50 Years Out of High School (you know the rest)
Part 4– By Benny Bean
I looked back over Part 1, 2, 3 and say, Hey you only told a very small part of the story. You’ve said nothing about your art, what you did and where you did it, you know you did it all those years, you only seemed to concentrate on the men you fooled around with. Oh well somethings just turn out that way. I am not sure where this piece will lead as I have written so much about my times in Woodstock and about some of the happenings in Hartford I will just leave links in the notes, so anyone who may be interested can fill in the blanks. Or go to anywhere in Pages and take a read. I am sure you will find something that is of interest about these times.
I wondered while I read the blurbs from former classmates why any of them or anyone really needed two homes? Let’s let the facts speak here. In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, and. 358,422 were individuals. About 15 percent of the homeless population – 83,170 – are considered “chronically homeless” individuals. In LA area alone there are over 47,000 homeless people. No it isn’t against the law to have more than one home but it is not and never will be justified. But how does one argue with the “fruits of our labors?” I worked hard all my life for what I got? No one is gonna take it from me.”
Ah some would respond, “education. It’s a matter of educating people. Yes that is a nice thing for those among us who have the time, are privileged enough to take the time to be educated on such matters as to what is enough for each of us. Education yes, some have the time but other spend their day on the end of the society’s beating stick. I met a young woman at the Peace and Justice Center who responded when I asked about a movement in town, No we don’t really have a movement here we just try to educate folks about the follies of war and the war machine.” “Oh,” said I “nice to have the time and the luxury to do that but I wonder about the folks all around the world who are the brunt of Amerikkka’s strikes, who live where the bombs drop all the time, who suffer while you guys sit around here getting educated?” Oh that old divide again rears its head. Of the have and have nots. Of those who get it and those who do not. Well needless to say I was asked to leave the Peace and Justice Center. Guess I wasn’t their brand of Peace and Justice at all.
New York New York-The City So Nice They Named It Twice.
I got off the bus and said, damn back in New York. I took the subway down to 14th and Union Square to meet the artist who I was going to work for. We hit it off quite well, Her studio was 2 doors down from 6th Ave on 14th street. My dream corner as there was a great material store with bolts of fabric out on the street. I checked it out and bought some. Never know when it will come in useful. She gave me the keys to the cabin I was to stay in and a surprise bus ticket. The driver will let you off at the Maverick Road if you ask and I will call ahead for Joe the neighbor down the street to meet you there. I won’t be up this year till mid-June so you can concentrate on some yard work and getting the place spruced up for the summer. She told me where the key for her house was and that if I wanted to go in and dust around the place and air it out it would be appreciated. Yeah in between getting my cabin in tip top shape as it was only used when some of her family came to visit. I hadn’t realized when she told me it was rustic what exactly she meant. Well here is rustic, no running water, no heat, no bathroom, the only modern convenience was electricity. Jeepers I said, lets hope that there isn’t any wind storm that knocks down some trees and then there goes my power. I spent one and a half years living there. Roughing it as a young man of the mountains.
I met Kenneth one day when I was hitchhiking from Kingston back home. Cute straight looking little guy with a bald head and I fell in love when he rubbed my leg. Tuesday was our day to meet as he was married lived in the big white house right inside of town. He was a graphic artist, not much work up here but I make it and loved to play with men’s asses. Brought me exotic fruit, collage sex art and I always knew he was coming when he came over on another night as I consulted the cards and signs. Taught myself to read them and got my other senses working in his directions a witch perhaps but something other than that. “How did you know I was coming today?” Oh I said I heard it through my mind. Stood outside under the moon naked kissing him goodbye talking of when we would meet again one memory that will forever be with me. Only a small part of me, here is all of the rest kissing hot again wanting to start it up right there. Start it up again go another round, hey we got all night. “Come to Middletown to the baths with me, I want you to meet some other guys.” What dumping me already. Nah, I wasn’t too interested in group sex. He came around every Tuesday and whenever else he could get away. Sometimes he just showed up but I knew took the time to do a catnip enema, bath and wait. Car coming up the hill, yes the signs were right on the money again this time. Kenneth always said, “How did you know I was coming?” “Oh,” I would answer it was in the stars.” It was around this time when we began to hear, Young men missing? One found dead in Kingston. Vigil Held in Middletown for Transvestite Hooker. Who was doing these killings? Folks began to get scared. A guy down the hill warned me, “That guy you are seeing, be careful. I think he was involved with one of the young men that went missing.”
To Hartford—Selections and part of my stories.
I heard at some of the new music concerts that there was a art gallery in Hartford that sponsored quite a lot of new music concerts and was showing some really interesting contemporary art. Well I said I am sort of sick of living out here in the woods in these rough conditions and maybe it is time to go and live in the city. A friend of mine (he was still a friend then) was already living here and said, Yes come on to Hartford, a lot of art is happening here and you would love it. I have a rather large apartment and the rent is only $97.00 dollars a month, right downtown and Real Art Ways is right outside my window. In fact I can look out the dining room window and see a naked man and woman sleeping on a mattress right now. I went there on Halloween and won a prize. Of course you can use the photo of me dressed as that famous artist and stripper, Pierre. I would love to be in the story.
Pierre, famous artist stripper back in the day.
Hop skip and a jump next door where at the door I was greeted with, Man you look good said with hetro reservations. Any queer reading this knows that sound full of meaning. That nervous straight man doesn’t just really know what to do when confronted with a half nude male except of course when he is in the shower at the gym or taking a piss at the urinal. Eyes straight ahead don look don’t talk just piss, in the shower no looking no staring even if you want that dick and ass just wash yours and get the hell out before you get hard and discover that you really like men and want men and desire men and oh shit next time I will have to shower when no one else is around. I almost got hard the last time. Oh men, straight men, got so much trouble in this world.
So I went to the party and won a prize. Little Bo Peep was passing the prizes out and she said, “OH LA LA Pierre, I want to put off your panties.” She did it and I turned around real fast bent over and let out a fart. Yeah okay maybe I should come down to Hartford and try it out. We’ve been friends since high school when I use to look at you in the back of the art room painting the same painting for a year but mostly goofing off with Rowdy Yates. Two artists grown up and little me a freshmen said, Someday I will marry that boy and low and behold so many years later I did.
Hartford’s downtown was booming then. Lots of places to go, lots of store and action like you wouldn’t believe. Action as in SEX. You can read one of our essays by going to ( 1 ) I found a job as a dishwasher in a local Chinese restaurant, right up the street from where I lived. Hot and nasty work but Mamma fed us every night and once when I fell asleep she came over and helped me wash the dishes. I went in to work late afternoon so I had all day to play around, go to art shows and get to know the area. I took buses from here to there and back again just to see what was around.
Jupiter’s Lunch Counter was very much like this one.
The day I discovered the 99 cent special breakfast on Saturday at Jupiters to me really a special event. I felt so grand after working all week to sit down at the counter and order 2 eggs any style, bacon, toast, and coffee. It always felt like I was somewhere else and I was. I really couldn’t remember when the last time was when I ate breakfast at a lunch counter for 99 cents. Well somethings were somewhere else as I was eating my 99 cents breakfast special photos from Voyager I were revealing the rings of Jupiter. As far as shopping goes I liked Newberrys that was next door. They had material up on the second floor and I still liked to sew. We still get a good laugh about a cake we brought that Jupiter’s bakery. It was so pretty with mocha brown frosting and promised that it had chocolate filling decorated with Halloween pumpkins and ghosts.. Well one taste of the cake it felt like the roof of our mouth was sizzling from chemicals in the frosting. Did they really put chemicals in frosting? The cake also came in as tasteless. Out the window it went and made a loud plop sound on the street below. How we laughed as we thought we heard someone yell about almost being hit by a cake. Well at least it wasn’t the moon, get over it. Wishful thinking. Wonder if anyone would think, did the cake fall out of an airplane? out of heaven? Who would be so crazy to fling a cake out of a window. Must have fallen out of an airplane. It had to. Maybe the rats would polish it off by morning, street all clean no left over plop art.
The last thing I wanted to do was to join any political movements at this time in my life. I had enough of them and with their leaders. I had long been an opponent of the draft and the military and when Congress with the full support of President Jimmy Carter reinstated the draft (it had ended in 1974) on July 21, 1980 I knew I just couldn’t be quiet. ( 2 ) How I teamed up with a small group of radical pacifists I don’t remember how but team up with them I did. We all sat in at the post office, got arrested, carried out to the police van, went to court had a jury trial and was all let go. The jury agreed with us. Phew escaped that one neatly but I was prepared to go to jail if need be. (man that light hadn’t gone on in my head against the control by the state and not allowing them such power over me by arresting me, telling me to pay a fine or face jail.)
I didn’t know then as so many people had been arrested in the good fight against the powers that be for justice, freedom and equality I was just one more in a long line, that maybe we had it all wrong. I know all about taking the high road, turning the other cheek, loving those who are my enemies, but did I really and fully understand how any of this would change the state?Maybe the laws would be tweaked just a bit but a change of the state. No way. If they want to they will just mow you all down, dump your bodies in the Grand Canyon and that will be that. I wanted to live outside of the law, not embrace it in any way. By being arrested protesting what was law I gave a certain nod to it and allowing the law or the man to hold any power over me was acting within it. I stood out many times with these same folks on Hiroshima Day in front of United Technologies, at Electric Boat in Groton Ct. when new subs were launched and over and over again against U.S. involvement in military operations around the world. I never joined any planning committees, or tried to be leader of the pack, just let me be a worker bee, I’ll come out when I can and if I am interested in being involved at this time in my life. I had to do it. For years I was so involved with the anti-war movement that I really didn’t have a life. I also couldn’t decide what I was, why am I doing this for who or what am I doing this. Always a question and different answers for different times.
It was right around this time that I met Ma Ma Trudy an herbalist who had a shop over on Allyn Street. Teaming up with her we made the case why war was an abomination to healthy living and the practice of herbalism. Make tea not war was our slogan. Trudy held classes in her shop for people interested in herbal healing and we always invited a speaker to speak out against war and the destruction that war brought to Mother Earth. The poster, War Is Unhealthy For Children And Other Living Things hung in the shop. My interest in Herbal healing was strong in this period and many a summer day I crossed the river to the woods and meadows and picked wild herbs that grew there. One day while walking we discovered a large patch of Black Raspberries. Wow what a find. I picked berries every year until we moved out of downtown. By the fall my jars were filled with Tansy, Yarrow and Red Clover. One day Mama called me, “I’m splitting she said, going back down south where folks appreciate my art of healing. Oh Mamma, What else could I do but help her close up the shop, pack boxes and say goodbye.
Soon after Mamma’s leaving we heard that the apartment house where we were living was being sold to a developer. We knew that someone would be after the prime property downtown after what we called Shitty Place was built. That fucking tall tower blocked off most of the sun and our plants began to suffer one by one. How we hated that building and everything about it. How we hated the developers who were going to turn our artistic paradise into a hotel. All night they worked on that building as if under a deadline to bury a Pharaoh. We fought the developers and got some deals for everyone who lived in the building. The developers knew that we were not going to go quietly. We got paid 3 months rent and all moving dispenses. Take it or leave it. So we took it.
Moving to the Liberal West End
Wasn’t such a dream. I all ready had my fill of liberals and artists and other such types. Always right, never wrong, their cause was the just cause, and listening to leaders trying to lead I had to wonder, is there a way without leaders. Find me a movement that is leaderless and I will join. We just do the right thing, don’t need to be told by anyone. Are we capable of this as humans or do we all get in the way of ourselves and a new day? I began to make art again in one of my most productive periods for many years. It was then we began to hear from friends that men who were cruising for sex with men down by the river were being entrapped and arrested by the police. Some of the so called leaders of the gay movement began to condemn the men saying, “They are not one of us, these men are married men or costed homosexuals who are giving us a bad name as we fight for our rights.” One local leader even went so far as to say these men are helping the spread of AIDS. How can we stop this when these men are out there cruising? Not one of these people would stand up and speak out against the actions of the police. I always thought that it was community members ( here I will not name the groups who are suspect) who called and informed the police where the cruising was taking place. Read this that is from the memories of Hot Sex In The City: “I will give just a short few lines about the attacks and statements by gay and lesbian church members who had formed their little groups to protest policies of their churches. In the short of it they called “cruising to be contributing to the communities oppression, turning us into alcoholics and compulsive sex addicts, and claiming that we were unable to deal with intimacy and close relationships which was born out of hate and self worthlessness.” Man all I can say to that shit is Watch your mouth! I joined with several others and went to protest the police not only on the riverbanks but at the police station. It was then that I decided that the treatment of these so called leaders and their plans for the community was to be treated with a long handle spoon. Never fully trust those who would turn in their own. Over the years I have worked with each one of these suspects and have to say my conclusions back then were right on target.
We only spent 5 years in the West End and when we moved it was a very happy day even if it was in the middle of February and it had snowed the night before. The building where we were living was sold to a Real Estate group who within a few months let everything slide. No one came to shovel the sidewalk, take out the trash from the trash house, change a light bulb in the hall or take care of the cockroaches that began to swarm the building after some drug freaks moved in. We heard through the grape vine that the attorney that owned the building was a cocaine head and the reason the druggies moved in was to supply him and his boys with drugs. We began to be afraid to leave our apartment as no telling if anything would be there on our return. Once very early on a Sunday #1 crack head was fiddling at our door knob. I peeked out saw him there and opened the door quickly. Had a large crowbar in hand and told him, “Get the fuck away from my door or I will beat your head in.” “Next time you can be sure I will have a gun and blow the rest of your teeth to kingdom come.” He ran down the stairs nearly falling over himself. We began searching right away for a new place to live broke our lease and left. I really didn’t want to go to jail for killing that dirty raunchy almost toothless fucker.
On to the South End of the city. Our friends said, why would you move there? There are no gays living in the South End. After that above experience with them I was glad there wasn’t. Take time to cool off baby, these are your friends, comrades and people, you need them and they need you. There is enough people all around who stand out against our community. But I wasn’t ready to shake the betrayal against those who love the thrill of cruising.
We rented a 5 room, 3rd floor apartment for $500.00 a month. (we even had the attic as dirty as it was) The landlady kept it at that price for the 14 years we lived there. There was a big back porch with those old fashion factory widows just right for growing flowers and herbs. I was in my glory. Having no need for a dining room we turned that room into our sitting area and the large living room into a studio. Quite a bit of decent art came out of that studio.
Sometime during that period I rejoined the Ct. Stonewall Foundation. I had sworn off on politcks but saw this as a chance to help educate not only the LGBT community, young folks and others as well. I had been to some talk and many of the people didn’t know the history of the pink triangle and what it stood for. So many thought that it was an invention of gay pride. The Stonewall Foundation was set up to “serve to educate the general public on the role of homosexual women and men in our society and to provide for the well being of homosexual women and men in our society through educational and charitable activities.”Right up my alley I thought. What a team we were. We responded to many of the events that were happening that affected our community with educational programs, forums, congresses, and when needed picket lines, rallies and demos. We worked closely with the Ct. Coalition on Lesbian, Gay ,Bisexual and Transgender Civil Rights and formed alliances with other groups working for justice.
The highlight of working with the Congress was working on the exhibition, Challenging and Changing America: The Struggle for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Civil Rights and exhibition that was shown at several Colleges and Libraries in the state. The exhibition traced the struggle for civil rights by our people from 1900-1999. As an exhibition coordinator I knew it was important to remove as many of the straight jackets that heterosexual society had put us in to educated our people and to celebrate ourselves. We are truly everywhere and without us through out all time, this world would be only clouds, a dull gray place. This exhibition was indeed a beautiful weaving of a very diverse people. I was proud to do this for my community as gift of ourstories. I was proud that I could get past any feelings of betrayal and work for the good of our people. The people I worked with on this were damn radical queer folk who didn’t mind pouring through archive after archive, box after box to help weave this beautiful story. Somewhere in the community there is a video of me giving a tour of the exhibition.
Another highlight was bringing Dr. Simon Karlinsky a renowned scholar of Russian Studies and an out gay man to speak at the Wadsworth Atheneum on “Sergei Diaghilev, The Culture Revival, and The Gay Movement in Pre-Soviet Russia.” We called ourselves Committee for the Truth in Art: Breaking the Silence of LGBT Invisibility. This lecture was in response to the invisibility of any gay or bisexual content in the exhibition, “Design Dance and Music of the Ballet Russes. Really stuck my neck out on that one and was proud to be one of the forces along with comrades to present this program. The theater at the Atheneum was packed. Can we ever forget the day when Sylvia Rivera a participant in the Stonewall uprising came to town. The local LGBT bar rag the Metroline had been attacking drag queens and bisexuals and one of our dear leaders and we said enough of this. Let’s do something about it. Well that Saturday in 1999 the all day conference was packed with people to hear Ms. Rivera speak. ( 3 ) There is a video floating around somewhere of the event. Check out You Tube maybe you can find it.
I never cared much for the idea of marriage therefore I did not feel that the fight was a fight that I could fully support. I found it to be a bit too self-centered for my tastes. Too much along the lines of straightening ones genes. When the marriage crowd stated that they were to only work on marriage I said by by. I had learned long ago right after Stonewall that we were not a single issue people simply by my understanding of the phrase, We are here, there and everywhere. So to me the conclusion of that would be that all issues were and must be our issues. I think the great Lesbian, philosopher, poet, writer activist Audre Lorde said it best when she stated: There is no such thing as a single issue struggle, as we do not lead single issue lives.” The following is a wonderful quote, “Let’s remember that this is a long haul fight for liberation. Winning marriage rights alone will prove an unsatisfying victory-just ask straight people. Only a fight for fundamental economic and social change, alongside our allies around the globe, can we win a world based on moral values of cooperation and sharing, respect for differences and yes free love.”
So we stayed in the South End for 14 years. Moved out after a few attempts by a group of guys to mug me coming home from work late at night. The house where we lived got to be pretty bad with the 2nd floor neighbors acting up all the time. They were family to the lady that owned the building so everything was right even when it was wrong. Never locked the main door and people began to hang out in the hallways. We moved 11 years ago to an apartment building off of Park Street a very convenient area for taking buses to where we need to go. We can walk to the Stop and Shop, and other major bus routes from here. A highlight of this building is the concierge will accept any packages or drop offs that come which was impossible where we use to live. I order all of my herbs from a place on the west coast and they arrive safely and I don’t have to chase the UPS man down the street. This will be our jumping off point when we leave Hartford next year. No need to say more about either place but if anyone wants to come on over, we have scrap books, journals, photo albums of those years and we will share them.
Where oh where is Benny Now?
Here I stand don’t worry still going strong. We are now on the brink of amerikkka blowing itself up from within. There is so much wrong everywhere, how in the world do we begin to right it? Maybe this is the chance we have been waiting for, The Death of Amerikkka and in the turning it will all come out right. Scary though with the sound of marching boots in the street, orders given out are now the reality. Thugs getting ready to thug us all. We know where we stand in this mess. Goodbye quiet home life we will say, meet you at the barricades. As David brought down Goliath I believe we can too.
How have I spent the last 50 years as I stated in the beginning these works from Socialist Feminist Clara Frazer: “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.”
Bad Boy Poet Is Alive And Well And Living Everyday!
…..and now let’s here it from the raunchy poet in me the one that escapes boredom, comes out and says what needs to be said. The one that hung out on the Bowery, drank cheap wine, smoked a shit load of dope, and dropped just as much, fucked most of the night in the YMCA, crossed the country with his thumb out and his dick wanting it, let’s hear it for all of us down and out folks, those who never made it, those who don’t give a fuck or a rats ass, give out some applause for those who broke the measuring scale, let’s hear it against all this correct nonsense that tends to keep us in a short line, under the thumb stifling us and our creativity. Let’s raise our glasses give a toast to all of those who say NO!
Do You Like DADA?
How shall I end this little trip down memory lane? How about a little DADA. Let me begin by saying to anyone who doesn’t like me, kiss my ass, to liberals everywhere, kiss my ass, right wingers, kiss my ass, to politicians on both sides of the aisle, kiss my ass, to the bourgeoisie, kiss my ass, to cops, kiss my ass, to the army, war mongers, and baby killers, kiss my ass, to the candidates who are running for president, kiss my ass, to holier than thou religious leaders and their tainted flocks, kiss my ass, to those who gentrify working class and poor areas of amerikkka’s cities, kiss my ass, to the corporations, wall street, creeps and more creeps, kiss my ass, to the Jones and the Smiths kiss my ass, to Gay INC kiss my ass, to this buy buy buy culture, kiss my ass, to the phony baloney art world, kiss my ass, to rapists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, kiss my ass. Everyone not named can do it too.
A hot young friend told me, “don’t let them do it, yours is too beautiful to have those pieces of shit kiss your ass.”
“Oh,” I said, “if that is the case can I let out some gas while they’re kissing my ass?”
Butt Hole of His Longing
Oh I have a pretty asshole, or so so many have told me.
Hole so fair you confuse the sun. Moon of my delight, oasis of my
desire. rosebud open up you’re tight. Cakes over cream pie, lick lick
spit. A brown eye willy winks at you, love me it screams, you do.
( 1 ) For some hot reading see Those Were The Days, Hot Sex In The City.
( 2 ) Draft Registration Draws Protest see HERE.
On January 21, 1977 President Jimmy Cater on his second day in office, January 21, 1977, he followed through on his promise to pardon Vietnam Draft Dodgers. Carter’s pardon stated that only civilians who were convicted of [violating] the Military Selective Service Act by draft-evasion acts or omissions committed between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973 were eligible. The pardon was unconditional and wiped criminal records clean, but it only applied to civilians, not the estimated 500,000 to 1 million active-duty personnel who went AWOL (absent without leave) or deserted during the war. Many supporters of Carter’s decision thought they too should be forgiven by the government in an effort to heal national wounds. We wonder what changed by 1980 when the draft was reinstated.
( 3 ) For an excellent essay, We applaud our Revolutionary Sisters and Brothers, Lessons in Ourstories Part 2 go to Here.
This essay questions the marriage movement and gives a bit of history about what was happening here in Ct. It also contains a section about the Congress with Sylvia Rivera, about queer response via Queers Without Borders and the multi-issue organizing that some of us did out side of the mainstream LGBT community.
For more of our stories and a look at the history of the movement in this area go to HERE.
We like what punkpink had to say in one of pinks essays on marriage.
“Let’s think beyond straight and think of what our people really need. Let’s think beyond straight and stop this baby talk of assimilation. Let’s stop excusing ourselves and allowing a rich white gay and lesbian elite to hijack the movement convincing everyone what they want is what we all want. No marriage doesn’t preclude other anti-oppression work but you wouldn’t get those folks at the Fed building demanding marriage equality out for a free Bradley Manning rally, for a anti drone rally, for a rally against our loss of civil liberties under the present administration, out against the pink washing of Israel, to stand up against the budget cuts.
No most of this marriage movement is for themselves and marriage. We have seen it in this state. Folks happy with crumbs from the masters table cloth getting what they want and the hell with the rest. Killing community as they go pushing their little precious babies in their strollers. Just like mommy and daddy use to do. See Dad we are normal just like you. Don’t worry Mommy now you got grand kids to goo goo with. No, not for me, I do not wish to have what straight folks have nor do I wish to be like straights and daily I am becoming more and more in the group of queers who dislike straights very much. PLEASE I don’t need a teary rainbow speech about loving everyone so keep it tucked in your butts. When these marrying kind stand up for all the oppressed and speak of liberation, and tell us that capitalism is wrong and a person such as a war monger senator doesn’t speak for them then maybe I will listen to their whine to be normal just like straights except for what they do in bed. My, my how we have gone backwards on that one. Do you all remember that shameful plea from our wonderful stories?”
This essay is in 4 parts.
Part 1 go to HERE
Part 2 go to Here
Part 3 go to Here
Benny Bean was my name years ago. I use it every once in awhile in my writing. Its like if the shoe fits wear it, or we change our socks to match our outfits. Whats in a name anyway unless you are signing me a big fat check. Then get it right.
After 38 years in Hartford we are getting ready to move north. Been in one place far to long. Let me leave you with this wonderful song from our stories past. Good enough for today, good enough for tomorrow and good enough for where-ever you are.