Still A Work in Progress
Ray Davies of The Kinks put it best: "I'm not like everybody else...."
As I turned 65, I figured I better start writing my memoir before the arthritis already inflicting my hands gets the best of me. When I was in high school, I wrote a few pages of what was supposed to turn into a book something along the lines of, "Growing Up in the Seventies and Wishing It Were the Sixties." The problem was I hadn't done enough living. I've start to blog on Medium to tell my life story. Hope you enjoy it.
I honestly think being non-binary is hardly the most interesting thing about me, but that fairly recent revelation served as a catalyst to get moving on this endeavor. Putting into words why since adolescence I always felt a bit off, compared to my peers, was obviously a long time coming. A perfect storm of the pandemic providing unimpeded self-reflection, being fed up with the patriarchy, the loss of my parents, the sorry state of a world that could produce a horror story like Trump, #metoo, combined to become the catalyst to seek a gender therapist and find my authentic self. It's all explained in this piece, and I must say it was a cathartic exercise.
A moment from my childhood that I have absolutely no recollection.
Going back to live with my ailing parents at the age of 53 in the house that I grew up was something of a role reversal. My dad clearly needed my help coping with my mom's dementia. I realized it was a lofty goal for them to final understand what made their always weird kid tick. How I'd seek out Andy Warhol books in the library, while their idea of art was the dogs playing poker print and taking me and my brother to the Museum of Natural History.
I don't regret helping them for a second, but it no doubt it put a damper in my social life. This piece deals with navigating Medicaid and my complicated relationships with both of them, while trying to retain my sanity. I listened to a lot of Sonny Rollins's screeching sax on G-Man in those days.
Three days into starting the first grade at P.S. 214, my mother received a phone call. "Why hasn't your child been to school yet?" She replied, "I don't understand. He's been there everyday." She told me about the call. I responded matter-of-factly, "The teacher called for 'Lawrence'. I'm not Lawrence; I'm Larry." Already a wise-ass introvert screwing with the system over with life's absurdity? Perhaps.
"Bay or "Bag"? No wonder I rebelled from "societal norms" six decades later.
I'm apologetically left of center, and have been so since junior high school while the Vietnam War was still raging and my social studies teacher explained what was really going on in Southeast Asia. After college, I worked for a Ralph Nader public interest research group. I have been politicized throughout my adult life, protested against Reagan and nuclear power in the 1980s. I canvassed door-to-door for Bernie Sanders. I will continue to speak my mind for causes I believe in, such as Black Lives Matter and fight against the fascists who support the likes of Trump and push anti-trans legislation, anti-reproductive rights and voter suppression. Actually you can lump any GOP federal or state legislator who thought January 6th was a hoax, or didn’t vote to impeach and remove from office No. 45 when they had the chance.
Actual inscription on the U.S. Department of Justice building. Photo by Larry Jaffee, Washington, DC, November 2019. This slogan's double-entendre epitomizes Trump's 2024 campaign promise to go after enemies. See you in the streets. "You better decide to decide what side you're on / it's going to be a long hot summer." —Tom Robinson, 1978
The right-wing hysteria that is sweeping the U.S. and elsewhere to erase from existing trans and gender non-conformists of any persuasion or age is far worse than clear thinkers can imagine. It’s just plain cruelty and inhumane behavior knowing that 45 U.S. states this year have enacted, considered or still considering anti-trans laws. A fifth of Gen-Z identifies as LGBTQ+. I cannot wait for this generation to take over. Make no mistake that anti-trans legislation en masse is an intersectional extension of the patriarchy killing Roe v. Wade, voter suppression, library book banning of LGBTQ+ and race titles, the teaching of American slavery in K-12 curriculum or school play censorship.
After my mom went to live in at a nursing home because her dementia made it impossible to stay at home, my dad and I became better acquainted over the next four years. We turned into sort of a 21st century Sanford & Son act that capsulized the generation gap. Occasionally, he’d surprise me by blurting out revelations like “You know, your mother was married before me.” No, I did not know that tidbit of information. I found the annulment papers after cleaning out the house. Despite my father’s insistence that all that is wrong with the world coincided with the advent of the Internet (and reality TV because of you know who), Google did not let me down in locating on eBay a place to buy his vintage 100% cotton white socks. After decades of not being able to find them, I made his day in mid-October 2019, almost two months before he passed away.
In high school, I realized that writing was probably the profession for me. Although my argumentative nature lend itself to law, I didn't want to go into debt to pursue it. So instead after graduating from high school, I pursued journalism, inspired by the film All the President's Men. I would have been perfectly fine being a full-time "rock critic" if such a job existed. I have no regrets for the twists and turns about career choices. It's been great supplementing my income as a writer by teaching on the college level since 1984 at now nine colleges and universities. I created my own "Literacy Autobiography" presentation to get students to reflect how they learned to read and write.
Throughout my career, I have met or interviewed dozens of famous musicians (e.g., Lou Reed, Jack White) and Hollywood (e.g., John Travolta, Ed Asner), sports (e.g., Ron Swoboda, Clark Gillies) to politics (e.g., Geraldine Ferraro), and media industry honchos (e.g., Ted Turner). When I was a teenager, I remember being extremely jealous of Cameron Crowe, as I read his cover stories in Rolling Stone, touring with the likes of Led Zeppelin. I wrote to Lester Bangs in response to a Creem magazine review trashing the Rolling Stones' Goat Head’s Soup; Bangs never wrote me back, unlike the teenage protagonist in Crowe’s 2000 feature film. You can call these stories "Almost, Almost Famous."
All About My Mother. I had a trying relationship with my mom, especially since adolescence when she was convinced I was gay (nothing wrong with that, but it wasn't me) when I fell under the spell of David Bowie. I attribute why she was so difficult and didn't get along with most people to her early hard life, and the patriarchy itself. She often didn't get along with her younger sisters, and absolutely despised my father's family. She was quick to cite anti-semitism if she had problems at work. Late in life she suffered from dementia, which probably went undiagnosed. It was strange being the last person to have a conversation with her before she had a fatal stroke at the nursing home, or seeing her alive at the hospice. I wonder if I'd become a record collector, if it she wasn't in my gene pool. But imagine my surprise when I found her sex books after I cleaned out my parents' house.