Welcome to your senior years. Once we have lived long enough, we have the benefit of perspective and the gift of being able to look back into our youth and just maybe reflect on people, places, times, and events, that impressed and informed our lives as we moved forward. I have noticed there were seminal moments in my younger life, some good and beneficial to my development and some, not so positive, but still moments that reverberated through the decades and impacted my psyche and my soul.
Now I have the real opportunity and the gift to be able to compare and contrast some of these past events and just maybe, reframe them into a neat and compact package, if you will, a bookend.
Jane Fonda has had a marked place in my life for a long time. I first saw her in, of all pieces of schlock, Barbarella, as a young teen. A strange and sleazy introduction but there she was, a blip on the radar of my life, one that continues to ping even now.
Not long after this auspicious introduction I was now a slightly older, radicalized, anti-war activist in Washington, D.C., my hometown. It was 1968. I, along with 500,000 other passionate young people, spread out our blankets on the National Mall, smoked what we had, dropped our doses of psychedelics, and listened as the roster of luminaries took the dais to proclaim our collective resistance to the war, the government, and anything that did not comport with our Peace, Love, Dove philosophy.
And then Jane Fonda took the stage. Hanoi Jane back then. Reviled by our parents, revered by our friends. Brave. Passionate. Eloquent in her dissent against the Powers of the time.
I first thought about this bookend theory a few years ago. I met a guy at a party who was Jane Fonda’s booking agent. In the process of me trying not to fandom-out in public, he casually mentioned that she would be preforming soon right here in Palm Springs! The dye was cast. I immediately went and grabbed two tickets to her one-woman evening on stage. It wasn’t until we were actually at the event that the synchronicity of this moment came into clarity and focus for me. This was 2018, exactly FIFTY years since I had first seen and heard her speak.
It was almost too perfect
The symmetry of these two events, half a century apart, stunned me. I felt a completion that echoed through the years and left me with a satisfied, mellow, pleasing pit of pleasure because I had lived long enough to complete this chapter in the book of my life.
Recently I had chance to tie up another chapter and submit it to the editor in my brain for approval and publication. This one was a little more reverberative, darker, but still cemented a finality to events from even farther back in time.
Back in 1964 I was an adolescent young teen from a fractious household with two older parents and all the teen angst that any of us dealt with. I had a sister ten years older than I who was married to dentist in Ohio. Her idea of “rescuing” me from my own childhood was to have me come live with them and spend the summer in Appalachia-adjacent rural Ohio.
I remember that my favorite pair of jeans that summer were bell-bottoms, button up front flap, sailor-style, with a huge butterfly embroidered on the flap. They were purple. I now believe they were trying to divert the coming gay me from my inevitable course but, the tide was coming in and nothing could hold back the queen within. I do recall that my sister’s hairdresser (and every woman’s in this spit of a town) was a rather flamboyant gay guy that they all loved to hangout and gossip with. The disconnect between a gay hairdresser and her soon to be flaming gay brother was discordant at best. At that point I knew I recognized a fellow traveler’s soul and we exchanged a few pregnant glances but nothing more.
While riding in the Country Squire around town one day with my brother-in-law and sister a Johnny Mathis song came on the radio. While the exact sentence has been dulled by time the gist of my asshole-in-law’s comment has, in turn, been burnished like a Japanese Kintsugi repair on my heart. I wonder now if his comment was just a little diversionally directed at the emerging gay soul I was experimenting with or if he was, in fact, just a racist homophobe. No matter. It stuck.
“That faggot nigger…..”
And the decades wandered on. It is 2024 now. SIXTY years since that errant comment landed on, and in, me.
Two friends just recently mentioned they suddenly had two extra tickets to Johnny Mathis! Well, I just had to. While still performing (he’s 88 years old) it was an absolute necessity to be there to witness the completion of another of my life’s chapters. Moments of brilliance, a few senior moments, some mobility issues, but still a smooth jazz landing in the editor’s in-box of my mind once more. I erased the stench that had inhabited me like poison for sixty years and replaced it with a peace and pleasure at having once again linked the past with the present.
And now, I am actively flipping the rolodex of my mind to capture other perfect, or imperfect, moments that I can finally hold up like a crystal ball from long ago and let the past rest in peace and the present become all about new fulfillments and not old fractures.