Posts Tagged ‘Tarzan’

Holiday Spirit(s)

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

I was the last child of three. And with each Christmas, my older siblings’ interests in the holiday waned. My mother, too, seemed to care a little less about all the preparations each year. So, in the void they left behind, I saw an opportunity. My authority — and autonomy — over decorating the house grew as they relinquished theirs.

Night comes early in late December. And, as a kid, that suited me just fine.

When night came, I’d plug in the plastic candles that sat on the windowsills of our apartment, turn off the rest of the lights in the living room and plug in the tree. Then I’d sit quietly in the shadows — or space permitting, lie directly under the tree — and stare at the play of the twinkle lights on the glass ornaments and slivered plastic icicles … well, until someone demanded to know why the hell all the lights were off and I was sitting like an idiot in the dark. But even then, my mother would have to pause for a moment before telling me to turn on a lamp. And she’d take that opportunity to comment:

“I know I say this every year, but that’s the most beautiful tree we’ve ever had.”

Through the magic of plastic extrusion technology, it was, in fact, the very same tree we’d had for several years running. But that didn’t matter. It was beautiful. And the light it shed was the perfect counterpoint to the early darkness. In the warmth of its glow I could release my fantasies into the room around me. But my fascination with the tree wasn’t limited to the hours after sunset.

I was a solitary kid and, outside of school, I spent most of my time by myself. I filled my afternoons and evenings with the stories I’d spin around my toys or the characters I discovered in comic books and on television. It sounds a bit lonely, but I found it very satisfying. And something about our Christmas decorations stoked the fires of my vocation.

As I’d unpack those familiar items each year, it was like greeting old friends. Sure, most of the ornaments were just silvered glass balls tarted up with various kinds of tinsel or paint. But many — usually the cheapest ones — took more specific forms, like those of misshapen fabric elves or animals. And there were the dozens of other tchotchkes my mother had purchased over the years, too: santa and snowman window shade pulls; the ceramic elf candle holders which contorted their little holly-covered bodies to spell out the word “noel.” One of my favorites was an old wooden sleigh that she’d pack with a Santa-shaped candle and as many miniature candy canes as would fit. Then she’d tie it to a stuffed reindeer with a yard of red curling ribbon and place it proudly by the front door.

These weren’t just decorations. They were toys charged with that special energy that I attached to all things Christmas. And they slid seamlessly into the stories I’d spin over the few hours between the time I got home from school and the time my mother got home from work.

G.I. Joe could scale the tree to rescue the elf ornaments hanging helplessly by the points on their hats. My plastic Creature from the Black Lagoon could join Santa in that sleigh as it flew from the living room, into my bedroom, and back.

In my mind, this Christmas time of year changed the stories of everyone it touched. It engulfed us all in one big narrative of goodwill and twinkle lights. So it made perfect sense that the Creature would accompany Santa, that G.I. Joe would befriend those weird little elf ornaments, and that we’d all sing along with Perry Como as his voice blasted from our portable stereo. We all embodied that Holiday Spirit as it infected each one of us and we passed it along to those we touched. That was what made Christmas so different from the rest of year; it’s what made it so painfully wonderful.

In a fit of nostalgia for those flying sleigh rides around the apartment, I decided to recreate some of those Holiday Spirits. And now you get the chance to experience them for yourself. Just click on the big, shiny button below to get started.

They Made Me a Homosexual: Comic Books

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Images that glorified the male form. Stories that encouraged violence and vigilantism. Outsiders living double lives behind masks and other clever disguises. The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency was right to alert the public to the dangers of comic books in 1954.

Maybe comic books didn’t actually make me a homo. But since I already was a homo, they certainly helped to shape my erotic aesthetic.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time by myself. And I remember — fondly — the hours I passed in our basement beside a bin my brother had filled with his old, cast-off comics. I would pull out three or four at a time and read them over and over again.

They were mostly DC comics from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. And anyone familiar with these Silver Age relics knows that meant a very specific style in their imagery and their stories.

Bland as the plots may have been, the images told a very different story to the hormones just starting to drip into my pre-adolescent brain. I would stare in quiet silence at the rippling muscles of their heroes’ torsos and wonder what was hidden inside their skin-tight briefs.

Every now and then, an image would strike an especially resonant chord. Time and space would evaporate as I lost myself in the illustration, straining to see more even as it dissolved into an abstraction of Ben-Day dots the closer I got to the page.

That tension between what the images suggested and what I could never actually see would fire my imagination for hours at a time.

Since then, I’ve spent a good deal of time (and money) on eBay, strip-mining the refuse from other people’s attics and basements, just to re-connect with those early rumblings of the erotic impulse I first heard next to that bin of comic books.

They conjure up a weird mix of nostalgia and arousal. But I’m still not sure what I’m able to see in those images. Maybe I’m just trying to remember a time before my erotic thoughts felt so regimented and codified; before I even knew to call them “sexual” and, in naming them, to disconnect them from the rest of my world.

Whatever. They’re still good to look at. So, I’ve posted below some choice examples from the collection. Just click on a thumbnail to view them.

Read more about the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and Fredric Wertham, the man behind the comic book scare, at Wikipedia.

And after you consider how many times a day you visit their site, consider making a donation to Wikipedia, too.