Today I was surprised, and delighted, by a phone call from Rob. I don't have his number, and couldn't afford our several hour transatlantic conversations if I did, so I await his random sonic visitations as a saint would an angel. For anyone who knows either of us, that should set off a peel of laughter. And there was plenty of laughing shared between us, as usual - his peels rocking the phone with the depth of the cola salesman, only real.
We met in DC. His 18 year juniority belied by an otherworldly sophistication. Perhaps the initial attraction was aided by our surface stereotypes, but to our credit, we swiftly relegated those to absurdist entertainment once we discovered the more complicated, and deeper, dynamics within.
We had some experiences in common. Growing up edge of rural in Jerry Falwell town, VA., he had even worked in hay.
On his first visit to dandyland, a story and a half in itself, he let me read a series of stories about his childhood, delicious revenges exacted on a host of cretinish predators who could not imagine the combination of Lolita and imp they were messing with. I said then and I say now that those stories were as good as anything Capote wrote. Rob shed the laptop they were on somewhere along his journey and never seemed to care. I wish now I'd copied them onto paper by hand.
He was in the process of leaving the US when we met, absolutely having no more of it. The stupidity and vileness of racism and homophobia were bad enough, but the coarseness of its presentation was inexcusable. And, ultimately, unfashionable, which in Rob's case meant he wasn't participating. He wasn't so naive as to believe that racism and homophobia weren't present in Europe in equal measure, but at least there the manner of it was crafted with a degree of hauteur he could relate to. In the US he felt certain he'd go to prison for thrashing someone, sooner or later, for lacking good manners. And I think he was right, racism and homophobia are amongst the sort of character flaws that anyone might possess and keep to themselves, with even a modicum of social decorum. To allow them to intrude into the lives of others, fueled only by the uncultivated lack of restraint, is boorish, inexcusable, and an argument for spanking. Who cares about your hatred? Grow up.
We were strolling down the Champs Elysees, the occasion being my second proposal, when I noticed a trio of primary cookstoves, the most beautiful kitchen fittings I'd ever seen. Hoping to sink a tiny barb, I told him that I liked those stoves better than anything in his temple of Prada. He countered that I set my dreams too low, what he wanted, and intended to have, was a top floor apartment, exactly like one that he pointed out across the street, in just such a glamorous location. Now that we were intent on stinging each other, I told him that the charms of the city were too ephemeral for me anyway, regardless of the address, and besides, his dream was a pipe dream. There was no way on earth that such an address, costing millions of Euros, would ever be his. He didn't bother to respond to that, nor even show that it was beneath his dignity to. I suppose by now you've guessed the sort of address he telephoned me from.
Our present conversation was much more fascinating than our past history. I told him a little about my work on You'll Always Come Back, leading to thoughts about "race in america." Rob isn't impressed with Obama, who in his opinion smiles too much.
I told him a little of the theory I'm working from in YACB, that an enduring aspect of "the problem" is embedded in language itself, the metaphoric clusters of adjectives that form categories of value associating light with good, dark with bad, before a thought is even formed. And those formed, perhaps, in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years of usage, and growing out of our history as diurnal mammals with lots of big-toothed reasons (cats anyone?) to fear the darkness. And I'm not saying that there aren't reasons to fear the equatorial darkness just as much as the nordic, but you add months of cold to dark and it is just worse. It kills old people and hardens young ones. The prospect of deconstructing language itself, in the cause of civility, is, needless to say, a bit more of a pipe dream than the poshest apartment. But we can laugh about that now, content just to love each other.
Rob said perhaps I should set aside part of YACB for the two of us to sit face to face and talk about race and color, interspersed with musical and video interludes, and I told him to book his ticket. He also told me about a friend there, from Cameroon, who had a fashionable bar. He had all the attributes, comically listed by Rob, that form the Attractive African Stereotype for white European men with those tastes, but that, their interests being located on a somewhat lower area of focus than the brain, as soon as they discovered a sophisticated intelligence in command of the physical attributes, would lose all interest in dating.
The primitive darkness, as I reminded Rob, is associated with what's confusedly designated as animal nature, and with that, the ever dreamed of hyper-sexuality of the unrepressed and unscrubbed pre-civilized. Yes, he sighed, enlightenment doesn't belong in the bedroom. He drops great quotes like the petals of an exhausted flower.
But he quickly countered that enlightenment DID belong in HIS bedroom, and that he had no intention of allowing some uncouth creature in to thrash around there and possibly damage his art collection. So there you go, we've both become utopian hermits. It's so great to have friends.