Wednesday, March 30, 2005
What Air Supply Means To Me II
Air Supply inspires me to lead a life in accord with transcendent values.
Life is relentless and we need inspiration as we trudge along. For many years, Air Supply gave me such inspiration. Their lyrics articulated what I felt but could rarely say (except in that rare relationship or in therapy).
Air Supply gives me a taste of the transcendent. As with all those who articulate a higher way of loving, they are easy to make fun of.
I've been told that my essay on Air Supply was the first non-cynical thing I've written in a long time.
So if I were to live in fidelity to Air Supply's lyrics on their 30th anniversary May 12, I will have to be genuine for longer than five minutes, and be emotionally honest and courageous.
I admit that to speak with the honesty of Air Supply's lyrics would be inappropriate most of the time, even with your girlfriend or wife. It's too much. But Air Supply articulates what I have often felt, and even if it wasn't right most of the time to give voice to such feelings, it made me feel better that somewhere else had on my behalf.
Closer Is A Cruel, Mean-Spirited Exercise Of Meaningless Sadism
I'm glad it failed at the box office. It's a smart movie, and as a movie, a good movie, and so I understand why the critics loved it. But I don't think it is insightful into the human condition, and ergo is not good art.
I can enjoy and respect cruel sadistic movies, such as In The Company Of Men and other work by director Neil LaBute. But Closer was cruelty without human insight.
I admit I watched Closer with rapt attention.
Post writes on IMDB.com: "It's difficult to watch, ends unsettlingly with a misanthropic view of relationships (it wouldn't be my first choice for a "date flick") and some may even argue that the characters have no redeeming value whatsoever besides their fabulous bone structure..."
'My Neighbor Is A Darkie'
I'm reading Bill Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island about Britain:
I've sometimes wondered how Advanta credit card company dings me for a $40 late fee when I always send in my payment ten days ahead of the due date.
As I was walking to the mailbox today to send off my latest payment, and looked at the envelope, it hit me. Advanta must intentionally design their payment slip and return envelope to obscure your address, thus delaying their receipt of our payments. Thus they rack up a lot of late fees.
Stupid New York Times Article On Gossip
Katharine Q. Seely writes: "Ms. Smith admitted that the gossip industry has become so pervasive and ruthless that it is difficult to break through with a distinctive voice."
That's nonsense. Almost all prominent gossips have a distinctive voice. Matt Drudge has his and Page Six has their's, and People magazine has their's, which is different from US magazine. And I have mine.
I don't think today's gossips are particularly ruthless when you compared them to Confidential magazine in the late 1950s. There's still little racism and outing of homosexuals in gossip columns (I am not arguing that there should be, that just was the highly popular approach of Confidential, and such an approach would garner a huge audience today.) The gossip columns in almost all daily newspapers (aside from the New York Post and New York Daily News) tend to be gentle. The LA Times does not even have one.
If gossip was hardcore today, you'd read much more speculation (and possibly confirmation) about the sex lives of seemingly closeted politicians such as Gray Davis, Art Torres and John Vasconcellos.
Liz Smith writes: "With the whole world writing gossip, where is the place for the professional gossip?"
Because a professional should be able to do it better. A journalist with credentials has a much easier time getting access and calls returned than an unknown blogger.
Another thing missing from Seely's lazy piece is any mention of Liz Smith's staff, which does most of the heavy-lifting for her.
"Gone are the days when a single powerful columnist could make or break a career."
Anyone can make or break a career if he has the right information. If I had information that led to the impeachment of President Bush, I could destroy the president's career. Anyone could.
"Gone too are the days when columnists had individual identities."
"The Internet and blogs have returned gossip to its earliest human roots - the kind of gossip that the priests told you was a venal sin," said Ms. Gerhart. "You can make it up. You can speculate wildly. You can accuse people of the most taboo practices, all in this sort of merry way."
If an Internet gossip column consistently made things up, it would either attract few readers, or it would be so widely denounced by other blogs, that the author of the fictitious blog would come under enormous psychic pressure to either quit or reform his ways. The Internet, like the news media in general, tends to be self-policing.
"...where Mr. Winchell used his power to destroy people, Ms. Smith used hers to help people..."
Neither destroying nor helping people is inherently good. It depends on who you are helping and who you are destroying. Some bad people deserve to be destroyed and some good people deserve to be helped. A gentle item that covers up the bad things somebody is doing is immoral, while a nasty item that protects the innocent by providing them with valuable information is good. Neither be nice or nasty is inherently a certain moral quality. It depends on context. As Dennis Prager says, morality is absolute and contextual. The context determines the absolute.
"This kind of transaction makes Ms. Smith a further anachronism in her profession, where one of the newest entries, in Los Angeles, is a blog called Defamer, a title that almost begs its subjects to take it to court."
Well, obviously the title doesn't beg its subjects to be taken to court as it hasn't been yet, after more than a year in business. Libel actions are rare in the United States because of its laws and the possibility of publicity, which many of those mentioned negatively in gossip columns don't want.
Gossip, like every other action in life including killing and kidnapping, is morally neutral. Sometimes it is right and sometimes it is wrong. As Prager points out, what's a prison sentence but state-sponsored kidnapping?
Monday Is Caesar Chavez Day
It's the most meaningful holiday of the year for me. I plan to spend it marching with oppressed farm workers and raising consciousness. How about you?
Mickey Kaus's A-List Party
The Slate blogger held a party at his Venice apartment Saturday night. The A-list turned out including Arianna Huffington, Virginia Postrel, Jill Stewart (just turned 50, not many women over 40 can wear their hair long as she can), Josh Mankiewicz (NBC's Dateline), various people from The LA Times and KCRW/NPR.
What is the chattering class talking about? Their work.
LAT reporter Carla Hall (who worked on the LAT's Arnold Schwarzenegger groping stories) was introduced to Jill Stewart Saturday night. Carla reportedly gave Jill a long angry stare and then went off in a huff. According to some, Carla and company at The LAT blame Jill for denying The Times a Pulitzer prize for its groping series.
The Pulitzer doesn't like to award prizes to controversial series.
Until I read Cathy Seipp in Buzz magazine, I thought all media criticism had to be as boring as Rachel Smolkin's work.
Jill used to work with Carla at The Times but didn't recognize her.
A lot of people think swarthy Jewish author Dan Akst is black.
Low-carb celebrity Josh Mankiewicz sounds unhappy with his Dateline job. Too many fluffy lifestyle pieces, not enough hard news.
Some have claimed that it was the hyper-politically correct black female head of Human Resources at KNBC who was behind the firing of Kyung Lah, Jeff Soto and Jim Bunner. (Original story.) Maybe it was for miscegenation?
But Ron Fineman reports it was the general manager Paula Madison, who made it clear when she took over that a married person who has an affair with someone at the station could get fired.
I spent most of Sunday at Cathy Seipp's house with Amy Alkon, Hillary Johnson and her brother Din, Nancy Rommelman (who is married to Din), JackieBlogs.com and her business colleague Perry DeHavilland, Emmanuelle Richard...
Perry and Jackie disagree with me about the business efficacy of blogging about "smelly Arabs."
Nancy and Hillary used to be in business together and in 1995 co-wrote a book on the MTV show The Real World.
Cathy and I were arguing the case for the niceness of LA Observed's gentlemanly author Kevin Roderick. We're whistful for the bad ol' days when comments were allowed and I could write something horrible on there and then Cathy would come along and excuse my inexcusable behavior.
Lewis Fein must not be feeling himself because he didn't make his first call of the day to Cathy until 3pm. He needed to vent about the dishonesty of car salesmen.
I stepped on Cathy's scales. They read "191," about an all-time record for me. I buried my sorrows in Nancy's chocolate chip cookies (cleaning out Cathy's cache so she and Cecile wouldn't be tempted to sin against their bodies).
Perry offered to break Troll Dolls' kneecaps but Cathy said her policy was to ignore people that far beneath me.
When Dr. Laura Schlesinger was facing boycots led by homosexual activists a few years ago, she hired crisis management consultant Allan Mayer (former publisher and editor of Buzz magazine, California's last good magazine), who eventually fired (there's a nicer word for this but I forget the proper term) her because she was so difficult to deal with. I guess rapper R. Kelly, charged with child porn possession, was a choir boy by comparison.
The name of beautiful and charming Salon writer Heather Havrilesky came up the other day. I interjected that she gave a wonderful ---- ---. Not that I would know from first-hand experience, just that Heather has described it in glowing terms. I've also heard stories about Heather's penchant for flashing while intoxicated and her aggressive pursuit of her boyfriend, which some would describe as attempted r---. I have no idea if these stories are true, but they should be.
Heather has an accomplished new boyfriend. He's about 40, and teaches at UCLA.
Heather has a beautiful book-keeper friend Amy, whose car I gave a jump-start last Saturday night at AFI.
In the true world, love isn't found on the radio. It's found among the people. But for those of us with strongly misanthropic drives, particularly when we were younger and dumber, the only love we knew was on the radio.
Tits To Stop A Bus
The following is a story about my friend Danny Shapiro. The owner of this website, Luke Ford, does not necessarily endorse the language and opinions expressed. Luke would never objectify a woman because the Pope said not to.
My friend Danny went to a Shabbos dinner this month. It was a sausage-fest. About four guys for every girl.
Across the room, Danny spotted a formidably stacked woman. Danny wanted to rest his head on her bosom and cry. He thought she was hot, strong, smart. Best of all, she was modestly dressed. There were no peaks at her jewels.
The dinner drags on interminably. About 10pm, the woman wanders over to the table. She recognizes somebody from an Aish HaTorah function.
Danny says hello. He gets into an intense conversation with the woman. She's hot, hot, hot for Torah. She can't say no to Torah. A woman after Danny's heart.
She says Air Supply is good stuff.
Like a black widow spider, Danny is about to insert his stinger and render her helpless (through the acquisition of a telephone number or some form of contact information).
Then this guy walks up and says, "Danny Shapiro!"
Danny cringes and introduces the woman into the conversation, which drags along for a couple of minutes before the woman takes her leave without giving up the sacred contact information.
Danny's mad that he's let another guy break up his seduction routine. This keeps happening to Danny. He's too nice a guy.
In a way, though, it is only just, because Danny's been a dick a lot and horned in on other guys who were trying to pick up chicks. So perhaps Danny got what he deserved.
Danny doesn't think so. No more mister nice guy. Especially when the chick's got a rack that'll stop a bus.
January Book Sales
Zero. I did not sell one book in January according to IUniverse.
'I'm Going To Get Killed If They Catch Me'
Purim is a wonderful time to catch up with friends and to remember what is truly most important in this tawdry world -- things like staying alive.
I've known "Kevin" for a few years. We know a lot of people in common. He's walked the mean streets for about 20 years with some colorful characters. Many of them are from New York and have names that end in vowels.
Kevin: "Dana is just a bitch. She's trying to get me killed. She's so stupid. Nothing was going to happen to her at first. She just keeps getting herself in more and more trouble. She's lied to federal agents. That's a crime. She should know better. Either don't talk to them or tell them the truth. It's not like the cops where you can just lie and nothing will happen to you. They are federal agents. They write down everything you say.
"Dana took my car. I have a Lexus. I put it in my name. She was supposed to make the payments on it. She stopped making payments on it in December because she thought I was going to get killed. Her response was, 'F--- him. He's going to get killed anyway.' She wrote me the other day saying that if I want the car, I can go to Seagate [Mafia stronghold in Brooklyn] and get it. Where they'll kill me. She thinks she's so smart. She threw in with some people. She doesn't realize the bigger implications."
Luke: "If these people wanted to kill you, why wouldn't they just come to California?"
Joe: "Where are they going to find me?"
Luke: "How badly do they want you dead?"
Joe: "They're going to kill me. Bad. There's a contract out. I'm going to get killed if they catch me.
"They should come to California, but where are they going to get me? If I see them before they see me, then it's on. If they don't get me on the first shot, then people like Keith are going to disappear. It's all fair.
"You've got to remember something else. I still have friends. I'm not alone. I have powerful friends. And they're [enemies] are not in the right. I didn't do anything. It's just people getting greedy and they don't want to pay. That's it.
"Basically, my life is worth $100,000. 'Hmm, take Kevin back or kill him. Hmm, I'll kill him.'
Where Can Survivors Of Rabbinic Sex Abuse Turn For Help?
Who can victims/survivors go to for help? Rabbi Mordechai Tendler case exposes the sad simple fact that in the post-Lanner era little has changed.This seems to be the key question now again being asked. Where do you go? Who will help you? Who can you trust?I do not have the answers to these questions but let’s look at the organizations and individuals that failed victims/survivors in this situation and review what we’ve previously discussed.
1) OHEL and rabbinical leaders
In early 2003, several of the women who say they were sexually exploited by Rabbi Mordecai Tendler contacted Rabbi Dovid Cohen the Halachic advisor for Ohel for help. He did not help them.Various rabbinical leaders and community leaders were approached over the years. But nothing was done.
2) Agunot advocacy organizations and their leadership
They utterly abandoned and failed victims/survivors. At worst supported and continued to send women to Rabbi Mordechai Tendler, at “best” remained silent.
3) Rabbi Mark Dratch (Jsafe) and the RCA
In December 2003, during the question-and-answer session of a Makor forum on rabbinical abuse, several female health-care professionals in the audience spoke with frustration about Rabbi Mordechai Tendler and made accusations of rabbinical sexual misconduct, which they reported has been going on for years.This led to the current long and protracted RCA investigation that has just in the last 9 days resulted in Rabbi Mordechai Tendler's expulsion from the RCA.
Rabbi Dratch initially put together investigation materials but stepped aside as others in the RCA took over the investigation as there was a feeling that there may be a conflict of interest due to Rabbi Dratch's past involvement in The Awareness Center.
An outside organization Praedium was brought in to investigateVictims/survivors and other witnesses were told that their information would be treated confidentially and NOT handed to Rabbi Mordechai Tendler. They were betrayed.
Although, Rabbi Dratch was certainly not the source of the RCA betrayal, he did make a mistake. He told victims/survivors that his colleagues would treat their information confidentiality, something he should never have done as his colleagues turned out to be far from honorable in this regard. Hopefully, in his Jsafe organization he will choose his colleagues with more caution. It is clear that he has lost some trust among victims/survivors as a result of this. It is also clear that in the future advocates helping victims/survivors will be less inclined to trust or tell victims/survivors to trust the RCA or Jsafe. Both will have to take steps to re-establish their credibility as trustworthy. The question remains today, can a victim/survivor go to the RCA for help? Can they trust that the RCA will act professionally? Can they trust that confidentiality will be respected? These questions remain.
I would note:
a. No counseling services/resources and no legal representation were provided to victims/survivors. Once again raising the question of why such resources are not available to victims of abuse in the general community.
b. During the entire investigation, Rabbi Mordechai Tendler continued to act as a pulpit rabbi and provide counseling to women.I also want to clarify an important point. Rabbi Dratch has been criticized as part of the RCA for this betrayal. I believe Rabbi Dratch is a good and decent man. I believe he truly wants to make a difference. As I have posted in the past, he has a long commitment to this issue and has been a powerful advocate. He clearly understands that there is no simple solution to how to deal with these type of cases or how to advocate:
I personally disagree with Rabbi Dratch in this regard. An initial review process in untenable. It is NOT possible to investigate these type of cases and come to conclusions like “guilty/innocent”. That is for the courts or a future Sanhedrin to determine. No other religion is taking such an approach and for good reason. Each and every case is difficult. It may take decades to understand the whole picture. Look how long the Rabbi Mordechai Tendler case has dragged on. That is why I advocate the same approach as other religions. Post all public cases that are documented in any way, shape or form. Put the information in the public's hands.
We are a very “rights of the abuser” focused society. This must change. The rights of the past/current/future victims should be equally focused on. It clearly isn't.
I would only remove cases when the parties involve make a formal request and submit to a full review by professionals directly in the field of sexual abuse who have both the education and experience to fully comprehend and analyze the dynamics involved.
Here is a case I would like to see addressed by Rabbi Dratch/Jsafe:
Anthony Roberts a former teacher at an Orthodox school in England was recently found “not guilty of sexually abusing a 14 year-old student. Mr. Roberts maintains his innocence and will almost certainly be back in education in some Jewish community within a few years.
Should he be back in education? What would/could Jsafe do?
I know of cases in kashrut where shochtim with questionable behavior (unrelated to shita) were told that even though there was not enough evidence for a beis din to find them guilty, the fact that a chashas (suspicion) exists is enough that they are no longer welcome in kashrut. The justification? They should never have put themselves in a position where they could be compromised. As shochtim they must be beyond reproach.Should we not have stronger standards as to who works with our children then we have in kashrut?
4) The Jewish press played an important role in this case. Both Gary Rosenblatt and Rukhl Schaechter (in particular) have written powerful articles.
I would note that although I praise Rosenblatt for stories like Rabbi Lanner, I have been and continue to be critical of the arbitrary standards he applies to sexual abuse stories. If the general media had used similar standards, there would be no Catholic Church scandal. He has refused to do proper investigative reports on numerous cases such as, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks, Rabbi Lewis Brenner (see quote and link below regarding this area). He is too quick to acquiesce to senior RCA members in letting them investigate and deal with such situations quietly (Rabbis Bryks and Tendler). He has also delayed stories for no good reason (Rabbi Mordechai Gafni).
As I've pointed out before, people turn to him for help believing that the reporter that broke the Lanner story will help them. Unfortunately, many victims/survivors find no help. He has simply refused to investigate many stories in this area. Unfortunately, he is the one reporter that everyone is referred to.
"The professional dilemma this poses for me, and this newspaper, which already has a reputation — I believe undeserved — for Orthodox bashing, is whether we are now to become the central communal clearinghouse for dealing with and outing Orthodox Jewish officials with various sexual deviancies. I don’t think that’s our role."
Unfortunately, there are few Jewish press reporters willing to even do stories in this area and the general media has been reluctant to do stories in this area. I was asked to list Jewish reporters who could be approached recently. I could only name the above two. Many reporters after doing stories in this area are so disturbed by the material that they avoid doing further work in this area. Several reporters I have approached have told me exactly that.
5) The Awareness Center was the one organization that showed backbone, the one organization that advocated for these women, the one organization that tried to find resources for them even when it had none of its own, the one organization that did not betray these women, the one organization that was not quiet and the one organization that put its reputation on the line for these wome. If ever there was proof of the need for an advocacy organization like the Awareness center, it is stories like this.
Now if only it had proper resources of its own.
Newt Gingrich Delivers A Message Of Hope
I have to fight myself to avoid spending too much time reading about politics. I naturally love it, as I love professional football, for its brutality and the clearcut nature of its victories and defeats.
I limit my reading about sports because the subject is inherently shallow and a distraction from what truly matters. Also, reading about the Dallas Cowboys football team intensifies my feelings for them, and my identification with them, and that makes defeat all the more painful. It's easier not to care too much.
I limit my study of politics because I am naturally rabid. I like to use the information I learn to win arguments and to hurt people. When I study politics (or religion or anything), I get puffed up and self-righteous and quick to judge those who appear to know less than me as idiots.
I am at my best when I describe rather than prescribe. Studying religion and politics feeds my yearning to be a moral leader. That's not healthy for me or for others.
The more I learn about politics, the more painful the reality of American political life becomes. With the enormous influx of illegal immigration, I fear that Republicans are doomed. I fear that our society is sinking into cultural decadence (gay marriage, non-judgmentalism, Hollywood nihilism).
I think that President Bush has done a lousy job controlling domestic spending, supporting free trade, and, most important of all, protecting our borders from an influx of illegal immigrants.
As a conservative, I have skeptical view of human nature. I fear that our good society won't last and our blessed nation will go the way of all flesh (or at least into a decline akin to what Britain suffered after World War II).
Because I'm a journalist, I try to clamp down on my partisan tendencies (by, among other things, confessing them). When I go to speeches, I don't like applaud. I must be priestly in these matters, above temptation.
Thursday I got one of the last seats available for Newt Gingrich's talk to David Horowitz's Wednesday Morning Club.
Why doesn't the WMC update its website? It's next to impossible to figure out on this page what's going on with the WMC and how to join. Ahh, ok, if you just surf over here it gets much clearer.
Newt Gingrich gave a marvelous speech full of specifics and a general tone of optimism (a virtue that often escapes me).
I owe Newt a couple of my happiest political memories of the past 20 years -- when the Republicans won back the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years in November 1994, and when they passed their Contract with America in January 1995. Newt was a marvelous minority leader but shortly after taking power, he went down the drain. He was a waste as a majority leader. I don't know exactly what went wrong. He screwed around on his marriage.
It sounds like he's positioning himself for a run for president in 2008. Melrose Larry Green (a regular caller to the Howard Stern show) got up and implored Newt to run.
Gingrich said he wouldn't talk about that because the media would get too negative [about his personal life as well as his failures as majority leader when he was consistently whupped by Bill Clinton]. Newt wanted to stick to ideas for now.
Gingrich made God, the judiciary and illegal immigration the major focus of his speech.
How does he get away just phoning in his columns? Because he's a black contrarian intellectual? Because many of his ideas are so powerful that people just forgive his pedestrian prose?
Crouch has things to say. He just doesn't take the time to polish how he says them.
Chaim Amalek writes:
It's May 12, Yom Ha'atzmaut aka Israel Independence Day.
I'm working on an essay about Air Supply's meaning to my life.
In honor of their contributions to the music, I want to have a meaningful date on that day. Dinner at a kosher restaurant followed by a walk along the beach watching the sun go down.
Failing that, I will spend this sacred time writing about love and other bruises.
To give in to moral weakness would be to betray Air Supply's ideals. Therefore, I will not hook up May 12 with some girl young, dumb and full of fun.
When Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell met on May 12, 1975, during the first day of rehearsals for Jesus Christ Superstar, I was not yet nine years old (born May 28, 1966) and living two hours drive away in Cooranbong, the home of the Seventh Day Adventist Avondale College, where my father Desmond Ford was the chairman of the Religion Department.
My home was not a happy place. After my mother was diagnosed with cancer on my first birthday (she died April 24, 1970), my family cracked up.
Though my dad remarried nine months after her death, and I got a devoted stepmother, the love had left our home. What remained was my father's dedication to saving souls for Christ. Aside from that, this world was worthless.
Popular music was not allowed in our home. It was regarded as a sin, along with caffeine, nicotine, and sex before marriage.
My parents, along with most of the Christian world, regarded Jesus Christ Superstar as sacrilegious.
While Russell and Graham toured
We made a demo of two of my songs, "Love and Other Bruises" and "If You Knew Me." The demo was recorded live on a cassette in the orchestra pit using the drummer and pianist from the show. We shopped it around Sydney with no luck in an environment of AC/DC and Rock n' Roll. As a last resort we saw Peter Dawkins from CBS... He loved the sound he heard and we make a single in four hours at Alberts Studio on
The single came out and was played on 2GB in
In late 1976, Air Supply opened for Rod Stewart around
In May 1977, my parents and I moved to
On July 4, 1977, Air Supply boarded their first 747 and flew to
On Sabbath afternoon, October 28, 1978 (Yom Kippur), my father denounced our Church's central doctrine of divine chosenness before 1000 of his co-religionists. Soon after, he was called to account for his heresy at SDA headquarters in
Just before my parents left, a classmate I envied for his popularity, Andy Muth, was pushed by his mother to invite me to his home for Sabbath lunch.
It was the first time in
The meal was life-changing. For a few hours, I sat with a family who loved each other.
My own home was cold. I hated it. I constantly dreamed I'd be adopted by a loving family (yet, whenever I thought through the specifics, I always concluded that the benefits of my home outweighed the disadvantages).
My father lived by the dicta that great people discuss ideas, not people. Our table talk was about philosophy, history and my father's theological battles. Ordinary matters, such as girls, were forbidden (not explicitly, just by my father's stern example, which my stepmother generally fell in with).
The one time (in seventh grade) a girl called for me and my mother answered the phone, I got into trouble.
What chilled my soul was not so much my mother drilling me about the girl and forbidding such future telephone conversations that sent such a chill into my soul, but the whole steel wall my parents (not from malicious motives, they did their best by me) erected between me and the joys of being human. It was impossible for me to enjoy being 13 while I was Dr. Ford's son.
My dad was far tougher on my older siblings (I didn't like to make waves around the house) than on me. I got the kinder gentler Dr. Ford. When my brother was 13, my dad marched to the door of his girlfriend's parents and broke up the relationship.
By age 15, my brother and sister had left home.
My father was uptight around women. He thought they were, in general, overly emotional and insufficiently rational. Resolutely moral, dad hated it when they tried to hug him. He loved misogynistic remarks from unimpeachable sources, such as the one by Martin Luther that "women were born with big hips so that they can stay at home and sit on them."
As I grew up, I found myself mirroring dad's behavior, shrugging off the female touch even though it was what I wanted most.
From age eight onwards, I was fascinated by girls and sex. Due to the standards of my home, it was not something I could talk about except with my closest male friends.
When the first girls became interested in me in fifth grade, I punched and kicked them, spat upon them, and left thumbtacks on their chairs for them to sit upon. I didn't know how else to respond to what I wanted.
Now on this Sabbath afternoon with the Muths, I sat with a family who could banter about all my secret fascinations -- chiefly, the cute girls in my class such as Denise Bernard.
When my parents moved to
Though the Muths had the same religious code as my parents, there was humanity in the way they implemented it. For the next five years, there home was an oasis of normality for me. I was never happier than when I lived with them.
One Sabbath they even had Denise over for lunch.
Andy introduced me, not only to beautiful girls, but to the typical concerns of 13-year olds, such as computer games and pop music.
In early 1980, Air Supply's title cut Lost in Love went to number three on the American charts. I immediately latched on to the group because their music spoke to my lonely heart. I loved their first hit because it spoke to the way we can inspire each other: "But I'm back on my feet and eager to be what you wanted."
All Out Of Love was their second hit:
As a kid who moved a lot, and tended to romanticize what I'd left behind, this song spoke to me.
Then came Every Woman in the World:
Love can transform your life. Not just love of a woman, but love of friends, text, and experiences. I felt that if I could tap into the power of love, and combine it with a disciplined commitment, I could transform my unhappy life.
The One That You Love was the title cut from Air Supply's second album. It became a number one hit.
Now the night has gone away Doesn't seem that long We hardly had two words to say Hold me in your arms For just another day
As one who had never spent the night with a girl, that description sounded thrilling.
Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) was another hit.
Here I am playing with those memories again And just when I thought time had set me free Those thoughts of you keep taunting meHolding you, a feeling I never outgrew Though each and every part of me has tried Only you can fill that space inside
I admired the emotional courage of the lyrics. I wished that I could say such words to Denise and that they would be reciprocated.
I longed for the opportunity to feel such pain.
Come What May didn't get the recognition it deserved in
Two Less Lonely People In The World was the wedding anthem of the 1980s says Graham Russell:
Take my thoughts away beyond the things we see Sometimes I feel just a word away
I want to do great things for the girl I love.
During the day, freed from my parents, I mixed normally with people. I developed friends and community. I touched girls.
Back in the beginning of sixth grade, the most beautiful girl in the class, Cindy, dropped a note on my desk asking me if I wanted to "go" with her. With an opportunity to seize love, I froze, felt unworthy, and never answered her directly. Instead, I teased her unmercifully for months. When I finally dropped a note on her desk and asked her to "go" with me, she responded with an enthusiastic "No!"
Now I learned from my classmates' example how to express what I felt in more socially appropriate ways. Instead of dunking girls in the college pool and twisting their nipples, I began holding them in ways they wanted to be held. At times, I even got to touch the most beautiful girls.
In the main, however, I found myself longing for a girl, Denise, who did not feel the same way about me. For months on end, I called her every day until the gossip went around the class about what I was doing and how annoying she found it, and, humiliated, I got the message and quit.
But I couldn't quit loving her.
She was the first girl I asked out on a date. Several times she turned me down in the summer of 1981 (between ninth and tenth grade) because she had to go to horse shows. Finally she said yes when I asked her to a San Francisco Giants. It was the first night of pro baseball after a 50-day players strike.
I was so nervous that I wore mismatched socks and spent most of the night making bets with Andy. Denise and I never went out again.
I hear she's now married and living in Los Angeles.
Later in the summer, I fell in love for the first time with a girl who reciprocated my feelings -- Rainy Jackson. She was a year younger than me. She had chubby cheeks. We liked the same music. It took me a year to work up the courage to kiss her. Meanwhile, when I left the Muths to return home for school, we exchanged long and longing letters (far longer and more longing on my part until the time I got so jealous, I stopped writing to her for several months. Nothing is more effective with girls than cutting off attention to them.)
The most haunting Air Supply song is Chances. Whenever I heard it, I thought about Rainy:
There's a chance you will be there Wondering what to do How to play my role I'll leave it up to you If I disguise my smile It gives too much away What if we can't speak What then shall I say Don't you be too long Something has gone wrong The chances are all gone
From childhood to adulthood, I've found it hard to approach someone I'm attracted to (when I'm feeling unworthy, which is often). I find it easier to sit in the corner and sulk. I find it easier to avoid painful truth and live in my delusions of grandeur.
I've found it hard to tell a girl that I care because not only does that make me incredibly vulnerable, but it gives her all the power and removes from me all the mystery. It's a really lousy strategy (unless you're sure the feelings are mutual, or you need to get clarity on the matter so you can fish or cut bait).
Air Supply articulated my helpless longings and soothed the pain of my awkward adolescence. My favorite songs included Chances, The One That You Love, Here I Am, Sweet Dreams, Even The Nights Are Better, and Two Less Lonely People In The World.
Andy not only introduced me to junk culture, but also junk food. We d clamber into the bins outside our local supermarket and dig up the pastries and cookies that were a day or two past their expiration date.
I was also introduced to the trash can outside the post office where one could find catalogues of pornography. I wouldn't look at it (for religious reasons), but I got a thrill from hanging out with those who would. I'd ask them to describe to me what they saw.
I listened to that song while driving home Rachel, a 16-year old I fell in love with during my year back in
I never saw them again. In the early '90s, Rachel died in a car accident.
By the time I lost my virginity at age 21, I'd moved from pop to classical music (though I was willing to play REO Speedwagon to get my girlfriend in the mood).
Since then, I've limited the amount of discretionary time and money I'll spend on pop culture and concentrated on things more in accord with lasting values.
In 1999, 2000, and 2001, I took long drives from
It's when I no longer feel that shock and awe that I will worry. As long as I have passion, I can still make my dreams come true. And one day soon, I pray, I will be one of two less lonely people in the world.