Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bronchitis, Paris

I have Bronchitis. Apparently I'm not going to die.
There's a woman at work, all she has to offer is crazy. It used to bother me, but it doesn't anymore as I now know the score. She can sell crazy somewhere else, I'm all stocked up now. There should be a self help book on how sensitive people can not give in to the craziness of others. I think I'll write it.
Being sick so much, I kind of miss having a TV. My mom has been gone for a week on vacation, which I don't remember authorizing, and my dad has been really supportive and stepped up, which I needed. I have a new book to read, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, some magazines, and I'm downloading Mad Men. I saw episode one last night, I LOVE the 50's feel. "You look like 100 bucks" wasn't a slam back then.

And oh, I'M GOING TO PARIS! I am really happy about that. I can't wait. Tentative itinerary time.

Heading to Tripadvisor I see they're giving away $1 million and you get to vote for the charity. Let's see, Save The Children? I hate children. Doctors Without Borders? I've never forgiven the missionaries who brought medicine (and religion) to Africa, making a family who has 10 children and lost 4 to illness, now keep all 10 in a country that can't sustain the population, leading to AIDS and mass poverty in a once mighty nation. So no. Conservation International it is! Of course they only have 4% of the vote. I should have known I'd pick the least popular.

I arrive on Oct 11. I have a meeting at the Gay Archives in Paris I heard back from them today, I'm seeing them Sunday. Hopefully this map link works. They've invited me for 10 am and to stay for their annual book sale at 2 that day as an honoured guest. What the Hell will I wear?
So let's assume I wander around with my dad on Saturday night after we check in, maybe see the Eiffel Tower, open 9:30 to 11:45 and Sunday I can go to the Archives and the gay district and my dad can check out the French fish tanks.
I'm staying at the Garden Hotel:

Let's see if they have directions from the airport. "RER B towards Paris to Gare du Nord, then take metro line 5 towards Place d'Italie to Oberkampf, then take line 9 towards Mairie de Montreuil to Saint Ambroise. “Eglise Saint Ambroise” exit." Is that in English? I'd better print the maps. Stupid flash site, what is this, 2003? I'd better also print the subway map:

What could be simpler? Just like Toronto. It only took 10 minutes to find my subway stop, unlike Poland where it took 2 hours.
Now where is the gay archives? There's a lesbian archives where men are not allowed in. Try that with a gay archives. It is not to be found. I have to wait for them to email me. Where is the gay village? On a street called des Mauvais Garcons how fitting. A gay community centre near Notre Dame. A 30 minute walk from the hotel to 63 rue Beaubourg 75003 or Rambutau metro station. One thing done! If they have a gay tourist office, why don't they put on the site, GO TO RAMBUTEAU SUBWAY. Idiots.
Sunday I could also see Palais Garnier:

It's where the Phantom of the Opera story comes from. Opera metro stop. 10-5.
Ok so I have Monday and Tuesday. Maybe Normandy on Wednesday.
The Rodin Museum is listed as the number one thing to do. I saw the Rodin museum in Philadelphia, I was there 5 minutes. Let's skip this.
Les Invalides and Napoleon's Tomb

This huge domed structure was constructed in the late 17th century under the direction of Louis XIV to shelter old and wounded soldiers and includes the more recent addition of Napoleon's tomb. Get off at is Ecole Militaire (line 8) as the ticket office is in the south western tip of the Museum. From there it's a 10 minute walk along the Avenue de Tourville. Open 10-5.
Musee d'Orsay

Cheap for people under 30. Says its more intimate than the Louvre. Open 9:30 to 6, closed Mondays. Near Assemblée Nationale metro, line 12.
Musee du Louvre

A must. It says it's very busy, which I assume means Prague busy and you can't walk. Fun. Palais Royale metro, line 7. Closed Tuesday, open 9-6 every other day, open until 10 on Wednesday. Maybe we can skip Normandy and spend that Wednesday at the Louvre. Oh, and the Mona Lisa is there.

Ok, screw that, the above photo is from the Claude Monet house, which surpasses all expectations and is beside a poppy field, which I've always wanted to see. Maybe we can go there Monday, nope closed Mondays. The tour is $370. Crazy. There's a train leaving at 8:05 from Saint Lazare metro, line 14. The next train leaves at noon. That sucks. Returns from Vernon at 2:57, 5:12, and 6:06. The train is $60 for second class. Crazy. "T. V. S." coaches take you to Giverny for 4 Euro round trip and follow the train, leaving at 2:30, 4:30 and 5:30.
Notre Dame Cathedral

Open 8 - 6:45 and near Cité metro, line 4. Priests are on hand.
The Pantheon

Some say better than Notre Dame. Near Cardinal Lemoine, Line 10. Open 10-6.
Arc de Triomphe

Perhaps we could see this the Saturday we arrive. Lines 1, 2 and 6, station Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile. 10-10:30, magnificient view from the top. Far from our hotel.
Centre Pompidou

Some say better than the Louvre. Modern art. Open 11-10, closed Tuesdays. Near Rambuteau.
The Catacombs

A must. Notice the skulls on the wall. 10-5, closed Monday. Denfert-Rochereau metro, line 4 or 6.
A river cruise on the Seine sounds good too.
Ok so tentatively:
Saturday - Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe
Sunday - Gay archives, gay district, Paris opera house
Monday - Notre dame, Les Invalides, Musee d'Orsay, Cruise the Seine,
Tuesday - Monet house, Centre Pompideau
Wednesday - Catacombs, Louvre
Thursday travel to Amsterdam.
We're staying in a religious hostel.

Actual picture.

Not actual picture.

Anyway, Schiphol Airport is situated 18 km from Amsterdam. Trains from the airport leave frequently to Amsterdam Central Station (the trip takes takes 20 minutes and costs about 3 Euros). Take metro 51, 53 or 54 (underground) from Central Station (one travelzone). Get off at the first stop, called Nieuwmarkt. Cross the square into Barndesteeg. The Shelter City is at number 21. Subway map:

Print this.
The Anne Frank House is a 20 minute walk from the hostel. I will buy tickets online tomorrow as it saves a 2 hour wait and I won't have a printer in Amsterdam. Some of the times are already sold out. I need to see this, so let's go first thing Friday morning.
Helpfully the gay district is 10 minutes away.
The Resistance Museum looks good. Open 10-5, weekends 11-5. You can walk there using an interactive Anne Frank Walk map purchased at the Anne Frank house. Convenient!
I need to sleep, I just took some medicine. Let's make this quick.
National Museum

Let's hope this couple has left. 9-6, Friday 9-8:30. Special exhibits Friday night. From Central Station: tram 2 or 5 (to Hobbemastraat).
A co-ed naked sauna I'll give a miss. What would the nuns say?
Red Light District

Right beside our hostel.
The Stedelijk Museum is close to Central Station.
Friday - Anne Frank House, Resistence Museum, National Museum
Saturday - Explore!
Sick, sleeping.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tim Gunn Worthy?

Ok, maybe not Tim Gunn worthy, but I think aspects are close. This will be the last post, a trilogy on this problem, and then I'm done. I am going to the doctor tomorrow, I am working on getting healthy and happy. I'm going to Paris in 10 days, I'm going to focus on that.
I have had a couple days in the dumps, tomorrow it turns around.

"I love you. I hope I have shown this by asking about you, always sending you little things in the mail, giving you my TV, and offering to have you be a part of my life.
In return for more than the past year, all you have given me is hostility and aggression. You have not called unless you needed something, you have not invited me to be a part of your life. You may have your reasons, but you have never offered them to me or shown an interest in working through any problem we may have.

Threats, like the one below about attacking me, are not something I am ever going to tolerate. I don't know if you're referring to physical violence but I just hope at some point you get the help you need to put this aggression behind you.
If you think words like the ones you sent were not hurtful and attacking to me, then I really think there's a part of human emotion that you don't currently understand. I stayed up all night worrying about you, I love you.

Due to the threats made in your email below, I won't be seeing you this weekend. It's my hope that we can be together again but aggression and threats against my safety won't stand.

I hope you get some perspective on your life. I hope you find an outlet for the aggression in your life. And I do hope you contact me at some point in your life, I love you, I have always loved you.

I've blocked your email. Please don't contact me right now. I love you."

What Would Tim Gunn Do?

Project Runway was great this week.
Tim Gunn is amazing, I love him.
I believe there is three levels for dealing with conflict in life.
The base level where you react and say whatever you want.
Then this mid level where you think before you speak.
Then a final level where you have the ability to state articulately what you need and stay true to yourself. I can this last level the Tim Gunn level. As in "What would Tim Gunn do?"
Tim Gunn is the mentor on Project Runway. He is there to offer advice to the contestants. So he started talking to this one women and she was defensive as soon as he said hello.
He was able to turn it around so quickly. He explained he was here to help. He said "It would help if you removed the sarcasm and facetiousness." Five dollar words also help.
See I'm thinking I need an attitude as I'm seeing my brother this weekend. I know he's going to come at me with aggression, hostility and I need to think what to do about that. What would Tim Gunn do?
I think Tim Gunn would just not take it. Like he'd have some line that would put it all into perspective. But would he be up at 4:40 am? I called in sick to work tomorrow so I can sleep. Life has been better.
I remember when I was younger I used to like emotional talks in the middle of the night. Now I hate them.
I bet Tim Gunn's asleep right now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


One thing I hate about the internet is the ease with which people can send messages. That people can not think, send something at one in the morning, that can just devastate. And I hate that you have that waiting, this ticking time bomb in your email, just waiting for you to click it.
I remember once I had a brother. Once I had two. And although you think that someone has hurt you as much as they can. And although you think you have made some sense of that which does not make sense. And although you just don't think about it.
Sometimes, it can come back, at one in the morning, and attack you again, like new.
And what do you do with that?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rent: The Final Performance

I went to see the final performance of Rent on Broadway tonight. It was amazing, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
In England, the saying is "I know it by rote" and in America the saying is "I know it by heart". I know this musical by heart. I know every syllable. I know every spot the actors take a breath. It lives inside me.
Rent was release in 1996, before the internet, at the start of the CD craze, before HIV became a manageable disease. I bought the cassette copy of the soundtrack in late 2006 from Sam the Record Man in the Scarborough Town Centre. I had heard about it, and I think that was the only time in my life I had extra money and was in a record store so I took a chance and bought it. I listened to it many times. By the time I saw the musical for the first time I already knew all the words.
I saw rent when it opened in Toronto, around 1998. I think I saw it with my father and my friend John but I may have already seen it before that. I saw it again with my mother, I believe a total of four times in Toronto. I remember the first time I saw it I cried and cried at the end, like I had never cried before in my life. I couldn't walk out of the theatre.
The third time I saw Rent I started crying at the third song, "One Song Glory" and didn't stop until the end. I cried for 3 hours. I was an open wound, living the life on the stage. It touched me as nothing ever had before.
Rent closed in Toronto and soon after the film came out. The only good part of the film is the original cast (mostly) reprised their roles. Otherwise it was a mess. They changed the time period from the mid-90's to the late 80's, they omitted songs and replaced others with dialogue. There was the feeling people would not want to see a movie that was all music. As a result I didn't go to see Rent in the theatres, the first time I saw it was a very bad bootleg version. I believe I have seen the movie 3 times, I usually watch it after I get home from the play.
Rent returned with a touring company to Toronto in early 2007 and I saw it live. I believe I will see every tour that comes through town.
In September of 2007 I saw Rent on Broadway, which I blogged about. The original cast was back and it was amazing, to be in the theatre where it all began, with the cast that began it.
Tonight I saw the final performance on Broadway. Afterward, the cast came out with some members of the original cast, including Anthony Rapp, but curiously not Adam Pascal. They, along with the current cast, sang a revised version of Season of Love.
Rent is the 7th longest running production on Broadway. For something that in some ways is so of it's time, it's amazing that it had such a prolonged run.
I love it, I am grateful. No day but today.

The Problem with Stephen Harper

The new issue of Xtra has a supplement on the evils of Stephen Harper.
I can understand the defense mechanism, with constant vitriol against homosexuals like the comments posted below, I can understand the need to be wary.
What I don't get is why you attack someone without basis.
There's a quote from Todd Klink, something like how he was watching Stephen Harper on TV and was agreeing with him, which is too scary and something everyone should fight against. We are told how a majority government will take away our rights and push us into the dark ages. Where is the proof?
Fact - The Liberal party in Ontario said they would not raise taxes, then instituted the biggest tax increase in history.
Fact - The NDP in Ontario cut wages for government employees in the early 1990's, forcing them to take unpaid days off and not working with the union and not lowering their own salaries.
Fact - Stephen Harper has promised no social conservative agenda and has governed fiscally responsibly for the last 2 years.
What I like best about being a Conservative is that I'm never disappointed. I have not yet been lied to. I hear all the time how political parties are all lairs, but I haven't seen that from the Conservatives.
From the article:
"When in the next election, Harper became Canada’s prime minister with a minority government, gays and lesbians began to prepare for battle. However, as time passed and Harper made no move to outlaw homosexuality, there was some relaxation in the gay and lesbian community."
"Harper managed to work in an undisguised plug: “I always make it clear that Christians are welcome in politics,” he said, “and particularly welcome in our party."
"Despite these bonds, some Jews remain deeply suspicious of Christian Zionists and the theology that fuels their zeal: the theories of a 19th-century rebel deacon named John Nelson Darby, the father of dispensationalism. On repeated missions to North America between 1862 and 1877 — some of which included pulpit stops in Toronto — Darby touted a new scriptural timeline based on a vision he’d had after falling off a horse."
None of the article talks about Stephen Harper. It talks about a Texas minister, a horse, some things that happened in 1862. The article itself was written in 2006. Chilling isn't it? What an indictment of the Conservative Party!!!
The problem with Stephen Harper is Liberals who won't give him a chance. I have read so many articles, "You know how he's done nothing to hurt us and fired everyone who has ever spoken against gays? That makes him WORSE!"
Grow up. Vote Conservative.

Come so far, got so far to go

WRHSafe Thu, Sep 25, 2008 at 06:18 AM EST
Who cares other than you money hunger folks, if you haven't noticed MOST of America is NOT gay so stop pushing this junk on us. I hope Clay can change if not may he burn in hell with the rest of the homosexuals. Not hate just a fact from GOD!!

Clay isn't on the cover announcing a wedding with photos of he and his groom. He is on the cover to announce "I'm gay". You never see a straight person on the cover of a magazine saying "I'm straight" with no reason behind it, just to declare.

Dave Wed, Sep 24, 2008 at 09:33 PM EST
I knew he was a pole smoker. I don't want to hear any more about him. Liberals are trying to desensatize the puplic to get them to slowly accept the wrong way to live.

h.w. Wed, Sep 24, 2008 at 08:29 PM EST
Yea, just like a 50 year old man that is attracted to a 10 year old is " just being himself", do you have best wishes for him as well?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Live Sex Show

Do you tell the truth or do you gloss things over? I think from the number of people who read this blog, you know I tell the truth. How else to make it interesting, readable, relateable?
Let's start off with my half page picture in Fab magazine:

I have had a cold for the last few days so today I mostly napped and watched Will & Grace. I got up about 7:15 and got there for 7:45. Hottie and the boyfriend were there right away. Here's a picture of hottie with Johnny:

So we got inside and sat down in the lounge circling a pool table, which I assumed was the performance stage and waited an hour an a half.
The boyfriend was quiet, standing in the corner and saying nothing. Hottie was chatting with friends off and on so I started to talk to the boyfriend and it was a bit like pulling teeth.
The show began and about halfway through I asked the boyfriend what he thought and he said "The sex shows in Amsterdam are better, they have some class." Like he was all that, so I told him I was going to Amsterdam and he says, "Oh, I mean Australia." As if he could possibly lower himself to be there, which really lightened the mood.

So Johnny basically danced on the pool table and took off his clothes for 20 minutes which was good but it was a bit dark.
Afterward he signed photos and took pictures with people (notice the butt tattoo):

And the boyfriend took this time to stop pouting long enough to leave. Hottie and I talked about boyfriend trouble, which again really picked up the mood of the evening, and then off to the XXX show.
There was a room in the back and about 30 men crowded in. Everyone was in towels except for me, hottie and about 2 others. The room didn't have sound so they went out and got a CD player but it didn't work so they put on the radio, Opera. The arias did not highten the evening so that was quickly shut off and Johnny came in, sat down and masturbated. There was a tension in the room, the guy beside me was totally naked and I was trying to get a read on the situation and quickly it was over.
Went home, writing a blog.
Hottie did mention the boyfriend has a profile on dudesnude, so I'm off to find that. I can't picture princess pout naked.
Oh and the best part, when the boyfriend left he said "Bye Robert" and walked away, never even acknowledging me. Fun. I think I made a friend.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

AIDS Walk - Thank you!!!

I'm at the Archives now waiting for the AIDS walk to start. My mom couldn't come because of the low visability in the rain, which is visable in behind me:

So I really wanted to say thank you as I raised $370 this year! Holy crap, how did that happen! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And to my mom, I hope you, much like the weather, dry up.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I just got my hair cut and I look like a French poodle. Possibly suitable for mincing to a Liza Minelli concert but not at all suitable for visiting my grandfather in the home today.
In other news, the final performance of Rent on Broadway is coming to a theatre near me and I must go!

I got my ticket for Thursday September 25.at Yonge and Eglinton. $23 is more than a movie but less than Broadway.
I woke up 500 times last night and feel like I've been shot out of a cannon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


As usual, my sedate lifestyle is creeping up on me. I have so much to do it takes me about 3 hours a day to research it all and plan.
Friday I'll be picking up pictures from my last vacation and see The Celluloid Closet outside at Yonge/Dundas square at 8:30.
Saturday getting my laptop back (my desktop now has a virus, yipee!!!). Then off to the nursing home to see my grandfather and back for Patrik 1,5 at the Film Fest at 9 pm.
Sunday the AIDS Walk with my mom (up to $370!) where she will try to make my buy an expensive luggage set. My old one isn't that broken and there's photo books I'd rather buy for $65 (see below). I was thinking of just sewing up the broken zipper and not using that pocket. It's free.
Tuesday I have expensive seats at the baseball game which they sent me out of the blue. It's vs. Baltimore so I've been saving my Brian Roberts T-shirt to wear.
Wednesday is an art gallery opening for Anthony Goicolea. I purchased one of his previous books for about $60, with pictures like this:

They're all him in the picture. I thought it was a cool idea. I think it may be signed already (must check!) but if not I'll take it to get signed by him and his new stuff is apocolyptic:

I love this picture, it's really cool. Then I have to RUN from there to a book reading for a new novel called Shuck at the Gladstone.
Friday is the Jay Brannan concert.
Saturday is the Johnny Hazard show.

Who the Hell knows what's happening with that? I got a ticket for $17. The paper says tickets are $10 and an "exxxtra" show is another $10. So what is this ticket I have good for, confetti? I still have no idea what any of these shows involve.
The following weekend is Word on the Street, my mom's the weekend after that, and then Paris. Someone plan a trip to Paris for me, would you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What a disaster

Well, today has sucked.

I suppose it all started last night when I went to the Terrence Davies Trilogy at the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie was quite dark, about being repressed in Liverpool for 40 years. Ever heard of moving? Anyway, there was a Q & A with the director afterward where he said "I hate being gay, it has ruined my whole life." Twice. He went on to say how life wouldn't be worth living if it weren't for classical music.

I went to a meeting at the archives last night. It was 2.5 hours long but I could only stay 30 minutes. They want to start a lending library at the archives which is fine except we don't have room or books anyone wants to borrow. The books people would want to borrow must stay locked up until the building falls in, which should be any second now. When I left they were suggesting an 85 year old man rotate the two shelves of books every week so people wouldn't say we never had anything to read. Rotate what books? Can the paramedics help him move the boxes of books when he drops on the floor? I voted we should just disband the whole archives and join other organizations. The motion almost carried.

Then I got home for lunch and spilled 2 litres of koolaid on my newly fixed computer.

It looked something like this. The monitor went black. It was running in puddles off the hard drive. The mouse sticks now. Everything sticks. I vote I move and start over somewhere else.

Oh and I sold a bunch of stuff on eBay for the archives and now people are calling me day and night asking questions. Who uses a phone anymore? This isn't international bank mergers, I sold them a magazine, how hard can it be?
Guy: Hi. Do you accept checks?
Me: I sent you an invoice saying I accept checks or money orders. Did you notice the CHECK part?
Guy: But I'm in America, is that ok?
Me: Yes.
Guy: So will you take my check from America?
Me: (wondering how to send a mail bomb)

So Xtra magazine, Toronto's gay free paper, put Terence Davies, the gay hating director from above on the cover this week and relagated this great article by my husband John Caffery to the web only section.

There was a highlight. I was given a lot of cherry tomatoes by my friend Joe. That is all.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Boys and Girl Tramps of America

Ugh. I have done like nothing this week. I made a snack with chocolate frosting and my body rejected it. I have had indigestion all week and have not slept, not very exciting.
So, continuing this week's theme of using other people's materials to make my blog more interesting, I present this comic:

And this excerpt from Boy and Girl Tramps of America by Thomas Minehan published in 1934. There's apparently some gay content, but none in this quote. I'd like to buy this book one day when I'm rich and famous, it looks really good:

In company with millions of other Americans who have heard the panhandlers' plea for a couple of nickels for a cup of coffee, I often wondered what the man who is down and out thinks of us and of our civilization. Unlike the ordinary citizen, I had the professional time as well as the personal inclination to investigate. Three years ago I began to collect case histories of men who went down with the boom in 1929. But case histories gave me little inkling into the inner mind of the man on the bread line. When I asked the men what they thought they tried to anticipate my own ideas, thereby enhancing their chances of obtaining a dime. Truth in regard to the homeless man, I decided, could never be ascertained in this manner.
And how could it be ascertained? Were the men, I asked myself, any more truthful with each other? Would a man living on the relief line learn more than an investigator talking to men on the streets or to social cases across an interviewer's desk? One evening in November, 1932, I disguised myself in old clothes and stood in a bread line in the cold and rain.
The experience was memorable. I can still see the ragged cold line of men shivering in the rain and slime of an alley. They seemed like some strange night creatures who stirred abroad from caves and water holes. In the rain and fog I heard them talk, and their talk was not as other men's, nor as I had heard it on the main stem. Gone was the whine of the panhandler and the boastful attitude of the bum. In their own element, the flotsam and jetsam of our economic system seemed no different from other men.
And yet there was a difference. There was present, not only in their conversations but in their very postures a subcurrent of fear and anxiety, a sullen acceptance of life, a bitter apathy, absent from the attitudes and conversations of other men.
We inched down the alley in the gloom and into a dimly lighted hole where we were given a moldy cheese sandwich and a cup of what the men appropriately enough called "misery." Silent, huddled, we munched our food and gulped the coffee. Over us stood an argus-eyed attendant who had lost not a single cup in thirty years of mission work. Out into rain and wind we stumbled to stand again in dejected groups in darkened doorways and under the eaves of buildings. And the talk of the men was not the talk it had been on the main stem.
Here I decided was a possibility of getting ideas, attitudes, and viewpoints of the mass of men hit most cruelly by the depression. In my spare time I began to associate with them, dressed always like another homeless wanderer. And I learned things which could not be learned in any other way and ascertained opinions and attitudes not to be ascertained by other methods.' [See, "A Study of Attitudes of Transient Men and Boys," by Thomas Minehan - a Thesis, University of Minnesota, 1933.]
One of the first facts I learned was that a great number of homeless men were youths and even boys. By day hordes of unemployed men loitered about the missions and bread lines - marginal laborers looking for work in the slave markets, unemployed local men, chronic bums, and transients. Many were old. Some were crippled. All were down and out. At night bands of youths, too proud to be seen lingering in the sunlight with "old bums," came in for a bowl of beans and a flop.
And as I left the mission district to live in hobo railroad yard camps or jungles and river shanty-towns, I found more and more youths and not a few girls. In the railroad yards I waited near a block signal where freights from Chicago and the South stopped. Mobs of men got off every train. Many were not youths, but boys. And some were girls - children really - dressed in overalls or army breeches and boys' coats or sweaters - looking, except for their dirt and rags, like a Girl Scout club on an outing.
Where were their homes? Where were they going? How long had they been on the road? Why did they leave home? What did they expect to do in the future? I began asking questions.
How did they live? What did they eat? Where did they sleep? How did they get clothing? What did they do all day? I began living with them.
Before I stopped living with them and asking questions, I had collected case histories of over five hundred boys and girls, associated on terms of intimacy and equality with several thousand, traveled in six states as a transient, experienced in all seasons and under all conditions the daily life of a boy or girl living in box cars. Two years had elapsed.
I did not, of course, live with them continuously or consecutively. I am neither a boy nor a tramp. I am a sociologist, interested in man and in how he reacts to his environment. I might have gone to Africa to study the influence of environment upon man or to Russia to record the reaction of youth to social change. Yet it was not necessary. Here in America man was reacting to his environment and youth was experiencing as great a change in homes as in Russia. The changes in America were not directed, nor were they caused by external forces such as invasion. They were the result of economic and social pressure within the group itself. For that very reason they might be more significant, more interesting. Here was the possibility of a new, strange field of investigation. To it I turned my energies. My plan was to associate with as many homeless persons as possible under conditions of social equality, to experience their life, to record their stories, to ascertain in as scientific a manner as possible their opinions, ideas, and attitudes.
To accomplish this it was necessary to take notes. I could not take notes while living with the group. After associating with them at missions for a day, or traveling in box cars for a week-end, I went to a room and jotted down my impressions, returned to my classes at the University of Minnesota, and at the first opportunity discarded my school clothes for the rags of a vagrant. Week-ends, holidays, and vacations found me away from home. During the summers of 1932 and 1933 I spent considerable time on the road, chiefly in the Middle West.
In the fall of 1933, I had a thick dossier full of notes and impressions, 500 life histories of boys and girls I had met on the bum, 1,000 samples of conversations, and over 2,500 opinions, ideas, and attitudes expressed by all classes of transients under all conditions. What did my investigation reveal?
In conventional sociological form I drew up my tables, analyzed the data statistically, worked a few correlations... I was following approved technique. Yet, the analysis was unsatisfactory. It seemed totally inadequate to say that 324 youths left home because the father was unemployed and unable to support his family. Less adequate it seemed to say that fourteen boys in need of shoes had to steal to get them or that nine hungry girls had to sell their bodies for bread. Scenes of boys on the road, pictures of girls in box cars kept pushing into my mind to cry against the facts I had tabulated so carefully and arranged on such neat graphs.
I remembered the girl who shared my sheepskin on a cold and blustering night, the boy who stole a shirt for me, and the older transient who almost broke his neck trying to get a package of Bull Durham so that I might have a decent smoke....
These were not so many cases to be analyzed, so many sticks to be counted and arranged in sequential order. They were boys and girls, flesh-and-blood youngsters who should be in high schools and homes and were in box cars and jungles. I had seen pictures of the Wild Children of revolution-racked Russia. I had read of the free youth of Germany after the World War. I knew that in every nation, following a plague, an invasion, or a revolution, children left without parents and homes became vagrants.
Before my own experiences I had always believed that in America we managed things better. And yet in the face of economic disorganization and social change our own youth took to the highroad.
To describe their life in statistical terms was not only inadequate, it was untrue. Such a description omitted the most important phases of their lives, their strife against cold, their battle for bread, their struggle to obtain and repair clothing, their hates, their humors, and their loves....
An artist - not a scientist - was needed to paint what I had seen, record what I had heard. And I was not even an amateur craftsman. Yet for the sake of the homeless thousands of boys and girls, I decided to try.
In my descriptions in the following pages I have relied upon actual incidents and real characters for material. Nothing has been substantially changed; nothing added. My attempt has been to portray the life of migrant youth in America as I saw and experienced it.
IT wasn't so bad at home," says Texas to me in the early weeks of our wandering, "before the big trouble came." The other boys have gone to sleep. Texas and I are sitting on a log near a jungle campfire and talk of other days.
"Before the big trouble came," he goes on and his eyes are somber in the firelight. "We got along pretty good. Dad, of course, never was very well. He was in the war and he got some kind of sickness, I guess, but he couldn't get a pension. He was always sick for about a month every year, and that meant that he had to look for a new job each time he got well. If he had been husky it might have been easy to get a good job, but he was kinda small and then sick you know.
"But we got along swell before the big trouble came even if there were seven of us kids. I shined shoes in a barber shop. Jim carried papers. And Marie took care of Mrs. Rolph's kids. Mother always did some sewing for the neighbors. We had a Chevvie and a radio and a piano. I even started to high school mornings, the year the big trouble came.
"Dad got sick as usual but we never thought anything of it. When he comes to go back to work he can't get a job, and everybody all of a sudden-like seems to be hard up. I cut the price of shines to a nickel but it didn't help much. I even used to go around and collect shoes and shine them at the houses or take them away, shine and return them, but even then some weeks I couldn't make a dime.
"Mrs. Rolph's husband got a cut and she cans Marie. Jim had to quit the paper route because he lost all his cash customers, and the others never paid. Nobody wanted Mother to sew anything. And there we were, seven of us kids and Dad and Mother, and we couldn't make a cent like we could before the big trouble came."
Texas pushes a piece of birch into the fire. I throw in a pine knot. The embers crackle and hiss. A cone of sparks and white smoke rises straight into the air. The smoke turns darker. There is a pungent smell of resin as the pine knot flames and burns. The night is becoming cold. We nudge closer to the fire, warming our shins. Texas stretches his hands, slender and delicate as a girl's, strong as a pianist's, toward the flame. As in a spectroscope I can see the metatarsal bones and the blue outline of veins and the heavier muscle fibers throbbing in the firelight.
Were his hands, I ask myself, so slender and translucent before the big trouble came - before that monstrous depression, that economic juggernaut that was to crash through his home, cast him out upon the road, and make him perhaps a bum for life?
"But the big trouble came," he continues, caressing his chin with warm palms, "and there we were. Oh, we tried hard enough, and everybody did their best. Marie made the swellest wax flowers. The kids peddled ironing cloths. Mother tried to sell some homemade bakery, and Dad did everything. We did our best, I guess, but it wasn't good enough, for the big trouble had come and nobody had any money.
"Dad gave up pipe smoking in the fall. All last winter we never had a fire except about once a day when Mother used to cook some mush or something. When the kids were cold they went to bed. I quit high school of course, but the kids kept going because it didn't cost anything and it was warm there.
"In February I went to Fort Worth. Mother used to know a man there, and she thought maybe he could help me get a job. But he was as hard up as anybody else. I didn't want to return home and pick bread off the kids' plate so I tried to get work for a farmer for my board. Instead, I got a ride to California. Near Salinas I worked in the lettuce fields, cutting and washing lettuce. I made $32 and I sent $10 home. But that was my first and last pay check. I got chased out of California in June."
The fire flickers and ebbs. We pull a night log into the embers and prepare to join our companions in sleep. I turn my back to the fire and face the eternal stars.
"Since then," concludes Texas and his voice sounds far away and distant as Arcturus blinking unconcernedly down on me, "I just been traveling."
* * *
"My old man was crippled in the Lackawanna shops," Jennie, a dumpy Hungarian girl from Pennsylvania, is talking one morning as we tidy up the jungle before flipping a freight. "Dumb and scared to death, he didn't get a cent except a promise of a lifetime job. They kept him four years, until the hard times came. After that he never got a job except for a few months as city watchman. Mother worked nights, cleaning an office building. We kids used to go and help her and keep her company. But she couldn't stand it all the time. They took her to the hospital one morning, and three days later she died. Father said they gave her the Black Bottle because she was poor, but I don't think so, do you? I think she was just all in.
"Dad tried to keep a home for the four of us kids. Cripes! he was as good as any man could be, considering. But what could he do? I was willing to work but nobody hired me and the rest of the kids were too young. So a home took the three kids, my married sister in Allentown took my father, and I just sort of scrammed.
"I never had much chance to go to school or anything, and I wish I could learn a trade, but, hell, I'll get by."
* * *
"No, my old man wasn't exactly crippled," Bill from Buffalo says later in the day. We dodge a railroad bull and sneak aboard a westbound accommodation freight just pulling out.
The engine snorts and wheezes. We feel the tie-bar buckle and strain beneath our feet as the train gets under way. Then in a corner nearest the power we squat. Bill continues: "He could walk as straight as anybody most of the time, but in the mornings he used to be all stiff like. He couldn't do any hard work and he couldn't get anything else, and not even that after the big trouble came."
* * *
Happy Joe is a New York Italian with an infectious smile and black shoebutton eyes. He wears a fedora with the sweat band turned down over his ears, when I next see him, and an overcoat several sizes too large which he has tucked up with safety pins in front but which trails along the ground behind like the train of a great lady.
"My kid sister has T. B.," he says suddenly as we watch a scrawny fifteen-year-old turn purple with ineffectual efforts to strangle a cough in a mission on one of the first cold mornings of fall, "and that kid ought to be careful or he might get it too.
"She was never very strong," he continues unprompted, "but that didn't make much difference until Dad lost his job, nobody could get work, and everybody was hard up. Sis wasn't well, and then last summer she worked for five months in a mill. Eleven hours a day. Three dollars a week. She couldn't stand it. All summer she was so white and so thin-like. In September she began coughing. The company doctor made her quit. I gave her my room. I slept in the kitchen. We had to get milk and fruit and eggs and things for her. Then I lost my job making crates. There was no chance of getting another one at home. So when I read they were hiring a lot of new help in Detroit I went there. And you know what Detroit is like. I stayed there for a while. Then I just traveled. But if I had any money I'd send some of it home. Sis is a swell kid."
* * *
Practically all the families were hit by the economic whirlwind. "Else," as Texas explained, "why on the road?"
Yet even in the days of the boom before the big trouble came, many homes of the boy tramps were extremely tenuous. Death had taken the father, divorce the mother; separation divided the family and many never had had a home at all.
* * *
"Tell you the truth about it, Shorty," replies an olive-skinned Southerner to my question, "I honestly do not know my real parents. I was born near Nashville, but I ain't ever seen my father, although he is supposed to be living in Memphis. He has a wife and three kids of his own and he isn't any good much. My mother never kept me. She went away and I was raised by her sister but never adopted or anything like that. My mother is married. She lives on a farm up in the mountains. I haven't seen her for almost ten years. I just sorta drifted from place to place."
* * *
"They say my father is somewhere in Chicago." Peg-leg Al, who lost his leg between two cars in Texas, is talking. "But I don't know. As a matter of fact, I don't know very much about my real father. I lived near Chi all my life, but that was with my grandparents, and they died two years ago. My mother never came to visit us after she left for Pittsburgh when I was a little baby during the war. Some say my father was a soldier, others just a man traveling through the country, but I don't know. I never could find out, and I got so I didn't care. I stayed at different places near Hammond for about the last two years. Then at Christmas I scrammed for California. On the way I had some hard luck in Texas."
Hard luck in Texas! And Al is crippled for life. His right leg is docked above the knee. He stumps very efficiently on a self-made peg-leg. The leg apparently pains him not at all, and in a way it is an asset for it helps him beg.
"I can hit the stem," he says with pardonable pride, "for a dime anytime anywhere if the cops ain't glimming."
* * *
"I didn't mind living with my mother's sister when my new father wouldn't keep me," Hank, a child of divorce and the depression, is talking as we sit in a mission peeling potatoes as small as marbles and only slightly more edible. "She tried to be nice. But I didn't like my uncle. You know he was always throwing hints - saying how it was hard enough for a man to support his own kids and asking me every day how old I was and then acting surprised when I'd say `Sixteen' and shaking his head and saying 'Sixteen! God, I was earning my own living when I was twelve!
* * *
"And that isn't all, Shorty," asserts Vera, a pink-cheeked girl from New Jersey, reaching over and putting her small hand on my coat as we stand in an alley waiting for a cop to pass. "Listen, my mother has had eleven husbands in all. I saw only eight of them. My old man was married nine times. Three of his wives died, but my mother divorced all of her husbands. And if you don't believe me, I hope I die on the spot. I was raised mostly by my grandparents - my mother's folks, that is. Her husbands didn't like me. And she didn't care to have me around either, I guess. Well, there was a younger sister of my mother's at home. And for a fact I know she was married and divorced four times before she was twenty-three. And that isn't all. Wait till you hear this. She had two kids before she was married at all. One when she was fifteen and one when she was sixteen. And I heard her old man ask her how many kids she was going to have before she got married, and the next day she gets married."
* * *
Lady Lou, a very young boy of thirteen and a confessed thief, small, with delicate and refined features, related a most complicated domestic situation, one noon in the kitchen of a mission, as he wiped with a small dish towel the heavy crockery I was washing in water sterilized with creosote. His real father was married four times; his real mother, six. The boy liked best - better than his natural parents - his father's third wife and his mother's fourth husband. Unfortunately for the lad, both these individuals had formed new attachments of their own. His mother's fourth husband, beginning to take multiple matrimony seriously, had married and divorced twice since leaving the boy's mother. His mother's sixth husband refused to support the boy. He had the choice of living with his father's fourth wife who hated and spat at him, of living with his mother's fifth husband, a drunkard in jail half the time, or of taking to the road. He took to the road.
* * *
"I don't remember my real father very much," Dressy remarks to me, one glorious April morning as we sun ourselves on the side of a hill. He wears a pearl-gray hat which he keeps miraculously clean by wearing a cover made of two red bandanna handkerchiefs when he travels. His coat and pants match. He wears a black slip-over sweater out at both elbows and torn in the back, but with a white shirt laundered every day at a mission or in a jungle, a black bow tie and a pair of black shoes polished daily with crankcase drainings: he is, indeed, Dressy. "He was a soldier. I saw him once in his uniform before he went to France. He did not return. My mother married again about two years after the war. My stepfather had been a soldier, too, but he was a Home Guard and after my father's insurance. I was the only child until the second marriage. Then my mother had three children, two boys and a girl.
"My stepfather never worked very steady. The pension kept us. He was always getting a job and losing it or getting fired or something. He used to get drunk, too. I hated him but I didn't say anything until one day he hit me.
"I was sitting on the porch, studying my geography lesson. When he came staggering up the steps, I pretended I didn't see him. He went around to the back door. I could hear him stumbling in the kitchen. Nobody was at home. All of a sudden he sneaked out on the porch and lammed me. I didn't hear or suspect a thing. Just sock! without warning and my geography flew out of my hand, the chair tipped over, and I was sent spinning across the porch.
"He came at me then. I thought he was going to kill me. I crawled under the swing, and he crouched down to follow. Too drunk to keep his balance, he stepped on the geography and fell. I jumped over him and dashed out of the house. That night I slept in a packing box behind a paper factory. The police took me home. After a big scrap between my mother and my stepfather, everything was all right again, but I never forgot how he looked when he came for me that time.
"Every year he kept drinking more and working less. He used to fight with my mother, but I never saw him sock her until three years ago. It was about nine o'clock. I came in the back door from a movie. When I entered the kitchen there was my mother fighting with him. She was pulling his hair. He slapped her. I saw him slap her. I jumped on him. He shook me loose and grabbed a butcher knife. My mother knocked it out of his hand. I hit him with a heavy iron frying pan right across the face. You could see the blood running from his nose across the soot and grease to the floor. I wanted to have him pinched, but Mother wouldn't stand for it. After a while even, when he didn't come to, she began bawling me out, saying I had no right to hit him so hard. We picks him up and puts him on the bed. My mother was running around crying and washing his face with hot water and blaming me. She always was like that. One day she hated him, next day she was crazy for him."
* * *
"After mother died we were all sorry for a long time." Bust, one of the toughest child tramps I have ever encountered, is talking as we sit in the door of a box car and let our legs hang out in the sun. Less than two hours previously I had seen him pound an older transient's face into a red ruin for a fancied insult. Small but tough, his body had the lithe springiness of a panther when he moved. Of medium height, broad of chest and abnormally narrow through the hips, he had the appearance of a triangle standing on its apex, and when he struck, his arms seemed to shoot in and out of the defenseless man's body with the rapidity and power of a locomotive drive shaft. The big transient's knees had buckled at the first of these relentless blows. His head snapped back at the second. His hands dropped and his eyes glazed at the third. Then one knee bent, and he began toppling like a smokestack with a side of the base removed. Over he went sideways and face down, the remorseless fists jabbing as he fell.
"And then," Bust is continuing his story, clinching and unclinching his hands to work the soreness out of them in the sun, "we got a housekeeper. Father began going out to dances. We got a lot of different housekeepers. Finally we got Mamie. She was swell. She used to play on the floor with the kids and cook us the swellest turnovers I ever tasted. All of us hoped Dad would marry Mamie. And Mamie hoped so too, I guess, because I came home from school and found her talking very solemn with Dad. That night when I went to the bathroom I heard her crying.
"Next Sunday, Dad brings home a new woman. She was a school-teacher, I didn't like her from the moment I saw her. The first thing she asked me what grade I was in. When I told her, she said, 'Oh!'
"I tried to get along with her though, but I couldn't." Remembered pain stares from his eyes. Remembered wrongs make his voice bitter. "She was always bossing, and always telling me how good her brother was . . ."
* * *
"My older brother was always picking on me," explains Boris, a square-jawed Russian lad of seventeen. Small but thick through the trunk, he had the Slav's chronic melancholy and feeling of self-pity. He wore a seaman's white cap and trousers now almost coal-black with soot and dirt, and a short sheepskin, the collar of which he turned up around his ears although it was not cold as we walked along in the night. "He had a job. I didn't. He was always throwing that at me! When we were little he used to beat me. One night about two years ago he came home drunk, sneaked into my room where I was asleep and socked me right in the face. We wrecked the room.
"Always telling me what to do and then peeking to see if I did, that was mother," he says later, as we sit on a car jerking and rattling forward. "And my sister, always telling something or trying to get something on me. I couldn't ever please them."
* * *
"Mother never liked me." Spit, a hard-boiled little girl, is talking as we prepare coffee before dawn in order to board a train now making up in the yards. A small fiery-tempered girl with a chronic scowl on her face, in the excitement of telling me of her home, she let the coffee bag burst. Now she skims the grounds with the only utensil available, my pocketknife. "She just hated me, I guess. She used to beat me, and call me names, and chase me out of the house.
"And my kid sister" - even in the semi-darkness I can see the bitterness in her face and feel the sense of wrong in her voice - "got everything from the time she first came. I got nothing, and everything I got I had to share with her. Daddy gave her things, Mother always gave her a bigger piece of pie. Even at Christmas she got more."
The coffee is skimmed. Spit pours my share into a small tomato can and adds a pinch of sugar. Her own she drinks straight. I toss her a hunk of bread which she eats without comment, dunking the cold crust in the warm drink. Down in the yards a whistle blows. It is time we were leaving.
"Did I ever get a licking at home?" Nick, a Dane, repeats my question. "That's all I ever got. The old man would lick me if I did something. The old lady if I didn't. My older brother would take a poke at me just because I was little. The worst one in the bunch was my sister. She is two years older than I am. She never really hurt me, like the rest, but she was always slapping me in the face because she knew I didn't dare strike her back. If I did she'd tell on me, and then the old man would almost kill me.
"The old lady used to beat me up and all us kids." We sit on a rock on the Tippecanoe. My socks, undershirt and shirt are drying on a nearby willow; Nick's overalls and shirt hang alongside. The shade of a grove protects us from the sun. The cool stream washes the dirt and ashes out of our feet. A binder cutting late grain, clatters over the hill. Three Guernseys cool their flanks downstream. In a treetop a crow caws. I listen.
"And Dad, too," he continues, "she was stronger than he, and he was afraid of her from the time when she broke the ironing board on his ribs and he had to go to the hospital. After that he didn't want to come home for a while. Ma went every day to beg him to come home. Then she sent us kids. We used to get a dime just for asking him when he was going to come home. And after a while he came home."
* * *
Dot stretches her catlike body in the sun on the side of a hill overlooking a switching yards.
"This is the life," she says. "No old lady bossing me now. One day I was scrubbing the floor and my old lady didn't like the way I was doing it, so she slaps me right in the face with a mop. It didn't hurt, but I got mad and sassed her. She didn't say anything, just waited for a while until I went into my room. Then she followed me. She had a broom handle. I couldn't duck. She beat me until the broom handle broke. Then she lammed me with her hands until she was tired out."
* * *
"Pa and Ma were always fighting," another girl told me. "One day Pa came home half drunk and Ma socks him and he socks her back and she got up and kissed him and they both laugh. Then Ma give me fifty cents for ice cream and Susan a dollar for beer and a quarter for steak and we had a celebration. It was the day they were married on."
* * *
"Oh! sure we used to have some scraps at home," Hank says as we play checkers in a bumping box car. His face screws up in a vinegary expression as he attempts to check my queen. "But things weren't so bad until the big trouble came. Although," he adds, not unfairly, taking a pawn, "there were always little troubles too."

Jay Brannan coming to town Sept 19

From Jay's blog: