Thursday, July 16, 2009


"They say a secret is something you tell one other person
so I'm telling you." - Peter Mulvey

Seeing the White House from Constitution Avenue was a special thrill. Even though I've seen that view hundreds of times, this one was different. Now Obama is in there. Apparently, the country had to teeter on the edge of chaos, run to the brink by charlatans and bandits, to wise up. Every place I went I found friends with enthusiasm for Obama, the kind unseen in a generation.

None more than Johanna. After Craig's memorial service I headed to New England for visits to several friends. Rick picked me up in his boat at Johanna's dock in the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River. (More in a later post.) Johanna was Abbie Hoffman's partner and had lost little of her sixties zeal for political activism. She had attended Obama's inauguration along with "my five lesbians," as she put it. I think she said something about them trying to exorcise the White House before Obama moved in.

Johanna was upset by Proposition 8 in California that made gay marriage illegal. Upset not that it passed but that new efforts to overturn it didn't go far enough in spelling out gay rights. Later I asked Larry (my friend, Larry, who I stayed with a couple of nights in DC, not to be confused with my not-friend, ex-boss Larry) if he thought that again legalizing gay marriage in California would be a good thing. Larry, who is gay, said he thought it was an important step. I just don't understand why people get so agitated about it.

I can think of only one thing about Obama that has disappointed me: what's with this "don't ask, don't tell" bullshit in the military? It's not that complicated. Just end it, ok? It's really stupid.

I have to confess, however, that I am conflicted since an earlier version of the country's homophobia kept me out of Vietnam forty years ago. I lost my student deferment at the peak of that folly at the end of 1967. That was just after my very first visit to Washington, DC, for the anti-war march on the Pentagon. Sadly, we failed all efforts to make it levitate.

By early 1968 Uncle Sam wanted me. I flunked my first physical at the U.S. Army's Fort Wayne induction center near Detroit, thanks to a hernia. Two months later I was called back.

"So you're going to keep making me come back here forever until I get this hernia fixed?" I asked the bored Army doctor.


"Then there's something else you need to know."

"What's that."

"I'm gay."

He actually rolled his eyes. But he wrote me out an order to see an Army shrink the next day.

Show time! Walking back to the reception area I sashayed past an endless line of potential draftees, naked but for their skivvies. Dressed in my gay clothes (pointy shoes, tight black pants, flowery fake silk shirt, etc.), I got whistles and cat-calls. "Go ahead, you dumb shits," I said to myself. "Whistle all you want. Your asses are headed to Vietnam to get shot off and mine is out of here."

Assuming I could convince the shrink the next day. Me and a handful of other nut cases were put up in a seedy hotel in downtown Detroit. My weird roommate and I went to see "2001" at the big-screen Cinerama. As if life at that moment wasn't surreal enough.

Back at Fort Wayne the next morning I ducked behind a barracks just before going in to see the shrink. It needed to be the performance of my life. So I embraced my gayness.

I remember that the shrink asked me about a "typical gay day." The rest is kind of hazy. When I walked out I didn't know if he believed me or not.

At the final processing table I could see the Army guy was scanning the shrink's report. Reading it upside-down I saw my diagnosis: "Non-aggressive, sociopathic sex deviant." Hey, don't forget the hernia.

So I pretty much had it covered. Just to make sure I also had applied for status as a conscientious objector. I was turned down, but appealed to the State Draft Board. One day found me sitting before three ribbon-bedecked retired military guys with short hair in the Federal Building in Flint, Michigan. They asked me questions like, "if Hitler was raping your sister what would you do?" But I had studied hard for this insane test and knew all the right insane answers. On a 2-1 vote they bought my story.

I had a bunch of draft cards: 2-S. 1-A. 1-A-O. 1-Y. 4-F. Burned 'em all eventually.

Robert McNamara, architect of that damned war, died this month at 93. He was brilliant, a reminder that tempers my excitement about all the brilliant people now in the White House. McNamara long ago concluded that he had been "wrong, terribly wrong" about the war. That was, of course, after more than 58,000 guys like the ones lined up in their skivvies in Fort Wayne were killed for nothing, plus several million Vietnamese. And a generation scarred forever. Fuck him.

So go ahead. Ask me. I'll tell.

Next: "Friends (Part 1)

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1 comment:

  1. Hey, Wayne,

    Couldn't you just dump some trash illegally a la Arlo Guthrie?