Part 49: Boo! Halloween, Boobs, and Scary Art
It's Sunday, October 25th, 2020. Halloween is next week. Riley's birthday was a few days ago. His journal, which I discovered last year, begins each entry with his birthday, October 21st. My father read voraciously, focusing on politics, local and world news, but sometimes in his journal he focused on art and culture-- for example the premiere of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" in 1970.
Today, rather than speak to what the media is hyper-focused on, (the election is 9 days away) I'm digging into an ongoing story that gets some attention, but not as much as it would have if we didn't have a media whore in the White House sucking up all the airtime. It's scary news--- the plot unfolds like a horror movie. U.S. Diplomats fell ill in Cuba four years ago, after hearing a strange, high pitched noise, and immediately suffered dizziness, insomnia, memory loss, and they had trouble concentrating. The diplomats had difficulties being taken seriously when they reported what they'd heard, and what they were going through. Some were told there was a kind of mass hysteria going on, and their concerns were labeled "Havana Syndrome". Two years later, diplomats in China also had a strange experience... an unusual sound at night, which they said was like a marble striking the floor above them. Then came lightheadedness, sleep issues, and headaches. A man named Mark Lenzi, a diplomat in China, said that his wife and two children also suffered bloody noses after the noise. They all had substantial memory loss. The State Department had labeled these events as "health incidents", but doctors have confirmed that there was brain injury involved. Now, there are theories by intelligence agencies that the sound might be some new weapon that can target individuals in their homes, perhaps a type of microwave weapon. Creepy....
Back to porn. Here's the last porn book by Zachary Quill that I purchased, below. Notice that Riley is now a PH.D. again. The publisher was Capri Publishers, LTD, London and New York. The color scheme of the cover art is perfect for this Halloween edition of my blog, it's downright autumnal.
I was going to skip this book, because I'm sick of writing about porn, but here I am. I covered up her boobs because Americans are freaked out by them. When I first photographed the cover, I forgot to cover her bosom before sharing, and I posted the snap shot on Facebook to amuse my friends. The action was swift! I got a notice right away, and the photograph was removed. Boy, Facebook, if you could only act that swiftly on stuff that actually matters. Oh well. More on boobs, soon.
I got this book, "Heterosexuality: A New Approach Vol.1" at Abe Books. Is there a volume 2 out there somewhere? I don't know. Anyway, many of the pages were loose, and when I opened it up for the first time, all these black and white photographs fell to the ground, covering our bamboo flooring with graphic sexual images. The book is filled with photographs of couples having sex and it's gross. Riley wrote the text, because it goes back to his style of writing, like a professor pontificating about sex. He sprinkles in the ways in which religion shames people, and he mixes in scientific stuff and history. The publication date is 1973. In the early 1970s he had a this project going with someone else, the writing partner I alluded to in the previous blog. When we were living in Oxnard, my father told us that this writing partner took off to London with all the money they'd made. After that, we got evicted from the house we were in on Cypress Street. That was around 1975. I had come across some of the photographs they were using for these books in that house when I was ten years-old.
A few years ago, I read a memoir by Chris Offutt called "My Father, The Pornographer". Here's the link on Good Reads. I had to skip over some of the more graphic descriptions in the story regarding the kind of porn that his dad wrote, I just couldn't stomach the subject, but Offutt's recollections about coming across pornography as a young person captured the confusion perfectly. Anyway, it turned out that this author is a friend of one of my close friends, and we had an email correspondence. It's a small world.
Offutt's father made a good living writing porn books, they had a family home, bills were paid, and I think Chris Offutt mentioned his orthodontia was paid for because his father made a great living cranking out titles. Lisa, (the sister I grew up with) and I had to pay for our own trips to the orthodontist when we could afford to, we both had braces on our teeth in our 40s. Lisa would've had her braces sooner, but Riley borrowed the $800.00 she had saved up, slowing her down. "He always had a sixth sense when we had money saved up," Lisa said in a phone call recently. When I was reading the part in Offutt's book about the financial success and comfortable life the family had, I felt envious. But I wouldn't trade fathers with him, you'll see that when you read the book.
I don't know if I can keep this last Zachary Quill book in my house. I'm one of those people who thinks about what happens after I die. My mind propels forward to someone going through my things, and they come across this intense pornography.
Why do I care what people think of me after I'm dead? Because I'm nuts, that's why.
There's something about actual photographs that makes the porn more graphic, and this is just...again this word comes up so much....GROSS. But. I'll sell it to you for $40.00... plus shipping. Lmk.
I'm going to cleanse our palates now, like they do at fancy restaurants, this time to get the porn out of our system. We'll do a pumpkin spice flavor to celebrate the holiday. Here comes the cleanse. Porn be gone. Time for scary art and Halloween nonsense.
Jan Svetlik, artist
This painting scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. It is one of my earliest memories... this doll, separated from it's head, tossed in a strange mushroom patch. My mother, Jan Svetlik, is the artist. It's the perfect image for my Halloween blog. Notice all the cool art supplies behind the painting, the coffee cup, the old bottles, the thick leather handbag. That's what tables looked like back then at our places. I don't say "at home" I say "places we lived" because there wasn't one home.
My mother's work was constant, and I got to see her finish a painting, have shows, and occasionally make sales. She often had to hide her money from Riley, because he would borrow it, and then we'd be left with no food in the house. My father's work, on the other hand, seemed to be behind him, or somewhere way off in the future, possibilities of this or that happening. It was as if unseen forces had put his career on hold and everything was a struggle. With Riley, it was all about the day his "Encyclopedia of Folk Music" would be published...
Spooky story about this painting, my mother told me she painted this in the 1960s and was influenced by the then hippie culture then, mushrooms and psychedelic stuff. Unfortunately, she painted it with a faulty technique and the paint started flaking off. Maybe that was another thing that freaked me out as a kid, the flakes were rising up from the canvas like tiny, colorful zombies.
When I saw this image in Mom's box of slides, it took me back to that time. One autumn in Hollywood, right after we had just moved into a new apartment complex, my mother dressed me up for Halloween (I don't remember as what, a witch, perhaps?) and took me out to knock on the first neighbor's door. I'm guessing I was around six years-old. I had my little empty bag, and my mother knocked gingerly, her small hands flecked with oil paint. A young couple came to the door with surprised looks on their faces. Mom elbowed me gently to say my line. "Trick...er treat," I said, my face hopeful, opening up my bag.
"Oh," the man said, "Halloween was last night. We don't have any candy left." I was crest fallen. We shuffled back to our place, my empty bag dangling from my hand. My mother had taken me out trick-or-treating on the wrong night. I used to joke about this, and my husband was astonished when I told him that story. First he laughed, and then he was sad. "It's so pathetically funny," David said. I'm not writing about this incident to make my mother feel bad. She was under an enormous amount of stress, and Riley had probably moved her around over 20 times by that Halloween night. I must admit, there's something disorienting about being moved around, never getting to know neighbors, not having a sense of community. It can take your sense of time away.
I see the kids in my neighborhood now during this shut down, walking around alone, shoulders slumped. They look forlorn and isolated. It's been seven months or more since they've run free with friends. Something about seeing the children during COVID-19 reminds me of my childhood--- it's the way they seem to drift aimlessly instead of walk with a purpose. I want to shout out to them, I know what it's like to feel isolated and disconnected! Things will work out!
I love getting dressed up for Halloween, but I'm not sure if I will this year. David doesn't like to dress up... he was an actor, and expects to be paid to put on a costume. This season, we thought about getting crafty and making a six foot slide for the candy, whooshing it from the upper porch down to the sidewalk, except I'm not sure anyone will be out to catch it.
One Halloween, I dressed as a "Seattle Woman." I was making fun of something I noticed when I first moved here from California; women don't dress up here, and I often felt over-dressed. People would show up to parties in hiking gear. My Halloween costume that year was baggy hiking pants, an oatmeal colored polar-fleece sweater, a nubby, dirt brown winter cap, no make-up, hair pulled back with no particular goal in mind, and of course, old, tan-colored Merrill shoes that resembled baked potatoes on my feet. The only problem was, no one knew I was in a costume. Total failure that year. Plus, that exact "costume" is pretty much my COVID-19 outfit.
After that, I set my mind to making other joke costumes, but ones that would not go unnoticed. Over the years, I've made for the fact that my mother took me out on the wrong night for Halloween. Treat yo self.
Below is my homage to Freda Kahlo. The concept was "the eyebrow waxer has a mono-brow for Halloween", but I skipped the mustache part. Yes, it's cultural appropriation, but the ice caps are melting. In the scheme of things, I say, get over it. You can see our beloved old dog Chester behind me on the rug. He was so beautiful, like a giant lion, and the kids loved him so.
I lost a client because of this costume, below. This was the Halloween after the Access Hollywood/Billy Bush/Trump tapes came out. The client didn't think mocking the pussy grabber was appropriate. I dressed as a Fox News anchor woman, with tiny orange man hands grabbing my boob, and grabbing my "kitty cat" which I strung on a fishing wire (next to another tiny orange man hand) near my pelvic region. To be fair, I put the pussy cat and tiny orange man hand on the fishing wire so that when the children came to our door, I could spin it around and hide it behind my back. They still got the boob part, though.
Back to boobs. Full circle.
Next up, part 50: At age 21, I challenge one of Riley's investors to a duel, to protect my mother's honor. It doesn't go well...