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For ‘Lit Undressed: Fashion In Literature’…My Favorite Bellbottoms

Gentle Readers and Friends of Flesh and Republished Blogs,

We have been tied up in many projects of late and the Fall performance by the Lit Undressed group of Omaha, NE, looms large in our headlights. The Omaha Lit Fest, a wonderful event and one of the many cultural offerings to be found in the ‘NoDo’ (Northern Downtown) area of Omaha, is partly funded by the Nebraska Council for the Arts, as well as many other community-minded organizations. Omaha seems like a great place to live. The more we hear about it, the more we find to like.

The event takes place October 13-15 and rehearsals started this week. Here is a brief summary of the event, this go-round:

The focus of this year’s (downtown) Omaha lit fest is Silk & Sawdust, the heart and mechanics and literature. Authors will participate in panels, readings and discussions to lift the corner of the curtain on their methods and processes, and look at the literal tools of production—including book-making and design, and our curious nostalgia for the typewriter.

Included in this theme are fashions of famous literary characters—from the Tin Woodman’s heart of silk and sawdust in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to Jay Gatsby’s pink rag of a suit in The Great Gatsby, to Jane Eyre’s grey and black gowns and Virginia Woolf’s explanation of fashion in Orlando, fashion plays a major role in many characters’ roles and sometimes the storyline.

When presented with ‘fashion’ as a subject, we immediately blogged about old shoes…a more recent blog which can be found by searching on this page. This time, we decided to write about…well, you can read the title….

My Favorite Bellbottoms

Getting my money’s worth out of the Nehru shirt I purchased was no easy feat. It could not be worn to catholic school because it would not work with a tie. Too nice to wear while out playing in the fields, there was no way my parents would let it see the inside of a church. If the flag of rebellious dress was to be foisted, the bellbottom jeans became the banner to wear.
There were many styles to choose from. Colored denim, red with black patch pockets, for example, were becoming passe’ as the low-riding, button fly, hip-hugger style with the slit pockets and wide flare took top wrung on the fashion ladder. I stuck with the zipping fly, being more practical than trendy. ‘Landlubbers’ was the brand of choice for the hip. Headshops and other counterculture stores sold them, while you could buy Wrangler, Lee and other popular brands, not near as cool, at Sears and other ‘straight’ stores.

Landlubber Jeans also advertised in Rolling Stone, so they had to be good. Dylan, Robert Plant, the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones…they all wore Landlubbers.
Eventually, the company expanded from jeans to corduroy offerings.
Worn correctly, they had to be long enough…preferrably, slightly too long. The ideal pair had the heels worn away at the back bottom seam from being tread under bare feet, platform shoes or a pair of Dingo boots with a metal ring on the side, as advertised in Rolling Stone!
Being well over six feet tall, I preferred Dingos and often enjoyed the sight of a friend caught in mud in the middle of a cornfield, trapped by thick sole and heels which had settled into plowed Earth as we stood in a circle and puffed. Enough said about The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys!
At first, bells were available in denim only, which presented a quandry in that denim jeans were ‘play clothes’. For school wear, we had the loud plaid pants with the wide cuffs which fell across the top of our platform shoes. Play clothes stuck around until replaced when worn out. School clothes needed to be new each year. This led many to cut straight-legged jeans up the inseam to the knee and insert a triangle of fabric to make the leg ‘flare’ into a ‘bell’. My mom was not going in for this. It was by skipping lunch and saving bus money by hitch-hiking to school that cash to get a store-bought pair became available.
At the headshop, stacked in neat piles between the vintage WWII gear, which was also en vogue, the slacks beaconed. The wide-wale corduroy, low-rise, slit-pocket with the little flowers, known as ‘Keith Richards pants’ due to a popular photo of him wearing them, proved the perfect ticket to trendiness. Not denim, the nuns could not say a word about them being jeans, just like they could not argue that the black ‘tails’ I kept hanging in my locker for daily wear was not a ‘jacket’. In retrospect, certainly I looked like an ass. This was done purposely to rile the ‘squares’ and the nuns, especially. They had dominated what we wore for all of grammar school and now, in high school, we could fight back. Brandishing the only tattoo on a student – a homemade starfish on my left hand – I had already trumped authority at 16 years of age. With hair to my shoulders, they didn’t even notice the earring. This was 1973.
The Nehru sold at a garage sale but those cords wore down to a frazzle. They attracted attention. Every non-polite epithet for ‘homosexual’ was hurled at me while hitch-hiking in such style…but when you are young, you like the attention! Now, everybody has tattoos and earrings. The starfish was surgically removed around 1990 and the earring came out long before. Both became too popular among the same group they used to annoy. Too old to wear three pairs of boxer shorts, and the tops of my jeans at mid-thigh to reveal them, soon I begin my 55th year…that may sound old to some but I would not be young again, if given the chance…I would miss growing up in the 1960s… things were much more fun.


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Dylan Blog Featuring Handicapped Bullies And Linda Ronstadt

Gentle Readers,Who watch your parking meters,

We find ourselves half-blindly pecking at the keyboard to give you an account of the Bob Dylan/Leon Russell show the CFYSA crew took part in this evening, or last night or last month or whenever you read this…to all Gentle Souls.

The trip to the show began with the drive to collect Ferd, who dressed surprisingly normally for a victim of dementia (haha), with the exception of too many gadgets, which posed later problems, as you shall see.  Ferd  saw the last Dylan show in the area with us and it was a great show but this one was better. The sound was spot-on, although we still heard morons in the parkinglot after the show saying ‘couldn’t understand a single word’. Perhaps if one has a vocabulary, one notices words and understands them and if one does not read and has no vocabulary further than rudimentary gobbles and the drive-thru menu at McDonalds, it would be hard to understand. They should buy a dictionary and try to read one book a year, for a start…then see if they understand.

So, the show was great and the setlist is available on www.expectingrain.com …the link is on the page above. We shall comment more on the event as a whole, rather than the sterling performance of the most influential force in pop music over the past 50 years. Ferd played a key part in the fun. While ‘dressing down,’ he still managed to be turned away at the entrance when they scanned us for metal items and found him to be carrying a knife, among other contraptions…ironic, since earlier in the day, we had told our close friend and confidant, Electra, about his gadgets and about his cap with the four mini-mad-lights on the brim, with a flashing light for good measure, and the knives and radios and Three Stooges Zippo and the myriad of junk he carries. Electra was amused but nonplussed at why a person should outfit themself in such a way.

At the Main Entrance, he was sent away, instructed to hide his knife under a rock…which he did and after standing in line again – while we drank cider inside the venue – he entered and was proud to note that they only found one knife and that the better one was in his back pocket. Why do we need knives in this day and age…portable knives, not at the workplace, that is? They come in handy for crude types to pick their teeth with but are an inconvenience, otherwise, as evidenced by Ferd’s second trip through the entrance gate, where he still ‘beeped’ on the security equipment; but they were so tired of him they just flagged him through…terrorists, take note! haha…

As enjoyable as the show was (the highlight for me was Dylan playing guitar while singing Beyond Here Lies Nothing, the first song on his latest LP, and theme song for the first season of some hoodie-kid-vampyre=tripe show, the name of which escapes us in our slight inebriation, post concert…True Blood perhaps?) we were disturbed by an idiot urging us to sit down. Our seats were in Row 13, so twelve rows of standing flesh would have blocked our vision, were we to comply. It turns out the person was handicapped and did not want to sit in the section where he could have seen the show nicely. Perhaps he was being independent by shining his flashlight in the faces of four rows of people while hissing/begging, “sit down, you bastards!!!” …Not an effective approach!

He poked Your Humble Narrator in the back twice with his finger, Your Narrator being 6’4” and often suspect of shenanigans when tall people are guilty of things…but personal intrusions like poking are bullying behaviour and we had to inform the patron that his index finger would soon be handicapped, should he poke one more time…an empty threat but effective.       

Handicapped people at public events can be quite mean. They expect special attention but do not make arrangements ahead of time. Some people have themselves declared as handicapped just to get a good parking space. More power to them? Having cheated cancer the hard way, we have no mercy…we live on borrowed time, so do not disturb!

Another bully memory goes back to when we were in the employ of a regional daily newspaper and, carving a niche in entertainment writing, was sent to do a review of a Linda Ronstadt show, when she was at the height of her fame. This was in the 1970s and Ferd was home on leave from the Navy and we were bending the rules of chemical consumption and blending hallucinogens, when it occurred to Your Humble Narrator that a story was due at the city desk by 1030pm…Putting two words together was a challenge, much less opining on the performance of songs we were only half-familiar with. Heart Like A Wheel was her best LP to date but she had gone pretty commercial. While not knowing what to write, the City Desk waited…Deadline waited…and so we made our way to a payphone in front of an ice cream vendor and put a dime in it…yes, a dime, and yes…a payphone!!!

The editor, a true friend, was helpful, writing the story for us while pumping for details so it sounded like he was writing about an event that actually happened! The reporter’s notebook in my hand contained most of the names of the songs she sang, but that was it, aside from what she wore. He took the information and crafted it into an acceptable concert review, slapped my byline on it and saved my career – but it took a bit of time to get the facts over the phone to him.

Dimes were no problem, compared to what was to come next. A small army of handicappers in wheelchairs surrounded me at the phone. Our brain was split betwen two realms of psychedelia. These pushy, wheely cretins wanted to call to get their ride home.  They deserve the designation of ‘cretin’ due to behaviour, not handicap. 

The story was only half done and the phone could not be given up. By the time we finished phoning in the story, no less than ten handicappers were cursing me with tongues a-snarling and using language most foul, they waved canes menacingly…multiple canes ready to strike…it is always shocking to hear the infirmed curse you and wish you unwanted anal penetration and this is not a blanket indictment of all people in wheelchairs. They were mean. They were bullies in wheelchairs. They have a way of milking the sympathy out of a person to get away with anything. Shocking, is what it is!!!

It reminds us of Richard Widmark as Tommy Udo in Kiss Of Death

If this blog seems intolerant, it IS. We paid close to $90USD for those seats and we do not need to be stressed in our post-cancerous state, It is stressful. It is mean. It is bullying…from now on, we think twice about “hiring the handicapped” and will only hire the ones who have good manners…because manners, Dear Friends, are the glue that holds society together!!!



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From the Poetry Corner ~ You Do Not Know Me

                                                                             Gentle Readers,

     Once again we ask you to forgive our absence, this time due to the death of my Verizon modem, which served me for a remarkable six and a half years.  Once the problem was established, a new modem was ordered and we found ourself lost offline.  It took a full week, then sputtered and we were off for another day.

     We got a lot of real world stuff done, instead of sitting on Facebook but we did feel strangely disconnected.  We did see the first episode of the new season of Law and Order: Criminal Intent and we are making the prediction that Bobby Goren will find happiness this season and then find death.  You heard it here first, folks!

     Anyway, the poem is self-explanatory, unlike three poems I will publish in Beatdom in a few weeks.  They are strange poems and part of a longer story, which you can read in Beatdom Issue 9, the Drugs Issue.  In it, I present an essay which is a third essay, a third poetry and the final third is a bite of real life humour, all rolled into one conveniently titled entry, “At The Holiday Inn”.

     In the meantime, while you wait, this is one from last week, called You Do Not Know Me.

I only exist

in the words on this page.

That is my act.

This is my stage.

Very few know me –

it’s a very rare sort

who have looked in my eyes

and heard my retort.

You may know my name

but not what is inside.

A handful have loved me

with arms opened wide.

To most I am Phantom,

locked in my screen,

I  keep writing for you

for all that it means.


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Spring is Here, With All Good Cheer. Birds Chirp. Frogs Burp.

     Bargainhunters, Runts and Punters,

     If the title of this post sounds familiar to you, it is because it was lifted from a book by the late Bennett Cerf, called Write Me A Poem, Baby.  This was a favourite book from my youth, in which Cerf asked children to write poems and collected them into a book, maybe even a second volume.

     What does that have to do with ratty, old shoes?  What?  Do you think we start these blogs without a solid purpose in mind for each and every one? Of course we don’t!  We write these by the seat of our pants for a few lovely people who look forward to them.  The shoes, by the by, have seen more wildlife than many children who live in the city.  They have been thrown at rabbits, squirrels, dogs and a few other small mammals. 

     Purchased in December of 2002, while picking up a pair of black oxfords to wear to my dad’s funeral, these became my ‘going to the office shoes’ until we were downsized in 2004.  They had an easy life for a year after that, until they were no longer fit for casual wear in public.  At that point, a new pair of dock shoes were purchased and these became the ‘lawnmowing/snowshoveling’ shoes.  They have weathered feet of snow, countless walks through my lawn, which by any definition is not actually a lawn.  At this time, it is mostly pretty, blue violets, as you can see…

     This sort of thing drives my neighbors crazy, as they think lawns should be green and comprised of grass.  We do not have a lawn so much as some grass mixed with violets, strawberries, dandelions and whatever the birds drop there.  The birds come for the flowers, we think.  We also believe that the creator puts those blue flowers there to sooth us and get us through the days of Spring Fever.  We enjoy sitting on the porch and letting our eyes relax to a blur and letting the colours sink in while we listen to the laboured grunts of all the neighbors who are on hands and knees on their lawns, digging and poisoning these little gifts of the season.  These people wear big boots and use noisy equipment in the maintenance of their yards, protecting their tootsies from mower blades, slips from ladders, icy patches and all those thing we ignore while shovelling and mowing barefoot in worn-out dock shoes.  These people have a work costume for each season.  It is the only funny thing about living here.

     The birds do enjoy my yard, as the returning families of robins, bluejays, cardinals and doves attest.  Plants are put in for their benefit, so that they swoop in and expose themselves to my cats, who sit in the window and think about what they would do to them.  This year, we may build a small chicken-wire-and-wood house for the kitties, so they can be outside on nice days.  Up until now, they have had to settle for the fresh catnip which grows out back and is already about eight inches tall, as you can see…

      If you have cats and do not grow catnip for them, shame on you.  You need to be a better pet owner and that is the fact, jack.  It is pleasant to see the catnip up so early and our pals, Inkie and Budderz, are quite happy with the fact.  What does worry us a bit is the early bloom of the lilacs.  We love the smell.  Some are put in a bedroom vase to evoke dream images from Springs Gone By.  It seems that they usually do not bloom until late May or early June but it is time, as you can see…

     That smell sure brings back the memories.  It reminds me of Mother’s Day and the hope of Summer.  The lilacs are nice and we are proud of them, even though they were here when we bought the house.  Prouder still are we of the fern, which we planted along the whole North side of the house and the tendrils of which are just pushing through the soil and reaching to the sky, like so…

     If you were to see the neighborhood the house is situated in, a white trash hell where Nascar is King and the proof is in the trucks parked on the lawns, you might understand why plants and pollen are so important.  Most of these plants upset those boot-people near me, since they cannot cut them to a height of one inch nor be sure all the blades of grass point in the same direction.  Birds appreciate what humans do not.

     As we started this rambling tome with a poem, allow us to end it with a piece of primordial literature, mined from the files and spilled from the skull of a nine-year-old Michael Hendrick, who in the Fifth Grade showed great slyness in using words to waste space in order to avoid being ruler-whipped by a nun who was easily enraged by blank spots on sheets of paper.  This may be one of the earliest works of art by the young Poet, as he learned words were to become his salvation.  Please enjoy ‘Spring’s Charms’.

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Hush…People Are Getting Naked In Omaha

                                                                                          Listen Closely, 

         Gentle Readers, 

        And you may be able to hear people getting undressed in Omaha, NE.

They are getting ready for tonight’s performance of Lit Undressed: The Spirit of the Female Beats.

Your Humble Narrator, was lucky enough to be asked by the Group to write an original composition for the event.  The piece, which appeared on this blog a month or two ago, was written about the strength of my mother and will be performed on stage this evening.

This is an honour for Your Narrator, as anytime someone requests me to write for them, I take it as the most high sort of compliment.  The East Coast is a far fly from Omaha, so the author will not be able to see his work as it is read.  It is very gratifying, though, to have the attention of such intellectual activists.

There is a reason for all of this, which is best spoken by Timothy Schaffert, Director and Founder of the Omaha Lit Fest.  As he posted on the LU Facebook page:

With much respect to nude performance artistry such as Marina Abramovi, and performance poet Hedwig Gorski, Lit Undressed is a project combining nude performance with fiction reading with an emphasis on literature beyond the naked.

In September, in cooperation with (downtown) omaha lit fest, the first Lit Undressed performance ensued at RNG Gallery. “Undressed/Untold: A Body/Text Event” featured original fiction written by contemporary published authors, as well as excerpts from classic literature in reference to the body in some respect. The writings were read aloud by six male and female readers to a sold-out audience of 50. Selected readers were also adorned with body-text-paint.

When one reads a book, they are immersed into the atmosphere of the piece; not in their real-world anymore, not clothed or unclothed, not worrying about looks or happenings; simply naked in all senses. This project also hopes to encourage comfort with all body-types and forms.

“We at the (downtown) omaha lit fest are very intrigued with the project Sally Deskins has developed—the first of what I hope will be many events under her “Lit Undressed” title. Sally, an artist’s model, first approached me with an idea—she wanted to read literary works, naked, for an audience. She’d heard tell of such events in other cities, and wondered if it might work in Omaha.

Why not? Though the mayor of Omaha once run Gypsy Rose Lee out of town before she had a chance to fan even a single feather, that was more than seventy years ago.

I loved the idea of the silent artist’s model finally speaking. No longer would she (or he—Sally’s event includes men) stand still as a figure-lesson in a classroom, a series of shadows and lines inspiring another person’s art, but rather she’d become the art and artist herself, the storyteller, the centerpiece not just of our gaze and technical scrutiny, but of our attention, our interest, conveying emotion, ideas.

It eventually became clear, as the project developed, that Sally’s interests were in the tradition of any number of body-related art projects, from literature itself (in among works by contemporary authors, the artist’s models at the “Undressed/Untold” event at RNG Gallery will also read excerpts from “Frankenstein,” Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People,” and the very adult work of the children’s book author Roald Dahl: his classic horror tale “Skin”) to the films of Peter Greenaway and Matthew Barney, the body-altering performances of Bob Flanagan and Orlan, the organized-civil-disobedience of photographer Spencer Tunick, and the body/text experiments of author Shelley Jackson, who famously oversees an ongoing fiction project for which more than 2,000 people have had single words from her short story tattooed on their skin. The new works for “Undressed/Untold” include those by Omaha authors (the sensual realism of Trilety Wade, the confessional erotica of Karen Bowerman, the poetic discord of Tim Siragusa, and the playful and meditative poetry of Deskins herself) and by authors with Omaha roots (Rachel Shukert and Zachary Shomburg). The new work includes short-short stories and poems that ask you to see familiar tales (“The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Goodnight, Moon,” to name a few) in unfamiliar ways.

But, of course, beyond all that, there’s the simple fact of the nudity (live!), which, in our neo-puritan culture, we tend to relegate to the dark halls of the peep show. To be naked in a public space is to collide with our sense of the private space, and it’s that marriage of the public and the private that so often gets folks’ panties in a bunch. To unclothe, to allow your body to be read—scars and all—may be the most primitive and powerful expression of all.”

So, if you are in the area, go and enjoy it. I wish i could!!!

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