preferred mode of execution precisely because it rendered the penis of their perceived subordinate fully engorged.

Art and religion, by rolling definition, would romanticize this harsh reality across the centuries. She was not immune. Christ and any of his images, rendered or imagined, never aroused in her anything but pious empathy for suffering, and dutiful obeisance, and the inspiration of awe. And, none of them were any help when it came to the overtaking ruminations on coitus and its mechanical apparatus. What one cannot know becomes precisely that about which one broods incessantly. 

Mr. Kantz taught history; Mr. Connelly, earth space science. Her classmates seemed distinguishably able to separate the valued from the dispensable. She, on the other hand, spent most of her energy surveying them. Which ones were doing it? With whom? How did they manage? Why did the boy she liked so much seem to want to touch girls who weren’t even smart? The other boys found her a curiosity; a couple of them looked at her with wet, squinting eyes, one in particular, dark, with small cauliflowered ears, a body so big that his legs opened outside of the desk into the aisles. But, most of the time, she fought to remained focused on taking notes and doing the dutiful things which would earn the high grades, for which purpose she had not yet determined. Actually engaging her frontal lobe for such things as critical, let alone divergent, thinking wouldn’t be happening, anytime soon. Art, and the half semester cycle by senior year, allowed temporary respite from all this anguish; the teacher recognized her abilities early, producing all manner of human body parts, cast in plaster, for her to render. The parts located between the thighs were not among them.

By the autumn of her nineteenth year, enrolled on portfolio scholarship in the fearlessly secular SUNY College at Fredonia the universe, ever ready, had ordered a proper introduction. David Small’s Drawing II model was godlike in proportions, of the rarest coloration auburn and green eyed and, gently flexing and stamping his feet, appeared before her with no warning at all.

Loincloths had long since been dispensed with by the life drawing community, even in the educational setting. The man was nude, from the curls on his head to the balls (of his feet). She was enraptured, forevermore.

Curiously, however, this idealized sensibility regarding beauty of form and face didn’t translate. What she had finally seen never reached out to touch her erogenous zones. Aesthetics were stubborn like that, not having been designed to meet need. 
 
And so, she resumed in the manner to which she had become accustomed. History of Architecture, for whose Ivy League professor she would, as work-study, mount slides ; Energy and Man, the latter a by-product of the conserving 70’s, taught at night by a bearded pot belly likely housed in the hills with, she calculated, a penchant for Spam and farm animals; and, Western Civilization, required after the registrar had determined that she had enrolled as a freshman without having completed sufficient high school credits to graduate. The professor for this course was, she decided, the homeliest man she had ever seen; yet, on a bus trip with the class to the Buffalo museum, she noted his exiting alone at a gated piece of gentrification and, in the next block, the girl with the long honey hair who had always sat closest to his desk and who had brought a large historical volume to share with him getting off next, neither of them returning to the bus en route back to school.
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Her daytime lunch partner was a muscular ruddy who’d been to Hull and back on an exchange, he and she sharing the distinct title of being the only two in the entire department who could actually draw. He’d daily recount his nightly escapades with each young woman as she appeared in the Union, describing just short of what they actually did once he’d seen the fine hair all over her body. He lived in one of the old houses in town, with a girl who had big eyes and no chin and who baked cookies every day, again no word on how he might’ve done with her what he may.
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By the next semester, she’d moved off campus with three dear Fundamentalists, one of them fancying herself liberal, allowing her strapping rock climber hunk to actually spend the night one weekend and ordering a glass perfume bottle shaped like a ghost the size of a man’s thumb from Avon to “give to her mother.” Of the other two, one would regularly entertain her fiance on the living room sofa after dark, the plywood walls separating her bedroom from the sounds emitted therewith utterly useless as any barrier to unbearable and unrequited imagination.
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Perhaps it was time to take a transfer to another school.
Her portfolio deemed strong by the drawing instructor, she submitted it to one of the Big Nine and was accepted in short order for the following semester, 3rd year. A tour of the Cleveland campus and its population of costumed characters provoked images of avant garde couplings seen in late night Grade B movies, their unrated references fleeting but memorable. Had the financial aid office of that institute not already bestowed its last penny of loan monies to, as her elder brother loudly accused in person, “minorities”, she would have certainly found out whether half of this could have been true.
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Instead, she remained on hiatus for the next two years, working and saving money and maintaining her hymen as intact as it could have been, given the painful injury caused by the steel painted child’s toy on the floor outside of the infant’s playpen for which a doctor had to be consulted. During those two years, she replaced glasses with contacs, got a Farrah Fawcett cut and perm, and had her eyebrows plucked away from center. Men in the office supply store now looked back at her from the front check out to the rear station, strikingly handsome men from the rich suburb, even a prisoner and his escort. She had two dates, one with a boy who took her to a dance club and sat arguing that dancing wasn’t like sex at all, that he never even thought about sex when he was dancing though she would not dance with him or anyone.
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The other was a trip to Minneapolis, to be hosted by her elder brother’s college friend who had become a doctor. He had invited her to visit specifically for her 21st birthday, to take her virginity, and he’d said so in no obscure terms. But, as she lay beside his half clothed body, the reality of his heretofore undisclosed debauchery was overtaking as was the large raised mole in the middle of his back, and she came home still wondering about the mechanical apparatus and how the whole act was managed, knowing only that she would have to be provided with some aesthetic allure in the future were she to even reconsider.
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By the following fall, she had returned to school, the same one from which she had taken leave two years earlier. This time, her thrust would be music, with the goal a teacher’s degree. Those who can, do; those who can’t do, teach; and, those who have never been told how fend for themselves, grasping blindly in the dark.
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Music History was presented in the recital hall auditorium by an already aging professor whose materials included a stereo turntable, a multitude of long play records, a standing microphone, and the magnificent capacity within his cranium for aural detail. Again, she sat, gazing around the room at the college students who played musical instruments, all of them having sex, all of them knowing how, all of them with a clear view of their own goals for the future. Some of them even knew how to play jazz. The imagery was almost too glorious to comprehend.
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The number of hours she sat in that class, the number of masterpieces of the musical literature which passed between her ears, the number of opportunities to actually hear and reflect upon the nature of the evolution of the form and structure of music as fine art, the golden chance at actual scholarship, all squandered at the feet of unwitting nymphomania.
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Perhaps that about which she would finally know so little was what kept everyone in institutions of higher learning together for one more year.  It had certainly sharpened her powers of observation to the razor’s edge. Instead of absorbing the chronological history of civilization, or the principles of higher maths and sciences, she had become a master of human behavior, a doctor of the art of the human condition.
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Whichever the ultimate, ascribed value, by Billy Joel or any number of other commentators hers was the embodiment of a lost generation of unfulfilled women, lives sacrificed at the altar of obsession with that which had been held just beyond their reach.
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p.s. to my Christian readers: this piece is neither an indictment of Christ (God forbid), nor people of faith; it is a personalized account of the effect of male dominated dogma on the life of women.
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© 7/4/2020       Ruth Ann Scanzillo.      All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or part, including translation or transcription, permitted without express written permission by the author. To request permission, please contact: littlebarefeet@msn.com
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The Sweet Thanksgiving.

 

The brisk breezes would stir the “whisker” tree’s fist sized tumbleweeds, scattering them between our feet as we scrambled up the steps and took the path between the rock gardens to the front porch at Mammy’s house. In summer we’d take the lazier, flat wide stone walkway from the drive, parallel the porch, the potted geraniums and succulents snuggled side by side along its railing under the broad, royal blue canvas awning flapping in the wind. From that side path, we could almost look Mammy in the eye, cushioned into her steel porch rocker in the far corner awaiting our appearance, smile alight.

But, come fall, we’d hasten past the battened down and molting toward the warm yellow light framed by the front door, halfway up the porch already hearing Aunt Martha’s belly and Pappy’s booming laugh, rising out of the maelstrom of chattering chaos already testing the outer walls of the entire house. Grasping the round, brass doorknob, and leaning into the glass paneled hardwood, we’d push and burst through, hardly noticed by the throng until one face turned and then Pappy, arms above his head, hands curled from hard work, roared out his raging welcome and everyone except the aunts who never stopped talking turning then to gather yet another of us into their arms.

Kicking the snow from our overshoes onto the multilayered hooked rugs, we’d stack them and take the short diagonal between the twin bookcases past the round oak dining room table and the African violets in the east window through to the kitchen, passing the ceramic cookie jar setting our paperbagged salad fixings carefully on the kitchen-turned- server table next to the apple, mincemeat, pumpkin, and rhubarb pies, where Mammy stood over the stove in her rick rack trimmed cotton apron, stirring a pot of gravy with a wooden spoon, the pressure cooker’s indicator bobbling and sputtering over the back burner like a steam train waiting in the station. All the aunts took their wide hipped turns in the kitchen, two of them diligent about the food and the other two appearing to inspect and taste test, the youngest with a wink toward a niece or nephew as she licked her finger.

Pappy was loud, and three of his four son in laws quiet, each quick with a joke or a witty comeback, Uncle Frank sitting with a closed eyed smile, Dad who was called Uncle Tony with his hands in his belt, napping already in the only scene where he would not command the center of attention, Uncle Bud standing tall near a corner already giggling through a long, spun yarn for the home movie camera, and Uncle George, egging Pappy on with his bright, Irish bell tenor.

We grandchildren were fifteen in all, the firstborn Alan, a brilliant artist and pianist, rarely able to come home anymore being married in Michigan, his four other siblings Philip, Lydia, Lois and Frannie often present, living only two doors down, the elder girls wearing their engagement rings dressed in wool sweaters and straight skirts and pointed pumps, Frannie in keeping with her other, younger counterparts in winter wear warm enough for playing outside if there were enough snow later. Then, cousin Bonnie and half brothers Butch and David from Lawrence Park because Uncle Bud worked at GE, and me and my two brothers, Nathan and Paul, having walked from around the corner and across the street and, finally, our four cousins from Ohio, Becky, Beth, Timmy and Kathy, the latter two with flaming red hair. Being either the first or last to arrive, once all were in house the card table would come out, and the floral painted linens, we among the smallest cousins relegated to the workroom where the rugs were braided and the clothes sewn and the toybox waited and, while the piano took turns being played and songs chosen for singing, the family like a choir from an old country church, Pappy the only tone deaf voice among them, the potatoes were mashed, the boiled bacon drippings poured over the salad, the parsnips and rutabaga and peas and Lima beans and corn ladeled into their divided serving dishes, the silver plated forks knives and spoons set on each soft, embossed linen napkin, tomato juice poured into the slender tulip glasses and set at the center of each China plate, head lettuce leaves placed on each smaller one for salad, fruit filled Jello squares lifted onto each leaf, one half teaspoon of Hellmann’s to dot each center, the gravy poured into the boat, the butter set in its silver dish, the roast carved and, finally, the Parker House rolls, ready and hot, in the round, linen lined bowl basket to table.

Pappy could be heard from any room in the house, but usually Aunt Dora Mae or Aunt Betty would call all to the dinner table. Aunt Dora Mae was hands down the better cook among them, Mammy’s eldest, but Mum’s voice was the most penetrating on account of her hearing loss and Aunt Frances was likely in earnest discussion with another of equal intellectual bent and Aunt Martha busy, laughing in a far corner, her nephews gathered around her ready audience testing their latest comedic mettle.

But, the food drew us all, to the oak table round circled by both Dora Mae and Betty as they’d labored the delivery of their firstborn, to the card table in the living room where Risk, Monopoly, Probe, and Life were won and lost, to the child’s table and chairs that Pappy made in the workroom just beyond the pantry and we, the Sweet family, sat our chaos down to the warmth of hot, family style Thanksgiving dinner and bowed our heads while Pappy thanked the God who brought him all the way across the Commonwealth to build cranes at BuCyrus-Erie, to the street corners to preach, to the City Mission and the Gospel Assembly Hall to settle his family in the east side neighborhood at 923 East 29th.

Then, everyone filled their faces, still all talking at once, Mammy finally sitting down at the kitchen end of the table, laughing with her mouth full, Pappy hunched over his plate, gumming his food with his teeth out, the aunts and uncles and cousins all tasting the same food with their own unique manifestations of the family DNA, all together, the whisker trees’ tumbleweeds flying about outside the east windows, as remnants of the feast wafted throughout the house to leave behind its everlasting aroma in the wallpaper, the white silken window curtains, the ceiling plaster, the floor underfoot, and the dark wood framing each room in the house, the collective spirit of nourishment sustaining life on one small, thankful speck of the planet as the world spun around once more.

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© 11/27/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line.

From the heart of Sweet gratitude: Happy Thanksgiving! from littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

“Undercover Billionaire” builds UNDERDOG BBQ in Erie, PA.

Just watched the Season Finale of “Undercover Billionaire” on the Discovery Channel – after following every episode, all summer.

This is a story of faith, and commitment, and the work ethic which built our city. That team, so artfully chosen by Glen, staying strong on a volunteer basis, just because some guy walked into their lives with a proposition.

Glen Stearns has me convinced as an adorable, warm, genuine, positive, and true guy, and I really don’t care what his net worth actually is. Admittedly, after the first episode, I wondered how he could get somebody to buy used tires from him on a discard lot, and I said so on Facebook.  Then, about three weeks ago, I and members of my string quartet had lunch at UNDERDOG BBQ, the restaurant he and his team built in 90 days.

We had a really great time there! The sandwiches were hearty, the portions were generous, I had well more than a scant one or two gluten and soy free options, detecting no added sugars or excess salt in the meat – in fact, my lunch was complete – (about which I was ecstatic!), and the service from Carmen was personalized and memorable.

Some locals have compared their food to Federal BBQ on Peach, but I have never yet been there so I offer no quality judgments; what I will say is that I cannot wait to return to UNDERDOG BBQ for a rib rack on a plate and a fair taste of the entire menu. This multi-faceted, multi-armed venture has the potential to do so much for our beloved hometown and people who are really willing to w.o.r.k., just like his team, and we should get b.e.h.i.n.d. them 150%!!!! In fact, as a former “waitress” to Panos, on Pine, Denny’s on Peach AND W 26th, and Friendly Ice Cream, this old retired teacher might just show up and apply for a summer job!

I’m SOLD.

UNDERDOG BBQ — featuring ribs, brisket, multiple sides/love the collard greens, original sauces, complete gluten and soy free options, and a hallmark craft beer, Undergrog.
Where: 3040 W Lake Rd, Erie, PA 16505
Phone: 814.790.4001.  Merch available online.
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© 9/25/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo, Erie PA.
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