Where I have been. Part 1
by Benny Bean
50 years out of high school so I was reminded when I received and invitation to the class reunion. God I said at that time as I put it in a junk mail pile, I wouldn’t go to that if you paid me double. I never liked high school in fact I hated it and yes Mary I was queer knew it and I rebelled. People hated us sissys back then all across the board. I was already labeled a commie, pinko, nervous Nelly, and what ever else the pea brains could come up with to call me, I had been beaten up by fellow classmates and was on the most wanted list of the conservatives who supported the war against the people of Vietnam having in my junior year gone down to NYC and participated in the first large march against the war came home and started talking against war. Well low and behold that was the same week that the goodie two shoes in my class where in NYC for a yearbook conference and one of them spotted me in the demo and told everyone back home that she knew that not only was I a wacko artist whose art no one understood but a stinking communist as well. Things went downhill in the hallow halls of high school after that.
Somehow the reunion committee got my home address, (man are they still spying after all these years) and sent me the invite. I laughed when I read the names on the reunion committee. Most of them I didn’t even realize still existed or existed in the first place. People that I hadn’t even thought about for 50 years. Let me say now that this was a small town high school and there was probably 120 or so kinds in my class at the most. Well so in the last few years I most likely had only a few friends, the rest were just hellos. I couldn’t wait to bust out of the place. A small group of us were itching for something, little rebels looking for a cause small pockets of rebellion one or two people in classes before mine and some coming up but the majority of the kids were conservative white small town, father knows best, and don’t break the rules types. You know those kind they really “aint doing nothing’ real for anyone but themselves and those who were just like them. Sure we had early rumblings of class war like the time the underdogs convinced everyone in the commercial and industrial arts classes to vote for one of ours as prom queen. We won and Margie Petersen was crowned setting off a lot of ” it just isn’t fair,” among those who thought that they should be the only ones in line to sit on the throne. ( 1 ) Yeah there is quite a bit of that in many shapes, places and forms. You know you gotta mess with the system bringing it down and if its only a prom queen in high school well its a start.
Let me lay this out. Our school was run by a Catholic fanatic, deeply closeted, old queen who most likely picked up a pork chop with gloves on, who floated down the halls of the school and thought everyone should accept this fatherly advice. Once when a fellow traveler of mine was on suspension this old closet queen gave him The Foot Of The Cross, Or The Sorrows Of Mary to read and expected a book report when he was finished. My friend turned in the words BULLSHIT and was nearly thrown out of school. (I married that boy years ago and still love him dearly) (2) When this old queen heard that people were demonstrating against the war he called an assembly and declared himself to be a target of the communists and that they were coming to chop off his head and roll it down Main Street. He pranced about the stage reminding us all that there was a war going on against good and evil and we would have to decide if we were on his side or the Communists. Screaming about the godless Communists, the communists out to get him he declared, “I am the number one enemy” he screamed. “Someday they will come here to this our dear school and take me away and chop off my head and roll it down Main Street,” he bellowed like a mad man from the stage. Giggles went though the school body assembled and some students outright laughed causing him to grab the flag, pole and all wrap himself up in it and scream, “If there are any communists in this school shoot me now!” Well Joey Johnson another one of my idols from the class preceding me, yelled out BANG BANG!!! That threw the place into total outrage and Joey was found out when a couple of stool pigeons told on him and suspended from school. Stool pigeons, I never like them from that day on. All I could say as we were filed out one by one was “that was one of the best shows I have seen in this school since I started high school.” All heaven was starting to break loose all over the country and I was moving right along with it. Our young people’s revolution was being born and I was ready as I had learned from the best that the town had to offer. I knew the worse and what they stood for and I rejected them.
Well back to the reunion. I wanted to write here in answer to the classmates who now have two homes, (one has four), travel all the time and their main accomplishments have been to follow the white mainstream dream, go to school, go to college, get a job, have children, have grandchildren, retire, travel, and be good bourgeoisie citizens of this great United States blue, white, and scarlet hypocrisy. Little boxes, little boxes little boxes all the same. Each classmate was asked to write a blurb about what they had been doing in the past 50 years since graduating from high school Some of them sounded like they hadn’t changed their minds at all and all that was said and down in the late 1960s somehow passed them by as they molded their selves into a mommy and daddy life style. . If one song was written to say this is them it would have to be Malvina Reynolds song Little Boxes.
So I got to thinking what would I write if I wrote a blurb about what I have been doing. So I said well you didn’t and they all ready published everyone’s boring memories so this blog furbirdsqueerly will have to do. So here goes what in the world have I been doing all these years. 50 years, crap some of my comrades today weren’t even born and I dedicate this piece to them.
It was late afternoon in late August, raining cats and dogs my father started to attack me for being what he called a faggot. I left ran out of the house got to the highway and hitched rides to NYC and what I hoped would be freedom. Was there freedom to be found in 1966? You bet. Freedom that I had been seeking freedom to be who and what I was. But what was this new found freedom, no money in my pocket, glad it was summer as I had no coat, no change of clothes, nothing but as they say the clothes on my back. I went looking for someone right away to have sex with, a room to sleep in and maybe a meal I learned to listen, do what they wanted and things began to fall into place. I had been coming down to the city all of my junior year almost every other weekend, heading right for the YMCA to fuck my brains out right up till the time it was to go home. Maybe I will find something and at least a chance to get out of my wet clothes. I can only guess that my classmates were all getting ready to go off to college, hugging mommy and daddy crying like it was the end of the world rather than a world opening up before them hopefully realizing how lucky they were. So I began my years of wandering, wet as a tongue that I became skillful at using to get what I needed, alone and never longing to be homeward bound.
From now on my home would be where I was. I carried it all with me. A wanderer I became. That became my life for the next 12 years. Sticking out ones thumb, hitching a ride not hard in those days, Where do you want to go, hop in, making a little money here and there, sleeping with truckers, doctors, lawyers, other hippies and once yes an Indian chief. But never a candle maker, a butcher or baker but saw some action indeed with a few men in the tub. I preferred the shower if the truth be told, yes I could and would be I’m so wet from standing in the shower. ( 3 )—For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about here is a little song you can sing along with. Yes its true.
Three years later I was in San Francisco when we heard the news. Drag Queens, Lesbians and Gays at the Stonewall Inn fought back when the police conducted one of their raids. Finally after years of the cops jailing us, harassing people at every turn finally my people fought back. I join with the Gay Liberation front right away knowing full well that only through Gay Liberation could we ever be truly free in a world of straight domination. I can only describe the feeling as being like shouting as loud as you can, war hooping, screaming, liberating, letting it all out, taking a big shit after being constipated for a long time, (awful way to look at it), ripping off the straight jacket and giving a big fuck you to those who tried to bind us, oppress us, suppress us, omit us, deny us, and erase us. We saw in those days that we were very much apart of a rebelling whole, a group of people who gathered together as a revolutionary force. We knew unlike the selfish self-center Lesbian and Gay one issue people that all issues were our issues and that we were here there and everywhere. I think that I joined in just about every demonstration that was held against the war in Vietnam until the war ended. How many times I was jailed for the cause I do not remember but am damn proud that I was part of bringing the war to an end and equally proud that I helped to liberate my people from the darkness that those who opposed surrounded us with.
Gay Contingent Vietnam War Protest 1971, photo Diana Davies
Word went out in the early days, “All of the oppressed have to unite. The system keeps us all weak by keeping us separate.”… Jim Fouratt, one of the organizers of the Gay Liberation Front.
Where oh where has this little dog been?
Since everyone in the reunion newsletter stated all of the places they lived I should really do the same. Born and grew up in Goon City. You’ll know you are there when you spy the large cock fucking the world that one of our artists painted on the railroad embankments, New York City, Philadelphia, Mexico City, El Passo Tx., Rock Port Maine, Chicago, Davenport Iowa, San Francisco, Stirling City California, New Haven Ct., Woodstock New York, Hartford Ct. Yes a wanderer. I probably get the award for most places lived but two of the class mates also moved around quite a bit while in the U.S military service. Well I wasn’t in the military, I knew early on that they didn’t want fags and I didn’t want them so I had strong feelings to non-cooperate with the likes of their killing as a lifestyle.
My coming out as gay was standing in my underwear in front of some military brass type and saying no I wasn’t just fooling around with other boys that I was the real thing a practicing homosexual. (but as the joke went I really didn’t need much practice.) A 4F unfit for military service was stamped on my draft card. All hell broke loose with my father. My mother cried and said “This is going to haunt you the rest of your life.” (sorry mom it never did) “How could you do this to me, all my brothers were in the service your father was in the Navy and what will I tell the family and the neighbors?” Okay by me, I had better things to do like make art, make love with sexy long hair boys, get stoned and learn a whole new way of living as a long-haired, hippie, commie, homo boy. Make love not war, yes man I was ready. Come to me you sexy thing. Yes somehow we knew that a new day was possible we just had to fight for it however we could. As a young gay man out as out could be, I burned my draft card along with many of my straight brothers. My war was here, in amerika not thousands of miles away to attack folks who did nothing to me. Hell it wasn’t any Vietnamese that made my life miserable, that called me a sissy, that pushed me and my good friend Eddie into the mud puddles held him down he almost drowned in the muddy water, that punched me so hard in the face that I fell to the ground, meanwhile giving me a kick in the side, and continued to beat me up when ever they were so moved. Nope those where good old amerikkkan boys out to get the sissy fag and his ni!#er friend. Why the hell would I want to protect them? Why would I want to be like them? And why in the world would I want to die for them? Why the fuck would I want to die and kill for the Jones’s? The Jones those miserable people who made life miserable for the poor in small town amerikkka. Who or what do you want to die for a most important question? I pledge my allegiance to no nation, no people to no lofty idea that can not be realized under a dirty rotten system. Non participation with this system as much as possible has been my goal for as long as I can remember. I left the west coast and headed back east stopping off along the way staying for awhile in each city, getting whatever job I could find and ditto all the men too.
No I didn’t become a famous artist I had better things to do.
I use to do a lot of art back in the day. So much so my reputation as someone who would be famous someday preceded me no matter where I went in Goon City. My mother swore up and down that if she didn’t know better she would say she found me on the doorstep. I loved that idea. A live crying and kicking pants filled with the stinkies, brown haired blue eye ready made piece of art. That was me. I don’t remember when it was that I gave up painting as my art form. . Living the life of wandering around it was sort of difficult to carry art supplies with me. I found what I could set about doing something leaving it off where ever I was. Artist has been here once did a job and left. I began to write like every other wanderer of the day, filling notebooks with my thoughts and scribbles. Once I was so sick of trying to get through Kansas in the middle of the winter I decided to turn all that flat white to black top. That was it. So opened up the door of just thinking. Think it up and it was done. Amen to that piling up any more art and not knowing how to get rid of it. I gave up art after awhile so I could devote myself full time to leftist politicks and the hope that someday in the not so distance future we would truly bring about the day that had been foretold in the lines, From the ashes of the old world a better world is in birth. You know dear classmates all of you who seem to be so in love with this system myself at 70 still believe in that line and will until the day I die. As Clara Fraser said in a May Day speech in 1960, “What better fate can a person carve out than participation in the emancipation of humanity? What better use to make of one’s life…? We look toward a time when we shall have ceased to mourn martyrs. A time when we are no longer occupied with explaining defeats and rising above betrayals. Not because we will have forgotten the past, but simply because we are so engrossed and fulfilled in the role of creating a world rich with freedom, plenty, humane relations between people, and the joy of living.”
End of Part 1.
( 2) Another bit of our stories together. It was the summer of 1966 and Goosey Bell itching to travel and after a few strong drinks took a shuttle from a local hotel to the airport hid out of sight on a runway and waited for boarding to begin on a plane, told a airline stewardess that his ticket had blown away and hopped a plane. After a few more drinks he asked her where is this plane going? She replied, “Boston.” “Oh,” said Goosey Bell, “that’s too bad I was hoping to get further away than that.” That one incident set off a chain and soon the FBI was there taking him off the plane. After giving the agents a run-a-round with false names and stories it was discovered who he was and that he never registered for the draft. Gossey was drafted within days, send for basic training and off to Vietnam he went. While there he joined with the GI resistance, almost killed a mess of Sergeants as they slept in their hootches, and was sent for observation at a army hospital was released and sent home. Now this is the man that I proudly ended up with a colorful character who would dare call the sorrows of Mary bullshit, made lots of art, went to cook in Rome, came home and ended up in Hartford where we still enjoy each others company some 50 years later.
(3) I’m So Wet From Standing In The Shower